The US-Jordanian partnership has been strained and tested since the December 6 decision of President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and start plans to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Vice President Mike Pence is due in Jordan on January 21 in an attempt to contain the fallout of the past four weeks. There is anxiety in Amman that Trump might neither understand nor tolerate Jordan’s diplomatic offensive against his controversial decision, which could ultimately harm US-Jordanian relations. In fact, Jordan’s King Abdullah II is now simultaneously facing difficult relations and conflicting interests with the leaders of the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. Read here my latest analysis on US-Jordan relations.
Under pressure by foreign backers to compromise, the Syrian opposition is struggling to find its voice. It is increasingly coming to the realization that the status quo might ultimately lead to having President Bashar Assad stay in power, at least for a transitional period. After losing two crucial bargaining chips—significant territorial control in different parts of Syria, and the ability to offer and accept a ceasefire—the Syrian opposition is unable to force a compromise and has no game plan for what might come next as the Syrian war winds down. Click here for my latest analysis.
After 33 months of the Saudi-led war and three years of controlling Sanaa, the Houthis still have no game plan or exit strategy. Killing Saleh deprived them of a major ally and increased their isolation. Saudi Arabia is not expected to back out, but it is not clear what more can be done. A military solution will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen without necessarily defeating Ansar Allah. If a political solution remains elusive, the major fallout of Saleh’s assassination might be accelerating the re-partition of Yemen. Click here for my latest analysis on Yemen.
While the mysterious resignation of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri continues to cast a cloud over Lebanese politics, new developments have de-escalated tensions in the country. Clear statements from Washington, released by both the White House and the State Department, appear to have curbed the Saudi surge in Beirut and toned down Riyadh’s rhetoric against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Hariri’s television interview on November 12 had a reconciliatory tone as the prime minister announced his intention to return to Beirut this week; however, no political breakthrough seems to be looming on the horizon. Click here for my latest analysis on Lebanon.
US soft power, which was built by decades of persuasion and non-coercive tools, is no longer inspiring or persuasive. The political values and foreign policy the United States is projecting abroad are at odds with the international system Washington has shaped. That global perception about the US role might outlast the Trump presidency. Here’s a link to my latest policy analysis on Trump, Tillerson and US diplomacy.
Given the current status quo, the best-case scenario for US-Saudi pressure is to transform Lebanese politics into an unbearable environment for Hezbollah. That, however, would mean great political and economic costs for a fragile country. Most importantly, the common interests that currently bind the Lebanese oligarchy, as they look ahead to the 2018 legislative elections, might prove to be stronger than any external pressure. Here’s a link my latest analysis on US-Saudi plan to deter Hezbollah in Lebanon.
On August 30, the Turaibil border crossing that links Iraq with Jordan was reopened after two years of closure. Striving to recover from the devastation of the so-called Islamic State (IS), both the Iraqi and Jordanian governments are hoping to benefit economically from that key trade route. However, there are strategic, security, and logistical challenges that might stand in their way. Most importantly, the ongoing tensions between Washington and Tehran to determine who controls the Baghdad-Amman highway might destabilize the border and lead to further strife in Iraqi politics. Here’s a link to my latest policy analysis on the Baghdad-Amman highway.
The United Nations (UN) envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, predicted that the coming months will be crucial for the conflict he has been trying to resolve for the past three years. If there are no surprises down the road, the next rounds of the Astana and Geneva talks are expected in September, paving the way for “real substantive” talks in October. That optimism primarily rests on the premise that the United States and Russia will continue to cooperate despite the dark clouds overshadowing their increasingly difficult bilateral relationship. The recent local and regional developments signal that Syria is entering a new phase where major powers are coming to terms with a compromise that the Syrians themselves still consider elusive. Here’s a link to my latest policy analysis on Syria.