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.
President Obama is no less committed to military action than any of his predecessors. He might personally have a less gung-ho disposition than, say, George W. Bush. But Obama's personality is only a small part of the equation. Despite the putative end of the Cold War, the United States has remained on a war footing. The national security apparatus is programed for intervention. What we see now taking place in the skies above Syria and Iraq is not an exception to the Obama-as-pacifist rule. It is a summation of a particular evolution in U.S. militarism toward the asymmetrical warfare of dispensing death at a distance.
Assad is confident the Syrian army, backed by its current allies, can defend its 'core' from the Islamic State and the rebels without greater external support.
Regardless of the soundness of the president's strategy, to ensure greater success in defeating ISIS, three distinct interlinked aspects must be factored in. Acting accordingly will permanently degrade ISIS and prevent it from rising again to pose a serious threat to our allies in the Middle East and Western security in the future.
Well, we can all relax now. Senator John McCain, who was wrong about Iraq, wrong about the surge in Iraq, wrong about the surge in Afghanistan, wrong about Libya, and wrong about most everything else pertaining to US security, has "vetted" the Syrian rebels he now wants to send arms to.
We should understand from the start that the US had a major hand in creating the new ISIS monster. The US funded the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, which then morphed into al-Qaeda. Then the US destabilized Iraq from 1990 onward and Syria from the mid-2000s, in effect giving al-Qaeda and its affiliates a new stronghold. (As Assad moved closer to Iran, the US and Saudi Arabia took up the effort to topple him.) ISIS broke away from al-Qaeda, and then captured the weaponry that the US had supplied to the Iraqi army. Now, President Obama is getting us still deeper into this never-ending battle with monsters stoked by our own ill-advised policies. Why is he leading us further down this failed path? The US fights these failed wars mainly because of domestic politics.
Syria's largest rebel group, Ahrar al-Sham, lost almost its entire senior leadership late on Tuesday, in an as-yet-unexplained explosion that took place during a secret meeting in Syria's northern Idlib governorate near the border with Turkey.