English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For July 30/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Woe to you Pharisees! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 11/47-51/:”Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute”, so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on July 29-30/2020
MoPH: 182 new coronavirus cases recorded
Aoun discusses electricity and fuel conditions with Ghajar, meets Sabourin
Berri: He who does not understand language of army will not understand language of homeland
Ibrahim, UNIFIL's Del Col tackle developments along southern borders
Ibrahim Meets Rahi: Neutrality Requires Consensus
Army Chief: Israeli Threat against Lebanon, Terrorism, Must Not be Underestimated
Lebanon Records Its Highest COVID-19 Daily Tally
Hariri Slams Diab over France Remarks and Hizbullah over South Tensions
Hizbullah, AMAL MPs Throw Support behind Controversial Dam Project
MEA Plane in Minor Collision on Nigerian Runway
Baalbek Town Isolated after 49 COVID-19 Cases
2 Nabbed over Ghosn Escape Say They Won't Flee U.S.
'Life at the Top': Faqra Mountain Club Dodges Economic Crisis
Turkey Denies Involvement in Lebanon Protests
Tourism Ministry Allows Takeaway, Delivery Services during Lockdown
Lebanon’s General Security Chief Meets Rai, Discusses Neutral Policy
Lebanon's Jumblatt Says Country Needs New Prime Minister
Israel Boosts Presence Along Lebanon Border, Expects Another Attempt by Hezbollah
Hariri Hopes August 7 Would be Day of Truth, Justice for Lebanon
Charity: Hunger Will Kill Children in Lebanon by Year's End
Lebanon's sectarian divides are deep, but most in the country want neutrality
Michael Young/The National/July 29/2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 29-30/2020
US imposes sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s eldest son Hafez
Iran launches first underground ballistic missiles in a drillظDebkaFile/July 29/2020
Russia’s Move to Build Copy of Hagia Sophia in Syria Stirs Debate
Head of Egypt's Intelligence Pays Brief Visit to Khartoum
U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Assad's Son and Syrian Mogul
US working with Saudi Arabia, partners to find political solution in Syria: Official
U.S. to Withdraw Nearly 12,000 Troops from Germany
Pentagon nominee deemed 'Islamophobic' to be grilled by Democrats in Senate hearing

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 29-30/2020

Palestinians: Accept Western Funds, Vote for Jihad/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/July 29, 2020
Poor Countries Are Running Out of Time to Get Rich/Mihir Sharma//Bloomberg/July 29/2020
We Has Decided to Make Money/Matt Levine/Bloomberg/July 29/2020
China Doesn't Want to Conquer, Just Do Business/Robert D. Kaplan/Bloomberg/July 29/2020
Can Donald Trump Retain the Keys to the White House?/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al-Awsat/July 29/2020
Some Travel Bubbles Might Remain Thought Bubbles/David Fickling/Bloomberg/July 29/2020


The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on July 29-30/2020
MoPH: 182 new coronavirus cases recorded
NNA/July 29/2020

182 new coronavirus cases have been recorded within the last 24 hours, taking Lebanon's tally to 4202, as reported by the Ministry of Public Health on Wednesday.

Aoun discusses electricity and fuel conditions with Ghajar, meets Sabourin
NNA/July 29/2020
President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, on Wednesday met Energy Minister, Raymond Ghajar, at the Presidential Palace, and discussed with him the electricity situation in light of technical faults. The meeting also tackled the fuel status in the country.
Herve Sabourin:
The President received the regional Director of the “Francophonie University Agency” (AUF), Herve Sabourin, in the presence of his Personal Representative to the Supreme Council of La Francophonie, Dr. Jarjoura Hardan.
Sabourin’s visit came on the occasion of the end of his missions in Beirut, after the years he spent strengthening cooperation between Lebanese and Francophonie universities.
President Aoun praised Sabourin’s efforts in Beirut, and wished him success in his new responsibilities.--Presidency Press Office

Berri: He who does not understand language of army will not understand language of homeland

/July 29/2020
Speaker Nabih Berri, in a statement issued by his media office, apologized for not accepting congratulation visits on the blessed Eid Al-Adha holiday due to the current circumstances that Lebanon and the region are going through.
He said: "The true feast for Lebanon and the Lebanese is that we live daily by the values and lessons of Hajj and Adha, and [that we practice] unity in stances, reform in national behavior and performance, and change in souls before texts, and avoid maliciousness and revenge."On the Army Day, the Speaker wrote the following note on the military institution's record: "It all starts from here... He who does not understand the language of his army, will not understand the language of his homeland."

Ibrahim, UNIFIL's Del Col tackle developments along southern borders
NNA/July 29/2020
General Security Chief, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, on Wednesday welcomed in his office UNIFIL Commander, Major General Stefano Del Col, with whom he discussed developments along the southern borders in light of the recent Israeli enemy escalation, in addition to the course of contacts related to the renewal of UNIFIL mandate.

Ibrahim Meets Rahi: Neutrality Requires Consensus
Naharnet/July 29/2020
General Security head Abbas Ibrahim held talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara el-Rahi on Wednesday noting that Rahi’s calls to neutralize Lebanon from regional conflicts require national “consensus” among the various Lebanese components. “Neutrality requires a consensual agreement among the entire Lebanese. God willing this will happen,” said Ibrahim after meeting Rahi in the patriarch's summer residence in al-Dimane. Rahi had repeatedly called during his latest Sunday sermons to neutralize Lebanon from conflicts ongoing in the region. His calls drew many different reactions. Al-Mustaqbal Movement, the Lebanese Forces and Kataeb party voiced support. Meanwhile a number of Shiite clerics voiced rejection. On the UNIFIL’s mandate which ends on August 30, Ibrahim said: “We are demanding, just like the Prime Minister (Hassan Diab) has demanded, that the mandate of UNIFIL be extended to maintain stability on both sides of the border.”“I am confident that our efforts will lead to fruition because there is determination to exit this tunnel,” said Ibrahim.
The security chief said his visit to Rahi is not intended to deliver a message from Hizbullah or anyone else.

Army Chief: Israeli Threat against Lebanon, Terrorism, Must Not be Underestimated
Naharnet/July 29/2020
Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun said on Order of the Day on Wednesday, that Israel and terrorism are two enemies threatening Lebanon, but assured that any attempt to tamper with civil peace will be confronted. Marking the 75th anniversary of Army Day, Aoun addressed the troops saying that Lebanon faces “two enemies that should not be underestimated, the Israeli enemy and terrorism.”He said “Israel repeatedly tries to undermine our national unity and seeks to achieve its ambitions in our land, water, and marine resources, in return for Lebanon's commitment to cooperate with the United Nations Interim Forces operating in Lebanon and Resolution 1701 with all its enactments.”On terrorism, he said the military incessantly “purses the terrorist cells and foils its attempts to destroy our society and tamper with its security and stability.”“The seventy-fifth anniversary of Army Day happens while Lebanon passes through unprecedented political, economic and social crises that burdened the Lebanese people and left a shadow of fear and anxiety for the future and the entity. Amid attempts to steer the country out of its crises, all eyes turn to the army,” said Aoun.

Lebanon Records Its Highest COVID-19 Daily Tally

Naharnet/July 29/2020
Lebanon on Wednesday confirmed 182 new coronavirus cases, its highest daily tally since the first case was detected on February 21. According to the daily statement of the Health Ministry, 168 of the new cases were recorded among residents and 14 among expats who arrived in the country in recent days. One more death was also recorded raising the death toll to 55, while the new cases raise the country's overall tally to 4,202 among them 1,753 recoveries. 136 COVID patients were meanwhile admitted into hospitals over the past 24 hours, including 30 into intensive care units.
While the locations of 63 local cases are being investigated, 30 cases were recorded in Baalbek district including 25 in al-Hillaniyeh, 24 were recorded in Baabda district, 13 in Northern Metn and 13 in Beirut.

Hariri Slams Diab over France Remarks and Hizbullah over South Tensions
Naharnet/July 29/2020
Ex-PM Saad Hariri lashed out Wednesday at Prime Minister Hassan Diab over the latter’s criticism of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s visit to Lebanon. “I don’t understand where PM Hassan Diab is taking us with this diplomacy towards our friends. How can a premier make a statement against a friendly country described as Lebanon’s tender mother?” Hariri said in a chat with reporters at the Center House. “We regret these statements,” Hariri added, criticizing Diab for saying that the French “don’t know anything.”“They in the government don’t know anything,” the ex-PM added. Diab had told Cabinet on Tuesday that Le Drian’s visit to Lebanon “did not carry anything new,” accusing the top French diplomat of having “a lack of information regarding the course of government’s reforms.”“They have a majority in parliament and government. Let them work,” Hariri added on Wednesday. He also stressed that the lengthy power cuts in the country are totally unacceptable, especially in the capital Beirut. “They will subject the central bank to a forensic audit. Let them apply it to all state institutions,” Hariri went on to say. Commenting on Monday’s flare-up on the Lebanese-Israeli border, the ex-PM said: “No one know what happened in the south. Is it necessary with the renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate for Hizbullah to do such an act? Who are we lying to? The army is there and UNIFIL is there. Where the government to tell us what happened?”“The dissociation policy is nonexistent and Israel is the one who aggressed, so is it acceptable to say that we would retaliate today or tomorrow?” Hariri added.“On top of the economic problem, we are creating another problem. If we want to go to war, the state is unaware of anything,” the ex-PM lamented. He accordingly called for focusing on the economic collapse, warning that “without addressing this issue, no one can resist or persevere.”Commenting on remarks voiced by Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil, Hariri reiterated that he is not seeking to return as premier. “I don’t want to be a premier, let no one impose conditions on me or claim that I want this or that post. I did not watch Jebran Bassil’s interview and each of us has his opinion,” Hariri said.

