Ed: 39: July/2014
In a stunning and deeply significant development, the fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) organisation captured the Iraqi city of Mosul in the second week of June. They then moved on to take Tikrit unopposed and according to reports, were headed toward the capital, Baghdad.
Five hundred thousand people fled Mosul in the wake of its conquest by the jihadis. The city, which has an Arab majority population along with large Kurdish and Turkmen minorities, is Iraq's second largest. Its capture was the latest and most significant success in an offensive launched by the ISIS jihadis a week ago.
During the second Iraq war, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was one of the United States' fiercest foes. The IRGC was responsible not only for organising, training and equipping Shiite militants who fought US troops, but also for manufacturing and importing into Iraq so-called explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, one of the chief banes of American forces there. Also courtesy of Teheran: mortar and rocket attacks on the Green Zone in Baghdad, designed to speed the American departure.
In an interview, Rudaw Huseyin Celik, a spokesman for Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), stated that "the Kurds of Iraq can decide for themselves the name and type of the entity they are living in."
Such a far-reaching statement should not come as a great surprise to those following developments in Iraq and the kind of relations that have been developing between the Kurds and Ankara.
Two decades after they last successfully abducted an Israeli hitchhiker, Palestinian terrorists have done it again. Contact with three teenagers who were hitchhiking south of Jerusalem was lost on Thursday night, June 12, after they had boarded an unidentified vehicle outside the West Bank community of Kfar Etzion.
A week on, with military activity intense, there was no news of the three's fate or whereabouts, while political, diplomatic, and strategic implications were piling up.
North Korea. Iran. The Taliban. Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Pakistan. Muammar Gaddafi's Libya. The PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah.
These rogue states, regimes and groups have been the stuff of geopolitical nightmares over the past 40 years. But as Michael Rubin demonstrates in his important new book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes, they are also the stuff of diplomatic dreams.
US Secretary of State John Kerry spent the past few months shuttling between his two major foreign-policy concerns - Russia's control over Crimea and Israel's control over the West Bank - entirely unaware that he was engaged in a world-historical irony. Both these situations turn on identical international-law principles. Indeed, the failure of the United States to apply these principles consistently has led to the long-standing failure of its Middle East initiatives, while inadvertently opening the door for Russian aggression.
The legal principle that explains why Crimea was and remains under Ukraine's sovereignty also validates Israel's presence in the West Bank.
Some years ago, I read an article in a major Australian broadsheet which described, in some detail, the alleged nefarious influence I exercised personally, and on behalf of Jewish Australians, over the Parliamentary Labor Party...
Needless to say, the references to me and my lobby were the result of inventions by the columnist, but they evaded fact-checking or even common sense review as they fitted in with a particularly pernicious, but not uncommon, political narrative.
The June 25 announcement by Palestinian delegation to Australia head Izzat Abdulhadi that there would be no trade sanctions imposed by Arab and Muslim countries on Australia over the Government's position of refraining from referring to east Jerusalem as "Occupied" was both anticlimactic and to be expected.
I've written before in this column (e.g. see Jan. 2012, March 2012, and Nov. 2012) about the oft-repeated myth that the Jews of the the Middle East enjoyed tolerance and freedom from racial hatred until the late 19th and early 20th century, when Zionism and the import of European antisemitism supposedly ruined this positive situation...
While it is clear that, despite myths to the contrary, some antisemitic traditions have long been indigenous to Middle East culture, another part of the reason for this reality was something called the "Pact of Umar".
Indonesian jihadists periodically swarm the streets to noisily proclaim their intention to fight alongside their Muslim brethren in various Middle East hotspots, but these displays seldom result in verifiable action abroad.
Now, there is no doubt that Indonesians are joining the procession of jihadists to Syria and Iraq, sparking fears they will revive sophisticated militant networks when they return and undermine a decade-long crackdown that has crippled the most dangerous cells.