As England’s football team prepare to face Iran in the first match of their World Cup campaign, the backdrop is already miserable. Football’s most prestigious tournament is taking place in the wrong season in a deplorable state where workers have died in the construction of stadiums. To make matters worse, the Three Lions’ first opponents are in the midst of a brutal crackdown back home on those who have dared speak out in opposition. Hundreds have died; thousands more have been locked up.Continue reading
Focus on Syria has dwindled since the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But over a decade after the country’s bloody civil war first started, the conflict rumbles on. Armed groups continue to jockey for position. The death toll, caused by Russia’s air force, Iran’s militias, and Bashar al-Assad’s forces, continues to rise.Continue reading
It is an immense irony, as the great orientalist Bernard Lewis was fond of remarking, that Israel – the most vibrant and enthusiastic democracy in the Middle East – has to put up with the world’s worst electoral system. Its governments frequently collapse. Perhaps they do it philanthropically, to allow citizens once again the pleasure of going to the polls.
Israel’s longest serving leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, is back. His return confirms once again an iron clad rule of Israeli politics: never write Bibi off. A few years ago, his opponents briefly thought they had vanquished him for good.Continue reading
The president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, is a fool. His countrymen know this well. They have lived under his rule for almost thirty years, and their country is poor and underdeveloped. Lukashenko used to wear with pride a title awarded to him by the international media, “Europe’s last dictator.” His most recent fiscal tactic, intended to fight inflation, has been to ban price increases by state decree. Obviously, he is not a deep thinker.Continue reading
Until this week, the prospect of global famine had disappeared from the headlines, but earlier in Russia’s war against Ukraine, a sinister possibility had begun to take shape.
Ukraine is a breadbasket. Its produce feeds the world. And Russia, knowing this, had developed a plan to starve the world instead. Its soldiers would wreck Ukrainian farmland and kill its farmers. Russians would steal and sell all the Ukrainian grain it could. And the Black Sea – a vital artery through which most of Ukraine’s food exports travelled – would be blockaded by the Russian navy. Food shipments would not be let through. The world would starve, Ukraine’s economy would suffer, and – in Vladimir Putin’s mind – he would be the victor.Continue reading
It’s the season for diplomacy in the Middle East, even for the most distasteful of leaders. Joe Biden paid a visit to Saudi Arabia in July, against his own inclinations, because of the need to lower oil prices. American and European diplomats still scramble hopelessly to reach a new nuclear deal with Iran.Continue reading
As Iranian munitions have hurtled through the air at the front line in the Donbas, and as Iranian suicide drones have smashed into Ukrainian cities, Tehran has denied everything – unconvincingly. The most recent was Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, who said on Saturday: ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran has not and will not provide any weapon to be used in the war in Ukraine’. With the piety beloved of hypocrites everywhere, he went on: ‘We believe that the arming of each side of the crisis will prolong the war’.Continue reading
It depends on when you are reading this but it’s possible that as you do, Russian missiles are still falling on Kyiv. The Ukrainian capital, and cities across the country, have been subject to a devastating missile barrage last night and this morning.Continue reading
Ukraine is awash with foreign-made weapons, something that is true of both sides. While Ukraine uses American-made rocket systems, French, German and British artillery pieces, and anti-tank weaponry from across the globe, Russia is resorting to foreign suppliers of its own. This means artillery shells from North Korea and, increasingly, drones from Iran.Continue reading
Wars are breaking out across the imperial periphery as Russia is defeated in Ukraine.
This week, Azerbaijan attacked Armenia, striking its sovereign territory—a clear repudiation of the “peacekeeping” efforts masterminded by Russia in the aftermath of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War. As it is attacked, Armenia has plaintively appealed for Russian aid—aid which is not forthcoming.Continue reading