“There is an obvious systemic shift in the US national security apparatus that will alter the dynamics of the Trump administration’s decision-making process on the Middle East,” said Joe Macaron, a fellow at the Arab Centre in Washington.
Macaron said he expected Defence Secretary James Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly, two former generals seen as supporters of a moderate approach, “to be balanced by the hawkish civilians” Pompeo and Bolton. “However, the verdict is out on how these bureaucratic changes will translate into policy making,” Macaron added via e-mail. “The Pentagon seems to have the upper hand for the foreseeable future.”
Macaron noted that Trump’s hard-line position on Iran was “in rhetoric only.” The administration’s main goal was to distance itself from the JCPOA without hurting US interests in the Middle East but it did not know how to go about that, he said.
“The United States has no strategy in the Middle East. There is neither appetite nor willingness to embark on new military adventures in the Middle East,” Macaron said.
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American and Israeli airpower cannot go far without ground support. While Israel is primarily concerned about Iran, the United States is focused on setting red lines for Russia’s role in Syria. Israel used the anger toward the Syrian regime’s Duma attack to settle scores with Russia and Iran. The White House should caution against an Israeli attempt to entangle the United States in the Syrian war for the wrong reasons. Click here to read my latest on the looming US strike on Syria.
Southwest Syria could be the next confrontation zone in Syria’s multiple regional wars. The US-Russian cease-fire agreement is collapsing, except in the buffer zone on the Iraqi-Jordanian border. The Syrian regime and its allies are making their way through to the Nassib border crossing and the Golan Heights. These new dynamics are altering the calculations of Jordan and Israel, while further weakening the armed opposition on the southern front. Click here to read my latest op-ed on how Jordan and Israel are hedging their bets in southwest Syria.
President Donald Trump’s decision to fire Secretary of State Rex Tillerson represents the climax of nearly 15 months of the president’s disparagement of the agency charting US foreign policy. While mistrust and disrespect have animated his dealings with his former chief diplomat––whose experience in world affairs was limited to the private sector ––the ouster comes at a particularly sensitive time in US foreign policy. Click here to read my latest analysis on the firing of Tillerson.
On the 7th year anniversary of the Syrian war, the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel asked me how this conflict can come to end, click here to read my take.
Nearly 100 days after his mysterious “captivity” in the Saudi capital, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri visited Riyadh again on February 28. The timing could not have been more critical as Lebanon is currently gearing up for a legislative election in May and Hariri is shaping his electoral alliances across the country’s 15 electoral districts. However, the lack of clarity about what was agreed on during this visit left the door wide open for speculation about its potential impact on Hariri’s relations with Riyadh and on Saudi influence in Lebanon. Click here to read my latest analysis on Lebanon.
The firing of Tillerson shows that the State Department remains under siege by the White House until further notice. One cannot talk about “Tillersonism” or pin down a list of achievements that are specifically credited to the 69th secretary of state. His legacy is one of challenging the president’s unconventional stances and subsequently paying the political price. Click here to read my latest op-ed on the sacking of Tillerson and what it means for US foreign policy.