Tuesday 17 Sep 2019 | 18:14 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

Quick comment: Rodger Shanahan on Neil Prakash

We are learning more about the arrest of the Australian terrorist, Neil Prakash, in Turkey late last week. Writing in The Australian yesterday, Paul Maley revealed the Australian Federal Police anticipated Prakash would try to cross from Syria into Turkey and were on hand in Ankara to help confirm

Neil, an Australian terrorist

The detention of Neil Prakash is of significant interest to Australia but perhaps less so for other countries. At this point, so little is known among open sources about the circumstances of his capture that it is difficult to make definitive statements about what it means. There are certainly many

Jakarta rally exposes division among Islamic State loyalists

By Nava Nuraniyah, an analyst at the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), Jakarta. Extremist groups have failed to exploit the 4 November Islamist protest against the Jakarta governor in order to spark sectarian conflict. In fact, the rally has deepened internal

Why Indonesian extremists are gaining ground

If anyone wonders why Indonesia has been ineffective in curbing extremism, the anti-Ahok campaign provides an object lesson. In the name of demanding that the Jakarta governor be prosecuted for blasphemy, it brings together violent extremists, moralist thugs and powerful political interests. And

Correcting for market failure in terrorism insurance

After the 9/11 attacks, there was a market failure in the terrorism insurance arena: insurance and reinsurance companies around the world, including in Australia, progressively withdrew cover for terrorism risk. As the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O'Dwyer recently

Syria: It's what isn't being said that's of interest

The Government's announcement yesterday that it would conduct air strikes inside Syria is notable more for what it didn't say than what it did. It was long on rhetoric, but short on detail, and lacked any semblance of strategic vision or acknowledgment of the potential impact on the situation inside

Greste, the West and 'the republic of darkness'

Over the weekend an Egypt court found Al-Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed guilty on charges of operating in Egypt without a press licence and of ‘spreading false news’. Greste and Fahmy were given sentences of three years in prison; Mohamed was given three years

Will the RAAF be assisting the Syrian Army?

The Syrian Arab Armed Forces (SAAF) are fighting ISIS in eastern Syria. Australia is planning to bomb ISIS targets in eastern Syria. But Australia will not be involved in the broader conflict in Syria involving the Assad regime. If this doesn't appear to make sense to you it's because the concept

Iran nuclear deal opens door for Syria diplomacy

The US and Russia are reportedly promoting a concert-of-powers approach to new negotiations over Syria. Although any movement toward a political solution will be limited by the unwillingness of ISIS and other Islamists to engage in such a process, recent intelligence contact between the Syrians and

Taliban factionalism rises after Mullah Omar's death

The recent confirmation of the death of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the symbolic leader of the Taliban, has added fresh uncertainty to Afghanistan's fledgling peace process.  There were already signs that Taliban unity was under stress, and the internal disagreements that have emerged since the

Turkey-ISIS: Safe zones open up new problems

Long resisted by the US for its impracticality and because it was considered too big a concession to Turkish interests, the concept of a 'no-fly zone' in northern Syria now appears to have morphed into a so-called 'safe zone'. The plan, as far as it appears to have been enunciated, involves US and

Is the war on ISIS coming home to Turkey?

Monday's suicide bombing in the Turkish town of Sucuc on the Syrian border, blamed on militants from ISIS, marks a significant deterioration in Turkey's national security. While not the first attack blamed on Islamist militants inside Turkey's borders, it was the deadliest in two years, killing at

Is Egypt falling into an Islamist insurrection?

Islamist insurrection has returned to Egypt. There has been a significant growth in the sophistication of the targeting, conduct and lethality of terrorist acts, a crisis of political legitimacy for the Egyptian Government, and the virtual abandonment of any separation of executive and judicial

Rumours of a Turkish invasion of northern Syria

There is heightened speculation in Turkey about a long-debated military intervention in northern Syria, where Kurdish forces are battling militants from ISIS. Both pro- and anti-government newspapers are reporting that Turkey is mulling sending up to 18,000 ground troops into Syria. The two

Attribution is key to broader ISIS strategy

The suicide bombing of a Shia mosque in Kuwait, shooting of Western tourists in Tunisia, and a beheading and attempt to blow up a chemical factory in France. Three continents, three different attack methodologies and three different targets, but ultimately the same result. The death of innocent

Who are you calling radical, radical?

Fear of ISIS, faltering economies and resentment over rising immigration from war-torn Iraq and Syria has resulted in a surge in right-wing populism in Europe and the UK.  Here in the UK, following the departure of three sisters with their nine children to join ISIS, and the emergence of the first

Assad's regime is brittle, and it may fall fast

It is not yet possible to say whether, when and how the Syrian regime may fall. But recent military setbacks, and an objective analysis of the challenges the regime faces in the longer term, strongly suggest that its future is increasingly precarious. The momentum of the military conflict has

Are peace talks in Afghanistan slowly taking shape?

In a positive sign for political reconciliation in Afghanistan, an Afghan Government delegation recently met with Taliban representatives in Qatar – ostensibly for a research conference, but most likely to discuss the commencement of formal peace talks. Representatives from Pakistan also attended

Countering ISIS online

When you look at the global response to the threat of ISIS, a glaring gap is the cyber domain. The internet has been critical to the terrorist group's success. It allows it to communicate unfiltered to the rest of the world, for onward mass dissemination by the media. It helps the group radicalise

Just how absurd is the Middle East at the moment?

Even for long-time watchers of the Middle East like myself, the region's enmities and alliances have become very difficult to keep track of. This has just been taken to a mind-bogglingly new level by Saudi Arabia's decision to launch a military campaign in Yemen against the Houthi movement. Last

Are the Khmer Rouge and ISIS similar?

Elliot Brennan's comparison between the Khmer Rouge and ISIS raises a number of questions. No one is more aware than I of the terrible cost of Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. It was a period that devastated a country I knew well, and which led to the death, as Elliot rightly

The shrinking space for piety without violence

The deliberate recruitment of women by ISIS certainly brings a new twist to radicalism. It is something that al Qaeda never quite got the hang of. It is worrisome, because it reveals the long-term ambitions of the group – to create a new generation of radicalised men and women. Why is it

The worrying parallels between the Khmer Rouge and ISIS

In an excellent exploratory piece by Graeme Woods in The Atlantic this month, he notes in passing the similarities between ISIS and the Khmer Rouge. It’s a worthy comparison – further highlighted by ISIS’ destruction of antiquities as reported last week – and something that merits a

Boko Haram: The later years

Since 2010, Boko Haram has acquired increasingly sophisticated weaponry, grown its ranks, and expanded its capacity to attack a variety of targets, primarily in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram´s links to international networks, including al-Qaeda, became known to the Nigerian public in March

Applying the right lessons to Iraq

The Australian Government's announcement that 300 additional troops will be sent to Iraq to help train the Iraqi Army has brought forth the usual public commentators, myself included. My view is that all those who see ISIS as evil should be prepared to commit military and other resources to oppose

How does the Arab world view ISIS?

Syrian friends here in Lebanon often tell me that some Syrian refugees have chosen to leave Lebanon and return to parts of Syria that are under ISIS control. These anecdotes usually emerge as part of a larger conversation about why ISIS still receives support in some Arab countries, albeit often

ISIS is the least of Afghanistan's problems

The growing geographic spread of ISIS has lately been part of the news chatter in tabloids and respected papers alike. We know ISIS has tried to spread its propaganda to Pakistan and Afghanistan since late 2014 and proclaimed its leadership of that region in early January, with members of the

What is New Zealand's mission in Iraq?

On Tuesday New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced in parliament that New Zealand would deploy a non-combat military mission to Iraq as part of the US-led coalition against ISIS. The 'Building Partner Capacity' mission to help train the Iraqi Security Forces will be part of a joint (albeit

Julie Bishop goes to Tehran

To everyone's surprise, it was announced on Monday that Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop intends to travel to Tehran in April 2015. The visit isn't about the nuclear negotiations with Iran. After all, while Australia would rather not see Iran go nuclear, it isn't exactly a foreign policy

Treat terrorism like crime, not war

Earlier this week Anthony Bubalo suggested that a debate is needed about how to properly counter terrorism in liberal democracies, and more specifically how to achieve the proper balance between security and civil liberties when confronting violent extremism. This is part 1 of my response. The

The French Intifada

Nicole George's perceptive pointer to 'La Haine' on The Interpreter as a way into the fraught world of the contemporary France's banlieues is a reminder of the fact that a sizeable section of French society is alienated from the social mainstream by a combustible mix of religion, ethnic origin and

Police massacre threatens Philippines peace deal

The best chance for peace in Muslim Mindanao in the Philippines has just noticeably faded. The deadly clash in the early morning of Sunday 25 January between the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police and the local command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the

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