Saturday 14 Dec 2019 | 19:10 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

West Asia

Movie trailer: The Attack

The Attack is a Lebanese (and French, Qatari and Belgian) production about an Israeli surgeon of Palestinian descent who discovers that his wife was a suicide bomber. Powerful stuff: The film recently premiered in Jerusalem but apparently there is little interest from Arab-world distributors

Iran: Rouhani needs willing foreign partners

Dina Esfandiary is an Iran specialist and a Research Associate in the Non-proliferation and Disarmament programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, was sworn in last Sunday. To slogans of 'Ahmadi Bye-Bye', President Ahmadinejad stepped down

African Islamic world in turmoil

Dr Daniel Woker is the former Swiss Ambassador to Australia and now a Senior Lecturer at the University of St Gallen. It took the presidential elections of 28 July in Mali (now entering a run-off phase) to bring the western frontier of the Islamic world to the attention of the world's media

Is there any point to an embassy?

Over the weekend the US closed many of its embassies in the Middle East and North Africa as a result of what was described as a serious al Qaeda threat. Given the number of times US embassies have come under attack in the last decade or so, and certainly in the post-Benghazi era, it would seem hard

Middle East: Indyk back on board

Marty Harris is an Assistant Digital Editor at the Lowy Institute. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Middle East and Central Asian Studies from ANU. Secretary of State Kerry today formally appointed Ambassador Martin Indyk as US Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations. Ambassador Indyk

Food security and Australian land

Cynthia Dearin is Managing Director of Dearin & Associates, a consulting firm focused on investment and cultural ties with the Middle East and North Africa. In the last five years the world has witnessed two major spikes in food prices, one in 2007-2008 and another in 2011. In October 2012, the

The coming Afghanistan mess

Anatol Lieven in the New York Review of Books: In one respect, we are in a much weaker position than the Soviets in 1989. They could leave behind a rather formidable Pashtun dictator, Najibullah Khan. We have committed ourselves to holding presidential elections in Afghanistan next year—

Israeli film festival, Sydney

My thanks to reader Markus for a link to TimeOut's coverage of Sydney's upcoming Israeli film festival (13-27 August). Among the films on show is a documentary called The Gatekeepers, about Israel's internal security service, Shin Bet. We showed you the trailer back in February. Here are trailers

Gulf states: The money or the vote?

As political unrest and violence hits much of the Arab world, the Gulf states (with the exception of Bahrain) have been able to sit back more or less serenely and use their immense wealth to stave off any serious calls for political reform. This week it was reported that the Saudi Government

Freelancing in Syria

Thanks to reader Olivia for steering me towards this breathtaking piece of writing from Italian journalist Francesca Borri on the front line in Syria. The Italian editors she describes are clearly fools for dismissing Borri's opinions; we need to hear more from her: People have this romantic image

Egypt: An Islamist insurrection?

Bob Bowker is a former Australian ambassador to Jordan and Egypt. The events of the past week in Egypt raise serious questions about the capacity of the political system in that country and elsewhere in the Arab world to contain, through constitutional means, the struggle between Islamists and

Islamists and modernity in the Arab world

Bob Bowker is a former Australian ambassador to Jordan and Egypt. Antipathy between those Arabs who engage in politics and adopt lifestyles framed within an Islamic discourse ('Islamists') and those who do not underlies much of the current political contest in Egypt. It has a fundamental impact on

Egypt: Coup de-fault

Overnight in Egypt the military suspended the country's constitution and removed President Mohammed Morsi from power, following massive popular protests. It is clearly a coup, even if the military has, I suspect, mounted it reluctantly: on the one hand not wanting to run the country again, on the

Hugh White's Middle East doesn't exist

I really enjoy reading Hugh White's work on regional security, but as a Middle East analyst, he makes a good China pundit. While I agree with Hugh that these are troubled times, the Middle East is hardly in the process of disintegrating. Hugh's view that modern state structures are collapsing

Syria: West takes sides in sectarian war

In 1968 a US Army major said of the attack on Ben Tre that 'It became necessary to destroy the town to save it'. Whatever the accuracy of the quote, it summed up well the popular perception that the US in Vietnam had lost sight of the value of human life, and thought only in terms of short-term

Somaliland: Where sovereignty means something

Sarah Phillips, a Senior Lecturer at Sydney University, is in Somaliland conducting research. She is grateful to the Developmental Leadership Program for funding. All photos by Sarah. Even as a political scientist, sovereignty is not something that captures a lot of my attention in the course of a

Trailer: The Impossible Image

Above, some footage from a new documentary called The Impossible Image, interspersed with commentary from photographer Richard Mosse, who took the unusual step of traveling to the Democratic Republic of Congo to photograph the civil war on infrared film. I loved this quote from Mosse: Of

Syria: It's the ground war, stupid

The Syrian civil war is a land battle. Comparisons with Libya and talk of no-fly zones (NFZ) as some kind of low-risk game changer ignore this fact. As the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff noted recently, 90% of the casualties inflicted by the regime (and 100% of those killed by the

Afghanistan's women: Patchy gains under threat

Susanne Schmeidl is co-founder of the Afghan NGO, The Liaison Office. In 2009 Afghan President Hamid Karzai enacted, by presidential decree, a law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW). The law, which provided broad protections for for women and girls from a range of violent actions

Rouhani: The style/substance divide

Hassan Rouhani's first-round success in the Iranian elections has sent an strong message to the regime. On the face of it, the process went well. Having ensured that the list of candidates was not going to offer any existential threat to the system, Ayatollah Khamenei needed to ensure that this

Iran: Presidential election preview

Dina Esfandiary is an Iran specialist and a Research Associate in the Non-proliferation and Disarmament programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Next Friday Iran will hold its presidential election. Since 21 May, eight pre-approved candidates have been battling it out to

Advice to McCain on Syria: Trust no one

It sounded so perfect. The hawkish Republican war hero John McCain visiting rebel-held Syrian territory to show the locals that not all US politicians are lily-livered liberals who have doubts about arming the Syrian freedom fighters. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which McCain is a

Will Obama settle for Assad?

One of the paradoxes of the Syrian crisis has been the way Russia and China have worked determinedly to prevent America from doing something that it clearly does not want to do. I asked a diplomat from a P5 country about this in New York a few weeks ago. He said that while it was clear Obama did

Syria: Hizbullah's line in the sand

Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah's speech on Sunday (which the Iranians would have you believe was watched by Obama live) merely formalised what everyone has known for a while now: Hizbullah and its chief sponsor Iran no longer believe Assad is a lost cause. During my recent trip to

Eight is enough: Iran's elections

Iran's Guardian Council has stayed true to form, rejecting the vast majority of the 600 candidates who nominated to run in next month's presidential elections and approving just eight. The most contentious refusal was that of the former two-term president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who held the

Australia's consular conundrum in Dubai

The harsh sentencing of Australian businessman Matthew Joyce in Dubai yesterday brings into sharp relief the Government's messaging on consular matters and the problems it encounters regularly in dealing with what I've called Australia's consular conundrum. The conundrum is multi-dimensional,

India Poll 2013: Big threats, big expectations

Danielle Rajendram is a Research Associate in the Lowy Institute's International Security Program. Today the Lowy Institute, in partnership with the Australia India Institute, has released the results of a nationally representative opinion poll on Indian attitudes towards their future in the world

Syria: A week is a long time

In order to make any sense of a conflict it is necessary to take the long view; snapshots at any particular time can skew one's perspective. But having said that, this week has been of particular interest for Syria watchers because of the range of issues raised, all of which further illustrate why

Iran elections: Rise of the guardians

Given Australia's unofficial nine-month long election campaign, it is worth noting that, six weeks out from the Iranian presidential election, the names of the candidates are not even known yet. Registration of presidential candidates was conducted between 9-11 May, at which point the Guardians

Trailer: Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips tells the story of the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009, which was eventually brought to end by US Navy SEALs in what was interpreted as an early foreign policy victory for the new Obama Administration. The Wikipedia page on the hijacking tells a pretty hair-raising story, and

Free and fair? Pakistan's election woes

Alicia Mollaun is a PhD Candidate at the Crawford School at ANU. She has lived in Islamabad since 2010. Photo is by the author. Back in Australia, our election day concerns usually revolve around timing our vote so that we can get a parking space at the local school, avoiding how-to-vote

Syria: Claims, damned claims and reality

I wrote previously about the philosophical reluctance of President Obama to use US power unless key US interests were at stake. Martin Indyk's excellent talk at the Lowy Institute last Thursday gave us more insight into the way Obama views the Middle East in general, and Syria in particular. It

Indyk, Fullilove, Obama and Corleone

'80 percent of life is showing up', said Woody Allen. But did he have any advice about leaving? As my post from last Thursday made clear, I was more than pleased I showed up to Martin Indyk's speech on the Middle East and the Obama pivot, the full video for which is now available above and on

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