David Patrikarakos

David Patrikarakos

David Patrikarakos is the author of 'War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century' and 'Nuclear Iran: The Birth of an Atomic State'

The depressing durability of dictatorships

Many years ago, in Tehran, I spent a few hours in a bookshop run by an Armenian whose adult life had coincided almost exactly with the existence of the Islamic Republic. As I browsed, he fell into conversation with a German-language student who had come in looking for what appeared to be an obscure Persian

Putin’s mistake was to discard the velvet glove

To study international politics since the turn of the century has been, in large part, to study the changing nature of autocracy – and the West’s relationship to it. We kicked things off by trying to realise the Trotskyite dream of ushering in global democracy through the barrel of a gun. We wanted to bring

The romance and rebellion of an Iranian picnic

Iranians adore a picnic. During the country’s most ancient festival, Nowruz, the Persian new year, they brandish baskets of food as they swarm into parks and gardens to celebrate Sizdah-bedar, the 13th and final day of the Nowruz celebrations and the coming of spring. In Britain, it’s only just getting warm enough to enjoy a

Iran and Russia are probing Biden’s weaknesses

The world seems to have got a lot more dangerous since Joe Biden took office last January. It wasn’t long after his inauguration that Russian President Vladimir Putin started massing troops on Ukraine’s border. The Kremlin believes that its American opponent is old and weak, and began testing him as soon as he took office.

Ukrainians are living through a hell on earth

‘Live long enough and you watch everyone go mad,’ the man said to me gloomily. It was around 2009, and I was listening to a former senior civil servant tell me what he had learned from a life spent in diplomacy. I’m not sure even he envisioned seeing proper madness in a world leader until

Is Russia preparing to invade Ukraine?

I can still hear the battlefields of eastern Ukraine. Just a mile or so from us, thousands of Russian troops were dug in; shells landed nearby. It was so cold my phone kept switching off. Seven years later, Ukraine is heading into another sub-zero winter. And the Russian troops have returned. Moscow has now massed more

How can we stop rogue states misusing drones?

The announcement last week that US officials believe Iran was behind the October drone strike on the al-Tanf US base in southeastern Syria did not garner the headlines it should have done. But it was nevertheless yet another reminder that drone technology is altering geopolitics – whether we like it or not. As Seth Frantzman points out in

Iran is an immediate winner of the Taliban takeover

A staple of observing politics is watching rhetoric curdle into reality. Operation Enduring Freedom, thought up and slapped together in the wake of 9/11, was supposed to put down the ‘global terror threat’ and bring freedom to the subjugated peoples of Afghanistan and the Middle East. It ended last week with images of despairing Afghans

Pakistan is the true winner from the Afghan debacle

‘Everyone is getting out – and fast’, the man tells me over a crackling line. He is tired, clearly subdued. A UN staff member, he was in Afghanistan until very recently and is still trying to process what happened. ‘We knew this was going to happen,’ he continues, ‘but everyone was caught by surprise at

My roots burnt with Greece

On 11 March this year my father passed away from prostate cancer after several weeks in a hospital in central Athens. As we sat around his bed, I remember thinking that I was watching 3,000 years of Greek history slowly perish before my eyes. My father was an only child, and I am British. His

Iran is running out of water

It’s far from an exact science, but if you want to get a sense of where the world is heading in terms of resource scarcity then you could do worse than considering the cost of a litre of oil versus a litre of water. These days a litre oil of crude is worth around 45

The tragedy of Lebanon — from safe haven to bankruptcy

Mountains are humanity’s most comforting topographical feature. Wherever you find them you will also find those who have flocked to them for refuge. The Kurds, the world’s largest stateless people, span the most mountainous areas of their host states, while ‘Lebanon’ referred originally to the mountains in the eastern Mediterranean that for centuries served as

Tehran is repeating the Shah’s mistakes

The Iranian province of Khuzestan is oil-rich but water-poor. At the best of times, the southwestern region is a problem for Tehran. On the border with Iraq, it’s home to an Arab minority that has long been targeted. The province has separatist inclinations, which led to a failed uprising in 1979 and sees the occasional

The dark past of Iran’s new presidential favourite

‘Each vote counts…come and vote and choose your president. This is important for the future of your country.’ These were the words of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei this morning as he urged people to make their voices heard in today’s presidential election. Each vote doesn’t count, of course. The regime makes sure of

The war Israel is losing against Hamas

The Gaza conflict is bloody, brutal, and genuinely heartbreaking, but it is also perfunctory. This is a fight in which the military battle is predetermined: Hamas cannot win, and Israel cannot lose. What happens in between is almost balletic in its endless predictability. Hamas fires rockets, Israel fires back; Hamas targets Israeli cities; Israel bombs

Greece and Britain’s long history of fighting autocracy

As I write, it is mid-morning in Athens and fighter jets are roaring overhead. My windows rattle, the sky splinters, and out they burst, strafing the blue with lines of white. It is a celebratory deployment. Today, Greece marks 200 years since the start of the war of independence from Ottoman rule. In Syntagma (Constitution)

Walls went up after the Berlin Wall came down

In her 2017 travelogue Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, the writer and poet Kapka Kassabova meets Emel, a loquacious Turkish civil servant who tells her that ‘the only good thing about a border is that you can cross it’. These words speak to an inherent contradiction. Borders stand as overt manifestations of

Iran’s missile diplomacy

It’s a time for delivering messages in the Middle East, where messages rarely come without their near constant attendant: violence. On Monday night a volley of rockets struck a base hosting US troops in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. International media reported that one rocket landed in the base and another on residential areas

The toxic side-effect of the Trump Twitter ban

Almost two weeks on from the storming of the US Capitol it’s becoming plainer that the most substantive changes to our political and public spheres are brewing not in Congress but on the internet. First, let’s be clear: Twitter had to act against Trump. By deleting his account, it shut down a large part of