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Analysis and Comment (175)

Locking up convicted extremists does not prevent marginalised and angry youth from being radicalised. Locking up convicted extremists does not prevent marginalised and angry youth from being radicalised. AAP/Julian Smith

Third wave of global ‘jihad’ challenges community as a whole

The dreadful events in Iraq and Syria and counter-terrorism raids in Australia have alarmed Australians, including the 500,000-strong Muslim community. These incidents represent a new episode of the “third…
Turkish police use tear gas on Kurdish protesters. Turkish police use tear gas on Kurdish protesters. EPA/Sedat Suna

Everything’s at stake for the Kurds in the battle for Kobanê

In recent weeks, the Kurdish town of Kobanê on the Turkey-Syria border has become centre stage in the struggle against IS (Islamic State). The latest round of attacks on the town and its surrounding areas…
“We’re supposed to negotiate with them?” Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint. “We’re supposed to negotiate with them?” Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint. EPA/Ali Mohammed

Islamic State: no-one wants to talk to terrorists, but we always do – and sometimes it works

The Islamic State (IS) now occupies significant swaths of Iraq and Syria, has pushed as far as the border with Turkey, and has succeeded in dragging “the West” into two civil wars in the Middle East. The…
An Australian Super Hornet refuels from a KC30 tanker while flying over Iraq. An Australian Super Hornet refuels from a KC30 tanker while flying over Iraq. @VCDF_Australia/Twitter

Why Western boots should stay out of Iraq and Syria

There are two reasons why we should ignore the growing calls in the United States, Canada and Australia for Western “boots on ground” – meaning ground troops – to fight and destroy the Islamic State (IS…
Islamic State flags flown by militants in the east of the Syrian city of Kobanê, within sight of the Turkish border. Islamic State flags flown by militants in the east of the Syrian city of Kobanê, within sight of the Turkish border. EPA/SEDAT SUNA

Kobanê teeters on the brink in a fight to the end against ISIS

The black flag of ISIS has been sighted in the Syrian city of Kobanê. For three weeks, heavily armed ISIS gangs have advanced on Kobanê – also known as Ayn al-Arab – steadily pushing back the local YPG…
“Yeah, it’s totally legal, I promise…” “Yeah, it’s totally legal, I promise…” EPA/Andy Rain

Legal case for striking Islamic State is shifting to fit strategy

The advanced disintegration of Syria and Iraq has allowed the gradual consolidation of the power of increasingly unsavoury actors. Under its black banner, Islamic State (IS) is doing its best to challenge…
Known as White Rocks, this quartz outcrop was the site of a three-hour gun battle in 1915 between police and two Afghans, who had shot and killed picnickers leaving Broken Hill. Known as White Rocks, this quartz outcrop was the site of a three-hour gun battle in 1915 between police and two Afghans, who had shot and killed picnickers leaving Broken Hill. Amanda Slater/Flickr

History repeating: from the Battle of Broken Hill to the sands of Syria

It’s another hot Australian New Year’s Day, and 1200 people are aboard a train bound for a picnic when a burst of gunfire shatters the festive atmosphere. Police return fire, killing the attackers – but…
A Syrian boy sleeps on a blanket on the stony ground at a Turkish refugee camp. A Syrian boy sleeps on a blanket on the stony ground at a Turkish refugee camp. EPA/SEDAT SUNA

Saving Kobanê: the town that the world can’t afford to lose to ISIS

Few people had heard of the Syrian town of Kobanê until recently. But since coming under sustained attack in the last fortnight by Islamic State (ISIS) militants, the town has attracted international attention…
Syrians waiting to cross the border near Sanliurfa in south-eastern Turkey. Syrians waiting to cross the border near Sanliurfa in south-eastern Turkey. EPA

Turkey’s unique approach to the Syrian refugee crisis is creaking badly

The official Turkish policy is that it doesn’t accept asylum applications from outside Europe. The Syrian refugee crisis forced this to change. It led the Turkish authorities to implement, in their words…
Air strikes in Syria are the latest phase of the war against Islamic State, each stage involving a fresh set of moral judgements. Air strikes in Syria are the latest phase of the war against Islamic State, each stage involving a fresh set of moral judgements. EPA/US Air Force

Moral dilemmas of war against Islamic State lack easy answers

Every generation in recent memory has had seminal historical conflicts which demand that lessons must be learnt. The baby boomers had the Vietnam war. Their parents: the second world war. And our generation…
US President Barack Obama announces the start of a campaign of allied airstrikes against Islamic State forces in Syria. US President Barack Obama announces the start of a campaign of allied airstrikes against Islamic State forces in Syria. EPA/Win McNamee

Air power won’t finish off Islamic State, so what comes next?

Having secured some sort of tacit agreement with Damascus, the coalition bombing campaign inside Syria proper has begun in earnest. The US, France and an ambiguous array of allies is unleashing the bleeding…
The new laws would make it easier for authorities to prevent people fighting in foreign conflicts, as happened to this man arrested in December for allegedly attempting to travel to Syria. The new laws would make it easier for authorities to prevent people fighting in foreign conflicts, as happened to this man arrested in December for allegedly attempting to travel to Syria. AAP/Australian Federal Police

Bill targets foreign fighters before departure and after return

The Abbott government has today introduced the second tranche of its national security amendments – the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014 – into the Senate. As its name…
Over it: Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (L) and his foreign minister Javad Zarif. Over it: Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (L) and his foreign minister Javad Zarif. EPA/STR

Frozen out of anti-IS effort, Iran is losing patience with the West

Since Hassan Rouhani was elected Iran’s president in June 2013, relations between Iran and the United States have significantly improved – though they remain very fragile. To explain why, most analysts…
Australian women of different faiths gathered at Sydney’s Lakemba Mosque last month in a show of community solidarity. Australian women of different faiths gathered at Sydney’s Lakemba Mosque last month in a show of community solidarity. AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Terrorists can be defeated by fighting fear with co-operation

From anarchists in the 1920s and radical leftists in the 1960s, to fringe, extreme-right Christian bombers or gunmen in the United States in recent decades, or radical Islamists such as Islamic State today…
A suspected IS convert is arrested in Indonesia. A suspected IS convert is arrested in Indonesia. EPA/Sakhiy Rifano

The fight against Islamic State is a battle for young minds

Governments around the world are trying to come to terms with the fact that their nationals – and young people in particular – are leaving to join extremist groups such as Islamic State. In response, ministers…
Since Defence Force chief Mark Binskin and Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the deployment of Australian warplanes, the confused ‘mission creep’ seen in the last Iraq war has begun. Since Defence Force chief Mark Binskin and Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the deployment of Australian warplanes, the confused ‘mission creep’ seen in the last Iraq war has begun. AAP/Lukas Coch

Blurred battlelines: our mission to ‘destroy’ Islamic State won’t work

Before committing more troops, the Australian government should be certain about the type of threat Islamic State (IS) poses and whether the Australian Defence Force has a clear and justified objective…
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, with Air Chief Marshal Mark Binski, announces Australia will send 600 military personnel to the Middle East. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, with Air Chief Marshal Mark Binski, announces Australia will send 600 military personnel to the Middle East. AAP

Q&A: How Australia has moved faster to fight Islamic State

How much has Australia committed to fighting Islamic State? Australia has pledged 600 military personnel and up to eight Super Hornets, which is expected to cost up to $500 million per year. There has…
The German army prepares arms for the Kurds in August. The German army prepares arms for the Kurds in August. Jan Woitas/EPA

Arming the Kurds builds on long history of proxy warfare in the Middle East

An “initial gifting package”: the opaque label is wrapped around £1.6m worth of heavy machine guns and half a million rounds of ammunition, which has now reached the Iraqi town of Arbil courtesy of the…
Barack Obama’s speech to announce a strategy to destroy Islamic State had a familiar ring to it because it followed the script of the past half-century. Barack Obama’s speech to announce a strategy to destroy Islamic State had a familiar ring to it because it followed the script of the past half-century. EPA/Saul Loeb/pool

My fellow Americans: the familiar sound of American belligerence

A few years back, an honours student in linguistics at Macquarie University did a small study of American presidential oratory. The student chose four speeches, in which four different American presidents…
This is as far as you go: refugees arrive in Jordan. This is as far as you go: refugees arrive in Jordan. EPA/STR

Jordan has become the West’s warehouse for Iraqi refugees

Swamped as we are with media outrage and political rhetoric about asylum seekers “invading” Europe, we tend to forget that the vast majority of displaced people find refuge in countries far beyond EU borders…
Anti-aircraft defences have not been a factor in US airstrikes against IS in Iraq, but Syria is a different and higher-risk proposition. Anti-aircraft defences have not been a factor in US airstrikes against IS in Iraq, but Syria is a different and higher-risk proposition. EPA/Maurizio Gambarini

Airstrikes on IS in Syria’s backyard are high-risk if Assad objects

The expansion of airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) into Syria announced yesterday by US President Barrack Obama marks a predictable, if necessary, escalation of coalition operations against the Jihadist…
US President Barack Obama outlines his new four-point strategy to defeat Islamic State in a televised address from the White House. US President Barack Obama outlines his new four-point strategy to defeat Islamic State in a televised address from the White House. EPA/SAUL LOEB / POOL

Obama’s new strategy still misses Islamic State’s weakest link

US President Barack Obama has announced a more aggressive strategy against Islamic State, including air strikes against its fighters “wherever they are”, even inside Syria – which he had previously ruled…
US President Barack Obama will today outline his strategy to “degrade and destroy” Islamic State in a televised address. US President Barack Obama will today outline his strategy to “degrade and destroy” Islamic State in a televised address. EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

Obama’s Iraq and Syria strategy risks a global radical backlash

UPDATED AT 4:30PM AEST: The most interesting part of US President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated televised address today was not the unsurprising news of increased allied strikes against Islamic State…
If refused re-entry, foreign fighters such as Australian Mohamed Elomar are likely to become professional jihadists for life. If refused re-entry, foreign fighters such as Australian Mohamed Elomar are likely to become professional jihadists for life. Facebook

If blocked from returning home, where will Australia’s jihadists go?

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has spent recent weeks attempting to rally support for mooted anti-terror laws that would block the return of Australian jihadists fighting alongside Islamic State (IS) in Syria…
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and US Secretary of State John Kerry after the annual Australia-US security talks in Sydney last month. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and US Secretary of State John Kerry after the annual Australia-US security talks in Sydney last month. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

Ghosts of 2003: US, Australia and allies face tough choices in Iraq

Australia has announced that it will take its place among the US-led coalition of states in military operations against Islamic State in Iraq. Responding to a request from the US President, Australia has…
A protest against the killing of journalists by the Islamic State A protest against the killing of journalists by the Islamic State Mast Irham/EPA

Islamic State’s ‘medieval’ ideology owes a lot to revolutionary France

Over recent weeks there has been a constant background noise that Islamic State and its ideology are some sort of throwback to a distant past. It is often framed in language used last week by the deputy…
Humanitarians no more? Humanitarians no more? EPA/Andy Rain

Standing up to Russia sinks any humanitarian role for NATO

After the NATO-led interventions in Kosovo and Libya, many commentators argued that the Responsibility to Protect, the fashionable name for humanitarian military intervention, had finally become an established…
Barack Obama is reluctant to jump in with both feet with a major military intervention in Iraq and Syria. Barack Obama is reluctant to jump in with both feet with a major military intervention in Iraq and Syria. EPA/Valda Kalnina

Why ‘fools rush in’ is Obama’s watchword in Iraq and Syria

US president Barack Obama has yet to work out exactly what America’s strategy is in confronting Islamic State (IS), and has been foolish enough to say so in public. Cue the foreseeable torrent of point-scoring…
Running out of options, fast, Cameron prepares for his COBRA meet. Running out of options, fast, Cameron prepares for his COBRA meet. EPA/Will Oliver

As IS killings mount, what are Cameron’s options in Iraq?

With Islamic State atrocities mounting – and an explicit threat made to a British citizen being held there – UK prime minister David Cameron is under pressure from some to act. But how? After all, recent…
Kurdish protesters in Paris, telling it like it is. Kurdish protesters in Paris, telling it like it is. EPA/Etienne Laurent

We must not hesitate to call the Islamic State’s crimes genocide

After capturing various major Iraqi cities and towns, attacking the Yazidis, and beginning a still-ongoing battle with the Iraqi Kurds, the Islamic State’s (IS) campaign of terror and barbarism shows no…
A powerful weapon in the fight against terrorism? A powerful weapon in the fight against terrorism? Shutterstock passport

Removing citizenship will only encourage UK jihadists

In the aftermath of James Foley’s killing and the concern that his killer may be from the UK, the right to British citizenship has been placed firmly at the centre of the debate about modern terrorism…
Where are you going? It doesn’t matter why. Where are you going? It doesn’t matter why. miskan

Public backs removing citizenship from Britons fighting abroad – even for a good cause

The UK government is making noises about potentially stripping British people of their citizenship if they join conflicts abroad. But while the proposal is aimed at deterring people from joining Islamic…
History tells us that it is certain criteria and not democratic niceties, secularism or a moderate hand that will make or break Islamic State. History tells us that it is certain criteria and not democratic niceties, secularism or a moderate hand that will make or break Islamic State. EPA/STR

Going the distance: does Islamic State have staying power?

The rise of Islamic State (IS) across parts of the Middle East has galvanised the international community in a way not seen since September 11. But before a military response is considered, western nations…
The silent majority of Muslims shouldn’t be blamed for the actions of Islam’s radical followers – they are victims of radical Islam. The silent majority of Muslims shouldn’t be blamed for the actions of Islam’s radical followers – they are victims of radical Islam. EPA/Ali Abbas

Islam’s silent majority: moderate voices drowned out by extremists

Stretching from north Africa to east Asia, many Muslims are engaged in a life-and-death tussle with extremists who are bent on extinguishing the diversity of opinions within the Muslim community. Atrocities…
Bearing witness: more needs to be done to protect journalists like James Foley. Bearing witness: more needs to be done to protect journalists like James Foley. Nicole Tung/Find James Foley

1,071 murdered since 1992: more must be done to protect journalists like James Foley

The appalling death of journalist James Foley has highlighted once again the inherent dangers facing reporters covering conflicts around the world. Foley, who worked for both US news site Global Post and…
A screengrab from Islamic State’s execution video of American journalist James Foley. A screengrab from Islamic State’s execution video of American journalist James Foley. Liveleak

James Foley, Islamic State and the media’s treatment of terrorism

The US government has confirmed the veracity of a video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley by Islamic State (IS) militants. US president Barack Obama condemned the act overnight…
James Foley: highly respected and professional journalist. James Foley: highly respected and professional journalist. EPA/Nicole Tung

James Foley murder: inside the mind of Britain’s jihadis

The chilling video showing the apparent murder of the journalist James Foley by the Islamic State has reinforced the terrible risks involved in the brave and important role that journalists play in reporting…
An international Red Crescent aid truck sponsored by Syria’s government. An international Red Crescent aid truck sponsored by Syria’s government. Syrian Arab News Agency/EPA

Islamic State only the latest group to fill vacuum left by long Ba'athist retreat in Syria

Black-clad fighters, suffering refugees and Western warplanes overhead – these are the mainstays of Iraq and Syria coverage as the Islamic State (IS) continues its campaign. Notably absent from debates…
Covering atrocity on August 12 2014. Covering atrocity on August 12 2014. Daily Mirror, The Times, The Sun.

