The Mideastwire Blog

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

Hezbollah MP says Arsal is an “occuped” town

From tonight’s Daily Briefing via

Hussein Hajj Hassan interviewed:

“…Even when soldiers and Lebanese army officers were martyred by the terrorist gangs in Ersal, some people still supported them. When I say Ersal, I don’t mean its people but rather the individuals who are occupying it. Ersal is an occupied town…

“Today, there’s a serious threat in the Ersal barren areas. This is a threat against Lebanon, the adjacent villages and the people of Ersal and a threat to the Lebanese fabric and all the Lebanese. We have seen how they killed people from Ersal and how they beheaded them and stole their money and property on a quasi-daily basis in addition to the killings and kidnappings taking place in other nearby villages for no reason…

Written by nickbiddlenoe

May 23, 2015 at 3:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

My talk at UNAM in mexico City on Thursday morning – Hizbullah, Lebanon and speculating about what might happen if Assad falls

I should stress that this will NOT be a talk about the possibility of Assad falling, or an assertion that he even will fall (a very debatable proposition of course)…. but rather speculation about what happens for Lebanon’s Hizbullah if Assad’s regime collapses. This Thursday morning early in Mexico City at UNAM.


Written by nickbiddlenoe

May 18, 2015 at 12:02 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Algeria issues list of 21 militants training in Libya to attack neighbours

The security authorities in Algeria and the Sahel states have published a list of 21 would-be suicide bombers from a militant group training in Libya to carry out attacks in Algeria and Tunisia, Algerian El-Khabar newspaper reported on 13 May. The group was composed mostly of Malians, as well as four Mauritanians, three Algerians, two Tunisians, one Egyptian and one Nigerian, the report said. The would-be attackers comprised a group called Kawkebet El Chouhada (Kawkabat al-Shuhada, in English: Constellation of Martyrs), the report said.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

May 15, 2015 at 8:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Al-Hurra website interview with Saudi tweeter, Mujtahid

Translated in tonight’s Daily Briefing from our (for a trial email

On May 13, the Al-Hurra website carried the following interview with Saudi tweeter, Mujtahid: “…Q. Some link your name to the head of the Islamic Movement for Reform, Dr. Sa’d al-Fakih while others believe that you are close to the ruling family in light of the kind of information that you are leaking. Who is Mujtahid?

“A. There are many theories with respect to Mujtahid’s identity but any question in this regard cannot be answered.

“Q. When will Mujtahid turn from a mere Twitter account into a real person for the Saudi people?

“A. If a real movement was to be launched and if I see an interest into modifying the role then yes, the role will be modified.

“Q…How do you perceive the changes that were started by late King Abdullah and continued by present King Salman Ben Abdul Aziz?

“A. What reforms are you talking about?

“Q. For instance, the Kingdom is following the politics of involving youth in the governmental institutions and bodies. The Crown prince and his deputy are from the youths. Is this not part of the reforms that you are calling for?

“A. Are these reforms in the political sense? There has been no change to the fact that the Saud family have full control over power and an absolute immunity against accountability. There has been no change in expanding transparency, the independence of the judiciary, the freedom of speech, and the freedom to form groups. On the contrary, these things are now worse… Imagine that there is no decent water network in the major cities. People stand in long lines in Jeddah in order to obtain water transferred to them through tankers. So what kind of reform are you talking about? There are no services, no army, no universities, no political participation, no accountability, no transparency and no freedom. So where’s the reform!!

“Q. Do you believe that reform should happen with or without the ruling family? In other words, should there be a reform of the ruling family or a reform of the country?

“A. The problem with the ruling family is that it can’t be reformed. Any real reform in terms of political participation, accountability, transparency and the independence of the judiciary will lead to a revolution by the people against this family and to calls for trials of the prominent princes. Because they know that, they are refusing to launch the first step, which consists of releasing the political prisoners… How could the Saud family allow the freedom and expression and of forming groups when they know that Mohammad Ben Nayef and Mohammad Ben Salman will be the first parties to be attacked under these freedoms?

“…Q. How do you assess the experience of the Arab spring some four years after its launching and how can the Saudi people benefit from it?

“A. The Arab spring represents a march in one direction even if it has stumbled. The counter-revolutions that are now taking place is a natural and expected thing. But all these counter-revolutions will fail and the Arab spring will come back stronger, and firmer in order to eliminate the corrupt past. The sad part is the extent of our country’s financial and religious participation in these counter-revolutions and the extent of these counter-powers dependence on the Saudi and Gulf support. I believe that as the power of Al-Saud subsides, this will give a strong push to the strong return of the Arab spring…

“Q. But the Kingdom supported the spring in Syria?

