The people disappeared in Syria’s military prisons do not have graves, but they do have names. They may not have been accorded funeral rites, but they have faces and stories and their families have memories of their presence. The war which has destroyed much of Syria can be localised: to a family, to a single person, to a face. And within the wider war lurk stories of cruelty and barbarism which affect individuals but whose effects spiral outwards. These specific instances of savagery become institutionalised. Continue reading
For some people, these islands seem just too small to satisfy their ambitions. Not content with Britain, many want to be known around the world; they want to be famous in a new and different way. Continue reading
As the final assault on the stronghold of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Mosul is in the works, important questions are going unanswered. Chief among them is: What will ISIS do in Iraq after Mosul falls? Continue reading
Much is made of the foreign fighters who flock to join the ‘caliphate’ Islamic State (IS) claims to have established in Iraq and Syria.
Although many foreign fighters are from Middle Eastern and North African countries, the international focus is on those from prosperous Western nations. These people are many things: a clear and present threat to national security, something of a rebuke to the societies from which they came, and also an important puzzle. Continue reading
The Syrian uprising is on the verge of its fifth anniversary. To a great extent it has become the essential conflict of our times. Despite this – or perhaps because of it – the prospect of peace, regardless of some apparently encouraging signs from the United Nations, remains a chimera. Much – and understandably so – has been written about what Syria has become, and what led it there: the murders, the torture, the senseless slaughter, the almost inconceivable devastation.
There is no shame in this; it is necessary and I have done more than my fair share. But sometimes this analysis is insufficient. Sometimes it is better to write from an unconventional perspective; sometimes what is missing from the equation is a greater sense of historical understanding. Continue reading
During the quieter months of the year-long aerial campaign waged against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, it might have been possible to forget of its existence, or at least to push the subject to the rear of the developed world’s many priorities. That cannot be said now. With a refugee crisis which largely stemmed from the affected areas sparking a summer of tragically perilous sea journeys and arbitrary border closures, followed at all times by the implied threat of a populist, nationalistic backlash, forgetting was not an entirely easy process. And now – as ISIS launches more ambitious examples of its terrorist activity overseas, including the likely downing of a Russian plane in Egypt and the savage bloodbath which has terrorised the city of Paris last week – it seems that a reaction of sorts is not only appropriate but vital. Continue reading
The situation in Syria could hardly get more desperate. But now, thanks to the actions of two powers intent on establishing their dominance within other nations, the conflict has become even more than an unsolved humanitarian disaster or a source of geopolitical challenge. Now the war could represent the coming together of two great foes of freedom and democracy; and this is almost entirely due to the free hand the Obama Administration has given to Iran and Russia. Continue reading