Globe Trot: 'Training an army of people that hates us'

by Jamie Dean
Posted 9/19/14, 10:05 am

SYRIA: News about a foiled ISIS plot in Australia came hours before the U.S. Congress voted to approve President Barack Obama’s plan to train and arm Syrian rebels, as part of his strategy to combat the Islamic State.

Though the vote passed, lawmakers in both parties expressed skepticism about the plan. Some Republicans said the measure didn’t go far enough in addressing the Islamic State threat, noting the plan calls for training some 5,000 Syrian rebels. Islamic State militants likely number at least 30,000, though some say the number is far higher. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., called the plan “unserious” and a “political answer” to American alarm over Islamic State terror.

During a visit with Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., in his Washington, D.C., office on Thursday, the congressman told me he had similar concerns, and suspected Syrian rebels would use the training and weapons to fight Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—not the Islamic State. Wolf also expressed concerns over arming militants who could turn on the United States: “The danger is you’re going to be training an army of people that hates us.”

AUSTRALIA: Officials say they foiled a grisly plot by Islamic State militants to execute violent attacks against Australians. During raids in Sydney on Thursday, authorities detained at least 15 people and searched a dozen properties. More than 800 police officers were involved in the country’s largest-ever counterterrorism operation.

How grisly was the plot? When reporters asked Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott about reports that Islamic State militants had planned to behead a random victim in Sydney, the prime minister confirmed: “That’s the intelligence we received.”

CHINA: During my visit to Rep. Wolf’s office, I also met Grace Geng, the daughter of Chinese dissident Gao Zhisheng. (WORLD featured Gao and his family as part of our Daniel of the Year coverage in 2012.) The human rights attorney—who often represented persecuted Christians in China—has been released from a Chinese jail after a long, mysterious imprisonment, but remains under oppressive surveillance. Chinese authorities visit his home in shifts.

Grace Geng came to the United States with her mother and brother in 2009, escaping escalating harassment by Chinese authorities. She was on Capitol Hill yesterday, with other family members of Chinese dissidents, to ask U.S. officials to urge China to allow Gao to travel to America.

Gao’s health has deteriorated during his confinement. Geng said she speaks with him by phone about once a week, but “he sounds weak and responds very slowly.”

Learn more about Gao and other persecuted Christians in China by visiting ChinaAid.

MUCH ADO ABOUT SCOTLAND: After Scotland’s festive buildup to a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom, the results were clear when polling stations closed on Thursday: Scots opted to stay in the U.K. by a vote of 55 percent to 45 percent.

But the decision to remain united doesn’t mean Scots won’t see some changes. In the lead up to the vote, U.K. officials promised to give Scotland more powers over taxing, spending, and social welfare if the country didn’t declare its independence.

British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed delight over the Scottish decision to stay in the union, and promised those who had favored independence a “new and fair settlement” in the way officials in Westminster govern the countries in the kingdom: “We hear you.”

MAPPING INDEPENDENCE: Though Scotland decided not to declare its independence, this map shows all the countries around the globe that were once part of the British Empire (including, of course, the United States.)

Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the political beat and other topics as national editor for WORLD Magazine. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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