Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Bob Bowker

Bob Bowker is a former Australian ambassador to Jordan, Egypt and Syria. He is now an Adjunct Professor at the ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies.

Articles by Bob Bowker (17)

  • Syria, a year from now (part 1): The military dimension

    It takes reckless courage to make predictions about Syria. But compared to a year ago, when the survival of the Assad regime looked increasingly problematic, the factors shaping the military and diplomatic outlook in 2016 are somewhat clearer. The Assad regime looks set to remain in place.
  • 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 Russians see their role extending beyond securing their interests along the Syrian coast.  Would they see it as a strategic necessity to secure Damascus, or prevent the interdiction of the highway linking
  • 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 the Saudis, visits to Oman by senior Syrian officials and exchanges between Riyadh and Moscow suggest that a more pragmatic stance may be developing among the regional powers.
  • Syria: World dithers as new refugee crisis looms

    It remains too early to predict the collapse of the Assad regime, or the way in which it might end, although the possibility of 'catastrophic success' on the part of the jihadist opposition is weighing on minds in Washington.  What is clear, however, are grounds for serious concern about the potential mass flight of Alawites and other minorities from Syria should the Assad regime lose its hold on the Alawite heartland along the Mediterranean coast.
  • 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 authority on matters deemed security-related. A new stage has been reached in the contest for the future of the country.
  • Syria: The world must prepare for a new humanitarian crisis

    With the Assad regime now more vulnerable in its fight against rebel groups, there is a strong case for the preparation of contingency plans to deal with a new and even greater humanitarian disaster that may unfold in and around Syria. The potential for a genocide of the Alawites cannot be discounted. But the more likely impending threat is that of a sudden and massive population movement, especially from the western seaboard of the country into Lebanon.
  • 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 shifted in favour of the rebel movements, foremost of which are the al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and the jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham, which is backed by Turkey.
  • More than a nuclear deal: How the US and Iran can reshape regional security

    Whether the interim agreement between Iran and its Western interlocutors lasts the full six months, and what might follow when that period ends, will depend less on the evidence of compliance (from both sides) than on whether, when the initial deadline approaches, all realistic alternatives open to the US and its allies are worse than continuing with something akin to the new framework. Underpinning that calculus, and indeed at the heart of any resolution of the nuclear question, lies a wider s