Op-Ed

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. 

Op-Ed

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.

Op-Ed

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.

Op-Ed

Jordan, Israel hedge their bets in southwest 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.

Op-Ed

Untying the knot of the Israeli attack on Syria

Recent developments in Syria remind us how convoluted the country’s multi-party conflict is. The Syrian regime used Russian made S-200 anti-aircraft missiles to shoot down an American made F-16I retaliating to the intrusion of an Iranian made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Most importantly, however, these developments gave Israel a reality check that it has no allies in this tug of war next door. Click here to read my latest Op-Ed about the Israeli strike in Syria.

Op-Ed

Lebanon gears up for a ‘realignment’ election

 

Political tensions are running high in Lebanon ahead of the anticipated legislative elections in May. The excessive and precarious pandering to voters seems to be the prelude to a post-election realignment of the political system. Now that the Syrian-Saudi influence is no longer present, the post Taif Agreement era needs to be revised, which is a delicate issue stirring tensions among Lebanese leaders. As external pressure might not always be handy to subdue political infighting, the Lebanese Constitution should include the necessary mechanisms to resolve these differences. Recent tensions are a setback and showed that Lebanon is not quite ready yet for self-governance. Click here to read my latest analysis on Lebanon.

 

 

 

Op-Ed

Lebanon’s energy promise could be regional game changer

Three interconnected developments that occurred in December 2017 will have a lasting impact on Lebanon. The Lebanese government made two long overdue decisions: launching the energy exploration process and setting the parliamentary elections date for next May. The third development is a breakthrough that has regional implications: a United Nations-sponsored meeting was held between Lebanon and Israel to discuss for the first time the demarcation of their maritime border. Click here to read my latest piece on energy exploration in Lebanon.

 

Op-Ed

The Middle East in 2018: Five issues to watch

The past year was a watershed year for the Middle East and 2018 promises to continue on this path. Wars began to wind down across the region but challenges remain in managing conflict resolution. Next year will be defined by post-war transitions to peace talks, ballot boxes, and reconstruction. Two areas are the exception to this trend: Yemen is the only country that will start the new year without a roadmap to peace and territorial disputes along western Syria, from Idlib to Deraa, will continue next year. Turmoil across the Middle East makes it harder to narrow down the main political issues that will dominate 2018. However, five of them should be watched in 2018 because of their regional and international impact. Click here to read my latest piece.