December 01/18

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut
Book of Revelation 03/07-13: "‘To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens: ‘I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.
Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 01/18
Al Arabiya documentary reveals Hezbollah’s drug trade, money laundering links/Al Arabiya/November 30/18
Iranian jet carrying arms flies directly to Beirut/Ynetnews/Itay Blumenthal/November 30/18
Tehran-Beirut Cargo Flight Sparks Concerns Iran Arming Hezbollah More Easily/Agencies/November 30/18
Iranian airline now ferrying weapons directly to Beirut/Arutz Sheva/Tzvi Lev, 29/11/18
“Our Children Were Screaming”: Muslim Persecution of Christians, July 2018/Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/November 30/18
‘We will proudly bypass the sanctions’ – Oh really? How?/Karim Abdian Bani Saeed/Al Arabiya/November 30/18
A secret apparatus for Tunisia’s Ennahda/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/November 30/18
Dictionaries, rockets and towers in the Arab world/Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/November 30/18
Reading Montesquieu in Tehran/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/November 30/18
Is the Iran nuclear deal dead? Yes/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/November 30/, 2018
Putin is testing Western resolve in Ukraine/Luke Coffey/Arab News/November 30, 2018

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on December 01/18
Al Arabiya documentary reveals Hezbollah’s drug trade, money laundering links
Iranian jet carrying arms flies directly to Beirut
Tehran-Beirut Cargo Flight Sparks Concerns Iran Arming Hezbollah More
Iranian airline now ferrying weapons directly to Beirut/Arutz Sheva
Aoun to follow up on law on disappeared after govt is formed
For Israel, a Rearmed Hizbullah in Lebanon is 'Top Concern'
Jumblat Says Mukhtara 'Red Line' after Wahhab Supporters Bravado
Mustaqbal: March 8 Sunni MPs ‘Won’t Step Foot in Center House’
Bassil Discusses Govt. Formation 'Solutions' with Hariri
4 Suspects Killed, Several Apprehended in Army Pursuits in Baalbek
Hammoud Rejects Wahhab's Anti-Hariri Suit, Accepts One against Him
Daryan Warns against Heeding Those 'Stoking Strife'
UK and Lebanon: A Forward Look for Business and Investmnet
Kataeb's Economic Council Says Political Authority Making Lebanese Pay for Own Fiasco

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 01/18
Canada signs new trade agreement with United States and Mexico
World Leaders Welcome Saudi Crown Prince at G20, Avoiding Isolation
G20 kick starts in Argentina amid division and tension among world leaders
Report: Israel jets bomb targets near Damascus, southern Syria
War monitor, Syrian media say anti-ISIS coalition air strikes kill dozens
Tunisia says it broke up four militant cells, foiled attacks
Israeli police arrest Jordanian suspected in Eilat attack
Hate crimes against Muslims in Canada rose 151 pc during 2017
Ukraine Closes Border to All Russian Males between 16 and 60
Iran Cannot 'Wait Forever' for EU Path to Skirt US Sanctions

Latest Lebanese Related News published on December 01/18
Al Arabiya documentary reveals Hezbollah’s drug trade, money laundering links
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday,30/November 2018
In a deep look into a “thriller” investigation, Al Arabiya’s exclusive documentary “Hezbollah’s Narco Jihad” discusses the involvement of the designated terrorist organization, Hezbollah, in the global drug trade and explains how it uses money laundering to substitute for its fund shortage.
From 2009 to July 2013, an estimated 7,000 people were killed in the Medellin mafia wars in Colombia, as different challengers sought to claim Don Berna’s criminal throne as head of the Oficina de Envigado (the Envigado office), and become the successor to the Medellin Cartel.
Until his death in Medellin in 1993, Pablo Escobar was the unchallenged head of the Medellin Cartel.
A former sicario of the Medellin cartel, who is also said to have been Escobar’s most loyal man, told Al Arabiya in its exclusive documentary that: “The cartel of Medellin was too powerful. It had an aircraft fleet of around 140, it had more than 3,000 hit men, and it had a cruel intelligence structure. They bribed people from the State, operated a lot of intelligence matters. It was a totally criminal organization, with a great deal of money, possessing many weapons and an elaborate infrastructure." For two years after Escobar’s death, the Cali Cartel was able to continue operating with the same modus operandi, until the leaders, the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers, were captured in 1995.Then the Colombian underworld became fragmented, and now drug trafficking syndicates are eluding countering forces with new strategies. The documentary explains that this meant working with the Italian Mafia in Europe, and tapping into the huge Brazilian and Argentinian markets in South America.It also meant increased coordination between Colombian organized crime that had migrated to the Middle East, and known Hezbollah associates that had been in the Guajira region of Colombia for the past decade.In October 2008, a joint endeavor by American and Colombian investigators dismantled an international cocaine smuggling and money laundering ring that allegedly directed part of its profits to finance Hezbollah. As the investigation progressed, the undercover agent got close enough to the cartel to serve as one of its money launderers. The agent laundered some $20 million, enabling the DEA to follow the money and map out much of the cartel’s operations.
The operation broke down before direct terrorism charges were filed.
While some claim the operation ended due to interagency squabbling, many government officials believe that the Obama Administration tamped down the investigation of Hezbollah for fear of jeopardizing the impending nuclear deal with Iran. Lebanon was the Middle East’s leading producer of illicit drugs in the 1970s and 1980s, with cultivation taking place mostly in the northern Bekaa Valley, according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) figures. American intelligence analysts believe that for years Hezbollah received as much as $200 million annually from its primary patron, Iran, along with additional aid from Syria. But that support has diminished, the analysts say, as Iran’s economy buckles under international sanctions over its nuclear program and Syria’s government battles rising popular unrest. Auditors brought in to scrub the books discovered nearly 200 accounts with links to Hezbollah and their classic signs of money laundering. “Hezbollah’s Narco Jihad” takes the audience through the details of the organization’s drug trade and money laundering, reaching up to today’s reality stating that the same networks are still active. The exclusive documentary will be available on our website starting Friday.

Iranian jet carrying arms flies directly to Beirut
Ynetnews/Itay Blumenthal/November 30/18
Iranian airline affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards reportedly continues transferring to Hezbollah advanced weapon systems meant to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision-guided missiles, conducting for the first time a direct flight from Tehran to the Lebanese capital. A Boeing 747 belonging to Iranian airline Fars Air Qeshm, reportedly used by the country’s Revolutionary Guards to smuggle weapons to Tehran’s allies, conducted a direct flight from the Iranian capital to Beirut for the first time on Thursday. Last month, Fox News reported that a Fars Air Qeshm flight from Tehran to Damascus, which later continued to Beirut, was carrying weapon systems—including GPS components—intended to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision-guided missiles. The 27-year-old Jumbo jet, registered as EP-FAB, took off on Thursday morning at 8:02am from Tehran to Beirut on flight QFZ9964, and landed in Lebanon at 10:19am. In the past, the jet has been in service of Japanese, Afghan, Armenian and Russian airlines. Suspicions first arose that Iran uses the cargo airline to smuggle advanced weapons two months ago after reports emerged that the Israel Air Force (IAF) carried out an attack on targets at the Damascus airport. "The Iranians are trying to find new ways to smuggle weapons to their allies in the Middle East … They are exploring the West's ability to locate the smuggling sites," said a Middle Eastern intelligence source, who chose to remain anonymous. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed two months ago, during a speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), that over the past year, Hezbollah—guided by Iran—has attempted to build an infrastructure for the conversion of surface-to-surface missiles into precision-guided missiles near an airport in Beirut. "I have a message for Hezbollah today: Israel also knows what you’re doing. Israel knows where you are doing it and Israel will not let you get away with it,” Netanyahu stressed during the speech.

Tehran-Beirut Cargo Flight Sparks Concerns Iran Arming Hezbollah More Easily
Agencies/November 30/18
An Iranian cargo plane allegedly transporting advanced weaponry to Hezbollah was spotted flying directly from Tehran to Beirut on Thursday morning, hours before Israel allegedly conducted airstrikes on pro-Iranian targets in Syria, The Times of Israel reported. Israeli and American security officials have long claimed that Iran has been supplying Lebanon’s Hezbollah with advanced munitions by shipping them through ostensibly civilian airlines, including the one that flew into Lebanon on Thursday: Fars Air Qeshm. However, these cargo planes typically unload their materiel in Syria or stop there en route to Beirut, rather than flying directly into Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based. According to publicly available flight data, Fars Air Qeshm flight number QFZ-9964 left Tehran shortly after 8:00 a.m., flew over Iraq, cut northwest into Syria and then landed in Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport some two hours later.
Later, the Boeing 747 jet flew to Doha in Qatar before returning to Tehran. Without specifically mentioning the flight, the Israeli army’s Arabic-language spokesperson Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee tweeted that Lebanon should stop allowing Iranian planes to bring war materiel into the country, along with a black-and-white satellite photograph of Rafik Hariri International Airport.The Tehran-Beirut flight came hours before Israel reportedly launched a series of airstrikes against Iranian and pro-Iranian sites in Syria on Thursday night. According to media reports and claims by the Syrian military, missiles were fired at targets in and around Damascus, in southern Syrian near the Israeli border and along the Damascus-Beirut highway, which runs to Lebanon. It was not immediately clear if the two incidents were related to one another. Fars Air Qeshm has previously been identified as one of several airlines allegedly acting as transporters of weapons systems for the Iranian military. Some of these have been targeted by US sanctions, though Fars Air Qeshm has not. Last month, the airline reportedly transferred advanced GPS components to Hezbollah that would allow the terrorist group to make previously unguided rockets into precision guided-missiles, thus increasing the threat to Israel.

