Monday 16 Sep 2019 | 12:09 | SYDNEY
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Syria

The worrying parallels between the Khmer Rouge and ISIS

In an excellent exploratory piece by Graeme Woods in The Atlantic this month, he notes in passing the similarities between ISIS and the Khmer Rouge. It’s a worthy comparison – further highlighted by ISIS’ destruction of antiquities as reported last week – and something that merits a

Applying the right lessons to Iraq

The Australian Government's announcement that 300 additional troops will be sent to Iraq to help train the Iraqi Army has brought forth the usual public commentators, myself included. My view is that all those who see ISIS as evil should be prepared to commit military and other resources to oppose

How does the Arab world view ISIS?

Syrian friends here in Lebanon often tell me that some Syrian refugees have chosen to leave Lebanon and return to parts of Syria that are under ISIS control. These anecdotes usually emerge as part of a larger conversation about why ISIS still receives support in some Arab countries, albeit often

ISIS is the least of Afghanistan's problems

The growing geographic spread of ISIS has lately been part of the news chatter in tabloids and respected papers alike. We know ISIS has tried to spread its propaganda to Pakistan and Afghanistan since late 2014 and proclaimed its leadership of that region in early January, with members of the

What is New Zealand's mission in Iraq?

On Tuesday New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced in parliament that New Zealand would deploy a non-combat military mission to Iraq as part of the US-led coalition against ISIS. The 'Building Partner Capacity' mission to help train the Iraqi Security Forces will be part of a joint (albeit

Balancing act: Jordan's fight against ISIS

When the video of the murder of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh was released, the King of Jordan was in Washington. This brutal act led directly to discussions about the need to resolve delays to existing US arms deliveries to Jordan. King Abdullah of Jordan attends the funeral of Jordanian

ISIS beheadings are a grotesque media strategy

ISIS is a transitory organisation whose aspiration to lead an Islamic reconquista is doomed to fail. It will eventually be degraded and splinter, some of its members joining the myriad other groups within the jihadist milieu while others fight over what is left of ISIS. One thing of enduring

Turkey's reluctant role in the battle for Kobane

Turkey appeared to take a step closer toward membership in the coalition against the Islamic State on 20 October. It agreed to allow Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters and heavy weapons to transit through its territory to defend the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobane, located less than a mile from the

What's so strategic about Kobane?

If you relied only on the media, you could be forgiven for thinking that the focus of the fight against ISIS has been on the Syrian city of Kobane. This is thanks to the easy access for international media to the Turkish side of the border near Kobane and the resulting images, as well as the work

ISIS and Iraq's chemical weapons

A leading article in the New York Times on 14 October (The Secret Casualties of Iraq's Abandoned Chemical Weapons, by CJ Chivers) details how, on numerous occasions during the US occupation of Iraq between 2004 and 2011, American soldiers encountered Iraqi chemical weapons. The article claims that,

Syria: What is a moderate rebel?

The question of defining a 'moderate' rebel in Syria's civil war bedevils the US as it works to fulfill its plan, announced by President Obama on 10 September, to arm and train anti-ISIS groups in Syria. The term 'moderate' is thrown around with gay abandon without anyone defining exactly what they

Xinjiang and terrorism (part 2): The new threat of ISIS

Beijing's well-documented heavy-handed response to the recent upswing in violence in Xinjiang has been one contributor to the internationalization of the Uyghur issue which I argued in part 1 of this post. President Xi Jinping's call for a 'people's war' to make terrorists 'like rats scurrying

Terrorism at home: The law cannot save us

I picked up my tickets for tomorrow's AFL Grand Final the other day. My team, the Sydney Swans, is playing and I should be excited to be going. Instead, I have been infected by the unease gripping Melbourne. I ask myself, am I taking a risk by attending the game?  We are told by our political

