Jihadi John is the new international Bogey-Man. He gets plenty of media coverage these days, and has become a lightning rod of moral outrage in the West. But the media narrative around this new Evil Incarnate comes with a huge price tag: it obscures much more significant realities.
Jordan's boundless generosity has provided a safe haven for the human tide of refugees that have been thrust upon it from war-ravaged Syria and Iraq.
The removal from Syria of the Assad regime's stockpile of chemical weapons shows that joint efforts can yield positive results. Likewise, by agreeing to extend the international negotiations on Iran's nuclear program, the parties to the talks have kept alive the promise of a final deal, which would be a great victory for multilateral diplomacy.
It should be clear after four bloody years in Syria that if we are to make any progress moving forward, it is necessary to shed illusions and fantasies that have shaped too much of the discussion about the conflict.
The lone American in the trailer leans over the students to study their moves, his Syrian translator practically attached to his hip. The Karam Leadership Program identification card hanging around his neck sways side-to-side as he points out a strategic mistake.
While some of the young are despondent, looking for nothing more than to grow old enough to die, the vast majority still dream of something better and are willing to do what it takes to climb themselves out of "The Lost Generation" that the international human-rights community has labeled them. Among these hopefuls, leaders emerge, those with an intense devotion to learning.
When we asked citizens in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and UAE whether they believed the Middle East was better off or worse off as a result of the Arab Spring the responses were largely divided.
Many do not remember their homes back in Syria, and do not think of their current dimly-lit slabs of concrete with yellow water and no heat as "home". Trying to draw them out, Lina suggests they sketch their future homes instead. The dream home they will have when they return to Syria.
We sit in the garden of the Salam school in the city of Reyhanli, at the Turkey-Syria border. The wind ruffles the olive trees, and from the corner of my eye I see the school's pet ducks and rabbits basking in the afternoon sun. This is the setting of Karam's journalism class.
The new U.N. envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, hopes that a ceasefire would serve as a "concrete example" and a model for other frontline areas in the country. But de Mistura is likely walking into a trap.
Nobel Peace Prize-winning Obama is looking to one-up George W. Bush in the toppling of dictators' category as he redoubles efforts to overthrow the Syrian government. Unfortunately, Obama's obsession to effect regime change in Damascus will likely only bolster the Islamic State, which happens to be a sworn enemy of Assad the Apostate.
I traveled to Reyahnli with the Karam Foundation, a non-profit aid organization founded in 2007 and operating in Turkey and Syria. For the last year, Karam has engaged with the Salam school to provide its young students with a physical therapy and wellness program.
Two new American generals have been summoned to oversee military training efforts in Iraq. Each will, in due course, be called upon to testify before Congress as to the progress they are making in their mission. Neither will earn an additional star if he reports back that his charges are militarily incapable of achieving the optimistic objectives set forth by the Obama administration. Congress can anticipate that each of these men, and any others they call upon to testify, will provide them with the sort of pat answers one has come to expect from such hearings. But void of meaningful political change in both Iraq and within the political leadership of the "Free Syrian Army," there will be no cause in either of those countries worthy of the sacrifice of the men America plans to train to fight in the spring offensive of 2015.
There is nothing "Islamic" about the Islamic State (IS), and I don't mean that in the patronizing tone used too often by politicians and quasi-intellectuals who are toeing a line of political correctness or trying to garner favor with Middle Eastern moderates.
Part of the problem is that the U.S. has made the Kurds the centerpiece of its strategy to defeat ISIL in Syria, which Turkey fears will empower and strengthen Kurdish elements that want to overthrow the Turkish state.
This may well be Obama's last chance to change the widespread perception of being weak and indecisive, and restore America's image as the indispensable global leader because only the US can lead the battle against ISIS to a successful conclusion.