Biden ignored advice on how quickly Kabul would fall to Taliban

August 23, 2021

There are many reasons for the collapse of Afghanistan after 20 years of fruitless bloodletting and wasted treasure. But as with most debacles the primary cause is a failure of strategy and policy, not intelligence.

President Joe Biden is certainly complicit. But he is not the main architect of the Ghani government’s demise, a title that rightly belongs to Donald Trump the self-styled “master of the deal”. The businessman turned president committed the cardinal negotiating sin of gratuitously committing to withdrawing US forces – the main Taliban objective – thereby forfeiting all leverage in the farcical, drawn-out peace talks that continued right up to Kabul’s fall.
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What Are Iran’s Long-Term Goals?

January 9, 2020

Lydia Khalil, research fellow at the Lowy Institute and a former political advisor for the U.S. Department of Defense in Iraq, talks about the tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The House will vote Thursday on a resolution to limit President Donald Trump’s options for military action against Iran, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. Khalil speaks on “Bloomberg Markets: China Open.” Read more

The U.S.-Iran Showdown Begins in Iraq

December 30, 2019

The U.S. killed at least 25 Ktaib Hezbollah fighters on Sunday night in its first counterstrike in a decade against an Iran-aligned Iraqi Shia militia. U.S. F-15E aircraft struck three sites in Iraq and two in Syria in retaliation for Ktaib’s Friday rocket attack, which killed an American contractor and wounded four U.S. service personnel. Read more

In Conversation: Anthony Bubalo on Remaking the Middle East: One Year On

July 9, 2019

In Remaking the Middle East, Lowy Institute Nonresident Fellow Anthony Bubalo argued that despite continuing turmoil in the region the future of the Middle East was not inevitably bleak. Amid the ferment the region has experienced over the past decade and a half he also pointed to ‘green shoots’ of change: from new forms of ‘uncivil’ society driving social and political change to ‘impious’ politics, making societies more tolerant and pluralist. Read more

In The Thick Of Syria And Iraq: ‘Days Of The Fall: A Reporter’s Journey In The Syria And Iraq Wars’ – Review

June 22, 2019

Author and journalist Jonathan Spyer’s latest book explores the disintegration of the Middle East over the past decade. Days of the Fall: A Reporter’s Journey in the Syria and Iraq Wars is an up-close and personal account of the two major conflicts in the region that exemplify its descent into chaos, both physical and moral.

Spyer had been focusing on the Levant in general, and Syria in particular, for a good few years before President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was caught up in the revolutionary fervour sweeping across the Arab world. Read more

The case to prosecute “jihadi brides” at home – Lydia Khalil

March 27, 2019

Women played a key role in ISIS – while there are dangers, countries have a responsibility to see justice done.

A woman believed to be Melbourne-born Zehra Duman has recently resurfaced among the thousands of women and children at al Hawl refugee camp fleeing the last vestiges of the so-called ISIS caliphate.
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Syrian War: Uneasy Calm in US-protected Kurdish Enclave

September 8, 2018

The Syrian-Turkish border area in the early morning hours is calm and almost serene. Driving from the town of Kobane to the border crossing at Semalka one may get the impression that there is not much of a war remaining at all in the country.

Every few kilometres, to be sure, one runs into a checkpoint of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces or the Asayish security police. Read more

Erdogan’s Dilemmas

September 1, 2018

Turkey Faces Few Good Options as Idlib offensive looms

Syrian regime and Russian forces are currently preparing for an offensive into Idlib Province in north west Syria. The attack on Idlib is set to mark the final major action in the war between the Assad regime and the insurgency against it.Moscow has moved 10 warships and two submarines into the waters off the western coast of Syria.  This represents the largest concentration of Russian  naval forces since the beginning of Moscow’s direct intervention into the civil war in Syria in September, 2015. Read more

Egypt’s new media law is ahead of the curve

July 26, 2018

Last week, Egypt’s parliament passed three new media laws allowing the presidentially appointed Supreme Council of Media to monitor and “supervise” users with more than 5000 followers on social media platforms.

The new laws were ostensibly passed in order to curb disinformation, or “fake news” to use the Trumpian parlance of the times, by blocking and referring individuals who spread false reports through their social media accounts for prosecution. The new laws also allow for people to be detained pending trial. Read more

Decay and new growth

April 30, 2018

In his latest Lowy Institute Paper, Remaking the Middle East, Anthony Bubalo deftly weaves together the various threads that have made and unmade the modern Middle East, positing that the 2011 Arab uprisings were not brought about by individual conflicts, trends, or political actors, but rather were the most ostentatious representation of the decay of the entire nizam, or sociopolitical system of the region. Read more