Killing the al-Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani on January 3 was an unprecedented measure by the United States in its four decades of confrontation with Iran. This assertive approach has enforced a much-needed deterrence of Iran and altered the narrative about a waning American influence. At the same time, it has also antagonized Tehran even if the Iranian regime appears to be standing down for now. The post-Soleimani Middle East offers both challenges and opportunities; however, the Trump Administration does not seem to have a strategy to either mitigate or exploit them. Click here to read my latest analysis.
In the past 15 years, the United States and Iran have battled over influence in Iraq and Lebanon. In October, this cold war reached a milestone with protests across the two countries rebuking decades of corruption, unemployment, inefficient public services, and government paralysis. The latter issue, in particular, has been increasingly driven in the last few years by the US-Iran showdown. Washington and Tehran now have different approaches toward these uprisings, but they remain unwilling to confront or to let go of their respective allies in Baghdad and Beirut. Click here to read my latest analysis.
It has been over a month since the Lebanese uprising began and there are no indications that the country’s ruling oligarchy is willing or ready to offer concrete concessions in giving up power. The political class seems united in buying time to weather the storm of public anger while seeking to disperse and divide the protesters and undermine their cause. Lebanon is on the verge of economic collapse with no end in sight to the crisis of public confidence in the country’s current political system. Click here to read my latest analysis.
The Trump Administration’s decision to directly or indirectly facilitate the Turkish incursion into Syria left a vacuum in the area stretching along the Turkish-Syrian border, one that was partially filled by Moscow and Ankara. Once again, Russia has appeared to be the power broker in Syria with US influence continuing to wane; however, it remains to be seen how Russia might or might not benefit from these transformative changes in the Syrian conflict. Click here to read the policy analysis.
In recent months, US President Donald Trump managed to put his own stamp on a generational shift at the Pentagon, with new leaders emerging to navigate war and peace decisions at a crucial time of political uncertainty in Washington. This comes as the Defense Department addresses the challenge of an increasingly emboldened Iranian regime under significant US economic pressure and a White House that continues to be inclined to withdraw from US engagement in the Middle East. Click here to read the full analysis.
While the latest round benefited both Netanyahu and Hezbollah politically before their bases, those whose influence might have been further weakened are the Lebanese government and the Trump Administration, especially in the latter’s ability to influence policymaking in Beirut. Click here to read the full analysis.
While Israel might have the edge and enjoys Russian cover in Syria, it will be on its own and vulnerable in the Strait of Hormuz if it establishes a naval presence—the focus would turn to protecting the Israeli Navy instead of safeguarding international navigation. Moreover, Israel has no strategic and economic stake in the waterway’s stability, which it does not use for transporting its own energy imports. Instead, Israel could use this involvement as part of its ongoing efforts to deter Iran. It could also weaken Gulf leaders who are allies of the Trump Administration by leaving them with the option of either succumbing to Iranian threats or getting Israeli support. This scenario would surely not play well among their constituencies at home. Click here to read my full analysis.
A delegation of Hamas leaders met on July 22 with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to enlist Tehran’s support in convincing the Syrian regime to reopen the Palestinian group’s Damascus office. Meanwhile, on the same day, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal al-Mokdad was receiving1 a delegation from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) whose most prominent political party is the Hamas rival, Fatah. This split-screen between Iran and Syria shows how the controversial US peace initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is benefiting Tehran and pushing the two main Palestinian factions into the arms of Damascus. The Hamas visit to Tehran was led by
While the latest American sanctions, imposed on July 9, continue a trend of US pressure on Hezbollah, they symbolize an imperfect realignment of interests between the Trump Administration’s Iran approach and Lebanese leaders’ aim to alter their country’s political dynamics. Lebanon has been mostly shielded from US-Iranian tensions over the nuclear deal, but there are questions about whether this is about to change. Click here to read my latest analysis on Lebanon. This analysis was also republished and/or featured in Lobe Log, L’Orient Le Jour (in French) and Lebanon24 (in Arabic).
US officials appear to be overselling a potential deal with Turkey on establishing a “safe zone” in northeastern Syria, one they hope could peel Ankara away from Moscow. However, this approach might accelerate the confrontation between Turkish and Kurdish forces in the absence of a clear American strategy in Syria and given the uncertainty in US-Turkish relations. Click here to read my latest analysis.