Posted on July 01, 2015 in Countdown

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Confronting the Real Threat

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, recently asked committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) to organize a briefing that focuses on the danger of domestic terrorism. At the same time, a group of Senators called on Sen. Charles Grassley, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to convene a similar hearing. Chairman McCaul has exclusively focused committee hearings on the threat posed by groups such as ISIL and he responded to Rep. Thompson’s request by proposing a hearing on both international and domestic terrorism. Certain news outlets and members of Congress, like Rep. Peter King (R-NY) are trumping up what they see as most threatening despite the data to the contrary. By solely focusing on the threat posed by ISIL-inspired actors we fail to address domestic rightwing extremism that is resulting in more and more tragic deaths. For over a decade, AAI has been working to make this very point to Congress, the Administration, and the public at large. Keep your calendars open later this month because AAI will hold a congressional briefing on this vital topic. 


Don't Give ISIL What They Want

Following the deadly attacks in France, Tunisia, and Kuwait last week some in Washington are reassessing the threat of ISIL. While there still isn't complete clarity on whether the incidents are part of a coordinated strategy by ISIL, there has been hasty speculation about the group's "expanded reach."  Much of the reporting has noted that these attacks come after ISIL called on its followers to "make Ramadan a month of disasters for infidels" and as such may be elevating the attacks of a few lone wolves to a coordinated campaign. It's too early to tell. One thing is for sure; Kuwait had the correct response. Kuwaiti officials, recognizing that the intention of the attack on a Shi'ite mosque, which killed worshippers during prayer, was to drive a wedge between the country's majority Sunni and minority Shi'ite populations, stressed that Kuwait would face the attack with "unity and solidarity." In the face of the chaos ISIL is attempting to unleash, it is clear that unity and solidarity are the principles that should be driving the global fight against the terror group.


A Rainbow Legacy and Storm Clouds Ahead

President Obama had an impressively triumphant week thanks to key rulings by the Supreme Court. Not only was the so called "ObamaCare” law upheld, but SCOTUS ruled in favor of marriage equality, and equal housing opportunities were reinforced. In fact, the Obama legacy might be largely defined by last week alone. But the President can’t count on the Supreme Court to bail him out of his foreign policy challenges (well, most of them), and the Obama legacy will not be defined by domestic issues alone. In the next year and a half that remains under his administration, President Obama is left to confront the arguably most difficult – and solitary – issues of all, issues that he has practically staked his legacy on. The first of which is the Iran nuclear deal (which Congress is trying to thwart), the U.S. Response to ISIL (which Congress won’t even debate), and of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Good luck President Obama.


War Crimes and Lack of Punishment

Last week the United Nations released its report on Gaza, which accused Israel and Hamas of having committed possible war crimes during last summer's Gaza war.  The Palestinian Authority had submitted separate allegations to the International Criminal Court this past April, seeking justice for nearly 1,500 Palestinian civilians killed last summer. But the PA’s quest for justice could cost Palestinian civilians dearly: members of the U.S. Congress have responded with calls for an immediate suspension of aid to the Palestinian Authority. Withholding the modest $400 million (Israel receives more than $3 billion annually) of Palestinian aid will accomplish exactly nothing – other than making life harder for millions of Palestinians, while fueling anti-American sentiment. Thankfully, the State Department appears unmoved by Congressional demands: the U.S. will “continue to provide critical assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza." But be wary, for Congress still holds the power of the purse. Try floating the idea of suspending aid to Israel, in light of these findings, and see how that goes over.


Those Who Cannot Do, Teach (but really this time)

Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby, two prominent members of former President George W. Bush’s cabinet, are teaching a course this Fall titled "The War in Iraq: A Study in Decision-Making". Both were part of a group of prominent neo-conservatives known as the “Vulcans” which helped to design the W's approach to the War on Terror. They are remembered as some of the chief architects of the 2003 "Operation Iraqi Freedom," the Administration’s assertion that Hussein possessed WMDs (Spoiler: he didn’t), and the subsequent U.S. occupation of Iraq. Given the disastrous failure of the Iraq War and the regional situation today, they seem more qualified to teach courses like “Intro to Destabilizing Regions,” “Confirmation Bias: a Primer,” or “Oil Politics 101.”