November 19/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
They went out because they didn’t belong to us
01 John 02/15-23/I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God remains in you, and you have overcome the evil one. Don’t love the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father’s love isn’t in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, isn’t the Father’s, but is the world’s. The world is passing away with its lusts, but he who does God’s will remains forever. Little children, these are the end times, and as you heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen. By this we know that it is the final hour. They went out from us, but they didn’t belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have continued with us. But they left, that they might be revealed that none of them belong to us. You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I have not written to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son, the same doesn’t have the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also."

Question: "Why is salvation by works the predominantly held viewpoint? Why do so many people believe that we can be saved by works?"
Answer: The simple answer is that salvation by works seems right in the eyes of man. One of man’s basic desires is to be in control of his own destiny, and that includes his eternal destiny. Salvation by works appeals to man’s pride and his desire to be in control. Being saved by works appeals to that desire far more than the idea of being saved by faith alone. Also, man has an inherent sense of justice. Even the most ardent atheist believes in some type of justice and has a sense of right and wrong, even if he has no moral basis for making such judgments. Our inherent sense of right and wrong demands that if we are to be saved, our “good works” must outweigh our “bad works.” Therefore, it is natural that when man creates a religion it would involve some type of salvation by works.
Because salvation by works appeals to man’s sinful nature, it forms the basis of almost every religion except for biblical Christianity. Proverbs 14:12 tells us that “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Salvation by works seems right to men, which is why it is the predominantly held viewpoint. That is exactly why biblical Christianity is so different from all other religions—it is the only religion that teaches salvation is a gift of God and not of works. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
Another reason why salvation by works is the predominantly held viewpoint is that natural or unregenerate man does not fully understand the extent of his own sinfulness or of God’s holiness. Man’s heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), and God is infinitely holy (Isaiah 6:3). The deceit of our hearts is the very thing that colors our perception of the extent of that deceit and is what prevents us from seeing our true state before a God whose holiness we are also unable to fully comprehend. But the truth remains that our sinfulness and God’s holiness combine to make our best efforts as “filthy rags” before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6; cf. 6:1–5). The thought that man’s good works could ever balance out his bad works is a totally unbiblical concept. Not only that, but the Bible also teaches that God’s standard is nothing less than 100 percent perfection. If we stumble in keeping just one part of God’s righteous law, we are as guilty as if we had broken all of it (James 2:10). Therefore, there is no way we could ever be saved if salvation truly were dependent on works. Another reason that salvation by works can creep into denominations that claim to be Christian or say they believe in the Bible is that they misunderstand passages like James 2:24: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” Taken in the context of the entire passage (James 2:14–26), it becomes evident that James is not saying our works make us righteous before God; instead, he is making it clear that real saving faith is demonstrated by good works. The person who claims to be a Christian but lives in willful disobedience to Christ has a false or “dead” faith and is not saved. James is making a contrast between two different types of faith—truth faith that saves and false faith that is dead.
There are simply too many verses that teach that one is not saved by works for any Christian to believe otherwise. Titus 3:4–5 is one of many such passages: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Good works do not contribute to salvation, but they will always be characteristic of one who has been born again. Good works are not the cause of salvation; they are the evidence of it.
While salvation by works might be the predominantly held viewpoint, it is not an accurate one biblically. The Bible contains abundant evidence of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8–9).
Recommended Resource: Faith Alone, The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught...and Why It Still Matters by Thomas Schreiner

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 18-19/17
Political Required ActionRoger Bejjani/Face Book/November 18/17
Gebran Bassil should be sued/Roger Bejjani/Face Book/November 18/17
Hariri to officially resign after Lebanese Independence Day/NAJIA HOUSSARI/Arabnews/November 18/17
Decoding Iran and Hezbollah’s desires for Lebanon/By Tony Duheaume Special to Al Arabiya English/18 November 2017
Lebanon: A small country with big problems/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/November 18/17
Why Hariri resigned in Riyadh/Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri/Arabnews/November 18/17
Does Lebanon’s Aoun understand the bigger picture/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/November 18/17
Containing Iran’s influence: The regional players’ wagers on Tel Aviv and Israel’s calculations/Raghida Dergham/Arabnews/November 18/17
New Saudi strategy aimed at recruiting concept of change as an ally/Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/November 18/17
Germany, Austria: Imams Warn Muslims Not to Integrate/Stefan Frank/Gatestone Institute/November 18/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on  November 18-19/17
Political Required Action
Gebran Bassil should be sued
Hariri Calls Aoun, Berri, Deryan from France
Hariri to officially resign after Lebanese Independence Day
Aoun: Hariri Will Be in Lebanon for Independence Day
Saudi Arabia Recalls Ambassador to Berlin over Lebanon Comments
France, Lebanon and the Hariri Family Have Close Ties
Lebanese Senior Official Says FM Bassil May Not Attend Arab League Meeting
Again, Riyadh Asks Citizens to Leave Lebanon
Decoding Iran and Hezbollah’s desires for Lebanon
Lebanon: A small country with big problems
Why Hariri resigned in Riyadh
Does Lebanon’s Aoun understand the bigger picture?

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on  November 18-19/17
U.N. to Vote Friday on 30-Day Renewal of Syria Gas Attacks Probe
U.S.-Backed Syria Forces Spokesman 'Held by Turkish Intelligence'
US threat to close PLO office in Washington ‘unacceptable’, says senior
Egypt Opens Gaza Border for First Time since Unity Deal
Chinese, N.Korean Envoys Discuss Regional Concerns
Renewed US-Russia Rift Threatens Slim Syria Peace Hope
Family of Assassinated Tunisian Hamas Member Demands 'Justice'
Mladic Trial to End, Where Will Next War Crimes Court Start?
Leftist Leonard Becomes New Scottish Labor Party Leader
3 More Found Dead in Deadly Greek Flood, Raising Total to 19
EU Cuts Funding to Turkey in 2018 Budget

Latest Lebanese Related News published on  November 18-19/17
Political Required Action
Roger Bejjani
/Face Book/November 18/17
Any political action in Lebanon that does not consolidate around the following strategy is futile and ephemeris:
1. Total local boycott of Hezbollah and any Hezbollah sympathiser: economical, employment, social, political...
2. Inform Arab, European, Asian and American countries of lists of Lebanese supporting Hezbollah.
3. Demand from the parliament to meet and destitute Michel Aoun on the base of flagrant violation of the constitution.
4. Demand the prosecution of Nohad Machnouk and Selim Jreissati respectively for not taking any action leading to arrest indicted suspects in serious terrorist assassination and in the abduction of Joseph Sader and for violating that sacred principle of separation of powers.
5. Make an official demand to Iran to liberate Nizar Zakka; and if they do not respond ask the Lebanese government to break diplomatic ties with this terrorist state.
6. Present a formal criminal suit against Hassan Nasrallah for leading Lebanon towards catastrophe and for endangering its people.
7. Restore trust and friendship with our traditional allies: Arab Gulf countries.
This should be the program of a reinvented 14 March not the kind of Grey bullshit and moronic neutrality that some are claiming.
Neutrality is a strategic objective; nevertheless it is absolutely idealistic and stupid to consider it today given Hezbollah's active involvement in the region.

Gebran Bassil should be sued
Roger Bejjani/Face Book/November 18/17

Gebran Bassil should be sued by thousands of Lebanese for misrepresenting them in foreign countries.
This guy does not even have the proper legitimacy to represent his own region Batroun; and here he is speaking on behalf of the Lebanese people!!?
A minister can only represent the cabinet's view and not his or her.
His cavalière attitude should be sanctioned. But of course we're not in Sweden; we're rather living the prime time of what a banana republic looks like in the Levant.

Hariri Calls Aoun, Berri, Deryan from France
Associated Press/Naharnet/November 18/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who has not returned to Beirut since his surprise resignation two weeks ago, made several phone calls with senior Lebanese officials after his arrival in France on Saturday. Hariri telephoned President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and the Grand Mufti of the Republic Abdul Latif Deryan, where talks highlighted the latest developments, the premier's media office said in a statement. The PM has reportedly told Aoun and Berri that he will be back in Lebanon to take part in the Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday. Hariri has also received telephone calls from several officials including Progressive Socialist Party Leader MP Walid Jumblat and Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh. Lebanon will mark Independence Day on Wednesday and there have been concerns about whether Hariri will attend the annual celebrations. The ceremony is usually headed by the president, prime minister and parliament speaker. It is the first official comment on when Hariri is likely to be back in Beirut since his Nov. 4 resignation through a broadcast on a Saudi-owned TV station from Saudi Arabia.NNA quoted a presidential statement saying that Hariri informed the president that he arrived in Paris with his wife earlier Saturday.

Hariri to officially resign after Lebanese Independence Day
NAJIA HOUSSARI/Arabnews/November 18/17
BEIRUT: Saad Hariri, who resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister on Nov. 4, said he will join President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday. Berri’s press office said Hariri told him in a phone call from Paris on Saturday that he will return to Lebanon before Independence Day and will join the president and the Parliament speaker in a military parade to mark the occasion. Aoun received a phone call from French President Emmanuel Macron just before Hariri’s arrival at the Élysée Palace. The press office of the Lebanese presidential palace said they discussed developments following Hariri’s resignation, and Aoun thanked Macron “for the interest he has shown in Lebanon.” The spokesman for the Lebanese presidential palace, Rafiq Shalala, told Arab News that Hariri “will attend the military parade as prime minister because he didn’t submit his resignation to the president.” Shalala added: “The step of submitting the resignation to President Aoun isn’t clear until the return of Hariri to Beirut. We haven’t been informed of its date yet.”
Khaled Kabbani, a former member of the Constitutional Council and former minister, told Arab News that Hariri could attend the celebration either as prime minister or as premier of a caretaker government if his resignation is accepted. The Independence Day ceremony is usually headed by the president, prime minister and Parliament speaker, and Hariri’s presence could help calm uncertainties. Hariri, along with his wife and son, landed before dawn Saturday at an airport used for private jets in Le Bourget north of Paris, and came in a convoy to his Paris residence in a high-end neighborhood, where police stood guard. The security arrangements prevented reporters from reaching their home. Hariri’s press office said he later went to the Elysee Palace, where he was received “warmly” by Macron. They held a private meeting, “discussed recent developments and public affairs,” and then they were joined by Hariri’s wife Lara Al-Azm and elder son Hussam and Macron’s wife Brigitte for lunch. After the meeting, Hariri thanked France and Macron for their support, saying: “France is playing a positive role in the region, and we are always interested in their support for us.” Hariri added that he will “announce all my political positions” from Lebanon after meeting with Aoun. “I resigned and we’ll talk in Lebanon.”Lebanese Forces MP Fadi Karam said there was a “need for understanding” between Aoun and Hariri after the latter’s return to Beirut. Karam warned about “current attempts to harm the brotherly relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia with the incitement of Iran and Hezbollah.”Saudi Arabia on Saturday asked its citizens for the second time in less than two weeks to leave Lebanon “as soon as possible” given the “circumstances” there, according to The Associated Press (AP).  The Arab League is due to hold a meeting on Sunday in Cairo at Saudi Arabia’s urging where the Lebanon crisis and Iran’s role in the region are expected to be discussed, the agency added.

Aoun: Hariri Will Be in Lebanon for Independence Day
Agence France PresseNaharnet/November 18/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who has not returned to Beirut since his surprise resignation two weeks ago, will be home for Independence Day on Wednesday, the president's office said.Hariri telephoned President Michel Aoun after arriving in France from Saudi Arabia on Saturday morning, the presidency said in a statement. "Hariri told the president that he would be in Lebanon to take part in Independence Day celebrations, especially the military parade marking the occasion, on Wednesday," it said. Hariri flew to Paris at the invitation of France's President Emmanuel Macron, who is attempting to broker a solution to a political crisis that has raised fears for Lebanon's fragile democracy. Hariri, a dual Saudi citizen who has previously enjoyed Riyadh's backing, announced his resignation on November 4 in a televised address from the kingdom. He said he feared for his life and accused Iran and its powerful Lebanese ally Hizbullah of destabilizing the country. The shock announcement sparked fears that Lebanon was being caught up in rising tensions between regional arch rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Hariri's failure to return from Saudi Arabia only added to the concerns, prompting claims he was being held hostage. Aoun has refused to accept Hariri's resignation from abroad, insisting he return home to confirm it or withdraw it.

Saudi Arabia Recalls Ambassador to Berlin over Lebanon Comments
Agence France PresseNaharnet/November 18/17/Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador to Berlin in protest over comments made by the German foreign minister perceived as suggesting Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri had been held against his will in Riyadh, Saudi state media said Saturday.
Hariri, a dual Saudi citizen left Riyadh for France early Saturday following fevered speculation over his situation after he announced his shock resignation on television in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago saying he had left Lebanon in fear for his life. Early Saturday, Riyadh's state news agency SPA released a statement protesting comments on the crisis by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel calling for Lebanon's neighbours -- including Saudi Arabia -- to let it decide its own fate. "Saudi Arabia has decided to recall its ambassador to Germany for consultations and will give the German ambassador in the kingdom a letter protesting these unfortunate and unjustified statements," SPA said, citing a spokesman for the Saudi foreign ministry. Hariri's resignation announcement and his subsequent failure to return home to officially quit in person, fuelled speculation that he was acting under orders from his Saudi patrons.
Shortly before leaving Riyadh for Paris, Hariri said in a tweet addressed to Gabriel that it was untrue he was being held in Saudi. "To say that I am held up in Saudi Arabia and not allowed to leave the country is a lie. I am on the way to the airport," Hariri tweeted. Hariri's resignation was quickly perceived as the latest round in a tug of war between Saudi Arabia, his longtime sponsor, and its regional arch-rival Iran. It has raised deep concerns about the stability of Lebanon, which has long been riven by disagreements between Hariri's bloc and that of his chief rival, the Iran-backed Hizbullah movement. Gabriel on Thursday said he shared the concern about the threat of instability and bloodshed in Lebanon and, without mentioning Saudi Arabia directly, warned against the "adventurism" behind the Lebanon crisis. Earlier in the week Gabriel had said: "Lebanon has earned the right to decide on its fate by itself and not become a pinball of Syria or Saudi Arabia or other national interests". But according to SPA, a Saudi foreign ministry spokesman said: "These statements are dangerous, based on false information and do not help achieve stability in the region. "These (statements) have astonished Saudi Arabia... which does not consider them representative of a friendly German government that is a reliable partner in the fight against terrorism and to establish security in the region," the spokesman added.
Hariri is expected to meet French President Emmanuel Macron Macron at noon (1100 GMT) on Saturday.

France, Lebanon and the Hariri Family Have Close Ties
Agence France PresseNaharnet/November 18/17/France under President Emmanuel Macron has played a leading role in trying to avert a fresh crisis in Lebanon following the surprise resignation of its prime minister Saad Hariri. Hariri arrived in Paris on Saturday on Macron's invitation, after the premier once again dismissed rumours that he had been held against his will in Saudi Arabia since announcing his resignation there on November 4. As Macron holds talks with Hariri, AFP explains France's role in working to defuse the situation. - Why is France involved? Links between France and multi-faith Lebanon go back at least to the 16th century, when King Francis I signed an agreement with the Ottoman Empire giving the French royals the status of protectors of Christians in the Middle East. With the fall of the Ottomans in 1920, Lebanon emerged as a contemporary state but it was administered by France under a League of Nations mandate until 1943, when it gained independence. Since then, France has maintained close ties with the unstable country. - Is this just about history? -No. Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker, is also keen to make a mark in international relations after coming to power in May. He flew to Riyadh to meet Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman himself last week and sent his Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian back on Wednesday for further talks. Macron is trying to fill a void of Western power in the Middle East: the United States has retreated under Donald Trump, while Britain remains wrapped up in its Brexit negotiations. This has led to a whirlwind of diplomacy from Macron with varying degrees of success, from efforts to find a solution in war-wracked Libya to a campaign in favour of maintaining the Iran nuclear deal. - Is a resolution in sight?Lebanon's President Michel Aoun said that he had spoken with Hariri by telephone following his arrival in France and that the premier said he would be home for Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday. Aoun, who had accused the Saudis of holding his prime minister "hostage" -- a claim dismissed by both Hariri and Riyadh -- had already backed the Paris trip as a step forward on Thursday. "We hope that the crisis is over and Hariri's acceptance of the invitation to go to France is the start of a solution," tweeted Aoun, who has refused to accept the premier's resignation from abroad. The French-language Lebanese newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour said France had "achieved the unexpected by inviting Hariri" to leave Riyadh, saying it had "lowered tensions a notch". - What are Hariri's ties to France?Hariri's family has properties and long-standing links in France that go back to the early 1980s when Jacques Chirac, then the mayor of Paris, became close to Saad's father Rafiq. Rafiq Hariri, a wealthy real estate developer who made his fortune in Saudi Arabia, made numerous investments in France and headquartered his construction group Oger International in a Parisian suburb. This could now come back to bite his son -- who inherited it -- as it recently went bankrupt, leaving salaries and pensions worth millions of dollars unpaid around the world since 2015. About 240 laid-off French employees are seeking nearly 20 million euros ($24 million) after the company collapsed under huge debts, as tumbling oil prices hit Saudi construction hard. The elder Hariri's friendship with Chirac turned overtly political after 1992 when he became prime minister of Lebanon. Chirac was elected president three years later. He was the only head of state to attend Hariri's funeral in Beirut in 2005 after he was killed in a bombing. Chirac lived in a luxurious Paris apartment owned by the Hariri family for around eight years after he left office and retired in 2007.

Lebanese Senior Official Says FM Bassil May Not Attend Arab League Meeting
Asharq l Awsat/November 18/17 /Lebanon’s foreign minister may not attend an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Sunday and a final decision will be taken in the morning, a senior Lebanese official told Reuters on Saturday. Reuters cited the official as saying that Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil wanted to avoid an upfront confrontation at the meeting with Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies over the regional role the Iran-aligned Lebanese group Hezbollah is playing. Saudi Arabia is seeking to counter Hezbollah's effect carrying out Tehran's expansionist agenda. "The importance of Hezbollah for Iran as an overseas fighting force, which operates alongside its own military, cannot be underestimated. Since its establishment in Lebanon in the early 1980s by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Quds Force, Hezbollah has fought wars and carried out deadly attacks against civilians in foreign lands that have proven its worth as a terror group," said political analyst Tony Duheaume in a column piece published on Al Arabiya.

Again, Riyadh Asks Citizens to Leave Lebanon
Associated Press/Naharnet/November 18/17/Saudi Arabia has asked its citizens for the second time in less than two weeks to leave Lebanon "as soon as possible" given the tension over the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The announcement early Saturday was posted on the Saudi embassy Twitter account. It came shortly after the embassy reported that it is closely following reports of an attack on two Saudi nationals in a Beirut neighborhood. There was no immediate security report of the incident. Hariri tweeted before he left Saudi Arabia that any attack on a Saudi is an attack on him personally. Hariri, a dual Lebanese-Saudi national, stunned Lebanon and the region when he declared his resignation from Saudi Arabia, citing meddling by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hizbullah in Arab countries affairs. Days later, Saudi Arabia ordered its citizens out of Lebanon on Nov. 9. It was the first concrete action against the Mediterranean country after days of leveling threats against Beirut. Hariri's resignation sparked speculations he was held against his will, and forced to resign. Hariri left to Paris early Saturday.

ANALYSIS: Decoding Iran and Hezbollah’s desires for Lebanon
By Tony Duheaume Special to Al Arabiya English/18 November 2017
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the viewpoint of Al Arabiya English.
The importance of Hezbollah for Iran as an overseas fighting force, which operates alongside its own military, cannot be underestimated. Since its establishment in Lebanon in the early 1980s by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Quds Force, Hezbollah has fought wars and carried out deadly attacks against civilians in foreign lands that have proven its worth as a terror group.
Terrorist attacks carried out by Hezbollah, which have targeted various nations over the years, can only be construed as attacks carried out by the Iranian administration through proxy. As by using its Quds Force, the regime itself can claim plausible deniability from its deeds, which it has done for many decades.
Iran’s imperialist designs
It seems that Iran’s hawkish leadership is currently working hard to revive its long-lost Persian Empire through stealthily applied hegemony. With Iraq always having been at the top of its list of potential conquests, Tehran is taking advantage of Iraqi government’s invite to aid it in the fight against ISIS, and had sent its wily Quds’ Force Commander Qassim Suleimani to take up the challenge. As the battle commenced, Suleimani integrated a large force of Iran-backed militias into the ranks of Iraqi armed forces, thereby effectively taking control.
Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq by US coalition forces, Iranians have been actively infiltrating the Iraqi government, gaining influence over a large number of MPs in a bid to turn Iraq into an Iranian satellite state. While in Syria, with the Iranian puppet President Bashar al-Assad on the back foot, Iran’s proxy forces and its military were sent in to shore up his regime, and with the dictator’s army virtually non-existent, Iran has setup a military headquarters there, in readiness to reinstall their puppet.
But in case of Lebanon, it is Iran’s proxy Hezbollah that is doing the infiltrating in a bid to take control of the country through stealth. Through its support of Hezbollah, Iran has gained a powerful foothold in Lebanon. One big advantage for better relations came in the election of Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun as the country’s president on 31 October 2016, which left the door open for further Iranian influence. Then through the electoral system — through its 12 seats in parliament and with crucial allies such as President Aoun’s Maronite Christian Free Patriotic Movement that controls the Ministry of Defence portfolio, and by working closely with the Shiite party Amal that controls the Ministry of Finance — Hezbollah is now in virtual control of Lebanese politics.
Lebanese military vis-à-vis Hezbollah militia
But Hezbollah’s strength doesn’t end there. Its military wing is more powerful than the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and even in recent times the two have been known to work together. The officer in charge of the Lebanese army, who appears to be seeking better relations with the US is Staff Brigadier General Joseph Aoun (no relation to President Michel Aoun). Joseph Aoun had previously commanded the Lebanese 9th Brigade, whose remit was to maintain security of an area skirting the Litani River in south Lebanon, where Hezbollah was required to disarm under Resolution 1701 — of the UN Security Council Resolution that ended the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese militia — which Hezbollah has never observed.
On July 2009, a huge blast struck Lebanese village of Khirbet Selm, when an abandoned house — containing a stockpile of rockets, automatic weapons and ammunition that belonged to Hezbollah — exploded in a massive inferno. The incident exposed how the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), as well as the LAF supposedly patrolling the area with a directive to enforce Resolution 1701 to disarm any Hezbollah militia, had failed in their mission. With Israeli IDF having estimated 160 villages across southern Lebanon contained Hezbollah military supplies, whilst carrying out 400 vehicles and air patrols a day, it seems strange that none of the UNIFIL and LAF combined patrols came across any sign of Hezbollah’s arms caches.
Although Gen. Aoun seems to be reaching out to the US, he has been known to have close links with Hezbollah, and after being reassigned to the Arsal-Hermel sector in north-eastern Lebanon in 2013, with his duties entailing strengthening of defensive line in an area straddling Syrian border to avert penetrations by Syrian militias, these links strengthened greatly.
With this area having been a Hezbollah stronghold, it would have been inevitable that the LAF would have to cooperate with Hezbollah in some way to enable it to carry out its duties in the area, and with the nearby town of Qusayr and the Qalamoun region being Hezbollah military zones, essential to the paramilitaries deploying forces to fight in Syria, the aid of the LAF would have been vital in securing these logistical supply routes, leaving the LAF open to calls of collusion.
Iran’s aid to proxies
Then with Iran having billions of dollars in cash returned to it through signing the nuclear deal, the regime is said to have increased its funding of Hezbollah from $600m annually to $800m. With Hezbollah immersed in criminal activity, hundreds of millions of dollars are also funnelled to the terror group in Lebanon, from its illicit dealings in drug trade, the selling of pirated software, etc. Much of the cash made from these illicit activities, is then laundered through the sale of cars to Africa, through its second-hand car dealerships in the US, the proceeds of which find their way back to Hezbollah’s accounts in Lebanon.
By means of this vast finance, with the aid of the Quds Force, Hezbollah has been able to construct a global terrorist network, spanning all continents. Through the use of Iranian embassies, plans have been hatched to hijack planes, detonate numerous vehicle bombs, kidnap dozens of innocent people, as well as assassinate dissidents living abroad, and those considered a threat to the Iranian regime.
As far as Hezbollah’s unique position in Lebanon is concerned, Iran sees it as a great success in the export of its Islamic revolution, and to maintain the terror group’s military effectiveness, it supplies it with a vast amount of weaponry. As a result of this, Hezbollah can comfortably outgun Lebanese Armed Forces, and with somewhere in the region of 25,000 armed fighters in its ranks, makes it a powerful adversary — should time ever come for the Lebanese government to confront it.
Iran is seeking a land-bridge to Lebanon via Iraq and Syria in order to supply its faithful proxy as well as to move troops and military equipment into the country unobstructed, ready for any future war with Israel, or attacks on targets in the Gulf States. But as things stand, although Hezbollah has made great inroads into the Lebanese Army, the two are still very suspicious of each other.
But on 6 January 2017, Iran sent a high level parliamentary delegation to Beirut, offering to provide the LAF with a substantial package of military aid, at a time when relations with the country seemed to be favorable.
Silencing critics through assassinations
However, it is noteworthy that Hezbollah’s critics tend to end up being victims of car blasts, as was the fate of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated on February 14, 2005 after a fallout with Bashar al-Assad. Recently, there was the episode with Rafik’s son Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister who fled to Saudi Arabia after receiving intelligence that there was a plan to assassinate him. Taking into consideration this latest interference, it seems Iranians are stepping up their agenda to take over Lebanon.
There are other signs also that show Iran is back to its old ways against those it views as its enemies. On 27 October 2017, one of its agents bombed a police bus in Bahrain, killing one police officer and injuring eight others. Following the arrest of a suspect, Bahraini authorities uncovered a cell linked to Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which was also said to have been involved in earlier terrorist attacks and a series of other plots to blow up oil pipelines and plans to assassinate public figures in the country.
Whenever Iran has its back to the wall – as it is experiencing now under Trump’s crackdown – the regime responds by carrying out assassinations and terror attacks, and looking at its proxy’s history, such attacks will not be the last.

Lebanon: A small country with big problems
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/November 18/17
Lebanon, this small country — the area of Kuwait is almost twice as big — has an effect that transcends demographic and geographic measures. And because of its numerous problems, its leaders and parties and regional and international powers have not been able to take it out of the path of regional crises.
One example is the escalation practiced by some politicians in the current Lebanese government, the foreign minister as well as the president himself, in dealing with the resignation of Saad Hariri from his position as prime minister. And since it is strange that those holding the banner of allegedly defending Hariri are in fact his sworn enemies, it is most likely that they are being pushed by an outside party which is at odds with Saudi Arabia, such as the Qatari government or the Iranian government. And Iran is intent on complete domination of Lebanon after it dictated its presence by force in Syria.
Lebanon has always been a regional stage for conflict among powers, and all powers and Arab leaders have been present on its lands before. The late Egyptian late President Gamal Abdel Nasser had to use Lebanon when he found out that it was the center of challenge for his project against his foes in Syria and the Gulf. Iran, under Khomeini, used Lebanon against the US through explosions and assassinations. And Syria has played the biggest part in transforming Lebanon into a field for its activities; one of the justifications given by the late President Hafez Assad, and Bashar as well, for insisting on meddling in and controlling Lebanon despite the high political price was their belief that the small neighbor is the main reservoir of danger for Syria, where international conspiracies are prepared and secret operations launched against them. If Lebanon’s people work together against Hezbollah, they will have regional and international support; if they do not, they will be the victims of Iranian domination.
The most obvious example for Lebanon today, as a workshop of conflicts, is that it is playing a vital role in the war in Yemen. The Iranians use Lebanon to manage their security, propaganda, and military operations, and I went over some details of that issue in my last article. Beirut is still the regional headquarters of the international media, and since it is under the control of Hezbollah, almost all the non-combat Houthi activities are operated from Lebanon, not from Yemen itself, including political, legal and media campaigns against Saudi Arabia and the coalition in accusations of starvation, cholera, and the targeting of civilians.
Beirut was also a safe haven for rebel politicians against the former Al-Malki government, and it was also a center for counter activities for his government as well, and it transpired later how hundreds of millions of dollars reached Hezbollah in vague circumstances. Lebanon was also an important stage and workshop of the Syrian conflict for intelligence agencies, recruitment and propaganda. And most conflicts look for environments which are available in a country such as Lebanon, with its multiple loyalties and weak central authority.  Consequently, the big regional countries are destined to defend their areas and existence, and they have no choice but to deal with the Lebanese reality. There are allies and adversaries, and there are no permanent alliances, regardless of any sectarian, ideological or even family links. The main and chronic problem for Saudi Arabia in Lebanon is Iran, represented by Hezbollah, which is also a problem for most regional and international countries. Riyadh has focused on an important message, stating that Lebanon cannot be left as prey for Hezbollah. The Lebanese and Arabs who underestimate the project of Hezbollah may not realize that it is capable of completely seizing the resources and authorities of the Lebanese state and eliminating all the benefits offered by the Lebanese state, such as freedom, pluralism and flexibility. All the independent groups of today, including Christian and Sunni groups, will be eliminated by Hezbollah if it continues its project of transforming Lebanon into an annex to the Iranian Republic.  And these new challenges are the responsibility of all the Lebanese themselves. If they work together against Hezbollah, or let us say against foreign domination in general, they will find regional and international support; but if they do not, they will be the first losers in the new equation of the Iranian domination over Syria and Iraq.

Why Hariri resigned in Riyadh
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri/Arabnews/November 18/17
For those observing and understanding the situation in our region, it is not difficult to understand Saad Hariri’s resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister. When he went to Riyadh and resigned from there, it was not only for his personal safety. He went there to save Lebanon and its people from Hezbollah’s dominance. For 25 years, this militia has been in Lebanon under the guise and slogan of resistance against Israel. But this so-called resistance should be directed toward Israel only. What is happening in Lebanon is not like that, because Hezbollah’s weapons have been used against the state and the Lebanese people. The same is true with any Iranian-sponsored militia in Arab countries, such as the Houthis in Yemen. Hezbollah is the first militia in the Arab world created by Iran to serve its regional expansion and greed. From the 1980s, Hezbollah began its terrorist actions in Lebanon and the Gulf in favor of Iran. It had a plan to assassinate Kuwait’s then-emir, which failed. It also carried out terrorist acts in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Today, we are witnessing Hezbollah’s evil very clearly in Syria by killing Syrian civilians who oppose Iran and the Assad regime. Tehran relies on Hezbollah to train more militias in the region and produce more and more fighters. It did that in Iraq after the US-led invasion, creating many terrorist militias loyal to Tehran. Before that, for many years Hezbollah trained Al-Qaeda members in Lebanon.
It is no secret that Hezbollah was behind the Houthi coup against the Yemeni state. Today, it is training the Houthis, smuggling Iranian weapons to them and launching ballistic missiles from Yemen with the help of Iranian experts. Just this month, Riyadh was targeted by an Iranian missile launched from Yemen, which was intercepted by the Saudi air defense.
Saudi Arabia will support Lebanon as usual, and will not let it or other Arab countries be destroyed by Iran. Amid Hariri’s resignation in Riyadh, the missile attack was a message from Hezbollah to Saudi Arabia not to help Lebanon and its people. Riyadh for decades has directly supported Arab and non-Arab states and their peoples, not militias or sectarian groups as Tehran does. Iran has destroyed Arab countries and made them useless, while Saudi efforts are geared toward helping them. Not only that, but Iran has used those countries against Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom and its allies, partners and friends are trying to correct the situation and counter terrorism by Al-Qaeda, Daesh, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and all other militias who bear arms against their countries and threaten our stability. These groups are trying to plunge the whole region into chaos and create more militias, so terrorism will spread not only regionally but globally. Hariri came to Riyadh asking for help, just as Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi did for the struggle against the Houthis. Hariri resigned in Riyadh so he would not be in a place where groups allied to his government refuse to withdraw from other countries and refuse to stop doing Iran’s dirty work and terrorist acts. He will not cover for them. Riyadh will support Lebanon as usual, and will not let it or other Arab countries be destroyed by Iran. The Kingdom will also take serious measures and decisive actions against Tehran’s targeting of it.
• Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri is a political analyst and international relations scholar.Twitter: @DrHamsheri

Does Lebanon’s Aoun understand the bigger picture?
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/November 18/17
What those complaining in Lebanon don’t understand, or what they don’t want to understand - those from the Free Patriotic Movement, before Nasrallah’s supporters - that what is happening in the region is not only a Lebanese story. It’s not just one page in the Lebanese story, it’s also a page dictating the fate and place of Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The story is a new regional and international policy designed and implemented against the Iranian Khomeini invasion and role which spoiled the country and its people. It also spread strife and anxiety for three decades. Now it is time to end this dark story, a story that has stripped a lot of energy and effort towards error and misguidance. A story that is followed blindly. Followers of the puppeteer in Tehran, the supreme leader and the guardian of Muslims - all Muslims! - see him standing with generals of Khomeini's destruction. It is a policy of confrontation that does not concern Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain. Instead, it is a policy that is also being formed in the most important international capital, Washington.
This news should be reminded to all those who hustled and bustled about it – and still do – in Lebanon because it conveys the whole Lebanese problem on a wider and further horizon – that is the horizon of the “great confrontation” with the latest Iranian chapter. A few days ago the US Congress has classified Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (an Iraqi Shi'ite paramilitary group) as a “terrorist group,” calling on President Donald Trump to ban it and ban foreign figures responsible or associated with it for a period of no more than 90 days. In a statement issued on Thursday, the Iraqi Khomeinist militia said that they have considered, as they do in their usual denial-filled behavior, this categorization as an “honor.”
A congress report has found that the “As-Saib Ahl al-Haq and Nujaba are provided training, funding, and arms by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), IRGC-Quds Force, and mentored by Lebanese Hezbollah.” The report also stipulated that “Kabi and other Nujaba commanders have claimed they follow orders from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.”This news should be reminded to all those who hustled and bustled about it – and still do – in Lebanon because it conveys the whole Lebanese problem on a wider and further horizon – that is the horizon of the “great confrontation” with the latest Iranian chapter. Lebanon is a scene or single page of this chapter, just like the Houthi page, the Kurdish page in Iraq and other Khomeini pages in Syria. This is what the Lebanese media has missed or overlooked amidst the circus it has created around Hariri’s resignation; and one wonders whether the people really understand the bigger picture? Is the experienced President Michel Aoun aware of the dangers that he is driving Lebanon towards due to his irresponsible approach to the current Lebanese problem and the way he is handling Saad al-Hariri’s resignation?
The good thing that is happening to Lebanon, and we all hope so, is that it sincerely and honestly “distances” itself from the region’s problems extending from Iraq, to Syria and Bahrain, to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, to Qatar, the UAE and to Egypt.
If not, then turbulence persists amid storms.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on  November 18-19/17
U.N. to Vote Friday on 30-Day Renewal of Syria Gas Attacks Probe
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 18/17/The U.N. Security Council will vote Friday on a last-ditch bid to salvage a U.N.-led investigation tasked with identifying those behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria, diplomats said.
The council will vote at 6:15 pm (2315 GMT) on a Japanese draft resolution that would extend the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) for 30 days, to allow time for negotiations on a compromise.

U.S.-Backed Syria Forces Spokesman 'Held by Turkish Intelligence'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 18/17/A spokesman for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting Islamic State extremists is "in the hands of" the Turkish intelligence after handing himself over to pro-Ankara forces, a Turkish daily reported Friday. Talal Sello "gave himself up" to Syrian opposition fighters -- which Turkey calls the Free Syrian Army (FSA) -- on Wednesday, according to Turkish reports. Sello was then taken to the southern Turkish province of Gaziantep bordering Syria, the Hurriyet newspaper said, adding that he was "giving answers to questions" from the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) about the activities of the Syrian Kurdish militia. The fate of the burly Sello -- who became a prominent face due to his media updates during the SDF's fight with jihadists for Raqa -- has been shrouded in mystery since it emerged this week that he had left the force.Mohammad al-Abdallah, of the Syrian rebel group Forqat al-Hamz, speaking to AFP in Beirut, described Sello's move as a "defection." But the SDF denied he had defected, saying it believed Sello was taken "as a result of a special operation by Turkish intelligence." The SDF added that Sello "received threats against his children who are in Turkey."The SDF includes Arab forces but is dominated by Syrian Kurdish fighters from the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG). Sello is of Turkmen origin. Ankara views the YPG as a terror group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. It has dismissed the SDF has merely a front for the YPG. The PKK is blacklisted as a "terrorist" organization by Ankara, the United States and the European Union. While Washington views the YPG as the most effective fighting force on the ground against Islamic State jihadists in Syria, Ankara has railed against the American support. The Kurdish-led force expelled IS from its de facto capital Raqa in northern Syria last month, one of a series of defeats against the group. Turkey has cautioned against the creation of a "terror corridor" in northern Syria and had repeatedly warned it could launch an operation against the militia in the YPG-controlled town of Afrin. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Afrin "needs to be cleared of the YPG terror group."According to Hurriyet, Sello answered questions from Turkish officials about the "activities of the YPG, its structure and the situation in Afrin."Crucially, he was also asked about what kind of preparations the YPG was making in the event of an attack by the Turkish military on Afrin, the daily added. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) confirmed that Sello was in the hands of Turkish intelligence and said he had been "brought to Turkey by trickery."

US threat to close PLO office in Washington ‘unacceptable’, says senior
DAOUD KUTTAB/Arabnews/November 19/17
AMMAN: The Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington faces closure after the US State Department refused to renew its operating permission. Under US law, for the office to operate the Secretary of State must certify every six months that the PLO has complied with conditions imposed by Congress. The latest six-month period finished on Thursday. Permission was not renewed because of a speech by President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN General Assembly in September, in which he suggested taking the issue of Israeli settlements to the International Criminal Court, a State Department official told Arab News. The threat of closure is also aimed at persuading the Palestinians to enter talks with Israel within 90 days, the official said. “The Palestinian Authority received a letter from the State Department two days ago saying that the Secretary of State had not found enough reasons to keep the office open,” the Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Malki said. “This is the first time since the 1980s that there has been a delay in signing the renewed permission so the office can stay open. We have demanded clarifications from the State Department and the White House. They told us that there would be a meeting of senior legal experts on Monday. Then they would give a clear answer.”The senior Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat has written to the US administration calling the threatened closure “unacceptable, an escalatory step and a political decision that threatens to end the US role in the peace process,” Al-Malki said.
Although the PLO’s license to operate has not been renewed, US law allows the office to operate “in a reduced manner” for 90 days, giving time for negotiations, Al-Malki said. Majdi Khalidi, special diplomatic adviser to President Abbas, told Arab News the decision did not affect the visa and residency of the Palestinian ambassador in Washington, and a PLO source in Washington said the Palestinian delegation were not worried about the status of their office. Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, told Arab News the closure threat was a US bluff. “They are just waving this threat with the hope it can produce results,” he said. The State Department official told Arab News: “The Secretary of State concluded that the factual record, in particular certain statements made by Palestinian leaders about the International Criminal Court, did not permit him to make the factual certification required by the statute.
“The statute allows for … operation of the PLO’s Washington office if, after 90 days, the President determines the Palestinians have entered into direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel. We are hopeful that this closure will be short-lived. “We are not cutting off relations with the PLO, nor do we intend to stop working with the Palestinian Authority. Our relations with the PLO and PA extend well beyond contacts with the PLO office in Washington. “We remain focused on a comprehensive peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians that will resolve core issues between the parties.
“This measure should in no way be seen as a signal that the US is backing off those efforts. Nor should it be exploited by those who seek to act as spoilers to distract from the imperative of reaching a peace agreement.” In 2011, under the Obama administration, the US allowed the Palestinians to fly their flag over the PLO office, an upgrade to the status of their mission that the Palestinians hailed as historic.

Egypt Opens Gaza Border for First Time since Unity Deal
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 18/17/Egypt opened its largely sealed border with Gaza on Saturday for the first time since a reconciliation agreement saw the Palestinian Authority take control of the crossing from Hamas. A Palestinian official at the Rafah crossing said it had opened at 0700 GMT and was expected to stay open for three days. "Egypt will open the crossing for humanitarian cases registered with the interior ministry," the official said, adding that civilian and security personnel on the Palestinian side were all employees of the reconciliation government headed by Rami Hamdallah. Up to 20,000 people from Gaza have applied to enter Egypt. during the brief reopening. Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip had been totally sealed since August, and was largely closed for years before that. Under the terms of a Palestinian reconciliation agreement reached last month, Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas are supposed to cede civil power to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority by December 1. As a first step, they handed over control of its border crossings on November 1. The Egypt-brokered deal is expected to lead to more regular opening of the Rafah crossing. The head of the Palestinian Authority's security services Majid Faraj held talks with senior Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in Gaza on Friday. All Palestinian factions are due to meet in Cairo next week to discuss ways to move the reconciliation deal forward. Both Israel and Egypt have maintained blockades of Gaza for years, arguing that they are necessary to isolate Hamas.

Chinese, N.Korean Envoys Discuss Regional Concerns

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 18/17/A senior Chinese envoy discussed regional concerns with officials in Pyongyang on Saturday, North Korean state media said, as the US presses China to help ease the standoff over the North's nuclear weapons. The visit by Song Tao, described by Pyongyang as a special envoy of President Xi Jinping, is the first by a senior Chinese envoy for more than a year. Relations are severely stressed over Pyongyang's nuclear sabre-rattling and Beijing's support for tough UN sanctions on its neighbour. "The two sides exchanged their views on such matters of mutual concern as the situation of the Korean peninsula and region and bilateral relations," the official KCNA news agency said in describing Song's talks with Ri Su-Yong, a senior ruling party leader, and other officials. Relations between the two communist neighbours, once said by Mao Zedong to be "as close as lips and teeth", are at their worst in decades over North Korea's actions, and Beijing faces pressure from US President Donald Trump to pile pressure on Pyongyang. Song, who arrived on Friday, met that day with Choe Ryong-Hae, another senior official in North Korea's ruling party and a close aide to leader Kim Jong-Un. Each side's account of the meeting with Choe mentioned that both sides stressed the importance of their longstanding ties.
- 'Common treasure' -A Chinese Communist Party report on the Choe-Song talks said they agreed that mutual ties were "the common treasure of the two peoples" and that both sides "should make concerted efforts" to maintain them. The United States wants China, which accounts for 90 percent of North Korea's foreign trade, to apply more economic pressure. Trump, who warned Xi during his trip to Beijing this month that time was "quickly running out" to solve the nuclear crisis, took to Twitter on Thursday to hail Song's mission as "a big move, we'll see what happens!" But experts have expressed doubt it will yield breakthroughs, saying Beijing has far less political influence on Kim than is thought despite the economic ties. "Relations are extremely stressed. Perhaps the lowest point since the Korean War. Perhaps (the mission) will put a floor under China-North Korea relations, preventing further deterioration," said Bonnie Glaser, China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. China has imposed its own banking restrictions on North Koreans in addition to enforcing a series of UN measures that include bans on imports of coal, iron ore and seafood from the North. But Beijing fears that squeezing Pyongyang too hard would cause its collapse. Analysts say Song's trip is probably aimed more at urging Kim's regime not to escalate tensions rather than applying real pressure for disarmament. As nuclear tensions have soared, Xi has pushed for negotiations and a "dual track approach" in which the United States would freeze its military drills in South Korea while North Korea halts its weapons programmes. Trump claimed this week that Xi had agreed during their talks last week to drop that approach, but Beijing subsequently stood by the policy.

Renewed US-Russia Rift Threatens Slim Syria Peace Hope
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 18/17/The latest US and Russian bid to find enough common ground on which to build some hope for Syria is in trouble, just days ahead of talks that could make or break the peace process. A United Nations mediator has called on Bashar al-Assad's regime and a beleaguered opposition coalition to send envoys to Geneva on November 28 to resolve the seven-year-old civil war. This comes less than a week after Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin issued a joint statement agreeing that there is "no military solution" to the conflict. US officials then welcomed the statement as a sign of Russia's commitment to a UN-backed political process that Washington feels must lead to an end to Assad's bloody rein. But if their show of optimism raised cynical eyebrows then, it seemed even less plausible by Friday, after the latest heated showdown over Syria at the United Nations. There, Russia moved to thwart international attempts to salvage a UN-led probe into Assad's and extremist groups' use of chemical weapons to slaughter Syrian civilians. Washington's ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was clear about what the Russian veto of a US-backed resolution meant for the broader peace process. - Fruitless forays -"Russia proves they cannot be trusted or credible as we work towards a political solution in Syria," she declared. The previous US administration under Barack Obama repeatedly tried and failed to engage Putin with a peace plan that would lead to a political transition away from Assad's rule. Then secretary of state John Kerry's frequent but fruitless forays to hotel conference rooms in Vienna and Geneva to spar with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were much mocked at home. But, despite the undeniable progress that a US-led military coalition has made against the Islamic State group's Syrian strongholds, Putin has remained loyal to Assad. And US diplomats now hope not only to nudge Russia into bringing him to the table, but also to have Moscow help them oust Syria's other main ally, Iran, from the battlefield. If Russia, in Haley's words, is "no longer trusted or credible" -- what hope can there be of this plan, with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura's November 28 peace talks fast approaching? State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert shared Haley's disgust with Russia's opposition to the UN chemical weapons probe, saying: "We were very disappointed.""We know that Russia one again prioritized protecting the Assad regime," she said, while insisting this was no death knell for the broader peace process. "There are a lot of areas where we don't see eye-to-eye with Russia, but there are some areas where we do see eye-to-eye."
- Ceasefire zone -Nauert noted that Moscow and Washington agree on the need to destroy IS, and have worked together to set up a ceasefire zone in southwest Syria. "So the secretary and the president and Mr Lavrov and Vladimir Putin have agreed to try to put together another one," she said.
"If we can do that, and we can find this area of agreement, it could potentially bring in more aid and save lives and try to get Syria more stable."But, asked if Russia could be a US partner in saving the Geneva process toward a settlement, she admitted: "I don't know."Many observers scoff at that idea, and most doubt that Putin, having risked Russian troops and planes to save Assad, would now encourage a peace process that would see him step down. And western diplomats say that, in private, some senior US officials admit that Assad and Putin effectively won the war two years ago and are now just consolidating victory. To give that a veneer of international respectability, Moscow has set up its own peace process in Astana with Turkey and Iran as co-guarantors -- leaving aside the US and UN efforts. "The Russians are doing everything they can to drain Geneva of its substance and replace it with a process they control," said Joseph Bahout, Middle East scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. For Bahout, the Trump-Putin joint statement was meant to paper over the cracks in the breakdown, but the bitter row at the United Nations paints a clearer picture of relations. Even the ceasefire zone, and its application, has been a source of tension. The United States saw it as a sign that Russia is amenable to countering the Iranian role. The southwestern area covered by the agreement is largely held by Iranian-backed forces, such as Lebanon's Hezbollah, and Washington hoped the deal would lessen Israeli concerns. But when US officials talked this up as a success, Lavrov responded sharply that the ceasefire deal had nothing to do with concern about Iranian forces.
"Since then, the climate has worsened," he told AFP. "What's happening at the UN is in part a result of those tensions."

Family of Assassinated Tunisian Hamas Member Demands 'Justice'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 18/17/The family of a murdered Tunisian described by Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas as a long-time member called on the authorities Friday to release details of the investigation into his killing. Unknown gunmen shot dead engineer Mohamed Zouari with a hail of bullets outside his house in central Tunisia in December 2016. Hamas, which said the 49-year-old engineer and drone expert had worked with it for a decade, at the time blamed Israel for the killing.On Thursday, it said Israeli spies had used Bosnian passports to enter Tunisia and assassinate Zouari, who also held Belgian citizenship. His widow Majda Saleh on Friday slammed the authorities for their "big silence" over his death."I want justice to be done for Mohamed Zouari," she told Mosaique FM radio station. "We are aware that Israel is behind his assassination, but specific parties are also involved," she said. "Who are they?""I hope that the Tunisian government will not close (Zouari's) file and that it will resume the investigation," said Saleh, who is Syrian but has applied for Tunisian nationality. Tunisian authorities were not immediately available for comment. Zouari's brother Radhouene said authorities appeared to be "counting on time for public opinion to forget this case.""We have a series of questions... we would like someone at the interior ministry to answer those questions," he told the same radio station. The government has said "foreign elements" were involved in Zouari's killing in Tunisia's second city Sfax last December 15.
Israel has previously faced criticism after its agents reportedly used British, Irish, Australian and other passports to assassinate a Hamas leader in the United Arab Emirates in 2010.

Mladic Trial to End, Where Will Next War Crimes Court Start?
Associated Press/Naharnet/November 18/17/When a panel of U.N. judges hands down a verdict next week in the trial of former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic, it will mark the end of a ground-breaking era in international law. Yet a new age of international justice is already underway, with other temporary courts and tribunals springing up around the world to prosecute atrocities. Mladic's trial is the last at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which was set up in 1993 to prosecute crimes committed in the Balkan wars of the early 1990s. Over 24 years, it has sent dozens of war criminals to jail — from lowly soldiers and prison camp guards to former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic — and it developed key jurisprudence in prosecuting atrocities. Mladic, who insists he is innocent, faces a maximum life sentence if convicted Wednesday of crimes including genocide. What the Yugoslav court hasn't done, however, is stop such crimes from happening.Allegations of mass murders and persecutions from the past and present are mounting around the world — from Sri Lanka's bloody civil war to the carnage in Syria to abuses seen against Rohingya Muslims who fled by the hundreds of thousands as their towns and villages were torched in Myanmar.
This means the list of locations for future temporary courts is growing ever longer. Just this week, a report by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the advocacy group Fortify Rights found there is "mounting evidence" of genocide against the Rohingya. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. was deeply concerned by "credible reports" of atrocities committed by Myanmar's security forces and called for an independent investigation. David Schwendiman, an American prosecutor investigating allegations of organ trafficking and other crimes during Kosovo's independence struggle, believes the U.N. tribunal trying Mladic is unlikely to be exactly replicated in the future because of its size and cost. Still, he says the age of impunity for mass atrocities is over. "The international community has decided ... there is going to be criminal accountability for people in the world for people who ... do the kind of things that are happening in Myanmar and (are) doing the kinds of things that are happening in Syria," Schwendiman said. "That's a given now." The court where Schwendiman aims to bring prosecutions — known as the Kosovo Specialist Chambers — could be an example of how war crimes cases will be handled in the future. Based in The Hague and staffed by international judges, the court is part of Kosovo's legal system set up specifically to preside over trials arising from a Council of Europe report into organ trafficking allegations and other crimes. "That could be a model for other ways of dealing with things like Syria, like Myanmar, like other places where regional institutions might step up and internationalize a court or a tribunal," he said. The Hague also is home to the International Criminal Court, but the world's first permanent tribunal for prosecuting crimes like genocide and crimes against humanity is meant as a last resort to be used when other institutions are unwilling or unable to step in. It so far has had only limited success in bringing to justice senior political and military leaders and is sometimes hamstrung by geopolitical interests beyond its control.
"I think people now see that the ICC cannot be the answer for everything," said Alex Whiting, a professor at Harvard Law School. "Both because of capacity and resources but also because of institutional fit. I think there will be ad hoc tribunals again. They may be designed differently, a stronger tilt toward hybrid tribunals."Syria is an example of how the ICC cannot always act even in the face of overwhelming evidence of atrocities. Russia has vetoed a move to refer crimes in Syria to the ICC. Now, a U.N. commission of inquiry is gathering evidence that could be used in some kind of court or tribunal in the future.
"I could see that happening for Syria," Whiting said. "Because some of the big players are not part of the ICC, they would want a hybrid court. The ICC couldn't handle all the cases from Syria that are likely to come one day. So for all those reasons, I think either in Syria or in other places, there are likely to be new courts that spring up." There are already hybrid courts in existence or in the pipeline. In a converted gymnasium at the former headquarters of a Dutch intelligence agency, a mixture of Lebanese and international judges are presiding over the trial in absentia of suspects in the 2005 truck bomb assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The same courtroom hosted the trial of Charles Taylor, the one-time president of Liberia who was convicted in 2012 by a temporary international court of involvement in crimes in Sierra Leone's bloody civil war and sentenced to 50 years in prison. A court set up by the African Union and Senegal also convicted former Chad dictator Hissene Habre and sentenced him to life imprisonment for crimes committed during his presidency from 1982-1990. For the future, a hybrid court is being established in Central African Republic and there are calls for something similar in South Sudan and in Sri Lanka, where a U.N. report says there are strong indications both government soldiers and Tamil Tiger rebels committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict that ended in 2009. Sri Lankan authorities are resisting calls for an international tribunal. Meanwhile, the eyes of the world will be on the Yugoslav court as proclaims judgment in Mladic's trial. "It's a beacon of what can be done," said Whiting, who worked at the court from 2002-2007. "It's a source of inspiration for all the future efforts."

Leftist Leonard Becomes New Scottish Labor Party Leader
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 18/17/Richard Leonard on Saturday became the leader of Britain's Labor party in Scotland, in a boost for national leader Jeremy Corbyn's left-wing agenda. Leonard, who was the favourite, said he felt "immense pride" after beating off the challenge of party health spokesman Anas Sarwar, calling his victory "deeply humbling". He was backed by the trade unions, and said the result was part of a "movement for socialism", echoing the leftist message that saw Corbyn pull off a shock result in June's general election, depriving Prime Minister Theresa May of her majority.
Leonard laid out an agenda of "progressive taxation", rent controls and wealth redistribution during his victory speech. The new leader, a former chair of the Scottish Labor Party, earned 12,469 votes from the party faithful against 9,516 for centrist Sarwar. He replaces Kezia Dugdale, who quit in August, saying that the party needed a "new leader with fresh energy, drive and a new mandate." Dugdale, who held the top job for two years, will remain an MP in the Sottish parliament, and was on Friday confirmed as a contestant on the reality show "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here". She came to power in 2015 after replacing Jim Murphy, who stepped down after his party lost all but one of their 41 seats to the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), in the general election. The party gained six seats back in the recent general election, but is struggling to replicate the Corbyn's success. Interim leader Alex Rowley was suspended earlier this week over claims that he had sent abusive text messages to a former partner.

3 More Found Dead in Deadly Greek Flood, Raising Total to 19
Associated Press/Naharnet/November 18/17/Greek authorities say three more people have been found dead from a flash flood that hit a district west of Athens, raising the total death toll to 19. The fire department says the body of a man was found Saturday on a factory grounds near the suburb of Mandra, 25 kilometers (16 miles) northwest of the Greek capital. The body has still not been retrieved because of debris and a nearby leaking propane tank. The coast guard also announced Saturday that a patrol ship had found two bodies, both men, in the sea south of Mandra.
It is not yet known whether the bodies belong to the six known missing people from the flood Wednesday.

EU Cuts Funding to Turkey in 2018 Budget
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 18/17/An EU 2018 budget deal was announced Saturday that cuts funds destined to Turkey, citing doubts about Ankara's commitment to democracy and human rights. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had led calls for a cut to the funds, which are linked to Turkey's stalled bid to join the bloc, following mass-scale arrests in the country since the failed July 2016 coup. MEPs and member states have agreed to reduce the "pre-ascension funds" by 105 million euros ($124 million) and froze an additional 70 million euros of previously announced spending.In a statement, lawmakers said "they consider the deteriorating situation in relation to democracy, rule of law and human rights worrying". Turkey has dismissed more than 140,000 officials since the coup attempt, and arrested another 50,000, including opposition politicians, academics, journalists, activists and EU citizens. The German government has warned its citizens against travelling to Turkey as they risk "arbitrary" arrest. "We have sent a clear message that the money that the EU provides cannot come without strings attached," said Romanian MEP Siegfried Muresan, the lead rapporteur for the budget.
Europe had pledged 4.45 billion euros in pre-accession spending for Turkey from 2014 to 2020, but only 360 million euros has been allocated so far. Ankara's application to join the EU is effectively frozen, as several European leaders have criticised the hardline response to the thwarted bid to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year. Overall, the 2018 budget calls for 160 billion euros of committed spending for ongoing programmes and 145 billion in payments expected for the year, increases of 1.3 percent and 7.8 percent from 2017. The agreement still needs to be formally adopted by the EU Council, representing member states, and the European Parliament.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on  November 18-19/17/
Containing Iran’s influence: The regional players’ wagers on Tel Aviv and Israel’s calculations
Raghida Dergham/Arabnews/November 18/17
Waters will not flow again under the bridges after the return from Riyadh to Beirut of the outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri — via Paris then another Arab capital.
Attempts to pressure him to fall into the orbit of Hezbollah and its ally President Michel Aoun for having “saved him from Saudi captivity” will not succeed. Stunts about internationalizing the crisis on the pretext that Hariri was kidnapped and detained will also fail, because if Lebanon goes to the Security Council to complain and protest, Beirut will be asked to be serious and credible and implement international resolutions, instead of pretexting the sensitivity of Hezbollah’s arms to say that the Lebanese state cannot discharge its duties.
In other words, the Lebanese government cannot continue both its de facto allegiance to the Islamic Republic of Iran and then feign neutrality and self-dissociation in Arab forums, bearing in mind that Hezbollah is fighting on behalf of Iran’s agenda in a number of Arab countries.
What comes next is a new phase, the guise of legitimacy that Saad Hariri’s presence in government provided to Hezbollah’s arms and influence now null and void. Hariri’s resignation means removing the fig leaf from a status quo that had been rife with contradictions and anomalies. His return to Lebanon will not automatically secure results for what he terms a “positive shock” that would be brought about by his resignation.
Indeed, there is no indication that President Aoun is ready to truly observe the notion of “self-dissociation,” despite having pledged to do so but practically abandoning it. Nor is Aoun prepared to abandon the mantra of “the people, the army, and the resistance,” having declared brazenly not long ago that Hezbollah’s arms were here to stay until the entire crisis of the Middle East was resolved, in violation of international agreements and resolutions.
The question is whether Israel will continue to observe the historical truce-like relationship with Iran, or decide that the time is opportune for a quantum leap in its relationship with the Sunni world and seize the limited opportunity it now has to destroy Hezbollah’s rockets and military bases.
Many Lebanese were grateful for Aoun’s concern for Hariri and his insistence on the prestige of his post, his respect for the constitution, and his prudence at the start of the crisis.
However, Aoun escalated his rhetoric and measures after the visit to Saudi Arabia last week by Partiarch Beshara Boutros Al-Rahi, head of the Maronite Church, raising questions about the reasons the president has sought to damage Lebanon’s relations with the Kingdom and what this could entail in terms of catastrophic damages to Lebanon. The onus is therefore now on Aoun to prove that he places Lebanon’s interests above all considerations, and to behave as president rather than a member of a camp whose priority is Iranian rather than Lebanese.
In the beginning, it is important to note that the sidelining of Lebanon’s sovereignty in the Hariri affair has triggered a backlash even from otherwise loyal Sunni clans in Lebanon, helping to foster an abduction narrative concerning the prime minister.
It can also be said that forcing the Lebanese to confront Hezbollah through a terror designation, or even war, is something that faces immense resistance in Lebanon, even from those who are in favor of reining in Hezbollah’s domination over Lebanese politics, its intervention in Arab countries, and its subversion against Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Indeed, the Lebanese are at once powerless, frightened, and unwilling to again turn their country into a war zone, no matter what.
The US-Saudi strategy today is to prosecute Hezbollah through several pathways, contain the tentacles of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon, and rein in the Popular Mobilization in Iraq. The policy of the Trump administration in places appears serious: First, on fighting “radical Islamic terror” in both its Sunni and Shia iterations, and second on containing Iran’s regional influence and heading off its attempts to make permanent its footholds in Syria.
There is talk of possible operations by the international coalition against Iran-backed forces in Syria, especially Hezbollah. Washington has also made clear that the Russian settlement proposed for Syria, which distributes spheres of influence to Iran and its proxies, will not be acceptable and that the US forces would remain in Syria until further notice.
Thirdly, the Trump administration continues to monitor Turkey’s conduct, not only because its alliances with Russia are suspicious but also to ensure no revival of the Muslim Brotherhood project, co-sponsored by Erdogan and former President Barack Obama, would take place.
Fourthly, Washington converges with Riyadh’s assessment that Iran and Hezbollah’s continued involvement in Yemen is a threat to Saudi national security. This has led to agreeing extraordinary levels of cooperation in Yemen, including military collaboration and stepping up pressure on Europe and Russia to stop shielding Iran and its allies from accountability for their role in Yemen.
And fifthly, there is the Palestinian-Israeli dimension, the resolution of which Trump has made a personal challenge, pledging that history would remember him for this achievement. And a general examination of developments at this level indicates that steps are being made toward breakthroughs.
Hezbollah is convinced that Israel will not enter as a party to a war against it or against Iran. It is betting on thwarting what it believes to be a US-Saudi bid for Israel to take advantage of the crisis to deal a fatal blow to its rocket arsenal and missile manufacturing facilities run by Iran in Lebanon, and against Iran’s emerging military base near Damascus.
The question here is this: Will Israel continue to observe the historical truce-like relationship with Iran on the basis that its existential enemies are the Sunni Arabs? Or will it decide that the time is opportune for a quantum leap in its relationship with the Sunni world, and seize the limited opportunity it now has to destroy rockets and military bases not far from its borders?
The US factor is decisive in Israel calculations, especially under an unusual president who has entrusted to his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a pro-Israeli Jew, the supervision of a Middle East peace deal. With Trump in the White House, everything is possible and it would be a mistake to discount any possibility.
For this reason, all Lebanese players have an obligation to responsibly, rationally, prudently, and pragmatically assess the situation and act accordingly.
The first place where de-escalation can begin is Yemen. The Lebanese president must safeguard Lebanese higher interests and persuade Hezbollah to withdraw from Yemen to avoid incurring a price on Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia is not compelled by Lebanese calculations but by those of Saudi national interests, and it has economic cards, both direct or through the Lebanese expatriate workforce in the Kingdom, to put pressure on Lebanon and trigger a collapse despite what economists and bankers there are saying to reassure the public.
However, Saudi Arabia also has a responsibility to de-escalate in Lebanon, because punishing all of Lebanon for Hezbollah’s actions in Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and Iraq would add Lebanon to the list of failed states, rather than safeguarding Saudi influence there.
• Raghida Dergham is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Beirut Institute. She is a Columnist for the Huffington Post and Arab News and served as Columnist, Senior Diplomatic Correspondent,and New York Bureau Chief for the London-based Al-Hayat daily for 28 years. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and an honorary fellow at the Foreign Policy Association and has served on the International Media Council of the World Economic Forum.
Twitter: @RaghidaDergham

New Saudi strategy aimed at recruiting concept of change as an ally
Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/November 18/17
Last week two events injected energy and excitement into what was beginning to look like an anemic end of the year in the Middle East as far as political developments are concerned. The first event was the decision by the Saudi leadership to create a new mechanism to deal with alleged cases of corruption, embezzlement and influence-peddling. The sheer number of cases referred to a special court on those charges was enough to capture the headlines. The fact that the 208 people under investigation included princes, prominent bureaucrats, and business tycoons intensified the event’s headline-grabbing potential. But what really attracted world attention was the unexpectedness of the Saudi move.Few, even among genuine or self-styled experts on Saudi Arabia, expected Riyadh to go right to the heart of the matter rather than dance around the issues as had been the norm in the past.
Some observers, including many in Western think-tanks, warned of the danger of instability inherent in departure from old patterns of behavior. However, the latest move is in accordance with the kingdom’s new strategy aimed at recruiting the concept of change as an ally rather than a threat.
Ending stagnation
It is possible to argue that because old methods didn’t produce the desired results, stability, which had been a key asset of the kingdom for decades, had morphed into stagnation. Thus, the new strategy is designed to end stagnation and prepare the path for a new form of stability capable of reflecting changed social, economic and political circumstances of the kingdom. If Saudi Arabia is genuine in its declared desire to become an active member of the global system the first thing it has to do is to offer the rule of law in the sense understood by most people around the world.
Trying to build an economy beyond oil, Saudi Arabia needs to attract massive foreign investment in both financial and technological domains. And that won’t be possible without a strong legal system backed by transparency, competition and equality of opportunities. And that means putting an end to influence peddling, fake credit-lines secured by pressuring local banks, the grabbing of public land, “sweetheart” agency deals, kickbacks, baksheesh and, in short, the medieval “wasitah” culture. The dramatic round up of “the usual suspects” shows that the new leadership in Riyadh is ready to cut the Gordian Knot with a hard blow.
Unravelling the Lebanon deal
As for Lebanon, a similar method has been used. Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation ends the “grin-and-bear it” tradition in the face of intolerable situations. Under that method Middle Eastern leaders brush the dirt under fine carpets including at times that, as was the case with Hariri, they have responsibility without power. Regardless of how Hariri’s resignation came about, it has dramatically highlighted the fact that the “deal” made over Lebanon in October 2016 has failed. Under that “deal”, the Islamic Republic in Tehran, operating through its Hezbollah network in Beirut, secured the presidency for Gen. Michel Aoun in exchange for Hariri returning as Prime Minister.
Hariri’s resignation could prove useful by posing a crucial question: Should Lebanon re-become Lebanon or should it be a glacis for the Islamic Republic of Iran in its quest for an unattainable regional hegemony? Part of the answer, of course, depends on the Lebanese themselves. They should decide whether or not they want to have two governments, one visible the other semi-visible, two armies, and a master puppeteer laughing at them in Tehran.
Soon, however, it became clear that while Aoun and Hariri respectively played the roles of President and Prime Minister, real decisions were taken in Tehran. President Hassan Rouhani made that point clear in a speech in Tehran when he said that “nothing is done” in a number of Arab states, notably Lebanon, without Iran’s approval. Hariri’s dramatic departure shows that “this kind of Lebanon” doesn’t work. The current line-up under which a foreign power controls the country through one part of one community among all Lebanese communities is fundamentally flawed and dangerous in the medium and long term.
Lebanon’s raison d’etre, and the principal factor in its survival and partial success as a state, has been its system of power-sharing based on respect for diversity.
Whenever one community or a combination of communities tried to exercise exclusive power the country was plunged into turmoil. In the 1950s the Maronite community tried a power grab which led to inter-communal conflict and foreign military intervention. In the following decade a similar bid was made by pan-Arab elements backed by Nasserist Egypt, again producing conflict and foreign meddling. The 1975-90 Civil War also had its genesis in foreign intervention through rival local sectarian proxy groups.
In part of that period, Aoun tried to switch Lebanon to the side of Saddam Hussein in Iraq while, backed by Iran, Hafez al-Assad threw Syria’s weight behind the rival camp. Between 1984 and 1990 Aoun wore many hats as Prime Minister, Defense Minister, Foreign Minister, Information Minister and Military Junta chief, often all at the same time. When we first met him in Paris in October 1990 his main message was “saving Lebanon from Syria and Iran.”
Aoun’s analysis would have been appreciated if he had talked of “saving Lebanon from domination by any foreign power.” There are some nations whose chief vocation is to be neutral, acting as buffers among rival power blocs. Switzerland was allowed to form and mature as a safe haven for rival European powers often at war against one another.
Afghanistan was created as a buffer between the Tsarist, British and Persian Empires in Asia. In post-colonial Indochina, the kingdom of Laos played that role until the US sucked it into the Vietnam War as collateral damage. In Latin America, that role has been assigned to Uruguay and in Central America to Costa Rica. During the Second World War, neutral Sweden provided a channel of communication between the United States and Nazi Germany and a safe haven for people fleeing from the Nazis and the Soviets.
After World War II, by being declared neutral, Austria played a crucial role in the repatriation and/or transfer of millions of refugees across war-shattered Europe. Iran has done disservice to region
By turning Lebanon into one of its bunkers, Iran has done a great disservice to the whole region not to mention the damage done and could still do to Lebanon.
Hariri’s resignation could prove useful by posing a crucial question: Should Lebanon re-become Lebanon or should it be a glacis for the Islamic Republic in its quest for an unattainable regional hegemony?
Part of the answer, of course, depends on the Lebanese themselves. They should decide whether or not they want to have two governments, one visible the other semi-visible, two armies, and a master puppeteer laughing at them in Tehran.
A Lebanon run from Tehran through Hezbollah gunmen is unlikely to attract the investment, the trade, tourism and cultural exchanges that it needs to function as a modern dynamic society. When Iran itself is denied all those things, how could it provide them for Lebanon? Iranian intervention that contributed to turning Iraq, Syria and Yemen into battlefields could do the same to Lebanon.

Germany, Austria: Imams Warn Muslims Not to Integrate
Stefan Frank/Gatestone Institute/November 18/17
Translation of the original text: Deutschland und Österreich: Imame warnen Muslime vor Integration
"While outside the mosque there is constant talk of integration, the opposite is preached inside. Only in rare instances are parts of the sermon -- or even more rarely, all of the sermon -- translated into German..." — Constantin Schreiber, author of Inside Islam: What Is Being Preached in Germany's Mosques.
"Politicians who repeatedly emphasize their intention of cooperating with the mosques, who invite them to conferences on Islam, have no idea who is preaching what there." — Necla Kelek, human rights activist and critic of Islam, in the Allgemeine Zeitung.
In the debate on migrants in Germany and Austria, no other term is used more often than "integration." But the institution that is most important for many Muslim migrants does not generally contribute much to this effort — and often actively fights it: the mosque. That is the finding of an official Austrian study as well as private research conducted by a German journalist.
In late September, the Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF), a department of the foreign ministry published a study, "The role of the mosque in the integration process". For the purposes of the study, employees of the ÖIF visited 16 mosques in Vienna, attended several Friday sermons and spoke with the individual imams — that is, if the imams were willing to have a conversation, which was often not the case. The result of this, according to the ÖIF, is that only two of the mosque associations foster the integration of their members. The report applauds a Bosnian mosque association that also runs a soccer club. During the discussion, its imam said: "Every country, as with Austria, has its rules and laws and -- something I always stress -- it is our religious duty to comply with these standards and to integrate accordingly."
With regard to gender roles, in all of the mosques they visited, the authors were struck by the almost complete absence of women at Friday prayers:
"Only three of the mosques... provide women with their own space, which is reserved for them and actually used by them. If they exist at all, most of the mosques make the women's areas on Fridays available to men, too."
The Islamic Center of Vienna. (Image source: Zairon/Wikimedia Commons)
Separated by Ethnicities
With few exceptions, the Viennese mosques are organized along ethnic lines:
"There are Turkish, Albanian, Bosnian, Arabic, Pakistani and other mosques, in which sermons are generally held exclusively in the respective national language. Only in rare instances are parts of the sermon — or even more rarely, all of the sermon — translated into German."
Thus, the mosque associations are "closed spaces in terms of ethnicity and language." That difference fosters "social integration into an internal ethnic environment, and thus ethnic segmentation." In eight of the 16 mosques surveyed, this trend is further reinforced by "widespread and openly-propagated nationalism."
One mosque, run by the Turkish Milli Görüs movement, stood out as particularly radical. Milli Görüs is one of the largest Islamic organizations in Europe and is closely associated ideologically with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to the report, the imam in the Milli Görüs mosque "openly advocates for the establishment of a politically united Ummah under a caliphate." He attributes unrest in Islam to fitna ("upheaval") brought into the Islamic community from the outside. According to the authors of the study, the imam "sees himself surrounded everywhere by enemies of Islam, who want to prevent the Islamic community from dominating the world as foretold in prophecies." In all three sermons that were heard, the definitive issue was the unity of Muslims: Muslims on one side, the "infidels" on the other. According to the study, some of the imam's statements indicated a "hardened worldview driven by conspiracy theory," such as: "Forces situated outside the Ummah have done everything in their power to undermine Ummah-awareness of the Ummah itself."
The conclusion of the study states:
"In summary, it may be said of the 16 mosque associations surveyed in this study, that with the exception of mosques D01 [one of the few German-speaking mosques] and B02 [the aforementioned Bosnian mosque], they do not actively promote the social integration of their members. At best, they do not prevent it from happening. For the most part, they have an inhibiting effect on the integration process."
According to the study, six of the 16 mosque associations examined (37.5%) pursue "a policy that actively impedes integration into society and to some extent exhibits fundamentalist tendencies." Half of the 16 mosques examined "preach a dichotomous worldview, the pivotal tenet of which is the division of the world into Muslims on one side, and everyone else on the other." Six of the mosques were found to practice "explicit denigration of Western society."
Admonitions against Life in Germany
Similar observations were made by German journalist Constantin Schreiber who, in 2016, spent more than 8 months attending Friday sermons in German mosques. Schreiber, fluent in Arabic, is well-known as a moderator of Arabic television programs, in which he explains life in Germany to immigrants. He published what he experienced in these mosques in a book that has been a bestseller in Germany for months: Inside Islam: What Is Being Preached in Germany's Mosques.
Schreiber introduced himself to the mosque associations as a journalist, disclosing that he intended to write a non-fiction book about mosques in Germany. Only a few imams were willing to agree to an interview. In one instance, he was told that speaking to him was "prohibited". In general, the imams with whom he was allowed to speak, spoke practically no German. "Apparently it is possible to live in Germany for many years with your wife and children, and still not even be capable of buying bread in German," Schreiber writes.
A frequent subject of the sermons Schreiber heard in the mosques consisted of admonitions against life in Germany.
"Time and again, such as in the Al-Furqan mosque [a Sunni Arab mosque in Berlin] Muslims seemed committed to the idea that they are some sort of a community with a shared destiny: 'You are a diaspora! We are a diaspora! ... They [Germans] resembles a torrent that annihilates you, which obliterates you, and takes away your values and replaces them with its own values'."
In the Sunni-Turkish Mehmed Zahid Kotku Tekkesi mosque in Berlin, in his Friday sermon the day before Christmas Eve, the imam warned against the "greatest of all dangers" – the "Christmas peril": "Anyone who emulates another tribe becomes one of them. Is New Year's Eve ours? Are Christmas trees part of us? No, they are not!"
The imam in the Al-Rahman mosque in Magdeburg compared life in Germany to a path through a beguiling forest, Schreiber continues. Its charms had the power to entice Muslims to stray from the righteous path, to lose their way in the "thicket of the forest" until they are "devoured by the wild beasts residing in the forest."
The State Has No Clear Overview
What caught Schreiber's attention even while planning his visits, was the lack of transparency surrounding mosques in Germany. To begin with, there is no official directory of mosques; no one can say with any certainty just how many mosques there are in Germany. The private website is the only such registry. "So German authorities," says Schreiber, "rely on lists compiled by a private individual, who is very obviously characterized by a certain fundamental ideological attitude." In addition, as the registry depends on voluntary reporting for its entries, it is doubtful that mosques that wish to remain undetected would be registered there. Schreiber considers it unlikely that the list is even close to complete or up-to-date:
"I came across mosques that are entered in the list but have not existed for some time. Or newly opened mosques that are not recorded anywhere, and neither the intelligence services nor regional authorities are aware of their existence."
Moreover, Schreiber's request to the city of Hanover revealed that German authorities apparently feel inhibited about providing information concerning mosques in their own city. An employee of the local authority wrote in an email: "Please, give me more precise information as to your intended use of this list. We do not want to have these institutions subjected to general suspicion."
Fear and Silence
One surprise was the defensive reaction Schreiber encountered from people whose professions actually demand candor and cooperation. As Schreiber wanted to make sure that in translating the sermons he would not mistranslate any of the statements, he contacted what he says is one of the most prestigious translation agencies in Germany:
"I was asked to send in one of the transcribed sermons for review, to estimate the effort and costs. My request was subsequently refused. The text was deemed to be outside the 'normal field of work' of the translators, with no one confident enough correctly to translate this 'type of text'."
The search for a translator for the Turkish sermons also proved difficult: "The mere fact that I was interested in this subject resulted in the immediate accusation that all I really wanted to do was instigate 'Islam bashing'."
Schreiber was also confronted with a wall of resistance when he looked around for German scholars of Islam so that he could discuss the contents of the sermons with them. University professors -- whose salaries are paid by German taxpayers -- refused to provide information about something that relates to their own specialty.
"For many months, I directed requests to Islamic studies faculties with whom we had frequently conducted interviews in our role as editors. One university held me off for months with the excuse that they were still searching for the right counterpart. On December 16, three months after my first inquiry, the professor of Islamic studies wrote me that there was now too little time to schedule a conversation. When I responded that if need be, I could still offer an alternative date in early January, I did not receive another answer. Several other university professors told me to send them the sermons, which I proceeded to do. Thereafter, I did not receive any more responses, even to follow-up requests."
According to Schreiber, this effort constituted an "interesting experience", as otherwise, scholars of Islamic studies and Islam experts "are very obliging in offering to be interviewed on current political issues." That openness does not exist, however, when it concerns sermons in German mosques: "Many experts avoid me after receiving my inquiries, while calls and emails consistently remain unanswered." One Islamic scholar indirectly advised him to drop the project, as it could supposedly "widen the gulf." Why? Because, according to this scholar of Islamic studies, "even liberal and tolerant readers could easily find these texts to be extremely incomprehensible and strange, as well as 'crude'."
Unsuspecting Politicians
Schreiber's conclusion about the sermons he heard, is:
"After 8 months of research, I have to say that Mosques are political spaces. The majority of the sermons I attended were aimed at resisting the integration of Muslims into German society. If the issue of life in Germany was raised, then it was primarily in a negative context. Frequently, the imams described everyday life in Germany as a threat and urged their communities to resist. The common feature of almost all the sermons is their appeal to the faithful to shut themselves off and to keep to themselves."
In "virtually every mosque", Schreiber noticed "scores of refugees who had not been living in Germany very long." They too had been warned against adjusting: "While outside the mosque there is constant talk of integration, the opposite is preached inside."
The danger of this approach is demonstrated by the murder of Farima S., an Afghan woman who was murdered in the Bavarian town of Prien. Eight years ago, she renounced Islam, adopted Christianity and, two years after that, fled to Germany. On April 29, she was murdered by an Afghan Muslim in broad daylight. While a number of Muslims living in the town attended the funeral, the mosque associations pretended that the murder did not concern them. Karl-Friedrich Wackerbarth, the pastor of the Evangelical parish of Prien, where Farima S. was a member, asked the associations to condemn the crime. In October, half a year after the murder, he responded to an inquiry from Gatestone Institute: "Unfortunately, to this day," he said, "there has been no reaction."
Wackerbarth suspects that the Islamic associations do not want to make a pronouncement against fatwas by Cairo's Al-Azhar University, and others, according to which "apostates" [those who renounce Islam] are to be killed.
This situation raises the question as to why the German government hopes that mosque associations will help them solve problems. Recently, the well-known human rights activist and critic of Islam, Necla Kelek wrote:
"Politicians who repeatedly emphasize their intention of cooperating with the mosques, who invite them to conferences on Islam, have no idea who is preaching what there."
Stefan Frank is a journalist and author based in Germany.
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