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Applications Now Open: The Seventh Tunis Exchange Politics Conference March 13-20, 2016/Deadline I February 20

The Exchange is an effort by and its partners to promote understanding and academic enrichment through a variety of city-focused conferences in and around the Middle East and North Africa.

During their stay, typically lasting from one to two weeks, students and professionals from around the globe engage directly with some of the leading intellectuals, academics and political leaders in the country – representing a variety of different viewpoints.

The First Exchange was launched in June 2008 in Beirut, Lebanon. Now, seven years on, almost 450 people from 48 different countries have participated, with many going on to work as diplomats in their home countries, for NGOs serving the region and as social entrepreneurs.

The next Exchange will be held in Tunis March 13-20, 2016

To view previous Exchange programs in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Tunis and the Gulf, as well as media coverage of our efforts, visit

View the CNN report on The Beirut Exchange at:

Beirut Exchange Group on Facebook

Tunis Exchange Group on Facebook

REQUEST AN APPLICATION for any Exchange via

Note that tuition discounts, beyond standard financial aid allocations for those applicants with demonstrated need, are available for alumni of previous Exchange programs as well as students who wish to attend more than one Exchange. For more information, please email

March 13-March 20, 2016

Application Deadline I February 20, 2016/Deadline II March 1, 2016
Limited spaces available/Rolling acceptance

As with our other Exchanges, the seven-day program 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 Spring.

Track 1: Academic Seminars. Participants will attend a series of lectures with leading academics and public intellectuals in Tunisia. Topics 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.

Track 2: 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.

Speakers at the six previous Tunis Exchanges have included:

(View the Sixth Tunis Exchange Schedule here)
Abdelfattah Morou (Ennahda Party)
Rached Ghannouchi (Ennahda Party)
Mehrezia Laabidi (Ennahda Party)
Imed Dehmi (President, Congress for the Republic Party)
Taieb Bakkouche (Secretary General, Nidaa Tounes)
Hama Hammami (Popular Front)
Meriem Bourbuiba (Former Hizb Joumhouri)
Maya Jribi (Hizb Joumhouri)
Adnen Haji (UGTT, Leader of the 2008 uprising in Redeyef)
Mounir Ajroud (President, Leagues to Protect the Revolution)
Mohamed Belkhouja (President, Reform Front/Salafist Party)
Habib Kazdaghli (Manouba University)
Taieb Ghozi (Imam, Grand Mosque of Kairouan)
Michael Ayari (International Crisis Group)
Ahlem Belhaj (President, Tunisian Association of Democratic Women)
Kamel Laabidi (National Authority for Information and Communication Reform)
Amna Guellali (Director, Human Rights Watch)
Bochra Belhaj Hamidi (Lawyer)
Hamida Ennaifer (Co-founder, Islamic Tendency Movement)
Salaheddine Jourchi (Co-founder, Islamic Tendency Movement)
Youssef Seddik (Philosopher)
Fabio Merone (Researcher, Gerda Hinkel Foundation)
Radwan Masmoudi (Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy)
Amira Yahyaoui (Al-Bawsala)
Sihem Ben Sedrine (Transitional Justice Commission)
Slim Amamou (Blogger, Former Minister)
Yassine Ayari (Blogger, leading figure in the revolution)


UGTT (Tunisian General Labour Union)
Jibha Chaabia (Popular Front)
Ennahda Party
Nidaa Tounes (Call for Tunisia)
Congress for the Republic (CPR)
Leagues to Protect the Revolution
Jibhat al-Islah (a leading Salafist party)
Ettakatol Party
Afeq Tounes Party
Hizb Joumhouri Party (formerly PDP)
Union of Tunisian Journalists
Committee to Protect Journalists
High Authority for Audio-Visual Communication (HAICA)
Nessma TV
Kalimat Radio
Ettounsia Newspaper
Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (Les Femmes Democrates)
Ministry of Women’s Affairs
Human Rights Watch, Tunisia
Ministry of Transitional Justice and Human Rights
Tunisian Observatory for a Democratic Transition
Al-Bawsala (government monitoring NGO)
Tunisian League of Human Rights (LTDH)
Amnesty International, Tunisia
Tunisian Network for Social Economy
Tunisian-American Chamber of Commerce
Tunisian Association of Young Entrepreneurs
Governorates (meeting with governors of Sidi Bouzid, Gafsa and Sfax)
Manouba University
Tunis University
Ministry of Religious Affairs
Ministry of Finance
International Center for Transitional Justice
Tunisian Judges Association
Tunisian Lawyers Association

Program Format:
The Tunis Exchange will be held over seven days, mainly at the conference room of The Novotel Hotel in downtown Tunis. It is recommended that students stay at the Ibis (next door) or at the Novotel since most meetings will take place in the hotel conference room. Off-site meetings during the seven days will entail bus travel as a group in and around Tunis, including to the National Assembly.

Tuition – $900; Partial financial aid is available for those students and individuals that can demonstrate need as well as alumni of our previous programs. All bus travel, transportation from the airport on arrival and other program costs associated with the full seven-day Exchange are included.

Accommodation – $350; Room rates vary depending on arrangements, but generally fall within the range of $50 per night, per student for a shared double room (breakfast and taxes are included). Alternative accommodation, including in a single room, is available upon request and students are welcome to arrange for their own housing

Airfare – $400, approximate from the European Union.



About the Co-Directors:
Monica L. Marks is a North Africa analyst, Rhodes Scholar, and visiting fellow at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion. Her work, which focuses primarily on Islamism and institutional reform in Tunisia, has appeared in numerous peer-reviewed academic publications and news outlets including The Guardian, The New York Times, Foreign Policy as well as think tanks such as the Barcelona-based Institute for Integrated Transitions (IFIT), the Carnegie Endowment, and the Brookings Doha Center. A former Fulbright Scholar to Turkey, Ms. Marks returned there to work as an instructor at Istanbul’s Bogazici University in 2013 and again in 2014. Ms. Marks is based, however, in Tunisia, where she has also moonlighted as a freelance journalist for The New York Times and she frequently comments as a Tunisia-based political analyst on programs including BBC, France 24, and NPR. Ms. Marks is a doctoral candidate at St Antony’s College Oxford. Her doctoral research is supported by the European Research Council.

Nicholas Noe is currently a co-editor of the Heinrich Boell Foundation’s journal on the Middle East, Perspectives, the editor of the 2007 book, “Voice of Hezbollah: The Statements of Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah” (Verso), Co-Founder of the Beirut-based news translation service covering the Middle East media and the Co-Director of The Exchange program which now counts almost 400 student alumni from 48 different countries. He regularly provides commentary for Al-Jazeera International, BBC, CNN and several US and European publications and is the author of a White Paper for the Century Foundation entitled: “Re-Imagining the Lebanon Track: Towards a New US Policy.” Mr. Noe’s op-eds on the region have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Foreign Policy Magazine, Asia Times, The National and The National Interest.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

February 9, 2016 at 6:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

“Syrian students in the north receiving Wahhabi education”

Translated by our – a troubling development if not exaggerated!
On February 1, the Ad-Diyyar daily newspaper carried the following report by Doumou’ al-Asmar: “A Tripoli source indicated that the Saudi budget that has been devoted for the education of the Syrian students in Lebanon amounts to four million dollars per year and is being spent by the Syrian educational committee, which is based in Tripoli. This committee is said to have become an independent state within the Lebanese state as it operates away from the surveillance and monitoring of the national ministry of education.

“The educational curriculum that is being applied in this committee’s schools has nothing to do with the official Lebanese curriculum. The Syrian curriculum is also completely tore down as thousands of Syrian students are being educated according to the Saudi curricula meaning that generations of Syrian kids are being taught something that completely undermines all the education that children have been receiving under the Syrian curricula for more than forty years.

“The source indicated that the committee overseeing the schools in Tripoli and the north is receiving money but barely spending it on the students who are supposed to receive free education. However, these students are actually paying school fees as well as transportation fees…, which raises several questions on the fate of the budget dedicated to the displaced students. The source expressed his dismay since…these Syrian students are now chanting the national hymns of the funding sources such as the Saudi, Kuwaiti, or Emirati hymns whenever delegations from these countries come to visit them.

“The educational material is now producing students who support the Gulf regimes or the Wahhabi curriculum. A few years from now, Lebanon will see a wave of takfiri, pro-Gulf graduates who will constitute a threat not only to Syria but also to Lebanon… According to the source, the above-mentioned committee that oversees the schools is running its affairs from offices that have been opened in Tripoli and turned into fortresses equipped with wireless devices and surveillance cameras as they are considered as Syrian opposition centers.

“This committee is headed by a Syrian opposition leader who left Syria in the 1980s following the Hamah events and stayed in Saudi Arabia. He is currently travelling between Lebanon and Syria and has a political agenda that he is carrying out among the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. He is also working on attracting and recruiting the Syrian youths according to the takfiri curriculum, for which he is recruiting students of all ages.

“The source wondered about the secret behind the dates’ shipments reaching the offices of this committee in Abi Samra. He says: Are these really dates, or is there something more bitter beneath? The source added that the brother of the above-mentioned leader is a leader at a radical group; and the funding keeps flowing in under the headline of these schools, which have turned into centers for the Syrian opposition activists…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

February 3, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

El-Khabar: “Algeria’s image abroad becomes bleaker; frightening scenarios…”

Translated by our yesterday:

“Algeria’s image abroad becomes bleaker; frightening scenarios…”

On January 23, the daily El-Khabar reported: “The quick collapse of Algeria’s revenues has become a source of concern not only for its people but also for the countries within its zone, particularly France which is tied to Algeria by big strategic interests which it would not want to lose and it also fears that the financial crisis in its former colony would lead to another wave of migration that would add to its current problems. The tone of discussion on Algeria has changed on the other bank of the Mediterranean and the description of “regional power” and other terms of flattery have slipped down to a more strict assessment when Algeria’s revenue became hardly enough to pay for half of its imports after the unprecedented collapse of oil prices in the world markets and some foreigners expected even the bankruptcy of Algeria. As an example of the image of Algeria which is being circulated currently, the French economist, Nicolas Bouzou, said in a lengthy article published in Le Point that Algeria, which he described as “the wonderful neighbour” was nominated to “collapse because of its political and economic situation”, and that France must take that into consideration and monitor the situation there.

“Bouzou, who is the head of the economic studies centre, Asteres, explained that Algeria was the first port of call for France’s exports to the Arab world and French companies sold a large quantity of grains, cars and medicines to Algeria. He pointed out that the post-independence “Algerian tragedy” lay in adopting “Boumediene’s socialism and then populism” which were policies that did not allow Algeria to diversify its economy and the country found itself “dependent on the hydrocarbon sector for 97 per cent of its revenue and due to the fall in oil prices the budget deficit stood at 30 per cent in the 2015 budget and unemployment stood at 11 per cent of the active population”.

“Politically, Bouzou said that the “fragile” Algerian state was still under Islamic threat and was based on three dominant and sometimes not homogenous pillars which were the Presidency which was occupied by a non-existent president, the army which was led by the elderly and surrounded by the intelligence service and a public opinion a large part of which still dreamt of France, according to him… Regarding US and British newspapers which are not interested in Algeria except when they warn about the gravity of the situation, the Financial Times said a week ago that the economic difficulties in the country threatened its stability, based on the opinion of the deputy director of the International Monetary Fund, Middle East and North Africa, Daniela Gressani, who had said that Algeria was exposed to an external shock that would last many years.

“Washington Post cited a statement by an expert on the constitution project which said that it did not meet the basic principles of democracy because it allowed the strengthening of the state at the expense of the civil society. New York Times discussed President Bouteflika’s state of health and asked if he was ruling the country, particularly after the request by the Group of 19 to see him in order to confirm that he owned up to the decisions made on his behalf.

“This terrifying perception of the situation in Algeria strikes at the heart of what is known as “improving Algeria’s image abroad”, which is one of the pledges made by President Bouteflika when he was elected for the first time in 1999, and the “achievements” his supporters bragged about which were in Belkhadem’s words like “a mangy camel” and in time it became clear that that image was closely linked to the price of oil, improved with its improvement and collapsed with its collapse.”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

February 3, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Nicholas Noe in Newsweek on Lebanon’s presidential jockeying


Three decades later, Lebanon’s leading Christian rivals finally reconcile, but will that get the country a president?

BY Nicholas Noe
For most people in the Middle East, the prospect that Lebanon might finally install a president after more than a year and a half of political deadlock probably passed with little notice.

After all, there are much bigger problems to worry about: The region is on fire, with multiple expanding insurgencies, an accelerating socio-economic breakdown and a sectarian conflict at its worst in recent memory.

For perhaps a majority of the Lebanese, however, the January 18 announcement that two longtime Christian rivals – Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea – would finally set aside their differences and try their best to elect Aoun as the next head of state, was indeed a major event.

“Very regrettably, we did not have a truth and reconciliation process after [the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil] War,” Aoun told Newsweek Middle East.

“This is one important step in the process – an effort to begin to heal the Christian community as well as the larger Lebanese community. But it is also particularly important at this moment,” the 81-year-old former army commander said. “When we see Lebanon under threat and the Christian presence retreating all around us, we finally come together and have a strong voice as president,” he added.

Bitter Rivalry
For a conflict that set new standards of brutality, the intra-confessional clashes among the Lebanese were often the most vicious and unrelenting.

Indeed, in the last two years of the Civil War, (1988-1990), the remnants of the Lebanese Army under Aoun’s command engaged in a wide-ranging “War of Elimination” with Geagea’s Lebanese Forces (LF) militia.

The fighting killed and wounded tens of thousands and brought destruction to a number of Christian regions that had formerly escaped the previous 13 years of mayhem.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the scars would persist long after both men were effectively removed from the Lebanese stage, with Aoun exiled in France ostensibly for opposing the 1989 “Taif Agreement” that ended the Civil War and Geagea languishing in jail, in part for a church bombing conviction, which some argued was orchestrated by Syrian officials who essentially controlled post-war Lebanon…


Written by nickbiddlenoe

January 29, 2016 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Israel’s former Military Intel head: Hezbollah main threat, Golan main area of concern & it’s vital to bring down Assad

Amos Yadlin, the former Israeli military intel head, has this new INSS brief that clearly sets out what one thinks is the establishment strategic thinking:
Read it here
“Five Years Back and Five Years Forward: Israel’s Strategic Environment in 2011-2015 and Policy Recommendations for 2016-2020”
The key determinations are what some of us have long pointed out:
–Iran is the overall main military threat to Israel and Hezbollah is the greatest immediate threat. This assessment has arguably had a huge impact on Western thinking and approaches towards both actors, even though both only marginally affect the security of Western countries.
— ISIS and Sunni radicals are believed to be far less of a threat to Israel and
(it is believed) can be dealt with – when need be – mostly by deepening ties with their primary drivers/sponsors in the Monarchies, the Gulf, Turkey etc. In the end, the Israeli assessment here seems to be that ISIS and others are bad but can be lived with because they are weakening the main threat to Israel.
–Israel on balance wants to weaken Hezbollah and Iran by collapsing Assad’s regime.
— The main area where an Israeli-Hezbollah war is likely to be sparked is in and around the Golan and southern Syria. The question is whether Hezbollah and Iran will push their position there (I think it is quite likely unfortunately), which would place the Israelis in the somewhat uncomfortable position of having to start the next major war – not because of actual hostilities by Hezbollah but as a “pre-emptive” measure. The Israelis will need to seriously consider whether getting the majority of the blame for starting a giant war will end up being to their advantage (despite the prior information war that would be necessary to try to convince the world that the pre-emptive move was warranted). Unfortunately, I think it is also quite likely that the Israelis will indeed reach a point where the expected blowback from a pre-emptive war that engulfs Lebanon and the region is judged as manageable.
Some key grafs:

Syria is Iran’s corridor to the Arab world and the channel through which it strengthens and maintains contact with Hezbollah and Palestinian extremist groups. The weakening and ousting of the Assad regime is a clear Israeli interest, as only this can level a severe blow to Iran and Hezbollah. Israel must determine how to support efforts that will end with the Assad regime not playing a dominant role in Syria, while at the same time refraining from strengthening extremist Sunni factions and, most prominently, the Islamic State. From Israel’s perspective, these two negative forces can be dealt with sequentially, with a continuous reexamination of their correct prioritization.


To achieve these goals, Israel must develop more creative and active tools through cooperative efforts with strong global allies such as the United States and Europe, as well as with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which are also interested in ejecting Iran from Syria and replacing the Assad regime.


Current common interests constitute an unprecedented basis for the development of meaningful relations with the Sunni bloc that will serve Israel both in the short
and long terms. The ability to work together to thwart Iranian subversion and Iran’s aspirations to acquire a nuclear bomb and achieve regional hegemony, and Israeli assistance in fighting IS…

Israel must ensure that the forces of the radical axis are weakened as much as possible in the future Syria and are removed from the Golan Heights to the greatest extent possible. If Syria is divided, the Syrian elements with which Israel can cooperate include the more moderate Sunni organizations and the states supporting them, such as Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, Jordan, and Turkey.

Israel must try to design an updated security plan for the Golan Heights, whether as an
extension of the already existing separation of forces agreement, or under different rules of operation and deterrence vis-à-vis the forces that will establish themselves in the Syrian Golan Heights.

The JCPOA has frozen the Iranian nuclear threat for a number of years, and the armies currently on Israel’s borders are either at peace with Israel or enervated by exhausting civil wars. Israel’s primary military threat at the present time is posed by Hezbollah. This organization continues its buildup with offensive and defensive weaponry produced by Iran, Russia, and Syria. The range of the rockets and missiles at its disposal cover the full territory of Israel, and their precision and lethality continue to increase. Hezbollah is even developing an offensive capability to seize control of some Israeli territory.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

January 29, 2016 at 5:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

“Nasrallah’s troops” now on the Jordanian border raises fears in Amman

Interesting piece translated tonight by our

Note how the anti-Hezbollah daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi puts the Russian response: essentially, Moscow seems to say, dont worry about Hezbollah on your border…. it will be fine.

“…And this allusion had been directly heard from him by Al-Quds al-Arabi on many occasions… Still, what is mostly alarming for Amman is the presence of Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah forces near the Jordanian city of Ramtha, which is said to have been subject to several infiltration attempts by the Lebanese Hezbollah, prior to the Arab spring…

“…At this level exclusively, Jordan received a reassuring message from Moscow saying that all the “military parties” in Syria will show discipline and operate based on a set program…, assuring there was no need to fear the presence of Hezbollah’s and the Revolutionary Guard’s armed men in Daraa. The second was the clear message sent by the Jordanian army, saying it was ready to resort to all military options to prevent any attempt to approach the Jordanian border from whichever side, using firepower…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

January 27, 2016 at 7:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Israeli Military assessment says Russian role constrains Hezbollah

This piece in JPost argues: “Russia’s intervention in Syria and close interaction with Hezbollah may actually decrease the likelihood of an Israel-Hezbollah conflict erupting in the near future, according to IDF assessments. For example, dialogue between Russia and Hezbollah could provide an opportunity to rein in Hezbollah responses to reported Israeli air strikes on weapons-trafficking runs in Syria. The assessments are part of a broader look at Israel’s strategic environment.”

I argued along these lines in Foreign Affairs here in October:

“Strange Bedfellows in Syria: Russian Intervention Could Constrain Iran and Hezbollah—and Help Israel”/Foreign Affairs, October 2015 (Subscriber only-accesible via Mideastwire Blog)

Nicholas Noe in Foreign Affairs: “Strange Bedfellows in Syria: Russian Intervention Could Constrain Iran and Hezbollah—and Help Israel”

The problematic point is that even if we believe the military folks in Israel actually think this…. this does NOT mean that the Israeli political leadership acts wisely on this… at all.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

January 27, 2016 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


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