December 04/18

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves
Matthew 10/16-22: ""See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 03-04/18
Report: Iranian plane transfers weapons to Hezbollah, returns via Doha/Al Arabiya English/December 03/18
Carlos Ghosn versus the Lebanese people/Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/December 03/18
Hezbollah Releases New Video Threatening Top Israeli Sites/The National/December 03/18
Wahhab Blasts 'Triangle of Crime' in Wake of Bodyguard's Killing/ 03/18
We Can Still Save the Litani River/Philippe Lazzarini/U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon./The Daily Star/December 03/18
Lebanon Must Unite Factions to Withstand Its Economic Situation/The Hill/Edward Gabriel/December 03/18
Hezbollah’s New Cabinet Push/Mona Alami/The Washington Institute/December 03/18
Analysis/Netanyahu's Meeting With Pompeo Is a Warning to Iran and Lebanon – Before Israel Takes Military Action/Amos Harel/Haaretz/December 03/18
Iran’s multiple-warhead Khorramshahr test and Israel’s reported Syria assault – new stage in Mid East missile war/DEBKAfile/December 03/18/
George H.W. Bush Was the Nice Guy Who Finished First/Albert R. Hunt/Bloomberg/December 03/18
How US sanctions are impacting Iran/Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami/Arab News/December 03/18
What did the G20 summit really achieve/Cornelia Meyer/Arab News/December 04/18
The challenges of investigating chemical weapons attacks in Syria/Kerry Boyd Anderson/Arab News/December 04/18
Coming Soon: Assad’s post victory retribution/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/December 03/18
Beyond oil: Saudi-Russia cooperation enters new realm of possibilities/Maria Dubovikova/Al Arabiya/December 03/18
Why Riyadh and Abu Dhabi should redouble efforts on connectivity in Asia/Arif Rafiq/Al Arabiya/December 03/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on December 03-04/18
Report: Iranian plane transfers weapons to Hezbollah, returns via Doha
Prince Khalid: Hezbollah helped Iran in ‘killing dozens of Americans’
Tension Casts Another Shadow over Lebanon’s Cabinet Formation
Lebanese ambassador to France inspects damaged Lebanese stores during recent Paris demonstrations
Qomati visits Al Jahilieh: What happened was beyond a judicial summoning
Khatib visits AlJahilieh: Any fallen martyr in the Mountain is a loss for Lebanon
Democratic Party delegation visits Jahilieh, pays condolences on Abu Ziab
Arslan 'Congratulates' ISF, Jumblat on 'Shameful' Raid
Consultative Gathering ‘Not Taking Advantage’ of Jahliyeh Incident, Mrad Says
Mashnouq: Lebanon Won’t be Dragged into Sedition, Hariri Won’t Back Down
Report: 32-Seat Govt. Proposal ‘Has Not Been Turned Down’
Mashnouq Meets Hariri after Wahhab's 'Revelations'
Fire Razes 50 Refugees' Tents, Kills Two Syrians in Baalbek
Egypt President Opens First Arms Exhibition in Cairo
Democratic Gathering ups calls for extraordinary Parliament session to discuss situation
Berri meets Al Tamimi, Central Bank Governor
Berri calls for joint parliamentary committees’ session next Thursday
19 Lebanese scholarships to Ghanaian Media Faculty students in Accra
Kanaan pledges to disclose financial situation before end of year
Carlos Ghosn versus the Lebanese people
Hezbollah Releases New Video Threatening Top Israeli Sites
Wahhab Blasts 'Triangle of Crime' in Wake of Bodyguard's Killing
We Can Still Save the Litani River
Lebanon Must Unite Factions to Withstand Its Economic Situation
Analysis/Netanyahu's Meeting With Pompeo Is a Warning to Iran and Lebanon – Before Israel Takes Military Action

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 03-04/18
Iran’s multiple-warhead Khorramshahr test and Israel’s reported Syria assault – new stage in Mid East missile war
Larijani Says Iran Faces 'Chronic Challenges' beyond U.S. Sanctions
France concerned by ‘provocative, destabilizing’ Iranian ballistic missile test
Senior US admiral found dead in Bahrain from apparent suicide: report
Trump writes to Imran Khan, seeks Pakistan’s help in Afghanistan
Russia Accuses US of Establishing ‘Quasi-State Structures’ North of Syria
Qatar Announces Withdrawal from OPEC
Argentinian Leaves Syria after 2-Year Kidnap Ordeal
Macron Seeks Way Out of Crisis after Paris Riots
UN's Yemen Envoy Lands in Sanaa ahead of Rebel Evacuation
Saudi Friend of Khashoggi Sues Israeli Surveillance Company
Gaza Court Sentences 6 People to Hang for 'Collaborating' with Israel
Nearly 30,000 Syrians return home from Jordan after border reopens

Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on December 03-04/18
Report: Iranian plane transfers weapons to Hezbollah, returns via Doha
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Monday, 3 December 2018
The report of an Iranian cargo plane allegedly transporting advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in Beirut has furled speculation that Iran continues to arm the terrorist group, a news report has revealed adding that .According to a Times of Israel report, the cargo plane was spotted flying directly from Tehran to Beirut on Thursday morning, hours before Israel allegedly conducted airstrikes on pro-Iranian targets in Syria. The report claims that Iran has been supplying Lebanon’s Hezbollah with advanced munitions by shipping them through civilian airlines, including the one that flew into Lebanon on Thursday: Fars Air Qeshm.Later, the Boeing 747 jet flew to Doha in Qatar before returning to Tehran, says the report. It added that these cargo planes typically unload their materiel in Syria or stop there en route to Beirut instead of flying into Lebanon directly.
October report
Al Arabiya English reported in October that Lebanese political sources have expressed concern about reports emanating from the United States about the transferring of weapons and sophisticated equipment to Hezbollah through Beirut international airport via Doha and Damascus.A Fox News report mentioned that Iran had increased its shipments of sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah, including shipments that contains devices using GPS technology used by them to convert non-guided missiles into accurately guided ones, according to American and Western intelligence sources. It was then reported that Iranian flights providing weapons to Hezbollah belonged to Iranian airlines Fars Air Qeshm from Tehran International Airport, according to the flight data provided by the US report. According to Western intelligence sources, the Iranian cargo plane carried weapons components, including GPS devices, to manufacture precision-guided weapons in Iranian factories inside Lebanon.

Prince Khalid: Hezbollah helped Iran in ‘killing dozens of Americans’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 4 December 2018 /Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States Prince Khalid bin Salman on Tuesday criticized the Iranian regime for its creation of Hezbollah which has helped Tehran in “killing dozens of Americans and committing genocide against the Syrian people”. “The Iranian regime founded Hezbollah in Lebanon, a terrorist proxy which acts as it’s subcontractor in the region, helping the regime in killing dozens of Americans and committing genocide against the Syrian people, among other things,” Prince Khalid wrote on twitter. “The regime of Iran is trying to copy the Hezbollah model in Yemen, where they finance the Houthi militia and arm it with lethal weapons, enabling them to attack the Yemeni people, disrupt international shipping routes, and destabilize the whole region,” he added. The Iranian regime’s project, as described by Nasrallah, is to make the whole region a part of “the greater Islamic Republic”, ruled by the Ayatollah of Iran, the ambassador said. The Saudi ambassador to the United States has previously warned that Iran wanted to form another Hezbollah in Yemen through its support of the Houthi militias. In March, he told CNN that Tehran was the greatest sponsor of terrorism. “The problem with Iran is its behavior and desire to expand”, he said adding that it does not only want to destabilize Saudi Arabia, but the entire region.

Tension Casts Another Shadow over Lebanon’s Cabinet Formation
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 3 December, 2018/Tension in the Chouf area of Mount Lebanon further complicated the cabinet formation process, amid a deadlock caused by the demands of the Hezbollah-backed March 8 alliance’s Sunni deputies for a representation. Mohamad Abu Diab, a bodyguard of former minister of Wiam Wahhab, was buried after succumbing to wounds sustained during a gunfire that erupted as the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch carried out a raid on Wahhab’s home based on a judicial summons from the state prosecutor. Wahhab, who heads the Tawhid Party, 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 PM-designate Saad Hariri. Gunmen loyal to Wahhab prevented the security forces from escorting the former minister from his home in the Chouf village of Jahilieh, leading to the armed clash. Druze-inhabited mountainous areas referred to as Jabal ara "a red line and the safety of Lebanon is a red line,” Wahhab said during Abu Diab’s burial. The head of the Lebanese Democratic Party, Druze MP Talal Arslan, mocked on Sunday the ISF Information Branch and described its presence in Jahilieh as a “parade.” A day earlier, another Druze leader and head of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblat, visited Hariri in a show of support and said he backed any measure that cements civil peace. MP Bilal Abdullah from the PSP parliamentary bloc told Asharq Al-Awsat there was no intra-Druze confrontation following Saturday’s incident. “Any confrontation needs two parties. The PSP is neither a side nor a party to the conflict,” he said. Caretaker Justice Minister Selim Jreissati said in a statement that a full investigation will be carried out by the judiciary. On the cabinet stalemate, caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachi visited Hariri and conveyed a message from Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea that the LF is keen on maintaining stability, and forming the government as soon as possible to ensure stability. The PM-designate's al-Mustaqbal Movement said last week the Hariris were being targeted by "a campaign of falsehoods" hatched by "sick minds" bent on destabilizing Lebanon and obstructing efforts to form the new government. The tension has cast another shadow over efforts to form a new national unity government more than six months since an election, with a new demand emerging by the March 8 alliance's Sunni MPs to have a portfolio in the cabinet.

Lebanese ambassador to France inspects damaged Lebanese stores during recent Paris demonstrations
Mon 03 Dec 2018/NNA - Lebanon's Ambassador to France, Rami Adwan, inspected the Lebanese stores, which were vandalized during the Yellow Vest protests last Saturday in Paris.
Ambassador Adwan met with the shops' owners, examining the inflicted material damage to their properties. The Ambassador expressed the Embassy's readiness to provide help in this regard.

Qomati visits Al Jahilieh: What happened was beyond a judicial summoning
Mon 03 Dec 2018/NNA - Hizbullah Politburo Vice President, Mahmoud Qomati, on Monday visited al-Jahilieh to offer condolences on the martyrdom of Mohammad Abu Ziab last Saturday.
"What happened in Jahilieh was beyond a judicial summoning," Qomati said after paying condolences, adding that the decision proved to be wrong and could have led to strife. He said Bou Ziab has sacrificed his life for the sake of the unity of the Chouf Mountain and Lebanon. "The axis of the resistance has triumphed in the region... In Lebanon, our logic is not based on the spirit of 'winner or loser' but rather on partnership," Qomati corroborated.

Khatib visits AlJahilieh: Any fallen martyr in the Mountain is a loss for Lebanon

Mon 03 Dec 2018/NNA - Caretaker Environment Minister, Tarek Khatib, on Monday visited al-Jahilieh at the top of a delegation of the Free Patriotic Movement, to offer condolences to Arab Tawhid Party leader, Wiam Wahhab, on the martyrdom of his bodyguard Mohammad Abu Ziab last Saturday. "I carry a message of condolences from FPM leader, Minister Gebran Bassil, to the Tawhid Party LEADER Wiam Wahhab," Al-Khatib maintained, saying every martyr who fell in the mountains was a loss for Lebanon and for all the Lebanese, not only for his relatives and for his town.

Democratic Party delegation visits Jahilieh, pays condolences on Abu Ziab
Mon 03 Dec 2018/NNA - A delegation of the Lebanese Democratic Party, arrived a while ago in Al-Jahilieh, to offer condolences on the martyrdom of Mohammad Abu Ziab.

Arslan 'Congratulates' ISF, Jumblat on 'Shameful' Raid
Naharnet/December 03/18/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.

Consultative Gathering ‘Not Taking Advantage’ of Jahliyeh Incident, Mrad Says
Naharnet/December 03/18/Pro-Hizbullah Sunni MP Abdul Rahim Mrad of the Consultative Gathering on Monday said he “is not” taking advantage of the recent Jahliyeh incident for the sake of being represented in the new government. In remarks he made from the residence of former Minister Wiam Wahhab in Jahliyeh, the MP said: “The Gathering is not taking advantage of the incident,” nevertheless affirming their “right for representation in the government.” He criticized the “approach of the (Internal Security Forces) Intelligence Branch” in handing a judicial writ to Wahhab, “this is too much,” he said. Mrad was paying condolences to Wahhab over the killing of Mohmmed Bou Diab, a Wahhab supporter 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.

Mashnouq: Lebanon Won’t be Dragged into Sedition, Hariri Won’t Back Down

Naharnet/December 03/18/Caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq stressed that Lebanon will not be dragged into sedition, ensuring the State’s adherence to its duties and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s firm positions. “Every military, corporal and officer in the Internal Security Forces is a hero in defending the state and law. (ISF) Maj. Gen. Imad Othman is the first of these elements. Colonel Khaled Hammoud, head of the Information Division is a first in national responsibility,” said Mashnouq in statement. His remarks came in a statement against the backdrop of Saturday’s clash in the Chouf town of Jahliyeh that killed one person which ex-minister Wiam Wahhab blamed on Hariri and the security forces. The Minister also praised State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud, he said: “Hammoud does not need a certificate of integrity. He acted upon a lawsuit on his table threatening civil peace."
As for the deceased, Mohammed Bou Diab, Mashnouq said “judicial investigations are being run to determine the responsibility,” adding that “the statement of the Internal Security Forces is based on clear inspection that Bou Diab was hit during random shooting by armed men in Jahliyeh that led to his eventual death.”Linking the incident to attempts to pressure Hariri, Mashnouq affimed that “Hariri will not back down on his mission to form the government even if the pressure reached the mountain peaks."However he stressed “we will not be dragged into sedition. What has been happening in Lebanon for months now are attempts to disrupt the formation of the government.”

Report: 32-Seat Govt. Proposal ‘Has Not Been Turned Down’

Naharnet/December 03/18/A suggestion reportedly made by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil to expand the number of ministerial seats in the new government from 30 to 32, “has not been turned down” by any political party, al-Akhbar daily reported on Monday. Quoting sources of the Free Patriotic Movement of Bassil who told the daily that “the political parties have requested some time to study the proposal,” noting that no rejections were voiced by any. “There are several suggestions and a set of ideas that can’t but lead to a solution. No one will lose because the ideas put are in accordance with the adopted standards of representation,” they told the daily on condition of anonymity. Bassil has reportedly made some suggestions one of which is to increase the number of ministerial seats in the new Cabinet from 30 to 32 in a bid to ease the latest Sunni MPs hurdle.
The last-minute Sunni hurdle emerged when the new government was on the verge of formation on October 29 after the Lebanese Forces accepted the portfolios that were assigned to it.
Hizbullah has insisted that the six Sunni MPs should be given a seat in the government, refraining from providing Hariri with the names of its three Shiite ministers in a bid to press him. Hariri has rejected the demand, announcing that he’d rather step down than give the aforementioned lawmakers a seat from his own share in the government.

Mashnouq Meets Hariri after Wahhab's 'Revelations'

Naharnet/December 03/18/Caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq held talks Monday at the Center House with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. In a statement, Mashnouq had earlier stressed that Hariri “will not back down from his constitutional steadfastness in the cabinet formation process and will not step down from his mission, even if the level of pressures ‘reaches the peaks of mountains.’”The minister had on Sunday come under a fierce verbal attack from Arab Tawhid Party leader Wiam Wahhab, who claimed that Mashnouq had visited Syria several times after the assassination of ex-PM Rafik Hariri. “Mashnouq continued to visit Syria until 2011 after the 2005 assassination of ex-PM Rafik Hariri,” Wahhab said in an interview on al-Jadeed TV. “I tell Mashnouq, ‘Don’t push me to disclose your true opinion on Saad Hariri,’” the ex-minister added. He however clarified that communication between Mashnouq and Damascus has been severed since the eruption of the Syrian conflict. Mashnouq tweeted following Wahhab’s remarks, promising to correct what he called the ex-minister’s “inaccuracy.”“I will respond to ex-minister Wiam Wahhab’s remarks accurately, citing dates and events -- something he lacked in his statements about me,” Mashnouq said.

Fire Razes 50 Refugees' Tents, Kills Two Syrians in Baalbek

Naharnet/December 03/18/Fire has swept through the tents of Syrian refugees in the northeastern town of al-Yammouneh at dawn leaving two killed and several others wounded, the National News Agency reported on Monday. Two Syrian refugees identified by their initials as Aa.M. and W.Aa were killed after the fire razed through around 50 resettlement tents, said NNA. It "killed a 46-year-old man as well as a boy aged seven or eight", deputy mayor Hussein Shreif said. It was not immediately clear what started the fire, he said. The Civil Defense fire team were dispatched to the area of the camp and managed to extinguish the fire that sent heavy black smoke into the sky, it added. Fires have often erupted in Syrian refugee camps, where many depend on international aid for their survival. Around 1.5 million Syrians have sought shelter in Lebanon from the seven-year civil war raging next door, with many living in camps in the Bekaa Valley in the east of the country.

Egypt President Opens First Arms Exhibition in Cairo
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 03/18/Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi inaugurated Monday the first arms fair organised in Cairo, where hundreds of companies are exhibiting, state TV footage showed. Sisi was shown cutting the ribbon along with French Defence Minister Florence Parly to open the exhibition, held on the outskirts of Cairo. The three-day show by one of the region's top military powers will be attended by officials from 40 countries, according to Egyptian authorities. After the opening, Sisi was taken on a guided tour along with military officials of the massive fair, where according to authorities around 400 companies are exhibiting. "The army... seeks to acquire strength from its cooperation with countries that value security and peace to roll back all forms of aggression on Egyptian soil," Defence Minister Mohamed Ahmed Zaki said at the opening ceremony. He was due to hold talks with his French counterpart and the Egyptian president later on Monday, according to a statement by the French defence ministry. Military cooperation between Cairo and Paris has significantly increased since Sisi took office in 2014. The following year Egypt signed deals worth six billion euros to purchase 24 Rafale fighter jets from France, as well as other military hardware such as Mistral warships and missiles. International human rights organisations have long accused Egypt of using weapons originated in Europe against civilians to suppress opposition and activists, accusations Cairo has systemically denied.

Democratic Gathering ups calls for extraordinary Parliament session to discuss situation
Mon 03 Dec 2018/NNA - The Democratic Gathering convened in session on Monday during which it highlighted the need for an extraordinary Parliamentary session to discuss the country’s general situation, and to seek solutions that would salvage its dire economic situation.
In the wake of the meeting, MP Hadi Abu al-Hassan noted that his political bloc’s prime demand was the formation of a new cabinet. “We call on political forces to go over their positions for Lebanon’s best interest and the country’s civil peace. We can not afford any additional crises,” the lawmaker said as reading the meeting’s statement. "We have decided to start a communications tour. This includes meetings with parliamentary blocs and political forces, as well as the General Labor Confederation and the Economic Council, all in an attempt to urge everyone to take responsibility in saving the country,” the statement said, pledging as well to ask of the observation bodied to hold those involved in corruption accountable regardless of their background.

Berri meets Al Tamimi, Central Bank Governor
Mon 03 Dec 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, on Monday welcomed at his Ain Tineh residence the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member, Head of Human Rights Department, Ahmed Saeed al-Tamimi, in the presence of the Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabbour. Talks reportedly dwelt on most recent developments on the Palestinian, Arab and regional arena. On emerging, Al-Tamimi said he briefed the Speaker on the sufferings endured by the Palestinian people in al-Quds as a result of the Israeli occupation's practices. On the other hand, Berri met with Lebanon's Central Bank Governor, Riad Salameh, with whom he discussed the current financial situation in the country. Former Minister Karim Pakradouni also visited Berri, with the general situation featuring high on their talks. Berri also received a cable from his Romanian counterpart, on the occasion of Lebanon's Independence Day.

Berri calls for joint parliamentary committees’ session next Thursday
Mon 03 Dec 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, called for a joint Parliamentary Committees session to be held next Thursday, December 6, 2018 at 10:30 am, to discuss the draft bill to amend the land trade law.

19 Lebanese scholarships to Ghanaian Media Faculty students in Accra
Mon 03 Dec 2018/NNA - Lebanon's Embassy in Ghana announced in a press release: "In the framework of strengthening the bilateral relations between Lebanon and Ghana, and in coordination between the Lebanese Embassy and the Faculty of Media in Accra, 19 scholarships were offered by the Lebanese community to 19 outstanding students of various academic levels in the Faculty of Media in the Ghanaian capital university." Marking the occasion, a ceremony was held at the Ghanaian Media Faculty to announce the scholarships for the academic year 2018-2019, attended by the Lebanese Ambassador to Ghana, Maher Kheir, Media Faculty Dean and staff, along with the students benefiting from these grants, and a number of media figures. In his delivered word, Ambassador Kheir expressed his determination in cooperation with the Lebanese community, to strengthen the historical bilateral relations between the two countries in the various sectors and to preserve the deeply entrenched history shared by both countries and peoples.
The Ambassador also brought to attention that more than 100 students have benefited from the Lebanese Community Scholarship Program, over the past six years, distributed among various Ghanaian universities. Kheir also pledged further efforts to support outstanding students in universities, out of the belief that a strong educational foundation must be built to support human development and future advancement. The Ghanaian Media Faculty Dean, for his part, hailed the efforts conducted by the Lebanese Embassy and community members in this regard.

Kanaan pledges to disclose financial situation before end of year
Mon 03 Dec 2018/NNA - The Finance and Budget Committee held a session on Monday chaired by "Strong Lebanon" Parliamentary bloc Secretary, MP Ibrahim Kanaan. The session had been devoted to pursue discussions pertaining to the public sector’s anti-corruption law proposal. "There is a legislative system approved by the Parliament which concerns the issue of corruption in the Lebanese state. The first law that has been issued is the right of access to information; any citizen can legally make any ministry, council, fund, or department provide him/her with information that detail relevant decisions and actions. The Parliament has also approved the anti-corruption law, protection of those who expose corruption law, and a law that combats corruption in oil and gas contracts,” Kanaan explained. The lawmaker went on to make clear that the general framework that will govern the act of combating corruption through the “national authority” was ready.“It applies to all people, from the pillars of power to ministers, deputies, officials and managers. The authority shall perform its role in response to any document, news, complaint, letter, or statement, whether from a local or foreign entity,” Kanaan said.
In response to those questioning the credibility of this authority, Kanaan made clear that its members were elected by the sectors they represented. “The judge is elected by judges, and the lawyer is elected by lawyers. We have tried to steer clear from political decision or intervention as much as possible. However, this authority needs funding and prerogatives that will allow it to function along with judicial, security, and other bodies. There will be a mechanism to work with the Council of Ministers.”Responding to whether bank secrecy will be lifted off officials’ accounts to ensure full transparency, Kanaan said that there had been a proposal to this effect that would be discussed at the closing session on Wednesday.“There is serious legislative action in the fight against corruption, and we will carry out our duties in the Parliament to the fullest. Parliamentary oversight is required, especially if the budget is not respected by ministers. We cannot be surprised every year by LBP two thousand billion above certain allocations and appropriations that had been previously approved by the Parliament,” Kanaan said, deeming this a flagrant violation of the law which violators must be held accountable for.
"The Parliament is doing its job, and we demand integration between the executive and judicial authorities in this area, because Lebanon is in no position to tolerate any more setbacks, especially over matters that involve public funds," he said. Asked about threats of tampering with the salary scale, the lawmaker dismissed that those threats as far from the truth. “There’s much inaccurate ado about financial matters, particularly with regard to budgets and the availability of funds. (…) Our responsibility towards the Lebanese people is compelling, and I will give a detailed briefing on the financial situation, obligations, state potentials, errors, and violations if any before the end of the year. I will not protect anyone, whether close or distant,” Kanaan added.

Carlos Ghosn versus the Lebanese people
Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/December 03/18
While many countries consider tax fraud as a felony deserving of a prison sentence, the Lebanese consider tax evasion as a sign of wit or perhaps a national sport. There are many indicators to measure fame and success in Lebanon, among them getting one’s name and face commemorated on a postage stamp.
In Lebanon, very few individuals outside the realm of deceased politicians can claim this honour but among them is Carlos Ghosn, a Brazilian-born businessman of Lebanese descent who achieved phenomenal fame for salvaging the French and Japanese automobile industries. Ghosn’s arrest in Tokyo on allegations of tax fraud and financial misconduct shocked the public, especially the Lebanese, who refused to believe that one of their finest was a common criminal.
Naturally, the Lebanese refusal to accept Ghosn’s possible guilt stems from the fact that he essentially serves as poster child for the Lebanese national myth and embodies the proud and accomplished Lebanese who, despite all odds, achieved riches.
Lebanese public support for Ghosn took on different forms, which included an online petition — with more than 20,000 signatures — demanding “a high-level official delegation travel to Japan as soon as possible to learn about the conditions of detention of a Lebanese citizen emigrant, surplus, brilliant businessman, known for his great qualities.”
Despite having no insight into the allegations or the Japanese indictment, the petition and its promoters dismissed all charges against Ghosn, framing his arrest as part of a bigger conspiracy to defame Lebanon’s long-lost son. This populist undertone was equally adopted by the Lebanese state, which through Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil issued strict instructions to the Lebanese ambassador in Tokyo to “stand by [Ghosn] in his adversity to ensure he gets a fair trial.” Amusingly, Bassil leaked to the media that the Lebanese ambassador went out of his way to purchase a mattress for Ghosn, who was forced by his Japanese jailers to sleep on the floor.
Be that as it may, the Ghosn affair, with its many rumours and conspiracy theories, reveals several realities about the Lebanese and how they look towards justice and accountability. Ghosn’s arrest certainly transcends a simple bookkeeping error as people of such financial calibre have quasi-immunity and the decision to hold them accountable is a political rather than a purely judicial matter. Perhaps, as it is rumoured, Ghosn, just like the future fate of his Lebanese compatriots, fell victim to the US sanctions because he refused to abide by the Trump administration requests to shut down Renault’s operation in Iran. While this might be the case, another probable scenario is that Ghosn’s ego and greed led him to believe he was immune to prosecution and so it was permissible to not fully or accurately disclose his income and profits. While many countries consider tax fraud as a felony deserving of a prison sentence, the Lebanese consider tax evasion as a sign of wit and resourcefulness or perhaps a national sport. Regrettably, in Lebanon it is common, not to say expected, for tax evaders to receive praise from their peers for devising ways to undercut the government and avoid paying taxes. This is mostly the case because, shockingly, the Lebanese at large say it is a victimless crime but it is a dangerous offence that collectively and indiscriminately harms citizens.
Another alarming aspect of the Lebanese zealots’ support of Ghosn is that they genuinely believe the Japanese judiciary is skewed and incapable of conducting a fair and transparent investigation. Such criticism from the Lebanese would lead one to assume that Lebanon’s judiciary is the epitome of justice and integrity and that the sacred concept of the separation of power is fully espoused in Lebanon. The reality is extremely bleak as the Lebanese judiciary is merely an extension of the decrepit corrupt government that has failed repeatedly to protect its citizens.
These Lebanese and their ambitious foreign minister oddly stayed silent on the matter of Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese businessman who has been accused of espionage and held captive since 2015 by Iranian authorities. Zakka might not be as accomplished or wealthy as Ghosn but, theoretically, both deserve justice, a right Zakka was certainly deprived off when he was sentenced by a kangaroo court and is rotting in an Iranian jail. If the Lebanese truly want to show their solidarity with Ghosn, they should start by paying taxes — and demand their politicians do so as well — and demand an immediate reform of their judiciary. Certainly, Carlos Ghosn’s legal predicament and status remain unaffected by the commotion his supposed Lebanese nationals, unlike the Lebanese socio-economic predicament and the country that is rapidly deteriorating.

Hezbollah Releases New Video Threatening Top Israeli Sites
The National/December 03/18
A new video released by Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah has threatened several high-profile Israeli sites as tensions between the two sides that have previously warred continued to simmer. The clip warns Israel, in both Arabic and Hebrew, against launching an attack against the group. It threatens that it is ready to strike a series of Israeli sites in retaliation. The targets include Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona, the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv and air forces bases. Israel is concerned that Hezbollah now has a much-larger and developed arsenal of weapons that it did when both fought a month-long war in 2006.It is also wary that thousands of the group’s fighters have gained vital battlefield experience in Syria, where it is fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. The clip ends with the message: “If you dare attack, you will regret it.”The video release comes a day after Israeli jets were accused of bombing several Syrian government sites in southern Syria and near the capital, Damascus. Israel says it is acting defensively in Syria, preventing the transfer of weapons from Iran to both the Assad regime and Hezbollah that could be used against it. Israel shares a northern border with Syria in the occupied Golan Heights. The military believes that Hezbollah militiants have established a presence in southern Syria. It fears that any conflict with the group would be multi-pronged: attacks from its shared border with Lebanon border and its shared border with Syria.To prepare for any escalation, the Israeli military regularly conducts large-scale exercises in the north of the country to prepare for a Hezbollah invasion. The 2006 conflict, sparked by a cross-border Hezbollah raid to capture Israeli soldiers, left more than a 1,000 Lebanese nationals dead, most of them civilians, and more than 100 Israelis, many of them soldiers.

Wahhab Blasts 'Triangle of Crime' in Wake of Bodyguard's Killing 03/18
Tawhid Party leader Wiam Wahhab on Sunday blamed caretaker Premier Saad Hariri, Internal Security Forces Chief Imad Othman and State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud for the tensions that erupted one day earlier and led to the killing of his bodyguard, slamming the three officials as “the triangle of crime". A large convoy from the ISF's Information Branch was dispatched to Wahhab's hometown of Jahiliyyeh on Saturday to arrest the former minister of a lawsuit that was filed against him over comments he had made concerning Hariri and his late father, Rafik Hariri.
Prior to the funeral of his bodyguard Mohammad Abu Ziab who was killed in the shootout with the ISF unit, Wahhab accused Hariri, Othman and Hammoud of seeking to assassinate him through their "dirty mission", promising that Ziab's blood will not go in vain.
"I will pursue your case until the end and your blood will remain a tag of shame for those who took the political decision and the people who executed the killing," Wahhab said. "I urge calm and self-restraint from everyone. We are all under the rule of the state and the law," he added.
While Wahhab claimed that his bodyguard had been killed by a sniper from a long range, the ISF said in a statement that Ziab had actually sustained wounds from friendly fire shot by the former minister's supporters.According to the ISF statement, Wahhab was summoned on November 29 to undergo a questioning following a scathing attack he made against the Hariri family.
After Wahhab failed to show up, the statement added, the state prosecutor on Saturday ordered the arrest of that the Tawhid Party leader who had fled to an unknown location in the town. As the unit decided to leave after failing to find Wahhab, the statement said, heavy gunfire erupted from near Wahhab’s residence. Wahhab is expected to show up for questioning on Monday. “There are no red lines for the state,” caretaker Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said in a tweet following the incident. Speaking after a meeting with Hariri on Saturday, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat expressed his support for the measures carried out by the state, dismissing claims that what happened in Jahiliyyeh encroaches on the dignity of the Druze community.
On the other hand, the head of Hezbollah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc, MP Mohammad Raad, voiced support for Wahhab, saying that sending a large unit under the pretext of summoning the latter is a violation that enclosed intentions to humiliate the former minister, arrest him late in the weekend and, therefore, force him to remain in custody until early next week."Such actions make the people doubt their ability to rule the country," he said.

We Can Still Save the Litani River
فيليب لارازيني، منسق الأمم المتحدة في لبنان/لا زلنا قادرين على انقاذ نهر الليطاني
Philippe Lazzarini/U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon.
The Daily Star/December 03/18
“I don’t want the cancer to kill me” protestors chanted earlier this month in the Bekaa village of Hawsh al-Rafqah. The pollution of the Litani River has reached disastrous levels in recent months, causing widespread concerns about its impact on the health of local populations.
The Litani River used to be one of Lebanon’s most precious natural resources, but it has turned into an environmental disaster. In the ’60s, people could safely swim in the river and use it to irrigate vegetables. Today, studies describe the water as “basically raw sewage.” Clearly, we can no longer ignore this crisis.
Most recently, the pollution of the river has been blamed on the presence of informal settlements of Syrian refugees in areas along the Litani River. While this is a potential factor, the pollution of the river is not new. It is a decades-old problem, the result of poor practices including ineffective wastewater treatment systems, faulty governance, the weak enforcement of existing laws as well as the behavior of the industries. Untreated industrial effluents are poured into the river by the many factories along its banks, and the river is used for the dumping of waste and sewage.
In November, the Industry Ministry shut down 79 unlicensed factories that were violating the law by polluting the Litani River. This shows there is legal recourse for breaching environmental laws, and that we can deter other actors from polluting Lebanon.
To bring the river back to life, the Litani River Authority, together with the Environment, Industry and Energy ministries, are now being supported by a $55 million loan from the World Bank and other donors to improve the municipal sewage network, solid waste management, industrial depollution and the monitoring of water quality along the river.
The U.N. is also implementing projects to help resolve this catastrophic situation. This includes improving wastewater facilities in informal settlements and stopping wastewater from being directly discharged into the Litani River. Recent assessments show that nearly 95 percent of informal settlements comply with the guidelines for the management of wastewater, and we are working to ensure full compliance. We are discharging waste collected from informal settlements in authorized treatment plants, such as Jub Jennin in the Bekaa.
The U.N. is also supporting the rehabilitation of existing wastewater facilities, such as the one in Aitanit, to improve the collection and treatment of wastewater in villages in the Litani watershed.
Finally, to address behaviors, our programs aim at raising awareness among all communities and at collecting trash along the banks of the river.
Saving the Litani River is a major issue that requires the engagement of everyone in Lebanon, from individuals to factories and from municipalities to ministries. In support of this, the U.N. stands ready to work with all organizations interested in tackling these urgent environmental issues that affect Lebanese and refugee communities alike.
We are not yet out of the woods. Many inappropriate practices continue. Governance must be improved, behaviors must change, anti-pollution laws must be enforced and most importantly polluters must be penalized. One step in the right direction would be legislation to strengthen the power of enforcement of the environmental police and environmental prosecutors-general.
The Litani River is in the middle of an ecological disaster, but we can still save it if we act together now. In the Lebanon we want, rivers should be sources of life, not disease.

Lebanon Must Unite Factions to Withstand Its Economic Situation
ادوارد كابريل/موقع الهيل/مطلوب من القوى اللبنانية الصمود والوحدة من أجل انقاذ وضعه الإقتصادي

The Hill/Author: Edward Gabriel/December 03/18
It is more than six months since the Lebanese parliament was elected and the leadership of the caretaker government has faced many challenges in attempting to form a government. Made up of the 18 diverse religious sects — including Christians, Druze and Sunni and Shiite Muslims — the government, most analysts believe, cannot withstand much more inaction and quarreling among the factions without irreparably damaging the country’s future.
It is as if a house is burning and five fire trucks show up to put out the fire — but rather than working together to extinguish the blaze, they quarrel about in which part of the house the flames should be extinguished first, who should hold each truck’s hose, and who is in control of the hose in the first place. The fire rages out of control, maybe to the point of no return.
The World Bank in its Fall 2018 report has downgraded Lebanon’s gross national product growth to 1 percent, a devastating growth rate for a country in desperate need of a functioning economy. Foreign receipts are down as well, which puts the Central Bank in the position of having to beef up “its stock of foreign exchange reserves, lengthening the maturity of deposits and limiting the liquidity available, thereby inhibiting speculation against the Lebanese pound,” which is an “unsustainable path,” according to the bank.
Lebanon has the third-largest debt to gross domestic product ratio in the world; poverty is expected to rise; and the fiscal deficit is expected to rise from 6.6 percent to 8.3 percent.
The international community has done all it can to help and it’s now time for the Lebanese to act. Three international donor conferences have been held this year. In March, some 40 countries participated in a meeting, along with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, “to reaffirm their commitment to the stability, security, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon, offering hundreds of million dollars in military and security aid.” This is in addition to the more than $100 million a year in U.S. aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces.
At the Friends of Syria donor conference in Brussels in May, donor countries pledged $4.4 billion in refugee humanitarian support to Lebanon, Syria and other neighboring refugee-hosting countries. Most importantly, Lebanon won aid pledges exceeding $11 billion in April at a Paris CEDRE conference aimed at rallying international support for an investment program to boost its economy. The CEDRE project, plus the privatization of some government entities, seems to be the only answer to Lebanon’s economic downturn.
Most of the aid, however, is conditioned on a new government instituting policies that deal with privatization and economic reforms in a transparent process, as well as other guarantees in line with international norms. When Africa Ferid Belhaj, the World Bank Group vice president for Middle East and North Africa, visited Lebanon recently, he warned that Lebanon “might lose the loans and grants promised during the CEDRE conference, should the cabinet formation get further delayed.” The message was clear: Your economy is in danger and the loans decided for Lebanon could be given to other states.
The struggle to form a government remains the same: Anti- and pro-Hezbollah elements struggle over the makeup that Hezbollah and its allies will end up with. The United States has warned clearly that U.S. aid could be in jeopardy if Hezbollah increases its influence in the government, particularly if it controls a service ministry such as the Health Ministry, where services and favors can be doled out at the local level, thus increasing its influence and popularity.
As the designated prime minister, Hariri is struggling with this latest stalemate engineered by Hezbollah to balance international aid agencies’ requirements with the need to form a government without creating a situation that could prompt another civil war among the factions.
All of this goes on while the “house of Lebanon” burns. It is up to the Lebanese people to demand their government take back its responsibility to govern, protect its sovereignty, and push back against elements inside the country who care more about sectarian interests than the national interests of Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s New Cabinet Push
منى علمي/موقع معهد واشنطن/ضغط من حزب الله لتشكيل حكومة جديدة

Mona Alami/The Washington Institute/December 03/18
In spite of the attempted deal to form a cabinet in the Lebanese parliament in late October, Hezbollah has now ramped up demands for the representation of its Sunni allies in the new cabinet. This new condition has led to a renewed political deadlock in the formation of the Lebanese government, which has now been paralyzed for seven months. Hezbollah’s increased demands should not be interpreted as merely a local bargaining ploy, but rather as a direct response to the larger international escalation against Tehran and the Lebanese militant group.
Hezbollah’s fresh stance demonstrates how the growing Iranian–American face-off across the region may play out on Lebanese soil. According to sources close to the party, a few months ago Hezbollah leadership believed that its interests were best served by encouraging the diverse Lebanese factions to reach a deal over the cabinet formation, regardless of the shares its own party and allies would receive. At the time, a catastrophic domestic economic forecast and growing sanctions proved strong motivators for Hezbollah to prioritize international legitimacy, which only a Hariri-led cabinet could provide.
However, escalating pressure on Hezbollah and its backer Iran—in particular the November reinstatement of sanctions targeting Iran, including a number of its trade partners and targeting Iran’s major economic sectors such as oil exports, shipping, and banks—is pushing Hezbollah to reconsider its earlier plan to weather imminent economic restrictions. Vital to this recalculation is the evident willingness of European banks to comply with U.S. sanctions policy despite statements from the European Union that they ”deeply regret” the sanctions. Hezbollah is now apparently worried that even a Hariri-led government cannot provide the paramilitary group with the international cover it had hoped for, and that bolstering its position internally is a more effective domestic political maneuver for the time being.
Consequently, Hezbollah has shifted tactics. It is now pushing for Sunni allies to be included the Lebanese cabinet to replace the share of the cabinet previously expected for the allies of Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri, head of the Hezbollah opponent the Future Movement.
Hezbollah has asked for the appointment of one of six MPs: former minster Abdel Rahim Mrad and Adnan Traboulsi, Hezbollah bloc member Walid Sukarieh, Shiite Amal bloc member Qassem Hashem, Jihad Samad, and Faycal Karami, part of the Christian Marad bloc that also serves as a close ally of Hezbollah.
Allies in the cabinet would allow Hezbollah a greater control of government finances, a particularly attractive prospect given concerns over Hezbollah’s diminishing financial support. Iran’s broader financial woes may lead to restrictions on its funding to Hezbollah, which would compound the latter’s reportedly systemic financial issues.
Sources close to the organization report decreases in services offered. This could explain Hezbollah’s request for the health ministry portfolio, as the group is increasing unable to meet its healthcare expenses. Mounir Rabih, an Al-Modon columnist who focuses on Hezbollah and Lebanese politics, recently reported to the author that the militant group was also closing down some of its offices or moving to smaller offices in order to decrease its expenses.
These financial problems are putting a toll on the organization despite its military might. With control over government ministries, such as the aforementioned Health Ministry, Hezbollah would potentially be able to outsource financial commitments to its supporters to the government. A pro-Hezbollah government would also be more likely to stall the adoption of sanctions or scrutiny over targeted organizations.
In a recent incendiary speech, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, underlined that the party had no intention of backing down from this request, emphasizing that it would not stop supporting its allies “no matter how much time their issue would take.” Sayyed Nasrallah also accused the PM of “sectarian incitement” that would lead nowhere. “The more Hezbollah and Iran feel victimized, the more their positions will be extreme,” says Rabih “Hezbollah’s recent political push is to give hope to its popular base and the perception of strength.”
Nasrallah’s political demands allow the party to project a sense of political strength while also providing real political leverage that could push their opponents, such as Hariri, into negotiations. This threat is particularly effective given a broader political fear of escalation in a country that is currently relatively stable.
Escalation is no empty threat. Thanks to its participation in the conflict in Syria, the organization has morphed from an insurgency group to a more conventional and larger hybrid paramilitary, now capable of sophisticated maneuver tactics and coordinated operations. The organization has also beefed up its advanced weaponry over the past ten years. Hezbollah reportedly possesses more than 130,000 rockets and missiles, including sub-ballistic guided missiles fitted with large warheads. A long-term financial crisis could turn Hezbollah into a cornered lion—its military power and potential fiscal fragility could easily cause the organization to lash out.
Aside from increasing fiscal concerns, Hezbollah is also likely to see real opportunity in vocally pushing for an increased share of its Sunni allies in cabinet. Saudi Arabia, which has presented a counterbalancing force to Iranian influence in Lebanon through its support of Hariri’s Future Movement, has recently become mired in a series of political and foreign scandals, most recently the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi attributed to close associates of crown prince Muhammad bin Salman. Hezbollah now believes the kingdom is less likely to meddle into Lebanon or take advantage of Hezbollah’s weakened stance given its own internal politics.
Specifically, the increased isolation of Saudi Arabia—the traditional backer of the Sunni community in Lebanon—allows for Hezbollah to capitalize on its parliamentary gains, now providing it with the absolute majority with a decreased threat of a regional response. Hezbollah thus wants to break the hold of the Hariri over the Sunni community. By promoting the appointment of Sunni ministers sympathetic to their cause, Hezbollah is working toward building for a popular base in traditional Future Movement territory, emphasizes Rabih.
In Lebanon, ministries help political factions create a network of loyalists by allowing those who control the ministry to provide employment possibilities and fruitful contracts with the state. A division within the Sunni community and the larger fragmentation of Lebanon’s political scene would be largely beneficial to Hezbollah; in contrast to its political opponents, it has maintained a monopoly of support within its community. This is largely in thanks to the large popular support Hezbollah enjoys and the unrelenting backing of the Shiite Amal party.
Publicly, Hariri and his political allies reject Hezbollah’s new political demands. “Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri will not back down and he has ruled out allocating any of his cabinet seats to Hezbollah’s allies,” said former MP and Future Movement member Dr. Moustapha Allouch in an interview with the author. Were both Hariri and Hezbollah to hold fast to the stances they currently express, this issue could end in the further paralysis of cabinet formation.
On the other hand, a cosmetic solution could be reached to form the cabinet, as is often the case in Lebanon. For example, president Michel Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah, could allocate one of his ministries to Hezbollah’s allies, preventing Hariri from directly losing support in cabinet.
Yet it is the new cabinet’s overall political alignment that will likely decide whether the Lebanese government aligns further with the Iranian-Syrian axis or attempts to maintain a semblance of neutrality. With Hariri deemed unable to protect Hezbollah with a veneer of legitimacy, at this point Hezbollah no longer needs Hariri. And given the current balance of power in Lebanon, which already largely favors Hezbollah, this overt claim of power in the Lebanese cabinet looks increasingly likely.
*Mona Alami is a French Lebanese journalist focusing on political and economic issues in the Arab world. She has conducted extensive research on radical Islamist movements in Palestinian refugee camps, Salafi movements in Lebanon and Jordan, al-Qaeda’s reach to the West, as well as Hezbollah. Alami is also a fellow at the Atlantic Council and senior associate at King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies and TRENDS Research and Advisory.

Analysis/Netanyahu's Meeting With Pompeo Is a Warning to Iran and Lebanon – Before Israel Takes Military Action
عاموس هاريل من الهآررتس: اجتماع نيتنياهة وبومبيو هو انذار للبنان وإيران قبل أن تتخذ إسرائيل اجراءات عسكرية

Amos Harel/Haaretz/December 03/18
Israel is worried about Hezbollah's improved missile arsenal as well as its shift in focus from Syria to Lebanon, and it can count on Trump's uncontested support
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unusual trip to Brussels – the announcement in the morning and the flight in the afternoon to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – is an Israeli attempt to quickly utilize this diplomatic channel to deal with the increasing security problem in Lebanon. If this had been a meeting to coordinate positions before a military move, one assumes Netanyahu would have sent one of the security professionals (the Mossad chief, or the head of Military Intelligence) to speak with his American counterparts, and the meeting would not have been publicized.
But the prime minister has started the diplomatic clock. His trip signals to Iran, Lebanon and Hezbollah, through the Americans (and perhaps also the French), that there’s an urgent need to deal with the problem before Israel considers using military means.
For two years Israel has been warning about the construction of Iranian weapons factories in Lebanon. In September, in his address to the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu revealed the location of three such sites, in which Iran and Hezbollah are allegedly improving the precision of the Lebanese organization’s missile and rocket arsenal. It certainly may be that Israel is worried about other possible developments, such as Hezbollah moving its focus from Syria, where the civil war is waning, back to a confrontation with Israel in southern Lebanon.
The changes in Lebanon, and to some extent the increasing Iranian activity in Iraq, are the result of developments in Syria. Russia is seeking to stabilize the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and has exploited the accidental downing of its reconnaissance aircraft by Syrian air defenses on September 17 to restrain both Iran and Israel. Moscow is pressuring the Iranians to stop smuggling weapons to Lebanon through Syria, and at the same time is warning Israel against continuing its broad attacks against the smuggling convoys and Iranian bases in Syria.
These new circumstances forced Iran to changes its method of operations. But Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, is pushing the envelope. The repeated reports of Iranian planes unloading precise weaponry in Beirut are posing a new challenge to Israel.
The Israeli dilemma is familiar. During Syria’s civil war, the Israel Air Force operated almost freely in Syrian skies. After the fact, it emerged that there had been over 200 attacks on targets across the border just from the start of 2017 until this past September. But Israel now has less room to maneuver in Syria, and Lebanon is a whole different kind of problem.
Hezbollah has already warned several times that it would view any offensive action in Lebanon as a casus belli. This past weekend the organization posted a propaganda video on social networks in which it warned that it had the ability to launch precise attacks on Israeli infrastructure sites and military bases if the Israel Defense Forces attacked in Lebanon. The question before the cabinet and the security cabinet is, as in the past, whether to take a short-term risk (an attack that could provoke a response) to deal with a long-term danger (such as a weapons project).
The increased tension in the north is coming on the backdrop of other regional developments: the American effort to exert additional economic pressure on Iran; the U.S. support, albeit delayed, for Saudi Arabia following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul; the somewhat tense relations between the United States and Russia in the region; and the American decision to reinforce the special forces helping the Kurds in northeastern Syria. In Lebanon itself, tensions between Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Hezbollah are intensifying the political crisis there.
Israel approaches this new battle with a rather significant advantage: the uncontested support of the Trump government, at least until now. U.S. President Donald Trump coordinates with Israel and is taking a tough stance against the Iranians. And since it’s difficult to predict what Trump might do, Tehran and Beirut must also consider the possibility that Washington will back Jerusalem even if Netanyahu – in contrast to his recent caution – decides to initiate a military action while risking confrontation.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 03-04/18
Iran’s multiple-warhead Khorramshahr test and Israel’s reported Syria assault – new stage in Mid East missile war
DEBKAfile/December 03/18/
It was a Khorramshahr medium-range ballistic missile that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last Saturday condemned Iran for testing, DEBKAfile reveals. Our military sources have discovered that this multi-headed missile, which he said could strike “anywhere in the Middle East and even parts of Europe,” had been test-launched the day before on Friday, Nov. 30, from a site in southeasterm Iran and struck all its preset targets. Our sources identify this weapon as an advanced version of the Khorramshahr ballistic missile with a range of 11,800-2,000 km. It can carry multiple conventional or nuclear warheads. Iran was known to be working on a ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads. In his condemnation on Saturday, Pompeo called on Iran to halt these tests since the development of this ballistic missile was in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231. His answer came the next day from Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasem: “Iran’s missile program is defense in nature. There is no Security Council resolution prohibiting the missile program and missile tests by Iran.”Early Monday, Dec. 3, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu flew to Brussels for an urgent meeting with the US Secretary of State on this development. He was accompanied by the Mossad director and national security adviser. The Khorramshahr was first developed by Iran from the North Korean Hwasong-10 medium range ballistic missile. It was first tested nearly two years ago and shown in a military parade in Tehran on Sept. 22, 2017. The test on Friday of its most advanced version was intended as a warning of consequences to the US and Israel in the Middle East, should the Islamic Republic or its proxies suffer attack or Tehran succumb to sanctions with economic or political breakdown.
The testing of a ballistic missile carrying multiple warheads introduces a new, ramped up strategic dimension to the contest in which the US, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are engaged. It occurred by chance the day after Israel was reported to have conducted a massive surface missile attack on Iranian and pro-Iranian military facilities in Syria. DEBKAfile revealed (from foreign sources) that Israel fired the LORA medium-range artillery missile which has a range of 500km. They now report that Iran, Hizballah and the pro-Iranian militias fighting in Syria suffered dozens of casualties including 30 dead.
Although the Israeli attack and Iran’s Khorramshahr test occurred by chance in the space of 48 hours, this very concatenation bespeaks a change of weapons in Israeli-Iranian contest – the emphasis shifting from aerial combat to new and highly sophisticated ballistic missiles.

Larijani Says Iran Faces 'Chronic Challenges' beyond U.S. Sanctions

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 03/18/Iran is facing "chronic challenges" that existed long before U.S. sanctions were reimposed, the influential parliament speaker Ali Larijani said on Monday. "External factors do affect our economy, but there are problems persisting from before," Larijani said at a press conference. He listed a number of challenges, including "big, costly government", high interest rates that "disrupt production", cash-strapped pension funds and a water crisis. Parliament's research center had "repeatedly warned" of these challenges, Larijani said, but the government has yet to respond on key issues. The United States' decision in May to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran has added another layer of difficulty. The International Monetary Fund says the Iranian economy will contract by 1.5 percent in 2018 and 3.6 percent is 2019, largely due to reduced oil sales caused by the renewed sanctions. Larijani is an influential insider who was previously seen as deeply conservative but has lately forged a close working relationship with the moderate faction led by President Hassan Rouhani. He dismissed U.S. President Donald Trump's offer to open fresh negotiations on a new deal. "We hear two types of rhetoric from the U.S. president -- some cheap words and some talk on the side that they are ready for negotiation," he said. "Didn't we negotiate? When a country doesn't stand by international accords, how can we trust them?"

France concerned by ‘provocative, destabilizing’ Iranian ballistic missile test
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Monday, 3 December 2018/France has said it is concerned by the Iranian ballistic missile test conducted last Saturday and called it provocative and destabilizing.US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday condemned what he described as Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads as a violation of the 2015 international agreement on the Iranian nuclear program. “Iran’s missile program is defensive in nature... There is no Security Council resolution prohibiting the missile program and missile tests by Iran,” IRNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying in response to Pompeo’s remarks.

Senior US admiral found dead in Bahrain from apparent suicide: report
Al Arabiya English and agencies/Monday, 3 December 2018/The US Navy admiral overseeing American naval forces in the Middle East who was found dead at his residence in Bahrain apparently took his own life, sources told ABC World News. The Navy said on Saturday that foul play was not suspected in Vice Admiral Scott Stearney’s death. Stearney, a Chicago native, was the commander of the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. The Navy did not specify the cause of death at the time. “The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Bahraini Ministry of Interior are cooperating on the investigation, but at this time no foul play is suspected,” said Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, adding that Stearney’s deputy, Rear Admiral Paul Schlise, had assumed command. Adm. John Richardson, the chief of Naval Operations, released a video statement in which he spoke on Stearney. “This is devastating news for the Stearney family, for the team at Fifth Fleet and for the entire Navy,” Richardson said. “Scott Stearney was a decorated naval warrior. He was a devoted husband and father. And he was a good friend to all of us.”With inputs from Reuters

Trump writes to Imran Khan, seeks Pakistan’s help in Afghanistan
AFP, Islamabad/Monday, 3 December 2018/Pakistan’s foreign ministry said Monday that US President Donald Trump has written a letter to prime minister Imran Khan seeking Islamabad's support in securing a “negotiated settlement” to the war in Afghanistan. The development comes as Washington steps up efforts to hold peace talks with the resurgent Taliban, more than 17 years after the invasion of Afghanistan. In the letter, Trump said a settlement is “his most important regional priority”, the Pakistani foreign ministry stated. “In this regard, he has sought Pakistan's support and facilitation”, it continued. US officials accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, which attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the border between the two countries. The White House believes that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and other military bodies have long helped fund and arm the Taliban both for ideological reasons and to counter rising Indian influence in Afghanistan.
Outcome of war
It believes that a Pakistani crackdown on the militants could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the war. Pakistan has long denied the claims and says it has paid the price for its alliance with the US in the so-called “war on terror”, with thousands of its citizens killed in its long struggle with militancy. “Trump acknowledged that the war had cost both USA and Pakistan,” the foreign ministry statement continued. Islamabad would help facilitate any talks “in good faith”, the ministry added. The troubled relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan hit yet another bump last month after Trump declared he had cancelled assistance worth hundreds of millions of dollars because Islamabad does not do “a damn thing” for the US.
Criticism on twitter
Khan hit back at the criticism on Twitter, calling on the US president to name an ally that has sacrificed more against militancy. Trump's letter came as the US announced Zalmay Khalilzad will make another visit starting this week as special envoy to the region. Khalilzad will meet officials in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates, as part of the push for talks. He recently expressed hopes that a peace deal to end the war could be struck before the Afghan presidential election, scheduled for April. At an international conference on Afghanistan in Geneva last Monday, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani said a 12-person Afghan negotiating team has been prepared for peace talks. But the Taliban, who have previously insisted they will only speak with US officials, rejected Ghani’s overtures, calling the government in Kabul “impotent” and a “waste of time”.

Russia Accuses US of Establishing ‘Quasi-State Structures’ North of Syria
Moscow - London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 3 December, 2018/Moscow accused Washington on Sunday of trying to establish quasi-state structures east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria. In an interview with a local television, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: “Unacceptable things are happening on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River. The US is trying to establish quasi-state structures.”“They earmark hundreds of millions of dollars into rebuilding these areas, so that people could return to a normal peaceful life, but they refuse to restore infrastructure on the territories, which are controlled by the Syrian government,” he added. On the battlefield, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several violations have been committed in areas of the Russian-Turkish demilitarized zone, mainly in the provinces of Idlib, Hama, Aleppo and Latakia. “Regime forces renewed shelling areas in the villages and towns of these provinces,” the war-monitor said, adding that in return, the National Front for the Liberation of Syria launched missiles on areas controlled by regime forces. It also documented that Bashar Assad's forces sent military reinforcements, hundreds of members and dozens of vehicles to areas where they deployed in Idlib and the demilitarized zone. The actions further complicate a truce deal signed by Russia and Turkey at “Sochi” last September. Lavrov said that in the past years, Moscow did not see that Western powers involved in the Syrian conflict have offered any alternative constructive strategy to the one outlined by Russia, Iran and Turkey at Astana. He said: “Despite active and consistent steps of our Turkish colleagues, still not all extremists have met the demand to leave the 20-km demilitarized zone.”

Qatar Announces Withdrawal from OPEC
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 3 December, 2018/Qatar announced on Monday that it was quitting OPEC from January 2019. Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad al-Kaabi told a news conference that Doha’s decision “was communicated to OPEC” but said Qatar would attend the group’s meeting on Thursday and Friday, and would abide by its commitments, reported Reuters. He said Doha would focus on its gas potential because it was not practical for Qatar “to put efforts and resources and time in an organization that we are a very small player in.” Al-Kaabi stressed the decision was not political but related to the country’s long-term strategy and plans to develop its gas industry. Qatar had been a member of OPEC for 57 years.

Argentinian Leaves Syria after 2-Year Kidnap Ordeal
Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing (Syria) - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 3 December, 2018/A 54-year-old Argentinian woman who was lured into northwest Syria two years ago on a marriage promise was finally on her way home on Saturday, a local authority in Idlib said. History teacher Nancy Roxana Papa had accepted the invitation of a Syrian man she had met online three years earlier and traveled to Turkey in 2016, before entering Syria. "She returned to Turkey on Saturday after the required legal documents were completed," said Bassam Sahiouni, an official from the local authority in Idlib province. She entered Turkey after the Salvation Government handed her over to IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation one month ago. Papa had to remain at Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing to await completion of administrative and legal procedures for her repatriation. “You saved my life,” she said after Sahiouni explained the circumstances of her misadventure at a news conference on Nov. 2. She entered Syria illegally in 2016 and was immediately kidnapped by a gang that was waiting for her on the other side of the border and contacted her daughter to demand a ransom, Sahiouni said. He added that she managed to escape from her captors after a year and survived by staying with residents and moving from home to home. The “Salvation Government” sought to address the case earlier this year and tried without success to contact Argentina’s foreign ministry, before the Humanitarian Relief Foundation eventually dealt with her situation, Sahiouni said. Last year, the Salvation Government reunited a Belgian girl with her mother on Nov. 26, after the death of the four-year-old’s father, who had entered Syria with the child in 2017. In February 2018, the same authority handed over to Turkish officials two Canadian nationals who were held for several weeks in Idlib.

Macron Seeks Way Out of Crisis after Paris Riots
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 03/18/French leader Emmanuel Macron faced growing pressure Monday to find a way out of the worst crisis of his presidency after shocking scenes of rioting in Paris at the weekend. As more than 100 people prepared to appear in court over the worst clashes in central Paris in decades on Saturday, Macron's government was preparing its response. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who cancelled a scheduled trip to Poland, was set to meet the heads of the main political parties, many of whom sense opportunities in Macron's woes. But the 40-year-old president appeared determined not to roll back the unpopular hikes in fuel tax which sparked the protests, or announce state handouts for poor families. "Thinking that, as we have always done for 30 years, that you make a little symbolic gesture and then we sweep the dust under the carpet, that doesn't resolve the fundamental, structural problem," spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said on France Inter radio. The protests erupted over fuel taxes but have since morphed into a wider wave of resistance to Macron's economic reforms, with a third round of demonstrations called for Saturday in Paris. Macron, a 40-year-old centrist, was elected in May 2017 on a pro-business platform that promised measures to incite companies to invest to create jobs. Immediately after coming to power, he pushed through tax cuts for entrepreneurs and high-earners -- policies that have become a lightning rod for anger among the so-called "gilets jaunes" or "yellow vests". Macron's task now is also complicated by his own desire not to yield to France's street protests, which in the past have repeatedly forced his predecessors into U-turns. Jacline Mouraud, one of the protest movement's prime instigators, told AFP that scrapping the fuel tax was a "prerequisite for any discussion" with the government.
Government paralysis?
After his meeting political rivals on Monday, Prime Minister Philippe is set to hold talks with representatives of the "yellow vests" on Tuesday. He would then announce "measures" aimed at taking the heat out of the protests, his office said. "Mr President, we need a response," demanded the front-page headline of Le Parisien newspaper on Monday. "Swamped" read the headline of left-leaning Liberation newspaper which said the government seemed "paralyzed by the yellow vest movement that it can't stop and that risks boiling over." Amid criticism of policing methods on Saturday that saw dozens of cars torched and shops vandalized, the government ruled out imposing a state of emergency which had been mooted. Deputy interior minister Laurent Nunez said that emergency measures were "one option among others," but he said it was "not on the table for now."Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said that solution for tackling low purchasing power for struggling families lay in reducing the tax burden in France, which is among the highest in Europe. "We must speed up the reduction of taxes," he said. "But for that we must speed up the decrease in public spending."
Business losses
Macron, a former investment banker, was booed on Sunday by onlookers while surveying the damage caused during the rioting. The president assessed the Arc de Triomphe, the massive monument to France's war dead at the top of the Champs-Elysees avenue, where rioters scrawled graffiti and ransacked the ticketing and reception areas. He also saw the wreckage of burnt-out cars and damaged buildings from rioting at other sites but has not spoken publicly about the destruction since his return from a G20 summit in Argentina. Paris police said 412 people were arrested on Saturday during the worst clashes for years in the capital and 363 remained in custody, according to the latest figures. A total of 263 people were injured nationwide, including 133 in the capital, 23 of them members of the security forces. The violence has caused deep concern in the French business community which claims it has already lost billions of euros, and representatives are set to attend a meeting at the economy ministry on Monday. "Our worst fears have been confirmed: this is the third consecutive weekend of (protest) blockades which amounts to a major loss for the whole business community," Jacques Creyssel, representative of a federation of retail businesses, told AFP. Three people have died in incidents linked to the anti-government protests which began on November 17. On Saturday, the Champs-Elysees, the Louvre museum, the Opera and Place Vendome were among the ritzy areas where shop windows were smashed and dozens of cars torched by rioters. One person was in a critical condition after protesters pulled down one of the huge iron gates of the Tuileries garden by the Louvre, crushing several people. Nearly 190 fires were put out and six buildings were set alight, the interior ministry said.

UN's Yemen Envoy Lands in Sanaa ahead of Rebel Evacuation
The UN's Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths landed at Sanaa international airport Monday for talks with Huthi rebels ahead of planned peace talks in Sweden this month. An AFP photographer at the airport said Griffiths did not take questions on arrival. Fifty wounded Huthis will also be evacuated from rebel-held Sanaa for medical treatment Monday, the Saudi-led military coalition allied with Yemen's government announced. The evacuation on a UN chartered plane marks a key step in kickstarting stalled negotiations, as world powers press for an end to the four-year conflict that has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine. The plane will transport 50 rebels, 50 "escorts", three Yemeni doctors and one UN doctor to the Omani capital Muscat. International pressure has mounted in recent weeks to reach a breakthrough in the Yemen war, which pits the Iran-backed Huthis against the Saudi-led coalition.
War coupled with economic collapse has put nearly 14 million Yemenis -- half the country's population -- at risk of famine, according to UN agencies. The World Health Organization estimates nearly 10,000 people have been killed since Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the Yemen war in 2015, aiming to bolster government's standing. Rights groups fear the toll could be much higher.

Saudi Friend of Khashoggi Sues Israeli Surveillance Company
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 03/18/A Saudi dissident has filed a lawsuit against an Israeli surveillance company, claiming its sophisticated spyware targeted him and helped lead to the killing of his friend, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The suit, filed in a Tel Aviv court on Sunday, follows others previously filed against the company. But because of the dissident's ties to Khashoggi and his high-profile killing Oct. 2 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, it is likely to shine a greater spotlight on the Israeli company and the Israeli government, which licenses the export of the surveillance technology. According to the lawsuit, Omar Abdulaziz, a sharp critic on social media of the Saudi royals and a resident of Canada where he has received asylum, said he was friends with Khashoggi and worked with him on a project meant to rein in pro-monarchy Saudi trolls.
The lawsuit says Abdulaziz received and clicked on a link sent to his phone in June 2018 that he argues exposed his mobile communications to Saudi authorities. It says Abdulaziz faced increased harassment by Saudi authorities after he clicked on the link, including against his family members in Saudi Arabia. "The spying that was directed against (Abdulaziz) and the disclosure of the content of the conversations and messages between him and Khashoggi through the system contributed significantly to the decision to assassinate Mr. Khashoggi by the assassins at the consulate," the lawsuit states, citing news reports and other sources claiming that NSO Group sold Saudi Arabia the technology in 2017 for $55 million.Abdulaziz is demanding 600,000 shekels — about $160,000 — in damages from the company, as well as an order preventing it from selling its technology, known as "Pegasus," to Saudi Arabia.
The NSO Group's smartphone-hacking technology has emerged as a favorite for authorities seeking to crush dissent across the Middle East and Latin America. The Israeli firm's software is part of a larger family of malware that allows spies to take remote control of phones from anywhere in the world — turning the devices in targets' pockets into powerful surveillance tools. In a written statement, NSO Group said the company's technology "enables governments and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime." It said it takes "an extremely scrupulous" approach to the sale of its products, which also undergo vetting and licensing by Israel's defense ministry. "We do not tolerate misuse of our products. If there is suspicion of misuse, we investigate it and take the appropriate actions, including suspending or terminating a contract," it said. There was no immediate comment from Israel's defense ministry. NSO has been under the spotlight for months after dissidents, journalists and other opposition figures have come forward to claim the company's technology has been used by repressive governments to spy on them. These include Mexican and Qatari journalists who have already filed lawsuits against the company and an Amnesty International employee who was allegedly targeted by the software. The new suit comes days after the human rights group said it was considering legal steps to have NSO Group's export license revoked. It said it had made an urgent request to Israel's defense ministry to have the company's export license revoked following the targeting of one of its employees. It said the request was denied. "We thoroughly reject this inadequate response. The mountain of evidence and reports on NSO Group and the sale of its spyware to human rights-violating regimes is substantial proof that NSO has gone rogue," said Molly Malekar, programs director of Amnesty International Israel. By continuing to approve NSO's export license, she added, Israel's defense ministry is practically admitting to knowingly cooperating with a company whose "software is used to commit human rights abuses."

Gaza Court Sentences 6 People to Hang for 'Collaborating' with Israel
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 03/18/A military court in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Monday sentenced six people, including a woman, to death by hanging for "collaborating" with Israel, authorities said. In total 14 people were sentenced for "collaborating with the occupation," with six sentenced to be hanged and the rest sentenced to hard labor, the interior ministry in Gaza said. The rulings came three weeks after eight people were killed when an alleged Israeli army cell in Gaza was uncovered on November 11, leading to a vicious fire fight. Hamas fired hundreds of rockets at Israel in response, with the Jewish state striking dozens of targets in Gaza before a November 13 ceasefire agreement. The six sentenced to death Monday were not directly related to the flareup, officials said. Iyad al-Bozum, the spokesman of the interior ministry in Gaza, told AFP they were linked "to a communications and eavesdropping device planted by the (Israeli) occupation."Six Hamas members were killed when the device apparently exploded after detection near Deir al-Balah in central Gaza in May. Among those sentenced was a woman living inside Israel, named only as Amal, who was sentenced in absentia and is alleged to have encouraged her nephew in Gaza to collaborate with Israeli intelligence, according to the interior ministry. Bozum hailed the rulings as a "clear message" to those who would cooperate with Israel. "Collaborators must realize the (Israeli) occupation will not be able to protect them," he told a news conference. The verdicts drew condemnation from Human Rights Watch. "Rushing to sentence people to death smacks of militia rule, not the rule of law," said Omar Shakir, the watchdog's director for Israel and the Palestinian territories. "The death penalty is a barbaric practice and always wrong, no matter the circumstance," he told AFP. It was not clear when the executions of those in custody would take place. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, 28 executions have been carried out in Gaza since Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave in 2007 from rival faction Fatah. In May 2017, Hamas security forces invited journalists to attend the hanging in Gaza City of three men convicted over the assassination of a senior military commander of the Islamist movement. During the 2014 war with Israel, a firing squad from Hamas' armed wing killed six men accused of collaborating with the Israelis. Hamas and its allies have fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and the Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade. Israel says the measure is necessary to isolate Hamas, though critics say they amount to collective punishment of the territory's two million residents.

Nearly 30,000 Syrians return home from Jordan after border reopens
Mon 03 Dec 2018/NNA - Around 28,000 Syrians have returned home from Jordan since the border between the two countries was reopened in mid-October, a Jordanian security source said Monday. Amman estimates that it has taken in close to 1.3 million refugees from its war-torn neighbour since the war in Syria broke out in March 2011, and spent more than $10 billion to host them. About 650,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the United Nations in Jordan. The security source, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said that since the Jordan-Syria border reopened on October 15 "around 28,000 Syrians have returned home voluntarily". "They include around 3,400 Syrians registered as refugees with the United Nations." Known as Jaber on the Jordanian side and Nassib in Syria, the border is a key Middle East trade route and its reopening after a three-year closure was seen as a boon for the economies of both countries.--AFP

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 03-04/18
George H.W. Bush Was the Nice Guy Who Finished First
Albert R. Hunt/Bloomberg/December 03/18
History takes a while to render judgments, but the arc already is being kind to George Herbert Walker Bush. Particularly in foreign policy, the achievements of the 41st American president, nicknamed Bush 41 to distinguish him from his son, George W. Bush, No. 43, are widely recognized today.
What will preclude him from being considered one of the foremost US presidents is his failure to win re-election. One-term presidents tend to suffer in rankings by reputable historians.
Bush, a Republican, is celebrated by Democrats and Republicans for his personal charm and integrity. He was an inclusive man and had little time for haters. This helps explain why there's no mutual respect between the Bush family and President Donald Trump.
The Bushes, led by the late president's son, George W. Bush, the 43rd president, will minimize any role Trump plays at his funeral, while adhering to a protocol that makes it impossible to exclude a president.
With time, a greater appreciation has developed of accomplishments than seemed less apparent when he left the White House in 1993. He and his secretary of state, James Baker, managed the dissolution of the Soviet Union and end of the cold war with skill.
He gets high marks for the first Persian Gulf War, fought in 1991 after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Massive American might was mobilized and a global coalition formed. Saddam Hussein was forced out of Kuwait and weakened. Then the US largely left. It's impossible not to draw the contrast to the debacle created by his son a dozen years later, when the US toppled Hussein and then occupied Iraq.
His foreign policy team of Baker, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft was the best functioning in modern history. This was a culmination of decades of preparation by Bush to become a foreign policy president, starting when he was a naval pilot in World War II.
His domestic advisers, by contrast, left few footprints, and his perceived inattention to domestic issues dogged his failed 1992 re-election campaign. His defeat by Bill Clinton made him one of only two incumbents to be denied a second term since World War II and validated the famous dictum of Clinton campaign manager, James Carville: "It's the economy, stupid."
Yet the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act, supported and signed by Bush, was the most important civil-rights measure enacted in a quarter century.
Many economists argue that the prosperity of the Clinton era was facilitated when Bush agreed to a budget-deficit reduction package in 1990. It cut spending, raised taxes and infuriated Republican conservatives. It may also have cost him a second term, though in 2014 it won him a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Only two years before, in his acceptance speech to the 1988 Republican National Convention, he had vowed that he would never raise taxes. "Read my lips, no new taxes," he told cheering delegates. But six months later, on the night before his inauguration, he found himself regretting his signature pledge as the deficit outlook worsened.
His second thoughts illustrated two realities about Bush. He never believed in the supply-side, tax-cut-centric economic theory adopted by his party; he'd labeled it "voodoo economics" during the 1980 Republican presidential primaries. He could also separate governing, where his principles usually prevailed, from electoral politics, where he tolerated sleazy behavior such as racist attack ads against his 1988 Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, and, to placate conservatives, reversed his longstanding support for abortion.
Born a Connecticut blue blood, the son of US Senator Prescott Bush, he moved to Texas, made money in the oil business, twice won races for the House of Representatives and twice lost bids for the Senate. He held top political and diplomatic posts under President Richard Nixon and then lost the 1980 Republican presidential nomination to Ronald Reagan. Reagan turned to Bush as his running mate when a deal collapsed that had been aimed at putting together a "dream ticket" with former President Gerald Ford.
Bush was a loyal vice president who didn't leave much of a mark. His relationship with Reagan was more cordial than close.
Even by the standard of a more collegial political era he commanded unusual affection and respect across the aisle. One of his closest friends, a Yale classmate and Democratic Representative Thomas "Lud" Ashley, always called Bush by his childhood nickname, "Poppy."
Most telling were his subsequent relationships with political adversaries. He engaged in a bitter 1984 vice-presidential debate with Democrat Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman on a national ticket. Later they became friends, and one of her last calls, before dying of cancer seven years ago, was with Bush; they expressed their love for each other. After their presidencies, he developed such a good relationship with his rival Clinton that the family joked that the Democrat was the fifth Bush son.

How US sanctions are impacting Iran
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami/Arab News/December 03/18
The US strategy on Iran, particularly its initial parameters, has been further refined since President Donald Trump began his electoral campaign in 2016.
Trump, in his campaign, rejected the 2015 nuclear deal and demanded a new agreement or the addition of appendices, as well as substantial amendments to the provisions of the existing deal. These demands were a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign promises on this issue. His position on the nuclear deal was clear, even before he won the presidential election, particularly after Iran violated the spirit of the deal by using it to expand its influence in the Middle East and threaten its neighbors.
Iran’s crude oil exports make up about 53 percent of the total revenue of its general 2018 budget. The US goal to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero and to end foreign direct investment flows to Tehran would result in significant challenges, particularly for the regime to cover its military, nuclear and missile program expenditures. It is hoped that these challenges will lead Iran to reduce its hostile policies in the region, especially as it faces increasing pressures domestically, with the country being shaken by massive demonstrations that first broke out in December 2017.
The US decision to pull out of the nuclear deal has clearly impacted the Iranian economy, particularly in terms of oil export growth rates, the flow of foreign investment and the stability of its exchange rate. This happened as follows.
Firstly, Iranian oil exports fell by 16 percent in the first half of June — the largest decline since December 2016. Major oil companies, such as France’s Total and Royal Dutch Shell, halted their purchases of Iranian oil, with most other international companies similarly refusing to ship, transport or insure Iranian oil. Approximately 70 percent of oil shipments have been transported by ships owned by Iranian companies, with the aid of Indian companies.
Other major global firms working in Iran also quickly pulled out of its market. Most of these firms worked in crucial sectors, such as oil, gas, aviation, banking, insurance, maritime transportation, and manufacturing. Meanwhile, many other firms revoked already signed contracts worth billions of dollars.
The US dollar exchange rate against the Iranian rial in the parallel market shot up by more than 110 percent, rising from 4,200 tomans to the dollar in December 2017 to 9,000 on June 24. By July 30, the toman had declined further, with the dollar reaching 11,900 tomans. In August, a US dollar purchased 20,000 tomans, although this has since declined slightly, with the rate standing currently at between 13,000 and 15,000 tomans per dollar.
Meanwhile, the deficit in Iran’s budget in the third quarter of 2018 has risen at a dizzying rate compared to the past few months. According to official statements, the inflation rate has reached about 35 percent and the price of some consumer goods has increased by 400 percent.
Many indications suggest mounting public anger and dissatisfaction in Iran at the regime’s policies and its inability to respond to public demands.
The US exemptions granted to some Asian and European countries to temporarily import Iranian oil or conduct trade transactions with Iran represent a safety net for the regime, enabling it to make the necessary arrangements it requires to cope with the sanctions. The regime may store the biggest part of these oil shipments in allied countries or on vessels in its fleet that may be docked in different parts of the world, or remain at sea. The regime may then sell the oil after making significant price reductions and facilitations in repaying the cost of the purchases in the medium- or long-term to maintain its partnership with some countries and to not lose its stake in the market entirely.
Many indications suggest mounting public anger and dissatisfaction in Iran at the regime’s policies and its inability to respond to public demands, in particular to rising inflation and unemployment, as well as its failure to release withheld wages at many semi-governmental institutions.
To date, efforts to create alternative financial channels for dealing with Iran have comprehensively failed. The EU has proposed a “Special Purpose Vehicle” to maintain trade with Iran under European law, with non-EU partners able to join this mechanism. Transactions between Iran and concerned parties would be concluded by dealing in currencies other than the dollar or conducted beyond the regular financial system. However, this option still faces technical problems and may take a long time to be implemented.
The overall impact of US sanctions on Iran will depend upon Washington’s seriousness, and on its ability to woo Iran’s neighboring countries, as it will have to offer alternatives to Iranian oil importers at competitive prices. The US will also have to open communication lines with those countries hesitant to withdraw from Iran’s market or others wishing to enter it by offering investment packages in other developed markets.
The Iranian government, meanwhile, has so far not announced what economic measures it will take in light of the sanctions, only commenting via various affiliated sources that the US will not be able to impose a blanket ban on Iranian oil exports and insisting that the global market cannot do without Iranian oil.
Iran’s leadership has claimed that, with support from its allies, it will pursue measures that will allow it to survive the embargo. In the meantime, it has begun to implement some policies that aim to enable the country to bear the sanctions. This is important so that it is not forced to renegotiate the nuclear agreement in accordance with America’s new strategy and principles.
• Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is head of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami

What did the G20 summit really achieve?

Cornelia Meyer/Arab News/December 04/18
G20 leaders gathered in Buenos Aires amid tensions and differences. There was the Russian seizure of ships in the Sea of Azov, trade tensions, conflicting views on climate change and other issues.
The drama started before the summit. Donald Trump canceled his meeting with Vladimir Putin, and Angela Merkel’s arrival was delayed because the German Air Force could not get her official aircraft to work properly.
Still it was a relatively harmonious summit and all leaders, including Trump, were on their best behavior. They managed to issue a communique without the US leader issuing his customary dissenting opinion. That in itself was a success. The communique refrained from a blanket endorsement of free trade, instead opting to call for reform of the World Trade Organization. While this may be disappointing for most leaders who wholeheartedly endorse the global free trading regime, it was probably the only possible compromise, given the current occupant of the White House.
The most awaited event was the post-summit dinner between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump had threatened to ramp up existing tariffs of 10 percent on $200 million of goods to 25 percent, as well as potentially levying tariffs on a further $265 million of Chinese imports. This spooked the markets, which had been on a volatile downward trajectory since October.
Trump agreed on a moratorium of 90 days, leaving the existing 10 percent tariff in place but postponing hikes or expansions. In exchange, the Chinese leader agreed to buy significant quantities from the US agricultural, energy and industrial sectors. China also promised to give anti-trust approval to the important acquisition of the Dutch semiconductor manufacturer NXP by Qualcomm, which had been withheld so far. Importantly there were conversations regarding intellectual property and investors’ rights in China. Markets lapped it up and rallied on Monday morning, both in Asia and in Europe.
The underlying danger that America’s tough trade talk might undermine the international trading system has not dissipated.
This may all sound good, but the two leaders have not averted danger but merely kicked the can down the road and given their negotiators breathing space. Ninety days is not a long time to come up with an overall trade agreement.
Markets were right in their initial reaction, though: Let us not forget that Trump’s proposal would have resulted in significant inflation of the US supply chain, which would have been passed on to consumers and adversely affected the terms of trade of US goods.
While it may be nice to have some respite over the holiday season, the underlying danger that America’s tough trade talk might undermine the international trading system has not dissipated.
The second achievement of the G20 summit was less noticed, but will probably be more enduring. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Vladimir Putin agreed to continue their cooperation on the OPEC+ stage where 10 countries lead by Russia work with OPEC in order to balance the oil markets. The next OPEC meeting takes place later this week in Vienna. OPEC+ has its work cut out. It will need to agree to take barrels off the market to avert a supply glut.
For observers this is a deja vu moment reminiscent of December 2016 when the 24 countries coordinated for the first time and subsequently managed to eliminate the inventories overhang over time. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, and his Russian counterpart, Alexander Novak, have worked tirelessly since then trying to institutionalize a framework agreement. We can probably expect an announcement within the week.
Cornelia Meyer is a business consultant, macro-economist and energy expert. Twitter: @MeyerResources.

The challenges of investigating chemical weapons attacks in Syria
Kerry Boyd Anderson/Arab News/December 04/18
The last two weeks have provided a reminder of the difficulty in formally assigning blame for chemical weapons use in Syria and important steps toward addressing that problem.
On Nov. 24, Syrian rebels allegedly used chlorine gas in an attack on regime-controlled parts of Aleppo. Syrian regime and Russian media sources reported the attack, which caused multiple casualties though no deaths. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — a more neutral source — also reported that shells fell “in Al-Khalidiya neighborhood and Jam’iyyat Al-Zahraa neighborhood,” causing “suffocation.”
Russian government and Syrian regime officials quickly blamed opposition forces for using chemical weapons. Aside from the deep hypocrisy of the Syrian regime — the primary perpetrator of chemical weapons attacks in Syria — condemning the use of chemical weapons by its opponents, the allegations against rebel forces are complicated. On one hand, Daesh has used chemical weapons in Syria, and it is possible that other opposition forces have too. On the other hand, many observers have a complete lack of faith in official Syrian and Russian sources. Several questions have been raised about the Russian and Syrian government reports, including by Syria analyst Charles Lister, who challenged Russian claims about a specific mortar delivering the gas. Some analysts suspected that Syrian regime and Russian forces were seeking an excuse to launch an offensive in the Idlib area, despite the truce agreed between Turkey and Russia in September. Fundamentally, in the middle of a war in which all sides have motivations to falsely accuse their opponents, it is difficult for the international community to verify whether a chemical weapons attack occurred and especially who was responsible.
There are several reasons why attribution for chemical weapons is challenging. There are practical obstacles to investigating an attack in a war zone. Experts who might be able to verify an attack and identify the source often cannot move quickly into an unsafe area, or the government or other forces might impede them. If they are delayed in reaching an attack site, evidence might have dissipated or been destroyed. Claims made by a party to the war are always suspect.
Attacks that use sophisticated nerve agents, such as sarin, are easier to attribute, since limited actors possess such weapons; in Syria’s case, the regime is very likely to be responsible for any such attack. Attacks using more easily accessible gases, such as chlorine, theoretically could be linked to the regime or opposition forces. Delivery mechanisms also matter. Attacks involving barrel bombs pushed out of helicopters are almost certainly perpetrated by the Syrian regime, while those using more widely available forms of delivery, such as mortars, can be more difficult to attribute.
Another challenge is that there are different degrees of certainty in assigning responsibility for an attack. Often, there is substantial evidence based on journalists’ reporting, eyewitness accounts, doctors’ reports and more; some reports, such as by Human Rights Watch, draw on these sources, which can provide a significant body of evidence. However, the standards of experts, UN bodies and governments are often much higher, requiring expert investigators to follow specific protocols. This high bar means that such investigations are extremely well researched and highly reliable, but resources and opportunities for such in-depth investigations are limited and will only apply to a very small number of chemical weapons attacks in a place such as Syria.
Attacks that use sophisticated nerve agents, such as sarin, are easier to attribute, since limited actors possess such weapons; in Syria’s case, the regime is very likely to be responsible for any such attack.
There are tools available for conducting expert investigations, primarily through the UN and especially through the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The OPCW is responsible for helping states implement the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which bans the possession and use of chemical weapons. Until recently, however, the OPCW had no authority to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks.
There was a temporary Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the UN and OPCW, which had the authority to investigate specific chemical weapons attacks in Syria and determine who had perpetrated them. While the JIM could not investigate all allegations, it formally attributed several chemical weapons attacks to the Syrian regime and two attacks involving sulfur mustard gas to Daesh.
In November 2017, Russia vetoed renewing the JIM’s mandate. In response, many countries that were worried about the erosion of the global norm against chemical weapons decided to look for alternative measures. One was the French-initiated International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, designed to name and shame perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks.
Perhaps more significantly, in June, at a special meeting, OPCW member states voted to allow the organization to investigate and attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. This move gets around Russia’s veto. Importantly, last week, at the Fourth Review Conference of the CWC, the parties chose to include funds for this new work in the OPCW’s budget. Investigators will continue to face many challenges, but there is now a mechanism for independently verifying whether chemical weapons attacks took place and who was responsible. Given that the previous JIM assigned blame to both the Syrian government and Daesh, one might think that Russia and the Syrian regime would support an independent mechanism that could validate their allegations against opposition forces — if, in fact, those claims are true.
Any use of chemical weapons is illegal and appalling. These are not battlefield weapons but rather weapons of terror. The international community should condemn all perpetrators — regardless of whether they are governments, terrorist groups or opposition forces.
*Kerry Boyd Anderson is a writer and political risk consultant with more than 14 years’ experience as a professional analyst of international security issues and Middle East political and business risk.

Coming Soon: Assad’s post victory retribution
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/December 03/18
After the Syrian war erupted in 2011, and after much bewilderment, US policymakers eventually realised the necessity of removing Bashar al-Assad from office and settled on the policy of regime change. The calculation was that Assad had far too much blood on his hands and will simply not be tenable to the majority of Syrians in any post-war peace agreement. Though President Obama made this policy clear on multiple occasions, he did almost next to nothing to ensure it came to pass.
In fact, historians will argue how Obama’s policy did the polar opposite and consolidated Assad’s position by explicitly leaving a vacuum by not enforcing his own red lines which was then filled by Iran and Russia thus safeguarding the dictator’s presidency.
It should therefore come as now surprise then that the US has now formally completely reversed its position and is no longer calling for the removal of Bashar al-Assad. On Thursday, US Special Representative to Syria, Ambassador James Jeffrey told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that US policy in Syria is “not regime change.”
So as Assad hears these pleasing words he will likely be planning his post-war reign. His first priority must be to ensure that such an uprising can never happen again. That means making an example of everyone who opposed him. There is every reason to expect that the retribution will be just as brutal as the conflict itself. What may soon be forgotten among the endless reports and discussions on post-war reconstruction is why this conflict started seven years ago. President Assad, like his father before him, presided over a Ba’athist regime that was as repressive as anything in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, or Iraq under Saddam Hussain.
Whoever was thought to be an “enemy of the state” would be routinely rounded up, imprisoned and tortured. And if any of them resisted being “re-educated”, they would eventually be simply killed.
Russia in particular has benefited immensely from the instability caused by the refugee flow out of Syria and into Turkey and Europe
Heady days of Arab Spring
It was against this kind of government that people rose up in Syria during the heady days of the Arab Spring. And what was interesting in those early days is that even though the government was dominated by the Alawite Shi’a sect, the uprising was not originally sectarian.
The uprising was a coming together of virtually all elements of Syrian society, including many dissidents from the Syrian Army and other political insiders. It was only later that the conflict took a decidedly sectarian character when ISIS appeared on the scene, and Iranian militias and Hezbollah also joined the fray. And if that was the Assad government then, we can only imagine what it will be like after it has been hardened by seven years of bitter, sectarian Civil War. Or perhaps not much imagination is required at all. After all, we have seen the government’s attitude towards civilians throughout this conflict, in their use of chemical weapons against their own people, cluster munitions, systematic bombing of hospitals and other humanitarian relief agencies, and widespread use of starvation siege tactics.
In other words, even as the rebels might finally succumb and “peace” will be declared, we have every reason to expect that Assad’s government will continue to wage war against the civilian populations who supported the rebellion to punish them. That war may not be as visible as the constant shelling of hospitals in urban centres, but it will be every bit as real as the networks of secret police prisons from before the war.
What is more, we must not neglect the role of Assad’s allies in this conflict, like Iran and Russia. Russia in particular has benefited immensely from the instability caused by the refugee flow out of Syria and into Turkey and Europe. Even as Putin may want the conflict to settle down so he can wind down his military involvement to keep down costs, he has every reason to want the refugee flow into Europe to continue.
So both Assad and his key ally, Putin, have every interest to keep Syria a humanitarian hell and hopefully displace as many opponents of the regime from the country, while none of their allies are adversely affected by this – with the possible exception of Lebanon which is, in any case, a client state of Syria and does not get to have much of say in the matter.
And, let us not forget, they are the two players that have the greatest amount of control over the outcome of the conflict. So long as that remains the case, and both their respective interests would be best served by continuing the abuse of the Syrian people, there is no reason to believe that the humanitarian crisis is going to get any better.

Beyond oil: Saudi-Russia cooperation enters new realm of possibilities
Maria Dubovikova/Al Arabiya/December 03/18
The G-20 summit in Buenos Aires gathered leaders of world economies, collectively representing 85 percent of the global GDP and approximately 80 percent of world trade. The summit in itself was important not only in terms of the activities, discussions among its officials but by the meetings held on its side-lines. It was futile to expect significant breakthroughs from such meetings. Yet such platforms always present great opportunity for leaders to meet, discuss issues of mutual concern, to exchange views on global agenda, especially when bilateral relations are far from ideal. Though not everyone made its best use, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tried to build on them.
Beyond oil
After the first and historic official visit of the Saudi King Salman in October 2017, bilateral ties have strengthened. It became clear that oil is not the only commodity that makes countries work together and develop bilateral ties.Bilateral cooperation concerns multiple fields, starting from political and economic cooperation up to the cultural and media exchanges, bringing the people of the two countries closer. Preparations are said to be on for Russian leader’s visit to Saudi Arabia, though the dates of the official visit are not announced yet. Saudi Arabia is an important partner for Russia considering it is one of the dominant countries in the region. Moscow’s reaction on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi shows how the ties are precious for Moscow, which was among a few who stood alongside the Kingdom during this complex and sensitive affair. Both the countries should work to narrow the gap between Riyadh and Moscow and find common ground on various issues, including Syria
Settlement in Syria
Russia needs Saudi influence in Syria and its help to settle the conflict. Russian plans and strategies are more or less succeeding in Syria but for final settlement Russia vitally needs the Kingdom. The importance of political relations with Moscow, from a Saudi point of view, lies in the growing importance of the Russian role in the Middle East, whether in Syria or in other areas, which necessitates cooperation between the two countries not only to resolve the Syrian conflict but also other pending problems including Yemen, Libya and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is no secret that Riyadh’s foreign policy is at odds with Russian foreign policy on a number of issues; yet, rapprochement between the two sides is possible any time soon because this will serve Arab and Russian interests. Saudis have come closer to Moscow’s position on Syria and they no longer talk about the need to remove President Assad as a condition to start the political process in the country. This suggests that there are points of agreement with regard to the future of Syria as Saudi minister of foreign affairs has previously said that Saudi Arabia is with any decision the Syrian people choose, with reference of course, to the future of Bashar al-Assad.
Both the countries should work to narrow the gap between Riyadh and Moscow and try to find common ground on various issues, including Syria.
Enhanced security
Any future cooperation between Riyadh and Moscow will result in better security and stability in the Middle East region, at a time Saudi Arabia continues to remain an indispensable regional and international player. Saudi Arabia needs Russia as well to balance and diversify its foreign ties and cooperation.
Science and technology might become one of the motors of the cooperation, bringing the ties to the new level, taking them away of the thorny political issues stuffed with a shaky balance of agreements and disagreements. One of the pillars of cooperation would be through Russian space agency Ross Cosmos through its plans with King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) to implement joint projects in the field of space infrastructure development in Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Agreements have already been signed for cooperation in the exploration and use of space for peaceful purposes.
Mutual interests
Despite some obstacles – permanent threat of the US sanctions being one example – that may impede the Saudi-Russian rapprochement, there are opportunities for the prospects of these relations in light of mutual interests and common goals of the two countries, meaning that the differences between them on some issues will not affect their rapprochement if they succeed in maximizing the outcome. Both parties should eliminate the stalemate that has beset their relations over the past years, and enhance their mutual understanding in dealing with the challenges they both face within the framework of international interactions or regional concerns. The side-lines of G20 indeed provided a good platform for both the countries to reaffirm mutual desire to work and cooperate in multiple fields, besides oil.

Why Riyadh and Abu Dhabi should redouble efforts on connectivity in Asia
Arif Rafiq/Al Arabiya/December 03/18
Earlier this month, the US State Department announced that Afghanistan’s imports of oil from Iran, the Iranian port of Chabahar, and a railway line linking it to Afghanistan would all be exempt from the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012.
The Trump administration has rationalized these moves as support for Afghanistan’s fledgling economy (which has grown at a rate of around 2 percent over the past five years), diversifying the landlocked country’s linkages with foreign trade markets—most notably, India, which will operate two terminals in Chabahar. The danger, however, is that by exempting Chabahar from sanctions as it seeks an exit from the region, Washington will hasten Tehran’s dominance over Afghanistan and, more broadly, establish Iran as the locus of regional connectivity.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates appear to be aware of the strategic implications of the new lines of connectivity being drawn in Central and South Asia, and they are helping provide regional states with alternatives to Iranian fuel. Saudi Arabia is financing part of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. The UAE’s Mubadala Oil signed an agreement on hydrocarbon exploration earlier this year with Turkmengas.
Saudi Aramco is also expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with Pakistan State Oil to develop an oil refineryin Gwadar, home to a Chinese-operated port just fifty miles or so from Iran’s Chabahar port. And it is also likely to bid on oil and gas exploration blocks in Pakistan.
It is, however, key that Abu Dhabi and Riyadh develop a comprehensive strategy for supporting connectivity, peace, and regional stability, as they are inextricably linked. For example, the TAPI pipeline runs through the Taliban bastion of southern Afghanistan and depends on a political settlement to move forward. The Trump Administration has wisely decided to fast-track diplomatic outreach to the Taliban. But Afghanistan is in the midst of an unwieldy transition as the Taliban continue to make territorial gains and another presidential election looms with serious concerns that they will be rigged.
Positions of Saudi Arabia and UAE as net food importers can translate into diplomatic benefits as they can showcase themselves as equal trade partners
Peace in Afghanistan
Abu Dhabi and Riyadh should actively seek a role in efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan. They should consider creating a parallel trilateral dialogue with Islamabad and Kabul to complement and bolster initiatives by Washington, Moscow, and Beijing.
They should also include factions of the Jamiat-i Islami party, which has been historically close to Iran. To be clear, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh will not be able to completely displace Tehran’s influence in the region. Iran borders Afghanistan and its involvement in peace talks is essential for a regional solution to the war. But by investing in peace, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh will gain strategic equities that they can leverage in a post-conflict scenario. When it comes to geo-economics, Saudi Arabia’s natural strength is energy. But, like the UAE has in the Horn of Africa, Saudi Arabia can and should pursue opportunities in the trade of other goods and the physical logistics networks used to transport them. While the Gulf states cannot change geography, altering the flow of goods can dilute the value of Iran’s strategic location and mitigate the negative externalities of Washington’s Chabahar own-goal.
Food security
For example, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Emirati and Saudi companies can invest in agricultural projects that leverage energy and water conservation technologies and pair them with cold storage logistics networks, helping these countries diversify their agricultural exports and enhancing Emirati and Saudi food security.
Robust export activity could ultimately lead to a trade corridor stretching from Central Asia through Pakistan’s Arabian Sea ports into Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia’s growing King Abdullah Port.
While Iran is now Afghanistan’s largest trade partner, it is a relationship of unequals. Iranian imports from Afghanistan are insignificant. The positions of the Saudi Arabia and UAE as net food importers can actually translate into diplomatic benefits as they can showcase itself as an equal trade partners.
Beyond trade, Saudi Arabia and the UAE could consider new types of assistance that help a post-conflict Afghanistan integrate into the global economy. For example, they could fund all-girls schools in southern Afghanistan, a highly conservative region where girls are pulled out of school once they reach puberty. Supporting girls’ education abroad also reinforces the Saudi national narrative of reform. The Trump administration’s Chabahar exemption deepens Kabul’s dependence on Tehran and bolsters Iran’s already promising prospects as the crossroads for regional trade.
Through the International North-South Trade Corridor, Iran links India with Russia and Europe, providing an alternative to the Suez Canal and overland Pakistan route. And through Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, northern Iran will offer China overland access to Europe.
But Saudi Arabia and the UAE can leverage their diplomatic and economic toolkits to open new doors of trade and ensure that the keys to the region are not handed to Iran.