Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

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Feb. 25

New York Times on holding Homeland Security hostage:

If Republicans in Congress don't relent on their quest to thwart President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration by refusing to fund the Department of Homeland Security, there's only one agency in the gargantuan bureaucracy where business would largely continue to operate as usual.

It happens to be the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes visa, work permit and green card applications and is the very agency responsible for accepting petitions for deferred action from deportation that the Obama administration has offered to certain unauthorized immigrants.

Unlike other parts of the department, U.S.C.I.S. is funded almost entirely by applicant fees, rather than taxpayer dollars, making it immune to government shutdowns.

Republicans have warned that they will pass a bill to finance the Department of Homeland Security only if it includes a provision that blocks Obama's initiatives, which would allow certain longtime immigrants to remain in this country and work lawfully, but would not provide a pathway toward citizenship.

Obama has rightly threatened to veto any such legislation, arguing that the steps the White House intends to take are the best alternative to comprehensive immigration reform, which Congress has failed to pass for decades.

If the department is not funded, 30,000 people, or roughly 15 percent of the workforce, would be furloughed. Most of its employees would be considered "essential" and asked to show up to work even though they wouldn't be getting paid. The collateral damage of the stalemate is tens of thousands of families who depend on the biweekly paychecks of these front-line workers, including border patrol agents and airport security screeners.

"There are serious consequences for the working men and women of our department if they are required to come to work and try to make ends meet without a paycheck," Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said earlier this week. "For themselves and their families."

While critical functions, such as law enforcement operations, would continue, officials say the halt in funding would compromise their ability to respond effectively to a natural disaster and could make the country more vulnerable to organized crime and even acts of terrorism.

At U.S.C.I.S., there is one program that would have to be suspended: E-Verify, the online service that allows employers to check the employment eligibility of workers.

Online:

http://www.nytimes.com

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Feb. 22

The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on jumping on war on terror:

It's fatally obvious that President Barack Obama's heart is not in the war on terrorism.

Everything from his ineffectual tactical decisions in the Oval Office to his tepid choice of words in the press room reveals a commander in chief who simply doesn't have the will to defeat ISIS.

And now he has the nerve to ask Congress to make his dispassion the official policy of his successor.

The resolution he sent Congress asks for a new use of military force authorization that prevents deploying significant numbers of ground forces for the next three years.

Not only is he the first commander in chief to ask Congress to restrict his powers, he's asking them to tie the hands of his replacement, too!

What on Earth is he thinking?

This isn't just bad leadership. It's not a lack of leadership. This is the worst kind - the kind that actually works against the nation's interests and emboldens its enemies.

Whose side is he on?

Self-imposed restrictions are, at the very least, irrational behavior for a chief executive famous for running roughshod over Congress and pushing the limits on every other power he has - and some that he doesn't - at his disposal.

Besides that, a new war resolution would be meaningless and unnecessary.

First, it's not up to Congress to determine how war is waged. That's the president's job. Congress' responsibility is authorizing war on behalf of its members' constituents and withholding funding if they don't like how the president is doing his job.

Second, Obama wants his limp war resolution against ISIS to take the place of the Bush administration's 2002 Iraq war authorization, which he never liked. Trouble is the 2002 authorization doesn't need to be replaced because the war against ISIS is a continuation of that conflict.

ISIS, also known as the Islamic State and ISIL, is an offshoot of the al-Qaida network the United States has fought since 9/11. It is the same enemy it fought - and defeated - during the 2007 Iraq surge. Its smoldering remains simply reignited after Obama withdrew ground troops from Iraq.

If Obama can fight ISIS under current law, as he has done for the past six months, he should continue fighting it in 2015 and beyond. So can his successor.

Really, would the president have intervened in Libya in 2011 if he thought he needed permission?

So what, then, is the point of seeking a new resolution that - like his Afghanistan strategy - comes with an expiration date? To give credence to the myth he ended the Iraq war? To give our enemies a handy timeline for atrocity-planning purposes?

Just what kind of military leader would do this?

The kind who doesn't believe in the fight.

This president appears to believe deep down that this nation lacks moral authority to wage war against Muslim terrorists. He's demonstrated that through actions and words, from the global apology tour his first year to his tirade earlier this month against Christianity at the National Prayer Breakfast.

He still maintains a pathological inability to call out radical Islam by name - if he calls it out at all.

ISIS recently released a video of its mass execution of 21 Egyptian Christians. Egypt responded by launching retaliatory air strikes. Pope Francis said he was horrified the men were "assassinated just for being Christian."

President Obama went golfing.

Radical Islam has grown more threatening under Obama's watch. Iraq and Syria are aflame. Yemen and Libya are controlled by radicals. The Taliban is sitting tight in Afghanistan waiting on Obama to fulfill his promise to remove all U.S. forces.

It sounds like he's looking for an excuse to avoid using the tools at his disposal. It's as if he wants his hands tied so he doesn't have to do anything.

If your foreign policy was that much of a disaster, you'd probably be looking for an out, too.

Congress should refuse to endorse Obama's toothless strategy in Iraq or to impose it on the next president, who will have enough to deal with given the mess Obama has created in the Middle East.

This president doesn't need a new war resolution. He already has everything he needs to fight. Except the will.

What in God's name will it take for Obama to shake off his fear or inertia or disinterest or Muslim sympathies or whatever it is that prevents him from being the world leader he is supposed to be? The world cannot tolerate this barbarity one moment longer, and this man has the power to rally this nation!

Step up and lead, President! The world's innocents are counting on it!

Online:

http://chronicle.augusta.com

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Feb. 24

Miami Herald on immigration in limbo:

A pair of recent federal court rulings should convince Americans on all sides of the immigration debate that reform is an urgent priority. The rulings hamstring the president whether he's trying to enforce border security (to please hard-liners) or to ease the plight of families residing here illegally (to please Hispanics and the pro-reform lobby).

Most of the headlines have been captured by a ruling issued early last week by Judge Andrew S. Hanen, an unabashedly outspoken critic of expanded immigration in Brownsville, Texas, that invalidated the president's executive order on immigration. The ruling stops the government from issuing work permits and providing legal protections to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants. Less well-known is a decision late Friday by Judge James E. Boasberg of the Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. He ordered the Department of Homeland Security to end a practice of detaining most women and children caught crossing the border illegally even if they had applied for asylum.

The earlier ruling is by far the most troubling. Foes of the president's executive order went court-shopping and found Judge Hanen in Brownsville. His anti-immigration views were well-known. His ruling has been derided by legal experts for making basic mistakes on standing and executive authority, including a failure to make a distinction between federal agency rules and executive orders.

The Obama administration rightly decided to seek a stay, sending a signal that it will vigorously defend its actions and the president's executive authority on immigration. But the ruling has once again cast into limbo a large number of immigrants who had made initial moves to seek legal protection under the order.

Then there is Judge Boasberg's ruling, which found that it was illegal to detain families at the border while their asylum claims are processed as a means of deterring others back home. Depriving asylum claimants of liberty for the sake of "sending a message" to others does not meet legal standards, the judge ruled.

To be fair, the judge found no proof that the administration put in place a blanket policy to deny freedom to all asylum claimants along the Southwest border, but there was a clear tendency to do so, resulting in increased detentions. It's hard to blame the administration for wanting to stop what it deemed an invasion of asylum applicants from Central America, but this ruling, as opposed to Judge Hanen's, seems both fair and impartial.

If all this sounds akin to a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario, that's because it is. Neither the sensible, compassionate approach to immigration reform via executive order nor the government's stepped-up measures to protect the borders has been able to clear the first legal hurdle. The president should lay out his next steps Wednesday when he appears at an immigration town hall at Florida International University's Modesto Maidique Campus.

Bottom line: The courts can't fix what's wrong with the nation's immigration system. A political solution is required, which means Congress and the president must work together — what a concept! — to get the job done.

There has been so much mutual recrimination and finger-pointing that optimism seems unwarranted, but it must surely be obvious that there is no practical, reasonable alternative. The problem will get worse the longer it festers. And the going will only get harder when the presidential primary season makes bipartisan legislation impossible to achieve.

Online:

http://www.miamiherald.com

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Feb. 23

Arizona Republic on Kayla's ransom:

Incredible as it may seem, the agony of the Mueller family during their daughter's imprisonment by terrorist kidnappers was worse than we thought.

Those months of uncertainty about Kayla's condition were compounded by the complexities of foreign policy.

As Carl and Marsha Mueller and Kayla's brother, Eric Mueller, told NBC News in an interview broadcast on Monday, the family struggled with the long-standing U.S. policy of not paying ransoms to terror groups.

"We understand the policy about not paying ransom," Carl Mueller told NBC's Savannah Guthrie. "But on the other hand, any parents out there would understand that you would want anything and everything done to bring your child home."

But the government's position against paying ransom would become even more difficult for the family to accept.

Last May, the Obama administration announced it had negotiated the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from his Taliban captors in Afghanistan in exchange for five terrorists held by the U.S. at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

President Barack Obama's willingness to swap prisoners for Bergdahl, said Kayla's father, "was pretty hard to take."

Worse, the deal for Bergdahl prompted Kayla's Islamic State of Iraq and Syria captors to up the ante.

They had been demanding $6 million for her release. Now, they wanted more.

"They realized that they had something," Eric Mueller said.

It is completely understandable that the Mueller family would view the Bergdahl swap as evidence the government should have done something similar on behalf of Kayla.

Every mother, father and brother of a kidnapped family member would react exactly as the Muellers did.

But, for nations, it is different.

As Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said on Sunday, paying a ransom would immediately jeopardize Americans around the world, all of whom would be at risk of being taken as hostages.

It also would put this country in the position of funding the terrorists it is fighting.

The reaction of Kayla's captors to the Bergdahl trade is instructive. Inspired by the Obama administration's willingness to trade for Bergdahl, the Islamic State terrorists immediately believed they could demand more, perhaps including a terrorist imprisoned in the U.S.

According to Carl Mueller, President Obama drew a distinction between Kayla's situation and that of Bergdahl, noting that warring parties traditionally exchange each other's prisoners at the end of hostilities.

Whether the Bergdahl exchange for five terrorists meets that traditional threshold remains a matter of debate. But it clearly incited Kayla's captors to demand more for her release than they had been.

Now extend that. Consider the result if terrorists could take it for granted that they could get something for any American they grabbed.

The world can be an extraordinarily dangerous place, which is something the distraught Mueller family of Prescott knows tragically well.

Harsh as it may sound to them, a policy that condones paying ransom money to terrorists will only serve to make it exponentially more dangerous for everyone.

Online:

http://www.azcentral.com

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Feb. 24

Wall Street Journal on president's veto:

White House aides are whispering that President Barack Obama's veto of the Keystone XL pipeline authorization bill signals a new phase of his presidency, and we suppose they're right. He'll finish out his tenure as a Howard Hughes-like penthouse recluse who is ever more withdrawn from the political and economic center.

The legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline that Obama rejected Tuesday enjoys a broad bipartisan consensus, including support from nine Senate Democrats and 28 in the House. Business, labor unions, most consumers, and ally and trading partner Canada are also in favor of this $8 billion infrastructure project, which will create jobs, strengthen North American energy security and increase prosperity.

Obama is refusing these benefits to bow to the environmental-left fringe that opposes all carbon energy. The reason he gave in a quiet veto message to Congress_no speech, no cameras_was that the bill "cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest." The Keystone has been in regulatory limbo for about 2,300 days in perhaps the most extensive permitting review in the history of American government.

Aside from his green billionaire friends, we suspect Obama also wanted to frustrate what happens to be an incidental Republican priority: The House is 11 votes and the Senate merely four votes short of the two-thirds majority necessary for an override.

The Washington press corps is all but filing profiles of Obama's veto pen (a Cross Townsend roller-ball) and explaining that his wall of vetoes against anything that comes out of Congress is his "strategy" for the next two years. The better way of putting it is that Obama will leave office increasingly isolated, obstructionist and partisan.

Online:

http://www.wsj.com

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Feb. 25

Khaleej Times, Dubai, on the enrichment riddle:

Geneva is once again buzzing with activity. Away from the diplomatic heat in Minsk, Brussels and the United Nations, envoys have calmly resumed their third and final round of deliberations to reach an agreement over Iran's nuclear program. Though the stakes are too high, the good point is that both Washington and Tehran are not talking through the media, which indicates maturity at work. Yet, it is too early to say that both the archrivals are close to a deal. The body language and the political narrative, however, suggests that something is cooking up and the intention is to end up in a breakthrough of sorts rather than going back to blame game politics.

All they have to do this time around is to keep the deadline of July 1 in mind to reach a permanent accord. The Six-plus-One talks under the aegis of the world body is a rare opportunity to address the concerns that hover around the Islamic Republic's ambitious uranium enrichment, which Tehran says is meant for scientific purposes and is not weapon-specific. The fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency and a host of technical experts from respective countries are part of the parleys provides it with due credence to interpret it on a meaningful trouble-shooting module, rather than furthering it as a debate interwoven with political point scoring.

Which is why the broad-based focus is to agree on the acceptable scale of enrichment, foolproof inspection of Iranian nuclear facilities and subsequently scrap sanctions that has kept Iran at bay with the West, especially the United States. The sooner the technical differences are narrowed down, the faster will be the momentum to iron out political issues between the parties concerned. To what extent can they succeed is difficult to guess, but the personal diplomacy between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif has upped the ante.

Kerry and Zarif, as major stakeholders, are at least aware of the fact that their success will go a long way in leaving behind a legacy in their otherwise three decades of troubled relationship. That is why Barack Obama and Hassan Rohani are non-committal until and unless the beans are spilled in Switzerland. It's high time the nuclear riddle is put to rest in all congeniality.

Online:

http://www.khaleejtimes.com