The Mideastwire Blog

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

Celebrating a Decade of The Exchange in MENA: Join Us in Beirut!

* June 21-23, 2019
* @ Crowne Plaza Hamra
* Open to our Alumni as well as non-Alumni

Overview: Friday, June 21, from 7pm-10pm we will kick off with a reception for participants and selected guests – including previous Exchange speakers – on the top floor of the event venue, Crowne Plaza Hamra. Our full day conference starts the next morning at the hotel, Saturday June 22 at 9am and will include sessions led by prominent alumni, politicians and experts on politics in the Middle East & North Africa. On Sunday, June 23, we will embark on buses at 10am for a lunch in Moukhtara and a tour of the Chouf region, returning to Crowne Plaza by 5pm.

Invited Speakers: (NOTE: A full schedule of confirmed speakers will be announced April 1)

* Walid Jumblatt, Former MP, The Progressive Socialist Party

* Alain Aoun, MP, The Free Patriotic Movement

* Yassine Jabber, MP, The Liberation & Development Bloc

* Mustafa Alloush, Former MP, The Future Movement

* Abdallah Dardari, World Bank

* Shadi Karam, Former Senior Adviser to the Prime Minister

* Karim Makdisi, American University of Beirut

* Omar Nashabe, Consultant for Defense Counsel, Special Tribunal for Lebanon

* Ayman Mhanna, Samir Kassir Foundation

* Bashir Saade, Stirling University

Registering: Alumni of the Exchange are invited to request a registration form via The conference fee covering the Friday cocktail event, Saturday’s proceedings and Sunday’s lunch and tour is $299.

Registering: Non-Alumni are invited to request a short application form via The conference fee covering the Friday cocktail event, Saturday’s proceedings and Sunday’s lunch and tour is $399.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

February 20, 2019 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The 12th Tunis Exchange: Meet Key Leaders Across Tunisia

*June 9-June 16, 2019
*Registration Deadline I April 15/Registration II May 15, 2019
*22 slots only/Rolling acceptance

The 12th Tunis Exchange will be held in Association with the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University June 9-16 and will engage participants from around the world 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:

Who Should Register:

— Foreign diplomats;

— NGO practitioners;

— Researchers, analysts and journalists;

— Academics working on the region.

Professional & Academic:

Participants will attend a series of lectures led by prominent academics, analysts and activists from Tunisia and the wider region. Themes 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);

– The composition, platforms of, and alliances between major parties (including Jebha Chaabia, Nidaa Tounes and Afeq Tounes, among others);

– 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.

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.



NOTE: Accepted applicants will receive the full list of confirmed speakers prior to the opening of the Exchange, as well as readings pertinent to the sessions.

Sunday, June 17

7:00pm – Introductions, House Rules & Safety: Nicholas Noe & Monica Marks

8:00pm – Ouiem Chettaoui, USIP & Mohamed Dhia-Hammami, Wesleyan University

Monday, June 18

9:30am – Monica Marks, Oxford University

11:30pm – Lunch

12:30pm – Tarek Kahlaoui, Al-Irada

2:00pm – Moncef Marzouki, Al-Irada

3:00pm – Amine Ghali, Al-Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center

