Friday 21 Feb 2020 | 18:38 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

Middle East

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

Balancing act: Jordan's fight against ISIS

When the video of the murder of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh was released, the King of Jordan was in Washington. This brutal act led directly to discussions about the need to resolve delays to existing US arms deliveries to Jordan. King Abdullah of Jordan attends the funeral of Jordanian

Jordan's youth after the Arab Spring

In this Lowy Institute Analysis, Marty Harris examines political and social activism among Jordanian youth in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings. The Analysis argues that Jordan’s young people are caught between a desire for political change and a fear of instability, and that this tension will

ISIS beheadings are a grotesque media strategy

ISIS is a transitory organisation whose aspiration to lead an Islamic reconquista is doomed to fail. It will eventually be degraded and splinter, some of its members joining the myriad other groups within the jihadist milieu while others fight over what is left of ISIS. One thing of enduring

Turkey's reluctant role in the battle for Kobane

Turkey appeared to take a step closer toward membership in the coalition against the Islamic State on 20 October. It agreed to allow Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters and heavy weapons to transit through its territory to defend the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobane, located less than a mile from the

What's so strategic about Kobane?

If you relied only on the media, you could be forgiven for thinking that the focus of the fight against ISIS has been on the Syrian city of Kobane. This is thanks to the easy access for international media to the Turkish side of the border near Kobane and the resulting images, as well as the work

ISIS and Iraq's chemical weapons

A leading article in the New York Times on 14 October (The Secret Casualties of Iraq's Abandoned Chemical Weapons, by CJ Chivers) details how, on numerous occasions during the US occupation of Iraq between 2004 and 2011, American soldiers encountered Iraqi chemical weapons. The article claims that,

Syria: What is a moderate rebel?

The question of defining a 'moderate' rebel in Syria's civil war bedevils the US as it works to fulfill its plan, announced by President Obama on 10 September, to arm and train anti-ISIS groups in Syria. The term 'moderate' is thrown around with gay abandon without anyone defining exactly what they

Xinjiang and terrorism (part 2): The new threat of ISIS

Beijing's well-documented heavy-handed response to the recent upswing in violence in Xinjiang has been one contributor to the internationalization of the Uyghur issue which I argued in part 1 of this post. President Xi Jinping's call for a 'people's war' to make terrorists 'like rats scurrying

Terrorism at home: The law cannot save us

I picked up my tickets for tomorrow's AFL Grand Final the other day. My team, the Sydney Swans, is playing and I should be excited to be going. Instead, I have been infected by the unease gripping Melbourne. I ask myself, am I taking a risk by attending the game?  We are told by our political

Turkey: Cautious partner in battle against ISIS

Judging from President Obama's 10 September speech announcing the expanded operation against ISIS and the Jeddah Communique that John Kerry hammered out last week, Obama is expecting a lot from Egypt, Jordan and Gulf states like Saudi Arabia. At a minimum, the Communique (which is hardly binding)

The long war in Iraq: A quarter-century and counting

By Professor Tim Dunne and Dr Emily Tannock, both at the School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland Those selling the war against ISIS are likely to point out what is new about the present crisis. First and foremost, they will say, the character of the enemy

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