The Mideastwire Blog

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

Missing Pieces In The Debate Over Eisenhower’s 1958 Invasion of Lebanon

This needs a lot more discussion, but leaving aside Riedel’s short piece on the 1958 Marine landing/invasion in Lebanon – which had few insights and several errors (tactical nuclear weapons were indeed brought into the area) – Anthony’s well-written piece deserves emphasis and debate. Key points to start:

— A missing, but crucial point to draw out is the belated discovery by the US that there was at least one enormous, longstanding division within the Christian community, specifically, in Lebanon which centered on its orientation, i.e. put crudely: balanced, accommodating and confident towards the Eastern/Arab/Islamic worlds or fully titled, in relative fear and loathing, towards a narrow conception of the West. Bechara El Khoury vs. Camille Chamoun. This is a key finding by US Envoy Robert Murphy that allowed the US to be comfortable with flexibility towards Nasserism in Lebanon i.e. it turned out there was a substantial and historically embedded “half” of the Christian community which would balance, live with and also temper radical Nasserism, emphasizing and therefore assisting so-called “moderate” Nasserism towards preponderance.

— Which leads to the main missing point: NSC 5820, here. For me, this is the high point of enlightened US thinking (such that is available) that would quickly U-Turn back to the default “our man in X country” alongside rigid anti communism/anti arab nationalism. It must be mentioned in any treatment of the 1958 invasion since it was the “lesson learned” document put out in October 1958 with Lebanon driving the thinking since Eisenhower’s envoy Murphy “discovered” that the US had been hoodwinked into invasion by a narrow slice of the Christian community – and that flexibility and institution building rather than tribal investments was not only possible but desirable. “Never again” became the mantra: There was a far better approach, detailed in the NSC document, than invasion and investment in narrow parties and personalities. Anthony seems to suggest that the US came in strong and then retreated in a counter productive way (I could be wrong here, but this is what I gathered). He writes: “But they did not secure, let alone sustain, their success by investing in American allies during and after the intervention. After the landings, American officials cut financial and military assistance, declined to provide multiyear support, and didn’t craft a post-conflict political plan to support pro-American leaders in Lebanon.”

— He is a correct in a narrow sense, but wrong overall. NSC 5820 laid out exactly why this was the right approach. Crucially though, it 1) did not mean “no post conflict plan”, 2) did not bring a reduction of support but instead a rational re-ordering that I wish would have been sustained in the decades after.

Here are the crucial findings that, I would argue, let us understand a moment in US policymaking where there was a real potential for a better approach to Lebanon and the Middle East. Sadly – and again in contrast to Anthony who argues “American officials ended up acting—and then getting out anyway.” – the US very much did “get in the way” quickly after Eisenhower in the 1960s with the same failed tools of pre-1958 i.e. supporting narrow parties and personalities rather than investing in multi-lateral institutions and processes. In the end, this approach, eschewing NSC 5820, steadily helped lay the crucial infrastructure for the Lebanese Civil War and other disasters in the Mideast:


4. It has become increasingly apparent that the prevention of further Soviet penetration of the Near East and progress in solving Near Eastern problems depends on the degree to which the United States is able to work more closely with Arab nationalism and associate itself more closely with such aims and aspirations of the Arab people as are not contrary to the basic interests of the United States.

8. Seek to demonstrate to the peoples and governments of the area that primary U.S. objectives are fundamentally compatible with the goals of Arab nationalism, whereas the objectives of international Communism are incompatible with the aims of true nationalism.

26. On the grounds that the United States has not been a major supplier of arms to Israel, continue limitations on shipments of arms to Israel except for the minimum numbers and types necessary for maintenance of internal law and order, and on a realistic basis for legitimate self-defense. Solicit the assistance of other nations in implementing this policy of limitation.


40. Support the continued independence and integrity of Lebanon, but avoid becoming too closely identified with individual factions in Lebanese politics and seek discreetly to disengage from relationships that may be disadvantageous to U.S. interests.


Provide Lebanon with political support and with military assistance for internal security purposes, stressing our support for the country as a whole rather than for a specific regime or faction.

Reduce grant economic assistance as feasible and emphasize Lebanon’s capacity to borrow from international lending institutions for purposes of economic development.
Where appropriate seek to encourage the acceptance of Lebanon’s unique status by its Arab neighbors, and, if desired by and acceptable to the people concerned, be prepared to subscribe to a United Nations guarantee of the continued independence and integrity of Lebanon.



Written by nickbiddlenoe

September 20, 2018 at 11:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED: Nasrallah Meets with Houthi Leadership


Sayyid Nasrallah recently met with two of our Yemen Exchange speakers, Abdul Malik Al Ajri and Ibrahim Al Daylami. A translated piece on the meeting repercussions via our below: “On August 21, the Lebanese Al-Jomhouriya daily newspaper carried the following report by Imad Marmal: “The meeting between the Hezbollah Secretary General, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, and a delegation from the Yemeni Ansarullah movement has been subjected to political interpretations where the Party was accused of violating the rule of “self-distancing” and sending messages to Saudi Arabia and appointed PM Sa’d al-Hariri from the mailbox of the Beirut Southern Suburbs against the backdrop of the severe polarization regarding the new cabinet and the difficult problems delaying its formation.

“But how does the Party view these accusations? And in which context is it placing Nasrallah’s encounter with the Houthis at the heart of the Suburbs? Hezbollah feels no embarrassment whatsoever as a result of the public encounter. It rather places that encounter in the context of the legitimate solidarity with the Yemeni people in the face of the assault that these people are being subjected to. The Party is thus completely separating this encounter from the internal course of action and it is further indicating that anyone who links this encounter to the Party’s calculations regarding any local file is wrong.

“For the Party, the opposite is true and “those who purposefully exaggerated the image of the meeting and dashed in the direction of political exploiting of this image, aim at justifying the failure to form the cabinet and to cover for the real reasons of this failure by accusing Hezbollah of violating the self-distancing…exactly as has been the case in the past few days upon the fabrication of the crisis of the normalization with Syria and summoning the factor of the international tribunal with the aim being to pin the responsibility of the exaggerated delay in the cabinet formation on Hezbollah and thus…”

“While some have been blaming the Party for publishing the photo of the encounter between Nasrallah and the Houthis with the aim of provoking and challenging the others, parties who are informed about the details of this meeting indicate that the promotion falls in the context of the Party’s convictions and principles as the Party sees no reason for hiding this encounter as long as its political, media, and moral support for the Yemeni people is well known “and the meeting falls in the context of this support of which we are not ashamed…”

“The Party insisted that it is out of the question for Hezbollah, from the moral aspect before any other consideration, to turn a blind eye to the violations, blockade, massacres and diseases that the Yemenis are suffering from. The Party also insisted that it will not refrain from raising the voice that upsets Saudi Arabia and its allies, especially as “we are being asked to even stop talking in the face of the oppression.”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 23, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Ten Year Anniversary of The Exchange Marked by Opening of Third Yemen Exchange & Eleventh Tunis Exchange


An excellent opening to our Third Yemen Exchange conference with 34 participants from around the world representing diplomacy, aid agencies, the media and researchers engaged on Yemen. Congratulations as well to our partner the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies for marshaling more than two dozen Yemeni speakers in exceptionally difficult circumstances. Ten Years of the Exchange anniversary well spent!

Also, many thanks to our more than 35 Tunisian speakers who joined us for the Eleventh Tunis Exchange conference. Thankfully, we were finally able to get out of the capitol after a three year pause and listen to different perspectives in Sidi Bouzid, Gafsa and Sfax. Given recent events, our sessions with the leader of An-Nahdha Rachid Ghannouchi, the Resident Head of the IMF, the regional head of the UGTT in Sfax, MP Yassine Ayari, (our last meeting with) the Truth and Dignity Commissioners and the head of the anti-corruption authority Chawki Tabib were particularly engaging!

For announcements of our 2019 Exchanges in MENA (including… a USA Exchange), visit

Sunday, June 17
7:00pm – Introductions, House Rules & Safety: Nicholas Noe & Monica Marks
8:00pm – Ouiem Chettaoui, USIP & Mohamed Dhia-Hammami, Weselyan 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 for 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 – Lunch with Yamina Thabet, Tunisian Association for the 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, The Truth and 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 and 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
3:00pm – Tunis Airport/End Program


Written by nickbiddlenoe

July 1, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

An early but “must read” by Ibrahim on Lebanon election results

Key points I would add to Ibrahim’s analysis linked below:

It is not technically or even politically accurate to say that Hezbollah has the majority (if numbers bear out), because, first, you must add the biggest Christian bloc, the FPM, to Hizbullah’s count as well as allied, but non-Hizbullah parties in order to make this (still early) claim. Second, the Israelis and others might want to say this (and they are), but the reality is that the ruling direction/consensus over core national issues (especially on stability, security and inter-party conflict) survived without direct blows and, it seems, with numbers that will likely lubricate some kind of extension of this formula. Indeed the previous status quo security consensus/power sharing formula that will likely survive was one buttressed by almost all the parties in the country. This seems largely intact at least numbers wise right now and, again, likely from a political view going forward (remember LF are a key part of the outgoing consensus government! They won big while Kateab was “opposition” and lost some, it seems, as did “hawks” like Rifi who do not support the security consensus nor the Sunni-Shiite power sharing arrangement borne of the terrorism of ’14).

Another key reason why it is analytically incorrect to say Hezbollah now has the majority: Gebran Bassil. The FPM leader has been steadily taking his party away from the 12 year alliance with Hezbollah. He is “gunning” for Berri and Amal movement, he took out “the Resistance” in the Golden Triangle the other night on tv (!) and he may be about to forge the “ancient” Sunni-Maronite alliance with his friend Saad Hariri, who needs him more than ever now. This would mean: The New/Old March 14 rises. In terms of numbers, this means do not count (yet) the FPM bloc as a whole along with Hezbollah and its more direct allies to get some numerical majority. Big shifts may be in the offing, quite apart from whether the Levant blows up in the coming period – a much more dangerous, “structural” dynamic than today’s politics of “small tribes.”

From Ibrahim via Preliminary analysis!

Written by nickbiddlenoe

May 7, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Great numbers via NDI and Ibrahim

via E-Day indicators!

Written by nickbiddlenoe

May 5, 2018 at 6:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Bari Atwan: Iranian response will wait until after Lebanese/Iraqi elections and Trump pullout completed in coming ten days

Partially translated here by our

“….The Iranian “painful” response to the Israeli rocket attack on the Syrian T-4 airbase near Homs was postponed pending the conclusion of the highly important elections in Lebanon and Iraq. However, if the Israeli provocations were to persist or escalate, then the self-restraint might be abandoned.

“The question now concerns the reaction of the Russian ally to these assaults and whether Moscow will be supplying its Iranian and Syrian allies with weapons and rockets capable of effectively confronting this attack. We are hereby referring to S-300 and S-400 rockets. We have no answer to this question but we don’t rule out the possibility that the first response will come from South Lebanon, i.e. from Hezbollah, and via its arsenal, which is loaded with all kinds, dimensions and sizes of weapons.

“The upcoming two months, i.e. May and June, might be the most dangerous ones for the region. By mid-May, the Iranian nuclear agreement will collapse due to the American pullout; and by the following month, war might erupt. When Netahyanu gave his “caricature” or “clownish” presentation at the UN’s platform in September 2012 to incite against Iran, the master of the White House was a wise and rational US president by the name of Barack Obama; and he was a hard to fool or deceive man. The situation now is completely different because the real master of the White House is Netanyahu and his loyal pupil is Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law. This is war.

“All we have to do is buckle up and prepare for all possibilities. We can say for sure that Israel and its allies will be the biggest losers or so we hope. The days are between us.”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

May 2, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A secondary but perhaps more important effect of Netanyahu’s speech: Undermining efforts to step back from war in the Levant by striking a compromise with Iran over “redlines” in Syria; after all “they lie” and cannot be trusted in any negotiation or with any agreement, no matter the monitoring regime

This may be a major, secondary effect of the speech last night – intentional or not. Indeed, the main event in terms of immediate peace and security in the region and beyond is NOT the fore-ordained collapse of the nuclear deal in the next 12 days. It is, instead, the powerful dynamics that are leading to a great war surrounding the Levant – but certainly not limited to it – a war that is “very likely” to break out soon, according to Mattis.

Bibi’s presentation effectively nixes even the small chance that a reasonable deal could be struck in the immediate period to non-violently adjust the Iranian-Israeli redlines, to back up from them and then to pursue further conflict mitigation in Syria or regionally. After all, how could anyone on the Israeli side sell such a deal internally – a hard one in all cases before last night – given that the loud, public estimation is the Iranians lie, essentially as a genetic defect. There is now little standing upon which a UN, EU or other mediator-led effort could stand on it seems.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

May 1, 2018 at 7:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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