Sunday 29 May 2022 | 12:20 | SYDNEY

West Asia

Inside a Palestinian camp in Lebanon

Vanessa Newby is a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland. All photos are hers. In Arabic, the word masdar stands for many things, but one of its most common meanings is \'source\', \'origin\' or \'root\'. This word always comes to my mind when news of an eruption among the Palestinians

Reader riposte: Win or lose in Afghanistan (3)

Dennis Argall writes: I don\'t understand Harry Gelber\'s assertion that our war in Afghanistan did not seek \'victory\'. War is a choice of an absolute, and the absolute word for success is \'victory\' — why else go to war? Not to play with words. We sought victory, we didn\'t

What makes Iranians tick?

In grand debates about foreign policy, we concentrate on leaders but often lose sight of the people and of what constitutes the \'national psyche\'. Yet understanding the national psyche tells us a lot about the formulation of a state\'s policy and what impact certain actions may have. 

The bruised fingers of Egyptian voters

As I write, both the Muslim Brotherhood\'s candidate Muhammed Morsi (pictured) and old regime candidate Ahmed Shafiq are claiming victory in Egypt\'s presidential election. While it seems more likely that Morsi has won, expect recounts, challenges and other shenanigans before we get a final result

Reader ripostes: Win or lose in Afghanistan

Two responses to Raoul Heinrichs\' post on the language of defeat in Afghanistan. Geoff Randal writes: UNSW historian Ian Bickerton grappled with the question of how to measure success in his book The Illusion of Victory: The True Costs of War. For starters, you might look at the war

Saudi money and Syrian frogs

Once again, in the space of a day, Lebanon has provided the glorious contrasts and inconsistencies that make it such a compelling and yet frustrating place to research, visit, or have any contact with.  During lunch at a lovely seaside restaurant in Beirut on a lazy summer Saturday

Reader riposte: The language of defeat

Gregory Collins, a PhD candidate at the Australian National University, writes: Raoul Heinrichs\' piece on Afghanistan poses some interesting questions about the very nature of success. I accept most of his argument that Western states are not being realistic with themselves and their publics

Syria and the sectarian question

I\'m in Beirut on a research trip and, despite all of the turmoil surrounding it, Lebanon remains an island of relative calm. I was last here a year ago, when Syria was grappling with the emerging insurgency. And whereas much of the Lebanese Shi\'a community then saw the fall of the Assad

Afghanistan: The language of lost wars

Winston Churchill once described \'success\' as the ability to \'go from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm\'. By that standard, the Afghanistan war might have been considered a pretty successful venture, at least until recently, when everyone lost enthusiasm. By any other measure, it

Murder and intrigue at Kazakh border post

Katrina Senchuk is an intern in the Lowy Institute’s West Asia Program. All translations from Russian and Kazakh media are her own. A recent incident on the border of China and Kazakhstan brings to light the persistent complexities and latent phobias that shape the \'delicate dance of power

Syria and R2P: Time for a middle ground

Yang Razali Kassim, currently a Visiting Fellow at the Lowy Institute, is a Senior Fellow with Singapore\'s S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University. Frustrated. That\'s the word Kofi Annan used last week to express anguish over his

What pivot?

I have just come back from two weeks in Saudi Arabia, continuing my research on Saudi-China relations as a part of the West Asia program\'s project on \'Western Approaches: responses to China in the Middle East and Central Asia\'. While it is not central to my research, I was curious to ask my

Playing the victim: Iran nuclear nationalism

Matthew Moran is a Research Associate at the Centre for Science and Security Studies, King\'s College London. Last week, Iran\'s nuclear negotiators met representatives of the P5-1 (France, UK, US, Russia, China and Germany) for the latest round of talks aimed at resolving the long-standing

Al-Qaeda in Yemen: Two videos

A few days ago we published a piece on al-Qaeda in Yemen by Sarah Philips from the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney, and below the fold, you can see an interview with Sarah. But first, here\'s a documentary from the American public broascaster PBS which

Yemen: US fight against al Qaeda likely to fail

Sarah Phillips is a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney Centre for International Security Studies. The images of the suicide bombing that killed nearly 100 people in Yemen last week were a gruesome indication of just how badly reality is diverging from the political transition in

R2P, Syria and the real world

I hate taking the apparent position of R2P naysayer because I think the concept is a moral, even noble, one. But the world is full of ignoble individuals and nation-states are driven by realpolitik as much, if not more, than they are by multilateral nobility. Which is why, with very few exceptions,

