December 09/18

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth
Book of Revelation 06/09-17: “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; they cried out with a loud voice, ‘Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?’ They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow-servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed. When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and there came a great earthquake; the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree drops its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the magnates and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 08-09/18
Parliament would act according to Constitution if Aoun sends letter: Berri
Former Prime Ministers Blast Aoun's Potential Move on Government Stalemate
Hariri Says Not behind Govt. Delay, Rejects 32-Minister Govt. Proposal
Lebanon Chooses Silence after Israeli Demand to Destroy Border Tunnels
Lebanon’s Hariri Says his ‘Political Intentions Are Clear’
Netanyahu and Putin Discuss Hezbollah Tunnels, Improved Military Coordination by Telephone
Report: Tunnels Found in Northern Israel are ‘Old, Deserted’
Sabaa Party Protests Govt. Delay, ‘Worsening Living Conditions’
ISF: Suspect Arrested over Arms Trafficking
Jumblatt, Zaspkin partake in Kamal Jumblatt's anniversary commemoration: To accelerate the government formation for Lebanon's sake
Army Commander checks on Airport Defense Unit, Beirut Air Base: Army will remain a source of admiration, trust for the Lebanese
Anti Corruption Ministry calls for disclosing content of MEA aircrafts purchase protocol
Tony Franjieh: Maradah Movement made concessions in several government dossiers to facilitate matters
Arslan: We stress the need to crystallize a unified framework that brings together many Druze figures, parties
Abu Faour from Rashaya: Meeting with Hezbollah was 'friendly and fruitful'
Riachy at Salim Badawi's "Pine Neighborhood" book signing: Story of a homeland summarized by the story of a person, a neighborhood
Sami Gemayel: Public Schools' dossier is one of our priorities, must be integrated into large complexes for quality improvement
Bazzi represents Berri, Amal Movement in receiving body of Lebanese expatriate, calls for strengthening communication between Lebanon's residents and immigrants

Titles For The Latest  English LCCC  Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 08-09/18
Catholic Monks Killed in Algeria’s Civil War Are Beatified
Iraq’s Sistani Warns Against Political Violence
Iran's Rouhani: US Sanctions are 'Economic Terrorism'
US warns imprisoned Iranian activist in imminent danger
US Accuses Russia of Lying on Syria Attack to Undermine Truce
No Breakthrough in Second Day of Yemen Peace Talks
Egypt Carries out Joint Drill with Britain, Italy in Mediterranean
Ansar Al-Furqan Group Claims Attack against IRGC HQ in Iran
Police restore calm in Paris as 1,385 ‘Yellow Vests’ protesters detained
French PM calls for ‘dialogue’ after fresh ‘yellow vest’ protests
Brussels police arrest hundreds in ‘yellow vest’ riot
Tear Gas, Mass Arrests as New 'Yellow Vest' Protests Hit Paris
Trump says prosecutors have found no evidence of Russia collusion
Trump attacks Paris climate agreement, cites France protests
Trump says Chief of Staff John Kelly will leave at years end

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 08-09/18
Jumblatt, Zaspkin partake in Kamal Jumblatt's anniversary commemoration: To accelerate the government formation for Lebanon's sake/Sat 08 Dec 2018/NNA
How to Read Lebanon’s Acceptance of Russian Military Aid/Anna Borshchevskaya and Hanin Ghaddar/The Washington Institute/December 08/18
The UAE and Yemen’s Islah: A Coalition Coalesces/Barbara A. Leaf and Elana DeLozier/The Washington Institute/December 08/18
Russian romancing, Saudi intrigue precede OPEC meeting/Simon Henderson/The Hill/The Washington Institute/December 08/18
Does The Netherlands Have a Problem/Judith Bergman/Gatrestone Institute/Decembe 08/18
Italy Adopts Hardline Immigration Law/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/December 08/18
On Iraq: The lesson has not been learnt/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/December 08/18

Latest LCCC English Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 08-09/18
Parliament would act according to Constitution if Aoun sends letter: Berri
The Daily Star/December 08, 2018/BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri said in remarks published Saturday that Parliament would follow the Constitution if President Michel Aoun were to send a letter requesting that lawmakers hold consultations about the government formation stalemate. “The president has a constitutional right to send a letter to Parliament. When we receive the letter ... we will deal with it according to the law and the Constitution,” the Saturday edition of Al Joumhouria newspaper quoted Berri as saying. Local media had reported Friday that Aoun would consider sending a letter calling for lawmakers to question the formation process should the deadlock persist. The president’s office subsequently released a statement downplaying the weight of such a move, saying it would be normal. Berri also said in the remarks that he still believes there is a solution to the formation obstacle, “and I previously discussed it with [caretaker Foreign] minister Gebran Bassil, but it has not yet been discussed. We only need to wait.” The idea that Aoun was considering sending the letter had received support from other politicians as well, including caretaker Justice Minister Salim Jreissati. In a statement released Friday evening, Jreissati said, “It is apparent that those criticizing the [issue of the] president’s letter [being sent] to Parliament ... do not want a government to be formed. They are apparently unaware of the economic, financial and social situations in the country." Jreissati added that addressing Parliament “reflects our democratic system and Constitution ... as Parliament can take the appropriate decisions and recommendations because it is the main party associated with designation and giving the vote of confidence [to government].”The government formation process, now in its seventh month of deadlock, has been stalled over a demand by six Hezbollah-backed Sunni MPs who at the 11th hour renewed their insistence for representation in the new Cabinet. Hariri has opposed the MPs' demand, and Hezbollah in turn has refused to grant Hariri the names of its ministers until the six MPs’ demand is met.

Former Prime Ministers Blast Aoun's Potential Move on Government Stalemate 08th December 2018/After President Michel Aoun announced on Friday that it would be normal for him to ask lawmakers to question the failure to form a government if the stalemate persists, former prime ministers expressed their support for PM-designate Saad Hariri, warning of the repercussions that Aoun's planned move would entail. In a statement issued by his media office, former PM Fouad Siniora said that referring the government formation issue to the Parliament will only exacerbate the problem, noting that the legislature is not entitled to to deal with this matter. "The Parliament's task is restricted to the binding parliamentary consultations and the vote of confidence once the government is formed," he noted. Siniora added that it would have been better for the president to address the ongoing deadlock jointly with the PM-designate, warning that media reports regarding the Aoun's potential move usher in a bigger, more complex and more dangerous crisis. "The solution to this whole problem lies in the full abidance by the Constitution, away from pressure and dictates," Siniora concluded. Moreover, former PM Tammam Salam condemned the president's stance, saying that it implies a new "heresy" that goes against the Constitution. "The Constitution [...] does not give the president the prerogative to refer the government formation issue to the Parliament. It doesn't also give the Parliament the right to reconsider the designation of the prime minister," Salam said in a statement. "We call on those who really care about speeding up the government formation to solve the real reasons behind the delay and to clear the hurdles that are being premeditated placed in the way of the PM-designate," he added.

Hariri Says Not behind Govt. Delay, Rejects 32-Minister Govt. Proposal
Naharnet/December 08/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri stressed Friday that he is not to blame for the continued delay in the cabinet formation process but rather the Hizbullah-led camp. “The government formation mechanism is clear according to the constitution and it stipulates that the PM-designate forms the government in agreement with the President. Period. This is the constitution that was devised by those who participated in the Taef conference after the bloody civil war that the Lebanese lived,” Hariri said. “There’s no doubt that a lot of parties do not prefer that implementation of the Taef Accord, the constitution and the laws. What these people want and what their project is have become clear and what happened last week does not harm Saad Hariri but rather Lebanon,” the PM-designate added, referring to verbal attacks against him by pro-Hizbullah parties and a botched Internal Security Forces operation in ex-minister Wiam Wahhab’s hometown Jahliyeh. “Everything that is happening is aimed at obstructing the formation of the government. The problem has become clear and no one can hide behind any issue to justify what they are doing. My political beliefs are well-known and the subservience of the others is blatant,” Hariri went on to say. Referring to the verbal attacks against him and against slain ex-PM Rafik Hariri, the PM-designate said: “What happened insults Lebanon and my family and this is something I won’t allow or tolerate no matter what they do. In the end, every person must bear the responsibility for his actions.”A statement distributed by the premier’s office had earlier said that “reviving the 32-minister proposal to justify naming a minister from the group of six MPs is unacceptable.”“Creating a new norm in the formation of governments is rejected and the PM-designate categorically rejects to endorse it,” the statement added.

Lebanon Chooses Silence after Israeli Demand to Destroy Border Tunnels
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 8 December, 2018/Lebanon had yet to comment Friday on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon’s (UNIFIL) confirmation of the existence of a tunnel stretching from southern Lebanon into Israeli territory that Tel Aviv said was dug by Hezbollah. The party itself has not yet commented on the latest development on the southern border. “The party opted to remain silent to avoid being lured into divulging any strategic or confidential information,” sources informed on Hezbollah’s position said Friday. Ministerial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that “all concerned official parties were following up on the issue and they are exerting efforts to address it away from the media or political spotlight.” The necessary measures will be taken at the appropriate time, they said after Israel demanded that the Lebanese army take the initiative and destroy the tunnels.
A statement on President Michel Aoun’s meetings on Friday did not disclose whether he held talks related to this issue. Meanwhile, General Security chief, Major General Abbas Ibrahim met with UNIFIL Commander General Stefano Del Col to discuss the latest developments along the border with Israel. On Thursday, Tel Aviv asked the Lebanese army to take the initiative, block the access to the tunnels and make sure they are not used for hostile purposes against Israel. A source from the Lebanese Forces told Asharq Al-Awsat that after UNIFIL confirmed the presence of such tunnels, Lebanon will be faced with two options.  On the internal scene, the Lebanese government should inform Hezbollah that its actions could lead Lebanon to war and it must therefore, urge it to respect UN Security Council resolution 1701. On the foreign level, it should turn to the UN and major powers to confront any Israeli aggression against Lebanon. On Friday, the National News Agency reported that an Israeli infantry unit, backed by six vehicles, crossed the technical border fence on the outskirts of Mays al-Jabal in Bint Jbeil and infiltrated the area by some 100 meters to carry out works. It added that the force returned to Israel in the afternoon. Beirut is preparing to file a complaint to the UN over Israel’s “diplomatic and political campaign against Lebanon that are a precursor to waging attacks against it.”Director of the INEGMA - Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, Riyad Qahwaji said that after UNIFIL confirmed the existence of the tunnels, Israel, the United States, Europe and other countries will try to “exploit the issue as a Lebanese assault against Israeli sovereignty.”He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The international community is aware however, that the Lebanese state does not have the power to declare war or peace. This power lies in Hezbollah’s hands.”“The question therefore, remains over the party’s stance if Israel decides to truly act on its threats and destroy the tunnels from the Lebanese side of the border,” he added.

Lebanon’s Hariri Says his ‘Political Intentions Are Clear’
Beirut/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 8 December, 2018/Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has said that it was not possible to govern the country amid differences between its different factions. Lebanon can only be governed through “understanding and cooperation,” said Hariri on Friday. "We have full confidence in our institutions and the state, but what is happening with the obstacles facing government formation,” it has become clear who is blocking it, Hariri said during a meeting with officials from his Mustaqbal Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party in Iqlim al-Kharroub. “We have no choice but to work together to preserve each other,” said Hariri, who has been trying for months to form a national unity cabinet. “My political intentions are clear,” he said, hinting that his rivals had ulterior motives in obstructing the government lineup. Hariri reiterated that the Lebanese Constitution on the formation of the cabinet is clear. “It states that the PM-designate forms his government in consultation with the President,” said Hariri. Yet many sides have no interest in implementing the Taef Accord, he told his visitors. Unfortunately, last week’s defamation campaign only “hurt Lebanon,” he added.
Druze politician Wiam Wahhab has been at the heart of rising political tension over the last week with a series of verbal attacks on Hariri. Hariri supporters lodged a legal complaint against Wahhab. The tension has cast another shadow over efforts to form a new national unity government more than six months since an election, with rival parties still unable to agree on how to share out portfolios in the new cabinet. The internal security forces said they went to Wahhab's village of al-Jahiliya to take him for questioning after the public prosecutor accepted the legal complaint against him and referred the matter to the police. In a statement, police said one of Wahhab's aides – Mohamed Abu Diyab - was shot in "random" gunfire by Wahhab supporters and denied the police had opened fire.

Netanyahu and Putin Discuss Hezbollah Tunnels, Improved Military Coordination by Telephone

Noa LandauéHaaretz/December 08/18/Relations have been tense since the downing of a Russian spyplane two months ago. Despite recent attempts, Netanyahu and Putin have yet to set an official diplomatic meeting. A Kremlin spokesman said on Saturday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Russian President Vladimir, updating him on the situation near the Lebanon border. The Russian Embassy of Israel tweeted Saturday "Talking with Prime Minister #Netanyahu at the initiative of the Israeli side President #Putin emphasized the necessity to improve the Russian-Israeli interaction in the military sphere." "It was emphasized that a contact between experts of the Defense Ministries within the joint working group is relevant. The Russian side stressed the need to ensure stability along the line separating #Israel and #Lebanon in strict compliance with 1701 #UNSC resolution," the embassy went on to tweet. Last month Putin said he had no intention of meeting with Netanyahu in the near future. However the two spoke briefly at the Paris Peace Forum hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron. "The conversation with Putin was good and to the point, and I would even say that it was very important," Netanyahu said at a press conference following the conversation. This was the first time the two leaders spoke in person since the downing of a Russian plane in Syria in September. The Israeli premier has been trying to obtain a meeting with Putin for a while, especially in light of deterioration in the bilateral ties between the two countries since Moscow accused Israel two months ago of downing a Russian spyplane. In the past week, the Israeli military launched an operation to destroy cross-border tunnels constructed by Hezbollah, crossing the Lebanon border into Israel. Netanyahu has said there has already been "operation success" in a statement last week. Israel, Netanyahu added "is operating divisively and responsibly on all fronts simultaneously."

Report: Tunnels Found in Northern Israel are ‘Old, Deserted’
Naharnet/December 08/18/The “Hizbullah” tunnels reportedly discovered by the Israeli army on the Blue Line last week are “old and deserted” tunnels that Israel is “exploiting for political ends,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. “The tunnels that Israel and the UNIFIL are talking about are old and deserted, more than half of which have collapsed a long time ago,” a security source told the daily on condition of anonymity. “The Israeli enemy has already announced long time ago that they discovered these tunnels but did not make a fuss about it because it is old and tattered. However, Israel is using these tunnels today for political gains no secret to anyone,” added the source. “The Lebanese authorities are insisting on non existence of any new usable tunnels. They are waiting for the UNIFIL’s official report to build on the matter," he said. On Thursday, the UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Stefano Del Col, along with a technical team, confirmed during a site inspection the existence of a tunnel near Metulla in northern Israel close to the Blue Line. Israel had said Tuesday that it started an operation to destroy alleged Hizbullah tunnels on the Lebanese border. An Israeli army spokesman has said the "attack tunnels" were not yet operational. He declined to say how many had been detected or how they would be destroyed, but stressed all activities would take place within Israeli territory.

Sabaa Party Protests Govt. Delay, ‘Worsening Living Conditions’
Naharnet/December 08/18/Activists from the Sabaa party staged a sit-in on Saturday near the Ministry of Finance-TVA Directorate in Beirut's neighborhood of Adliyeh. The National News Agency said the protesters have blocked the main entrance to the premises and erected a tent outside. The campaigners were protesting “the delayed government formation and deteriorating living conditions in the country," NNA said. "The aim of the move is to pressure the authorities to form a government because we have been hearing for six months that there is an economic and financial collapse," Secretary General of Sabaa Party said. Dagher also warned that his party shall adopt escalatory moves in the upcoming days. Disagreements among political parties over the Cabinet quotas and shares have delayed Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s mission to form the government. Hariri was designated for the task on May 24. Political bickering over shares is threatening to scuttle pledges worth $11 billion by international donors. In November, the World Bank issued a stark warning, with one official saying that unless a government is formed soon to carry out badly needed reforms, "the Lebanon we know will fizzle away."

ISF: Suspect Arrested over Arms Trafficking
Naharnet/December 08/18/The Internal Security Forces arrested a van driver in the Bekaa district of Hermel on charges of trafficking arms and ammunition from Syria into Lebanon, the National News Agency reported on Saturday. “Following intensive investigations, the ISF - Information Branch - managed to arrest the driver on charges of smuggling weapons and ammunition from Syria into Lebanon," an ISF statement said. Police confiscated 26 ammunition boxes from his truck. Each box contained 440 gunshots, said the statement. The detainee admitted during the course of investigation to having been secretly smuggling weapons and ammunition in coordination with his partners and in return for financial gains. Investigations are still underway to catch the rest of the gang.

Jumblatt, Zaspkin partake in Kamal Jumblatt's anniversary commemoration: To accelerate the government formation for Lebanon's sake
Sat 08 Dec 2018/NNA
The town of Mukhtara and the Progressive Socialist Party revived Saturday the late leader Kamal Jumblatt's 101st birth anniversary this year, with crowds of supporters participating in the commemoration despite the bad weather conditions and PSP Chief, Walid Jumblatt's call for relieving citizens and rendering it a normal working day.The heavy popular participation came "to renew the era of the late Kamal Jumblatt and to continue his approach and safeguarde his intellectual heritage, values and principles, on one hand, and to rally around PSP Chief Walid Jumblatt and his son, Democratic Gathering Head, MP Taymour Jumblatt, during the current delicate political phase in Lebanon, on the other hand."Jumblatt thanked all participants in the commemoration of his late father's birth anniversary, saying, "If Kamal Jumblatt was with us today, he would have laid a flower for the sake of Lebanon and its unity and safety...On this occasion, we renew our hope to accelerate the formation of the new government for the sake of Lebanon."Jumblatt highlighted the need for compromises from both contradicting sides in order to preserve the country's best interests. He vowed to pursue the peaceful and democratic struggle, adding that "all of Lebanon is fine, yet economically it is not in good condition."For his part, Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zaspkin, who laid a wreath at the tomb of the late Kamal Jumblatt accompanied by a senior Embassy delegation, stressed "the important and remarkable place that the great Kamal Jumblatt occupies...who embraced all sides together in politics, science and philosophy."Zaspkin reiterated the strong, historic and qualitative ties shared between Lebanon and Russia ever since the days of Kamal Jumblatt until today. "We have created an atmosphere of friendship and strategic cooperation that lasted till this day, and we always benefit from the teachings of Kamal Jumblatt in all areas, especially with regards to human and national issues, to overcome factional and partisan considerations...and this is what we are fully aware of in Russia today," he added. Over the new government formation, Zaspkin said: "The position of Russia encourages the concerned parties to speed up the cabinet formation, for we are aware of its importance in relation to the fate of Lebanon...and it is clear to all the huge problems that threaten security, stability and economy.""I am convinced that it is a Lebanese decision, regardless of what is happening in the region," he went on. "It is the goal we seek and the international community should help, but the biggest responsibility in these circumstances rests on the Lebanese political forces," Zaspkin corroborated.

Army Commander checks on Airport Defense Unit, Beirut Air Base: Army will remain a source of admiration, trust for the Lebanese
Sat 08 Dec 2018/NNA - Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, visited this afternoon the military defense unit positioned at Rafic Hariri International Airport where he inspected the work progress, and then checked on the Beirut Air Base where he conducted a field tour of the Air Force's Art Wing and received a briefing on its capabilities.In his word to military officers, the Army Chief called for "maintaining efforts in safeguarding security at the Airport in the face of the major challenges by arresting those who are in breach of security and controlling smuggling operations." "This poses a huge challenge to the world's most important countries, which seek to invest in security and military in light of the risks and threats they face," he added. General Aoun considered the Army's presence at the Airport as equivalent to its existence along the borders and crossings, noting that "security stability is a key factor in the economic cycle, especially during the holidays." He concluded by emphasizing that "the Lebanese Army will remain in constant readiness to play its role in maintaining security at home and on the border," adding that "what distinguishes it is the strong will and dedication in carrying out the task entrusted to it, despite the limited material and logistical resources." "The Army will remain a source of pride, admiration and trust in the eyes of the Lebanese," Aoun underscored.

Anti Corruption Ministry calls for disclosing content of MEA aircrafts purchase protocol
Sat 08 Dec 2018/NNA - In an issued statement Saturday by the Ministry of State for Anti-Corruption Affairs, it called for disclosing the content of the contracts pertaining to the purchase of new Middle East Airline planes. "The State Ministry for Anti-Corruption Affairs has information that MEA intends to sign a protocol for the purchase of a number of aircraft and jet engines. Accordingly, the Ministry invites the Board of Directors to disclose the content of said protocol, along with a detailed price table for what will be purchased, as well as the prices offered by all companies participating in the tender, unless the purchase is made by mutual consent," the statement indicated. "This declaration must include a clear definition of the financing mechanism as well as the economic feasibility of this process, especially as the amounts to be paid are very high at a time when the Lebanese finances are going through a tight period," the statement added. "Investing financial sums of this size requires caution, careful consideration and absolute transparency. The procurement process ought not to be confined to one person, but to a committee comprising the Ministries of Finance and Public Works, in order to make the right decision," the statement emphasized.

