Politics, Moderate



Three Unsung Heroes in the Middle East

WASHINGTON -- If you're cringing this Thanksgiving at the homicidal youth gang that calls itself the Islamic State, you might consider the narratives of three young people in the Middle East who are trying to make a positive difference. The killers and fanatics may get the headlines, but these three represent an untold part of the story.

One is...Read more

Trump's Words Put the Nation at Greater Risk

WASHINGTON -- Crises bring out the best and worst in people, as has been demonstrated vividly this past week by the behavior of President Obama and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Obama showed his best face in Tuesday's press conference with visiting French President Francois Hollande. Obama was cool and restrained, analytically clear,...Read more

After the 'Caliphate' Falls

WASHINGTON -- French President Francois Hollande has announced that his country is at war with the Islamic State, and America is surely part of that conflict, too. What the warfighters need urgently is a road map for the future, after the terrorist group is defeated.

Planning the shape of the post-war Middle East may seem like a fantasy right ...Read more

A Coalition of Disgust

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- Do Western nations think that Muslim lives matter less? Most of us would resist any such characterization of callousness. But Western outrage about the carnage in Paris, coupled with near-indifference to similar killings in the Arab world, suggests to many Muslims that a double standard exists -- and they find ...Read more

The Diplomatic High Wire Over Syria

WASHINGTON -- "Syrian peace talks" is one of those phrases where the soothing words don't fit the nightmare reality. But the indefatigable Secretary of State John Kerry is making another try this weekend in Vienna, and there's more to this effort than just his good intentions.

What's driving this round of diplomacy is the hope that Russia needs...Read more

On Foreign Policy, Obama Has the Right Target

WASHINGTON -- President Obama's foreign policy has been a regular punching bag for Republican presidential candidates, but many of their criticisms are facile. The next president -- from whichever party -- will have to confront the same puzzle that Obama has faced about how best to use U.S. power in a world that resists military solutions.

...Read more

The Master Manipulator

WASHINGTON -- Among the remarkable facts about Ahmed Chalabi was that after turning Iraq and America upside down and unleashing all the gods and devils of war, he died of natural causes in Baghdad this week.

Few people have changed the course of the last few decades more, through the force of personality, than did Chalabi. Historians will argue...Read more

The Syrian Tinderbox

WASHINGTON -- President Obama says he doesn't want to turn the Syria conflict into a proxy war. Unfortunately, that's already happening, as combatants join the battle against the Islamic State with radically differing agendas that could collide.

Let's look at the confusing order of battle: The United States has decided that its strongest ...Read more

Awkwardness Steals the Stage

WASHINGTON -- "That's awkward."

This surely was the response of many viewers watching the chaotic, ill-moderated GOP debate Wednesday night. But maybe its weirdness became the debate's selling point.

Advertising experts say that awkwardness is a peculiar attribute of the national mood these days. Many television commercials end with a ...Read more

Can Xi Jinping Control China's Wave of Change?

HONG KONG -- Some of the luxury boutiques along Des Voeux Road here seemed nearly empty of Chinese customers at times last weekend. With an anti-corruption campaign raging on the mainland, this evidently isn't the moment for Chinese to engage in conspicuous consumption.

"Party tightens grip on dissenting voices," headlined the South China ...Read more

A Maritime Game of Chicken in East Asia

SINGAPORE -- The U.S. appears to be moving toward a military test of China's claims of sovereignty in disputed areas of the South China Sea, and officials here seem pleased that President Obama is prepared to put more muscle into his famous "pivot" to Asia.

The U.S. has been briefing Asian allies about its new readiness to assert "freedom of ...Read more

Putin Aims to Fulfill His Mentor's Dreams

WASHINGTON -- The godfather of Russia's military intervention in Syria is Yevgeny Primakov, a former prime minister, intelligence chief and for decades his nation's leading Arabist. A hint of Primakov's influence on President Vladimir Putin came in the unusual eulogy that Putin delivered at his friend's funeral in Moscow four months ago.

"...Read more

Still Wearching for a Strategy in Syria

WASHINGTON -- A Syrian Kurdish militia that was initially seen by U.S. commanders as a sideshow has emerged as the strongest U.S.-backed force against the Islamic State -- forcing a hasty re-evaluation of U.S. strategy after the collapse of a $500 million plan for training and equipping Syrian rebels.

U.S. military commanders are now ...Read more

A Cyclone Brews Over Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON -- An internal political storm is roiling Saudi Arabia, as the crown prince and his deputy jockey for power under an aging King Salman -- while some other members of the royal family agitate on behalf of a third senior prince who they claim would have wider family support.

For the secretive oil kingdom, whose internal debates are ...Read more

Corralling Our Objectives in Syria

WASHINGTON -- A favorite Arab proverb goes something like this: A shepherd asks the Prophet: Should I let my camels loose and trust in God? No, answers the Prophet. Tie down your camels and trust in God.

The Obama administration has been operating with a loose strategy in Syria and Iraq. Washington said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ...Read more

Dangers Still Lurk in South Asia

WASHINGTON -- Last weekend's deadly attack on an international hospital in Afghanistan was a reminder of the terrible war that grinds on there, with Afghan civilians caught in the crossfire.

Doctors Without Borders, a globally respected group, has charged that the deaths of 22 patients and staff members at its hospital in Kunduz was a "war ...Read more

How Russia Created "Facts on the Ground" in Syria

WASHINGTON -- Russia's expanded role in the Middle East has been hiding in plain sight for months. And the Obama administration, eager for Moscow's diplomatic help, all but invited it. Now that Russian jets and tanks have arrived in Syria, this intervention doesn't look so benign.

"These are facts on the ground," warns John McLaughlin, former ...Read more

A New Misadventure for Putin?

WASHINGTON -- Between the lines of President Obama's comments on Syria at the United Nations Monday, you could hear a sad admission of failure: The U.S. hasn't been able to organize a winning strategy to deal with the Islamic State. Maybe we should let Russian President Vladimir Putin try his hand.

Obama's speech had two signature comments. The...Read more

The Power of The Pope

WASHINGTON -- Pope Francis and Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in America this week the same way, making a slow descent down an airplane ramp toward a waiting entourage. Watching the two, you couldn't help wondering: Which man is more powerful in the world today?

Francis is arguably the dominant figure, despite the old crack about how many...Read more

An Ally Poised to Strike the Islamic State

WASHINGTON -- While the Obama administration haggles over its Syria strategy, a Kurdish militia that claims more than 25,000 battle-hardened fighters is poised several dozen miles north of the Islamic State's capital of Raqqa -- ready to roll toward the extremists' sanctuary.

U.S. special operations forces have been providing air support, ...Read more

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