Iran-Backed Iraqi Militias Pose ‘Serious’ Threat to US Forces

When the Islamic State (ISIS) surged across Iraq in 2014, the Iraqi state and its army buckled. Iraqi forces retreated in disorder. Soldiers were killed outright; many were captured and subsequently executed. This presaged a national crisis. Continue reading

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Fire and Fury, but Little Else

The biggest of the stories swirling about Donald Trump this week concerns, not a tweet (as is ordinary), but a book.

The president is famously unlettered, professing little time for reading; and others attest that Trump has little interest in any printed matter that does not contain his photograph. Continue reading

European Leaders’ Response to Iran Protests Is Weak and Disingenuous

World leaders can claim to have been taken by surprise by the protests which have erupted in Iran over the past few days.

After all, many European politicians and American analysts confidently declared, as recently as October, that American sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its foreign operations apparatus had united the Iranian people behind the nation’s theocratic government and its security state. Continue reading

War in 140 Characters

Review – War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century by David Patrikarakos

The commercial internet changed the world. That much is conventional wisdom.

Similarly, its importance in the contemporary scene, largely in the form of social media, which features in what is termed ‘Web 2.0’, is sacrosanct.

It has altered the way billions of people communicate and has changed the nature of that communication. Its influence on politics is accepted to be vast, with some political figures practically defined by their use of one particular website: Twitter. Continue reading

Saleh’s Downfall Is Hardly the End of an Era

The death of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh dem­onstrates a lot about the nature of the coun­try’s civil war. Saleh was killed by Houthi rebels, with whom he had previously been al­lied and against whom he publicly turned two days before. Continue reading

Federal Misgovernment

Syria’s civil conflict is not over, or even nearly over, but some of its participants are keen that this perception travels. They hope it becomes commonly-held. The regime of Bashar al-Assad and its Russian allies are busy pretending the war is winding down and that they have won. Assad himself met the Russian president Vladimir Putin in Sochi last month in the simulation of a victory lap. Continue reading

The Burning Ambition of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s conservatism is well-known. It is religious, social, and political. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy whose legitimacy is supported by clerical authority. Many outsiders, particularly Westerners, assume from this that the country is entirely retrograde, that reform of its institutions, laws and society may never come. Continue reading