October 29/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
He will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 25/31-46/:"‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?" And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me." Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?"Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me."And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord

Letter to the Romans 12/09-21/:"Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Question: "What does it mean that humanity is made in the image of God (imago dei)?"
Answer: On the last day of creation, God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Thus, He finished His work with a “personal touch.” God formed Adam from the dust and gave him life by sharing His own breath (Genesis 2:7). Accordingly, humanity is unique among all God’s creations, having both a material body and an immaterial soul/spirit.
ing the “image” or “likeness” of God means, in the simplest terms, that we were made to resemble God. Adam did not resemble God in the sense of God’s having flesh and blood. Scripture says that “God is spirit” (John 4:24) and therefore exists without a body. However, Adam’s body did mirror the life of God insofar as it was created in perfect health and was not subject to death.
The image of God (Latin: imago dei) refers to the immaterial part of humanity. It sets human beings apart from the animal world, fits them for the dominion God intended them to have over the earth (Genesis 1:28), and enables them to commune with their Maker. It is a likeness mentally, morally, and socially.
Mentally, humanity was created as a rational, volitional agent. In other words, human beings can reason and choose. This is a reflection of God’s intellect and freedom. Anytime someone invents a machine, writes a book, paints a landscape, enjoys a symphony, calculates a sum, or names a pet, he or she is proclaiming the fact that we are made in God’s image.
Morally, humanity was created in righteousness and perfect innocence, a reflection of God’s holiness. God saw all He had made (humanity included) and called it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Our conscience or “moral compass” is a vestige of that original state. Whenever someone writes a law, recoils from evil, praises good behavior, or feels guilty, he or she is confirming the fact that we are made in God’s own image.
Socially, humanity was created for fellowship. This reflects God's triune nature and His love. In Eden, humanity’s primary relationship was with God (Genesis 3:8 implies fellowship with God), and God made the first woman because “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Every time someone marries, makes a friend, hugs a child, or attends church, he or she is demonstrating the fact that we are made in the likeness of God.
Part of being made in God’s image is that Adam had the capacity to make free choices. Although they were given a righteous nature, Adam and Eve made an evil choice to rebel against their Creator. In so doing, they marred the image of God within themselves, and passed that damaged likeness on to all of their descendants (Romans 5:12). Today, we still bear the image of God (James 3:9), but we also bear the scars of sin. Mentally, morally, socially, and physically, we show the effects of sin.
The good news is that when God redeems an individual, He begins to restore the original image of God, creating a “new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). That redemption is only available by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior from the sin that separates us from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Through Christ, we are made new creations in the likeness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 28-29/17
Patriarch Al Raei's Visits To Kuwait & Saudi Arabia/Elias Bejjani/October 28/17
Lebanon's civil war scars reemerge with assassination case verdict/Scott Preston/Al Monitor/October 27, 2017
'Muhammad' is the Future of Europe/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/October 28/17
Re-Defining the Near East’s Borders/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/October 28/17
Be Careful Who You Call a 'White Supremacist'/Megan McArdle/Bloomberg View/Saturday, 28 October, 2017
In long run, Israel favors secular Assad over Shiite Islamist regime in Syria/Dr. Yaron Friedman/Ynetnews/October 28/17
How two stubborn men talked their way into a crisis/Cornelia Meyer/ArabNews/October 29/17/
The Future Investment Initiative and the new Saudi Arabia/Raghida Dergham/ArabNews/October 28/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 28-29/17
Patriarch Al Raei's Visits To Kuwait & Saudi Arabia
1,000th Syrian Evacuated from Lebanon Arrives in Italy through 'Safe Corridor'
Hariri, Anastasiades discuss general situation, bilateral relations between Lebanon and Cyprus
Rahi Voices Calls for Ending Wars and Conflicts, Urges Refugees to Return Home
US Congress Delegation in Beirut
Jumblat Says Biometric Cards 'Additional Waste of Money'
Report: Registration of Syrian Refugees Births a Prelude for their Return
Culture Minister arrives in Paris to partake in UNESCO Conference
Hashem: Elections will take place as scheduled, no reason for postponement
UK Minister reaffirms support for Lebanon's security, says UK investing in Lebanon's future through education, economy
Berri cables his Spanish counterpart in support of her country's unity
Foreign Ministry reiterates support for the unity of Spain
Lebanon's civil war scars reemerge with assassination case verdict
Lebanon rejects citizenship for Syrian refugees

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 28-29/17
Kurdish official: Masoud Barzani will not extend presidential term beyond Nov. 1
18 dead, more than 30 wounded in Mogadishu hotel blast
Mass grave with 50 bodies of Iraqi soldiers found in Kirkuk
Turkey arrests alleged ISIS members over ‘holiday attack plot’
Third woman accuses Islamist thinker Tariq Ramadan of sexual harassment
New ‘rape’ case filed against Islamist Tariq Ramadan
Egypt’s Sisi names new armed forces chief of staff
Mattis Warns 'Massive' Response to North Korea Nuclear Weapon Use
Canada Pauses Military Assistance to Iraqi Troops
Spain Takes Control of 'Independent' Catalonia
Canada condemns use of chemical weapons in Syria
Statement by Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs on Guatemala high court decision on death penalty

Latest Lebanese Related News published on October 28-29/17
Patriarch Al Raei's Visits To Kuwait & Saudi Arabia

Elias Bejjani/October 28/17
In Case that His eminence our Maronites Patriarch Bchara Al Raei is visiting Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to advocate for Hezbollah's occupation, the Minorities Pact & Al Assad as he did in France and other countries it would be better and safer not to go on with these visits.

1,000th Syrian Evacuated from Lebanon Arrives in Italy through 'Safe Corridor'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 28/17/Over 120 Syrian asylum seekers were brought safely to Rome Friday, bringing the number using a Christian "humanitarian corridor" to seek refuge in Italy from the war in their homeland to 1,000. The evacuation of displaced Syrians from Lebanon to Italy was launched in February 2016, and steps are now under way to bring asylum-seeking Eritreans out of Ethiopia. The Syrians, including around fifty children or adolescents, landed at Rome's Fiumicino Airport and were greeted with tears and hugs by members of religious organizations and -- in some cases -- by relatives. "This project will continue, because it has united everyone. The doors will remain open, because integration through humanitarian corridors works," said Marco Impagliazzo, head of the Catholic Sant'Egidio community. The programme, which targets vulnerable Muslims and Christians alike, is an alternative to dangerous smuggling routes. The charities behind the so-called corridor help new arrivals with housing, Italian language courses and skills training.

Hariri, Anastasiades discuss general situation, bilateral relations between Lebanon and Cyprus
Sat 28 Oct 2017/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri met Saturday evening in Nicosia with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, with the general situation in Lebanon and the region and bilateral relations topping their discussion. Talks also touched on ways of developing bilateral cooperation in various fields, especially in the economic sector. Attending the meeting on the Lebanese side was PM Hariri's Chief-of-Staff Nader Hariri, and on the Cypriot side Defense Minister Christopher Fucaidis, as well as Energy, Trade, Industry and Tourism Minister George Lakkotrypis and Cypriot Ambassador to Lebanon Christina Rafti, in addition to other senior Cypriot officials. Anastasiades and Hariri are due to make a joint press statement later this evening. A dinner banquet hosted by the Cypriot President in honor of PM Hariri will follow.

Rahi Voices Calls for Ending Wars and Conflicts, Urges Refugees to Return Home
Naharnet/October 28/17/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi voiced calls on the international and Arab communities to work on ending wars all around the world and urged all the displaced to return to their homeland, the National News Agency reported on Saturday. Al-Rahi who is on a tour in the United States said: “I call on the International and Arab communities to put an end to wars in Middle Eastern countries.”Speaking during a mass service in Boston, he urged said communities to “work on returning refugees, kidnapped and the displaced to their countries and to preserve their citizenship rights.” Furthermore, the Patriarch voiced calls for “finding political and diplomatic solutions for world conflicts in order to bring a comprehensive and lasting peace to the region.”

US Congress Delegation in Beirut
Naharnet/October 28/17/A delegation from the US congress arrived in Beirut where it is scheduled to meet with several Lebanese officials, the State-run National News Agency reported on Saturday. NNA did not provide further details about the visit. The visit comes following a US legislation on Wednesday that approved a new batch of measures against Hizbullah party targeting its finances. The U.S. House of Representatives approved bipartisan legislation to block the flow of money to Hizbullah and to sanction the Iran-backed group for allegedly using civilians as "human shields" during the 2006 war with Israel.

Jumblat Says Biometric Cards 'Additional Waste of Money'
Naharnet/October 28/17/Progressive Socialistic Party leader MP Walid Jumblat said Saturday it would be needless to squander more public funds for the issuance of biometric voter cards, and has called instead for establishing garbage sorting plants before a major landfill for the Beirut area approaches its absorptive capacity. “Biometric cards is an extra waste of money. Let the focus be on a modern sorting plant for the capital and its suburbs. Investment in the environment is a priority,” said Jumblat in a tweet. Jumblat's remarks come in light of cabinet divisions over whether the government should approve the creation of biometric identity cards to be used in the May 6, 2018 parliamentary elections. Reports have said that an amount of LBP 202 billion needs to be allocated for the creation of said cards. The MP has said that the sums of money can be used to establish garbage sorting plants to receive the trash of Beirut and its suburbs instead. The Costa Brava landfill, which receives waste from Beirut and its suburbs, reaches its full capacity by the end of 2018.

Report: Registration of Syrian Refugees Births a Prelude for their Return
Naharnet/October 28/17/In light of the efforts exerted to return the displaced Syrians back to their homeland, Lebanon's foreign ministry initiated measures for the registration of refugees' births and civil documentation at the Syrian embassy in Beirut, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. For that purpose, the “foreign ministry has referred to the interior ministry a memo from the Syrian Embassy wishing on the competent Lebanese authorities to work on personal status registration of refugees, especially marriages and births, mainly for Syrian persons who do not hold valid legal residence to facilitate access to Syrian identity documents and thus facilitate their return to their homeland,” said the daily. “The embassy also proposes the cancellation of fines imposed on unlawful residency of Syrians who wish to leave Lebanon permanently,” it added.A Lebanese minister who spoke on condition of anonymity told the daily: “The number of Syrian births in Lebanon are almost countless. We have been able to register around 260 thousand births since 2011.”The daily added that several letters have been exchanged in that regard since the beginning of October between the foreign ministry, interior ministry and the Syrian embassy. The Norwegian Refugee Council said in a report that around 92 percent of refugees in Lebanon are unable to complete all the legal and administrative steps to register the birth of their children. NRC added that “thousands of children in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq lack basic identity and civil documents, impacting their ability to claim a range of rights and protections and endangering their access to education and other services if they choose to return to Syria.” Lebanon hosts more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees, who amount to more than a quarter of the country's population not to mention undocumented individuals, many of whom live in informal tented settlements. The Syrian refugee influx into Lebanon has strained the country's infrastructure, and has also sparked accusations that refugee camps are harboring militants from the war.
The World Bank says the Syrian crisis has pushed an estimated 200,000 Lebanese into poverty, adding to the nation's one million poor.

Culture Minister arrives in Paris to partake in UNESCO Conference
Sat 28 Oct 2017/NNA - Minister of Culture, Ghattas Khoury, began Saturday a visit to France, where he will be participating in the opening of the 39th session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris. On the sidelines of the Conference, Khoury visited the headquarters of the Arab World Institute in Paris currently holding the "Christians of the East" exhibiiton, which includes icons and rare paintings and treasures of the National Museum in Lebanon. The Culture Minister also attended the "For You Baalbeck" Show, previously hosted in Baalbeck two years ago on the 60th commemoration of the Baalbeck International Festivals foundation, in the presence of the Festivals Committee Head, Nayla de Freij, and a large crowd of diplomatic, social and cultural figures. '

Hashem: Elections will take place as scheduled, no reason for postponement
Sat 28 Oct 2017/NNA - "Development and Liberation" Parliamentary Bloc Member, MP Kassem Hashem, stressed Saturday that the legislative elections would be held on time, referring to the absence of any reason or justification for their postponement. "The ongoing debate within the ministerial committee or outside will have no effect on the parliamentary elections' scheduled date, and this is recognized by all political forces despite the differing observations and positions vis-à-vis fundamental issues such as the biometric card and pre-registration," said Hashem. The Minister's words came before a delegation from the town of al-Arqoub who visited him at his Shebaa residence earlier today. "As institutions assume their natural role, the responsibility becomes greater in addressing the accumulated dossiers and crises, exacerbated by the failure and recklessness in solving the daily problems and dilemmas facing the Lebanese people," added Hashem. "The Lebanese have the right to worry about the future of the generations as the status quo persists in all sectors and fields," he indicated. "With the approach of the government's discussion of the 2018 budget, we urge the cabinet to develop a national plan to meet the developmental and service needs of the Southern border areas," stressed Hashem, reminding officials of the deprivation suffered by many villages and towns in South Lebanon.

UK Minister reaffirms support for Lebanon's security, says UK investing in Lebanon's future through education, economy
Sat 28 Oct 2017/NNA - Minister of State for the Middle East and International Development Alistair Burt has reaffirmed the UK's commitment to supporting a strong and prosperous Lebanon, announcing further support to the Lebanese Army and celebrating the UK's investment in Lebanon's future.
At a reception hosted to launch the Association of Lebanese Graduates of UK Universities, Minister Burt formally announced SoUK.LB, a new initiative to help the growing social enterprise sector in Lebanon, which he described as an investment in Lebanon's economy to boost job creation. He also urged ambitious Lebanese to apply Masters programmes under the UK government's Chevening scholarship scheme. On the second day of his two-day visit, His Excellency Minister Burt visited the Second Land Border Regiment at Ras Baalbek to see the Fajr el Jouroud operations room and witness firsthand how the UK is helping the Army move its border posts forward onto reclaimed territory. A number of brand new military positions have been built by the LAF throughout this area in the last few weeks, putting the Lebanese flag back on the furthest reaches of Lebanese territory, thanks to British support and funding. The new towers are just some of the 74 positions built with UK support since 2012, which will soon ensure the Lebanese Army secure the whole border with Syria, from the Mediterranean to Mount Hermon. The Minister's tour also involved a visit to Al Irshad Public School for Girls in Beirut and an Informal Tented Settlement in the Bekaa, where he saw how the UK is helping to manage the challenge of the refugees as well as working on improvements to public schooling for the benefit of all children in Lebanon.
Speaking at the end of his visit Minister Burt said:
"I am delighted to be back in Lebanon, a country I know well having visited three times since 2010. A lot has happened since my last visit [in 2013]. The Lebanese people are generously hosting more than 1.5 million refugees, an undeniable burden. The LAF were the first army in the region to repel Daesh in 2014, and in 2017 they have successfully expelled Daesh from Lebanese territory. I held very constructive meetings with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Speaker NabihBerri, and Foreign Minister GebranBassil. I reiterated the UK's support for a strong, stable and prosperous Lebanon. We are proud of the excellent bilateral relationship between our two countries. Today I have witnessed first-hand the strength of our partnership in boosting the economy by creating jobs up and down the country; I saw it in our flagship programme of quality education in public schools for all children in Lebanon; in our humanitarian assistance to refugees; and in our steadfast support to the brave men and women of the Lebanese army who tirelessly defend Lebanon from terrorism. I extended my congratulations on the successful military operation of the Lebanese army 'Fajr El Jouroud' against Daesh. This operation has anchored the army's reputation as a professional and respected institution that has dramatically increased its capabilities in recent years. We are proud of the trust the LAF has shown in the UK as a partner, from the streets of Beirut to the borders. I am also proud to see the results of the UK's contribution of £60 million to build over 70 military watchtowers, and provide over 300 Land Rovers and 3,000 sets of body armour. We have trained 8,000 soldiers and sent 150 LAF officers to the UK's finest military academies. We are also providing £13 million to improve the police across Lebanon and especially here in Beirut, in support of the ISF's own vision for reform by 2022. The UK will remain by Lebanon's side in actions and not just words, shoulder to shoulder for security, prosperity and stability. It has been a great pleasure to be back. I have enjoyed my visit. I look forward to returning".

Berri cables his Spanish counterpart in support of her country's unity

Sat 28 Oct 2017/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, sent a cable Saturday to his Spanish counterpart, Ana Maria Pastor Julian, confirming Lebanon's support for Spain's unity. "On behalf of the Lebanese Parliament, I offer our sincere support for a united and strong Spain in confronting the dangers and challenges arising from the events related to the declaration of Catalan independence," Berri stated in his cable. "We firmly stand in favor of respecting the Constitution as a means for maintaining a unified and strong Spain," the Speaker asserted.

Foreign Ministry reiterates support for the unity of Spain
Sat 28 Oct 2017/NNA - Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates issued Saturday a statement stressing its support for Spain's unity. "Following the political developments in the Kingdom of Spain as a result of the declaration of Catalan independence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms its support of the territorial integrity of Spain, in line with Lebanon's position in favor of the unity of states and the cohesion of their political systems and constitutional institutions," the statement said. "Lebanon urges the return of the political stability to united Spain in a way that will serve the interests and unison of the Spanish people," the statement concluded.

