English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For December 02/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani



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Bible Quotations For today
Chief tax-collector, Zacchaeus receives Jesus in His House, Repents and offers the Penances
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 19/01-10/:”He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on December 01- 02/2020

Absurdity Of Any Presidential Or parliamentary elections While Hezbollah Is still Occupying Lebanon/Elias Bejjani/December 01/2020
Hezbollah’s Scheme Is To Provoke The Arabian Gulf States In A bid to Fire & Deport 40000 Lebanese Working There/Elias Bejjani/December 01/2020
Nothing In The Terrorist Hezbollah is Lebanese/Elias Bejjani/November 29/2020
Ministry of Health: 1511 new coronavirus cases, 15 deaths
US dollar exchange rate: Buying price at LBP 3850 selling price at LBP 3900
President will deliver Lebanon’s speech at ‘Second International Conference in Support of Beirut and the Lebanese People’ via video, receives report on second phase of reconstruction process of areas affected by Beirut Port explosion
Aoun receives congratulatory cables from Saudi Monarch and Crown Prince, meets delegation of retired officers from 'Military Charter Group'
Aoun to Int'l Community: Forensic Audit Proves State's Credibility
Aoun seen likely to reject Hariri's draft Cabinet lineup
'A New Day is Coming', U.S. Tells Hizbullah, Iran
World Bank Says Lebanon Plunged into 'Deliberate Depression'
Draft Govt. Line-Up Emerges as Hariri Prepares to Meet Aoun
Rahi before USJ delegation: We refuse to consider Lebanon as a bargaining chip in any regional or international solution
World Bank: Lebanon is in a deliberate depression with unprecedented consequences for its human capital, stability, and prosperity
US dispatching envoy to Lebanon, Israel in bid to revive border talks after deadlock
Strong Lebanon: We refuse overriding of President's powers, limiting his role to consultation
Geagea Says LF Won't Coordinate with FPM on Any File
Ibrahim Says Indications Suggest No Government Soon
Jumblat Says Some Trying to Fabricate 'Druze Obstacle'
Wehbe holds contacts to unveil fate of Lebanese aboard missing ship in Africa
Wazni receives UN Coordinator
Prosecutor to hear Interior Minister over corruption allegations Wednesday
Jumblatt warns of government formation delay
Finance Minister asks Salameh to implement decision on forensic auditing of state administrations' accounts
Power of the Purse/Ghida Tayar/Carnigie MEC/December 01/2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published
December 01- 02/2020

Four people are dead and up to 15 seriously injured after a car drove into pedestrians in the German city of Trier.
Iran Parliament's Bid to End Nuclear Inspections Hits Opposition
Iran MPs push bill to enrich more uranium and end UN inspections
Zarif ‘desperate’ to blame Saudi Arabia for anything negative that happens in Iran: Al-Jubeir
Azerbaijani forces raise flag in last district handed back by Armenia
Turkey, Russia seal deal for Karabakh ‘peacekeeping center’
Bahrain Delegation in Israel for Talks on Boosting Ties
The Biden Administration and the Middle East: A conversation with Dr. Daniel Pipes
Chabad warns emissaries around the world
CDC vaccine advisers vote to recommend that health care staff and long-term care facility residents get Covid-19 vaccine first

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 01- 02/2020

Biden Should Heed the Concern of Israel and Arab Nations Regarding Iran/Jonathan Schanzer/FDD/December 01/2020
Note to Mohammed bin Salman: Stop Digging Yourself Deeper/John Hannah and Varsha Koduvayur/FDD/December 01/2020
Israel must speak to Biden with a clear voice on future Iran negotiations/Jacob Nagel/FDD/December 01/2020
American Advocates Open Pharmacy for Displaced Syrians Deprived of Aid by Assad Regime/David Adesnik and Patrick McAnally/FDD/December 01/2020
On the Iran Nuclear Deal, Israel Gets a Vote/Eli Lake/Bloomberg/December 01/2020
Turkey opens secret channel to fix ties with Israel/Amberin Zaman/Al-Monitor/December 01/2020
Militants massacre at least 110 civilians on Nigerian rice farms/Danielle Paquette/The Washington Post/December 01/2020
We Will Slaughter Armenians When the Time Comes,” Turk Vows/Raymond Ibrahim/December 01/2020
The Killing of a Nuclear Scientist May Save Countless Lives/Richard Kemp/Gatestone Institute/December 01/2020
How Iran regime will respond to nuclear scientist’s death/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/December 01/2020

Iran Unending Ambiguit/Charles Elias Chartouni/December 02, 2020

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on December 01- 02/2020

Absurdity Of Any Presidential Or parliamentary elections While Hezbollah Is still Occupying Lebanon
Elias Bejjani/December 01/2020


الياس بجاني: عقم وسخافة أية انتخابات رئاسية أو برلمانية في ظل احتلال حزب الله


It is so disappointing to know that Lebanon, in its present and near past history, did not know a president who is a mere failure as is the case of self-centered Michel Aoun.
This man does not have any of the needed gifts and traits of leadership, nor he comprehends the meaning of what is faith or fear from the day of Judgment.
Likewise, since independence and before that era Lebanon has not seen a parliament whose the majority of its members are castrated politically, morally, ethically and courage wise.
Despite of this disastrous status quo of both the presidency and the parliament, is it possible while Hezbollah is still occupying the country to replace either the president or the parliament’s 128 members with efficient and sovereign substitutes? Definitely not !!
Let us assume that in case President Aoun did voluntarily resign or if even he was forced to step down what will happen?
There is no doubt that Hezbollah who controls the parliamentary majority and forces its hegemony on the country will appoint a president who might be much, much worse than Aoun.
The same scenario will apply to any parliamentary elections as long as Hezbollah is hijacking the country and taking it a hostage.
Hence, the Maronite politicians, activists and political party leaders in particular who are calling for the resignation of Michel Aoun, or for an early parliamentary elections, in their majority and by all standards are either “Arabized” and not Lebanese in their evil and covert motives, or mere merchants, scribes, and Pharisees with a narcissistic ideology and a mere total Tunnel Vision.
Meanwhile, those who are “Arabized” as well as those who are narcissistic, both selfishly share the same Tunnel Vision mentality, and all what they hope for is to either have a shot on the presidency post, or to increase the numbers of their parliamentary members.
In order to further demean, ridicule, and expose the personal agendas of the Maronite leaders, politicians, and owners of the political parties who are calling for Aoun’s resignation, and for an early parliamentary elections, we remind them, as well as the public, of their on going sovereign-patriotic sins, stupidity, selfishness, and lack of vision that made it possible for Aoun and his son-in-law to be where they are.
In conclusion, there are no solutions, being big or small, and in any field or on any level, under Hezbollah’s occupation.
Likewise, there is no value or any actual patriotic benefits from any presidential or parliamentary elections while Hezbollah occupies and total dominated the country on all ruling levels.
The priority for each and every free and patriotic Lebanese must at the present time the focus only on the implementation of UN Resolutions that address Lebanon’s crisis, namely the Armistice Agreement with Israel, and the UN resolutions,1559, 1701,1680 .
Note: What does it mean to say that this person has a tunnel vision?
If you say that someone has a tunnel vision, then you mean that he is only focusing on achieving a specific goal and not noticing or thinking about anything else.


Hezbollah’s Scheme Is To Provoke The Arabian Gulf States In A bid to Fire & Deport 40000 Lebanese Working There
Elias Bejjani/December 01/2020
It very important that each and every Lebanese in both Lebanon and Diaspora is fully aware of Hezbollah’s Iranian evil ultimate schemes that all aim to destroy Lebanon and every thing that is Lebanese.
In this context comes the role of the Lebanese Foreign Ministry statements and press releases that became fully biased and pro Iranian since Hezbollah installed Michael Aoun as president of the republic in 2016.
Hezbollah and since Iran founded it in 1986 is systematically working on a scheme to topple the Lebanese regime and replace it by a replicate of the Iranian Mullahs one.
To achieve its evil Iranian schemes Hezbollah is working day and night and by all means of terrorism, strives, assassinations, chaos and destruction to impoverish the Lebanese people and destroy all the Lebanese institutions both in the private and governmental sectors.
One of main Hezbollah’s destruction and impoverishing objectives is to provoke the Arabian Gulf states where more than four hundred thousand Lebanese citizens work and live.
Hezbollah openly attacks and harshly and unfairly criticizes the Arabian Gulf States and insults badly its rulers and at the same time trains and helps the Houthi terrorists in Yemen to fire missals on Saudi Arabian civilian and industrial targets in particular.
In its ongoing endeavor to impoverish the Lebanese, Hezbollah is seeking to force the Arab Gulf states to fire and deport 400 thousand Lebanese workers there.
In this realm one should interpret and understand the biased, hostile and pro Iranian statements and press releases that are issued by the Lebanese Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, it is a diplomatic courtesy and national obligation to condemn all acts of terrorism in other countries, provided that the condemnation applies to all countries and not to exclude from it Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.
In summary The Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not currently represent Lebanon and its loving peace people, but sadly it became an Iranian- Hezbollah mouthpiece no more no less.


Nothing In The Terrorist Hezbollah is Lebanese
Elias Bejjani/November 29/2020
لا شيء لبناني في حزب الله الإرهابي
Sadly, the majority of our Lebanese politicians, so falsely called political parties, as well as the Terrorist Hezbollah’s hand picked subservient appointed top officials, and in particular the Christian ones are mere Trojans.
They are betraying the peace loving Lebanese people, and marginalizing their deeply rooted great and rich history of 7000 years.
They are evilly practicing with no conscience or shame all sorts of mean Dhimmitude, cowardice, Taqiyya, Deception, treason, political prostitution, ethical meanness, stupidity, and ignorance.
Like Judas Iscariot the majority of these Christian Trojans in particular have sold Lebanon and its people as well as the martyrs, values, and existence with less than thirty pieces of silver.
They, and with no shame or fear of Almighty God and His Last Day of Judgment are currently hailing the Terrorist Hezbollah’s crimes, invasions and wars and feeling sorry not for the victims but for the Hezbollah killers.
These Lebanese deviated Leaders, politicians, corrupted officials and so called political parties are disastrous on all levels and in all domains.
In reality these leaders and politicians are the actual enemies of Lebanon and its people.
In a bid to save and liberate our beloved Lebanon from Both the Iranian terrorist Hezbollah, and at the same time from the current ruling officials and rotten political we call for the implementation of all the UN resolutions that address Lebanon’s crisis,
The Armistice Treaty signed with the State Of Israel as well the UN Resolutions 1701, 1559 and 1680
These four resolutions secure in their articles:
*The Liberation of our beloved Lebanon and the reclaiming of its confiscated independence, freedom and sovereignty.
*The Disarming of all armed militias, Lebanese and non Lebanese and whatever their names and claims are.
*Give the Lebanese Army and all other Lebanese legitimate armed forces to be the sole armed Lebanese units on the entire Lebanese soil.
*Give the Lebanese army solely to take control of the Lebanese borders with both Syria and the state of Israel as well as Lebanon’s maritime borders
May Almighty God Bless and safeguard Lebanon and its loving peace people.

Ministry of Health: 1511 new coronavirus cases, 15 deaths
NNA /Tuesday 01 December 2020
The Ministry of Public Health announced 1511 new coronavirus infection cases, raising the cumulative number of confirmed cases to 129414.
15 deaths have been registered over the past 24 hours.

US dollar exchange rate: Buying price at LBP 3850 selling price at LBP 3900
NNA/Tuesday 01 December 2020
The Money Changers Syndicate announced in a statement addressed to money changing companies and institutions, Tuesday’s USD exchange rate against the Lebanese pound as follows:
Buying price at a minimum of LBP 3850.
Selling price at a maximum of LBP 3900.

President will deliver Lebanon’s speech at ‘Second International Conference in Support of Beirut and the Lebanese People’ via video, receives report on second phase of reconstruction process of areas affected by Beirut Port explosion
NNA/Tuesday 01 December 2020
President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, will participate in tomorrow’s “Second International Conference in Support of Beirut and the Lebanese People”, via video technology, at the invitation of French President, Emmanuel Macron, who will be chairing the meeting, along with UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. The President will deliver Lebanon’s speech at the Conference, addressing the current economic conditions and difficulties facing the Lebanese at this delicate stage, especially after the Beirut Port explosion and Corona pandemic repercussions.
The main goal of organizing this conference is to evaluate the results of the first meeting which was held last August 9th, to confront the repercussions of the August 4th Beirut Port explosion. Presidents and Prime Ministers of around 35 states which are involved in providing humanitarian aid to Lebanon, will be participating in the scheduled conference.
President Aoun met with European Union Ambassador, Ralph Tarraf, Deputy Special Coordinator of the United Nations in Lebanon, Mrs. Najat Rushdi, and Regional Director of the Levant Department at the World Bank, Mr. Saroj Kumar Jah, today at the Presidential Palace.
The delegation briefed President Aoun on the “Framework for reform and recovery and the reconstruction of Lebanon”, which was prepared by the three parties and estimated at a cost of two billion and five hundred million US Dollars.
Ambassador Tarraf stated that the mentioned framework constitutes an action plan developed in light of the first report presented last August under the title “Damage Assessment and Rapid Needs”, following the Beirut Port explosion and its repercussions. The EU Ambassador also indicated that this framework answers three basic questions: The coordination and consultation mechanism, reforms and priorities, and financing, stating that the framework directly targets the most affected and poorest families.
For her part, Mrs. Rushdi spoke about the most prominent work titles, stating that the Paris Conference will be the beginning of putting this framework into action to avoid any humanitarian crisis in Lebanon, noting the importance of the international community’s interaction with Lebanon and the humanitarian assistance provided, especially in preserving the people’s right to health, education, housing and social care. On the other hand, Mr. Kumar Jah offered the World Bank’s assistance in the “Framework of reform, recovery and reconstruction”, which includes the Beirut Port and its surroundings, archaeological and heritage sites. Mr. Kumar Jah said that the framework proposes the creation of a new fund to facilitate Lebanon’s financing to achieve reform and development, expected to be launched tomorrow at the Paris Conference, pointing out to work with official bodies, civil society and donors to meet the essential needs of the Lebanese targeted in the action plan. The framework notes the provision of support to five thousand small enterprises, saying that every dollar spent from the fund will be subjected to independent monitoring.
President Aoun’s Reply:
President Aoun thanked the three participating parties, noting that Lebanon is heavily relying on the second international Conference, called for by President Macron and Secretary-General Guterres, especially since the Conference’s work is based on the report issued by the World Bank, European Union and United Nations, to assess losses and needs.
The President also expressed his support for the strategic objectives included in the “Framework of reform, recovery and reconstruction” especially reform, fighting corruption and accountability, informing the delegation that the letter he had sent to the Parliament, and called on MPs to take a clear stance on forensic audit, was supported by the Parliament. The Parliament then issued a decision to subject Central Bank accounts, ministries, independent interests, councils, funds and public institutions, in parallel, to forensic audit without any hindrance or invoking banking secrecy.
Then, President Aoun considered that this audit would enable us to know every Dollar spent, or which will be spent, in Lebanon to achieve the state’s credibility towards the international community, especially donor countries.
Finally, the President welcomed the establishment of a financial fund to reconstruct damages after the Beirut Port explosion, compensate those affected, set priorities for repairing housing, schools, hospitals and provide necessary services to the community. The meeting was also attended by former Minister, Salim Jreisatti, Presidency Director General, Dr. Antoine Choucair, and Advisers, Mr. Rafic Chelala and Osama Khachab. ----Presidency Information Office

