The Mideastwire Blog

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

Register Now: The Armenia Exchange, September 19-26 (In-Person)

The Armenia Exchange September 19-26, 2021, is an effort by the non-partisan, non-profit Exchange Foundation to promote a deeper understanding of Armenia as well as peacebuilding and security in the region. As such, the seven day, in-person conference will provide participants with an opportunity to meet, listen and engage leading social, political and economic actors from across the spectrum in Armenia, in both the capital Yerevan as well as for at least two days in the province of Syunik.

For more information or to apply, visit:

Our first Armenia Exchange will be held over seven days in Armenia and will open with an orientation briefing at 8pm on Sunday, September 19, at the conference hotel venue in Yerevan. After five days of meetings in and around Yerevan (including several outside of the conference hotel), on Friday, September 24, we will travel by bus to Syunik and conduct sessions with our speakers in the region. The return to Yerevan will be on Sunday, September 26, where we will close the Exchange by 1pm at the conference hotel.

In order to promote small group dynamics, the number of participants will be capped at 25. Sessions will be conducted on an individual rather than a panel basis and will generally allow ample opportunity for question time (translation into English will be provided when necessary). All sessions will also be held under the Chatham House rule, although we customarily work with our speakers to approve any quotes/references that participants may need for their own work.

Conference Fee Levels:

$800 — Student/Unaffiliated Researchers/Freelance Journalists

$1200 — NGO/UN/Media/Academic

$1500 — For-Profit/Government

All funding for the Exchange comes from only two sources: The participants themselves who pay the participation fee or scholarship recipients who benefit from individual, charitable contributions designed specifically to broaden the social, political and geographic diversity of each Exchange table. As such, there is no government, commercial or non-profit support, an aspect that we believe provides an objective platform for dialogue and understanding.

The Exchange Foundation currently has two Scholarships (covering the participation fee, travel/lodging and a per diem) available in each of two categories: A) An Armenian/Armenian origin person who can demonstrate a lack of institutional or self-funding ability; B) The Global Exchange Scholarship available for journalists or researchers who will deepen the social, political and geographic diversity of the Exchange and who can document a lack of institutional or self-funding ability. For any questions related to scholarships, email:

Excerpt of Session Topics:

Nagorno-Karabakh – Speakers will discuss the prospects for peace and security for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh amid a tenuous ceasefire, and as questions linger as to the mission of the Russian peacekeepers, whose mandate is set to expire in four years. International legal experts will discuss the principles of territorial integrity versus self determination, while regional analysts and Yerevan-based foreign diplomats will examine what kind of settlement may be possible to secure the future of what remains of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Government officials will discuss the ways in which the war was conducted and the various outcomes as well as their strategy for a secure and peaceful Armenia and Artsakh.

Recent Armenian elections and the local landscape – Over the seven days of the Exchange, we will hear from leading figures in the government as well as the opposition and discuss their plans for the future of Armenia, broadening its foreign relations and securing its borders after a devastating war.

Prospects for trade – We will meet business leaders to learn about their challenges under three decades of blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan, the possibilities for trade with both the East and the West and their desire for or aversion to greater connectivity with neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan. We will also learn about competing visions for regional trade, including Turkey’s desire for a transit corridor through southern Armenia, as well as Iran’s position against such a corridor — and revived interest in shoring up its links to Armenia.

Structural impediments to human development – Several sessions will be devoted to veteran investigative journalists and activists who can speak to the issues of corruption, human rights, security and socio-economic challenges that go well beyond the current focus on the warscape. To this end, we will also meet representatives of the minority Yazidi community to learn about the issues they face.


  • Office of the Prime Minister of Armenia
  • Office of the President of Armenia
  • Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • The Government of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
  • Armenian Opposition Representatives
  • Syunik Elected Representatives
  • Representatives of Armenia to the European Court of Human Rights
  • Office of the Human Rights Defender/Ombudsman
  • Minsk Group Co-Chair Nations
  • The United Nations
  • International Crisis Group
  • Regional Studies Center
  • The Caucasus Institute
  • International and Comparative Law Center
  • Armenia-Iran Strategic Cooperation Development Center
  • TUMO Center
  • Union of Advanced Technology Enterprises
  • Aurora Humanitarian Initiative
  • Anna Astvatsaturian Foundation
  • * N.B.: Partial list only; the final agenda with confirmed speakers will be made available to admitted participants one month in advance of the Exchange.

For more information or to apply, visit:

Written by nickbiddlenoe

July 20, 2021 at 11:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The registration deadline–April 30–for the 14th Tunis Exchange is nearing!