Iranian airline now ferrying weapons directly to Beirut
Arutz Sheva/Tzvi Lev, 29/11/18
In irregular flight path, Iranian 747 packed with weapons flies directly from Tehran to Beirut. Flight part of militia arms buildup.
In a highly irregular move, a 747 packed with Iranian weapons destined for Hezbollah flew directly from Tehran to Beirut's Rafic Hariri Airport on Thursday. According to reports, a 747 registered as EP-FAB, took off this morning at 8:02 am from Tehran to Beirut on flight QFZ9964 and landed in Lebanon at 10:19 am. The plane was operated by Fars Air Qeshm, an aviation company owned by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps to ferry weapons to Hezbollah. According to the website Intelli Times, the plane carried equipment to convert Hezbollah's rocket arsenal to precision missiles capable of hitting sensitive sites within Israel. Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm airline has long been accused of flying arms for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the elite Quds force led by Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleiman. Last year, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the IRGC and Quds force.
The airline had ceased operations in 2013, citing poor management, but restarted under new management in March 2017. It is said to have two Boeing 747s in its fleet. Among the members of the company’s board are three IRGC representatives, named in the report as Ali Naghi Gol Parsta, Hamid Reza Pahlvani and Gholamreza Qhasemi.
While Iran has invested considerable efforts to transfer advanced missiles to Hezbollah, it commonly flies from the Islamic Republic to Syrian air force bases, making the flight path highly irregular. Western intelligence has already tracked two similar flights within the past few months. In September, Fox News reported that a Boeing 747 that departed from an air force base in Tehran, stopped for a short layover at the international airport in Damascus, Syria, and then continued with a rather “uncharacteristic flight path” to the Beirut international airport, where it landed shortly after 4:00 p.m. local time. According to flight data obtained by Fox News, the route passed over northern Lebanon, not following any commonly used flight path. A regional intelligence source who asked to remain anonymous told the news network, “The Iranians are trying to come up with new ways and routes to smuggle weapons from Iran to its allies in the Middle East, testing and defying the West’s abilities to track them down.”Western intelligence sources said the airplane carried components for manufacturing precise weapons in Iranian factories inside Lebanon. The U.S. and Israel, as well as other western intelligence agencies, have supplied evidence that Iran has operated weapons factories in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. The Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah has been building factories in the heart of Beirut to convert missiles into highly-accurate precision weapons capable of striking sensitive Israeli sites. Upon deciding to convert its massive 150,000-strong rocket arsenal to missiles with pinpoint accuracy, Hezbollah chose to transfer its sites to the heart of Beirut in order to deter Israeli airstrikes. Israel has repeatedly reiterated that it will not allow Hezbollah to obtain highly accurate missiles that would threaten sensitive Israelis sites and has been escalating its threats vis a vis Lebanon. Hezbollah currently possesses over 150,000 thousand missiles, more than most NATO countries. Senior defense officials have said repeatedly that Hezbollah is now Israel's major threat and predict that hundreds of Israelis will die in the next war between the two sides.

Aoun to follow up on law on disappeared after govt is formed
The Daily Star/November. 30/18/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun said Friday that once a government is formed, he will follow up on the implementation of Lebanon’s new law on investigating enforced disappearances, according to a statement from the presidency.Aoun’s remarks came during a meeting with Baabda MP Hikmat Dib, who gave the president a copy of the law, which sets up a commission to investigate enforced disappearances during the Lebanese Civil War. “The president promised to follow up on the law’s implementation in Cabinet after the government is formed, to establish the national commission for the disappeared,” Dib was quoted as saying. “The law is a historical achievement for President Aoun, who was among the first to call for the law’s passing,” Dib added. The statement said the MP has assured relatives of the disappeared that the law will be enforced. On Nov. 12, Parliament endorsed the law to investigate the whereabouts of around 17,000 Lebanese citizens forcibly disappeared during the 1975-90 Civil War. The law however still needs government action to go into full effect, and government formation is currently in its seventh month of deadlock.

For Israel, a Rearmed Hizbullah in Lebanon is 'Top Concern'
Associated Press/Naharnet/November 30/18/Israel's most pressing security concerns reportedly lie to the north, even with attention currently focused on Gaza-based Hamas militants along its southern border. Israeli officials say the threat of the Palestinian Hamas group pales compared to the Iran-backed Hizbullah in Lebanon — a heavily-armed mini-army with combat experience in neighboring Syria and an arsenal of some 150,000 rockets. The standoff plays out along a frontier where Israeli soldiers come face-to-face with Hizbullah guerrillas. Under the U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended the 2006 war, Hizbullah's troops are prohibited from approaching the border. But Israeli intelligence says Hizbullah men operate freely, generally unarmed and in civilian clothes. Sometimes they come within just a few meters of the Israeli troops, it says. Only a coil of barbed wire separates them but there are no interactions.

Jumblat Says Mukhtara 'Red Line' after Wahhab Supporters Bravado
Naharnet/November 30/18/Progressive Socialist Party leader ex-MP Walid Jumblat warned Friday that his hometown Mukhtara is a “red line” after supporters of ex-minister Wiam Wahhab staged a show of force in the Chouf region a day earlier. “Mukhtara is a red line whatever the regional balances might be,” Jumblat tweeted. “The campaigns of defamation and falsification reached yesterday the extent of rioting and showing off on Mount Lebanon’s roads,” the Druze leader warned. He also thanked the army for “reopening the roads and arresting the rioters,” noting that “the salaries of the army are also a red line.” Wahhab supporters had on Thursday roamed Chouf in convoys before many of them were arrested for blocking roads and carrying weapons in their cars. The bravado followed a war of words between Jumblat and Wahhab after the PSP leader defended Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri against Wahhab’s blistering verbal attacks on him. Wahhab has meanwhile filed a lawsuit against Hariri over street banners apparently hoisted by Mustaqbal Movement supporters that carried insults and death threats against the former minister. State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud dismissed Wahhab’s lawsuit on Friday, citing Hariri’s position as premier and parliamentary immunity.

Mustaqbal: March 8 Sunni MPs ‘Won’t Step Foot in Center House’
Naharnet/November 30/18/In light of insulting accusations fired against Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri by allies of the pro-Hizbullah Independent Sunni MPs, al-Mustaqbal Movement source emphasized the deputies “won’t set foot in the Center House,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Friday. “How can the Premier receive a group of deputies with some among their ranks accusing him of working for the American-Israeli axis? Such people won’t step foot inside the Center House,” an ired Mustaqbal official told the daily on condition of anonymity. He was referring to fiery statements made by several Hizbullah figures namely MP Walid Sukkarieh who accused Hariri of “allegiance to the American-Israeli axis.”Ex-minister Wiam Wahhab who, in a leaked video, also addressed harsh personal insults to Hariri and his slain father Rafik Hariri. Said Sunni deputies of March 8 have been demanding to meet with Hariri over their quest to get a ministerial portfolio in the new government, which the Premier categorically rejects. The MPs of the Consultative Gathering, have escalated rhetoric recently announcing their intention to name a specific portfolio of their convenience. They said an earlier intention to get any ministerial portfolio provided they become part of the government has been withdrawn. They demand now to name a ministerial portfolio of their choice.“For the third time in a row we reiterate our demand to have a meeting with Hariri. Negativity must not be met with negativity. Hariri is free to choose the time of his convenience,” MP Faisal Karami of the six MPs said. Karami said the Gathering insists that the ministerial portfolio to be allocated for the deputies must be selected after “consultations with us,” and that one of the six deputies “exclusively” is to be chosen for the seat.

Bassil Discusses Govt. Formation 'Solutions' with Hariri
Naharnet/November 30/18/Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil held talks Friday at the Center House with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. “The meeting tackled the ideas that Minister Bassil had discussed with Speaker Nabih Berri as part of the efforts to find a solution to the government formation crisis,” a statement issued by Hariri’s office said. Sources informed on the meeting meanwhile told LBCI television that “the atmosphere is positive” and that “many solutions are being discussed.”

4 Suspects Killed, Several Apprehended in Army Pursuits in Baalbek
Naharnet/November 30/18/Four “dangerous” suspects were killed and several others were apprehended during army raids in the Baalbek towns of Hay al-Sharawneh and Haouch Tall Safyieh on Friday. The National News Agency said the suspects were killed during army raids in the restive neighborhood of Hay al-Sharawneh. Army soldiers did not sustain any casualties, it added. Meanwhile in Haouch Tall Safyieh, armed clashes erupted between the troops and suspects, said NNA. The army erected checkpoints near the entrances leading to the town. It was able to apprehend several accused fugitives, it concluded. The restive neighborhood of al-Sharawneh witnesses frequent clashes between the army and fugitives and between members of powerful Baalbek clans.

Hammoud Rejects Wahhab's Anti-Hariri Suit, Accepts One against Him

Naharnet/November 30/18/State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by ex-minister Wiam Wahhab against Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri as he accepted a suit filed against Wahhab by a number of lawyers. Hammoud told al-Jadeed television that he shelved the lawsuit in light of Hariri’s “immunity as prime minister and lawmaker.”Wahhab had announced Thursday that he filed a lawsuit against Hariri and “his aides” over street banners that surfaced in Beirut and Tripoli in recent days and carried “insults and death threats” against him. The banners were hoisted by Hariri supporters in response to blistering remarks by Wahhab against the PM-designate. In a supposedly leaked video Wahhab also addressed harsh personal insults to Hariri and his slain father Rafik Hariri. Wahhab has apologized over the video, saying it was leaked without his knowledge and that it was an immediate response to the banners that insulted him. Hammoud meanwhile accepted a lawsuit filed against Wahhab by a number of lawyers in connection with his verbal attacks on Hariri, referring it via Judge Mirna Kallas to the Intelligence Branch of the Internal Security Forces for “further investigations and measures.”

Daryan Warns against Heeding Those 'Stoking Strife'
Naharnet/November 30/18/Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan on Friday condemned “the campaign of disinformation and unjust accusations” against Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, as he warned against heeding strife calls. “The campaigns of unjust accusations, insults and disinformation against the great national figure PM-designate Saad Hariri are shameful,” Daryan said, noting that motives behind the campaigns are “political par excellence” and aimed at “obstructing his national role which coincides with his intensive efforts to form a government within the constitutional stipulations.”The Mufti also urged citizens not to heed “those stoking strife” and to avoid “stirring problems,” emphasizing that “Lebanon is bigger than these petty things that the instigators are fabricating.”Daryan was apparently referring to the latest war of words between Hariri’s al-Mustaqbal Movement and pro-Damascus ex-minister Wiam Wahhab, which has spilled into the streets in recent days.

UK and Lebanon: A Forward Look for Business and Investmnet

Naharnet/November 30/18/Simon Penney, Her Majesty's Trade Commissioner (HMTC) for the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, ended a two-day visit to Lebanon. This is his first visit since assuming his role in October 2018, and it comes ahead of the much-anticipated Lebanon Investment Conference taking place in London next month, the British embassy said in a statement on Friday. During his meetings with the Prime Minister, Minister of Trade and Economy, President of the Council of Development and Reconstruction, Heads of Lebanon’s Trade and Economic Associations, and the UK-Lebanon Tech Hub, Mr. Penney voiced the UK’s strong relationship with Lebanon, the quality of UK companies in Lebanon and the opportunities to deepen UK-Lebanese trade ties and support Lebanese prosperity. He welcomed from his Lebanese counterparts the importance they placed on steps to make the business environment more appealing to overseas investors, including implementation of the CEDRE reform once the new government is formed. As part of his role, Mr Penney aims to forge new business and economic relations that will drive trade and investment bilaterally and across the region.
Speaking after visit, Simon Penney said: ‘I am delighted to be in Lebanon for the first time in my new role as Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner. Lebanon is a key ally and friend of the UK and we are pleased that it continues to be a key partner in our endeavour to drive commercial ties between our two countries. I had excellent meetings across the board with government officials and the private sector, and had a private meeting PM Saad Hariri. We want to work in partnership with business and government to identify opportunities for greater collaboration; we believe that the true potential of opportunities between Lebanon and the UK has not yet been tapped. There are considerable PPP opportunities in infrastructure and energy, which presents significant potential for UK firms to partner with Lebanese companies. UK expertise has much to contribute in sectors which are key to transformation such as education and healthcare. British Ambassador to Lebanon Chris Rampling said: ‘I am delighted to welcome HMTC Simon Penney to Lebanon, at an important time for trade relations between our two countries. We strongly support the Lebanon-UK Business and Investment Forum in London next month. This is an important economic and trade milestone for Lebanon and the UK. This week for example, we took part in the launch of a unique partnership between the UK and Lebanon, in the form of the new London Stock Exchange Group’ ELITE programme for Lebanese businesses. LSE’s ELITE programme has an excellent reputation and track record of taking the best businesses through the dual listing process and helping them to access significant investment into firms that are willing to make the necessary corporate governance and capital structural improvements to attract global investors. This is good news for Lebanon’s economy. Our nations have much in common: an entrepreneurial spirit, a highly educated and highly skilled workforce and a global outlook that champions business large and small. We look forward to working closely with our Lebanese partners and Mr. Penney to explore new trade opportunities and to further foster our UK-Lebanon economic relationship.

Kataeb's Economic Council Says Political Authority Making Lebanese Pay for Own Fiasco 30th November 2018/The Kataeb's Economic and Social Council on Friday warned against making the public employees pay the price for the state's failure to manage the salary scale file, calling for reformist measures that would safeguard social stability in Lebanon.
The council stressed in a statement that the public sector's pay hike, stipulated by the salary scale law, must be shored up by a set of reforms; an overhaul that starts with a comprehensive study which determines the needs of the public sector, specifies the number of current and assesses their productivity. “Once again, the political authority has proved its failure in managing the Lebanese people’s affairs as well as the files that pertain to their daily life and livelihood needs, after it had handled the salary scale file with an unprecedented frivolity,” the council said.“This same authority, which has failed to estimate the cost of the salary scale, find proper ways to fund it and manage its repercussions on the Lebanese economy, is now trying to shirk its responsibility by pitting the Lebanese against each other," it added.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 01/18
Canada signs new trade agreement with United States and Mexico
November 30, 2018 - Buenos Aires, Argentina – Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today welcomed the signing of a new agreement to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico. The new agreement will support good, middle class jobs in Canada; strengthen economic ties between the three countries; and contribute to North America’s global competitiveness.
The modernized agreement preserves Canada’s preferential access to the U.S. and Mexican markets, ensuring that the vast majority of trilateral trade remains duty-free—something that is vital to the continuing prosperity of Canadians. The agreement includes an exemption for a significant quantity of Canadian automobiles and auto parts from potential future U.S. 232 tariff measures. In addition, Canada succeeded in preserving key elements of the original NAFTA, including the cultural exemption and the use of binational panels to resolve disputes on duties.
Canada maintained a constructive approach throughout these negotiations to modernize NAFTA. Canada’s objectives remained clear: defend Canadians’ interests, fight for Canadian jobs and living standards, and uphold Canadian values within an agreement that is mutually beneficial for all three countries.
Canada, the United States and Mexico will now move forward with their respective domestic procedures toward the ratification and implementation of the new trade agreement.
“Our focus from the outset of the negotiations was the need to preserve middle class jobs and foster economic growth. The new NAFTA preserves tariff free access in the North American trading bloc and secures essential cross-border supply chains that make North America more globally competitive. Our job as a government is to safeguard economic gains and prevent economic threats, and that is what we've done with the new agreement. What we have achieved is a reflection of the team Canada approach we took throughout negotiations, and I thank Canadians for their support and unity.”
- Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs
Quick facts
The three countries also welcomed the new Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA), a complement to the new free trade agreement’s environment chapter, which will support continuous environmental cooperation among the three countries to address environmental challenges and seize opportunities arising from the agreement.
The globally competitive regional market created under the original NAFTA in 1994 today accounts for nearly 486 million consumers and a combined GDP of more than US$22 trillion.
The United States and Mexico are, respectively, Canada’s first- and third-largest merchandise trading partners in the world.
Canada is, respectively, the second- and fifth-largest merchandise trading partner of the United States and Mexico, and the largest export market for the United States.
Canada and the United States share the world’s longest secure border, over which approximately 400,000 people, and goods and services worth $2.4 billion, cross daily.
Canada is the largest market for the United States—larger than China, Japan and the United Kingdom combined.
To reach this new agreement on trilateral trade, the Prime Minister, ministers, parliamentarians, federal officials, premiers and industry and labour representatives directly engaged political and business leaders in the United States to advocate on behalf of Canadians.
To help guide negotiations, the Government of Canada consulted with Canadians from across the country and from all sectors and backgrounds about trade. Consultations included meetings with the provinces and territories, the government’s NAFTA Council, industry, unions, civil society, think tanks, academics, Indigenous peoples, women, youth and the general public.

World Leaders Welcome Saudi Crown Prince at G20, Avoiding Isolation
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 30/18/World leaders welcomed Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Friday at the G20 summit, showing he was no pariah less than two months after the kingdom killed a dissident journalist. The 33-year-old heir apparent was seen chatting with U.S. President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka and shaking hands with French President Emmanuel Macron at the start of a two-day meeting of the world's top economies in Buenos Aires. Prince Mohammed and Russian President Vladimir Putin both grinned broadly and shook hands robustly as leaders converged for a group photo. British Prime Minister Theresa May also said she would meet Prince Mohammed. She said she would press the crown prince both on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen, where millions are on the brink of starvation in what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis. "The Saudi Arabians need to ensure that their investigation is a full investigation, that it's credible, that it's transparent, and that people can have confidence in the outcome of it, and that those responsible are held to account," May told Sky News. Macron told reporters before meeting the prince that he will "no doubt" mention the death of Khashoggi, a U.S.-based contributor to The Washington Post who was killed when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The killing has sparked widespread outrage but Western powers have pledged to maintain close relations with Saudi Arabia, a top oil producer and buyer of U.S. weapons. Trump, in an exclamation-heavy statement before the summit, said it did not matter whether Prince Mohammed knew about Khashoggi's death and that Saudi Arabia was important for business and for its hostility to Iran. The U.S. Senate nonetheless moved this week to end support for the Saudi-led war against rebels in Yemen amid outrage over attacks on civilian sites including a school bus and hospitals.

G20 kick starts in Argentina amid division and tension among world leaders

Reuters, Buenos Aires/Friday, 30 November 2018/The G20 Summit kickstarted in Argentina with leaders of the world’s top economies gathered on Friday for talks overshadowed by a US-China trade war that has roiled global markets. The two-day annual gathering will be a major test for the Group of 20 industrialized nations, whose leaders first met in 2008 to help rescue the global economy from the worst financial crisis in seven decades. With a rise in nationalist sentiment in many countries, the group faces questions over its ability to deal with the latest round of crises.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is attending the summit, met with the leaders of the participating countries at the summit, according to the Saudi Foreign Ministry.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin speak at the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. (AP)
Overhanging the summit in Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, is a trade dispute between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, which have imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other’s imports. All eyes will be on a planned dinner between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday to see whether they can
make progress toward resolving differences threatening the global economy.
Beijing hopes to persuade Trump to abandon plans to hike tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 percent in January, from 10 percent at present. “We hope the US can show sincerity and meet China half way, to promote a proposal that both countries can accept,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a briefing in Beijing. Speaking in Buenos Aires, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he would be surprised if the dinner was not a success, but it would depend entirely on the two presidents. On the eve of the summit, G20 member nations were still trying to reach agreement on major issues including trade, migration and climate change that in past years have been worked out well in advance. Trump’s skepticism that global warming is caused by human activity has raised questions about whether the countries will be able to reach enough consensus on climate change to include it in the summit’s final communique. Earlier this month, officials from countries attending a major Asia-Pacific summit failed to issue a joint statement for the first time after the US delegation clashed with China over trade and security. However, delegates to the talks in Buenos Aires said good progress had been made on economic sections of the statement overnight. Argentina’s presidency voiced optimism consensus would be reached on a draft.

Report: Israel jets bomb targets near Damascus, southern Syria

AFP, Damascus/Washington/Friday, 30 November 2018/Israeli jets on Thursday bombed several areas near Damascus as well as in southern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. “Israeli forces bombarded for an hour positions in the southern and southwestern suburbs of Damascus as well as in the south of Syria at the border of Quneitra province” the Observatory’s chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. Earlier, Syrian state media said air defenses downed a number of “hostile targets” close to the capital. “Our air defenses fired on hostile targets over the Kisweh area and downed them,” the official SANA news agency reported, citing a military source. The area south of Damascus has been targeted by alleged Israeli strikes in the past, which a monitor said have killed members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards force and other pro-Iranian militias. Abdel Rahman said there are “weapons depots belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah (group) as well as Iranian forces” in Kisweh. Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian targets. Syrian air defenses in September opened fire to intercept alleged Israeli missiles targeting ammunition depots in the northwestern province of Latakia, but instead downed a Russian jet. Abdel Rahman said Thursday was the first time Syria’s air defenses had been called into action since the incident on September 17 in which 15 Russians were killed. Moscow pinned responsibility for the downing of its jet on Israel, saying its plane used the larger Russian one for cover, an allegation Israel disputed. Following the incident, Russia sent advanced air defense missiles to Damascus.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia his country would continue to hit hostile targets in Syria to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence across the border. He added that Israel would “continue security coordination” with Russia.
Astana process produced Syria ‘stalemate’
The Astana process by Russia, Iran and Turkey to end the Syrian conflict has only led to a “stalemate” in efforts to establish a constitutional committee crucial to a political settlement, the US said on Thursday. Establishment and convening of the committee by year’s end “is vital to a lasting de-escalation and a political solution to the conflict,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. Her comments came after the outgoing United Nations envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, regretted that there was “no tangible progress” on the composition of the constitutional committee at two days of talks which ended Thursday in the Kazakh capital Astana. Moscow and Tehran, allies of the Damascus regime, began the Astana process in January 2017 along with rebel-backer Turkey. The Astana process followed a Russian military intervention which tipped the military balance in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime. “Russia and Iran continue to use the process to mask the Assad regime’s refusal to engage in the political process” under UN auspices, Nauert said. She added that “success is not possible without the international community holding Damascus fully accountable for the lack of progress in resolving the conflict.”The Astana process has gradually eclipsed the earlier UN-sponsored negotiations framework known as the Geneva process, which had put more emphasis on political transition but failed to curb violence that has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions.
Syria’s war began in March 2011 as an uprising against Assad but morphed into a complex conflict with myriad armed groups, many of whom are foreign-backed.

War monitor, Syrian media say anti-ISIS coalition air strikes kill dozens

Reuters, Beirut/Friday, 30 November 2018/The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air strikes by the US-led coalition against ISIS in eastern Syria this week killed dozens of people in the militant group’s last major foothold. The coalition could not immediately be reached for comment on the report. Syrian state media also reported dozens of deaths this week. The Observatory said strikes beginning overnight on Wednesday in and around al-Shafa in the Deir al-Zor countryside had targeted a hospital, prison and houses used by militants in their pocket on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river near the Iraqi border. The Observatory said around 40 prisoners, civilians and fighters had been killed in strikes with more wounded. The toll rose as bodies were pulled from the rubble. New air strikes Syrian state news agency SANA, citing local sources, said new air strikes on Friday on al-Shafa killed around 30, bringing the total killed this week in strikes on the ISIS pocket to around 45. The Syrian government has written to the United Nations a number of times protesting casualties caused by air strikes by the US-led coalition against ISIS. The US-led coalition, now in a push to defeat the final remnants of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, has previously said it investigates reports of civilian casualties and does all it can to avoid them.

Tunisia says it broke up four militant cells, foiled attacks

Reuters, Tunis/Friday, 30 November 2018/Tunisia said on Thursday it had broken up four Islamist militant cells and seized explosives, poisonous gas and drone aircraft. The militants had been planning a “series of attacks against vital targets in the country, through stabbing, poisoning, cars attacks and detonation,” the interior ministry said, without identifying any targets. The seizures came a month after a woman blew herself up in the center of the Tunisian capital and wounded 15 people in an attack that broke a period of calm after dozens died in militant attacks three years ago. Tunisia was the only country to oust a long-serving leader during the “Arab Spring” uprisings without triggering large scale unrest or civil war - and has won widespread praise for its democratic transition, new constitution and free elections.

sraeli police arrest Jordanian suspected in Eilat attack
The Associated Press, Jerusalem/Friday, 30 November 2018/A Jordanian man has been arrested by Israeli police after allegedly attacking two Israelis on Friday, in the port city of Eilat, which borders Jordan. Police said that the two victims were hospitalized with serious injuries after the Jordanian beat them with a hammer. The suspect was apprehended and police were investigating the circumstances of the incident. The countries signed a peace treaty in 1994, but relations have been tumultuous due to occasional violent incidents and political disagreements. Bilateral ties sank to historic lows last year after an Israeli embassy guard shot and killed two Jordanians, contending that one tried to attack him and the second was caught in the crossfire. Jordan announced last month that it won’t be renewing

Hate crimes against Muslims in Canada rose 151 pc during 2017
AFP, Ottawa/Friday, 30 November 2018/The number of hate crimes reported to police in Canada jumped by 47 percent in 2017 from the previous year, targeting mostly Muslim, Jewish or black people, the government statistical agency said Thursday. “For the year, police reported 2,073 hate crimes, 664 more than in 2016,” with most of the uptick in graffiti and vandalism, incitement of hatred, assaults, and uttering threats in Ontario and Quebec provinces, said Statistics Canada. This followed steady but relatively small increases in previous years, the agency said. Property crimes played the biggest role in the increase while violent hate crimes grew by 25 percent, it said.
Race or ethnicity
These were motivated primarily by hatred of a race or ethnicity (878 crimes, up 32 percent), religion (842 crimes, up 83 percent), or sexual orientation (204 crimes, up 16 percent).
In particular, hate crimes against Muslims rose 151 percent to 349 in 2017 -- a year marked by a xenophobic young man’s killing of six worshippers at a Quebec mosque. Hate crimes against Jews rose 63 percent to 360, while those targeting blacks increased by 50 percent to 321.
Overall hate crimes accounted for a mere 0.1 percent of the 1.9 million crimes reported to police that year, excluding highway traffic offenses.

Ukraine Closes Border to All Russian Males between 16 and 60

Associated Press/Naharnet/November 30/18/Ukrainian officials on Friday barred Russian males between the ages of 16 and 60 from traveling to the country in the latest escalation of tensions between the neighbors. The long-simmering conflict bubbled over Sunday when Russian border guards rammed into and opened fired on three Ukrainian vessels near the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014. The vessels were trying to pass through the Kerch Strait on their way to the Sea of Azov. The Russians then captured the ships and their 24-member crew. The Ukrainian parliament on Monday adopted the president's motion to impose martial law in the country for 30 days in the wake of the standoff. Petro Tsygykal, chief of the Ukrainian Border Guard Service, announced at a security meeting on Friday that all Russian males between 16 and 60 will be barred from traveling to the country while martial law is in place. President Petro Poroshenko told the meeting that the measures are taken "in order to prevent the Russian Federation from forming private armies" on Ukrainian soil. The announcement follows Thursday's decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to scrap the much-anticipated meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Trump said it isn't appropriate for him to meet with Putin since Russia hasn't released the Ukrainian seamen. Russian government-appointed ombudswoman for Crimea told Russian news agencies that all the seamen have been transported from a detention center in Crimea. The three commanders have been taken to Moscow, she said. It wasn't immediately clear where the other 21 have been taken. A Crimea court earlier this week ruled to keep the Ukrainian seamen behind bars for two months pending the investigation. There has been growing hostility between Ukraine and Russia since Moscow's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. Russia has also supported separatists in Ukraine's east with clandestine dispatches of troops and weapons. Fighting there has killed at least 10,000 people since 2014 but eased somewhat after a 2015 truce.

Iran Cannot 'Wait Forever' for EU Path to Skirt US Sanctions

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 30/18/Iran said Friday the European Union must be given more time to set up a trade mechanism meant to circumvent reimposed US sanctions on Tehran, but warned it could not "wait forever". Brussels is working on a payment system to continue trade and business ties with Iran after the US ditched a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran earlier this year and reintroduced a raft of sanctions on the country. "Europe's efforts for implementing a financial mechanism are continuing despite mounting US pressure," Iran's deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi told the official IRNA news agency. "We believe that Europe must be given more time ... they have so far been unable to introduce operational measures, but we are not supposed to wait forever," he added. The US sanctions aim to cut off Iran's banks from international finance and significantly reduce its oil exports. The EU hopes its "special purpose vehicle" (SPV) announced in September will keep the nuclear deal alive and pursuade Tehran to stay on board by giving companies a way of trading with Iran without fear of US sanctions. But Brussels is struggling to find a host for the SPV and many EU countries are fearful of repercussions from US President Donald Trump's administration. "Americans are out to block all paths and have already started pressuring countries aiming to implement the mechanism and work with it," said Araghchi, refusing to comment on potential SPV hosts due to the "sensitivity" of the issue. Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg have already rejected hosting the special payment system, Bloomberg News reported. Araghchi said Iran will stay in the nuclear deal as long as it meets Tehran's interests, but will "make a different decision" the moment it no longer does.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 01/18
“Our Children Were Screaming”: Muslim Persecution of Christians, July 2018
ريموند إبراهيم: جدول الإضطهاد الإسلامي للمسيحيين خلال شهر تموز 2018

Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/November 30/18
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Egypt: Police encouraged a Muslim mob while attacking a church. After local Muslims in Ezbet Sultan Pasha village learned that Christians, who form about 20 percent of the population, were on their way to legalizing a church building, they surrounded it following Friday prayers on July 6. “The protesters were chanting slogans against us [Christians], such as ‘We don’t want a church in our village,’” said one resident. “We locked ourselves in our homes during the demonstration because we were afraid that they would attack us. Police didn’t do anything to disperse the demonstrators and didn’t arrest anyone of them.” Demonstrations continued into the next day with no police intervention. On the following Friday, again after Muslim prayers, local Muslims augmented by Muslims from neighboring villages, surrounded the church again and hurled stones and bricks at it and a nearby Christian home.
“They were shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ [Allah is greater] and chanting hostile slogans against Copts, such as: ‘We will not allow any church to exist in our Muslim village,’ ‘We will not allow any other prayers to be held in our Muslim village except our prayers,’” said another Christian resident. According to the report, “While police did not intervene, one of the officers apparently promised the protesters that no church would be allowed in the village. … [T]his declaration encouraged the protesters who clapped shouting ‘Allahu akbar’…. There are at least approximately 3000 pending applications from churches that still need to be examined by the government commission set up to verify whether they meet legal requirements.” Archbishop Makarios released a statement saying, “We are saddened by official appeasement of and acquiescence to demands by some who possess no right to such demands [the demands to have no church in the village], to the detriment of Coptic rights.” Last reported, a local said, “Terror dominates the village because the Muslims can demonstrate and gather at any time. We are in great fear and in anticipation of the situation.”
Pakistan: Five members of a Muslim family stormed a small church during worship service on July 13 in Samundari, a district of Faisalabad; they were armed with guns and brought kerosene oil in an attempt to torch the church. According to a local Christian, “A group of armed Muslims abused Christianity and desecrated the church stuff. Around 50 men and women were praying in the church when the group of Muslims did aerial shots, attacked the church, beat men and women, damaged windows, altar, pulpit, chairs, and desecrated Christian literature. However, timely intervention of the local police controlled the situation and saved the Christians. The [attackers] had a property dispute with Abid Masih and wanted to [take] the church property as well. In order to pressurize the Christian community, a young Christian was kidnapped a week ago, however later recovered.” According to Shamaun Qaiser, a local Christian activist “It is sad to note this new violent trend in which Muslims have started attacking places of Christian worship to settle personal disputes. Such acts against the weaker sections of society often go unpunished. I have no hope that justice will be done for these Christians as the administration and legislatures have often turned a blind eye to the issue of violence against Christians.”
France: Muslims sprayed “Allahu akbar” (Allah is greater) on a church before setting it aflame. According to the report, “On Wednesday night [July 25] the Saint-Pierre du Matroi church in Orleans was set on fire with ‘criminal intent,’ according to police sources. Furniture and sheet music were burned and the heinous graffiti [was] found, one of which said ‘Allahu Akbar.’ Fortunately the fire was extinguished quickly by firemen and it didn’t burn the church’s supporting structure. This isn’t the first attack on a French church. On 26 July 2016, two Islamist terrorists attacked participants in a Mass at a Catholic church in Normandy. The men killed the 85-year-old priest Jacques Hamel, by slitting his throat, and also critically wounded an 86-year-old man. Last year a Muslim woman, only known by her first name ‘Kenza,’ was given a two-year suspended sentence for vandalising the Sainte Marie Madeleine Church in Rennes-le-Château… [T]here were 128 incidents of church vandalism or other anti-Christian attacks in France in the first five months of 2018.”
Kyrgyzstan: A church that served many Muslim converts to Christianity was ordered to halt its Sunday worship services. Before that, groups of people that included local authorities and followers of the region’s imam twice interrupted services. On both occasions, the intruders insulted and threatened the congregation and said things like: “You will not be able to live and carry out your ministry here… We will come here again and again to disturb and persecute you in every possible way.” According to the report, “The church has for more than a decade been led by Pastor Miran. The leadership of the school where he worked threatened to fire him after they learned of his conversion and his role as a church leader. He was also accused of child abuse by the school and jailed for six months… [T]he church felt the allegation was only levelled against him because of his conversion. Since his release, Pastor Miran, a father of five, has been unable to find paid work.” Local Muslims say “If Miran could betray his ‘native pure Islam,’ maybe he could do other bad things too.”
Algeria: Authorities shut down another Christian church. According to the pastor of the congregation of 60, he arrived to the church on July 11 to find two armed police vans parked near its door. “Three of the gendarmes entered the church and executed their order. They put the curtain and the front door under seal, which strictly forbids us to open the doors of the church once closed,” said Pastor Benamara. “After execution of the order of the wali [governor] of Bejaia to close the premises, the gendarmes left. …That’s where we are… [O]ur church is closed, and our faithful can no longer meet…. This is injustice,” he said: “The authorities who are supposed to respect and enforce the laws of the republic themselves do not respect them. Is it not true that Algerian law and international laws respect and demand respect for all religions as much as Islam? And also their practice? Why are they flouting these laws of the republic?” Six other churches were earlier closed by authorities—three were later allowed to reopen—in the preceding months. On July 26, the United Nations Human Rights Council said in its concluding observations that it “remained concerned” over these closures. It called on Algeria to “guarantee the full exercise of their [its citizens’] freedom of thought, conscience and religion to all.” It also called on the Algerian government to “refrain from obstructing the religion of persons who do not observe the official religion, in particular by the means of destruction and closure of establishments or refusal to grant registration of religious movements.”
Turkey: Robbers broke into a historic Armenian church in the Muslim majority nation. The intruders wrought “irreparable damage,” including by digging up the church’s main foundation in order to gain entry—an elaborate procedure that would not have been possible were it not for the government’s total disregard for the nation’s Christian heritage, says one report: “Turkish authorities … have, in practice, encouraged the destruction of valuable Armenian cultural and civilizational [sites]…. Turkey’s rulers after the Armenian genocide and their physical destruction in western Armenia (present-day Eastern Turkey), the land of their ancestors, have for centuries consistently pursued the cultural genocidal policy of their affairs as a state policy to eliminate any trace of them.”
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Egypt: Maher Girgis Tawfiq, a 45-year-old Christian father-of-four, died under mysterious circumstances after he went to the local police station to complain about threats from a Muslim. “[A]round midnight,” says the report, “his wife received a call from the police, telling her that her husband had fainted and been transferred to hospital in a critical condition. The family rushed to the hospital, where they were told that Tawfiq had died at the reception of the emergency department. The police told local media that the Copt had died after falling into a coma due to his diabetes, but his family say he was not diabetic and that they believe he was murdered.” “We headed to the morgue to see Maher’s body and noticed some bruises on different parts of it—a blue bruise at the back of his neck, his lips turned blue, and we saw white foam coming out of his mouth,” said his cousin. “There was also blood in his pupils,” adds George, the slain’s brother-in-law: “A group of police officers threatened Maher’s brothers that if they insisted that he was killed at the police station or demanded an autopsy, they would receive charges, meaning the police would fabricate charges against them…. I will not find consolation until the perpetrators are held accountable. We want to feel that we live under the rule of law, with justice and equality, and not in a state of repression…” This is not the first case of its kind. A year earlier, another Christian man died while in custody. Egyptian police said he committed suicide, though his body also bore marks of torture.
Nigeria: Among the many Christians slaughtered in the ongoing jihad, six were killed—and their church and twenty other buildings torched—during an early morning jihadi raid on Sunday, July 1. In a separate incident, a pastor, his wife, and another Christian leader were murdered by Islamic Fulani herdsmen. They were traveling home after visiting relatives when the terrorists ambushed and opened fire on them. The married couple left behind eight children; the other Christian leader left behind a wife and three children. In a separate incident, six more Christians were slaughtered.
Muslim Attacks on Apostates and Blasphemers
Egypt: After a Christian man was accused of insulting Islam’s prophet on his Facebook page by linking to an article that compared Muhammad to Jesus, police arrested him and local Muslims rioted—including by attacking Christian homes and trying to storm the village church—on July 9 in Menbal village. Windows were smashed and some Christians sustained injuries from glass shards. “The Muslim extremists in our village and the nearby villages incited the Muslim villagers against us …. They began pelting the Coptic-owned houses with stones and bricks, while shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ [Allah is the greater] and chanting slogans against Copts, such as ‘We will displace you and the priest from our village, oh kafir [infidels], oh the worshipers of the cross, oh defiled people,’” said one Christian resident. “We lived very terrible moments while the mob were attacking our homes. Our children were screaming,” said another: “All of us [Christians] have stayed in our homes. We are afraid to get out to the village streets. There is a state of panic and fear among all of us here…. [W]e are still receiving threats from our Muslim neighbours. They say they will take revenge on all of us as soon as the security forces leave the village. We are afraid that they will attack us this Friday after their noon prayers.” “We spent a painful evening we shall never forget,” said another Christian resident of Menbal. “An evening of terror.”
Greece: A Muslim mob attacked seven Iranian converts to Christianity at a refugee camp, as police stood by and watched. According to the report, the Christians “met as a small group together in one of the Conex containers they were housed in, gathering a few others. Somehow, they came to the attention of the other camp residents… a mob formed on Sunday night as they were holding a Bible Study meeting. The mob attacked them, threatening them with knives and beating the men, resulting in hospitalization for two of them. The two women and two young children were also threatened with knives. Petrol was poured into their Conex.
They were called ‘kaffirs’ [infidels] and told to leave the camp. One of the men had a previous heart condition and the attack caused him to pass out. An ambulance was called but the mob tried to prevent its entry into the camp. The Greek police present did nothing, being massively outnumbered by the mob of 30-40 people.” “Before I even woke up for my work, (a lady) called me and told me she was in the University Hospital because she and her husband were assaulted by a group of Muslims,” recalls Pastor Apostolos Theodorakos of the Free Evangelical Church in Larissa: “I ran into the hospital and I found this beloved soul with her child, terrified, with jabs…. [A] group of 30-40 people had come… accusing them of being Christians and going to church. In fact, one took a liquid inside the container and someone tried to (ignite a) fire.” All of the victims of the attack have since fled to a safe house.
Indonesia: On July 24, Martinus Gulo, a 21-year-old Christian university student, was sentenced to four years in prison and a fine of 1 billion Rupiah (68,914 USD) for religious defamation, or “blasphemy,” against the Muslim prophet. On hearing the verdict, dozens of Muslims cheered and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is greater). Months earlier he had posted a Facebook post likening Muhammad to a pig. According to the report, “Gulo, who is Christian, told authorities that he made the post because he was upset that his own religion was criticized online….The case fueled concerns that Indonesia’s moderate brand of Islam is coming under threat from increasingly influential radicals.”
Uganda: Muslim death threats to a former Muslim turned Christian pastor and his children caused him to stop constructing a church on his land and flee. According to the report, “The 55-year-old pastor had resettled his family in Mazuba five years ago after fleeing persecution by Muslims in Sironko village… In April, Muslims in Mazuba noticed that some Muslims had become Christians and were attending his church… Word that he was a convert from Islam spread quickly, and Muslim schoolchildren began bullying the pastor’s eight children… As area Muslims threatened to kill his children, the pastor and his wife felt compelled to send them to a boarding school in another town. At beginning of the year Pastor Budallah donated a part of his land for construction of a church building. After walls had been built, however, area Muslims … put a stop to construction.” That did not stop the threats: “We know your tricks, that your intention of building the church is for you to convert our members to Christianity,” reads one letter. “If you continue building the church, then you are risking your life as well as the life of your church members.” The pastor’s Muslim relatives also continued to send him threatening messages: “You have refused to come back home [Sironko], and we hear that you have started building a church for infidels,” a text message said. “Know that Allah is going to deal with you soon, and you will not finish it nor pray in it.” “The church members are now living in great fear for their lives and have stopped attending church services,” says the pastor.
Separately, “Irate Muslims” hurled stones at and knocked out a Christian pastor after he apparently shamed his Muslim opponent in a public debate. According to the report, on June 21, “A stone struck pastor Tom Palapande, 38, in the head during an open-air debate …with area Muslims about Islamic and Christian scriptures, the Trinity and the Sonship of Jesus, among other topics…. [I]n the fourth debate about Jesus as the Son of God, a sheikh found himself ill-prepared and left in the middle of the event… Embarrassed Muslims in the crowd responded by throwing stones at Pastor Palapande and shouting the jihadist chant, ‘Allah akbar,’ [Allah is greater]… A big stone hit the pastor’s forehead, and the stones as well injured three other church leaders who were close to the pastor at the podium…” After regaining consciousness in a clinic and being transferred to a hospital in Mbale, the pastor said, “This is not the first time when Muslims attacked us, especially when they lost debates.” Uganda is a Christian-majority nation; Muslims make up approximately 12 percent of the population.
Muslim Discrimination against and Abuse of Christians
Iraq: The Kurdish regional government imposed jizya on local Christians—a discriminatory tax Christians and Jews were historically obligated to pay to their Muslim overlords. According to the report, “The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has imposed a discriminatory new regulation requiring all business owners from the Assyrian-majority city of Ankawa [which is more than 80% Christian], located in the Erbil Province, to renew their business licenses … for a fee. This new regulation applies exclusively to Ankawa, despite the fact that a total of ten districts are under the Erbil Center District’s jurisdiction…. The new order targeting Assyrian shop owners is the latest form of discrimination targeting Assyrians in Ankawa…. One Assyrian politician … was told by a KRG official that this was a form of jizya tax, justified because Ankawa is a Christian town.” The meaning and usage of jizya is recorded in Koran 9:29: “Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture—[fight] until they give the jizya [tribute] willingly while they are humbled.”
Bangladesh: “Thousands of Christians … are being persecuted in Bangladesh over land,” says a July 31 report. In one instance, Muslims rose up against and seized the land of Christian villagers, with the aid of local police. Four Christians were killed and 30 wounded. A Catholic priest visited them in July, 2018—two years after the incident—and concluded that “In all about 1,500 Christians [continue to] live in inhumane conditions. Some NGOs have provided them with metal sheeting to build makeshift shelters. Even though the victims formally complained about it and called on the government [to intervene], they have been abandoned and the administration has been silent. I do not know what’s behind it.” One of the homeless Christians, Joseph Murmu, said that “the government has behaved badly [with the people]. We want to get our land back.” In another instance, a Muslim man escorted by fifty armed people seized the land of Abraham Cruze, a 65-year-old Catholic. “For two years, I have been asking for help,” said the evicted man. “ But so far, all my efforts have been in vain. I had a small house and now I am a homeless person; I live with some of my relatives.”
Zanzibar: Christian pastors quoted in a July 10 report explained how Tanzania’s semi-autonomous and Muslim-majority archipelago of Zanzibar “has concealed Christian persecution for decades.” According to Simon, the pastor of a church, “It is crystal clear that the rise of Christianity in Zanzibar has attracted hostility and discrimination, issues that the international community knows too little or nothing about. It’s true Zanzibar is known for tourism and spices, but the truth of the matter is that the Christian body has been persecuted for so long.” Another pastor, Amos, was ordered to halt construction of a church on his land in 2017: “Our legal pursuit to retain the ownership of the church compound has been halted by the Islam-influenced judicial ruling,” he said. “We fear that the unfinished church building will be demolished anytime and a mosque will be constructed.”
Egypt: Newly appointed Minister of Health, Dr. Hala Ziyad, issued an ordinance that requires all doctors to recite daily an Islamic version of the Hippocratic Oath, so that hospitalized Egyptians hear it. According to the report, the oath “contains wording that is not unlike the Islamic confession of faith… The problematic section comes at the very end, where the oath-takers recite ‘Allah and his Prophet.’ Whereas most Copts [Christians] have no difficulty acknowledging ‘Allah’—which is just Arabic for ‘God’—‘his Prophet’ is more problematic, as it is an acknowledgement that Muhammad is indeed the prophet of God. Any Coptic physician publicly reciting this oath places his or her religious identity in danger, as this would represent an implicit conversion to Islam.” The fear is that such wording may increase the chances of Christian doctors falling afoul of more zealous Muslim colleagues or patients: on hearing a Christian professes Muhammad as Allah’s apostle—that is, essentially profess the shahada—physicians may be harassed to follow through and embrace Islam.
Separately, a Christian journalist based in Cairo published an op-ed discussing the challenges facing Christian women in Egypt. An excerpt follows: To be a woman in a country where most of her people see women as a disgrace, and at best look at her from a sexual point of view, it is a heavy burden, but even worse when you are a Christian woman. It is hell!…. Sexual harassment can be described as an epidemic that spreads throughout Egypt. According to a 2013 study by the United Nations, more than 98 percent of all Egyptian women have been subjected to harassment. But the study did not show how harassment differs from a woman wearing hijab to another who reveals her hair. Most Muslim women in Egypt wear hijab and therefore, the others who do not wear it are most likely Coptic.
This means that the Egyptian man thinks he has the right to harass her, simply because he sees her as a whore and a disbeliever. You may think that I am talking about a certain class of men, but in fact, most Muslim men (not all, but the majority) view the Coptic woman as easy prey. He thinks that he will have a religious reward if he can manipulate her emotionally and persuade her to marry him, or to convert to Islam, a phenomenon prevalent in Upper Egypt.
**Raymond Ibrahim, author of the new book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
About this Series
The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic. Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:
1) To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians.
2) To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Islamic Sharia. Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; apostasy, blasphemy, and proselytism laws that criminalize and sometimes punish with death those who “offend” Islam; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or third-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination thereof. Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to Indonesia in the East—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.

‘We will proudly bypass the sanctions’ – Oh really? How?
Karim Abdian Bani Saeed/Al Arabiya/November 30/18
That’s what Iranian President Rouhani said on November 6, one day after President Trump’s new round of anti-Iran sanctions took effect.
So, the immediate reaction is: “Oh really? How?”
It is not clear whether this claim was merely an immediate response and a political pose for domestic consumption, or an illusion on President Rouhani’s part, or that he really thinks or was advised that it is possible to break and circumvent the sanctions.
In my opinion, it is all of the above. It is simultaneously an illusion and a calculated political move for domestic consumption, while also acting as a response to the president’s rivals that nothing has changed and that sanctions can readily be circumvented.
It may be possible to circumvent part of the sanctions, but breaking or bypassing the entirety of the sanctions is completely unlikely. Rouhani’s assertion that Iran conceivably can bypass some of the sanctions was either purposely confrontational, or it was just a political move for domestic consumption—and the latter is conceivable.
The Islamic Republic has faced various types of sanctions imposed on it, in one way or other, at different points in its nearly 40 years of history. The first was in response to taking over the US embassy and holding Americans hostage, and then during its eight-year war with Iraq.
The main cause of the war in fact was Iran. Right after the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini pro-actively and deliberately began a campaign of provocation against Saddam Hussein. Different reasons existed for the provocations. Some were due to his personal hatred of Saddam Hussein. Second, it was a reflection of his staunch anti-Arab character.He also aspired to lay claim to the leadership of the Shiite world and domination of the Shi’a sites in Iraq. And finally, his belief in the mission to take over Jerusalem and eventually destroy Israel. The sanctions were imposed by the United Nations and the international community for eight years because of Khomeini’s foolish and illogical lack of military expertise and the mullah’s stubborn insistence on continuing the war.
This network has enabled Iran to successfully meet the needs of the country, from agricultural products to food to weaponry, including highly specialized industrial and military items and nuclear and missile parts
These are the assertions of ex-President Rafsanjani and Ebrahem Yazidi, the first Iranian foreign minister, who publicly revealed these facts before their deaths recently. Other sanctions followed in response to other notorious actions in the region.
Iran has become superbly efficient at bypassing sanctions by instituting a vast and very sophisticated network and web of trading companies to procure and purchase the goods and services the regime needs to survive. These legal and mostly front companies were established in Iran and stretch to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Turkey as well as Russia, Asian countries, and even the US and Europe. This network has enabled Iran to successfully meet the needs of the country, from agricultural products to food to weaponry, including highly specialized industrial and military items and nuclear and missile parts and components.
However, it has had to pay up to ten times market prices, according to credible sources. Iranians have had the ability and the capacity to continually and very quickly change the names of compromised and exposed illegal companies. Over the past decade, the US has carefully pieced together evidence of this network and in the process quietly dismantled it. Beginning in 2008, a secret project was launched by the CIA, the FBI, and the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) called the Open Source Intelligence and Exploitation Center. It was located in a six-story building just outside the Washington Virginia Beltway in, a suburb of Washington, D.C., halfway between CIA headquarters in Langley and the Pentagon. The building housing the center has no address, no name, an unknown owner in the public records, and no records of property taxes.
The agency’s function is to collect and assess foreign-based, publicly available information or open source intelligence that spans traditional media, academic papers, geospatial data and technology, datasets, and social media. The Center is managed under a civilian director by DIA with active cooperation from the CIA and the FBI counter-intelligence division.
While each agency has its own open source intelligence, the specific function of the Center is to have all materials about Iran and Al-Qaeda that were collected abroad and brought in to the center. Hundreds of Farsi and Arabic linguists sift through and identify important and intelligence-worthy documents and translate them into English. Material on Al-Qaida was limited, and most of the information consisted of a vast and comprehensive array of documents obtained from raids on and the monitoring of Iranian front companies around the world that facilitated the procurement of materials and bypassed the sanctions. Documents included details of transactions, materials prices, names of the purchasers and the various in-between companies, orders, bills of shipping, modes of shipping, letters of credit and banking documents, and related emails—the full transaction cycle from the beginning to the end.
Researchers found that there were thousands of illegal and front companies by Iranians and others running these companies. The Center slowed down its work after 2015 when President Obama brokered and signed the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), or the Iran nuclear deal. On July 14, 2015, Iranian President Rouhani boasted of JPA as a great achievement and issued a memo to ministry and government directors to eliminate the procurement networks created to bypass the sanctions. This included the elimination of all go-betweens and instead to deal directly with Western original equipment manufacturers (OEM).
However, before any actual transactions between Iranian end-users of products and manufactures were to be signed, the Iranians were required to fill out a 70-page questionnaire, designed and provided by OEMs and original service providers in the West, to state how the items or commodities were purchased before JPA, from whom, name of agents, vendors, the purchase price, mode and place of original and destination shipment, through what port, the freight forwarders’ names, the country and the currency of purchase, and detailed history of the overseeing organizations in Iran.
The direction from Rouhani was that all the needed information must be provided, and he instructed directors to tell the new Western trading partners the truth. His memo stated that at least for the next 15 years, the country no longer needs go-betweens.
Iranians believe that there has been coordination between Western companies who designed the questionnaire such as Boeing, Airbus, Total, Shell, and other giants in major industries. As a result, the entire illegal procurement network has been destroyed and these sources are now completely burnt.
However, after November 5 all these companies withdrew from Iran, creating a disaster for Iranian purchasing managers who blame Rouhani for eradicating the networks. Moreover, with Iranian oil production now slashed and the rial collapsing in value, the country is struggling to pay for ongoing government expenditures, let alone importing goods at up to ten times their market value.
Despite the extension of eight countries, India, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Taiwan and Greece, to buy Iran's oil for a maximum of six months, it is anticipated that Iran's oil export to diminish to zero afterward.
Additionally, 700 Iranian banks, companies, and individuals were added to the U.S. sanctions blacklist. Also, all ports and insurance companies were warned by the US to steer clear of Iranian ships as “floating liabilities.”. And to make matters worse, the “Swift” system for transferring money to Iranian banks has been banned
Surely, President Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Brian Kook, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran must have known that Iranian secret trade networks had been destroyed as they all recently asserted that it would be so difficult to circumvent the new sanctions.
Now, under the circumstances, it remains unclear if Mr. Rouhani gets it, and how can he boast that “we will proudly bypass the sanctions”?

A secret apparatus for Tunisia’s Ennahda
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/November 30/18
“I cannot close my eyes as it has become blatant.” This is how Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi commented on the presence of a secret security intelligence and terrorist organization affiliated with the Tunisian Brotherhood Ennahda Movement.
In the details, President Beji Caid Essebsi convened with the country’s national security council, a commission linked to the presidency and that handles matters relevant to the Tunisian national security in general, and he was briefed on a folder submitted by the committee defending the two secular Tunisian leaders who opposed Ennahda Movement, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, who were killed in 2013. Essebsi said that Ennahda’s statement opposing him after his page published details of the meeting with the committee defending Belaid and Brahmi is a “personal threat” against him, i.e. the Tunisian president! He emphasized that he will not allow these threats and will not let Ennahda do as it likes, noting that the judiciary will be the criterion. The president and the veteran politician then commented on the secret apparatus of Rached Ghannouchi saying: “The entire world now knows this party’s apparatus, and it’s no longer secret!”What’s more dangerous is that the defense committee provided Essebsi with data of Ennahda’s secret apparatus’ attempt to assassinate him when he was with former French President Francois Hollande in 2013.What’s more dangerous is that the defense committee provided Essebsi with data of Ennahda’s secret apparatus’ attempt to assassinate him when he was with former French President Francois Hollande in 2013
First line of defense
The Tunisian Ennahda supporters, Qatar’s and Turkey’s allies and the first line of defense which is “whitewashed with secularism,” strongly denied the validity of these accusations and launched a campaign against President Essebsi and his party Nidaa Tounes which prevented Rached Ghannouchi’s group from hijacking Tunisia so it becomes part of the Turkish-Qatari Brotherhood camp via using leftist or populist faces such as Moncef Marzouki. The question is: Is it strange for a Brotherhood group, whether Tunisian or any other, to follow this approach? Is it an uncommon behavior in their political habits and culture?
Didn’t Rached Ghannouchi himself, the symbol of the Brotherhood there, spoke in different ways more than once? One time he spoke as if he’s a liberal as per the western standards and as a dreamer who believes in freedom and democracy. At another time, he spoke using the tone of the Mujahid sheikh who aims to empower the young who were left powerless on earth and to make them imams and the heirs. I’ve always said that the “society,” which is one of the terms used by Hassan-i Sabbah, the leader of Hashshashin, i.e. the Brotherhood, have found it acceptable to exploit what is pious.
They have statements to make to the public and other statements to make within their closed circles. They have a certain political behavior to follow within the normal contexts and another “jihadist” behavior to practice in secret. They are the Batiniyya of Ahl al-Sunnah.
It’s a common behavior by Brotherhood formations. This is exactly what the founder of the original Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, inaugurated when he blessed the “private secret system.”

Dictionaries, rockets and towers in the Arab world
Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/November 30/18
Belonging to an era is not like going to the movies. It’s not enough to buy a ticket to book a seat. The issue is more complex and difficult to circumvent.
You have no choice but to stand boldly in front of the mirror, to get rid of some of your illusions and old ideas and to put your dictionary on the table and examine the vocabulary and concepts that you think are difficult to change. You must open the door to an internal war within your thoughts and perceptions… your relationship with time… your community… the others… and the world. You will not head to the future if you decide that the past is better. I don’t claim that the task is easy… that overcoming the burdens of the past is simple. But the Arab people are now at the turning point and they have to make a decision. The issue is very serious. It is whether you sleep in your ancestors’ bed and hide in their dictionary or contribute to building a world worthy of your grandchildren.
Century after century, we slept on the pillow of similarity and considered time as just accumulating stones. Many circumstances did not make our region the arena for promising events. Nothing like the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution or the Renaissance. But now the era has confronted us and dragged us to face the test. Feel the phone inside your pocket.
It is the greatest traveler, the smartest spy and unyielding reporter. The world is in your pocket with all the images and sounds, with information and questions. You have to choose. The poison has leaked into your dictionary. You shall not look into your grandfather’s drawers for a cure.
There is no choice but to contact the era; no matter how much effort and rehabilitation you may require. You cannot be a journalist today in the way you were ten years ago. You cannot be a minister today as you were ten years ago. The same is true for the officer, the university professor, the engineer, the governor and the government. Our separation from the era has cost us nations, cities and seas of human and financial losses… breaking with facts and the concept of the State and institutions.
The battle of stability aims to restore some balance in the region, which would allow the preservation of the Arabs’ role and interests, and enable their countries to take a breath and fight for reform and modernization
Friend from Libya
This is what came to my mind when a friend from Libya contacted me to comment on Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s interview with Asharq Al-Awsat. He recalled how Colonel Mmammar al-Gaddafi called Sheikh Mohammad and expressed his desire for Tripoli to become “a new Dubai” and Africa’s economic hub. He said that the construction of a modern city that could accommodate many nationalities and where people lived under the rule of law required a mentality that did not exist in the colonel’s system, and institutions that were not present during his time.
“Some of our countries have fallen into the hands of men who have a World War II mentality, if not older,” said the man who knows both the regime and the colonel. “These are selfish men, who don’t know the world and their real war is that of retaining power. They didn’t reflect on the deep meaning of the collapse of the Soviet Union – that of never catching up with the era and failing to improve the people’s living conditions.”He went on to say: “These regimes were busy with security and intelligence, not with universities and education. They preferred to buy and stock missiles instead of getting engaged in rehabilitating the infrastructure, promoting investments and building towers. They believed that the citizen could provide his bread and income under the cloak of the regime and its revolutionary committees.”
He noted that Arab governments are increasingly aware of the importance of building intra-Arab relations on the basis of mutual interests. The same strategy has enabled the Europeans to remove the specter of war and transformed the ancient continent into a prominent player in international politics and economy.
He expected that the process of reform and modernization witnessed by Saudi Arabia within the framework of Vision 2030 launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would have a major impact in the Arab and Islamic world. He emphasized serious and difficult measures applied by the Egyptian government to put the economy on the path towards recovery, and the same for Jordan.
Dubai in Tripoli
He said that if Gaddafi had managed to build Dubai in Tripoli, both Libya and its leader would not have suffered their current fates. Had Saddam Hussein built something like Dubai in Baghdad, neither the Iraqi leader nor his country would have been exposed to such calamities.
But you cannot build a modern city with an old and outdated dictionary. Tripoli could have now been a city teeming with tourists and investors and enjoying all the necessary resources. This is also true for Baghdad. Abandon the old dictionary... The dictionary of fear and domination… It is clear that our region must engage in two battles simultaneously: the battle of stability and the quest for prosperity. The battle of stability aims to restore some balance in the region, which would allow the preservation of the Arabs’ role and interests, and enable their countries to take a breath and fight for reform and modernization. The battle of prosperity must start by adopting a new dictionary in dealing with the world, the era and the people’s needs and aspirations.
The success of the two battles depends on the ability to exit the cycle of old fears to enter the circle of strategic partnerships and the exchange of benefits and expertise. It is no secret that we need to get out of the old dictionaries. We need education that awakens the capabilities of Arab students and enables them to belong to the world of transformation, competition and innovation. We need an actual developmental effort that positively changes the conditions of people’s lives, stops the waves of despair that attract young people and push them on suicidal routes or incite them to abandon home.
We must remember that countries, which have modernized their dictionaries, have preceded those that adhered to the past; and that countries that have accumulated developmental achievements are today stronger than those that stocked rockets. The states that built towers are today more prosperous than countries that have wasted their time digging trenches.

Reading Montesquieu in Tehran
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/November 30/18
Although the recent visit to Tehran by Britain’s new Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt did not produce the result he had hoped for, it may have helped him get a better understanding of how things work in the Islamic Republic in Iran. According to London sources, Hunt had hoped to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual national hostage serving a five-year prison term on a vague charge of trying to overthrow the Iranian regime.
Had she been released Hunt and his boss, Prime Minister Theresa May would have scored a double win. With a “Nazanin-home-for-Christmas” number, they would have been able to divert attention from the ordeal of Brexit with at least a momentary flash of national unity at a time of deep divisions.
On a less grand scale, they would also have scored a point against Boris Johnson, the previous Foreign Secretary and Mrs. May’s principal rival for the leadership of the Conservative Party. The flamboyant but gaffe-prone Johnson had visited Tehran as Foreign Secretary and tried to snatch Nazanin from the mullahs’ claws. Not only did he fail to achieve that but he may have made Nazanin’s case more complicated by claiming that she had been involved in training Iranian journalists.
To be sure, Nazanin isn’t the only hostage in Tehran. At last count, there were 21 of them from six nationalities, including at least four more dual British nationals.
Seizing hostages has been a permanent feature of the Islamic Republic politics from its first moments of existence in 1979. Since then hardly a day has passed without the mullahs holding some foreign hostages.
Initially, most of the hostages were Western diplomats, journalists, and businessmen. By the 1990s the number of such would-be hostages had fallen dramatically as fewer Western diplomats, journalists and businessmen traveled to Tehran. Because the regime couldn’t do without hostages it had to find a new category of victims. It was thus that a number of ordinary Western tourists, including a group that had strayed into Iran from Iraq by mistake, were seized as hostages. However, that new category had to be abandoned soon because tour companies owned by the mullahs or their front-men complained that seizing hostages was wrecking their business.
A new category of hostages was found among individuals, including some dual nationals, who believed themselves safe because they had campaigned in favor of the Islamic Republic in Europe or North America. Soon, however, that sense of safety proved to be misplaced as a number of prominent pro-mullah campaigners, especially in the US, were seized during visits to Tehran.
When that source of hostages also dried up because many pro-mullah apologists in Europe and the US realized that going to Iran was a high-risk undertaking, the mullahs found a new trick for replenishing their supply of captives. That new trick was to actually hire people in Europe and North America, offering mouth-watering contracts, and then seize them as hostages when they came to Iran. Thus, we witnessed surrealistic scenes in which a Western or dual national employee of the Islamic Republic would arrive at Tehran Airport to a full official welcome only to be arrested a few days later and charged with espionage.
The need for hostages meant that even lobbyists for the Islamic Republic were not safe. Right now several founders of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), Tehran’s principal lobby group in the US, are held as hostages in Tehran on spurious charges among them 82-year old Muhammad-Baqer Namazi and his son Siamak.
In dealing with the Islamic Republic, Hunt has repeated the mistake of his predecessors by believing that he is dealing with a normal state structure in which men who act as high officials truly represents the decision-making machinery.
For example, he raised the issue of hostages with Foreign Minister Muhammad-Javad Zarif who promptly asserted that he and his office had no influence on the issue. In fact, Zarif cannot guarantee his own safety let alone help the British secure the release of any hostages.
By most accounts, the Islamic Republic has at least nine parallel security agencies separately controlled by the office of the “Supreme Guide”.
Those agencies can operate outside the official legal framework and, at times, could even arrest each other’s agents. They also get involved in bizarre situations. For example, Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested by a security outfit based in the southeastern province of Kerman. How such a group could come to the capital to arrest a British citizen at the Tehran airport remains a mystery. The Lebanese-American hostage Nizar Zaka who had come to Iran as a technician invited by the Islamic Minister of Communication was seized by one branch of the security despite the fact that he had received “full clearance” from yet another branch.
The standard excuse used by Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani in refusing to take up the issue of hostages is that the Islamic Republic observes the principle of “separation of powers” cherished by Montesquieu.
“Our justice is independent,” Zarif reportedly told Hunt.
In a sense, Zarif is right as the presidency and the Council of Ministers have no influence in the judiciary. But what Zarif didn’t say is that the judiciary, being independent and all, also has no influence on who gets arrested and sentenced in the Islamic Republic. In the Islamic Republic, Montesquieu’s teaching is taken to the extreme to create a system in which power is divided into numerous apparently autonomous branches that are, nevertheless, all controlled from a single center. And that single center hides behind a governmental façade that includes a presidency, a Council of Ministers, a judiciary, a legislature and other paraphernalia of statehood whose task is to lead people like Jeremy Hunt up the garden path.
In their time, both Presidents Muhammad Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised to ensure the release of various hostages in appreciation of what they believed was European Union support in the face of American sanctions. They failed to secure freedom for even a single hostage. Instead, both men now found themselves hostages in Iran because, having had their passports confiscated, they cannot travel abroad.
Instead, they have enough time to read Montesquieu’s “Persian Letters”.

Is the Iran nuclear deal dead? Yes
د. ماجد ربيزاده: هل الاتفاق النووي الإيراني ميت؟ نعم هو فعلا ميت

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/November 30/, 2018
Iran, China, France, Russia, the UK, the US and Germany came together to sign the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal. But it is the US, the EU and Iran that will decide its destiny.
The JCPOA has become a source of major disagreements between the US and its old transatlantic partner, the EU. Meanwhile, Iranian leaders have ratcheted up their threats regarding the deal. This week, Ali Akbar Salehi, the top official at Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, warned that if the deal collapses, his country will resume its nuclear activities and uranium-enrichment program.
But despite Tehran’s stern warnings, maintaining the deal is crucial to it because the JCPOA has provided Iran with economic relief, trade, business deals and revenue. As such, Tehran has been looking to the EU to help maintain the nuclear deal.
The EU appears determined to help salvage it.On Wednesday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who met Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Geneva, reiterated the bloc’s support for maintaining the deal. Recently, the EU introduced a plan to facilitate payments to Iran via a new mechanism. The barter program is designed to help Tehran circumvent US sanctions. When Iran exports products to the EU, the bloc will pay with goods and services of the same monetary value.
The JCPOA may be alive on paper, but in reality it died when US sanctions were re-imposed on Iran’s energy and banking sectors.
The EU is trying to pursue a policy that preserves its economic interests, including trade and business deals with Iran. In the coming months, the EU will likely amplify this policy by investing significant political capital in maintaining the nuclear deal and satisfying Tehran’s demands by shielding the regime from sanctions. Will the EU succeed? The US plays a vital role when it comes to addressing this question.
US President Donald Trump has made good on his pledge to oppose the nuclear deal and re-impose economic sanctions on Tehran. The US withdrawal from the deal, and the subsequent renewal of sanctions, have significantly damaged the JCPOA and put an unprecedented amount of economic and political pressure on Tehran.
As a result of US sanctions, many foreign companies have abandoned their projects and taken immediate action to back out of the Iranian market. Iran’s oil revenues have already begun sinking and will likely continue to do so. Its currency has plummeted to new lows, trading at more than 150,000 rials to the dollar.
These developments have provoked further protests over the economy in various Iranian cities; this has become the norm in recent months. The regime’s hold on power appears to be in danger as many ordinary Iranians blame it for the economic crisis.
In the nuclear triangle comprising the US, the EU and Iran, the US appears to have emerged the winner. The JCPOA may be alive on paper, but in reality it died when US sanctions were re-imposed on Iran’s energy and banking sectors. And sooner or later, Tehran will find that the EU cannot continue to satisfy its economic demands.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Putin is testing Western resolve in Ukraine
Luke Coffey/Arab News/November 30, 2018
Sometimes, to understand the present we must better understand the past. It was the Victorian statesman and British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston who best summed up Russia’s behavior during the Crimean War in 1855.
“The policy and practice of the Russian government has always been to push forward its encroachments as fast and as far as the apathy or want of firmness of other governments would allow it to go, but always to stop and retire when it met with decided resistance and then to wait for the next favorable opportunity,” he said.
Some things never change. On Nov. 24, three Ukrainian navy ships were traveling from one Ukrainian port to another. During their journey, they were intercepted by Russian patrol boats near the Kerch Strait. One Ukrainian ship was rammed and others were shot at. Six Ukrainian sailors were wounded; all 24 are now in Russian custody.
The location of this latest incident was no coincidence. The Kerch Strait is a narrow body of water between Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea, which the vast majority of the international community considers to be part of Ukraine. The strait links the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov, and according to a 2003 agreement between Russia and Ukraine, both countries have equal right of passage.
Those who follow events in Ukraine know that the strait has been a potential hotspot for some time. In May, Russia completed construction of a controversial bridge connecting Crimea with the Russian mainland. The bridge was controversial in Russia because of its high price tag of almost $4 billion, at a time when the economy is struggling.
Putin will do as much as he knows he can get away with until someone pushes back.
The bridge is controversial in Ukraine because it limits the height of ships now able to safely transit the strait. Large Panamax ships, which as recently as 2016 accounted for almost a quarter of all ships passing through the strait, are now too tall.
In addition to the physical restrictions placed by the bridge, Russia has also been harassing, delaying, and in some cases stopping Ukrainian commercial shipping from using the strait. This is starting to take its toll on the Ukrainian economy. For example, the shipping of steel and iron products through the strait alone accounts for 25 percent of Ukraine’s export revenue. A country already at war, Ukraine cannot afford another economic disruption.
If the location of the confrontation was no coincidence, neither was the timing. Recent developments between the West and Ukraine, combined with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s shaky approval ratings, mean that an incident such as the recent one in the strait was inevitable. In September, the US Coast Guard signed an agreement providing two patrol boats to Ukraine within the next year, angering many in Russia.
A few weeks ago, the UK said it was increasing the number of troops it has in Ukraine to train the military there. The Russian Embassy in London promptly released a statement calling this a “matter of deep concern.” Also, Ukraine’s Parliament recently held its first reading of new constitutional amendments providing for the country’s future membership in the EU and NATO.
On top of this, Putin’s approval ratings are at their lowest since 2012. It is likely that in order to increase his popularity, he ordered some sort of aggressive military action. This approach has worked before. In 2013, Putin’s approval ratings stood at 54 percent; when Russia invaded and illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, they jumped to 83 percent.
Ever since Russia occupied Crimea and started a separatist movement in the east of the country, Ukraine has been locked in a struggle for national survival. This latest incident in the Kerch Strait is merely an extension of a war that has been ongoing for almost five years now, and that has cost the lives of more than 10,000 people.
If Russia’s aggression has done anything though, it has solidified support among Ukrainians to link the country’s destiny closely with Europe, not with Moscow. Today, Ukraine represents the idea in Europe that each country has the sovereign ability to determine its own path, with whom it has relations, and how and by whom it is governed.
This is why US President Donald Trump was right to cancel his planned meeting with Putin at the G20 Summit. In addition to canceling the meeting, Trump should use the international spotlight afforded to the G20 as an opportunity to demand the release of the Ukrainian prisoners.
Russia’s latest act of aggression in the Kerch Strait is yet another example of Putin’s imperial mindset. And it is another reminder that he will do as much as he knows he can get away with until someone pushes back.
• Luke Coffey is director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation.