English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For March 04/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations For today

Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it
Luke 17/20-37: “Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’ Then he said to the disciples, ‘The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, “Look there!” or “Look here!” Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all of them it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.’Then they asked him, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 03-04/2021

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/
Schenker Hopes Biden Administration Gives Priority for Lebanon
Maronite Bishops: Renewed protests show political power's fiasco
Presidency: Aoun follows up on protest movements, calls on BDL Governor to know reasons which led to rise of US Dollar rate to this level
Aoun Says Protests Legitimate, Asks Salameh to Explain Lira Collapse
Association Says Banks Had No Role in Dollar Rate Surge
Geagea Says Early Polls Can be Alternative to Internationalization
Strong Republic Bloc Meets U.S. Ambassador
U.S. Strives to Assist People in Lebanon, Says Shea
Report: Street Protests over Currency Depreciation Extend to pro-Hizbullah Areas
Hariri bound for UAE
Meeting at Defense Ministry to discuss smuggling and monopoly combat
John X, Greek ambassador tackle situation in Lebanon and region
Fuel prices register new hike in Lebanon
One man’s fight (Lukman Slim) for restorative justice/Collecting the evidence/Claire Launchbury/Le Monde diplomatique/March 03/2021
Message in a Battle/Michael Young/CarnigieMEC/March 03/2021
Another battle to fight: Lebanon's environmental disaster/Rim Khamis/Al Arabiya English/March 03/2021

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 03-04/2021

Biden sets up joint US-Israel, US-Gulf teams for Iranian nuclear talks/DebkaFiles/March 03/2021
US civilian contractor dead after rocket attack on Iraq's Al Asad military base/Robert Tollast and Mina Aldroubi/The National/March 03/2021
10 Rockets Hit Iraq Base Hosting U.S. Troops
Iran-made rockets target airbase in Iraq hosting US troops
Israeli defence chief sees 'special security arrangement' with Gulf states
France, allies to push on with protest at IAEA over Iran's activities: foreign minister
US to focus on ‘future’ in recalibrating relations with Riyadh
UN Advance Team Arrives in Libya to Monitor Ceasefire
Kuwait's new gov't takes oath


Titles For The Latest The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 03-04/2021

Language and race are precious tools in Erdogan’s imperial project/Haitham El-Zobaidi/The Arab Weekly/March 03/2021
Begum’s case is an exceptional warning for future radicals/Dunia El-Zobaidi/The Arab Weekly/March 03/2021
UN Rapporteur: Iran Committed Human Rights Violations in Downing of Ukrainian Airliner/Dylan Gresik/FDD/March 03/2021
House Joins Senate’s Call for Tougher Action Against Erdogan/Aykan Erdemir/FDD/March 03/2021
Look Who’s Embracing ‘America First’ Now/Jonathan Schanzer/Mark Dubowitz/FDD/March 03/2021
Understanding Iran’s Vast Media Network in Arab Countries/Hamdi Malik/The Washington Institute/March 03/2021

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 03-04/2021

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/

Schenker Hopes Biden Administration Gives Priority for Lebanon
Naharnet/March 03/2021
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker said that Lebanon was “cooperative” at the beginning of its indirect maritime negotiations with Israel, and that it later set “crippling demands” which affected the talks. “The Lebanese side was cooperative at the beginning of the negotiations with Israel, but it came back and retreated and its demands were crippling during the negotiations with Israel,” said Schenker in remarks to al-Hadath television on Tuesday. “Despite the dire economic reality, the Lebanese government is not in a hurry, and the Lebanese people are experiencing a real tragedy due to the practices of their government," Schenker added in the interview. Schenker also stated that “Hizbullah does not care about the interest of the Lebanese people, and the Lebanese authority was negligent in its dealing with the negotiations with Israel the same it did with the port explosion.”
Schenker hoped the Biden administration would consider Lebanon a priority. And he stressed the need to keep Hizbullah’s designation as a “terrorist” organization.

Maronite Bishops: Renewed protests show political power's fiasco
NNA/March 03/2021
The Maronite Bishops on Wednesday considered that protests which had begun again in the country only proved the fiasco of the political power. "Demonstrations that took place last night due to the hike in USD exchange rate and the frightening deterioration of the Lebanese pound's value, show again the epic fail of the political authority, which is unjustifiably abstaining from forming a driven-mission government of non-partisan experts," the prelates said in a statement issued following their periodic meeting in Bkerki. Moreover, the Maronite Bishops upped calls for speeding up investigations into the Beirut port blast, without any political intervention, calling for collaboration with the international justice in that respect.

Presidency: Aoun follows up on protest movements, calls on BDL Governor to know reasons which led to rise of US Dollar rate to this level
NNA/March 03/2021
The General Directorate of the Lebanese Presidency issued the following statement:
“President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, followed-up today with great interest, the protest movements in some Lebanese regions, since yesterday evening, against the decrease of the Lebanese Pound rate to ten thousand Lebanese Pounds for one US Dollar.
In this context, the President called on the Central Bank Governor, Riad Salameh, while meeting him this morning at Baabda Palace, to know the reasons which led to the rise of the US Dollar rate to this level, especially in the past few days. President Aoun also requested the BDL Governor to inform the Lebanese, in order to ensure transparency, about the results of investigations conducted by the Special Investigation Commission, asking him to refer these results to Public Prosecution so that the involved can be prosecuted, in case there are illegal operations on the national currency, by individuals, institutions or banks. In addition, His Excellency the President, asked the BDL Governor about the implementation of Circular No.154 issued by the Governor to the banks, and stressed the need to recover part of the funds which were previously transferred abroad by major shareholders and senior managers of banks, politicians and workers in the public sector, hence to know what is the real amount of funds which were recovered. Then, the President of the Republic asked the Central Bank Governor about the course of forensic audit, after the “Alvarez & Marsal” company informed the Finance Ministry that it hadn’t obtained satisfactory answers to the questions previously posed to the Central Bank, as a precondition for enabling the company to carry out its duties. President Aoun also asserted the necessity of conducting this audit, after the removal of all reasons and allegations which caused its delay.
The President also stressed that the main concern remains recovering depositors’ funds and the right of citizens which cannot be wasted, neither through illegal speculation nor through suspicious transfers. In this context, President Aoun considered that these practices led to the loss of a large portion of deposits, which caused financial and social distress, with which citizens’ cries rose. Therefore, citizens went to the streets and this is a legitimate matter, because a person cannot remain silent and it isn’t permissible for a citizen to watch his money be looted without reaction.
In addition, the President stressed that the right to demonstrate is sacred, and among the duties of security apparatuses is to protect demonstrators and public and private property, in addition to guaranteeing the right of movement for citizens, which are rights enshrined in the Constitution”.
Former Minister Khoury:
President Aoun received former Minister, Raed Khoury, today at the Presidential Palace, and deliberated with him current economic and financial conditions.-- Presidency Press Office

Aoun Says Protests Legitimate, Asks Salameh to Explain Lira Collapse
Naharnet/March 03/2021
President Michel Aoun on Wednesday described the protests that engulfed all Lebanese regions on Tuesday as legitimate, as he asked Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh to explain why the Lebanese pound has hit an all-time low against the dollar. “The president of the republic, General Michel Aoun, has been following with great concern the protests that have been rocking some Lebanese regions since yesterday evening, after the U.S. dollar exchange rate reached LBP 10,000,” the Presidency said in a statement. “In this regard, President Aoun asked Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh in a meeting this morning at the Baabda Palace to identify the reasons that led to the rise of the dollar exchange rate to such levels, especially during the past few days,” the Presidency added. Aoun also called on Salameh to “inform the Lebanese of the outcome of the investigation that is being conducted by the Special Investigation Commission for the sake of transparency.”He also asked him to “refer these results to the public prosecution so that the culprits can be prosecuted should it be proven that there was illegal manipulation of the national currency by individuals, institutions or banks.”Moreover, the president asked Salameh about the course of the forensic audit requested by the government, after the Alvarez and Marsal firm “told the Finance Ministry that it has not provided it with sufficient answers to the questions it had submitted to the central bank as a precondition to enable it to perform its missions.”“He emphasized that this audit must be conducted, after the elimination of all reasons and claims that have delayed it,” the Presidency added. Aoun also underlined that “the main concern remains the recovery of the funds of depositors and the rights of the people, which cannot be wasted through illegal transactions or suspicious transfers abroad.”Commenting on the protests, the president said “these practices are what led to the loss of a large part of the deposits, which caused a financial and social crisis that pushed the people to rightfully raise their voices and take to the streets.”“This is a legitimate thing, because any human cannot tolerate to remain silent over his rights or to stand idly by as his money is being stolen,” Aoun told Salameh. He also stressed that “the right to protest is sacred,” while noting that “security forces have a duty to protect protesters, public and private property, and the people’s right to movement.”“These rights are enshrined in the constitution,” he said.

Association Says Banks Had No Role in Dollar Rate Surge
Naharnet/March 03/2021
The Association of Banks in Lebanon on Wednesday categorically denied media reports linking banks to a dramatic surge in the dollar exchange rate on the black market. “The requirements of banking liquidity abroad, as stipulated by the central bank according to Circular 154, exceed $3.4 billion sector-wide, so is it reasonable for banks to draw them from the local black market whose volume does not exceed a few million dollars?” ABL said in a statement. It also attributed the exchange rate surge to political uncertainty, importers’ huge need for dollars, the scarcity of dollars in the local market due to the drop in the flow of money from abroad, the printing of Lebanese pounds, illegal electronic platforms, and the hoarding of dollars at homes by anxious citizens. ABL added that the black market chaos can be contained through “political developments that restore the confidence of the Lebanese” and “containment policies by the various authorities in order to curb Lebanon’s foreign finances deficit.”The pound had been pegged to the dollar at 1,500 since 1997, but the country's worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war has seen its unofficial value plummet. On Tuesday, it was trading at nearly 10,000 pounds to the dollar on the black market. Before the latest downturn, the pound had briefly stabilized at 8,000-8,500 to the greenback in recent weeks. In July, it had reached 9,800 to the dollar. The dizzying depreciation came as the central bank started reviewing Lebanon's lenders, under international pressure for reform.
As part of a series of demands, it had given them a Sunday deadline to increase their capital by 20 percent. On Monday, a central bank committee "agreed on a roadmap with deadlines for the Bank of Lebanon to take appropriate measures" if these requirements were not met, it said in a statement. Lebanon's al-Akhbar newspaper said Tuesday that the currency plunge was partly the result of commercial banks sucking dollars out of the market to meet the capital demands of the central bank. The slide in the value of the pound has led to soaring food prices in a country where more than half of the population now lives below the poverty line.

Geagea Says Early Polls Can be Alternative to Internationalization
Naharnet/March 03/2021
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Wednesday reiterated his call for early parliamentary elections as a way out of Lebanon’s compounded crises. Noting that Hizbullah, the Free Patriotic Movement and their allies have failed to fix the situations despite having an elected president, a parliamentary majority and two-third majorities in several governments, Geagea stressed in an interview with Radio Free Lebanon that there is only “one available solution.”“We should push them to resign through going to early parliamentary polls,” Geagea added, noting that such a solution would be easier than the “internationalization solution” which involves “communication with the Arab group and the friendly international community.”The LF leader also again called on lawmakers who do not belong to the parliamentary majority to resign. He explained that a new parliamentary majority would elect a new president and form a government that has a “different approach.” Adding that most of Tuesday’s protests were “spontaneous” and a “national reaction to the deterioration of living situations,” Geagea denied that the LF had orchestrated the demos. “Yes, the LF was also behind stirring the protests in Baalbek, Kfarrumman, Nabatiyeh, Tripoli, al-Abdeh and the rest of the Lebanese regions,” he added sarcastically. “What happened yesterday surprised us all, and of course LF supporters were among those present on the streets, seeing as they are also citizens like the rest of people,” Geagea said. But he strongly denied that the LF had a plan to organize the protests.

