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


The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site

News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to enter the LCCC Arabic/English news bulletins Achieves since 2006


Bible Quotations For today

You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? ‘And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 12/49-59/:”I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’He also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? ‘And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.’”

Question: "What did Jesus mean when He said that we should forgive others seventy times seven?"

GotQuestions.org/February 12/2021
Answer: Jesus said we are to forgive others “seventy times seven” in response to Peter’s question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21-22). To fully understand what Jesus was saying, we must look at the context of the whole chapter, for Jesus was speaking not only about forgiving one another but about Christian character, both in and out of the church. The admonition to forgive our brother seventy times seven follows Jesus’ discourse on discipline in the church (Matthew 18:15-20), in which He lays down the rules for restoring a sinning brother.Peter, wishing to appear especially forgiving and benevolent, asked Jesus if forgiveness was to be offered seven times. The Jewish rabbis at the time taught that forgiving someone more than three times was unnecessary, citing Amos 1:3-13 where God forgave Israel’s enemies three times, then punished them. By offering forgiveness more than double that of the Old Testament example, Peter perhaps expected extra commendation from the Lord. When Jesus responded that forgiveness should be offered four hundred and ninety times, far beyond that which Peter was proposing, it must have stunned the disciples who were listening. Although they had been with Jesus for some time, they were still thinking in the limited terms of the law, rather than in the unlimited terms of grace. By saying we are to forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven, Jesus was not limiting forgiveness to 490 times, a number that is, for all practical purposes, beyond counting. Christians with forgiving hearts not only do not limit the number of times they forgive; they continue to forgive with as much grace the thousandth time as they do the first time. Christians are only capable of this type of forgiving spirit because the Spirit of God lives within us, and it is He who provides the ability to offer forgiveness over and over, just as God forgives us over and over. Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant follows directly after His “seventy times seven” speech, driving home the point that if we are forgiven the enormous debt of sin against a holy God, how much more should we be eager to forgive those who sin against us, who are just as sinful as they? Paul parallels this example in Ephesians 4:32 where he admonishes us to forgive one another “even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Clearly, forgiveness is not to be meted out in a limited fashion but is to be abundant, overflowing, and available to all, just as the measureless grace of God is poured out upon us.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on February 12- 13/2021

Elias Bejjani/Visit My LCCC Web site/All That you need to know on Lebanese unfolding news and events in Arabic and English/http://eliasbejjaninews.com/
MoPH: 2934 new coronavirus cases, 49 deaths
Lebanon to Begin Covid Vaccination Campaign Sunday
Getting through Lebanon’s COVID-19 lockdown amid a digital divide
Hariri Visits Baabda after a Pause: No Progress on Government Formation
Hariri, Aoun break the ice, but no progress in Cabinet talks
Lebanon's Hariri Says No Progress on New Government
Presidency: PM-designate Had Nothing New on Govt File
Lebanon’s Central Bank confirms positive cooperation with Alvarez & Marsal
Army Commander talks military cooperation with US delegation
Carlos Ghosn's Accused Escape Plotters Ask US Supreme Court to Delay Extradition to Japan
Who killed Lokman Slim?/We know. The question is what will we do about it?/
Clifford D. May/The Washington Times/February 12/2021
In Spain, Lebanese violinist pays tribute to birthplace/The Arab Weekly/February 12/2021

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 12- 13/2021

Iran 'Undermining Opportunity' for Nuclear Diplomacy, Say Europe Powers
Update on Natanz: Construction Progresses Towards Large-scale Tunnel Complex
Analysis: Iran oil output faces race against time as U.S. sanctions linger
France, Germany, UK Condemn Iran's Production of Uranium Metal
Iranian official arrested in Istanbul over dissident’s killing
UK PM appoints Edward Lister as special envoy for the Gulf
Greece seeks Gulf allies to counter tension with Turkey
Biden Facing 'Serious Dilemmas' on Afghan Troop Withdrawal, U.S. Official Says
Biden starts off tough on Turkey, with rocky path ahead
Turkish Sailors Freed after Kidnapping off Nigeria
Canada/Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of International Development and Minister of National Defence on International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers
Canada/Statement of Members of the Governing Council of the Community of Democracies
Haftar, Dbeibah and Menfi set to play key roles in Libya’s quest for stability
Bahrain's Crackdown on Shiite Dissent
US to remove Yemen’s Houthis from terror list next week: State Department


Titles For The Latest The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 12- 13/2021

Washington Cannot Rely on Iran’s Alleged Anti-Nuclear Fatwa/Andrea Stricker/Policy Brief-FDD/February 12/2021
Biden Should Heed Senate’s Call for Tougher Action Against Erdogan/Aykan Erdemir/Policy Brief-FDD/February 12/2021
Turkey, Pakistan: Inside the Ankara-Islamabad axis/Jonathan Spyer/Jerusalem Post/February 12/202
Seeing through Iran’s moderate vs hard-liner illusion/Khaled Abou Zahr/Arab News/February 12/2021
Iranian regime cannot survive without the nuclear deal/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/February 11/2021
Palestinians: More Corruption as Biden Resumes Financial Aid/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/February 12/2021


The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on February 12- 13/2021

Elias Bejjani/Visit My LCCC Web site/All That you need to know on Lebanese unfolding news and events in Arabic and English



MoPH: 2934 new coronavirus cases, 49 deaths
/February 12, 2021  
2934 new coronavirus cases and 49 deaths have been recorded during the last 24 hours in Lebanon, as reported Friday by the Ministry of Public Health.

Lebanon to Begin Covid Vaccination Campaign Sunday
Naharnet/February 12, 2021
The Health Ministry announced that Lebanon's vaccination campaign against Coronavirus will begin on February 14 for individuals incorporated in the first phase according to the vaccine rollout recommendations. Lebanon is expecting its first delivery of vaccine doses on Saturday, said the Ministry.
As per a roll out recommendation, a panel of medical and public health experts in Lebanon decided the vaccine should be given first to frontline essential health workers and people aged 75 years and older. Lebanon on Monday began a gradual easing of coronavirus restrictions, after three weeks of draconian measures imposed to stem a surge in cases and ease the burden on overwhelmed hospitals. The country of more than six million has officially recorded 331,152 coronavirus cases, including 3,866 deaths -- including a record daily toll of 63 fatalities on Thursday.


Getting through Lebanon’s COVID-19 lockdown amid a digital divide
Tala Ramadan, Al Arabiya English/12 February/2021
Grocery stores in Lebanon reopened for in-store customers this week, after the end of a mandatory delivery-only services that had been in place for three weeks. It’s part of the government’s four-stage plan to ease strict lockdown measures. Consumers shopping in supermarkets must abide by safety regulations and seek a permit from the “Impact” digital platform before visiting the store. Citizens willing to go to supermarkets must file a request. Once they receive approval, they need to scan a QR code upon entering, and leaving the designated location. Residents must have internet access to register. The patchwork system used for this, and receiving QR codes has left many of the city’s older residents stranded, along with low-income residents who face digital barriers. People who are better equipped to navigate the system get their codes easily. “The Lebanese government has been implementing, for almost a year now, many procedures to counter the spread of COVID-19, most of which, such as mandatory online learning and filling online forms to go out during lockdown, have amplified the digital divide between Lebanon’s residents,” Christy-Belle Geha, Lebanese citizen told Al Arabiya English. Supermarkets in Lebanon are now allowed to open until after midnight, while previous lockdowns saw opening hours limited to just 12 hours a day, which often led to overcrowding. Confusion about the QR codes system is causing wider problems, with reports of crowded supermarket entrances blocked as people navigate around the requested QR code. Videos of people not understanding the governmental platform, are posted on the internet. This comes as Lebanon remains in a protracted state of transition to digitization, exacerbated by the unstable political climate.
Lebanon ranked 60th on the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) world ranking of internet quality among 100 countries. The study assessed four major aspects of quality internet; availability, affordability, relevance, and readiness.
Lebanon suffered mostly when it came to that last ranking, as the EIU report states that “weak policy development does much to constrain Lebanon’s ability to support Internet inclusion.”
Lebanon also launched a pre-registration website for the coronavirus vaccine last month, to allow people to queue in a ‘virtual line’ for inoculation. The government provided a hotline for the elderly to get help when registering. Residents can do this manually if they are facing any challenges. Many organizations are reaching out to the poorest, oldest and the incapacitated to let them know about the vaccine, and help them register.
Community-level providers, including NGOs have stepped in to help the elderly register for the vaccine. The Development Committee, an NGO in north Lebanon's Batroun, is helping senior citizens within its district to ensure the city’s most vulnerable citizens get the vaccine, if they want. “There has been confusion over when, where, and how to get the shot, with different jurisdictions taking different approaches in the nation’s patchwork, decentralized public health system,” Joseph Abi Fadel, a member of the Development Committee, told Al Arabiya English.
“While many people have lost their lives, we aim at having no forgotten groups of people when it comes to vaccinations, especially the very people who need help the most.”The organization is working closely with the municipality to gather data and citizens’ information. Lebanese vaccination centers started preparing the Ultra-Low Temperature (ULT) freezers at their labs to receive the Pfizer vaccine at a temperature -80°C for the vaccination campaign that begins on Sunday.
The Pfizer vaccine is thermosensitive and demands special storage conditions. Our ULT freezers are being inspected by an external auditor from the Ministry of Public Health in Lebanon and UNICEF Lebanon, our staff have undergone special training by Pfizer representatives. RHUH will be up to the challenge,” Firas Abiad, head of Lebanon’s main coronavirus hospital said in a tweet.
With the use of the technology welcomed in the country, concerns remain over accessibility.
“The government’s stated commitment to an inclusive vaccination strategy is positive, but the real test will be translating the plan into action,” a Local researcher at the Human Rights Watch, Aya Majzoub said in a report about gaps in Lebanon’s vaccine program planning. “It is critical for leaders to clearly communicate the government’s vaccination strategy, ensure that vaccine access is not determined by political connections or socioeconomic status, and apply transparent, evidence-based distribution criteria equally to everyone in Lebanon.”


Hariri Visits Baabda after a Pause: No Progress on Government Formation
Naharnet/February 12, 2021
Recently returning from Paris, PM-designate Saad Hariri met President Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace on Friday after which he said there was no progress on the formation of a government. “I made consultations with the President and will continue my consultations. There was no progress made on the government file until this moment, but I explained the golden opportunity we have at hand, and each party shall shoulder his own responsibility from now on,” Hariri told reporters at Baabda after meeting Aoun. He stressed that forming a cabinet of 18 ministerial seats is still a requisite for him, “they should all be experts.” “During my visit to France, I sensed enthusiasm for the formation of the Lebanese government. The problem is to form a government made up of experts, and therefore it is not possible to undertake any reform mission," he stated. Hariri returned Thursday evening from France where he discussed the Lebanese government stalemate with President Emmanuel Macron. Meetings between Aoun and Hariri to find common ground on the formation of a government witnessed a halt after a dispute. In January, Aoun was caught on tape accusing Hariri of “lying” about a government format. Hariri did not visit Baabda since.

