United States and Arab allies launch strikes against Islamic State in Syria
Early yesterday, the United States and several Arab nations launched air strikes in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS or IS. War planes from Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates joined U.S. fighter jets and drones in bombing key IS strongholds in Raqqa and along the border with Iraq. The strikes came earlier than President Obama had suggested, and many news media are calling the decision a “risky” turning point in the campaign against the Sunni extremist group. Notably, no Western allies took part in the attack. The United Kingdom, Germany, France and Turkey have all announced that they will not launch air strikes Syria, which is still in the midst of a brutal civil war. The United States has chosen to rely on U.S.-trained and armed Syrian rebels rather than Assad’s army to fight IS on the ground. Although the Obama administration has refused to coordinate with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, its partners in Iraq have gone ahead with plans to meet with Assad about their progress in the fight against IS.
Scotland’s “no” vote still spells change for Britain
Scotland’s vote against independence last week is hardly the end of Britain’s struggle to uphold the Union. In the lead-up to election day, Prime Minister David Cameron joined together with the leaders of Britain’s two main opposition parties to urge Scottish voters to vote “no” on independence, promising greater autonomy should they choose to maintain ties with Britain. Now, Cameron must enter into a larger debate about how much power to give the Scottish. The compromise will not only allow Scotland to manage its own taxes, spending and welfare, but may also prompt Wales and Northern Ireland to demand a similar level of freedom to govern their regional affairs. There is also the question of whether England itself should have its own separate Parliament, where it can manage its affairs without relying on input from non-English members of Parliament. The current debates foretell major changes in Britain’s constitution. The vote will also make Britain’s exit from the European Union less likely and ensures that its nuclear arsenal, located in Scotland, remains under British control.
Global climate summit coincides with People’s Climate March
Over 400,000 demonstrators, including policymakers and celebrities, took to the streets of New York on Sunday calling for serious action to prevent climate change. Organizers say it was the largest climate march in history, coinciding almost precisely with a U.N. climate summit scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 30. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined the march, along with former Vice President Al Gore and high-profile activists like Jane Goodall. The next day, Secretary of State John Kerry delivered the keynote address at a private environmental conference of business and government leaders. The U.N. summit yesterday kicked off a year of negotiations, expected to culminate in an international climate change treaty in 2015. However, the top leaders of China and India—the largest emitters of fossil fuel along with the United States—announced that they would not attend this week’s meeting. The success of upcoming negotiations will largely depend on whether China, India and the United States can reach an agreement to significantly cut their emissions.
Growing nuclear arsenal contradicts Obama’s vision of nuclear-free world
The United States has been revamping its nuclear weapons, despite President Obama’s campaign pledge to work toward a nuclear-free world—a goal which the Nobel Peace Prize committee lauded in 2009. Originally, the administration planned to modernize its arsenal, equipping it with computerized weapons systems in order to pave the way for a smaller but more reliable force. The nuclear plants that manufacture weapons are being rebuilt in order to meet modern-day environmental and safety regulations. However, the goal of modernization seems to have eclipsed the goal of warhead reduction. In fiscal year 2010, the National Nuclear Security Administration spent three times as much on weapons technology than it spent on non-proliferation. The new 2015 budget cuts non-proliferation programs and expands weapons programs. In the next 30 years, spending on weapons technology is projected to hit one trillion dollars. With officials wary of Russia’s expansion, China’s territorial claims and Pakistan’s growing arsenal, analysts say that the Obama administration’s disarmament goals are becoming increasingly unlikely.