Strong Republic Bloc Meets U.S. Ambassador
Naharnet/March 03/2021
A delegation of the Lebanese Forces, Strong Republic bloc met the US ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea at the embassy in Awkar on Wednesday, and handed her a copy of the memorandum submitted by LF deputies to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The delegation explained the party’s point of view in the letter and the necessary reasons for establishing an international “fact-finding committee” that would help in the port explosion investigation in a “scientific and impartial manner, away from political interference still hindering the investigation six months on since the blast. For her part, Shea said will relay the party’s concerns to the US administration in hope that justice would be achieved for the victims of the explosion and their families, as well as for all residents of the devastated areas of Beirut. The party’s visit to Shea came in the framework of their move towards the United Nations, demanding on behalf of the Lebanese people to establish an international fact-finding committee to follow up the investigation of the port explosion. An LF delegation is set to visit the Russian embassy on Friday for the same purpose.

U.S. Strives to Assist People in Lebanon, Says Shea
Naharnet/March 03/2021
The United States seeks to provide help for the Lebanese people to address the dire difficult conditions, the US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea said on Wednesday. During her meeting with caretaker Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni, Shea said: “We discussed issues of mutual interest, as we try to help the Lebanese people address the difficult economic situation they are passing through.”Reports said the two figures also discussed the general situation in the country in addition to the problematic financial situation. Lebanon is grappling with an unprecedented economic crisis, compounded by the coronavirus and a devastating port explosion described as one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history.

Report: Street Protests over Currency Depreciation Extend to pro-Hizbullah Areas
Naharnet/March 03/2021
The Lebanese pound plummeted to an all-time low triggering street protests and road blockades that extended to pro-Hizbullah areas in Lebanon, the Saudi Asharq el-Awsat reported Wednesday. The Lebanese pound was trading at nearly 10,000 pounds to the dollar on the black market on Tuesday. Angry protesters took to the streets Tuesday across Lebanon over a deepening economic crisis that has thrown more than half of the population into poverty. In the morning protesters in North Lebanon blocked various roads as the wave grew extending at noon to South Lebanon, the capital Beirut and the eastern Bekaa region. Protesters in pro-Hizbullah areas also blocked with burning tires the al-Msharrafiyeh road in Beirut's southern suburbs, the old airport road on the capital’s southern outskirts. The pound had been pegged to the dollar at 1,500 since 1997, but the country's worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war has seen its unofficial value plummet. Before the latest downturn, the pound had briefly stabilised at 8,000-8,500 to the greenback in recent weeks. In July, it had reached 9,800 to the dollar. The dizzying depreciation came as the central bank started reviewing Lebanon's lenders, under international pressure for reform. As part of a series of demands, it had given them a Sunday deadline to increase their capital by 20 percent.

Hariri bound for UAE
NNA/March 03/2021
Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, left Beirut this afternoon, heading to the United Arab Emirates.

Meeting at Defense Ministry to discuss smuggling and monopoly combat
NNA/March 03/2021
Deputy Prime Minister, Caretaker Minister of National Defense, Zeina Akar, on Wednesday held a meeting in her office at the Ministry, to discuss the issue of combating smuggling and monopoly, upon the request of Caretaker Prime Minister Dr. Hassan Diab. The meeting was attended by Caretaker Minister of Interior and Municipalities Mohammed Fahmi, Caretaker Minister of Economy and Trade Raoul Nehme, Caretaker Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni, and Caretaker Water and Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar. Also attending the meeting had been Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, Internal Security Forces Chief Major General Imad Othman, General Security Chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, Director General of State Security, Major General Tony Saliba, Acting Director General of Customs, Raymond El-Khoury, Director of Army Intelligence Brigadier General Tony Kahwaji, Head of ISF Information Branch, Brigadier General Khaled Hammoud, and Deputy Director General of State Security, Brigadier Samir Sanan. The meeting discussed the security and economic conditions and the means to take maximum measures to combat the phenomenon of monopoly, fraud and price manipulation in order to protect citizens, and the importance of tightening control over all border crossings to prevent and combat smuggling, in addition to the need to find practical and quick solutions in this regard.

John X, Greek ambassador tackle situation in Lebanon and region
NNA/March 03/2021
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and the East, John X Yazigi, received the Greek Ambassador to Lebanon, Catherine Fountoulaki, with talks touching on the general situation in Lebanon and the region, and the importance of strengthening relations between Greece and the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

Fuel prices register new hike in Lebanon
NNA/March 03/2021
Fuel prices in Lebanon registered a new hike on Wednesday as the can of gasoline (95 octanes) and the can of gasoline (98 octanes) have increased by LBP 1300 each. The price of diesel has increased by LBP 1100, and the gas cylinder by LBP 500..
Consequently, the new prices are as follows:
95 octanes: LBP 33,500
98 octanes: LBP 34,500
Diesel: LBP 23,400
Gas: LBP 25,300

One man’s fight (Lukman Slim) for restorative justice/Collecting the evidence
Claire Launchbury/Le Monde diplomatique/March 03/2021
كفاح رجل واحد (لقمان سليم) من أجل العدالة التصالحية/جمع الأدلة
كلير لانشبري/لوموند ديبلوماتيك
Publisher and activist Lokman Slim, assassinated last month in Lebanon, spent 30 years trying to make sure that the memories of civil conflict were not forgotten.
Dealing with the disappeared and the aftermath of atrocities following civil conflict raises the stakes of memory politics. As power dynamics shift within a chaotic vacuum, narratives begin to be manipulated to repress a difficult past; to counter this, memory work is brokered over questions of space and place, and in the location of memorials.
There have been debates in Uruguay since the end of the dictatorship in 1985 on the uses and abuses of the Memorial to Disappeared Detainees, which was once covered up to film a fizzy-drink commercial.
In Argentina, where the dictatorship ended in 1983, the Monument to the Victims of State Terrorism in the Parque de la Memoria has been subject to disputes about access and meaning (1).
In Rwanda, memory work since the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis has focused on cultural heritage to map geographies of memory.
In Lebanon, an amnesty in 1991 that absolved all but the most serious war crimes during 15 years of civil conflict (1975-90) produced state-led amnesia that kept discourse about ‘the events’ hidden in euphemism. It also facilitated the politically expedient desire for the state to rework history for its own uses, largely by trying to forget about it altogether. No extensive process of truth and reconciliation or restorative justice programme has yet been put in place.
Confronting the past and breaking taboos of silence where memory and forgetting are related to political power is bold work
Lokman Slim, the Lebanese publisher and activist whose murder on 4 February on his way to Beirut by car shocked the Middle East and peace activists across the world, was central to the challenge to deferring restorative justice, through documentary films, exhibitions and policy reports, publishing censored literature and archival projects in the absence of an official national record; these were organised under the auspices of the NGO Umam: Documentation and Research, which he founded in 2004 with his partner Monika Borgmann.
Forthright secular champion
His death is the latest cataclysmic event to have shaken the country since the thwarted revolution of 17 October 2019. They include a disastrous financial crash, the devasting port explosion that destroyed Beirut’s surrounding historic districts and three hospitals, and the rise in Covid cases, which have pushed medical provision far beyond any safe limit.
Lokman Slim was born into a well-known Shia family, the son of Mohsen Slim, a politician and fierce defender of Lebanese independence, and Salma Merchak Slim, a Protestant Christian from Egypt. His own secular conviction, as well as his and his project’s rootedness in Haret Hreik, in Dahiyeh, the southern suburbs of Beirut largely under the control of Hizbullah, were acts of defiance. Sectarian affiliation is not a precondition of Lebanon’s modernity but a major factor in its development and remains the determining element of the hybrid sovereignties beneath the politics (2).
Lokman, a forthright champion for a secular, progressive, functioning Lebanon and a true believer in reconciliation, sought dialogue with those who wanted help in this mission (3).
He had been working on a large-scale multi-site project on prisons across the Middle East and North Africa (4).
The MENA Prison Forum collates testimony, research and reports from across the region, investigates cases in Europe and produces resources. This includes a prison slang dictionary as well as an index of literature, film and academic work on incarceration. The project also concentrates on outreach and advocacy, including improving conditions for current prisoners.
Holding the guilty to account
Slim was beginning to work with US groups such as the ArabLit collective to translate the dictionary into English. Mina Ibrahim, lead researcher of the Forum, told me that besides curating archives, Slim was keen to create cartographies of prison sites across the region to link the different aspects of their work.
Confronting the past and breaking taboos of silence where memory and forgetting are related to political power is bold work. Many projects were designed to hold perpetrators to account. In their documentary Massaker (2004), Slim and Borgmann interview six perpetrators of the Sabra and Chatila massacre of Palestinian civilians in those refugee camps, and show them graphic documentary footage and photos of the dead. Massaker focuses on the bodies of the perpetrators, their torsos adorned with tattoos, while keeping their faces hidden as they talk of their actions, some with regret, some with vestigial violence.
The 2019 documentary Tadmor does more than bear witness to the humiliation and torture of prisoners at the notorious Syrian jail. Some former prisoners recreate everyday scenes of their incarceration; this evolved from interviews where they started to act out their testimony if words were not enough (5).
In 2007 Slim and his colleagues began a project to trace and document the missing of the civil war, many ‘disappeared’ in Syrian jails or buried in mass graves under Beirut yet to be officially recognised (6). They worked with independent associations of relatives of the missing; researchers interviewed families to create a database of 1,250 names. A photographic exhibition of its portraits toured the country, expanding and encouraging new cases to be disclosed. Multiple portraits of the missing broke the silence and gave physical shape to the scale of the issue.
Trudy Huskamp Petersonn of the International Council of Archives said that these archives were so sensitive that Slim sought to have copies stored in the National Archives of Finland to protect them from destruction in Beirut. He later became a founding member of the group that developed the international guiding principles for safe havens for archives at risk, and advised on archival sites across the globe in danger because of their human rights content.
On 13 April 2010, the 35th anniversary of the start of civil war, the photo exhibition was displayed at the bullet-scarred, unfinished cinema in central Beirut known as The Egg.
The exhibition formed the background for a scene in Eliane Raheb’s 2012 documentary Sleepless Nights. Maryam Saiidi, whose son Mahar, 15, disappeared during a battle between Phalangists and the Lebanese Communist Party in June 1982, is filmed in a confrontation with Assaad Shaftari, a former intelligence officer in the Forces Libanaises (then a Christian militia, now a political party); Shaftari has since atoned for his role in the war. You can see Maher’s portrait over Shaftari’s shoulder as a silent witness. This highlights the dynamic nature of what is at stake when memory is put to work (7).
‘For the peace yet to come’
There is also the international crisis of hospitality, in which Lebanon has a central role with an estimated 1.5 million refugees who have fled Syria’s civil war (8). Affronted by the hostility to those seeking safety, Slim organised an exhibition And Lebanese…, based on archival work at Umam, in which he explored the roots of some of the most avowedly ‘Lebanese’ public figures, through portraits of people of renown from St Maroun, the monk venerated by the Maronite sect, to the singer Fairouz. He demonstrated that none could be understood as fully Lebanese (9).
Unresolved issues of the civil war have festered in a fragile negative peace; fighting has stopped, yet nothing has been resolved and the constant threat of renewed fighting persists. Political geographer Sara Fregonese observes that ‘Slim and Borgmann created not only a physical archive, but an incubator for the peace yet to come. Peace as social justice might not be within reach in Lebanon, but what matters is to ensure its anticipation … to gather, preserve and protect, and ultimately make publicly accessible the evidence that will shape responsibility and justice.’
Slim understood that in making people face up to reasons for violence, its possibility could be vanquished, allowing peace, as a form of social justice, to permeate every level of life. These projects communicate with other post-conflict societies, and are a model of archiving practice to shed light on oppression and atrocity. This contrarian who sought reform through dissent was driven, as the best people are, by cynicism, and by love.
Claire Launchbury
**Claire Launchbury is a writer. She has undertaken academic research on Lebanon since 2011, holding visiting positions at Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth and the Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies at the American University of Beirut.


