This month’s ultimate enemy — the Islamic State | Reuters

At an Aug. 21 Pentagon press conference, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel claimed that the Islamic State “is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen. They’re beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded.”

Perhaps sensing that his comparison hadn’t reached sufficiently hyperbolic velocity to escape earth orbit, Hagel immediately amended himself. [Read more]

No winners in Israel-Hamas cease-fire | Al Monitor

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas’ political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal have been going at it for 17 years. The saga began during Netanyahu’s first term (1996-99), as a young Israeli prime minister. After a long quiet spell, Hamas started rearing its head, conducting suicide bombings in Israel proper. Netanyahu looked for ways to carry out a “low signature” strike at the organization. Being his usual self, Netanyahu abhorred head-on confrontations, real wars or forceful moves that might have rattled his seat. He preferred to operate under the radar. Back then, Meshaal was relatively anonymous — a senior Hamas militant residing in Jordan, thought by the Israeli Shin Bet and Mossad to be one of the “heads of the snake.” [Read more]

The Gaza war is over. Here’s what it means for the future of Israel-Palestine. | Vox

It looks like, finally, the 2014 Gaza war is over. Israel and Hamas have agreed to an indefinite ceasefire, under terms that Reuters explains here. Everyone agrees that the deal doesn’t alter the fundamental dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — so in a real sense, about 2,100 Palestinians and 69 Israelis died for very close to nothing. But, even under the depressingly narrow terms that these wars are judged by, did anyone come out ahead?

At a first glance at the text of the ceasefire, it looks like Hamas came out ahead. Israel and Egypt both committed to relaxing constraints on the border crossings, a major pre-war Hamas demand. Israel didn’t get much of anything. [Read more]

Why Israel’s bombardment of Gaza neighborhood left US officers ‘stunned’ | Al Jazeera America

The cease-fire announced Tuesday between Israel and Palestinian factions — if it holds — will end seven weeks of fighting that killed more than 2,200 Gazans and 69 Israelis. But as the rival camps seek to put their spin on the outcome, one assessment of Israel’s Gaza operation that won’t be publicized is the U.S. military’s. Though the Pentagon shies from publicly expressing judgments that might fall afoul of a decidedly pro-Israel Congress, senior U.S. military sources speaking on condition of anonymity offered scathing assessments of Israeli tactics, particularly in the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City.

One of the more curious moments in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge came on July 20, when a live microphone at Fox News caught U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry commenting sarcastically on Israel’s military action. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.” [Read more]

Obama Warns of Extended Campaign Against ISIS | Time

President Barack Obama pledged Tuesday that the United States would not rest until it brought to justice the killer of American journalist James Foley at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

“Rooting out a cancer like [ISIS] won’t be easy and it won’t be quick,” Obama told an audience of veterans and their families at the American Legion National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. a week after the extremist group released a video showing the graphic execution of Foley by an ISIS fighter. These were Obama’s first public comments on the conflict since returning from vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. [Read more]

Backing the Kurds will stabilise Iraq | Al Jazeera

Since US airstrikes began on Islamic State targets in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, a number of Western countries have finally decided to empower and arm Iraq’s Kurds in the ever-expanding battle against the radical group. The West has finally made the right decision, as the Islamic State group can only be confronted and defeated with the help of a reliable regional ally such as the Kurds.

Western support for the Kurds should be part of a long-term strategy aimed at stabilising Iraq as a whole. In other words, help the Kurds help Iraq. [Read more]

Monitor Reports Heavy Cluster Bomb Use in Syria | New York Times

Cluster bombs, outlawed munitions that kill and maim indiscriminately, have caused more casualties in the Syrian civil war than in the 2006 Lebanon conflict, when Israel’s heavy use of the weapons hastened the treaty banning them two years later, a monitoring group said Wednesday.

The group, the Cluster Munition Coalition, said in an annual report, “Cluster Munition Monitor 2014,” that it had documented at least 264 deaths and 1,320 injuries in Syria from cluster bombs used in 2012 and 2013, and that “hundreds more were recorded in the first half of 2014.” [Read more]

Libya’s Proxy Apocalypse | The Daily Beast

The mystery warplanes that thundered in on Islamist militias fighting for control of the Libyan capital this week are harbingers of a widening regional conflict. The Libyan chaos following the U.S.-backed ouster of strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 has opened the way to a proxy war among regional and global powers that Washington appears utterly unable to contain – even as it wades once again into the carnage of Iraq and possibly Syria.

This week U.S. officials publicly confirmed that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates carried out airstrikes against the Islamist militias in Tripoli on August 18 and 22, but said they had not given the green light for the raids. [Read more]

Saudi Arabia continues its outrageous repression of human rights activists | Washington Post

“BEING IN a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad,” George Orwell wrote in “1984.” “There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.” For months now, the Saudi human rights activist Waleed Abulkhair has been clinging to the truth against the odds. Last month, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison (with five years suspended), fined a large sum and barred from leaving the country for another 15 years — all because of social media comments and remarks to the news media about the kingdom’s miserable human rights record. [Read more]


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