December 03/18

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit
Matthew 12/33-37: "‘Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure. I tell you, on the day of judgement you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.’"

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 02-03/18
Lebanese women still struggle with inequitable system/Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/December 02/18
Israel ponders response to Hezbollah’s missile capabilities/Nicholas Blanford/The Arab Weekly/December 02/18
Analysis/Battle Between Israel and Iran Shifting From Syria to Lebanon/Amos Harel/Haaretz/December 02/18
Dramatic Downfall of Carlos Ghosn Reverberates in Lebanon/Associated Press/Naharnet/December 02/18
‘Inside Syria’s Deadly Dynasty’ is a chilling portrait of the rise of brutal dictator Bashar Assad/Lorraine Ali/Los Angeles/December 02/18
Turkey's Reign of Terror: The Persecution of Minority Alevis/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/December 02/18
“Burnt Beyond Recognition”: Extremist Persecution of Christians, August 2018/Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/December 02/18
The Biggest Winner at Argentina’s Summit/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/December, 02/18
Don’t Look Now, But Microsoft Is Overtaking Apple/Shira Ovide//Bloomberg/December, 02/18
Surge of Inflation Isn’t a Guaranteed Portfolio Wrecker/Nir Kaissar/Bloomberg View/December, 02/18
Rich Societies and Poverty/Noah Smith/Bloomberg View/December, 02/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on December 02-03/18
Lebanon: Tensions in Chouf between Security Forces, Wahhab Gunmen
March 8 Sunni Members Insist on Getting Cabinet Seat
Jumblat Slams 'Plots of Defiance Axis'
Wahhab: Hizbullah Saved Lebanon from Carnage, Hariri to End Up in Prison
Arslan 'Congratulates' ISF, Jumblat on 'Shameful' Raid
Al-Rahi Says Unacceptable to Return to 'Armed Chaos'
Soaid, Ghattas Khoury Trade Jabs over Jahliyeh Raid
Lebanese women still struggle with inequitable system
Israel ponders response to Hezbollah’s missile capabilities
Analysis/Battle Between Israel and Iran Shifting From Syria to Lebanon
Dramatic Downfall of Carlos Ghosn Reverberates in Lebanon

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 02-03/18
Pope Lights Candle for Children of Syria
Be celibate or leave the priesthood, pope tells gay priests
Iran says to continue missile tests after U.S. allegation
Washington Seeks to Unify Its Allies Ahead of Political Escalation in Syria
Hamas: Truce with Israel Ongoing Regardless of Stalled Reconciliation
Sarraj in Jordan to Meet King Abdullah
Arab Coalition Committed to Destroying Houthi Capabilities
U.S. Mideast Navy Chief Found Dead in Bahrain
Israel Releases Palestinian Jerusalem Governor to House Arrest

Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on December 02-03/18
Lebanon: Tensions in Chouf between Security Forces, Wahhab Gunmen
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 2 December, 2018/Tensions were high in the Chouf region in Mount Lebanon on Saturday after a clash between members of the Internal Security Forces’ Intelligence Bureau and gunmen loyal to former Minister Wiam Wahhab. The dispute erupted after Wahhab was summoned to court on charges of inciting strife and civil peace after he made disparaging remarks against slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and his son, Saad, the current PM-designate. Gunmen loyal to Wahhab prevent the security forces from escorting the former minister from his Jaheliye area. They deemed such a move as an attempt against his life. The tensions between the security forces and gunmen escalated into an armed clash. Wahhab accused Hariri, General Prosecutor Samir Hammoud and ISF chief Imad Othman of plotting to assassinate hime. He added that the Hezbollah party had informed the PM-designate that the developments in Jaheliye were leading the country towards civil war. “You should seek (Hezbollah chief Hassan) Nasrallah if you want to talk about the lawsuit against me,” he added. A source close to the PM-designate later denied Wahhab’s claims about Hezbollah, saying the former minister was seeking to escape justice. The National News Agency reported that some 15 ISF Intelligence Bureau vehicles were dispatched on Saturday afternoon to arrest Wahhab, but his gunmen confronted them. The army deployed patrols in order to avert any escalation in tensions, military sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. Conflicting reports had emerged on whether a judicial order had been issued to summon Wahhab to investigation or whether he was summoned to appear before court. Judicial sources explained that the patrol was dispatched to his home in order to escort the former minister after he had twice ignored a summons. Wahhab’s lawyer had allegedly pledged that his client will appear before the judiciary next week. Meanwhile, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat held talks in Beirut Saturday with PM-designate Hariri, saying: “We support any measure that cements civil peace.”“The security in the Chouf region was destabilized by convoys of gunmen,” he added. “The army is carrying out its duties and the dignity of the Druze is not at risk,” he stressed. Jumblat and Wahhab are among the Druze community’s most prominent leaders in Lebanon.

March 8 Sunni Members Insist on Getting Cabinet Seat

Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 2 December, 2018/While caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil is still working on ideas to solve the “Sunni node,” which obstructs the birth of a new cabinet in Lebanon, Sunni deputies from the pro-Hezbollah “March 8” team said Saturday they received no new proposals concerning their request to be represented in the new government, and instead they insisted that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri chooses one of them as minister. The Central News Agency quoted sources form the Consultative Gathering as saying, “The six deputies have not yet touched any developments concerning the current dealt proposals.” The sources added that any initiative that does not include naming one of the six deputies as a minister in the new government is considered “born dead.”MP Jihad Samad, one of the deputies, even told a local television station Saturday, “Before accepting to enter the cabinet, we will discuss which portfolio would be given to us, including options like the Interior Ministry or the Telecommunications Ministry.” The stringent position of the six March 8 Sunni deputies came as Caretaker Public Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani representing the Lebanese Forces (LF), said a government should be formed with those attending. And despite the absence of any positivity concerning proposals to solve the “Sunni node,” President Michel Aoun's International Cooperation Adviser Elias Bou Saab expressed his optimism that a new government might be formed before the end of the year holidays. “In case no agreement is reached during this month, this means that the dispute has moved to the foreign level,” he said. Commenting on Bassil’s initiative, Bou Saad said that a solution should not come at the expense of any party. He confirmed that Hezbollah has no intention to weaken Aoun’s presidential term, adding that the President is also keen on not weakening the position of the Prime Minister-designate.

Jumblat Slams 'Plots of Defiance Axis'
Naharnet/December 02/18/Progressive Socialist Party chief ex-MP Walid Jumblat on Sunday slammed what he called “the plots of the defiance axis,” in the wake of Saturday’s confrontation between ex-minister Wiam Wahhab’s supporters and security forces in Jahliyeh.
Taking to his favorite social media platform Twitter, Jumblat posted a picture of sheep and their shepherd with the caption “Away from civilization, the problems of politics, the theories of growth and the plots of the defiance axis.”The so-called defiance axis refers to Syria, Iran, Hizbullah and their allies in Lebanon and the region. A Wahhab supporter was killed Saturday as gunfire erupted during an attempt to arrest Wahhab by the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch. Wahhab had been summoned by the Branch in connection with a lawsuit filed against him by a number of lawyers over insults he addressed to Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and his slain father ex-PM Rafik Hariri. The Chouf region, a stronghold of Jumblat, had on Friday witnessed a standoff between supporters of Wahhab and Jumblat after the ex-minister’s supporters took to the streets in armed convoys.

Wahhab: Hizbullah Saved Lebanon from Carnage, Hariri to End Up in Prison

Naharnet/December 02/18/Ex-minister Wiam Wahhab noted Sunday that “Hizbullah’s intervention” had rescued Lebanon from a “major carnage” in the wake of Saturday’s clash in the Chouf town of Jahliyeh, as he pointed out that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri will “end up in prison.”
Wahhab had announced Saturday that Hizbullah "told Hariri" that Jahliyeh's incident would lead to a "civil war," but Hariri's al-Mustaqbal Movement denied that Hizbullah had contacted the PM-designate, accusing the ex-minister of seeking to "deviate attention."“I will file a lawsuit Monday against Hariri, (Internal Security Forces chief Imad) Othman and (State Prosecutor Samir) Hammoud,” Wahhab told TV networks ahead of the funeral of Mohammed Bou Diab, one of his supporters who died of his wounds following Saturday’s clash with a commando unit from the ISF’s Intelligence Branch. The ISF has announced that Bou Diab was hit by a bullet fired by Wahhab’s supporters and that its forces had not opened fire during the incident. Wahhab disputed the announcement on Sunday, saying the man was hit by a sniper gunshot. “He was five meters away from me and he looks like me,” Wahhab said, suggesting that there was an attempt on his life.“He was killed by a weapon belonging to the state according to the forensic doctor’s report and he was targeted from a distance by a sniper,” the former minister added. “The safety of Mount Lebanon and Lebanon is more important than us all but Saad Hariri, Samir Hammoud and Imad Othman must bear the responsibility for what happened,” Wahhab went on to say. “Mt. Lebanon’s safety must not be jeopardized, even if my blood is spilled,” Wahhab said. “The Hariri-Hammoud-Othman criminal trio is responsible and we will sue them,” the ex-minister vowed.
Adding that “Saad Hariri will end up in prison and will be behind bars when the political circumstances change,” Wahhab said he has asked supporters not to block roads or fire in the air during Bou Diab’s funeral. The ex-minister also said that he had intended to appear before Hammoud to testify at the justice minister’s request but that the state prosecutor “did not answer” his phone call on Saturday. Saturday’s clash erupted during an attempt to arrest Wahhab at his home in Jahliyeh. A security source told LBCI television that the security force headed to Jahliyeh to arrest Wahhab at the judiciary’s request after he had been “informed two times of the need to appear before the Intelligence Branch” in connection with a lawsuit filed against him. The lawsuit was filed by a group of lawyers accusing Wahhab of insulting Saad Hariri and his slain father ex-PM Rafik Hariri.

Arslan 'Congratulates' ISF, Jumblat on 'Shameful' Raid

Naharnet/December 02/18/Lebanese Democratic Party leader MP Talal Arslan on Sunday slammed the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch and Druze leader Walid Jumblat over Saturday’s confrontation in the Chouf town of Jahliyeh. “I congratulate the Intelligence Branch on this shameful bravado that took place yesterday in Jahliyeh and I congratulate the person who issued the absurd order. What a pitiful and disgusting farce,” Arslan tweeted. “I also congratulate Walid Jumblat on the violation of Mount Lebanon and its villages under the slogan of enforcing the law in a selective manner,” the Druze politician added. “Delivering a judicial writ at the hands of hordes of security forces is unjustified at the judicial level, despite my open condemnation of the lowly political rhetoric we are witnessing,” Arslan added, referring to the size of the elite force that raided Jahliyeh on Saturday to inform Wahhab of the need to appear before the Intelligence Branch. In an interview on al-Mayadeen TV, Arslan said Wahhab “was not on the run in order to be notified in that reckless manner.”“Our families and honor in Mount Lebanon cannot be violated by anyone and the state must shoulder its responsibilities,” Arslan added.
“If Walid Jumblat is the protector of Mount Lebanon, then we can only mourn Mount Lebanon’s security,” the politician went on to say, lamenting that some security agencies have become “partisan and politicized.”A Wahhab supporter was killed Saturday as gunfire erupted during an attempt by the Intelligence Branch to find the ex-minister in order to arrest him or notify him of the judicial writ. Wahhab had been summoned by the Branch in connection with a lawsuit filed against him by a number of lawyers over insults he addressed to Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and his slain father ex-PM Rafik Hariri. The Chouf region had on Friday witnessed a standoff between supporters of Wahhab and Jumblat after the ex-minister’s supporters took to the streets in armed convoys.

Al-Rahi Says Unacceptable to Return to 'Armed Chaos'
Naharnet/December 02/18/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi warned Sunday that it is unacceptable to take the country back to the chapters of “armed chaos,” in the wake of the latest security incidents in the Chouf region. “It is unacceptable to witness a return to the armed chaos which causes deaths and injuries and stokes the fire of religious, sectarian and familial strife,” al-Rahi said in his Sunday Mass sermon. “In the face of all of this, we call for patience, self-restraint and the avoidance of violence and revenge. Only the state of law, justice and institutions can protect the rights, dignities and lives of everyone,” the patriarch added. Turning to the stalled cabinet formation process, al-Rahi said: “We don’t understand why they won’t form a neutral, small government comprising well-known, respectable and competent figures that would work on consolidating political stability, which is the basis of economic, social and security stability.”

Soaid, Ghattas Khoury Trade Jabs over Jahliyeh Raid
Naharnet/December 02/18/Ex-MP and former March 14 General Secretariat coordinator Fares Soaid traded jabs Sunday with caretaker Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury over the Internal Security Forces raid in ex-minister Wiam Wahhab’s hometown Jahliyeh. “After the shameful Jahliyeh incident, which has put an end to the state’s prestige, I call on the state to resign. The political authority which has decided to arrest a Lebanese citizen is gutless and it is responsible for weakening the image of security forces,” Soaid tweeted. Khoury, who is close to PM-designate Saad Hariri, snapped back at Soaid in another tweet. “Where were your guts on May 7, (2008)?” Khoury asked Soaid, referring to Hizbullah’s armed takeover of parts of Beirut and Mount Lebanon that year. Soaid hit back in a second tweet, saying: “Resign. That would be more honorable for you and for us. I don’t have money, doctor, nor ministerial seats, and I have sold a hospital rather than buying one. I only have my guts!”An elite force from the ISF Intelligence Branch had on Saturday failed to arrest Wahhab in Jahliyeh after being confronted by his armed supporters. The force consisted of dozens of armored vehicles and heavily-armed agents. It sought to arrest Wahhab after he failed to show up for interrogation in connection with a lawsuit filed against him. The lawsuit was filed after Wahhab launched blistering verbal attacks on Hariri. The pro-Damascus ex-minister has also hurled lewd personal insults against Hariri and his slain father in a leaked video before eventually apologizing.

Lebanese women still struggle with inequitable system
Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/December 02/18
The difficulties facing women in Lebanon are reminders that, contrary to what the Lebanese propagate, their country’s laws remain far behind in being equitable to women.
Sunday 02/12/2018
There are a few tragic situations that test the limits of humanity and shake one to the core. Chief among them, the sight of a child forcefully and unjustly removed from the bosom of his or her mother over an ugly custody battle.
The Lebanese recently witnessed incidents involving two mothers who were forced to hand over their child or risk incarceration. In one case, police stormed the house of the mother and handed the 2-year-old boy to his father, a high-ranking security official.
The crux of this predicament does not dwell on the fact that the personal status laws of Lebanon merely empower women but rather that the legal and political system is rooted on a paternal male chauvinism that promises, yet never delivers any kind of, reform.
Activists have rigorously campaigned for women to achieve some parity in the sectarian Lebanese political system. Despite their huge efforts, only limited changes have been made
Despite attaining suffrage in 1953, Lebanese women have played little or no role in the political life of their country. Most of the well-known female politicians only played a leading role due to their family feudal status or other subjective reasons that moved them to the forefront.
As it stands, six women have seats in the 128-member Lebanese parliament, most of whom were picked by their respective governments to portray an image of modernity.
Just like their male colleagues, female parliamentarians are pawns to their sectarian parties. Be that as it may, the overhaul of the Lebanese political system is not the hindrance to women achieving their political and social rights but rather the fact that their legitimate demands have been sidelined by the ruling establishment for lacking urgency.
Perhaps topping these women’s rights demands is the campaign to grant Lebanese women married to foreigners the right to pass on their nationality to their children, which current law prohibits, citing the naturalisation of Palestinian refugees and the delicate demographic balance as its weak pretext.
Despite their palpable complaints and lobbying, female activists are yet to get the endorsement of any major parliamentary bloc to the bill submitted by a member of the Progressive Socialist Party.
While women wait for the legislators to fulfil their empty promise, their children suffer from a state bureaucracy and regulations, which goes out of its way to make the non-Lebanese, especially Palestinians and Syrians, feel unwelcome. Many children of Lebanese women married to foreigners must leave Lebanon after they become adults because they are barred from certain professions.
An equally important legal demand that women have yet to attain is the criminalisation of sexual harassment, which is not clearly stipulated under the Lebanese penal code.
In the previous parliament in 2014, former MP Ghassan Moukheiber, a renowned legal and civic activist, proposed a law that would punish all forms of sexual harassment, including the despicable act of cat-calling. Shamefully, many of his lawmaker colleagues ridiculed this proposal as being a waste of the assembly’s resources, which should be used to attend to more pressing matters such as the economy and political stability.
However, those Lebanese legislators and the political elite have yet to address those more pressing matters because the so-called elite has been unable to moderate their differences. This has led to the collapse of the state and an ever-menacing economic catastrophe looming.
Rather than merely empathising with Lebanese mothers and their uphill battle with the custody laws, the Lebanese should acknowledge that the system they so fondly vote for every few years disenfranchises not only women but most of the population.
Despite the legal battles won over time, ultimately the difficulties facing women in Lebanon are reminders that, contrary to what the Lebanese propagate, their country’s laws remain far behind in being equitable to women and there is little chance of reform.

Israel ponders response to Hezbollah’s missile capabilities

Nicholas Blanford/The Arab Weekly/December 02/18
The “rules of the game” permit Israel to attack targets in Syria linked to Hezbollah with limited chance of a backlash.
BEIRUT - Former Israeli cabinet minister Gideon Sa’ar recently called for a pre-emptive strike against suspected Hezbollah facilities for precision-guided missiles, warning that any delay would allow the Iran-backed group to wreak greater destruction against the Jewish state in a future war.
While acknowledging that an attack against Hezbollah in Lebanon would risk a strong response, Sa’ar argued that “we will pay a much heavier price in the next round of confrontation if we will not act [now].”
Sa’ar’s call for action lies at the heart of a dilemma that has plagued Israel since 2000 after it withdrew its forces from southern Lebanon and Hezbollah began a process of acquiring new weapons at an accelerated rate: Should Israel carry out a pre-emptive strike against Hezbollah to degrade its military capabilities at the risk of provoking a war or should Israel enjoy the calm along its northern border even though that means Hezbollah grows stronger?
The first test came in October 2000, five months after Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, when Hezbollah abducted three soldiers from the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms district.
The Israeli military pressed for a forceful response, concerned that inaction would encourage further attacks by Hezbollah but Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak stayed his hand, fearful that a heavy reprisal would elicit rocket barrages into northern Israel and provide fuel for critics who maintained that Israel should not have left Lebanon in the first place.
A year later, Israeli officials grumbled that Hezbollah had amassed 8,000-9,000 rockets, some capable of reaching Haifa, 40km south of the border. There were numerous reports that Israel was planning to attack Hezbollah’s missile storage facilities in the Bekaa Valley but nothing happened.
By the outbreak of war in July 2006, Israel assessed Hezbollah had acquired some 14,000 rockets, including the Iranian Zelzal-2, an unguided system that carries a 500-kilogram warhead a distance of 200km. From 2006, Hezbollah’s arsenal expanded massively, jumping to estimates of 70,000 by 2014, then claims of 100,000 and today up to 150,000, Israeli officials say.
In 2009, Hezbollah was reported to have acquired the M600, a Syrian-engineered version of Iran’s Fateh-110 family of missiles that would land within 500 metres of its target.
A year later, Israel claimed Hezbollah had received several Scud-D ballistic missiles. While the option of a pre-emptive strike was regularly mooted, successive Israeli governments instead chose to use diplomacy to curb Hezbollah’s ever-expanding arsenal.
Today, Hezbollah’s focus is less on the acquisition of new rockets and missiles and more on upgrading the capabilities of its existing stock by improving accuracy and increasing range.
A Western intelligence source who is an expert on missiles said that since 2016 Hezbollah has been working on the guidance systems of its Fateh-110 missiles to improve their accuracy to within 10 metres of their target and extend the range to 300 metres. Additionally, inertial guidance systems are being fitted to Syrian-made unguided M302 rockets to give a similar accuracy of 10 metres or less.
The source said Hezbollah was producing upgraded missiles at a rate of two a week. The work, which consists mainly of altering electronic circuitry and adjusting fins, is carried out in facilities in Lebanon but does not require specially constructed factories and sophisticated equipment, the source said. In September, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu revealed the existence of what he said were missile plants at three locations south of Beirut near Rafik Hariri International Airport.
The disclosure was followed by a WhatsApp message sent by Israel to residents of the Hadath area south of Beirut showing a satellite image of a residential building with a warning that Hezbollah used it to stash missiles.
The Israelis have used diplomats visiting Beirut to convey messages to Lebanese officials demanding that missile facilities be shut down. However, Lebanese authorities are powerless to intervene in Hezbollah’s military agenda, which raises the question of whether the Israelis will this time apply force when diplomacy fails.
The “rules of the game” between Hezbollah and Israel permit the Jewish state to attack targets in Syria linked to the Lebanese group or its Iranian patron with limited chance of a backlash. However, attacks on Lebanese soil risk retaliation.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah reiterated that point in light of recent speculation that the Israelis may stage a pre-emptive strike. He reminded Israel that the one occasion since 2006 when Israel carried out an air raid inside Lebanon — a strike in February 2014 against a building in a Hezbollah military zone near Janta in the eastern Bekaa Valley — Hezbollah had retaliated “and the enemy was made to understand that any aggression will inevitably be followed by a response.”
Hezbollah’s retaliation consisted of several attacks, all unclaimed at the time, against the Israeli military. All but one emanated from the northern Golan Heights, which was then under the party’s control. One of the attacks left four Israeli soldiers wounded.
It was the first time Nasrallah publicly admitted that Hezbollah staged the retaliation nearly five years ago, although the Israeli military at the time immediately understood the message and has refrained from overtly attacking Hezbollah in Lebanon since.
Nasrallah used his speech to warn Israel that if it was thinking of changing the “rules of the game,” “we will inevitably respond to any attack on Lebanon, any air strike on Lebanon, any bombing on Lebanon. It will not be accepted that the enemy return to violate Lebanon as it did in the past decades.”If Gideon Sa’ar had made his call for a pre-emptive strike 16 or 17 years ago, the worst Israel would have faced in retaliation was parts of northern Israel being peppered with unguided short-range Grad rockets.
Today, however, Hezbollah can strike specific targets, such as the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv, and shut down Israel in its entirety for the duration of the conflict. That represents a huge gamble for the traditionally cautious Netanyahu if he is seriously contemplating attacking Hezbollah facilities in Lebanon.

Analysis/Battle Between Israel and Iran Shifting From Syria to Lebanon
عاموس هاريل من الهآررتس: المعركة بين إسرائيل وإيران تتحول إلى لبنان
Amos Harel/Haaretz/December 02/18
IDF is disturbed by Hezbollah honing its skills in the Syria war and sending some of its units back to Lebanon. Over the border, the Lebanese are increasingly suspicious of Israel, and their wariness is turning into threats.
Thursday night’s incident in Syrian airspace, which was painted in dramatic colors by Arab media outlets, turns out to have been relatively minor.
Syria’s air defenses, identifying what it considered to be unusual movements by Israeli planes in southern Syria, fired 20 anti-aircraft missiles. But contrary to Syria’s claims, they hit no Israeli planes or missiles.
There has been no credible information from Syria about any damage caused by an Israeli strike. Russia didn’t condemn or even officially comment on the incident. And while shrapnel from one Syrian missile fell in the Israeli portion of the Golan Heights, it caused no damage.
As in several other recent incidents, this looks like a Syrian overreaction. The last such overreaction, on September 17, led Syria to accidently down a Russian spy plane.
Thursday’s incident occurred a few hours after former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin made an unusual statement. Yadlin, who heads the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, told the radio station 103 FM that Iran has recently altered its behavior in the region.
“Beyond the fact that the Russians are angry at us and giving us the cold shoulder, I think they also sent forceful messages to Iran that its military entrenchment and missile factories in Syria are harming the effort to stabilize Syria,” he said. “An unstable Syria doesn’t suit the Russians. Israeli strikes have dropped to near-zero, and I think that’s not because we don’t want to [carry out strikes], but because the Iranians have changed their tactics. They’re moving everything to Lebanon.”
Yadlin thus said openly what several senior Israeli officials have recently hinted: Due to changes imposed by Russia, the Israeli-Iranian battle has largely moved to other countries.
Israel, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations General Assembly in September, is worried by the Iranian-Hezbollah effort to set up production lines for precision weaponry in Lebanon. Some of the necessary materials are now being smuggled on the frequent flights from Tehran to Beirut, rather than overland through Syria.
Lebanon is undergoing many changes that worry Israeli decision-makers: the effort to build precision weapons factories; Russia’s growing interest in events in Lebanon, after having bolstered its aerial defense umbrella over Syria; the return of some Hezbollah fighters from Syria as the civil war dies down there and changes in their deployment in Lebanon; and the continued upgrading of Israel’s barrier along the Lebanese border, which will approach areas disputed between the two countries near Rosh Hanikra and Manara. Israel has already announced that it intends to continue building the barrier despite Lebanese warnings.
Hezbollah probably isn’t seeking war with Israel right now. But the improvement of its offensive capabilities during Syria’s civil war and the return of some of its units to Lebanon worry the Israel Defense Forces.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s suspicions of Israeli plans are growing, leading to counter-threats. This weekend, Hezbollah released a threatening video showing aerial photographs of various Israeli sites, including Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv. The clip included a Hebrew caption: “If you dare to attack, you’ll regret it.”
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit responded in Arabic on social media, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
All this is happening less than two weeks after Netanyahu warned in a speech of a serious security situation. His speech had a political motive; he was trying, successfully, to keep the Habayit Hayehudi party in the government after Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman quit and withdrew his Yisrael Beiteinu party from the ruling coalition. But it also raised questions about whether Israel was planning an offensive. Since Netanyahu’s position on the Gaza Strip is fairly clear — he wants to avoid war with Hamas if possible — attention has focused on Hezbollah.
The government recently extended the term of Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot for an additional two weeks, to mid-January. Shortly afterward, Eisenkot announced that he was canceling a planned trip to Germany.
Yet anyone trying to connect these dots seems to be jumping the gun. If war is expected, you don’t extend the chief of staff’s tenure by a mere two weeks. And if war were being planned, the extension presumably wouldn’t have been announced.
The more likely interpretation is that tensions are indeed expected, due to the changes up north and Hezbollah’s efforts to acquire better weapons, but there’s no deterministic process leading inevitably to war. It’s worth recalling that Israel and Hezbollah have been through similarly tense periods in previous years, but have nevertheless managed to preserve almost complete quiet in the 12 years since the Second Lebanon War.

Dramatic Downfall of Carlos Ghosn Reverberates in Lebanon
Associated Press/Naharnet/December 02/18
He may have fallen from grace internationally as one of the auto industry's most powerful leaders, but Carlos Ghosn can count on continued support in at least one corner of the globe.
Lebanon has long held hopes that Ghosn, whose grandparents were Lebanese and who holds extensive development projects in the country, would play a bigger role in politics one day, or help rescue its increasingly sluggish economy.
But Ghosn, ex-chairman of Nissan Motor Co., was detained last month on allegations of underreporting his income, and on Friday, a Japanese court approved extending his detention for 10 more days. Now, politicians across the board are mobilizing in his defense, with some suggesting his detention may be part of a political or business-motivated conspiracy, and the government even considering extraditing him from Tokyo to face trial here. "To Carlos Ghosn in his predicament I say, a Lebanese phoenix will not be scorched by the Japanese sun," caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq said at a security conference in Beirut this week.Lebanon, a tiny country of 4.5 million, takes excessive pride in its huge emigrant community and successful businessmen and celebrities of Lebanese heritage. They include Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim, Columbian singer Shakira, Mexican-American actress Salma Hayek, Lebanese-British barrister Amal Clooney and fashion designers Elie Saab and Reem Accra.
The Lebanese took special pride in the auto industry icon, who holds a Lebanese passport, speaks fluent Arabic and visits regularly, including a last visit right before he was detained in Tokyo. Born in Brazil, where his Lebanese grandfather had sought his fortune, Ghosn grew up in Beirut, where he spent part of his childhood at a Jesuit school.As he began his ascent in the auto industry, first with Renault and then by bringing Nissan in Tokyo back from the brink of bankruptcy, Ghosn kept in touch with old friends. He married twice, first to a Lebanese woman who resides in Beirut and again in 2016 to Carole Nahas, also of Lebanese heritage. As a Maronite Christian, Ghosn's name occasionally popped up as a possible candidate for the presidency, but he repeatedly dismissed suggestions he would run for office, saying he is not a politician. Although the extent of his businesses in Lebanon is not known exactly, Ghosn has spoken in interviews about various real estate projects in the country and sits on the board of several universities, hospitals and charities. In 2012, he became a partner in the Lebanese winery IXSIR, and is a board member of family-owned Saradar Bank.
In 2017, the government honored him with a special postage stamp — a show of respect to a man considered a model of Lebanese entrepreneurial spirit. So when news broke on Nov. 19 that Ghosn, 64, had been detained on allegations he underreported millions of dollars in income, and that Nissan is accusing him of using company money for personal gain, people in Lebanon were stunned — and many were unconvinced.
Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil promptly issued a statement saying Lebanon would stand by Ghosn, adding he had asked the Lebanese ambassador to Tokyo to look out for "the model of Lebanese success abroad." The ambassador has since reportedly met three times with Ghosn — who is being held in a small cell in the Japanese capital — providing him with a mattress and food in the form of salmon, according to one report on a local TV channel. Ghosn's dramatic downfall has sparked various conspiracy theories, with some claiming that his arrest was a U.S. ploy to punish him for resisting sanctions on Iran and others speculating it was an internal coup engineered by Nissan executives.
Melhem Riachi, the caretaker information minister, urged officials to intervene with the government of Japan, tweeting: "An investigation is extremely important. Something stinks." Allegations against Ghosn reported in the Japanese media, but unconfirmed, suggest he spent Nissan funds on fancy homes in Paris, Beirut, Rio de Janeiro and Amsterdam, and on family vacations and other personal expenses. Ghosn has denied the allegations against him, saying he had no intention of underreporting his income, the reports say. Ghosn's three-story property in one of Beirut's most prized real estate districts stands out for its pink walls and blue shuttered windows. The traditional old Lebanese house was acquired and renovated in 2014, according to neighbors who said they occasionally saw him visiting. "He is a successful businessman with a good reputation ... he is not someone you would expect to be a cheat," said Rouba Rabah, who owns an art gallery opposite Ghosn's property. Another neighbor who declined to give his name said he was stunned by the news like every other Lebanese would be, recalling how he would see Ghosn personally overseeing the renovation work four years ago. Lebanese businessmen, many of them personal friends of Ghosn, have rallied around him, even after he was stripped of his title as chairman at Nissan and at Japanese partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp.
A group of Lebanese lawyers is now considering forming a team for his defense, and caretaker Justice Minister Salim Jreissati told an-Nahar newspaper that the government is considering asking Japan to extradite Ghosn to face trial on Lebanese soil.
Lawyer Amal Haddad told The Associated Press that she and the current head of the Lebanese Lawyers' Syndicate, Andree Chidiac, were considering the options. "That's all I can say until we are formally assigned the case," Haddad said.
In Ghosn's downfall, many in Lebanon see a lost opportunity. The country's economy is struggling, with experts warning it is dangerously close to collapse after decades of mismanagement, corruption and nepotism.
Cabinet minister Mouein al-Merehbi said that Ghosn's arrest is regrettable. "He is an important personality, an economic personality we had hoped would one day play a role in Lebanese political life, a role to salvage Lebanon," he told the AP.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 02-03/18
Pope Lights Candle for Children of Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 02/18/Pope Francis lit a candle at the Vatican on Sunday for victims of conflicts around the world, and in particular the children of war-torn Syria. "Advent is a time of hope. Right now, my hope is for peace for the children of Syria, tormented by a war that has lasted eight years," he said after the Angelus prayer. "I am lighting a candle along with the many Syrian children and believers across the world who are lighting theirs," he said, as he put match to wick in the window of the papal apartment, which overlooks Saint Peter's Square. "Let these flames of hope dispel the shadows of war!" the pontiff said. "May the flame of hope also reach all those who are victims of conflicts and tensions around the world, near and far." The "Candles for Peace in Syria" Christmas initiative was launched Sunday by Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity. The tall candle, which rocked slightly in the wind on the papal windowsill, was decorated by a local craftsman from the Bab Touma quarter of Damascus in Syria and bore the photos of some 40 children, most of them from Aleppo. Syria's war has killed more than 360,000 and displaced millions, with over 13 million people in the country in need of humanitarian aid. The U.N. Children's Fund warned last month that a funding gap and the start of winter could leave nearly one million children, including Syrians, "out in the cold" and prone to dangerous diseases in the Middle East and North Africa.

Be celibate or leave the priesthood, pope tells gay priests
VATICAN CITY (Reuters)/December 02/18 - Men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be admitted to the Catholic clergy, and it would be better for priests who are actively gay to leave rather than lead a double life, Pope Francis says in a new book. While he has previously spoken of the need for better screening of candidates for the religious life, his comments suggesting that priests who cannot keep their vows of celibacy should leave are some of his clearest to date.Francis made the comments in a book-length interview with Spanish priest Fernando Prado called “The Strength of Vocation”, in which he discusses the challenges of being a priest or nun today.

Iran says to continue missile tests after U.S. allegation
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Sunday it would continue missile tests to build up its defenses and denied this was in breach of U.N. resolutions following U.S. allegations that Tehran had tested a new missile capable of carrying multiple warheads. “Missile tests...are carried out for defense and the country’s deterrence, and we will continue this,” Brigadier- General Abolfazl Shekarchi, spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency. “We will continue to both develop and test missiles. This is outside the framework of (nuclear) negotiations and part of our national security, for which we will not ask any country’s permission,” Shekarchi said. He did not confirm or deny Iran had tested a new missile.

Washington Seeks to Unify Its Allies Ahead of Political Escalation in Syria

London - Ibrahim Hamidi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 2 December, 2018/Washington hosts in the next two days a meeting for the “small group” on Syria to guarantee a unified position of its allies for when the Syrian file transfers from UN envoy Staffan de Mistura to his successor, veteran Norwegian ambassador Geir Pederson, at the end of this year. Ambassador James Jeffrey, the US special representative for Syria engagement, is expected to head the meeting of the “small group” that includes France, Germany, Britain, and the US, as well as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. The US administration of President Donald Trump began paying greater attention to the Syrian file since the appointment of Mike Pompeo as US Secretary of State and after handing over the Syrian file to Jeffrey and a former top National Security Council officer, Joel Rayburn. Participants at the “small group” meeting are expected to focus on the fate of the constitutional committee based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and an agreement reached at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Russia’s Black Sea resort city of Sochi last January. Late last month, Syria’s warring sides and mediators meeting in Kazakhstan failed to agree on the formation of a committee meant to draft a new constitution for the war-torn country. De Mistura already received the consent of the three guarantor states to establish a 150-member committee comprising of 50 representatives of the government and 50 of the opposition. However, de Mistura said Damascus had objected to 50 members of the committee representing civil society, independents, tribal leaders and women. Washington is currently exerting pressure on the UN envoy to call for a meeting of the Constitutional Committee within a given timeframe and based on the list, which de Mistura had formed earlier, without waiting for the position of the Syrian government.

Hamas: Truce with Israel Ongoing Regardless of Stalled Reconciliation
Gaza - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 2 December, 2018/Hamas political bureau member Khalil al-Hayya said that understandings with Israel will continue regardless of the stalled internal reconciliation negotiations. “Understandings carried out by mediators with the Israeli occupation to ease and break the siege on Gaza Strip are still ongoing.”“The occupation must realize that the understandings are still in place along with the Egyptian, Qatari and international sponsorship, albeit slowly, but we are following them, and we demand the occupation to commit by them," Hayya said. He stressed that these understandings are not related to the reconciliation process, accusing the Fatah movement of attempting to link these the two issues together. “It seems that (Fatah) does not like this, so it is trying to mix the papers and ignite the Palestinian situation again through the media, and we stress that we do not want media debates on ground.” "If our brothers in Fatah are ready to reconcile according to what was signed, then we are ready,” he added. “The reconciliation is a national necessity and we explained our position to our brothers in Egypt,” Hayya explained. He said that his movement’s stance is represented by the need to reach national unity in accordance with the understandings, especially the 2011 agreement and the subsequent agreements. “We can’t reach national unity and reconciliation while sanctions are still imposed on Gaza Strip." “Egypt was informed about the position of all factions. They want to immediately form a government of national unity and a unifying national council and hold elections to decide what the Palestinian people want,” he noted. In regards to Israel’s slow pace in easing the siege on Gaza, Hayya stated that it should be committed to the understandings reached with Cairo, Doha and the United Nations. "Our marches will continue, and we control them until the siege ends forever on Gaza."Hamas insists on forming a government of national unity and lifting the sanctions on Gaza. It requested the adoption of the 2011 agreement with regard to the security forces, stressing that this should not affect the factions’ possession of weapons.

Sarraj in Jordan to Meet King Abdullah
Cairo - Khaled Mahmoud, Jamal Jawhar/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 2 December, 2018/Head of the Presidential Council of the Libyan National Accord Government Fayez Al-Sarraj arrived in Amman Saturday for talks with King Abdullah II, expected to begin Sunday. As Sarraj set foot in the Jordanian capital, the Special Deterrence Force (SDF) operating under the Government of National Accord in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, announced Saturday that one of its members was killed in an operation “conducted by rogue criminals.” Sarraj, who is accompanied by a number of ministers and top officials, will also meet with Prime Minister Omar Razaz, who led senior officials to welcome the Libyan leader upon his arrival at the Marka Military Airport, Petra news agency reported. Meanwhile, the SDF issued a statement late on Friday mourning the killing of one of its leading members, Fadl Younes, 20. Spokesman of the Special Deterrence Force Ahmed Bin Salem said in several television interviews Saturday that Younes was assassinated after two men stole his car. He confirmed that the two criminals were identified and that ongoing search was underway to uncover their whereabouts.
For its part, Libya's National Human Rights Commission issued a statement on Saturday calling on Libya's Government of National Accord, headed by Sarraj, to open a comprehensive investigation into the recent murder incidents and assassinations taking place in the capital, Tripoli. On Saturday, the US embassy in Tripoli also commented on the level of crimes committed in the capital and strongly condemned the recent killings carried out by armed group. The embassy wrote on Twitter that those killings are generating instability and adversely impacting the lives of innocent citizens. It also supported the call of United National Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) on Libyan authorities to adopt the necessary measures to ensure the protection of lives from these “heinous acts.”

Arab Coalition Committed to Destroying Houthi Capabilities
Riyadh - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 2 December, 2018/The Saudi-led Arab coalition to restore legitimacy in Yemen stressed Saturday that it was determined to destroy the Iran-backed Houthi militias’ military capabilities, such as its ballistic missiles arsenal. Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki stated that the joint forces command of the alliance destroyed a rocket launchpad in the Majz region in the Saada province – a Houthi stronghold. The operation was successful due to ongoing surveillance of the Houthi actions, he said according to The launchpad was completely destroyed according to International Humanitarian Law and the coalition’s rules of engagement, he continued. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Amaleeqa Brigades Waddah al-Dbeish revealed that the pro-government forces have liberated in two weeks alone some 25 kilometers stretching all the way to Houthi-held Sanaa. Some 22,000 landmines have been dismantled from this liberated area at a rate of 880 mines and explosives per kilometer, he revealed, accusing the militias of arbitrarily planting them. Moreover, he told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthis have employed foreign experts to set explosives that would go off as soon as anyone passes within four meters of them. Dbeish listed different types of explosives used by the militias, such as those that are remotely detonated or others that are set off by light, such as when vehicles pass by them by at night. The explosives have been planted in buildings and even in air conditioners in mosques, he stated. “The militias only know death and destruction,” he charged. “They have planted death in each house, farm, school and mosque. This is unprecedented in the world.”The national army, backed by the Arab coalition, has been continuing its military operations against the Houthis in the Qania and Malajem fronts in al-Bayda in central Yemen. It has in the past two days made advances in the provinces, liberating several regions from Houthi clutches.

U.S. Mideast Navy Chief Found Dead in Bahrain

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 02/18/The admiral leading U.S. Navy operations in the Middle East was found dead Saturday in Bahrain, the military branch said, adding that no foul play was suspected in the case.Vice admiral Scott Stearney, who began his post as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command -- including the US Fifth Fleet -- and Combined Maritime Forces in May, was found dead at his residence in the Gulf country. "This is devastating news for the Stearney family, for the team at Fifth Fleet and for the entire Navy. Scott Stearney was a decorated naval warrior," Admiral John Richardson, chief of naval operations, said in a statement. "At this time no foul play is suspected." He said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Bahraini Interior Ministry were cooperating on the investigation. The Fifth Fleet's deputy commander, Rear Admiral Paul Schlise, assumed command in the wake of Stearney's death. The Chicago native entered the U.S. Navy in 1982 after graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelor's degree in economics. He later obtained a master's degree from the National Defense University and. He served in several strike fighter squadrons flying the FA-18 Hornet and served in Kabul, Afghanistan, as chief of staff of Joint Task Force 435 and later Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435. In the U.S., Stearney served in various roles, including as instructor and readiness officer at Navy Fighter Weapons School, according to his official biography. He also held various senior posts, including as director of operations at US Central Command.

Israel Releases Palestinian Jerusalem Governor to House Arrest
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 02/18/An Israeli court on Sunday released the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem from detention to house arrest for three days as part of an investigation related to a land sale. Adnan Gheith, who was arrested on November 25, will be confined to his home through Tuesday, Jerusalem magistrate court justice Chavi Toker ruled. Police have been investigating Gheith over suspicions he was involved in the Palestinian Authority's arrest in October of America-Palestinian Issam Akel, who is accused of involvement in selling an east Jerusalem building to Jewish buyers.
Such sales are considered treasonous among Palestinians concerned with Israeli settlers buying property in annexed east Jerusalem. Police also suspect Gheith of recruiting Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to the PA armed forces, which Israel says violates the 1993 Oslo accords. Palestinian officials have condemned his arrest and claim it is intended to pressure the Palestinian leadership over Akel's case. Israelis, as well as US ambassador David Friedman, have called for Akel's release. Geith's lawyer, Rami Othman, said the court's decision to release his client to house arrest proved the case was not serious. "The mountain gave birth to a mouse," Othman told AFP. "They want to harass him," he said following Sunday's hearing. He said they did not want him to remain Jerusalem governor. "They don't like the position." Gheith had been arrested for several days in October and was also taken for questioning a number of times in recent weeks, with his office raided on November 4. Israel meanwhile has halted security coordination with the PA in the Jerusalem area, Major General Adnan Al-Dumeiri, spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, told AFP. Israel's public broadcaster Kan said that ending the coordination was a means in pressuring the Palestinians to release Akel from detention. Security officials in Israel would not comment on the issue. Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community. It considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state. PA activities are barred from Jerusalem by Israel. As a result, the PA has a minister for Jerusalem affairs and a Jerusalem governor located in Al-Ram, just on the other side of Israel's separation wall from the city in the occupied West Bank.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 02-03/18
‘Inside Syria’s Deadly Dynasty’ is a chilling portrait of the rise of brutal dictator Bashar Assad
Lorraine Ali/Los Angeles/December 02/18
Undated picture shows then-Syrian President Hafez Assad and his wife, Anisseh, posing for a family picture with their children, Maher, from left, Bashar (Syria's current president), Bassel, Majd and Bushra. (Louai Beshara /AFP/Getty Images)
“Inside Syria’s Deadly Dynasty,” a fascinating two-hour special that airs Sunday on the National Geographic network, documents the rise of Syrian President Bashar Assad from an unassuming London eye doctor to a brutal dictator who is feared in his own country and across the Middle East.
The documentary is a behind-the-scenes look at a man whose name has become synonymous with the last decade of unrest in Syria. Americans know him as the enigmatic figure who has seemed eerily calm no matter the atrocities being committed by his forces, but this documentary provides a deeper understanding of how he’s been able to hold on to power despite international outrage.
The film chronicles the Assad family’s reign from 1970 to present day with an emphasis on how, under Bashar’s leadership, the country lapsed into a civil war that’s taken half a million lives — the vast majority civilian — and caused one of the worst humanitarian crises of the 21st century. As president, he oversaw the chemical attacks of his own people, the air bombings of civilian neighborhoods and the torture and killing of anyone, including children, who dared to oppose him.
Mixing narration with firsthand accounts, “Inside Syria” paints a fascinating and disturbing picture of an enigmatic ruler whose gentle public persona is at odds with the ruthless tactics he’s used to stay in power. In archival and original footage, interviews from outside sources with Bashar and his wife, Asma, and exclusive sit-downs with dissidents, former friends of the ruling family, foreign diplomats and others, the documentary tells the story of Bashar’s unlikely succession to power — and what that’s meant for the fate of Syria.
“Inside Syria” starts with the story of Bashar’s father, Hafez Assad, who was born into the poor Alawite minority and worked his way up through the military. He took over in 1970 on the back of a military coup, and as president was known as a strongman who ruled with an iron first. He primed his eldest son, Bassel, a soldier whom many describe as a natural-born leader, to be his predecessor. But when Bassel died in a car crash in 1994, Bashar became the reluctant alternative.
Hafez’s second choice for the throne was studying in London to be an eye surgeon when he was called back to Damascus. In contrast to his late brother, the lanky, awkward Bashar was unsure of himself, rarely made eye contact and still speaks with a lisp. Many saw him as soft, so Hafez fast-tracked his son through the military before his death in 2000.
Sources throughout the documentary explain that Bashar’s first real challenge was the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Allied forces were there to take down Saddam Hussein, a fellow strongman. He saw the writing on the wall and released hundreds of Islamic extremists from Syria’s prisons, armed them and sent them over the border to fight the U.S. and allied troops. The idea was to sow chaos and destabilize U.S. efforts. It worked.
By the time the “Arab Spring” reached Syria in 2011, Bashar had transformed himself from an unsure heir to an unpredictable despot. His forces assassinated high-level opposition in Lebanon, and despite international calls for accountability, he got away with murder. It was a valuable lesson for the leader on how he’d deal with his own people’s dissent, even as the world watched.
He quashed protesters’ calls for a more representative government by any means necessary: jailing civilians, opening fire on dissenters, torturing and killing “enemies of the state.”
The Nat Geo documentary deftly marks the contrast between Bashar and other tyrannical leaders in the region by showing his proclivity as a PR master. He and his wife Asma hired damage-control teams to maintain their image as symbols of modernity and level-headedness in an otherwise troubled and tribal region. They speak with British accents and prefer the styles of Europe over regional dress. The Assads arranged fluff-piece interviews with a few outlets at the height of the civil war, and the footage from those interviews is eerie.
In one of the interviews, a European reporter sits in the car with the happy husband and wife as they drive up to their mansion, giggling and joking about how Bashar loves to take long drives with the family and listen to the radio.
His outward persona helped in dealings with U.S. presidents, presenting himself as an ally who would forward our interests in the Mideast. But he’d learned the old bait-and-switch routine from his father: placate them then do exactly the opposite. It’s part of an MO that’s allowed the Assads to remain in power during nine American presidencies.
The Islamic radicals he released, however, came back to Syria in the form of Islamic State and threatened to overthrow his regime. He almost lost control of the country until he partnered with the Russians, and the rest is history. If you want to know why a man like Bashar Assad is still in power today, watch this compelling documentary.

Turkey's Reign of Terror: The Persecution of Minority Alevis
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/December 02/18
The Alevi-owned broadcaster, TV10, for example,was closed down in September 2016, two months after the failed coup attempt against Erdogan, for allegedly "threatening national security and belonging to a terror organization."
A TV10 cameraman, Kemal Demir, was taken into police custody on November 25, 2017 and arrested on December 2. Veli Büyükşahin, TV10's chairman of the board, and Veli Haydar Güleç, a TV10 producer, were arrested on January 10. All are still in prison.
"TV10 did not belong to a major business. While it was trying to carry out its activities with its few employees and very limited resources, it was closed down by executive order. Moreover, its properties were seized [by the government] and then sold by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (SDIF)... The indictments against them contain no criminal element and judges have turned down the indictments twice. Yet, these people have been detained for 10 months and there is still uncertainty as to when they will be tried in a court and when a result will be obtained from the hearings." — Kemal Peköz, MP from the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), in a speech before parliament November 1.
Many Alevis in Turkey have protested that their houses of worship, know as cem houses, are not officially recognized by the government. Yet even these protests are quashed. Pictured: The Kartal Cemevi Alevi cem house in Istanbul, Turkey. (Image source: Cemyildiz/Wikimedia Commons)
In Turkey, several methods are employed to eliminate religious minorities, not only by physical violence. Instead, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tries to erase minority faiths by preventing their ability to function by denying them the freedom to establish and safely operate their own institutions and places of worship. The Alevis, for instance, a historically persecuted religious minority in Turkey, are all-too-familiar with this form of oppression.
The Alevi-owned broadcaster, TV10, for example, was closed down in September 2016, two months after the failed coup attempt against Erdoğan, for allegedly "threatening national security and belonging to a terror organization."
A TV10 cameraman, Kemal Demir, was taken into police custody on November 25, 2017 and arrested on December 2. Veli Büyükşahin, TV10's chairman of the board, and Veli Haydar Güleç, a TV10 producer, were arrested on January 10. All are still in prison.
After the closure of TV10, employees and supporters held protests every Saturday for 82 weeks at Istanbul's Taksim Square, demanding that the authorities reopen their media outlet. On April 28, they ended their demonstrations, stating in part: "We have not been able to take back our TV channel, but we have declared that the voice of Alevis cannot be silenced."
In a speech before the Turkish parliament on November 1, Kemal Peköz, an MP from the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), criticized the closure of TV10 and the continued arrest of its employees and executives:
"TV10, one of the voices of Alevis, was a TV channel established by Alevis with the resources and money that Alevis so devotedly and scantly donated. Its [reporters] travelled across villages and towns to produce programs to keep the Alevi culture, practices and traditions alive. TV10 did not belong to a major business. While it was trying to carry out its activities with its few employees and very limited resources, it was closed down by executive order. Moreover, its properties were seized [by the government] and then sold by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (SDIF). As if all this were not enough, the channel's employees and executives were also arrested."
Peköz added: "The indictments against them contain no criminal element and judges have turned down the indictments twice. Yet, these people have been detained for 10 months and there is still uncertainty as to when they will be tried in a court and when a result will be obtained from the hearings."
The fate of the detainees remains to be seen. In general, however, the Turkish government not only discriminates against Alevis, but claims that Alevism "is a sect of Islam." It is a claim disputed by many Alevis. One such Alevi is Mustafa Genç, a dede (faith leader), who has described the difference between Alevism and Sunni Islam as follows:
"In Sunnism, they pray five times a day and fast for a month. These things do not exist in the Alevi faith. According to our faith, God is in the human and not in the sky. In the Alevi faith, women are sacred, and to divorce a woman is the most difficult thing. This is not the case in Sunnism. Sunni Muslims think a man can marry four women."
The author, Naki Bakır, has also emphasized the difference between the two religions:
"The Alevi faith is different from Islam and some of its elements are contrary to Islam. For example, according to the Alevi belief, each human will be born into this world several times in different bodies until he or she becomes perfect and when that process is completed, he or she will unite with God. This belief is contradictory to the Islamic belief in the 'afterlife' represented in the 'award-punishment' or 'heaven-hell' mechanisms.
"The basic faith foundations and forms of worship of Alevism are at variance with Islam. It is impossible to find the Alevi beliefs and forms of worship in the Koran or in the historical heritage of Islam. The Alevi ritual is 'cem' -- during this ritual, alcohol is drunk, women and men worship together and turn in circles, to the accompaniment of some musical instruments... These things do not exist in the Quran, hadith, or in the life of Prophet Mohammed. They are actually prohibited in Islam. And the Alevi belief in 'hulul' (that God is manifested in the human body) is idolatry, according to the Quran.
"Islamic phenomena such as salat (five daily prayers), ablution and adhan (Islamic call to prayer) are not accepted by Alevis. Also, Alevis do not follow the Quranic requirements, such as fasting during the month of Ramadan or doing pilgrimage (haj to Mecca)."
According to the Alevi scholar, Mehmet Bayrak, one of the reasons that some Alevis say they are Muslim is their misconception of their own religion. "Due to the centuries-long propaganda they have been exposed to, some of them think that they are true Muslims," says Bayrak, adding that a more alarming reason for their denial is fear of persecution.
"As Alevis are still under political, social and cultural pressures, they are still scared of saying that Alevism is outside of Islam. It is impossible for them to express themselves freely."
The closure of TV10 appears to be a perfect example of the stifling of Alevis' free speech and religious liberty. Alevis are continually exposed to these and other forms of discrimination, including arbitrary arrests, physical threats, such as "red marks" on Alevi-owned homes, and bias against Alevism school curricula. The scholar Ayşe Ezgi Gürcan wrote in 2015:
"The limited content of religions/beliefs other than Islam and the biased language of the textbooks have continued to be an issue... If we look at all the textbooks for the compulsory 'Religious Culture and Moral Knowledge' courses from grades 4 to 12 for the 2014-2015 academic year, we see that the notion of religious plurality is mostly ignored. Looking at the 4th grade textbook, we see that the book frequently speaks of the Sunni (Hanafi) interpretation of Islam as 'our religion.' Additionally, any sign of religious plurality is almost non-existent in textbooks before the 7th grade."
Alevis have repeatedly requested exemption from the above-mentioned compulsory religious classes, which teach Sunni Islam to Alevi children and promote the superiority of Islam. In addition, Alevis have for years been seeking to have their rights upheld, both from Turkish courts and at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), whose judgements Turkey is bound to implement. For more than a decade now, the ECHR has issued rulings according to which the Turkish government is guilty of failing to recognize Alevi rights.
According to a February 2017 report in the newspaper Hürriyet:
"Compulsory religion classes in Turkish schools will be taught in such a way to approach all religions equally while an approach that championed Sunni Islam will reportedly be eliminated in accordance with European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings, Education Minister İsmet Yılmaz has said...
"According to the curriculum, the changes are based on an ECHR ruling that said it was a violation of the freedom of belief for a state to inculcate one religion even if it is the belief that the majority of that country follows...
"In 2014, the ECHR concluded a case opened by 14 Turkish citizens against the content of compulsory religion classes, ruling that teaching more about Sunni Islam constituted "brainwashing" and that the class was pushing Alevi students toward a clash between their values and their schools..."
By the following school year, however, Turkey had failed to implement these changes. As the Alevi faith leader Cemal Şahin said in November 2017, "Despite the rulings by the European Court of Human Rights, the Sunni faith is forced on Alevi children. We are exposed to a serious campaign of [forced] assimilation."
Many Alevis have also protested that their cem houses are not officially recognized. Yet even these protests are quashed. On June 4, for instance, the Alevi Anadolu Canlar Association in the Istanbul neighborhood of Esenler -- home to at least 120,000 Alevis -- were prevented by police from demonstrating on behalf of their right to build a cem house in the district.
Cemal Özdemir, the head of the Association, told the Pir News Agency:
"We already conveyed our request for a cem house to the mayor of Esenler. He promised that they would help us build a cem house on a piece of land, but we have learned from the members of the municipal parliament that projects are underway for the construction of four mosques on that land, and no cem house is included in their plans."
During last year's protests against the closure of TV10, the political activist Celalettin Can summed up the Turkish government's attitude towards dissidents and minorities as: "Submit to us and find peace."
Celal Fırat, an Alevi faith leader, made the following public plea to the government:
"We have always promoted brotherhood and co-existence throughout history. We are Alevis and will remain as such. Do not try to assimilate us in vain. Accept us as we are and immediately give up on your ambition to assimilate us."
Sadly, however, the Erdoğan government is presumably not interested in the biblical tenet of "doing unto others as you would have them do unto you." On the contrary, as the 1,400-year history of Islamic mistreatment of non-Muslims demonstrates, political Islam does not recognize the right of other religions to exist as equals, and, as we have seen from past and current terrorism in the name of Islam (for instance here, here and here), it sometimes does not recognize the right of other religions, including other Muslim sects, to exist at all.
**Uzay Bulut, a journalist from Turkey, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute. She is currently based in Washington D.C.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

“Burnt Beyond Recognition”: Extremist Persecution of Christians, August 2018
ريموند إبراهيم: جدول باضطهادات المتطرفين للمسيحيين خلال شهر آب 2018

Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/December 02/18
“The non-implementation of the law has brought us a gang of hardliners who have become above the law.” — Human rights activist, World Watch Monitor, Egypt.
A group of Muslims thrashed Vishal Masih, an 18-year-old Christian, after he repeatedly defeated a Muslim teen at arm-wrestling.” — Persecution, International Christian Concern, Pakistan.
“We cannot watch our children joining infidels’ church,” explained a local sheikh. — Morning Star News, Uganda.
Comoros: Sunni Islam was formally declared “the religion of the state.” “An ultra-conservative group of radical scholars … are pushing the country to a more extreme view of Islamic law (sharia) in the country and are against Christians.” — World Watch Monitor, August 3, 2018.
Turkey’s government has kept the Christian Orthodox theological school (Halki Seminary) shut for 47 years, while the Orthodox Church waits to be allowed to reopen it. Recently, Turkish authorities declared that a major Islamic Education Center will be built right next to the closed Christian building. (Darwinek/Wikimedia Commons)
Christians Burned Alive and Churches Torched
Ethiopia: Approximately 15 Christian priests were killed—at least four burned alive—and 19 churches torched during Muslim uprisings in the east, where most of the nation’s Muslim population, consisting of 33% of the population, is centered. “Similar tensions are bubbling under the surface in other parts of Oromia,” which is approximately 50% Muslim, said a local source. “We have even heard of places where Muslims had asked Christians to vacate the area. And though this call is veiled as ethnic rivalry by some media and observers, it is at its very core a religious matter.”
Nigeria: During one of eight raids on Christian villages on August 28, Muslim Fulani herdsmen burned alive a Christian pastor, his wife, and three young children in their home; two other non-relatives were also killed in the raids. Armed with machetes and AK47 rifles, the Islamic raiders also looted and destroyed 95 houses and three churches. Gyang Adamu, one of the pastor’s surviving children who was away at the University of Jos at the time, “got to know about the attack when I saw a post on Facebook that Abonong village [his home], was under attack,” he said. When he finally got through to someone local, “the report I received was very devastating; I couldn’t believe that all my family members have been engulfed in the pogrom. On reaching home, I saw my daddy and younger ones burnt beyond recognition. The sight of the gory incident broke me down.”
Also in Nigeria, armed Muslims stormed a Baptist church around 1 am, shot its pastor dead, and kidnapped his wife. “The abductors said we need to pay them N5 million [equivalent to about $15,000 USD; 13,000 euros] before they can release her to us,” said one local source. “You can imagine that they now have the gut to walk into people’s home, kill and abduct and also have an effrontery to demand for ransom. Where and how can we get that money?”
Jihad on Christian Churches in Egypt
At attempted suicide attack against a Christian church just outside of Cairo was foiled on August 11, near the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday. After police denied the bomber entry, he died upon detonating an explosive belt near the church; two others were injured. The church had apparently been targeted that day because it was packed with hundreds of worshippers celebrating an annual holiday. It was later discovered that the jihadi cell responsible for the attack, which included two women, “had laced nails with poison to ensure that the blast would cause fatal injuries.” According to a local Christian teacher, “We are accustomed to this; that became the normal behavior at every feast or celebration, one terrorist trying to blow up a church or conduct violence like as an Eid gift.” Mina, a 22-year-old engineer, said, “Currently, I am no longer very interested in incidents, and all the talks are nothing, I look for chances to leave this state… I don’t belong here.”
Another eight churches were closed in one Egyptian province alone, Luxor, all of them “following attacks by Muslim villagers protesting against the church[es] being legally recognized,” said an August 29 report.
In one instance on August 22, while Christians were celebrating a feast day at the Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox church, “A great deal of Muslim young men, aged 16-26, from our village and nearby gathered in front of our church building, shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [Allah is greater] and chanting hostile slogans against Copts and the Church, such as ‘We don’t want a church in our Islamic village,'” recalled one church member. “They tried to break the front door … but we locked [it] from the inside. We immediately called the police who arrived and dispersed the demonstrators but they didn’t arrest anyone. They then closed the church building, sealed it and placed security guards with it.”
On August 25, in the village of Beni Suef, a Muslim “policeman tasked with guarding the church from extremists instead aggressively entered the church and hurled insults at the congregation, calling them infidels,” says another report. “The other policemen reportedly remained outside of the church during the incident…” Ibrahim, a member of the church, said, “The Christian villagers are very distressed and want a strong stand from official persons.”
In another incident on Friday, August 31, Muslims assaulted Christians in al-Minya because they “objected to the presence of a church in the area”; three Christians were hospitalized.
Discussing these violent protests followed by illegal church closures, Gamil Ayed, a local Coptic lawyer, said what many Egyptian Christians think: “We haven’t heard that a mosque was closed down, or that prayer was stopped in it because it was unlicensed. Is that justice? Where is the equality? Where is the religious freedom? Where is the law? Where are the state institutions?” “The gathering of Muslims causing a shutdown of churches in the process of legalization is bullying—not only of the Copts but also of the state,” said another human rights activist. “The non-implementation of the law has brought us a gang of hardliners who have become above the law.”
Jihad on Christians in Pakistan
When Vicky Masih, a 35-year-old Christian man, met with Muslim acquaintances and asked them to repay a debt owed him on August 6, the day of his wedding anniversary, he was murdered. According to the report, “The claim for compensation triggered a discussion that soon degenerated into a violent clash. During the quarrel Muhammad Abbas, one of those present, opened fire. With his stomach pierced by bullets, Vicky begged for mercy, but the group continued to beat him ignoring his cries of pain. Eventually the Christian was abandoned agonizing on the street and the guilty parties fled.” “The police,” the victim’s brother said, “are conniving with the perpetrators, who are part of rich criminal families…. We want justice. We are poor and we do not have the strength to fight these thugs. We call upon all the people of God to help us and pray for the wife of Vicky and her three little children: now they are the most vulnerable and defenseless.”
In a separate incident, a Christian university student lost sight in one of his eyes during an armed attack by Muslims on his Christian household. For months before the attack, neighborhood Muslims had been pressuring the Christian family—the only one on the street—to leave, by hounding the young children for being Christian. According to the head of the family, Alvin John, “Soon after the Muslims started harassing us, I had made up my mind that I would not let my children suffer in this environment. I was waiting for the 12-month rental agreement to finish so that we could relocate … and start afresh. I wish I had the financial means to leave that neighborhood earlier.” Then, on the night of August 28, Muslims surrounded their home, pelted it with stones and broke windows. “After the attackers left the scene, I told some neighbors who had gathered there that we were going to launch legal action and sought their assistance in the matter. However, around 11 p.m., some 30 armed Muslims attacked our house again, this time forcing their way into our home. Someone had informed them about our intention to approach the police, so they had come to ‘teach us a lesson.'” They beat the father and his two sons—blinding one in his left eye—as his wife and daughter “screamed in panic.” The “attackers also broke the furniture and ransacked our other belongings.”
On a separate occasion, Muslim mobs attacked and ransacked Christian homes after a 19 year-old Muslim woman went missing and her father, Muhammad Hanif, accused Waheed, the 22-year-old son of one of the Christian households, of eloping with her. “All the Muslim residents flared up and shouted at us, saying they would burn our houses and cut us into pieces,” said Waheed’s brother, Nasir. The “imam announced more than once on the loudspeaker that all Muslims should gather at the centre of the village, and ‘Don’t let even a single Christian live in the village.’ Following this, a large number of Muslims gathered and then attacked the houses of the Christians.” Despite insisting that they did not know where the Muslim woman went, “The mob took my mother and beat her publicly,” said Nasir, adding that most of the men, bonded laborers, were at work at the time. “Someone alerted the police, who rescued her from the mob but then took her into custody to pressure us to produce Waheed at the police station;” Nasir did. Eventually, the report noted, “Nabeela [the missing Muslim daughter] appeared in the magistrate’s court and requested to record a statement in which she submitted that she had run away to marry Muhammad Nazir Kashif—of her own freewill…. At this, the police released Waheed and his mother. But the police have not yet filed charges against the theft, ransacking and incitement to hate from the mosque loudspeaker…” Later, Nabeela filed an appeal saying that she was in fact abducted by Waheed and his brother, was repeatedly raped, but managed to escape. “These new charges are being used to pressurize Christians to withdraw their application seeking legal action against misuse of the mosque loudspeaker, and the theft and ransacking of our houses,” Nasir said. Even one police official admitted that “Nabeela has changed her statement so we are asking what statement she’s sticking to.”
In another incident, a group of Muslims thrashed Vishal Masih, an 18-year-old Christian, after he repeatedly defeated a Muslim teen at arm-wrestling on August 2. Angered for losing, the Muslim youth verbally abused Vishal and Christians as a whole: “How could a man of a dirty community defeat me? A Choora (Untouchable) defeats a Muslim is unbearable, I will teach him a lesson.” After the match, “while Vishal was on his way home, a gang of over a dozen young Muslims followed him and attacked. The gang brutally beat Vishal, attacked his family’s house, and beat his family members,” said the report. Then another Muslim gang attacked him. “[A]lthough Vishal survived the attack, it was as if they left him for dead. The gang then kidnapped the severely injured Vishal, locked him in a room at their residence, where they repeatedly beat him for the third time. After the assaults, Vishal was reportedly admitted to a hospital. His family is being pressured by influential Muslims to withdraw the case, otherwise they could be in more danger.”
Finally, “a charged mob of over 50 Muslim men … attacked” a group of Christians, including children, for trying to defend their church property. According to Bashir Masih, one of the victims,
“Ahmad, a local landlord carries a dispute with the local Christians over a piece of land for years…The lower court of Kasur has already issued ‘stay-order’ for the piece of land for both the parties … However, the Muslim family wanted to grab the church property using their social and religious pressure…. On August 2, 2018, Ahmad tried to cultivate a piece of land with a tractor which belongs to the church. The local Christians requested him not to violate court orders, however, Ahmad abused the Christians and passed derogatory remarks against [the] church, stating, ‘Building a church is nonsense.’… Within no time, Ahmad’s armed companions attacked the Christian men, women, and children with arms and sticks. They left two seriously injured and other with minor injuries. The mob stoned the under-construction church as well.”
The church, St. Matthews, which serves about 40 Catholic families, was built by the impoverished community’s own money. “When the Christians complained [to] the police about the attack, the police officials ordered them to keep quiet and avoid mentioning it as a religious issue… The police were unfair in the matter,” one of the locals said.
More Church Attacks
Uganda: After months of being pelted by stones hurled by local Muslims, a church finally shut its doors on Sunday, August 4. Then, a stone hurled through a window of Greater Love Church struck the pastor in the forehead and rendered her unconscious. Pastor Moreen Sanyu was delivering a sermon when the projectile broke through the window. “I fell down and became unconscious,” she said. “When I woke up, there were only a few members who surrounded me—the rest of the church members had fled in different directions.” No one came to the following Sunday worship service. Just outside Kampala, the nation’s capital, the church was in a predominantly Muslim area. Because some Muslims began to attend the church, other Muslims began to hurl stones at it: “We cannot watch our children joining infidels’ church,” explained a local sheikh. “The throwing of stones broke glass windows and destroyed a solar panel, and as well there was the uttering of abusive and threatening words to me and my church members,” the pastor said. Two months after its opening in May 2017, and due to the constant stoning, the congregation went from 400 to 150, until the August 4 incident, when membership dropped to zero. “I am not ready to lose my life by attending the church,” said one anonymous church member. “I need prayers and material support to relocate to another area at this trying moment,” said the pastor.
Nigeria: Christians are denied places of worship all throughout the Muslim-majority northern regions, even near and in supposedly progressive universities, said Catholic Bishop Matthew Kukah during a speech:
“As I’m talking here now, … Christians don’t have a place to worship after over 40 years of the existence of these universities and these are the areas where the intellectuals, those who are going to govern Nigeria, this is where they are…. Up till today, as I’m talking to you, you can’t find a single governor in northern Nigeria that will effortlessly sign a certificate of occupancy for the building of a church. Nowhere… Northern Nigeria is literally a closed book. And our inability to understand northern Nigeria collectively as a nation accounts for most of the crisis we still face in this country.”
Meanwhile, the education Muslim children receive in northern Nigeria perpetuates the animosity for Christian houses of worship, said the bishop:
“I have windows of my churches broken because young children are throwing stones at the cathedral. I had one of my parishioners went blind three years ago. His house was by the roadside. Children coming from Quranic studies threw stones to his house. I’m asking the question, what are these children being taught about the other person? This is a very serious crisis in northern Nigeria.”
Attacks on Apostates
Iran: A court sentenced twelve Christians, most of whom had apostatized from Islam, to one year in prison on the “charge of propaganda activities against the system and in favor of Zionist Christianity through holding house meetings, evangelism, and invitation to Christianity and inclination to the land of Christianity,” the August 11 report stated. Payam Kharaman, one of the convicted converts, said “the pressure and harassment of the security forces on me began in early 2012, and I was repeatedly summoned … and interrogated about evangelism and communication with abroad, and I always insisted on the belief in Christianity for myself and not for promotion of Christianity.” The accusation that Payam had an “Inclination to the land of Christianity” may be a reference to Israel, where Christianity was born, and its use indicates that court officials “were looking for the accused’s confession to communication with abroad, especially America, Britain and Israel, and this term has originated from this matter.” Another report adds that, “based on the cases we have been tracking, this is the first time this year that we’ve seen a jail sentence being given based on the charge of ‘inclination to the land of Christianity.’ This could be interpreted as a reference to Israel, the birthplace of Christianity and also a country that Iran has adopted a very aggressive stance towards.”
Separately, another convert to Christianity, Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh, inquired about the charge for which he was convicted: “Action against national security through the establishment of house churches.” On August, 2018, in an open letter to the Iranian court that sentenced him to ten years in prison, he asked, “is the fellowship of a few Christian brothers and sisters in someone’s home, singing worship songs, reading the Bible and worshiping God acting against national security? Isn’t it a clear violation of civil and human rights, and an absolute injustice to receive a ten-year prison sentence just for organizing ‘house churches…'” Iran is widely considered one of the top ten worst nations where Christians experience “extreme persecution.”
Central Asia: A Christian mother in Central Asia (name of exact country withheld for security reasons) was kicked out of her home by her Muslim husband for refusing to renounce Christ and return to Islam. Sameda, 23, converted to Christianity three years ago. Due to the lack of Christians in her area, she married Rashid, a moderate Muslim who was seemingly indifferent to her faith. “I married Rashid because he seemed to me to be a good man,” she explained. Initially, we were very happy until he became more interested in my faith. Certainly, I did not hide the fact that I am a Christian and told him that God touched my life one day. After these words, my husband seemed to change.” He eventually began pressuring her to return to Islam and beat her several times—including when she was five months pregnant. After giving birth to a baby girl, Rashid told her to return to the fold of Islam, or else. “My beloved husband, who always seemed so kind and caring; he kicked me out of his house with a month-old baby without any means of subsistence! People say that I am born as a Muslim [for being Asian] and should be this all my life. Now they call me a betrayer of the ‘pure religion and true prophet Muhammed,’ but how can I betray something or somebody I never knew and understood? Yes, I am a Christian, but also still an Asian woman.” Although Sameda and her baby moved in with her mother in a tight room— “authorities refused to give them a new flat with good conditions because they are Christians” says the report—her problems are not over. She could still lose her child in a divorce, as many Muslim nations give fathers custody of children—all the more so when the mother is infidel.
Indonesia: The Muslim children of an elderly and destitute widow ordered her out of their home for converting to Christianity. After losing her husband, Nurul, 68, went to live in a missionary home for widows and orphans; there, eventually, she embraced Christianity. Then, according to an August 3 report, “Nurul later received news that one of her children decided to take her in their home. At first she was happy to be reunited with her family members, but then her Muslim relatives found out about her Christian faith, and allowed her to stay with them for only three months.” “Because she became a Christian, no one cared for her and she had to go out from the community,” explained the director of the home for widows and orphans, which took Nurul back in.
Discrimination against and Abuse of Christians
Chad: “Christians in Chad are being intimidated and forced from public life, under new rules prioritizing Islam in violation of the North African country’s secular foundations,” noted a report. Among these laws is an Islamic “oath [that] is exclusive and reductive in its vision of the state and appears to be another way of excluding Christians from public responsibilities,” said one senior church source, speaking on condition of anonymity. Priority is now being given to officials who take the oath “in the name of Allah the all-powerful,” while several top Christian officials have been dismissed for refusing it. “What will now become of the many Chadians who are neither Muslims nor Christians, and what will be the purpose of our institutions of justice and regulation?” asked a local source, before adding that the situation has become “critical, as the great powers show complicity by turning a blind eye to violations of basic human rights …” The source also said that “Catholic leaders fear for their lives after criticizing constitutional changes.”
Comoros: Sunni Islam was formally declared “the religion of the state,” according to an August 3 report. “The state draws from this religion the principles and rules of Sunnite observance,” the nation’s amended constitution now reads. As Christians amount to about 2% of population—which is 95% Sunni Muslim —this development bodes ill, say local Christians: “Things have been very hard on indigenous Christians before, and this kind of specification is expected to make things even harder for them,” said one local source. According to the report,
“Over the years, the rise [of] radical Islamic thought among the population, government officials, religious leaders and Muslim youth groups have caused anxiety among Christians… Converts to Christianity from Islam can be prosecuted, and the converts that exist face severe discrimination from the Muslim majority… The state also denies worshipping space for Christians in general. An ultra-conservative group of radical scholars … are pushing the country to a more extreme view of Islamic law (sharia) in the country and are against Christians.”
Turkey: A declaration signed by non-Muslim religious leaders saying that, contrary to growing reports, they are experiencing no persecution, was signed under duress, say reports and rights activists. The statement, signed by 16 Christian and two Jewish community leaders, said that religious minorities were allowed to practice their faiths freely, that “statements alleging and/or alluding to oppression are completely untrue,” and that “many grievances experienced in the past have been resolved.” In an August 4 statement, however, Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, the head of an organization comprised of the leading Orthodox churchmen in the United States, said:
The Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, regrets the pressure that the Turkish government has clearly placed upon that nation’s religious minorities in obtaining a statement on religious freedom from them….. In light of … the plight of religious minorities in Turkey, it is clear that Erdogan is acting as a dictator, going to religious minorities asking them to sign a paper that belies reality when they are in no position to refuse, for fear that their situation will deteriorate even more….. [W]e fervently pray for our suffering Christian brothers and sisters and all those who are persecuted simply for professing their faith in Turkey and elsewhere.
Another report notes that “Leading the signatory list was Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, whose community has been waiting for 47 years now to have its theological school [Halki Seminary] reopened.” Around the same time that this statement was being signed, and possibly to add insult to injury, Turkish authorities declared that a major Islamic Education Center will be built right next to the closed Christian building. According to the architect, Korhan Gümüş, this move appears as a form of “religious antagonism…. A halki seminary was built there in the past. Building Islamic Education Center right next to it gives the feeling of revenge. This is like old fears haunting us again in Turkey.”
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
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by extremists is growing. The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The Biggest Winner at Argentina’s Summit
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/December, 02/18
This year’s G20 summit in Argentina was not like other previous ones, at least for Saudi Arabia, which was at the forefront before and during the event. The spotlight was on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who chaired his country’s delegation. It was a global summit but with a Saudi flavor. The Crown Prince was present despite all the major uproar against Saudi Arabia recently, and despite countless attempts to prove that the Kingdom can be isolated… attempts by states, organizations and parties.
The world then discovered that the presence of Prince Mohammed has annihilated the harshest campaign that extended over nearly two months. The reason is not only because major leaders such as the heads of Russia, Britain, France, Italy, China, India, South Africa, Argentina, South Korea, Indonesia and Mexico, did not miss the opportunity to meet with the Saudi leader; and not because it also showed that the Kingdom is greater than any attempts to exclude it as an influential country at the international level; but simply because the overwhelming presence of Prince Mohammed at the G20 proved that the crisis facing the Kingdom was only a prolonged media crisis, not a political one as it was meant to be.
Since its start, the summit was full of unprecedented moments: a Chinese delegation official walked out of the plane before the Chinese president and the Chinese national anthem was played in his honor. Technical problems forced German Chancellor Angela Merkel to fly to Argentina in a commercial plane. President Donald Trump expressed his boredom as he was listening to the interpreter who was translating the discussion between him and his Argentinian counterpart, before he got rid of his earphone in front of the audience. French President Emmanuel Macron landed in Argentina to find out that instead of an official welcome, he was greeted by air service personnel.
Despite all these embarrassing moments, which are fodder for the press, the participation of Prince Mohammed overshadowed all else. Dozens of photographers, who swarmed around him in anticipation of any misstep, were surprised by his overwhelming presence that surpassed all the other attendees.
Great powers know very well the importance of their interests with the Kingdom, which should not be subject to fluctuations because of a passing crisis and misleading accusations. In addition, the Crown Prince affirmed the credibility of the firm Saudi position regarding the inability of any party to influence the Kingdom’s position or even attempt to contain it. Undoubtedly, anyone who expected, wished, or waited for the opposite to happen, was disappointed as they watched the distinct appearance of Saudi Arabia during the summit.
The Kingdom has stressed that it is able to overcome an exaggerated crisis and successfully managed to turn the propaganda in its favor, into political gains that the entire world has seen. It was the biggest winner of Argentina’s summit.
The remarkable participation of Prince Mohammed has blocked all efforts that had been exerted to take advantage of the summit to marginalize the Saudi role and complete the series of exaggeration of the story of the death of Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia did not respond with a wave of statements or speeches, not even systematic leaks. It has instead proven to be greater than attempts to target it, showing it was capable of overcoming all obstacles placed in its way.
Most importantly, Prince Mohammed’s participation has confirmed that the crisis, in its essence, was in the media and was intended to develop into a political crisis that the Kingdom cannot confront. Then came the G20 summit to give the Kingdom all its retributions by the very presence of its Crown Prince.

Don’t Look Now, But Microsoft Is Overtaking Apple
Shira Ovide//Bloomberg/December, 02/18
If you don’t follow the regular trials and tribulations of technology companies or have been living in a cave for five years, it might be surprising that Microsoft Corp. is poised to surpass Apple Inc. as the world’s most valuable public company. While the baton was passed briefly on Monday, it most likely won’t be long until Microsoft is firmly entrenched again as No. 1 in the world.
This won’t be surprising to regular readers, but it will be to people whose opinion about Microsoft was frozen in the days of the Zune and annoying Clippy. So how did Microsoft’s stock market value climb to the top of the mountain?
The near-term reason is Microsoft has been less damaged by U.S. stock investors’ recent reversal of optimism about tech companies that had been rewarded for fast growth above all else. And longer term, Microsoft has continued to roll as the go-to shepherd for corporate clients anxiously navigating technology changes in their industries.
Microsoft is the tortoise in a technology world obsessed with hares. We know how that race turned out. Microsoft this year has steadily passed Google parent company Alphabet Inc., Inc. and now Apple by stock market value. Since a stock market rout in October battered big tech stocks around the world, Microsoft shares have sidestepped much of the carnage. Its shares dipped 8.5 percent since the end of September compared with 22 percent for Amazon and 25 percent for Apple.
It won’t be a surprise to tech enthusiasts that in the nearly five years under CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has focused on its strengths and taken advantage of corporations’ desire for help navigating technology changes. Microsoft has refashioned its products and how it sells them to capitalize on businesses’ desire to buy technology that helps future-proof their workforces and operations.
And that goes not only for Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing service — which competes with Amazon in helping businesses move digital file storage or website operations out of owned, hard-to-update farms of corporate computers — but also Microsoft’s longstanding Office bundle of software, its database technology and its software for corporate sales departments. Even personal computers are having a mini-renaissance of late, which has helped Microsoft.
What Nadella has done isn’t a revolution, like Ford trying to become a “mobility” company instead of simply selling cars. Microsoft has increased revenue, profits and relevance by becoming even more Microsoft-y — doubling down on its products for businesses and slimming or ditching its efforts in the up-and-down areas of consumer technology like smartphones.
It’s a tough contest, but if I’m picking the most effective big technology company CEO of the last five years, I’d take Nadella over Jeff Bezos of Amazon. (Please hold your hate mail.) No large technology company has operated as effectively both technologically and financially over that period.
It’s also true that Microsoft’s recent rise up the stock market rankings has a lot to do with what the company is not. It’s not Facebook and Google — two giants caught up in vortexes about their advertising and data-harvesting business models and dealing with regulatory pressures around the world. It’s not Amazon, a company valued largely on growth that hasn’t been so hot lately. And it doesn’t generate most of its sales from a flat-lining market, as Apple does in smartphones. Nor is Microsoft tied up much in the U.S.-China trade tussle.
As tech shares have been battered in the recent U.S. stock market downturn, other companies that mostly sell products to businesses rather than consumers, pay fairly large dividends and generate rich profits, such as Cisco and Oracle, also haven’t been hurt as much as Amazon and Google.
I’ve written before, however, that investor enthusiasm about Microsoft may have gotten carried away. The company’s stock now trades at about 22 times the company’s estimated earnings over the next four quarters, according to Bloomberg data. The last time Microsoft shares were this expensive for a long period of time.

Surge of Inflation Isn’t a Guaranteed Portfolio Wrecker
Nir Kaissar/Bloomberg View/December, 02/18
Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, sent a shiver through investors last week.
In an interview on “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations” on Bloomberg TV, Greenspan warned that the US may be poised for a period of stagflation, a rare combination of high inflation and high unemployment.
The US last experienced such an episode in the 1970s and early 1980s, and the memory still haunts those who lived through it. The annual inflation rate jumped to 9.8 percent in 1980 from 2.9 percent in 1972, according to the core PCE price index, a measure of personal consumption expenditures excluding food and energy and the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate swelled to 10.8 percent in 1982 from 3.5 percent in 1969, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For members of Generation X — which includes me — and subsequent generations, stagflation is ancient history. Annual inflation hasn’t topped 3 percent since 1993 and has averaged just 1.8 percent since then. And the current unemployment rate of 3.7 percent is the lowest since 1969.
Still, the implications for investors of skyrocketing inflation and unemployment come quickly to mind. According to lore, a surge in inflation would lift interest rates, causing bond prices to decline and thereby wrecking bond portfolios. Higher interest rates would also thump stock prices because future corporate earnings would be worth less when discounted at higher rates. And all of that would come when many investors would lean on their savings to offset higher living costs and possible bouts of unemployment.
It’s not clear, however, how much of that received wisdom is reliable. Yes, when inflation creeps up, interest rates tend to follow. The correlation between annual inflation and the yield on 10-year Treasuries has been strongly positive (0.76) since 1959, the first year for which numbers are available for the core CPE price index. (A correlation of 1 implies that two variables move perfectly in the same direction, whereas a correlation of negative 1 implies that two variables move perfectly in the opposite direction.)
But that hasn’t translated into any meaningful relationship between inflation and returns from long-term government bonds over the last six decades. The correlation between the two was weak over rolling one-year (-0.07), three-year (-0.11), five-year (-0.08) and 10-year periods (-0.10). In other words, when inflation picks up, it’s anyone’s guess how bonds will perform.
Stocks were no different. The relationship between inflation and total returns for the S&P 500 Index has also been tenuous. Here again, the correlation was weak over one-year (-0.06), three-year (-0.04), five-year (-0.02) and 10-year periods (0.12). It’s not safe to assume that rising inflation will rattle stocks.
It’s not even clear that stocks and bonds fare meaningfully worse after adjusting for inflation. The correlation between inflation and real returns for the S&P 500 was slightly stronger but still weak over one-year (-0.19), three-year (-0.26), five-year (-0.29) and 10-year periods (-0.24).
So even if inflation were to rise to alarming levels, that doesn’t necessarily mean stocks wouldn’t keep up. In fact, as stagflation intensified from 1973 to 1982, real returns for the S&P 500 averaged a negative 0.2 percent over rolling one-year periods, 0.4 percent annually over three years and negative 0.4 percent annually over five years. Not bad, considering that the period includes the 1973-1974 stock market crash, one of the worst on record.
Real returns from bonds have had more trouble keeping up with rising inflation, but here, too, heartburn is far from certain. The correlation between inflation and real returns from long-term government bonds was weak over one-year periods (-0.26), although it strengthened over three-year (-0.43), five-year (-0.45) and 10-year periods (-0.53).
It makes sense that bonds have a harder time fighting off inflation than stocks. Inflation means that the prices of many companies’ goods and services are rising, along with the cost of producing them. Corporate earnings — and by extension stock prices — should therefore reflect changes in inflation. Bonds lack that flexibility, particularly longer-term bonds with fixed rates.
Even so, the period from 1973 to 1982 was not disastrous for bond investors. The real return from long-term government bonds averaged a negative 2.3 percent over one-year periods, negative 2.6 percent annually over three years and negative 1.9 percent annually over five years.
There are lots of reasons to worry about stagflation and do everything possible to avoid a replay of the 1970s. But a sure meltdown of investors’ portfolios isn’t one of them.

Rich Societies and Poverty

Noah Smith/Bloomberg View/December, 02/18
What does it mean to be poor? Currently there are two basic ways to define poverty. To get a better measure of who needs help — and a better sense of how to provide it — society needs a third definition.
The first definition is absolute poverty — essentially, material destitution. Human beings need food, water and shelter, and if we can’t afford these things, life is pretty miserable. In the US, the federal government has poverty guidelines that are based on food consumption: If you make less than about three times the minimum amount people need to spend on food each year, you’re poor.
By this measure, a single adult living on $12,140 or less is considered poor as of 2018. For a family of four, the figure is $25,100. There is also a Supplemental Poverty Measure that includes not just food but clothing, shelter and utilities. Thanks in part to increased government assistance, US poverty according to this measure has fallen, especially for children.
Critics of the federal poverty guidelines argue that these numbers are too low, thanks to growing inequality. Moreover, as a country grows richer, hunger becomes less common, so using it as measure of poverty becomes less useful. When the middle class is defined by having “a chicken in every pot and a car in every backyard”, then simply having a chicken would seem to indicate that you’re not poor.
This is where the second measure — relative poverty — comes in. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development defines poverty this way: If you earn less than half of the median income, you’re poor. By this measure, the US is doing a bit worse than other rich countries.
But this, too, feels unsatisfying.
Intuitively, then, it seems that a third definition of poverty is necessary — one that measures more than just material well-being but also takes into account economic growth.
Luckily, there is just such a concept: It’s called material security. Psychologist Abraham Maslow believed that safety ranked second only to food and shelter as a basic human need. Someone who has food and a roof over their head today, but doesn’t know whether they will tomorrow, should be considered poor.
Imagine a 55-year-old single woman with diabetes working a part-time job making close to minimum wage. Thanks to government assistance, her total income is $15,000 a year. But if she loses her job or has a medical emergency, she will probably become homeless. That in turn will make it very hard to get a new job, or to pay for her future health-care needs. In short, her situation is very precarious.
This kind of insecurity causes extreme stress. And this precariousness exists along several dimensions.
A reasonable, common-sense definition of poverty should include not just an absolute measure of material deprivation and a relative gauge of a person’s situation compared to the rest of society. It should also strive to measure how secure people feel — in their homes, their health, and their jobs.
This new measure might well show that poverty in the US is worse than the current statistics say. But an accurate view of a problem is the first step toward addressing it. And eliminating poverty should be a priority of any wealthy society.