4:00pm – Ahlem Belhaj, Tunisian Association of Democratic Women

5:00pm – Radwan Masmoudi, Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy

6:30pm – Huda Mzioudet, Carnegie Endowment

Tuesday, June 19

9:30am – Stefan Buchmayer, Democratic Control of Armed Forces

11:00am – Nicolas Kaczorowski, International Foundation Electoral Systems

12:30pm – Fadhel Ben Omrane, Nidaa Tounes

2:00pm – Lunch

3:00pm – Houda Slim, Machroua Tounes

4:30pm – Chawki Tabibi & Mohamed Ayadi, INLUCC

6:00pm – Mahmoud Mezoughi, Retired Military Officers Association

Wednesday, June 20

9:30am – Salwa Gantri, International Center for Transitional Justice

10:30am – Chaima Bouhlel, Barr al-Aman

12:00pm – Yamina Thabet, Tunisian Association for Support of Minorities

1:00pm – Robert Blotevogel, International Monetary Fund

3:00pm – Yassine Brahim, Afek Tounes

6:00pm – Yassine Ayari, Independent MP

Thursday, June 21

11:00am – Mohamed Ben Salem & Adil al-Maize, Truth & Dignity Commission

12:45pm – Lunch

2:00pm – Zied Boussen, Jamaity

3:00pm – Rached Ghannoucjhi, Mehrezia Laabidi, Ossama Sghir, Amal Soud

6:00pm – Mouheb Garoui, Co-founder I-Watch

8:00pm – Bus leaves for Sidi Bouzid

Friday, June 22

9:30am – Moncef Hamdouni, The Tunisian Union of Agriculture and Fishing

11:00am – Souha Bouazizi, WeDo NGO

1:00pm – Lunch

3:00pm – Ikram Nsiri, Lingare NGO

5:00pm – Amel Dhafouli, Manich Sekta @ Popular Front HQ

7:00pm – Check in Gafsa

Saturday, June 23

10:00am – Rabeh Ben Othman, Tunisian Forum for Economic & Social Rights

1:00pm – Ayoub Edaoui, An-Nahdha Youth

3:00pm – Myriam Bribri, Activist

6:00pm – Ayman Bouhajeb, Machroua Tunis

8:30pm – Check in Sfax

Sunday, June 24

9:30am – Mekki Jaziri, Nidaa Tounes

11:00am – Abdul Hedi Ben Jemaa, UGTT

2:00pm – Tunis Airport/End Program


Program Format:

The Tunis Exchange will open at the Novotel/IBIS Hotel in downtown Tunis with an orientation and security briefing at 6pm on Sunday, June 9 (the timing may change to accommodate late arrivals). On June 13 at 6pm, the group will travel south for two days of meetings in the interior regions. We will return from the south by 1pm on Sunday, June 16 to Novotel/IBIS and close The Exchange (we therefore recommend booking departure flights after 4pm on Sunday, June 16). In order to promote small group dynamics, the number of participants will be capped at 22. Sessions themselves will be conducted on an individual rather than a panel basis for all speakers and will generally allow ample opportunity for question time (consecutive 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.


Participation Fee  – $950; Note that participation fee discounts are available for participants who wish to attend multiple Exchanges. For more information, please email us here. Furthermore, all our programs are funded on the basis of fees paid by the participants themselves: There is no government, private or non-profit support, an aspect that we believe provides a relatively neutral platform for dialogue and understanding.

Accommodation – A single room at IBIS is available upon request for $70 per night inclusive of all taxes and breakfast. Participants are welcome to arrange for their own housing, although all participants are required to pay $120 for the two nights stay in the south.

Airfare – $300, approximate from the European Union.

About the Co-Directors:

Monica Marks is a Raphael Morrison Dorman Memorial Postdoctoral Fellow, Weatherhead Scholars Program at Harvard University. Her work, which focuses on politics, institutional reform, and Islamist movements in Tunisia and Turkey, has appeared in peer-reviewed books and journals, news outlets including The Guardian, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and The Washington Post, and for think tanks including the Carnegie Endowment, the Brookings Institute, and The Century Foundation.

Daniel Brumberg is associate professor of Government at Georgetown University and acting director of USIP’s Muslim World Initiative in the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, where he focuses on issues of democratization and political reform in the Middle East and wider Islamic world.

Safa Belghith is an International Relations graduate from the Higher Institute of Human Sciences at Al-Manar University where the focus of her research thesis is Media and Politics. She also has a degree in English Linguistics, Literature and Civilization from the University of Manouba. She works as a freelance journalist and research consultant on issues related to Tunisian politics and women’s rights.


Written by nickbiddlenoe

February 20, 2019 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Leila Hatoum Interviews UAE’s Economy Minister, Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori: Tolerance, The Pope’s Visit & Regional Politics

Beirut — In a turbulent region marred by conflicts, civil wars, and uprisings, there is a need to find common grounds to combat radicalism, terrorism and racism which, at any given point, negatively impact countries and their economies. In that context tolerance is a must, if the Arab world wishes to see social, economic and political stability.

That was the key message which United Arab Emirates’s Economy Minister Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori deeply believes in.

Sitting in the lobby of the Phoenicia intercontinental Hotel in Beirut, overlooking clear skies after a heavy storm hit Lebanon and its capital days earlier, Al Mansoori laid out for several elements hindering economic activity and growth in the Arab world, and addressed regional discord from an economic perspective. He also opened up about the Pontifex’s upcoming visit to the UAE, a first of its kind in the history of Arab Gulf nations.

To him, it is “vital to reach common grounds with others in the region and abroad. Building real strong bridges and healthy economic and social ties can only happen when we are truly accepting of one another, wanting to listen to what the other has to say, and coexisting.”

As an economy minister, Al Mansoori’s perspective is always akin to that of someone whose chief concern is how to maintain his country’s economic growth, and promote openness to build healthy ties with new markets from the Far East to Africa and Latin America. “Tolerance helps in supporting economic activity including trade to a large extent. I will give you an example: As a Minister of Economy, I travel a lot and when I talk to people I like to have fruitful discussions with them where I can reach a common point with them, and build bridges,” he says.

During one of his side discussions in South Korea, Al Mansoori discovered that Arabs reached the country as far back as the 8th century, built economic and social ties based on mutual respect and trust, and established trade routes with the Koreans.

Such trade ties would not have been possible had it not been for the fact that both sides opened up to one another and were adamant at reaching common grounds.

Religious tolerance and acceptance can also be beneficial to people from any religion, stresses Al Mansoori.

“Take Halal business and Halal food for example; we have built an economic structure that is based not only on religion when it comes to creating, packaging and selling food that caters to Muslims and those who prefer Halal food worldwide, but is also based on mutual understanding and tolerance of others, as we explain about these products and how others, including non-Muslims can benefit from them too. We also point out that the UAE has a certified center that endorses such products and explain to them how they can be members of such a center.”

The Pope Is Coming

This constant promoting of tolerance over the past few years, leading to announcing 2019 as the “Year of Tolerance” in the UAE, will be crowned on February 5th, with The Pontifex’s visit the country.

Never has any past Pope visited the UAE or any other Arab Gulf country before, despite the presence of hundreds of thousands of Christians who follow the Catholic faith across the GCC, including in the UAE, which has become the melting pot for nearly 200 nationalities from all walks of life, faiths, and cultures.

To Al Mansoori the Pope’s upcoming visit “conveys a positive message to the world that the UAE, the Arab and Muslim worlds are all a region that is accepting of the other, irrespective of differences. At the end of the day religion links us with God and we should not be linking an individual’s act to religion. Some individuals unfortunately commit unacceptable acts that are not part of religion, which reflects negatively against that religion and that shouldn’t be the case.

When it comes to sectarianism, the minister believes that the unawareness of what the other person is creates fear of that person, and fear leads to conflicts. “Once I sit down with that person and we talk, the barriers will fall and we will find common factors and grounds that link us rather than separate us,” he says, further stressing that “tolerance and coexistence lead to economic, political, security and social stability and lift barriers between societies.”

A Hopeful Summit

I have known Al Mansoori for a decade now, and his message could not have come at a better time. Once shattered by a long and devastating civil war, Beirut is hosting the 4th Arab Economic and Social Development Summit (18-20 January) that has seen the absence of more than 90% of the invited Arab leaders, a historic first as well.

Instead, the representation was mostly limited to the level of Foreign, Economy and Finance ministers from across the region, in a clear political message to Lebanon to sort out its stagnant political scene if it wishes to grow economically and socially. The country has been run by a caretaker government for the past 8 months, as political bickering between all parties and sub-factions have rendered the political system stagnant.

This political impasse and bickering, to a large extent, is the fault of leading internal political parties whose decision-making is also tied to regional and international decision makers. The overflow of Syrian refugees from war-torn neighboring Syria, in devastating numbers that were close, at one point, to nearly half the Lebanese population in the country, has – by some estimates – cost Lebanon’s economy more than $11 billion over the past eight years, significantly adding to its economic woes.

Amid all of this, and despite a travel embargo to Lebanon set by the UAE on its citizens since three years, for “security reasons,” as well as Emirati displeasure with what they see as Iran-linked political parties running Lebanon, the Emirati leadership wanted to show that it will not cut ties with this politically divided Mediterranean country.