Tony Franjieh: Maradah Movement made concessions in several government dossiers to facilitate matters
Sat 08 Dec 2018/NNA - "National Bloc" Member, MP Tony Franjieh, referred Saturday to the many concessions made by the Maradah Movement in several government files, in order to facilitate the country's affairs and not to obstruct their course. Speaking before supporters from the district of Bsharre who visited him in Zgharta earlier today, Franjieh noted that "the entire Lebanese regions suffer from great deprivation, but we tried to break this reality in the North."Franjieh vowed that "the economic, social and financial challenges facing Lebanon, in addition to the difficulties facing the formation of the government, will not stand in the way of our ambitions." "We will continue to strive towards providing a model for creating an incubator environment for investments that ensure employment opportunities for our youth," he added. "We work within a clear plan to strengthen our presence and spread across all Lebanese regions within an organized framework, in coordination with our allies with whom we have historical ties," Franjieh corroborated. In this connection, he deemed that "reconciliation with the Lebanese Forces Party has opened the door for coordination at the level of development and legitimate competition in political work." "Despite the different political projects of both Parties, yet there are several internal and national files that bring us together, especially in protecting the people we represent and ensuring their rights and interests, which is one of our most important goals throughout our political career," Franjieh emphasized.

Arslan: We stress the need to crystallize a unified framework that brings together many Druze figures, parties
Sat 08 Dec 2018/NNA - Lebanese Democratic Party Chief, Talal Arslan, highlighted in a statement Saturday the need for "a unified framework to bring together many Druze figures and parties.""We emphasize the need to crystallize a unified framework that brings together many Druze figures, parties and dignitaries to correct the blatant imbalance in dealing with the issues and concerns of the Druze community at all levels," Arslan said. "The Druze status requires comprehensive review and ongoing workshops to simulate the aspirations of our youth and our future in a country in which we have played a key role in its formation and entity," he added. Arslan refused that the Druze be marginalized due to the policy of domination, abolition, hegemony and political influence at the expense of their dignified living.

Abu Faour from Rashaya: Meeting with Hezbollah was 'friendly and fruitful'
Sat 08 Dec 2018/NNA - "The meeting between the Progressive Socialist Party and Hezbollah was friendly and productive," said Democratic Gathering Member, MP Wael Abu Faour, on Saturday. "The two parties do not want to veer from the course of reconciliation, understanding and organizing of differences that they have adopted since the events of the seventh of July in 2008," Abu Faour added, addressing a popular youth group at the Kamal Jumblatt Social-Cultural Center in Rashaya earlier today. Touching on the recent events that took place in the Mountain region, Abu Faour stressed, "The Mountain is not subject to strife and there will be no sedition between any of its components. We do not want the repercussions of what happened recently when the law and public order were challenged to leave any negative impact on the Mountain, specifically with regards to return, reconciliation and social stability."
"Political rivalry is open and it is a right for all, in accordance with the law and the fundamentals of political and democratic action...However, security manipulation is unacceptable. The Progressive Socialist Party and Walid Jumblatt cannot accept from now on any security manipulation of the Mountain's stability or any attempts to tamper with the stability of its people," Abu Faour underscored.

Riachy at Salim Badawi's "Pine Neighborhood" book signing: Story of a homeland summarized by the story of a person, a neighborhood
Sat 08 Dec 2018/NNA - Representing Lebanese Forces Party Chief Samir Geagea, Caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachy attended Saturday the book signing of journalist, researcher and historian Salim Badawi's new work entitled, "Pine Neighborhood", at the Antoine Bookshop's branch at the Beirut International Book Fair. The book speaks about the "Snoubra" neighborhood in Ain el-Remeneh area, from which the spark of the Lebanese civil war began in 1975. "The author is a writer and a journalist colleague, one of the names we are proud of in Lebanon and the Diaspora, and I know that the content of the book is not an easy narrative expression of a person's story...It is the story of a nation summarized by the story of a person and a neighborhood," said Riachy, referring to Badawi's new book. "The importance of Salim is that he portrays the immortal roots and the seeds present in the soil that will yield a new plant," Riachy added.

Sami Gemayel: Public Schools' dossier is one of our priorities, must be integrated into large complexes for quality improvement
Sat 08 Dec 2018/NNA - Kataeb Party Head, MP Sami Gemayel, disclosed Saturday that the dossier of public schools in Lebanon is one of his Party's priorities, referring to the need to integrate them into large complexes to improve their performance and quality. "The public school is not supposed to be second class, or for the poor, or for those who do not have the ability to enroll their children in private schools. In all countries of the world, in Paris, for example, the public school is the most important," Gemayel added, citing the Lycee in Paris as being one of the most famous schools, as well as the public university in France that ranks among the most prestigious universities. Gemayel referred to the unfortunate condition of public schools in Lebanon that have turned over time into political favoritisms. "The solution lies in the State's effort to develop a road map and decide on the suitable place to build a school...and to close nearby schools and merge them into larger complexes so as to reduce their cost burden on the State and improve their conditions in terms of equipment and construction," he explained. "Instead of having 44 schools in the Metn region, for instance, there can be 15 or 20 schools on condition that they be of high quality and compete with private schools," Gemayel added. He concluded by considering that the next Education Minister should waste no time in setting up a comprehensive guideline in this respect and start implementing it the soonest possible, in order to assemble schools in a manner that improves the level of public education in the country.

Bazzi represents Berri, Amal Movement in receiving body of Lebanese expatriate, calls for strengthening communication between Lebanon's residents and immigrants

Sat 08 Dec 2018/NNA - "Development and Liberation" Parliamentary Bloc Member, MP Ali Bazzi, represented House Speaker Nabih Berri and Amal Movement in receiving the body of Lebanese young expatriate, Mohammed al-Khoshn, at Rafic Hariri International Airport this morning. MP Bazzi conveyed his sincerest condolences to the family of the deceased, reiterating the call on Lebanese authorities to "accord special attention to Lebanon's immigrants and to embrace their concerns and strengthen official communication between Lebanon's residents and expatriates." It is to note that MP Bazzi, in line with House Speaker Berri's instructions, conducted the necessary measures and contacts to arrange for receiving the body of al-Khoshn at Beirut Airport, after being shot dead by a gang of thieves in Angola, Africa.

Latest LCCC English Miscellaneous Reports & News published on December 08-09/18
Catholic Monks Killed in Algeria’s Civil War Are Beatified
Associated Press/ Saturday 08th December /A cardinal dispatched by the Vatican is holding a beatification ceremony for 19 monks, nuns and other Catholics who were killed during Algeria's civil war in the 1990s. Pope Francis recognized all 19 as martyrs in January, paving the way for Saturday's ceremony in the Algerian city of Oran. Beatification is a step in the process of being declared a saint. Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, is celebrating Saturday's Mass at the Notre Dame de Santa Cruz basilica as the pope's special envoy. The French monks were kidnapped from the monastery of Tibhirine, south of Algiers, in 1996. A radical group was blamed for their beheadings, but some observers have suggested Algeria's military was responsible.The Algerian president agreed to allow the ceremony in Algeria despite continued tensions over the deaths.

