Turkey: The erratic ally

A Turkish soldier stands guard at a border crossing with Syria

If you're sitting in the Pentagon or State Department there's good news and bad news.

The good news is that Turkey is embracing the struggle against the Islamic State group with a vigour it has never shown before; bombing them; allowing US aircraft to use Turkish air bases for the same purpose; arresting hundreds of suspects in Turkey, and tightening security on the Syrian border.

The bad news is that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also taking the opportunity for an onslaught on a long-standing enemy of Turkey's, the PKK Kurdish extremist group.

So keen are the Americans to disabuse people in the region that they've given any sort of green light for this attack on the Kurds that a senior official, Brett McGurk, tweeted an unusually blunt message, pointing out "there is no connection between these airstrikes against PKK and recent understandings to intensify US-Turkey cooperation."

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

After Turkey called an extraordinary meeting at Nato on Tuesday, its allies are nervous that it could link its actions against IS and the PKK in ways that they would rather avoid.

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Iran nuclear deal: A 10-point primer

Iran's president Hassan Rouhani
Iran's president Hassan Rouhani

World powers have reached a deal with Iran on limiting Iranian nuclear activity in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions. What are the main takeaways? Here's a quick rundown.

1. It curbs Iran's nuclear programme, it doesn't stop it. They will still have nuclear plants, and the ability to re-process and enrich their own uranium fuel - the US gave up on the goal of stopping that two years ago.

Read full article Iran nuclear deal: A 10-point primer

Budget 2015: Defence breathes a sigh of relief

Merlin helicopter on the flight deck of HMS Illustrious

With hindsight you might say there were hints from Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, and briefings from those around George Osborne that defence would escape the worst effects of what was widely expected to be an austerity budget.

But even so, today's announcement - that the forces' budget would meet the 2% of GDP Nato target until 2020 - caught many Whitehall insiders by surprise.

Read full article Budget 2015: Defence breathes a sigh of relief

Virgin Galactic flight trials face delay after crash

Images of Virgin Galactic crash
In an accident last year, the Virgin Galactic craft separated from the carrier aircraft and broke apart

Virgin Galactic's planned commercial space service may still be years away from taking flight, and its chief executive admits, "we've got work to do, that's for sure", in a Newsnight report on the project.

Flight testing suffered a tragic setback last October when Virgin's Enterprise spaceship broke up in flight over California's Mojave desert, killing one of its test pilots.

Read full article Virgin Galactic flight trials face delay after crash

Is the West losing its edge on defence?

  • 14 April 2015
  • From the section Europe
F/A-18F fighter landing on USS Carl Vinson

Speak to those who are in charge of the West's defence or have recently stepped down, as I did for Radio 4's programme The Edge, and you will find a very worried group of people.

They speak at length about the decline of their own forces, explain the growth of those of their challengers, and worry about the long term consequences for stability in many parts of the world.

Read full article Is the West losing its edge on defence?

How many Russians are fighting in Ukraine?

  • 10 March 2015
  • From the section Europe
Pro-Russian separatist fighters near Debaltseve
Pro-Russian separatist fighters have captured Debaltseve

Western arguments about how to counter President Vladimir Putin's support for east Ukraine separatists are leading to clashes over the question of how deeply involved Russia's military is in the conflict.

The latest salvo between Nato allies came in a German government briefing to Spiegel magazine that accuses the alliance's supreme commander (American Gen Philip Breedlove) of disseminating "dangerous propaganda" on the extent of Russian military involvement, trying to undermine a diplomatic solution to the war.

Read full article How many Russians are fighting in Ukraine?

Lobbyists 'delaying Apache contract'

  • 7 March 2015
  • From the section UK
A UK Apache attack helicopter taking part in a training exercise on Salisbury Plain

A £1bn Army contract to replace its Apache attack helicopters has been delayed due to lobbying by the firm AgustaWestland, Whitehall insiders say.

The BBC has learned the MoD wants to buy a replacement from US firm Boeing, which is offering a cheaper deal for a joint order with other countries.

Read full article Lobbyists 'delaying Apache contract'

On board with the US air crews fighting Islamic State

  • 15 January 2015
  • From the section UK

How is progress measured on board the US aircraft carrier which is playing a key role in the fight against Islamic State?

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, plying the waters of the Gulf, represents a big slice of the coalition effort being used to pound the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria and Iraq - an onslaught that has been going on for the best part of five months now.

Read full article On board with the US air crews fighting Islamic State

CIA interrogation report: Just what did the UK know?

  • 18 December 2014
  • From the section UK
Mock-up of prisoner in handcuffs

In March 2004, a Boeing 737, registration number N313P, lifted off from Baghdad International Airport with two prisoners on board - captured by the SAS after a shoot-out in the city.

They were on their way to Bagram prison, in Afghanistan.

Read full article CIA interrogation report: Just what did the UK know?

'Morale poor' among UK crews at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus

  • 5 December 2014
  • From the section UK
Tornado GR4 at RAF Akrotiri, in Cyprus
Tornados have been on missions against IS since early autumn

Raids against Islamic State are being conducted from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus "with broken jets and tired and fed-up people", BBC Newsnight has been told.

In a letter, a serviceman said the base was being neglected, morale was poor and ground crews had taken to eating humanitarian rations meant for Iraqis.

Read full article 'Morale poor' among UK crews at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus