The Mideastwire Blog

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

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

Omar Al-Ubaydli: Trump’s Oil Tweet is About Mueller

Trump’s Oil Tweet is About Mueller

by Omar Al-Ubaydli*

What did Donald Trump mean when he said that oil prices are “artificially high”, and what motivated him to make this announcement? In fact, this is an act of self-preservation as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation continues to look more menacing for the Trump camp.

Let’s start with content of the accusation. OPEC has a reputation for manipulating oil markets in its favor: apparently, by controlling around 40% of the world’s oil production, it oversees coordinated restrictions in its production, thereby realizing higher prices, to the benefit of oil producers.

This sensible perception is actually completely wrong, at least for the period 1980-2009, and most likely up until 2016. Jeff Colgan, a professor at Brown University, has demonstrated in excruciating detail that OPEC’s producers—with the exception of Saudi Arabia—behave identically to OPEC non-members, and that as a consequence, there is no evidence of actual coordinated activity by OPEC.

In fact, if we ignore the media hype, this is expected, since coordinating output cuts between countries that are geographically disparate, have wildly different production costs and fiscal needs, and in a market with volatile demand,is virtually impossible. In fact, coordinated cuts when you only control 40% of the market is commercial suicide, and the advent of shale oil makes it even more unwise.

Notably, Saudi Arabia has historically played a balancing role, by maintaining excess capacity that it brings online in case there is a severe disruption to another OPEC member, such as during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It does so to shield western countries from price spikes as part of its strategic relationship with the USA.

OPEC’s reputation, therefore, is just smoke and mirrors that plays to the interests of the entire oil community: exportersclaim influence over western economies, and importers have a willing scapegoat for any economic crisis.

In December 2016, something incredibly unexpected occurred, which is that OPEC actually managed to coordinate a cut in output, with the cooperation of a group of non-members, headlined by Russia. The catalyst was geo-politics: Russia saw an opportunity to develop its ties with Saudi Arabia, at a time when shale oil meant that US policymakers no longer needed Saudi Arabia’s assistance in preventing oil price spikes. Russia’s strategic ties with Iran also helped ensure conformity within OPEC that would otherwise have been intra-OPEC geopolitical conflicts. The measures successfully lead to an increase in oil prices, and the accord has been extended until the end of 2018.

Meanwhile, Trump’s election heralded a new, pro-oil stance by the White House. Barrack Obama was more of an environmentalist, preventing the Keystone Pipeline, as well as various internal pipeline projects requested by the shale oil community. As a businessman with little sympathy for environmentalists, Trump wasted no time in boosting the oil sector with approvals for the pipelines.

As an economic nationalist, Trump should favor high oil prices, since it means higher US oil production, more US oil sector jobs, and lower US imports, including US oil imports from the Middle East—a historic reason for US regional military intervention, which Trump is keen to diminish.Moreover, the US economy is booming, with no looming threat from oil prices.

Why, then, would he launch a broadside at OPEC when the organization is helping him achieve his policy goals? The reason is that Mueller’s investigation—which is transforming into a real threat to Trump’s presidency.

For the first year of Trump’s presidency, the command-in-chief was rhetorically quite pro-Russian, personally complimenting Vladimir Putin, and claiming the need for greater cooperation, in spite the hostile stance by democrats, republicans, the state department, and the military establishment toward Russia.

However last month, as the US government began considering military action against the Syrian government, Trump began talking very negatively about Russia, aligning himself with the rest of the key players in American politics.

One of the key reasons for this turnaround, most likely, was the steam gathering in Mueller’s investigation. Trump was initially confident that any investigation of Russian collusion would yield nothing, and that any threat could be eliminated by firing people like former FBI director, James Comey, and, if need be, Mueller.

However, Trump has now surmised that his countermeasures need to be aided by a more overt anti-Russia stance. The declaration by House Leader Paul Ryan that he will give up his seat at the expiration of his term is an indication that republicans fear the worse from the investigation.

Returning to OPEC, Trump has correctly inferred that OPEC’s recent success is driven by Saudi Arabia deepening its geo-strategic ties to Russia, to the benefit of both sides. Therefore, as part of his newfound affinity for anti-Russian rhetoric—and as a way of attacking Russian interests—Trump is attacking OPEC’s accord with Russia. He still wants high prices to boost the US oil sector, and to wean America off Middle Eastern oil imports, but he also wants to improve his anti-Russian credentials, in advance of his showdown with Mueller. This saga is heading toward a gripping conclusion.

Omar Al-Ubaydli
Researcher at Derasat, Bahrain Center for Strategic, International, & Energy Studies

* The views expressed above are the authors own

Written by nickbiddlenoe

April 21, 2018 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED Al-Akhbar: Lebanon already buys power from Syria but plans are in the works to dramatically scale up

The Mideastwire Blog

Translated by our today, in part below:

“…However, the Lebanese network cannot currently handle this quantity. There’s a need to prepare the right infrastructure, which calls for reverting to the option of the ships. However, the main thing is that 350 megawatts can reach Lebanon within thirty minutes and through an agreement that can be signed by the Electricité du Liban institution rather than the government. Moreover, this quantity could be increased by 150 to 200 megawatts within only six weeks thus reaching a total of 500 to 550 megawatts that Lebanon can benefit from in a matter of two months.

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Written by nickbiddlenoe

April 16, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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