We live in troubled and troubling times. Though we can, if we look, find reasons for optimism, many indicators are pointing in the wrong direction – more armed conflicts, more military spending, more arms trading. Worse, this unfolds against a seriously concerning background of long-term trends: increasingly toxic geopolitics, the crumbling of arms control and the climate crisis. The doomsday clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved 20 seconds closer to midnight; it has never been closer.
Amid the gloom, would it not be a welcome relief for a new peace vision for the Middle East to be launched, to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, and open the door to a new possibility of political and social progress in the region?
Yes it would. But…
On 8 May last year, US President Trump announced that the United States would pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which sets limits on Iran’s nuclear programme to ensure that it cannot produce nuclear weapons. Despite the US withdrawal, the JCPOA remains in force. Today, however, Iranian state TV reported that, while remaining in the JCPOA, Iran is planning to resume some nuclear activities that were ceased under the agreement. Continue reading
2018 was another year of uncertainty and a spreading feeling of insecurity. What could turn that round in 2019? Here are some thoughts:
It’s not quite “All change!” at the top of US foreign policy but not very far from it. Three key positions have changed in the last two weeks: Rex Tillerson out at the State Department, with Mike Pompeo coming from the CIA, where his Deputy Gina Haspel replaces him, and HR McMaster is out as National Security Advisor, replaced by John Bolton. So, er, what’s going on? Continue reading
The Iran nuclear deal – formally, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA – is under pressure. In his speech to the UN General Assembly today, 19 September, President Trump called it “one of the worst and most one-sided deals” and said it is “an embarrassment to the United States.” Some commentators already see this as advance notice that the US will pull out of the agreement. But it was a good deal when it was made in 2015, it is being properly implemented, and it should be upheld. Continue reading
It has been a disturbing few days. On Tuesday 4 April, Syrian aircraft allegedly used nerve gas against civilians. On Thursday 6, the US responded by attacking Syrian forces for the first time. On Friday 7, there was a truck attack in central Stockholm, the city’s first terror incident since December 2010. On Saturday 8, a US naval task force set out for northeast Asia to strengthen US sea power near the Korean peninsula. A small bomb was discovered in Oslo. On Sunday 9, nearly 50 people died from bomb attacks at two churches in the Nile delta.
Amid the uncertainties of the time, it’s worth asking if the US is about to get engaged in armed conflict on two fronts. Continue reading
Last week an article in the Washington Post stirred what seemed like quite a Twitter buzz, lamenting the effects of “the disastrous nonintervention in Syria“. The article is angry and vivid about the misery and destruction wrought by war in Syria. It blames the war’s continuation largely on the US deciding not to intervene in the war. It is an argument that could become influential so it’s worth examining. Continue reading
Two years ago, the Geneva II talks on Syria took place. As they began, their prospects could be optimistically viewed as “virtually zero“. On Friday 29 January, Geneva III talks are due to begin and prospects do not look much better. That doesn’t mean they are a waste of time. Continue reading
French reaction to the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and injured over 300 has turned the War on Terror into a war on ISIS. France has stepped up its bombing raids on ISIS, aiming, President François Hollande has said, to ‘destroy’ the organisation. Alongside these quickly decided military measures, other kinds of response have received much less attention. Continue reading
The West is a couple of weeks into the latest air campaign in the Middle East, targeting the group we know among other names as ISIS. It is too early to see an outcome on the ground. The first test of its success is Kobane on northern Syria’s border with Turkey. As the fighting goes on, it seems the bombing could not halt ISIS’ continuing advance to the town though there are claims it has started to have an impact on the street-to-street fighting. Amid the uncertainties on the ground, three questions remain relevant.