The Mideastwire Blog

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

TRANSLATED: Report says Lebanese Army in negotiations with Russia over advanced arms deal

Translated tonight by our

On July 15, the An-Nahar daily newspaper carried the following piece by Rajeh al-Khoury: “All the wishes that Jean-Marc Ayrault brought along to Beirut will change nothing in the situation that he referred to after his talks in Bkirki where he said: “The Lebanese people are now facing a very difficult situation. There are tragic repercussions and security threats resulting from the war in Syria and the refugees fleeing to the neighboring countries mainly Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.”

“There is nothing new there since the French President Francois Hollande had already seen the same situation when he visited Lebanon on April 14. For this reason, the following question seems warranted: What can the French foreign minister offer to Lebanon besides the pieces of advice and wishes that Hollande had previously offered by recommending that the politicians reach an agreement and rescue the country by electing a president, one who would relaunch the action of the paralyzed state institutions?

“The essence of the visit consisted of the meeting with Speaker Birri who reminded Ayrault of France’s previous and ongoing commitments to supporting the Lebanese army and of the importance and need to release the three billion dollars endowment aimed at supplying the Lebanese army with French weapons. The focus on the armament is of major importance for a number of reasons such as:

“First, the rise in the terrorist threats against Lebanon, the last of which consisted of the El-Qaa attacks; and the rise in the number of terrorist cells that are being uncovered and dismantled in Lebanon; in addition to the growing pressure against ISIL and An-Nusra in Syria and Iraq, which is exacerbating the threat represented by their cells outside [Syria and Iraq].

“Second, Ayrault announced that the French cabinet is preparing for a meeting to be attended by the international work group for Lebanon in New York during the upcoming month of September… Third, the Special Coordinator for the United Nations in Lebanon, Sigrid Kaag, asked the Security Council to provide additional support for Lebanon and said that this support is a need rather than a luxury especially in light of the growing terrorist threats…

“Fourth, the Lebanese ambassador to Moscow, Shawki Bou Nassar, spoke to the Russian Sputnik agency where he revealed that the Lebanese State is conducting lengthy negotiations with Moscow with the aim of obtaining a Russian weapons’ deal including T-72 tanks, Kornet missiles, and canons in order to enhance its ability to engage in the escalating battles and confrontations with the terrorist.

“Fifth, Lebanon constitutes a vital line of defense to push back the terrorism waves that might cross over to France and Europe. For this reason, supplying the Lebanese army with weapons and supporting the security forces constitutes a political, moral, and ethical responsibility for France and all the European countries.”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

July 16, 2016 at 1:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized

(Very) Preliminary Thoughts on Attempted Military Coup in Turkey Re: the Syria War & Assad’s Fortunes

Supporters here in the US of military induced regime change in Syria and/or the use of direct military force by the US/NATO and/or the Turkish military towards the same end are having a particularly bad time of it lately:

— Assad is broadening his acceptability ratings in the Western media… no matter how odious he may be, he is on an upswing and is getting his desired message across more effectively than ever (no matter the untruths on NBC the other day).

— Right wing and neo-isolationist trends in the US and Europe are broadly receptive of Assad especially vis-a-vis ISIS and the threat of so-called “radical Islamic terrorism.”

— European security agencies are directly coordinating now with Assad’s government. The recent visit to Italy and vice versa (according to Arabic media) is but one public example.

— Aleppo may fall to Assad and his allies and at least is in a more perilous state than ever before.

— Team Obama may be willing to militarily team up with Russia in Syria and may be willing to draw a harder line against rebel groups who seem to fight with Nusra and ISIS – or who have similar ideological leanings.

Now the two main regional enemies actively trying to bring down the Assad-Hezbollah-Iran-Russia axis are both on their back heels: Saudi Arabia, hit by terror attacks, financial woes, some unprecedented labor unrest, an unprecedented sidelining (and some media/political attacks) by the US, growing rumors about a succession crisis/fight and a destabilizing/unsuccessful war in Yemen; Turkey where the military may have just pushed out Assad’s number one public enemy, Erdogan.

It is true that in the last few weeks, Turkey seemed to re-orient itself to Assad, and distance itself from the Syrian Rebel groups. The U Turn on Russia was also a blow to Assad’s enemies. Was this with Erdogan’s full consent? Was a further progression along these lines stymied by Erdogan, leading to the coup? Were purely domestic factors involved (the Kurdish-Syria War nexis is a blurring, in any case, of domestic/foreign affairs…)?

Taken together, it seems very early in this that if a military coup is successful, Assad et al. are likely to benefit even more than they already are these days, five years into the Syria War.

An incredible turn around for Assad seems to be crystallizing, although so many were confident he would fall in 2011, and though at several points in 2015 he did seem on the verge of a collapse.

Whether this turn is good or bad is a whole additional debate – but for now it seems as if structural factors are moving in Assad’s favor such that we may see a denouement of the Syria War mostly in Assad’s favor.

One is now left contemplating what seemed unthinkable even recently for some analysts: If the Turkish military actively opposes the Syrian rebel groups that use Turkey as a media/political/diplomatic/intel/military staging ground, then these groups may be effectively cut off from their strategic depth. All of them – ISIS, Nusra, Ahrar, Jaish, FSA etc – would have only Jordan as a conduit, which could put enormous added pressures on the kingdom, pressures that the King likely does not wish to take on and which he would likely actively oppose across the board.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

July 16, 2016 at 1:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

My Latest Newsweek ME Piece: The Terrorist Algorithm

“…For some experts in the field, the American government’s enduring interest in the predictive capabilities of technology—especially when paired with artificial intelligence—raises a series of concerns.

After all, getting poorly targeted advertising from Google or Facebook might be annoying, but having police break down your door in the middle of the night because of a “false positive,” a hacking breach that alters stored data or plain old identity theft could be life-changing…”

Read in full here:

Written by nickbiddlenoe

July 13, 2016 at 3:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Beri-Atwan: Real confrontation and threat lies within Saudi kingdom

Long-time critic of the KSA royals… writing in his Rai al-Youm (translated by our
“…Third: The threat against the stability and security of the Kingdom does not primarily consist of the Houthis in Yemen, nor the Shi’i Iranian neighbor or the Syrian regime, but rather the internal Saudi scene. The real war that must be fought is not the war of Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Libya but rather a war within the Saudi borders, one that cannot be fought with the Al-Hazm Storm jets and modern American-made tanks. This is rather a dogmatic war to eradicate corruption, implement political and social reforms, secure employment opportunities for the youths and engaging them in productive projects…”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

July 5, 2016 at 8:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A more effective Administration response to Nasrallah’s “only” Iran funds us statement

The Obama administration should push back hard against the right-wing use of Nasrallah’s recent statement by employing several arguments (instead, it resorts to the line that, yes, we know Iran funds Hezbollah, and that they should stop):

First – that Nasrallah is exaggerating because of the effective (though I have argued, somewhat ill-applied) pressure of financial sanctions (by saying only Iran gives Hezb cash via smuggling and not banks, Nasrallah is reinforcing the arguments being used to blunt the new financial regulations): The US, Israel, the EU all estimate that Iran contributes only a part of Hezbollah’s budget (perhaps 200-300$ million per year).

Second – Hezbollah gets much of its weaponry from Syria and Assad, and also the black market (as Nasrallah has repeatedly said).

Third – Hezbollah gets a sizable amount of cash from religious donations, businesses and illegal enterprises (as the US has long argued) all of which are increasingly vulnerable because of the congress and admin’s new financial pressure tactics.

So, essentially, Nasrallah’s exaggeration/statement is one sign (of many) that the US is wielding an effective, non-violent tool int eh containment effort vis-a-vis Hezbollah… and that this is a logical and effective corollary to the logical and effective Iran Deal (relative to the other options that were available).




Written by nickbiddlenoe

June 29, 2016 at 8:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Did Nasrallah just suggest that Hezbollah is only funded by Iran?

I did not see the speech and have not looked at the transcript. Nasrallah apparently said: “We do not have business projects or investment institutions that benefit from banks. We openly say that Hizbullah’s budget and funds come directly from the Islamic Republic of Iran and as long as Iran has money we will have money,” he declared…”

This is a new turn I think as Nasrallah is essentially implying that ALL of Hezbollah’s funds come from Iran [if this is the quote, MEMRI and others will rapidly translate to demonstrate that the party is WHOLLY owned by Iran].

One needs to look at the Arabic however since he has said many times in the past exactly what the US believes – Iran is a part of Hezbollah funding and that the party gets a lot of money through donations and enterprises and activities in Lebanon and around the world.

Is this an indication of his attempts to lessen the banking sanctions’ impact by exaggerating? Is that an indication of how hard it is hitting?

We should be careful here…. Thoughts?










Written by nickbiddlenoe

June 24, 2016 at 8:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

In the Fall of 2011, Ambassador Robert Ford predicted repeatedly that Syrian regime could be overthrown within a year, Assad’s days were numbered

There are more pieces of course than just the items below – from the Fall 2011 period – where Ambassador Ford did in fact predict the coming collapse of Bashar.

He therefore fudges it with Robin Wright the other day by saying “back in 2012” he and State believed the war would drag on (although Hillary Clinton as his principal predicted Assad’s demise in the summer of 2012 here:

“...Back in 2012, we in the State Department anticipated that the war was going to become nastier and ever more sectarian, but no one understood how far the Syrian government was willing to go to maintain its control in Damascus. No one foresaw that half the country would be displaced from their homes. No one foresaw that huge refugee flows would become issues for our European allies. We didn’t anticipate that the Al Qaeda organization would split and produce an even more virulent form—that a more extreme form would come to control the eastern portion of Syria going into Iraq…”

— In fact, Ford and others were saying during the critical Fall 2011 period that it would all be over in a year (see below) thus laying the foundations for the widespread belief that a controlled collapse could happen by racheting up military and non-military pressure (a policy that turned out to be wrong, based on an incorrect prediction). When Ford apparently realized in 2012 that the road ahead was much tougher he shifted to eventually supporting the “arm the rebels” approach which I and others argued at the time would also have been a disaster if it had been tried.

— Add to this: There is of course also the famous 2012 DIA memo predicting AQ gains as the course of the war went on which Ford knew about… and the well known analyses from before 2011 and after about exactly how the “Resistance Axis” viewed Syria as absolutely existential.

A nice one from Newsweek September 2011:

“…Ford doesn’t believe Assad will agree to reforms and thinks it’s only a matter of time before the regime falls. He sees “not fissures but perhaps cracks” opening in the ruling elite. Assad’s two regional allies, Turkey and Iran, are urging change; the international sanctions will further damage an economy that, Ford says, is already showing signs of collapse…”

And with Max Boot at about the same time:

“I spoke with Ford on Wednesday. During our conversation, he expressed his conviction that although the Assad regime is not in imminent danger of dissolution, its days are numbered: “Will the regime fall tomorrow? Probably not. Is it stable over the long term? Probably not.”

In support of his conviction that the regime could be overthrown within the year, he cited the willingness of the Syrian people to risk death by continuing to protest, and the growing international isolation of the regime…”


Written by nickbiddlenoe

June 21, 2016 at 11:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


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