English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For March 12/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations For today

Jesus touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you & their eyes were opened
Matthew 09/27-35: “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’ And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, ‘See that no one knows of this.’But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district. After they had gone away, a demoniac who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, ‘Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisees said, ‘By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.’Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 11-12/2021

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/
Nizar Zakka Shows His Gratitude To Major General Ibrahim Abass In The USA
Le Drian: Lebanese Politicians Show No Sign of Saving their Country
STL Pre-Trial Judge Schedules New Status Conference in Ayyash Case
Aoun Discusses Security with Akar
Hariri Congratulates Libya for New Govt of National Unity
Abiad: Self Isolation Key to Control COVID-19
Ibrahim's Initiative May Resolve Govt. Formation Crisis
Hajjar Says Hariri 'Ready to Meet Aoun'
Army chief meets UN’s Rochdi
Lebanon must be empowered to sail toward success/Khaled Abou Zahr/Arab News/March 11/2021
The Commander of Lebanon’s Armed Forces Has Made an Important Speech on the Country’s Economic Crisis/Aram Nerguizian/Carnegie MEC/March 11/2021
Prolonged crisis of governance leaves Lebanon adrift and isolated/
Rebeccaanne Proctor/Arab News/March 11/2021
The Power of Not Now/Mohanad Hage Al/Carnegie MEC/March 11/2021
Lokman Slim’s culture war with Hezbollah should not be forgotten after assassination/Farah Kawtharani/Al Arabiya/Thursday 11 March 2021

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 11-12/2021

Jordanian prince cancels Temple Mount visit following security mishap/Jerusalem Post/March 11/2021
Netanyahu trip to UAE canceled amid Jordan imbroglio
Israel, UAE well positioned to lead the way in countering drone threats
US Senators Introduce Resolution Condemning Assad Regime Atrocities
UN Urges Syria to Locate Tens of Thousands Missing in War
Netanyahu: As Long as I’m PM, Iran Will Not Have Atomic Bombs
Blinken Says Time For Foreign Forces to Leave Libya
Iraqi PM’s Call for National Dialogue Divides Shiite Parties
Putin, Erdogan Launch New Phase of Turkish Nuclear Power Plant
After Abu Dhabi, Riyadh signals intent to pursue rapprochement with Syria
Vaccine Hope, but Battle Drags on One Year after Pandemic Declared


Titles For The Latest The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 11-12/2021

Middle East: The Ghosts of Sovereigns Past/Naomi Linder Kahn/Gatestone Institute'/March 11, 2021
Turkey: Erdoğan's War on Peace/Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute'/March 11, 2021
Iraq...A Tormented Country Visited by the Pope/Hazem Saghieh/Asharq Al Awsat/March 11/2021
Cynthia Farahat on the Muslim Brotherhood's "Secret Apparatus"/Marilyn Stern/Middle East Forum Webinar/March 11/2021
Olympics Needs to Uphold Ban on Iran’s Discrimination/David May and Benjamin Weinthal/The National Interest/March 11/2021
Biden can make history or become overwhelmed by it/Geoffrey Aronson/The Arab Weekly/March 11/2021
Can’t Tunisians learn from the Lebanese?/Mokhtar Dabbabi/The Arab Weekly/March 11/2021
Europe continues to be soft on Iran’s nuclear defiance/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/March 11/2021

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 11-12/2021

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

MoPH: 3518 new coronavirus cases, 50 deaths
NNA/Thursday 11 March 2021
3518 new coronavirus cases and 50 more deaths have been recorded in Lebanon in the past 24 hours, as announced by the Ministry of Public Health on Thursday.

Nizar Zakka  Shows His Gratitude To Major General Ibrahim Abass In The USA
Lebanon Depate web site/Thursday 11 March 2021
Mr. Nizar Zakka, the former Lebanese-American detainee in Iran, who was released in 2019 as a result of mediation efforts by The Lebanese Major General Abbas Ibrahim, has been strongly working on polishing Ibrahim's image in the United States, as a gratitude pay back for the role Ibrahim played in his release from the Iranian captivity amid intertwining of interests and broad aspirations between the two men.
Informed sources in the American capital indicated that the "Hostage Aid" Association that Zakka runs receives direct support from Major General Ibrahim. In return for this support Zakka has been introducing Ibrahim to American officials and members of the Senate and Representatives as being "the man who has magic solutions to the detainees' issues."
In this context, it was learned that Zakka is the one who weaved the threads of the relationship between Major General Ibrahim and Mrs. Diana Foley, the mother of the American cameraman who was beheaded by ISIS in Syria. This relationship between Ibrahim and Mrs. Foley resulted in the awarding of Major General Ibrahim the most prestigious "James Foley" award to the hostage defenders, which was the first time that this award has been granted to a non-American individual.

Link for the above piece of news on the "Lebanon Depate web site:


Le Drian: Lebanese Politicians Show No Sign of Saving their Country
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday 11/March, 2021
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday time was running out to prevent Lebanon from collapsing and that he could see no sign that the country's rival politicians were doing what they could to save it. "I would be tempted to qualify Lebanese politicians as guilty of not helping a country in danger," Le Drian told a news conference in Paris. "They all committed to act to create an inclusive government and committed to implementing indispensable reforms. That was seven months ago and nothing is moving. I think it's not too late, but the delays are very small before collapse.”Le Drian said such a collapse would spell disaster not only for the Lebanese people, but also for the hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Palestinian refugees it hosts, as well as the entire region. France has spearheaded international efforts to rescue Lebanon from its political and economic crisis by trying to use its influence to persuade squabbling politicians to adopt a reform roadmap and form a new government of non-partisan specialists to unlock international aid. Prime minister-designate Saad Hariri is at loggerheads with President Michel Aoun and has been unable to form the cabinet since October. Groups of protesters have been burning tires daily to block roads since the Lebanese currency tumbled to a new lows, deepening popular anger over Lebanon's financial collapse. "It's up to the Lebanese authorities to take their destiny in hand knowing that the international community is looking with concern," Le Drian said. "There is still time to act today, but tomorrow will be too late." Speaking at his side, the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan also urged Lebanon to form a new government as soon as possible.


STL Pre-Trial Judge Schedules New Status Conference in Ayyash Case
Naharnet/Thursday 11/March, 2021
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s (STL) Pre-Trial Judge, Daniel Fransen, will hold a sixth Status Conference on 24 March 2021 in the Ayyash Case, which relates to the 2004-2005 bomb attacks on George Hawi, Marwan Hamadeh and Elias Murr. Salim Ayyash, a Hizbullah suspect, has been indicted in the case. “The hearing aims at reviewing the status of the case and ensuring the expeditious preparation for trial, through an exchange between the Prosecution, Defense and Legal Representatives of the Victims,” the STL said in a statement. In a scheduling order issued Wednesday, the Pre-Trial Judge stated that the hearing will begin at 10:00 AM (C.E.T.) The Status Conference will be public but the Judge might decide to go into private session during the course of the hearing if confidential matters need to be discussed. The Status Conference will take place in the STL courtroom, with remote participation via video-conference. The hearing will be streamed on the STL website with a 30-minute delay in Arabic, English, and French.Five Status Conferences have taken place so far in the Pre-Trial proceedings of the Ayyash Case; the first one took place on 22 July 2020, and the last one 3 February 2021.

Aoun Discusses Security with Akar
Naharnet/Thursday 11/March, 2021
President Michel Aoun and caretaker Defense Minister Zeina Akar discussed the latest security developments during a meeting at Baabda Palace, the National News Agency reported Thursday. Aoun received Akar and the talks focused on the “general situation in the country after the security developments,” said NNA.The talks also highlighted the work of the state institutions related to the defense ministry, added the agency.


Hariri Congratulates Libya for New Govt of National Unity
Naharnet/Thursday 11/March, 2021
Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri congratulated the Libyan Prime Minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, on the Libyan lawmakers decisions to grant confidence to the Government of National Unity, Hariri’s press office said in a statement Wednesday evening. Hariri wished Dbeibah success in his efforts to reunify the institutions, launch the reconstruction wheel and hold parliamentary elections at the end of this year, said the statement. Libyan lawmakers confirmed a newly appointed interim government on Wednesday, in the hopes it will help unify the divided, war-wrecked North African country, and shepherd it through to elections at the end of the year.

Abiad: Self Isolation Key to Control COVID-19
Naharnet/Thursday 11/March, 2021
Firass Abiad, Director of Lebanon’s main coronavirus hospital, RHUH, in a series of tweets on Thursday stressed that self isolation for individuals who retract COVID-19 virus is key to break the chain of transmission and help control the virus spread. “Self isolation of individuals who test positive, and their close contacts, is a cornerstone of the efforts to control Covid in society and break the chains of transmission. However, rates of self isolation in many countries have been low,” said Abiad. He added that people were unwilling or unable to self isolate because “isolation can lead to financial loss. Sick leave may not be compensated; many are self employed. Some have low awareness of the guidance or how the virus is transmitted, or consider a covid diagnosis to be a stigma. People without symptoms are less likely to isolate.”The RHUH director stated that self isolation after a positive test or contact is “mandatory” in most countries, which led many individuals to avoid testing altogether. “This is pervasive in countries with low public trust in authorities, and in absence of support for people required to isolate,” he said. “Support can be financial, or as employment benefits. People living in crowded homes need isolation centers. Technology, or soliciting the help of local authorities, can be used to monitor self isolation. Municipalities can also play an important role in raising awareness,” explained Abiad. “Controlling community spread depends on test, trace, and isolate. Vaccination will not change that. A better understanding of the reasons people are not self isolating is important. One thing is clear, without proper support and local monitoring, compliance will remain low, he concluded.

Ibrahim's Initiative May Resolve Govt. Formation Crisis
Naharnet/Thursday 11/March, 2021
General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim has held a “positive” meeting with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi and “there is hope that the government might be formed soon,” Bkirki spokesman Walid Ghayyad said. “Pressure must be focused in all directions at the moment” in order to form the new government, Ghayyad added, according to several newspapers. The media reports added that the sought breakthrough “still needs an extra effort” and that Speaker Nabih Berri “is not distant from Ibrahim’s efforts.” Privately-owned Central News Agency meanwhile reported that Ibrahim’s initiative calls for forming “a mission-driven government consisted of 18 specialist, nonpolitical ministers in which parties are not represented.” “President Michel Aoun and his camp would be given five ministers in addition to one minister for Armenians but without getting a one-third-plus-one veto power,” the agency said. “In return, the justice and interior portfolios would be given to PM-designate Saad Hariri, who has to choose the two ministers from three nonpolitical, nonpartisan and non-provocative candidates proposed by Aoun,” the agency added. “Aoun has agreed to the proposal, but Hariri has demanded the approval of Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil on it without setting a condition that the FPM MPs should agree to granting the government their votes of confidence,” the agency said. Informed sources meanwhile told the Nidaa al-Watan newspaper that the main obstacle is still revolving around the interior portfolio in terms of who gets to name and who gets to pick the candidate. The sources added that a Aoun-Hariri meeting in the coming days cannot be ruled out.

Hajjar Says Hariri 'Ready to Meet Aoun'
Naharnet/Thursday 11/March, 2021
Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Mohammed Hajjar said Thursday that PM-designate Saad Hariri is ready to meet with President Michel Aoun on the government formation process if the latter has something new on the file. “The PM-designate could head to Baabda if anything new happened,” said Hajjar. "The last meeting between him and the President discussed the government formation, and Hariri told Aoun: I am ready to discuss the issue if you have notes on names or portfolios. Aoun responded by saying that he wants a government with one-third-plus-one veto power and one minister for the Tashnaq party. Matters are still stalled here,” added Hajjar. The MP described Hariri’s Wednesday meeting in the UAE with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov as “very important at all levels.”He said Russia is interested in the Lebanese file and has a good relationship with Hariri, and that their meeting in Abu Dhabi was important and successful by all standards.Hajjar said what makes the meeting remarkable was the fact that Lavrov’s statement referred to Hariri as the PM of Lebanon instead of PM-designate, “meaning that Hariri is the only one who can run the country at this stage.”

Army chief meets UN’s Rochdi
NNA/Thursday 11/March, 2021
Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, on Thursday received at his Yarzeh office the UN Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Najat Rochdi, with talks touching on the current situation in Lebanon and the region.


Lebanon must be empowered to sail toward success
Khaled Abou Zahr/Arab News/March 11/2021
What does it mean to be Lebanese today? If you ask any Lebanese this question, they will most probably give you an answer about the country’s beautiful landscape, geography and cuisine. I remember a conversation I had a few years back with some Lebanese and other nationals who knew the country well. They all described the country with the famous: “Lebanon is a beautiful country, where you can ski in the mountains in the morning and enjoy the beach in the afternoon.” This always precedes a long discussion about the Lebanese way of life of enjoying good food, entertainment and all the pleasures life can offer.
I admit to ruining the general positive mood by cutting it short and saying: “Lebanon is none of that; it is a country where you can spend a day enjoying life but then get threatened and scolded at night by Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah pointing fingers on television. It is a country living under the illusion of freedom when it is a ruthless dictatorship.”
But the question remains, what does it mean to be Lebanese? Are Lebanese Arabs? Are Lebanese Mediterranean? Today one might even ask if Lebanese are Persians. What is Lebanon? What does it represent as a country? It seems that, since its creation, Lebanon has been stuck fighting the causes of others (and being paid for it), whether that is a colonial power’s interests, an Arab cause or today’s Iranian plan for expansion. The country has never stood for itself, its own sovereignty and the good of its entire population. In a region of conflicts and larger stakeholders, we have always been a small boat adjusting its sails to move with the flow, which is smart. Unfortunately, the boat has had more captains than sailors, leading to more infighting.
Lebanon’s recent history has left it without a single day of rest or stability. The civil war, bombardments, military confrontations, assassinations and large explosions have followed financial crises and social explosions. All these events seem to have introduced to the Lebanese DNA the capacity to rebuild without questions; this might even date from our ancestors. We seem to have the will to go on living and enjoying the small pleasures in life, even though the country seems to be on the verge of collapse, as well as the capacity to accept or ignore the contradictions and be able to live another day. To be Lebanese, you need more than a will of steel; you need to have a split personality.
This question might seem futile as the country is once again collapsing on all levels and — for the first time and despite the voices calling for change — the will seems to be dying. But I ask the question because we cannot move on and build unless we know who we are and accept that the country is in crisis. We cannot build a country if we do not decide on a master plan. To this day, the Lebanese have always rebuilt the broken pieces of their buildings, but never their country.
I do not have a straight answer to this question. As a Lebanese emigrant who never set foot in the country after leaving it as a newborn, my view of Lebanon is biased and too idealistic. It is a collection of bits and pieces of stories from all sides. However, I would say it is a country of travelers, discoverers, creators and savvy traders. In fact, to this day we are no different than the Phoenicians. Regardless of our religion or ethnicity, we are the same. Just point a finger anywhere on a world map and you will find a successfully integrated and loyal Lebanese community. The Americas, Europe, Africa, the Gulf and even Asia, Lebanese are everywhere and, more often than not, are well established and net positive contributors to their adopted communities. But, when we go back to Lebanon, we become cannibals. The ruthlessness of the country’s leaders and the interests of an invading power force this dishonest behavior to survive. The many captains in our sailboat are in fact all usurpers that leave their crew starving.
In fact, a country of creators and travelers can only be a free and independent country. The freedoms of speech and belief need to be at the core of its principles, along with the rule of law, free enterprise, inclusivity, and innovation. This means that, to build a prosperous Lebanon that can reach its full potential and empower its citizens, it needs to be rebuilt: Not its buildings, but its institutions.
Lebanon also needs to stay aware of its environment and to navigate properly; it needs to understand how the region’s winds and waves move. It needs to respect all its neighbors and understand that freedom of speech will have limits when it comes to regional affairs. The country cannot be a platform to attack any of its bigger neighbors, Iran and Syria included. Lebanese are good fighters in the most literal sense of the term, but it is high time we only fought for Lebanon. This means that neutrality also needs to be at the core of the country’s principles.
To this day, the Lebanese have always rebuilt the broken pieces of their buildings, but never their country.
It is, therefore, urgent that the opposition and protesters morph into a unified political movement that protects these principles and fights for these virtues. All minorities need to be included in this process. Lebanon needs a movement that promotes free will and justice and fights against the demagoguery and intolerance of the current political leaders. As difficult as this task seems, resilience, consistency and focus will prevail over any proxy and its associates.
The enemies of a free Lebanon are well known: Extremist religious and leftist movements that use the fight for equality and inclusion as a tool for ruling and imposing their own private interests. They all go against the nature of what it is to be Lebanese and free. It is time to empower the country to sail toward prosperity and success. For lack of sailing advice, I would conclude by saying beware of the equivalent of the line in George Orwell’s book “Animal Farm” that states: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
*Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.


The Commander of Lebanon’s Armed Forces Has Made an Important Speech on the Country’s Economic Crisis
Aram Nerguizian/Carnegie MEC/March 11/2021

Amid growing protests in Lebanon at the deteriorating economic situation and the massive devaluation of the Lebanese pound, on March 8 the commander of the Lebanese armed forces, General Joseph Aoun, made a speech to officers at army headquarters. He addressed the country’s political leadership on the crisis, amid deadlock in forming a new government. Aoun asked the politicians, “Where are we going? What are you waiting for? What do you plan to do? We have warned more than once of the danger of the situation.”
Aoun also spoke of how the crisis had negatively affected the military, with salaries of servicemen and servicewomen losing 80 percent of their value since late 2019. “The people are hungry, the people are poor … and the members of the military are also suffering and are hungry,” he said. Aoun rejected criticism of the armed forces for accepting foreign aid, adding “Were it not for such assistance, the situation would have been far worse.” This appeared to be an implicit response to those who had condemned the military for accepting aid from the United States, among other countries.
Why Is It important?
The commander’s speech was the first open criticism voiced by a senior military official against the political class since Lebanon’s collapse began in late 2019. It was also a signal that the military had crossed the Rubicon. The commander spoke at 10:00 AM. At noon, President Michel Aoun called on the army to clear the streets. By 5:00 PM no action had been taken. Therefore, Lebanon appears to have entered the unknown in terms of civil-military relations.
With regard to military spending, as things stand now with the effects of inflation, the armed forces’ internal estimates project that the current account can support military salaries and contract wages until the end of June, no further. After that either the government must agree to supplemental funding or the armed forces will have to suspend paying personnel in increasing numbers. Alternatively, the military could pull budgetary resources from other areas tied to readiness and mobility. While senior military cadres do not assess that the operational collapse of the armed forces is imminent, the same cannot be said for their mobility and effectiveness.
What Aoun was doing was sounding the alarm and bluntly asking the political class whether it wanted Lebanon to have a functional military or not. His message was clear: Do something credible or do not count on us to be the security actor you take for granted. In other words, as popular resentment rises the politicians may not be able to rely on the military to protect them, let alone to oppose protestors.
What Are the Implications for the Future?
Aoun implicitly told the politicians and the population three things: First, that the military does not want to involve itself in politics, but there are now orders that it will not follow. Second, because the military and the population are suffering together, protestors should take advantage of the situation and organize. And third, as long as protests remain peaceful, the military will side with the protestors.
With respect to the military in institutional terms, Aoun’s speech pointed to worrying trends. Foreign assistance remains vital to help the armed forces to continue functioning. While countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom must abide by restrictions on the use of aid to support the salaries of foreign militaries, they can prompt other funders, such as the United Arab Emirates, to support Lebanon’s military in ways that maintain the morale of soldiers.
Such assistance would help to contain two trends that may threaten the armed forces’ continued professionalism: a relatively higher number of requests for early retirement, which means that experienced officers are exiting; and requests by more junior officers for unpaid leave or furloughs of about three months to do work on the side and supplement their military salaries.
There are also several risk factors. Fearing what might be a more autonomous military, there are factions that may want to use violence to send a warning to the armed forces. Hezbollah, Amal, and Gibran Bassil, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, have the most to lose from a military that is increasingly distancing itself from the ruling class. For example, they and others may want to test the military’s resolve on the streets. This points to a parallel issue. If the military were to atrophy, this would not harm Hezbollah. On the contrary, the party would be the only one left standing, an outcome few outside Lebanon, particularly in Washington, want to see materialize.
There is also a real danger of a resurgence of extremist groups tied to the Islamic State along the border with Syria and in increasingly desperate and destitute urban centers. Aoun’s message was that the military’s readiness needed to be assured and could not be accomplished thanks to external partners alone. What was required was an internal consensus and funding to secure the armed forces’ role as a defender of internal stability and territorial integrity.

Prolonged crisis of governance leaves Lebanon adrift and isolated
Rebeccaanne Proctor/Arab News/March 11/2021
DUBAI: Since early March, Lebanese have taken to the streets in a renewed round of protests as the pound plunged to a record low on the black market. Over the past week masses of protesters have closed the main Martyr’s Square in central Beirut while others have blocked the highway linking the capital with the north and south.
A new level of violence and distress has gripped the country. Fights over basic necessities have broken out in supermarkets as families struggle to survive. More than half of the population is now living below the poverty line.
On Thursday, the French foreign minister added his voice to the chorus of criticism of Lebanon’s politicians for failing to get their act together.
“They all committed to act to create an inclusive government and committed to implementing indispensable reforms,” Jean-Yves le Drian said in Paris. “That was seven months ago and nothing is moving.”
Lebanon has spent nearly two months under one of the world’s strictest COVID-19 lockdowns, pushing its sickly economy and restive population to the very brink. The period has coincided with mounting civil unrest and a brutal political assassination, prompting fears of further instability.
A boy gestures as Lebanese anti-government protesters confront security forces while going around the homes of deputies and government officials in the northern port city of Tripoli in January 2021. (AFP/File Photo)
Since Jan. 14, citizens not deemed “essential workers” have been prevented from leaving their homes by a strict round-the-clock curfew that was imposed after a surge in coronavirus cases overwhelmed the nation’s health system.
The coronavirus measures have piled further misery on a public already reeling from the currency collapse, with many households left hungry and forced to rely on charity or the burgeoning black market.
The combined impact of the renewed protests, political violence and economic pain is understandably jangling Lebanese nerves, still raw from the trauma of last August’s Beirut port blast.
For families facing destitution, with little chance of help from a barely functioning government, the latest lockdown has all the trappings of the final straw. “None of this is surprising,” Nasser Saidi, Lebanon’s former economy and trade minister, told Arab News.
“Income is down. GDP is down by at least 25 percent. We’re having inflation in excess of 130 percent; general poverty is over 50 percent of the population; food poverty is over 25 percent of the population; unemployment is rapidly increasing; and thousands of businesses are being shut down.
“All of this is coming to the fore and at the same time we have a lockdown. It was a very stupid decision the way it was done, to lock Lebanon down, because it prohibits people from even being able to go and get their groceries, their food and necessities. And then it meant also shutting down factories and manufacturing.
“If you get sick, you can’t even get to a hospital or afford a hospital. Hospitals are full now due to COVID-19. You have had a series of very bad decision-making and policies, and Lebanon is paying the price for it. This is going to continue. It is not going to go away. In my opinion, we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg.”
The deteriorating economic and financial situation has pushed tens of thousands of Lebanese into poverty, yet more pain probably lies in store. While the official rate for the US dollar in Lebanon is 1,520 Lebanese pounds, the black-market price has now hit a record high of 10,000 — up from 7,000 just a few months ago.
On March 8, President Michel Aoun told security forces to prevent roads being blocked by protesters after demonstrators declared a “day of rage.” Troops were brought in to briefly open main roads the protesters blocked who then closed them off again in a standoff with government forces that seems to see no end in sight. However, with little progress made on the formation of a new cabinet or implementation of reforms, some protesters have called for a revival of the nationwide street movement of late 2019 that demanded the removal of the entire political class.
Critics of the government and the various armed factions that control political life in Lebanon are vulnerable to reprisals for speaking out. On Feb. 5, the intellectual and Hezbollah critic Luqman Slim was found dead in a car in the southern region of Zahrani with multiple gunshot wounds.
Lebanon crisis
*405,000 - Recorded COVID-19 infections.
*19.2% - Fall in GDP in 2020.
*1/5 - Population in extreme poverty.
Although investigations are still underway, the Iran-backed Shiite militia is considered the prime suspect. Many observers believe the killing marks a dark turning point for a country whose fate already hangs by a thread.
“Throughout all the assassinations we had in Lebanon during the early 2000s and even the 2006 invasion by Israel, we never felt danger like we do now,” Mariana Wehbe, who runs a PR firm in Beirut, told Arab News. “When before did we have to hide our jewelry and our valuables? Everyone is afraid about what will happen next.”
Some observers fear Lebanon’s economic trainwreck could leave the public even more dependent upon political factions to provide them with aid and security — a throwback to the 1975-90 civil war period when the militias ruled supreme.
Although pessimistic about the situation, Ramzy El-Hafez, a political analyst who lives in Beirut, believes Lebanon is still a long way from a repeat of the darkness that engulfed the country in 1975.
“We had two armed groups fighting each other. Now we just have Hezbollah and there is no armed group trying to fight it,” El-Hafez told Arab News.
“There are no signals that we are going to have a civil war. The new phase is the one we are already in: Hezbollah controls the country with impunity, and no one is opposing it. Additionally, the new phase is that Lebanon in the past was able to benefit from help from friends in the Gulf and in the West. Now no one is helping Lebanon.
“We are trying to fix our own problems, but we are not able to do so and our friends are telling us to get rid of Hezbollah before they can help us. In Lebanon, we are living in a trap. That is the new phase.”
Slim’s murder does not mark a significant turning point, El-Hafez says, because killings of this sort have not stopped since the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, in 2005.
“Sometimes they are spaced out, but they continue and every time one takes place people think we have entered into a new phase,” he said.
Not everyone is convinced Slim’s murder is simply business as usual. One source in Tripoli, who spoke to Arab News on condition of anonymity, believes Hezbollah has found itself backed into a corner.
“Hezbollah appears threatened to have lashed out like this,” the source said. “Something is taking place in the wings, but we don’t know what it is yet. It is perilous for the country that a new period of assassinations could take place on top of what we are already going through.”
When a political rival is murdered in Lebanon, the case is rarely solved. Factions and militias have long dominated the political landscape, characterized for long by clientelism, social patronage and sectarianism.
“Before any deal, parties tighten their ranks,” the source said. “Lebanese political parties look at politics as a business, not as a service to the people.” As a result, an ineffectual government has failed to launch a financial rescue plan or implement desperately needed economic reforms to pull the country out of the doldrums.
to poverty, yet more pain probably lies in store. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)
Hezbollah’s fortunes depend to a large extent upon those of its patrons in Tehran, analysts say. Under sanctions pressure from the Trump administration, Iran and its various proxies across the region found themselves squeezed and isolated.
The US administration is expected to renegotiate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, which President Joe Biden helped broker while serving as Barack Obama’s vice president.

