The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

New Israeli Book Confirms (Again) Why Syria Track Collapsed in 2000: Clinton lied and Barak got cold feet over the few hundred yards around Lake Tiberius

We have of course long had solid Israeli scholarship – and others – that supports the key thesis: There should have been peace in March 2000 between Israel and Syria, but Bill Clinton wasn’t committed and famously “fudged it” with a dying hafez assad (actions perhaps related as well to Hillary’s senate bid in NY State at the time) and Barak just could not give up the last few hundred yards of the NE shore of lake Tiberius.

The result would be, I would argue, the primary disasters afflicting the Mideast to this day.

But for a few hundred yards of shoreline:

1) Camp David would have likely produced a deal with the Palestinians as the final surrounding arab army opponent – Syria – would have gone to peace, as had Jordan and Egypt.

2) Hezbollah would have been disarmed over time (outgunned by 40,000 syrian troops and intel folks in lebanon) and integrated into a heavily syrian controlled lebanese state.

3) Israel would not have had the disasterous withdrawal under fire from south lebanon in May 2000.

4) The post 9/11 regional context would have been much more friendly to the US and would have at least mitigated the arguments and impatience surrounding a massive intervention in Iraq later on.



“…He is at his best when dealing with the diplomacy surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict, especially in 1999-2000 when Ehud Barak was prime minister. Barak was a former chief of staff, and his country’s most highly decorated soldier, but he was no diplomat. In a curious inversion of Clausewitz’s famous dictum, he regarded diplomacy as the pursuit of war by other means. For Barak, Syria was a major military threat to Israel whereas the Palestinians were not. By making peace with Syria, Barak hoped to change the entire strategic landscape of the region and to leave the Palestinian Authority so weak and isolated that it would have no alternative but to accept his paltry terms.

A peace deal with Syria was indeed possible but it carried a price tag: complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, which left the Syrians with access to the north-eastern shore of Lake Tiberias. A meeting between Barak and the Syrian foreign minister under American patronage at Shepherdstown, in January 2000, collapsed when Barak refused to pay that price. Despite this failure, Barak persuaded Clinton to do his bidding at a make-or-break summit with President Hafez al-Assad in Geneva two months later. It was a fool’s errand. Once again Barak got cold feet, fearing the electoral consequences of withdrawal from the Golan Heights. On the morning of the meeting, he gave Clinton a script that insisted on Israeli sovereignty over a 400-metre-wide strip of land between Syria and the lake. So the summit was doomed before it even started and themuch-vaunted breakthrough turned into a spectacular setback. Clinton discovered to his cost that there was no sweet-talking Hafez al-Assad.

Having implicated the US president in two entirely predictable failures on the Syrian track, Barak belatedly and grudgingly turned his attention to the Palestinian track, to “the other woman”. Once again, he prevailed on the US president to embark on a make-or-break summit, and once again the president tended to behave not as an honest broker but as Israel’s lawyer. Arafat warned Clinton that the positions of the two sides were too far apart, that more time was needed to prepare the ground, and that failure at the top would make matters worse. Clinton urged Arafat to come anyway and promised that, in the event of failure, there would be no finger-pointing…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 31, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Symbiotic Truce between Hezbollah, the EU and the US in Lebanon


“…The third ingredient in any effective reinforcement of the current arrangement must focus on improving the LAF’s capabilities and expanding its presence farther along the Lebanon-Syria border. Unfortunately, even though Saudi Arabia and the US have both announced substantial promises of unspecified aid, expectations are understandably extremely low in Beirut that anything meaningful will come of such announcements, save a few more Hellfire missiles that can be launched from the LAF’s hopelessly out-dated Cessna Aircraft. Although the LAF has made clear over the years exactly what it needs, longstanding US concerns over Israeli objections to any qualitative arming of an enemy state have repeatedly stood in the way of meaningful progress. In this regard, the US and Europe should finally recognise that, despite Hezbollah’s growing closeness to the army’s MI, the LAF remains the most formidable, neutral actor in Lebanon – one that can uniquely accomplish an array of security-related tasks beneficial to Lebanon’s stability and Israel’s security as well. The LAF is also the only actor that could reasonably contain Hezbollah’s power overtime by peacefully displacing its political argument that it is the only true defender of the country’s security.

