China Arrests 380 in First Month of Yearlong Antiterrorism Campaign

China Terrorism Crackdown
Armed paramilitary policemen ride on a truck during an antiterrorism oath-taking rally at the Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, China, on May 23, 2014 AP

In general, the names of those arrested are not released, and they are likely to face trial in secret

China has arrested at least 380 people in its first month of a yearlong campaign against terrorism, state-run media said on Monday.

The crackdown was triggered by a suicide attack blamed on Islamic militants that left 39 people dead in the restive western province of Xinjiang in May.

The Ministry of Public Security said in a statement that the campaign to avert the spread of religious radicalism would last until June 2015, “With Xinjiang as the center, and with cooperation from other provinces.”

China Central Television (CCTV) stated that the campaign began with the disbanding of 32 terrorist groups in the western province, confirming Beijing’s promise that “terrorists and extremists will be hunted down and punished,” AFP reported.

Along with arrests that concentrated on suspected militants in Xinjiang but spread throughout the country, police also seized 264 devices that could discharge 3.15 tons of explosives, CCTV reported.

Most of the violence in Xinjiang apparently stems from rising tensions between the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority and majority Han Chinese migrants. Human-rights groups also blame increasing economic disparity and religious discrimination against the Uighurs, although Beijing claims that the government has helped improve the local economy and infrastructure.


TIME Theater

Opera Singer Fired After Homophobic Slurs Posted to Facebook Page

Singer performs during dress rehearsal of Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin at Vienna's State Opera
Singer Tamar Iveri performs on stage as Tatjana during a dress rehearsal of Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin at Vienna's State Opera March 3, 2009. Herwig Prammer—Reuters

She has placed the blame on her "very religious" husband

A seasoned opera singer from Georgia — the country, not the state — has been dropped from a major Australian opera company’s upcoming production of Otello in response to homophobic posts that appeared on her Facebook page.

Eighteen months ago, soprano Tamar Iveri’s account included some choice words regarding an anti-homophobia rally in Tbilisi, the capital of her homeland. These included comparisons between homosexuals and “fecal masses” and praise to compatriots who spat at the parade.

Long story short: a lot of people were upset, and some were upset enough to start an online petition encouraging the Australian government to kick her out of the country, and now Opera Australia has chosen to terminate her contract. She won’t be in next month’s production of Otello in Sydney, and a Brussels-based opera company has also excused her from its production of A Masked Ball next year.

Iveri, meanwhile, maintains her innocence, blaming her “very religious” husband for hacking her Facebook and posting the comments himself.

TIME Foreign Policy

Kerry Presses for Iraq Peace but Warns Militants Could Force U.S. Action

Secretary of State John Kerry met with top Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish political leaders in Baghdad on Monday. He warned that the threat from militants storming across Iraq could force the U.S. to take military action, even as he pressed the country's leaders to cede more power to opponents and forge a political solution to the crisis

Updated 3:18 p.m. E.T.

Secretary of State John Kerry warned Monday that the threat from militants storming across Iraq could force the U.S. to take military action, even as he pressed the country’s leaders to cede more power to opponents and forge a political solution to the crisis.

“They do pose a threat,” Kerry said of fighters from the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). “They cannot be given safe haven anywhere.

“That’s why, again, I reiterate the President will not be hampered if he deems it necessary if [political reconciliation] is not complete,” Kerry added.

Kerry’s comments came during an unannounced visit to Baghdad, during which he met with the country’s top officials and urged Shi‘ite leaders to cede more power to their rivals as Sunni insurgents plunge the country into chaos.

Kerry had a 90-minute closed-door meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom U.S. officials pushed to be more inclusive in his government to bridge the country’s sectarian divide, worsened by years of policymaking that slighted Sunnis and the Kurdish minority in the north. Kerry said afterward that al-Maliki, along with other government officials, had committed to meet a July 1 deadline to build a new power-sharing government.

He also met with top Shi‘ite cleric Ammar al-Hakim and one of Iraq’s most senior Sunnis, parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi. “These are difficult times,” he said in the meeting with al-Nujaifi, while reaffirming the Obama Administration’s commitment to stabilizing Iraq’s security. “But the principal concern is for the Iraqi people — for the integrity of the country, its borders, for its sovereignty.”

Kerry spoke about the unrest playing out in Iraq the day before while in Cairo. “This is a critical moment where together we must urge Iraq’s leaders to rise above sectarian motivations and form a government that is united in its determination to meet the needs and speak to the demands of all of their people,” Kerry told reporters.

The Middle East trip comes days after President Barack Obama confirmed the U.S. would send 300 military advisers to assist in the training of the Iraqi military as it attempts to beat back the ferocious assault spearheaded by ISIS extremists. Those troops, Obama said, would not engage in combat missions.

— Additional reporting by Zeke J Miller and Michael Crowley

TIME Australia

You’ll Never Guess Which Country Is the Biggest Per Capita Contributor of Foreign Jihadists to ISIS

Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) celebrate on vehicles taken from Iraqi security forces, at a street in city of Mosul
Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) celebrate on vehicles taken from Iraqi security forces, at a street in city of Mosul, June 12, 2014. © STRINGER Iraq / Reuters—REUTERS

It isn't in the Middle East or Central Asia or even in Europe. It's Down Under

A startling number of Australian citizens and residents have left the country to join jihadist factions in the ongoing crises in the Middle East, prompting the Australian government to launch a statewide effort to crack down on “home-grown terrorism” fostered within its borders.

“This is one of the most disturbing developments in our domestic security in quite some time,” Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop told the Australian Broadcasting Service. “There’s a real danger that these extremists also come back home as trained terrorists and pose a threat to our security.”

Authorities believe that around 150 Australians are currently fighting alongside ISIS in Iraq and Syria, making the country the highest foreign per capita contributor to the violence. Many more have left the country for the Middle East in recent weeks, though their intent in doing so has not yet been determined.

“We will do everything we humanly can to stop jihadist terrorists coming into this country and if they do return to this country, we will do everything we reasonably can to ensure that they are not moving amongst the Australian community,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the Australian press on Monday.

Abbott’s government has thus far canceled a number of passports held by those Australians who have joined the conflict, and is working to fortify a border security system that has a history of being more permeable than desired. It was a “customs failure” last year that permitted convicted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf to escape the country with his brother’s passport and head to Syria and then Iraq, where he has had a hand in the recent mass executions of Iraqi soldiers.

As for the suspected or confirmed terrorists still at large within the Australian borders, the government has mulled over the idea of providing national intelligence agencies greater access to the country’s internet traffic — a potentially controversial move, considering the outcry over the government’s mobile data surveillance plan in 2012.

This is not the first time that Australia has taken note of the extremist diaspora out of the country. Last summer, TIME reported that over 200 Australians had joined militant groups fighting to unseat Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s ongoing civil war, and that Australian counterterrorism operatives had consequently begun collecting evidence against suspected combatants.

Still, the exodus persists, from Australia and elsewhere: the Economist reported earlier this month that as many as 3,000 foreigners may have joined ISIS forces. The organization and its satellite groups seem intent on making their chaos an international issue, actively soliciting support from Muslims across the world.

In a 13-minute propagandist recruitment video released last week, purported ISIS extremists stated that their fellow jihadists in Iraq and Syria hailed from countries as far afield as Bangladesh and even Cambodia, although some Cambodian officials have disputed the claim.


TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Holds an Unofficial Vote, and Beijing Is Definitely Not Amused

A volunteer, center, handles a voter's ID card at a polling station in Hong Kong on June 22, 2014. Hong Kong citizens cast their ballots in an unofficial referendum on democratic reform, as booths opened across the territory in a poll that has enraged Beijing and drawn more than 690,000 votes since it opened online Philippe Lopez—AFP/Getty Images

Nearly 700,000 Hong Kongers have voted so far in a civil-society-backed poll on electoral change that Beijing dismisses as "an illegal farce"

More than 690,000 Hong Kong people voted this weekend. There were no candidates, platforms or promises. Local authorities will not recognize the results. Beijing dismissed it as a farce. And yet they voted still — in a de facto referendum on democratic reform, conducted on Chinese territory.