Hariri, Aoun break the ice, but no progress in Cabinet talks
The Daily Star/February 12, 2021
BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said Friday there was no progress toward forming a new government after holding the first talks with President Michel Aoun in nearly two months. "I consulted with his excellency the president and will continue to consult [with him]," Hariri told reporters after meeting Aoun at Baabda Palace. "We made no progress, but I explained to him the importance of the golden opportunity that we have, so we must accelerate the formation of this government, and every political team must bear the responsibility of its stances from now on.”Hariri said he wanted to meet with Aoun after the visits he made to Turkey and Egypt, which aimed to restore relations with these countries. "During my recent visit to France, I sensed enthusiasm for forming a government through the roadmap drawn up by French President Emmanuel Macron, which we agreed to at the Pine Residence in order to save Lebanon, stop the deterioration and rebuild the Beirut Port, and all of this is ready," said Hariri, who had returned to Beirut Thursday night after holding talks with Macron in Paris earlier this week. "The problem today is that, as long as there is no government of specialists non-affiliated with political parties, we cannot undertake this task. If anyone thinks that if this government includes political members, the international community will open up to us or give us what we want, he would be wrong," The PM-designate said.
"The basic idea is to form a government that includes specialized ministers who do not irritate any political team and work only to complete the project presented to them." Asked if he was still insistent on forming an 18-member Cabinet made up of specialists, Hariri responded: "My position is consistent and clear. A government of 18 ministers, all of whom are specialists, and no blocking third. This will not change for me." Aoun's media office said Hariri, who requested the meeting, briefed the president on his talks abroad but "did not bring anything new" regarding the government formation process.
Hariri and Aoun had not met since Dec. 23 and the two leaders have been engaged in a deep rift over Christian representation in the new government, the number of ministers and veto power.Friday's meeting also comes after their political parties engaged in a war of words over the past few weeks with accusations and blame for the delay in the government formation flying around.


Lebanon's Hariri Says No Progress on New Government
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 12 February, 2021
Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said on Friday that no progress had been made in talks to form a new government, after months of political wrangling. Hariri dined this week with French President Emmanuel Macron, whose efforts have so far failed to rally Lebanese leaders to come together to tackle their country’s unprecedented financial crisis. “There is no progress in forming the government,” Hariri told reporters after his first meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun in weeks. "Efforts are ongoing to save Lebanon," he added, saying he was still committed to his suggestion over the formation of an 18-minister cabinet. Moreover, he explained to Aoun that his recent trips abroad were aimed at "restoring relations with countries with whom distances have emerged."Macron has been spearheading international efforts to rescue the former French protectorate from its deepest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. Macron is trying to use Paris’ historical influence in Lebanon to persuade squabbling politicians to adopt a roadmap and form a new government to root out corruption, a prerequisite for international donors including the IMF to unlock billions of dollars in aid.


Presidency: PM-designate Had Nothing New on Govt File
Naharnet/February 12, 2021
The presidency Friday said that President Michel Aoun received PM-designate Saad Hariri at Baabda Palace and that Hariri “had nothing new regarding the government formation file,” the presidency wrote in an official tweet.
It added that the two men met at “Hariri’s request after his tour abroad and discussed the formation of the upcoming government,” adding that “it became evident that the PM-designate did not bring anything new at the government level,” it said in its tweet. For his part, Hariri told reporters after talks with Aoun that “there was no progress on the government file,” and that he briefed the president on his meetings with foreign and Arab leaders.Hariri met the presidents of Egypt and France during his tour.

Lebanon’s Central Bank confirms positive cooperation with Alvarez & Marsal

NNA/12 February/2021
Lebanon's Central Bank (BDL) on Friday announced in a statement: "As per legal principles, BDL has sent a letter to the Minister of Finance confirming its commitment to the full provisions of Law No. 200 dated 29/12/2020, and its positive cooperation with Alvarez & Marsal regarding their inquiries."
BDL also stressed in its statement the need for the concerned company to abide by all the obligations imposed by the laws and standards of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Army Commander talks military cooperation with US delegation
NNA/12 February/2021
Lebanese Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, on Friday welcomed at his Yarzeh office Rear Admiral Frank M. Bradley, Commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT), who visited him with an accompanying military delegation, in presence of US Ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea. Talks reportedly focused on the best means to boost bilateral relations between the armies of both countries, as well as other areas of cooperation to train the Lebanese army’s special forces.

Carlos Ghosn's Accused Escape Plotters Ask US Supreme Court to Delay Extradition to Japan
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 12 February, 2021
Lawyers for two men accused of helping former Nissan Motor Co Ltd Chairman Carlos Ghosn flee Japan while awaiting trial on financial charges have asked the US Supreme Court to intervene and delay their extradition. Lawyers for US Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, asked the court on an emergency basis to put on hold a lower court order that cleared the way for them to be handed over to Japan as early as Friday. The Taylor’s lawyers in a late Thursday filing reiterated arguments that their clients could not be prosecuted in Japan for helping someone “bail jump” and that, if extradited, they faced the prospect of relentless interrogations and torture. The attorneys made the request after a federal appeals court in Boston declined on Thursday to issue an order that would prevent the Taylors’ extradition while they appealed lower court rulings. The US State Department approved their extradition in October. “The very least the US courts owe the petitioners is a full chance to litigate these issues, including exercising their appellate rights, before they are consigned to the fate that awaits them at the hands of the Japanese government,” the Taylors’ lawyers wrote.
The US Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Taylors were arrested in May at Japan’s request after being charged with helping Ghosn flee Japan on Dec. 29, 2019, hidden in a box and on a private jet before reaching his childhood home, Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan. Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges that he had engaged in financial wrongdoing, including by understating his compensation in Nissan’s financial statements. Ghosn denies wrongdoing.
Prosecutors said the elder Taylor, a 60-year-old private security specialist, and Peter Taylor, 27, received $1.3 million for their services.

Who killed Lokman Slim?/We know. The question is what will we do about it?

Clifford D. May/The Washington Times/February 12/2021
“Killing for them is a habit,” Rasha al-Ameer told reporters last week.
By “them” she meant Hezbollah, a designated terrorist organization that is Lebanon’s most powerful political party, with a militia the Lebanese Armed Forces dares not challenge. Hezbollah operates internationally and is known to partner with Latin American drug cartels. One more pertinent fact you should know: Hezbollah’s primary allegiance is to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The killing in question on this occasion was that of Miss al-Ameer’s brother, Lokman Slim, a prominent Lebanese Shia filmmaker, publisher, and activist who had the temerity to criticize Hezbollah for the incalculable harm it has done to his long-suffering country.
On Thursday, Mr. Slim was found dead in his car, on a rural road, shot three times in the head, once in the chest, and once in the back. His assassins, it seems, wanted to be sure they had done their job properly.
Hezbollah, Iran’s rulers, and other adversaries of the United States hope, and perhaps expect, that the new American administration will do nothing much in response, which assures that the “international community” will do nothing much in response. A Leninist maxim guides them: “Probe with your bayonets. If you encounter mush, proceed; if you encounter steel, withdraw.”
And not just on their home turf: Last Thursday, an Iranian diplomat was sentenced by a Belgium court to 20 years in prison for having plotted to bomb a rally of exiled dissidents in France in 2018.
The diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, had supplied explosives and a detonator. The charges for which he was convicted included “attempted terrorist murder.”
Does his sentencing suggest that Europeans are finally getting tough on Iran’s rulers? No, putting one diplomat-cum-terrorist behind bars is small potatoes.
The very next day, Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, reassured Tehran that more serious consequences would not be forthcoming. The “maximum pressure” campaign initiated by President Trump should end, he asserted, replaced by a “maximum diplomacy” campaign.
Mr. Borrell then flew to Moscow where, three days earlier, Aleksei Navalny had been sentenced to prison. A Russian opposition leader, Mr. Navalny was poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent last summer – an assassination attempt that he and Western officials believe was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Navalny survived only because friends managed to get him out of Russia for treatment. Upon his return last month, he was immediately arrested.
In Moscow, Mr. Borrell was informed that the Russian government was expelling several European diplomats who, it was charged, had participated in “illegal protests” in support of Mr. Navalny.
Mr. Borrell “strongly condemned” the expulsions. “All European member states are united against it,” he emphasized, demanding – or just suggesting – that the expulsions be “reconsidered.” This demonstration of “maximum diplomacy” appears to have impressed Mr. Putin not at all.
Meanwhile, the “maximum pressure” which Mr. Borrell is keen to end has put Iran’s rulers under serious economic stress. Nevertheless, they have managed to scrape together the funds necessary to arm Houthi rebels in Yemen – whose designation as terrorists the Biden administration last week rescinded – and to continue supplying Hezbollah with precision-guided missiles (PGMs) aimed at Israel.
In an initial response to the assassination of Mr. Slim, Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement that did not mention Hezbollah but said instead: “We join the international community in calling for his killers to be brought to swift justice.”
Fat chance. Remember the catastrophic explosion that killed more than two hundred people in Beirut last August? The investigation has ground to a halt.
Lebanese authorities (meaning Hezbollah and its allies) have declined offers of an international probe – not that such an inquiry would do better.
Remember the 2005 Beirut bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri along with 21 bystanders? An international investigation and U.N. Special Tribunal spent the next 15 years and millions of dollars only to convict one low-level Hezbollah operative who was tried in absentia, his whereabout said to be unknown. The court acknowledged that Hezbollah had motive to “eliminate” Mr. Hariri but declined to issue a conclusive determination.
Look, I understand that President Biden has no good options. But he does have bad options. Those he might want to avoid. Among the worst would be to reward Hezbollah, Iran’s rulers, Mr. Putin, and others who have the habit of murdering dissidents, at home and abroad.
That means no economic rescue for Lebanon – currently sinking in debt, its banks riddled with corruption – so long as Hezbollah is calling the shots. And it is now more obvious than ever how foolhardy it would be to lift sanctions on Tehran and return to the misleadingly named Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Despite repeated claims to the contrary, that deal did not end the regime’s nuclear weapons program. At most, it delayed progress in some areas – until the “sunset” clauses kick in, vaporizing restrictions – while implicitly licensing the regime’s terrorism and other malign activities.
Diplomacy can and should continue. But diplomacy should not be confused with therapy. When dealing with despots, there are no talking cures.
Enriching, empowering, and accommodating those who despise us and murder with impunity does not transform them into friendly neighbors in the global village. That approach has been tried. It consistently disappoints.
Does President Biden understand all that? Hezbollah, Iran’s rulers, Mr. Putin and other adversaries of the United States are watching. Their bayonets are affixed. They’re eager to know whether it’s safe to proceed.
*Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for the Washington Times. Follow him on Twitter @CliffordDMay. FDD is a nonpartisan think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues.
The Weapon of Memory/Interview With Makram Rabah
Micgael Young/Carnegie MEC/February 12/2021
In an interview, Makram Rabah discusses his new book on the Druze-Maronite conflict in Lebanon’s civil war.
Makram Rabah is a lecturer in the Department of History and Archaeology at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University. His research interests include the modern Middle East, the modern history of Lebanon, the Lebanese civil war, and the role of memory in the reconciliation process. He is the author of A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American University of Beirut 1967-1975 (Nelson Publications, 2009). His most recent book is Conflict on Mount Lebanon: The Druze, the Maronites and Collective Memory (Edinburgh University Press), which covers collective identities and the civil war. Rabah is also a regular contributor to regional and international publications on Middle Eastern political affairs. Diwan interviewed him in late January to discuss his most recent book.
Michael Young: You’ve just published a book titled Conflict on Mount Lebanon: The Druze, the Maronites, and Collective Memory. What is the book about and what does it argue?
Makram Rabah: While I focus on the conflict, or conflicts, between the Druze and the Maronites, the two founding groups of the Lebanese entity, my book is a humble contribution to the overall history of Lebanon. More so, it is an attempt to understand the conflict but through what I claim to be a novel lens which is that of collective memory. In my view this is instrumental in the reconciliation process not only as it applies to these two supposedly primordial enemies, but also to other Lebanese communities.
MY: What did you find in your research on the collective memory and oral history of the Druze-Maronite conflict?
MR: Collective memory and oral history are two fascinating topics especially when explored in depth, as they provide us with a new road map to understanding the conflict which broke out in 1975 between Lebanon’s factions. My study showed that the protagonists not only used bullets in their battle, but also the most dangerous weapon of all: collective memory. While scholars of Lebanon have traditionally focused on sectarianism or foreign intervention as causes of conflict, they neglected how various centers of power in the different sects preserved collective memory and used it to mobilize their constituencies, regardless of sectarianism or foreign intervention.
On the other hand, oral history is an under-utilized source that helps us as historians and as Lebanese to understand why neighbors got the urge to fight one another. Traditional archives, meaning written primary and secondary sources, have been depleted and as I prove are easily manipulated, whereas oral history, despite all its challenges, can open our eyes to many new realms of memory.
MY: It’s interesting that you focus on the Druze and the Maronites when both communities today are regarded as minorities whose impact on political life is not what it was during the war years and before that. To what extent, then, are both still central to Lebanese political life, and has their parallel status as communities on the decline demographically led to any change in their relations?
MR: Lebanon is not about numbers or minorities as people might brand them, but rather about looking for the optimal power-sharing formula. Both communities ruled over this small mountain state, yet could not remain at its helm simply because they failed to build a modern nation state. In the long run the power trip in which they both engaged proved disadvantageous to them and to the country. In the context of Lebanese politics today, this lesson in the dangers of hubris is something the current oligarchs will realize sooner or later.
MY: You are from the Druze community, so did anything surprise you in your research on the Maronite-dominated militia, the Lebanese Forces?
MR: As a historian on Lebanon, I was interested in understanding the rise of the young wartime Maronite leader Bashir Gemayel and the transformation that he led within his own party. His decision to go all the way and become president of Lebanon in 1982 was something that proved to be fatal in the long run, and in a way it helped weaken the martial community he created. By unifying the Christian militias by force and merging them into the Lebanese Forces, and by ending the diversity of the Christian political landscape, Bashir created an entity that was not able to survive after his assassination and in a way paved the way for the emergence of Michel Aoun, at the time the commander of the army. This trajectory is the antithesis of what Bashir stood and died for.
What applies to the Maronites applies equally to the Druze and to other Lebanese factions that tried to unite their own communities under the pretext of a supposed existential threat, thus neutralizing their internal rivals. My book makes it a point to tell the story of those who were effectively written out of Lebanon’s wartime history—be it the faction of former Lebanese president Camille Chamoun or the Yazbaki Druze under Emir Majid Arslan.
MY: How would you situate Bashir Gemayel in the course of the Maronites’ wartime history? Was he a hero, as many Maronites believed? Was he a villain? Or was he something else?
MR: To use Bashir’s own words, he was both a saint and devil. However, he was an ambitious leader who played his hand and who wished to impose his own version of Lebanon on both his own people and his foes. Bashir died at the tender age of 34 and thus it is unfair to pass far-reaching judgment on him, yet he was unequivocally part of the Greek tragedy in which the Lebanese are still caught up.
MY: You describe at length Kamal and Walid Joumblatt and their wartime calculations. How would you compare the two when it came to their role as prime leaders of the Druze community?
MR: Both men had different upbringings, Kamal Joumblatt was a philosopher and a dreamer who aspired for a modern Lebanon before he was reminded of his feudal roots by the Maronite political establishment, which was not open to change. Walid was and still is a more pragmatic operator according to his own admission. Walid inherited a weakened clan on the blood of his slain father, but he was able to win the military confrontation. Yet this came at the price of displacing the Christian population from the areas of Aley and the Shouf for a decade after 1983, and to his relinquishing part of his political will to then-Syrian president Hafez al-Assad who was instrumental in backing him.

In Spain, Lebanese violinist pays tribute to birthplace
The Arab Weekly/February 12/2021
An advocate for migrants’ rights, Malikian on New Year’s Day greeted passengers at Madrid airport with a surprise concert.

MADRID - In the garage where he sought shelter from bombs in his native Lebanon, Ara Malikian discovered the power of music. The bearded and heavily tattooed 52-year-old paid homage to this childhood hiding spot in his latest album released online in January called “Petit Garage.”“It was a place full of rats and cockroaches,” he said during an interview in Madrid where he has lived for the past two decades. “We would hear the bombs, it was a very dramatic situation and suddenly some of us started to make music, others to sing, everyone dancing,” he added. “I saw how music and art changed people’s mood, gave them hope, joy. We forgot all our sorrows, the war and the bombs.” Born in Beirut in 1968 to an Armenian family, Malikian started playing the violin at a very young age, encouraged by his violinist father who has performed with legendary Lebanese singer Fairouz. “From the moment I was born, he put a violin against my chin and, whether I liked it or not, I had to play it,” he recalled. “Luckily I fell in love with this instrument, so I had no psychological problems,” he added with a smile. “It is true that my father was very strict, very severe, he forced me to study and practice for hours since I was very little.”
Prodigious musician –
The hours of work turned him into a prodigious musician and allowed him to go to Germany to perfect his skills. But there he found a “very, very conservative” world of music conservatories which did not appeal to him. “I had to earn a living so I secretly played in bars and nightclubs,” said Malikian, adding he learned the importance of being “mad and open-minded” during this period. He recalled feeling embarrassed because he did not know who The Doors were when asked to play the US rock band’s music at a “transvestite bar.”So in addition to hours of practising the classical repertoire, he began to learn pop and rock songs. “It was thanks to these jobs that I was able to get out of this very closed world of classical music,” said Malikian whose repertoire includes classical, gypsy and Arabic influences. “And while I still play classical music, I see music as music, not just as a tin can which is classic music.”Malikian has even performed a version of famous Icelandic singer Bjork’s hit “Bachelorette” which replaces the sound of her voice with that of his violin.
– ‘Very moving’ concerts –
The pandemic caught Malikian while he was in the middle of a world tour, forcing him to call it off. He had already performed at the French capital’s famed Olympia concert hall but still had engagements in Moscow, Milan or Buenos Aires. Malikian spent Spain’s strict national virus lockdown last year with his son, composing a lot of music which he plans to release in another album. He has resumed giving concerts in Spain where concert halls have reopened although with strict capacity limits, well-spaced seating policies and rules requiring the use of face masks. “The concerts were very moving,” he said. “Between the distance and the masks, we thought it would be very hard but it was wonderful because people, despite the fear, came to listen to us and this is very encouraging.”An advocate for migrants’ rights, Malikian on New Year’s Day greeted passengers at Madrid airport with a surprise concert.
He said he hopes the pandemic will lead to a “more united” world, instead of creating “more borders, more walls and more hatred.”

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 12- 13/2021

Iran 'Undermining Opportunity' for Nuclear Diplomacy, Say Europe Powers
Agence France Presse/January 12/2021
Iran risks losing the chance to engage in diplomacy to fully realise the 2015 deal over its nuclear programme after starting to produce uranium metal in the latest violation of the accord, European powers said on Friday. "In escalating its non-compliance, Iran is undermining the opportunity for renewed diplomacy to fully realise the objectives of the JCPOA," Britain, France and Germany said in a statement. There had been hopes that the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) over Tehran's nuclear programme could be revived through new talks under the administration of US President Joe Biden after his predecessor Donald Trump walked out of the deal in 2018.


Update on Natanz: Construction Progresses Towards Large-scale Tunnel Complex
David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Frank Pabian/Institute For Science & International Security/January 12/2021
Since our October 30, 2020, report on the construction of a new centrifuge assembly facility in the mountains near the Natanz enrichment plant,1 construction has progressed and tunnel entrance locations can now be identified with certainty. Most importantly, newly available high resolution satellite imagery confirms that construction is progressing rapidly at the largest mountain in the area, the most likely future location for the new underground assembly facility.
Figure 1, a high-resolution January 5, 2021, satellite image acquired by the Institute shows the layout of the monitored area, which includes the current construction staging area and future engineering support site, a small mountain south of the support site, and a large mountain south-west of it. The image shows a total of three excavated tunnel entrances to date; two at the small mountain ridge, and one at the large mountain ridge.2 The entrances can be accessed from the support site by following a road leading south and a road leading west, respectively, and are referred to as eastern tunnel entrance and western tunnel entrance areas herein. Electric powerlines now connect the staging area and eastern tunnel area to the main power grid (the western tunnel area is still in the process of being connected) and there is a new security perimeter that is being installed near the staging area.
Figure 2 shows a close-up of the current construction staging area and future engineering support site. A security perimeter is being added, in addition to several buildings constructed in the past months, further indicating that this area will eventually host administration and engineering offices, and possibly serve as a security access control area.
Figures 3 and 4 show the eastern entrances in detail; shipping containers in the well-cleared area outside the eastern main tunnel; a spoil pile that has expanded quickly. The image is sharp enough to show two pickup trucks outside the main tunnel entrance in detail. Figure 4 shows three nearby storage buildings, most likely for construction explosives, surrounded by a security fence. Figure 5 provides an overall view of the western tunnel entrance area. Figure 6 shows excavation at the western main tunnel entrance leading into the large mountain. Two trucks and a shed can be identified in the cleared area. The spoil pile appears to be roughly the same size for this one entrance as it is for the two eastern entrances combined. Nearby is an explosive storage area, most likely for use in tunnel excavation. Another branch of the access road leads to the mountain at the previously identified potential tunnel entrance, but that area remains undeveloped at this time. Figure 7 shows the western tunnel associated explosives storage area consisting of four revetted explosives storage buildings. The construction progress to date indicates a large-scale tunnel facility, connecting a small mountain ridge with a large mountain ridge, with enough room to harbor a facility larger in size than the original centrifuge assembly facility. Figure 8 shows the remnants of the destroyed assembly facility at the Natanz enrichment site. The area around the facility has been thoroughly cleared of blast debris and is now encompassed by a single perimeter security fence. The current state of the facility is unclear; whether it is being dismantled, albeit very slowly, further investigated, or preserved for a symbolic value or political purpose. In any case, our assessment is that the most likely location for the new assembly facility is best-protected, centered underneath the large mountain, far away from tunnel entrances. The tunnel will likely host additional security structures and blast traps, but could also include additional facilities, laboratories, storage, etc.

Analysis: Iran oil output faces race against time as U.S. sanctions linger
Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, Roslan Khasawneh/Reuters/February 12/2021
Iran’s oil reserves risk becoming stranded assets unless the new U.S. administration eases sanctions that have left the country lagging rivals in output capacity and losing a race against time as the transition to low carbon energy gathers pace.
Iran, which sits on the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves, relies heavily on oil revenue, but sanctions have prevented it from pumping at anywhere near capacity since 2018.
The penalties were tightened under former U.S. president Donald Trump and although the new President Joe Biden is more conciliatory, top officials in his administration have said Washington would not take a quick decision on any deal with Iran. Iran’s leadership says sanctions have only delayed the moment when it will produce the oil in its vast reserves - and that the world will eventually need it. But the increasing pace of the global energy transition to lower carbon fuels, combined with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on energy demand, have brought forward forecasts for when the world will hit peak demand - the point beyond which consumption will permanently fall.
Some Iranian officials, including the oil minister Bijan Zanganeh, have said repeatedly Tehran needs to maximise production rapidly - before oil demand disappears and rival producers take what’s left of market share.
That idea, however, has been pushed back by factions who see it as a betrayal of future generations.
“The dominant narrative is still to keep production optimal long-term - without realising time is running short - and to avoid exporting oil as raw material - without appreciating the refining business may not be a profitable business in the long-term anyway,” said Iman Nasseri, managing director for the Middle East with FGE energy consultancy.
Following Biden’s election, Iran’s government under President Hassan Rouhani instructed the oil ministry in December to prepare installations for the production and sale of crude oil at their current full capacity within three months.
Provided sanctions are lifted, analysts say Iran could increase output from the current 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd) to a pre-sanctions level of 3.8 million bpd within months. But Iran’s parliament last week rejected a draft budget based on output of 2.3 million bpd from the Iranian year that starts in March, as the lawmakers cast doubt on any immediate relief from the sanctions.
A spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately reply to a Reuters’ request for comment.
Decades of disruption because of sanctions mean Iran has struggled even to maintain existing capacity, let alone reach its potential.
Most regional rival producers, over the last 20 years, including United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Saudi Arabia have each increased output by one to two million barrels per day (bpd) and also built additional capacity, data from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries showed.
Even before new sanctions in 2018, existing strictures had kept Iranian output far below the 6 million bpd that the country produced before its Islamic revolution in 1979. Zanganeh unveiled in December an ambitious plan to increase production capacity to more than 6.5 million bpd by 2040. But analysts believe that is unrealistic. “There has definitely been lost production capacity since mid-2018, and the sanctions have caused some damage,” said Nasseri. “It is possible for Iranian production to reach pre-sanctions levels within months, but going above and beyond that needs more time and significant investment,” he added. Iran’s exports were as high as 2.8 million bpd in 2018, but fell to around 300,000 bpd in 2020, assessments based on tanker tracking show. At the same time a lack of funds and falling exports forced the Iranian energy firms to cut the number of newly-drilled oil wells from 300 in 2018 to 100 in 2020, an industry source said on condition of anonymity, further limiting growth potential. This year, Iranian officials say the exports have risen significantly as the election of Biden made some buyers more willing to risk buying Iranian crude. A senior lawmaker gave a figure as high as 900,000 bpd.
(Graphic: Iran crude and condensate production and capacity Iran crude and condensate production and capacity link: )
If the sanctions are lifted, Iran’s production level could exceed 4 million bpd by 2023, Rystad Energy forecast.
FGE energy saw Iranian output surpassing 4 million bpd by 2025, plateauing at around 5 million bpd before starting to fall in 2037.
But Iran’s crude oil is also mostly heavy and sour which produces more emissions than lighter crudes and has higher processing costs to meet environmental standards that will only get tighter.
“Saudi Arabia, Russia, the U.S. and major energy companies are already way ahead of Iran in securing a large portion of oil market share in the medium and long-term,” said Sara Vakhshouri, founder and president of SVB Energy International.
(Graphic: oil production in last 30 years link: )
Reuters Graphic
Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Barbara Lewis/Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


France, Germany, UK Condemn Iran's Production of Uranium Metal
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 12 February, 2021
The 'E3' group of leading European powers - France, Germany and the United Kingdom - on Friday condemned Iran's decision to produce uranium metal, which they said was in breach of commitments made by Iran to the international community. The United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, had said earlier this week that Iran had followed through on its plan to make uranium metal, after Tehran had alarmed Western nations with its intent to produce the material with which the core of nuclear weapons can be made."We strongly urge Iran to halt these activities without delay and not to take any new non-compliant steps on its nuclear program. In escalating its non-compliance, Iran is undermining the opportunity for renewed diplomacy to fully realize the objectives of the JCPOA," said the E3 in a statement.

Iranian official arrested in Istanbul over dissident’s killing
Reuters/February 12, 2021
ISTANBUL: Turkey has arrested an Iranian official suspected of instigating the killing of an Iranian dissident in Istanbul 15 months ago, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday. Confirming a report in Turkey’s Sabah newspaper, the sources said Mohammad Reza Naserzadeh was detained earlier this week on suspicion of planning the shooting of Masoud Molavi Vardanjani, a critic of Iran’s political and military leadership. The case could strain ties between Iran and Turkey, regional powers which have grown closer under Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan despite sometimes deep differences, including in Syria where they back opposing sides in the 10-year conflict. Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the newspaper report was “baseless.”Vardanjani was shot dead on an Istanbul street in November 2019, a year after leaving Iran and criticizing what he said was corruption in the Islamic Republic in a series of social media posts.
Last year two senior Turkish officials told Reuters his killing was instigated by intelligence officials at Iran’s consulate in Istanbul. A senior US administration official also said Washington believed Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security was directly involved. At the time, one of the Turkish officials identified the two suspects by initials — one set of which matched Naserzadeh’s. Sabah said Naserzadeh was working at the civic registry department of the Iranian consulate in Istanbul but Reuters was not able to independently confirm that element of its report.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh denied that any consulate staff member was involved in Vardanjani’s killing and said Iran was in talks with Turkish officials to shed light on the issue, according to the foreign ministry’s website. In December, Turkish officials accused Iranian authorities of targeting another opponent in Istanbul when they announced they had detained 11 people involved in the abduction and smuggling to Iran of an Iranian dissident wanted in connection with a deadly attack in southwestern Iran.
Habib Chaab, an Iranian ethnic Arab separatist leader, was drugged and kidnapped by a network working “on behalf of Iran’s intelligence service” after being lured into flying to Turkey by an Iranian intelligence operative, a senior official said. Last week an Iranian diplomat accused of planning to bomb a meeting of an exiled opposition group was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a court in Belgium, the first trial of an Iranian official for suspected terrorism in Europe since Iran’s 1979 revolution.

UK PM appoints Edward Lister as special envoy for the Gulf
Arab News/February 12/2021
LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has appointed Edward Lister as his new special envoy for the Gulf, Downing Street said on Friday. “The Gulf is a pivotal region both economically and geopolitically. I’m very pleased to be sending Lord Udny-Lister to work with our partners there and to unlock its potential,” Johnson said. “His appointment marks my ambition to achieve a wholescale modernisation of our Gulf relationships, creating jobs and driving prosperity at home while delivering on our priorities and values overseas.”Lister has been a longtime ally of the Prime Minister, and has served in a number of roles working closely alongside him. He served as acting Chief of Staff in Downing Street in late 2020, and played a role akin to the Prime Minister’s personal emissary at various stages of the Brexit diplomatic process. Chris Doyle, Director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, told Arab News that Lister’s appointment makes sense given the importance of the UK’s relationship with the Gulf. “It makes sense to have a British special envoy to the Gulf, considering its strategic importance for Britain in terms of trade and security, and to boost the relationship. “It’s particularly important that the envoy themself has a direct line to the Prime Minister, because otherwise they will not be viewed in the Gulf capitals as a useful intermediary. “I believe that Lister will have direct access,” Doyle said. “This will help to develop close personal ties for the Prime Minister — the envoy will be there to enrich those ties and get a deeper understanding of the region.”


Greece seeks Gulf allies to counter tension with Turkey
DEREK GATOPOULOS/ATHENS, Greece/AP/February 12/2021
Foreign ministers and senior officials from several Persian Gulf countries were meeting in Athens on Thursday, as Greece seeks to expand alliances to counter tension with regional rival Turkey.

NATO members Greece and Turkey remain locked in a dispute over boundaries and offshore resource rights in the eastern Mediterranean that led to a dangerous military buildup in the region for months last year.
The visiting officials from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates were meeting in Athens with the foreign ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, who already hold regular contacts, and they were joined by video link by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
The participating countries have broadly sided with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean dispute. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the seven participating countries were planning to have regular contacts and meetings.
“It is natural for Greece to seek out this type of cooperation ... multidimensional challenges in our wider neighborhood make it necessary,” he said at the start of the meetings. Athens and Ankara recently restarted long-stalled talks aimed at resolving their maritime disputes. But Greece has continued plans to modernize its military and in recent months has stepped up armed forces cooperation with France, Egypt, Israel and others. George Pagoulatos, director-general of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, an Athens-based think tank, said Greece was hoping to exploit its position as a longstanding member of the EU and NATO to build alliances. “The participant countries share a support of the territorial status quo and United Nations maritime law, and opposition to border revisionism, religious radicalization, and Turkey’s expansionist role in the eastern Mediterranean,” Pagoulatos, told the AP. Turkey argues that Greek islands around its coastline should not be included in calculating maritime areas for oil-and-gas exploitation, claiming that it has been unfairly excluded from its fair share of the region’s natural resources. Athens maintains that the decades-old dispute should be resolved through negotiations or at an international court, and has accused Turkey of using its military superiority to try and pressure Greece to make concessions.
*Theodora Tongas in Athens contributed. ___ Follow Gatopoulos at https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos


Biden Facing 'Serious Dilemmas' on Afghan Troop Withdrawal, U.S. Official Says
Agence France Presse/February 12/2021
US President Joe Biden faces "serious dilemmas" in Afghanistan as a deadline to withdraw troops nears and the Taliban show no sign of ending their bloodshed, a top US official warned. The new US leader has ordered a review of the deal Washington cut with the Taliban last year, which promised the withdrawal of all foreign forces by May 1 in return for security guarantees from the militants and a commitment to peace talks with the Afghan government. The talks are progressing painfully slowly, but scarcely a day goes by without a bomb blast, attack on government forces, or a targeted assassination somewhere in the country. "Violence level remains very, very high... which is shocking and deeply disappointing," a senior US State Department official told AFP this week on condition of anonymity. "It is unquestionably damaging the atmosphere for any kind of a settlement of Afghanistan's conflict." The Taliban routinely deny responsibility for the attacks -- and many are claimed by the rival jihadist group Islamic State -- but Washington has no doubt who is to blame. "In our view, the Taliban are responsible for the vast majority of the targeted killings that we have seen," the official said, adding they had created "an ecosystem of violence". "It is clearly intended, I think, to demoralise citizens... to add to doubts that people have about their government and to add to the aura of inevitability of (a Taliban) victory," he added.
No US combat deaths in a year -
The new Biden administration, he said -- which was committed to upholding the deal despite the review -- now faced "serious dilemmas".
If Washington decided to keep troops on after the deadline, US forces faced coming under attack once again -- following a year without a single American death in combat. But if the US pulls out as scheduled, it leaves the fragile Afghan government at the mercy of a determined insurgent force that could result in fresh carnage that would be impossible for the world to ignore. The Pentagon has over the past year reduced the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 2,500, while NATO defence ministers will later this month discuss the fate of their 10,000 personnel in the country -- most in backroom support roles. Any risk to the lives of "American and coalition forces... is going to be very, very high on our priorities", the US official warned. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has urged Biden to avoid rushing the withdrawal, and wants the new US President to put more pressure on the Taliban to make concessions at ongoing peace talks in Doha, Qatar. "The Islamic Republic (government) side is anxious and ready to negotiate. They went to Doha prepared... and they got nobody to meet with and that's disappointing," the US official said. The Taliban were winning few friends with its approach, he added. "What they miscalculate is that it grotesquely misshapes the battlefield in terms of world opinion and in terms of the support that this country has."

Biden starts off tough on Turkey, with rocky path ahead
AFP/February 12, 2021 16:33
WASHINGTON: Joe Biden has opened his presidency by taking a visibly harder line on Turkey, with analysts expecting a rocky path ahead between the uneasy allies as their interests increasingly diverge. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, like many of the leaders who wooed Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, is getting an early cold shoulder from Biden, who before being elected described the president an autocrat and promised to empower the opposition. Biden has not called Erdogan and the new administration has immediately rebuked Turkey, urging the release of prominent civil society leader Osman Kavala and criticizing homophobic rhetoric in a crackdown on student demonstrators. The statements are in line with Biden’s vow to put a new priority on democracy promotion, but the United States and Turkey have plenty of other disputes likely to exacerbate tensions.
Erdogan defiantly bought Russia’s advanced S-400 missile system, brushing aside warnings that it was jeopardizing its role in the NATO alliance, leading Trump to impose narrow sanctions on the Turkish defense industry in the face of outrage in the US Congress.
And a New York court in May will start a trial of Turkey’s state-run Halkbank over allegedly evading sanctions on Iran, potentially inflicting a heavy economic blow on Turkey.
“Relations can improve for the better, but I think people will have to temper their expectations,” said Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“Turkey and the United States have different interests and do not share values. The two countries can work together on some issues, but there is nothing that binds them together any longer.”
Gonul Tol, director of the Turkey program at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said that the S-400s posed an especially knotty problem as Erdogan had cast the purchase in nationalist terms, saying Ankara was asserting independence.
But Erdogan, she said, is under pressure over a struggling economy and has an interest in avoiding more wide-ranging US sanctions if he moves further on the S-400s.
“I think he’s realizing that he’s very isolated in the region and that his whole anti-Western, anti-US rhetoric is not working for him,” Tol said.
After Biden took office, Turkey proposed a compromise in which it does not fully operate the S-400s, but the State Department insisted that its ally not “retain” the multibillion-dollar system that NATO fears will help Russia hone its ability to shoot down Western jets.
Yet Tol said that Biden, despite his emphasis on democracy, was also pragmatic. She pointed to his early stance on Russia in which the administration has been forthright on concerns but also extended the New START nuclear reduction treaty.
“I think there are several camps in the Biden administration and some might say, let’s see how Turkey behaves on issues critical to the US such as the S-400s, the Eastern Mediterranean and Nagorno-Karabakh,” she said, referring to heightened tension between Turkey and fellow NATO ally Greece and Ankara’s support for Azerbaijan’s offensive to retake land held by Armenia. “If there is a sign that they can actually cooperate with Turkey on matters that are important to national security, then I think we could see a softer approach overall,” Tol said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his confirmation hearing pointedly called Turkey “our so-called strategic partner,” although State Department spokesman Ned Price has since described Turkey as a “longstanding and valued NATO ally.”“We seek cooperation on common priorities and, as with any ally, we engage in dialogue to address disagreements,” Price told reporters.
He pointed to shared interest in ending Syria’s civil war. But Syria has been a persistent source of friction since Biden’s former boss Barack Obama aligned with Kurdish fighters — linked to separatists inside Turkey — to defeat Daesh.
The Eurasia Group in an analysis said that both Turkey and the United States had an interest in improving ties but put a 60 percent probability on talks breaking down in the second half of 2021, most likely over the S-400s or Syria.
In an essay, Galip Dalay, a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, expected US-Turkish tensions to fester, saying the two nations had different views on what resetting the relationship meant.
For Biden, he wrote, a reset means restoring a US-led liberal international order in which Turkey reverses its growing ties with Russia and a rising China.
But for Erdogan, “a reset means that the US would come to terms with the new geopolitical reality in Turkey’s neighborhood, including Turkey’s role in it.”

Turkish Sailors Freed after Kidnapping off Nigeria
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 12 February, 2021
Fifteen Turkish sailors kidnapped by pirates last month in the Gulf of Guinea have been freed in Nigeria and will head home, a shipping company executive said on Friday, two weeks after the attackers made contact to discuss a ransom. One sailor, a citizen of Azerbaijan, was killed in the raid on Jan. 23 which crew, family members and security sources described as a sophisticated and well-orchestrated attack. Those kidnapped were from Turkey. Speaking to state TV broadcaster TRT Haber, Levent Karsan from Istanbul-based Boden Shipping said the sailors were all in good health in Nigeria and would be brought to Turkey in the coming days. “This wasn’t a political kidnapping. This kind of kidnapping happens in that region unfortunately and is completely aimed at getting ransom,” Karsan said. Talks to free the sailors had been handled by a team based in Hamburg, he added. The Liberian-flagged container ship, the Mozart, was headed to Cape Town from Lagos when it was attacked 160 km (100 miles) off Sao Tome island, maritime reports showed. The pirates made first contact with Boden on Jan. 28 to discuss ransom. Karsan did not share details of the talks but said he hoped the incident would prompt officials at the United Nations and International Maritime Organization to take action against piracy in the region. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu later said that a British company had handled negotiations, but gave no details. He also told TRT Haber a team had been sent to countries in the region to discuss preventing such incidents. “We must learn a lesson from this and work together to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Cavusoglu said on TRT.

Canada/Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of International Development and Minister of National Defence on International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers
February 12, 2021 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs; the Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of International Development; and the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, today issued the following statement:
“Today, we reiterate Canada’s commitment to ending the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. Worldwide, too many boys and girls continue to be robbed of their most basic rights by this appalling practice. Some are killed, and many others suffer severe, lasting physical and emotional scars.
“Canada continues to work with the United Nations, fellow UN Member States and civil society to implement the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers. Developed by Canada and its partners in 2017, this set of 17 political commitments aims to end the recruitment and use of children as soldiers in contexts where UN peacekeeping missions operate. To date, 99 countries have signed on to the Vancouver Principles.
“A key component of the Vancouver Principles is to equip peacekeepers with the training and tools they need to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Recognizing this, Canada worked with the UN, partner States and civil society organizations to develop Implementation Guidance for the Vancouver Principles. This practical resource helps endorsing States turn the Principles into action. Canada also established the Dallaire Centre of Excellence for Peace and Security in 2019 within the Canadian Armed Forces [CAF] to assist the CAF implementation of the Vancouver Principles.
“No child should ever be used in armed conflict. Canada will continue to work with partners to put an end to this practice worldwide.”

Canada/Statement of Members of the Governing Council of the Community of Democracies
February 12, 2021 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The following Members of the Governing Council of the Community of Democracies express grave concern for the Myanmar military’s removal of the democratically elected civilian government; for the arbitrary detention of civilian government leaders, civil society members, human rights activists, and journalists; and for restrictions on telecommunications services since February 1, 2021.
We call upon the Myanmar military to respect democratic institutions and processes and the rule of law, and to reinstate the elected government, allowing the parliament to convene. The military should release all those under arbitrary detention; respect freedom of expression, both online and offline; and refrain from violence against members of the public.
We affirm our stand with the people of Myanmar in their aspirations for freedom and peace and pledge to continue support to the democratic process in Myanmar.
Canada, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Mexico, Norway, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States of America.


Haftar, Dbeibah and Menfi set to play key roles in Libya’s quest for stability
The Arab Weekly/February 12/2021
The visit of the head of the presidential council to Benghazi strengthened Libyans' optimism about an end to the divisions that have plagued the country since 2014.
BENGHAZI, Libya - The visit by the head of the Libyan Presidential Council Mohammad al-Menfi to Benghazi and his meeting with the commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar confirmed the military establishment's clear support for the new executive authority elected about a week ago in Geneva.
The developments reflected a new situation in Libya in which Haftar and Menfi, in addition to Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, are set to play a key role in restoring Libya's stability and ending the divisions that have plagued the country since 2014.
A statement by the army's general command said that, "During the meeting, views were exchanged between the two parties. The commander-in-chief reaffirmed the armed forces' support for the peace process, and the army’s endeavours to safeguard democracy and the peaceful transfer of power."
The statement added, "Field Marshal Haftar expressed support for the new presidential council and the national unity government born out of the political dialogue to unify institutions and take the country to the elections that are expected to be held next December."
There have been recent indications of understandings between Dbeibah and Haftar, most notably LNA representatives' vote at the Libyan Dialogue Forum for the Dbeibah-Menfi list rather than the list that included Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh and Government of National Accord (GNA) Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha. Reports published by social media activists also revealed that Dbeibah visited Benghazi a few days before the final vote.
This agreement brought to the fore Haftar's role on the Libyan stage after months in which he kept a low profile, cutting down on foreign trips and meetings within the country. For a while, Haftar gave the impression that an international push to see an end to his role was succeeding as Saleh, who seemed to enjoy growing support of influential countries in the conflict, such as Egypt, France and Russia, was becoming more prominent.
It is not unlikely that Dbeibah will make a public visit to Haftar's headquarters in Ar-Rajma in the coming days, as was reflected by his warm welcome of the members of the Dialogue Forum representing the region of Cyrenaica upon his return from Geneva. He even insisted on taking a group picture with the delegation and promised to visit Benghazi soon.
Menfi's visit to Benghazi and his meeting with Haftar sent positive signals to parliament members who intend to participate in the meeting set to discuss the approval of the new executive authority. The main signal conveyed by Menfi's visit is that this new authority enjoys the support of the army, which is one of the most important actors on the ground in the eastern region.
Over the past few days, differences have emerged between members of the House of Representatives on the venue of the voting session that should grant confidence to the new presidential council and the government. Deputies from the western region have called for the session to take place in the city of Sabratha, while deputies from the east, including Saleh, have insisted that the session be held in Tobruk, before the seat of parliament moves to its new location in Sirte.
This has prompted MPs Fawzi al-Nuwairi and Hamid Houmeh to issue a statement calling on the deputies to attend the voting session and called on the 5+5 military committee to choose its location to end controversy over the issue.
Menfi's visit to Benghazi fueled optimism and dispelled speculation that the new authorities could meet the same fate as the current presidential council, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, which was rejected in 2016 in Tobruk by the army and parliament.
Menfi belongs geographically to Cyrenaica, but has been known in recent years to oppose the LNA, including its campaign against extremists in Benghazi and Derna. In addition, he was Libya's ambassador to Greece, which expelled him after the signing of the border demarcation agreement between Libya and Turkey. Against this background, it seemed doubtful that he would receive the backing of the army.
Analysts attribute his success in overcoming these hurdles to a Russian-Turkish deal that boosted his fortunes and shattered a near international consensus in favour of the Saleh-Bashagha list. Even UN envoy Stephanie Williams seemed on a few occasions in the past to favour the Saleh-Bashagha list, as she accused unnamed parties of bribing members of the Dialogue Forum (implicitly to favour Dbeibah). Accusations prompted Misratan businessman Ali al-Dbeibah, the new prime minister's cousin, to demand that an investigation be opened into the matter so as to prove or refute the allegations.
Menfi is known to have been among the active leaders of the Libyan students' union while studying in France under the aegis of the Jamahiriya Students Union. He was known to be one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the regime of the late Colonel Muammar Gadhafi. He is hence expected to have a good relationship with supporters of the former ruler and his son Saif al-Islam. According to many reports, Russia wants Gadhafi's supporters to play a political role in Libya.
The victory of the Dbeibah and Menfi list has stunned many countries that bet on the Saleh-Bashagha list, especially Egypt and France.
Nevertheless, the new authorities seem intent on accommodating all countries. Menfi has in fact pledged that Cairo will be the first foreign capital he visits after his trip to Benghazi.


Bahrain's Crackdown on Shiite Dissent
Agence France Presse/February 12/2021
The Gulf state of Bahrain was rocked a decade ago by Shiite-led protests calling for reforms from their Sunni rulers, who unleashed a backlash of repression.
Here is a timeline:
Arab Spring repressed -
Pro-democracy demonstrations start in February 2011 amid the Arab Spring uprisings that toppled presidents in Tunisia and Egypt. After three days of protests, riot police charge demonstrators occupying the capital's Pearl Square in a pre-dawn raid on February 17 that leaves four people dead and scores wounded. As the police and army withdraw from the square two days later, thousands of protesters return. The demonstrations escalate and in March, Saudi Arabia sends in 1,000 troops and the United Arab Emirates 500 police to help put down the uprising.
On March 16, the Pearl Square protest camp is cleared in another deadly security force raid. Bloody protests resume in June, as soon as a state of emergency enacted in March is lifted, with unrest notably in Shiite villages around Manama. They are violently repressed.
Nationality withdrawn
In November 2012, 31 Shiite activists, including two former parliamentarians, are stripped of their nationality for breaching state security.
An appeals court confirms jail terms for 13 opposition leaders in January the following year over charges of plotting to overthrow the monarchy. Seven get life sentences. In August, King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa decrees stiffer penalties for "terror acts".
Tehran blamed -
In January 2014, Bahrain accuses Iran's Revolutionary Guards of training opposition militants in the use of explosives to carry out attacks. It announces the arrest of suspects. It severs diplomatic ties with Iran two years later amid tensions between Riyadh and Tehran over Saudi Arabia's execution of a prominent Shiite cleric. Also in January 2016, Bahrain says it has dismantled an Iran-linked "terror" cell connected to the Revolutionary Guards and Lebanon's Tehran-backed Hizbullah. It says the cell was planning a series of bombings in the kingdom.
Bahrain has since announced it has dismantled several Shiite "terror" cells.
Opposition outlawed -
In July 2016, Bahrain's judiciary dissolves the leading opposition party Al-Wefaq over various allegations including "harbouring terrorism", and orders the seizure of its funds. In May 2017, the secular opposition movement Al-Waad is also dissolved over allegations of links to terrorists.
Death sentences
In July 2020, the kingdom's highest court upholds death sentences against two Shiite men convicted of murdering a police officer in a bomb attack in 2014.
Amnesty International condemns the ruling and describes the trial as "grossly unfair".
- The case of Nabeel Rajab -
One of Bahrain's most prominent rights activists, Nabeel Rajab, who played a key role in the 2011 protests, was freed from jail in June 2020 after serving time over tweets critical of the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. He is currently serving the remaining three years of a five-year sentence in an "alternative" or non-custodial setting. Rajab had been convicted of insulting the state, spreading false news, and "publicly offending a foreign country", a reference to Saudi Arabia. He also tweeted criticism of the Bahraini government's treatment of prisoners. Rajab had spent four years in jail after earlier being convicted over media interviews deemed critical of the government. The United Nations had led calls for his release, condemning his detention as "arbitrary" and "discriminatory".


US to remove Yemen’s Houthis from terror list next week: State Department
Joseph Haboush, Al Arabiya English/12 February/2021:
The United States will officially remove the Iran-backed Houthi militia and its leaders from its terror lists next week, a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday. Blinken said the decision was a result of the “dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.”“The revocations are intended to ensure that relevant US policies do not impede assistance to those already suffering what has been called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” Blinken added. Washington hopes that the move will encourage warring sides to engage in dialogue. But the Houthis continue to carry out malign activity, Blinken said.
This includes taking control of large areas of Yemen by force, attacking US partners in the Gulf, kidnapping and torturing citizens of the US and many of its allies, diverting humanitarian aid and brutally repressing Yemenis in areas they control. Nevertheless, Blinken said the US would continue to designate individuals that launch missile attacks into Saudi Arabia. “Actions and intransigence” by the Houthis prolongs the war in Yemen and “exact serious humanitarian costs,” he said. Houthi leaders will no longer be designated terrorists. The carefully worded statement on Friday said that that Blinken would also revoke the designation of the Houthis as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. “Effective February 16, I am revoking the designations of Ansarallah, sometimes referred to as the Houthis, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under the Immigration and Nationality Act and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, as amended,” Blinken said. Under the original designation, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sanctioned Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al Hakim as SDGTs.
Friday’s announcement will strip the leaders of the SDGT designation. Blinken said the leaders would still be sanctioned, but it appears that this will only apply to the Treasury Department sanctions issued in 2015. Those sanctions were issued “for being a political or military leader of a group that has engaged in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, or stability of Yemen and for engaging in such acts, respectively.”

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 12- 13/2021

Washington Cannot Rely on Iran’s Alleged Anti-Nuclear Fatwa
Andrea Stricker/Policy Brief-FDD/February 12/2021
The Islamic Republic of Iran’s intelligence minister, Mahmoud Alavi, stated this week that although Iran’s supreme leader forbade the building of nuclear weapons according to an Islamic edict known as a “fatwa,” Tehran might change course if provoked. Given that Iran had a nuclear weapons program from 1999 to 2003, parts of which continued covertly, Washington should not base its Iran policy on the durability of such a fatwa.
Alavi, speaking on Iranian state television, said, “Our nuclear program is peaceful and the fatwa by the supreme leader has forbidden nuclear weapons, but if they push Iran in that direction, then it wouldn’t be Iran’s fault but those who pushed it.” He added, “If a cat is cornered, it may show a kind of behavior that a free cat would not.”In 2003, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, allegedly prohibited building the bomb as contrary to Islamic law, although the regime has never released the text of this supposed ruling. Yet the Iranian government did put up a (now non-functioning) web page about the fatwa, explaining it grew out of an earlier anti-chemical weapons fatwa issued by Khamenei’s predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. (Khomeini reportedly reversed that fatwa during the Iran-Iraq War, and the United States currently assesses that Iran maintains a chemical weapons program).
Iranian leaders have often brought up the alleged nuclear fatwa when attempting to persuade foreign audiences that the regime has no ambitions to weaponize its atomic program. During the Iran nuclear negotiations, President Barack Obama and several U.S. officials even lent credence to the fatwa by referring to it as a reason for confidence in the eventual accord that emerged in 2015.
Yet the nuclear fatwa, if it even exists, is apparently quite flexible.
Western powers and the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), have for many years investigated Tehran’s early nuclear weapons program, known as the Amad Plan. In 2018, Israel seized a cache of Iranian nuclear program documents from a Tehran warehouse. This “nuclear archive” provided new insights into the regime’s plans to manufacture and achieve the ability to test five atomic weapons by 2003.
Around the summer of 2003, the archive’s documents show, Iran’s defense ministry ordered officials to stop some of Amad’s most sensitive nuclear weaponization activities – particularly those involving large nuclear facilities and the use of nuclear material – but to hide, disguise, and continue others. Iran’s fissile material production efforts and some of its missile delivery work continued more openly.
According to nuclear expert David Albright, Iran’s efforts now position it to produce atomic weapons “on demand,” meaning that Tehran seeks the capability to make the bomb on very short order if the regime so decides.
In all likelihood, Khamenei’s supposed 2003 fatwa was merely an order to pause Iran’s nuclear weapons program due to growing international scrutiny. Alavi’s comment that Iran could shift course back to a dedicated effort to build nuclear weapons belies any notion that such an order is unchangeable. Given the number of times Western powers have caught the clerical regime prevaricating and lying about its nuclear program, and given that this mendacity also extends to terrorism, fatwas from Khamenei should not be viewed as canonically binding.
Alavi is a representative of the supreme leader, and his comments should therefore be taken seriously. They are part of Tehran’s ongoing effort to use advances in its nuclear program to coerce the Biden administration into rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal and quickly lifting sanctions. Alavi’s remarks are also an attempt to preemptively blame America if it “pushes” Iran toward atomic arms.Washington should not fall for the Islamic Republic’s extortion. The United States should refrain from rejoining the expiring and flawed nuclear deal. Instead, President Joe Biden, together with his European partners, should insist on negotiations toward a better, more comprehensive accord for Tehran to receive sanctions relief. The Biden administration and European powers should also prioritize the IAEA’s investigation into undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities in Iran.
*Andrea Stricker is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where she also contributes to FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP) and Iran Program. For more analysis from Andrea, CMPP, and the Iran Program, please subscribe HERE. Follow Andrea on Twitter @StrickerNonpro. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_CMPP and @FDD_Iran. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy.

Biden Should Heed Senate’s Call for Tougher Action Against Erdogan
Aykan Erdemir/Policy Brief-FDD/February 12/2021
Fifty-four U.S. senators signed a bipartisan letter Tuesday urging President Joe Biden to press the Turkish government to improve its troubling human rights record. The letter calls on the Biden administration to hold NATO-member Turkey “to a higher standard” and to “speak frankly” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Ankara’s alarming democratic backsliding and hostile behavior.
Turkey’s descent into authoritarianism under Erdogan and belligerent rhetoric and posturing against the United States and other NATO members were also bipartisan concerns for the U.S. Congress under the Trump administration. In April 2018, 66 senators sent a letter to Erdogan accusing Ankara of using unjustly detained U.S. nationals and Turkish employees of U.S. consulates as “political pawns.” Two weeks later, a bipartisan group of 154 House members joined the call with a similar letter.
These bipartisan efforts led the U.S. Treasury Department to issue Global Magnitsky sanctions in August 2018 against two Turkish ministers for their “leading roles” in the “unjust detention and continued prosecution” of North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson.
In October 2019, House members voted 403-16 to impose sweeping sanctions on Turkey for its military offensive targeting Washington’s Syrian Kurdish partners in the fight against the Islamic State. That same month, the House voted 405-11 in favor of a resolution recognizing the mass killings of Armenians a century ago as a genocide. Ankara denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated or constituted a genocide. Two weeks later, the Senate voted unanimously for a similar resolution.
Last December, congressional leaders ensured that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021 included a provision requiring the imposition of sanctions on Turkey – pursuant to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which targets significant transactions with the Russian defense or intelligence sectors, – for Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 air defense system from Russia. After the Senate and House of Representatives passed the NDAA with veto-proof majorities, President Donald Trump imposed the CAATSA sanctions.
The Biden administration appears cognizant of the bipartisan sentiment about Erdogan and has shown signs of pushing back against the Islamist strongman’s transgressions. During his confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken referred to Turkey as a “so-called strategic partner of ours” and criticized Ankara for aligning “with one of our biggest strategic competitors” through its S-400 purchase from Russia.
Likewise, during a February 2 call with Erdogan’s spokesperson, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan expressed concern that “Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system undermines alliance cohesion and effectiveness.”
When Turkey’s interior minister accused the United States two days later of being behind the 2016 failed coup attempt in Turkey, the State Department immediately responded with a statement calling the minister’s remarks “unfounded and irresponsible claims” that are “inconsistent with Turkey’s status as a NATO Ally and strategic partner of the United States.”
On February 10, the State Department issued another statement, criticizing baseless charges against Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala and former State Department Policy Planning staff member Henri Barkey. The statement called on Ankara to “immediately release Osman Kavala from detention” and to resolve Barkey’s “case in a just, transparent, and rapid manner.”
The Biden administration’s frequent calling out of the Erdogan government for its adversarial rhetoric and actions is a welcome development. President Joe Biden should heed the Senate’s latest call and build on the bipartisan congressional momentum to hold Turkey’s strongman accountable and end the impunity he has enjoyed. Issuing Global Magnitsky sanctions without further delay against Turkey’s most egregious human rights violators would be a good start.
*Aykan Erdemir is a former member of the Turkish parliament and senior director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where he also contributes to FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP) and Center on Economic and Financial Power (CEFP). For more analysis from Aykan, the Turkey Program, CMPP, and CEFP, please subscribe HERE. Follow Aykan on Twitter @aykan_erdemir. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_CMPP and @FDD_CEFP. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Turkey, Pakistan: Inside the Ankara-Islamabad axis
Jonathan Spyer/Jerusalem Post/February 12/2021
BEHIND THE LINES: Turkey and Pakistan’s growing closeness has deep foundations. These are two countries following a similar trajectory.
A joint military exercise involving Turkish and Pakistani Special Forces commenced this week in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, which borders Afghanistan. The exercise, dubbed “Ataturk XI-2021,” is to focus on counter-terrorist operations. It is the latest manifestation of an emergent strategic alliance of these two countries, with significant implications – both for the Middle East, and for south Asia.
Turkey and Pakistan’s growing closeness has deep foundations. These are two countries following a similar trajectory. Both were allies and assets of the US and the West during the Cold War. Both have moved far from this position in the last two decades, and are increasingly estranged from Washington. Both are medium-sized powers, governed today by a type of Islamic nationalist outlook. Both, importantly, are seeking an alternative alignment to their former ties with the West, which in a time of growing global polarization is leading both Islamabad and Ankara toward greater closeness with China.
So what form are the increased ties taking? Arms purchasing is a significant indicator. Turkey is now Pakistan’s fourth largest source of arms, as Islamabad seeks alternatives to the West for its source of weaponry (the main exporter of arms to Pakistan is now China).
Pakistan is in the process of purchasing four Turkish-built MILGEM corvette ships from the Turkish state-owned defense contractor ASFAT. It has also placed an order for 30 T-129 ATAK helicopters. The total cost of orders placed by Pakistan for the purchase of Turkish weapons systems is now in excess of $3 billion. However, the importance of this relationship goes beyond economic and commercial factors. Both Pakistan and Turkey have justified concerns regarding the possibility of Western sanctions as a result of the policy directions they wish to pursue. Reducing dependence on Western weapons systems is a way of broadening options.
The growing closeness is also reflected in the diplomatic sphere. Pakistani senior officials have expressed support for Turkey in its disputes over gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean. A series of joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean, involving the navies of both countries and including violations of Cypriot and Greek territorial waters and airspace, took place over the last year. Similar joint exercises have also been held in the Indian Ocean.
Turkey, in turn, in a development causing concern in New Delhi, has begun to support Pakistani claims in Kashmir. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in February 2020 that the issue was as important to Turkey as it is to Pakistan. Referencing the events of the Turkish War of Independence, Erdogan said, “And now, we feel the same about Kashmir today. It was Çanakkale yesterday and Kashmir today; there is no difference between the two.” Turkey raised the issue of Kashmir at the UN General Assembly in September 2019, shifting from a policy of non-interference on an issue that India regards as an internal matter.
In this regard, recent reports in regional media (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Hawar News) suggesting that Turkey is in the process of deploying its Syrian Islamist client militias in Kashmir have raised concerns, though no concrete evidence for these allegations has yet emerged.
THE STRATEGIC partnership between Ankara and Islamabad is also raising concerns in the nuclear realm. Pakistan is a nuclear power, with 160 deployed warheads. Erdogan, in a September 2019 speech quoted by Reuters, said, “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But [they tell us] we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept.”
He continued, “We have Israel nearby, as almost neighbors. They scare [other nations] by possessing these. No one can touch them.”
Turkey currently possesses two nuclear reactors, Tr-1 and Tr-2, maintained by the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority. The country has rich uranium deposits. It thus possesses both the will and the raw materials to develop a nuclear capacity. It currently lacks only the required knowledge to do so. Pakistan, which is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, possesses this knowledge. While no concrete evidence of active cooperation in this regard has yet emerged, it is worth recalling that Turkey was a covert hub for the activities of the rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan 20 years ago.
The alliance between Pakistan and Turkey is coming into being in a rapidly shifting strategic landscape. The old post-Cold War US-led security architecture, and the assumptions that surrounded it can no longer be relied upon. In the major events of the region over the last decade – the Syrian civil war, the revolution and counter-revolution in Egypt, the competition over gas resources in the Eastern Mediterranean – the US has been notably absent as it recalibrates its priorities and modes of engagement.
As a result of this absence, new connections and new power nexuses are emerging. From this point of view, the coming together of two mid-sized states inclined toward versions of Sunni political Islam and seeking major revisions of the current power balance in their respective neighborhoods, in their favor, makes logical sense.
Both Turkey and Pakistan are also eager to connect their ambitions to the strategic advance of China. Turkey is of importance to Beijing as a transportation hub on the way to the Mediterranean and to Europe, and as a priority country for investment in infrastructure. Turkey is an observer country at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It is noteworthy that Erdogan’s efforts to present himself as a leader of the world’s Muslims and of all peoples ethnically associated with the Turks does not extend to solidarity with the Turkic Muslim Uighurs, on whose fate he has been notably silent.
Pakistan’s relations with China are deep and of long standing, related to the joint geopolitical rivalry with India. Pakistan has been the recipient of investments worth $11 billion, in the framework of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. These have centered mainly on modernizing the country’s rail system. A project to build a direct rail link from China via Pakistan and Iran to Turkey is in the process of being revived. The ITI (Istanbul, Tehran, Islamabad) line would be the first regular rail link between China and Turkey. It is expected to begin operating in 2026, according to a recent report in Nikkei Asia.
A joint declaration by the foreign ministers of Turkey, Pakistan and Azerbaijan signed in Islamabad on January 13 referenced the joint stances on Kashmir, the Aegean dispute, Cyprus and the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. The document is a useful summing up of the current reality of Turkish and Pakistani synergy. The Ankara-Islamabad axis looks set to form a significant and powerful presence on the complicated geopolitical chessboard of West and South Asia.

Seeing through Iran’s moderate vs hard-liner illusion
Khaled Abou Zahr/Arab News/February 12/2021
خالد أبوزهر: وهم التفرقة بين المتشددين وما يُسمون نفاقاً معتدلين في إيران

I believe the two most used phrases by Iran lobbyists in Washington and Europe are “this will strengthen the hard-liners” and “this will weaken the moderates.” Every single time a tough decision against the regime is made, they go off like synchronized alarm systems, repeating “this action is going to weaken the moderates and strengthen the hard-liners.”
As US President Joe Biden’s administration has now taken office, these lobbyists are pushing for a speedy return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal and have announced with certainty that, once money flows back to Iran and the economy gets better, then the moderates will be stronger. And, if this does not happen fast, then the hard-liners will be stronger, making it difficult for the Biden administration to address other issues.
Firstly, once the JCPOA is back, then the Iranian regime will not need to discuss any other regional issues. Secondly, does anyone still believe this “moderates versus hard-liners” narrative? Seriously, does anyone really believe that moderates — if they exist in the regime — have the capacity to do anything? Tehran has been successful in doing this diplomatic dance for decades now. The so-called moderate voices of Iran shouting their incapacity to move the needle because of the West’s decisions that are strengthening the hawks. This is just a superb invention.
But they have been able to use it because, first and foremost, Western policymakers have made the deliberate decision to believe this lie. Indeed, it has been quite a good tool or argument for Western officials to implement policies they wanted to push through for other reasons. It makes a good story to move fast before the “bad” hard-liners weaken the “good” moderates. This usually needs to happen before a presidential election, in which candidates are hand-picked by the supreme leader.
I do not believe that there are no reasonable or moderate figures with influential positions in Iran. However, short of a revolution — which will not happen — they are not capable of bringing a positive change. The regime has applied the same technique domestically. It alternates between moderate and hard-line decisions, giving small signs of hope for more personal freedoms. It tolerates little liberties that make the people who have been deprived of everything feel grateful, but does not bring enough hope or optimism for them to dare ask for more or for change. This balancing act has also been a superb tool.
And so, after these decades of diplomatic dancing between the West and Iran, it might be time to face the music. Facing the music means confronting the hard-liners and putting all the files on the table, including the negative meddling in regional affairs and the missile program, which has been cooperating again with North Korea. Unless there is a true will to stop these actions, then the diplomatic dance will continue.
The key question is what can be done to change the regime in Tehran’s actions — without a regime change, which would bring even more chaos into this region — and force it to adopt positive bilateral relations? A new policy direction from Iran would help develop trade, allow for cross-border investments and open the door to tourism and common infrastructure, from electrical to communications. The untapped potential of this new page would be a game-changer not only for the Middle East but the world.
After listing the pros and cons of Iran going ahead with this big shift, I do not see a single reason for it to continue pushing its current line of action. Iran will not achieve regional domination, just as it will not be removed from the regional equation. Yet we can agree on a formula preserving every party’s interests, both politically and economically, especially as the regime change concept is no longer valid.
Iran is a big and important country with a great population, and it is time this region was fully connected; especially as global economic competition heats up and there is a common need to diversify economies. The global and common threats the region faces are, in fact, much bigger than our current confrontation. I am surprised the Iranian regime has not yet grasped this.
Unfortunately, it seems that Tehran is feeling secure enough that the planets are aligning in its favor and that the Europeans, as well as the foreign policy team in the US, will go back to the JCPOA and will have a favorable approach to Iran. This action would remove all incentives, even if they were slim, for the regime to change anything in its modus operandi when it comes to regional affairs. I would say the opposite is true: The Iranian leaders are feeling emboldened and they will push for more destabilization and interference, as it seems it will yield better results.
The world needs a grand bargain with Iran. It should all start with a 'non-interference in domestic affairs accord.' This, more than a return to the nuclear deal, would be the key to global stability.
The regime knows exactly what the Europeans and the US diplomacy team want. Europeans want to go back and trade, especially after the coronavirus disease impact. They are eager to allow their companies to get back to the €30 billion ($36 billion) or so of deals they had in 2015. The US administration simply wants to erase the actions of the previous one and continue where President Barack Obama left off. So the Iranian regime is now making it difficult and sending different signals to put pressure on the West. In a certain way, I would say that, despite what the Western nations think, it is not they that is holding the stick and the carrot, but rather the Iranian regime — the hard-liners and no one else.
Once again, our region has many more stakeholders and players than just Iran and the West, and there will always be a counterbalance and new alliances. Therefore, the approach needs to include all the stakeholders, from Arab countries to Turkey and Israel, as well as Russia. Usually, these grand deals or bargains happen after a big war with a clear winner. So why not avoid this and consider the pandemic to be a symbol of the common threats we are likely to face in the future and map out a clear path toward a stronger Middle East? It should all start with a “non-interference in domestic affairs accord.” This, more than a return to the JCPOA, would be the key to global stability and a true win for moderates.
*Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.

Iranian regime cannot survive without the nuclear deal
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/February 11/2021
د. مجيد رافزادا: النظام الإيراني لا يقدر أن يستمر من دون الإتفاق النووي

On the surface, the Iranian leaders are pretending they are in no hurry to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal. For example, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei last month said in a speech, according to his official website: “We have no urge, no rush for America to return to the JCPOA. Our problem is not whether the United States will return to the JCPOA or not. Our rational demand is the lifting of sanctions.”
However, the reality on the ground is that the regime is on its knees and desperately needs to revive the nuclear deal. This desire to return to the nuclear deal and have sanctions lifted can be seen in the writings of Iran’s state-owned newspapers, which are connected to the hard-liners and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The Javan newspaper wrote: “The new (US) administration has spoken out on almost every issue in US foreign policy except the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the need to return to it, while Democrats and Republicans have been vocal about maintaining Donald Trump’s policy of maximum pressure.” It added: “Apparently there is no rush on the other side, in the Biden government. In his first phone call with Vladimir Putin, Biden spoke of issues such as Ukraine, Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2020 election, and the extension of the treaties, but did not say anything about the JCPOA or did not want it to be disclosed.”
The Iranian regime’s frustration is understandable, as it is facing one of the worst budget deficits in its four-decade history. The theocratic establishment is estimated to be running a $200 million budget deficit per week and, if the pressure on Tehran continues, the total deficit will be about $10 billion by next month. This huge deficit will increase inflation and devalue the currency even further.
The decrease in the country’s revenues directly impacts the regime’s hold on power, the IRGC and its affiliates, the Office of the Supreme Leader, and the regime’s associates, who control considerable parts of the economy and financial systems. The IRGC reportedly controls more than half of Iran’s gross domestic product and owns several major economic powerhouses and religious endowments, such as Astan Quds Razavi in the northeastern city of Mashhad.
Iran is also experiencing a significant shortfall in its funding for proxies and terror groups across the Middle East. This shortfall may be why, for the first time in more than three decades, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in 2019 made a public statement asking people to donate money to his group. He said: “The sanctions and terror lists are a form of warfare against the resistance and we must deal with them as such. I announce today that we are in need of the support of our popular base. It is the responsibility of the Lebanese resistance, its popular base, its milieu (to battle these measures).”
The cash-stripped clerical regime is desperate to see sanctions lifted and for billions of dollars to flow into its treasury once again. This would allow it to provide revenue for the IRGC to escalate its military adventurism and projects in the region, which include financing, arming and supporting their terror and militia groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
The JCPOA signatories must recall that the nuclear deal led to more Houthi rockets being launched at civilian targets.
The Biden administration would be well advised not to rush back into the 2015 nuclear deal, which empowered and emboldened the Iranian regime and its militia groups and made the region much less safe, stable and secure.
It appears that all members of the nuclear agreement (Russia, China, the US, the UK, France, and Germany) want to rejoin the nuclear pact with Iran. But the Biden administration, along with France, the UK and Germany, must demand a much stricter agreement. They must recall that the JCPOA led to more Houthi rockets being launched at civilian targets, the deployment of Hezbollah foot soldiers in Syria, and more attacks by Iranian-funded Iraqi militia groups.
In a nutshell, the Iranian regime needed the nuclear deal to be restored yesterday, as it cannot keep going without it. The JCPOA signatories must learn from history, take their time, and demand a stricter deal with the Tehran regime this time around.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Palestinians: More Corruption as Biden Resumes Financial Aid
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/February 12/2021
The assumption that renewed financial aid would lead the Palestinian leadership to make "concessions" has proven, over the past three decades, to be completely baseless. Anyone in the Biden administration who thinks that the Palestinian leadership would make real "concessions" to Israel in return for hundreds of millions of dollars is living under an illusion.
Last year, the Palestinians rejected Trump's $50 billion Middle East economic plan that would create a global investment fund to lift the Palestinian and Arab state economies. The Palestinians dubbed it an "attempted bribe."
The "innocent Palestinians" the Biden administration is talking about would undoubtedly be happy to receive financial aid from the US or the European Union. These Palestinians, however, are concerned that their leaders will continue to deprive them of the financial aid, and that the money, ever-fungible, would, as usual, just end up in the pockets of Palestinian leaders as well as to incentivizing murder for "pay-for-slay" terrorists.
A recent public opinion poll showed that a majority of Palestinians are still worried about the corruption of their leaders, especially the Palestinian Authority.
The majority of Palestinians believe that corruption is concentrated among senior public sector employees, particularly in the executive public institutions (the ministries, the presidency and the security services). The Palestinians continue to believe that senior employees are the most corrupt individuals among the Palestinians.
All this means that, if and when the general elections take place, Hamas is well on its way to score another easy victory.
The message that the findings send to the Biden administration and other Western donors: The funds you are sending to Palestinian leaders are being stolen. If you want to send money, you must ensure that the money does not end up in the private bank accounts of Palestinian leaders.
If, as the poll shows, a majority of Palestinians continue to see their leaders as corrupt, this means that Abbas's rivals in Hamas are again likely to win the vote.
A recent public opinion poll showed that a majority of Palestinians are still worried about the corruption of their leaders. The findings send a message to the Biden administration and other Western donors: The funds you are sending to Palestinian leaders are being stolen. If you want to send money, you must ensure that the money does not end up in the private bank accounts of Palestinian leaders. Pictured: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks in Ramallah on May 19, 2020. (Photo by Alaa Badarneh/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Ignoring rampant corruption in the Palestinian Authority (PA), the US administration of President Joe Biden says it is preparing to resume unconditional financial aid to the Palestinians.
"The suspension of aid to the Palestinian people has neither produced political progress nor secured concessions from the Palestinian leadership," US State Department Spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing earlier this month. "It has only harmed innocent Palestinians."
In 2018, the administration of President Donald Trump announced that it would not spend more than $200 million set aside for Palestinian aid on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The assumption that renewed financial aid would lead the Palestinian leadership to make "concessions" has proven, over the past three decades, to be completely baseless. Anyone in the Biden administration who thinks that the Palestinian leadership would make real "concessions" to Israel in return for hundreds of millions of dollars is living under an illusion.
Since the signing of the Oslo Accord between Israel and the PLO in 1993, the Palestinians have received billions of dollars in international aid, including from the US and many Western donors.
Did the money change the Palestinians' position on crucial issues such as the status of Jerusalem or the "right of return" for millions of refugees and their descendants to their former homes inside Israel? No.
The "right of return" means flooding Israel with millions of Palestinians with the hope of turning Jews into a minority in their own state. For many Palestinians, the so-called two-state solution means establishing two Palestinian states: one in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, and another one that would replace Israel.
Did the money stop Palestinian incitement against Israel? No.
Did the money make Abbas change his mind about rejecting Israel as a Jewish state? No.
Did the money make Hamas and other Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist? No.
Last year, the Palestinians rejected Trump's $50 billion Middle East economic plan that would create a global investment fund to improve the Palestinian and Arab state economies. The Palestinians dubbed it an "attempted bribe."
In 2019, the Palestinians boycotted the US-led "Peace to Prosperity" workshop in Bahrain, which aimed to "facilitate discussions on an ambitious, achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region."
Nabil Sha'ath, a senior adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, claimed that the workshop was aimed at "bribing" the Palestinians. "We won't sell our cause," he explained.
Another senior Palestinian official, Monir Aljaghoub, said: "The Palestinian cause is a political issue and not an economic one. We don't need money."
The "innocent Palestinians" the Biden administration is talking about would undoubtedly be happy to receive financial aid from the US or the European Union. These Palestinians, however, are concerned that their leaders will continue to deprive them of the financial aid, and that the money, ever-fungible, would, as usual, just end up in the pockets of Palestinian leaders as well as to incentivizing murder for "pay-for-slay" terrorists.
A recent public opinion poll showed that a majority of Palestinians are still worried about the corruption of their leaders, especially the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinians, according to the poll, even expect an increase in corruption during 2021.
The findings of the poll, conducted by the Palestinian Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN), should sound alarm bells in Washington and other Western countries that continue to provide unconditional financial aid to the Palestinians.
The results of the poll also need to be brought to the attention of Western taxpayers, whose dollars and euros will continue to go into the fattening coffers of the PA leadership.
According to the poll, 58% of Palestinians believe that the scale of corruption in the Palestinian Authority's institutions is still large. This year, the rate of Palestinians who believe that the scale of corruption is large decreased by five points (58%) compared with 2019 (63%). The rate is highest in villages (73%), compared with 59% in refugee camps and 50% in the cities. The rate is 63% among private sector employees, and 61% among public sector employees.
The majority of Palestinians believe that corruption is concentrated among senior public sector employees, particularly in the executive public institutions (the ministries, the presidency and the security services). The Palestinians continue to believe that senior employees are the most corrupt individuals among the Palestinians.
According to 27% of the Palestinians, the ministries and public institutions are the most corrupt (35% in the West Bank and 15% in Gaza), followed by the PA presidency at 23%.
The Palestinian security services ranked third (19%) as the most susceptible to corruption.
"The crimes of nepotism, embezzlement of public funds, abuse of position, bribery, and money laundering were the most common forms of corruption," AMAN noted in its survey.
Sixty-nine percent of Palestinians also complained about corruption in the Palestinian judiciary.
According to the poll, 53% of Palestinians believe that corruption increased during 2020. Another 55% said that they believe that corruption will further increase in 2021.
The poll also found that many Palestinians do not have confidence in efforts to combat corruption. The Palestinians are also doubtful of the independence of the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) and believe that it is under the influence of the Palestinian leadership.
"A high rate of citizens are dissatisfied with anti-corruption efforts, and are not confident of the independence of the PACC because of the Executive Authority's interference in and influence on its work," according to AMAN.
"Eighty-five percent of West Bank citizens considered PACC's effectiveness in combating corruption either moderate or poor. Thirty-two percent said that the main reason for PACC ineffectiveness it that citizens have not seen senior-level corrupt persons held accountable seriously, while 30% said that it is not serious in holding the corrupt accountable."
The findings of the poll are significant for two reasons.
First, the poll coincided with the announcement by the Biden administration of its intention to resume financial aid to the Palestinians. The message that the findings send to the Biden administration and other Western donors: The funds you are sending to Palestinian leaders are being stolen. If you want to send money, you must ensure that the money does not end up in the private bank accounts of Palestinian leaders.
Second, the poll's results were made public as Palestinians prepare to hold new general elections in the coming months. If, as the poll shows, a majority of Palestinians continue to see their leaders as corrupt, this means that Abbas's rivals in Hamas are again likely to win the vote.
In 2006, Hamas candidates ran in the parliamentary election under a list called Change and Reform.
The list promised to end massive corruption in the Palestinian Authority; that was one of the two major reasons why Hamas won the parliamentary election. The list also promised to continue the "armed resistance" against Israel. That was the other reason, and still would be.
All this means that, if and when the general elections take place, Hamas is well on its way to score another easy victory.
To avoid such a scenario, the Biden administration and Western donors need to make financial aid conditional upon reforms and an end to financial and administrative corruption in the PA. Failure to do so would delight Hamas and assure it of sailing to victory in the upcoming parliamentary election.
*Bassam Tawil, a Muslim Arab, is based in the Middle East.
© 2021 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.