Friday 21 Feb 2020 | 16:20 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

Middle East

Obama and ISIS: Snowden leaks reveal tough choices

  Though the US President will be the last to trumpet it, a revelation from the Edward Snowden National Security Agency dossier unveiled late last month might provide some context for the difficulties he faces in plotting a course of action to counter the threat of the Islamic State (IS) movement

The Islamic State's media logic

The horrific images surrounding the gruesome execution of the US journalist Jim Foley are dominating the headlines. The Islamist group had several reasons for doing what they did, and when they did it. It reinforces the Islamic State's reputation as the baddest Islamists of them all, a useful tool

Baghdadi's caliphate is a mirage, but a damaging one

ISIS has released video of its leader Abu Baqr al Baghdadi appearing at a Mosul mosque (pictured) during Friday prayers last week, claiming to be the caliph, or leader, of the Muslim faithful and calling himself Caliph Ibrahim. Carrying the supposed moniker of 'the invisible sheikh' is great for

Syria: Implications of the retreat from Homs

Last week's surrender by opposition forces of their remaining foothold in the old city of Homs once again focused attention on the devastation wrought by three years of conflict on Syria. Pictures of the damage inflicted on the old city are reminiscent of World War II, and with each passing day it

Syria: There's method in Assad's election madness

The Syrian Government's successful effort to re-take the Qalamoun area from opposition forces was designed with two aims in mind: to reassert government control over an area abutting Lebanon that resupplied opposition forces close to Damascus, and to maintain military momentum in advance of

Next-gen jihad in the Middle East

In this Analysis Lowy Institute Research Director, Anthony Bubalo, argues that the current turmoil in the Middle East is incubating a new generation of jihadists. In many respects the current conditions in the region are worse than those that saw the emergence of al-Qaeda. 

Lebanon: Second front in the Syria war

This weekend's blast at an army checkpoint on the outskirts of Hermel, claimed by Sunni jihadists, is just the latest in a series of vehicle-borne suicide attacks aimed at largely Shi'a areas in Lebanon. Last month a suicide bomber got through to Hermel and killed four people. And things could

Syria: Here endeth diplomacy

The Vietnamese, in their battles with US forces, used to talk of the need to 'hug the belt', or to engage so closely with US ground forces that the Americans' overwhelmingly superior firepower would be blunted through fear of hitting their own men. In Syria, the opposition has largely 'hugged the

Splitters: Syria's Pythonesque Islamist opposition

One of many great scenes from The Life of Brian was the depiction of the schism among anti-Roman groups that resulted in the standoff between the Judean People's Front, the Judean Popular People's Front (splitters!), and the People's Front of Judea (splitters!). It was a not-so subtle reminder

Syria and the Geneva conference

The so-called Geneva II conference ended last Friday.  The key to any negotiation regarding Syria is to aim low and keep one's expectations realistic. It is fair to say that UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi's (pictured) aim was simply to get two of the sides in a room.  His claim that he didn't

Syria: Is Assad the solution?

As Syria stumbles into its third year of conflict, President Assad continues to bank on his belief that the longer he remains in power, the more likely that the opposition will be seen as a combination of Islamists, carpetbaggers, proxies and miscreants, and that the West will somehow reluctantly

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