Paul Wood

Paul Wood was a BBC foreign correspondent for 25 years, in Belgrade, Athens, Cairo, Jerusalem, Kabul and Washington DC. He has won numerous awards, including two US Emmys for his coverage of the Syrian civil war

Have the Houthis gone rogue?

The US and Britain really didn’t think they had a choice about bombing Yemen in retaliation for Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea – one of the world’s busiest waterways, carrying almost a sixth of global shipping. But the airstrikes overnight are unlikely to stop the attacks and in the short term will

Can the killing of innocent civilians ever be justified?

Israel has made the first, rather tentative, moves of its ground operation against Hamas – but there’s nothing tentative about its aerial bombing. Here’s a report of one incident: at 4.30 p.m. on 10 October, an explosion collapsed a six-storey building in Sheikh Radwan, a district of Gaza City, killing, it was said, at least 40

Can Israel’s hostages be saved?

The last message that Shaked Haran saw from her father was just after 7.30 a.m. on the Saturday of the Hamas attacks in Israel. Her parents were in the safe room of their house in Kibbutz Be’eri, just outside the Gaza Strip. The message said that ‘masked terrorists’ were ‘swarming’ everywhere. ‘We don’t think we’ll

What Iran gains from the conflict in Israel

A little more than a week before Hamas carried out its Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, the US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, said: ‘The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades.’ Sullivan was expressing a consensus view, one apparently shared by the Israeli government. Then came the attacks of last

Prigozhin sent ‘to hell’, but who gave the order?

As the first reports came in that Yevgeny Prigozhin had been killed, I spoke to Marat Gabidullin, who was a senior commander in Prigozhin’s mercenary army and for a time his personal assistant for military affairs. Gabidiullin is living in exile in France and well known as a bitter critic of Prigozhin – he was

What really happened between Putin and Prigozhin?

In the absence of facts, it’s hard to understand what got into Yevgeny Prigozhin. I spoke to the former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky about Prigozhin and Putin and their odd relationship. He says that criminality unites and explains the pair. Prigozhin went to prison for almost ten years, for robbery. The legend is that he opened the

Prigozhin’s bid for death or glory

Up until this point, it was possible to believe that Putin was tolerating, or even orchestrating Yevgeny Prigozhin’s increasingly outspoken attacks on the military leadership and ‘the elites’ in Moscow. Vladimir Putin himself didn’t seem especially pleased with his generals. Only a few days ago, he turned his back on his defence minister, Sergei Shoigu,

How Saudi Arabia bought the world

What do you get for the man who has everything? Saudi Arabia’s ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, is said to have a $500 million yacht, a $450 million Leonardo painting and a $300 million French château. Now he’s acquired a new bauble: American golf. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has negotiated a controlling interest in

The dangerous shadow war between Iran and Israel

Beirut, Lebanon The secret police tail was impossible to miss but easy to lose. Two men in Saudi national dress – white thobe and chequered shemagh – drove a large black American saloon slowly behind me as I walked on the baking hot road. I turned into a shopping mall and they parked outside, not

Meet the architect behind ‘Putin’s palace’

Lanfranco Cirillo, architect and interior decorator to the Russian elite, is shaking his head in horror. ‘Absolutely not. No.’ He is answering my question about whether he put a gold toilet and even a gold toilet brush into a villa he built that the Russian opposition says belongs to President Vladimir Putin – and which

Is Iran at a turning point?

Mashhad is Iran’s holiest city; it has the country’s most important shrine. It’s not the place for an Iranian woman to walk around without a hijab. But in September, Katayoun began leaving hers at home, going out with her head uncovered to join the daily protests against the country’s theocratic regime. A policeman struck her

How Syria became the world’s most profitable narco state

Lebanon Abu Hassan puts down his Kalashnikov and reaches into a pocket on his bodywarmer to hand me a small white pill. ‘Here,’ he says in Arabic, ‘a gift. This’ll keep you awake for 48 hours.’ He grins and adds in English: ‘Good sex!’ The pill is Captagon, an amphetamine known as ‘the poor man’s

Cornered: could Putin go nuclear?

At the start of the war in Ukraine, I was given a recording made by the Ukrainian intelligence services. It was described as an intercepted call from an officer at Russia’s nuclear missile base in Siberia to a relative in Kyiv. The line crackles and a man speaks in Russian: ‘I don’t know what I

When the Queen worked her magic on the BBC

The Queen and Prince Philip had written their names in the visitors’ book at a country house where I was a weekend guest; my hostess, a member of a family with a long and storied lineage, had been an intimate of the Royal Family for decades. But at dinner, I nearly choked on my Beef

Is Biden ready to let MBS get away with murder?

President Joe Biden will have only himself to blame if he feels a little uncomfortable this week when he sits down with the man who runs Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed ‘Bone Saw’ bin Salman (MBS). After the CIA accused MBS of ordering the murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi – dismembered with a

Europe’s last dictator: Lukashenko’s fate depends on Ukraine

A young man wearing combat fatigues and an extravagant moustache, and carrying a heavy machine-gun over his shoulder, nods towards some burned-out armoured vehicles. ‘We smashed the orcs today,’ he says, using the Ukrainian soldiers’ term for the invading Russians, a reference to the sub-human legion in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. He goes

Chernobyl Two?

The electricity supply to the ruined nuclear plant at Chernobyl in Ukraine has been cut off. According to one knowledgeable source I spoke to, this is a serious problem as power is needed to pump water around spent nuclear fuel rods stored there. There is a back-up diesel generator, but it has just one day’s

‘Help us, before it’s too late’

Western Ukraine Outside a military recruiting centre in Lviv, Egor Grushin, one of Ukraine’s most famous classical pianists, was waiting in line to join up. He was tall and slim with a wispy beard, long delicate fingers and large brown eyes that gazed into the middle distance. In other words, he was – as he

Will Putin now roll on to Kiev?

The White House told us with absolute certainty that there would be an invasion of Ukraine this week — instead Vladimir Putin bit off a chunk of Ukraine without firing a shot. Perhaps it seemed to him that recognising the two breakaway territories of Luhansk and Donetsk was a clever move: he had not, after