Barack Obama

Report: Trump Will Overturn Obama Cuba Thaw Reforms

A report in the Daily Caller indicates that President Donald Trump is planning a major repeal of Obama era measures designed to soften America’s hostile posture towards Cuba that has lasted for over 50 years.

From the Daily Caller:

“Two sources told TheDC that the development is due to the behind-the-scenes efforts of Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Republican Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.”

The report goes on to say that Trump plans to officially announce the changes in a June speech in Miami.

Rubio has previously spoken about his optimism that Trump would return American policy to a pre Obama posture.

He said in an interview with El Nuevo Herald, “We’ve been walking through all these issues with the president and his team, figuring out the right steps to take and when.”

NOW WATCH: This Is The Oldest Building In The Western Hemisphere. We Bet You’ve Never Heard Of It 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Pedro Szekely/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Barack Obama Is Basically Still US President For Europe, Sends Heartfelt Message To Manchester

Former President Barack Obama is still acting like the current President and many people around the world are totally cool with that.

Obama spoke earlier today to a crowd of over 70,000 people in Berlin where he shared a stage with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He also filmed a video message to the people of Manchester with Merkel and it was everything the world needed to hear.

Meanwhile, his successor was having awkward handshakes with the French President.

Rory, Obama, And Me

The last time I saw Rory Gilmore, it was 2007.

She sat nervously sipping a cup of coffee at Luke’s at 5 a.m, about to take off on the road to work as a journalist, covering the Obama campaign.

At the time, an unlikely black, underdog, born in Hawaii had unexpectedly become a presidential candidate and I, a young eleven year old girl was about to enter the daunting world of high school.

Although Rory, Obama, and I’s futures were uncertain, there was a palpable feeling of hope that outweighed any fears of the unknown.

During my young impressionable years, I had the privilege—in both my real and imaginative worlds—to be surrounded by truly remarkable characters.

In the real world of politics, I got to grow up in the ‘yes we can’ generation, believing that anyone regardless of gender, race, economic background, could carve out a place for themselves in even the most elite pockets of society.

In my world of fiction, I was fortunate to have two strong female heroines whose self-worth was anchored in their intelligence, independence, and capacity to eat more than their male counterparts.

As a young woman—navigating through a time often ridden with cliques and self-confidence issues—my real and fictitious role models helped me keep a touch on the pulse, whose steady and defined beats reminded me of the values I would grow up to cherish dearly.

When I was reunited with Rory Gilmore this past November, only weeks after a sexist tyrant was elected as Obama’s successor, I mourned the loss of feminism in the worlds I had once inhabited.

When I left Rory, she was a quiet, driven young woman, who acknowledged her flaws and her fears.

She chose a career she loved over a man she adored, and though terrified, fearlessly threw herself into the deep end.

The Rory I found in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, was virtually unrecognizable.

Her work-ethic I had once so preciously admired was replaced with a repulsive entitlement that manifested itself in her career, her love life, and even her relationship with her beloved mother and best-friend, Lorelai.

A poster promoting Gilmore Girls during its original run. Photo Credit: Zach Tirrell/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

She found satisfaction in her friendships with trust-fund babies she had once despised (Logan’s Life and Death Brigade friends) and seemed to have no qualms being Logan’s mistress, meanwhile walking all-over her caring boyfriend whose name and existence not even she could remember.

When I have expressed my disappointment with Rory’s character in the Gilmore Girls revival, people have told me—to my fervent frustration—that the old Rory was ‘unrealistic’.

But to say that a sincere, hard-working, and driven young woman who cares more about C-Span and Tolstoy than about fashion and parties is ‘unrealistic’ is to do a massive dis-service to every hard-working young woman out there who refuses to succumb to stereotypes of what a young woman is supposed to look like.

Like all of us, Rory was a flawed and imperfect character.

Throughout the seven seasons, Rory fell apart almost every time she received criticism.

When she hit a deer and missed her exam, she threw a tantrum in class; when a professor in Season Four told her to drop a class, she cried in Dean’s lap; when Mitchum Huntsburger told her she didn’t have ‘it’, she dropped out of school for a semester and moved into Richard and Emily’s pool house.

