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
While the Iraqi premier is gradually consolidating power, he remains a prisoner of the ruling coalition that brought him to office, instead of independently making bold changes that alter Iraq’s political dynamics. If Abadi does not face his demons, sooner or later the US might lose its residual power in Iraq. My latest commentary after the Karrada attacks.
If we are to apply the five stages of loss and grief on Syria’s Bashar Assad, he seems reluctantly halfway in “bargaining”, after five years of denial and anger. Here are my five takeaways from his June 7 speech before “Parliament”:
1- Showing disdain for Syrian rivals
Assad nicknamed the Syrian opposition as “the traitors who are outside”, “other factions”, and “mop of their masters”. A major obstacle to the Geneva negotiations has been indeed the Assad regime looking down at the Syrian opposition with a preference to talk with the countries they back them. Assad praised the sacrifices of the Syrian people living under his territorial control, yet had no reference to all the Syrians killed by his atrocities. He also did not mention the Syrian refugees, with more than 4.5 million stranded across the world. Assad still sees the Syrian war as a “regional and international conflict” and demonizing fellow Syrians serve that purpose. Continue reading “Moving from Denial to Bargaining: Five Takeaways from Assad speech”