World

Lisa Haseldine

Is Georgia’s future with Europe, or Russia?

On Wednesday, Georgia’s government came one step closer to realising its desire to embed the country deeper within Russia’s sphere of influence. A year after mass protests forced them to pull the plug on a controversial ‘foreign agents’ law, the Kremlin-sympathetic ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party is once again trying to force this ‘Russian-style’ legislation through parliament.  While the bill was undergoing its first reading in parliament, 20,000 Georgians turned out onto the streets to demonstrate. Several thousands protested in Tbilisi alone. Shouts of ‘No to the Russian law’ rang out alongside renditions of the Georgian national anthem and ‘Ode to Joy’, the EU’s official song. Once again, like last

We’re better off with Hamas in Qatar, than out

The news that Qatar is ‘re-evaluating’ its role as mediator in the ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas, amid claims by the Qatari Prime Minister that its efforts are being ‘misused for narrow political interests’, will have been met with consternation in many western and Middle Eastern capitals. Qatar’s potential withdrawal comes at a time when talks to secure a truce and the release of the hostages still being held in Gaza have stalled. A ground assault into the final Hamas stronghold of Rafah looks likely to be the next chapter in a gruelling war.  The threat is most likely a negotiating ploy to force progress in the talks Should Qatar cease its

Will Israel continue its strikes on Iran?

The reported Israeli strike on an Iranian air installation near the city of Isfahan in central Iran appears to have been the most significant of a series of attacks carried out by Israel in the course of last night. While the full picture is still emerging, there are indications that an additional strike of some kind took place south of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. A third strike took place on a position of the Syrian army in Sweida, a majority Druze province close to the Syria-Israel border, according to a number of Syrian opposition sources. The strike on Sweida is business as usual in terms of Israel’s ongoing campaign against

Ukraine

Putin wants to create an unliveable no man’s land in Ukraine

The residents of Velyka Pysarivka had almost finished renovating their municipal library. They laid the floor with large white tiles, built a special section for hundreds of brightly-coloured children’s books which they brought in from the city, and even painted a large cartoon giraffe with oversized spectacles on one wall to make the place feel welcoming. Although the Ukrainian village was close to the Russian border it had, until last month, escaped the worst of the war. And with no end to the conflict in sight the townsfolk decided they had to get on with their lives and invest in the future. One glide bomb can turn even the most

Svitlana Morenets

Ukraine’s controversial new conscription law takes effect

The Ukrainian parliament has finally stopped delaying the inevitable and voted for a new law that tightens mobilisation processes, strengthens penalties for draft dodgers and allows the government to track Ukrainian men of military age who are living abroad, at its second reading yesterday. Once the law is signed by Volodymyr Zelensky, more men aged 25 and over will undergo military training for two to three months, then head to the front line in time for Russia’s summer offensive. But not everything went smoothly. By the request of Oleksandr Syrskyi, the new commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, lawmakers have removed provisions on demobilisation and the rotation of military personnel from the bill.

Will Biden support Ukraine’s attacks on Russia?

This time last year, Volodymyr Zelensky was touring western capitals, calling for weapons and money to launch a decisive summer offensive. Nato eventually provided Leopard and Challenger tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, M777 howitzers, Himars rocket artillery and Patriot air defences – but too little, too late. The much-vaunted offensive went nowhere, despite a mutiny by the Wagner Group and widespread disarray in the Russian army. Instead, Soledar, Bakhmut and Avdiivka were seized. Today, Russian missile assaults are intensifying, not receding. In March, Russia hit Ukraine with 264 missiles and 515 drones. A relentless bombardment of Kharkiv is making Ukraine’s second city uninhabitable. In response, Kyiv’s most successful strategy to

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Gavin Mortimer

Iran should be banned from the Paris Olympics

Few would disagree with Ben Wallace’s description of Iran as a ‘bully’. The former defence secretary made his comments earlier this week after Iran’s missile attack on Israel. ‘The only option when Iran and Russia hit, I have concluded, is to hit back twice as hard and not stop until they get the message,’ wrote Wallace in the Daily Telegraph. The UK, along with the US, have since extended sanctions against Iran, as has the EU. ‘We feel it’s very important to do everything to isolate Iran,’ said EU summit chairman Charles Michel. Even before the missile attack against Israel, there had been another call to ban Iran from the

