English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For March 08/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations For today

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Second Letter to the Corinthians/09/1a.05-15./Now it is not necessary for me to write to you about the ministry to the saints, So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you, and arrange in advance for this bountiful gift that you have promised, so that it may be ready as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion. The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, ‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever.’He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 07-08/2021

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/

Values That We Can We Learn From “The Lost Son” Parable/Elias Bejjani//March 07/2021
Lebanon summons Iranian ambassador over media report on Maronite leader/Najia Houssari/Arab News/Updated 07 March 2021
Lebanon’s schools shutdown to protest a worsening socio-economic situation
Health Ministry: 2,377 new Corona cases, 33 deaths
Al-Rahi Slams 'Intentional' Govt. Delay, Says Popular Revolt Justified
Rahi, Wehbe confer over prevailing conditions
Report: Hizbullah Won't Press Aoun, Nasrallah’s Proposal Unfeasible
Hizbullah, Amal Deny Involvement in Dahiyeh 'Riots'
Road-Blocking Protests Continue across Lebanon
Diab Threatens to Suspend His Duties as Caretaker PM
Al-Khazen after meeting with al-Rahi: To form a government as soon as possible, support Bkirki's initiative
Sami Gemayel: There are two tracks for a solution in Lebanon, the first being Arab and international, the second internal
Musharrafieh following his visit to Syria: Syrian authorities are ready to secure return of refugees

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 07-08/2021

Pope Celebrates Largest Mass of Historic Iraq Trip
Pope Francis meets father of drowned Syrian boy Alan Kurdi in Iraq’s Erbil
Pope Francis calls for peace from the ruins of Mosul
One Christian Family Remains in Iraq’s Nasiriyah
US Defense Secretary: Saudi Arabia is a Strategic Partner
US Says Will Do What's Necessary to Defend Itself after Attack in Iraq
Former US Official: Khashoggi Report Abuse of Intelligence Power
Explosion on Gaza Fishing Boat Kills 3 Palestinian Anglers
Iran’s President Urges Europe to Avoid 'Threats’
Iran Frees British-Iranian Aid Worker Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Her Lawyer Says
Analysts, Officials Call on Biden to Increase Pressure on Houthis
Washington Supports 2-State Solution, to Renew Diplomatic Relations with Palestinians
Biden sends B-52 heavy bomber over Persian Gulf in signal to Iran
Tit-for-tat: Iran threatens to turn Israel into ashes if it ‘commits any silly acts’
Saeed Mohammad, head of IRGC’s biggest commercial enterprise, runs for president
Arab Coalition intercepts, downs 12 Houthi drones in one day
Saudi-Led Coalition Jets Pound Yemen Capital after Huthi Strikes


Titles For The Latest The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 07-08/2021

A Pope’s Visit Amidst the Ruins/Charles Elias Chartouni/March 07/2021
New Life Is Breathed in Mosul/Noura Al Kaabi//Asharq Al-Awsat/March 07/ 2021
Can Pope Francis save Iraq's Christian heritage?/Janine di Giovanni/The National/March 07/ 2021
The message behind the Pope's trip to Iraq/Monsignor Yoannis Lahzi Gaid/The National/March 07/2021
Biden's emphasis on democracy and diplomacy isn't new or practical/Raghida Dergham/The National/March 07/ 2021
A Storm Over the American Republic/Guy Millière/Gatestone Institute/March 07/2021
Could Iran Really Be Linked to 'Eco-terrorism' against Israel?/Seth J. Frantzman/The Jerusalem Post/March 07/2021

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 07-08/2021

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/

Values That We Can We Learn From “The Lost Son” Parable
Elias Bejjani//March 07/2021
In our Maronite Catholic Church’s rite, on the Fourth Lent Sunday we recall and cite the biblical Lost Son’s parable that is known also as The Prodigal Son. (Lost Son) This impulsive, selfish and thoughtless son, as the parable tells us, fell prey to evil’s temptation and decided to take his share of his father’s inheritance and leave the parental dwelling.
He travelled to a far-away city where he indulged badly in all evil conducts of pleasure and corruption until he lost all his money and became penniless. He experienced severe poverty, starvation, humiliation and loneliness.
In the midst of his dire hardships he felt nostalgic, came back to his senses and decided with great self confidence to return back to his father’s house, kneel on his feet and ask him for forgiveness.
On his return his loving and kind father received him with rejoice, open arms, accepted his repentance, and happily forgave him all his misdeeds. Because of his sincere repentance his Father gave him back all his privileges as a son.
This parable is a road map for repentance and forgiveness. It shows us how much Almighty God our Father loves us, we His children and how He is always ready with open arms and willing to forgive our sins and trespasses when we come back to our senses, recognize right from wrong, admit our weaknesses and wrongdoings, eagerly and freely return to Him and with faith and repentance ask for His forgiveness.
Asking Almighty God for what ever we need is exactly what the Holy Bible instructs us to do when encountering all kinds of doubt, weaknesses, stumbling, hard times, sickness, loneliness, persecution, injustice etc.
Matthew 07/07&08: “Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened”
All what we have to do is to pray and to ask Him with faith, self confidence and humility and He will respond.
Matthew 21/22: “All things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
We are not left alone at any time, especially when in trouble, no matter how far we distance ourselves from God and disobey His Holy bible. He is a Father, a loving, caring and forgiving Father.
What is definite is that in spite of our foolishness, stupidity, ignorance, defiance and ingratitude He never ever abandons us or gives up on our salvation. He loves us because we His are children.
He happily sent His only begotten son to be tortured, humiliated and crucified in a bid to absolve our original sin.’
God carries our burdens and helps us to fight all kinds of Evil temptations.
Matthew11/28-30: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
God is waiting for our repentance, let us run to Him and ask for forgiveness before it is too late
The Parable Of The Lost son
Luke15/11-32: He (Jesus) said, “A certain man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of your property.’ He divided his livelihood between them. Not many days after, the younger son gathered all of this together and traveled into a far country. There he wasted his property with riotous living. When he had spent all of it, there arose a severe famine in that country, and he began to be in need. He went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He wanted to fill his belly with the husks that the pigs ate, but no one gave him any. 15:17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I’m dying with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants .”’ “He arose, and came to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat, and celebrate; for this, my son, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ They began to celebrate. “Now his elder son was in the field. As he came near to the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the servants to him, and asked what was going on. He said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and healthy.’ But he was angry, and would not go in. Therefore his father came out, and begged him. But he answered his father, ‘Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this, your son, came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ “He said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.
N.B: The Above Piece Is From The writer’s Faith Achieves


Lebanon summons Iranian ambassador over media report on Maronite leader
Najia Houssari/Arab News/Updated 07 March 2021
Hezbollah ally the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) on Saturday issued a “categorical rejection” of the media report, saying it constituted “an assault” on the position of the patriarch
BEIRUT: Lebanon has summoned the Iranian ambassador over a media report on the country’s Maronite leader. Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi was the focus of a report on the Iranian Al-Alam News Network website that accused him of supporting normalization with Israel.
Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe said on Saturday that Ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi had been summoned for a meeting on Monday. The minister said the conversation with the ambassador would be “frank and sincere, based on the existing friendship between the two countries.”
An apology from the Iranian side had reached the patriarch, he added, and Lebanon’s ambassador to Tehran had been asked to provide details of what was reported by Al-Alam. “He informed me of an apology and condemnation issued by the Iranian government,” the minister said.
Earlier this month at a rally in Bkerke, north of Beirut, the cleric had called for a UN-sponsored international conference to deal with Lebanon’s economic collapse and political stalemate. He urged neutrality so that the country would no longer be the victim of regional conflicts. But his comments drew anger from Hezbollah, as well as the critical report on the Al-Alam website. The report said that Al-Rahi was “plotting today against the weaponry of the resistance and describes it as a militia loyal to Iran. He claims to be prudent and objective and talks about neutrality in the war for existence with global Zionism. We will definitely see him tomorrow in the arms of Israel.”The patriarchate condemned the “insulting” report and said that, since it was issued by a foreign media organization, it was considered as “interference” in Lebanon’s internal and national affairs as well as interference in the church’s affairs.
Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi’s call for neutrality embarrassed the Free Patriotic Movement, whose supporters did not participate in the Bkerke rally. It demanded the channel “back off and apologize” so that it did not cause internal and external unfortunate repercussions, especially since Al-Rahi’s words were clear. “The TV channel is trying to fabricate a headline to mobilize people against Bkerke, which called a spade a spade, put the finger on the wound and spoke about the situation of all the Lebanese, without exception,” it added.
The Maronite League in Lebanon, headed by former MP Naamatallah Abi Nasr, denounced the report’s accusations about Al-Rahi and said it retained the right to “resort to the competent judiciary.”It called on the Foreign Ministry to summon the ambassador and inform him of Lebanon’s rejection of such attitudes.Hezbollah ally the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) on Saturday issued a “categorical rejection” of the media report, saying it constituted “an assault” on the position of the patriarch. Al-Rahi’s call for neutrality embarrassed the FPM, whose supporters did not participate in the Bkerke rally.
After a meeting of its political council on Saturday, the FPM said that Bkerke “was and still is a beacon for open thought and an edifice of convergence.”“Patriarch Al-Rahi has always advocated adherence to the roots of this East, and solidarity with all its components in the face of the dangers and enemies that lie in wait. It has never been a conduit for plotting against its people.”


Lebanon’s schools shutdown to protest a worsening socio-economic situation
Tala Ramadan, Al Arabiya English/March 07/2021
The rapidly evolving prospects of the economic crisis in Lebanon are leaving students uncertain and worried about the future as financial issues have developed between school-owners, parents, the government, and teachers over tuition fees and teachers’ salaries. During a press conference, caretaker Minister of Education, Tarek al-Majzoub, announced on Friday a weeklong suspension of teaching, considering it “the first step in response to those who have evaded their promises.”Majzoub said that he wants to show “the consequences of putting the education sector at the bottom of the priority list,” as he criticized Lebanon’s central bank and the government’s failure to notice the ministry’s requests for financial aid for schoolteachers and families. “We’ve asked for financial support for parents, students, and schools so that teachers could get their salaries, but all the requests have been met with utter recklessness because unfortunately, in Lebanon, education is not a priority,” Majzoub said. “At the same time, he also stressed that the academic year must not be wasted. We must not lose our educational body, and vaccination must be its full right,” Majzoub added. Hilda Khoury, Director of counseling and guidance in Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education, told Al Arabiya that it is the Ministry of Education’s responsibility to ensure a safe and positive school environment that provides favorable conditions for learning. “This is why the Minister of Education suggested that the government should secure elements for the gradual reopening of schools and called for the teachers to be on ‘list of preferred’ to receive COVID-19 vaccinations,” Khoury added. Khoury also highlighted that if schools were to continue in distance learning, the government should help in making internet connection accessible for everyone. A source close to the Private School Teachers Union, who asked to remain anonymous, told Al Arabiya English that the minister, especially in a caretaking government, cannot impose the strike on private schools. “Thus, many won’t be taking any action and will continue teaching regularly next week,” he added. Kinda Zahzah, a student in Grade 9, told Al Arabiya English that this decision came as a shock to her as she is preparing for her grade 9 official Brevet exams.“This strike is only hindering us from properly learning all the material we have to study for our official exams, and this is making me anxious,” Zahzah added. Back in 2020, Majzoub has announced the cancellation of official exams for Baccalaureate [high school] and Brevet [middle school] students after much back-and-forth on the outcome of official exams, taking into consideration all the obstacles that schools have been facing. “My son is an enthusiastic student whose interest and motivation declined amid remote learning, and now, the strike,” a Lebanese mother whose child is a public-school student told Al Arabiya English. She explained that her child is starting to express anger and signs of depression, to the point that she is considering pulling him out of remote school and will try to begin home-schooling him. Considering the vulnerability indices in Lebanon, very few students have the proper conditions for online learning. Several technological constraints are already hindering online learning in Lebanon, with the telecommunications and internet infrastructures remaining inadequate in many areas.
Consequently, weak, or unstable connectivity poses potential setbacks in creating distance-learning strategies. Using video-conferencing applications successfully requires a secure connection and stable bandwidth for both teachers and students; however, this is not always available.
This comes as Lebanon remains in a protracted state of transition to digitization, exacerbated by the unstable political climate. Lebanon ranking 60th on the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) world ranking of internet quality among 100 countries. The study assessed four significant aspects of quality internet, availability, affordability, relevance, and readiness.

Health Ministry: 2,377 new Corona cases, 33 deaths
NNA/March 07/2021
Ministry of Public Health announced, on Sunday, the registration of 2,377 new Corona infections, thus raising the cumulative number of confirmed cases to-date to 395,588.
Also, it indicated that 33 deaths were recorded during the past 24 hours.

