The Mideastwire Blog

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

Al Akhbar’s Ibrahim Al-Amin says war is near

Translated today by our In part, he wrote:  “But what has changed and what has made things even more complicated? Actually, one can say today that the USA along with France, Britain , Israel and regional countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia or minor players like Qatar and Jordan now have to work by themselves to try and achieve a success or a victory… The things we are hearing today such as threats of massive, imminent military operations in Syria, reflect the fact that our enemy has one of two choices: Either to engage directly in the battle or to pull out and wait for its ominous fate. And because we know our enemies very well, the more logical possibility is that the enemy will revert to the first option…”


Written by nickbiddlenoe

March 19, 2018 at 9:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Registration Now Open: The 11th Tunis Exchange Politics Conference @ Downtown Tunis, June 17-June 24, 2018

The 11th Tunis Exchange Politics Conference @ Downtown Tunis
June 17-June 24, 2018
* Application Deadline I April 15/Deadline II May 15, 2018
* 20 slots only/Rolling acceptance
* Registration form via

The Eleventh Tunis Exchange June 17-24 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:

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 one month prior to the opening of the Exchange, as well as readings pertinent to the sessions.

Saturday, July 1 (Exceptionally 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
1:15PM – LUNCH
2:30PM – Libya, HRW Staff
4:15PM – Social Media & Human Rights in North Africa, HRW Staff

Sunday, July 2 (Exceptionally with Human Rights Watch)
9:30AM – Womens’ Rights in North Africa, HRW Staff
11:15AM – Egypt, HRW Staff
12:45PM – LUNCH
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
12:00PM – LUNCH
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
2:30PM – LUNCH
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
2:00PM – LUNCH
3:00PM – Mohamed Ghariani, Ex-RCD
4:30PM – Faouzi Elloumi, Nidaa Tounes
6:00PM – Taoufik Bou Aoun, DG, 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, Ex-UGTT
12:30PM – Salwa Gantri, ICTJ
1:30PM – LUNCH
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
1:00PM – LUNCH
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
3:00PM – END

Program Format:
The Tunis Exchange will open at the Novotel/IBIS Hotel with an orientation and security briefing at 7pm on Sunday, June 17. On June 21 at 6pm, the group will travel south for two days of meetings in the interior regions. We will return in the evening on Saturday, June 23 and begin meetings at Novotel/IBIS the next morning, June 24, at 9am. The Exchange will close by 2pm on June 24. In order to promote small group dynamics, the number of participants will be capped at 20. 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 – $900; 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 – $60 per night in a shared double room at the Novotel Hotel (breakfast and taxes are included; we will arrange for sharing under our group booking). Alternative accommodation, including in a single room at IBIS (approximately $85 per night), is available upon request. Students are also welcome to arrange for their own housing.

Airfare – $300, approximate from the European Union.

About the Co-Directors:
Monica Marks is a Rhodes Scholar and PhD Candidate at Oxford 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.

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.

Request a registration form via:

Written by nickbiddlenoe

March 8, 2018 at 11:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Criticism of Crisis Group’s Latest Report on Lebanon & Syria/Eleventh Tunis Exchange June 17-24, Registration Now Open/Mideastwire 13 Year Anniversary

An update about our recent activities at

TABLET MAGAZINE: The Next Israel-Hezbollah War Won’t Be an Accident

Nicholas Noe argues that a recent report from Crisis Group incorrectly views the increasing possibility of an Israel-“Resistance Axis” war through the lens of a “miscalculation” or an “error.” The reality is far more alarming and requires more immediate, radical approaches by Europe, the US as well as the different regional powers.

HUFFINGTON POST: The Dangers Of Divining Iranian Intentions, Without Iranians

AL-JAZEERA INSIDE STORY: How will Tunisia recover from its economic woes?

The Eleventh Tunis Exchange June 17-24

The Eleventh Tunis Exchange Conference June 17-24 will engage participants from around the world in a multifaceted discussion of some of the key issues facing Tunisia and the wider region. Participants will have the opportunity to meet, listen and engage leading social, political, religious and economic leaders from across the spectrum in Tunisia. For last Summer’s Tunis Exchange schedule as well as more information, visit

Request a registration form via:

Please also stay tuned for an announcement of the Second Erbil-Sulaymaniyah Exchange as well as the Third Yemen Exchange!

And for the latest on our Spring and Summer Arabic offerings in Tunis, visit our Facebook page here. Celebrates 13 Years
While there is a broad range of Arabic and Persian language media outlets reporting stories from and about the Middle East, there is currently no affordable and reliable means for English speakers to gain access to this content. As a result, many English speaking businesspersons, students, journalists and others who have an interest in the affairs of the region are largely unaware of what the Middle East media is covering and how they are covering these stories. aims to close this gap by offering both a searchable database of more than 75,000 translated items as well as a daily menu of translations covering some of the key political, cultural, economic and opinion pieces appearing in the media of the 22 Arab countries, Iran and the Arab Diaspora. Through this effort, we hope to address at least one element of a global disconnect that continues to threaten a wide spectrum of socio-political and economic relationships, both here in the region and beyond.

For a free trial or to subscribe, visit our site at


Written by nickbiddlenoe

February 24, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Nicholas Noe in Tablet on February 21: Criticism of the “Miscalculation” thesis concerning impending Israel-“Resistance Axis” War

My piece in Tablet came out yesterday, February 21. I used the latest Crisis Group report as a peg to criticize what I view as an incorrect and even dangerous framework(s) to understand the fast approaching regional war, one that will be destructive far beyond the last seven terrible years of the Syria War (a war which I argued against accelerating in May 2011 and again in the NYT in February 2012 here and here). In one sense, the Tablet piece is an extension of my earlier criticism of ICG’s September 2015 report that called for US military intervention.

A key claim I made is that: “There is no “bloody nose,” “mowing the grass,” or “Little Pines” (as in the original “limited” 1982 Israeli invasion plan for Lebanon) strategy when it comes to a “pre-emptive” attack by Israel that would adequately degrade its enemies’ power in Lebanon. Since the combatants appear to be quite cognizant of this, by building up their military power and readying for a strike in Lebanon the main sides are deliberately moving further and further down a path they all say publicly they “don’t want,” but which they know will lead to all out war.

I also argued yesterday that there is, “a second problem with the “miscalculation” formula posed by ICG and so many others: A tendency to diminish the irrational, ideological drivers that are arguably at the heart of the current march towards war. As ICG sees it, “today, none of the parties can soberly contemplate the prospect of a conflict that would be uncontrolled, unprecedented and unscripted.” But what if several of the parties are, in fact, “soberly” planning for and taking steps that will very likely lead to all-out war, as described above, even as they ready their constituencies to blame the other side for forcing a “war of no choice”? And what if the different sides even desire a climatic confrontation for moral, religious or even long-term strategic reasons and are willing to take an ends-justifies-the-means approach when it comes to the morality of their own actions? Indeed, what if some of the sides think they could actually weather such a war as their enemies likely fade away? These are all crucial questions to examine for anyone invested in peace-building since they further raise the urgency of the matter at hand whilst also precipitating a cry for more radical actions by the actors involved and the international community in general.”

Finally, I pointed out – in regards to the first point above – ICG contradicted itself in at least one key area of the report. At first, it noted Israel’s redline of: “No high-precision missile factories. This stricture applies to both Lebanon and Syria. Israel believes that after Hizbollah froze its attempt to establish such capability in Lebanon, Iran has continued to pursue this capacity in Syria.52”

But later, as I also noted in the piece, ICG said in passing that: “According to Israeli officials, Hizbollah for a time froze those efforts in light of Israeli threats,40 though they argue that since late 2017, Iran-backed efforts to build such workshops shifted to Syria, where Israel is reported to have struck two, and since then, in January 2018, back to Lebanon again.41″ ICG also even quoted the no-uncertain-terms letter by the IDF and the PM these past weeks that said clearly (i.e. not with an air of “perhaps”): “Iran resumes building missile plants in Lebanon, Israeli army warns in rare article in Arab media”, Haaretz, 30 January 2018. Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted that Israel “will not agree to …[this] development … and will act according to need”. See”

As I wrote, the later admission inexplicably produces no policy recommendation or added alarm by ICG.

I also pointed out in the piece what I have long called “Nasrallah’s Peace Plan:” 

“By incessantly building up its military power and securing both Syria and Lebanon (not to mention an even wider strategic depth beyond both), Hezbollah has said that it knows it is steadily degrading Israel’s vital QME. In the party’s view, this is a combined moral, religious, Arab and national duty. If this “deterrence equation,” as Nasrallah puts it, leads to a terrible war—one that the Party justifies on the basis of both rational considerations as well as a deep “craving”—then so be it. Ultimately, it will be Israel’s fault since, as Nasrallah has also explained on numerous occasions, the Party and its allies have said that they are presenting the Israelis with a “peace” option, albeit one that the current Israeli body politic will not possibly accept. Accede to a diminished balance of power with the “Resistance Axis,” Nasrallah has suggested, while radically scaling back your negotiating demands with the Palestinians and the Arab states so you can reduce your overall threat via a final settlement, or choose to pre-emptively attack us.

This is, in effect, the “peace plan” that Nasrallah has been deftly “encouraging” Arab states—and Israel, at least rhetorically—to pursue for more than a decade as a way to stave off the climactic war he says his party both “craves” and doesn’t “want”:

How can these [Arab] states secure a just and honorable settlement between quotes,” he once asked? ”Does the Israeli recognize them in the first place? I tell you: The Israelis today view the Resistance and the resistance men in Lebanon with great respect. As for all those lowly ones, they are not worth anything. Even the Arab [Peace Plan] calls for a stand. It calls for men and power. If you can’t use power, you can at least threaten with it. The talk that we are weak will not do. … Realistic political behavior [says:] first convince the Israelis of the need to have a just and comprehensive peace before asking the resistance movement to lay down its arms… Even those who have opted for a settlement have a need for this resistance. Indeed, we want them [the Arab states] to benefit from the resistance.

Of course, Nasrallah and Hezbollah know that there is little chance of the Israelis changing the hardware and software of their negotiating position on the moribund peace process, much less accepting a greatly strengthened “Resistance Axis” in the process (whether they should or not is a different matter). So, as Hezbollah and its allies continue to pursue a military buildup, rather than a pause or a reduction in their strength, all the parties knowingly move forward to war, albeit with Nasrallah in the quite advantageous position of forcing Israel to decide if it will be the one to attack first.”


Written by nickbiddlenoe

February 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The prosecution just rested in Hariri trial; judges could end the case even without defense presentation

After 13 years of observing this case, a major landmark in a process that sadly lost its original purpose and support from so many:

The Prosecution completes the presentation of evidence in the Ayyash et al. case

Leidschendam, 7 February 2018 – Today, the Prosecutor completed the presentation of evidence in the Ayyash et al. before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) marking the conclusion of the prosecution case.

Since the start of the Prosecution case, the Prosecution has presented evidence from over 260 individual witnesses and about 2470 exhibits in documentary form.

The next step in the proceedings will be in accordance with Rule 167 of the STL Rules of Procedure and Evidence entitled “Judgement of Acquittal at the Close of the Prosecution Case”. In accordance with that rule, the judges will issue such a judgement on any count if they find that there is no evidence capable of supporting a conviction on that count, even in the absence of a Defence case.

On 20 and 21 February, the Trial Chamber will hear the Rule 167 submissions of the Defence, any response from the Prosecution and any reply from the Defence. A judgement of acquittal or a decision dismissing the application will be delivered in court as soon as practicable thereafter.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

February 7, 2018 at 7:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Turkish invasion may be instigating global influx of Kurds from Lebanon, EU & Turkey to fight in Afrin

Yet another by-product of the Syrian war which never should have started. Partially translated today by our

“…A Turkish news agency indicated that Turkey’s Kurds are infiltrating the Turkish-Syrian borders to join the Kurdish People’s Protection army with numbers amounting to dozens of thousands; adding that there had been 30,000 Kurdish fighter in and around the city of Afrin and they have now been inflated to reach 70,000 fighters equipped with weapons and missiles. And despite the constant Turkish jets’ raids on the bases of the Kurdish People’s Protection army, the grottos, tunnels and underground areas are located 15 meters below the ground level where the bombs and rockets of the Turkish jets cannot reach them…

“Moreover, the available pieces of information indicate that around 5,000 Kurds have left Lebanon and headed to the city of Afrin to fight with the Kurdish People’s Protection army while thousands of Kurds are also flowing from Europe mainly Norway, Germany, and Sweden to Iraq and then from the Baghdad Airport to Syria in order to join the Kurdish People’s Protection army and the city of Afrin. Most of these are Kurdish fighters who have fought the Turkish army for the past 25 years. The Kurdish People’s Protection army had managed to take 115 Turkish troops’ hostages while the Turkish army took 360 hostages from the Kurdish People’s Protection army…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

February 7, 2018 at 7:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED: Report in Ad-Diyyar details major break between Jordan and Saudi Arabia

Although Ayyoub’s Ad-Diyyar is certainly against MBS, perhaps there are worthwhile nuggets to be further confirmed. Translated in part here and in full by our (

“…ISIL and other takfiri forces had once been crossing from Jordan to Saudi Arabia, but the powerful Jordanian army positioned its troops on the borders with Saudi Arabia and prevented the infiltration of the takfiris. However, the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, pulled out the Jordanian army from the entire borders with Saudi Arabia and left the Saudi army entirely in charge. As for the takfiris, the King of Jordan is certain that the Jordanian intelligence services and the Jordanian army can crush the takfiri organizations in Jordan. However, the Jordanian army will no longer be protecting the borders with Saudi Arabia…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

February 5, 2018 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

%d bloggers like this: