Policy Analysis

The Syrian Opposition Faces an Existential Crisis

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.

Policy Analysis

Implications of Saleh’s Assassination on Yemen’s Future

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.

Policy Analysis

US Curbs Saudi Arabia’s Surge in Lebanon

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.

Policy Analysis

Undermining Tillerson and the Demise of US Soft Power

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.

Policy Analysis

Will US, Saudi Pressure Deter Hezbollah in Lebanon?

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.

Policy Analysis

The Strategic Implications of Reopening the Baghdad-Amman Highway

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.

Policy Analysis

Stakeholders of the Syrian Conflict Divide the Pie

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.

Policy Analysis

Stretched over Two Borders, Hezbollah is Making Israel Anxious

Among the many regional players operating on Syrian soil, two arch-enemies are familiar with each other’s war tactics: Hezbollah and Israel. After challenging Israel for nearly four decades in southern Lebanon, in recent years the Iranian-backed Hezbollah has sought to open a new battlefield in southern Syria. Tel Aviv is growing anxious and has been aggressively targeting any movement by the Lebanese group that could insinuate building or transferring military capabilities near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Iran’s agility in moving weapons and fighters between Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq worries Israel and changes the rules of the game in the Levant. Here’s my latest policy analysis on the covert war between Israel and Hezbollah in Syria.

Policy Analysis

Jordan and the US-Russia Deal in Southern Syria

After two months of secret negotiations in Amman, US and Russian officials reached a ceasefire agreement in southwestern Syria. While a few crucial details are not ironed out yet, the deal was announced following the July 8 meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, Germany. The ceasefire, albeit fragile, is welcome news in Amman after the increased military operations and escalation of rhetoric with the Syrian regime this past spring. The US-Russian deal takes the pressure off Jordanian authorities and allows them to potentially expand their role further in the Syrian conflict. However, Syrian rebels in the southern front are resisting attempts to force a new status quo, while Iran is not committing any support to a deal it did not participate in making. The southern front is becoming a decisive battle of influence as local and regional players are racing to seize territorial gains across Syria. What happens in the coming weeks and months will test not only the US-Russian agreement but also Jordan’s leverage in the southern front. Here’s my latest policy analysis on the Syrian conflict.

Policy Analysis

A US-Iran Race to Control the Damascus-Baghdad Highway

The Syrian war has recently taken a new and decisive turn. The military focus has shifted from the country’s western areas to the long-neglected east, and this might now decide the Levant’s predominant hegemon. Across these territories held by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) since 2014, American- and Iranian-backed armed groups are scrambling to capture or defend territories with one target in mind: controlling the strategic Damascus-Baghdad highway. The unprecedented US strike on May 18 that hit Iranian-backed militias approaching the al-Tanf military base did not prevent the Syrian regime from advancing toward that critical converging point on the Syrian, Iraqi, and Jordanian borders. The battle for that strategic highway could be the ultimate test for President Donald Trump Administration’s proclaimed agenda of deterring Iran’s regional activities.

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