English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For February 10/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations For today

Jesus said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 12/13-21/:”Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’


Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on February 09- 10/2021

Who was Saint Maroun That The Mronite Church Carries His Name/Elias Bejjani/February 09/2021
Pope Urges Lebanese Politicians to Set Personal Interest Aside
Sister of late activist Lokman Slim: Lebanon’s assassination history repeats itself
Ministry of Health: 2,879 new Corona cases, 60 deaths
Rahi presides over St. Maroun's Mass service in Bkerki
Aoun following his meeting with Qatari Foreign Minister: Qatar's support and assistance to Lebanon confirm the distinguished relations between both countries
Al-Thani: Qatar is always ready to assist Lebanon
Presidency Information Office reiterates: Aoun has not asked for blocking third
Report: Qatari Foreign Minister Carries 'Lebanese Dialogue' Initiative in Doha
'Qatar Says Support for Lebanon Hinges on Govt Formation
Qatar ready to help Lebanon when new govt formed
Berri, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister convene at Ain El-Tineh
Ferzli after meeting al-Rahi: Lebanon is experiencing an almost existential crisis
Civil Group Gives a Home Away from Home to Health Workers
Abiad Raises Vigilance over Covid Complacency
Kataeb calls on friendly countries to take the initiative to deter militia practices against Lebanon
Aoun congratulates the UAE for the entrance of Emirati “Al-Amal” probe into orbit around Mars
Geagea: UAE to Mars thanks to its rulers, Lebanon to Hell
Hariri: Every Arab is proud of sisterly Emirates’ reaching Mars
Diab, Rahme discuss security situation in the Bekaa, Corona outbreak in the country
General Security: To resume receiving citizens' transactions, borders to open for two days for Lebanese wishing to return from Syria
Medical supplies from Kuwait to ‘Siblin Governmental Hospital’
Hassan after meeting Diab: First batch of vaccinations to arrive Saturday evening, vaccination campaign to be launched Sunday from the Grand Serail
Four training workshops on “Journalism during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic”, in partnership between Information Ministry & UNESCO Office in Beirut
The Lebanese Information Center Calls for Justice and Accountability Following the Assassination of Lokman Slim
Lebanon must be freed from Iranian tyranny/Maria Maalouf/Arab News/February 09/20210

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 09- 10/2021

Pope Francis' programme for Apostolic Visit to Iraq announced
After Blinken remarks, Netanyahu says Golan will always be Israel’s
Yemeni Christian priest, Mushir Khalidi.detained, tortured by Houthis for four years
Majority of US senators urge Biden to press Turkey on rights
Six Republicans who said Trump post-presidential impeachment trial is constitutional
All Eyes on Washington as Trump Second Impeachment Trial Starts
U.N. human rights forum reforms should include 'disproportionate focus' on Israel - State Department
Iran, N. Korea Resumed Missile Collaboration in 2020, UN Report Says
Iran has no interest in altering its behavior/AEIdeas/February 09/2021
U.S. may weigh baby steps to revive Iran nuclear deal/Arshad Mohammed, John Irish/Reuters/February 09/2021
AQAP leader reportedly captured/Thomas Jodcelyn/FDD's Long War Journal/Febrauary 09/2021
UAE's 'Hope' Probe Successfully Enters Mars' Orbit
Navalny Aides Say Discussed New Russia Sanctions with EU


Titles For The Latest The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 09- 10/2021

Choreagraphies of Death: Yezidis Unearthed Yezidis Buried/Charles Elias Chartouni/February 09/2021
Khamenei Sets Conditions for Iran to Resume Its Nuclear Commitments/Mehdi Khalaji/The Washington Institute/February 09/2021
Iran and Turkey: Power dynamics in the South Caucasus/Alex Vatanka/MEI@75//February 09/2021
How new US envoy to Yemen can end the stalemate/Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg/Arab News/February 09/2021
The crippled league of Arab states: has the time of disbandment arrived?/Rami Rayess/Al Arabiya/February 09/2021

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on February 09- 10/2021

Who was Saint Maroun That The Mronite Church Carries His Name
Elias Bejjani/February 09/2021


Fouad Afram Boustani, (1904- 1994), the Lebanese Maronite historian described the Maronite denomination as, a faith of intelligence, an identification of life, a solid belief in Catholicism, a love for others, an ongoing struggle for righteousness, a mentality of openness on the whole world, and on its different civilizations, and a vehicle for martyrdom. The Maronites established the state of Lebanon and made it an oasis for the persecuted in the middle East. They believed and practiced multiculturalism and pluralism. They created with the help of other minorities in the Middle East the unique nation of Lebanon.
The Maronites made Lebanon their homeland since the 4th century after converting its native inhabitants to Christianity. They were identified by it, and it was identified by them, they were and still are one entity. The Maronite people were always hopeful, faithful and strong believers in the Christian Catholic doctrine. They made victories of defeats, joy of sorrow and hope of despair. The Maronites successfully created with hard work and a great deal of faith and sacrifices, the Maronite nation by fulfilling its four basic pillars, a land, a people, a civilization and a politically independent entity. They constantly fight for what was theirs, and never ever surrendered to despair.
On the ninth of February for the past 1600 years, Maronites in Lebanon and all over the world have been celebrating the annual commemoration of St. Maroun, the founder of their Christian Catholic denomination.
Every year, on the ninth of February, more than ten million Maronites from all over the world celebrate St. Maroun’s day. On this day, they pay their respect to the great founder of the Maronite Church, Maroun the priest, the hermit, the father, the leader and the Saint. They remember what they have been exposed to, since the 4th century, both good and bad times. They reminisce through the past, examine the present and contemplate the future. They pray for peace, democracy and freedom in Lebanon, their homeland, and all over the world.
Who was this Saint, how did he establish his church, where did he live, and who are his people, the Maronites?
St. Maroun, according to the late great Lebanese philosopher and historian, Fouad Afram Al-Bustani, was raised in the city of Kouroch. This city is located northeast of Antioch (presently in Turkey), and to the northwest of Herapolos (Manbieg), the capital of the third Syria (Al-Furatia). Kouroch is still presently in existence in Turkey, it is located 15 kilometers to the northwest of Kalas city, and about 70 kilometers to the north of the Syrian city, Aleppo.
As stated by the historians, Father Boutrous Daou and Fouad Fram Bustani, Maroun chose a very high location at the Semaan Mountain (called in the past, Nabo Mountain, after the pagan god, Nabo). Geographically, the Semaan Mountain is located between Antioch and Aleppo. People had abandoned the mountain for years, and the area was completely deserted.
The ruins of a historic pagan temple that existed on the mountain attracted Maroun. Boustan stated that St. Maroun moved to this mountain and decided to follow the life of a hermit. He made the ruined temple his residence after excoriating it from devils, but used it only for masses and offerings of the holy Eucharist. He used to spend all his time in the open air, praying, fasting and depriving his body from all means of comfort. He became very famous in the whole area for his faith, holiness and power of curing. Thousands of believers came to him seeking help and advice.
St. Maroun, was an excellent knowledgeable preacher and a very stubborn believer in Christ and in Christianity. He was a mystic who started a new ascetic-spiritual method that attracted many people from all over the Antiochian Empire. He was a zealous missionary with a passion to spread the message of Christ by preaching it to others. He sought not only to cure the physical ailments that people suffered, but had a great quest for nurturing and healing the "lost souls" of both pagans and Christians of his time. Maroun’s holiness and countless miracles drew attention throughout the Antiochian Empire. St. John of Chrysostom sent him a letter around 405 AD expressing his great love and respect asking St. Maroun to pray for him.
St. Maroun's way was deeply monastic with emphasis on the spiritual and ascetic aspects of living. For him, all was connected to God and God was connected to all. He did not separate the physical and spiritual world and actually used the physical world to deepen his faith and spiritual experience with God. St. Maroun embraced the quiet solitude of the Semaan Mountain life. He lived in the open air exposed to the forces of nature such as sun, rain, hail and snow. His extraordinary desire to come to know God’s presence in all things allowed him to transcend such forces, and discover an intimate union with God. He was able to free himself from the physical world by his passion and eagerness for prayer and enter into a mystical relationship of love with the creator.
St. Maroun attracted hundreds of monks and priests who came to live with him and become his disciples and loyal Christian followers. Maroun’s disciples preached the Bible in the Antiochan Empire (known at the present time as Syria), Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Israel, They built hundreds of Churches and abbeys as well as schools and were known for their faith, devotion and perseverance.
At the age of seventy, in the year 410 AD, and after completing his holy mission, St. Maroun died peacefully while surrounded by his disciples and followers. His will was to be buried in the same grave with his beloved teacher, the great monk, Zabena, in the town of Kena, next to Kouroch city, where a temple was built in Zabena’s name. St. Maroun’s will was not fulfilled, because the residents of a nearby town were able to take his body and bury him in their town and build a huge church on his grave. This church was a shrine for Christians for hundreds of years, and its ruins are still apparent in that town.
After Maroun’s death, his disciples built a huge monastery in honor of his name, adjacent to the ornate spring, (Naher Al-Assi, located at the Syrian-Lebanese border). The monastery served for hundreds of years as a pillar for faith, education, martyrhood and holiness. It was destroyed at the beginning of the tenth century that witnessed the worst Christian persecution era. During the savage attack on the monastery more than 300 Maronite priests were killed. The surviving priests moved to the mountains of Lebanon where with the Marada people and the native Lebanese were successful in establishing the Maronite nation. They converted the Lebanese mountains to a fortress of faith and a symbol for martyrhood, endurance and perseverance.
Initially the Maronite movement reached Lebanon when St. Maroun's first disciple Abraham of Cyrrhus, who was called the Apostle of Lebanon, realized that paganism was thriving in Lebanon, so he set out to convert the pagans to Christianity by introducing them to the way of St. Maroun. St. Maroun is considered to be the Father of the spiritual and monastic movement now called the Maronite Church. This movement had a profound influence on northern Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus and on many other countries all over the world where the Maronites currently live. The biggest Maronite community at the present time lives in Brazil. More than six million Lebanese descendents made Brazil their home after the massive emigration that took place from Lebanon in the beginning of this century.
God Bless all those who struggle for freedom and liberty all over the world


Pope Urges Lebanese Politicians to Set Personal Interest Aside
Naharnet/February 09/2021
Pope Francis urged Lebanese politicians to set their personal interests aside, adding that Lebanon faces the risk of losing its identity. During his annual address accredited to the Holy See on Monday, Pope Francis addressed diplomats at the Vatican and “appealed for a renewed political commitment to fostering the stability of Lebanon,” the Catholic News Agency said. He also said that Lebanon “risks losing its identity and finding itself caught up even more in regional tensions” due to its economic and political crisis, he was reported as saying. “It is most necessary that the country maintain its unique identity, not least to ensure a pluralistic, tolerant and diversified Middle East in which the Christian community can make its proper contribution and not be reduced to a minority in need of protection,” the Agency quoted him as saying. He raised concerns that “a weakening of the Christian presence risks destroying internal equilibrium and the very reality of Lebanon.” The Pope highlighted the need for an “urgently needed process of economic recovery and reconstruction,” saying “without it, the country risks bankruptcy, with the possible effect of a dangerous drift towards fundamentalism.”
“It is therefore necessary for all political and religious leaders to set aside their personal interests and to commit themselves to pursuing justice and implementing real reforms for the good of their fellow citizens, acting transparently and taking responsibility for their actions,” he was quoted as saying.


