from The Great Debate:

How the Saudi king benefits from a cleric’s execution

By Peter Van Buren
January 6, 2016

Members of the Shi'ite ulema council hold a sign for Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr who was executed along with others in Saudi Arabia, during a protest demonstration in Karachi, Pakistan, January 2, 2016. The sign reads in Urdu, "Protest, Protest, Protest, we condemn the martyring of Ayatullah Shaikh Baqar al-Nimr and other Muslims, and demand human rights organisations take notice of the inhuman incident and bring fact-finding to the public". REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro  - RTX20S7T

Members of the Shi'ite ulema council hold a sign for Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr who was executed along with others in Saudi Arabia, during a protest demonstration in Karachi, Pakistan, January 2, 2016.  REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

from The Great Debate:

The ‘marriage of convenience’ between Saddam Hussein’s men and Islamic State

By Mohamad Bazzi
January 4, 2016

Shi'ite fighters ride vehicles in Baiji, north of Baghdad, October 16, 2015. Iraqi forces and Shi'ite militia fighters recaptured most of the country’s largest oil refinery from Islamic State militants on Thursday, security officials said. The report could not be independently confirmed because it is too dangerous for journalists to enter the battle zone around the refinery near the town of Baiji, about 190 km (120 miles) north of Baghdad.  REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani  - RTS4SKI

Shi'ite fighters ride vehicles in Baiji, north of Baghdad, October 16, 2015. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

from The Great Debate:

The women warriors giving ISIS nightmares

By Jason Fields
December 17, 2015

Islamic State has many enemies, both around the world and in the Middle East. But there’s one group of fighters that the men of Islamic State fear more than others because, rumors say, to be killed by them doesn’t lead to martyrdom, but to an eternity in hell. These fearsome warriors are members of the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units, and in this week’s War College, we look at the role they – and other women – are playing in the war against Islamic State.

from The Great Debate:

Why Syria is the canary in the coal mine for a new era of world conflict

By Michael Renner
December 1, 2015

Islamist rebel fighters ride on a motorbike along a deserted street in Idlib city April 6, 2015. Idlib, around 30 km (20 miles) from the Turkish border is only the second provincial capital to slip from government hands after Raqqa in the east, which Islamic State has turned into its de facto capital. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah - RTR4WA18

Islamist rebel fighters ride on a motorbike along a deserted street in Idlib city April 6, 2015. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

from The Great Debate:

Why the U.S. sticks with an ineffective strategy against Islamic militants

By Jason Fields
November 24, 2015
Participants: Jason Fields, Matthew Gault, Joseph Trevithick

Predator and Reaper drones hang in the sky above Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq and Syria. Mostly they observe, search for targets – and occasionally they unleash Hellfire missiles. Targets may be large gatherings of suspicious figures, convoys or training camps. They can also be private houses, and sometimes they turn out to be weddings.

from The Great Debate:

How an ugly, brutally effective warplane won the battle for its future

By David Axe
November 24, 2015

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft from Bagram Air Base flies a combat mission over Afghanistan, in this handout photograph taken on June 14, 2009 and obtained on May 20, 2014. A U.S. Congressional panel has rejected the military's proposal to retire the entire fleet of A-10 close-air support planes, as the annual defense policy bill continues to make its way through the House of Representatives. The White House said retiring the planes would save $4.2 billion through 2019. Picture taken June 14, 2009. REUTERS/Staff Sgt. Jason Robertson/U.S. Air Force/Handout via Reuters (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: TRANSPORT MILITARY) ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTR3Q210

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft from Bagram Air Base flies a combat mission over Afghanistan, in this handout photograph taken on June 14, 2009 and obtained on May 20, 2014. REUTERS/Staff Sgt. Jason Robertson/U.S. Air Force/Handout via Reuters

from The Great Debate:

What 100,000 U.S. boots on the ground get you in Syria

November 19, 2015

U.S. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles drive through Camp Adder before departing what is now known as Imam Ali Base near Nasiriyah, Iraq  December 16, 2011. The last convoy of U.S. soldiers pulled out of Iraq on Sunday, ending their withdrawal after nearly nine years of war and military intervention that cost almost 4,500 American and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives.   Picture taken December 16, 2011.  REUTERS/Mario Tama/Pool   (IRAQ - Tags: CONFLICT MILITARY POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR2VDWY

U.S. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles drive through Camp Adder before departing what is now known as Imam Ali Base near Nasiriyah, Iraq December 16, 2011. REUTERS/Mario Tama/Pool

from The Great Debate:

Islamic State has become an existential threat to the West

By John Lloyd
November 18, 2015

Militant Islamist fighters wave flags as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. The fighters held the parade to celebrate their declaration of an Islamic "caliphate" after the group captured territory in neighbouring Iraq, a monitoring service said. The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot previously known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), posted pictures online on Sunday of people waving black flags from cars and holding guns in the air, the SITE monitoring service said. Picture taken June 30, 2014.  REUTERS/Stringer (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT) - RTR3WKNM

Militant Islamist fighters wave flags as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

from The Great Debate:

When it comes to Vladimir Putin and Islamic State, trust but verify

By Gregory Feifer
November 18, 2015

Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles during a session of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi, Russia, October 22, 2015. Putin said on Thursday he had asked his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad how he would view an armed opposition force that was genuinely ready to combat Islamic State militants. REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. - RTS5OQ8

Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles during a session of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi, Russia, October 22, 2015. REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

from The Great Debate:

Islamic State and the ‘management of savagery’

By Emad Mostaque
November 17, 2015

Islamic State militants lead what are said to be Ethiopian Christians along a beach in Wilayat Barqa, in this still image from an undated video made available on a social media website on April 19, 2015. The video purportedly made by Islamic State and posted on social media sites on Sunday appeared to show militants shooting and beheading about 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya. Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the video but the killings resemble past violence carried out by Islamic State, an ultra-hardline group which has expanded its reach from strongholds in Iraq and Syria to conflict-ridden Libya. Libyan officials were not immediately available for comment. Ethiopia said it had not been able to verify whether the people shown in the video were its citizens. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY VIDEO. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.  - RTR4XX9A

Islamic State militants lead what are said to be Ethiopian Christians along a beach in Wilayat Barqa, in this still from an undated video, released April 19, 2015. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV