On May 13, while The New York Times reported that the White House was reviewing military plans to attack Iran, a plane carrying the State Department’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield quietly landed in Beirut on an unannounced trip. Heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran did not prevent the US official from rushing to seize a breakthrough as the Iran-backed Hezbollah finally endorsed the Lebanese government’s stance to enter direct negotiations to settle the border dispute with Israel. These negotiations are expected to begin in the coming weeks as the United States and Iran may explore direct talks for the first time since President Donald Trump took office in 2017. Click here to read my latest analysis.
As Amman prepares to weather the storm of the anticipated US peace initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jordan’s King Abdullah II is shifting his approach to domestic politics by realigning interests with the Muslim Brotherhood and clamping down on his critics. The country’s slow economic growth and persistent regional deadlock are constraining Jordan’s rentier state and the monarchy’s rule, as the kingdom continues to lose the support of its traditional allies. Click here to read my latest analysis.
Since formally announcing his presidential bid on April 25, former Vice President Joe Biden has emerged in recent polls as the leading Democratic contender to square off with President Donald Trump. The two men are already testing their messages and setting the stage for the major themes that will dominate the 2020 presidential elections. This article explores the factors that would drive their campaigns if they emerge as the two presidential contenders, and most importantly, how they compare on major US foreign policy issues, most notably regarding the Middle East. Click here to read my latest analysis.
This consolidation of power by conservatives, at a time when internal bureaucratic barriers to filter the White House’s foreign policy are no longer in place, promises to make 2019 a tumultuous year for US policy in the Middle East as Americans begin to ponder whether to give Trump a second term or choose an alternative leader. Click here to read my latest analysis.
While a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran is unlikely in the foreseeable future, the two adversaries share three potential war fronts in Lebanon, Syria, and the Gaza Strip. As tensions increase between Israel and Iran, there is speculation as to which front might witness the next confrontation. Importantly, all these fronts are mutually connected in terms of military strategy and political calculations. Click here for my latest analysis.
In the past two months, US officials have been baffled by how to spin President Donald Trump’s hast decision last December to withdraw US forces from Syria. Once again, they were unable to come up with an American strategy. Across the US federal government, the advocates for staying in Syria have been buying time from Trump over the last two years to maintain US presence in the war-torn country. Click here for my latest analysis.
After 257 days of political impasse, Lebanon’s 75th government since independence was formed on January 31. The reaction in Washington and in the American media has been that Hezbollah now controls a majority in the Lebanese government and thus the country. However, putting this development in context is crucial to understanding how and why the cabinet was formed and, most importantly, what challenges it will face moving forward. Click here to read my latest policy analysis.
On January 14, the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) was inaugurated in Cairo, triggering the region’s official transition from oil dependence to the era of gas production. The ongoing geopolitical and economic calculations of the Eastern Mediterranean gas discovery in 2009 have shaped new alliances and rekindled old enmities. However, the initial hope that this offshore gas discovery would lead to an inclusive regional cooperation or integration has waned; indeed, the EMGF alliance seems to mirror the current regional status quo. Click here to read my latest policy analysis.
The Manbij attack exposes the crisis of US policy in Syria overall. The pillars of the Trump Administration’s policy in the country have been to defeat IS, prevent a Turkish-Kurdish confrontation, deny Iran a foothold in Syria, and veto a Russian-led political process that contradicts US interests. All these objectives are currently at risk. Moving forward, the White House will be tempted to retaliate against the Islamic State as a show of force, which will deepen US involvement in the Syrian conflict in the short term. It is difficult, however, to see how a US withdrawal could be imminent or accomplished without a deal with Turkey; this seems unlikely in the foreseeable future as both sides have irreconcilable interests in northern Syria. While the American decision to withdraw
Every so often an unexpected development leaves a significant imprint on US strategy in the Middle East. The October 2, 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has rattled the already weak foundations of the Trump Administration’s approach to the region. But will there be long-term geopolitical implications from this murder when the dust fully settles? Click here to read my latest policy analysis.