TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 4

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. ISIS is bringing recruits onto the battlefield faster than we can kill them.

By Tim Mack and Nancy A. Youssef in the Daily Beast

2. If body cameras become standard issue for police officers, how will we protect the privacy of people being recorded?

By Paul Rosenzweig in The Christian Science Monitor

3. A university recognizes a third gender: Neutral.

By Julie Scelfo in the New York Times

4. Can the rest of the nation — and the world — learn from one Indian state’s incredible success reducing poverty and improving quality of life?

By the World Bank

5. Want better schools? Leadership matters. Invest in high-quality professional development for school principals.

By Arianna Prothero in Education Week

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Canada

An ‘ISIS Recruiting Network’ Has Been Broken Up in Canada

A 25-year-old Canadian is in custody

Federal authorities in Canada say they have crippled a jihadist-recruitment network following the arrest of a Canadian man they allege had ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

Awso Peshdary allegedly helped people joined the terrorist group, which controls large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, according to Agence France-Presse. The 25-year-old is reportedly in custody in Ottawa.

“We were able to disrupt an organized network associated with [ISIS],” said James Malizia, an assistant commissioner with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

“This network was involved in recruiting individuals for terrorism purposes and in sending them into Syria and Iraq for the benefit of this terrorist group.”

Peshdary had been arrested during a previous investigation but was released due to lack of evidence.

Authorities also issued international arrest warrants through Interpol for two Canadian suspects who are believed to have already fought for ISIS in the Middle East.

[AFP]

TIME Military

Hagel: Ground Troops May Be Needed in Iraq

'I would say we're not there yet'

Departing defense secretary Chuck Hagel said it’s possible the United States may need to send non-combat ground troops to Iraq to help deter the Islamic State.

Hagel, who resigned as Pentagon chief on Nov. 24, told CNN in an interview Friday that he thinks the deployment of American troops for intelligence-gathering and locating targets is a possibility, reports Reuters.

He said he wasn’t sure, however, that it would come to that. “I would say we’re not there yet,” he said. “Whether we get there or not, I don’t know.”

MORE: Obama’s Awkward Farewell to Hagel

Currently, 4,500 troops are already committed to roles in Iraq including training and advising. President Obama sent reinforcements to Iraq in advising roles in September.

President Barack Obama has nominated Ashton Carter to replace Hagel as defense secretary.

[Reuters]

 

TIME energy

Iraq Shrugs Off Low Prices, Boosts Output To Record Levels

iraqi-flag
Getty Images

More is on the way as Iraq plans on doubling oil exports from its fields in the north near the city of Kirkuk

Despite oil prices at their lowest levels in five years, Iraq is producing at record levels.

For the month of December, Iraq produced nearly 4 million barrels per day, according to Oil Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, an all-time high for the war-torn country. That is critical for a government that depends on oil for more than 90 percent of its revenues. Rather than paring back production levels to stop a price slide, Iraq is doing what all rational actors are aiming to do (if they can): produce more oil to make up for lost revenues from rock bottom prices.

“Because of the new challenges, especially the price of oil, Iraq has to try its best to raise it oil production and exports,” Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Nuri Shaways said in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 21.

OPEC has continuously vowed to let the market sort itself out rather than try to fix falling prices, which has the oil cartel staring down high-cost production in North America. In its latest monthly report, OPEC reported an uptick in production – the 12-member group produced an average of 30.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in December, about 142,000 bpd more than the previous month. The increase came almost entirely from Iraq, which does not operate under the OPEC quota. Iraq managed to boost monthly output by 285,000 bpd, more than offsetting a decline of 184,000 bpd in Libya.

And more is on the way. Iraq plans on doubling oil exports from its fields in the north near Kirkuk. Currently, the Kirkuk fields export just 150,000 bpd, but pending pipeline upgrades will allow that figure to rise to 300,000 bpd “in the coming few weeks,” according to an official with Kirkuk’s oil and gas committee.

With production set to climb further, U.S. shale producers will be under even greater pressure. There is a lot of talk about breakeven prices for OPEC members and the stress they are under, but early evidence suggests they have an edge. OPEC production is inching upwards and U.S. shale producers are in the midst of slashing spending. That could allow the oil cartel to shore up its market share.

Iraq is defying the odds – it managed to overcome an ISIS insurgency and political factionalism to strengthen its oil sector in an otherwise disastrous year in 2014. As recently as July, Iraq was on the verge of disintegrating, with ISIS militants overrunning the country and forcing the dissolution of much of the Iraqi military. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) was poised to make a bid for independence as it seized disputed territory abdicated by Iraqi security forces.

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However, the country has been brought back from the abyss. ISIS has seen its lightning advance stall and the group has been beaten back by Kurdish fighters and U.S. airstrikes.

More importantly was the oil deal forged between the KRG and the Iraqi central government in December, a political breakthrough that paved the way for further oil exports. Under the terms of the deal, Kurdistan will export 250,000 bpd and Kirkuk will export 300,000 bpd. It marked a huge win for the KRG, which will be allowed to export oil, access its 17 percent share of national revenues, and maintain its implicit control over Kirkuk.

But the oil will flow under the auspices of the Iraqi State Organization for Marketing Oil (SOMO), a key demand from Baghdad. This will keep the KRG in the fold, ending an independence campaign for now. The deal allows a unified, although fragile and temporary, approach to exporting oil.

“This agreement represents a victory for all Iraqis,” Masoud Haidar, a Kurdish member of the parliament, said after the historic deal was made. “There are no losers in this agreement. All are winners.”

The first monthly data released since the deal was made more or less confirms that sentiment. Despite the horrific violence that descended upon Iraq in 2014, it succeeded in boosting output to record levels, and there is no reason to believe production increases will stop anytime soon.

This article originally appeared on OilPrice.com.

Read more from Oilprice.com:

TIME Iraq

Angelina Jolie Left ‘Speechless’ After Visit to Iraqi Refugee Camp

'I have seen nothing like the suffering I’m witnessing now,' she writes in the New York Times

Angelina Jolie has written a searing account of her visit to an Iraqi refugee camp earlier this week, urging world leaders in a Tuesday op-ed to scale up relief efforts and do more to broker a ceasefire agreement in Syria.

“I have seen nothing like the suffering I’m witnessing now,” Jolie wrote in the New York Times. The accounts by displaced people from Iraq and Syria of rape, abductions and kidnappings left her “speechless,” Jolie wrote.

She goes on to recount individual stories of abuse that she said exceeded the brutality of accounts she had heard heard on four previous visits to Iraq as the special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Only an end to the war in Syria will begin to turn the tide on these problems,” she wrote. “Without that, we are just tinkering at the edges.”

Read more at the New York Times.

TIME Middle East

ISIS Still Strong Despite Major Defeat in Kobani

Kurdish people hold a picture of a fighter during a celebration rally near the Turkish-Syrian border at Suruc, Turkey on Jan. 27, 2015. The fighter was killed in battle with Islamic state militants in Kobani.
Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images People hold a picture of a Kurdish fighter—killed during a battle with ISIS—during a celebration rally near the Turkish-Syrian border in Suruc, Turkey, on Jan. 27, 2015.

ISIS boasted about their control of Kobani last year but despite being expelled from the town they still hold land and resources

Kurdish fighters may have declared victory in a 134-day battle for Kobani and described it as the beginning of the end for the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) but the group continues to hold large parts of both countries and the countryside that surrounds Kobani.

The loss of Kobani is certainly a setback for the jihadists, who first targeted the strategic crossing point between Syria and Turkey last year, long before the town took on symbolic status as a focus of resistance against the seemingly unstoppable insurgents.

With the support of air strikes by the U.S. and its allies, and the backing of Iraqi Kurdish armored troops who joined the fight in November, the Syrian Kurds gnawed away at ISIS positions to secure the last occupied pockets of a shattered town whose civilian population mostly fled months ago.

The victory, like the four-month battle that preceded it, is more symbolic than strategic. That was reflected in a statement from the local Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) militia. “The battle for Kobani was not only a fight between the YPG and Daesh [ISIS],” they declared. “It was a battle between humanity and barbarity, a battle between freedom and tyranny, it was a battle between all human values and the enemies of humanity.”

As much as it was a symbolic victory for the Kurds and their allies, it was a symbolic defeat for ISIS, which has depended on the “propaganda of the deed” — a combination of lightning military victories and brutal terrorism — to rally recruits and to cow both its enemies and the civilian populations that have fallen under its sway.

In October, ISIS posted a video report from Kobani featuring John Cantlie, the British journalist being held by hostage by ISIS. The video boasts of ISIS’ control over Kobani and the failure of any of their opponents to dislodge them. On Tuesday, after the fall of Kobani, rather than boast about controlling a town, ISIS was reduced to threatening to kill a Jordanian pilot and a Japanese journalist that it holds.

It is debatable, however, whether the loss of Kobani marks the beginning of the end for the jihadists, who still hold wide swathes of territory and major cities in both Syria and neighboring Iraq.

“ISIS is still well-entrenched in the areas it controls and still has access to human and other resources,” says Dlawer Ala’aldeen, president of the Middle East Research Institute in Erbil. “It’s not the beginning of the end in any schematic way.”

The positive news from the frontlines in Iraq is that ISIS has been contained and is no longer making territorial gains. Indeed it has lost ground to Kurdish and other Iraqi forces in marginal areas. “But ISIS is by no means reduced enough to retake the big cities,” Ala’aldeen tells TIME in a telephone interview from the Iraqi Kurdistan capital.

In the case of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city that was captured by ISIS last June, “I don’t believe there is an imminent plan to liberate it because the Iraqis in general are not ready to organize the support of the local population,” he says.

There was also little prospect of Kurdish forces going it alone against ISIS in Mosul without first winning over the local Sunni Arab population. “It would be extremely difficult to recapture Mosul and, above all, to retain it,” Ala’aldeen says.

Until ISIS thrust itself into the international consciousness with the capture of Mosul, the declaration of a caliphate, and the widely diffused photos and videos of its beheadings, the threat it posed was largely overlooked.

When shortly afterwards ISIS began an offensive in northern Syria, the autonomous Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria sought vainly for outside support to save Kobani, which was virtually unknown and marked on most maps under its Arabic name of Ain al-Arab.

Turkish and Western governments were suspicious of the nature of the local Kurdish regime, headed by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and linked to Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which is designated a terrorist organisation by the U.S. State Department.

By October, the game was almost up for Kobani’s embattled defenders when an 11th-hour intervention by the U.S. and its allies saw the first of a campaign of air strikes that helped slowly turn the tide against ISIS. Washington and its partners decided that the risks of intervention outweighed the prospect of another ISIS propaganda coup.

The PYD and its militia, along with other Kurdish groups, launched a massive and effective propaganda campaign that mirrored and contrasted with that of ISIS. The Kurds promoted their struggle as one of freedom and democracy and specifically highlighted the role of unveiled women fighters as a symbol of egalitarian secularity in the face of the jihadists’ perceived misogyny. “Save Kobani” became an internationally popularized slogan in the anti-ISIS struggle and dozens of Western volunteers traveled to join the Kurds.

It was not just about symbols. ISIS lost close on 1,000 fighters, having been forced to draft in reinforcements to try to avert defeat. The Kurds lost more than 300, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organisation that monitors events in Syria.

Kobani may not be the Kurdish Stalingrad, as some suggested at the height of the conflict. ISIS still hold the Kobani hinterland and the liberation of the town is not a strategic turning-point. But symbols are important in a war that will depend largely on undermining an image of ISIS invincibility which is popular among some of the local population and foreign sympathizers.

TIME Iraq

Angelina Jolie: The World Must Do More for Syrian and Iraqi Refugees

She says "the international community is failing" millions displaced by regional conflict

Speaking from a displaced-persons camp in northern Iraq on Sunday, Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie asked the worldwide community to pledge more financial support for refugees in Syria and Iraq to prevent a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. refugee agency, the UNHCR, is facing a a severe budgetary shortfall. Last year, it only received a little over half of the $337 million needed to fund a program for internally displaced Iraqi and Syrians, it reported in a press release.

“It is shocking to see how the humanitarian situation in Iraq has deteriorated since my last visit,” Jolie told media on her fifth trip to Iraq as a special UNHCR ambassador.

According to the UNHCR, over 7 million Syrians and almost 2 million Iraqis remain internally displaced from the ongoing Syrian civil war and attacks by the extremist group ISIS. Almost 4 million Syrian refugees are scrambling to survive in neighboring Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.

“We are being tested here as an international community and so far, for all the immense efforts and good intentions, the international community is failing,” Jolie said.

TIME Military

The U.S. Needs a New Yardstick for a New Kind of War

IRAQ-CONFLICT
YOUNIS AL-BAYATI / AFP / Getty Images Buildings burn Saturday during a military operation launched by the Iraqi army to retake positions held by Islamic State outside the village Sharween, north of Baghdad.

America keeps measuring progress on a battlefield that no longer exists

Body counts are never a good a yardstick for measuring progress in a war of ideas. That’s why the Pentagon freaked out Thursday when Stuart Jones, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the Al Arabiya News Channel that America and its allies “have now killed more than 6,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq.”

The first counter-fire came, within hours, from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “I was in a war where there was a lot of body counts every day,” the outgoing defense chief, who served as an Army sergeant in the Vietnam War, said in one of his most pungent observations in his two years on the job. “And we lost that war.”

Hagel’s spokesman piled on Friday. “It’s not a metric that we’re going to hang our hat on when it comes to talking to the success of this strategy,” Rear Admiral John Kirby said of the Pentagon’s internal body-count estimate. “This is not a uniformed army with identification cards and recruiting posters.”

While Ambassador Jones added that the 6,000 number was “not so important” in the overall scheme of things, the catnip was out of the bag. That’s because Americans, impatient over wars that drag on (like Hagel’s Vietnam and George W. Bush’s Afghanistan and Iraq), crave measurements that suggest progress.

Unfortunately, that metric mindset has little utility in wars against ideology. “I don’t know whether 6,000 [ISIS] people have been killed or not,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. “But that is not going to do it.”

That’s because conflicts like the one now underway against the Islamist fundamentalism represented by the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) are not constrained by national boundaries, or the national pressure points that have traditionally been the trigger of wars (and the foundation of ending them) among states.

Without the trappings of formal government—a capital, commerce, standing armies—non-state actors like ISIS or al-Qaeda deny military powers like the U.S. the kinds of targets they prefer. Their allegiance to ideology—be it theology or something else—takes away the fulcrum that victors used to leverage to bring wars to an end.

Industrial powers created industrial militaries, where rear-echelon bean-counters could tote up tanks, ball-bearing factories and troops destroyed—and thereby chart progress, or the lack thereof. But ideological war isn’t industrial in scope. Instead, it’s more like information warfare, where ideas, shared online, create alliances that ripple across borders and oceans.

It took a Detroit to build an industrial arsenal of democracy, with each weapon requiring dollars and sweat to assemble. Today, it merely takes a keyboard to build an ideological alliance, each member a low-cost addition requiring little more than fervor and an Internet connection.

The Administration of George W. Bush concluded the way to prevail after the 9/11 attacks was to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq. Following wars that eventually will cost $3 trillion or more, and at least 6,845 American lives, his successor has decided not to tag along. Instead, President Barack Obama has told the nations involved—those with the most at risk—to step up to the plate to do the fighting, with the U.S. filling the role of best supporting actor.

Some see such a policy as too timid. “The U.S. efforts have always been halfhearted, half-resourced and focused on exit strategies rather than on success,” says David Sedney, who ran the Pentagon office responsible for Afghanistan, Pakistan and central Asia from 2009 to 2013. “We always want to have an exit, and the problem with real life is there’s no exit.” He argues that the U.S. needs to launch nation-building strategies in failed states that currently serve as incubators for ISIS and other groups.

Politicians aren’t calling for such radical action. But some believe the U.S. needs to step up the fight. “We need more boots on the ground,” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, the new chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told CBS on Sunday. “I know that is a tough thing to say and a tough thing for Americans to swallow, but it doesn’t mean the 82nd Airborne. It means forward air controllers. It means special forces. It means intelligence and it means other capabilities.”

The U.S., McCain said, can’t simply direct wars against ISIS and similar foes from relative safety behind the front lines. “For [the Administration] to say, ‘we expect [Iraq and Yemen] to do it on their own,’ they’re not doing it on their own,” he said. “And they are losing.”

The last clear victory scored by the U.S. military was against Iraq in 1991, led by President George H.W. Bush, a Cold War commander-in-chief. It was a bespoke war tailor-made for the Pentagon: Iraq’s massive army stormed into Kuwait, occupied it, and waited for the U.S. and its allies to drive it out.

The world watched that conflict and decided, given Washington’s overwhelming advantages in that kind of war, not to fight it again. Unfortunately, too many Americans seem unaware that the rules have changed. So they continue to want to measure progress in today’s conflicts with yesterday’s yardsticks.

But such yearnings are doomed. Persistence and will, not body bags, are the keys to winning these kinds of wars.

TIME Davos

Kerry and Hollande Call for Intensified Fight Against Terrorism

Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech about violent extremism to the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 23, 2015.
Demotix/Corbis Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech about violent extremism to the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 23, 2015.

"This fight will not be decided on the battlefield, but in the classrooms," Kerry says

Talk at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos turned to the fight against terrorism Friday, with French President François Hollande and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry encouraging the influential world figures gathered here to step up efforts to fight Islamist extremists.

Kerry told the audience that the fight against terrorism would include a military component but also needed to address the economic and educational conditions that can provide fertile ground for extremists. “This fight will not be decided on the battlefield, but in the classrooms, workplaces, places of worship of the world,” he said. Kerry said he would be traveling shortly to Nigeria, whose government is waging a war against the increasingly emboldened Islamist group Boko Haram.

Hollande, who led more than one million people in a unity rally in Paris following terrorist attacks in the city this month that left 17 people dead, called on business leaders and governments to cooperate against extremists. “France has reacted and taken measures, but there also needs to be a global, international response,” he said. “It needs to be international and shared, shared between the states who have to bear responsibility on the front line, but also by businesses, particularly the largest ones, who can also take action.”

Hollande also signaled that France’s military involvement in Africa could grow. “In Africa, France is on the ground and it will continue to be so more than ever before,” he said. “It will be present to bring help to those countries who are having to deal with the scourge of terrorism. I’m thinking of the Sahel, in particular, but also the situation in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad, who are under attack from Boko Haram. Now France cannot do everything, France cannot act alone. But whenever it can, it will, to lead by example.”

Speaking after Hollande and before Kerry on the main stage of the Davos conference center, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi asked for more help in his country’s fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

“The cost of action will be high but the cost of inaction will be much, much higher,” said al-Abadi, who has been Prime Minister since September.

Al-Abadi said that in recent weeks there had been improved coordination between the U.S.-led air campaign against ISIS and Iraqi ground troops who he said are currently fighting to control territory that would create a route for Iraqi government forces to try to take back the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul. But he said Iraq was struggling under the burden of fighting a war while providing regular government services. “We need help,” he said.

In a sign of how longstanding enemies are finding themselves fighting on the same side in parts of an increasingly complex Middle East, the Iraqi Prime leader acknowledged to interviewer Charlie Rose that Iran is also providing Iraq with military aid. “They’ve helped us in the first stage,” he said. “They have been very prompt in sending arms, in sending munitions.”

TIME Japan

Mother of Japanese Journalist Held Captive by ISIS Pleads for His Release

Junko Ishido, mother of Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist being held captive by Islamic State militants speaks during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo
Toru Hanai—Reuters Junko Ishido, mother of Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist being held captive by Islamic State militants along with another Japanese citizen, speaks during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on Jan. 23, 2015

The ransom deadline approaches

The mother a Japanese journalist held captive by Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) appealed for his release on Friday.

The Islamic militants are threatening to kill Kenji Koto and another Japanese citizen Haruna Yukawa if Tokyo does not pay a ransom of $200 million, Reuters reports.

The Japanese government believes the deadline to be 12:50 a.m. E.T. on Friday.

“My son Kenji is not an enemy of the people of the Islamic faith. I can only pray as a mother for his release,” Junko Ishido told a news conference. “If I could offer my life I would plead that my son be released, it would be a small sacrifice on my part.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to do all he can to secure their safe release, saying that “we are negotiating through all available channels.”

The sum of the ransom is equal to the $200 million Abe has pledged to aid those fighting ISIS.

[Reuters]

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