Iraq’s Sistani Warns Against Political Violence
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 8 December, 2018/Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani warned on Friday from using political violence as a means to eliminating rivals. “There are many means of violence, including political violence used by some to reach political goals, such as killing opponents, threatening them and ruining their reputation,” Sheikh Abdul Mahdi Karbalai, Sistani’s representative, said in the Friday sermon delivered from Karbala. Sistani’s warnings came in light of a political crisis in Iraq over disagreement on some ministerial positions. The country’s two powerful Shiite factions are at loggerheads over the defense and interior ministries, paralyzing efforts to form a government six months after the elections. A vote in parliament to fill the two ministries in Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s cabinet has been repeatedly delayed over disputes between cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the leader of the Iranian-backed Badr Organization, Hadi al-Amiri. Last Monday, Sadr urged the Prime Minister to swiftly present the rest of his cabinet line-up to parliament for approval, without naming controversial figures. “You must not yield to what is going on behind the scenes,” Sadr told Abdul Mahdi. The dispute between the two groups could get blown out of proportion, leading to street protests. “If Bina (Amiri’s bloc) ignores us, then we will resort to all possible options including mobilizing the street,” Reuters quoted a member of Sadr’s alliance as saying. On Thursday, a commander in Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades), Hussein Hijami, was shot by unknown gunmen in the al-Shuala area on the northern edge of the Iraqi capital. “Hijami’s killing is certainly part of the political violence which threatens civil peace in the country,” former head of parliament's security and defense committee Hakim al-Zamili told Asharq Al-Awsat Friday.

Iran's Rouhani: US Sanctions are 'Economic Terrorism'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 08/18/Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said US sanctions were "economic terrorism", as he sought to foster a united front from visiting regional officials on Saturday. Washington has reimposed an oil embargo and other damaging sanctions on Iran since pulling out in May from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers. "America's unjust and illegal sanctions against the honourable nation of Iran have targeted our nation in a clear instance of terrorism," Rouhani said in a televised speech. He was speaking at a conference on terrorism and regional cooperation attended by parliament speakers from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey. "We are facing an all-out assault which is not only threatening our independence and identity but also is bent on breaking our longstanding ties," he added. Rouhani drew parallels with the sanctions and other pressure faced by the countries attending the conference. "When they put pressure on China's trade, we are all harmed... By punishing Turkey, we are all punished. Any time they threaten Russia, we too consider our security to be endangered," he said. "When they impose sanctions on Iran, they deprive all of us of the benefits of international trade, energy security and sustainable development. And in fact, they impose sanctions on everyone. "We are here to say that we don't intend to tolerate such insolence." Rouhani also warned Europe -- which has strongly objected to the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal -- that much is at stake in its efforts to bypass US sanctions and maintain trade with Iran. "They should know that by sanctioning Iran, they would harm our ability to fight drugs and terrorism," Rouhani said, referring to Iran's efforts to combat smuggling, particularly from Afghanistan. The European Union is working on a payment system, known as the "special purpose vehicle", to keep money flowing into Iran, but has struggled to find a host since many countries fear repercussions from the Trump administration. The conference in Tehran was the second regional meeting on terrorism -- the first was held last December in Islamabad.

US warns imprisoned Iranian activist in imminent danger
The Associated Press, Washington/Saturday, 8 December 2018/The State Department is warning the life of an imprisoned Iranian human rights activist is in imminent danger. Deputy Spokesman Robert Palladino says in a statement Friday that Farhad Meysami began a hunger strike four months ago and should be released immediately. Palladino says Meysami’s detention is a “brazen violation of human rights.” He is calling on Iran to release all unjustly detained political prisoners. The statement says Meysami was arrested for peacefully protesting in support of women’s rights in Iran. President Donald Trump has increased pressure on Iran by re-imposing punishing sanctions on Tehran after scrapping the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. Trump administration officials often cite Iran’s human rights record as the reason for their hardline policies.

US Accuses Russia of Lying on Syria Attack to Undermine Truce
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 08/18/The United States and Britain accused Russia on Friday of fabricating a story about chemical weapons use by Syrian rebels and warned Moscow against undermining a shaky truce. Russia's defense ministry said rebels fired weapons containing chlorine on November 24 on the regime-held city of Aleppo, with Syrian state media reporting that around 100 Syrians were hospitalized for breathing difficulties. Russia responded to the purported attack with air raids on Idlib, the latest major stronghold of rebels and jihadists battling President Bashar al-Assad, throwing into question a truce reached in mid-September.
The United States said it had "credible information" that the chlorine account was false and that Russian and Syrian forces instead had fired tear gas. "The United States is deeply concerned that pro-regime officials have maintained control of the attack site in its immediate aftermath, allowing them to potentially fabricate samples and contaminate the site before a proper investigation of it by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. "We caution Russia and the regime against tampering with the suspected attack site and urge them to secure the safety of impartial, independent inspectors so that those responsible can be held accountable," he said.
He said that Russia and Syria were "using it as an opportunity to undermine confidence in the ceasefire in Idlib." In a similar statement, Britain said it was "highly unlikely" that chlorine or the opposition were involved in the incident.
"It is likely that this was either a staged incident intended to frame the opposition, or an operation which went wrong and from which Russia and the regime sought to take advantage," a Foreign Office spokesperson said, also backing an investigation by the OPCW, the international chemical weapons watchdog.
- History of chemical attacks -
Russia's embassy in Washington hit back on Facebook.
"The Russian Defense Ministry does not rule out that the US Department of State's allegations about the recent toxic chemicals attack in Syria's Aleppo are aimed at distracting the public attention from the crimes of the US aviation in the east of the Middle Eastern country," the post said. Western powers, the United Nations and human rights groups have repeatedly pointed to chemical attacks by Assad's forces. A sarin gas attack in April 2017 in the town of Khan Sheikhun killed 83 people, according to the United Nations. US President Donald Trump replied by ordering 59 cruise missiles to strike a Syrian air base, a reversal from his predecessor Barack Obama's controversial reluctance to respond militarily. Russia, the top international backer of Assad, and the Syrian government both denied the incident, saying footage of suffering victims including children was staged. In the latest incident, a US official said that suspicions were raised as Russia and Syria immediately put out similar official media accounts and quickly carried out strikes. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that witnesses did not report the odor of chlorine that is characteristic of such attacks. "Technical analysis of videos and images of munition remnants indicate the mortars portrayed in Russian media are not suitable for delivering chlorine," the official said. Russia's allegations over the latest incident come amid elusive efforts to find a political solution to Syria's civil war, which has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions. Negotiators from Russia and fellow Assad ally Iran met last week with opposition supporter Turkey in Kazakhstan's capital Astana, making no apparent headway in a UN-backed goal of setting up a constitutional committee by the end of the year.
But Russia and Turkey agreed to keep working to preserve the U-shaped buffer zone around Idlib, which is keeping pro-government forces out of the region. Jan Egeland, in a press conference last week before he stepped down as the head of the UN Humanitarian Task Force for Syria, warned that the flare-up amounted to "a gigantic powder keg in the middle of three million civilians."

No Breakthrough in Second Day of Yemen Peace Talks
Rimbo (Sweden) - Badr al-Qahtanit/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 8 December, 2018/The second day of Yemeni talks in Sweden ended Friday without any significant breakthroughs. However, the legitimate government managed to impose the Taiz file during confidence-building talks held between the warring parties. It also objected to discussing a comprehensive political solution, or what UN special envoy Martin Griffiths calls the “framework agreement.” Griffiths said talks, held in the Johannesberg Castle in Rimbo north of Stockholm, aim to set up "a framework for negotiations" on a future peace agreement. A source from the UN said discussions between the two parties were “constructive and positive,” refusing to uncover details of issues tackled during the talks. “The two sides indirectly discussed many files,” the source said. The peace talks are the first since 2016. A previous round of talks in Geneva in September collapsed when the Iran-backed Houthi militias failed to show up after they made last-minute demands..On Friday, Griffiths held two meetings with the attending delegations, and for unknown reasons, he canceled a third meeting scheduled by his team with the delegation representing the legitimate government. The stringent militia stances over the government’s proposals have forced Griffiths to cancel the meeting and he has since returned to the Houthis for more clarifications, a source from the government delegation said. Meanwhile, Hamza Al Kamali, a member of the delegation, said: “There are differences in opinion and a lack of understanding or commitment by the United Nations concerning the agenda of the consultations.” He added that Houthis are seeking to make gains and acquire positions in power, while the legitimate government is working to ease the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. “Here lies the dispute between the legitimate government that cares about Yemen and its people and Houthis, who care about their personal interests,” he said. On the issue of Yemen’s airports, Baligh al-Mekhlafi, a Yemeni journalist and a political researcher, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the government believes that reopening Sanaa International Airport or other Houthi-controlled airports is a “humanitarian issue”, on condition that the militias do not use the facilities to smuggle arms and individuals. “The government insists that those airports be open for internal flights,” he said, adding that international flights should pass through the airport in the temporary capital Aden.

Egypt Carries out Joint Drill with Britain, Italy in Mediterranean

Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 8 December, 2018/Egyptian naval forces carried out a joint drill with Britain and Italy in the Mediterranean. Egyptian military spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said Friday that the exercise is part of a general armed forces’ plan to bolster military cooperation with friendly nations. A number of Egyptian, Italian and British vessels took part in the drill. The forces focused on naval formations and signals, landing on and taking off from carriers, searching and raiding ships and protecting vessels while crossing dangerous routes. Rifai said that the training demonstrated the forces’ high capabilities in carrying out collective work. Such exercises stress the depth of military cooperation with friendly countries and the forces’ readiness in confronting different potential threats in the Mediterranean, he added.

Ansar Al-Furqan Group Claims Attack against IRGC HQ in Iran
Islamabad – Jamal Ismail/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 8 December, 2018/The Ansar Al-Furqan group, known for its opposition to the Iranian regime, claimed responsibility for the attack against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards headquarters in the southeastern port city of Chabahar on Thursday. It confirmed that it targeted the IRGC in the city where India was developing a port to compete with Pakistan’s Gwadar Port that is being developed by Chinese companies. In a statement Friday, Ansar Al-Furqan said that its members used a booby-trapped Nissan type van to target a military headquarters in Chabahar. The vehicle was detonated at the entrance of the facility after the driver failed to breach the security measures taken by the IRGC. The Guards had upped their security after coming under repeated attacks by the Jaish al-Adl group. Tehran said that two officers were killed and 41 people were wounded in the attack. Ten are in critical condition. Meanwhile, Iranian figures living outside the country refuted government claims that women and children were present at the site of the bombing, saying that the target was a military base. It said that the government made such allegations to rally the people’s support after they had grown disgruntled by its security, economic and political policies. The IRGC had blamed regional powers of being behind the bombing in an attempt to avoid acknowledging the existence of groups that are opposed to the regime within Iranian territory. Dr. Nour Jomaa, who has Baloch roots, said that the operation reflects the anger harbored by the minority against the government. He explained that Tehran had expelled thousands of Baloch families from Chabahar and brought in Persian ones instead in an effort to alter the demographics of the area and impose its complete control over it. He revealed that anti-regime Baloch movements have recently intensified their operations against Tehran in an attempt to deter it from carrying out its plan to expel and marginalize the Baloch from their ancestral regions. Moreover, Jomaa said that Iranian authorities were naturalizing Shiite Afghan fighters in the city as a reward for their fighting in Syria and Iraq and for executing Tehran’s policies in Afghanistan.

Police restore calm in Paris as 1,385 ‘Yellow Vests’ protesters detained

Staff writer, Al Arabiya/EnglishSaturday, 8 December 2018/Police were able to restore calm in Paris on Saturday after thousands of “yellow vest” protesters had turned out to demonstrate around France in a fourth weekend of unrest that has shaken President Emmanuel Macron’s authority. French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that 125,000 “yellow vest” protesters had turned out to protest across the country on Saturday. Police detained 1,385 of them. Protesters angry at their President and France’s high taxes returned to the streets of Paris on Saturday, amid exceptional security measures aimed at preventing a repeat of last week's rioting. Speaking from the vicinity of the Arc de Triomphe near Avenue Marceau, Al Arabiya's Paris Bureau Chief Hussein Kneiber said protesters have turned violent and burned two cars, forcing riot police to push them away using tear gas. “The cat and mouse chase taking place between the riot police and the Yellow Vests protesters are going on in between the alleys and avenues in the vicinity of the Arc de Triomphe. This tactic is meant to exhaust the protesters and push them further away,” Kneiber said. From another location, Al Arabiya correspondent Saad al-Massoudi confirmed that protesters threw objects and built makeshift barricades as their main goal is to reach the most famous monuments in Paris. “Many protesters told us their main goal is to approach the Arc de Triomphe, a central location that has been symbolic struggle between the Yellow Vests and Macron and there are fears of increased escalations should the police use force later in the evening,” al-Massoudi reported. After two weekends of violence in Paris that made the authorities look powerless to secure their capital, police went into overdrive to keep a lid on unrest. The grassroots movement began as resistance against a rise in taxes for diesel and gasoline, but quickly expanded to encompass frustration at stagnant incomes, the growing cost of living and other grievances. Abdulqader Khiyashi, a writer and journalist, told Al Arabiya from Paris that it is difficult to currently gauge and label the current protests as either being a protest or an intifada as some observers have been calling them. “What we know right now is that the Yellow Vests protesters are venting their anger at an economic level and are listing their demands which seems long and varied and not organized as it should be expected. The path of where these protests will head will depend on tonight and how the Elysee will react to them and should they head to a consecutive Saturday then we could expect another level of escalations,” Khiyashi said. “We’re now past just defining these protests as just that but now have to look at a possible revolution that has to be taken seriously. The current government has to take seriously in sitting down with any and everyone involved in order to find a path forward. Whether that includes a snap elections to determine where France would want to head, then that’s a step that needs to be taken to curb wide public anger,” he said. An estimated 31,000 people joined “yellow vest” anti-government protests across France on Saturday, deputy interior minister Laurent Nunez said, adding that 700 people had been detained.

French PM calls for ‘dialogue’ after fresh ‘yellow vest’ protests
Al Arabiya English and agencies/Saturday, 8 December 2018/French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called Saturday for fresh dialogue with representatives of the “yellow vest” movement staging protests across France, promising the government would address concerns over rising living costs. “The dialogue has begun and it must continue,” Philippe said in a televised statement. “The president will speak, and will propose measures that will feed this dialogue.”Interior Minister Christophe Castaner added that 125,000 “yellow vest” protesters had turned out to demonstrate around France on Saturday. Police detained 1,385 of them. French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner speaks at a press conference alongside French PM Edouard Philippe. (Al Arabiya) French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that the ongoing “yellow vest” demonstrations were now under control. Speaking in a joint press conference with French Prince Minister Edouard Philippe, Castaner confirmed that 118 were wounded in Saturday’s protests while 17 security personnel were injured during the confrontations. Authorities also confirmed that 1,350 protesters were arrested on Saturday. An estimated 31,000 people joined “yellow vest” anti-government protests across France on Saturday, deputy interior minister Laurent Nunez said, adding that 700 people had been detained earlier in the day. French PM Philippe also spoke on Saturday after holding a security meeting with cabinet ministers in which he said that “time for dialogue with the Yellow Vests is still valid” and on the table in the coming days.

Brussels police arrest hundreds in ‘yellow vest’ riot

By Ghassen Fridhi Brussels Correspondent, Al Arabiya English/Saturday, 8 December 2018/ Belgian police detained more than 400 people on Saturday after “yellow vest” protesters inspired by riots in France threw rocks and firecrackers and damaged shops and cars as they tried to reach official buildings in Brussels. Belgian police fired tear gas and water cannons at stone-throwing yellow-vested protesters near the country’s government offices and parliament. Protesters said their first intention was to march until the EU headquarters in Brussels but were directly blocked by the police who were prepared for mass gatherings during the day.According to the Belgian media outlets, authorities deployed around 1,000 policemen in Brussels, many of whom were undercover officers in plainclothes. “I am fed up. This can’t continue as it functions today. We want to express it. We can see that there are a lot of angry people today. So we are expressing it together,” one protester told Al Arabiya English. Another protester said the Belgian government was pocketing a lot of the state funds and that transparency was among their main demands on Saturday. “And as soon as we open our mouth, they gas us. The state gives orders to the police to gas us, to use police pumpers but we don’t do anything bad. We are just giving our opinion and showing our disagreement,” a protester said. The movement in Belgium, inspired by the “gilets jaunes”, or yellow vest, protests in neighboring France over the past month, has given voice to complaints about the cost of living and demanded the removal of Belgium’s centre-right coalition government, six months before a national election is due in May.

Tear Gas, Mass Arrests as New 'Yellow Vest' Protests Hit Paris
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 08/18/Police fired tear gas and arrested hundreds of people in Paris on Saturday as the French capital went on lockdown for the latest "yellow vest" protests against President Emmanuel Macron. Shouts of "Macron, resign" mingled with the tear gas near the famous Champs-Elysees avenue, the scene last Saturday of the worst rioting in Paris for decades. A forklift truck driver who gave his name as Denis said he was planning, like others, to march on Macron's presidential palace in anger against a leader who they say only looks out for the rich. "I'm here for my son," said the 30-year-old, who had travelled down to Paris from the Normandy port of Caen. "I can't let him live in a country where the poor are exploited." The protests began on November 17 with road blockades against rising fuel prices but have since ballooned into a mass movement against Macron's policies and top-down style of governing. Coordinated "yellow vest" protests were taking place across the country on Saturday, including on numerous motorways, causing havoc on the national road network. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said 481 people had been detained in Paris as police carried out checks on people arriving at train stations and at protest hotspots such as the Champs-Elysees and Bastille monument. Among them were dozens arrested for carrying masks, hammers, slingshots and rocks that could be used to attack police. Shops, museums, the Eiffel Tower and many metro stations were closed, while top-flight football matches and concerts have been cancelled. Last weekend's violence, which saw some 200 cars torched and the Arc de Triomphe vandalised, shook France and plunged Macron's government into its deepest crisis so far. "These past three weeks have produced a monster that its creators no longer control," Interior Minister Castaner said on Friday, vowing "zero tolerance" towards those aiming to wreak further destruction. Philippe on Friday evening met a delegation of self-described "moderate" yellow vests who urged people not to join the protests. A spokesman from the movement, Christophe Chalencon, said Philippe had "listened to us and promised to take our demands to the president".
"Now we await Mr Macron. I hope he will speak to the people of France as a father, with love and respect and that he will take strong decisions," he said. Philippe said some 89,000 police were being mobilised for protests nationwide, including 8,000 police in Paris, where a dozen armoured vehicles were being deployed for the first time in decades. - Death threat -Shops around the Champs-Elysees boarded up their windows and emptied them of merchandise on Friday, while the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay and other museums were shut.
Department stores were also closed due to the risk of looting on what would normally be a busy shopping weekend in the run-up to Christmas. Foreign governments are watching developments closely in one of the world's most visited cities. The US embassy issued a warning to Americans in Paris to "keep a low profile and avoid crowds", while Belgium, Portugal and the Czech Republic advised citizens to postpone any planned visits. In a warning of impending violence, an MP for Macron's party, Benoit Potterie, received a bullet in the post on Friday with the words: "Next time it will be between your eyes."
Macron's U-turn
Macron this week gave in to some of the protesters' demands for measures to help the poor and struggling middle classes, including scrapping a planned increase in fuel taxes and freezing electricity and gas prices in 2019. But the "yellow vests", some of whom who have become increasingly radicalised, are holding out for more. Protests at dozens of schools over university reforms, and a call by farmers for demonstrations next week, have added to a sense of general revolt.
The hardline CGT union, hoping to capitalise on the movement, has called for rail and metro strikes next Friday to demand immediate wage and pension increases.
'President of the rich'
Macron's decision early in his presidency to slash taxes on France's wealthiest is particularly unpopular with the protesters. Arguing that such a move was necessary in order to boost investment and create jobs, the former investment banker has so far ruled out re-imposing the "fortune tax".
But the policy, along with hikes on pensioners' taxes, cuts in housing allowances and a string of comments deemed insensitive to ordinary workers, has led critics to label him a "president of the rich". Macron had previously vowed to stay the course in his bid to shake up the French economy and not be swayed by mass protests that have forced previous presidents to back down. The climbdown on higher fuel taxes -- which were intended to help France transition to a greener economy -- marked a major departure for the centrist president.

