English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For July 13/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10/08-12/:”Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town”.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on July 12-13/2020
General Ashraf Rifi Is a Patriotic Lebanese Genuine Political Figure.. Al Machnouk’s Attempt To Blemish His Reputation Is So Mean And Cheap/Elias Bejjani/July 13/2020.
166 Virus Cases in Lebanon, Hasan Expects High Tallies in Coming Days
Hariri Hospital: 5 critical cases, 378 tests performed
Health Minister to Lebanese citizens: Rest assured, matters are still within the set plan!
Rahi criticizes Erdogan's decision
Al-Rahi Warns 'Majority' against Isolating Lebanon from 'Brothers, Friends'
Lebanese Maronite patriarch reiterates criticism of Hezbollah, confirms shift
Lebanese Christian cleric seen to criticise Hezbollah, allies over crisis
French FM to Visit Lebanon Next Week to Push for Reforms
Reports: Quick Economic Results Expected from Ibrahim's Visit to Kuwait
Ghosn Says He's Aiding Those who Helped Him Flee to Lebanon
In Crisis-Hit Lebanon, Will French-Language Schools Survive?
Several Lebanese Regions See Massive Protests over Power Cuts, Fuel Shortage
Diab Says Washington Ready to Help Lebanon in 'Various Fields'
Protest stand by citizens of West Bekaa in front of Mashghara Electricity Company
Nadim Gemayel: After 38 years, the intellect of Bashir Gemayel still petrifies them!
Fahmy: For abiding by preventive measures to avoid general mobilization procedures
Army Command: Closure of a smuggling crossing in Hermel
Bassil: Conversion of the Hagia Sophia Church into a mosque is a pretext for Israel to turn Al-Aqsa Mosque into Solomon's Temple
Lebanese Judge Muhammad Mazeh, Who Issued Media Ban Against U.S. Ambassador To Lebanon: I Found That She Endangered Lebanon's Internal Peace, Infringed Upon People's Rights; Free Expression Is Not Absolute
Lebanese TV Host Marcel Ghanem: PM Hassan Diab Should Go Away; He Does Nothing But Serve His Masters; People Are Hungry And Want To Leave Lebanon
Full transcript of Al Arabiya’s exclusive interview with Nissan ex-boss Carlos Ghosn/Al Arabiya English/Saturday 11 July 2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 12-13/2020
Pope 'Very Distressed' over Turkey's Hagia Sophia Conversion to Mosque
Top U.S. Health Official Wants 'Everything on the Table' to Contain Virus
Khamenei Urges Fight against 'Tragic' Virus Resurgence
Iran Says Misaligned Radar Led to Ukrainian Plane Downing
On Fifth Attempt, UN Security Council Renews Syria Aid via Turkey
Explosion shakes buildings in Tehran - report
Turkey vows to 'liberate Al-Aqsa' after turning Hagia Sophia to mosque
Iraqi Army Launches 4th Phase of Iraqi Heroes Operation
CENTCOM Commander, Kurdish Leader Discuss Military Operation against ISIS
Egyptian Armed Forces Continue Drill near Libyan Border
Deal in Works to Resume Oil Production in Libya in Exchange for Turkish Withdrawal
EU to Discuss Developments in Libya
Palestinian Factions Call for Escalation Through Protesting

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 12-13/2020
Turkey's Hagia Sophia: "It's Like If Saint Peter's Had Been Turned Into a Mosque"/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/July 12/ 2020
The US election will not deter Iran or Turkey from their expansionist projects/Raghida Dergham/The National/July 12/2020
One Tool to Cut Racism in Policing: Traffic Cameras/Justin Fox/Bloomberg/July, 12/2020
How Risky is COVID-19?/John Authers/Bloomberg/July, 12/2020
Facebook Disappoints Once Again/Tae Kim//Bloomberg/July, 12/2020

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on July 12-13/2020
General Ashraf Rifi Is a Patriotic Lebanese Genuine Political Figure.. Al Machnouk’s Attempt To Blemish His Reputation Is So Mean And Cheap
Elias Bejjani/July 13/2020.
It is very sad that the majority of the media facilities in Lebanon, as well as almost 99% of the journalists from all walks of life and political affiliations are mere mean conscienceless trumpets and gongs for who finances them.
In general they are thugs and a bunch of trojans and they never change.
At the present time the terrorist Iranian Hezbollah who occupied Lebanon is the one who feed them with piece of news and analysis that they publish under their names and via their media facilities.
The most recent such a dirty and fake fed Hezbollah report was published yesterday (Sunday 12/July) in Nouhad Al Machnouk’s wesite (Sada Media).
This fabricated and defaming report targeted the patriotic and decent reputation of General Ashraf Rifi due to fact that that Rifi is openly in full support of the UN resolution 1559 and against the terrorist Hezbollah and its Iranian masters.
The false and faked report tried hardly and badly to blemish General Rifi’s patriotic and national reputation as well his solid loud rhetoric national stances.
General Rifi released a hash press release in which he stripped naked Nouhad Al Machnouk and fully exposed his lies as well as his shameful and dirt national record.
We take this opportunity to salute Genera Rifi and hail his stubborn and solid stances against the terrorist Hezbollah and its Iranian rotten and criminal Mullahs.
In conclusion: Lebanon’s 990% Media Facilities And Journalist are practically trojans and Trumpets to who pays them more.

166 Virus Cases in Lebanon, Hasan Expects High Tallies in Coming Days
Naharnet/July 12/2020
Lebanon on Sunday witnessed the highest daily tally of confirmed coronavirus cases since the first case was recorded on February 21. In its daily statement, the Health Ministry said the country recorded 166 cases over the past 24 hours, among them 158 residents and eight expats. 139 of the local cases have been traced to known sources, the Ministry said, revealing that 118 of the cases were recorded in an area on the "Jdeideh-Biaqout road." Health Minister Hamad Hasan had earlier told LBCI TV that “70% to 75% of the cases are related to a major cleaning services company and most of the workers are non-Lebanese.”“A small portion of them are Lebanese who are not showing symptoms, which means that the possibility of them infecting others is minimal,” Hasan went on to say. Noting that there are other clusters of known sources, the minister pointed out that the country will continue to witness relatively high tallies over the coming days. Hasan also revealed that the aforementioned cleaning company has 800 employees who regularly come in contact with the employees of a 600-strong transport company and a 400-employee contracting firm. “All of these employees, most of whom are not Lebanese, will be tested,” the minister added. The Lebanese Red Cross meanwhile evacuated 131 infected workers from the cleaning company’s headquarters in Roumieh to a quarantine center in Karantina. Three of the other local cases were recorded in Beirut, 13 in the Baabda district, three in Metn, one in the Chouf district, nine in the Aley district, one in Koura's Ras Masqa, one in Akkar al-Atiqa, one in Bednayel, one in the Sidon district, one in the Tyre district, one in the Nabatieh district and one in the Bint Jbeil district. The new cases take the country's overall tally to 2,344 -- among them 36 deaths and 1,420 recoveries.

Hariri Hospital: 5 critical cases, 378 tests performed
NNA/July 12/2020
Rafic Hariri University Hospital announced on Sunday, in its daily report on the latest COVID-19 developments, that the number of examinations performed at its laboratories during the past 24 hours has reached 378 tests. The report added that the number of patients infected with the Coronavirus currently present in the hospital for follow-up is 31, while the number of suspected cases that were transferred from other hospitals during the past 24 hours has reached 18 cases. The hospital report also indicated that no new recovery cases have been registered during the past 24 hours; thus leaving the total number of recoveries to-date at 249. Furthermore, it stated that 5 critical cases are currently receiving medical care at the hospital, adding that no death cases have been recorded. For more information on the number of infected cases on all Lebanese territories, the hospital advised citizens to refer to the daily report issued by the Ministry of Public Health in this respect. The Hariri Hospital concluded its report by reminding citizens that "the Coronavirus Contact Center for emergency response and knowledge of test results, operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week including public holidays, and can be reached at the phone number 01-820830 or through the WhatsApp contact service 76-897961."

Health Minister to Lebanese citizens: Rest assured, matters are still within the set plan!
NNA/July 12/2020
Public Health Minister, Hamad Hassan, called on citizens to "remain reassured," saying in an interview with "LBCI" Channel this evening: "Our admitting capacities in government hospitals are acceptable, and the departments are ready. Despite the high number of Coronavirus cases, matters are still within the set plan and the community is required to take the necessary measures, with the mask being the standard for prevention."

Rahi criticizes Erdogan's decision
NNA/July 12/2020
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Beshara Boutros Rahi, presided over Sunday Mass service at the Patriarchate's summer seat in Diman this morning. The Patriarch recalled in his sermon the message of Pope John Paul II, who defined Lebanon as a message and a model in the East and West.
"This is the message of coexistence between Christians and Muslims stipulated in the constitution and the national charter. The message of cultural diversity, dialogue of wealth, democracy and public freedoms. This message that Lebanon carried a hundred years ago and still is, in spite of all crises," he went on.
The Prelate stressed that the Lebanese refuse to allow the popular or parliamentary majority to tamper with the constitution, the national charter, and the laws. "In order to protect Lebanon from the dangers of political and military developments in the region, and to avoid engaging in the policies of regional and international axes and conflicts, as well as preventing foreign interference in the country's affairs, preserving national unity and civil peace, opening up promising prospects for our youth, adhering to international legitimacy, Arab consensus, and the Palestinian cause...I call on the international community to declare Lebanon's neutrality for the good of Lebanon, with all its components," Rahi stressed. The Patriarch also launched an appeal including the message of the Patriarchal Seat, which serves the interests of all Lebanese, without any discrimination or exclusion.
Finally, Rahi condemned the decision of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to revert the famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to a mosque, noting that this decision confirms the need for coexistence between the Lebanese and mutual respect for religion, culture and belief.

Al-Rahi Warns 'Majority' against Isolating Lebanon from 'Brothers, Friends'
Naharnet/July 12/2020
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday launched new stern warnings related to Lebanon’s compounded and unprecedented economic, financial and political crisis. “The Lebanese reject that any popular or parliamentary majority tamper with the Constitution, the National Pact and the law, or with Lebanon’s cultural model,” al-Rahi said in his Sunday Mass sermon. They also reject that it “isolate it from its brotherly and friendly nations and peoples, that it take it from abundance to destitution, from prosperity to decline or from advancement to backwardness,” the patriarch added.
He said the Lebanese want an end to “unilateralism, paralysis and negligence.”“They want bold stances that rescue the country, not the settling of petty scores. They want a free state that speaks in the name of the people and consults with it over existential decisions, not a state that gives up its decision and sovereignty,” al-Rahi went on to say. He stressed: “The Lebanese don’t want any party to take unilateral decisions related to Lebanon’s fate, people, land, borders, identity, formula, system, economy, culture or civilization.”

Lebanese Maronite patriarch reiterates criticism of Hezbollah, confirms shift
The Arab Weekly/July 12/2020
BEIRUT - Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai stepped up criticism of the Iran-backed radical Shia group Hezbollah and its political allies without directly naming them, on Sunday, saying Lebanese rejected the maneuvres by a “parliamentary majority” that is isolating the country and driving it “from prosperity to decline”. The last two sermons of the Maronite patriarch have been seen to mark a shift to a more openly critical stance against the policies of both Hezbollah and its ally President Michel Aoun. For the second sermon in a row, Bechara Boutros Al-Rai stressed the importance of Lebanon’s neutrality and expressed again his implicit criticism of the heavily armed Hezbollah over its support for Iran in regional conflicts. Al-Rai carries weight as the head of the Maronite church, the Christian community from which the president must be drawn in a sectarian system of government. Hezbollah and President Aoun back the government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab as Lebanon faces a financial meltdown which marks the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-90 civil war.
“The intervention was seen as a shift in his politics away from supporting the president and more into criticising the political position of the country, regionally and internationally,” Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Centre said.
Al-Rai, in a copy of the sermon sent by email, said Lebanese “rejected any … parliamentary majority messing with the constitution … and Lebanon’s model of civilisation, and that it isolate it from its brothers and friends … and that it move it from abundance to want and from prosperity to decline”.
Experts say Lebanon’s crisis is rooted in decades of state corruption and bad governance by the sectarian ruling elite. Hezbollah’s is perceived as sharing a large share of the blame in the current situation of the country as its alliance with Iran has led key Western nations and Gulf Arab states, which have been traditional supporters of Lebanon, to keep their distance, closing off most sources of aid that the small Arab country badly needs. Hezbollah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah has in recent weeks called on Lebanon to look east and strike an oil-for-Lebanese pounds deal with Iran as a means to fix the economy. The Lebanese government said such a deal is not under consideration.“Political groups should not run in the affairs of the country and citizens irresponsibly,  and in the same spirit that brought our country to rock bottom,” the Maronite patriarch said in a previous sermon.

Lebanese Christian cleric seen to criticise Hezbollah, allies over crisis
Reuters/July 12/2020
His last two sermons have been seen to mark a shift to a more openly critical stance against the policies of both Hezbollah and its ally President Michel Aoun.
BEIRUT - Lebanon's top Christian cleric stepped up criticism of the Iran-backed Shi'ite group Hezbollah and its allies without naming them on Sunday, saying Lebanese rejected being isolated from their allies and driven into decline.
Lebanon is suffering a financial meltdown which marks the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-90 civil war. For the second sermon in a row, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai stressed the importance of Lebanon's neutrality, implicit criticism of the heavily armed Hezbollah over its support for Iran in conflicts with Sunni-led Gulf Arab states. Rai carries weight as the head of the Maronite church, the Christian community from which the president must be drawn in a sectarian system of government. His last two sermons have been seen to mark a shift to a more openly critical stance against the policies of both Hezbollah and its ally President Michel Aoun. Both back the government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab. "The intervention was seen as a shift in his politics away from supporting the president and more into criticising the political position of the country, regionally and internationally," Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center said. Rai, in a copy of the sermon sent by email, said Lebanese "rejected any ... parliamentary majority messing with the constitution ... and Lebanon's model of civilisation, and that it isolate it from its brothers and friends ... and that it move it from abundance to want and from prosperity to decline". Lebanon's crisis is rooted in decades of state corruption and bad governance by the sectarian ruling elite. Hezbollah's opponents say it shoulders blame as its alliance with Iran has led Gulf Arab states that once supported Lebanon to keep their distance, closing off an important source of aid. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has called on Lebanon to look east as it seeks help fix the economy, though he said last week this does not mean the country should cut itself from the rest of the world.

French FM to Visit Lebanon Next Week to Push for Reforms
Naharnet/July 12/2020
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will visit both Iraq and Lebanon at the end of next week, media reports said. According to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Le Drian will hold meetings with President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Hassan Diab and Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti. “Paris is still awaiting serious positive indications about Lebanese authorities’ desire to confront the aggravating crisis,” the daily quoted a senior French source as saying. “The other message that the French side wants to convey is to explain to the Lebanese that their betting on their friends abroad to get assistance to rescue the country from collapse is not valid, and that the irreversible condition, as mentioned by Le Driab, is carrying out real and serious reforms, something that has not happened until the moment,” the source added. Separately, the source denied reports suggesting that Paris and Washington are seeking to replace Diab’s government with one formed of experts and independents with the aim of Hizbullah’s exclusion. “Paris realizes that the departure of the current government will stand for the beginning of a phase of governmental vacuum which no one would know when it would end, and thus vacuum’s outcome would be further economic, financial and social difficulties,” the newspaper added. The source also reiterated that French sources have several times emphasized that Paris’ top priority is assisting Lebanon and not “exploiting the Lebanese situation to pressure a certain side or using it in the ongoing regional conflict between the United States and Iran.”

Reports: Quick Economic Results Expected from Ibrahim's Visit to Kuwait
Naharnet/July 12/2020
The outcome of General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim’s visit to Kuwait will appear quickly on the Lebanese scene, media reports said. “Citizens will sense the magnitude of the direct Kuwaiti support for the economy after this visit,” an unnamed source told Kuwait’s al-Qabas newspaper in remarks published Sunday. A source close to the Lebanese Presidency meanwhile told Kuwait’s al-Jarida newspaper that Ibrahim’s visit follows “contacts on the highest level between the two countries.”The consultations “tackled the Lebanese situation and the economic and social deterioration,” the source said. The visit aims to explore means to “spare Lebanon a free fall towards the abyss,” the source added, noting that Ibrahim will not carry “specific Lebanese demands.”“Any Kuwaiti assistance to Lebanon is to be decided by Kuwait itself,” the source went on to say. Ibrahim is scheduled to arrived in Kuwait on Sunday.

Ghosn Says He's Aiding Those who Helped Him Flee to Lebanon
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 12/2020
Former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn says he is assisting those who helped him flee from Japan to Lebanon last year but refuses to provide details about the escape, saying such information would endanger them. In an interview aired late Saturday by the pan-Arab Al-Arabiya TV, Ghosn refused to comment on allegations from prosecutors in the U.S., who said last week that he wired more than $860,000 to a company linked to one of the men accused of helping smuggle him out of Japan in a box in December. Michael Taylor, a 59-year-old former Green Beret and private security specialist, and Peter Taylor, 27, are wanted by Japan on charges they helped Ghosn escape the country in December after he was released on bail. Ghosn was arrested in November 2018 and was expected to face trial in April 2020. He posted 1.5 billion yen ($14 million) bail on two separate instances after he was arrested a second time on additional charges, and released again. When pressed to speak about the Taylors, who are under arrest in the U.S., as well as others who helped him flee, Ghosn refused to speak about any specific person. He said that after he arrived in Lebanon he vowed not to speak about how he left Japan "because any statement I am going to make will endanger the people who helped me leave Japan."Asked if he is aiding those who helped him get out of Japan, Ghosn said, "of course." When asked about the Taylors, Ghosn said: "You are talking about specific people, and I will not comment. However, I am helping everyone who stood by me as much as I can, financially and in any way I can." "I made the entire plan of how to get out, but I needed information and assistance. I am not ready to involve these people at this moment simply by talking about it," he said. He is believed to have been smuggled inside a large box.
Ghosn, who holds Lebanese, Brazilian and French citizenship, said the "only side that stood by me is the Lebanese state. They intervened and they asked the Japanese state, 'Why are you doing this to him?'"Ghosn said that when he arrived in Lebanon, Japan requested the Lebanese government hand him over. "Lebanon approved, if they receive the case file. They (Japanese) didn't send anything for six months," he said. Earlier this month, a Turkish court released four pilots and a private airline official from jail, pending the outcome of their trial on charges of smuggling Ghosn out of Japan to Lebanon, via Turkey.

In Crisis-Hit Lebanon, Will French-Language Schools Survive?
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 12/2020
Inside the French-language school she has run for years in east Lebanon, Sister Colette Moughabghab welcomed parents devastated by the news the century-old establishment was locking up its classrooms. Books are stacked by the stairs leading to the playground that will no longer see pupils flood in the fall, after the school became the latest victim of a crippling economic crisis. "I did everything to obtain financial aid... but in vain," said Moughabghab, who has run Our Lady of Lourdes in the eastern town of Zahle for four years. "It's like closing up a home," added the nun, visibly upset about closing a school that had welcomed Christian and Muslim pupils since 1885. Lebanon, where Arabic is the official language, has a long tradition of education in French. The first French schools were set up by Christian missionaries in the 19th century before the country came under French mandate in 1920 until its independence in 1943. Until recent years, Lebanon's French-speaking schools, mostly private and a majority of them Catholic, taught 500,000 children -- equivalent to around half of all pupils nationwide. But the country's worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war has left them battling to stay afloat as parents struggle to pay fees. "It's catastrophic," says Father Boutros Azar, secretary general of a network of 331 Catholic schools. "Fifty to 70 schools in our network risk closing" by September, Azar said. "Without the Catholic schools, there will be no French-speaking education in Lebanon." Up to 80 percent of the schools in his network teach primarily in French and a quarter of the students who frequent them are Muslim. Fees there are up to half those of high-end private secular schools, which are also struggling to survive. The French Secular Mission that runs five private teaching institutions has already laid off 180 teachers and expects more than 1,500 students to leave over their inability to pay school fees.
'Won't be able to pay'
Lebanon's economic crisis has seen tens of thousands of Lebanese lose their jobs or take pay cuts since the fall. With banks capping dollar withdrawals, the Lebanese pound has lost up to 80 percent of its value on the black market, sparking alarming inflation and plunging a large segment of the population into poverty. In Sister Colette's office in Zahle, the parents of seven-year-old Julien and his younger brother are worried about the future. Other parents plan to send their children to other private schools when the new term begins, but Julien's father Samer said he is cash strapped. "I make about 1.2 million Lebanese pounds a month, which is now worth just a little more than 150 dollars," instead of 800 a year ago, said Samer, who declined to give his surname. "I won't be able to pay for my second son to go to (private) school next year," said the 47-year-old. A source at the education ministry said 120,000 pupils were expected to join state-run schools next year, as their parents could no longer afford sending them to private ones. But that would be an added burden on the public education system. Already under-equipped and over-crowded, these schools have welcomed hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugee children who fled the war in the country next door. To avoid the worst, several initiatives have been launched to try to save French-language schools. The Vatican in May said it would give 200,000 dollars to cover 400 scholarships. France would also offer "significant" help, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday, promising to announce details during an upcoming visit to Lebanon. Ambassador Bruno Foucher said France would set up a fund to help Christian schools, and also channel "several million" euros to more than 50 accredited schools teaching around 120,000 pupils.
"Our presence in Lebanon is first and foremost educational, and if education -- including in French -- crumbles... we will lose a key tie," he said.

Several Lebanese Regions See Massive Protests over Power Cuts, Fuel Shortage
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 12 July, 2020
Lebanon’s gas station owners, representatives of fuel distributors and generator owners in the Beqaa cut off on Saturday the Baalbak-Homs international highway against the government’s failure to provide fuel and diesel while protests in several regions protested the intermittent power cuts that reached up to 20 hours per day. The country's electricity company and the powerful operators of generators had been rationing power since late June as fuel supplies dwindle amid uncertainty over the next shipment. On Saturday, Head of Syndicates of Gas Station Owners Sami Brax called on President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Hassan Diab and other concerned officials to “provide gas stations with diesel and to force companies to distribute fuel to gas stations and clients.”He called on the security forces to inspect the reservoirs of fuel companies and gas stations and to take measures against monopoly suppliers. Brax also asked the Energy Minister to work on fairly distributing diesel from the Tripoli and Zahrani facilities in a way that reaches all consumers equally. “The Ministry should examine the large quantity of diesel sold in the black market,” he said. In Nabatiyeh, demonstrators gathered outside the electricity company to protest the intermittent power cuts. They delivered a letter to the director-general of the company, Wahib Qteish, demanding electricity as an acquired right. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s news agency said hundreds of activists marched Saturday from Riad El Solh Square in downtown Beirut towards the Association of Banks, and then to the Central Bank of Lebanon on Hamra Street, carrying Lebanese flags and banners affirming their continued movement until their demands are met. Demonstrators chanted slogans condemning the country's economic and daily-living situation, calling for the "resignation of the government" and "holding the thieves and the corrupt accountable, recovering the looted money, and conducting early parliamentary elections." Lebanon has been shaken by a severe economic and financial crisis, made worse in recent months by the coronavirus and lockdown restrictions. The financial crisis features a collapse of the local currency, which lost more than 80% of its value, and severe shortage of dollars — dramatically impacting the country’s ability to import basic goods. Fuel imports are subsidized, but lack of foreign currency was making it harder to secure resources.

Diab Says Washington Ready to Help Lebanon in 'Various Fields'
Beirut - Nazir Ridat/Sunday, 12 July, 2020
Friday’s meeting between US Ambassador to Beirut Dorothy Shea and Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab reflected “positive” developments in the relations between the two countries, in addition to the US readiness to assist Lebanon in various fields, mainly with the ongoing talks with the International Monitory Fund. Diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Shea-Diab meeting was “positive,” stressing that Washington had always stood by Lebanon and its people, and “it will continue to do so.”Grand Serail sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that there are no disputes between the two sides. This came in response to statements claiming that Lebanon is heading to the East, stressing that “Lebanon has never turned its back to the West. "We appreciate any friendly state willing to stretch its hand to help the country.”However, the sources denied that discussions with Shea have tackled Washington’s intention to resume its mediation role between Lebanon and Israel on border demarcation. “The meeting surely touched on the financial and economic crisis, and the current talks between Lebanon and the IMF,” the sources noted. On Saturday, Diab also visited the Mufti of the Lebanese Republic, Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian, at Dar Al-Fatwa. "The visit of His Eminence the Mufti and Dar Al Fatwa has a special essence. Talks with Mufti Derian focused on the prevailing social, economic, and daily-living conditions. We rely on his Eminence's wisdom and expertise in dealing with such issues,” the PM said. He explained that his government is undoubtedly working vigorously to ease the burdens of citizens and is providing assistance to underprivileged families. “There are 140,000 families currently benefiting from our assistance, and we hope to reach 200,000 families, which is equivalent to more than 1.5 million Lebanese citizens. We are also providing assistance to industrial and agricultural sectors, in addition to small and medium-sized enterprises."According to the PM, the government has recently submitted a bill to the Parliament to disburse LL500 billion to help schools overcome the difficult economic situation for the next academic year, in addition to other projects aimed at supporting the social situation, especially the food basket comprised of around 300 basic food commodities, covering more than 80- 90% of citizen's daily needs. Asked by reporters about how he reassures citizens regarding the dollar and the daily living and political conditions, Diab said: “Undoubtedly, several factors play a role, including negotiations taking place with the IMF.""We already kicked off talks about needed reforms and the program to be agreed upon between the IMF and Lebanon; this will play a key role in restoring confidence and opening doors for many projects including Cedre and other funds.”

Protest stand by citizens of West Bekaa in front of Mashghara Electricity Company
NNA/July 12/2020
The people of West Bekaa organized a sit-in this afternoon in front of the Lebanese Electricity Company's branch in Mashghara to protest the long power cuts and severe rationing suffered by citizens, with the participation of municipality heads, prominent figures and religious leaders from the region, NNA correspondent in West Bekaa reported on Sunday. Speaking on behalf of citizens, the Imam of the town of Mashghara, Sheikh Abbas Dibeh, said: "It is not permissible to reward us, the people of this dear region of Lebanon, by depriving us of electricity power especially that we have borne the consequences of the Litani project that has cut off areas of our land...and we also suffered the Israeli occupation and made great sacrifices!" In this context, the Imam pointed to escalation steps to be taken in the event that the status quo persists. For his part, the Imam of the town of Qaraoun, Sheikh Fadi Nassif, condemned "the measures that render people's lives more difficult and add to their harsh daily living conditions."

Nadim Gemayel: After 38 years, the intellect of Bashir Gemayel still petrifies them!
NNA/July 12/2020
MP Nadim Gemayel tweeted Sunday in response to the slogans launched during the recent demonstration held in front of the American Embassy, saying: "It is a demonstration of those who sold themselves and Lebanon in favor of Iran and Syria...In front of the American Embassy, was it a protest against the Ambassador's interferences or an attack against Bashir Gemayel, with threats and coercions...? After 38 years, the name of Bashir Gemayel still terrifies them! After 38 years, Bashir Gemayel's thoughts still terrify them...and the notion of a strong state petrifies them!"

Fahmy: For abiding by preventive measures to avoid general mobilization procedures
NNA/July 12/2020
Interior and Municipalities Minister, Brigadier General Mohamad Fahmy, urged citizens on Sunday to adhere to the precautionary measures against the Coronavirus, saying via Twitter: "In order to avoid any possible general mobilization measures by the government and to preserve their lives and those of their families, we ask our honorable citizens to abide by the instructions issued by the Ministry of Public Health with regards to the use of masks, maintaining safe distances and avoiding crowded places."

Army Command: Closure of a smuggling crossing in Hermel
NNA/July 12/2020
The Lebanese Army - Orientation Directorate issued a communiqué on Sunday, in which it announced that "within the framework of procedures to control borders and limit smuggling operations, an army unit closed today, using earth mounds, an illegal crossing at the Harf al-Summaqah-Hermel locality which was used to smuggle stolen cars and goods."

Bassil: Conversion of the Hagia Sophia Church into a mosque is a pretext for Israel to turn Al-Aqsa Mosque into Solomon's Temple
NNA/July 12/2020
"In 1934, Ataturk converted the Hagia Sophia Church to a museum that bore witness to the convergence of East and West....Christianity and Islam. However, its conversion today into a mosque is a forgery of history, a denial to convergence and a pretext for Israel to transform Al-Aqsa Mosque into Solomon's Temple...Will the East and West now realize the value of Lebanon, a country where civilizations and religions meet?" tweeted Free Patriotic Movement Chief, MP Gebran Bassil, on Sunday.

Lebanese Judge Muhammad Mazeh, Who Issued Media Ban Against U.S. Ambassador To Lebanon: I Found That She Endangered Lebanon's Internal Peace, Infringed Upon People's Rights; Free Expression Is Not Absolute
MEMRI/ Al-Alam TV (Iran)/July 12/2020
Muhammad Mazeh, the Lebanese judge who recently issued a media ban against U.S. Ambassador Dorothy Shea because of her statements about Hizbullah, said in a June 29, 2020 interview on Al-Alam TV (Iran) that he issued his ban in accordance with the Lebanese Code of Civil Procedure because he believed that Ambassador Shea's statements endangered Lebanon's internal peace, incited Lebanese people against one another, and hurt the feelings of a large segment of the Lebanese population. He said that Ambassador Shea infringed upon people's "moralistic and psychological" rights and "caused them sorrow, pain, and anger." He added: "I respect and revere the right to free expression, [but] can any guest in any media outlet just say anything he wants without being held accountable?" Mazeh recently resigned from his judicial position. For more about Ambassador Shea's statements, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 8099. Muhammad Mazeh: "I relied upon the law, after watching the American Ambassador's interview on Al-Arabiya's Al-Hadath TV. As I said, the interview endangered [Lebanon's] internal peace, incited groups in the Lebanese people against one another in one way or another, and hurt the feelings of a large part of the Lebanese population. I relied upon the second paragraph of Article 579 in the Code of Civil Procedure, and I found that by hurting the feelings of a segment of the Lebanese people she infringed upon their moral and psychological rights, because she caused them sorrow, pain, and anger. I also relied upon Article 580 in the Code of Civil Procedure, which allows the judge to take temporary emergency measures that are meant to uphold rights and prevent harm. I believe that this article does not prevent the American ambassador from expressing [her views], but [only] prevents the media from interviewing her, because those interviews may harm some Lebanese people, as well as the internal peace in Lebanon. These are the two articles I relied upon in my decision. "Regarding the media and the judge's decision... First of all, I respect and revere the right to free expression and [a free] media. But is there an absolute right? I ask the National Media Council and the Ministry of Information: Is there an absolute [right] in media? Can any guest in any media outlet just say

Lebanese TV Host Marcel Ghanem: PM Hassan Diab Should Go Away; He Does Nothing But Serve His Masters; People Are Hungry And Want To Leave Lebanon
MEMRI/July 12/2020
Lebanese TV host Marcel Ghanem said in a monologue in a July 2, 2020 show on MTV (Lebanon) that as a citizen, he is crying to Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab: "Go away." He said that the Diab government has done nothing but bring more crises and serve its "masters" and their desires. Ghanem asked "What chance should we give to a government of empty fridges?", and said that the Diab government doesn’t deserve a chance while people are stealing supplies to care for their babies, while the army has no meat, while mothers have no food, and while fathers have no work. He also said that every family has someone who is planning to leave Lebanon and never return because of the situation, and he added that history will laugh heartily at PM Diab and his government. Marcel Ghanem: "This monologue has nothing to do with local agendas, foreign intelligence agencies, collaboration with the Zionists, or mafia connections. It is merely the cry of a citizen: Go away, [PM] Hassan [Diab]. We have no time left to bear the failure of the government you lead. Go away, Hassan, because ever since you became the head of this crisis-time government, you have done nothing but create more crises. You have not been a prime minister. Rather, you have been a tool in the hands of those who direct your zigzagging course, and who dictate your policies with their questionable direction and resolve. 'Give him a chance,' they said – so we kept quiet. 'The government is taking action,' they said – so we waited. 'Relief is coming,' they said – so we hoped. However, Hassan, all that you and your puppet government have achieved was to secure appointments that suit your masters, and to make decisions that comply with their ambitions. What chance should we give to a government of empty fridges, a government that leads people to steal in order to buy baby milk and diapers? There are websites filled with ads for bartering personal items for food and basic needs. What chance should we give to a government whose army has no meat? Mothers don't have food for the family and the fathers have no work, in a country whose sons leave even before the airport opens up. In every home, there is someone who has submitted immigration documents. In every family, there is someone planning to leave and never return, to leave a country that prefers sects to qualifications. Leave, Hassan. The government you head will go down in history as a government that raised the price of bread and emptied the reserves of the Central [Bank] – a government that under its rule, the exchange rate of the USD has risen. History will laugh heartily at you when your excuses for the crisis are looked at."

Full transcript of Al Arabiya’s exclusive interview with Nissan ex-boss Carlos Ghosn

Al Arabiya English/Saturday 11 July 2020
Below are the full transcripts from Al Arabiya's exclusive interviews with former Nissan head Carlos Ghosn and Japan's Ambassador to Lebanon Takeshi Okubo.
Al Arabiya: Hello everyone, I am Taher Baraka, and welcome to a new special interview on Al Arabiya, this time with Mr. Carlos Ghosn, former CEO of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance.
The Japanese language is a bit difficult. Welcome Mr. Ghosn.
Ohayo Gozaimasu.
Ghosn: [laughing] Ohayo Gozaimasu.
Al Arabiya: Does it bother you if we speak in Japanese?
Ghosn: No, not at all [joking]. Are you going to conduct the interview in Japanese?
Al Arabiya: I wish, but I don’t know Japanese. Do you miss Japan?
Ghosn: Of course, yes.
Al Arabiya: Do you miss what you consider to be your glory days?
Ghosn: Of course, successful days, not only for myself, but for Nissan and hundreds of thousands of its employees. Everything went successfully for over 18 years, from 1999 till 2017, when I left the executive management of Nissan to Hiroto Saikawa, and that’s when things started to get out of hand.
Al Arabiya: This “out of hand” situation is what we would like to discuss throughout this interview, but we would like to start with recent news about your case. The American prosecution is looking into the trial of Michael Taylor and his son Peter Taylor, who are accused of helping you [escape Japan] in a case typically used for musical equipment. The details allege that an amount of money around $860,000 was reportedly transferred to Promote, a company related to Taylor. What would you say about that?
Ghosn: I cannot really say anything or comment. Since my arrival in Lebanon late last December, I have said I will not state anything on how I got out of Japan, because no matter what I say, it will cause danger to those who helped me. I do not wish to cause them any harm, so I would rather not.
Al Arabiya: Are you currently providing support to the people who helped you out?
Ghosn: Yes! Indeed, I was the Executive Director of Renault and Nissan, CEO at Mitsubishi. The alliance of the three brands was the first of its kind in the world and produced 10.6 million cars per year. Everyone around me wanted me happy. Ninety-eight percent of these people no longer make contact, but 2-3 percent have showed me loyalty, and of course I will pay them back for their loyalty.
My downfall showed me the loyal people I can count on, because [others] are around you when you are successful, but once you get into trouble, they all flee.
Al Arabiya: So, this is what happened with you?
Ghosn: Yes.
Al Arabiya: They all fled?
Ghosn: Not all.
Al Arabiya: Two percent did not flee?
Ghosn: Two to three percent did not flee.
Al Arabiya: When we mention Taylor and anyone involved in helping you out – you are almost considered free now, even with the Interpol [arrest warrant] and the case. Some of the people who are involved in your case are imprisoned. Are you helping them to get out?
Ghosn: As I said earlier, I am helping people. Now you are talking about specific people, and I will not comment. However, I am helping everyone who stood by me as much as I can, financially and in any way I can, but of course I am helping out one way or the other.
Al Arabiya: What do you feel for them?
Ghosn: The people who helped me?
Al Arabiya: Those who are imprisoned now while you are free. Those who helped.
Ghosn: You keep referring back to them, and I said I will not say a word in this regard. I am referring to those who helped me in general, especially as there are few who helped. I owe them.
Al Arabiya: Which international politicians let you down?
Ghosn: Japan did not support me at all, it was even part of the conspiracy.
Al Arabiya: We shall discuss Japan later in the interview since it has its own accusations against you, and we will go through them.
Ghosn: Of course, there are accusation, if there weren’t any accusations, they wouldn’t arrest a person. The problem is really if these accusations are true or false. Where did they come from and [why] all at once, and for what reason?
Al Arabiya: Let’s leave the accusations until later.
Ghosn: The French government helped me in the same way they would help any French citizen, not more.
Al Arabiya: They did not offer any special treatment or arrangement?
Ghosn: None whatsoever, regardless of my position as the CEO of a major company or that I played a major role in the French economy - they deemed all of that irrelevant. They gave me as much assistance as they would give to any French citizen. I personally feel that they extended to me the kind of support they would to the average French citizen, and even less than that.
Al Arabiya: Less than an average French citizen, because you are not originally French?
Ghosn: It is a negative point I take against France. The only government that stood by my side was Lebanon. They did everything they could do and interfered and questioned Japan’s case. Even if their accusations were true, there should be better means of communication.
The only person who visited me in Japan was the former French President Sarkozy. He met with me for an hour and a half at the French Embassy in Japan representing the French President Emmanuel Macron at the event held for the new Japanese Emperor.
Al Arabiya: A lot has been said in international news about your escape and how you managed to do it. Can we add anything or confirm the information that has been out?
Ghosn: Perhaps someday we will go into details, but not now because it may cause danger to those who helped me. Some of them are in Japan and in other countries around the world. It was not a small network. I made the entire plan of how to get out, but I needed information and assistance. I am not ready to involve these people at this moment simply by talking about it.
Al Arabiya: You do not wish to endanger them?
Ghosn: I would not want to get them in danger. I would only speak of it when they are no longer endangered.
Al Arabiya: Lebanon did not deliver you to Japan because there is no prisoner exchange [extradition] agreement between both countries. We will get back to that later during the interview. This fact was clearly discussed before and during planning your escape. Did you study this in detail, as to which country you should go?
Ghosn: I hold three nationalities: Brazilian, because I was born there, Lebanese, because my parents are Lebanese and I lived there, and French, based on the fact that I have always worked for French companies, starting with Michelin then Renault, Nissan, and back to Renault. All three countries do not have citizens or prisoner exchange agreements with Japan. Not Lebanon, not France, not Brazil.
I had the choice between these three countries. I chose Lebanon because I am married and I am attached to my wife, Carol, she is not French or Brazilian, she is a Lebanese and an American citizen.
She was in Lebanon at the end of the year as usual to spend time with her family and children. So, I chose to come to Lebanon, first because my wife was here, and because I wanted to retire in Lebanon.
Al Arabiya: Some may say that you chose Lebanon because some officials may protect and political parties may provide with you with cover in exchange for money or whatever, and that cannot happen in other countries.
Ghosn: This is all speculation. I just told you why I chose Lebanon over the other countries. I did not come back to Lebanon after being away for 10 years. I was already preparing my house in Lebanon for retirement, and everyone at Nissan and Renault and the alliance knew that. I was hesitant to renew my mandate. It had ended by June 2018 at Renault.
Al Arabiya: You were hesitant to renew it…
Ghosn: They asked me to stay. I was hesitant, I was 64 years old, and I could simply retire. I accomplished everything I wanted, the company was number one worldwide, and I had nothing more to add.
The French government and [Renault’s] French Board of Directors asked me to renew my mandate in June 2018. But I was already in Lebanon preparing to retire. After four months of the renewal, which was done in public and with support from the French government, unions and the Board of Directors, I was held in custody in November in Japan, and that was it, as if nothing happened.
Al Arabiya: How do you protect yourself in Lebanon?
Ghosn: I don’t need to protect myself in Lebanon. I don’t think the Lebanese government is against me. They requested my case file from Japan. “If you have something on this man, send the file.” It has been six months and the Japanese have not sent it yet. Why? I want them to send it because it carries the truth. I did not escape Japan because of fear of justice. I left it because I was taken as hostage. They wanted me to confess what I haven’t done or know of. It was a conspiracy.
When I arrived to Lebanon, Japan requested the Lebanese government to deliver Carlos Ghosn to them. Lebanon approved, if they receive the case file. They didn’t send anything for six months.
In Japan, the general prosecutor wins 99.4 percent of the cases.
No other country in the world reaches that level. Even Stalin in the Soviet Union won 92 percent of the cases while he had control over everything. When the Japanese prosecution is asked how they manage to obtain the 99.4 percent rate, their answer is that they do their job really well. They consider it to be an achievement.
Just think about this for a second please, Taher. After a Japanese student graduates with a law degree, he aims to become a general prosecutor. When he is promoted, being one of the brightest as well, he becomes a lawyer receiving a higher salary of course. So, they start their careers as general prosecutors, then shift to becoming lawyers. So, when that happens, they start losing 99.4 percent of cases on one end and 0.6 percent on the other end.
Al Arabiya: Shall we continue after the break?
Ghosn: Definitely.
Al Arabiya: We will discuss the issue from the Japanese and the French points of view after the break.
Al Arabiya: Welcome back again to this special interview with Carlos Ghosn, former Executive Director of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. Welcome back again, Mr. Carlos.
Back to some of the previously discussed points quickly, to the fact that you planned for your escape, alone?
Ghosn: Indeed. Once you are planning to do something like that you have to maintain some confidentiality.
Back in Japan, my phone was monitored. I was not allowed a smart phone, just a regular phone. There were cameras at home. I was followed on the streets by cars, motorcycles, and pedestrians. I wouldn’t be able to recognize them. They had no right to do any of that but did anyway. I filed complaints, but no one took it seriously, not even the judge. The lawyers agreed that it was against the law and filed complaints to the judge. He said he will look into it, but nothing was done.
So, what was I supposed to do? My phone was being monitored; there were cameras everywhere; I was being watched all the time, there could be monitors that I had not spotted.
Al Arabiya: How did you overcome all these obstacles and manage to escape?
Ghosn: I built a system where I managed to talk to people outside of Japan and figured it all out. I will not share details because, again, I do not wish to involve anyone. They put me under all these circumstances thinking that it was impossible for me to escape. Ninety percent of the Japanese people know me. I have been president of Nissan for 17 years. I have had interviews in all magazines and universities. I was given all these awards. I have published more than 20 books on management. I was a role model in Japan, and all of a sudden, I am considered a dictator.
Al Arabiya: They used to look upon you as a samurai?
Ghosn: They went from seeing me as a samurai to a dictator overnight, a dictator who loves money. First of all, during 17 years of work, many universities and consultants worked with us, thousands of people in and out of Nissan, how come no one ever said that I was a dictator? Second, all these accusations about money, I was never accused of taking the money, just planning, or I had been on trips that I shouldn’t have, or donated money to Lebanese universities where I had no right to, all accusations were as such. Even the money that was given to Juffali, the Saudi authorized agent, for his services, they said that he did not deserve it.
Al Arabiya: The Nissan-authorized agent in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?
Ghosn: Yes, he is. Then there was the story about [Suhail] Bahwan [Automobiles], the Nissan authorized agent in Oman. They made it up and searched everywhere, all the bank accounts in Oman, and got to nothing. If they had found out anything, they would have put it in the newspapers. That is how their system works, although Japanese law forbids it.
If Nissan believed that case, wouldn’t they let go of that authorized agent in Oman? They are still working with him. I am surprised. Ok, you stopped Carlos Ghosn. He is now out of Japan, but why would you still keep your authorized agent in Oman? Till now they are still dealing with him.
Al Arabiya: There are many accusations from the Japanese side that say you were not transparent about your financial status for the past five years, from 2010 to 2015, and you haven’t revealed your salary for 3 years. Financial wrongdoings, paying 5 million dollars to the authorized agent in Oman, and transferring money from the company’s accounts to your personal accounts, what do say about all that?
Ghosn: This is all wrong.
Al Arabiya: Is it that simple?
Ghosn: All wrong. Yes, I said it from the beginning it is a conspiracy… You will read about all that in the book to be released before the end of the year, responding to these accusations with documents and witnesses. I will defend myself in the book to be released before the end of the year.
I would like to go back to these accusations, and yes, you’re right, you’ll say, “if you want to speak then let the authorities speak [as well].” I was in custody for fourteen months. I was not allowed to speak. When I announced I would speak at an interview, I was taken into custody again, before holding the press conference.
I was taken into custody, because – people are shocked when I tell them this – according to them, I had not revealed salaries and compensations that I did not even receive. People are shocked. This was all part of the plan for after my retirement. How can they hold someone over money that was not delivered or announced because it first has to be approved by the board? They divided the accusations between 2010 until 2014, and 2015 until 2018.You know why? Because they wanted to keep me imprisoned for a longer period. Each period would keep me held for 20 days. That way I am held for a total of 40 days, and they have enough time to find something else. When you think about it, is it possible for an employee working for Nissan to do that and accuse his Board Director, a person representing 43 percent of assets, and I was president of Renault and head of the alliance, and I worked for 17 years, and brought the company back to life. [Renault] was dead in 1999. It had debts of 20 billion dollars and made no profit, and no Japanese bank would lend them loans. The Japanese banks normally agree together, and if they all refused to help out a company, this means it is dead. They tried twice to make a revival plan but failed. That is why they got me as a foreigner asking for help and were very critical of me; it did not start as golden age. Two years of accusations, of calling me a cost killer. But when I did what I did they were in shock. If you look at it in depth, their plan was intact.
Al Arabiya: I have to ask, do the Japanese have a problem with you?
Ghosn: They did not before, but they later had a problem with me.
Al Arabiya: What came up? Were they afraid of the alliance?
Ghosn: They were afraid of an alliance between Renault and Nissan. They know that I was the only person who could do that because I am accredited by Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi. I was accredited in Japan and France.
Al Arabiya: What is France’s problem. Why would Renault press charges against you as well?
Ghosn: Renault only got involved after Nissan said in Holland that there was 11 million euros being questioned. Then Renault got involved.
Al Arabiya: This involvement we are talking about revealed questionable expenses in a shared outlet of Renault and Nissan in Holland worth 11 million euros?
Ghosn: This is it. They said they were questionable expenses. When one just states a number, it would immediately come across as if I had taken the 11 million euros from the company. Second, when they got to discuss the money, they hired an auditing company. I asked for the audit so I can simply defend my position. I still don’t know what happened. I am accused of stealing 11 million euros, and I have the right to know how. I found out from the news how they broke down the amount. Four to five million euros as travel expenses. I spent my life traveling. So, they said I traveled to Beirut for leisure not business. How would you know? If I traveled to Brazil, and I have friends in Lebanon, instead of going to Dubai I would come to Lebanon and ask all Renault and Nissan dealers to come to Beirut and they did. When I head to Brazil, my family is in Brazil, but we had factories there too. We were working with Stanford and we had a technology center in California that I had to visit too, but because my children live in San Francisco, my travels were also questioned. These were the accusations against me.
Other accusations included donations made to universities and schools in Lebanon. I would be asked just like any other big company would be. Of course, they would ask me because I am Lebanese.
Al Arabiya: Is the problem with donations to Lebanon only or all donations?
Ghosn: Just Lebanon. I provided donations to universities in France and Japan, but these were not mentioned. Why Lebanon?
Al Arabiya: Why hasn’t the French government supported you?
Ghosn: The question needs to be addressed to them.
Al Arabiya: What did you hear about that?
Ghosn: They supported me for the first month. I wanted there to be more support. A French political figure told me, “If I were President, I would have taken you out within 24 hours.” The American Ambassador to Japan told the French Ambassador that if I were executive of an American company, I would be out within 24 hours. But they abandoned me. They supported me shortly but then they abandoned me in November. I was told that there was a meeting between the French Minister of Financial Affairs and two representatives of Renault. The minister said that they cannot support Carlos Ghosn anymore because at that time there was the ‘Yellow Vests Movement.’
Al Arabiya: What is the relation? Because of what the movement is asking for?
Ghosn: A company executive in France is not considered a hero, but in Japan or USA he is. Especially if he has wealth and power, the French will not approach him. They will not defend or support me with all the people on the streets. That is how I see it. The truth will be revealed, and nothing will remain secret. These people will speak, but for now they are afraid. Did you read the article on Bloomberg? The truth is staring to be revealed, all the scandals, all the emails.
Al Arabiya: What exactly? The Nissan emails?
Ghosn: It is a conspiracy.
Al Arabiya: Nissan?
Ghosn: Yes, a conspiracy.
Al Arabiya: We will continue after the break. Thank you, Mr. Carlos.
Al Arabiya: Welcome back to this special interview on Al Arabiya, today with Mr. Carlos Ghosn, former CEO of Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance. Welcome Mr. Ghosn.
There is talk of the IMF pressuring Lebanon to deliver you to Japan in return for providing Lebanon with funds and loans, is that true?
Ghosn: I read that in Arab News being said by Nissan’s lawyer in Lebanon. At first, he lied and said he never mentioned anything of that sense, but Arab News published the recordings. I don’t blame the lawyer. In his position, he would not announce such news unless was given the green light and was asked to do so. You can realize that because he initially denied it, then they released a statement and that was it. He remained Nissan’s lawyer. If Nissan, hadn’t asked him to do this, they would have fired him.
I will remind you of another incident. When I got to Lebanon, the Japanese Minister of Justice, Mrs. Mori, announced that Carlos Ghosn must come to Japan to prove his innocence. All hell broke loose. In a democratic country such as Japan, or so they claim to be, people should not prove their innocence, but the government should prove them guilty.
Al Arabiya: Why does everyone call Carlos Ghosn a samurai? And you were looked upon as such in France and in Lebanon?
Ghosn: There were results. When a person is an executive, do they look to see if you are a good speaker, or good-looking. They need to see accomplishments. I took over a dead company in 1999 in Japan, and I don’t speak their language. After they had failed to recover the company twice, they gave up. In 1999, the company sold 2.5 million cars per year and lost money. It had 20 billion USD in debt, and not a single Japanese bank would offer them loans. When I left the company in 2017, it had made profit throughout all my years of working there, with one exception in 2009 with the worldwide financial recession. I left it with 20 billion dollars in profit, instead of the same amount in deb, and instead of selling 2.5 million cars, the company was selling 5.8 million cars. What more do you want? That’s how I became a hero.
Al Arabiya: That is all Nissan, what about Renault?
Ghosn: Let’s continue about Nissan for a minute. There were several books published about the successes until 2018 until I was taken into custody, and everything changed.
In 2005, Renault sales were 2.3 to 2.4 million cars per year. The company was in a fair financial state, but it was a European company. All their profits were made in Europe. It was losing in Russia, Brazil, China and USA. Losses everywhere. I took over in 2005.
My mission was to make it an international brand. In 2018, when I was taken into custody, Renault was selling around 4 million cars annually. The profit made in my four years of service was unprecedented, since its establishment more than 120 years ago.
Al Arabiya: Would you say that Nissan and Renault have failed since you left?
Ghosn: Look at the results since November 2018. People are blaming COVID-19. It’s not true. You have to look back at the period from November 2018 until now. Read the statistics of all Arabic companies. General Motors, from November 2018 dropped by 12 percent. Toyota by 15 percent, Nissan by 55 percent, Renault by 70 percent. Did coronavirus affect only these two companies?
Al Arabiya: I would like to know what will happen with Interpol. You are not allowed to fly whilst you spent most of your life flying, what will happen next?
Ghosn: Japan sent a request to Interpol to detain me. Now Interpol is bound to do so. However, Interpol has three main constraints that hold it back: if it is a political case, if there was violation of human rights, if the case can be resolved outside of the courts of law.
I have all three. My case is by all means political with the intervention of the Japanese Prime Minister, Ministers of Economy and Justice, and the French President, and Lebanese Minister of Economy and the Lebanese President, and the President of Brazil too, and all ambassadors involved. This is number one.
Number two, violation of human rights. I did not have a lawyer; you see I am a foreigner and I did not understand the Japanese language that was spoken to me. The Japanese prosecutor spoke Japanese and had a translator. They made me sign documents in Japanese that I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t make sure that I am signing on what I was told was there. I was not allowed to see or talk to my wife for nine months, or to my son, I was being followed on the streets. We filed cases for 12 violations of Japanese law, and the judge did not care.
Third, the Japanese Prime Minister stated that he had preferred the case was resolved within the board of Nissan. What does that all mean?
Al Arabiya: Did you communicate that with Interpol? Any developments?
Ghosn: Of course, I did. But it takes time. You have to submit a lot of paperwork; you need to submit your explanation. It all takes time. But, I do not consider myself held prisoner in Lebanon
Al Arabiya: So, you are comfortable?
Ghosn: A thousand times better than Japan. I am well respected here. I can communicate with a lawyer if needed.
Al Arabiya: Do you expect that you will be allowed to travel, and your case is still open in Japan courts?
Ghosn: Unless the Japanese opposition comes to power in Japan, because the opposition does not agree to what they call hostage justice. Many defended my case based on that. A Japanese opposition member actually told me he is ashamed of the fact that Japan treated me in an evil way after all the good things I contributed.
This opposition political figure said to me: “You did well for Japan. You were the foreign investment ambassador to Japan, and spoke well of Japan in Davos, this is how they pay you back.” I have nothing against the Japanese people. When I was out and about in Japan, I was treated well and fully respected by everyone and as if nothing had happened.
Al Arabiya: So, was it only the judicial system?
Ghosn: The judicial system and certain people in Nissan, like Saikawa, Toyoda, Nagai, Kawagushi and Harinada. They were all part of the conspiracy with the public prosecutor and the Japanese Government.
Al Arabiya: Mr. Carlos Ghosn thank you very much for your time with us at Al Arabiya. Now of course the government Japan and France will be discussed after the break.
Thanks again, we were with Carlos Ghosn, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.
Japan’s Ambassador to Lebanon Takeshi Okubo interview with Al Arabiya: Full transcript.
Al Arabiya: Welcome Ambassador, thank you for joining us on Al Arabiya.
Peace be upon you.
This is the first, exclusive interview on Al Arabiya. You decided to relay through us to the Arab world to explain what you have on Carlos Ghosn’s cases.
What is Carlos Ghosn’s current legal status in Japan? How was it prior to his fleeing and how did it become after?
Okubo: The Japanese government notified the Lebanese government that, unfortunately, Carlos Ghosn, the defendant in the criminal case, illegally escaped from Japan and arrived in Lebanon.
We also notified the government that we absolutely cannot accept this.
We demanded – on several occasions – that the Lebanese government provides the necessary cooperation including revealing details in the case that the Japanese government is highly interested in.
From another point, his excellency the President [Michel] Aoun affirmed that the Lebanese government was not involved in this case and he stressed the importance of industrial relations between the two countries, Japan and Lebanon.
He also promised that Lebanon will fully cooperate in this matter.
It saddens me to inform you on this occasion that what Mr. Carlos Ghosn did is a blatant violation of the dignity, prestige and sovereignty of the country of Japan. We can say that he hurt us deeply and this contradicts the Arab manners that call for preserving honor and dignity.
The only way and best way to preserve honor and dignity is to be represented in front of justice and achieving it.
Also, Mr. Carlos Ghosn continues to spread propaganda and false information about the Japanese criminal justice system and how to activate it.
This is completely unacceptable.
Japan, with its role in international human rights, commits to the required corrections, as does the criminal justice system in Japan to uncover crimes as human rights are valued enough. It is unbelievable to criticize [the justice system].
Al Arabiya: Your excellency the Ambassador, what does the Interpol have to say in this regard? You submitted a request to the Interpol and there is an international warrant, but Mr. Ghosn remains in Lebanon and has not been taken into custody by the Interpol. What have you received in response to your request in executing the arrest?
Okubo: In general, the Interpol aims to strengthen the mutual cooperation between police internationally. It gathers information related connected to international crimes and it uncovers hideouts of criminals and issues warrants for international arrests. Interpol does not do the arresting. This is what I think about the Interpol.
Al Arabiya: You mentioned what the Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s response was to you in regard to Carlos Ghosn’s case, but what does he say about not officially surrendering [Ghosn] to Japan? What are you hearing from Lebanese officials? He is a Lebanese national who has a problem in Japan and is wanted by the Japanese justice system so he is tried in [Japan]. What are the Lebanese officials saying?
Okubo: In regard to surrendering Mr. Carlos Ghosn, I decline to answer because this is connected to the criminal procedures that the public prosecution is currently taking in Japan. Anyway, the Japanese government believes that it is normal for this defendant to be tried under the Japanese justice system. From our end, we will continue taking the necessary measures in cooperating with the Lebanese government and other related countries.
Al Arabiya: Is it true that Japan has or will place conditions and pressure on Lebanon, whether economical or political, as it faces one of its worse economic crises, in connection to Carlos Ghosn’s cases as in surrender Carlos Ghosn then [Japan] will help?
Okubo: In general, different things are taken into consideration in making the decision for providing official aid to foreign countries. However, in this case, considering what is happening in Lebanon from the flow of Syrian refugees and an unprecedented financial and social crisis, in addition to the spread of the new coronavirus, and the general conditions of the Middle East, I believe that we wanted to avoid the destabilization of the stability in Lebanon in this stage.
Other than that, I would like to add that we are in constant contact with the Lebanese government in this regard.
Anyway, the Japanese government believes this person, Carlos Ghosn, must face justice in a Japanese court.
Al Arabiya: Your excellency Ambassador Okubo Takeshi, Japan’s ambassador to Lebanon, thank you for accepting our invitation. As we said this is an important development to be able to sit with you and further understand this case.
Okubo: In conclusion, regardless of the sensitivity of Mr. Carlos Ghosn’s case, it is my duty to preserve the friendship and partnership between the people of two nations, Lebanon and Japan, and develop our relationships and establish them in all fields, on all levels.
The Japanese-Arab relations are very strong over history and decades and it will remain strong inshallah no matter how files come to surface and thank you all.
Al Arabiya: Thank you very much your excellency the ambassador for this participation with us and as we said this is a significant development for you to appear with us to explain to the Arab audience the lengths of this case and to understand, based on your position, that there are some cases, whether due to legal reasons or not, you cannot discuss.
Our dear audience, we conclude this special episode on Carlos Ghosn’s case in the in our interview with him and the Japanese ambassador and we also mentioned the French response on our platform in case Paris would like to respond to this case after discussing with them.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 12-13/2020
Pope 'Very Distressed' over Turkey's Hagia Sophia Conversion to Mosque
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 12/2020
Pope Francis said Sunday he was "very distressed" over Turkey's decision to convert the Byzantine-era monument Hagia Sophia back into a mosque. "My thoughts go to Istanbul. I'm thinking about Hagia Sophia. I am very distressed," the pope said in the Vatican's first reaction to a decision that has drawn international criticism. The Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano had on Saturday carried reaction from different countries about Friday's decision to turn the monument from a museum back into a mosque but without any comment. A magnet for tourists worldwide, the Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who critics say is chipping away at the Muslim-majority country's secular pillars, announced Friday that Muslim prayers would begin on July 24 at the UNESCO World Heritage site. In the past, he has repeatedly called for the stunning building to be renamed as a mosque and in 2018, he recited a verse from the Koran at Hagia Sophia. Erdogan's announcement came after a top court cancelled a 1934 cabinet decision under modern Turkey's secularizing founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to preserve the church-turned-mosque as a museum.

Top U.S. Health Official Wants 'Everything on the Table' to Contain Virus
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 12/2020
A top U.S. health official said Sunday that with deaths from COVID-19 expected to continue rising in coming weeks, "everything should be on the table," including renewed lockdowns in hard-hit states. "We're all very concerned," said Admiral Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary of health, on ABC's "This Week."
In particular, he called for the re-closing of bars, greater spacing in restaurants and the near-universal wearing of masks in the areas most afflicted, which are largely in southern states that reopened aggressively. "For this to work we have to have 90 percent of people wearing masks in public in the hot-spot areas," he said. "If we don't have that we won't get control of the virus. "It's absolutely essential." His comments came one day after President Donald Trump, who had long played down the importance of masks, appeared in public wearing one for the first time. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been calling for widespread mask-wearing since April. Giroir's comments came on a weekend when states across the country recorded new highs in coronavirus cases. Seven states set one-day death records this week. The United States is the hardest-hit country in the world, with around 135,000 deaths and more than 3.2 million confirmed cases. Intensive-care units in many hospitals are operating close to capacity. But Giroir stressed that progress is being made against the coronavirus pandemic, with more testing and new treatments available.  Asked about reported waits for testing of as long as 13 hours, in hard-hit Arizona, Giroir insisted that things were rapidly getting better. "You'll see a lot more improvements in testing ... over the next week or so," he said. Amid growing and passionate debate over returning children to school in the fall -- as Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have insisted must be done -- Giroir said, "We do have to do that safely. We need to get the virus under control." But with cases in many areas setting records by the day, he acknowledged that "we expect deaths to go up over the next two, three weeks before this turns around." Giroir said the administration is preparing for a challenging time in the fall, with the coronavirus likely resurging even as flu returns. "There are some data that you can get both at the same time," he said. "That's not really good."

Khamenei Urges Fight against 'Tragic' Virus Resurgence
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 12/2020
Iran's supreme leader Sunday called the resurgence of the novel coronavirus in the country "truly tragic" and urged all citizens to help stem what has been the region's deadliest outbreak. "Let everyone play their part in the best way to break the chain of transmission in the short term and save the country," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a video conference with lawmakers, according to his office. Iran has been struggling to contain the outbreak since announcing its first cases in February and has reported more than 12,800 deaths since then. Khamenei's speech was his first to the new parliament which took office at the end of May, dominated by conservatives and ultraconservatives elected in February elections. According to his official site, Khamenei praised healthcare workers for "their sacrifices."But he also strongly criticized "some people who do not even do something as simple as wearing a mask," saying he felt "ashamed" of such behavior. Khamenei's comments came as infections have again been on the rise in Iran since early May. According to figures announced Sunday, 194 deaths from the COVID-19 disease and 2,186 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours. The health ministry announced a record 221 deaths in a single day on Thursday. In total, 257,303 cases have been reported in the country, including 12,829 deaths, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said Sunday in a televised press conference. The outbreak's rising toll has prompted authorities to make wearing masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces and to allow the hardest hit provinces to reimpose restrictive measures. Iran had closed schools, cancelled public events and banned movement between its 31 provinces in March, but the government progressively lifted restrictions from April to reopen its sanctions-hit economy.

Iran Says Misaligned Radar Led to Ukrainian Plane Downing
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 12 July, 2020
Iran said that the misalignment of an air defense unit’s radar system was the key “human error” that led to the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January. “A failure occurred due to a human error in following the procedure” for aligning the radar, causing a “107-degree error” in the system, the Iranian Civil Aviation Organisation (CAO) said in a report on Sunday. This error “initiated a hazard chain” that saw further errors committed in the minutes before the plane was shot down, said the CAO document. The document was presented as a “factual report” and not as the final report on the accident investigation. The CAO said that, despite the erroneous information available to the radar system operator on the aircraft’s trajectory, he could have identified his target as an airliner, but instead there was a “wrong identification.”The report also noted that the first of the two missiles launched at the aircraft was fired by a defense unit operator who had acted “without receiving any response from the Coordination Center” on which he depended. The second missile was fired 30 seconds later, “by observing the continuity of trajectory of the detected target,” the report added, AFP reported. Flight 752, a Ukraine International Airlines jetliner, was struck by two missiles and crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran’s main airport on January 8, at a time of heightened US-Iranian tensions. The IRGC said three days later that they accidentally shot down the Kiev-bound plane, killing all 176 people on board.

On Fifth Attempt, UN Security Council Renews Syria Aid via Turkey
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 12 July, 2020
The United Nations Security Council on Saturday approved aid deliveries to Syria through one border crossing from Turkey, a day after its authorization for the six-year-long humanitarian operation ended, leaving millions of Syrian civilians in limbo. The United Nations describes the aid delivered from Turkey as a "lifeline" for Syrians in the country's northwest. The 15-member council had been deadlocked, with most members pitted against Syrian allies Russia and China, which abstained on Saturday in the council's fifth vote this week on the issue. Veto-powers Russia and China wanted to halve the approved Turkey border crossings to one, arguing that the northwest of Syria can be reached from within the country. They also wanted to include language that Western diplomats said blamed unilateral sanctions on Syria for the humanitarian crisis. German UN Ambassador Christoph Heusgen told his Chinese and Russian counterparts to report back to their capitals that he had asked: "How those people who gave the instructions to cut off the aid of 500,000 children ... are ready to look into the mirror tomorrow." Council members had also been split on whether to renew authorization for six months or one year. The short resolution finally adopted on Saturday, which was drafted by Germany and Belgium, simply authorized one crossing for one year. "Russia is consistently in favor of humanitarian deliveries to Syria with full respect of the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity and with coordination of its legal government. This issue should not be politicized," deputy Russian UN envoy Dmitry Polyanskiy said after the vote. Twelve members voted in favor, while the Dominican Republic also abstained. The successful vote came after two failed votes on Russian proposals and two vetoes by Russia and China of resolutions drafted by Germany and Belgium. Acting British UN Ambassador Jonathan Allen said after the vote that the loss of aid access through Bab al-Salam border crossing would deprive "1.3 million people in northwest Syria of cross-border humanitarian assistance that they rely on." Germany and Belgium said in a joint statement after the vote: "One border crossing is not enough, but no border crossings would have left the fate of an entire region in question."When the Security Council first authorized the cross-border aid operation into Syria in 2014 it also included access from Jordan and Iraq. Those crossings were cut in January due to opposition by Russia and China. China's UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said China always had reservations about the delivery of cross-border aid, but given the current situation in Syria it does not object to retaining it "at this stage." Though he added that "it should be adjusted accordingly in light of the developments on the ground." Russia has vetoed 16 council resolutions related to Syria since Syria's president Bashar Assad cracked down on protesters in 2011, leading to war. For many of those votes, Moscow has been backed in the council by China.

Explosion shakes buildings in Tehran - report
The Jerusalem Post/July 12/2020
An explosion was heard in Tehran, shaking buildings in Iran's capital on Saturday night, according to international media.
Jalal Maleki, a spokesman for the Tehran Fire Department, stated that the explosion took place in northern Tehran in the basement of an old two-story house containing about 30 gas cylinders, according to the Iranian ISNA news. Several of the cylinders weighed five kilograms. The spokesman stated that a person who was injured in the basement was likely working with the cylinders, leading to the initial explosion. Explosions were reported west of Tehran on Thursday night, with some initial reports claiming that the explosions occurred at a missile depot belonging to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Power outages were reported in the area after the explosions were heard. Along with the denial of the explosion, Iranian media reported that the mayor of Garmdareh had stated that the explosion was caused by gas tanks, but it was later discovered that the quoted mayor had died over a year ago and that the quoted news was from years ago, according to the Independent Persian.

Turkey vows to 'liberate Al-Aqsa' after turning Hagia Sophia to mosque
The Jerusalem Post/July 12/2020
The resurrection of Hagia Sophia heralds the Liberation of the Al-Aqsa mosque, the Turkish Presidency website says.Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to “liberate al-Aqsa mosque” from Israel after “resurrecting Hagia Sophia” as a mosque on Friday.
The decision to change the status of the ancient Hagia Sophia church, which had been transformed into a mosque in 1453 and then into a museum in 1934, was made controversially last week.Recommended by
It follows an increasingly religious authoritarian agenda from Ankara that has made Turkey the world’s largest jailer of journalists, seen dissidents imprisoned for “terrorism” and witnessed increasing military invasions of neighboring countries by Turkey.
The resurrection of Hagia Sophia heralds the liberation of the al-Aqsa mosque, the Turkish Presidency website says. “The resurrection of Hagia Sophia is the footsteps of the will of Muslims across the world to come… the resurrection of Hagia Sophia is the reignition of the fire of hope of Muslims and all oppressed, wrong, downtrodden and exploited.”The speech, which was in Turkish, was translated slightly differently to Arabic and English, apparently as a way to hide part of Ankara’s full views on how it has linked Hagia Sophia to a wider agenda.
In Arabic the speech says that turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque is part of the “return of freedom to al-Aqsa,” essentially meaning Israel should be ejected from controlling Jerusalem’s Old City where al-Aqsa is located.
Turkey’s president linked the decision to reviving Islam from Bukhara in Uzbekistan to Andalusia in Spain. This terminology, linking al-Aqsa in Jerusalem to Hagia Sophia and Spain, is a kind of coded terminology for a wider religious agenda. In the Turkish translation the same reference to Spain does not appear to be included as in the Arabic. Turkey’s current president has long championed the Palestinian cause and been an extreme critic of Israel, famously walking off the stage at Davos during a discussion with former president Shimon Peres in 2009. Turkey then sent the Gaza flotilla to try to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza, leading to the deaths of 10 Turkish citizens when Israeli forces raided the Mavi Marmara ship. In recent years Turkey’s religious and political authorities have been making increasingly adversarial statements about Israel, vowing to mobilize the “Islamic ummah” in June against Israel’s annexation plans.
Linking the major change at Hagia Sophia to Jerusalem illustrates that Ankara’s ambitions are far larger than just reasserting Islamic prayers at the historic mosque and church in Istanbul; it is part of a larger Islamic agenda for the region.
Turkey’s ruling AK Party is rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey is a close ally of Hamas in Gaza. Hamas is also rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood. This strategy by Turkey seeks more influence across the region with like-minded groups and countries, such as Qatar and the Government of the National Accord in Libya. Turkey is seeking to supplant Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region, such as Egypt and Jordan, as the main determiner of what is “Islamic.”This means Ankara’s leadership believes that its changes to Hagia Sophia are only one step of a larger religious militarist agenda in the Middle East. Turkey invaded part of eastern Syria in October 2019 after depopulating the Kurdish region of Afrin in Syria in January 2018. Turkey then recruited Syrian refugees to fight in Libya’s civil war as part of an energy and military deal with Tripoli. In June, Turkey launched airstrikes in Iraq against Kurdish groups, claiming to be fighting “terrorism.” One day, Turkey could even aim its sights at Jerusalem. The speech about Hagia Sophia clearly indicated this is on the agenda in the future.

Iraqi Army Launches 4th Phase of Iraqi Heroes Operation
Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 12 July, 2020
The Iraqi forces launched Saturday the fourth phase of its battle against the terrorist organizations, in Diyala governorate on the border with Iran.
Deputy chief of staff Lieutenant General Abdul Amir al-Shammari announced the launch of the fourth phase of the “Iraqi Heroes” military operation targeting ISIS remnants and establishing security and stability in Diyala. He also indicated that the forces will be combing the border area with Iran and launching operations in areas between the federal forces and Peshmerga forces which terrorists use to launch their attacks. Shammari added that the operation was launched under the guidance of the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Mustafa al-Kadhimi, and under the supervision of the Joint Operations Command. He explained that the operation covers more than 17,000 square kilometers, with the participation of the Land Forces Command, the Federal Police Command, Rapid Response Forces, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), as well as Diyala, Samarra, and Saladin Operations Commands. Shammari said that the new military operation has important and specific goals, without specifying the nature of these tasks. On Saturday, the Security Media Cell announced the launch of the military operation in Diyala explaining that Iraqi Special Forces and other forces raided specific targets within the province, based on accurate intelligence information. This coincides with the government’s operation aimed to control border crossings with Iran, under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister. The Media Cell indicated that the joint security forces’ operations destroyed an ISIS headquarters, and six hideouts on its first day. They also destroyed six motorcycles used for launching terrorist attacks, and detonated four explosive devices. Diyala MP, and member of the Security and Defense parliamentary committee, Abdul Khaleq al-Azzawi confirmed that there is a large security vacuum between Diyala and Saladin. Azzawi added that ISIS usually takes advantage of this vacuum to infiltrate in and out of Diyala, allowing it to launch its terrorist attacks, which has greatly affected the security conditions of the province. However, former Saladin MP Muzahim al-Jabouri said that terrorist organizations exploit the disagreements in disputed areas to carry out more terrorist operations. Jabouri told Asharq al-Awsat that there is a link between sectarian or ethnic clashes in the disputed areas, and ISIS attempts to expand its operations. The time has come for the state to extend its control over all regions of the districts, regardless of the ethnic or sectarian backgrounds, stressed Jabouri.

CENTCOM Commander, Kurdish Leader Discuss Military Operation against ISIS
Qamishli - Kamal Sheikho/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 12 July, 2020
The Commander of the US Army Central Forces (CENTCOM), General Kenneth Mckenzie, discussed with the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mazloum Abdi, the launch of a new military operation against ISIS cells in northeastern Syria. Abdi announced that he explored with Mckenzie common issues, namely fighting ISIS, the growing threat of terrorism and establishing peace in the region. The Kurdish leader welcomed the ongoing US support to combat terrorism and establish stability. Earlier this week, Abdi met with commander of the Russian forces in Syria, Major General Alexander Chaiko. They discussed increasing coordination between them as well as the deployment of Russian forces east of the Euphrates River and the recent Turkish escalation and threat against northeastern Syria. In June, the SDF detained 110 ISIS terrorists during the first phase of its “deterring terrorism” campaign near the Iraqi border. Abdi also met with a delegation of Raqqa elders and tribal leaders. They discussed the increased ISIS activities after the Turkish attacks on the countrysides of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad. Kurdish forces will soon carry out a security campaign along the Euphrates River in the northern countryside of Deir Ezzour to pursue ISIS terrorists, end their threat and restore stability in the region, revealed Abdi. Meanwhile, vice president of the Autonomous Administration for North and East of Syria Badran Jia Kurd pointed out that exceptional economic situations have affected the services provided to citizens.The top official called on the international coalition, the US and humanitarian organizations to provide the necessary support to overcome the economic crisis created by the Caesar Act. He stressed that the administration is working to address the negative consequences of the Act by supporting service sectors, adding that it is also combating the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and fighting global terrorism on various levels. The Kurdish official accused the Turkish government of cutting Hasakeh’s drinking water supply and seizing the waters of the Euphrates River in a flagrant violation of all international standards and charters. He warned that this led to a significant drop in the water level of the dams, which affected electricity, drinking water and irrigation supply.

Egyptian Armed Forces Continue Drill near Libyan Border
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 12 July, 2020
The Egyptian armed forces continued on Saturday their “Hasm 2020” (Decisive 2020) drill near the western border with Libya. “This exercise is taking place on the western strategic border, given the severe and rapid changes the region is going through,” said a statement from the military.
The exercise was kicked off on Friday in the presence of Army Chief of Staff Mohamed Farid. The second day began with concentrated airstrikes through a number of aircraft against enemy command centers, along with aerial landings to secure the coast. Naval units carried out a number of exercises, including live fire with naval artillery and countering hostile submarines with depth charges that accurately hit their targets. They also launched several missiles from destroyers and submarines, while aircraft carried out concentrated strikes on hostile surface targets on the coast.
Last month, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said his country has international right to intervene in the Libyan crisis, citing the need to protect its porous border as grounds for “direct intervention” in the neighboring country. He added that the cities of Sirte and al-Jufra were “red lines” for Egypt that the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord must not cross.

Deal in Works to Resume Oil Production in Libya in Exchange for Turkish Withdrawal
Cairo – Khaled Mahmoud/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 12 July, 2020
Efforts are underway to strike a deal that would see the resumption of oil production in Libya in exchange for Turkey’s military withdrawal from the country and avert an impeding war in the Mediterranean. A document obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat revealed a proposal to Acting Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Stephanie Williams by Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar and a tribal and urban movement seeking the preservation of oil resources. They suggested the withdrawal of all terrorists brought to Libya by Turkey, eliminating the military deal signed between Ankara and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and removing the pro-GNA chiefs of the central bank and National Oil Corporation. The proposal was sent to Williams on June 10 and also calls for transferring Libya’s oil revenues to the al-Bayda-based central bank, which is affiliated with the interim government, and with the supervision of the UNSMIL. Haftar and the tribal and urban movement had met on June 9 to agree on the need for him to restore oil production in order to “safeguard the state and democracy.” Haftar stressed the need to stand by the UN mission seeing as it was the only side that could follow up on the implementation of previous demands. Meanwhile, Speaker of the East-based parliament, Aguila Saleh, was in Geneva for talks with European Union officials, a French delegation and Williams. A statement from the UN mission said they discussed his recent proposal to resolve the Libyan crisis, resume political dialogue and reach a comprehensive political solution. An official informed on the negotiations revealed American and international pressure on Haftar and an allied faction operating in Tarhuna. The faction was later named the ninth brigade. The LNA chief and faction are at risk of being placed on the International Criminal Court’s blacklist for their links to mass graves and the planting of mines in Tarhuna.

EU to Discuss Developments in Libya
Brussels - Abdullah Mostafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 12 July, 2020
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe said that foreign ministers will discuss Monday Libya developments and highlight the political solution for the crisis. The European Union (EU) will also host on the 23rd of July a meeting for high-rank officials to discuss the ceasefire in the country.
In his statement before the United Nations Security Council, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said that the EU will host in the last week of this month a meeting for the International Follow-up Committee on Libya (IFCL). “As European Union, we believe it is high time to put an end to this military conflict. This meeting brings together all countries which have the capacity, if genuinely committed, to contribute to a political transition in Libya. We all took strong commitments in the Berlin conference in January; it is now time to translate our words into concrete actions. We need to work collectively, under a strong United Nations leadership, to implement truly the conclusions of Berlin, which everybody accepted,” he said. “The polarization, which has turned Libya into a theater of proxy wars, needs to stop. Actions in support of one or the other Libyan party fuel the conflict, and some constitute clear provocations. We must go back to our Berlin-commitments, starting with the enforcement of the United Nations arms embargo, which unfortunately continues to be violated on all sides and every day, in all impunity,” Borrell added.
“We need a collective effort to favor the return of the Libyan parties to the negotiating table, starting with the UN-led 5+5 military talks to reach an agreement on a sustainable ceasefire.” Moreover, European Union foreign policy spokesman Peter Stano told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the success of Operation Irini in implementing the UN arms’ embargo in Libya would be an opportunity to stop the fight. Amid the ongoing escalation between both parties, the situation has worsened, he added.

Palestinian Factions Call for Escalation Through Protesting
Ramallah - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 12 July, 2020
A majority of Palestinian factions called for popular resistance against crimes committed by Israeli authorities.
They also demanded a unified stance against Israel’s occupation policy and systematic ethnic cleansing. The factions’ representatives held a meeting in Ramallah and submitted a statement to local media outlets during which they asserted that the continued Israeli occupation crimes against the Palestinian people are a flagrant violation of international law and relevant United Nations’ resolutions, especially UN resolution 194. “We would warn against current colonial Israeli settlement attempts in the al-Mughayyir village, east of the West Bank city of Ramallah, as Israeli government has endorsed some illegal settlement construction in the village. This has been noticed clearly in some restrictions, imposed recently, on local Palestinian farmers”, the statement read. The factions, mainly those linked with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), held Israel responsible for what they termed a lack of proper Israeli medical care to Palestinian prisoners, leading to the spread of coronavirus in one of the Israeli prisons. In response to such Israeli practices, the statement called on all Palestinians in the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, to take part in a large peaceful protest, this coming Tuesday evening, at the Ahmed al-Shukeiri square, in the city of Ramallah. Over the past several weeks, colonist Israeli settlers, protected by Israeli troops, have stormed a number of Palestinian-owned lands, across the occupied West Bank, and placed some caravans there. Palestinians view these practices, as attempts by Israeli settlers to seize Palestinian-owned lands for the purpose of expanding the existing illegal settlements. The Israeli government itself, announced a plan to annex some 30 percent of the Palestinian West Bank, to the occupation state of Israel. Although the official annexation has yet to take place, there has been no official announcement suggesting that he scheme has been dropped. The Palestinian Information Center reported, that the national and political parties declared, in a press release, the impossibility of accepting any proposal made by any party that grants the occupation state legitimacy. The only solution for the Palestinians is for Israel to end the occupation, which would enable the Palestinian people to exercise their right of self-determination, national sovereignty, with Jerusalem as its capital.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 12-13/2020
Turkey's Hagia Sophia: "It's Like If Saint Peter's Had Been Turned Into a Mosque"
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/July 12/ 2020
"Would you have enjoyed it so much if a mosque at the center of Europe were converted into a church?" — Ertugrul Özkök, Hurriyet, March 8, 2014.
Turkey, however, also apparently wanted to inflict humiliation on the West. By turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque, Erdogan has been able to embarrass Washington, mock Brussels and defy Moscow.
For Erdogan and the Islamists, Hagia Sophia is the prime symbol of Christianity's subjugation to Islam.
"Hagia Sophia is the symbol of conquest. It belongs to us". — Yunus Genç, head of the Istanbul branch of the Anatolian Youth Association, Le Figaro, October 7, 2020.
When cartoons of Mohammed appeared in Danish and French newspapers in 2005, the Muslim world erupted in violence.... Now that Turkey is turning its formerly most important Christian monument into a mosque, there is no protest, only silence and mumbling, which are nothing but the soundtrack of the West's submission to Islam.
Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued an unprecedented decree converting the historic Hagia Sophia cathedral once again into a mosque. Pictured: Islamists celebrate Erdogan's decree outside Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, on July 10, 2020. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)
"The city that Constantine had protected for more than a thousand years... has now undergone, in this unfortunate year, the destruction by the Turks. I suffer at the thought that the temple of Saint Sophia, famous all over the world, has been destroyed or desecrated. This is a second death for Homer, a second passing for Plato". These words by the great humanist, Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who became Pope Pius II, were written five centuries ago, after the great Christian city of Constantinople fell to the Ottomans.
Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued an unprecedented decree converting Hagia Sophia once again into a mosque. Erdogan's decree is a gesture of immense symbolism and historic meaning. "A threat against Hagia Sophia," said the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, "is a threat for the whole of Christian civilization".
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated:
"We urge the Government of Turkey to continue to maintain the Hagia Sophia as a museum, as an exemplar of its commitment to respect the faith traditions and diverse history that contributed to the Republic of Turkey, and to ensure it remains accessible to all".
For 916 years, Hagia Sophia had been the "world's largest basilica" and the main seat of the Eastern Orthodox church where, for centuries, emperors were crowned.
On May 29, 1453, Sultan Mehmet II, riding a white horse, arrived at the Hagia Sophia, the cathedral of "Divine Wisdom" built a thousand years earlier by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. Sultan Mehmet II, after bringing an end to the great Christian Byzantine empire, prayed to Allah in the largest church of Eastern Christianity.
"It's like if Saint Peter's had been turned into a mosque," said Michael Talbot, a lecturer of history at the University of Greenwich. "It's the fact that the seat of that church is no longer operating as a church and is in the hands of a rival religion".
Under the Ottomans, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque and remained so until 1934, when the secularist Turkish leader, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, turned it into a museum. It was to have been the emblem of a new Turkey, capable of blending the features of the East and the West.
Last week, after Erdogan's new decree, Islamists, shouting "Allahu Akbar", converged on the former cathedral. The site will be reopen for Muslim prayers as a mosque on July 24. It is believed that during the Muslim prayers, Hagia Sophia's world famous Byzantine mosaics will be covered.
Turkey did not, strictly speaking, need another mosque: in recent years Erdogan has built 17,000 mosques in the country. According to Ertugrul Özkök, writing in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet:
"A country where every day calls to prayer are recited from its 80,000 mosques, where prayers are performed five times a day, will now go and re-conquer one of the biggest symbols of the Orthodox world. Is that so?... Would you have enjoyed it so much if a mosque at the center of Europe were converted into a church?"
By appropriating the building, the defenders of political Islam seem to be trying to "erase Turkey's Christian past". A century ago, Christians made up 20% of Turkey's population, while now the figure is just 0.2%. According to Benny Morris and Dror Ze'evi, in their book, The Thirty-Year Genocide: Turkey's Destruction of Its Christian Minorities, 1894–1924:
"Turkey's Armenian, Greek and Assyrian (or Syriac) communities disappeared as a result of a staggered campaign of genocide beginning in 1894, perpetrated against them by their Muslim neighbors... By 1924, the Christian communities of Turkey and its adjacent territories had been destroyed".
Turkey has more Biblical sites in it than any other region in the Middle East except Israel. Turks in occupied northern Cyprus since 1974 have already wiped out its Christian past.
Inside Turkey, Erdogan has similarly escalated his war on the Syriac Church by seizing 50 churches, monasteries, and religious properties.
He also evidently wanted to inflict humiliation on the West. The day before his announcement, he expelled Christian missionaries. By turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque, Erdogan has been able to embarrass Washington, mock Brussels and defy Moscow.
For Erdogan and the Islamists, Hagia Sophia is the prime symbol of Christianity's subjugation to Islam. "Hagia Sophia is the symbol of conquest", said Yunus Genç, who heads the Istanbul branch of the Anatolian Youth Association. "It belongs to us".
Four popes have visited the former cathedral: St. Paul VI, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis I. Yet, 24 hours after its conversion to a mosque, no major Christian leader or scholar has denounced Turkey's religious assault on the Hagia Sophia.
Its current change of identity appears part of a long, deliberate project of re-Islamization. In 2016, for the first time in 81 years, Hagia Sophia got its own imam. Earlier, in 2012, in Iznik, another Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. The location was significant: Iznik, the ancient Nicaea, is where bishops from all over the Roman Empire had gathered in 325 to craft the Christian creed. A year later, in Trabzon, another famous Hagia Sophia, a museum since 1961, was also turned into a mosque and its Byzantine mosaics "covered with curtains and carpets".
When Erdogan was campaigning to become the mayor of Istanbul in 1994, he was already talking about "the second conquest of Istanbul" and even then had set his sights on taking back Hagia Sophia.
"Celebrating a conquest that took place more than five centuries ago may seem anachronistic, I would even say absurd, to European leaders", wrote the Turkish novelist Nedim Gürsel. "For Erdogan, the capture of Constantinople is another pretext for challenging the West".
According to Tugba Tanyeri Erdemir, a research associate at the University of Pittsburgh, the transformation of Hagia Sophia might also "embolden extremists to intensify their campaign of forced conversion and destruction of minority heritage sites".
"To convert it back to a mosque," said Turkey's Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, "is to say to the rest of the world unfortunately we are not secular anymore".
Political Islam is on the offensive on many fronts. Its advocates have been flooding Europe with mosques. The "largest mosque in Europe" will be a Turkish one in Strasbourg. In Germany, Turkey controls 900 mosques out of a total of 2,400. Extremists have also been imposing on Europe a new ideological crime, "Islamophobia", and have been financing and witnessing the "extinction" of all that remains of the splendor of Eastern Christianity that used to glorify these lands six centuries before Islam. Now, Islamists are converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque. They are not doing it only in their countries. In France, they have also asked for churches to be converted into mosques.
In Turkey, meanwhile, Erdogan keeps refusing to give permission to build any new churches. In fairness, in 2015, Turkey finally did approve a plan to build its first new church in 90 years.
Erdogan, according to a French scholar of religions, Jean-Francois Colosimo, expecting "a civilizational Munich" -- a reference to the 1938 pact in which France and Britain surrendered Czechoslovakia to Hitler. Erdogan could not have chosen a better moment. For weeks, politicians and elites in the West have been tearing down monuments -- either doing it themselves or silently watching the barbaric armies of Western self-hatred.
Double-standards now seem to be the norm as well. When cartoons of Mohammed appeared in Danish and French newspapers in 2005, the Muslim world erupted in violence. The same year, when Newsweek reported an alleged desecration of a Koran in Guantanamo Bay, the Muslim world, before the magazine quickly retracted the article, flew into a rage. 'When Pope Benedict XVI in Regensburg asked Islam to renounce fanaticism and intolerance in 2014, the Muslim world again erupted in violence. When Israel, in 2017, installed metal detectors in a compound to protect sites holy to Muslims and Jews, Erdogan accused Israel of destroying the Islamic character of Jerusalem. Now, however, that Turkey is turning its most important formerly Christian monument into a mosque, there is no protest, only silence and mumbling, which are nothing but the soundtrack of the West's submission to Islam.
"An apathy reminiscent of the absence of solidarity when the Byzantine Christian civilization sank with the fall of Constantinople in May 1453", Ivan Rioufol wrote in Le Figaro. "Neither Venice, France, nor England has come to the aid of this resplendent part of their culture. The story repeats itself".
*Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
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The US election will not deter Iran or Turkey from their expansionist projects
Raghida Dergham/The National/July 12/2020
Both countries are run by deeply ideological regimes in a multi-polar world
The Turkish leadership has adopted the same political model as the Iranian leadership, imposing its ideological agenda internally and flexing its military muscle regionally. They are both determined to export their religious ideologies to Arab countries – Turkey dreams of leading Sunni Arabs while Iran seeks to rally Shia Arabs – with both quests based on delusions of grandeur.
Sunni-Shia strife is at the heart of their projects. The weakening of several Arab states in recent times has encouraged Turkey to seek to restore the glories of its Ottoman past while Iran wants to convince itself that Persians are superior to Arabs. But the sectarian strike amounts to a precious gift for Israel, as this serves to weaken the Jewish state's enemies. Also to Israel's advantage is the fact that neither Turkey not Iran seeks a direct confrontation with Tel Aviv.
In much the same way, the preservation of tense relations with the West appears to be an ideological trait shared by both countries. Tactically, Ankara and Tehran feign hostility towards the West. Yet strategically, they are keen to not escalate tensions, particularly with the US.
The point is, for all their adventurism, they know that their geopolitical moves do not exist in a vacuum. And that there could be a price to pay for any overreach on their part. With 114 days left until the US presidential election that pits incumbent Donald Trump against Joe Biden, the question therefore is how both countries, but specifically Iran, are factoring it into their geopolitical calculations.
They are both unpredictable entities, so it is hard to tell.
Today, Turkey is playing a destabilising role in North Africa through its policies in Libya and Tunisia, knowing full well that Washington lacks the appetite to intervene in the war-torn country. In a way, Ankara is helping the US by indirectly keeping Russia's ambitions there in check. Could this change after the US election?
Iran, meanwhile, is partially responsible for the economic and political problems in Lebanon. For its part, it has come to dominate Lebanon through the extremist group Hezbollah, which is allied with disparate political entities led by President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
In Iraq, Tehran is facing more difficulties due to the US troop presence. The fact also remains that Iraq has a functioning state even as Lebanon has an abnormal one. At the same time, however, Iran is sabotaging Iraq’s future with the help of the Popular Mobilisation Forces, a coalition of militia groups that stand accused of assassinating leading national and intellectual figures, such as Husham Al Hashimi, with the purpose of intimidating anyone who dares think outside the Iranian box.
In the context of Tehran-Washington relations, what is happening at sea is just as important as what is going on inland.
Tehran’s senior military leaders are expected to retaliate against US attempts to seize Iranian oil tankers en route to Venezuela, Washington's adversary in South America. But what are the prospects of a stinging response from Tehran? There is no clear answer yet.
I am led to believe that the regime might seize oil tankers owned by Gulf countries. It will no doubt desire to exact even greater damage than that. But in reality, its hands are tied despite its advanced military capabilities. The leadership in Tehran pretends to be strong but it is under domestic and international siege as a result of an erosion of popular trust and approval, as well as of crippling US-led sanctions.
If it remains calm in the face of the tanker seizures, the regime would appear weak with potentially a heavy price to pay domestically. On the other hand, in the unlikely event that it responds militarily by – for example – shutting down the Strait of Hormuz, this would play into the hands of American foreign policy hawks in an election season.
Such is the extent of the regime's unpredictability that there seems to be a lack of consensus – at least among experts I spoke to – on whether it will risk incurring the wrath of America or, instead, wait to see if who will win the November election.
Speaking at the 10th e-policy circle of the Beirut Institute Summit in Abu Dhabi earlier in the week, Brett McGurk, a US national security veteran who served in three consecutive administrations, said the Iranians will be forced to take some form of action. “My experience with the Iranians is that they follow our domestic politics extremely closely, so I think they are probably calculating if there may well be an incident," he said. On the chances of a military confrontation before the election, Mr McGurk said: “I wouldn't put it past the Iranians to do something."
Tactically, Ankara and Tehran feign hostility towards the West. Yet strategically, they are keen to not escalate tensions, particularly with the US.
John Sawers, the former chief of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, holds a different view. “My own sense is that the risks of a clash in the Middle East have gone up, but I think the Iranians will probably be relatively calm in the senses in the same way they were to my surprise after the killing of Qassem Sulemani," he said during the same discussion, while referring to the assassination of Iran's most influential commander in Baghdad in January.
Both Mr McGurk and Mr Sawers believe that the US election will be historic and that a Biden presidency would be more reassuring for America's allies, with the latter predicting that a second Trump term would amount to a “rocky ride” for the world.
The question is whether Mr Biden will be inclined to revive some of the policies of former president Barack Obama, in whose administration he served as vice president, particularly those reflecting its accommodation of the Iranian regime and the Turkish-backed Muslim Brotherhood. After all, Susan Rice and Valerie Jarrett – both officials in the Obama White House – are said to be on Mr Biden's shortlist for vice president.
Mr McGurk, though, warned against drawing such a conclusion. He said what the Obama administration pursued in Egypt, by extending support to the erstwhile Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government in Cairo reflected “a unique moment in history with the Arab Spring and with everything that came of it".
Indeed, the world is a different place from what it was during the Arab uprisings in 2011. Whatever be the outcome of the election, therefore, both Iran and Turkey will be expected to continue their expansionist projects, sometimes even in co-ordination, such as in Syria.
*Raghida Dergham is the founder and executive chairwoman of the Beirut Institute

One Tool to Cut Racism in Policing: Traffic Cameras
Justin Fox/Bloomberg/July, 12/2020
Speed cameras made their US debut in 1986 in Galveston County, Texas. The Swiss-made devices, dubbed “PhotoCops” by the local company that lent them to police departments in exchange for a cut of the ticket revenue, seem to have been successful at reducing speeding. But law enforcement officials for the county and the Galveston suburb of La Marque decided after less than two years of experimentation that the cameras weren’t worth the bother, citing gripes from motorists and difficulties in getting violators to pay.
“If you got a letter in the mail a month after you drove down some highway, saying that you were going 68 and send $60, what would you do?” Galveston County Constable Paul Bess told the Los Angeles Times in 1987. “A lot paid, but a lot ignored it.”
This experience didn’t dissuade the wealthy Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley from getting its own PhotoCops that year, and it has kept using traffic enforcement cameras ever since. So has New York City, which installed its first red-light cameras in 1992 and is now expanding its camera network to more than 2,000 devices.
Most of the country, though, has come to share Galveston County’s distrust. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has become a big fan of speed cameras — but the NHTSA doesn’t make traffic laws; state and local governments do. Only 153 jurisdictions in 17 states 1 now use speed cameras, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, with almost a third of those in one state, Maryland. That is at least up from 111 in 2012, but the larger group of jurisdictions that use red-light cameras has shrunk from 556 in 2012 to 340 this year. Thirteen states have partially or completely outlawed the use of speed cameras, and eight don’t allow red-light cameras. In Texas, where it all began, the state legislature banned speed cameras in 2007 and red-light cameras last year.
In Europe, where traffic cameras were introduced in the 1960s by the Dutch company Gatso (now part of Sensys Gatso Group AB of Jönköping, Sweden) and began to be used on a large scale in the early 1990s, the experience has been much different. Speed cameras and red-light cameras are now ubiquitous and widely accepted — in the UK, for example, “getting Gatsoed” has become part of the vocabulary, and surveys show that nearly two-thirds of adults think the cameras are a good idea. Not coincidentally, roads have also gotten much safer. Traffic fatalities are down in the US too, but the trajectory of improvement has been sharper in countries with more widespread adoption of speed cameras. In the 1990s, the US was in the middle of pack as far as road safety. Now it’s starting to look like an outlier, and not in a good way.
The US Is Becoming a Road-Safety Outlier
Lots of more carefully constructed studies point to similar conclusions. A 2010 review of the 28 available studies of the effect of speed cameras reported that every one found a reduction in accidents near the cameras, with declines in serious accidents in wider surrounding areas ranging from 17% to 58%, and a 2016 update found similar if somewhat smaller effects. With red-light cameras there’s at least one contrary indicator — they may lead to more rear-end collisions — but the preponderance of evidence appears to show them to be effective in reducing red-light running and the resulting serious accidents.
Now there’s another reason to favor them. As transportation journalist Aaron Gordon wrote in Vice last month:
Any effort to eliminate racism in American policing must figure out what to do about traffic enforcement, which is the leading cause of interactions between police and the public, according to the Department of Justice. And, by law, it is almost entirely up to the officer whether to let the person go with a warning, give them a ticket, ask to search their vehicle, or escalate the situation even further. It is an interaction intentionally designed to let the officer do virtually whatever he or she wants, reflecting the inherent biases of our legal system.
There’s lots of evidence that law enforcement traffic stops disproportionately target Black motorists, and not a whole lot of counter-evidence (although there is some). Even after controlling for multiple possible confounding factors, the bias seems to persist. Perhaps most tellingly, it is less apparent at night, when it’s harder to see what drivers look like. In 2016, South Carolina US Senator Tim Scott, a conservative Black Republican not exactly known as a critic of law enforcement, described how earlier in his political career he had been pulled over seven times in a single year, usually for “nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or some other reason just as trivial.”
More-widespread use of speed and red-light cameras wouldn’t eliminate this practice, as there would still be lots of other reasons to pull over drivers. But it would surely reduce its incidence. It would also result in more consistent, fair and comprehensive enforcement of traffic laws.
It is this last consequence that seems to generate most of the political resistance to traffic cameras. A 2011 poll by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found big majorities in 14 cities with traffic cameras supporting their use, but this support is often tepid while the opposition can be quite vociferous. The most vocal opponents are often, as Streetsblog recently documented with regard to the New York City borough of Staten Island, people who’ve gotten lots of tickets. Since traffic laws are set by local and state officials usually chosen in low-turnout elections, a little vocal opposition can go a long way. To a remarkable extent, the rules surrounding traffic cameras in the US are thus being determined by repeat lawbreakers. People in law enforcement also seem less than enthusiastic about automated tickets. The loss of discretion is surely one reason — nobody likes seeing their decision-making powers taken away — but as the quote from the Galveston County constable near the beginning of this column indicates, there is also a sense that tickets-by-mail are less effective. The overwhelming statistical evidence on reduced accidents near speed cameras would seem to refute this, but there are admittedly some complications on the enforcement side, such as the fact that speed cameras can identify the car but not necessarily the person driving it. Still, a commitment to following through on enforcement may make a big difference. In New York City, it has gotten to be a sad tradition after fatal traffic accidents for the news media to report how many speeding or red-light citations the car owner had. In response, the city council this year upped the penalties for repeat violators to include possible impoundment of the vehicle. We’ll see how that goes. Traffic cameras aren’t perfect. In Chicago, red-light cameras incorrectly ticketed thousands of motorists from 2007 to 2014, a Chicago Tribune investigation found — although the problems seemed to stem from poor oversight more than the technology per se. 2 The rise of internet-connected digital cameras also raises legitimate concerns about whether traffic cameras are becoming tools of broader state surveillance. Still, it seems clear that, when used properly, they save lives. In 1995, the US and Germany had nearly identical road fatality rates. Now the US rate is nearly twice as high. If we had instead kept pace with Germany, 17,000 fewer people would die on the country’s roads each year. And it’s not like the Germans never get to drive fast; they just tend to do it only where it’s permitted.

How Risky is COVID-19?
John Authers/Bloomberg/July, 12/2020
It is difficult not to think in circles about Covid-19. There is a welter of research out there, very little of it yet subject to intensive peer review. Whatever your initial bias, someone somewhere has research to confirm it. To organize thinking, I would like to highlight just one piece of research — from Andrew Brigden, chief economist of Fathom Financial Consulting in London — that brought together the various strands better than anything I have read so far, or at least organized the problem for asset managers in a very useful way.
After crunching through some statistical analysis, Brigden found that the crucial reproduction number, or “R” rate — the number of people infected by each person who has Covid — tends to diminish in line with reduced mobility. In other words, the more people stay at home, the less they infect others. But crucially, R also decreases in line with the number of people who have already been infected. This second variable is plainly very good news. The more any individual country has had the disease already, the slower it is likely to spread. To show the effect, Brigden offered this chart of how much reduced mobility can explain infection rates in the UK on its own, compared with the actual change in R that has happened:
The UK’s drastic lockdown in March and April plainly had everything to do with bringing spread under control. But we would have expected infection rates to drift upwards as the country began slowly to return to normal in the late spring; instead, the R rate has continued to fall and remains below 1.
Naturally, one of the greatest concerns at present centers on the US, and the way that Covid is now taking hold across the states of the “Sun Belt” that had largely been spared during the beginning of the outbreak in March. The failure of these states to clamp down on mobility doubtless has much to do with this. But when Brigden mapped R in each state (for these purposes, simply looking at the multiple of new cases this week compared to last), against the death rate that it had already suffered, there was a clear and strong relationship. States with minimal death rates so far are suffering serious levels of R well above 2.
What is going on? Brigden very usefully breaks down the possibilities into five broad answers, which are not mutually exclusive. The first three, I would say, are unambiguously positive, both for us all as humans, and less importantly in terms of the prospects for risk assets. The fourth is somewhat negative, but still suggests that there is a clear if costly way to keep the damage wrought by the virus under control. The fifth would be a total nightmare:
Fear of dying from the disease provokes other changes in behavior, such as more frequent hand washing and the wearing of face masks, that prevent the spread of the disease but are not captured by measures of mobility.
Heterogeneity across the population means that we all have a different ‘R’ number, with some people, including those with a large network of contacts, more likely both to acquire the disease and to pass it on. Once those people have been exposed, and are no longer susceptible, the average R will fall.
The virus has spread far more rapidly than antibody testing suggests, which means the virus is running out of people to infect.
Potential ‘super spreader’ events — such as nightclubs, and music concerts that involve a lot of people being close together indoors — are no longer happening.
It is a seasonal phenomenon in the northern hemisphere, and it will return later this year in a ‘second wave.’
Living in New York, I see a lot of truth in the first. It is unusual to see people walking down the street unmasked, and more or less every building requires you to wear a mask to enter. I have never yet seen anyone complain about this. As the disease takes hold in the Sun Belt, I suspect strong and understandable resistance to minor inconveniences like mask-wearing will begin to disappear.
I can believe that there is a fair amount of truth to the second hypothesis, and the authorities are busily testing the third. In New York in the early days, plenty of people with nasty cases of Covid-19 who did not need to be hospitalized were never tested, and so do not appear in the figures.
The fourth makes much sense, and bodes ill for cinemas, theaters, professional conference businesses and sports played indoors as well as nightclubs. It must be miserable news for single people in their twenties. Going without such “super spreading” events would inevitably have a negative ongoing impact on GDP, but it would be well short of a disaster.
A true second wave (what is happening in the Sun Belt is a continuation of the first wave that hit the Acela Corridor) would be a disaster. The second wave of the Spanish flu in the fall of 1918 proved far worse than the first wave that spring. As a second wave of Covid-19 would overlap with seasonal flu, and would hit a population very reluctant to return to lockdown, it would be terrible for the world’s advanced economies, and quite possibly inflict even more economic damage than the first wave has done.

Facebook Disappoints Once Again
Tae Kim//Bloomberg/July, 12/2020
A widely anticipated meeting on Tuesday between the social media giant and the civil rights groups behind the recent Facebook ad boycott — including the Anti-Defamation League, NAACP and Color of Change — did not go well. The New York Times reported CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg met for about an hour on a video-conference call, but offered little in terms of concessions related to their policies for managing content on their social networks.
A negative response came swiftly. “It was abundantly clear in our meeting today that Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team is not yet ready to address the vitriolic hate on their platform,” the groups said in a statement. “Instead of actually responding to the demands of dozens of the platform’s largest advertisers that have joined the #StopHateForProfit ad boycott during the month of July, Facebook wants us to accept the same old rhetoric, repackaged as a fresh response.”
The representatives said Facebook offered to address just one of the groups’ 10 demands — the company was willing to create a position focused on promoting civil rights — but it didn’t promise to do so at the asked-for C-suite level. Otherwise, the company did not give an inch for the other nine demands, according to the groups. Frankly, Facebook’s inaction is not a surprise. The company has gone to this “hunkering down” playbook many times in the past. The old aphorism that says incentives often drive behavior seems to hold true for this tech giant. And on a pure dollars-and-cents level, the company is incentivized to do as little as possible.
We all know the worst types of content — such as hate speech, misinformation and false conspiracies, along with the outrage surrounding them — tend to be more viral and generate more page-views for social media firms. The upside for Facebook in elevating such engaging content is obvious, but the downside to society as a whole is vast — from mental-health issues to giving rise to scientifically discredited ideas such as the anti-vaxer movement. The brains of millions go down these poisonous rabbit holes.
Given Facebook’s recent stock performance, Zuckerberg may feel even less pressure now. After a brief decline late last month, amid the frantic coverage of advertiser pledges to pull ads from Facebook’s platforms, the shares are now back near all-time highs again. At the end of it all, the boycott was mainly about headline risk, not significant sales risk for Facebook. Last week, I argued Facebook should act on the back of a sea-change in perception and beliefs after the recent wave of protests over racial injustice, adding the true risk for the company was the prospect of future political blow-back, not a near-term revenue hit. That view still stands.
The strange thing is, meeting the civil rights groups’ demands isn’t such a big lift for a company with Facebook’s resources. Most of them are simply common sense. Following the meeting Tuesday, the civil rights groups reiterated them. Here’s a brief selection: Provide audit of and refund to advertisers whose ads were shown next to content that was later removed for violations of terms of service. Isn’t that just good customer service? Wouldn’t that assuage Facebook’s advertisers worried about brand safety placement, giving them confidence Facebook will take content moderation more seriously? Stop recommending or otherwise amplifying groups or content from groups associated with hate, misinformation or conspiracies to users. Not a big ask.
Enable individuals facing severe hate and harassment to connect with a live Facebook employee. That’s just a question of being willing to spend some money for something worthwhile. Unfortunately, it looks like Facebook will keep disappointing its critics. Last week, Zuckerberg told his employees that advertisers will eventually return and they will not change their policies under duress, according to The Information. “I tend to think that if someone goes out there and threatens you to do something, that actually kind of puts you in a box where in some ways it's even harder to do what they want because now it looks like you're capitulating,” the executive reportedly said.
For now, he may feel a sense of vindication. But instead of focusing on how it looks and establishing bad precedent, perhaps Zuckerberg should instead reassess his thinking and come to terms to this reality: The moral fabric of our society is fraying amid the disinformation propagated on his platform.
There may be a ray of light, however, small. Facebook said it will release its independent civil rights audit report on Wednesday after a two-year review of its policies and practices.
There may be a ray of light, however, small. Facebook released an independent civil rights audit report on Wednesday after a two-year review of its policies and practices. While the auditors commended the company on some positive improvements, the report questioned Facebook’s “full-throated commitment” in upholding civil rights. They said the company needed to do much more in addressing hate speech against minority groups, prohibiting white nationalism advocacy and protecting against voter suppression. On Tuesday ahead of the report’s release, Sandberg explained in a blog post that the company has heeded some of the recommendations and will do more, but won’t make all the changes the auditors asked for.
There is still room for real action. Let’s hope Facebook decides to do the right thing.