Lebanon's civil war scars reemerge with assassination case verdict
Scott Preston/Al Monitor/October 27, 2017
On Oct. 20, Lebanon’s highest court issued a landmark ruling, sentencing two members of the local Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) to death. The verdict marks the end of a decadeslong case that prosecuted Habib Shartouni for the assassination of President-elect Bashir Gemayel during the country’s civil war. For some Lebanese, the sentence provided a sense of justice, while others suspect that political motivations were behind the ruling. Gemayel, who was a prominent leader within the predominantly Maronite Catholic Kataeb (Phalange) Party, has been a highly revered figure by Christians both inside the party and out. Shortly after his election in 1982, he had agreed to discuss the normalization of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Israel, which was opposed by several leftist groups in the country. In response, Shartouni planted a bomb outside the Kataeb headquarters on Sept. 14, 1982, killing Gemayel and at least 32 others. Following the bombing, Shartouni was arrested and imprisoned for eight years without trial. He escaped during a Syrian military offensive. Although his current whereabouts are unknown, he had spent several years in hiding in Damascus, which has backed the SSNP. Shartouni was tried in absentia along with Nabil al-Alam, who was accused of masterminding the bombing. Some believe Alam is already deceased.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, member of parliament Nadim Gemayel, Bashir’s son, hailed the trial as a victory of transitional justice, which could deter similar attacks in the future. “This judgment is very significant, not only for me and my family and our son, or the daughter or wife of Bashir Gemayel who was assassinated. It is very important for all the country and for the state of law of Lebanon since none of all the terrorist attacks that happened in Lebanon in the last 40 years, none of them have been judged or elucidated. So it is very important for us to know that, in Lebanon, justice can prevail,” said Gemayel.
Yet the sentencing has exposed political divisions across the country, as many leftists regard Shartouni with the estimable stardom that Lebanese Christians confer upon Gemayel. For supporters, Shartouni is perceived as a defender of Lebanon amid fears that Gemayel would have consented to wider Israeli influence in the country. Accordingly, the issue has proved controversial as members of both Kataeb and the SSNP rallied in front of the court during the recent proceedings. The past week has seen a flurry of heated social media activity surrounding the case.
The sudden closure of the 35-year trial has also raised questions regarding the timing of the verdict and whether it is meant to serve larger political goals. Since 2016, the Kataeb Party has been largely excluded from the government, due in part to the reconciliation of Gen. Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and another Christian party known as the Lebanese Forces. Later, when Saad Hariri’s Sunni Future Movement backed Aoun’s presidential candidacy — leading to Aoun’s election Oct. 31, 2016 — the Kataeb lost out on ministerial posts.
Khalil Khairallah, who serves as the SSNP’s dean of culture, told Al-Monitor that the trial was resurfaced to serve political aspirations ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections. “For example, the Kataeb, the Lebanese Forces and President Aoun’s party all want to make the election with a big front. For me, [there is] only that purpose.”
“There were many, many massacres in Lebanon. Some of the actors of these massacres are still alive now. Why can’t we judge them?” mused Khairallah. “Why only Habib Shartouni, and why now? Because this sentence had the chance to unify these parties in the coming elections.” The suspected formation of a new Christian political alliance was also echoed by Shartouni himself in an interview on Oct. 19 with Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese media outlet. It is unclear, however, if the interview was done in person.
Imad Salamey, the director of the Institute for Social Justice and Conflict Resolution at the Lebanese American University, told Al-Monitor that Shartouni’s sentencing may affect dynamics among the Christian parties of the March 14 political bloc that opposed Iranian and Syrian interventionism in Lebanon.
“[The verdict] indicates first of all that Christian parties, particularly those on the March 14 side, are trying to seek some kind of justice in their favor. It also signals a new alignment between those who accused Bashir Gemayel of being a collaborator, an Israeli collaborator, and those who really … [saw him as] president of the country,” explained Salamey. “So we have witnessed in the past week a renewal of old rhetoric that perhaps impacted political alignment in the country, particularly Christian-Christian alignment whereby the FPM kept silent about the verdict compared to other March 14 Christian parties.”
In 2006, the FPM forged an alliance with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which is thought to be collaborating with the SSNP in supporting Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. The FPM has not publicly celebrated Shartouni’s sentencing with the pomp of other Christian parties, although FPM minister Gebran Bassil did attend a commemoration ceremony for Gemayel following the trial.
Mohanad Hage Ali, the director of communications at the Carnegie Middle East Center, has been closely monitoring developments among Christian parties in Lebanon. According to him, the FPM may have more to gain from Shartouni’s trial than the Kataeb Party. “Everyone is trying to score before the elections,” Hage Ali told Al-Monitor. “I think my assessment is, it works well for the Lebanese Forces and for the FPM, but especially so for the FPM, as they are saying, ‘Look at us, we are in power and we are doing what the Christians really want, so Bashir’s killers will not get away with it as they used to before we were here.’ So it is a different vibe; they are telling Christians that ‘things are different now,’ and I think they will fare well in the elections.”
However, Salamey contended that issuing the death sentence prior to the elections primarily helps mobilize the Kataeb’s base of support, despite their exclusion from government. “It definitely signals a boost for the Kataeb Party among the Christian constituency. It boosts their positions on the eve of the elections, but you know, I think the electorate in Lebanon is pretty solidly being entrenched behind particular leaders and political parties. So [the trial] has some morale boost, but it does not have significant influence on electoral outcomes.”
**Scott Preston is a journalist based in Beirut, writing about social and political issues in the Middle East. On Twitter: @scottapreston

Lebanon rejects citizenship for Syrian refugees
MEM/October 28, 2017 /The President of Lebanon has rejected the proposal to give citizenship to Syrian refugees. Michel Aoun made this clear during a meeting in Beirut with Britain’s Minister of State for Middle East Affairs, Alistair Burt, the official Lebanese news agency reported on Friday. “Lebanon urges a speedy solution to the Syrian crisis,” explained President Aoun, “because any delay resolving this calamity increases the sufferings of Syrians, not to mention the repercussions for Lebanon.”
The Lebanese leader hailed his country’s “strong relations” with Britain and thanked Burt for Britain’s support for the Lebanese Army. British troops have been training Lebanese units deployed along the eastern border with Syria. Aoun expressed the hope that Britain would consider increasing its aid in a bid to maintain stability and combat terrorism. He pointed out that his country “bears a heavy burden” as a result of the displacement of the Lebanese refugees. “Lebanon is no longer capable of addressing the security, economic and social consequences resulting from the presence of Syrian refugees,” he made clear. President Aoun also asked Burt to intervene to stop the “hostile Israeli actions” against Lebanon and to put pressure on the Israeli government to end the threats that have been increasing recently. In response, Burt stressed Britain’s desire to develop bilateral relations with Lebanon in all fields, especially on military and economic issues. “My country looks forward to supporting the Lebanese economy and development projects, as well as everything that would help to mitigate the repercussions of the Syrian refugee crisis on Lebanon.”
Burt arrived in Lebanon early on Friday along with an economic delegation. As well as President Aoun, the British minister also met with the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 28-29/17
Kurdish official: Masoud Barzani will not extend presidential term beyond Nov. 1
AFP, Reuters/28 October 2017/IRBIL, IRAQ: Iraqi Kurdistan leader Masoud Barzani will not extend his presidential powers beyond November 1, Reuters reported a Kurdish official as saying. Parliament in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region said it will meet Sunday to redistribute the powers of president Masoud Barzani. A statement from Barzani will be read out at the meeting which is set to open at 1100 GMT, parliament said on Saturday. On Tuesday, parliament decided to freeze the activities of Barzani, his vice president Kosrat Rasul and the head of the presidential cabinet, Fuad Hussein.
Barzani came under growing opposition from his detractors after he organized the September 25 referendum on Kurdish independence that triggered a deep crisis with Baghdad. The federal government opposed the vote which it deemed unconstitutional, and its forces have since seized a swathe of disputed territory from Kurdish fighters. Iraqi Kurdistan’s main opposition party, the Goran movement, called on Barzani to step down after the loss of Kurdish-controlled territory. Kurdish MP Iden Maarouf said parliament will meet on Sunday to see how best to “redistribute the president’s powers” among the legislative, executive and judicial authorities. Despite scoring a major victory with a resounding “yes” for independence in the referendum, Barzani found himself increasingly isolated. After the vote, the sweeping operation by the central government reclaimed from the Kurds swathes of territory and oilfields in and around the disputed province of Kirkuk. The loss of the oilfields, which provided income that would have been critical to an independent Kurdish state, sparked recriminations among the Kurds. Two main parties dominate political life in Kurdistan, Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of late Iraqi president Jalal Talabani. Iraq’s current president, Fuad Masum, is also a member of the PUK and had supported a UN-backed push for dialogue between the Kurds and Baghdad before the referendum.After the vote Masum said the independence referendum had triggered the assault on Kirkuk. On Tuesday, when parliament froze Barzani’s powers, it also announced its decision to hold legislative elections in eight months. Regional legislative and presidential elections had both been due on November 1 but were postponed after Baghdad seized territory and oilfields from the Kurds. The Kurdish parliament has not set a date for a new presidential election.

18 dead, more than 30 wounded in Mogadishu hotel blast
ABDI GULED | AP | Published — Sunday 29 October 2017/Germany jails two extremists for fighting in Somalia, Syria
MOGADISHU, Somalia: A suicide car bomb exploded outside a popular hotel in Somalia’s capital on Saturday, killing at least 18 people and wounding more than 30, and gunfire continued as security forces pursued the attackers inside the building, police said. Two more blasts were heard, one when an attacker detonated a suicide vest. Speaking to The Associated Press by telephone from the scene, Capt. Mohamed Hussein said more than 20 people, including government officials, were thought to be trapped as security forces battled extremists holed up on the top floor of the Nasa-Hablod hotel, close to the presidential palace. Two of the five attackers were killed on the first floor, Hussein said. The others hurled grenades and cut off the building’s electricity as night fell. Saturday’s blasts came two weeks after more than 350 people were killed in a massive truck bombing on a busy Mogadishu street in the country’s worst-ever attack. Al-Shabab, Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group, quickly claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack and said its fighters were inside the hotel. As night fell, sporadic gunfire could be heard as soldiers responded. A senior Somali police colonel and a former lawmaker were among the dead, Hussein said. Mohamed Dek Hajji said he survived the bombing as he walked beside a parked car that was largely destroyed by the explosion. He said he saw at least three armed men in military uniforms running toward the hotel after the suicide bombing at its gate. “I think they were Al-Shabab fighters who were trying to storm the hotel,” he said, lying on a hospital bed. He suffered small injuries on his shoulder and skull from flying glass.Witnesses in some previous attacks have said Al-Shabab fighters disguised themselves by wearing military uniforms.
Al-Shabab often targets high-profile areas of Mogadishu. It has not commented on the massive attack two weeks ago; experts have said the death toll was so high that the group hesitated to further anger Somali citizens as its pursues its insurgency. Since the blast two weeks ago, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has visited regional countries to seek more support for the fight against the extremist group, vowing a “state of war.” He also faces the challenge of pulling together regional powers inside his long-fractured country, where the federal government is only now trying to assert itself beyond Mogadishu and other major cities. A 22,000-strong multinational African Union force in Somalia is expected to withdraw its forces and hand over the country’s security to the Somali military by the end of 2020. US military officials and others in recent months have expressed concern that Somali forces are not yet ready. The US military also has stepped up military efforts against Al-Shabab this year in Somalia, carrying out nearly 20 drone strikes, as the global war on extremism moves deeper into the African continent.

Mass grave with 50 bodies of Iraqi soldiers found in Kirkuk
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSaturday, 28 October 2017/The Joint Operations Command in Iraq announced that its forces have found a mass grave which included 50 bodies belonging to members of the army and police in Hawija district.
The joint operations said in a statement that ISIS executed government forces in the village of Bakara in the center of Hawija during terror attacks, launched on areas south-west of Kirkuk. The statement added that legal procedures will be taken to investigate the cemetery and examine the remains in it. Earlier in October, army sources said that security forces found two mass graves containing the remains of dozens of members of the army and police who were killed by armed men in the village of Abu Sakhra, southeast of Hawija. On Oct. 8, Iraqi forces fully restored the center of al Kadhaa, located south-west of Kirkuk, from the control of the extremist organization. For his part, the police captain of Kirkuk Hamid al-Obaidi told Anatolia that the security forces were commissioned to conduct searches and investigate the mass graves of the army and police in the province of Hawija.
Obaidi has dozens of soldiers whose fate is unknown since 2014. In the summer of 2014, ISIS controlled large areas in the province of Diyala in the east of the country. Iraqi army forces, supported by the International coalition, carried out large-scale military operations in which they liberated the seized areas.

Turkey arrests alleged ISIS members over ‘holiday attack plot’
AFP, AnkaraSaturday, 28 October 2017/Turkey arrested 49 alleged ISIS members on Saturday, some of whom were suspected of planning an attack on Turkey’s national holiday on Sunday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
The arrests in the capital Ankara came a day before celebrations across the country for the 94th anniversary of Republic Day. Turkish authorities issued warrants for 55 suspected foreign IS members, believing some were planning an attack on Republic Day, Anadolu reported without giving further details. Turkey has been hit by several bloody attacks blamed on ISIS militants over the past two years, including a New Year attack this year on an elite Istanbul nightclub during which 39 people were killed by an ISIS gunman. There has been a lull in attacks since, but tensions remain high and Turkish police launch raids almost daily against suspected IS cells across the country.

Third woman accuses Islamist thinker Tariq Ramadan of sexual harassment
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnnglishSaturday, 28 October 2017/A third woman has come forward and accused Islamist thinker Tariq Ramadan of allegedly sexually harassing her some years ago. Yasmina, not her real name, spoke to French daily newspaper Le Parisien and said the Swiss-Muslim professor threatened her with rape in 2012. The woman has previously opened up about her story with local French media in 2013. “At first he gave me religious advice through his website, and then asked me for my picture so that he would know who he was talking to. He found me beautiful, and since that day, things became pornographic between us,” she told Le Parisien. “Two years later he called me to a hotel in the suburbs and then threatened me that he had compromising things on me,” she added. A second complaint was filed on Friday in France against the Ramadan for rape and sexual assault, following accusations of raping Salafist-turned secular liberal activist Henda Ayari. Ayari’s lawyer Eric Morain added that he has received other testimonials from women who are thinking of filing a complaint against the intellectual for harassment or sexual assault. Ramadan is the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood Hassan al-Banna and currently a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.

New ‘rape’ case filed against Islamist Tariq Ramadan
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSaturday, 28 October 2017/A complaint was filed Friday in France against the Islamist philosopher and theologian Tariq Ramadan, for rape and sexual assault, following accusations of raping Salafist-turned secular liberal activist Henda Ayari. Three days after the opening of an investigation similar accusations against him, were filed on Friday, reported AFP. Ayari lawyer Eric Morain added that he has received other testimonials from women who are thinking of filing a complaint against the intellectual for harassment or sexual assault. Ayari filed a case on October 20 against Swiss-Muslim thinker Ramadan, the grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood founder, of raping and sexually assaulting her in a Paris hotel room in 2012. She was interrogated for six hours by police in Rouen (Normandy, north-west), said her lawyer, the day after the opening of an investigation by the Paris prosecutor for “rape, sexual assault, violence and death threats “. According to Le Parisien, a new complainant is filled by a disabled 42-year-old woman, who converted to Islam claiming brutal sexual violence at a big hotel, in autumn 2009. In the aftermath of the first complaint, Tariq Ramadan denied the accusations and in turn complained Monday for “slanderous denunciation” against Ms. Ayari. Ramadan is the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood Hassan al-Banna and currently a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. (With AFP)

Egypt’s Sisi names new armed forces chief of staff
AFP, CairoSaturday, 28 October 2017/Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has named a new armed forces chief of staff, the presidency said in a brief statement on Saturday. He appointed former defense ministry secretary general Mohammed Farid Hegazy to the post, it said, without giving a reason for the change. His predecessor Mahmoud Hegazy, who had held the post since March 2014, was named a presidential adviser. Linked to Sisi through the marriage of their respective children, Mahmoud Hegazy recently returned from Washington where military chiefs had gathered to discuss fighting “terrorism”. Mohammed Farid Hegazy’s appointment is a major change in the military establishment. Sisi came to power after the 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, for whom he had served as defense minister. The country’s armed forces have since faced an Islamist insurgency including by ISIS, with hundreds of policemen and soldiers killed. The insurgency is concentrated on North Sinai province, although ISIS has also extended its presence to southern Egypt and the Nile Delta, north of the capital.

Mattis Warns 'Massive' Response to North Korea Nuclear Weapon Use
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 28/17/US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on Saturday warned North Korea of a "massive military response" to any use of nuclear weapons as tensions remain sky-high ahead of Donald Trump's visit to South Korea. Pyongyang in recent months has sparked global alarm by conducting a sixth nuclear test and test-launching missiles capable of reaching the US mainland, while Trump and the North's young ruler Kim Jong-Un have traded threats of war and personal insults. Mattis, on a trip to Seoul for annual defence talks, maintained that diplomacy remained a "preferred course of action" but stressed, "our diplomats are most effective when backed by credible military force". Make no mistake -- any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated," Mattis said at a joint press conference with his South Korean counterpart Song Young-Moo. "Any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response, effective and overwhelming," Mattis said, adding Washington "does not accept a nuclear North Korea." "I cannot imagine a condition under which the United States will accept North Korea as a nuclear power," he said.
Mattis did not specify the threshold of nuclear weapon activity that would trigger a military response. Pyongyang's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho said on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month that his country could test a nuclear bomb over the Pacific. But Mattis said Pyongyang should "harbour no illusion", saying the isolated state is militarily "overmatched" by the US and South Korea -- a key ally of Washington that hosts 28,500 US troops.
- 'Not rushing to war' -Mattis' trip comes ahead of Trump's first presidential visit to South Korea next month as part of his Asia tour which also includes Japan, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. All eyes will be on Trump's message to the North and Kim. Trump is expected to deliver a speech at the South's parliament and to visit an US military base during a November 7-8 trip to Seoul. Trump's recent remark that "only one thing will work" with the North fuelled concerns of a potential conflict on the divided peninsula where the 1950-53 Korean War had left millions dead. But Mattis has repeatedly stressed a diplomatic solution to ease tension during his trip to Asia this week, saying Washington was "not rushing to war" and its goal was "not war." Some Trump advisers have said US military options are limited when Pyongyang could launch an artillery barrage on the South's capital Seoul -- only about 50 kilometres from the border and home to 10 million people. The North is estimated to have some 10,000 artillery pieces and at least 50 short-range missiles stationed along its heavily fortified border with the South. The country has made significant progress in its atomic and missile technology under Kim, who took power after the death of his father and longtime ruler, Kim Jong-Il, in 2011. Since then he has overseen four of the country's six nuclear tests and hailed its nuclear weapons as a "treasured sword" to protect itself from potential invasion by the "imperialist enemy" the US. Growing nuclear threats by the North prompted calls by some Seoul lawmakers to deploy tactical US nuclear weapons in the South, but Song dismissed such a possibility. "We believe that tactical nukes are not worth deploying to the Korean peninsula," Song said, adding Seoul was capable of responding to potential nuclear attacks by the North without its own atomic weapon.

Canada Pauses Military Assistance to Iraqi Troops
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 28/17/Canadian special forces have temporarily suspended military assistance to Iraqi troops due to tensions between the Middle Eastern country's military and Kurdish fighters, the defense ministry said Friday. Cooperation will resume "once more clarity exists regarding the inter-relationships of Iraqi security forces, and the key priorities and tasks going forward," said Dan Le Bouthillier, a spokesman for Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan. Earlier Friday, Iraqi forces paused operations against the Kurds to allow for talks after the two sides -- both armed and trained by the US -- exchanged heavy artillery fire in the latest flare-up of a crisis sparked by a Kurdish independence vote last month. Canada, which is part of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group, said that although its special forces were suspending their mission in training and assisting Iraqi forces in the country's north, its work in other areas continued. That includes supporting the coalition in tactical aviation, intelligence, targeting, command and control, and at a medical facility.Canada tripled its special forces contingent in Iraq in February 2016 to 210 troops.

Spain Takes Control of 'Independent' Catalonia
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 28/17/Spain moved Saturday to seize direct control of Catalonia, sacking its police chief a day after the Catalan regional parliament's independence declaration sent shock waves through Europe. The firing of Josep Lluis Trapero, the highest-ranking officer of the Mossos d'Esquadra regional police, follows Friday's dismissal of Catalonia's president, his deputy, all ministers, and the entire parliament. Moving to quash what he termed an "escalation of disobedience", Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called December 21 elections in the region under sweeping powers granted by the Senate in response to Catalan lawmakers voting to declare an independent republic. The dismissal of Trapero, seen as an ally of his region's separatist leaders, was announced in Saturday's official government gazette. Madrid accuses Trapero of disobeying court orders to block a banned October 1 independence referendum. Instead, the ballot was disrupted, violently in some cases, by officers from Spain's national police and Guardia Civil paramilitary forces. All eyes this weekend will be on whether Catalonia's separatist executive, led by Carles Puigdemont, will willingly step aside for caretaker envoys from Madrid. Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria is due to meet later with secretaries of state who will likely take charge of Catalonia's regional ministries.
Competing rallies -Tens of thousands celebrated in Barcelona and other Catalan cities after Friday's independence declaration, which analysts say the region has no legal power to execute.But anti-secession rallies have been called for the capital, Madrid, on Saturday, and for Barcelona on Sunday. The move to quash Catalan powers under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution is likely to anger many in a region of some 7.5 million people that enjoyed considerable autonomy, with control over education, healthcare and police.
It is the first time the central government has curtailed autonomy in the region since dictator Francisco Franco's repressive 1939-75 rule. Independence supporters have warned they will resist the temporary measure, implemented under a constitutional article devised to rein in rebel regions. "We won't cave in to Rajoy's authoritarianism nor to 155," the far-left CUP party, an ally of Puigdemont, tweeted on Friday. A motion to declare Catalonia a "republic" was passed Friday with 70 votes out of 135 in the regional parliament, where pro-secessionists hold sway. Catalan leaders point to the "Yes" vote in the deeply-divisive October 1 referendum as a mandate for independence, even though less than half of voters took part. Echoing widely-held fears, Federico Santi, Europe analyst at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, warned the crisis could become violent, with "more serious clashes between national police and pro-independence activists."
Speaking after the parliament's proclamation, Puigdemont urged activists to "maintain the momentum" in a peaceful manner.
Unwavering support for Spain -The Spanish government has received unwavering support from the United States and its allies in the European Union. The bloc is increasingly wary of nationalistic and secessionist sentiment, particularly after Britain's dramatic decision last year to leave the bloc. EU President Donald Tusk insisted Madrid "remains our only interlocutor" in Spain, but urged it to exercise restraint. "I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not argument of force," he tweeted.

Canada condemns use of chemical weapons in Syria
October 28, 2017 - Ottawa, Canada - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement:
”Canada welcomes the impartial report issued by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism. We are deeply concerned by this report’s findings, which demonstrate that the Assad regime and Daesh are responsible for killing scores of people using chemical weapons in Syria.
”This is evidence pointing to the use of sarin gas by the Assad regime in the April 4, 2017, attack in southern Idlib province that killed dozens of civilians, including children─and confirmation that Daesh used sulphur mustard in an attack in Umm Hawsh in September 2016.
”Canada vigorously condemned these attacks in the past on various occasions and announced sanctions affecting high-ranking individuals in the Syrian regime linked to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
”Canada is a top contributor to the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism which works to attribute responsibility for the use of chemical weapons.
”The use of chemical weapons by any actor is a breach of international law, continued impunity is unacceptable, and the perpetrators must be held to account.
”We are deeply disappointed by Russia’s decision to veto renewal of the Joint Investigative Mechanism at the UN Security Council earlier this week─the ninth veto it has cast to shield the Assad regime.
”Canada will continue to rally the international community to hold perpetrators of war crimes in Syria to account.”
Quick facts
Since 2016, Canada has contributed $9 million to support the critical verification and fact-finding work of the OPCW in Syria, as well as the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism for attributing responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
The OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism has concluded in the past that the Government of Syria has used chemical weapons against its own people.

Statement by Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs on Guatemala high court decision on death penalty
October 28, 2017 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement:
“Canada welcomes the decision by Guatemala’s highest court to find the application of the death penalty in civilian cases to be unconstitutional. We hope this important step leads to the full abolition of executions in all circumstances.
“This form of punishment is ineffective as a deterrent and incompatible with human rights and human dignity. We urge all countries that still use the death penalty to stop.”

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 28-29/17
'Muhammad' is the Future of Europe
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/October 28/17
During the next thirty years, the population of Africa is expected to increase by one billion.
The French economist Charles Gave recently predicted that France will have a Muslim majority by 2057 -- and this estimate did not even take into consideration the number of expected new migrants.
No doubt, Africa's exploding population will try to reach the shores of a wealthy, senile Europe, which is already undergoing an internal demographic revolution. Europe, to retain its culture, will need to make hard-headed decisions, not just amuse itself to death. The question is: Will Europe protect its borders and civilization before it is submerged?
French President Emmanuel Macron this summer ended up in the middle of a political storm -- with accusations of "racism" -- for saying that women "with seven or eight children" are responsible for the current condition of the African continent, thus creating a challenge, according to Macron, that is "civilizational".
The United Nations states that Macron is right. According to the UN's annual demographic report, "World Population Prospects," one-sixth of the world's population currently lives in Africa. By 2050, the proportion will be one-quarter, and at the end of the century -- when Africa will have four billion people -- one-third.
In Africa today, there are four times more births than deaths. According to figures for 2017, the total fertility rate is 4.5 children per woman, against 1.6 in Europe. During the next thirty years, the population of Africa is expected to increase by one billion. It is not hard to imagine how mass illegal immigration will affect Europe through such unprecedented demographic pressure. African demography has already begun pressing on the "old continent".
When Germany recently opened its doors to over a million people from the Middle East, Asia and Africa, supporters of open borders repeatedly said that a million migrants are nothing in a European population of 500 million people. That, however, was the wrong comparison. The right comparison is between recent arrivals and new births. In 2015 and 2016, 5.1 million children were born in Europe. In the same period, according to a Pew Research Center report, approximately 2.5 million migrants reached Europe. And, as many countries, such as France, refuse to list the new births according to ethnic origin, there is no way to know how many of Europe's births can be attributed to Muslim communities.
In 2015 and 2016, approximately 2.5 million migrants reached Europe, according to a Pew Research Center report. Pictured: Migrants off the coast of Libya attempt to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, on February 18, 2017. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Other UN studies also report about European perspectives, when "Europe" means not only the EU but enlarged continent to the east. In 1950, Europeans numbered 549 million; in 2017, 742 million. In 2050 they are expected to number 715 million. In 2100 the number is projected to drop to 653 million. So, in 30 years, due to the demographic collapse, Europe will lose 30 million people and, by the end of the century, almost 100 million. "Birth control" has worked most effectively in Europe, which demographically did not need it, and worst in Africa, which did.
Within Europe, there will be countries that shrink and countries that grow. The growing ones will tell us what kind of continent it will be. Europe, with the addition of demographic pressure from Africa, will be dominated by Muslim majorities.
Europe is committing social euthanasia. Germany is projected to lose 11 million people; Bulgaria will go from 7 to 4 million; Estonia, from 1.3 million to 890 thousand; Greece, from 11 to 7 million; Italy from 59 to 47 million; Portugal from 10 to 6 million; Poland from 38 to 21 million, Romania from 19 to 12 million and Spain from 46 to 36 million. Russia is expected to shrink from 143 to 124 million.
Among countries with population growth, France is expected to grow from 64 to 74 million, and the UK from 66 to 80 million. Sweden is projected to grow from 9 million to 13 million, and Norway from 5 million to 8 million. Belgium's population of 11 million is expected to increase by 2 million. These five European countries are also among those with the highest proportion of Muslims.
In addition, last week a new Eurostat report related that the number of deaths in the "old continent" rose 5.7% in one year, due to a population that is aging, but that the demographic growth in high-density Islamic areas is tremendous:
"the highest rates of natural population growth were recorded in the eastern London regions of Hackney & Newham (14 per 1000 inhabitants) and Tower Hamlets (12 per 1000 inhabitants) and the north-eastern Parisian suburbs of Seine-Saint-Denis (13 per 1000 inhabitants)".
The French economist Charles Gave recently predicted that France will have a Muslim majority by 2057 -- and this estimate did not even take into consideration the number of expected new migrants.
Last week, in the UK, the Office of National Statistics announced that this year, among newborn boys, Muhammad is one of the most popular names, and "by far the most popular if different spellings are accounted for". The same is true in the Netherlands' four biggest cities. In the capital of Norway, Oslo, Mohammed is the top name not only for newborn boys, but for men in the city overall. One would have to be blind not to understand the trend: "It's the demography, stupid".
No doubt, Africa's exploding population will try to reach the shores of a wealthy, senile Europe, which is already undergoing an internal demographic revolution. Europe, to retain its culture, will need to make hard-headed decisions, not just amuse itself to death. The question is: Will Europe protect its borders and civilization before it is submerged?
**Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
© 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.

Re-Defining the Near East’s Borders
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/October 28/17
Recurring calls by Lebanese President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil for the “return” of the Syrian displaced persons, remind me of the campaigns of Eastern and central Europe’s extreme right leaders against Syrian refugees. These calls are issued, however, against a background larger than Lebanon, even possibly larger than the Arabs.
What underlines this impression is the campaign orchestrated by security services associating most crimes and transgressions committed with those displaced; which makes weak souls and dimwits believe the President and his camp are right.
However, the most dangerous aspect of the Aoun-sponsored campaign is that it intentionally ignores what created the “displacement” phenomenon and the identity of the Lebanese culprits responsible for it. These culprits are none other than those who pushed for Aoun’s election to be president, while hiding behind his, his son-in-law’s and some security services’ pressure for two reasons:
The first, is their wariness about future regional developments, since Moscow has now overtaken Iran as the main power broker in Syria.
The second, because they want to perpetuate the lie that they value “Muslim unity”, while working to destroy the credibility of moderate Sunni leaders, who are deluding themselves by acting as if they occupy positions of real authority.
Last week, the Lebanese President, repeated his now familiar tune against the Syrian displaced, but this time he added another ominous sentence, when he said: “We are not going to wait: neither for a political nor a security solution in Syria, as it is our duty to defend our nation’s interest”. These words were uttered at a ministerial session in front of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and all the ministers, including those who represent parties that presumably opposed and still oppose Hezbollah’s fighting inside Syria. In other words, these are the same parties which know enough about Hezbollah’s role in uprooting and displacing tens of thousands of Syrians, beginning with the border town of al-Qusayr and continuing with Greater Damascus and Barada River Valley. Yet, some Sunni leaders are playing a waiting game, not only compromising, appeasing and conceding to Hezbollah, but also accusing of hypocrisy and outbidding, anyone who criticizes their appeasement and concessions.
Such a weird situation is inseparable from a regional picture where “border lines” are collapsing and the ground is being prepared for new “partition lines”!
It would be absurd now to talk of a “pre-2003 Iraq” or a “pre-2011 Syria”. The tragic play is finished, against a background of rivers of blood, mountains of hatred, and a dawn of adventurism, subservience, sectarianism and racism of every color, shape and form.
Last week, even Arab intellectuals found themselves torn between supporting the Iraqi Kurds’ referendum from a standpoint of respect to the right of self-determination in light of Iraq being dominated by Iran’s mullahs and Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) through their henchmen in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF); and supporting the Iraqi army’s reclaiming of “the Disputed Territories” by force because it was its duty to save Iraq’s sovereignty from the Kurdish secessionist threat.
In the meantime, there were those expressing doubts as to whether the Baghdad government would be able to rid Iraq of Iran’s hegemony over the country’s armed Shi’ite militias, unless western powers led by the US deal decisively with Tehran’s aggressive policies. In fact, until now, and despite the change in Washington’s handling of the Iran file under Donald Trump, its positions have so far been more like a “letter of intents” rather than a courageous practical strategy in a highly sensitive region; and is becoming even more sensitive as Moscow tries to reclaim its lost influence.
In the same vein, it is clear that one reason behind the latest Kurdish setback in Iraq was their over-confidence that Washington was now supportive of their cross-border dream of “Greater Kurdistan”. Regardless whether the insistence of Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani on going ahead with the referendum was or was not a wise decision, one might say that ambiguous American messages to Kurds in northern Syria encouraged Barzani to go far.
Even a less clever Kurdish leader than Barzani, I reckon, would have never taken such a huge gamble had these messages been there, given old Kurdish divisions, open Iranian and Turkish aggressive opposition, and the hesitation of the international community in partitioning Iraq at this stage.
Well, what about Syria then?
Ever since Washington “invented” a militia, and gave it the attractive name “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF); even before that, ever since it chose to back the “People's Protection Units” (YPG) Kurdish militia – which is the backbone of SDF – in the battles in Ain al-Arab (Kobane), with no regard to Turkey’s reservations and criticisms, it encouraged Kurdish dreams of “Greater Kurdistan”. Dreams that would create an entity extending from Alexandretta (Iskenderun) on the Mediterranean to Kermanshah in Western Iran, and from Diyarbakir in Eastern Turkey to Urmia in Northwest Iran, including all of Northern Syria and Iraq. Moreover, Washington’s backing of the YPG in the battle of Ain al-Arab against ISIS, took place shortly after former US President Barack Obama openly made light of the potential and capabilities of the Syrian opposition, namely the Free Syrian Army. One would argue however that had Washington given this opposition a quarter of what it gave the YPG the situation in Syria could have been different.
Anyway, all this is in the past now.
The Obama presidency is over, while Moscow’s engagement with the “peoples” of Syria is now a vital element of how Syria, along with Lebanon, may look like in the future in cooperation with both the US and Israel.
The Geneva peace process and its UN envoy Staffan de Mistura are now nothing but a meaningless show after Washington had allowed Moscow to make the “Astana talks” (sponsored with Turkey and Iran) as the real alternative; and after the demise of ISIS, that sham organization the Great Powers used to justify partitioning the region after uprooting and expelling around 20 million Sunni Arabs from Syria and Iraq.
In short, what we are dealing with today is redrawing the map of the Arab Near East, from Lebanon to Iraq; a project much bigger than the local players as Mr. Masoud Barzani has now discovered.

Be Careful Who You Call a 'White Supremacist'
Megan McArdle/Bloomberg View/Saturday, 28 October, 2017
“The NFL Protests Are a Perfect Study of How White Supremacy Works” reads the headline on a recent article at the Root. Which is confusing if you think of “white supremacy” as an apartheid system like Jim Crow, and “white supremacists” as angry people running around in sheets and hoods. The Root's looser use of “white supremacy,” to describe something considerably less explicit than advocating a race war, has become increasingly common.
The term was popularized by academic race theory, where it seems to have largely replaced previous terms of art like “institutional racism” or “systemic racism.” Now it is migrating out of the ivory tower and into everyday discourse, puzzling the millions of Americans who are used to an older, narrower meaning.
It’s easy to see why writers and academics find the term appealing. “Institutional racism” conjures up images of beige-carpeted offices and rows of desks; “systemic racism” sounds like some sort of plumbing problem. “White supremacy,” on the other hand, packs a visceral punch that commands the reader’s attention. Because they’re describing something that needs attention, it’s useful to have a phrase that does the job.
Nonetheless, using “white supremacy” this way is a mistake. It leads to confusion in the national conversation, because opposing sides are using a critical term in very different ways. It hampers our ability to discuss the phenomenon that the anti-racists actually want to discuss. And ultimately, if we continue to use it this way, it will lose the very emotional resonance that made it an appealing substitute for more clinical terms.
The redefinition of “white supremacy” is part of a broader tendency to take words with narrow meanings and a highly negative connotation, and redeploy them in much broader ways. Take the use of the word “misogyny.” The word literally means “hatred of women”; politics transformed it into “someone who believes that women are not men’s social and intellectual equals.” But recently, that definition has broadened to include, for example, people who do not support the right to an abortion, people who do not think that women should serve in combat, or Google engineers who think that maybe fewer women than men are interested in high-level STEM careers.
If you strongly disapprove of these political views, it’s tempting to conflate them with hatred of women. Unfortunately, when you use “misogyny” in this way, you do not get people to take lesser forms of sexism more seriously. In fact, you run the risk that people might stop taking actual misogyny so seriously.
It’s the inverse of what Steven Pinker has dubbed “the euphemism treadmill,” where we try to find nicer words for something we don’t think is very nice, and find that the new words quickly take on all the old connotations. So “toilet,” turns into “bathroom,” then migrates onward to “rest room.” Only we still know there's a toilet behind that door, and whatever words we use about it, our feelings don’t change.
This is why attempting to change how Americans feel about illegal migrants by changing the terms we use to describe them is a project doomed to failure; whether they are “illegal aliens” or “undocumented immigrants,” the political realities remain the same. People who feel negatively toward “illegals” feel just as negatively toward “undocumented immigrants.”
The invective treadmill works in a similar fashion, only in reverse.
The lexical activists seem to hope that by using strong words to describe diffuse structural and social problems, they can tap into the moral outrage that society feels toward men who deride female equality, or toward those who prate of race war while strutting around in swastika armbands. The idea is apparently that if we put the racial inequalities perpetuated by the criminal justice system on the same moral plane as lynch mobs and segregated lunch counters, people will have to attack the former with the same vigor we would use against any attempt to bring back Jim Crow.
This overestimates the power of words. People make a stark moral distinction between sins of omission and sins of commission; between policies that disadvantage some group inadvertently, in the process of pursuing some other goal, and those that are expressly aimed at oppression; between the petty tribalism that all humans engage in, and the advocacy of genocide. You are unlikely to erase these moral distinctions by rewriting the dictionary.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, I found myself confronted by a curious problem: Many of my readers simply didn’t take it seriously when I pointed out that Donald Trump was, if not an outright racist himself, at least happily pandering to people who were.
“The media calls every Republican racist,” my conservative readers replied. “They said it about Mitt Romney, they said it about George Bush, so what’s different about Trump?”
They were right. Other columnists had accused Romney and Bush of being racist and pandering to racists. I pointed out that Trump's racist appeals were different, and much worse, than anything that earlier Republican presidential candidates had been accused of. But it didn’t do any good. The media had cried wolf to condemn garden-variety Republicans; labels like “racist” had been rendered useless when a true threat emerged. We shouted to no avail as Trump coyly flirted with hardcore white supremacists, something no mainstream party had done for decades.
Indeed, it seems to me that critical race theorists have gone to “white supremacy” precisely because the increasingly broad uses of the word “racism” have made it less effective than it used to be at rallying moral outrage. The term still packs some wallop, but less than it once did, because it is now defined so broadly that a Broadway musical could sing “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” White supremacy, on the other hand, is still clearly understood as beyond the pale.
But if we indiscriminately apply the term to everything from the alt-right white nationalist Richard Spencer, to anyone who thinks that football players should stand for the national anthem … for how long will white supremacy still be considered beyond the pale? What happens if people accused of racism start shrugging off the epithet -- or worse, embracing it? And when another Richard Spencer comes along, how will we convey how dangerous he is?

In long run, Israel favors secular Assad over Shiite Islamist regime in Syria
Dr. Yaron Friedman/Ynetnews/October 28/17
Analysis: Russian-Iranian relations experienced many ups and downs over the years, but have been improved following the cooperation in the civil war in Syria. Will this new alliance break up once the battles in Syria are over? No one knows, but Saudi Arabia and Israel have both indicated they would rather see a Russian Syria than an Iranian Syria.
The map of the civil war in Syria has changed dramatically over the past few months. The Islamic State’s collapse gave all parties—the Syrian army, the Turks and the Kurds—a chance to seize lands that were under the Sunni terror organization’s control.
Bashar Assad’s army controls nearly two-thirds of Syria, following about two years in which forces loyal to Russia and pro-Iranian forces fought side by side. But as the moment of truth draws nearer, the question is: Do Russia and Iran share the same goals? And what is the Israeli and Saudi stance on the issue?
Unlike Israel-US relations, Russia and Iran share no values whatsoever. Russia is a sort of secular dictatorship, and Iran is a religious Islamic country. The future of the interest-based cooperation between these two countries in Syria is unpredictable.
Iran and Russia relations experienced many ups and downs over the years. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran severed ties with the Soviet Union and even referred to it as “the lesser Satan.” From 1980 to 1988, Russia helped Iraq in its war against Iran. The revolution began after the Soviet Union’s dissolution, when Russia built Iran’s nuclear reactor in Bushehr in 1992.
Russian President Vladimir Putin upgraded the relations between the countries and signed many agreements with Iran in the military and energy fields. The fact that both countries were subject to hostility and sanctions from the United States and the West only brought them closer together. The crisis in Syria created, for the first time, a military coalition between the two countries and between their protégés—the Syrian army and different Shiite militias.
Disagreements about Syria
The conflicts of interest between Russia and Iran emerged, however, at the start of the direct Russian involvement in Syria in the summer of 2015. The repeated ceasefires declared by Russia were regularly violated by the Shiite militias supported by Tehran. Russia realized its Iranian partner had no interest in an agreement, but only in a military takeover, using the advantage gained by the “resistance axis” (the “makauma”) over the Sunni opposition for the first time since 2015.
Russia, on the other hand, is willing to settle for an agreement that would end the war and secure the Syrian army’s advantage, allowing Moscow to sustain its naval and air bases in northwest Syria over a long period of time.
Russia and Iran’s long-term conflicts of interests are more fundamental and have to do with the definition of the nature of the post-war Syrian state. Russia wants secular Assad’s regime to continue and has no problem with its dictatorial nature, as long as it maintains its absolute loyalty to the Russians and keeps purchasing Russian weapons as it did before the war.
Iran, on the other hand, has far-reaching aspirations concerning Syria and it won’t settle for restoring the situation to its previous state. As far as Tehran is concerned, Syria is part of the “Shiite project,” in which the entire southern part of Syria, including some of its capital, Damascus, would turn into a base of Hezbollah and Afghan and Iraqi militias under the Revolutionary Guards’ supervision.
Iran is interested in creating a land corridor from its territory to Lebanon through Iraq and Syria, as well as in opening a new front against Israel in the Golan Heights. The way Iran sees it, the future state of Syria will be under the influence of Shiite religious clerics, who the Alawi sheikhs will be subject to as well. The past two years have seen Shiite ceremonies being held in public for the first time in Damascus, which used to be the heart of the Sunni world.
Russia doesn’t want to discover that it launched a war on Sunni Islamic terror it launched only for it to be replaced by a new Shiite Islamic entity. Russia is aware of the fact that Iran took advantage of its intervention in favor of the Syrian regime to settle scores with Sunni organization based on Shiite religious revenge.
Which protégé will control the region?
Russia isn’t interested in a continued involvement of Hezbollah, Iran’s main protégé, in all the wars taking place in Syria. Rather, it is interested in bolstering the Syrian military’s wing that is under its command. Moscow is thus making an effort to dissolve the militias loyal to the Assad regime and get them to join the Syrian army, hoping to secure Russian control of the areas conquered from the moderate rebels and from ISIS and to prevent Iran from seizing these lands. In the past two years, Russia established two new brigades in the Syrian army for that purpose, and it is providing the army with weapons, training and even medals for merit.
Although it won’t admit it, Russia is following Hezbollah’s takeover of entire quarters in the main cities of Aleppo and Damascus, and the establishment of Hezbollah’s permanent bases along the border with Lebanon on Syrian soil, with great concern. The Russians believe there are units within the Syrian army that are under Russian control but obey the Revolutionary Guards. These units could turn into rivals at the end of the war.
The Iranian aid, which saved the Syrian regime from 2012 to 2014, is basically no longer needed since the summer of 2015, when Russia became directly involved in the Syrian civil war. Now that the Syrian army is growing and being led by the Russians to occupation and victory in most parts of Syria, the Iranian involvement is turning into a burden. Iran is interested in receiving a return for its huge sacrifice and financial investment in the Syrian regime since the beginning of the crisis. But, as we know, there are no free gifts.
Russian-Iranian cooperation still needed
Meanwhile, since the war isn’t over yet, Russia is demonstrating its loyalty to its Iranian ally. ISIS hasn’t been completely eliminated yet, and there are other serious problems in northern Syria which require a continuation of the Russian-Iranian cooperation.
In the northeastern arena, the Kurds scored a huge achievement recently with the occupation of the city of Raqqa, the Sunni terror organization’s capital in Syria, and are about to progress in full force to Deir al-Zour, Syria's oil center, where they are expected to clash with the Syrian army. This is another area where there will likely be a clash between the Russians, who are willing to consider a compromise with the Kurds, and the Iranians, who see the Kurds as “agents of the Zionist enemy” and a threat the fulfillment of the “Shiite project.”
In the northwestern arena, Turkey was put in charge in the Astana talks of maintaining the Idlib province, near Turkey’s Hatay province, as a “deconflict zone.” Instead, Turkey has used the situation to bring its forces and protégés, the Syrian rebels from the Free Syrian Army, into the province. The Syrian regime responded furiously, stating Saturday that it sees the move as a military invasion of Syrian territory. According to the Assad regime, instead of fighting terror, Turkey is invading the province in full coordination with Fath al-Sham (formerly the al-Nusra Front) jihadists, who control most of the area.
Russia’s ties with Iran’s enemies
In fact, Russia is indirectly harming forces loyal to Iran. The best example is its full coordination with Israel and the recent cementing of its relations with Saudi Arabia.
The fact that Russia is turning a blind eye to the Israeli bombings of Hezbollah posts in Syria is quite puzzling in light of the alleged honeymoon between Russia and Iran. Its warming relationship with Saudi Arabia is another indication that Russia is looking into new options for the day after the war in Syria. Saudi King Salman visited Russia for the first time about two weeks ago. This was a surprising move in light of the fact that Saudi Arabia supports the Syrian opposition.
Russia is well aware of the fact that the countries capable of helping in Syria's reconstruction after the war are Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states—not Iran. Saudi Arabia, on its part, is interested in isolating Iran and driving Russia further away from it. The Iranians were undoubtedly concerned by the talks between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which focused on drafting economic agreements and signing arms deals. Saudi Minister Thamer al-Sabhan’s comment last week, that there is a need to create an international coalition against Hezbollah, received no response from Russia.
Dealing with a Kurdish force which already sustains an autonomy in northern Syria and is supported by the US army requires Russian cooperation with Washington. The possibility that, in the long run, Russia will favor the US over Iran as a partner for the division of control over Syria must not be ruled out. Unlike Iran, the US has no demands concerning the area beyond the Kurds’ control. Russian-American coordination would prevent a tough war between Kurdish-Arab organization The Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian army. Iran is aware of this option, which is why it vetoed an American participation in the talks in the Astana conference, a move which was criticized by Russia.
A particularly explosive bone of contention between Russia and Iran is Russia’s willingness, as it negotiates with the moderate rebels, to accept the idea of evacuating the foreign militias from Syria. In March, a Russian newspaper reported that during the Astana conference—in which Russia, Iran and Turkey discussed Syria's future—the Russians offered to supervise Hezbollah’s evacuation from Syria. According to the proposal, in the first state Hezbollah would be allotted an area where its forces would be concentrated, and in the second stage the fighters would return to Lebanon.
‘Shuffling the cards’
The fall of Aleppo, the opposition’s capital, in early 2017 marked the end of the revolt that began in Syria in March 2011. All parties came to terms with the bitter fact that after all the victims and suffering, the war in Syria was about to end with a complete failure for the rebels. The Syrian regime wasn’t toppled and the option of replacing it no longer exists. Post-war Syria won’t be a democracy, but it won’t be an Islamic emirate either.
Commentators in the Arab world are now defining the unexpected situation taking shape in the Middle East in general and in Syria in particular as a “card shuffling.”
Russia and the moderate opposition are upholding ceasefires for the first time since the beginning of the war, and meetings are taking place between former rivals—Saudi Arabia and Russia, Turkey and Russia. What will the new ties lead to? Will the Russian-Iranian alliance break up at the end of the battles in Syria? No one knows. But Saudi Arabia and Israel have already indicated to the Russians that they would rather see a Russian Syria than an Iranian Syria.
Dr. Yaron Friedman, Ynet's commentator on the Arab world, is a graduate of the Sorbonne. He teaches Arabic and lectures about Islam at the Technion, at Beit Hagefen, and at the Galilee Academic College. His book, "The Nusayri Alawis: An Introduction to the Religion, History and Identity of the Leading Minority in Syria," was published in 2010 by Brill-Leiden.

How two stubborn men talked their way into a crisis
Cornelia Meyer/ArabNews/October 29/17/
Events reached a dangerous showdown in Catalonia on Friday. After much to-ing and fro-ing, the Catalan President Carles Puigedemont instructed the Catalan parliament to vote on independence. The opposition conservatives, liberals and socialists left the chamber in protest and independence was approved. While this was happening in Barcelona, in Madrid Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy prepared to fire the Catalan government, dissolve the regional parliament and call for a snap election on December 21. This has plunged the country into its biggest political crisis since the death of General Franco in 1975 and the return to democracy three years later.
The vote of the Catalan parliament was flawed in several ways. For one, it was illegal, because the constitution does not allow secession of any region. The drama unfolded after an ill-fated general vote on Catalan independence on October 1. Forty-three percent of the electorate cast their ballots, and voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence. The civil guard disrupted the voting process on the basis of its unconstitutionality. Europeans, who espouse lofty principles of governance and civil rights, were shocked when they saw the violent scenes unfold on their television screens. The European Court of Justice and the EU declared the vote illegal. The US and the UN came down on the side of the constitution and the central government. They did so again on Friday. The government now faces the task of implementing direct rule for the first time since General Franco and the world is watching with bated breath, recalling the raucous scenes earlier in the month.
This was a clear case of the regional and central governments escalating the situation with rhetoric rather than allowing calmer heads to prevail. Puigedemont achieved the opposite of what he wanted: Instead of independence Catalonia is now under central rule. The people of Catalonia are deeply divided between the separatists and the Spanish loyalists. He gained neither favor nor sympathy from the EU (which he wanted to join), or with any of its member states. Only the Scots were supportive of the Catalan President’s aspirations.
History may not look favorably on Rajoy’s actions either. There was the violence on October 1 and his inability to calm things down. He refused dialogue, citing the unconstitutionality of the actions by the Catalan government. So much did Rajoy bungle the situation that even an ardent supporter of Scottish independence complimented the UK government on the professional way in which it allowed for the Scottish independence referendum within constitutional boundaries in 2014. She did so during the BBC’s prime-time flagship program Newsnight.
The Catalan leader demanded independence and has achieved the opposite, while the Spanish Prime Minister’s bungling has led to violence on the streets. It is time for calm heads to prevail.
Cornelia Meyer
Project Catalonia is at this point neither politically nor economically feasible, irrespective of the now suspended regional government’s views. The population is deeply divided. There are no provisions for government institutions to make defense or foreign policy, and there is no currency. Outside the EU it would be difficult for the Catalan economy to exist. There would be no access to European Central Bank funding or to EU grants. There would also be no access to the customs union or to the common market. This has been reflected by the fact that more than 20 of the region’s largest companies are in the process of moving their headquarters elsewhere in Spain – among them the two largest Catalan banks, Caixa General and Banco Sabadell. Catalans may have a genuine cause for complaint in that they produce about 20 percent of the country’s GDP and do not see enough of the tax revenues they generate redistributed back to their region. They might feel differently, though, if they had to take on their fair share of the Spanish debt, which stands at about 100 percent of GDP.
This crisis also puts a strain on the EU. There are not just the Catalans and the Scots. The Flemish want out of Belgium and there are rumbles in Corsica. The Lombardy and Veneto regions in Italy have just voted for greater autonomy from Rome. And all this against the background of Brexit.
The EU is ill equipped to deal with all these separatists sentiments. They put a severe strain on the organization’s structure and call into question its architecture, which is based on the nation state. It is therefore not surprising that EU and international law come down on the side of the nation state, which they see as the guarantor of stability and certainty. In the meantime we have to hope for a minimum of violence in Catalonia before December 21. Puigdemont’s call for resistance to Spain is singularly unhelpful in that context. Europe and the world will be glued to their television sets until the snap election takes place.
• Cornelia Meyer is a business consultant, macro-economist and energy expert. Twitter: @MeyerResources

The Future Investment Initiative and the new Saudi Arabia
Raghida Dergham/ArabNews/October 28/17/
Saudi Arabia is determined to “amaze,” as part of its strategy for national renaissance based on social and economic liberalization, and next-generation innovation, moving the kingdom away from the constraints of traditionalism to fascinating horizons of science and technology. During the Future Investment Initiative launch in Riyadh this week, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled the Neom mega-city project, fearlessly embracing pioneering futuristic technology unprecedented in the Arab region, in partnership with top international talent and leading global investment minds.
In his remarks on Neom, the Red Sea city for “dreamers,” the crown prince, who is the brain behind Vision 2030, expressed political and social gravity when he spoke of 1979 as a turning point in the rise of Islamic extremism and the spread of the “Sahwa” religious awakening project across the region. He said: “Saudi was not like this before 1979. Saudi Arabia and the entire region went through a revival after 1979 … All we are doing is going back to what we were: a moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world and to all traditions and people … Some clear steps were taken recently and I believe we will obliterate the remnants of extremism very soon.”
Such clarity about confronting extremism carries domestic, regional, and international implications. It comes amid an engagement with Iraq and an estrangement with Qatar, with the conflict in Yemen still raging. It also comes amid a strengthening of Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the United States, but also the opening of new chapters in Saudi policy, for example in Africa. Nothing short of a quiet, pragmatic revolution is taking place in the kingdom, to execute a calculated leap toward radical change. However, obstacles, pitfalls and resistance are to be expected.
Several interesting observations can be made about the Future Investment Initiative, attended by more than 3,500 international figures from the worlds of finance, technology and entrepreneurship. One of the first things visitors noticed was that the Saudi women in attendance were not wearing the traditional black robes, but colorful garments. This is important because the theme it captures is the right to self-expression. Saudi women, who were recently were given the right to drive in the kingdom, have worked quietly and patiently behind the scenes, lobbying for important rights, and the emancipation from the logic of conformism behind black robes that all Saudi women must adhere to captures this, and is no superficial matter.
Everyone expected the crown prince to attend his session, make his speech, then leave, as is the habit especially in Saudi Arabia. Instead, he sat on a panel that brought him together with three others, and responded to spontaneous questions that brought him closer to the audience and Saudis at large, launching himself as one of a new breed of rulers in the kingdom. At the dinner banquet later, Prince Mohammed also surprised those attending, interacting with the guests and taking pictures with them for over an hour. Again, this is unusual in these occasions in the kingdom.
Certainly, the conference worked as an advertisement for the Neom project and more importantly, the new Saudi Arabia as imagined by Vision 2030. There were deliberate stunts such as granting the robot Sofia Saudi nationality, a precedent anywhere.
Expectedly, reservations were expressed about the massive Neom project, to be located in the northwestern corner of the kingdom over an area of 26,500 sq km, with 469km of shoreline on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. The sunlight and wind the area receives make it possible for its entire energy needs to be met by renewables. Some voices said the project was in the realm of science fiction, with no specific timetable set to bring it to reality, although the talk behind the scenes was that it would take 15 years to materialize. Some expressed concern over the huge funds that would be poured into the “dreamers’ project,” given that the long-term economic reality is not stable. Some also spoke about the gap between the fantastical aspirations of the project and the very real problems faced by Saudi Arabia, from the differences with Qatar to the conflict in Yemen and the rivalry with Iran.
Vision 2030 is only a few months old but it has already proved to be a leap forward to a dynamic and bold future and the precursor to a new regional order.
Thanks to Uber, the taxi-app company, there was a chance to survey the opinions of some Saudi youths. The first surprise came when it turned out that the majority of Uber drivers are young Saudi men, rather than foreigners, usually from the Asian subcontinent. Their views were not homogeneous, which is also unusual when surveying Saudi citizens publicly. One protested at the situation, saying he held an MA in law and had to work as a taxi driver after failing to find work in his field. He said he was opposed to the crisis with Qatar and the intervention in Yemen, and expressed reservations over the structure of absolute power concentrated in one individual, no matter how visionary he may be. In contrast, another driver said he absolutely supported the concentration of leadership and its boldness in tackling extremism and moving the kingdom forward. He said he was a dentist but needed to work as an Uber driver because he needed two jobs, which he said he did not mind, and hated indolence. He was full of enthusiasm for the new Saudi Arabia, which would attract top talent and innovation.
The change in the Saudi mindset is not absolute. But something is happening, namely the downscaling of that high-handedness that many had the impression was the norm in the kingdom’s leadership. This change has not yet reached Saudi foreign policy, but important steps have been made especially with Western leaders in various fields as evinced by the Future Investment Initiative.
Clearly, the new leadership wants to strike deals with various nations, and no longer deal exclusively with the US and Europe. The three main contractors that signed deals with the Public Investment Fund for the Neom project are Germany’s electronics giant Siemens, America’s financial group Blackstone, and Japan’s SoftBank – the third largest corporation in that country after Toyota and Mitsubishi.
Knocking on the doors of tomorrow with such major partnerships seeks to make Saudi Arabia a global magnet for futuristic investments. It is a leap from an inert past to a dynamic and bold future.
Such a leap to new Saudi liberalism from politics to the economy will no doubt have regional implications. It is the precursor of a new regional order that will be led by the Gulf nations and Egypt, and the private sector across the region, and Iran will not be able to ignore it. The leap forward is taking place in all sectors, in health, education, manufacturing, agriculture and employment. Saudi Arabia has finished reorganizing its ministries and has established mechanisms to monitor their performance. Riyadh has launched a revolution in the relationship between the public and private sectors. The first major test for the leap was when control of the oil sector was shifted from government hands to a corporation, with 5 percent of Aramco’s shares to be offered in an international IPO.
Saudi Arabia’s gradual upturning of traditional notions and policies is part of a collective workshop based on an executive approach, to effect a historical shift from a welfare state in which citizens have automatic privileges, to a dynamic, modern economy unprecedented in the history of the kingdom.
This quiet revolution is far from the populist coups, and seeks to topple the culture of complacency, while also confronting resistance from the traditionalists opposed to liberalization. Vision 2030, which was launched in April, is not even a year old yet. Nevertheless, only six months later, it has proved itself to be a serious and astounding vision that is determined to create a renaissance in the kingdom, by rewarding the dreamers and inventors, and boldly going in a new direction instead of complacent catching-up.
• Raghida Dergham is a columnist, senior diplomatic correspondent, and New York bureau chief for the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper since 1989. She is the founder and executive chairman of Beirut Institute. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and an honorary fellow at the Foreign Policy Association and has served on the International Media Council of the World Economic Forum. Twitter: @RaghidaDergham