Monday, March 2, 2015

Why Shabab poses little threat to American malls

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/03/economist-explains
The Economist's article talks about al-Qaeda aligned Islamic militant group Shabab treats about attacking American or Jewish mall around the US and western Europe as well. New propaganda video that Shabab  published describes reasons for attacking the mall in Kenya when 67 people died and call  their 'muslim brother in western countries' for action. Minnesota, Edmonton and London are firstly named for attacking because of big Somalian population that lives there. Shabab didn't execute any attack outside of East Africa. In the new video they call the western muslims to ''hurry up, hasten towards heaven and to not hesitate''. Shabab cannot come close to ISIS with its organization and cruelty and they keep with suicide attacks inside Somalia. Many people think that Shabab is regional danger in East Africa and that it's not likely that Shabab can be treat for West. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Tens of thousands march in Moscow

Thousands of people marched yesterday to rally in honor of a Russian politician who was murdered on Friday. There have been accusation that the Kremlin was involved. Putin denies that it was. I don't think that the Kremlin was involved in this. It seems to open for this to have happened. the article says that there is estimated between 16,000 and 70,000 people who showed up for the rally.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31677506
-Thomas Barry

Afgan Policewomen

The female police force is growing in Afghanistan. Women who are often ridiculed and mistreated in Afghanistan find it more reasonable to confess mistreatment if they are talking to other women. Because of this there are more women police officers in Afghanistan. With this comes problems like changing clothes (as minor as it seems), work schedule (based on family needs), and sexual harassment (that about 70 percent of the  Afghan police women experienced).

Matt Marcotte

http://a.msn.com/r/2/BBi73iZ?a=1&m=en-us

1,000 year old mummified monk


What I read about this week really grabbed my attention. The article that I read about was that there was a 1,000-year-old mummified monk that was hidden in a statue of a Buddha. I found this so interesting because not only did the body in the statue fit the shape perfectly, but also it was also taken from a temple in china to the Netherlands and then kept a secret for that long. The researchers and scientists that did all of the scans on the mummy found out that he was still in all of the cloth and found his name, Liuqan, and all of his information including that he was practicing a position for life after death. The scientists are figuring out the exact location in China where the statue was placed and mummified. The statue is now in a museum in Budapest but will be put on an international tour at different museums.  

Paul Rollet 

http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/27/asia/mummified-monk-statue/index.html

Kurdish and Christian Forces battling ISIS for 150 hostages

On Wednesday in northeastern Syria Kurdish and Christian forces started battling with ISIS. According to activist, the ISIS extremist group abducted at least 150 people from Assyrian Christian villages. Assyrian Christians and Armenians, as well as many Arabs and Kurdish people inhabit the Hassakeh province, which has become the main battleground place in fighting ISIS. Many villages ran into conflict with ISIS and many NGO's including a Syrian Christian group reported 150 people missing, many of them women and elderly people. "We have verified at least 150 people who have been abducted from sources on the ground," said Bassam Ishak, President of the Syriac National Council of Syria. ISIS has not confirmed the abductions, but they have recently recorded video of themselves fighting in the exact area of where the abductions took place. The status of the 150 people missing is still unknown, but everyone knows the fate of a usual captive of ISIS. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a Christian group called the Syriac Military Council said heavy clashes against ISIS militants in the area were continuing. Many of these groups are calling upon the U.S. for aide and help from the savages of ISIS. This threat is becoming more and more evident as time continues. The more the U.S. sits back and does not conduct any real military arsenal the more this barbaric group grows. This is not a JV team Mr. President.

Seth Hillesland

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/02/25/kurdish-christian-forces-battle-isis-as-fate-150-reported-hostages-unclear/

North Korea Missile Launches-Zackary Ledlow

Every year, the United States and South Korea conduct military exercises together.  A very brief history lesson first though.  Everyone knows that North Korea and South Korea were at war with each other.  What a lot of people do not know is that the war never actually ended.  In fact, there was just a cease fire agreement between the two.  There was no official surrender by either and neither of the sides signed a peace treaty ending the Korean War.  As a result, the two countries technically are still at war with each other.  The U.S. keeps a significant force stationed in South Korea along with some troops stationed not far, in Japan.  Every year, South Korea and the U.S. conduct military exercises basically practicing for the war to break out again.  North Korea obviously does not like this.  As a result, EVERY YEAR they get angry and make threats and displays of force.  This year is no exception.  North Korea fired rockets into the sea to display the force that they are capable of unleashing onto any that invade their territory.  The rockets went over 300 miles before falling into the sea.  This obviously puts much of South Korea at risk and was done intentionally.  I do not think that anything will happen just like every year previously.  Just saber rattling really.  

Zackary Ledlow

http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/01/asia/north-korea-missiles-fired/index.html

Turkey and Internet Freedom

A year has passed since the Turkish government blocked Twitter and Youtube in the country, which caused a series of intensive protests and organized movements. With the sites now unblocked, the Turkish people have infiltrated all outlets of social media in order to further political, social, and economic motives. The general theme of all Tweets and posts, however, are aimed towards the government in response to the internet regulation that is so prevalent in Turkey. Turkish authorities even requested Twitter to disclose any information from its' citizens that could potentially be a threat to national security or be affiliated to any form of criminal activity, leading to almost 90% of tweets being taken down. Turkey has historically struggled with various forms of expression, and how quickly the government intervenes in times of paranoia or expected threat. It has been described as "the poster child for illiberal democracies expanding their assault on a free press". With decisive waves of political conflict becoming a common thread in Turkish life, media expression has become something the people are vigorously working to earn. Although Turkey is a more secularized Muslim nation, it faces division between Islamic and secular political parties which in turn causes extreme regulation procedures.

Yoomna Rahim
http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-31665109

19 of 220 Abducted Christians Returned

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group has reported that 19 out the estimated 220 kidnapped members of an Assyrian Christian community in north-eastern Syria have been released. These members were kidnapped by the ISIS terrorist group, and the captives were returned due to a deal that included the exchange of money for the members. The members were taken before dawn on February 23, when Islamic State militants stormed 12 villages. The fact that even a few members were able to get released is seen as a positive sign, I'm sure many did not believe they would be released. Some reports say that all those freed were about 50 or older, which shows that age may be a factor to Islamic State group. Assyrian leaders and Sunni tribal sheikhas are trying to negotiate with ISIS to release the rest of the captives. Around 1,000 local Assyrian families are believed to have fled their homes due to the abductions. 

Carlitos Rangel 
article:http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31685931

Obama vs. Netanyahu

Obama is going to meet with the Israeli prime minister in a meeting full of tension. Netanyahu is likely to shoot down Obama's deal making with Iran. Netanyahu has even explained that he is willing to derail Obama's leads to make a peaceful negotiation with Iran for a nuclear pact. However this does not mean that the meeting will go as peacefully as some hope. The reason because Netanyahu is a blunt man while Obama tries to avoid public confrontation. This will unfold as a very interesting meeting. 

http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/01/politics/obama-benjamin-netanyahu-clash/index.html

Sigi Padilla

Mobs in Nigeria

   A woman in the north-eastern Nigerian city of Bauchi was murdered by a mob. The mob attacked the women because she was suspected in have a bomb. She refused to be screened at an entrance to a market. When they searched her they found two bottles strapped to both her sides. The reason these people are doing this is because of the continued suicide missions attempted by Boko Haram. This could potentially be a huge problem in Nigeria because of the raised suicide missions by Boko Haram and increased suspicion among Nigerian people. The Nigerian government needs to keep its citizens under control or more innocent people may die.

Justin McGady
Find article at: http://a.msn.com/r/2/BBi7nLn?a=1&m=en-us

Assyrians take up arms to take back homeland.

Assyrian christians a small minority in northern Iraq and southern Syria have lived in the Mesopotamian plains since the days of Christ. Since the formation of ISIL many have fled their ancestral homelands amongst raids by ISIL forces that have killed many and subjected others to torture by ISIL. A small group composing of 500 men, according to the Al Jazeera article, are training to take their homeland back. Trained by former U.S. military and funded by American based Assyrian groups the small group is going against large odds in a last ditch effort to take their land back. The Assyrian people speak Aramaic the language that Jesus Christ spoke, Assyrian history and culture dates back to pre-biblical times. However, their land, livelihood, and lasting are threatened by ISIL.    

http://alj.am/1821TUH

War on Ebola is not over yet

When medical authorities thought that Ebola might finally be dissipating, a couple of infected fishermen started a new outbreak in Freetown, Sierra Leon, after returning from the sea at the beginning of the month. These fishermen had apparently been infected before leaving and had not shown symptoms until they were already navigating. After their captain got severely sick, they decided to return to shore, which opened the gate for Ebola again. Many of the volunteers and public health workers had seen a significant improvement in the population of Sierra Leon, which left them off guard when this new outbreak appeared. Experts say that this is the perfect example of cultural difficulties that arise during epidemics such as Ebola. People make it harder to treat the disease for cultural reasons; sometimes they are afraid to be marginalized, they would rather receive traditional medicinal treatments, or they are simply irresponsible and do not take the appropriate safety measures. It is possible that future outbreaks like this will keep happening, we can't stop looking out for Ebola just yet.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/world/africa/nearly-beaten-in-sierra-leone-ebola-makes-a-comeback-by-sea.html?_r=0

-Ricardo Morales

Lithuania signs US deal to replace Russian gas

This article quickly summarizes Lithuania's signing with the United States to receive natural gas from the US as a replacement for Russian natural gas. The story's main points highlighted that Lithuania will be the first post-cold war Baltic country to be importing natural gas from a country other than Russia. The article also implies that it is likely for the other Baltic countries such as Latvia and Estonia are likely to follow Lithuania's suit as a result of the Russia's recent actions in Ukraine the Baltic countries are looking to move away from dependence on Russian resources. As the Vladimir Putin continues to push the Russian economy to its limits by forcing international sanctions to be placed against them now other countries are starting to back away from economic deals with his country which will further hurt the economy. Hopefully, this new deal will cause Putin to realize that he cannot continue to hurt his economy like this and he will pull back his influence from Ukraine.

Michael Johnson
http://www.rte.ie/news/2015/0228/683563-lithuania-united-states-natural-gas/

ISIS Continues to Thrash Iraq

The Guardian reported on February 28, 2015 that Iraq had experienced another series of suicide bombings at checkpoints. It goes to show the continuing presence of ISIS in Iraq and other countries that is ceasing to end. The attack mentioned suicide bombings, mortar strikes, and smash and grab looting of artworks. It is speculated that ISIS intends to help fund their bloody campaign with the stolen goods. I believe it was two weeks ago that I had written an entry on Yemen, and that remains unresolved. As far as I am aware, there has been no significant update (save for violence) in the area...the same remains in Iraq. Despite the prime minister of Iraq speaking against ISIS, there has been little effect in the country. If nothing is done to curb ISIS' advance, then it is, but a matter of time before Iraq will fall to the regime. So long as the world has individuals willing to buy into the propaganda of ISIS, the radical group will continue to move forward.

While a lack of action against ISIS is one problem  - the fact that people are willing to fund these sorts of activities is a whole other problem that needs to be taken into consideration.

- Jon Stanciu

Thousands mourn Putin critic Boris Nemtsov

March 1, 2015. Carrying signs that read, "I am not afraid", Russians march the capital of Moscow in the thousands Sunday morning to remember Kremlin critic Boris Nemstov whose death on the streets of the capital stirred Russian opposition. An organizer tells Aljazeera that more than 70,000 people have turned up on Sunday with signs and Russian flags to partake in a steady march alongside the Moskva river. However, police have estimated crowd numbers to be at around 16,000—a curiously staggering difference that probably aims to undermine the strength of the march.

Nemtsov, who was 55, was shot dead in front of the Kremlin on Friday when I car, driving buy, fired what was believed to be 4 gun shots. Following the shooting, Putin released a statement stating that he would personally oversee the investigation into the slaying of Nemtsov (I hardly find this comforting). Russian investigators say that there is a possibility that Nemtsov was targeted by Muslim attackers, or that the opposition have him killed as to tarnish Putin's name. Putin's opponents are quick to note the level of cynicism demonstrated by Russia's leaders as they "whip up nationalism". Many speculate that the Kremlin's rhetoric on the subject of who to blame is aiming to whip up anti-Western hysteria into a rallying cry to support Russia's policies on Ukraine, even deflecting blame for the countries current economic crisis.

Nemtsoc was the leading fist of the opposition struggling to prevent Putin from returning to the presidency following his four years as prime minister. Putin became Russia's leader in 2000 when President Boris Yeltsin chose Putin as his successor: a role, as Aljazeera notes, "Nemtsov had once been destined to play."

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/3/1/thousands-march-in-russia-to-mourn-putin-critic-boris-nemtsov.html

- Josephine Madrawska

Telephone Politics

Days before he is scheduled to speak to Congress, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the topics of Iran, Palestinian economic woes, and Mr. Netanyahu's upcoming visit to the United States.  According to the New York Times, Kerry and Netanyahu speak frequently about the state of America-Israel interactions; tensions have gotten stronger between these two states as the topic of Iran continues to polarize not only camps within these countries, but around the world as well.  Both Israel and the United States are pushing to come up with a solution to the Iranian nuclear problem by the end of March.  While the Kerry and colleagues believe sanctions would suffice to push Iran to "pull back" on their program, Israel is concerned that these sanctions will be inadequate.  -Kaytlin St.Clair
Link 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Netanyahu’s address to Congress



http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/netanyahus-address-to-congress-will-be-most-important-speech-of-his-life/2015/02/28/679aa694-bd10-11e4-9dfb-03366e719af8_story.html

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, will speak this upcoming Tuesday to President Obama in a joint meeting of Congress.  His topic of discussion is Iran and its nuclear program as he will only agree to deals that include the dismantling of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program and wishes for economic sanctions to be stiffened.  Netanyahu’s supporters believe that the prime minister’s warnings of Iran are coming true while critics say that he has been saying the same thing for the past twenty years.  Critics also believe that Netanyahu will begin to act in ways which will damage Israeli relations with the United States.  Opponents believe the speech is a tactic for reelections on March 17th by instilling fear towards Iran and opposing President Obama who is not popular in Israel.  The speech will be written by Netanyahu himself as he considers himself an authority on the Iran nuclear program and an expert on the people and politics of the United States.  This will be the third joint meeting of Congress that Netanyahu has addressed.  Winston Churchill is the only other foreign leader to call for three meetings and critics believe that Netanyahu doesn’t possess the same authority as Churchill to do so.  It appears as if the prime minister has been working against the U.S. administration instead of with it.

Marissa Holaway

Somalia Will Have An Ambassador From The United States Once Again

President Obama has appointed Katherine Simonds Dhanani to be the new ambassador to Somalia from the United States. Katherine Simonds Dhanani has previously served as an ambassador from the United States to Guyana, India, and Mexico. She also is familiar with affairs in Africa as she has also served as ambassador from the United States in many African countries including Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Katherine Simonds Dhanani will be working from Kenya until Mogadishu, the Somali capital becomes more secure. Somalia has been devastated by the Al-Shabab militant group who continually gives any sort of Somalian government trouble. The United States left Somalia in 1991 due to the collapse of the Somalian government. The United Nations then sent a peacekeeping mission to try and stabilize the nation of Somalia. Due to "Black Hawk Down," a mission in which 18 U.S. soldiers were killed due to their helicopters being targeted by Somalian rebels. The U.S. then ended the peacekeeping mission.

The United States has not yet given up on Somalia. With an ambassador to the United States, there are still hopes that Somalia will be able to maintain a democracy and prosper. It will be hard as long as Al-Shabab is still in the area. African Union forces were able to drive the group out of the capital of Somalia in 2011.  Al-Shabab is affiliated with Al-Qaeda who is anti-democracy. Somalia is slowly coming out of years of war and democracy will be a very good thing for the Somalian people and allow for their economy to grow.

http://time.com/3721530/obama-somalia-ambassador/

Cara Howell

"Jihadi John" Unmasked

It has just been revealed that “Jihadi John” is a Kuwaiti-born man who lived in London named Mohammed Emwazi.  The fact that he was the one seen many times as a masked man in the execution videos prompted many questions like, how can this happen?  Why did he join ISIS? Is it really even him?  London-based human rights and Muslim advocacy organizations have been saying that they cannot be 100% sure that it is actually him in the video.  Why did he join?  Some people think that his path is one that has led to extremism for many years.  Closer friends relate it back to a time when he hit his head really hard on a post and after that major injury he was never the same.  Some friends said that he took a trip to Tanzania and was supposed to go to the safari, but was detained upon arrival.  They say he was also detained in Britain in 2010 by counterterrorism officials.

This news is frightening to a lot of people because they see that an ordinary citizen of London joined ISIS.  People are seeing for the first time that ISIS is not just a group of barbaric terrorists who are primal and driven by violence.  This man has a degree in computer programming from the University of Westminster.   This is an educated, middle class, normal man that never seemed to have any frightening qualities that indicated he would want to be part of a group like ISIS.  Now that he has been identified of course all of his friends say he had extremist qualities, but nobody would have seen it coming before he was identified.  People are frightened by this and rightfully so, it goes to show that it doesn’t take a barbaric simpleton to join a group like ISIS.

Article: http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/26/middleeast/isis-jihadi-john-identity/index.html

Brad Munson

Four missing Canadian teenagers might have connection with ISIS

               Last week I wrote about the article that says three UK girls headed to Syria, and they are believed to join ISIS. Then this week, I found the article that says four Canadian teenagers headed to Turkey and they might also go there to join ISIS. Two of them are females and at least one them is male. Three of them attended Montreal community college and that college now has suspended to lease classroom for an Islamic group after college found the evidence that the group gave, according to the description of the college, “hate speech” involving one of the leaders in the group. It is not clear that the teenagers had connection with that organization.
                There are a lot of articles that talk about young people head to Syria to join ISIS. I do not understand why it happens. There are some terrorists groups in the world but I have not seen the article that talks terrorist group could recruit so many young people like ISIS before. I think a lot of teenagers have not confirmed their identity and ISIS is trying to take advantage of that point. We should protect young people from terrorists groups and find out why they could recruit so many young people. This problem is a matter of urgency because the group would have more power than before by recruiting many people, so we should solve this problem as soon as possible.


Ryota Taniguchi

"Tear to Pieces the Stars and Stripes"

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has been urging his army to prepare for war with the United States and its allies. This came about after the United States and South Korea conducted a joint naval drill on Friday. This drill involved ten South Korean warships and a US Aegis destroyer. In the upcoming week, Foal Eagle, an eight-week exercise involving air, ground, and naval field training will begin. This exercise will include about 200,000 Korean and around 3,700 American troops. Both the US and South Korea say that these exercises are defense-based in nature. Kim Jong-Un has called upon his military to train harder in order to "tear to pieces the Stars and Stripes."
Full article: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/north-korean-leader-tells-army-prepare-for-war/ar-BBi4C4a

~Sarah Irene Rosenberg

Capture of a Drug Lord Is a Small Win in Mexico

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/28/world/americas/servando-gomez-mexican-drug-lord-who-led-knights-templar-gang-is-captured.html?action=click&contentCollection=Americas&region=Footer&module=MoreInSection&pgtype=article

Drug lord Servando Gomez, also known as La Tuta or The teacher, was captured in the capital Morelia of his home state Michoacán with no shots fired. Although he was the leader of a dangerous drug cartel named "The Knights of the Templar" experts say that it is no longer enough to capture the kingpins because it leads to smaller gangs breaking out, which leads to fights over territory, kidnapping, and extortion. In addition to these smaller groups, the Mexican government is facing changes as the Attorney General steps down and as the office becomes seperate from the president's cabinet. In order to address these drug gangs in a meaningful way, the Mexican government must first address the issue of corruption that allowed the cartels to flourish in the first place. But as Mr. Benitz points out, the governement had "not decided to fight corruption because that would mean fighting against itself, against the sick part of itself."

Switzerland first to submit climate plan to UN treaty

On February 28, 2015 Switzerland became the first country to submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. (UNFCCC) Swiss government committed that they will reduce 50% of their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and 30% of the cuts will be achieved within the country. Currently, Switzerland is responsible for only 0.1% of global greenhouse gas emission. The government is aiming to reduce 70-85% of greenhouse gas emission by 2050 as well. It was interesting to hear this news, as we just discussed the dilemma of "tragedy of the commons" in the class. However, since air pollution will spread from one place to another, it is unlikely to personalize it. In order to reduce the emission of greenhouse gas equally in the world, we have to regulate the developed countries to do so. As all of the major economies have been asked to submit their INDC by October 1, I am looking forward to hear other countries' proposal. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/feb/27/switzerland-becomes-first-country-to-submit-paris-climate-deal-pledge
Eri Sato

Friday, February 27, 2015

'Progress' in US-Cuba talks but no embassy decision

'Progress' in US-Cuba talks but no embassy decision

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-31667183

Representatives from Cuba and the US delegation is negotiating to solve their problems. However, the main problems seem to be still impossible to resolve. Because Cuba is keeping trying hard to get it rid of a US terror list and normalise the relation with the US. However, for the U.S. part, it is not thinking about it now. The most top task for it is to make the U.S. embassy opened in time for the Summit of the Americas. Although some trade and traveling restrictions have been relaxed with efforts of both countries, more hard work needs to be done for their more friendly relationship in the future.

Ruyi Wang 

Cuba's Spot ON

Cuba’s Spot on U.S. Terror List Gums Up Restoration of Relations

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lollipop-man Ordered to Not High-Five Children

To those who do not know what a lollipop man is, it is a Scottish slang term given to crossing-guards due to the candy-like shape sign they hold. Nkosana Mdikane, 74, has been named "Scotland's happiest lollipop man" due to his cheerful attitude that accompanies his song-and-dance routines while he is on the job. Recently the West Dunbartonshire Council banned Mr. Mdikane from high-fiving children as they cross the road due to safety hazards. The court supports this decision with the rule that all crossing-guards must have one hand holding up their sign to oncoming traffic while using the other hand to point while the children were crossing. Therefore, the friendly gesture has no place in the serious business of street-crossing. Since the ruling, Mr. Mdikane has followed the new rule, even if he thinks its "stupid." There has been a strong local reaction to this ruling, there has already been a petition with a thousand signatures already signed to "Save the High-Fives!" There has also a face-book campaign created for the cause, and it already has three-thousand supports for it. Hopefully this reaction will cause the councilmen and women to revoke their ruling. Viva la High-Fives!

Article can be found here: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-31638993

By Anne Sortino

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tomb Raiders of Kobane

The War Nerd: Tomb Raiders of Kobane

John Dolan, writing under alias Gary Brecher, the War Nerd, analyzes Turkey's recent cross-border mission into Syria to extract the body of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, from its tomb. Officially, the Turks went in on the premise that the tomb was under threat from Islamic State (ISIS has gone on a tomb-destroying spree across its conquered territories, enforcing a Qu'ranic edict against showing devotion to the dead).

The real story, as Dolan exposes, is a little more sordid: Turkey and Islamic State have been double-dealing for some time now, Turkey making little efforts to stop any of the flows of jihadists and weaponry over the border and hampering the Kurds in their efforts to reinforce the Kobani front.

And Islamic State has held the region surrounding the tomb for months now - yet has never once made a move against it. What changed the game is that Kurdish forces, fanning out into the countryside and villages to start reclaiming ground after their hard-fought victory in Kobani, had been approaching the area which held the tomb.

The Turks appear to be trying to get the body of Osman away from the reach of the Kurds, not ISIS. Turkey still sees the Kurdish PKK (and its PYD compatriots in northeastern Syria) as the number one threat to its security.

Turkey's approach to the Islamic State crisis is bending the American-Turkish alliance uncomfortably close to the breaking point. This alliance was a creation of the Cold War to prevent the Soviet Union from seeking to extend its reach to the Mediterranean.  There have been other issues before. Turkey and Greece, both members of NATO, have skirmished and politicked against one another for decades now over Cyprus and shares of control over the Aegean islands and sea. The strains have really begun to show more recently, after Turkey elected the Islamist government fronted by Recep Tayyip Erdogan; before Erdogan, Turkey had long been dominated by secular Kemalist parties and by periods of military dictatorship.

Under Erdogan, Turkey opposed the US war in Iraq, fearing the takedown of Saddam's state would enable the Iraqi Kurds to seize power in northern Iraq, strengthening the Kurdish uprising in Turkey as well and providing a base outside of Turkey's borders for Kurdish independence fighters. This in effect did happen - although the Kurdish faction that took control of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq was divided by ideology and clan from the PKK, the hardline socialist group that leads the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.

Erdogan has also broken with past Turkish practice in being an outspoken critic of Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip, something Turkey under Kemalist rule could hardly have cared less about. Israel's special relationship with the United States has put America in an uncomfortable position as the two have become more and more hostile.

The Syrian Civil War and the rise of the Islamic State have put the latest and largest cracks into this long-standing alliance. Sponsoring jihad in Syria and the overthrow of the Assad government has been a pet project of Erdogan's since the very start of the war. This was never really about democracy, the Free Syrian Army that got so much press in the first years of the war being little more than a coalition of Muslim Brotherhood-aligned militias. This was about installing a sectarian Sunni government in Syria, one that would be beholden to Turkey.

This project hasn't worked out for Erdogan - and he blames the United States for not doing enough to support his scheme. Turkey has a massive, well-equipped and NATO-trained army, one whose only rivals in the region in terms of strength are Israel's and Iran's. Turkey would be capable of conquering Syria if it tried to. But Erdogan has never sent the Turkish Army into Syria - he is either unwilling to accept the losses it would cost him in Turkish lives, or the international backlash that would result from this.

But he was perfectly happy to demand that the U.S. involve itself in the war, to let America face the risks and the losses, and the furious backlash that would result. Thankfully, the United States has shied away from taking such a wrongheaded move - although it has and does continue to flirt with the idea of intervention, and to provide support for the opposition - support that has kept the rebellion going on for years now.

Had Assad been allowed to win, had the US not allowed there to be any international support for the rebellion, it all would have been over in months. Hundreds of thousands who are dead would still be alive. Millions of others who are in refugee camps now would be living in their homes. And Islamic State wouldn't be half as srong as it is today.

Islamic State is the point at which it's become hard to see Turkey under Erdogan's rule as any sort of ally to American interests. Islamic State is enemy number one in the Middle East for the US, for Europe, for Syria, Iraq, the Kurds, Iran, Hezbollah, Egypt, Russia; for every player in the region save two: Israel, which still fears Hezbollah the most, and Turkey - which fears the Kurds more than ISIS and which continues to prioritize the overthrow of the Syrian government over the crushing of the Islamic State.

There are five forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria that are actually doing battle with ISIS directly (while the US and a few European and Muslim allies bomb them from the air). Three of these are effective ground forces that actually put up a fight and wage effective operations. The first are Assad's Syrian Arab Army, backed by elite Hezbollah infantry. The second are sectarian Iraqi Shia militias coordinated by Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers. The third are the Kurdish Peshmerga and YPG militias, who are very tough and determined fighters (they and Hezbollah are the most skilled soldiers  in the war), but are poorly equipped as they don't have as much outside patronage.

The other two forces on the ground against ISIS are the national Iraqi Army, equipped and trained by the Americans, and the "moderate Syrian rebels" (who include al-Qaeda subgroup Jabhat al-Nusra and whose largest forces are all Islamist sectarians). These are the two forces the US and its coalition officially collaborate with as part of the anti-Islamic State campaign.

And they are useless.

Jabhat al-Nusra are the only decent fighters the Syrian rebels have - and they're al-Qaeda foot soldiers, a bunch of savage, extremist freaks that are only a lighter shade of black next to those of ISIS.

The rest are losers, a disorganized rabble that can be counted on to flee, to surrender their weapons to jihadists in exchange for their lives, to sell their guns to ISIS for quick cash, or even to defect and join it. More than a thousand armed groups have sprung up over the course of the war in Syria, and hundreds of them have lasted just long enough to receive shipments of weaponry from the West or the Gulf - and then promptly switched over to the jihadist forces, taking their freshly-delivered guns and bombs along with.

And the Iraqi Army is a joke. This army, a creation that America built up from scratch during the occupation, after disbanding the old one, is an absolute embarrassment to its nation and to ours. It is one of the most colossally failed projects we have ever undertaken in our foreign policy. Years of training efforts, tens of billions of dollars in funding, advanced U.S. equipment like the M1 Abrams tank were put into this new army.

