Saturday, November 29, 2014

Separate people from their costumes!

It has been said: Separate People from the problem. And I add: Separate people from their costumes and clothes, and look at them as humans with dignity.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Rising Women Rising World Launch at the UK Parliament 17Nov, 2014

When you raise a woman, she'll raise her voice
She will call the world, and she will be heard
She will use her power to help every girl and mother
She will teach them to fly 
She will encourage them to touch the sky .
She will add to their dictionary 
The how , the when , the where , and the why

To question ,to answer , to start a fire
To love, to dream, to build a team
To empower the ambitions
To change the conditions
To give birth to a generation of visionaries
To beautify the world, to accomplish her missions.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dr. leila Nicolas at Oxford University

Dr. Leila Nicolas is going to deliver 2 talks at Oxford University: 1- A seminar :'Current challenges in the Middle East - Views from an activist, woman, analyst' -  (12.11.2014 17.00 h)check the invitation on this link:

2- A lecture:Transitional Justice: the "doable" Syrian options ( 14.11. 2014 12.00h)check the invitation on this link:  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Motivation vs. preaching!

There is a huge difference but a thin line between "motivation", "influencing" and "Preaching"... People need someone to motivate them, influence them to make the change needed in their lives.... But, NEVER a PREACHER who assumes that he/ she owns the whole truth, and he / she is "in the know" and you are ignorant and needed to be advised.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Change your Perspective!

Change your Perspective, deal with what you offer as an "Investment" not a "Sacrifice".

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Neighboring Insurgency: How are the Syrian Crisis and International Responses Driving Lebanon to a Fragility Trap?

Paper Presented at the panel "Local Ownership, Global Collective Action, and Addressing Fragile States" in the 2014 Annual Meeting – Global Governance: Engaging New Norms and Emerging Challenge,  June 19- 21, 2014


Lebanon and Syria, two neighboring countries in the Middle East, have always been interrelated in all aspects socially, politically, economically and even culturally. The two countries share a 365-kilometer border, as well as extremely close historical, communal and familial ties.
In March 2011, a revolution erupted in Syria, starting a peaceful one then rapidly turned into a violent insurgency, which caused an unstable sphere, that transformed to a "magnet" to radicals and terrorists from all over the world.
2012 and subsequently, the Syrian war leaked out of its borders, causing major risks to Lebanon, which seldom has been immune to the events happening near its borders. Syrian spillover to Lebanon took many forms: military, economic, influx of refugees etc.  From the Syrian crisis’ early days, there was no doubt that Lebanon, traditionally under its neighbor's strong influence, would not remain un-influenced for long as Syria’s regime has a history of direct and indirect interference in Lebanese internal affairs.
Today, signs of Syria’s spillover effects are evident in Lebanon: Border lines between the two countries have been caught in the conflict, with weapon smuggling, as well as militant attacks against Lebanese villages. Political and sectarian tensions plus the huge influx of Syrian refugees to Lebanon not only had humanitarian but also political, economic and security consequences.
Was Lebanon a fragile state before the Syrian crisis? What are the causes of fragility situations in Lebanon? What are the effects of Syrian crisis, international and donors' policies on Lebanon? How can the international community and donors in cooperation with local ownership help Lebanon overcome these consequences and escape fragility?.
In this paper, I assume that the effects of the spillover of the Syrian crisis and the international responses are deeply and negatively affecting the Lebanese State's existence, leading to a strong belief that Lebanon is heading rapidly to a "fragility trap".
This paper is divided into four sections. The first provides a brief sketch of the definitions of  a "Fragile state", including an overview of the Lebanese situations of fragility before the Syrian crisis. Section two presents a summary of the major political, structural, and economic effects of the Syrian spillover on Lebanon. The third section discusses the effects of donors' measures to cope with the refugees' crisis on Lebanon. The final section suggests some solutions and recommendations to help Lebanon escape a fragility trap.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Right wings Parties in EU elections: what is the role of the Arabs?

Dr. Leila Nicolas
Within a month, between 22–25 May 2014, the European Parliament elections will be held in all member states of the European Union. The rise of right-wing populist movements across Europe has started to raise concerns not only to European governments but also countries around the world and the immigrants in Europe as well.

Since the end of WWII, and after all the miseries and casualties the European countries suffered due to the Nazi and Fascists policies, the Right- wings parties scattered, and couldn't get appeal in the European communities. However, and for the first time since the end of the Second world war, European countries are witnessing the revival of the right wings parties. The Great Recession and resultant Euro Crisis seem to have strengthened these parties, reinforcing euroscepticism and leading many frustrated people by a stagnant economy to embrace xenophobia, and social conservatism.

As these are the European trends, it seems legitimate that the Arabs and Muslim citizens are getting more worried about their future in Europe, especially after the developments in the Arab world and the so called "Arab spring" which highlighted  the issues of universal "Jihad" and terrorism. However, it seems that the threat of the right -wings policies has been exaggerated, and some questions can be raised in order to determine the responsibilities of all sides in this issue:

- Is there a real difference between the left- wings' policies and the right ones? Aren't the leftists who accepted the American policy blindly in the middle East, aiming to destabilize the Middle East in the name of "constructive Chaos", then promoting the Muslim Brotherhood rule in the MENA region, thus leading to the displacement of Christians of the orient? As politicians use populist rhetoric to win votes, one should examine and question how such groups differ from far-left parties, or even the political mainstream policies.

- What did the leftists' do to the Palestinians? and what is the historical role of the Europeans in the formation of Israel on the Palestinian territories?

- How did the Arabs benefited from the "Socialist" policies of the French president Francois Hollande?

- After the observation of the West-backed revolutionaries in "maidan" in Kiev, and the role of the New Nazis' in overthrowing the Ukrainian president, is it true that the European Leftist ideas are in real clash with the right wings ideologies?
and then the more important questions:

- how can the Arabs blame European citizens for their xenophobia, or for voting to the right-wings parties as a punishment to his governments supporting radical Islamic groups; while Arabs, themselves, had listed these groups on their terror lists, and are trying to convince the European governments to ban them as terrorist movements? How can we urge the European citizens not to vote for the rightists, and support the previous political trends, who supported radical terrorist groups in order to get rid of Bashar Asaad, and opened media, embassies, and foreign ministries to such terrorists who are now swaggering in the streets of Brussels, Paris, London etc., and summoning online threats to the Europeans every day?

Actually, the answers of these questions may not dissipate legitimate concerns of  Arabs and Muslims in Europe, but the fear of the rise of the far right-wings in the forthcoming elections should make them reconsider their aggressive speeches against those who hosted them, integrate more in European societies, and mainly, accept cultural diversity, renounce terrorism, and never allow fanatics and radicalism to spread in their European environments.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Saudi Arabia: time for terrorists' containment

