Syria Opens Door For Al Qaeda To Redraw Middle East Map

Two years ago, Syria was a civil war confined to the nation’s borders. One year ago, Syria was a brutal civil war having some impact on its neighbors. After more than two years of a failure to lead, the international community must now deal with what it has wrought – a civil war has opened the door for al-Qaeda to redraw the map of the region.

Le Monde’s Benjamin Barthe writes,”After months of latent clashes (and a common enemy), anti-Assad rebels and al-Qaeda militiamen have entered into open conflict. Shocked by the abuses committed by the extremist Islamists in zones under their control, and fearing the increasing power they have over the insurrection, the major Syrian armed rebel groups launched a series of attacks Jan. 3 against positions on Da’ish, the Arabic acronym of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) — the incarnation of al-Qaeda in the Middle East. This offensive may however turn out to have arrived too late to contain the rise in power of transnational jihad in the region.”

Why Is China Exhibiting Aggressive Behavior?
China certainly knows actions have consequences. It certainly knows that when it demonstrates aggression by declaring a defense zone that the US and Japan would react. So, why is it acting out?

One reasons posited is the civilian government were trying to buy the military’s support. Gary Schmitt, director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, says that is unlikely and there is a greater chance it is related to American weakness that the Chinese spotted when the Obama administration began reaching out in 2009.

“Talk at the time from senior American officials of a possible G-2 and President Obama’s statement that “the relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21st century,” making “it as important as any bilateral relationship in the world” appeared to convince that Chinese that its rise to the top might be occurring faster than anticipated because of a more precipitous U.S. decline. This narrative has only increased as the administration’s planned “pivot” to Asia has been undercut by declining defense budgets and doubt that the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement will be concluded anytime soon,” Schmitt writes.

He does not that American weakness is, albeit a large one, just one component.

“What are also at play are Chinese ambitions. China’s leaders want their nation to be a great power; they want China, as in its imperial past, to have a predominant say in the region. Xi’s earliest speeches and appearances were to stoke the “Chinese Dream,” and it was on his watch that Chinese passports were issued with watermark maps that included territories claimed by Japan, Vietnam the Philippines and India.”

China again stoked its neighbors – this time the Philippines and Vietnam – with its proposal that would require foreign fishing vessels to secure Chinese approval before fishing in a large portion of the South China Sea, reports The Philippine Star.

In other news, the BBC reports that China is poised to become the world’s largest goods trader.

Quick Hits
Klaus Wiegrefe of Der Spiegel says there are uncomfortable similarities between Europe today and right before World War I.

Analyst says US pulling out of Afghanistan at exactly the wrong time.

Transcript of New York Times Foreign Correspondent John Burns commentary on the new Bob Gates book.




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