The Mideastwire Blog

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

My NYT Op Ed from the last time Hariri visited DC

My New York Times Op-Ed from six and a half years ago…. when Saad Hariri was last in Washington as PM (he visits in the coming days). Then he was arguing essentially against Hezbollah. Now he is more of an ally with Hezbollah than ever and he will be going to D.C. trying to shield all Lebanon from ill advised sanctions… all while Hezbollah is leading the charge against Al-Qaeda. How times have changed, in some ways. 
“…That a small-time figure known for his political horse-trading would spurn a superpower’s attempt to retain his vote for its man provides an exclamation point on just how poorly Washington’s policy of “maximalism” — applying sporadic bouts of pressure on its allies while refusing to sincerely negotiate with its adversaries — has fared in Lebanon and the Middle East as a whole. The Obama administration is going to need a very different approach when it comes to dealing with the “new” Lebanon….”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

July 22, 2017 at 5:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED: On Qatar’s “admission” it was forced to join Yemen war: “The Yemenis alone have the right to forgive Qatar”

From today’s Daily Briefing (for a free trial email

On July 19, Khaled al-Jayoussi wrote the following piece in the electronic Rai al-Youm daily: “The statements made by the Qatari Minister of Defense, Khalid al-Attiyah, during an interview with the Turkish TRT channel, were quite interesting as he said that his country was “forced” to participate at the Arab alliance in Yemen and that Doha was against this alliance since the beginning or, literally “against the Al-Hazm storm, which we believe has killed and displaced our brothers, the people of Yemen.”

“We believe that these unprecedented statements by the Qatari minister of defence come too late and they fall in the context of the adversity and boycotting between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain on one hand, and Qatar on the other hand. These [statements] represent an honest but late acknowledgment of the barbaric nature of this alliance and storm. This is also perhaps a justification and an indirect apology for the Qatari participation. We say that this is a justification because when one wishes to justify one’s participation in a crime, one always refers to the forced circumstances…

“The Yemenis alone have the right to forgive Qatar for its interference in their country and for raiding the innocent, unarmed civilians. We don’t know if Doha was also “forced” to engage and intervene in Syria. The former Qatari PM had said that there were “asked” to intervene at the advanced rows and that there then told to let go of that role… Stepping away from a mistake is a virtue. We believe that the adversity with Saudi Arabia will push Qatar to more than just say that it was forced to participate in the Al-Hazm Storm and we don’t know what the next days will reveal to us in terms of scandals…

“The statements of Minister Al-Attiyah were probably shocking and unexpected for Saudi Arabia and its alliance that is currently boycotting Qatar… In response to those Qatari statements on the Yemeni war, the leadership of the alliance will perhaps acquit itself [from these statements] and perhaps even question the independence and sovereignty of Qatar…

“The era of the “firmness” [Al-Hazm] is ending and that of “slander and defamation” is starting. We don’t know if any good will come out of that except for expanding the Arab differences and keeping the nation busy with issues other than the fateful causes. Perhaps, amidst all these developments, Qatar could have condemned the escalation in Al-Aqsa and the Saudi monarch could have opened his gates, as it has been said, to anyone who can comfort the oppressed sheikh, and anyone who could console the Jerusalem girl…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

July 20, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The First Erbil Exchange Closes: Meetings With KRG Foreign Minister, Peshmerga Leaders, Opposition Deputies, KDP Bloc Leader, PUK Deputy And PDKI General Secretary

Our First Erbil Exchange has now closed! Many thanks to our more than 40 speakers over six and a half days, 25 participants from 14 different countries representing academia, the media and government, as well as our co-directors Monica Marks, Arthur Quesnay and Robin Beaumont. We will formally announce our second program in Kurdistan/Northern Iraq shortly, but likely Sunday, October 29-Sunday November 5 with time spent in both Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. Join us Post-Referendum! For more information, or to register, email
Sunday, July 9
6:00 PM Opening Introductions, Schedule & Security Briefing
8:00 PM Framework Comments by Monica Marks, Oxford University & Nicholas Noe,
Monday, July 10
9:30 AM Arthur Quesnay, Panthéon-Sorbonne, & Robin Beaumont, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales
2:00 PM Maria Fantappie, International Crisis Group
4:00 PM Belkis Wille, Human Rights Watch
5:30 PM Patrick Cockburn, The Independent
6:30 PM Scott Bohlinger, The International NGO Safety Network
Tuesday, July 11
9:30 AM Wladimir van Wilgenburg, Journalist
11:30 AM Muhammed Ihsan, Ex Minister of Disputed Territories & President, Erbil University
2:30 PM Hemin Hawrami, Senior Advisor to the President
4:00 PM Aram Qaradakhy, Journalist
6:00 PM Kamal Chomani, Political Analyst
Wednesday, July 12
8:00 AM Jabar Yawar, General Secretary, Ministry of Peshmerga
9:30 AM Choman Hardi, The American University of Iraq Sulaimani
11:00 AM Arthur Quesnay, Panthéon-Sorbonne
12:15 PM Sarbast Lazgin Senory, Deputy Minister of Peshmerga and Deputy Interior Minister
4:00 PM Hakim Khaldi, Doctors Without Borders
6:00 PM Dr, Mohammad Orfin, Ninevah Voluntary for IDP
Thursday, July 13
9:30 AM Hemin Baban, Journalist
11:30 PM Group Discussion
2:15 PM Amar al-Kaya, Special Advisor to Ibrahim al Jafari
4:00 PM Arthur Quesnay, Panthéon-Sorbonne
6:00 PM Khaled Chwani, MP, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Friday, July14
8:30 AM Gevara Zaya, Assyrian Democratic Movement Military Wing Coordinator, Ninevah Protection Unit; Kaldo Ramzi, Political Bureau Member, Assyrian Democratic Movement
10:00 AM Adham Juma, Political Analyst
11:30 AM Rokkan Jaf, Journalist
12:30 PM LUNCH
2:30 PM Zana S. Rostae, Komal Islami
4:00 PM Abu Bakr Karwani, Kurdistan Islamic Union
6:00 PM Rabun Marouf, MP, Goran Movement
7:30 PM Khalil Ibrahim Mohammad, Kurdistan Islamic Union
8:30 PM Soran Omar, MP, Komal Islami
Saturday, July 15
9:30 AM Falah Mustafa Bakir, KRG Foreign Minister
10:30 AM Trip to PDKI Base in Koya, Mustafa Hijri, Secretary General of the PDKI
4:30 PM Liza Hido, President, Baghdad Women’s Association
6:00 PM Christine M. van den Toorn, Director, Institute for Regional and International Studies, AUIS
Sunday, July 16
10:00 AM Rebin Fatah, Journalist
12:00 PM Omed Khoshnaw, MP and Head of the KDP Bloc and Hiva Haji Mirkhan, MP and Head of the Finance Committee @ The Parliament

2:00 PM End Program


Written by nickbiddlenoe

July 17, 2017 at 11:13 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Ninth Tunis Exchange Politics Conference Closes – Meetings With Ghannouchi, Marzouk, ISIE President Sarsar & Other Leading Activists, Unionists, Politicians & Academics

I think Monica Marks, Safa Belghith and Imen Chouikh can agree: The Ninth Tunis Exchange was our best conference yet since we started the effort in Tunis in 2012! Many thanks to our more than 40 speakers as well as the 20 participants from eleven different countries. Stay tuned for the Tenth Tunis Exchange in January, 2018 via:
As well as, this Fall:
— The Second Yemen Exchange (Hosted in Beirut)
— The Second Erbil-Sulaymaniyah Exchange
— The First Libya Exchange (Hosted in Tunis)
— The Nineteenth Beirut Exchange (January, 2018)
Saturday, July 1, With Human Rights Watch
9:00AM-Welcome, Introductions and House Rules – Nicholas Noe, and Monica Marks, Oxford University
9:30AM-Human Rights in Egypt and the Maghreb since the Arab Revolts of 2011 – Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch
10:30AM-The evolution of Human Rights in Egypt and the Maghreb over three decades – Eric Goldstein, HRW
11:45AM-Tunisia, HRW Staff
2:30PM-Libya, HRW Staff
4:15PM-Social Media & Human Rights in North Africa, HRW Staff
Sunday, July 2, With Human Rights Watch
9:30AM-Womens’ Rights in North Africa, HRW Staff
11:15AM-Egypt, HRW Staff
2:00PM-Algeria, HRW Staff
3:45PM-Morocco, HRW Staff
6:00PM-Michael Ayari, The International Crisis Group
Monday, July 3
9:30AM-Monica Marks, Oxford University
1:00PM-Huda Mzioudet, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
2:30PM-Amine Ghali, Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center
6:00 PM-Farah Hached, Labo Démocratique
7:30 PM-Hamza Abidi and Abdo Slim, Activists
Tuesday, July 4
9:30AM-Nicolas Kaczorowski, IFES
10:30AM-Lubna Jribi, SOLIDAR
11:30AM-Salaheddine Jourchi, Co-founder An-Nahdha
1:00PM-Meherzia Laabidi, An-Nahdha
4:00PM-Gilbert Naccache, Author
5:30PM-Tarek Kahlaoui, Al-Irada
Wednesday, July 5
9:00AM-Khedija Arfaoui, Activist & Jane D. Tchaicha, Bentley College
10:30AM-Ahlem Belhaj, Association for Democratic Women/UGTT
12:00PM-Lotfi Zeitoun, An-Nahdha
1:00PM-Rached Ghannouchi, Co-Founder, An-Nahdha
3:00PM-Mohamed Ghariani, Ex-RCD
4:30PM-Faouzi Elloumi, Nidaa Tounes
6:00PM-Taoufik Bou Aoun, Director General, PM Office for Countering Violent Extremism
7:30PM-Houda Slim, MP, Machroua Tunis
Thursday, July 6
9:30AM-Zied Boussen, Activist
10:30AM-Kacem Afaya, UGTT
12:30PM-Salwa Gantri, ICTJ
2:30PM-Chafik Sarsar, President, ISIE
3:30PM-Yassine Brahim, President, Afeq Tunis
5:00PM-Mohsen Marzouk, President, Machroua Tunis
6:30PM-Noomane Fehri, BIAT Labs and Former Minister of Information
Friday, July 7
9:30AM-Mohamed Khouja, Founder, Jabhat Al-Islah
11:00AM-The Truth and Dignity Commission
2:00PM-Moncef Marzouki, Former President, Tunisia and Leader, Al-Irada
3:30PM-Noureddine Lajmi, President, HAICA
5:00PM-Achraf Aouadi, I-Watch
6:00PM-Sami Ben Gharbia, Co-Founder, Nawaat
Saturday, July 8
9:30AM-Salem Ayari, Union of Unemployed Graduates
11:00AM-Adnan Hajji, MP, Redeyef
12:00PM-Group Discussion
1:30PM-Steven Abdelatif, The Maison Tunis/YUKA

Written by nickbiddlenoe

July 11, 2017 at 9:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Sulome Anderson’s reporting on Hizbullah sharply called into question

I briefly criticized Sulome’s recent Newsweek piece a few days ago. This point by point breakdown of the piece is, unfortunately, as comprehensive as it is devastating. I had always hoped Sulome would find a good footing reporting in the Lebanon/Syria theatre, but the critique is comprehensive and should lead to some serious interrogations by Newsweek editors.


View story at

View story at

Written by nickbiddlenoe

July 7, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The 18th Beirut Exchange politics conference concludes!

Our 18th Beirut Exchange has concluded. Many thanks to our great group of researchers from nine different countries as well as all of our speakers.

The next Beirut Exchange should be in early January, 2018. Sign up for alerts via and follow

Sunday, June 18

7:30 – Opening Orientation & Security Briefing

8:00pm — Habib Battah, Beirut Report


Monday, June 19

9:00 am – Nicholas Noe,

11:00am — Shadi Karam, Frm. Senior Adviser to the Prime Minister and President

1:00pm — Lunch

2:30pm — Ayman Mhanna, Samir Kassir Foundation

5:00pm — Bashir Saade, Stirling University

7:00pm — Nour Samaha, Journalist


Tuesday, June 20

9:30am — Sami Nader, Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs

11:30am — Karim Makdisi, American University of Beirut

1:00pm — Lunch

2:00pm — Ammar Moussawi, International Relations Office, Hezbollah

4:00pm — Bassam Khawaja, Human Rights Watch

7:30pm — The Special Tribunal for Lebanon


Wednesday, June 21

10:30am — Yassine Jabber, MP, The Liberation and Development Bloc

12pm — Osama Hamdan, HAMAS

1:30pm — Lunch

2:30pm — Nicholas Blanford, Daily Star/Times of London

4:30pm — Jihad Yazigi, The Syria Report

6:00pm — Omar Nashabe, Consultant for Defense Counsel, STL


Thursday, June 22

9:00am — Lea Yammine, Lebanon-Support

10:30am — Sami Gemayel, MP, Kataeb

11:45am — ESCWA Syria Team

1:30pm — Lunch

3:30pm — Andrea Tenenti, UNIFIL

6:00pm — Roni Araiji, Marada

7:30pm — Marwan Maalouf, Human Rights Lawyer and Activist


Friday, June 23

9:30am — Abbas Assi, University of Leeds

11:00am — Alain Aoun, FPM

12:30pm — Lunch

3:30pm — May Akl, Free Patriotic Movement

5:30am — Nicolas Pouillard, IFPO


Saturday, June 24

11am — Antoine Habchi, The Lebanese Forces

3:00pm — Mustapha Alloush, The Future Movement


Sunday, June 25

10:00am — Marwan Hamade, Minister of Education

11:30am — Discussion with Ahmad Husseini and Leila Hatoum


Written by nickbiddlenoe

June 28, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

SecDef Mattis reminds pro-intervention analysts of Military’s longstanding opposition to a Syria intervention

Remember: The various analysts that wanted to use the US military to collapse the Syrian regime – as early as the summer of 2011! – never had the US military or the intelligence community’s support. Even when it (wrongly) looked “easier.”

I would especially cite Emile Hokayem here.

In fact, most of the proponents of a US-led intervention in Syria have little or no training in military affairs, though they eagerly called for the projection of US force. Now Mattis has again expressed what was a longstanding military position for those who do actually have familiarity in the use of force (and to a certain degree, the use of diplomacy and impact of domestic political constraints):

“We just refuse to get drawn into a fight there in the Syria civil war, we try to end that one through diplomatic engagement,” he told reporters. “If somebody comes after us, bombs us or takes a heading on us or fires on us, then under legitimate self-defence we’ll do whatever we have to do to stop it.”

He said the US would not fire “unless they are the enemy, unless they are Isis.”

My pieces over the years on this subject are here:

“When NGOs Call For Military Intervention in Syria: The Case of the International Crisis Group”/Huffington Post, September 2015

“In Syria, We Need to Bargain with the Devil”/New York Times, February 2012

“A Third Way on Syria Is Possible”/Huffington Post, May 2011



Written by nickbiddlenoe

June 27, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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