Message in a Battle
Michael Young/CarnigieMEC/March 03/2021
Is Hezbollah undermining its resistance by failing to address Lebanon’s many crises, as the late Anis Naccash implied?
Often, the hardest truths come from those closest to you. After the recent death of Anis Naccash, a video of an interview with him (see below) circulated in Lebanon. Speaking with the pro-Iranian Mayadeen channel, Naccash was lucid about how Lebanon’s dire financial and economic crises were affecting the “resistance axis,” meaning primarily Hezbollah, but by implication also Syria and Iran.
In the interview, Naccash observed, “It is no longer acceptable at all to separate internal [Lebanese] files from the files of the resistance axis and the conflict with the Zionist enemy … It is no longer acceptable to say we didn’t know about the financial situation in Lebanon because this is not the concern of the resistance … [N]ational security is not limited to arms and armed defense … [it is tied to] education, the economy, agriculture, and health. Armed action is a part of this, but it is not enough to defend the nation.”
Naccash had a weighty past as someone who participated in Palestinian operations in Europe during the 1970s, most famously the hostage takeover at the OPEC meeting in Vienna in 1975. According to Naccash, in an interview with the journalist Ghassan Charbel in 2008, he established ties with Iranians opposed to the shah’s regime while working with the late Palestine Liberation Organization official Khalil al-Wazir during the 1970s. Naccash claimed it was he who proposed establishing a Revolutionary Guard to protect the gains of Iran’s revolution against a potential counterrevolutionary coup by the country’s military. He did so after a conversation at his home with Jalal al-Din Farisi, later the Palestinian Fatah’s representative in Iran, someone from the Khomeinist wing of the Iranian opposition, and a presidential candidate in 1980, until his withdrawal.
In other words, Naccash’s remarks could not have been taken as less than the friendly advice of an ardent supporter of Hezbollah and Iran. And yet what he said was quite devastating. Naccash implied that amidst Lebanon’s economic breakdown, the idea of “resistance” had been undermined. Unless Hezbollah addressed the country’s economic collapse, he continued, as well as the political class’s corruption, and clarified how the Beirut Port explosion occurred in August 2020, the effectiveness of the resistance would be damaged.
Anyone living in Lebanon would agree with Naccash. Poverty in the country is so widespread, public discontent so profound, that it seems inconceivable that Hezbollah would risk a confrontation with Israel today. There is no question that Israel would engage in massive retaliation, destroying villages, urban areas, and economic targets. The Shi‘a community in particular would face harrowing displacement, with perhaps upwards of a million people seeking shelter in relatively safer areas. Once the war would end, there would be little outside financial assistance to rebuild the country, and even less so the ravaged towns and quarters in Shi‘a areas. Resentment against Hezbollah would rise dramatically across Lebanon, creating a backlash that the party would struggle to contain.
There are Hezbollah foes who fantasize about such an outcome. The problem is that the devastation and suffering in Lebanon would be so intense and pervasive that the country would very possibly not recover, creating a new catastrophe on the Mediterranean. The implications for regional stability cannot be underestimated. More seriously for Iran and Russia, Lebanon’s disintegration would accelerate that of Syria, where both countries have invested lives and money for years to preserve President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.
That was why Naccash’s comments were not merely a warning to Hezbollah, but were directed also, as he made clear, at the “resistance axis” in general. However, what are the chances that Hezbollah will actually listen to him? If its behavior in recent months is any indicator, the party seems to be trapped by two contradictory priorities, limiting its ability to engage with what Naccash said.
It has been obvious in recent months that Hezbollah has been unwilling to compel its allies Lebanese President Michel Aoun and his son in law Gebran Bassil to facilitate the formation of a new government under prime minister-designate Saad al-Hariri. Yet all the signs are that Hezbollah wants a government, for two reasons: Shi‘a discontent is rising as the economic crisis worsens under a caretaker government and as the value of the Lebanese pound tumbles; and the party’s ability to maintain security, even in areas it controls, is deteriorating. Crime is rising in Beirut’s southern suburbs, where the party dominates, while clashes between unruly tribal clans seem to be a weekly occurrence. Hezbollah has no solution for these problems.
At the same time, the regional context makes Hezbollah wary of taking steps domestically that may alienate its allies. Hezbollah’s reluctance to force Bassil and Aoun to end their obstruction of the government is based on a fear that if the regional situation deteriorates between Iran, on the one side, and Israel and the United States, on the other, a war with Israel may be inevitable. Hezbollah, therefore, needs to maintain its alliances to avoid being isolated and to retain the legitimizing sanction of Lebanon’s president.
Naccash’s warning remains valid: By failing to resolve its dilemma, Hezbollah is accelerating the degradation of the socioeconomic situation and making the very idea of “resistance” no longer meaningful. Therefore, the party either risks failing to fulfill its contract with Iran, or if it does go to war with Israel, it may ultimately provoke a domestic reaction that poses an existential threat to Hezbollah. Sometimes it merits listening to those who wish you well.

Another battle to fight: Lebanon's environmental disaster
Rim Khamis/Al Arabiya English/March 03/2021
Lebanon saw tar wash up on its beaches in the southern part of its coastline over a week ago, as the Mediterranean currents pushed an oil spill that struck Israel days earlier, up the coast. The immediate impact will affect two marine reserves, and puts the wider environment at risk.
The situation is particularly distressing as the coastline on the southern part of Lebanon, is home to Tyre Beach, one of the “best beaches in the Middle East,” according to National Geographic. Over the years, it has attracted local and international tourists.
Hassan Akbar, Senior Officer oil spill and control from ADNOC onshore, explained to Al Arabiya English that it is essential to understand the source of the spill. This determines the fingerprint of the oil, defining its specific gravity and viscosity which influences how it will behave in the water.
Akbar added that it is also important to address the characteristics of the affected beach: the depth of water; the movement of the current, and types of marine species and marine-based economic activity.
These factors determine the impact and helps find how best to deal with the oil itself and choose the proper equipment for clean-ups.
Lessons learned
A major oil spill washed up Lebanon’s shores in 2006 after Israeli jets bombed the Jiyeh power station. The strike created an environmental disaster, releasing over 30.000 tons of oil into the Mediterranean Sea. With various impacts on human health and its affected maritime ecosystem, it affected the habitats of the endangered green sea turtle, and the logger head sea turtle. George Pantazakos, the Commercial Manager at New Naval Ltd, assisted Lebanon with the oil spill cleanup. He told Al Arabiya English that it is very unlikely traces of the pollutant will be found after the last clean-up project, completed in 2010.
Only 20% of the spilled oil from the Jiyeh power station attack that reached the shoreline was recovered, with the impact of the remaining spilled oil unknown. Pantazakos explained that it is known from previous spills that with time: part of the oil evaporates; a part burns; some disperses naturally or diluted; with some biodegraded, and a final quantity oxidized. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the estimated cost of clean-up efforts after the 2006 spill, up to 2007, exceeded $ 1,835,500.
A surfer cleans his tar covered surfboard from an oil spill in the
Costs to marine the marine environment
Thouraya Dabbagh, a veterinary doctor, and owner of "the Vet" clinic in Beirut, told Al-Arabiya English that Lebanon had a rich marine life, and is home to a range of species, including fish, sea turtles, octopuses, shellfish, and marine birds. The area is also a pathway for migratory fish, such as sardines.
She explained that oil spills affect each species differently, whether living in the sea or in contact with the water surfaces. For instance, seabirds, coming into contact with the sticky petroleum substance floating on the surfaces, get trapped. The oil sticks to their feathers, offsetting their ability to resist water and conserve heat, leading to hypothermia and potential death.
Fish, shrimp, octopus and other edible marine creatures are also contaminated. This then has an indirect impact on human health after the consumption of seafood.
Dr Dabbagh added that the sea turtles could be misled to think that the oil is a nutrient. Once consumed, it leads to their intoxication and even possibly death. In this context, it is essential to highlight that the Tyre marine reserves are home to two species of endangered sea turtles listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Resources (IUCN). Turtles lay their eggs on the sand, and any foreign chemical present affects their natural habitat and their ability to reproduce.
Moving forward
Already struggling with social, economic and health crises, Lebanon now has to deal with this environmental disaster. “Prompt response could minimize the impact,” Akbar, explained. He added that control and protection measures should be implemented if there is oil in the sea to stop more tar from reaching the shore. Akbar said that once tar deposits on the coastline, it was necessary to act quickly and assure the severe cleaning of the area to mitigate unwanted impacts and protect the beach reserve's unique ecosystem. He also suggested that authorities should consider banning fishing, and selling, and purchasing seashells, because they are particularly prone to exposure from oil spills. Lebanon has limited resources to deal with this issue. The help of non-profit organizations and donor countries seems inevitable. The Israeli ministry of health decided to bar the sale of seafood originating from the Mediterranean Sea, with the decision going immediately going into effect. “Every sea nation should always be ready to respond to an oil spill,” Pantazakos said. “Stakeholders, private and governmental coastal and offshore facilities should have all the necessary means and preparedness systems in place to respond effectively to a spill.” Pantazakos suggested that, ideally, neighboring countries could develop mutual aid agreements, or bilateral or regional agreements for oil and chemical spills, to contain the damage.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 03-04/2021

