Monday 18 Jan 2021 | 17:43 | SYDNEY
People | experts Rodger Shanahan
Research Fellow, West Asia Program
Lowy Institute
Areas of ExpertiseMiddle East security issues; Political Islam; Shi’a Islam

Memo to soldiers: Don't die during an industrial relations dispute

I know that Australian soldiers dying isn\'t good news, but I used to think it was at least newsworthy. Until yesterday, that is. When news of three dead and seven wounded Australian soldiers collides with a Qantas shutout, guess which event dominates the media? I looked at the SBS and ABC

Women who resisted the Arab Spring

In looking at the role of women in the Arab Spring it would be remiss not to touch on the spouses of autocratic rulers. Are they silent witnesses to the rule of their husbands? Are they partners in it? Or just beneficiaries? Looking outside the Arab world, few wives have suffered

Women in the Arab Spring (part 3)

Co-authored by Grace Williams, an intern in the West Asia Programme Lowy Institute and student of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Sydney. Part 1 of this series; part 2. Egypt\'s women have been a focus of media attention in the Arab Spring, but women have a long history of activism in

Hizbullah visits the Duma

The Arab Spring has presented even more dilemmas for Russia than it has for the West. Commercial considerations have to a large extent dictated its response to events, along with a desire to stymie advantages that may accrue to the West as a result of its interventions. Since acceding to the NATO-

Friday funny: White men can't haka

Nowadays the All Blacks use the Maori haka as the ultimate intimidatory weapon before kicking off in test matches. It is a challenge to a fight, and the intensity in the eyes of All Blacks of both Maori and European heritage can stir the soul and intimidate opponents. But way back in the

What did the Quds Force agent say to the Mexican drug baron?

If it wasn\'t so serious, it would almost be funny. This week\'s revelation that the US has uncovered an Iranian Quds Force plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the US — by using an Iranian-American failed used-car salesman to sub-contract out the task to a Mexican drug cartel —&

Women in the Arab Spring (part 2)

One of the imponderables this early in the life of the Arab Spring is the degree to which the political upheavals will result in substantive, rather than cosmetic, improvements to women\'s political roles in the Arab world. My first post on this subject argued that, while women have invested in

Women and the Arab Spring (part 1)

I promised to write a series of posts on women and the Arab Spring and this is the first, dealing with the role of women in the protest movements themselves.  The greatest difficulty in writing about women and the Arab Spring is to understand the degree to which they have been moving

Rugby reveals consequential minnows

Sport is one of the few avenues open to the world\'s minnows to make their mark by competing with top countries. Some have earned an enviable reputation as a result. There are not too many times that the US would be nervous about taking on Jamaica in anything, but in the 4x100m relay the Caribbean

A democracy gulf in the Gulf

In an opinion piece in The Drum, Lowy Institute Non-resident Fellow Dr Rodger Shanahan writes on the way Gulf rulers are approaching the issue of popular participation in government.The Drum, 22 September 2011

Women in (every) uniform

The announcement by Defence Minister Stephen Smith opening up all ADF employment streams to women may upset some of the \'not in my day\' brigade, but in reality it will likely have minimal impact on the ADF. Forget the faux arguments based on cultural issues, gender bias, group cohesion or even

A democracy gulf in the Gulf

In a year of dramatic change in the Middle East, in which the desire for revolutionary political change is still being expressed in several Arab countries, it is educational to see that, away in the east of the Arab world, the Gulf states are addressing this phenomenon in the traditional Gulf way&

Now wait just a minute...

I was going to go on with my \'Women in the Arab Spring\' posts but thought that, given I am being used as an online Kewpie doll, it may be apposite to say a word or two.  Before people start looking at my name and imputing gender bias and condescension, I would like to point out

Women and the commentariat

The lack of female commentators in international relations has been raised this past week at the Lowy Institute. Between reading the papers, examining one\'s bellybutton lint, baiting civilian strategists and working out where to have lunch, conversation sometimes turns towards such issues

Who wears the (Aussie) pants in Libya?

My thanks to the eagle eye of colleague Anthony Bubalo who brought this interesting photo of Saif al-Islam Qhadhafi to my attention. Jubilant after his reappearance in front of the media in Tripoli after news of his arrest was apparently greatly exaggerated, he appears to be wearing

Troops should be kept in Middle East

In an opinion piece in The Australian, Lowy Institute Non-resident Fellow Dr Rodger Shanahan writes that a small regional military base in the United Arab Emirates makes sense.The Australian, 18 August 2011, p. 8

Is R2P really O2P?

Imagine two Arab cities of approximately 700,000 people, each surrounded by the military forces of autocratic regimes intent on crushing rebellions against its rule. In one case, the West mounts an argument based on the concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and the UN authorises \'all

Civilian strategists: What in a name?

It appears my post about civilian strategists brought a couple of these elusive beasts out of the woodwork. And bravo to Crispin Rovere for having a crack at defining what he thought a civilian strategist was. Still, after reading his response and that of Closet Idealist, who didn\'t

Enduring ties and enduring interests?

Largely as a consequence of military deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Australia has developed strong defence ties with key GCC countries. But with these deployments coming to an end, the future is in question

Syria: Responsibility to express outrage

The current round of deaths the Assad regime is inflicting upon the Syrian population should illustrate the hollowness of the concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P).  While one could hardly disagree with the concept of R2P, the conditions necessary for its implementation exist so

Strategic corporal or tactical strategist?

A friend of mine, still in uniform, was reading an Interpreter debate thread about the utility/futility of our presence in Afghanistan and asked me what I thought was meant when one contributor wrote about the \'...lack of mutual understanding (that) has underwritten much of the tension

Saudi: The economy that ate itself

Riyadh has an oil problem – it is consuming too much in order to power its electricity grid, reducing Saudi Arabia's capacity for export as worldwide demand for its product increases.  Saudi Arabia's domestic oil consumption has increased from 3.4 million barrels per day (bpd)

The Levant energy dispute

As if they didn\'t have enough to argue about, Israel and Lebanon are squaring off over another border dispute. But this one may prove to be even more intractable than the arguments over the Shebaa Farms, because this time there are significant resources involved. The Levant Basin may well

Hizbullah hits some speed bumps

Hizbullah in many ways represents the ultimate challenge for Western intelligence agencies — a high payoff target with information of direct security interest to Washington and some of its closest allies, and the opportunity to shine a light on the links between the organisation and its

Washington, Riyadh and the Arab Spring

For a country that believes in its own exceptionalism and its ability to export individualism and liberty, supporting popular revolts against autocratic rulers provides some distinct foreign policy challenges for the US. The growing assertiveness of Saudi Arabia is perhaps at the top of

More to do in Oruzgan

In an opinion piece in The Age, Lowy Institute Non-resident Fellow Dr Rodger Shanahan argues that we must stay the course in Afghanistan as a withdrawal now would harm our interests.The Age, 14 June 2011, p. 11

Yemen short spring season

In an opinion piece in The Drum, Lowy Institute Non-resident Fellow Rodger Shanahan writes on the potential for the flowering of democracy in Yemen.The Drum, 6 June 2011

Vanuatu strange bedfellow

I\'m no South Pacific specialist, nor am I an expert on the former Soviet Union, but when those two worlds collide, I think it\'s only fair that someone should highlight the fact. And in our very own backyard, Vanuatu has been doing its best to bring the attention of Georgians to our quiet

Our purpose in Afghanistan

I admit to being extremely disappointed with my colleague Raoul Heinrichs\' prescription for an Afghan security strategy: Australia\'s Afghan contribution is pointless, therefore the solution is to bring everyone back behind the wire ASAP and then withdraw.  I can only assume that Raoul wrote

Rehabilitating Bahrain

Let\'s face it, you can keep a good autocracy down forever.  Concerted support for Arab democratisation really only has a realistic hope if the West at least remains \'on message\' about the need for substantive democratic reform. But British PM David Cameron sent a mixed message

Yemen: Saleh backflip hat-trick

\'Dancing on the Heads of Snakes\', the title of Victoria Clark\'s book about governing in Yemen, says much about last night\'s third refusal by President Saleh to sign a GCC-brokered agreement for him to step down in thirty days\' time. Saleh has gone through the motions of negotiating and even

Initial thoughts on Obama ME speech

The problem with policy approaches to the Arab Spring is that each Arab country is quantitatively and qualitatively different and each requires a unique solution. As I have heard said elsewhere, the problem with addressing the current unrest is that \'One size fits none\'.  With that in mind

GCC: Identity politics

Last week\'s announcement by the Gulf Cooperation Council that it was accepting membership applications from two new members, Morocco and Jordan, raised a few eyebrows.  At first glance, the choice appears a bit strange. While Jordan at least has a common border with Saudi Arabia,

KL hearts KSA

If there is one way to endear oneself to the Saudis, it is to display Sunni Islamic solidarity in the face of external opposition. This must be the reason for Malaysia making the public offer to contribute peacekeeping troops to Bahrain in order to \'de-escalate tensions\'.  There is no

The Arab spring and the logic of force

What lessons you draw from the political unrest we are observing in the Arab world depends to a large degree on where you stand. In the West, the focus has been on the dissatisfaction of the Arab youth bulge, the power of social media to rally activists, the demands for personal and political

Arab spring or Lebanese summer?

It\'s not often that Lebanon can look out at the region and consider itself an island of stability in a sea of political turmoil. But while members of the Mubarak family go on trial, the former Tunisian leader Zein al Abidin ben Ali enjoys exile in Saudi Arabia, Muammar Qadhafi is subject to

The bin Laden story, from Beirut

The news about bin Laden\'s death came while I was en route to Beirut on a research trip. In the short time I have been here it has been interesting to see how the story of the death has been portrayed on western vs Arab television.  On BBC, Sky and CNN there has been nothing but bin

Syria: Flicking the switch to repression

In light of current events in Syria, February\'s Vogue puff-piece on Syria\'s chic first lady now seems particularly ill-timed. There was much about the Assad view on secularism and modernity, but no mention of the stormclouds gathering in the region other than Asma\'s observation that \'

R2P from 10,000 feet

Those in favour of intervention in Libya were quick to cite R2P as the justification for their actions. As the conflict begins to resemble a stalemate, the disconnect between the message and the means has become apparent. While I agree philosophically with the principle behind R2P, the devil is

Middle East: Business is business

Largely lost among the north African and Levantine Arab political unrest and the Libyan no-fly zone, has been the ratcheting up of the Persian Gulf cold war between Iran and its Arab neighbours.  Recently, Kuwait sentenced two Iranians and a Kuwaiti to death on charges of spying for Iran.&

Libya: the West responsibility to protect

Lowy Institute Non-resident fellow Dr Rodger Shanahan writes in The Drum on the concept of humanitarian intervention in Arab states in the context of the imposition of the no-fly zone over Libya.The Drum, 4 April 2011

Libya: The West\ responsibility to protect Arabs

The imposition of the no-fly zone over Libya has illustrated the inability of Arab states to effectively deal with the dilemma that the UN-endorsed concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) presents.  Non-interference in the affairs of other Arab states has been the mantra often quoted but

Syria: The religious dimension

As I watched coverage of the pro-government rallies in Damsacus on al-Jazeera, it was instructive to note the camera dwelling on the senior Syrian religious figures (both Christian and Muslim) atop a balcony in an obvious embrace of sectarian unity. That image illustrated one of the issues that

The potential of a reformed Syria

The unrest in each of the Arab countries over the last few months has been notable for different reasons. Tunisia heralded the current round of political unrest elsewhere and showed what popular demonstrations could achieve. Egypt has the potential to act as an example to other countries

Bahrain: Well, whaddya know?

Last week I wrote about the Bahraini Government's decision to allow Saudi and UAE security forces into the country to quell the anti-regime demonstrations. I said the Shi'a protesters may have no choice but to look to Tehran: ...if the ruling regime gets assistance from other Sunni

Middle East uprising update

With all the attention on — and excellent TV images from — Libya, it's difficult to get a feel for what is happening on all things revolutionary in the rest of the Arab world. But demonstrations are still going on and still and being resisted to varying degrees: Yemen&