Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 15:59 | SYDNEY

West Asia

Reader riposte: More on a N-free Middle East

Tzvi Fleischer goes another round in our debate about a nuclear-free Middle East: I thank Sam Roggeveen for his thoughtful reply to my points, responding in turn to his original post, but I believe he elides my most important point: lack of faith in compliance with a 'regional agreement banning

Syria: Canada sensible independence

I like the independence of Canadian policy in the Middle East on some big issues. Exhibit A has to be the decision to refuse to join the US-led invasion of Iraq. Canadian independence of action is once again on display over the question of Syria. When President Obama gave the Syrian opposition

The case for a N-free Middle East

Below is an omnibus reply to Stephen Walt, Tzvi Fleischer, Crispin Rovere and Rodger Shanahan, who responded to my argument that Israel would actually be more secure in a nuclear-free Middle East. Thanks to all of them for laying bare some of the unspoken assumptions behind my argument, though I'm

First Israel, then Iran, then...

While I agree that a nuclear-capable Iran may not be the world-ending scenario that some postulate (it depends on which side of the sword vs shield argument you take), I would add to the doubts expressed by Stephen Walt about Sam Roggeveen's case for Middle Eastern nuclear disarmament. Sam sees 

More Middle East nukes, or none?

Andrew Sullivan agrees with Stephen Walt that an Iranian nuclear bomb would not be the disaster that many people suggest. Sullivan goes on to say that he's staggered that support for nuclear deterrence, once a mainstream position in the US, is now eschewed by both major parties in favour of the

Syria: The clouds darken for Assad

The focus on Gaza over the last two weeks shifted the spotlight away from Syria, but for those still watching, the momentum appears to be shifting towards the rebels.  The opposition appears to have redoubled its military and political efforts over the past few weeks. It is no coincidence that

Interview: Jeffrey Goldberg on the Israel-Hamas conflict

On Tuesday, Jeffrey Goldberg visited the Lowy Institute, where we recorded this discussion with our Executive Director Michael Fullilove. Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, writing primarily on Arab and Israeli politics. He has won numerous awards, including the

Gaza escalation a calculated risk

By killing Hamas' senior military commander in Gaza, Ahmad al-Jabaari, Israel is taking a calculated risk. Mostly, Israel and Hamas have an uneasy understanding. Hamas doesn't shoot at Israel and it tries to prevent other militant groups in Gaza from shooting at Israel; Israel, in turn, refrains

Bob Carr Arab democracy conundrum

Australia's successful ascent to the UN Security Council will require it to address issues it had previously been happy to simply let pass by. One of these is the increasingly hypocritical attitude Western states have adopted towards democratisation in the Middle East.  While I was taught many

Afghanistan? We're against it, sort of

It's not often you hear Australia's combative Opposition Leader Tony Abbott be this generous to the Government: I rise to support the comprehensive statement of the Prime Minister and I welcome this chance to express the Coalition’s support...  ...I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment

What can Australia learn from Afghanistan?

Thomas Lonergan served in Afghanistan with the ADF. A remarkable event occurred in Afghanistan this month when Australia took command of coalition forces in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan. This is remarkable for at least three reasons. First, Australian governments of both political

Syria: How not to cut the Gordian knot

If any more evidence was needed about the difficulty of finding a solution to the ongoing fighting in Syria, then the last few weeks have provided some excellent examples.  For Assad's backers such as Iran, the situation is pretty straightforward.  Provide the core government forces with weapons,

The ADF and the Afghan army: A question of command (2)

Tom Hyland is a freelance journalist and former foreign editor of The Age and The Sunday Age. The need for a clear command structure when Australians patrol with Afghans was the subject of part 1 of this post. So-called 'green-on-blue' killings by Afghan soldiers of their foreign mentors –

On the road in Pakistan (2): Killer Mountain

Alicia Mollaun, a PhD candidate at the Crawford School at ANU, is based in Islamabad. This is the second of a three-part series on a journey to a remote corner of Pakistan: Part 1. Ask Australians what they think of when Pakistan is mentioned and many say terrorism, violence and Osama bin Laden

On the road in Pakistan (1): Adventure calls

Alicia Mollaun, a PhD candidate at the Crawford School at ANU, is based in Islamabad. In this three-part series she writes about a journey to a remote corner of Pakistan.   Tourism is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Pakistan, which is a pity given Pakistan has some of

Netanyahu: The PM who cried wolf

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the UN General Assembly last week, which set a red line for Iranian nuclear capability using a prop that appeared to be straight out of the Warner Brothers graphic design department, provided Israeli satirists with plenty of ammunition. The

Iran-US: Two 'exceptional' enemies

Jerry Nockles' excellent post on American exceptionalism gives an insight into the way the US perceives its role in the world. And in his selection of quotes from contemporary US politicians, the degree to which they pay homage to this concept shows that it remains a real issue. The inevitable

Sri Lanka: Time for action, not action plans

Alan Keenan is Sri Lanka Project Director at the International Crisis Group. Masters of prevarication, the Sri Lankan Government is once again stalling the UN's attempt to ensure an open assessment of the brutal final stages of the country's civil war. The regime is probably hoping interest will

Where are the Arab statesmen?

A little over three years ago, President Obama gave a much anticipated speech in the hall of Cairo University that was titled 'A New Beginning'. It was designed to signal a break from the confrontational approach to the region adopted by the Bush Administration, and followed on from a Persian New

Arab anger not just about a film

We are told that the murder of American diplomats in Libya, attacks on American embassies in Egypt and Yemen and protests outside other American missions in the region, including in Tunisia, Morocco and Sudan, was sparked by a cheap film made in America attacking Islam. No film, however idiotic

India linkage: Economic growth, McDonald, Narendra Modi and more

Danielle Rajendram is a Research Associate in the Lowy Institute\'s International Security Program whose work focuses on India and China-India relations. Is China\'s growing assertiveness pushing New Delhi and Washington closer together? If so, why has there been so little discussion of

Afghanistan: The grisly waiting game

No sooner had the tragic news broken yesterday of five more Australians killed in Afghanistan than Canberra\'s propaganda machine coughed and spluttered to life, all set to churn out its trademark combination of myth, platitude, euphemism, selective half-truth and straight-out lie. The

Reader riposte: The good guys in Syria

Ghassan Salem writes: I read with interest the blog by Mr Roger Shanahan about the good guys in Syria\'s mess, and I have some comments about it. Let me first say that I\'m a Lebanese who lived and fought the war between 1975 and 1990 (I stopped fighting in 1979), so I have some \'experience\'

Syria: Who are the good guys again?

The air is thick with the stench of hypocrisy over Syria. For a country whose own politicians often refer to it as \'The City Upon a Hill\' for its role as a moral exemplar, the US risks losing what remains of its moral authority in the Middle East through its hypocritical policy in Syria. Perhaps

Indo-Pacific: What in a name?

It was refreshing to hear Australia\'s Defence Minister Stephen Smith declare plainly that this country\'s region is the Indo-Pacific when he spoke at the Lowy Institute last week. This is not just some faddish, interchangeable alternative to those long used and abused expressions \'Asia\' or

Egypt: What will the Muslim Brotherhood do with its new power?

Before the events of the last weekend, the main issue facing Egypt\'s President Mohammed Morsi (pictured) was his lack of real power. Now he may have too much. The key question is how he and the Muslim Brotherhood will use this power. Will it be to cement Egypt\'s transition to

Reader riposte: Trade with the UAE

Alison Broinowski writes: Sam and Rodger would remember when we happily traded for years with a China whose existence we did not recognise. Unless we had a trade embargo in place against the UAE, the obnoxiousness of their regime gives Australia no right nor reason selectively to

Lieven: New insights into Taliban

Yesterday the noted expert on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Anatol Lieven, spoke at the Lowy Institute. In this interview, he shared with me some extraordinary insights into some of the streams of Taliban thinking about the prospects for peace in Afghanistan, including surprising speculations on whether

Australia uses China policy on UAE

If our relations with China have taught us one thing, it is that politics is politics and business is business. This means that the economic benefits of a close relationship with a rich partner might necessitate skipping over such unpleasantness as autocratic rule and the odd human rights abuse

Hot and slow: Ramadan in Pakistan

Alicia Mollaun, a PhD candidate at the Crawford School at ANU, is based in Islamabad. It\'s hot, it\'s humid and it\'s Ramadan. When I moved from Australia to Pakistan two years ago, I had limited knowledge of Ramadan and it certainly didn\'t affect my everyday life. Now, even as a non-

Lies, damn lies and Syria

You know your credibility is seriously in doubt when you have to rely on the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) for accurate information. When French cameraman Gilles Jacquier was killed in Homs in January, SANA was quick to blame rebel mortar fire while the Syrian National Council blamed the

What must Asma al-Assad be thinking?

While looking for a shot to illlustrate Rodger Shanahan\'s post this morning, I came across some photos of the very glamorous Syrian first lady, Asma al-Assad. I couldn\'t help thinking of this

Syria: Can Assad suppress the panic?

This week\'s events in Damascus have struck at the heart of the regime, both mentally and physically. The deaths of the security officials overnight are raising some questions: why hasn\'t President Assad appeared on state TV to speak to the people? Did last night\'s assassinations occur as was

Syria: Bob Carr rush to judgment

It would be nice to believe that the entirely abhorrent Assad regime in Syria is being opposed by a group of morally upright freedom fighters rigorously observing the rules of war. The reality is otherwise. While Syria has been a ruthless mukhabarat state for decades, the fact that the regime has

Syria opposition: Death and squabbles

If the US has learnt one thing from its experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is that putting a country back together is much harder than tearing the it apart. Which is why Washington is much less keen to tear down Syria\'s Ba\'thist regime until there is at least some semblance of a plan

Syria: It all in the wording

One could be forgiven for thinking that an agreement had been hammered out and that international unity had triumphed over regional rivalries in the wake of the recent Geneva conference on Syria. Our own ABC announced that \'an international deal had been reached on peace for Syria\', while The

Iran: Shi'a Islam, Eagles and puffer fish

Contemplating the nature of Iranian religiosity as I visited the Iranian shrine cities of Mashad (top photo) and Qum (lower photo) this past week proved more difficult than I had imagined. Whether it was the pulse of the sub-woofer in my right ear as the taxi driver turned up the volume on \'

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