A Turning Point in the Kurdish-Western Alliance?

March 1, 2018

The arrest in a Prague hotel of former Syrian Kurdish PYD (Democratic Union Party) leader Saleh Muslim Muhammad is a test case. Its outcome will establish the extent to which the central role Syrian Kurds have played in the fight against Islamic State has accrued some broader political legitimacy for their leadership and organizations.

Czech authorities arrested Muslim over the weekend after a Turkish participant at a conference in Prague took a photograph of him that was published by the Milliyetnewspaper. Read more

Hackers see democracy as a weakness ripe for exploitation

February 28, 2018

The US Justice Department’s ­indictment of Russian interference in the 2016 US election makes for sobering reading and has direct implications for ­Australia.

Its 37 pages forensically detail the audacious tactics employed by Russia to undermine the electoral processes of a sovereign state, our ally and fellow democracy, raising the question of whether the integrity of our own elections also may be compromised one day. Read more

Journalists don’t grasp extent of foreign spying: ex-intelligence chief

February 11, 2018

The national security establishment believes the media doesn’t appreciate the extent of Chinese, Russian and other nations’ intelligence operations in Australia and wants more press coverage of the problem, according to a former senior intelligence official.

Speaking amid a backlash from media companies and journalists towards tough new laws governing intelligence leaks, Ross Babbage, a former head of strategic analysis at the Office of National Assessments, said security officials did not want to limit press freedoms, which they saw as aiding the fight against foreign spy agencies. Read more

New world order: momentum is shifting in favour of dictators

February 10, 2018

Are Russia and China deliberately undermining democracies in order to replace the Western-led liberal international order with their own authoritarian model? This is the central claim by the recently released US defence strategy, the most important in a generation. And it’s a belief that is driving the Turnbull government’s tougher response to foreign interference. Read more

No ‘Russian Option’ for Israel in Syria

February 9, 2018

Why the failed Russian Sochi conference matters for Israel

The clear failure of Russia’s ‘Syrian National Dialogue Conference’ in the Black Sea resort of Sochi shows the limitations of the policy adopted by Moscow with regard to the Syrian civil war.  Since Israeli diplomatic efforts to contain the westward advance of Iran and its proxies in Syria are to a considerable extent dependent on the notion of Russian potency and effectiveness in this arena, decisionmakers in Jerusalem will have been watching the unfolding events at the conference with interest and some concern. Read more

Globalisation and Chinese Grand Strategy

January 29, 2018

China is taking steps intended to reduce its exposure to Western economic coercion, while enhancing its leverage over others.

Deng Xiaoping‘s initiation of the ‘reform and opening up‘ programme at the end of 1978 appears in retrospect to be the decisive turning point in the history of modern China. Increasing reliance on market forces, as opposed to state planning, and deeper integration into the global economy, in place of the old policy of self-imposed isolation and virtual autarky, launched China onto a steep growth trajectory. Read more

China’s Understanding of Global Order Shouldn’t Be Ours

January 24, 2018

Niall Ferguson is a prolific public intellectual who has made a career out of shattering shibboleths. At various points he has defended the achievements of the British Empire, argued that the United Kingdom’s entry into the First World War was “the biggest error in modern history,” and made the case at length that Henry Kissinger is a misunderstood idealist.

Ferguson is at it again. In a recent op-ed, he takes on what he describes as the prevailing “myth of the liberal international order.” This piece appeared in China’s Global Times, a pugnacious nationalistic tabloid published by the official People’s Daily. Read more

Reality matters in Middle East, not Trump’s Jerusalem symbolism

December 16, 2017

JONATHAN SPYER, The Australian, December 16, 2017

The Jerusalem neighbourhood in which I live, on the seam line dividing Jew and Arab, can be a useful place to take the temperature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 2015 a wave of stabbing ­attacks against Israelis and Jews began. This was the result of a campaign of incitement by Islamist groups, according to which the government of Israel planned to change the status quo regarding the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Jewish prayer is forbidden on the Mount. The rumours held that this was set to change. Wilder notions of plans to replace the mosques with a rebuilt Jewish temple also were repeated. Read more

Sam Dastyari’s fall from grace should prompt China action all round

December 6, 2017

It would be a mistake to dismiss senator Sam Dastyari’s fall from grace as merely the consequence of one politician’s lack of judgment or character. Dastyari’s ­behaviour illuminates the risk to our democracy of allowing China to exert undue influence over our institutions, society and policies. The problem is that we don’t have a strategy for managing this risk and, until we do, its absence only invites more Chinese interference. Read more