More votes will come. The weekend was merely the start of an informal, civil-society-backed exercise designed to gauge support for electoral change. Until June 30, Hong Kong people can vote, in person or online, on three possible ways to elect the city’s leader, known the Chief Executive, who is currently chosen by a 1,200-member electoral college dominated by establishment conservatives. All three proposals give the public the right to nominate candidates. But Beijing and the Hong Kong government insist that this would go against Hong Kong’s miniconstitution — the Basic Law — which says candidates for the 2017 direct election have to be vetted by a nomination committee. They also have to “love China,” Beijing says.

A former British colony that was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, Hong Kong operates semiautonomously, enjoying a range of rights but beholden, in many ways, to Beijing. It is governed under a model known as “one country, two systems.” But critics of the arrangement worry that the two systems — Hong Kong’s freebooting capitalism, governed by common law, and China’s one-party state-run version — are slowly merging into one, tilting the balance in Beijing’s favor.

It’s a question that consumes the territory, dividing it between those who welcome China’s influence (or who say that there is no practical choice other than to accept it) and others who vehemently oppose it. The resulting is a deeply polarized territory. Most people are somewhere in-between, seeing some level of integration as inevitable, but willing to fight to protect the freedoms they hold dear — the right to assemble, an independent judiciary, free speech and a relatively free media.

Divisions exist not only among Hong Kongers but also between Hong Kong and the mainland, from which many in Hong Kong consider themselves culturally distinct. In 2012, plans to introduce “national education” to local classrooms provoked a backlash against what many parents and students called brainwashing; the government backed down. Every year, in another sign of a Hong Kong spirit distinct from the People’s Republic of China, tens of thousands attend the city’s annual Tiananmen Square vigil — the only such event on Chinese soil.

Beijing alternates between actively discouraging, and haughtily dismissing, dissent. It chose to do the latter with this weekend’s vote. The English edition of Global Times, a strident state media organization, downplayed the plebiscite’s significance, saying the use of online polls amounted to “mincing ludicrousness [sic].” Its editorial added: “The opposition groups and their overseas supporters have overestimated the effect of an illegal farce. Neither China’s central government nor the Hong Kong government will admit the results of the poll.”

Organizers of the Hong Kong poll initially said they hoped to attract 100,000-odd voters. Just before the online system went live, it was hit with an unusually sophisticated cyberattack. Although it is still unclear who is to blame, that attack, plus a previous cyberhit on a Hong Kong newspaper that supports the movement, is credited by some for the surge of interest in the plebiscite — both in Hong Kong and on the Chinese mainland.

Indeed, the Hong Kong vote quickly became one of the most talked-about stories on Chinese-language social media, spurring a raucous and at times funny debate about the vote, China’s response and the appropriate role of the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong. The Chinese edition of Global Times ran a piece headlined, roughly, “No matter how many people voted in the illegal Hong Kong election, it is not as many at 1.3 billion people.” One quick-witted social-media retort: “Global Times is going to give 1.3 billion people right to vote? That’s awesome news.”

That comment, and many others, were speedily censored.

— With reporting by Chengcheng Jiang / Beijing

TIME southeast asia

Malaysia’s Highest Court Upholds Ban on Christians Using the Word Allah

Malaysia Allah Dispute
Muslim women sit in front of a banner reading Allah during a protest outside the court of appeal in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, on June 23, 2014 Vincent Thian—AP Photo

Disappointed Christians decried creeping Islamization as a threat to their religious freedom

Malaysia’s highest court upheld a lower court’s ruling on Monday that denied an appeal by the Catholic newspaper The Herald to use the word Allah, considered the Arabic name for God. The decision made by a seven-judge panel laid to rest a tumultuous six-year court case that catalyzed religious tension in the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation.

The case was originally brought in 2007 when the Home Ministry banned the use of Allah in the Malay-language edition of the paper, which dovetailed with a threat to withdraw its publishing permit. Church leaders insist that Allah has been used in religious literature and Malay-language Bibles to refer to the Christian God for centuries.

A 2009 appeal favored The Herald, which argued that Christians had the constitutional right to use the term — a decision that led to attacks on Christian places of worship for several years. Muslims argued that the Christian use of Allah could persuade Muslims to convert and so jeopardized national security. Following a ruling in October that reinstated the ban, Islamic authorities confiscated Bibles that used the word Allah. In January, two petrol bombs were thrown at a Malaysian church.

The federal court’s conclusive ruling on Monday was met with cheers from hundreds of Muslim activists outside the court. Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria told the courtroom that “The court of appeal was right to set aside the high-court ruling,” local papers reported.

Disappointed Christians saw the decision as a threat to their religious freedom, complaining that it was only one example of increasing Islamization being pushed by the 60% Muslim majority. The Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew told AFP that the judgment failed to “touch on the fundamental rights of minorities.”

TIME Thailand

A Yellow Shirt Leader Says the Thai Coup Was Planned in 2010

Thai policemen arrest a student for reading George Orwell's 1984 at a shopping mall in Bangkok on June 22, 2014 Pornchai Kittiwongsakul—AFP/Getty Images

Suthep Thaugsuban says coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha told him it was the army's "duty" to take over the task of opposing Yingluck Shinawatra's government

Planning for Thailand’s latest military coup began four years ago, according to the leader of antigovernment demonstrations that paralyzed Bangkok for six months and contributed to the ousting of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Suthep Thaugsuban, the firebrand chief of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) — the main Yellow Shirt protest group — revealed to a fundraising dinner over the weekend that he and Thai Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha had been discussing how to purge Thailand of the influence of powerful Shinawatra ever since deadly political violence erupted in 2010.

The Bangkok Post quoted Suthep as saying, “Before martial law was declared [on May 20], General Prayuth told me ‘Khun Suthep and your masses of PDRC supporters are too exhausted. It’s now the duty of the army to take over the task.’”

Suthep is a former Deputy Prime Minister for the Establishment-backed Democrat Party. The 64-year-old has murder charges pending relating to a crackdown on pro-Thaksin Red Shirt protesters he ordered in 2010 that claimed at least 90 lives and left more than 2,000 injured, and he is seen as being closely aligned with elite institutions such as the military, judiciary and royal court. However, he now claims that he will retire from politics and that the PDRC “will function like a nongovernmental organization that will carry out research.”

The crackdown on opposition to the May 22 coup continues. On Sunday, eight people were arrested outside the capital’s Siam Paragon mall — one for reading George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984, copies of which have become symbols of the protest movement. Others were arrested for holding sandwiches, which have also become a tongue-in-cheek pro-democracy prop.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has not responded to requests for clarification from TIME regarding whether foreign visitors should refrain from bringing 1984 into the country.

Meanwhile, eminent American linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky has expressed support for dissident Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Like other prominent Thai critics of the coup living overseas, Pavin is wanted by the regime and has been threatened with two years in prison if he does not surrender.

“I am deeply disturbed to learn about the threats against Professor Pavin Chachavalpongpun,” said Chomksy. “I hope that they will be quickly withdrawn, as they should be, and that he will be free to visit his family and resume his life without government repression.”

TIME Syria

Watch: Syrian Children Talk About Life As Child Soldiers

Recruited under the guide of education programs, child soldiers have been acting as snipers, soldiers and even suicide bombers in Syria, a new report says.

Before the ongoing conflict in Syria began in early 2011, Majed, 16, used to farm tomatoes in the fields near his hometown of Inkhil, Daraa, in the country’s southwest.

But when the Nusra Front, which has been labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department, came to his town, he and other children as young as 12 years old started to spend time with members of the group in a local mosque, Majeb told Human Rights Watch.

“They would bring a car and go around to houses to pick up children. They taught children how to read the Quran, then taught us about weapon(s),” Majed said. “They taught us how to take apart and put together a weapon, they put up a target for us to practice shooting outside the mosque. Anyone who hit the target got a reward.”

Majed ended up fighting against government forces for three months. Another boy, Amr, 15, who fought with an extremist Islamist group in northern Syria, said his unit’s commanders encouraged children to volunteer for suicide bombing attacks. He reluctantly signed up, but he was able to get away before his turn came up, he told Human Rights Watch.

Majer and Amr are just two of many children who have been recruited as combatants by non-state armed groups involved in the Syrian conflict.

It’s not clear exactly how many child soldiers are fighting in Syria, but groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot aligned with rebels fighting against forces aligned with Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as the Nusra Front have encouraged boys as young as 15 to fight, at times recruiting them through free schooling campaigns, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Monday. While the report focused on use of child soldiers by rebel forces, the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on Syria has documented the use of child soldiers by pro-government forces as well.

