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.
Facing Pressure at Home and Abroad, Jordan’s King Shifts Strategy
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.
Will the Trump administration abort Iran’s land bridge to the Mediterranean?
As the showdown between Washington and Tehran escalates elsewhere in the Gulf, Iran is giving high priority to secure, control and re-open al-
Bukamal border crossing, the only Syrian-Iraqi border crossing under its control, to solidify its influence in the Levant and mitigate the impact of US sanctions. The question remains, however, whether Iran will pull off this move and how the Trump administration might react? Click here to read my latest for al-Monitor.
Are Russia and Turkey making deals or parting ways in Syria?
By now it is clear that “trying to have it all” might not be the best strategy for Turkey to pursue. In the foreseeable future, it might have to decide whether its priority is a deal east or west of the Euphrates River, and most importantly whether it should give up Tel Rifaat, Manbij or Idlib and at what price. If the US doubles down on its stance on the S-400, Turkey may also be forced to choose between US sanctions that undermine the Turkish economy or a Russian offensive in Idlib that weakens Turkish influence in Syria. Click here to read my latest op-ed.
Trump versus Biden: US Politics and the Middle East
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.
The Post-Mattis US Administration and the Rise of Trumpism
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.
Print/online media quotations
Quoted in the Arab Weekly on how Washington’s support to SDF in Syria is fueling US-Turkish tensions
- It is unlikely that the Trump administration will concede a Turkish role in northern Syria similar to the US-Turkish agreement in Manbij.
- Implementing a buffer zone between Kurdish fighters and Turkish forces along the Syrian-Turkish border largely depends on whether American and European officials agree on a deal to deploy joint forces to secure this buffer zone.
Click here to read the full article.
Why Trump recognised Israel’s claim on the Golan Heights
While the US decison to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights is primarily being explained away with geopolitics, it, in fact, has much more to do with US domestic politics. With this move, President Donald Trump aims to cement the gradual shift in partisan support of Israel from the Democrats to the Republicans and rally evangelical Christians around his presidency. Click here to read my latest op-ed.
Politicization of the anti-corruption campaign in Lebanon
The latest buzzword in Lebanon is combating corruption. Nearly every political party, most notably Hezbollah, is preaching this mantra. The Lebanese public and international donors are complaining about political corruption, as the country grapples to survive a grave economic and fiscal crisis. Yet there are questions concerning the depth and seriousness of these efforts. Click here to read my latest on Lebanon.
Print/online media quotations
Quoted in LA Times on Pompeo’s visit to Lebanon and Trump’s Golan Heights decision.
Trump’s policies also complicate Pompeo’s mission by making it difficult for potential allies in the region reluctant to openly support U.S. plans, said Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, in a phone interview on Friday. Click here to read the full quote.