Biden sets up joint US-Israel, US-Gulf teams for Iranian nuclear talks
DebkaFiles/March 03/2021
US President Joe Biden has launched meticulous, wide-ranging preparations as the groundwork for renewed nuclear talks with Iran. Tehran is meanwhile keeping up its military momentum.
Foreign Minister Gaby Ashkenazi said on Tuesday, March 2, that Israel and the US had agreed that neither would act on the nuclear issue without notifying the other. He added that the Americans had shown no signs of rushing into an agreement with Iran and he hoped this would not happen. The minister made those remarks in a briefing by Zoom to Israel’s diplomatic envoys in East Asia and the Pacific after he had conducted a “good conversation” with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
DEBKAfile’s Jerusalem sources were surprised by Ashkenazi’s reassuring tone in comments presumably intended for Asian governments. In the first place, they report, neither the US nor Israel has so far guaranteed not to land surprises on the other’s head. Secondly, Ashkenazi’s calm assurance was premature, since US-Iranian nuclear talks have not even begun or got beyond the preliminary stage of reciprocal feelers. As to his confidence that the Americans were not rushing into a deal, the Biden administration is in fact making the running, while Tehran holds back and keeps on raising the price for new nuclear talks.
The foreign minister’s briefing was therefore wide of the real picture on the interaction between Washington and Jerusalem on how to approach the active Iranian nuclear program. So far, they have only agreed to set up a joint team of US and Israeli nuclear arms experts to set out a detailed roadmap for a US-Iranian accord. That roadmap will be determined at the highest level, possibly even by President Biden or Secretary Blinken in Washington and by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
The Israeli team is to be led by National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat and consist of officials drawn from the security services and the national atomic energy agency. None from the foreign ministry.
This mechanism is roughly a replica of the one operating under the Obama administration alongside the nuclear accord reached in 2015. It was used by President Obama to hide from Israel some of the deals he was striking with Tehran, knowing they would raise strong objections. Israel used its intelligence agencies to get hold of those secrets and confront Obama with awkward questions about the extent of his concessions to Tehran.
At present, the Biden administration is also planning to set up a US-Saudi team, possibly joined by the United Arab Emirates, that would offer the Gulf governments a chance to voice their reservations on US policy and advance their own proposals.
Biden is therefore engaged in far-reaching, weighty preparations for prospective negotiations aimed ultimately to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb. Like Israel, the Saudis and Emiratis are far from being confident about this outcome. The are not happy with Biden’s appointment of Rob Malley as his special envoy for Iran. Malley headed the team preparing the first nuclear deal in 2015. He was always cold to Israel and the Gulf nations and advocated watering down Washington’s strategic ties with both. Biden has just given him a deputy: Richard Nephew, who is a noted American expert on nuclear weapons and sanctions. Nephew is a familiar figure in the Gulf and Jerusalem and his practical expertise is meant to complement Malley’s diplomatic bent and offset the effect in the region of the Malley appointment. Biden’s painstaking, measured steps toward dialogue with Iran have been accompanied by sound and fury on the ground. On Sunday, March 2, Iran-backed Shiite militias fired 10 rockets into the big US Ain al-Assad air base in western Iraq, retaliation for the US air strike against a compound of the Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada mititias on the Syrian side of the Iraqi border on Feb. 26. On the same day, Iranian rockets blasted two holes in the Israel cargo ship MV Helios Ray in the Gulf of Oman. Tehran and its Revolutionary Guards are expected to keep up the military pressure, while avoiding a full-blown confrontation that might scuttle the prospects of profitable diplomacy.


US civilian contractor dead after rocket attack on Iraq's Al Asad military base
Robert Tollast and Mina Aldroubi/The National/March 03/2021
The base is repeatedly targeted by Iran-backed militias in Iraq
One person died after a rocket attack on Al Asad military base in western Iraq, which houses international forces, on Wednesday, the Pentagon said. The US civilian contractor suffered a cardiac arrest "while sheltering" from the attack, and despite being treated at the scene, died, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said. Similar attacks in the past were conducted by Iraqi militias aligned to Iran, but the US is yet to assign blame for Wednesday's incident. "Iraqi security forces are on scene and investigating," Mr Kirby said. "We cannot attribute responsibility at this time, and we do not have a complete picture of the extent of the damage. We stand by as needed to assist our Iraqi partners as they investigate."Col Wayne Marotto, spokesman for the coalition fighting ISIS, said 10 rockets hit Al Asad base about 7.20am local time. The rockets were launched eight kilometres from the base in Anbar province, a Baghdad Operations Command official told Reuters. Later, the Iraqi military released a statement saying the attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch site.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi condemned the attacks.
"They are carried out by groups that have no true affiliation to Iraq, harming the progress the country has achieved," Mr Al Kadhimi said. He said 60 per cent of coalition forces had left Iraq as a result of dialogue and not violence.
"We are proceeding with dialogue in accordance with Iraq's priorities to agree on a timetable for the departure of forces, and to agree on mechanisms that provide the training, support and advice of our security forces," Mr Al Kadhimi said. Images on social media, which could not immediately be verified, showed Iraqi security forces at the scene of a burnt out truck with what appeared to be improvised rocket launchers attached to the roof. The coalition's Joint Operations Command said Grad rockets were used. These are larger than those used in the February 15 attack on a US facility near Erbil International Airport, in northern Iraq, which killed a contractor. The use of larger rockets suggests the group responsible had the intent to kill, unlike some attacks in the past that were more politically symbolic. A leader in a Sunni tribal force in Baghdadi, a village not far from the base, said the rockets were fired from the Al Bayadir agricultural area. Sabreen news website, thought to be linked to Iran-backed paramilitary group Asaib Ahl Al Haq, claimed that injured US personnel were moved from the site. The website also said that Arash 4 rockets were fired – a version of the Grad made in Iran. This is the second rocket attack in Iraq in just over a fortnight and comes two days before Pope Francis is due to visit the country. Erbil attack: Iran-made rockets point to brazen militia raid in Kurdish territory.

Last week – in retaliation for the February 15 Erbil attack – the US struck Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border. This stoked fears of a possible repeat of last year's tit-for-tat attacks. These included the US air strike that killed Iranian Maj Gen Qassem Suleimani outside Baghdad International Airport. The sprawling Al Asad facility has been targeted by Iran-backed groups on a number of occasions. Iran also hit the base with a missile attack last year, in retaliation for the assassination of Suleimani. This week, US Central Command released new footage of that attack, in which 11 ballistic missiles launched from Iran hit the base. Dozens of soldiers suffered what the US military described as "traumatic brain injuries" that required treatment overseas. No US soldiers were killed in the attack, which caused heavy damage to the base. Rocket salvos are a favoured method of attack by Iraqi militias linked to Iran. Most of these groups fall under the banner of the Popular Mobilisation Forces, a state-linked force formed in 2014 to fight ISIS.
British ambassador to Iraq Stephen Hickey condemned Wednesday's attack. A small number of British soldiers are stationed at the Al Asad base, training Iraqi security forces. "Strongly condemn the rocket attacks on the global coalition base at Al Asad this morning. Coalition forces are in Iraq to fight Daesh at the invitation of the Iraqi government. These terrorist attacks undermine the fight against Daesh and destabilise Iraq," Mr Hickey said on Twitter. There was no immediate response from the US government, beyond statements from its military. This incident is likely to place more pressure on President Joe Biden's administration to get tough with Iran-backed groups.


10 Rockets Hit Iraq Base Hosting U.S. Troops
Agence France Presse/March 03/2021
At least 10 rockets hit a military base in western Iraq hosting US-led coalition troops on Wednesday, security sources said, two days before Pope Francis's historic visit to the country. The attack on the sprawling Ain al-Assad base in Iraq's western desert is the fourth time in less than three weeks that rockets hit a Western installation in the country. Ain al-Assad hosts both Iraqi forces and troops from the US-led coalition helping fight remnants of the Islamic State group -- as well as the unmanned drones they use to surveil jihadist sleeper cells. Coalition spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto confirmed that 10 rockets hit the base at 7:20 am (0420 GMT), but did not provide details on any casualties. Iraqi security forces said they had found the platform from which 10 "Grad-type rockets" hit the Ain al-Assad base, saying there were "no notable casualties". Western security sources told AFP the rockets were Iranian-made Arash models, which are 122mm artillery rockets and heavier than those seen in similar attacks. Dozens of rocket attacks and roadside bombs targeted Western security, military and diplomatic sites in Iraq in 2020, with Iraqi and Western officials blaming hardline pro-Iran factions. They came to a near-complete halt in October following a truce with the hardliners, but they have resumed at a quickening pace over the past three weeks. In mid-February, rockets targeted US-led coalition troops in the Kurdish regional capital Arbil, killing two people. Days later, more rockets hit a US military contracting company working north of the capital and the US embassy in Baghdad.
Boiling tensions
The US responded on February 26 with a US air strike on Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary force stationed along the Iraqi-Syrian border. Washington says it struck on the Syrian side of the border but Kataeb said one of its fighters who was killed in the bombardment was protecting "Iraqi territory". Analysts have pointed to both domestic and international reasons for the sudden rise in tensions. Hardline Iraqi groups have an interest in ramping up the pressure on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi following his pledges to rein in rogue militias. They may also carry a message from Tehran to Washington, which under US President Joe Biden is offering to revive the Iran nuclear deal which his predecessor Donald Trump abandoned in 2018. Iran is demanding the US lift sanctions immediately, while the US wants Iran to move first by returning to previous nuclear commitments. Despite the escalation in recent weeks, Pope Francis appears determined to go ahead on Friday with the first-ever papal visit to Iraq. While he is not set to be in the country's west, he will spend time in Baghdad and Arbil, both hit by rocket attacks last month.  Iraq is simultaneously gripped by a second wave of the coronavirus, which is seeing more than 4,500 new cases a day in the country of 40 million.  To stem the spread and control the crowds during the Pope's visit, Iraq is set to extend its weekend lockdowns to include the entirety of the papal visit from March 5-8.

Iran-made rockets target airbase in Iraq hosting US troops
The Arab Weekly/March 03/2021
At least 10 rockets targeted a military base in western Iraq that hosts US-led coalition troops on Wednesday, the coalition and the Iraqi military said.
“One civilian contractor died of a heart attack during the attack,” a high-level security source told AFP, adding that he could not confirm the contractor’s nationality. The Ain al-Assad base hosts Iraqi forces as well as troops from the US-led coalition helping Iraq fight remnants of ISIS.
Iraqi security forces said 10 “Grad-type rockets” hit the sprawling Ain al-Assad base on Wednesday morning, but said there were “no notable casualties.”Western security sources told AFP that the rockets were Iranian-made Arash models, which are 122mm artillery rockets and heavier than those seen in other attacks on Western targets in Iraq. The rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province at 7:20am, spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said. Later, the Iraqi military released a statement saying the attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the missiles. An Iraqi military official said they had been found in the al-Baghdadi area of Anbar, speaking on condition of anonymity. It was the first attack since the US struck Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border last week that killed one militiaman, stoking fears of a possible repeat of a series of tit-for-tat attacks that escalated last year, culminating in the US-directed drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani outside the Baghdad airport.
Wednesday’s attack targeted the same base where Iran struck with a barrage of missiles in January last year in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. Dozens of US service members were injured, suffering concussions in that strike. Wednesday’s attack comes two days before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq in a much anticipated trip that will include Baghdad, southern Iraq and in the northern city of Erbil. Francis was quick to say he will go ahead with the first-ever papal visit to the war-scarred country so as not to “disappoint” the Iraqi people. “The day after tomorrow, God willing, I will go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage,” the 84-year-old pontiff said in his Wednesday address. “For a long time I have wanted to meet these people who have suffered so much.” Last week’s US strike along the border had been in response to a spate of rocket attacks that targeted the American presence, including one that killed a coalition contractor from the Philippines outside the Erbil airport. After that attack, the Pentagon said the strike was a “proportionate military response” taken after consulting coalition partners. Marotto said the Iraqi security forces were leading an investigation into the attack on Ain al-Asad. US troops in Iraq significantly decreased their presence in the country last year under the administration of then US President Donald Trump. The forces withdrew from several Iraqi based across the country to consolidate chiefly in Ain al-Asad and Baghad. Frequent rocket attacks targeting the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the US Embassy, during Trump’s time in office frustrated the administration, leading to threats of embassy closure and escalatory strikes.


Israeli defence chief sees 'special security arrangement' with Gulf states
Dan Williams/KEREM SHALOM, Israel -Reuters/March 03/2021
Israel’s defence minister said on Tuesday it intends to develop a “special security arrangement” with new Gulf Arab allies, who share common concerns about Iran.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain established formal relations with Israel last year. As part of their U.S.-backed rapprochement, Israel and the UAE have proposed defence and military cooperation. The UAE’s first ambassador to Israel met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, a day after taking up his post. On a visit to an Israel-Gaza border crossing, Defence Minister Benny Gantz played down a report by public radio Kan that Israel was considering a defence agreement with Gulf Arab countries, but said security ties would be pursued. “I don’t think it’s going to be a defence pact but we are going to develop defence relations with every country that we have relations with,” Gantz told Reuters. “We have this process of setting up (a) special security arrangement, and within this arrangement we can continue and develop our relations,” he said. Gantz declined to go into details on what such an arrangement would entail. He signalled that Israel had no opposition to the sale, approved during former U.S. President Donald Trump’s last days in office, of 50 Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth jets to the UAE. The deal is now under review by U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration.

