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INSIGHT: Dealing Away the Middle East?

In the abstract and in isolation, a U.S.-Iranian nuclear deal is a welcome development. While it does not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, it does complicate any future Iranian efforts to develop a robust nuclear military capability. It also shows that the United States and Iran, two sworn enemies, are capable of rationally pursuing their More »

INSIGHT: Nuclear Deal a Win-Win for US, Iran – Even Israel

The ink was not dry on the historic Geneva nuclear accord with Iran before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced it as a “historic mistake”  that would allow Iran to cheat and get closer to nuclear weapons. Netanyahu may have been doing Iran a favor. By criticizing the deal so harshly, he will make it More »

INSIGHT: US, Iran Find Nuclear Breakthrough Hard to Achieve

In the lead-up to last week’s negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue, all signs seemed to herald the possibility of a historic breakthrough. Officials in both Washington and Tehran were careful to try to suppress irrational exuberance, but in private briefings and official media statements, they could not help but convey an air of More »

INSIGHT: Saudi Tiff with Washington Latest of Many

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) is seen with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Reuters file).

Once again, Saudi officials are on a rhetorical rampage against the United States. Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador to the United States and current Saudi intelligence chief, has warned that the kingdom will make a “major shift” away from its 80-year alliance with Washington. Turki al-Faisal, another former ambassador to the United States, said More »

INSIGHT: Breakthrough Possible in Iran Nuclear Stalemate?

The moment of truth is coming. All the optics from Tehran – even from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – indicate that Iran is gearing up for a new attempt at a nuclear deal. If a deal can’t be made in the next few months, it’s hard to see another opportunity when the chances would More »

INSIGHT: Could US, Iran Agree on Syria Without Assad?

More than two years after President Barack Obama said it was time for Syria’s president to go, Bashar al-Assad is still in power in Damascus. But new evidence from the United Nations pointing to his regime’s large-scale use of chemical weapons makes it more plausible that Assad could leave office as part of an More »

INSIGHT: Why Syria Is Like Iraq

I supported the war in Iraq. It was an agonizing mistake. I made the mistake because I did something a serious foreign policy thinker should never do: I allowed my emotions to affect my thinking. My emotions were stirred by several visits to Iraq I had made as a reporter in the 1980s, when More »

INSIGHT: Syria Framework Agreement – the Least-Bad Result

The good news about the new U.S.-Russian framework agreement on Syria is that it could remove the Assad regime’s chemical weapons (CW) stocks, eliminating a major tool against the insurgents. This result would have been unimaginable if Washington had not threatened military action. The bad news begins with the major obstacles the agreement places More »

INSIGHT: 4 Things the US Should Do to Regain Credibility in Egypt

Last week, Egyptian Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim was the target of an assassination attempt that took place just steps from where protesters gathered last month in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. The bomb blast – reported to have injured 10 policemen and 11 civilians, including a child – is the latest in a More »

INSIGHT: Syria – Keeping Hope for Peace Alive

There can be no prospect for a negotiated end to the Syrian nightmare so long as Syrian civilians are targeted by Bashar al-Assad’s regime for terror, death, injury, and flight. If His Holiness the Pope, the secretary-general of the United Nations, the president of Russia, and members of Congress think otherwise, they should specify how More »

INSIGHT: US Congress Questions Rationale for Striking Syria

President Barack Obama’s abrupt decision to seek congressional authorization for striking Syria has had at least one salutary effect so far: it has given Americans and their elected representatives a chance to express serious reservations about the limits of U.S. military intervention in shaping troubled foreign societies. Whichever way Congress votes in giving President Obama More »

INSIGHT: What the US Congress Should Do on Syria

I have resisted comparisons between Syria and Bosnia, or Syria and Kosovo, as the global and regional circumstances are different.  It does no good to draw conclusions that just don’t apply in a distinct situation. Bashar al-Assad is not Slobodan Milosevic, the Middle East is not the Balkans, Yeltsin’s Russia is not Putin’s Russia, More »

INSIGHT: Strike on Syria Could Pave Way for Diplomacy

It’s hard to accuse the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama of being trigger happy. While Obama has been willing to use force to kill Taliban and al-Qaida militants, he has studiously avoided embroiling the U.S. in another war in the Middle East or South Asia. His intention to strike Syria militarily for what appears to More »

INSIGHT: Three Major Challenges for Israeli-Palestinian Talks

Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiations have resumed after a prolonged hiatus. Six Middle East trips, and tireless efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made this resumption possible. The talks face three major challenges as a new chapter begins in the twenty year-long saga of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Diplomatic Ambiguity. One fundamental challenge will be More »

INSIGHT: Getting Egypt Right This Time

In the aftermath of the Egyptian military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, much of the debate in Washington has focused on the question of U.S. aid. Should the United States call the military’s action a coup and suspend aid as demanded by the law, or not? The answer has been hotly debated, with prominent More »

INSIGHT: Obama Owes Syrians, Americans a Vision of Syria’s Future

Will U.S. President Barack Obama be content if the Free Syrian Army is able to keep the north of Syria and finish taking Aleppo? Will he decide that the rebels should take Damascus as well, pushing the regime and the Alawite religious group, which predominates within the regime, back toward the western coast-land, where Alawites More »

INSIGHT: The Price of America Not Leading on Syria

Syrian government soldiers gesture atop their tank after entering Qusair June 5, 2013. (Reuters)

Reports that U.S. President Barack Obama is inclined to begin arming the Syrian opposition created a lot of buzz at the Brookings Institution’s recent U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar. A number of well-informed people believe he is indeed seriously considering this option. Let’s hope so. The hour is getting late. Last week, Hezbollah conquered More »

INSIGHT: US Credibility on Iran at Stake in Syria

American officials like to say that Iran’s defiance of international demands that it limit its nuclear activities, its support for terrorism, and the like have led to Tehran’s growing isolation. Iranian regime officials see things differently. The Iranian regime has a strategy in the Middle East and believes it is succeeding. Nowhere in the Middle More »

INSIGHT: NGO Verdict Revives Calls for Reevaluating US Assistance to Egypt

After a lengthy year-and-a-half long trial, Egypt’s court sentenced 43 Egyptians, Americans, and other foreign nationals to up to five years in prison. The trial, infamously known in local Egyptian media as the ‘Foreign Funding Trial,’ has come to a distressing end and is yet another test for U.S.-Egypt relations, as well as a More »

QUICKTAKE: Close Guantanamo, Says Facility’s Former Chief Prosecutor

More than 200,000 people have signed an online petition calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to close the controversial detention facility for suspected terrorists and enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay. Of the nearly 800 men held there over the past decade, 166 remain today; many of them are currently on a hunger strike. Retired U.S. More »