Extremists in Iraq Continue March Toward Baghdad


As Islamist extremists captured Tikrit, a major city in Iraq’s Sunni heartland, just a day after taking Mosul, analysts offered sobering assessments of a fundamentalist militant force whose ambitions may no longer be the stuff of fantasy.

Hardened by years of battle in neighboring Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is routing the forces of a modern nation-state and gathering land with the ultimate goal of establishing an alternate form of governance, an Islamic caliphate.

“This is not a terrorism problem anymore,” says Jessica Lewis, an expert on ISIS at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank. “This is an army on the move in Iraq and Syria, and they are taking terrain.”

In capturing Tikrit, famed as the hometown of Saddam Hussein, Islamist militants whom the secular dictator had not tolerated were moving south down Iraq’s main highway toward…

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A Russian Invasion of East Ukraine Would Make Crimea Seem Like a Cinch

Escalation. Not surprised, just resigned and hoping that the volatile situation doesn’t devolve into a war that will only lead to death and destruction. Living in peaceful Singapore, it’s often hard to get a perspective of just how violent the rest of the world is, and how bloodied some countries are.

Pray for MH370? Pray for Ukraine. For Central African Republic. For Syria. For South Sudan.


The newest wave of separatism in eastern Ukraine feels very familiar. In the last few days, protesters waving Russian flags have seized government buildings by force, barricaded themselves inside, declared their intention to break away from Ukraine and appealed to Russia to send in troops to protect them. At every step, they followed the script that ended last month with the Russian annexation of Crimea. But the stage this time didn’t seem to fit the performance.

Eastern Ukraine is not like Crimea. It is far bigger, more diverse, better integrated into Ukraine’s economy and more vital to its survival than Crimea, and if the action proceeds again toward a Russian invasion of these territories, the Kremlin’s choreographers will have a much harder time pulling it off. The stakes this time are incomparably higher.

For one thing, Ukraine will defend itself. In February, when pro-Russian gunmen seized the Crimean parliament and…

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The Standoff at Belbek: Inside the First Clash of the Second Crimean War


The Ukrainian troops kept the bonfires burning all night on Monday, kicking stones into the embers and waiting for the sun to rise over the Belbek air-force base in southern Ukraine. Five days had passed since the start of the siege against them and the strain on the troops was starting to show. The previous day, the Russian forces surrounding their base had issued another ultimatum — surrender your weapons that night and sign an oath of allegiance to Russia or face an assault by 5 a.m. The commanders had refused. Some of the troops had defected. The rest stood around the garrison, smoking cigarettes and twitching when the logs popped in the fires. They only understood that the Russians had been bluffing when the roosters started to crow.

The next bluff came soon after, and it marked a turning point in the week-old conflict that has brought Russia and…

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How a Russian Invasion of Eastern Ukraine Might Unfold


Judging by reports of Russian troops pouring into the Crimean Peninsula, stories of tense standoffs, sweeping proclamations and alleged deadlines for surrender, the crisis in Crimea is flirting dangerously close to a full scale war. As of Monday evening, there wasn’t a single report of shots fired, but in the history of warfare, past restraint has been a terrible predictor of future action. “War never breaks out wholly unexpectedly, nor can it be spread instantaneously,” famed military theorist Cal von Clausewitz wrote in the early 19th century. “Yet…as soon as preparations for a war begin,” he continued, “the world of reality takes over from the world of abstract thought.”

The reality is grim. It is clear that Russia sees the crisis differently than much of the rest of the world. “The narrative about this in Russia is about protection of the ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking population,”…

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Ukraine Mobilizes Troops For War


Updated 3:20 p.m. EST

Ukraine mobilized for war Saturday, escalating the most dangerous standoff between the Kremlin and the West since the Cold War, after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared he had a right to invade the country to protect Russian interests.

Kiev directed its armed forces to be put on “full combat readiness” as it mobilized and trained reserve forces, closed its airspace and boosted security at key sites, the BBC reports.  The Russian army was said to be digging trenches between Crimea and mainland Ukraine as troops occupied key sites, including airports and communication hubs.

Russian forces had reportedly already swarmed into Crimea when Putin obtained permission from his parliament to officially move troops into Ukraine, taking government buildings and occupying Crimea’s capital, Simferopol. They surrounded several Ukrainian military bases, Reuters reports, demanding troops lay down their arms. Some refused, but no shots have yet been fired.

“This is not…

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I think it’s a bit sad that the world has largely forgotten about Syria’s plight, after the polar vortex, Sochi and Ukraine. And now, as I try to dredge up my knowledge of the Syrian conflict, I find myself finding it very difficult. The only fact I remember was that they have the largest refugee population, or something along those lines.

It’s so easy to dismiss problems that aren’t at our doorstep, but imagine what it must be like for the people who live in those war torn countries. Every day is a struggle just to survive. And here we are whining about our far easier lives on the internet. It’s quite the juxtaposition, and one I wish couldn’t be made.

Once upon a time, I thought Singapore was a pretty young nation-state. It is. It’s only 49 years old this year, and will be half a century old the next. But then I found out about countries like Kosovo, Timor-Leste, the entire Yugoslavian bloc, South Sudan…these are even younger countries, some still embroiled in conflicts. Singapore seems so much older in comparison.

That Singapore developed so quickly and smoothly is credit to the PAP (though they have plenty of room for improvement these days). That I didn’t have to experience war, or famine, or drought, or any sort of hardship makes me glad for where and when I was born. Credit to my parents too, who have done their best to raise me as comfortably as they can.

There’s so much turmoil in the world out there. I’m going to need to indulge in some anime to rid the bleakness and pessimism from my system.