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NATOFriday, September 5, 2014

Articulating a Strategy to Fight the Islamic State

The Obama Administration is cautiously escalating its efforts to defeat the Islamic State, building an international coalition to support ongoing operations that have included advising Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga and supporting offensives in Iraq against the Islamic State with airstrikes. But as the United States increases its efforts to push back the Islamic State, it is now more critical than ever to frankly assess the threat the organization poses and formulate clear goals and a sustainable strategy for defeating the Islamic State. The United States needs clear goals and a fully-articulated strategy to avoid mission creep and the risk of miring itself in a potentially long, costly, and inconclusive conflict. The United States needs an honest, clear-eyed assessment of the Islamic State and… Read More ›

diplomacyNATORussiaWednesday, September 3, 2014

Responding to Russia’s Actions in Ukraine: The Role of NATO

Recent reports indicate that Russia has escalated its assistance to rebels in eastern Ukraine with a greater flow of armaments and the direct involvement of around 1,000 Russian troops. This morning, a day ahead of the NATO summit in the United Kingdom, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have endorsed a ceasefire plan in Ukraine following conflicting reports. Nonetheless, the summit beginning tomorrow provides an important venue for NATO to respond to Russian aggression to increase European stability regardless of the outcome of the apparently preliminary ceasefire arrangement under consideration. Top agenda items include reassuring NATO member states – particularly Baltic states, where President Obama is currently visiting – of alliance commitments, increasing preparedness for countering unconventional operations like those Russia has conducted in Ukraine, addressing underwhelming… Read More ›

IraqThursday, August 21, 2014

NSN Special Update – Military Action in Iraq: Assessing the Legal Authorities

  Limited airstrikes by the United States against the Islamic State are entering their third week. The stated objectives of the strikes, which have hit about 90 targets so far, is to protect American personnel in Iraq and facilitate humanitarian relief. President Obama has signaled that military operations may increase in intensity and scope on the condition that a new government is formed in Baghdad that is inclusive of Iraq’s minority populations, especially its Sunni population. With Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki having committed to step aside earlier in the month, Prime Minister designate Haider al-Abadi is pressing ahead in attempts to form a unity government. These developments in Washington and Iraq are increasing the possibility of a sustained American air campaign that may escalate in… Read More ›

CongressIranWednesday, July 30, 2014

Seeing Past the Theatrics on the Iran Debate

Seeing Past the Theatrics on the Iran Debate July 30, 2015 The NSN Daily Update will be on hiatus during the congressional August recess and return in September. Hearings on Capitol Hill yesterday on the Iran nuclear talks produced serious testimony by Administration witnesses but also enabled considerable uninformed showboating by opponents of a diplomatic agreement with Iran. Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and David Cohen, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, presented testimony on the Hill yesterday to update Congress on the status of the nuclear negotiations with Iran. They noted that the talks in Vienna, which have been extended until November 24, have been productive: significant compromises appear within reach, and as Sherman noted in her prepared statement,… Read More ›

IraqMonday, July 28, 2014

The Case for Repealing the 2002 Iraq AUMF

U.S. Army Spc. Justin Towe scans his area while on a mission with Iraqi army soldiers from 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division in Al Muradia village, Iraq. [US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway, 3/13/2007] As the debate continues over how the United States should respond to the Islamic State, the Administration last week reiterated its calls to repeal the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Indeed, the need for an effective response to the Islamic State not only coincides with the need to repeal the Iraq AUMF, but increases the need to do so. On the one hand, as National Security Advisor Susan Rice argued last week, repealing the Iraq AUMF now would underscore “that ground… Read More ›

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Islamic State and al-Qaeda: Threat Inflation and Conflation

  ISIS Media Hub twitter photo, 7/5/2013 Today, large areas of the Iraq-Syria border region remain under control of the Islamic State, a violent Salafi jihadist organization that has declared the territory a new caliphate under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Members of the Obama Administration appeared before Congress this week to testify about the organization and the threat it poses – but at times this testimony conflated the Islamic State with al-Qaeda, which has disowned the Islamic State, and overstated the threat it poses to the United States. These inaccuracies are not just misleading, but could have dangerous effects in how members of the U.S. government and public perceive the organization and how the laws authorizing U.S. military force apply to the Islamic… Read More ›

diplomacyRussiasanctionsUkraineWednesday, July 23, 2014

Increasing Pressure on Russia to Resolve the Ukraine Conflict

Increasing Pressure on Russia to Resolve the Ukraine Conflict July 23, 2014 Following the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) in eastern Ukraine, the West faces challenges in coordinating a significant increase in pressure on Russia to bring an end to the regional conflict.  Thus far, relatively modest sanctions by the United States and Europe have been effective in imposing costs on the Russian economy and were likely a factor in the removal of Russian forces from the border and Moscow’s backing away from the threat of invading eastern Ukraine. Nonetheless, Russian support for separatists has continued to fuel the conflict. Short of an unlikely reversal of Russian policy, the United States should employ more assertive diplomatic measures. Perhaps the greatest challenge facing Washington… Read More ›

IranMonday, July 21, 2014

Iran Nuclear Talks: Extension Builds on Positive Momentum

Secretary Kerry Addresses Reporters During News Conference Following Iran Nuclear Talks in Vienna, 7/15/2014 On Friday night, P5+1 and Iranian diplomats announced a plan to extend the nuclear negotiations past the July 20 deadline for the Joint Plan of Action that has frozen Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for modest sanctions relief. Under the terms of the extension, Iran’s nuclear enrichment program will remain frozen and it will continue to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium, converting it into non-weaponizable forms. This will allow negotiators to continue to build on the progress that has been made toward a comprehensive agreement that could ensure Iran’s nuclear program will remain peaceful. The extension is a good deal, and those who have voiced opposition to it fail to… Read More ›

diplomacyWednesday, July 16, 2014

Stopping the Dangerous Political Games with State Department Nominees

  US Department of State twitter photo, 7/3/14   Fueled by conservative obstructionism, over 50 nominees for top posts at the Department of State remain unconfirmed by the U.S. Senate, including over 40 nominees for ambassador positions. But the foot-dragging is not motivated by substantive concerns regarding most of the nominees. Instead, conservative obstructionism appears to be primarily a politically motivated retaliation – what Senator Corker (R-TN) called “blowback” – for last year when the Senate made filibustering nominations more difficult following conservatives’ abuse of that tactic at historically high levels.  This kind of political brinksmanship is dangerous and holds American interests at risk in regions across the world where diplomacy plays a leading role in advancing American national security. As the recent confirmations of the U.S.… Read More ›

IranMonday, July 14, 2014

Understanding a Potential Iran Nuclear Deal

  Secretary Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif Sit Down For Second Day of Nuclear Talks in Vienna. [State Department photo, 7/14/14]Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are in Vienna this week as Iran and the P5+1 attempt to conclude negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program prior to the July 20 deadline. After a meeting between Kerry and Zarif on Sunday, Zarif noted that the two had “made some important headway.” While significant gaps between the Iranian and P5+1 negotiating positions remain, there are still opportunities for compromise, which should continue to be explored even if the talks must be extended beyond July 20. The potential for a deal has frequently been muddled by misunderstandings about Iran’s proposed enrichment capacity, the… Read More ›

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