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

TIME Burma

U.N.: 86,000 Rohingya Have Fled Burmese Pogroms by Boat

Ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar sit on a wooden boat as they wait for transportation to a temporary shelter in Aceh Besar after arriving at Lampulo habour
Ethnic Rohingya refugees from Burma sit on a wooden boat as they wait for transportation to a temporary shelter in Aceh Besar after arriving at Lampulo habour April 8, 2013. Reuters

Severely restricted access to food, medicine and education forces many Rohingya to seek sanctuary abroad

More than 86,000 people have attempted the treacherous voyage from restive western Burma to perceived safe havens such as Malaysia since the outbreak of sectarian violence in mid-2012, according to the U.N, which said that 615 people are known to have died making the journey in 2013 alone.

As the U.N. released those figures, details emerged Thursday of bloodshed in the Bay of Bengal, with five people killed and at least 151 injured after traffickers opened fire on a boat carrying 330 illegal migrants.

Conflicting reports have emerged over whether the victims were Bangladeshi or Burmese, although they were quite likely Rohingya — a stateless group straddling the border between both nations and shunned by both. The U.N. dubs the Rohingya “one of the world’s most persecuted peoples.”

U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesman Adrian Edwards told a briefing in Geneva Tuesday that “The UNHCR estimates more than 86,000 people have left on boats since June 2012. This includes more than 16,000 people in the second half of 2012, 55,000 in 2013 and nearly 15,000 from January to April this year. The majority are Rohingya, although anecdotally the proportion of Bangladeshis has grown this year.”

The outbreak of pogroms against the Muslim Rohingya has left around 140,000 in squalid displacement camps. The Burmese government denies charges of “crimes against humanity” leveled by human rights groups, based upon its alleged complicity in violence perpetrated by Buddhist mobs.

Nevertheless, severely restricted access to food, medicine and education has forced many Rohingya to seek sanctuary abroad, often braving tempestuous seas in barely seaworthy craft. Upon arrival in new countries, such as Thailand or Indonesia, many get sold to traffickers and used as forced labor, often upon fishing boats.

TIME Iraq

The Iraqi Government Is Asking for U.S. Airstrikes

Civilian children stand next to a burnt vehicle during clashes between Iraqi security forces and al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the northern Iraq city of Mosul
Children stand next to a burned-out vehicle during clashes between Iraqi forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on June 10. Reuters

A desperate Baghdad is pleading for help as militant groups follow their an assault on major cities in northern Iraq by making their way towards the capital

With Islamist militants marching toward Baghdad, the enfeebled Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has expressed a willingness to allow the U.S. to conduct airstrikes on the insurgents.

The U.S. withdrew its last troops from Iraq in December 2011—a “new dawn” for the country, the Prime Minister said at the time. However, many believe the resulting power vacuum has permitted insurgent forces to gain traction in the country. Over the past week, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and other Islamic fundamentalist groups have seized the major cities of Mosul and Tikrit, and have displaced more than 500,000 Iraqis, according to a report released on Wednesday by the International Organization for Migration.

The country’s Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zabari, told CNN the situation was “mortal.” CNN, citing unnamed officials, said Washington was looking to see what further support it could provide Baghdad besides the the $15 billion worth of equipment and training it had already given.

On Thursday, a 17-minute audio recording, purportedly of ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, emerged urging fighters to “continue [their] march as the battle is not yet raging.”

“It will rage in Baghdad and Karbala. So be ready for it,” it says.

Washington, however, seems to have little appetite to heed Iraq’s plea for more assistance.

“Ultimately, this is for the Iraqi security forces, and the Iraqi government to deal with,” Rear Admiral John F. Kirby, the spokesperson for the Pentagon, told the New York Times on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, as the insurgents approach Baghdad — Tikrit, the hometown of former despot Saddam Hussein, is less than a hundred miles north of the capital — Washington has warned that Americans in the country “remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence.”

Speculation that the State Department is exercising evacuation procedures could not be independently verified. Speaking at around 6 a.m. local time, a spokesperson told TIME that he could neither confirm nor deny that the U.S. embassy would be evacuated.

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