Wednesday 12 Dec 2018 | 01:23 | SYDNEY
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Middle East

Review: lessons for Australia and Britain from Iraq War

Book review: Blunder: Britain’s War in Iraq, by Patrick Porter (Oxford University Press, November 2018). Clausewitz famously pointed out that war is a continuation of politics or policy by other means. Hannah Arendt wrote that “policy is the realm of unintended consequences”. Patrick

Endgame for Dubai

Dubai is the most visible of the seven small principalities forming the United Arab Emirates. But it’s the neighbouring Emirate, Abu Dhabi, that has the oil, money, and power. UAE’s decision-makers hail from the dominating al-Nayan family of Abu Dhabi. The de facto ruler of Abu Dhabi,

Yemen, Khashoggi, and the deadly Saudi trade

“Wait, let’s take a picture!” Osama Zeid al Homran shouted to his friends. In the video the boys, aged six to eleven, are laughing and joking with one another on the bus on the way to an excursion to celebrate the end of term at their school in Sa’dah, a region of Yemen bordering on Saudi

Concerns over Saudi Arabia go far beyond Khashoggi

For the past 14 years, the small Gulf nation of Bahrain has convened sheikhs, soldiers, statesmen, and the occasional humble researcher for the IISS Manama Dialogue to discuss matters of strategy in the Middle East. The forum’s traditionally anodyne tone was punctured this year by the murder of

Jamal Khashoggi: shifting law in a deadly turf war

The alleged extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi, and the international condemnation that followed, reflects not only rivalry in the Middle East, but also greater anxiety about the direction of liberal democracy and the international rule of law more broadly. Last week, US President Donald

The one Iran deal the US should keep

For all the talk about the broken nuclear deal, it might seem a surprise to learn of an old agreement between the United States and Iran that is still in force. The move to dismantle international agreements only makes diplomacy harder and belligerence easier. The US-Iran Treaty of Amity,

Pakistan: indebted to China, Saudi Arabia, and IMF

Saudi Arabia was the first country Imran Khan visited after assuming office as Pakistan’s new Prime Minister. As he made the trip last month, he asked for financial help for Pakistan’s turbulent economy. Soon after his return, it was announced that Pakistan had invited Saudi

European companies driven out of Iran

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is considering a review of Australia’s support for the Iran nuclear deal. The news comes after US President Donald Trump announced the US withdrawal in May from what is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The US has subsequently

Mahathir: Uighurs “have done nothing wrong”

Horror stories have trickled out of China’s Xinjiang province for years. Now research points to a flood of human suffering and disturbing human rights abuses. Yet with threats of China’s economic retribution, many countries have been reluctant to voice concern against Beijing. With

Australia’s Israel-Palestine conflict

Labor was quick to pounce on a “desperate” Scott Morrison to accuse him of breaking “bipartisan foreign policy” after the prime minister flagged the prospect that Australia could recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Which is true enough on the specifics. But broad questions

What should Australia do about Saudi Arabia?

Now that the shock of the news that Riyadh may have been so bold as to kill one of its American-based critics inside its consulate in Istanbul has largely sunk in, thoughts inevitably turn to what can be done to express disgust. Naturally this will need to await the outcome of the Turkish

Where’s Jamal?

Even by the standards of Saudi politics, the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi is head-scratchingly bizarre. He entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last Tuesday, supposedly to sort out paperwork for his upcoming marriage. He hasn’t been seen since. The Saudi consul-

The danger of mission creep in Syria

One of the ten principles of war taught at all military colleges is “Selection and Maintenance of the Aim”. It sounds simple enough, but when the principle is not adhered to then things often go awry. Think the invasion of Iraq – was the aim to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, or to

EU and Iran push back against US sanctions

Europe has fired a shot across the bow of USS Trump in its joint press conference held yesterday with the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif at the UN. The announcement that Europe would set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to facilitate European trade with Iran in accordance with EU law, with the

The crowded skies of Syria

The downing of a Russian Il-20 aircraft off the Syrian coast this week with the death of 15 personnel is another reminder of the cost to Moscow of its pro-regime military intervention. A little over six months ago, nearly 40 Russians died when a transport aircraft crashed on approach to

Trump to take on Iran at UN Security Council table

As it happens, the United States holds the presidency of the United Nations Security Council during the annual diplomatic gabfest at the UN General Assembly. Traditionally, that means the president of the US can choose to chair a Security Council meeting if he or she desires to spotlight a

Conspiracy and cronyism: Turkey’s economic spiral

Hours before the Thursday’s decision by the Central Bank of Turkey to raise its benchmark rate 625 basis points to 24%, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched into one of what is now a trademark tirade against higher rates. He denounced interest rates as “a tool of

Idlib – the (nearly) final frontier

The latest front to attract the wavering interest of the international community in the Syrian conflict is Idlib, a province where the population of rebels of various ideological stripes and their dependents has grown every time the regime of Bashar al-Assad has bludgeoned and negotiated its

Libyan elections: another Gaddafi

In March, officials of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Libya announced that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, would stand as a candidate for the Libyan presidential elections expected in December. The news was greeted with caution and even scepticism

Dollars for Syria

Bashar al-Assad’s forces have continued to re-assert government control over most of the major population centres in Syria, yet these cities and towns remain only partially functional and in no fit state to host their former residents. But there has been some interesting manoeuvring

Yemen and the drone innovation

As Yemen’s deadly conflict grinds on, exactly how much assistance the Iranians are providing the Houthis is open to conjecture. The Saudi-led coalition is keen to portray the Houthis as agents, rather than allies, of Iran. And while there is certainly strong evidence of technology and

Saudis try block Canada’s feminist foreign policy

Twitter has come to play a central role in how nations conduct their affairs, with the social media site an active component of policy projection, direct communication, and diplomacy. While analysts look to distinguish between actual policy that is created by the White House and the “

Bomb, bomb Iran

In this rather strange ABC News article that appeared on Friday, it is reported that “senior figures in the Turnbull government” claim that Washington could bomb targets in Iran as early as next month, and that Australia would assist in target identification. Bombing undisclosed

Egypt’s new media law is ahead of the curve

Last week, Egypt’s parliament passed three new media laws allowing the presidentially appointed Supreme Council of Media to monitor and “supervise” users with more than 5000 followers on social media platforms. The new laws were ostensibly passed in order to curb disinformation, or

The US shadow over India’s Iran policy

At a recent event in New Delhi, Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations, called Iran “the next North Korea” and urged India to rethink its relationship with the Islamic Republic. This was followed shortly afterwards by an American delegation, led by Assistant Secretary for Terrorist

Turkey must be thinking of the Bomb

Actors not invested in the Western liberal order are enjoying a period of resurgence. While analysts chase meaning in US President Donald Trump’s many erratic policies, there are some threads of consistency, including his affection for strongmen and his scepticism about the existing economic

Reform in Saudi Arabia: will MbS squib it?

For many months, Saudi Arabia’s young tyro Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) has given the impression he is a very different kind of Saudi leader: more dynamic, more decisive, and, most importantly of all, more transformative than his predecessors. Mohammad bin Salman is

Syria: extinguishing the flame of the revolution

More than seven years after Deraa became the cradle of the Syrian uprising, the city has effectively surrendered to regime forces. Its final days reflected a familiar pattern, where Damascus was able to bring heavier firepower to pummel the armed opposition groups into submission

Make or break: UAE in Yemen

Last week, Associated Press published a particularly shocking report on abuse and torture by United Arab Emirates (UAE)–supported forces in a number of Yemeni prisons, adding another depressing layer to the conflict’s enormous scale of human suffering.  The UAE and its

The sports make-over

Before a ball had even been kicked at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, star Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah was courted for a photo-op with Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov. Big international sports tournaments have been a familiar platform for countries to attempt to normalise global

China’s rising interests in Qatar

It has been a year since Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar. Saudi Arabia and the UAE led the boycott, instituting an economic and trade embargo that isolated Qatar by air, land, and sea from its neighbours, sternly restricting Qatari-bound

Understanding what is important

I am very grateful to the authors who engaged so thoughtfully with my Lowy Institute Paper, Remaking the Middle East. Their articles raised many important points, not all of which are possible to respond to in this reply. I agree with Lydia Khalil that what’s missing at the moment in the Middle

Challenges mount up

Across the Arabic-speaking world, repression comes naturally to regimes under threat, be they governments, patriarchs of families, or other holders of privilege. Within the realm of government and security apparatuses, and even beyond such circles, there is deep anxiety about the question of

Risk and reward in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict

After 70 years of waiting, Israel has finally achieved the international recognition it has long sought for Jerusalem as its capital. Though only a handful of staff will work from there initially, and no major nations are likely to relocate their own embassies any time soon, the opening of a United

Method in Trump’s madness on Iran

There has been widespread condemnation of US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, including from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who expressed “regret”. Besides having ramifications for US relations with European powers, Russia and China, who all

Can Europe salvage the Iran deal?

Trump finally did it: in perhaps one of the most ridiculous moves of his presidency (although competition on that front is fierce), he announced that his administration would remove the US from the Iran deal and reimpose all nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. This is not only a gross violation of

I (nearly) ran Iran

Between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu beaming six-foot-tall PowerPoint slides declaring “IRAN LIED” into people’s homes via television, and President Donald Trump’s new national Security Adviser penning a New York Times op-ed titled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb

Power of youth

Research on the Middle East, where wars are being waged between and within all sides, is already rich with discussion about where things have gone wrong. Arguably, Anthony Bubalo’s Remaking the Middle East provides an unpopular future perspective amid the more racy and immediate

Iran’s May Day

The deadline looms for the Iran nuclear deal. US President Donald Trump will have to decide by 12 May whether to continue to waive sanctions against Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). What Trump will do is unclear, and his intention was clouded even more by

Trouble ahead

Anthony Bubalo’s optimism about the Middle East’s future is grounded in the notion that spontaneous cultural, social, and entrepreneurial initiatives that emerge across the region will provide the momentum and drive necessary for positive change. While what he dubs as “green shoots” are

Decay and new growth

In his latest Lowy Institute Paper, Remaking the Middle East, Anthony Bubalo deftly weaves together the various threads that have made and unmade the modern Middle East, positing that the 2011 Arab uprisings were not brought about by individual conflicts, trends, or political actors, but rather were

Europe: the movers and the shakers

The way in which the European Union and its member states responded to recent strikes by the US, France, and the UK on Syrian chemical weapons targets very clearly exposes the strengths and weaknesses of European power. One or two Europeans are movers, but most are shakers. When it came down to

Syria strikes: mission accomplished?

The US military claims the ability of the Syrian regime to use chemical weapons has been set back “for years” following strikes on Saturday. Given it is just one year since the US last struck Syrian targets following a chemical weapons attack, the latest claim won’t wash for many.

In Syria, Trump must collude with Russia

President Donald Trump is under enormous pressure to respond militarily to the latest provocation by the Assad regime, but he would do so against all of his instincts and earlier pronouncements to end US military involvement in the Syrian war. Just days before the chemical attacks in Douma,

Rouhani, Erdogan, and Putin’s bizarre love triangle

It appears a new regional security order is encircling Syria as the civil war grinds into its seventh year. This shift was visible last week, when the leaders of Turkey, Iran, and Russia met in Ankara to discuss solutions to the Syrian crisis. The detailed talks covered de-escalation zones

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