Katja Hoyer

A Russian spy scare won’t undermine German morale on Ukraine

The news that German police have arrested two alleged Russian spies in Bavaria has understandably raised some alarm bells in Berlin. The men stand accused of targeting military infrastructure, aiming to undermine German support for Ukraine; such acute security threats are always bad news. But the response so far has been more defiant than divided. This latest spade of planned Russian attacks in Germany may well backfire on all fronts. There is no doubt the incident is serious. The two men who were arrested in Bayreuth, northern Bavaria, on Wednesday stand accused of targeting German military facilities through arson and bombings. The main suspect, a 39-year-old man named by the

Gavin Mortimer

Why is the mayor of Tehran welcome in Brussels but not Nigel Farage?

‘How do you think this looks to the rest of the world?’ asked Nigel Farage as police attempted to shut down the National Conservatism conference in Brussels on Tuesday. Belgian politicians won’t care what it looks like. This is the most undemocratic country in western Europe. And while the mayor who tried to ban the conference obsesses about what he calls ‘the far-right’, Islamism continues to thrive in Belgium’s left-wing eco-system. For a decade, France has regarded its neighbour as the ‘home of radical Islamists’, and nowhere more so than in Brussels, from where sprang the Islamist terror cell that murdered 130 Parisians in November 2015. ‘Molenbeekistan’ was how the

Israel’s warning to Iran

Symbolism is important. Israel’s overnight missile attack against Iran was a warning to the ayatollahs residing in Tehran that it can hit any target, wherever and whenever it wants. The missile is believed to have struck a military airfield near Isfahan, a city in central Iran, which is also the location of a major missile production complex and several nuclear facilities. The messaging here was simple: in the future nothing will be off the table – including Iran’s nuclear facilities. The messaging here was simple: in the future nothing will be off the table – including Iran’s nuclear facilities The fact that the attack took place on the 85th birthday

Israel launches retaliatory strike against Iran

Israel conducted missile strikes against Iran on Thursday night, as confirmed by a senior American military official to NPR. Explosions in Iraq and Syria have also been reported. Despite Joe Biden’s warning, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have decided not to ‘take the win’ following an Iranian retaliatory attack on Saturday night in which more than 300 drones and missiles were launched from Iran. This in turn followed an Israeli air strike that had destroyed an Iranian consulate building in Damascus, killing Mohammed Reza Zahedi, a top commander in Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards. The majority of Saturday’s barrage may have been intercepted by Israel’s superb Iron Dome – the aforementioned ‘win’ – yet

Nicholas Farrell

Why Giorgia Meloni is taking on Alfa Romeo

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s crusade to defend Italian excellence from the destructive side of globalisation has won a small but symbolic victory. Global car colossus Stellantis, which owns Alfa Romeo, has bowed to pressure from Italy’s right-wing government and changed the name of its new SUV, less than a week after its launch. Given the potentially huge expense involved in changing the name of a car – plus damage to the manufacturer’s image – such a volte face is said to be unprecedented. ‘Never before’ has a car manufacturer changed the name of a car in response to a political storm claimed Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy’s business daily. That the

Inside the new Arab-Israeli alliance

As Jordanian fighter jets shot down Iranian drones heading for Israel on Saturday night, there were joyful cries of Allahu Akbar on the ground as some people lent out of their windows to cheer the drones they thought were getting through. King Abdullah II was depicted on social media wearing an Israeli military uniform complete with the Star of David and he must dearly wish that Israelis would shut up about their ‘new strategic alliance’ with old enemies like Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Jordan’s foreign minister was forced into an unconvincing declaration that they would shoot down anyone’s drones, not just Iran’s. Yet, the important fact remains: this is

Svitlana Morenets

Why does the West protect Israel but not Ukraine?