Al Qaeda makes gains in Yemen

While the West congratulates itself on two Yemen-related counter-terrorism successes — the alleged foiling of a sophisticated bomb plot against an airliner and the killing by drone strike of Fahd al-Quso, one of the architects of the 2000 USS Cole bombing — the security

Syrian conflict enters Lebanon phase

Syria appears to be entering a new phase in its insurgency. And this one is taking the uprising further away from a simple question of political reform and toward what is looking increasingly like the early stages of a Lebanese-style civil war.  All the ingredients are there: sectarian

In memory of Lyn Lusi

A belated tribute to Lyn Lusi, co-founder with her husband and orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Jo Lusi,  of \'Heal Africa\' in Goma. Lyn succumbed to cancer on 17 March this year. \'Heal Africa\' is a health service which provides fistula surgery and care for women with fistula

Where there a will, there insurance

One of the EU\'s successes in its tougher sanctions on Iran has been the extension of the ban to shipping insurance, more than 90% of which is controlled through Europe. Without being able to insure ships carrying Iranian oil, shipping owners are naturally reluctant to take the risk of an

Reader riposte: We have lost in Afghanistan

Anton Kuruc writes: As Australia prepares to exit its main combat forces from Afghanistan there will inevitably be a lot of retrospective analysis about our experience in the Hindu Kush.   On Four Corners on 16 April I was surprised that Minister Smith said: \'...any political

Whose fault is our Afghanistan failure?

Nick Bryant makes a fair and important point. Some good things have been achieved in Afghanistan, and some of them may even last once ISAF has gone. But for those of us interested in the decisions that governments make about the use of armed force, the fact that something has been achieved is not

Afghanistan a failure? Think again

If, as the cliché has it, truth is the first casualty of war, then nuanced commentary often follows close behind. Sometimes it comes in the form of inappropriate historical analogies – when US troops are involved, the tendency is to mine the Vietnam war and to talk modern-day quagmires

Pakistan: A conversation with Steve Coll

Alicia Mollaun, a PhD candidate at the ANU, is based in Islamabad. For her research on US-Pakistan relations, she met with Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Coll, author of \'Ghost Wars\' and \'The Bin Ladens\'. To say that Pakistan has problems is an understatement. A quick

5-minute Lowy Lunch: Afghanistan

Two points I take away from this interesting interview with Afghanistan\'s Ambassador to Australia Nasir Andisha, who was our guest speaker at the Lowy Institute on Wednesday (full audio of the speech here). The first is a rather stark warning of a flood of Afghan refugees to Australia should

As we head for the exits, are the Afghans ready?

Peter Leahy, a former Chief of Army, is Director of the University of Canberra\'s National Security Institute. The Prime Minister has announced the details of the transition of Australian troops from Afghanistan. It is a plausible and workable plan dependent on two assumptions. 

New Delhi: The coup that never was?

David Brewster is a Visiting Fellow at the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, ANU. Intriguing details are beginning to emerge about some events involving the Indian Army and the Indian Government last January. Some have claimed that unusual troop movements near New Delhi amounted to

The brief bloom of Arab multilateralism

If anyone thought the Arab League had finally been able to \'get it together\' and become an effective multilateral body, as some posited following its endorsement of military action against Libya and its imposition of sanctions against Syria, they should think again.  The Arab

The indelible stain of Gujarat

What with the hoopla surrounding the elections in Uttar Pradesh, this year\'s second-biggest exercise in democracy, and Sachin Tendulkar reaching his one-hundredth hundred, it has been easier than it should have been to overlook the tenth anniversary of the Gujarat riots. In 2002, the state

A Separation: Artistry for peace

Geraldine Doogue is host of ABC Radio National\'s Saturday Extra program. In 2010 I suggested in this space that a good way of forging better understanding between Australians and other citizens of our region was to report common dilemmas facing all our societies, rather than emphasising

Al Jazeera doco on Iran bomb

Occasionally, the production of this documentary verges on the melodramatic, but that\'s the price you pay for trying to tell a complex story on television, which needs a lot of movement and music to keep the viewer\'s attention. That said, this film tells the story of Iran\'s nuclear

Syria: If not Bashar, then whom?

For all the talk of replacing the Ba\'thist regime, there is only so much that can be done to force a change of leadership when that very regime has ensured that no opposition of any consequence has been allowed to develop. The result has been plain: a rather amorphous, lightly-armed opposition

A strategy for India: Nonalignment 2.0?

India has been searching for a strategy since the end of the Cold War. The three big changes in its foreign and security policy after 1991 – the partial opening up of the economy in the early 1990s, the nuclear tests in 1998, and establishment of better relations with the US in the 2000s

Iran at the Oscars

I only saw bits of the telecast, so it\'s via Slate that I learn of this moving acceptance speech from Asghar Farhadi, director of \'A Separation\', which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film: At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to

Suppose Iran held an election and nobody came?

The problem with the Middle East is not a lack of voting; even Saudi Arabia had a vote for (some) municipal council seats in 2005. The problem is that the votes rarely mean anything.  Amid the fighting in Syria, voters are going to the polls to vote in a referendum that President

India: The weakest link?

While no economic sanctions regime can ever be watertight, the ones enacted against Iran have been well targeted and undoubtedly have caused pain. But the problem with unilateral action, or multilateral action without UN agreement, is that the impact of sanctions dissipates as states assert

From Jaipur to Karachi: Two literature festivals

Alicia Mollaun, a PhD candidate at the Crawford School at ANU, is based in Islamabad. As opposed to the discussion of atheism at the Jaipur Literature Festival, which I described in my earlier post, discussion of religion is unthinkable at a literature festival in Pakistan. Speaking

From Jaipur to Karachi: Two literature festivals

Alicia Mollaun, a PhD candidate at the Crawford School at ANU, is based in Islamabad. When one talks about India and Pakistan, comparisons are inevitable: of nuclear arsenals, development indicators, political systems, cricket teams. But what about the arts?  In January I hopped across

Syria: United we stand, divided they fall

The Assad survival strategy has always been to hang tough and hope that circumstances change around you. While this has worked in the past, the world in which Bashar operates is much changed from that of his father, and the unprecedented opposition the Syrian Government now faces is

China long game in Afghanistan

With the headlines out of Afghanistan dominated by America\'s revised exit strategy, it has been easy to miss the news of China\'s enhanced engagement, both commercially and diplomatically. On 27 December, a date in the calendar when Western journalists are hardly at their most vigilant, the China

Riyadh Syria policy: It personal

Saudi Arabia, taken by surprise by the early casualties of the Arab Spring, has now adapted and become convinced that regime change can be a good thing, so long as it removes your enemies and not your friends. Saudi Arabia has adopted the most hawkish of stances against the Assad regime during

The Egyptian uprising, one year on

As Egyptians observe the first anniversary of their uprising, spare a thought for Tunisia. It was the uprising there which sparked off a year of political turmoil in much of the Arab world, yet Tunisia hardly seems to rate a mention anymore. It\'s a shame, not least since Tunisia\'s transition to

India embattled Dr Singh

Try conjuring a mental picture, if you can, of Ben Bernanke appearing before a Tea Party rally in South Carolina, or of Glenn Stevens struggling to be heard above the mêlée of Question Time in Canberra, and you are some way towards appreciating the predicament of the Indian Prime

India Iran dilemma

India Today recently reported that a high-level Indian delegation quietly signed a series of new infrastructure deals in Tehran in late November 2011. The big ticket item was a new railway from Iran's Chah Bahar port, which India also promised to help upgrade, to the Hajigak region of eastern

Reader riposte: Correction on Saudi oil

Greg Woods, formerly with Saudi Aramco, comments on this Rodger Shanahan piece from July 2011:  I knew the numbers quoted by the author could not be correct. He obviously looked at this website with this info: ‘The total Saudi domestic energy demand is expected to rise from

India demographic dividend: Time to act

Danielle Rajendram is an intern with the international security program at the Lowy Institute. As Australia and many other nations face a greying demographic profile, the youth segment of India\'s population is increasing rapidly and is projected to do so for the next 30 years. As a result, India\'

Fayrouz sings Jingle Bells

For a bit of Christmas and Middle East thrown together, here\'s Jingle Bells being sung in Arabic by Fayrouz, perhaps the most famous female Arab singer alive: (H/t Middle East Institute blog

Imran rising?

Even by Pakistan\'s chaotic standards, it has been a ridiculously frenetic few weeks. The tumble of events has included a NATO air-strike killing 24 Pakistani soldiers on the porous border with Afghanistan; rumours that President Asif Ali Zardari was about to resign, after heading to Dubai to

India doesn't need Australian uranium for weapons

John Carlson is a Visiting Fellow at the Lowy Institute and the former Director-General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office. One of the objections to supplying uranium to India is that it will free up India\'s own uranium for its nuclear weapons program. This argument is