“A. Where is the proof? Do you have a documented proof or are these mere claims that you’re making? The Saudi government only supported its agents, Salim Idriss, Jamal Maarouf, and Zahran Alloush. The main mission of these was to fight the Jihadist movements before fighting the regime…

“Q. The Al-Hazm storm created a dynamic on the Arab level all the way to forming a joint Arab force. What do you think about that?

“A. Al-Hazm storm revealed the external, intelligence, and foreign politics failure of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia had natural allies in Yemen such as Islamists and Sunni tribes. The Saudi government boycotted these allies and allies itself with Ali Abdullah Saleh… The air raids failed to achieve a thing. The Houthis kept expanding and controlling the cities and the rest of the army forces. They also managed to bombard areas within Saudi Arabia…

“Q. How do you view the future of the Saudi people?

“A. The ruling family is going through its last phase. I don’t know if it’s going to last more than two years after Mohammad Ben Salman. The family dispute and the regional challenges constitute two threats that could bring the family to an end. The people will suffer and will go through a phase of chaos but they will succeed in fixing things.

“Q. Do you believe that the American-Iranian rapprochement serves the interests of the Gulf in general and Saudi Arabia in specific or is it the contrary?

“A. There is no such thing as the Iranian-American rapprochement. There’s an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program with an Iranian subjection that Saudi Arabia served to achieve by increasing the oil production and reducing the prices thus forcing Iran to accept the American conditions…

“Q. Are you optimistic regarding the future of Saudi Arabia in light of all the changes seen at the level of the ruling family?

“A. It’s neither optimism nor pessimism. These are predictions based on the reality of the situation. The Saud family does not have the ability to persist in light of the present ruling mechanism.””

Written by nickbiddlenoe

May 15, 2015 at 7:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Final Slots Available For Two Middle East Politics Conferences in Tunis & Beirut/Application Deadline June 1/Financial Aid Available

The Exchange is an effort by and its partners to promote understanding and academic enrichment through a variety of city-focused conferences in and around the Middle East and North Africa.

During their stay, typically lasting from one to two weeks, students and professionals from around the globe engage directly with some of the leading intellectuals, academics and political leaders in the country – representing a variety of different viewpoints.

The First Exchange was launched in June 2008 in Beirut, Lebanon. Now, seven years on, almost 400 students from 48 different countries have participated, with many going on to work as diplomats in their home countries, for NGOs serving the region and as social entrepreneurs.

The following two Exchanges will be offered over the coming months:

* The 14th Beirut Exchange, July 5-July 19
* The 6th Tunis Exchange, July 21-July 31

To view previous Exchange programs in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Tunis and the Gulf, as well as media coverage of our efforts, visit

View the CNN report on The Beirut Exchange at:

Beirut Exchange Group on Facebook

Tunis Exchange Group on Facebook

Gulf Exchange (previous program with Project Encounter)

REQUEST AN APPLICATION for any Exchange via

Note that tuition discounts, beyond standard financial aid allocations for those applicants with demonstrated need, are available for alumni of previous Exchange programs as well as students who wish to attend more than one Exchange. For more information, please email

July 5-July 19
Application Deadline June 1, 2015
Limited spaces available/Rolling acceptance

The two-week Beirut Exchange program rests on two tracks:

Academic – Participants will attend a series of lectures and colloquia led by leading academics and public intellectuals in Lebanon. Topics will include: The Arab Uprisings; The Syrian conflict and its regional implications; The Islamic State; The Special Tribunal for Lebanon; The United Nations as peacekeeper and mediator; Engaging political Islam; Asymmetrical conflict: The July 2006 Lebanon War; Human Rights in Lebanon and the wider Middle East; Sectarianism and its deployment, as well as a range of other topics.

Dialogue with Leaders – Participants will have the opportunity to meet, listen and engage leading social, political and economic actors from across the spectrum in Lebanon.

NOTE: Due to the current security situation in Lebanon, the Fourteenth Beirut Exchange will generally restrict its meetings in and around Beirut, although at least one trip to the North and one trip to the South is planned.


Monday, January 5
9am – Nicholas Noe,
1:30 – Ayman Mhanna, Samir Kassir Foundation
4pm – Omar Nashabe, Consultant for the Defense Counsel at the STL
7pm – Jihad Yazigi, The Syria Report

Tuesday, January 6
9:30am – Karim Makdisi, American University of Beirut
1:30pm – Discussion section
3:30pm – Bashir Saade, Edinburgh University
6pm – Anne Barnard, New York Times
8pm – Nicolas Pouillard, Institut Français du Proche-Orient

Wednesday, January 7
10am – Discussion section
12:30pm – Shadi Karam, Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister
2:15pm – Nick Blanford, Times of London/Daily Star
4pm – Ibrahim Moussawi, Al-Manar TV
5:30 – Liz Sly, Washington Post

Thursday, January 8
9am – Alice Arrue, UNIFIL
10:30am – Angelina Eichhorst, EU Delegation to the Lebanese Republic
11:30am – Ahmed Fatfat, Future Movement
1:30pm – The Special Tribunal for Lebanon Staff
7pm – Abdullah Dardari, United Nations

Friday, January 9
9am – Makram Rabah, Georgetown University
11:30pm – Zizette Darkazally, UNRWA
4:30pm – Sami Gemayel, Kataeb
7pm – Mohammad Obeid, Hizbullah

Saturday, January 10
10:30am – Vincent Battle, Former US Ambassador
12pm – Ali Hamdan, AMAL
4pm – Mustapha Alloush, Future Movement

Sunday, January 11
1:30pm- Trip to the South (“Resistance Museum at Mleeta,” weather permitting)
5pm – Walid Jumblatt, Progressive Socialist Party

Monday, January 12
10am – Rabih Shibley, AUB
1pm – Alain Aoun, Free Patriotic Movement
2pm – Antoine Zahra, Lebanese Forces
3:30pm – Eli Khoury, Saatchi & Saatchi/Quantum
5pm – Hanin Ghaddar, Now Lebanon
8:30 – Dinner @ Muzzienne Restaurant

Tuesday, January 13
9:30am – Ali Qanso, Lebanese Armed Forces General Directorate
11:30am – Mohammad Afif, Hizbullah
1pm – Nadim Houri, Human Rights Watch
2:30pm – May Akl, Free Patriotic Movement
4:30pm – Becharra Rai, Patriarch of the Maronite Church
7pm – Nadim Gemayel, Kateab

Wednesday, January 14
10am – Ali Fayyad, Hizbullah
11:30am – Mohammad Qabbani, Former Sunni Mufti of Lebanon


Tuition – $1800; Partial financial aid is available for those students and individuals that can demonstrate need.

Accommodation – $840; Except for those students already residing in Lebanon, we recommend that all participants in the Exchange reside at the conference hotel during the duration of the 14 day program. The hotel, located near Downtown Beirut, is priced at $60 per person/per night, including all taxes and breakfast, for a shared double room (we will arrange for sharing). Single rooms are available for $110 per night. Note that we will also arrange for less expensive, private housing near to the conference room which will be priced at approximately $40 per person, per night.

Airfare – $400, approximate from the European Union.

At the discretion of the student, tuition is 50% refundable up to three weeks before the program commences. (Airline tickets and accommodation should be purchased with travel insurance.)


Visit our Facebook page and ask alumni questions at:

July 21-July 31, 2015
Application Deadline June 1, 2015
Limited spaces available/Rolling acceptance

As with our other Exchanges, the ten-day program will engage students from around the globe in a multifaceted discussion of some of the key issues facing Tunisia and the wider region. The Tunis Exchange program specifically rests on two tracks this Summer.

Track 1: Academic Seminars. Participants will attend a series of lectures with leading academics and public intellectuals in Tunisia. Topics will include, among others:

– 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);

– Composition, platforms of, and alliances between major parties (including Jebha Chaabia, Nidaa Tounes, Hizb Joumhouri, and Afeq Tounes) with a view toward the next elections;

– State of the Tunisian economy, including regional inequalities, budget transparency and decentralization, etc.;

– 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.

Track 2: Dialogue with Leaders. Participants will have the opportunity to meet, listen and engage leading social, political, religious and economic leaders from across the spectrum in Tunisia.

