Wednesday Headlines

Assad Does Not Want To Engage In Combating ISIS
Many foreign policy and military analysts have suggested that the US and the West should put ousting Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad on the backburner to concentrate on fighting ISIS. In fact, some have suggested allying with Assad and its primary supporter Russia to take on the terrorist group.

However, Der Speigel’s Christoph Reuter believes that is not a winning strategy because Assad’s army is not only weak, but has no interest in actually degrading and destroying ISIS. In fact, there have been numerous occasions on which Assad has joined forces with ISIS fighters against Syrian rebel groups.

“The US State Department announced that the regime wasn’t just avoiding IS positions, but was actively reinforcing them. Such cooperation isn’t surprising. The rebels — in all their variety, from nationalists to radical Islamists — represent the greatest danger to both Assad and IS. And if the two sides want to survive in the long term, the Syrian dictator and the jihadists are useful to each other. From Assad’s perspective, if the rebels were to be vanquished, the world would no longer see an alternative to the Syrian dictator,” he reports.

Inattention To Middle East Makes Fighting Terrorism Harder
While the long war against terrorism was declared shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the West has failed to learn from the mistakes of the past by disengaging from the Middle East and permitting chaos to reign, says Reuters columnist Peter Apps.

“Simply protecting the West and letting the Middle East burn is not really an option. Many of the West’s actions over the last decade and a half, however, have made matters worse,” argues Apps.

“The key to achieving victory will be to foster integration in not only the West, but in the nations of the Middle East as well. In the United States and Europe, that is still not that difficult. Even relatively ill-integrated new migrant populations get plenty back in terms of benefits, opportunities and the rule of law. After all, that’s why many came in the first place.

“In countries like Iraq, Nigeria and most particularly Syria, rebuilding that social contract is going to be much, much harder. It will require unpleasant compromises and dealing with people the United States really, really doesn’t like. But it is not impossible. Building those structures needs to be at the heart any truly effective strategy,” he writes.

Democracy Had A Mixed Year in Southeast Asia
Last month, former political prisoner and opposition leader Aung San Suu emerged victorious in historic elections that marked on of the high points in a mixed year for democracy in Southeast Asia this year.

The Philippines, Indonesia, East Timor, and Singapore all saw advances, but Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand saw the greatest decline in terms of embracing more open government, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Related Story: Brookings Institution’s Vanda Felbab-Brown takes a comprehensive examination of how the drug economy has fueled conflict and ethnic separatism in Thailand and Myanmar/Burma since the 1960s. She further looks at how ineffective the conventional approach of bankrupting the illicit drug economies upon which militants rely has been.




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