Iraq turmoil sparks Syria debate in US

A supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad celebrates his re-election on 4 June, 2014. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fanatacism and violence will flourish as long as Bashar Assad is in power, writes Anne-Marie Slaughter

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

For two years, writes Anne-Marie Slaughter in the New York Times, proponents of US military intervention in Syria have been "pilloried as warmongers and targeted, by none other than President Obama, as people who do not understand that force is not the solution to every question".

Now that the unrest in Syria has spread to neighbouring Iraq, she says, the Obama administration appears to be changing its tune.

"The sudden turn of events leaves people like me scratching our heads," the former director of policy planning at the State Department during Mr Obama's first term writes. "Why is the threat of ISIS in Iraq a sufficiently vital interest, but not the rise of ISIS in Syria - and a hideous civil war that has dismembered Syria itself and destabilised Lebanon, Jordan and now Iraq?"

The Obama administration sees the world in "two planes", she writes:

[There's] the humanitarian world of individual suffering, where no matter how heart-rending the pictures and how horrific the crimes, American vital interests are not engaged because it is just people; and the strategic world of government interests, where what matters is the chess game of one leader against another, and stopping both state and non-state actors who are able to harm the United States.

It refuses to acknowledge that the two "are inextricably linked", she says.

The US priority should be doing what it can to help the people in both Syria and Iraq because that is the only way the region will be stable, she asserts.

By allowing the Syrian government of Bashar Assad to continue to commit atrocities against its people, she says, it allows "violence, displacement and fanaticism" to flourish.

Mr Obama should seek the support of the United Nations for action - beforehand if possible, but after the fact if necessary.

"This is not merely a humanitarian calculation," she writes. "It is a strategic calculation. One that, if the president had been prepared to make it two years ago, could have stopped the carnage spreading today in Syria and in Iraq."

The Nation's Bob Dreyfuss is not convinced.

"So, like the hawks and neoconservatives of the Republican Party," he writes, "Slaughter is blaming Obama for the crisis, since if he acted with force 'two years ago' everything in Iraq and Syria would be dandy."

He says it's true that the Syria and Iraq uprisings have become a "single conflict", but it is "a regional one, pitting Saudi proxies and allies against Iranian ones, in a war that is both sectarian (Sunni v Shiite) and a geopolitical, state-v-state struggle for regional hegemony".

The American Conservative's Daniel Larison says Slaughter has been called a warmonger because she has never met a military intervention she didn't support.

She may not like the label, he says, but it fits - and it serves a purpose.

"If supporters of intervention are accurately called warmongers, that will tend to make it harder to get the US into new wars, and that is bound to be frustrating for them," he writes. "I'm just not sure why the rest of us should care."


Negotiation is the key to Canada's Northern Gateway pipeline - The approval of Canada's Northern Gateway pipeline on Tuesday has not stopped domestic critics, who continue to denounce the pipeline's potential environmental effects. Some believe, however, that the pipeline is critical to Canada's economy.

"You don't build a nation by saying 'no'," writes Martha Hall Findlay for the Globe and Mail. "You need to ask 'how'."

The pipeline's access to ports on the West Coast opens Canada to global oil markets, she says. Without it, the United States is Canada's only customer for oil, which leads to a significant price discount at a disadvantage to Canada.

"We must diversify our customer base, and the opportunities that resource-hungry Asia presents are huge," she writes. Despite the continued criticism of Northern Gateway, she views that the pipeline represents an exceptional opportunity for Canada.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's shifting legal frontier - With no major domestic terrorist attacks since 2004, Saudi Arabia remains a regional leader in combating terrorism. Despite the domestic calm, the government promotes strict anti-terrorism laws that have "little to do with fear of al-Qaeda and much to do with fear of the Arab Spring," writes author Eman Al Nafjan for the New York Times.

The political instability sweeping across the Middle East has "struck terror in the heart of Saudi Arabia's absolute monarchy," she writes. Along with the recent revolutions, social media have changed the regional landscape, providing an unregulated platform for supporters and dissidents alike.

As awareness of government accountability, citizens' rights and due process spreads across the country, she says that "the monarchy has no scruples about paying lip service to the law, while acting to keep its power absolute".


National economy at stake amidst insecurity - After violent attacks in Kenya killed more than 60 people, the country continues to search for the perpetrators. But "whether the killings were conducted by Al Shabaab or local community leaders engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing is irrelevant," writes Jaindi Kisero for the Daily Nation.

Kenyans are now challenging the effectiveness of their security infrastructure as well as their politicians.

"Clearly, this country has a serious paucity of statesmen," he writes. "Our politicians are more concerned about votes than with the welfare of the people, more interested in the short-term prospects of their own political parties than the long-term future of the country."


Pakistan must prepare for a long haul - Following the bold attack on Karachi's international airport last week, Pakistan's army has launched a full-scale military offensive in North Waziristan. The Dawn's Zahid Hussain believes that this will be "the most critical battle in Pakistan's long war against militant insurgency".

Even with the new military operation, he believes that Pakistan's government still needs to craft a consistent counterterrorism strategy in order to bolster intelligence agencies and the capacity of the civilian rule.

"The presence of the military does not provide permanent solutions," he says. "Therefore, it is necessary to establish a formal civilian system along with the military operation. Without that, the objectives of the operation will never be fully achieved."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Israeli and Palestinian commentators offer their views on the three missing Israeli teens the Israeli government believes were kidnapped by Hamas militants.

"It is not unlikely that Israel is capitalising on the disappearance [of the three settlers] to implement a traditional occupational policy by carrying out a relatively calm military operation to take control of the West Bank."- Hani Habib in the Palestinian Al-Ayyam.

"If it is true that a resistance group had captured the three soldiers, I would like to stress my wish and the wish of the Palestinian people that they return safely to their families in return for the return of all our prisoners safely and happily to their families." - Husam al-Dajani in Palestinain Filastin Online.

"The question whether to hit the military infrastructures of Hamas, the terrorists who abducted the teenagers and their senders, is not in doubt… However, widening the response opposite the organisation should be more calculated… Israel should take into account that the liquidation of Hamas will not leave vacuum, and in its place the Palestinian [National] Authority will not return, but al-Qaeda." - Yisrael Ziv in Israel's Yedioth Aharonot.

"In the absence of evidence that Hamas is responsible for the abduction, barring the prime minister's declarations, it seems that the government is trying to climb the rock of 'liquidation of the terror infrastructure' for the third time." - Zvi Barel in Israel's Ha'aretz. ‎

Have you found an interesting opinion piece about global issues that we missed? Share it with us via email at echochambers (at)