Wednesday 03 Jun 2020 | 06:51 | 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

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

The real reason to strip citizenship

The Prime Minister's National Security Statement included a reference to the possible stripping of citizenship from dual citizens. There has been criticism that such a move will be ineffectual. Peter Hughes claimed it was of limited use because, even though the individuals would be prevented from

Iranian foreign policy under Rouhani

In this Lowy Institute Analysis Rodger Shanahan examines changes in Iranian foreign policy under President Rouhani. He argues that while the Iranian President has changed the tone of Iranian foreign policy, changing the substance will prove much more difficult

Saudi Arabia has a new king with the same old policies

New Saudi monarch King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. (Wikipedia.) With the death of King Abdullah, the Saudi succession machinery has immediately swung into action. The Saudi monarchy prizes stability, and in order to forestall any damaging intrigue regarding succession, particularly in light of

Hizbullah feeling the strain

Hizbullah is likely glad to see the end of 2014. It will be viewed as a year in which its mortality as an Islamist militia was exposed, and its 'post-Israeli withdraw/post-2006 war with Israel' glow began to appear as a distant memory. It faces challenges on several fronts. To begin with, its

Iraq: Time on Washington's side

The saying 'you have the watches but we have the time' is often attributed to the Taliban (or Mauritanian immigration officials), but it is representative of the fact that indigenous armed groups understand that occupations are temporary, while the population is permanent. The UK and France learned

Bahrain basing deal: UK returns to east of Suez

They're baaaaack... UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond used the Bahraini Government-funded Manama dialogue on the weekend to announce the signing of a Defence Agreement with the Kingdom of Bahrain. It is sometimes difficult to discern substance from symbolism in these types of announcements. In

Peace on the horizon for Bangsamoro?

As part of the 'Sectarianism and Religiously Motivated Violence' Masters course which I run at ANU's National Security College, students were asked to write a post on a contemporary sectarian conflict. This piece by Sophie Wolfer was judged the best of those submitted. The end of a 40-year

ISIS beheadings are a grotesque media strategy

ISIS is a transitory organisation whose aspiration to lead an Islamic reconquista is doomed to fail. It will eventually be degraded and splinter, some of its members joining the myriad other groups within the jihadist milieu while others fight over what is left of ISIS. One thing of enduring

Lebanon: The nation and the army

While Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have all felt the heavy burden of hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian civil war refugees on their soil, Lebanon has felt the largest impact on its security from the fighting. Lebanon's complex patchwork of religious communities each has their own external

A Middle Eastern sporting odyssey

When you are an observer and student of a place like the Middle East, it is easy to mix several interests. Does religion, history and politics push your buttons? You won't find a better region for it. Are you a security analyst? There is a surfeit of riches here. A gastronome perhaps? Come on in.

What's so strategic about Kobane?

If you relied only on the media, you could be forgiven for thinking that the focus of the fight against ISIS has been on the Syrian city of Kobane. This is thanks to the easy access for international media to the Turkish side of the border near Kobane and the resulting images, as well as the work

Syria: What is a moderate rebel?

The question of defining a 'moderate' rebel in Syria's civil war bedevils the US as it works to fulfill its plan, announced by President Obama on 10 September, to arm and train anti-ISIS groups in Syria. The term 'moderate' is thrown around with gay abandon without anyone defining exactly what they

Syria: ISIS is not the only problem

Questions abound over what to do about ISIS and whether it should be pursued into Syria (the US has now started hitting ISIS targets in Syria). Concentrating simply on ISIS though, risks misunderstanding the regional nature of the problem and the fact that ISIS is just the strongest of numerous

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

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 put

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 in

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