Sister of late activist Lokman Slim: Lebanon’s assassination history repeats itself
Rawad Taha, Al Arabiya English/February 09/2021
The sister of prominent Lebanese publisher and vocal critic of the Shia militant Hezbollah group Lokman Slim who was found shot dead in his car on Thursday morning, said Lebanon’s history of assassinations was repeating itself. “My father was also the lawyer of journalist Kamel Mroueh who was assassinated. They assassinated him in his office… History is repeated in this country,” she told Al Arabiya English during an interview. Lokman’s mother said she refused to leave the southern suburbs of Beirut, because her house is 150 years old and is older than Hezbollah. “I have lived here for 60 years… This house is 150 years old… I will stay in this house because this house is older than Hezbollah… I will not leave,” she added. Slim’s sister Rasha al-Ameer had hinted days ago that Hezbollah was behind the killing, without naming the group, adding that it is known who controls the area where her brother was found dead. “Killing for them is a habit," she said. Hezbollah and its allies dominate the area in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah condemned Slim's killing, calling for a swift investigation. It also urged security agencies to combat crimes it said have spread around Lebanon and which have been “exploited politically and by the media at the expense of security and domestic stability" — a jab at their critics. Slim was born in Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold, where he lived all his life. He returned from abroad to the house, when most people were leaving, during the 2006 war with Israel, when the suburbs were being bombed.
He founded Umam, a research and film production house with a library documenting Lebanon's and Shia history. His family owns a publishing house and Slim hosted public debates and political forums and art shows, including exhibitions documenting the civil war's missing. He and his wife worked on a film documenting the atrocities of Syria's notorious Tadmor prison. In 2009, he and his wife organized a private viewing at their center for an Oscar-nominated anti-war Israeli cartoon about Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the rise of the then-President Bachir Gemayel, in defiance of Hezbollah and Lebanese authorities, which banned it. Slim also set up Haya Bina, or “Let's go," a group that encouraged participation in 2005 parliamentary elections, called for changes to Lebanon's sectarian-based system, and taught women English.
- With The Associated Press


Ministry of Health: 2,879 new Corona cases, 60 deaths
NNA/February 09/2021
The Ministry of Public Health announced, on Tuesday, the registration of 2,879 new Corona infections, thus raising the cumulative number of confirmed cases to-date to 324,859.
It also indicated that 60 deaths were recorded during the past 24 hours.

Rahi presides over St. Maroun's Mass service in Bkerki
NNA/February 09/2021
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Beshara Boutros Rahi, presided over Saint Maroun's Mass service in Bkerki this morning. In his delivered sermon, Patriarch Rahi prayed for Lebanon so that this country would emerge from its serious political, social and economic crises, through the hands of those with good intentions. Rahi underlined the necessity of restoring spiritual, moral and humanitarian values to our societies and promoting the culture of brotherhood, partnership and love. He hoped that the national and international political commitment would be renwed in order to enhance the stability of Lebanon, which is going through an internal crisis and is prone to losing its identity and getting involved in regional tensions. The Prelate stressed that Lebanon can only survive through a democratic system that respects pluralism, public liberties and human rights. He also called for addressing the issue of the Syrian and Palestinian refugees, in light of the deteriorating economic conditions in Lebanon. Commenting on the impasse in forming the government, al-Rahi considered that "officials are competing to disrupt internal solutions, which leads us to look to the United Nations to help save Lebanon." He added: "The United Nations Organization is not an international, regional, sectarian or partisan group to resort to in the interest of one party over another. It is an organization responsible for the fate of every member state, and it has the responsibility to assist it in critical crises. Lebanon today needs a firm and strict international role that implements previous decisions without exception and partiality, even if the matter calls for issuing new decisions." Finally, the Patriarch called on all the forces that believe in the unity, sovereignty and neutrality of Lebanon in this East to cooperate with each other in order to crystallize a national situation that will restore Lebanon and put it on a renaissance path.

Aoun following his meeting with Qatari Foreign Minister: Qatar's support and assistance to Lebanon confirm the distinguished relations between both countries
Al-Thani: Qatar is always ready to assist Lebanon

NNA/February 09/2021
President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, expressed Lebanese appreciation, by the President and people, for the support provided by the State of Qatar, under the directives of Qatari Prince, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, to Lebanon and the Lebanese, especially during the difficult circumstances which Lebanon went through after the Beirut Port explosion through urgent social, humanitarian and health aid that arrived and was placed at the disposal of the affected Lebanese. The President also considered that this aid is an affirmation of the distinguished relations between both brotherly states.
The positions of President Aoun came while receiving the Qatari Deputy Prime Minister, and Foreign Affairs Minister, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani, today at Baabda Palace.
The Qatari Minister arrived in Beirut on a solidarity visit with Lebanon, which is the second since his first visit on the 25th of August. President Aoun asserted that the Qatari solidarity with Lebanon was translated on several occasions, whether through financial and in-kind donations through the participation of the Prince of Qatar in the Paris Conference to support Lebanon which was organized by the French President Emmanuel Macron, or through the air bridge which was established between Beirut and Doha to send medical and food aid in addition to field hospitals each with a capacity of 500 beds.
In addition, President Aoun expressed his appreciation for the facilities provided by Qatar to Lebanese citizens residing there, and the job opportunities it provides to many Lebanese, especially in light of the difficult economic conditions which Lebanese is passing through. Then, the President asked the Qatari Foreign Affairs Ministers to convey to Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the congratulations for the recent reconciliation which has normalized relations between the Arab Gulf states, focusing on the importance of the unity of the Arab stance, in these circumstances.
For his part, the Qatari Minister began the meeting by conveying the greetings of the Qatari Prince to President Aoun, and his wishes for success, focusing on the historical relations between Lebanon and Qatar, which have always been characterized by brotherhood, friendship and cooperation, stressing that Qatar stands by Lebanon in these delicate circumstances. In addition, Minister Al-Thani expressed his country's readiness to continue providing urgent assistance of various kinds to the Lebanese people, in addition to contributing to the projects that Qatar had already started implementing in Lebanon. Al-Thani also assured Qatar's readiness to assist in any issue that Lebanon might need assistance in, hoping to quickly form a government to discuss various aspects of support in light of the political stability which Qatar hopes to achieve.
The Qatari Foreign Minister also expressed hope to see President Aoun in Doha "on a visit to his second country, Qatar".
On the Qatari side, the meeting was attended by: Qatari Ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammed Hassan Jaber Al-Jaber, the Director of the Foreign Minister's office, Ambassador Saad Al-Kharji, Ambassador Meshaal Al-Mazroui, and Mr. Abdullah Al-Sulaiti.
On the Lebanese side, the meeting was attended by: Foreign Affairs Minister, Charbel Wehbe, former Minister, Salim Jreisatti, Presidency Director General, Dr. Antoine Choucair, Protocol General Director, Dr. Nabil Chedid, and Advisors Rafic Chelala and Osama Khashab.
Statement of the Qatari Foreign Minister:
"I was pleased to meet with His Excellency, President Michel Aoun, in a visit which comes as a continuation of previous visits to the brotherly Lebanon, especially after the Beirut Port explosion, and the humanitarian disaster which befell the Lebanese people. We renew our support to our Lebanese brothers, and the State of Qatar will always be present and proactive to support the Lebanese people and help them to rise and overcome their crises.
Qatar provides assistance to Lebanon through projects which are currently being followed-up, whether through field hospitals sent to Beirut, as well as through the reconstruction and rehabilitation of some buildings, 55 public schools, 20 technical institutes and 80 university buildings, in addition to grants for 400 students at the American University in Beirut.
The State of Qatar will continue to support its Lebanese brothers and make its efforts to complete reconstruction projects in devastated areas, in addition to that we wish the brotherly Lebanese people success and the various political events success also. We hope that the interest of the Lebanese people prevails, and the Government is formed as soon as possible so that these projects are completed.
We look at the future of Lebanon as a promising and positive future, but this matter requires stability and requires a formed Government. Therefore, we wish them all success in their consultations and that the Government will be formed as soon as possible".
Questions & Answers:
Question: Will Qatar invest its good political relations with all parties in an attempt to overcome the obstacles that prevent the formation of the Government? And has there been an invitation to the Lebanese parties to Doha, similar to what happened in 2008 to reach an agreement, at regional and international levels, will Qatar play a role in an attempt to reach consensus that reached the formation of the Government in Lebanon?
Answer: "Regarding the formation of the Government in Lebanon, this matter is considered an internal issue, concerning the Lebanese and political parties in Lebanon, and the State of Qatar has friendly and brotherly relations with all politicians in Lebanon, and our message is always positive, so that cooperation between them takes place and the national interest prevails over partisan or political interests, and if the State of Qatar is asked by the parties to have a role to facilitate any dialogues, then we are ready for that, but we are confident that there is capability for the political parties in Lebanon prioritize their national interest, and the State of Qatar will support in any attempt to form a Government that creates political stability in Lebanon.
As for regional and international levels, we always have consultations with all friendly countries interested in the Lebanese issue, and everyone agrees with us, that the current stage is sensitive for Lebanon and a Government must be formed soon as possible and we wish them success in doing so, and all the countries that we are currently communicating with are heading in this direction".
Question: The Lebanese public opinion is waiting and wondering, does Qatar invite Lebanese politicians today to a conference in Doha, that is a Doha 2? And today, you are in Baabda Palace and the PM Designate, Saad Hariri, is in Paris, so did you come to destroy the French initiative and say that it is your role in Lebanon?
Answer: "Never. The issue has nothing to do with destroying the French initiative, but on the contrary, we are coming to complete international efforts, and the presence of the PM Designate, Mr. Saad Hariri, outside the country is a coincidence, because the process of scheduling the dates of the visit was not done in a coordinated and advance manner".
In response to a question about if Prime Minister Hariri was in Beirut, will the Qatari delegation hold a meeting with him? The Qatari Minister said: "Of course. We look forward to meeting him, God willing, even if it is during future visits. As for calling the parties to a conference in Doha, we confirm that the Lebanese are welcome at any time, but there is currently no initiative on the table to invite the parties to reach a solution in Doha, and we hope that the solution will emerge from Beirut as soon as possible".
Question: What about financial aid? Will Qatar help Lebanon in this field, especially as it is going through a bad economic crisis, or do you also condition stopping corruption to help Lebanon?
Answer: "We are talking about an integrated economic program to support Lebanon, and this program requires the presence of a Government, and also requires adherence to certain standards. These are the same standards that the State of Qatar follows with all countries that deal with it through economic programs, and we are committed to this direction".
Question: Have you brought a specific message from the Emir of the State of Qatar to His Excellency the President? Especially that there is a need for communication at the level of Arab leaders in light of the Arab transformations that we have seen during the past year? And is there a Qatari initiative to help Lebanon to save the Lebanese monetary situation, especially as it suffers from a financial crisis?
Answer: "Of course, we carried the message of His Highness the Emir to His Excellency the President, which is a message of support and renewal of Qatar's support for the brothers in Lebanon, in addition to urging and encouraging the parties to give priority to the national interest over other political interests in order to reach the formation of a Government and political stability.
As for the economic programs, as I mentioned. Qatar, and through the policy it follows, does not provide its financial support in monetary terms, but this support comes in the form of programs and through projects that will make a difference in the state's economy and in the matter of the brotherly Lebanese people, working and partnering with them through economic programs. When a Government is formed, it is prepared to work with it through all options and to reach an economic program that serves the brotherly Lebanese people and meets the conditions that the State of Qatar follows on a permanent basis in helping countries".
Question: You mentioned that you aim to solve the Lebanese crisis and establish stability in Lebanon, so will you work through your website to communicate with the various Lebanese parties after the visit? And with influential regional parties, including Iran for example, or with others such as the US?
Answer: "Our message to Lebanon is a message of support, and a clear message to the political parties that there must be a primacy of the national interest and the formation of a Government, and this communication continues on a permanent basis, whether through this visit or communication by other means. Our message is the same for all regional countries and we hope for everyone's support in this direction to end the current political consultations and come out with a Government agreed upon by the political parties to bring stability in Lebanon". --- Presidency Press Office

Presidency Information Office reiterates: Aoun has not asked for blocking third
NNA/February 09/2021
The Information Office of the Presidency of the Republic clarified that some politicians and media professionals use terms such as “concessions" that the President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, must present in the context of talking about ways to form the future government. The correct view is that the so-called "concessions" are in fact constitutional rights that the President is keen to preserve and call for their realization based on his national, constitutional and charter responsibilities. They are responsibilities that can never be included in the dictionary of "concessions" because they are among the constants that cannot be abandoned under any circumstances. The Presidency Information Office reminds that the fact that some people continued to claim President Aoun's demand for the "blocking third," despite repeated denials of this, indicates the lack of objective arguments and the resort to unrealistic and fabricated arguments on the basis of the saying "it is a goat even if it flies."--- Presidency Press Office

Report: Qatari Foreign Minister Carries 'Lebanese Dialogue' Initiative in Doha
Naharnet/February 09/2021
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman will reportedly carry during his scheduled visit to Beirut Tuesday, an initiative to bring the Lebanese parties together at a dialogue table in Doha, the Kuwaiti al-Qabas newspaper reported. According to unnamed sources, the Qatari side will not announce its initiative until after all Lebanese parties agree to participate in the dialogue. They noted that the Qatari side has received initial approval from the majority of Lebanese political forces, especially Hizbullah and the team of President Michel Aoun, added the daily.
The sources did not rule out discussions on providing financial support to Lebanon. The Qatari embassy in Beirut announced that the Qatari Minister will visit Lebanon Tuesday, where he will hold a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Baabda after his meeting with Aoun.

'Qatar Says Support for Lebanon Hinges on Govt Formation
Naharnet/February 09/2021
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani met President Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace on Tuesday, and called on political parties to quickly form a new government, assuring that Qatar seeks not to torpedo the French initiative. The Qatari official deemed that the formation of the government is an internal matter, noting that Qatar maintains good relations with all Lebanese parties. He also emphasized that his country supports any process that leads to the formation of the Lebanese government, noting that Qatar is not working to undermine the French initiative, but rather is working to complete international efforts in favor of forming a government. On a reported initiative by Qatar to invite Lebanese leaders for dialogue in Doha, he said: “There is not such initiative at present. We hope the solution emerges from Beirut. “Everyone awaits the formation of a government. Any economic program to support Lebanon requires a government. Whenever a government is formed, Qatar will be ready to study all the options to provide support,” he concluded.


Qatar ready to help Lebanon when new govt formed
AFP/February 10/2021
BEIRUT: Qatar’s foreign minister on Tuesday said his country was ready to help kick-start Lebanon’s flailing economy, but only if its deeply divided political class agreed on a new government. “Under our policy, we only provide financial help through economic projects ... that will make a difference to the country’s economy,” Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said during a visit to Beirut. But “this demands there be an independent government to work with,” he said at a press conference after meeting Lebanon’s president.
“As soon as a government is formed, Qatar will be ready to study all the options” and only then discuss “a comprehensive economic program to support Lebanon,” he said. mLebanon is locked in its worst economic crisis in decades and desperately needs international aid, but donors have conditioned financial help on an independent Cabinet enacting sweeping reforms. The country’s politicians have failed to agree on a new government since the previous Cabinet stepped down after a monster Aug. 4 blast at the Beirut port that killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of the city.
Two visits to the country by French President Emmanuel Macron have failed to bring the various sides together. Sunni politician Saad Hariri, who made a comeback as premier-designate in October after stepping down under street pressure almost a year earlier, has struggled to put together a lineup to suit all sides. Qatar has maintained good ties with all sides of the multi-confessional country’s political factions over the years, hosting them in Doha in 2008 to ink a deal after tensions came to a boil in the Mediterranean country.

Berri, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister convene at Ain El-Tineh
NNA/February 09/2021 
House Speaker Nabih Berri received this afternoon at Ain el-Tineh Palace, visiting Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, for a half an hour meeting devoted to discussing the government issue, political developments in Lebanon and the region, and bilateral relations between Lebanon and Qatar. According to a statement by the Parliament Council, both Speaker Berri and the Qatari Foreign Affairs Minister “share the same views regarding the need to expedite the formation of the government as quickly as possible."
Following the visit, the Qatari Minister left Ain el-Tineh without making any statement. On another level, the House Speaker reviewed today the general situation prevailing in the country, particularly the political, social and health conditions, during a meeting with former Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
The Speaker also broached legislative matters and educational affairs during his meeting with Parliamentary Education and Culture Committee Head, MP Bahia Hariri.

Ferzli after meeting al-Rahi: Lebanon is experiencing an almost existential crisis
NNA/February 09/2021  
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, met today with Deputy House Speaker Elie Ferzli, in the presence of Mr. Jean Aziz. On emerging, Ferzli referred to the prevailing difficult circumstances in the country, “a crisis that is almost existential in the full meaning of the word.”
He added that his visit to the Patriarch was devoted to discussing current hour issues, pointing to His Beatitude’s insistence that nothing is more important than forming a government that will veer the state towards the path of salvation, and address the basic needs of citizens and all the economic, monetary, political and social problems at stake. “The Patriarch believes that all constituents of Lebanese society will have their rights met once the government is formed,” said Ferzli, adding that “what is required is to form a government in order to bring the Lebanese together under Lebanon’s flag, and under the administration of the Lebanese state and the leadership of a one state."

Civil Group Gives a Home Away from Home to Health Workers
Associated Press/February 09/2021
In the middle of the destroyed Beirut neighborhood of Gemmayzeh, a small team in masks and gloves were sanitizing and packing oxygen machines to be sent to those in need. It's the latest venture of a Lebanese civil group that arose with the coronavirus pandemic and has been finding new avenues to help as the country's crises expand. "No one is exempt from COVID. Nobody. Nobody has super-power immunity," said Melissa Fathallah, one of the founders of Baytna Baytak, Arabic for Our Home is Your Home.
"We saw that our own relatives and our colleagues are suffering with this, we decided, okay, we are going to start another fundraiser and to specifically focus on the oxygen machines."Raising more than $27,000, they currently have placed 48 machines with those who need it across the country.
Baytna Baytak, with 110 staffers, launched at the start of the pandemic with a very different initiative: Finding a home away from home for front-line workers who were worried about exposing their families to the virus. During Lebanon's first lockdown in March, they housed 750 front-line workers in various apartments. Chloe Ghosh, a 26-year-old medical resident at a government hospital in Beirut, has been living in accommodations provided by the group since the start of the pandemic.
Her family is from Tannourine, a small town 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Lebanon. For her, putting her family at risk was another burden she couldn't fathom. "If I got COVID or anyone my age got COVID, we could survive," Ghosh said. "But our families, no."
Her first accommodation with the group was wrecked when another disaster struck Beirut, the massive Aug. 4 explosion at the city's port. The blast killed more than 200 people, injured 6,000 others and destroyed thousands of homes.
Ghosh was unharmed. She moved to another place provided by Baytna Baytak across town in Hamra street. She now shares a four-bedroom apartment with three other medical workers who work in different hospitals around the city.
On a recent afternoon, Gosh and one her apartment mates, Issa Tannous, were decompressing after a long day, sipping a cup of coffee in front of the lights strung across the apartment's windows. It was a rare instance when they were home at the same time. "At the end of the day, someone cared for us," said Tannous, a 28-year-old medical resident at private hospital. "Someone appreciated what you are going through and all that is going through our heads. It gave us space not to be afraid, not to worry that we might actually hurt someone."The apartment was donated to Baytna Baytak by a philanthropist to help accommodate the front-line workers. The same donor gave several other properties around Beirut for the same purpose.
After the port explosion, Baytna Baytak rushed to expand its efforts to help those whose homes had been shattered. It placed them in temporary housing while it helped raise funds to fix their homes. Within the first 24 hours of the call for housing, they had six apartments donated.
Baytna Baytak grew out a lack of services provided for front-line workers in Lebanon, Fathallah said. "As far as the government is concerned, we don't have a government. Let's just get that out of the way," she said. "If we actually want to acknowledge their existence, then they are a completely failed government in every which way possible."Lebanon's health sector is overworked and stretched thin, even more so after the explosion.
Doctors are working multiple shifts a day to cover for colleagues infected with the virus. More than 2,300 Lebanese health care workers have been infected since February, according to the Order of Physicians.
Lebanon has over 14,000 medical doctors and 17,000 nurses, but many doctors have also left the country, reeling from a crippling economic crisis that preceded the pandemic.
After the explosion, Lebanon saw a major surge in COVID-19 infections that only worsened by the end of 2020, forcing Baytna Baytak to put some of its work on hold. Donors also were fewer. Currently, they have 100 front-line workers placed in six apartments, a few hotels and a Covent.
Still, the group has continued to work amid a 24-hour lockdown that started mid-January. Even while distributing oxygen machines, the team was getting fined for violating curfew. Fathallah is determined to keep going.
"We took it upon ourselves because of the greater good, because of the bigger picture because of the country and the citizens. We took it upon ourselves."

Abiad Raises Vigilance over Covid Complacency
Naharnet/February 09/2021
Firass Abiad, the Director at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital, raised vigilance on Tuesday saying complacency with COVID raises the risk of developing a Lebanese variant. “During last year, Lebanon was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Will this year bring another: the Lebanon Covid variant? High community transmission allow the virus the perfect environment to mutate and adapt, and Covid has proven itself very good at that,” said Abiad on Twitter. “In addition to a high community transmission, Lebanon has a loose border control and a weak Covid virus genetic surveillance program. The conditions are ripe, as other variants travel into the country, spread undetected, and have the chance to mutate with every transmission,” he added. “New variants can mean different things. The virus can become more contagious, less susceptible to vaccines, or even more virulent. This can have dire consequences as health authorities, and individuals being reinfected with Covid, are discovering in Brazil and South Africa,” stated Abiad. He said that “ramifications will be far reaching if it happens,” adding “the global spread of variants have shown that no country is safe unless all countries are. It is therefore imperative that the Ministry of Health gets the support it needs to control the transmission and expand its surveillance program.”Abiad explained that “the aim of this tweet is not to frighten, but to educate. The more we know about the virus, the more we can plan and take the appropriate actions. With Covid, complacency have proven to be very costly. So has wishful thinking. As they say, fortune favors the prepared.”

Kataeb calls on friendly countries to take the initiative to deter militia practices against Lebanon
NNA/February 09/2021
Lebanese Kataeb Party political bureau held its weekly meeting on Tuesday, headed by Party Chief Sami Gemayel, devoted to tackling recent developments in the country. In an issued statement following the meeting, the political bureau said: “Lebanon is veering towards a dangerous slope, with the return of the logic of assassinations, the most recent of which was the killing of Luqman Slim with his free, revolutionary and sovereign intellect, and the attempt to silence the liberal voices of change that refuse to submit to a militia that kidnaps the country and subjects it to the logic of abolition and political blame, in order to rob the Lebanese of their right to a decent life, free expression and the right to self-determination.”The Kataeb politburo urged all those who claim not to submit to such practices, and who acknowledge the need for change, to associate their words with action by resigning from all sites that empower these sides over the country, especially from the Parliament House which represents no one but itself. “The political bureau of the Kataeb Party believes that it is necessary for friendly countries, Arab and international organizations and institutions to which Lebanon belongs or with which it is bound by treaties, to ensure protection for the homeland and citizens, and to deter militia and mafia practices taking place daily against them,” the statement underscored.

Aoun congratulates the UAE for the entrance of Emirati “Al-Amal” probe into orbit around Mars
NNAFebruary 09/2021
President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, congratulated the United Arab Emirates for the entry of the Emirati “Al-Amal” probe this evening into its orbit around Mars, to begin studying the lower layers of the atmosphere.
President Aoun wrote the following on Twitter: “Congratulations, to the brotherly United Arab Emirates, for the historic achievement of the Emirati ‘Al-Amal’ probe entering its orbit around Mars.” --- {Presidency Press Office}

Geagea: UAE to Mars thanks to its rulers, Lebanon to Hell
NNA/February 09/2021
“The United Arab Emirates heads to Mars thanks to its rulers, and Lebanon to Hell thanks to its rulers...Congratulations to the UAE on this huge scientific achievement that is the pride of all Arab countries," said Lebanese Forces Party Chief, Samir Geagea, via Twitter this evening, attaching to his tweet the following hashtag #Hope_Probe.

Hariri: Every Arab is proud of sisterly Emirates’ reaching Mars
NNA/February 09/2021
“Every Arab is proud of the sister country, United Arab Emirates’ reaching Mars…Congratulations to all of our brothers in the Emirates, leadership and people, for this achievement by ‘Al-Amal’ probe’s entering into orbit around Mars. You really cultivate hope in all of us!" tweeted Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, on Tuesday.

Diab, Rahme discuss security situation in the Bekaa, Corona outbreak in the country
NNA/February 09/2021
Caretaker Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, received "Tadamoun" (Solidarity) Party chief, former MP Emile Rahme, in the presence of the PM Advisor, Khodor Taleb. The meeting broached general developments in Lebanon and the need to form a government as soon as possible. Premier Diab asserted that as much as he bears responsibilities as a caretaker prime minister, out of his full commitment to fulfill his national duty, as much as he insists on Cabinet formation the sooner the better. The discussion was also centered on the security breakdown in the Bekaa. In this regard, PM Diab indicated that all security services must be constantly present in order to ensure security in the Baalbek-Hermel region that is already suffering from social deprivation.
The meeting deliberated as well on the coronavirus outbreak in Lebanon, especially in Deir al-Ahmar. MP Rahme expressed his appreciation for PM Diab's interest in settling this issue by requesting relevant agencies to follow up on the epidemiological situation in Deir Al-Ahmar and to help the people there.
Rahme also thanked Health Minister, Hamad Hassan, for his endeavors in various Lebanese regions, especially his recent visit to Deir Al-Ahmar to sponsor the opening of a center for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. The meeting also covered the issue of subsidy rationing and ways to support the poorest and most vulnerable families. --- {Presidency of the Council of Ministers Press Office}

General Security: To resume receiving citizens' transactions, borders to open for two days for Lebanese wishing to return from Syria
NNA/February 09/2021
The Public Security General Directorate announced in a statement today, it’s resumption of the usual daily transactions of citizens at the Public Relations Department, the General Secretariat and in the regional departments and centers affiliated to it, provided that the necessary preventive measures are adhered to, while maintaining social distancing and organizing citizens’ entry into the various centers. The statement added that “Lebanese citizens and their family members who are stuck in Syria and who wish to return to Lebanon through the Masnaa and Aboudieh border centers, will be allowed to do so starting nine in the morning until six in the evening, for two days on February 10 & 17, 2021, provided that they have a negative PCR test dated not more than 96 hours from Syria, and on condition that they undergo another PCR examination at the Lebanese border by the Public Health Ministry teams.

Medical supplies from Kuwait to ‘Siblin Governmental Hospital’
NNA/February 09/2021
The Kuwaiti “Faisal Abdul Wahab Al-Mutawa” Foundation provided 400 thousand dollars worth of medical supplies to “Siblin Governmental Hospital”, through the efforts of the Lebanese Consul to Kuwait, Bassil Oweidat, and in cooperation and coordination with “Democratic Gathering” MP, Bilal Abdallah. The latter thanked the Kuwaiti people, its government, leadership, and the Kuwaiti foundation "for continuously supporting Lebanon and providing it with all needed assistance at various levels."He also thanked "everyone who contributed to this initiative, starting with the Presidency of the Republic, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Kuwaiti and Lebanese Customs, Public Health Minister Hamad Hassan, Director General Fadi Sinan, and MEA Board Chairman Mohammad al-Hout." Abdallah thanked as well the Lebanese Women’s Council in the sisterly State of Kuwait for their support in purchasing equipment and supplies required for the COVID section at “Siblin Governmental Hospital”. He saluted the efforts undertaken by Lebanon’s Consul in Kuwait who hails from the region of Siblin, while calling on all capable Lebanese nationals, whether residing in Lebanon or abroad, to support the steadfastness of the people in the face of the Corona pandemic.

Hassan after meeting Diab: First batch of vaccinations to arrive Saturday evening, vaccination campaign to be launched Sunday from the Grand Serail
NNA/February 09/2021
Caretaker Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, met Minister of Health, Hamad Hassan, in the presence of PM Advisor, Khodor Taleb. Hassan informed Premier Diab that the first batch of vaccines will arrive in Lebanon on Saturday evening. On Sunday, the vaccination campaign will be launched from the Grand Serail. The meeting took stock as well at coronavirus-related developments and the national vaccination plan. – {Presidency of the Council of Ministers Press Office}

Diab, Kumar meet at the Grand Serail
NNAFebruary 09/2021
Caretaker Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, today received at the Grand Serail, the Regional Director of the Mashreq Department at the World Bank Group, Saroj Kumar Jha, in the presence of Ministers Zeina Akar and Ramzi Musharrafieh, in addition to PCM Secretary General, Judge Mahmoud Makie.
The meeting deliberated on World Bank’s assistance to Lebanon, namely in terms of securing vaccines and providing support to the neediest families. --- {Presidency of the Council of Ministers Press Office}

Four training workshops on “Journalism during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic”, in partnership between Information Ministry & UNESCO Office in Beirut
NNA/February 09/2021
The Ministry of Information and the UNESCO Office in Beirut are organizing four virtual training workshops for journalists, media students and media professionals in the Ministry and State-run TV Station, Tele-Liban, on “Journalism during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic” during the months of February and March 2021. A group of regional and international experts will participate in the workshops, which are all free of charge, extending from February 16th until March 12th, between 3:00 p.m. & 5:30 p.m. The first workshop is entitled, "Media Coverage in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic", and begins on February 16 until February 18. The second workshop is devoted to tackling, "Safety of Journalists and Mental Health", which starts on February 22 and continues until February 25. As for the third workshop, it is under the headline, "Confronting Hate Speech", and will run from 2 to 5 March.
The last workshop sheds light on the “Power to Distinguish between False News and Actual News," and it runs from March 8 until March 12.
Interested journalists can choose to partake in one or more of the above workshops, by registering their names through one of the following links:
In Arabic: https://forms.gle/5abJuoeJmK6HaCQo8
In English: https://forms.gle/KVXstU7pYBe7t8Zz6

Most of the workshops will be in the Arabic language. However, interventions in the foreign language will be directly interpreted into Arabic.
It is to note that, at the conclusion of the workshops, certificates will be distributed to the participants by UNESCO and the Ministry of Information.

The Lebanese Information Center Calls for Justice and Accountability Following the Assassination of Lokman Slim
February 09/2021
Washington, D.C. - The LIC was shocked and saddened to learn of the assassination of Lebanese thinker and political activist Lokman Slim on February 3rd in southern Lebanon. The LIC extends its deepest condolences to Slim's family and to all Lebanese citizens and Lebanese Americans grieving his senseless death.“Lokman was a tireless and fearless defender of Lebanon's sovereignty, democratic values, and freedom of expression,” said Dr. Joseph Gebeily, President of the LIC and personal friend of Slim. “He was known for his courage, persistence, and steadfast opposition to the rule of unlawful militias and their corrupt allies in Lebanon's government. This heinous murder extinguished a bright light that had given hope to many.”The LIC condemns this barbaric crime in the strongest possible terms. We warn against a return to the dark days of political assassinations, aimed at silencing those who take principled stances against corruption, oppression, and violence, just as Slim had done for years. We pledge to continue standing alongside Lebanon's free thinkers and against those using illegal arms to hold the country hostage. It is critical to protect citizens’ rights to free speech, to protest, to call for change, and to voice opposing views. The assassination of Lokman Slim sends a dangerous message and continues a trend of silencing dissident voices. The LIC is committed to seeing that trend reversed. To that end, we have reached out to President Biden’s Administration and our friends in the U.S. Congress to urge them to take part in the getting to the truth and seeking justice for Slim. Allowing this crime to go unpunished would be a devastating blow not only to Lebanon's stability and rule of law, but also to U.S. interests in a free, prosperous, and democratic Lebanon.
*The Lebanese Information Center in the U.S. is the largest grassroots organization of Americans of Lebanese descent, committed to building a free, sovereign, and democratic Lebanon for the good of the Lebanese people and in the interest of the United States of America.

Lebanon must be freed from Iranian tyranny
Maria Maalouf/Arab News/February 09/20210
The killing of political activist Luqman Salim last week epitomizes the agony of Lebanon as it seeks to retain its sovereignty against the hostile forces plotting to keep it in turmoil by perpetuating its never-ending political crises.
Salim was a politician and a writer who sought to end the hardships of the Lebanese by emphasizing their unity. He pictured Lebanon as a nation taken hostage by the regional powers around it, especially Iran. Contrary to those who push for reform in Lebanon by appealing for help from outside powers, and in particular from Europe and the US, Salim established the responsibility of the people of Lebanon to organize themselves and take action to help improve their conditions.
This can be done by demonstrating publicly in an attempt by the people to restore their political dignity and reclaim their fundamental rights as citizens. Salim’s formula for change was to encourage the Lebanese to protest in a manner similar to how they articulated their demands on Oct. 17, 2019, and for a year afterward, when they denounced the many irregularities in Lebanese politics and society.
A chorus of voices condemned his killing. The most intriguing were the statements made by his sister, who accused Hezbollah of masterminding his kidnapping and assassination. She revealed that he frightened the group with his influential ideas. She added that her brother was an unarmed person fighting against a group of people who were launching rockets and were the cause of the explosion that devastated Beirut last year. She stated that her family has no confidence in the Lebanese judiciary and instead called for an international investigation to be conducted.
Hezbollah must certainly be reckoned with in terms of responsibility for the killing of Salim, due to the fact that he received many death threats from the group in the past. For the sake of avoiding similar actions, the whole world, including the new American administration, has to be concerned about Iran, Hezbollah and their agents executing their widespread terror.
The problem for Lebanon is not only the assassination of a prominent political figure, but also the historical question of the suffering of all Lebanese people, as they have become the subjects of Hezbollah’s brutality. The entire discussion surrounding Salim’s killing is an elaboration of the idea of the hegemony of Iran in the Arab world. It is an explanation of the integral part of the strategy to turn Lebanon into a client state for the theocracy ruling Iran, using violence to eliminate opponents and establish a zone of terror in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
It is not clear at present whether the Biden administration will continue the Donald Trump policy of singling out Iran and Hezbollah as political actors that use terrorism. But the assassination of Salim could be an attempt to show the new US president the evil of Iran and its allies in an effort to intimidate him into ending the Trump policy of fighting Tehran and its terrorism.
The inability of American foreign policy to terminate Hezbollah and Iran’s terrorism points to a deepening disorder in the Middle East that can disrupt societies and throw nations into chaos.
The Biden administration still adheres to the incorrect belief that stability in Lebanon requires positive contributions by Hezbollah. The reluctance of President Joe Biden and his top foreign policy and national security assistants to confront Hezbollah makes it a more potent force. By failing to take a tough stand against the killers of Salim, the US under Biden is overlooking Tehran’s ruinous vision for Lebanon and the entire Middle East.
Salim was an advocate for democracy and realized the need for unity among all Lebanese if they are to solve the intricate and difficult problems of denomination and social injustice in their country. His life story is that of a brave man who had the tender conscience and practical sagacity to know who the real enemies of his nation are. Let the truth he championed shine as a message that Lebanon shall be free from the tyranny of Hezbollah and Iran.
*Maria Maalouf is a Lebanese journalist, broadcaster, publisher, and writer. She holds an MA in Political Sociology from the University of Lyon. Twitter: @bilarakib

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 09- 10/2021

Pope Francis' programme for Apostolic Visit to Iraq announced
NNA/February 09/2021
Pope Francis' Apostolic Visit to Iraq begins on Friday morning 5 March when he departs from Rome and arrives at Baghdad International Airport in the afternoon.
Official Welcome and Visit with Civil Authorities
The official welcome ceremony will take place at the Presidential Palace in Baghdad followed by a courtesy visit to the President. Pope Francis will also meet with civil authorities and members of the Diplomatic Corps.
Meeting with Priests and Religious
As part of the schedule on Friday, the Pope will meet with Bishops, Priests, Religious, Consecrated Persons, Seminarians and Catechists at the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad.
Visit to Najaf and Mass in Baghdad
On Saturday, 6 March, Pope Francis will depart Baghdad for Najaf. Following a courtesy visit to the Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Al-Husaymi Al-Sistani in Najaf, Pope Francis will fly to Nassirya for an interreligious meeting at the Plain of Ur. On his return to Baghdad in the afternoon, the Pope will celebrate Holy Mass at the Chaldean Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Baghdad.
Erbil and Mosul
On Sunday morning, Pope Francis will depart for Erbil. On arrival at the airport, he will be welcomed by religious and civil authorities from the region of Iraqi Kurdistan before continuing his journey by helicopter to Mosul. While there, he will recite a prayer of sufferage for the victims of war at Hosh al-Bieaa (Church Square).
Meeting with community in Qaraqosh
The Pope will again take a helicopter to Qaraqosh where he will visit the Qaraqosh community at the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
Holy Mass in Erbil
In the afternoon, Pope Francis will return to Erbil where he will celebrate Holy Mass at the “Franso Hariri” stadium. Following the celebration, the Pope will depart for Baghdad.
After a farewell ceremony on Monday morning, Pope Francis will depart for Rome. He is expected to touch down at Rome’s Ciampino airport later in the day. --- Vatican News


After Blinken remarks, Netanyahu says Golan will always be Israel’s
Reuters 10/2021
JERUSALEM: Israel will keep the Golan Heights forever, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced remarks that stopped short of recognizing the claim. In 2019, then-US President Donald Trump parted with other world powers by recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli. Israel occupied the strategic plateau in a 1967 war with Syria and annexed it in 1981. Blinken said on Monday he saw control of the Golan, which overlooks northern Israel and also borders Lebanon and Jordan, as being “of real important to Israel’s security” but was circumspect about recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the territory. “Legal questions are something else and over time if the situation were to change in Syria, that’s something we look at, but we are nowhere near that,” Blinken told CNN. Briefing reporters, Netanyahu said in response: “Look, they said they are looking at it — but I have already looked at it. As far as I am concerned, the Golan Heights will remain forever part of the State of Israel, a sovereign part.”“What, should we return it to Syria?” he added, noting the internal strife in Israel’s long-time enemy. “Should we return the Golan to a situation where mass-slaughter is a danger?” Syria has long demanded the return of the Golan, and Israel’s unilateral annexation of the area was not recognized internationally. Former US President Donald Trump signed a decree in March 2019 recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied part of the Syrian Golan, annexed in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community. Syria described Trump’s decision at the time as a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty. Israel and Syria, which are still technically at war, are separated by a de facto border at the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since the end of the 1967 Six-Day War.


Yemeni Christian priest, Mushir Khalidi.detained, tortured by Houthis for four years
Asharq Al Awsat/February 09/2021
Group continues its persecution of religious minorities, including Jews and Baha’i
The 50-year-old priest has been imprisoned by the group’s intelligence services
DUBAI: Yemeni Christians, alongside the country’s Baha’i adherents and what is left of its Jewish community, face great oppression at the hands of the Houthi militia, with no better example than the fate of Mushir Khalidi.
The 50-year-old priest has been imprisoned by the group’s intelligence services for four years, as part of a campaign of arrests launched by the group agains the estimated 2,000 Christians in territory it controls.
The presence of Yemen’s ancient Jewish community is all but over, with the Houthis’ insistence on deporting the last two families left in Sana’a. The militia has also deported the leaders of the Baha’i sect, while continuing to prosecute 19 members, despite its claim last year that it would pardon them after four years of detentions. Sources in the Sana’a told Asharq Al-Awsat daily that the Houthi militia specifically targeted Yemeni Christians and arrested many of them, including Khalidi, a convert, who was allegedly subjected to torture in prison. Houthi intelligence continues to investigate others whose religious beliefs have not yet been disclosed, especially since most of the Yemeni converts to Christianity have already left the country. Khalidi’s family have avoided talking about his imprisonment for fear of repercussions against him, but one former prisoner, recently released from a Houthi jail, told Asharq Al-Awsat that he met Khalidi and others in detention, and said that the priest was arrested after the militia took control of Sana’a, saying his jailers kept him in solitary confinement for weeks at a time. He added that other Christian prisoners had been forced to recant their religious beliefs under torture.
Two of Khalidi’s friends told Asharq Al-Awsat, on condition of anonymity, that he converted to Christianity in the mid-1990s, and that the Yemeni Christian community, having previously performed religious rituals secretly in various locations in Sana’a, Taiz and Ibb, and mostly fled to Lebanon, Cyprus and elsewhere since the outbreak of war. According to these sources, the Khalidi’s wife and his five children currently live in a rented apartment in Sana’a, and they live in fear for their lives because of the Houthi’s intolerance of other religions.
The sources say that a Houthi leader called Khaled Al-Madani handles the file of what the group describes as “manifestations of Westernization,” and his duties include, in addition to prosecuting followers of other religions, controlling the nature of work women are permitted to carry out, the regulations on wearing clothes, and gender-mixing in universities and institutes. The Baha’i International Community issued a statement saying Houthi authorities continue to harass the minority in Yemen, terrorizing them, endangering their lives and seizing their property, citing the case of the 19 members of the sect currently on trial. “What is happening to these 19 people is outrageous, but it has become very familiar to us,” said Diane Alaei, the representative of the Baha’i International Community to the UN in Geneva, referring to a previous case of six Yemeni Bahai’s imprisoned between 2013 and 2017, who were freed after a UN-backed campaign led to them being released, but then deported and classed as “fugitives.”

Majority of US senators urge Biden to press Turkey on rights
Reuters/10 February ,2021
A bipartisan majority of the US Senate on Tuesday urged President Joe Biden's administration to push Turkey to do more to protect human rights. Fifty-four of the 100 senators signed the letter, which accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of marginalizing domestic opposition, silencing critical media, jailing journalists and purging independent judges. "We urge you to emphasize to President Erdogan and his administration that they should immediately end their crackdown on dissent at home and abroad, release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and reverse their authoritarian course," the letter said. NATO ally Turkey has said recently that it wants to improve relations with the United States under Biden, after Washington last year imposed sanctions over Turkey's purchase of a Russian air defence system. Biden is expected to be tougher on Ankara over its record on human rights. Since a failed coup in 2016, Erdogan's government has detained nearly 300,000 people and has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 civil servants. Hundreds of media outlets have been shut and dozens of opposition lawmakers have been jailed.


Six Republicans who said Trump post-presidential impeachment trial is constitutional
Reuters/ 10 February ,2021
Donald Trump's impeachment trial opened on Tuesday with a debate about whether the U.S. Constitution allows a former president to face trial after he has left office. A similar effort led by Republican Senator Rand Paul last month led to 45 out of 50 fellow Senate Republicans voting the trial was unconstitutional.
On Tuesday, one additional Republican senator voted the trial was allowable under the Constitution. Here's a look at the six Republican senators who backed that argument:
The Nebraska senator handily won reelection in 2020 and is considered a potential contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. He publicly denounced Trump's false claims of widespread electoral fraud and said there was no basis to object to Democrat Joe Biden's Nov. 3 victory.
The Louisiana senator changed his vote from his earlier one, backing arguments on Tuesday that the trial was constitutional. Cassidy told reporters after the House impeachment managers presented their side that they had "a very good opening."
Murkowski of Alaska became the first U.S. senator in 50 years to win an election with a write-in campaign in 2010 after losing in the Republican primary. She called for Trump to resign after his followers rioted at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to disrupt the formal certification of the election by Congress.
Romney, a Utah senator and the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, has been a vocal critic of Trump. In 2020, Romney was the only Republican senator to vote for conviction during Trump's first impeachment trial.
The Pennsylvania senator announced in October 2020 he would not be seeking re-election. He said in television interviews Trump committed "impeachable offenses" and called on him to resign after the Jan. 6 attack.
The Maine centrist was the only Republican senator re-elected in 2020 in a state also won by Biden. She said Trump had incited the Jan. 6 riot.

All Eyes on Washington as Trump Second Impeachment Trial Starts
Agence France Presse/February 09/2021
The US Senate gavels in Tuesday on Donald Trump's historic second impeachment trial, with his defense team decrying it as a "brazen political act" of retribution and Democratic prosecutors arguing that the ex-president willfully incited a violent insurrection.
The House of Representatives impeached him last month over his role in the deadly January 6 siege of the US Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, and his trial -- the first of a former president -- will feature the Senate's 100 members sitting as jurors. Trump's legal team Monday denounced the case as unconstitutional, calling it "absurd" to hold the former president responsible for the violence. But in a preview of their prosecuting arguments, Democrats accused Trump Monday of committing the "most grievous constitutional crime" in the 232-year history of the American presidency by inciting his supporters to storm Congress.
The trial occurs with much of Capitol Hill still locked down under intense security one month after the unrest. Amid continued fears of extremist attacks, 6,000 National Guard members remain deployed in Washington, adding to the picture of a capital still on edge.
The proceedings kick off at 1:00 pm (1800 GMT). According to a bipartisan deal, there first will be up to four hours of debate and a vote on the constitutionality of trying an ex-president. Arguments will be heard beginning Wednesday, with 16 hours provided over two days per side. Senators will then pose questions to the two teams, and a majority vote will be needed if either side wants to call witnesses. Trump has already declined an invitation to testify.The trial is expected to extend into next week. Trump is a deeply damaged political figure, in part because of his relentless false claims about voter fraud. But he remains a powerful force in the Republican Party. Charged with "incitement of insurrection," he is likely once again to avoid conviction due to loyal support in the Senate, but his lawyers contended in their final pre-trial filing that the Constitution does not give the chamber jurisdiction to try a former president. "The Senate must summarily reject this brazen political act" because "this is clearly not what the framers wanted or what the Constitution allows," his attorneys Bruce Castor, David Schoen and Michael T. van der Veen wrote. "Indulging House Democrats hunger for this political theater is a danger to our Republic democracy and the rights that we hold dear."The defense used blunt language in their 78-page brief, saying it was "simply absurd" to argue that Trump conjured up a mob to commit violent crime, and that those who attacked the Capitol did so on their own.
'Leave it to the Senate
President Joe Biden, who succeeded Trump on January 20, declined Monday to address whether Trump should be found guilty or denied the right to hold future political office. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki later told reporters that Biden ran against Trump in 2020 "because he felt he was unfit for office," but added that the president will "leave it to the Senate to see this impeachment proceeding through."Should Trump be convicted, the Senate will then hold a simple-majority vote on barring him from future public office. The congressional Democrats prosecuting the trial, known as House impeachment managers, have pushed back sternly against Trump's legal contentions, citing "overwhelming" evidence. "His incitement of insurrection against the United States government -- which disrupted the peaceful transfer of power -- is the most grievous constitutional crime ever committed by a president," the managers, led by congressman Jamie Raskin, said in a five-page brief.
Loyal conservatives
The proceedings will take place in the very Senate chamber that was raided by rioters, threatening the lives of lawmakers in an effort to stop the ceremonial certification of Biden's election victory. The impeachment managers argued in an earlier brief that Trump, who rallied supporters in Washington shortly before the mob assault, was "singularly responsible" for the unrest which left five people dead. And they said acquitting Trump, who escaped conviction in his first impeachment trial in 2020, could do severe damage to American democracy. But convicting him would require the vote of more than two-thirds of the senators, meaning 17 Republicans would need to break ranks and join all 50 Democrats -- seen as near impossible. Even though Trump retains a strong base of support, public backing for a Trump conviction is stronger now than during his first impeachment trial, according to a new Ipsos/ABC News poll.

U.N. human rights forum reforms should include 'disproportionate focus' on Israel - State Department
Reuters/February 09/2021
Reforms that would address the U.N. Human Rights Council’s “disproportionate focus” on Israel are among changes the United States wants to see, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday.The United States said earlier on Monday it would return as an observer to the U.N. Human Rights Council, which it quit under the Trump administration, while seeking reforms of the “flawed body.”


Iran, N. Korea Resumed Missile Collaboration in 2020, UN Report Says
Agence France Presse/February 09/2021
North Korea and Iran resumed cooperation on the development of long-range missiles in 2020, according to a UN report that also confirmed Pyongyang continues to violate various nuclear resolutions. The annual report, produced by an independent panel of UN experts, was submitted to the Security Council on Monday and seen by AFP. It said Tehran denies any such missile cooperation with North Korea.  But according to an unnamed member state, North Korea and Iran "have resumed cooperation on long-range missile development projects," the report states. "This resumed cooperation is said to have included the transfer of critical parts, with the most recent shipment associated with this relationship taking place in 2020." The report's experts monitor the multiple sanctions imposed on Pyongyang to attempt to force it to suspend its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs. In a December 21 reply, Iran stated the "preliminary review of the information provided to us by the (experts) indicates that false information and fabricated data may have been used in investigations and analyses." In their assessment of North Korea, the experts said Pyongyang "maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions."Pyongyang last year announced preparation for testing and production of new ballistic missile warheads and development of tactical nuclear weapons. "It produced fissile material, maintained nuclear facilities and upgraded its ballistic missile infrastructure. It continued to seek material and technology for these programs from overseas," the expert report states. The experts also investigated cases in which North Korea acquired ships, sold fishing rights and continued to export coal in violation of sanctions. North Korea's border closure due to the pandemic may have hampered those shipments, however. The experts also found that North Korea had continued to import more refined petroleum than is allowed under its 500,000-barrel limit, sometimes by using "elaborate subterfuge.""According to imagery, data and calculations received from a member state covering the period 1 January to 30 September, in 2020 these illicit shipments exceeded the annual aggregate 500,000-barrel cap by several times," the report states. Last year, like the year before, the US presented satellite imagery and data to show North Korea was surpassing its quotas. China and Russia, North Korea's main supporters, have rejected the US claims and say petroleum imports are much smaller.

Iran has no interest in altering its behavior
AEIdeas/February 09/2021
As speculation increases about the Biden administration’s intentions toward Iran and the nuclear deal, Iran’s actions belie any willingness to compromise or soften its stance against the US. On January 17, a few days before the inauguration of then-President-elect Joe Biden, reports emerged that Tehran’s Revolutionary Court had convicted Iranian-American businessman Emad Shargi of espionage and sentenced him to 10 years’ imprisonment. Originally taken into custody in December after his verdict was issued, Mr. Shargi has been held incommunicado since his arrest.
Mr. Shargi’s detention seems to conform to a pattern in which the Iranian regime arrests and imprisons foreigners under national security-related charges in order to use them as pawns against their governments. This arrest may be part of an effort by Tehran to build up leverage and test the limits of the Biden administration. It is likely to complicate President Biden’s attempt to rejoin to the Iran nuclear deal. The obvious question is: Why would the Islamic Republic’s regime risk complications by taking another American hostage (Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Bagher Namazi have been detained by the regime for over five years) if Tehran hopes for a US return to the nuclear deal? This paradox can be explained: The Iranian regime views Western economic engagement as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the Islamic Republic needs advocates in the West — in the US especially — who support engagement and would influence the lifting of sanctions. On the other, when advocates for engagement propose new ties with Iran, the regime regards it a threat to the existing order. According to its own propaganda machine, the regime perceives that better business relations with the West, when not supervised, could easily lead to a liberalization that would weaken the regime’s ideological foundation and its role in Iran’s economy. It would strengthen the people at the expense of the state. The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and a number of prominent Iranian diaspora activists in the United States are among the most fervent advocates for a rapprochement between the Islamic Republic and the United States. Enjoying close ties with the so-called “moderates” of the Iranian political spectrum — and active in Track II or backchannel diplomacy — they promote the idea that US engagement incentivizes the regime to change its malign behavior. President Obama was deeply committed to the nuclear deal in part due to this conviction. Many in Iran’s business community who were eager to rejoin the international economy sought to build ties with the West under the auspices of the nuclear deal. But the regime was quick to react to that. There were numerous arrests of pro-engagement activists in Iran (the Namazis among them) while Obama was still president. Notably, the regime never halted it provocations while the United States was still committed to the nuclear deal prior to May 2018. Iran tested missiles just a few months after the political agreement was concluded in 2015, it stepped up its destabilization of the Middle East through proxies, and it intensified domestic oppression as it was benefitting from the perks of the deal. The contradictions of the regime’s intentions are likely to continue. What should be clear is that while many in the West are ardent advocates of détente with Iran, the Islamic Republic regime is only eager for the cash benefits that come with this rapprochement — not for the détente itself. The regime has no interest in altering its behavior: It recognizes that cash comes with risk, and it acts to mitigate the risk with increased aggression. This is the conundrum that the Biden team will face as well. They should walk in with their eyes open and be aware that previous experience demonstrates that engagement with Iran produces no incentive for the regime to improve its behavior.

U.S. may weigh baby steps to revive Iran nuclear deal
Arshad Mohammed, John Irish/Reuters/February 09/2021
The United States is weighing a wide array of ideas on how to revive the Iranian nuclear deal, including an option where both sides would take small steps short of full compliance to buy time, said three sources familiar with the matter.
Such a modest approach could slow the deterioration in relations since former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018 and freeze Iran’s subsequent violations, which have brought it closer to enriching weapons-grade uranium. This option could entail Washington allowing Tehran to get economic benefits less valuable than the sanctions relief it received under the 2015 deal in return for Iran stopping, or perhaps reversing, its own breaches of the agreement. The sources stressed U.S. President Joe Biden has yet to decide his policy. His stated position remains that Iran resume full compliance with the pact before the United States will. “(They) are having a real think,” said one source familiar with the U.S. review, saying ideas under consideration include a straight return to the 2015 nuclear deal and what he called “less for less” as an interim step.
Another source said if the Biden administration concluded it would take too long to negotiate a full return to the deal, it could adopt a more modest approach. “Should (they) at least try to give Iran some sanctions relief and get Iran to agree to pause and maybe roll back some of its nuclear (steps)?” said this source. The deal between Iran and six major powers limited Iran’s uranium enrichment activity to make it harder for Tehran to develop nuclear arms - an ambition Iran has long denied having - in return for the easing of U.S. and other sanctions. When Trump left the deal in 2018, faulting it for failing to curb Tehran’s ballistic missile program and backing for regional proxies, he reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s economy. In response, Tehran has breached the deal’s key limits, enriching uranium to 20% - above a 3.67% cap but below the 90% needed for weapons - expanding its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, and using advanced centrifuges for enrichment.
A central problem in reviving the deal is who goes first. Iran has insisted the United States ease sanctions before it resumes compliance; Washington wants the reverse. In what may be posturing by both sides, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday said Tehran’s “final and irreversible” decision was to return to compliance only if Washington lifts sanctions, while Biden said he would not lift sanctions just to get Iran back to the table. Republicans are likely to criticize the Democrat Biden if he offers Iran any sanctions relief without their full return to the agreement, arguing this would squander leverage that Trump built up with the scores of sanctions imposed since 2018. “The Biden admin has to recognize the realities of 2021, not 2015. That means no upfront sanctions relief for a regime that’s only expanded its dangerous behavior,” Trump’s former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley wrote on Twitter on Sunday. Washington could find other ways to ease Iran’s economic pain, smoothing the way for the International Monetary Fund to lend to Tehran, making it easier for humanitarian goods to get through, or embracing a European idea for a credit facility.
A Western diplomat said an IMF loan “definitely could be in play” and described the possibility of a European credit facility for Iran, which would require the tacit acceptance of the United States, as “sensible and feasible.”The White House declined comment beyond spokeswoman Jen Psaki’s statement that if Tehran resumed compliance, Washington would do so and that “the ball’s in Iran’s court.”A State Department spokeswoman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Biden administration was still consulting Congress as well as allies and partners. “We are exploring a range of ideas consistent with our stated policy of being willing to return into compliance with the deal if Iran is,” she said, without elaborating. It was unclear how soon the Biden administration may settle on its approach. One deadline is Feb. 21, when an Iranian law obliges Tehran to end the sweeping inspection powers given to the U.N. nuclear watchdog by the 2015 deal and limiting inspections to declared nuclear sites only. Three European diplomats said even the window for an interim solution could close rapidly before Iran’s June presidential election, which anti-U.S. security hawks are expected to win. “It’s an urgent situation. If we can’t take advantage of the window now, it’s very hard to think that we will be able to engage in substantial negotiations before the autumn,” said one. “The current (nuclear) trajectory could close a lot of doors.”
*Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and John Irish; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Howard Goller

AQAP leader reportedly captured
Thomas Jodcelyn/FDD's Long War Journal/Febrauary 09/2021
Khalid Batarfi, AQAP’s emir, was reportedly captured in Oct. 2020.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to note that FDD’s Long War Journal has not independently confirmed that Batarfi was captured. This report will be updated when more information becomes available one way or another, including if AQAP denies or confirms the news.
Khalid Batarfi, a veteran jihadist who led Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was reportedly captured late last year, according to a newly published report by a panel of experts working for the United Nations Security Council. The capture of Batarfi would be yet another blow to the al Qaeda branch, which has “suffered” a string of “setbacks.”FDD’s Long War Journal has not confirmed Batarfi’s capture. The UN’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team says that Batarfi (a.k.a. Abu Miqdad al-Kindi), was “arrested during an operation in Ghayda City, Al-Mahrah Governorate, in October” of 2020.CNN’s Paul Cruickshank first reported on Batarfi’s purported capture, noting that it’s possible the AQAP man was turned over to Saudi Arabia after being detained by Yemeni forces.
Batarfi was appointed the emir of AQAP after his predecessor, Qasim al-Raymi, was killed in a U.S. airstrike earlier in 2020. Raymi had succeeded Nasir al-Wuhayshi, Osama bin Laden’s former aide-de-camp, who led the reconstituted AQAP from its inception in 2009 until his death in 2015. All three men — Wuhayshi, Raymi, and Batarfi — were veterans of al Qaeda’s training camps in pre-9/11 Afghanistan and had established their credentials as respected figures within al Qaeda’s global network. All three men were previously detained at one point or another inside Yemen, only to escape or be freed to fight another day. Batarfi himself was freed from a prison in Mukallah in 2015, after AQAP overran the port city. It is not clear who is serving as AQAP’s emir in Batarfi’s absence, if he was captured, as the group hasn’t confirmed or denied his detention. AQAP has been releasing dated material recorded by Batarfi, but hadn’t produced new commentary from him in some time. Earlier this year, Hurras al-Din (an al Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria) included footage of Batarfi in one of its productions. In that clip, Batarfi incited “individual jihadists” to take up arms on behalf of their brethren. The Taliban also featured Batarfi in a 2016 video celebrating its alliance with al Qaeda. AQAP has other significant problems on its hands, according to the UN Monitoring Team. Saad Atef al-Awlaqi, AQAP’s “second in command,” was reportedly killed during the “same operation” that netted Batarfi. (FDD’s Long War Journal hasn’t confirmed Awlaqi’s fate either.) And another influential AQAP leader in Abyan, Al-Khadr al-Walidi, “was killed in November.”AQAP is also “suffering an erosion of its ranks” due to internal dissent and “desertions.” The UN Monitoring Team says the defectors are “led primarily by one of Batarfi’s ex-lieutenants,” a jihadist known as Abu Omar al-Nahdi. Despite leadership losses and another significant disruptions, AQAP has still been able to mount some significant attacks. But the group is clearly under pressure.
Al Qaeda has lost a number of senior figures over the past year and a half. The aforementioned Raymi was struck down in Jan. 2020. In June 2020, Abdulmalek Droukdel, the longtime emir of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was killed in a French counterterrorism operation in Mali. In Aug. 2020, al Qaeda’s deputy emir, Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was gunned down alongside his daughter by Israeli assassins in a suburb of Tehran. Husam Abd-al-Ra’uf, a senior al Qaeda leader also known as Abu Muhsin al-Masri, was killed by Afghan forces in Oct. 2020.
The UN Monitoring Team notes that al Qaeda has “endured a period of high leadership attrition, “with multiple losses in Afghanistan, Mali, Somalia, Yemen” and Idlib, Syria. There were rumors floated concerning Ayman al Zawahiri’s own death last October, but “no [UN] Member State has been able to confirm such reports to the Monitoring Team.”

*Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.


UAE's 'Hope' Probe Successfully Enters Mars' Orbit
Agence France Presse/February 09/2021
The United Arab Emirates' "Hope" probe on Tuesday successfully entered Mars' orbit, mission officials said, becoming the first Arab country to reach the Red Planet. "To the people of the UAE, to the Arab and Muslim nations, we announce the succesful arrival to Mars orbit. Praise be to God," said Omran Sharaf, the mission's project manager.

Navalny Aides Say Discussed New Russia Sanctions with EU
Agence France Presse/February 09/2021
Aides of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said they discussed possible sanctions against prominent members of President Vladimir Putin's circle including business tycoons to ramp up pressure on Russia. Leonid Volkov, the head of Navalny's regional network and another associate Vladimir Ashurkov on Monday discussed via video link with EU states the bloc's "next steps" on Russia. The video call was hosted by Poland and included envoys from the United States, Canada, Britain and Ukraine, Poland's mission in the EU said on Twitter. Volkov wrote on the Telegram messenger late Monday that he and Ashurkov discussed "personal sanctions" against billionaires Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov. He said they also named the head of Russian state bank VTB Andrey Kostin and television executive Konstantin Ernst, among others. Volkov did not say whether the meeting resulted in concrete agreements, but said Navalny's team will promote personal sanctions against the Putin circle "in the coming weeks and months." The video call took place at a time of heightened tensions between the European Union and Russia, exacerbated by the arrest and jailing of Navalny.
Moscow on Friday expelled three European diplomats during the visit of EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to Russia for allegedly taking part in protests in support of Navalny. On Monday Germany, Sweden and Poland each ordered the removal of a Russian diplomat in retaliation. EU foreign ministers have said they will debate punitive measures and possible sanctions against the Kremlin when they meet next on February 22.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 09- 10/2021

Choreagraphies of Death: Yezidis Unearthed Yezidis Buried
Charles Elias Chartouni/February 09/2021
Minority groups in the Larger Middle East tend to fade into oblivion, make themselves invisible, blend into the dominant mainstreams and the cruelty of its mimetics, and have no sense of what Human dignity stands for in their case: it’s better to disappear, or at best shelter in a fossilized sense of belonging which locks you out of history and its meanders. The Yezidis were brought into life when the world heard about Mount Sinjar massacres, massive sexual slavery and the proliferation of mass graves in Northwestern Iraq (Nineveh province), and re-entered the kingdom of death through official funeral processions and formal graveyards. A cruel plot whose coordinates locate between two deaths, the one of ethnic confinement and its netherworlds, and the interim worlds of nothingness.
Watching this sad procession, with its cascading caskets and the wailing of bereft women recapitulates not only the horrors of the DAESH interlude with its summary executions of young men, the abduction of young women, their gang raping, the sexual slaves markets, the redeeming strategies, the expropriation of communal lands by the Islamic Califate, and the trials taking place in Germany, but the state of Human Rights (Cultural, Religious, Women and lifestyles) in this part of the world, and the chances of redefining the scope of political rights and practical governance towards a more humane, democratic and inclusive understanding of power relationships and their incidence on the nuts and bolts of politics and social relationships. The discriminatory ethos is embedded in centuries of domination schemes ( tribal, patriarchal, sexist, religious minorities and Islamic fossilized doxas) that were hardly touched by a century of formal and institutional acculturation elicited by abrupt societal and political modernization ( Formal and Constitutional Statehood, Societal and Psychological reconfigurations molded by Human Rights and the critical deconstruction of the normative and institutional pillars of systemic domination).
The failure of Arab and Islamic modernity far from being restricted to the abridgments of a culture based on power relationships sanctioned by reified religious and societal narratives, owes mainly to the inability of these societies to engage the intellectual and operational challenges of modernity, their nomothetic framing, institutional and political dynamics. It’s a clash of civilizations, time-frames and Weltanschauungen and their disarraying impact on the very mundane issues of a world of dereliction, cruelty, moral callousness and trivialized injustice. The spectacle of desolation evoked by this funeral procession is a fiendish recall of the dire conditions of a region, where humanistic yearnings and their enframing (Gestell), have not yet found their way into the life and fundamentals of individuals and societies. In the meantime, life continues its simulations between the limbos of death unearthed and its macabre burial choreographies.

Khamenei Sets Conditions for Iran to Resume Its Nuclear Commitments
Mehdi Khalaji/The Washington Institute/February 09/2021
By stating initial terms that he knows Washington will not meet right now, the Supreme Leader is once again signaling his lack of interest in returning to full JCPOA compliance—at least not before President Rouhani leaves office in August.
In one of his few in-person speeches since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stated on February 7 that Iran would not pull its nuclear program back into compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action until “America lifts all sanctions.” Addressing an audience of air force commanders, he laid out his stance in no uncertain terms: “If they want Iran to return to its JCPOA commitments, America should lift the sanctions entirely, in practice not in words. Then we verify it and see if sanctions are properly lifted before we return to the JCPOA’s commitments...This is the Islamic Republic’s irrevocable and definitive policy, and a matter of consensus between the country’s officials.” He also responded to remarks that President Biden gave to CBS News earlier in the day: “Americans and Europeans have no right to stipulate and place conditions due to their violation of their JCPOA commitments. The party that should rightfully place conditions is the Islamic Republic, because it is committed to [the JCPOA].”
The speech was delivered on the forty-second anniversary of a key moment in the 1979 revolution: the defection of air force officers and other significant military personnel to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s side, which was central to the collapse of the shah’s government. Khamenei compared this development to the current nuclear situation. Blaming the Carter administration for its “strange miscalculation at that time in evaluating the situation of the country and people,” he insisted on two points: (1) that the United States has never ceased making major miscalculations about Iran in the four decades since then, and (2) that these miscalculations were not limited to Republican administrations but included Democrats as well.
Khamenei then offered historical “proof” for this continuity of supposed American blundering. Referring to the Green Movement protests that followed Iran’s rigged 2009 presidential election, he stated, “One of the examples of such miscalculations was in the 2009 Sedition, when the U.S. Democratic president fancied to end [the Islamic Republic] by officially supporting the Sedition.” He also belittled the “unprecedented sanctions aimed at crippling Iran” in more recent years, then mentioned a regime-change prediction that John Bolton made in July 2017 just a few months before he was appointed as President Trump’s national security advisor: “One of those first-class idiots said a couple of years ago that ‘We will celebrate the 2019 new year’s eve in Tehran.’ Now that person is confined to the dustbin of history and his boss is discharged from the White House by kicks while the Islamic Republic stands proudly due to divine grace.”
In addition, the Supreme Leader counseled Iranian officials not to be intimidated by “the enemy’s power,” singling out “those who have unrealistic assessments about the capabilities of America” and certain other nations. In his view, “the recent scandalous developments” in the United States clearly indicate “the decline of America’s credibility, power, and social order.”
By firmly refusing to resume Iran’s JCPOA commitments until the United States lifts sanctions “entirely,” Khamenei may surprise those optimistic observers who expected him to welcome Trump’s replacement by President Biden, who has previously pledged to return to the nuclear deal. The hope that Tehran would change its attitude toward Washington and start a new round of negotiations was also stoked by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, particularly following his remarks on November 11: “Iran welcomes every opportunity for lifting U.S. sanctions...We believe the environment has become more prepared for closer relations and interactions [with the United States]. The problem with the outgoing administration...was its lack of necessary knowledge about international politics. [The Trump administration] was almost executing the opinions of hardliners in America and in the Zionist regime.” Rouhani also expressed his hope that the Biden administration would reduce the differences between the two countries’ stances by moving closer to Iran’s position.
Implications for Iranian and U.S. Policy
Khamenei’s decision to state unfeasible prerequisites for Iran’s return to JCPOA compliance can be explained in part by his reluctance to allow major progress in bilateral relations before Rouhani leaves office in August. This mindset aligns with his longstanding efforts to keep the country’s democratic institutions weak, maintain control over elected leaders, and avoid the type of wider Western socioeconomic encroachment that he deems the greatest threat to his regime. Toward that end, he has repeatedly revealed his dissatisfaction and mistrust toward Rouhani’s foreign policy team in general and its nuclear negotiators in particular.
On the foreign policy front, Khamenei most recently displayed his lack of confidence in Rouhani by sending parliamentary speaker Muhammad Baqer Qalibaf to Moscow as his special envoy earlier this month to deliver a confidential message to President Vladimir Putin. Although Putin refused to meet with Qalibaf, the move still served one of Khamenei’s main goals: discrediting Iran’s outgoing president and its potential next president. Rouhani is ineligible for another term in the June election, and if Qalibaf runs and wins, Khamenei does not want him to emerge as a strong executive—even if the Supreme Leader himself winds up endorsing Qalibaf’s campaign.
On the nuclear front, Khamenei has been an outspoken critic of the JCPOA since day one, heaping blame on its American and Iranian authors alike. He has also given hardliners in parliament and elsewhere a green light to continually discredit Rouhani’s nuclear record and downplay his achievements, including through state radio and television outlets.
Given all these moves, the Supreme Leader apparently plans to prevent Rouhani from playing a meaningful political role for the remainder of his term. This stance suggests that Tehran will not engage in serious negotiations with the United States until Rouhani’s successor takes office and forms a new nuclear team—one that is totally loyal to Khamenei and determined to execute his intentions and instructions. Accordingly, U.S. officials should not put much stock in the frequent statements by Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that all of their past actions and recent optimistic statements were preapproved by Khamenei. In an interview with Etemad newspaper, for example, Zarif argued that his personal role in setting Iran’s foreign policy is “zero percent.” As he explained it, “This is the situation in all countries. The foreign ministers are executors of policies, not the ones who determine them...I played more of a role in formulating the JCPOA policies and less of a role in regional policies.” He also claimed that like any other diplomat, he sometimes executes policies despite personally disagreeing with them.
Domestic political maneuvering aside, Khamenei likely also hopes that delaying negotiations and/or JCPOA compliance with the Biden administration will increase Tehran’s leverage, make the West more frustrated and anxious about Iran’s nuclear progress, and dissuade U.S. officials from trying to add other issues to the agenda for talks (e.g., the missile program). In other words, he seems to be patiently preparing the ground on both sides: waiting for Rouhani’s eventual successor to install a tougher negotiating team, and keeping U.S. negotiators on edge until they become less demanding and more willing to make hasty concessions.
*Mehdi Khalaji is the Libitzky Family Fellow at The Washington Institute.

Iran and Turkey: Power dynamics in the South Caucasus
Alex Vatanka/MEI@75//February 09/2021
Iran was caught off guard by the July 2020 round of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Tehran was even more alarmed by the proactive role Moscow and Ankara played during and in the aftermath of the six-week war that ended with the Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10. In fear of being kept on the sidelines, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif embarked on a regional tour last month to Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Georgia and Turkey.
The visits were ostensibly aimed at keeping Iran at the table amidst heightened uncertainty in the South Caucasus about the ramifications of the latest round of war. As Zarif put it, his intention for the tour was to find ways regional countries could “work together to help the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis [to come to an end] and [improve] the situation of peace and stability.” That might very well be, but there is also no doubt that Tehran clearly senses it has been too neglectful of the significance of the South Caucasus for Iranian geostrategic, including economic, interests.
Time will show if Tehran can recover any lost ground but its recently announced pursuit of a “six-party union” (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Russia, and Turkey) is more a case of wishful thinking than a cogent strategy. The question for Tehran is less about whether it can enter into agreements with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. All three states already have fairly good working relations with Tehran and will mostly hold back in developing these further until US-Iran tensions subside and until the wrath of Washington can be avoided when cooperating with Tehran. Instead, the Iranians should be far more attentive to Russian and Turkish interests and whether they, despite what is publicly said, would give Iran much room to maneuver in the South Caucasus. At the very least, if relations with Turkey are anything to go by, Tehran can expect stiff competition from the Turks.
Iran’s Turkish worries
During Zarif’s visit to Istanbul in late January 2021, Iran and Turkey officially declared to be seeking common ground and solutions to a number of policy challenges, including the future of Syria and stabilizing the South Caucasus through a multilateral effort. The Turks also publicly urged Washington to remove sanctions on Iran. It all appeared very convivial. This pledge of cooperation followed a period in 2019-2020 where Iranian-Turkish relations experienced many ups and downs and even turbulence in various fields.
Turkish trade with Iran is a case in point. Bilateral commerce declined sharply between 2017 and 2020. US sanctions were not the only reason behind this drop. For its part, Tehran certainly believed the Turks used American sanctions on Iran as a pretext to reduce trade. Not even the argument that the coronavirus crisis had reduced demand in Turkey for Iranian energy and goods had much credence in Tehran. Thanks to border closures, land-based trade had come to a halt for much of 2020 but Turkish actions preceding the pandemic were as, if not more, telling for the Iranians.
When, in early 2020, reported Kurdish militants blew up a section of a gas pipeline from Iran to Turkey, Tehran was quick to offer to jointly repair the damaged pipeline. The Turks ignored this offer, leading Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh to accuse Ankara of being an irresponsible partner. Zangeneh is among the more diplomatic-minded senior officials in Tehran. His publicly expressed anger spoke volumes about Iran’s state of indignation at Turkey. Not only were the Turks refusing to repair the pipeline and restore natural gas imports from Iran, they were at the same time increasing Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) imports from the US.
The Turks could point to lower prices for American LNG supplies than the gas that comes from Iran via the pipeline. To Iran, however, this was less about commercial logic and more to do with Turkey simply looking to downgrade its energy ties with Iran. There is also no indication Iran and Turkey will extend the 25-year gas contract set to expire in 2026. Turkish energy imports from Iran have been the bedrock of bilateral trade. The Turks might have very good reasons to reconsider their energy trade with Iran, and it has to be remembered that Ankara’s energy policy recalibration, aimed at energy security through diversification, is not only impacting Iran. Turkish gas imports from Russia have also declined.
Iranian-Turkish trade and economic cooperation is significant because, since 1979, it has been the all-important platform on which otherwise often tense relations could survive on. With trade and economic ties weakening, Iranian-Turkish geopolitical rivalry has the potential to sharply intensify. That is true in Syria, Iraq, in the South Caucasus, and elsewhere.
Trade and transit routes
In September 2020, the presidents of Iran and Turkey recommitted to increasing bilateral trade to $30 billion a year. Iranian-Turkish trade has sat at around $10 billion a year for the past decade, so the mentioned goal would be a significant leap. At the same time, in the last decade alone, many promises to increase trade have been left unrealized. But this latest policy goal was announced at a time when trade volumes were in fact fast declining. In the first six months of 2020, trade between Iran and Turkey declined 73 percent to about $1 billion.
In the second half of 2020, another reality jolted Iranian-Turkish relations. Tehran was blindsided by the war in the South Caucasus. The Iranians appear also to have been equally startled by the extent of Russian and Turkish involvement during the fighting and in the aftermath of the ceasefire that was brokered by Moscow but where Ankara was – unlike Iran – a party to the negotiations.
Over the last 20 years or so, fearing Russia’s reaction to an assertive Iranian policy in the South Caucasus, Tehran has kept a relatively low profile in the region. This was at a time when the Turks were busy recalibrating their approach to the region. Most notably, the Turks increased cooperation with Azerbaijan in military-to-military relations while working closely with Baku to establish Turkey as Azerbaijan’s principal transit route for natural gas exports to Europe.
On Dec. 31, 2020, Europe received its first natural gas shipment from Azerbaijan via the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC). The 3,500km pipeline transports gas from the Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan’s sector of the Caspian Sea via Georgia and Turkey to Italy. Ankara supported this strategic energy pipeline project and helped Baku to secure European political and financial support.
In contrast, the Turks have since the early 1990s stalled whenever Tehran has requested Turkish cooperation in providing a pipeline transit route for Iranian gas to Europe. At this point, Tehran has two options. The first is to give up on the European gas market entirely and focus on markets in Asia. Alternatively, Iran could reach an agreement with Baku and Ankara to feed Iranian gas into the existing pipelines built by the Azerbaijanis that travel through Turkish territory before arriving in Europe.
In the 1990s, Ankara successfully exploited US sanctions on Iran to sideline Tehran from key regional infrastructure projects. Most notably, any proposals for pipeline routes for Caspian oil and gas to go through Iran were effectively vetoed by Washington. This is why the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was built: to take Azerbaijani oil to Turkey, even though the route through Iran to the Persian Gulf and world markets was shorter and less expensive. An even greater free-for-all geopolitical dynamic is at play today. The latest war in the South Caucasus has created new possibilities for regional infrastructure projects. Turkey wants to maintain its role as a transit hub for energy and trade. The Iranians are deeply concerned about again being left out as they were in the 1990s.
**Alex Vatanka is director of MEI's Iran Program and senior fellow with Frontier Europe Initiative. The views expressed here are his own.


How new US envoy to Yemen can end the stalemate
Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg/Arab News/February 09/2021
US President Joe Biden’s decision last week to appoint Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Timothy Lenderking as a special envoy to Yemen is an important step toward resolving the conflict there. US leadership is key to augmenting Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and UN efforts to bring peace to the country. Lenderking is an excellent choice for the job. He is a cool-headed, seasoned diplomat with an impeccable reputation and extensive experience in the region. He is also a good listener. Here is a list of seven key elements that he could consider.
Firstly, a cease-fire is essential. Last year, the government of Yemen and the Arab coalition accepted UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for a global cease-fire. The Houthis did not, and have instead continued their attempts at a military solution, making significant territorial gains. Recent Houthi escalations on several fronts, including increased attacks on Saudi Arabia, are probably intended to bolster the group’s position in the negotiations. However, this reckless behavior should not be rewarded by, for example, removing the US’ Foreign Terrorist Organization designation prematurely. As Yemen’s cease-fires tend to be ephemeral at times, securing them should not be allowed to hold up the other elements of the solution.
Secondly, the Yemen conflict must be de-linked from the US-Iran standoff as much as possible, avoiding entangling the country in an uncertain process that could be lengthy. If allowed, Tehran will try to use its involvement in Yemen as a bargaining chip so as to protect its other more valuable assets in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, or its nuclear program, but accepting such horse-trading will only prolong Yemen’s misery. Yemen’s precarious humanitarian situation ought to preclude such linkages.
Third is that international shipping through the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and Red Sea should be protected and not used as a hostage during the conflict. A more robust security presence is needed to secure maritime lanes and enforce the arms embargo, as stipulated in UN Security Council Resolution 2216, among others.
Fourthly, a political solution must be articulated as the eventual aim of intra-Yemeni talks. Yemenis have spoken clearly about the shape of that solution: A democratic, secular and decentralized system with a special status for the South. Yemen’s own National Dialogue Conference in 2013-2014 put a considerable amount of flesh on that general concept. The outcomes of that dialogue, where the Houthis were represented, should provide guidance for the eventual shape of the Yemeni state. Presidential and parliamentary elections, as stipulated in the GCC Initiative and its implementing mechanism, need to be planned from now to reassure Yemenis of a future free of outdated ideas of tribal and religious supremacy and a clerical elite’s attempts to rule the country by divine right.
The fifth element is that humanitarian assistance is critical and should continue unfettered. Fighting disease, including the coronavirus disease, and providing food are priorities. The obstruction or diversion of aid, harassment of aid workers, and looting of supplies or allowing them to rot in warehouses should not be allowed. The new US envoy should make it very clear from the start that aid may not be used as a tool for political bargaining, expediency or self-enrichment.
Sixth is that longer-term development assistance should be resumed by all donors, wherever possible. The GCC has continued to provide development assistance to Yemen where security conditions permit. A GCC-Yemen joint committee has been meeting for that purpose for some time and plans to meet again in early March. Other international donors should do the same. The US could lead by example by resuming large-scale development aid to Yemen. The Friends of Yemen group, when it functioned between 2010 and 2014, was key to coordinating international aid to the country and could be revived to perform that function once again.
Seventh is that confidence-building measures should be explored but should not divert attention from the larger goal of a grand political solution. They could include implementing the remaining elements of the Stockholm agreement, turning the management of Hodeidah port over to the UN, and resolving the Safer tanker impasse, all of which the UN has been working on with little progress. They could also include fixing the bifurcated financial and monetary system to stop the downward slide of the Yemeni riyal and enable Yemeni expatriates to send remittances home more easily. Streamlining welfare payments to needy families and pensions to retired government employees everywhere should also be a priority, as should resuming development aid to get the economy moving and provide jobs. Regrouping the Friends of Yemen and relaunching similar international meetings could reassure Yemenis of international support.
The most important factor is to listen to and empower local voices, especially those from Yemen itself.
The most important factor in all these elements is to listen to and empower local voices, especially those from Yemen itself. Yemenis have made their opinions very clear about how to go about resolving the conflict and shaping the future of their country. Some examples stand out as serious attempts to get Yemeni voices heard and good results came out of them. There was the 10-month-long, wide-ranging national conference of 2013-14, the outcomes of which have stood the test of time. In 2016, the UN envoy at the time held moderated talks in Kuwait lasting five months and producing the best outline yet for a solution to the conflict. The GCC Initiative itself was a direct result of sustained talks throughout 2011 between different Yemeni political groups.
The organization of new large-scale, all-Yemeni gatherings needs to be explored to update and build on those earlier successes. The aim should be to assist the new special envoy by providing context and reality checks for his official talks with various parties. Those gatherings could be hosted in neighboring countries and could include an all-encompassing conference for political groups, another for academics, writers, other influencers and think tanks, and a third for Yemeni women from all regions.
*Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is the GCC assistant secretary-general for political affairs and negotiation, and a columnist for Arab News. The views expressed in this piece are personal and do not necessarily represent GCC views. Twitter: @abuhamad1

The crippled league of Arab states: has the time of disbandment arrived?
Rami Rayess/Al Arabiya/February 09/2021
The Arab League must adapt to meet the economic challenges of the region, and put politics to one side to do this. If it does not, the organization will become irrelevant with its disbandment inevitable.
Egypt on Monday headed an emergency Arab League meeting with regional foreign ministers to discuss regional unity and protecting the rights of Palestinians. The meeting will focus on reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and discussing the US’s policies on Palestine.
Business as usual, then.
The League of Arab States has not succeeded in creating seamless trade between nations. Free flowing goods and people crossing borders has never happened.
Various impediments, and unconvinced member states have never considered that it could be in their best interest to elevate the levels of cooperation to higher levels. Political disputes always stand in the way.
Should the League be disbanded? Is the Arab idea futile in light of the failures of earlier decades? As a result of the significant card shuffling that the region is witnessing, and particularly after the Abraham Accords and the consequent normalization of relations between Arab states and Israel, where is Arabia now?
Despite all the failures and misgivings, the full disbandment of the League will fracture further the current situation, and will offer space for non-Arab regional players to fill the vacuum. Israel, Iran, and Turkey are all set, and ready to indulge further in Arab affairs. Iran already has its arms extended to Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
Disbandment is not the solution. Reconstructing to create a new pan-Arab project that prioritizes the economic approach over all other perspectives is the way forward.
This route may, or may not pave the way for inter-Arab cooperation, but even if not, it would at least encourage reciprocal trade agreements. If other parts of the globe can, then why not Arabia?
Consider this. Launched after World War II in 1951, The European Coal and Steel Community, gradually evolved to become the European Union (EU), with a unified currency, open frontiers and free transport of persons and goods. Despite Brexit, and the difficulties that face the continent, it remains a model for confederal cooperation.
The single market adopted by the EU has created freedom for of all member state populations to work, study and live in any other country of their choosing within the bloc. The EU has helped people enjoy high standards of living wherever they live in Europe.
Arabia’s relations has followed a different road to Europe’s.
Established in 1945 the Arab League had the aim of increasing cooperation between Arab states, and unifying their positions regarding the common challenges or threats that they collectively confronted.
Common threats and difficulties were rarely confronted collectively. The League members had different, rather contradictory agendas, linked to fierce wars and other challenges. The most prominent example was the Arab-Israeli wars after the State of Israel proclamation on Palestinian land in 1948. Promised their return to their illegitimately confiscated homes within a week, Palestinians still have the keys, but have never returned.
At the time of the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, the League was only three years old, and included a handful of members. Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iraq were the founding states, but the Arab armies that swept into Palestine failed to achieve any military victory, and displaced Palestinians never allowed to return.
Despite the many Arab summits convened over the years, in certain phases on a regular annual basis, there is little development at any level.
The 1967 Arab-Israeli war left deep wounds across Arabia, and marked what seemed unrepairable divisions. The Arab League also failed to trespass those divisions between the member states. Crippled then, the league remains so today. In short, the Arab League has failed to develop any project that would elevate the economic cooperation between member states. It has failed to set up a line separating political differences from economic considerations allowing it to pursue economic development and prosperity regardless of political divisions. Despite several institutions that function under the umbrella of the League, little progress has happened in this regard. Some prominent institutions such as the Arab Monetary Fund extended aid to several Arab countries to finance developmental projects.
Countries across the Middle East are overlapping the goods they produce in agriculture, industry and other commodities. They do not complement each other; instead they compete. This is one reason inter-Arab trade is limited in comparison to the total volume of Arab trade with other international partners.
Removing barriers from collective trade exchanges between Arab States have not met their lofty ambitions. Neither has reforming legal and working restrictions that hinder the flow of people and goods between the different states happened. Could the Arab League have a prosperous future? Yes, if there is political will, but it must follow the economic road.