Tehran has enjoyed observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) since 2005, but has repeatedly pressed its case for full membership. The organisation's two centres of power disagree over Iran's position: Moscow supports Iranian accession but Beijing seemingly opposes such a move. Iran shares with the SCO the ambition to challenge US dominance and the Western-led order. For Iran, the SCO is also the closest it has to an international defence bulwark, since it is not a member of any other regional security organisation.
In the build up to the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, some advocates for leaving the EU have argued that Britain’s security is better met by its membership of NATO rather than the European Union. In reality, the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU gives it diplomatic leverage and law enforcement mechanisms that it would not have on it own as well as military cooperation beyond that possible within NATO. While NATO remains somewhat of a ‘solution looking for a problem’, the EU takes a broad political, economic and military approach to security that is in keeping with our own approach and is well-suited to the interconnected security threats of the 21st century.
Overall, the US-led coalition has had some considerable successes in containing and rolling back Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; however, much more should have been achieved given the combined military might and other resources of the 66 members of the global coalition to counter Islamic State. Those gains that have been made have come at the expense of civilian casualties. Furthermore, there are no signs that the terrorist threat to the United Kingdom from Islamic State is reducing despite nearly two years of UK airstrikes and other efforts to target the group.
This briefing provides an update on recent developments in the conflict against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It also includes an overview of UK air, ground and sea forces in the region and an analysis of Ministry of Defence data on airstrikes. It concludes that the deliberate opacity surrounding UK special forces deployments allows the British government to authorise ground operations while at the same time claiming that there are no UK combat troops involved in the conflict, thereby sidestepping public and parliamentary debate.
Recent changes in personnel levels, coupled with equipment modernisation and operational experience, has made Russia’s elite airborne force (the VDV) an even more formidable force. As Russia shifts its gaze from perceived threats along its southern borders to those along its western ones, together with a fundamental shift to a military doctrine that once more sees NATO as the primary threat, the temptation to use the VDV as a military solution to political problems will likely only grow.
This briefing provides an update on recent developments in the conflict against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It includes the MoD response to an Open Briefing Freedom of Information request and an overview of UK military actions in the two countries, including ground operations - an often overlooked element of the UK campaign. It also discusses the substantial cache of IS documents recently handed to Sky News.
UK forces continue to be very active in Iraq, but have also increased offensive operations in Syria. However, the majority of UK airstrikes continue to be opportunist rather than intelligence-led, with targets being both identified and attacked by combat air patrols. The first major UK combat injuries have been reported, raising questions over the true nature and extent of UK ground operations against Islamic State.
Despite the obvious constraints, elections in Iran - whether for the Assembly of Experts, the presidency, the parliament, or even the regional municipalities - can still tell observers a lot. And they also matter; they can be the difference between the slow wearing down of the hardliners’ outsized control or the further consolidation of power in their hands. This Open Briefing article for Foreign Affairs explores how the coming Assembly of Experts vote could shape Iran's future.