Saturday 19 Oct 2019 | 20:44 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

Middle East

US policy on Lebanon should be to keep calm and carry on

Last month a suicide bomber was stopped in his tracks in a cafe in the heart of West Beirut in a scene worthy of a Hollywood action thriller. The man from the city of Sidon in South Lebanon was thrown to the ground in the busy Costa Coffee café in Hamra by the Lebanese Armed Forces, who

Merkel's Faustian bargain with Erdogan

Angela Merkel’s visit to Turkey last week was met with wide-ranging scepticism. It was the German Chancellor’s first visit since the failed coup of July 2016, to which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded with an uncompromising offensive of suppression and violence. Having obtained the

The problem with any US strategy on Syria

The problem the United States has always had in crafting a Syria strategy is that Washington never possessed sufficient leverage to ameliorate Bashar al-Assad's behavior. Providing arms to opposition groups provided some leverage (but was always fraught because of the lack of

Once were moderate, vetted warriors

The day before President Obama left office, a US Air Force B-52 bomber struck a training camp used by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), the al-Qa'ida affiliate in Syria. The number of casualties varies: the US military put the total at around 100 while others cited lower figures. But as well as JFS, there

Plenty of ghosts at the table in Astana

Day one of joint Russian-Turkish sponsored Syrian peace talks concluded early this morning Australian time in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana with limited progress. Expectations for the talks are modest: the strengthening of a shaky ceasefire that came into place late last month late last month

Syria and the problem with numbers

Syria has already been referred to as the most socially-mediated conflict ever. But while most have viewed Syria through this lens (often because it's the platform favoured by reporters), social media has proven to be a poor substitute for accuracy. The problem, of course, is that objective news

The Interpreter's best of 2016: Syria

It was another year of war for Syria, one in which the tide swung from forces opposed to the Assad regime back to the Syrian military and those aligned with it. The Lowy Institute Research Fellow Rodger Shanahan made sure Interpreter readers knew not just what was going on but what it meant. In the

EU-Turkey relations: A decade of reversals

After the European parliament’s overwhelming vote to freeze Turkey’s EU accession process, the European Council summit that will get underway later today in Brussels will debate relations between Turkey and the EU. For economic and strategic reasons, both the EU Council and the Turkish

Middle East diplomacy: Assad will have to be included

While the intensity of violence in Syria may wind back in 2017, the transactional qualities and dilemmas of Middle East politics and diplomacy will be even more evident. The Syrian government’s ruthless application of siege warfare against the rebel forces in East Aleppo is expected to see the

'First we take Aleppo, then we take Idlib'

The gradual isolation and strangulation of Aleppo is part of a much broader strategy that has taken shape over the past year, albeit in the case of Aleppo on a much different scale. The actions follow a familiar pattern: encirclement; cutting off military and life support functions; limited

Egypt back on the brink

Six years after the revolution in Egypt that demanded bread and social justice, the country is on the brink again. With inflation at a seven-year high, a foreign exchange crisis that has led to food shortages, and debt and the deficit rising, the country is facing its worst economic and financial

Retaking Raqqa: Facts on the ground

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has turned from a state of strength, expansion, and influence to a position of fragility, weakness, and retreat. As the Iraqi forces encircle Mosul, ISIS’s last stronghold in Iraq, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have announced the launching of an

Trump and the Iran nuclear deal

The election of Donald Trump raises many uncertainties about the future direction of US foreign policy, including nuclear weapons and nuclear non-proliferation. A major aspect of this is the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), concluded between

A very Lebanese presidency

Whenever I think the Australian political scene has plumbed new depths of hopelessness I can always be reassured that at least we haven’t reached the level of bloody-mindedness and self-centredness that marks out Lebanese politics. After 29 months without a president, a parliamentary vote

Retaking Mosul will be hard, but Raqqa will be harder

Today Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop observed that the Mosul offensive is an 'important milestone' in the battle against Islamic State; there is no doubt retaking the city would seriously dent both IS capabilities and morale. But it would not be a fatal blow. The Iraqi Army and its

Where the Russian intervention in Syria is headed

Russian President Vladimir Putin is well on the way to achieving several objectives of his military intervention in Syria. Russia has ensured the survival of the Assad regime, its only Arab partner, without loss of Russian personnel to the rebels or becoming mired in a ground conflict. In doing so

Iran and Russia: Not an easy relationship

Iran’s relationship with Russia has been characterised as many things, ranging from a ‘marriage of convenience’ to a ‘long-lasting alliance’. In reality it's a  pragmatic working relationship forged between two countries that  have faced similar political and economic pressures

Confronting Turkey: The looming challenge for the West

Turkey’s relations with its Western allies and partners, with the lone exception of Netanyahu’s Israel, are on a steep slide towards open hostility. Millions of first and second generation Turks live and work in Europe as either refugees or as guest workers and it is geographically too close not

Major political change on the horizon for Turkey

In one poorly organised show of lukewarm force, Turkey’s failed coup plotters have provided President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with the catalyst for major political change.  For Erdogan, it vindicates years of conspiratorial rhetoric around the ‘deep state’, which prompted two high-profile

Reset: Why Erdogan is mending (some) fences

Economics and ethnic solidarity both played a role in the rapprochement reached between Israel and Turkey and economics is also a motivating factor in Turkey's recent overtures toward Russia. There is a reason why Turkish President Recep Erdogan refers to a 'common history and common culture'

Turkey: Erdogan poised for triumph in feud with PM

Turkey's ruling party, the AKP, announced last week that it would hold an 'extraordinary congress' on 22 May where Ahmet Davutoglu would be replaced as prime minister. The announcement follows a year of growing friction between Davutoglu and President Recip Tayyip Erdogan after the June 2015

Quick comment: Indonesian students in Egypt and Turkey

In this quick comment, the Lowy Institute's Anthony Bubalo and his co-authors, Sidney Jones and Navhat Nuraniyah from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict,  discuss their recent Lowy Institute Report that examines the effect of the current turmoil in the Middle East on Indonesian

Saudi Arabia goes to war

Saudi Arabia's recent actions have caused a great deal of anxiety within its region. On 4  February, a military spokesman suggested that Saudi Arabia was ready to send troops ground troops to fight ISIS in Syria. A week later Saudi Arabia announced that it will send combat aircraft and soldiers

Syria: The gift that keeps on giving

The official announcement today that the government would refuse a US request for additional assets to be deployed in the Middle East against Islamic State came as little surprise. These types of requests rarely come out of the blue, and it is likely that Washington was aware of what Canberra’s

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

Pages