FROM Faiza Al-Araji
Iraq: The Beginnings of Peace? In August, Iraqi authorities said Iran had promised to stem the flow of weapons and ammunition smuggled into Iraq. Today, American General James Simmons said a sharp drop in roadside bombs across the country means Iran has upheld its commitments. Meantime, the "surge" of American troops has apparently helped to reduce deadly violence in Baghdad. But US military officials say a window of opportunity is closing. Although Iraqis are walking the streets again and some restaurants and stores stay open after dark, the government is dragging its feet on political reconciliation. With reduction of US forces scheduled to start very soon, can Iraqi police and soldiers prevent the violence from escalating again? Would the cost of staying be even higher than the cost of getting out as quickly as possible?
Iraqi Refugees At the outside of the Iraq invasion, a tidal wave of refugees was predicted. It didn't happen right away. But last February, the bombing of a Shiite mosque set off the orgy of deadly sectarian violence that continues to drive both Sunnis and Shiites from their homes. Some 40 to 50,000 Iraqis are leaving home every month and some 2 million are already abroad. But just 466 refugees have been allowed to immigrate to the United States. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees calls it the largest exodus in the Middle East since Palestinians were displaced by the 1948 creation of Israel. A US official brands it "shameful," especially for those who risked their lives as interpreters and drivers for government agencies and civilian contractors. It's a far cry from happened during and after the Vietnam War. We hear from the UN, immigration reformers in the US and refugees, including a civil engineer who left Iraq in 2004--after her son was kidnapped at gunpoint by local gangs.
"Tough on crime" rhetoric sees a revival at Sessions' DOJ The pendulum swings between treatment-focused approaches to drug abuse and tough law enforcement. Now, after years of Obama-era "reforms," President Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions wants local police freed from federal restrictions to fight another "war on drugs."
Trump's ethical conflicts pile up as transparency diminishes President Trump's refusal to reveal his income tax returns is just one example of a lack of transparency that could be hiding conflicts of interest. Other conflicts are already obvious from his appointments. And he's being sued for using his job to increase his profits.
Mixed Messages from US diplomats on the new hard line on Syria Since President Trump's surprise retaliation against Syria's use of chemical weapons, Bashar al-Assad has used the same airport to launch conventional attacks on his own people. It's not clear what the US, its allies — or Vladimir Putin's Russia -- plan to do now.