Monday, July 4, 2016

Defeating a Monster: Finding a Solution to IS

With more than 200 confirmed deaths, as of now, Baghdad has just witnessed the most horrific act of terror in years. It is just one of the many cities to be targeted over the past week, however, it was the only one in which the Islamic State wrought such gargantuan chaos. These attacks, all inspired by IS, propagate the despair of the situation in the Middle East. With Ramadan nearing its end and the Islamic celebration of Eid al-Fitr just days away, the scale of terror is on an uptick; even so, it remains difficult and daunting consider further atrocities to come.

The week of terror comes ahead of the July 4th celebrations in America, inciting fears in the United States concurrently about security.

The numerous attacks show how the most important current issue in the world, or the rise of the Islamic State, is not just a battle on the field. Although we may at times hear of gains on the ground, that is ISIS being pushed back, we fail to consider the full scope of the group's core activity: terror.
What sets the Islamic State apart from its rivals in bloodshed, like Al Qaeda, is its use of ideology for fighting a war on the field, inciting acts of violence abroad both actively and passively, and establishing a pseudo-state all at once.

No group like IS emerges from sheer luck, they appear when a government makes the wrong decision and considers short-term implications over the long-term ones. This has happened in the past with the Taliban, who then played into the hands of Al-Qaeda. It happened to Iraq with the U.S. support for Saddam Hussein for many years, even helping him ascend to power in 1963 through the Ba'ath party's seizure of power. Both these events in history have triggered modern extremism in one way or another.

So, it is important to understand what nations have aligning interests with the Islamic State to truly understand the nature of the current conflict.

Turkey is possibly the nation with the most evident support for the Islamic State. Research by Columbia University found that the Turkish government "knows the movements of all persons and can control the flow across the border if it chooses."Over the past decades, Turkey has been fighting against the Kurdish minority in the Eastern part of the country. The Kurds happen to be the most formidable fighting force currently tackling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but the Turkish government is making the short-term call and fighting against those Kurds in a bid to secure the status quo and ensure that Kurds cannot achieve nationhood home or abroad. Support by the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia is known also in the creation of IS. Those nations are also the ones that have largely avoided large-scale act of terrorism, unlike Iraq and unlike Syria. Support to IS helps to promote Sunni dominance in a shia region of the Arab world, which is why nations support a group as sinister as the Islamic State.

It is in the interest of even those nations to stop the Islamic State, with it becoming more and more unpredictable and decisive against civilians. Saudi Arabia has just witnessed three suicide attacks across the Kingdom in the past 24 hours. In battling the Islamic State, it's paramount that all sides remember that coordination against IS must be joint and fully binding. There can be no second interest in a fight against an ideology with no leniency or understanding. The Middle East has to stop the monster that it created by drying up the financial resources of IS and this is something that has to be internationally adopted and internationally monitored.


Saturday, January 16, 2016

One Dam Catastrophe for Iraq, Another Damn Catastrophe For Iraqis

When the Islamic State took control of large swathes of Northern Iraq in 2014, Mosul was the most significant blow. The fall of the city in that early June was one of the most humiliating losses suffered by the Iraqi Army during the entire conflict. The Iraqi soldiers, unwilling to fight, left some 2,300 military Humvees and stockpiles of weapons to be amassed by the extremist organization. The value of the armored vehicles alone is estimated at over 1 billion USD and has come to be described as "Iraq's worst nightmare", many of them now being used in suicide bombings.

Yet, the surrender of stockpiles of weapons and armored vehicles to the most loathed organization in the world isn't even the worst part of the fall of Mosul.

Mosul possesses the most important dam in all of Iraq. With a capacity of over 11 cubic kilometers of water, it once provided electricity to nearly 2 million Iraqis. The dam was built during the reign of Saddam Hussein when Iraq was at war with Iran.

The foundation of the dam was built on gypsum, a soft mineral that dissolves when it comes into contact with water. Although this made the construction of the dam completely unadvisable, the late dictator was assured that the dam could be kept in place with the appropriate maintenance. All that had to be done to reinforce the dam were regular injections of concrete to plug the formation of any leaks.

Maintenance had been carried out regularly over the years since the dam was built, long after the war with Iran had ended and even after the fall of Saddam Hussein, right until ISIS moved into Mosul in 2014. The militant group made threats that they would submerge Baghdad, however were soon pushed back by Kurdish forces during the three-day offensive.

While the dam has been in Kurdish hands ever since, the government has still been unable to carry out the maintenance and repairs that are necessary to keep the dam stable. The situation nearby remains so dangerous and fighting so tense that the government has been unable to send the much-needed workers or materials to mend the condition of the dam.

The situation is now critical and perhaps beyond repair. Many experts have warned that the dam will soon collapse entirely. This would be spell the most devastating humanitarian crisis for Iraq, possibly since the start of the US-led invasion in 2003.

Some estimate that the collapse of the dam could claim the lives of up to 500,000 Iraqis. People would not only die in the initial flooding throughout Iraq but the devastating water shortages that will follow, impacting the level of readily available water for both consumption and for farming. Thus, famine could also be around the corner for Iraq, requiring more assistance from the international community and making it even more incapable of dealing with the threat of the Islamic State.

If this catastrophe were to unravel, it would impact Europe and America just as much as it does Iraq. Thousands would flee the country and make the hazardous journey towards Europe in search of the stability that Iraq has failed to foster. It would further increase the risk of violent attacks, as the European Union would be overwhelmed by influx of refugees  and allow for radicals to seep in unnoticed among them. It would further destabilize Iraq and allow for even more gains by the Islamic State, as the country would be grappling with an unprecedented humanitarian crisis while at the same time fighting a war.

A 2006 study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers named it as the "most dangerous dam in the world", and many of the estimates regarding civilian casualties are based on their findings. Among these were that Baghdad itself would be submerged by up to 15 feet of water, crippling the country's capital. It would further limit the presence of both the U.S. and U.N. whose compounds would similarly be submerged if this were to play out.

Iraq has attempted to ease the pressure on the dam by letting out water, however the rate at which it can dispel is far smaller than at which rains are building up in the reservoir. The situation will continue to deteriorate as February and March are on average the months Iraq experiences the highest level of raining. 

With so much evidence of an impending disaster that threatens several hundred thousand Iraqis, decision makers are left with few options. It may be days, weeks or months, however the dam has forgone proper maintenance for over a year and will soon give way. By that time, Iraqis have to be prepared and evacuated and the European Union ready to deal with the further proliferation of the refugee crisis.


Monday, January 4, 2016

A New Year With Little Promise for the Middle East

Saudi Arabia's execution of the prominent Shiite cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, has set off protests throughout the Middle East.

In Ankara, Baghdad and Tehran protestors took to the streets to voice their indignation of the Saudi Kingdom's move to have the cleric, among almost 50 others convicted on terrorism charges, executed. Nimr al-Nimr was allegedly responsible for the killing of Saudi police officers during rioting, which his family contends. 


In Tehran, the protest outside the Saudi Embassy soon turned violent with demonstrators making their way into the compound as they set the building alight with molotov cocktails.


The violence against Saudi Arabia's Embassy no doubt provokes the memory of the U.S. hostage-taking in 1979, where Iran's revolution and political shift left America's presence loathed and unguarded for a historic support of the authoritarian Shah, previously Iran's leader. The 444 days of captivity for staffers and their families remains a point of contention for both nations.


In response to the event, Saudi Arabia was quick to announce it is cutting diplomatic, commercial and even transportation ties between the two states. The attack on the Embassy left no one injured but may lead to unprecedented bloodshed even amid the current prevalence of religious fundamentalism and violent extremism.


Analysts have spoken plainly regarding the effects of the quarrel between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Looking to establish peace and stability in countries Syria, Yemen and Iraq will remain almost impossible if not for the coordination between the region's two most powerful nations, which just so happen to be religiously partial.


This was signaled by several nation's move to align themselves with either of the two; the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, among other Sunni-majority states, flocked in support of Saudi Arabia while in Iraq, a Shia-majority nation like Iran, politicians and religious figures made clear Saudi Arabia's wrongdoing in accordance with the Iranian view.


The international response to the execution has been overwhelmingly in favor of Iran and against Saudi Arabia for a move that clearly aims to further destabilize the region and allow the further spread of the Islamic State, which follows a fundamentalist doctrine of Sunni Islam.


Saudi Arabia is becoming increasingly uncurbed. The Kingdom has had direct involvement in the success of the Islamic State in recent months in Iraq and its intentions of promoting religious bloodshed can be traced back to an infamous conversation that took place between then-head of MI6, sir Richard Dearlove, and Prince Bandar Bin Sultan; the latter exclaimed, "the time is not far off in the Middle East...when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them."


The conversation makes discernible the irked state's position, as shown by one of its most distinguished representatives to the West at the time. 


In the aftermath of the continued violence at the blood-spattered hands of ISIL, Dearlove has remarked that Saudi Arabia is evidently complicit in genocide. This is constituted primarily by the "Muslim-on-Muslim" conflict that has emerged, but also religious minorities, notably Christians. 


Hundreds of thousands have been displaced and some estimates have shown that some nations will have no Christian population within a matter of years owing to ISIS violence and Saudi backing. 


The current conflict between these two nations, and the general involvement of Saudi Arabia in fueling extremism, has urgent implications for the West. As the U.S. continues to move away from Saudi Arabia and closer to Iran with regards to the conflict in Syria, we will seen an increase in violence. 


This violence will not only take place in desolate deserts, but across the world, as the Islamic State continues to have safe havens from which to operate and promote bloodshed. The terrorist group's internet presence will further weave extremism into the fabric of European and American society, making it harder to identify and deal with over time. 


Saudi Arabia's involvement has largely been avoided as a topic of political conversation. However, decreasing oil prices (which only spiked during the current situation), mean less dependence on the Saudis and more spine for Europe and North America. The lifting of Iranian sanctions have helped more Iranian crude make its way to the market, and the Western reaction to the execution is in no way a coincident. Germany, whose relations with Iran are budding, has already suspended weapons exports to the Kingdom and it won't be alone in its response. 


While Saudi Arabia has undertaken a step to perturb the region, its own position is most threatened.
The Kingdom continues to shroud flagrant support for religious extremism, yet Iran continues to leverage its relation with the U.S. through involvement in Syria -- the right type of involvement. No doubt a shouting match with Iran will only leave the Kingdom with a broken voice. 





Thursday, November 5, 2015

More Than Lone Wolves

The recent crash of Kogalymavia Flight 9268, a Russian commercial airliner, in Sinai, Egypt, has increasingly been designated a credible act of terrorism by various international intelligence agencies, notably by British Intelligence.  

UK Prime Minister David Cameron's Office made a direct address regarding the recent tragedy, which would be a common procedure had there been British victims - which there weren't. It's probable that the British lead is strong, with the Telegraph having reported that it was MI6 spies who uncovered an "ISIL bomb plot". 

The internet has also been awash with reports of the Islamic State having posted video of them shooting down the Russian plane. As with all cases, these claims have to be investigated and vetted alongside the ongoing forensic investigation. 

US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, remarked the likelihood that the Islamic State was responsible. The question now remaining is how the group was able to breach the several layers of security in place at airports and plant a bomb on a commercial jet. 

As expected, this revelation was followed by an immediate tightening of security around Sharm el-Sheikh, the airport from which the flight departed. After any such breach, the reaction security-wise is not national, not regional, rather it is international. 

Awaiting the current investigation, we can expect the response to be stringent and discernible through an increased security and intelligence presence at and around international airports. We can expect major international airports to be the most vociferous in this regard, especially major airports in the Middle East. 

Pundits have been split on how much of a risk the Islamic State poses. Matthew Olsen, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center remarked that ISIS constitutes a lesser threat to the United States than Al Qaeda. 

Perhaps the fact that the Islamic State, who in his view is dangerous because of its ability to galvanize "lone wolf" attacks, will now be viewed as a far more serious international threat than it naively was formerly. 

France has been targeted time and again by these attacks. While hardly on the scale of 9/11, which changed not America but the world, the fact such attacks are recurring shows that intelligence agencies are failing to act in time and need to develop new strategies to discern who sympathizers are and what their course of action in the future will be.  

At this point, we must ask ourselves, "why is there an elaborate system of international intelligence agencies if they cannot act in time to stop mass murders from taking place?" The train attack foiled by three brave Americans was foiled by passengers on a train instead of the intelligence services. While it is a clear show of bravery, it's also a show of a lack of governmental coordination. 

When a nation becomes embroiled in a multifaceted conflict such as the one in Syria, they must be wary of the consequences. We are witnessing firsthand the consequences when people are beheaded in the streets in Europe, not just in the deserts of Syria. Consequently, let us begin to demand a response by intelligence that does not simply discern but stops these attacks from happening. 

While there is very much to say about the intelligence services of the world, which right now resembles a line of ducks crossing a highway, we must endeavor a discussion about what response the eventual findings will warrant. 

The fact that the Islamic State was responsible for this attack is a fact, but the public will have to wait for conclusive evidence nonetheless. What happens next is the big question. 

Russia is already fighting a full-fledged war in Syria. So is Iran. The conflict itself is three-sided with supporters of the regime, Islamic terrorists and anti-regime rebels all fighting one another. With so many competing sides, all armed, the conflict is as bloody as it gets. 

The fragmentation of this conflict is eerily similar to the features of Iraq with the many competing interests that were at stake during the rule of Saddam. That was what experts warned the Bush administration would plunge the nation into an abyss of violence. They were right. We are still looking at scenes of bloodshed 12 years after the US-led invasion. 

The United States is now in a position where it can't idly stand by. While it was claimed during the lead up to the Iraq invasion that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda had collaborated, and that the Iraqis had an arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the truth couldn't have been further. 

The situation in Syria is akin because a dictator like Bashar Al-Assad, by no means a valiant mediator for human rights, has until recently maintained peace in Syria. 

What happens now is the question. Will America join the fight in a more discernible way and will this be in coordination with a revisited presence in Iraq? Dealing with the Islamic State will obviously require an approach across boarders. What the future may hold in store is a more clearly defined effort by Iran and Russia to eradicate this group in Syria, and a more evident US bearing in Iraq to finish the job it started a very, very long time ago. 

What is it we should take away from how the West has tried to deal with terrorism? It cannot be eradicated. Just like a cancer of the human body, groups galvanize around new figures and ideas when the old ones are gone. And it's probable we will find a cure to cancer before we find a way to eradicate the fundamentalism that is feeding terrorism. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Turkey Remains Staunch After Ankara Attack

October 10th - a march for peace in Ankara, Turkey, was devastated by a twin blast purported to have been carried out by ISIL, killing over 100 protestors. 


Many unwittingly believe Turkey, with its status as a modern state in the Middle East, is one of the key powers fighting the Islamic State. However, the truth lies far from this supposed ideal, tangled in a complex web of foreign and domestic interests. 


If Turkey's involvement in Syria were fighting terrorism, in any capacity, the likely target of such an attack would have been the government itself. The fact that the attack occurred close to the nation's largest railway station, terminus, is a clear indication that the intended victims of this attack were the peace-loving Turkish civilians themselves.


Even laying out the fundamental background of the conflict in Syria is a difficult feat, especially when trying to explore who is fighting who and what Turkish involvement in Syria looks like. 

Although Turkey claims that it's fighting terrorism in Syria, it has carried out an extensive campaign against the very element whose role in fighting ISIL has been the most effective over the last several months. 


The Kurdish fight for independence in Turkey is an ongoing conflict now in its 31st year. The P.K.K., cloaked Y.P.G within the Syrian context, has been fighting the Turkish military in the hopes of Kurdish independence throughout this time and is now involved in the fight against Bashar Al Assad as well as the Islamic State. 


The Kurds, fighting extremism and dictatorship, are who America is facilitating. But, since Turkey sees the current conflict as a chance to dismantle the Kurdish resistance entirely, it's taking a mind-boggling gamble and arming the very group that has killed well over 100 of Turks in just one brazen attack, after several other similar actions. 

President Erdogan of Turkey, dubbed a hardline nationalist and islamist, has had everything to say about the recent surge in violence in his country except that extremism was the cause of it. He's placed blame on the West for its support of the Kurds in Syria, calling the Kurds who are fighting the Islamic State "terrorists". Since when do terrorists fight terrorists and dictators all at once? The argument is difficult to make, if not entirely impossible. 


While the P.K.K. is listed as a terrorist organization even by the United States, it's unwise for it to stand idly by while its only functional ally on the ground is continuously held back by competing domestic interests in Turkey. 


Much more worrying than any chance of Kurdish independence in the areas recently won by the Y.P.G. are the substantiated reports that Turkey is one of the Islamic State's key allies in terms of arming the group. This, along side the fact that Turkey can be seen as a strategic ally for its bombing of the Y.P.G, shows that Erdogan is going out of his way to create further instability in the region.

Global Research has a multitude of examples that highlight Turkey's position as the one discussed here. These are often through a lack of communication between the United States and Turkey, assumedly allies, on matters of military activity in Syria. 


An extract goes on to remark, "In the wake of the raid that killed Abu Sayyaf, suspicious of an undeclared alliance have hardened. One senior western official familiar with the intelligence gathered at the slain leader's compound said that direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking Isis members was now 'undeniable'". 

It has now become worryingly apparent that Turkey's governing leadership is content to use the current conflict as a means of domestic maneuvering. No matter how many more civilians are claimed by this conflict, beyond the hundreds of thousands already seemingly overlooked. For Erdogan, no one life - or even a million - seems to carry enough weight. 


Just one day after tragedy struck Ankara, Iraq reported having successfully carried out a strike on an ISIS convoy. Some news agencies, notably CNN, claimed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was in this convoy. The claim seems highly unlikely and lacks substantiation. Nevertheless, a major strike against an ISIS convoy, as was the case today, highlights that Turkey's neighbors will continue their fight.


Erdogan's actions warrant a serious reexamination of the US-Western-Turkish relations. The current situation shows the rift and revision of who the West may view as its partners, as the United States and Iran find themselves on the same side - but not alongside Turkey. As the world looks for sustainable success in the region, it has to begin to place pressure on the states that either overtly or covertly support extremism and there's no better time than now. 












Thursday, September 3, 2015

Refugees Continue to Struggle in Hungary

Thousands of refugees, mainly from Syria, have been stuck at Budapest's Keleti railway station for days, if not weeks. Immediate help hasn't been provided by the government during this period. Instead, it's often been Hungarian locals and aid workers who've gone out to help these people get the very basics they need to survive. 

The journey's been extremely long for those fleeing war-torn countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Yet, it seems far from over. Even after many have risked everything to make it to Europe, most often having to pay smugglers, they still aren't out of harm's way. 

Not only has the sentiment in Hungary been strikingly harsh against these victims of war, refugee centers in target destinations like Germany have found themselves repeatedly attacked, something Prime Minister Angela Merkel has fiercely condemned. 

The refugee crisis that's been most discernible in entrance countries like Hungary, Greece and Italy had prompted Prime Minister Viktor Orban to propose, and then swiftly move to erect a 175-kilometer long border fence along Hungary's border with Serbia. 

The move was arguably an attempt to avoid any culpability on Hungary's side, in accordance with the Dublin Regulation. The agreement would make it possible to send back all those who've entered Europe and made their way west to the country they first entered and registered as asylum seekers. 

This was primarily why Hungary's Prime Minister sought to so quickly block the flow of entering migrants. Perhaps his advisors and top aides had not considered, however, the impact of news of Hungary's plans spreading like wildfire. The number of refugees entering has only increased in recent weeks because of this move. 

Furthermore, the fence, while pushing people to hurriedly arrive in Hungary, is not a real barrier for people. Refugees who've been threatened with death many times over hardly allow a fence to stop them.  

What was an attempt to slow the crisis has exponentially increased suffering for thousands of people whose only hope it's been to find somewhere safe to live. For the people who've been stuck in Hungary's capital, the stay has been all but pleasant. Many have openly stated they wish to move onto countries like Sweden, Germany, and the United Kingdom. 

These are the countries with established facilities that are willing to accept migrants. Germany has moved to make entry for asylum seekers, especially those from Syria, easier. 

Getting to Germany from Hungary now remains the biggest obstacle. Refugees seeking to leave Hungary have often been denied the right to buy train and plane tickets without visas. But, after Germany moved to set aside the items of the Dublin Agreement, Hungary allowed the weary and fed-up people to finally make their way onwards. 

Confusion grew again as police barred the entry to Keleti Railway station without proper documentation and visas. This move came after a German Interior Ministry Spokesman reaffirmed that Germany would abide by the Dublin Regulation. 

Migrants have been protesting throughout this period. The police presence has made the atmosphere uneasy and some of the refugees even think they're having fun watching their suffering. 

Now, migrants have again been allowed onto trains heading West. Yet, they know little of what is actually happening and where they're being taken. Some think they'll be getting close to the boarder with Austria, others have heard they're being transported to a town with a refugee camp. 

Refugees at the center of this crisis have shown that they are entirely fed up with waiting. They rioted in Macedonia, forcing the government to allow them to move through the border and onto Serbia, before Hungary. 

The crisis has shown clearly the lack of coordination between several key EU countries. An emergency summit is scheduled for the 14th of September. One can only hope that this bridges the commitment of the key EU nations through which refugees are entering and to which they are headed. 

For now, they can only wait and hope. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and 2016

For those who've spent the last few months stranded at sea, or for other calamitous reasons been unable to keep up with news, you may be surprised by what you're about to read.

The longest-serving independent, a 73-year-old white senator from Vermont, has men, women and children of all ages going crazy. After seeing the support for President Barack Obama in 2008, people have wondered what it would take for Americans to rally with comparable enthusiasm for change.


After the first African-American President whose promise was just that, people around the United States seem to want it more than ever. While former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is charismatic, she's not the "change" so many Americans are feverish about. Her blunders as Secretary of State are likely to be her major obstacle when it comes to the debates, even though the polls, as of now, are in her favor.


Many Republicans will be glad to remind voters of the tragedy that took place in Benghazi. Of only seven US ambassadors in the diplomatic history of America to have been killed in the line of duty, one was Christopher Stevens who died under the incumbency of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 


When considering that Ambassador Stevens was also the first Ambassador to have been killed in over 40 years, since Adolph Dubs died during a failed rescue operation in February of 1979, the Ambassador's death is all the more shocking and hugely undermines Hillary Clinton's leadership. While I find it almost impossible to agree with anything Donald Trump says, his recurrent remarks that Hillary Clinton was the worst Secretary of State may be closer to the truth than anything else he's said.

Ambassador Stevens was killed during a visit to the US Mission in Benghazi, some 400 miles from the Embassy in Tripoli. His death came after numerous requests were made to the State Department for increased security measures, following previous attacks on the presence of the United States in Libya. 


The ambassador's aim in traveling to Benghazi was to promote a message of peace during the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. While all embassies were on high alert because of the timing, the Ambassador was promoting the interests of his country, which is what any Ambassador is sent abroad to do.

The fact Stevens had been killed carrying out his responsibilities as Ambassador, and after having his repeated calls for increased security ignored by Clinton and her staff reveals that Hillary Clinton is imprudent. What's more, when it came to owning up to her enormous mistake as Secretary of State, Clinton said she'd never seen the emails appealing for more protection of the US missions. As such, it's discernible that besides being irresponsible as a leader, she's also unaccountable as one.


Hillary Clinton was also embroiled in yet another major blunder involving emails. During her tenure, she failed to follow standard protocol and used her private email as a means of communication on unsecured servers. 
The sensitive information a Secretary of State receives through emails has made this a matter of national security. Thousands of her emails were released, yet many were redacted. While Clinton argues that her actions did not go against protocol, the redactions certainly suggest that the information she was receiving was strictly confidential.

And what serves against Clinton, foremost, is her conceited, self-important and arrogant way of handling her own mistakes. Her forced 'coolness' and swagger in situations where it's completely inappropriate. She handles herself as though she's a mix of Einstein, Eisenhower and Eminem; a sort of genius leader superstar. Many undoubtedly admire that about her, but the majority really dislike her for it.


All things aside, Clinton is a revered politician, a First Lady that kept the title becoming the first female Senator of New York State, but her achievements for women and her renown may not be enough to win this election. Although having a first female President after the first African-American one would undeniably show progress, Hillary is facing yet another major obstacle. This time it's Bernie Sander's fresh honesty and immensely growing popularity.


Bernie Sanders has had a more direct approach to the most important topics in America today. Take, for instance, what has become one of the more contentious issues: police brutality. Hillary Clinton Spoke recently at Columbia's SIPA. She addressed the problems of the justice system, the issues with correction - but she nevertheless palpably missed what American voters are most concerned about. When Bernie Sanders was asked about police brutality by Wolf Blitzer on CNN, he said "for too many years, too many mostly black suspects have been treated terribly, and in some cases murdered. That is unacceptable, and police officers have got to be held accountable for their actions".


Yet, Sanders was kept from speaking at an event in Seattle when self-described Black Lives Matter activists interrupted his speech, chanting "black lives matter". One of those activists was Marissa Janae Johnson. The interruption was rude, as most are, but it was also pointless. 


Marissa and Mara Jacqeline Willaford targeted the most progressive candidate running. Such a protest would have been more fitting at one of Donald Trump's speeches. It should be noted that Bernie Sanders was also an activist in his youth, during the Civil Rights Movement. He marched with Dr. King. He offered Symone Sanders (no relation) a job on his team as his Press Secretary after meeting her, weeks before the disruption at the rally. Symone herself is a BlackLivesMatter activist and agrees with the idea that to tackle discrimination, economic equality has to be established for all members of the American populace.

The women who interrupted the rally were misguided and misinformed, perhaps angry that Sander's approach to ending discrimination has as much to do with approaching police brutality head-on as it has to do with ending the class war. Bernie Sander's tactic could not be more correct. To end discrimination, all Americans should enjoy equal access to jobs, to education, to healthcare, to opportunity. 


Marissa Janae Johnson later remarked, in her own words, that she doesn't "give a f*ck" if her stunt drives away support from the BlackLivesMatter Movement. Well, she should. Because if it does drive away support then what was the point of interrupting the speech? To end discrimination by limiting the support of the movement? 


The stunt also proved dull-witted because it achieved the exact opposite of what they had set out to achieve, with people defending and talking about Bernie Sanders and 12 thousand people going to see him speak at the University of Washington later that day.

It would later become a known fact that Marissa Janae Johnson is a former supporter of the tea party and Sarah Palin.


Bernie Sanders approached the topic of police brutality with far more confidence than Hillary Clinton. It's true that the justice system has to be reformed, but what Americans are seeing day in and day out is the heinous conduct of police around the nation. 


The killings in recent times have become far more publicized, consequently this is a far more important topic in 2016 than it was in either 2012 or 2008. Unlike Hillary Clinton, Sanders spoke frankly of the need to hold police officers accountable. 

American voters can more honestly agree with a man speaking his mind in simple terms than a someone seeking to remind you that she attended Yale Law School, which is exactly what Clinton did when she spoke at Columbia University. Again, her unwavering arrogance should be noted as a particular weakness in engaging a wider public.

That's the main issue with Hillary Clinton. Her identity is hinged on making you feel like you're being lectured, almost as though you couldn't arrive at the same conclusions without her intellectual handout. Bernie Sanders is more relatable. He's not rich, he's in fact one of the most modest U.S. politicians, whereas Clinton is a millionaire many times over and would serve the interests of the companies financing her candidacy.


Sander's platform on achieving economic equality is one that is wide enough to attract a huge segment of voters. With income inequality having only broadened for decades now, people are formally seeking to end the corporate ownership of politics in America. Bernie Sanders has vowed to get rid of money-politics, which in many cases keeps progress from being achieved on Capitol Hill, through the virtually uncontrolled practice of lobbying. That's why Sanders doesn't have a Super Pac and Hillary Clinton does. 


His stance is that someone in politics shouldn't be accepting money from any business or anyone conducting it. Hillary Clinton is quite happy to do otherwise. In fact, one of her Super Pacs received a 7-figure donation of essentially untraceable "dark money" from Fair Share Action. The Clinton Foundation also failed to pay taxes on tens of millions of dollars in foreign donations.

The internet has also been awash with several images that show the top financial sponsors of Sanders and Clinton. The former is supported by unions with generous contributions to his campaign, the latter is supported by conglomerates like Goldman Sachs with absurd contributions. 


Companies want Hillary Clinton as President because her promise to them is to uphold the status quo of having to pay virtually nothing in taxes. This is another area that will earn Sanders support during the election, while Hillary's vast wealth and closeness to large corporations will serve as yet another drawback.

Bernie Sanders has been vocal against the TPP, which, according to the Senator, will protect the interests of these organizations. The fact that the TPP has been marred by secrecy and its implications are virtually unknown to people is worrying, to say the least. 


The only thing people know relates to the Intellectual Property Provision, which was leaked. This is an extreme regulation that also makes it possible for people to "retain" critical components of inventions, softwares, or other IP (intellectual property) making technological monopolizations possible. The TPP has been vocally opposed by Bernie Sanders who's likely been the most vociferous opponent of its creation.

Hillary Clinton's stance on the TPP is the polar opposite. Firstly, she tried to ride the sentiment against the Pact as a means of boosting her popularity during the campaign, declaring that Obama should essentially slow down the show (with regards to fast track authority). 


But, a top aide in the administration went on-record to disclose that the creation of the TPP was actually Clinton's biggest achievement. That's right; she paved the way during her time as Secretary of State by way of her negotiations. Accordingly, this is clear evidence of misinforming political discourse. Despite the practice of flip-flopping not being new in any political context, it's something that Hillary, at this point, is widely recognized for.

Another aspect of Bernie Sander's agenda that makes him appeal to an extremely wide segment of voters are his intended policies on education, foremost college education. Sanders aims to make higher education at public universities free for students and reduce outstanding loans that college graduates are struggling to pay back. 


While he's certainly not the first politician to promote the idea amid the continuously rising college costs across America, he's the first to proffer a pragmatic idea about how to cover the cost. The Senator proposes taxing Wall Street transactions to cover around 70 billion dollars, which would make this coveted American fantasy possible. Who better to pay to the greedy institutions of American education than the greedy corporations of America. 

His move comes as the student debt crisis is becoming more and more serious, with the Federal Reserve having indicated that the number of people behind on payments is up from last year, despite the economic improvement. This shows that the situation won't improve with the economy and has to be addressed separately. The price tag of American Higher education remains the highest in the entire world and has been made a consumer good instead of a right like it in most developed European countries.


Bernie Sander's platform not only addresses the most critical issues in America to date, such as the lax taxing system on the largest corporations, the widening social gap, evident discrimination, access to affordable education and the TPP. It does so with an unfamiliar tone of authenticity, something many are hesitant to believe because it's such a strange occurrence in American politics.


While everyone is pointing to polls to show the security that Hillary Clinton is enjoying, polls aren't a determining factor in who will be the next American President. Faculty of Politics Professor at NYU, Patrick Egan recently wrote an article for the New York Times in which he argued not only that current polls "fail to predict" who will win but that they are actually unreliable to the point that a negative correlation exists.


Nevertheless, if we were to staunchly believe that polls this early in the Presidential race matter, the most recent polls show that Bernie Sanders has not only been gaining on Hillary but has overtaken her, as was the case in New Hampshire where he is leading by almost ten percent. Nevertheless, also according to polls, Donald Trump is the Republican frontrunner, which should serve to show just how misleading they can be.


It's unlikely anyone from a party that by and large declares global warming a myth will win this election, especially amid the current extreme weather patterns (2015 may be the strongest El NiƱo year on record); it's even less likely that it'll be someone who openly discriminates against huge segments of American voters as his only means of gaining attention, and/or outcry. 


If we're talking about the chances of a Republican winning this election, we'll have to be thinking of Jeb Bush as the only candidate with any realistic chance. Don't be fooled by statements that Donald Trump is the Republican frontrunner.

Bernie Sander's traction with people is only growing and at an unprecedented pace. It's more reliable to look at the crowds that a candidates is drawing to his or her speeches as a means of understanding their popularity. 


If you do that, you'll come to see that Bernie Sanders is by far the most popular candidate. With a  turnout in Portland, Oregon of 28,000 - so far the most for any 2016 candidate and roughly five times larger than any of Hillary Clinton's audiences, as according to the Washington Post, Bernie Sanders is clearly ahead.

From early on, people declared Bernie Sanders a fad and a political escapism that would come and pass. He was never close to the limelight, and Hillary Clinton's all-encompassing political gravity was seen by realistic Americans as something that would shatter his chances, especially as so few Democrats are running. 


But, with his current successes and even rumors that Joe Biden, only a year younger than him, is weighing a possible run, more and more people are beginning to shed their cynicism and are starting to believe in the possibility of political change on a magnitude they'd previously not imagined. Even if that change comes boxed as a 73-year-old man from Vermont with a Brooklyn accent.

It's looking more and more like Bernie Sanders is the man of the year, the year 2016.