France, allies to push on with protest at IAEA over Iran's activities: foreign minister
John Irish/PARIS (Reuters)/March 03/2021
- France and its Western allies plan to lodge a protest with the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog to criticise Iran’s decision to curb cooperation with the agency, the French foreign minister said on Tuesday.
Iran said last month it was scaling back cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, ending extra inspection and monitoring measures introduced by the 2015 nuclear deal, including the power given to the IAEA to carry out snap inspections at facilities not declared by Iran. “The nuclear tensions will lead us in the coming days to put forward a protest in the framework of the IAEA Board of Governors to regret this decision,” Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing. Britain, France and Germany - all parties to the deal with Iran - on Monday circulated a draft resolution backed by the United States for the Vienna meeting voicing “serious concern” at Iran’s reduced cooperation and urging Iran to reverse its steps. Iran has bristled at the prospect of such criticism, threatening to cancel a deal struck a week ago with the IAEA to temporarily continue many of the monitoring measures it had decided to end - a black-box-type arrangement valid for up to three months and aimed at creating a window for diplomacy. A vote on the resolution is due by the end of the week. The IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors is holding a quarterly meeting this week against the backdrop of faltering efforts to revive Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers now that U.S. President Joe Biden is in office. Diplomacy, however, is making limited progress. Iran said on Sunday it would not take up a European Union proposal to hold a meeting with other parties to the deal and the United States. “The situation is complicated,” Le Drian said. “The problem is to know who goes first and nobody wants to be trapped. The fact that the Iranians suspended the Additional Protocol is not good news,” he said, referring to Iran’s move last month to curb IAEA inspections.
Reporting by John Irish; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Angus MacSwan

US to focus on ‘future’ in recalibrating relations with Riyadh
The Arab Weekly/March 03/2021
WASHINGTON – The United States is focused on the “future conduct” of Saudi Arabia and will expect Riyadh to improve its human rights record, a US spokesman said on Monday, after Washington imposed sanctions on some Saudis for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The United States on Friday declassified a report that said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz approved an operation in 2018 to capture or kill Khashoggi and issued some sanctions against Saudi nationals and entities. Crown Prince Mohammed has denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s killing, for which eight people were jailed in Saudi Arabia last year, but has said he bears ultimate responsibility because it happened on his watch. “We are very focused on future conduct and that is part of why we have cast this not as a rupture, but as a recalibration” of US-Saudi relations, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing. The United States welcomed the recent release of two human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, Price said, but asked Riyadh to do more by lifting the travel ban on them. “We are urging Saudi Arabia to take additional steps to lift travel bans on those released, to commute sentences and resolve cases such as those women’s rights activists and others,” he said. Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post critical of Saudi policies, was killed in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. On Friday, the United States singled out the Rapid Intervention Force, or RIF, a unit of the Saudi royal guard that has engaged in counter dissident operations. It also issued visa bans on 76 Saudis. Price said he could not disclose the names of the 76 people. The United States has urged Saudi Arabia to disband the RIF, Price added.
‘Case closed!’
Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador on Monday disputed the US intelligence report, saying in a tweet: “Let us all move forward to tackle the serious business of world issues!!”Abdallah al-Mouallimi said the newly declassified Central Intelligence Agency report “is based on could’ve, should’ve and would’ve and does not rise to anywhere close to proving the accusation beyond reasonable doubt.”The intelligence officials stopped short of saying the Saudi crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s murder and in the four-page document, they described him as having “absolute control” over the kingdom’s intelligence organisations and said it would have been highly unlikely for an operation like the killing to have been carried out without his approval. Mouallimi said in a series of tweets that “the Prince courageously accepted moral responsibility, presented the accused to the justice system, and pledged to reform the intelligence organisations. Case closed!”
In his tweets, Mouallimi also rebutted the CIA finding that the 35-year-old crown prince “must’ve known because he controls the intelligence system.”
“If this is a valid argument why weren’t the (U.S.) President, Vice President, and the Secretary of Defense held accountable for the Abu Ghraib crimes?,” he asked, referring to the Iraqi prison where photos became public in 2004 showing US soldiers abusing detainees. The Saudi ambassador also dismissed a claim that the prince “is ‘obsessed’ with capturing Saudi dissidents and bringing them home,” saying “some dissidents … have been living comfortably abroad and still do, courtesy of foreign intelligence.”

UN Advance Team Arrives in Libya to Monitor Ceasefire
Agence France Presse/March 03/2021
The advance team of a UN observer mission has arrived in Libya, which after a decade of conflict and chaos plans to hold elections in December, informed sources said Wednesday. The group of about 10 United Nations staff flew into the capital Tripoli on Tuesday, they said, to monitor a ceasefire between the country's two rival armed factions. The unarmed observer team is also tasked with verifying the departure of thousands of mercenaries and foreign fighters who have been deployed in the oil-rich North African country and have so far shown no sign of leaving. Libya was thrown into years of violent turmoil after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and led to the killing of long-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi. The country has been split between the UN-recognised Government of National Accord, based in the capital and backed by Turkey, and an administration in the east supported by strongman Kalifa Haftar, with the backing of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia. The two sides reached a ceasefire in October, and UN-led talks since resulted in a new temporary administration elected in February, led by interim prime minister-designate Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.
A diplomatic source in Tunis said the advance team, made up from the UN mission in Libya and experts from UN headquarters in New York, arrived Tuesday via the neighbouring country's capital Tunis. On its five-week mission it is to travel to Sirte, a city on the Mediterranean coast halfway between the eastern and western power centres, as well as to Misrata in the west and Benghazi in the east. A diplomatic source in New York said the team is due to submit a report to the UN Security Council on March 19 on the ceasefire and the departure of foreign troops. According to the UN, some 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters were still in Libya in early December. A January 23 deadline for their withdrawal passed without any signs of them pulling out. The Security Council in early February ordered UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to deploy the vanguard of observers in Libya, following the October 23 ceasefire deal. In a report late last year, Guterres himself had advocated an unarmed observer group be made up of civilians and retired military personnel from African Union, European Union and Arab League member states.

Kuwait's new gov't takes oath
NNA/March 03/2021
The new Kuwaiti government took the constitutional oath on Wednesday before the country's emir, the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported. During the oath, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said that the new government has huge responsibilities and need to start its work with the spirit of one team, calling on the executive and legislative authorities of the country to cooperate in addressing the fundamental issues. The Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah said in his speech that the government will follow emir's directives and advice to put a road map for their work to serve Kuwait and its citizens. "We will work as one team and make every effort to achieve the advancement, progress, and prosperity of our country under the leadership of your Highness and His Highness the Crown Prince," he added. On Tuesday, the emir issued a decree forming the new government under Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. Hamad Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah was appointed as defense minister, Abdullah Youssef Abdurrahman Al-Roumi as justice minister, and Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah as foreign minister, KUNA said. On Jan. 24, the emir appointed Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah as prime minister and assigned him to form a government. Enditem -- Xinhua


The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 03-04/2021

Language and race are precious tools in Erdogan’s imperial project
Haitham El-Zobaidi/The Arab Weekly/March 03/2021
If you happen to have lived in the city of Kirkuk in the late seventies and early eighties, you would have realised the type of anxiety that has been driving the Turkmen population since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the modern Iraqi state.
This is a small but quite influential ethnic minority that speaks Turkish and is ethnically Turkic. Its importance exceeds the number of community members spread all over Kirkuk and the towns and villages close to it.
This minority has long lived with its hatred of the Kurds and its fear of Baghdad, but has defended its well-deserved presence in the city of Kirkuk and insisted on preserving its language and Turkish connections.
Its concentrated presence in a major city such as Kirkuk has not helped it much. It has instead led to it being targeting by others, from the Kirkuk massacre of 1959 to the referendum of 2017.
The presumptive Turkish protector has warned against that for a long time. But all the fears of the Turkmen have come true. Here, the minority has been caught between Kurdish pressure and infiltration by Arabs from the south since the seventies, and the central government’s keenness to keep matters between it and the Kurds over Kirkuk in limbo without looking carefully at what all this means for the Turkmen, or even the Kurds, who assert that historical Kirkuk is theirs and that they themselves are victims of displacement.
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan knows what it means for the Turkmen to hold on to their Iraqi identity and their ethnically Turkic connections. He is too smart to miss an opportunity like this. National sentiment and linguistic affinity are two obvious weapons that cannot be overlooked. The simple case of Kirkuk is just an example. Erdogan’s project is broader and more sophisticated. The Turkish president has provided it with a lot of material backing. But he is now investing in its immaterial dimension.
He believes that time has come to re-establish a Turkish empire with new specifications; that is a virtual empire based on a web of interests and connections tied to established and influential countries or with states waiting for his support.
Erdogan does not need to go back too far in history. He needs only to look at a particular chapter in the early 1990s to learn from a strategic mistake made by the late Turkish President Turgut Ozal. When the Soviet Union collapsed, a collection of countries that stretched from the borders of China to the edges of Turkey was out looking for a spiritual father.
Turkey was ideally positioned to offer its parental lineage, but it was in a European frame of mind and missed the opportunity to establish its own sphere of influence. Now Erdogan is more than ready. He has paved the way for this, both politically and economically. He prepared the ideological setting for the project by endorsing a mix of Turkish nationalism and political Islam. He backed his position with the input of a Turkish economy that had been on the rise for decades, until it drifted into a cycle of borrowing and imprudent moves engineered by the likes of his in-law, former Finance Minister Berat Albayrak.
What politics, ideology and the economy could not provide was left for the intelligence services or the army to offer. The country’s intelligence apparatus has been operating without interruption since the time of the Seljuk state, some 900 years ago, while its army sees itself as an extension of the Janissaries. There remain two things that Erdogan recently picked up: the Turkish language / Turkic nationalism and the ideological spin over Turkish power. The Turks tell you they went to Misrata to protect ethnic Turks. The inhabitants there are Libyan citizens with Turkish affinities. After Turkey stood by them, it gained a foothold in North Africa.
The people of Misrata do not speak Turkish. But Turkish affinity is palpable, and it has increased even more with the unreserved support extended to them by Erdogan. They also went to Azerbaijan. Azeris are Turks’ heart and soul. But they are Shias, which suggests that they would normally be closer to Iran.
Erdogan realised the importance of race and language and the primordial role of these factors, as they take precedent over sectarian affiliation. He intervened with his drones and experts and settled the war with Armenia while Iran indulged in fence sitting.
Now is the time to revive the Turkish imperial project. Take the first example: Erdogan is now talking openly about “the Turkish world.” He means a world that is Turkish, ethnically and linguistically.
Without hesitation, he told the Azeri prime minister, “The Turkish world has shown the importance of solidarity, cooperation and joint action, at all levels, from the Karabakh Heights war, to the coronavirus pandemic stage, to diplomacy and defence, to health, agriculture, tourism and energy.”
He launched a campaign titled “Turkish is a global language” to commemorate Turkish poet Yunus Emre’s legacy. The language, according to the Turks, “is the one that guards the homeland first, then the army.”
It was noteworthy to hear him refer to the army in an event that was supposed to celebrate language and poetry. It was also noteworthy that he was speaking to young people and inviting them to restore their Ottoman Turkish heritage. He told them: Learn to read gravestones because they are written in an alphabet that has been replaced, and do not heed the too many English and French terms thrust into the Turkish language.
He then thanked the representatives of Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia to the UNESCO for their support for Emre’s project and his world year. He was hinting that he intends to thank more countries soon. Ideological narratives require remembrance of past victories. The Turkish army is now in a strong position after achieving victories in Libya and Azerbaijan. But its spirits must be lifted considering its faltering war against the Kurds.
So, there is Erdogan’s recollection of Janissary history. He found there the almost mythical character of the godfather of the Janissaries, Haji Bektash Veli, who lived 750 years ago. Erdogan brought him back from the history books and devoted a special year to him.
The Bektashiyya was part of the ideological organisation of the Janissary army, which was the backbone of the Ottoman army and the striking force in the hands of the sultans. This Sufi order was key to the recruitment of the Janissaries from different races and from a predominantly Christian background. The sultans used it very efficiently, and it became one of the most important roles played by Sufi orders in the organisation of the Ottoman Empire. Erdogan did not lose sight of the fact that Haji Bektash Veli was born in Nishapur in the Khwarazmian empire. To Azerbaijan, he was saying Turkish connections are present, as well as Alawite lineage.
This connection is important when it comes to a sheikh of the Sufi order, who recruits Christian children in the Balkans and integrates them into battalions of Janissaries. Haji Bektash Veli has become an identity.
Erdogan wants to complete the rosary of his empire. This is a historic opportunity for him that cannot be lost. He has withdrawn from the European project. He has bequeathed influence in Europe to millions of Turkish residents and naturalised expatriates, and to hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have been influenced by his thought and method, whether because they are Muslim Brotherhood members or just people looking for a hero. Time has come for the Asian Caucasian connection to take shape.
No one knows if Erdogan has looked at the rise and fall of the Nasserite project. But there are for sure Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members who could advise him to learn about Gamal Abdel Nasser’s experience — his nationalism and early success, and then the accumulation of mistakes in domestic, regional and global policies, leading to defeat and collapse.
Erdogan makes many mistakes, but he learns quickly from them and adapts fast. Kirkuk and Turkmenistan are important, and Misrata and the origins of their children are even more important. But Erdogan’s map is much broader.