Speakers at the five previous Tunis Exchanges have included:
Abdelfattah Morou (Ennahda Party)
Rached Ghannouchi (Ennahda Party)
Mehrezia Laabidi (Ennahda Party)
Imed Dehmi (President, Congress for the Republic Party)
Taieb Bakkouche (Secretary General, Nidaa Tounes)
Lazhar Akremi, (Nidaa Tounes)
Hama Hammami (Popular Front)
Meriem Bourbuiba (Former Hizb Joumhouri)
Maya Jribi (Hizb Joumhouri)
Adnen Haji (UGTT, Leader of the 2008 uprising in Redeyef)
Mounir Ajroud (President, Leagues to Protect the Revolution)
Mohamed Belkhouja (President, Reform Front/Salafist Party)
Habib Kazdaghli (Manouba University)
Taieb Ghozi (Imam, Grand Mosque of Kairouan)
Michael Ayari (International Crisis Group)
Ahlem Belhaj (President, Tunisian Association of Democratic Women)
Kamel Laabidi (National Authority for Information and Communication Reform)
Amna Guellali (Director, Human Rights Watch)
Bochra Belhaj Hamidi (Lawyer)
Hamida Ennaifer (Co-founder, Islamic Tendency Movement)
Salaheddine Jourchi (Co-founder, Islamic Tendency Movement)
Youssef Seddik (Philosopher)
Fabio Merone (Researcher, Gerda Hinkel Foundation)
Radwan Masmoudi (Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy)
Amira Yahyaoui (Al-Bawsala)
Sihem Ben Sedrine (Transitional Justice Commission)
Slim Amamou (Blogger, Former Minister)
Yassine Ayari (Blogger, leading figure in the revolution)


UGTT (Tunisian General Labour Union)
Jibha Chaabia (Popular Front)
Ennahda Party
Nidaa Tounes (Call for Tunisia)
Congress for the Republic (CPR)
Leagues to Protect the Revolution
Jibhat al-Islah (a leading Salafist party)
Ettakatol Party
Afeq Tounes Party
Hizb Joumhouri Party (formerly PDP)
Union of Tunisian Journalists
Committee to Protect Journalists
High Authority for Audio-Visual Communication (HAICA)
Nessma TV
Kalimat Radio
Ettounsia Newspaper
Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (Les Femmes Democrates)
Ministry of Women’s Affairs
Human Rights Watch, Tunisia
Ministry of Transitional Justice and Human Rights
Tunisian Observatory for a Democratic Transition
Al-Bawsala (government monitoring NGO)
Tunisian League of Human Rights (LTDH)
Amnesty International, Tunisia
Tunisian Network for Social Economy
Tunisian-American Chamber of Commerce
Tunisian Association of Young Entrepreneurs
Governorates (meeting with governors of Sidi Bouzid, Gafsa and Sfax)
Manouba University
Tunis University
Ministry of Religious Affairs
Ministry of Finance
International Center for Transitional Justice
Tunisian Judges Association
Tunisian Lawyers Association

(To view previous schedules for the Tunis Exchanges, visit
Program Format:
The Tunis Exchange will be held over ten days, mainly at the conference room of The El-Hana International hotel in downtown Tunis. It is recommended that students stay at the hotel since most meetings will take place in the hotel conference room. Off-site meetings during the ten days will entail bus travel as a group in and around Tunis, including to the National Assembly. At least three days of the program will entail travel to other cities and regions in Tunisia for meetings with local activists, intellectuals, academics and political/religious leaders, including in Sidi Bouzid, Gafsa, Redeyef and Sfax.

Tuition – $1300; Partial financial aid is available for those students and individuals that can demonstrate need as well as alumni of our previous programs. All bus travel, transportation from the airport on arrival and other program costs associated with the full 10-day Exchange are included.

Accommodation – $500; Eight nights of the program will be spent in Tunis, while at least two nights will be spent at hotels outside of Tunis. Room rates vary depending on arrangements, but generally fall within the range of $50 per night, per student for a shared double room (breakfast and taxes are included). Alternative accommodation, including in a single room, is available upon request.

Airfare – $350, approximate from the European Union.


About The Exchange Co-Directors:

Monica L. Marks (Istanbul-Ankara & Tunis) is a North Africa analyst, Rhodes Scholar, and visiting fellow at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion. Her work, which focuses primarily on Islamism and institutional reform in Tunisia, has appeared in numerous peer-reviewed academic publications and news outlets including The Guardian, The New York Times, Foreign Policy as well as think tanks such as the Barcelona-based Institute for Integrated Transitions (IFIT), the Carnegie Endowment, and the Brookings Doha Center. A former Fulbright Scholar to Turkey, Ms. Marks returned there to work as an instructor at Istanbul’s Bogazici University in 2013 and again in 2014. Ms. Marks is based, however, in Tunisia, where she has also moonlighted as a freelance journalist for The New York Times and she frequently comments as a Tunisia-based political analyst on programs including BBC, France 24, and NPR. Ms. Marks is a doctoral candidate at St Antony’s College Oxford. Her doctoral research is supported by the European Research Council in conjunction with the Institut de Recherches et d’Etudes sur le Monde Arabe et Musulman (IREMEM) in Aix-en-Provence.

Nicholas Noe (Istanbul-Ankara, Gulf, Tunis & Beirut) is currently a co-editor of the Heinrich Boell Foundation’s journal on the Middle East, Perspectives, the editor of the 2007 book, “Voice of Hezbollah: The Statements of Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah” (Verso), Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief of the Beirut-based news translation service covering the Middle East media and the Co-Director of The Exchange program which now counts almost 400 student alumni from 48 different countries. He regularly provides commentary for Al-Jazeera International, BBC, CNN and several US and European publications and is the author of a White Paper for the Century Foundation entitled: “Re-Imagining the Lebanon Track: Towards a New US Policy.” Mr. Noe’s op-eds on the region have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Foreign Policy Magazine, Asia Times, The National and The National Interest.

Yamen Soukkarieh (Istanbul-Ankara, Gulf, Tunis & Beirut) is the Co-Director of the Beirut Exchange program. Since graduating in 1999 with a Communication Media Degree from the Lebanese American University in Beirut, he has worked as a producer and cameraman for numerous Lebanese and international films, media productions, documentaries and journalists including CNN, Arte and Al Jazeera among others.

Leila Hatoum (Gulf & Beirut) is a media professional with 15 years experience in the field who has worked with prestigious local, regional and international media outlets including Al Arabiya News Channel, The Wall Street Journal, CBS TV and The Daily Star. Ms. Hatoum has also worked for the United Nation’s UNOCHA and UNIFIL. She is a Co-Founding Partner of and a Co-Director of The Exchange program and holds a masters degree in international public law with an emphasis on humanitarian law.


Written by nickbiddlenoe

May 15, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

NYT refers to a Hezbollah advocate who is familiar with its military activities….one of the stranger twists in sourcing

We are all a bit jaded now when it comes to news sourcing…. but this latest iteration in the New York Times is one to remember. Forget that this article has literally been written hundreds of times over the last 40 plus years of the Lebanon-Israel conflict – though no context is provided, no history at all about the actual translation of these pre-emptive media campaigns by the IDF….no mention even of the Dahiye doctrine (if I remember correctly!) and NO context of the international law aspect of this etc….

The main gem we should remember ahead of the next conflict is the response is from a dude who likes hizbullah, who is somehow “familiar” with its military activities (what does familiar with mean!?) and then, the strangest moment in terms of journalistic devices, this guy then magnimoniously refuses to comment on the secret activities of his friends “for operational reasons”… THEN he goes on to be quoted like a spokesperson…. AND THEN he cannot be identified because of HIZBULLAH’s “security policy” – for whom he is… a friend.

Look – if this was Mohammed Afif, the head spokesmen for Hizbullah who has been very open of late but sometimes strangely refusing to be quoted, but talking at least – then this whole bit needs to be restructured, no matter his own preferences…. if it is not mohammad then, how does it pass muster really… and why not quote experts here or MP figures etc who will say the same thing but that the reader can better evaluate?


“…A Hezbollah sympathizer in Lebanon who is familiar with the organization’s military activities said that he would not comment on the movements of forces for operational reasons, but that the group asserted “a continuous right to proceed with any step that may reinforce our defenses for Lebanon and the Lebanese.” The man refused to be identified in accordance with Hezbollah’s security policy.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

May 15, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The reappearance of Future movement’s Okab Sakr

Translated tonight by our From the anti-Future movement Ad-Diyyar.

Interesting take on the forcefulness of Saad Hariri in the recent period, as seemingly “activated” by the Saudis.

The level of public hubris on all sides – including Hizbullah – is simply growing by the day.

“…The sources added that Al-Hariri is not the only one to be at work here since there is also the so-called “Future Shi’is” in an attempt at implying that the attack against Hezbollah is coming from the heart of its nurturing environment… This is perhaps the reason that explains why the “hidden” MP, Okab Sakr, has now re-emerged following a long absence…

Written by nickbiddlenoe

May 11, 2015 at 9:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,531 other followers

%d bloggers like this: