Sunday 29 May 2022 | 13:13 | SYDNEY

West Asia

Australia has done its bit in Afghanistan

My call some weeks ago for Prime Minister Julia Gillard to begin drawing down Australian forces in Afghanistan provoked two interesting responses — one from Anton Kuruc, the other from Jim Molan — both arguing for Canberra to stay the course. They're in good company.

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

The Libya intervention is a bad idea, especially if it works

It seems a little pointless to argue the pros and cons of Western military intervention in Libya three days after it has begun. So instead, here are three observations on what might happen next: 1. Giving birth without the labour Proponents of the military intervention in Libya seem to

Obama: The head and the heart

An astute observation from Walter Russell Mead: A certain pattern seems to be emerging in this President’s foreign policy process.  On the one hand, he is instinctively drawn to the cool logic of the Jeffersonian realists who believe that the safest and wisest course for the

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&

Qadhafi does his bit for norms

International norms are built by actions. Going to war to enforce a norm gives it force – in the several dimensions of the words 'force' and 'enforce'. Resolutions matter, but enforcing them sets down real markers for future actions and reactions. Libya is one more step in giving force to an

Libya linkage

A round up of commentary around the web: Al Jazeera's Libya live blog. The Arab League disowns the operation as quickly as it endorsed it. Google is mapping the violence. A quick Libya primer by the ABC: population, ethnicity, size of military (estimated at 76,000 men),

Libya: Chocks away

So, it's decided. We're going to war. Again. I want to join those who are asking 'Where does this end''. Given that the stated mission is to protect the civilian population of Libya, the obvious and natural end-point would be the overthrow of Qadhafi. Maybe that can be achieved with air

Uranium to India: The rethink rethought

The international political consequences of the post-tsunami nuclear crisis in Japan will play out for a long time, but one of the first might well be the early abandonment of the Australian Labor Party's — and thus the Government's — review of its nuclear policies. It has been

The no-fly zone madness

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on Lateline last night: My overriding principle is this, Tony, and that of the Government's: let's look at the UN. Look back to Rwanda: fail. Look back at Darfur: fail. Look back at the Balkans: partial fail. Too late, really. Srebrenitsa and the rest. It's 2011

Bahrain and the price of principles

Normally, events in Bahrain would not elicit much commentary from officials in Canberra, except for travel advisories. The problem is that our activist foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, has been at great pains to describe Australia as a middle power with global interests. As part of that approach, he

A dangerous day for Bahrain

Four days after GCC foreign ministers pledged $20 billion over ten years to Oman and Bahrain and warned against foreign (read Iranian) interference in those countries, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sent forces to Manama. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Tehran has now issued a call 

Australia selective on Arab democracy

The problem with being ideologically disposed towards democracy and having to deal in the real world of international politics is that you often have to say one thing but do another. The trick for public figures is to avoid having to do it too often or too close together in time. A good example is

Australia\ ties with the Middle East

I can't let Andrew Carr's comment that 'Australia's trade relationship with the Middle East is negligible save for our wheat industry' pass without comment.   Even a cursory view of the DFAT website reveals some issues about bilateral trade relations with the region at odds with his

Gates draws curtain on Afghanistan

A minor point on US Defense Secretary Robert Gates' recent West Point speech (a more thorough treatment of that speech to follow): talking about the need to break up the concrete of the Army’s promotion process, Gates started a sentence with this subordinate clause: 

Sultan of Oman: Exception to the rulers

Not all autocratic rulers in the Arab world are necessarily bad, or even disliked. Besides, in the Arab world, one man's autocrat is another's strong, wise, consultative ruler. Nowhere is that better illustrated than in my favourite Arab country, Oman. This piece gives some idea of the ability

Libya and R2P: What now?

Tim Dunne is Professor of International Relations and Director of Research in the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, University of Queensland. The UN has come a long way in recent years in developing norms to protect human beings and not the governments that

Libya: A turbulent future?

Christopher Herbert is based in New York and has worked in public relations and consulting for Middle East-related businesses. Chris' previous post, on his close brush with Qadhafi, is here. Assuming that Qadhafi's end is near, what does it mean for Libya' What type of polity will

Portrait of Iran (part 3)

Vanessa Newby is PhD candidate at Griffith University who is studying Arabic in the Middle East. The photos in this post are her own. Part one here; part two here. The second time I visited Iran, the British Museum had just loaned the Cyrus scroll. I nearly ran into the President himself

Qadhafi: My part in his downfall

Christopher Herbert is based in New York and has worked in public relations and consulting for Middle East-related businesses. He has a Master's degree from Harvard on Italy's colonisation of Libya. In 2009 I was hired by a public relations firm in New York to manage the visit of Libyan leader Mu'

UN acts swiftly on Libya

This past Saturday, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1970, which imposed sanctions on Libya, placed travel bans and asset freezes on Qadhafi and several key officials, and condemned the recent regime-sponsored violence (the US Permanent Mission to the UN has a useful fact

Reader riposte: Eyes over Libya

Margot Carlson Delogne from DigitalGlobe responds to Prakash Mirchandani: I read with interest your posting about Egypt and the recent events in Libya, with the note that it 'is surprising DigitalGlobe has not released any images of Libya'. We actually give any news agency our imagery in

A portrait of Iran (part 2)

Vanessa Newby is PhD candidate at Griffith University who is studying Arabic in the Middle East. The photos in this post are her own. Part one here. In Iran you cannot fail to notice, especially around Kashan and Isfahan to the south and Mashhad in the West, that many people are

A portrait of Iran (part 1)

Vanessa Newby is PhD candidate at Griffith University who is studying Arabic in the Middle East. The photos in this post are her own. Late last year, I was chatting to a friend in his home in Tehran about politics, the favourite topic of Iranians. 'I'm going to tell you something I wouldn't

A look at the networked Middle East

With the Middle East continuing to reshape itself and so much focus on youth-led uprisings and their use of social media as an organising tool, I was curious to see what the networked Middle East looks like. The chart below uses US Census Bureau stats from 2010, mobile stats

Egypt: TV skewing our perceptions

Daniel Larison, a blogger at The American Conservative, writes: It is not immediately obvious that “the people of Egypt” approve of what has happened, and it certainly isn’t true that “the people” caused Mubarak’s fall. A large, dedicated group of protesters

5-minute Lowy Lunch: e-gypt

Anthony Bubalo delivered the Wednesday Lowy Lunch yesterday to a packed audience (podcast here) on the recent uprising in Egypt. A prominent tool used by the protesters, particularly in the early stages, was social media like Facebook and Twitter. We spoke together afterwards on the role it

Uranium to India: Game on

So, the game is on. With these remarks, it appears that Resources Minister Martin Ferguson is heralding a concerted bid by multiple pragmatic elements within the Australian Labor Party to change policy on uranium exports, to allow safeguarded sales to India for civilian use. The moment of

Egypt and \'the electoral norm\'

Yesterday, I poured some cold water on Sarah Hanson-Young's starry-eyed view of Egypt's future. But it seems there is some evidence to back up her optimism that Egypt will move toward democracy:  Source: Putsch for democracy: The international community and elections after

Egypt: Curb your enthusiasm

Is The Age subtly editorialising against its own op-ed contributor' Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has written a rather misty-eyed column about events in Egypt, comparing Mubarak's fall to the end of Apartheid, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the liberation of India from the British.

Egypt after Mubarak

Now that Mubarak has gone, what can we expect' Here are five initial observations: 1. After the elation comes frustration: The protesters have done something really remarkable, certainly by the standards of Middle Eastern politics. They feel justifiably empowered and their leaders and

Yemen is not Egypt, but...

Vanessa Newby is a PhD candidate at Griffith University. She is in Yemen as part of her research on public diplomacy among Islamic states. 'Why have you come to Yemen at such a tense time'' asked a journalist and activist the day after I arrived in Sanaa. She continued, 'I am very

Mubarak speaks, no-one listens

President Mubarak's much anticipated address to the nation on Thursday evening (Egypt time) did even less than people were expecting. He did not resign, he did not lift the emergency law or make major constitutional changes that would make September's presidential election genuinely free and

Egypt unrest: Watch this video

I recommend anyone with an interest in what is happening in Egypt to watch this powerful interview with Wael Ghonim, one of the web activist leaders of the current unrest.  It is highly emotional, but gives a far better insight  into the motivations of at least one important segment

K Subrahmanyam, 1929-2011

India's strategic community is mourning a great loss: its most respected thinker, K Subrahmanyam, passed away on Wednesday 2 February at age 82. Strategist, official, adviser, journalist, scholar, mentor: his work had a direct bearing on some of New Delhi's most profound national security decisions

Egypt: What do the neighbours think?

The closer you are to events, the less principled and more pragmatic you become.  Hence, while Western governments advocate for the departure of President Mubarak, views from the region are somewhat different, even if the likelihood of the Tunisian contagion spreading beyond Egypt is

It\ not the Muslim Brotherhood, stupid

While we watch the still uncertain outcome of Cairo's unrest, I want to comment on the fear being articulated in parts of the media, but also internationally, that we might be witnessing the birth of an Islamic republic of Egypt. This is nonsense, and here are the reasons why. First, the

Four more observations about Egypt

Previous posts here and here. 1. Mubarak's decision not to run in September's Presidential elections is no great surprise.  Media commentary seems to be portraying this as a ham-fisted effort by Mubarak to placate the protesters, which it is clearly not doing — if

Some additional reading on Egypt

Further to Sam's post: The 'We are all Khaled Said' Facebook page (a reference to a young Egyptian internet activist killed in Alexandria). Lots of running commentary and great videos. There are a lot of good references on Andrew Exum's list, in particular The Arabist. I would

Egypt reading

Following Sam's call for online reading about Egypt, here's what I've been looking at from a social media perspective. The most interesting material by far has been coming through on #Jan25, on Twitter. The problem may be volume, though: when I went to a meeting on 26 January, there were

Egypt: What should we be reading?

From time to time I have called on readers to recommend online sources on a particular country or region, and I'd like to invite your thoughts now on the best Egypt material. I'll kick things off by drawing your attention to this list, compiled by blogger Andrew Exum at Abu Muqawama.

Five more observations about Egypt

1. Mubarak is finished. In my previous post I wrote that it was too early to tell If Mubarak would be overthrown. Less than a week later, I think his presidency is mortally wounded.  In particular, the decision to send the Army onto the streets after only a few days of

Friday funny: 404 error in Cairo

Internet sceptic Evgeny Morozov is fond of pointing out that, far from driving political change, the information revolution might actually make people more disengaged from politics. Why bother with political reform if you can just shop or surf p0rn' If that's true, Hosni Mubarak may have

Hizbullah divides and conquers

With the election of Najib Mikati to the Lebanese premiership, the end of the short-lived 'Cedar Revolution' is complete. Not that it was much of a revolution anyway — while it did succeed in getting the Syrians to withdraw their troops from Lebanon, Damascus is as big an influence now as

Six observations about Egypt\ unrest

1. It is too early to tell whether this week's protest in Egypt will lead to the overthrow of Mubarak's regime. The size and spread (ie. not just Cairo but other major cities) of the demonstrations is significant, although not unprecedented in Egypt. The demonstrations have gone

Father of modern Chinese navy dies

General Liu Huaqing has died, aged 94. Liu Huaqing, in the guise of an Admiral, is considered the father of the modern PLA Navy. The impressive Chinese naval build up we are observing today (the blogosphere is abuzz with commentary regarding the Chinese J-20 stealth aircraft, but here is

Australia to Yemen: G\'day mate!

It appears Sana'a has found a new friend.  Yesterday's AUKMIN communique announced that 'Australia and the UK reaffirmed their commitment to continued international and regional engagement in working with Yemen to find solutions to Yemen's economic and political challenges'.

Stuxnet: From bombers to binary code

The NY Times published a piece last weekend making a strong case that the Stuxnet computer virus, which has apparently set back Iran's nuclear program by several years, was developed and then planted by the US and Israel. In other words, an act of cyberwarfare. Here's 

As Riyadh fades, the sharks circle

The collapse of the Saudi-Syrian peace deal designed to solve the political impasse in Lebanon says much about the state of Saudi regional diplomacy. In 1989, Saudi Arabia played host to the Taif Agreement that set the conditions for the end of the civil war. But two decades later,