As Syria’s civil war is set to enter into its fourth year, human rights groups have been able to document that boys and girls were recruited to fight in battles, act as snipers, participate in suicide bombing missions, treat the wounded on battlefields and carry ammunition to and from the front lines. A Syria-monitoring group called the Violations Documenting Center documented 194 deaths of “non-civilian” male children in Syria from September 2011 until June of this year, for example.

In the video above, Zama Coursen-Neff, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Children’s Rights Division, said that armed opposition groups in Syria across the political spectrum are using children to fight.

“It’s bad enough that the Syrian government is dropping bombs on children, armed opposition groups in Syria should not in turn be sending children into harm’s way,” Coursen-Neff said.

Under international law, armed group leaders who recruit child soldiers can be tried as war criminals. The United Nations estimates that hundreds of thousands of boys and girls, some as young as 8 years old, are used as soldiers in numerous conflicts in Africa, Latin America and Asia.



TIME Media

Meet 10 of China’s Most Powerful Women

The critically acclaimed MAKERS series goes to China

After its critical acclaim last year with the documentary MAKERS: Women Who Make America, AOL has taken its storytelling brand to China to highlight women whose accomplishments have shattered expectations and serve as an inspiration to their peers. The selection process was overseen in part by Yang Lan, a broadcast journalist often dubbed the “Oprah of China.”

Li Yinhe

First female sexologist in China

After studying at the University of Pittsburgh, Li became fascinated by the widely available research on American sexual mores, completely absent in her native China. Her book, Their World: a Study of Homosexuality in China, proved iconoclastic for the country.

Gong Li


Known for films like Raise the Red Lantern and Memoirs of a Geisha, Gong has starred in numerous Chinese films that have won her awards from the Berlin International Film Festival to Cannes. She was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2000.

Fu Ying

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs

After a string of government jobs, Fu became China’s ambassador to the Philippines in 1998, then to Australia in 2003, then to the U.K. in 2007. She’s been praised for her expert handling of the media after western pushback against China’s successful bid to host the Olympics.

Guo Jianmei

First public interest lawyer in China

In 1995, Guo was inspired at the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women by Hillary Clinton’s now-famous maxim: “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” Not long after, she founded a women’s legal aid NGO, which subsequently earned her an award from Clinton as a Woman of Courage.

Li Yan

Short-track speed skating coach

Li won a silver medal in the 1992 Winter Olympics and later went on to coach Apolo Ohno to his gold medal win in the 2006 Winter Olympics. She has coached the Chinese national team through the last two Olympic seasons.

Hu Shuli

Investigative journalist

The editor-in-chief of Caixin Media Company has made a name for herself through hard-hitting journalism—a particularly challenging accomplishment in China. She famously reported on corruption in the financial industry, and has been included on the TIME 100.

Dong Mingzhu

Chairman and president, Gree Electric

Dong rose through the ranks at Gree Electric, first selling air conditioners then overseeing the sales team. She was appointed director of the department in 1994 and increases sales by a factor of seven. This accomplishment paved the way for her to eventually take the top job at the company.

Yang Liping

Dance artist

A dancer from rural China, Yang studied the dance cultures of various Chinese minorities as a young woman. Committed to bringing these traditions to the wider public, she raised money to create and perform her first piece, “Spirit of the Peacock” in the 1980s, and went on to direct, choreograph and perform in blockbuster dance shows throughout China, Europe and the U.S.

Laura Cha Shin May-lung

Former vice-chair of the China Securities Regulatory Commission

After a successful career as a lawyer, first in California then in Hong Kong, she joined the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission and eventually held the position of Deputy Chairman. She then moved on to be vice chair of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, becoming the first non-mainlander in the role.

Yan Geling

Novelist and screenwriter

Yan is known in the U.S. for books like The Banquet Bug and The Lost Daughter of Happiness. Many of her novels have been adapted for films like The Flowers of War, and her stories are highly acclaimed in China.

TIME Military

What’s the Pentagon Endgame in Iraq?

Shi'ite volunteers mobilize to fight in the central Iraqi city of Najaf on Sunday. HAIDAR HAMDANI / AFP / Getty Images

For now, it seems saving Baghdad is the key objective for U.S. warships, warplanes and war advisers bound there

Iraq has become a sucking chest wound, and the U.S. military is showing up like a doctor who left his black bag back at the hospital. On purpose.

The U.S. military doesn’t want to go back into Iraq. The U.S. public doesn’t want the U.S. military to go back there. Yet Iraq’s U.S.-succored corrupt and sectarian government is losing whatever tentative grip it once had across western Iraq, forcing President Obama to dispatch just enough military force to the region so no one can say he’s doing nothing to salvage the 4,486 lives and $1 trillion Washington spent replacing Saddam Hussein with Nouri al-Maliki.

But 300 U.S. military advisers, along with a small fleet of warships and aircraft in the region, are unlikely to turn the tide on their own without major political changes and some form of reconciliation. “This is not just some small militant group against the Iraqi government,” says Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations, who has advised the Pentagon on Iraq. “This is essentially Sunnis against Shi‘a.”

Fighters from the Sunni-backed Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) made additional gains Sunday, taking three towns in western Iraq’s Anbar province as they continue to push toward Baghdad and the creation of an Islamic state straddling the border drawn by British and French colonial rulers nearly a century ago between the two nations.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has dispatched warships to the Persian Gulf and readied warplanes already in the region if the U.S. decided it needs to help keep ISIS out of Baghdad. Doing so will be viewed by Sunni loyalists — including ISIS and former members of Saddam’s army, some of which are allied with ISIS — as a declaration by Washington to align itself with al-Maliki’s Shi‘ite-heavy government and its key backer, Iran.

“There are an awful lot of movements that they are making that are targetable,” says Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They have to be able to move between cities to expand, they have to have supply lines. We don’t have to conduct urban bombing to deal with the expansion of this movement.”

Time, Obama suggested Sunday, may be the best military option. “The thing about an organization like this is that, typically, when they control territory, because they’re so violent, because they’re so extreme, over time, the local populations reject them,” President Obama said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “We have seen that time and time again. We saw it during the Iraq war in places like Anbar province, where Sunni tribes suddenly turned against them because of their extreme ideology.”

But Republicans are in no mood to wait. ISIS wants “to launch attacks in the exterior, external operations, including targeting our homeland,” Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told CBS. “This is an extremely serious national security risk for the country if they were to establish that safe haven of operation.”

Rubio wants the Administration “to draw up plans that allow us to begin to degrade their supply lines and their ability to continue to move forward,” which is what Pentagon officials have been doing. “We’ve got to figure out a way to isolate ISIS from Syria and Iraq, isolate them from each other,” he said. “And then, look. I’d leave the rest to military tacticians.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney derided the current debate over the wisdom of Obama’s decision to dispatch 300 military advisers, to help Baghdad’s military by providing intelligence for counter-offensives and targeting information for U.S. warplanes and drones. “When we’re arguing over 300 advisers, when the request had been for 20,000 in order to do the job right, I’m not sure we’ve really addressed the problem,” he said on ABC’s This Week, referring to the Pentagon’s original request to keep a substantial residual force in Iraq after 2011. Instead, the U.S. pulled all its troops out after the Iraqi parliament failed to grant legal immunity to them; Republicans maintain the Obama Administration should have pushed harder for such legal protection.

He argued that the U.S. needs to take a broader approach to dealing with al-Qaeda and its offshoots like ISIS. “At this point there are no good, easy answers in Iraq,” he said. “We need an Administration to recognize the fact that we’ve got this huge problem, quit peddling the notion that they got core al-Qaeda and therefore there’s no problem out there.”

ISIS’s near-term goal is Baghdad. Like 1968’s Tet offensive launched by North Vietnam again South Vietnam, it doesn’t need to occupy the capital in order to achieve a symbolic victory. While North Vietnam didn’t prevail in Tet, the fact that it was able to attack Saigon left the taste of defeat in the South. Similarly, barraging Baghdad’s Green Zone, the heart of the Iraqi government, could be seen as a death knell for al-Maliki’s government.

“It is not at all clear that without direct American assistance, particularly airpower, that the Iraqi government is going to be able to hold,” says retired Army officer and Iraq vet John Nagl. “We could see Saigon 1975 in Baghdad 2014.”

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