Dr. Leila Nicolas
As the Lebanese politicians reached an agreement to form a new government after months of deadlock, many see it as a sign that Saudi Arabia has realized the importance of re- engineering its previous regional policies; to constructively engage in the counter terrorism strategies.
In 2007, Many American think tanks started to talk about major changes in the American strategies of the "war on terror", especially after their failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, driving the two countries to instability and becoming safe havens for terrorists.
It was, then, that the American administration started to think of a new approach to counter "Islamic extremism"; using containment rather than confrontation. It was believed that the best way to contain these Islamic radicals is by using "moderate" Islamic groups which may contain, control and defeat them in the end. The problem was the spread of these radical groups all over the world, so it was necessary to implement an "aggregation" strategy, which means driving the terrorists to gather in one geographical area -the Arab world.
The chance came with the Arab developments after Tunisian uprising, the West sought the alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood as the best way to implement this counter terrorism strategy empowering the Turkish model of "modern and moderate" views for Islam with good ties with Israel and the West.
As the "aggregation" phase was accomplished and the terrorists gathered mainly in Syria and Libya; the so called "moderate" Islamic groups - the Muslim brotherhood - couldn't achieve their part of the deal. The MB were brought down in most of the "Arab Spring" countries, and were militarily defeated in Syria. This raised major European concerns as the extremists have been fighting in Syria and are tending to go back to their homelands threatening to becoming a time bomb.
All these developments, raise the major question: who will handle the second part of the counter terrorism project?
As the region reached this point, the Iranians tried to convince the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to change his Syrian strategy, promise to collaborate with the Syrian president Bashar el Assad in fighting terrorism, and then rule the Islam - Sunni world under the umbrella of this "international job"- fighting terrorism. The problem is that Erdogan is unable to do this retreat despite the promising rewards, as he had burned all the bridges with the Syrian government and he feels that his retreat may finish his political future.
Respectively, Saudi Arabia had two alternatives: either to accept the job and rule the Islam world in partnership with Iran, or to refuse and continue challenging the American Administration and this may lead to major changes in the political structures of the kingdom, or to the fragmentation of Saudi Arabia. It seems that the Saudis took the rational decision; to contribute in terrorists' containment, in order to be prepared to the second phase: engagement in the international war against terror which will come after the Russian- American Middle Eastern agreements.
Hence, it seems that manifestation of Saudi- Iranian detente will appear through national settlements in Lebanon, Yemen, and maybe Bahrain.
 As for Lebanon, the Saudi - backed future movement will start to confront the radical groups in its regions. The movement has double interest in this new policy of terrorists' confrontation: to get rid of radical groups as they are threatening its influence in the Sunni regions, and to portray themselves as the "moderate Sunnis", where Lebanon suffered a lot when they were excluded from government.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Iran's old friends... are they expired?.

Dr. Leila Nicolas
The river of optimism which flowed all over the international sphere regarding reaching a nuclear agreement between Iran and the sextet, and the efforts of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, and the Iranian foreign minister Muhammad Javad Zarif to cut with former president Ahmadinejad radical policies have become of a great concern to some of Iranian allies and proxies who wanted the Iranian Republic to continue its high- pitched speeches towards Israel and the west.
The reasons behind these concerns are many; some refer to the analogy -made by many western analysts- between Rouhani and the former Soviet president Gorbachev, who initiated the perestroika in the Soviet Union, and which was one of the factors that led to the collapse of Union. Some others refer these concerns to Zarif's speeches about condemning holocaust, and his call for "all foreign forces to withdraw from Syria", which some pointed out that it means Hezbollah fighters too.
Many others may refer to the Iranian policies towards the so called "Arab Spring", where the Iranians praised the domination of Muslim Brotherhood- who tried to settle a theocratic dictatorship in the Arab states that witnessed revolutionary changes- calling it the "Islamic awakening". This weird Iranian policy can be analyzed in two different scenarios:

A - that the Iranians had felt that the deal between Western powers and Muslim brotherhood , aimed at containing Iran as a rising regional power, and establishing a regional balance and deterrence between the large Shiite state and another regional Sunni empire, So they preferred to face it by containment rather than confrontation; trying to diminish the tense of sectarian Sunni - Shiite divide, and welcoming the extensive role of Muslim Brotherhood. So far it was good for the Iranians, but once the developments in the region reached the limit of threatening Iranian national security; trying to bring down Syrian regime, the Iranians gave unlimited support to the Syrian regime and decided to topple the MB rebels in Syria militarily.

B -The second explanation may be that the Iranians were part of the deal between the west and Muslim Brotherhood which aimed to control the entire MENA region, reduce the Saudi Wahhabi influence, opens the door for close cooperation and power sharing between Iran and MB. The Iranians, who had good ties with MB figures and organizations, such as Hamas and An-nahda, in addition to good relations with Turkey and Qatar, sought that may take advantage of a new coalition in the region that may exclude the radical Wahhabi influence and replace it with more pragmatic Sunni one. Iranian- Saudi tensions are at their peak, since the American occupation of Iraq, and the oust of Taliban in Afghanistan that lead to maximizing Iranian influence in the region.
What reinforces this explanation, is the Iranian backup to the ousted Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi, even after he was removed by a popular revolution in June 2013.This was so clear after the Iranian statements interfering in Egypt's internal affairs, expressing that Iran " was worried by the recent escalation in violence between Egypt's army and protesters supporting former Islamist President Mohamed Mursi".

 No observer can assert the validity of any of the aforementioned scenarios, and can know exactly the real Iranian intentions, or whether they are ready for serious concessions, one of them is getting rid of old proxies like Hamas for example.
Certainly, old Iranian proxies have a legitimate right to get worried, for any group who accepted to be a key card in the hands of great powers, will reach its expiry date one day.

In my opinion, the fears that Rouhani would be another Gorbachev are not realistic. The Islamic Republic of Iran is guided by the Supreme Leader Khamenei, that controls the whole system, adjusts firmly all the internal rivals, and decides the Strategic policies. So, anyone who dreams that Rouhani would one day revolt and lead major changes in the republic, had never understood the structure of the Iranian regime.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Iranian Foreign Policy: The Charm of a Smile

Dr. Leila Nicolas
Even most optimists couldn't predict that Iran will quickly be a welcomed guest at the international forums, that the Iranian foreign minister Muhammad Javad Zarif, hardly settles one week in Tehran, traveling from a European city to another, where he exchanges smiles and kind words with his European counterparts.

It seems that the Iranians were not interested in attending Geneva II conference held in Montreux, as they already knew that the negotiations will not lead to any solution or even the beginning of a solution. Weeks before the conference, it was clear - esp. after what had been leaked of the meetings between the US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, and the opposition figures in Istanbul-that the conference is doomed to fail.
In a place that’s not very far from where the Geneva II conference is being held, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was the star of the World Economic Forum in Davos, completing his strategy of "charm offensive" aimed to invite western businessmen to invest in Iran as it has the potential to be in the top ten economies in the world in the next three decades, as he said.

Highly applauded by an audience who clearly wanted to hear this speech, Mr. Rouhani said "constructive engagement" was "one of the pillars" of the policy of his government, and pledged that his country has no intentions of possessing nuclear weapons. In addition to the President, the Iranian foreign minister Zarif had the chance to express his country's views about regional issues especially about the Syrian crisis.
Even in the Munich Security Conference, Zarif had the chance to meet John Kerry and Catherine Ashton, who described the meeting with Zarif  as “really interesting”.

In addition to the non-provocative Iranian speeches, Iran clings to many powerful key cards that can be used in increasing its regional influence. It also benefits from a strategic geographical position. The Iranians have influence over many powerful groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and primarily Afghanistan. The most prominent key card carried by the Iranian negotiators is the Afghani one. The good relationship and high influence of Iran on the Afghani president Hamid Karzai, gives them the ability to influence the pace of signing the security agreement between USA and Karzai, who stressed he will not sign before the presidential elections in April. Many believe that the key to signing the agreement is in Iranian hands, but Iran does not seem willing to give Washington free gains.

To sum it up, it seems that Iran is preparing grounds for bolstering political, economic cooperation with other countries, which can lead it to be a regional superpower especially in the wake that the Arab states are preoccupied by their internal problems, and this is what the Saudis are afraid of. Sure, the solution should be heading towards mutual respect, regional cooperation and legitimate competition.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Syria: Could such proposal be a good start for a solution?.

Dr. Leila Nicolas

It seems obvious that the negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition will not lead to any solution to the intractable crisis. The opposition rejection of the regime's "political statement" missed a good opportunity to find a platform to reach common ground for a good start for negotiations. The statement tackles general principles that may be accepted by any Syrian citizen, except the phrase of " condemning Wahhabi doctrine" where the coalition could have asked for cancelling or paraphrasing.
Perhaps the inflexibility of both delegations in Montreux indicates - beyond any doubt -that the Syrian politicians did not get tired of killing and suffering yet , nor  they are convinced that no military solution for the struggle. It is so sad to see the Syrian people- especially women in Refugee Camps - are subjected to physical threats, extortion, sexual exploitation, forced marriages, and to conditions that can be described as "human trafficking" in international law.
So, here I propose a step forward to start a solution:
Before going to Geneva II, the Syrian government , had achieved some local reconciliations and military agreements between the Syrian army and the "free Syrian army" groups like in Berzi and Moudamiah regions. If we take these military settlements in small areas as a model to other large geographical regions it may be an appropriate framework to start alleviating people's suffering. 
My proposal consists of the following:
1- A joint body of Syrian army and "Syrian free army" to observe the application of the military settlements.
2- Both parties - the government and the opposition- pledge to fight Al Qaeda, isolate 'Jihadists' and expel them from Syrian territories.
2- Heavy weapons to be delivered to the Syrian Army.
3- Amnesties to be granted to Syrian national insurgents who renounce fighting.
4- Foreign fighters to surrender to the Syrian official authorities.
Such agreement allows both parties to claim victory in this round of negotiations, i.e. the Syrian regime declares his victory in imposing his agenda of fighting terrorism, and the "coalition" declares that this "joint military body" is a part of the transitional governing body, they are seeking for.

Politics is never a zero-sum game, a deal in Syria should take into consideration the military balance on the ground, and the interest of all effective parties. To reach a good deal, you have to give all the parties the ability to claim victory, otherwise, violence and suffering will continue and a fire ignited in Syrian lands may spread and burn the whole Middle East and Europe as well.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Syria: Three paths to an intractable crisis

Dr. Leila Nicolas

The crisis in Syria is witnessing three separate paths that may affect the conflict significantly. The first is the Geneva II conference held in Montreux for negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition,  with the participation of thirty different countries while Iran - an effective participant in the Syrian crisis - was absent. The second was in Davos at "the world economic forum", where Iran was strongly present , and despite Syria was absent as a participant, it was strongly available as a crisis. And the third path is what the Syrian government describes as "counterinsurgency" in the Syrian territories.
- As for the first path, the high-pitched and sharp tone speeches in Montreux of both Syrian delegations, plus those of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu , and the Saudi foreign minister Saoud el Faissal didn't indicate a good start to finding solutions to the conflict. Supporters of both Syrian regime and opposition declared "media victory" in the first day of Montreux conference as they exchanged accusations of supporting terrorism.
It seems that the Iranians were aware of the shallow results of the Geneva II conference. The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, manifested early his pessimism about the conference results. This may reveal why the Iranians were not ready to accept preconditions to attend Geneva II. It was obvious that the conference will not lead to peaceful solution, especially as the "Syrian National Coalition" witnessed a great collapse after US ambassador Richard Ford forced them to go to Geneva. Besides lack of broad popular support inside Syria from both activists and fighters, the "coalition" legitimacy has always flowed from its foreign patrons, and a main bloc quits the Coalition over Geneva conference participation.

- The second Path which was lead by Iranian foreign minister Muhammad Javad Zarif at the "World Economic Forum" in Davos , where he met ministers from Arab countries ,Turkey and European countries to discuss the Syrian crisis in both closed and open sessions. The Iranian minister in an open session moderated by Al-Arabia News Channel called for withdrawal of all foreign fighters from Syrian territories. Another closed session moderated by the Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, called for a brainstorming to find diverse ways to resolve the Syrian crisis. Annan - who started a  visit to Iran in 26 January- said that Iran had an essential role to play in guaranteeing stability in the Middle East and urged U.S. lawmakers to give a diplomatic detente with Tehran a chance.

So it seems that the celebrations are in a place, and the wedding elsewhere. While the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki moon set very closed and strict agenda for negotiators in Montreux, Kofi Annan seems to open doors for diverse solutions which can lead to common ground. Annan seems more realistic when he urges US " to give diplomacy, negotiation and peace a chance", and launches a delegation of Elders group to "exchange ideas with the Iranian leadership about peaceful ways of addressing conflict and healing sectarian divisions in the region".

- The third Path, is the military one, where there is a race inside Syria between the diplomatic paths and the military one. It seems that both parties and their international supporters want to change the military balance before the Syrian presidential elections next June.
President Bashar  El Assad knows it clearly that his victorious counterinsurgency lead him to participate in Geneva II conference, as the balance of power shifted dramatically between June 2012  and January 2014.
The US and its proxies want Assad to refrain from running the Presidential elections, and they are sure that he will not do unless they shift the military balance on the ground. However, it is turning to be a very dangerous game, as the Al Qaeda activists are controlling most the opposition areas, after the dissolution of the "free Syrian Army" supported by the west.
So, US is playing a very dangerous game in Syria i.e. the opposition alliance with the devil will not go in favor of the Syrian opposition at the medium and long term. And if they don't accept the results now, they will regret it tomorrow as they will be forced to accept much more less than what they are offered today.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Legislative authority of the Security Council

Dr. Leila Nicolas*
       The UN Security Council practiced legislation in resolutions 1373 and 1540, where it issued general rules that are not applicable to specific cases only , but to be applied by all countries without specified time and place.
Based on Pragmatic criteria, Some experts defend the opinion that it is acceptable that the Security council practices some authorities that are not within his duties as approved  United Nations' charter. This arguments is based on the following: the world is facing major challenges and threats, plus serious global developments that impose on Security council to broaden its implied or discretionary powers. This is necessary to strengthen its ability to respond effectively and quickly to emerging challenges, especially in the field of terrorism.
before we agree or disagree on this, we should define the terms first: what does it mean that Security council has practiced legislative acts?.
 In order to classify a work as a legislative act , it should fall within the following framework :
1 - It should be applied to all persons or entities equally i.e. in case of confronting the same circumstances , it must apply the same rules .
2 - It should be general i.e. it is not legislated for special and specific cases.
3 - It should be known by those applicable to them .
4 -It must be constant , and has continuity .
From the aforementioned definition , we can say that the Security council has really practiced legislation especially in the field of international terrorism. So, is it legitimate?.
First: In principle , the United Nations organization does not contain any legislative body. Every rule in international law, must have the consent of the States bound by it. A state has the right to refuse  a binding rule of international law unless it has - at least - the opportunity to influence the evolution of this rule or its legal basis.
        From this standpoint , and despite the fact that most of what came in resolution 1373 , had been included in previous resolutions , and in the international treaty to combat the financing of terrorism , However the adoption of this resolution, under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations , did not leave an option to the states to accept or reject the imposition of these rules, plus it obliges them amend their national laws to conform with this resolution .
        Note, that the Security Council established universal applicable future rules, and acted as a international legislator, without defining that punishable "terror crime", and did not specify exactly what are the acts that can be described as an act of terrorism .
Second -  The rules of the charter are binding to the Security Council, and Council should act with compliance with public international law , and Jus cogens of international law . Therefore, there is no legislative authority given to the Security Council , as the Charter does not give the Council this authority explicitly nor implicitly . Even when the resolutions of the Council  has mandatory power, it is a power for the implementation of a law and not as a legislator. therefore, The Council cannot create general applicable legislations, however it  " sees, notes, and decides ... " in special cases, limited in time and space.
        As the Council is an organ of an international organization established by a treaty which constitutes its constitutional framework , and as the Charter of the United Nations is the  main reference to define the powers of the Security Council, this certainly means that the council doesn't own unlimited powers , but it has to act in accordance with the principles and objectives of the Charter and the intention of its authors .
To determine , the validity of legislative actions of the Security Council as an organ of the United Nations, we can examine articles 31 and 32 of the Vienna Conventions of 1969 on the Law of Treaties .
        Article 31 of the Convention , confirms that any treaty must be interpreted in good faith, must be seen as an integrated whole , and read thoroughly . It stresses that when you need to interpret the words or substance of a Convention, the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose.
        If there is still ambiguity in the interpretation of the Convention after invoking Article 31 , Article 32 can be used. Article 32 calls for the use of supplementary means of interpretation, and those including the preparatory work of the treaty and the circumstances of its conclusion.
So, applying these rules to the United Nations' Charter , it is obvious that the Security Council does not have any legislative power, as the Charter does not provide such authority for the security council , and it does not seem that the intention of the drafters of the Charter and the accompanying circumstances have aimed to give this authority to the Security Council.
Thus , the Security Council is a political body and its decisions must be of the same nature, that is, they should reflect a political point of view and not a judicial or legal one.

Dr. Leila Nicolas PhD teaches contemporary international affairs at Lebanese University, and an expert in international Justice.