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  • At what point do you label a military operation a war? Without getting into the pros and cons, the rights and wrongs of bombing Syria, I still wonder at what point the American people, Congress and President Obama are willing to say 'Yes, we are at war with the Islamic State'. Let's try and break this down.
  • While the rumors of America's impending return to active hostilities in the Middle East have been getting louder by the day, I continued to hold out hope that the President would resist the headwinds and use his prime time address to educate the nation how it is impossible to defeat an ideology with bombs and missiles alone.
  • On the face of it, President Trump’s decision to attack Syria doesn’t make a lot of sense. Launching 59 missiles at a single airbase, as Trump did, is not going to seriously change the outcome of a years-long civil war. So what’s the point of doing it at all?
  • There are several ways to look at Donald Trump's abrupt about-face on Syria. One is that Thursday night's Tomahawk missile strike on an airbase near Homs – a so-called "proportional response" to the Assad regime's apparent sarin gas attack on Tuesday – was a cave to the Pentagon and a signal that at long last "the adults have taken control," as a military source, echoing the entire D.C. foreign policy establishment, puts it. Some believe a nascent national security strategy may be in the works. On the other hand, Trump is Trump.
  • President Trump ordered the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield late Thursday in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed 70 people earlier in the week. The decision represented a huge shift from the administration’s earlier approach toward the Syrian government, but it is also remarkable because it shows the lack of any coherent foreign policy.
  • Russia and a war monitor said the Syrian army had begun to withdraw from a road into Aleppo on Thursday, a prerequisite for pressing ahead with international peacemaking efforts as the government and rebels accused each other of violating a truce.
  • Deir Ezzor, a once relatively prosperous city of more than 300,000 people, is modern-day Syria in a microcosm. When anti-government protests broke out in 2011, the government sent in tanks. When rebels occupied the city, the ideals of those who protested state repression were betrayed by the arbitrary arrests and Islamist repression of al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. Now, half the city is occupied by the Islamic State, which for more than a year has been besieging and starving the other half controlled by the Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad—with the complicity, current and former residents say, of the government itself.
  • The head of the State Department's refugee bureau told a congressional panel on Thursday that Syrians trying to enter the United States pose "less of a threat" than other populations, sparking a harsh exchange with a Republican lawmaker. Asked whether the U.S. government tracks Syrian refugees once they are in the country, Anne Richard, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, said authorities track them for three months after arrival.
  • Iran said on Monday it would quit Syria peace talks if it found them unconstructive, citing the "negative role" of Saudi Arabia, in the latest twist in a spat between the regional rivals that bodes ill for efforts to ease turmoil across the Middle East. Increasingly bad-tempered exchanges between the conservative Sunni-ruled kingdom and the revolutionary Shi'ite theocracy have dampened hopes of improved ties after the adversaries sat down for their first meeting to discuss the Syria war last week
  • Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, is in demand these days. On the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, he shook hands with President Obama and met twice with Secretary of State John Kerry. (Zarif and Kerry have been nominated, jointly, for the Nobel Peace Prize, scheduled to be announced this week, for their two-year negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal.) Zarif hosted both Republican and Democratic officials from previous U.S. Administrations, breakfasted with editors, huddled with American nuclear experts, and briefed the Times editorial board. He also squeezed in a session with the University of Denver, his alma mater; the event was streamed live from the Waldorf-Astoria, because Iranian diplomats are not allowed to travel beyond a twenty-five-mile zone around New York.

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