The Mideastwire Blog

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

Tunis attacks likely signal “Southern Strategy” push designed to fracture country

ON TUNIS: It seems increasingly likely that ISIS and Al-Qaeda, possibly in consort or separately are pursuing a “Southern Strategy” – with today’s attack but one tactic in this push. The idea is to fracture off the interior/border and southern areas – which already have multiple conflicts/grievances/fault lines – from the coastal/capital parts of Tunisia. The security sector response will be awful and inefficient – and could lead to what some of us hoped was unthinkable but which has always been there. That is, widescale repression, possibly even with Nahda targeted a la Egyptian dynamics.
A very bad day in Tunis with more bad days likely to come.
My piece on this a few weeks ago for Newsweek.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 24, 2015 at 7:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Reports of Russian mediated ceasefire outside of Damscus

According to the BBC:

“Syrian pro-government social media, as well as a number of activists have reported a “15-day ceasefire” to begin on 19 November in Al-Ghutah al-Sharqiyyah, on the eastern edge of Damascus, which has been under siege by government forces since late 2013.

The agreement, which has not been officially announced by any of the warring parties, includes the “suspension of all military operations for 15 days, in tandem with the opening of closed entrances between the city of Damascus and Al-Ghutah al-Sharqiyyah, under the auspices of Russia”, according to Enab Baladi, a Syrian opposition newspaper based in Turkey.

Al-Ghutah al-Sharqiyyah is the stronghold of a key Islamist armed opposition, Jaysh al-Islam (The Army of Islam), led by Zahran Allush.

The newspaper added that the proposed ceasefire followed the Vienna agreement on 14 November for implementing a ceasefire and initiating talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups.

The Facebook page of Dimashq al-Aan (Damascus Now), loyal to the Syrian government, quoted unidentified opposition sources from the province of Damascus Countryside as saying that opposition factions “demanded the [Syrian] army enforce a ceasefire in all parts of Al-Ghutah al-Sharqiyyah tomorrow [19 November] for 15 days starting from 0600 [local time, 0400 gmt]”.

It said that the army “conditionally accepted the request”.

The page added in another post that a Russian delegation “had entered Al-Ghutah al-Sharqiyyah last week, and met a number of the militias’ leaders”.

The page then quoted the minister of national reconciliation as saying that “we are against the term ceasefire, because it means equal and recognized bodies – which is incorrect. The correct thing is that there is an army that is fighting groups and armed factions”.

Meanwhile, media activists Yasir al-Dumani (3,835 followers) wrote on his Facebook page: “Alert: Al-Ghutah al-Sharqiyyah’s factions have agreed on a ceasefire with the [Syrian President Bashar] al-Asad regime starting as of tomorrow morning [19 November] for 15 days as a test period.”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 21, 2015 at 11:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Frm Amb. Ford finally gets it: The Russian+Iranian position was existential in 2011+now; how did these guys mis-read dynamics so badly?

From a recent piece – we need a book length study on how so many mis read the Syrian situation so badly in 2011 and later. Also Andrew Tabler finally starts to see that he was wrong and “scratches his head:”

“…With regard to Vienna, let’s be honest,” former US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told a Middle East Institute conference Nov. 13. “The fundamental differences between outside players have not been resolved.

“I have seen no indication the Russians have moved an inch,” Ford said. “Everything they have said in 2015, I heard them say in 2011 and 2012. Same with the Iranians. If anything, the Iranians have ratcheted up a notch.”

For the political process to succeed, the parties have to “come to the table to make serious compromises,” Ford said. “I see no sign of compromise. Within Syria itself, I see nothing from the Syrian regime that it is prepared to compromise.”

“I don’t know how you would achieve what is outlined there, achieve a transition, changes of a constitution,” and plans for new elections, “unless the Iranians and the Russians turn the wrenches on the regime,” Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Al-Monitor in an interview Nov. 16.

“I am scratching my head about this as well,” Tabler said. “I think this is another example of when Kerry says, ‘The price of failure necessitates progress.’”

Read more:

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 21, 2015 at 11:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

South Korean Intel arrests 10 Koreans for contact with ISIS

Report by South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo website on November 19:

Ten Koreans have tried to contact the Islamic State militant group [IS, formerly known as ISIS, ISIL] because they support the Middle Eastern terror group, the National Intelligence Service [NIS] said Wednesday [18 November].

The revelation came at a National Assembly hearing on the terror threat to Korea following last week’s terror attacks in Paris.

According to the NIS, the 10 went beyond simply expressing their enthusiasm online but attempted to get in touch with the Islamist group. Authorities plan to slap travel bans on them should they attempt to join ISIS in the Middle East.

The intelligence agency recently nabbed two Koreans for attempting to travel to the Middle East to join ISIS and identified four foreign followers.

“A growing number of people in Korea are showing an interest in ISIS and there has been an increase in Muslim workers coming to the country,” an NIS official said. “This raises the risks of terror activities by ISIS in Korea.”

ISIS recently included Korea on a list of 62 target nations it accuses of being part of a modern “crusader alliance.”

There are no laws in Korea that give authorities the right to prosecute individuals for simply supporting ISIS beliefs. “Our hands are tied when it comes to dealing with potential threats,” a government official said.

An NIS official lamented limitations in monitoring the electronic and financial activities of individuals due to privacy issues.

A court warrant is necessary to monitor emails or other online exchanges with ISIS, but such warrants are not issued without concrete evidence, such as purchase records showing intent to produce explosive devices.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 20, 2015 at 11:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED: Report says conflict escalating between UAE and Turkey

Translated today in our Daily Briefing (for a free trial email

On November 20, the Qatari-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following report by its correspondent in Istanbul Ismail Jamal: “The Emirati media outlets, particularly those funded by the Abu Dhabi government, intensified their attack on Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at a time when Turkish news outlets accused the Emirates of planning an attack on the Turkish embassy in Libya. This marked a new episode in the escalating series of disputes between the two countries, which is generating fear of seeing the media war turning into a greater diplomatic crisis. The disputes between the two countries had clearly surfaced following the coup staged by current Egyptian President Abdul Fattah es-Sisi against deposed President Mohammad Morsi, and the accusations made to President Erdogan by the UAE, which strongly supported Es-Sisi, of interfering in Egyptian internal affairs…

“After a period of calm, the Emirati media outlets reopened fire at Erdogan in their coverage of the November parliamentary elections that were won by the ruling Justice and Development Party, and accused him of being a “dictator.” Hence the Emirati-funded and Dubai-based Sky News satellite channel covered the elections under the headline “The democracy of the dictator,” in reference to Erdogan who had won the 2014 presidential elections. Moreover, Emirati media outlets are constantly accusing Turkey of providing the Islamic State organization (ISIL) with weapons and allowing the entry of foreign fighters through its territories, despite the Turkish government’s repeated denial of these accusations, and are talking about “the violations of human rights and the freedom of the press in Turkey.” But a few days ago, Turkish media outlets also attacked the UAE, after its official news agency WAM carried “distorted” statements of the Turkish president.

“Major Turkish papers thus wrote under the headline “Hideous defamation of Erdogan by the Emirati news agency,” that the agency distorted statements by Erdogan and claimed he said after the Russian plane crash in Sinai: “It is natural for ISIL to down the Russian plane because Moscow is attacking it in Syria.” However, the more dangerous accusation was seen in an article by a Turkish writer close to the government, as Turkish journalist Ismail Yasa launched a fierce attack on Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed, saying that what he referred to as being an “Emirati spy” was caught in Libya, and revealed that Abu Dhabi had planned the detonation of the Turkish embassy in Tripoli and was supporting the Islamic State organization (ISIL). The author of the article, which was carried by the Turkish Dirilis Postasi, then went on to describe the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince as a being a “spoiled child.”

“He also assured that the available information following the arrest of the Emirati national in Libya revealed that “Abu Dhabi was planning to detonate the Turkish embassy in Libya, or carry out a major terrorist attack against it, and was involved in the attack on the Turkish consulate in Misuratah…” For his part, Turkish political analyst Oktay Yilmaz assured that the UAE’s negative position towards Turkey was not new and started upon the eruption of the Arab spring revolutions, particularly in Egypt… He indicated in exclusive statements to Al-Quds al-Arabi that there was “no direct problem between Turkey and the UAE. We can even say that the problem is unilateral. The UAE saw that Turkey was supporting the popular demands, which bothered it since it is leading the states oppressing those calling for freedom…”

“He continued that in case “the UAE upholds this approach, this could have negative repercussions on the diplomatic ties between the two countries,” calling on the Saudi command to “offer advice to the UAR to stop provoking Turkey, so that the relations do not reach the point of total severance…””

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 20, 2015 at 10:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED: Velayati, Khamenei’s chief advisor, says opposition was only 200 meters from Bashar’s house

Translated in today’s Daily Briefing (for a free trial email

On November 19, the As-Safir daily newspaper carried the following interview with Ali Akbar Velayati, the advisor to Sayed Ali Khamenei:

“…Q. Has the regime in Syria been rescued?

“A. The position of President Bashar al-Assad is now stronger than any time in the past. This position is also improving. At one point in time, the armed opposition was progressing in Damascus and had reached a distance of 200 to 300 meters away from the office of the president. Where is this opposition now…?”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 19, 2015 at 11:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED: Beirut bombings said to help restore relations between Hamas & Hezbollah

Translated tonight in our Daily Briefing (for a free trial email

On November 18, the independent, leftist As-Safir daily carried the following report by Qassem Kassir: “Clearly, one of the main objectives of the two Borj al-Barajneh bombings consisted of stirring sedition between the people of the Southern Suburbs and the Palestinians mainly the people of the Borj al-Barajneh camp. The fact that ISIL rushed into publishing two fake Palestinian nationals’ names as part of the suicide bombers was part of the sedition-stirring plan. But contrary to ISIL’s plans, these two bombings restored the heat to all the communication lines between the Lebanese and Palestinian leaderships mainly the Hamas movement and Hezbollah knowing that the relationship between the two parties had gone through a phase of being frozen as per sources that are well-informed about the relationship between the two sides.

“The head of the Hamas politburo, Khaled Mashal and his deputy, Ismail Haniyeh, quickly contacted the Hezbollah Secretary General, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, in order to offer their condolences for the martyrs of the two bombings. The Palestinian leaderships also revealed the real pieces of information concerning the names of the two Palestinians that ISIL claimed were involved in the two bombings. The Palestinian leaderships fully cooperated with the Lebanese security services in order to uncover all the information pertaining to the two bombings…

“The condolences telegram send by the leadership of the “Ezzeddine al-Qassam Factions” to Nasrallah constituted a strong message to highlight the good relationship between the two sides. The telegram indicated that the “last incident” constituted a “renewal of the declaration of stability on the road of the jihad project and loyalty to the Resistance on Martyr Day…”

“The informed sources about the relationship between Hezbollah and the Hamas movement indicated that this relationship had gone through a state of freeze and coldness since last Ramadan over some statements allegedly made by the member of the movement’s politburo, Dr. Moussa Abou Marzouq, who criticized the politics of Iran and Hezbollah over the Palestinian file and the regional situation.

“In the past two months, there were several attempts at dealing with the state of estrangement. However, it seems that the two bombings of Borj al-Barajneh helped to deal with the coldness through the extensive phone calls and meetings that occurred between the two sides over the past few days and also through the strong sympathy expressed by the Palestinian people on the one hand and the people of the Southern Suburbs and Hezbollah on the other hand. The sources indicated that the Borj al-Barajneh bombings have thus achieved a counter effect. Instead of leading to sedition between the Palestinians and the people of the Southern Suburbs, they actually restored the heat to the relationship between Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 19, 2015 at 2:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized


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