Middle East

Qanta Ahmed

What will Iran – and the United States – do next?

From time to time, even the most belligerent warmongers get taken down: whether it’s bad weather, or other unseen forces, there are always bigger powers at work. For now, the helicopter accident that claimed the life of Iran’s president appears to have been an act of nature, the will of God, as we like to remind ourselves in Islam. Sometimes good things do happen in bad helicopters. In the days before his death, Ebrahim Raisi was busy. Right before he left Azerbaijan for Iran, Raisi met with the country’s president at a ceremony to open a dam. Days earlier in Tehran, Raisi saw the president of the Kurdish regional government. Their talks, initiated by

Ebrahim Raisi’s death won’t change the course of history

The Middle East never fails to surprise. Sunday was no exception. Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and several other senior Iranian politicians were killed in a helicopter crash in East Azerbaijan. One cannot help but wonder at the extraordinary misfortune not only of crashing, but of doing so in a foggy, rainy, muddy area that took rescue workers 15 hours to reach. Despite the profile of the accident’s victims, however, this is probably not an accident that changes the course of history. The Iranian presidency has become increasingly irrelevant in an increasingly-Soviet system. That trend is set to continue.  The president is something of an afterthought To

Raisi’s successor is unlikely to end Iran’s western shadow war

Even before Tehran had formally announced the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, conspiracy theories as to whether foul play was to blame began coming in rapidly. Was Israel’s Mossad, the go-to organisation Iran likes to blame for almost any catastrophe that befalls the Islamic Republic, behind the helicopter crash? Was it the CIA, the same organisation which swept the Shah to power in a coup d’état in 1953? Or was it one of many internal enemies Raisi had managed to accumulate after his years in power? Raisi, after all, had no shortage of enemies both within and outside the regime. He was responsible for the mass executions of  an estimated

Brendan O’Neill

Salman Rushdie has exposed the great lie of a ‘Free Palestine’

This is what people must mean by the phrase ‘adults in the room’. After seven months of left-wing hotheads damning Israel as the source of every ill in the Middle East – if not the world – finally we have a cool, still voice venturing an alternative take. Perhaps, the voice says, Hamas is the problem. And perhaps those who call themselves progressive should think twice before making excuses for such a ‘fascist’ movement that would have them up against a wall quicker than you could say ‘Free Palestine’. Finally, wisdom cuts through the noise. When it comes to radical Islam, this man knows whereof he speaks It’s Salman Rushdie.

Jake Wallis Simons

Ebrahim Raisi’s successor could be worse

It is doubtful that Ebrahim Raisi, the ‘butcher of Tehran’, would have experienced a moral epiphany had he been shown in life the reaction that his demise would evoke from his own people. So it goes with fanatics, especially one who presided over the murder of thousands of political opponents by bundling them into forklift trucks and hanging them from cranes. Nevertheless, the jubilation affirms – as if it was needed – that the Iranian people have no truck with the Iranian regime. His death leaves an opening in the competition for power Let’s set aside the fact that the EU responded to the crash by offering its Copernicus rapid

Iran’s president and foreign minister killed in helicopter crash

Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi and the country’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian have been killed in a helicopter crash in north-western Iran, according to the country’s state media. The news that Raisi – second only to the country’s supreme leader in the power structure – and Amir-Abdollahian – a critical and influential figure in the ruling circle – have died could not have come at a trickier and potentially more dangerous time. Iran is already facing huge challenges politically and economically, and the supreme leader, the font of all power and authority, is in poor health. It can ill afford to lose its president and foreign minister. This is a moment

Qanta Ahmed

Why is Colombia turning its back on Israel in its hour of need?

Colombia’s president Gustavo Petro has terminated diplomatic relations with Israel and described the country’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as ‘genocidal’. Thankfully, not all Colombians share Petro’s view of the Jewish State. Many of the ten million or so evangelical Christians in Colombia are outraged at the message Petro’s outburst sends to the 4,000-strong Jewish Colombian community. Prominent Colombians have also expressed dismay at Petro’s self indulgent proclamation. When I visited Colombia for ten days as a guest of the Israeli ambassador Gali Dagan last month, I met many Colombians who apologised for Petro’s comments. ‘He doesn’t represent us,’ they said. Colombia is turning its back on Israel in its hour

Jake Wallis Simons

Israel’s Rafah operation is tragically necessary

There is, as Ecclesiastes reminded us, a time for war and a time for peace. In its 76-year history, Israel has rarely selected the time for war, almost always reinforcing its position and responding in self-defence to Arab attacks. The invasion of Rafah will be another such tragic chapter in the tragic history of the Jewish state. Hamas has made it a time for war. The tanks went in after volleys of rockets were fired by Hamas Has it started already? Last night, Israeli tanks entered the southern town after a last-ditch ceasefire proposal from Hamas was rejected as inadequate. But the operation has so far fallen short of a

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

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

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

Has Iran saved Israel’s relationship with the US?

