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.
Read more

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

In Syria, Trump must collude with Russia

April 13, 2018

President Donald Trump is under enormous pressure to respond militarily to the latest provocation by the Assad regime, but he would do so against all of his instincts and earlier pronouncements to end US military involvement in the Syrian war.

Just days before the chemical attacks in Douma, Trump announced he wanted US troops out of Syria within months, and that the fight against the Islamic State was largely completed.  Read more

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

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