Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 06:53 | SYDNEY
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Defence Intelligence and Security

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

Australia-South Korea 2+2 delivers ambitious agenda

One week ago – a long time in politics – the South Korean and Australian foreign and defence ministers held a '2-2' meeting in Sydney. This high-level biennial conclave for the first time included a detailed Blueprint for progressing the bilateral defence and security partnership. That 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

To effectively counter ISIS online, we need a narrative

Back in April, Fergus Hanson highlighted the glaring need for a global response to ISIS in the cyber domain, and welcomed the announcement of an $18 million initiative to counter extremist propaganda online from the Australian Government. Last month Defence Minister Kevin Andrews announced the

Reflections on the 2015 Lowy Lecture: Greater Asia

Delivering the 2015 Lowy Lecture in Sydney yesterday, General David Petraeus outlined a thought-provoking grand strategy for 'Greater Asia'.  Geographically, Petraeus defines Greater Asia along a maritime axis from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Japan, but also overland 'from Western Russia to

The Syrian conflict is a civil war, and R2P won't help

In recent days both Bob Carr and Gareth Evans have publicly argued that Australia has a 'moral obligation' to bomb Syria. Of the two, Evans' position is clearly the more thought through, pointing to ample 'grey areas' in the legal justification, and providing sober reflections about the efficacy of

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

Talisman Sabre 2015: Bigger and more amphibious

Exercise Talisman Sabre is winding down, bringing to an end two weeks of high tempo US-Australia war games around the continent. Held on alternate years, Talisman Sabre is the most important bilateral set-piece exercise between the ADF and US forces. Beyond its training value, the exercise serves

Iran nuclear deal: Surrendering to grim reality

The conclusion of the Iran nuclear deal – or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to give it its formal title – has already guaranteed us one thing: mutually assured hyperbole. Barrages of outrage were being fired even before the deal was signed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

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

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

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

New Defence Guidelines re-brand US-Japan alliance

The US-Japan Defence Cooperation Guidelines are best thought of as an occasional re-branding exercise for the US-Japan alliance in response to changing strategic conditions. Following a review, a revised version of the Guidelines was announced on 27 April. The 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation

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

The coming nuclearisation of the Indian Ocean

While the world focuses on the dangers that a nuclear-armed Iran could present in the Middle East, a potentially more dangerous and unstable nuclear proliferation is occurring in the Indian Ocean. In the coming years India, Pakistan, and perhaps China will likely deploy a significant number of

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

Do we need 'full-spectrum defence'?

The first thing to say about Alan Dupont's recent paper is that he is absolutely correct about the dire condition of Australian strategic policy. As he suggests, we lack a coherent answer to the most basic question of all: 'What do we want our armed forces to be able to do?' Until that question

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

The destructive power of nuclear weapons

My generation doesn't think much about nuclear weapons, disarmament and the consequences of nuclear-weapons use. Some certainly do, but generally, the cause of nuclear disarmament is being carried on by an older generation.  I think that's a problem. Nuclear weapons seems like an old issue, from

Who or what is a 'leading military planner'?

During my Army career I was a military planner. I worked on lots of plans. Most were never executed, but others were. Some were standing plans that were annually revised, while others were worked up at the behest of someone higher up the operational chain. I got to know the ADF planning process

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

Should the West arm Ukraine?

Should the West arm Ukraine against Russian-backed rebels? That's a question guaranteed to generate earnest debate among armchair foreign policy pundits. But it also found its way into the just-concluded 51st Munich Security Conference. Chancellor Angela Merkel, Munich Security Conference, 8

Australia and UN peacekeeping: Time for a reset

The UN is the go-to organisation for virtually every forgotten international crisis. While the West has struggled on in Afghanistan and Iraq, the UN and its peacekeeping missions have been deployed to just about everywhere else: Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Darfur, Mali, Liberia

Australian recognised by UN's chemical weapons watchdog

A scientist and WMD expert with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), Dr Robert (Bob) Mathews, has been honoured by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for his contributions to chemical weapons disarmament in a ceremony on 1 December in The Hague. Dr

Defence challenges 2035: Securing Australia's lifelines

By Rory Medcalf, Director of the Lowy Institute's International Security Program and James Brown, Military Fellow Debates on Australia's defence policy have long oscillated between two schools: one focused on the physical defence of Australia's territory and its immediate maritime approaches, the

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

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

Is Abbott spreading Australia too thin?

Two months ago, as Prime Minister Abbott's globalist reflexes were becoming increasingly apparent, I offered a perspective from Washington that the US should welcome a more prominent role for Australia on the world stage. I argued that America's steadfast ally had unique normative, diplomatic and

Abbott's first year: What the pundits get wrong

So, the first-year assessments are in, and it seems the Abbott Government has done well on foreign policy. Mark Kenny says Abbott has established 'a solid profile as a man of purpose' on the world stage. Michelle Grattan says Abbott 'has shown an unexpected sureness on the international stage'.

Five fallacies in Australian thinking on Iraq

An RAAF C-130H Hercules deploys aid to civilians in northern Iraq. (Image courtesy of the Department of Defence.) There's a lot to be concerned about in the way Australia is approaching the decision to intervene militarily in the civil war engulfing northern Iraq and Syria. There has been scant

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