ASPI suggests

The world

Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi vanished while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and is thought to have been killed on the premises. The Independent has the details and the Guardian provides insight on the potential Saudi hit squad. Carnegie interviewed Human Rights Watch’s Adam Coogle on the disappearance and what message the murder of a journalist at the hands of Saudi authorities would send. This Straits Times piece looks at the effect on the White House and the BBC published an off-air conversation with Khashoggi, recorded three days before he vanished, on the likelihood of his return to Saudi Arabia.

Two similar stories made headlines this week. Vox sheds light on the murky development around the former head of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, who went missing before China announced he was under investigation for corruption. And the Daily Beast reports on the rape and murder of Bulgarian journalist Victoria Marinova, who investigated the misuse of EU funds. She is the fourth journalist killed in Europe in the last 14 months.

The IPCC released a report on the potential impacts of and ways to mitigate a rise in global temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The New York Times outlines the report’s main themes and criticises US President Donald Trump’s position on climate change, and Vox provides 10 very achievable ways to reduce carbon emissions.

The world is heating up in more ways than one as tensions between global powers threaten arms control treaties. Defense One highlights the arms control community’s ‘deafening silence’ since Russia deployed its new intermediate-range, nuclear-capable cruise missile in Europe. On the cyber front, MIT Technology Review brings to light the lack of a cyber arms treaty. But it’s not all bad: Amnesty International introduces us to three women campaigning for better arms control and War on the Rocks discusses the effectiveness of those treaties over 50 years. Finally, a Strategist piece outlines how advances in technology mean a ban on megaton-yield nuclear weapons might be easier to achieve.

The National Interest claims the international community was never prepared to seek to end the conflict in Syria despite the atrocities committed there. Though the spotlight is on Idlib due to the creation of a demilitarised zone, Foreign Policy in Focus looks at two other fronts: the US presence in Syria’s east, and the confrontation between Iran and Israel. Foreign Affairs looks at how Bashar al-Assad was able to hijack the vast majority of international aid sent to his country.

The Institute of Modern Russia’s latest report explores the Kremlin’s ties to think tanks and universities across Russia, Europe and the US and how it drives its information warfare campaigns. Foreign Brief examines the consequences of Mongolia’s participation in Russia’s Vostok 18 exercise and its perilous position between Russia and China.

The German Marshall Fund of the United States and Visegrad Insight have collaborated to produce a report with five scenarios for the future of Central Europe at a time of growing illiberalism and nationalism. Meanwhile, this Economist piece highlights why the Baltic states in particular worry about the current US attitude to European security, while Politico reports that Poland has gone all-in on Trump. We also recommend this in-depth read on the challenges facing democracy in The New York Review of Books that explores the similarities between inter-war Europe and today’s US.

For this New York Times feature, Australian photojournalist Andrew Quilty spent time with US special forces, who are fighting with their Afghan counterparts against an Islamic State affiliate, capturing their everyday life and mission in photos and print. On that note, see how IS plans to dive underground, make money and return in force once the US has withdrawn from the Middle East in Foreign Policy.

Tech geek

Researchers have found that no one can escape the trend in consumer-available DNA mapping. An article published in Science found that, due to widespread use of consumer DNA kits, researchers could gain the genetic profiles of more than 60% of Americans who had never engaged in DNA profiling themselves.

The Chinese government is funding academic research into gene editing and brain-computer interfaces that seeks to allow human brains to directly interact with hardware. If successful, it would take China one step closer to being able to ‘enhance human capabilities for battlefield perception and decision-making’, ASPI International Cyber Policy Centre Fellow Elsa Kania told Defense One.

With this dystopian future in mind, Boston Dynamics has released a video of its latest humanoid robot ‘Atlas’ doing parkour. Tech Geek, for one, welcomes our new robot overlords.

Finally, with the threat of a Terminator-like future approaching, Northrop Grumman has unveiled its latest anti-radiation missile designs at the US Army conference and expo, which is underway in Washington DC. The system follows the increasingly popular trend of packaging weapons systems into a standard shipping container, meaning it can be easily transported and placed almost anywhere.

This week in history

This week in 2001, American forces responding to the September 11 attacks began bombing Taliban forces in Afghanistan in what has since become the longest war in US (and Australian) history. See this timeline of major events in the conflict and this moving photo series (warning: graphic content).


The devastating impact of Hurricane Michael, which crossed the Florida coast as a category 4 storm, is captured in this Atlantic photo series.

The BBC investigates whether it’s too late for us to reduce our carbon footprint and save ourselves from further environmental degradation. [15:20]

This DW documentary revisits the Cold War and the Gorbachev era, interviewing several international politicians and advisers from that time who discuss the relationship between the world powers and the threat of nuclear war. [42:25]


ASPI’s Policy, Guns and Money’s sixth episode covers a broad spectrum of topics: epidemics, the departure of Nikki Haley, the attribution of cyberattacks and the Nobel Peace Prize. [40:56]

The Foreign Desk hosts a number of experts to discuss Iraq’s future after the new government was agreed on. [34:22]

Defence Connect interviews the Australian Space Agency’s Karl Rodrigues on the future of Australia’s involvement in space and the space economy. It’s out of this world! [35:06]


Canberra, 17 October, 2–4.30 pm, National Museum of Australia: ‘Global security through nuclear weapons?’ Register here.

Sydney, 18 October, 6–7.30 pm, United States Studies Centre: ‘Women in foreign policy’. Tickets here.

Sydney, 19 October, 12–2 pm, UNSW Science: ‘Policy, politics and research with Professor Paul Cairney’. More info here.