France kills more than 20 militants on Mali, Burkina border

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

France kills more than 20 militants on Mali, Burkina border

France has killed more than 20 militants hiding in a forest near the border between the West African countries of Mali and Burkina Faso this weekend, its regional force said in a statement.

The operation followed the death of a French soldier nearby earlier this month. It involved both air and ground strikes, the statement said. It did not identify the militant group.

Mali has been regularly hit by Islamist militant violence, despite a 2013 French-led operation to drive them out of key northern cities they had seized. It extended a state of emergency by six months this weekend.

But violence in its southern neighbor, Burkina Faso, began to intensify last year with an attack in the capital that killed dozens. Burkinabe officials believe a new Islamist militant group called Ansar al-Islam led by a local preacher was using the Foulsare Forest as a base for launching attacks elsewhere.

France has deployed some 4,000 soldiers to fight Islamist militants in the region.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Matthias Blamont in Paris; Editing by Robin Pomeroy, Larry King)

Trump Was Right to Strike Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT AND THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Opinion

Trump Was Right to Strike Syria

President Trump’s air strikes against Syria were of dubious legality. They were hypocritical. They may have had political motivations.

But most of all, they were right.

I’m deeply suspicious of Trump’s policies and competence, but this is a case where he is right and Barack Obama was wrong. Indeed, many of us believe that Obama’s worst foreign policy mistake was his passivity in Syria.

But Trump changed US policy 180 degrees after compelling photos emerged of children gassed in Syria. Should a president’s decisions about war really depend on the photos taken?

Here’s why I believe he was right.

Since the horrors of mustard gas during World War I a century ago, one of the world’s more successful international norms has been a taboo on the use of chemical weapons. We all have an interest in reinforcing that norm, so this is not just about Syria but also about deterring the next dictator from turning to sarin.

For an overstretched military, poison gas is a convenient way to terrify and subdue a population. That’s why Saddam Hussein used gas on Kurds in 1988, and why Bashar al-Assad has used gas against his own people in Syria. The best way for the world to change the calculus is to show that use of chemical weapons carries a special price — such as a military strike on an airbase.

Paradoxically, Assad may have used chemical weapons because he perceived a green light from the Trump administration. In recent days, Rex Tillerson, Sean Spicer and Nikki Haley all suggested that it was no longer American policy to push for the removal of Assad, and that may have emboldened him to open the chemical weapons toolbox. That mistake made it doubly important for Trump to show that neither Assad nor any leader can get away with using weapons of mass destruction.

Look, for a Syrian child, it doesn’t matter much whether death comes from a barrel bomb, a mortar shell, a bullet, or a nerve agent. I hope Trump will also show more interest in stopping all slaughter of Syrians — but it’s still important to defend the norm against chemical weapons (the United States undermined that norm after Saddam’s gas attack by falsely suggesting that Iran was to blame).

Critics note that Trump’s air strikes don’t have clear legal grounding. But Bill Clinton’s 1999 intervention to prevent genocide in Kosovo was also of uncertain legality, and thank God for it. Clinton has said that his greatest foreign policy mistake was not intervening in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide; any such intervention also would have been of unclear legality — and the right thing to do.

There are risks ahead, of Russia or Syria targeting American aircraft or of Iran seeking revenge against Americans in Iraq. War plans rarely survive the first shot, and military interventions are easier to begin than to end. But as long as we don’t seek to topple Assad militarily, everybody has an interest in avoiding an escalation.

Many of my fellow progressives viscerally oppose any use of force, but I think that’s a mistake. I was against the Iraq war, but some military interventions save lives. The no fly zone over northern Iraq in the 1990s is one example, and so are the British intervention in Sierra Leone and French intervention in Mali. It’s prudent to be suspicious of military interventions, but imprudent to reject any use of force categorically.

Want proof that military interventions in the Middle East can work? In 2014, Obama ordered air strikes near the Syria-Iraq border against ISIS as it was attacking members of the Yazidi minority. Those US strikes saved many thousands of Yazidi lives, although they came too late to save thousands more who were killed or kidnapped as slaves.

In Syria, the crucial question is what comes next.

There’s some bold talk among politicians about ousting Assad from Syria. Really? People have been counting on Assad’s fall for six years now, and he’s as entrenched as ever.

Moreover, if this was a one-time strike then the larger slaughter in Syria will continue indefinitely. But I’m hoping that the administration may use it as a tool to push for a ceasefire.

The New York Times

Suicide Bomber Strikes Chinese Embassy: Kills Only Himself

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News Paper)

Suicide bomb hits Chinese embassy

A suicide car bomber rammed the gates of the Chinese embassy in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek yesterday, killing the attacker and wounding at least three other people.

Officials from both countries described the assault as a terrorist act, and Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev ordered the government to take extra counter-terrorism measures in the capital and regions, his office said in statement.

China condemned the attack and urged Kyrgyz authorities to “quickly investigate and determine the real situation behind the incident.”

“China is deeply shocked by this and strongly condemns this violent and extreme act,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

Hua said China strongly condemned the terrorist attack and said terrorism was “a public enemy of the international community,” as well as the most serious threat in the region.

The spokeswoman said China was ready to cooperate with Kyrgyzstan and other countries in the region to fight terrorism and maintain regional safety and stability.

Stressing that China opposes terrorism in any form, Hua said China would continue to ensure the safety of the Chinese people and institutions in other countries.

A Kyrgyz Interior Ministry spokesman said the car exploded inside the compound. Police cordoned off the embassy and adjacent area, and the GKNB state security service were investigating the bombing that occurred at about 10am.

Three embassy staff suffered minor injuries and had been taken to hospital, but no organization claimed responsibility.

At 9:32am, the explosive-laden van started ramming the embassy door and crashed into the compound. The driver immediately detonated the explosive device packed in the van, causing a powerful explosion.

“As a result of the explosion, only the suicide bomber terrorist died. Security guards were injured,” Kyrgyzstan’s Deputy Prime Minister Jenish Razakov told reporters.

The wounded have suffered minor injuries, and are currently being treated at the hospital. The bomber was blown into pieces, and local police are trying to identify the assailant using DNA extracted from remains of the attacker.

The explosion also caused damage to the embassy’s east door and walls, as well as buildings next to the Chinese embassy.

The embassy compound and the area in the vicinity are currently under police blockade. Bomb disposal experts are working on the scene.

Authorities in Kyrgyzstan, a mostly Muslim former Soviet republic of 6 million people, routinely detain suspected militants linked to Islamic State, which actively recruits from Central Asia.

A Turkish official said in June that one of three Islamic State suicide bombers involved in the deadly attack on Istanbul’s main airport was a Kyrgyz national.

Attacks on Chinese missions abroad are rare but in 2015, an Islamist militant attack on a hotel in Mali killed three Chinese citizens, and in Pakistan, Chinese workers have occasionally been targeted by what police say are nationalists opposed to China’s plan to invest tens of billions of dollars in a new trade route to the Arabian Sea.