Recently in Opinion & Analysis Category

Expediting U.S Access to Middle East Oil and Gas

“Following the bulk of western reporting on the Iraq crisis, you’d think the self-styled ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’ (ISIS) popped out of nowhere, took the West completely by surprise, and is now rampaging across the Middle East like some random weather event.” contends Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, investigative journalist, international security scholar and executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development in London, in a June 19, 2014, opinion piece in Al Arabiya News.

The author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization said, “The reality is far more complex, and less palatable. ISIS’ meteoric rise is a predictable consequence of a longstanding U.S.-led geo-strategy in the Middle East that has seen tyrants and terrorists as mere tools to expedite access to regional oil and gas resources.”

Mr. Ahmed perspective is thought-provoking. He notes that: “What is playing out now seems startlingly close to scenarios described in 2008 by a U.S. Army-funded RAND Corp report on how to win ‘the long war.’ Recognizing that “for the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources,”

I highly recommend “The rise of ISIS in Iraq is a neocon’s dream.”

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Are City-States in Iraq, Libya and Syria’s Future?

Omar Shariff, deputy opinion editor at the Dubai-based English language Gulf News, notes in a June 14, 2014, post that: “The Middle East and countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan are currently reeling under the impact of violent sectarianism and rising extremism. This situation has reached a stage wherein the very existence of some nation states as united entities is under question.” See “‘Sectarian fault lines are bleeding the region dry.’”

Mr. Shariff quotes Abdel Bari Atwan, “Gulf News columnist and editor-in-chief of digital newspaper Rai al Youm (Today’s Opinion)” as saying:“We are witnessing a war to consolidate sectarian divisions. Co-existence has become impossible.”

“There are going to be three states in Libya, three in Iraq and maybe three to four in Syria,” contends Mr. Atwan, who spoke to Gulf News from London. “We are reaching a stage where we will have city-states.”

I found Mr. Shariff’s analysis informative and worth reading.

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The Pressure to Do Something in Iraq

Aaron David Miller, vice president and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a former diplomat who left the State Department in 2003, writes in a June 14, 2014, opinion post at

The Obama administration likely will succumb to growing pressure to "do something" kinetic and dramatic in Iraq, and when it does, it will most likely be air and missile strikes against ISIS targets. This could relieve the political pressure on the President: His critics continue to blame him for abdicating U.S. leadership in Syria and in Iraq --which now faces the advancing extremist militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

But answering the political mail in Washington is not the same thing as dealing with, let alone resolving, the complex issues on the ground that have led to this crisis. To do that would require a comprehensive reengagement strategy, even without boots on the ground. And President Barack Obama should not be drawn into a veritable Iraq war III.

If you want to read the entire article, please see: “Obama, don't get sucked into Iraq III.

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Richard Falk, Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, explains that, “there was no legal duty on Russia's part to turn (National Security Agency whistleblower Edward) Snowden over to American authorities for criminal prosecution, and a moral and political duty not to do so, especially in the circumstances surrounding the controversy over Snowden.” Mr. Snowden has been granted a one-year visa.

Mr. Falk, “the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights,” writing in an August 5, 2013, post at Al Jazeera English, opines:

The most influential media in the United States has lived up to its pro-government bias in the Snowden Affair in three major ways: firstly, by consistently referring to Snowden by the demeaning designation of 'leaker' rather than as 'whistleblower' or 'surveillance dissident,' both more respectful and accurate.

Secondly, they are completely ignoring the degree to which Russia's grant of temporary refugee status to Snowden for one year was in full accord with the normal level of protection to be given to anyone accused of nonviolent political crimes in a foreign country, and pursued diplomatically and legally by the government that is seeking to indict and prosecute. In effect, for Russia to have turned Snowden over to the United States under these conditions would have been morally and politically scandalous considering the nature of his alleged crimes.

Thirdly, the media's refusal to point out that espionage, the main accusation against Snowden, is the quintessential 'political offense' in international law, and as such is routinely excluded from any list of extraditable offenses. That is, even if there had been an extradition treaty between the United States and Russia, it should have been made clear that there was no legal duty on Russia's part to turn Snowden over to American authorities for criminal prosecution, and a moral and political duty not to do so, especially in the circumstances surrounding the controversy over Snowden.

Mr. Falk said, “If these elements had been clearly articulated, the United States government would have seemed ridiculous if it complained about the willingness of some foreign governments to give Snowden asylum.”

To read the entire post, please see “Snowden's Asylum: 'It's the law, stupid.'”

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Glenn Greenwald on the Reuters Article

Columnist Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian commented on July 13, 2013, about the mostly critical reaction, especially in the United States, to a Reuter’s wire service report on his interview  with La Nacion of Argentina regarding U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden’s unprecedented revelations about the United States’ comprehensive, global spying operations, including on its own citizens. According to Mr. Greenwald:

When you give many interviews in different countries and say essentially the same thing over and over, as I do, media outlets often attempt to re-package what you've said to make their interview seem new and newsworthy, even when it isn't. Such is the case with this Reuters article today, that purports to summarize an interview I gave to the daily newspaper La Nacion of Argentina.

Mr. Greenwald said, “Like everything in the matter of these NSA leaks, this interview is being wildly distorted to attract attention away from the revelations themselves. It's particularly being seized on to attack Edward Snowden and, secondarily, me, for supposedly "blackmailing" and "threatening" the US government. That is just absurd.”

To read Mr. Greenwald’s response, please see “About the Reuter’s Article.” The columnist, who has been the subject of vicious attacks for reporting on the NSA’s spying program, views the article as the “latest effort to distract attention from the NSA (National Security Agency” and that, “it is more absurd than most.”

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Sir Sherard Louis Cowper-Coles, the British ambassador to Afghanistan from 2007 to 2009, writes in a March 16, 2013, post in The Spectator: “History doesn’t show us only mistakes to avoid. It also gives us examples of success to be emulated. We would do well to study the way in which the Soviet Union left Afghanistan.”

The author of “Ever the Diplomat: Confessions of a Foreign Office Mandarin said, “Like Barack Obama in 2009, in 1985 the new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev was faced with the challenge of how most elegantly to extract his country from Afghanistan. He notes:

Unlike Obama, Gorbachev was being told by his military advisers — who had mostly been doubtful about the whole campaign from the start — that the war was unwinnable.

Mr. Cowper-Coles said "Unlike Obama, he decided that the right course was to follow the playbook for countering insurgencies. The first task was to ensure that an essentially tactical military campaign was enfolded in a coherent political strategy." 

I found his analysis quite informative and highly recommend it. To read more, please see, “Afghanistan Withdrawal: Sherard Cowper-Coles on what the Soviets did right

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