Join us over 8 Thursdays & Saturdays, May 27-June 19, for 25+hours of sessions w/leading social, political, religious & economic figures from across the spectrum in #Tunisia. Request a registration link via: or

We also offer 2 scholarships: The Tunisian/Tunisian Origin Researcher who doesn’t have institutional/self-funding ability & The Global Exchange Researcher who can demonstrate need & will deepen the social, political & geographic diversity of The Exchange:

Some highlight photos from our last (yes, in-person) Tunis Exchange:

Written by nickbiddlenoe

April 21, 2021 at 3:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

REGISTRATION NOW OPEN: The 14th Tunis Exchange (Online), May 27-June 19

The 14th Tunis Exchange will be held virtually this year in association with Georgetown University’s Democracy and Governance Program over eight Thursdays and Saturdays, May 27-June 19. During the 25+ hours of sessions, participants from around the world will have the opportunity to meet, listen and engage leading social, political, religious and economic leaders from across the spectrum in Tunisia.

Request a registration link:

Registration Deadline I: April 30, 2021

View all of our programs:

Program Specifics
The eight days of Tunis Exchange sessions (May 27, May 29, June 3, June 5, June 10, June 12, June 17 and June 19) will be conducted via Zoom starting at 2pm Tunis Time/9am EST every Thursday and Saturday and will conclude at approximately 5pm/12pm each day. In order to promote small group dynamics and engagement with our speakers, the number of participants will be capped at 30. Sessions themselves will usually be conducted on an individual rather than a panel basis and will generally allow ample opportunity for question time (simultaneous translation into English will be provided when necessary). All sessions will also be held under the Chatham House rule, although we customarily work with our speakers to approve any quotes/references that participants may need for their own work.

$350 — Undergraduate and graduate students, unaffiliated researchers and freelance journalists;
$500 — Affiliated researchers, academics, journalists, NGO and UN staff;
$750 — Private enterprise or government staff.

Applying For A Scholarship
All funding for the Exchange comes from only two sources: The participants themselves who pay the participation fee or scholarship recipients who benefit from individual, charitable contributions designed specifically to broaden the social, political and geographic diversity of each Exchange table. As such, there is no government, commercial or non-profit support, an aspect that we believe provides a relatively neutral platform for dialogue and understanding.

The Foundation for Global Political Exchange currently has two Scholarships (covering the participation fee) available in each of two categories: A) The Tunisian/Tunisian Origin Researcher Scholarship for Tunisian researchers who additionally demonstrate a lack of institutional or self-funding ability; B) The Global Exchange Researcher Scholarship available for researchers who will deepen the social, political and geographic diversity of the Exchange and who can document a lack of institutional or self-funding ability. For any questions related to scholarships, email

Session Topics
Invited speakers will address several specific areas, including but not limited to:

– The history and internal transformations of Ennahda, including organizational and ideological evolution since the revolution;

– The post-revolutionary evolution of the UGTT, Tunisia’s powerful labor union, and its role in politics (including implications of its role as primary mediator in the National Dialogue of late 2013);

– The composition, platforms of, and alliances between major parties;

– The state of the Tunisian economy, including regional inequalities, budget transparency and decentralization, etc.;- Security sector reform and the response to terrorism;

– Institutional and legislative reform needs following the passage of Tunisia’s constitution, focusing particularly on reform of the Ministry of Interior (security sector) and Ministry of Justice (judicial sector), Tunisia’s two most problematic ministries;

– Human rights in the new Tunisia (addressing issues such as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, status of women, use of torture and the terrorism debate);

– Salafism, its composition (political, quietist, jihadi) in Tunisia and its relationship to and implications for party politics, stability, and governance moving forward;

– Taking stock of what Tunisia has done regarding transitional justice, what steps are planned to realize the recently passed transitional justice law, and what more needs to be done;

– The role of the media and civil society organizations;

– Youth politics and activism within and outside formal party structure;

– The scope and underlying causes of recent protest movements.

Previous Agenda
Accepted participants in the upcoming Tunis Exchange will receive the full Agenda of confirmed speakers one month prior to the opening, as well as readings pertinent to the sessions. The completed Agenda of the last Tunis Exchange (June 2019) was as follows:

Sunday June 9
6:00pm — Introductions, House Rules & Safety Briefing: The Exchange

7:00pm — Opening Discussion

8:00pm — Ouiem Chettaoui, Security Sector Specialist

Monday June 10

8:30am — Monica Marks, NYU Abu Dhabi

10:30am — Amine Thabet, Mehdi Foudhaili & Hervé de Baillen, Democracy Reporting International

12:00pm — LUNCH

1:00pm — Zied Ladhari, Minister of Development, Investment & International Cooperation, An-Nahdha Party

3:30pm — Yassine Brahim, Afek Tounes Party Leader & MP

5:00pm — Radwan Masmoudi, President of The Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy

6:00pm — Emmanuel Geny, Democracy International

7:30pm — Achraf Aouadi, President of I-WATCH Tunsia & Mohammad Dhia Hammami, Wesleyan University

Tuesday June 11


11:00am — Salwa Gantri, Country Director International Center for Transitional Justice

12:30pm — LUNCH

1:30pm — Tarek Kahlaoui, Former Director of the Tunisian Institute of Strategic Studies, Assistant Professor MSB

3:00pm — Selim Kharrat, President of Al-Bawsala

5:00pm — European University of Tunis, Discussion With International Relations Department

Wednesday June 12

9:30am — Stefan Buchmayer, Country Director of The Democratic Control of Armed Forces

10:45am — International Republican Institute Senior Advisor Djordje Todorovic, Resident Program Officer Elizabeth O’Bagy & Jihen Jouini

12:00pm — LUNCH

1:00pm — Nabil Karoui, Karoui & Karoui World

2:30pm — Moncef Marzouki, Former President of Tunisia, Al-Irada Party Leader

4:00pm — Fadhel Ben Omrane, Nidaa Tounes MP

5:00pm — Ahlem Belhaj, UGTT & Femme Democrat Leader

6:00pm — Khawla Ben Aicha, Machroua Tounes MP

Thursday June 13

9:00am — Amine Ghali, President of Al-Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center

10:30am — Nicolas Kaczorowski, Country Director of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems

12:00pm — LUNCH

1:00pm — Mohamed Ali Azaiez, An-Nahdha

2:00pm — Rached Ghannouchi, President of An-Nahdha

5:00pm — Mohamed Ayadi, INLUCC Commissioner

7:00pm — Dinner

8:00pm — Drive to SFAX

Friday June 14

11:00am — Anouar Jebir, Baladiyya Sfax, Health Commission

11:45am — Ayman Bouhajeb, Machroua Tunis Sfax, & Mohsen Marzouk, Head of Party Machroua Tounes

1:00pm — LUNCH

3:30pm — Baddredine Abdelkefi, MP An-Nahdha

5:00pm — Drive to GABES

9:00pm — Dinner with Rim Thabti, Activist & Blogger

Saturday June 15

9:30am — Mohamed Ali Chouiab, Activist

11:00am — Mouhamed Hayder, Cultural Association of Gabes

12:30pm — LUNCH

2:30pm — Ismail Hafsi, Environmentalist & Activist

3:30pm — Yessine Ben Salem, Nahdha Regional Secretary General Gabes

4:30pm — Khayreddine Debaya, Environmentalist & Activist

5:30pm — Drive back to TUNIS

Sunday June 16

11:00am — Ouided Bouchamoui, Nobel Prize Winner, The Quartet & Former President of UTICA

12:00pm — Group Discussion

1:00pm — Tunis Airport & End Program

To request a registration link or to ask a question, please email us at:
To view all of our programs, visit:

Written by nickbiddlenoe

April 5, 2021 at 10:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

REGISTER NOW: The Seventh Yemen Exchange – An Intensive Online Course on Yemen, April 19-30

Our non-profit Exchange Foundation is once again partnering with the Sanaa Center to offer the 7th iteration of The Yemen Exchange, April 19-30. The program will be conducted via Zoom Monday-Friday, starting at 16:00 Sana’a time/09:00 EST. Five scholarships are also available! View the Agenda and apply via:


The Seventh Yemen Exchange is an intensive online version of the Yemen Exchange organized by the Sana’a Center and The Exchange Foundation since 2017. The course is designed to provide unique access to information, perspectives, updates and analyses on Yemen for those seeking to develop a working background knowledge of the country as well as those already thoroughly versed in its dynamics.

The 10-day program will be conducted via Zoom Monday-Friday, starting at 16:00 Sana’a time/09:00 EST each day. Participants from around the world will attend sessions with Yemeni analysts, academics, politicians, bureaucrats, business leaders and international experts, gaining insight into the country from a wide range of perspectives. Participants will have the chance both to virtually engage with speakers during the sessions and to connect with them individually after the Exchange. The sessions – totaling more than 30 hours – will dive into several specific areas, including but not limited to: Yemen’s multifaceted conflicts; the country’s socio-political dynamics; internal divisions and alliances among parties to the conflict; the possibility of southern secession; military and political developments on the ground; the status of various armed groups; the regional battle for Yemen; the humanitarian and economic crisis in the country; the UN-led peace process; and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

March 14, 2021 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A Better Lebanon Policy for The Next US Administration

The incoming Biden team is confronted by any array of steep challenges and significant near-term dangers when it comes to Lebanon. And yet, perhaps because of the accumulated problems nearly all sides have weighing on them, it also has a unique opportunity to help chart a reasonable 3rd way between the failed Maximum Pressure approach of Trump et al. – which has helped to bring Lebanon to the brink of collapse and open conflict rather than any kind of beneficial endpoint – and the “benign neglect” of the Obama tenure – which saw Lebanon as a containable, subsidiary issue to be dealt with after the expected peacemaking possibilities opened up by the Iran deal accrued to the next Clinton administration.

As I laid out in my September paper for @EuropeanUni (, a more effective US policy (from the perspective of US interests mind you) will require a two pronged strategy that 1) recognizes Hezbollah must first be addressed through new, diplomatically arranged regional frameworks while simultaneously 2) surging US engagement in multi-lateral efforts to enact deep, structural reforms in Lebanon itself – reforms that must touch local allies, competitors and enemies alike.

In short, the local reforms that so many agree (or at least claim to agree) are desperately needed can only move forward if Lebanon is granted immediate “breathing space” from the regional conflict(s) and interests which this small country is so easily and so regularly overwhelmed by. At least four regional steps, starting with the reactivation of the Iran nuclear deal will be crucial, as I outline in the EUI paper.

This pairing/sequencing is also why I have been critical of analyses over the past year by @cmparreira – see her Synapse paper at – and others who, following the October 2019 Revolt, largely removed the impact of powerful external states and regional conflicts when discussing Lebanon’s proliferating woes. While this approach aimed, laudably, to right an occasional over-emphasis on the effect of external actors (thus giving local Lebanese elites a “pass” in some cases), the near expungement of a crucial dynamic for understanding Lebanon’s predicament and possible solutions has been detrimental overall for sound policymaking.

Indeed, the reality of many of Lebanon’s current woes is that the political elite and parasitic socio-economic structures that directly laid the ground for an explosion causing mass casualties in August are certainly of local constitution. But, this ‘made in Lebanon’ matrix is only symbiotically perpetuated by consistent access to international financial flows, foreign political cover and hard power supplied by others. Whether it is due to the country’s small size, its long-standing dependency on external actors and/or its unfortunate positioning at the centre of so many strategically significant conflicts, all actors who genuinely want to reverse Lebanon’s vicious circle must therefore start with a frank acknowledgment of this or else risk drowning any locally-focused initiatives in the constant machinations of geopolitics.

Thus, instead of staking Lebanon policy and much of our MENA policy in general on marginally hurting Hezbollah and Iran to no achievable or reasonable end – i.e. the failed Trump administration approach – the new Biden Administration can leverage this moment of near collective loss and setback regionally, i.e. the economic downturn, COVID-19, expanding armed conflicts and leadership insecurities in order to pursue an aggressive policy of diplomacy, de-escalation, flexible negotiating parameters and meaningful reform that reforms “all of them” steadily away from power.

Of course, starting by pursuing the four very difficult-to-thread regional steps I outline in my paper, in the hopes of carving out some “breathing space,” will certainly not guarantee a short term solution for Hezbollah’s weapons, nor will they necessarily ensure the durability of efficient, accountable and democratic institutions gaining preponderance across Lebanon. When paired with local reform steps, however, they do offer the best chance for stemming Lebanon’s immediate suffering; for stepping back from a series of violent conflicts that appear increasingly likely and that would be devastating for all involved; and for laying the long-term frameworks for what could be the much-hoped-for re-birth of a Lebanese state finally freed from the narrow interests at home and abroad that have gripped it for so long.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

December 15, 2020 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

NEW REPORT: In Heavily Arab American Areas of Michigan, 68% Of Voters Backed Biden; 43,000+ Additional Voters Who Didn’t Turnout For Hillary Helped Put Biden Over The Top in Crucial Swing State

(Detroit, Michigan) — By using the recently published “Language Access Analysis,” produced by Data Driven Detroit and Global Detroit, the American Community Survey’s Public Use Microdata Sets and other periodic surveys conducted over the last decade, a number of Michigan municipalities can be reasonably identified that have at least a likely plurality of Arab Americans. 

Unfortunately however, precisely charting the preferences, patterns and influence of Arab American voters has been greatly hampered over the decades by the lack of comprehensive precinct level data – a problem only compounded by the Trump administration’s refusal to include a Middle East and North Africa (MENA) category in the latest decennial census. As such, even in Michigan, where the concentration of Arab American voters is widely assumed to be the heaviest nationally, one can only estimate the correlation of voting results and identity. Nevertheless, as the dataset below illustrates, several voting trends seem to be indicated:

(Read the full report)

(Download the Excel data table)

Authors: Nicholas Noe & Steven Abdelatif. Special thanks to Matt Jaber Stiffler at the Arab American National Museum, the Arab American Institute and Rima Meroueh at ACCESS for their analysis and assistance in gathering the datasets. For inquiries, please email

For a free trial of our translation service, visit 

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 20, 2020 at 12:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Re-Reading Nasrallah’s 2005 letter to Le Figaro

In light of the back and forth between Hezbollah and Macron, it’s interesting to re-read Nasrallah’s 2005 Le Figaro piece that was penned during an extremely difficult moment for the party, when it was far less powerful than it is today. I should have some thoughts in coming days, but here is the translation, by Ellen Khouri, which was included in my 2007 Verso book Voice of Hezbollah: The Statements of Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah:

A Message to France

April 13, 2005

Nasrallah’s open letter to France, carried simultaneously by the Lebanese newspaper As Safir and France’s Le Figaro, represented a rare, direct address to a Western audience—one designed primarily to discourage Lebanon’s old colonial master from advocating the so-called US portion of Resolution 1559, the disarming of Hezbollah, and, secondarily, to explain Hezbollah’s stance on the assassination of Hariri.

Couched in exceedingly moderate terms, the message was undoubtedly prompted by Syria’s announcement only weeks before that it would fully withdraw its army, in accordance with Resolution 1559, by the end of April. But it was also a frank acknowledgement that in the upcoming May–June parliamentary elections, anti-Syrian parties, led by Hariri’s Future Movement, would most likely control the levers of power from Beirut, thus further tying the interests and policies of Lebanon to those of France and the West in general.

It is interesting to note that Nasrallah and Hezbollah did not address a similar letter to America, 1559’s co-author; nor did Nasrallah provide much in the way of high-level access to US media during these critical months. Although Nasrallah had by this time apparently exorcised references in his speeches to “Death to America”, Hezbollah continued to oppose America unremittingly, but obliquely—in sharp contrast to the Bush administration’s strategy which, following the Lebanese elections, would often seem bent on a direct confrontation with the Party, either through pressure on the fledgling pro-Western government of Beirut or through various regional manoeuvres against its allies, foremost of which were Syria and Iran.


As I write this, my country is going through a very difficult and dangerous period, due to a mixture of domestic and international developments that require us Lebanese to be cohesive, and our friends to stand by us. At the top of this list of friends is France, the country with which we have many cultural and historic interests in common, and with which we share similar views regarding issues of civilization, current politics, and, naturally, the hope for a better world where justice and peace prevail.

In 1982, with unlimited American support, the Israeli armed forces invaded Lebanon under false pretences, with the aim of achieving various strategic and economic objectives. While the world watched, they occupied our capital, Beirut, and no one did anything to stop them save for a few limited diplomatic demarches, and some useless condemnations and expressions of sympathy. The Israelis killed and wounded thousands of Lebanese citizens, and caused considerable psychological, social, economic, and material damage, with which Lebanon and the Lebanese people are still trying to come to terms.

The Lebanese people rose up, individually and collectively, in defence of their country against this occupation and its fallout, in spite of the disparity between the two sides, both on the ground and politically. They fought this occupation for almost twenty years, during which there was a great deal of suffering and tears, and two brutal engagements in 1993 and 1996,[1] before they were able to achieve a brilliant victory, forcing the invading army to withdraw from our country save for one small area that is still under occupation, the Lebanese Shebaa Farms.

Hezbollah, which was the spearhead and main backbone of the Lebanese resistance against occupation, succeeded through the will and sacrifice of the Lebanese people and the help of its brothers in Syria and Iran, in achieving one of the most important feats in Lebanon’s modern history. France played a prominent role in forging the “April Understanding”[2] that opened the door wide for the resistance to operate on the ground, and at the same time provided it with wide international recognition.

Ever since the year 2000, when most of the Lebanese occupied territories were liberated, Lebanon’s airspace has been the object of very serious violations that are impossible to stop. And although the United Nations has expressed its concern on several occasions, many Israeli officials still issue threats against Lebanon’s security, territorial waters, and infrastructure, which the Lebanese people spent a great deal of money rebuilding. Meanwhile, the resistance has assumed a purely defensive stance across the international border, and has operated within the confines of the Lebanese government’s defence strategy, and in cooperation with the Lebanese army, to repel any potential Israeli attack.[3] If such an attack actually takes place, it will cause much harm to our country and people, and expose the entire Middle East region to very dangerous possibilities.

The weapons of the resistance are vital for the strategic defence of Lebanon, and therefore are not something that it can easily give up, regardless of the pressures and threats brought to bear on it. For to do so would place Lebanon and its people at the mercy of the same Israeli firepower under which they lived for decades, and would rob them of their freedom and sovereignty,[4] and of their right to decide their own future and opportunities for development.

It is within this context that Resolution 1559 saw the light at the Security Council of the United Nations, as part of an overarching and comprehensive deal between the United States and France at the expense of our small country. This deal intersected with very convoluted domestic events in Lebanon that culminated in the extension of the president of the republic Emile Lahoud’s mandate for three additional years.[5]

The first article of Resolution 1559, which I call the French part of the Resolution, demands the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, which implicitly means the Syrian troops. The second article, which I call the American part, demands the dissolution and disarmament of all Lebanese militias—implicitly meaning the Lebanese resistance. Together, these two articles produced a settlement plan that intersected with the already tense Franco-American relations over the issues of Iraq, commercial interests, and European security. This settlement, which is openly biased towards Israel, to the detriment of Lebanon, France’s old and constant friend, placed three major challenges all of a sudden before our country. These are: the Israeli enemy, which lurks across the border waiting for the resistance to be disarmed; the international community, led single-handedly by the United States in the pre-emptive, so-called “war on terror” that has led to the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq; and internal instability, which, we must admit, has only contributed to an already agitated domestic situation. Regardless of our position towards this Resolution, the stark reality forces us to admit that these factors have together generated a great deal of upheaval in Lebanon and the region—upheaval that primarily benefits the United States, which seeks to impose its unilateral control by force over the entire Middle East and its resources, especially oil.

On February 14 this year, a horrific crime took the life of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri—the most important and controversial figure in Lebanon’s modern history, thanks to his relentless efforts to serve and rebuild his country. Our relationship with him fluctuated between disagreement and cooperation, on many levels and on various domestic issues, until a deep understanding settled between us for good, and later developed into a close friendship. This understanding revolved around fundamental issues relating to Lebanon and the future of its citizens, and we were in total agreement regarding the importance of preserving the resistance as it is now: men and their weapons ready to protect the country against any eventual Israeli attack, within the framework of the state’s defence strategy. We were also of the same mind regarding the building of a modern and just state able to ensure its citizens’ security and equality, provide them with equal employment opportunities, and guarantee them a prosperous future without sectarianism. We were both committed to the application of the Taif Agreement[6] as a basis for our mutual and common understanding regarding the country’s future.

This monumental event stunned the Lebanese people; but instead of [our] standing together in the face of its repercussions, a dangerous schism occurred and led to a confrontation between the Lebanese people. The blood of Rafik Hariri, which had not yet had time to dry, became a political tool to mobilize public feelings in an unprecedented manner. Very serious accusations were leveled here and there without adequate proof, and the Lebanese authorities implicitly blamed Syria for standing behind this abominable crime. This invited foreign intervention in Lebanon’s internal affairs by those who saw the situation as a golden opportunity for the immediate implementation of Resolution 1559; this in turn placed the country’s defensive security in jeopardy, and exposed its internal stability to the elements. This state of affairs compelled us and our allies to take to the streets in force, to demand that the whole and unadulterated truth regarding Hariri’s assassination be revealed, and to send a dual message to our partners in Lebanon and throughout the world.

At the demonstration we held on March 8, 2005 in Riad al-Solh Square,[7] we renewed our commitment to the Taif Agreement—and called upon opposition groups to join us in a genuine dialogue regarding all unresolved issues, without exception, and to submit to the people’s will through free and fair elections. We reiterated the importance of maintaining the resistance’s weapons as long as Israel continues to pose a threat to Lebanon from across the border, and our readiness to discuss various existential issues that face our country, including that of the resistance. We naturally also expressed our total rejection of all foreign interventions that detract from Lebanon’s genuine and complete sovereignty, freedom and independence.