The Power of Not Now
Mohanad Hage Al/Carnegie MEC/March 11/2021
Despite statements to the contrary, Lebanon’s political class seems unenthusiastic about forming a government today.
Since the resignation of Lebanon’s government on August 10 last year following the devastating blast in Beirut Port, the Lebanese political class has been moving from one quandary to the other. The country’s pain has deepened as a majority of the population has fallen below the poverty line. The value of the Lebanese pound has collapsed, so that $1.00 is now equivalent to over LP10,000, while the official exchange rate is still at $1.00 equivalent to LP1,500.
In the past seven months, there have been multiple reasons for why the political class has delayed forming a government. This has included disagreement over granting the two Shi‘a parties, Hezbollah and Amal, the finance portfolio, President Michel Aoun’s insistence on holding a blocking third in any new government, and prime minister-designate Saad Hariri’s refusal to hand the Interior and Justice Ministries over to Aoun and his son in law Gebran Bassil.
However, these excuses are becoming less and less convincing. The three major forces in the government-formation process—Hariri’s Future Movement, the Shi‘a parties, and Aoun’s and Bassil’s Free Patriotic Movement—are all hesitant to form a government, each for its own reasons. These range from their reading of regional geopolitical realities to their self-interest and political ambitions. They are all taking part in a spectacle bordering on the ridiculous.
Hariri has said that he would like to form a government to implement the French initiative brought to Beirut by President Emmanuel Macron last September. The plan calls for the formation of a “working government” that can implement reforms, which in turn would unlock foreign aid to Lebanon. Yet Hezbollah is not keen to form a government under the French plan, since its patron Iran prefers to deal directly with the United States over Lebanon, rather than with Paris. Hezbollah, in trying to accommodate Tehran, has not sought to break the deadlock in the cabinet formation process.
Iran and Hezbollah also remain wary of the impact of regional shifts after the Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, as well as of the nature of a final settlement in Syria. Russia’s relations with Israel have facilitated coordinated Israeli airstrikes on Iran and its allies in Syria. At the same time, Moscow has exploited its relations with certain Gulf states, such as the UAE and Bahrain, to improve their relations with the regime in Damascus. Iran’s primary concern, or fear, is that its presence in Syria will be sacrificed on the altar of Arab reconstruction aid to the country and a normalization of relations between the Gulf states and Damascus, which hypothetically may extend to Israel. Therefore, holding Lebanon hostage increases Iranian leverage with the United States, and to an extent France. By maintaining uncertainty in Lebanon, Hezbollah is signaling that Iran is in charge of its destiny, no one else.
Aoun also does not want a new cabinet that would be formed under the conditions set by Saad Hariri. Instead, he wants to have enough leverage over it to secure the presidency for Bassil after Aoun’s mandate ends in 2022. The president and Bassil had sought veto power over any new government, to put Bassil in a powerful position for the presidency. That demand has since been dropped, given the wave of opposition from across the political spectrum. However, that only makes Aoun less enthusiastic about a government today.
At the same time, Aoun’s alliance with Hezbollah is not solid enough to secure the party’s support for Bassil’s presidential ambitions. This has made the president more insecure about his son in law’s political future and about his own disintegrating legacy, which is why he is uneasy about a government that would fail to meet his terms.
Another major problem for Aoun and Bassil is whether they will be able to retain control of the Energy Ministry. If they do not get the portfolio for the first time in over a decade, this could have political implications. Any reforms in the energy sector under a non-Aounist minister would highlight Bassil’s responsibility for Lebanon’s disastrous electricity situation.
Saad Hariri’s calculations are not very different from Aoun’s. Saad’s brother Bahaa, who had not been involved in Lebanese politics, made a comeback in 2017 and has been slowly building his base and securing media influence. He has adopted a critical attitude toward his brother and his concessions to Hezbollah, despite the party’s apparent role in the assassination of their father, Rafik, in 2005. Saad’s attempt to rebuild his ties with Saudi Arabia and improve his financial situation have failed. Basically, if he concedes to Hezbollah and Aoun on the finance, interior, and justice ministries, he may face Saudi opposition, which could increase his brother’s influence.
In addition to all these reasons, the political class in general does not appear eager to form a government, as it would need to implement painful reforms in order to unlock foreign aid. The country’s leaders would prefer a bailout in the context of a shift in regional or international politics, as the requested reforms today would require them to give up their leverage and patronage networks in the system.
By the same token, a consensus government would revive the narrative of the October 17 uprising, namely that the whole political class is responsible for the calamitous state of affairs in Lebanon. Therefore, the delay in the government is the result of a collective choice, and the politicians’ blame game is merely an act. Ultimately, they prefer to allow the current caretaker government of Hassan Diab to take the explosive step of lifting the remaining subsidies on vital goods. Only then would a new cabinet step in and pick up the pieces, preferably within the context of some sort of U.S.-Iran understanding. The political class views procrastination as the most suitable policy to serve its interests and those of its patrons abroad.


Lokman Slim’s culture war with Hezbollah should not be forgotten after assassination
Farah Kawtharani/Al Arabiya/Thursday 11 March 2021
فرح كوثراني(ابنة د.منى فياض): يجب ألا تنسى حرب لقمان سليم الثقافية مع حزب الله بعد اغتياله

On February 4, Lokman Slim, a writer, publisher, political analyst, filmmaker, and NGO director was assassinated in south Lebanon, with four bullets shot to his head. One month on, an investigation into his death has yielded little in the way of results.
Significantly, the security of south Lebanon falls under the total control of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shia extremist organization that has grown in the last decade to fully control much of Lebanese governmental institutions through its military power, as well as the cooptation and coercion of many of Lebanon’s corrupt political elite.
Why was Lokman Slim such a threat to Hezbollah? He was a well-known prolific, articulate, and dynamic activist and director of several cultural institutions, and made frequent appearances on Lebanese and Arab satellite TVs. He fearlessly criticized Hezbollah’s hegemony on the Lebanese state, presenting well-informed and factually based analytical arguments. But most importantly, he was also a Shia intellectual, and thus he represented an opposition to Hezbollah from within its own religious community.
This is quite significant in a country that is deeply divided along sectarian lines and where religious communities tend to support the de facto leader of their religious community out of skepticism towards other communities. This is where Lokman’s distinction resided: As a Shia opponent from within, he could not be easily dismissed as an outsider who conspired against the Shiites, while his strong arguments that attracted international attention could not be easily ignored.
Lokman Slim knew the Shia religious and intellectual heritage too well. He precisely used this knowledge to contest the hegemony of the Islamic Republic of Iran on Shia Islam and on Lebanese Shiites in particular. Through his political analysis and TV commentaries, he staunchly and unyieldingly criticized the hegemony of Hezbollah on the Lebanese state, and its role as a military proxy that implemented the Iranian agenda in both Lebanon and Syria.
Since 2012, Lokman Slim and his Shia fellow activists have been receiving threats against their lives, the most notable of which was the statement by Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah in 2015, in which he said he was not going to tolerate any more the opposition of Shia activists whom he labeled “the Shiites of the US Embassy,” in a bid to frame them as US spies.
Defamatory campaigns have been systematically waged against these activists in recent years by Hezbollah-affiliated newspapers and TV stations, labeling them as traitors, sell-outs, and US spies, and warning them to look out for their lives if they do not desist.
Along with his political activism, Lokman Slim directed several cultural projects through his research center UMAM. His most significant project was the archival documentation of the collective memories of the turbulent past of Lebanon, including the Civil War of 1975-1990. He wanted to preserve the social identity of the region of southern Beirut, that came to be known as Dahiyeh, and lately became the headquarters of Hezbollah.
Many Lebanese came to fear this area as it became associated with negative social realities fostered by Hezbollah: Weapons, militiamen, surveillance of everyday life, Khomeinist ideological propaganda, police-like censorship, and drug trafficking.
But Lokman Slim was a resilient maker of cultural resistance against Hezbollah’s hegemony: Through arts, cultural projects, archival work, films, photographic exhibitions, he celebrated the preexistent cultural diversity that Hezbollah tried so hard to suppress. He resisted by first physically persisting in their geographical milieu, which was his ancestral home anyway, and secondly by persevering with his cultural projects and publications. He contested that geographical space dominated by Hezbollah through safeguarding the memory of a pre-Hezbollah world, in which tolerance and diversity prevailed: When Muslims and Christians lived together in one neighborhood, right-wing activists shared public space with leftist activists, and women flaunted their liberty fearlessly.
That was the world of Dahiyeh before Hezbollah occupied this space and created an Orwellian world that is religiously and militaristically surveilled, controlled, and ideologically censored according to the Iranian model.
In fact, Dahiyeh, under Hezbollah, has been turned into a militarized bastion that flagrantly professes political allegiance to Iran, and remains festooned with iconography praising the Islamic Republic. One can find humongous figurines of Khomeini and Qassem Soleimani, flags of Hezbollah and Iran, banners and posters displaying propaganda slogans, and portraits of thousands of young men who died fighting in the wars of Hezbollah. The public space is periodically occupied by military parades, while public microphones, permanently installed in the streets, broadcast ideological material, including speeches made by Nasrallah along with religious and militaristic chants.
In response, Lokman Slim resisted by creating cultural spaces for debate, dialogue, and politically artistic expressions. For Lokman, research, political analysis, and political art, were all acts of resistance in the face of totalitarianism, the militarization of society, and the oppression of freedoms.
Lokman’s family is adamant on preserving his legacy. His sister Rasha al-Ameer wants to keep the publishing house ongoing, while his wife Monika Borgmann plans to keep operating the research center UMAM. More than any other time, it is pressing for liberal democracies to show support for the liberal activists in Lebanon and the Middle East. If these activists are left on their own to fight for freedom, they will be exterminated one after the other by the new forces of fascism in the Middle East.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 11-12/2021

Jordanian prince cancels Temple Mount visit following security mishap

Jerusalem Post/March 11/2021
The Crown Prince of Jordan Hussein bin Abdullah was meant to visit Temple Mount on Wednesday. The visit never took place. Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah canceled a pre-planned Wednesday visit to the Temple Mount after Jordan failed to uphold the agreed security arrangement with Israel, KAN 11 reported. The Jordanians were limited to a set number of security guards but eventually decided to bring a larger number. When Israel insisted they stick to the agreed upon number, the Jordanians decided to cancel the visit. The security of diplomatic guests visiting a country is on the shoulders of the hosting nation, in this case, Israel.  The Hashemite Kingdom has a historic relationship with Jerusalem and its holy sites, including the Temple Mount, known as al-Haram al-Sharif. Jordan controlled east Jerusalem from 1948-1967, including the Old City. The Hashemite Kingdom has symbolically retained its custodianship of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. The site was where the first king of Jordan, Abdullah I of Jordan, was assassinated in 1951 by a Palestinian. Abdullah was the grandfather of King Hussein of Jordan, the grandfather of the crown prince. Israeli-Jordanian ties have become strained during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's tenure, but as of late, they have warmed slightly. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi has met three times with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi.

Netanyahu trip to UAE canceled amid Jordan imbroglio
Lahav Harkov/Jerusalem Post/March 11/2021
The trip was canceled for the fourth time due to a diplomatic dispute with Jordan and the hospitalization of Netanyahu's wife Sara for appendicitis.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to the United Arab Emirates was canceled on Thursday, amid a diplomatic crisis with Jordan, and because Netanyahu's wife, Sara, is hospitalized with appendicitis. Jordan blocked Netanyahu’s planned flight to the United Arab Emirates from entering its airspace on Thursday morning, the Prime Minister’s Office said. “These difficulties apparently come from the cancelation of the Jordanian crown prince’s visit to the Temple Mount, following a dispute over security arrangements at the site,” the PMO said. By midday Thursday, Jordan was willing to allow the flight to enter its airspace, but Netanyahu and UAE leader Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan had already agreed to postpone the prime minister’s visit, for the fourth time since Israel and the UAE established diplomatic relations in August. Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah had planned to visit the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount on Wednesday, following coordination with Israel on his security.
However, the prince arrived at the Israeli border with more armed guards than had been agreed on, Israeli sources said. The additional guards were not permitted to enter Israel, and Hussein canceled his visit. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said that “at the last minute Israel wanted to impose new things and change the plans so that they would limit Muslims [visiting the Temple Mount]… The Crown Prince canceled his visit out of respect for the worshippers. “The al-Aqsa Mosque and all of its territory is a place of worship for Muslims,” Safadi said of Judaism’s holiest site. “There is no Israeli sovereignty over it. It is in occupied Jerusalem. We will not accept any Israeli intervention in its matters.” Jordan occupied part of Jerusalem, including the Old City, from 1949-1967, not allowing Jewish worshippers to access holy sites. Israel opened the Old City, including the Temple Mount and Western Wall, to visitors of all faiths in 1967 and extended its sovereignty over all of Jerusalem in 1980.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a meeting with regional council heads on Wednesday that Netanyahu's poor relationship with Jordanian King Abdullah is "the failure of the Netanyahu government in all of its 15 years.”"The strategic rift in relations between Israel and Jordan is precisely because of Netanyahu," he said. Israeli-Jordanian ties have been strained during Netanyahu's tenure, but have warmed slightly as of late. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi has met three times with his Jordanian counterpart Safadi, and Gantz reportedly met with Jordanian King Abdullah.
Netanyahu’s trip to the UAE was supposed to be his first since the announcement of the Abraham Accords in August, marking peace and normalization between the Gulf state and Israel. Earlier Thursday, Netanyahu considered canceling his trip to the United Arab Emirates after his wife, Sarah Netanyahu, was hospitalized with appendicitis. Sarah Netanyahu felt unwell late Wednesday night and went to Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem, where she was diagnosed with appendicitis, and will remain in the hospital for several days. Netanyahu accompanied his wife to the hospital.
The prime minister had planned to meet with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the airport in the Emirati capital for a two-hour visit.
Israeli, Emirati and Saudi officials had worked on a possible secret meeting between Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his brief trip to the UAE. “MBS is ready to meet Bibi,” a well-placed Emirati source said.
Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations, but ties between the countries have been warming, especially in cooperation against their shared adversary Iran. Netanyahu and MBS, as the Saudi crown prince is known, met in November in the Saudi smart city of Neom, though neither has officially confirmed it. Asked about meeting with MBS on Tuesday, Netanyahu quipped: “What is it like to ask questions you know you won’t get an answer to?” The UAE trip was set to take place less than two weeks before the March 23 election, despite reports that officials in the Emirates were hesitant to host Netanyahu on a date that would be viewed as political. The source in Abu Dhabi confirmed that the election was a consideration, but the UAE’s leadership decided to welcome Netanyahu regardless of the date. Three previous Netanyahu visits to the UAE had been canceled: twice due to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, as well as political developments, and once because of scheduling issues in Abu Dhabi. He had originally planned a trip of several days, with stops in Dubai and Bahrain as well. Speaking last month of a planned visit to the UAE, the prime minister said: “It has great security, national and international importance.”Netanyahu also plans to meet with the prime ministers of Hungary and the Czech Republic in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, to discuss cooperation on COVID-19 vaccine production.

Israel, UAE well positioned to lead the way in countering drone threats

Seth J.FrantzmanJerusalem Post/March 11/2021
A new memorandum of understanding was signed by Israel Aerospace Industries and EDGE, the UAE’s advanced technology group.
A new memorandum of understanding (MoU) agreed to by Israel Aerospace Industries and EDGE, the UAE’s advanced technology group, will seek to develop advanced C-UAS (Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System) solutions “tailored to the UAE market, with wider ranging benefits for the MENA [Middle East and North Africa] region and beyond,” the companies said Thursday. This is a very important development. First, it comes in the wake of the Abraham Accords. Second, it comes after the IDEX defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi where Israeli companies participated for the first time this year. Third, it meets a growing need by countries in the region and around the world to stop drone threats. The memorandum notes that IAI already has an anti-drone solution. This is called Drone Guard. It is similar to systems from Israel’s other leading defense giants, such as Drone Dome by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. IAI’s radar subsidiary Elta is a leader in radar, and Israel in general is a leader in radar, electro-optics and the jamming, missile and laser technology needed to take down drones.
EDGE is “a young and disruptive company that has recently launched a series of Electronic Warfare solutions at a rapid pace. [It] is leveraging its subsidiary, SIGN4L, a leading provider of electronic warfare services and solutions for national security, to collaborate with the Israeli defense manufacturer to build the tailored C-UAS Solution,” the companies said Thursday. Drone threats are growing rapidly. US Central Command believes that off-the-shelf drones are a major emerging problem. We saw these threats in the ISIS battle in Mosul, where drones were used by the terror group against coalition forces. In addition, Iran is constantly building new drones. Iran-backed Houthis use drones daily against Saudi Arabia. And Hezbollah has drones. Hamas has drones. Iran even flew a drone from the T-4 base into Israeli airspace in 2018. Israel used a helicopter to shoot it down.
Drones can be shot down with missiles and guns. They can also be jammed and engaged with lasers. Many companies are working on a plethora of solutions. However, like in the early days of air defense, it takes time to hone the solution to the threat. Israel is a leader in deploying new defense technology. The UAE is also a leader in technology and is aware of the growing threat. This makes the countries well placed to collaborate. The new MoU is a symbol of these new ties as well because Israel and the UAE are rapidly becoming a hub of new technology and start-ups, and of exploiting advances in artificial intelligence and other concepts. Countering drones is a good place for Israeli and UAE defense tech to begin because the systems are defensive, not controversial and pose no threats to other countries. The need for having multi-layered air defense is something Israel knows well from developing Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow missiles and interceptors. Countering drones is a different world because while you can use high priced missiles to down them, jamming them and using lasers and other weapons, including using drones to attack other drones, can be much cheaper and are all in the realm of possibility.
What is important for countries like Saudi Arabia is plugging all the gaps in defenses to make sure no drones can get through – and have them rapidly engaged if they do. The attack on Abqaiq in 2019 when Iran launched drones and cruise missiles to attack Saudi Arabia illustrates the problem. Some 25 munitions were flown from Iran to Saudi Arabia, around radar and air defenses. Better drone solutions will include more radar, more electro-optics to confirm the threat visually, and the ability to attempt jamming and use “hard kill” options to take them down.


US Senators Introduce Resolution Condemning Assad Regime Atrocities
Washington- Elie Youssef and Rana Abtar/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday 11/March, 2021
Ten US Senators introduced a bipartisan resolution in observance of the tenth anniversary of the Syrian uprising, calling on Washington to support humanitarian aid to the people and condemn the Assad regime’s atrocities. The resolution denounced the regime’s atrocities against its own citizens and reaffirms the US commitment to hold the regime and its backers accountable for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. It also lauds Syrian human rights defenders’ brave efforts to document and expose the Assad regime’s unrelenting and indiscriminate violence. Senator Bob Menendez said that for a decade, the world has borne witness to Assad’s “brazen willingness to kill, torture, gas, and starve his own people in order to maintain his grip on power.”He indicated the Syrian people have suffered for far too long at the hands of a “butcher whose relentless reign of terror” continues to be sponsored by Iran and Russia.
Menendez called on the US administration to use diplomatic re-engagement to seek concrete measures that serve justice to Assad and help provide Syrians with a path toward reconciliation, stability, and freedom. Senator Jim Risch, who is also Ranking Member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), said that for over 10 years, Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers have inflicted enormous suffering on Syrians in a prolonged campaign of torture, starvation, chemical weapons, and barrel bombings. A senior member of the SFRC, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, stated that the tenth anniversary is a reminder of what is still at stake in Syria: the futures and freedoms of Syrians. Shaheen reiterated the need to end the conflict and hold perpetrators to account, adding that implementing lasting peace must continue to be a US national security policy priority. They recalled that the Caesar Act seeks accountability for the “Assad regime and its international enablers for atrocities against the Syrian people, denies the Assad regime the resources to fuel its war machine, and sends a clear signal to the international community against normalizing, rehabilitating, or legitimizing Assad and his backers.”
The resolution mentions the role of the Iran and Russia military intervention in support of the Assad regime, enabling and actively participating in the regime’s horrific brutalities against civilians in favor of advancing their narrow interests, which in some cases empowered extremist groups.
Meanwhile, the US State Department spokeswoman said that stability in Syria and the wider region can only be achieved through a political process that represents the will of all Syrians. Asked about the remarks of UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the official told Asharq Al-Awsat in an email that Washington is committed to working with allies, partners, and the UN to ensure that a political solution remains within reach. She said the humanitarian crisis in Syria reached a critical point as a result of the regime's blocking of aid to Syrians. “It is imperative for the regime and its supporters to engage seriously in political dialogue and allow humanitarian assistance to reach communities in need in order to achieve a sustainable end to the Syrian people’s suffering,” the official said. Earlier, the FM said that the Caesar Act is complicating the return of Syria to the Arab fold and undermining regional rapprochement efforts. Speaking at a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, Al Nahyan asserted that the return of Syria to the Arab League is in the interest of Syria and other countries of the region. He pushed for “joint action with Syria,” saying that the US economic pressure campaign “as it is today makes the matter difficult.”


UN Urges Syria to Locate Tens of Thousands Missing in War
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 11 March, 2021
The UN rights chief on Thursday urged Syria's warring parties to disclose the location of tens of thousands of missing people, as she marked 10 grim years since the start of the war. Calling the anniversary a "tragic milestone", the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for an independent, international mechanism to locate the missing, or identify the remains of victims. "I also urge all parties to the conflict, and those states with influence over them, to halt arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances," she said in a statement. She added that people being arbitrarily detained should be immediately released. Bachelet's office has no access to Syria but said the number of missing men, women and children was "estimated to be in the tens of thousands." The problem of unaccounted for missing people pre-dates the outbreak of fighting in 2011. While victims are overwhelmingly men, women are burdened with supporting themselves and their families as they try to find out what happened to a missing relative, AFP reported. They face potential risks in seeking information from officials, while individuals prey on families by offering to help find their loved ones for money. Not being able to find their relatives causes "continuing trauma for them and severely (curtails) the enjoyment of their human rights", Bachelet said. She called on Bashar al-Assad's regime to disclose all places of detention, provide complete lists of names and ensure formal registration of those held in these facilities. "If an individual has died, then their body or remains should be returned to their family," she said. Syria's war has killed more than 387,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Netanyahu: As Long as I’m PM, Iran Will Not Have Atomic Bombs
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 11 March, 2021
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Iran would not become a country with nuclear military capabilities as long as he remained premier. Speaking at a live meeting with constituents during an interview with Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu said that he’s the only candidate who is capable of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.He mocked his rivals, wondering who’d be fit for leading Israel and facing such issues other than himself, saying: “you need a leader with a world standing to resist the ongoing attempts of Iran to arm themselves with nuclear weapons.” Netanyahu reviewed his efforts against the nuclear deal, indicating that he had challenged the former US President, Barack Obama, and stood against the agreement with Iran. He also referred to his speech at the Congress, noting that if it weren’t for these efforts, including “sending the Mossad into the heart of Tehran and yanking away their secret atomic archive with 100,000 documents,” Iran would already have had a nuclear arsenal. Netanyahu indicated that he had received praise from top international officials because of his strict position in the face of the Iranian nuclear program, who said they respect his leadership, and “we know that you stand against Iran, and that’s why we’re standing with you.” Netanyahu refused to say that he is at odds with the administration of US President Joe Biden on the nuclear deal. He described his relationship with Biden as “very close” and “real,” saying he’s known the president for over 40 years. Netanyahu indicated that he will discuss with Biden issues of concern, and continue to consult on regional security issues, including Iran.

Blinken Says Time For Foreign Forces to Leave Libya
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 11 March, 2021
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed Libya's newly appointed interim government. In a statement on Twitter, he congratulated Libyans for the unity government, hoping that it would bring an end to the conflict. "Congratulations to Libyans on the vote of confidence in support of the interim unity gov’t cabinet. A welcome step toward elections in December and an end to the conflict."Blinken also stressed the importance of ceasefire, calling on all foreign troops to leave the country. "It is crucial to implement the ceasefire, abide by the arms embargo, and for foreign forces to leave now." On Wednesday, Libyan lawmakers confirmed a newly appointed interim government, in the hopes it will help unify the divided, war-wrecked North African country, and shepherd it through to elections at the end of the year. The 132 lawmakers approved the government of Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, which replaces two rival administrations — one based in the country's east and another in the west — that have been ruling Libya for years.

Iraqi PM’s Call for National Dialogue Divides Shiite Parties
Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 11 March, 2021
Iraqi Shiite blocs are divided over Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi's call for a national dialogue to solve the differences among the country’s rival groups. Head of Iraqis coalition Ammar al-Hakim announced his support for the dialogue, and so did the leader of Nasr alliance, former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. However, Iran affiliates such as the State of Law Coalition, led by Nouri al-Maliki, and Fatah alliance of Hadi al-Amiri refrained from declaring their position. Head of Sadrist Movement Muqtada al-Sadr said he supports the call for dialogue, and his spokesman Haidar al-Jabri called to activate a UN-led dialogue on reforms. Speaking at a press conference, Jabri said the dialogue should exclude parties affiliated with the Baath party or terrorist organizations, without clarifying the nature of the UN’s role. On Monday, Kadhimi asked rival parties and groups to put their differences aside and work together toward a stable and prosperous Iraq. He invited all rivals to open a frank dialogue with the government on the basis of preserving the security of Iraq, supporting the state, and the rule of law. He invited all political parties, protesters, and opposition figures to the dialogue table. Kadhimi’s advisor Hussein Allawi confirmed that the Prime Minister’s initiative will be a platform for national dialogue. Allawi is a member of the advisory team set to determine the mechanisms for the dialogue, the parties included, and the date of the first meeting. He told the official Iraqi News Agency (INA) that the all-party talks are very important to revitalize the political process and support the Iraqi state. Allawi added that the initiative was welcomed by the national components, social forces, and the Iraqi public. “The national dialogue is a process of pushing Iraq towards a new political contract for social harmony,” said Allawi. He pointed out that the initiative is a platform that brings together the vision of the executive authority promoted by the President, who also supports the initiative of the Prime Minister. Kadhimi will work with the political parties to produce the new political contract of Iraq for a new public policy and economic approach while addressing issues of corruption, poverty, and unemployment. Allawi stressed that the dialogue will also address the issue of illegitimate arms. Iraq now has a great opportunity to avoid futile political rivalry that has hindered economic development and the ability to attract foreign investments, according to Allawi.


Putin, Erdogan Launch New Phase of Turkish Nuclear Power Plant
Agence France Presse/March 11, 2021
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Wednesday to improve cooperation as they launched the construction of a new reactor at Turkey's first nuclear power plant. The two leaders each pressed a button on their office desks in Moscow and Ankara in a video link ceremony unveiling the third phase of Akkuyu station's construction project. Russia's Rosatom state nuclear energy firm began building the first of four planned reactors on Turkey's south coast in 2018. Erdogan hopes to put the plant online by the time Turkey celebrates its centenary as a post-Ottoman republic in 2023.
Putin said he expected the project to "improve the Russian-Turkish partnership in all its facets, helping strengthen friendship and mutual understanding between our countries' peoples". Erdogan echoed similar thoughts. "The close dialogue that we established with my esteemed friend (Putin) is playing a key role not only in bilateral relations but also in preserving regional peace and stability," Erdogan said. Putin and Erdogan have enjoyed a complex relationship while leading their countries for most of the past 20 years. They found themselves on opposite sides of the war in Syria but are now working closely together on a peace plan that could bring an end to a decade of strife. Their ties plunged to a nadir when Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border in November 2015. But they recovered quickly and Putin attended the launch of the Akkuyu plant's construction in April 2018. Russian news reports estimate the cost of the entire project at around $20 billion (17 billion euros). Turkey is heavily reliant on oil and natural gas imports -- including from Russia. Erdogan said he expected the plant to supply 10 percent of Turkey's electricity needs when completed.

After Abu Dhabi, Riyadh signals intent to pursue rapprochement with Syria
The Arab Weekly/March 11/2021
RIYADH--Beyond the expected talk about strengthening bilateral cooperation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s talks in Saudi Arabia sent signals to Washington about Gulf countries’ recalibrated stances on regional issues.There was hence agreement expressed on the need for dialogue to stop the war in Yemen. Concerning Syria, the Saudis seemed to nudge closer to Russia’s position on reaching a political solution that would end Syrians’ suffering. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said in a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart that the Syrian settlement requires a comprehensive political solution, reiterating his country’s desire for an end to this crisis. “We are keen to coordinate with all parties, including Russia, to find a solution to the Syrian crisis,” he added. On the eve of Lavrov’s visit to Riyadh, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz met with the Russian president’s special envoy for Syrian settlement affairs Alexander Lavrentiev, and discussed with him the latest developments in Syria, confirming official Saudi interest in the Syrian issue. Gulf analysts said that the Saudi focus on the Syrian issue, only one day after it was discussed by Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, carries a coded message to the Americans. The substance of this message is that if you want to nudge closer to Iran and allow it to resume nuclear weapon development without clear checks on its regional ambitions, then we will push for a solution to the Syrian file and that will take into account our interests and the interests of the region, even if they conflict with Washington’s calculations.
The analysts added that Saudi Arabia is pushing for a resolution of the Syrian problem due to various considerations. Some are security-related, especially that war has lasted for ten years and has become a major security concern for the countries of the region as a whole. The Syrian battleground provides fertile ground to nurture extremism among the region’s youth, as radical groups are able to use social media as a way to play on the religious sentiment of the new generations. The kingdom wants to promote an international solution in Syria that would deprive Iran of a key card since Tehran has become a major player in Syria at the same time as Russia and Turkey. Tehran has succeeded in setting up influence networks that enable it to plan a long-term presence in Syria, which could serve a as a launch-pad for Iranian activities in the rest of the region, especially in Lebanon.
The Saudis and the Emiratis are looking at the matter from a pragmatic perspective. They particularly see a political solution as ending justifications for Iran’s presence in Syria. Such a solution could be an additional factor pressuring Tehran to withdraw from other files such as Yemen’s.
This comes amid emerging international momentum in favour of a final settlement in Yemen. This would relieve Saudi Arabia of the security and financial burden of the war and push Iran to stop its intervention in Yemen and support for the Houthi rebels. Such an outcome, if it materialises, will vindicate the Saudis’ intervention in Yemen.
Arab Gulf nations have found in the inauguration of a new US administration an opportunity to present different views that serve their regional interests, including pushing for a solution in Syria and the return of Damascus to the Arab fold. This would end the use of Syria as a battlefield for conflicting regional and international agendas and as an arena for testing weapons and training militias.
The US State Department responded to the Emirati foreign minister’s statements on Tuesday regarding the effects of the US “Caesar Act” on the lives of Syrians and considered that this law has nothing to do with the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and blamed the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad for that.
A US State Department spokesman said that, “stability in Syria and the wider region can only be achieved through a political process that represents the will of all Syrians.”The Emirati foreign minister had declared in the presence of his Russian counterpart that “the return of Syria to its environment is inevitable, and is in the interest of Syria and the region as a whole, and the biggest challenge facing coordination and joint work with Syria is the Caesar Act.”Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan bestowed the “Order of the Union” on the Russian foreign minister while Lavriov’s deputy, Mikhail Bogdanov, was presented with the “Order of Zayed II,” illustrating the visit’s significance for bilateral relations. Gulf analysts consider that the Russian-Gulf rapprochement does not stop at the issue of Syria, extending to the important domain of tripartite coordination (between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Russia) on the issue of oil within the framework of OPEC + and the pursuit of market equilibrium.
The Saudi foreign minister said during his joint press conference with his Russian counterpart that cooperation between Riyadh and Moscow within OPEC+ has “contributed to the stability of energy markets during the difficult past period in 2020, which was affected by the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, and the results of this cooperation have contributed to protecting the global economic system.”Saudi Arabia was also keen during Lavrov’s visit to demonstrate its serious desire to reach a solution in Yemen, while adhering to its right to defend its national security and thwart Iranian-backed Houthi attacks. Prince Farhan said after his meeting with Lavrov, “We renewed our support to a political solution to the crisis in Yemen. The implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and the formation of the new Yemeni government are an important step in opening the way for an integrated political solution to the crisis, and we affirm our support for the efforts of the UN envoy towards achieving a comprehensive ceasefire and starting an inclusive political process.” He pledged that his country would take “the necessary and deterrent measures to protect its national capabilities and assets in order to preserve global energy security and stop terrorist attacks, ensure the stability of energy supplies, the security of petroleum exports, and guarantee maritime traffic and global trade.”Lavrov, for his part, considered that “the conflict in Yemen must end (…) and that the warring parties should sit at the negotiating table.”During his visit to Riyadh, Lavrov met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said that during the meeting, they both reviewed bilateral relations and ways to enhance them in various fields so as to serve the countries’ common interests.
During the meeting, developments in the regional and international situations were discussed and efforts deployed to enhance security and stability.


Vaccine Hope, but Battle Drags on One Year after Pandemic Declared
Agence France Presse/March 11, 2021
The world on Thursday marked one year since the coronavirus threat was declared a pandemic, with vaccinations offering hope but much of humanity still enduring highly restricted lives and no clear path back to normality. The enormity of the continuing global challenge was reflected in a stark warning by the International Council of Nurses that an exodus is looming of healthcare workers traumatised by the pandemic. "They reach a point where they've given everything they can," ICN chief executive Howard Catton told reporters. While restrictions are easing in many parts of the world, hotspots persist such as Brazil, which on Wednesday reported a record 2,286 deaths in a single day as more contagious new variants fuel a surge there. "It took a long time for the politicians to act... We are paying for it, the poor people," said Adilson Menezes, 40, outside a hospital in Brazil's biggest city Sao Paulo, where all non-essential businesses are closed to help fight the virus. On the economic front, the US Congress passed one of its biggest stimulus efforts ever -- a $1.9 trillion package that President Joe Biden said would give struggling American families a "fighting chance". Since first emerging in China at the end of 2019, the coronavirus has killed more than 2.6 million people and forced unprecedented curbs on movement that eviscerated economies. The World Health Organization officially declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11 last year as infection numbers were beginning to explode across Asia and Europe. About 4,600 deaths had been officially recorded around the world at the time. But with the United States only just starting to feel the direct impacts of the pandemic, then-president Donald Trump played down the threat. "The virus will not have a chance against us," Trump told the nation. Under his chaotic leadership, the United States would become the hardest-hit nation: the American death toll today stands at more than 528,000.
'War footing'
The only defences to the contagious virus one year ago appeared to be face masks and stopping people from interacting. Global aviation came to a standstill and governments imposed deeply unpopular restrictions, forcing billions of fearful people into some form of lockdown. "We are on a war footing," Corinne Krencker, the head of a hospital network in eastern France told AFP on March 11 last year, as patient and death numbers began to surge. At the same time, governments and scientists launched the race to create vaccines -- research and development that would take place at an unprecedented, breakneck pace. Today, several shots are being rolled out, including those developed in the United States, Germany, China, Russia and India.More than 300 million vaccine doses have been administered in 140 countries, according to an AFP count.
Power, wealth divides -
The global vaccine rollout has also exposed power and wealth divides. Rich nations have surged ahead with their mass vaccination programs, while billions in poorer nations are still waiting to receive shots.
Hope for a worldwide push has been boosted by the launch of deliveries under the WHO-backed Covax scheme, which aims to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. The success of the AstraZeneca/Oxford and Johnson & Johnson shots is further cause for optimism as they are easier to transport and store than the ones from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, which require storage at ultra-cold temperatures. But AstraZeneca hit a snag on Thursday as Denmark temporarily suspended its use as a precaution after some patients developed blood clots since receiving the jab. The European Union's medical regulator was set to meet Thursday to discuss authorisation for the J&J vaccine, which has already been approved by Canada and the United States. It would be the fourth vaccine to get the nod from the Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency for use in the bloc after the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford jabs received green lights. The EU has come under fire for its slow vaccine rollout -- which it has blamed on supply and production issues. On Thursday, the EU said it would extend until the end of June a scheme to monitor exports of vaccines from the bloc.
'Light at end of tunnel'

The US vaccination effort has gained momentum in recent weeks, with Biden vowing to have enough doses in place within months for the entire American population. His administration has driven through the massive economic stimulus package, which Biden is expected to sign into law on Friday.
Biden is set to deliver a prime-time address on Thursday in which he will offer an optimistic vision for his nation, and by extension the world. "There is real reason for hope, folks, I promise you," Biden said in a preview of his remarks. "There is light at the end of the tunnel."

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 11-12/2021

Middle East: The Ghosts of Sovereigns Past
Naomi Linder Kahn/Gatestone Institute'/March 11, 2021
The State of Israel continues to enforce Jordanian law [in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria] -- despite its clearly racist and backward underpinnings.
No matter what side of the political divide you view it from, a legislative and legal time-warp has trapped the residents of these territories – Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians – in amber for more than five decades. The result: legal chaos, injustice and incessant conflict.
Ironically, Israel's legal reticence continues to fuel the endless conflict over the land itself... that could be avoided by simply completing the process of land survey and registration initiated by the Ottoman Empire and continued by the British Mandatory and Jordanian governments in turn.
Surveying and registering land ownership was not perceived as an act of sovereignty when the British caretakers undertook it; there seems no reason why it should be regarded that way now.
This same vacuum has made it impossible to formulate forward-thinking policy for land use, environmental protection, settlement policy, and perhaps most critically, a negotiated resolution of the status of the territory. Without establishing who owns what, it is impossible to proceed toward a just division of resources or a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The time has come to banish the antiquated ghosts of Ottoman, Jordanian and British Mandatory rule, and to fill the legal void in Judea and Samaria with a modern, humanist, democratic system of law for everyone.
Now that the debate surrounding the extension of Israeli sovereignty to the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria has abated somewhat in light of the Abraham Accords, the time may be ripe to take a closer look at the legal status of these territories.
The picture that emerges might be surprising. More than a century after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the empire's ghost continues to reign. More than 50 years after Israel's victory in the Six Day War, more than 30 years after King Hussein of Jordan publicly relinquished all legal and administrative ties to this territory, and more than 25 years after Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel, officially relinquishing all territorial claims, the State of Israel continues to enforce Jordanian law -- despite its clearly racist and backward underpinnings.
In the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, despite the clear moral and legal justification for full and unambiguous annexation of the territory, Israel instead chose to refrain from the natural, normal and expected steps that any and every other government takes following an undisputed outcome in a war of self-defense. The Israeli authorities instead chose to put in place "temporary arrangements" that continue to hold the area in legal limbo to this day.[1] At present, the State of Israel continues to enforce a combination of Jordanian and Ottoman law, rather than Israeli law -- for fear of being accused in international forums, particularly the United Nations Security Council, of "acts of sovereignty."
In what has proven to be a most unfortunate policy decision – which continues to wreak havoc on the lives of the Arabs and Jews who live in these areas, Israel continues to honor the Jordanian legislation that prohibits inheritance or purchase of land by women – both Arabs and Jews. Israeli courts continue to honor antisemitic Jordanian legislation that bars Jewish individuals from purchasing land in Judea and Samaria.[2] Israel continues to honor outdated Ottoman laws – abandoned everywhere else in the world more than 100 years ago[3] -- that enable massive property theft through agricultural use.
In this bit of absurdity, every man and woman in the disputed territories known as Judea and Samaria -- or the "West Bank" (of the Jordan River) -- is being denied the most basic rights that form the bedrock of modern Western democracies. No matter what side of the political divide you view it from, a legislative and legal time-warp has trapped the residents of these territories – Arabs and Jews, Palestinians and Israelis – in amber for more than five decades. The result: legal chaos, injustice and incessant conflict.
Ironically, Israel's legal reticence continues to fuel the endless conflict over the land itself, as well as a massive waste of resources -- monotonous cycles of construction, lawsuit , demolition, reconstruction -- that could be avoided by simply completing the process of land survey and registration initiated by the Ottoman Empire and continued by the British Mandatory and Jordanian governments in turn.[4]
Surveying and registering land ownership was not perceived as an act of sovereignty when the British caretakers undertook it; there seems no reason why it should be regarded that way now.
In short, the legal and legislative vacuum that has resulted from Israel's well-intentioned decision to retain Ottoman and Jordanian law in the territories that came under its legal jurisdiction over 50 years ago continues to deprive both the Arabs and Jews who live there of their basic rights. This same vacuum has made it impossible to formulate forward-thinking policy for land use, environmental protection, settlement policy, and perhaps most critically, a negotiated resolution of the status of the territory. Without establishing who owns what, it is impossible to proceed toward a just division of resources or a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Israel has spent so many decades avoiding any action in order not to be seen in a bad light, that it has created an unforgiveable vacuum of human rights and governance and a black hole of law and accountability. These continue to turn normal life for everyone who lives there into a bureaucratic nightmare. The time has come to banish the antiquated ghosts of Ottoman, Jordanian and British Mandatory rule, and to fill the legal void in Judea and Samaria with a modern, humanist, democratic system of law for everyone.
Naomi Linder Kahn is Director of the International Division of Regavim, an Israeli non-profit dedicated to ensuring legal, responsible use of Israel's land resources.
[1] For a review and summary of the regulatory and legal processes still in effect in Judea and Samaria, see "Report of the Committee Examining the Issue of Land Registration in Judea and Samaria" (the Zamir Commission), 2005 (Hebrew).
[2] https://bit.ly/3sKAOPP (Hebrew)
[3] See Haim Sandberg, "Regulation of Property and Land Rights in the Land of Israel and the State of Israel" (Hebrew) (2000) for a history of the evolution of law in these areas and the evolution of Ottoman Land Law throughout the Middle East. Zandberg's describes the Ottoman Empire's attempt to replace the land registry system instituted in 1858 in favor of a cadastre-based system in 1913; this plan never came to fruition due to the outbreak of hostilities and the disbanding of the Empire following WWI (pp. 110-118).
[4] See Dr. Chagai Vinizky and Attorney Daniel Kramer, "Land Registries in Judea and Samaria" (Hebrew), in Land Law and International Law in Judea and Samaria (2013: The Adam v'Adamah Center), pp. 113-209).
© 2021 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Turkey: Erdoğan's War on Peace
Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute'/March 11, 2021
الصحافي التركي بوراك بكديل من معهد كايتستون: حرب أردوغان على السلام
The margin of victory [by the opposition candidate Ekrem İmamoglu in the 2019 Istanbul mayoral election] shocked Erdoğan and his party establishment. That night marked an unforgettable defeat for the invincible Erdoğan. It also marked a new, advanced phase in Islamists' war on Kurds.
Erdoğan advocates more subtle ways to intimidate opposition. He has been jailing HDP's democratically elected leaders, MPs and mayors, and appointing trustees in their place.
Erdoğan does not have to shut down the HDP when he has de facto crippled it. The party's two co-chairmen, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, have been in jail since 2016.
In February, the crackdown took a new ugly turn. Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a former Islamist, human rights activist and HDP MP, retweeted a post in 2016, advocating peace in the Kurdish dispute. A Turkish court sentenced him to 2½ years in jail for the retweet -- although, ironically, the original tweet source had not been indicted. In February the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld Gergerlioglu's sentence for "spreading terrorist propaganda" -- five years after the retweet.
Erdogan's Kurdish problem, however, has the potential to cost him more than just Istanbul. Research found that the fertility rate in the Kurdish-speaking, eastern part of Turkey was 3.41, as opposed to an average of 2.09 in the Turkish-speaking, non-eastern areas. Kurdish votes in the presidential election year 2023 may reach seven million: Kurds could be the kingmakers.
The race for the Istanbul election on March 31, 2019 went full steam ahead. Islamist parties had controlled Turkey's biggest city since 1994 – a full 25 years. Istanbul was not just another city to win for any party. Turkey's Islamist president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had put it: "Who wins Istanbul, wins Turkey."
In the run-up to the 2019 election, Erdoğan realized that his Justice and Development Party (AKP) might lose if Istanbul's two million or so Kurds voted for the opposition candidate, Ekrem İmamoglu. What to do? State broadcaster TRT read a statement from Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a terrorist organization. Öcalan's letter called on Kurds to remain neutral between the government and opposition candidates. That would result in de facto support for the AKP candidate, former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım.
The vote count on March 31, however, proved to be a political fiasco. İmamoglu had won by a narrow margin of 13,000 votes (in a city of 18 million) but the AKP-controlled Supreme Election Board ruled for a rerun on June 23. This time İmamoglu won by a margin of 800,000 votes. The margin of victory shocked Erdoğan and his party establishment. That night marked an unforgettable defeat for the invincible Erdoğan. It also marked a new, advanced phase in Islamists' war on Kurds. Apparently the Kurds, ignoring Ocalan's letter, voted for İmamoglu.
Erdoğan's staunch ultranationalist ally, Devlet Bahçeli, has been persistently calling for a permanent ban by a Constitutional Court of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the third-largest party in the Turkish parliament. Erdoğan advocates more subtle ways to intimidate the opposition. He has been jailing HDP's democratically elected leaders, MPs and mayors, and appointing trustees in their place.
Erdoğan does not have to shut down the HDP when he has de facto crippled it. The party's two co-chairmen, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, have been in jail since 2016.
Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ were arrested on "terrorism" charges but theirs remain a curious and bitter legal story. In 2014, HDP called on its supporters to peacefully protest the capture by Islamic State of a northern Syrian Kurdish town, Kobane. What initially began as peaceful protests turned into violence between protesters and security forces, as well as between protesters of rival ideologies.
After a week of violence swept Turkey's predominantly Kurdish cities in the country's southeast, 46 people had been killed and 682 injured. More than 300 people were detained for the violence. Turkish prosecutors drafted indictments against Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ (along with nine other HDP MPs) for provoking violence -- 6½ years after the incidents. "This is an attempt to ban politics," wrote Turkish columnist Mehmet Yılmaz.
In order to bypass the more radical option of closing down a political party, Erdoğan may also be considering additional measures to deal a further blow to the HDP. These include stripping the party of state funding, as party closure looks as if it would not work as a deterrent. HDP is Turkey's eighth pro-Kurdish party: seven others have been banned. Kurds formed their first one in 1990. Between 1994 and 2015, however, the Kurdish vote in Turkey rose from 4.1% to 13.1% of the total vote, or from 1.1 million votes to more than six million.
The HDP claims it is facing an unprecedented legal crackdown. 16,000 of its members have been detained and dozens of deputies ousted from parliament and jailed under Turkey's anti-terror legislation. The government currently is working on lifting the parliamentary immunity of all HDP deputies who are subject to summary proceedings -- expedited rulings -- on charges of "terrorism." So far, 56 deputies from HDP have 914 summary proceedings against them.
"Seriously," asked columnist Akif Beki, "would the crackdown [on Kurdish politicians] take place if Istanbul's Kurdish voters had remained neutral and the AKP won Istanbul?"
With a new court ruling on another prominent Kurdish politician in February, the crackdown took a new ugly turn. Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a former Islamist, human rights activist and HDP MP, retweeted a post in 2016, advocating peace in the Kurdish dispute. A Turkish court sentenced him to 2½ years in jail for the retweet -- although, ironically, the original tweet source had not been indicted. In February, the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld Gergerlioglu's sentence for "spreading terrorist propaganda" -- five years after the retweet.
Erdogan's Kurdish problem, however, has the potential to cost him more than just Istanbul. Research has found that the fertility rate in the Kurdish-speaking, eastern part of Turkey was 3.41, as opposed to an average of 2.09 in the Turkish-speaking, non-eastern areas. Kurdish votes in the presidential election year 2023 may reach seven million: Kurds could be the kingmakers.
There are signs that more and more Kurds feel disenchanted by Erdoğan's hawkish policy. Rawest Araştırma, a pollster, found in February that one quarter of Kurds who had previously voted for Erdoğan said they would not vote for him again.
Erdoğan's war on peace may prove self-defeating.
*Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was recently fired from the country's most noted newspaper after 29 years, for writing in Gatestone what is taking place in Turkey. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
© 2021 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Iraq...A Tormented Country Visited by the Pope
Hazem Saghieh/Asharq Al Awsat/March 11/2021
Iraq is a tormented country. Its poetry speaks of its agony and its songs echoes its pain. Deep feelings of guilt weigh heavily on Iraqis’ souls, burdened by the Iranian policy of expansion, ISIS, militias, corruption and impoverishment. Without even looking into the role ascribed to forsaking Hussein the son of Ali and the battle of Karbala in establishing this sentiment, the modern era is itself rich with reasons to feel guilty..Those killed today will be revealed as innocent victims tomorrow, while paths taken often lead to depressing destinations different to those that had been expected.
Feelings of guilt could be expressed by one community in this phase and another community in that phase, but their overwhelming presence remains among the elements shaping Iraq’s politics and society, or rather the weakness of this politics and this society.
Let us go over a little history:
The Ottoman officers who sided with the Hashemite Revolt of 1916 found themselves fighting the Germans who had trained them alongside the British they had been brought up despising. Later on, those officers cooperated with the British in governing Damascus for a short period and then in the governance of Baghdad for a long period, some believe until 1958.
Those in the center and the south who launched the Iraqi Revolt of 1920 suddenly realized, after it ended, that they had not harmed anyone but themselves. They were sidelined from the decision-making process, and their exclusion went on until 2003.
In 1941, the Farhoud Pogrom befell Iraq’s Jews. It was the inception of the process through which the country was emptied of its Jews, after they had constituted more than a quarter of Baghdad’s residents in the nineteen twenties. Today, there is an explicit nostalgia, in writing, memoirs and cinema, for Iraq’s Jews and “their old days.’’
The subsequent centuries would pave wider paths to tragedy. In 1958 the massacre of the royal family dyed the new republic’s face with blood. In 1963, with extreme carnage, the Baathists brought down Abdel Karim Kassem and then executed him. Since 1968, the regime has implicated many Iraqis in causing other Iraqis pain. Saddam’s wars resulted in the deaths of many of his citizens and that of many others. His execution at dawn on Eid al-Adha in 2006 and the civil war of the same year were mass producers of feelings of guilt.
All of these momentous events pierced many hearts, those of this team and the other. Today, some Iraqi shed tears for Faisal the Second and the Hashemite family. Others shed them for Kassem, some for Saddam, and more numerous than them all are those who shed tears for the victims of Saddam and his wars.
In addition to crying over the Jews, there is also crying over the Kurds and Christians. During this long period, the killing of Kurds, with which the birth of modern Iraq was inaugurated, has not stopped: The country was established in 1920, shortly after Mahmoud al-Hafid’s uprising was defeated. Demand for Kurdish blood has not subsided since then.
As for the Christians, whom Pope Francis came to console and whose spirits he came to raise, the suffering of their modern history begins with the 1933 Simele massacre that targeted Assyrians to reach the ISIS emergence. The number of Christians living in Iraq has decreased from one and a half million people at the start of this century to between 300,000 and 400,000 people today.
This blood-soaked history is what Pope Francis came to assuage. But can the pope do it?
In 2003, when the Americans toppled Saddam Hussein, it seemed to some that an opportunity had emerged to put an end to the bloodshed and contain the feelings of guilts stemming from various sources. The Iraqi people’s reclamation of their Iraq, life under a democratic system, loomed on the horizon.
Subsequent developments proved those who had made this assessment mistaken: those with the lion’s share of the new regime’s power have gifted Iraq to Iran amid gradual US withdrawal. They gave the sectarian primacy over the national, imitating those who preceded them in power after the roles had been reversed. The stronger Iran, the stronger ISIS or its equivalent, and the greater the number of both Christians and non-Christians killed. When this happens, the voices of those calling for a stronger Iranian presence in Iraq to ensure that Iraqis can face ISIS grow louder, and this cycle goes on and on…
The past and ongoing ramifications of granting this glorious gift to Iran could transform, in some tomorrow, into a source of guilt that supersedes all of those that preceded it. As for the pope’s visit, the fact that it comes amid this climate is a reason to worry about its productivity. This is because preaching about love to those filled with hate is likely to remain nothing more than preaching, akin to calling for peace among worriers. The fact is that only armed peace and love can save Iraq from its pains and the feelings of guilt arising from this pain. And of course, Pope Francis does not fight.

Cynthia Farahat on the Muslim Brotherhood's "Secret Apparatus"

Marilyn Stern/Middle East Forum Webinar/March 11/2021

Cynthia Farahat, a Middle East Forum writing fellow, spoke to participants in a February 1 Middle East Forum webinar (video) about the Muslim Brotherhood's covert terror apparatus and the threat it poses to the West, the topic of her forthcoming book, The Secret Apparatus: The Muslim Brotherhood's Industry of Death.
Founded in Cairo in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood organization operated as a terrorist group from the start, according to Farahat, albeit a "much more sophisticated" one. Its political activities in Egypt and later other countries are designed to support its violent mission. Indeed she characterized the Brotherhood as "more of a secret military apparatus with a political façade ... than a political group with a terrorism apparatus."
Although violent arms of the Brotherhood are typically franchised under different names, the connection to the Brotherhood of many contemporary jihadist groups is not difficult to trace. Al-Qaeda was "founded by active members of the Muslim Brotherhood," said Farahat, adding that she has compiled evidence that Osama bin Laden "remained a member of the Muslim Brotherhood until the day he died." The late ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was well known to have been "a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood." Muslim Brotherhood operatives have also "governed several countries, such as Sudan."
Contrary to the claims of apologists, the Muslim Brotherhood's secret apparatus is "still operational" as an "intricate international criminal enterprise." Ostensibly nonviolent arms of the Brotherhood are designed to support this apparatus. Skilled at training the next generation, the Muslim Brotherhood enlists juveniles and teen members in "scout cells" where they receive physical preparation that equips them for "jihadist training." A Brotherhood-designated cyber committee that Farahat documents in her book trains acolytes under the age of 30 in the use of "social media to spread the ... narrative ... [and] recruit new members and terrorists."
Farahat's goal in writing her book is to provide irrefutable evidence of the Muslim Brotherhood's continuing terror ties and give the U.S. government and counterterrorism professionals "the ammunition to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group."
In addition, she hopes to enable the mainstream Western reader to "identify patterns of behavior that will help counter the Muslim Brotherhood threat" and decipher the Brotherhood's use of "code language" to disguise its subversive activities. Words and phrases used by the Muslim Brotherhood often "don't mean what you think they mean," said Farahat. Western audiences commonly mirror their own associations when hearing supposedly benign statements. "We can fall into this trap of associating our own definitions with these words, while they often mean the opposite." For example, the word "freedom," with all its liberal associations in the Western mind, "means the exact opposite ... when they use [it] ... it means subjugation under Sharia law."
Farahat believes it is imperative for the West to comprehend the "relationship Islamists have to history." Islamists seek to restore their past glory days and learn tactical lessons by studying the German Communist Party, the Nazi Party, and Stalin's playbook to wage "covert warfare" against the Western democracies. "While a Westerner would say, 'Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,' an Islamist would say, 'Those who do not learn from history cannot accurately repeat it.'"
*Marilyn Stern is communications coordinator at the Middle East Forum.

Olympics Needs to Uphold Ban on Iran’s Discrimination
David May and Benjamin Weinthal/The National Interest/March 11/2021

The CAS ruling sends the wrong message to Tehran. The principles of the Olympic Charter and the lives of Iranian athletes ought to compel more than this.
While Iran’s harassment of athletes knows no limits, its punishment must, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled on Monday. The CAS determined that the International Judo Federation had no “legal basis” for serving Iran an unlimited suspension over its boycott of Israeli athletes. However, the court recognized that the judo federation had committed “serious violations” and referred the case back to the IJF for disciplinary measures.
The Islamic Republic has a long history of dodging matches against the Jewish State. Former coach for Iran’s national Greco-Roman wrestling team, Sardar Pashaei, stated that “I personally witnessed Iranian authorities forcing athletes to refuse to compete with Israeli athletes.” In 2017, an Iranian trainer coerced his wrestler, Alireza Karimi-Machiani, to throw a match to prevent a showdown with an Israeli, which sparked international outrage.
Iran’s judo boycott of Israel came to a head in February 2019. Judoka Saeid Mollaei threw a match to avoid facing his Israeli counterpart, Sagi Muki. In May of that year, IJF President Marius Vizer extracted a letter from the presidents of Iran’s National Olympic Committee and judo federation guaranteeing they would “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle.” Nevertheless, in August, Tehran again ordered Mollaei to lose intentionally to avoid facing Muki.
This was the final straw for the IJF. Iran’s blatant disregard for the principles of the Olympic movement, namely non-discrimination and fair play, had gone on long enough without consequence. Between September and October 2019, the IJF reviewed the case and suspended Iran from all competitions and activities “until the Iran Judo Federation . . . accept that their athletes fight against Israeli athletes.” Iran appealed the decision immediately.
Though the Islamic Republic was suspended for sixteen months, most events were canceled due to the global pandemic. Monday’s CAS ruling undercut the IJF decision, limiting the judo governing body’s ability to punish Iran for discriminating against Israelis and harassing its own athletes.
Meanwhile, Mollaei has received no such reprieve. He fears for his life and for the lives of his family members. In 2019, when it appeared that Mollaei might have to face an Israeli, Iranian officials called Mollaei and his coach, Mohammad Mansouri, demanding the judoka drop out. Iranian security forces went to the house where Mollaei’s parents lived and an Iranian embassy official even trespassed into the athlete warm-up area to intimidate the judoka. With Vizer’s help, Mollaei applied for asylum in Germany and eventually was allowed to compete on behalf of Mongolia.
Just last month, Mollaei won silver at the two-day IJF Grand Slam in Tel Aviv. Vizer declared it a “unique tournament at an exceptional time” and praised Mollaei and Mansouri, who also had to flee Iran, terming the men as “the bravest people I have ever met.” While he can compete in judo again, Mollaei cannot return home. If he did, then he might meet the fate of other athletes who dared to defy the clerical regime.
Elite athletes face intense pressure, including the death penalty, for any semblance of protest against the theocracy. One example is murdered wrestler Navid Afkari, who became a wanted man for participating in protests in 2018 against the regime. Iran tortured Afkari into falsely confessing to the murder of a security guard, according to human rights groups. In September 2020, the regime hanged him.
The regime executed a second wrestler, Mehdi Ali Hosseini, in January 2021, despite an urgent appeal from Hamid Sourian, the Iranian Wrestling Federation’s vice president. Due to the mysterious circumstances surrounding Hosseini’s trial, it is unclear if Iran executed him for dissent, or if this is just another case of the clerical regime denying its athletes their right to life and a fair trial.
In the same month as Hosseini’s execution, Iran’s clerical regime executed a champion boxer and prominent sports coach, Ali Mutairi. Regime authorities severely tortured Mutairi to extract a forced confession for killing two Basij militia members in 2018. The UN condemned the execution of Mutairi, who was sentenced to death on the frequently invoked nebulous charges of “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth.” Mutairi was an Ahwazi Arab—a minority subject to intense discrimination in Iran.
The International Olympic Committee’s and other sporting bodies’ failure to keep sustained pressure and penalties against the clerical regime allows the Islamic Republic to continue discriminating against Israelis and repress and even execute its own athletes. The committee should heed calls from Iranian dissidents and Iranian athletes to boycott the clerical regime at all international sports competitions, including the Japan 2021 games. Iranian athletes should be allowed to compete, but under a neutral flag, like Russian athletes did in 2018 amid a massive doping scandal.
The CAS ruling sends the wrong message to Tehran. The principles of the Olympic Charter and the lives of Iranian athletes ought to compel more than this.
*David May is a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow. Follow David and Benjamin on Twitter @DavidSamuelMay and @BenWeinthal. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Biden can make history or become overwhelmed by it
Geoffrey Aronson/The Arab Weekly/March 11/2021
Two months after a failed coup d’etat, US President Joe Biden is scheduled to make his first speech to the American public today.
Americans are justly famed for their short memories. Who today, for example, remembers what our war against the Vietnamese – which killed more than 50,000 Americans and ten times that number of Vietnamese — was all about? Our tendency towards national amnesia and the imperatives of the news cycle decree that January’s historic attempt to subvert American democracy is as noteworthy, and as fleeting, as the loss of power and water in Texas. Indeed, the momentous events of January 6 — when insurrectionists inspired, if not worse, by a defeated president, undertook to prevent the peaceful transfer of power to a victorious challenger – today merit only occasional mention.
Did that. Done that. Time to move on.
President Biden has evidently come to a similar conclusion. He has chosen not to be defined by the tumult that threatened to short-circuit his presidency.
Both he and the country at large, however, are making a grievous error in their attempt to put the attempted insurrection behind us, imperiling, in Biden’s case, his own presidency, and more broadly the country’s democratic future. The events of January 6 were not some one-off conspiracy but rather the tip of a national iceberg that continues to metastasise and threaten the Republic. Hope as we might. Pretend as we will, the malign forces that produced the attempted New Year’s coup are still with us.
Just take a look at the armed camp that is Capitol Hill today.
Thankfully, the putschists of January 6 were unprepared to take advantage of their tremendous achievement. Once they had successfully stormed the Capitol, a feat that no one had ever imagined in their wildest dreams, they were at a loss. Imagine a better prepared and organised scenario. Imagine the Capitol with an American flag flying upside down and controlled by a disciplined force of rebels. And in the occupied Senate and House chambers, a Republican majority, its fears of collaboration with the mob overwhelmed by the aphrodisiac of power, enthusiastically decertifying the election of the democratically elected president.
Just imagine.
This danger is still with us. Indeed, many Democratic members of Congress live with the suspicion that had the bedlam that was January 6 turned against the Republic, not a few of their Republican colleagues would have been among the hangmen. It is understandable that Biden rebels at the thought that the malicious ghost of Donald Trump should continue to haunt and indeed define his presidency. One sympathises with his desire to define his presidency by his own effort. But like it or not, Biden cannot escape history’s verdict. Indeed, no matter his achievements in the coming years, his presidency has already been irrevocably defined by the insurrection, its antecedents and the chapters now being written. Biden will be not be remembered for his policies towards China or the fate of the $15/hour minimum wage, but as the president who turned the malicious tide embraced and vitalised by his predecessor, or whose failure to do so reduced his presidency to a way station on the path to a far more perilous future.
Americans move on, all but unmindful of the stakes of this continuing contest.
“The investigation into those responsible is moving at a speed and scale that is unprecedented, and rightly so,” acting Deputy Attorney General John Carlin said recently. “Those responsible must be held to account, and they will be.”
More than 300 people have been arrested in connection with the Capitol attack. This legal battle is a vital but insufficient component of the full spectrum assault on the insurrection and its cheerleaders required to strangle it in its infancy. Those who inspired the revolt are political criminals whose actions continue to endanger the Republic. The challenge they pose is not so much a legal one but rather political — rooted in their challenge to the system of democratic governance at the heart of the American experience. The fate of their effort will not be resolved in the courtroom but in the court of public opinion, and it is up to Biden to lead the charge.
Biden’s dilemma brings to mind the challenge faced by former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin after an Israel settler gunned down 29 Muslim worshipers during prayers in Hebron’s famed al-Haram al-Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of the Patriarchs), revered by Muslims and Jews as the tomb of Abraham and Sarah. The February 1994 massacre placed Israel’s entire settlement enterprise in the dock. The event crystallised the movement’s intention to destroy Rabin’s effort to conclude a peace agreement with the Palestinians. But it also created an opportunity for Rabin to take the initiative to tame his right-wing opponents. In the wake of the killings, Rabin considered removing settlers entirely from the city, a decision that would have dealt a crushing blow to the power of the pro-settlement lobby opposed to Rabin’s historic political demarche.
Rabin chose the easier path.
He did not move to expel settlers from the city or lead the charge against his political opponents, whose rising anger at his policies continued to grow.
It was a decision that arguably cost Rabin his life. In the months before his assassination, the right-wing opposition to his diplomacy grew unchecked. The toxic political brew was fanned by the leadership of the opposition party, led by Binyamin Netanyahu. Rallies organised by Netanyahu’s Likud party featured Rabin in a Nazi SS uniform, or in the crosshairs of a gun. Protesters chanted, “Rabin is a murderer” and “Rabin is a traitor.” In July 1995, Netanyahu led a mock funeral procession featuring a coffin and hangman’s noose at an anti-Rabin rally, as the crowd chanted, “Death to Rabin.”
Four months later, Rabin was shot by a right-wing assassin. His death offers both a lesson and a warning to leaders who fail to see clearly the danger posed by a toxic mix of political and ideological opponents for whom democratic convention merits allegiance only if it sanctifies a preferred outcome. The threat and the opportunity that Biden faces is no less fateful. Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman has warned that militia groups that attacked the Capitol on January 6 have threatened to “blow up” the complex when Biden delivers his State of the Union joint address to Congress.
Your move Mr. President.

Can’t Tunisians learn from the Lebanese?
Mokhtar Dabbabi/The Arab Weekly/March 11/2021
The situation has paved the way for a clash between Tunisia and international donors, especially the IMF.
The voice of reason has gone silent in Tunisia’s political struggle. It all sounds as if we are on the brink of a Middle Ages-type jihad or a return to the atmosphere of the civil war in Lebanon.
On Monday evening, the country faced a microcosm of a civil war, or perhaps a dress rehearsal for what it will be like in the coming years in light of the desire of the “three presidencies” and the various parties and organisations to win the muscle-flexing battles and humiliate their opponents without any consideration for the country’s security and stability.
Dozens of supporters of the Destourian Free Party (PDL), headed by MP Abir Moussi, gathered in front of the headquarters of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, calling again for it to be closed by force after the judiciary took a middle of the road decision that neither banned it nor clearly authorised the union’s presence in Tunis. The showdown is only the first episode, especially since everyone is pouring fuel on the fire — from politicians to local and Gulf satellite channels, for whom Tunisia has become the primary concern. Tunisia is only a small distance away from what Lebanon looked like in the mid-seventies and eighties, before the civil war was legitimised with sects and proxies introduced into a political agreement under Arab auspices. Various indicators say that Tunisians have not learned anything from the experience of Lebanon, and that the country is reproducing the main features of the Lebanese collapse, starting with a political class that thinks from a sectarian perspective and uses all domestic and external cards to impose itself as the strongest party that requests everyone’s obedience and submission to its dictates and internal and external considerations.
Responsibility is now borne by the three presidents (President of the Republic Kais Saied, Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi, and Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi).
If they do not reach an urgent agreement in which everyone relinquishes the logic of victory and scoring points, the country will drift into an open crisis that may is impervious to mediation and calls for national dialogue.
In his last words, Saied said that he is for dialogue, but what dialogue? He stipulated that “(this dialogue) should not be like the previous dialogues, and that only those who truly believe in the economic and social needs of the Tunisian people and their political demands can participate in it.”
This simply means that part of those behind the crisis will not be present in the dialogue (the Karama Coalition, Qalb Tounes, and perhaps the Ennahda movement), and only those affiliated with the president or the so-called parties of the president will participate.
Mechichi, for his part, says that he will not resign to fulfill the president’s condition for launching the dialogue. This simply means that there is no dialogue on the horizon.
On the contrary, the shunned prime minister finds strong support from a parliamentary belt of more than 140 deputies, including representatives of Ennahda, Karama, Qalb Tounes and independent representatives affiliated with the old Nidaa Tounes party who do not hide their satisfaction at the government being closer to them.
Resignation is currently almost impossible. It can only take place through a broader combination of actors, maybe within a few months. It could, for example, be agreed to during the national dialogue sponsored by trade unions towards forming a government of national unity.
It may be that resignation would concern the government and not the prime minister, meaning that Mechichi — the technocrat who is backed by Ennahda — could stay in office in any consensus-based deal.
There is another argument promoted by the “president’s parties,” who are pushing for a political government led by a political figure. This is difficult because well-known political figures are necessarily classified as siding with this group or the other. What Ennahda and its parliamentary alliance accept may be rejected by the president and his partisan alliance, which makes the political government a reflection of the continued crisis from the perspective of competition instead of resolution by consensus.
Regardless of the arguments and justifications, people have come to know the reality of the crisis.
The three presidents are no longer right as long as their struggle for undisputed leadership will lead to a permanent political vacuum that prevents decisions from being made to resolve the country’s economic and social conditions. This is another similarity with the Lebanese crisis.
The political class that has emerged in Tunisia since 2011 is working for the continuation of the crisis by creating mechanisms that perpetuate it and make it like a rolling ball around which new faces and other “clean” and “honest” figures gravitate.
It is based on transforming anything new into a copy of itself and carries on with the old habits of opportunism and struggles for personal gain. This is what is currently happening with Mechichi and Saied, both of whom are new, and without political or party records. They both show a desire for change but within alliances that make them a front for the fierce showdown that the country expects.
While “the president’s parties” are entrenching themselves behind Saied and pushing him to confront those they failed to defeat in the ballot box or tactical alliances and under the table deals, others are playing the same game with the Mechichi, as they inflate his sense of self-victimisation and create a battlefront around him in the conflict with the president of the republic.
With 2024 elections approaching, we will find that Saeid and Mechichi have become old faces that are part of the “war machine,” while everyone will focus on new faces to bring them into the game and employ them in other conflicts according to their value, record and ability to play the required roles.
It is a game produced by warlords.
All slogans raised by the 2011 revolution are still on hold due to the lack of political will to draft the necessary programmes and submit them to parliament for approval.
Unemployment has expanded and the poor are unable to make ends meet in light of the meteoric rise of prices and the absence of any party defending them. But the most dangerous trend is the fraying of the state through corruption, whose circle has widened and whose methods have diversified through unaccounted for increases in salaries and benefits, which take place in the context of political accommodation and ensuring social peace.
It is a situation has paved the way for a clash between Tunisia and international donors, especially the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which put red lines in front of the Tunisian government so as to implement urgent economic reforms and adopt a track based on austerity, reducing subsidies and stopping the politicisation of economic crisis management.
The government is currently facing a tough predicament. On the one hand, it is convinced of the rightfulness of the IMF’s approach, especially with regard to investing loans in development projects and creating jobs and the need to reform government bodies and stop pumping money into corrupt institutions.
On the other hand, the Mechichi government faces off with the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), which is only concerned with improving the living conditions of its members.
Nothing shows that the crisis is on its way to a solution. On the contrary, every day adds new elements to the interlocked combination that brings the country closer to being a failed state.
**Mokhtar Dabbabi is a Tunisian writer and journalist.

Europe continues to be soft on Iran’s nuclear defiance

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/March 11/2021
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors held its quarterly meeting last week. The meeting was one of several events taking place simultaneously that provided outlets for recommendations about how the international community should approach the Iranian regime’s nuclear development and other malign activities.
Meanwhile, without regard for the unresolved tensions over matters such as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, European political and business leaders this month met virtually with their Iranian counterparts for the Europe-Iran Business Forum, a three-day event sponsored by the EU and aimed at expanding bilateral trade relations.
In spite of the fact that the Iranian regime has reduced its cooperation with IAEA inspectors, top leaders from Britain, France and Germany have refrained from condemning Tehran. A former member of the European Parliament, Struan Stevenson, rightly criticized European governments for seeking to do business with the regime as it continues to pursue nuclear weapons. He last week told a meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI): “There must be no lifting of sanctions until all clandestine nuclear activity, involvement in foreign wars, and domestic repression have ended.” He also called explicit attention to the Europe-Iran Business Forum as an example of a policy that makes Western leaders seem “oblivious” to Tehran’s threats.
The soft policies carried out by the EU and the IAEA toward Tehran are definitely good news for the Iranian leaders, who are desperate to return to the flawed 2015 nuclear deal and have all current sanctions against their government lifted. The lifting of sanctions will provide the cash the theocratic establishment needs to increase its hegemonic ambitions and military adventurism in the Middle East.
It is critical to point out that not only has the Iranian regime reduced its cooperation with the IAEA’s inspectors, but it is also more than likely concealing information about all aspects of its nuclear program. For instance, new information was last week released about a major Iranian nuclear site called Abadeh in a news conference organized by the NCRI. The opposition group had previously been the first to reveal Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities at two other major sites, Natanz and Arak.
The Abadeh nuclear site was built in the mid-1990s by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and managed by the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), the main entity in charge of the regime’s nuclear weapons program. Abadeh was the venue for a project known as “Marivan,” according to the NCRI’s Ali Safavi. These findings were reportedly obtained from the social network of the NCRI’s biggest constituent organization, Mujahedin-e-Khalq, which apparently has assets inside regime institutions.
The IAEA must take Iran’s activities at the Abadeh site more seriously. This nuclear site was built specifically for an SPND subsidiary, METFAZ, which specializes in research into and the building of high-explosive detonators.
After the IRGC discovered that information relating to the site had been leaked in July 2019, it abruptly destroyed the facilities there. The regime only made the site accessible to the IAEA in August 2020, more than a year after sanitizing it. A report released by the IAEA last month says that it found anthropogenic uranium particles at two sites in Iran.
The regime is more than likely concealing information about all aspects of its nuclear program.
The Iranian regime has set up multiple front companies to procure technical components, carry out development and testing, and raise money for exclusive use as part of the nuclear program. In other words, it has laid the foundations for the continuation of activities related to Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the objectives of the SPND.
Robert Joseph, the former US Special Envoy for Nuclear Nonproliferation, noted that one of his main policy takeaways from the new revelations about Abadeh was that the US and Europe “simply can’t do business with this regime,” because “hoping for a change in its behavior is nothing but a false hope.”
This sentiment is, of course, at odds with the Iran-Europe Business Forum, where delegates heard a message from EU head of foreign policy Josep Borrell. While the NCRI and its international supporters will be able to point squarely at the IAEA’s findings when arguing that Tehran is inherently untrustworthy, it remains to be seen what evidence anyone will be able to bring to bear on the other side of the debate.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh