Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The US has yet to make a determination if Syria used chemical weapons in its attacks in Idlib province against al Qaeda-linked Islamic militants. It is also unclear from successive statements by the State Department if a red line still exists regarding their use. This puts the Trump Administration squarely in the dilemma faced by the Obama Administration: is there a red line or not and what is the price to pay for a violation of that standard?

Russia and Syria counter that the militants are behind the use of chlorine gas, seeking to divert blame from the Assad regime. Some determination will likely be made this week. Given the announced movement of some 1000 US troops to the region to counter Iranian pressure on US allies, responding forcefully to the use of chemical weapons will be another...

Monday, May 20, 2019

I usually don’t write about US-Palestine relations. We are now in the 52nd year after the 1967 Six-Day War, which is the baseline for my consciousness about the issue. I was in college at the time and luckily had a Fulbright professor who had just returned from two years in Israel and decided that it was time I learned something useful about my heritage and the region.

The continued behavior of the Trump Administration towards the Palestinians is driving me crazy. However, you won’t find me sticking up for the Palestinian leadership or their role over time in destabilizing several Arab countries. On the other hand, the pettiness and unremitting disregard for the humanity of the Palestinian people makes me wonder what price Lebanon will pay in the next decade as the White House attempts to i...

Thursday, May 16, 2019

For Putin watchers in the Middle East and the US trying to discern a core strategic thrust to Russian policy in the region, the information overload can be quite challenging. From gas pipelines transiting the former Balkans to signing agreements to build nuclear reactors in Africa, Russia is engaging in multidimensional efforts to both increase its leverage in targeted countries and subsequently decrease the value of close relations with the US.

However, its economic offensive is hampered by a lack of financial resources, which means that using credits to promote arms sales, energy infrastructure projects, and local regime support are draining an economy that can hardly meet its domestic needs. Russia’s economic expansiveness lacks the credibility of the Chinese version, which is better fin...

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Around this time each year, a major survey measuring attitudes among Arab youth is published. This year, it involved face-to-face interviews with 3,300 young people, ages 18-24, in 15 countries. Conducted in January, the interviews were held in both English and Arabic, with an equal number of men and women. Due to the rigor of the process, the margin of error is ±1.65%, a very strong measure of accuracy.

In Lebanon, 200 young people were interviewed, 60% from Beirut and 20% each from Saida and Tripoli. A novel feature of the survey are commentaries prepared by experts on the region on each section. They lend their analyses to help put each section in context and help frame the interpretations of the data. For example, Dr. Jihad Azour, Director of the International Monetary Fund’s Middle Eas...

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

After a push from US Secretary of State Pompeo and President Trump’s endorsement of Israel’s annexation of the Golan, Lebanon finally seems ready to settle its southern border. The main obstacle among Lebanon’s leaders until now has been the speaker of the parliament, Nabih Berri, who has wanted to settle the land and maritime borders simultaneously.

However, in a recent meeting with Major General Stefano del Col, commander of UNIFIL, Berri said “his country was prepared [to] establish a maritime border and special economic zone with Israel as long as it involved the same mechanism used in adopting the so-called Blue Line demarcation under the auspices of the UN,” according to an article in Ynetnews. The thorny issue for Lebanon is control of Shebaa Farms and other parcels in the area, whic...

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