15 Years After 9/11, a Sharp Partisan Divide on Ability of Terrorists to Strike U.S.

15 Years After 9/11, a Sharp Partisan Divide on Ability of Terrorists to Strike U.S. Pew Research Center. September 7, 2016.

As the 15th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, partisan differences over the ability of terrorists to launch a major attack on the United States are now as wide as at any point dating back to 2002. As the 15th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, partisan differences over the ability of terrorists to launch a major attack on the United States are now as wide as at any point dating back to 2002. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Putin’s Dramatic Syria Move Raises Russian Profile – With Risks

Putin’s Dramatic Syria Move Raises Russian Profile – With Risks. YaleGlobal. Thomas Graham. October 6, 2015.

Vladimir Putin, determined to revive Russia’s status as a global power, has rapidly mobilized forces to bolster the Assad regime in Syria. He orchestrated a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the September UN General Assembly meeting in New York, to give the appearance that he is taking charge of ending the Islamic State’s expansion in Iraq and Syria, explains Thomas Graham. Russian airstrikes also targeted U.S.-supported rebel groups fighting the Assad regime as well as ISIS locations. In essence, Syria is the site for another brutal proxy war in the Middle East, pitting Russia, Iraq, Iran, Hezbollah forces against the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and contributing to more conflict, confusion and waves of refugees. Putin’s moves carry risks, and Russia cannot afford being embroiled in a quagmire. He may have caught the Obama administration by surprise, but the United States still has great capacity to influence the region with its response. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Challenge of “Recent-ism” in the Middle East

Challenge of “Recent-ism” in the Middle East. YaleGlobal. Alexander Evans. June 25, 2015.

Governments can get caught up in sweeping generalizations about the brutal extremists rampaging through Iraq, Syria and Libya based on the most recent news. ISIL, ISIS, the Islamic State have slaughtered thousands and may control up to half of Syria and a third of Iraq. The extremists’ hold over any community is tenuous. Hundreds of thousands flee the conflict, and the international community invests billions in counter-intelligence and airstrikes that bombard key holdings. Alexander Evans, who leads the UN Security Council’s expert panel on Al Qaeda, breaks down some myths about the extremists and offers recommendations. [Note: contains copyrighed material].

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The Military Balance in a Shattered Levant

The Military Balance in a Shattered Levant. Center for Strategic & International Studies. Aram Nerguizian. June 15, 2015.

The war against ISIL and the civil war in Syria have highlighted the importance of the military balance in the Levant and the extent to which it has an impact on Iraq and the Gulf, the flow of global energy exports and the world economy, and international terrorism. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 139 pages, 2.06 MB].

Arming Iraq’s Kurds: Fighting IS, Inviting Conflict

Arming Iraq’s Kurds: Fighting IS, Inviting Conflict. International Crisis Group. May 12, 2015.

According to the report, loosely organised in an ad hoc coalition, Western countries rushed military aid to Iraqi Kurds in the face of a lightning assault by the Islamic State (IS) in June 2014. They failed, however, to develop a strategy for dealing with the consequences of arming non-state actors in Iraq, a country whose unity they profess to support. Rather than forging a strong, unified military response to the IS threat, building up Kurdish forces accelerated the Kurdish polity’s fragmentation, increased tensions between these forces and non-Kurds in disputed areas and strengthened Iraq’s centrifugal forces. Delivered this way, military assistance risks prolonging the conflict with IS, worsening other longstanding, unresolved conflicts and creating new ones. A new approach is called for that revives and builds on past efforts to transform Kurdish forces into a professional institution, says the report. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Resilience for Women Countering Violent Extremism

Resilience for Women Countering Violent Extremism. U.S. Institute of Peace. Georgia Holmer. March 6, 2015.

What makes a young man or woman vulnerable to joining a violent extremist group? In the same way that a malnourished, exhausted, neglected, or traumatized body is more susceptible to disease or infection, a person who lacks resources, opportunity, and support is more vulnerable to engaging in violent extremism. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy

The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Kenneth Katzman et al. February 11, 2015.

The Islamic State (IS, aka the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL/ISIS) is a transnational Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group that has expanded its control over areas of parts of Iraq and Syria since 2013, threatening the wider region. There is debate over the degree to which the Islamic State organization might represent a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland or to U.S. facilities and personnel in the region.

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Growing Support for Campaign Against ISIS – and Possible Use of U.S. Ground Troops

Growing Support for Campaign Against ISIS – and Possible Use of U.S. Ground Troops. Pew Research Center. February 24, 2015.

The public has grown more supportive of the U.S. fight against ISIS, as about twice as many approve (63%) as disapprove (30%) of the military campaign against the Islamic militant group in Iraq and Syria. Last October, 57% approved and 33% disapproved. The possibility of sending U.S. ground troops to the region is more divisive, although the idea draws more support than it did four months ago. Currently, about as many favor (47%) as oppose (49%) sending U.S. ground troops to fight Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria; in October, 39% favored the idea and 55% opposed it. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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New Theater of Cruelty: Beheadings Demand Civilization’s Response

New Theater of Cruelty: Beheadings Demand Civilization’s Response. YaleGlobal. Joji Sakurai. October 9, 2014.

Islamic State extremists burst forth on the world scene with brutal acts, with all the absurd petulance of an angry, bullying yet powerless adolescent desperate for attention. In an era of rapid communications, images and messages spread instantly. The depraved put on a performance, a new theater of cruelty, perverting a centuries-old religion, and globalization ensures instant judgment. Describing the videos of beheadings and mass killings as “performance” can risk trivializing conflict and suffering, admits Joji Sakurai, who argues the cruel acts demand a powerful and rhetorical response from global civilization in the inspiring ways of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Ronald Reagan. Civilization’s many creations, comforts and joys are taken for granted. Global leaders like Barack Obama, Angela Merkel or Narendra Modi are capable and must reclaim the imaginative terrain to inspire. “We must be warriors of tolerance, calling to arms our reason, our compassion and our sanity,” Sakurai writes, concluding that globalization can spread the rich benefits of spirituality and intellect or the meanness of intolerance and hate. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights

Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Kenneth Katzman. August 12, 2014.

Since the 2011 U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, sectarian and ethnic divisions have widened, fueling a major challenge to Iraq’s stability and to Iraq’s non-Muslim minority communities. Iraq’s Sunni Arabs have sided with radical Sunni Islamist insurgents as a means to end Shiite political domination and perceived discrimination by the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Iraq’s Kurds have been separately embroiled in political disputes with the Baghdad government over territorial, political, and economic issues, particularly their intent to separately export large volumes of oil produced in the Kurdish region. The political rifts–which were contained by the U.S. military presence but have been escalating since late 2011–erupted into a sustained uprising beginning in December 2013 led by the radical extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), now renamed the Islamic State. The group and its allies took control of several cities in Anbar Province in early 2014 and in a lightening offensive captured Mosul and several other mostly Sunni cities in June 2014, aided by a partial collapse of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The ISF collapse enabled the Kurds to seize control of the long-coveted city of Kirkuk.

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