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
Queen Elizabeth II, who reigned over the United Kingdom and fourteen other commonwealth realms for 70 years, was buried following a state funeral on 19 September 2022.Continue reading
In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the unprecedented international sanctions targeting Russia’s economy, people and money have been fleeing Russia. Among them are some of the richest people in the world, Russia’s oligarchs, who are the target of both personalised sanctions and international attention.Continue reading
The fourth anniversary of the start of the battle for Raqqa has just passed, during which time the city was recaptured from the Islamic State (IS).
Raqqa had been IS’ Syrian capital, and it took over four months for the liberators, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to wrest back control of the city in October 2017 with international support.Continue reading
Mountainous and dry, with a tendency to anarchy in the ample spaces between its cities, Yemen has long been hospitable to insurgency. Yet in ancient times it was home to the Sabaeans and had claims to be the biblical land of the Queen of Sheba. Its fertility and beauty were such that the Romans called it Arabia Felix, ‘happy Arabia’. The people there are mostly Arabs and like much of the rest of Arabia, became subject to the distant domain of the Ottoman sultan. The fate of the peninsula was influenced significantly by Britain, which in 1937 took the port city of Aden as the centre of its colony (on independence in 1967, it became South Yemen). Britain exercised significant influence over who ruled Muscat and Oman; assisted succession to the monarchy and imamate of North Yemen; and together with the US confirmed the al Saud family as hereditary rulers of what became Saudi Arabia. Now combined, the former North and South Yemen are together Sunni by bare majority, but the Zaidi Shia remain a large, mainly northern minority.Continue reading
The Kingdom of Jordan has had an uncharacteristically eventful weekend. It is a stable country by reputation: a reliable ally and friend. But for a few hours at least, it seemed as though King Abdullah II was about to be deposed. The state’s Jordan News Agency was at sixes and sevens, tweeting and then deleting a number of contrasting updates to the situation. As is often the case when something happens in a country few in the Anglosphere take little notice of, panic quickly reigned and then subsided just as quickly.Continue reading
Understanding Turkey since the dissolution of the Ottoman empire has proven difficult for westerners. The decaying magnificence of the Ottoman years was a vivid adornment to past debate. Nineteenth century diplomatists like David Urquhart defended the Sublime Porte as a reasonable counterbalance to Russia, and publicity-minded moralists like Gladstone decried Ottoman atrocities, all while the empire became more visibly moribund and threadbare. Continue reading
Libya’s civil war increasingly appears to have drawn in the world.
The war, whose new form took shape years after the defeat and death of Muammar Gaddafi, now features the following players. First, the Government of National Accord, based in Tripoli. It’s recognised by the United Nations, and in its defence, NATO’s secretary-general has recently suggested, the signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty ought to stand ready to intervene.Continue reading
The coronavirus, which originated in China late last year, has begun its definite spread across the globe. Each day brings news of new infections, and new countries in which symptoms of the virus have been observed. But one surprising locus for the diffusing virus is now Iran, far from China. Continue reading