Thursday 17 Oct 2019 | 16:45 | SYDNEY
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Middle East

On Syria, the West must face facts: Russia can help

Western analysts have been at pains to discern Russia's 'real aims' in Syria.  But the best explanation probably remains the simplest: the preservation of the existing Syrian state and its institutions in pursuit of a political settlement that limits the amount of Syrian territory under

Syrian refugee crisis: Time for the G20 to step up

By the Lowy Institute's G20 Fellow Tristram Sainsbury and Research Associate Casper Wuite. Chatham House's Paola Subacchi recently asked why the G20 has not addressed the Syrian refugee crisis. She acknowledges that refugee issues have not historically been within the G20's bailiwick. However, she

Is Russia's growing intervention in Syria a game changer?

The latest analysis of the Syrian conflict from the Institute for the Study of War provides a detailed examination of what it describes (correctly) as a game changer. Assuming its analysis of the military calculus is sound, the questions that remain unanswered relate to the extent to which the

Cambodia and Syria: Every refugee crisis is different

The staggering dimensions of the migrant flow into Europe prompts me to offer a note on the Cambodian refugee crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which I played a small part. I am not suggesting that what happened 35 years ago offers any answer to current challenges. Rather, the

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

Syrian refugees and the Gulf states' lack of charity

The humanitarian tragedy unfolding daily in Europe has forced the West to again try and redefine its obligations to those who have been made vulnerable as a result of conflict in the Middle East, particularly the Syrian civil war. But it may also have stirred a desire to question why the burden

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

Address by Peter Varghese AO - An Australian world view: A practitioner's perspective

On 20 August 2015, the Lowy Institute hosted an address from Peter Varghese AO, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Mr Varghese presented his perspective on key themes in Australia’s Foreign Policy

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

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

Syria: World dithers as new refugee crisis looms

It remains too early to predict the collapse of the Assad regime, or the way in which it might end, although the possibility of 'catastrophic success' on the part of the jihadist opposition is weighing on minds in Washington.  What is clear, however, are grounds for serious concern about the

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

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

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

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

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

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