Hizbullah, AMAL MPs Throw Support behind Controversial Dam Project
Naharnet/July 29/2020
MPs Ali Ammar and Amin Cherri of Hizbullah’s Loyalty to Resistance bloc and MP Mohammed Khawaja of AMAL Movement’s Development and Liberation bloc on Wednesday announced that the two blocs support the continuation of the controversial Bisri Dam project, describing attempts to block the plan as a “water siege.”“The dam was constructed according to scientific studies whose feasibility is clear,” Ammar said at a joint press conference in parliament, responding to arguments that “the dam is not successful scientifically.”“We raise the voice high towards this targeting of a large segment of the Lebanese that they want to suffer thirst. All allegations and fabrications are being rallied all the way to the claim that the World Bank is colluding,” Ammar added. Warning that citizens’ water security is facing an “internal attack,” the MP warned that the two blocs “will not allow the thirst of our people.”
“We categorically reject this new water siege on our people and we will not tolerate it no matter what it takes,” Ammar went on to say. Later on Wednesday, al-Mustaqbal Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri also voiced support for the controversial project, saying it would provide much-needed water supply to Beirut and noting that there is no alternative. The Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc of the Progressive Socialist Party meanwhile reiterated its rejection of the project, explaining that is has reversed its initial support for it in light of reports and studies highlighting its "huge harm and risks" in addition to its "uselessness."The government says the Bisri dam is vital to tackling chronic water shortages. But activists say it will ravage most of the region's farmland and historic sites, and they also fear the consequences of building it on a seismic fault line. Construction of the Bisri dam is expected to cost $617 million (560 million euros), with most covered by a World Bank loan. The authorities and the World Bank have said the dam will meet the needs of 1.6 million residents suffering from water shortages in greater Beirut. They insist the structure will be safe and that measures will be taken to lessen seismic risks. The World Bank says the dam will have no impact on Lebanon's overall biodiversity, promising to offset any loss in Bisri with reforestation and "enhanced management" of the Chouf, a separate region nearby. They have also pledged to dismantle a small church and rebuild it somewhere else -- a proposal rejected by activists.

MEA Plane in Minor Collision on Nigerian Runway

Naharnet/July 29/2020
A passenger plane belonging to Middle East Airlines, Lebanon's national carrier, was involved Wednesday in a minor on-ground collision with a Turkish plane. "The wing edge of an MEA plane collided into the edge of a Turkish jet on the runway of the Lagos airport in Nigeria," MEA chairman Mohammed al-Hout told al-Jadeed TV. "The plane was stopped and the passengers were evacuated pending checkups to verify whether it is capable of flying," Hout added.

Baalbek Town Isolated after 49 COVID-19 Cases

Naharnet/July 29/2020
Authorities isolated the Baalbek district town of al-Hillaniyeh on Wednesday after 49 COVID-19 cases were recorded in it, Baalbek-Hermel Governor Bashir Khodr said. “We urge dear citizens, out of keenness on their health, to fully abide by precautionary measures,” Khodr tweeted. The government had agreed Tuesday to reinforce coronavirus lockdown measures after a spike in new cases threatened to overwhelm the crisis-hit country's healthcare system. Lebanon, a country of some six million people, has recorded a total of 3,879 cases of COVID-19, including 51 deaths.
It had gradually lifted lockdown measures and in early July opened Beirut airport to commercial flights after a closure of more than three months. But new cases have increased since restaurants, bars, clubs and resorts reopened.  To stem a larger outbreak, the government ordered a nationwide lockdown from July 30 until August 3, coinciding with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Information Minister Manal Abdul Samad said after a cabinet meeting. The lockdown will be suspended from August 3 until August 6, with restaurants and cafes allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity while nightclubs, bars, indoor pools and public parks remain closed. It will then go back into force for another five days, after which authorities will reassess whether stricter measures need to be taken.

2 Nabbed over Ghosn Escape Say They Won't Flee U.S.
Associated Press/Naharnet/July 29/2020
A U.S. magistrate judge improperly denied release to a father and son wanted by Japan on charges that they helped sneak former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn out of that country, their attorneys have said. Lawyers for Michael and Peter Taylor urged U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani to immediately free the men on bail. Their lawyers insisted the Taylors have no plans to flee the U.S. as they fight their extradition to Japan, noting that the men returned to Massachusetts from Lebanon earlier this year, even though they knew Japan was seeking their arrest. "If he manages to flee, he faces the life of exile, he faces the life as a fugitive," attorney James Ulwick said of Peter Taylor. "Where would he go to?" The Taylors have been locked up in a Massachusetts jail since their arrest in May. Magistrate Judge Donald Cabell denied them bail earlier this month, saying they pose a flight risk. Japan is asking the U.S. to hand over Michael Taylor, a 59-year-old U.S. Army Special Forces veteran, and his 27-year-old son Peter Taylor so they can be tried on charges that they smuggled Ghosn out of the country in a box last year while he was out on bail and awaiting trial on financial misconduct allegations. Bank records show Ghosn wired more than $860,000 to a company linked to Peter Taylor in October 2019, prosecutors said in court documents. Ghosn's son also made cryptocurrency payments totaling about $500,000 to Peter Taylor in the first five months of this year, prosecutors say. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Hassink said the Taylors are asking the court to believe that they won't vanish while Japan tries to extradite them, when their actions in Ghosn's case have shown a complete disregard for the rule of law. They're accused of "entering Japan with the sole purpose of helping a multimillionaire accused of financial crimes, Carlos Ghosn, escape from prosecution," Hassink said. "Their efforts required months of planning, millions of dollars and it garnered worldwide attention. Despite these facts, the Taylors ask this court to trust them," he said. Talwani seemed skeptical of the Taylors' argument for release. She noted that part of their defense against extradition is that Ghosn's actions of skipping bail are not a crime in Japan, and therefore helping someone escape while they are out on bail isn't a crime either. "It's hard to equate that with the idea that bail here would be something that would be respected," the judge said. Talwani did not issue a ruling during Tuesday's hearing but said she would have one "shortly."

'Life at the Top': Faqra Mountain Club Dodges Economic Crisis
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 29/2020
Panama hats and designer sunglasses, champagne buckets and luxury cars: in the mountain resort town of Faqra, Lebanon's economic crisis is not immediately obvious. Digging into a crunchy salad at an exclusive country club in the Lebanese mountains, Zeina el-Khalil said she was glad to have escaped here for the summer. "The atmosphere in Beirut has become heavy and depressing. Reality is everywhere. But here we feel like we're in another country," she said. Lebanon is mired in its worst economic crisis in decades, with the downturn sparking soaring inflation and plunging almost half the country's population into poverty. For the better-off, any plans of holidays abroad have been dashed this year after banks prevented dollar withdrawals or transfers and the coronavirus pandemic further complicated international travel. But around 200 of the country's most wealthy families have found an escape in Faqra Club, a private club perched 1,600 meters (5,250 feet) above the Mediterranean. "Usually we spend our holidays abroad, but this year we can't travel for financial reasons and COVID-19," said the woman in her fifties with a golden tan. Nestled in a mountain resort town famous for its ski slopes, the Faqra Club is an oasis of luxury in an otherwise collapsing country. It's motto, according to the official website, is: "Life at the top." Expensive cars packed the parking lot outside, while club members shuffled between its many facilities, which include a horse stable, a tennis court and a 9D movie theatre. Around a long swimming pool, bronzed bodies sprawled on sofas and sun loungers, some sipping cocktails, as music blasted in the background. "Life must go on," said Sara, a 26-year-old lawyer, a smile on her face.
"We won't stay trapped in the house," she told AFP from in the pool.
'Bank accounts abroad'
Sealed off from the many woes plaguing the rest of the country, the Faqra Club has become a magnet for those looking to make brisk business. Many restaurants and stores have opened Faqra chains, with the hopes of softening the blow of an economic crisis that has seen the value of the Lebanese pound plummet against the dollar on the black market. Along a bustling alley, around 40 kiosks dotted the side of the street, some displaying luxury swimsuits and silk Abayas. Selim Heleiwa, who owns a high-end liquor store in Faqra, said that people here can afford luxury, unlike the rest of their compatriots. "The customers here suffer less from the crisis. They are often people who work or have bank accounts abroad," he told AFP. Thousands of businesses across the country have closed, but for Heleiwa it is a "satisfactory" season, and he is not alone. The Auberge de Faqra, the main hotel in Faqra Club, is fully booked every weekend, while landmark hotels across the country have shut down because of bankruptcy. Its rate stands at 795,000 Lebanese pounds per night, equivalent to $530 at the official rate of 1,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar. But at the black market exchange rate, the stay costs only around $100.
For those who have access to the greenback, the price is a bargain, even though the club has almost doubled its rate since last summer. "Many of our customers have dollars. For them, the stay has actually become cheaper," said a hotel employee, who asked not to be named.
- 'Escape' -
The relative prosperity on display in Faqra has not gone unnoticed.
In early July, a video showing a teenager flaunting a dollar banknote to a TV reporter caused a storm of social media criticism against an out of touch elite sheltered from the country's crisis. But for Khalil, the criticism is unfounded. "Getting the economy moving and making life better is not a bad thing," said the woman, who is a director of a Lebanese NGO that teaches underprivileged children. "All the people here are trying to help the poor. If they are trying to live (at the same time)... that should not be seen in a negative light." Leaving a nearby restaurant with his family, Sharif Zakka, a 38-year-old expatriate, echoed a similar sentiment."Being physically here doesn't make you disconnected from people," said the man who has rented a chalet for $2,500 a month. "It's (only) an escape." Faqra Club owner Liliane Rahme said the club does not just benefit the rich. It is also an economic lifeline for more than 200 employees, mostly young students, she told AFP. For its members, it also serves an important purpose. "We don't want to die," she said. "The Lebanese love life. It is our way of resisting."

Turkey Denies Involvement in Lebanon Protests

Naharnet/July 29/2020
The spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry Hami Aksoy, denied allegations made by "some Lebanese politicians," that Turkey backs the protests in North Lebanon and that it seeks to increase its influence in that region, the National News Agency reported on Wednesday. “Allegations brought up by some Lebanese politicians are totally unfounded, that Turkey backs the protests in North Lebanon and that it seeks to increase its influence in the region. These malicious remarks must not be taken seriously,” said Aksoy in a statement replying to the question of a reporter.
He added: “Turkey pins great importance to the unity, stability and prosperity of Lebanon. Those raising these allegations are in positions that enable them well to know who interferes in Lebanon affairs.”Lebanon is witnessing an unprecedented economic and financial crisis in its history that saw its currency plunge to more than half its value. The biting crisis, coinciding with the outbreak of coronavirus, has pushed many Lebanese into poverty. Protests erupted in Lebanon in October 2019 against mismanagement, corruption and an incompetent authority that for decades has failed to address Lebanon’s accumulating crises.

Tourism Ministry Allows Takeaway, Delivery Services during Lockdown
Naharnet/July 29/2020
The Tourism Ministry on Wednesday revised a memo ordering the full closure of restaurants, cafes and sweets shops during the general lockdown that the country will observe from July 30 to August 3 and from August 6 to August 10. In a memo issued Wednesday, the Ministry said restaurants and sweets shops will now be allowed to open for takeaway and delivery services between 6am and 8pm during the general lockdown days. However, they will not be allowed to offer dine-in services to customers. The Ministry also noted that shisha delivery services remain prohibited in all Lebanese regions and during all times, while urging restaurants and sweets shops to abide by the anti-coronavirus precautionary instructions. The government agreed Tuesday to reinforce coronavirus lockdown measures after a spike in new cases threatened to overwhelm the crisis-hit country's healthcare system. Lebanon, a country of some six million people, has recorded a total of 3,879 cases of COVID-19, including 51 deaths. It had gradually lifted lockdown measures and in early July opened Beirut airport to commercial flights after a closure of more than three months. But new cases have increased since restaurants, bars, clubs and resorts reopened.
On Saturday, Lebanon recorded 175 new cases, its highest daily number of infections. To stem a larger outbreak, the government ordered a nationwide lockdown from July 30 until August 3, coinciding with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Information Minister Manal Abdul Samad said after a cabinet meeting.
The lockdown will be suspended from August 3 until August 6, with restaurants and cafes allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity while nightclubs, bars, indoor pools and public parks remain closed. It will then go back into force for another five days, after which authorities will reassess whether stricter measures need to be taken.

Lebanon’s General Security Chief Meets Rai, Discusses Neutral Policy

Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 29 July, 2020
Head of Lebanon’s General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, visited on Wednesday Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai in Diman, to discuss the patriarch’s calls for dissociating the country from regional conflicts. In remarks following a meeting of the Supreme Council of Defense in Baabda on Tuesday, Ibrahim announced that he would visit the patriarch on Wednesday at his summer residence in Diman (northern Lebanon). Well-informed sources denied information saying that Ibrahim would present an initiative from the Shiite duo – Amal Movement and Hezbollah - regarding Lebanon’s neutrality. “This visit has been scheduled days ago, before Rai raised the issue of neutrality,” the sources said, pointing out that the meetings between Ibrahim and the Maronite patriarch were periodical and constantly maintained.
Meanwhile, political sources denied claims that Hezbollah has asked Ibrahim to mediate with Rai. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, they said: “The party will not assign anyone to take an initiative as long as the issue is not raised by any [Hezbollah] official, including its deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem.” The Patriarch launched in early July a call to announce Lebanon’s neutrality and distance the country from regional and international conflicts. The call, widely supported by several political parties, was met with silence from Hezbollah and the Amal Movement.
In the Sunday Mass sermon, Rai said the first and main target from a neutral system was to strengthen unity, safeguard Lebanon’s “entity, sovereignty, and independence” and enhance “national partnership, stability and good governance.”He added that neutrality would help in preserving Lebanon’s sovereignty, distancing it from foreign conflicts and achieving stability and economic growth, which would allow for Lebanon’s return to its historical role as a bridge linking the East and West.

Lebanon's Jumblatt Says Country Needs New Prime Minister
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 29 July, 2020
Lebanon needs a new prime minister to help it exit a deep economic and financial crisis, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt said in an interview published on Wednesday. The veteran Druze power broker said replacing Hassan Diab "should seriously be considered because he has amnesia," according to comments to local daily L'Orient-Le Jour that were confirmed by his office. The newspaper said Jumblatt was referring to remarks by Diab on Tuesday in which he appeared to criticize French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for linking assistance to Lebanon with enacting of reforms and an IMF deal. Le Drian visited Beirut last week. "It is high time the sponsors of the government realize the gravity of the situation their protege (Diab) has put us in," Jumblatt said. Lebanon desperately needs aid as it wrestles with a financial meltdown rooted in decades of state corruption and waste, in its worst crisis since a 1975-90 civil war. It entered negotiations with the International Monetary Fund in May after defaulting on its foreign currency debt. Jumblatt's party is not represented in Diab's cabinet that was formed in January. The state news agency quoted Diab as telling a cabinet meeting that Le Drian's warning and "lack of information" about government reforms indicated an "international decision not to assist Lebanon". Diab has deleted a tweet stating the same. The IMF talks have stalled in the absence of reforms and amid differences between the government and banks over the scale of Lebanon's financial losses.
The finance ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that the IMF dialogue was "ongoing and constructive", and the government remained commitment to constructive engagement over its debt restructuring.

Israel Boosts Presence Along Lebanon Border, Expects Another Attempt by Hezbollah
Beirut, Tel Aviv- Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 29 July, 2020
The Lebanese government is preparing to file a complaint with the United Nations against Israel over the latest border escalation, linking the security clash to Tel Aviv’s attempt to amend the tasks of the international peacekeeping forces operating in the South (UNIFIL) and to change the rules of engagement with Lebanon. A cautious calm prevailed in the southern region on Tuesday following shelling in the occupied Chebaa Farms. Tel Aviv said it thwarting a Hezbollah attack, while the movement asserted that it was unilateral shooting. “[Hezbollah] affirms that there has been no clash or shooting on its part in the events of the day until now. Rather, it was only one party, which was the fearful, anxious, and tense enemy,” a statement by Hezbollah said. According to the Israeli account, the shelling began when Hezbollah members penetrated the border and tried to reach an Israeli military site in the occupied Chebaa farms. An Israeli official said that his forces have deliberately abstained from killing the four cell members, in order to prevent Hezbollah from exploiting the clash in its favor. Tuesday’s calm was breached by intense flights by Israeli military jets in the areas of the South, Metn, and Mount Lebanon. Jets flew at medium altitude according to a report by the National News Agency (NNA). The Lebanese Army registered 29 hostile air violations, during which circular flights were carried out over the southern regions on Monday. Hezbollah and the Israeli army remain on high alert on both sides of the border despite the relative calm after the shelling. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited on Tuesday the headquarters of the northern military region and held consultations with senior military officials. “Our operation was an important one, in which we thwarted a penetration of our lands. All that is happening now is an attempt by Iran and its proxies in Lebanon to strengthen their military presence in our region. Nasrallah serves this Iranian interest at the expense of the Lebanese state. I do not invite anyone to test the Israeli army’s [capabilities]... We are determined to defend ourselves,” he said. Military sources said that Israel was expecting another attempt by Hezbollah to carry out a retaliatory operation against the killing of its field commander, Ali Kamel Mohsen, by an Israeli airstrike on a site near Damascus 10 days ago. The sources expected that the operation would take place around Eid al-Adha this week. The Lebanese authorities are seeking to address the security development diplomatically. Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti condemned the shelling in remarks following a cabinet session on Tuesday. “We will file a complaint to the Security Council and we will stress our adherence to the extension of UNIFIL tasks without amendments,” he said.

Hariri Hopes August 7 Would be Day of Truth, Justice for Lebanon

Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 29 July, 2020
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his al-Mustaqbal Movement await the verdict of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the case of his father’s Feb. 2005 assassination. The Movement “looks forward to the seventh of August to be a day of truth and justice for Lebanon and a day of punishment for the criminals,” Hariri’s parliamentary bloc said in a statement on Tuesday. The ex-PM informed the bloc of the decision to postpone the third Mustaqbal Movement Congress over the coronavirus outbreak, and stressed that it will be held when conditions are ripe. Hariri stated that the Congress will be held under the slogan of “justice for Lebanon”, and that conditions that compelled the delay do not contradict with Mustaqbal’s full commitment to justice in the case of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and the verdict that the Tribunal will issue on August 7. “We never lost hope in international justice and in the truth being revealed, after the Lebanese security and judicial apparatus failed, during the (Syrian) tutelage era,” the statement quoted Saad Hariri as saying. “I do not want to anticipate the announcement of the verdict on August 7. National and moral responsibility imposes on me personally, on al-Mustaqbal Movement and the public of martyr Rafik Hariri, and on all the families afflicted by the series of assassinations, to await the verdict and build on it, he said. “We in al-Mustaqbal Movement look forward to the seventh of August to be a day of truth and justice for Lebanon and a day of punishment for the criminals,” Hariri added.
Hariri called on his supporters to be patient and calm, and to act responsibly. He also urged them to avoid clashes on social media before and after the verdict is issued. He said: “From now until the seventh of August, I will be among you, and hopefully, we will have something else to say.”

Charity: Hunger Will Kill Children in Lebanon by Year's End
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 29 July, 2020
Close to a million people in Beirut can no longer afford basic necessities and children are likely to starve to death this year, the charity Save The Children said Wednesday. The group said 910,000 people, more than half of them children, in the Greater Beirut area no longer have sufficient amounts of food because of the economic crisis. "We will start seeing children dying from hunger before the end of the year," said Jad Sakr, acting country director of Save the Children in Lebanon. Lebanon's economy has collapsed in recent months, with the local currency losing 80 percent of its value, businesses closing en masse and poverty soaring at the same alarming rate as unemployment. The economic crisis, the worst in Lebanon's history, is compounded by the loss of income caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. "This crisis hits everybody -- Lebanese families, Palestinian and Syrian refugees alike," Sakr said.
The charity recounted the case of a young Syrian mother living in southern Lebanon whose nine-year-old daughter offered to sell tissues on the highway so her siblings would not starve, Agence France Presse reported. Save The Children urged the government of Lebanon, which has yet to strike a deal with the International Monetary Fund for emergency aid, to set up assistance mechanisms covering the basic needs of the most vulnerable, AFP said.

