November 13/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake
Metthew 5/11-20: “Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you. “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its flavor, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house. Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. “Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill. For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished. Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 12-13/17
How Saudi Arabia Turned On Lebanon's Hariri/Jerusalem Post/November 12/17
As Iran Holds a Hostage, Britain Forgets Who It’s Dealing With/Eli Lake/Bloomberg/November 12/2017
As Iran-Saudi 'Cold War' Heats Up, What's Next/Agence France Presse/November 12/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 12-13/17
Saad Hariri: I will leave to Lebanon within the next few days
Hariri Says Resignation 'Positive Shock', Can be Reversed if Dissociation Policy Respected
Aoun Says Anything Hariri Declares from Saudi 'Subject of Suspicion'
Hariri’s party condemns Iranian intervention in Arab countries
Lebanon's Aoun says PM Hariri's freedom restricted in Riyadh
Lebanon’s Leader, Still in Saudi Arabia, Claims He’s Free to Go
Beirut Marathon Runners Race to Show Support for Hariri
Saudi Daily Says Riyadh Still Has 'Cards to Play' in Lebanon
Al-Rahi Urges Hariri to Return 'for Sake of Dignity, Sovereignty, Civil Peace'
Qaouq Says Hizbullah Prepared for Any Military Scenario
Political Posters Removed in Tripoli after Bin Salman Picture Torched
How Saudi Arabia Turned On Lebanon's Hariri

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 12-13/17
7.2 magnitude earthquake jolts Iran-Iraq border area, felt in Kuwait
8 Remarks on Trump-Putin Agreement: US Flexibility to Ensure Military Presence'
PM Abadi: War on ISIS Has Cost Iraq More than $100bn
Fatah Supporters Rally in Gaza to Commemorate 13th Anniversary of Arafat’s Death
Egypt: Government Committed to Implementing Recommendations of World Youth Forum
Iraqi Army Helicopter Crash Kills Several Members on Board
IDF: We Will Respond With Force To Threats From Palestinian Islamic Jihad
Chechen families of ISIS militants in Syria handed over to Russia
At least 50 dead in artillery fire, Russian strikes in Syria
Red Cross: Aid enters devastated rebel town near Syria capital
Human rights group accuses Syrian regime of crimes against humanity
New mass graves found in Iraq could contain up to 400 bodies
Arab League to Meet on Iran at Saudi Request
Iran Tells France Nuclear Deal 'Not Negotiable'

Latest Lebanese Related News published on November 12-13/17
Saad Hariri: I will leave to Lebanon within the next few days
Al Arabiya English/November 12/2017/Lebanon outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in an exclusive interview with Future TV, a Lebanese television channel aligned to his Future Party, said: “My focus is on the interest of Lebanon and my resignation is for its own sake.”“My main task is to preserve Lebanon. What is happening is a regional threat to Lebanon. I spoke now because there is pressure surrounding the resignation.”“I resigned and I will go to Lebanon and follow the constitutional means”, he said in the interview.” I take responsibility and I will return to Lebanon.”“King Salman considers me like his son. The Crown Prince has all the respect for me. The stability of Lebanon is an essential asset for King Salman and the Crown Prince”, he added. “My resignation is a positive shock. The danger in Lebanon still exists from several sources”, the Lebanese leader said. Security arrangements Clarifying his position, Hariri said: “I will return to Beirut within days after making the necessary security arrangements,” in a reference to the threats to his life that he mentioned when he announced his resignation earlier last week. “Settlement in Lebanon is based solely on self-exclusion,” he said. “I submitted my resignation so there would be an awakening. I will return to Lebanon very soon”, he reiterated. “We must correct things and adhere to the policy of distancing ourselves.” Saad Hariri said he will return “to complete the procedures for the resignation and the negotiation of a formula. I was silent in order to allow people to absorb and reflect on the resignation and its repercussions. I have been in my house since I arrived in Riyadh.”“Stability in Lebanon is our supreme interest and my resignation is a positive shock that must be understood.”“My relationship with the Saudi Crown Prince is excellent, solid and distinctive, and I consider him a brother and he considers me as a brother,” said Hariri. During the course of the interview he said: “I tell President Aoun that I will return and negotiate Lebanon's interests.

Hariri Says Resignation 'Positive Shock', Can be Reversed if Dissociation Policy Respected
Naharnet/November 12/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Sunday he will return to Lebanon "within days" and that his surprising resignation was aimed at creating a “positive shock.”In a live interview shown on Future TV, Hariri said he had resigned to protect Lebanon from imminent danger, although he didn't specify who was threatening the country. He said he will return to submit his resignation and seek a settlement with the rival camp. But Hariri said withdrawing his resignation would be conditional on the Iranian-backed Hizbullah committing to remaining neutral on regional conflicts. Hizbullah has sent thousands of fighters to neighboring Syria to support the forces of Syria's President Bashar Assad and is accused by Riyadh of supporting Yemen’s Huthi rebels. Hariri looked tired and sad in the interview from Saudi Arabia on his Future TV channel that lasted more than an hour. He held back tears as he spoke and repeated several times that he resigned to cause a "positive shock" and draw attention to the danger of siding with Iran in regional conflicts. "We are in the eye of the storm," Hariri said. He said the unity government he formed a year ago was supposed to stick to an agreement not to interfere in regional affairs but that Hizbullah has not kept up its end of the deal. Apparently seeking to show he was not being detained by the Saudis, Hariri told the interviewer: "I am free." He said his resignation was his own decision, dismissing reports he was forced into it. But he also said he is looking into security arrangements before returning to Lebanon, suggesting his life was in danger. "I saw what happened ... when my father was martyred. I don't want the same thing to happen to me," Hariri said. His father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was killed by a car bomb in Beirut in 2005.
The interview followed pressure from Lebanese officials, who said Hariri's resignation was not accepted because it was declared in Saudi Arabia. Many Lebanese have suspected Hariri was placed under house arrest as part of a Saudi plan to unravel a coalition government he had formed last year with Hizbullah. Hariri said his resignation was designed to "cause a positive shock" in Lebanon, warning against what he said was Iranian interference that is ruining relations with other Arab countries. President Michel Aoun said before the interview that the "mysterious circumstances for Hariri's stay in the Saudi capital of Riyadh makes all his positions questionable and in doubt and not of his own volition." A dual Lebanese-Saudi national, the Saudi-allied Hariri unexpectedly announced his resignation on Nov. 4 in a pre-recorded message on Saudi TV, criticizing Iran and Hizbullah, and saying he feared for his safety. Hariri's family lives in Riyadh. Hariri had not been heard from since but met with foreign diplomats, and appeared with Saudi royalty and in Abu Dhabi. Saudi Arabia has stepped up its rhetoric against Hizbullah and its patron, Iran, accusing both of supporting Shiite rebels in Yemen known as Huthis. A Saudi-led coalition has been at war with the Huthis since March 2015.
Hariri said relations between Saudi Arabia and Hizbullah soured after the conflict began in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has asked its citizens to leave Lebanon, and many Lebanese fear further economic sanctions or even military action against their country. Hariri, 47, first held the post of prime minister in November 2009 for nearly two years before Hizbullah forced the collapse of his government. Hizbullah ministers withdrew because of differences over a U.N.-backed tribunal investigating his father's assassination. Hariri was appointed prime minister in late 2016 and headed a 30-member coalition government that included Hizbullah. But it has been an uneasy partnership between Hariri, who heads a Sunni-led camp loyal to Saudi Arabia, and Hizbullah, which represents a faction loyal to Shiite Iran. A business graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, he headed his father's Saudi-based construction business for years. The company has struggled with debts for years before closing down in July. Hariri was born in Riyadh in 1970. He is Rafik Hariri's second son from his first Iraqi wife. He is married to a Syrian, and has three children, the oldest an 18-year-old son.

Aoun Says Anything Hariri Declares from Saudi 'Subject of Suspicion'
Naharnet/November 12/17/President Michel Aoun on Sunday reiterated that anything declared by Prime Minister Saad Hariri from Riyadh will be a “subject of suspicion,” amid reports of an imminent TV interview featuring the premier.
“Aoun re-emphasized to his visitors today the content of the statement that was issued yesterday by the Presidency's press office about the mysterious and ambiguous circumstances in which Prime Mininster Saad Hariri has been living in Riyadh since last Saturday, which were also mentioned by a number of heads of state who tackled the issue over the past days,” the National News Agency said.
“These circumstances have reached the extent of restricting PM Hariri's freedom and imposing restraints on his residency and on any communication with him from the members of his family,” Aoun told his visitors. “These circumstances make anything that PM Hariri has issued or will issue, and anything attributed to him, a subject of suspicion and ambiguity,” the president said. He added that Hariri's stances “cannot be recognized as official or emanating from the premier's free will.” Future TV announced that it will broadcast the interview with Hariri at 8:30 pm Sunday. Hariri had announced his resignation on November 4 in a surprising and pre-recorded statement from Saudi Arabia. In a haltingly delivered address, Hariri accused Iran of meddling in Arab affairs and Iran-backed Hizbullah of holding Lebanon hostage. He also said he feared for his life. In his absence, Lebanon has been awash with speculation the prime minister may be held against his will in Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials have denied Hariri is under house arrest. Aoun has urged Saudi Arabia to explain why Hariri had not returned to Beirut since his surprise resignation, while Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has openly accused the kingdom of "detaining" the premier.Hizbullah's critics have meanwhile called for addressing the political content of Hariri's resignation announcement and not the unusual manner in which the resignation was declared.

Hariri’s party condemns Iranian intervention in Arab countries
Reuters, Beirut/12 November 2017/ The party of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who unexpectedly quit a week ago while in Saudi Arabia, denounced on Saturday attacks against the kingdom and Iranian intervention in Arab countries. Hariri’s Future Movement political party said it stands by him and was “waiting impatiently for his return to Lebanon to handle his national responsibilities in leading this stage.” Hariri’s shock resignation, in a broadcast from Riyadh last week, has plunged Lebanon into crisis and thrust it back into the forefront of regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon's Aoun says PM Hariri's freedom restricted in Riyadh
BEIRUT (Reuters) November 12/17/- Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Sunday that Saad al-Hariri’s freedom was being restricted in Riyadh, the first time the Lebanese government has publicly declared its belief that Saudi Arabia is holding its prime minister against his will. Aoun said Hariri was living in “mysterious circumstances” in Riyadh which had “reached the degree of restricting (his) freedom” and “imposing conditions on his residency and on contact with him even by members of his family”. Reuters cited senior Lebanese government officials on Thursday saying that the authorities believed Hariri was being held against his will in Riyadh, where he unexpectedly resigned as prime minister on Nov. 4, the day after arriving there. Aoun said this threw doubt over anything that Hariri has said, or will say, and his statements could not be considered as an expression of his full free will. Hariri is expected to give a televised interview later on Sunday. Saudi Arabia has denied Hariri is being held against his will or that he had been forced to resign.

Lebanon’s Leader, Still in Saudi Arabia, Claims He’s Free to Go

November 12/17/BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, whose mysterious sojourn in Saudi Arabia has shaken the Middle East, said in a television interview on Sunday night that he was free to leave, that he had left Lebanon in order to protect himself and that he would return home “within days.” But the remarks — his first in public since he unexpectedly flew to Saudi Arabia on Nov. 3 and announced his resignation from there a day later — seemed unlikely to clear up the confusion and tension over whether he had acted freely, whether he was in effect a hostage of the Saudis, and whether he had been pressured to resign as part of a larger strategy by the Saudis to increase pressure on their regional rival, Iran. Those who have questions about his situation were unlikely to be persuaded by the interview carried on the channel of Mr. Hariri’s pro-Saudi political party by Paula Yacoubian, a talk-show host who generally hews to the Saudi line. At least five Lebanese televisions stations refused to carry the interview, amid concerns over whether Mr. Hariri was able to speak freely.
People lining the route of the 21-kilometer race in Beirut, Lebanon, on Sunday cheered the runners and waved posters demanding the return from Saudi Arabia of the nation’s prime minister, Saad Hariri. Credit Wael Hamzeh/European Pressphoto Agency Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, had said earlier that anything Mr. Hariri says from Saudi Arabia “does not reflect the truth, and is but the result of the mysterious and dubious situation he is undergoing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and hence cannot be taken seriously.”“I’m free, I could leave tomorrow,” Mr. Hariri told Ms. Yacoubian. He added, however, that information had come to light while he was in Riyadh that persuaded him that he needed to review his security arrangements before returning.
Continue reading the main story
He had said in his resignation speech on Nov. 4 that there were threats against his life and that he was quitting because of interference in Lebanon by Iran and the dominance of its ally, the Lebanese Shiite militant group and political party, Hezbollah, which is part of the unity cabinet he led. But in the interview, he seemed to leave open the question of whether his resignation was final. He said he would resign in person in the proper constitutional manner, but also that he would hold conversations with Mr. Aoun and others, and that he could possibly stay in office if Lebanon could follow a policy of neutrality in the region. The interview came hours after a record number of people had taken part in the annual Beirut Marathon, which for many became a kind of statement of defiance against international interference in Lebanon, by any country. Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, may be absent, but posters with his photograph and the words “We are all with you” are on display in Beirut. Credit Mohamed  People passed out baseball caps with slogans like “bring back our PM,” or prime minister. The marathon is always billed as a statement of unity and resilience and given the regional tensions, Sunday’s was even more so. Around 47,000 people — more than ever — showed up to run in the marathon and a number of shorter races, according to organizers. “We are all Saad” and “Running for you” were among the slogans that appeared on placards, posters and billboards. “It’s a mark of defiance against the forces of evil, against the forces on every side that want to interfere with Lebanon,” Imad Shehadi, a plastic surgeon, said after running the 1K race with his wife and two sons. “To me it’s more resilience — the resilience of Lebanon and the Lebanese people, who just want to live life, no matter what,” said his wife, Carla Shehadi.

Beirut Marathon Runners Race to Show Support for Hariri
Naharnet/November 12/17/Agence France Presse/Participants in Beirut's annual marathon usually run to support medical research or human rights. But this year, Lebanese racers have opted for another cause: their 'missing' prime minister.
Saad Hariri has yet to return to Lebanon since his shock resignation in a televised announcement from Saudi Arabia eight days ago. Rumors have since swirled that he is being held in Riyadh against his will -- and energetic Lebanese literally raced to show him support on Sunday morning. A bright red billboard welcomed runners to the marathon's starting line in downtown Beirut with a picture of a sprinting Hariri and the Arabic caption, "We are all waiting for you." "We want our PM back!" was printed on several red and white placards, along with a sketch of Hariri's face. Young men and women distributed water bottles labeled with the same slogan, as well as caps that read, "Running for you". "I needed a cap and I like Lebanon, so I took a hat," said 30-year-old Nisrine Chamseddine, who had just completed an eight-kilometer (five-mile) race. Beirut Marathon founder May al-Khalil told the AFP news agency on Sunday that a "large group of people are running for the return of Prime Minister Hariri.""Lebanon is undergoing exceptional, difficult circumstances, and there are many people who love Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri," she said.
'Run for Saad' Online, supporters tweeted pictures from the event with the Arabic hashtags "Run for Saad" and "Saad's coming back". Hariri -- who enjoys exercise, according to close friends -- has taken part in the Beirut marathon in previous years.  But on Sunday morning, tens of thousands of runners gathered for the 15th year of the annual race without their prime minister. President Michel Aoun had urged participants to run for "the return of prime minister Saad Hariri to Lebanon.""May the Beirut Marathon tomorrow be a national, athletic demonstration of solidarity with PM Hariri and with his return to his country," Aoun said Saturday, according to a statement by his office. He also called on Riyadh to "clarify the reasons that have prevented the return of PM Hariri to Lebanon to be among his people and supporters." Aoun has yet to formally accept Hariri's resignation and has criticized the circumstances surrounding it as "unacceptable."In his shock announcement, Hariri accused Iran and its Lebanese ally Hizbullah of taking over Lebanon and destabilizing the broader region, saying he feared for his life. But his subsequent week-long absence from Lebanon has sparked concerns that the ex-premier -- who also holds Saudi nationality -- is under de facto house arrest in the kingdom. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Friday that Hariri was "detained in Saudi Arabia, he is banned from returning to Lebanon."Hariri has spent the past week in a string of meetings with diplomats and Saudi officials in Riyadh, punctuated by a single trip to Abu Dhabi. On Saturday, he attended a reception ceremony for Saudi King Salman who had arrived in Riyadh from the holy city of Medina, and also met with the British and Turkish envoys to the kingdom.

Saudi Daily Says Riyadh Still Has 'Cards to Play' in Lebanon
Naharnet/November 12/17/Saudi newspaper Okaz warned Hizbullah on Sunday that the kingdom “still has legal, political and economic cards to play in the Lebanese arena.”“The Lebanese cannot live under the rule of a statelet within the state,” the daily added. “Whether (Prime Minister Saad) Hariri returns or not, that is not the issue. The issue is Iran's exit from Lebanon and ending the hijacking of Lebanon,” Okaz said. Hariri announced his resignation on November 4 in a surprising and pre-recorded statement from Saudi Arabia. In a haltingly delivered address, Hariri accused Iran of meddling in Arab affairs and Iran-backed Hizbullah of holding Lebanon hostage. He also said he feared for his life. In his absence, Lebanon has been awash with speculation the prime minister may be held against his will in Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials have denied Hariri is under house arrest. President Michel Aoun has urged Saudi Arabia to explain why Hariri had not returned to Beirut since his surprise resignation, while Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has openly accused the kingdom of "forcing" the premier to resign and "detaining" him. Hizbullah's critics have meanwhile called for addressing the political content of Hariri's resignation announcement and not the unusual manner in which the resignation was declared. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait have asked their citizens to leave Lebanon and there are fears that the kingdom and its allies could expel hundreds of thousands of Lebanese who work in the Gulf countries.

Al-Rahi Urges Hariri to Return 'for Sake of Dignity, Sovereignty, Civil Peace'
Naharnet/November 12/17/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday called on Prime Minister Saad Hariri to return to Lebanon “for the sake of dignity, sovereignty and civil peace.”“For the sake of stability, dignity, sovereignty and civil peace, we hope the prime minister will return and we hope to restore our national life,” said al-Rahi during a mass in the Aley town of Dqoun. “Today we are living with gloom on our faces because we are under shock after the prime minister announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia in a surprising manner. All people do not know the fate and all of this is causing sadness. We are looking forward to his return to Lebanon, seeing as the country cannot be safe if there is pain, and for the sake of dignity, sovereignty and civil peace,” al-Rahi added. “We call on the prime minister to return home,” the patriarch went on to say. Al-Rahi also lauded President Michel Aoun over his stances on the crisis and the consultations he has conducted. “This proves that the Lebanese are one body and together on the path of building the state,” the patriarch added. “President Michel Aoun has taught us how to face life's crises calmly, patiently and through consultations,” he said. Al-Rahi hoped that Aoun's consultations will “reformulate and enhance our national unity.”“All Lebanese are calling with one voice for the return of the premier and the re-launch of our national life,” the patriarch went on to say. Al-Rahi is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia on Monday. Hariri had announced his resignation on November 4 in a surprising and pre-recorded statement from Saudi Arabia. In a haltingly delivered address, Hariri accused Iran of meddling in Arab affairs and Iran-backed Hizbullah of holding Lebanon hostage. He also said he feared for his life. In his absence, Lebanon has been awash with speculation the prime minister may be held against his will in Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials have denied Hariri is under house arrest. Aoun has urged Saudi Arabia to explain why Hariri had not returned to Beirut since his surprise resignation, while Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has openly accused the kingdom of "detaining" the premier. Hizbullah's critics have meanwhile called for addressing the political content of Hariri's resignation announcement and not the unusual manner in which the resignation was declared.

Qaouq Says Hizbullah Prepared for Any Military Scenario
Naharnet/November 12/17/Senior Hizbullah official Sheikh Nabil Qaouq announced Sunday that his group is ready for any military scenario amid the latest tensions in the region. “The Israeli enemy understands very well the repercussions of any aggression against Lebanon, which are repercussions that it cannot withstand,” Qaouq, a member of Hizbullah's Central Council, said.“No storms, no matter how fierce, can undermine the Resistance's (Hizbullah's) capabilities and its firm and deep-rooted stances,” the Hizbullah official added. He emphasized that “the Resistance is prepared to confront anything, and it does not lack anything to achieve victories and repel any aggressor.” Amid the political crisis that followed Prime Minister Saad Hariri's shock resignation announcement from Riyadh earlier this month, Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday accused Saudi Arabia of “inciting Israel to strike Lebanon.”“Saudi Arabia is inciting the Lebanese against each other and inciting Arab countries to take escalatory measures against Lebanon. It also incited world countries against Lebanon, but what's more dangerous is inciting Israel to strike Lebanon. This is not an analysis but rather based on confirmed information,” said Nasrallah in a televised speech. He alleged that the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah had happened at “Saudi Arabia's request,” while accusing Riyadh of pressing Israel to prolong that war. “I warn the Israelis against any attempt to take advantage of the situation,” he added. Reiterating that war with Israel is unlikely, Nasrallah said Hizbullah is watching carefully for any Israeli attempts to use the crisis.

Political Posters Removed in Tripoli after Bin Salman Picture Torched

Naharnet/November 12/17/North Governor Judge Ramzi Nohra, Tripoli police commander Abdul Nasser Ghimrawi and a number of officers on Sunday carried out a campaign to remove political posters and banners from the northern city of Tripoli, after the torching of a poster of Saudi Arabia's crown prince sparked a war of words between Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq and ex-justice minister Ashraf Rifi.“At the request of Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, all political posters and banners were removed today in Tripoli,” Nohra said. “Minister Mashnouq had issued strict instructions not to allow anyone to sow discord or tamper with the city's security,” he added. “Tripoli is a red line and it belongs to its people and all citizens,” Nohra went on to say. He stressed that the campaign will continue and that no one will be allowed to “defy the State” by hanging political posters and banners in the streets.
Rifi had tweeted on Saturday that “the torching of Prince Mohammed bin Salman's poster is deplored, premeditated and suspicious” and that “the culprit is well-known.”“The Interior Ministry must arrest him without any delay to hold him accountable. This poster will remain raised in Tripoli because it represents the relation of historic friendship between Lebanon and the kingdom,” Rifi added.“If you want to remove posters, you can start on the airport road, and when you reach Tripoli we'll talk,” the ex-minister said, addressing Mashnouq. The interior minister had said: “We will pin Prince Mohammed bin Salman's posters on our chests, not on the streets to allow a spiteful person to torch them.”The developments come amid high tensions in Lebanon and the region. The tensions surged after Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation on November 4 in a surprising and pre-recorded statement from Saudi Arabia.
In a haltingly delivered address, Hariri accused Iran of meddling in Arab affairs and Iran-backed Hizbullah of holding Lebanon hostage. He also said he feared for his life.In his absence, Lebanon has been awash with speculation the prime minister may be held against his will in Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials have denied Hariri is under house arrest.

How Saudi Arabia Turned On Lebanon's Hariri
Jerusalem Post/November 12/17
"When Hariri's plane landed in Riyadh, he got the message immediately that something was wrong."
BEIRUT - From the moment Saad al-Hariri's plane touched down in Saudi Arabia on Friday November 3, he was in for a surprise.
There was no line-up of Saudi princes or ministry officials, as would typically greet a prime minister on an official visit to King Salman, senior sources close to Hariri and top Lebanese political and security officials said. His phone was confiscated, and the next day he was forced to resign as prime minister in a statement broadcast by a Saudi-owned TV channel.
The move thrust Lebanon back to the forefront of a struggle that is reshaping the Middle East, between the conservative Sunni monarchy of Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite revolutionary Iran. Their rivalry has fueled conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, where they back opposing sides, and now risks destabilizing Lebanon, where Saudi has long tried to weaken the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, Lebanon's main political power and part of the ruling coalition. Sources close to Hariri say Saudi Arabia has concluded that the prime minister - a long-time Saudi ally and son of late prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005 - had to go because he was unwilling to confront Hezbollah. Multiple Lebanese sources say Riyadh hopes to replace Saad Hariri with his older brother Bahaa as Lebanon's top Sunni politician. Bahaa is believed to be in Saudi Arabia and members of the Hariri family have been asked to travel there to pledge allegiance to him, but have refused, the sources say. "When Hariri's plane landed in Riyadh, he got the message immediately that something was wrong," a Hariri source told Reuters. "There was no one was waiting for him."
Saudi Arabia has dismissed suggestions that it forced Hariri to resign and says he is a free man. Saudi officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the circumstances of his arrival, whether his phone had been taken, or whether the Kingdom was planning to replace him with his brother.
Hariri was summoned to the Kingdom to meet Saudi King Salman in a phone call on Thursday night, November 2. Before departing, he told his officials they would resume their discussions on Monday. He told his media team he would see them on the weekend in the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, where he was due to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the sidelines of the World Youth Forum. Hariri went to his Riyadh home. His family made their fortune in Saudi Arabia and have long had properties there. The source close to Hariri said the Lebanese leader received a call from a Saudi protocol official on Saturday morning, who asked him to attend a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He waited for about four hours before being presented with his resignation speech to read on television, the source said. "From the moment he arrived they (Saudis) showed no respect for the man," another senior Lebanese political source said. Hariri frequently visits Saudi Arabia. On a trip a few days earlier, Prince Mohammed bin Salman had arranged for him to see senior intelligence officials and Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan, the Saudi point man on Lebanon.
Hariri came back from that trip to Beirut "pleased and relaxed," sources in his entourage said. He posted a selfie with Sabhan, both of them smiling. He told aides he had heard "encouraging statements" from the crown prince, including a promise to revive a Saudi aid package for the Lebanese army.
The Hariri sources say Hariri believed he had convinced Saudi officials of the need to maintain an entente with Hezbollah for the sake of Lebanon's stability. Hezbollah has a heavily armed fighting force, in addition to seats in parliament and government. Saudi-backed efforts to weaken the group in Lebanon a decade ago led to Sunni-Shi'ite clashes and a Hezbollah takeover of Beirut. "What happened in those meetings, I believe, is that (Hariri) revealed his position on how to deal with Hezbollah in Lebanon: that confrontation would destabilize the country. I think they didn't like what they heard," said one of the sources, who was briefed on the meetings. The source said Hariri told Sabhan not to "hold us responsible for something that is beyond my control or that of Lebanon." But Hariri underestimated the Saudi position on Hezbollah, the source said. "For the Saudis it is an existential battle. It's black and white. We in Lebanon are used to grey," the source said.Sabhan could not immediately be reached for comment.
Hariri’s resignation speech shocked his team.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, told ambassadors to Lebanon that Saudi Arabia had kidnapped Hariri, a senior Lebanese official said. On Friday, France said it wanted Hariri to have "all his freedom of movement." In his speech, Hariri said he feared assassination and accused Iran and Hezbollah of sowing strife in the region. He said the Arab world would "cut off the hands that wickedly extend to it," language which one source close to him said was not typical of the Lebanese leader. Hariri's resignation came as more than 200 people, including 11 Saudi princes, current and former ministers and tycoons, were arrested in an anti-corruption purge in Saudi Arabia. Initially there was speculation Hariri was a target of that campaign because of his family's business interests. But sources close to the Lebanese leader said his forced resignation was motivated by Saudi efforts to counter Iran.
Hariri was taken to meet the Saudi king after his resignation. Footage was aired on Saudi TV. He was then flown to Abu Dhabi to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the Saudi crown prince's main regional ally. He returned to Riyadh and has since received Western ambassadors.
Sources close to Hariri said the Saudis, while keeping Hariri under house arrest, were trying to orchestrate a change of leadership in Hariri's Future Movement by installing his elder brother Bahaa, who was overlooked for the top job when their father was killed. The two have been at odds for years.
In a statement, the Future Movement said it stood fully behind Hariri as its leader. Hariri aide and Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk dismissed the idea Bahaa was being positioned to replace his brother: "We are not herds of sheep or a plot of land whose ownership can be moved from one person to another. In Lebanon things happen though elections not pledges of allegiances."Family members, aides and politicians who have contacted Hariri in Riyadh say he is apprehensive and reluctant to say anything beyond "I am fine." Asked if he is coming back, they say his normal answer is: "Inshallah" (God willing).

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 12-13/17
7.2 magnitude earthquake jolts Iran-Iraq border area, felt in Kuwait
The Associated Press/12 November 2017/ Iranian state TV says a 7.2-magnitude earthquake has jolted the region near the border between Iran and Iraq, several killed. Officials say that at least 61 were killed in quake, however the number is expected to rise. The US Geological Survey confirmed the quake on its website, placing its epicenter at around 32km (19 miles) outside the Iraqi city of Halabja, and issuing an "orange" alert for "shaking-related fatalities and economic losses." There were no immediate reports of casualties. Iranian provinces in the northwestern, western and central areas of the country were impacted. Iranian social media was abuzz with area people evacuating their homes.

8 Remarks on Trump-Putin Agreement: US Flexibility to Ensure Military Presence
With Russia’s blessing, US will extend the US forces’ presence in east Syria after ISIS has been defeated. In return, it will facilitate the Russian political solution announced days before.
The joint statement announced in Washington and Moscow between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin following their meeting on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Da Nang, Vietnam, showed US flexibility and joint understanding on a new reference for the solution of Syrian crisis is within constitutional reforms and not a new constitution.
According to Western officials, there are right remarks on the Trump-Putin joint statement which included:
First: De-confliction and dividing powers: Putin and Trump agreed to maintain open military channels of communication between military professionals to help ensure the safety of both US and Russian forces and de-confliction of partnered forces engaged in the fight against ISIS.
Both leaders confirmed these efforts will be continued until ISIS is defeated.
The agreement, coordinated between a center in Amman and Hmaymeem base, succeeded in preventing any collusion between the two armies and air forces during the battles east of Syria. It also ensured the control of Arab-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces on Raqqa and east of Euphrates River, and regime forces and their allies in Der Ezzor and west of Euphrates.
However, Washington is worried about the destiny of its forces in Syria after ISIS is defeated, something the Moscow is beginning to consider an illegal presence.
This could be considered a Russian –US political admittance of division of power: east of Euphrates for US’ allies, west of Euphrates for Russia’s allies. Noticeably, the statement affirmed the leaders’ commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, unity, independence, territorial integrity, and non-sectarian character, as defined in UNSCR 2254.
Two: No Military Solution:
The statement stated that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria, and both presidents confirmed that the “ultimate political solution to the conflict must be forged through the Geneva process pursuant to UNSCR 2254.”
This affirms Trump administration’s decision to end CIA’s secret program to train opposition factions in Jordan and Turkey which ends this year. This comes as a part of the US’ plan to drop its plan to “change the regime”, which was reported previously by the former US Secretary of State John Kerry during his meetings with Russian officials.
The US succeeded, according to reports, in adding the statement that ensures the Geneva process and Resolution 2253.
Thirdly, the statement didn’t mention the Syrian National Dialogue that was expected to be held in Sochi, Russia this month. It did however, state that the solution will be in the final stage of Geneva Convention according to Resolution 2254.
Fourth, the statement “also took note of President Assad’s recent commitment to the Geneva process and constitutional reform and elections as called for under UNSCR 2254.”Based on information, US insisted on adding Geneva process and UNSR 2254 to the Russian draft of the statement. “The two Presidents affirmed that these steps must include full implementation of UNSCR 2254, including constitutional reform and free and fair elections under UN supervision, held to the highest international standards of transparency, with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to participate,” added the statement. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said following his talks with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, President Bashar al-Assad and his family have no role in the future of Syria.
“It is our view and I have said this many times as well that we do not believe that there is a future for the Assad regime and Assad family. The reign of the Assad family is coming to an end. The only issue is how that should that be brought about,” Tillerson told reporters.
Five, Political Transition: the statement didn’t refer to political transition or 2012 Geneva statement, but it didn’t include two things: the clause on forming a non-sectarian system, and establishing a new constitution.
Six: Syrian Diaspora: the statement only referred to right of “all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to participate” in the elections.
“During the 2015 Vienna process, Russia suggested that Syrian refugees could participate in the elections under the UN supervision,” said a diplomat. However, Moscow succeeded in convincing Washington in accepting the suggestions.
Seven: US interest in Iran’s militias and Hezbollah: “President Trump and President Putin confirmed the importance of de-escalation areas as an interim step to reduce violence in Syria, enforce ceasefire agreements, facilitate unhindered humanitarian access, and set the conditions for the ultimate political solution to the conflict,” read the statement. The two presidents reviewed the progress on the ceasefire in southwest Syria that was finalized the last time the two Presidents met in Hamburg, Germany on July 8, and welcomed the Memorandum of Principles concluded in Amman, Jordan, on November 8.
The memorandum reinforces the success of the ceasefire initiative, to include: “reduction and ultimate elimination of foreign forces and foreign fighters from the area to ensure a more sustainable peace.”The statement is referring here to the Nujaba Movement and Hezbollah between Damscus, Jordanian border, and Golan Heights.
Finally, the statement unveiled Washington’s bet on Russia’s attempt to reduce Iran’s influence in Syria and withdrawal of its forces from south of the Country.
Some Western officials welcomed the joint statement considering it a political agreement between two countries to support the political process in Geneva, while others doubted its necessity saying that the upcoming negotiations will not discuss political transition but rather focus on: how to amend the constitution? Will the elections be parliamentary or presidential? Will the elections be done soon or in 2021? Will Assad participate? What is the role of the international monitoring? Who are Syrians in diaspora who will participate in the elections?

PM Abadi: War on ISIS Has Cost Iraq More than $100bn
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Saturday that over the past three years, war on ISIS had caused more than $100 billion worth of damage. Speaking during his visit to Karbala on the occasion marking the annual Arbaeen commemoration of Imam Hussein, Abadi stated that damage caused by ISIS is estimated to have multiplied to over $100 billion, adding: "that's just the damage to the economy and infrastructure."In 2014, ISIS seized around third of Iraq and parts of Syria in a sweeping advance, but Iraqi forces backed by Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were able to recapture 97 percent of that. Meanwhile, Abadi warned against escalation in the region and what could lead to the rise of takfirist terrorist groups. The PM warned against escalation in the region for its dangerous ramifications, pointing out that Iraq is willing to help solve the issue in the region given its experience in averting this danger. DW reported Abadi as to saying that whoever believes that countries in the region are safe from terrorism is delusional. He called for a meeting between regional leaders to ensure that such crisis will not happen again, and that "a new generation of terrorist ideologies will not emerge".
Abadi explained that his recent visit to Saudi Arabia is not a courtesyو but rather for ensuring the sovereignty of Iraq, pointing out that this is the first time the kingdom had sent airplanes directly to Iraq to transport visitors. The PM admitted that Iraq was ending ISIS' military presence, however, a terrorist ideology is on the rise especially with the support of scare tactics on social media. He assured: "we have succeeded in three things: liberating the land, uniting the country, and terminating any attempt to endanger the country's internal security. This danger still exists."
Abadi assured that the country is adamant on holding the elections within safe conditions and army and PMF should not be involved in the elections.

Fatah Supporters Rally in Gaza to Commemorate 13th Anniversary of Arafat’s Death
Fatah Movement in the Gaza Strip marked the 13th anniversary of the death of Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat in a mass rally that gathered hundreds of thousands of people in the Saraya Square in the city center. The movement described the rally as a proof of its popularity and large presence in Gaza, ten years after Hamas took control over the area. Ahmed Halas, a member of the movement’s central committee and its leader in the Gaza Strip, said those who besieged Arafat were now trying to oppose Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He stressed that the late president laid the foundations for maintaining the independent Palestinian decision and raising the slogan of non-interference in the affairs of other countries, “a slogan that still stands, and is the title of our cooperation and our relationship with all forces and countries.”
Halas emphasized that the Fatah movement would not relinquish efforts towards reconciliation with Hamas, and that it would go beyond any differences and obstacles that might arise, noting that the movement would not return to divisions and would strive to achieve the settlement. Saturday’s rally was the first to be held by Fatah movement in the wake of the ongoing talks to achieve Palestinian reconciliation between the movement and Hamas.
Palestinians marched from distant areas to participate in the festival, and raised Palestinian and Fatah flags, along with pictures of Arafat and Abbas. Representatives and leaders of all the factions were present, but a shy representation of Hamas was noted in the event. The Palestinian president delivered a speech on the occasion, in which he spoke about the memory of the late President Arafat and his role in national unity and revolutionary positions, pledging to follow the path of “Abu Ammar”, whom he described more than once as “his brother”.

Egypt: Government Committed to Implementing Recommendations of World Youth Forum
The Prime Minister of Egypt, Eng. Sherif Ismail, stressed his government's commitment to implementing the recommendations of the World Youth Forum according to the deadline set by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in his speech at the end of the forum held in Sharm el-Sheikh last week.The recommendations of the Forum included the establishment of a center for cultural communication between the youth of Egypt and the world, as well as the establishment of the African Center for Youth of the African continent. The recommendations also included entrusting the Board of Trustees of the National Academy for the Rehabilitation of Youth to allocate seats for youth scholarships from Asia and Africa, establishing a regional center to support young people from Arab and European countries, and also entrusting the Ministries of culture, tourism, education and planning to establish a center for cultural communication.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, President el-Sisi addressed the Egyptian youth and expressed his pride in them. “All appreciation and respect for the great youth of Egypt، who proves everyday being the treasure of the nation and its wealth... I’m becoming more proud of you day after day... You and the youth of the world painted a wonderful human painting on our dear homeland and achieved a worthy achievement for Egypt،” Sisi said.

Iraqi Army Helicopter Crash Kills Several Members on Board
An Iraqi army helicopter crashed during a routine flight on Sunday, killing all seven people on board, a military statement and Iraqi air force officers said. The Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter went down near the southern province of Kut, the statement said. Two pilots and five army officers were killed, Iraqi air force officers told Reuters. A technical malfunction caused the crash, the military statement stated. Iraq is slowly rebuilding its air force, once one of the world’s largest, after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. In January, a Russian-made Mi-35 attack helicopter went down south of the northern city of Mosul, killing all four crew members -- two pilots and two technicians -- also due to a technical failure, according to AFP. This accident took place by the time s Iraqi forces were battling ISIS and an Iraqi officer at the time said the power of the war on ISIS meant that needed maintenance work on such helicopters was not always enough. In February 2016, the crash of another Mi-17 -- also Russian made and used for transport mainly -- killed nine, with the accident also blamed on a technical problem.

IDF: We Will Respond With Force To Threats From Palestinian Islamic Jihad
Jerusalem Post/November 12/17
"For every Islamic Jihad response, wherever it is, Israel will respond with force and determination, not only to the Jihad but also to Hamas as well," Major General Yoav Mordechai said. dinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai issued a stern warning to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) on Saturday, warning that the organization is "playing with fire" in challenging Israel. In a YouTube video published by COGAT, Mordechai recounted, in Arabic, that Israel blew up a PIJ-owned terror tunnel two weeks ago and cautioned, "We are aware of the plot being waged by Palestinian Islamic Jihad against Israel. They are playing with fire with the residents of the Gaza Strip and at the expense of Palestinian reconciliation and the entire region."In October, Hamas and Fatah announced they had reached a deal for Palestinian reconciliation, including the handing over of the Rafah border crossing to a unified government at the beginning of November and full administrative control of the Gaza Strip to a unified government by December 1. The deal, announced in Cairo, was brokered by Egyptian authorities and signed exclusively by Hamas and Fatah, failing to include the PIJ, a small yet active group in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2008, when it forcibly ousted the Palestinian Authority from the area. On October 30th, the IDF blew up a terror tunnel via a series of air strikes near the border of the Gaza Strip, an act the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed killed 12 members of the militant group.
The tunnel ran from the southern town of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip to approximately two kilometers from the Israeli border community of Kissufim. The PIJ was formed in 1981 with large funding from the Iranian government and its military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, and remains active in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The group has been classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom, among other countries. "So that it is clear: for every Islamic Jihad response, wherever it is, Israel will respond with force and determination, not only to the jihad but to Hamas as well," Mordechai continued. "We advise the leadership of the Islamic State in Damascus to exercise caution." Mordechai also specifically issued a warning to the heads of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Shallah and Ziad Nahaleh, holding them responsible for future actions taken against Israel.
Shallah was added to the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list in 2006 for conspiracies to commit terrorism. "The Palestinian Islamic State headquarters in Damascus and leaders of the organization-- Ramadan Shallah and Ziad Nahaleh - take matters quickly into your own hands, because you are the ones who will bear responsibility," he cautioned.Propoganda video by Islamic Jihad in Gaza against Israel. November 2, 2017.
The PIJ responded to the video on Sunday in a statement, firing back, "the threats of the Zionist enemy to harm the organization's leadership are a declaration of war." "These threats reveal the true intentions to carry on the aggression that was started by the Zionist enemy, which violated the cease-fire agreement brokered by Egypt in 2014," the group added. It continued, "it is our right to respond to any aggression, including the right to respond to the crime of attacking the tunnel east of Dir al-Balah, where 12 Mujahideen from Al-Qassam and Saraya al-Quds fell. To clarify the matter, our children and our people are also dear to us, as are our leaders, and the terrorism and the threats of the enemy do not frighten us." "The settler is a murderer and a criminal and must understand that his hands are stained with the blood of our children and will not stop killing until he is cut off or he leaves our land," the statement read.
Hamas responded with a similar tone in a statement released on Sunday. "The threats of the coordinator of the occupying government's actions, Yoav Mordechai, point to the terror and confusion of the Israeli entity from the reaction to the crime of blowing up the tunnel with the fighters," the statement said.
**Yasser Okbi and Reuters contributed to this article.

Chechen families of ISIS militants in Syria handed over to Russia
AFP, Qamishli, Syria/13 November 2017/The Kurdish authorities in northern Syria Sunday handed over to Russia Chechen women and children found in Raqqa city which was retaken in October from militants, an AFP correspondent said.Kurdish and Arab fighters of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance announced on October 17 they had regained full control of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the ISIS group in northern Syria. After its explosive rise in 2014 and conquest of vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, ISIS established a “caliphate” that attracted thousands of foreign fighters, including from Chechnya. “We are officially handing over ISIS families to the Russian state,” Nuri Mahmud, spokesperson for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the SDF, told reporters in Qamishli in the northeast province of Hasakeh. Abdel Karim Amr, an official with the autonomous Kurdish authorities in the area, told AFP: “We have handed over Russian citizens whose hands were not tainted by the blood of Syrians.”He said 13 women and 29 children were transferred to Russian officials.

At least 50 dead in artillery fire, Russian strikes in Syria
AFP, Beirut/12 November 2017/ Dozens of civilians have died in artillery fire and Russian bombardment of two displacement camps and surrounding territory in eastern Syria, a monitor said Sunday in a new toll. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ongoing heavy bombardment in the Deir Ezzor province had killed 50 civilians, including 20 children, since late Friday night. The new toll was nearly double the Britain-based monitor’s count on Saturday of 26 dead. The bombardment has targeted territory along the Euphrates River, as well as villages and displacement camps full of people fleeing fighting in the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal. Russian-backed Syrian regime forces and allied militia seized Albu Kamal from ISIS on Thursday but the extemists retook it late Saturday. On Sunday, Russian air strikes on two river crossings along the Euphrates killed 11 civilians, according to Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman. “Five civilians, including two children, were killed in the strikes on Al-Soussa crossing about five kilometers east of Albu Kamal,” Abdel Rahman told AFP. “Six civilians were killed in raids on another river crossing 20 kilometers north of the town,” he added. The toll from earlier artillery fire and air strikes on two displacement camps and surrounding villages rose to 39 after 13 civilians succumbed to their wounds, the Observatory said on Sunday. Albu Kamal is the last significant Syrian town ISIS controls. Losing it would cap the group’s reversion to an underground guerrilla organization with no urban base. ISIS rose to prominence in the chaos of Syria’s conflict, which broke out in 2011 with protests against President Bashar al-Assad. It has since evolved into a complex war that has killed more than 330,000 people, forced millions more to flee, and left much of the country in ruins.

Red Cross: Aid enters devastated rebel town near Syria capital
AFP, Beirut/12 November 2017/Desperately needed humanitarian assistance entered a besieged rebel-held town near Syria’s capital on Sunday, the Red Cross said, in the first aid deliveries there in nearly three months. The International Committee of the Red Cross said a joint operation with the United Nations had brought in 24 trucks full of humanitarian relief to Douma. ICRC spokeswoman Ingy Sedky told AFP the deliveries included medicine, food parcels and nutrition items for 21,500 people. “The last delivery to Douma was on August 17,” Sedky confirmed.Douma is the main town in the Eastern Ghouta region, an opposition-held enclave that is home to up to 400,000 people and which has been under a crippling government siege since 2013. The blockade has caused serious food and medicine shortages, and pushed the prices for what remains beyond the reach of impoverished residents. Jan Egeland, the head of the UN’s humanitarian taskforce for Syria, dubbed Eastern Ghouta “the epicentre of suffering” in the country. “Around 400 men, women, children... need to be evacuated now,” said Egeland, adding that 29 of them, including 18 children, “will die if they are not evacuated”. The UN’s World Health Organization said on Sunday it had prepared a plan to evacuate people from Eastern Ghouta. “At this stage, however, no formal approval for evacuations has been received from the responsible national authorities,” the WHO said. Its representative in Syria said the situation was “heartbreaking”.“We have now reached a critical point, where the lives of hundreds of people, including many children, are at stake,” said Elizabeth Hoff. WHO said one civilian in Eastern Ghouta reportedly died on Sunday of kidney failure, and that other patients in the area had lost their lives because of the restrictions on aid. The ICRC and the UN’s humanitarian affairs coordination office (OCHA) in Damascus both told AFP there were no medical evacuations planned as part of Sunday’s aid operation. Eastern Ghouta is one of the last strongholds of rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Earlier this year, rebel backer Turkey and regime allies Iran and Russia included Eastern Ghouta among four “de-escalation zones” established across the country in an attempt to decrease violence.
But the government siege has remained in place, and civilians in the enclave are suffering increasingly dire conditions.

Human rights group accuses Syrian regime of crimes against humanity
AFP, London/13 November 2017/The Syrian regime’s sieges of its population ahead of reaching “reconciliation” agreements with the opposition amount to crimes and against humanity and war crimes, Amnesty International said Monday. In a report titled “We leave or we die”, Amnesty analysed four local accords which the rights body said were preceded by unlawful sieges and bombardment aimed at forcing civilians to leave their homes. “The sieges, unlawful killings and forced displacement by government forces are part of a systematic as well as widespread attack on the civilian population, therefore constituting crimes against humanity,” the report said. Brokered between August 2016 and March 2017, the agreements came after prolonged sieges during which both the Syrian government and opposition forces indiscriminately attacked civilians. “The Syrian government and, to a lesser degree, armed opposition groups have enforced sieges on densely populated areas, depriving civilians of food, medicine and other basic necessities in violation of international humanitarian law,” Amnesty said. Such actions by the Syrian regime in Daraya, Madaya, eastern Aleppo city, and the al-Waer neighbourhood in Homs city amounted to war crimes. The same tactics were also found to have been used by opposition groups which besieged Kefraya and Foua, also carrying out war crimes through their indiscriminate attacks on civilians. In eastern Aleppo city, Amnesty documented 10 attacks between July and December, 2016, during which the regime allegedly targeted neighbourhoods “far away from the front lines and with no apparent military objectives in the vicinity”. The report also documented a total of eight attacks carried out by opposition forces in western and northern Aleppo city, between August and November last year, during which weapons described as “hell cannons” were used against civilians. The human rights organisation said it conducted the research using videos and satellite imagery alongside interviews with 134 people, including residents and UN officials, between April and September this year. Amnesty appealed to the international community to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court and demand unhindered access to the country for those investigating rights abuses. More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria and millions displaced since the conflict began in March 2011.

New mass graves found in Iraq could contain up to 400 bodies
The Associated Press/12 November 2017/Iraqi security forces have found mass graves in an area recently retaken from ISIS that could contain up to 400 bodies, an Iraqi official said Monday.The bodies of civilians and security forces were found in an abandoned base near Hawija, a northern town retaken in early October, Kirkuk governor Rakan Saed said. He didn’t say when authorities will start exhuming the bodies from the mass graves. Khalaf Luhaibi, a local shepherd who led troops to the site, said ISIS used to bring captives to the area and shoot them dead or pour oil over them and light them on fire. The area was strewn with torn clothing and what appeared to be human bones and skulls. Iraqi forces have driven ISIS from nearly all the territory it once controlled. Authorities have already uncovered several mass graves in other newly liberated areas. US-backed Iraqi forces have driven the extremists from nearly all the territory they once controlled, with some fighting still underway near the western border with Syria. On Saturday, Iraq’s Prime Minister announced an operation to capture a patch of territory on the western edge of the country near the border with Syria. Hours later, Iraqi Defense Ministry announced capturing Romana area, saying the troops will head to nearby town of Rawa. According to Ahmed al-Asadi, a spokesman for the Shiite-majority paramilitary forces, Rawa is the last Iraqi town held by ISIS who still control some scattered small villages in mainly desert areas.

Arab League to Meet on Iran at Saudi Request
Naharnet/November 12/17/Agence France Presse/The Arab League will hold an extraordinary meeting next Sunday at the request of Saudi Arabia to discuss "violations" committed by Iran in the region, according to a memorandum shown to the AFP news agency by diplomats. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates supported the Saudi request, which was also approved by Djibouti, the current chair of the Arab League, according to the memorandum seen on Sunday. Tensions have been rising between Saudi Arabia and Iran, including over League members Qatar and Lebanon.

Iran Tells France Nuclear Deal 'Not Negotiable'
Naharnet/November 12/17/Agence France Presse/Iran's nuclear deal is "not negotiable," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi has said in response to remarks by the French president. Emmanuel Macron called for vigilance towards Tehran over its ballistic missile program and regional activities, in an interview published Wednesday by the Emirati daily Al-Ittihad. "We have told French leaders on several occasions that the Iran nuclear deal is not negotiable and that no other issues can be included in the text" of the 2015 agreement, state news agency IRNA quoted Ghassemi as saying.France, he said, is "fully aware of our country's intangible position concerning the issue of Iran's defensive affairs which are not negotiable."In the interview with Al-Ittihad, published during Macron's 24-hour visit to Abu Dhabi, the French president said: "It is important to remain firm with Iran over its regional activities and its ballistic program."Macron also said there was no immediate alternative to the Iranian nuclear deal -- long lambasted by U.S. President Donald Trump -- which curbs Iran's nuclear program. France has been trying to salvage the 2015 nuclear which Iran signed with six world powers -- Britain, China, Germany, France, Russia and the United States. On October 13, Macron told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a phone call that France remained committed to the deal. But the French leader stressed it was also necessary to have a dialogue with Iran on other strategic issues, including Tehran's ballistic missile program and regional security, a proposal ruled out by Iran.Macron's visit this week to Abu Dhabi came amid renewed tensions between regional arch-rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran's nuclear deal saw sanctions imposed on Tehran lifted in exchange for limits on its atomic program.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 12-13/17
As Iran Holds a Hostage, Britain Forgets Who It’s Dealing With
Eli Lake/Bloomberg/November 12/2017
A good rule of thumb for dealing with Iran is to always remember that the Islamic Republic is not a normal nation, guided by the rule of law. When it detains foreign nationals, they are not prisoners awaiting due process. They are hostages to be traded for concessions -- by a regime founded by hostage takers.
This really should go without saying. But evidently Britain needs a reminder. Take the latest "scandal" involving a minister in the government of Theresa May, foreign secretary Boris Johnson. Critics of Johnson fault him for new charges being brought by Tehran against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British and Iranian citizen arrested last year on trumped-up national security charges.
Earlier this month in testimony before Parliament, Johnson incorrectly said Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been involved in teaching people journalism. An Iranian judge pounced. He claimed that Johnson's testimony proved she was also guilty of spreading propaganda against the regime, possibly doubling her sentence.
Johnson's political opponents in the Labour Party are now blaming him for further endangering Zaghari-Ratcliffe. They are not alone. Richard Ratcliffe, the prisoner's husband, told the Times of London, “There is a direct link between Boris Johnson’s comments on Wednesday and Judge Salavati, the harshest judge that you can find hearing her case on Saturday, where she is now facing a double sentence."
Sir Paul Jenkins, the former chief of the British government's legal department, tweeted that the gaffe was "extraordinary even by the grotesque standards" of Johnson. He added: "Our nation suffers, individuals suffer because of his slack incompetence."
Never mind that Johnson himself clarified his remarks both in Parliament and also to Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, that he was not asserting Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran to teach journalism (heaven forbid), but rather expressing the most extreme version of the charges against her.
The problem with blaming Johnson for the cruelties of an Iranian judge is that it confers legitimacy to a kangaroo court. The judge in Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case, Abolghasem Salavati, has sentenced Iranians to jail for working with the US on an AIDS prevention program. He metes out sentences to political reformers. He is a scourge to journalists, human-rights activists and students. To pretend that he is interested in evidence and procedure is delusion. He is a “judge” in the same sense in which Iran is a “republic.” Don’t let the title fool you.
Then there is the recent history of Iran's detention and prosecution of dual nationals. The regime uses these prisoners as bargaining chits. That's what happened with Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post journalist arrested and detained on espionage charges because he had had the temerity to apply for a job at the Obama White House. Eventually the Iranians allowed him to leave the country with a few other Iranian-Americans, but only after the US commuted the sentences of Iranian proliferators.
It’s not reasonable to think that a comment by Britain’s foreign secretary affects the standing of the detained citizen. She is a hostage, not a defendant. This is a shakedown, not a trial.
And hostage taking has worked for the Iranians. They traded the Americans at the US Embassy it seized in 1979 for the Algiers Accord and a promise of American non-interference. A few years later, the Iranians traded hostages taken by Hezbollah in Lebanon for Israeli anti-tank missiles. Money was paid to the Iranians to release American hikers in 2011.
The latest hostage is Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and the UK can’t afford to get distracted blaming anyone other than the guilty parties.
Nadhim Zahawi, a member of Parliament from Johnson's Conservative Party, summed this up Thursday. He told me in an interview: "It's worth remembering who the culprits are, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Iranian regime. They are holding an innocent mother of a 3-year-old baby who is a British citizen, who should be home with her anxious husband in England." He added that the Labour Party "needs to be careful not to be used as stooges for the Iranian regime."
Zahawi was being charitable. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party's leader, was paid to guest host a call-in show on Iran's English-language propaganda network known as PressTV. That network lost its UK broadcasting license in 2012 after it aired a forced confession from a Newsweek journalist. And yet Corbyn appeared again on the network six weeks after its broadcast license was revoked.
None of this is to say the UK shouldn't try to bargain with Iran for the return of British citizens. These are hard choices with no easy answers. But that bargain should be made with open eyes. Boris Johnson hasn't provoked Zaghari-Ratcliffe's jailors. To assert that he has is to pretend Iran's hostage takers are statesmen, that its show trials are free and fair.

As Iran-Saudi 'Cold War' Heats Up, What's Next?
Agence France Presse/November 12/17
From a Yemeni missile attack to the resignation of Lebanon's prime minister, the "Cold War" between Middle East rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran has been heating up.
Experts believe the risk of a direct military clash is low, but why have tensions escalated now and how will the crisis evolve? The AFP news agency looks at five questions on the Riyadh-Tehran rivalry and its implications.
What are the origins of the rivalry?
Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia and Iran, the predominant Shiite power, have a long-standing rivalry based as much in geostrategic interests as religious differences.
Facing off across the Gulf, the two energy-rich powers have for decades stood on opposing sides of conflicts in the Middle East. The Iranian revolution of 1979 and the advent of the Islamic Republic -- with its fiercely anti-American slant -- were perceived as a double threat to the conservative Sunni monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula, allied with the United States. Saudi Arabia was a key financial backer of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during his 1980-1988 war with Iran.
With Iraq weakened following the 1991 Gulf War, Saudi Arabia and Iran became "the two main regional powers," said Clement Therme, a researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
How have tensions escalated recently?
The latest round of tensions began when Riyadh and Tehran broke off diplomatic relations in January 2016, after Iranians stormed Saudi Arabia's embassy and consulate in response to the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric. That followed the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers, which Riyadh feared was a step towards ending Iran's international isolation. Rhetoric between the two grew increasingly belligerent, including over Saudi Arabia's Gulf neighbor Qatar. Riyadh and several of its Sunni allies broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar in June 2017, accusing Doha of support for extremism and links with Iran, claims that it denies.
On the first weekend of November, the animosity reached new heights. First, the Saudi-supported prime minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, in a broadcast from Riyadh announced his resignation, blaming Iran's "grip" on Lebanon through Tehran-backed Hizbullah.
Several hours later, Saudi Arabia said its air defenses near Riyadh intercepted and destroyed a missile fired from Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is battling Iran-backed Shiite rebels.
That set off a fierce war of words between Riyadh and Tehran, with Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accusing Iran of "direct military aggression." Tehran denied any involvement in the missile attack, with President Hassan Rouhani warning that Iranian "might" would fend off any challenge.
Why now?
"The main cause of the current tensions is related to the proxy confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia," Therme said, pointing to wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
Recent months have seen changes in these confrontations that appear to have brought the tensions to a head. In Iraq and Syria, the increasingly successful campaign against the Islamic State group has changed the situation on the ground. Offensives in both countries have forced the jihadists from nearly all the territory they seized in mid-2014. As the threat from a common enemy "has imploded, tensions between these historic adversaries have escalated," said Max Abrahms, professor of political science at Northeastern University in Boston.
As Iraq looks to a post-IS era, Riyadh has been taking steps to build stronger ties with the country's Shiite-dominated government. A flurry of visits between the two countries this year saw talk of a warming of ties, including a trip by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Riyadh in late October.
In Syria, meanwhile, the Iran-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad has over the past year managed to reassert control over large parts of the country by defeating, among others, rebel groups backed by Riyadh.
"The Saudi-Iranian rivalry has become the organizing principle for Mideast alliances, reminiscent of how the Cold War divided countries along U.S. and Soviet lines," Abrahms said. Analysts said the election as U.S. president a year ago of Donald Trump has also contributed to the rise in tensions. Trump's open hostility towards Tehran has "released anti-Iranian energies in the Arabian Peninsula" and emboldened Riyadh, Therme said.
How important is the Sunni-Shiite divide?
The Sunni-Shiite divide between Saudi Arabia and Tehran is a crucial factor in conflicts between the two countries. Religious tensions have heightened since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that brought the majority Shiites to power in Baghdad instead of Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime. The 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, which saw Iran support the demands of sizable Shiite minorities in Gulf monarchies, was another turning point, Therme said.
"Arab states appeared vulnerable and Iran was then defined as the main threat to regional stability," he said. Iran has even called into doubt the suitability of the Saudi royal family to serve as custodians of Mecca and Medina, the holiest cities in Islam -- especially after a stampede at the annual hajj pilgrimage in 2015 left hundreds of Iranians dead.
How will the crisis evolve? -
While the increase in tensions has raised serious concerns, few expect an outright military confrontation.
"A broader regional conflict remains unlikely," said Graham Griffiths, a senior analyst at consulting firm Control Risks, saying Riyadh would instead look to use the latest missile incident to push for further sanctions against Tehran.
Therme agreed that both sides would steer clear of open conflict.
"Iran has experience of the war with Iraq... and Saudi Arabia is bogged down in Yemen, after failing to define the future of the Syrian revolution... and counter Iran's influence in Iraq," he said.
"Saudi Arabia's rhetoric does not necessarily reflect interest in war," consulting firm Eurasia Group said, pointing to a potential domestic reason for Riyadh's combative tone. Prince Mohammed is looking to "leverage the nationalist rhetoric to solidify his position" as he pursues an anti-corruption purge some see as an attempt to cement his hold on power, the group said.
"At the same time, escalatory statements against Iran help shift the media attention away from the domestic power struggle," it said.