from The Great Debate:

Ghost army: You, too, can command an Iraqi division for only $2 million

By Peter Van Buren
December 10, 2014

Members of Iraqi security forces and Shiite fighters eat on their vehicle on the outskirts of Baiji

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi recently revealed that there are 50,000 "ghost soldiers" who haunt the payrolls of the Iraqi Army. Many see the phenomenon as a factor in the army's defeat at the hands of the Islamic State, and as an example of how Prime Minister Abadi is trying to initiate reform.

from The Great Debate:

The pope’s door is always open to ISIS. Why America’s should be, too.

By Jonathan Powell
December 8, 2014

Hamas fighter speaks on the phone as he sits inside the personal meeting hall of President Abbas after they captured his headquarters in Gaza

Pope Francis strayed into controversy recently when he said that, while he supported military action against Islamic State, he also would not rule out speaking to the group if it would help bring peace to Syria and Iraq. “It is difficult, one could say almost impossible, but the door is always open,” he said.

from The Great Debate:

Here’s why killing the head of Islamic State wouldn’t yield results

By Arie W. Kruglanski
November 27, 2014

Aerial view of bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad

Many believe that killing the leaders of terrorist organizations like Islamic State could change the course of events in Iraq and Syria. Like the cutting off of a snake’s head, eliminating the chief of a terrorist organization is assumed to deal it a fatal or near fatal blow. The U.S. government, for instance, has often boasted about eliminating major al Qaeda leaders, and viewed such assassinations as a clear mark of progress in the ‘global war on terror.’

from The Great Debate:

Hunting for scapegoats, Obama bagged the wrong guy in Hagel

By Lawrence Korb
November 24, 2014

U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel listens as President Obama announces Hagel's resignation at the White House in Washington

The timing of Chuck Hagel’s resignation as secretary of defense may have been a surprise, but the fact that he was on his way out has been rumored for weeks. The real issue is why he either stepped down or was forced to leave after such a comparatively short time in office.

from MacroScope:

Iran talks stumble on

By Mike Peacock
November 24, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian FM Zarif before their meeting in Vienna

Officials say it will not be possible to reach a comprehensive deal between Iran and six world powers aimed at resolving the stand-off over Tehran's nuclear ambitions by today’s deadline.

from MacroScope:

UK politics thrown up in the air

By Mike Peacock
November 21, 2014

Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, cheers as it is announced that UKIP candidate Mark Reckless won the by-election at Medway Park in Gillingham

As predicted, Britain’s surging anti-EU party UKIP snatched a second parliamentary seat from the ruling Conservatives overnight.

from MacroScope:

Will Germany’s Q4 get any better?

By Mike Peacock
November 18, 2014

Traders are pictured at their desks in front of the DAX board at the Frankfurt stock exchange

Germany’s ZEW index will give an indication of whether the fourth quarter will be any better for Europe’s largest economy after it barely escaped recession in Q3. In October, the index dropped to its lowest level in nearly two years.

from MacroScope:

Draghi back in the dock

By Mike Peacock
November 17, 2014

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European Central Bank President Mario Draghi faces lengthy interrogation at the European Parliament today.

from The Great Debate:

Seven unlikely events in the fight against Islamic State, and their likely outcomes

By Aki Peritz and Tara Maller
November 17, 2014

Shi'ite fighters, who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), take part in field training in the desert in the province of Najaf

It’s easy to get depressed about the Middle East these days. The bloodshed continues unabated in Syria. Islamic State advances across Iraq, sacking towns and slaughtering innocents. Millions are refugees. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seems well ensconced in Damascus, on track to outlasting President Barack Obama in office.

from MacroScope:

UK election – a race to the bottom?

By Mike Peacock
November 13, 2014

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Miliband speaks at the CBI annual conference in London

The theme of both Britain’s main political parties behaving like they want to lose next May’s election continues.