The Mideastwire Blog

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

Karim Makdisi launches new graduate program in Public Policy and International Affairs at AUB


AUB launches new graduate program in Public Policy and International Affairs
Beirut, Lebanon- 02/09/2015 – Building on a growing regional demand to understand, analyze and help shape the policy agenda in Lebanon, the region and beyond, AUB has launched a new graduate program in Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA). It was conceived as the academic side of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI), and is housed in IFI’s new Zaha Hadid building on the upper AUB campus.

The PPIA program has two main objectives. It will:
·         Offer students the opportunity to deepen their conceptual, critical and practical knowledge of public policy and international affairs, with particular focus on the challenges facing the Arab region; and
·         Provide them with the necessary professional skills, tools, and networks to lead careers in public affairs.

The PPIA program also aims to develop and catalyze new experimental research, in cooperation with IFI, through the interaction of current and new faculty members, graduate students, and organizations outside of AUB.
“The program faculty and those who helped create it over the past 2-3 years are very excited about the huge potential of PPIA, which we feel is rather unique and certainly fills an important need in Lebanon and the region,” said Dr. Karim Makdisi, associate professor of international politics, who also directs the PPIA Program. In particular, Makdisi added, there is a pressing need “to build capacity in public and international policy while also linking this capacity building with the production, translation and critique of knowledge in these fields and practices.”
According to the PPIA website, the program builds on growing international and local demand to study the Arab world; and will strive to increase interaction and knowledge production within a South-South context, a dimension largely deficient in the Arab region.
Graduates will be able to participate in and analyze the policy process in the Arab region, raise awareness about public policy and international problems; advance the capacity, accountability, and responsiveness of public actors; and promote sound public policies that are, as much as possible, informed by evidence.
The PPIA program is designed to help equip college graduates from various backgrounds, in addition to mid-career professionals, with an understanding of policy-making processes and issues in international affairs, and provides them with the necessary professional skills, tools, and networks to lead careers in these domains.
According to the PPIA website, the core strength of this program is that it builds upon the expertise and knowledge of many faculty members across AUB departments, while also bringing together students from around the world.
Currently, the program has welcomed ten graduate students from countries including Lebanon, Yemen, Turkey, the UK and the US, and expects to attract more students in the semesters to come.
The two-year program, which will require 36 credits of coursework, a 6-credit thesis or internship plus project, will lead to a Master of Arts in Public Policy and International Affairs.
Yara Damaj, an AUB graduate and new student in the program, said that she had always wanted to pursue a graduate degree in a field that will allow her to directly impact short-term and long-term policies on the ground. Yara added: “The combination of public policy and international affairs was what drew me to the program – to be given the opportunity to be in touch with prominent scholars while at the same time gaining practical experience that I would not get from other graduate programs out there.”
Farea Al-Muslimi, an AUB graduate from Yemen and newly admitted student, said that he was attracted to the PPIA program because it is not designed like a traditional graduate program. He added, “The diversity of the courses, the access to PPIA professors who are both excellent practitioners and academics, and the location of the program at AUB, in the heart of the Arab region, form key factors contributing to the successful design of a program bringing Public Policy and International Affairs together.”
The program was approved by the BOT in March 2014. Online applications for the PPIA graduate program are opened, and students are encouraged to apply for the spring and summer semesters.

The program benefits from the expertise of a number of existing AUB faculty in addition to new recruits Dr. Nikolas Kosmatopoulos as assistant professor in international affairs, and Dr. Charbel Nahas, as a Faculty-in-Residence for public policy, who will be contributing to teaching core courses and supporting the program; in addition to Rima Rassi, who serves as PPIA’s program manager.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

September 2, 2015 at 4:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

British Library refuses to make archive of Taliban translations we are working on publicly accessible

A very sad and sudden development for, our team in Beirut and our partners, especially since we are wrapping up the massive project translating years of the Taliban’s Arabic language magazine into English. Now it seems the British Museum won’t be making the incredible resource available online to the public as we all expected!

Written by nickbiddlenoe

September 2, 2015 at 1:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Warning note for regional activists: In Iraq, leaders and organizaers of anti-corruption protests are being assassinated

Translated today by our (for a free trial email

On August 31, the Qatari-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following report by its correspondent in Baghdad: “Many activists in the demonstrations sweeping the Iraqi cities have been the object of organized assassination operations and aggressions, without the security bodies managing to identity the sides standing behind them. In Basra in southern Iraq, Sheikh Aziz al-Hilfi was the object of an assassination attempt which caused him to suffer serious injuries, knowing he is one of the activists who participated in the demonstrations against corruption and the corrupt in the Basra province. Also in Basra, Subeih Qassem, the sheikh of the Qaramsha clan, was assassinated in a bomb explosion, and the Basra police said that a remotely-controlled locally-made bomb containing explosives was placed inside the wheel under the driver’s seat, which led to the death of the sheikh and the injuring of another.

“It indicated that the victim had just returned from Iran following a quick visit to his relatives there, while his car was in the parking at the crossing. The police said in a statement that a team was formed to look into the implications of the incident and the reasons behind the targeting of the sheikh, who is considered an active social figure. Activists Ahmad an-Najm and Ahmad at-Tamimi had also been targeted by assassination attempts using silenced guns, at the hands of armed men riding a speeding vehicle. The two activists were on their way to a local radio station for an interview when the incident happened, but they were able to flee the scene without suffering any injuries. Activists An-Najm and At-Tamimi were among the two most prominent protest figures in the protest tent erected near the provincial council building for 16 days, to demand the implementation of the reformatory demands.

“At this level, activist Haidar Salam from Basra, who is participating in the protests to demand rights, said: “The assassination attempts that targeted some activists will not frighten us. We will not relinquish our demands, regardless of the assaults and harassments.” In a televised interview, he called on his fellow activists not to be affected by the threats, to continue demonstrating and to insist on their legitimate demands. In Baghdad, armed men killed activist Khaled Jamil Reza al-Ukeili at his house in Al-Maamel [Factories] region in eastern Baghdad. Sources close to the martyred activist said that armed men attacked the activist when he opened his door, shot him with silenced guns and left to an unknown location. But the official tale, which was conveyed by Spokesman for the Interior Ministry General Maan al-Ahad, said that the activist and two others were killed because of a tribal conflict…

“Demonstrators in several Iraqi cities had been assaulted by armed groups and security forces to prevent the protests and demonstrations, which pushed the prime minister to instruct the security forces not to attack the demonstrations and ensure their protection.”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 31, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

In Tunisia, Former Minister of Religious Affairs Nourreddine Khadmi dismissed after allowing live broadcast of Eid prayer on Jazeera

From an Al-Jazeera report August 12:

“Tunisia has banned a number of imams, including a former minister of religious affairs, from preaching in mosques for reasons related to their political views, accusations of promoting extremism or for a specific action they took, Al-Jazeera reported on 12 August.

Dismissal of the former Minister of Religious Affairs Nourreddine Khadmi from his work as an imam deepened fears over the Tunisian government’s handling of the religious question.

Khadmi will no longer be the imam at Al-Fatih mosque in the Tunisian capital, according to Al-Jazeera correspondent in Tunis, Lotfi Hajji.

The former minister considered his dismissal an “arbitrary” decision that contradicts with the ministry’s rules and the needed reforms to combat terrorism.

Tunisia is supposed to be on a path to “benefit from people with scientific and religious expertise”, Khadmi told Al-Jazeera.

This should happen on two levels. The first one is “to combat terrorism using a comprehensive approach, including religious aspects”, he said.

The other level, he added, has to do with structural and legal reform of the Ministry of Religious Affairs to better the delivery of its message.

The ministry said Khadmi was dismissed on the grounds that he did not take official permission before allowing the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera Mubashir to provide a live broadcast of the Id prayer from Al-Fatih mosque last month.

The ministry did not cite any of Khadmi’s declared positions as a ground for his dismissal.

The council of unions of Tunisian imams criticised the ministry’s decision, saying “it carries out a dangerous agenda”.

Chihabeddine Tliche, one of the dismissed imams, said in a news conference that “the ministry has an agenda that has become clear now”.

Standing behind this agenda, Tliche said, are people from certain “parties with an ideology that begrudge the revolution and the current freedom of religion”.

Experts criticize the government’s “simplistic” approach to the complicated religious question, saying it requires a far-reaching reform of the religious discourse, not confined to the dismissal of imams.

Ahmida Nifer, a Tunisian professor of Islamic thought, told Al-Jazeera “hastily”-sought out solutions could be “counterproductive”.

The country needs “a discourse that reaches out to people and helps them understand Islam and the meaning of a humanitarian, open religious discourse”, Nifer said.”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 31, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Italy’s Corriere della Sera: “Pentagon…consider Tunisia a country on the brink of collapse;” Radar stations

On July 29, Corriere della Sera posted a report by Giuseppe Sarcina: “The US, the Niscemi Radars and the Passage to Tunis”

“”Finally they have got it too.” In diplomatic environments, people say that the Americans have read with a burst of interest the final document on Tunisia approved by the Council of EU Foreign Ministers on Monday 20 July, after they had already lost hope. The Europeans are committing to “mobilize the totality of the tools they have available in the fight against terrorism.” The ministers entrusted Federica Mogherini, the high representative for common foreign and security policy, “to explore all the possible options, bringing them before the EU Council as soon as possible.” The EU counts on being ready with a package of concrete measures by September, while the United States has already offered Tunis the armed drones that last April President Barack Obama refused Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

The point is that the US Administration feels it is already running late. The Pentagon and intelligence specialists consider Tunisia a country on the brink of collapse, and therefore an easy prey for terrorists: after the “lone wolves phase,” the ISIL’s black flags could arrive soon. For weeks, the US Government has been repeating this to the Europeans: We must rush to help Tunis, weapons, military material, and intelligence are required. First we annihilate terrorist cells, and then we will talk about business, gas, passports, and olive oil.

The acuteness of this sense of urgency was clearly revealed in the last few days, when the rumor spread that the Pentagon could move elsewhere the Navy’s MUOS (Mobile User Objective System) base that is being built in Niscemi, central Sicily. This is a vitally important structure for the United States and the Western counties, with this installation of a new radar platform in the heart of the Mediterranean completing the global satellite protection network that is based on the installations in Virginia, Hawaii, and Australia.

Niscemi was chosen in 2011, but the work on it, which is almost completed, has been stopped several times because of a series of disputes connected to the impact on health and on the Sughereta natural reserve. The latest freeze was ordered by the TAR [Regional Administrative Tribunal], which on 13 February 2015 endorsed the appeal that had been presented by environmentalists. Now, the Sicily Region’s Administrative Justice Council (the equivalent of the State Council) has just started assessing the appeal presented by the Defense Ministry, with this assessment expected to be concluded in September. In the event of a definitive “No”, Washington will focus on three options: Tunisia, first of all, then Greece or Spain.

But it is not easy for the United States to cooperate with Tunis either. The analysis on terrorism made by the secularist Prime Minister Hadid Essid does not convince the Pentagon entirely. The Tunisian Government says it is facing a threat that is mostly being fueled from Libya, which is from where the jihadis come and where they train, regardless of their nationality, therefore the solution is to build a wall along the 160-Km border across the desert from Ras Jedir to Dehiba. But US intelligence is following another lead: Granted, Libya is a source of threats, but Tunisian Islamist terrorism is for the most part an endogenous phenomenon with thousands of young extremists in the country now ready to strike. The mortal threat is already at home…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 31, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Right-wing Found. for Defense of Democracies: “Israel will almost certainly wish to make an example of Hezbollah”

The Iran Nuclear Deal Means War Between Israel and Hezbollah

Jonathan Schanzer

– See more at:


“…And for Israel, it will not take much to be provoked. The Israelis have been quite clear about their frustrations, after having been negotiated into a corner by the P5+1 world powers that ironed out the nuclear deal. Should Israel carry out a military strike on Iran under the shadow of the deal, the country would risk becoming a world pariah.

But Israel is under no such constraints with Hezbollah. In fact, Washington openly acknowledges the possibility of a conflagration between the two, and the White House is now openly touting the fact that it wishes to help arm the Israelis to handle Iran-sponsored regional aggression of this sort.

With the perception that its deterrence is shriveling amidst the very public spat with the Obama White House, Israel will almost certainly wish to make an example of Hezbollah. A victory against the strongest Iranian proxy in the region could make the kind of unequivocal statement Israel believes it needs while it waits to see if Iran holds up its end of the nuclear deal…”

– See more at:

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 28, 2015 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Libyan Information Minister: Tunisia is actually the one exporting violent jihadists… not the reverse

From the information minister of the Libyan Salvation Government, Mustafa Abu-Titah, in an interview yesterday with an Algerian daily:

“[Reporter] Could you name the brotherly countries you are talking about?

“[Abu-Titah] Tunisia is exporting terrorists in our direction. Yes, the majority of the IS elements are Tunisian nationals. Everybody knows that Tunisia itself is at the receiving end in view of what happened in Le Bardo museum, Sousse and other operations in Kasserine, Chaambi and all the Tunisian west. This is a fact.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 28, 2015 at 4:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


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