When Israel and its allies shot down hundreds of Iranian drones and missiles, they demonstrated what an effective air defence looks like. The slow-moving Shahed-136 suicide drones were not hard for the Israeli, Jordanian, British, American and (probably) Saudi air forces to find and eliminate. Even Iran’s cruise missiles were thwarted. It was an overwhelming victory for Israel and a humiliation for Iran. In Ukraine, all this was watched with desperation and even anger. While Israel boasts robust air defence systems and, with its allies, can deploy hundreds of combat aircraft to repel Iran’s attack, Ukraine must ration its defence munitions. Kyiv is forced to choose which cities to protect. Ukraine’s

Max Jeffery

My night with Youth Demand

‘Won’t you take me to… Funkytown!’ At around 10 p.m., in a bar under a railway arch in south London, members of a group called Youth Demand are doing the conga to 1970s disco music. They are celebrating a week of good protesting. ‘I’m sooo ketty!’ shouts a girl on the dance floor. (‘I’ve taken a drug called ketamine,’ is what she means.) Youth Demand want Britain to stop selling weapons to Israel. Earlier this month they put toddlers’ shoes outside Keir Starmer’s house, and a day later threw red paint on the Ministry of Defence. Their actions got lots of press coverage, so they’re having a party. Many protestors

The Lebanese always return home

Beirut You might have thought that the threat of the Gaza war spiralling into an all-out regional conflagration, along with breathless travel advice from western governments urging their nationals to leave the country, would have deterred Lebanon’s expats from flying home to celebrate Eid al-Fitr this year. Not one bit. Flights, hotels and restaurants were fully booked despite Iran’s drone strike. The Lebanese know that even if there is fighting (and in South Lebanon, there is on an almost daily basis), if it isn’t on your doorstep, there’s no reason to stop the party. The Lebanese know that even if there is fighting, if it isn’t on your doorstep, there’s

Lisa Haseldine

Time is ticking to save Vladimir Kara-Murza

A year ago today, the Putin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza was jailed for 25 years – the longest sentence handed down to a political prisoner in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union over 30 years ago. For the last year, Kara-Murza has been held in a prison in Siberia, often in solitary confinement, with only occasional visits from his lawyer, a couple of books and hostile prison guards watching over him. Kara-Murza was arrested in April 2022 and held for over a year in pre-trial detention after being accused of treason and spreading ‘fake information’ about the Russian army. The most alarming aspect of the charges levelled against him

The Sydney church terror attack is a wake-up call for Australians

Sydney has been rocked by another stabbing rampage – just days after six people were murdered in a knife attack in the city’s Bondi Junction. A bishop of the Assyrian Orthodox Church, Mar Mari Emmanuel, was knifed at the altar during the incident yesterday afternoon in the working-class suburb of Wakeley. Several other parishioners were also injured as they sought to disarm the attacker. Police have arrested a teenager and are treating it as a terrorist attack. The horror was broadcast on the livestream of the Assyrian Christ The Good Shepherd Church, meaning that thousands of followers witnessed the attack. News of the stabbings spread fast among the local Assyrian

Cindy Yu

Was Marco Polo a ‘sexpat’?

25 min listen

When I recently came across a book review asking the question ‘was Marco Polo a “sexpat”?’, I knew I had to get its author on to, well, discuss this important question some more. The 13th century Venetian merchant Marco Polo’s account of China was one of the earliest and most popular travelogues written on the country. Polo spent years at the court of Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis, and whose family founded the Yuan dynasty in China. My guest today, and the author of that book review, is the historian Jeremiah Jenne. Jeremiah has lived in China for over two decades, and he is also the co-host of the fascinating podcast Barbarians

Iran’s attack was just a taste of what could be to come

The Iranian drone and missile attacks of 13 April brought less drama for many in Jerusalem than one might have imagined. War brings with it the disappearance of expectations of daily continuity, or of a reasonable and logical sequence of events.  It has been wartime for six months now here in Jerusalem; in another way it has been wartime for the last 75 years. If one insists on drawing out the camera range still further, it has been war, or a state of emergency for Jewish people for as long as history can remember. Next week, after all, Jews worldwide will gather to read and recite a nearly 2,000 year old text

Stephen Daisley

Thwarting Iran’s attack was not a ‘win’ for Israel

‘You got a win. Take the win.’ This is reportedly what US President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call following the thwarting of Iran’s Saturday night aerial barrage by Israel and a US-led coalition including Jordan and the United Kingdom. Tehran launched 170 drones, 120 ballistic missiles and 30 cruise missiles. While 99 per cent were intercepted, five missiles struck Nevatim Airbase in the Negev and a fragment from a projectile injured Amina Hassouna, a seven-year-old Bedouin girl, in Al Fura. As analysts from the Institute for the Study of War point out, this ‘strike package’ is identical to those routinely deployed against Ukraine

American weakness made the Iran attack possible

This weekend, the Islamic Republic of Iran launched an unprecedented attack against Israel. For the first time since 1979, Iran’s leadership launched strikes from Iranian territory at Israel proper using more than 300 drones and missiles, with the vast majority shot down. In the handful of cases where Biden has responded militarily, it has been mostly aimed at Iran’s proxies and dispensable facilities in the region These strikes took place ahead of Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s 85th birthday on April 19. His regime is deeply unpopular at home and planning for succession. Yet Khamenei has demonstrated a surprising willingness to take risks in his old age. His strategy towards Israel

How will Israel hit back against Iran?

Iran’s attack on Israel signals a new era. For the first time, Iran targeted Israel directly, not only through proxies – and not in a way that leaves room for deniability in order to limit Israeli reprisal. The attack on Saturday night, in response to the killing of two Iranian generals in Damascus by Israel, included 185 explosive drones, 110 ballistic missiles and 36 cruise missiles launched from Iran, Iraq and Yemen. Israel, alongside allies that include American, British and Jordanian forces, managed to shoot down 99 per cent of the munitions aimed at Israel and avoid the death and destruction that would have ensued. The question is what happens

Netanyahu’s political survival is his top priority

On Sunday morning, Israelis – those who hadn’t already spent part of the night in bomb shelters or safe rooms, unable to sleep – woke up to the good news that nearly all of the approximately 300 missiles and drones fired from Iran hours earlier had been destroyed before crossing into Israeli airspace. One Israeli was injured in the attack, but no one was killed. As has been the case since the 7 October disaster that marked the start of the war in Gaza, Israel’s military and technological prowess had performed successfully and efficiently. No less impressive than the military feat of keeping these weapons from hitting their targets in

Netanyahu can’t ignore the scale of Iran’s attack

Today was supposed to be the day we sent our kids back to nursery. For two weeks, my toddler and baby have been home with a nasty stomach bug that turned out to be shigella, a bacterium that causes dysentery and that has been ripping through Israeli troops in Gaza. Then, on Saturday night, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, spokesperson for the IDF, announced that schools and nurseries would be closed nationwide today, due to the Iranian threat.  The parents’ WhatsApp groups grumbled that this, alone, was a disproportionate response by Iran, throwing Israel into turmoil the week before Passover. But then the news reports became starker: we should expect a drone

Israel has a chance to de-escalate after Iran’s failed attack

Iran’s strike on Israel yesterday is, simultaneously, a moment for alarm and calm. Alarm because, by unleashing more than 300 drones, cruise and ballistic missiles in response to Israel’s attack on its Damascus consulate at the start of the month, Iran is basically saying: we can do this every time Israel or its allies cross a line. Calm because not only did Israel repel the attack, it did so thanks to collaboration from its Western allies and friendly Arab states, with both Saudi Arabia and Jordan opening their skies to US combat aircraft. Israel has the right to defend itself, and will doubtless respond militarily. But its allies have a

Despite their failed attack, Iran should not be underestimated

Iran’s overnight mass drone attack on Israel was supposed to be payback for the assassination of Iranian Republican Guard Corps commander General Mohammad Reza Zahedi. In truth, though, it was a tepid, face-saving response which the ayatollahs in Tehran knew would fail. In the early hours of this morning, the Iranian army described what it called ‘Operation Honest Promise’ – the drone and missile attack on Israel – as a complete success. But in reality, the attack had minimal tactical impact, despite the highly orchestrated flag waving jubilation in Tehran’s Palestine Square. Iran’s military would have made certain that both Israel and the US, knew what was coming Former MI6 Chief Sir