FROM Michael Knights
Al Qaeda in Iraq and Maliki in Washington When the US completed its troop withdrawal nearly two years ago, President Obama said Iraq could stand on its own. But today, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is back at the White House asking for heavy military equipment and intelligence aid against a growing and especially violent al Qaeda faction called The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. It's averaged 68 car-bombings a month and many thousands have been killed this year at open markets in Baghdad and elsewhere around the country. But Maliki's regime is part of the problem. Politically, he's favored Shiites and outraged Sunnis, while bureaucratic incompetence cripples the economy. Did the US withdraw troops too soon? Has the Obama Administration's "pivot" to Asia compromised US influence in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East?
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.
GOP 'Nukes' the Senate filibuster on SCOTUS nominees Senate Democrats today blocked Judge Neil Gorsuch's appointment to the US Supreme Court… but just for the moment. The Republican majority has changed the rules to force a likely confirmation as soon as tomorrow.