If these paths are pursued, then the distinct prospect exists that Lebanon could be a rare example of an Arab state, rankled by sectarian conflict and the metastasising threat of violent Sunni extremism, that can maintain relative stability and political compromise, even if it involves a symbiotic truce with actors long regarded by the US and some European states as both hostile and brutal. Either way, Hezbollah is now playing a lead role in the emerging regional containment strategy for IS, despite its terrorist labelling by some.

In fact, the bottom line that has emerged is a particularly frustrating one for Hezbollah’s longstanding opponents, large and small: whatever its actions were in the past, and even if one believes that Hezbollah is wholly at fault for attracting the spectre of violent Sunni extremism to bear on Lebanon through its direct support for the Assad regime, historical arguments have lost much of their rallying power on the ground. Gone, too, are the days when there was at least a discussion about Hezbollah’s independent weaponry or its alleged role in the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri. Instead, this has all been subsumed (for the moment) by a commonly held, greater threat hammered home by the Islamic State and its fellow travellers.

Nicholas Noe is a visiting fellow with ECFR. He is the co-founder of the Beirut-based and the editor of Voice of Hezbollah: The Statements of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 31, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

No Ambassador Hale: Rifles and some anti-tank weapons are not good enough

Ambassador Hale put out a strident press release today that said:

“To those who say American assistance to the Army is not sophisticated enough, my answer is: go ask a soldier in Arsal, or at Rayak, or at the HQ in Yarze, or at the countless other places where the Army works to keep all Lebanese safe and secure.  The answer you will get from that soldier is that he needs exactly what we are providing today and in the weeks to come.”

– He may remember the losses the LAF and the Palestinians of Nahr al-Bared suffered because of the antiquated weapons that the LAF was given…. how the LAF dropped bombs BY HAND WWI style…. and how the “redline” meant helos that were delivered had their rockets stripped before delivery!

– No Mr. Ambassador – with the US WEAPONS THAT IS was able to get, you cannot make a credible argument that the announcement today changes much of anything.

– Why make this argument when you and your staff KNOW that it just does not pass the smell test with most Lebanese including our allies! It is just bad PR and public diplomacy.



Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 29, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Islamic State effect: Lebanon’s new security symbiosis — by Nicholas Noe

The Islamic State effect: Lebanon’’s new security symbiosis
By Nicholas Noe – 28 Aug 14

The full report from the European Council on Foreign Relations can be found here:

Key Findings:

– Several months before the Islamic State (IS) surge in Mosul, a preponderant majority of Lebanon’’s political elite, backed by a rare regional and international consensus, recognized the common threat that IS and its fellow travelers represent and, as a result, coordinated an effective security response built, first, on a new power-sharing agreement and, second, on a recognition that violent Sunni extremist groups are best fought by Sunnis themselves, especially within Lebanon’s borders.

– Had this arrangement not taken hold in March 2014, it is likely that an IS surge in Lebanon post-Mosul – via the Bekka township of Arsal and/or the Northern city of Tripoli – would have significantly fractured the Lebanese state and led to a level of sustained fighting not seen since the end of the Lebanese Civil War in 1990.

– An unprecedented level of US and European intelligence sharing with all Lebanese security agencies – including those perceived as close to the militant Shiite movement Hezbollah – played and is still playing a significant, positive role in shoring up Lebanon’s security architecture.

– At the same time, these gains are crucially dependent on the continued success of Hezbollah’s military actions along the border and in Syria against violent Sunni extremists – much as Hezbollah is now finding itself dependent on the gains of Lebanon’s security agencies, even those formerly at odds with it.

– The new security symbiosis that has emerged is fragile, with longstanding domestic, regional and international conflicts barely concealed for the moment. A more powerful surge by IS or renewed enmity by any combination of larger geopolitical actors like Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US could overwhelm the local arrangement.

– Building further on what is working now could, if not properly balanced, aid and protect Hezbollah to such an extent that its authoritarian, chauvinistic and violent aspects – at home and abroad – are encouraged and accelerated.

– The most effective way to blunt this outcome and further buffer Lebanon from IS is to provide the quantity and quality of weapons and training that the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) has long requested but which, still to this day, have been denied largely as a result of misplaced and counter-productive concerns regarding any change in the Qualitative Military Edge between Israel and Lebanon. More Hellfire missiles for the LAFs hopelessly outdated (and now outgunned) Cessnas will simply not do.

– Either way, Hezbollah is now playing a starring role in the emerging regional containment strategy for IS, despite its terrorist labeling by some actors.

– As this is happening, attitudes in Beirut are changing on all sides and in an unprecedented fashion: Key Hezbollah officials now say, privately, that the US is a “factor for stability” in Lebanon while key Future movement leaders also now acknowledge, in private, that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will likely have to stay if a durable regional response to IS and JAH is to be put in place. Both parties are only now, however, beginning the difficult process of preparing their respective constituencies for what would be quite dramatic and politically difficult about-faces.

Excerpt From Full Report [2500 words]– When Sunni Islamist fighters launched a series of deadly attacks in August in the Bekaa Valley border town of Arsal against the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF), the immediate repercussions for Lebanon and the wider region could have been particularly damaging. If the militant surge had been successful, those who carried out the attack, including members of the Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN), and other similarly minded groups could have established an open beachhead for expanded violent operations within Lebanon. At the same time, the perception of IS’s ascendency and potency in the region would have been bolstered, further fuelling the group’s momentum and complicating efforts to contain it…

Read on at:

Nicholas Noe is a visiting fellow with ECFR. He is the co-founder of the Beirut-based and the editor of Voice of Hezbollah: The Statements of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 28, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Lebanese banks were pentrated by US-Israeli Stuxnet

This probably was reported earlier… but first I see of it.

“…Banks are also frequent targets for intelligence agencies looking to collect information about their targets. In 2012, Russian security researchers uncovered a computer virus on 2,500 computers, many of them inside major Lebanese banks, including the Bank of Beirut, Blom Bank, Byblos Bank and Credit Libanais. The virus was specifically intended to steal customers’ login credentials to their bank accounts.

The researchers believed the computer virus was state-sponsored and said they had found evidence it had been created by the same programmers who created Flame and Stuxnet, two computer viruses that officials have said were unleashed by the United States and Israel to spy on computers inside Iran.”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 28, 2014 at 5:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Suddenly (perhaps I missed it) the new US coordinator for the White House on the Mideast is… a European specialist?

Welcome to Philip Gordon.. One wonders what Rob Malley’s role is via the NSA … still too controversial?

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 27, 2014 at 2:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Report says Sisi leading effort with Algeria to promote deal…with Assad

In April of 2011, one syrian activist speculated that maybe “one million syrias would have to die for fredom.” I have never forgotten this….Some of us argued as early as then that the idea of militerizing the conflict was a stupid AND immoral idea that would kill and wound so many.

Now – after everything – the pieces are starting to come together for a deal with the devil – with bashar – as I argued in May 2011 and again in January 2012.


Translated to day in MIDEASTWIRE.COM

from Qatar’s al-quds al-arabi.

On August 26, the Qatari-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following report by its correspondent in Jeddah Suleiman Nemr: “Arab sources close to the Jeddah meeting held by the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, the Emirates and Jordan yesterday, revealed that during the meeting, an agreement was reached to propose an Arab initiative for a new political solution in Syria. Egypt will be leading and sponsoring this initiative, with the participation of other Arab countries, one of which may be Algeria or the Sultanate of Oman. According to the sources, the initiative that is supported by the Arab League aims to put an end to the ongoing war in Syria between the opposition and the region, and launch inter-Syrian dialogue to agree over the future and shape of the political regime that will govern Syria.

“At this level, it seems that the statements issued by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah es-Sisi, in which he assured that his country “is neither supporting the opposition nor the regime,” came to pave the way with Damascus and get it to accept the Egyptian role in seeking a political solution to the crisis in Syria…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 26, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


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