The Mideastwire Blog

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

Having successfully negotiated prisoner swaps for decades w/ Israel, Hizbullah still seems best in field against Syrian insurgents

Translated today from

Remember – only ONE Hizbullah fighter has been taken as a prisoner to date (it seems)… an incredible feat that one must consider vis-a-vis the opposing and allied forces in the field and beyond.

On November 26, the independent, leftist As-Safir daily carried the following report: “Hezbollah installed a new equation in the realm of its confrontation with the terrorist groups on the Syrian lands under the headline “prisoners for prisoners.” Outside the context of the confrontation with the Israeli occupation, Hezbollah wasn’t used to making any swaps of prisoners from the party… In Syria, the Free Syrian Army tried to take advantage of the fact that one Hezbollah fighter was taken hostage following a battle in the Qalamoun barren areas… Fighter Imad Ayyad’s photos were shown and so were the demands of the kidnappers.

“Clearly, the Free Army wanted to take advantage of the situation like ISIL and An-Nusra. A Syrian mediator moved between the Free Army and Hezbollah. The kidnappers increased their demands and asked for the release of dozens of prisoners from the Syrian prisons in addition to asking for millions of dollars.

“The party turned a deaf ear to all the demands pertaining to releasing prisoners from the Syrian jails as well as the financial demands. One elite unit from Hezbollah staged an operation against one Free Army location in the barren areas of Qalamoun inside the Syrian lands. Two Free Army members were kidnapped thus re-launching the negotiations according to a new ceiling.

“However, the kidnappers tried again, through the Syrian mediator, to lift the ceiling of their demands by suggesting a swap that includes Ayyad and some twenty prisoners from the Syrian jails in addition to the money. Hezbollah refused any suggestion of this kind. It insisted on swapping Ayyad in return for the two Free Army prisoners and threatened that the party might kidnap other Free Army members.

“At this point, Ayyad’s kidnappers realized that once the party has taken a decision, it doesn’t take it back. Thus, they agreed to the “2 to 1” swap via the Syrian mediator who oversaw all the details of the negotiations. Some Lebanese security channels were completely aware of these negotiations…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 26, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED: Key Muslim Brotherhood figure arrested in Jordan begs dangerous question of monarchy: What do you want exactly?

Translated today by (for a free trial email

Key point comes at the end: Arresting recently released salafist (proto-ISIS) figures and now the “mainstream” Brotherhood opposition figure is arrested leaves everyone wondering what the heck does the Hashemite regime want exactly when it comes to their internal opponents. It is a very dangerous question left unanswered…

On November 26, the Qatari-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following report by its Amman office Chief Bassam Bdareen: “The Jordanian government’s viewpoint in regard to a controversial issue that is still provoking debates in the Kingdom under the headline “the arrest and prosecution of Sheikh Zaki Bani Irsheid,” is still stable along two axes, as it was directly understood by Al-Quds al-Arabi from Minister of Communication and Government Official Spokesman Dr. Muhammad al-Mumani. The first is that the arrest and prosecution of [Muslim Brotherhood] Deputy General Observer Sheikh Bani Irsheid is a “limited measure” with a legal aspect, linked to a direct violation represented by the offense towards a brotherly state, without there being any intention to carry out escalation against the Muslim Brotherhood group.

“The second is that the circumstances of the “offense towards the Emirates” by the most prominent leader in the MB, does not leave any legal, political or practical room for it to be disregarded, especially since it violated a rule that was set on the highest levels to prevent the “move” of any polarization, problems or disputes related to the Muslim Brotherhood file in particular to the Jordanian internal scene. The one who violated that rule, and consequently the law, is in the government’s opinion Sheikh Bani Irsheid, a few days before a planned visit by King Abdullah II to Abu Dhabi… Despite that, Al-Mumani assures that the government still considers the Islamic Movement to be part of Jordan’s national and social fabric, and there are no plans to escalate the situation with it. On the other hand, it would not be wise for the MB to concoct fictive scenarios based on a purely legal measure.

“This is especially true since this measure was adopted following a blatant violation of the law that cannot be ignored, considering that what Bani Irsheid said about the Emirates does not fit in the category of “political criticism…” Al-Mumani thus explained that the legal measure adopted in the case of Bani Irsheid was purely Jordanian, unlike what is being said about the fact that pressures were deployed in this direction… Also, according to the official viewpoint, Sheikh Irsheid’s wing is not appreciating the government’s respect of Jordanian specificity. Indeed, the MB file is escalating in all the neighboring countries and they are being banned by major states, without them being harassed in Jordan. According to the authority, the Muslim Brotherhood command is not showing enough appreciation for this issue…

“But according to the Islamic movement, to human rights [associations] and civil society circles, the prosecution of Bani Irsheid is purely political and carries security dimensions, in the context of the series of practices that are provoking the Muslim Brotherhood and surrendering to the Emirati and Egyptian pressures on Jordan. Hence, according to the MB media official, Sheikh Murad al-Adaila, the government’s pretexts and excuses are weak and the arrest of Sheikh Bani Irsheid is a message enhancing the conviction in the prevalence of the logic of “suppressing public freedoms” and targeting the Islamic movement in particular… Al-Adaila hinted to the fact that these provocations were programmed and that the Islamic movement did not specifically know what was required of it. However, it knows it will not recant its religious and political role and will continue to assume it…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 26, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED: Europeans getting fed up with Turkey’s open door policy with Sunni Jihadists

Translated from our (for a free trial email

On November 19, the independent, leftist As-Safir daily carried the following report by Wassim Ibrahim: “Many European officials cannot understand what Ankara is thinking and why it is acting in a way that directly exposes their security. Thousands of western “jihadists” are crossing the Turkish borders, which turned the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant into a security threat at the very heart of their countries [i.e. the European countries]… These conclusions are emerging now as the Europeans are extensively discussing the revival of a joint security and defense policy.

“Europe admits that it suffers from a definite gap in its military capacities and the necessary structure to preserve its security. For this reason, the defense ministers of the EU met yesterday… The general goal consists of increasing Europe’s capacities to deal with the growing challenges in the East where the conflict with Russia is at its pinnacle thanks to the Ukrainian crisis and also in the South where the civil wars in the Arab countries have turned into a fire cornering the old continent.

“Several European countries asked for including ISIL as a main clause on the agenda of this discussion and to deal with this group as being a “common threat.” This is what a European official who took part in preparing for the meeting told As-Safir… The defense ministers of these countries, topped by Germany, wish to work on building a unified European policy to confront the threat of the “terrorist” group. They do not want this endeavor to be confined to the desire and concerns of some specific countries.

“The European official clarified this point by saying: “This is a general threat. To say that only some countries are threatened is wrong.” He then added: “The start now consists of launching this political discussion. This is important even if we have now started to plan some practical actions.”

“…Such a discussion called for the presence of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who met with the defense ministers. The void between the NATO’s borders and the borders of the EU is filled by only one state: Turkey, which is adjacent to Greece. From this void now comes “a major security threat” as dubbed by the EU documents. This threat consists of thousands of “jihadists” who crossed there from the borders. ISIL is threatening to use them to avenge the raids of the international alliance… Turkey now practically represents the weak side of the world’s strongest military alliance. One must recall that the NATO forces crossed massive distances to fight in Afghanistan under the flag of counter-terrorism. However, terrorism is now crossing the borders of the NATO on its way in and out.

“As he was heading to the meeting, As-Safir asked the NATO secretary general for his comment on this situation. Stoltenberg first said that the “jihadists” represent “a major security problem. For this reason, the NATO decided to work closely between the different allies to swap pieces of information and intelligence data…” But what about the “security weakness” on the borders of the NATO, mainly from the Turkish side? Stoltenberg clearly heard the question but avoided to respond directly. Clearly, this matter is causing a growing embarrassment…

“Some European officials are no longer embarrassed to address Turkey’s role. Elmar Brok, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the European Parliament spoke about that to As-Safir. This prominent politician who is a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party responded to our question by saying: “There must be a better cooperation (between Turkey and the Europeans) on who gets in and out of the borders.” He then added using a blaming tone: “In the past, ISIL elements obtained support and treatment in the Turkish hospitals.”

“Without showing any evasiveness, Brok said: “I think that we must not give the ISIL fighters or their likes a safe haven in our back yard for them to get well. The (Turkish officials) must not support ISIL either directly or indirectly through these tools.” He added that “this has happened in the past and I am not sure it is still taking place today.”

“…A number of European politicians criticized the European methods and the failure to come up with a common policy to confront the threat of the “Jihadists.” Nine countries are closely coordinating their policies considering that they are the most exposed to this phenomenon [the phenomenon of terrorism]. This pushed one opposing politician to say recently: “If I am a terrorist and I want to carry out an attack, I would of course opt for one of the other nineteen countries” in the union that includes 28 states…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 19, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED: Quds al-Arabi says Peshmerga aware of ISIS oil sales in its areas

Partial translation today in the Daily Briefing [free trial:]:

On November 14, the Qatari-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following report by its correspondent in Baghdad Omar al-Jabouri: “A Kurdish security source said to Al-Quds al-Arabi on condition of anonymity that the purchasing of crude oil from the Islamic State organization was taking place inside the border of the [Kurdistan] province with the knowledge of the Peshmerga forces. This statement was made against the backdrop of the reports carried by Kurdish media outlets, regarding the involvement of several influential figures, some of whom belonging to Barzani’s family, in the purchasing of crude oil from the Islamic State organization. The Energy and Natural Wealth Committee in the Kurdistan parliament had assured there was an investigation commission that addressed the smuggling of the Islamic State’s oil, and that some individuals were indeed arrested, including military elements…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 14, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

GIVE IT UP:Team O goes back in time to 3 years ago, drudges up failed policy of “transitioning” Assad

It won’t work – it did not work then and it has even less of a chance of working now…. a political settlement with Assad and Iran – i.e. a Baker-Hamilton 2014 – is the key, indispensable part of any possibly successful approach to ISIS and the region on fire.

The rationale from two years ago that I wrote about is similar in form to what it was when this was the approach years ago that was “hoped for” – albeit with some important shifts in the specific contents that make up the current balance of power.



Now officials and diplomats said Kerry has in recent months intensified discussion with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Russia about the possibility of a diplomatic tract to transition President Bashar Assad and his inner circle out of power, while maintaining large parts of the regime and institutions of the state.

Brokered Assad transition could take months

But any such transition could take time.

“It’s not going to be tomorrow and I don’t think anyone even believes that is physically possible. But even if it is a six or 12 month plan as long as it has an exit for Assad,” one senior Arab diplomat said. “But we are glad that we finally see a meeting of the minds with the US that there needs to be a rethinking of the strategy.”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 13, 2014 at 3:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED: Report says ground push by Iraqi tribes+US SF+Jordanian SF imminent

For a free trial of email


On November 11, the independent Al-Rai al-Aam daily newspaper carried the following report: “Well-informed security sources told Al-Rai that an imminent ground war is now a fait accompli between the Sunni tribes of West Iraq supported by elite military forces from the US-led Alliance against the Islamic State organization (ISIL). The sources revealed that the signs of this war are now clear through the security and intelligence coordination between the countries forming the Alliance and the Iraqi government in addition to a high level intelligence coordination between the countries neighboring Iraq since these countries are directly concerned with the events taking place on the Iraqi arena as well as the events on the Syrian scene.

“The sources indicated that the meeting between the Saudi intelligence head, Prince Khaled Ben Bandar al-Saud, and Jordanian Monarch, King Abdullah Ben al-Hussein, tackled the scenarios of a potential ground war to repel ISIL and the preparations for this war. The sources said that the Jordanian king and the head of the Saudi intelligence forces attended a military training of the Jordanian elite forces to see how ready these forces are. This could constitute a sign indicating that the Jordanian forces will be taking part in a possible ground war against ISIL.

“The sources recalled the speech of King Abdullah II last September in the presence of Jordanian officials where he insisted that Jordan supports the regional and international counter-terrorism efforts… The sources indicated that the speech of the Jordanian king might indicate that his country is ready to interfere on the Arab and regional levels if need be in order to confront terrorism represented by ISIL and other takfiri, radical groups. This was translated on the ground when the Jordanian army deployed two military units and a special force unit along the borders with Iraq.

“Interestingly, Jordan has been mobilizing the public opinion to be part in a potential war through multiple measures such as opening the door of optional enrollment in the army, summoning the Jordanian ambassador to Israel, making deals with the Jordanian tribes to control the actions of their members, and increasing the security pressure against “ISIL minded” individuals and ISIL supporters…

“The sources told Al-Rai that elements from the elite US. Navy Seals have arrived in Iraq. This unit had monitored and assassinated the late Al-Qa’idah head, Osama Bin Laden and carried out two successful operations against the ISIL leaders in Mosul and Al-Qa’em. This comes concomitantly with the arrival of the reconnaissance unit affiliated to the Jordanian and American forces to the Ain el Assad Base…

“The sources mentioned that another sign of the nearing of the ground war aimed at eliminating ISIL consists of the fact that the Iraqi government led by Haidar al-Abadi is arming the Sunni tribes in West Iraq. This comes following agreements made with the US led Alliance to confront ISIL in Al-Anbar and the governorates of West Iraq, which are inhabited by a Sunni majority. These tribes had not been armed or offered any military support during the time of former PM Nouri al-Maliki’s in power. The latter mainly relied on the regular army and the Shi’i militias allied with him to push ISIL and the other Iraqi Jihadist organizations back.

“Al-Maliki’s policies led to an appeasement between the Sunni tribes and ISIL, which allowed the group to enter their regions without any resistance on their part and the fall of large areas of Iraqi lands into the hands of the ISIL forces. The sources revealed that the ISIL leadership has now adopted a new strategy to communicate with its military bases that are deployed in several areas in Iraq and Syria in bracing for a potential ground war. All forms of communication via landlines or mobile phones have ceased and decisions are being communicated via “postal trustees” who deliver secret pieces of information directly through trusted individuals.”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 12, 2014 at 2:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized

My lecture at Yale Law School this Thursday afternoon on the new Hizbullah-US symbiosis

Noe poster2

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 12, 2014 at 12:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized


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