On the 30th of this month, the Arab Syrian army is due to complete its withdrawal from Lebanon, after being present in the country since 1976. In the interim, it succeeded in putting an end to the Civil War, integrating the Lebanese army by reconstituting it out of elements from various forces in the country, and rebuilding the country’s political institutions. Moreover, it is thanks to Syria’s open and continuous support that the Lebanese were able to expel Israel from south Lebanon, and we cannot but be thankful for and appreciative of their help. However, the mistakes that were committed by both Lebanese and Syrian individuals in various positions of authority—to which the Syrian president openly and courageously alluded[8]—led to the deterioration of relations between the two countries. We have always sought good relations with Syria, mainly because it is in Lebanon’s interest, since Syria remains our main and strategic ally in the absence of a solution in the region. It is also Lebanon’s only economic gateway to the Arab heartland and the world. This is why building this relationship on forward-looking and objective bases that ensure the interests of both countries and peoples is one of Lebanon’s main priorities in the near future.

Now that the withdrawal of Syrian troops is about to take place, and the international community has decided to set up an international investigation into the assassination of the martyr Rafik Hariri—the two important demands of Lebanon’s opposition—we have to find ways to extricate ourselves from the impasse in which we currently find ourselves. I therefore seize this opportunity to renew my call to all Lebanese political groups to come together and engage in a serious dialogue regarding all fundamental issues that concern the future well-being of the next generations of Lebanese citizens. These issues are: the vital importance of national unity; peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims; rejection of the notion of winners and losers; rejection of the use of arms and a [of] return to Civil War; commitment to freedom and democracy; adoption of a just and representative electoral system; [the] building [of] a modern state based on the rule of law; and the rejection of all foreign intervention in Lebanon’s internal affairs.

France, for which we in Hezbollah have much regard, has played a major role in forging the April Understanding and in effecting one of the prisoner exchange operations involving detainees in Israeli jails. I therefore call upon France, which the Lebanese people consider as their friend and with which they share a commitment to the principles of mercy, peace, and democracy, to work diligently towards fostering national dialogue and domestic reconciliation in Lebanon, given that its role in the formulation of Resolution 1559 has angered many of its citizens. It hurt people, even though they understand the complex web of international interests, to see France falling victim to America’s savage and aggressive hegemony, especially in this rapidly changing world.

We also should not forget that our country—which for complex geographical, political, and cultural reasons – is a microcosm of almost all the major problems in the region, impacts them and is in turn impacted by them. The American occupation of Iraq has endangered regional instability, and has created threatening conditions for Iraq’s neighbors—namely Iran, Turkey and Syria. The Palestinian people are in the midst of an honorable struggle to liberate their land and gain their full right to freedom and sovereignty. In the meantime, Israel refuses to implement any of the international resolutions; it has occupied the Syrian Golan Heights since 1967, and actively continues to build its nuclear arsenal, in defiance of international resolutions. Lebanon will not be able to confront these looming challenges if its citizens are not united and fully aware that their small and beautiful country deserves to live, and that they have earned the right to live there in freedom and dignity.

Pre-Publication Footnotes:

[1] For which see above, p. ** n. ** and p. ** n. **.

[2] For the April Understanding see above, p. ** n. **.

[3] Cooperation with the Lebanese army did not, of course, mean submission to its ultimate authority—especially if that authority was under the sway of a largely anti-Syrian government; nor, for that matter, could several of Hezbollah’s various operations through the years, including the capturing operations executed in October 2000, be construed as purely defensive in the strictest definition of the word.

[4] See above, p. ** n. **.

[5] Although, according to the Lebanese Constitution, the president was permitted to serve only one six-year term, Emile Lahoud was granted an additional three-year extension until 2007 by Lebanon’s parliament. Critics of the extension argue it was illegal because heavy Syrian influence was brought to bear on the voting process.

[6] For which see above, p. ** n. **.

[7] See above, Statement **, pp. **-**.

