Rachel Ansley

  • ‘Political Will’ Needed to End War in Syria

    White Helmets seek safe zones to protect civilians

    As US sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime have failed to end the war in Syria, the international community must exercise the political will to do so—and, in the meantime, establish safe zones that would put civilians out of harm’s way, according to two members of the Syrian Civil Defense (SCD), also known as the White Helmets.  

    “The sanctions are not having the intended effect of stopping the war,” said Jehad Mahameed, a liaison officer for the SCD. Manal Abazeed, a volunteer with the White Helmets, called for world leaders, particularly US President Donald Trump, to exercise “the political will to stop this conflict.”

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  • Making the Case for Multilateralism

    European Investment Bank President Werner Hoyer cites the importance of explaining the values of international cooperation


    World leaders must reaffirm the importance of a cooperative international system and the tangible benefits to all stakeholders, Werner Hoyer, president of the European Investment Bank (EIB), said at the Atlantic Council on April 21.

    While the surge of populism throughout Europe—in response to terrorism and economic stagnation—means that “renationalization is visible,” particularly in France during an election year, Hoyer insisted that when “the cooperative approach and the multilateral approach is being put into question in an irresponsible way… it is important to explain again the values of international cooperation.”

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  • EU-Turkish Relations ‘Poor’ After Controversial Referendum

    The controversial referendum which consolidated the executive powers of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will negatively impact Turkey’s relationship with the European Union, and may doom prospects for Turkey’s EU membership, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

    “The EU process is like a zombie—it moves along, but it’s dead,” said Aaron Stein, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. He said the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) “has already come out and raised some serious questions about the conduct of the election,” adding, “it is almost certain that elements of the European Union will say the same thing.”

    In light of Turkey’s “considerable democratic backslide,” further demonstrated by Sunday’s referendum, “it looks poor for EU-Turkish relations moving forward,” said Stein.

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  • US Strike in Syria Unlikely to Provoke Russian Response

    While Russia was “probably surprised” by the US missile strike on a Syrian air base, it is unlikely that the Kremlin will respond with escalatory force, according to a former deputy secretary general of NATO.

    “They’re surprised, but I don’t necessarily think their reaction will be to escalate the situation,” said Alexander Vershbow, who now serves as a distinguish fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. “The Russian reaction, while harsh in rhetoric… they’re going to try to draw a line around this incident,” he said.

    “For the Russians, and I would hope for [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, they would not provoke an open-ended conflict with the United States,” said Vershbow. However, he said, this incident “might convince the Russians to reign in their client more effectively than they ever have.”

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  • This is How the World is Reacting to the US Strikes in Syria

    On April 6, US President Donald J. Trump announced that the United States had carried out a missile strike on a Syrian air base in response to a chemical attack by the Syrian government, which killed nearly eighty civilians on April 4.

    Trump said the strike was in the “vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

    Trump had been critical of former US President Barack Obama for failing to enforce red lines with regard to the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. He called Assad’s use of sarin gas—a toxin only available on the regime—on civilians “an...

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  • Innovation Key to Maintaining US Defense Leadership

    The United States’ role as a global leader in defense is not “automatic,” it must be maintained and improved by building bridges between the technology and security sectors to encourage innovation in military operations, former US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at the Atlantic Council on April 4.

    While the US military “is the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” Carter said, “that excellence is not a birthright; it’s not automatic.” He called for the federal government to invest in innovation technology to meet an uncertain future. “I believe that we need to ensure that our innovative engine works… to bring innovation and public purpose together,” he said.

    Carter delivered the keynote address at the launch of an Atlantic Council report, Keeping America’s Innovative Edge, authored by Peter Engelke, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on...

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  • Trump Has Few Options to Respond to Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria

    The United States has limited options when it comes to responding to the deadly chemical attack likely carried out by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria’s Idlib province on April 4, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

    The international community has so far imposed sanctions on Syria, which haven’t worked, said Faysal Itani, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. “There is diplomacy, which in fairness we’ve been trying for a long time… That leaves the military option, or the military option combined with diplomacy. That’s something we haven’t done.”

    If the military option is chosen, “We would either have to build an indigenous proxy force that can fight properly, or [the United States] and our allies have to do something in the country,” said Itani. The alternative to military and diplomatic action, he said, is “nothing. Those are our options.”

    [UPDATE: The United States on...

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  • Is Brexit Good for the EU?

    The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) has strengthened solidarity among the bloc’s other twenty-seven member states, David O’Sullivan, the EU’s ambassador to the United States, said at the Atlantic Council on March 29.

    “The debate around Brexit has strengthened support for the European Union elsewhere around Europe,” according to O’Sullivan. “If anything, it has joined the rest of us more closely together.”

    On March 29, British Prime Minister Theresa May officially triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty beginning the process of taking the United Kingdom (UK) out of the EU.

    O’Sullivan said that the prospects of Brexit, the UK’s departure from the EU, triggering a domino effect among other European nations is “most unlikely.” While populist forces in other countries with upcoming elections—such as France and Germany—seek to capitalize on the challenges facing the Union and introduce division, O’Sullivan asserted, “I...

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  • Wanted: A Plan to Rebuild Syria

    With no end in sight to a war that started six years ago, has claimed more than 465,000 lives, and displaced millions, it is fair to ask when is the right time to launch a much-needed effort to rebuild Syria. Should this effort start now, while the country is still ravaged by war, or once the conflict is over?

    This quandary will inform the work of the Atlantic Council’s Rebuilding Syria Initiative, a two-year project that aims to identify what can be achieved now in terms of physical reconstruction in Syria, while simultaneously developing “a long-term plan that would address the massive reconstruction requirements of Syria in the future,” said Frederic C. Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

    “This project, however, is not just about bricks and mortar,” said Hof. “It will inevitably have to grapple with the question of how, if at all, investments, loans, and grants can proceed on a suitably massive scale if...

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  • Italy Seeks a US-European Front to Face Common Challenges

    ‘Transatlantic bond remains as important as ever,’ said Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano

    Unprecedented migration, instability in the Middle East, and the growing threat of terrorism necessitate a joint US-European approach to common security challenges that stem from the Mediterranean region, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said at the Atlantic Council on March 21.

    “In the past, common security threats came from the east,” said Alfano, adding, “today, they are coming from the southern shores of the Mediterranean.” Describing the Mediterranean region as a strategically significant location that ties the European Union (EU) to NATO and then to the United States, Alfano insisted that “a common effort in the Mediterranean is a keystone to our security,” and should be a priority in NATO strategy.  

    “Europe and the United States face common challenges in the Mediterranean,” he said. “For this reason, I am convinced that our...

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