Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part investigative series on U.S. and French counterterrorism efforts in Niger. Part I examined Niger’s emergence as a target of terrorist groups active in the Sahel region. Part II examines the growing U.S. security presence in Niger, and the nascent tensions with France over how best to counter terror and bolster Niger’s security. Though much has been made of Niger’s recent ascendance as a key U.S. ally in the Sahel region, the country had already begun to distinguish itself as a useful counterterrorism ally in Department of Defense circles as early as […]

Diplomatic Fallout: America’s Diplomatic Hocus-Pocus at the U.N.

Can Barack Obama ever trust the United Nations Security Council again? And will the Security Council, and the U.N. more broadly, trust the U.S. president? Last week, Obama vented his frustration with diplomacy over Syria at a press conference during the G-20 summit in Russia. Asked why he had called for military action in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s resort to the use of chemical weapons, Obama claimed the alternatives “would be some resolutions that were being proffered in the United Nations and the usual hocus-pocus.” This was a sour if pithy turn of phrase from a president who […]

President Barack Obama apparently failed to change any minds on Syria when the leaders attending the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, met for a working dinner Thursday night. Instead, according to Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, the divisions over Syria “were confirmed” at the dinner. One of the problems facing the Obama team is that there remains widespread skepticism about the veracity of U.S. intelligence claims. Even as lab results from Britain’s Porton Down laboratory seem to confirm that sarin gas was used in the attack on three Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21, Russia, along with some other countries, […]

Strategic Horizons: Syria and the Road to American Retrenchment

The extent of history-altering decisions often isn’t evident until after the fact. Who could have guessed, for instance, that George H.W. Bush’s decision to oppose Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 would lead the United States into a global war with al-Qaida and a second, even costlier conflict in Iraq? On rare occasions, though, the importance of a decision is apparent even before it is made with finality—the big picture clearly lurking behind the closer, more immediate one. Deciding whether to attack Syria’s Assad regime for the large-scale use of chemical weapons against civilians is just such a choice, […]

Over the weekend, President Barack Obama called for a vote on a proposed United States military strike against Syria, with the administration releasing a draft authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) that served as a starting point for congressional discussion this week. Lawmakers are working to amend the broad language of that draft, with new draft language proposed by the Senate that uses narrower language than in the administration’s draft and places some limits on the authorization to use force. Speaking with Trend Lines on Tuesday, John Bellinger III, an expert in national security law, said the president […]

The impending U.S. military strike against Syria due to the Syrian army’s massive use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians underscores the difficulties involved in using military force in such situations. It would be far better and less costly to strengthen the Chemical Weapons Convention and other nonproliferation tools than to apply military power to eliminate rogue states’ existing chemical weapons (CW) materials or try to limit their use. Obama administration officials have cited various reasons for launching a limited attack: to punish the Syrian government for its past CW use; to deter further use; and, in case deterrence fails, […]

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