Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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The United States doesn’t want to go to war with Iran to protect its Arab allies

Robert F. Worth writes: Gulf leaders have become uneasy about the mismatch between Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and his actions. In June, he threatened Iran with “obliteration” after it shot down an unmanned American drone, and then backed away from a planned retaliation at the last minute. His decision to fire John Bolton, his hawkish national security adviser, has strengthened a belief that Mr. Trump does not want war. But many

Recent events on and around the Arabian Peninsula

June 23, Meet the Press: WATCH: Trump tells Chuck Todd that he wants to talk with Iran with “no pre-conditions.” #MTP #IfItsSunday — Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) June 23, 2019 August 28, Mareike Transfeld wrote: Last month, the UAE said it would withdraw its troops from the northern port of Hodeidah. In reassuring the international community that it had coordinated this with Saudi Arabia, it explained it was just

Journalists and activists ‘laundering’ genocidal regimes

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad writes: A week after Damascus feted a delegation of the European far right, Bashar al-Assad’s regime ushered in a new set of suitors. On Sunday, the American blogger and Sputnik contributor Max Blumenthal announced his arrival in Syria with a selfie. The caption read: “Here I am near the border of Jobar, a neighborhood east of Damascus occupied by the Saudi-backed Jaish al-Islam until early last year.

Attack on Saudi oil sites raises risks amid U.S.-Iran tension

The Associated Press reports: A weekend drone attack on Saudi Arabia that cut into global energy supplies and halved the kingdom’s oil production threatened Sunday to fuel a regional crisis, as Iran denied U.S. allegations it launched the assault and tensions remained high over Tehran’s collapsing nuclear deal. Iran called the U.S. claims “maximum lies,” while a commander in its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard reiterated its forces could strike U.S. military

How Trump upended U.S.-Taliban peace talks

The Associated Press reports: With a series of tweets, President Donald Trump has upended nearly a year of U.S.-Taliban negotiations on ending America’s longest war. He has “called off” the talks and asserted that a planned secret meeting between him and Taliban leaders at Camp David, set for Sunday just days before the 9/11 anniversary, is now canceled. Some question whether it was a face-saving attempt after the deal his

The West has lost confidence in its values. Syria is paying the price

Anne Applebaum writes: The crisis of Western values has many aspects, many faces. There is a decline in faith in liberal democracy, a loss of confidence in universal human rights, a collapse in support for all kinds of transnational projects. There is a constitutional crisis brewing in London. There is a president who defies democratic norms in Washington. There are challenges to the free press and independent judges in democracies

The Taliban know how badly Trump wants out of Afghanistan

The Daily Beast reports: Presumably there will be some agreement in the not too distant future as the Taliban give Trump enough concessions to save face, but they know what they call the “evacuation” of all American forces, whether in uniform or as covert or contract operatives, will demoralize the U.S.-backed regime in Kabul and especially the Afghan military and security forces. These local soldiers and police, after 17 years

Europe’s fear of refugees might be the only thing that can save Syrians

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad writes: Much of Europe is eager to see the conflict end so that Syria could be designated “post-conflict” and its people repatriated. Myopic proposals have circulated since 2014 for using reconstruction funds as an incentive to secure Assad’s cooperation. But any time refugees are forced to return to an undeterrable state like Syria, they are being sent to an uncertain future with their properties confiscated, facing possible

A new era of machine-driven warfare: Robots that can kill

Zachary Fryer-Biggs writes: Wallops island—a remote, marshy spit of land along the eastern shore of Virginia, near a famed national refuge for horses—is mostly known as a launch site for government and private rockets. But it also makes for a perfect, quiet spot to test a revolutionary weapons technology. If a fishing vessel had steamed past the area last October, the crew might have glimpsed half a dozen or so

Bolton sidelined from Afghanistan policy as his standing with Trump falters

The Washington Post reports: As the president’s top aides prepared for a high-stakes meeting on the future of Afghanistan earlier this month, one senior official was not on the original invite list: national security adviser John Bolton. The attendance of the top security aide would normally be critical, but the omission was no mistake, senior U.S. officials said. Bolton, who has long advocated an expansive military presence around the world,

Another suspected Israeli strike in Lebanon as war fears intensify

The Washington Post reports: Lebanese and Iraqi politicians denounced Israeli strikes on their territory as a “declaration of war” on Monday as a suspected Israeli aircraft struck another Iran-linked target in Lebanon, marking a new escalation in tensions. The attack on a Palestinian facility in eastern Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley was the fourth in the space of just a little over a day to hit locations tied to Iranian-backed groups in

Syria and the West’s shameful failure to act

An editorial in The Observer says: The crisis in Syria does not feature high on the agenda at this weekend’s G7 summit in Biarritz. The absence of two key players – Russia and Turkey – means any substantive initiatives are unlikely. Donald Trump has washed his hands of the conflict, although Pentagon chiefs are resisting his demand to withdraw all US forces. European leaders, beset by many other urgent problems,

Iraqis, bristling over Israeli airstrike, renew call for U.S. troops to get out

The Los Angeles Times reports: News that Israel was behind airstrikes in Iraq has reinvigorated calls to oust U.S. forces from the country. A U.S. official confirmed Friday that Israel had struck a base for the Hashd al Shaabi, an umbrella group of Shiite-dominated militias also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, many with deep links to Iran. Two Iranian commanders were reported killed in the attack, which occurred in

What ‘victory’ looks like: A journey through shattered Syria

The New York Times reports: Picking our way around the ruins of the Damascus suburb of Douma, it took a little while to realize what was missing. There were women carrying groceries, old men droning by on motorbikes and skinny children heaving jugs of water home. But there were few young men. They had died in the war, been thrown in prison or scattered far beyond Syria’s borders. Now, it

The U.S. is nearing a deal with the Taliban. But another major threat looms in Afghanistan: ISIS

The Washington Post reports: The official government line here is that the Islamic State has been defeated. The local branch of the extremist Sunni militia, Afghan officials say, has been corralled into a mountainous area near the Pakistani border by Afghan and U.S. forces and can no longer control populated areas. They say it has been reduced to staging suicide attacks against “soft” targets, like the wedding party bombing here

The world looks away while Idlib awaits its fate

Elizabeth Tsurkov reports: On July 22 Russian jets bombed the market in Maarat al-Numan, a town near Idlib in northwestern Syria, killing 40 civilians. According to an eyewitness named Um Abdullah, the bombing was so devastating that rescue workers struggled to find corpses left intact. “They filled entire bags with body parts,” she said. Idlib and the surrounding area is now the last remaining territory in Syria still controlled by