Turkey: Cautious partner in battle against ISIS

Judging from President Obama's 10 September speech announcing the expanded operation against ISIS and the Jeddah Communique that John Kerry hammered out last week, Obama is expecting a lot from Egypt, Jordan and Gulf states like Saudi Arabia. At a minimum, the Communique (which is hardly binding)

The long war in Iraq: A quarter-century and counting

By Professor Tim Dunne and Dr Emily Tannock, both at the School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland Those selling the war against ISIS are likely to point out what is new about the present crisis. First and foremost, they will say, the character of the enemy

Obama and ISIS: Snowden leaks reveal tough choices

  Though the US President will be the last to trumpet it, a revelation from the Edward Snowden National Security Agency dossier unveiled late last month might provide some context for the difficulties he faces in plotting a course of action to counter the threat of the Islamic State (IS) movement

The Islamic State's media logic

The horrific images surrounding the gruesome execution of the US journalist Jim Foley are dominating the headlines. The Islamist group had several reasons for doing what they did, and when they did it. It reinforces the Islamic State's reputation as the baddest Islamists of them all, a useful tool

Baghdadi's caliphate is a mirage, but a damaging one

ISIS has released video of its leader Abu Baqr al Baghdadi appearing at a Mosul mosque (pictured) during Friday prayers last week, claiming to be the caliph, or leader, of the Muslim faithful and calling himself Caliph Ibrahim. Carrying the supposed moniker of 'the invisible sheikh' is great for

Syria: Implications of the retreat from Homs

Last week's surrender by opposition forces of their remaining foothold in the old city of Homs once again focused attention on the devastation wrought by three years of conflict on Syria. Pictures of the damage inflicted on the old city are reminiscent of World War II, and with each passing day it

Syria: There's method in Assad's election madness

The Syrian Government's successful effort to re-take the Qalamoun area from opposition forces was designed with two aims in mind: to reassert government control over an area abutting Lebanon that resupplied opposition forces close to Damascus, and to maintain military momentum in advance of

Next-gen jihad in the Middle East

In this Analysis Lowy Institute Research Director, Anthony Bubalo, argues that the current turmoil in the Middle East is incubating a new generation of jihadists. In many respects the current conditions in the region are worse than those that saw the emergence of al-Qaeda. 

Lebanon: Second front in the Syria war

This weekend's blast at an army checkpoint on the outskirts of Hermel, claimed by Sunni jihadists, is just the latest in a series of vehicle-borne suicide attacks aimed at largely Shi'a areas in Lebanon. Last month a suicide bomber got through to Hermel and killed four people. And things could

Syria: Here endeth diplomacy

The Vietnamese, in their battles with US forces, used to talk of the need to 'hug the belt', or to engage so closely with US ground forces that the Americans' overwhelmingly superior firepower would be blunted through fear of hitting their own men. In Syria, the opposition has largely 'hugged the

Splitters: Syria's Pythonesque Islamist opposition

One of many great scenes from The Life of Brian was the depiction of the schism among anti-Roman groups that resulted in the standoff between the Judean People's Front, the Judean Popular People's Front (splitters!), and the People's Front of Judea (splitters!). It was a not-so subtle reminder

Syria and the Geneva conference

The so-called Geneva II conference ended last Friday.  The key to any negotiation regarding Syria is to aim low and keep one's expectations realistic. It is fair to say that UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi's (pictured) aim was simply to get two of the sides in a room.  His claim that he didn't

Syria: Is Assad the solution?

As Syria stumbles into its third year of conflict, President Assad continues to bank on his belief that the longer he remains in power, the more likely that the opposition will be seen as a combination of Islamists, carpetbaggers, proxies and miscreants, and that the West will somehow reluctantly

Syria: how the West can play a weak hand better

This Lowy Institute Analysis examines the trajectory of the Syrian conflict in the wake of the Russian and US agreement to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons.  It argues that while that agreement, enshrined in Security Council Resolution 2118, may remove a pernicious class of weapons from

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