Sunday 29 May 2022 | 12:53 | SYDNEY

West Asia

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)

Doubts about Leahy Afghanistan plan

I have been hesitant to use my long-ago experience in Vietnam as a basis to enter the debate about Australia\'s role in Afghanistan, not least because of the great differences between the two countries. But General Peter Leahy\'s suggestion that Australia is pursuing the wrong Afghan strategy and

The medium is the message

From a recent Slate piece on the role of the internet in the Arab Spring:  I thought Arab bloggers began with grievances and turned to the Internet to address them. But sometimes, apparently, it\'s the other way around. Al Omran said he started blogging just to practice his English. Once

Egypt democratic history

Dr Giora Eliraz is an Associate Researcher at the Harry S Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In his article, \'Indonesian democracy: The myth of \'98\', Stephen Grenville argues that my post, \'Indonesia\'s role in Egypt\'s democratisation

Weaving Afghanistan back together

Much is made in counterinsurgency theory of the importance of \'separating the insurgent from the population\' as a means to deny them sources of refuge and reinforcement. But when viewed from the perspective of reintegration, this idea is inadequate, because it presents insurgent and

Iran getting it right, says IMF

As a no-more-than occasional observer of Iranian politics, this news in the latest issue of The Economist came as a bit of a shock. The IMF, it seems, is deeply impressed with Iran\'s recent round of economic reforms: The reason for the praise is Iran’s exemplary

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

Did the US just bomb Somalia?

Reports have emerged this morning of an air strike in al-Shebab-controlled southern Somalia. Witnesses report that aircraft and explosions were heard around the town of Kismayo. An al-Shebab official has speculated that the aircraft were from the US. The US has form when it

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

The strange case of Shafiea Ullah

I was a little confused by the news that a combined Coalition and Afghan National Army Special Forces raid had located and killed ANA deserter Shafiea Ullah, who killed Australian soldier Lance Corporal Andrew Jones almost three weeks ago. The murder of LCPL Jones was a tragic and despicable

Libya small arms: A fuller picture

Stephanie Koorey is an Adjunct Research Associate at Monash University. Nic Jenzen-Jones\' response to my article adds a number of useful pieces to the Libyan small arms puzzle. He is quite correct that my piece is a first blush of trying to find out where the rebel arms are coming

Reader riposte: Libyan rebel weapons

Nic Jenzen-Jones is a freelance consultant within the private security and defence industries and coeditor of Security Scholar: Stephanie Koorey\'s piece on Libyan weapon supplies falls short of investigating properly the origin of many of the small arms seen in Libyan rebels\'

Libya homegrown weapons

Stephanie Koorey\'s post on Libya\'s rebel armoury was a small example of a \'conceptual scoop\': the analysis of information in plain sight to draw out previously un-noticed or unimagined conclusions. Nice one, Stephanie. As for Libya\'s rebels, they don\'t only get their weapons from the

Afghanistan is not worth their sacrifice

My colleague Rodger Shanahan has suggested that my policy prescriptions for Afghanistan were made emotionally, and were inattentive to what really mattered to the formation of national policy — the motivations of soldiers. He is mistaken. For what it\'s worth, I\'ve recommended

Win or lose, their sacrifice is not for nought

Crispin Rovere is a PhD candidate at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU. It would be no indictment of Raoul Heinrichs to be emotional at the sight of yet another two diggers killed in Afghanistan. The consensus is building, both in the US and Australia, on both left and right, that

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

Afghanistan: What did they die for?

It was only hours after the ramp ceremony for Australia\'s previous casualty in Afghanistan that the horrible news began to filter in: another Australian soldier was dead, shot and killed by a rogue solider from the Afghan National Army. This morning, a second soldier was revealed to have

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

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

Reader riposte: GCC membership

Ralph Evans writes: A comment on Roger Shanahan\'s piece on the Gulf Cooperation Council and the possible accession of Jordan and Morocco. Jordan is near the Gulf, but Morocco is about as far as Hong Kong is from Sydney. And Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria all lie in between Morocco and

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,

The India-Pakistan border ceremony

Just found this on an annoyingly addictive site called The Best of YouTube. (Don\'t click on this link if you want to be productive.) The ceremony reminds me of a passage in John Keegan\'s masterly A History of Warfare: ...over the course of 4000 years of experiment and repetition,

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

Interview with Australian HC to India

Unfortunately, only those of us who were at the Lowy Institute this afternoon heard the remarks by Australia\'s High Commissioner to India, Peter Varghese. And the Chatham House Rule prevents me from telling you about his candid and revealing remarks on the state of Australia-India

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

Libya: Setting the record straight

Stephan Fruehling is a lecturer in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU. The Interpreter has carried several informed and informative contributions on Libya, especially on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. But for the decision to intervene, R2P was only one

Libya: Aligning means to ends

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq. The string of posts on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) intervention in Libya has been given greater relevance with the reported death of members of the Qadhafi family, from an air attack on what appeared to be a residence.

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

Umar Patek was arrested in Abbottabad

There is an interesting bit of detail in the killing of Usama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In January this year Pakistani intelligence arrested the Indonesian extremist, Umar Patek, one of the organisers of the 2002 Bali bombings, in the same town (although details of his arrest

The ripples of bin Laden death

The crimes of Osama bin Laden on 11 September 2001 had lasting, devastating strategic impacts. His death in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad will also have ripples across the international security landscape — and not all the effects will be benign. For now, Americans and their friends

Where to for R2P?

Andrew Farran is formerly of the Departments of External Affairs and Defence; Law Faculty, Monash University; International Trade adviser; and a former Vice-President of AIIA. Having submitted two guest blogs on the R2P concept, the first of which foreshadowed a probable stalemate in Libya, the

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 \'

Libya: Is it better if Qadhafi wins?

Crispin Rovere is a Phd Candidate at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU. With the Libyan campaign entering a predictable stalemate and some now advocating disregarding UN resolution 1973 in favour of invasion, it\'s important to re-examine how all this relates

Libya: Should we go around the UN?

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq. The view of Anthony Cordesman on the predicament of NATO and the no-fly zone over Libya, raises important questions for the world and for Australia. The no-fly zone as a tactical technique has predictably failed: but our

Libya & R2P:A perfect storm ?

Tim Dunne is Professor of International Relations, and Jess Gifkins is PhD Candidate and Researcher, Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, University of Queensland. Yesterday we argued that the UN intervention in Libya took the doctrine of 'responsibility to protect' (R2P) a

AA Gill does Dubai

There has apparently been much dishdasha readjustment going on in Dubai recently over this Vanity Fair article by British restaurant critic and travel writer AA Gill.  I had two reactions to Gill's eloquent monstering of Dubai. First, Gill's article is breathlessly superficial.

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.&

Lebanon: Divided but indivisible

Vanessa Newby is a PhD candidate at Griffith University, studying Arabic in the Middle East. As the mini-bus pulled up at the harbour of Tyre in Southern Lebanon, I was struck by two things. First, the incredible colour of the Mediterranean, something you don't see in Beirut further

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

Unpacking the data on counter-insurgency

I would like to respond to John Hardy's four objections to my argument. John's first objection is that disregarding the unresolved conflicts skews the trend data. This is wrong. Regardless of the number of unresolved conflicts, there are still more counter-insurgent wins after 11 years than

Time and coin

John Hardy is a Sir Arthur Tange Defence PhD Scholar at the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, ANU In response to friendly criticism from a colleague that I did not adequately address Anton's points about the positive trend in Counter-Insurgency (COIN) success after the tenth

Behind Bashar Assad\ popularity in Syria

Vanessa Newby is a PhD candidate at Griffith University, studying Arabic in the Middle East. What strikes you first about the political culture in Damascus, is that the status of the name of the President is similar to that of Voldemort in Harry Potter. Quite simply, no one speaks his

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

Australian interests in West Asia

Cross-posted from our sister site, Interpreting the Aid Review. There are only two more weeks to contribute to its discussion. The Arab uprisings, the West's military intervention in Libya and the activist role played by Foreign Minister Rudd on both issues, have thrown Australia's development aid

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

Reader riposte: Gareth Evans and R2P

Andrew Farran, a former diplomat, senior lecturer in international law at Monash University and Vice-President of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, writes: A comment if I may, adding to that of Sam Roggeveen's on Gareth Evans' piece in The Age yesterday. Gareth

Defining the limits of R2P

Former Australian Foreign Minister and leading R2P advocate Gareth Evans writes today that critics of the Libya intervention are drawing too long a bow. It's not about regime change or killing Qadhafi or a getting into an Iraq-like quagmire, he says. Rather, this is a strictly defined

Libya and Australia\ interests

The most common complaint you hear about the Libya intervention is that it is not in the 'interests' of the nations participating. This is true so long as we accept a very limited conception of interests, as defined by realists (generally, direct security and access to valuable material