Sunday 03 Jul 2022 | 09:54 | SYDNEY

West Asia

Iran: Disarmament we can't believe in

I notice that nowhere in Raoul's two-part post on why an American strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is a good idea does he countenance the possibility that the US and Israel should just learn to live with an Iranian nuclear capability, if it ever emerges. Nor does he suggest that one way to

Afghanistan: Knowing our limits

Allan Behm ends his defence of the Afghanistan operation with the warning that Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist Noordin Top 'would derive considerable encouragement' from any Western decision to 'walk away from a military unwinnable fight against the Taliban'. But when the fight against terrorism

Afghanistan: The imperial temptation

Thomas Friedman’s column on Afghan children was not just, as Sam observed, cloying. It could have been lifted word for word from any 19th or 20th century European or American newspaper account of missionaries educating natives about European virtues in the exotic and far-flung reaches of Empire

Indian students: Media mistweetment

Here’s a new standard in quick, transparent and truly telegraphic diplomatic reporting, thanks to India’s inveterately twittering Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor. No sooner has he met with Australia’s visiting Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, on the vexed student

Reader riposte: Tough with Iran?

Vanessa Newby, a PhD candidate at the Griffith Asia Institute, writes: Raoul Heinrichs' post on the potential for the US to get tough with Iran over the nuclear issue ignores a number of important points. Post-election, Iran is still politically divided. The quiet on the streets is not

Iran: Disarmament we can believe in

If President Obama’s bruising encounters with North Korea serve any general purpose, they might well be a reminder of the consequences of nuclear proliferation to rogue states, the ineffectiveness of engagement as a means of preventing it, and the dilemmas of containment once all else has failed

Obama holds fourth in Africa

Barack Obama gave a cracking speech overnight in Accra on the subject of Africa’s future. As The Wall Street Journal notes, it was the last in a series of four major international addresses Obama has given since being inaugurated, the others being his speech on nuclear issues in Prague, his

Thoughts on operations in southern Afghanistan

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq. Due to the dramatic failure of NATO to conduct out-of-area operations, making NATO irrelevant as a military force, the US has taken over the Afghan war, and is trying very hard to resource it. NATO had an adequate strategy but failed

Afghanistan: The big push

I hope to have some expert commentary for you next week about what this major US offensive in Afghanistan really means in strategic terms. One observation I would make is that the Marines' strategy seems to be very much in line with the new wave of counter-insurgency thinking popularised by David

Iran: Did the earth pivot for you too?

The true significance of events is sometimes not known until well after their time, because immediacy often impairs objectivity. This not an absolute, as it is often possible to get a real sense of an event's significance through an understanding of historical context. In the case of Iran, for

Women in Arab politics (part 3)

(Part 1 here; part 2 here.) In the last of these posts, we look at the situation for women in politics in the most conservative area of the Arab world, the Gulf. In many instances only urbanised in the 20th century, maintenance of strict implementation of Islamic dress codes for Muslim women and

Iranian revolution redux

Lydia Khalil, a non-resident fellow in the West Asia program and international affairs fellow in residence at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations has an interesting take on the unrest in Iran in the Christian Science Monitor.  Lydia makes an important point, namely that we should

Iran, social media and intelligence

Cross-posted on the ABC's opinion page. Complaints about the barrage of confusing and contradictory Twitter messages emerging from Iran's upheavals are predictable. We've heard similar complaints for years now about the sheer volume of information available on the internet. How on earth are we

Iran: What will the neighbours think?

Not much, if official reactions have been anything to go by. While France's President Sarkozy labeled the election a fraud, Gulf Arab states have been careful to avoid criticism of the election and subsequent protests and violence. The Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain's foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid

Iran: The fat lady sings

Sixteen days of turmoil after Iran’s presidential election, senior regime figure Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has finally spoken publicly about the poll and its aftermath. His long silence gave credence to rumours that he was working behind the scenes in opposition to regime hardliners,

Iran: Obama, the great equivocator

Barack Obama came to office full of lofty rhetoric and promises to restore American leadership. As street protests begin to peter out, ground into Tehran’s pavements by thugs unleashed by its authoritarian Islamist regime, it is becoming clear that he has failed his first major foreign policy test

Middle East arms bazaar

There's good reason to be sceptical of David Axe's claim at that 'regional worries over Iran have propelled a lucrative arms market'. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may talk up the 'Persia' threat, but how exactly would this threat be manifested? Is Iran going to drive Revolutionary

Middle East: Democracy, anyone?

I was drawn to Jason Koutsoukis' article in this weekend's SMH about the 'democracy deficit' in the Middle East, particularly his assertions that the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and the UAE will have nervously watched the display of freedom that the Iranian election campaign represented,

Iran: Waiting for Rafsanjani

Supreme Leader Khamenei’s no-compromise address at Friday prayers in Tehran seems to have had some effect. By most accounts, Saturday’s demonstrations were smaller (though by how much we don’t know) and the response by the security forces was fiercer. We have still not heard publicly

Iran: An election turns into a quiet revolution

From an Iranian observer. Faced with the blatant manipulation of their vote by the ruling regime, the Iranian citizen has come out publicly for the first time in Iranian contemporary history to forcefully ask, 'Where is my vote?' and to demand, 'I want my vote back.' Frustrated by the failure

Iran: Why bad haircuts tell you more than CNN

The author has served as a foreign official in Iran. We can be sure of very few things about the recent unrest in Iran, but one thing we know is that we aren’t seeing the full picture. Foreign media has been restricted from reporting freely on the demonstrations. For fear of losing their

Americans and the world

I'm currently working on preparations for this year's Lowy Institute poll and in reading up on other surveys came across some interesting results. One of which would seem to apply to Anthony's observation yesterday that the dodgy Iranian election will mean 'there will be a lot more ammunition for

Iran: Obama choices

So far, the Obama Administration has reacted cautiously to the Iranian election result. In this statement, Obama shows the imperatives he is trying to balance: not intervening too directly in what is happening, which would allow regime hardliners to condemn protestors and dissenters as stooges of

Iran elections: Two coup theories

In my previous post I presented circumstantial evidence suggesting that something much more irregular than usual occurred in Iran’s weekend presidential election. We may never know for sure what happened, though what transpires over coming days and weeks, especially what occurs to key figures

Iranian protests

Watching SBS World News last night their reporter on the ground was trying to paint a picture of Iran under siege. He said Tehranis were showing their outrage at the election results by blocking the streets with their cars and coalescing in groups in the middle of roads. The only problem with 

Iran: A coup disgrace?

My colleague Rodger Shanahan argues that the election result shows that observers outside Iran, and Iranians who parse the country for the outside world (few of whom would have been Ahmadinejad voters), underestimated Ahmadinejad’s support and were engaged in wishful thinking. He points to

Iran: Australia reaction

What a difference an election makes. And I'm not talking about Iran's contested effort, but the one Australia conducted in late 2007. Before that poll, then-Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd was ready to take Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the International Court of Justice for inciting

Iran: We'll just have to lump it

The candidate preferred by the media doesn't always get elected. This probably explains why the elections in Lebanon saw much rejoicing in the West for the success of the so-called pro-Western 'moderates', even though the electoral system massively discriminates against one (largely anti-Western)

Iran: What just happened?

No one seems to know for sure, but here's a roundup of some of the latest news and opinion: It was more than just electoral fraud, it was a coup d'etat: So says Gary Sick and Iran's former Foreign Minister, Ibrahim Yasdi. According to Newsweek, the Western media overstated the strength of

India media should look abroad

The controversy over the safety of Indian students in Australia continues, despite the serious efforts of both governments to bring some sensible perspective to the situation. The good news is that some in the Indian media are beginning to get the hint – delivered this week by Prime Minister

Options: Iran and Israel

Former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton has written a Wall St Journal op-ed surveying Iran's retaliatory options to any Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. I undertook a similar exercise on The Interpreter a year ago, listing Iran's options and examining each for its

Women in Arab politics (part 2)

(Part 1 here.) For most casual observers of the Middle East, it is the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine) that should provide the most fertile ground for female political participation in the Arab world. As post-WW I mandatory creations, their European colonisers (with the exception of

Is Ahmadinejad going to lose?

As we enter the final week of Iran’s presidential election campaign, I want to draw your attention to a new Lowy Institute Analysis, Between defiance and détente: Iran’s 2009 presidential election and its impact on foreign policy. In the paper, Iranian researcher Mahmoud Alinejad looks ahead

Obama Arab (not Muslim) speech

While I agree with my colleagues that the Obama speech was a cracker, I can't really share Michael Fullilove's disappointment that it didn't occur in Indonesia, because it was apparent that that this speech was more than just an appeal to Muslims in general. It was deliberately delivered in, and

Hizbullah didn't lose, exactly

While the Lebanese election results have been touted as a defeat for Hizbullah, it is more correct to term it a defeat for Hizbullah's Christian allies. With parliamentary representation allocated by sectarian identity that bears no resemblance to current demographic realities and results in

Osama, Obama – it all a big drama

So far the most incisive analysis of Obama’s Cairo address to the Muslim world was this one from Pakistan, reported in The Guardian: "I don't know much," said Muhammad Irshad, a young cobbler. "But at least he's better than Bush." The second best analysis was contained in the same story,

India and energy: Rediscovering serendipity

Here in Australia we are slowly re-awakening to the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean and its surrounding states. But long before the end of the first millennium AD, Chinese junks were plying their trade routes out to the east coast of India, and Arab dhows penetrated through to the East

Women in Arab politics (part 1)

There is no doubt that women are radically under-represented in (and in many instances, practically excluded from) the world of Arab politics. The reasons are many — systemic, cultural, religious — and vary in intensity between regions of the Arab world. It's important to emphasise that I

Indian students' safety: Let cool it

It is hard to know how to contribute constructively to the debate about the safety of Indian students in Australia. As someone long committed to the Australia-India relationship, I am dismayed about what has happened. Like the overwhelming majority of Australians, I deeply sympathise with those

Lebanon election: Strange days indeed

I will write more after this Saturday's election results are announced, but in the run-up to polling day, it is perhaps an apt time to look at some of the lesser-known aspects of the election. Lebanese politics, with its parliamentary quotas based on confessional identity, requires even more

Sarkozy in Abu Dhabi

There has been much debate on this blog about the nature of 'soft power', and France has certainly been on the front foot in viewing culture as an essential element of its soft power. This is evidenced in Nicolas Sarkozy's current visit to Abu Dhabi, where two of the main pillars of French regional

India miracle of democracy (part 2)

The re-election of a greatly strengthened Manmohan Singh Government in India means New Delhi can afford to become more active in world affairs. On balance, it is likely to be consistent, constructive and bold in its foreign policy. For a decade now, we have heard the promise of the India boosters

Iran and 'pre-emptive' strikes

Judah Grunstein says that even without a working nuclear weapon, Iran's enrichment capability alone allows it to exercise a kind of nuclear deterrence against the US and Israel. Therefore: From a strategic point of view, the military option that Netanyahu and Obama insist on leaving

Kuwaiti sisters doin' it for themselves

Being a white Anglo-Saxon male associated with the Lowy Institute I have undertaken a bit of introspection as a result of the recent commentary about the gender imbalance in the international relations field (particularly in think tank blogs). While I can't do anything about my sex,

Victory for Iran in Solidarity Games medals controversy

Relief for Iran watchers this week with news from its National Olympic Committee Secretary General, Bahram Afsharzadeh, that the name 'Persian Gulf'  will not be removed from the medals of the 2nd Islamic Countries Solidarity Games. As Bahram defiantly pointed out:

Africa: An unlikely winner in the budget

Joel Negin is a lecturer in International Public Health at Sydney University. In late December last year, in a Lowy Institute policy brief, Glenn Denning and I provided some recommendations on how Australia could re-engage with sub-Saharan Africa. We noted comments by the Australian

Yemen: Postcards from the edge

Sarah Phillips is an Associate Lecturer at the Centre for International Security Studies, University of Sydney.  The Yemeni regime is in crisis and its neighbours, particularly Saudi Arabia, are watching with ever increasing concern. This week, the leader of the recently established al-Qa

Bibi vs Obama vs Iran

This week’s meeting in Washington between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama has generated more than usual interest and commentary. The meeting is expected to be difficult because Bibi and Barack are seen to be ideologically incompatible, with the two

India miracle of democracy (part 1)

The Indian election results announced at the weekend amount to an unexpected and dramatic win for global stability. Hundreds of millions of Indian voters defied predictions that they would support sectarian, regional and caste-based parties and thus entrench new depths of deadlock in the world&#

Rudd announces more troops for Afghanistan

The ABC has the story. Key quote from the PM: "We cannot ignore this cold hard strategic fact - less security in Afghanistan means less security for Australians," he said. "Handing Afghanistan back to terrorist control will increase the threat to all Australians." I buy that