'Drone' attack on Saudis destabilises an already volatile region

Saudi-led coalition air strike on Dhamar in Yemen, 1 Sept Image copyright EPA
Image caption Saudi-led coalition air strikes regularly target Houthis in Yemen

The Houthis say they did it; the United States insists that it was Iran; the Iranians deny any involvement.

A predictable war of words has followed the dramatic attack on Saudi Arabia's most important oil installations. The strikes have shown the remarkable vulnerability of oil facilities of central importance to the global economy.

The Saudis - whose air campaign in Yemen is backed by the Americans and whose warplanes are only kept in the sky by a variety of western contractors - have been conducting a long-running air campaign against the Houthi rebels. But their opponents have now demonstrated the ability to deliver a strategic riposte of their own.

The whole episode has inevitably revived the debate about the extent to which Iran is providing technology and assistance to the Houthis. Given the already highly charged atmosphere in the Gulf, it has served to ratchet up regional tensions.

But equally it has also revealed some of the failings in the Trump administration's declared policy of exerting "maximum pressure" against Tehran.

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Syria: A Hungarian step towards diplomatic normalisation?

  • 11 September 2019
  • From the section Europe
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Most EU countries have severed diplomatic ties with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad since the civil war erupted

Reports that the Hungarian Government is planning to upgrade its diplomatic representation in Syria have sparked fears that the European Union's tough stance towards Damascus may be slowly unravelling.

The fighting in Syria is not yet over. But there is little doubt that the Assad regime has survived. The outside world is having to slowly adjust to this new reality and it poses particular problems for those countries - in the Middle East and in the West - who actively championed Mr Assad's opponents.

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Israel and Hezbollah: Shadow-boxing with live weapons

Israel and Hezbollah exchanged fire near the southern Lebanese town of Maroun al-Ras Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Israel and Hezbollah exchanged fire near the southern Lebanese town of Maroun al-Ras

The most recent clash between Israel and the Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon may or may not be over, but the signs still point to a potentially catastrophic conflict ahead.

Both sides have an interest in halting operations for now. Neither wants a full-scale war. Much will depend upon the Hezbollah reaction to the ruse with which Israel tried to calm this current upsurge.

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Did Donald Trump tweet classified military imagery?

US President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks outside the White House Image copyright EPA
Image caption Donald Trump's latest tweet has potentially set a precedent for classified information being shared by a president

President Donald Trump has set a new standard for extraordinary presidential behaviour.

Not only has he tweeted what would normally be a highly classified, military-quality satellite image showing the devastation around the launch pad at Iran's main space centre following a significant explosion.

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Was the Iran tanker crisis avoidable?

  • 20 July 2019
  • From the section UK
Stena Bulk Image copyright PA Media

This crisis was entirely predictable, but was it avoidable?

At the start of this month the Gibraltarian authorities - aided by a detachment of Royal Marines - detained a tanker which was believed to be carrying Iranian oil destined for Syria.

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Where does Turkey's S-400 missile deal with Russia leave the US?

  • 12 July 2019
  • From the section Europe
File photo: A Russian military official walks in front of The S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile system, 22 August 2017 Image copyright EPA
Image caption The S-400 is highly sophisticated - but incompatible with Nato's systems

After months of signals and threats the moment has finally come. The first elements of the Russian-supplied S-400 surface-to-air missile system have arrived in Turkey. Now Washington must decide what it is going to do.

On the face of it the American decision has already been taken.

Read full article Where does Turkey's S-400 missile deal with Russia leave the US?

Iran nuclear deal: Is there any way it can be saved?

Protesters against the Iran nuclear deal Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Has the landmark 2015 nuclear deal fallen apart?

Is the Iran nuclear deal dying by a thousand cuts, or is it actually dead already and nobody will quite admit it?

The United States abandoned the agreement just over a year ago. Iran is now progressively breaching its terms, first by storing more low-enriched uranium than it is allowed to hold, and now by upping its enrichment level beyond the 3.67% purity set out in the deal.

Read full article Iran nuclear deal: Is there any way it can be saved?

Iran's nuclear deal is on life support. Can it be saved?

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C) and head of Iran nuclear technology organization Ali Akbar Salehi Image copyright EPA
Image caption Iran insists that it is not seeking to overturn the nuclear deal

It has taken just a little over a year since the Trump administration abandoned the international nuclear deal with Iran, known as the JCPOA, for Tehran itself to challenge the agreement.

Its decision to intentionally breach the 300kg ceiling for the stock of low-enriched uranium that it can hold is but the first step of several that it is threatening.

Read full article Iran's nuclear deal is on life support. Can it be saved?

What would a US-Iran conflict look like?

Iranian protesters burn a painted US flag at a rally in Tehran on 10 May 2019 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Tensions have been escalating between the two countries

A US naval reconnaissance drone was downed by Iranian missiles. President Donald Trump says he ordered - and then aborted - a retaliatory attack, changing his mind 10 minutes before the planned strikes. The sequence of events provided a glimpse of how a conflict might start.

Just suppose the president had not changed his mind. What might have happened? The first US strikes would have been limited in scope, targeting Iranian missile sites or radars, either associated with or similar to the ones that shot down the US drone. They would have been accompanied by a clear diplomatic warning to Iran (as appears to have been delivered over-night on Thursday) that this was indeed a limited attack, solely in retaliation for the loss of the US aircraft.

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Khashoggi, MH17, the West and the problem of impunity

  • 19 June 2019
  • From the section World
A statue of the goddess of Justice balancing the scales is seen at Rennes' courthouse, France, in May 2015 Image copyright Getty Images

Do we live in a world governed by international law, or one where an individual state's interests hold sway?

If people are murdered as a result of a state's actions or by actions taken by individuals associated with that state, what recourse should there be?

Read full article Khashoggi, MH17, the West and the problem of impunity