English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For December 04/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani



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Bible Quotations For today
The Wise And The Fool Builders
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 7,21.24-27/Jesus said to his disciples: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined."


 “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.”Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 25/01-13: “‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.”Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Saint Barbara and Eid El Burbara
On 4 December in the Maronite calendar we venerate St Barbara. She was a Martyr who lived in the fourth century. Her father was a rich man and they lived in Heliopolis which is modern day Baalabek in Lebanon. Barbara was extraordinarily beautiful and her father built a tower to hide her. From the tower, there was a view of hills stretching into the distance. The desire to know the True God consumed her soul. A priest disguised as a merchant came to the city. After instructing her in the mysteries of the Christian Faith, he baptized Barbara. When her father learnt that she was a Christian he grabbed a sword and almost struck her with it. Barbara fled, but her father rushed after her. She fled and his in the hills and hid. Finally, her father found her and handed her over to the prefect of the city. St. Barbara was tortured. Another woman Juliana was moved by St Barbara’s courage and denounced the torturers in a loud voice, she was also seized. Both women were repeatedly tortured. Saints Barbara and Juliana were beheaded. Barbara’s father delivered the fatal blow to his own daughter.
EID IL-BURBARA عيد البربارة
Saint Barbara's Day, is celebrated on December 4 by Maronites in Lebanon. Children dress up in costume and masks remembering Saint Barbara who disguised herself in many different characters to elude her father and the Romans who were looking for her. The traditional food made on this feast is Burbara, a bowl of boiled wheat grains, pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise and sugar. It is offered to children who go from one house to another in costumes.
As parents, we must learn that we can’t lock our children away from the world, but encourage them to go out and find Christ in it. This Christmas let us listen to Pope Francis and follow the example of St Barbara and seek out our faith so we might encounter our Lord.


Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on December 03- 04/2020

Hezbollah's Nasrallah to move to Iran amid regional tensions - report
Macron calls on Lebanon to form cabinet, proceed with reforms
Ministry of Health: 1520 new coronavirus cases, 12 deaths
French Embassy on Aid Conference: Lebanon Should Quickly Form a Credible, Reform-oriented Government
Aoun Urges Govt. to be More Active, Defense Council Calls for Extending Mobilization
President Approves Compensation for Families of Blast Victims
UK Minister Stresses Support for Lebanon, Voices Concern over Govt. Delay
UK Minister: Lebanon Threatened by a Silent Tsunami
Secular Club Hails 'Unprecedented Victory' in USJ Elections
STL Schedules 4th Status Conference in Murr-Hawi-Hamade Case
Report: France Handed Blast Satellite Images to Lebanon
Lebanon Seeks Release of Nationals Kidnapped in Nigeria, Ministry Says
Akar Urges U.N. to Put End to Israeli Overflights
Lebanon Basketball Players Ditch Game for Better Future
Israeli Jets Overfly Most Lebanese Regions at Low, Medium Altitudes
Berri meets UN's Kubis, British Minister of State for Middle East Affairs
Central Bank issues new LBP 100 thousand banknote
Parents of students in foreign universities block Central Bank road
Sit-in for parents of students in foreign universities
Lebanese former army chief indicted on suspicion of corruption
Reining in Hezbollah should be key part of Iran talks/Khaled Abou Zahr/Arab News/December 03/2020


Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 03- 04/2020

Fauci Says Britain 'Rushed' Pfizer Covid Vaccine Approval
US withdraws diplomats from Baghdad embassy ‘to minimise risk’
Biden to return to Iran’s 2015 deal but to ‘tighten’ restrictions
A breakthrough in Kushner’s Gulf mediation seen as unlikely
US imposes fresh Iran-related sanctions targeting individual, entity
US could designate Houthi militia as ‘terrorist’ organization
Israel Urges Citizens to Avoid Gulf, Cites Iran Threat
Israel warns Iran may target its facilities abroad
In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors
Iran says it has identified suspects in Fakhrizadeh assassination
Sen. Cruz reintroduces act to designate Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group
UN Secretary-General’s remarks to General Assembly’s special session in response to Covid-19 pandemic

Titles For The Latest The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 03- 04/2020

Mozambique Terrorist Group Poised to Establish an Islamic Emirate/Lawrence A. Franklin//Gatestone Institute/December 03/2020
Iran's Mullahs Want the "Nuclear Deal", So Does Biden/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/December 03/2020
Iran is the secret matchmaker in Israeli-Arab relations - opinion/Douglas Bloomdield/Jerusalem Post/December 03/2020
Empower regular Iraqis to end their country’s forever war/Michael Pregent/Arab News/December 03/2020
Perfect winter storm puts UK at risk of post-Brexit meltdown/Andrew Hammond/Arab News/December 03/2020

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on December 03- 04/2020

Hezbollah's Nasrallah to move to Iran amid regional tensions - report
Tzvi Joffre/Jerusalem Post/December 03/2020
According to the report, the Hezbollah leader is to stay in Tehran indefinitely, and it is unclear exactly when he will return to Lebanon.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah plans to move to Iran and may have already made the move, an informed source told the Kuwaiti Al-Jarida newspaper on Wednesday. The source told the paper that intelligence services in Lebanon and neighboring countries have monitored extensive, encrypted communications between the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah concerning the move. Nasrallah is meant to stay in Tehran for an indefinite amount of time and it is unclear when exactly he will return to Lebanon. The Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar news reported that Israeli aircraft flew over Beirut at a low altitude on Wednesday night. The move to Iran comes after the recent assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh just east of Tehran. Tensions have risen in the region as Iranian officials blame Israel and threaten revenge. Tensions have also been high in recent months between Hezbollah and Israel, after a Hezbollah terrorist was killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Damascus in July. The terrorist group threatened revenge and the IDF has been on alert along the borders with Lebanon and Syria since. The Kuwaiti newspaper reported in November that a source close to the commander of the IRGC Quds Force, Esmail Qaani, had stated that Hezbollah had managed to uncover an operation planned by Israel to assassinate Nasrallah and a number of leaders in pro-Iranian factions in Syria, Iraq and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The French-language Lebanese L’Orient-Le Jour newspaper reported earlier this week that Qaani had told Hezbollah during a recent visit to Beirut not to escalate, and Al-Jarida reported that Qaani met with Nasrallah during a visit to Beirut in the middle of November.

Macron calls on Lebanon to form cabinet, proceed with reforms
The Arab Weekly/December 03/2020
Representatives from 27 countries participated in Wednesday’s meeting, including 12 heads of state and local Lebanese aid groups . “The commitments… have not been respected,” Macron said during the meeting.
PARIS--France’s President Emmanuel Macron Wednesday urged Lebanese politicians to form a government as he chaired a second aid conference to help the crisis-hit country after a deadly port blast. Lebanon’s cabinet stepped down after the August 4 port blast that killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of Beirut, but efforts to form a new one have since hit a wall. Formation of a reform-minded government was the first step in a French plan towards unlocking massive financial aid to rescue the country from its worst economic crisis in decades. “The commitments… have not been respected,” Macron said, at an international conference for humanitarian aid attended by foreign and international donors, as well as Lebanese non-governmental organisations.
A fund to provide support
Macron and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, nevertheless, announced the creation of a fund handled by the World Bank, the UN and the European Union to provide support for Lebanon, including food, healthcare, education and the reconstruction of the Port of Beirut. “We can, together, help the Lebanese people move beyond the emergency phase and onto the path for longer-term recovery and reconstruction,” Guterres said. The plan also calls for “a targeted set of reforms, which are essential to facilitate recovery and reconstruction,” he added. Macron said Wednesday’s conference would “make it possible to complete the emergency response and provide an early recovery response.” But the French leader warned that the promised aid “won’t replace the commitment of Lebanese political forces and institutions to form a government as quickly as possible and implement a roadmap for reforms without which the (long-term) international economic help won’t be released.” Representatives from 27 countries participated in Wednesday’s meeting, including 12 heads of state and local Lebanese aid groups which have a central role as trusted partners, according to the French presidency.
Not enough
Macron also welcomed the fact that international donors had provided more than 280 million euros towards humanitarian aid at a first conference on August 9, which had helped provide for the country’s immediate needs. That had paid for, in particular “12,500 tonnes of flour to be distributed — 80 percent of the stock destroyed?” he said. In addition to this, 73,000 had received emergency financial aid, around 20 medical teams had been deployed to the devastated city and 25,000 people received some kind of shelter and 90 schools had been sent fresh supplies. “It’s a lot,” said Macron. “But it’s not enough.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, makes introductory remarks during a Promising to keep up the pressure on Lebanon’s political class, he confirmed he would be returning there later this month. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said humanitarian aid was “crucial.” “Your assistance is crucial for the overall Lebanese population from north to south,” Aoun told those attending. He said the priority remained to form a government. Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that “despite the obstacles facing the French initiative, it must succeed because the crises the country is facing have reached their maximum.” “I am determined, no matter what it costs, to follow through with the financial audit to the end to liberate the state from the corrupt economic, political and administrative systems to which it has become hostage,” he added.Aoun said Lebanon is negotiating a $246 million loan from the World Bank to deal with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and Lebanon’s emergency needs. The talks end this week.
Damning report
Even before the Beirut port blast brought the country to its knees, Lebanon had been in economic crisis for more than a year. Earlier in 2020, it was wracked by protests at the government’s failure to act. In a damning report Tuesday, the World Bank said the authorities there had deliberately run the economy into the round. “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, who also called for the swift formation of a government. 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.


Ministry of Health: 1520 new coronavirus cases, 12 deaths
NNA/December 03/2020
The Ministry of Public Health announced 1520 new coronavirus infection cases, which raises the cumulative number of confirmed cases to 132776.
12 deaths have been registered over the past 24 hours.

French Embassy on Aid Conference: Lebanon Should Quickly Form a Credible, Reform-oriented Government
Naharnet/December 03/2020
The French embassy issued a press release Thursday on the conclusions of the co-presidencies (France and United Nations) - conference in support of the Lebanese population. It stated: The Conference in support of the Lebanese population was held on 2 December 2020 by videoconference, at the joint invitation of the President of the French Republic and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. 32 countries, 12 international organizations and 7 Lebanese civil society organizations participated. Following the international Conference to support Beirut and the Lebanese population, held on 9 August after the devastating explosion in Beirut on 4 August, an emergency humanitarian response was mobilized to help the population to cope with the consequences of this tragedy revealing of the Lebanese shortcomings, in the context of ongoing political, economic, financial and health crises in the country.
The Conference of 2 December allowed the international community to strongly reaffirm its solidarity with the Lebanese population, and to reiterate its commitment to stand by its side, in the face of the tragedy that touched this population in its flesh and heart. The Conference also discussed the humanitarian response to the crisis and efforts towards early recovery. The Conference called for the respect of human rights in Lebanon. The Conference ensured that the commitments made toward emergency aid since 4 August had been fulfilled, both in quality and in quantity, in all the priority areas then identified by the United Nations, including health, education, urban rehabilitation, and food. With 257 million euros pledged, more than 280 million euros were actually disbursed. The participants reaffirmed their commitment to a transparent and efficient distribution of international aid, for the sole benefit of the population. The role of the United Nations in this regard was commended. Beyond emergency aid, the Conference worked to mobilize additional support in terms of early recovery for the direct benefit of the most vulnerable populations, in particular to respond to the challenges of food security and access to education. In particular, the participants noted the need to target assistance to women, young people and children.
The 3RF (Reform, Recovery, Reconstruction) framework and its financing facility (multi-donor trust fund) prepared by the World Bank, the United Nations and the European Union were presented. These instruments will ensure the continuity of funding beyond emergency humanitarian aid, released after 4 August. An important role will be given to civil society actors to define priority areas for action, such as good governance, health, education, social protection, housing, culture and heritage. Special attention will be paid to the immediate needs of small and medium-sized enterprises. The Conference welcomed these coordination mechanisms, and underlined the necessity to avoid duplication with existing mechanisms. Participants expressed concern about the delays in the investigation into the 4 August blasts. The Conference also discussed the reconstruction of port facilities, their integration into the city, as well as the rehabilitation of neighborhoods affected by the explosion. Participants stressed that the reconstruction of the port should be based on the following principles: build back better, manage better, and decide in a transparent manner. The participants considered that the reconstruction of affected neighborhoods should be done in an inclusive manner, in consultation with their inhabitants. The Conference expressed concern about the worsening socio-economic situation as well as the emerging humanitarian crisis. Participants noted the worsening of all economic, financial, monetary and social indicators, with a poverty rate rising from 28% to 55% over a period of 12 months, which today leads many Lebanese to emigrate. The Conference shared the World Bank’s view that it is a “deliberate depression”. Lebanon is in a situation of financial bankruptcy, but still has the capacity to be a performing state if reforms are undertaken swiftly. The Conference also allowed for reflection on the necessary refoundation of the Lebanese economic model. The participants strongly recalled that the importance of effective implementation of the reforms expected by the population and the international community. Such reforms are absolutely critical for the engagement of the latter in support of Lebanon, both with regard to the conclusions of the CEDRE conference of 6 April 2018 and to the prospects for additional, longer-term structural support. This support will have to be part of a program concluded with the International Monetary Fund. The Conference reiterated the urgent need for Lebanese political leaders to agree as soon as possible on the formation of a credible government, effective and able to work in the general interest of the country. Based on the roadmap of September 1st 2020, approved by all the Lebanese political forces, it will be up to this government to urgently implement the series of reforms and measures necessary to regain the trust of the Lebanese people and of the international community. Finally, the Conference welcomed its extensive dialogue with Lebanese civil society, bearing witness to their spirit of responsibility and dynamism. The Conference shares the aspirations of the Lebanese people and draws confidence in the future of Lebanon from this dialogue.

Aoun Urges Govt. to be More Active, Defense Council Calls for Extending Mobilization
Naharnet/December 03/2020
President Michel Aoun on Thursday called on the caretaker government to be more active as the Higher Defense Council recommended a three-month extension of the anti-virus general mobilization. “The current situation in the country is an extraordinary situation that requires extraordinary follow-up,” Aoun said at a Higher Defense Council meeting, urging “decisions to address this critical situation in the country.”He also noted that “the current circumstances sometimes require some expansion of the caretaker actions of the resigned government in order to meet the country’s needs pending the formation of the new government.” The Higher Defense Council later recommended the extension of the anti-virus state of general mobilization until March 31. The Council also called on military and security agencies to maintain full readiness to secure the upcoming holidays period and to “take the necessary measures to preserve security and stability.”

President Approves Compensation for Families of Blast Victims
Agence France Presse/December 03/2020
President Michel Aoun signed a law on Thursday approving compensation for individuals affected by the colossal Beirut port blast, the National News Agency reported. NNA said Aoun signed law number 196 aimed at providing compensation and pensions to the victims’ families, and enabling health benefits for the disabled from the National Social Security Fund, and from a law related to the rights of people with special needs. The August 4 explosion, one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history, destroyed large swathes of the capital killing 200 individuals, wounded thousands and left around 300,000 homeless. For six years, 2,750 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate that had been seized from an abandoned ship was held in Beirut's port. The blast, was felt as far away as Cyprus, some 150 miles (240 kilometres) to the northwest.

UK Minister Stresses Support for Lebanon, Voices Concern over Govt. Delay
Naharnet/December 03/2020
British Minister for the Middle East James Cleverly on Thursday stressed the UK’s support for Lebanon and voiced concern over the delay in forming a new government, during talks with top Lebanese officials. In his talks with President Michel Aoun, Cleverly underscored Britain’s support for the Lebanese people in the difficult circumstances they are going through, emphasizing that the UK will continue to support Lebanon in all fields, the National News Agency said. He also lauded the professionalism of the Lebanese Army and the ongoing cooperation with the British military, noting that the assistance for the army will continue. Aoun for his part expressed gratitude for the aid that Britain has offered to Lebanon in the various military, humanitarian and economic sectors and its drive after the Beirut port explosion to alleviate the plight of those affected. Cleverly also met with Speaker Nabih Berri and discussed with him the current situations in Lebanon, especially the financial and economic situations, urging the Lebanese to show unity in the face of the major challenges. In talks with caretaker PM Hassan Diab, the British minister expressed the solidarity of his government with the Lebanese people and his country’s concern over the difficulties that are marring the new cabinet formation process, noting that the delay is impeding reform-related decision. Cleverly also met with PM-designate Saad Hariri and the talks were continued over a lunch banquet. Hariri’s press office said the discussions tackled the latest political developments and the bilateral ties between Lebanon and the UK. The British minister also met with Army Commander General Joseph Aoun and the talks addresses the affairs of Lebanon and the region, NNA said.

UK Minister: Lebanon Threatened by a Silent Tsunami
Naharnet/December 03/2020
British Minister for the Middle East James Cleverly, who met Thursday with President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri, caretaker PM Hassan Diab and PM-designate Saad Hariri, has written an op-ed on the occasion of his official visit to Lebanon.
Below is the full text of the op-ed: “In late July, via video conference, I visited Lebanon virtually. I was struck by the huge potential of Lebanon’s people, but also the great need for serious reform. Days later I watched with horror as the massive explosion ripped through Beirut’s port killing and injuring so many, destroying vital infrastructure and homes. The devastated port now sits as a dark reminder of the importance of acting on warnings when we receive them, and the consequences of poor management and corruption. We should always seek to prevent disasters. But sometimes this is not within our gift. We cannot, for example, control the weather and stop a hurricane, an earthquake or a tsunami. But we can invest in early warning systems, make plans to protect people, property and investments, ensure capabilities are in the right place and act on warnings when we receive them.
Lebanon now faces a growing threat, putting its people at risk. It is the direct consequence of a flawed economic model. As with the port explosion, this is a man-made problem which could have been prevented. The risk has been largely silent but is now accelerating and growing with every passing day. Emergencies are approaching in education and healthcare, as well as electricity. But the most pressing danger is the risk to food security: Lebanon is on the verge of not being able to feed itself. In Lebanon there are now many worrying signs. A food security crisis often does not reveal itself until the worst of the damage is done. This is why this type of crisis is a silent tsunami. Lebanon is vulnerable because it imports an extraordinary amount of food, 85% of its domestic wheat consumption. On top of this are the continuous rises in basic goods prices, a 141% rise for food products by July compared with the same time last year. Those living on the margins in Lebanon including, but not only, Syrian refugees, have seen a shocking rise in their vulnerability. Almost all Syrian refugees now live in extreme poverty and unable to buy adequate food for their needs. Among the Lebanese, we are seeing people selling their possessions to buy food for their children, and long bread lines. The removal of subsidies is set to deteriorate the situation further. In late August, the United Nations predicted that over 50% of the population in Lebanon might be at risk of failing to access basic food needs by the end of 2020. Lebanon needs meaningful reform and development support, but experience shows us this will take time. Progress will be hard won, particularly given the extraordinary global challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Time is not on our side. Humanitarian action is needed as a bridge to these solutions, to reduce suffering and blunt the worst impacts of the crisis here. The UK will continue to support the most vulnerable. But urgent action by the Lebanese Government to protect people is vital. I reiterate my call to the leaders of Lebanon to do what is needed and deliver reforms, putting Lebanon on a path to a sustainable, transparent, accountable and inclusive future. Planning for a crisis is not just a technical exercise, but ultimately a political choice. You must have a plan and be ready to implement it, for the sake of those most in need. The international community, and your people, are watching. Lebanon’s people, and all others who call Lebanon home, deserve better. The alternative will be horrific. The UK will continue to stand as a steadfast partner to the people of Lebanon. But Lebanon’s leaders must act now.”

Secular Club Hails 'Unprecedented Victory' in USJ Elections
Naharnet/December 03/2020
The Secular Club on Thursday announced that it achieved an “unprecedented victory” in the student elections at the Saint Joseph University (USJ). “It managed to win the chairmanship of all student councils in the 12 faculties it ran in,” the Club said in a statement, adding that 85 out of 101 of its candidates have won in these faculties. “Accordingly, the Club is the first winner in the USJ elections, whether in terms of the number of faculties it won or the number of seats,” it added. It also pointed out that its victory at the law and political sciences faculty carried a special connotation this year due to “the harsh and systematic campaigns that the sectarian parties organized there against the Club, in addition to the atmosphere of sectarian polarization and violence between the sectarian parties during the electoral process.”“This victory once again reflects the magnitude of the transformations that have impacted the public opinion of students in Lebanon’s universities since the establishment of secular clubs, which strongly accelerated after the start of the October 17 revolution,” it added. In a statement, the Lebanese Forces student department meanwhile announced that the LF managed to “maintain the size of representation” although it ran alone in the elections, winning 24 seats. “The Hizbullah-Amal Movement-Syrian Social Nationalist Party-Free Patriotic Movement alliance (March 8) won 17 seats, the Kataeb Party won eight seats, the Secular Club won 41 seats and the independent groups won 20 seats,” the LF student department added. Kataeb Party chief Sami Gemayel meanwhile congratulated USJ’s students over the “remarkable democratic experience which rose above the attempts of distortion and intimidation,” in reference to the clashes that marred the elections.

STL Schedules 4th Status Conference in Murr-Hawi-Hamade Case
Naharnet/December 03/2020
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon's Pre-Trial Judge, Daniel Fransen, will hold a fourth Status Conference on December 16, 2020 with the aim of reviewing the status of the Ayyash case and ensuring the expeditious preparation for trial, through an exchange between the Prosecution, Defense and Legal Representatives of the Victims, the STL said.The Ayyash case relates to the three attacks against Lebanese politicians Marwan Hamade, Georges Hawi and Elias Murr on 1 October 2004, 21 June 2005 and 12 July 2005 respectively. The Pre-Trial Judge has confirmed an indictment in this case against the Accused -- Hizbullah operative Salim Jamil Ayyash, who is charged with five counts. In a scheduling order issued Thursday, the Pre-Trial Judge stated that the hearing will begin at 10.00 AM (C.E.T.). The Status Conference will be public; however, the Judge might decide to go into private session during the course of the hearing if confidential matters need to be discussed. The Status Conference will take place in the STL courtroom, with remote participation via video-conference. The hearing will be streamed on the STL website with a 30-minute delay in Arabic, English, and French.
The first status conference in the Ayyash case took place on 22 July 2020, the second on 16 September 2020 and the third status conference took place on 4 November 2020. Ayyash has been found guilty in another case -- the 2005 assassination of ex-PM Rafik Hariri -- while three other Hizbullah members were acquitted for lack of evidence. Hizbullah has denied involvement in Hariri's murder and described the court as a hostile plot.

Report: France Handed Blast Satellite Images to Lebanon
Agence France Presse/December 03/2020
Countering reports published in Lebanese media, France said it handed Lebanese authorities as requested the satellite images of the port of Beirut before the August 4 blast ripped through the capital, Nidaa al-Watan newspaper reported on Thursday. An official in the French presidency stated that Paris has handed the images to Lebanese authorities contrary to what was rumored in some media outlets, said the daily. The source emphasized that the Lebanese government must therefore "disclose" the results of an investigation into the explosion and "make them public." In October, caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab complained that Lebanon has yet to receive the "before, during and after" images from France and Italy as requested as part of a probe into the explosion. Satellite imagery could help provide more details on one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in the world that killed around 200 people in Beirut, wounded thousands and left around 300,000 homeless. The explosion was caused by a shipment of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that caught fire. Lebanese officials have rejected an international probe despite demands both from home and abroad for an impartial investigation.
A local probe has yielded the arrest of at least 25 suspects, including the chief of the port and its customs director. Lebanon's ruling elite, many of them warlords in the country's 1975-1990 civil war, had known for years that ammonium nitrate was stored in a destitute port warehouse without precautionary measures. Their negligence and corruption is widely blamed for the disaster that wounded at least 6,500 people and displaced thousands more from their homes.

Lebanon Seeks Release of Nationals Kidnapped in Nigeria, Ministry Says
Naharnet/December 03/2020
Lebanon’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was informed that Lebanese nationals kidnapped earlier this week in Nigeria were all "safe," amid ongoing efforts to free them, the National News Agency reported Thursday. NNA said Lebanon’s Ambassador to Nigeria Hossam Diab, informed the Ministry that the kidnapped Lebanese were all doing well. Earlier this week, a commercial ship was hijacked after it went missing somewhere between Nigeria and Cameroon. According to reports, the hijackers released the ship and two sailors from Cameroon, while eight sailors, including three Lebanese are still among the hostages. Diab told the Ministry that the kidnappers had contacted the head of the Global Shipping Company limited, who spoke with the captain, the assistants, and two of the kidnapped Lebanese, all of whom were safe. Negotiations are ongoing to release them for ransom.

Akar Urges U.N. to Put End to Israeli Overflights
Naharnet/December 03/2020
Caretaker Deputy PM and Defense Minister Zeina Akar on Thursday denounced the latest Israeli violations of Lebanon’s airspace. “The Israeli enemy’s successive and repeated daily violations of the Lebanese airspace are continuing,” Akar said in a statement. “The hostile aircraft overflew Lebanon today, reaching the heights of Keserwan, Jbeil and Chekka,” she added. “The United Nations must quickly intervene to put an end to these violations, which encroach on Lebanese sovereignty and clearly breach Resolution 1701, which defines the rules of stability and security in the Lebanese south,” Akar urged. She also warned that any violation of Resolution 1701 would further complicate the situations. Israel has remarkably intensified its overflights in Lebanon’s airspace over the past two days.

Lebanon Basketball Players Ditch Game for Better Future

Agence France Presse/December 03/2020
Basketball player Charles Tabet was once a national hero blocking shots for Lebanon, but a crumbling economy has forced him into a new life selling cars in Michigan. After a decade playing in his country of origin, the 33-year-old Lebanese-American last month returned to his native US state to start a new career. "I sold my first vehicle today," the 2.05-metre-tall (6 feet 9 inches) player wrote on social media, posting a snapshot of himself, eyes smiling above a face mask, next to a much shorter woman and her new white SUV. Basketball was once the sporting pride of Lebanon, with the national team qualifying for several world cups and two clubs that were dominant forces in the Middle East and Asia two decades ago. In its heyday, basketball could draw huge crowds and TV audiences in Lebanon, whose football team never made it past the Asian Cup group stages in two participations, let alone qualify for the World Cup. But with the economy in free fall, the tiny nation is now losing some of its best basketball players, who are emigrating or swapping their jerseys for business shirts. "It wasn't an easy decision to retire," Tabet told AFP. "I've played 10 years in Lebanon. I've made some great friends who I call family." But "playing basketball was how I supported myself and my family. With the economic crisis, it's better for me to start my career in the States". Over the past year, players have seen the Lebanese basketball league suspended, their dollar savings trapped in the bank and buying power plummet amid the country's worst financial crunch in decades. "It's sad and not the way I wanted to retire, but I'm excited for my next chapter in life," Tabet said.
New day jobs
Basketball fast gained popularity in Lebanon after the end of the civil war in the 1990s, with Lebanese clubs Sagesse and Al-Riyadi racking up big wins on the regional stage. Interest in the sport further flourished as the national team made it to the World Cup in 2002, 2006 and 2010, the second time winning a game against former colonial power France. During this golden era, Lebanese basketball attracted players from as far as the United States. Some of the league's "stars" could earn up to $250,000 per season, according to press reports. But over the past year the economy has deteriorated -- sparking mass protests from last autumn -- and the novel coronavirus pandemic has brought the country to a standstill. The 2019-2020 Lebanese basketball league season has been suspended since October 2019, and four of the country's international players have quit. Tabet has started selling cars. Fellow Lebanese-American Daniel Faris, 33, has returned to the US state of New Mexico to peddle medical supplies. Lebanese player of Armenian origin Gerard Hadidian, 25, is off to play for an Armenian team. And Elie Chamoun, 26, has remained in Lebanon, but has hung up his jersey to become a management consultant. Lebanese coach Ghassan Sarkis said the past year had been bleak. "While many players once returned from the diaspora to play in the Lebanese league, today you can't convince a single player to come," he said. Like several others of his peers, Sarkis has thrown in the towel, and is heading to a new job in the oil-rich Gulf.
'Drive to succeed'
In Lebanon, the pound has lost up to 80 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market. To make matters worse, the capital on August 4 was rocked by one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in history. Lebanon's team captain Elie Rustom, 33, said fellow players have been scrambling to find a plan B.
"The game is heading from bad to worse because it's linked to everything that's happening in the country, so we're all looking for a chance to leave the game," he said. "I started to work for a real estate company, on top of my investments in restaurants in Beirut."He said basketball was no longer his priority.
"I only play for the national team to raise my country's profile and remind the public that the game exists." Back in the United States, Tabet was optimistic, however. He said basketball had given him key life skills to succeed, starting at the Michigan car dealership alongside his finance director brother. "I believe athletes will make great business people," he said. "We are competitive, we know what hard work consists of, we are driven to succeed."

Israeli Jets Overfly Most Lebanese Regions at Low, Medium Altitudes
Naharnet/December 03/2020
Israeli warplanes overflew Beirut, Dahiyeh, Metn, the South and a number of regions at low and medium altitudes on Wednesday evening, media reports said. The roaring of the fighter jets was clearly heard over the capital Beirut and its suburbs. The National News Agency said intensive overflights were also recorded over Chouf, Sidon city and the East Sidon region at low altitudes. Further south, the Israeli jets overflew the Tyre, Nabatiyeh and Iqlim al-Tuffah regions at medium altitudes.

Berri meets UN's Kubis, British Minister of State for Middle East Affairs

NNA/December 03/2020
House Speaker, Nabih Berri, on Thursday welcomed at his Ein El-Tineh residence the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, with whom he discussed the general situation in the country. As per a statement by the Parliament's presidency press office, it indicated that the visit was an occasion during which Speaker Berri thanked the French, international and friendly countries for partaking in the conference in support of Lebanon and their recommendations. Talks also touched on the decision taken unanimously by the Parliament in support of forensic audit to include all ministries, state institutions, councils and funds. On the other hand, Speaker Berri met with British Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa Affairs, James Cleverly, in the presence of British Ambassador to Lebanon, Chris Rampling. Talks reportedly touched on the latest developments and the current situation that Lebanon is going through at the various levels, especially the prevailing financial and economic conditions. The visiting minister urged the Lebanese to show their customary unity in the face of major challenges. In turn, Speaker Berri thanked Britain for its support to Lebanon, especially the army and the aid it has provided in the wake of the Beirut Port explosion. The Speaker stressed that the Lebanese rally around the same rescue goal, namely the French initiative, indicating that the Parliament is moving in this regard. Berri pointed out that the recent Parliament's decision calling for the necessity of carrying out a broad forensic audit in addition to the approval of several reform laws falls within this context. Berri also underlined the necessity to form a rescue government to prevent Lebanon's slide towards a greater collapse.

Central Bank issues new LBP 100 thousand banknote
NNA/December 03/2020
As of December 7, 2020, the Central Bank will be circulating a new LBP 100 thousand banknote marking the centenary of the State of Greater Lebanon.
The new banknote has been signed by Central Bank Governor, Riad Salameh, and the Central Banks’s First Deputy Governor, Dr. Wasim Mansouri.

Parents of students in foreign universities block Central Bank road
NNA/December 03/2020
A group of parents of Lebanese students in foreign universities observed a sit-in outside the Central Bank, and cut off the road momentarily in protest against the failure to implement the student dollar law more than two months after its approval, the NNA correspondent reported.

Sit-in for parents of students in foreign universities
NNA/December 03/2020
A group of parents of Lebanese students in foreign universities observed a sit-in outside the Central Bank to protest against the failure to implement the student dollar law more than two months after its approval, demanding that this law be applied fairly, for their sake and for that of their children who are struggling to obtain their degrees and build a future for themselves, the NNA correspondent reported.

Lebanese former army chief indicted on suspicion of corruption
The Arab Weekly/December 03/2020
A Lebanese prosecutor Wednesday indicted eight retired military figures including former army chief Jean Kahwaji over “illicit enrichment,” a judicial source said, in a first under a new anti-graft law.

BEIRUT – A Lebanese prosecutor Wednesday indicted eight retired military figures including a former army chief over “illicit enrichment,” a judicial source said, in a first under a new anti-graft law. Popular anger has grown in the past year over alleged corruption among the political elite in Lebanon, where a dire economic crisis has pushed the poverty rate up to more than half the population. Since mass protests erupted in October 2019, the under-fire ruling class has repeatedly pledged to root out graft, and this year the parliament passed a new law to combat illicit enrichment.
A system riddled with nepotism
Critics have expressed little trust in a system they say is riddled with nepotism. Those accused of graft on Wednesday included former army chief Jean Kahwaji, who held the post from 2008 to 2017, and several former military intelligence chiefs, the judicial source said. The Beirut state prosecutor launched proceedings over their alleged “illicit enrichment, and using their official positions to reap vast wealth,” the source said. A preliminary investigation showed a lack of correlation between their wealth and their income, the source said, adding that they would be questioned on December 10. The official National News Agency said it was the first time such indictments were made since the law was passed. It also made mention of a bank that several years ago had allegedly allowed Kahwaji and members of his family to deposit sums of up to $1.2 million in their accounts, without justification as to the origin of the funds.
Decades-old plague
Lebanon has an accumulated debt of about $100 billion, for a population of just under 7 million people — 5 million Lebanese and 2 million Syrians and Palestinians, most of them refugees.
Many of the country’s companies and institutions are controlled by different factions. Corrupt practices are suspected of having caused these companies substantial losses, year after year. The electricity company alone posts losses of $1.5 billion a year, although most factories pay for their own generators because power is off more than it’s on. “There’s grand theft Lebanon and there’s petty theft Lebanon. Petty theft Lebanon exists but that’s not what got the country in the hole we’re in,” said Nadim Houry, executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative.
In recent years, the international community has grown more reticent when it comes to providing assistance, with experts warning that foreign aid always ends up as a tool in the hands of the political leaders, who keep their slice and dole out jobs and money to supporters. “The pie is getting smaller and smaller and they just keep taking,” he said. The Lebanese people, tired of the small indignities they endure to get through a day — 37% of people report needing to pay bribes, compared with 4% in neighbouring Jordan, according to Transparency International — and the larger issue of a collapsing state, are going after both.
Last August, protesters seized offices of the economy ministry, hauling away files they said would show corruption around the sale and distribution of wheat.
Lebanon’s wheat stockpile, stored next to the warehouse filled with ammonium nitrate, was destroyed in the Beirut Port explosion on August 4.

Reining in Hezbollah should be key part of Iran talks
Khaled Abou Zahr/Arab News/December 03/2020
As President-elect Joe Biden’s foreign policy team begins taking shape, one of the most-discussed topics among Middle Eastern analysts is the US strategy toward Iran. Most are expecting a return to a deal, as some members of Biden’s team were involved in the negotiations during the Obama administration. This echoes the hopes of European countries, which are eager to get a deal back in place.
It is interesting to note that the more experts predict that the US and Europeans will push for a deal with the Iranian leadership and are favorable to this scenario, the more the Iranian leadership plays hard to get and adds refusals and conditions to the way this deal should look.
On the other hand, there have been some good suggestions from the new US foreign policy team on how to avoid some of the shortfalls of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Most of these voices suggest that, this time, any nuclear deal should also include an agreement on the Iranian ballistic missile program, as well its interference and behavior in the region. If pursued, this seems like a good step — if not essential. The inclusion of Arab countries in the discussion mechanism would also be a positive and good suggestion, as the region needs stability among all its countries.
However, this more comprehensive and constructive agreement is something the Iranians do not want. They would prefer to “bucketize” each subject to maximize their gains. Mostly, they believe they can increase their control over the various countries where they are involved, from Lebanon to Iraq and Yemen, and this is mostly thanks to Hezbollah.
It is for this reason that attention toward countering Hezbollah and its illegal activities is important. Regardless of the content and nature of the expected US-European engagement with Iran, it is important to continue stopping Hezbollah’s illegal activities and designate it as a terrorist entity globally. This is for many reasons, and not for Lebanon alone, but for the security of the Middle East and the world.
Firstly, in the same way that there has long been a view that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has exacerbated violence and pushed the region to extremism, one could say the same about Hezbollah’s impunity in Lebanon and abroad. Indeed, if the Palestinian cause does not today seem to be the same symbol of injustice that might have once pushed some youths toward extremism in the region, it is a certainty that Hezbollah’s acceptance as a respectable political force by some in the Western media and European countries has pushed more Sunni youths toward extremism.
This is especially the case in countries where humiliation by Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies has been rampant. Whether in Syria, Iraq or Lebanon, Hezbollah’s actions and those of its entourage have been consistent in humiliating others, who are left to suffer and to let the wounds of injustice and inequality heal in silence. This is by no means the only reason for the rise of Daesh, but there is a symbiotic interaction between the two.
I am always puzzled as to what makes the Hezbollah model of non-state actor acceptable when compared to others. Even when it comes to Lebanese politics, how can analysts still push the argument of separation between its political and armed wings? This is all semantics. Hezbollah is just like Daesh or Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi: A dangerous non-state actor and a terrorist organization. Therefore, it should be treated as such. At the very least, this should be the focus of its regional and international presence.
Secondly, Hezbollah has been conducting illegal activities — such as drug smuggling and blood diamond trading — on a global level, from South America to Africa. Sometimes it more closely resembles a criminal organization than an ideological resistance movement, as it claims to be. This is especially true as it relies on these illegal activities to finance its operations. These illegal networks are the same ones it also uses to prepare and conduct terrorist activities, adding to the many reasons it should be blocked.
Therefore, the US Treasury should continue its efforts regardless of any negotiations with Iran. The EU should do the same. As negotiations with Tehran become evident, there should be no appeasement of the regime through looking the other way when it comes to Hezbollah’s activities, such as what happened with Syria in the previous negotiations. This would be a big mistake. There should be no silence regarding Hezbollah’s malignant activities in Lebanon and elsewhere. This focused action would be a sign of US and international strength toward getting a better and stronger deal with the Iranians for the benefit of the region. The stopping of Hezbollah should not be put on the negotiating table, it should be a fait accompli presented to the Iranians.
This organization has been a net exporter of destabilization and, while sanctions are not the best solution, surrendering to Hezbollah’s diktats and vision for Lebanon and the Middle East is even worse. Therefore, when it comes to Hezbollah’s global activities, there should be continuous and focused action to stop it and weaken it. This will not only empower stronger negotiations, but will also create a new set of rules toward the Iranian regime.
Hezbollah is just like Daesh or Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi: A dangerous non-state actor and a terrorist organization.
I am a strong believer that Arab countries are looking for stability and peaceful relations with Iran. However, one cannot accept the chaos Hezbollah is bringing to Lebanon and the region. How can we accept a non-state actor with hundreds of thousands of missiles — one that controls all sorts of illegal activities? How can we accept a non-state actor that sends troops to fight and kill the local populations in Syria, Iraq and Yemen? How can we accept that it has ammonium nitrate stocks and other explosives hiding across Lebanon and the world? How many explosions and lives lost will be enough to stop this organization? Is it because it is backed by Iran? When it comes to the strategy of countering Iran, there has been a focus on Tehran without getting sidetracked by all the theaters it is involved in and the proxies it has deployed. This makes sense. However, Hezbollah is the symbol of Iranian destabilization and malignant interference. Hence, empowering it to continue unchecked would not only make any deal a failure, but would also destroy any regional peace agreement that could boost positive relations among neighbors.
*Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 03- 04/2020

Fauci Says Britain 'Rushed' Pfizer Covid Vaccine Approval
Agence France Presse/December 03/2020
Leading American infectious disease scientist Anthony Fauci criticized Britain on Thursday for rushing through its approval process for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, suggesting the move could undermine public faith.
His comments came a day after Britain became the first Western country to approve a Covid-19 vaccine for general use, prompting some skepticism among the country's European neighbors and suggestions that the process was politicized.
Widely-respected Fauci, who leads the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News on Thursday: "In all fairness to so many of my UK friends, you know, they kind of ran around the corner of the marathon and joined it in the last mile. "I think that would be a good metaphor for it... because they really rushed through that approval."He contrasted Britain's regulator with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which he called "the gold standard of regulation.""They're doing it in a very careful way, appropriately, because if we did anything that was cutting corners and rushing, we have enough problem(s) with people being skeptical about taking a vaccine anyway," he said. "If we had jumped over the hurdle here quickly and inappropriately to gain an extra week or a week and a half, I think that the credibility of our regulatory process would have been damaged."
Fauci added "I love the Brits" and said he had respect for the country's scientists."But they just took the data from the Pfizer company and instead of scrutinizing it really, really carefully, they said, 'OK, let's approve it. That's it,' and they went with it. "In fact, they were even rather severely criticized by their European Union counterparts who were saying, you know, 'That was kind of a hot dog play.'" British ministers claimed Brexit had allowed them to adopt the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine ahead of their neighbors, who are still awaiting a green light from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Britain is still under EU drug marketing rules until December 31, the end of a post-Brexit transition period, but has approved the vaccine under an emergency provision in European law. German Health Minister Jens Spahn, addressing a videoconference of his EU colleagues, said Wednesday: "The idea is not to be first, but to have a safe and efficient vaccine." "It is a matter of expertise, obviously, authorization. But as we've seen from comments from the UK, it's also a political issue for the European Union," he added.


US withdraws diplomats from Baghdad embassy ‘to minimise risk’
The Arab Weekly/December 03/2020
A State Department spokesperson said US ambassador Matthew Tueller was still in Iraq and that the embassy “continues to operate”.
BAGHDAD -The American embassy in Baghdad has partially withdrawn its staff due to new security concerns over the activities of pro-Iran militias. Washington has been outraged by the dozens of rocket attacks and roadside bombs targeting its mission and other US military installations across Iraq over the last year. The partial withdrawal appears to be the result of fresh security concerns, one Iraqi official told AFP. “It’s a minor drawdown based on security reservations from the US side. They could come back — it’s just a security blip,” the senior source said. “We knew ahead of time and top diplomatic staff including the ambassador are staying, so this is not a rupture of diplomatic ties.”A second top official confirmed it was an effort to “minimise risk.”Neither could say how many of the several hundred diplomats based at the embassy had been pulled out. A US State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the withdrawal but said the safety of US officials, citizens and facilities in Iraq “remains our highest priority.”The spokesperson said US Ambassador Matthew Tueller was still in Iraq and that the embassy “continues to operate.” Washington has blamed the rocket and roadside bomb attacks on pro-Iran hardline groups in Iraq and has retaliated twice by bombing one of those factions, Kata’ib Hezbollah. When the attacks continued, the US issued an ultimatum to Iraq, threatening to fully close down its embassy. That prompted Iran-aligned factions to agree to a “truce” in mid-October, and the attacks swiftly stopped. On November 17, a volley of rockets hit several Baghdad neighbourhoods, killing one girl. Top Iraqi and Western officials said at the time that they expected the truce to hold, but said Washington was still drawing up withdrawal plans. One Western official said in late November that the US was studying three options, including a partial withdrawal. “They’re exploring drawing down the embassy to just the ambassador and key diplomatic staff,” the official said. Iraqi and Western officials see a turbulent few weeks ahead of the White House handover from President Donald Trump, who has pursued a “maximum pressure” policy against Iran that has also squeezed its allies next door in Iraq. They did not rule out last-minute military action by the Trump administration on Iranian interests in Iraq. “There’s a feeling that there are a few weeks left to go (before Trump leaves office) and who knows what could happen,” the Western official said. There is also concern over the prospects of destabilising activities by pro-Iranian militias in Iraq on the anniversary of the US killing of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in early January.

Biden to return to Iran’s 2015 deal but to ‘tighten’ restrictions

The Arab Weekly/December 03/2020
The top US priority should be to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, Biden said, explaining, “The last goddamn thing we need in that part of the world is a buildup of nuclear capability.”
WASHINGTON--President-elect Joe Biden has signaled he will return the United States to a nuclear accord with Iran before quickly launching talks on other concerns, reviving diplomacy to ease soaring tensions.
In his most substantive remarks on Iran since his victory, Biden told The New York Times that he still backed the 2015 deal negotiated under Barack Obama from which defeated president Donald Trump withdrew.
Biden told the newspaper’s columnist Thomas Friedman that “it’s going to be hard” but that if Iran returned to compliance, the United States would rejoin the agreement. The top US priority should be to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, Biden said, explaining, “The last goddamn thing we need in that part of the world is a buildup of nuclear capability.”After re-entering the agreement, “in consultation with our allies and partners, we’re going to engage in negotiations and follow-on agreements to tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear constraints, as well as address the missile program.” Biden also seeks to address US concerns about Iran’s support to militants in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon and to the Syrian regime. A return to the agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), would delight US allies in Europe which note that Iran was in compliance until Trump pulled out. Friedman wrote that Biden also wanted to bring into discussions Iran’s US-allied Arab neighbours such as Saudi Arabia that have been critical of US engagement with their neighbour. Staunchly opposed to the agreement is Israel, which was widely suspected in the assassination Friday on the outskirts of Tehran of Iran’s leading nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
“Losing sleep”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif last month said that his country would immediately return to its JCPOA commitments if Biden removes crippling sanctions imposed by Trump. Analysts widely expect Biden to use the sanctions, which include US attempts to stop all of Iran’s oil exports, as leverage, at least initially. “No one that I can think of in Iran thinks Biden is going to be a pushover,” said Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran program at the Washington-based Middle East Institute. “They’re expecting him to come in and try to milk the situation as much as he can. But he’s more realistic and, more important, he’s someone who hasn’t called them names, so you don’t lose face by talking to him,” he said. Ironically, Vatanka said, Iran may have secured a more favourable deal with Trump, who was famously eager to showcase diplomatic victories but was toxic by seeking to “humiliate” Iran. Outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had insisted that the 2015 deal was dangerously narrow and demanded that Iran stop missile activity and regional proxies — conditions that went unmet and were seen by many as code for seeking to topple the regime, an arch-nemesis of Washington since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Vatanka said that Biden, like Obama, “loses sleep not over what Iran is doing in Syria but over Iran’s nuclear program.”Naysan Rafati, senior analyst on Iran at the International Crisis Group, agreed that a return to the JCPOA is “not a sacrifice on the other issues” but a “prioritisation of what can be addressed first.” “It seems as though the president-elect and his team have come to the conclusion that strengthening the floor of the JCPOA is a better method to address those other things rather than putting all of the issues up for consideration and risking a resolution of none of them,” he said. While Biden can remove most sanctions by executive order, he would be certain to face intense opposition. In the run-up to leaving office, the Trump administration has been redoubling sanctions on Iran, including on human rights and proliferation grounds, believing such measures are more politically difficult to lift. Nikki Haley, Trump’s first ambassador to the UN widely seen as a future presidential candidate, reacted to Biden’s interview by saying it would be a “huge mistake” to “go running back into the arms of Iran’s ayatollahs. Iran in turn holds presidential elections in June in which the favoured candidates are hardliners who say it was a mistake ever to trust the United States.

A breakthrough in Kushner’s Gulf mediation seen as unlikely

The Arab Weekly/December 03/2020
US national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in November that allowing Qatari planes to fly over Saudi Arabia via an “air bridge” was a priority. In return, Qatar could agree that its media, including Al Jazeera, would tone down its coverage of Saudi Arabia, experts said.
RIYADH – Some media outlets speculated that US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner was expected to tackle Arab Gulf countries’ rift with Qatar during a trip to the region, but experts disagreed, with a former CIA officer saying he finds it “very hard to believe” that Kushner’s trip is about Qatar’s row with four Arab countries. The official Qatar News Agency reported that Kushner met with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to discuss “developments in the region.” Few details have been made public about Kushner’s trip, which could be his last chance to press diplomatic issues in the region that have been a focal point for the outgoing Trump administration. Riyadh, along with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, cut all ties with Qatar in June 2017 over allegations Doha was too close to Iran and backed radical Islamists. Qatar denies the charges. The boycotting countries have closed their airspace, land borders and sea channels to Qataris and vehicles registered there. That has forced Qatar Airways aircraft to fly over Iran, Riyadh’s arch-rival and long-time adversary of Washington, paying significant overflight fees to Tehran in the process.
— Thin hopes —

US national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in November that allowing Qatari planes to fly over Saudi Arabia via an “air bridge” was a priority for the outgoing Trump administration. In return, Qatar could agree that its media, including Al Jazeera, would tone down its coverage of Saudi Arabia, according to another analyst, who declined to be named due to the issue’s sensitivity. The UAE, which has been Qatar’s most vocal critic since the start of the crisis, is not expected to be included in the latest initiative to resolve the spat.
David Roberts, author of a book on Qatari geopolitics, said the UAE has “only ever doubled down on the Qatar issue. So it’s far harder to see how they might pivot.”Qatar has repeatedly said it is open to talks without preconditions, though has not signalled publicly it would compromise on the 13 demands of the boycotting countries. Past mediation efforts led by Kuwait have come to nothing. Kushner is also expected to push for Saudi Arabia and Qatar to normalise ties with Israel after the UAE and Bahrain forged ties with the Jewish state and Sudan agreed in principle to follow suit. Qatar and Saudi Arabia, both close allies of Washington, have so far held out, insisting the Palestinian issue should be resolved before it normalises ties with Israel. Earlier last month, Saudi Arabia agreed to allow “Israeli airliners to cross its airspace en route to the UAE” after talks with Kushner. But experts told Power Up, a Washington Post newsletter, that Kushner’s diplomatic drive is unlikely to forge a serious breakthrough to the years-long Gulf crisis. “I find it very hard to believe that this [trip] is about Qatar,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and senior fellow and director of the Brookings Intelligence Project, told Power Up. Kushner’s trip to Saudi Arabia and Qatar is a final effort before President-elect Joe Biden assumes office “to secure more diplomatic agreements in the Middle East before the Trump administration leaves office in January, according to US and Gulf officials,” The Wall Street Journal reported. Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Power Up that Kushner made it “unmistakably clear” in their discussions about issues in the region in 2017 and 2018 that he and Trump planned “to develop what he described as strategic and personal relationships with the Saudis and the UAE.”
Shifting dynamics
The change of power in Washington may spark a political realignment in Saudi Arabia, which will soon be dealing with a new US president who has criticised the kingdom over its involvement in the Yemeni war and human rights record.
Riyadh is concerned Biden will adopt policies on Iran similar to those of former President Barack Obama, which strained Washington’s ties with its traditional regional allies. Biden has said he will rejoin the international nuclear pact with Iran that Trump quit in 2018 – and work with allies to strengthen its terms – if Tehran first resumes strict compliance. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia have recently ramped up rhetoric against Iran, which is locked in several proxy wars with Riyadh in the region. Iran has built a network of armed Shia militias across the Arab world, from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, to down into the Gulf and Yemen. Tehran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen attacked Saudi oil installations last week, the latest in a string of attacks on Saudi targets. Israel is waging a shadow war against Iranian forces, mostly through regular air raids in Syria on Lebanese Shia paramilitary group Hezbollah, on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and on supplies of weapons as they are moved across the country. In an attempt to shut down speculation of strained ties with the US, Saudi Arabia said earlier in November that it expects no major change in its relationship with the US under Biden, a senior official told CNN.
Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, dismissed the idea that the kingdom was wary of the new president or any change in its strategic relationship with Washington. “We deal with the president of the United States as a friend, whether he’s Republican or Democrat,” Jubeir told CNN in an interview released over the weekend. “President-elect Biden has been in the (US) Senate for 35 years, he has tremendous experience… I don’t expect that there’s going to be major change in terms of America’s foreign policy.”

US imposes fresh Iran-related sanctions targeting individual, entity
Reuters//December 03, 2020
WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday imposed fresh Iran-related sanctions, blacklisting an entity and individual as Washington continues to ramp up pressure on Tehran during US President Donald Trump's final months in office.
The US Treasury Department in a statement said that it had slapped sanctions on Shahid Meisami Group and its director, accusing the entity of being involved in Iran's chemical weapons research and linked to the Iranian Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, which is blacklisted by Washington.
The move comes days after the killing of the Islamic Republic's top nuclear scientist last week. Iran's supreme leader promised on Saturday to retaliate for the killing, raising the threat of a new confrontation with the West and Israel in the remaining weeks of Trump's presidency. "Iran’s development of weapons of mass destruction is a threat to the security of its neighbors and the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement. "The United States will continue to counter any efforts by the Iranian regime to develop chemical weapons that may be used by the regime or its proxy groups to advance their malign agenda," he added. Thursday's action freezes any US assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. The Treasury also said that financial institutions that facilitate significant transactions with the targeted individual and entity run the risk of being hit with US sanctions. US Special Envoy for Iran Elliott Abrams last week said the Trump administration would continue to tighten sanctions on Iran during its final months in office, with sanctions related to arms, weapons of mass destruction and human rights expected through December and January. Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen since Trump abandoned Obama's 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and restored harsh economic sanctions to pressure Tehran to negotiate deeper curbs on its nuclear program, ballistic missile development and support for regional proxy forces.
President-elect Joe Biden, set to take office on Jan. 20, has said he will return the United States to the Obama-era deal if Iran resumes compliance.

US could designate Houthi militia as ‘terrorist’ organization
Arab News/December 03, 2020
DUBAI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could designate the Houthi militia as a terrorist organization this week, Al-Arabiya TV reported, citing the Washington Post. US National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien said earlier that the US had options to deal with the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.
O’Brien added that Washington has been constantly studying this decision, calling on the militia to stay away from Iran and stop attacking neighboring countries. He further criticized the Houthis for their failure in engaging in negotiations and showing good intentions to end the conflict in Yemen, adding that Washington has been monitoring the situation closely over the past period. The decision to designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization is on President Donald Trump’s agenda during the remaining months of his administration, O’Brien said.

Israel Urges Citizens to Avoid Gulf, Cites Iran Threat
Associated Press/December 03, 2020
The Israeli government on Thursday urged its citizens to avoid travel to the Gulf states of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, citing threats of Iranian attacks. The travel advisory comes as Iran is threatening to attack Israeli targets following the assassination of its top nuclear scientist last Friday. Iran accuses Israel of being behind the attack. Israel has not commented. Israel in recent months has signed agreements establishing diplomatic relations with the UAE and Bahrain. The agreements, brokered by the Trump administration, have generated widespread excitement in Israel and thousands of Israeli tourists are scheduled to travel to the Gulf this month. "In light of the threats heard recently by Iranian officials and in light of the involvement in the past of Iranian officials in terror attacks in various countries, there is a concern that Iran will try to act in this way against Israeli targets," said a statement issued by the prime minister's National Security Council. It also advised against travel to Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, the Kurdish area of Iraq and Africa. Iran and its proxies have targeted Israeli tourists and Jewish communities in the past. Suspected Hizbullah agents bombed a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012, killing six and wounding dozens. That year, Israel also accused Iran of being behind attacks targeting Israeli diplomats in Thailand and India. Iran and Hizbullah were also accused of bombing the Israeli Embassy and Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994, claiming the lives of scores of civilians. Concerns for the safety of Israelis in Dubai also is not without precedent. In 2000, an Israeli ex-colonel was kidnapped by Iran-backed Hizbullah and held captive in Lebanon until he was released in a prisoner exchange in 2004.

Israel warns Iran may target its facilities abroad
Reuters/December 03, 2020
JERUSALEM: Israel warned on Thursday that its facilities abroad could be targeted by Iran, which has been issuing new threats against Israel since the killing of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist. In its warning, Israel's counter-terrorism bureau said Iran could try to carry out attacks in nearby countries, including Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. "In light of the threats heard recently by Iranian officials and in light of the involvement in the past of Iranian officials in terror attacks in various countries, there is a concern that Iran will try to act in this way against Israeli targets,” said a statement issued by the prime minister’s National Security Council. Iran’s clerical and military rulers have blamed Israel for the killing of its top nuclear scientist last week. A top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader has said that Iran will give a “calculated and decisive” response.

In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors
Reuters/December 03, 2020
DUBAI: Iran’s economy could grow 4.4% next year if US President-elect Joe Biden lifts sanctions that have contributed to a deep three-year recession, although the COVID-19 crisis could limit foreign investment, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said. Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 US election has raised chances that the United States could rejoin a deal Iran reached with world powers in 2015, under which sanctions were lifted in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. This is unlikely to happen overnight, however, and the prospects remain uncertain as the adversaries would both want additional commitments.
Iran’s rial currency has lost about 50% of its value against the US dollar in 2020, reflecting economic damage from sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic, although it strengthened in late October in anticipation Biden would unseat US President Donald Trump. Iran has the highest COVID-19 death toll in the Middle East. Trump abandoned the nuclear deal in 2018, and Tehran responded by scaling down its compliance. The IIF, a trade body for the global financial industry, said that if United States lifted most of the economic sanctions on Iran by the end of 2021, the economy could expand 4.4% next year after an expected 6.1% contraction in 2020. It would then grow by 6.9% in 2022 and 6% in 2023, the IIF said, adding that if oil exports increase, Iran could see its foreign reserves rise to $109.4 billion by the end of 2023. Tehran has spoken optimistically about the return of foreign companies under a new US administration, but lack of financial transparency could still curb interest from firms who had made tentative moves to invest after the 2015 deal was struck. Garbis Iradian, IIF’s chief economist for the MENA region, told Reuters foreign direct investment inflows would increase progressively from this year’s $890 million to over $6.4 billion in 2025. Assuming most sanctions could be lifted by late next year, FDI is likely to remain below $2 billion in 2021, with most of the money coming from China, Iradian said, adding: “Moreover, the coronavirus pandemic will limit FDI inflows in 2021.”
The Iranian economy would remain fragile, though “not to the brink of collapse” if most of the sanctions remain in place, the IIF said. Under such a “pessimistic” scenario, Iran would post 1.8% growth next year and its foreign reserves would steadily decrease from about $80 billion this year to $46.9 billion by the end of 2023. About 90% of Iran’s official reserves are frozen abroad due to US sanctions.


Iran says it has identified suspects in Fakhrizadeh assassination
Jerusalem Post/December 03/2020
"As mentioned by the supreme leader, the most important thing is that our information wasn't compromised."
Iran has successfully identified those responsible for the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a spokesperson of the government of Iran, Ali Rabiei, said on Wednesday according to Israel Hayom.
According to the paper, the Tasnim News Agency quoted Rabiei from an interview he gave to official Iranian state TV, during which he mentioned that "different aspects of the assassination" are being investigated by Iran's security establishment. "When the investigation reaches its final stages, a formal comment will be provided by the relevant parties. As mentioned by the supreme leader, the most important thing is that our information wasn't compromised," Rabiei was quoted as saying. "We will continue to improve and increase our technological capabilities," he added. Rabiei's remarks confirmed previous reports of Iran identifying the perpetrators, which were mostly ignored by officials in the West, and had not been previously confirmed by Iranian officials.
He also discussed Iran's efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus in the country, and voiced support for the strict restrictions recently imposed following a spike in morbidity rates in Iran.
In October, Alireza Zali, head of the Tehran coronavirus taskforce, suggested that police could be stricter with people who violate the restrictions, noting that "in the latest opinion poll we had, citizens asked us to deal decisively with offenders."
Rabiei stressed: "We've seen a certain decrease [in morbidity rates] thanks to the isolation measures that we implemented, but we cannot say that the situation is even close to being normal." With his focusing on the coronavirus pandemic and relatively muted comments on the assassination, Rabiei's latest remarks may indicate a certain shift in Iran's current agenda. His words may be a message to certain groups in Iran not to expect an immediate response to the assassination.
On Monday, a senior Iranian official said that an Iranian opposition group was suspected of carrying out the assassination alongside Israel. Iranian media noted that the weapon used in the operation was Israeli-made, but the official's remarks mentioned the possible involvement of the "Monafeghin" group, referring to the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a bloc of opposition groups in exile seeking to end Shi’ite Muslim clerical rule.

Sen. Cruz reintroduces act to designate Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group
Jerusalem Post/Reuters/December 03/2020
"Since the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Brotherhood-affiliated groups have consistently preached and incited hatred against Christians, Jews and other Muslims" – Sen. Jim Inhofe.Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) reintroduced the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act this week, his office announced on Wednesday. The act urges the US State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
“I am proud to reintroduce this bill and to advance America’s fight against radical Islamic terrorism,” said Cruz. “I commend the current administration’s work calling terrorism by its name and combating the spread of this potent threat, and I look forward to receiving the additional information this new bill requests from the Department of State.
“Many of our closest allies in the Arab world have long ago concluded that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist group that seeks to sow chaos across the Middle East,” he said. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) co-sponsored the bill, saying that, “since the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Brotherhood-affiliated groups have consistently preached and incited hatred against Christians, Jews, and other Muslims while supporting designated radical terrorists. “I am proud that under the Trump administration, we continue to call out and combat radical terrorism, and I am glad to join my colleagues today in reintroducing this legislation,” he said. “We must continue to condemn foreign terrorist organizations and hold them accountable for the evil they perpetrate.” The Trump administration worked to designate the Brotherhood as an FTO in April. Former White House national security advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supported the designation but officials at the Pentagon and elsewhere have been opposed and have been seeking more limited action.
Some conservative and anti-Muslim activists have argued for years that the Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt in 1928 and sought to establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate by peaceful means, has been a breeding ground for terrorists. Designating the Brotherhood as an FTO could complicate Washington’s relationship with NATO ally Turkey. The organization has close ties with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and many of its members fled to Turkey after the group’s activities were banned in Egypt. According to Shimrit Meir, a commentator on Arab affairs, the designation is not appropriate and Trump was pushed to declare the designation by Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. “The truth is that the Muslim Brotherhood is not meeting the parameters. If the move doesn’t fail in the Congress, it will in the Senate, and then reach court,” Meir said. “Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is pushing Trump because he is still threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is still a very strong phenomenon in Egypt – and the Saudis are also very threatened by this.”Cruz, a member of the senate Foreign Relations Committee, first introduced the act in 2015 and reintroduced it for the first time in 2017. The 2017 reintroduction of the bill sparked warnings by critics of the Trump administration that such a move will be the first step in a crackdown on Muslim-American civil society groups. Birzeit University political scientist Samir Awad warned then that designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization would signal regimes that they are free to intensify human rights abuses against their opponents. “They’re not anything like Daesh or Nusra, which are terrorist groups,” Awad said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “If a person can’t see the difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and Daesh, then his eyesight is blurred.”The Brotherhood, which estimates its membership at up to a million people, came to power in Egypt’s first modern free election in 2012, a year after long-serving autocrat Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising during the Arab Spring. But the movement is now banned, and thousands of its supporters and much of its leadership have been jailed.
*Maariv Online and Ben Lynfield contributed to this report.

UN Secretary-General’s remarks to General Assembly’s special session in response to Covid-19 pandemic
NNA/December 03/2020  
The following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s full address to the General Assembly’s special session in response to the Covid-19 pandemic:
“Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour to address this General Assembly Special Session in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly a year into the pandemic, we face a human tragedy, and a public health, humanitarian and development emergency. For the first time since 1945, the entire world is confronted by a common threat, regardless of nationality, ethnicity or faith. But while COVID-19 does not discriminate, our efforts to prevent and contain it do. For that reason, the pandemic has hit the poorest and most vulnerable in our societies hardest. It is having a devastating impact on older people; on women and girls; on low-income communities; on the marginalized and isolated. It is presenting new threats to the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. From the start, the World Health Organization provided factual information and scientific guidance that should have been the basis for a coordinated global response. Unfortunately, many of these recommendations were not followed. And in some situations, there was a rejection of facts and an ignoring of the guidance. And when countries go in their own direction, the virus goes in every direction. The social and economic impact of the pandemic is enormous, and growing. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of scientists and researchers from around the world, including those who are with us today, vaccines may become available within the next weeks and months. But let’s not fool ourselves. A vaccine cannot undo damage that will stretch across years, even decades to come. Extreme poverty is rising; the threat of famine looms. We face the biggest global recession in eight decades. These inter-generational impacts are not due to COVID-19 alone. They are the result of long-term fragilities, inequalities and injustices that have been exposed by the pandemic.
It is time to reset. As we build a strong recovery, we must seize the opportunity for change.
Since March, the United Nations system has focused its efforts on helping countries avoid the worst impacts of the pandemic, while working for a strong recovery. We have mobilized our procurement and logistics operations to deliver medical equipment and supplies to 172 countries. A large-scale coordinated and comprehensive health response, guided by the World Health Organization, aims to suppress transmission of the virus, reduce mortality, and develop vaccines, diagnostics and treatments that must be available to all. I have repeatedly called for a COVID-19 vaccine to be a global public good available to everyone, everywhere. The ACT Accelerator and its COVAX facility are the tools to get us there. There is still a finance gap of $28 billion, including $4.3 billion urgently needed for the next two months. I thank those who have contributed and urge all to show your strong support. Beyond health, I appealed in March for a global ceasefire so that countries can focus on fighting the virus. I echoed this call in my speech to the General Assembly in September, and urged new efforts and commitments to silence the guns by the end of the year. I am encouraged by the support this call has received from Members States, regional organizations, armed movements and civil society organizations.  I am also encouraged by the response to my call for peace in homes around the world and an end to violence against women and girls. As we mark the 16 Days of Action against Gender-based Violence, I urge governments to take concrete steps to make good on the commitments that were made. The United Nations is also strongly engaged in combatting misinformation online. Our ‘Verified’ campaign provides compelling, trusted information, while offering people tools to identify false content.
The United Nations system is mobilized to support countries in addressing the devasting socio-economic, humanitarian and human rights aspects of this crisis. We have extended life-saving assistance to 63 of the most vulnerable countries through our Global Humanitarian Response Plan. From the start, we have called for a stimulus package worth at least 10 per cent of global GDP, and for debt relief for all countries that need it. I welcome the steps that have been taken to help developing countries. But they are totally insufficient for the scale of this crisis.
Many low- and middle-income developing countries need immediate support to avert a liquidity crisis. They are being forced to choose between providing basic services for their people, or servicing their debts. The initiative we launched with the governments of Canada and Jamaica has developed policy options for financing the response to COVID-19 and putting us back on course to achieve the SDGs. These include increasing the resources available to the International Monetary Fund, through a new allocation of Special Drawing Rights to the benefit of developing countries, and a voluntary reallocation of unused Special Drawing Rights. I hope the G20 debt initiatives will be broadened so that all vulnerable developing countries are eligible, including middle‑income countries that need debt relief. In the longer-term, we need a reformed global architecture to enhance debt transparency and sustainability.
I am pressing for these policies in all my global engagements, most recently at the G20. On the ground, our reformed United Nations Country teams led by a new generation of Resident Coordinators and largely thanks to the impact of the reform are being able to suppot governments in developing national response and recovery plans.
Looking ahead, the recovery from COVID-19 must address the pre-existing conditions it has exposed and exploited, from gaps in basic services to an overheated planet. Stronger health systems and Universal Health Coverage must be a priority. Since 2007, the World Health Organization has declared six Public Health Emergencies of International Concern. COVID-19 will not be the last. We must apply the lessons learned if we are to meet the responsibilities to our children and grandchildren. Social safety nets must work for everyone. Too often, they fail precisely when they are needed most. A new social contract between people, governments, the private sector, civil society and more, can tackle the roots of inequality with fair taxation on income and wealth, universal benefits, and opportunities for all. As we relaunch economies, new investments must lay the groundwork for sustainable development and carbon neutrality, in line with the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. We cannot bequeath a broken planet and huge debts to future generations. The money we spend on recovery must go into building a greener, fairer future. There is hopeful news on the climate front. A global coalition is taking shape for net zero emissions. By early next year, countries representing more than 65 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions are likely to have committed to carbon neutrality. This sends a clear signal to markets, investors and decision-makers: Act now to put a price on carbon; end fossil fuel subsidies; stop constructing new coal power plants; and invest in resilient infrastructure. 2021 must be a leap year – the year of a quantum leap towards net zero emissions of greenhouse gasses. Every country should enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions well in advance of COP26 next November in Glasgow, and in line with the long-term goal of global carbon neutrality by 2050. Adaptation is an essential component of climate action. For Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, it is an existential issue. I appeal to developed countries to fulfil their long-standing promise to provide $100 billion annually to support developing countries in reaching our shared climate goals. Early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure and agriculture can help avoid future losses while generating gains for biodiversity and other benefits for humankind. We cannot separate climate action from global wellbeing, particularly biodiversity. It is time to end the suicidal war with our planet. 2021 must be a year to address our planetary emergency. We need a post-2020 biodiversity framework to halt the extinction crisis to be established in Kunming. And we must see urgent action to protect and advance the health of the world’s seas and oceans. Overfishing must stop; chemical and solid waste pollution, particularly plastics, must be drastically reduced. We must make peace with our planet if we are to live in balance with its incredible riches.
As this difficult year draws to a close, let’s resolve to take the tough, ambitious decisions and actions that will lead to better days ahead. In a global crisis, we must meet the expectations of those we serve with unity, solidarity and coordinated multilateral global action.
I call on you to take the opportunity of this Special Session of the General Assembly to confront the COVID-19 pandemic with the urgency it demands; to save lives; and to build a better future together.
Thank you.”—UNIC

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 03- 04/2020

Mozambique Terrorist Group Poised to Establish an Islamic Emirate
Lawrence A. Franklin//Gatestone Institute/December 03/2020
Radical Muslims from Kenya and Tanzania are transforming what was initially a low-intensity ethnic rebellion, into a full-fledged Islamic jihad against Mozambique's central government.
Ansar al-Sunna, estimated to consist of about 20 cells operating throughout northeast Mozambique, is responsible for the murders of about 2,000 people, mostly civilians.
The terrorist group has driven approximately 200,000 people from their homes and burdened the majority Christian country's central government.
The Islamic State's Central African Province may have bigger plans for Mozambique's Ansar al-Sunna. If the terrorists are able to establish an Emirate under Sharia in Cabo Delgado Province, it could serve as a jihadi model, threatening the stability of other states in southern Africa. Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, as well as Africa's Indian Ocean states of the Comoros and Madagascar, could be targeted.
Jihadists in northern Mozambique have intensified their military operations this year in an apparent attempt to establish an Islamic Emirate in the province of Cabo Delgado. The Islamist insurgency, which began in October 2017, remained below the radar until recently. The escalating violence, however, has become a security concern for Mozambique's regional neighbors, including South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia. Radical Muslims from Kenya and Tanzania are transforming what was initially a low-intensity ethnic rebellion, into a full-fledged Islamic jihad against Mozambique's central government.
Ansar al-Sunna (Supporters of Sunni Tradition), aka Ahlu wa Jamo, is affiliated with the Islamic State's Central African Province and is inspired, in part, by Somalia's leading terrorist organization, Al-Shabaab. Ansar al-Sunna, estimated to consist of about 20 cells operating throughout northeast Mozambique, is responsible for the murders of about 2,000 people, mostly civilians. These martyred innocents are largely from the same ethnic Kimwani tribe as their murderers, who reside in villages in Cabo Delgado Province. The terrorist group has driven approximately 200,000 people from their homes and burdened the majority Christian country's central government.
Although Mozambique's Muslims are historically moderate and predominantly Sufi, the Islamic infrastructure (mosques, madrassas, and of Islamic courts) of Cabo Delgado is becoming increasingly radicalized. Ansar al-Sunna's guide was a Kenyan Islamist firebrand named Aboud Rogo.
Imam Rogo assisted Al-Qaeda's East Africa network to carry out the twin bombings of the US embassies in 1998 in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Rogo, assassinated by unknown gunmen in Mombasa, Kenya in 2012, remains an inspirational "martyr" of many sub-Saharan African jihadists. Some have infiltrated into Mozambique over the country's porous 800-kilometer northern border with Tanzania.
Ansar al-Sunna's tactics mirror the brutal atrocities of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Their attacks, mostly concentrated on towns and villages along Cabo Delgado's Indian Ocean coastline, include beheadings, torching homes, and seizing hostages. The terrorist network finances itself by ivory poaching, narcotics trafficking and other black market activities. Recruits include common criminals, corrupt police, and malcontent border guards, as well as some Mozambique Armed Forces personnel who are integrated into the group's terrorist cells.
The most significant territorial seizure by the terrorist group is Cabo Delgado's strategic port of Mocimboa da Praia. The port is adjacent to off-shore oil and natural gas reserves that have attracted heavy investment by US-based petroleum companies Exxon and Andarko, as well as the France-based Total. Reportedly, many members of the Kimwani tribe, who are the largest ethnic group in Cabo Delgado Province, are joining the jihad. The Kimwani resent foreign investment in the area's petroleum reserves; they apparently view the activity as exploitative. Extremist Muslims have used the presence of Western oil companies as a recruitment tool, exploiting Cabo Delgado's economically depressed population.
The most recent major attack by the jihadists took place in early November in Cabo Delgado's village of "24 de Marco." The assault claimed the lives of about 50 men, women, and children. All of the victims were beheaded, making the slaughter the most horrific terrorist incident to date.
The intensification of terrorist operations this year, coupled with the more radical theological profile of Ansar al-Sunna, has been motivating Mozambique's neighbors to take action. South Africa is deploying Special Forces' advisors from the Dyck Advisory Group alongside Mozambique's regular army units to combat the terrorists. Both Uganda and Tanzania are sending weapons to Mozambique's military. The central government has even hired the Russian mercenary Wagner Group to help fight the Islamist terrorists. Wagner combatants have been clashing with Ansar al-Sunna jihadists, and sustaining casualties in the process.
One sign that the fight against the jihadists may not be going well is a report that Eric Prince's American mercenary outfit, Frontier Services Group, has cancelled a logistics support contract with Mozambique. There are indications that US diplomats are indirectly joining the effort to assist Mozambique by encouraging Zimbabwe to explore ways in which it might help the government combat jihadists. The European Union also has announced its intent to help sustain Mozambique's government with financial assistance.
The Islamist cause has also been receiving international support. The Islamic State's Central Africa Province claims that jihadi volunteers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are joining the ranks of Mozambique's terrorists. Clerics from Saudi Arabia and Sudan are providing ideological instruction in fundamentalist Wahhabi Islam to selected fighters. Ansar al-Sunna jihadists are, for the most part, trained in camps within Mozambique; some are trained in camps in Kibiti in northern Tanzania or in the Great Lakes Region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Islamic State's Central African Province may have bigger plans for Mozambique's Ansar al-Sunna. If the jihadists are able to establish an Emirate under Sharia in Cabo Delgado Province, it could serve as a jihadi model, threatening the stability of other states in southern Africa. Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, as well as Africa's Indian Ocean states of the Comoros and Madagascar, could be targeted.
There is the serious possibility that what began as a localized insurgency by an economically deprived ethnic minority in northern Mozambique could develop into a full-fledged regional Islamic jihad, if not checked by a relentless and effective counter-terrorism program. Given the rapid radicalization of Ansar al-Sunna, this outcome seems an increasingly likely development. Indeed, Ansar al-Sunna's affiliation with the Islamic State's Central African Province could replicate in southeast Africa the challenges posed by the Islamic State of the Greater Sahara in Sahelian West Africa or Boko Haram in Nigeria.
*Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve.
© 2020 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Iran's Mullahs Want the "Nuclear Deal", So Does Biden
Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/December 03/2020
Iran's mullahs love the nuclear deal because of its fundamental flaws, especially the sunset clauses that remove restrictions on Iran's nuclear program after the deal expires soon. The nuclear deal, rather than preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, as it was falsely touted to do, in fact paves the way for Tehran to become a legitimized nuclear state.
With the nuclear deal, the regime would gain global legitimacy, making it even more difficult to hold Iran's leaders accountable for any malign behavior or terror activity across the world.
Finally, Iran's ruling clerics want immediately to rejoin the nuclear deal because it would again alienate other governments in the Middle East and inevitably lead to a worsening of relations between the US and its traditional allies, especially Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.
This flawed deal, in favor of Iran, failed to recognize the rightful concerns of other countries in the region about Iran's potential nuclear capability, missile proliferation or funding of violent proxies -- both within and next door to their territories.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has advised presumptive US President-Elect Joe Biden to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran's mullahs love the nuclear deal because of its fundamental flaws, especially the sunset clauses that remove restrictions on Iran's nuclear program after the deal expires soon.
Iran's ruling mullahs, who are celebrating presumptive President-Elect Joe Biden's possible presidency in 2021, are already calling on him to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal, which, incidentally, Iran never signed.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani -- already urging the next US administration, which he hopes is the Biden administration -- also pointed out, according to the state-run IRNA agency:
"Now, an opportunity has come up for the next U.S. administration to compensate for past mistakes and return to the path of complying with international agreements through respect of international norms."
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif also advised Biden on Twitter to abandon President Trump's Iran policy of maximum pressure and rejoin the nuclear deal.
The Trump administration, after pulling out of the nuclear deal, imposed significant pressure politically and economically on the Iranian regime and re-imposed sanctions on the mullahs.
Iran's leaders are excited about the prospect of resurrecting the nuclear deal for several reasons. First, the return to the nuclear deal means that the current sanctions against Tehran will be lifted and the regime will join the global financial system. Through the nuclear deal, the Iranian regime will again buy itself a blank check to advance its aggressive and fundamentalist policies across the Middle East as it did after the nuclear deal was reached in 2015.
The 2015 nuclear deal allowed the flow of billions of dollars into the Iranian regime's treasury, thereby providing the revenues for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that they needed to escalate their military adventurism in the region. That project included financing, arming and supporting their terror and militia groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and the Gaza Strip, as well as in South America (here, here and here). After the nuclear agreement, Iran's meddling, interventions in the region and funding of militia groups escalated. Iran also increased its deliveries of weapons to its militias, as the number of ballistic missiles deployed by Iran's proxies rose to an unprecedented level.
Now, however, due to the current administration's policies, a cash-stripped Iran is at least unable fund its mercenaries and proxies, including Hamas and Hezbollah.
Second, Iran's mullahs love the nuclear deal because of its fundamental flaws, especially the sunset clauses that remove restrictions on Iran's nuclear program after the deal expires soon. The nuclear deal, rather than preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, as it was falsely touted to do, in fact paves the way for Tehran to become a legitimized nuclear state.
Under the nuclear deal, Iran's military sites, such as Parchin, which is reportedly where nuclear development and research is conducted, is out of the reach of International Atomic Energy Agency's inspectors. In addition, the nuclear deal that Iran cherishes has no reference to Iran's ballistic missile program, a core pillar of its foreign policy and, as the delivery system for nuclear weapons, closely linked to the nuclear program.
Third, with the nuclear deal, the regime would gain global legitimacy, making it even more difficult to hold Iran's leaders accountable for any malign behavior or terror activity across the world.
Finally, Iran's ruling clerics want immediately to rejoin the nuclear deal because it would again alienate other governments in the Middle East and inevitably lead to a worsening of relations between the US and its traditional allies, especially Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. The 2015 nuclear deal needlessly excluded Israel and Gulf states from negotiations with Iran, despite those countries living on Iran's doorstep and feeling the consequences of Iranian proxy action more acutely than any of the Western JCPOA nations. This flawed deal, in favor of Iran, failed to recognize the rightful concerns of other countries in the region about Iran's potential nuclear capability, missile proliferation or funding of violent proxies -- both within and next door to their territories.
The Iranian leaders are not alone in desiring to resurrect the nuclear deal: Biden has said that that rejoining the JCPOA is a top priority. After all, the deal was reached when Biden was the Vice President in the Obama administration. Additionally, in an opinion piece for CNN, Biden wrote:
"I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal's provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern."
Both the ayatollahs and Biden, it appears, want to resurrect the dangerous nuclear deal. It would not only empower Iran's predatory proclivities and terrorist groups, but also provide a glide path for Iran to obtain its long yearned-for nuclear bomb.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US foreign policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu
© 2020 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Iran is the secret matchmaker in Israeli-Arab relations - opinion
Douglas Bloomdield/Jerusalem Post/December 03/2020
Despite their own propaganda and rhetoric, the secular Arab regimes long ago figured out that the Islamists were a far greater threat than the Zionists. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, may not want to admit it, but he can add shadchan, matchmaker, to his title in recognition of his contribution to ending Israel’s isolation in the Arab world. Iran’s desire to destroy “the criminal Zionist regime” and spread its Shi’ite Islamic revolution by overthrowing the secular Sunni Gulf states has given substance to the ancient proverb about the enemy of my enemy being my friend.
Despite their own propaganda and rhetoric, the secular Arab regimes long ago figured out that the Islamists were a far greater threat than the Zionists and quietly began reaching out, often with the help of the Great Satan in Washington. A confluence of events made 2020 the year when long-standing though largely clandestine diplomatic, security and commercial relationships emerged into the open, thanks to a pair of catalytic politicians looking to score political points with their domestic bases. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was promising nationalist and settler parties he would annex up to 40% of the West Bank, and President Donald Trump wanted foreign policy achievements to shore up support for his reelection campaign. United Arab Emirates leader Mohammed bin Zayed made Netanyahu an offer he couldn’t refuse: Drop your annexation plans and we will publicly make peace, and others may follow. MBZ, as he’s known, feared annexation would kill changes for a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict, even if that remains far in the future.
The mercantile Trump saw not only a potential Nobel Prize, but a great business opportunity for his wealthy donors in the defense industry. He was ready to stifle Israeli objections and sell the Emirates the F-35s, drones and missiles it wanted. He might not understand diplomacy, but he does know a good business deal when he sees it. He was embracing Henry Kissinger’s policy of recycling petrodollars: You’ve got lots of money from selling oil and we’ve got lots of weapons to sell you. Bahrain soon joined the Abrahamic Accords, followed by Sudan; Trump is saying others are on the cusp, possible Oman, Morocco and Kuwait. The biggest prize is Saudi Arabia. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, went there this week to try to close the deal, following Netanyahu’s not-very-secret meeting last week with his clandestine ally, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
The Wall Street Journal and other publications report MBS is withholding formal peace with Israel until he can present it as a gift to incoming President Joe Biden in hope of countering his image as Trump’s boy and to repair the kingdom’s low standing. The president-elect has been critical of the kingdom’s abysmal human rights record and has said he wants to “reassess” relations.
Trump ripped up the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement (JCPOA) because he wanted to destroy Barack Obama’s signal foreign policy achievement. Substance was secondary. He boasted his “maximum pressure” campaign would force Tehran to accept tougher terms, but that was a farce; he never proposed an alternative or sought negotiations. None of the other signatories supported his strategy, assuming he actually had one.

IRANIAN-AMERICAN JOURNALIST Jason Rezaian writes in The Washington Post that Trump’s policies have done nothing to loosen the regime’s grip on power and instead enabled it to increase its stockpile of enriched uranium. Some experts believe they may have enough for two missile warheads.
Trump in recent weeks has been threatening a preemptive attack on Iran, according to leaks from administration officials trying to talk him out of it.
Last week’s assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the man who was in charge of Iran’s military nuclear and ballistic missile programs, is widely blamed on Israel. Some observers question whether the timing was an attempt to provoke an Iranian military response that would give Trump the excuse he wanted to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. Another theory is the assassination was intended less to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program than to sabotage Biden’s pledge to rejoin the JCPOA and repair relations with the Islamic Republic. The president-elect has been unclear about whether he just hopes to rejoin or demand fixes in the pact as a precondition. Writing in The New York Times this week, Tom Friedman warned not to rush into the old agreement but to use that as leverage to focus on a more immediate threat, Iran’s “export of precision guided missiles.” The greatest danger posed by Iran is not its future development of nuclear weapons – any use would be suicidal, which the ayatollahs are not – but the very present-day reality of its conventional drones and precision-guided cruise missiles in the hands of its proxies, particularly Hezbollah.
Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, Alexander Haig, was among the first to call for a military alliance of Israel and the secular Gulf Arab states. He was prescient but premature. The Soviet threat has been replaced by the more dangerous one from the Islamic Republic of Iran, and reality is finally getting Arab attention. So is another reality: the US pivot from the Middle East to Asia. The region is a shrinking priority for America, which is now energy-independent and focusing on China.
Iran’s Sunni neighbors turned to an alliance with Israel, a nuclear-armed regional superpower with a superior intelligence force that proved itself by sneaking into Iran two years ago and stealing a treasure trove of its nuclear documents.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called an Arab alliance with Israel “a cause of insecurity and instability in the region.” Long passed is the day when most Arabs were saying the same thing. Today there is a widespread consensus in the region that Iran is the destabilizing threat and Israel is the friend with shared interests. Iran is unsure how to respond to the Fakhrizadeh assassination, ranging from threats to blow up Israel’s oil refineries and the Port of Haifa, to random attacks by proxies, to holding their fire in the hope the new Biden administration will move to repair relations and ease or even remove sanctions that have crippled its economy. The Iranians have been the matchmaker for Israeli and Arab peacemakers. Now they must learn to repair relations with a new American administration. No one expects peace but stability would be in the interest of all. Inshallah.

Empower regular Iraqis to end their country’s forever war
Michael Pregent/Arab News/December 03/2020
This has been a terrible year for Iraq. Well, 2020 started out great with the killing of Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 2, but it went downhill from there. I will revisit the anniversary of the Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis strike a bit later, as we get closer to its one-year anniversary — and so will the Iraqi militias.
Iraq’s 2021 depends on the actions taken by the Trump administration over the next seven weeks and those taken after inauguration day on Jan. 20.
President Donald Trump’s Iraq and Iran team would be wise to sanction the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Basij, and the Quds Force in its entirety for human rights abuses, and do the same with Iraqi militia leaders, political parties, and militias tied to Iran. Sanctions for documented human rights violations and abuses would be lasting and would stay in place regardless of who is in office in 2021. Lifting sanctions on individuals and entities tied to human rights abuses would be impossible for the Biden administration to justify to the American people, especially to moderate Democrats.
Moderate Democrats will have more power in Congress, even though they lost seats due to the radical positions taken by members like Rep. Ilhan Omar. These moderate Democrats still see Iran as an oppressive terrorist state and want it held accountable.
Let us look at the 2021 Iraqis do not want. It is a year where a Biden administration — one that has advertised a pro-Iran policy — would accelerate the end of what is left of Iraq’s sovereignty. It would clear the way for the Quds Force and its proxies to have four more years to further solidify their control of Iraq, destabilize the Levant, and threaten US allies in the region.
All we have to do is look at what Soleimani did with the last two years of the Obama administration and the initial two years of the Trump administration, when Brett McGurk and Jim Mattis ignored the Quds Force commander’s growing influence in Iraq and Syria and urged Trump to do the same.
Esmail Ghaani, Soleimani’s successor, has ordered subordinated Iraqi militias not to provoke the US while Trump is in office and await Tehran’s favored candidate — as assessed by the US intelligence community — Joe Biden. Tehran favored Biden, while the Iranian people wanted Trump. And Baghdad took Tehran’s position despite the majority of Iraqis favoring Trump. In both cases, the people under oppressive rule wanted Trump, while their oppressors hoped for Biden. The Iran-aligned Iraqi militias have been ordered not to attack the US Embassy or US mission in Iraq until after Biden’s inauguration. It will be hard for them not to attack on Jan. 2, the one-year anniversary of the strike on designated terrorists Soleimani and Kata’ib Hezbollah leader Al-Muhandis, but the US will be ready to respond under Trump. While Ghaani’s militias are taking a tactical pause, they are still killing Iraqis and the international community should take action, along with the US, to designate and sanction these criminals. It is time to grant victory to those who are willing to die for an Iraq that is free from Iran’s malign influence. The Nasiriyah killings of last week — by militias loyal to Tehran — should not go unpunished by Iraqis. They are the very people waiting to be empowered by the US to make the chant of “Iraq Hurra! Iran Barra!” (Iran out, Iraq is free) a reality. It is time to empower the Sunni-Shiite organic anti-Iran resistance in Iraq through a turn away from Baghdad and an engagement with those Iraqis who are willing to forgive the US and allow it to correct its mistakes. There are Iraqi leaders inside and outside of Iraq encouraging a new US approach. These Iraqis are pro-US, anti-Iran, and are even willing to make peace with Israel over time. It is time to end this forever war by granting victory to those who are willing to die for an Iraq that is free from Iran’s malign influence.
How do we achieve victory? Give Iraqis victory.
Listen to Iraqis over Iraq’s ruling class. Listen to the Iraqis that are willing to die for their rights and freedom from Iran. Listen to the Iraqis that taught us to defeat Al-Qaeda. Listen to the Iraqis that told us not to use Iran’s militias against Daesh. Listen to the Iraqis that tell us how to end this forever war. Listen to the Iraqi people instead of those in power and those Americans who benefit from forever wars.
*Michael Pregent, a former intelligence officer, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Perfect winter storm puts UK at risk of post-Brexit meltdown
Andrew Hammond/Arab News/December 03/2020
New OECD data on Tuesday showed that the UK has been hit hardest by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, economically speaking, of any G20 state apart from Argentina. Yet, amid the nation’s deepest recession in more than 300 years, worse could still be to come thanks to Brexit.
As traumatic as the pandemic has been for the country, with an economic contraction of 11.3 percent expected in 2020, leaked government papers last month pointed to a potentially deeper political and economic “systemic crisis” in the coming weeks. The UK Office for Budget Responsibility estimated that the economy will be significantly negatively impacted by Brexit, whether or not there is a UK-EU trade deal agreed and ratified by the end of the transition period on Dec. 31.
It was in the midst of this gathering storm that a leaked UK Cabinet Office briefing last week warned of a “notable risk” that the country could face a perfect winter storm of challenges. These include the prospect of a bad flu season on top of the COVID-19 crisis, severe flooding, and coordinated industrial action around the end of the transition period.
The leaked briefing lays out for government planners what it calls “reasonable worst-case scenarios” across 20 areas of national life, from oil and healthcare to travel and policing. For instance, it indicates economic chaos could raise the risk of a breakdown in public order and a national mental health crisis, while reducing the financial levers available for the government to respond to other risks.
Whether this systemic economic crisis comes to pass or not, many UK policymakers are already bracing for the end of the transition period following the country’s departure from the EU. The challenges here are wide-ranging. Take the example of UK food supply chains, which will be disrupted, given that the stockpiles built up at the end of 2019 have already been diminished during the pandemic and will not easily be replenished. The Cabinet Office paper indicates that low-income groups will be most at risk of food insecurity, including single parents, children in large families, and those with disabilities.
There is also a significant risk to the health and social care sectors of potential labor shortages because of the UK’s continuing reliance on EU citizens and a workforce already stretched by pandemic controls. Moreover, a drop in imports of medicines is also flagged as a serious potential problem, putting patient safety at risk, despite the fact that in October the government announced ferry freight contracts worth nearly £80 million ($107 million) to try to ensure medicines and other vital supplies continue to reach the UK from Jan. 1.
This possible systemic crisis is especially worrying some policymakers, given that central and local government authorities and businesses are still recovering from the pandemic and are not fully prepared for life outside the EU’s single market, regardless of whether talks on a post-Brexit trade deal are successful or not. Much of the private sector has diminished capacity, post-COVID-19, to deal with any financial shock caused by Brexit. The fragility of many companies will have an impact on business readiness and vulnerability toward the end of the transition period, including the possibility of significant further commercial failures.
Much of the private sector has diminished capacity, post-COVID-19, to deal with any financial shock caused by Brexit.
In the public sector too, challenges are growing, and they will not be helped by the fact that some 1.3 million public sector workers will see their pay frozen in 2021-22, despite being on the front-line of the pandemic for much of this year. Local council finances are particularly weak, with reduced capacity to absorb and implement the required changes following the end of the transition period. It is estimated that about 5 percent of them are at high risk of financial failure in the wake of the pandemic, even after central government support.
One of the key challenges facing the UK with Brexit is that, despite there being less than a month until the end of the transition period, it is still not clear if there will be a ratified trade deal with the EU. This means there will be only days to prepare for new regulatory regimes, including border checks and paperwork.
The UK government has particular blame here for choosing, earlier this year, not to extend the transition period, which would have given it additional time to negotiate a deal and prepare for its consequences. This means disruption in January is now all-but inevitable, including on borders, and it is likely that key areas of any post-Brexit settlement — including the Northern Ireland protocol, which US President-elect Joe Biden is paying close attention to — may not be implemented on time, since new IT systems and any infrastructure required for border control posts are probably not going to be ready.
This gathering storm will be on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s mind, and indeed those of the EU decision-makers, as the Brexit end-game plays out. Even if a trade agreement is ratified with the EU before Dec. 31, this will still see significant economic disruption on top of the pandemic’s devastation.
*Andrew Hammond is an Associate at LSE IDEAS at the London School of Economics.