The Islamic State Creeps and Everybody Weeps

The Islamic State Creeps and Everybody Weeps

Why you should care

A dozen years ago, a coalition of the willing invaded Iraq, and nothing would ever be the same. 

As presidential candidates fumble questions about the Iraq War and journalists argue about how to ask the questions, the Islamic State group is conquering ever more territory. Just this week, the ancient cities of Ramadi, Iraq, and Palmyra, Syria, fell to the Islamic State group, and way, way, way out here in Silicon Valley — far from Iraq and Syria, far from the Washington makers of war — we are scared. We’ve really made a mess of things, haven’t we?

In The Dicey, Dangerous Future of Syria’s Exiled Government, Laura Secorun Palet visits Syria’s best shot at a credible government that is neither a murderous dictator nor murderous terrorists. Here’s the thing: Syria’s government in exile doesn’t have much credibility either. As evidenced by its offices’ empty desks and cracked ceilings, its coffers are running dry. No one, from the education minister all the way down to the people in Syria who administer exams to children, has been paid since January, says the justice minister. More troubling is that among Syrians themselves, the exiled government’s reputation is rocky. After all, no one in Syria elected the Cabinet members, and neither did the thousands of Syrian refugees who’ve fled to Gaziantep, Turkey. Its leaders are contemplating a move back to Syria — where they’ll have to dodge bullets, chemical weapons, assassins and Assad’s bombs. Read more here.

Secorun Palet looked into another outcome of the Middle East crisis this week, in a striking portrait of the mayor of a small island in the south of Italy, called Lampedusa. There, asylum-seekers — most from the Horn of Africa, but many from the Middle East — arrive by the boatload, to the tune of 2,500 a month. Many have drowned on the passage. As European countries try to shirk the burden of a rising tide of refugees, Mayor Giusy Nicolini — Europe’s Gatekeeper insists on turning her island into a haven for them. “The thing with human rights is that you can’t make exceptions,” she tells Secorun Palet. Read more here.

What’s the endgame here? Uncertain. OZY’s “spy-in-residence” — former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin — outlined some of the potential outcomes last month in The Middle East Conflict With Five Dimensions. At the top of the to-do list is destroying the Islamic State group, he argues, and that would almost certainly require more American boots on the ground. Read more here.

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