As Jess poignantly noted back in Season Two while driving Rory’s car—and Logan pointed out at a Life and Death Brigade retreat later in the series (You jump, I jump Jack)—Rory was scared of the world around her.

Gilmore Girls speaks for a certain generation of American women who are now coming into positions of influence. Photo Credit: jeffmason/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

She spent her first year of university hiding away after her mom slept at her dorm her first night of college, where I might add, she hardly made any new friends.

So no, Rory was not an unrealistic character because she was imperfect with flaws that I learnt from and whose attributes I grew to admire.

But because of Rory, I went through high school hardly worrying about my appearance or trying to be cool.

While I undoubtedly had my teenage moments where I rolled my kilt to show a little more leg, or worried about what party to go to on a Friday night, I spent more time reading and studying than I did drinking or sneaking out.

I wanted to be valued for my independence and intelligence rather than be judged by my appearance or who I was dating.

Though I would like to take credit for these character traits I have grown to be proud of, I can say with an utmost certainty that I inherited these attributes from Rory Gilmore and for that, I am thankful.

In her high school graduation speech, Rory said:

“I live in two worlds. One is a world of books. I’ve been a resident of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode a sad train with Anna Karenina and strolled down Swann’s Way. It’s a rewarding world, but my second one is by far superior. My second one is populated with characters slightly less eccentric, but supremely real, made of flesh and bone, full of love, who are my ultimate inspiration for everything.”

For those of who grew up watching Gilmore Girls, we also grew up living in two worlds.

In one, we were part of a fictitious, eccentric town in Connecticut where two women taught us what it meant to be independent strong women in the 21st century.

In the other, Obama, an also imperfect character, reminded us that despite all the odds, hope could conquer.

In 2017, I am no longer inspired by the characters in my world of fiction nor in my world of politics—feminism seems to have temporarily escaped them both.

But perhaps this reminds us that progress is not an uphill process—it zigs and zags in surprising directions—but it’s up to us, the generation whose impressionable years were imprinted by impeccable role model to reshape the worlds that have shaped us.

It’s our turn to be someone worth imitating.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Ed Schipul/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Here’s What President Obama Told His Daughters After Trump Won

The election of Donald Trump has been tough for millions of Americans.

But it has been especially difficult for parents of girls.

The President-elect has a checkered history (to be mild) regarding women and his lack of respect for them.

Many have tried to figure out what to say to their young daughters.

It should come as no surprise that President Obama has had similar thoughts as those parents and has come up with a pretty good answer, at least for his two daughters.

In an interview with the New Yorker, Obama recalled what he told Sasha and Malia:

“What I say to them is that people are complicated,” Obama told me. “Societies and cultures are really complicated … This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living organisms, and it’s messy. And your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding. And you should anticipate that at any given moment there’s going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn’t stop … You don’t get into a fetal position about it. You don’t start worrying about apocalypse. You say, O.K., where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.”

Man, he always knows the right thing to say.

We are going to miss him.

Watch A Young Barack Obama Rise In The New Trailer For Netflix Movie

H/T: New York Magazine 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Obama Defends ACA To Miami Millennial Audience Just Before Critical Early Vote Period

By Matthew Alvarez

MIAMI- President Barack Obama came to Miami Dade College’s Wolfson campus Thursday afternoon to defend his signature legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act.

He used his speech to highlight the results of the law six years after it was passed, in the midst of a presidential election that may decide the ACA’s fate.

Obama showcased the ACA’s success in states that took advantage of its programs. However, Obama discontentedly addressed our governor (Republican Rick Scott) on Florida’s hostility toward the act.

If Florida were to take advantage of the ACA federal incentive and expand Medicaid, Obama said that more than 700,000 Floridians would have access for coverage.

Hearing some of the crowd’s displeasure with our state government, Obama stopped himself to comment: “If your governor – don’t boo, vote.”

To which the audience proudly cheered.

Even though Obama was focused on building up the ACA, he also wanted to shed light on the fact that it’s not perfect.

The primary problems, according to Obama, lie in two areas: states who are not supporting the act and private marketplaces that have low competition or low consumer incentive.

“That shouldn’t be surprising. If state leaders purposely try to make something not work, then it’s not gonna run as smoothly as if they were trying to make it work – common sense. You don’t have to go to Miami Dade to figure that out.” Obama said.

Miami Dade College students waiting for Obama's speech. Photo Credit: Matthew Alvarez/ RISE NEWS

Miami Dade College students waiting for Obama’s speech. Photo Credit: Matthew Alvarez/ RISE NEWS

The President argued that Obamacare should not be directly blamed for these problems, and outlined a number of solutions such as state cooperation, encouraging states to experiment with ACA implementation, and adding a public plan fallback.

The public plan fallback would give more economic options to rural areas where there is a lack of private competition, which was originally a republican idea.

Attendees, who were mostly MDC students, had been lining up outside the venue since 11:00 am, waiting in the South Florida heat to get to hear what our commander in chief had to say.

The Freedom Tower, which is near Miami Dade College's Wolfson campus. Photo Credit: Matthew Alvarez/ RISE NEWS

The Freedom Tower, which is near Miami Dade College’s Wolfson campus. Photo Credit: Matthew Alvarez/ RISE NEWS

Faculty, visitors, and select students alike were eager to see the president face to face; a rare opportunity for South Floridians.

It was clear that the Miami Dade College community welcomed the President, as they erupted into applause as soon as he took the stage with a surprised smile, returning the favor as he excitingly greeted everyone in the room.

The President spent the bulk of his speech giving context to the ACA and addressing how it has successfully reformed our healthcare system.

He emphasized the statistics – our un-insured rate is lower than ever; insurance companies can no longer discriminate based on gender and pre-existing conditions; there have been no significant changes for the 80 percent of Americans who get coverage through employers, Medicare, or Medicaid; children have been able to stay on their parents plans longer; the inflation rate for premiums has slowed down (but are still increasing); and most importantly, the ACA has insured over twenty million people who previously did not have any coverage.

Photo Credit: Matthew Alvarez/ RISE NEWS

Photo Credit: Matthew Alvarez/ RISE NEWS

“I don’t want to see anybody left out without health insurance.” Obama said. “I don’t want to see any family having to choose between health insurance now, or saving for retirement, or saving for your kid’s college education, or just paying their own bills. So the question we should be asking is what do we do about these growing pains in the affordable care act and how do we get the last nine percent of Americans covered?”

On the issue of partisanship, Obama welcomed working with Republicans.

He cited that a lot of the ideas for the ACA originated from Republicans, who then turned on the act once Obama himself became heavily involved.

“I don’t care whose idea it is, I just want it to work. They can even change the name of the law to Reagan-care, or they can call it Paul-Ryan-care. I-don’t-care.” He joking added. “Breaking gridlock will only happen when the American people demand it.”

Obama gave his thanks to Miami Dade College for helping spread awareness and putting together free workshops to sign up for affordable healthcare plans through the ACA.

MDC has been preparing to start giving enrollment assistance on November 1st through January 31st, 2017.

Photo Credit: Matthew Alvarez/ RISE NEWS

Photo Credit: Matthew Alvarez/ RISE NEWS

During this period, MDC students can receive help on getting a health insurance plan or looking at better alternatives.

While directing people how to look at insurance plans, Obama sarcastically repeated throughout his speech: “And you just need to go to Healthcare.gov – which works really well now.”

Miami Dade College hosts students from all walks of life, and the President’s choice of venue was no accident or favor.

A crucial component of the healthcare system is young and healthy citizens (half of which the room was filled with), since their insurance plans pay for the old and sick, which have a profound effect on premiums.

Although the college body broadly supports the ACA, many Cuban students (who tend to be republican) are against Obamacare due to its association with perceived socialist values.

Photo Credit: Matthew Alvarez/ RISE NEWS

Photo Credit: Matthew Alvarez/ RISE NEWS

Arseni Kusakin, a Miami Dade Honor student in attendance, was very interested in what Obama had to say.

“I hadn’t really considered it cause it didn’t really affect me on a personal level.” Kusakin said. “I like that he was calling for people to work together, I think especially now that’s pretty important. There’s so much divisiveness in this country, and I like that he drove that point home.”

Obama made appearances throughout South Florida later in the day, leaving a trail of traffic and political rallying in his wake.

As early voting officially kick starts in Florida next week, Obama is certainly trying to get the call out to participate, and making his case on which candidates will continue to follow his values and vision along the way.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Here’s 9 Of Obama’s Best Quotes To Honor His 55th Birthday

U.S. President Barack Obama turns 55 Thursday. He’s nearing the end of tenure as president as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump are locked in a contentious battle to take lay claim to the Oval Office. Obama’s an increasingly popular president, his approval rating hovering at about 50 percent, up from the 40s… Read More

Clusterfuck: How Bush And Obama Both Created ISIS

Last week witnessed yet another guerilla attack on a European capital, as bombs went off in the Brussels airport and subway, murdering and injuring hundreds.

Events like these expose the silliness of most of our squabbles, as the true members of civil society shine through while a handful of mad(mostly)men demonstrate for all of us the true downside of mankind.

Anger is what nature provides us with in these situations because it forces us to assign blame, thus highlighting the failures of the present as a warning to future generations, and there is plenty of criticism to go around.

Taking a look back at the evolution of ISIS is instructive of the catastrophic failures of US foreign policy, as it took a series of cataclysmic blunders across two Presidencies that fostered the environment from which this murderous death cult would emerge.

The Bush Administration

George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq served as the catalyst for the creation of ISIS, at least in the form that we know it as know.

Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but one of the “advantages” of a dictator (from a wonkish macro perspective) is that the brutality of dictatorships tends to keep some semblance of order in these intentionally fractured societies.

ISIS did not have the means, nor the capability to become what it is today so long as Saddam was in power.

However, simply removing Saddam was not enough to facilitate the rise of ISIS.

It took a series of cataclysmic blunders across two Presidencies that fostered the environment from which this murderous death cult would emerge.

The first of many gigantic mistakes after the initial invasion came from Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney’s commitment to a “light footprint” in Iraq following the initial invasion.

David Kilcullen, an Australian counter-terrorism strategist who arrived in Baghdad’s Green Zone in 2005 called it “Ground Zero for the greatest strategic screw up since Hitler’s invasion of Russia.”

By not providing American troops with enough support to maintain the peace, Rumsfeld ensured that a power vacuum would be created in one of the most violent areas on the planet, right on the border of our regional nemesis.

American pilots during the early days of the Iraq war in 2003. Photo Credit: US NAVY

American pilots during the early days of the Iraq war in 2003. Photo Credit: US NAVY

The United States sent 127,000 troops to manage a divided population of 33 million in a country that is larger than California (California has about 126,000 police officers, fire fighters, and EMT’s to serve its 38 million citizens).

According to US Central Command’s OPLAN 1003-98, it was estimated that the army would need at least 385,000 soldiers to accomplish its goals in Iraq. The administration gave them a third of that.

Providing our troops with insufficient support in a war torn country was bad enough, but the Bush White House exponentially compounded that problem with its next two calamitous mistakes.

If you had to point to any singular event that is responsible for the rise of ISIS, disbanding the Iraqi army after the invasion would be it.

The US military had hoped to weed out Saddam loyalists and keep it mostly intact, but the administration eschewed that difficult task in favor of simply scrapping the army altogether.

As a result, from May 23, 2003 to September 6, 2006, the security of all of Iraq was the sole responsibility of the United States of America.

Major Robert S. Weiler from the United States Marine Corps summarized the contradiction at the heart of this clusterfuck:

“The decision was a product of colliding priorities. The Secretary of Defense wanted a small occupation force that commanders knew was imprudent, the military planners adapted by planning to use the Iraqi Army to make up for coalition short falls, and the Coalition Provisional Authority wanted to dissolve all things Baathist or resembling Saddam even if it was the only mechanism allowing the country to function.”

Seemingly overnight, 250,000 young men and their weapons and talents of war were thrown out on the street, and a huge chunk of them wound up joining the initial version of ISIS: al-Qaeda in Iraq.

This choice makes Rumsfeld and Cheney’s decision to use 127,000 US soldiers to keep the peace even more befuddling, and that is before you even get to the fact that around 80% of Iraqis reported a dislike for the American occupation. It was a plan that literally defied logic.

Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority overseeing all this, defended his momentous decision by stating that the Iraqi army could not be trusted by the populace, as the Baathists loyal to Saddam had too much power, and the Sunni’s were accepted as a sunk cost; there was no expectation that they would remain loyal to the state during the American occupation.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer (R), talk to reporters at the Baghdad Forum, Dec. 14, 2003, about the capture of Saddam Hussein. Photo Credit: U.S. Army Europe Images/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer (R), talk to reporters at the Baghdad Forum, Dec. 14, 2003, about the capture of Saddam Hussein. Bremer made the terrible decision to disband the Iraqi army. Photo Credit: U.S. Army Europe Images/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

But instead of trying to bridge the gap between the CPA and Sunni leaders, Bremer accelerated the process of alienation and installed Nouri al-Maliki as Iraqi Prime Minister; a devout Shiite who was raised with contempt for Sunni’s.

Maliki joined the Dawa party as a young man, which aimed to create a Shiite nation-state in Iraq by any means necessary.

Saddam arrested and executed many members of the Dawa party, including some of Maliki’s family members, which only further exacerbated the sectarian tensions boiling inside of Iraq’s future Prime Minister.

The idea that much of the Iraqi Army would remain steadfastly loyal to Saddam seemed like a specious argument anyway, because Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor wrote in “COBRA II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq,” that Saddam refused to let his army enter Baghdad out of fears of a coup.

In 2007, the Combat Studies Institute published “Warfare in the Age of NonState Actors: Implications for the U.S. Army,” and it detailed the absurdity of Bremer and the CPA’s decision:

“Taking away the jobs and weapons in which so many men have depended for so long, and giving them an equivalent civilian occupation in a peacetime (something even highly educated US military personnel find challenging), is a delicate and absolutely vital challenge which has little room for error. To simply disband them is extremely dangerous”

Nouri al-Maliki provided the final push to facilitate the creation of ISIS, as he fired countless Sunni commanders during his 8 year tenure as Prime Minister.

These seasoned military men were out of a job with no prospects provided by the new regime, and al-Qaeda’s new branch in Iraq (AQI) was more than happy to welcome them into their ranks.

Photo Credit: Al Jazeera English/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Nouri al-Maliki (R) fired countless Sunni commanders during his time as Prime Minister of Iraq. Photo Credit: Al Jazeera English/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

There was no shortage of candidates available for any position in this new army, as some estimates put the unemployment rate as high as 60% in Iraq after the CPA disbanded the military.

The US government basically helped create an enemy from scratch for its army to fight during the Sunni uprising, which carried out scores of bombings across Iraq between 2003 and 2011, resulting in roughly half a million civilian casualties.

Sasnak Joshi, a Senior Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute highlights the central issue at hand:

“It’s less important in terms of the contribution to manpower, or sheer heft or size, and more important in terms of the specific skills, connections, linkages and technical expertise that the Baathists bring to the table.”

In 2014, Adnan al-Asani, Iraq’s deputy interior minister, told Al Arabiya that half of ISIS’s top military commanders: Haji Bakr, Abu Ayman al-Iraqi and Abu Ahmad al-Alwani, were all former high-ranking members of Sadaam’s party.

This map from Mother Jones of a divided Iraq from 2007 further depicts the folly of coalescing behind one faction, as any group that obtained absolute power would be seen as a threat to the rest of the populace:

Photo Credit: Mother Jones Magazine

Photo Credit: Mother Jones Magazine

Iraq is basically a fake country constructed by colonial powers; it’s really three countries cobbled into one, and a modern day colonial power came in, smashed everything, and sparked a civil war.

The History of ISIS

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is effectively the father of ISIS.

Not only did his actions lead to the creation of ISIS, but the group embodies his spirit; a spirit that was deemed too extreme by Osama freaking bin-Laden. Zarqawi was a fighter who came up through organized crime, not “finding religion” until later in life, yet he thoroughly enjoyed rape, murder, and torture no matter what ideology he presently subscribed to.

Zarqawi became radicalized in prison during the 1980’s, and upon his release in 1988, he traveled to the Peshwar region of Afghanistan to fight against the Soviets.

By 1992, he had returned to Jordan to create Bayat al-Imam, which was the first iteration of ISIS.

