English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For May 27/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day
Second Letter of Peter 03/01-09/:”This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; in them I am trying to arouse your sincere intention by reminding you that you should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour spoken through your apostles. First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!’ They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgement and destruction of the godless. But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on May 26-27/2020
Questions, Facts & Doubts About Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon/By: Charbel Barakat & Elias Bejjani/May 27/2020
Hezbollah’s bogus Liberation & Resistance Day/Elias Bejjani/May 25/2020
Letter to Mufti Qabalan/Elie Aoun: May 27/2020
Hariri Hospital: 365 tests performed, number of recoveries stable at 191
Coronavirus: Lebanon introduces fines for not wearing face masks
President Aoun grants the late Salah Steitieh the National Order of Merit
Nasrallah: Fighting corruption is more difficult than fighting Israel
Senior Hizbullah Official Hashim Safi Al-Din: Israel Will Not Last 25 Years
Future Bloc rejects calls for federalism and overthrowing Taef
Pro-Hezbollah Mufti declares end to Lebanon’s confessional system
No to changing land identity,” says Hawat
Series of enemy violations of the national airspace on Monday and Tuesday
Geagea, Foucher review local, regional developments
Mortada inspects Lebanese Cheese & Dairy Factory: To finalize refining station to ensure environmental and health safety of the factory and its vicinity
Al Shamsi at the end of the Ramadan campaign: The UAE is in the first ranks in comprehensive community service
Abdel Samad visits Sheikh Hassan: A duty visit at all times to draw inspiration from the wisdom of His Eminence
Druze Sheikh Aql meets with Health Minister, Saudi Ambassador on Eid Al-Fitr occasion
Lebanese Political Activist Dr. Naji Hayek: Lebanon Must Become a Federation, Develop a Technology-Based Economy; Syrian Refugees Detrimental to Lebanon
Plight of migrant workers in Lebanon worsens as crises multiply
Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement: The end of an affair?/Makram Rabah/Al Arabiya/May 26/2020
Joumana Haddad: Rebellion whirlwind versus opprobrium, via words/Christy-Belle Geha/Annahar/May 26/2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published  on May 26-27/2020
Bethlehem Nativity Church reopens after coronavirus closure
Third Iranian cargo reaches Venezuelan waters, others unloading
US military says Russia deployed ‘fourth generation’ fighter jets to Libya
Erdogan lifts 10-year Israel cargo ban while condemning Israeli actions in Palestine
Erdogan seeks to extend his Libya gains into a foothold in Algeria
Aguila Saleh’s initiative tests international community on Libya
France says relations with Tehran ‘more difficult’ with detention of French-Iranian academic
Leading security officials say ISIS resurgent amid coronavirus pandemic
Captured Senior ISIS Commander Abdul Nasser Qardash: Fanatics In ISIS Had The Upper Hand; New Leader Not As Resolute As Al-Baghdadi

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
 on May 26-27/2020
“White Harlots Eager for Sex”: Islam’s Medieval Fantasies Plague Europe/Raymond Ibrahim/May 26/2020
France's Determination to End Free Speech/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/May 26/2020
Iran: The Ayatollah, Amid Coronavirus, Calls for Jihad Against the Jewish State/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/May 26/2020
U.S. Troops Are Vulnerable. Israel Technologies Can Help/John Hannah and Jacob Nagel/FDD/May 26/2020
Securing technological superiority requires a joint US-Israel effort/Bradley Bowmanl/FDD/May 26/2020
COVID-19 in Latin America: Organized Crime Gains and States Weaken/Emanuele Ottolenghi/FDD/May 26/2020
COVID-19 And Iranian Foreign And Security Policy: Stasis, Not Change/Behnam Ben Taleblu/FDD/May 26/2020
Daesh exploiting Syrian, Iraqi vacuums to make a comeback/Osama Al-Sharif/Arab News/May 26/ 2020
Tory party becoming a breeding ground for Islamophobia/Zaid M. Belbagi/Arab News/May 26/ 2020
Helping the forgotten victims of coronavirus pandemic/Jonathan Gornall/Arab News/May 26/ 2020
Everybody has role to play in war on COVID-19 ‘infodemic’/Maha Akeel/Arab News/May 26/ 2020
Al Jazeera continues to ‘provide a platform to bigoted and violent extremists’/Tarek Al Ahmad/Arab News/May 26/ 2020
Iran’s Khamenei sees himself as savior to Arabs – he is their nightmare/Hussain Abdul-Hussain/Al Arabiya/May 26/2020

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on May 26-27/2020
Questions, Facts & Doubts About Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon
By: Charbel Barakat & Elias Bejjani/May 27/2020
شربل بركات والياس بجاني: أسئلة وحقائق وشكوك حول الإنسحاب الإسرائيلي من جنوب لبنان سنة الفين
A Quotation from Mordechai Nisan’s Book “Politics & War In Lebanon” in regards to a secret agreement between Hezbollah and Israel in year 2000 based on a Derspiegal Report.
“A report From the Derspiegel newspaper carried a story about a secret agreement between Israel and Hezbollah that had been reached shortly before the withdrawal, concluded behind the back of the South Lebanese Army (SLA). The deal assured that Hezbollah would with Israel’s consent freely enter the zone when the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) withdrew, and this understanding allowed Israel to secure the well-being of its fleeing soldiers. The SAL would decompose and disintegrate and offer no opposition. In Late May (year 2000) this became the scenario for the unfolding events. Not one Israel soldier was even scratched during the ostensibly sudden pullout and perhaps we now understand and why. As for Hezbollah it demonstrated its ability not just to fight Israel to the end, but also to subjugate it to a humiliating agreement. Israel made an agreement with the enemy that it hide form its friend. Within Lebanon the liberation of the south was a source of pride and a vindication of the Shiites militia’s resistance against the Zionist enemy. Hezbollah had defeated Israel and was on the path to conquer Lebanon”.
There is no question that the withdrawal of a foreign army from any country should be hailed with a sense of relief and joy; even if it was an ally its withdrawal indicates that the country is self-governing and is capable of defending itself independently.
Meanwhile, the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon on May 23/2000 was not hailed by our people, because practically it was the beginning of a new tragedy that was added to the many Lebanese tragedies. Why was there this bitter feeling and why is it still painful after 20 years?
The other question is why our people who are patriotic and adore their land have decided at that time to leave their beloved country and go into exile in neighbouring Israel? Did they actually follow the withdrawing Israeli army?
The intention of this editorial is not to delve into many analyses, but to summarize the actual reasons that made our people hastily cross the border and seek refuge in Israel:
1-At that time Lebanon was still under the oppressive Syrian occupation and its mere decision making process was fully controlled by Syria, the occupier.
2- Hezbollah, an armed militia, which is totally affiliated to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was in control of Lebanon’s Shiite communities culturally, ideologically, militarily and economically, especially in numerous parts of the south.
3- The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stationed in south Lebanon failed in their duty of reassuring the citizens of their safety, did not show any interest in the outcome of the Israeli withdrawal and did not negotiate with the southern citizens in the absence of the Lebanese authorities or even ask for their opinion or protect them.
While Israel was logistically preparing for the withdrawal, Hezbollah waged a merciless and savage media campaign against the southern Lebanese citizens.
The campaign was aired publicly on all local and international TV channels and radio stations.
The most frightening threats were uttered personally by Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who savagely said, “We will enter their bedrooms, pierce their stomachs, slaughter them and slice their throats.”
But Nasrallah’s threats did not frighten the South Lebanon Army (SLA), on the contrary this rhetoric was ridiculed on May 18/2000, six days before the Israeli withdrawal, when the Hezbollah militia tried to overcome and control one of the SLA military posts at the “Hamra Bridge”. The attack failed badly and Hezbollah suffered huge losses.
Facing this disastrous milieu and all the other uncertainties, southern citizens were left with two bitter options:
To militarily defend their land, engage with Hezbollah and repeat the status that prevailed before 1978;
Or to succumb to Hezbollah, surrender their weapons and live under its authority.
Encountering this dilemma, they decided to avoid more Lebanese bloodshed and to leave Lebanon, the country that they cherished, without a fight and take refuge in Israel.
As a result of the Israeli withdrawal, there has been an enormous global escalation of terrorism not only in the Middle East, but in many other countries.
Progress of peace efforts suffered a remarkable setback and worldwide violence prevailed leading to the 9/11 attacks and to subsequent acts of terrorism throughout Europe and the rest of the world.
The Free World countries responded by waging a massive global military anti-terrorism campaign that primarily focused on both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Subsequently, the international community tried to amend the fatal mistakes that were committed in Lebanon and issued UN Security Council Resolution 1559 that addressed three important issues:
1-Syrian occupation: It called for the immediate withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon.
2-Weapons of terrorism: It called for the disarming of all militias, and in particular, of Hezbollah.
3- Safeguarding Lebanon’s democratic system: It called for free parliamentary elections without Syrian interference.
UN Resolution 1559 provided the Lebanese people with the incentives to take action.
Accordingly, in year 2005 the Cedar Revolution emerged and the Lebanese people by the hundreds of thousands peacefully took to the streets forcing the withdrawal of the Syrian army.
Unfortunately, this revolution did not finish the job, which gave Hezbollah the route to brazenly escape and instigate a war with Israel in 2006.
Sadly, due to the Lebanese authorities’ and politicians’ hesitation, poor judgment and lack of courage, they did not fully utilize the available circumstances to finish off the Hezbollah phenomenon.
Instead Hezbollah besieged the government’s headquarters, alleged a divine victory on Israel in the 2006 war, and on May 07 and 11/2008, invaded the western section of the capital Beirut and attempted to conquer the Shouf Mountain, enforcing a new national balance equation in a bid to abort the Cedar Revolution and circumvent and cripple UN Resolution 1559.
The Iranian endeavours for not allowing the disarmament of Hezbollah unveiled the actual elements of its plot:
1-A well set plan to expand Iran’s hegemony on the whole Middle East was viciously executed and topped with Hezbollah and many other Iranian proxies entering Syria to support the Assad dictatorship regime
2-The establishment of a military base In Eretria and Yemen.
3-The mobilization of the Shiite Houthis tribes on the Saudi -Yemeni border…that created an on going internal war.
4-Supporting and instigation of instability in neighbouring Iraq…and almost occupying it at the present time.
5-The formation of numerous sleeping militant cells among the Shiite Arabian Gulf countries’ communities.
6-Keeping Egypt unfocused on the actual Iranian scheme through instigation of strife between Egypt and other African countries that share the Nile River…in ddition to supporting, arming and financing the Brotherhood terroists in the Sinai Peninsula.
7- Playing with and tickling Muslims’ emotions and instigating religious fanaticism to fight Israel through Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
At the same time, Iran has been working day and night to become a nuclear power and possess a nuclear weapon that is intended to be used for intimidating the Middle East countries, control their resources and wealth and have a monopoly on the region’s fate and decisions.
Hezbollah is pivotal for all of the above Iranian schemes and a primary source of manpower. Its militant members who number in the tens of thousands speak the Arabic language, are ideologically and religiously well prepared, and more than ready to carry out missions in any country as instructed by their Iranian masters..
There is no doubt that the current situation in the whole Middle East in general, and in Israel, Gaza, West Bank, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon in particular, is much worse from the day the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon was implemented 20 years ago.
The Iranian danger to both Israel and Lebanon is escalating.
Lebanon that now is totally occupied by Hezbollah did not enjoy any kind of stability despite the UN Resolutions, the bitter events’ experience, the great sacrifices and the presence of new players (powers) on its arena…
Sadly, Lebanon is now living a repeat of same ghastly milieu that prevailed in 1982: tension, instability, chaos, and forced absence of any input on what goes on its land.
The war-peace decision making process is again in the hands of Hezbollah and its Iranian masters, while weapons of all kinds are smuggled to Hezbollah and to other Lebanese – Palestinian armed terrorist groups via Syria without any kind of control or impunity.
Based on all of the above, we suggest and call for the following:
1- Lebanese sovereign leaders and politicians to be prudent, patient, thoughtful and not to fall prey to the axis of evil’s schemes, terrorism, fanaticism, violence, intimidation, and whims of sabotage. Their patriotic duties and obligations as responsible Lebanese leaders are to help in making Lebanon a country of peace, prosperity, freedom and stability in the region and not to be an arena and battlefield for Iran and its armed proxies. They must be aware that for the past 44 years, our Lebanese people have endured much more than they can tolerate, and as the saying goes: “He who does not learn from the past cannot make the future.”
2- The Free Lebanese citizens to hold dearly to their solid faith in a free, sovereign and independent Lebanon that should not under any circumstances be an aggressor, but a peace maker and an advocate for human rights and democracy. We encourage the masses to actively help in preserving the historic Lebanese role in hailing the right of all countries and people in the region to live freely without any kind of oppression. Lebanon’s mission and message are to protect the weak and the oppressed and not to hail the conceited and arrogant.
3- Neighbouring Syrian Baathist Regime to overcome its ongoing expansionism-hostility schemes and accept once and forever the reality that Lebanon is an independent and sovereign country and not a Syrian territory or satellite. Accordingly, the joint borders must be patrolled and all kinds of infiltration and smuggling permanently stopped.
4- Israel to re-evaluate the achievements and setbacks of its hasty withdrawal decision.
5-The Free World and Arab countries to completely support a free and democratic Lebanon and take a courageous stance in this regard before it is too late. A regime in Lebanon fully under the direct control of Iran or through its armed terrorist proxy (Hezbollah) is a dire threat to peace and stability to not only the Middle East but to the whole world.
6- Our people, the southern Lebanese citizens, who have been living a forced exile in Israel since May 2000 to remain as tall as Lebanon’s Holy Cedars. They should know that the free Lebanese people hail their heroism, courage, peaceful inclinations, acceptance of others, tolerance, patriotism, sacrifices, love of their homeland and deeply rooted faith. We know that they have proudly, honourably and courageously defended their beloved land and rights and never attacked others. We assure them that a free and independent Lebanon won’t have long lasting stability until their honoured and dignified unconditional return is achieved.

Hezbollah’s bogus Liberation & Resistance Day
Elias Bejjani/May 25/2020
Believe it or not, on May 25 each year since 2000 Lebanon has been celebrating the so-called “Liberation & Resistance Day.”
Sadly, this celebration commemorates a bogus event, and a phony heroism that did not actually take place.
On May 22, 2000 the Israeli Army unilaterally and for solely Israeli domestic reasons withdrew from the security zone of South Lebanon in accordance with UN Resolution 425.
This miscalculated and hasty withdrawal was a fatal Israeli decision that has inspired the Hamas terrorism acts and the on-going havoc in the Palestinian Gaza strip.
During the last 19 years many Israeli officials and politicians from all parties openly and harshly criticized Barak’s Government (Barak was PM at that time) hasty and unwise decision through which Israel’ abandoned its ally the South Lebanon Army (SLA) and gave Hezbollah all south Lebanon and the entire Lebanon on a plate of sliver.
The unilateral Israeli withdrawal created a security vacuum in south Lebanon.
The Syrians who were occupying Lebanon at that time and fully controlling its government, did not allow the Lebanese Army to deploy in the south and fill this vacuum after the Israeli withdrawal.
Instead Syria helped the Hezbollah militia to militarily control the whole southern region, and even patrol the Israeli-Lebanese border.
It is worth mentioning that the Israeli army’s withdrawal was executed without any military battles, or even minor skirmishes with Hezbollah, or the Lebanese and Syrian armies.
The Syrian regime, in a bid to justify both its on going occupation of Lebanon and the avoidance of disarming Hezbollah, came up with the “Shabaa Farms occupation big lie” and declared Hezbollah a Liberator, alleging it had forced Israel to withdrawal from South Lebanon.
Syria, in the same camouflaging and devious context, dictated to both its puppet Lebanese parliament and government to declare May 25th a National Day under the tag of “Liberation & Resistance Day”.
In reality Hezbollah did not force the Israeli withdrawal, and did not play any role in the Liberation of the southern Lebanese region.
In fact both Hezbollah and Syria deliberately hindered and delayed the Israeli withdrawal for more than 14 years.
Every time the Israelis called on the Lebanese government to engage in a joint, serious effort under the United Nations umbrella to ensure a safe and mutually organized withdrawal of its army from South Lebanon, the Lebanese government refused to cooperate, did not agree to deploy its army in the south, and accused the Israelis of plotting to divide and split the Syrian-Lebanese joint track.
This approach to the Israeli calls was an official Syrian decision dictated to all the Lebanese puppet governments during the Syrian occupation era.
Since then, Hezbollah has been hijacking Lebanon and its people, refusing to disarm and advocating for the annihilation of Israel.
This Iranian mullahs’ terrorist army stationed in Lebanon, is viciously hiding behind labels of resistance, liberation and religion.
Hezbollah has recklessly jeopardized the Lebanese peoples’ lives, safety, security and livelihood.
It has been growing bolder and bolder in the last 19 years and mercilessly taking the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people hostage through terrorism, force and organized crime.
Sadly, Hezbollah is systematically devouring Lebanon day after day, and piece by piece, while at the same time marginalizing all its governmental institutions in a bid to topple the Lebanese state and erect in its place a Shiite Muslim regime, a replica of the Iranian Shiite mullahs’ fundamentalist republic.
Meanwhile the free world and Arabic countries are totally silent, indifferent, and idly watching from far away the horrible crime unfolding without taking any practical or tangible measures to put an end to this anti-Lebanese Syria-Iranian scheme that is executed through their spearhead, the Hezbollah armed militia.
Who is to be blamed for Hezbollah’s current odd and bizarre status?
Definitely the Syrians who have occupied Lebanon for more than 28 years (1976-2005).
During their bloody and criminal occupation, Syria helped the Iranian Hezbollah militia build a state within Lebanon and fully control the Lebanese Shiite community.
But also the majority of the Lebanese politicians, leaders, officials and clergymen share the responsibility because they were subservient and acted in a dire Dhimmitude, selfish and cowardly manner.
If these so-called Lebanese leaders had been courageous and patriotic and had not appeased Hezbollah and turned a blind eye to all its vicious and human rights atrocities, intimidation tactics, crimes and expansionism schemes, this Iranian Shiite fundamentalist militia would not have been able to erect its own mini-state in the southern suburb of Beirut, and its numerous mini-cantons in the Bekaa Valley and the South; nor would Hezbollah have been able to build its mighty military power, with 70 thousand militiamen, or stockpile more than 200 thousand missiles and force the Iranian “Wilayat Al-Faqih” religious doctrine on the Lebanese Shiite community and confiscate Lebanon’s decision making process and freedoms.
Since Hezbollah’s emergence in 1982, these politicians have been serving their own selfish interests and not the interests of the Lebanese people and the nation. They went along with Hezbollah’s schemes, deluding themselves that its militia and weaponry would remain in South Lebanon and would not turn against them. This failure to serve the people of Lebanon allowed Hezbollah to make many Lebanese and most of the Arab-Muslim countries through its terrorism propaganda to blindly swallow its big lie of theatrical, faked resistance and Liberation.
Hezbollah would not have been able to refuse to disarm in 1991, like all the other Lebanese militias in accordance to the “Taef Accord,” which called for the disarmament of all militias.
Hezbollah would not have become a state inside the Lebanese state, and a world-wide terrorism Iranian-Syrian tool which turned against them all after its war with Israel in year 2006 and after the UN troops were deployed on the Lebanese – Israeli borders in accordance with the UN Resolution 1701.
On May 7, 2008 Hezbollah invaded Sunni Western Beirut killing and injuring in cold blood hundreds of its civilian citizens, and too attempted to take over by force Mount Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s General Secretary Sheik Hassan Nasrallah called that day (May 7, 2008) a great and glorious victory for his resistance, and keeps on threatening the Lebanese that a replicate of that day will take place if they do not succumb and obey his Iranian orders.
Hezbollah is a deadly dragon that the Lebanese politicians have been allowing him to feed on sacrifices from the southern Lebanese citizens, especially on those who were living in the “Security Zone” and who fled to Israel in May 2000 after the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon.
This dragon who enjoyed devouring his southern sacrifices has now turned on all the Lebanese and if they do not stand for their rights and dignity, he will keep on devouring them all one after the other.
We call on the Lebanese government, the Lebanese Parliament and on all the free and patriotic Lebanese politicians and leaders to cancel the May 25 National Day, because it is not national at all, and also to stop calling Hezbollah a resistance, put an end for its mini-state, cantons and weaponry, and secure a dignified, honorable and safe return for all the Lebanese citizens who have been taking refuge in Israel since May 2000.
N.B: The original version of the above article was first published in 2010..It is republished with minor changes

Letter to Mufti Qabalan
Elie Aoun: May 27/2020
أيلي عون: رسالة إلى المفتي الجعفري الشيخ أحمد قبلان
Mufti Al-Jaafari Sheikh Ahmed Qablan stated that “we are required to protect the country, save Lebanon, and confirm coexistence by dropping the sectarian formula in favor of a country not sectarian.”
Anyone has the right to voice an opinion, regardless of what it may be. Some people call for “dropping the sectarian formula”; some call for federalism; and others have other ideas. The main issue is not in the “formula” but in (a) the politicians and clergymen who benefit from it and (b) the laws that govern it.
We cannot say that we have a “sectarian system” when the conduct of those who pretend to represent the respective communities reflect the behavior of pagans rather than true Christians or true Muslims. We cannot say that there is an adequate legal system when certain cases remain unresolved for more than ten years.
The problem is not in sectarianism itself. Even if the country is transformed within a single day into a non-sectarian system, the same problems will remain as they are, as long as the same mentality continue to rule the nation.
If they are serious about abolishing “sectarianism”, can the Shiite political parties abolish it now in their own community and provide us with an example on how it ought to be done? Will the leaders of Hizballah and Amal place Lebanon first, and not the blind allegiance to their persona or to Iran? Will the Shiites who do not believe in the policy of these parties be allowed to run for an elected office without threats, or will they be given political positions based on merit? Will the political leaders refrain from falsifying the electoral process to benefit themselves?
Sheikh Qablan stated “we will not accept injustice and corruption.” Can you please ask the parliamentarian who stood up in parliament claiming to have evidence that would expose the corruptive practices of high-ranking officials to release that information? If he does not, can you take that information from him and expose it yourself? If you cannot do so, ask him to send us the information, and we will expose it ourselves. Otherwise, all the talk against corruption is hypocricy.
Sheikh Qablan added: "We want a rescue policy.” Sure, but the problem is that the political class is not adequate to implement any rescue policy. They do not even know how to hire the right individuals for the right job to perform the right functions. If they were fit for their positions, they would not be asking for a “rescue policy.” They would be drafting it and implementing it themselves.
What they often call a “rescue” is nothing more than a prolonged mismanagement of a crisis, rather than a viable solution.
Sheikh Qabalan, as a clergyman, it is not your responsibility to call for a non-sectarian system. Your first priority is to speak in spiritual terms. Your responsibility is to speak in favor of the truth and to educate people about the dark spirituality that rules all political parties in Lebanon – beginning with the phallic symbol on Hizballah’s flag, to the phallic symbol planned to be erected at the so-called FPM office to be built on Nahr Al-Kalb (and as shown by the diagram of the planned structure).
Your priority is to speak about ethics and to educate the public on the ethical standards that should govern the political practice.
As a clergyman, you should know that the politicians who run the country lack (1) the proper spiritual fabric, (2) the vision, and (3) the ethics to establish a viable nation. If they do not hire individuals who have these criteria, all that they do is being done in vain.
Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. (Psalm 127)
Sheikh Qabalan, the only message you or any other clergyman should preach to the politicians is this: Repent or commit suicide. At the moment, there is no other rescue plan.

Hariri Hospital: 365 tests performed, number of recoveries stable at 191
NNA/May 26/2020
In its daily report on the latest developments of the novel Covid-19 virus, the Rafic Hariri University Hospital announced on Tuesday, that the number of tests conducted in its laboratories during the past 24 hours has reached 365.
It added that the number of patients infected with the virus currently present in the hospital for follow-up is 64, while the number of suspected cases that have been transferred from other hospitals during the past 24 hours has reached 15 cases.
Meanwhile, the hospital report stated that the number of patients who have recovered is still maintained at 191 cases, with no new recoveries recorded today, and no critical cases as well. It also indicated that more information on the number of infected cases on all Lebanese territories can be found in the daily report issued by the Ministry of Public Health. In conclusion, the Hospital reminded that "the Corona Virus Contact Center for emergency response and knowledge of test results, operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week including public holidays, and can be reached through the number 01-820830 or through the WhatsApp contact service 76-979610."

Coronavirus: Lebanon introduces fines for not wearing face masks
Emily Lewis, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday 26 May 2020
The Lebanese Internal Security Forces announced Tuesday that they will begin issuing fines to anyone walking in public while not wearing a mask.Police officers will begin issuing the penalties of 50,000 Lebanese pounds, or around $16 at the semi-official rate of 3,200 pounds to the dollar, on Friday.
Anyone travelling by public transport - taxis, buses and minivans - will also be subject to the fine, according to the ISF’s statement. A maximum of three people, including the driver, can travel in the same private car if not from the same family, and all are required to wear masks.
The ISF also called on people to call its emergency number to report behavior that “is harmful to public health in light of coronavirus prevention measures.”Lebanon’s Health Ministry announced 21 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, bringing the total number to 1,140. Twenty-six people have died from the virus in the country. The last few days have seen a slight decrease in the numbers of new cases, after 63 and 62 cases were reported on Thursday and Friday, respectively. However, this is likely linked to a decline in test results as laboratories were closed over the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Thirteen of the new cases were among Syrian refugees living in a single residential building in the Bekaa Valley town of Majdal Anjar, according to Bekaa governor Kamal Abu Joudeh. Earlier Tuesday the Interior Ministry called on Lebanese people to continue sticking to preventative measures not only to “protect themselves, their families and their communities” but also to help reactivate economic activity as soon as possible. The ministry said that it was necessary to issue the reminder due to “low compliance” with measures. According to the government’s Disaster Risk Management body, compliance with COVID-19 curfews and stay-at-home orders ranged between only 50 and 65 percent over the last 24 hours.The DRM's report listed examples of violations such as walks along the seafront, large Eid celebrations and overcrowded shops. The Interior Ministry’s statement also reminded people to keep their distance and cover their noses and mouths while out and about, suggesting they could use pieces of cloth, instead of single-use masks which should be thrown away after wearing. On Monday, Health Minister Hamad Hassan announced that the ministries of health and interior would work together to distribute one million masks for free.
In large towns and cities, local municipalities will be responsible for handing out the masks, while health centers and pharmacies will issue the face coverings in other towns and villages, the minister said.

President Aoun grants the late Salah Steitieh the National Order of Merit
NNA/Tuesday 26 May 2020
The Lebanese Embassy in France announced, on Tuesday, that the President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, has bestowed upon the late poet and writer, and artistic, literary and diplomatic critic, Salah Steitieh, the National Order of Merit, of first doctrine. The Medal was presented by Lebanon’s Ambassador to France, Rami Adwan, on behalf of the President of the Republic, during a special ceremony held at the Cemetery of Tremblay-sur-Mauldre this morning.
In his word on the President’s behalf, Ambassador Adwan said: “Our dear deceased, in appreciation of your contributions to Lebanon, His Excellency General Michel Aoun, President of the Republic, has decided to bestow upon you the Lebanese Order of Merit, of first doctrine. He has instructed and honored me to place it on your coffin on the day of your farewell, and to extend the sincerest condolences to your family.”

Nasrallah: Fighting corruption is more difficult than fighting Israel
NNA/May 26/2020
Hezbollah Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, deemed Tuesday that combating corruption is harder than fighting the Israeli enemy, stressing on combating corruption through an impartial judiciary.
Speaking in a dialogue interview with “Al-Nour” Radio Station, broadcasted by “Al-Manar” TV Channel this evening, marking the twentieth anniversary of the Resistance and Liberation Day, Nasrallah proposed "the establishment of a special judicial body, which preserves the sectarian balance, and is formed from the most impartial judges of these sects, who would be the martyrs to fight corruption."
Addressing those who are awaiting a revolutionary act, all at once, he said “this is difficult, and needs time," reiterating his call to "fight corruption, but with an impartial judiciary."The Secretary-General called for "the election of a new political class in the upcoming elections, as one of the solutions and one of the methods of change." "We must not step on the mine in order to be able to open the road, and there are ways to reach the target, but we do not want to step on the mine," he said. As for the call for a founding conference, Nasrallah explained that it was meant to develop the Taif Agreement, stressing that the country needs development, but not on the basis of destroying everything and then re-building…He pointed to the “difficulty of change because it needs comprehensive participation, and this is not currently available,” adding that “it is not by force that change takes place."
“We do not want civil war in Lebanon, and we do not want to govern Lebanon…for this country cannot be ruled except with the participation of all, and we are against exclusion and isolation, and against the division of the country on sectarian lines and against civil war, because this is what Israel aspires for," Nasrallah underscored.
Regarding the October 17th Movement, Nasrallah said: "If the demonstrations continued back then without the political classification and attacks that occurred, this movement would have been built upon, but there were those who wanted to take the country elsewhere.”
“The solution to dealing with the economic situation would have occurred had the pressure of the October Movement continued, but when it resorted to the political option, it weakened its pressure, with my indication that most political forces were feeling the pressure,” Nasrallah added.
On the country’s economic situation, the Secretary-General said: "There is a solution to the economic crisis, by getting out of the American grip and heading east," reiterating his call to establish communication with Syria on the market issue, to exchange Lebanese products, and from there on to Iraq.
Referring to the banking sector and its role, Nasrallah indicated that discussion is underway with the owners of the banks, adding that the official authorities should reach solutions with them, while denying all the charges and claims that Hezbollah wishes to destroy the banking sector.
On the relationship with the allies, the Hezbollah Secretary-General assured that there are no disputes in this respect, expressing the Party’s keenness on its relationship with its allies. He stressed on "the strength of the relationship with the Free Patriotic Movement, which is built on sturdy foundations," hinting that some forces do not want this relationship to continue. Nasrallah also denied what was circulated that FPM Chief, MP Gibran Bassil, had opened with Hezbollah the issue of his candidacy for the Presidency of the Republic.
Moving on to speak about the resistance, the Secretary-General referred to its advancement in equipment and military power, emphasizing extreme care for this spirit, recalling that “in the year 2000, there was no national consensus over the resistance, just like today, which means that the resistance did not lose due to the nature of the divisions.” “The Israeli has begun to admit that those who fought it were distinguished by impulsivity and perseverance," Nasrallah underlined, renewing “confidence in the resistance environment, with keenness on this spirit, and the side of faith, because it is the root of resistance.”
The Secretary-General assured that resistance has been from all parties, not just Hezbollah, stressing on Hezbollah’s more forceful presence in the recent period.
Addressing "those who are in a hurry for the resistance to surrender its weapons,” Nasrallah urged them “to look at this state of deterrence, a deterrence that is the protector of Lebanon,” asking anyone in possession of another method, to come forward and reveal it.
The Secretary-General underlined that any Israeli air strike against Lebanon "will not pass without a response." “The resistance has seen victory since the very start of its endeavor, and it has worked steadfastly, patiently, and with a long-lasting breath," affirmed Nasrallah, as he commented on the Israeli enemy's reading of the results of this victory, which was evident in the words of most of the enemy's leaders during the past two weeks, and in the Israeli media.He added: “It is the first time that we read an Israeli text by Ehoda Barak, who was defense minister, and then prime minister, in which he confesses the support of the Gemayel family to reach power, followed by a peace agreement with Israel, and the expulsion of Palestinians from Lebanon to Jordan, so that they would overthrow the Hashemite rule and render Jordan as their alternative homeland.”
Addressing the Jordanian people, Sayyed Nasrallah said: "Just as the Israelis conspired against you; today too, there is conspiracy through the Deal of the Century.”
The Secretary-General went on to state that "the security belt theory established by Israel was to protect its soldiers, and not to protect the Lebanese in the belt, as Ehoda Barak has stated." He reminded that the Israeli goal was to withdraw to the borders, and to keep the Lahd army in the belt, so that fighting becomes among the Lebanese parties, and not with the Israeli enemy. “This was the reason for the complete collapse of the Lahd army,” he said. Nasrallah commended the model that the resistance presented when liberating the security belt, by not attacking those who were dealing with the Israeli enemy. “This is what led to sparing Lebanon a sectarian civil war," he asserted, calling for "building upon this situation, as it is one of the most important lessons in dealing with people."
The Secretary-General continued to describe Israel as being a "racist country” and “from outside the fabric of the region,” adding that “it was founded on terrorism and has no moral basis, and depends on the relaxed environment, and on Western, especially American, support," hinting that "this support may not continue."While criticizing the "Arab position" and describing it as "frequent talk", Nasrallah praised the "credibility of the Arab people towards the resistance, which differs from the regimes."He expressed his belief that "the downfall end of Israel is a matter of time, and that there is no possibility of a cancerous gland remaining," expecting that "the Israelis will carry their belongings and leave to where they came from.” Sayyed Nasrallah declared that the option to support the resistance of the Palestinian people today is higher than in the previous times, due to the failure of negotiations, considering that the growing strength of the resistance in Gaza, and the transformations in the region, have brought about a balance.Referring to the Syrian front, Nasrallah said: "The Israeli enemy did not target us at the beginning, and it was providing support to the Syrian armed groups, not all the opposition,” deeming that "Israel’s venturing into a battle between the wars in Syria, was a victory for the axis of the resistance, and this is what made the Israeli resort to air strikes."
Touching on the UNIFIL peace-keeping forces in South Lebanon, the Secretary-General said: “It is customary for the Americans and the Israelis, with every extension of the UNIFIL forces’ mandate, to threaten to stop funding and change the mission of these forces, but this is a sovereign issue.”
He added that Hezbollah is not concerned with reducing the number of the peace-keeping forces or whether or not they wish to leave, without this implying that the Party does not want a good relationship with them. “We are reading what the Israeli wants…and we are watching the change of the mission of these forces, and we ask: why does the Israeli not accept UNIFIL forces on its side?” questioned Nasrallah. The Hezbollah Secretary-General expected that the Americans would leave the region, saying: "There is a real popular will in Iraq that is working to get the Americans out of it, as well as in Afghanistan, and there are signs of popular resistance in Syria that are taking shape against the Americans." Nasrallah ruled out any American-Iranian war. He also ruled out a war between Israel and the resistance at present, warning the Israelis of "the great war that will open all fronts at once, and this is one of the ideas discussed and we may get to it one day, and this major war, if it happens, will be the end of Israel." "We are before an international scene that will be different from the pre-Corona phase," Nasrallah corroborated.

Senior Hizbullah Official Hashim Safi Al-Din: Israel Will Not Last 25 Years
MEMRI/May 26/2020
Source: Mayadeen TV (Lebanon)
Hashim Safi Al-Din, the Head of Hizbullah’s Executive Council, said in a May 19, 2020 interview on Mayadeen TV (Lebanon) that Israel will cease to exist within 25 years.
Host: "Do you believe that Israel will continue to exist for another 72 years?"
Hashim Safi Al-Din: "Absolutely not. In our opinion, this is settled. Israel will not be able to continue to exist the way it has over the last few decades. It will not be able to survive for many years the way it is."
Host: "So Israel will not last for 72 years more."
Al-Din: "It will not last for 50 or even 25 years."
Host: "That's a lot less than 72..."Al-Din: "It will not last even 25 years."

Future Bloc rejects calls for federalism and overthrowing Taef
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri chaired this afternoon at the Center House a meeting by the Future Parliamentary Bloc that focused on the latest political developments.
After the meeting, MP Mohammed Hajjar read the following statement:
First: The bloc stressed the necessity of getting out of the state of frustration and confusion in approaching economic and financial solutions, and moving to a new stage of dialogue with the International Monetary Fund, which expects from the Lebanese government one position and a clear practical program that is not subject to political discretion and the personal agendas of some of the ruling parties and political forces.
The bloc warned against returning, in the dialogue with the International Monetary Fund, to the same logic that stalled the dialogue several months ago under the pretext of preventing domination over the sovereign economic decision and other arguments that are not in the interest of the Lebanese economy.
The bloc considered that the government’s confusion is one of the negative signs that do not suit the urgent need for courageous and responsible initiatives that contribute to curbing the financial and socio-economic deterioration, and reducing the outrageous price hike affecting all Lebanese without exception.
The inventory of achievements that the government submitted 100 days after its formation has been the subject of criticism by most analysts and observers, including the parties that provide political coverage to the government and its plans. The government still considers the wishes as being accomplishments. It also acts as if the headlines of economic advancement that were mentioned in the reform paper and the ministerial statement of the previous government, including the program of the CEDRE Conference for investment in infrastructure, the national anti-corruption strategy and other reform steps, were the brainchild of this government and its achievements.
Second: The bloc noticed the escalation of the political debate around slogans and proposals that have become remnants from the past, and there is no point of evoking them at this delicate stage in the country's history.
What is being said in some partisan and sectarian circles about federalism and other issues, brings the country back to the atmosphere that formed, for many years, a fertile ground for civil discord, the collapse of the state and the division of its institutions. The bloc emphasizes its firm rejection of these proposals and warns against the dangers of any call to overthrow the Taef Agreement and the Lebanese formula that established the independence state and preserved coexistence among the Lebanese.
The national formula that emerged from the pillars of independence, just like the formula of national entente, are two bright signs in the history of Lebanon, that we should not deny under any circumstances, or consider them a historical mistake that can be erased.
Third: The bloc is not surprised by what was mentioned by former President General Emile Lahoud, and the accusations he made against Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, because he suffers from chronic hatred against the martyr Prime Minister and lives in a world of illusions and allegations.
The bloc hopes that General Lahoud would recover from this, and regrets that his fabricated account coincides with the anniversary of liberation and the withdrawal of the Israeli enemy forces from the Lebanese territory, which will remain a symbol of the unity of the Lebanese in facing the occupation and its plans.
Fourth: The bloc calls on everybody to respect the preventive measures taken in the face of the corona pandemic and wishes recovery to all, especially in the regions that recently witnessed a rise in the number of cases in Majdel Anjar, Central Bekaa, Iqlim Kharroub, Akkar and other regions.
Fifth: The bloc denounced the decision issued by Beirut Implementation Department regarding the imposition of a precautionary seizure of the property of MP Hadi Habeish. It considered the decision a political one unprecedented in the justice palace. In this context, the bloc wished that the cases committee at the Ministry of Justice, which interfered in this affair in violation of the law, would reconsider its decision and restore the right of the state from those who robbed it and are still stealing its money and squandering it, who assaulted its army and security forces and killed their officers, instead of entering in a personal dispute between a deputy and a lawyer on the one hand and a judge on the other one, which is not the first one in justice palaces and will not be the last.
Sixth: The bloc discussed the parliament’s agenda and the draft laws put forward for Thursday’s session, especially the amnesty law submitted by the bloc’s president, Bahia Hariri. The bloc hoped this law would be approved because it would close a period turn a page of conflicts in which the Lebanese were involved that led to actions that violated the law. There was some injustice towards some people, in addition to the fact that overcrowded prisons have turned into places that do not respect the most basic human rights.
The bloc also discussed the “Capital Control” draft law. It reiterates that addressing this issue should be based on preserving the depositors' funds and protecting them. The bloc believes that the proposed draft law needs more discussion and a more detailed study in the parliamentary committees.
Seventh: The bloc congratulates the Lebanese in general and the Muslims in particular on the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr and hopes that the corona pandemic would end and that we find solutions to the crises in Lebanon that exhausted the Lebanese. – {Hariri Press Office}

Pro-Hezbollah Mufti declares end to Lebanon’s confessional system
The Arab Weekly/May 26/2020
LONDON –Ahmed Qablan, a mufti close to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, said Lebanon’s confessional system is no longer warranted in a public address lambasting the country’s leaders and warning of a “huge disaster.”
“The Lebanese state, as we know it today, was created on a sectarian and authoritarian basis to serve the colonial and monopolistic project. This formula has ended,” said the Shia Jaafaria mufti in a speech delivered on the Eid al-Fitr holiday. “What Riad Al Solh and Bishara Al Khouri have created is no more suitable for the people and the country. That was a phase and now, it is over,” he said. In September 1943, Solh was chosen by then president Khouri to be his first premier. They implemented the National Pact (al Mithaq al Watani) later that year that served as the official framework for Lebanon’s confessional system.The unwritten accord held that the positions of president, prime minister and parliament speaker should be split between the country’s three major confessional groups — Maronite Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims, respectively.
Qablan’s speech urges Lebanon to disregard the nearly century-old agreement that provides the basis for fair representation for the country’s diverse religious groups.“The country has fallen because its constitution is corrupt,” said Qablan. “The state’s system is corrupt. Sectarianism is corrupt. The political project is corrupt, and the various agreements are corrupt.
“Loudly I say: No to the sects, not to the state of quotas, not to the quota system, not to the state that starves the citizen and monopolizes his wealth. Not to the federations of sects and barricades,” he added.
Qablan also levelled veiled criticism at former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005. He held Hariri responsible for Lebanon’s post-war instability in the 1990s.
After the end of Lebanon’s civil war in 1990, the country was plagued by periodic rounds of violent conflict. Hariri, who became the first post-civil war prime minister under President Elias Hrawi, attempted to put the country back on the financial map by seeking aggressive economic reforms.
In his speech, Qablan responded to some Christian leaders who have criticised Hezbollah’s control of weapons as being linked to the country’s economic crisis.
“Nobody is allowed to sum up our people, our citizens, our hopes, our torments, and our project in one person or in one sectarian or political form,” he said. “…Otherwise, we are facing a huge disaster and a fate of a defeater and defeated, a poor and a rich, an owner and an owned, a monopolist and a monopolised. This will lead the country into a dark tunnel that it will never leave, ending the project of state and homeland.”
Qablan repeated Hezbollah’s attacks on some banks, businessmen and others who believe Lebanon must chose “either the economy or illegal weapons.”
“As for the insistence of the banking community, the big merchants and businessmen on confrontation, on the basis of facing, detecting and reducing the threat, it is very, very serious matter, and it must not pass without accountability,” he said. Qablan also repeated Hezbollah’s rally to pursue a policy of economic resistance to the West, saying “what is required from the government is full openness to all countries, especially in the East, as a major rescue route, provided that we implement political, customs, supervisory and social reforms to steer away from lobbies here or there.”Qablan implicitly threatened that the Lebanese army could be thrown into disarray if the public questioned Hezbollah’s role.
“Lebanon is a country that has its political function and its national and moral project, and any play with priorities means a catastrophe, and we do not want a new May 17,” Qablan said, in reference to the agreement of 1983 that was signed between Lebanon and Israel calling for the withdrawal of the Israeli Army from Beirut and which provided a framework for the establishment of bilateral relations between the two countries.
Qablan’s statements drew the ire of many Lebanese politicians, who accused the Shia mufti of stoking tensions in the country to support the objectives of Hezbollah and its regional sponsor Tehran.
“Bishara Al Khouri and Riad Al Solh created the most beautiful country in the region. You [Hezbollah] killed Lebanon and the Taif Agreement with your illegal weapons,” said former deputy Fares Saeed.” However, we are children of hope and no one is greater than Lebanon.”“History will record that you are leading Lebanon into an unknown and that we will confront any recklessness from any party,” Saeed said. A member of the powerful Republican bloc, MP Ziad al-Hawat, also criticised Qablan’s statements, saying ” If the National Pact Bishara Al Khouri and Riad Al Solh is no longer valid for some, let us return to the pact of Emile Edde.”Edde, the third Lebanese president to serve during the French mandate, was known for being pro-French and was accused of abusing his constitutional powers.

No to changing land identity,” says Hawat
NNA/Tuesday 26 May 2020
"Truncation of communal lands in the interest of the government's economic plan is rejected. We warn against tampering with the lands belonging to the towns and villages under paragraph (5) of the area of ancient Lebanon, especially al-Aqoura, where its lands are considered private property for the people of the town and are guaranteed in the Lebanese Constitution…No to altering the identity of the land!" underlined MP Ziad Hawat via his Twitter account on Tuesday.

Series of enemy violations of the national airspace on Monday and Tuesday
NNA/Tuesday 26 May 2020
"An Israeli enemy reconnaissance plane violated the Lebanese airspace at 9:15 a.m. today over the southern town of Kfarshuba, conducted circular flights over the western Bekaa and South regions, and then left at 11:30 a.m., flying over the southern town of al-Naqoura,” a Lebanese Amy Command Orientation Directorate announced in an issued statement on Tuesday. “At 10:30 a.m., two Israeli enemy warplanes also breached the Lebanese airspace over the town of Alma al-Shaeb in the South, circled over various Lebanese regions, and then left at 11:25 a.m. from above the aforementioned town,” the statement added. “At 10:35 a.m., two similar warplanes again breached the Lebanese airspace over the town of Kfarshuba, circled over various Lebanese regions, and then left at 11:40 a.m. flying above the town of Kfarkila,” the statement indicated.
In a second issued statement by the Army Command, it announced that “an Israeli enemy reconnaissance drone violated the Lebanese airspace over the town of Kfarkila on Monday at 16:35 hours, circled over various areas in the South, and then left the airspace at 22:50 hours, flying over the town of al-Naqoura.”“A similar enemy aircraft breached the national airspace over the town of Rmeish at 17:15 hours on Monday, roamed over various areas of the South, and then left the airspace at 1:00 a.m. today, flying over the aforementioned town,” the second statement went on.
“At 19:50 hours on Monday, an Israeli enemy reconnaissance aircraft violated Lebanon’s airspace above sea, west of the town of al-Naqoura in the South, circled over the Chouf areas, then over Mount Lebanon, Beirut and its suburbs, Baabda and Aley, and then left the airspace at 00:45 a.m. today, flying over the sea, west of the aforementioned town,” the Army statement indicated.“At 00:50 hours, a similar enemy aircraft violated the national airspace over the town of Yaroun, carried out circular flights over various southern areas, and then left the airspace at 4.10 p.m., flying above the town of Rmeish in the South,” the Army statement concluded.

Geagea, Foucher review local, regional developments
NNA/Tuesday 26 May 2020
Lebanese Forces Party Chief, Samir Geagea, met in Maarab today with French Ambassador to Lebanon, Bruno Foucher, accompanied by the Embassy Political Advisor, Stephanie Salha, in the presence of the LF’s Foreign Relations Department Head, Elie al-Hindi. Talks during the meeting centered on the latest political developments on both the local and regional scenes.

Mortada inspects Lebanese Cheese & Dairy Factory: To finalize refining station to ensure environmental and health safety of the factory and its vicinity

NNA/Tuesday 26 May 2020
Minister of Agriculture and Culture, Abbas Mortada, visited Tuesday the "Lebanese Cheese and Dairy Factory” in the town of Hosh Sned in the Baalbek district, after appeals by citizens residing in the villages surrounding the factory “to intervene to limit the emission of bad odors from the wastewater of the factory," in addition to their doubts about the safety of the water used to irrigate the planted areas belonging to the factory. After visiting the factory’s various sections, Mortada stressed "the necessity of completing and operating the refining plant, since that would serve the public interest and ensure environmental and health safety for the factory and its vicinity."The Minister also pledged to support the local food industries to achieve food security and self-sufficiency, emphasizing “the need to achieve a balance between developing these industries and keeping pace with modern methods on one hand, and preserving environmental safety on the other hand."

Al Shamsi at the end of the Ramadan campaign: The UAE is in the first ranks in comprehensive community service
NNA/Tuesday 26 May 2020
Marking the end of the humanitarian campaign for the month of Ramadan, which included more than 250,000 people, United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Lebanon, Hamad Saeed Al Shamsi, thanked Tuesday the Emirati leadership, charitable and humanitarian organizations and institutions in the country for their continuous support to the Lebanese people in all their sects and regions. "The sisterly Lebanese Republic is one of the countries that have received continuous and ongoing Emirati support for decades, including all sectors." Al Shamsi said. He pointed out that "the aid reached various parts of Lebanon from the far north, to the Bekaa, the southern borders and the capital Beirut, despite the delicate circumstances that the country is going through as a result of the Corona virus." He noted that special care was devoted to families with difficult social conditions, orphans and elderly citizens. “The dynamism and effectiveness of the UAE government's strategy in extending humanitarian aid, and in always seeking to provide assistance to the needy and the underprivileged in brotherly and friendly countries has rendered it at the top in comprehensive community service, drawing the world's attention to what it provides to different peoples, especially in disasters and crises,” Al Shamsi concluded.

Abdel Samad visits Sheikh Hassan: A duty visit at all times to draw inspiration from the wisdom of His Eminence
NNA/Tuesday 26 May 2020
Minister of Information, Dr. Manal Abdel Samad Najd, visited on Tuesday, the Sheikh Aql of the Unitarian Druze Sect, Sheikh Naim Hassan, at the Druze Dar Al-Taifa in Verdun, expressing her well-wishes on the Fitr Eid occasion, in the company of her spouse, Mr. Youssef Najd.
The encounter was a chance for Sheikh Hassan to congratulate the Information Minister on her post, praying for "success in her endeavors and the goals that she intends to achieve, so that the Lebanese media remains a pioneering beacon that reflects the culture, thought and ethics of our unitary society, in light of the technological and scientific revolution and the multiple communication means that must take into account the unity of the word and preserve traditions."Following the meeting, Abdel Samad said: "This visit is a duty not only during the feast, but at all times, to draw inspiration from the wisdom and rational stances of His Eminence, and to enhance kindness and solidarity in the service of a one country.”“Our message is one nation, one Lebanon, one people, in the hope that the situation of the country will improve," Abdel Samad corroborated.

Druze Sheikh Aql meets with Health Minister, Saudi Ambassador on Eid Al-Fitr occasion
NNA/Tuesday 26 May 2020
Druze Unitarian Community Sheikh Aql, Naim Hassan, received this morning Public Health Minister Hamad Hassan, who visited him at the Druze Dar Al-Taifa in Beirut to express his well-wishes on the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr, which also coincides with the Liberation Day.
The meeting was a chance to discuss the health situation in the country and the Public Health Ministry's procedures in this regards, especially towards the concerns about a second wave spread of the coronavirus epidemic.
The Druze Sheikh Aql praised the "important health and guidance steps and proper care demonstrated by the Public Health Ministry, led by Minister Hassan, in closely following-up on the epidemic developments, and the efforts made in this framework to reduce its dangers and overcome the difficult stage the country is going through, which requires that all officials and stakeholders join efforts to get out of this ordeal.”
In turn, Minister Hassan said after the meeting: “We were honored today by visiting the Druze Sheikh Al-Aql, Naim Hassan, to congratulate him on Eid Al-Fitr, wishing him all health and well-being in this wisdom that he enjoys…At the same time, the Eid occasion coincides with the Resistance and Liberation Day, a bright spot in the modern history of Lebanon, which we hope will remain shaded and crowned with such victories. We have commended the positions of His Eminence, and have taken note of his instructions and directives regarding public mobilization, the commitment of the believers to safe spacing and proper geographical distance, while adhering to wearing the mask to limit the transmission of the virus. We consider that every official, whether civil, spiritual or political, plays an exceptional role in this stage, in which we face an epidemic that is one of the most dangerous epidemics that have swept the world.”
“A great credit goes to politicians and spiritual leaders in establishing a unified Lebanese formula to protect Lebanon from all evil,” he added.
Responding to a question on the easing up of mobilization measures, Minister Hassan said: "The government’s plan is clear, i.e. to reduce some of the general mobilization caveats. We are going systematically and realistically to return to normal life and we hope that all citizens adhere to the guidelines. We will gradually ease the measures to avoid falling into the second wave or record a number of infections that exceed the aiding capacity of the Ministry of Health.”
“What is required is to abide by all the guidelines of the government,” Hassan reiterated, adding, “With respect to extending closure or opening the country, it is up to the government collectively according to a report issued by the Ministry of Public Health in this regard."
At noon, Sheikh Hassan received Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon, Walid Al-Bukhari, who came to congratulate him on the Fitr Eid occasion, with talks touching on a number of topics of mutual interest, as well as on the Lebanese-Saudi bilateral relations.
The Druze Sheikh Aql commended the "Lebanese-Saudi historical relationship, which has always been and remains a point of appreciation by the Lebanese people towards the generous and benevolent positions that the Kingdom has taken, in standing besides our homeland at all levels, and through which it demonstrated its great concern for our country, its stability, security and prosperity."
On emerging, Ambassador Bukhari said his visit to the Druze Sheikh Aql was “to offer congratulations on the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr; a visit of kindness and great affection for His Eminence."
On another note, the Druze Sheikh Al-Aql continued to receive congratulatory calls on the Fitr Eid, most notably from Prime Minister Hassan Diab; Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi; Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and the Entire East, John X Yazji; MPs Jean Obeid and Wael Abu Faour; Grand Shiitte Jaafari Mufti, Sheikh Ahmed Qablan; President of the Druze Supreme Court, Judge Faisal Nassereddine; in addition to a number of spiritual, social, political and security figures and a number of bodies and communities in Lebanon and abroad.
For his part, Sheikh Hassan contacted Mufti of the Republic, Sheikh Abdul-Latif Derian, and the Vice-President of the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council, Sheikh Ali Al-Khatib, expressing his well-wishers on the Fitr Eid.

Lebanese Political Activist Dr. Naji Hayek: Lebanon Must Become a Federation, Develop a Technology-Based Economy; Syrian Refugees Detrimental to Lebanon
MEMRI/May 26/2020
Source: OTV (Lebanon)
Lebanese Political activist Dr. Naji Hayek of the Free Patriotic Movement said in a May 18, 2020 interview on OTV (Lebanon) that Lebanon should become a federation like the U.S. or Canada. He said that a federal system is most suitable to the Lebanese people and that the majority of Lebanese people, especially the Christians, feel this way. He also stated that Lebanon should maintain good relations with the U.S. and European countries. He said that Lebanon’s economy should be based on technology, like Israel, and that it should not wage wars on behalf of foreign causes. Furthermore, Dr. Hayek said that Syrian and other refugees in Lebanon cause the country great financial losses, and that the “hidden Syrian civil occupation of Lebanon” is one of the reasons the country has collapsed. For further information about Dr. Hayek see MEMRITV clip #7294.

