The Great Debate

When Palmyra rivaled the Roman Empire

By Mike Duncan
May 25, 2015
Tourists take pictures at the ancient Palmyra theater in the historical city of Palmyra

Tourists take pictures at the ancient theater in the historical city of Palmyra, April 18, 2008. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

Snubbed by Saudi Arabia, what can Obama salvage from Arab summit?

By Peter Van Buren
May 12, 2015
U.S. President Obama walks with Saudi King Salman to a meeting at Erga Palace in Riyadh

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) walks with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to a meeting at Erga Palace in Riyadh January 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Life is harsh under Islamic State. But what’s the alternative?

By Aki Peritz
February 9, 2015
Man walks down a street filled with abandoned vehicles and debris from damaged buildings in the northern Syrian town of Kobani

A man walks down a street in the northern Syrian town of Kobani, January 30, 2015. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Iran is using Israel to distract from its real aims in the Persian Gulf

By Anthony H. Cordesman
February 5, 2015
A member of Iran's Revolutionary guard stands at attention during an anti-U.S. ceremony in Azadi (freedom) Square in Tehran April 25, 2010. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

A member of Iran’s Revolutionary guard stands at attention during an anti-U.S. ceremony in Azadi (freedom) Square in Tehran April 25, 2010. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Is war between Hezbollah and Israel inevitable?

By Michael Williams
February 4, 2015
Israeli soldiers carry their belongings in an area near the Israel-Lebanon border January 29, 2015. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israeli soldiers carry their belongings in an area near the Israel-Lebanon border January 29, 2015. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

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.’

Sykes-Picot drew lines in the Middle East’s sand that blood is washing away

By Michael Williams
October 24, 2014

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Last week British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said the struggle against Islamic State was “effectively Iraq’s last chance as nation state.”

from Compass:

To build a coalition against Islamic State, U.S. must try a little humility

By Nader Mousavizadeh
September 25, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama chairs the U.N. Security Council summit in New York

When President Barack Obama assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council Wednesday, he summoned the full weight of U.S. power to a cause with seeming universal appeal: defeating the barbarism of Islamic State -- or, as Obama calls the militant group, Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL).

Air strikes won’t disrupt Islamic State’s real safe haven: social media

By Rita Katz
September 24, 2014
jihad tweet President Barack Obama has pledged to destroy Islamic State and ensure fighters “find no safe haven.” But even as U.S.-led airstrikes are underway in Iraq and Syria, it is clear that bombs alone will not do the job. For Islamic State hides out in the most perfect haven: the World Wide Web.

In June 2014, the militant group that Obama refers to as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, grabbed the world’s attention after it took over much of northern Iraq in roughly four days. Islamic State accomplished this by building a massive, sophisticated virtual network of fighters in addition to those on the ground. Indeed, its expansion online has been as swift as its territorial gains. It is this virtual power grab that will be most difficult to combat.

Avoid a classic blunder: Stay out of religious wars in the Middle East

By Elizabeth A. Cobbs
September 16, 2014

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Muslims in the Middle East are fighting wars of religion. Like the carnage between Protestants and Catholics that haunted Northern Ireland during the last third of the 20th century, there is little anyone can do until local peoples crave peace so intensely they are willing to cultivate it.