On Monday the 5th of June, the Arabian Gulf was hit with the biggest political crisis it has seen in years. One by one, Continue reading
Last week, the global Muslim population celebrated the end of Ramadan, having looked forward to the end of the fasting month, when Eid-al-Fitr is celebrated. This annual and widely-anticipated event marks the end of Continue reading
The two predominant travellers to Saudi Arabia are expats and pilgrims and I fall into the latter category. Although there has been a slight growth in leisure tourism, religious tourism is a thriving industry, bringing in Continue reading
Before the Paris attacks occurred, the United States, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran had set themselves the nearly impossible task of solving the Syrian Civil War — of negotiating a ceasefire while also arranging the political future of Syria. But now, with military responses against ISIS (who has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks) being ramped up and led by a furious France, the talks become even more difficult. The reason for this is that attacks against ISIS will strengthen the position of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which will in turn make Russia and Iran more recalcitrant in any negotiations.
In retaliation for the attacks on Paris, French President François Hollande has declared war against ISIS and has made good on this declaration by intensifying France’s bombing campaign. In making ISIS weaker, however, Assad gains the opportunity to get stronger as a weaker ISIS means that there are fewer threatening opponents to the Syrian government. Although ISIS and the Syrian regime are rarely, if ever, in direct conflict with each other (as ISIS typically fights the weaker Syrian rebels and conquers their territory, rather than fighting the stronger Syrian government forces), fewer opponents of the regime means good news for Assad. What exacerbates this is that Russia is bombing not only ISIS but Syrian rebels as well. A weakened ISIS and collection of rebel groups means that Assad is less threatened than he was and, while this may not necessarily make his regime any stronger, it does allow him to re-entrench his forces. This, in turn, means that Syria’s allies of Russia and Iran can continue to reap the benefits of having Bashar al-Assad in power. As long as Russia and Iran are content with their continuing influence in Syria and in the region, they have no reason to acquiesce to any proposals about removing Assad.