In this context, Al Mansoori, being the lead federal economic figure in the UAE, was designated to head his country’s delegation to the summit, another message by the UAE that it still supports Lebanon, despite political differences. The presence of Arab Economy ministers at an Arab economic summit, is positive, according to Al Mansoori. Irrespective of the level of representation at the summit, he considers it “successful because it discusses key economic matters, and if they get adopted (by the attendees) then they will be taken into account in upcoming summit that will be held in Tunisia.”

One very important topic that will be adopted on Sunday is “Digital Economy”, says Al Mansoori, and the agenda has other important issues including “new clauses that were added to the greater Arab trade system, which is positive.”

On a different note, the issue of allowing UAE citizens to visit Lebanon was also brought up with the minister who says he wishes that the file gets resolved soon. “I am the economy minister, and I am one of the ministers who push on solving this issue as soon as possible. I hope it is resolved soon.”

Forecasts, (Gexit), reforms and Saudi Arabia

Amid such rapid and turbulent regional and international changes, and an expected global economic slowdown I couldn’t let the minister go without asking him about his forecast for economic growth in 2019, and his take on the new reforms and economic revamp introduced by both Dubai and the UAE.

“By next month we will have the finalized numbers with regard to UAE’s economic growth for 2018, but I expect it that number be around 2.5%, which is a positive and good,” says Al Mansoori. This comes in tow with regional growth at 2% as well, which has itself slowed down over the past year, impacted by regional tension and international changes be it in fluctuating oil prices that have dropped. Though the UAE has vastly diversified its economy away from oil revenues over the past two decades, its oil revenues still account for 30% of its overall economic revenue.

Of course, the EU economic woes and Brexit saga have strained regional growth, as well as the U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic crusade against China and more recently against his own public sector with a government shutdown exceeding a month with no wages that has started to strain the world’s largest economy, and subsequently the world.

Still, the UAE’s economic growth should be stable in 2019, as the country’s newly adopted economic measures kick in, believes the minister, despite saying he expects this year to be a “hard year.”

“The world’s economy will slow down this year, and I hope it wont progress. We remain positive. As for inflation, the minister does not expect it exceed “1.5% to 2% since several sectors have cut down their prices and with that inflation would fall to that number.”

With the introduction of taxes across a number of GCC nations a year ago, and no solid information or promises of not adding future taxes, hundreds of investors and thousands of workers have exited the region looking for cheaper production and cost of living elsewhere, or sent their families back to their countries due to rising living expenses. In the wake of such a migration outwards, the UAE was quick to take measures to ensure its attractiveness to investors.

Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was quick to establish a work plan to revamping and restructuring Dubai’s existing vision of positioning the emirate as a main logistics hub in terms of maritime, air and land transport. The new work plan included new products and services, new trade routes, as well as maximizing existing routs and tying them to the Silk Road and China belt projects.

The minister said both Dubai and the UAE are further cementing ties with India, which is growing at an impressive 7% rate annually, as well as enhancing UAE’s position in terms of cooperating with its neighbors in the GCC, Iraq and Lebanon, which allows it to maintain and grow its “strategic and geographic dimensions in the region and elsewhere.” Supporting innovation which the UAE wants to adopt cross-board from “education, research and training” is expected to “contribute up to 5% of UAE’s GDP by 2021.”

When asked about the UAE turning into a hub servicing Saudi Arabia’s economic growth and projects, the minister was quick to smile and say they were “proud to be a contributing party in terms of the development and growth of the whole region, and not only Saudi Arabia.” Both countries have established a joint council that oversees economic, political and security ties. The minister had attended a meeting the day before he flew in to Beirut and revealed that there were up to 175 initiatives that were discussed that day, including 44 initiatives that are considered top priority, including land customs, civil aviation, and security.

“Frankly it is one of the top cooperation councils among the Arab nations, and hopefully others will follow suite,” he says, adding that GCC states “are currently just like the Benelux countries and our nucleus hopefully will set pace for a larger and wider cooperation in the region and reflect positively on other countries.”

Iran & Qatar

On a regional level, the situation with Iran and its undying conflict with the GCC, as well as the US sanctions on Tehran have dented the trade that once stood between both countries on either side of the Gulf waters. “There was an impact to a certain extent on the UAE and Dubai because of the trade we have, and in that sense we are also looking for an alternative. Trade with Iran declined significantly two years ago, but it stabilized after that because the embargoed products have been set for some time now. We are talking about a decline of over $12 billion at one point. Iran is also looking for other markets for its products.”