Only a few days ago, President Biden was framing remarks about Israel in tones which were astoundingly critical for an American leader. For decades it has been axiomatic that there is barely a cigarette paper between Washington and Jerusalem, but Israel’s prosecution of the war in Gaza has threatened to push them apart. Biden condemned the ‘indiscriminate’ bombing, and last week made his views unmistakable clear: ‘Israel has not done enough to protect civilians.’ Suddenly, though, without meaning to, it looks like the Islamic Republic of Iran may have saved Israel’s most important bilateral relationship. Last week, an Israeli air strike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus killed 16 people, including

Iran’s four options for revenge against Israel

I recently returned from a trip to the south east Syrian province of Deir al Zur, where I witnessed Kurdish and American soldiers in a tense face-off against Iranian and proxy forces along the Euphrates River line. After making my way home to Jerusalem via Iraq, Jordan and northern Israel, I had hoped for a couple of days respite from the Middle East and its attentions. No such luck. A terse message arrived in my community WhatsApp group: ‘The Home Front Command has this evening updated the list of required items, in an article at its national emergency portal. In contrast to the previous list, the current list includes food

Brendan O’Neill

The truth about Israel’s ‘friendly fire’

David Cameron has got some front. The Foreign Secretary is haranguing Israel over its tragic unintentional killing of seven aid workers in Gaza, and yet he oversaw a war in which such ‘friendly fire’ horrors were commonplace. In fact, more than seven people were slain in accidental bombings under Cameron’s watch. Terrible accidents happen in war It was the Libya intervention of 2011. In that Nato-led excursion, in which Cameron, then prime minister, was an enthusiastic partner, numerous Libyans died as a result of misaimed bombs. Things got so bad that the West’s allies took to painting the roofs of their vehicles bright pink in an effort to avoid Nato’s

Did an Iranian hit squad attack a journalist in London?

Counter-terrorist detectives investigating a stabbing of a dissident Iranian journalist in London have discovered that three suspects left the country within hours of the attack. Pouria Zeraati, 36, a presenter for Iran International, was knifed in the leg outside his home in Wimbledon on Friday. The suspects fled the scene to Heathrow before boarding a flight. Police are keeping an open mind about any potential motivation for the attack but the chief suspects are operatives of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).  Iran has a long history of targeting those they believe are threatening the regime, but the last two years have seen a peak in threats to dissidents living overseas. Since 2022, counter-terrorism police

Gareth Roberts

Anti-Israel virtue signallers should leave Eurovision alone

The 2024 Eurovision Song Contest – the final of which will be held in Malmö on 11 May – is the latest peculiar target of pompous virtue signallers. The hosts of the UK’s largest Eurovision screening have announced their decision to scrap the event. The reason? Israel, of course. ‘We have collectively decided not to screen the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest this year while Israel remains in the competition,’ the independent Rio cinema in Dalston, east London, said in a statement. Reminder: they are talking here, not about the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the Good Friday Agreement, but The Eurovision Song Contest – which generates

Britain should follow Germany’s lead in weeding out anti-Semites

On the surface of it, Germany’s new pathway to citizenship sounds like a rare dose of sense from the one country in the Western world whose modern history means it still understands why Israel has a right to exist. One surefire short-hand for establishing who means us ill is by singling out those who mean our Jews ill The shake-up makes it easier to get German citizenship, allowing people to apply five rather than eight years after they arrive in the country – and just three years for those with good language skills. But for die-hard anti-Semites, the process will get harder, with questions that may involve naming the date of Israel’s founding

Is this the beginning of the end for Erdogan?

President Erdogan’s political star rose when he won the local elections in Istanbul exactly 30 years ago. ‘The one who wins Istanbul wins the whole of Turkey,’ he once said. His famous sentence is now back to haunt him. People already talk about ‘the beginning of the end’ for Erdogan In Istanbul yesterday, tens of thousands of people gathered to celebrate not Erdogan but Ekrem Imamoglu, the opposition’s incumbent mayor, in municipal elections. Despite the fatigue from last year’s general elections, over 78 per cent of Turkey’s 61 million-strong electorate turned up to cast their votes yesterday. Their backing for Imamoglu was resounding: his Republican People’s Party (CHP) performed spectacularly, securing 37.7

How will Iran respond to Israel’s assassination in Damascus?

Last night, six missiles fired from an Israeli F-35 combat aircraft hit and destroyed a building belonging to the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria. At the time, a meeting between high-ranking members of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were taking place. The attack resulted in the death of two IRGC generals: Mohammad Reza Zahedi who was leader of the Quds force – the IRGC force in Syria and Lebanon – and his deputy, Sardar Haji Rahimi. It is reported that at least five other IRGC officers were killed in what is one of Israel’s most successful assassinations of senior Iranian commanders.