Daniel Byman

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Mourning Palestinian Naseem Abu Fuda, Hebron, West Bank, January 2023. Mussa Qawasma / Reuters

Since the collapse of the second intifada—a large and sustained Palestinian uprising—in 2005, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has smoldered. Hamas has launched miniature wars in the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian armed groups and individuals have carried out terrorist attacks in the West Bank, prompting a harsh Israeli military response. Palestinians have resisted in other ways, too—marching, protesting, and throwing rocks. Despite many violent flare-ups, however, both sides have avoided fighting that reaches the scope and scale of the second intifada, even though a negotiated settlement seems more distant than ever.

But dangerous developments on both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides are now converging, and the outlook for 2023 seems grim.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Afghan soldier at a road checkpoint near a U.S. military base in Bagram on Thursday. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. troops are beginning the process of leaving Afghanistan, after almost 20 years of fighting. Announcing his decision to complete the U.S. withdrawal by September, President Biden declared: “I believed that our presence in Afghanistan should be focused on the reason we went in the first place: to ensure Afghanistan would not be used as a base from which to attack our homeland again. We did that. We accomplished that objective”.

But al-Qaeda — which, after 9/11, provided the U.S. rationale for invading Afghanistan — still has 400 to 600 members fighting with the Taliban, according to U.N. Security Council estimates.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Good News About Terrorism

In terrorism, we may remember 2018 for what didn’t happen: The jihadist threat to the United States has dissipated. We had only one death from jihadist-linked terrorism in this country, and while disturbing, it was hardly an Islamic State spectacular. (In Florida, a teenage boy, inspired by jihadist videos, stabbed a 13-year-old friend to death during a sleepover.)

This death toll is dwarfed by the 2018 body count from right-wing terrorism (15) and a far cry from attacks like the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, when a jihadist loner shot 49 people. The number of jihadist terrorism-related legal cases has also plummeted, to 13 this year from 80 in 2015.…  Seguir leyendo »

Soldados del ejército iraquí avanzan sobre Ramadi, donde ondeaba la bandera del Estado Islámico. Credit Osama Sami/Associated Press

Las bombas que explotaron en Bruselas la mañana del martes provocando la muerte de más de 30 personas son solo el último ataque terrorista en un continente que comienza a ver situaciones tan horribles como una nueva realidad. Horas después, el Estado Islámico reivindicó la autoría de los atentados.

Es necesario contextualizar esta violencia sin sentido. Los Estados Unidos y sus aliados occidentales golpean las bases del Estado Islámico en Siria e Irak. Puede que el grupo ya esté a la defensiva. Pero mientras tanto arremete y trata de extender su yihad global. Europa se ha convertido en el campo de batalla de esa guerra.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iraqi troops advancing on a village near Ramadi, Iraq, with an Islamic State flag. The Islamic State’s military setbacks in Iraq and Syria mean it will need to win victories elsewhere. Credit Osama Sami/Associated Press

The bombs that exploded in the Brussels airport and at a central metro station on Tuesday morning, killing at least 30 people, came as only the latest in a string of terrorist outrages on a continent that is starting to see horrific violence as the new normal. Hours later the Islamic State claimed responsibility.

This carnage must be seen in context: The United States and its Western allies are hitting the Islamic State hard in its bases in Iraq and Syria. The jihadist group may finally be on the defensive. But meantime, it is lashing out, taking its fight — and its struggle for supremacy among jihadists — global.…  Seguir leyendo »

An image made available by the jihadist Twitter account Al-Baraka News last week purports to show militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria driving on a newly cut road across the Syria-Iraq border. The group captured several Iraqi cities last week. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

In the fight against jihadist insurgents across the planet, the United States can offer its partners a lot of help: arms and intelligence, training for local security forces, economic aid, and in extreme cases, air strikes to take out the bad guys.

It is the allies, of course, that get to do the actual fighting and dying.

After more than a decade of conflicts in which American ground forces served in harm’s way, the United States is moving to a more hands-off approach in its fight against insurgents with ideological or operational ties to al-Qaeda. In Afghanistan, President Obama has announced a major drawdown of troops, and in Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, the United States intervenes mainly via drones or small numbers of troops training local forces.…  Seguir leyendo »

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is not a terrorist movement, at least not currently. But the move by the military-led government to ban it from politics and declare it a “terrorist organization” may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The announcement followed a car bombing outside a government security building in Mansoura on Dec. 24 that killed at least 15 people; the government blamed the Brotherhood. Now, Brotherhood members and donors risk prosecution and imprisonment, and the ban is potentially crippling to the vast network of schools, clinics and other social services the Brotherhood runs and to the poor Egyptians who have long relied on them.…  Seguir leyendo »

“The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable,” President Obama warned Bashar al-Assad’s government last December. “If you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”

This threat followed the president’s earlier warning that “a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.” This red line has come to haunt Mr. Obama. Last week, the American intelligence community assessed “with varying degrees of confidence” that the Syrians had used the chemical agent sarin in their attacks on the opposition.…  Seguir leyendo »

More than 60 years after its founding, the state that David Ben Gurion and other Israeli founding fathers built still does not know peace. Longtime enemies such as Egypt have laid down their arms, but Syria remains defiant, and in Lebanon, Hezbollah wages an on-again, off-again, low-level war. Most troubling, Israel rules uneasily over the West Bank and is in a state of near war with Hamas-led Gaza. The lack of resolution to the Palestinian problem is increasingly making Israel an international pariah.

Patrick Tyler, an eminent journalist who has reported for The Washington Post and the New York Times, offers a provocative explanation for Israel’s constant insecurity: Its leaders, particularly its security elite, are unable and unwilling to turn their guns into ploughshares.…  Seguir leyendo »

Late this past June, a group of Israeli settlers in the West Bank defaced and burned a mosque in the small West Bank village of Jabaa. Graffiti sprayed by the vandals warned of a “war” over the planned evacuation, ordered by the Israeli Supreme Court, of a handful of houses illegally built on private Palestinian land near the settlement of Beit El. The torching of the mosque was part of a wider trend of routine violence committed by radical settlers against innocent Palestinians, Israeli security personnel, and even mainstream settler leaders — all aimed at intimidating perceived enemies of the settlement project.…  Seguir leyendo »

One year after a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in an act of defiance that would ignite protests and unseat long-standing dictatorships, a harsh chill is settling over the Arab world. The peaceful demonstrations in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen that were supposed to bring democracy have instead given way to bloodshed and chaos, with the forces of tyranny trying to turn back the clock.

It is too soon to say that the Arab Spring is gone, never to resurface. But the Arab Winter has clearly arrived.

Tunisia, where it all began, recently carried out free elections. But that country — small, ethnically and religiously homogenous, and prosperous — was always a more likely candidate for a successful transition to democracy.…  Seguir leyendo »

The biggest obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians is the emergence of Hamas as the de facto government of the Gaza Strip, where 1.5 million Palestinians reside. Peace talks can begin with Hamas on the sidelines, but they cannot finish if Hamas refuses to play ball.

Hamas has proved that it has the means to disrupt peace talks with rocket and mortar strikes, shootings of Israeli soldiers and agricultural workers near the Gaza border, and the kidnapping of personnel from the Israel Defense Forces. But it can also undermine peace talks without using violence.

Hamas can allow other terrorist groups to operate from Gaza and claim impotence or ignorance.…  Seguir leyendo »