FROM Sam Dagher
Russia Changes the Battleground, at Least for the Moment President Obama said yesterday the US has failed “to change the dynamic inside Syria.” He’s all but conceded that Vladimir Putin has. Russian air strikes are helping two American enemies: Syrian President Assad, and, perhaps indirectly, the Islamic State. Meantime, ISIS is increasingly a threat to Turkey, America’s NATO Ally. Although the US appears to be running out of options, is Putin creating his own quagmire?
The Islamic State The Islamic State, also called ISIS and ISIL, now controls a major part of Iraq and an entire province in Syria. It’s replaced the Taliban as a fomenter of terrorists-including a disturbing number with American or European passports. Now, President Obama has authorized spy planes to conduct surveillance over Syria—a possible precursor to a bombing campaign. We hear about the risks of military action—and a possible alternative: striking the real source of the Islamic State’s power: The modern financial system that keeps it armed and fed and guarantees its continuity.
The Syrian War and Its Humanitarian Crisis UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said today there must be a third round of peace talks between Syria and its divided opponents. The second round collapsed over disputes about the agenda, and some diplomats have declared the effort a failure. It was an agreement between the US and Russia that got the talks started, with each backing a different side. What's the impact of the Ukrainian crisis?
Israel, Hezbollah and a New Phase in Syria's Civil War The ongoing crisis in Syria continues to raise thorny issues about US intervention in the civil war there. That war began as part of the Arab Spring in 2011 but has developed into the most intractable conflict of the revolutionary movement. More than 70 thousand people have been killed. Now, Hezbollah is stepping up its engagement, helping government forces battle a crucial rebel-held town. That means Iran is also deepening its involvement. US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin today in Moscow in an effort to find common cause in the Syrian civil war. Is that conflict entering a new phase? Will Israel's military strikes near Damascus push the US to take action?
Massive Bomb Hits Syrian President's Defense Team A massive suicide bombing in the heart of Damascus today killed the brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad, his defense minister and a former defense minister. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta observed, "The violence has only gotten worse and the loss of life has only increased, which tells us that this is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control." The so-called Free Syrian Army says it coordinated today's attack with elite military guards close to Assad himself. Syria's information minister calls it "terrorism" facilitated by the intelligence services of Western countries, Gulf Arab states and Turkey. Sam Dagher is in Beirut, Lebanon, for the Wall Street Journal .
Five Years in Iraq: Shock, Awe and Surge In a speech at the Pentagon today marking the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, President Bush defended American intervention in Iraq as necessary and insisted that it is finally succeeding. He reaffirmed his commitment that "we will accept no outcome except victory." Sam Dagher is a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor .
Trump's 'America First' goes missing abroad In the Middle East, President Trump is changing some policies of the Obama Administration—and reversing his own campaign attacks on Islam as a religion that "hates us." We hear about his visit to Saudi Arabia and what's at stake for the rest of his foreign excursion.
Ex-FBI Director Comey tells his side of the story Today, former FBI Director James Comey came close to calling the President who fired him a liar. The White House denied the claim and called it insulting, but Republican Senators did not challenge Comey’s truthfulness. Many questions remain: did the President try to obstruct a federal investigation? Later, we’ll go behind the “velvet rope” for a look at 5-Star health care for the richest Americans.
The Trump agenda: where's the beef? President Trump says big things are happening. After celebrating a House bill on health care, he doesn’t yet have Senate agreement. With James Comey’s public testimony scheduled tomorrow, the President today tweeted his selection of a new FBI Director. Is the Chief Executive all style and no substance? Later, terror attacks in Iran and conflicting claims about who’s behind them.
Replacing Obamacare: Now you see it… now you don’t As the Senate deliberates replacing Obmacare, health coverage for millions of people is at stake. There've been no public hearings, and a draft measure won't be made public. Is the House version so unpopular that that Senate is hiding a version that looks much the same?