Lebanon's sectarian divides are deep, but most in the country want neutrality
Michael Young/The National/July 29/2020

مايكل يونج/ ذا ناشونال: الانقسامات الطائفية في لبنان عميقة، لكن غالبية اللبنانيين يريدون الحياد
Earlier this month Lebanon’s Maronite Christian patriarch Bishara Al Rai made the first of a series of sermons in which he issued an appeal for Lebanon to be a neutral country and for this neutrality to be recognised internationally. The appeal has opened up fault lines within the country’s sectarian order, placing Hezbollah and many officials in the Shia community in a quandary.
At the heart of the patriarch’s thinking is the fact that today Lebanon is widely perceived in the region and outside it as having fallen under the control of Iran and Hezbollah. Because of this, no Arab country, including historically, supporters from the Gulf, has intervened to assist Lebanon as it faces a major financial crisis and the prospective collapse of its economy.
Yet to reduce Patriarch Rai’s thinking to a matter of money would be a mistake. It goes beyond that to include a conviction about Lebanon’s nature. “Today, Lebanon has become isolated from the whole world,” he stated on July 14. “This is not our identity. Our identity is positive and constructive neutrality, not a warrior Lebanon,” he added, in a clear reference to Hezbollah’s militancy.
The patriarch was harking back to a founding principle of post-Independence Lebanon, one integrated into the defining National Pact agreed in August 1943 between the leading Maronite and Sunni politicians in the country at the time, Bishara Al Khoury and Riad Al Solh.
Among the things they decided was that Lebanon would have an “Arab face” but would also be independent. By this they meant the country would remain at an equal distance from France, then still the mandatory power, and the Arab world. Christians would not seek French or Western involvement in Lebanese affairs, and Sunni Muslims would avoid unification schemes with other Arab states.
This idea of Lebanon as “tilting neither East nor West” took on a more positive role in the years following independence, when Lebanon’s wealth was built on its being a link between East and West. The country was a regional entrepot that benefited financially and politically from its economic accessibility and being on good terms with most of the broader regional and global alignments.
Short of engaging in a civil war, the best that Hezbollah’s Lebanese opponents can do is reassert preferences for the country that are well anchored in a national consensus
Therefore, in tying Lebanon’s disastrous economic situation today to the fact that it has abandoned its openness to all sides, Patriarch Rai was implicitly pointing a finger at Hezbollah, which has driven the country into the pro-Iran camp, with its myriad enmities. Following his appeal, local and foreign politicians opposed to Iran’s hold over Lebanon met with the patriarch and many backed his views.
The political and sectarian dividing lines were very clear. Hezbollah and members of the clergy supportive of the party criticised the patriarch’s appeal. Christian politicians allied with Hezbollah, such as President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, were in a bind. While they could not openly oppose their community’s religious leader, they added caveats underlining their lack of enthusiasm for what he had said, against the views of many other Christians.
Some will focus on whether the patriarch’s initiative has any chance of being implemented. The simple answer is no, not in a country where Hezbollah plays a leading political role and intends to keep Lebanon within the Iran-led “axis of resistance.” However, the patriarch did throw a stone into the hitherto serene pond of Hezbollah’s highhandedness in Lebanon. Nor was this new.
The first challenge to Hezbollah’s and Syria’s vision for Lebanon came during the years of the late prime minister Rafik Hariri. At the time, Hariri’s ideal echoed the post-Independence republic—that of a country that would become the region’s business centre, attract outside investment, and appeal to the Arab world and the West. Standing against this was the preference of Hezbollah and Syria for a garrison state that would focus on opposing Israel and the US.
A bomb expert from the Lebanese army inspects an unexploded ordnance inside a home in Hebarieh village, after reported Israeli bombardment of the Shebaa Farms area. AFP
These two visions clashed and in 2005 when Hariri was about to lead a political alliance in legislative elections that could have challenged Syria’s hold on Lebanon he was assassinated. In the aftermath of his killing, Hezbollah sought to reverse the uprising of 2005 that had forced Syria to withdraw from the country, and it began asserting its hegemony over Lebanese institutions.
This push was accompanied by the imposition of Iranian priorities. The party intervened in the Syrian conflict on behalf of the Assad regime in 2013, though it had previously agreed with its Lebanese partners to a policy of “distanciation” that would preclude such an action.
Hezbollah’s main agenda is to keep Lebanon in the Iranian orbit, whatever the price. However, what Patriarch Rai has done is to rip away the facade the party had imposed on all, making it clear that Hezbollah’s model is one that many Lebanese oppose. While the party claims to be a “national resistance,” neutrality towards regional conflicts appears to be much more enticing for many Lebanese.
Does this matter? Short of engaging in a civil war, the best that Hezbollah’s Lebanese opponents can do is reassert preferences for the country that are well anchored in a national consensus. Hezbollah can intimidate those with whom it disagrees but it cannot change minds. It is to Patriarch Rai’s credit that he has shown that the party’s sway over Lebanon is more fragile than it appears, even as his appeal offers a stinging riposte to those in Israel and the US who insist that Lebanon and Hezbollah are one and the same.
*Michael Young is editor of Diwan, the blog of the Carnegie Middle East programme, in Beirut

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 29-30/2020

US imposes sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s eldest son Hafez
Joyce Karam/The National/July 29/2020
Hafez Al Assad is being sanctioned to block the regime from receiving money that would be used to facilitate its activities
Hafez Al Assad, born in 2001, is the eldest son of the Syrian leader who has ruled since 2000. He is being sanctioned to block the regime from receiving money that would be used to facilitate its activities.A senior US official told The National that this is “in line with our previous designations, which include the father [Bashar] and mother [Asma Al Akhras]". "We have seen a rise in his [Hafez] prominence in the family," the official said, adding that adult children and family members of senior regime figures “have continued to conduct business on behalf of their parents”.
Also designated is Mr Al Qattan, a prominent businessman whose companies run malls and real estate projects in Damascus, the Syrian capital. He is being sanctioned under what is known as the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act – signed by US President Donald Trump in December – which targets any affiliates of Mr Al Assad. Al Qattan's name "first emerged within the Damascus business community in July 2017, when his company Muruj Cham Investment and Tourism Group won an auction to re-invest in Qasioun Mall,” the Treasury Department said.
He now holds several contracts with the Syrian government to develop government-owned shopping malls and hotel properties in Damascus. Entities owned by Mr Qattan and affiliated with the regime including hotels, vehicle sales companies, and furniture manufacturing stores have been designated as well.
Along with Mr Al Assad's son and Mr Al Qattan, 12 more individuals and entities were designated under the Caesar Act. These include the head of the First Division of the Syrian Arab Army Zuhair Tawfiq Al Assad and his son Karam. They are being sanctioned for their military's brutal activities during the ongoing war, the State Department said. Speaking with reporters, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Special Envoy for Syria Joel Rayburn said the new sanctions “highlight the corrupt duplicity of the Assad regime.”“The sanctions are having a chilling effect on outside investment coming into Damascus,” Mr Rayburn said. Asked by The National if the US government is willing to offer sanctions exemptions to the Lebanese government for importing electricity from the Syrian regime which now constitutes a violation of the Caesar Act, Mr Rayburn indicated that such requests undergo a thorough review and that no decision has been made yet. “We have an established process to review exemptions for licenses…we haven’t made any decisions [yet]”, he said. Mr Rayburn warned however, that the bar would be very high to allow waivers that would favour the Assad regime.
The regime, he added, “is not the answer to Lebanon’s electricity difficulties, [a sector] that has to undergo head to toe reforms.”Another US official commenting on the sanctions urged governments and businesses in the Middle East to take note of such actions, adding that actors in violation of the Caesar Act will be held accountable. The Caesar Act passed the House and Senate wit.


Iran launches first underground ballistic missiles in a drill
DebkaFile/July 29/2020
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Wednesday, July 29, launched underground ballistic missiles in a military drill in which a mock US aircraft carrier was attacked in the Strait of Hormuz. Drone footage showed two missiles blasting out from covered positions in what appeared to be a desert plateau in central Iran. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the IRGC’s aerospace division said this was the first underground launch of a ballistic missile. Most of this arsenal is believed to be hidden in underground silos. A day earlier, footage of the first day of exercise, dubbed Payambar-e Azam 14 (The Great Prophet), broadcast on state television showed a missile fired from a helicopter leaving a trail of smoke before appearing to smash into the side of the fake warship, a rough replica of the USS Nimitz. Other footage from the exercise showed speedboats encircling the replica, commandos rappelling onto the deck of the vessel, and scuba forces underwater. Antiaircraft batteries were seen firing from a location that the report described as being near the port city of Bandar Abbas.
The missiles used in Iran’s military exercise were not identified.
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The US Navy condemned the “irresponsible and reckless behavior by Iran,” calling it an attempt “to intimidate and coerce.”The firings prompted a military alert at two US CENTCOM Gulf headquarters – the Al-Dhafra Air Base at Abu Dhabi in the UAE and the Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. Troops were told to seek cover. “The incident lasted for a matter of minutes and an all clear was declared after the threat … had passed,” said Central Command spokeswoman Beth Riordan. A semiofficial Iranian news agency published a graphic showing an American carrier into the shape of a casket with a set of crosshairs painted on it and a caption quoting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as pledging to avenge the US drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in January.


Russia’s Move to Build Copy of Hagia Sophia in Syria Stirs Debate
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 29 July, 2020
Russia’s support for the building of a church, named Hagia Sophia, in Syria’s central Hama countryside has prompted debate among Syrian activists. The naming of the church was seen as Moscow’s response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to convert the iconic Hagia Sophia in Istanbul back to a mosque. Pro-regime social media users and media posted photos of the laying of the foundation stone of the church in al-Suqaylabiyah city. The move was backed by the Russian Duma and the event saw the participation of members of the Russian Duma and local national defense forces. The construction was proposed by Nabel al-Abdullah, leader of the pro-regime national defense forces. Russian lawmaker Vitaly Milonov said Russian Orthodox Christians can help Syria in building a copy of the original Hagia Sophia, adding: “Contrary to Turkey, Syria is clearly demonstrating the ability to hold peaceful dialogue.” He added that Syrian president Bashar Assad had never converted a place of worship of one religion to a place of worship of another.Sources close to Damascus told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Russians were boosting their relations with Syria’s Christians for economic and political motives as they enjoy good ties with Christian businessmen. They added that regime loyalists along the Syrian coast have “warily” been monitoring the developments in Suqaylabiyah as they are “worried that Russia would strengthen its relations with Christians at their expense.”Church sources in Hama told Asharq Al-Awsat that this was not the first time a Russian delegation visits Suqaylabiyah and other Christian towns in the province. Previous visits saw Russian officials meet with Orthodox clerics.
Russia’s interest in Syria’s Christians, especially the Orthodox sect, stems from the Russian church’s belief that it is carrying on the legacy of the Byzantine church that is based in Constantinople, now Istanbul, they continued. Abdullah said the founding of the Hagia Sophia church in Suqaylabiyah “is a reminder that a spiritual landmark cannot be erased by a fanatic and murderer.”“The dream of Ottomanization still fascinates some minds,” he added in an indirect reference to Erdogan.
He said the church will be built on his own private property and funded by him personally. He added that his idea received the blessing of the Patriarch of Antioch.

Head of Egypt's Intelligence Pays Brief Visit to Khartoum
Khartoum - Mohammed Amin Yassine/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 29 July, 2020
The Head of the General Intelligence Service, Major General Abbas Kamel, landed Tuesday in Khartoum on a brief one-day visit to discuss with Sudanese officials the latest developments of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Kamel transferred a verbal message from Egyptian President Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi to the Head of the Transitional Sovereign Council, Lieutenant General Abdul-Fattah al-Burhan on bilateral relations and ways to support and develop them and the enhancement of the common interests betwen the two countries. Kamel also held talks with the First Deputy Chairman of the Transitional Sovereign Council, Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, on the developments concerning the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and efforts made to overcome differences through dialogue. For his part, Burhan expressed his thanks and appreciation to the Egyptian intelligence chief for the visit and conveyed his greetings to the Egyptian leadership. Sudanese Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Yasser Abbas conveyed his country’s reservation over the Ethiopian unilateral move of filling the dam before reaching a binding agreement between the three countries, considering the move as a harmful and disturbing precedent in the path of cooperation between the concerned parties. During talks held Monday on filling and operating the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam at the invitation of South Africa, the current Chairman of the African Union, Khartoum had asked for postponing the negotiations for another week to make consultations. On Tuesday, Hamdok chaired the first meeting of the High Committee for the Follow up of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The meeting went over Ethiopia's unilateral move of filling the dam, as well as its impact on Sudan and the track of negotiations in the future.

U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Assad's Son and Syrian Mogul
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 29/2020
The United States on Wednesday slapped sanctions on the son of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, extending efforts to block funds for the war-torn country's regime. Hafez al-Assad, 18, named after his grandfather, will not be allowed to travel or maintain assets in the United States, the State Department said.
The designation was part of a second set of sanctions under the Caesar Act, a U.S. law that took effect in June that aims never to normalize the Assad regime even as it succeeds in winning back most of Syria after a brutal nine-year war. "We will continue to hold Bashar al-Assad and his regime accountable for their atrocities, while keeping the memory of their victims alive," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. "It is time for Assad's needless, brutal war to end," he said. Also hit by the new sanctions is the Syrian businessman Wassim Anwar al-Qattan, who is involved in major construction projects in Damascus. The United States, however, has not yet targeted business interests from Assad's key ally Russia. Fears of action against foreign investors under the Caesar Act have wreaked havoc on Syria's war-ravaged economy by clouding hopes for reconstruction. The United States has already imposed sanctions on Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma. A senior U.S. official said the sanctions against their only adult child was meant to stop Hafez from becoming a conduit for his family overseas. "It's also because we have seen a rise in his prominence within the family," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. "Adult children are essentially continuing to conduct business in the name and on behalf of their sanctioned parents or other adult relatives," he said. The young Hafez al-Assad has mostly made headlines for his passion for math, taking part in international competitions in Brazil and Romania.
In 2017, he finished in 528th position out of 615 in a contest in Rio de Janeiro.

US working with Saudi Arabia, partners to find political solution in Syria: Official
Joseph Haboush, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday 29 July 2020
The United States is coordinating with major Arab partners, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, about what to do to reach a political solution to the Syrian conflict, a senior US official told Al Arabiya English on Wednesday.Washington announced its second round of sanctions against the Syrian regime, including designating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s son and the First Division of the Syrian Arab Army. Rather than protect Syrian citizens, the army played a pivotal role in arbitrarily detaining, torturing and murdering thousands of Syrians, US officials said Wednesday.
The sanctions will continue in what US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Special Envoy for Syria Joel Rayburn said is the “Summer of Caesar.”Last month, the US sanctioned Assad, his wife and his younger brother in the first batch of sanctions under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, also known as the Caesar Act. The latest US sanctions were named the “Hama and Maarat al-Numan sanctions,” referring to the 2011 and 2019 killings and sieges of both towns by the Assad regime. Asked by Al Arabiya English if there was coordination between the US and its Arab and Gulf partners over Syria, Rayburn said Washington was in “very close coordination with our Arab partners on the Syrian conflict.”Rayburn cited the Small Group on Syria, which brings together the US, France, United Kingdom and Germany alongside Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. “We are in near-continuous discussion with major Arab partners about what we need to do together to try to reach a political solution to the Syrian conflict,” the US official said during a briefing with journalists. Rayburn also touched on a waiver request from the Lebanese government, which seeks to continue dealing with Syria to help its dilapidated electricity grid. A decision has not been made, “but the bar would be very high for us” to consider allowing a waiver that significantly benefited the Assad regime, Rayburn said. Lebanon has submitted a request to Washington, a senior Lebanese official previously confirmed to Al Arabiya English. “It will take time,” the official said, confident that a waiver would be granted. “The Assad regime is not the answer to Lebanon’s electricity difficulties,” Rayburn said, adding that Lebanon would need “some significant head-to-toe reform” if it wanted to deliver basic electricity needs.

U.S. to Withdraw Nearly 12,000 Troops from Germany
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 29/2020
The United States will slash its military presence in Germany by 11,900 troops in what the Pentagon on Wednesday called a "strategic" repositioning but President Donald Trump said was to punish Berlin for its weak defense spending. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the Pentagon will be sending home about 6,400 of its military personnel in Germany, and move nearly 5,600 to other NATO countries, including Italy and Belgium. Some could also be relocated to Poland and the Baltic countries if Washington can reach agreements with them, he said. The move, which will cost the U.S. government several billion dollars, will cut the presence of U.S. military personnel in Germany to around 24,000. Esper stressed that the action is part of his broader plan to reposition U.S. military forces globally to better address key threats, including their combined stance with NATO against Russia. But at the White House, Trump told reporters that Germany has not paid its fair share for the defense of Europe. "They are there to protect Europe, they are there to protect Germany, and Germany is supposed to pay for it," Trump said of the troops. "We don't want to be the suckers anymore.... We're protecting Germany, so we're reducing the force because they're not paying the bills."
'Strategic and positive shift' -
"The repositioning of our forces in Europe constitutes a major strategic and positive shift," Esper said. "These changes will unquestionably achieve the core principles of enhancing U.S. and NATO deterrence of Russia; strengthening NATO; reassuring allies; and, improving U.S. strategic flexibility," he said.
The goal is "to enhance deterrence and reassure allies along NATO's southeastern flank," Esper said. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the U.S. decision shows it is still committed to the joint defense pact. Esper's decision "underlines the continued commitment by the United States to NATO and to European security," he said in a statement. "As we face a more unpredictable world, we are stronger and safer when we stand together."
Belgium, Italy to benefit
In moves that could begin within weeks, some U.S. command operations currently in Germany will be moved to Belgium and Italy, where they will be located with their NATO counterparts, Esper said. The planned relocation of 2,500 U.S. air force personnel from Britain to Germany has been cancelled. The Pentagon also will move an F-16 fighter squadron from Germany to Italy, where they can help protect NATO's southeastern region near the Baltic Sea, he said. Another command unit and U.S. troops could be rotated into Poland, Esper said, if Warsaw signs a cooperation agreement crafted by Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda in June.
German jobs hit
The move could have a significant economic and strategic impact in Germany, where tens of thousands of U.S. troops have been stationed since the end of World War II. The move could particularly hit the city of Stuttgart, which will lose the U.S. European Command headquarters and Special Operations Command Europe to Belgium. "The U.S. administration under president Trump is rushing to break off the close relationship built over decades, in a punitive action against an ally," said Stuttgart Mayor Fritz Kuhn. Roger Lewentz, interior minister of Rhineland-Palatinate where 18,500 U.S. soldiers are based, said it would cost jobs and deal a "heavy blow" to the western German region. Earlier this month, the leaders of four German states urged the U.S. Congress to block the troop reduction, warning it could weaken the Atlantic alliance's front against Moscow.
Trump and Merkel
Esper said the move was long-discussed and was not the result of President Donald Trump's unhappiness with the relationship between Washington and Berlin. Trump abruptly announced plans for the cut in June amid rising political and trade tensions between the two countries. That came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected Trump's plan to convene the Group of Seven leaders in Washington, citing the ongoing coronavirus threat. At the time, Trump maintained the virus' spread was in decline. Angered, Trump postponed the summit and then said he would expand the group to include Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia was expelled from the elite group after its seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region on the Black Sea in 2014.

Pentagon nominee deemed 'Islamophobic' to be grilled by Democrats in Senate hearing
Reuters/Wednesday 29 July 2020
US President Donald Trump's most divisive nominee for a senior Pentagon post to date is expected to face a contentious Senate nomination hearing on Thursday, with Democratic lawmakers likely to grill him over remarks they deem Islamophobic.
Anthony Tata, a retired Army brigadier general and ardent defender of Trump on Fox News, would hold the most senior policy position in the Pentagon if confirmed. Tata has falsely portrayed former President Barack Obama as a Muslim and accused him of being a “terrorist leader” working to benefit Iran, according to now-deleted Twitter posts seen by Reuters. The White House said it stands by Tata's nomination to fill the position of undersecretary of defense for policy. “Anthony Tata is a distinguished public servant whose career has provided him with planning, policy, and operational experience both at home and abroad,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement. Tata did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his deleted Twitter posts. Tata has extensive US military knowledge after serving for nearly three decades, including in a senior role in Afghanistan. However, current and former US defense officials say he has little knowledge of Asia, at a time when Defense Secretary Mark Esper is trying to focus on competition with China. Tata will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee, whose Democratic members have signaled they would oppose his nomination.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren called Tata “by far Trump's most unqualified & ill-suited senior defense nominee – a high bar.” She said in a statement that “an Islamophobic conspiracy theorist who called President Obama a 'terrorist leader' should not be #3 at the Pentagon.”While Republican support for Tata is unclear, the Republican chair of the committee, Senator Jim Inhofe, decided to move forward with a confirmation hearing. Republican Senator Kevin Cramer has said he plans to oppose Tata's nomination unless the Pentagon makes changes to an unrelated policy issue.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 29-30/2020

Palestinians: Accept Western Funds, Vote for Jihad
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/July 29, 2020
The Palestinians were extremely happy to accept the billions of dollars from Western donors. Yet when the Palestinians headed to the ballot boxes to cast their votes in the 2006 election, they did not choose Palestinian candidates who talked about peace with Israel. Instead, the majority of the Palestinians knowingly and proudly voted for the Hamas candidates who promised them that they would never recognize Israel's right to exist and would continue to engage in Jihad (holy war) until the "liberation of all Palestine, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river."
The donors should have understood in 2006 that their dollars and euros do nothing to shape hearts and minds, and that the only way to create a change is through education -- education for peace and tolerance and not education for Jihad, terrorism and anti-Israel brainwashing.
It is important to note that Hamas and many Palestinians are nothing but honest about their deadly intentions. They are straightforwardly saying: "We refuse, utterly and unequivocally, to change our policies or abandon our weapons for the sake of your money. If you think you can bribe us into changing our behavior because that is what you in the West so often do, sorry, it will not work."
Meanwhile, Palestinians will continue to take money from the West, if the West is foolish enough to keep giving it -- perhaps the Europeans want the Arabs to finish the job that Hitler started? -- but the next time Palestinians head to the ballot box, Western donors can expect them once again to vote for jihad.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are angry again -- this time, they claim, because they have been offered billions of dollars to improve their living conditions and build a new and strong economy. Pictured: Trucks carrying aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency arrive in the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing, May 12, 2019.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are angry again -- this time, they claim, because they have been offered billions of dollars to improve their living conditions and build a new and strong economy.
Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Palestinian Hamas terror group ruling the Gaza Strip, hinted that the offer was made by the United States. He did not, however, provide further details about the rumored offer and said that Hamas turned it down because it was conditioned on disarming terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and recognizing Israel's right to exist.
By refusing the ostensible offer, Hamas and its Palestinian allies are announcing -- not for the first time -- that thinking a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be achieved through huge investments in economic projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is misleading and false.
That wish is indeed baseless, as proven by historical fact.
After signing the Oslo Accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993, the Palestinians received tens of billions of dollars from the international community, especially from the US. The money was apparently designed not only to help the Palestinians build a strong economy, but to encourage moderation and pragmatism among Palestinians, in particular toward Israel. The funds, in other words, were aimed at ensuring that the Palestinians would not join Hamas and other terrorist groups seeking Israel's destruction.
More than 26 years after "Oslo," Hamas, backed by Iran, and their allies, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), are far stronger, politically and militarily, than they were when the so-called Israeli-Palestinian peace process began. They are stronger because of the billions of dollars that the international community has lavished on the Palestinians for nearly 30 years.
Thanks to the international funding for the Palestinians, Hamas, whose charter explicitly calls for the elimination of Israel, became so powerful and influential that it even won a free and fair election in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election.
A year later, Hamas also won a military victory when its members staged a coup d'état against the Palestinian Authority which had been controlling the Gaza Strip, and violently seized control of the area.
The Palestinians were extremely happy to accept the billions of dollars from Western donors. Yet when the Palestinians headed to the ballot boxes to cast their votes in the 2006 election, they did not choose Palestinian candidates who talked about peace with Israel. Instead, the majority of the Palestinians knowingly and proudly voted for the Hamas candidates who promised them that they would never recognize Israel's right to exist and would continue to engage in jihad (holy war) until the "liberation of all Palestine, from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea."
Hamas's 2006 election victory should have served as an alarm bell to Western donors that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not about money or jobs or economic projects.
The donors should have understood in 2006 that their dollars and euros do nothing to shape hearts and minds, and that the only way to create a change is through education -- education for peace and tolerance and not education for jihad, terrorism and anti-Israel brainwashing.
It seems impossible for Western donors to grasp that a few words from a masked terrorist or a hateful preacher in a mosque carry more weight than all their dollars and euros. At the end of the day, Palestinians will heed what the terrorist or the preacher tells (or orders) them to do, and not what Washington or Paris or Brussels or London says.
Against this backdrop, it is easy to understand that Palestinians are now heaping praise on Hamas for its reported refusal to accept $15 billion in aid from Western parties for economic projects in the Gaza Strip. Hamas and its supporters even seem to be offended by the offer because it requires them to halt anti-Israel terrorist attacks, disarm all terror groups in the Gaza Strip, and recognize Israel's right to exist.
The Gaza Strip, home to some two million Palestinians, badly needs economic projects. It is in dire need of every penny to tackle the high rate of poverty and unemployment.
Hamas, not surprisingly, wants the financial aid to be unconditional. As its leader, Haniyeh, explained, Hamas cannot and will not give up the "resistance" against Israel and will never recognize its right to exist. For Hamas and its supporters, the desire to eliminate Israel and kill Jews is their No. 1 priority, even if it comes at the direct and dire expense of its people. One can only imagine what $15 billion dollars could have done to help the two million Palestinians the tiny Gaza Strip.
Haniyeh admitted that the financial offer Hamas received could have turned the Gaza Strip into the "Singapore of the Middle East." That, however, is not Hamas's goal. Instead, Hamas's declared most important goal is to see Israel vanish and Jews disappear from supposedly "occupied Palestine," even though Jews have lived there continuously for more than 3,000, years.
Most disturbingly, it is hard to find a Palestinian who has the courage to stand up to Hamas and proclaim that the new generation of Palestinians deserves a better life. On the contrary, some Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have taken to the streets to praise Hamas for reportedly rejecting the $15 billion "bribe" from Western donors. During a pro-Hamas rally in Gaza City on July 27, Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Qanou sent the following message to Western donors:
"Hamas remains committed to the project of resistance and is preparing itself for the liberation [of all Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea]. We will not make any concession and we will not give up one inch of the land of Palestine, not even in return for billions of dollars or all the treasures of the world."It is important to note that Hamas and many Palestinians are nothing but honest about their deadly intentions. What they are straightforwardly saying is: "We refuse, utterly and unequivocally, to change our policies or abandon our weapons for the sake of your money. If you think you can bribe us into changing our behavior because that is what you in the West so often do, sorry, it will not work."
This deep cultural difference is exactly why Hamas and other Palestinians were quick to reject US President Donald J. Trump's vision for a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, titled "Peace to Prosperity."
The plan proposes a $50 billion investment fund for infrastructure and business projects, most of which would go to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It promises to create new opportunities for Palestinian businesses, increase commerce with neighboring countries, and help the Palestinian private sector capitalize on growth opportunities by improving access to stronger neighboring economies.
In addition, the plan aims to reduce constraints on Palestinian economic growth by opening the West Bank and Gaza Strip to regional and global markets:
"Major investments in transportation and infrastructure will help the West Bank and Gaza integrate with neighboring economies, increasing the competitiveness of Palestinian exports and reducing the complications of transport and travel..."
"With the potential to facilitate more than $50 billion in new investment over 10 years, 'Peace to Prosperity' represents the most ambitious and comprehensive international effort for the Palestinian people to date. It has the ability to fundamentally transform the West Bank and Gaza and to open a new chapter in Palestinian history – one defined, not by adversity and loss, but by freedom and dignity."
While the Trump plan and Western donors assume that "dignity" for the Palestinians can be achieved by large-scale investment in economic projects, Hamas and its supporters are saying that it is an insult to their dignity to offer them money in return for dismantling terror groups and ending their rocket barrages against Israel -- or even recognizing Israel's right to exist. Meanwhile, Palestinians will continue to take money from the West, if the West is foolish enough to keep giving it -- perhaps the Europeans want the Arabs to finish the job that Hitler started? -- but the next time Palestinians head to the ballot box, Western donors can expect them once again to vote for jihad.
*Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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Poor Countries Are Running Out of Time to Get Rich
Mihir Sharma//Bloomberg/July 29/2020
The United Nations is currently forecasting that India will overtake China as the world's most populous country by 2027. India and Nigeria are estimated to add 470 million people over the next three decades – nearly a quarter of the world's population will grow by 2050. However, a new study from the University of Washington found that so-called demographic dividends could be much less of a blessing than expected.
The UW study published in the Lancet improved the UN model by modeling fertility differently and making its decline more sensitive to the availability of contraceptives and the spread of education. In many parts of India, for example, the total fertility rate – the expected average number of children born by each woman – is already well below the replacement rate of 2.1 and is falling faster than expected. The study, which is also trying to take into account the feedback loops between education, mortality and migration, concludes that the population around the world will shrink earlier and faster than planned.
In South Asia, for example, 2100 600 million people would live fewer than previously predicted because fertility is below expectations. Instead of growing steadily, India's population would peak in 2050 and then decrease to 70% of that number by the end of the century. At that time, China's population would be about half the size it is today. On the other hand, sub-Saharan Africa would continue to grow, and Nigeria would enter the 22nd century as the second largest country in the world after India and just before China and Pakistan.
This is not good news for policy makers in India and several other developing countries. As the authors of the UW study emphasize, a shrinking world population has "positive effects on the environment, climate change and food production". But it also means that the time for the development clocks of these nations is running out – maybe even expired.
China has really been lucky in its demography; it peaked at the right time. Chinese of working age, both in total and as part of the population, had peaked just when world trade was most open. This made it easier than for centuries to take advantage of the opportunities for growth-oriented growth.
The next countries – especially India and Pakistan – will face a more closed world. And worse, they now know that it is people who are currently employed or children in school who have to make the country prosperous throughout their lives. For countries whose population will decrease in the 2040s, there are these and the next generation of workers: like their Chinese colleagues, they have had to drive their countries from farm to factory and beyond in the past two decades.
India's boosters are currently touting the fact that the working-age population is increasing by a million people per month and driving economic growth. If this demographic surge comes earlier than expected, growth will depend on individual productivity, not mere numbers. This means that education and healthcare and a similar “soft” infrastructure no longer look like luxury from rich countries. Countries like India, Indonesia, and Brazil may never get rich if they are not introduced within the next decade, or even years. There are other dangers that the Lancet article points out in passing. It is the proliferation of women's education and women's reproductive rights that is causing this drop in fertility. If women do not gain the right political clout, they may be held responsible for the loss of national power caused by a graying population. These hard-won rights could be restricted. In places with particularly patriarchal societies, such as in large parts of South and West Asia, this is even more dangerous than elsewhere. Even the happiest countries have to be careful. China is expected to be the world's largest economy by 2050. However, the study's authors predict that immigration should theoretically further strengthen the American workforce given the shrinking Chinese population. The United States could become the world's largest economy again in 2098 if the country lived up to its ideals and continued to welcome the world's migrants. There's no better way to make sure America gets great again.

We Has Decided to Make Money

Matt Levine/Bloomberg/July 29/2020
I have probably spent as much time as anyone on earth making fun of WeWork, so now, for variety, I think I am going to pivot to being a wild-eyed WeWork bull. To be fair, I have always had sort of a soft spot for the business model. The business model is, like, you rent a building, you divide it into a lot of small offices and individual workstations, and you rent the pieces out to customers for more than you pay to rent the building. It is not insane to think that that would work, and while WeWork’s financial disclosures were never exactly a model of clarity, it was not even really insane to think that it did work, that WeWork was basically able to do exactly that trade when it put its mind to it, though it was never profitable because it chose instead to funnel all of its money into opening new buildings. But it always said that would change, and why not? Last September, as WeWork’s initial public offering was going poorly, but before it was pulled in disgrace, I wrote:
One possibility here is that SoftBank Group Corp., its affiliated Vision Fund and WeWork’s other private investors own stakes in a high-quality business with fundamentally sound unit economics. Given the attractive market opportunity, they would like it to raise another giant slug of money to continue its rapid growth. But public investors have started to doubt the quality of its business, and are not willing to fund its growth at a price reflecting its strong fundamentals. So WeWork can step back, remain private, slow its growth, flip to profitability and just harvest the rich rewards of renting out office space for more than its costs. …One nice thing about postponing the IPO is that you get to find out. Missing out on the $10 billion of public money would slow down WeWork’s growth plans, but if WeWork is right then there is just a dial that it can turn between “Growth” and “Profit,” and dialing down the growth automatically dials up the profits. If you are confident that you possess this dial and that it works this way, then delaying the IPO is a no-brainer: Sure you delay your positive-expected-value growth, but you get to keep ownership of a good lucrative business rather than selling it too cheap. On the other hand, if the dial turns out not to work, then you’ll end up wishing you’d sold it cheap.
Well, after I wrote that, events occurred that might cause you to have some doubts. For instance, after the IPO was pulled in October, WeWork more or less immediately needed a giant bailout from SoftBank; it turned out that huge frequent cash infusions were not just a nice-to-have way to boost growth but a necessity to keep WeWork going. And then the coronavirus happened, people stopped going to work, open shared offices in particular became less attractive, and the WeWork model seemed a bit doomed.
But! The Financial Times reported yesterday:
WeWork is on track to have positive cash flow in 2021, a year ahead of schedule, after it cut its workforce by more than 8,000 people, renegotiated leases and sold off assets, its executive chairman said.
Marcelo Claure said in an interview that the SoftBank-backed office space provider had seen strong demand for its flexible work spaces since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
In February, Claure set a target of reaching operating profitability by the end of next year and he said WeWork remains on track to meet it. …
“Everybody thought WeWork was mission impossible. [That we had] zero chance. And now, a year from now, you are going to see WeWork to basically be a profitable venture with an incredible diversity of assets,” said Claure.
Even the pandemic isn’t all bad news. One story that you could tell about WeWork is that it is in the business, specifically, of office management, that it allows companies—small startups or big multinationals—to outsource their office-management function to WeWork. In normal times some companies will find that appealing and others will say “no, it’s fine, we can manage our own office space, that is not an especially difficult or high-value-add job.” In pandemic, though, office management is both harder and higher-value-add; if you can say “as specialists in office management, we have figured out how to make offices safe,” you can sell that service to a lot of companies that haven’t. (I don’t know that WeWork has figured that out, by the way, but if not they really should!)
And while you might think that it’s bad, for an office-rental company, that no one is going to the office, the upside is that if and when anyone does go to the office, flexible office space—WeWork’s product—will be in demand. From the FT:
While the shift to homeworking has seen a reduction in office space demand, some companies turned to WeWork to provide satellite offices closer to where their employees live and to spread out their staff beyond their main offices, said Claure. ...
“We have companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon who have told their employees that they can work from wherever they are. We have a lot of those employees who basically now come to a WeWork facility to use it one day, a week, two days a week, three days a week,” Claure added.
Man, good for them. I hope it works. There is an obvious standard story of WeWork in which it was a symbol of tech-bubble excess, with a huge valuation based on growth and hope and fundraising rather than business fundamentals, and then it came crashing down when it finally met the reality of the public markets. But there was always an alternative story available, something like “public markets are not good at long-term thinking and dismiss real innovators, so public investors couldn’t understand the value of WeWork’s story.” I am not a big believer in that story, generally, but it would be really funny if it was true here. Public markets couldn’t understand real innovation like renting office space at a loss, why not.
There are even funnier possible stories. I have told the WeWork story as a win for founder Adam Neumann, who handed SoftBank his broken company and walked away with vast riches. But perhaps you could tell it the other way? Perhaps SoftBank saw WeWork’s value the first time Masayoshi Son met with Neumann, and Son wanted to appropriate all that value for SoftBank. But WeWork was a fast-growing, popular, successful business that was on track to go public; the question was how could SoftBank gain control of it for cheap. The answer “buy a big stake at a series of insane and ever-increasing valuations, puff up the founder-CEO so that he believes that he’s invincible and starts to behave irrationally, let the company file to go public with a silly prospectus that is short on business plan and long on conflicts of interest, watch the proposed IPO collapse and then buy the whole thing on the cheap” is not exactly intuitive! But maybe it worked! (If this is your story, you might find it intriguing that WeWork’s private valuation was pumped up by SoftBank’s Vision Fund, while the October bailout ended up with SoftBank itself owning the biggest chunk of the company at fire-sale prices.)
Anyway now that things are good WeWork should totally do an IPO, that is what the world needs now. Honestly WeWork should try an IPO every year, we deserve it.
There are a lot of banks, and they compete with each other. Each bank has two desires: Not to lose money by making bad loans, and Not to lose market share by refusing to make good loans.
These desires are in tension. If you don’t lend money to some dodgy customer, your competitor will, you will lose market share and develop a reputation for being too tough, everyone will go to your competitor, and your business will dry up. You can try to be a little bit better at underwriting and managing credit risk than your competitors are; you can try to be smart around the edges so that fewer of your loans go bad than theirs. But you can’t try to be vastly better, because then you won’t do any business. (And conversely: If you are rapidly growing market share, something has gone terribly wrong, or is about to.)
This leads to many, many stupid consequences—“As long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance,” is Chuck Prince’s infamous line just before the financial crisis—but at least loans get made. If you have no commercial imperatives to do loans, it is too easy to focus all your attention on not losing money, and then this happens: Disagreements between leaders at the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department in recent months slowed the start of their flagship lending initiative for small and midsize businesses, according to current and former government officials.
The differences centered on how to craft the loan terms of their $600 billion Main Street Lending Program to help support businesses through the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fed officials generally favored easier terms that would increase the risk of the government losing money, while Treasury officials preferred a more conservative approach, people familiar with the process said.
Treasury, which has put up $75 billion to cover losses, resisted recent changes to relax loan terms.

China Doesn't Want to Conquer, Just Do Business

Robert D. Kaplan/Bloomberg/July 29/2020
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the purpose of China’s People’s Liberation Army is not to protect its homeland but to “expand a Chinese empire.” Earlier this month, he warned China not to treat the South China Sea “as its maritime empire.”Pompeo is actually way behind the curve. China has been in one form or another an empire for thousands of years. And its current imperial incarnation is not specifically because of its actions in the South China Sea.
Great-power competition has forever been an imperial activity. One need not obsess, as Pompeo seems to be doing, about China being an empire. The real issue is: What kind of empire is China?
Is it a land empire or a sea empire? Is it a missionary empire like the US, that seeks to impose its universal values, or something else? These categories all portend different outcomes in a great-power struggle with China. And distinctions are just as relevant today as they were centuries and millennia ago.
Land empires, such as those of the Mongols and Russia under the Tsars, have tended to be both insecure and aggressive, emphasizing hard power. That’s because land borders are easily violated, so that the imperial power feels perennially insecure. Maritime empires such as those of Venice, Britain and the US ever since it invaded the Philippines in 1898 have overall tended to emphasize trade and commerce, and thus have been more benign, since seas and oceans offer them better natural protection, even as harbors are open to cosmopolitan influences.
Twenty-first century China presents a unique challenge primarily because it is an empire of both land and sea, owing to a 9,000-mile coastline along one of the world’s most vital sea lanes and a continental position in Eurasia that borders historical adversaries such as India and Russia.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative is best understood as an imperial project. By land, roads, railways and pipelines, China will connect across post-Soviet Central Asia to Iran, where branch lines will extend to Europe and the Middle East.
By sea, China has been building and helping to finance state-of-the-art ports with both commercial and military applications from the South China Sea across the Indian Ocean and up the Red Sea to the eastern Mediterranean. Pointing out that a number of these ports and related projects make little economic sense is to ignore their geopolitical — and therefore, imperial and mercantile — significance. Where container ships have gone, warships have followed.
Given this dual nature, China will be both aggressive and cosmopolitan. Thus it represses subject peoples such as the Uighur Muslims, who stand in the path of Belt and Road on land, while shipping consumer appliances to Africa and beyond with its merchant fleet and marketing vital products for the world economy, such as Huawei Technology Co.’s 5G network.
Whereas the US has historically been a missionary power around the globe, proselytizing the ideals of democracy and human rights, China has no such impulses. It will work with regimes regardless of their values, authoritarian or not — with Russian President Vladimir Putin or German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it doesn’t matter. So while China seeks to topple the existing hierarchy of powers by overtaking the US, in another way it is a status-quo imperium. Unlike the US, which has often sought to change the internal structures and value systems of countries it categorizes as authoritarian, China seeks no changes in the domestic arrangements of individual states. China has engaged in port development projects with Myanmar and Pakistan, but also with democratic Greece and Italy. China’s alliance with Russia may have more to do with the geopolitics of natural gas than with the fact that both countries are now dictatorships.The newly revealed 25-year strategic and economic partnership between China and Iran, potentially worth hundreds of billions of dollars, has been viewed as an alliance between two authoritarian powers. But China’s main interest is Iran’s advantageous location between the Middle East and Central Asia, its abundance of oil and natural gas, and its educated population of 83 million potential consumers. Were Iran to have a counterrevolution and become more liberal, China would be just as interested in this strategic relationship.
China is immoral internally, but amoral externally. Repression of the Uighurs and Tibetans, the crackdown in Hong Kong, potential aggression against Taiwan — these are baked into China’s imperial geography of non-Han peoples surrounding China’s ethnic Han core. But beyond China’s real and imagined borders, it seeks harmony rather than conflicts over values. This is not quite as self-serving as it sounds. The Chinese know that their imperial tribute system between the mid-14th and mid-19th centuries in East Asia proved that hegemony can be more stable and less bloody than Europe’s balance of power system. This tribute system “contained credible commitments by China not to exploit secondary states that accepted its authority,” explains University of Southern California political scientist David C. Kang. China was the top dog, but secondary states enjoyed “substantial latitude” in their affairs.
The Chinese people are quite comfortable with their imperial history and traditions, unlike people in the West who today both deny and apologize for them. China is all about status. Respect China, and much can be accomplished in terms of international cooperation. As Americans gear up for a so-called Cold War with China, it is important not to exaggerate Beijing’s intentions. China is ruthless, but it does not seek conquest in the traditional sense, beyond its own territories and adjacent seas. It will seek to dominate and influence foreign economies, but not foreign societies and the way that they govern themselves. China is not a revolutionary power despite its communist moniker.
Nevertheless, because China behaves in imperial and mercantile terms, its relationships lack the transparency and legal norms of representative democracies. That is why Belt and Road is evolving into a subtly coercive system of opaque deal-making with which the many countries along its path, owing to their high levels of corruption, find quite compatible. The answer to this challenge is not merely to emulate China with America’s own bloodless realpolitik, as Pompeo and President Donald Trump seem to want, but to return to the enlightened realism of the Cold War and post-Cold War decades, in which human rights took their place among other national interests.
Remember that Americans lost their missionary zeal partly because of the failures in trying to impose democracy on Iraq and Afghanistan, and consequently have been living with the backlash. The US foreign policy pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other. To compete with the Chinese in imperial terms means recovering a tempered idealism that allows the world to distinguish between an enlightened West and the masters of Beijing.
Most crucially, since China has a vision for its imperial system — Belt and Road — the US requires its own vision of international order. That most effectively comes through economic, military and democratic-trending alliances of nations. An excellent example is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump tore up upon arriving in the oval office in 2017. Competing with China, and differentiating ourselves from China’s values, requires resurrecting TPP and building upon it. This is something that Joe Biden should do if elected president.
China does have its limits. Beijing’s actions in the former British colony of Hong Kong were probably a factor in the UK closing its market to Huawei’s 5G network. As time goes on, Europeans are likely to become increasingly disillusioned with China’s human-rights record. Soft power may be overrated, but it does matter. Lesson: China’s new empire is irresistible only if the US doesn’t offer an alternative.

Can Donald Trump Retain the Keys to the White House?
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al-Awsat/July 29/2020
Almost one year ago, the US Presidential Elections began the countdown to next November’s Election Day. Despite negative impressions among many voters, I think that Trump was widely - if not almost unanimously - expected to win a second term.
All economic indicators were very positive, and the populist ‘nationalist’ fervor which secured his victory in 2016 was still evident. Indeed, continuous attempts by Trump’s opponents and ‘haters’, be they senior figures in the Democratic Party leaders or in the Liberal media, only strengthened his control of the Republican Party which has throughout the last three years become his pliant tool; as a result, his moderate opponents and critics within the party were gradually marginalized.
On the other hand, Trump’s ‘nationalism’ on the international stage, helped increase his popularity internally. This was, especially, the case with his tough stance against China, which served him well in his legal fight to overcome the accusations of receiving Russian help, which helped him win in 2016. In fact, Trump has succeeded to turn the accusing fingers towards China, as the major future threat to America’s global influence, rather than Russia. The situation continued like this up until last February, when Covid-19 spread inside America, from its initial source, the Chinese city of Wuhan.
During the early days of 2020 the worst of the pandemic was concentrated in China, before it began to spread in Europe, beginning with Italy, Spain and France, and later the UK. Until that time the US was barely affected.
However, while the World Health Organization (WHO) was still unsure about the threat of what it called Covid-19, and whether it was a global pandemic or localized epidemic, President Trump began his attacks on both China and the WHO. He accused China of keeping quiet about the Wuhan infections for too long, instead of alerting the world. As for the WHO, it was accused not only of inefficiency and failures, but also of political collusion with the Chinese authorities.
Trump’s agitation was, then, well-received by the Republican Party supporters, because it was designed to avert measures, such as nationwide lockdowns, curtailing economic activities, launching massive government spending programs that would secure public health plans; all of which were measures ideologically opposed to the Republican thinking, which sees them as a threat to economic growth and jobs.
Anyway, America’s suffering with the pandemic began when Ohio reported the country’s first case on January 7, 2020. The following day the US ‘Center for Disease Control’ issued its first official warning.
Then, on January 20, a case was reported involving a US national returning from Wuhan to Seattle (the largest city in the state of Washington), and on the 21st another case was reported in California. Still, the following day, President Trump dismissed these developments by answering a question by saying “… We have it under control. It's going to be just fine”.
During the next few days and weeks, however, things deteriorated rapidly; with the first death reported in California on February 6. Then, things got much worse by early March, when what were isolated and contained cases started to spread to other states, especially, the states of the northeast led by New York. Soon enough, New York City found itself in the eye of a disastrous storm which shook its medical facilities and public health service, and the pandemic; and the pandemic engulfed several major cities in the north and the northwest, such as Detroit, Chicago, Boston, and others. This situation spurred Democratic governed states and cities to impose lockdowns and adopt preventive measures, but not Republican controlled states and cities.
By March 20, in a worrying acceleration of infections, the number of cases surpassed 19,000 and fatalities 289. Then, within five days George Floyd, a black man in the city of Minneapolis, died in the street while under police custody, adding the racist dimension to the already inflamed anger and divisions widened by diverging positions toward the pandemic and its repercussions.
At this point, political calculations got mixed up, taking more serious and dangerous dimensions that could threaten the country’s demographic and social fabric, its class and ethnic structure, as well as the nature of its political and constitutional system.
Consequently, this explosive mix managed during the first four months of 2020 a lot of American political, social and economic givens. Furthermore, the image of President Trump, who had initially benefitted from almost every development, became a hostage of very complicated considerations. Unemployment figures made frightening reading with around 50 million Americans losing their jobs, and according to ‘The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ unemployment rate rose from 3.6 % in May 2019 to 14.7% in April 2020; noting that the previous record in BLS; statistics was 10.3% in 1948.
On the other hand, a study published near the end of April showed the pandemic hit hard during the first four months of 2020 what was steady economic growth. It also said that GNP dropped by an annual rate of 4.8%, which is the first drop since 2014, and the worst quarterly figures since the ‘Great Recession’ of 2008. The same study went on to forecast more difficulties, including the shrinking of the GDP by no less than 30% if not more; which is unmatched since the ‘Great Depression’ of 1920. As for the recovery, the study expected that it may never begin before the mid-2021.
On the political front, the situation looks almost as bad. The pandemic’s high human cost (3.48 million cases and more than 141,000 fatalities), and its disastrous economic repercussions, are now threatening the former pro-Trump broad consensus within the Republican Party. Despite the fact that some of the President’s supporters managed to win their preliminary Republican elections, his support among of many other Republican candidates has waned, as opinion polls consistently show Trump trailing his Democratic presidential opponent, especially in key battleground states that voted for him in 2016 such as Florida, North Carolina, Michigan and Pennsylvania. He is shown to be behind, even in Texas, the Republican’s greatest stronghold.
Of course it is far too early to say that Trump is going to lose in November, but feeling the need to change his campaign manager clearly shows that the President is now worried that his message is not getting through to his supporters as he expects and hopes.

Some Travel Bubbles Might Remain Thought Bubbles

David Fickling/Bloomberg/July 29/2020
For people stuck at home tending their stockpiles of masks and toilet paper, it is hard to think of a simpler pleasure than the prospect of heading on holiday to some sun-kissed beach.
Travel bubbles — the limited openings of international borders as COVID-19 transmission weakens in some parts of the world — are starting to spring up. The EU last month lifted restrictions on movement within its passport-free Schengen Zone, causing cross-border flights to quadruple in frequency. Singapore has been allowing some business travel from six Chinese provinces since last month, and is looking to set up a similar arrangement with Malaysia.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG, United Airlines Holdings Inc, IAG SA and American Airlines Group Inc are seeking a US-EU virus-testing program to allow transatlantic trips to resume as well. While an increasing number of tourists might be willing to chance their health for the sake of a long-overdue break, the decision for governments contemplating this is far more complex — even setting aside the most obvious risk that increased border crossings could help the spread of the novel coronavirus.
That is because, in most countries, international tourism is dwarfed by the scale of domestic travel, as my colleague Clara Ferreira Marques has written about Vietnam.
It is also because nations run the gamut from those whose residents spend more overseas than foreigners do on inbound trips — such as China, Canada and the UK — to those for which tourism is a major net export, such as the US, Thailand and Spain. When economies are cratering and unemployment is soaring, that imbalance might become an important factor in deciding what to do.
Take New Zealand and Australia, which, before a recent outbreak in Melbourne, appeared to have more or less stamped out COVID-19 and were heading toward opening a bubble.
For New Zealand, it is a no-brainer. International tourism is the country’s largest export sector and accounts for 8.4 percent of employment, with Australians making up 40 percent of visitor arrivals, as James McIntyre of Bloomberg Economics wrote in a note. For Australia the calculus is a lot harder. Unlike New Zealand, the country is a net importer of tourism — in other words, Australians spend more money abroad than foreigners spend in Australia.
Last year, overseas expenditures exceeded receipts to the tune of about A$19 billion (US$14 billion), equivalent to about 1 percent of GDP. The more that revenue gets trapped at home and spent on domestic hotels, restaurants and visitor attractions, the easier it would be for the economy and job market to recover from a historic slump. Those complicated distributional impacts happen within economies as well as between them. For instance, the airline sector is likely to benefit most from an increase in international travel. These companies have vast outlays on twin-aisle planes and flight crews, which would be mostly out of action until long-haul trips resume.
However, in most countries, airlines — and particularly their international arms — constitute a relatively small slice of tourism employment, and one that is already relatively well-protected in terms of pay and employment rights.
In the US, the hotels and lodging sector employed about four times as many people as airlines did before coronavirus hit — and the 48 percent slump in employment as infection spread between March and May represented about 7.5 jobs lost for every one in aviation. Airlines tend to be heavily unionized and often boast government stakes in airports and carriers, making politicians more disposed to pleas for support.
Singapore is a net importer of tourism and employs far more people in ground-based services than in aviation, but do not be surprised if the government’s control of Singapore Airlines Ltd and Changi Airport pushes the city-state to open up sooner rather than later.
Beyond that, there is even a diplomatic angle. Small island states, such as those in the Caribbean and Pacific and Indian Oceans, are some of the most tourism-dependent countries on the planet, and risk devastation if border lockdowns continue much longer. Major sources of holidaymakers, such as Taiwan, Australia, China, Japan, the UK and the US, could buy immense goodwill by allowing their residents to visit at an early stage. Such small island states account for about one-fifth of UN member countries. As we have seen in areas from whaling to recognition of Taiwan, cultivating their favor is a popular avenue of geopolitical competition. Those complexities probably explain the relatively slow progress in turning travel bubbles from proposals into reality. Right now, tourist dollars are a precious resource that stricken economies would like to see spent at home.
Your dream of a getaway as summer turns to winter might have to wait until the pandemic has passed.