Wednesday 21 Aug 2019 | 14:34 | SYDNEY
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Rodger Shanahan's picture
People | experts Rodger Shanahan
Research Fellow, West Asia Program
Lowy Institute
Rodger Shanahan's picture
Areas of ExpertiseMiddle East security issues; Political Islam; Shi’a Islam

47 executions: Riyadh sends an aggressive signal

Demonstrators outside the Saudi Embassy, Tehran. (Getty.) After a year in which Saudi Arabia's ability to act as the regional Sunni heavyweight has been increasingly called into question, Riyadh has opened the new year up with a statement of intent, executing 47 people across 12 cities. This was the

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

Looking for leadership in the Arab Middle East

In this Lowy Institute Analysis, Research Fellow Associate Professor Rodger Shanahan examines how Arab Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia, are responding to the Obama administration’s less interventionist approach to the Middle East by adopting a more assertive regional policy aimed at containing

We should bomb Syria because...? (part 2)

In August I wrote a piece for The Interpreter asking what Dan Tehan MP was thinking when, having received some briefings in the US and Europe, he advocated that Australia join a bombing campaign in Syria. Tehan said an expanded RAAF air campaign was necessary to stop ISIS's raping, murdering and

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

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

Syrian refugees and the Gulf states' lack of charity

The humanitarian tragedy unfolding daily in Europe has forced the West to again try and redefine its obligations to those who have been made vulnerable as a result of conflict in the Middle East, particularly the Syrian civil war. But it may also have stirred a desire to question why the burden is

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

America invites Australia to bomb Arabs in Syria

The headline above sounds like something from The Onion, but it's pretty close to the truth. An invitation to attack ISIS targets in Syria came not from the UN, nor even from a regional organisation like the Arab League. Rather, it came from Washington, in a letter dropped off at the Australian

Australia should bomb Syria because...?

The call by Liberal MP Dan Tehan for the RAAF to begin targeting ISIS in Syria, made just after his visit to the US, UK and France (but strangely, not to the Middle East), is somewhat perplexing. The Prime Minister has been notably cagey, not ruling it out or ruling it in, thus giving oxygen to the

Syria: Too many rebel groups spoil the broth

Washington's policy of recruiting, training, deploying, maintaining and supporting armed rebel groups to operate inside Syria in sympathy with Western aims of attacking ISIS while steering clear of Assad regime forces was always ambitious. Without coalition troops accompanying them, there is little

Turkey-ISIS: Safe zones open up new problems

Long resisted by the US for its impracticality and because it was considered too big a concession to Turkish interests, the concept of a 'no-fly zone' in northern Syria now appears to have morphed into a so-called 'safe zone'. The plan, as far as it appears to have been enunciated, involves US and

Iran nuclear deal: What will the neighbours think?

Despite all the backslapping after the marathon Vienna talks, which have resulted in what appears to be a triumphal diplomatic outcome, not everyone is happy. Indeed, Iran and the P5-1 may have found the one issue on which Israel and the Arab states agree: Iran cannot be trusted. Prime Minister

The lexicon of Islamist terrorism

The controversy over the naming rights to 'Islamic State' has been much ado about nothing from the start. The Prime Minister began to refer to Islamic State by its Arabic acronym 'Da'ish' from the beginning of the year, saying that he didn't like 'Islamic State' or 'ISIS' because it was a '

The case against doubling down in Iraq

I'm just concluding a research trip to the Middle East, where the security situation is the most confusing I have ever seen it. I couldn't help but read two articles in the Australian press recently,  and a post on The Interpreter, advocating that Australian troops accompany Iraqi units into battle

Dual-citizen jihadis do not deserve protection

It is right that we should debate such a fundamental issue as the rights and obligations of Australian citizens and the circumstances under which people no longer enjoy those rights. Most of those who have entered the debate so far are lawyers who, quite rightly, take a black-letter law approach and

Why Obama is losing interest in the Middle East

Spare a thought for Barack Obama. In dealing with the Middle East, few if any modern US presidents have been able to find a balance between upholding US ideals and meeting America's practical foreign policy goals. Obama has been dealt a poor hand in the Middle East but has tried harder than most to

What to do with a returning jihadi

BBC report from September 2014. Much has been written in the last few days about what to do with returning jihadis, a conversation sparked by the three jihadis who it is claimed want to return home to Australia. The lawyer of Adam Brookman, one of the alleged jihadists, has predictably stated that

Tareq Kamleh: A medical jihad?

The newly released YouTube video featuring Australian doctor Tareq Kamleh is in many ways just another in the voluminous output from the ISIS media department. But this one has caused discussion here because of who Tareq Kamleh is. Unlike most of the other Australian jihadis we know of, he is well

All the way with KSA?

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal with US Secretary of State John Kerry. (US State Department.) Planning and leading a military coalition is a complex task, and Saudi efforts in Yemen are proving no exception. Such interventions need a defined and achievable aim; simply relying on an air

Saudi Arabia's coalition of the autocrats

Coalitions sound great at first blush. Groups of like-minded states tackling an issue of regional or international importance. And in the Middle East there is no shortage of such issues. But, just as with any wedding or birthday gift, one should not be distracted by the shiny wrapping. We should pay

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