[8] In Bashar al-Assad’s March 5 speech to the Syrian parliament, broadcast live to jeering (and intermittently cheering) protesters in downtown Beirut, the president said not “all our [Syria’s] acts in Lebanon were correct.” Donna abu Nasr, “Threats Alienate Syrians from Lebanon,” Associated Press, March 19, 2000, accessed online.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

September 30, 2020 at 5:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Policy Brief via @MEDirections: Nicholas Noe, “Breaking the cycle: A new American approach to Lebanon”

AbstractFor the last three decades since the near-simultaneous end of the Cold War and the end of the Lebanese civil war, United States (US) policy towards Lebanon has continued to be dominated by support for specific personalities, parties and officials deemed to be ‘pro-Western’ rather than the construction of strong and effective democratic institutions for the country as a whole. At the same time, successive US administrations have led or encouraged the application of military, financial, judicial and political-diplomatic pressure against Lebanese Hezbollah in an effort to reduce (and at some times eliminate) the party’s military and political standing. In all of these endeavours, the result has been failure. ‘Pro-Western’ establishment parties are overall weaker than they were following the diplomatically-induced withdrawal of Syrian troops in 2005, with the not-so-‘silent majority’ of unaffiliated Lebanese citizens generally being assumed to now want the ousting of all political leaders, including those traditionally supported by the US. The Lebanese state is the closest that it has been to complete collapse since the civil war era, corruption is rampant, the banks are broken and unemployment is at unprecedented levels. Meanwhile, hate, crime and violence grow daily as the spectre of widespread hunger and hyper-inflation draws closer by the month. Through all of this, Hezbollah’s military power has only grown, as has its multifaceted ability to, comparatively, withstand even more force, pressure and breakdown in Lebanon. A new US-led approach to the country is therefore urgent, if only from the limited perspective of peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean and Levant. Any such re-orientation, however, must first be linked to a marshalling of allies, competitors and enemies for a regional dialogue focused on Iran and Saudi Arabia and an immediate de-escalation or freezing of relevant conflicts, especially between Hezbollah and Israel. With such a vital ‘breathing space,’ a multilateral Lebanon-specific reform policy could then be credibly launched to invest in effective democratic institution-building, a new socio-political compact in line with the Taif Accord that ended the last civil war and a national defence strategy capable of delivering security for all Lebanese citizens.

Download the full Policy Brief:

Written by nickbiddlenoe

September 29, 2020 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

As Afghan peace talks open, announces free access to the Taliban Source Project


Through a partnership with Thesigers, the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (FFI) and the University of Oslo, has translated and is now making available 1,452 separate translations drawn from nine years of the Taliban’s Arabic language magazine, Al-Samood (Issues 1-99/2006-2014), which together constitute the overwhelming bulk of the Taliban Source Project (TSP) database.

Unfortunately, the TSP as a whole and our translations of Al-Samood specifically were only made available this year because of what we believe was a fundamental misunderstanding of the project and its implication. Indeed, several years ago, the British Library, which was supposed to serve as the main repository, judged that the archive contained some material that could contravene the Terrorism Act.

Thankfully, the University of Oslo recently stepped up and hosted the project, thereby recognizing how freely available, high-quality translations – especially of one’s purported adversary – can actually lead to greater understanding and, potentially, peace-building.

The material in both the original Arabic (downloadable PDF for each month) and English are all searchable in full.

Register via our 15 year anniversary site and download the searchable Index:

Or directly via:

Written by nickbiddlenoe

September 14, 2020 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Sixth Yemen Exchange – An Intensive Online Course On Yemen August 3-14, 2020

The Sixth Yemen Exchange is an abbreviated intensive online version of the Yemen Exchange organized by the Sana’a Center and The Exchange Foundation.

The course is designed to provide unique access to information, perspectives, updates and analysis on Yemen for both those seeking to develop a working background on the country as well as those already thoroughly versed in its dynamics. During the ten-day program conducted online, participants from around the world will listen to Yemeni analysts, academics, politicians, bureaucrats, business leaders and international experts to gain insight and rare first-hand knowledge about the country from a wide range of perspectives. Participants will have the chance to both virtually engage with speakers during the sessions and connect with speakers individually after the Exchange.

The sessions themselves – totaling more than 25 hours – will dive into several specific areas, including but not limited to: Yemen’s multifaceted conflicts, socio-political dynamics, internal divisions and alliances among parties to the conflict, the possibility of southern secession, military and political developments on the ground, the status of various armed groups, the regional battle for Yemen, the humanitarian and economic crisis, the UN-led peace process, impacts of the coronavirus as well as a variety of other topics.

Read the full Agenda here:


Accepted applicants will be provided with details on how to securely access the course prior its start.

Sanaa logo


Request an application form via:

Dates: August 03 – 14

Application deadline:

July 17, 2020

Applicants will be processed on a rolling basis

Written by nickbiddlenoe

July 12, 2020 at 11:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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