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Australia's bridge-building role in Saudi-Iran dispute

17 January 2016 | Justin Glyn

American sailors detained in Iranian watersThe US, while backing Saudi Arabia, seems to be increasingly exasperated with how far it has to stick its neck out for its ally. Relationships with Iran, by contrast, have improved recently. The difficulty is that sections within both Iran and Saudi Arabia's governments seem to see a certain short-term interest in tearing the region apart. Australia, which has full diplomatic ties with Iran, a strong trade partnership with Saudi Arabia, and the ear of the US, can play an important diplomatic role.

2015 in review: Contemplating war in France

13 January 2016 | Bronwyn Lay

Bataclan Theatre in ParisAs I marched for Remembrance Day in our small village in France, I wondered, 'How long will these villages keep these ceremonies? When will someone decide these wars are too long ago or too far away?' Two days later, Paris was attacked. The news came like war does: sudden and violent. Then came declarations of a state of emergency and the closing of borders. My eldest daughter was over the border in Switzerland without a passport. War starts in increments, in the small ordinary worries of families.

Ai Weiwei is the cultural hero that China needs

15 December 2015 | Jeremy Clarke

Ai Weiwei overlooks his work Blossom (2015), which consists of thousands of flowers made from fine porcelain and grew out of his With Flowers project. It is here juxtaposed with Andy Warhol's work Flowers (1970). Photo by Jeremy ClarkeAi Weiwei might be more Dada than Dao and a hirsute satirist of Beijing's rulers, but he is no mere trending hashtag. Since his birth in 1957, his life history has moulded him, and given him the courage to speak up for a reformed China. And while he might appear the court jester that a simplistic West wants, he is in fact a clever and pragmatic political operator in his own world pursuing a rights agenda in a systematic, constructive and humorous way, often through artistic production.

Fragile earth will not be saved by Sunday

09 December 2015 | Bronwyn Lay

Paris 2015Located in Paris in the aftermath of the attacks, COP21 spookily mirrors how climate change politics occurs within complex and pre-existing power structures that determine its effectiveness. Social and environmental wars merge with increasing intensity: from Syria to the Arctic, from Indonesia to Paris. Climate change complexity matches the complexity of terrorism. Causal chains of social conflict are as complicated as carbon movements that result in environmental distress.

Just War or just butchery in expanding Syria conflict

07 December 2015 | Binoy Kampmark

Archbishop Justin WelbyThe 'Just War' doctrine has made a reappearance, in the form of an endorsement from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. The occasion was the debate in the British House of Commons to expand the air conflict against ISIL into Syria, in what is already a horrendously crowded airspace. The endorsement was filled with doubts, however, and rightly so. For all the surmising that has taken place, it is very difficult to see how one might bring the various enemies to the prosperity of peace.

Unions may be the answer for exploited garment workers

26 November 2015 | Beth Doherty

Aftermath of Tazreen Fashions fireThis week marked three years since the Tazreen Fashions factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh, left over 100 garment workers dead. Six months later, Rana Plaza in Dhaka collapsed, and 1134 people were killed. Labels for top brands such as H&M and Benetton were found in the rubble. While steps have been taken by some companies to promote ethical supply chains, it may be that the only way for a more just treatment of garment workers is the proper organisation of the workers themselves.

Untangling the murky Turkey plane incident

25 November 2015 | Justin Glyn

Falling Russian warplaneThe downing of a Russian Sukhoi-24 bomber by Turkey reminds us of the risks which attend military intervention. There are, however, a number of additional complicating factors which promise to make the Syrian war even more dangerous and bloody for all sides. The situation could escalate dangerously. If this kind of event is not to become much more common, potentially leading to a much wider war, genuine peace talks with a lot more honesty on each side need to be a priority.

Countering ISIS by going off-script

19 November 2015 | Fatima Measham

Pray for ParisIt is tempting to view the aftermath of terrorist attacks such as those in Paris as a well-rehearsed script. There are condemnation of the killings, sympathy for the families of victims, resolve to seek and punish perpetrators, expressions of solidarity across nations. Also, assaults targeting Muslims on the street and in policy. This time a few things have gone off-script. 'Hugs and hashtags' won't stop ISIS, but there is strength in refusing to cede control over our language and behaviour to terrorists.

What separates us from IS

18 November 2015 | Andrew Hamilton

Liberte, egalite, fraterniteThe mass murder of unarmed civilians in Paris last weekend was appalling. Whether considered as an act of war or of terror, it was indefensible. The themes of war against terrorism and victory have dominated commentary on the killings. In light of the fact that the war against terror was the seedbed in which IS grew, they demand serious reflection. We should ask precisely what our enemy is attacking, what therefore must be defended, and what will be the signs of victory or defeat.

On blaming Muslims for Paris

18 November 2015 | Justin Glyn

DescriptionIt is possible to find 'texts of terror' in Jewish, Christian and Muslim Scriptures. They need to be responsibly understood and explored with a close understanding of their context. We did not demand all Catholics stand up and denounce every IRA attack, nor that all Christians apologise for Anders Breivik. Similarly, why should we expect all members of a religion with over a billion adherents with multiple ancient variants to actively disown every horror claimed to have been committed in its name?

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