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Afghanistan: The Forgotten Front Against Iran

While rarely discussed in the context of containing or rolling back Iranian regional influence and terrorism sponsorship, the war in Afghanistan is in fact an essential element of any coherent strategy to do so.

Essay: The Enduring Islamist Threat

On January 19, the Pentagon released its new National Defence Strategy for the US. The second paragraph of the 14-page declassified summary painted a dire picture. "We are facing increased global disorder, characterised by decline in the long-standing rules-based international order - creating a security environment more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory. Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in US national security."

Afghanistan on the brink?

On June 13, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress that the United States was "not winning" in Afghanistan. That is the understatement of the year. While President Trump has authorised Mattis to call up some additional troops, there remains no comprehensive strategy for victory, let alone stability, and the numbers of troops available seems the equivalent of addressing a sucking chest wound with a band-aid. Both the Taliban and the Islamic State are resurgent in vast sections of the country. Many NATO partners are quietly giving up and the mood in Congress ranges from impatient to defeatist.

An Al-Qaeda Resurgence? / Iraq Deteriorates

This Update discusses the apparent resurgence of al-Qaeda after 22 US diplomatic missions across the Middle East were forced to close due to intelligence of a serious al-Qaeda plot allegedly originating in Yemen and ordered by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. It goes on to discuss the deteriorating situation in Iraq - in part due to al-Qaeda's increasing efforts there....

Mob violence, human rights and Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

Rimsha Masih, a 12-year-old Christian Pakistani girl has been jailed for allegedly desecrating Holy Scripture, after a local cleric claimed that she burnt pages of Noorani Qaida, a children's textbook about the Koran.

On closer examination, it appears likely that putting the girl, and her mother, behind bars is claimed to be for their own protection. The case draws a sad picture in which one of the most severe implications of the blasphemy laws is "mob justice."

Pew Survey of Middle East reveals complex and sometimes conflicted feelings...

The Pew Research Centre's Global Attitudes Project has just released the results of surveys it conducted throughout the Middle East in the wake of the "Arab Spring." The surveys reveal some interesting insights about attitudes in the Middle East in the wake of the recent uprisings, including how Middle Easterners weigh democracy, Islamism, economic strength and political stability in their own societies.

UN chief attacked in Gaza; Syria ponders massacre; leaders’ chefs cook...

A round-up of news stories that readers may have missed today...

In the workplace? In a car? Middle East grapples over women’s...

As I wrote earlier this year, a great deal of the problems facing the Arab world as it stumbles towards democracy stem from a conservative culture that is inhibiting female participation in society.

How do you solve a problem like Pakistan?

Pakistan is a foreign policy conundrum for the West. While Pakistan has publicly been an ‘ally' to the West in fighting al-Qaeda and supporting the war in Afghanistan, privately its intelligence agencies work with the Taliban and support terrorist organisations. In addition, Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is considered by many to be unstable, and therefore poses a very real threat to international security should it end up in the wrong hands.

The Unholy Alliance of Iran and al-Qaeda

The Obama Administration has released explosive details of how Iran has become a safe haven for al-Qaeda.

It comes as the Administration is reportedly interested in refocusing world attention on, in the words of US Treasury Department's Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen, Iran's "unmatched support for terrorism" as well as its ongoing nuclear weapons program.