Zarqawi was locked up for 15 years by King Hussein of Jordan, where he was subsequently mentored by Sheikh Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, and the duo expanded the influence of their newfound Jihadist organization both inside the prison and within the outside world.

Upon Zarqawi’s release from jail in 1999, he visited Osama bin Laden, who was alarmed at his extremist views, but nonetheless was convinced to give him seed funding for his new organization, which was set up in Herat, 355 miles away from bin Laden’s base in Kandahar.

Photo Credit: Maureen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the father of ISIS spent years in a Jordanian prison during the reign of King Hussein (L) where he became more radicalized. Current King of Jordan Abdullah II (R) is shown with his father in this public propaganda photo. Photo Credit: Maureen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

By the time the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, Zarqawi had assembled an army of between 2,000 and 3,000 men, the organization now being known as al-Tawhid wal-Jihad.

Zarqawi soon left Afghanistan to set up camp in Iran, and when some of his operatives were arrested in Europe in 2002, Zarqawi became a much more prominent figure in counterterrorism agencies across the globe.

He spent the next couple years hiding out in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq all while expanding his army, culminating in an agreement with al-Qaeda’s security chief, Seif al-Adel, to move the group into Iraq.

Zarqawi spent most of his time in Iraq in the “Sunni triangle,” gaining new recruits and setting up bases.

By the time the US invaded in 2003, Zarqawi had effectively assembled a Sunni nation-state to combat the invasion.

His strategy was based on four central tactics that we still see ISIS use today:

  1. Isolate American forces by targeting international coalition partners (ie: the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad).
  2. Attack civilians there to help (ie: the May 2004 beheading of Nicholas Berg, thought to be carried out by Zarqawi himself).
  3. Spark a sectarian war by attacking Shiite targets (ie: the December 2004 attack against Shiite leader Sayyid Muhammad al-Hakim at a funeral in the holy city of Najaf)
  4. Deter Iraqi cooperation by targeting politicians, recruiting centers, and police stations (too many examples to count).

The invasion of Iraq served as one of the greatest recruiting boons Jihad has ever seen (second only to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict), as an influx of foreign fighters from all over the globe entered Iraq to fight with Zarqawi and the rest of the Sunni insurgency against the US army.

After the bloody battle that took Fallujah in 2004, the insurgency began to pass out leaflets demanding full compliance with their version of Islamic Law, even going so far as to list the names of “offenders” who were marked for public execution. By October 2004, Zarqawi pledged his allegiance to Osama bin Laden and renamed the group al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

The Sunni insurgency boycotted the 2005 Iraqi elections, which proved to be a disastrous decision, as they were left out of the redrafting of the new Constitution.

Zarqawi continued to attack Shiites, further dampening popular support for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The final straw came in November of 2005 as AQI bombed a wedding party, killing 60 people, most of them Muslims.

al-Qaeda began to distance themselves from AQI, as it along with other Sunni terrorist groups were absorbed into a larger Mujahedeen Shura Council from which Zarqawi was excluded.

His brutality and aggression had simply become too much for a terrorist organization that was obsessed with developing popular support from Muslims of all backgrounds. The United States killed Zarqawi in an airstrike on June 7th, 2006, but by then, his ideology had already poisoned an entire generation of fighters.

The 20,000 troop “surge” of 2007 is largely credited as the key event to break the stalemate in Iraq, but the surge would not have had the impact it did if it were not for Sahwa, more commonly known as the Sunni Awakening. Frustrated with the lack of progress by AQI, Sunni tribesmen began to use AQI’s tactics against them, killing many of their senior leaders and intimidating many more to leave the movement.

This was so successful, that by 2009, more than 100,000 Sunni tribesmen were working in cooperation with the United States army against AQI. Not only had they either killed or captured well over half of the organization, but the flow of foreign fighters entering Iraq went from around 120 per month to just a handful.

The Obama Administration

However, an opportunity to reassert themselves emerged when Barack Obama continued the Bush Administration’s misguided “small footprint” strategy by ratifying the US-Iraq Status of Force’s Agreement that Bush had negotiated, which promised a full withdrawal of all US troops by December 31, 2011.

On December 18th of that year, the last US boot left the ground in Iraq, leaving a fractured and vulnerable country with no national force capable of holding all of its disparate parts together.

With AQI seemingly confined to an existence as a regional pest, the Iraqi election of 2010 served as a major event which breathed life back into the movement.

After the populace had elected a more moderate, even pro-American Prime Minister Ayad Allawi in 2010, the United States still continued to back the increasingly unpopular Nouri al-Maliki and his allies in parliament while pursuing conflicting goals, as Joe Biden told top US officials

I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement]

As yet another power vacuum was being created by American intransigence in Iraq, next door in Syria, an even larger problem was emerging. The Iranian backed dictator, Bashar al-Assad, was facing a serious challenge to his rule, as the Arab Spring spilled into Syria’s streets.

American Vice President Joe Biden in Iraq in 2011. Photo Credit: U.S. Forces Iraq/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

American Vice President Joe Biden in Iraq in 2011. Photo Credit: U.S. Forces Iraq/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Assad and his Alawite support (who are minorities in Syria) were being challenged on all sides, and his strategy to stay in power is to build up the more extremist segments of the revolution while brutally massacring the moderates, thus presenting the West with a stark choice for the future of Syria: him or ISIS.

Obama massively compounded the problem when he stated that Assad using chemical weapons would be a “red line,” for the United States.

Once it was discovered that Assad did gas his own people, the President did nothing militarily, effectively letting the rest of the world know that he did not have the will to commit to a war with a relatively small regime like Assad’s even if he implied it, making his future proclamations on this conflict ring completely hollow.

Additionally, it let Assad (and by extension, Iran) know that they had full control over this situation.

While the United States debated what to do, the former Iraqi officers and Sunni Jihadists who had comprised AQI began to unite with Syrian factions, and captured Raqqa in 2013, declaring it the capital of the Caliphate the following year.

Still paralyzed by indecision, the United States watched as this new iteration of AQI claimed town after town, reaching a breaking point in 2014 as ISIS took over Mosul, Iraq’s 2nd largest city.

Five months prior to this event, Obama dismissed ISIS as a “JV team,” further demonstrating the administration’s miscalculation of this virus rapidly spreading across the globe. By the time a serious military campaign was launched, ISIS had already established a nation state.

Conclusion

Long story short: a decade-plus of foreign policy adventurism and fecklessness from two Presidents combined with the psychotic brutality of a charismatic Jihadist culminated in the establishment of a functional Caliphate in 2014.

Since its establishment, the US State Department estimates that upwards of 25,000 foreign fighters have flocked to these hinterlands formerly known as Syria and Iraq.

Even though they have demonstrated the capability to export their ideology and tactical skillset across the globe, there are still many signs that ISIS is on the decline.

In January, the US military estimated that ISIS has lost 40% of its territory in Iraq and 20% in Syria. In that same month, ISIS announced a 50% pay cut for everyone on the payroll.

Additionally, there have been many reports of protests in ISIS controlled territory, as we are seeing the same dissatisfaction that many Iraqi Sunni’s felt after the initial opposition to the US occupation.

If we have learned anything from this quagmire, it is contained in this sobering quote from Syrian Businessman Raja Sidawi:

“I am sorry for America. You are stuck. You have become a country of the Middle East. America will never change Iraq, but Iraq will change America.”

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Cover Photo Credit: Barney Moss/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Obama Asks Putin To Stop Bombing “Moderate” Syrian Rebels

US President Barack Obama urged Russia on Sunday to stop bombing “moderate” rebels in Syria in support of its ally President Bashar al-Assad, a campaign seen in the West as a major obstacle to latest efforts to end the war. Major powers agreed on Friday to a limited cessation of hostilities in Syria but the deal… Read More

How Obama (Yes Him) Forever Changed The Way Kids Eat At School

School lunch programs feed more than 31 million public school students each day, giving them the opportunity to impact nutrition on a grand scale. In 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), a bill designated to fund child nutrition programs and free lunch programs for five years. As Americans enter into 2016,… Read More

WATCH LIVE: President Obama Speaks On 150th Anniversary Of End Of Slavery

President Barack Obama will speak around 12 Noon EST about the 150th Anniversary of the passage of the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery in the United States.

Obama, the first African-American president in American history will be speaking at a ceremony being held at the Capital building.

 

Cover Photo Credit: Jeremy/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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