Begum’s case is an exceptional warning for future radicals

Dunia El-Zobaidi/The Arab Weekly/March 03/2021
The case of Shamima Begum, a British-born woman who joined ISIS as a teenager and now wants to return to the UK, has been widely dissected and debated over the last two years, drawing sympathy from some and reminders about human rights from others.
The media, the government, legal experts and the general public have considered Begum’s situation from nearly every angle during this time, bringing up extenuating factors such as her age, gender and background. But despite significant efforts to give Begum the benefit of the doubt, she has been left with the same result – legal limbo. Begum, 21, travelled to Syria to join ISIS when she was just 15, resulting in her citizenship being revoked and her being banned from the UK. The case sparked extensive media debate and her appeal to return to the UK was eventually rejected by the Supreme Court. Her lawyers argue that she cannot freely participate in the case to have her citizenship returned due to her exceptionally dangerous situation. Other people banned from the UK have participated in their cases from overseas, but the camp she is being held in in Syria will not allow her lawyers to visit. Her case is now paused until she is able to participate, which is unlikely to happen. Begum claims to want forgiveness from the UK, for which she has garnered significant public sympathy. But would she be asking for forgiveness if ISIS was still as powerful as it was when she joined?
Begum could indeed be an innocent victim of radicalisation, especially considering that she was only fifteen when she travelled to Syria. However, fifteen-year-olds can be punished for crimes they commit within the UK, so her age is not the only factor to consider. We may never know the answers to our concerns about this case.
What we do know is that there are factors that led to the making of Begum’s demise. It could be related to her gender — perhaps she was a young girl susceptible to the manipulation of a man, much like other girls have been vulnerable to non-Islamic related predators. Her social class could also have been a factor. But with cases related to Islamic extremism, factors such as fundamentalism and identity crises should not continue to be shied away from. It should be considered acceptable to criticise Muslims, like those of any other race or religion. Such criticism should have no bearing on attitudes regarding Islam as a faith. Begum has lost her rights as a Westerner and all the luxuries that go with it. She has lost all of the privileges most people in her parents’ native Bangladesh would dream of. She did not appreciate it. If she had committed a crime that does not pose a threat to national security, she would have been tried as fairly as any British national. The problem is that a lot of Muslim immigrants have failed to integrate into British society, snubbing the benefits of living in a multi-cultural country and failing to see the advantages that different cultures can offer. They cannot see how lucky they are to be able to choose the best of both worlds. Begum’s case is exceptional in that she is unable to reach her lawyers. This should serve as a warning to future radicals — that in their pursuit, they risk losing one of their most basic British human rights, the right to a free and fair trial. However, in another way Begum’s case is not exceptional — many youth have been radicalised before her and many will be radicalised after her.

How Democracy Dies: Big Tech Becomes Big Brother
Leni Friedman Valenta with Dr. Jiri Valenta/Gatestone Institute/March 03/2021
The power-sharing of the U.S. Federal government with Big Tech appears a recipe for unharnessed power and corruption. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny caught on right away, saying: "This precedent will be exploited by the enemies of freedom of speech around the world. In Russia as well. Every time when they need to silence someone, they will say: 'this is just common practice, even Trump got blocked on Twitter.'"
Fortunately, governors such as Ron DeSantis in Florida, Greg Abbott in Texas and Kevin Stitt in Oklahoma are now moving legislatively to counter federal laws that may have adverse effects on freedom of speech, jobs, election integrity, the energy industry, the first or second amendments and general constitutional rights.
Democracy cannot survive in a country where a few technocrats and oligarchs can choose to deny access to information or platforms to candidates running for office. It is simply unacceptable that they alone -- unelected, unappointed, untransparent and unaccountable -- can deem what is "harmful" to society. The job now for all of us is to prevent the United States from slowly becoming a full-blown tyranny.
"Digital giants have been playing an increasingly significant role in wider society... how well does this monopolism correlate with the public interest?," Russian President Vladimir Putin said on January 27, 2021.
"Where is the distinction between successful global businesses, sought-after services and big data consolidation on the one hand, and the efforts to rule society[...] by substituting legitimate democratic institutions, by restricting the natural right for people to decide how to live and what view to express freely on the other hand?"
Was Mr. Putin defending democracy? Hardly. What apparently worries him is that the Big Tech might gain the power to control society at the expense of his government. What must be a nightmare for him -- as for many Americans -- is that the Tech giants were able to censor news favorable to Trump and then censor Trump himself. How could the U.S. do this to the president of a great and free country?
Putin made these comments at the Davos World Economic Forum, in which he and Chinese President Xi Jinping, sped on by the "Great Reset" of a fourth industrial revolution, used enlightened phrases to mask dark plans for nation states in a globalist New World Order. Thus did Xi caution attendees "to adapt to and guide globalization, cushion its negative impact, and deliver its benefits to all countries and all nations."
In March 2019, Putin signed a law "imposing penalties for Russian internet users caught spread 'fake news' and information that presents 'clear disrespect for society, government, state symbols the constitution and government institutions.'" Punishments got even heavier with new laws in December.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to prison for more than three years (with a year off for time served), in part because he revealed photos of a lavish Russian palace allegedly belonging to Putin on the coast of the Black Sea. Its accouterments supposedly include an $824 toilet brush. Many of the thousands of people protesting Navalny's imprisonment have since been protesting Putin by waving gold-painted toilet brushes.
How nice that American Big Tech companies is pushing democracy in Russia -- even while it is denying it at home. Do you notice how many leaders in Europe have risen to condemn censorship in America even though many in Europe are censoring their citizens as well, and are not exactly fans of the person who was being censored, former President Donald J. Trump? Like Putin, they probably do not want Big Tech competing with their governments, either. The power-sharing of the U.S. Federal government with Big Tech appears a recipe for unharnessed power and corruption. Navalny caught on right away, saying:
"This precedent will be exploited by the enemies of freedom of speech around the world. In Russia as well. Every time when they need to silence someone, they will say: 'this is just common practice, even Trump got blocked on Twitter.'"
What watchdog, if any, is now restraining Big Tech in America? It has become quite clear that Big Tech's censorship may well have cost Trump the election, even if one ultimately finds that election fraud did not.
Big Tech took it upon itself to censor an exposé -- published by the New York Post on October 24, 2020, as well as follow-up exposés -- reporting that Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, had sold his influence to China and Ukraine, and had raked in millions for the family.
The Media Research Center (MRC) found that "One of every six Biden voters we surveyed (17%) said they would have abandoned the Democratic candidate had they known the facts about one or more of these news stories". That information might well have changed the outcome in all six of the swing states Biden reportedly won.
Last August, Twitter also undertook censoring the trailer of an explosive documentary entitled "The Plot Against the President." The film, narrated by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) with commentary by leading members of the Republican Party, exposes leading members of the Democratic Party and their deep state allies, many of whom knowingly used phony evidence to frame President Trump and some in his circle to try convince Americans that he and his campaign had colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 election.
The film claims, using with recently declassified information, that President Barack Obama, as well Hillary Clinton, were involved in an almost four-year attempted coup incomparably more undemocratic than any riot at the Capital Building on January 6.
Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, claimed in August 2020 that Biden also knew of the ongoing efforts to unseat Trump. Nevertheless, Trump did not target them, perhaps to avoid dividing the country even further.
According to the Washington Times, the Twitter account of the movie, which debuted in October 2020, attracted 30,000 followers. Twitter blacklisted it for a day, but after a public uproar, put the popular documentary back. Our question is: How many blacklistings did Twitter not put back?
The January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol was a pivotal event for Trump and the Republican Party. Prior to January 6, President Trump had offered to deploy 10,000 troops to the capitol, according to his former Chief-of-Staff Mark Meadows. The Pentagon and the Department of Justice had also offered help but were also reportedly turned down by the US Capitol Police The problem, apparently, was "optics" -- about a Capitol now surrounded by barbed wire and thousands of troops, which the current Administration now seems to like.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for further details about the event were also rejected -- it is not clear by whom. It is ridiculous, therefore, for anyone to frame the riots, ugly as they were, as a seditious "insurrection," particularly in light of what appears to be a massive security failure that could have averted the violence. One thing is certain: the timing of the event could not have been more perfect for opposition groups, which is probably why it had been planned for weeks before January 6.
What these efforts and the media did achieve was an end to all attempts to ascertain election fraud at a time when Vice President Mike Pence was counting Electoral College ballots, and allowing speeches from those supporting that claim. Some politicians even called for the resignation of Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, and referred them to the ethics committee for even suggesting an election audit of battleground states, despite questions having been asked -- with no objections -- concerning the results of the 2000, 2004 and 2016 presidential elections.
Ultimately, the result of the latest "witch hunt" against President Trump, as it has been called, was a contrived impeachment attempt to bar Trump from a future presidential bid -- a kangaroo court devoid of due process, hearings, witnesses, and evidence. The prosecution, however, was undeniably eloquent in evoking "democracy" for a totally undemocratic procedure that justly resulted in Trump's acquittal.
Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter banned Trump and some of his supporters from their cyber domains. An alternative social media platform, Parler, was banned from the Apple and Google app stores, and then completely closed down by Amazon.
Meanwhile, mainstream social media platforms were reportedly used to rally and organize carry out riots in American cities last year. No one was penalized.
Do not, however, expect such slackness now. According to Fox News:
ple like Obama-era CIA Director John Brennan and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have made various public statements labeling Republicans as extremists -- with Ocasio-Cortez claiming the GOP has 'white supremacist sympathizers' within its ranks, and Brennan claiming 'domestic violent extremists' in the form of far-right supporters of President Trump are more dangerous than Al Qaeda."
Columnist and radio host Jeffrey Kuhner warns that a new bill, H.R. 350, "is the liberals' equivalent of the Patriot Act redux. This time, however, it is not aimed at Islamic jihadists. Rather, it directly targets Trump patriots." Kuhner writes that the bill "has the full backing of the Democratic congressional leadership, the Biden administration... Big Media and Big Tech."
"The bill empowers the Deep State to monitor, surveil and spy on American citizens' social media accounts, phone calls, political meetings and even infiltrate pro-Trump or 'Stop the Steal' rallies.
"Conservatives who are deemed potentially 'seditious' or 'treasonous' can be arrested and jailed, fined and/or lose their employment. The goal is simple: to crush all dissent to the Biden regime."
Moreover, last month the new Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, ordered a "stand down "of the entire military for 60 days, "so each service, each command and each unit can have a deeper conversation about this issue [extremism]." Normally stand downs last only a few hours or days and do not involve the entire military. Austin, in addition, has pledged to "rid our ranks of racists and extremists."
These are words that can be applied to anyone dreamed up, including Trump supporters, and based, of course, on nothing but propaganda.
Austin's plan is therefore needless, divisive and dangerous, considering the foreign dangers now circling their prey. This punishment of the regime's "foes" makes one wonder what is next. Are we already marching in lockstep with Russia and China? The way to unite and strengthen the United States is not through suppression and punishment but through political power with checks and balances, a free press and closer adherence to the Constitution.
But here, again, there seems to be. a problem. The Federalist wrote in July:
"According to a new Quillette survey released last month, 70 percent of self-identifying liberals want to rewrite the U.S. Constitution 'to a new Americans constitution that better reflects our diversity as a people.'"
Oh, so that is what we lack: diversity!
What can Americans Do? We are presently at a tipping point in America. Communist China is working hard and is focused on global domination; we are just messing around. In an increasingly digital world, the war against infringements on our freedoms most probably needs to be fought largely in the digital and cyber-space. That is why ending censorship in both the traditional and social media is such an important priority. First, break up the Big Tech companies. Let them become the utilities they originally claimed to be, or else be liable to lawsuits as other publishers are.
We do take some comfort that whereas dictatorships in authoritarian countries such as China and Russia is vertical -- from the top down -- in America, the central government shares power with the states from the bottom up, and with powers separated: the executive, the judiciary and the legislative. Fortunately, governors such as Ron DeSantis in Florida, Greg Abbott in Texas and Kevin Stitt in Oklahoma are now moving legislatively to counter federal laws that may have adverse effects on freedom of speech, jobs, election integrity, the energy industry, the first or second amendments and general constitutional rights.
This does not speak, however, to the major issue here -- that democracy cannot survive in a country where a few technocrats and oligarchs can choose to deny access to information or platforms to candidates running for office. It is simply unacceptable that they alone -- unelected, unappointed, untransparent and unaccountable -- can deem what is "harmful" to society. The job now for all of us is to prevent the United States from slowly becoming a full-blown tyranny.
*Leni Friedman Valenta is a graduate of Brandeis and Yale (playwriting) and has written articles for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, the Gatestone Institute, Circanada, The National Interest, Aspen Review and other publications. She is married to international expert Dr. Jiri Valenta, a non-resident, senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Their website is valenta-center.com
© 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.

UN Rapporteur: Iran Committed Human Rights Violations in Downing of Ukrainian Airliner

Dylan Gresik/FDD/March 03/2021
Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, announced on February 23 that the Islamic Republic of Iran committed multiple human rights violations related to the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752. Callamard’s official communication to Iran raises allegations of the regime’s apparent disregard for international law and enumerates 26 sets of outstanding questions, further challenging Iran’s official narrative.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down the aircraft on January 8, 2020, killing all 176 innocent civilians aboard, 138 of whom had ties to Canada. Nearly 14 months later, the regime in Iran has yet to publish its final investigative report, as mandated by Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation.
In December 2020, the Canadian government released its own report, which emphasized the significant flaws in Iran’s investigation into the PS752 downing and concluded that the “party responsible for the situation is investigating itself, largely in secret.”
On the first anniversary of the downing, Callamard urged the international community to adopt “urgent measures” to address gaps in safety standards for civil aviation in conflict zones and to ensure “proper investigations should [attacks] occur.”
In a 45-page letter to Iran in December 2020, Callamard said Iran’s investigation into PS752 has “failed to meet international standards.” According to Callamard, the regime committed human rights violations in its failure to take precautions to protect civilians’ right to life; its failure to secure the crash site, resulting in looting and the desecration of human remains; its failure to pursue a prompt, effective, and independent investigation in line with international obligations; and its failure to protect the rights of protestors in the aftermath of the downing.
Like the Canadian report, Callamard’s letter challenges the Islamic Republic’s official narrative, noting that the IRGC’s claim of a misaligned missile battery is factually incorrect. In addition, Tehran’s assertions that the unit misidentified the outgoing aircraft as an incoming U.S. cruise missile, experienced a total communications failure for several crucial seconds, and fired twice without authorization from a central command center are similarly unsubstantiated.
Critically, the letter states that “those within the chain of command, both civilian and military” – including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader and commander in chief of its Armed Forces – must be investigated.
The letter concludes: “The mistakes indicate a reckless, if not criminal, disregard for standard procedures and for the principles of precaution, which should have been implemented to the fullest given the circumstances and the location of the missile unit in the proximity of a civilian airfield.”
Without “an impartial, independent and comprehensive investigation,” Callamard said on February 23, some “may even wonder if that particular flight was targeted deliberately.”
So far, Tehran has shown no indication that it intends to heed Callamard’s words. Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on February 25 that Callamard’s investigation was outside her mandate’s “sphere of activity” and constituted “unwarranted involvement” in the case. Earlier this month, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) revealed a secret audio recording in which a “senior Iranian official” – identified by CBC sources as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif – states that the truth about PS752 “will never be revealed.”
The Biden administration should work with Ukraine and Canada to ensure an independent, international investigation to examine the issue of intentionality, identify all responsible individuals within the regime’s chain of command, and initiate proceedings under the Montreal Convention of 1971, which concerns criminal liability and financial compensation in attacks against civilian aircraft.
Failure to hold the Islamic Republic accountable for its human rights violations risks undermining the safety and security of global civil aviation, an industry critical to U.S. interests.
*Dylan Gresik is a government relations analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where he also contributes to FDD’s Iran Program. For more analysis from Dylan and the Iran Program, please subscribe HERE. Follow Dylan on Twitter @DylanGresik. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_Iran. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan policy institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

House Joins Senate’s Call for Tougher Action Against Erdogan
Aykan Erdemir/FDD/March 03/2021
One hundred seventy U.S. House members released a bipartisan letter Monday urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to address “the troubling human rights abuses taking place under [Turkish] President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.” The letter, which follows last month’s call by 54 U.S. Senators urging President Joe Biden to confront Erdogan over Ankara’s democratic backsliding and hostile behavior, highlights the bipartisan, bicameral congressional support for tougher action against Turkey’s authoritarian government.
These House and Senate letters follow earlier bipartisan initiatives to hold Erdogan accountable for Ankara’s hostile posturing and belligerent rhetoric. In 2018, 66 senators and 154 House members sent letters to Erdogan accusing Ankara of using unjustly detained U.S. nationals and Turkish employees of U.S. consulates as “political pawns.” Monday’s House letter similarly urges Blinken to prioritize the cases of three consular workers targeted with “dubious criminal charges.”
Blinken has already signaled his willingness to hold Erdogan accountable. During his confirmation hearing, 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 purchase of Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system. Blinken reiterated his concerns about the S-400 during a February 15 call with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, urging Turkey “not to retain” the Russian system. Blinken also used the opportunity to emphasize “the importance of democratic institutions, inclusive governance, and respect for human rights.”Blinken’s State Department has followed his lead. On February 3, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price strongly condemned the anti-LGBTI rhetoric of Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu. The next day, Foggy Bottom rejected Soylu’s accusations that the United States was behind a 2016 failed coup attempt in Turkey, 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 called on Ankara to “immediately release” unjustly detained Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala and to resolve the “baseless” charges against former State Department official Henri Barkey “in a just, transparent, and rapid manner.”
The Biden administration’s pressure on Erdogan represents a positive change. Under the previous administration, President Donald Trump’s puzzling rapport with the Turkish president helped shield Erdogan from criticism, particularly concerning Ankara’s human rights violations. Erdogan appears worried about the growing bipartisan sentiment in Washington about his dismal human rights record and transgressions. One day after the publication of Monday’s House letter, Erdogan unveiled a Human Rights Action Plan, promising 393 reform initiatives.
The Biden administration should not be fooled by the Turkish president’s charade. As Erdogan announced his human rights agenda, the Turkish government was busy taking steps to strip 21 pro-Kurdish lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity. Last month, Turkey’s top appeals court fast-tracked the jail sentence of Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, a leading human rights defender and opposition lawmaker, for simply sharing a news article on Twitter almost five years ago. Turkey’s interior minister branded Gergerlioglu as a “terrorist” last December, after the lawmaker exposed wrongdoing by Turkish police.
The Biden administration should take concrete actions to back up its criticism of the Erdogan regime. The State Department’s recently unveiled “Khashoggi Ban,” a new visa-restriction authority targeting individuals who engage in extraterritorial counter-dissident activities on behalf of a foreign government, offers a useful tool to do so. As a Freedom House report released in February shows, Ankara is the world’s leading perpetrator of renditions and transnational repression. The Biden administration should complement those visa restrictions with Global Magnitsky sanctions against Turkey’s most egregious violators of human rights, both within Turkey and without.
*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.

Look Who’s Embracing ‘America First’ Now
Jonathan Schanzer/Mark Dubowitz/FDD/March 03/2021
Countless news outlets have portrayed the nascent Biden administration’s foreign policy as rapidly pivoting away from President Donald Trump‘s much-maligned “America First” approach toward “Americans together” or “America is back,” to name just a few. The implication is that the United States will no longer prioritize its narrowly defined self-interest or pursue merely transactional deals at the expense of the greater good.
Broadly speaking, this explains why the United States is rejoining the World Health Organization (despite evidence of manipulation by the Chinese Community Party) and the United Nations Human Rights Council (despite the litany of human rights abusers that lead it). The eschewing of “America First” also explains Biden’s reticence to leave Afghanistan on a timeline-based withdrawal, his reversal of Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany and his emphasis on stronger transatlantic relationships that were strained by Trump’s overzealous critiques of America’s close European allies.
The reorientation toward regional partners and multilateral organizations to resurrect the rules-based international order is generally a positive development. American leadership is essential for countering China, Russia and other adversaries.
But in the Middle East, the Biden administration is violating its own putative principles and embracing a worldview that can only be described as “America First.” The White House is now angling for a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. While some details are still fuzzy, we can discern for now that the administration is pursuing a narrowly defined nuclear agreement that will involve massive sanctions relief for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Little or nothing will be done to counter Tehran’s deployment of violent proxies to exert control of strategic territories, such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.
America’s allies are once again sounding the alarm—just as they did in the lead-up to the 2015 nuclear deal. They fear that their fate now will be the same as it was then. They will not have a seat at the table while Iran’s role in the region is decided by the United States. To put it another way, they will be sidelined as Washington negotiates a transactional “deal of the century” with their most determined foe.
Admittedly, the Biden administration is engaging with EU officials, the U.K., the Russians and the Chinese in pursuit of its nuclear diplomacy with Tehran. White House officials will cite this as proof that this effort is multilateral and good for the world. But this ignores the fact that nearly every major ally in the Middle East opposes America’s concessions-based approach to diplomacy with the world’s most prolific state sponsor of terrorism. These are, not surprisingly, the countries that are in missile range of the clerical regime: Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, to name a few.
These countries are unanimously concerned about a nuclear deal that grants the Iranian regime billions of dollars in sanctions relief. They are worried about the Islamic Republic’s patient pathways to nuclear weapons, as key restrictions begin to sunset in 2023. They are incredulous that the original 2015 deal does not prohibit Tehran from producing and amassing weapons-grade uranium after 2030. The Biden administration nevertheless appears to be charging ahead with other diplomatic partners who see these challenges as mere bargaining chips. It’s hard to think of anything more “America First” than that.
This kind of transactional, “America First” approach to the Middle East has consequences. Consider what happened when the Obama administration entered the deeply flawed 2015 nuclear deal. In the pursuit of an agreement that would temporarily reduce the immediate risk of an American showdown with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program, the former president yielded to Iran’s interests in key territories and granted it economic concessions that fed its war machine. The result was disastrous.
The most obvious example is Syria, which implicated Iran and Russia in a civil war that has now claimed more than 500,000 lives, with millions of other Syrians injured and displaced. Syria is a portfolio that former Obama administration officials recognize as one of their greatest failings.
Less widely acknowledged by Obama alumni is the disaster created in Iraq, where Obama hastily withdrew troops and ultimately allowed both the Islamic State and Iran-backed militias (“Popular Mobilization Units”) to fill the void. While the Islamic State was ultimately defeated, today the Iraqi state is still under the shadow of Iran-backed forces that regularly attack American troops.
It was the “America First” mentality of billions in sanctions relief that allowed the Islamic Republic, within a few short years, to better arm and train the Houthi militia in Yemen. And it should be noted here that the Biden administration recently de-listed the Houthis as a terrorist organization in a unilateral move, without any reciprocal commitments from Tehran to rein in its proxy, only exacerbating the crisis in Yemen.
It was that same sanctions relief that helped finance Iran’s provision of precision-guided munitions to its most lethal terror proxy, Hezbollah in Lebanon. The existence of these weapons today in Lebanon today poses the most immediate threat of war between Lebanon and Israel.
Ironically, it was Donald Trump, the poster child for “America First,” who sought to reverse the empowerment of the clerical regime by exiting the Iran nuclear deal in 2018. This was perhaps the most multilateral action of his presidency: The president coordinated closely with the countries in the Middle East most threatened by Iran.
Admittedly, Trump on more than a few occasions undercut his own positive steps by calling for a complete troop withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan. And he didn’t always demonstrate consistent leadership on Yemen, Iraq or Lebanon, either. But it’s hard to argue that “America First” was the bumper sticker for his Iran policy. More broadly, he strove to maintain American leadership in the Middle East, with the knowledge that China and Russia saw it as a strategic area of great power competition.
This brings us to the current administration. The president and his foreign policy team, many of whom are Obama alumni, are reportedly eager to exit the Middle East. Specifically, they appear determined to re-enter diplomacy with Iran in an attempt to solve the nuclear problem and turn to what they see as more pressing challenges elsewhere.
Diplomacy is an important tool. But there’s no diplomacy without serious leverage, and there’s no leverage without maintaining significant pressure on the Islamic Republic. The leaders in Tehran should be put to a choice between their regime’s survival and their nuclear, missile, terror and other malign activities. If the Biden administration declines to do so and once again ignores the concerns of Iran’s neighbors, “American First” wins the day.
America’s interests should be pursued through hard-nosed diplomacy backed by American power. But if it’s done at the expense of our allies and to the benefit of our adversaries, it’s hard to see how this administration’s approach is not the pursuit of a myopic “America First” worldview that Democrats have been decrying for four years.
*Jonathan Schanzer is senior vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Mark Dubowitz is chief executive officer. Follow them on Twitter @JSchanzer and @MDubowitz. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Understanding Iran’s Vast Media Network in Arab Countries

Hamdi Malik/The Washington Institute/March 03/2021

حميد مالك/معهد واشنطن: فهم شبكة إيران الإعلامية الواسعة في الدول العربية


Designating Iranian-linked media outlets can limit their activities, but a more holistic strategy is needed if Washington hopes to effectively counter the regime’s regional propaganda machine.
Last October, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated five Iranian entities for obtaining American voter registration data in order to influence U.S. elections and incite unrest. According to former director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe, Iranian operatives sent threatening emails to Democratic voters while posing as members of the pro-Trump white nationalist group the Proud Boys. One of the entities behind this disinformation campaign was the Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU), which supports and in many cases created the bulk of the television channels and other media outlets run by Iran’s proxies abroad—a mission in line with the union’s status as the main propaganda arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF).
Indeed, the foreign activities of IRTVU and related entities merited U.S. government attention long before this designation, and for much broader reasons than election interference. Tehran’s media strategy in the Middle East is an integral part of its effort to justify and advance its regional expansionism project among a widespread audience. Countering this strategy will require more than just designating individual entities, even ones as extensive as IRTVU.
The Axis of Resistance Media Network
Established in 2007, IRTVU falls under the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, a department chaired by one of the few cabinet ministers who must receive approval from the Supreme Leader in order to take the job. Tasked with disseminating an anti-American and anti-Israeli narrative in the Middle East, the organization functions as an umbrella for “axis of resistance” media outlets throughout the region. IRTVU provides these outlets with financial, technological, and organizational support, helps train their personnel, and devises a unified strategy for them to follow.
Tehran has sought to directly influence public opinion abroad since well before IRTVU was formed. Working closely with the IRGC-QF, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting World Service launched news channels in several languages, including al-Alam satellite television in Arabic. But IRIB’s efforts were eclipsed by the media strategies of other nations, particularly Qatar and Saudi Arabia, spurring the regime to establish IRTVU in response.
Today, IRTVU has more than 210 affiliates in thirty-five countries, most of them in the Middle East. These include satellite television channels, radio stations, news websites, news agencies, training centers, media production companies, and research centers. The union is governed by three overarching structural bodies:
The Supreme Council. This oversight group is composed of thirteen members, including the secretary-general and two deputies. The council’s current head is Mudher al-Baka, the general manager of the Badr Organization’s al-Ghadeer television network in Iraq.
The General Secretariat. This body is located in Tehran and headed by Ali Karimian, a cleric with close ties to the Supreme Leader’s office, where IRGC-QF strategies are devised and overseen. His deputy is Nasser Akhdar (aka Abu Mustafa), the former programming director for Lebanese Hezbollah’s al-Manar television network. Akhdar is now in charge of formulating media strategy for Yemen’s Houthi rebels, serving as their main communication link with Hezbollah and Iran. His role is so important that he accompanied the Houthi delegation to Geneva’s Yemen peace talks in 2015.
The Permanent Committees. These diverse oversight bodies include the religious discourse committee, the political and news committee, the training committee, the production committee, the technical and broadcast services committee, and the radio committee.
IRTVU Strategy in Iraq and Lebanon
IRTVU’s activities are most extensive in Iraq and Lebanon. Iran’s public opinion strategy in these two countries mirrors its approach to political and military activities there—Hezbollah is in charge of IRTVU projects in Lebanon, while an umbrella organization called the Iraqi Radio and Television Union supports the plethora of militia media outlets in that country.
The latter union is headed by Hamid al-Husseini, an Iraqi cleric who has close ties to the Supreme Leader’s office. According to conversations with reliable sources in the Iraqi government, he has confided to people in his circles that he is a colonel in the IRGC—a connection that began forming after he fled Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s era. The union has helped establish and sustain numerous Iraqi media outlets owned by Iranian-backed militias, including the television networks al-Etejah (run by Kataib Hezbollah), Al Ahad (run by Asaib Ahl al-Haq), al-Nujaba (run by Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba), and al-Baeenah (run by Saraya al-Jihad).
In Lebanon the model is different. Hezbollah oversees all IRTVU activities there, including the development of non-Lebanese outlets such as the Houthis’ Al Masirah television, which broadcasts from Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahiya. Other entities directly created by IRTVU are likewise based in Dahiya and run by Hezbollah, including the Union Center for Media Training, the news agency U-News, and the Union Center for Research and Development (aka U-feed).
Shift to Social Media
The Trump administration’s maximum pressure policy had a noticeable effect on Iran’s aggressive regional media strategy. Members of IRTVU are reportedly under financial pressure, and a few television channels run by IRIB World Service had to cease broadcasting in 2020 because of unpaid debts to satellite operators (e.g., Eutelsat stopped providing services for the Arabic channel al-Kawthar last May).
Yet Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi militias have their own local revenue streams, so they have been able to keep their main services running despite the pressure. And by itself, the October designation of IRTVU is unlikely to have a major impact on the organization’s projects, in part because the Treasury Department action left out important affiliates such as the Iraqi Radio and Television Union. True, the U.S. move could limit IRTVU’s participation in Euro-Mediterranean media dialogues and similar international forums. Yet the fact remains that simply designating such organizations is unlikely to cripple their mission of disseminating anti-American sentiment or otherwise advancing Iran’s strategy.
This is partly because Iran-backed militias are resorting to much cheaper methods of effectively reaching their audience. For instance, Iraqi proxies recently increased their social media activities, mainly on the Telegram messaging platform. They have created forums in which people (mainly youths) can discuss Islamist ideologies and anti-American sentiment, while also sharing announcements and organizing militia-related activities. Some groups have created social media “news channels” that engage in disinformation campaigns against the United States and the Iraqi government. In addition to broadcasting reports about attacks on U.S. interests, they recruit young people to send in imagery and information about American movements around the country, acting as a so-called “shadow cell.” Telegram is also used to organize vigilante activities aimed at silencing those who voice opposition to Iranian expansionism in Iraq, including vandalism and arson attacks against nightclubs, liquor stores, rival television stations, and political party offices. In short, any policy aimed at countering Iran’s regional propaganda machine will need to address the robust manner in which pro-Iran groups are exploiting social media.
Additional action against traditional media entities is needed as well. In particular, the U.S. government should sanction the Iraqi Radio and Television Union, the IRTVU sub-organization that provides services to media outlets belonging to U.S.-designated militias Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba. These groups have committed numerous human rights violations (e.g., kidnapping and killing Iraqi protestors), then used their media outlets to falsely implicate unknown parties or the United States in these crimes. They also seek to undermine Iraqi prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi; as one analyst argued in a past broadcast by al-Etejah, “There is a regional axis that was forced to accept Kadhimi’s premiership. After Trump’s departure this axis will change its position and will pull the rug from under Kadhimi.”
Moreover, since IRTVU’s model is to sustain a loose network of media outlets operated by proxies, U.S. authorities should consider sanctioning multiple affiliated television channels, radio stations, websites, and related organizations around the region. Sanctions should also be placed on IRIB World Service, which plays a key part in disseminating disinformation and inciting violence against both Western forces and regional figures who voice their opposition to Iranian interference in their countries.
*Hamdi Malik is an associate fellow with The Washington Institute and coauthor of its 2020 study Honored, Not Contained: The Future of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces.