GRAEME WOOD, “THE ATLANTIC”: They would love to.
MATTHEWS: I think they might. They`re going all the way to Spain, but I guess we can stop them before they get there, I hope.”
After fighting with rebels in Libya and embracing the revolt in Syria, Matthew VanDyke has rolled up in northern Iraq, but the celebrity American revolutionary-cum-filmmaker has traded his fatigues for a three-piece suit. VanDyke, who rose to fame as a foreign fighter backing Libyan rebels against Moamer Kadhafi, has just finished leading his new military contracting firm through its first assignment — training Christian volunteers to take on jihadists. Funded by Christian groups from abroad, mainly from the United States, the Nineveh Plains Protection Unit (NPU) aims to bring a local Christian militia to bear against the Islamic State group that has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria.
A rather clever piece by the Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg, in the American Prospect:
I live a less blessed life. As an Israeli and a journalist, my aspirations are more limited, yet less within my own power to achieve. I aspire to be able to write about my country’s politics without using the name of the current prime minister. I’d like to write my next 300 articles without the N-word. I’d like to think of him, if I think of him at all, as a vague faceless historical memory like, say, James Buchanan.
Israeli elections are a few weeks off. There should be reason to hope. Exhaustion with the prime minister, with his voice, with his confusion between the state and himself is widespread. Each day’s news brings new scandals. He is the issue of this next national election—his relations with the Obama administration, his record devoid of achievements, his extravagant expenses billed to the taxpayers. “It’s him or us,” is the election slogan of the left-of-center alliance called the Zionist Camp, headed by Labor leader Isaac Herzog and indefatigable peace advocate Tzipi Livni.
And yet, I’ve come to realize that the focus on him is a strategic success for the prime minister’s election campaign. It distracts voters’ attention from minor questions such as the Palestinians, peace, housing prices, and poverty. It allows himto set the agenda as, “It’s me or them,” while defining “them” as anti-Zionist elitists who are allies of Iran, the so-called Islamic State and, heaven help us, Barack Obama.
The whole thing never mentions Bibi once.
The Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John”, who has been pictured in videos of the beheadings of hostages, is named as Mohammed Emwazi from London.
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The United Arab Emirates’ civil aviation regulator has given approval for local carriers to resume flights to Baghdad, reversing a directive that halted flights after bullets hit a Dubai plane as it landed in the Iraqi capital late last month. “Based on the assessment of the information provided by all stakeholders…which reported that the incident was an accident…GCAA’s approach is to allow operators of aircrafts registered in the UAE to resume flights to Baghdad,” the General Civil Aviation Authority said on Thursday. Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates said earlier this week that it planned to resume flights to Baghdad on March 1.
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A court in Bahrain sentences three Shia Muslims to death for last year’s bomb attack that killed three police and injured another 13, officials say.
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The chief executive of Asia-focused bank Standard Chartered will step down in June, the company said Thursday, following poor results, job cuts and fines for failing to detect possible money-laundering. "Peter Sands will stand down from the Board and as Group Chief Executive in June 2015," the British bank said in a statement, adding that he would be replaced by former JP Morgan co-CEO Bill Winters. The bank's chairman John Peace praised Sands, who became the group's chief executive in 2006, saying that he had presided "over a period of huge change and challenge for the entire industry". The bank, which focuses on emerging markets, was under pressure from shareholders and the move was welcomed on the London stock exchange where its shares jumped 1.36 percent to 938.90 pence at 0900 GMT.
A worrying number of Australian women are heading to Iraq and Syria to become so-called Islamic State group "jihadi brides", Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Thursday, warning against notions of a "romantic adventure". At least 110 Australians have left to fight alongside militants in the Middle East and security officials said between 30 and 40 women were among them or were actively supporting the group in Australia. "Sadly we are seeing a younger cohort seeking to join the conflict in Syria and Iraq and an increasing number of young females," Bishop said, responding to the high-profile case this week of three British teenage girls heading to Syria.
By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –
The conspiracy hatched by Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to undermine President Obama’s negotiations with Iran over its civilian nuclear weapons program has a false premise that dooms it.
Many Republicans, and Netanyahu, believe that Obama is negotiating a bad deal with Iran that will allow Tehran to run a nuclear enrichment program that would always have the potential to be weaponized at any time the Iranian leadership chose to go in that direction.
Their premise is that instead of negotiating with Iran and putting various limitations on its enrichment program, the US instead could close down Iranian enrichment altogether.
That premise is completely and absolutely unrealistic.
The problem with centrifuge-based enrichment of uranium is that it is open=ended. You could use the centrifuges, as Iran says it is doing, to produce fuel for reactors at 5 percent levels of enrichment. But you could theoretically ramp up centrifuges to enrich uranium to the 95 percent typically needed for a nuclear warhead.
George W. Bush completely rejected Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program and refused to talk to Iran, instead menacing it by ordering US aircraft carriers into the Persian Gulf. Every other week in 2007, veteran investigative reporter Sy Hersh wrote a story about an imminent US attack on Iran, based on what he was told by administration insiders, probably especially the Cheney network. But all of Bush’s bluster had no effect on Iran, which went on constructing centrifuges and expanding its knowledge of how to close the fuel cycle.
An Ostrich foreign policy can’t work here.
Nor could Iran’s enrichment program simply be bombed. Enough Iranian scientists and engineers know how to revive it that a bombing raid would only set it back a year or two.
A few years ago a US general testified that the only way to stop Iran’s enrichment program would be to do to it what the US had done to Iraq, i.e. to invade it, overthrow its government and roll up the enrichment program.
But note well that Iraq was a huge disaster for the US military. Iran is two or three times as populous and geographically much vaster– the equivalent of France, Spain and Germany. With the relatively small US military that now exists, a successful occupation of Iran is, to say the least, implausible. Moreover, the US is already deeply in debt and an Iran war would very likely be such a great drain on its economy over time as to endanger the soundness of its economy.
So, Iran can’t be bombed into submission. And, an invasion and occupation of that country is not a rational proposition.
Iran is going to be there, it is going to be a middle income country, and it is going to have a civilian nuclear enrichment program. I argued a year and a half ago that the US and the West could live with such a program if the inspection regime was sufficiently rigorous. No country under active UN inspection has ever developed a nuclear weapon.
The Netanyahu/Boehner belief that there is a military alternative to the Obama-Rouhani negotiations is simply incorrect. The deal Obama has laid out, and to which Iran seems willing to acquiesce, is that best we can do.
As for Netanyahu, he is a little unhinged on this issue and it is time to stop consulting him. We should all remember that he was a big cheerleader for the Iraq War., and presented false intelligence to the US Congress about Iranian enrichment, which was later discovered to have been contradicted by the assessments of Mossaad, Israeli intelligence.