Policy Analysis

Controlling the Nasib Crossing Is a Game Changer for the Syrian Regime

The imminent opening of Nasib could revitalize commercial trade activities in the Levant. However, the end of the Syrian war should not mean a return to business as usual. The Syrian regime is not taking concrete steps that reflect a tangible change of behavior. The United States and Europe can use the leverage of their sanctions on the Syrian regime to urge Moscow to pressure Assad. However, the regional dynamics might force a new reality as Syria’s neighbors are eager to restore trade and provide relief for their economies. Click here to read my latest analysis.


What will Trump and Putin agree on at the Helsinki summit?


But despite these fears, no real breakthrough in US-Russian relations should be expected until Special Counsel Robert Mueller finalizes his investigation. Lifting US sanctions on Russia, recognizing its annexation of Crimea, and pulling US troops out of Eastern Europe are all off the table for the Helsinki summit; Trump’s hands are tied by US domestic politics. The only issue on which he can concede to lure in the Russian president is the Syrian war. Trump will give up Syria to Putin the way Gorbachev left Iraq to Bush in 1990. Click here to read my latest op-ed. 

Policy Analysis

Syrian Refugees in Jordan and Lebanon: The Politics of their Return

Lebanon is ahead of the curve in the process of returning Syrian refugees because the question of who controls the border area has been resolved, but there are logistical and political challenges ahead. Jordan could either face a new refugee crisis or see a swift return of refugees if the outcome in southwestern Syria serves Jordanian interests. No matter what happens in the coming months, a large-scale return is unlikely in either Jordan or Lebanon. The return process will not be completed overnight and will take years. Click here to read my latest policy analysis.


In southern Syria, the US faces a Russia-Israel challenge

Both Washington and Moscow are pressuring their Syrian allies not to escalate. The Syrian regime deployment is meant to strengthen the Russian negotiation position and is restricted to the Jordanian border area only at this point, which means the Russian-Israeli agreement is yet to fully materialize No matter what scenarios might unfold, the US has two options to become relevant once again in southwest Syria: to confront or engage Moscow. Otherwise, the US might become a bargaining chip in a looming deal between the rest of the parties involved. Click here to read my latest op-ed.

Policy Analysis

The Damascus-Aleppo Highway and Stabilizing Northwest Syria

The imminent reopening of the Damascus-Aleppo M5 highway is a milestone in the 17-month Astana process that started in January 2017 and is spearheaded by Russia, Iran, and Turkey. While these influential powers are enforcing new dynamics in northwestern Syria, they are also normalizing an irregular situation that could ultimately renew confrontations between rival parties on the ground. Click here to read my latest policy analysis.

A Crack in the Russian-Iranian Alliance in Syria?

Iranian influence is entrenched in Syria and inside the Assad regime itself. Both Moscow and Tehran are fully aware that any political or military confrontation they may have in the areas controlled by the Syrian regime would be detrimental to their interests. As US relations with Russia remain stagnant and Washington increases pressure on Iran, both Moscow and Tehran will continue to recognize that they would benefit more from cooperation rather than rivalry. Putin’s ultimate objective is to establish the rules of the game in Syria. However, the influential powers operating there have a lot at stake and will not surrender their prerogatives to Moscow while gaining nothing in return. Putin’s announcement, therefore, seems to be more of a political stunt and a notice to Iran that Moscow is ready to more forcefully assert its own influence in Syria over that of Tehran. Click here to read my latest blog.


A Dangerous Israeli-Iranian Escalation in Syria

The White House should be mindful that the 1973 Golan Heights ceasefire line is one of the most enduring legacies of US policy in the Middle East. The focus on scrapping the Iran nuclear deal, despite European advice, could lead to setbacks for US influence across the Levant and might entangle the US further in the region. Moreover, Russia’s balancing act between Israel and Iran is entering uncharted territory and tension between them can spin out of control if Putin does not set clear and inviolable rules of engagement. Click here to read my latest blog on the Israeli-Iranian


Five trends to watch in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections

After five years of delay, Lebanese go to the polls May 6 to elect a new parliament for the first time since 2009. The ultimate objective of this popular vote is to readjust the power representation of the same ruling class and set its rules of engagement for the next four years. The 2018 general elections will be held for the first time under the proportional rather than the majoritarian system, with a revised gerrymandering of 15 districts (as opposed to 26 in 2009). It is safe to argue that the winners of nearly 70% of the seats have been predetermined due to the confessional nature of the political system. The electoral law reflects the current political landscape in Lebanon, where alliances are volatile and no single coalition alone can rule the country. Moreover, these legislative elections are held against the background of two significant developments: the repercussions of the 2016 presidential deal that elected Gen. Michel Aoun, and the volatile situation in Syria next door. Please click here to read my analysis ahead of the May 6 Lebanese elections.


Mon article sur le gaz méditerranéen a été mentionné dans France Culture

“Depuis quelques semaines, le gaz naturel est source de nombreuses tensions en Méditerranée orientale : le bloc 9 de gaz naturel disputé entre Israël et le Liban est devenu l’objet de menaces entre les deux pays. Et la Turquie a bloqué un navire italien lançant des opérations de forage dans le bloc 3 disputé entre les Grecs et les Turcs chypriotes. Ces tensions illustrent l’évolution du paysage stratégique de la Méditerranée orientale depuis 2009.” expliquait Joe Macaron, Analyste à l’Arab Center (Washington) sur les conflits au Proche-Orient dans un article publié le 5 mars 2018, dans Orient XXI, “Montée des tensions autour du gaz en Méditerranée, Israël face au Liban, la Turquie face à Chypre”. Cliquez ici pour voir le lien vers l’article de France Culture.