Al-Rahi Slams 'Intentional' Govt. Delay, Says Popular Revolt Justified
Naharnet/March 07/2021
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday lashed out at politicians over what he called the “intentional delay” in forming the new government, as he noted that the popular protests that are engulfing the country are totally justified. Warning in his Sunday Mass sermon of “a period of lethal challenges that can destroy the country, the people and the entity,” al-Rahi accused politicians of wasting the people’s “money and hope” and creating a state of poverty, hunger and unemployment. “This state is not limited to a certain religion, sect, party or region,” the patriarch noted, adding that citizens have nothing else left but to take to the streets. “How can these people not revolt after the dollar exchange rate exceeded LBP 10,000 overnight? How can these people not revolt after the (monthly) minimum wage dropped to $70? How can these people not revolt after their pockets were emptied of money and they no longer can buy bread, food and medicine?” al-Rahi asked. “And yet some are wondering why the people have exploded!” he exclaimed.“It would be better to see the people exploding and the country remaining instead of the country exploding and the people ceasing to exist!” he added.
“But we shall remain and the people are stronger than those transgressing against the nation, no matter how mighty their means might be!” al-Rahi went on to say.

Rahi, Wehbe confer over prevailing conditions
NNA/March 07/2021
Caretaker Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Minister, Charbel Wehbe, visited today Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, with whom he reviewed "the internal political conditions and developments in the region.”The visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Iraq and its significance under these circumstances also featured high during their discussions, as it serves to preserve coexistence, Christian presence and continuous dialogue in this region.

Report: Hizbullah Won't Press Aoun, Nasrallah’s Proposal Unfeasible
Naharnet/March 07/2021
Hizbullah does not intend to press President Michel Aoun over the stalled new government and Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s proposal for resolving the crisis is unfeasible, Arab and foreign diplomatic sources said. “Hizbullah is appeasing President Aoun to the max, not only to preserve their strategic alliance, but also to delay the government’s formation for considerations related to enabling Iran to hold cards in the region,” the sources told Saudi Arabia’s Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published Sunday. Hizbullah also fears that pressuring Aoun might give the president the impression that such pressure might also apply to the presidential race and that it could be a signal that the party will not endorse Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil’s nomination, the sources added. The sources also noted that the formation of a new government “might create the conditions for stopping the financial and economic collapse,” warning that “Aoun’s insistence on absolving himself will take the country to a major popular explosion that might spiral out of control.”
“This explosion must be fended off as soon as possible,” the sources advised.

Hizbullah, Amal Deny Involvement in Dahiyeh 'Riots'
Naharnet/March 07/2021
Hizbullah and the Amal Movement overnight issued a joint statement denying their involvement in “acts of rioting” that took place in Beirut’s southern suburbs, an area also known as Dahiyeh. “Some social media activists have circulated that supporters of parties in the southern suburbs have carried out road-blocking and sabotage acts in some Dahiyeh areas, especially at the al-Imam al-Hussein Roundabout in al-Kafaat,” the statement said. It added that the two parties deny “any link for their supporters in the acts of rioting” and call on security and judicial agencies to “pursue and prosecute anyone who attacked public and private property.”Beirut’s southern suburbs have witnessed protests in recent days as part of the wave of protests that engulfed most Lebanese regions after the dollar exchange rate reached record high levels on the black market.

Road-Blocking Protests Continue across Lebanon
Naharnet/March 07/2021
Lebanese demonstrators pressed on with their road-blocking protests on Sunday as the political stalemate continued in the country.
In Beirut, protesters blocked the roads leading to Martyrs Square with burning tires. The highway linking Beirut to the South was meanwhile blocked for a few hours in the Jiye area. Protesters also blocked the Elia roundabout in Sidon and the army was trying to reopen it.
The National News Agency said young men were burning tires there in protest at the dire living situations and the surge in the dollar exchange rate. In the North, protesters blocked the Minieh international highway at the Bhannine intersection, placing trucks, rocks and tires in the middle of the road. “Motorists between Tripoli, Minieh and Akkar had to take alternative routes,” NNA said. In the Akkar Plain area, protesters blocked the Abdeh-Abboudiyeh international highway with burning tires, demanding “the trial and punishment of all officials who have impoverished and starved the people.”
Protesters in the North also blocked roads in Chekka, Koura, al-Mhammara, Wadi al-Jamous, the Palma highway and Halba. In the Bekaa, protesters blocked roads in Saadnayel and Taalabaya as activists in Baalbek staged a sit-in at the Khalil Mutran Square, denouncing the deterioration of the economic, social and financial situations. “The Decision is for the People”, read a banner carried at the rally as protesters chanted slogans demanding accountability. Elsewhere, protesters blocked the Chanay road in Aley and the Choueifat road at the Tiro intersection, an area where a motorist ran over several protesters with his car overnight prompting their comrades to smash and torch his car. The currency has continued its rapid collapse against the dollar, trading at nearly 11,000 Lebanese pounds on the black market on Saturday for the first time in its history. Angry protesters have blocked streets and highways across the country with burning tires for the past several days. The crash in the local currency has resulted in a sharp increase in prices as well as delays in the arrival of fuel shipments, leading to more extended power cuts around the country, in some areas reaching more than 12 hours a day. The crisis has driven nearly half the population of the small country of 6 million into poverty, wiped out savings and slashed consumer purchasing power. "The dollar is 10,500 (pounds) and everyone has four or five children on their neck, including their parents. They (corrupt politicians) need to feed us," cried one protester on Saturday.
"They vaccinated themselves from corona but they opened the country so that people could die," he added, referring to a group of lawmakers who inoculated themselves in parliament last month without prior approval, a move that led the World Bank to consider suspending its financing of vaccines in Lebanon. Another protester who identified himself only by his first name, Ali, said he was frustrated that other Lebanese were still sitting at home. "Where are the Lebanese people? The dollar is now 10,500 (pounds) and it will reach to 15, or 20 (thousand). Why are we in homes? We have to go down!" In October, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri was named to form a new Cabinet but five months later, disagreements between him and President Michel Aoun on the shape of the Cabinet have stood in the way of a new government's formation. Lebanon has also been in desperate need of foreign currency, but international donors have said they will only help the country financially if major reforms are implemented to fight widespread corruption, which has brought the nation to the brink of bankruptcy.

Diab Threatens to Suspend His Duties as Caretaker PM
Associated Press/March 07/2021
Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab warned Saturday that the country was quickly headed toward chaos and appealed to politicians to put aside differences in order form a new government that can attract desperately needed foreign assistance. Diab threatened to suspend his duties if that would increase pressure for a new Cabinet to be formed. He spoke in a terse address to the nation as the currency continued its rapid collapse against the dollar, trading at one point at 10,500 Lebanese pounds on the black market for the first time in its history. Angry protesters have blocked streets and highways across the country with burning tires for days, as the pound slid to record new lows. The crash in the local currency has resulted in a sharp increase in prices as well as delays in the arrival of fuel shipments, leading to more extended power cuts around the country, in some areas reaching more than 12 hours a day. The crisis has driven nearly half the population of the small country of 6 million into poverty, wiped out savings and slashed consumer purchasing power. Diab, who resigned in the wake of the massive August 4 explosion at Beirut port, suggested he might stop working in his role. "If it helps to form a government, I am prepared to resort to that option even though it goes against my principles," he said. In October, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri was named to form a new Cabinet but five months later, disagreements between him and President Michel Aoun on the shape of the Cabinet has stood in the way of a new government's formation. Lebanon has also been in desperate need of foreign currency, but international donors have said they will only help the country financially if major reforms are implemented to fight widespread corruption, which has brought the nation to the brink of bankruptcy. "What are you waiting for, more collapse? More suffering? Chaos?" he said, chiding senior politicians without naming them for grandstanding on the shape and size of the government while the country slides further into the abyss. "What will having one minister more or less (in the cabinet) do if the entire country collapses," he asked."Lebanon is in grave danger and the Lebanese are paying the price."

Al-Khazen after meeting with al-Rahi: To form a government as soon as possible, support Bkirki's initiative
NNA/March 07/2021
"Everyone knows that the concerns of His Beatitude and the Patriarchal seat, as well as our concerns are one without exception, and they are not hidden from anyone, namely the citizen’s daily sustenance, the economy, and the dignity of the people, the homeland and the entity," said MP Farid Haikal al-Khazen today, following his visit to Bkirki where he met with Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi. "In the face of the current deteriorating conditions, this huge daily-living crisis, this economic stagnation, and the paralysis in constitutional institutions, we call for a speedy formation of an mission government that meets the French initiative, revives the economy, rebuilds Beirut and restores confidence in Lebanon," al-Khazen emphasized. He considered that "what the Patriarch has proposed is essential, in terms of neutrality and holding of an international conference, points that ought to be the subject of a sincere national dialogue that serves the interest of Lebanon, contributes to the rescue process, and puts an end to the country’s continuous bleeding.”Regarding the ongoing contacts between Bkirki and Hezbollah, MP Khazen said: “We all know that the intentions are good, and there is a meeting that will be held on Tuesday by the joint committee, and we hope that it will lead to initiating a serious dialogue that will achieve the desired outcome…and be a fruitful start to accomplishing what serves the interest of Lebanon."

Sami Gemayel: There are two tracks for a solution in Lebanon, the first being Arab and international, the second internal
NNA/March 07/2021
“There are two tracks for the solution in Lebanon, the first being an Arab and international track in lifting the tutelage, because it is not possible for the Lebanese to deal with this matter on their own, as there are international UN resolutions that the international legitimacy ought to oversee and confirm their implementation so as to restore sovereignty in the country. As for the second track, it is internal, and the people must rise-up and push for change through parliamentary elections," underlined Lebanese Kataeb Party Chief, Sami Gemayel.
Speaking in an interview with Al-Hadath TV Channel, he affirmed that "the time has come for the MPs who stand in the way of change, to resign and allow for new elections in order to get out of the current disaster,” adding that “the ruling authority is before two options, either to form an independent government that works with the IMF and donors to restore Lebanon's image, or to leave and allow room for the people."Gemayel commented on the recent words of the Caretaker Prime Minister, saying: "Hassan Diab's government is already suspended from work and is not doing anything, for the decision is in the hands of Hezbollah and its cooperating system that holds the Parliament House and disrupts the formation of the new government that would salvage the country."He stressed that "the economic collapse is occurring even in the presence of a caretaker cabinet, as things are deteriorating and the citizen is losing purchase power, and the caretaker government cannot stop this matter because it is powerless since the decision lies in the hands of Hezbollah and the system…and as long as the parliament is being controlled, there is no possibility for rescue.”Gemayel considered that the parliament is the one to ensure the balances that in turn form a government, and it is the one that names the prime minister and gives confidence and elects a president. "Consequently, the problem remains in the Parliament Council, as the basis for any start, but as long as Hezbollah controls this Council, it controls the institutions,” he said.
"If we saw that there was a possibility for change, we would not have resigned from the House of Parliament," Gemayel asserted. Touching on the difficult economic and dire living conditions in the country, Gemayel stressed that "the people are angry and want a solution, and the resentment is real over the heads of all the political system, including Berri and Nasrallah.""The people's uprising that crosses sects and regions is a natural thing and a clear way to pressure in the direction of real change in Lebanon, and Nasrallah has no ability to mobilize his street against its livelihood interests," he corroborated. Gemayel, thus, called for returning to the institutions by holding early parliamentary elections that would help withdraw people from taking to the street, as their demands and concerns would be addressed through institutions. “For those who want to help Lebanon, there are international resolutions adopted unanimously by the Security Council, such as the UN Resolutions #1559 and #1701, which stipulate the disarming of militias and controlling the entry of weapons…So, let the states take the two decisions and press for their implementation, but this thing is not in our hands,"” he emphasized.
“We are present on the ground, and we are confronting steadfastly, and resisting the control over the Lebanese decision. We hope the international community will help the people to regain their decision and their right to self-determination and supervise the democratic change,” Gemayel concluded.

