U.S. politicians reach bipartisan consensus: shwarma is delicious

When it comes to U.S. foreign policy in the Arab world, Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much -- be it arming the Syrian rebels or brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace. But the shwarma -- shaved, spit-roasted meat wrapped in doughy pita and smothered in toppings -- has managed to win the hearts of American politicians from both sides of the aisle.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stopped into a West Bank restaurant to grab one of the tasty sandwiches as part of a trip to the Middle East. The AP reports:

Kerry chomped one of the meat sandwiches after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. 

Asked what toppings he wanted, Kerry said, quote, "I want everything. I'm all in." 

After the first bite, Kerry declared, "Fantastic." 

For those who closely follow the intersection of shwarma and politics, Kerry's ecstatic reaction may have brought to mind an earlier instance of  shwarma consumption by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). On a 2012 trip to Libya, McCain rapturously tweeted:


Not convinced of the shwarma's unique power to straddle America's political divide? Just look to its more contentious cousin: falafel.

During his March trip to the Middle East, you may recall, President Obama whipped up a minor controversy when it was announced that he would be dining on the fried chickpea dish with Israeli President Shimon Peres. One Palestinian chef, angry that the dish was being presented as typical Israeli cuisine, told reporters, "We, a group of Palestinian chefs, are prepared to counter this flagrant Israeli attack on our culture by preparing the official dinner for presidents Obama and Abbas." He offered to make a dinner for the American and Palestinian leaders that would "reveal the fallacious claims of the occupation and its continuous attempts to rob our folklore, this time in the presence of the president of the biggest country in the world."

If only Obama had opted for shwarma.

State Department/Flickr


Obama's counterterrorism policy, by the numbers

According to the New York Times, President Barack Obama will use his big counterterrorism speech on Thursday to sharply curtail the administration's targeted killings. Going forward, the strict criteria used for approving strikes on American citizens abroad will govern drone strikes on all suspected militants.

The new policy represents a serious shift for a president who has come to rely on drone strikes in remote areas far from traditional battlefields to take out the alleged leaders of al Qaeda and its affiliates. But how does the new policy fit into Obama's broader counterterror strategy? As you listen to Obama's address today, consider the following figures from Obama's time in office:

375: Drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan

241 - 592: Civilians killed in Pakistan as a result of drone strikes

57: Al Qaeda and Taliban commanders killed in airstrikes in Pakistan

1: Al Qaeda chief killed

1,861*: Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan

80,000: Syrians killed in the country's civil war 

166: Detainees currently being held at the U.S.-run prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba

103: Gitmo detainees on hunger strike

86: Gitmo detainees cleared for transfer

6: Individuals prosecuted for disclosing classified national security information to reporters -- double the number under all previous U.S. presidents combined  

5: Jihadist terror attacks -- either carried out or foiled -- on American soil (the Boston Marathon bombing, the Times Square bomb plot, the underwear bomber, the Ft. Hood shooting, and the cargo bomb plot)

48**: Terrorist attacks in the United States

16: People killed in jihadist terror attacks on American soil (three in Boston and 13 at Ft. Hood)

1: Ambassadors killed in the line of duty

1: Wars ended

* Includes the month of January 2009, when President George W. Bush was still in office 

** Includes preliminary data through 2012 as defined by the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland

Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images