When asked about the discourse with Doha and Iran and how it was impacting the GCC Al Mansoori indirectly hinted at hidden agendas played.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain fell out with Qatar three years back with the former accusing Doha of funding and supporting terrorism —namely harboring Muslim Brotherhood members, an organization that is on the GCC terror list to which Doha is a party. They further accuse it of having an agenda that is adamant on destabilizing not only the GCC, but other Arab countries —accusations which Qatar vehemently denies.

“The UAE wishes for peace and stability in the region where there is no agenda to destabilize it. Security is a key factor because economy and stability rely on it. We do not agree with some countries whose agendas work against such principles and have a different path.” Still Al Mansoori believes the GCC as “the most successful Arab module on cooperation.”

By Leila Hatoum, co-founder Sarl


Written by nickbiddlenoe

January 19, 2019 at 8:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Saga Continues: Nicholas Noe Responds to Schenker, Hokayem

It was almost exactly 9 years ago when David Schenker (unknowingly) revealed how he lied in regards to one of my NY Times op-eds on the Lebanese Army: “…One year and half on from that episode – which, it should be said, was followed by more responsible and helpful criticism from Emile Hokayem and Andrew Exum – Schenker seems to have finally come clean, acknowledging frankly in what I and countless others had long argued: essentially, that the US refuses to alter Israel’s QME vis-à-vis Lebanon – and, therefore, ultimately refuses a credible exploration of how such an alteration, along with others steps, might underpin a peaceful strategy of integrating Hizbullah under the authority of a truly democratic state in Lebanon. (For those interested in the subject, I would suggest reading the 2009 enacted legislation that finally enshrines Israel’s QME into law).

“While U.S. taxpayer generosity, currently slated at over $100 million this year, will enhance LAF domestic counterterrorism capabilities,” Schenker wrote recently, “it is not meant–and will never be meant–to help Lebanon deter or defend against Israeli strikes.”

In July 2008, however, Schenker wrote on MESH: “Washington has fully backed the LAF…contrary to Noe’s assertion.”

“This and subsequent assistance,” he continued, “has not been subject to Israeli veto, but rather is based on a careful assessment of LAF operational requirements carried out by the United States and France…” Read on at the link below.

Qifa Nabki

Nicholas Noe sent me this commentary to publish at QN; it’s a response to the debate about U.S. military funding for the Lebanese Army that we’ve hosted here over the past week. In other news, check out a preview of Jesse Aizenstat’s book on surfing in southern Lebanon. Also, the new Arab Reform Bulletin is out.

I’m off to beloved Beirut this afternoon, for a week. I will try to post between bites.


(Commentary for Qifa Nabki by Nicholas Noe, editor-in-chief of

In July 2008, David Schenker posted a piece on Harvard’s MESH website that said: “The debate regarding U.S. support for the LAF has been fuelled by a contentious and factually inaccurate op-ed in the New York Times written by Nicholas Noe in mid-June. [As a result of] his article, “A Fair Fight for the Lebanese Army… No doubt, the Times received a flood of…

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Written by nickbiddlenoe

January 3, 2019 at 9:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED: US Ambassador to Yemen met Houthis at peace conference, mingled informally with delegation members

Translated in today’s Daily Briefing by our

On December 13, the Saudi-owned London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper carried the following report from Stockholm by its correspondent Badr al-Qahtani: “US Ambassador in Yemen Matthew Tueller looked exhausted. But as soon as he took his seat in the lobby of a hotel in the heart of the Swedish capital Stockholm, his smile returned… On the fifth day of the consultations [between the Yemeni sides], Asharq al-Awsat took 25 minutes of the busy ambassador’s time to ask: … What do you think about the consultations? Are you optimistic? Tueller assured that “diplomacy has succeeded, as revealed by the fact that the UN envoy was able to gather both sides here, get them to meet and talk to each other, and engage in discussions… Yet, the tensions are persisting because there is mistrust between the parties…”

“Tueller concluded his answer by saying regarding the post-Sweden stage: “Are we about to reach an agreement that will be violated by one of the parties as soon as it is signed? When the consultations in Sweden are completed, all the sides will return to their positions and start implementing what was agreed on. We hope that both teams will come back after several weeks and achieve further progress.” He was then asked: “You have always wondered whether or not the Houthis have matured politically. What do you think?” He replied: “We will see the extent to which they will commit to the implementation of the agreements signed here. Political maturity is usually reflected by such commitments, which also feature opportunities.” Asharq al-Awsat then asked the ambassador about his meeting with the members of the Houthi group.

“He said: “We held an official meeting between the ambassadors and a group that included a member of the Houthi delegation.” But in regard to whether or not he held a direct meeting with the Houthis…, he replied: “In my own way, I held contacts with some members of the Houthi team… Any meeting I hold is an official one, because I am the American ambassador in Yemen 24/7,” adding: “In reality, I would like to commend the wonderful accommodation arrangements provided to both sides, which gave them an opportunity to mingle in an unofficial fashion, and far away from any pressures…””

Written by nickbiddlenoe

December 14, 2018 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Yossi Beilin’s selective memory on the 1996 Grapes of Wrath War and April Understanding

Yossi Beilin gets a few facts wrong in his piece here in regards to the 1996 April Understanding, a crucial agreement that Nasrallah constantly refers to: 1) PM Perez was the one who “heated up” the North by deciding to go to what became a mini-war with Hezbollah after limited “retaliatory” action by both sides, and mistaken strikes acknowledged by Israel that killed civilians and one 14 year old boy in the occupation zone. There are strong arguments that Peres thought it would help his chances in the fast approaching election (which he then lost to Bibi after the war ended disastrously for Israel). As I wrote in my 2007 book of Nasrallah’s speeches and interviews: Although the sequence of causality and blame is difficult to reconstruct, US peace negotiator Dennis Ross, in his post mortem, The Missing Peace, acknowledges that Israeli fire into civilian areas of Lebanon served as the catalyst for the first Hezbollah rocket fire into Northern Israel.

2) Yossi doesn’t mention the secret side letter between the US and Israel that completely undermined the written, public agreement (see below)

3) Yossi knows that the 109 reports of the monitoring committee were indeed made public – in fact this was an important aspect and one reason why the ILMG worked in my view. It is an aspect that the current Tripartite Committee under UNSCR 1701 should take up. Strange that he makes the opposite point.

His piece:

Some more on the The April Understanding, April 30, 1996, from our “Voice of Hezbollah” book (Verso, 2007)

Buffered by a joint Israeli-Syrian willingness to finally negotiate, the verbal Understanding of 1993 generally held in Lebanon to the extent that the country did not again incur another massive attack by Israel. However, as Hezbollah operations against Israeli forces within the “security zone” intensified in March 1996, perhaps as a means of signifying Syrian President Hafez Assad’s dismay over the US-led Sharm El Sheik anti-terrorism conference of that month (which he was not invited to and which he had refused to attend), the always tenuous verbal terms of 1993 quickly began to unravel as Israel sought to retaliate widely both inside and outside of the “security zone.” Although the sequence of causality and blame is difficult to reconstruct in the absence of a written document, US peace negotiator Dennis Ross, in his post mortem, The Missing Peace, acknowledges that Israeli fire into civilian areas of Lebanon served as the catalyst for the first Hezbollah rocket fire into Northern Israel. He reiterates his particular understanding, however, that the terms of the 1993 agreement permitted such Israeli action and that Hezbollah, in any event, had begun to “show far less concern than previously about [actually] shooting [rather than merely staging attacks] from Lebanese civilian areas.”

Israel’s “Grapes of Wrath campaign that followed started on April 11, and ended 16 days later with 165 Lebanese civilians killed, 401 wounded and widespread damage to civilian infrastructure including highways, bridges and electrical stations. Although there were far fewer refugees than in 1993, the Israeli shelling – deliberate or not – of a UN compound at Qana on April 18 that killed 98 Lebanese villagers dealt a similarly powerful moral blow to Peres’s claim to be merely trying to end “Hezbollah terror.” More of a blow than Qana, however, was the fact that Peres and the Israel Defense Force (IDF) were forced to recognize that its enemy was simply not going to run out of Katyusha rockets, contrary to earlier, widely incorrect assessments. In other words, if the IDF campaign continued without a large-scale, sustained ground operation, the attacks within Israel might continue all the way up to the Israeli elections in late May.

Given all this, the US was forced to change its course from supporting Israel’s campaign to intervening in the hopes of achieving a cease-fire that might simultaneously end the carnage and bolster Peres’s increasingly precarious position well before voting actually started (a Labor victory was seen as vital by the Clinton administration for moving the peace process forward).

Apparently undeterred by its weakened bargaining position however, the initial US proposal sought to end attacks on civilians but also, according to Hala Jabber, “called for Hezbollah to be disarmed and for an end to its resistance against Israeli troops in the security zone. Provided no attacks took place for nine months, Israel would then commence discussions on a military withdrawal from Lebanon [emphasis added].”

The maximalist US proposal was roundly rejected by the Lebanese government, Hezbollah and Syria. Instead, the dynamics of the situation which had turned so strongly against the US and Israel shortly promulgated a far different, written agreement – “The April Understanding” – promoted by the French. Most significantly, the Understanding 1) affirmed the legitimacy of violent operations in Lebanon 2) greatly restricted attacks on Lebanese civilians by the Israelis, and 3) placed a modest prohibition on Hezbollah rocket attacks launched, though not staged, directly from civilian areas.

In a surprising turn, however US Secretary of State Warren Christopher immediately undermined the agreed upon language by sending a “side letter” to Peres which read: “The United States understands that the [latter] prohibition refers not only to the firing of weapons, but also to the use of these areas by armed groups as bases from which to carry out attacks.” Of course, a new debate over what constituted a “base” might have been joined, and Nasrallah was certainly well prepared for such a legalistic discussion, but the damage had already been done: Israel had language which the parties had not agreed upon that gave it a far freer hand in the future to again fire into civilian areas.

That said, the Understanding itself still stands as a remarkable document in the history of US foreign policy. Having designated Hezbollah by name as an enemy of the peace process by Executive Order in 1995, the Clinton administration now recognized, though not in name, the intrinsic right for Hezbollah to carry out attacks within Lebanon, irregardless of any preconditions or the immediate needs of the peace process.

For Hezbollah, as Nasrallah makes clear in the interview below with As Safir, this obviously represented a crucial victory. Equally important, as Jabber explains, “Prior to ‘Operation Accountability,’ the Lebanese government had disputed the merits of the Islamic resistance. The Lebanese public had also voiced criticisms of Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel’s northern border and the government had deployed the army in the South in an attempt to disarm and control the guerrillas. In the wake of ‘Operation Grapes of Wrath,’ Lebanon was prepared to defend Hezbollah’s right to exist before the world.”

Of course, the entire episode and even the Understanding itself also exposed a continuing vulnerability for the Party – mainly in terms of the pain which its operations were acknowledged as having wrought for many Lebanese and Lebanese Shiites exposed to Israel’s massive attacks. Hezbollah was therefore, in a sense, weaker after Grapes of Wrath since it now had to even more carefully calibrate its future operations according to the far clearer terms of a public document. Irresponsibly causing widespread dislocation would, in the future, be a far easier charge to level, all the more so since Israel would occasionally single out Christian and Druze infrastructure (like electricity plants) for attack as a means of dividing Lebanon against the Shiites.

Indeed, although the Party, supported, in part, by funding from Iran, made a point of rebuilding the homes destroyed by Israel, such efforts did not prevent then Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who at least one report said had been privately dismayed by Hezbollah’s willingness to wager the country’s reconstruction, from calling the parliamentary elections which followed in the fall of 1996 a battle between “moderation” and “extremism” – a dichotomy which Nasrallah goes to some length to reject.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 7, 2018 at 9:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Saudi Tweeter Mujtahid: MBS threatened Trump with disclosure over Trump Foundation donation “offers” pre & post-election

Excerpted from our Daily Briefing today (for a free trial, email “On October 19, 20, and 21, Saudi activist Mujtahid posted the following tweets on the developments of the Khashoggi case: “Contrary to his usual self, Bin Salman has left his yacht and spent the past few days at his palace in Al-Riyadh perhaps in fear of a potential family coup against him. He also intensified the surveillance on the rest of the princes especially those whom he believes might initiate an action or work with external sides. Contrary to what Reuters mentioned quoting a source, he is in full control of the situation and none of his powers have changed.

“Some princes had tried to meet with the king but Mohammad didn’t let them. They also did not manage to organize a large meeting between them in fear of arrest. They are thus meeting sporadically and in small numbers. Funny enough, these small meetings are taking place under heavy security measures and they are making every effort to remain concealed by driving around in old cars, without cell phones and wearing worn out clothes.

“Bin Salman is also living through a different fear represented by the Blackwater mercenaries turning against him or arresting him and handing him over to the family’s new leadership, which will be nominated by the western governments. His concern over the family conspiring against him, the western pressure and the Blackwater coup has caused him to become extremely tense and to double the dose [of substance] he is addicted to.

“On the other hand, the members of Bin Salman’s close entourage are living in fear as they realized that the man is willing to sacrifice the murderers who serve him for the sake of protecting himself and as they saw that he expressed his desire to liquidate some princes to prevent America and Europe from endorsing them especially Bin Nayef… It has been noticed that Saud al-Qahtani has not attended to his office since October 9 and that he stopped posting tweets. Someone else was appointed to tweet instead. His real role in what happened has not been elucidated yet. However, the certain part is that the man hated Khashoggi and that two of the killers were close to him. He also passed by Turkey as a regular traveller at the same time of the incident and using a different passport.

“Saud al-Qahtani clearly indicated, here through Twitter, that he only acts under the directions of Mohammad Bin Salman. If Bin Salman is pinning the responsibility of Khashoggi’s murder on him, he has to admit that he has appointed him to this task. Publish the following tweet [by Qahtani] in every language: “Do you think I act on my own without directions? I am an employee and a loyal implementer of my master’s orders, the king, and His Highness my master, the crown prince.”

“Now, finding the body is easy: As long as Bin Salman confessed that the eighteen [individuals] are responsible for Khashoggi’s slaying, they are supposed to confess immediately about the location of the body. The Turks first and the international media second must immediately ask the Saudi authorities to indicate the body’s location to them based on the eighteen individuals’ confession.

“What is being said about Trump’s objective in supporting Bin Salman’s story being to milk Saudi Arabia is not true. The objective is for Trump to save himself from a scandal that Bin Salman has threatened him with if he fails to rescue him from this predicament. The threat consists of leaking the details of what Bin Salman offered to the Trump foundation before and after the elections…

“The official statement on Khashoggi came following the request of the US Secretary of State, Pompeo, when he visited Saudi Arabia and met with Bin Salman alone. He thus explained to him the danger of a full denial [of the crime] and the need to make a partial confession while pinning the responsibility on a prominent officer of the intelligence services. The coordination between Trump and Bin Salman proceeded after that and Trump announced that he believes the story.

“As for the reason why Al-Assiri and Al-Qahtani’s have been specifically pinpointed, that’s because their names have been mentioned by the American press, the former in the context of the responsibility for the operation and the latter because it is impossible for Bin Salman to work without involving him. People close to Bin Salman say that he is planning on sacrificing Al-Assiri but he will not sacrifice Saud, his friend and someone he cannot do without.

“Now that Trump failed to promote this lie to the world or even to the American media following his failed attempt at supporting its credibility, he sent a message to Bin Salman asking him to cooperate in determining the body’s location and to reveal the names of other [implicated] people and details to push the suspicions away from him and before any Turkish information is released that will completely torpedo the Saudi statement.

“Referring the official statement on Khashoggi to the Attorney General, Al-Mo’jab, was a miserable and retarded attempt at bestowing a legal quality to it knowing that the Attorney General did not write a single letter since the statement was prepared by public relations experts. The Attorney General might have actually only seen the statement in the media. The same goes for anything that has ever been referred to the Attorney General in the past.

“The Attorney General Abdullah al-Mo’jab and his deputy, Shalaan al-Shalaan have been selected in light of their corrupt history and so that they may act like slaves to the orders of the House of Saud. The same goes for the officials at the justice, judiciary, the ministry of Islamic affairs, the Islamic World League, and the rest of religious and judiciary posts.”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

October 22, 2018 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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