Thursday, June 28, 2018

While Lebanese Parties Bicker about Ministries, outside forces continue to press their favorites. Prime Minister Designate Saad Hariri knew it wouldn’t be easy and complications continue. For now, there seems to be agreement that there will be 30 ministries (with no discussion how this affects public spending and the national debt) and multiple “Ministers of State” to make up the political pie. But the actual make-up of the government is proving elusive.

Druze leaders are divided; party chiefs have visited Riyadh to discuss priorities; Christian parties continue their very public arguments about who best represents the interests of the community; while Syria and Russia, and to some extent Iran, make sure that the warring parties remember their patrons. For example, Hariri and Walid Jumblatt...

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

While we often write about the Syrian, Palestinian, and Iraqi refugees in Lebanon, adding our concerns for Jordan and Palestine is only a starting point for recognizing the awful global conditions of refugees, internally displaced peoples, undocumented migrants, and stateless people that live in all corners of the globe.

You have heard the numbers and they are all horrific, no matter how your rationalize them. For example, The Guardian published a list of the 34,351 people known to have died trying to reach Europe since the early 1990s. Ironically, according to, The UN defines a refugee as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence.” As of May, an estimated 25.4 million refugees around the globe have fled their homes to escape vi...

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Although there are a few indications that Lebanon and Israel are willing to negotiate their land and maritime borders, it is difficult to gauge consistent progress. The three companies that were awarded the three concessions, one that is in a disputed zone, will begin exploration at the end of the summer, according to the consortium, but will not work in the area that is contested.

For now, trilateral diplomatic negotiations continue with UNIFIL as the referee although that may soon change. In advance of last week’s meeting, the President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of the Parliament met to unify Lebanon’s position on the issue. Key military personnel were also present including General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and heads of the Lebanese military delegation participating in th...

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Eid-el-Fitr is upon us and Speaker Berri’s hope that the new government will be announced around this time may not be met. The first steps have been taken by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who is responsible for forming the coalition cabinet, a task usually takes months and involves many trade-offs among competing political entities. Berri said that “Expediting the formation is necessary and urgent. It is a duty for everyone to face the enormous challenges facing the country and the growing crises in it, especially the economic situation which cannot be delayed, procrastinated or slowed. It requires exceptional approaches and responsible solutions.”

Unsaid is that whatever differences the parties may have about many issues, there is a common resolve to deal with the Syrian refuge...

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Make no mistake about it; Russia is the most influential great power in the Middle East and the Gulf. The US has enabled this role over time through a continuing disengagement from those countries that once relied on us as the final arbiter and guarantor of their security and economic development. You can blame the Obama Administration all you want, but the Trump Administration, aside from putting even more weapons and intelligence in their hands, has not been able to assert US leadership as deftly and broadly as the Russians.

And now, a real test of Russian leadership is rising out of the faltering resistance to President Assad. Israel recently made a serious demarche to Moscow regarding the encroachment of Iranian and allied militias towards its northern border and the Golan. The trade-of...

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