Aoun receives congratulatory cables from Saudi Monarch and Crown Prince, meets delegation of retired officers from 'Military Charter Group'
NNA/Tuesday 01 December 2020
President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, on Tuesday asserted that "Lebanon will be able to overcome the difficult circumstances which it currently lives", pointing to the importance of Lebanese maintaining strong morale to confront the successive crises which they suffer from. The President stated that every effort should be exerted to achieve the desired social goals and restore the confidence of the international community, in Lebanon.
Stances of President Aoun came while receiving a delegation of retired officers from the "Military Charter Group".
Retired Colonel, Michel Karam, spoke on behalf of the delegation, and affirmed support for President Aoun's positions especially his recent position on the issue of forensic audit, "Which has become the only tunnel to enter the process of discovering embezzlement of public funds, and the waste of the nation's wealth in the seizure of its properties, in suspicious deals and brokerage, and by circumventing texts with financial engineering which led the country to economic, financial and moral collapses".
"Forensic audit is what returns the looted and stolen money, and returns public property to the state to rationalize its investment. Forensic audit is what recovers rights, all rights, including the rights of all employees, especially the military rights, which were taken from them by the last three budgets. Forensic audit must also release the clean money of depositors and return them to their owners. This scrutiny excludes the corrupt from the Parliamentary seats so that the sovereign take over these seats, and determines who is fit to occupy the advanced ranks in the state, including ministers so that the corrupt are not the only ones in choosing ministers which resemble them" Colonel Karam said.
"This all ends by holding the corrupt and thieves accountable, and pushing them behind prison bars so that they obtain their penalty. Thus, officials devote themselves to dealing with the economic, social, financial and monetary conditions, so that the nation relaxes in negotiations to demarcate the maritime borders with the Israeli enemy, and gas and oil extraction begins in parallel with land border demarcation negotiations, thus restoring immunity and pride in the homeland of the cedars. That is what ensures the return of the citizen to the homeland. That is what restores the confidence of regional and international countries in Lebanon, which was one of the most important contributors in laying the foundations and laws of the UN and participated in the founding of the Arab League. What the Parliament approved by an overwhelming majority in its session on November 27, 2020, is approval of your Excellency's message, which requires the issuance of exceptional mechanisms to put criminal financial audit into immediate implementation, and to fortify it with various legal, administrative and financial provisions, controls, and restrictions" Colonel Karam added.
"Achieving forensic audit will be the highest and most successful national achievement since the declaration of the state of Greater Lebanon, and it will form a solid basis for the restoration of the homeland for centuries to come. We will continue to struggle with you, Mr. President, to achieve this audit and we repeat that we are at your disposal. We ask God to provide you with health and wellness, and to guide your steps".
President Aoun's Reply:
For his part, President Aoun welcomed the delegation and noted that the problems faced by the retired military, reflects the accumulated crises and disasters which Lebanon suffers, especially the economic crisis that has intensified as a result of the Syrian war and its repercussions, especially in terms of the large number of displaced Syrians that Lebanon received, forming a great financial burden on the country and its infrastructure.
The President also emphasized that "The current financial crisis is an inherited crisis as a result of the huge accumulated public debt and the payments' balance deficit, in addition to, of course, the repercussions of the Corona pandemic and the damages and losses resulting from the Beirut Port explosion".
In addition, President Aoun stressed that "Despite all these misfortunes and problems, we as a country were able to maintain security stability and this came as a result of the Lebanese understanding of the current reality. Lebanon will be able to overcome the difficult conditions which it is currently experiencing".
Then, the President addressed the issue of Lebanon's attempt to explore for oil and gas, and its submission to international pressure within the framework of the so-called "Geopolitics", to prevent it from investing its national resources under the pretext that what was found in Block No.4 was not commercially sufficient. The President referred to the indirect negotiations which Lebanon is currently undertaking to demarcate its southern maritime borders, pointing out that "Pressure will be exerted on Lebanon in this regard, but we are committed to our rights and we know them well".
Moreover, President Aoun stressed the completion of the approval of forensic audit in the Parliament, and its importance in restoring the confidence of the international community in Lebanon, especially through its role in fighting corruption and shedding light on the sources of the waste of public money and achieving reform, noting the anxiety that the Lebanon people live and suffer from as a result of the successive crises. President Aoun then pointed to the importance of preserving the strong morale of the citizens to help overcome these ordeals, asserting the will to exert every effort to achieve the desired goals.
Finally, the President referred to the importance of the Paris II Conference, which will be held tomorrow afternoon, at the invitation of the French President and with the participation of UN Secretary-General, about 35 Presidents, Premiers, representatives of international community bodies, and donor countries.
Congratulation Telegram from Saudi Arabia:
On the occasion of the 77th Lebanese independence anniversary, President Aoun received a cable of congratulation from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, which stated:
"On the occasion of the independence anniversary of the brotherly Republic of Lebanon, it is our pleasure to send your Excellency the best congratulations and sincere wishes, wishing the brotherly Lebanese people more progress and prosperity".
Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, also sent a congratulation cable.-- Presidency Press Office


Aoun to Int'l Community: Forensic Audit Proves State's Credibility
Naharnet/December 01/2020
President Michel Aoun on Tuesday told a delegation from the U.N., the EU and the World Bank that the planned forensic audit of the public sector will “prove the state’s credibility towards the international community, especially donor countries.”“This audit will make it possible to know how every dollar was or will be spent in Lebanon,” Aoun told EU Ambassador to Lebanon Ralph Tarraf, U.N. Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon Najat Rochdi and World Bank regional director Saroj Kumar Jha. The meeting comes on the eve of a Paris-organized virtual international conference for supporting Beirut and the Lebanese people. Aoun also welcomed the creation of a fund for the reconstruction of buildings damaged by the Beirut port explosion and the aid of those affected, noting that the priority is for homes, schools, hospitals and essential services. French President Emmanuel Macron and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will co-preside over the video conference, which will also include Lebanese nongovernmental groups and other organizations seeking to help.


Aoun seen likely to reject Hariri's draft Cabinet lineup
Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/December 01/2020
BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is set to meet President Michel Aoun soon to present him with a draft Cabinet lineup amid enduring differences over the naming of Christian ministers, an issue that raised fears of the lineup being rejected by Aoun, political sources said Tuesday.
The weekslong Cabinet impasse comes as France and the United Nations would host a new conference Wednesday about providing humanitarian aid to Lebanon following the Aug. 4 deadly explosion that devastated Beirut Port and destroyed large areas of the capital.
French President Emmanuel Macron and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will co-preside over the video conference, which will also include Lebanese nongovernmental groups and other organizations seeking to help. The meeting will aim to have the highest-level representation possible with the objective of soliciting aid for Lebanon's debt-crushed economy. Aoun will address the video conference dealing with the current economic situation and the difficulties facing the Lebanese, especially following the port blast and the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, the state-run National News Agency reported.
“The Cabinet formation process is in a state of confusion as most factions declare that they have not been consulted on their shares in the next Cabinet and as the premier-designate prepares to submit a draft Cabinet formula to the president in hopes of ending the weekslong gridlock,” a political source familiar with the matter told The Daily Star. The source said that when Hariri visits Baabda Palace, “he will definitely carry with him a draft Cabinet lineup,” his first since he was designated to form a new government on Oct. 22.
“But lingering differences between Aoun and Hariri over naming the Christian ministers is posing a major hindrance to the Cabinet formation,” the source said. A Baabda Palace source said Tuesday no date has yet been set for a meeting between Aoun and Hariri to discuss the Cabinet crisis.
During their last meeting at Baabda Palace last month, Hariri came with an incomplete Cabinet list, naming by himself seven Christian ministers and left the president with the remaining two Christian ministers to name for the Interior and Defense portfolios, the same political source said. “But President Aoun rejected the proposal,” the source said.
The source added that in addition to naming seven Christian ministers, Hariri also wants to have a say in the naming of a candidate to the Interior Ministry, usually assigned to a Sunni figure affiliated with Hariri’s Future Movement, but now will go to a Maronite figure under the proposed rotation of the sectarian leadership of the four so-called “sovereign ministries” --- Defense, Interior, Finance and Foreign Affairs. In return for ceding the Interior Ministry, the Sunni sect will be allotted the Foreign Ministry. Hariri has broken the rotation principle when he said earlier he agreed to assign the Finance Ministry to the Shiite sect only for one time – a key demand of the two main Shiite groups, the Amal Movement and Hezbollah. Aoun and Hariri have not met for more than two weeks, bringing the Cabinet formation process to complete paralysis. They are still at odds over the naming of nine Christian ministers in Hariri’s proposed 18-member Cabinet of nonpartisan specialists to deliver urgent reforms and the adoption of unified criteria in the formation process.
Hariri’s reported insistence on picking and naming all the ministers has posed a major bone of contention with Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movement’s 24-member Strong Lebanon bloc, the biggest bloc in Parliament with the largest Christian representation.
Aoun and major parliamentary blocs reject the notion that Hariri would pick all Cabinet ministers, and they insist on naming their nominees for ministerial posts. The presentation of Hariri’s proposed Cabinet lineup comes amid wide expectations that Aoun will reject it because most Christian ministers are named by the premier-designate. Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt said in an interview with An-Nahar newspaper Tuesday that there had been no contacts between him and Hariri over the Druze share in the next government. “It seems they are working to create a Druze problem which does not exist,” he said. Joumblatt, whose PSP bloc had nominated Hariri for the premiership, warned that a further delay in the Cabinet formation would aggravate the severe economic crisis, the worst since the 1975-90 Civil War.
Similarly, Hezbollah’s deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said in an interview with Al-Manar TV last week that there had been no contacts between the party and Hariri over the naming of Shiite ministers in the new Cabinet.
A senior Future source Tuesday denied reports that Hariri was not consulting with Aoun on the proposed Cabinet lineup.
“Prime Minister Hariri has been consulting with President Aoun on the Cabinet makeup before presenting his lineup,” the source told The Daily Star.
“Prime Minister Hariri is seeking to form a mission government made up of nonpartisan specialists to gain the international community’s confidence and implement the required reforms outlined in the French initiative with the aim of attracting foreign financial aid to Lebanon,” the source said.
Implementation of long-overdue reforms is deemed crucial to unlocking promised international aid to the cash-strapped country which is teetering on the verge of a total economic collapse.
Future Movement MP Mohammad Hajjar told The Daily Star Monday that Aoun’s approval of Hariri’s draft Cabinet lineup would help put the country on the track of salvation. “The Cabinet lineup will be based on one criterion, which is adherence to the French initiative in order not to miss the chance to put the country on the track of salvation,” Hajjar said.
The Cabinet deadlock comes as Lebanon is wrestling with multiple crises, including an economic meltdown, an alarming spike in coronavirus infections and the grave consequences of the port blast that killed nearly 200 people, injured thousands, left 300,000 people homeless and caused losses worth billions of dollars. Lebanon has remained without a fully functioning government since caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab submitted his Cabinet’s resignation on Aug. 10 in the aftermath of the port explosion.
On the eve of the aid conference for Lebanon hosted by France and the United Nations, Aoun Tuesday affirmed his support for a forensic audit of the Central Bank’s accounts, saying that it would ensure Lebanon’s credibility in the eyes of the international community and donor countries.
Aoun was briefed on a “framework of reform, recovery and reconstruction,” put together by EU Ambassador to Lebanon Ralph Tarraf, Deputy Special Coordinator of the UN to Lebanon Najat Roshdie and World Bank Regional Director Saroj Kumar Jha.
The framework estimated the cost of Lebanon’s path to reform, recovery and reconstruction at $2.5 billion, a statement from the presidency said.
The statement said that Aoun had expressed his support for the strategic objectives included in the framework, as well as a forensic audit which would lay out “every dollar spent in Lebanon” and gain credibility in the eyes of the international community, “especially the donor countries.”
The forensic audit is a precondition for any type of foreign financial assistance, which Lebanon desperately needs. It is also a key demand of the International Monetary Fund with which Lebanon is negotiating for a $10 billion bailout package.
Alvarez & Marsal, the consulting company that was tasked with conducting the Central Bank’s audit, pulled out of the contract last week citing noncooperation by the bank in providing the necessary documents.

'A New Day is Coming', U.S. Tells Hizbullah, Iran
Naharnet/December 01/2020
The United States has welcomed the Latvian government’s recent announcement that it considers Hizbullah in its entirety as a “terrorist organization.” “Latvia supports U.S. implementation of sanctions related to Hizbullah and has expressed a readiness to place national travel bans on individuals associated with Hizbullah,” Cale Brown, the U.S. State Dept.’s principal deputy spokesperson, said. “The continued announcements by countries in Europe, Latin America, and other regions of actions against the terrorist organization send a strong message to Hizbullah and its backers in Iran that a new day is coming,” Brown added. “On this new day, Hizbullah operatives will no longer be able to operate from European soil, and the European Union will follow the lead of a number of European governments by closing the loopholes opened up by the false distinction between Hizbullah’s so-called military and political wings,” Brown explained. He added that the United States continues to call on all countries to “take whatever action they can to prevent its operatives, recruiters, and financiers, from operating on their territories.”

World Bank Says Lebanon Plunged into 'Deliberate Depression'
Agence France Presse/December 01/2020
Lebanon's economy is sinking into a "deliberate depression", the World Bank said Tuesday in a damning report stressing the authorities' failure to tackle the crisis. The fall 2020 edition of the Lebanon Economic Monitor predicted the economy will have contracted by 19.2 percent this year and projected a debt-to-GDP ratio of 194 percent next year. "A year into Lebanon's severe economic crisis, deliberate lack of effective policy action by authorities has subjected the economy to an arduous and prolonged depression," a World Bank statement said. Lebanon's economy started collapsing last year as a result of years of corrupt practices and mismanagement. The crisis was made worse by a nationwide wave of anti-government protests that paralyzed the country late last year and the Covid-19 pandemic this year. The August 4 Beirut port blast, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, brought the country to its knees and further fueled public distrust. "Lebanon is suffering from a dangerous depletion of resources, including human capital, with brain drain becoming an increasingly desperate option," the World Bank warned. In 2020, Lebanon defaulted on its debt, banks imposed capital controls and inflation has reached triple-digit rates, dragging the country into its worst ever economic crisis. Instead of taking emergency measures to rescue the economy, Lebanon's political elite has continued to dither and bicker. The previous government headed by Hassan Diab failed to adopt ambitious policies to tackle the crisis. It resigned under pressure over the blast nearly four months ago and a new cabinet has yet to be formed. "Lack of political consensus on national priorities severely impedes Lebanon's ability to implement long-term and visionary development policies," said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank regional director. He called for the quick formation of a new government capable of implementing short-term emergency measures and addressing long-term structural challenges. "This is imperative to restore the confidence of the people of Lebanon," he said. An annual index compiled by Gallup that tracks people's experience of stress and sadness said "no other country in the world saw negative experiences skyrocket across the board as much as Lebanon."The Negative Experience Index's data was collected before the Beirut port blast, Lebanon's worst ever peacetime disaster.

Draft Govt. Line-Up Emerges as Hariri Prepares to Meet Aoun
Naharnet/December 01/2020
A draft cabinet line-up that PM-designate Saad Hariri is supposed to present to President Michel Aoun has emerged. Hariri wants “a specialist, non-political and nonpartisan government that Lebanon needs in this period,” sources close to him told al-Joumhouria newspaper in remarks published Tuesday.
Sources close to Aoun meanwhile said that the president “will reject any cabinet line-up presented by Hariri without consultations with him, regardless of the names it may contain.”“There are standards that are supposed to be unified, which must be fully respected in the cabinet formation process,” the pro-Aoun sources added. According to political sources, the draft line-up does not include a one-third veto power for any party and is based on the line-up that was devised during the formation of Mustafa Adib’s government prior to his resignation.“It contains a host of candidates who enjoy remarkable expertise and competency and Hariri assumes that it will enjoy the approval of all parties,” the sources said.
Below are some of the names:
- Joe Saddi (Energy, backed by Paris)
- Carole Khouzani (Justice)
- Leen Tahineh (Culture)
- Salim Michel Edde
- Charles al-Hajj
- Youssef Khalil or Wael al-Zein (Finance)
- Firass Abiad (Health)
- Abbas al-Halabi (Education)
- Retired Brig. Gen. Jamil Gemayel (Defense)
- Brig. Gen. Jean Salloum or Brig. Gen. Nicolas Haber (Interior)

Rahi before USJ delegation: We refuse to consider Lebanon as a bargaining chip in any regional or international solution
NNA/Tuesday 01 December 2020
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, on Tuesday refused that Lebanon be a bargaining chip in any regional or international solution, calling for speeding up the formation of the government without any conditions.
Patriarch Rahi's words came during his meeting with a delegation of the Faculty of Political Science at Saint Joseph's University (USJ), where he indicated that the problem in Lebanon lies in the violation of the constitution and the Charter with every national deadline. The Patriarch also underlined that "federalism or division as a solution is out of the question," calling for the implementation of the broad administrative decentralization. Patriarch Rahi also rejected calls for the resignation of the president of the republic, saying: "The president is not treated in this manner, but rather in accordance with constitutional principles."

World Bank: Lebanon is in a deliberate depression with unprecedented consequences for its human capital, stability, and prosperity
NNA/Tuesday 01 December 2020
The World Bank issued Tuesday the following press release:
A year into Lebanon’s severe economic crisis, deliberate lack of effective policy action by authorities has subjected the economy to an arduous and prolonged depression, according to the World Bank Lebanon Economic Monitor (LEM) released today.
Lebanon is suffering from a dangerous depletion of resources, including human capital, with brain drain becoming an increasingly desperate option. The harsh burden of financial adjustment is particularly focused on smaller depositors who lack other sources of savings, the local labor force that is paid in Lebanese Lira, and smaller businesses. The Fall 2020 edition of the LEM, "The Deliberate Depression", discusses recent economic developments, analyses the various elements of the crisis, and presents an overview of the country’s economic outlook and possible risks. For over a year, Lebanon’s macroeconomy has been assailed by compounded crises, beginning with an economic and financial crisis, followed by COVID-19 and lastly the explosion at the Port of Beirut. Of the three crises, the economic crisis has had-by far-the largest and most persistent negative impact. Real GDP growth is projected to sharply decelerate to -19.2 percent in 2020, on the back of a -6.7 percent contraction in 2019. The collapse of Lebanon’s currency has led to triple-digit inflation rates. Inflation acts as a highly regressive tax, affecting the poor and vulnerable disproportionately, as well as people on fixed incomes such as pensioners. The sudden stop in capital inflows has implied a steady depletion of foreign exchange reserves at Banque du Liban (BdL). De facto lirafication and haircuts on dollar deposits are ongoing, despite the official commitment of BdL and commercial banks to safeguard deposits.
Poverty is likely to continue to worsen, engulfing more than half of the population. A contraction of the Lebanese GDP per capita in real terms and high inflation will undoubtedly result in a substantial increase in poverty rates and will affect the population through different channels such as the loss of productive employment, decline in real purchasing power, and stalled international remittance. High skilled labor is increasingly likely to take up potential opportunities abroad, constituting a permanent social and economic loss for the country.
"Lack of political consensus on national priorities severely impedes Lebanon’s ability to implement long-term and visionary development policies", said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director. "A new Government needs to quickly implement a credible macroeconomic stabilization strategy with short-term measures to contain the crisis, as well as medium- to long-term measures to address structural challenges. This is imperative to restore the confidence of the people of Lebanon -- particularly the youth -- who have, time and again, shown resilience in the face of hardship, but who are currently suffering from the regressive burden of financial adjustments."
Authorities have disagreed between themselves on the assessment, diagnosis, and solutions for the crisis. The result has been a slew of uncoordinated, non-comprehensive, and insufficient policy measures that have worsened economic and social conditions. Government has failed to formalize a fiscal policy consistent with a credible medium-term macroeconomic framework. The banking sector has been advocating a bailout of the financial sector which is inconsistent with the restructuring principles that protect taxpayers. Monetary authorities have failed to address the exchange rate crisis and high inflationary conditions. Government has yet to introduce necessary poverty alleviation measures to deal with the social implications of the crises on poor and vulnerable households through enhancing social safety nets.
As the Lebanon Economic Monitor shows, in the lead up to the economic crisis, Lebanon’s macroeconomic fundamentals were weak compared to select groups of global crises comparators. Therefore, the adjustment process is expected to be more challenging, even with optimal policy measures in place. One year into the economic crisis, such policies have not yet been decided, let alone implemented. As a result, Lebanon’s economic crisis is likely to be both deeper and longer than most economic crises.
Over the medium term, Lebanon will have to prioritize building better institutions, good governance, and a better business environment alongside physical reconstruction. However, given Lebanon’s state of insolvency and its lack of adequate foreign exchange reserves, international aid and private investment will be essential for comprehensive recovery and reconstruction. The extent and speed to which aid and investments are mobilized will depend on whether the authorities and the Parliament can swiftly act on much needed fiscal, financial, social, and governance reforms. Without reforms, there can be no sustainable recovery and reconstruction, and the social and economic situation will continue to worsen.
The Special Focus of the LEM puts forth a comprehensive reform agenda for discussion. The proposed agenda aims to address the root causes of the economic crisis and could set the stage for a more equitable, efficient, and resilient economy. To do so, the agenda puts governance and accountability reforms at the forefront, alongside macroeconomic stabilization as it seeks to rebuild trust. The proposed reform agenda compromises five pillars: I) A Macroeconomic Stabilization Program; II) A Governance and Accountability Reform Package; III) An Infrastructure Development Reform Package; IV) An Economic Opportunities Reform Package; and V) A Human Capital Development Reform Package. The agenda has one pre-requisite: the commitment of Lebanese policymakers to rebuild a more productive, equitable, and resilient economy.
This Special Focus of the LEM is meant to feed into an open discussion among the Lebanese people and between them and their government. Its aim is to contribute to the debate that must take place on the path out of the ongoing crisis, the sequencing of reforms, and the long-term development vision -- all of which are connected, and all of which require financing. Before any financing for an economic recovery can take place, however, Lebanon must restore the trust between government and citizens, between government and investors, and between government and donors.

US dispatching envoy to Lebanon, Israel in bid to revive border talks after deadlock
Joseph Haboush, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday 01 December 2020
The United States has decided to postpone the next round of maritime border negotiations it is brokering between Lebanon and Israel, sources from Beirut and Tel Aviv said Tuesday, but analysts and officials say this was not unexpected. Washington is now dispatching its envoy leading the mediation, Ambassador John Desrocher, to both countries to narrow the differences that came up during the first few rounds of talks held at a UN building in south Lebanon. The US diplomat will meet with Lebanon’s president, the Lebanese army commander and other senior officials in Beirut on Wednesday before heading to Israel for the same purpose. “Desrocher is going to meet with both sides … to [help] restart the tripartite negotiations and see what can be done,” a senior Lebanese official told Al Arabiya English on Tuesday. The Lebanese official said the talks were postponed after both sides rejected one another’s proposals for an expanded maritime border. Initially, the talks were slated to discuss around 860 sq. kilometers of disputed waters, where there are believed to be large swathes of natural gas reserves. But Lebanon quickly presented an altered map and called for an extra 1,430 square kilometers (550 sq. miles).
Israel then countered and demanded more. This resulted in the deadlock, ultimately driving the US to inform both sides that they would not hold the meeting scheduled for Dec. 2. Hours after the announcement was made that Washington would seek to hold more talks separately with each side, Lebanese website The Daily Star reported that Israel moved to install a naval buoy within waters claimed by Lebanon. Ahead of Desrocher’s trip - who is also the US Ambassador to Algeria - the State Department said the maritime boundary was a decision for both Lebanon and Israel to make. Asked for comment on Israel’s installation of buoys in disputed waters, a State Department official told Al Arabiya English: “The United States remains committed to mediating and facilitating at the request of both countries.” Last week, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said there had been no breakthrough after four rounds of talks and that Lebanon had “so far presented positions which add up to a provocation.” Steinitz said he expected “many more hurdles and bust-ups” but hoped a breakthrough could be reached in a few months. However, the recent deadlock comes as no surprise to analysts who say the US elections directly impacted the decision to put the talks on hold. “In a nutshell, this was a bargaining chip on the negotiation table between Iran and the Americans,” Sami Nader, the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs director, told Al Arabiya English. Nader said Hezbollah conceded to start the talks earlier this year when they were under the impression that US President Donald Trump had a good chance of winning his re-election bid. “Now there is a new [incoming US] administration, and Iran is holding back all its cards, including this one,” Nader said, in an apparent reference to Hezbollah’s influence over the decision-making in Lebanon. Laury Hatayan, the MENA Director at the Natural Resource Governance Institute, echoed Nader’s opinion. “Now [Joe] Biden has won, so we don’t know what his position will be on these negotiations,” Hatayan said. She expects delays on any progress until Biden decides if he will use the same US delegation and same framework. However, Hatayan was quick to point out that there were also purely technical issues at hand. “The US wants to hold bilateral meetings [separately] for the sake of rapprochement because there is a divergence on points of views.”Nevertheless, she said the US was “definitely buying time” as a new administration prepares to take over the White House.

Strong Lebanon: We refuse overriding of President's powers, limiting his role to consultation
NNA/Tuesday 01 December 2020
The Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc criticized, in a statement following its periodic meeting headed by MP Gebran Bassil, "the persistent slowdown and unjustified delay in the process of forming the government," reiterating its fear of "linking the formation to external factors that should in no way be used as a pretext to paralyze the country."The bloc stressed that "it is still waiting to know the foundations upon which the president of the republic will agree with the prime minister designate, and accordingly determine its position on whether or not to support the government." Conferees rejected "in any case, any attempt that has become a reality to bypass the constitutional provisions and override the powers of the president of the republic, who according to the constitution is a full partner in the formation process. Every word uttered by some to portray the president as a recipient, and limit his role to consultation, practically leads to disrupting the formation process and wasting time."

Geagea Says LF Won't Coordinate with FPM on Any File
Naharnet/December 01/2020
The Lebanese Forces will not coordinate with the Free Patriotic Movement on any file because it believes that the FPM “is an inseparable part of the current parliamentary majority,” LF chief Samir Geagea said Tuesday.
“It accordingly bears major responsibility for the current situation,” Geagea added at a press conference, while stressing that “there is no understanding at all with President Michel Aoun.”Turning to the issue of parliament’s decision to call for a sweeping forensic audit of the central bank and all ministries and public institutions, Geagea said that some officials would be “very mistaken” if they believe that they can “waste time” in this regard. “We will follow up on this file until the end and at the moment the ball is in the caretaker PM’s court and he has to act,” the LF leader added.

Ibrahim Says Indications Suggest No Government Soon
Naharnet/December 01/2020
The foreign indications do not suggest that the new Lebanese government will be formed soon, General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim has said. Asked why he is not playing a mediator role in the stalled cabinet formation process, Ibrahim said in an interview with ad-Diyar newspaper that “the circumstances are not appropriate” for such a role. “Foreign pressures are very big,” the general explained. He also noted that the foreign factors are stronger than the local factors in the current formation process. Ibrahim’s interview comes a few weeks after he visited the United States and met with several American officials.

Jumblat Says Some Trying to Fabricate 'Druze Obstacle'
Naharnet/December 01/2020
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat has lamented that some parties are seeking to fabricate a “Druze obstacle” in the cabinet formation process. “It seems that they are seeking to create a nonexistent Druze obstacle,” Jumblat told An-Nahar daily in remarks published Tuesday.
“If there is such an inclination, it would be better that we deal with the coming government the same as we did with Hassan Diab’s government,” Jumblat added. Jumblat’s PSP is not officially represented in Diab’s government although it is widely believed that it had a say in the naming of the information minister, Manal Abdul Samad. Asked about his communication with PM-designate Saad Hariri, Jumblat said: “There is no contact between us.”“I talked to him and I don’t want to reveal what I said to him and what I heard from him,” he added. Jumblat also warned that “with every moment of delay in forming the government, our situation will grow more difficult and the economic crisis will worsen,” citing the issue of central bank’s dwindling foreign currency reserves and authorities’ failure to rationalize spending. As for the French initiative, the PSP leader noted that only “remnants” of it might be implemented. “As (French) President (Emmanuel) Macron and his foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian expected and appealed to us: Lebanon is headed for demise. The man repeated this phrase three times, and demise here means an economic and institutional collapse,” Jumblat added,
“There is some follow-up and I thank the health minister,” he said, referring to the caretaker cabinet.

Wehbe holds contacts to unveil fate of Lebanese aboard missing ship in Africa
NNA/Tuesday 01 December 2020
Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Charbel Wehbe, held Tuesday a series of contacts in efforts to unveil the fate of three Lebanese sailors aboard a commercial ship that had gone missing somewhere between Cameroon and Nigeria.Within this context, Lebanon's Ambassador to Nigeria Hossam Diab is also communicating with the Lebanese Consul in Cameroon.

Wazni receives UN Coordinator
NNA/Tuesday 01 December 2020
Caretaker Minister of Finance, Ghazi Wazni, on Tuesday received UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, with whom he discussed an array of financial affairs, in addition to the preparations for the aid conference for Lebanon, to be held by video under the joint auspices of French President Emmanuel Macron and UN chief Antonio Guterres. Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Kubis called for the formation of a competent government in the nearest time possible, with reforms on top of its priorities.

Prosecutor to hear Interior Minister over corruption allegations Wednesday
NNA/Tuesday 01 December 2020
State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat will hear Caretaker Interior Minister Mohammad Fahmi tomorrow over his claims about widespread corruption among Lebanon's judges, our correspondent reported Tuesday.
Fahmi’s allegations came during a talk show on MTV channel.
Judge Oueidat will be also hearing the testimony of show host Marcel Ghanem, who is yet to be duly summoned.

Jumblatt warns of government formation delay
NNA/Tuesday 01 December 2020
Progressive Socialist Party leader, Walid Jumblatt, on Tuesday warned of delaying the formation of the new government, stressing that the economic crisis would only aggravate amid the absence of a Cabinet. Interviewed by Annahar daily, Jumblatt considered that there were efforts to create a non-existing Druze issue. "If that is the case, we better deal with the new government the same way we did with its predecessor," he said. Moreover, Jumblatt indicated that there was no contact between him and PM-designate Saad Hariri.

Finance Minister asks Salameh to implement decision on forensic auditing of state administrations' accounts
NNA /Tuesday 01 December 2020
Caretaker Minister of Finance, Ghazi Wazni, on Tuesday sent a letter to central bank's governor, Riyad Salameh, hereby asking him to implement the Parliament's decision on conducting forensic auditing of all state administrations’' accounts.

Power of the Purse

Ghida Tayar/Carnigie MEC/December 01/2020

Giving women greater leadership roles might be the antidote to Lebanon’s governing crisis.
Lebanon is facing one of its worst years since its establishment in 1920, as it deals with simultaneous financial, economic, social, and healthcare crises. It is safe to say that Lebanon has never been stable in its century of existence, amid wars, assassinations, and popular uprisings. But one thing has been constant in Lebanese politics, namely a lack of widespread female participation. There are reasons why such participation is vital for a successful and prosperous nation. The first is that women tend to manage crises well. As leaders around the globe struggle with the Covid-19 pandemic, countries governed by women appear to be handling the spread of the virus in a sounder way than those governed by men. In fact, one study has shown that Covid-19 outcomes are systematically better in countries led by females. Taking into account the multiple factors considered when evaluating a government’s response to the pandemic, the study emphasized that a leader’s gender could be a leading reason for the success of a response, given that attitudes toward risk and empathy counted just as much as clear and decisive communications. The study concluded that with regard to immediate reactions to the coronavirus by world leaders, females came out on top.A second reason is that women, through their engagement in fighting for equal gender rights, tend to be more sensitive to human rights. Therefore, by being in public office they could improve the government’s responses on human rights issues, paving the way for greater equality in society.
Women are also aware of the systemic obstacles that have been placed in their way. Before any discussion of their participation in politics, the Lebanese must first address the fact that women’s status in society remains unsatisfactory. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch submitted a report to a United Nations committee reviewing Lebanon’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The report affirmed that the country had failed to make progress on recommendations in a previous review from 2015, which included implementing an integrated personal status code that guaranteed equal treatment for all citizens. Nor had it amended the discriminatory nationality law that forbids women married to a foreigner from passing on their Lebanese nationality to their children.
Because Lebanese citizens are governed by the personal status laws of their religious sect, as opposed to a unified, national personal status code applicable to everyone, the state has little control over issues pertaining to marriage, property rights, and childcare. The main victims of this situation are women. Domestic violence, sexual assault, and discrimination are among the problems many women face on a daily basis.
A third reason that female participation in politics could benefit Lebanon is that it would remove the damaging consequences of barring a large segment of the population from shaping policies that affect them. Some more conservative communities in the country frown upon women being active in the community, preferring that their role be limited to domestic work. These outdated ideas have helped to maintain inequitable laws in place. That is why appointing women to high-ranking government positions could be a first step in breaking the social stigma surrounding women in politics. By creating precedents in this regard, the society would create a new normal, one in which female participation in politics becomes mainstreamed.
In 2016, the new government established Lebanon’s first minister of state for women’s affairs. In a blatant insult to women, the minister chosen for the post was a male. However, for the first time in the Middle East, Lebanon also named a female as interior minister, when Raya al-Hassan was handed the portfolio. She promised then to use her new role to advocate for women’s rights.
However, placing women in decision making positions is not enough and may only end up being empty tokenism. It is important to distinguish between guaranteeing the presence of females in politics and ensuring that qualified, progressive, and capable women take on roles involving public responsibility.
For instance Lebanese political parties are often family businesses, so that women who have made it into positions of power often inherit this from their fathers or husbands after their death. Yet this does not constitute real change to the status quo, nor is it a guarantee that competent women can make it to the top. It merely perpetuates the traditional structures of the society, whereby women enter politics only because, momentarily, there are no men to do so.
More importantly, for change to be long-lasting and profound it must be accompanied by radical changes in the law and the removal of legal obstacles that prevent women from securing their rights. In an example of the absurdity today, a woman can get a favorable ruling in a civil court if she is the victim of domestic violence, but a religious court may overrule this if it doesn’t comply with religious law. In other words the clergy can overrule the law of the land.
During the Lebanese uprising in October 2019, one of the protestors’ demands was the advancement of women’s rights. Women and men demanded amendments to Lebanon’s laws in order to protect women and put in place a secular Lebanese state. They understood that only such a state would bring about real change by implementing the same laws for everyone, regardless of whether they were males or females or the sect to which they belonged.
The road begins by creating a unified personal status code that allows for the equal treatment of men and women, to serve as a foundation for more far-reaching transformations in public life. We can only hope that a spirit of change will prevail and transform Lebanon’s political landscape. It is time to see what accomplished and talented women can do for their country in this direst of times.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 01- 02/2020

Four people are dead and up to 15 seriously injured after a car drove into pedestrians in the German city of Trier.

Brodie Owen/The National/December 01/2020
Four people are dead and up to 15 seriously injured after a car drove into pedestrians in the German city of Trier. The city's Mayor, Wolfram Leibe, said the driver had gone on a "rampage" in a pedestrian-only shopping area about 1.45pm on Tuesday. A German man, 51, from the Trier district has been arrested and the car impounded by police. Karl-Peter Jochem, a Trier police spokesman, said the suspect was being questioned and the danger was over. Four people are dead and up to 15 seriously injured after a car drove into pedestrians in the German city of Trier. The city's Mayor, Wolfram Leibe, said the driver had gone on a "rampage" in a pedestrian-only shopping area about 1.45pm on Tuesday. A German man, 51, from the Trier district has been arrested and the car impounded by police. Karl-Peter Jochem, a Trier police spokesman, said the suspect was being questioned and the danger was over. The public prosecutor said later that the suspect was drunk at the wheel, adding there was no indications of a religious motive to the attack. The prosecutor said the suspect had no prior convictions. But the Interior Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate said the course the driver took indicates it was done on purpose. Mr Leibe said that a nine-month-old baby and a woman aged 72 were among the dead. A witness said a grey Range Rover was driving at high speed and people had been thrown into the air, local newspaper Trierischer Volksfreund reported. It said the city centre had been cordoned off and helicopters were circling overhead. Mr Leibe said the driver had gone on "a rampage"."We had a driver who ran amok in the city," he told broadcaster SWR. "I just walked through the city centre and it was just horrible. "There is a trainer lying on the ground and the girl it belongs to is dead." He told N-TV: “I don’t want to speculate, but all of us are asking ourselves, what drives a person to do something like this? "Of course, I don’t have an answer to this question.”Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, called the incident shocking. "Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, the many injured and all those who are helping to care for those affected," Mr Seibert said. Footage from the scene showed police vans and other emergency vehicles parked on a wide shopping street. Rhineland-Palatinate Governor Malu Dreyer, who is from Trier, and condemned the incident as a “brutal act".
“It was a really, really terrible day for my home town,” Ms Dreyer said after visiting the scene. Shoppers huddled outside stores festooned with Christmas decorations as sirens blared in the distance. Although the incident did not appear to have terrorist motives, it brought back memories of the 2016 lorry rampage at a Berlin Christmas market, which killed 12 people. The driver, a failed Tunisian asylum seeker, was a supporter of ISIS. In August 2019, six people were injured in motorway accidents in Berlin in what prosecutors described as a suspected terrorist attack.
Trier is about 200 kilometres west of Frankfurt, near the border with Luxembourg. The city of about 110,000 people is known for its Roman gate, the Porta Nigra, which is near the scene of the crash, and as the birthplace of Karl Marx.


Iran Parliament's Bid to End Nuclear Inspections Hits Opposition
Agence France Presse/December 01/2020
The Iranian parliament's backing on Tuesday of a plan to end nuclear inspections after the assassination of the country's top nuclear scientist has met immediate opposition from the government. Deputies supported a draft bill "for the lifting of sanctions and protection of the Iranian people's interests", saying they want to achieve the objectives of "martyred" scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Fakhrizadeh was assassinated on a major road outside Tehran on Friday in a bomb and gun attack that the Islamic republic has blamed on its arch foe Israel. "The government has explicitly announced that it does not agree with (this) plan" which it considers "neither necessary nor useful", foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a news conference Tuesday. The draft bill calls on the government to end inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities by the UN and to "produce and store 120 kilograms per year of uranium enriched to 20 percent." Such steps would run counter to commitments made by Iran as part of a landmark nuclear deal agreed with world powers in 2015. The 2015 deal offers Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program and U.N.-verified safeguards to prove it is not developing nuclear weapons.  The Islamic republic has always denied it is seeking such weaponry. But the multilateral accord has been hanging by a thread since 2018, when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States and reimposed sanctions that have battered Iran's economy. The Islamic republic has retaliated by gradually rolling back most of its commitments under the nuclear deal. In its latest report last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran had enriched uranium over the 3.67 percent limit set out in the 2015 accord. The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog said that Iran had not exceeded the threshold of 4.5 percent and that the country was still complying with its strict inspections regime. In an interview with AFP on Monday, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said Iran has nothing to gain from ending inspections of its nuclear facilities. "We understand the distress but at the same time it is clear that no-one, starting with Iran, would have anything to win from a decrease, limitation or interruption of the work we do together with them," Grossi said

Iran MPs push bill to enrich more uranium and end UN inspections
The National/December 01/2020
After killing of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, parliamentarians seek a tougher nuclear policy
A bill requiring Iran's government to step up uranium enrichment closer to the level needed for a nuclear weapon cleared its first hurdle in parliament on Tuesday. The proposed law could also kick UN inspectors out of the country. Inspections by international monitors would be restricted if US oil and banking sanctions aren’t lifted within three months of the bill’s approval. The proposal still requires final approval by parliament and the Guardian Council that vets laws. But the government promptly said the move, proposed in response to the assassination of a top nuclear scientist on Friday, could not change Iran's nuclear policy, which falls under authority of the Supreme National Security Council. "Death to America! Death to Israel!" some lawmakers chanted after the hardline-dominated parliament cleared the draft at its first reading in a session broadcast live on state radio. Parliament has often demanded a hardening of Iran's position on the nuclear issue in recent years, without much success. In this case, the government must decide whether a sharp response to Friday's killing of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh might jeopardise the prospect of an improvement in ties with the United States once Joe Biden takes over from Donald Trump as president. "The government believes that, under the constitution, the nuclear accord and the nuclear programme … are under the jurisdiction of the Supreme National Security Council … and parliament cannot deal with this by itself," government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters, according to state media. The draft legislation would also revive the mothballed core of a contentious reactor and increase Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 per cent, which could then be purified to weapons-grade material at short notice. That reactor could be brought online within two months, state-run Irib News cited a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Behrouz Kamalvandi, as saying on Tuesday. The maximum fissile purity to which Iran has enriched uranium has remained around 4.5 per cent, above the 3.67 per cent cap agreed in the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers but below the 20 per cent Iran had achieved before. A senior Iranian official said on Monday that Tehran suspected a foreign-based opposition group of complicity with Israel in the killing of Fakhrizadeh, whom Western powers see as the architect of an abandoned Iranian nuclear weapons programme. The group rejected the accusation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office has declined to comment on the killing. Israeli Cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said on Saturday he did not know who had carried it out. Iran has already breached the limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, who scrapped sanctions in return for curbs to Iran's nuclear programme, to protest at Trump's withdrawal from the accord. Mr Biden has said he will return the United States to the 2015 deal if Iran resumes compliance. Iran has always denied pursuing nuclear weapons.


Zarif ‘desperate’ to blame Saudi Arabia for anything negative that happens in Iran: Al-Jubeir
Ruba Obaid/Arab News/December 01/2020
JEDDAH: Iran’s parliament on Tuesday approved a bill requiring the government to boost uranium enrichment by 20 percent and end UN inspections of its nuclear facilities. The move is being viewed by analysts as a show of defiance after the recent killing of prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an assassination for which Tehran has accused other countries of masterminding. Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said on Tuesday that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif was “desperate” to blame the Kingdom for anything negative that happened in Iran. “Will he blame us for the next earthquake or flood?” he tweeted. “It is not the policy of Saudi Arabia to engage in assassinations; unlike Iran, which has done so since the Khomeini Revolution in 1979. “Ask us and ask many other countries who have lost many of their citizens due to Iran’s criminal and illegal behavior,” Al-Jubeir added. The latest bill would require another parliamentary vote to pass, as well as approval by the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog. Moreover, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all nuclear policies.
“There is no doubt that this step constitutes a threat, raising it to 20 percent means that it is close to building a nuclear bomb,” political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. “The region is promised with a dark and unstable period.” He said that the move indicated the Iranian regime’s insistence on destabilizing the region, and its determination to win the race to obtain nuclear weapons.
Enriching uranium to 20 percent is below the threshold needed for nuclear weapons but higher than that required for civilian applications. It would also commission new centrifuges at nuclear facilities at Natanz and the underground Fordo site. “Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons or its proximity to achieving that goal will be a great danger to the region, and countries will seek to protect themselves, which will mean that everyone will resort to obtaining nuclear weapons. Fakhrizadeh’s death suggests that Iran was waiting for this opportunity to escalate,” Al-Shehri added. The official IRNA news agency said 251 lawmakers in the 290-seat chamber voted in favor, after which many began chanting slogans against the US and Israel. The bill would give European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal three months to ease sanctions on Iran’s key oil and gas sector, and to restore its access to the international banking system.
“Many technical issues related to the nuclear bomb creation were not closely followed up by P5+1 (the UN Security Council’s permanent members of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US, plus Germany),” said Al-Shehri.
“We also should not forget that Iran was not clear and was preventing and limiting inspections at its nuclear facilities, moreover, the International Atomic Energy Agency did not do its work properly so that the world could breathe easily. “Iran may have the nuclear bomb by now without the international community taking any action against it. “The assassination of a scientist will not change the equation, even the strikes on Iranian facilities would not affect the real Iranian infrastructure. “Iran wasn’t confronted the way that would make the world comfortable, nor the way that a terrorist rogue state should have been treated as it distributed terrorism through its militias, ballistic missiles, and drones in the region,” he added.

Azerbaijani forces raise flag in last district handed back by Armenia
AFP/December 02, 2020
LACHIN, Azerbaijan: Azerbaijani soldiers on Tuesday hoisted their country’s flag in the final district given up by Armenia under a peace deal that ended weeks of fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. A column of Azerbaijani military trucks entered the Lachin district overnight, taking over the last of three regions around Karabakh handed over by Armenia under the Russian-brokered agreement. AFP journalists saw soldiers raising the Azerbaijani flag over an administrative building in the town of Lachin in the early hours. Armenia agreed to hand over the three districts — Aghdam, Lachin and Kalbajar — as part of the November deal that stopped an Azerbaijani offensive that had reclaimed swathes of territory lost to Armenian separatists in a 1990s war. Under the agreement, some 2,000 Russian peacekeepers are deployed between the two sides and along the Lachin corridor, a 60-kilometer (35-mile) route through the district that connects Karabakh’s main city Stepanakert to Armenia. Russian military vehicles accompanied Azerbaijani trucks driving along the corridor overnight and were deployed at the main crossroads in Lachin. Most of the town’s residents fled in advance of the takeover, but 48-year-old Levon Gevorgyan, the owner of a local grocery store, said he had decided to stay. “I am afraid only of God. I have been here for 22 years, I started from nothing, I built everything,” he said. “I hope I will be able to continue, I still have a loan to pay. If I have to leave, I will burn everything.” As in Aghdam and Kalbajar, residents of Lachin cleared out frantically ahead of the handover, taking livestock, firewood, furniture and even plastic water pipes. Nagorno-Karabakh broke from Azerbaijan’s control in a war after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union that left some 30,000 people dead. The region declared independence but it was never recognized by any country, including Armenia which strongly backs the separatists. The peace accord signed on Nov. 9 was reached after six weeks of fighting that saw Azerbaijan’s army overwhelm separatists forces and threaten to advance on Stepanakert. Under the agreement, Armenia is losing control of seven districts that it seized around Karabakh in the 1990s — many Azerbaijanis who were forced to flee are now planning to return.
The separatists are retaining control over most of Karabakh’s Soviet-era territory but have lost the key town of Shusha. Lachin official Davit Davtyan said residents of the district had been given until 6:00 p.m. on Monday to leave, except for some 200 locals allowed to stay to maintain infrastructure along the corridor. “Residents who were not able to leave because they had nowhere to go said they would stay and see what happens on Tuesday,” he said. In the village of Aghavno along the Lachin corridor, 60-year-old Araksya Gyokchakyan watched residents load furniture and firewood into cars and trucks even as she was set on remaining behind. “I don’t know where to go. I stayed here during the war. It’s my home,” she told AFP. As well as deploying peacekeepers, Russia is helping some of the tens of thousands who fled the fighting to return to Karabakh itself.
Moscow’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday it had so far assisted in the return of more than 26,000 people. It said its peacekeepers had also cleared mines along the Lachin corridor and helped restore a power line destroyed during the fighting. Moscow’s peacemaker role has overshadowed France and the United States — the three countries that form the Minsk Group, which led talks on the Karabakh conflict for decades but failed to achieve a lasting agreement. France’s position in future negotiations may be further under threat after Azerbaijani lawmakers last week demanded the country be expelled from the Minsk Group. The move came after the French Senate adopted a non-binding resolution calling on France to recognize Karabakh as an independent state. While Azerbaijan has also called for its staunch ally Turkey to play a role in the peacekeeping mission, Moscow insists Ankara will not be involved.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry on Monday said that Turkish military specialists were providing assistance in clearing mines from the districts Baku had retaken. In Yerevan on Monday demonstrators rallied outside the French Embassy appealing for help in finding soldiers still missing after the fighting.
While Armenia has reported more than 2,300 military casualties, thought to be an underestimate, Azerbaijan has not disclosed any military losses. More than 100 civilians were reported killed on both sides.


Turkey, Russia seal deal for Karabakh ‘peacekeeping center’
AFP/December 01, 2020
ANKARA: Turkey and Russia have agreed to monitor a truce over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region from a joint peacekeeping center, Ankara’s defense ministry said on Tuesday. The deal comes after days of talks between Turkish and Russian officials about how the two regional powers would jointly implement a Moscow-brokered cease-fire signed this month between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Technical details for setting up the joint center were concluded and an agreement was signed, the defense ministry said in a statement, adding that it would begin work “as soon as possible.” Turkey is a staunch ally of Azerbaijan and has fervently defended its right to take back the Nagorno-Karabakh lands Baku lost to ethnic Armenian separatists in a 1988-94 war. The truce deal ended more than six weeks of fighting that claimed more than 1,400 lives and saw ethnic Armenians agree to withdraw from large parts of the contested region of Azerbaijan. The Turkish parliament voted this month to deploy a mission to “establish a joint center with Russia and to carry out the center’s activities.”The deployment is set to last a year and its size will be determined by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Russia has said repeatedly that Turkey will have no troops on the ground under the truce deal’s terms.


Bahrain Delegation in Israel for Talks on Boosting Ties
Agence France Presse/December 01, 2020 15:28
A 40-strong Bahraini delegation arrived in Israel Tuesday for two days of talks on boosting economic cooperation and tourism after the two countries normalized relations in September. The Gulf state of Bahrain followed the United Arab Emirates in signing up to a U.S.-brokered deal to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, becoming the third and fourth Arab countries to do so. Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi had been due to visit Bahrain this week but the trip was cancelled, diplomatic sources told AFP without elaborating. The cancellation followed the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist blamed on the Israeli spy agency, the Mossad. Last month, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdellatif al-Zayani held Jerusalem talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benajamin Netanyahu and outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pormpeo, who was on a farewell visit. The latest delegation, led by Industry, Trade and Tourism Minister Zayed bin Rashid Al-Zayani, landed at Ben Gurion airport on Tuesday, Israeli diplomatic sources confirmed.  The delegation is scheduled to meet both Ashkenazi and Netanyahu on Wednesday. Israeli authorities did not indicate whether the delegation would visit the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site, located in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. Many Palestinians are hostile to Arab governments normalizing their relations with Israel without a comprehensive peace deal and oppose such visits. The Waqf, which manages Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem's Old City, cannot bar any Muslim from visiting them.

Bahrain praises US partnership as ‘cornerstone’ of Gulf security
Arab News/December 01, 2020 15:28
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani praised on Tuesday his country’s partnership with the as the “cornerstone” of Gulf security. The Bahraini minister spoke during the virtual opening of the first US-Bahrain Strategic Dialogue that focused on defense cooperation, regional security and economic development and trade. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo - who was hosting the dialogue – said that Washington was looking to cooperate with Bahrain to fight terrorism. Sanctions had deprived Iran of financing terrorist groups, Pompeo said. During the virtual dialogue, Zayani called on the international community to continue pressure on Iran as he viewed Tehran as a security challenge for countries in the region. Iran has malicious intentions towards regional states, the Bahraini minister said.

The Biden Administration and the Middle East: A conversation with Dr. Daniel Pipes

Michael Johns, Jr./Journal Of Middle Eastern Politics & Policy/December 01/2020
Michael Johns, Jr. is a first year MPP student at the Harvard Kennedy School,
Michael Johns was joined by Dr. Daniel Pipes to discuss the future of United States foreign policy in the Middle East under the Biden administration. Dr. Pipes holds both an A.B. and a Ph.D. from Harvard University, and taught at the University of Chicago and Harvard before teaching policy and strategy at the Naval War College. Dr. Pipes has a wealth of experience in government and think tanks: he served on the State Department’s policy planning staff and on the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace, as well as director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He is president and founder of the Middle East Forum. Michael was a policy intern for MEF in 2016.
You can follow Dr. Pipes’s work on his website, danielpipes.org, or on his Twitter page, @DanielPipes.
Michael Johns: What are the most significant day-one policy changes the Biden administration will likely make toward the Middle East?
Daniel Pipes: To answer, I refer back to two basics: First, just as Trump came to office with an intent to reverse Obama’s policies, so Biden intends to reverse Trump’s. Second, his near-half-century in government makes Biden the very personification of the Democratic Establishment. In tandem, these two insights lead me to predict an immediate return to traditional and conventional policies. As for day-one changes concerning the Middle East: I doubt that Biden can do much more than signal his intentions via telephone calls to leaders and issue executive orders. One E.O. may permit emigration from the thirteen hostile or chaotic countries that Trump banned; the other may allow the Palestinian Authority to re-open its mission in Washington.
Vice President Biden has signaled his intention to return to President Obama’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal. Will this happen?
The answer depends in large part on a factor beyond Biden’s control, namely Iran’s internal politics, for the deal is as contentious in Iran as in the United States. The pragmatic Rouhani-Zarif faction want to bring the United States back in; the ideological faction headed by Khamene’i never liked the deal and wants to charge a high price for re-engaging (literally: it demands a hefty American down-payment). Given these dynamics, plus a more explicit lobbying effort in Washington by the Sunni Arab states than was the case in the Obama years, I am inclined to think the U.S. government will find it hard to reenter the JCPOA on acceptable terms.
How do you expect the Biden administration to handle Iran’s aggressive actions beyond its borders, especially in Iraq and the Persian Gulf?
Obama downplayed Iranian trespasses in pursuit of an agreement; Biden may be tempted to do likewise. That said, developments over the past four years will obstruct an easy return to the status quo ante. Domestic opposition to Iran has become a significant factor in Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq, while the Saudis and others show greater determination to oppose Tehran.
How much will the recent cascade of Arab-Israeli diplomatic normalization reshape the Middle East?
Plenty. The shift in relations between the Sunni Arab states and Israel has been a long time in the making; after all, the Abdullah Plan was unveiled in 2002, while the last full-scale war between the Arab states and Israel took place in 1973 (coincidentally, the same year Joe Biden entered the Senate). Over the decades, the Arab states have been increasingly uneager to fight Israel and more prone to deal with it, a trend pushed further along by steep declines in energy prices in 2014 and 2020, the JCPOA, a growing anti-Islamist mood, and Trump’s urgings. Unless something highly unexpected takes place, this evolution should continue. Israel already has formal relations with 6 out of 22 members of the Arab League; that number will likely increase.
Will those developments change the way the Biden administration deals with Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Yes. The Biden team is inclined to give Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority a veto over much of Middle East diplomacy; it’s that old chestnut, linkage, the misbegotten notion that the Arab-Israeli conflict drives the Middle East, that progress everywhere requires a Palestinian blessing. Generally speaking, Arab state leaders have become impatient with the PA’s rejectionism and do not want to be limited by it. Should the White House meet with protestations against discredited linkage from Khartoum and maybe even Algiers, it will have to reconsider its presuppositions.
Will Biden have as difficult a relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu as Obama did?
Yes; perhaps it will go a bit more smoothly, but tensions will inevitably predominate given the growing ranks of anti-Zionists in the Democratic party and Biden’s own long-standing superior, sanctimonious, and didactic attitude toward the Jewish state. Here’s a paraphrase of a contemporaneous Israeli report on Biden’s meeting with then-Prime Minister Golda Meir in 1973 that requires only substituting Trump’s name for Nixon’s almost to apply today: “Biden criticized the Nixon administration for being ‘dragged by Israel,’ complaining that it was impossible to have a real debate in the Senate about the Middle East as senators were fearful of saying things unpopular with Jewish voters.”
On Twitter last month, you gave President Trump better marks on his Middle East policy than Vice President Biden except vis-à-vis Turkey, where you rated Trump as “terrible” and Biden as “good.” Why so?
Trump gave a pass to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on every issue but a bizarrely minor one (concerning Pastor Andrew Brunson’s detention). Some observers tie this softness to Trump’s financial interests in Turkey, an interpretation he himself – oddly – has encouraged. But I see it more as an instance of a weird tendency toward bromance with dictators, including Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un. In contrast, Biden is part of the mainstream on this issue, dubbing Erdoğan an “autocrat” and calling for a range of tougher policies vis-à-vis Turkey concerning such issues as Mediterranean gas exploration, the Incirlik Air Base, and the Kurds.
Obama discouraged the democracy movement against a hostile regime in Iran and encouraged it against a friendly one in Egypt; what was the calculus behind that stance, and will we see a reprise with Biden?
It’s a classic instance of double standard, of treating an enemy regime gently in an effort to lure it and an ally harshly because it gets under your skin. Think Russia and Poland or China and Taiwan. Obama staked his foreign policy reputation on a deal with Iran and would not let a pesky civil uprising get in his way; he also had a distaste for Mubarak and saw no reason to come to his aid. I expect Biden to repeat this same pattern, if somewhat less acutely.
The Trump administration has just announced the withdrawal of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Are these wise decisions?
No, they open the way to further disruption in the two countries, countries where the United States has lost thousands of lives and invested trillions of dollars. This abrupt, last-minute shift probably results from Trump’s sense that he must keep his promise to end what he calls America’s “forever wars.” But, given the fact he will be a private citizen in a few weeks, it is highly irresponsible for him to start this major initiative so late in his term.
Where does it leave the incoming administration?

It faces the unattractive choice of accepting Trump’s fait accompli or undoing it. The latter will not be an easy task, given how the withdrawal changes attitudes in the foreign countries and in the United States. In brief, Trump left a stink bomb in the Resolute desk for his successor.

Chabad warns emissaries around the world

Arutz Sheva Staff/December 01/2020
Chabad Lubavitch Security Commission tells followers to be extra vigilant for fear of retaliation for killing of Iranian nuclear scientist.
Security has been stepped up at Jewish institutions across the world following the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the "father of the Iranian nuclear program."The Chabad Lubavitch Security Commission, has sent a 'safety warning' to thousands of Chabad affiliates around the world. The statement said: "On Friday, November 27, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was the alleged mastermind of Iran's nuclear weapons program, was killed in a bombing and shooting near Tehran." Many times in the past, Israel and Jews around the world have been the targets of Iran and Hezbollah. Israeli and Jewish sites are seen as major potential targets following such attacks." the statement continued, In their remarks, the Chabad movement clarified that there is no concrete evidence that an attack is imminent, but stressed that caution is important in the current situation. "Although there is currently no concrete information indicating a direct threat to Chabad centers as a result, as in the past, there is concern that the current situation and the great tension may contribute to increased risk and threat situations for Jewish structures - including Chabad centers." The statement some practical steps. "Since such attack planners operate all over the world, we call on all our centers around the world to be on high alert and make the following recommendations: Maintain increased awareness when out in public and in your Chabad house or in its vicinity and pay special attention to anyone unfamiliar to you." ."Immediately report any suspicious behavior or activity to nearby law enforcement personnel, be careful about publishing the location and times of any public events, be vigilant for unsupervised packages or bags, seek increased assistance and greater presence from local law enforcement agencies, consider reinforcing your security with private security companies. The message concluded with the request: "If you witness suspicious activity, no matter how trivial it seems to you, please let us know."

CDC vaccine advisers vote to recommend that health care staff and long-term care facility residents get Covid-19 vaccine first
CNN/December 01/2020
Vaccine advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted 13-1 on Tuesday to recommend that both health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities be first in line for any coronavirus vaccines that get emergency authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration.
The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices voted to include both groups in what they're calling Phase 1a of the CDC's coronavirus vaccine distribution plan. "Long term care facility residents are defined as adults who reside in facilities that provide a variety of services, including medical and personal care, to persons who are unable to live independently," the CDC said.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 01- 02/2020

Biden Should Heed the Concern of Israel and Arab Nations Regarding Iran
Jonathan Schanzer/FDD/December 01/2020
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu visited Saudi Arabia last week to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS). The summit was historic, and could yield a long-sought normalization deal between the only Jewish state and the cradle of Islam.
But the meeting reportedly did not focus on bilateral ties. Rather, it was an effort by the two leaders to coordinate in advance of a possible Biden administration effort to resurrect the controversial 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Outgoing President Donald Trump exited the deal in 2018.
Both the Israelis and the Saudis (along with other Arab states) harbored major concerns during the last round of diplomacy, particularly the sanctions relief, sunset clauses, and advance centrifuge research and development that granted the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism far too much leeway. But they were unable to speak with one voice, owing to Arab politics. Even though the Arab states widely appreciated Netanyahu’s public warnings about the deal, they were unwilling to amplify his concerns, fearing that doing so might undermine the Palestinian cause.
Earlier this year, the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan finally elected to pursue their own interests and normalize ties with Israel. Part of their decision stems from the realization that hostility toward Israel was pointless. But they were also eager to speak in unison with Israel about Iran. And it makes sense for the United States to listen. These are allies, after all.
But veteran diplomat and Palestinian-Israeli peace process activist Martin Indyk did not see it that way. He tweeted, “If the Netanyahu-MBS meeting was intended as an attempt to coordinate positions against what they both might see as a new common threat from the incoming Biden administration it’s a big mistake.”
Academic and media personality Rula Jebreal’s response was equally harsh, asserting that Netanyahu and MBS were “plotting to pressure Biden to keep US’ failed regime-change sanctions.”
Iran regime apologist Trita Parsi, who represents an isolationist organization that says it promotes “responsible statecraft,” ironically asked the irresponsible and baseless question, “Are Bibi and the Saudis preparing an attack against Iran? Is it a [psychological operation] aimed at goading Iran into war? Or is the actual target the incoming Biden team, with the aim of deterring the US from seeking diplomacy with Tehran?”
This raises an obvious question: Why the huffing and puffing? Saudi Arabia, Israel, and other Middle East states are simply concerned that a bad deal could empower the chief threat in their region. And to be clear, it is their region. They have to live there. They are the ones who will suffer the consequences or enjoy the benefits of U.S. diplomacy.
The 2015 deal was one these states would prefer not to resurrect. It allowed the Iran arms embargo to lapse within five years (this past October). It removes restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program (a delivery system for nuclear weapons) and research and development on advanced centrifuges in another three years. And crucial nuclear restrictions begin to lapse two years after that, granting the Islamic Republic, over time, an industrial-size, near-zero nuclear breakout, and more. All the while, Tehran has lied about its military nuclear program, and it never stopped supporting terrorism.
You’ll have to excuse these countries for expressing their concerns. They actually tried to warn American diplomats that the deal would have a deleterious impact on their national security interests. And it has. Iran used sanctions relief to build militias and to send precision-guided missiles to its proxies around the region. And Iran’s nuclear violations now have the attention of the IAEA, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, thanks to a daring Mossad operation that yanked a massive nuclear archive out of Iran. As the State Department noted, Iranian scientists “continue to carry out dual-use research and development activities, of which aspects are potentially useful for nuclear weapons …”
For a future deal to be truly successful, it cannot meet the needs of only the United States, Iran, or the other negotiating world powers. The regional actors are the ones who live within missile range of the Islamic Republic. They are the ones who pay the price when sanctions relief underwrites mayhem in the region. America should thus encourage these actors to articulate their concerns, and to coordinate their message. This way, American diplomats need not shuttle around the region, in an attempt to divine a common message. With Israel and its new Arab allies working together, key needs and concerns can be conveyed clearly and unequivocally for Washington to process.
Admittedly, the concerns and demands of this new Arab-Israeli coalition might make it more difficult to reach a deal. Despite what the critics say, maximum pressure on Iran has been working. The regime is reeling. The Arab states and Israel will not want to see the United States lift that pressure in exchange for a deal that does not permanently end Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or its hegemonic ambitions, for that matter.
Such a hard line is not the natural starting point for the incoming Biden administration, which seeks to restore the deal that Barack Obama negotiated but Trump unwound. But if the administration can address the concerns of its regional allies, not to mention Congress and other critics at home, the next deal would stand a better chance of remaining in force when Republicans ultimately return to power.
No matter what happens, if the Biden administration re-engages with Iran, it would be a mistake to present the rest of the region with a fait accompli. That was a huge problem last time around. The deal was rejected by a majority of the Arab states (the Iranian satrapies of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon excluded). Today, officials from Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain have all articulated their concerns again. To prevent such widespread rejection of U.S.-led diplomacy, the next administration should actually encourage Iran’s neighbors to speak their minds.
Of course, some defenders of the regime in Tehran would like nothing more than to ignore the national security concerns of Israel and its Arab neighbors, and to appease the radical regime with sanctions relief or other benefits. These are the people who will find a unified regional voice to be inconvenient, if not downright infuriating. They are often the same people that dismiss the recent normalization deals between Arab states and Israel as either unimportant or counterproductive.
Thankfully, the Biden team thus far assembled does not appear to embrace this approach. The presumptive appointees have articulated a desire to rebuild alliances around the world. They have an opportunity to start with the countries of the Middle East that are anxiously hoping that America does not forgo their interests in pursuit of détente with a dangerous nuclear proliferator and state sponsor of terror.
*Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is senior vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @JSchanzer. FDD is a nonpartisan think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues.

Note to Mohammed bin Salman: Stop Digging Yourself Deeper
The Saudis need to get on Biden’s good side. Obvious places to start include releasing women’s rights activists.
John Hannah and Varsha Koduvayur/FDD/December 01/2020
Late on Nov. 22, flight-tracking websites monitored a business jet, frequently used by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, making a five-hour round trip from Tel Aviv to Neom, the futuristic city that Saudi Arabia is building on its Red Sea coast. Within hours, the Middle East was abuzz with reports that Netanyahu and Yossi Cohen, the head of Mossad, had held secret talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Though the Saudi foreign minister quickly tweeted a denial that the meeting occurred, several other Saudi and Israeli sources confirmed that the historic session had indeed been held, and that Israeli-Saudi normalization and countering Iran had topped the agenda. It’s a critically important development for all kinds of reasons, not least being the powerful signal it seemed intended to send to an incoming Biden administration about Saudi Arabia’s crucial role in any efforts to advance stability in a volatile region that remains critical to U.S. interests.
The Saudis have plenty of reason to try and get on U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s good side. Outside of outgoing President Donald Trump’s inner circle, the kingdom’s friends in Washington are few and far between these days. Over the past four years, the bipartisan bill of indictment against Mohammed bin Salman has grown too long to list in full. But the highlights include the ineffective prosecution of a brutal war in Yemen, the kidnapping of Lebanon’s prime minister, the unjust arrest and mistreatment of women’s rights activists, planting spies in U.S. technology giants, and, of course, the horrific murder and dismemberment of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi hit team. Trump’s refusal to hold the crown prince to account—“I saved his ass,” Trump famously bragged to Bob Woodward after shielding the prince from congressional sanction—was widely seen as enabling Saudi Arabia’s repeat offenses against U.S. interests and values.
Biden appears to share that dim view. His growing antipathy toward the Saudis featured prominently in his campaign. He promised to order a “reassessment” of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. He attacked Trump for issuing “a dangerous blank check” that Mohammed bin Salman had abused to pursue reckless policies abroad and repression at home. The insults flew fast and furious. Biden called the kingdom a “pariah,” said there is “very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia,” and accused the Saudis of “murdering children” in Yemen. He pledged to make Riyadh “pay the price” for its misdeeds, including cutting off support for the kingdom’s war effort.
Add to the mix Biden’s commitment to reversing Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran, Saudi Arabia’s most dangerous foe, and it’s clear that the Saudis have got a real problem on their hands. So what’s a crown prince to do when the superpower that remains the irreplaceable bedrock of his kingdom’s security and stability starts doubting the value of the partnership?
The Saudis pay lobbyists in Washington, D.C., millions of dollars a year—and should try listening to them for once.
If he’s smart, he needs to do two things. First, to put it bluntly, stop doing stupid shit that’s guaranteed to make the situation worse. Last week’s transfer of the case of Loujain al-Hathloul, Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights activist, to a special terrorism court is a case in point. Talk about poking a stick in Biden’s eye, not to mention the 10 powerful senators—nine Democrats and one Republican—who only two days earlier wrote a joint letter urging Riyadh to release Loujain and several other female prisoners. Mohammed bin Salman pays lobbyists in Washington, D.C., millions of dollars a year for advice on how to improve his country’s standing in the U.S. capital. He should try listening to them for once.
But second, the Saudis need to launch some affirmative initiatives that will generate goodwill, show that they take U.S. concerns seriously, and underscore Mohammed bin Salman’s commitment to safeguarding the strategic partnership no matter who occupies the White House.
Rapidly resolving the highest-profile human rights cases seems like the obvious place to start. It’s only a handful of people—the group of women activists, the blogger Raif Badawi, and three U.S.-Saudi dual nationals. Most have been detained for years. Many have suffered abuses. None poses a serious threat to the Saudi state or Mohammed bin Salman’s grip on power. On the contrary, it’s their continued imprisonment that systematically erodes Saudi Arabia’s standing with its most important Western partners. Granting clemency at this point would be seen as an act of strength and wisdom, not weakness on the part of Mohammed bin Salman and his father, King Salman. The gesture would no doubt garner Biden’s appreciation—he’s made clear his plan to elevate human rights as a foreign-policy priority—and be interpreted as a good-faith effort by Riyadh to turn a new page with the incoming administration.
Addressing U.S. concerns about the war in Yemen will be harder, but it’s not impossible. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seem determined to keep fighting, including regularly targeting Saudi Arabia itself with missiles, drones, and rockets. But it’s become clear in 2020 that Mohammed bin Salman is looking for a way out of the long and costly quagmire. The Saudis have undertaken unilateral cease-fires, opened negotiations with the Houthis, and most recently accepted a United Nations proposal for a cease-fire and an easing of the Saudi economic blockade of Yemen in exchange for a security buffer along the Saudi-Yemeni border. For reasons of its own national interests, the kingdom is looking to be a part of the solution rather than the problem when it comes to efforts to de-escalate the war. This is a critical shift in narrative that Riyadh should seek to drive home to the incoming Biden administration through continued word and deed.
Of course, the issue with the greatest potential for positively transforming Saudi Arabia’s fortunes in Washington is the one that was on display in Neom earlier this month: normalization with Israel and the expansion of the Jewish state’s peaceful relations across the Arab and Muslim worlds. The latter has been a top U.S. priority for decades, and Saudi Arabia—as Islam’s birthplace, the custodian of its two holiest mosques, and arguably the world’s most influential Muslim state—holds the key to unlocking a veritable tidal wave of normalization, from Morocco to Pakistan, that would fundamentally shift the Middle East’s balance of power in ways overwhelmingly favorable to U.S. interests. Needless to say, the prospect of delivering that kind of historic achievement for U.S. foreign policy and global peace and security would give the Biden administration a considerably greater stake in good relations with the Saudis than it appears to have now.
The challenges facing Saudi Arabia with the end of the Trump era are real, but far from insurmountable.
The challenges facing Saudi Arabia in Washington with the end of the Trump era are real. But they’re far from insurmountable. For all the heated rhetoric during the campaign, Biden is a realist. Based on long experience, he still recognizes “the value of [Saudi] cooperation on counterterrorism and deterring Iran.” But in light of Mohammed bin Salman’s most troubling actions of recent years, he “would want to hear how Saudi Arabia intends to change its approach to work with a more responsible U.S. administration.” Read correctly, that sounds less like a threat and more like an invitation for the Saudis to take some meaningful steps to right the relationship going forward. They would be wise to accept. Hopefully, this month’s extraordinary get-together on the shores of the Red Sea is a signal of their intention to do precisely that.
*John Hannah is a senior counselor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney.
*Varsha Koduvayur is a senior research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where she focuses on the Persian Gulf. Follow her on Twitter @varshakoduvayur. FDD is a nonpartisan think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues.

Israel must speak to Biden with a clear voice on future Iran negotiations
Jacob Nagel/FDD/December 01/2020
With President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, the United States is widely expected to re-enter negotiations with Iran. In advance of the election, some advisers to Biden circulated a white paper exploring a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the flawed 2015 nuclear deal.
One controversial option was a return to the interim 2013 deal, the Joint Plan of Action, which yielded Iran hundreds of millions of dollars as a show of good faith. Israel is understandably concerned by the possibility of going back to a process that yielded sanctions relief and other concessions far too beneficial for Iran, as far as Israelis were concerned.
Faced with this challenge, Israel must demonstrate internal unity. This begins with discipline in speaking with the press. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can enforce this with a directive for officials speaking on or off the record, with reporters or in official meetings.
Such a directive should have the support of Netanyahu’s coalition partners, including Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, and be enforced across the rest of the Israeli bureaucracy dealing with the Iran file. This was the way the Israeli expert team worked with the six world powers involved in negotiating the JCPOA. The Israeli team, under clear instructions, explained to the negotiators their concerns while trying to mitigate the JCPOA’s mistakes and improve the flawed deal on the margins.
Such a unified message should also be crafted with Israel’s new peace partners in the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain harbor similar concerns about Iran. Israel must coordinate closely with them and perhaps other governments, such as the Saudis, to speak with one voice. The concerns of America’s regional partners were ignored last time. They should not be ignored again.
In voicing their concerns, Israel and its new friends must be wary of joining forces with Republicans who are also opposed to making concessions to Iran. Indeed, this cannot appear to be a partisan issue. At the same time, it is not a bad idea to convey that the next presidential election in 2024 could yield a different policy, making any business with Iran very risky.
Israel and its partners must also convey that Iran’s malign activity has not ceased. Since 2018, when the United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, the regime has engaged in nuclear blackmail, enriching more uranium, installing new and advanced centrifuges in underground facilities, and taking other dangerous steps in the nuclear arena.
In fact, the International Atomic Energy Agency recently issued an unusually harsh report on Tehran’s violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran’s nuclear safeguards agreement, and the 2015 nuclear deal. That report is backed by documents the Mossad captured from Iran’s atomic archive, not to mention site visits in Iran by the nuclear watchdog. Recent IAEA visits yielded new and interesting findings about Iranian violations.
Unfortunately, the international community has failed to take decisive action. The Iranians wisely waited for the U.S. election in the hope that they might be able to outlast current pressure. Israel and its partners should convey to the incoming administration that this cannot be rewarded.
Biden wants a new agreement. That in itself is not the problem — Israel wants one too. The devil is in the details. Israel must press for the next deal to be a good one that does not enable Iran to continue its nuclear activity. A new agreement must not be more of the same with minor improvements. The goal must be to establish new, clear terms to address the absurdity of Iran’s “civilian nuclear program” in underground facilities. Moreover, a new agreement should include all three elements of Iran’s illicit nuclear program: fissile materials, weaponization, and means of delivery.
Weaponization is very difficult to define and monitor. This was made clear from the atomic archive. Therefore, the next deal must require the regime to come clean on all previous activities. No deal can be concluded without Tehran’s admission of previous violations and declaration of its past inventory.
The means of delivery, namely ballistic missiles, require more than United Nations resolutions that are subject to interpretation. The next deal should unequivocally halt the development of missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Fissile materials (uranium and plutonium), along with all the technology necessary to produce them, should be completely banned and monitored by the IAEA. There must be no room for negotiation on this.
The U.S. and its allies must also stop hyper-focusing on “breakout time.” This is an outdated concept. Iran will not ” break out” but will rather “ sneak out” to a bomb via advanced centrifuges, increased R&D, and underground or clandestine facilities. Any future agreement cannot allow underground facilities, open possible military dimensions questions, or weaponization groups such as the now-sanctioned organization known by its Farsi acronym, SPND.
Finally, the JCPOA included dangerous “sunset” clauses. These are terms of the deal that expired over the course of a decade or so. If sunset clauses are included in a new deal, they should be set to expire many decades from now. Iran must not be led to believe that it has a patient pathway to nuclear weapons.
Some might say these terms would never be accepted by Tehran. This is the wrong mindset for negotiations. The next administration should bring its demands and be in no rush to negotiate. After all, America has many other challenges in the wake of the pandemic and global tensions with China, Russia, and North Korea. If Iran’s regime wants sanctions relief and an end to the current administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, it should be ready to compromise at the negotiating table. The new administration must categorically reject the assertion by Iran’s leaders that the U.S. should atone for President Trump’s Iran policy.
Some Biden advisers may believe that sanctions relief will help achieve an agreement and help avert conflict. This, too, is wrong. Sanctions represent leverage that will help America reach the right agreement and prevent conflict. Without sanctions and a credible military threat, the Islamic Republic will not come to the table or negotiate meaningful changes to the last deal.
Sanctions can also help push the regime for other changes in behavior. But Israel and its partners must differentiate between the nuclear program and other concerns. Indeed, it would be a mistake to bind Iran’s terror support or malign actions in Syria and Lebanon to the nuclear negotiations. After solving the nuclear problem, all others can be tackled. Merging the two can lead to dangerous nuclear concessions.
Important decisions await the incoming administration. It must move deliberately and wisely, learning from mistakes of the past. Israel can help, particularly if it speaks in one voice and coordinates carefully with other partners seeking to prevent a return to the flawed agreement of 2015.
*Brigadier General (Res.) Jacob Nagel is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a visiting professor at the Technion Aerospace Engineering Faculty. He previously served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acting national security adviser and head of Israel’s National Security Council. FDD is a nonpartisan think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues.


American Advocates Open Pharmacy for Displaced Syrians Deprived of Aid by Assad Regime
David Adesnik and Patrick McAnally/FDD/December 01/2020
The Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), an American non-profit organization, announced the opening last week of a no-cost pharmacy in the al-Rukban camp for displaced Syrians. The camp hosts 10,000 to 12,000 residents, who have received no UN aid deliveries since September 2019 because of obstruction by Russia and the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Rukban occupies a stretch of barren desert in eastern Syria adjacent to the border with Jordan. Until March of this year, camp residents had access to a UN-run health clinic in Jordan, which suspended operations because of COVID-19. Rukban also lies within the 55-kilometer radius of the deconfliction zone surrounding the garrison of about 200 U.S. troops in al-Tanf, a strategic town astride the main road from Damascus to Baghdad.
The American presence prevents attacks against Rukban, whether by Russian and Assad regime forces or remnants of the Islamic State. Some camp residents are part of a U.S. partner force, Maghawir al-Thawra, that conducts operations against the Islamic State.
At its peak, the camp had an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 residents, many of whom fled Russian airstrikes elsewhere in Homs province. The Assad regime has starved out much of the population, a tactic it has employed throughout the war. Still, thousands remain in Rukban because those who leave face internment and conscription after they return to regime-controlled territory.
The SETF pharmacy will distribute its supplies free of charge on the basis of need, the organization’s executive director, Mouaz Moustafa, told FDD. It will prioritize medications for children as well as baby formula and diapers. It will also stock some medical devices for adults, such as blood pressure monitors. While there are several nurses in the camp who can make diagnoses, the pharmacy also plans to facilitate telemedicine consultations to bolster diagnostic capabilities.
A separate effort is underway to re-open the abandoned clinic on the Jordanian side of the border. Dr. Zaher Sahloul, a Chicago-based pulmonologist who serves as the president of Medglobal, a U.S.-based medical charity that provides care in disaster regions, has proposed to the State Department that his organization run the clinic. The proposal’s success may depend on whether the State Department is willing and able to persuade the Jordanians to open the clinic and let volunteers serve there.
According to Sahloul, the residents of al-Rukban suffer from “chronic diseases, asthma and other respiratory diseases, in addition to a lack of reproductive and maternal healthcare.” A physician with appropriate supplies could diagnose and treat these conditions.
While Assad and Russia have an obligation under humanitarian law to let UN convoys reach Rukban from Damascus, the United States could deliver aid itself. However, Ambassador James Jeffrey, the outgoing U.S. special representative for Syria, has been adamant in his insistence that the United States will not take responsibility for providing aid while Assad deliberately blocks UN shipments. In addition, Jeffrey said last July, “If we feed them, it will look like we are going to stay there forever.”
Jordan could also allow the United Nations to deliver aid via Amman, but refuses to do so. The country has already taken in more than a million Syrian refugees and fears that any opening to Rukban would result in pressure to take in the camp’s residents. Amman has even begun forcibly deporting Syrian refugees to Rukban.
The U.S. government should publicly challenge Russia and the Assad regime to stop their blockade of Rukban, even if any change is unlikely. Washington should also quietly pressure Amman to allow aid to reach the camp via Jordanian territory, while providing assurances this will not lead to additional refugee flows. Both governments should also support the swift re-opening of the clinic that closed in March; private donors clearly stand ready to provide supplies and personnel. The U.S. government should treat Rukban not as a burden, but as an opportunity to demonstrate that American leadership can relieve the hardship deliberately inflicted by Assad and Russia.
*David Adesnik is research director and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
*Patrick McAnally is an intern. For more analysis from David, Patrick, and FDD, please subscribe HERE. Follow David on Twitter @adesnik. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

On the Iran Nuclear Deal, Israel Gets a Vote
Eli Lake/Bloomberg/December 01/2020
The assassination of the Iranian regime’s top nuclear scientist was intended to send a message.
This month, an intercontinental ballistic missile was fired in the general direction of the Hawaiian islands. During its descent a few minutes later, still outside the earth’s atmosphere, it was struck by another missile that destroyed it.
With that detonation, the world’s tenuous nuclear balance suddenly threatened to come out of kilter. The danger of atom bombs being used again was already increasing. Now it’s grown once more.
The ICBM flying over the Pacific was an American dummy designed to test a new kind of interceptor technology. As it flew, satellites spotted it and alerted an Air Force base in Colorado, which in turn communicated with a Navy destroyer positioned northeast of Hawaii. This ship, the USS John Finn, fired its own missile which, in the jargon, hit and killed the incoming one.
At first glimpse, this sort of technological wizardry would seem to be a cause for not only awe but also joy, for it promises to protect the U.S. from missile attacks by North Korea, for example. But in the weird logic of nuclear strategy, a breakthrough intended to make us safer could end up making us less safe.
That’s because the new interception technology cuts the link between offense and defense that underlies all calculations about nuclear scenarios. Since the Cold War, stability — and thus peace — has been preserved through the macabre reality of mutual assured destruction, or MAD. No nation will launch a first strike if it expects immediate retaliation in kind. A different way of describing MAD is mutual vulnerability.
If one player in this game-theory scenario suddenly gets a shield (these American systems are in fact called Aegis), this mutual vulnerability is gone. Adversaries, in this case mainly Russia but increasingly China too, must assume that their own deterrent is no longer effective because they may not be able to successfully strike back.
For this reason defensive escalation has become almost as controversial as the offensive kind. Russia has been railing against land-based American interceptor systems in places like eastern Europe and Alaska. But this month’s test was the first in which a ship did the intercepting. This twist means that before long the U.S. or another nation could protect itself from all sides.
This new uncertainty complicates a situation that was already becoming fiendishly intricate. The U.S. and Russia, which have about 90% of the world’s nukes, have ditched two arms-control treaties in as many decades. The only one remaining, called New START, is due to expire on Feb. 5, a mere 16 days after Joe Biden takes office as president. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which has for 50 years tried to keep nations without nukes from acquiring them, is also in deep trouble, and due to be renegotiated next year. Iran’s intentions remain unknown.
At the same time, both the U.S. and Russia are modernizing their arsenals, while China is adding to its own as fast as it can. Among the new weapons are nukes carried by hypersonic missiles, which are so fast that the leaders of the target nation only have minutes to decide what’s incoming and how to respond. They also include so-called tactical nukes, with “smaller” (in a very relative sense) payloads that make them more suitable for conventional wars, thus lowering the threshold for their use.
The risk thus keeps rising that a nuclear war starts by accident, miscalculation or false alarm, especially when factoring in scenarios that involve terrorism, rogue states or conflicts in outer or cyberspace. In a sort of global protest against this insanity, 84 countries without nukes have signed a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which will take effect next year. But neither the nine nuclear nations nor their closest allies will ever sign it.
Instead, the existing nuclear powers will interpret news of successful interceptor tests as an impetus for a new arms race. They will make even faster missiles with more decoys and countermeasures, new warheads for more flexible uses in a greater variety of strategic scenarios, and of course their own shields.
This must stop. And the best-placed world leader to take the initiative in halting the madness is the incoming U.S. president. Upon taking office, Biden should immediately propose that the U.S. and Russia roll over New START for another five years to buy time. He should simultaneously invite China and the other nuclear powers to the table.
The first goal should be a declaration by all nine that their nukes have the sole purpose of deterrence and will never be used aggressively. They should also give new assurances of security and help to non-nuclear nations, and create new communications protocols for crises. And yes, they must now agree to limit and monitor not only each other’s offensive weapons but also their defenses. The era of MAD and mutual vulnerability was terrifying but in a surreal way also stable. The coming era of questionable deterrence and asymmetric vulnerabilities will be less stable and therefore even more frightening. Biden will have much in his inbox come January. He better make sure arms control isn’t at the bottom.

Turkey opens secret channel to fix ties with Israel
Amberin Zaman/Al-Monitor/December 01/2020
The Biden administration will not be as lenient on Turkey as the outgoing administration has been, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan finds his country increasingly isolated.
The chief of Turkey’s national intelligence service has been holding secret talks with Israeli officials, part of a Turkish-initiated effort to normalize relations, well-placed sources have told Al-Monitor. Speaking to Al-Monitor on condition that they not be identified by name, three sources confirmed that meetings had taken place in recent weeks with Hakan Fidan representing Turkey in at least one of them, but they declined to say where. Governments typically decline to formally comment on intelligence-related issues.
One of the sources said, “The traffic [between Turkey and Israel] is continuing,” but he did not elaborate. There has been no ambassador in either country since May 2018, when Turkey showed Israel’s ambassador the door over its bloody attacks on Gaza and Washington’s decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Fidan is believed to have held several such meetings in the past, to discuss joint security concerns in Syria and Libya among other things, as first reported by Al-Monitor, but the sources said the latest round was specifically aimed at upgrading ties back to ambassador level.
There is mounting worry in Ankara that the incoming Joe Biden administration will be less indulgent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s bellicosity, which has seen Turkey mount three separate incursions against the Syrian Kurds since 2016, send troops and Syrian mercenaries to Libya and Azerbaijan, and lock horns with Greece in Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean waters. The biggest concern is that, unlike President Donald Trump, Biden will not shield Turkey from sanctions over its purchase of Russian S-400 missiles and for Turkish state lender Halkbank’s paramount role in facilitating Iran’s multibillion-dollar illicit oil for gold trade.
“The calculation is that making nice with Israel will win them favor with the Biden team,” said a Western official speaking not for attribution. “It’s like Lucy and the football; it works each time,” he said, referring to a recurring theme in the world-famous cartoon strip “Peanuts.”
Gallia Lindenstrauss, a senior research fellow at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies, agrees that there’s a window of opportunity for turning the page. “I would think it would be in the interest of both states not to overstate the meaning of the step of bringing the ambassadors back. As relations were not downgraded in 2018, it is from the diplomatic protocol point of view a simple step.”
“Both states can present it as a goodwill step for the coming Biden administration that is likely to be more interested in relaxing tensions between Israel and Turkey than the Trump administration, which didn't push this agenda at all,” Lindenstrauss added in emailed comments to Al-Monitor.
Commercial ties between the two countries — vaunted as the only pro-secular democracies in the Middle East until Erdogan took a sharply authoritarian turn — have remained intact.
But one of the sources aired skepticism at the prospects of a real reset “for as long as Turkey continues to be the global headquarters for Hamas."
"What Turkey can provide at this point, and Israel would want, are Turkish reassurances that Hamas is not using its soil to orchestrate terror activities againt it and the Palestinian Authority. Such promises were given to Israel in the past, but there have been reports they were in fact broken. More concrete reassurances in this direction hence can be a good starting point," Lindenstrauss observed.
Israel alleges that hundreds of Hamas operatives, among them US-designated terrorists who have plotted attacks against the Jewish state, have been offered sanctuary and in some cases Turkish nationality by Ankara. In August, the State Department blasted Ankara for hosting two Hamas leaders, including Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas political bureau. “President Erdogan’s continued outreach to this terrorist organization only serves to isolate Turkey from the international community, harms the interests of the Palestinian people, and undercuts global efforts to prevent terrorist attacks launched from Gaza,” it said in a statement.
Egypt, which has also had rocky relations with Turkey since the ouster of Mohammed Morsi, similarly accuses Turkey of harboring its Muslim Brotherhood opponents.
The prevailing consensus is that the United States’ waning diplomatic and military engagement in the region has eased what many view as Turkish irredentism in its former Ottoman dominions. However, despite its success in curbing Kurdish ambitions in Syria, salvaging Libya’s Government of National Accord from the jaws of a rival warlord, and helping Azerbaijan (as did Israel) defeat Armenia, Turkey has found itself increasingly isolated. Israel, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus have united against Ankara’s ongoing gas drilling operations in contested waters in the Eastern Mediterranean through a mix of economic and military cooperation accords.
More broadly, Saudi Arabia, France and the United Arab Emirates in particular have been pushing back against Erdogan’s efforts to expand Turkey’s military hegemony across the Levant, the Maghreb and the Horn of Africa.
The UAE and Bahrain’s decision to establish diplomatic ties with Israel — scoring brownie points in Washington is part of their calculus too — has left Turkey looking even more friendless. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in no rush to make up with Ankara just as he is courting Turkey’s Gulf foes. Turkey’s growing economic difficulties are seen at the root of Erdogan’s efforts to shift course. These are poised to grow sharply worse despite continued Qatari benevolence should US or EU sanctions come into play. Tellingly, Turkey withdrew its seismic exploration vessel, the Oruc Reis, from the disputed Mediterranean waters Nov. 30 ahead of an EU summit that is due to be held Dec. 10-11 and where sanctions against Ankara are to be weighed.
In a further climb down, Ankara has now reached out to Saudi Arabia. Erdogan spoke to Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Nov. 21 ahead of a G20 summit chaired by Saudi Arabia. Turkish officials quoted by Middle East Eye said Erdogan sought his help to end an unofficial boycott of Turkish goods that is beginning to take a toll. Turkey’s exports to the kingdom fell 15% in September compared with the same period last year, the third straight month of decline, Bloomberg reported.
Relations between the two countries took a nosedive following the gruesome Oct. 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkey led a noisy campaign to expose Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s alleged role in the affair. Last week a Turkish court added six new defendants to the 20 Saudis who are being tried in absentia — including two close aides of the prince — for their alleged participation in killing and then dismembering Khashoggi.
Erdogan had spurned Salman's entreaties to bury the story in the days following Khashoggi’s death. The prince's global image has been sullied beyond repair, with the United Nations and the CIA pointing to his complicity. Yet he remains stronger than ever with many Saudis rallying behind their prince in the face of what they see as a global conspiracy. Turkey’s goal was to prevent the prince’s accession to the throne, reckons Ali Shihabi, a New York-based expert on the Middle East and the co-author of “The Saudi Kingdom: Between the Jihadi Hammer and the Iranian Anvil.”
“What the Khashoggi affair exposed beyond all was Erdogan’s lack of understanding of how the Saudi succession works,” Shihabi told Al-Monitor in a telephone interview. Moreover, the notion that any wedge could be driven between the king and his son was never realistic.
While the Saudis are open to bringing relations to a “level of cordiality,” Shihabi contended, the steady drip of incriminating evidence against the crown prince through the international media “left a very bad taste.”
"I don’t see that mistrust of Erdogan disappearing any time soon. Not before Erdogan moderates his regional fantasies,” Shihabi predicted.
*Editor's note: Dec. 1, 2020. This article has been updated since its initial publication.

Militants massacre at least 110 civilians on Nigerian rice farms
Danielle Paquette/The Washington Post/December 01/2020
They were tired of Boko Haram extremists stealing their money and crops, a local official said, so when they saw a chance to capture one of their tormentors, they tied him up to face justice.
In response, gunmen on motorbikes stormed the village of Koshobe on Saturday, killing at least 110 people in one of the region’s deadliest attacks in years. “The entire country is hurt by these senseless killings,” tweeted Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, whose office described the loss as “insane.”
No one has asserted responsibility for the bloodshed.
Grief surged in Nigeria’s Borno state, which has grappled with a relentless insurgency for more than a decade. Residents have long blasted leaders in the capital, Abuja, for failing to protect them.
Boko Haram has killed more than 30,000 people since 2009 and continues to stage regular attacks across Borno. Millions have been forced from their homes. The violence didn’t stop after Buhari declared the group “technically defeated.” An offshoot, the Islamic State in West Africa, has since spread, assaulting military outposts and collecting taxes from villagers it intends to rule.
Both groups want to govern Nigerians with an extreme version of Islam. They have driven scores of aid workers and federal helpers out of the country’s remotest corners, leaving residents with little recourse.
The assailants who struck Koshobe this weekend — about an hour’s drive from Borno’s capital, Maiduguri — targeted people who worked on rice fields.
They tied up the victims and slit their throats, the local government said. Most were migrant workers who had come from the nation’s northeast. Then the suspected militants set fire to the land in an agricultural community that depends on it. In addition to the 110 people who died in the ambush, many others were wounded, said Edward Kallon, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria. Several women were kidnapped, he added.
“The incident is the most violent direct attack against innocent civilians this year,” Kallon said.
Suspected Boko Haram militants killed 22 farmers working on irrigation fields in two separate attacks in October in Borno. A June attack near the village of Gubio left 81 people dead. Most were young adults who had been out fetching water to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Help often arrives too late, residents said at the time.
Buhari’s office pushed back against that assertion Monday, saying the victims of Saturday’s attack did not have permission to work in that part of Africa’s most populous country.
“Much of those areas have been liberated from Boko Haram, but there are a number of spaces that have not been cleared for the return of villagers that have been displaced,” the president’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, said in an interview with the BBC World Service.
People in Borno can’t wait for the government’s approval to return, said the state’s governor, Babagana Zulum.
“If they stay at home, they may be killed by hunger,” he told reporters Sunday. “If they go out to their farmlands, they risk getting killed by insurgents.”
The day before the attack in Koshobe, a lone gunman had been harassing farmers in the area, said Ahmed Satomi, a local politician.
The assailant had ordered them to cook for him. While some prepared rice, another group struck back. They tied up the attacker and called security forces. “Boko Haram came back to retaliate,” he said. “They slit the farmers’ throats one by one.” Ismail Alfa in Maiduguri contributed reporting.
A massacre in Nigeria’s Borno state left more people dead than months of coronavirus. Nigerian children who escaped Boko Haram say they faced another prison: Military detention
Nigerian aid workers rushed to help people during the pandemic. They were executed on video.
*Danielle Paquette is The Washington Post’s West Africa bureau chief. Before becoming a foreign correspondent in 2019, she spent five years writing about labor, gender and the economy.Follow

We Will Slaughter Armenians When the Time Comes,” Turk Vows
Raymond Ibrahim/December 01/2020
Although the recent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been presented as a “territorial dispute,” something else—namely religious animosity, or that old Islamic hate for infidels—has permeated it.
For example, several reports and testimonials, including by an independent French journalist, confirmed that Turkey was funneling jihadi/terrorist groups that had been operating in Syria and Libya—including the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Hamza Division, which kept naked, sex slave women in prison—to terrorize the Armenians.
Similarly, Armenian churches that have come under Azerbaijani control have been desecrated—despite promises from the authorities to protect them. In one instance, a soldier—unclear whether an Azeri or a jihadi mercenary from Syria or Iraq—was videotaped standing atop a church chapel, where the cross had been broken off, and triumphantly shouting “Allahu Akbar!” Azerbaijani forces also shelled and destroyed Holy Savior, an iconic Armenian cathedral which was “consecrated in 1888 but was damaged during the March 1920 massacre of Armenians of the city by Azerbaijanis and experienced a decades-long decline.”
Anti-infidel rhetoric and logic also motivated the mercenaries. A captured terrorist confessed that he was “promised a monthly 2000 dollar payment for fighting against ‘kafirs’ in Artsakh, and an extra 100 dollar for each beheaded “kafir.” (Kafir, often translated as “infidel,” is Arabic for non-Muslims who fail to submit to Islamic authority, which by default makes them enemies worthy of death or slavery.)
Indeed, one need only listen to a Turkish man rant in a video about how Armenians are all “dogs” and that any found in Turkey should be slaughtered for an idea of the Islamic impetus fueling the hate:
What is an Armenian doing in my country? Either the state expels them or we kill them. Why do we let them live?… We will slaughter them when the time comes…. This is Turkish soil. How are we Ottoman grandchildren?…. The people of Turkey who have honor, dignity, and Allah must cut the heads of the Armenians in Turkey. It is dishonorable for anyone to meet and not kill an Armenian… If we are human, let us do this—let us do it for Allah…. Everyone listening, if you love Allah, please spread this video of me to everyone…
Little wonder that, while discussing why Turkey was so heavily involved in a conflict that did not involve it, Nikol Pashinyan, Armenia’s prime minister, recently said Turkey had returned “to continue the Armenian Genocide.”
If Turks, who are not affected by the Armenian/Azerbaijani conflict, feel this way, it should be unsurprising that any number of Azeris do too. Thus, for Nurlan Ibrahimov, head of the press service of Qarabag football club of Azerbaijan, “We [Azerbaijanis] must kill all Armenians—children, women, the elderly. [We] need to kill [them] without [making a] distinction. No regrets, no compassion.”
To the unsuspecting observer, so much hate may seem reflective of “grievances”; in other words, if so many Muslims are full of murderous hate for Armenia, surely that suggests the latter somehow provoked it? History quickly disabuses this notion. Even when Turks and other Muslims had zero grievances against Armenians—except for their being Christian “infidels”—the same extreme hate and contempt was always present.
A thousand years ago, Muslim Turkic hordes, riding from the east, first invaded Armenian lands and exterminated Armenians. While the historical sources, particularly Matthew of Edessa’s (d.1144) valuable chronicle, tell of hundreds of thousands of Armenians being slaughtered or hauled off into slavery, the most savage treatment was always reserved for those visibly proclaiming their Christianity. Thus, in 1065, after the conquest of Armenia’s capital, Ani, clergy and monks were rounded up and “burned to death, while others were flayed alive from head to toe.”
Every monastery and church—before this, Ani was known as “the City of 1001 Churches”—was pillaged, desecrated, and set aflame. A zealous jihadi even climbed atop the city’s main cathedral “and pulled down the very heavy cross which was on the dome, throwing it to the ground,” before entering and defiling the church. Made of pure silver and the “size of a man,” the broken crucifix was sent as a trophy to adorn a mosque in Azerbaijan.
During another Turkic raid (on Arzden), countless thousands of Armenians were butchered. Once again and underscoring the hate for those most representative of the Christian faith, the invaders “burned priests whom they seized in the churches and massacred those whom they found outside. They put great chunks of pork in the hands of the dead to insult us”—Muslims deem the pig unclean—“and made them objects of mockery to all who saw them.” Then they torched Arzden—which then had 800 churches, most of which were full of Armenians seeking sanctuary from the sword of Islam.
Nor was there much doubt concerning what fueled the Turks’ animus: “This nation of infidels comes against us because of our Christian faith and they are intent on destroying the ordinances of the worshippers of the cross and on exterminating the Christian faithful,” one David, head of an Armenian region, explained to his countrymen during another raid from a millennium ago. Therefore, “it is fitting and right for all the faithful to go forth with their swords and to die for the Christian faith.” Many were of the same mind; records tell of monks and priests, fathers, wives, and children, all shabbily armed but zealous to protect their way of life, coming out to face the invaders—to little avail.
Considering that nothing more than religious contempt for Christian “infidels” was needed to prompt Turks and other Muslims to invade and sadistically savage the Armenians over the course of many centuries—and considering that many Turks and other Muslims are currently exhibiting the same jihadi hate and rhetoric—is there any question as to what the true, root cause behind the recent flare out between Armenia and Azerbaijan might be? Moreover, if the hate is existential—and it is and always has been—how, exactly, can appeasement (which tends only to embolden the hate and contempt) ever work?
Note: Quotes from Matthew of Edessa were excerpted from the author’s book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West. Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.


The Killing of a Nuclear Scientist May Save Countless Lives
Richard Kemp/Gatestone Institute/December 01/2020
Under the slogan "Death to America", Iran has been at war with the US, Israel and their Western allies since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, using proxy groups to kill hundreds of Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and other places; and to launch terror attacks across the Middle East, Europe, the US and Latin America.
Mr Fakhrizadeh was a brigadier general in the IRGC and therefore not only a senior military commander in a country at war with the US and its allies but also a proscribed international terrorist.
Iran will never abandon what it considers its absolute right to become a nuclear-armed state, not under the current regime nor any future regime.... It has lied to the IAEA and the archive even sets out in detail the ways in which it has deceived the inspectors.
Despite claims to the contrary, the JCPOA was never going to prevent a nuclear armed Iran... Its sunset clauses meant that at best the deal might have delayed Tehran's acquisition of nuclear weapons for a few years.... Any return to the JCPOA by a Biden White House, as is being pushed by Mr Brennan and other prospective administration officials, will not see a strengthened deal but more likely an even weaker one.
Mr Brennan and the European supporters of his argument seem to believe that Iran can be contained by appeasement and negotiation rather than military strength and political will. The path advocated by the proponents of appeasement can only lead to infinitely greater bloodshed, violence and suffering than the death of a proscribed terrorist on the streets of Iran.
Iran-appeasers who condemn the targeted killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, have exhibited shocking disregard for the death, destruction and suffering likely to be inflicted by the totalitarian Iranian regime utilising Fakhrizadeh's pernicious expertise. Pictured: The scene of Fakhrizadeh's assassination on November 27, near Tehran. (Image source: Fars/Wikimedia Commons)
With unfailing predictability, EU external affairs spokesman Peter Sano as well as other European Iran-appeasers rushed to condemn the targeted killing on November 27 of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. In doing so they exhibited shocking disregard for the death, destruction and suffering likely to be inflicted by the totalitarian Iranian regime utilising the pernicious expertise of Mr Fakhrizadeh.
From across the Atlantic they were joined by, among others, former CIA Director John O. Brennan, who described the killing as "state-sponsored terrorism" and "a flagrant violation of international law". Yet Mr Brennan was in the White House Situation Room in 2011 when the US launched an operation to kill Usama bin Laden on Pakistani sovereign territory. Presumably he was not whispering into President Barack Obama's ear that SEAL Team Six were violating international law.
As Obama's counterterrorism adviser and then Director of the CIA, Mr Brennan also presided over and publicly justified an extensive programme of CIA targeted killing by drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere. Some years earlier, I was in meetings with Mr Brennan when he extolled the utility and legitimacy of targeted killings against terrorists.
In an apparent attempt to reconcile his stance now with his roles and moral position while in government, Mr Brennan described Mr Fakhrizadeh's elimination as "far different than strikes against terrorist leaders & operatives of groups like Al Qaida and Islamic State".
Although pronouncing this targeted killing illegal, Mr Brennan's objections seem to focus more on fear of the "lethal retaliation & a new round of regional conflict" that he considers likely. There is also the apparent subtext, shared by many others on the left, of concern that this attack makes a Biden administration's return to the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran more problematic.
Mr Brennan's perspective encapsulates the most common objection to targeted killing in modern times. It tends to be less about the often-disputed legality of such action — targeted killing in war has never been absolutely prohibited under international law — and more about the legality, morality or advisability of the foreign policy under which such techniques have been carried out.
In turn, this leads to opinions of what is and is not war, and the status of state vs non-state actors. Mr Brennan says targeted killings are lawful against illegitimate combatants, i.e. terrorist operatives, but not officials of sovereign states in peacetime with the implication that in this case the perpetrators of the killing were not at war with Iran.
This is to misunderstand the reality that war can no longer been seen as defined periods of hostilities characterised by sweeping movements of armour across the plains, grand naval battles and dogfights in the skies. Instead, the lines between peace and war have been intentionally blurred by countries such as Iran and Russia, often using surrogates to strike their enemies, as well as by non-state actors such as the Islamic State and Al Qaida, with unprecedented capacity for global violence.
Under the slogan "Death to America", Iran has been at war with the US, Israel and their Western allies since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, using proxy groups to kill hundreds of Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and other places; and to launch terror attacks across the Middle East, Europe, the US and Latin America. Iran supports President Bashar Assad's murderous regime in Syria, materially aids the Islamic State and Taliban and has deliberately harboured and facilitated senior Al Qaida leaders, one of whom, Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was killed in Tehran in mid-November.
Iran has prosecuted a long-term concerted war against Israel with the declared intention of eliminating the Jewish State. It has funded and directed attacks from Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, inside Israel and against Israeli citizens and government officials beyond the region. It has built an extensive missile complex in southern Lebanon, deploying many thousands of rockets pointed at Israel. It has sought to develop a base of operations in Syria from which to attack Israel. It has fomented, funded and armed an insurgency in Yemen from which to conduct a proxy war against Saudi Arabia. It has also launched drone and cruise missile attacks against Saudi oil facilities.
This decades-long global war is organized and controlled by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), whose former Quds Force commander, Qasem Soleimani, was killed in Baghdad by a US drone strike in January. The IRGC is designated a terrorist organization by the US and several other countries. Mr Fakhrizadeh was a brigadier general in the IRGC and therefore not only a senior military commander in a country at war with the US and its allies but also a proscribed international terrorist.
He was, however, much more than that. He was the founder and long-term director of the illegal Iranian nuclear weapons programme which is controlled by the IRGC. The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that he led the programme, known as Amad, which sought to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian energy project. Amad was shelved in 2003 but replaced by the Oganization of Defensive Innovation and Research, SPND, which he headed until his death. The work of Amad, SPND and other covert bodies was exposed in an extensive nuclear archive seized by Israel's Mossad from Tehran in 2018, to which I was given access last year.
The acute threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb was recognised by President Obama, who pledged in 2012 to prevent it, using military force if necessary. Like his red line over President Assad's chemical weapons in Syria, Obama's assurance dissolved into a faint pink with his negotiation of the JCPOA nuclear deal in 2015 which, rather than halting Iran's programme, paved the way for it.
Obama's apprehension over the Iranian danger was shared around the world by countries that recognised the threat was not just to the Middle East as Iran continued work on long range missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. They knew also that the Iranian programme would trigger in the Middle East a nuclear arms race which is now under way, mainly involving Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt.
The fear of Iran's nuclear programme, as well as its regional and global aggression, was the major incentive for years of under-the-radar cooperation between Arab states and Israel -- a cooperation that has recently matured openly into the Abraham Accords. With Obama's failure to support the Arabs against Iranian aggression, they saw Israel as the one country they could depend on for protection.
Iran will never abandon what it considers its absolute right to become a nuclear-armed state, not under the current regime nor any future regime. The nuclear archive proves that while the regime has consistently denied its weapons programme, it has forged ahead with it, in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that it signed in 1970, and despite its obligations under the JCPOA, and has put in place measures to continue to do so. It has lied to the IAEA and the archive even sets out in detail the ways in which it has deceived the inspectors.
Despite claims to the contrary, the JCPOA was never going to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and was not designed to do so. Its sunset clauses meant that, at best, the deal might have delayed Tehran's acquisition of nuclear weapons for a few years, kicking the can down the road for future generations to pick up in a far more dangerous context. Any return to the JCPOA by a Biden White House, as is being pushed by Mr Brennan and other prospective administration officials, will not see a strengthened deal but more likely an even weaker one.
Other than regime change with a highly unpredictable outcome, that leaves no alternative to coercion. Israel ended the Iraqi nuclear project in 1981 and the Syrian project in 2007 by air strikes. These were condemned by the US and European countries at the time. But they were later recognised as vital steps for regional security when Saddam's invasion of Kuwait had to be repelled and the Islamic State in Syria crushed.
Iran has learnt from these earlier actions, and effective air strikes against their nuclear programme would be far more difficult and bloody, though cannot be excluded if necessary. Meanwhile, an unattributable campaign to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions has unfolded, including Stuxnet and other cyber attacks, sabotage and covert action against nuclear facilities, and targeted killings of nuclear scientists. The elimination of Mr Fakhrizadeh was the latest and arguably most significant of these, both in terms of deterrence and denial of expertise. The potential effectiveness of these actions has been increased by President Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign of economic sanctions. Together these measures stand the best chance of retarding Iran's nuclear programme, as well as restraining its non-nuclear aggression, short of conventional strikes or all-out war.
Those that argue against this policy fail to understand the danger that a nuclear-armed Iran presents to the region and the world, wrongly believe that the programme can be halted by diplomatic means or are happy with the idea of a nuclear-armed fanatical dictatorship. Mr Brennan and the European supporters of his argument seem to believe that Iran can be contained by appeasement and negotiation rather than military strength and political will. This is a failure to comprehend either the psychology or ideology of the Iranian leadership. The path advocated by the proponents of appeasement can only lead to infinitely greater bloodshed, violence and suffering than the death of a proscribed terrorist on the streets of Iran.
*Colonel Richard Kemp is a former British Army Commander. He was also head of the international terrorism team in the U.K. Cabinet Office and is now a writer and speaker on international and military affairs.
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How Iran regime will respond to nuclear scientist’s death
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/December 01, 2020
The Iranian regime has this year suffered two major blows — one military and one nuclear — that have humiliated the theocratic establishment. The first was the January killing of Qassem Soleimani, who was in charge of the Quds Force and extraterritorial operations, exporting Iran’s ideology and revolutionary ideals. The second was last week’s assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
The killings of Soleimani and Fakhrizadeh exposed the weakness of Iran’s security and intelligence apparatuses and the regime’s inability to prevent the leaking of confidential information. The regime, which has always taken pride in and boasted about its military power, was also humiliated in front of its network of militia and terror groups across the region.
Leaders from across the Iranian political spectrum have vowed to respond to the latest setback in a harsh manner. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tweeted: “There are two matters that people in charge should put in their to do list: — To follow up the atrocity and retaliate against those who were responsible for it. 2 — To follow up Martyr Fakhrizadeh’s scientific and technical activities in all fields in which he was active.” The so-called moderate President Hassan Rouhani also promised that Iran would take revenge for the killing of Fakhrizadeh.
But will Iran actually retaliate? And, if so, how and when? Tehran undoubtedly will retaliate, but it is important to look at its current overarching strategy when it comes to hitting the US and its allies. The regime’s modus operandi is anchored in inflicting damage in an indirect manner in order to avoid instigating an all-out war. This is due to the fact that a full-scale war with Israel or the US would most likely lead to the collapse of the Iranian regime. Therefore, Tehran cannot afford a direct conflict.
Any direct confrontation with a US ally would most likely also drag America into the equation and tip the balance firmly against Tehran. In spite of the fact that Iran is larger geographically and has a bigger population than Israel, its military capacity is inferior to both Israel and the US. And what fundamentally changes the balance of power is Israel’s nuclear capacity, as Tel Aviv is widely believed to have enough weapons-grade plutonium for an arsenal of 100 to 200 nuclear warheads.
The Tehran regime is also cognizant of the fact that the Iranian people’s frustration and resentment toward the government is escalating. Any full-scale war might start another national uprising, which could threaten the hold on power of the ruling clerics. The theocratic establishment is also facing difficult times when it comes to the economy thanks to the US sanctions, which have hit Iran’s energy, banking and shipping sectors hard.
More importantly, the regime believes that the Trump administration is different from other US administrations in the sense that it would not hesitate to strike Iran if it hit the US or its allies. In fact, the prevailing narrative within Iran’s political establishment is that the Trump administration and Israel want to drag Tehran into a war in the final weeks of 2020, and that the regime must not fall into this trap. A headline in state-controlled newspaper Arman-e Melli read: “Trap of tension: Assassination of another nuclear scientist.” The newspaper explained that Iran must be very cautious and patient in the final weeks of Donald Trump’s time in office and it should neutralize tensions with Israel and the US.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif similarly pointed a finger at Israel and warned about its intention of starting a war with Iran before Joe Biden takes over. He tweeted: “Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice — with serious indications of Israeli role — shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators.”
The Iranian regime has been humiliated in front of its network of militia and terror groups across the region.
Therefore, the Iranian regime will most likely wait until the Trump administration is out of office before it takes revenge and saves face. Iran will resort to the type of warfare that it has mastered: Arming its proxies and instructing them to launch missiles and drones into other nations. Iran can also harass ships in the Strait of Hormuz, as it has done previously. Other strategies that Iran can deploy include kidnapping Western citizens, assassinating Western officials, and ordering Iraqi militias to hit US targets. A few months ago, intelligence reports revealed that the Iranian regime was weighing up an assassination attempt against the American ambassador to South Africa. After all, the regime has been engaged in many assassination and terrorist plots since its establishment in 1979.
Overall, there is no question that the Iranian regime will retaliate following the assassination of Fakhrizadeh. But it will most likely wait until Trump leaves the White House and will respond in a way that does not lead to all-out war with Israel or the US, because that could result in the collapse of the regime.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh.

Iran Unending Ambiguity

Charles Elias Chartouni/December 02, 2020

شارل الياس شرتوني: الغموض الإيراني السرمدي
The Iranian regime has this year suffered two major blows
The old diplomatic gimmicks are being disrupted and overruled, and the Iranian vicious cycles of self sequestration, rampant violence in the larger Middle East, victimization pathos and its theatrical simulations seem to thwart any attempt at normalization and severance of ties with the delusions of political Mahdism. This cycle of repeated violence is no hazard, it’s the outcome of a well set ideological panopticon which has hobbled the Iranian Islamic regime, over the last forty one years, from breaking away with a legacy of open-ended conflicts, and engaging the world community on the very basis of moral reciprocity, diplomatic rules, and practical negotiations. It’s no coincidence that a political soteriology matched with the pervasiveness of geopolitical insecurities, and a hard driven imperialism forging ahead within the realms of a disintegrating Arab World, have never abated from the early days of Khomeinism until nowadays: the Iraqi-Iranian war ( 1980-1988 ), the Iranian entanglements in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries, Koweït, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israël, the Palestinian Territories and vagrant terrorism, were at the origin of an arc of conflicts extending all over the Middle East.
What’s perplexing is the constant lamenting posture of Iran which tends to externalize blame on whichever occasional actor, and exculpate itself from cyclical conflicts with no holds barred, and no chances of working political arrangements. In parallel, the debunking of revolutionary myths, the pitfalls of failed governance and the corollary proliferation of political, financial, economic, social, and environmental crises, were at the origin of a destructive synergy between the external and internal crises. The security failures displayed by the late spate of political assassinations, sabotaging of nuclear plants, and smuggling of nuclear archives, have amply demonstrated the state of widespread political alienation, sagging national commonalities, and the inability of the regime to revamp its dissipating credentials and restore its faltering legitimacy. These attacks are highlighting the systemic fractures of an imperial mid-power which, while engaging several operational theaters and wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East, is unable to address the basics of domestic governance, stem the tide of gnawing corruption and extract itself from the entropies developing at every level of its decaying polity.
The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, testifies to the emergence of a new power equation, elicited by the Trump administration, predicated on a new regional coalition masterminded by the US ( Israel, the UAE and Saudi Arabia ... ), bent on checkmating Iran, and creating new balances in a region which experienced long term strategic vacancies. The resumption of the nuclear negotiations between Iran, the US and the world community, is likely to be preempted in the case of the acceleration of the uranium enrichment process, renewed and widespread hostilities, pursuit of ballistic missiles experiments and attacks, and unleashing of terror campaigns, the question is not about their likelihood but opportunity and sustainability over time. The rules of the game are upended and the new configuration is already set, and no matter what, they have become binding for the Biden administration, which can never claim back a return to the status quo ante and its equivocations in 2016, and Iran has no more the latitude to operate in a risk-free zone and with impunity. The inability to retaliate back translates the reduction of its radius of maneuvering, and power to set unilaterally the rules of engagement and their timing. This mutating strategic configuration is setting the regulations of a new game and the Iranian regime is having a hard time coping with its terms.