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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The prevailing assessment among Western media is that Iranian-backed Hezbollah emerged the winner from the Lebanese parliamentary elections held May 6. There are, however, nuances that should be taken into consideration when interpreting the electoral outcome. Please click here to read my latest analysis on the outcome of the Lebanese elections.