It is the topic of endless Washington think tank meetings: What are China's intentions? There are concerns that China's assertive maritime behavior seeks to subtly change the status quo through small, incremental steps, and in the process, erode US credibility in the region.
Abdulrahman Dadam, president of the Free Aleppo Governorate Council, wrote an impassioned plea for a U.S./NATO no fly zone to protect his historic city from both the Islamic State (IS) and the regime of Bashar al-Assad and establish a safe corridor from Turkey for humanitarian aid.
But with Islamic State militants (ISIS) terrifyingly close to the Kurdish capital, Irbil, and 40,000 members of a religious minority facing death on a mountaintop, Obama decided to deploy a limited amount of U.S. airpower in a country where U.S. combat operations supposedly ended four years ago.
Iraq has now become Obama's war, too, if to a lesser extent than his three predecessors.
Two missiles fired by a U.S.-supplied Israeli F-16 collapsed their one-story house in the Rafah refugee camp, killing Asmaa's uncle, Ismail, his wife, Khadra, their two sons, Wael and Mohammed, their two daughters, Hanadi and Asmaa, and Wael's three children, Ismail, Malik and Mustafa, the last only 24 days old. According to my colleague, none of them were members of Hamas or any other Palestinian political faction.
It is easy to be cynical about this latest orgy of Middle Eastern violence. Why single out nine deaths when more than 1,800 other Palestinians – and more than 60 Israelis – also died in the last month, and scores of noncombatants are still perishing every day in Syria, Iraq and Libya?
After months of hesitation, Germany's Angela Merkel and other European leaders finally awoke from their deep slumber in agreeing with President Obama to impose stronger economic sanctions on Russia. Their aim is to raise the costs of Putin's campaign to divide, destabilize, and diminish Ukraine as a free nation state in the heart of Europe. This is the first significant pushback by the West against the Kremlin since the Ukraine crisis began.
Washington has pursued a policy cooperating with Beijing where interests overlapped—but the dynamics in the Asia-Pacific are changing.
A little bit of honesty in U.S. policy toward Asia could go a long way in piercing the Chinese "victim narrative", which entails China's view that everything it dislikes in Asia is an outgrowth of a U.S. "containment" strategy." Yet loopy as the Chinese narrative is, U.S. public diplomacy inadvertently reinforces it.
How many times have we heard the mantra, "Our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China," stated by President Obama during his April Asia trip, repeated and reiterated by various U.S. officials? Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel summed it up succinctly at the Shangri-la dialogue: "The rebalance to Asia-Pacific was not to contain China. President Obama has made that point very clear. Secretary Kerry has. I have."
Obliged to use Iranian passports instead of obtaining visas like other Americans, Iranian Americans can easily be barred from leaving the country and become pawns in the three-decade-old U.S.-Iran confrontation as well as in Iran's complicated domestic political battles.
The latest such pawn appears to be Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian.
A cease-fire will come in a few days – perhaps by Monday when the fasting month of Ramadan ends – and will last for a year or two. Another confrontation will follow, once Hamas has replenished its store of rockets and rebuilt tunnels to infiltrate Israeli land.
Israel eventually will trade hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for the body of at least one Israeli soldier who has gone missing in the current conflict. Hamas will try to seize more Israelis – alive or dead – to bargain for more of its prisoners.