It fell apart the first time it ran into an enemy that would actually fire back against it. It turned out that half its brigades were imaginary, scams for the officers to pocket extra money. It surrendered an enormous haul of American weaponry to the Islamic State, enough for IS to equip tens of thousands of newly recruited and conscripted soldiers, to turn itself from a terrorist group into a terrorist army.

These are the same Iraqis that Saddam Hussein marshaled into an eight-year war with Iran. They didn't win, but they stayed fighting the whole eight years and never broke down.

Give Saddam some credit: he clearly knew better than we do about how to create a working Iraqi Army. His army wasn't that good; it didn't last a week against ours. But Saddam's army would not have been run out of Mosul by a few thousand jihadis on armed pickup trucks. ISIS wouldn't have had a chance against it.

So the two forces the US officially sponsors against ISIS are garbage. Two of the forces that actually are worth a damn when it comes to a fight - the Hezbollah-backed Syrian Army and the Iranian-led Iraqi Shia militias - are ones the United States refuses to support for ideological reasons (don't like Assad, don't like Iran), even when we have strong strategic reasons to cooperate with them.

Which leaves the Kurds, the last of the effective fighting groups. They are people that we like, the Europeans like, the Israelis like, that even the Syrians and Iranians are willing to cooperate with.

The only problem is that the Turks hate the Kurds - and the view them as a larger threat than ISIS. The Islamic State they see as a tool for their ends (it's the most dangerous and effective group fighting to overthrow Assad). The Kurds they see as an enemy.

Turkey is what's keeping America from throwing its full support behind the Kurds. The US is helping out Kurdish forces wih air strikes, but has refrained from supplying them with the weapons they need to mount a major offensive against Islamic State. The Kurds are actually much better and more experienced fighters than most of ISIS' troops (with a few exceptions like the Chechens, jihadists who came from a war with Russia and are some of the most feared guerrilla warriors in the world). The problem is that ISIS soldiers have better weapons and more ammunition than the Kurds.

The US and its allies could level the playing field by delivering major arms shipments to the Kurds, letting their superior combat skills tilt the tides in their favor. The problem is that Turkey won't allow this. The Turks are thinking ahead to tomorrow: they are asking themselves what the Kurds are going to do with those weapons after ISIS has been defeated? The answer is that they'd probably end up being turned against Turkish soldiers. Putting together a Kurdish army strong enough to defeat ISIS would pose a serious threat for Turkey: Turkey has fought against a Kurdish insurgency for decades, and it has never been as strongly equipped before as it would be if it received a full package of American weaponry.

So the Turks have become the biggest obstacle to the formation of an effective anti-ISIS coalition (one that would include US, European, Gulf, Iranian, and Jordanian air support for a joint ground campaign by the Kurds, the Syrian Army (with a ceasefire, truce, or surrender from the Syrian rebels), Hezbollah, and an Iraqi Army directed by Iranian officers and reinforced with Shi'a militas). This coalition working in concert would crush the Islamic State.

But the Turks won't allow it (and the Israelis, the Saudis, and John McCain do their part to sabotage it as well by refusing to cooperate with the Iranians or the Syrians). And what's most frustrating of all is that Turkey could do it all by itself. It has an army of hundreds of thousands of troops, well-trained, NATO-equipped, freshly rested. If the Turkish Army went in full force, it could wipe out Islamic State on its own - and it could do it even faster than the battle-weary Syrians, who are drained by four years of war and terrorism, let alone the Iraqis, who continue to stumble about like their shoelaces have been tied together.

Erdogan's not interested, though. He's still too caught up in his pipe dream of installing a puppet government in Syria, and too invested in Turkey's decades-long feud with the Kurds (a problem he inherited, not that he started, to be fair). So the Islamic State still stands, and the Kurds and the Syrians struggle valiantly against it, unsupported by the US, which is stuck blundering about trying to get the Iraqi Army and the "moderate jihadists" of the Syrian opposition rabble to do something useful - which may or may not happen before the Israelis and Palestinians decide to be best friends.

And the mighty Turkish Army, fresh off its little tomb raiding adventure in Syria, sits on the border and watches the show, carefully keeping its eyes on the slaughter while the latest batch of European jihadists sneaks past to go and join the Caliphate's war.

Tim Mulhair
February 25, 2015