The re-emergence of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in September 2020 over the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh has taken a much more deadly and destabilising turn than in previous recent outbreaks. A seemingly intractable conflict, dating back to well before the Soviet occupation of the
With an estimated 75 billion cubic metres (BCM) of water annually, Afghanistan is, on paper, a self-sufficient water country. However, the country also “has one of the lowest levels of water storage capacity in the world”. Most of the water from its major river basins such as the Amu,
Book review: Philip H. Gordon, Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East (St. Martin’s Press 2020)
Philip H. Gordon, the White House Coordinator for the Middle East during the Barack Obama administration, and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign
Following the signing of the Abraham Accord between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel, US President Donald Trump last week trumpeted his peace-making credentials at the UN General Assembly. “These groundbreaking peace deals are the dawn of a new Middle East," he declared.
The response to the accord
Turkey’s reimagining of the Pax Ottomana has not made many friends in the region, and it currently finds itself at odds with Egypt, UAE and Greece to name a few. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made very clear his ambition that Turkey will be a leader in the Mediterranean and in
Rumors circling about an impending major partnership between China and Iran seem to be accurate. A leaked draft of the agreement published by the New York Times in July indicates that it would involve a deep economic partnership which would open the door for strategic action. Ample speculation about
The Abraham Accord, the deal announced this month that laid the groundwork for normalisation of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, was hailed as a historic opportunity to advance regional peace. Yet it was also seen by Palestinians as a betrayal, as they bitterly complained that
Respected Australian-Lebanese, Beirut-based journalist Rania Abouzeid tweeted last week that the Maronite Church was replacing windows destroyed in the Beirut blast – but only for Maronites.
Reactions were forceful and mixed. Some said that the claim was simply false, finding evidence of
After the United States experienced a rebuff at the United Nations last week – with almost the entire membership of the Security Council rejecting its attempt to re-impose UN sanctions on Iran – US officials warned that the dispute could lead to a major crisis in the Council, damaging the
After seven years, the informal middle power partnership bringing together Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia (MIKTA), has achieved less than optimists envisioned, but lasted longer than pessimists imagined. MIKTA emerged from the G20 in 2013, bringing together middle powers
The sclerotic Lebanese political system has a way of corrupting those who become involved in it. Last week’s verdict from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon found a Hezbollah member was guilty of the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005, but it did not find that Hezbollah or
The main questions about the normalisation agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced a week ago are why did it happen and what will it change?
It’s pretty clear what US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu get out of the deal – both leaders
Pakistan–Saudi Arabia relations are at a historically low ebb. In November 2018, Saudi Arabia announced a US$6.2 billion loan package for cash-strapped Pakistan. The package included a total of $3 billion in loans and an oil credit facility amounting to $3.2 billion. Then, however, Riyad
The 13 August announcement of a United Arab Emirates–Israel deal to normalise relations was a significant event. But at the same time, it overshadowed a number of other interesting Middle Eastern political and security-related manoeuvres occurring elsewhere.
The agreement itself was an
When you have the privilege of working in international relations, there are some experiences that stay with you for life. There are the places you go and the people you meet. Conversations that start at the roundtable, continue into dinner, and often go late into the night. At airports and hotels,
Despite US President Donald Trump’s claim that the United States no longer needed Middle East oil following the attacks on the Abqaiq production facilities in Saudi Arabia in September last year, the fact is oil from the region does remain important to the US, not only for its own use, but also as
In the early hours of 3 January 2020, missiles fired from US drones killed ten people near Baghdad airport. Drone strikes by the US are almost commonplace these days, but what made this particular strike noteworthy was its target: General Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Quds Force, a unit of
Turkey is increasingly becoming the piece of the NATO puzzle that just won’t fit. President Recep Erdoğan’s particular brand of Turkish nationalist populism has earned him criticism from most NATO members at one time or another. Turkey’s plans for European Union membership seem increasingly
On Saturday last week, following weeks of lobbying by humanitarian agencies and difficult diplomatic negotiations, the UN Security Council renewed its authorisation for the UN and its partners to provide humanitarian assistance in north-western Syria from across the Turkish border. The final
Big moves in the Middle East often seek to take advantage of a favourable political climate in Washington. And there has rarely been as favourable time in Washington for some Middle East leaders as under the Trump administration. But in pro-US capitals across the region, leaders are no doubt bracing
Back in December, US President Donald Trump signed the National Defence Authorisation Act, which included was a set of measures known as the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act, or Caesar Act. It was so labelled after the codename of a Syrian defector who had exposed evidence of Syrian government
With so much else going awry in the world, it’s perhaps easy to forget that the Syrian civil war is rolling on into its tenth year. Scholars and policymakers have long been despondent about the prospects for an end to the conflict and the bloodshed it has caused. Bombs continue to fall on schools
In April, the UN Security Council issued a statement endorsing the UN Secretary-General’s call for a ceasefire in Yemen to better enable a response to Covid-19. The Council recognised that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen made the country “exceptionally vulnerable”, and that any further
In his recently published book, MBS: Mohamed bin Salman and the Rise to Power, New York Times Beirut Bureau Chief Ben Hubbard details how the favoured son of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has upended the kingdom’s ultraconservative society and reimagined its place in the world – but not
Given the increasingly familiarity of video conferencing during working from home arrangements, we thought to take the opportunity to commence a new series of interviews with key policy makers and observers in world affairs. To kick off, we were fortunate to interview Brett McGurk, currently a
Remarkably, for all the international attention on the plight of the Yazidi back in 2014 as Islamic State ravaged Iraq, it has taken until now, six years later, to bring the first charges of genocide.
A trial commenced last month in a German court of a man accused of murdering a Yazidi girl traded
Iran’s initial reaction to the coronavirus pandemic was sluggish, and its fight with the outbreak has been chaotic and inefficient. US sanctions undeniably played a role in cutting off Iran’s access to medical equipment and expertise, medicine, and tests, but the crisis has also displayed the
The ramifications from the oil war that has pitted Saudi Arabia against Russia but also dragged in the United States may end up being most significant for Riyadh. To misquote Oscar Wilde, “To lose one war may be regarded as misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness.”
The coronavirus pandemic has hit the heart of Europe. The severity of the virus has forced policymakers to shift their priorities almost exclusively to the home front. As a result, international security concerns, particularly the fight against the remnants of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which had until
The War on Covid-19
In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the mobilising language of war is being used by leaders from UN Secretary-General António Guterres and World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to France’s President Emmanuel Macron and British
Early efforts to contain Covid-19 focused on quarantining those travelling by air, leaving the impression of coronavirus as a disease mostly affecting stable and industrialised nations with busy transport networks. Of course, the danger was always more widespread, particularly in
The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up some serious moral questions for society, including ones to do with decisions on treatment priorities for health workers under severe pressure. But another moral issue has arisen in the international relations field – in the midst of a pandemic, how appropriate
Little has surprised me more than spending my Saturday night Googling how to buy tickets to watch a game of football in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – perhaps only that it was for a female football league announced by the Saudi sports authorities just last week. That I might stand in a stadium in
The novel coronavirus Covid-19 dominates not only the media headlines in Europe but the everyday life of just about anybody. In the federalist European Union, it is still up to the individual states, often also their parts – Bundesländer, Départements, Provincie, or whatever they are called –
As the Syrian Government intensifies its offensive against Syria’s Idlib province, the final opposition stronghold in the nine-year old war, diplomats and UN officials are running out of words in their attempts to convey the severity of the crisis to the UN Security Council. The UN Emergency
The Syrian conflict has once again shown just how complicated it can be, along with the ramifications if one side seeks too much change to the status quo.
Syrian government forces, with Russian assistance, have been waging a months-long campaign to capture key parts of rebel-controlled Idlib
In the inner-urban Beirut suburb of Gemmayze, the Friday lunch crowd walks past Syrian child beggars on their way into a popular French restaurant. The beggars are ignored by the diners and shooed away by the wait staff, as the diners’ Range Rovers and Porsche Cayennes are parked by a
The rise of Asia and growing superpower competition pose serious challenges for countries such as Australia and Israel, and they should face them together. On the one hand, Asia’s economic dynamism offers access to new and growing markets; on the other hand, changing regional dynamics in Asia have
Israel has often been called the only democracy in the Middle East. This is not quite true.
The Economist’s Global Democracy Index for 2019, which ranks 167 countries by five democratic criteria, lists Israel as a “flawed democracy”.* Israel scores well on electoral process/pluralism and
In an opinion piece published in Project Syndicate, Lydia Khalil describes how the governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia have suppressed unfavorable information to hold on to power. But the experiences of Iraq and Lebanon suggest that this approach has limits in political systems that depend on
Out of print
In the latest casualty of Lebanon’s ongoing political crisis, the country’s only national English-language newspaper, The Daily Star, has temporarily ceased publishing its print edition. In an announcement, the editors cited financial challenges and a drop in advertising revenue
For close observers of business in Australia, one particular moment has become folklore, the time Australia’s then richest man Kerry Packer sold off television station Channel Nine for $1 billion – a price seen far in excess of its value at the time in the 1980s – to a man who would later go
Jason Rezaian was correspondent for the Washington Post in Iran from 2012 to 2016 – only for more than 18 months of that time, he was unjustly held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, in the same wing where Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert is presently locked away on accusations of
Recent revelations make it clear that Iran’s willingness to confront the US following the strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad was not driven just by a mix of domestic considerations and a compelling desire to retaliate. Iran’s bluntly open challenge to the US may have been
In the immediate aftermath of the Soleimani strike, Iran’s first act of retaliation was to launch 22 missiles against the US base at the Ain al-Assad airbase, in Iraq’s Sunni-dominated Anbar province. Less publicised were the seven simultaneous Iranian strikes against targets
Of all the unfortunate events of last week’s hostilities between Tehran and Washington, the most tragic was undoubtedly Iran’s use of a surface-to-air missile to shoot down an airliner, killing 176 people. But this accident was not the most strategically significant development of those days
The briefing provided by the aerospace commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Command (IRGC) regarding the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was revealing for both what it told and what it didn’t tell us. To begin with, the incident appears to have been a tragic operator
The US drone strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani dominated the political discussion in Washington last week. President Trump’s decision to target Soleimani – an escalatory move in the ongoing confrontation with Iran – was an unexpected development.
The conventional wisdom was
The killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike on 3 January in Baghdad has sparked fears of a regional war between Washington and Tehran. Iranian military commanders have declared that Iran was in no hurry to retaliate and would choose its targets