Turkey Syria offensive: What did the Kurds ever do for the US?

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Media captionTrump: Kurds "didn't help us in Second World War"

Even by President Trump's own remarkable standards, his off-the-cuff remark that the US alliance with the Kurds is of little importance because they were not at Normandy - they did not fight with the US and its allies in World War Two - is extraordinary.

It is much more recent history that matters in Syria and there, the Kurds have proved Washington's closest and most effective partner.

The US approached the Syrian civil war with caution. Though opposed to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, its chief concern was that the chaos there provided ungoverned space for the expansion of the so-called caliphate of Islamic State (IS).

All sorts of players including the Turks, the Gulf Arab States and so on pitched in with assistance to various rebel groupings in the hope of removing the Assad regime.

But with its own focus firmly on counter-terrorism rather than re-making Syria, the US sought to find elements on the ground who could mount a serious challenge to the fighters of IS. Various abortive attempts at arming and training local militias failed - in some cases US weapons were simply handed over to IS.

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Saudi Arabia oil attacks: Trump blames Iran but what are his options?

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Media captionSaudi Arabia says Iran was behind the attacks on its oil infrastructure

As he struggles to define a response to the attacks against key elements of Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure, President Donald Trump has insisted that he has many options.

He has already chosen to employ one of them, ordering stepped up economic sanctions against Tehran - which denies carrying out the attack - and doubling down on the policy of "maximum pressure" against Iran which the US insists is having a significant impact.

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'Drone' attack on Saudis destabilises an already volatile region

Saudi-led coalition air strike on Dhamar in Yemen, 1 Sept Image copyright EPA
Image caption Saudi-led coalition air strikes regularly target Houthis in Yemen

The Houthis say they did it; the United States insists that it was Iran; the Iranians deny any involvement.

A predictable war of words has followed the dramatic attack on Saudi Arabia's most important oil installations. The strikes have shown the remarkable vulnerability of oil facilities of central importance to the global economy.

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Syria: A Hungarian step towards diplomatic normalisation?

  • 11 September 2019
  • From the section Europe
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Most EU countries have severed diplomatic ties with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad since the civil war erupted

Reports that the Hungarian Government is planning to upgrade its diplomatic representation in Syria have sparked fears that the European Union's tough stance towards Damascus may be slowly unravelling.

The fighting in Syria is not yet over. But there is little doubt that the Assad regime has survived. The outside world is having to slowly adjust to this new reality and it poses particular problems for those countries - in the Middle East and in the West - who actively championed Mr Assad's opponents.

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Israel and Hezbollah: Shadow-boxing with live weapons

Israel and Hezbollah exchanged fire near the southern Lebanese town of Maroun al-Ras Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Israel and Hezbollah exchanged fire near the southern Lebanese town of Maroun al-Ras

The most recent clash between Israel and the Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon may or may not be over, but the signs still point to a potentially catastrophic conflict ahead.

Both sides have an interest in halting operations for now. Neither wants a full-scale war. Much will depend upon the Hezbollah reaction to the ruse with which Israel tried to calm this current upsurge.

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Did Donald Trump tweet classified military imagery?

US President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks outside the White House Image copyright EPA
Image caption Donald Trump's latest tweet has potentially set a precedent for classified information being shared by a president

President Donald Trump has set a new standard for extraordinary presidential behaviour.

Not only has he tweeted what would normally be a highly classified, military-quality satellite image showing the devastation around the launch pad at Iran's main space centre following a significant explosion.

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Was the Iran tanker crisis avoidable?

  • 20 July 2019
  • From the section UK
Stena Bulk Image copyright PA Media

This crisis was entirely predictable, but was it avoidable?

At the start of this month the Gibraltarian authorities - aided by a detachment of Royal Marines - detained a tanker which was believed to be carrying Iranian oil destined for Syria.

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Where does Turkey's S-400 missile deal with Russia leave the US?

  • 12 July 2019
  • From the section Europe
File photo: A Russian military official walks in front of The S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile system, 22 August 2017 Image copyright EPA
Image caption The S-400 is highly sophisticated - but incompatible with Nato's systems

After months of signals and threats the moment has finally come. The first elements of the Russian-supplied S-400 surface-to-air missile system have arrived in Turkey. Now Washington must decide what it is going to do.

On the face of it the American decision has already been taken.

Read full article Where does Turkey's S-400 missile deal with Russia leave the US?

Iran nuclear deal: Is there any way it can be saved?

Protesters against the Iran nuclear deal Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Has the landmark 2015 nuclear deal fallen apart?

Is the Iran nuclear deal dying by a thousand cuts, or is it actually dead already and nobody will quite admit it?

The United States abandoned the agreement just over a year ago. Iran is now progressively breaching its terms, first by storing more low-enriched uranium than it is allowed to hold, and now by upping its enrichment level beyond the 3.67% purity set out in the deal.

Read full article Iran nuclear deal: Is there any way it can be saved?

Iran's nuclear deal is on life support. Can it be saved?

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C) and head of Iran nuclear technology organization Ali Akbar Salehi Image copyright EPA
Image caption Iran insists that it is not seeking to overturn the nuclear deal

It has taken just a little over a year since the Trump administration abandoned the international nuclear deal with Iran, known as the JCPOA, for Tehran itself to challenge the agreement.

Its decision to intentionally breach the 300kg ceiling for the stock of low-enriched uranium that it can hold is but the first step of several that it is threatening.

Read full article Iran's nuclear deal is on life support. Can it be saved?