TIME Military

Fissure Opens Between Pentagon and White House Over Assad’s Fate

WASHINGTON (Oct. 30, 2014) -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel holds a press briefing with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon Oct. 30, 2014. DoD Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt/Released.
DoD Photo / Sean Hurt Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that internal Administration debate over what to do in Syria must be "honest" and "direct."

Hagel told Rice a lack of clarity is complicating U.S. efforts to combat ISIS

President Barack Obama declared in August 2011 that Syrian leader Bashar Assad must “step aside” for the good of his country after his forces had killed nearly 2,000 fellow citizens. More than three years later, with Assad still in power, the Syrian civil war has killed some 200,000 people and given Islamic extremists territory to occupy. That has led Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to warn the White House that the U.S. has to stop ignoring the Syrian dictator.

In a two-page memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice two weeks ago, Hagel said the lack of clarity is complicating U.S. efforts to combat the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria, Pentagon officials say. The memo’s existence was first reported in the New York Times on Thursday.

It’s no secret that there’s much teeth-gnashing inside the Pentagon because of a belief that U.S.-led air strikes against ISIS have transformed the U.S. military into a Syrian air force, of sorts. And after more than three years of increasing violence—including Assad’s brazen use of chemical weapons against his own people that Obama vainly warned was a “red line” that he’d better not cross—frustration is mounting among the U.S. military.

They say plans to train 5,000 “moderate”—i.e., non-ISIS—Syrian rebels annually to fight the militants is complicated by the civil war inside Syria, even if much of the training is slated to take place outside the country. So long as Assad remains in power, they fear the moderate rebels’ attention could be diverted from fighting ISIS to battling Assad.

Hagel wouldn’t say much about his concerns. “This is a complicated issue,” he told reporters Thursday. “We are constantly assessing and reassessing and adapting to the realities of what is the best approach.”

Such internal debates are the “responsibility of any leader,” he added. “And because we are a significant element of this issue, we owe the President and we owe the National Security Council our best thinking on this. And it has to be honest and it has to be direct.”

Unsurprisingly, a White House spokesman agreed. “The President wants the unvarnished opinion of every member of his national-security team,” Josh Earnest told CNN on Friday. “That’s the way he thinks we are going to reach the best outcomes.”

TIME Iraq

ISIS Revenge Killings Reportedly Target Sunni Tribe in Iraq

Mosul Iraq ISIS
AP Fighters from the Islamic State group parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armored vehicle down a main road in the northern city of Mosul, Iraq, on June 23, 2014

“We were fighting ISIS with rifles, and it was fighting us with heavy machine guns”

Fighters from the militant group that has taken over vast swaths of Iraq are summarily executing members of a Sunni tribe that resisted their advance, according to a new report.

The New York Times, citing tribal leaders and local officials, reports that the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is exacting harsh revenge on the Albu Nimr tribe, killing more than 200 after the tribe fought for months to keep the jihadists out of their region near the town of Hit, 90 miles west of Baghdad.

“We put the responsibility on the government because they didn’t respond,” one tribal member. “We were fighting ISIS with rifles, and it was fighting us with heavy machine guns.”

Read more at the Times

TIME ebola

Aid Groups See Fallout From Quarantine Debate

Kaci Hickox, a nurse who arrived in New Jersey on October 24 after treating Ebola patients in West Africa, seen in a hospital quarantine tent in Newark, New Jersey, Oct. 26, 2014.
Reuters Kaci Hickox, a nurse who arrived in New Jersey on October 24 after treating Ebola patients in West Africa, seen in a hospital quarantine tent in Newark, New Jersey, Oct. 26, 2014.

The fight over Ebola quarantines in the United States is already discouraging doctors, nurses and other health workers from signing up to go to Africa and battle the outbreak where help is needed most.

Would-be volunteers are worried about losing three additional weeks of work when they return to the United States, about still-evolving isolation rules and about being holed up in an unfamiliar place, aid organizations say.

They also worry about mistreatment generated by the public fear of Ebola, the organizations say.

“We have seen a big deterrence,” said Margaret…

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

TIME Middle East

More Foreign Fighters Are Going to Iraq and Syria Than Ever Before, UN Says

Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province in Syria, June 30, 2014.
Reuters Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province in Syria, June 30, 2014.

More than 15,000 have come from more than 80 countries

More than 15,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and similar extremist groups, according to a new United Nations report.

The report, obtained by the Guardian, warns that jihadists are traveling to fight on an “unprecedented scale” from more than 80 countries, including some that have not had previous links with al-Qaeda activity. Although the report to the UN Security Council did not give a full list of these countries, it said: “There are instances of foreign terrorist fighters from France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland operating together.”

The report also states the core of al-Qaeda remains weak but suggests that the decline of al-Qaeda has led to a boost in jihadist support for its successor groups like ISIS. The U.N. writes that ISIS is a “splinter group” of al-Qaeda but that the two groups “pursue similar strategic goals, albeit with tactical differences.”

Read more at the Guardian

Read next: ISIS Revenge Killings Reportedly Target Sunni Tribe in Iraq

TIME Malaysia

Malaysian Family Sues Airline Over Missing Plane

Richard Polden—Reuters A crew member looks out an observation window aboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion maritime search aircraft as it flies over the southern Indian Ocean looking for debris from missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 April 11, 2014.

Believed to be the first lawsuit since the plane vanished in March

A Malaysian family is suing the government and Malaysia Airlines for negligence in the disappearance of Flight 370, in what is believed to be the first lawsuit filed in the country since the passenger jet mysteriously vanished earlier this year.

The lawsuit was filed Friday with the Kuala Lumpur High Court by lawyers on behalf of the two underage sons of Jee Jing Hang, who was among the 239 people on board the plane to Beijing when it went missing, according to the Guardian. They are suing the national carrier for breach of contract, alleging it failed in its responsibility to deliver their father to his destination and did not take all due measures to ensure a safe flight. The family is also suing civil aviation authorities, the immigration department and the air force for negligence.

“Our clients are after the truth,” reads a statement from the family’s legal team. “We have confidence in our judiciary system that this suit will be heard and dealt with fairly.”

The Malaysian government believes the flight was diverted from its path and eventually went down in a remote area of the southern Indian ocean, but not a single piece of debris has been found despite extensive searches.

[Guardian]

TIME India

Unwed Indian Moms Applying for Child’s Passport Are Asked if They Were Raped

144462145
Visage—Getty Images

They also need to file an affidavit detailing how the child was conceived, a lawyer for the Indian government said

Unwed mothers in India applying for a passport for their child will have to reveal how the child was conceived and specify whether they were raped, a lawyer representing the Indian government told the Bombay High Court on Thursday.

The revelation came during a petition hearing by a 21-year-old woman who was denied a passport that had her stepfather’s name on it, the Times of India reported. The regional passport officer refused to accept the name of her mother instead, saying she needed a court order appointing the stepfather as her legal guardian.

According to the Times, one of the two judges hearing the case asked as an aside: “We were wondering what happens in the case of an unwed mother?”

Advocate Purnima Bhatia, representing the government, responded by saying mothers without husbands must file an affidavit that mentions how the child was conceived, whether the mother was raped, and why she does not wish to reveal the father’s name.

According to Mumbai-based women’s-rights lawyer Flavia Agnes, only the third of those conditions would be in any way justifiable. “These are ridiculous rules the government is making,” Agnes tells TIME. “Why should she say whether she was raped or whether she had consensual sex?”

According to the Times, Bhatia told the bench that the rules were detailed in the passport manual, which could not be shown to the court as it was a classified document. The judges reportedly responded by saying that the manual came under internal instructions and so could not be classified, and also did not have the force of the law.

Agnes says she has clashed with passport authorities in the past, over issues like divorced women prevented from continuing to use their former spouse’s name or married women not being allowed to continue using their maiden names. She plans to take this issue up as well, whether it escalates or not.

Sunitha Krishnan, founder of women-and-children’s-advocacy organization Prajwala, says the Foreign Ministry’s response is “deeply disturbing” and speaks to a larger malaise in Indian society.

“It’s so painful that a woman has to keep justifying and defending her position,” she says, citing her long battle to get children of prostitutes admitted into schools that insisted on a father’s name.

“When an unwed mother is asked dehumanizing questions like have you been raped, I don’t know which era we’re living in,” adds Krishnan. “I don’t think a man would ever be asked such questions.”

TIME North Korea

Paranoid North Korea Handles Ebola Threat by Quarantining All Foreigners

North Korea Ebola Fears
Wong Maye-E—AP This Oct. 28, 2014, photo shows foreigners and North Koreans riding a shuttle bus to a plane bound for Beijing at the Sunan International Airport, in Pyongyang

North Korea, not a friend to much of anything coming through its borders (or out of them), is certainly not keen to let Ebola in either

The U.S. media may be chock-full of news and analysis about the impending threat of Ebola, but America’s response still pales in comparison with that most hysterical of nations — North Korea.

Officials in Pyongyang have announced plans to quarantine all foreigners for 21 days over worries that the deadly virus will ravage the Hermit Nation, reports the Associated Press.

There have so far been no reported Ebola cases anywhere in Asia. North Korea is about 6,800 miles from the nearest Ebola case — in Dallas, Texas — and it has no direct flights to any country that has seen Ebola on its soil.

North Korea as a rule does not welcome lots of tourists, and those few tourists do not get to fraternize — much less exchange bodily fluids, as would be necessary for transmission of Ebola — with North Korea’s beleaguered population.

These days, the nation is accepting no tourists at all, since Pyongyang officials last week put all tourist visas on hold in a bid to keep the virus out, the Associated Press earlier reported.

Yet the announcement distributed Thursday about the quarantine indicates that Pyongyang is still very worried indeed about Ebola, says the Associated Press, which has a bureau in the North Korean capital. The U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea.

The staff of diplomatic missions and international organizations will apparently be permitted to stay in their homes for the mandated bout of agoraphobia. The fate of other foreigners is less clear: visitors from countries affected by the virus will be quarantined “at one set of locations,” while travelers from unaffected countries will be sent to “other locations, including hotels.”

It is also unclear if people in North Korea on short stays, like on brief business trips, will be forced to remain in the country for a full 21 days.

North Korea’s apparent distance from the disease also did not stop Pyongyang from earlier this week outfitting the two people it sent to meet a visiting high-level delegation from Japan in full hazmat gear.

Almost 5,000 people have died worldwide in the current Ebola outbreak, almost all in the West African nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

[AP]

TIME indonesia

New Indonesian President Jokowi Talks Tough With Fading Power Australia

Indonesia's new President Widodo shouts "Merdeka" or Freedom at the end of his speech, during his inauguration in Jakarta
Darren Whiteside—Reuters Indonesia's new President Joko Widodo shouts "Merdeka," meaning freedom, at the end of his speech, during his inauguration at the parliament's building in Jakarta on Oct. 20, 2014

Indonesia's newfound chest-thumping may simply be a fledgling administration's efforts to win domestic approval, but is nonetheless indicative of shifting powers in the region

Two days before his Oct. 20 inauguration, new Indonesian President Joko Widodo, gave Australia a stern warning not to test the territorial sovereignty of the world’s largest archipelago.

“We will give a warning that this is not acceptable,” Jokowi, as he is widely known, told Fairfax Media in reference to half a dozen incursions into Indonesian waters last year by Australian navy ships turning back boats full of predominantly Middle Eastern asylum seekers. “We have international law, you must respect international law.”

Bolstering Jokowi’s message, Indonesia’s new Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi — the first ever female in the role — confirmed on Wednesday a departure from former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s principle of “thousand friends, zero enemies” to national interests first.

“To uphold our political sovereignty, what we must do is preserve the sovereignty of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia,” Retno said at her first press conference. “We’ll do this firmly and clearly.”

The interception one day earlier of a Singaporean passenger aircraft over a well-traveled flight path that cuts through Indonesian airspace may be indicative of Jakarta’s new hard-line stance. Indonesian fighter jets forced the aircraft to land and pay a $4,900 fine — despite protestation from the Singaporean owner, ST Aerospace, that it had been using the route for a number of years without the need for prior clearance from Indonesia’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

However, these messages must be read within the context of Indonesia’s time-honored political melodrama, where tough talk against meddling foreign powers is par for the course. It’s also an easy and predictable way for new administration to score political points on the home front. “I think Jokowi’s warning to Australia was made for domestic consumption rather that advocating a nationalistic tone in foreign policy,” says Philips Vermonte, head of international relations at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta.

Indeed, Jokowi’s apparent double standards when dealing with Chinese incursions in the fish- and gas-rich waters of the Natuna Islands, on the northwest coast of Indonesian Borneo, seems to demonstrate diplomatic nuance rather than a new era of nationalistic fervor.

As recently as March 2013, armed Chinese ships bullied Indonesian patrol boats into releasing Chinese fisherman caught trawling illegally near Natuna. China has also included parts of the waters around Natuna within its so-called nine-dash line — its vague southern maritime boundary, adding Indonesia to the long list of countries it’s dueling with over aggressive claims to some 90% of the South China Sea.

In April, Indonesia’s armed-forces chief General Moeldoko penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal promising to strengthen Indonesian forces on Natuna and prepare fighter jets to meet “any eventuality.”

But two months later, during a presidential-election debate in June, Jokowi claimed Indonesia had no beef with China. In later interviews he adroitly turned the burning strategic problem with China on its head, suggesting Indonesia could serve as an “honest broker” vis-a-vis the Middle Kingdom’s disputes with other countries in the South China Sea.

This should not, however, be understood to mean the new Indonesian administration will be pushovers. Its soft stance on overlapping territorial claims with China is obviously linked to the fact that China is Indonesia’s second largest export trading partner. Australia, meanwhile, barely makes the top 10.

The lesson, it seems, more concerns shifting regional power than newfound Indonesian belligerence. “Australia needs to understand that Indonesia’s place in the world is growing, while it is not,”
 adds Professor Tim Lindsey, director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at the Melbourne Law School. By current estimates, he adds, Indonesia will have world’s seventh largest economy in around a decade and the fifth largest by 2050. “Australia’s current policies of turning back the boats doesn’t seem to factor in any of that at all,” says Lindsey.

“I think Australia would be advised to take [Jokowi’s latest about naval incursions] warning very seriously, and that it would be unwise to look at it in narrow terms by saying, ‘Their navy is very small so it’s not a valid threat,’” opines Antje Missbach, a research fellow at Monash University’s School of Social Sciences in Melbourne. “There are many ways Indonesia could make a point without involving its navy.”

Moreover, she adds, “Look what happened last time Australia offended them,” referring to when Indonesia recalled its ambassador to Australia for six months following revelations by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden that Australia had spied on Yudhoyono and his wife.

Speaking to TIME, Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says, “It is not the government’s policy to incur Indonesia’s waters” and blames past incursions on the opposition government it replaced following the September 2013 general elections. “[We’re] working closely with the new government of Indonesia on people-smuggling issues and we are optimistic about initial responses,” Morrison says.

Optimism is one thing; keeping out of your neighbor’s backyard is another altogether.

— With reporting by Yenni Kwok

Read next: Australia’s Top ISIS Militant Killed: Sources

TIME

Pictures of the Week: Oct. 24 – Oct. 31

From the encroaching lava of the Hawaii volcano to the U.S. Marines withdrawal from Helmand Province, Afghanistan and the World Series victory for the San Francisco Giants to a terrifying Tokyo Halloween, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

 

TIME Israel

Sen. Ted Cruz: Obama’s Unprecedented Attack on Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, Oct. 13, 2014.
Menahem Kahana—EPA Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, Oct. 13, 2014.

Cruz is the junior U.S. Senator from Texas.

Voters should challenge the administration's views on Election Day

This week, the world was treated to yet another embarrassing display of the Obama administration’s incompetent foreign policy.

According to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, various anonymous officials referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as both “a chicken****” and “a coward.” While these indefensible comments have received the lion’s share of media attention, the substantive remarks about Iran were even more troubling. Goldberg wrote that another senior official claimed that due to their pressure on Netanyahu, it is now “too late” for Israel to stop Iran from amassing an “atomic arsenal.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told the White House press corps on Tuesday that the President likely does not know who did this, and there is no effort underway to find out. Other officials have signaled that these persons may be disciplined in ways that are have not been disclosed. But, regardless, they will continue to serve at the pleasure of the President because, as Earnest said, such things happen almost every day in this administration.

In other words, this is no big deal.

With all due respect, this is a very big deal. This is an unprecedented attack on a critical ally of the United States at a moment of international crisis. It is a de facto admission to the mullahs in Tehran that the Obama administration thinks it is too late to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is an inexcusable betrayal of the national security of the American people.

Do the Democrats agree with what Obama administration officials are saying about Israel and its leaders? Do they also concede that a nuclear Iran is inevitable? If not, will they call on the President to identify and fire the persons making these assertions? These questions should be asked—and answered—before Americans head to the polls next Tuesday.

It is my hope that Congress can unite to reverse this administration’s approach by defending our allies and standing up to hostile actors in the world. When the White House acts recklessly, Congress should swiftly act to defend our nation. We will not be able to do so if the Senate is led by Harry Reid acting as a rubber stamp for President Obama. Either the Democrats should denounce the Obama Administration’s dangerous policies or the voters should send them home in November.

As disgraceful as these comments were, at least they bring crystal clarity to the choice we face as a nation on November 4th. Choose wisely.

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.

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