TIME White House

Obama on Iraq: ‘I Don’t Rule Out Anything’ as Militants Aim for Baghdad

Obama is not considering boots on the ground, a senior administration official said

President Barack Obama said he would not rule out military intervention to support Iraq’s government against advancing Sunni militants, two and a half years after the U.S. withdrew its last troops from the country.

“I don’t rule out anything,” Obama told reporters at the White House after meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott after being asked a question about the possibility the U.S. would conduct airstrikes in Iraq to support the government there. “We do have a stake in making sure these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria,” Obama added.

Obama said that is was “fair to say that in our consultations with the Iraqis there will be some short-term immediate things that need to be done militarily and our national security team is looking into all the options.” However, a senior administration official said Obama is not considering putting U.S. boots on the ground once again in Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has expressed a willingness to allow the U.S. to conduct airstrikes on the extremists, who have over the past week seized Iraq’s second largest city, the country’s largest oil refinery and the city of Tikrit, the home of former leader Saddam Hussein. Fighting between Iraqi forces and advancing fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other Islamic fundamentalist groups, who spilled over from neighboring war-torn Syria, has already displaced more than 500,000 Iraqis.

“This should also be a wakeup call for the Iraqi government,” Obama said. “There has to be a political component to this so that Sunni and Shia who care about building a functioning state that can bring about security and prosperity to all people inside of Iraq come together and work diligently against the extremists.”

The U.S. has provided Baghdad with $15 billion worth of equipment and training after spending $1.7 trillion and nearly 4,500 lives in almost nine years of war.

“Over the last year we have been providing them with additional assistance to try to address the problems that they have in Anbar, the northwest portions of the country, as well as the Iraqi and Syrian border,” Obama said. “What we’ve seen over the last couple of days indicates the degree to which Iraq’s going to need more help. It’s going to need more help from us, and it’s going to need more help from the international community.”

TIME Iraq

5 Things You Need to Know About the Militant Advance on Baghdad

IRAQ-UNREST-SECURITY
Iraqi policemen listen to a briefing inside a military base in the capital Baghdad, on June 11, 2014, after the declaration of a state of emergency by the government. Ahmad Al-Rubaye—AFP/Getty Images

As militants take terrain from the Turkish border with Syria to Baghdad, this is what you need to know about their plans

It took five days for an extremist splinter group of al-Qaeda to occupy the city of Mosul, one of the biggest cities in Iraq and 250 miles north of Baghdad. A day later the group, once known as al Qaeda in Iraq, and now known as the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria to reflect its broader role in the region, advanced on former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit. A 60-vehicle convoy of ISIS units rolled into Baiji on Wednesday to take the country’s largest oil refinery. In each instance the Iraqi security forces dropped their weapons and melted away, effectively ceding nearly a third of the country to a militant organization so extreme that even al-Qaeda has repudiated it. Meanwhile ISIS is cementing control over a large swath of eastern Syria. As the militants push towards Baghdad, here are the five things you need to know about ISIS’s advance.

1. Despite the $25 billion spent by the U.S. to train and equip the Iraqi Army, it’s not fit to fight a war

Corruption, fear and divided loyalties have hollowed out the Iraqi army over the past several years. Even before these recent attacks, the Iraqi Army was losing some three hundred soldiers a day due to defections, deaths and injuries, according to a recent investigation by the New York Times. Once ISIS arrived on the scene, soldiers disarmed en masse, an indication that mid-ranking commanders either supported the militants’ advance because of tribal connections, or may have been bought off. And American assistance, based on the United States’ experience in Iraq, may have focused too tightly on counterinsurgency training, even as ISIS evolved into a full-fledged paramilitary force capable of fighting a conventional war.

But it’s not just a failure by the Iraqi military. ISIS has capitalized on widespread Sunni dissatisfaction with Iraq’s Shi’ite-dominated central government. And the group’s superior fighting skills, honed in years of fighting against the Americans in the Iraq war, and more recently in Syria, has drawn funding and would-be jihadis from around the globe.

2. The Turkish citizens taken hostage in Mosul are in serious trouble

It’s not looking good for the 49 Turkish citizens taken from the country’s consulate in Mosul, or the 31 Turkish truck drivers who were also kidnapped. Turkish officials are talking to militants in Mosul about freeing their citizens, but Turkish media are also reporting that ISIS has demanded a $5 million ransom for the truck drivers. Kidnappings for ransom are ISIS’s bread and butter, and they drive a hard bargain. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a Turkish television network that “any harm to our citizens and staff would be met with the harshest retaliation,” but as long as ISIS has control over Mosul, any kind of rescue attempt would be impossible. Even a prisoner exchange is unlikely: When ISIS takes a town, the first thing it does is fling open prison doors in hopes of regaining old recruits or attracting new ones. There is unlikely anyone left ISIS would be willing to trade for, and those officials may have little more to offer than threats that will be hard to back up.

