Monday 25 Oct 2021 | 18:47 | SYDNEY
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Middle East

Yemen: the search for leverage after Afghanistan

Concerns are growing about the ramifications of the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The ripple effects of the pull-out and its urgent consequences have bolstered Islamist ambitions – not only in Afghanistan but beyond. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of a “real danger (

AfPak’s back, alright

In 2021, it’s positively tinfoil hat territory to utter the phrase “deep state”. But they’re the words that come to mind when reading about developments in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is getting comfortable back in the halls of power, Pakistan expresses jubilation at home, and Pakistani

China – a lonely superpower

As the United States, United Kingdom and Australia move to form a new AUKUS grouping, various reports have emerged of a “new Quad” led by China and featuring Iran, Pakistan and Russia. Iran’s imminent admission to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and plans for the four countries to

Iran’s energy diplomacy

Much is made of Iran’s use of proxy or allied groups to exert “hard power” influence throughout the Middle East where Tehran believes its interests are under threat (Lebanon), or sees an opportunity to exert greater influence (Syria, Iraq), or to act as a spoiler (Yemen). But far less is made

Did 9/11 change our world?

We asked six experts, “Did 9/11 define our world? If so, how? If not, what did?” After each of their responses to these questions, editor Lydia Khalil challenges the experts with questions that delve deeper into their rationales and reasons

Narrowing the field in Iran’s election

Iranian presidential elections can throw up some surprises even with the restricted choice of candidates that are normally on offer. But the options this year for the 18 June poll seem more limited than usual. Of the 592 people who nominated to run in the 16 June Iranian presidential elections, only

Saudi Arabia wins back Pakistan

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Saudi Arabia last month, the official reason being to establish the grandly named Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council and give strategic direction to bilateral ties – yet in reality a scramble for the chance to reset relations between two

How Gaza occupies Indonesia’s identity wars

Indonesia’s public debate over the issue of Palestinian rights was reawakened by the latest violence, which claimed at least 243 lives in Gaza and 12 in Israel before an eventual ceasefire. Social media was especially animated by vehement arguments as most Indonesians – 86.7% of whom identify as

The challenge to the Abraham Accords

For countries party to the so-called Abraham Accords – the series of diplomatic agreements that normalised relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco and were much-lauded by the Trump administration – the latest outbreak of violence between Israel and the

Iran-US-Israel: Boxing out of the shadows

Just as the negotiations between Tehran and Washington appear to be making some, albeit slow, progress over the United State rejoining the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, several incidents between Israel and Iran have again highlighted just how actively the two

The US and the Rules-Based Order: Testing the plan

US President Joe Biden this month issued an Interim National Security Guidance which will, in his words, “convey my vision for how America will engage the world”. He has directed departments and agencies “to align their actions with this guidance”. This document also provides some answers

An oil spill nobody owns

What does the continuing, low-intensity conflict between Israel and Iran have to do with the mysterious oil spill that has washed ashore along the coast of Israel and southern Lebanon in recent weeks, leaving a costly ecological disaster? Nothing at all was the first assumption. But as more

“Repair and Build”: Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq

The chronicles recount that, while praying in the little dilapidated church of San Damiano, Saint Francis of Assisi heard a voice: “Francis, go repair my church, which as you can see is in ruin.” Like his namesake saint, Pope Francis will travel to Iraq from 5 to 8 March on a double-repair

Syrian stasis

Of all the Middle East challenges facing the new Biden administration, Syria is unlikely to be at the top of the list. With the territorial defeat of Islamic State, it appears that a sort of benign neglect has marked Washington’s approach to the country. Some have argued that the continued

Iran nuclear deal: Revenge of the diplomats

Joe Biden has so many competing priorities to address after four years of Donald Trump that it is hard to know where to start. Biden will naturally have an immediate focus on domestic issues but some foreign policy challenges will demand his attention earlier than others. One of the most urgent is

Al-Qaeda: The core problem

For year after year, the moustached face Abu Mohammed al-Masri has stared blankly from a photo on an FBI most-wanted poster. A founding senior member of al-Qaeda, al-Masri was responsible for the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that left more than 200 dead. Also known as Abdullah

The fallout of assassinating Mohsen Fakhrizadeh

Political assassinations require considerable preparation and planning. It is almost certain the killing last week of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the Iranian nuclear program, was timed to avoid cancellation of the hostage exchange involving Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert. The

Nagorno-Karabakh: Peace – for now

Six weeks of renewed fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh ended last week after Russia brokered a trilateral agreement with the warring parties. Baku is trumpeting its victory on the field of battle and at the negotiating table, while Yerevan is

The G20’s existential crisis

2020 could be defined as a year of global crises – health, political, environmental and economic. The G20 is caught among all four, and how the forum responds raises questions about whether it is facing its own existential crisis. With a chaotic US election and presidential transition as well as

Iran’s year of reckoning

After sexual assault allegations calling out more than 100 men, including prominent members of Iranian society, first appeared on social media in August, women in Iran are having their own #MeToo moment, and the movement is gaining publicity. The latest high-profile figure to be accused of sexual

The other Arab diplomatic talks with Israel

Much publicity has been given to the news about Israel’s normalisation of relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and now what appears to be Sudan. But another set of bilateral negotiations has also recently occurred between Israel and an Arab state, which has garnered far less attention

The false promise of regime change

Book review: Philip H. Gordon, Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East (St. Martin’s Press 2020) Philip H. Gordon, the White House Coordinator for the Middle East during the Barack Obama administration, and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign

What is Turkey’s endgame in Libya?

Turkey’s reimagining of the Pax Ottomana has not made many friends in the region, and it currently finds itself at odds with Egypt, UAE and Greece to name a few. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made very clear his ambition that Turkey will be a leader in the Mediterranean and in

A China-Iran bilateral deal: Costs all around

Rumors circling about an impending major partnership between China and Iran seem to be accurate. A leaked draft of the agreement published by the New York Times in July indicates that it would involve a deep economic partnership which would open the door for strategic action. Ample speculation about

The bleak reality of sectarian Lebanon

Respected Australian-Lebanese, Beirut-based journalist Rania Abouzeid tweeted last week that the Maronite Church was replacing windows destroyed in the Beirut blast – but only for Maronites. Reactions were forceful and mixed. Some said that the claim was simply false, finding evidence of

A diplomatic breakdown over “snapback” tests the UN

After the United States experienced a rebuff at the United Nations last week – with almost the entire membership of the Security Council rejecting its attempt to re-impose UN sanctions on Iran – US officials warned that the dispute could lead to a major crisis in the Council, damaging the

Where next for MIKTA?

After seven years, the informal middle power partnership bringing together Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia (MIKTA), has achieved less than optimists envisioned, but lasted longer than pessimists imagined. MIKTA emerged from the G20 in 2013, bringing together middle powers

The Hariri verdict and the fate of Hezbollah

The sclerotic Lebanese political system has a way of corrupting those who become involved in it. Last week’s verdict from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon found a Hezbollah member was guilty of the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005, but it did not find that Hezbollah or

Hidden seams in the UAE-Israel deal

The main questions about the normalisation agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced a week ago are why did it happen and what will it change? It’s pretty clear what US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu get out of the deal – both leaders

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