Monday, September 30, 2013

My latest: Obama's War by Other Means

Obama's War By Other Means
Sep 28, 2013 11:09 AM EDT
The historic phone call with Iran's president and the breakthrough deal on Syria show the threat of military action accomplishes a lot – as long as you don't go through with it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

My latest articles for the Beast about the UN, Iran, and Obama; and my last column for Newsweek

Beginning next week, Newsweek will be run by its new owners at International Business Times. I am sure that under the leadership of editor James Impoco they will turn out a brilliant magazine on the Web and on news stands in many languages in many parts of the world.

Over the last two years, I have had a great time working for both Newsweek and The Daily Beast. With its terrific mix of serious news, sharp analysis and wicked fun, the Beast is not only a vibrant publication to read, it's a very exciting place to write and report. Tina Brown may be moving on, but she did a wonderful job creating the site and infusing it with her energetic, ever-inquisitive spirit. John Avlon and Deidre Depke, who've taken the reins, are solid pros with their own brilliance. So the Beast is where I'll stay.

I'll continue to live and work in Paris and to cover a large swathe of the globe. I hope you will continue to follow me on our site -- -- and on social media. I will also continue to send out links to my stories, my television appearances and other publications on my personal mailing list.

My latest for the Beast:

Iran-U.S.: Great Expectations
by Christopher Dickey September 27, 2013 12:24 AM EDT
Diplomatic breakthroughs with Russia and Iran mark a turning point in the Mideast. By Christopher Dickey.

Obama's American Exceptionalism
by Christopher Dickey September 24, 2013 01:11 PM EDT
In a speech at the United Nations, the president said America is 'exceptional' and must 'stand up for the interests of all.' By Christopher Dickey.

Up to Speed on 'Hell Week'
by Christopher Dickey September 23, 2013 12:45 PM EDT
As world leaders descend on New York for the U.N. summit, three major storylines to watch.


My last Better World column for Newsweek:
Internet Troll Wars; Our Inner Geometry; Nanotube Revolution; Grade Inflation Iniquities; and Subversive Soaps

Most of my recent television appearances talking about Syria and about the Nairobi shopping mall siege are viewable at

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tunisia's in Trouble: My Conversation w/ President Moncef Marzouki at the Council on Foreign Relations Today

There are 13 minutes of empty chairs on the stage, then the conversation begins. This is an excerpt of the transcript, the entirety of which will be posted soon on

            DICKEY: … What we want to talk about today is a little bit about the Arab Spring, which was launched in Tunisia, and where things are going now, that the Arab Spring looks like -- well, looks like Hell in a lot of countries.  Sometimes when I look at what happened in Tunisia, it's a little bit like --  -- I think most of you remember Slovenia in the Balkans, they broke away from Yugoslavia, came away more or less safe and sound, and everything else fell apart and went to Hell.

            Is Tunisia going to remain safe and sound, given all the turmoil that exists now? 

            MARZOUKI:  Of course, this is what I hope.  But, you know, Tunisia is not an island.  And when you have -- on your border, you have a country like Libya, where, you know, the level of violence is extremely high and when you have what -- the situation in Egypt, and when you have also the situation in Syria.  Syria is becoming an internal problem, because we have a lot of young people going to Syria, more than 500 jihadis, Tunisian, 500 Tunisian jihadis are in Syria and we're very afraid that, when they come back to Tunisia, it will be the same thing that happened with Algeria.  You probably know that in the '80s, a lot of Algerians went to Afghanistan and then they come back to Algeria, and this was the beginning of Hell in Algeria, too.

            So we are doing in best in Tunisia, you know, to control the situation.  We think -- we think that we have -- we think that we have a wise population.  We think that we have, you know -- of course, we do have disciplined and professional army.  We think that we are a middle-class society, et cetera, et cetera.  But, you know, nobody can be sure of what could happen.

            Last year, I was here, and I remember that I was -- I was asked many, many questions about the outcome of the Arab Spring.  I was very optimistic at that time.  I wouldn't say that I am now pessimistic.  I would say like I said yesterday that I am pessi-optimistic, because...


            ... because (inaudible) the situation is much more complex and much more difficult than I thought.  Yes, we can -- we will probably -- we can achieve the transition in Tunisia, but, once again, we are not alone, and when we see what's happening in Libya, in Egypt, in Syria, we can be a little bit upset.

            But, once again, I have to say, have to repeat that you cannot say, well, it's a failure or it's a success.  We need time.  You know, you cannot say that the revolution is a success or a failure before, let's say, a decade.  When you think that French revolution, for instance, they had to wait more than 70 years before having the Third Republic, which was probably the success of the French revolution, so you cannot accept Arab -- or any country, you know, to achieve the goals of revolution in just two or three years.

            So we had to be -- we had to be very careful.  I'm very careful, but I think that the outcome would be quite different from a country to another.  And that Tunisia -- I wouldn't say you -- you can bet on Tunisia, but I'm still confident that we could -- we could succeed.  But, of course, nobody knows.

            DICKEY:  Wow.  

Talking Nairobi and the Methodology of Terror with Tamron Hall on MSNBC

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, September 23, 2013

The UN Brings Hell Week to New York (and a Saudi Prince blasts the US-Russia Deal on Syria)

Up to Speed: 3 Things to Know About New York's 'Hell Week'Sep 23, 2013 12:45 PM EDT
Taxi drivers dread it. Diplomats depend on it. As world leaders descend on New York for the U.N. summit, Christopher Dickey on three major storylines to watch.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Alleged Gunmen in Nairobi Siege Come from USA, UK, Finland, Kenya and Somalia

These names have not been confirmed independently and may be part of a disinformation campaign by Al-Shabaab or others. But the hometowns are particularly interesting:

According to HSM_Press2 twitter:

sayid nuh 25 y.o from kismayu somalia. #westgate #AlShabaab
ismael guled 23 y.o from helsinki finland. #westgate #AlShabaab

zaki jama caraale 20 y.o from hargeisa somalia. #westgate #AlShabaab

ahmed nasir shirdoon 24 y.o from london UK. #westgate #AlShabaab

qasim said mussa 22 y.o garissa KE. #westgate #AlShabaab

gen mustafe noorudiin. 27 y.o from kansas city. MO. #westgate #alshabaab

abdifatah osman keenadiid. 24 y.o from minneapolis. #westgate #alshabaab #names

ahmed mohamed isse 22 y.o native, from saint paul minnesota, #alshabaab #Westgate

My latest on: Nairobi and The Return of Terror; Better World Ideas; Syria developments; and ... Toddlers in Tiaras

The Daily Beast: The Return of Terror September 22, 2013 10:30 AM EDT
The Nairobi shopping mall siege holds lessons for America, but who will listen?

The Daily Beast: He Did It. Now What? by Christopher Dickey September 16, 2013 12:41 PM EDT
A new United Nations report confirms a chemical-weapons attack in Syria.

"Better World" ideas:

NEWSWEEK Slow Motion by Christopher Dickey September 20, 2013 05:45 AM EDT
What chipmunk vision can teach us about our own eyesight.

BRIC-ing Bad by Christopher Dickey September 20, 2013 05:45 AM EDT
Are the BRIC nations not all they're cracked up to be?

The Decline of Violence by Christopher Dickey September 20, 2013 05:45 AM EDT
The world is becoming safer. But why?

Got Rhythm? by Christopher Dickey September 20, 2013 05:45 AM EDT
How music could help kids be stronger readers.

It's Electric! by Christopher Dickey September 20, 2013 05:45 AM EDT
Muck-dwelling microbes can actually be a source of power.

and, for a change of pace:

The Daily Beast: Toddlers Denied Tiaras by Christopher Dickey September 19, 2013 01:10 PM EDT

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Syria Breakthrough, and other recent articles and appearances

The Daily Beast: Syria Breakthrough - Russia and U.S. Announce Agreement, 14 September 2013
In a stunning agreement that could lead to the end of the Syrian crisis, Russia and the U.S. announce a plan to eliminate Assad's chemical arsenal. Christopher Dickey on how it would work.

For recent video appearances talking Syria with Anderson Cooper and others, see:

And earlier coverage:

by Christopher Dickey September 10, 2013 04:45 AM EDT
Christopher Dickey on Obama's weasel words on Syria.

by Christopher Dickey September 09, 2013 04:45 AM EDT
Christopher Dickey on why there's still some hope the democratic opposition can win in Syria.

by Christopher Dickey September 07, 2013 06:47 PM EDT

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

UNHCR: 2 Million Syrian Refugees and Counting

UNHCR: Two million Syrians are refugees

Press Releases, 3 September 2013
Today, the number of Syrian refugees passed the threshold of two million, and with no sign of this tragic outflow ending. The war is now well into its third year and Syria is haemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs.
This trend is nothing less than alarming, representing a jump of almost 1.8 million people in 12 months. One year ago today, the number of Syrian's registered as refugees or awaiting registration stood at 230,671 people.
"Syria has become the great tragedy of this century  a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history," said António Guterres, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees. "The only solace is the humanity shown by the neighbouring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees."
More than 97 per cent of Syria's refugees are hosted by countries in the immediate surrounding region, placing an overwhelming burden on their infrastructures, economies and societies. They urgently need massive international support to help them deal with the crisis.
Reacting to the milestone, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie expressed her dismay at the level of death, damage and danger that has forced so many Syrians to run for their lives.
"The world risks being dangerously complacent about the Syrian humanitarian disaster. The tide of human suffering unleashed by the conflict has catastrophic implications. If the situation continues to deteriorate at this rate, the number of refugees will only grow, and some neighbouring countries could be brought to the point of collapse."
"The world is tragically disunited on how to end the Syria conflict, " Ms. Jolie added, "But there should be no disagreement over the need to alleviate human suffering, and no doubt of the world's responsibility to do more. We have to support the millions of innocent people ripped from their homes, and increase the ability of neighbouring countries to cope with the influx."
With an average of almost 5000 Syrians fleeing into neighbouring countries every day, the need to significantly increase humanitarian aid and development support to host communities has reached a critical stage. In view of the pressure the refugee exodus is placing on surrounding countries, including the worsening economic impact, ministers from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey will meet with UNHCR in Geneva on Wednesday, 4 September, in a bid to accelerate international support.
The number of two million represents Syrians who have registered as refugees or who are pending registration. As of end August this comprised 110,000 in Egypt, 168,000 in Iraq, 515,000 in Jordan, 716,000 in Lebanon, and 460,000 in Turkey. Some 52 per cent of this population are children aged 17 years or below. UNHCR announced only days ago, on 23 August, that the number of Syrian child refugees had exceeded a million.
A further 4.25 million people are displaced inside Syria, according to data as of 27 August from the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Taken together, these numbers  amounting to a total of more than six million people torn from their homes  mean that more Syrians are now forcibly displaced than is the case with any other country.
UNHCR is active in Syria and is leading the humanitarian response to the refugee crisis in each of the surrounding countries. Humanitarian agencies are worryingly underfunded, with only 47 per cent of funds required to meet basic refugee needs received.

Flashback: The Birth of Modern Kurdistan



A Nation in the Valley of the Three Frontiers



LENGTH: 911 words

HIGHLIGHT: Creating a 'mini-Kurdistan' by default, not design

Hell continues in the mountain camps of Kurdish refugees. At Isikveren, Rahim Safar picks his way through the fresh graves of children to speak to a visitor. Dozens still die there every night. "The Kurdish people need to live life safe," implores the 31-year-old engineer. It's a basic hope, and behind it lies an ancient dream: the nation of Kurdistan. But such a place has never existed, and likely never will. There is no nation. There is only a Kurdish people and the land where they've always lived: a maze of boundaries. "A lot of people agree that the current borders are stupid," says an American diplomat who studies the Kurds. "But nobody is going to change them."
Just in the small valley where Zakhu lies, three countries divide the Kurds. To the north is Turkey. Until January the Kurdish language, even the word Kurd, in effect, was banned there. Its roads are still a gantlet of military checkpoints. Southwest is Syria, supportive of Kurdish rebels in other lands, ruthless with those in its own. Southease is Iraq, still dominated by Saddam Hussein. "Many times he was about to fall. He came back up," says a despairing young refugee in the Isikveren camp. "Like a cat, he is hard to kill."

If the government of the area were democracies, if they supported human rights and respected Kurdish culture, the Kurds themselves might feel no need for their own country. But in the real world, on any given day, the side of the line on which a Kurd was born can make the difference between living or dying. Last month's unprecedented exodus of 1.5 million from Iraq sprang from their panicked conviction that to remain within Baghdad's reach would be to invite extinction. "Saddam," says Abdel Karim Osmat, son of a Kurdish clan leader, "represents the nightmare of the Kurds." But he is only one of many.
Now to this valley of three frontiers, the United States and its allies have added a fourth. Kurds who fled to squalid mountainsides are supposed to find protection behind American and allied lines in an expanding haven carved out of northern Iraq. Privately, Western soldiers and experts already call it "mini-Kurdistan," but they know it's not going to survive.
Get out: President George Bush said last week that troops will stay "as long as it takes to ensure these refugees are taken care of, and not a minute longer." He was clearly anxious to get out: "I want these kids home, and so do the American people." The announcement of negotiations between Kurdish leaders and Saddam, along with the United Nations' decision to take over the enclave as soon as possible, raised expectations in Washington that President Bush may get his wish. In Zakhu it raised fears. "The United Nations come here?" asked one young resident, fiercely shaking his head. "We want Americans here." Without the strongest possible protection, the Kurds have every reason to believe their new safe haven could become a deadly trap.
The Baghdad talks were begun more out of desperation than hope. Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani said afterward he had little choice. There was no international support for a Kurdish uprising. "We are alone," he told reporters. The Kurds will try to get solid guarantees. But Saddam has negotiated with them before, always under duress, never in good faith. In 1970 he concluded a sweeping autonomy accord. The next year he tried to assassinate the Kurdish leader who signed it. "I am very afraid," says a student in Zakhu, his chin trembling as he struggles to express himself in English. "You in Iraq. No in America. No in Europe."
Battered Army: The difference is obvious, but critical. Saddam's regime is totalitarian, its tools of coercion pervasive -- a pointapparently lost on American generals last week when they initially allowed him to replace his troops with "police."
With his Army battered by Desert Storm, in fact, the Iraqi dictator's hopes for long-term control lie more with his spies than with his soliders. Terror works in subtle ways that Western forces can do little to counter. "In Iraq we are used to seeing dirty games," says Osmat. Members of Kurdish clans are drafted into the security forces or the Army where they are under Baghdad's direct control: virtual hostages. Meanwhile their vulnerable families become suspect in the eyes of fellow Kurds. When Fouad Ali, 19, returned home from the mountains with his uncle last month he was jubilant to find Western forces in town. To see an American helicopter in Zakhu, "it's like seeing the sun," he says. But Saddam's agents took down the license number of his car. Later they questioned him about where he had been, what he had seen.
American and European officials, scrambling from day to day to address the countless problems of the enclave, have decided the only way to coax the Kurds down from the mountains and administer the camps effectively is to give them authority over their own lives -- including internal security. Clan leaders and Kurdish guerrillas are expected to root out informers and contain the few dozen Iraqi police allowed by the allies to remain. "They'll police themselves. The Kurds will hold together," says Fred Cuny, a consultant with the Agency for International Development in the haven. So for a moment, and by default rather than design, the Kurds around Zakhu will have a chance to live a piece of their dream. Still, the nightmare will never be far away.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Christopher Dickey v. Fouad Ajami on the Relevance of Iraq as we Contemplate War with Syria

This is from the very rough transcript of CNN Newsroom with Don Lemon on Saturday night. Fouad and I were on the panel in the studio, other guests were at remote locations. It was the third night in a row that Fouad and I were on together, and in some respects it was a continuation or our earlier conversations, but more explicit. Off camera, Fouad said I misread his position going into the Iraq war, but I remember watching him again and again in 2002 and 2003 as an expert commentator on television, and there is really no doubt he was cheerleading the invasion without giving nearly enough thought to the consequences of occupation. This was a shame then and is a shame now, because Fouad Ajami is one of the great scholars of the Arab world, and a beautiful prose stylist whose several books I admire tremendously:

... LEMON: Where's my general here? "Spider" Marks, who always has great information with stories like this and a great perspective? Do you agree? Are they signaling by doing this, are we signaling to Syria what we're not going to do, giving them a chance to move things around so that perhaps they won't be found? 

GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Don, absolutely correct. The one thing you cannot get back in warfare is time. We have given time to Assad to disperse his forces, disperse his delivery means, as Rick has indicated to conduct another offensive. It might even include chemical weapons. Why not? I've used them before quite effectively. I'm got the entire world mad at me. I can't put that back in the box. Why don't I just keep using that capability? 

You never want to lose freedom of action. And the United States has lost freedom of action. I can guarantee you planners inside the Pentagon right now who are familiar with all of these considerations in terms of the allocation of force, the preparation times, the rehearsals that are necessary -- and most importantly, what our opponent, what the opponent does and what he does with that time to better prepare himself -- are right now kind of moving over into the shadows and into the corners going this is a bad idea. 

LEMON: It's interesting because I know politicos do this and the media does it a lot, well, what about Iraq? What about Kosovo? What about Libya? We always compare it to some other military action or being on the brink of some other military action. Is that fair, Fouad Ajami? 

AJAMI: No, we shouldn't. Actually, we've had this conversation. We should lay Iraq to rest. We should lay it to rest. And then you have even your right, the example of Kosovo has been used. I mean, Kosovo is not a bad model. Kosovo was a war; Bill Clinton did it. He didn't go to the United Nations. He bombed Serbia for 78 days. And this is Bill Clinton. No warrior was he. But he did it on his own. And I think some people are very comfortable with the Kosovo model. 

But you're exactly right. This is a discreet fight right now in this year in Syria. 

LEMON: Yes. I'm going to let you get in, but I heard Spider Marks saying amen. Why are you agreeing, Spider? 

MARKS: Totally agree with Fouad. There's nothing wrong with being a reluctant warrior. And in fact, we should all be reluctant warriors. You look at what's at risk if you're not. But at the same time, you have the lead. You have to have the fortitude to understand -- you know, there was moral outrage in the form of the president's speech a couple of days ago. And what you heard today and what you heard from Secretary Kerry yesterday. 

Now that moral outrage has been qualified. And I'm not sure why that's the case. They didn't do their work on priority to get to a position where they can act with leadership and with aggression and with confidence. And we don't see that. 

LEMON: Yeah. And it's all different. And I agree. Listen, I was doing this during Iraq. There was a vast difference between Iraq and this even in the coverage, I remember. Also Libya as well. There was a vast difference between Libya and this. All the situations are unique in their own right. 

I'm going to let Chris Dickey talk about that in just a minute. Stick around. My entire panel will get back. Chris, I promise I'm going to let you speak after this. 

OK, will part of this conflict, this Syria conflict, this play out in cyber space? Again, not talking about favorite Web site going down, but could Syrian hackers target U.S. infrastructure? That's a very real question, and that's next. 


LEMON: All right, we're back. Chris Dickey, did you agree with what the general is saying here, what we were saying here? 

DICKEY: No. First of all, the general knows perfectly well that the technological edge the U.S. military has over the Syrian military is overwhelming. And Assad knows that as well. And so do his commanders. And that's what you'll see in action when the strike takes place. Of course, they don't want to have to reprogram their cruise missiles right now, but they can do it and they do it pretty easily. 

As far as the wars being the same or different, I'll tell you the big difference between this war and Iraq is Iraq. Eight years, spending $2.5 billion a week, costing 100,000 or more lives, thousands of American lives. No, that's the big difference between now and then. 

LEMON: Yes, but do you remember the president said -- then, George W. Bush said this is going to be limited. We'll be out of there in a small amount of time. 

DICKEY: Yes, what we know about Bush was that he was lying. We know that Bush knew perfectly well all through 2002 that he wanted to go to war. And we know a lot of people facilitated that by creating this logic, this hysteria that said the next -- we don't want the next cloud that forms over New York or whatever to be a mushroom cloud. This kind of hysteria. We know that in fact Saddam did not have any chemical weapons or biological or nuclear weapons. 

LEMON: But we know that now looking in the rearview mirror. 


LEMON: But then, all the weapons inspectors, including Hans Blix (ph), who's spoken out on this as well, said they thought there were weapons of mass destructions but they never found any. And all of the intelligence leading up to -- 

DICKEY: No one said that. They didn't say that. They went in thinking that that might be the case. Why? Because there was a symbolic raid four years before Operation Desert Fox that resulted in all U.N. inspectors being taken out of country. So, we were completely blind for four years. 

LEMON: Fouad Ajami?

AJAMI: Well, we don't want to relitigate there --

LEMON: As you said, we should put this in the rear view mirror. 

DICKEY: I'm sure you don't, Fouad. You were pushing for it the whole time. 

AJAMI: You don't know what I was pushing for. 

DICKEY: I watched it.

AJAMI: This is just not -- we don't want to get into it. It's just too - 

LEMON: No, we want to get into it. What do you mean? Go ahead. 

AJAMI: No, it's just -- you can't go back and look at the Iraq war and just say here is this dummy. The Iraq war, the Iraq war was about lying. 

LEMON: Put a piece of tracing paper on top of it and show the similarities. 

AJAMI: You need to take a look at the context of the Iraq war. The context was 9/11. The entire country was convinced -- 

DICKEY: (INAUDIBLE) eight years, Fouad. 

AJAMI: The context of the Iraq war in 2003 was connected with 9/11, and the American people signed up for the war. 

DICKEY: The context of Syria is connected with eight years of Iraq. That's all. 

AJAMI: But I don't really -- I mean, I think Syria is such a vastly different question. Syria is a country that's being tormented. Syria is a country that's being taken apart by a despot who comes through minority community. And Syria is a distinct issue and a distinct time -- 

DICKEY: All of those were true of Saddam, too. 

AJAMI: No, no, no, I don't think so. 

DICKEY: It's not true of Saddam Hussein? 

AJAMI: It was true that Saddam was everything Bashar is and worse. But again and again, we need to stay with Syria. We can't revisit Iraq and relitigate. 

LEMON: I agree with you. Because we don't want to draw false equivalents. But all we know is what we know, and Iraq is our most recent one that we can draw comparisons. 

DICKEY: And the key question here is American -- especially in light of what was done today. The key question here is American support for military action against Syria. And if we take it as a given that really it would be a great idea to get rid of Bashar al Assad and for the U.S. to get involved, then you need a whole lot more American support that exists. 

LEMON: All right, stand by, both of yuo. We'll talk much more about this. ...