Musharrafieh following his visit to Syria: Syrian authorities are ready to secure return of refugees
NNA/March 07/2021
Caretaker Minister of Social Affairs and Tourism, Ramzi Musharafieh, indicated that "the difficult circumstances in Lebanon and Syria in light of the spread of the "Covid-19" pandemic and the difficult economic conditions make this file a priority," hoping that this file would end soon.
In a statement to the Syrian “Al-Watan”, after his meeting with the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Faisal Al-Miqdad, Musharrafieh confirmed that his visit to Damascus came as a continuation of what was discussed during the conference on the return of Syrian refugees that was held last November in Damascus, as well as to place the Syrian government in the framework that Lebanon is working on in this context. Musharrafieh considered that "joint coordination is required between the two countries to overcome any obstacle to their return."
He also noted that "the Lebanese authorities are persuading the West to help the displaced in Syria just as they are helping them in Lebanon." In this context, the Minister of Social Affairs affirmed that the Syrian government has shown its full readiness to receive its citizens, and that its stance is firm on this issue. He also indicated that the Syrian government is working to take serious steps in this file. Finally, the Caretaker Minister revealed that the Lebanese government is preparing a list of data related to this file, and that there is full coordination for returnees to Syria.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 07-08/2021

Pope Celebrates Largest Mass of Historic Iraq Trip
Agence France Presse/March 07/2021
Pope Francis vowed Sunday to keep Iraq in his heart, as he concluded the largest mass and final public event of a historic trip meant to encourage the country's dwindling Christian community and deepen interfaith dialogue. The pontiff celebrated among thousands of smiling worshippers in a sports stadium in the Kurdistan region's capital Arbil, after visiting Christian survivors of the Islamic State group's reign of terror. The 84-year-old was driven in his white, windowless "pope-mobile" into the stadium, where jubilant worshippers sat socially distanced on white chairs spread out on the greens. Others stood, craning their necks to catch a glimpse of Francis, in the stands ringing the Franso Hariri Stadium, named after an Iraqi Christian politician who was assassinated by extremists 20 years ago. In concluding the mass, the Pope vowed to keep Iraq in his heart even when he returns to the Vatican on Monday. "In my time among you, I have heard voices of sorrow and loss, but also voices of hope and consolation," he said. "Now the time draws near for my return to Rome. Yet Iraq will always remain with me, in my heart."The faithful wore hats featuring pictures of Francis, and face-masks to protect them from Covid, as a second wave has driven up cases to around 5,000 new infections per day in Iraq. The stadium seats around 20,000, but large swathes of the stands were empty after authorities had trimmed down the allowed attendance in recent days. "It's a special trip, also because of the conditions," said Matteo Bruni, the Vatican's spokesman, who described the visit to Iraq as "a gesture of love for this land its people". Iraq's Christian population has shrunk to fewer than 400,000, from around 1.5 million before the U.S.-led invasion of 2003. Arbil has been a place of refuge for many Christians who fled violence over the years, including IS jihadists' 2014 onslaught and ensuing reign of terror. The heaviest security deployment yet is protecting Francis in northern Iraq on what is perhaps the riskiest day of his historic trip.The city was targeted just weeks ago by a deadly rocket attack, the latest in a series of strikes blamed on pro-Iranian forces.
'The most beautiful day'
The visit to the north came the day after the leader of the world's 1.3 billion Catholics met Iraq's top Shiite Muslim cleric, the reclusive Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who agreed Iraq's Christians should be able to live in "peace". It also embodies a cause close to the pope's heart: reaching out to Iraq's traumatised Christian community. Watching from afar as IS swept across the northern province of Nineveh in 2014, Pope Francis said he was ready to come and meet the displaced and other victims of war in a show of solidarity.  He fulfilled that promise on Sunday, first visiting Mosul, the onetime bastion of the Islamic State group, still largely in ruins. Standing in front of the partially collapsed walls of the centuries-old Al-Tahera (Immaculate Conception) Church, Francis pleaded for Christians in Iraq and the Middle East to stay in their homelands. He said the "tragic" exodus of Christians "does incalculable harm not just to the individuals and communities concerned, but also to the society they leave behind". The Al-Tahera Church, whose roof collapsed during fighting against IS in 2017, is one of the oldest of at least 14 churches in Nineveh province that were destroyed by the jihadists. The pope was driven in a golf cart around the historic Old City, largely razed during the grinding fight to dislodge the jihadists. "Today was the most beautiful day for us, being visited by the pope!" said Hala Raad, a Christian woman who had fled when IS seized Mosul but returned to see the pope. "We hope to come back to Mosul in health and wellbeing. The most important thing is security -- we want stability."
'Do not lose hope!'
Before visiting Arbil on Sunday, the pope held a prayer service in Qaraqosh, whose ancient church -- named Al-Tahera, like the one in Mosul -- was torched by the jihadists as they destroyed most of the town.  Residents of Qaraqosh have since rebuilt their homes with little government help. Al-Tahera too has been refurbished, its marble floors and internal colonnades buffed to host its most important guest yet. Dressed in traditional embroidered robes, hundreds of Christians -- who speak a modern dialect of Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus Christ -- welcomed the pontiff with hymns and olive branches. "Do not stop dreaming! Do not give up! Do not lose hope!" Francis urged those gathered.
"Now is the time to rebuild and to start afresh."


Pope Francis meets father of drowned Syrian boy Alan Kurdi in Iraq’s Erbil
Reuters/March 07/2021
Pope Francis on Sunday met the father of Alan Kurdi, the boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach six years ago became an image of the suffering of Syrians trying to escape war. The pontiff, winding up a historic trip to Iraq, met Abdullah Kurdi at the end of Mass in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil, the Vatican said in a statement. “The pope spent a long time with him (Kurdi) and with the help of an interpreter was able to listen to the pain of a father for the loss of his family,” it said. Kurdi thanked Francis for his closeness to the tragedy and to the pain of “all those migrants who seek understanding, peace and security, leaving their country at the risk of their lives,” it added. Alan Kurdi drowned along with his mother and brother when a smuggling boat taking them to Europe capsized off the coast of Turkey in 2015. An image of his body washed up on the shore captured the world’s attention as millions of Syrians fled the civil war there and many boarded unsafe ships bound for a Europe that eventually began shutting its doors. Many drowned trying to make the journey. The pope has long called for more compassionate treatment of migrants and refugees. In Iraq, where Abdullah Kurdi now lives in the autonomous Kurdish region, the pontiff preached for an end to conflict and sectarian violence.

Pope Francis calls for peace from the ruins of Mosul

The Weekly Arab/March 07/2021
QARAQOSH, IRAQ— Pope Francis made a emphatic appeal for peaceful coexistence in Iraq on Sunday as he prayed for the country’s war dead amid the ruins of four demolished churches in Mosul, which suffered widespread destruction in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS) extremist group.
Francis travelled to northern Iraq on the final day of his historic visit to minister to the country’s dwindling number of Christians, who were forced to leave their homes en masse when ISIS militants overtook vast swaths of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014.
Few have returned in the years since ISIS was routed in 2017, and Francis came to Iraq to encourage them to stay and help rebuild the country and restore what he called its “intricately designed carpet” of faith and ethnic groups. For the Vatican, the continued presence of Christians in Iraq is vital to keeping alive faith communities that have existed here since the time of Christ. In a scene unimaginable just four years ago, the pontiff mounted a stage in a city square surrounded by the remnants of four heavily damaged churches belonging to some of Iraq’s myriad Christian rites and denominations. A jubilant crowd welcomed him. “How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow, with ancient places of worship destroyed and many thousands of people – Muslims, Christians, Yazidis — who were cruelly annihilated by terrorism — and others forcibly displaced or killed,” Francis said. He deviated from his prepared speech to address the plight of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, which was subjected to mass killings, abductions and sexual slavery at the hands of ISIS. “Today, however, we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war.”The square where he spoke is home to four different churches — Syro-Catholic, Armenian-Orthodox, Syro-Orthodox and Chaldean — each of them left in ruins.
ISIS overran Mosul in June 2014 and declared a caliphate stretching from territory in northern Syria deep into Iraq’s north and west. It was from Mosul’s al-Nuri mosque that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, made his only public appearance when he gave a Friday sermon calling on all Muslims to follow him as “caliph.”Mosul held deep symbolic importance for ISIS and became the bureaucratic and financial backbone of the group. It was finally liberated in July 2017 after a ferocious nine-month battle. Between 9,000 and 11,000 civilians were killed. Al-Baghdadi was killed in a US raid in Syria in 2019.
The Vatican hopes that the landmark visit will rally the country’s Christian communities and encourage them to stay despite decades of war and instability. Throughout the visit, Francis has delivered a message of interreligious tolerance and fraternity to Muslim leaders, including in an historic meeting Saturday with Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The Rev. Raed Kallo, was among the few who returned to Mosul after ISIS was defeated. “I returned three years ago and my Muslim brothers received me after the liberation of the city with great hospitality and love,” he said on stage before the pontiff.
Kallo said he left the city in June 10, 2014, when ISIS overran the city. He had a parish of 500 Christian families, most of whom have emigrated abroad. Now only 70 families remain. “But today I live among 2 million Muslims who call me their Father Raed,” he said.
Gutayba Aagha, the Muslim head of the Independent Social and Cultural Council for the Families of Mosul, encouraged other Christians to return. “In the name of the council I invite all our Christian brothers to return to this, their city, their properties and their businesses.”
Francis will later travel by helicopter across the Nineveh plains to the small Christian community of Qaraqosh, where only a fraction of families have returned after fleeing the ISIS onslaught in 2014. He will hear testimonies from residents and pray in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which was believed to have been torched by ISIS and has been restored in recent years. He wraps up the day with a Mass in the stadium in Erbil, in the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region, that is expected to draw as many as 10,000 people. He arrived in Erbil early Sunday, where he was greeted by children in traditional dress and one outfitted as a pope.
Public health experts had expressed concerns ahead of the trip that large gatherings could serve as super-spreader events for the coronavirus in a country suffering from a worsening outbreak where few have been vaccinated.
The Vatican has said it is taking precautions, including holding the mass outdoors in a stadium that will only be partially filled. But throughout the visit, crowds have gathered in close proximity, with many people not wearing masks. The pope and members of his delegation have been vaccinated but most Iraqis have not.Iraq declared victory over ISIS in 2017, and while the extremist group no longer controls any territory it still carries out sporadic attacks, especially in the north. The country has also seen a series of recent rocket attacks by Iran-backed militias against US targets, violence linked to tensions between Washington and Tehran. The ISIS group’s brutal three-year rule of much of northern and western Iraq, and the grueling campaign against it, left a vast swathe of destruction. Reconstruction efforts have stalled amid a years-long financial crisis, and entire neighborhoods remain in ruins. Many Iraqis have had to rebuild their homes at their own expense. Iraq’s Christian minority was hit especially hard. The extremists forced them to choose among conversion, death or the payment of a special tax for non-Muslims. Thousands fled, leaving behind homes and churches that were destroyed or commandeered by the extremists.
Iraq’s Christian population, which traces its history back to the earliest days of the faith, had already rapidly dwindled, from around 1.5 million before the 2003 US-led invasion that plunged the country into chaos to just a few hundred thousand today.

One Christian Family Remains in Iraq’s Nasiriyah
Nasiriyah (Iraq) - Asharq Al-Awsat/March 07/2021
As Pope Francis prayed for Iraq's minorities Saturday from the birthplace of the common patriarch of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, one Christian family awaited him. Maher Tobia, 53, says his is the only remaining Christian family in the city of Nasiriyah, less than 20 kilometers from the desert site of the ancient city of Ur, where the Prophet Abraham is thought to have been born. Tobia and his brother head the only two remaining Christian households in Nasiriyah -- and they were both extremely reluctant to share details of day-to-day life in the city, AFP reported.
Over the past two years, violence at anti-government protests in the city has left dozens dead, including six demonstrators who were shot dead in the weeks leading up to the Pope's visit. There are no churches, which means Tobia has to travel to Baghdad or to the main southern city of Basra for the weddings or funerals of fellow Christians.
But he is glad to talk about his family history.
His father was born in Nasiriyah just before World War I to a businessman who had settled in the city when it was under Ottoman rule. Throughout the following decades -- which brought World War II, the rise and fall of the Iraqi monarchy and finally the socialist Baath state led by Saddam Hussein -- the Tobia family stayed in the city, now capital of Dhi Qar province. In the 1990s, the world imposed crippling international sanctions against Saddam. "There were only 20 to 30 Christian families around at the time," recalled Tobia, saying they were mostly public sector employees on short assignments to Nasiriyah from other cities. Following the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam in 2003, those numbers dwindled further: "Only two Christian families stayed in Nasiriyah," he said. Nearly two decades on, the Tobia name is the only one left, he said.
All of the Christian friends he had during his childhood have left, either to the capital or to the autonomous Kurdish region in the north. Often, after that first move, they'd leave the country," he said.
The dramatic drop in the number of Christians has been mirrored nationwide: from 1.5 million before the invasion, less than 400,000 remain today. Francis' four-day tour is the first-ever papal visit to Iraq and he aims to use it to encourage the country's remaining Christians to deepen their roots.
Tobia, for one, is hopeful. "The coming of a man of this stature with this much religious weight could benefit Dhi Qar and its pilgrimage sites," he said.

US Defense Secretary: Saudi Arabia is a Strategic Partner
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 7 March, 2021
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Sunday that Saudi Arabia is "a strategic partner in the region.”“My focus is to defend this country and protect our interest,” Austin told ABC's "This Week" program.
"Saudi is from my perspective a strategic partner in the region. And certainly we have security commitments in that area.”“It’s necessary to work together to make sure that we achieve our goals and objectives,” he added.

US Says Will Do What's Necessary to Defend Itself after Attack in Iraq
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 7 March, 2021
The United States will do what it views as necessary to defend its interests after a rocket attack against Iraq's Ain al-Asad airbase, which hosts American, coalition and Iraqi forces, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Sunday. Speaking on ABC's "This Week" program, Austin said the United States was urging Iraq to quickly investigate the incident and determine who was responsible. "We'll strike, if that's what we think we need to do, at a time and place of our own choosing. We demand the right to protect our troops," he said, adding that Iran would have to draw its own conclusions if and when the United States acts.On Wednesday, 10 rockets were fired at the sprawling airbase in western Iraq that is home to many of the 2,500 American troops still in Iraq. No service members were wounded, but a civilian American contractor died from a heart attack while sheltering during the rocket attack. The rocket attack followed a US airstrike in eastern Syria last week that targeted a compound used by Iranian-backed Shiite militias that Washington had assessed were responsible for a deadly rocket attack on another US facility in Erbil.

Former US Official: Khashoggi Report Abuse of Intelligence Power

Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 7 March, 2021
Kirsten Fontenrose, a US official in office at the time of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, said the 2018 intelligence assessment of the crime — on which the 2021 assessment is based — was “an abuse of the intelligence community’s power.”Fontenrose, who was serving as senior director for Gulf affairs at the National Security Council at the time of the murder, said the assessment was not based on any damning evidence. Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake told The Lancet that Fontenrose, who worked for the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, informed him that she was very concerned with the report. She was “so concerned at the time that she warned the CIA that if the report was included in the president’s daily intelligence briefing, she would attach a memo that warned him, ‘this is intelligence based on supposition and triangulation and being used to force your hand,’” he wrote.
The one-page assessment that was released by the American administration was not based on any human sources or documented evidence, rather it was based on supposition and false assumptions. After Fontenrose’s argument with the CIA, the agency then went on to produce a less classified version of the report, making it possible to spread it far and wide, said Lake. “That meant that every senior national security adviser on the hill now had access to it,” Fontenrose said. “They released it on the day Congress came back into session, knowing that these guys would all come back from recess and it would cause an explosion.”“For the Washington establishment, the Khashoggi story was a morality play about the politicization of intelligence,” whereby the “intelligence community sought to portray supposition as fact, egged on by a press corps that saw itself engaged in a cosmic struggle of good versus evil” with then President Donald Trump, said Lake. “Fontenrose told me that the declassified document released last month used very similar language to the classified report that crossed her desk in 2018,” he continued. “The only piece of this that is high confidence is the last paragraph,” she said, noting that this paragraph lists the names of people involved in the case, but makes no mention of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. In September 2020, the Saudi general prosecution closed the Khashoggi case after issuing jail sentences, totaling 124 years, against eight people.

Explosion on Gaza Fishing Boat Kills 3 Palestinian Anglers
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 7 March, 2021
Three Palestinian fishermen were killed Sunday after a blast ripped through their boat off the Gaza shore, officials said. Nezar Ayyash, of the association that represents fishermen, said the anglers — two brothers and a cousin — were plying their trade off the coast of the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza Strip when the explosion happened. The cause of the blast was not immediately clear. Palestinian media reports blamed Israeli navy fire, but the Israeli military said it was not involved in this incident. The Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza said it opened an investigation. Minutes before the explosion, local media reported that Hamas, the militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, was test-firing rockets toward the sea.

Iran’s President Urges Europe to Avoid 'Threats’
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 7 March, 2021
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani Sunday urged Europe to avoid "threats or pressure" in any negotiations with Tehran, as he received Ireland's foreign minister, Simon Coveney, amid diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. Ireland is currently "facilitator" for the United Nations Security Council resolution that enshrined the nuclear accord between Iran and six major powers, according to the Irish foreign ministry. The deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has been hanging by a thread since former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018 and reimposed punishing sanctions on Tehran. Following Joe Biden's US presidential election victory in November, the US, the European parties to the deal -- France, Germany and Britain -- and Tehran have been trying to salvage the accord.
"The best way to solve problems with European partners at various bilateral, regional and international levels, is negotiations based on mutual respect and avoiding any threats or pressure," Rouhani told Coveney at Sunday's meeting, according to a statement by the Iranian presidency.
Ireland is not party to the nuclear deal, but currently sits on the UN Security Council. As "facilitator" for resolution 2231 - the UNSC resolution enshrining the nuclear deal -- Dublin is tasked with keeping other council members briefed with implementation of the deal. The Iranian president criticized Europe's "inactivity on JCPOA commitments" and added that Iran is committed to "preserving the JCPOA and is the only party that has paid a price for it.""But this situation cannot continue as it is," Rouhani stressed, according to Agence France Presse. "Preserving and reviving" the deal requires all sides to act on their commitments, he said. The three European parties to the nuclear deal on Thursday scrapped a draft resolution at the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency that criticized Iran's suspension of some nuclear inspections, a move welcomed by Tehran. Biden has signaled his readiness to revive the deal, but insists Iran first return to all its nuclear commitments, most of which it suspended in response to the US sanctions. Tehran meanwhile demands Washington take the first step by scrapping the sanctions. Iran on February 23 started to restrict some IAEA inspections. But a visit to Tehran by the UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi just before the restriction came into force led to an interim technical deal for up to three months. The arrangement would allow the body to continue monitoring "all the key activities," Rossi said at the time. Rouhani noted that "Iran still remains committed to cooperation with the IAEA."He added that Iran is ready to reverse the restrictions "after the lifting of America's illegal sanctions and it stopping the policy of threats and pressure."

Iran Frees British-Iranian Aid Worker Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Her Lawyer Says

Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 7 March, 2021
Iran has released British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, her lawyer Hojjat Kermani told Iranian website Emtedad on Sunday, after her five-year prison sentence for plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment. “She was pardoned by Iran’s Supreme Leader last year, but spent the last year of her term under house arrest with electronic shackles tied to her feet. Now they’re cast off,” Kermani told the website. “She has been freed.”Iran’s judiciary officials have yet to comment about the release. It was not immediately clear whether she was allowed to leave Iran. Kermani was quoted as saying that “a hearing for Zaghari’s second case has been scheduled at branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran” according to the website. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested at a Tehran airport in April 2016 as she prepared to head back to Britain with her daughter after a family visit. She was later sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment. Her family and the foundation, a charity that operates independently of media firm Thomson Reuters and its news subsidiary Reuters, deny the charge. She was released from jail in March last year and put under house arrest in Tehran in response to concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in Iran’s prisons, but her movements were restricted and she was barred from leaving the country.

Analysts, Officials Call on Biden to Increase Pressure on Houthis
Washington - Muath al-Amri/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 7 March, 2021
The new American administration has been taking serious and intense steps to end the crisis in Yemen and end the escalation of the Iran-backed Houthi militias on civilians in Yemen and infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.
However, several analysts and officials are urging Joe Biden’s administration against being lenient with the Houthis, calling on him to instead increase pressure on the militias that are still relentlessly waging their war on Yemen.
Republican Senator Michael McCaul tweeted last week: “Over the past several weeks, I called for the administration to apply more pressure on the Houthis to end the violent conflict in Yemen.”
He welcomed the US sanctions against two senior Houthi leaders for procuring weapons from Iran and attacking civilians.
"While this action is appreciated, I urge the administration to continue applying pressure to all parties so a negotiated solution to end this devastating war can occur,” he added.
Kirsten Fontenrose, of the Atlantic Council in Washington, said the situation in Yemen was deteriorating because the Houthis have been emboldened by the recent decisions by the Biden administration and their recent military success in Marib. At the same time, the Houthis believe they have no reason to turn to negotiations or agree to a political settlement that could reflect their actual numbers among the people.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, she said any political understanding the American administration may now reach could exaggerate the Houthis’ actual representation on the ground. Moreover, she noted that it would only be a matter of a handful of months before the agreement is rejected by other Yemenis.
An agreement would not put the Saudis at ease or offer them a sense that the US wants to protect their interests in Yemen, she added. At the same, they trust newly-appointed US envoy Tim Lenderking, but they still feel that Biden’s openness to Iran over a new nuclear deal means Washington is ready to abandon Saudi security for the sake of reaching an agreement with the Houthis that would also please Tehran.
Fontenrose, who had worked at the White House and Department of State during the terms of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said Lenderking is leading international talks aimed at reaching a political solution in Yemen. She added that he is respected in the region and boasts a great working relationship with UN envoy Martin Griffiths. The Houthis, on the other hand, are doing nothing to forge long-term ties with him because they were not part of influential legitimate Yemeni politicians over the decades during which Lenderking was involved in diplomacy with the Gulf.
Lenderking is aware that ending the war in Yemen is a priority for the American administration and that its end will be beneficial to Saudi Arabia and Iran alike in terms of their reputation in Washington, Fontenrose said. She remarked, however, that the administration’s recent actions left him with few carrots and sticks to motivate the Houthis to end their push in Marib and agree on a political arrangement that is supported by the rest of Yemen.
The administration must obtain from Iran a drive to end the war in Yemen, which Tehran is not at all seeking, she went to say. The strategy must also force the Houthis to offer concessions in recognition of the favorable American moves towards them, but they are not.
Fontenrose criticized the strategy for presenting several favors to the Houthis without asking them for anything in return. It removed their terror designation, ended US support to the Saudi-led Arab coalition and froze offensive arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The Houthis responded to these positive moves by attacking Riyadh, forging ahead in the offensive on Marib and preventing UN inspectors from accessing the Safer tanker, which risks an environmental disaster off Hodeidah. The US abandoned most of its influence before even kicking off political negotiations.
Fontenrose said the US could persuade Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region to join a non-aggression pact with Iran. Such a deal should demand that Iran cease its support to the Houthis in exchange for assertions that Saudi Arabia would request the US to reduce the number of its forces, which may perhaps lead to an end to support to Iranian opposition groups.
Political analyst at the Atlantic Council, Carmiel Arbit, meanwhile, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Biden administration’s decision to revoke the Houthis’ terror designation helped create a space for not only relief efforts, but diplomacy. She said the move reflected a more pragmatic, possibly even sympathetic, approach, towards Iran compared to the maximum pressure policy of the former administration.
What next? Arbit said that after six years of bloody conflict, there appears to be no simple solution to the crisis. Moreover, it is growing increasingly difficult to reunite the country. On the short term, relief efforts must be a priority for each of the US and international community. The Biden administration will likely approach Yemen the same way it does Iran whereby it will search for opportunities to ease tensions between Arab Gulf allies with Iran, while at the same time resort to punitive measures, such as targeted sanctions, and seek to secure small gains wherever they may be.
In an article to the Council on Foreign Relations, former US Special Representative for Iran, Elliot Abrams said the Trump administration’s decision to call the Houthis terrorists is attributed to their repeated acts of terrorism. “And the main critique of the Biden administration’s revocation of that decision is equally simple: the Houthis have long committed, and continue to commit, acts of terror. They should be designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) because they are an FTO.”
“The motivation for the Biden decision is clear: the FTO designation may have a negative humanitarian impact in Yemen. It may also be that the administration concluded the terrorism designation would make negotiating with the Houthis more complex, thereby hindering efforts to end the war,” he added.
“But if one’s central goal is to end the war, what is the impact of this FTO reversal regarding the Houthis? Is it clear that they will react by changing their behavior and stopping acts of terror? Wish Mr. Lenderking good luck, for he has been handed a most difficult file,” he continued.
“Logic suggests an alternative view: that the Houthis will be less inclined to negotiate, especially because the administration’s decision comes only days after its statement that it would no longer support offensive military operations by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. If I were a Houthi leader, I might conclude ‘I am winning. The Americans want out. They’ve walked away from the Saudis and reversed the terrorism designation even though my own behavior has not changed. Why negotiate?’ If that is right, the Biden administration ought to be thinking hard about ways to change the incentive structure it has backed into,” Abrams said.

Washington Supports 2-State Solution, to Renew Diplomatic Relations with Palestinians
Washington - Ali Barada/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 7 March, 2021
The United States has affirmed it will work to “renew” its diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority and “closely” with Israel, in line with its commitment to strive to push for the two-state solution earlier negotiated between both parties. US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Biden’s administration believes that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state. He noted that the US will work closely with Israel to achieve this goal, in addition to renewing its diplomatic relations with the Palestinians. Consultations will take place with partners in the region and abroad (...) and with all those who have a common interest in supporting efforts exerted to advance a lasting peace in the Middle East, he explained.
Commenting on whether the administration plans to resume financial aids and cooperation with the Palestinian leadership in light of the latter's support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) probe into possible war crimes that may have been committed by Israel or the Palestinian factions, Price said it will find means to support the Palestinian people. “We have pledged to do so.”He recalled Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statements, in which he rejected ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s decision to open an investigation into Israel and Palestinian factions’ possible war crimes in the occupied territories since 1967.“We firmly oppose and are disappointed by the ICC prosecutor’s announcement of an investigation into the Palestinian situation.” “The ICC, as we have said, has no jurisdiction over this matter. Israel is not a party to the ICC, and it has not consented to the court’s jurisdiction, and we have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel.”The Palestinians do not qualify as a sovereign state and therefore are not qualified to obtain membership as a state in or to participate as a state in or to delegate jurisdiction to the ICC, Price stressed.
Nevertheless, the senior US diplomat said his country “remains firmly committed to ensuring justice and accountability for international atrocity crimes.”He pointed out that he “is aware of the role that international courts such as the ICC can play in pursuit of these major goals.
A peaceful, secure and more prosperous future for the Middle East population depends on building bridges and creating new means of dialogue, rather than unilateral judicial procedures that would lead to exacerbating tensions and undermining efforts to advance the two-state solution, he noted.
“Our position is consistent. We encouraged Israel to avoid unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and make it more difficult to preserve the viability of a two-state solution.”“We will continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security, including by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly,” Price added.


Biden sends B-52 heavy bomber over Persian Gulf in signal to Iran
The Jerusalem Post/March 07/2021
In seventh mission into CENTCOM’s area of operation in the last four months Israeli Air Force F-15s accompany B-52 heavy bomber over Israel. In a clear signal to Iran, a United States Air Force B-52H “Stratofortress” bomber flew over the Persian Gulf, before the plane was spotted in Israeli airspace heading back to its base in the US. It was escorted by Israeli Air Force F-15s as it passed over Israel. It was the seventh mission into CENTCOM’s area of operation in the last four months and the second deployment of the heavy bomber since Joe Biden became president on January 20.
The US has been trying to get the Iranians to return to the negotiating table to discuss its illicit nuclear program and in the meantime has dispatched the B-52 heavy bombers and recently attacked Iranian militia targets in Syria. Last week, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that Israel was updating its attack plans against Iran’s nuclear facilities. "We have them [the attack plans] in our hands, but we will continue [to] constantly improve them," Gantz said. "The Iranian nuclear aspiration must be stopped. If the world stops them before, it's very much good. But if not, we must stand independently and we must defend ourselves by ourselves," Gantz said. After a recent deployment, the US Central Command said the bomber was sent to the Gulf to underscore America’s commitment to regional security and the ability to rapidly deploy to the region as needed. “The United States continues to deploy combat-ready capabilities into the US Central Command area of responsibility to deter any potential adversary, and make clear that we are ready and able to respond to any aggression directed at Americans or our interests,” said Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander, US Central Command, at the time. “We do not seek conflict, but no one should underestimate our ability to defend our forces or to act decisively in response to any attack.”

Tit-for-tat: Iran threatens to turn Israel into ashes if it ‘commits any silly acts’

Ismaeel Naar, Al Arabiya English/March 08/2021
Iran is threatening to “turn Tel Aviv and Haifa into ashes” if Israel “commits any silly acts,” in comments attributed to Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami. “Zionists should know that if they commit any silly acts, Iran will turn Tel Aviv and Haifa into ashes,” Hatami warned on Sunday.
Hatami’s comments come just days after his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz said Tel Aviv was ready to act independently against Tehran if needed and would not “wait will not wait for the international community to stop Iran’s “nuclear escalation.”US President Joe Biden has been pushing for direct talks with Iran over the JCPOA, an acronym for the Iran nuclear deal, signed in 2015. Former US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement and imposed heavy economic sanctions on Iran. “In a world dominated by bullying powers, a country with no power will be humiliated because the hegemonic powers know nothing but the language of power,” General Hatami was quoted on Sunday as saying by the pro-regime Iranian Students News Agency. “Iran’s soft power has different aspects and the country uses its power to ensure its security and stability,” he added.
“Zionists’ occasional threats against Iran is out of desperation and as the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Zionist regime is not Iran’s main enemy and that they are not even the size of Iran,” Hatami stressed.
Israel accused Iran last Wednesday of being linked to a recent oil spill off its shores that caused major ecological damage, calling the incident environmental terrorism.

Saeed Mohammad, head of IRGC’s biggest commercial enterprise, runs for president
Ismaeel Naar, Al Arabiya English/March 08/2021
Saeed Mohammad, the head of the Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has resigned from his position to run in Iran’s June presidential elections. The Khatam al-Anbiya (PBUH) Construction Headquarters is behind some of Iran’s largest domestic infrastructure projects. The Iranian Students’ News Agency reported his resignation on Sunday via a letter he penned to the IRGC in which he described himself as the “soldier of the Revolution’s Supreme Leader.”“As a soldier of the Supreme Leader of the Revolution, I will always be proud to serve the holy people of Iran in the service of the holy system of the Islamic Republic and in the light of the Imam, the leadership and the precious martyrs of the Revolution,” Mohammad wrote. Mohammad is considered a veteran of the IRGC with and close links to the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In recent months, Mohammad has spent time raising his public profile by touring key Iranian cities like Ahwaz and Tabriz, cities which saw significant protests in recent weeks by angry retirees who say their pension funds no longer provide them with a decent life amid high inflation and unemployment. “Mohammad is not only the first ‘second generation’ Guardsman to head Khatam al-Anbiya, he is also the first with no military background or fighting experience in the IRGC. With a PhD in civil engineering, he represents the Guard’s technocratic and educated class and has been at the forefront of driving the economic expansion of the IRGC, which now controls as much as 40 percent of Iran’s economy,” Iran expert Kasra Aarabi wrote in a profile on Mohammad for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. “This experience and the absence of a military background would enable Mohammad to present himself as both a loyal Guardsman and ‘civilian’ technocrat, potentially appealing to regime supporters beyond the IRGC’s traditional sphere,” Aarabi added.

Arab Coalition intercepts, downs 12 Houthi drones in one day
Tamara Abueish, Al Arabiya English/08 March /2021
The Arab Coalition intercepted 12 explosive-laden drones launched by the Iran-backed Houthis towards Saudi Arabia in one day, Colonel Turki al-Maliki said on Sunday. Two drones were destroyed on Sunday afternoon, the coalition said. Five armed drones heading towards Saudi Arabia were intercepted after another five Houthi drones had been downed earlier on Sunday morning.The Iran-backed group’s explosive-laden unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) is the latest in a series of escalated cross-border aerial attacks on Saudi Arabia and areas in Yemen under the internationally-recognized government’s control. The Houthis have been intensifying their attacks on Saudi Arabia and Yemen because coalition forces have made significant advances in Marib, the spokesperson said. The coalition has been monitoring explosive-laden Houthi drones and has destroyed multiple aircrafts that the group had deliberately launched towards civilians and civilian objects, he added. “We are working to protect civilians in accordance with international humanitarian laws,” al-Maliki said. The Saudi Press Agency ) The Houthis launched multiple drones and ballistic missiles towards Riyadh, Jazan, and Khamis Mushait in the Kingdom. At least seven civilians were injured in Houthi attacks this past week, Saudi Arabian authorities said.


Saudi-Led Coalition Jets Pound Yemen Capital after Huthi Strikes
Agence France Presse/08 March /2021
A Saudi-led military coalition mounted air strikes on Yemen's Huthi-controlled capital Sanaa on Sunday after it intercepted a string of drones launched by the Iran-backed rebels, state media reported. The developments mark a new escalation in Yemen's six-year conflict between the coalition-backed Yemeni government and the rebels, despite a renewed US push to end the conflict. The strikes triggered huge explosions in Sanaa and sent plumes of smoke rising in the sky, according to AFP correspondents at the scene. The rebels reported seven air strikes on the city. "The military operation targets Huthi military capabilities in Sanaa and a number of other provinces," the coalition was quoted as saying by the official Saudi Press Agency. The raids come after the coalition said it intercepted a total of 12 drones launched by the rebels on Sunday, in a sharp escalation in cross-border attacks on the kingdom. The coalition -- fighting in Yemen alongside the internationally recognized government against the insurgents -- said the drones were aimed at "civilian" targets in Saudi Arabia, SPA reported, without specifying the locations. Targeting civilians in the kingdom was a "red line", the coalition said after the retaliatory strikes on Sanaa.
Amid a new U.S. push for a resolution to the grinding conflict, it added that the Huthis' actions "will not lead to an imposition of a political settlement." The rebels did not immediately claim responsibility for the drone attacks.
'Beyond humanitarian assistance'
The grinding conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions, according to international organizations, sparking what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis. On Sunday, David Gressly, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, was in the Red Sea port of Hodeida, a key entry point for both humanitarian aid and commercial goods. "I need to understand the situation of food, fuel, health, water, education and other needs of the people," he told reporters. "What we would want to see is the port to be open, not only for fuel but other commodities."
The UN had warned of a "death sentence" against Yemen after a donor conference last week yielded less than half the funds needed to prevent a devastating famine. It appealed for $3.85 billion to pay for urgently needed aid, but just $1.7 billion was offered at the virtual pledging conference.
"After over a year of Covid throughout the world, the economies are weak and those who are giving funding find it more difficult to give money," said Gressly. "So we need to find a way to go beyond humanitarian assistance to help the economy come back."
Escalation in fighting -
The Huthis have stepped up attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, while they escalate an offensive in Yemen to seize the government's last northern stronghold of Marib.The escalation comes after the United States last month delisted the Huthis as terrorists and stepped up efforts to de-escalate the six-year conflict. The terror designation, imposed late in the administration of former U.S. president Donald Trump, had been widely criticized by aid organizations, who warned it would hamper their efforts to alleviate a humanitarian crisis in Yemen. "The removal of the Huthis from the list of terrorist groups has been interpreted in a hostile way by the militia," SPA cited the coalition as saying. The coalition added that their "victories" in Marib had prompted the rebels to step up attacks on the kingdom. On Saturday, Yemeni government sources said fierce fighting between pro-government forces and the rebels in oil-rich Marib had left at least 90 combatants on the two sides dead over the span of 24 hours. Years of bombing have failed to shake the rebels' hold on Sanaa, and they have steadily expanded their reach in the country's north. U.S. President Joe Biden has halted support to Saudi offensive operations in Yemen's war, which he called a "catastrophe" that "has to end." But he has also reiterated U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in defending its territory.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 07-08/2021

A Pope’s Visit Amidst the Ruins
Charles Elias Chartouni/March 07/2021
شارل الياس شرتوني: زيارة قداسة البابا فرنسيس وسط الدمار والأنقاض
“Fraternity is more durable than fratricide, hope is more powerful than hatred, peace more powerful than war.This conviction speaks with greater eloquence than the passing voices of hatred and violence, and it cannot be silenced by the blood spilled by those who pervert the name of God to pursue paths of destruction.” Pope Francis, speech, Mosul, March 7 2021.
Contending observers wonder about the Pope’s visit to Iraq, its purview, impact on the future of Iraq and its reverberations on peace chances across the Middle East.
We have to realize, at first, that Pope Francis is not an actor in the ongoing political and conflict theatrics and not expecting to be one, he positions himself from a different angle as a dramatis personae in a human tragedy taking place in a region and a place, where not only the future of native Christian Churches and communities is at stake, but the prospects of peace in the whole Middle Eastern ambit are under the mercy of a monumental unraveling which destroyed the centennial interstate system, and left the whole region at lurch.
The Vatican being a moral authority and the federating structure around which operate the various Catholic Churches worldwide, its old and ubiquitous diplomacy have proven to be highly instrumental mediating conflicts throughout the world and bringing parties of conflict around negotiating tables.
The Pope’s visit was symbolically successful breaking up Iraq’s isolation on the international scene, helping the Iraqis claim their independent stature away from Iranian hegemony, inter-Islamic power rivalries, assert their ethno-religious and cultural pluralism and the need to manage it on the very basis of an egalitarian civic credo and democratic institutions embodied by its nascent federal system, and deal with the bloody past through the ethics of a transitional justice system that helps heal and repair the injustices of the immediate and distant past.
The Pope’s “ministry of reconciliation” (Paul, Corinthians 2/ 5:11-21) was quite effective assisting Iraqi leaderships( Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni) in their endeavors to reaffirm their national sovereignty, Pluralism, and equidistance away from actual and impending imperial inroads, and bringing into light the dramatic conditions of the ethno-religious minorities( Yezidi, Kakai, Sabean….), their long historical track of moral degradation and the late annihilation campaigns engineered by the late ISIS. The Kurdish and Shiite leaderships ( represented by President B. Saleh, PM. Moustapha al Khadimi, and Kurdistan PM. M. Barzani ) have deftly maneuvered to organize the Pope’s visit, emphasize their operational autonomy towards Iran’s heavy sway on Iraqi Politics, promote their pro-Western intellectual and political proclivities, and circumscribe the scope of the politics of fear.
This visit is a diplomatic feat carefully crafted, organized and achieved on the very background of a ramshackle republic which has stumbled over the last three decades between regional wars, endemic instability, internecine civil wars, different interludes of terror reign under the Iranian piloted Shiite terror squads, and the savagery of ISIS, and the plundering of Iraqi resources by the rising Shiite oligarchs and their clientelist networks under Nuri al Maliki. Moreover, the meeting with grand Ayatollah al Sistani is quite indicative of the Holy See elective affinity with the spiritual and quietist tradition of Shiism, in contradistinction with the political and violent proned khomeynism and the ruling jurist governance.
Otherwise, the apostolic nature of the visit was meant to help redress the imbalances driven by waves of massive Christian migration which started in the thirties of the last century (featured by the installation of the Assyrian Patriarchate in the US, and the cascading departures after the first and second Gulf wars), heal the wounds of the Islamic State interlude, consolidate the demographic, socio-economic, political and educational restructuring platforms and the various Church ministries of the Catholic and Christian denominations bound to manage their new plight, between the minority Church in their native land, and the widely scattered diasporas throughout the five continents.
The Iraqi configuration compares largely with the Lebanese one, with one major difference, Lebanese Christianity is an independent actor whose moral and operational autonomy is strong enough to challenge the political arrogance of destructive Iranian and Islamist power politics, their eroding legitimacy and derelict geopolitical platforms.
Western democracies are definitely invited to draw inspiration from the Vatican’s diplomacy and step once again into the Middle Eastern whirlwind to contain the destructive Iranian, Turkish and Russian politics, bury the ISIS legacy and reset the political dynamics on a constructive course of conflict resolution, integrated development, and alternative political and civic cultures that are deeply entrenched in the yearnings of regional civil societies which have experienced the excruciating travails of political and social authoritarianism, Islamic totalitarianism and pervasive instability. Pope Francis has set the course, Western democracies have to relay at this pinnacle moment.


New Life Is Breathed in Mosul
Noura Al Kaabi//Asharq Al-Awsat/March 07/ 2021
After the fall of the terrorist ISIS state in Iraq’s Mosul in July 2019, stories of pain began to emerge from under the ashes of war. The stories showed the world the ugliness of hatred practiced by the organization against man and the city, against mosque and church, Muslim and Christian and humanity and life.
Traumatized by terrorism, hope soon shined from Abu Dhabi to restore light in the city through the Revive the Spirit of Mosul UNESCO initiative. The United Arab Emirates was among the first and fastest to take the initiative to rebuild the Great Mosque of al-Nuri and its iconic Al-Hadba minaret in 2018. And since the principles of humanity are indivisible and immune to discrimination, the UAE expanded the project after Pope Francis’ historic visit to the country in 2019. The initiative was expanded to include the renovation and reconstruction of the Al-Tahera and Al-Saa Churches in a message of hope and tolerance aimed at restoring the historic standing and human heritage of Mosul that had never discriminated between people based on religion, race or color. Today Mosul and the whole of Iraq are celebrating Pope Francis’ visit in a hope that it would give a new push for human fraternity that was launched during his visit to Abu Dhabi. The initiative bolsters social cohesion and human harmony and consolidates moderation, tolerance and coexistence, which is the only way to develop and elevate humanity.
The pope is carrying out his visit to Mosul under the slogan, “We are all brothers”, in an embodiment of the Document of Human Fraternity that he signed with Sheikh al-Azhar Dr. Ahmad al-Tayyeb in Abu Dhabi in 2019. The document was a message to the world that dialogue between religions and tolerance, social and cultural diversity were our choice and the choice for humanity. It was the strong human response to the ideology of darkness and terrorism that fuels conflicts between man.
A new life was breathed into Mosul, one that is in sharp contrast to the dark spirit that ISIS tried to implant in the youths of the city. Today, we bear witness to how Christians are helping rebuild the al-Nuri mosque and its minaret and how Muslims are renovating and rebuilding the Al-Tahera and Al-Saa churches. They are discovering, without discrimination, their prestigious Mosul heritage that was formed through the values of solidarity between cultures and religions and friendship between peoples of different sects. Together they shaped the civilized image that embodies the spirit of “Human Fraternity” and the noble goal that was spelled out in the Abu Dhabi document. The UAE-UNESCO partnership in this significant project was aimed at reviving three neighborhoods in Mosul. Combined, these neighborhoods form a heritage of humanity and civilization and witness to the grandeur of man. At the same time, the project created job opportunities for the people of Mosul and helped in sustainable development through the formation of an attractive environment for tourists from different parts of the world, thereby becoming a source of income for the city. The support for the Revive the Spirit of Mosul initiative is an extension of the UAE’s keenness to preserve human heritage away from religious, sectarian or geographic considerations. For dozens of years, the UAE has contributed in several renovations of global heritage sites, such as the Dome of Rock at the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem, Omar bin al-Khattab Mosque and Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan or former Imperial Theater at Chateau de Fontainebleau in Paris, Museum of Islamic Art Cairo, Library of Alexandria, Marib dam in Yemen, Macmillan Memorial Library in Nairobi, and Nuzul Al Salam in Bahrain, among several others.
We welcome Pope Francis in our Arab region and we will continue to bolster and consolidate the message of “Human Fraternity”, which is one of harmony and love that we hope would prevail in the world, so that man can help fellow man and so that humans can become partners in progress, not conflicts, wars and hatred.

Can Pope Francis save Iraq's Christian heritage?
Janine di Giovanni/The National/March 07/ 2021
I have a photograph on my desk that keeps me going during difficult moments. It is from a time when I climbed Mount Maqlub in northern Iraq to reach the Monastery of Mar Mattai shortly after the fall of ISIS.
Mar Mattai is a Syriac Orthodox monastery, a holy site for Iraqi Christians, founded by a hermit escaping Roman persecution in the year 363. My photo is of a lone crucifix looming high over the dusty Nineveh plain, symbolising strength and unity.
For reasons few understand, when ISIS cleared villages and left a trail of destruction in Nineveh in 2014, it never made it up the road to the monastery. The believers I met in Mar Mattai told me that it was an act of God. “We need to be protected,” one told me. “And we were protected.”
This is why Pope Francis’s determination to visit Iraq “as an act of love”, to give moral support to vulnerable Iraqi minorities, is so crucial.
The 84-year-old pontiff, who has been vaccinated, has arrived at a perilous time: amid a resurgence of Covid-19 and multiple rocket attacks on Iraqi bases and institutions. It is the Pope’s first trip abroad since the pandemic began. The fact he chose Iraq, and to focus on the Christians, is not inconsequential. They are in grave danger.
Iraqi Christians are considered the oldest continuous Christian community on Earth with roots going back 2,000 years. Yet this millennia-old connection is looking increasingly tenuous. Christians are an integral part of the mosaic that is Iraq, but their numbers are dwindling.
Before the US-led invasion in 2003, when I was living in Baghdad, there were nearly 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, mainly Catholic Chaldeans. Today, there are between 250,000 and 300,000 left, according to Samuel Tadros, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, the Washington-based think tank. But no one really knows the correct figure.
“In five years, we will be no more,” one priest told me gloomily in 2003. Eighteen years later, I reflect on his words. He was not entirely correct – Christians still exist – but their position is precarious.
Back in the Saddam Hussein days, I would worship on most Sundays at the white-stoned St Mary’s Chaldean Church in Shorja district. Sitting with people meditating and singing quietly in Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, was a respite for me.
A few days before Christmas in 2002, I knelt with terrified Christians celebrating mass in Mosul. The entire congregation was praying, mindful of impending war. A few months later, on Ash Wednesday, I sat with some Chaldeans – descendants of some of the oldest Christians in the world – at St Mary’s Church on Palestine Street in Baghdad. In 2009, St Mary’s would be blown up by a bomb as worshippers were leaving. After the US-led invasion, insurgency groups launched a series of bombings targeting churches in Iraq. On October 31, 2010, six ISIS members wearing suicide vests entered the Church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad during the evening mass. They killed 58 people, including priests, worshippers and police officers. Some were murdered by sprays of gunfire, others by grenades or explosions. The brutal attack was an act of retaliation against a Florida-based evangelical minister who had threatened to burn the Quran. In a later message, ISIS called the church “the dirty den of idolatry".
“We’re worried,” an Iraqi Christian told me in 2018. “Even with ISIS gone, there’s another big threat: there is no work for us. Our enemy is emigration. People are leaving every day.”
This is the tipping point. We are seeing the gradual decline of Christianity in the region and, perhaps, the end of its existence by the next century. Thousands are fleeing the birthplace of Christianity ⁠– the lands where the prophets wandered, where Christ walked and preached – not only because of religious persecution, but also because of a bleak economic future. Climate change and the rise of other radical groups also threaten their existence.
For the youth, there is little future, little work, little incentive. This is why a leader with the charisma and courage of Pope Francis can bring a restorative hope to people whose lives have been crushed.
As a Catholic, I admire Pope Francis for many reasons, including his humanity and simplicity. His fortitude – going to Iraq at a time when it is so weakened – has made me an even bigger admirer. In a time when people fear contact with others, he is moving amongst a crowd. He is not preaching from a pulpit. Like during his early days, when he roamed the neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires and engaged with the poor, he is doing field work.
“Jesus teaches us another way,” he once said. “Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers. Become the word in body as well as spirit.”
It is easy to be cynical about one's motives, especially when they pertain to religion. After all, they can often be used to distort narratives. But I see the Pope’s decision to go to Iraq as something pure and hopeful – in a time when we have been deprived of hope.
*Janine di Giovanni is a senior fellow at Yale’s Jackson Institute. Her next book, The Vanishing, about Christians in the Middle East, is out in the autumn of 2021

The message behind the Pope's trip to Iraq
Monsignor Yoannis Lahzi Gaid/The National/March 07/2021
hile in Baghdad in 2010, I experienced the aftermath of an extremist attack on the city’s Our Lady of Salvation church. Witnessing the remnants of the 58 innocent people killed and blown up by ISIS extremists, I felt intense sadness and disbelief at the fact that someone could blow themselves up to kill others, solely because they have a different religion. Now, 11 years later, Pope Francis is visiting this site of religious persecution, with a message of peace and hope for the wounded people of Iraq and the Middle East. The trip is a new stone in the edifice of human fraternity, for which the Pope has worked tirelessly throughout his life. The visit marks his first foreign trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the first papal trip in history to Iraq. I think that His Holiness prioritised this visit to the Middle East for three reasons.
First, he is giving this distressed region a special place in his heart and wants to convey the voices of its people to the whole world. The Pope wants to send a positive message that the most dangerous pandemic of all is to neglect those who are suffering – whether at the personal or state level.
Second, he intends to send a message of reassurance to those who find themselves forced to leave their homelands and emigrate in pursuit of security, freedom and justice.
Third, to affirm that we are all brothers in humanity and to invite everyone to the “word of fraternity”, in order to overcome the mistakes of the past and build the future together.
Human fraternity is the most important issue that His Holiness Pope Francis is working on. In 2019, I accompanied him on his historic visit to the UAE, where he signed the Document on Human Fraternity with Grand Imam Ahmed Al Tayyeb of Egypt’s Al Azhar. The joint statement urges the reconciliation of all people in the service of universal peace. This weekend, Pope Francis attended an interfaith meeting in Ur, the biblical location of the birthplace of Abraham. The event in itself is a message of fraternity, showing us that we all descend from the same father and believe in God, who called his Prophet Abraham and his descendants to worship Him alone and live as brothers among themselves. In renewing and reviving this message, the Pope’s mission can be summarised in just four words, “you are all brothers", the motto of the trip, affirming that what unites us is much greater than what separates us. I have great love for Iraq and its people. I hope that the Pope’s visit will represent a spark of hope for a new dawn, in which Iraq returns to the regional and international position it deserves.
*Monsignor Yoannis Lahzi Gaid is a member of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity and previously served as the personal secretary to Pope Francis until 2020.

Biden's emphasis on democracy and diplomacy isn't new or practical
Raghida Dergham/The National/March 07/ 2021
Earlier in the week, the Biden administration published a document called the “Interim National Security Strategic Guidance”. It reveals interesting ideas but also some flawed thinking on the part of the new team in the White House. Washington, under President Joe Biden, seems to have returned to its oft-used twin-pronged principles of democracy and diplomacy as a means of safeguarding its national security. Also intriguing, if not altogether surprising, is its view of Iran. The administration does not place Tehran at the same security threat level as the previous Trump administration did. The regime is still dangerous enough to merit Washington’s attention and, if the need arises, deterrence. But the US will use its diplomatic tools for this purpose – particularly if the regime moves to undermine the sovereignty and security of its allies in the region. The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign finds less purchase in the new team. The security document also makes clear the Biden administration’s unwillingness to view military force as “the answer to the region’s challenges”.
This comes just weeks after the withdrawal of US support for the war in Yemen, primarily between government forces and Houthi rebels. Furthermore, even as it condemned the repeated assaults being mounted by the Houthis on neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the administration has taken them off the US terror list. This will have no doubt come as good news to the rebels and their patrons in Tehran.
Apparently taking aim at China and Russia in the paper, the Biden administration has declared its willingness to use democracy as a weapon against what it views to be authoritarianism regimes. Democracy, according to Mr Biden, is America’s “fundamental advantage” and that Americans “must prove that our model isn’t a relic of history”. How he intends to carry out his agenda is a mystery, because history is a witness to Washington’s failed projects in the Middle East and elsewhere. It’s a different world now and, as the new administration begins working closely with governments in all shapes and forms, Mr Biden will end up backtracking on this approach. How high, for instance, will democracy and human rights be on his agenda while dealing with security allies, such as Turkey, and with countries he appears interested in dealing with, such as Iran?
If the administration is serious about human rights, it could begin by looking at Lebanon.
If the political elite in Beirut is, by virtue of its corrupt practices and inefficiencies, denying its people access to international aid, then does that not count as a human rights violation? Could the Biden team not support the Lebanese people’s right to have a neutral foreign policy, as opposed to one that is favourable towards Iran? Could the US not call for an international investigation into possible crimes against humanity more than six months after explosions at Beirut Port destroyed parts of the capital, killing and injuring many of its residents?
Today the same politicians continue to rule Lebanon, mostly because the international community has done little to hold them accountable. The Biden administration surely has the clout to make a difference.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely to do so. Because, like in the case of the Europeans, America’s priority right now is to revive the nuclear deal it signed with Iran in 2015 or, better still, secure a new one. Tehran will not allow Washington or Brussels to get involved in the so-called internal affairs of Beirut, which is firmly in its grip. And this could count as a strong example as to why Iran rejects any attempt to discuss its malign regional behaviour even if the nuclear issue is addressed. This is what it did in 2015, after which it expanded its destabilising operations in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen; and this is what it intends to do again. Interestingly, while the security document makes no mention of the US relying on Europe's influence to get tricky negotiations done, this is effectively its current approach to prospective talks with Iran. In their joint bid to get Iran to the table, there is concern that the West will avoid seeking major concessions from Tehran, instead allowing it to fulfil its commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and nothing more. This way, the US will be able to fulfil Iranian demands in return, which could even include the lifting of some sanctions, using the European channel.
Europe’s gambit could be seen through a move to put forward, and then withdraw, a proposal to censure Iran at a global IAEA meeting. This will thereby allow the regime, in return, to supposedly backtrack on its refusal to talk to the US about reviving the 2015 deal. It all seems like theatre.
But an increasingly hardline regime in Tehran is convinced that the Biden administration is more desperate than it is for a deal. And until the sometimes contradictory statements and positions of American officials become clearer, the rest of the world will continue to hold its breath.
*Raghida Dergham is the founder and executive chairwoman of the Beirut Institute and a columnist for The National

A Storm Over the American Republic
Guy Millière/Gatestone Institute/March 07/2021
The atmosphere in the United States remains poisonous. Critics claim that stoking in the public is being done on purpose -- to create a false narrative that not only is Trump supposedly a "threat to democracy," but that his more than 74 million supporters are, too. Others, however, claim that the real threat to democracy is actually these serial liars, violators of the Constitution and falsifiers of information.
The right to challenge and criticize, which is an integral part of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, appears seriously threatened. The right to defend oneself against charges also appears threatened, and the legal profession dangerous to practice.
Expressing doubts about the November 3 election is now a liability. Substantiated reports show that it was far from perfect. The American economist Peter Navarro, in his private capacity, drew up three meticulous analyses: "The Immaculate Deception," "The Art of the Steal" and "The Navarro Report". They have been zealously disparaged -- many think unjustly.
Some authors describe what is happening as a slide towards authoritarianism. They note that many Americans and corporations, while behaving in an increasingly authoritarian manner, accuse their opponents of being authoritarian -- in other words, blaming their opponents for what they themselves are doing.
For more than three years Trump was accused, without any evidence apart from a fake "dossier", of being a Russian agent. The accusations eventually proved baseless, but not before $32 million of taxpayers' money were spent in what the prosecutors knew from the start was a fraud. They also tried to frame, incriminate and send innocent people to prison. The exercise was, at bottom, nothing more than an attempted coup d'état.
Throughout his entire term, Trump was faced with threats, abuse of power and unremitting attacks. Even though Trump is no longer president, the war against him continues.
If H.R.1 becomes the law of the land, it will entrench those "very things that made the election of 2020 such a mess". These include, among other things, the flooding of states with millions of unsolicited mail-in ballots, failure to verify signatures, no chain of custody of ballots, same-day voter registration, and ballot-harvesting -- many of which are invitations to commit fraud. As a bipartisan report in 2005 from the Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker III, concluded: mail-in ballots "remain the largest source of potential voter fraud." If H.R.1 is passed in the Senate, countless ways of demolishing election integrity will be set in cement.
The atmosphere in the United States remains poisonous. Critics claim that stoking in the public is being done on purpose -- to create a false narrative that not only is Trump supposedly a "threat to democracy," but that his more than 74 million supporters are, too. Pictured: Members of the National Guard at a checkpoint on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2021, in Washington, DC.
January 20, 2021. President Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. The scene, however, is devoid of any human presence. The streets of Washington DC are empty. People had been urged to stay at home and Americans throughout the rest of the country asked not to come. The city is under the protection of 25,000 members of the National Guard, heavily armed. High barriers topped with razor wire surround the Capitol area. In the streets planned for the new president's "parade", barriers separate the sidewalks from the roadway. The only people visible are men in uniform carrying rifles. A day that is usually a day of celebration in the United States is, this year, strange and sad.
The explanation given by city officials and the FBI was that there was a risk of serious disruption. Other inaugurations had faced disruption, but had never placed the city under siege. On January 20, 2017, during President Donald J. Trump's inauguration, hostile protesters had come to Washington DC, burned cars and smashed windows. The police had protected the ceremony without razor wire and soldiers. Hundreds of thousands of people had cheered the new president.
This year, on January 6, responding to President Trump's calls for a big rally, a huge crowd gathered at the Ellipse, near the White House. Most listened to Trump's speech and returned home.
However, several thousand people went to the Capitol, a 30-minute walk away from Trump's rally, and there a group of well-organized people smashed windows on the Capitol and entered the building. It was not ransacked, but items were stolen. An unarmed woman was shot and killed by a Capitol police officer. Two protesters died of heart attacks. One person fell to the ground and was trampled. A member of the Capitol police died the next day, possible due to suffering a stroke.
The incident, though serious, fell far short of the scenes of looting, arson and extreme violence that had taken place in many of the country's major cities over the entire summer. The difference was that a riot now licked at the heels of the political class, not just the rest of us.
What happened on January 6 was unanimously condemned, including by Trump himself. There was no equivalence between those who had come to listen to him and those who marauded. The former had exercised their constitutional rights of free assembly; the latter had committed criminal acts.
Police could have made arrests and justice been served. The page would have been turned. That is not what happened.
Protesters had "stormed" the Capitol several times before: on March 1, 1954, by Puerto Rican Americans who fired guns and injured five congressmen; on March 1, 1971, by members of the radical Weather Underground who placed a bomb in the building; on November 7, 1983, by a group calling itself the Armed Resistance Unit, who also placed a bomb in the building; and on October 6, 2018, by people protesting the confirmation vote of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Overlooking that, however, on January 7, President Joe Biden described the incident of the day before as a major and unprecedented "attack":
"What we witnessed yesterday was not dissent. It was not disorder. It was not protest. It was chaos. They weren't protesters. Don't dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob. Insurrectionists. Domestic terrorists. It's that basic, it's that simple."
The mainstream media spoke of an assault on the "citadel of democracy" and a sign that a "will to overthrow the republic" had taken shape. Trump's supporters -- as a whole -- were described as dangerous people. Trump's constitutional challenge to the result of the November 3 election had already been presented for weeks as an attempt to "overturn" the result of a perfectly irrefutable election and as a "Big Lie". The mayhem, though vicious, was now being presented "as if the U.S. has become a war zone."
On January 8, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, after asking President Trump to "immediately and willingly" leave office before President-elect Biden's inauguration, launched what would be a second impeachment procedure against him. Insinuating that Trump was mentally unfit, she announced that she had spoken to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, "to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes". Her request, which breached the chain of command, was reported as sedition. Nevertheless, on January 13, discarding all due process, the House of Representatives hastily voted on an article of impeachment accusing President Trump of "incitement to insurrection."
President Biden, at his inauguration on January 20, while speaking of "unity", all the same echoed the words he had used on January 7: "a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat".
Since then, the Biden Administration has led a fight against those Biden has designated as such. "President Biden," read a statement from the White House, "will use the National Security Council to track down and combat political extremism and domestic terrorism".
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a "stand down" order to the entire US military for commanders to address "extremism" in the ranks. "White supremacism," John Kirby, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, announced, "poses a particular problem" for the US army.
In the Senate, impeachment proceedings against former President Trump commenced. The official impeachment managers described the events of January 6 as an "armed insurgency" that had threatened the lives of representatives of the people. They presented these alleged "high crimes and misdemeanors" -- minus evidence and witnesses -- as the direct result of Trump's speech on January 6, as well as his having contested the election's result -- which they presented as "incitement to violence". The impeachment managers ignored that the results of presidential elections have been contested for decades with no objection.
They also claimed that the events of January 6 left five dead, but failed to note that only one fatality -- Ashli Babbitt, a protestor shot by a policeman -- could be directly linked to the event.
Trump's attorneys had no trouble refuting the allegations. They recalled that Trump had asked the demonstrators on January 6 to assemble "peacefully and patriotically" and that his a speech was fully protected by the First Amendment. They presented evidence showing that those who initiated the break-in on the Capitol had prepared it for weeks; that they had acted while Trump was still speaking, and that a causal relationship between Trump's January 6 speech and the break-in on Capitol Hill simply did not exist.
They emphasized that the impeachment proceedings were conducted in violation of the Constitution and that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts had declined to oversee the proceeding. Trump, after all, now out of office, was no longer President Trump, just citizen Trump; did the US really want to start "impeaching" its citizens? They also pointed out that the evidence presented had once again (referring to the fraudulent , three year "Russia hoax") been falsified.
Trump's lawyers asserted that what happened was not an insurrection -- a violent and organized action aimed at overthrowing the established power: no one entering the Capitol had been carrying a weapon.
Unsurprisingly, Trump was once again acquitted.
The atmosphere in the United States remains poisonous. Critics claim that stoking in the public is being done on purpose -- to create a false narrative that not only is Trump supposedly a "threat to democracy," but that his more than 74 million supporters are, too. Others, however, claim that the real threat to democracy is actually these serial liars, violators of the Constitution and falsifiers of information (here, here and here).
Actions against supposed "domestic extremism" and "domestic terrorism" -- meaning, supposedly, the 74 million Trump supporters -- continue. Those labeled "extremists" and "terrorists" face continued threats. Trump's defense lawyers received threats as well. Michael van der Veen, for instance, has said he had to hire armed bodyguards and send his family to an undisclosed location. His house was vandalized.
The right to challenge and criticize, which is an integral part of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, appears seriously threatened. The right to defend oneself against charges also appears threatened, and the legal profession dangerous to practice.
Calls for political purges continue. The leftist organization MoveOn.org has launched a campaign against what it calls the "Treason Caucus" and the expulsion from Congress of Senators described as "complicit in Trump's deadly insurrection." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- apparently trying to create an equivalence between the worst terrorist attack suffered by the United States on 9/11/2001 and the events of January 6, and seemingly trying to position the government to suppress free speech -- has announced that Congress will move to establish a 9/11-type commission.
A member of the Democratic National Committee, David. O. Atkins, suggested , "how *do* you deprogram 75 million people? Where do you start?" and "We have to start thinking in terms of post-WWII Germany or Japan."
"White supremacists," President Biden announced, "are the greatest domestic terror threat in the US. It's complex, it's wide-ranging and it's real."
Journalist Kyle Daly, in an article called, "How to deprogram America's extremists", describes a measure "that could make a difference: Keeping extremists out of the institutions where they could do the greatest damage - like the military, police departments and legislatures... The U.S. needs a Marshall Plan against domestic extremism."
At The New York Times, the journalist Kevin Roose, in "How the Biden Administration Can Help Solve Our Reality Crisis", offered what looks like the creation of the "Ministry of Truth" in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four:
"Several experts I spoke with recommended that the Biden administration put together a cross-agency task force to tackle disinformation and domestic extremism, which would be led by something like a 'reality czar.'"
Expressing doubts about the November 3 election is now a liability. Substantiated reports show that it was far from perfect. The American economist and former Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, Peter Navarro, in his private capacity, drew up three meticulous analyses: "The Immaculate Deception," "The Art of the Steal" and "The Navarro Report". They have been zealously disparaged as "nonsensical," "riddled with dubious claims," and "largely debunked allegations" -- many think unjustly (for instance here, here and here).
In another article, "The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election," in Time Magazine, Molly Ball, the publication's national political correspondent, shows in detail that a "well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information", and that the action of this cabal "touched every aspect of the election," including election laws, and engaged in a unified legal front to change voting systems and laws ".
Ball, also the author of an extremely laudatory biography of Nancy Pelosi -- whom she describes as an "icon of the Resistance" to Trump -- claimed that the purpose of the cabal was not was not to rig the election, but to "fortify" it.
Organizations that ravaged major American cities during the summer, she adds, were used by the cabal: "the left actually did control the activities of groups such as Antifa, Black Lives Matter." In another article, she wrote that what was done was to "save democracy", and manages to conclude that using undemocratic means to distort a democratic election somehow "saves" democracy.
A worrying drift seems to be dragging the United States away from the institutions of the American Republic and far from what can be expected of a democracy worthy of the name. Some authors describe what is happening as a slide towards authoritarianism. They note that many Americans and corporations, while behaving in an increasingly authoritarian manner, accuse their opponents of being authoritarian -- in other words, blaming their opponents for what they themselves are doing.
The legitimacy of Trump as a president was being thwarted and denied, for example by "Crossfire Hurricane" and serial FISA abuse [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] even before he was elected. Nineteen minutes after his inauguration, the Washington Post released the headline, "The campaign to Impeach President Trump has begun".
For more than three years Trump was accused, without any evidence apart from a fake "dossier", of being a Russian agent. The accusations eventually proved baseless, but not before $32 million of taxpayers' money were spent in what the prosecutors knew from the start was a fraud. They also tried to frame, incriminate and send innocent people to prison. The exercise was, at bottom, nothing more than an attempted coup d'état.
Later, Trump was accused of "endangering the security of the country" on the basis of an innocuous telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. For the accusation to appear plausible, one of his accusers had to reinvent the conversation. The first attempted impeachment that followed has been rightly described as a "travesty of justice" and "the equivalent of the Stalin's show trials". Throughout his entire term, Trump was faced with threats, abuse of power and unremitting attacks. Even though Trump is no longer president, the war against him continues.
Much of the mainstream media have ceased being news organizations and have become anti-Trump activists. For publishing all that fake news, The New York Times and the Washington Post were even awarded Pulitzer Prizes.
When, in 2020, the summer riots became destructive and Trump talked about using the military to restore order and protect property and lives, his political opponents compared him to Hitler and Goebbels, and indignantly defended the rioters as essentially "peaceful protesters", acting in the name of legitimate grievances. They apparently overlooked that the Insurrection Act was invoked by several Presidents, such as President George H.W. Bush in 1992, after California Governor Pete Wilson requested help to quell riots in Los Angeles.
Several months before the 2020 election, Trump's political opponents strangely anticipated his defeat and accused him -- in advance, again without any evidence -- of preparing to break the law. Pelosi, suggesting that Trump would not leave the White House, intimated that he might have to be "fumigated out". Biden predicted that the military would intervene. "I am absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch", he said.
The roots of what is happening are actually older.
The Communist Party of America never succeeded in obtaining broad political influence. The movement seemed to gain ground after World War II but was crushed in the 1950s after it was discovered that some of its members had spied on the country on behalf of the Soviet Union.
A new trend took shape in the 1960s. Its strategy seems to have been defined by a German activist, Rudi Dutschke -- a follower of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci -- as "the long march through the institutions". As the author Roger Kimball describes, it gradually took hold of the humanities sector in universities, then spread throughout the education system, the cultural sector, the mainstream media, and finally the political sphere.
It drew on the writings of the philosopher Herbert Marcuse, who spoke of the need for a "great refusal", "a protest against that which is". Marcuse suggested practicing what he called "repressive tolerance" -- consisting of "intolerance to right-wing movements" until they would be rendered non-existent. He added that the "non-integrated forces of minorities" should be used.
These developments were also inspired by the leading thinkers of what is called the "French theory": Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. Derrida spoke of the need for "deconstruction" especially of the idea of ​​truth. Foucault defined existing power structures as oppressions to be abolished.
The methods used were those of the radical political theorist Saul Alinsky, who recommended that radicals become "community organizers". "The job of the organizer," he added, "is to maneuver and bait the establishment". In 1971, Alinsky published Rules for Radicals, outlining how radicals can take power using thirteen rules. He noted that the tactic of accusing one's enemies of what one is guilty of can be extremely effective.
This movement seems to have decided to spread the "great refusal" defined by Marcuse, adopt the ideas of French Theory, and use the methods of Saul Alinsky -- sharpening "repressive tolerance" to erode institutions from within while eradicating the concept of ​​truth. Some followers who became "community organizers" acted to abolish power structures and accused their enemies of doing what they themselves were doing.
President Barack Obama, as an example, prior to entering politics, worked as a "community organizer" in Chicago. Shortly before being elected president in 2008, he said, "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." He did not say into what.
President Trump, prior to his election, promised to "drain the swamp" -- which remains woefully in need of draining. The swamp's inhabitants undoubtedly saw him as a threat to their plans. Making Trump fall at any cost and regaining their lost power evidently became imperatives for the swamp's inhabitants. They appeared ready to use any means necessary -- and they achieved their goal.
Biden, in the first weeks of his presidency, has issued a battery of executive orders, some of which violate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and in addition will throw thousands out of work for the benefit of Russia and China. The House and Senate were not consulted.
When 74 million law-abiding Americans are described as terrorists and racists who need to be "reeducated", tolerance for ideas differing from one's own is clearly vanishing. Calls are also out for closing down television stations that offer a differing version of "the truth."
H.R.1, also called the "For the People Act", the first legislative proposal by the House for 2021, passed the House of Representatives on March 5. The noted attorney J. Christian Adams, President and General Counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation and founder of the Election Law Center, noted:
"H.R.1 packs into one 791-page bill every bad idea about how to run elections and mandates that the states must adopt -- the very things that made the election of 2020 such a mess. It includes all of the greatest hits of 2020: Mandatory mail ballots, ballots without postmarks, late ballots and voting in precincts where you don't live."
If H.R.1 becomes the law of the land, the results will be the flooding of states with millions of unsolicited mail-in ballots, failure to verify signatures, no chain of custody of ballots, same-day voter registration, and ballot-harvesting -- many of which are invitations to commit fraud. As a bipartisan report in 2005 from the Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker III, concluded: mail-in ballots "remain the largest source of potential voter fraud." If H.R.1 is passed in the Senate, countless ways of demolishing election integrity will be set in cement. President Biden has also introduced an immigration reform bill. It has been described as a way to import, legalize and naturalize non-Americans crossing the US border illegally, and clearly has the intent of trying to create a permanent single-party majority. If passed, it could, as former senior advisor to President Trump Stephen Miller said, "fundamentally erase the very essence of American nationhood".
Economic proposals such as raising the minimum wage to $15, will, if implemented, cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and create immense hardship for small businesses already hit hard by pandemic lockdowns as well as for disadvantaged people at the entry level competing for work. There would be fewer jobs and more people looking for them -- before one even starts including a prospective flood of "undocumented" newcomers. Perhaps that is the intent: to reward big corporate campaign donors while squeezing out their small competitors, and at the same time creating more desperate people who will keep reaching out to a Big Government to depend on it for help.
One of Biden's first decisions was to disband the 1776 Commission, which was created to "return to the unifying ideas stated in the Declaration of Independence". The alternative narrative, the 1619 Project, which describes the United States as founded on slavery, "structurally racist", and therefore illegitimate from the start, has been criticized by prominent historians for its total disrespect of basic facts. This distortion of history, which contains nothing about what makes America good, is apparently now teaching children to hate America in public schools.
The author Dennis Prager said last year:
"Civilization can be crushed in one generation. Germany was the most advanced artistic cultured country in Europe. People say how could the country that gave us Beethoven and Bach and Schiller and Heine give us Auschwitz? It's a common question. Of course, it's not asked at colleges today because they never heard of Beethoven, Bach, Schiller, Heine, or Auschwitz. Nevertheless, those who heard of them ask that question, and the answer is, it can happen anywhere. We are watching the undoing of American liberty in one generation, in our case, by those who call themselves progressives."
After the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" Franklin responded, "A republic, if you can keep it."
Part of America has "declared war" and "is intent on destroying the most tolerant, inclusive, egalitarian society ever created," wrote the American author David Horowitz recently. "The good news," he added, "is that a patriotic movement has risen, rededicated to the propositions that all men are created equal and endowed with God-given rights to life and liberty, and is prepared to defend them".
A storm is currently hanging over the United States. The coming months will reveal if this patriotic movement will dispel it.
*Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.
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Could Iran Really Be Linked to 'Eco-terrorism' against Israel?
Seth J. Frantzman/The Jerusalem Post/March 07/2021
Tar from an oil spill in the Mediterranean washed up on a beach near Michmoret, Israel, March 1, 2021.
A shocking claim by Israel's environmental protection minister on Wednesday that a Libyan ship dumped containers of crude oil off Israel's coast, causing one of the country's worst environmental disasters, is making waves. This is because Environment Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said that Iran was responsible for the environmental harm.
The story of the ship that allegedly caused the spill is convoluted – like many things at sea that involve the shipping industry. This is because ownership of ships is often murky and involves shell companies and ships registered in one place, flying the flag of a different place, owned by a third party and captained by people from a fourth nation.
This is especially true of ships involved in illicit activity linked to countries that are under international sanctions, such as Iran.
Israel says that the ship is the Libyan-owned Emerald tanker.
Environment Protection Minister Gila Gamliel has suggested that a tanker illicitly carrying Iranian oil to Syria deliberately dumped its cargo off Israel's shores.
"This is a crude oil tanker called Emerald, owned and operated by a Libyan company," Gamliel said. "It was illegally carrying cargo from Iran to Syria. The ship was flying Panama's flag. Iran is waging terrorism not only by trying to arm itself with nuclear weapons or trying to establish a base near our borders. Iran is waging terrorism by harming the environment.
"Our battle on behalf of nature and animals must be a cross-border one," she said. "Together, we will bring to justice those responsible for the environmental terrorism, those who committed this crime against humanity. We will continue to rehabilitate the damaged beaches and the animals that were harmed. Together, we will win, and we'll remove the pollution from our country's shores."
The ship was allegedly going from Iran to Syria where it was smuggling crude oil, Israel claims. Ships trying to get to Syria from Iran in the past have been interdicted so the transit can be illicit. The vessel also turned off its automatic identification system, a kind of transponder.
This is common in the shadow world of ships that conduct illicit business. According to reports, the Emerald came within tens of kilometers of Israel's shores, within the exclusive economic zone. It spilled its oil on February 1 and 2 before continuing on to Syria. It took two weeks for the tar oil to reach Israel's shores.
Can a ship purposely dump containers of crude oil to harm Israel's environment? Can countries begin to use environmental terror?
Iranian eco-terrorism is not out of the realm of possibility.
It is not out of the realm of possibility. In the past, Israel has had friction with Syria over water issues, including fishing, and the Jordan River was a cause for conflict in the early years of the state. Disputes over a dam in Ethiopia have led to a war of words in northeast Africa.
However, the ability of a ship to purposely dump oil so that, two weeks later, it harms a country's coastline appears very complex. That would require study of the currents off the coast and knowledge of where cargo needs to be dumped and at what time to end up in a certain place.
It leads to further questions about why such activity wasn't judged to be suspicious when it was happening, rather than almost a month later.
The chance that Iran would risk damaging the coastline of Gaza or its Hezbollah friends in Lebanon – who all share a coastline with Israel – would appear to be a major risk for Tehran.
Nevertheless, recent incidents like the reported Iranian cyberattack against Israel last year, could mean that the Islamic Republic is using every asymmetric means of attack at its disposal, including the environment.
*Seth J. Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.