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The West Asia Program

The West Asia program provides original research on developments in the Middle East and Central and Southwest Asia, including as they impact on Australia. Central research issues include relations between West Asia and East Asia, the Arab uprisings and geo-political change in the Middle East and Australia’s relations with the Gulf.

Experts

Latest Publications

The Middle East in 2016 (part 1): Levantine limbo

This is the first post in a series of seven on the Middle East in 2016. The first three will look at what I think will happen in the region this year; the second three will discuss how I think Western countries should respond; and a final post will discuss Australian policy. To understand what will

Syria: The gift that keeps on giving

The official announcement today that the government would refuse a US request for additional assets to be deployed in the Middle East against Islamic State came as little surprise. These types of requests rarely come out of the blue, and it is likely that Washington was aware of what Canberra’s

Turkey has got Syria wrong — again

The shooting down of the Russian aircraft by the Turks and the subsequent death of two Russian servicemen briefly got the tabloids talking about World War III but in reality this was never going to blow up into a direct military confrontation between Moscow and Ankara. What it did demonstrate, once

Obama's Syria critics ignore inconvenient facts

It is fashionable to criticise Washington's approach to the Syrian civil war. In his memoir, former US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta described President Obama's approach to Syria and Iraq as flawed. Obama has been roundly criticised for his 'tentative' approach to Syria. A piece on this site

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

Australia's Iraq deployment: Pragmatism over principle

The Prime Minister's unsurprising announcement of an Australian military commitment to the US-led anti-Islamic State (IS) coalition answered a few questions and raised others. I think the justification for military intervention in Iraq is relatively straightforward, but the environment within which

Obama's strategy: First thoughts

It's fair to say that President Obama is a reluctant commander-in-chief and sees the Middle East as a place where the limitations of US military force are most apparent. So his speech  tonight on America's strategy against Islamic State (IS) was from someone who wishes he didn't have to deal with

Quick Comment: PM Abbott's visit to India

This week the Lowy Institute's International Security Program Director Rory Medcalf and Research Associate Danielle Rajendram discuss Prime Minister Tony Abbott's visit to India. The visit marked an acceleration of the Australia-India relationship, with a deal for Australia to sell India uranium

Syria and Iraq: Why did Obama bring religion into it?

In this fast-paced world of media grabs, it is easy for selective quoting to misrepresent what leaders say. In his 28 August press conference for instance, when President Obama was asked whether he needed Congressional approval to go into Syria and attack Islamic State, he said 'I don't want to

Air power to the fore in the Middle East

As a former Army officer, my service bias has always made me a believer that only events on the ground matter. The air force is a great enabler but rarely the decisive factor. But my experience of the Middle East has also taught me the value that many governments place in air power. In the Gulf

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

Obama's intervention: Iraq is not Syria

The limited use of military force announced by President Obama earlier today was likely prompted by concern at the success of ISIS's latest offensives across Syria and Iraq. The jihadist group has recently redoubled its efforts in Raqqa, Syria, in an effort to take the remaining pockets of Syrian

Gaza: Searching for a ceasefire (mediator)

The latest Gaza war is heading into new and bloody territory with no end in sight. As with previous conflicts in Gaza (and in Lebanon for that matter), both sides are engaged in what amounts to a brutal negotiation. For Israel it is about how much of Hamas' rocket and tunnel infrastructure it can

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