3. ISIS may not be part of al-Qaeda anymore, but it still poses a threat to the United States

The split between ISIS and al-Qaeda is largely philosophical. Both seek to build an Islamic caliphate, but ISIS thinks this is best achieved through hard power, by taking terrain militarily and then enforcing Islamic law. Al-Qaeda’s leadership prefers to create a community of like-minded converts first, through displays of power. Either way, both groups seek expansion, and will use ungoverned terrain to train foreign recruits that could eventually turn those battlefield skills on Western targets. It may have already happened: last month Saudi Arabian officials arrested an ISIS cell accused of plotting attacks against the kingdom, and it is thought that the man accused of killing four in a gun attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels fought with ISIS in Syria.

4. ISIS is unlikely to take over all of Iraq

Even if the militants had the manpower, they wouldn’t be able to hold that much territory for long. And unlike the Iraqi Army, they don’t have an air force. But they could incite a sectarian war, paving the way for success in the long term. “Sectarian civil war is the enabler,” says Jessica Lewis, an ISIS expert at the Institute for the Study of War. “They want to set conditions in Iraq that look like Syria so they can set up an Islamic state.” It may already be working: Shi’ite leaders have responded to ISIS attacks on Shi’ite targets with calls to form defense militias.

5. This newfound focus on Iraq doesn’t mean Syria is off the hook

Institute for the Study of War

ISIS’s vision for an Islamic caliphate modeled upon the early days of the Islamic empire straddles the border and erases colonial-era lines in the desert. Even as one ISIS wing took Tikrit, another wing encircled the city of Deir Ezzor across the border in Syria, cementing its control over Syria’s oil-rich eastern province of the same name. Lewis’ map of ISIS sanctuaries paints a vivid picture of ISIS’ future caliphate, and a current stronghold that not only threatens Baghdad, but the region.

TIME uk

Court Blocks UK’s First Secret Terror Trial

Plans to hold a terrorism trial completely in secret have been overturned by the UK's Court of Appeal, following a media challenge

Judges at the UK’s Court of Appeal have ruled that a proposed secret terror trial must be heard partly in public, though the core of the case can be held in private, the BBC reports. The swearing in of the jury, some of the prosecution’s introductory comments, the laying out of the case, verdicts and possible sentencing will all be heard in public.

Justice Nicol made the unprecedented decision in May that the case would be heard in secret and the defendants not named. Until Thursday, the accused, Erol Incedal and Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar, were known only as AB and CD.

Nicol’s ruling prompted a joint challenge from a number of media organizations. On June 4, the Court of Appeal ruled that the media could report on their challenge. Prior to this, news outlets couldn’t even mention the trial’s existence.

The Crown Prosecution Service, who are prosecuting the two men, said the trial had to be held in private for reasons of national security. They added that were the trial to be made public, they might have to drop it.

In their ruling, the appeal court judges stated that they had “grave concerns” about holding criminal trials in secret and not releasing the identities of defendants. They also added that though the core of the trial would be heard in private, a small group of journalists would be in attendance and their notes held until the end of the trail.

The two defendants were arrested in October 2013 in what were described as “high-profile circumstances.” Both are charged with collecting information useful to terrorism. Incedal was further accused of preparing for terrorist acts whilst Rarmoul-Bouhadjar is alleged to have possessed false identity documents.

[BBC]

TIME brazil

Reporter Hit by Tear Gas Container as Brazilian Cops Spar With Protestors

Police clashed with a small group of protestors 7 miles from a World Cup stadium

Brazilian police fired tear gas canisters at a group of protestors demonstrating against the World Cup on Thursday. At least one arrest was made, according to CNN reporter Shasta Darlington, who was struck with a tear gas canister on live air during the fracas.

The protestors intended to make their way to Corinthians Stadium some seven miles away.

Similar protests have cropped up in recent weeks as many Brazilians are enraged by the World Cup’s $11 billion price tag. Some argue those funds would be better spent on local needs like housing, hospitals and schools.

[CNN]

TIME Military

As Iraq Falls Apart, U.S. F-16 Deliveries Still Set to Begin

Iraq F-16 Inauguration Celebration Roll Out
Lukman Faily, Iraq's ambassador to the U.S., accepts his nation's first F-16 fighter at the Lockheed factory in Fort Worth June 5. Lockheed Martin photo

U.S. investment in blood and treasure is in danger of being squandered

Last month, as threats from Sunni insurgents in the western part of Iraq began looking increasingly serious, the Iraqi government asked Washington to consider carrying out airstrikes against the fighters’ camps.

Washington has declined, according to a New York Times report Thursday.

Last Thursday, however, Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S. was on hand in Fort Worth, Texas, to take delivery of its first U.S.-built F-16 fighter. And Washington, Baghdad and Fort Worth couldn’t have been more delighted.

The sale of 36 F-16s to Iraq for $3 billion is “a clear sign to the world and the region that a stable and strong Iraq, in a partnership of choice with the United States, is what we are after,” Ambassador Lukman Faily told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“Iraq joins 27 other nations around the world who depend on the F-16 Fighting Falcon to maintain peace and security,” said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “We are proud to play a role in the defense of a new democracy and look forward to strengthening our partnership with Iraq.”

Iraq’s national security adviser, Falih Al-Fayyadh, said the F-16 will be “a weapon in the hands of all the people” to defend the country.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Iraqi government isn’t in the hands of “all the people.” It’s in pro-Iranian Shi’ite hands, which is helping to fuel the fundamentalist Sunni insurgency. The first pair of F-16s isn’t slated to arrive in Iraq until September, with another two slated to arrive monthly through 2015 — assuming the Iraqi government lasts that long.

It’s nothing short of tragic to see Iraq falling apart as the ancient battle between Sunnis and Shi’ites continues after the U.S. spent more than $1 trillion—and 4,486 lives—to overthrow Saddam Hussein in hopes of replacing him with someone better. Fallujah, Mosul, Tikrit—cities where U.S. troops spent eight years dying to give Iraq another chance—are now in the hands of an al-Qaeda offshoot battling the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

On Tuesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Obama Administration has delivered “300 Hellfire missiles, millions of rounds of small arms fire, thousands of rounds of tank ammunition, helicopter-fired rockets, machine guns, grenades, flares, sniper rifles, M-16s and M-4 rifles to the Iraqi security forces.”

The Bush Administration erred in thinking it could graft democracy onto a nation split by a centuries-old religious conflict. The Obama Administration is erring by believing Baghdad’s current rulers can shoot their way out of their current crisis.

TIME Advertising

Check Out the Best World Cup Commercials So Far

The World Cup finally kicks off today in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In addition to the 32 teams vying for the championship, there’s likely to be even more soccer-themed commercials played between matches and shared online over the coming month. Since the last World Cup in 2010, U.S. ad spending on soccer programming has increased 43 percent to $378 million in 2013, according to Nielsen.

Despite being the biggest sporting event on Earth, the World Cup is a decidedly different marketing affair from the Super Bowl. While the Super Bowl is a celebration of advertising as much as (American) football, each half of soccer is played continuously with no breaks, so there’s considerably less time for commercials. That’s led savvy marketers like Nike and McDonald’s to craft short films instead of traditional 30-second spots. Indeed, the concept of branded entertainment seems to be reaching new heights for marketeers now, with many of the ads featuring minimal product placement and being entertaining in their own right.

Here’s a look at the most effective World Cup commercials that have debuted so far:

Beats By Dre – The Game Before the Game

The epic sweep of this commercial for Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s premium headphone line would make soon-to-be-new parent Apple proud. Beats has long tried to position itself as a fashion symbol for both musicians and athletes, and this spot takes that branding to its most extreme level yet. Not only are soccer stars Neymar Junior, Cesc Fabregas and Luis Suarez in the ad, but LeBron James, Serena Williams, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne also make an appearance. By the time ESPN anchor Stuart Scott inexplicably appears, you’re totally primed to watch soccer for a month straight.

Adidas – House Match

Every World Cup ad doesn’t have to be about an epic clash of titans. This humorous Adidas spot pits retired greats David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane against current stars Gareth Bale and Lucas Moura in a pickup match in the middle of Beckham’s mansion. Zidane accidentally smashes Beckham’s trophy case amidst the rough housing, but the players manage to keep it light. No headbutts this time around.

Nike – Winner Stays

Here Nike flips a classic childhood fantasy—pretending to be a star athlete while you play your favorite sport—and allows it to become reality as a group of ragtag teens are transformed into Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and other modern stars.

Nike – The Last Game

If a movie studio was going to make a soccer-themed version of Space Jam, it would probably feel pretty similar to the impressive animated short Nike made for the World Cup. In the short film, a team of All-Stars that includes Ronaldo, Rooney and Neymar Junior are replaced by clones that make less risky plays and therefore win more. Given the setup (and if you recall the plot of Space Jam), it’s easy to guess the rest of the plot. Though predictable, the short’s a joy to look at and is likely to appeal to both kids and adults.

Adidas – The Dream

Nike and Beats may upstage Adidas (who is actually an official World Cup sponsor) in terms of epicness, but this spot features the debut of a brand new Kanye West song called “God Level.” That’s worth a few cool points.

The Sun’s World Cup Ad

The British newspaper The Sun pulls off its best OK Go impression in this clever ad in which 74 soccer players head a ball to the beat of the Dexters singing “I’ll Never Find Another You.”

Hyundai – “Avoidance”

Hyundai’s offiical World Cup stars a soccer fan desperately trying to make it home to his Tivo recording of the latest U.S. match without discovering whether Team USA won or not. It’s something we can all relate to in this era of constant online spoilers.

McDonald’s – GOL!

This might be the coolest trick shot commercial since that one of Tiger Woods goofing around on the driving range back in the day. In the spot, soccer talents old and young show off their skills by bouncing balls off escalators, church bells and giant floating barges. The most impressive player might be the model juggling in five-inch pumps.

TIME World Cup

All Brazilian Eyes Are on Soccer Savior Neymar

When the World Cup starts today, 200 million Brazilians will invest all their hopes of victory in a player who is the best the country has produced for a generation

Soccer may be a team sport but when the World Cup kicks off today with the opening game between Brazil and Croatia all Brazilian eyes will be on one man, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior. The 22-year-old Brazilian carries the weight of expectation of 200 million home fans to whom anything less than victory in the tournament will be a crushing disappointment.

Neymar – he is known only by his first name – is hailed as the best Brazilian soccer player to have emerged in the last decade and his dazzling skills are considered indispensible to Brazil’s chances to bag the World Cup for a record sixth time. “This is the first time in the history of Brazilian football that the team’s attack is dependent on just one player,” soccer legend Pelé told the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper.

“If Neymar isn’t playing well, Brazil might play well but they won’t win,” says Rai Souza Vieira de Oliveira, a former Brazil captain. “Neymar’s performances will be the deciding factor.”

That’s a lot of responsibility – and pressure – for one young man to bear, but Neymar appears unfazed. “I’m going to play the World Cup, in my own country. I can’t see that as pressure. It has to give me pride and happiness to take onto the pitch,” he told Red Bulletin magazine this week.

Brazil’s number 10 actually seems to thrive on being the center of attention. As a teenage player for the Brazilian club Santos, he stood out not just for his spectacular dribbles and goals but because he wore his hair in a large mohican with bleached blonde highlights. He conveys the image of a mischievous, carefree scamp, a cheeky but charming joker.

Nor is he shy about capitalizing on his role as Brazil’s great soccer hope. His face stares at you almost everywhere you go in Brazil. He advertises more than a dozen products – including soda, a bank, a car manufacturer, batteries, sunglasses, a perfume, a smartphone app, phones, ice cream and sports gear. This month he is also on the cover of Brazilian Vogue in a joint photo-shoot with supermodel Gisele Bündchen. His detractors call this “Neymarketing”.

Neymar was just 11 when he joined the youth divisions of Santos. Already tipped as a future star, aged 13 he travelled to Spain for a trial with Real Madrid, the richest soccer team in the world, but turned them down so he could stay at home.

He played his first professional game aged 17 and within a year was feted as the best player in Brazil. He was so thin that his coach described him having a physique of a butterfly, but even so was able to dribble past defenders and score stunning goals. He had the improvisation, exhibitionism and playfulness of the great players of the past.

Brazilians see Neymar as a savior. “Neymar’s style of play, both aesthetically generous and ruthlessly efficient, has recovered like no other the art at the core of genuine Brazilian football,” writes Paulo Vinicius Coelho in his biography of Neymar. “We had begun to doubt our capacity to produce players who can truly honour this rich tradition. We even began to fear for our footballing identity.”

Neymar’s ability to remind Brazilians of their greatest, most stylish players and teams has made him outlandishly popular. Once his security guards had to lock him in an airport toilet to protect him from fans, the so-called Neymarzetes. He fuels the popularity through his use of social media, keeping 5.4 million Instagram followers up to date with his wardrobe, hairstyles and tattoos. “Some might think it’s tacky, but Neymar’s style is authentic. He is always inventing new ways to present himself and stand out,” Fabiana Moritz, fashion editor of Brazilian Playboy, told the Estado de S. Paulo.

When he was 18, Neymar’s performances in the Brazilian league attracted more offers from the big European clubs. He chose to rebuff them a second time, making him the first great Brazilian player since the 1980s to stay in Brazil, turning him into even more of a national hero. Yet by staying in Brazil he was also limiting his career, since the top players all play in Europe. Finally, after four seasons in Brazil, last year he transferred to Barcelona.

Shortly before he arrived in Europe, he was the heart of the Brazil team that won the 2013 Confederations Cup, winning the Golden Ball for best player. But in his first season in Spain he has been overshadowed by others: his teammate the Argentinian Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo, the current FIFA world player of the year, at Real Madrid.

Neymar’s job now is to prove that he’s the real deal on the biggest stage of all. A nation’s happiness depends on it.

Bellos is the author of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life

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