The Mideastwire Blog

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

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

“Moroccan anger over the UAE and KSA’s attempts at dealing with Morocco as an annexed princedom…”

Translated (only partially below) by our For a free trial email

On June 19, the electronic Rai al-Youm daily newspaper carried the following report: “The honeymoon between Morocco and the Gulf States mainly Saudi Arabia and the UAE has ended on the backdrop of these countries’ conflict with Qatar. The Moroccans’ anger increased when Abu Dhabi and Al-Riyadh tried to exploit the file of the Western Sahara to attack Morocco.

“In their conflict with Qatar whom they’re accusing of supporting terrorism, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the two countries that are leading the campaign against Doha, considered that Morocco will be siding with them just as the case of the Yemeni war. However, and in light of its local political problems caused by the [popular] movement in the Moroccan Rif, Morocco opted for full independence from the Saudi-Emirati axis mainly the UAE minister of defense and Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Zayed, the friend of King Mohammad VI. Morocco thus distanced itself in fear of a military adventure against Qatar…

Written by nickbiddlenoe

June 20, 2017 at 6:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Registration closing next week for our Human Rights Watch conference

We will be ending registration for the Human Rights Watch conference July 1 & 2 next Friday, June 23, as we are nearly at capacity.
To apply before the final deadline, email

Written by nickbiddlenoe

June 15, 2017 at 6:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Qatari Quds Arabi daily: IRGC head Soleimani’s surprise visit to border, cloaked in Fatimid Caliphate symbolism

Leaving aside the bias of Quds Arabi, an interesting piece given the possible play – intentional or not – on Shia history. Likely to enrage rulers from Riyadh to Cairo and beyond (Translated today by our

“…Hence, the Iranian corridor onto the Mediterranean would ensure a wide and cheap passageway for Iran’s oil, gas and goods towards Europe and North Africa, which is one of the reasons why this is considered to be a major strategic accomplishment for Tehran on the economic, military and political levels. What is noticeable is that Soleimani’s visit to the border, which carried the Fatemiyoun brand, was not arbitrary. It rather carried an important ideological and mobilization message which he wanted to convey, by recollecting the symbolism of the Fatimid Caliphate that conquered Egypt in 969 (358 Hijri) and established the city of Cairo, and whose influence was spread from Morocco to Persia. In parallel to Soleimani’s revealing appearance, media outlets “close to the Syrian regime” quoted Commercial Attache at the Russian Embassy in Damascus Igor Matveyev as saying that Moscow was inclined to use the Syrian border as a “corridor” onto Iraq and other states…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

June 14, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Al-Akhbar implicates UAE in sudden release of Sayf al-Islam Gaddafi

An interesting angle from the “anti-UAE” Al-Akhbar one might say. Translated in part below. For a free trial of our service, email


On June 12, the Al-Akhbar daily newspaper carried the following report by Mahmoud Mroueh: “Suddenly, the “Gaddafi’s” are back to the limelight at the level of the Libyan scene. Before the announcement on the release of Sayf al-Islam Gaddafi, two days ago, the Gaddafi’s were said to be represented by Khalifa Haftar who controls the east of the country and Gen. Ali Kana, the man with the authority over the south in addition to other individuals who left the country and are mainly living between Egypt, Algeria and even the Sultanate of Oman (part of the family)…

“Just like that, Sayf al-Islam has been released knowing that the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him in 2011 and that he was sentenced to death in 2015 by a court in Tripoli… No one knows anything about the “deal” that led to the release of the man who called for “Libya’s modernization” prior to 2011 and the man who had obtained a degree from one of London’s finest universities, the London School of Economics (the degree was taken away from him subsequently). No one knows where he went since Friday, i.e. one day prior to the announcement of his release made by a military faction called the Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Battalion at the city of Zintan (170 kilometers to the northwest of Tripoli)…

“An Arab diplomatic source who is very close to the Libyan file said…that “since less than a year, we’ve been reading stories every now and then about the release of Sayf al-Islam” which is of course true. These stories started to emerge last summer… A weekly magazine, Watan, “published in the USA” and concerned with the Libyan affairs, carried a piece of news that read: “A meeting was held between the director of the former PM’s office, Noureddine Boushiha, and the commander of the Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Battalion, Al-Ajami al-Eteiri, on May 22, 2016 with the objective of looking into the realease of Sayf al-Islam.” Boushiha was introduced as being “the UAE’s man and the consultant of Mohammad Bin Zayed on the Libyan affairs. He works directly with his consultant, the sacked Fatah official, Mohammad Dahlan.” A photo of the two men was also published to “confirm the meeting.” The magazine (which is seemingly close to Qatar) indicated that “the UAE offered millions of dollars, something that resembles a bribe, while trying to seek Sayf al-Islam.”…” [CONTINUED]

Written by nickbiddlenoe

June 12, 2017 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED: “Emirati document: Qatar is in Tunisia and we are chasing it”

An important piece, translated today by our, by what one could call the anti-UAE daily Al-Akhbar (it is fair to say the paper is overwhelmingly critical of the UAE and KSA…).

Lots of important nuggets here on Tunisia and the GCC split. And a key issue: how does the far way, tiny UAE expect to fight off Algerian policy in Tunisia which is characterized here as supporting partnership between Nahdha and Nidaa?

For a free trial of our translation database and daily service, email


On June 9, the Al-Akhbar daily newspaper carried the following report: “The position of the UAE vis-à-vis the Tunisian revolution was not a positive one. Not only did the UAE host a number of individuals close to the Bin Ali regime, it also worked on freezing a number of its economic programs in Tunisia in addition to placing obstacles on the road of Tunisian workers and intervening at the level of the local political life. The only reason for the anger of the Bin Zayed sons consists of the En-Nahda movement as it is the Tunisian target of the politics of “chasing the MBs everywhere.” This is confirmed by a leaked document from a research center close to the Abu Dhabi Authority.

“The Tunisian Es-Sada website, which is close to En-Nahda, leaked a document two days ago titled, “The suggested UAE strategy vis-à-vis Tunisia.” The document, which is not available for the public, was issued by the Maghreb studies’ unit at the Emirates Policy Center, which is headed by Ebtissam al-Kotobi, and which is close to the Abu Dhabi authorities. Although it is difficult to tell if the document is authentic, the document does reflect the same style used by the center’s other papers…

“The policy brief document (six pages) included a first, descriptive section that discussed the continued economic and social crisis, the weakness of the coalition cabinet (the cabinet of Youssef Chahed) and the absence of a charismatic leadership capable of rescuing the situation in addition to the dismantlement and divisions at the level of the front that opposes En-Nahda, and the movement’s strategy to control the political scene.

“The second, and most important section, the document suggests that the strategic Emirati leadership should benefit from the present situation to achieve its desires on the Tunisian arena. The document spoke of breaking the Algerian and Qatari authority and the tools to achieve that. It indicated that Algeria, and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika specifically as well as the powerful military leaders, constitute allies to the head of the movement, Rached Ghannouchi, which served to enhance his relationship with the Algeria and Libyan Islamists. The same goes for Qatar, which enjoys a strong media and cultural presence there.

“The suggested strategy relies on three bases: first, confronting radicalism…; second, working on building a political bloc that supports the UAE by supporting Mohsen Marzouq (the secretary general of the Mashrou’ Tounes party, which broke away from the Nidaa Tounes movement), and opening up to the “constitutional” figures and parties that are not part of the ruling system… Third, restricting the Qatari authority by adopting practical steps such as constructing economic and financial partnerships with prominent businessmen, which will reflect in the future in the form of political power, supporting a media pole that opposes the Qatari pole, and supporting cultural institutions and forums that compete with other Qatari ones.

“The new leaks come at the pinnacle of the Gulf conflict. Tunisia is the only Arab country where the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the rest of their axis, failed to obtain a foothold at the expense of Qatar and its axis despite all the efforts they made over the past years… The most serious pieces of news on the UAE’s intentions are those that were leaked by the Middle East Eye, an English language website funded by Qatar. A prominent Tunisian source that refused to mention his name said that Algerian officials warned their Tunisian counterparts in November 2015 against an Emirati plan to intervene in Tunisia. The source said that an Algerian official informed him that Abu Dhabi was approaching his country under the impression that Algeria shared its vision regarding the developments. However, with the modification of the head of the Algerian intelligence services, Gen. Toufik (in September 2015), Algeria’s priorities shifted towards shielding its borders with Libya, which called for an advanced coordination and cooperation with Tunisia. This implicitly means that its stability is linked to the stability of its neighbor and vice versa.

“In order to further increase the level of the pressure, the UAE decided in 2015 to halt the granting or renewal of visas for the majority of Tunisian nationals working on its lands without providing any clear explanation. Despite the efforts of the Tunisian diplomats to solve this matter knowing that a bilateral meeting was held on February 11, 2017 to discuss lifting the ban and exchanging visits, the file witnessed no important progress prior to the launching of the “Gulf crisis,” in what seems to be another round of the “UAE stick and carrot policy” as per some sides.”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

June 9, 2017 at 7:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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