November 26/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires
James 01/19-25:"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do."

Question: "Why is idol worship such a powerful temptation?"
Answer: Ultimately, the answer to this question is “sin.” It is the sin nature of man that causes us to worship modern idols, all of which are, in reality, forms of self-worship. The temptation to worship ourselves in various ways is a powerful temptation indeed. In fact, it is so powerful that only those who belong to Christ and have the Holy Spirit within them can possibly hope to resist the temptation of modern idolatry. Even then, resisting the worship of idols is a lifelong battle that is part of the Christian life (Ephesians 6:11; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3).
When we hear the word idol, we often think of statues and objects reminiscent of those worshipped by pagans in ancient cultures. However, the idols of the 21st century often bear no resemblance to the artifacts used thousands of years ago. Today, many have replaced the “golden calf” with an insatiable drive for money or prestige or "success" in the eyes of the world. Some pursue the high regard of others as their ultimate goal. Some seek after comfort or a myriad of other passionate, yet empty, pursuits. Sadly, our societies often admire those serving such idols. In the end, however, it doesn’t matter what empty pleasure we chase after or what idol or which false god we bow down to; the result is the same—separation from the one true God.
Understanding contemporary idols can help us to understand why they prove to be such a powerful temptation. An idol can be anything we place ahead of God in our lives, anything that takes God’s place in our hearts, such as possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions to alcohol/drugs/gambling/pornography, etc. Some of the things we idolize are clearly sinful. But many of the things we idolize can be very good, such as relationships or careers. Yet Scripture tells us that, whatever we do, we are to “do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) and that we are to serve God only (Deuteronomy 6:13; Luke 16:13). Unfortunately, God is often shoved out of the way as we zealously pursue our idols. Worse yet, the significant amount of time we often spend in these idolatrous pursuits leaves us with little or no time to spend with the Lord.
We sometimes also turn to idols seeking solace from the hardships of life and the turmoil present in our world. Addictive behaviors such as drug or alcohol use, or even something like excessive reading or television viewing, may be used as a means of temporarily “escaping” a difficult situation or the rigors of daily life. The psalmist, however, tells us that those who place their trust in this behavior will, essentially, become spiritually useless (Psalm 115:8). We need to place our trust in the Lord “who will keep [us] from all harm” (Psalm 121:7) and who has promised to supply all of our needs when we trust in Him. We also need to remember the words of Paul, who teaches us not to be anxious about anything, but rather to pray about everything so the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, can guard our hearts and our minds (Philippians 4:6–7).
There is another form of idolatry prevalent today. Its growth is fostered by cultures that continue to drift away from sound biblical teaching, just as the apostle Paul warned us, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3). In these pluralistic, liberal times, many cultures have, to a large degree, redefined God. We have forsaken the God revealed to us in Scripture and have recast Him to comply with our own inclinations and desires—a “kinder and gentler” god who is infinitely more tolerant than the One revealed in Scripture. One who is less demanding and less judgmental and who will tolerate many lifestyles without placing guilt on anyone’s shoulders. As this idolatry is propagated by churches around the world, many congregants believe they are worshipping the one, true God. However, these made-over gods are created by man, and to worship them is to worship idols. Worshipping a god of one’s own making is particularly tempting for many whose habits and lifestyles and drives and desires are not in harmony with Scripture.
The things of this world will never fully satisfy the human heart. They were never meant to. The sinful things deceive us and ultimately lead only to death (Romans 6:23). The good things of this world are gifts from God, meant to be enjoyed with a thankful heart, in submission to Him and for His glory. But when the gift replaces the Giver or the created replaces the Creator in our lives, we have fallen into idolatry. And no idol can infuse our lives with meaning or worth or give us eternal hope. As Solomon beautifully conveys in the book of Ecclesiastes, apart from a right relationship with God, life is futile. We were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and designed to worship and glorify Him as He alone is worthy of our worship. God has placed “eternity in man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and a relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to fulfill this longing for eternal life. All of our idolatrous pursuits will leave us empty, unsatisfied, and, ultimately, on the broad road that most people take, the one that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 25-26/17
The Lebanese status quo/Walid Phares DC/Face Book/November 26/17
UN chief warns of risk of a new Israeli-Hezbollah conflict/AP-Ynetnews/November 25/17
Putin’s Syrian Messages and Macron’s Lebanese Initiative/Raghida Dergham/November 25/17/
The calm before the US-Iran storm/Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/November 25/17
Palestinians vs. Trump: The Battle Begins/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/November 25/17
"Reforming" the Church of Sweden/Bruce Bawer/Gatestone Institute/November 25/17
Google and News Filtering/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/November 25/17
Iranian axis threat that led Lieberman to seek increased IDF budget/Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews/November 25/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 25-26/17
The Lebanese status quo
UN chief warns of risk of a new Israeli-Hezbollah conflict
President Aoun lifts curtain off statue in tribute to women victims of violence, Presidential Palace to be lit in orange in solidarity with campaign against gender based violence
Aoun contacts Kuwaiti Prince, expresses Lebanon's appreciation of his supportive stances towards Lebanon
Hariri receives Supreme Islamic Sharia Council: We are the people of moderation and we have to act wisely
Rahi condemns terrorist attack on Rawdah Mosque, calls for world solidarity to stop these acts
Hasbani from Jbeil: Critical stage, Lebanon at crossroads, cohesion essential
Bassil inaugurates Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference 2017 in Cancun, Mexico
Jumblatt cables Sisi denouncing attack, offering condolences
Jumblat to Saudi Crown Prince: No Harm in Talks with Iran, Settlement
Putin’s Syrian Messages and Macron’s Lebanese Initiative

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 25-26/17
Death toll in Egypt mosque attack rises to 305, with 128 injured
Sisi orders mausoleum construction in memory of Egypt mosque attack victims
Clashes as Pakistani Police Try to Disperse Islamist Sit-In
Iraq forces open new front in final push against ISIS
White House reiterates support for Saudi, Gulf allies against ‘Iran aggression’
Arab Coalition: 42 permits granted for aid ships, planes to Yemen
Coptics’ murders: Court orders seven be executed, 10 to life sentence
Turkey says US will no longer supply arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters
At least 25 dead after migrant boat sinks off Libya
Nasr al-Hariri to head Syrian opposition delegation in Geneva
Canada/Statement by ministers of foreign affairs and international development on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
First Aid Flight in 3 Weeks Lands in Rebel-Held Yemen Capital
Arab Interior Ministers Council condemns mosque attack in Egypt

Latest Lebanese Related News published on November 25-26/17
The Lebanese status quo
Walid Phares DC/Face Book/November 26/17
US and Arab Coalition wishes for Lebanon to be stable and prosper, not to be under Hezbollah and Iran control. Some In Lebanon can't see the difference for they believe that stability is what Hezbollah offers to Lebanese politicians: "I control the national security of the country and you can have a slice of business." That kind of status quo is what Hezbollah is imposing in Lebanon. But this is not what Lebanon's majority wants. The point is for that majority to say it clearly as it did in 2005. Not just in individual frustrated postings on social media, but in collective expressions, rallies and peaceful demonstrations. This is when things will start to change. Otherwise the status quo will continue.The one and a half million Lebanese who marched on March 14, 2005, were not funded by anyone, were not armed, were not organized, had no actual plans, didn't have any air force supporting them from the air, had no TV and radio stations, no embassies organizing them, were rising against a Syrian backed Government and an Iran-backed Hezbollah, were not led by politicians but rather led them, and above all had an amazing courage. Result: they were heard and the world kicked the Syrian occupation out. Facts.

UN chief warns of risk of a new Israeli-Hezbollah conflict
Associated Press/ Ynetnews/November 25/17
In report disseminated to Security Council members, UN Sect.-Gen. Guterres warns weapons in hands of Hezbollah, belligerent statements by its people, Israeli officials 'heightens risk of miscalculation and escalation into conflict'; UNIFIL could not substantiate Israeli claims of Hezbollah presence near the border, Guterres says, adding concern about Israeli flights over Lebanese territory. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in a new report to the UN Security Council members circulated Friday that unauthorized weapons in the hands of Hezbollah and threatening rhetoric from the Lebanese militant group and Israeli officials "heightens risk of miscalculation and escalation into conflict." The UN chief called on Hezbollah and Israel, who fought a war in 2006, "to exercise restraint at all times" and "refrain from potentially inflammatory comments."Guterres said in the report to the UN Security Council circulated Friday that allegations of arms transfers to Hezbollah continue "on a regular basis," which the UN takes seriously. But it "is not in a position to substantiate them independently", he said. UN Secretary-General Guterres warned that illegal weapons in the hands of Hezbollah and threatening rhetoric 'heightens risk of miscalculation and escalation into conflict'. UN Secretary-General Guterres warned that illegal weapons in the hands of Hezbollah and threatening rhetoric 'heightens risk of miscalculation and escalation into conflict'. Guterres noted, however, that Hezbollah has displayed the weapons and acknowledged using them. The UN resolution that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War calls for Hezbollah and all other militias operating in Lebanon to be disarmed and demobilized. It also calls for the 10,700-strong UN peacekeeping force known as UNIFIL to monitor a zone south of the Litani River near Israel's border where Hezbollah is banned from keeping weapons. Guterres said Israel informed UNIFIL of the alleged presence of Hezbollah weapons and infrastructure in three specific locations in that zone, which the UN force closely monitored, including by aerial reconnaissance, satellite imagery and patrols. But he said "no evidence to confirm the allegations was established." Guterres cited examples of heightened rhetoric between Hezbollah's leaders and senior Israeli officials and said that despite "relative calm" along the UN-drawn Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon the level of tensions between the two countries remains high. Rhetoric on both sides, he said, has "resulted in increased anxiety, including among the local population." Guterres said he was equally concerned about continued Israeli overflights of Lebanese territory. From July 1 to Oct. 30, he said UNIFIL recorded 758 air violations totaling 3,188 overflight hours, "an increase of 80 percent compared with the same period in 2016." He said drones were involved in over 93 percent or 707 of the violations.

President Aoun lifts curtain off statue in tribute to women victims of violence, Presidential Palace to be lit in orange in solidarity with campaign against gender based violence
Sat 25 Nov 2017/NNA - President of the Republic Michel Aoun deemed Saturday that "violence against women is a kind of barbarism that man has not yet been able to get rid of," considering that it was the result of "human conscience absence." Aoun's words came during the inauguration ceremony this afternoon where he lifted the curtain off the memorial statue for women victims of domestic violence, placed on the intersection leading to the Presidential Palace in Baabda. The ceremony was held as part of a solidarity campaign against gender-based violence, marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The President disclosed in his word that the first thing he thought of following his election was to eliminate the legal differences between men and women in society, which he considered were "still far from limiting violence against women that destroys the family, the first cell of society." "Today we are unveiling the monument for both men and women to see...and when they see this monument, men should remember that they should apologize to women who have been abused, whether among their acquaintances or across their nation," Aoun added.
During the ceremony, President Aoun wore a white badge as a symbol of commitment to violence against women, urging everyone to exert all efforts towards this end. The white badge was adopted by a group of men in Canada as part of a campaign launched in 1991 to encourage men and boys not to remain silent on the abuse of women and girls for 16 days, beginning on November 25 and ending on December 10. In this connection, and on the basis of Resolution 54/134 of the United Nations General Assembly and as an initiative of solidarity with the global campaign to be launched in various countries of the world, Baabda Presidential Palace's main façade will be lit this evening in orange, the color of the campaign, as an expression of hope for a brighter future, free of all forms of violence.

Aoun contacts Kuwaiti Prince, expresses Lebanon's appreciation of his supportive stances towards Lebanon
Sat 25 Nov 2017/NNA - President of the Republic Michel Aoun contacted Saturday Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Subah Ahmad Jaber Al Subah, to check on his health condition following recent medical examinations, whereby the call was a chance to dwell on the general situation and recent developments on the internal political scene following Prime Minister Saad Hariri's suspended resignation. President Aoun expressed his appreciation for the Kuwaiti Prince's positions in support of Lebanon's security and political stability. The Emir, in turn, renewed Kuwait's invitation to President Aoun for an official visit to Kuwait, which was postponed following the announcement of PM Hariri's resignation from abroad. It is to note that the Kuwaiti Prince had earlier sent a congratulatory cable to President Aoun on the occasion of Independence Day, praising "the historic and solid relations between our two countries (Lebanon and Kuwait) and our two brotherly peoples and our constant aspiration to enhance their cooperation."

Hariri receives Supreme Islamic Sharia Council: We are the people of moderation and we have to act wisely
Sat 25 Nov 2017/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri received today at the "House of Center" the Supreme Islamic Sharia Council. After the meeting, Council Vice-President, former minister Omar Meskawi spoke in the name of the delegation, congratulating Prime Minister Hariri on his safe return. He said: "We came to support your national positions and express our support for your path in maintaining security and stability of the country in this difficult and delicate stage for the Arab region."He added: "We urgently need coordination and harmony in government work for the benefit of all Lebanese and to overcome the difficulties and crises facing us. What we heard from you in the past two days reassures us that we are on the right path, which disassociates Lebanon from dangers. We hope that God will help you achieve what we want for our country."Prime Minister Hariri, in turn, thanked the members of the Council, saying, "This difficult crisis we have undergone made Dar al-Fatwa and your Council a national reference for all Lebanese and confirmed its constants in preserving national unity."He added: "This crisis revealed the intentions of some to target stability for personal interests. We faced them and will continue to face them to maintain unity and stability".Hariri warned against "rumors targeting the Sunnis, accusing us of making concessions and disregarding the interests of the Sunnis. All this aims at trying to demolish the Sunni entity represented by Dar al-Fatwa and the presidency of the government, for personal purposes and interests."Hariri added: "As prime minister, I assure you of my keenness on the rights of the Sunnis as well as other sects in the country. It is my duty to gather people around what is good, especially those who want to preserve the supreme interest, unity and stability of the nation, and we will confront those who want to harm Lebanon for local or external aims. He added: "The burdens placed on Dar al-Fatwa are huge. Your mission is to rationalize the religious discourse and educate the citizens to prevent the exploitation of some religious platforms for political objectives against the interests of Lebanon and the Lebanese. Because we are the people of moderation and tolerance. We are targeted in the region and if we do not act wisely, we will drag the country into chaos. Dar al-Fatwa and you have shown during the crisis that has passed that you are keen on national unity and preventing any division or sedition among the Lebanese.""The postponement step we have taken at the request of President Michel Aoun is to give an opportunity to discuss our demand to keep Lebanon neutral about the fires and wars in the region, to apply the disassociation policy and commit to the Taif Agreement. We will not accept the Hezbollah stances that affect our Arab brothers or target the security and stability of their countries. The contacts and dialogues are serious to respond to our proposals and we have to build on them," the Prime Minister concluded.

Rahi condemns terrorist attack on Rawdah Mosque, calls for world solidarity to stop these acts
Sat 25 Nov 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi condemned Saturday the terrorist attack on al-Rawdah Mosque in the city of Arish, north of Sinai, in Egypt, which resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of innocent worshipers as they were performing Friday prayers. "I would like to express deep sympathy, solidarity and strong condemnation of the terrorist attack that hit the Rawdah Mosque in al-Arish, and express my deepest sorrow for the loss of more than 300 martyrs and dozens of wounded," said the Patriarch. "We extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims' families and to the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, and to all the Egyptian people, and we support them in their efforts to fight terrorists, and combat terrorism and terrorist organizations," added al-Rahi. The Patriarch called on the United Nations family to intervene with countries that support terrorism to put an end to their horrific acts, deeming it "not permissible for an innocent human being to be subjected to any terrorist attack." "This is unacceptable and a disgrace to the century" said the Patriarch.

Hasbani from Jbeil: Critical stage, Lebanon at crossroads, cohesion essential
Sat 25 Nov 2017/NNA - Deputy Prime Minister, Public Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani, considered Saturday that we are currently witnessing a very critical period, and Lebanon is at crossroads, which calls for national unity and cohesion among various sides in the country for the sake of preserving Lebanon's security and stability. "We have for long focused on the sovereignty of the State and its independence, and we shall continue to work in that direction," asserted Hasbani.His words came during his tour in the district of Jbeil today, where he had a closer look at the various needs of its villages, especially with regards to proper health care. Hasbani stressed on "the importance of strengthening the primary health care centers in the entire region of Jbeil in cooperation with the municipalities and civil society organizations, since these centers can substitute for hospitals." "Institution-building lies on your shoulders. You are the base of the State institutions' pyramid. We hope you would be close to the people, providing them with the best services in order to build a healthy society," Hasbani told municipality heads and officials whom he met during his Jbeil tour.

Bassil inaugurates Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference 2017 in Cancun, Mexico
Sat 25 Nov 2017/NNA - Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister Gebran Bassil opened Saturday the Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference 2017 in Cancun, Mexico. "We are here today because we want you to be with us in witnessing the renaissance of the land of the Cedars, and be the defenders of this land on the outside as we are its guards on the inside," said Bassil in his inaugural speech. "There is no independence without freedom. Independence is not only through the preservation of borders, but independence is also the preservation of identity," added Bassil, addressing the crowd of attending conferees. "We meet as Lebanese at the second conference on foreign energy in Latin America, in Cancun, the jewel of the Atlantic Ocean, in a Lebanese-owned resort, where the warmth of the meeting is warmer, and at a time when human relations are heading towards colder emotions and international relations towards more heated interests. We tour the world carrying an independent Lebanese foreign policy based on the principles, values and interests of Lebanon alone. We have a Lebanese policy that is based on connecting the Lebanese to their homeland and linking them to each other," the Foreign Minister went on assuredly. "We are here to restore your Lebanese citizenship through the law of nationality restoration, which Lebanon has approved for you, not to increase the number of Lebanese but because you are an elite and every Lebanese is a resourceful energy...and because your Lebanese identity does not conflict with your Latin identity, neither in ideology nor in law nor in tax," asserted Bassil. "We are here to give you the political right to participate in the determination of the fate of your country, since the recent election law has given you the right to vote in the parliamentary elections and the right to be represented by deputies for the Diaspora," he added. "We are a people who love peace and have grown to respect all peoples. We are a people who love freedom, so we have given it to every needy person or refugee...We resorted to the world when the prospects for success in our country were blocked. We resorted to your countries not as displaced or needy, but instead brought along our capabilities, so we merged and excelled while preserving our roots, to which we restore warmth today," Bassil concluded reassuringly. The LDE 2017 Conference opening session was attended by Cancun's state officials, Mexico's federal authority representatives and a number of Mexican, Brazilian and Argentinean deputies of Lebanese origin. Also among the leading attendees were: Lebanese Ambassador Carlos Slim, Lebanese Central Bank Deputy Governor Mohamed Baasiri, Banks Association Union Representative in Lebanon Makram Sader, Argentinean Parliamentary Friendship Committee Chairperson, Miriam Ghrazila Gallardo, Mexican Parliamentary Friendship Committee Chairperson, Lebanese MP Alfredo Nicolas Bacchus, and a large crowd of business, religious, cultural and media prominent dignitaries from various Latin American countries.
During the Conference, Minister Bassil presented two honorary awards to football player Baku Gabriel and businessman Carlos Selim, who spoke about the role of the Lebanese community in Mexico, which migrated many years ago, explaining how they arrived in Mexico in light of the difficulties of travel with limited resources at that time, only to become pioneering figures in this country, raising Lebanon's name up high.

Jumblatt cables Sisi denouncing attack, offering condolences
Sat 25 Nov 2017/NNA - Democratic Gathering Chief, MP Walid Jumblat, sent a cable of condolences Satuday to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi,, strongly condemning "the terrorist attack that targeted al-Rawda Mosque, north of Sinai, which resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of innocent civilians while performing prayers." Jumblatt offered his sincere condolences to the families of the victims and the Egyptian people, hoping they would "overcome this difficult phase."

Jumblat to Saudi Crown Prince: No Harm in Talks with Iran, Settlement
Naharnet/November 25/17/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Saturday encouraged the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to initiate talks with Iran to counter any looming war, and said that a settlement with Iran would help Lebanon implement its dissociation policy. “A settlement with Iran would give us more strength and determination here in Lebanon to implement the dissociation policy and to get Lebanon out of this dilemma,” said Jumblat on his Twitter account. Jumblat hailed Prime Minister Saad Hariri's move when he put his resignation on hold pending talks with political parties. The PSP leader, who usually takes to twitter to comment on various developments on the regional and domestic arena, went on in a series of tweets and commented on the reforms process in SA. “Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam suggests a semi-cultural revolution that brings the kingdom back to what it was before in 1979. This is very important to create a stream of Islamic moderation for openness to all religions, and the visit of the Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi is the perfect example. I have been told that an old church will open pending the construction of a new church,” he said. “Let us remember the cultural revolution in China in the 1960s and the terrible damage that was left. I prefer the gradual opening up of the Deng xio Ping method, which opened the door for modernization in China. But of course, every country has its own particularity,” he added. “But the challenges are enormous, and the modernization of the Kingdom is an Islamic and Arab necessity. But this mission can not be successful while the Yemen war is going on,” added the PSP leader. “Out of keenness for the Kingdom and the Yemeni people, there is a need for reconciliation or compromise. There is no shame in having talks with the Islamic Republic to arrange this settlement away from useless personal attacks from here and there. Peace and reconciliation must prevail between the two peoples,” he concluded. “It is very easy to fire the first bullet in war,” added Jumblat.

Putin’s Syrian Messages and Macron’s Lebanese Initiative
رسائل بوتين السورية ومبادرة ماكرون اللبنانية
Raghida Dergham/November 25/17/
The journey of regional and international bargaining over the Middle East has kicked off, with the emergence of the features of realistic understandings in Syria, far removed from the erstwhile delusions about victory, now Syria having been spared from total collapse. Lebanon has also received a fair share of renewed regional and international attention, on the basis that safeguarding its stability requires conveying to Tehran that a return to the status quo ante is no longer acceptable, with a ladder placed in Hezbollah’s path to climb down quietly from its domestic dominance and meddling in various Arab battlegrounds, beginning with Yemen/November 25/17/
Internationally, Russia sits squarely at the helm of the Syrian issue, leading the march towards political settlement out of the Sochi Summit, which brought together this week Turkey’s Erdogan and Iran’s Rouhani alongside Vladimir Putin. Regionally, Saudi Arabia moved in parallel and coordination with Russia, hosting more than 1,400 Syrian opposition figures with a view to produce a unified delegation to take part in the UN-brokered Geneva talks to end the Syrian tragedy. In Lebanon, France was the key international player that helped contain the crisis, with Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri postponing his resignation as part of an initiative coordinated with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, after sending a crucial message to Iran. For its part, the United States has been in the backseat despite the importance of these developments, but it has been present behind the scenes in support of Russia’s efforts on Syria and France on Lebanon. In truth, the timing of both interventions has contributed to pushing events back from the edge of a cliff, towards a shift that may prove positive on several levels.
The one-hour phone call between Putin and Trump was made after the Russian leader hosted Bashar al-Assad, to tell him the time has come for a political settlement and pragmatic concessions, instead of continuing down his delusional and dangerous equation of victory and defeat. Putin boastfully recalled that Russia has prevented the collapse and partition of Syria and defended Syria’s ‘secularism,’ by intervening decisively against al terrorist factions, not just ISIS. The Russian president appears to also be seeking to slowly detach from his partners in the Syrian war, which requires, first a political process that does not insist on Assad’s departure, but rather, a transitional process that would naturally curtail the Baath’s dominance over power, because its monopolistic nature does not tolerate a pluralistic, democratic process in governing Syria.
One of the pillars of the Trump administration has explained the US consent to ending demands for Assad to step down by saying that it was former president Barrack Obama who had adopted that slogan without seeking to implement it. By contrast, he said, Trump’s policy does not adopt that slogan, but stresses the need to isolate Assad and turn him into a pariah. He added: “We are very worried about the rehabilitation of Assad, and insist on isolating him.”
The bottom line here is that Trump agrees with Putin that Assad will remain in his post until after the political process is launched and is well on its way, and not at its beginning. For his part, Putin has pledged not to exempt Assad from offering the necessary concessions, and said at the Sochi summit: “It is obvious that the process of reform will not be easy and will require compromises and concessions from all participants, including of course the government of Syria.” The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also said the path was clear for a political settlement and ending the crisis in Syria.
At the same time, Saudi diplomacy was playing its part, with a wide array of Syrian opposition factions meeting in Riyadh on the same day as the summit in Sochi, to unify their ranks ahead of the talks on Syria’s political future. This momentum was coupled with phone calls between Putin and, the Saudi king Salman bin Abdul Aziz, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On Iran’s role in Syria in the discussions between Trump and Putin, an informed US source said: “The substance of our position is that Iran must dial back its presence and influence in Syria. We are working with Russia to convince them of this goal.” Washington wants to prevent Iran from consolidating its presence in the territories liberated from ISIS, but the strategy to achieve this remains unclear. According to the source, the path to this goes through Russia, at least in the time being, through strategic understandings for de-escalating American-Russian relations towards a ‘gentler relationship’ built on ‘shared grounds’. Iran appears as though it has understood the signs of a coming political siege, and acted calmly behind the scenes, through Hezbollah’s chief and others, confident of its victory in Albu Kamal, a key component of its land bridge from Tehran to Beirut, after a battle led by the notorious general Qassem Soleimani. Indeed, in addition to the US bid to isolate and sanction Iran and its Revolutionary Guards as well as its proxy Hezbollah, it was clear that Europe had started complying with US demands, particularly France, which strongly influences German policy in this regard too.
This week, French President Emanuel Macron secured for himself a new position by leading the negotiations on Lebanon and sending messages to Iran and Saudi Arabia, without forgetting to coordinate with international powers such as the US and regional powers such as Egypt, as well as the leaders of Lebanon.
What happened between Hariri’s televised resignation in Riyadh on November 4 and his return to Beirut on November 22 could well turn out to be the most important juncture in Lebanon’s future and regional and international relations, and it is worth analyzing the challenges and opportunities of the coming phase.
First: Lebanese President Michel Aoun is today at the forefront of shaping Lebanon’s future, and he carries on his shoulders some fateful responsibilities. He deserves appreciation of his efforts to uphold the constitution and protocol, on the basis of which he refused Hariri’s resignation from Riyadh. He also deserves recognition of his ability to contain as well as escalate, giving him the ability to maneuver and retreat as required by the situation. Aoun has proven that he can influence his main partners in Hezbollah to de-escalate and scale back their regional interventions. Aoun succeeded not only in securing Hariri’s return to Lebanon to attend Independence Day celebrations, but also, and more importantly, to become a component in the French-Egyptian-Saudi initiative that agreed the postponement of Hariri’s resignation until the president concludes a dialogue to address the contentious issues that had led to it.
Aoun is now required to avoid complacency and maneuvers by any side, because Lebanon is still in the danger zone, and will remain so unless it makes serious commitments regarding self-dissociation and neutrality, especially with guarantees that Hezbollah will end its interference in Gulf countries and Yemen. President Aoun is also required to control the damage he caused when he proclaimed that Hezbollah will not disarm until all the issues of the Middle East are resolved, which he can achieve by raising the future of Hezbollah’s arms in a serious intra-Lebanese dialogue, though this does not have to be a precondition for dialogue at present. In short, this is an opportunity for Michel Aoun to become president for all of Lebanon, rather than belong to one side in the Lebanese equation, thereby securing his legacy in the history of the republic.
Second: Obviously, this is a special opportunity for Saad al-Hariri to reap the rewards of the popular mandate he has obtained, which goes beyond his Sunni constituency, towards national leadership whose theme is insisting on self-dissociation and standing up to the Hezbollah-led camp as they attempt to dominate the coalition government. This is an opportunity for Hariri to expand the circle of his advisers and connect with his popular base, beyond the Sunni constituency of which he has returned an unrivalled leader.
Hariri faces the challenge of building a different kind of accord government, different from the outgoing one whose moderate members such as Hariri were thwarted, as the other side felt so triumphant that it assumed the anomalous status quo was natural and acceptable. Hariri has an opportunity to rebrand himself and prove wrong his doubters to become a different kind of leader.
Third: Saudi Arabia has an opportunity to revitalize its constructive role in Lebanon, especially as a partner in the initiative for de-escalation in Lebanon. Providing support for Hariri would dispel the impression that he had been under house arrest in Riyadh. Regardless of whether that and the allegation that his resignation had been forced or not, many in Lebanon were incensed by their perceived humiliation, and communicated to all parties that this would be costly. Some say this is nonsense and that economic disaster awaits if Lebanon foolishly escalated, but what happened is not in the interest of the Gulf countries either way. It is therefore in the Saudi interest to nudge Lebanon to guarantee that no party in its government shall assail Saudi Arabia’s national security, and to help the president secure these guarantees without media escalation, in order to contain any mistakes.
Fourth: Hezbollah has an opportunity to make decisions that give the Lebanese people the priority, instead of costing them highly. The Lebanese have shown determination to place civil peace above all else, so this is a chance for Hezbollah to prove that it belongs first and foremost to Lebanon, because its popular base is Lebanese, a base that wants Hezbollah to be Lebanese and want accord and not proxy wars. It is enough for Hassan Nasrallah to say he is not sending weapons to Yemen, while also declaring that Yemen is the most precious battle to him. There is a need here for a qualitative shift in dealing with the Gulf countries, the Arab nations, and the Lebanese equation. Otherwise, all of Lebanon will pay the price for Hezbollah’s arrogance and stubbornness.
The walk-back by all sides has started, but there is a need for a wise recalculation. The local and regional players in Syria, Bashar al-Assad, the IRGC, and Hezbollah in particular, have started to understand that triumphalism is unacceptable. The leaders of the great powers, especially Russia, does not want to share control of the Syrian issue, but also does not want to deal with Syria on the basis of the traditional victory and defeat equation. Russia is in the process of reformulating its international relations, led by the relationship with the US. It wants to withdraw militarily from Syria, to manage reconstruction and stabilization there, then prepare for elections in Russia.
In Lebanon, perhaps all the mistakes, miscalculations, and misconduct there will in the end provide a push for a better future, based on reining in Hezbollah’s interferences in the Arab arenas, and launching a serious discussion about the future of its arms in Lebanon, and a real determination to build the new republic. However, this requires for the Lebanese to take real action and not obfuscate, and return to burying their heads in the sand.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 25-26/17
Death toll in Egypt mosque attack rises to 305, with 128 injured
Al Arabiya English/November 25/2017/The death toll in the militant attack on the mosque on Friday in Egypt’s North Sinai rose to 305 including 27 children, the state prosecution said Saturday in a statement detailing the gruesome massacre. At least 128 people were injured in the attack.
It said there were between 25 and 30 attackers in camouflage and had arrived in five all-terrain vehicles, surrounded the mosque and opened fire on the worshippers during Friday prayers, it said. The attackers had and later set fire to seven cars belonging to the worshippers. The statement said witnesses recounted hearing gunshots and explosions before some of the assailants entered the mosque. The militant gunmen who attacked the mosque were carrying ISIS flag, according to a statement from the Egypt public prosecutor’s office. Ministry of Health sources said that the attackers have also opened fire on ambulances carrying the injured. The Egyptian military is pursuing the gunmen in an operation that is led by the armed forces Chief of Staff. A state of emergency has been announced in Cairo. Eyewitnesses told Al-Arabiya that the terrorists set fire to cars after shooting worshippers at the mosque and then cut off the road leading to the village. President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi held an urgent meeting of the Security Committee, which includes the ministers of defense and interior and the head of the General Intelligence Service, to discuss the repercussions of the mosque incident and the security situation in Sinai in general. The Presidency of the Republic also declared mourning for 3 days in remembrance of the victims of the bombing of Al-Rawda mosque. A security source has told Al Arabiya that military and police are engaging the gunmen while residents of the village of Rawda have refused to provide shelter to the attackers. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has instructed the military and police to secure all religious sites in Sinai after the attack. Egyptian authorities earleir closed the recently opened Rafah border passage with Gaza after the attack citing security concerns.
Decisive retaliation
The Presidency of the Egyptian Republic condemned the attack and in a statement said: “Justice will meted out to all those who participated, supported, financed and instigated the attack of North Sinai.”“The treacherous work will not pass without decisive retaliation,” the statement read. The Presidency of the Republic added that Egypt will win the war it is waging with “honor and strength” against terrorism.
Fight against terrorists in Egypt
In July this year, at least 23 soldiers were killed when suicide car bombs hit two military checkpoints in the Sinai, an attack claimed by ISIS.
Militants have tried to expand beyond the largely barren, Sinai Peninsula into Egypt’s heavily populated mainland, hitting Coptic Christian churches and pilgrims.In May, gunmen attacked a Coptic group traveling to a monastery in southern Egypt, killing 29.
Condemnations of the attack
Jordan condemned the attack and described it as barbaric and cowardly. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also condemned the attack along with the Arab league and the Organization of Islamic Countries.
The US and Britain also affirmed their stance with Egypt against terrorism. Egypt’s two religious authorities also condemned the gruesome attack today with statements issued from the Azhar mosque and the Orthodox Church of Egypt.(With agencies)

Sisi orders mausoleum construction in memory of Egypt mosque attack victims
AP, Cairo/November 25/17/Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has ordered the construction of a mausoleum in memory of the 235 people killed by Islamic militants inside a mosque in northern Sinai. A presidential statement did not say where the mausoleum would stand or who would be commissioned to build it, but the decision to have one reflects the depth of grief felt by the government over the death of so many people in Friday’s attack, the deadliest by Islamic extremists in Egypt’s modern history. The mosque was frequented by Sufis, followers of a mystic school of Islam. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but the extremist ISIS group has repeatedly declared that it views Sufis as heretics and vowed to rid Sinai, and Egypt, of them. Millions of Egyptians practice Sufi rituals, like reciting poetry, dancing and singing as means to be closer to God.

Egyptian Jets Have 'Destroyed Vehicles Used in Attack' on Sinai Mosque
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/November 25/17/Egypt's military says warplanes have struck several vehicles used in the attack on a northern Sinai mosque that killed 235 people, destroying and killing all passengers. The military's Saturday statement said the vehicles were hit in the vicinity of the previous day's attack on a mosque in the Sinai town of Bir al-Abd, the deadliest by Islamic extremists in Egypt's modern history. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the extremist Islamic State group has in the past vowed to rid Sinai, and Egypt, of Sufis. A local IS affiliate is spearheading the insurgency in Sinai, where government forces have battled militants for years. The mosque was frequented by Sufis, members of a mystic movement within Islam that's viewed by extremists as heretic.Militants assaulted a crowded mosque in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula during prayers in the deadliest-ever attack by Islamic extremists in Egypt. They blasted helpless worshippers Friday with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades and blocked their escape routes. At least 235 people were killed before the assailants got away. The attack in the troubled northern part of the Sinai targeted a mosque frequented by Sufis, members of a mystic movement within Islam. Islamic militants, including the local affiliate of the Islamic State group, consider Sufis heretics because of their less literal interpretations of the faith. The startling bloodshed in the town of Bir al-Abd also wounded at least 109, according to the state news agency. It offered the latest sign that the Egyptian government has failed to deter an IS-led insurgency.

Clashes as Pakistani Police Try to Disperse Islamist Sit-In
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 25/17/A policeman was killed and over 100 people wounded as Pakistani forces fired rubber bullets and lobbed tear gas in a bid to disperse an Islamist sit-in that has virtually paralyzed the country's capital for weeks. Smoke and tear gas filled the air as the roughly 8,500 elite police and paramilitary troops in riot gear were also seen throwing rocks and using slingshots in the ongoing bid to clear 2,000 or so hardline demonstrators which began soon after dawn.  AFP reporters at the site said more protesters were arriving, though it was difficult to tell how many. Trees had been cut down to block roads, and protesters were burning tyres. Pakistan's media regulator barred local TV channels from broadcasting live images from the scene as violence intensified. At least 110 injured people have been taken to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad, a spokesman from the hospital told AFP, adding that 66 of them were members of the security forces. An Islamabad police spokesman confirmed that a policeman was killed in the fighting after he was struck in the head by a rock. Television footage showed a police van and demonstrators' tents on fire.
The sit-in by the little-known hardline group called Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan (TLYRAP) has blocked a main highway used by thousands of commuters since November 6, causing hours-long traffic snarls and enraging commuters.The protesters are demanding that Pakistan's law minister Zahid Hamid resign over a hastily-abandoned amendment to the oath that election candidates must swear. Demonstrators have linked it to blasphemy -- a highly contentious issue in Muslim Pakistan -- and claim the oath was softened to enable the participation of Ahmadis, a long-persecuted Islamic minority sect. Local media reported that small protests -- each with several dozen TLYRAP supporters -- were breaking out in other cities, including Karachi and Lahore, as the Islamabad operation dragged on through Saturday. An Islamabad police official had said before the violent clashes that the operation sought to avoid any loss of life on either side. The sit-in has also cost the life of an eight-year-old child whose ambulance could not reach a hospital in time due to the blocked roads, a statement from Pakistan's Supreme Court confirmed this week.
Despite the protest's relatively small intial size, authorities have hesitated to act against it, citing fears of violence as the demonstrators have vowed to die for their cause.But government inaction has drawn the fury of the courts as well as millions of residents in Islamabad and neighbouring Rawalpindi. The Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court have issued blistering criticism and threatened to hold officials in contempt for their inaction. Analysts and critics have accused the government of bungling its response to the protest, and allowing a minor issue to grow into a headline-grabbing and potentially dangerous situation. It set an alarming precedent, that "anytime anyone is upset with the government, the capital may be choked and the government will bend its knees," warned Zeeshan Salahuddin of the Center for Research and Security Studies, a think tank in Islamabad.

Iraq forces open new front in final push against ISIS
AFP, Baghdad/November 25/17/Iraqi forces thrust north from the Euphrates Valley into the desert on Saturday, opening up a new front in the drive to flush out fugitive ISIS group fighters, a commander told AFP. ISIS has already been driven from all the towns it once held, but Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said he will not proclaim victory until the militants have been cleared from the western desert bordering Syria. Troops and paramilitaries had advanced into the desert from the east and north on Thursday at the start of an offensive aimed at inflicting a final defeat on the militants. On Saturday, troops and tribal militia pushed north from Al-Qaim and Rawa, two Euphrates Valley towns recaptured from ISIS earlier this month, in a pincer movement against retreating ISIS fighters, one of the operation’s two commanders told AFP. “It’s a matter of linking up with the forces advancing from Nineveh” province in the north, the commander said, asking not to be identified. “The aim of the operation is to clear the desert right up to the Syrian border and hunt down the terrorists who fled into the desert from the towns that have been liberated.”The Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) paramilitary force, which has played a key role in the offensive, said 100 villages and hamlets had already been cleared of ISIS fighters. At the peak of its power in 2014, ISIS ruled over seven million people in a territory as large as Italy, encompassing large parts of Syria and nearly a third of Iraq. It is now being flushed out of its last desert hideouts in Iraq at the same time as its final pockets of control in Syria face simultaneous operations by Russian-backed government forces and US-backed Kurdish-led fighters.

White House reiterates support for Saudi, Gulf allies against ‘Iran aggression’
Al Arabiya English/November 25/17/The White House said it is committed to supporting Saudi Arabia and their Gulf partners against the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ aggression and blatant violations of international law, according to a statement released on Friday.
“Backed by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Houthi rebels have used destabilizing missile systems to target Saudi Arabia—systems that were not present in Yemen before the conflict,” the statement read. “The international community must take the necessary steps to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its repeated violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2216 and 2231 as the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps exploits the grave humanitarian crisis in Yemen to advance its regional ambitions,” the statement added. US President Donald Trump’s administration said they also welcomed the Arab coalition’s announcement that it is reopening Hudaydah port and Sanaa International Airport to allow the urgent flow of humanitarian aid to the people of Yemen.

Arab Coalition: 42 permits granted for aid ships, planes to Yemen
Al Arabiya English/November 25/17/The Arab Coalition in Yemen announced on Friday that 42 permits were issued for ships and relief aircrafts.The Arab Coalition renewed its call for the United Nations to take over the port of Hudaydah, which is under the control of the coup militia. The spokesperson of the coalition, Turki al-Maliki said on Friday, that the missile launched towards the city of Riyadh entered through the port of Hudaydah. The White House welcomed in a statement to the coalition the initiative led by Saudi Arabia to reopen the port of Hudaydah and Sanaa International Airport to allow humanitarian aid to enter Yemen. The statement described the decision to open the port of Hudaydah and Sanaa airport as a first step in addressing the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, expressing Washington's aspiration to take additional steps. On Friday, the United Nations said the Saudi-led Arab alliance had agreed to resume flights to the Yemeni capital Sanaa starting Saturday.

Coptics’ murders: Court orders seven be executed, 10 to life sentence
Al Arabiya/November 25/2017 /An Egyptian court has ordered for the execution of seven individuals and ruled life imprisonment for 10 others in a case on murdering Copt Egyptians in Libya. At the last hearing, the court referred seven defendants to the mufti to take his opinion on terminating a terrorist cell belonging to ISIS in Mersa Matruh – a case known in the Media as “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Libya (ISILL).” The court had also referred them to set the Saturday, 25 November session to finalize the verdict. Also, the prosecution charged the accused with joining the terrorist cell in Mersa Matruh, following ISILL, joining the organization’s training camps in Libya and Syria, receiving military training, planning terrorist operations inside the country, possession of firearms and ammunition, inciting violence and the participation of a number of them in the slaughter of 21 Copts in the State of Libya.

Turkey says US will no longer supply arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters
The Associated Press/November 25/2017/Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday said US President Donald Trump told his Turkish counterpart that the United States will no longer supply arms to People's Protection Units (YPG) Syrian Kurdish fighters. Cavusoglu said on Friday that Trump relayed his decision during a telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Erdogan. Cavusoglu said he was present in Erdogan's office during the telephone call. Turkey considers the YPG to be terrorists because of their affiliation to outlawed Kurdish rebels that have waged a three-decade-long insurgency in Turkey. The YPG was a key US ally against ISIS in Syria.There was no immediate reaction from the United States. But Turkey's announcement appeared to catch the Pentagon and the US State Department off-guard. Officials at both agencies, who would normally be informed of changes in US policy toward arming the Syrian Kurds, said they were unaware of any changes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

At least 25 dead after migrant boat sinks off Libya

Reuters, Tripoli/November 25/17/At least 25 migrants died after their boat sank off Libya’s western coast on Saturday and survivors were being brought back to port in Tripoli, Libyan coastguard officials said. Libya is the main departure point for mostly African migrants trying to cross to Europe. Smugglers usually pack them into flimsy inflatable boats that often break down or sink. Most migrants are picked up by international vessels and taken to Italy, where more than 115,000 have landed so far this year, although an increasing number are intercepted by Libya’s European-backed coastguard and returned to the North African country. Since July, there has been a sharp drop in crossings, though this week has seen a renewed surge in departures. Nearly 3,000 migrants are known to have died or be missing after trying to cross to Europe by sea this year, the majority of them between Libya and Italy. The International Organization for Migration said on Friday that since 2000 the Mediterranean had been “by far the world’s deadliest border”.

Nasr al-Hariri to head Syrian opposition delegation in Geneva
Al Arabiya English/November 25/2017/The Syrian opposition on Friday chose Nasr al-Hariri as head of its delegation in the next round of UN-backed negotiations in Geneva. Sources also told Al-Arabiya that three representatives of the negotiating delegation to Geneva were also selected, and they are; Jamal Suleiman, Khalid Al-Mahamid and Hanadi Abu Yarub. The Syrian opposition group succeeded in uniting by announcing a delegation of 36 seats following the meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh. The opposition coalition won eight seats while the military factions were represented by seven, in addition to eight seats which went to independent opposition figures. The National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCB) also won five seats, while the Cairo and Moscow delegates to share eight seats equally. Nasr al-Hariri stated that the UN should launch direct negotiations for a political transition in Syria. He emphasized at a press conference the need for the UN to supervise all meetings to address a solution.

Canada/Statement by ministers of foreign affairs and international development on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
November 25, 2017 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, today issued the following statement:
“Violence against women and girls is among the most widespread human rights violations. Ending gender-based violence is a key objective of Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security released last month.
“This year, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is drawing attention to survivors of violence.
“This means addressing violence in the community, providing them access to contraception, ending female genital mutilation and working to end sexual abuse by peacekeepers.
“Through our feminist foreign policy, Canada has committed to preventing and addressing sexual and gender-based violence in conflict, including sexual exploitation and abuse. We must ensure that women and girls are able to voice their needs when societies and communities torn apart by war come together to find their way to long-lasting peace.
“We must also recognize that here in Canada, too many women are the victims of violence themselves.
“Indigenous women and girls in particular, face ongoing, intersecting forms of discrimination and violence.
“Both at home and abroad, Canada is committed to working toward the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.”

First Aid Flight in 3 Weeks Lands in Rebel-Held Yemen Capital
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 25/17/A UN plane carrying desperately needed vaccines landed in the rebel-held Yemeni capital Sanaa on Saturday after a three-week Saudi-led aid blockade that had sparked warnings thousands could die.
Three other aircraft -- two carrying UN aid workers and one carrying International Committee of the Red Cross staff -- also landed at the airport, which was repaired earlier this week after a Saudi-led air strike knocked out its controls, an AFP correspondent reported.
The UN humanitarian affairs office had said on Friday that it had been given clearance by the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the rebels since 2015 to resume flights into Sanaa. But it added that desperately needed shipments of food and medicines to the rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida remained blocked. A official from the rebel-run civil aviation authority confirmed that the flights had landed. But he warned that Saturday's aid delivery was not enough and demanded access to Sanaa airport for all flights in order to "save the lives of the sick", the rebel-run Saba news agency reported. The UN children's fund UNICEF said the flight was carrying more than 15 tonnes, or 1.9 million doses, of vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and other preventable diseases. The World Health Organization said earlier this week that diphtheria was spreading as children went unvaccinated and doctors in Hodeida reported three deaths. More than 2,000 people have died of cholera in Yemen this year, adding to the 8,600 who have died in the conflict between the Saudi-backed government and the rebels since 2015. The aid blockade, put in place after the rebels fired a missile which was intercepted over Riyadh airport, has tightened the stranglehold on Hodeida, the conduit for UN supervised deliveries of food and medicine to rebel-held territory. The UN humanitarian office said that a ship loaded with wheat and another with equipment to treat Yemen's cholera epidemic are ready to head to Hodeida as soon as the Saudi-led coalition gives the go-ahead. The coalition had said it would lift its blockade of the port from Thursday but it remains in place. The United Nations has warned that unless the blockade is lifted, Yemen will face "the largest famine the world has seen for decades". Yemen is highly dependent on imported wheat for its basic needs and aid groups have warned that humanitarian deliveries cover only a small portion of the need. Seven million Yemenis are completely dependent on relief supplies for their survival, according to the UN.

Arab Interior Ministers Council condemns mosque attack in Egypt
Sat 25 Nov 2017/NNA - The Council of Arab Interior Ministers' General Secretariat condemned Saturday the "despicable terrorist attack on a mosque in the village of Al-Rawdah in northern Sinai in the Arab Republic of Egypt during Friday prayers, leaving behind dozens of dead and wounded among innocent worshipers." In an issued statement, the Council Secretariat said: "In remorse for the lives of the fallen victims, the General Secretariat wishes them mercy and forgiveness and their families patience and solace, and a speedy recovery of the wounded." The Secretariat strongly condemned this "abhorrent brutal act" exposing the "hostility of terrorists that have nothing to do with the true religion of Islam" while declaring its "full solidarity with Egypt in the face of extremism and terrorism."

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 25-26/17
The calm before the US-Iran storm
Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/November 25/17
The faster you wake up and have sight in the dark, the less are your losses, shocks and painful repercussions. We must admit that we have been deceived by the innocence of Sunni and Shiite religious leaders who led extremist campaigns. Iran, through Khomeini, led Shiite extremism in the world, and it’s been part of the ongoing Sunni-Shiite conflict in the Arab world as it produced other extremist groups like Hezbollah, the Houthis, the Popular Mobilization, the Ashtar Brigades and others. He who led this extremism, however, is involved with the US. The same applies to Sunni extremism, from al-Qaeda, to al-Nusra and ISIS, as he who led it has been involved with the US ever since its rise in the 1980s. The documents released and statements about them confirm these facts and prove that that the Americans will later admit what they cast away for a while – just like they admitted their ties with Khomeini and al-Qaeda which they previously denied. Audio and video recordings confirm that they funded Khomeini ever since he was in Paris and funded al-Qaeda since the days of Bin Laden, Zawahiri and Abdullah Azzam. After Hilary Clinton admitted that the US established al-Qaeda, funded it and trained it, we realized that the “death to America” slogan which jihadists raised was just a slogan that was used to control those who were deceived by the sanctity of armed religious organizations. The segments I aired on the program “My responsibility” on the Bahraini television channel shocked many, especially youth, who for the last 20 years heard about sectarian conflicts and murder in the Arab world and thought this is how it’s been since forever.
US confessions
America’s confessions regarding the documents, which were published last year, and which we did not give much attention to, confirm that the US funded Khomeini with four cheques worth $165 million in the 1980’s, i.e. before he returned to Iran. Photos of correspondence between him and the American administration at the time were also published. We thus realized that this whole story about “death to Great Satan” was a mere trick to maintain control over the herd of sheep that’s dragged behind fake slogans. After Hilary Clinton admitted that the US established al-Qaeda, funded it and trained it, we realized that the “death to America” slogan which jihadists raised was just a slogan that was used to control those who were deceived by the sanctity of armed religious organizations.  Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former US national security advisor, admitted, according to audio and video recordings, that the US succeeded in transferring the conflict with American ambitions to control the region into a sectarian conflict. It was also allegedly revealed that there was a roadmap for a new Middle East as indicated by Condoleezza Rice during her visit to Tel Aviv in 2006.
After all this, we must reconsider our calculations and spread awareness about these facts among the sheep that are still dragged behind American-Iranian interests while they cheer for Hezbollah or the Brotherhood or join al-Nujaba or recruit for al-Nusra. Isn’t it time that they realize they are being sold and bought? Isn’t it time they realize that their ignorance and blindness destroyed their countries while Iran lives in prosperity thanks to agreements with the US being sealed behind our backs?
Remember how they denied these facts for years and acknowledged them now. Today they are denying the incidents and the repercussions of these crimes but they will admit them years later. However at that point, another generation will have been lost and our region will have been divided.

Palestinians vs. Trump: The Battle Begins
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/November 25/17
Although the full details of the proposed plan have yet to be made public, the Palestinians have already made up their mind: Whatever comes from Trump and his Jewish team is against the interests of the Palestinians.
The Palestinians' rhetorical attacks on the Trump administration are designed to prepare the ground for their rejection of the proposed "ultimate solution."
Take careful note: these warning shots may well be translated into yet another intifada against Israel under the fabricated pretext that the Americans and Israelis, with the help of some Arab countries, seek to strip the Palestinians of their rights. One wonders when the world will wake up to the fact that those rights have already been stripped from the Palestinians -- by none other than their own brainwashing, inciting and corrupt leaders.
Over the past year, the Palestinians have managed to keep under wraps their true feelings about US President Donald Trump and his Middle East envoys and advisors. In all likelihood, they were hoping that the new US administration would endorse their vision for "peace" with Israel.
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas ensured that his spokesmen and senior officials spoke with circumspection about Trump and his Middle East advisors and envoys. The top brass of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah felt it was worth giving Trump time to see if he was indeed gullible enough to be persuaded to throw Israel under the bus and fork over their demands.
Well, that bus has long passed.
The Palestinians are now denouncing Trump and his people for their "bias" in favor of Israel. Even more, the Palestinians are openly accusing the Trump administration of "blackmail" and of seeking to "liquidate the Palestinian cause." To top off the tone, the Palestinians are insinuating that Trump's top Jewish advisors and envoys -- Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman -- are more loyal to Israel than to the US.
The Palestinians' unprecedented rhetorical attacks on the Trump administration should be seen as a sign of how they plan to respond to the US president's plan for peace in the Middle East, which has been described as the "ultimate solution." Although the full details of the proposed plan have yet to be made public, the Palestinians have already made up their mind: Whatever comes from Trump and his Jewish team is against the interests of the Palestinians.
The Palestinian tone makes it clear that the Palestinian leadership and people have already relegated Trump's peace plan to the trash-bin as nothing more than Israeli-American conspiracy, in collusion with some Arab countries, to impose a solution on the Palestinians and "liquidate" their cause.
To them, the "real" Trump is now apparent. This is how one Palestinian political analyst, Dr. Mazen Safi, reacted to Trump's proposed peace plan and what he perceives as continued US support for Israel. "The US president and his administration have removed the mask from their face," he stated. "They are paving the way for a new Israeli aggression on our people and moving the region toward an explosion."
So what is really behind the Palestinian outrage with the Trump administration?
First, the Palestinians reject the idea of "regional peace" between Israel and Arab countries. The Palestinians maintain that peace between Israel and the Arab countries should come only after, and not before, the Palestinian issue is resolved. The Palestinians fear that any peace agreements between Israel and the Arab countries would come at their expense.
Echoing this fear, the Palestinian daily Al-Quds, which often reflects the views of the Palestinian Authority leadership, pointed out that the recent Arab League foreign minsters' meeting in Cairo chose to focus on the Iranian and Hezbollah "threat," breaking from the long-standing traditional obsession of the Arabs with the Palestinian issue. The Palestinians, according to the paper, feel abandoned by their Arab brothers.
"The Arab League meeting in Cairo came out with strong positions against the Iranian threat and didn't hesitate to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist group," Al-Quds complained in an editorial. "The meeting ignored the Palestinian cause. We are facing new Arab alliances against Iran, all under American pressure. This will have a negative impact on our cause."
The Palestinian daily went on to lambast the floating Trump peace plan. It stated that the proposed plan, as published in various media outlets, "Doesn't serve our interests and aspirations."
Second, the Palestinians are furious with US threats to shut down the PLO's diplomatic mission in Washington. They see the threat as an attempt to blackmail them not file charges of war crimes against Israel with the International Criminal Court. The Palestinians also see the threat as an attempt to force them to resume peace talks with Israel unconditionally.
"The US threat to close the PLO's diplomatic mission in Washington shows disrespect for the Palestinian rights and blind bias in favor of Israel," Al-Quds said in the same editorial. "It also coincides with growing hollow talk about a US peace plan that has been endorsed by President Trump."
Third, the Palestinians are now openly talking about Trump's Jewish advisors and envoys and their "influence" on him and his administration's policies. This is something that Palestinian Authority officials had refrained from mentioning in the past year because it rings of out-and-out anti-Semitism. Now, however, Palestinian officials and political analysts do not seem to have a problem talking about the influence of the "Jewish lobby" on Trump's decision-making process and policies.
Hassan Al-Batal, a political analyst closely associated with the Palestinian Authority, referred in a recent article to what he called "the three Jewish pillars of the Trump peace plan – Trump's son-in law (Kushner), Middle East envoy (Greenblatt) and the US Ambassador to Israel (Friedman)."
Al-Batal expressed "regret" that the recent meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers chose to condemn Hezbollah and Iran. "Palestine is currently witnessing a crisis with Washington," he said.
Bassam Abu Sharif, a former advisor to Yasser Arafat, went as far as referring to Trump's Jewish advisors as a "dangerous clique."
Abu Sharif said that he had no doubt that "what Kushner and his dangerous clique are planning is destructive and inhumane." The US, he charged, has one major goal: to take full control of the Middle East and steal its resources for once and for all. This requires -- according to their scheme -- the liquidation of the Palestinian cause."
Another political analyst, Talal Okal, who is also linked to the Palestinian Authority and its leadership, accused the Trump administration of "misinformation" and attempting to "blackmail" the Palestinians. Referring to the US demand that the Palestinians refrain from filing charges against Israel with the International Criminal Court and threatening to shut down the PLO's diplomatic mission in Washington, Okal wrote:
"The US administration is practicing blackmail against the Palestinian leadership by demanding that the Palestinians engage in unconditional negotiations with Israel and that the Palestinians refrain from pursuing war crimes against Israel with the International Criminal Court. It's obvious that the Trump administration is practicing a policy of misinformation."
Palestinian political analyst Hani Habib claimed that the Trump administration was preparing to blame the Palestinians for the failure of the next peace process. The Palestinians, Habib said, "must be united in facing all forms of American-Israeli blackmail. The US administration's threat to shut down the PLO's diplomatic mission in Washington calls into question its ability to play the role of a fair and honest mediator."
In an article entitled "Cheap American Blackmail," columnist Omar Hilmi Al-Ghul complained: "The US administration is once again ignoring Palestinian rights and interests. It's shamelessly and flagrantly seeking to confiscate the Palestinians' independent decision-making process."
Al-Ghul, too, made a reference to Trump's Jewish team:
"The team surrounding Trump, which is in collusion with Israel, is acting in a way that contradicts what the Palestinian leadership wants -- to maintain bridges with the US. The American blackmail of the Palestinian leadership is cheap and miscalculated.
This conspiracy theory, which claims that Trump's team cares more about Israel than US interests, is repeated in a statement by Fatah: "The US political blackmail contravenes international laws and resolutions pertaining to the Palestinian issue in particular and the peace process in general. This US position endorses the Israeli policy to end the two-state solution."
The Palestinians' rhetorical attacks on the Trump administration are designed to prepare the ground for their rejection of the proposed "ultimate solution."
The Palestinians want it to be seen as a plan concocted by a few Jewish officials in the Trump administration who are more loyal to Israel than their own country, the US.
These officials, the Palestinians argue, have endorsed the position of the Israeli government and serve as its mouthpiece. That is why, they argue, the Palestinians are unable to accept a plan that is in effect a "Jewish-American conspiracy to eliminate the Palestinian cause."
The Palestinians are also preparing the stage to accuse some Arab countries of "collusion" with this "conspiracy" -- putting them on a collision course with Saudi Arabia.
The Palestinian message to the Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, should be seen as a warning shot: Collaborate with the Trump administration in the alleged scheme at your peril.
The anti-Trump Palestinian stance is sounding the death-knell for US administration's effort to achieve comprehensive peace in the Middle East. Take careful note: these warning shots may well be translated into yet another intifada against Israel under the fabricated pretext that the Americans and Israelis, with the help of some Arab countries, seek to strip the Palestinians of their rights. One wonders when the world will wake up to the fact that those rights have already been stripped from the Palestinians -- by none other than their own brainwashing, inciting and corrupt leaders.
**Bassam Tawil, a Muslim, is based in the Middle East.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

"Reforming" the Church of Sweden
Bruce Bawer/Gatestone Institute/November 25/17
Even as the other key players in Swedish society have adapted to the rise of Islam within the country's borders, so has the Church of Sweden.
If you look at Jackelén's Wikipedia page, you will see that her motto is "God is greater." In Swedish, it is "Gud är större." In Arabic, it is "Allahu akbar," the words that muezzins in mosques around the world shout from the tops of their minarets.
We cannot know what is really in this woman's heart; but one thing we can be sure of is that when Islam does eventually take over Sweden, her remarkable history of appeasement will not save either her or her Church from a brutal reckoning.
The Church of Sweden, although no longer a state church, remains an important force in Swedish society. In a time when Sweden's political, media, and academic establishment are eager to jettison pretty much everything that makes Sweden Swedish, no institution plays a more central role in the preservation of the nation's cultural heritage than the national church. Yes, ethnic Swedes have become overwhelmingly secular, but, like their cousins elsewhere in Scandinavia, they still look to their national church as a bearer of tradition and a setting within which they wish to baptize and confirm their children and hold their weddings and funerals.
Yet, even as the other key players in Swedish society have adapted to the rise of Islam within the country's borders, so has the Church of Sweden. The church's primate – its equivalent of the Pope or Archbishop of Canterbury – is a 62-year-old woman named Antje Jackelén, who holds the title of Archbishop of Uppsala. Popes and archbishops traditionally have official mottoes. Pope Francis's motto is "Miserando atque eligendo" ("mercy and choice"). It was his motto as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and he chose to retain it upon his elevation to the papacy. If you look at Jackelén's Wikipedia page, you will see that her motto is "God is greater." In Swedish, it is "Gud är större." In Arabic, it is "Allahu akbar," the words that muezzins in mosques around the world shout from the tops of their minarets. These are also, of course, the last words that are heard by many people around the world before they are blown to bits by suicide bombers or run over by jihadists at the wheels of trucks. Some might argue, to be sure, that the Muslim deity is different from the God of Christianity, but Jackelén is not one of them: she has said explicitly that the two deities are one and the same.
"God is greater" was Jackelén's motto in her previous position as Archbishop of Lund. It is also the title of a book she published in 2011. She has always claimed that she took it from the First Epistle of John. Yes, the words do appear in that epistle, but only as part of the statement at 1 John 3:20 that "God is greater than our heart." In any event, her motto was not subjected to nationwide scrutiny until she was selected to head the Church of Sweden in 2013 and announced that she, like Pope Francis, would stick with the same motto. In response to this news, critics accused her of "flirting with Islam." The newspaper Östersunds-Posten ran an editorial calling her "clueless" and noting that in Swedish, the words "Gud är större," in isolation, sound strained and unnatural.
For anyone who had any doubts, it has since become clear that the Jackelén's reason for picking her motto are exactly what they always seemed to be. Recognizing that the concept of Jesus Christ as Savior is a major impediment to what may euphemistically be referred to as her ambitious interfaith efforts, she has made a point of downplaying the importance of Jesus and of stating that, when it comes to the question of salvation, Jesus does not really matter. In March of last year, noting that Jackelén's "relationship with Islam" had occasioned widespread criticism, Morgonbladet interviewed her "in order to get a better picture what she really thinks about the link between Christianity and Islam." Asked about Muhammed, she spurned the orthodox Christian view that he was a "false prophet" and maintained that "[i]n times when Islam is used to legitimize violence and terror, it is important to remember that Muhammad still inspires millions of people today in their pursuit of justice, peace, and a virtuous life." Of course, to speak of Muhammed, a military conqueror, as a model of peace and virtue rather than of violence and terror is sheer whitewashing. Asked whether she believes the Angel Gabriel appeared to Muhammed, as claimed in the Koran, Jackelén "declined to answer."
Last year, three female priests in the Church of Sweden initiated a hashtag campaign, #Mittkors ("My cross"), in solidarity with the Christian victims of Islamic terror in the Middle East. On August 18, 2016, Ann Charlott Alstadt noted in Aftonbladet that Jackelén's spokesman, Gunnar Sjögren, had publicly condemned this campaign, calling it "un-Christian," suggesting that it was an invitation to "religious war," and warning that "the Cross risks being a distancing marker, dividing us into a 'we' and a 'them.'" Asked in a Twitter Q&A why she refused to help persecuted Christians in the Islamic world, Jackelén herself replied: "We do not help people because they are Christians, but because we are Christians."
As head of the Church of Sweden, Jackelén has not let her power go to waste. She has just finished overseeing an extensive revision of the church's manual, its equivalent of the Anglicans' Book of Common Prayer. The main goal was to make the language more "inclusive" – which meant, among other things, removing references to God as "He" or "the Lord." As Jesus Christ was indisputably male, the revision also involved pushing God the Son into the background as much as possible. In the local parishes around Sweden, there was considerable opposition to many of the changes recommended under Jackelén's oversight. On November 23, however, a national Church synod approved the revisions by a considerable margin. A jubilant Jackelén proclaimed: "Let us show the world that we are a church that can deal with diversity."
It would be foolish to assume that Jackelén's ecclesiastical revolution will end with this victory. On the contrary, there is every reason to believe that her success at Thursday's synod will inspire her to redouble her efforts to transform the Church of Sweden into a more Islam-friendly institution – one that ultimately, at the very least, puts Muhammed on an equal plane with Jesus Christ. No, we cannot know what is really in this woman's heart; but one thing we can be sure of is that when Islam does eventually take over Sweden, her remarkable history of appeasement will not save either her or her Church from a brutal reckoning.
**Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra(Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Google and News Filtering
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/November 25/17
We've known for a long time that Google makes content decisions, but recent moves in the direction of censorship are going too far. Unfortunately, it's hard to imagine a regulatory backlash given Google's victims: websites that no mainstream politician will defend.
Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google's parent company, Alphabet, told a conference this week the company was working to engineer RT and Sputnik, the Russian propaganda channels, out of the Google News aggregator. "We don’t want to ban the sites,” Schmidt said. "That’s not how we operate. I am strongly not in favor of censorship. I am very strongly in favor of ranking. It’s what we do."
Schmidt's words are a riff on an April post by Google Vice President of Engineering Ben Gomes, who teased changes to how Google searches for news. New instructions targeted "deceptive webpages" that look like news but seek to "manipulate users" with conspiracy theories, hoaxes and inaccurate information. "We’ve adjusted our signals to help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content," Gomes wrote.
I'm not going to claim RT and Sputnik are real news media (in fact, I've argued they're not). But do I want Google to "engineer it out" of news searches or the Google News aggregation service? Absolutely not, and I want my fringe and alternative websites, too, regardless of their political coloring.
I am, of course, a media professional. I know these sites are frequently wrong, and wrong on purpose. I know they push conspiracy theories and propaganda. But the spin they put on the news is immensely illuminating to my work. Last year, U.S. psychologist Robert Epstein published an article on Sputnik alleging Google's search suggestions were slanted toward candidate Hillary Clinton. In response, I wrote a column that voiced serious doubts about Epstein's evidence. That process -- an important one in democracies -- would've never played out had Google downgraded Sputnik and left me blind to the existence of Epstein's article.
Of course, it can be argued that the average news consumer shouldn't be fed the fakes and the spins because she lacks the time and the engagement necessary to filter through it all. But that's not really why Google censors the news through its ranking system.
Google is trying to minimize threats to its business, to avoid any kind of criticism that could lead to regulation. In the April post, Gomes referred to an incident from last December: Those asking Google “Did the Holocaust happen?” received a clear, embarrassing answer: no. Google wanted to make such situations less likely, Gomes wrote.
The same logic applies to its recent moves. Google decided to downgrade links to RT and Sputnik just as members of Congress investigate whether U.S. technology platforms helped facilitate a Russian disinformation campaign during the presidential election. Until the possibility of regulation arose, the company was fine with those links, even though RT's and Sputnik's content was always as pungent as it is today.
The bottom line is that Google will downgrade any kind of content that can cause a backlash against it. That's important to understand even if you don't want to see alt-right, alt-left, pro-Russian, pro-Iran or any other biased "news stories."
There are applications, such as Feedly, Nuzzel or Flipboard, that let you build your own news aggregator. But they're less convenient to use than Google News. Google is a monopoly that regulators have mostly allowed to bundle various products with the main one. If that were not the case, competitors might arise that offer different degrees of filtering and different ranking models. That would be bad for business and good for consumers.

Iranian axis threat that led Lieberman to seek increased IDF budget/
بسبب تهديد محور إيران يطالب ليبرمان بزيادة ميزانية الجيش الإسرائيلي
Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews/November 25/17
Analysis: Defense Minister Lieberman's efforts to increase IDF's budget stem from recent developments in the Middle East, including accurate missiles with larger warheads aimed at Israel from Syria and Lebanon, Iranian entrenchment in the region, and Russian presence in Syria complicating matters. The demand from the Ministry of Defense and Minister Avigdor Lieberman for additional budgeting is only the tip of the iceberg, the top of which pokes out on occasion in the media and in the political arena. The iceberg itself is change—for the worse—in the threat the Israeli home front faces in case war breaks out on the northern border.
While the defense establishment estimates the Iranians and their proxies, Hezbollah and Syria, can cause a far greater loss of life and material damages to the Israeli civilian and military home front than they could mere years ago, with the worst still yet to come. In two or three years' time, threats to the home front will become graver. The main reason for this eventuality is not the increase in the number of rockets, missiles and mortars Iran and its satellites may rain on Israel, but rather the deadly effectiveness of such an attack, far more precise than ever before, and hitting Israel on two fronts: the Lebanese and Syrian ones. As a result, casualties—both civilian and military—may increase by hundreds of percents.
This would appear to be the main catalyst for Lieberman's request to supplement his ministry's budget with billions of shekels more. Lieberman's request to break out of the confines of the defense budget is the minister's first major independent initiative since he was appointed in May 2016.
While IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and top army brass are not opposed to the move, they have thus far offered only halfhearted support for it publically. Senior army officials concur with Lieberman and the ministry's officials on the gravity of the new potential threat the Iranian axis poses to the home front. Indeed, the estimate was originally put together by the IDF's Military Intelligence Directorate and Planning Directorate.
However, the top army brass believes the IDF already possesses the means and the methods to tackle the worsening northern threat head-on, and it would therefore be imprudent and unjustified to undercut the budgetary equilibrium struck by the IDF thanks to the Gideon multiyear plan, which was achieved after exhausting negotiations between the finance minister and Lieberman's predecessor Moshe Ya'alon. Minister of Defense Lieberman and Chief of Staff Eisenkot recently toured the northern front
Motivating the requested NIS 3.8 billion (net) increase to the defense budget are three strategic developments that came into force in the past two years, which adversely affect the country's security standing.
The first development is the so-called "precision revolution," which the Iranians and their proxies attempt to inject into their munitions component. Instead of "static fire" based on a large number of missiles, rockets, artillery shells and mortars—a large portion of which will either hit low-value targets or miss their mark completely—the Iranian axis is moving on a smaller arsenal of munitions of different types, all of which are calibrated to hit high-value targets.
Either direct hits or hit landing within several meters of a relatively small number of "quality targets" will inflict casualties and damages of a strategic military or functional civilian nature far, far graver than the thousands of imprecise missiles and rockets (representing "static fire") lobbed by Hezbollah at Israel during the Second Lebanon War, for instance.
Simultaneously with improving the projectiles' precision using GPS and other means, Iranian military industries are also hard at work to increase their warheads and range. Adding hundreds of kilograms more of conventional explosives to a rocket or missile's warhead increases its destructive potential and number of losses it can cause with a direct hit. Increasing the range then enables to move rocket launch pads further back in Syria and Lebanon—and even Iran—to areas the Israeli Air Force will be hard pressed to attack.
Difficulties faced by the IDF
The second strategic development we've witnessed is the Syrian theater, recently (re)appearing in Israel's northern front. Should Iran make good on even some of its intentions to increase its foothold in the war-torn country, the next war will probably display a coordinated, cohesive action by Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese firing forces operating against Israel from the northwest in Syria and north in Lebanon. These firing forces will not be many, but they will be more precise. This effectively means the IDF will have to split its main offensive effort in twain. Instead of a focused, simultaneous effort hitting all of Lebanon from the air, ground and sea to paralyze or suppress projectiles lobbed by Hezbollah at Israel, the army's command will have to send the air force and maneuvering land divisions to attack not just in Lebanon but also in Syria.
Such an attack will also be waged not merely at Hezbollah—now attacking on two fronts—but also at the Syrian army and whichever forces Iran stations in Syria. All of the aforementioned forces will come together—according to Iran's strategic vision—to rain precise fire on central Tel Aviv and the Kirya army headquarters base, the Haifa oil refineries and ammonia tank, as well as many more "quality targets" on the Israeli home front.
The third strategic development to hamper our ability to defend ourselves is the Russian military presence in Syria. Without going into too much detail, it may be said Russian boots on the ground limit the air force's abilities as far as neutralizing projectile launch pads in Syria and Lebanon is concerned.
The air force will now have to consider Russian radars and antiaircraft batteries already stationed in Syria, as well as cutting edge antiaircraft missiles—such as the SA-22—Russia has already sold to the Syrian and Iranian armies and will assist them in operating, it may be reasonably assumed.
It's entirely possible access to some far-off targets of long-range missile launch pads in Syria will be blocked off due to Russian measures capable of forewarning the Syrians and Iranians, which means Israeli aircrafts will need to fly longer and more dangerous routes to reach their targets. Israel will find it hard, for example, to attack military air bases or sites where Russian army personnel are present—Putin does not appreciate his men being in harm's way.
The bottom line is that in the not-too-distant future, the IDF will find it difficult to powerfully and efficiently mount the offensive operational plans on land, sea and air with the intention of paralyzing or substantially reducing casualties and damage inflicted by Hezbollah, Iran and Syria on the Israeli home front.
What should be done?
The conclusion is self-evident, then: the Israeli home front is in dire need of added protection and shielding. Active rocket and missiles defenses developed in Israel have proven to be immensely successful. It's unparalleled in the world when it comes to successful interception. This is, therefore, the first item that needs boosting in light of the escalating threat.
If Israel's enemies already possess several hundreds precise missiles and heavy rockets, it would be fair to assume there will eventually be hundreds such projectils aimed at Israel. Based on the above assumption, the number of intercepting missiles carried by the IDF's missile-defense systems must be increased, especially as it pertains to missiles carried by the David's Sling system and the Arrow 2 and 3 missiles intended to handle heavy rockets and precise ballistic missiles.
Why? Because more precise Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah rockets and missiles will almost certainly find their mark, and David's Sling and Arrow batteries will therefore be required to launch more than one interceptor at each missiles fired to ensure a hit. That will cost money, true, but the damage each precise Iranian projectile can inflict on a quality Israeli civilian or military target will be far more costly, without even going into casualties.
Another implement that needs to be purchased and whose price only soars is precise and sophisticated armaments, remotely-operated aircrafts and other intelligence systems for the air force, all of which will allow it to handle the number of targets it will be required to hit in far-flung environs, hampered as it is by the Russian military presence and the building up of the Syrian-Iranian antiaircraft arsenal.
In addition, Israel must consider the possibility that when such fire is aimed at our home front, the air force will not be able to operate at full force for different reasons, whether due to inclement weather conditions or because the Russians and Iranians pull some kind of rabbit out of their hats.
The IDF's ground-based fire deployment must be endowed with the same precise destructive capabilities possessed by the air force. That is, precise medium- and long-range missiles and rockets with relatively heavy payloads. Lastly, the army must double its capabilities to plan and carry out cyber-based attacks.
Defense Minister Lieberman, IDF chief Eisenkot, and other senior army officials all concur on the necessity of the above measures. But since this threat to the home front is still in the future—grave though it may be, it is still considered potential—the IDF believes the necessary procurement may be spread out over a year or two with the bulk of expenses absorbed by the current defense budget.
The army further maintains that budgetary stability—so difficultly won—is an important asset in effective, orderly building (one planned for years in advance) of the IDF's powers. The budgetary system's basic elements of stability, then, should not be thrown out of order.
Lieberman, on the other end, says he favors an improved home front defense in the present over the uncertainty of the IDF's offensive plans and other capabilities developed as part of the Gideon multiyear plan.
The minister of defense is thus seeking additional budgets, and it's certainly easy to see why. As a high ranking political official, he must first and foremost ensure civilians and home front functioning are done minimal harm, even at the expense of the otherwise worthy principle of endowing the army with years' long budgetary stability.