The Mideastwire Blog

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

Al-Jazeera now referring to Assad as “The Syrian President”

Translated today, in part below, by our (for a free trial email

On August 22, the electronic Rai al-Youm daily carried the following editorial: “For the Al-Jazeera channel to air the speech of President Bashar al-Assad while its country had embraced the first nucleus of the Syrian opposition (the National Council) and for the channel to call him “the Syrian president” for the first time after seven years of calling him “the head of the regime,” this means that many changes are taking place at the level of the Syrian and regional scenes that are difficult to ignore or leap beyond for anyone aiming for objectivity and professionalism.

“Focusing on this noteworthy phenomenon doesn’t take away from the importance of the speech itself. Rai al-Youm believes that this was one of the most important speeches made by the Syrian president since the beginning of the crisis in his country thanks to the features in contained for the future roadmap towards the “new Syria” as he specifically sees it. The speech that was made at the opening of a conference by the Syrian foreign ministry yesterday reflected its author’s confidence and reassurance with respect to Syria exiting the bottle neck and walking on the road of rapid recovery, as well as its readiness for the reconstruction phase both on the financial and psychological levels…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 22, 2017 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Conférences de politique d’échange du Yémen, Erbil-Sulaymaniyah, Libye, Beyrouth et Tunis 2017-2018

Nous organisons cinq programmes d’échange politique, dont un récemment lancé, le ‘Libya Exchange,’ co-animé par Omeyya Seddik (Al-Muqaddima/Centre HD) et Monica Marks (Université d’Oxford):
1) Le deuxième Yemen Exchange (tenu à Beyrouth) du 11 au 15 octobre
2) Le Erbil-Sulaymaniyah Exchange du 29 Octobre au 4 Novembre
3) Le Libya Exchange (tenu à Tunis) du 29 novembre au 3 décembre
4) Le dixième Tunis Exchange du 3 au 10 janvier
5) Le dix-neuvième Beirut Exchange du 14 au 21 janvier
Pour toutes demandes d’inscription, vous pouvez nous contacter à l’adresse suivante:
Pour consulter les plannings complets de nos programmes au Liban, en Syrie, en Turquie, en Tunisie, en Irak et au Golf, ainsi que la couverture médiatique de l’Exchange et les commentaires de nos anciens élèves, visitez:
The Exchange
Le groupe Facebook Beirut Exchange
Le groupe Facebook Tunis Exchange
Notez que pour les frais de participation, des formules spéciales sont disponibles aux participants qui souhaitent s’inscrire à plusieurs programmes d’échange. Pour plus d’information, veuillez envoyer un courriel à En outre, tous nos programmes sont financés par le biais des frais payés par les participants eux-mêmes. Ainsi, le programme ne bénéficie d’aucun soutien gouvernemental, privé ou à but non lucratif, un aspect qui, selon nous, garantit une plateforme relativement neutre pour le dialogue et la compréhension.
The Exchange est une initiative lancée par et ses partenaires afin de promouvoir un enrichissement académique et professionnel à travers une variété de conférences d’engagement direct par de petits groupes au Moyen-Orient et en Afrique du Nord.
Au cours de leur séjour, en général de cinq jours à une semaine, des participants du monde entier écoutent et interrogent les intellectuels, militants et hommes politiques qui représentent des points de vue divers dans un pays spécifique.
Le premier Exchange a été lancé en juin 2008 à Beyrouth, Liban. Aujourd’hui, neuf ans plus tard, plus de 600 personnes de 51 pays ont participé à 35 programmes différents dans la région.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 22, 2017 at 10:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Learn Arabic in Tunis: 2017-2018 Class Schedules Now Available!

The ACT Center is pleased to partner with and offer students and professionals from around the world the opportunity to study Arabic during the academic year, October 2–May 11, in the vibrant heart of downtown Tunis!
Modern Standard Arabic:
— Weekday Mornings 9am-12pm/Monday-Friday;
— 75 hours per term;
— $675 tuition per term; $1250 per seasonal session (2 terms)
— Small group MSA classes (3-5 students) are available at the following levels:
* Beginner Alif Baa+Al-Kitaab 1, Units 1-7
* High-Beginner Al-Kitaab 1, Units 8-14
* Intermediate Al-Kitaab 1, Units 15-20
* High-Intermediate Al-Kitaab 2+ACT Media Book 1
* Advanced Al-Kitaab 3+ACT Media Book 2
Tunisian Dialect:
— Weekday Afternoons 2pm-4pm/Monday-Friday;
— 50 hours per term;
— $360 tuition per term; $650 per seasonal session (2 terms)
— Small group Tunisian Dialect classes (from 3-5 students) are available at the following levels:
* Beginner Tunisian Dialect (ACT Dialect Book 1)
* Intermediate Tunisian Dialect (ACT Dialect Book 2)
* Advanced Tunisian Dialect (Media & Politics Immersion)
Limited spaces are available. To apply email:

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 19, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tunisian Islamist Leader: Women should have equality in inheritance and marriage to non-Muslims

This is a picture of Ennahdha Vice-President and Co-Founder Sheikh Abdelfattah Mourou waiting patiently to board and then sit in economy class to Istanbul last month. During our flight, the crew repeatedly asked if he wanted to move to first class. He stayed, apparently happy to sit between between two beer drinking Tunisian ladies who seemed to have come directly from a beach club to the airport.
He supports Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men and equal inheritance.
I rarely ever express direct, public praise for a political and religious figure in a country where I am not a citizen (what right do I have to express such opinions publicly when I am not subject to the full weight of that country’s history, laws and social structures?)… But Mourou is one of the most impressive people I have met in almost 14 years in the Middle East:
“…However, the response to Dar al-Iftaa came from the Egyptian Al-Azhar institution, which also relied on the rulings of Shari’a and said: “They do not tolerate interpretation and do not change based on the circumstances and times… The calls for gender equality in inheritance under claims of doing justice to women are the biggest injustice to them.” In other words, Al-Azhar relied on Shari’a and logic, just like the Tunisian Dar al-Iftaa, to draw the opposite conclusion. At the level of the political institutions and figures, Essebsi was surprisingly supported by Ennahda Vice-President Sheikh Abdelfattah Mourou, who went beyond the issue of inheritance to a more thorny matter, i.e. Tunisian women’s marriage to non-Muslims, thus saying this was a “personal choice..” guaranteed by the Tunisian constitution. By doing so, he stressed that Ennahda was a political party, which like all the remaining Tunisian parties, adopted the constitution as the framework of the social contract…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 17, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED: Yemen’s Hadi “losing patience” with UAE in Yemen

Translated today by our From Ash-Sharq daily:

“Hadi added: “The UAE wants to control Ma’reb and Sanaa, which will further exacerbate the problem…” He then said: “They prevented the access of fortifications for the Aden Airport; they prevented the cash carrying jet from landing; and now, they are working on controlling the oil and gas wells…” He then added: “Don’t you expect that patience is unlimited. Everything has its limits. When I lose my patience with them, they have to bear the consequences…””


Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 17, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Robert Amsterdam: Why We Can’t Afford to Mismanage the Qatar Crisis

When Donald J. Trump campaigned for president, he promised a different kind of politics. In foreign policy, he has already delivered that, and then some.

With just one sword dance at Murabba Palace and some brotherly bonding over an orb with King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President Trump’s visit gave Saudi Arabia tacit approval to risk disturbing the tenuous balance of power in the Middle East by imposing a blockade on Qatar by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

This attack on Qatar, which could only take place once Saudi Arabia felt they had assurances, has serious implications for U.S. strategic interests in the region, and not just because the country hosts Al Udeid Air Base. And as shown by the most recent list of demands made by the GCC to Qatar – which includes among other measures shutting down Al-Jazeera – the goal is to strip Doha of its sovereignty to the detriment of the larger fragile alliance of Sunni states in the region.

In many ways, the dispute is a reflection of long-brewing changes in the Gulf. Although the Saudi-led coalition rationalized the boycott as punishment for Qatar’s alleged funding of terrorist organizations, the blockade is widely known to be motivated by a separate agenda. Instead of aligning GCC members in a pan-Sunni coalition to oppose the expansion of Iranian influence and the spread of extremist terror groups like Daesh, the Saudi coalition drove a wedge into the unity of the GCC, upsetting the balance of region’s most stable international force.

Questions are mounting over whether the Saudi-led coalition violated international law by blocking nearly all flows of trade, travel, and transactions to the peninsula that threaten the small state’s sovereignty.

The grounds for these accusations are the collection of treaties, customs, and historical norms that define international law. Under these, blockades are characterized as acts of war. One country may legally blockade another only if it is acting in individual or collective self-defense—the standard requirements for going to war—or the U.N. Security Council has proclaimed the action necessary to maintain international peace.

The Saudi coalition’s blockade of Qatar approaches infringement of this international norm, and exemplifies a recent trend toward subtle aggression that sidesteps international law. While easily identified use of aggressive force is outlawed, low-intensity conflict like sanctions and diplomatic isolation have become the weapon of choice for regimes interested in exerting their will over others.

On these grounds, Qatar has forcefully denounced the GCC blockade as illegal, and is taking action against the aggressors. Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) recently hired a Swiss law firm to investigate and seek compensation for thousands of cases of human rights violations that resulted from the Saudi-led blockade. The Swiss counsel indicates that these claims distinguish between actions taken against a government and those that target private citizens.

“The sanctions imposed on Qatar go too far and are not in accordance with international law…[because] ordinary Qatari nationals and companies are not part of the state and cannot be targeted,” says lawyer Veijo Heiskanen. “A political dispute between States does not justify sanctions against private citizens, companies and other private entities.”

Thousands of civilians have been forced to abandon jobs, homes, and universities, while families have been faced with tough decisions over whether to split up or to face prison or other forms of punishment for staying together. According to the NHRC, of the approximately 50 million residents of GCC countries, 19,000 Qatari citizens living in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE have endured forced separation from properties, jobs, and families, and 11,300 people from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and UAE who were living in Qatar are facing forced repatriation.

There are other serious international law issues prompted by the crisis. Qatar and its allies have accused Saudi Arabia of violating international law’s protection of state sovereignty with the list of 13 demands for de-escalation, which include shutting down the Al Jazeera media network and cancelling plans for a Turkish military base.

International law defines state sovereignty as the principle that each state has the right to control its territory and domestic affairs. Countries are prohibited from interfering with internal affairs or infringing upon the territorial integrity or political independence of any other state in the absence of a legal right to do so. Saudi Arabia’s demands violate the basic rights of freedom of expression and freedom of domestic policy of a sovereign, independent state.

For outside actors like the United States, these accusations could have significant consequences. The international community’s reaction to the Saudi coalition’s actions could impose new interpretations of the law’s protection of state sovereignty and low-intensity aggression, altering the ability of autocrats and authoritarians to impose their will on smaller or financially weaker states in the future. For the US, a crisis that has the potential to rewrite historical norms and change the definitions of national sovereignty and independence under international law should be a priority.

Recent postures suggest that Qatar and Saudi Arabia may be poised for stalemate: the 10-day deadline to comply with demands, plus 48-hour extension, appears almost designed to fail.

For the prospects of peace and unity in the Middle East, this turmoil is especially troubling, as the region is already experiencing increasing instability. Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria are in the midst of civil wars that have caused millions of civilian casualties and forced displacement, while conflict between Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza continues to simmer. Adding the fracturing of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the region’s most stable and peaceful political and economic alliance could be devastating.

To fully understand how a disintegration of the GCC may shape the future for the Middle East, it’s crucial to consider what the organization represents. Member states Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman are all led by monarchies whose economies are heavily rooted in the oil and natural gas industries, behind the symbolic and financial support of Western superpowers. They are home to some of the largest foreign military bases in the region, and enjoy multi-billion arms deals with US firms. The organization has incentivized countries with complex histories of tension and rivalry to align their policies toward the common end of creating regional stability. Now all of that is at risk.

The loss of the singular dominance of a united GCC creates new uncertainty in the Middle East, could open the door for extremist groups and Tehran to spread their influence, and may even signal an impending shift in the regional balance of power.

This is not the kind of crisis where Washington can afford to sit on the sidelines. A multilateral political solution must be forged that takes into account the mandatory preservation of Qatar’s sovereignty – anything less will signal a fundamental weakness on behalf of the United States and will deeply erode trust of leadership in the region. That is not an outcome that benefits our national security.

*Robert Amsterdam is an international lawyer currently representing the Republic of Turkey in its case against Fethullah Gulen.


Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 17, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Another POMED conference on MidEast that misses the point of understanding and engagement

Sadly POMED (The Project on Middle East Democracy) organizes yet another conference on the MidEast dominated by Americans, almost all speakers are Beltway usual suspects… and then some unnamed Arabs for the last day. I just don’t get it…and I still wonder why Wolfowitz is feted at their galas when he was one of the Americans who perhaps did the most damage to Middle East Democracy (not to mention tens of millions of lives)?

Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 16, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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