Plight of migrant workers in Lebanon worsens as crises multiply
AP/Tuesday 26 May 2020
Long before the pandemic struck, they lived and worked in conditions that rights groups called exploitative - low wages, long hours, no labor law protections.
Now, some 250,000 registered migrant laborers in Lebanon – maids, garbage collectors, farm hands and construction workers – are growing more desperate as a crippling economic and financial crisis sets in, coupled with coronavirus restrictions. Read more: Migrant workers on weeks-long strike in Lebanon close to deal with employer. Lebanon’s unprecedented foreign currency crisis means that many migrants have not been paid for months or that the value of salaries is down by more than half. Others have lost their jobs after employers dumped them on the streets or outside their embassies.
“We are invisible,” said Banchi Yimer, an Ethiopian former domestic worker who founded a group that campaigns for domestic workers’ rights in Lebanon. “We don’t even exist for our governments, not just the Lebanese government.”
In just three days, she said, 20 Ethiopian domestic workers were abandoned by their sponsors and left outside the embassy. A video she posted showed women with as little as a backpack or a purse, lined up along the walls of the embassy - some sitting on the floor. The pandemic delivered just the latest blow to a Lebanese economy, already devastated by a financial crisis brought on by decades of corruption and mismanagement. In recent weeks, the Lebanese pound, pegged to the dollar for more than two decades, has lost 60 percent of its value against the dollar and prices of basic goods soared.
Unemployment has risen to 35 percent and an estimated 45 percent of the country’s population is now below the poverty line. In this crisis, migrant workers are among the most vulnerable. Among them are 180,000 domestic workers, most of them women and many from Ethiopia and the Philippines. Thousands live illegally, after escaping their employers to whom they were tied under an ill-reputed sponsorship system, known in Arabic as ‘kafala,’ which dates back to the 1960s.
Many are trapped, unable to go home, because they cannot afford the exorbitant costs of repatriation flights or because global air travel is severely restricted.
Their plight is similar to that of migrant workers in other countries, including foreign laborers in oil-rich Gulf Arab states who now find themselves jobless, as COVID-19 stalks their labor camps. In the Lebanese capital of Beirut, the financial chaos has added to their despair. On Saturday, a Filipina domestic worker took her own life a day after arriving at a shelter run by the Philippines Embassy for workers waiting to return home after losing their jobs. In a statement Monday, the embassy said she died after jumping from a room she was sharing with two others. Both the Philippines Embassy and Lebanese authorities said they were investigating the death.
Suspected suicides or escape attempts of foreign household workers have become a frequent occurrence in Lebanon, with local reports recording at least one incident a month.
Such desperate acts are often blamed on the sponsorship system, which rights groups say creates near slave-like conditions. Some employers do not allow their helpers to go out on the street alone or have a day off.
Domestic workers are not protected by labor law and are often shackled in a 24-7 work schedule with no right to resign.
“Some of their employers abuse them mentally physically and there is no law to protect them. Their employers ... treat them like slaves,” Brihanu said.
A 2016 International Labor Organization study found that out of 1,200 employers surveyed, more than 94 percent withheld their workers’ passports.
Last week, security forces violently quelled a protest by Bangladeshi sanitation workers who were demanding an adjustment of their salaries to new market rates. The pandemic has also taken its toll. A few dozen foreign workers living in overcrowded apartments in Beirut have tested positive for the coronavirus. Riot police are often deployed outside their buildings to enforce isolation.
Last week, Ethiopian workers staged a symbolic demonstration outside their embassy to demand free repatriation.
“We don’t have the power to bring a plane and to take out everybody from this country. I wish we can do that,” said Tsigereda Brihanu, an Ethiopian activist with Egna Legna, Yimer’s organization. “Regular life in Lebanon is very difficult even to survive. It is not worth it to stay here.”
One Ethiopian worker said that even though her sponsor still pays her salary, she is already checking into going home because she knows the dollars will run out and prices will continue to increase. “Lebanon’s finished,” she said, declining to give her name in order to speak freely.
The virus lockdown has exacerbated work conditions. Some workers are not able to communicate with their own families and friends, the hours are much longer and the demands by employers are unrealistic, said Zeina Mezher of the International Labor Organization.
“They say that we are all in the storm, but it doesn’t affect us all in the same way,” she said. Yimer, who founded Egna Legna in 2017, is now in Canada, where the group is registered as a non-profit organization, because it is illegal for domestic workers to be activists in Lebanon, and the government has refused to register a union for them. Egna Legna, meaning “from us migrants to us migrants” in Amharic, Ethiopia’s official language, now offers food packages for some who lost their jobs and helps others pay rent.
“I have not worked for nearly three months,” said Kumari, a household worker from Sri Lanka. Kumari used to hold down work in several homes in order to send money to her 5-year-old daughter who is being raised by her mother back home. “Nobody has work. I want to go home but I can’t until corona finishes,” she said.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement: The end of an affair?
Makram Rabah/Al Arabiya/May 26/2020
On February 6, 2006, the Free Patriotic Movement, current Lebanese President Michael Aoun’s Christian party, and Hezbollah signed a memorandum of understanding, thus establishing what many thought at the time to be a feeble alliance which was doomed to fail. Despite the ebbs and flows of their alliance, over the last 14 years, the FPM and Hezbollah were able to work together with the former providing Christian political cover, while the latter provided the political muscle, consequently leading to the election of Aoun as President.
But recently, visible cracks have appeared in this not-so sacred alliance as hawkish figures within the FPM have taken to various media outlets commenting on the harmful effect Hezbollah’s arsenal has on Lebanon’s ability to respond to its abysmal economic conditions.
Ziad Aswad, an FPM lawmaker, and Naji Hayek, a senior member of the FPM, brought the matter into the open as they blamed Hezbollah for Lebanon’s predicament, stressing that for Hezbollah “to keep their weapons means the Lebanese going hungry.” Hayek was equally critical of Hezbollah and its allies accusing them of working toward coopting and seeking to hegemonize all aspects of society, provoking a response from the Amal movement, Speaker Nabih Berri’s faction, which accused the FPM of plotting to establish a federalist state.
Despite all the ruckus that came with the FPM’s reservations of their main ally, there are many indications that confirm that this alliance will linger and that the FPM criticism are disingenuous to say the least, with both sides benefiting in the process. The fact that these remarks came via Aswad and Hayek and not the FPM’s President Gebran Bassil simply means that they can be brushed away as irresponsible comments and the relationship between the two can be swiftly repaired.
It is no coincidence that this supposed schism between the FPM and Hezbollah conveniently surfaced at a time that news is circulating that the next round of sanctions against Iran and Syria especially the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act might go beyond Hezbollah to even include Bassil and many businessmen who orbit his network.
Thus, the FPM attack can be seen as an attempt to prevent such sanctions from becoming a reality. By Bassil claiming his alliance with Hezbollah and Iran allows for backdoor diplomacy and containment, Bassil maintains that his arrangement with Hezbollah protects Lebanon and the Christians, a pretext which many foreign diplomats, either naively or dubiously seem to buy. An equally important reason for the FPM’s latest maneuver is that it empowers Bassil within the Christian community and reinforces his shattered image, one which has worsened with the deteriorating economic conditions. By bolstering his damaged image, he boosts his chances in the next presidential elections.
Hezbollah, on the other hand, stands to benefit from this FPM attack, as it allows it to come out as supposedly democratic and open to constructive criticism. Perhaps Hezbollah will entertain the idea of discussing defense strategy under the state, rather than through its own devices.
Such a tactic – portraying Iran’s Lebanese outfit as a political actor rather than the militia it is – at least in the mind of Bassil and Hezbollah would help to improve Lebanon’s chances for aid as it begs the International Monetary Fund and other donors for funding.
Additionally, being on the receiving end of an attack by Bassil, perceived by the majority of the Lebanese as the face of corruption, is not necessarily bad as it helps Hezbollah appear as a crusader for reform and anti-corruption.
In reality, the FPM, more specifically Bassil, and Hezbollah are umbilically connected and neither can breakaway without one dying out. Without Hezbollah and its weapons to use as his muscle, Bassil has no chance of controlling nor enforcing his will on the country, the moment that Hezbollah decides to drop Bassil, he will be open to criminal and judicial action or simply go back to losing elections like he did twice before, and his chance of replacing his father-in-law as Lebanon’s next president will simply fade away. Bassil equally knows that Hezbollah will never leave him out in the cold as long as he continues to act as its Christian fig leaf, a service which he has done proficiently.
Perhaps more importantly, the FPM-Hezbollah alliance is a manifestation of their mutual belief in the exclusionary principle of the alliance of minorities, one which has driven Aoun and later Bassil to drag Lebanon into the Iran’s axis of resistance, placing the country and its future in the wind. Rather than become distracted by the sideshow that is a Hezbollah schism with the FPM and accompanying hopes this fallout would save Lebanon, it is more prudent for the Lebanese and, more importantly, for the international community to put an end to the current Lebanese political system that allows for such sinister and destructive alliances to become the norm.

Joumana Haddad: Rebellion whirlwind versus opprobrium, via words
Christy-Belle Geha/Annahar/May 26/2020
BEIRUT: By the age of 12, Joumana Haddad had already devoured the works of Dostoevsky, Balzac, Eluard, and Salinger, from her father’s library, and moved to the Marquis de Sade, whose world scandalized the young girl. Years later, she became an award-winning poet, renowned journalist, and literary translator. Haddad registered her Ph.D. subject on the Marquis de Sade at Sorbonne University in France, but never completed it because academia “never quite attracted” her.
She preferred dedicating her time to a new book rather than to a thesis, as she told Annahar, the newspaper whose cultural pages she headed for 20 years, growing into the first woman in the Arab region to occupy such a position.
“Language is a beautiful tool through which the world can be looked at, named, discovered, loved, reinvented, have its stories told,” Haddad said. However, language is also a “dangerous tool to distort the world and lie about it as well.”
Discovering De Sade was Haddad’s “baptism by subversion” as she wrote in her 2010 “I Killed Scheherazade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman,” her first book in English, in which she confessed that literature “has been [her] original emancipator.”
Alongside generating brainchildren in English, Haddad masters six other languages, among which her native Arabic tongue, French, Armenian, and Spanish.“I never avoid saying something in a particular language and thus ‘escape’ to another,” she noted. “I say what I want to say, period. Whatever the language is. It’s just that the idea of a book often comes carrying with it its own genre and its own language, and I surrender to that.”
During Annahar’s conversation with Haddad, she elaborated that she relishes abandoning herself to her volatility, and she subsequently adopts the null literary routine or daily writing rituals, given that her “fickle type of creativity doesn’t appreciate discipline.”
As neither academia nor discipline attracts Haddad, she abhors the tendency among Arab women towards submission to clichés and victimhood, triggering her to speak, write, and transgress the human-fabricated constraints.
“Poetry, to me, is the closest dwelling to freedom, and the shortest path to the core of all things. It is the nucleus of truth under the innumerable layers of deceit, and that’s a yearning in me,” she explained.
With a favorite-poets spectrum oscillating between Akl Awit, Ounsi El Hajj, Cesare Pavese, Sylvia Plath, Paul Eluard, and Fernando Pessoa, Haddad thinks that all poets and avid readers might face the risks of their readings’ influence on their expression.
“We almost always carry some essence of what we have read and loved in our own texts,” Haddad said. “The important thing is to absorb that influence and personalize it and enrich it with our individual voice so that it stops being an influence and rather becomes the hybrid descendant of ancestral matrimony. We all produce cross-breeds when we write.”
In parallel with publishing widely-acclaimed poetry in French like “Le temps d’un rêve” (1995), her Arabic “The return of Lilith” (2004), “Mirrors of the passers by” (2008), and “The Geology of I” (2012) among others, and “Invitation to a Secret Feast” (2008) in English, Haddad also published several works of translation - which she delved into for her Master's degree at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK) - including an anthology of Lebanese modern poetry in Spanish, “Allí donde el río se incendia, Antología de la poesía libanesa moderna” (2005).
Her explicit and daring poetry and prose earned her international prizes such as Italy’s International Prize North-South for poetry in 2009, the Blue Metropolis Al Majidi Bin Dhaher Arab Literary Prize and the Rodolfo Gentili Prize in Porto Recanati in 2010, as well as the 2014 Italian “Career Poetry Prize,” after she was appointed honorary ambassador for culture and human rights for the city of Naples in the Mediterranean in 2013.
“When I’m writing, there’s no ‘audience,’ no readers, no calculations and formulas.” She explained. “No ‘what will happen next?’ or ‘how will this text be received?’ Nothing from the outside world interferes with the flow of my thoughts and words. I become completely impermeable, as well as totally free from the earthly notions of time and space, and the weight these might cast on me.”
For Haddad, this attitude comes as a result of years of training in the art of fighting self-censorship and the nagging voices in her head. “I learned not to surrender to those, because without the absolute freedom of writing whatever I wanted to write, I cannot produce anything,” she added.
Obloquy cascades flooded Beirut - the city where Haddad was born in 1970 - and the surrounding Arab region, when she published “Jasad” (or “Body”) starting 2008, a quarterly magazine unprecedentedly tackling Arab cultural taboos including polygamy, masturbation, homosexuality, virginity, marriage, in addition to erotic stories and personal testimony.
Haddad herself scandalized her father at the age of 26 when she opted for the word “penis” in a poem, rather than “column,” the preferred term by her father.
“As long as you’re alive, you’re oppressed, whether you realize it or not, whether you accept it or not. Humans are oppressed by the small details as well as by the big picture, by the obvious and by the less obvious, by the patriarchal laws and by the inequitable economy, by international politics and by biased media,” she expressed.
Haddad believes that waking up is a constant “going to war,” as every day, there are new “oppression monsters to defeat.”
Given her harsh fight against prevalent notions of womanhood and misogyny in the Middle East, as well as western stereotypes on Arab women, Haddad’s most vociferous opponents slide into her inbox and threaten her for her “provocative” cerebral products, initially thought to be written by men.
But despite it all, she admits not being affected by criticism, as “it doesn’t steer the direction that only [she] decides to take, nor the content that nobody but [her] chooses to express.”
“Anger generates beauty when it is the right kind of anger, that is, outrage in the face of indignity and the will to do and say something about it,” she added. “All strong emotions can generate beauty. The only indifference is sterile. But we don’t write to ‘generate beauty.’ We write to create earthquakes and move mountains, or at least that’s what I try to do.”
Her scientific approach to life helped her in her career as she confirmed, and “‘Parole parole parole’ doesn’t work for [her].”
For Haddad, her mind needs to be “addressed and convinced with a solid reason,” which many might consider a weird characteristic in a poet and writer.
“I look at my young self with compassion, and she looks at me with the grateful eyes of someone who’s been somewhat avenged,” she concluded
*Welcome to Carpe Diem, Annahar's new literary section featuring poetry- old and new, published or hidden within the nooks of unveiled pages of Lebanese writers. We welcome all contributions with the caveat that the section hopes to see rawness and authenticity in thought and emotion.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 26-27/2020
Bethlehem Nativity Church reopens after coronavirus closure
AP/May 26/2020
BETHLEHEM, West Bank: Bethlehem’s storied Church of the Nativity reopened to visitors on Tuesday, after a nearly three-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.The church, built over the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born, was closed on March 5 as the first cases of the virus were reported in the West Bank. mThe church is one of Christianity’s most sacred shrines and the closure came ahead of the busy Easter holiday season that typically draws tens of thousands of visitors and worshipers.Bishop Theophylactos, a Greek Orthodox cleric, called the reopening a day of celebration for Bethlehem since “all the people now can enter the church and pray like before.”The Palestinian Authority has reported some 400 cases of the coronavirus in the West Bank, with two deaths. Most of the cases were traced to Palestinians who worked inside Israel, which has been coping with a much larger outbreak.Israeli authorities have begun to gradually reopen schools, houses of worship and markets as the spread of the novel coronavirus has slowed. Israel’s Health Ministry has reported over 16,700 confirmed cases of the disease and 279 deaths. More than 14,000 have recovered.

Third Iranian cargo reaches Venezuelan waters, others unloading
Reuters, Venezuela/Wednesday 27 May 2020
The third cargo of an Iranian tanker flotilla carrying fuel for gasoline-thirsty Venezuela on Tuesday reached the nation’s exclusive economic zone as the previous two were discharging at state run PDVSA's ports, according to Refinitiv Eikon data. The Iran-flagged tanker Petunia crossed the Caribbean Sea earlier on Tuesday, following the route taken in recent days by vessels Fortune and Forest. The Fortune was welcomed on Monday at PDVSA's El Palito refinery by Venezuela's oil minister, Tareck El Aissami, who thanked Iran for its support during the crisis, which has forced Venezuelans to wait in long lines for gasoline.For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app. The deal has been criticized by the United States as both OPEC-member nations are under sanctions. A US official said earlier this month that President Donald Trump’s administration was considering responses to the shipment, prompting the Iranian government to warn Washington against any military action. The vessels did not appear to encounter any interference during their journey. The second tanker in the flotilla, the Forest, docked on Tuesday at a port serving PDVSA’s second largest refinery, Cardon, on the nation's western coast, according to two sources and the Eikon data. As the tankers discharge the imports, which include gasoline and components for motor fuel production, PDVSA is working to recover a portion of the domestic refining capacity it has lost in recent years due to mismanagement, lack of qualified personnel and delayed maintenance due to limitations under the US sanctions. The Venezuelan firm, whose nameplate refining capacity reaches 1.3 million barrels per day, increased crude processing for fuel production to 215,000 bpd this month, from 110,000 bpd in March, according to sources and company data. But its crude output and exports took another hit in May due to lack of buyers amid sanctions, which has pushed stocks up.

US military says Russia deployed ‘fourth generation’ fighter jets to Libya
The Arab Weekly/May 26/2020
CAIRO--The US military Tuesday accused Russia of deploying “fourth generation” fighter planes to conflict-stricken Libya to support the Libyan National Army (LNA) in its offensive on the capital, Tripoli. US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said the Russian military aircraft arrived in Libya recently from an airbase in Russia via Syria. AFRICOM did not say how many aircrafts were transferred or when exactly they arrived in Libya.“For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way,” said US Army General Stephen Townsend. Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.“Russian military aircraft are likely to provide close air support and offensive fire,” the AFRICOM said in a statement posted on its website and on Twitter.The US statement quoted US Air Force General Jeff Harrigian as warning that if Russia seized bases on Libya’s coast, it would “create very real security concerns on Europe’s southern flank.”Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday told Libyan Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh, who is allied with the LNA commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, that Moscow backed an immediate ceasefire and political talks for a settlement. Lavrov conveyed that message to Saleh in a phone call, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Libya is now split between a government in the east allied with Haftar and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and backed by Turkey, Qatar and Islamic militants. Last Monday, GNA forces captured al-Watiya airbase after Turkey stepped up its military intervention, sending drones, air defence systems, armoured vehicles and thousands of Syrian mercenaries. However, Haftar said Saturday his forces would continue fighting and they have stepped up airstrikes. Acting UN special envoy Stephanie Williams warned last week that the war in the North African country will “intensify, broaden and deepen” because of increasing foreign intervention and the influx of weapons, military equipment and mercenaries to both sides.

Erdogan lifts 10-year Israel cargo ban while condemning Israeli actions in Palestine
Matthew Amlôt, Al Arabiya English/Monday 25 May 2020
Turkish President Erdogan condemned Israel’s plans of annexing Palestinian land while a cargo plane landed in Istanbul from Israel carrying cargo for the first time in 10 years on Sunday. Israel’s El Al airlines, the country’s flag carrier, landed in Istanbul on Sunday morning, according to a tweet from the Israeli embassy in Turkey. The tweet added that the flight will help trade between the two countries. Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Israel’s actions on the same day and voiced support for Palestine in the lead up to Eid al-Fitr, a holiday which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. “We will not allow the Palestinian lands to be offered to anyone else … Last week we witnessed that a new occupation and annexation project, which disregards Palestine’s sovereignty and international law, was put into action by Israel,” Erdogan said in a video message on Sunday, Turkish state news Anadolu Agency reported.“I would like to reiterate that al-Quds Al-Sharif, the holy site of three religions and our first kiblah, is a red line for all Muslims worldwide … It is clear that the global order has long failed to produce justice, peace, serenity, and order,” he added. In April, Turkey began supplying medical equipment to Israel to help the country fight the coronavirus pandemic, Bloomberg earlier reported.

Erdogan seeks to extend his Libya gains into a foothold in Algeria
DebkaFile/May 26/2020
Turkey is cajoling Algeria into signing a defense pact with the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli after capturing the strategic Watiya air base from Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s (LNA) forces, DEBKAfile’s Mid East sources report. On Sunday, the 1,200-1,500 Russian mercenaries fighting for Haftar were flown to Jufra in southern Libya to regroup and chart their next steps, after the GNA and Turkish-backed troops destroyed the LNA’s air defenses in Watiya, including the Russian Pantsir-1 battery posted there. Russia, which supports the general’s yearlong battle to conquer Tripoli, responded by transferring half a dozen warplanes from Syria to Libya to enable the LNA to keep on bombing GNA forces and Turkish assets. Erdogan countered with a threat to bring Turkish Air Force warplanes over to bomb Haftar’s troops. The Turks have hitherto used drones.
GNA control of al-Watiya not only puts a stop to Haftar’s use of the facility to mount air raids on GNA forces in Tripoli. It also provides Turkey with a strategic base for building up a military presence in Libya and its Mediterranean coastline. Haftar’s backers, Russia, Egypt and the UAE may have second thoughts about helping the Libyan general’s thrust from his eastern stronghold to seize the capital. In December, Erdogan signed a military cooperation pact with the UN-recognized Tripoli government’s prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj for countering the offensive mounted by Gen. Haftar.
Algeria has consistently fought shy of foreign adventures and stood aloof from the troubles in Libya – even when Muammar Qadhafi was overthrown, thereby setting off the still-raging civil war. The Turkish president saw an opportunity in the new Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s apparent openness for abandoning its traditional doctrine of non-intervention under the late Boutefliqa. Article 95 of new constitutional reform bill that Tebboune’s instituted earlier this month allows the Algerian army to intervene for the first time outside its borders. Threats to this huge, largely desert, oil-rich country’s stability abound from its volatile Sahel neighbors, on the one hand, and Libya on the other. If Erdogan succeeds in harnessing Algeria to the Libyan GNA, which is already tied to the Turkish chariot, he will be able to shift the balance of power in a broad, volatile region. His military gains in Libya already bring him into position to impact the security of its North African neighbors – not least, Egypt – as well as Mediterranean navigation between that continent and southern Europe and the offshore oil projects in between. The Turkish president is in serious need of success in his foreign adventures to boost his failing fortunes at home. The economy is in free fall, and his former cronies have been able to establish an opposition grouping that could seriously challenge his party at next year’s election. When he talked by phone with President Donald Trump last week, Erdogan boasted that the Libyan conflict was no longer small potatoes among local forces and minor parties like the UAE, but a game led by the big players like Vladimir Putin, his off-and-on ally, and himself.

Aguila Saleh’s initiative tests international community on Libya
Mona El-Mahrouki/The Arab Weekly/May 26/2020
TUNIS – The political initiative launched by Libyan Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh tests the international community's seriousness in finding a just political settlement that takes into account the balance of military forces in the country and breaks with the Skhirat agreement, which has cemented the Islamists’ takeover of the government in Tripoli following what was then known as “the Fajr Libya coup."Fathi al-Mrimi, media advisor to Saleh, said: “We need the United Nations Mission and the international community to oversee this initiative, with the participation of the major powers, including Russia and the United States, to help the Libyan people out of their crisis.”On Saturday, Saleh reiterated the initiative that he announced at the end of last April, coinciding with the retreat of the Libyan National Army (LNA) from several fronts due to increasing Turkish intervention on the side of the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) militias, which are allegedly taking in weapons, mercenaries and extremists from ISIS and the Nusra Front. In a statement broadcast on Eid al-Fitr, Saleh said that “the political process has been blocked by ignoring the outcome of the Berlin conference, and in light of the risks of foreign invasion, the halt to oil production and exports, falling oil prices, high exchange rates, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on international economies and the takeover of the Libyan Central Bank, the National Oil Agency and branches of foreign banks by the illegitimate Presidential Council and other groups, militias and armed gangs, all of which serves the interests of these groups and enables them to consolidate their control of the capital and continue looting the wealth of Libyans.”
“Our success in restructuring the Presidential Council, forming a national government, and reaching a mechanism for distributing the national wealth will enable us to provide budgeted funds to cover the needs of citizens and putting them on the path for a decent living, and supports efforts to improve the military institution so that it can carry out its role in combating terrorism, protecting borders, and preserving state sovereignty,” he added.
It must be pointed out that Saleh’s initiative was rejected by the LNA, and that was reflected in Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s address to his troops on Eid in which he urged them to continue fighting. The Libyan Parliament and its speaker have been among the army’s most prominent allies since 2014.
To convince Haftar to side with his initiative, Saleh needs to secure international guarantees not to have the scenario of the Skhirat agreement repeated, because that agreement was the reason for the outbreak of the Battle of Tripoli, since the Islamists and their international allies were planning to impose a new settlement tailored to fit the wishes of the Muslim Brotherhood through the Ghedames conference, which was cancelled when the battle for Tripoli was declared. When the LNA launched the battle for Tripoli on April 4, 2019, it was accused of undermining the political process, but political figures affiliated with the LNA said that launching the battle came in response to the coup against the understandings reached in Abu Dhabi between Haftar and GNA President Fayez al-Sarraj.nding allowed the LNA to enter Tripoli and hold presidential and legislative elections. The Islamists had turned their backs on these understandings because they realised that their popularity was declining among Libyans due to their involvement with and support of terrorist groups in various regions of the country, in addition to the deterioration of living conditions and the spread of chaos and corruption. Since the outbreak of the battle more than a year ago, the international community has been trying to resume the political process and reach a settlement that guarantees the participation of all political groups in the government, which explains why it has turned a blind eye on Turkey’s intervention despite its illegality and arms trafficking.
By freeing Turkey’s hand in Libya, the international community is seeking to indirectly strike a military balance that might force the LNA to return to the political process, especially after Haftar had refused last January to sign a Russia-Turkey sponsored cease-fire agreement that seemed to him no to to take into account the LNA’s military superiority. Countries like the United States and the United Kingdom are accused of being biased in favour of the Islamists despite the chaos caused by the latter in Libya. The Skhirat agreement is seen by many as an international “reward” for the Brotherhood for their coup against the democratic path in 2014. While the countries that support the Islamists are betting on weakening the army’s position militarily, the Islamists and their regional allies (Qatar and Turkey) are focusing their efforts on driving a wedge in the alliance between the army and parliament on the one hand and between the army and the tribes supporting it on the other, in an effort to curtail any role for Haftar in the talks and give way to Saleh, who is perceived as less intransigent and more open to the Islamists. On Monday, Turkish and Qatari media outlets tried to amplify the support of 11 deputies for Saleh’s initiative and highlight differences between the army and parliament. Those media outlets and pro-GNA websites have launched a campaign targeting Haftar and belittling his victories by amplifying the army’s recent losses. But Saleh’s latest statement, stressing his side’s continued support for the LNA in its war on terrorism, came to reduce the chances of success of these campaigns “There is no disagreement between Field Marshal Haftar and Speaker Aguila Saleh, as some would like you to believe,” said the speaker’s media advisor. “We agree to support the army and liberate all Libyan land from terrorism, but this is a political initiative and all solutions can be presented. The one proposal that will end the Libyan crisis and achieve stability and the interest of the Libyan people, everyone will support it.”

France says relations with Tehran ‘more difficult’ with detention of French-Iranian academic
The Arab Weekly/May 26/2020
PARIS--France’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that relations with Iran had become more difficult after Tehran sentenced a French-Iranian academic to prison in what he said was a politically motivated decision.
“This sentencing was founded on no serious elements and was politically motivated. So we firmly say to the Iranian authorities to release Fariba Adelkhah without delay,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Inter radio. “This decision make our relations with the Iranian authorities a lot more difficult,” he said. French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah was sentenced to six years in jail May 16. Iran has previously rejected France’s call to release Adelkhah, a 60-year-old anthropologist who has been detained since June 2019, saying the demand is an “interference in Tehran’s internal affairs.” Tehran does not recognise dual nationality. In March, Iran released Adelkhah’s partner, French academic Roland Marchal, who was detained along with her. Marchal was released after France freed Iranian engineer Jalal Ruhollahnejad, who was detained over alleged violations of US sanctions against Tehran and was facing extradition to the US. Washington has said that it “deeply regrets” the French decision. Sixty year-old Adelkhah is a research director at Sciences Po university in Paris and a well-known expert on Shia Islam. She is best known for her book “Being Modern in Iran” and has done extensive research on women, youth and social changes in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Experts pointed out that prisoner swaps encourage Iran to continue its practice of abducting and detaining dual nationals in order to blackmail foreign nations into policy concessions or the release of Iranian nationals suspected of espionage and terrorist activities. The IRGC has arrested dozens of dual nationals in recent years, mostly on “espionage” charges. Adelkhah’s lawyer Saeid Dehghan said Marchal’s release gives grounds for appeal against the charge of “gathering and conspiring against national security.”
“At least two people must be involved for this charge to stand,” he said. Adelkhah’s defence team also plans to argue that her personal academic opinion regarding the Islamic dress code enforced in Iran cannot amount to “propaganda against a political system.”Visiting Western academics and journalists face constant harassment in Iran when they are allowed a visa to enter the country.

Leading security officials say ISIS resurgent amid coronavirus pandemic
Thomas Harding/The National/May 26, 2020
Western powers distracted by crisis, allowing extremists to regroup
Western security sources said that ISIS was resurgent and was using the coronavirus crisis to rebuild its strength for an offensive.
The terrorist group has capitalised on the confusion and chaos caused by the pandemic to recruit and rearm, the sources said.
With the US distracted by the crisis and in the process of pulling troops from the front lines in Afghanistan, pressure on the extremists has eased, allowing them to regroup.This month, ISIS attacked Iraqi paramilitaries, killing at least 10 people.
The assaults included a bomb planted in the path of reinforcements and the use of boats to outflank security forces. “You cannot take your eye off the ball with these people as they have not gone away,” a western security source told The National. “They are resurgent. They’re not at their high point by any means, but their trajectory is going up, whereas a couple of years ago it was going down, and Covid is certainly making it a bit difficult to keep a lid on Daesh.”Daesh has evolved – it is now going back to traditional sleeper cells, gradually building up its strength. ISIS is continuing to exploit refugee camps for training, influence and radicalisation, in particular the 70,000 people in Al Hol in north-east Syria.
The militants are well funded and used "significant" numbers of women to co-ordinate their activities. “They are enabling these attacks and the opportunity from Covid to recruit, train and get back on the front foot,” the security source said.
“Daesh is now going back to traditional sleeper cells, gradually building up its strength. There is also no shortage of money.”Since the pandemic struck, ISIS has started firefights with Iraqi security forces rather than using roadside bombs and snipers. “They’re bolder, more aggressive,” a western diplomat told International Crisis Group analysts for a report published this month. “They use IEDs but more and more they engage in firefights. And they kill.” But Iraqi Brig Gen Yahya Rasool played down reports that the terrorist group was resurgent. “You have some remnants of the organisation, cells, that try to carry out operations here and there, in desert areas like western Anbar or on plains, ravines and mountains – areas where the nature of the terrain is difficult, which are hard to totally control," the Iraqi defence spokesman told Crisis Group.
Coalition forces have continued to provide aircraft and drone support for Iraqi soldiers in the past month. But there were growing concerns that a weakening of Iraq's relationship with Washington had emboldened the terrorists.
The US has had a presence in Iraq since it invaded in 2003, but President Donald Trump has insisted on reducing troop numbers, which has taken pressure off the extremists. With Iran providing precision missiles to its proxies in Iraq, US troops were under greater threat and were now relying on air support for protection. It was understood that the Americans were also pursuing the offensive against ISIS with “less energy”, the security source said. Tension between the US and Iraq has also been high after the assassination of Iran’s Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad by a US drone in January.
There was also a perceived failure in the West to understand the implications of killing Iraqi paramilitary leader Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis alongside Suleimani. “The Iraqis were seriously annoyed,” the security source said. “He was the main connection with the government and he was a key player.
"Fortunately, now that Iraq has a new government, the ability for the US and Iraq to talk is getting stronger. "Meetings are planned for next month about the future of the coalition.” America faces further hostility with Iraqi opponents calling its presence an “occupation” and a heated debate over whether its troops should be expelled. ISIS is also exploiting the fact that joint operations between Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iraqi security forces are not as co-ordinated as in the past. With Iraqi security forces distracted by enforcing coronavirus measures, ISIS in March urged its followers to use it as an opportunity to step up attacks. With low oil prices and spreading Covid-19 infections, Iraq’s new government faces a testing summer. ISIS is unlikely extend its reach to the size of its self-declared "caliphate" of five years ago but there is real concern about its resurgence.“It’s clear something is happening,” one western diplomat said.

Captured Senior ISIS Commander Abdul Nasser Qardash: Fanatics In ISIS Had The Upper Hand; New Leader Not As Resolute As Al-Baghdadi
 Al-Arabiya TV (Dubai/Saudi Arabia)
Captured senior ISIS commander Abdul Nasser Qardash said in a May 20, 2020 interview on Al-Arabiya Network (Saudi Arabia) that when ISIS lost vast territories, the ISIS leadership re-examined things. He said that it became clear that fanatics had infiltrated ISIS and gained the "upper hand." In addition, Qardash said that former ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who had been killed by U.S. forces in 2019, had been a resolute leader who rarely changed his mind and who would cover up his faults rather than admit to them. He added that the current ISIS Caliph is not as resolute as Al-Baghdadi had been.
Abdul Nasser Qardash: "When the Islamic State lost vast areas, including Kobani, things were re-examined and discussed with the leaders of the Islamic State. There were three of us who sat with the leaders of the Islamic State - myself, Abu Muhammad Al-Furqan, and Abu Ayyub Al-Raqqawi. During the discussions, it became clear that the fanatics in the Islamic State had the upper hand."
Host: "So there were fanatics in ISIS and they had the upper hand?"
Qardash: "It turned out that there were fanatic students who infiltrated [our ranks]. We decided to form an inspection [committee] that would summon anyone who was problematic, and clarify matters with him.
"Abu Bark Al-Baghdadi was known to be resolute. He would not go back on a decision unless he was 100% certain that it was wrong. Only then would he change his mind. He would not admit any faults. Rather, he would try to cover them up. [Current ISIS leader] Abdullah Qardash is not a resolute person."
Host: "900 men were taken from the provinces under your control, especially Al-Anbar, and after they 'repented,' they were slaughtered in Syria."
Qardash: "I consider this to be a betrayal.
"These people repented, yet they took them and killed them, in accordance with the orders of Abu Mu'taz."

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 26-27/2020
“White Harlots Eager for Sex”: Islam’s Medieval Fantasies Plague Europe
Raymond Ibrahim/May 26/2020
Speaking under the pseudonym of “Ella,” a British woman recently revealed that her Muslim rapists called her “a white c*nt, a white wh*re, and a white b*tch,” during the more than 100 times she was raped in her youth by the mostly Pakistani grooming gang.
“We need to understand racially and religiously aggravated crime if we are going to prevent it and protect people from it and if we are going to prosecute correctly for it,” she said in her recent interview. “Prevention, protection and prosecution — all of them are being hindered because we are neglecting to properly address the religious and racist aspects of grooming gang crimes…. It’s telling them that it’s OK to hate white people.”
That there are “racial” and “religious” aspects to the epidemic of Muslims raping Western European women cannot be overstated. Put differently, the males of a particular religion tend to fantasize that the females of a particular race are nymphomaniacal masochists who are hot for being degraded and abused. Consider a few earlier examples:
Another British girl was “passed around like a piece of meat” among Muslim men who abused and raped her between the ages of 12 and 14. Speaking now as an adult, a court heard how she “was raped on a dirty mattress above a takeaway and forced to perform [oral] sex acts in a churchyard,” and how one of her abusers “urinated on her in an act of humiliation” afterwards.
Another British woman was trafficked to Morocco where she was prostituted and repeatedly raped by dozens of Muslim men. They “made me believe I was nothing more than a slut, a white whore,” she recollects. “They treated me like a leper, apart from when they wanted sex. I was less than human to them, I was rubbish.”
A Muslim man explained to another British woman why he was raping her: “you white women are good at it.”
A Muslim man called a 13-year-old virgin “a little white slag”—British slang for “loose, promiscuous woman”—before raping her.
In Germany, a group of Muslim “refugees” stalked a 25-year-old woman, hurled “filthy” insults at and taunted her for sex. They too explained their logic—“German girls are just there for sex”—before reaching into her blouse and groping her.
Another Muslim man who almost killed his 25-year-old German victim while raping her—and shouting “Allah!”—afterwards inquired if she liked it.
In Australia, a Muslim cabbie groped and insulted his female passengers, including by saying “All Australian women are sluts and deserve to be raped.”
In Austria, an “Arabic-looking man” approached a 27-year-old woman at a bus stop, pulled down his pants, and “all he could say was sex, sex, sex,” prompting the woman to scream and flee.
Even Dr. Taj Hargey, a British imam, confirms that the majority of the UK’s “imams promote grooming rings.” He said Muslim men are taught that women are “second-class citizens, little more than chattels or possessions over whom they have absolute authority” and that the imams preach a doctrine “that denigrates all women, but treats whites with particular contempt.”
For those acquainted with history, such Muslim behavior towards European women should be unsurprising—stretching, as it does, all the way back to the founder of Islam: In order to prompt his men to invade Byzantine territory—where the Arabs’ nearest European neighbors lived—the prophet Muhammad enticed them with the potential of sexually enslaving the “yellow” women (an apparent reference to their fair hair). It is “impossible to disconnect Islam from the Viking slave-trade,” M.A. Khan, a former Muslim, writes of the following centuries, “because the supply was absolutely meant for meeting [the] Islamic world’s unceasing demand for the prized white slaves” and for “white sex-slaves.”
Moreover, just as Muslim rapists see Western women as “pieces of meat,” “nothing more than sluts,” and “white whores,” so did Islam’s earliest luminaries always describe European women, beginning with those nearest to them, of Byzantium. Thus, for Abu Uthman al-Jahiz (b. 776), a prolific court scholar, the females of Constantinople were the “most shameless women in the whole world … [T]hey find sex more enjoyable” and “are prone to adultery.” Abd al-Jabbar (b. 935), another prominent scholar, claimed that “adultery is commonplace in the cities and markets of Byzantium”—so much so that even “the nuns from the convents went out to the fortresses to offer themselves to monks.”
Several centuries later, in a written excerpt that goes to great (if not pornographic) lengths, Muhammad bin Hamed al-Isfahani (b. 1125), a celebrated Persian court scholar and poet, explained how he once saw a ship containing “three hundred lovely Frankish women, full of youth and beauty” arrive by sea. The flattery ends there and the fantasying begins:
They glowed with ardour for carnal intercourse. They were all licentious harlots, proud and scornful, who took and gave, foul-fleshed and sinful . . . making love and selling themselves for gold . . . with nasal voices and fleshy thighs, blue-eyed and grey-eyed. . . . They dedicated as a holy offering what they kept between their thighs. . . . They maintained that they could make themselves acceptable to God by no better sacrifice than this. . . . They made themselves targets for men’s darts.
After Saladin conquered Jerusalem from the Franks in 1187, this same Muhammad bin Hamed, who was present and aged 62, launched into yet another sadomasochistic “poem” extolling the sexual debasement of European women and children—approximately eight-thousand of whom were enslaved:
How many well-guarded women were profaned, how many queens were ruled, and nubile girls married, and noble women given away, and miserly women forced to yield themselves, and women who had been kept hidden [nuns] stripped of their modesty . . . and free women occupied [meaning “penetrated”], and precious ones used for hard work, and pretty things put to the test, and virgins dishonoured and proud women deflowered . . . and happy ones made to weep! How many noblemen [Muslim lords] took them as concubines, how many ardent men blazed for one of them, and celibates were satisfied by them, and thirsty men sated by them, and turbulent men able to give vent to their passion. How many lovely women were the exclusive property of one man, how many great ladies were sold at low prices . . . and lofty ones abased . . . and those accustomed to thrones dragged down!
In short, past and present, not only have Muslim men had a “penchant” for European women; they have always justified this lust by portraying their victims as wanton nymphomaniacs, eager to be sexually debased.
Accordingly, “Ella”—this British woman who like many others was repeatedly raped while being called “a white c*nt, a white wh*re, and a white b*tch” who “wants it”—is at the very least correct to point out that this ongoing epidemic will continue “because we are neglecting to properly address the religious and racist aspects of grooming gang crimes.”
Historical quotes used in this article were sourced from and referenced in the author’s book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West. Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center; a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum; and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.

France's Determination to End Free Speech
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/May 26/2020
Private companies will now be obliged to act as thought police on behalf of the French state or face heavy fines.
"Under the pretext of fighting 'hateful' content on the Internet, it [the Avia law] is setting up a system of censorship that is as effective as it is dangerous... 'hate' is the pretext systematically used by those who want to silence dissenting opinions.... A democracy worthy of its name should accept freedom of expression." — Guillaume Roquette, editorial director of Le Figaro Magazine, May 22, 2020.
"What is hate? You have the right not to love... you have the right to love, you have the right to hate. It's a feeling... It cannot be judicialized, legislated." — Éric Zemmour, CNews, May 13, 2020.
Asking private companies -- or the government -- to act as thought police does not belong in a state that claims to follow a democratic rule of law. Unfortunately, the question is not whether France will be the last European country to introduce such censorship laws, but what other countries are next in line.
With a new law, the French government has decided to delegate the task of state censorship to online platforms such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. Private companies will now be obliged to act as thought police on behalf of the French state or face heavy fines. (Images source: iStock)
On May 13, the French parliament adopted a law that requires online platforms such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat[1] to remove reported "hateful content" within 24 hours and "terrorist content" within one hour. Failure to do so could result in exorbitant fines of up to €1.25 million or 4% of the platform's global revenue in cases of repeated failure to remove the content.
The scope of online content deemed "hateful" under what is known as the "Avia law" (after the lawmaker who proposed it) is, as is common in European hate speech laws, very broadly demarcated and includes "incitement to hatred, or discriminatory insult, on the grounds of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or disability".
The French law was directly inspired by Germany's controversial NetzDG law, adopted in in October 2017, and it is explicitly mentioned in the introduction to the Avia law. "This law proposal aims to combat the spread of hate speech on the internet," it is stated in the introduction to the Avia law.
"No one can dispute the exacerbation of hate speech in our society... the attack[s] on others for what they are, because of their origins, their religion, their sex or their sexual orientation... hints... [at] the darkest hours in our history... the fight against hatred, racism and anti-Semitism on the Internet is an objective of public interest that justifies...strong and effective provisions... this tool of openness [the internet] to the world, of access to information, to culture, to communication, can become a real hell for those who become the target of 'haters' or harassers hidden behind screens and pseudonyms. According to a survey carried out in May 2016, 58% of our fellow citizens consider the internet to be the main locus of hate speech. More than 70% say they have already been confronted with hate speech on social networks. For younger people in particular, cyber-harassment can be devastating...However... Few complaints are filed, few investigations are successful, few convictions are handed down - this creates a vicious circle..."
Having acknowledged that online "hatred" is tricky to prosecute under the existing laws because "few complaints are filed and few investigations are successful, few convictions are handed down", but nevertheless determined that censorship is the panacea to the perceived problems, the French government decided to delegate the task of state censorship to the online platforms themselves. Private companies will now be obliged to act as thought police on behalf of the French state or face heavy fines. As in Germany, such legislation is bound to lead to online platforms exhibiting overzealousness in the removal or blocking of anything that might conceivably be perceived as "hateful" to avoid being fined.
The purpose of the law appears to have been twofold -- not only to achieve the actual censorship of speech by the removal or blocking of online posts, but also the (inevitably) chilling effects of censorship on online debate in general. "People will think twice before crossing the red line if they know that there is a high likelihood that they will be held to account," French Minister of Justice Nicole Belloubet said in what sounded ominous for a government representative to say in a country that still claims to be democratic.
From the beginning, when French President Emmanuel Macron first tasked the group led by Laetitia Avia with preparing the law, the proposal was met with criticism from a number of groups and organizations. France's National Consultative Commission on Human Rights criticized the law proposal for increasing the risk of censorship, and La Quadrature du Net, an organization that works against censorship and surveillance online, warned that, "Short removal times and large fines for non-compliance further incentivize platforms to over-remove content". The London-based free speech organization Article 19 commented that the law threatened free speech in France. According to Gabrielle Guillemin, Senior Legal Officer at Article 19:
"The Avia Law will effectively enable the French state to devolve online censorship to the dominant tech companies, who will be expected to act as judge and jury in determining what is 'manifestly illegal' content. The Law covers a wide range of content so this is not always going to be a straightforward decision.
"Given the timeframes by which companies have to respond, we can expect them to err on the side of caution when it comes to deciding whether content is legal or not. They will also have to resort to using filters that will inevitably lead to the over-removal of content.
"The French government has ignored the concerns raised by digital rights and free speech groups, and the result will be a chilling effect on online freedom of expression in France".
The passed law was also met with disapproval in France. On May 22, Guillaume Roquette, editorial director of Le Figaro Magazine, wrote:
"Under the pretext of fighting 'hateful' content on the Internet, it [the Avia law] is setting up a system of censorship that is as effective as it is dangerous... 'hate' is the pretext systematically used by those who want to silence dissenting opinions.
"This text [law] is dangerous because, according to lawyer François Sureau, 'it introduces criminal punishment... of the conscience'. It is dangerous...because it delegates the regulation of public debate... on the internet to American multinationals... A democracy worthy of its name should accept freedom of expression". Jean Yves Camus. from Charlie Hebdo, called the law "a placebo for fighting hate" and pointed out that the "hyper-focus on online hate" masks the real danger: "It is not online hatred that killed Ilan Halimi, Sarah Halimi, Mireille Knoll, the victims of the Bataclan, Hyper Cacher and Charlie; it is an ideology called anti-Semitism and/or Islamism... Who determines what hatred is and its [distinction from] criticism? A Pandora's box has just been opened... There is a risk of a slow but inexorable march towards a digital language hyper-normativized by political correctness, as defined by active minorities".
"What is hate?" asked French writer Éric Zemmour rhetorically. "We do not know! You have the right not to love... you have the right to love, you have the right to hate. It's a feeling... It cannot be judicialized, legislated."
Nevertheless, that is what hate speech laws do, whether in the digital or the non-digital sphere. Asking private companies -- or the government -- to act as thought police does not belong in a state that claims to follow a democratic rule of law.
Unfortunately, the question is not whether France will be the last European country to introduce such censorship laws, but what other countries are next in line.Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
[1] As well as other online platforms and search engines that reach a certain threshold of activity in France (this threshold will be specified by decree at a later date).
© 2020 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Iran: The Ayatollah, Amid Coronavirus, Calls for Jihad Against the Jewish State
Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/May 26/2020
It is mystifying that Twitter, which wantonly censors so much, continues to allow... Iranian leaders to spread Nazi-inspired language and anti-Semitic sentiments on its platform. In general, "Big Tech" -- Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter -- have long since ceased being "neutral" transmitters of information as if they were "utilities". Instead, they have become America's Thought Police. They urgently need to be regulated the same way media is.
The ruling mullahs of Iran need to be held accountable by the international community for threatening to annihilate a fellow- member of the United Nations, the Jewish state. Not only are these threats unacceptable according to Chapter I: Article 2(1)-(5) of the Charter of the United Nations... They are also unacceptable as part of a double-standard in which the United Nations and the international community continue to be silent about Iran's threats against Israeli citizens -- not to mention Iran's malign actions against its own citizens. Perhaps the time... is long overdue... for the U.S. to cease funding the UN, which seems only to conserve injustice and war.
Under no circumstances should the US, the UN or any other entity -- read: Europe -- in any way be assisting the malign mullahs of Iran.
It is mystifying that Twitter, which wantonly censors so much, continues to allow Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (pictured) and other Iranian leaders to spread Nazi-inspired language and anti-Semitic sentiments on its platform. (Photo by Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images)
Instead of concentrating on assisting and improving the living standards of its citizens, the ruling mullahs of Iran seem to be prioritizing the advancement of their anti-Semitic agenda.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently called Israel a "cancerous tumor to be destroyed," promised "to support any nation or group that fights Israel," and urged the Palestinian militant groups to cooperate more closely with each other and "expand the field of jihad in all Palestinian lands."
The Iranian regime has, since its Islamic revolution of 1979, been among the world's leading sponsors of terrorist organizations that target Israel. Some of the leaders of terrorist groups have surprisingly admitted that Tehran is their military and financial lifeline and that their survival depends on Iran.
Ismail Haniyeh, for instance, the head of Hamas's political bureau, recently praised the Iranian regime for being its foremost financial and military supporter. He pointed out in a video speech on May 20:
"The essence of this strategy is the resistance project. Complete resistance including the armed military resistance at the top. From here, I salute all the components of the nation that embrace and support the choice of resistance on the ground in Palestine".
He emphasized that he was particularly specifying the Islamic Republic of Iran, "which has not faltered in supporting and funding the resistance financially, militarily, and technically. This is an example of the Republic's strategy that was established by Imam Khomeini, may God have mercy on his soul".
Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite militant group, also acknowledged previously that Hezbollah's survival depends on Iran: "We are open about the fact that Hezbollah's budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said. He also pressed the notion that his group "will not be affected" by any type of sanctions.
In his latest speech, Iran's supreme leader said that "The Zionist regime is a... deadly... detriment to this region. It will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed." Iran's state-owned newspapers followed up with similar anti-Israel threats. The front-page headline of Iran's leading newspaper Kayhan read, "Victory over Virus of Zionism Guaranteed: Leader". Khamenei's official website recently featured a poster image with the text "Palestine Will Be Free. The final solution: Resistance until referendum."
Those people in the West who call Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif a moderate, should be aware that he posted on Twitter the same image with the Nazi euphemism, along with these comments:
"Disgusting that those whose civilization found a 'Final Solution' in gas chambers attack those who seek a real solution at the ballot box, through a REFERENDUM. Why are US and West so afraid of democracy? Palestinians should not have to pay for your crimes, or for your guilt."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reacted by stating:
"Khamenei's threats to realize the 'final solution' against Israel are reminiscent of the Nazi 'final solution' plan for the destruction of the Jewish people. He must know that any regime that threatens Israel with extermination will find itself in similar danger."
Khamenei thoughtfully replied that he did not mean destroying the Jewish people, just Israel.
It is mystifying that Twitter, which wantonly censors so much, continues to allow Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and other Iranian leaders to spread Nazi-inspired language and anti-Semitic sentiments on its platform. In general, "Big Tech" -- Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter -- have long since ceased being "neutral" transmitters of information as if they were "utilities". Instead, they have become America's Thought Police. They urgently need to be regulated the same way media is.
Regarding Iran, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accurately accused Khamenei and Zarif of "echoing Hitler's call for genocide" and in a tweet, responded:
"Incredible that @JZarif and Iran's Supreme Leader are echoing Hitler's call for genocide. This depravity should dispel any notion the regime belongs in the community of nations. We stand with Germany and Israel against this oldest & most vile form of hatred, and say #NeverAgain."
The ruling mullahs of Iran need to be held accountable by the international community for threatening to annihilate a fellow- member of the United Nations, the Jewish state. Not only are these threats unacceptable according to Chapter I: Article 2(1)-(5) of the Charter of the United Nations... which states: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state...". They are also unacceptable as part of a double-standard in which the United Nations and the international community continue to be silent about Iran's threats against Israeli citizens -- not to mention Iran's malign actions against its own citizens (here, here, here and here).
Imagine if the situation were reversed, and Israel threatened to annihilate Iran: the international community would likely be up in arms to defend the Iranian regime. Perhaps the time has come -- in fact is long overdue -- for the U.S. to cease funding the UN, which seems only to conserve injustice and war. At the very least, the US, instead of automatically handing over roughly a quarter of the UN's budget every year – in 2017, for instance, the listed US payment was more than $10 billion, an amount that has surely not decreased since then – instead, as the former US former ambassador, John. R. Bolton, suggested, the US should start "paying only for what the country wants—and [expect] to get what it pays for. "
Under no circumstances should the US, the UN or any other entity -- read: Europe -- be assisting in any way the malign mullahs of Iran.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US foreign policy. He can be reached at *Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu
© 2020 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

U.S. Troops Are Vulnerable. Israel Technologies Can Help
John Hannah and Jacob Nagel/FDD/May 26/2020
The recent U.S. decision to withdraw two Patriot missile defense batteries from Saudi Arabia has again highlighted how vulnerable U.S. interests in the Middle East remain to Iran’s growing arsenal of short- to medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), and rockets. Repeatedly over the last year, Iran and its regional proxies have used these weapons to attack U.S. personnel and partners in the Persian Gulf, inflicting significant damage on lives and property while exposing dangerous gaps in current American defense capabilities. Finding fast and practical solutions to fill those gaps should be an urgent U.S. priority. Battle-proven Israeli technology could be of significant help.
On March 10, the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), General Frank McKenzie, testified that Iran’s inventory of 2,500 to 3,000 ballistic missiles constituted the primary threat faced by the United States and its allies in the Middle East. Though McKenzie provided no breakdown of Iran’s missile arsenal, he indicated that most fall into the category of shorter-range systems.
On April 22, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) successfully launched a very small (6U CubeSat, weighing about 30 pounds) military satellite into space using a 3-stage rocket – marking potentially important progress in its efforts to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of striking the United States. While requiring careful monitoring and planning, however, Iran likely remains years away from an ICBM capability. When it comes to spending America’s limited missile-defense resources, the priority against Iran should clearly remain on defeating the full spectrum of short- to mid-range threats that are capable of wreaking havoc on U.S. interests today.
The immediate danger comes not from Iranian weapons with ranges over 3,000 miles, but from those that operate under 1,500 miles. Indeed, within days of its satellite launch, Iran’s regular Army announced that it had added three new types of combat drones to its arsenal, while the IRGC claimed that it was preparing to deploy an updated “Fotros” long-range attack drone, capable of flying for 30 hours with a range of 1,250 miles, threatening Israel, U.S. forces across the Gulf region, and parts of Europe as well.
The two Patriot systems being withdrawn from Saudi Arabia had been protecting the country’s critical energy infrastructure. They were deployed on an emergency basis last fall after more than 20 low-flying Iranian drones and cruise missiles conducted an unprecedented precision strike against two of the kingdom’s most important oil facilities, temporarily knocking out 5 percent of the world’s supply of crude. With the withdrawal of the U.S. batteries (allegedly for maintenance and redeployment to Asia), those installations are potentially once again acutely vulnerable. For reasons not entirely clear, Saudi Arabia’s own extensive air defense capabilities, including multiple Patriots, proved woefully ineffective in the face of Iran’s surprise attack last September.
The threat to the United States from Iran’s short-range weapons is even more directly apparent in Iraq. Since May 2019, Iranian-backed militias have launched more than 40 rocket attacks against U.S. military, diplomatic and commercial targets, resulting in the deaths of an American contractor, two U.S. troops, and a British soldier. On January 8, just days after a U.S. drone strike killed Iran’s top general, the terrorist mastermind and IRGC paramilitary leader Qassem Soleimani, Iran itself conducted an unprecedented direct attack on the U.S. military, launching at least 16 short-range missiles at two Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops, scoring several near-direct hits, including on housing barracks. Though there were no fatalities (thanks to a combination of advanced warning and sheer luck), more than 100 U.S. soldiers suffered traumatic brain injuries.
One of the most disconcerting aspects of the Iraq attacks has been the seeming absence of any active U.S. defenses. Despite the sustained severity of the Iranian-backed threat, it was only in late March 2020 that Patriots were finally sent to Iraq to protect the two bases where the majority of U.S. forces have consolidated in recent months – at least in part due to force protection concerns. Up until that point, the limited number of available Patriots in the U.S. arsenal had been deployed at high-priority targets elsewhere in the Middle East and around the world, including the Saudi oil facilities. As a result, until very recently, the only real option available to U.S. personnel in Iraq who received warning of incoming missiles or rockets was to take cover and pray that their positions did not suffer a direct hit.
Unfortunately, even the deployment of Patriots is, at best, a partial solution to the Iranian threat. Designed for taking out high-flying planes and ballistic missiles, the Patriots – with Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (PAC-3 MSE) missiles – would no doubt have been well-suited for neutralizing Iran’s January 8 ballistic missile attack. But they are far less capable against the other elements of the Iranian short to mid-range arsenal, in particular rockets, drones, and cruise missiles.
How well Patriots would have fared against the ground-hugging drones that struck the Saudi oil processing facility at Abqaiq last September, much less the Katyusha rockets that actually pose the greatest threat to U.S. personnel in Iraq, is very much in doubt. Indeed, in the wake of the Abqaiq attack, the Pentagon’s third highest ranking official admitted publicly that the United States and its NATO allies were not ready to defend against the sort of swarming drones and cruise missiles used in the Saudi attack, calling it a “serious problem.”
A better short-term solution would ideally supplement Patriots with a mixture of two existing Israeli air-defense systems. The first and most urgent is Iron Dome, developed by the Israeli company Rafael, and now co-produced with the American defense firm Raytheon. Since Iron Dome was first deployed in 2011, the United States has provided more than $1.5 billion to support its production for the Israel Defense Forces. To date, Iron Dome has successfully intercepted more than 2,000 short-range rockets fired at Israel’s population centers, mostly coming from Hamas in Gaza – a similar threat to the one that U.S. personnel currently face from Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. Iron Dome’s interception rate is close to 90 percent, making it by an order of magnitude the most battle-tested and successful missile defense system in the world.
Though Iron Dome is advertised as being able to defeat drones and cruise missiles as well, its track record with regard to those threats is far less established. Nevertheless, when Congress in 2018 recognized that the United States faced a dangerous gap in defending against cruise missiles, and mandated that the Army field an interim solution by 2020, the Army opted to purchase two Israeli Iron Dome batteries over other competitors. Recent improvements have reportedly further enhanced the system’s effectiveness against both cruise missiles and drones.
Even Army officials skeptical of whether Iron Dome can be part of the long-term solution to the cruise missile threat that the U.S. hopes to develop by 2024 have acknowledged Iron Dome’s success. The system has “demonstrated the ability to deal with some cruise missiles” (though not all), said the Army’s acquisition chief, Bruce Jette. Iron Dome, said Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, “brings more capability [against cruise missiles] than we have in our missile defense today” – i.e., more than Patriots.
The second Israeli technology that the U.S. should give serious consideration to is the Skyceptor missile from Rafael and Raytheon. Based on the Stunner interceptor developed for Israel’s David’s Sling missile-defense system, Skyceptor can be fired from Patriots and was specifically designed to intercept not only ballistic missiles but also low altitude, maneuverable cruise missiles and drones as well. The United States has provided nearly $2 billion to support David’s Sling. Though operational in Israel since 2017, it has yet to accumulate the battlefield experience of Iron Dome. Critically, however, Skyceptor costs less than half the price of the PAC-3 MSE missile.
The issue of affordability strongly reinforces the argument for incorporating Israeli systems into America’s defense architecture against Iran. At the upper end, each Iron Dome interceptor missile (known as Tamir) costs at most $200,000. Each Skyceptor is around $2 million. The PAC-3 MSE, by contrast, can approach $6 million per missile. A crude calculation based on the Iranian attack against the Saudi oil facilities underscores the Israeli value proposition. Assuming one interceptor was used to defeat each of the approximately 25 drones and cruise missiles that Iran fired, Iron Dome would have cost $5 million, Skyceptor approximately $50 million, and the PAC-3 MSE upwards of $150 million.
Especially in the wake of the deadly rocket attacks in Iraq, Congress has pressed the Pentagon to accelerate its deployment plans for the two Iron Dome batteries already contracted for. For its part, the Army has expressed deep skepticism about investing further resources in Iron Dome based on an assessment that the system is likely not compatible with its comprehensive, long-term missile defense architecture, known as the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS).
In a recent interview, the head of Army Futures Command, General Mike Murray, said, “it would be … exceptionally difficult to integrate Iron Dome into our layered air defense architecture [and] to get Iron Dome to talk to other systems, other radars.” In that case, Murray concluded, “What you’re probably – almost certainly – going to see is two standalone [Iron Dome] systems, and if the best we can do is standalone systems, we do not want to buy another two batteries.”
The Army has still allowed elements of the Iron Dome system, including the Tamir interceptor, to compete in a “shoot off” to be held in the spring of 2021 for a chance to become part of its next-generation Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC), which hopes to use multiple types of missiles, lasers, high-powered microwaves, and other technologies to deal with every conceivable mid- to short-range threat, from rockets to small drones to supersonic cruise missiles. All competitors will need to prove that their missile can “talk” to IBCS and be fully compatible with the Army’s overarching missile defense vision. Given the urgent need to enhance the protection of U.S. forces as soon as possible, the Army should also require proof that systems participating in the shoot-off can be fielded quickly, in less than a year’s time.
Whether or not Iron Dome would be as difficult to integrate as the Army has suggested is subject to significant dispute. Some experts strongly argue that the ability to connect Iron Dome to U.S. systems through an interface is an eminently solvable technological problem, one that doesn’t require Iron Dome’s manufacturer to hand over the system’s so-called source code – its most sensitive and commercially valuable proprietary information – as some reports claim the Army has demanded.
Though by no means dispositive, the fact that the U.S. Marine Corps has conducted successful tests to integrate Iron Dome missiles with Marine radars lends credence to the idea that making Iron Dome talk to U.S. systems is by no means an insurmountable challenge. Further evidence is provided by the excellent connection that Israel’s longer-range Arrow system has demonstrated with its American counterparts using the Link 16 military data link network.
Even if the Army is right about Iron Dome’s incompatibility with its long-term vision for an all-in-one missile-defense solution, the fact remains that the lives of U.S. troops and diplomats in Iraq today are under immediate threat from the type of rockets for which Iron Dome is almost certainly the most effective and affordable answer available. They shouldn’t have to wait years until the IFPC finally becomes operational when a short-term solution could be deployed almost immediately that would dramatically enhance their protection.
That’s precisely the point that Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) made about Iron Dome during a hearing in March, just days after a militia rocket barrage killed two U.S troops and a British soldier in Iraq. “I don’t want to see the perfect be the enemy of the good. I don’t want to see a perfect, hoped for, and expected capability deter us from using something that is available and usable right now – and will save lives.”
Having sent its personnel into harm’s way, the highest U.S. obligation should be finding fast, effective and affordable responses to defeat the threats that they face in the next few months – not just developing the ultimate solutions that may not be ready to deploy for the next five to ten years. As part of that effort, the Army should prioritize getting the two Iron Dome batteries it has already purchased onto the battlefield as soon as possible, while remaining open to acquiring more should they prove to have the same kind of game-changing strategic effects in Iraq as they have already had in Israel.
*Brigadier General (Res.) Jacob Nagel is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a visiting professor at the Technion Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. He previously served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acting national security advisor and head of Israel’s National Security Council. He was also the former deputy director of the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development.
*John Hannah is senior counselor at FDD and a former national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney. FDD is a nonpartisan policy institute focused on national security.

Securing technological superiority requires a joint US-Israel effort
Bradley Bowmanl/FDD/May 26/2020
The United States is now engaged in an intense military technology competition with the Chinese Communist Party. The ability of U.S. troops to deter and defeat great power authoritarian adversaries hangs in the balance. To win this competition, Washington must beef up its military cooperative research and development efforts with tech-savvy democratic allies. At the top of that list should be Israel.
Two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee understand this well. Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced S 3775, the “United States-Israel Military Capability Act of 2020,” on Wednesday. This bipartisan legislation would require the establishment of a U.S.-Israel operations-technology working group. As the senators wrote in a February letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, the working group would help ensure U.S. “warfighters never encounter a more technologically advanced foe.”
Many Americans may be surprised to learn that they can no longer take U.S. military technological superiority for granted. In his new book, “The Kill Chain,” former Senate Armed Services Committee staff director Chris Brose notes that, over the last decade, the United States loses war games against China “almost every single time.”
To halt this trend, the Pentagon must shift its ongoing modernization efforts into high gear. Early cooperative R&D with the “Startup Nation” can help in this regard. Israel is one of America’s closest and most technologically advanced allies. The country boasts an “innovative and agile defense technology sector” that is a “global leader in many of the technologies important to Department of Defense modernization efforts,” as the legislation notes.
Some may deem the working group unnecessary, citing the deep and broad cooperation that already exists between the United States and Israel. But, as the legislation explains, “dangerous United States military capability gaps continue to emerge that a more systematic and institutionalized United States-Israel early cooperative research and development program could have prevented.”
Consider the fact, for example, that the Pentagon only last year acquired for U.S. tanks active protection systems from Israel that had been operational there since 2011. Consequently, U.S. soldiers operated for years in tanks and armored vehicles around the world lacking the cutting-edge protection Washington could have provided against missiles and rockets. That put U.S. soldiers in unnecessary risk.
Such examples put the burden of proof on those who may be tempted to reflexively defend the status quo as good enough.
Given the breakneck speed of our military technology race with the Chinese Communist Party, it’s clear the continued emergence of decade-long delays in adopting crucial technology is no longer something we can afford.
One of the reasons for these delays and failures to team up with Israeli partners at the beginning of the process is that U.S. and Israeli defense suppliers sometimes find it difficult to secure Washington’s approval for combined efforts to research and produce world-class weapons. Some requests to initiate combined U.S.-Israel R&D programs linger interminably in bureaucratic no-man’s land, failing to elicit a timely decision.
Confronted by deadly and immediate threats, Israel often has little choice but to push ahead alone with unilateral R&D programs. When that happens, the Pentagon misses out on Israel’s sense of urgency that could have led to the more expeditious fielding of weapons to U.S. troops. And Israel misses out on American innovation prowess as well as on the Pentagon’s economy of scale, which would lower unit costs and help both countries stretch their finite defense budgets further.
Secretary Esper appears to grasp the opportunity. “If there are ways to improve that, we should pursue it,” he testified on March 4, 2020, in response to a question on the U.S.-Israel working group proposal. “The more we can cooperate together as allies and partners to come up with common solutions, the better,” Esper said.
According to the legislation, the working group would serve as a standing forum for the United States and Israel to “systematically share intelligence-informed military capability requirements,” with a goal of identifying capabilities that both militaries need.
It would also provide a dedicated mechanism for U.S. and Israeli defense suppliers to “expeditiously gain government approval to conduct joint science, technology, research, development, test, evaluation, and production efforts.” The legislation’s congressional reporting requirement would hold the working group accountable for providing quick answers to U.S. and Israeli defense supplier requests.
That’s a benefit of the working group that will only become more important when the economic consequences of the coronavirus put additional, downward pressure on both defense budgets.
Once opportunities for early cooperative U.S.-Israel R&D are identified and approved, the working group would then facilitate the development of “combined United States-Israel plans to research, develop, procure, and field weapons systems and military capabilities as quickly and economically as possible.”
In the military technology race with the Chinese Communist Party, the stakes are high and the outcome is far from certain. A U.S.-Israel operations technology working group represents an essential step to ensure the United States and its democratic allies are better equipped than their adversaries.
*Bradley Bowman is the senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

COVID-19 in Latin America: Organized Crime Gains and States Weaken
Emanuele Ottolenghi/FDD/May 26/2020
COVID-19 cases in Latin America are surging as the region heads into the Southern Hemisphere winter. Across the region, the pandemic has created opportunities for organized crime to step into the void left by insufficient government responses and economic downturn.
Situation Overview
Latin America has surpassed the United States and Europe in new daily coronavirus cases. In the absence of stimulus packages and basic services in rural areas, the economic and social impact of the region’s lockdowns is devastating.
The United Nations expects Latin America and the Caribbean to suffer a 5.3 percent economic contraction in 2020, the region’s worst economic downturn in history. Latin America’s largest airline, LATAM, just announced 1,400 layoffs. Colombia’s flagship carrier, Avianca Airlines, has filed for bankruptcy, while the country’s number of confirmed cases has reached over 18,000.
Mexico, with almost 60,000 confirmed cases, has already shed more than 750,000 jobs. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has proven unwilling to shift economic priorities to initiate stimulus for the country’s most affected sectors. Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy, has tallied over 310,000 confirmed cases. This is the third-highest in the world.
Latin America’s organized crime has also suffered. The pandemic has disrupted fentanyl supplies from China and caused global cocaine exports to slow. Nevertheless, the pandemic has created opportunities for Latin America’s cartels to improve their standing and develop new revenue streams.
Mexican cartels have filled the void left by struggling state institutions, distributing care packages to cash-strapped residents. The cartels’ charm offensive not only helps them win sympathy among the needy. It also sends a clear message: The cartels, not the state, meet the poor’s basic needs.
In Brazil, crime gangs have also taken to distributing assistance to the needy and enforcing curfews in poor areas. Salvadoran gangs have similarly threatened violence against anyone breaking curfew or social distancing rules. They are now enforcing the law where state authorities fail to do so.
Lawlessness works both ways for some nonstate actors. Colombian media, for example, report a 113 percent increase in rebel groups’ forced conscription of minors. Panama’s prohibition of alcohol sales has led to increased smuggling of beer and liquor from Costa Rica. Contraband of medicine and medical equipment is also on the rise, with a chronic shortage of sanitizers and personal protection equipment driving illicit trade.
Elsewhere, Argentina’s decision to shut down tobacco manufacturing for the duration of the crisis has led to an increase in cigarette contraband from neighboring Paraguay. Brazilian authorities report sustained contraband seizures in the Tri-Border region of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil and drug seizures at Brazil’s ports.
What to Watch for
Organized crime’s provision of social services likely will continue to erode state authority among the region’s most vulnerable states. Economic contraction will put additional strains on local governments’ abilities to provide basic services. This will invariably engender resentment among the lower social strata across the region. The perceived legitimacy of governments is certain to fall in the short term, but perhaps longer. Protests are possible, if not likely. As economic hardships persist, jobless people will be driven to the welcoming arms of cartels.
The weakening of the Latin American state may rank among the most enduring consequences of the pandemic. With case numbers increasing across the region, that process appears to be happening more quickly by the day.
*Emanuele Ottolenghi is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where he also contributes to FDD’s Center on Economic and Financial Power (CEFP). For more analysis from Emanuele and CEFP, please subscribe HERE. Follow Emanuele on Twitter @eottolenghi. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_CEFP. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

COVID-19 And Iranian Foreign And Security Policy: Stasis, Not Change
Behnam Ben Taleblu/FDD/May 26/2020
Leading up to and throughout the coronavirus crisis, the Islamic Republic of Iran has continued its policy of graduated escalation against its adversaries. Tehran’s underwriting of such activities while facing a pandemic at home is a measure of their ideational and strategic importance for the regime. This means that Iran’s five main threat vectors – nuclear, missile, maritime, cyber and regional – remain relatively unaffected by the onset of COVID-19 and will continue in the short-to-medium term.
On the nuclear front, in March, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) detailed Iran’s ongoing breaches of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). These violations include excess enrichment and accumulation of uranium. Iran now has enough uranium that – if enriched to weapons-grade – could be sufficient for one nuclear bomb. It has also prevented inspectors from accessing undisclosed facilities. Iran’s stockpile and other nuclear violations are set to grow this summer.
On the missile front, the regime went public this April with what was once a secret Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) space program, and launched a military satellite mounted on a three-stage satellite launch vehicle (SLV). The SLV’s functioning second-stage solid-propellant motor furthers the Islamic Republic’s longer-range missile capabilities and aspirations. According to the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal, which is currently of short-to-medium range, is the biggest in the Middle East.
In the maritime domain, the Islamic Republic has been gearing up for another summer of escalation. Tehran has reportedly increased the range of its anti-ship cruise missiles and deployed rockets and anti-ship systems overlooking the narrow Strait of Hormuz. It has also stepped-up harassment and provocations against U.S. vessels – actions that had diminished during President Trump’s first year in office. In April of this year, 11 IRGC-Navy small boats harassed U.S. forces engaged in a military drill in the Persian Gulf. The harassment followed Iran’s decision to briefly detain an oil tanker that same month.
But perhaps most importantly, Tehran has not ceased using neighboring countries as a theater for furthering strategic competition against its adversaries.
In the cyber domain, the Islamic Republic continues to see cyber tools as useful ways to continue conflict with adversaries while limiting the prospects of overt and kinetic escalation. Recently, Iran attacked an Israeli water facility, which is critical infrastructure for the Jewish state. Israel is believed to have retaliated by a cyber-attack against an Iranian port.
But perhaps most importantly, Tehran has not ceased using neighboring countries as a theater for furthering strategic competition against its adversaries.
Prior to the onset of the coronavirus, Iran was stepping up material support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen. From November 2019 to February 2020, the U.S.-led maritime coalition intercepted two shipments of weapons heading from Iran to Yemen. In early February, a UN Panel of Experts on Yemen found that the weapons from the November interdiction were Iranian in origin. In March, the Houthis attempted to strike Riyadh – the first time since August 2019 – using a missile that likely came from Iran. Attempts by Saudi Arabia or the UN to midwife a ceasefire in the Arabian Peninsula or deal with intra-Yemeni issues will amount to naught if Tehran continues to pump weapons into the hands of rebels.
In Syria, reports of airstrikes – likely by Israel – against pro-Iran targets imply that the regime’s project of trafficking technology related to a precision guided munitions project is continuing. So, too, are efforts to establish warehouses, bases, and a land bridge connecting key routes to surge men and munitions to conflict zones across the region. Recently, an Iranian parliamentarian bemoaned the money his country had spent on propping up the Assad regime in Damascus, placing the figure at $20-$30 billion.
For the remainder of the year, the Islamic Republic can be expected to further embrace, rather than shun, the risks of confrontation with America.
In Iraq, despite the ongoing health crisis and political turbulence, pro-Iran Shiite militia groups launched at least two rocket attacks this month against the U.S. presence in that country. These strikes bring the total tally of rocket and mortar attacks against the U.S. in Iraq from May 2019 to the present to 45. While militias are facing financial and operational hardships, they remain at the forefront of Iran-backed efforts to evict American forces from Iraq, something Tehran has long hoped for as it continues to try to rope Baghdad deeper into its orbit.
If Washington or other international actors are hoping the coronavirus will induce Iran towards restraint abroad, data from the past few months should temper that expectation. Tehran has continued funding its revolutionary foreign policy, indicating that the country’s diminishing revenue streams are likely being diverted or used to support its malign activities. If Washington is hoping to change or reverse Iran’s gains abroad, it will need to double-down on existing economic tools, as well as explore non-economic tools of punishment, coercion, and deterrence.
The connective tissue and domestic engine behind between every single Iranian threat vector abroad is the IRGC. According to analysis of the latest Iranian budget, the IRGC’s payout is increasing. This means that more resources are being allocated toward a group spearheading confrontation at the exact same time that a global pandemic is raging.
Given what Tehran has been able to do abroad with increasingly limited resources, any attempt to put more resources in the hands of Iranian officials at this time – be it through diverted humanitarian aid or potentially even premature sanctions relief by the U.S. – will grow the lethality of Iran’s security policy.
For the remainder of the year, the Islamic Republic can be expected to further embrace, rather than shun, the risks of confrontation with America and its regional partners across the nuclear, missile, maritime, cyber, and regional domains. Hit hard by the coronavirus, Iran has been busy locking in, rather than rolling back, longstanding trends in its foreign policy.
*Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington D.C., where he covers Iranian political and security issues.

Daesh exploiting Syrian, Iraqi vacuums to make a comeback
Osama Al-Sharif/Arab News/May 26/ 2020
Amid the global health crisis resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, there are disturbing signs that Daesh is re-emerging, especially in the open deserts of Syria and Iraq. Last week, newly appointed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi announced that Iraqi forces had foiled a major operation by Daesh, while his intelligence body revealed it had arrested a key figure in the group, Abdel Nasser Qardash, who is thought to have been nominated as the successor to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who was killed by US Special Forces in Idlib last October.
Reports point to the fact that clusters of the extremist group have become active in Iraq, especially during Ramadan. Militants have struck several military and civilian targets in western and central Iraq in recent weeks. The head of Iraq’s joint military operations, Maj. Gen. Tahsin Al-Khafaji, confirmed that Daesh-related attacks had increased as the country shifted its resources toward containing the spread of the coronavirus.
The scene is even worse in Syria, where Daesh militants claimed responsibility for a number of bloody attacks against pro-Damascus militias, as well as Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, during Ramadan. The Syrian Human Rights Observatory announced that no less than 60 government and SDF members have been killed in Homs and Deir Ezzor in the past few weeks, while Daesh claimed responsibility for a number of these attacks. On Friday, US Central Command announced that coalition forces had killed two key Daesh leaders in an airstrike in Deir Ezzor.
Following the group’s defeat in Syria in March last year, thousands of Daesh fighters were taken prisoner by the SDF in northeastern Syria. Efforts to repatriate foreign fighters have failed, while the SDF’s hold weakened as a result of attacks against its positions by Turkish troops and pro-Ankara rebel groups. In October, it was reported that hundreds of Daesh fighters had escaped from internment camps in northern Syria. Experts believe that most of them were able to regroup while hiding in the vast deserts straddling Syria and Iraq.
Iraq had declared victory over Daesh in 2017, but political squabbling, Iranian interventions in Iraqi affairs and the controversial role played by the pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) deflected attention from the main task of rounding up the hundreds of Daesh fighters who were able to flee. Tensions between the US and Iran, especially following January’s assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and a PMF leader near Baghdad airport, have allowed clusters of Daesh fighters to regroup and carry out fresh attacks.
There is no doubt that Daesh, like Al-Qaeda, is changing its strategy and trying to adapt to new geopolitical realities. With Russia, Turkey, the US and Iran carrying out conflicting agendas in Syria, and with economic and political turmoil still crippling Iraq, militants are making good use of the resultant vacuum.
What is particularly worrying is that the nefarious ideology perpetuated by Daesh continues to attract volunteers at various levels. The lack of a political solution in Syria has compounded the humanitarian catastrophe there, allowing Daesh to pursue its recruitment efforts. A dysfunctional sectarian-based political system in Iraq has failed to stamp out corruption, end ethnic and sectarian tensions, and undercut foreign interference in Iraqi affairs. Again, under an inequitable system that disenfranchises millions, Daesh is bound to find disillusioned supporters.
Meanwhile, the international coalition against Daesh is unraveling for a number of reasons. Iraqis want the US and its NATO allies out of their country, while demanding an end to Tehran’s interventions. And fighting the coronavirus crisis and containing its dire economic and social consequences has become the main objective for most world governments. But these governments should be aware that the current health crisis will deepen socioeconomic disparities in the form of rising poverty and unemployment rates as economies struggle to recover. In the absence of transparency, good governance and openness, extremist ideologies can only flourish. Opting for an iron-fist rule, under the guise of fighting the pandemic, could easily backfire.
In the absence of transparency, good governance and openness, extremist ideologies can only flourish.
And even when the dust settles and the coronavirus is contained, we must remember that our region continues to suffer from civil wars, foreign interventions and sectarian divides — all elements that contribute to instability, injustice and radical backlashes. We are yet to see an end to the conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya, among others. All of these ongoing conflicts could act as incubators for Daesh-like groups.
Security solutions are needed momentarily to offset a regional threat that can still be contained. But governments must look beyond the short term and focus on the core reasons why extremist ideologies continue to attract disillusioned men and women. While Daesh may never be able to repeat its initial success of building an entity that stretched between Syria and Iraq, resulting in horrific and unforgettable crimes against humanity, states cannot afford to look the other way as militants attempt to regroup. Taking our eyes off Daesh at this critical moment may prove catastrophic.
*Osama Al-Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. Twitter: @plato010

Tory party becoming a breeding ground for Islamophobia
Zaid M. Belbagi/Arab News/May 26/ 2020
Preoccupied with the current pandemic, policymakers and the media alike took little notice of this month’s decision by the Equality and Human Rights Commission not to conduct an inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia within Britain’s ruling Conservative Party. The decision of the watchdog to forgo an investigation is indicative of a political callousness concerning the slander of British Muslims that is unfortunately increasingly mainstream. As a lifelong and indeed active Conservative, I can only regret a state of affairs that has led to the growing alienation of hardworking and patriotic British Muslim voters.
In the autumn of 2010, I attended my first Oxford University Conservative Association meeting. Held at the Oxford Union, the world’s oldest debating society, its raucous gatherings have, for almost a century, been the auspicious setting where future leading party figures and indeed prime ministers have cut their political teeth. As the only new member of a minority background present that evening, the prospect of speaking was daunting to say the least. Thankfully, the respect to a certain custom that demands silence for maiden speakers to be heard was welcome encouragement. I was actually complimented for the clarity of my delivery and the validity of my argument and the ordeal came to be one of my best university memories.
This experience encapsulates the ethos of a party that I, like many others, identified with and chose to join. A party whose blind meritocratic principles have traditionally welcomed members from all walks of life. This is the party in which Benjamin Disraeli, a politician of Jewish parentage, was able to become Queen Victoria’s most celebrated prime minister and in which grocer’s daughter Margaret Thatcher led a Cabinet of aristocrats.
These values, however, are seemingly no longer so important to the party. In the political mudslinging that has characterized the incredibly divisive experience of Brexit, the party has all but surrendered to a hitherto latent and dangerously xenophobic force within it. There are no fewer than 300 cases of alleged Islamophobia within the party, ranging from its local activists to its highest representatives.
Anthony Browne, the MP for South Cambridgeshire, dared question the loyalties of British Muslims in regards to the Iraq War. Zac Goldsmith, whose political star faded with his poorly-fought campaign to be London’s mayor, was singled out by party grandees for encouraging sentiment against his Muslim opponent that had the unmistakable, telltale stench of Islamophobia.
The real tragedy, however, is not in the discriminatory nature of these sentiments, but rather that the party and its leadership simply continues to fail to deal with the issue head-on.
The last general election was sullied by allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party that rightly drew the consternation of the public and politicians alike. The media and the Tory party were quick to denounce prejudice of this sort and the political career of Labour’s firebrand former leader Jeremy Corbyn came crashing down as a result.
Under significant pressure, Conservative leadership hopefuls jockeyed to recognize the importance of similarly confronting Islamophobia. Late last year, a promise was made to hold an independent inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia, only to be politically mothballed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has instead agreed to a “general investigation into prejudice of all kinds.” It would seem, therefore, that some forms of prejudice are more equal than others for a party that is fast becoming a breeding ground for anti-Islamic sentiment.
The party has all but surrendered to a hitherto latent and dangerously xenophobic force within it.
Mindful of the changing makeup of British society, the Conservative Party has gone some way to reach out to Sikh and Hindu communities to increase its electability. These communities have been integrated into Conservative Party politics in a manner that British Muslims can only dream of. So it is unsurprising that the overwhelming majority of British Muslims voted for Labour in December’s election.
For a party that ostensibly promotes a one-nation ideal, the Conservatives are making a pact with bigotry that will continue to marginalize hardworking British Muslims — among them professionals, leading academics, award-winning athletes and, most importantly, peace-loving, patriotic citizens. If no serious and meaningful steps are taken, the Conservative Party will no longer be a party for all Britons.
*Zaid M. Belbagi is a political commentator, and an adviser to private clients between London and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Twitter: @Moulay_Zaid

Helping the forgotten victims of coronavirus pandemic
Jonathan Gornall/Arab News/May 26/ 2020
Compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves is easy to summon when all is well in our world. Right now, of course, all is far from well for millions of people around the globe, with some of the wealthiest nations seeing the worst of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and suffering more than their share of the approximately 5.6 million global cases and 350,000 deaths recorded so far. For once, the citizens of the developed world have a First World problem worthy of the name.
That is why UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, is keenly aware that raising money and support for “Save Generation Covid,” the biggest appeal in the organization’s 73-year history, will not be easy. The appeal follows a shocking prediction that, over the next six months, up to 6,000 children around the world could die every day — not from the coronavirus, but from preventable causes as a direct consequence of the pandemic’s impact on health systems in some of the world’s poorest countries.
The UN, in collaboration with national governments and charitable institutions such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, has spent much of the past few decades working successfully through a range of interventions to drive down child mortality in deprived parts of the world. Since 1990, when one in 11 children died before their fifth birthday, the under-five mortality rate has fallen by more than half. That is certainly a great achievement, but there’s still much more to do. In 2018, one child in 26 died before reaching the age of five.
The looming calamity now facing the world, according to UNICEF, is that the impact of the coronavirus on vulnerable health systems is threatening to undo decades of progress in reducing preventable child deaths.
Every year, 5 million children under five still die of avoidable causes. To that grim total, we can now add another 2.5 million child deaths over the next 12 months and an extra 56,700 deaths of women in childbirth. This sobering prediction is based on research published last week in the Lancet Global Health journal by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland. The researchers were attempting to assess how much the coronavirus has taken attention away from a range of standard but vital interventions, ranging from malaria prevention and care during pregnancy and childbirth to vaccinations and the availability of antibiotics to treat conditions such as neonatal sepsis and dysentery.
They modeled three scenarios for each of 118 low and middle-income countries, including Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria and Yemen. Essential maternal and child health interventions in those 118 countries had been reduced by between 9.8 and 51.9 percent, they found. Acute malnutrition increased by between 10 and 50 percent. The “least severe” scenario, they concluded, would result in 253,500 additional child deaths and 12,200 additional maternal deaths over six months. In the worst-case scenario, more than 1.2 million additional children would die and 56,700 mothers.
Although based on “tentative assumptions,” these estimates nonetheless show that, “if routine health care is disrupted and access to food is decreased, as a result of unavoidable shocks, health system collapse or intentional choices made in responding to the pandemic, the increase in child and maternal deaths will be devastating,” according to the report.
However, it isn’t only in the developing world where the most vulnerable are being neglected thanks to the strain on health and social care systems because of COVID-19. According to data published last week by the UK’s Office for National Statistics, the virus accounted for only a third of 30,000 extra deaths recorded in care homes, private homes and hospices in England and Wales over the five-week period to May 1. In other words, in the UK alone, where more than 35,000 lives have been lost so far to COVID-19, another 20,000 people might have lived longer if the pandemic had not affected the level of care given to them.
Regardless of the worldwide battle against the coronavirus, UNICEF is calling for governments and individuals to step forward with donations to support a six-point “Agenda for Action” that will help hard-pressed nations build “sustainable and strong health systems to ensure the world’s poorest countries can fight the pandemic while protecting the delivery of essential health services.”
The impact of the coronavirus on vulnerable health systems is threatening to undo decades of progress in reducing preventable child deaths.
UNICEF says it is vital that vulnerable children are kept healthy and well fed, supplied with water, proper sanitation and hygiene, and are able to keep learning. Families must be supported “to cover their needs and care for their children” and children must be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse. Refugee and migrant children and those affected by conflict are especially vulnerable.
With schools closed, nearly 370 million children across 143 countries who normally rely on school meals must now look to other sources. As of April 14, more than 117 million children in 37 countries may miss out on their measles vaccination as the pandemic brings immunization campaigns to a halt. These are just two examples of the upheaval caused by the coronavirus. As those in the developed world struggle with the disruption and horror of what their “new normal” looks like, they also face an additional test — of their compassion and humanity.
As UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore puts it, while all of us are focused on keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe, “we must also remember the millions of children who risk becoming the forgotten victims of this pandemic. What their world looks like tomorrow, and what their futures ultimately look like, is also our responsibility today.”
*Jonathan Gornall is a British journalist, formerly with The Times, who has lived and worked in the Middle East and is now based in the UK. Copyright: Syndication Bureau

Everybody has role to play in war on COVID-19 ‘infodemic’
Maha Akeel/Arab News/May 26/ 2020
At first, we heard about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from a distance, as we read about it spreading in Wuhan in faraway China. It was not a pandemic, we were told at the time. It was like influenza and produced flu-like symptoms — nothing to worry about, we were assured. Then it spread to other countries, coming closer and closer.
Still, the news was generally reassuring about the ability of countries to contain the infection. We were impressed that China was building a whole hospital in 10 days to treat the infected and had quarantined cities with a combined population of 57 million, not knowing that we too would soon be under lockdown.
Nevertheless, tidbits of worrying news started seeping through. This is a new virus, it spreads very fast through touching, it is serious, it could lead to death, and there is no vaccine or cure. The situation in Italy sounded like an apocalypse. The numbers in several developed countries were shooting up fast, surpassing China. Suddenly, countries all around the world enforced precautionary measures, banning travel, ordering 24-hour lockdowns, and preventing any kind of direct human contact. “Wear masks, wash your hands, and keep a safe distance from other people” became the mantra.
We gobble up every bit of news about COVID-19. Stuck at home, our entire lives now take place indoors, whether school, work, hobbies, shopping, sports or staying in touch with family and friends. We find ourselves glued to our smartphones, computers, TVs, newspapers and every kind of online communication and news source. Officials, spokespersons and the mainstream media constantly feed us the latest facts and figures and the impact on health care, the economy — including unemployment, bankruptcies and poverty rates — and on our own disrupted family and social lives, with reports of increased domestic violence, depression and anxiety. We follow the numbers of infected and dead as if we are watching the stock market; what’s up, what’s down, which country reached the peak, which is recovering. It is as if we exist in parallel worlds: What we are seeing inside our homes and what is happening outside. All this while trying to maintain our calm and composure.
Meanwhile, unofficial sources and rumor mills are spewing unverified and malicious information at lightning speed through social media. Some of those most affected by misinformation and fake news are immigrants and minorities, such as Muslims in India and Sri Lanka, who were wrongfully blamed for spreading the virus and viciously attacked, exposing a hitherto dormant xenophobic side of society. Talk shows hosted guests and “experts” giving us all kinds of health advice, natural therapies and traditional remedies. Then there were the clips from sci-fi books and movies that predicted everything about this virus years ago. But all this was child’s play compared to the big shots: The conspiracy theorists with their web of global, mega, high-ranking, deep-state, top-secret, “Big Brother” scenarios that just left you dumbstruck and hopeless. This is the major league, with slick “documentaries” full of half-truths and twisted facts. Big names are mentioned, supposedly hushed-up documents and studies are revealed, and investigations exposed. We are told that elite, powerful, rich individuals want to control us, reduce the population through vaccines, monitor us by putting microchips into our bodies or via 5G networks, and on and on.
Trying to untangle this web is daunting, especially when some people — even intelligent, well-educated people — buy into these scenarios and seem to be convinced. Then you start finding yourself going down the rabbit hole of “what if.” It does not help when two powerful countries exchange accusations and hype up the debate about how and when the virus spread and who caused it. The problem with these scenarios is not only that they throw a shadow on the credibility of and confidence in governments, the medical and research community, and the media, but they also put people’s health and lives at risk by thwarting efforts to control and contain the disease. However, the fact remains that even scientists and doctors do not know enough about COVID-19 or how to treat it so sometimes give contradictory information, which only adds to the confusion.
It is a challenge for governments and international organizations to debunk, refute and discredit every piece of information that roams social media in multiple languages and variations. It is a war not just on the pandemic itself, but also on the related “infodemic” — an overabundance of news that mixes facts, rumors and fake news.
Unofficial sources and rumor mills are spewing unverified and malicious information at lightning speed.
Some countries have pursued criminal prosecutions and other measures related to tracking and countering rumors and misinformation on COVID-19. More importantly, the tech giants are removing content that contains misleading information, but sometimes, by the time they do that, the information has circulated the globe. Some sites are dedicated to debunking conspiracy theories and verifying the information claimed in various films and documents. These are important initiatives, but it remains for us the people to do our part. Just like it is our responsibility to follow the precautionary measures against spreading the virus for the sake of our health, it is also our responsibility to stop the spread of misinformation and rumors for the sake of our peace of mind. We can do this by being vigilant in verifying information and only taking it from credible and trustworthy sources.
*Maha Akeel is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. Twitter: @MahaAkeel1

Al Jazeera continues to ‘provide a platform to bigoted and violent extremists’
Tarek Al Ahmad/Arab News/May 26/ 2020
LONDON: Al Jazeera’s recent interview with terrorist-designated group Hamas’ leader Ismail Haniyeh, as well as its podcast glorifying killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, has stirred the ongoing debate surrounding the network’s alleged promotion of terrorism.
The exposure given to the controversial figures has prompted experts into stating that the station and news site continue to provide extremists with a platform to present themselves on.
“The fact that Qatar’s Al Jazeera Arabic continues to provide a platform to bigoted and violent extremists, including terrorists, obviously undermines the Qatari government’s claim to be a steady force for tolerance and coexistence,” Washington director for international affairs at the Anti-Defamation League, David Weinberg, told Arab News.
The station’s interview with Haniyeh served as a stage to threaten Israel with the fact that Hamas was still capable of kidnapping more Israeli soldiers, while the podcast allowed the Soleimani character a free rein to explain his support of terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah and why he helped Syrian President Bashar Assad massacre his own people.
These were not the only controversies the network found itself embroiled in this month.Last week, Al Jazeera’s Arabic news site carried a headline reading, “Martyr shot by Occupation forces in the West Bank for being accused of trying to run over soldiers,” to report on a Palestinian man who was shot while attempting to ram into Israeli soldiers with his car.
“Every time Al Jazeera calls somebody — anybody — a martyr, it violates the journalistic ethic of impartiality. What makes it much, much worse is that Al Jazeera consistently uses the term martyr to glorify terrorists, provided the civilians those violent extremists are trying to murder happen to be Israeli Jews,” Weinberg said.
“Encouraging slaughter of this sort does nobody any favors, not Palestinians or Israelis, neither Jews nor Arabs.”
“Al-Qaeda in Syria? Flattered by Al Jazeera. The Taliban? Flattered by Al Jazeera. Iranian proxies like Hamas and Islamic Jihad? Flattered by Al Jazeera. Al-Qaeda financier Muthanna Al-Dhari? Flattered by Al Jazeera. Media practices like these are unacceptable, immoral, and bad for people of all faiths and all nations,” he added.
Al Jazeera has a turbulent past when it comes to extremist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Last year, its youth channel AJ+ Arabic drew widespread condemnation over an alleged Holocaust denial video that claimed Jews exaggerated the scale of the genocide in order to establish Israel.
The chairman of UK nonprofit organization Muslims Against Anti-Semitism, Ghanem Nuseibeh, told Arab News: “Al Jazeera has a direct editorial input from the Diwan in Doha (the sovereign body and administrative office of the Emir of Qatar), with the Arabic channel focused on promoting the extremist ideological discourse. This is their core constituency.
“It is particularly troubling that Al Jazeera Arabic website still to this day continues to host articles and videos of interviews by proscribed groups in the UK such as Al-MuHajjiroun, and freely accessible in the UK,” he added.
Earlier this month, a Shariah expert from the Qatari Ministry of Religious Endowments advocated the beating of women in an interview on the network, stating that they “need to be subdued by muscles.” And this was not the first time.
The station has also broadcasted a religious program hosted by extremist cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the terrorist-designated Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader. Al-Qaradawi, an outspoken Hamas loyalist who was featured in Arab News’ “Preachers of Hate” series, issues fatwas riddled with comments advocating suicide bomb attacks and praises to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler for “punishing the Jews,” on Al Jazeera’s media platforms.
“Al Jazeera’s motto is, ‘the opinion and the other opinion,’ but when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood’s bigots and violent extremists, Al Jazeera Arabic still just presents one opinion, giving ikhwani (brotherhood) intolerance an unquestioning platform for broadcasting into millions of homes around the world,” Weinberg said.
The media network has also been called a “useful tool” for Qatar’s ruling elite notorious for their sympathies with the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist and extremist groups. In 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar in order to pressure it to halt its alleged terrorism financing and shut down the network.
US Embassy cables acquired by UK newspaper The Guardian in 2009 proved just how interconnected the Qatari government and Al Jazeera are.
“Al Jazeera, the most watched satellite television station in the Middle East, is heavily subsidized by the Qatari government and has proved itself a useful tool for the station’s political masters … Despite (the government of Qatar’s) protestations to the contrary, Al Jazeera remains one of Qatar’s most valuable political and diplomatic tools,” the cable read.
Al Jazeera tangoes with terrorism
Favoring Daesh
• Do you support the Daesh group’s victories in Iraq and Syria?
• More than 54,000 people voted on the official page of ‘Opposite Direction.’ 81.6 percent voted ‘Yes,’ while 18.4 percent voted ‘No.’
Sectarian discourse
• Al-Qassim said: ‘Why do you blame the regime? I want to ask you. Al-Nubl and Al-Zahraa are Shiite colonies in the heart of Sunni land. Kafarayah and Fu’aa are still living among you. Why don’t you expel them out as they did to you and curse the ones who gave birth to them?’
Party for a terrorist
• Al Jazeera host: ‘Brother Samir, we would like to celebrate your birthday with you. You deserve even more than this. I think that 11,000 prisoners – if they can see this program now – are celebrating your birthday with you. Happy birthday, brother Samir.’
Al-Julani interview
• Interviewer: ‘What was the strategy of Al-Qaeda’s Sheikh Osama bin Laden?’
• Al-Julani: ‘He wanted to fight the Americans on their own turf, and that way to drag them into Afghanistan – because we were unable to send armies to (the United States). Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s goal in fighting the Americans was not to put an end to the American presence…’
Boosting terrorism
• ’We call upon the Islamic nation to rise up, and not make do with a futile economic boycott, in the face of this affront to our honorable Prophet. We call upon them to drive out the Danish embassies and ambassadors from the lands of the Muslims, and to expel them from the Muslim countries. They should take serious and immediate action to burn down the offices of the newspapers that affronted our Prophet, and to bomb them, so that body parts go flying, and with these body parts, Allah Almighty will quench the believers’ thirst for revenge.’

Iran’s Khamenei sees himself as savior to Arabs – he is their nightmare
Hussain Abdul-Hussain/Al Arabiya/May 26/2020
While Israeli fighter jets routinely pound sites of pro-Iranian militias in Syria, Tehran has found a creative way to respond: Tweeting posters of its imagined victory over Israel.
The posters, just one example of Iran’s expansionism propaganda, prove that Iran’s bark is louder than its bite.
In the last week Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tweeted “art” about Jerusalem. The first poster showed the city under the control of Iran and its militias. The second showed Iranian officials and protegees praying at the Dome of the Rock, the third holiest site in Islam.
The title of the first poster read “the final solution” and caused an international stir for channeling Nazi propaganda that led to the Holocaust and the demise of six million Jews. Khamenei responded by saying he was not against the Jews, but against the existence of Israel.
In Iraq’s Diyalah province, Iran’s Khomeini’s Foundation erected posters showing images of Yemeni Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi alongside slogans reading “death to Israel and America,” and “curse be on the Jews.” Khamenei might not say it in English or on Twitter, but among allies of the Iran-led “resistance axis,” animosity toward Judaism - not only Zionism - is widespread.
Khamenei attempted to rebut accusations against his hatred of Jews with a Twitter thread. He claimed the meaning behind his use of “final solution” was that the UN should hold a referendum over the fate of Palestine.
But the poster reflects a reality in Iran and its satellite countries: militia thugs standing on every corner, touting their arms.
In Khamenei’s mind, it seems fair if public opinion is goaded by violent non-state actors. Such thinking was reflected in a speech by Lebanese Hezbollah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah, who said that “the image of those normalizing (with Israel) and surrendering does not reflect the true image of our nation.”
What Nasrallah clearly does not understand is that no nation has one solitary image or one single opinion. Arab and Palestinian preferences toward Israel vary between those who think turning a new page is the best course of action, and those who advise holding out for a better deal.
Nasrallah’s thinking that all Arabs support Iran’s maximalist position of categorically refusing to recognize Israel is at odds with the position of the Arab League and its Beirut Peace Initiative, which recognizes Israel and offers it full normalization in return for its withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
To Tehran, however, it does not matter what the Arabs or Palestinians think. Iranian art depicts crowds celebrating Iranian occupation of Jerusalem with posters of presumed heroes. Remarkably, except for a single picture of Hamas’ founder Ahmed Yassin, these illustrated crowds in Jerusalem do not celebrate any other Palestinian like late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who received the Nobel Peace Prize with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for their efforts to create peace with the Oslo Accords.
Instead, these crowds celebrate Iranian leaders Khomeini, Khamenei and Qassem Soleimani, Iraqi Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandes, Lebanese Nasrallah and Ragheb Harb, Iran’s other “allies,” like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, are not recognized in the imagined Iranian crowd in Jerusalem.
In a second poster released by Khamenei, al-Assad is depicted as standing somewhere in the fourth or fifth row, just before the rows where the faces of those praying become indistinguishable. Most visible are Iran’s Nasrallah and Hamas’ Ismail Haniyyah.
Khamenei does not understand how popular will can be gauged through ballot boxes. He does not understand how detrimental militias are to any state. He does not realize that calling for the destruction of a fellow member state of the UN is hate speech. He does not see that his diktats of what should happen in Palestine is Iranian imperialism, just like the imperialism that Iran spends its days complaining of.
Khamenei does not understand Arab culture, clothing style, or history, yet has the audacity to try to dictate his ideas on Arab societies. Unlike how Khamenei might perceive himself, he is no savior or liberator of the Arabs, but more like their nightmare.