BELGIAN SECURITY SUDDENLY THE WORLD’S CONCERN: The latest terror attacks in Brussels are exposing flaws in the Belgian security apparatus. Missed cues and connections — including knowing that one of the alleged perpetrators of Tuesday’s attacks had traveled to Turkey with the intent of joining the Islamic State in Syria — are raising questions about how capable the Belgian authorities are of dealing with the threat the world is facing.
But the attackers’ travel to the Middle East to join the Islamic State isn’t the only warning sign. Many of them have a history of crime and run-ins with the police. Burglary, larceny, drug-dealing, assault and other violent offenses are common among these terrorists — and offer more warning signs that may have been missed.
STRIKING ISIS ON THE GROUND: As Europe scrambles to pick up the pieces following the attacks in Brussels, U.S.-backed Iraqi troops are beginning a new offensive against the Islamic State in the Middle East, trying to clear the terrorist group out of a string of northern villages. But how ambitious the campaign will be depends on whom you’re talking to. Iraqis say it’s a precursor to going after the Islamic State in Mosul, while U.S. and Kurdish officials say it’s far more limited in its ambitions.
The offensive comes as government troops across the border in Syria, backed by Russian air power, launched a major offensive to wrest Palmyra, an ancient city and UNESCO World Heritage Site, away from the Islamic State.
Meanwhile President Obama is coming under increasing pressure to change course on his strategy against the Islamic State — and is doing his best to resist it. The president’s critics have come down hard on him, urging him to employ a more forceful strategy in fighting ISIS. Obama has favored a policy of slow, strategic gains, orchestrated by a small number of forces, without overblowing the threat ISIS actually poses.