The targeted killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani and four others in a precision strike by an MQ-9 Reaper drone at Baghdad International Airport was an impressive display of American military prowess. And it liquidated a destabilizing figure: The general was the commander of the Quds Force, which is responsible for Iran’s covert and extraterritorial military operations. In the scheme of things, he had it coming. Yet killing him made little strategic sense for the United States. In some ways, the most significant thing about his death is what it shows about the breakdown of American foreign policymaking.
President Trump ordered the strike directly, prompted by the death of an American contractor on Dec.… Seguir leyendo »
After months of swaggering hesitation, President Trump finally announced the United States’ withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, to which Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and the European Union are also parties. This action tramples on European leaders, who urged Mr. Trump to exercise restraint in the interest of international security and multilateralism.
Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, reacted to Mr. Trump’s announcement with a sharp statement. The European Union and the rest of the international community, she said, would “preserve this nuclear deal.” The question is how. Notwithstanding an abundance of kvetching, European powers have not yet shown Mr.… Seguir leyendo »
As Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, wrote in his book “Dereliction of Duty,” the early stages of the Vietnam War caught America’s military leaders flat-footed. Having gone through World War II and Korea, they were all ready for a conventional war. But insurgencies and unconventional warfare were something else. As a result, they were inordinately acquiescent to the wishful thinking of their civilian overseers — and no one thought more wishfully about the war than Walt Whitman Rostow.
A Yale Ph.D. and a Rhodes scholar, Rostow left his academic perch at M.I.T. to join the State Department under John F.… Seguir leyendo »
The cease-fire in Syria that the United States and Russia tortuously negotiated has, like the one before it, fallen apart.
The trouble began when an errant American airstrike killed some 60 Syrian government soldiers. Then, Russia resumed its disingenuous grandstanding and the Syrian government, with Russia’s support, went back to indiscriminately bombing rebel-held areas of Aleppo. On Monday, less than a month after the agreement went into effect, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States would break off talks with Russia on trying to revive it.
This failure, accompanied by images of suffering in Aleppo, has inspired renewed calls for a tougher American policy in Syria from liberal hawks and traditional conservatives alike.… Seguir leyendo »
The State Department “dissent channel” memo on the United States’ policy in Syria, leaked last month, is just the latest expression of a widespread belief in and out of government that American intervention in Syria is necessary and would be successful.
After five years of brutal, grinding war, this view is understandable. The idea of the United States saving the Middle East from itself appeals to liberal hawks and neoconservatives alike. Unfortunately, when that notion has carried the day — as it did in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011 — regional security and stability have worsened. Indeed, in light of Syria’s geopolitical circumstances, intervention along the lines suggested in the memo could produce consequences more dangerous than those of the two previous adventures.… Seguir leyendo »
It has been five years since Syria descended into brutal warfare, and whatever happens with the current talks on its political transition, it is difficult to imagine the country returning to its prewar borders as a unified state. Indeed, negotiators are beginning to think about something radically different: partition.
Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, Secretary of State John Kerry implied that if the present cease-fire and political negotiations on Syria failed, partition could be Plan B. The Russians have openly proposed a federal solution, and, according to a United Nations Security Council diplomat, the idea of a “very loose center with a lot of autonomy for different regions” is gaining traction among major Western powers.… Seguir leyendo »
For almost three years, America’s approach to Syria has revolved around pushing Russia to use its influence on President Bashar al-Assad to drive a political transition in the country. Even before the crisis in Crimea put Washington’s diplomatic relationship with Moscow on ice, this was a failed strategy.
President Obama needs to do everything he can to put Syria on a path to peace quickly. That requires rethinking his approach to the region and reaching out to a country that he has so far kept at a guarded distance from the negotiating table: Iran.
The problem with Russia is that it is a bad-faith partner on Syria: Its president, Vladimir V.… Seguir leyendo »
Syria has put President Obama’s enlightened realism in international affairs to its stiffest test. Direct military intervention could immerse the United States in yet another open-ended Middle East war. Doing nothing would mean failing to live up to America’s humanitarian obligations and harming America’s regional interests.
But the main impediment to a political deal remains President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal intransigence. And there is something America could do to pressure him. The most powerful inducement for Mr. Assad to reach an acceptable compromise would be a loss of support from Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based, Iranian-financed Shiite militant group. In Lebanon, popular anger over Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria is rising, and the United States must exploit this opportunity, even if it means negotiating directly with Iran to rein in its Lebanese proxy.… Seguir leyendo »
The scene in Europe last week called to mind the heyday of the IRA in the 1970s or of Algerian terrorism in the 1990s: Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square were teeming with police, the Eiffel Tower was repeatedly evacuated, and everywhere, tourists were on edge. The threat, however, involved a newer brand of terrorist: The CIA and its European counterparts warned of an al-Qaeda plot to kill civilians in France, Germany and Britain, and alerted travelers, especially Americans, to be extra-vigilant.
Few operational details were released. But unlike many thwarted al-Qaeda operations of days gone by — such as the 2006 Heathrow plot, in which several airliners bound from London to America were to be blown up at coordinated intervals — it was clear from news reports that the European plan called for less spectacular, smaller-scale attacks, perhaps using machine guns to strafe clusters of tourists near public landmarks.… Seguir leyendo »
While it is not yet certain who organized the attempted car-bombing in Times Square this weekend, the incident marks the domestic introduction of familiar terrorist techniques that may be harder to thwart than those to which the U.S. homeland security apparatus became attuned after Sept. 11.
Terrorism experts are unable to definitively say why Islamist terrorists have not successfully pulled off a large-scale hit on the United States since the 2001 attacks. Some have argued that terrorists’ apocalyptic mind-set and religious vision of the «end of days» requires an encore at least as spectacular as Sept. 11. Some theorize that counterterrorism efforts for the time being have rendered terror groups incapable of mounting such an operation, and that they are saving America for a spectacular reprise on the scale of Sept.… Seguir leyendo »