A tech-savvy public demands more transparency from government, and that foreign ministries can do a lot more to open up. Behind-the-scenes negotiations will always remain a vital part of the job - Fletcher mentions the recent Iran nuclear deal and the BelfastAgreement as examples - “but we do need to explain to people that that’s what we’re there for, and that it’s going on.”

The IDF Spokesperson on Saturday posted on its Twitter account a supposed image of some of the 100,000 missiles Hezbollah has aimed at Israeli cities – but there's a problem or two with it. The missiles shown are not to be found in Lebanon, or even in Syria, and only one of them could remotely be said to illustrate any threat posed against Israel. The photo, which appears to be from AFP/Getty Images, was used on an IDF Spokesperson tweet marking 14 years since the army withdrew from Lebanon. "#Israel troops left #Lebanon 14yrs ago.

Wittingly — or perhaps unwittingly, because of the rapid acceleration of events — Hezbollah’s opponents have not shed much light on the latest major positions expressed by Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in his Dec. 3 interview on Lebanon's OTV. Lebanese cultural and intellectual circles, however, are preoccupied with two issues raised by unprecedented assertions by Nasrallah. One issue is external, involving Hezbollah and Iran’s vision of the United States, while the other concerns the Shiite organization’s vision of Lebanon as a nation and a state.

Sitting on a street corner about 60 feet from the Salam Mosque in the Al-Mina district of Tripoli, 21-year-old Yasser looked sorrowfully into the distance. His head and left hand were wrapped in bandages. A line of dried blood snaked its way down from his temple to his chin. Fragments of glass and small chunks of concrete covered the concrete around him next to a pile of tomatoes rotting under the summer sun. Further up the road surrounding a crater, about ten-feet in diameter and six-feet in depth, the carcasses of burnt out cars lay at unnatural angles across the tarmac.

August 16, 2013

With the bloodbath in Egypt, ongoing carnage in Syria, and gruesome bombings in Iraq, another explosion in the Middle East might hardly seem like news. But the importance of the blast that rocked Beirut’s southern Shia-dominated suburbs on August 15, killing around 20 people and wounding hundreds more, should not be diminished. It could spell the beginning of the end for Hezbollah, the dominant political-military actor in Lebanon and one of the United States’ most powerful nemeses in the region.

July 24, 2013

Between the continued bloodshed in Syria and the military takeover in Egypt, it might be easy to overlook recent events in Lebanon. But Middle East watchers need to keep a sharp eye on the current turmoil in Lebanon because spillover from Syria could cause the security situation to flame up quickly into a full-scale sectarian civil war. Several stabilizing factors have kept the situation in Lebanon from escalating out of control, one of these being Hezbollah's resistance to being drawn into conflict with other Lebanese.

Syria cannot be allowed to fester indefinitely. Even decimated Al Qaeda and Hezbollah forces will regenerate and resume their murderous ways. Further, the economies of states in the region, already unsettled by the uprisings of 2011, will need massive outside assistance if they are to be revived.

DUBAI --- During two trips to the Middle East within the past two weeks, I have found nearly universal hopelessness about the situation in Syria and what it means for the larger region. Proposed peace talks are considered a sham, just a ploy to convince distant publics that their governments are “doing something.” No one thinks that Basher Assad, as long as he is still breathing, will relinquish power in Syria. Everyone agrees that the slaughter will continue indefinitely.