Dealing with graphic content is a moral minefield for journalists

Even for a world accustomed to news reports of conflict and disaster, the past three months seem to be unprecedented for the frequency of horrific events. From the continuing tragedies in Syria, to the…
Lebanese troops enter the border town of Arsal to fight off ISIS. Lebanese troops enter the border town of Arsal to fight off ISIS. EPA/Stringer

Lebanon’s fragile democracy survives Islamic State spillover – for now

The Islamic State’s campaign across Northern Iraq and Syria has entered Lebanese territory for the first time. Long affected by the spillover of refugees fleeing its war torn neighbours, the brief battle…
The United Nations Security Council’s primary responsibility is maintaining international peace and security – a task aided by the veto power. The United Nations Security Council’s primary responsibility is maintaining international peace and security – a task aided by the veto power. Francois Proulx/Flickr

Don’t be too quick to condemn the UN Security Council power of veto

Recent events in Gaza and Ukraine and the ongoing gridlock in Syria have dominated newspapers and airwaves – and debate in the United Nations Security Council. Despite UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon…
Overdue for reform: UN Security Council. Overdue for reform: UN Security Council. EPA/Jason Szenes

UN Security Council veto is killing people

The conflicts in Ukraine, Gaza and Syria are symptomatic of deeper problems in the international system. If the Security Council were to fulfil its role under the UN Charter, tackling many of these tragic…
Facing destruction: Iraq’s Yazidi kurds. Facing destruction: Iraq’s Yazidi kurds. EPA/Mohammed Jalil

Explainer: who are the Yazidis?

In 1918, the Yazidis of Sinjar mountain received an ultimatum from Ottoman forces – to hand over their weaponry and the Christian refugees they were sheltering, or face the consequences. They tore it up…
The government wants to toughen laws to prosecute and deter Australians, such as alleged Syria suicide bomber ‘Abu Asma al-Australi’, from fighting in foreign conflicts. The government wants to toughen laws to prosecute and deter Australians, such as alleged Syria suicide bomber ‘Abu Asma al-Australi’, from fighting in foreign conflicts. Twitter/@AbuSiqr

Foreign fighter passports and prosecutions in government’s sights

The Abbott government will soon unveil the legislative details of its second tranche of revamped anti-terrorism measures. The government introduced the first set of reforms into the Senate in July. One…
Urgent business: the UN Security Council discusses Gaza and the downing of flight MH17. Urgent business: the UN Security Council discusses Gaza and the downing of flight MH17. EPA/Jason Szenes

Hard Evidence: who uses veto in the UN Security Council most often – and for what?

On Thursday July 17, 298 people lost their lives when Flight MH17 was downed in eastern Ukraine. Almost immediately accusations were made that the aircraft had been shot down by pro-Russian separatists…
Watchful: Iraqi government troops at border with Jordan. Watchful: Iraqi government troops at border with Jordan. EPA/Alaa al-Shemaree

ISIS does not have enough public support to extend its caliphate in Iraq

After a month of fighting in Iraq, the ISIS insurgency has made considerable progress, even if there is now something of a stalemate as Shi’a militias organise themselves and the weak Iraqi Army gets a…
The jihadi fighters in Iraq and Syria include hundreds of Australians. The jihadi fighters in Iraq and Syria include hundreds of Australians. EPA/Mohammed Jalil

Why hundreds of westerners are taking up arms in global jihad

The conflicts in Syria and Iraq are attracting many westerners, including young Australians, as jihadi fighters. Last December, Australian intelligence agencies reported that they were aware of at least…
Since its nadir in the 2000s, British Islamophobia has become more tempered. Since its nadir in the 2000s, British Islamophobia has become more tempered. John Giles/PA

Coverage of Britons fighting in the Middle East has moved on from Islamophobia of the past

For some time now, speculation has raged over the number of young British Muslims travelling to Syria and Iraq with the intention of fighting in the ongoing conflicts there. At the high end, Birmingham-area…
Kurdish peshmerga brigades, which have emerged as the only viable military counterweight to ISIL in Iraq, prepare defences at Kirkuk. Kurdish peshmerga brigades, which have emerged as the only viable military counterweight to ISIL in Iraq, prepare defences at Kirkuk. EPA/Khalil al-A'nei

Kurds find a way forward through the chaos of a fracturing Iraq

The Kurds have no friends but the mountains, runs the adage. Marginalised, dispossessed and oppressed in their historic homelands, Kurds have long lamented a lack of powerful allies willing and able to…
Aid convoy with armoured vehicles from the UN World Food Program. Aid convoy with armoured vehicles from the UN World Food Program. MSGT Robert Hargreaves Jr., USAF

Humanitarian corridors are problematic but they could help get aid into Syria

The hostilities in Syria have killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions. Every day, people die because they lack goods and services essential for their survival. Much of the suffering is a consequence…
Syrians have the option to vote in their own blood to show commitment. Syrians have the option to vote in their own blood to show commitment. EPA/Youssef Badawi

Assad will win Syria’s farcical election and, as the West hesitates, he is winning the war

There are three candidates running in Syria’s presidential election: the incumbent, Bashar al-Assad and two challengers, Maher Hajjar and Hassan al-Nouri. In reality there is only one, Assad. The other…
Bad influence: Abu Hamza in court. Bad influence: Abu Hamza in court. EPA/Jane Rosenberg

Radical ideology isn’t what makes extremists turn violent

This week saw the convictions of two men at opposite ends of the process of radicalisation – one convicted for radicalising others, the other for being radicalised himself. In the United States, a court…
Who will deliver justice to the civilian victims of the Syrian conflict if not a properly constituted international court? Who will deliver justice to the civilian victims of the Syrian conflict if not a properly constituted international court? EPA

US shift on ICC and Syria gives hope but sceptics right to be wary

The Obama administration has decided to back a push to have the International Criminal Court (ICC) open a formal, United Nations-sanctioned investigation into potential Syrian war crimes, according to…
Human rights monitoring can now be done by anyone. Human rights monitoring can now be done by anyone. Allyson Neville-Morgan

Big data brings new power to open-source intelligence

In November 2013, the New Yorker published a profile of Eliot Higgins – or Brown Moses as he is known to almost 17,000 Twitter followers. An unemployed finance and admin worker at the time, Higgins was…
Tony Blair says Egypt was ‘rescued’ from extremism by military intervention. Tony Blair says Egypt was ‘rescued’ from extremism by military intervention. EPA/Khaled Elfiqi

Blair’s anti-Islamist crusade could play into al-Qaeda’s hands

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the strongest external support for a forceful response from the United States came from Tony Blair, the man who now again describes the struggle against…
Keep calm and Cameron: PMs in the Knesset. Keep calm and Cameron: PMs in the Knesset. EPA/Jim Hollander

Cameron’s Israel trip trumped by regional insecurities

David Cameron’s long-planned visit to Israel was overshadowed in the UK by Ed Miliband’s Europe speech but Cameron did have an opportunity to address the Knesset. Cameron made a strong plea for Israel…
US president Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have to find a way to conduct meaningful negotiations to help end the Syrian civil war. US president Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have to find a way to conduct meaningful negotiations to help end the Syrian civil war. EPA

Syria: why Russia and the US should take negotiations seriously

The Geneva II Syria peace talks concluded earlier this month in a sadly predictable failure, marked by the frustration of the UN-Arab League negotiator Lakhdar Brahimi, who apologised to the Syrian people…
The Syrian civil war has left millions displaced and seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, often in camps in a dire condition. The Syrian civil war has left millions displaced and seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, often in camps in a dire condition. EPA

Syrian aid resolution a step forward by the UN

On Saturday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution that demands access for humanitarian aid organisations in Syria. This is an important step forward. It follows a Presidential…
After destroying towns and cities, Syria’s civil war is spilling into Lebanon. After destroying towns and cities, Syria’s civil war is spilling into Lebanon. Christiaan Triebert

No end in sight as Syria misery spreads across region

The second round of the Geneva II talks on Syria have ended with no agreement and without even a decision on the date of a further meeting. The highly experienced UN mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, was clearly…
Glimpses of horror: while the West watches, Syria burns. Glimpses of horror: while the West watches, Syria burns. SIcco2007

Syrians suffer as world plays politics with humanitarian aid

The humanitarian crisis in Syria is no longer news. It is simple fact: tragedy writ large, as cities burn and lives are ruined. Our eyes may widen at the sheer scale of this destruction: four million people…
Putting the jackboot into Assad. Putting the jackboot into Assad. Freedom House

Hailing Hitler: why Godwin’s law never gets old

Where would we be without Godwin’s Law? This law, formulated for the internet, dictates that as a discussion progresses, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1. And, as…
The war at home: Anti-Assad protestors in London. The war at home: Anti-Assad protestors in London. Lewis Whyld/PA

How Syrian conflict is putting British terrorism law to the test

The arrests of people travelling to or returning from the Syrian conflict have been widely reported over recent weeks in the British media. Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police…
The ruins of the 11th century Great Umayyad Mosque, Aleppo. The ruins of the 11th century Great Umayyad Mosque, Aleppo. Halabi Lens

We will need Monuments Men for as long as ancient sites remain battlefields

The destruction and looting of cultural heritage has been intertwined with conflict for thousands of years. To steal an enemies' treasures, defile their sacred places and burn their cities has been part…
Despite much discussion, the Geneva peace talks between Syria’s warring parties did little more than illustrate the size of the chasm between the two parties. Despite much discussion, the Geneva peace talks between Syria’s warring parties did little more than illustrate the size of the chasm between the two parties. EPA/Arnd Wiegmann

Geneva 2 talks fail to achieve promised transition for Syria

The much-anticipated first round of the Geneva 2 Syrian peace talks wrapped up on Friday after ten days of tense discussions. The international community had hoped that the talks would pave the way for…
Assad: war crimes? But Syria is not a member of the international criminal court. Assad: war crimes? But Syria is not a member of the international criminal court. Watchsmart

Torture pictures may not stop Syria talks but Iran’s absence is a glaring omission

Substantial evidence of torture and systematic killing of thousands of Syrian regime prisoners has emerged as final preparations are made for the Geneva II talks. The claims are unlikely to disrupt the…
Ahead of the scheduled Geneva peace talks on Syria, the role of president Bashar al-Assad remains a stumbling block between the warring parties. Ahead of the scheduled Geneva peace talks on Syria, the role of president Bashar al-Assad remains a stumbling block between the warring parties. EPA/SANA

Are Syria’s ‘Geneva 2’ peace talks over before they begin?

Much is resting on the “Geneva 2” Syrian peace talks scheduled to take place in Switzerland next week. The talks come as the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn nation reaches catastrophic proportions…
Such are the bitter divisions created by atrocities such as the car bombing that led to this mass funeral in Kafat village in Hama province that reconciliation cannot succeed as an afterthought. Such are the bitter divisions created by atrocities such as the car bombing that led to this mass funeral in Kafat village in Hama province that reconciliation cannot succeed as an afterthought. EPA/SANA

Want peace in Syria? Work on reconciliation from day one

When outsiders survey the devastation in Syria, reconciliation is probably the last thing that comes to mind. Millions of refugees and internally displaced people are desperate for humanitarian aid. Millions…
Iraq now faces an assault on its sovereign integrity from Islamic extremists that is testing the organs of the state. Iraq now faces an assault on its sovereign integrity from Islamic extremists that is testing the organs of the state. EPA/Mohammed Jalil

Iraq and its extremist problem: what now for the troubled state?

The number of deaths in Iraq from attacks by extremist groups operating under the banner of Islam has been growing steadily since the withdrawal of American troops in 2011. In 2013, nearly 8900 people…
The victims of civil war doctors are trying to help. The victims of civil war doctors are trying to help. Manu Brabo/AP

Doctors on the frontline: we are targets in Syria’s civil war

We don’t know the exact details of why Abbas Khan, the British surgeon who died while in custody, was arrested last November at a regime checkpoint in Syria and imprisoned and tortured, or the manner of…
Taking dictation: David Cameron vists Kazakh President Nazarbayev. Taking dictation: David Cameron vists Kazakh President Nazarbayev. Leon Neal/PA

Kazakhstan shows how dictators can survive diversity

Why do states and societies collapse? Efforts to explain the hugely complicated conflicts in Syria and Libya have understandably placed heavy emphasis on these nations’ ethnic or tribal diversity. Writers…
All smiles in Geneva: but there are some unhappy people in the Middle East. All smiles in Geneva: but there are some unhappy people in the Middle East. Carolyn Kaster/AP/Press Association Images

Iran’s nuclear weapons deal will rebalance the Middle East

Signed by the P5 + Germany and mediated by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, the deal achieved with Iran on the latter’s nuclear programme has important implications for regional…
Martin E Dempsey warns the fallout of the Arab Spring will take a long time to clear. Martin E Dempsey warns the fallout of the Arab Spring will take a long time to clear. Glenn Fawcett

Recovery from the Arab Spring will take a generation or more

At a meeting at the Wall Street Journal this week, Martin E Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that the United States' ability to exercise influence in the Middle East had significantly…
Syrian troops on patrol in Aleppo. Historically, what has the role of counterinsurgencies been in conflict zones? Syrian troops on patrol in Aleppo. Historically, what has the role of counterinsurgencies been in conflict zones? EPA/SANA

Sticks over carrots: the rationale of Assad’s counterinsurgency ‘madness’

The Syrian civil war is in its 31st month and shows few signs of abating. The death toll is now estimated at over 115,000, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Understanding this level…
Armed conflict remains the major obstacle to ridding the world of this devastating disease. Armed conflict remains the major obstacle to ridding the world of this devastating disease. James Gordon, Los Angeles.

Syria’s polio outbreak is a global public health emergency

As if the children of Syria had not suffered enough, the news of an outbreak of polio (poliomyelitis) signals that even more suffering lies ahead. The polio virus invades the nervous system and can kill…
Famed correspondent Marie Colvin was killed while reporting the civil war in Syria last year. Should more protection be put in place for journalists in conflict zones? Famed correspondent Marie Colvin was killed while reporting the civil war in Syria last year. Should more protection be put in place for journalists in conflict zones? EPA/Ivor Prickett

Why is the media so quiet on protecting journalists and other civilians in warzones?

The news coming out of the ongoing conflict in Syria is tragic and, for many, too horrible to look at for long. While the reportage is appreciated, one can’t help but wonder whether it would be different…
Lebanon is bearing the brunt of the protracted refugee crisis that has emerged as a result of the Syrian civil war. Lebanon is bearing the brunt of the protracted refugee crisis that has emerged as a result of the Syrian civil war. EPA/Wael Hamzeh

Mutual misery: the Syrian refugee crisis, Lebanon and Australia

The recent sinking of a refugee boat bound for Australia off Java, which had 68 Lebanese on board, highlights the complexity, magnitude and reach of the Syrian civil war. The effect of the ongoing war…
‘Win or die’: Free Syrian Army rebels. ‘Win or die’: Free Syrian Army rebels. VOA

Syria peace talks will be fault line for post-US Middle East

Syrian rebels have dealt another blow to the prospects of a peace summit in Geneva in November. On Sunday, 22 of the armed groups fighting on the ground, including four of the most powerful, issued an…
Waning influence: is the US on the decline as a world power? Waning influence: is the US on the decline as a world power? Pete Souza, The White House

Obama’s soft power a hard sell after NSA revelations

For presidents, like sports team managers, the tough weeks tend to outnumber the jubilant. But even by the standards of an unforgiving job, Barack Obama could be forgiven for feeling unusually buffeted…
Open wide. Open wide. Muhammed Muheisen/AP/PA

War, conflict and distrust threaten fight against polio

The World Health Organisation has launched a huge immunisation programme to tackle the first suspected cases of polio in Syria for 14 years. War in the country has seriously affected health services and…
A dangerous, dirty job - but someone has to do it. A dangerous, dirty job - but someone has to do it. EPA/Moadamiyeh Media Centre

OPCW deserves Nobel for long fight against chemical weapons

The abduction, in northern Syria, of seven Red Cross workers is a stark reminder of how dangerous it is to work in that war-torn country, even for such an internationally recognised humanitarian organisation…
MIssion: OPCW seeks the elimination of chemical weapons globally. MIssion: OPCW seeks the elimination of chemical weapons globally. EPA/Moadamiyeh Media Centre

Nobel prize overplays OPCW role in global peace struggle

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the second international organisation to win in two years following the European Union. Alone…
Negotiations: Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry hammering out a deal on Syria. Negotiations: Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry hammering out a deal on Syria. US Department of State

Progress on Syrian WMDs but real test for UN lies ahead

The Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has announced it is sending a second team of weapons inspectors to Syria where, director-general Ahmet Üzümcü reports, destruction of al-Assad’s…
The UN Security Council’s statement on the humanitarian and refugee crisis developing in Syria may be a start, but will it actually help those displaced? The UN Security Council’s statement on the humanitarian and refugee crisis developing in Syria may be a start, but will it actually help those displaced? EPA/Jamal Nasrallah

Can the UN solve Syria’s humanitarian disaster?

After finally passing its first resolution on the Syrian crisis late last week, the United Nations Security Council has now turned its attention to the humanitarian crisis now unfolding within the country…
The huge task of locating and disposing of Syria’s chemical weapons has begun … so what will inspectors look for? The huge task of locating and disposing of Syria’s chemical weapons has begun … so what will inspectors look for? EPA/Lucie Parsaghian

Seek and destroy: dismantling Syria’s chemical weapon stockpile

A team of inspectors from the United Nations and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) entered Syria on Tuesday to begin the long task of finding and disposing of the country’s chemical…
An unidentified Syrian rebel fighter patrolling the streets near Aleppo. Some rebel groups have formed a new ‘bloc’ in a blow to the official SNC opposition. An unidentified Syrian rebel fighter patrolling the streets near Aleppo. Some rebel groups have formed a new ‘bloc’ in a blow to the official SNC opposition. EPA/Stringer

New Syrian Islamist alliance presents major challenge for the west

The beleaguered National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SNC) was dealt another blow this week when competing opposition groups announced the formation of a new Islamist bloc…
Australia sends more foreign fighters to Syria than any other western nation - including suspected suicide bomber ‘Abu Asma al-Australi’. What problems does this pose? Australia sends more foreign fighters to Syria than any other western nation - including suspected suicide bomber ‘Abu Asma al-Australi’. What problems does this pose? Twitter/@AbuSiqr

Is it a problem that Australia sends the most foreign fighters to Syria?

A married Queenslander using the nom de guerre “Abu Asma al-Australi” featured as a suicide bomber in a promotional video released by the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jahbat al-Nusra earlier this month. He…
Taking sides: medical targets in Syria threaten medical neutrality. Taking sides: medical targets in Syria threaten medical neutrality. Dominic Lipinski/PA

Preventing medical help has become a new form of warfare

New York Times columnist Nick Kristof recently nominated Syria as the world capital of human suffering. He has a point. It’s not just the bombs, bullets, and now gas rained down upon the civilian population…
US president Barack Obama has been criticised recently for not taking a hardline enough approach on military action in Syria. US president Barack Obama has been criticised recently for not taking a hardline enough approach on military action in Syria. EPA/Michael Reynolds

In praise of prevarication: Barack Obama’s Syria strategy

Being the most powerful man in the world isn’t what it used to be. US president Barack Obama is currently being ridiculed for his apparent inability to decide how to handle the conflict in Syria. American…
Hard to get rid of: the US still hasn’t destroyed its chemical weapons stockplie. Hard to get rid of: the US still hasn’t destroyed its chemical weapons stockplie. US government

Explainer: how will Syria’s chemical weapons be destroyed?

Bashar Assad’s decision to sign up Syria to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) last week committed his country to verifiably give up the possession of chemical weapons and their production capabilities…
Prepare for the unexpected. Prepare for the unexpected. Christiaan Triebert

Businesses must pay attention to Syrian warning signs

The Syrian crisis enters a new chapter. The international community has struggled to produce what may prove to be an interim solution. But this is just another crisis in the Middle East, they say. Things…
US president Barack Obama addressed a doubting nation and Congress last night. US president Barack Obama addressed a doubting nation and Congress last night. EPA/Michael Reynolds

Obama’s Syria strategy: the war he doesn’t want

On Tuesday night Washington time, US president Barack Obama made a public plea to Congress to authorise a military action in Syria that he probably doesn’t want. The tell-tale sign Obama doesn’t actually…
More than half of Syria’s refugees are children. More than half of Syria’s refugees are children. Oxfam International

The world needs to plan for long-term Syria refugee crisis

A new city rises up in the Jordanian desert. Zaatari is now “home” – at last count – to 144,000 Syrians. The numbers are scarcely credible. One million child refugees; two million exiles in total; another…
Friendship fries all round. Friendship fries all round. Pete Souza

Syria the anvil on which new US-French entente is forged

While Barack Obama was getting the cold shoulder from Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg late last week, the mood was a great deal more cordial at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris as US secretary of state, John…
At risk: doctors and healthcare workers are on the frontline of a war zone. At risk: doctors and healthcare workers are on the frontline of a war zone. Voice of America

Deadly challenge of keeping Syria health-care workers safe

As the civilian death toll from conventional and chemical weapons in Syria mounts, politicians and policymakers around the world are locked in debate about how to respond. Away from the question of military…
A US inquiry is questioning Lynn Tilton and her firm Patriarch Partners over its relationship with an ex-Army official, Norbert E Vergez. A US inquiry is questioning Lynn Tilton and her firm Patriarch Partners over its relationship with an ex-Army official, Norbert E Vergez. Wikimedia Commons

Private equity’s very public connections

US reports have recently circulated of a government probe into the hiring of former Colonel Norbert Vergez by the private equity firm Patriarch Partners, headed by billionaire “turnaround queen” and would-be…
Flamethrower Tank in Vietnam. Flamethrower Tank in Vietnam. Donn A Starry

Explainer: what is napalm?

There are allegations that a nerve agent was used in Syria recently. According to US officials, it killed more than 1400 people, including 400 children. But since then, in a more recent incident, a bomb…
Syria’s ancient fortifications are sadly in use once again, and have been heavily damaged. Syria’s ancient fortifications are sadly in use once again, and have been heavily damaged. Emma Cunliffe

In Syria’s ruined relics lies the history of human civilisation

What makes us human? Whatever it is, it can be found in Syria. When the earliest hominids first came from Africa they passed through Syria, and their remains, together with the tools they made, can still…
Hail to the chief: Obama is a tonic for the troops. Hail to the chief: Obama is a tonic for the troops. Wikimedia Commons

Barack Obama’s constitutional contortions over Syria

Tensions in the Middle East rose considerably this morning when Russian radar detected the launch of two rockets in the eastern Mediterranean, triggering alerts across the region. After initially claiming…
Warfare 2.0 doesn’t require much more than a laptop. Warfare 2.0 doesn’t require much more than a laptop. DFectuoso

The Syrian Electronic Army is rewriting the rules of war

In Dragon Day – a provocative new movie on release in the US in November – we see the consequences of a “cyber 9/11”. China has attacked the critical infrastructure of the US in a large-scale cyber-attack…
A GB (sarin) filled M55 rocket, is destroyed. A GB (sarin) filled M55 rocket, is destroyed. US Army Chemical Materials Agency

Chemical weapons and the scientists who make them

It would take a hard-hearted person not to have been moved to tears by the images on our television screens of Syria over the last week - of infants struggling to breathe while their parents looked on…
It doesn’t matter who won the Commons vote: these are the losers. It doesn’t matter who won the Commons vote: these are the losers. Freedom House via Creative Commons

It’s the Syrian people that matter, not British politics

As a policy analyst, I am naturally interested in the dynamics of domestic politics, the role of specific actors, institutions and communities. So I understand why so much talk in Britain yesterday and…
Will the US attack Syria in the face growing international condemnation and opposition? Will the US attack Syria in the face growing international condemnation and opposition? EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

Malcolm Fraser: Syria attack ‘illegal’

Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser has attacked American plans to launch attacks on the Assad regime in Syria, describing them as illegal and reminiscent of the disastrous invasion of Iraq…
The US guided-missile destroyer USS Preble fires a Tomahawk missile in training. Such weapons would form the mainstay of any US attack on Assad government forces in Syria. The US guided-missile destroyer USS Preble fires a Tomahawk missile in training. Such weapons would form the mainstay of any US attack on Assad government forces in Syria. EPA/Woody Shag Pascal

The price of gas: Tomahawks and Wild Weasels over Syria

A decade ago US air power was talked about as an instrument of “shock and awe”. In August 2013 it is apparently being downgraded, with President Obama referring to potential strikes on Syria as “a pretty…
Devastating New Dawn raids in Fallujah, Iraq. Devastating New Dawn raids in Fallujah, Iraq. Wikimedia Commons

Air strikes could keep hope alive for Syria and Middle East

Stand by - on a screen near you - for the all-too familiar televisual firework display which means that the US and its allies are forging ahead with the threatened air strikes on Syria. As politicians…
Unrest in Syria has raised concerns about world oil supplies. Unrest in Syria has raised concerns about world oil supplies. potomo

How the Syrian unrest affects world markets

Prospective US and UK military action in Syria has created jitters in the financial and commodities markets around the world. Stock markets have experienced significant losses, whereas commodities and…
Deadly force: the US navy’s humanitarian intervention in Libya in 2011. Deadly force: the US navy’s humanitarian intervention in Libya in 2011. Wikimedia Commons

International law is clear: no UN mandate, no Syria strikes

As the drums beat louder for the possibility of Western military intervention in Syria, we have seen discussion of an intervention on moral, strategic and practical grounds. But so far none of the major…
A missile submarine conducts tests. A missile submarine conducts tests. Official US Navy Imagery

History suggests intervention in Syria will be bad for business

Since last week’s gas attack on a Damascus suburb, the political class has been gripped by the idea that “something must be done.” Meanwhile Wall Street, already declining through early August, fell further…
Sorouq lost her sisters to bomb attacks in Syria, but the best way to help is to stay away. Sorouq lost her sisters to bomb attacks in Syria, but the best way to help is to stay away. Save the Children / Hedinn Halldorsson

Weep for the children, but stay out of Syria

A grief-stricken father tenderly hands over the shrouded body of his tiny daughter to be placed in the mass grave. Surgical masks are being worn in the hope that they will ward off the chemical death that…
UN inspectors will face several problems determining what has happened in Damascus. UN inspectors will face several problems determining what has happened in Damascus. EPA/STR

Chemical weapons in Syria: who, what, where, when, why?

It’s been a little more than a week since reports surfaced of a large-scale chemical weapon attack in Syria. Governments in Europe and the United States have accused the Syrian government of attacking…
Allegations of chemical weapon use by the Assad regime is leading to calls for Western intervention. Allegations of chemical weapon use by the Assad regime is leading to calls for Western intervention. EPA/STR

Obama’s credibility on the line as US weighs up a Syria response

Those who thought US president Barack Obama was chastened by his failure to subdue the Taliban in Afghanistan and his decision to “lead from behind” in Libya expected the White House to be less overtly…
Australia holds the Presidency of the UN Security Council throughout September. The Syrian crisis is sure to provide an immense challenge during this tenure. Australia holds the Presidency of the UN Security Council throughout September. The Syrian crisis is sure to provide an immense challenge during this tenure. EPA/STR

Will Australia make the most of its Security Council presidency?

As the federal election calls Australian attention to matters domestic, our diplomats are preparing for one of their most demanding briefs. On September 1, Australia becomes President of the United Nations…
Modern warfare: armed forces routinely protect against chemical attack. Modern warfare: armed forces routinely protect against chemical attack. Wikimedia Commons

Chemical massacre in Syria: a former UN disarmament commissioner’s view

The motive and timing of the alleged chemical attack last week in Damascus appear strange, but Western powers including the US, UK and France, backed by other regional players including Turkey now seem…
Best friends forever: Russia has always supported Syria, despite international pressure. Best friends forever: Russia has always supported Syria, despite international pressure. Freedom House

Fatal attraction: Russia’s flawed friendship with Syria

As UN inspectors finally began their search for evidence of chemical weapons being used in Syria, on Wednesday Damascus apparently suffered the worst attack of this kind yet in this conflict. Some reports…
If the war in Syria is to end, it is the media’s duty to broadcast graphic, uncensored images and the public’s duty to look. If the war in Syria is to end, it is the media’s duty to broadcast graphic, uncensored images and the public’s duty to look. EPA/Local Committee of Arbeen

Why we need to see the images of dying Syrians

Horrifying photographs and videos emerged yesterday from what appears to have been a chemical attack on thousands of civilians in Syria. It is still unclear who committed the atrocity, with both Syrian…
Millions of people are being displaced across the region. Millions of people are being displaced across the region. Freedom House

Middle East map blurs as old order breaks down

It is about 100 years since the then-imperial powers of Britain and France first demarcated the boundaries between Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Mandate Palestine. Now, it looks like those borders are…
Save Our Souls: students from Damascus University send out a message. Save Our Souls: students from Damascus University send out a message. Freedom House

‘Where we used to go to teach … the armed men take us to torture us’

The Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) helps academics at risk of persecution, discrimination or violence so that they can carry on their work. CARA was established in 1933 by leading British…
As Islamic jihadists become increasingly central to the Syrian conflict, the once secular revolution led by the Free Syrian Army (fighter pictured) loses support in the eyes of the world. As Islamic jihadists become increasingly central to the Syrian conflict, the once secular revolution led by the Free Syrian Army (fighter pictured) loses support in the eyes of the world. EPA

Radicalising Syria: how the rebels are becoming more Islamist

In the two years since its inception, the image of the Syrian civil war has veered dramatically away from its revolutionary, secular origins. What began as a response to the brutal repression of peaceful…
Durum wheat has Middle Eastern parents and Italian progeny, but grows best on Australian soil. Durum wheat has Middle Eastern parents and Italian progeny, but grows best on Australian soil. Mikko Kuhna

The good earth: Clare Hypercalcic Calcarosol and durum wheat

Australia has some of the world’s most ancient soils, many of which grow delicious produce. In this series, “The good earth”, soil scientist Robert Edis has profiled some of those soils and the flavours…
The emerging divisions between the various Syrian rebel groups is threatening to give the government forces the upper hand in the ongoing conflict. The emerging divisions between the various Syrian rebel groups is threatening to give the government forces the upper hand in the ongoing conflict. EPA/STR

Syrian opposition: a crumbling house of cards?

For Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the recent murder of Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander Abu Basir by Islamist State of Iraq (ISI) militants must have felt like his birthday had come early. The assassination…
Lethal force: will more weapons increase the chance of a peaceful solution in Syria? Lethal force: will more weapons increase the chance of a peaceful solution in Syria? Freedom House via Creative Commons

Is it legal to supply arms to Syrian rebels?

With the UK and France free of their EU obligations to refrain from providing lethal assistance to the rebels and the US now deciding that the time has come strategically and politically to do so, all…
The grim cost of conflict. The grim cost of conflict. Freedom House via Creative Commons

Syria casts its shadow as G8 leaders gather

President Obama’s confirmation that the United States would begin arming Syrian rebels has prompted an urgent debate about both the legality and the effectiveness of the decision. The announcement, ahead…
Word of god: the Qur'an is the source of much of the Sharia.. Word of god: the Qur'an is the source of much of the Sharia.. Crystalina via Creative Commons

Explainer: what is sharia and how does it operate?

As Iranians go to the polls to elect a new president, new research suggests they have misgivings about the role of religious figures in the government of the country. But, as the US-based Pew Research…
The deployment of the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems (pictured) to Syria has caused tensions to rise among Western powers. The deployment of the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems (pictured) to Syria has caused tensions to rise among Western powers. LuchezarS.

From ‘telegraph poles’ to Russian missiles: Syria’s air defence

As the civil war in Syria continues, several states are now decrying the potential deployment of the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems. Described as a move to cool “hothead” pro-interventionists…
With uprisings continuing to take place in Turkey, questions must now be asked over whether the ‘Turkish model’ for democracy is the way forward for the Arab world. With uprisings continuing to take place in Turkey, questions must now be asked over whether the ‘Turkish model’ for democracy is the way forward for the Arab world. EPA/Evrim Aydin

As uprisings continue, what happened to the ‘Turkish model’ for democracy?

The ongoing protests across Turkey, stretching from May 28, show there is ample evidence of a flourishing culture of democracy in the country. They also highlight a worrying counter trend. Last week, the…
Will the decision by the EU to lift its embargo on arming Syrian rebels be a game-changer for the ongoing conflict? Will the decision by the EU to lift its embargo on arming Syrian rebels be a game-changer for the ongoing conflict? EPA/Maysun

EU lifting arms embargo on Syria won’t win the war for the rebels

The bloodbath in Syria continues apace and the decision by the European Union to provide arms to some rebel groups ensures that fighting will grow only more intense. The hotly contested removal of the…
Are international talks that bring all parties in the Syrian civil war to the table the only solution to the ongoing conflict? Are international talks that bring all parties in the Syrian civil war to the table the only solution to the ongoing conflict? EPA/Malasun

The Syrian civil war: no good outcomes

A great level of cynicism has been pervading the ongoing conflict in Syria. This is seen in the manipulation of the crisis by Syria’s neighbours, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and the superpowers…
You and whose army: the West is concerned that any military aid goes to the right rebel factions. You and whose army: the West is concerned that any military aid goes to the right rebel factions. FreedomHouse2 via Creative Commons

UK’s helping hand on Syria may only fan the flames

This week we learnt Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon are no longer under cover in Syria, they are actively fighting on the side of President Bashar al-Assad. They are perhaps emboldened by Israel’s attacks…
A university event where women and men were asked to sit separately raises more questions. A university event where women and men were asked to sit separately raises more questions. Islamic women image from www.shutterstock.com

The real story behind Melbourne University’s gender segregation case

The fallout from an event at the University of Melbourne where women and men were asked to sit separately has been intense. The media coverage so far has focused on the issue of segregated seating in a…
The conflict in Syria continues with no end in sight - is it time for true foreign intervention to solve the crisis? The conflict in Syria continues with no end in sight - is it time for true foreign intervention to solve the crisis? EPA/SANA

Failure to intervene shows Syria is heading in the wrong direction

The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate and could lead to a reconfiguration of the political order in the wider region. The military capacity of the government appears to be in decline and there…
There are reports of up to 200 Australians joining up to fight with Syrian rebel groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, which may pose a threat to security at home. There are reports of up to 200 Australians joining up to fight with Syrian rebel groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, which may pose a threat to security at home. Jabhat al-Nusra

Australians fighting in Syria: what is the threat at home?

The Syrian insurgent group Jabhat al-Nusra’s recent pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda, alongside reports of Australians fighting in the insurgency, highlights a security threat to Australia. According to…
The resignation of Syrian opposition leader Moaz Al-Khatib (centre) has plunged the war-torn nation into fresh political tumult. The resignation of Syrian opposition leader Moaz Al-Khatib (centre) has plunged the war-torn nation into fresh political tumult. EPA/STR

Political turmoil in Syria: the crisis deepens

Political upheaval within the Syrian National Council (SNC) is worsening the chaos that has defined Syria for the past two years. In recent times, we’ve also seen allegations of chemical weapon use and…
The Free Syrian Army may claim democratic ideals, but it is almost exclusively a Sunni Muslim grouping fighting the Shia and Alawite forces of the dictator Bashar Al-Assad. The Free Syrian Army may claim democratic ideals, but it is almost exclusively a Sunni Muslim grouping fighting the Shia and Alawite forces of the dictator Bashar Al-Assad. EPA/Maysun

Syria: from fight for justice to sectarian stalemate

The horror of the Syrian conflict appears to know no bounds. Every day brings news of a new atrocity and it is clear that both the rebels and the Assad government are guilty of human rights abuses on an…
Not all members of the Free Syria Army have the nation’s best interests at heart. Not all members of the Free Syria Army have the nation’s best interests at heart. EPA/Maysun

Reconciliation is the only way forward for Syria

Syria continues to be gutted, physically and psychologically, every day. Her people are terrorised and killed, infrastructure is decimated, and historical monuments are razed with astonishing levels of…
Australian Syrians protest in Hyde Park, Sydney, in February calling for the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down immediately. Australian Syrians protest in Hyde Park, Sydney, in February calling for the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down immediately. AAP Image/Lauren Farrow

The conflict at home and abroad: Australian involvement in Syria

In Syria, the optimism which accompanied the Arab Spring uprising has faded into the reality of a bloody sectarian civil war. Recent media reports have highlighted the involvement of foreign fighters in…
Syrian rebels are using violence, but it may not be in their best interest. Syrian rebels are using violence, but it may not be in their best interest. EPA/Cem Ozdel

What hope is there for violent resistance in Syria?

What should we hope for when we look at the ongoing crisis in Syria? I don’t really know anymore. The most interesting book that I have read this year is Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic…
Syrian government forces during an operation in Aleppo. Syrian government forces during an operation in Aleppo. SANA

Bombs across the border: will Turkey intervene in the Syrian war?

The exchange of artillery fire between Turkish and Syrian forces over the past few days has seen a renewed focus on the possibility of an escalating war between Damascus and Ankara. It seems that not since…
A building Aleppo attacked by Free Syrian Army fighters. A building Aleppo attacked by Free Syrian Army fighters. EPA/Sana

The malignant consensus on Syria

It is a paradox of our digital age that, despite an enormous supply of information, a powerful yet misleading consensus can still shape the course of international relations. Such was the case with the…
A Syrian woman in Turkey prays for those left behind. A Syrian woman in Turkey prays for those left behind. EPA/Tolga Bozoglu

Rape in Syria: a weapon of war or instrument of terror?

In Syria, rape is being used by armed groups as a means to an end. In this context, reports have emerged detailing the use of sexual violence by Syrian armed forces and paramilitaries loyal to Assad. Last…
The Crusader fortress of Krak De Chevalier has been damaged by shelling after rebels used it as a defensive position. The Crusader fortress of Krak De Chevalier has been damaged by shelling after rebels used it as a defensive position. AAP image

The perils of history and antiquity in Syria

The looting of the Baghdad Museum in 2003 during the invasion of Iraq is an example the consequences of war on national heritage. Almost a decade on, the civil war in Syria has seen history repeating itself…
With the war in Syria having no end in sight, is it time to support a no-fly zone? With the war in Syria having no end in sight, is it time to support a no-fly zone? EPA/CEM

R2P: the moral case for a no-fly zone in Syria

Syrian opposition fighters and members of the aid community have called for a no-fly zone in recent months, amid an increasingly vicious armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad. With thousands…
A group of Iranian pilgrims captured by the Free Syria Army who claim are Iranian Revolutionary Guards. A group of Iranian pilgrims captured by the Free Syria Army who claim are Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Al Arabiya

Iran – Syrian ally to the bitter end

This week the Islamic Republic of Iran made a blunt statement, reiterating its position in relation to the on-going conflict in Syria. According to Saeed Jalili, a senior advisor to the Iranian Supreme…
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has lost a close ally after a bomb attack killed his Defense Minister Daoud Rajha. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has lost a close ally after a bomb attack killed his Defense Minister Daoud Rajha. EPA/SANA

Death in Damascus: bomb attack rattles an Assad regime in decline

In something reminiscent of the plot to kill Hitler with a briefcase bomb, several high-ranking figures of the Assad regime have been killed in an apparent suicide attack. The top level security apparatchiks…
Foreign Minister Bob Carr expelled two Syrian diplomats on 29 May, 2012. Foreign Minister Bob Carr expelled two Syrian diplomats on 29 May, 2012. AAP/Lukas Coch

The West must quit the theatrics and tell the truth on Syria

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced that Australia will lead the way in expelling Syrian diplomats in response to the Al Houla massacre. These theatrics are just another act in the shadow play…
The bodies of people, including children, that anti-government activists claimed were killed by the Syrian Army in Houla. The bodies of people, including children, that anti-government activists claimed were killed by the Syrian Army in Houla.

Syria: is an international solution possible?

The appalling massacre of civilians, including children, in the town of Houla, near the Syrian city of Homs, was a senseless act beyond the unacceptable and ultimately self-defeating goal of crushing all…
A mass grave is formed in Houla. A mass grave is formed in Houla. EPA

Syria: truth, lies and realpolitik

After a longish lull, the ghastly images emanating from Houla have re-focused world attention on Syria and its rapidly deteriorating internal condition, as Mat Hardy pointed out on The Conversation yesterday…
Bodies are prepared for a mass funeral at Houla, Syria on the weekend. Bodies are prepared for a mass funeral at Houla, Syria on the weekend.

Syria, social media and the failure of our collective memory

While the photos currently coming out of Houla look like scenes of an apocalypse, anyone with Syrian friends or connections has seen equally horrifying videos and photos circulating on Facebook or Youtube…
Syrians want democracy, but not at gunpoint. Syrians want democracy, but not at gunpoint. EPA

Syrians ask: why not give democracy a chance?

Last Monday, Syria’s Interior Ministry announced the results of a referendum on a new constitution. Of the 57.4% of eligible voters who went to the polls on 26 February 2012, 89.4% agreed to pass the new…
Many Syrians prefer the stability of the Assad regime to the chaos they saw after dictators were deposed in Libya and Iraq. Many Syrians prefer the stability of the Assad regime to the chaos they saw after dictators were deposed in Libya and Iraq. EPA/Youssef Badawi

The Syria roulette wheel – where nobody wins

The stench of hypocrisy is a hard one to wash out for the West in the Middle East. We shook Gadaffi’s hand and pretended we liked his outfits when he coughed up for Lockerbie and we snuggled with Mubarak…
The Arab League has repeatedly failed to effect political change in the region. The Arab League has repeatedly failed to effect political change in the region. EPA/Amel Pain

Arab League mission to Syria was an exercise in duplicity

This weekend, Syria witnessed some of its bloodiest days since political agitation began last year. Dozens were killed after the government launched a new military offensive against rebel group the Free…
The Occupy movement: different agendas, but united by the right to civil disobedience. The Occupy movement: different agendas, but united by the right to civil disobedience.

#Occupy movement: different aims, but united by the importance of civil protest

The “Occupy” movement has swept the world in the last five weeks, as seems appropriate in this year of demonstrations by people tired of a clapped-out status quo. Of course, the Occupy movement is quite…
Syrian troops withdraw from the city of Hama where they were quelling pro-democracy protests. Syrian troops withdraw from the city of Hama where they were quelling pro-democracy protests. AFP/STR

Solving the crisis in Syria. Where will the unrest end?

The United States has stepped up sanctions against Syria, targeting President Bashar al-Assad’s financial resources. Syria claims to have withdrawn its troops from the city of Hama, which has played a…
Hacktivists remove choice from consumers – and in their own way lay down the law. Hacktivists remove choice from consumers – and in their own way lay down the law. anonmunich

LulzSec, Anonymous … freedom fighters or the new face of evil?

As you’ll know by now, hacktivist group Anonymous has vandalised the home page of the Syrian Ministry of Defense, posting a message which started: “To the Syrian people: the world stands with you against…
A portrait of President Assad in Midan, Syria. A portrait of President Assad in Midan, Syria. Brian Stoddard

The situation in Syria: a first hand account

Emeritus Professor Brian Stoddart, former Vice-Chancellor at La Trobe University, returned recently from an extended assignment working with universities in Syria. Below is his account of his time in a…
Syrian President Assad addresses the nation earlier this week. Syrian President Assad addresses the nation earlier this week. AAP

Syria - breaking the pattern

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad made a major speech earlier this week promising major reforms in the way his country is governed in an attempt to end protests rocking the Middle Eastern country. However…
Still from a video showing Syrian anti-government protestors in Hama on June 3 2011. Still from a video showing Syrian anti-government protestors in Hama on June 3 2011. AFP/YouTube

Hama time for Syrian rebels?

As we watch the spot fires of democratic uprisings flicker across Syria it is worth remembering that the government’s response so far has been mild. The religious tensions of the country and disaffection…

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