- AP analysis: By allowing Iran substantial voice in Syria talks, US is accepting Tehran’s regional influence
Iran’s participation in the Syria talks and its role in determining which groups can participate in a transition government signals American acceptance of Iran’s increasing influence in the region, according to a report by Bradley Klapper and Matt Lee of the Associated Press on Thursday. Iran has invested heavily in ensuring the survival of the Assad regime, sending Hezbollah forces and around 1,500 Iranian troops, as well as arms and financial aid to assist the Assad regime, which has indiscriminately bombed its own people in a civil war that has killed at least 220,000 people.
Although the US has previously blocked Iran’s presence at negotiations on Syria’s future, a couple weeks ago the US accepted Iran’s participation. The administration has also softened its demands that Assad step down immediately. Despite the administration’s designation of Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, the Iranians will be given a say in deciding who is and who is not a terrorist and thus which groups from the Syrian opposition can participate in a political transition. When pressed by Lee on who will have the decisive voice in the matter, State Department spokesman John Kirby stated, “[T]hose decisions will be made through a consensus approach.”
The administration has repeatedly vowed that despite the nuclear deal with Iran, it will redouble its efforts to push back on Iran’s destabilizing influence and support for terror in the region. However, according to Lee and Klapper, Iran’s newfound role in Syria is a sign that “Washington has accepted that Tehran can continue wielding influence over Syria, which it has relied on for decades to project power throughout the Middle East. That includes arming anti-Israel and anti-U.S. forces Hamas and Hezbollah.” A similar analysis in Reuters by Marco Vicenzino asserts that if a deal on Syria is reached, Iran’s “diplomatic standing would improve and its interests would be secured.” The Assad regime is Iran’s principal Arab ally and Iran uses Syria as a conduit through which it transfers arms to its Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah. Several analysts such as Michael Doran, former senior director in the National Security Council, have argued that rather than block Iran’s influence, the administration’s policies appear to be part of a strategy to accommodate Tehran and thereby turn the regime into a regional partner.
College campuses across the country have been inundated with anti-Semitism from a new source: Yik Yak, a social media smartphone app that allows people to post anonymous messages. Yik Yak is localized — one must be within 1.5 miles of a particular Yik Yak “feed” in order to post on it. There is a specific Yik Yak feed for Stanford University, another one for Princeton University, and even one for Tel Aviv (Yik Yak is not limited to college students, although it is far more popular among them). Picture a college-only Twitter feed, but one in which everyone is anonymous.
Yik Yak was founded in 2013, and soon gained massive popularity on college campuses. The anonymity of the app encourages students to post their uncensored thoughts. Many “yaks” — as a message on Yik Yak is called — feature students worrying about classes, sharing their mental health struggles and seeking support, making jokes, or even seeking out sex. But there are also political posts. In a campus climate in which speaking one’s mind on complicated, tendentious issues can lead to social ostracization, many students appreciate the opportunity to freely share their opinions.
However, this has also led to problems. A number of schools, including Saint Louis University, Utica College in New York, and the College of Idaho, have banned Yik Yak on their campuses due to incidents of cyberbullying. Students have threatened violence on the app as well, such as promises of “Virginia Tech Part 2” (Towson University) or “shooting up the school” (Emory University). On Wednesday, two college students were arrested after using the app to threaten to shoot black students at the University of Missouri.
Yik Yak purports to be anonymous — but this is only true to a point, since the application keeps track of users’ phone numbers. Yik Yak handed the phone numbers of the men who threatened to murder black students over to the police.
Numerous anti-Semitic posts have also popped up on Yik Yak feeds at colleges across the country, but these instances have received little, if any, attention from the media, and certainly none from police. The trend does not seem to discriminate based on type of school: both San Diego State, a large public school, and Connecticut College, a small private liberal arts school, have been affected. (To read the rest of the post, go to TheTower.org)