Trump says prosecutors have found no evidence of Russia collusion
Sat 08 Dec 2018/NNA - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday prosecutors had found no evidence of collusion with Russia despite a lengthy and costly investigation into allegations of Russian interference in his 2016 presidential election campaign. A day after U.S. prosecutors detailed a previously unknown attempt by a Russian to help the campaign, Trump tweeted: "After two years and millions of pages of documents (and a cost of over ê30 million) no collusion!" Russia has denied interfering in the election to help Trump. --- Reuters

Trump attacks Paris climate agreement, cites France protests

AFP, Washington/Saturday, 8 December 2018/US President Donald Trump on Saturday once again attacked the Paris agreement on fighting climate change, citing the ongoing protests in the French capital as proof that he was right to reject the pact. His morning tweet came in the middle of UN climate talks in Poland, where nearly 200 nations have gathered to agree on a universal rulebook to make good on the promises they signed up to in the 2015 Paris climate deal. “The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France,” Trump said. “People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment.”Saturday’s comment was not the first time Trump had used the Paris “yellow vest” protests -- which began on November 17 with road blockades against fuel prices but have since ballooned into a mass movement against French President Emmanuel Macron -- to slam the climate deal. On Tuesday, he called the Paris agreement “fatally flawed.”Trump has long said he distrusts the consensus by nearly all the world’s respected climate scientists on the link between human activity and rising temperatures, as well as other damaging climate change phenomena. Since becoming president in January 2017, he has pulled the United States out of the international Paris Agreement on attempting to bring down global temperatures, and torn up a raft of environmental protection laws, saying the US economy needs the boost. Late last month, Trump’s own government issued a dire report warning of massive economic losses if carbon emissions continue to feed climate change unchecked, but the US leader said he didn’t believe the findings.

Trump says Chief of Staff John Kelly will leave at years end
The Associated Press/Sunday, 9 December 2018/US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that chief of staff John Kelly will leave his job by year’s end amid an expected West Wing reshuffling reflecting a focus on the 2020 re-election campaign and the challenge of governing with Democrats reclaiming control in the House. An announcement about Kelly’s replacement was expected in the coming days, the president told reporters as he departed the White House for the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. Only a day before, Trump named his picks for attorney general and ambassador to the United Nations, and two senior aides shifted from the White House to Trump’s campaign. Kelly had been credited with imposing order on a chaotic West Wing after his arrival in June 2017 from his post as homeland security secretary.
But his iron first also alienated some longtime Trump allies, and he grew increasingly isolated, with an increasingly diminished role. Known through the West Wing as “the chief” or “the general,” the retired Marine Corps four-star general was tapped by Trump via tweet to try to normalize a White House driven by infighting and competing power bases. “John Kelly will leaving - I don’t know if I can say retiring - but he’s a great guy,” Trump told reporters. “John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year. We’ll be announcing who will be taking John’s place - it might be on an interim basis. I’ll be announcing that over the next day or two, but John will be leaving at the end of the year. ... I appreciate his service very much.”

Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 08-09/18
How to Read Lebanon’s Acceptance of Russian Military Aid
حنين غدار وبورشيفسكيا/موقع واشنطن/كيق يمكن قراءة قبول لبنان المساعدة العسكرية من روسيا
Anna Borshchevskaya and Hanin Ghaddar/The Washington Institute/December 08/18
The assistance package is small but symbolically important, demonstrating Moscow’s growing influence in Beirut while potentially throwing Hezbollah and Iran for a loop.
On November 26, Lebanon accepted $5 million in Russian military aid, with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s office noting that “the Internal Security Forces in the Ministry of Interior will benefit” from the incoming funds. For years, the Kremlin has sought to cultivate religious, cultural, economic, and military ties in Beirut as part of a strategy to expand Russian influence in the Middle East, elevate its role as a peacemaker, and sideline the United States. Lebanon has traditionally resisted the military overtures, so the latest reversal is a win for President Vladimir Putin. The symbolic value of the small gift far outweighs its substance, highlighting Moscow’s regional goals and Hariri’s interest in maintaining good bilateral relations, despite reservations from Hezbollah and Iran.
For more than a decade, Beirut declined various Russian military deals—usually after Washington firmly reminded it of the copious U.S. aid its forces received over the same period ($1.5 billion since 2006). In December 2008, it turned down a gift of ten fighter jets as part of a defense cooperation deal that aimed to boost Russia’s arms sales and political influence. In late 2010, the two governments were close to striking a similar deal involving a mixture of gifts and weapons purchased with Saudi money, reportedly in coordination with Syria. Yet Beirut ultimately turned that down as well.
More recently, Moscow began working on a $1 billion arms deal in February 2017 that would include fifteen years of interest-free arms purchases. Lebanese president Michel Aoun allegedly approved the deal, then froze it under U.S. pressure. A year later, Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a draft agreement that proposed broadening and deepening bilateral military cooperation, though Beirut has reportedly declined to sign it so far.
Regarding the new $5 million offer, Moscow apparently wanted the Lebanese Armed Forces to receive some of the funding, but Washington insists that the LAF cannot simultaneously take Russian and U.S. aid. Hariri appears to have found a loophole, however: transferring the money to the Internal Security Forces.
In tandem with this military outreach, Putin has pursued various deals on energy and other economic interests. In November 2010, he met with Hariri in Moscow and announced “concrete plans” for expanding bilateral cooperation on energy and transport. Three years later, they signed an energy cooperation deal, and several Russian firms prequalified for tender bids: Rosneft, Gazprom, LUKOIL, and Novatek, which has been under U.S. sanctions since 2014. This January, a consortium of Novatek, France’s Total, and Italy’s Eni signed agreements to exploit two offshore blocks in Lebanon’s waters; they reportedly plan to start drilling for oil and gas in mid-2019. Moscow typically views such deals as an extension of its foreign policy toolset, with the goal of achieving greater access and power projection in the Mediterranean region.
The two countries have also signed a number of trade deals in recent years, contributing to a marked increase in bilateral commerce. According to Lebanese Customs, trade with Russia nearly doubled between 2012 and 2017, from $423 million to $770—a significant jump for a country of 6 million people.
Putin has long used religion as a domestic and foreign policy tool, in part by aligning the Kremlin with the Russian Orthodox Church (together with far-right groups) and reviving his country’s historical mission as the main protector of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. This includes courting the sect’s relatively large community in Lebanon, mainly via the Orthodox Gathering (al-Liqaa al-Orthodoxi), founded in 2011. The most prominent member of this group is Elie Ferzli, Lebanon’s deputy speaker of parliament and former information minister, who has long supported Syria’s Assad regime.
In January 2014, a Russian parliamentary delegation—including Sergei Gavrilov, head of a Duma committee that focuses on “defending Christian values”—stopped in Lebanon en route to Syria and met with members of the Orthodox Gathering and other figures, joined by Russian ambassador Alexander Zasypkin. Gavrilov called on the stakeholders to form a joint council with the goal of “activating cooperation on all levels.” In October-November 2017, they held a spate of meetings that resulted in calls for closer cooperation with Orthodox entities in Lebanon, including the Gathering.
Moscow also promotes Russian culture in Lebanon, often through agencies that may have wider goals in mind. According to Deutsche Welle, the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS)—a tsarist-era NGO that was revived after the fall of the Soviet Union—has become “the centerpiece of the Kremlin’s activity” in Lebanon. Similarly, a number of Russian cultural centers—which have a history of serving as intelligence fronts—sprang up in Lebanon over the years, and press reports indicate more are forthcoming.
Putin has also sought to cultivate his image as a peacemaker in Lebanon, whether between the pro- and anti-Syria camps or with Israel. This includes working with Hezbollah at times—Russia does not consider it a terrorist organization and has hosted the group’s officials in the past. Yet Hezbollah and its Iranian patron have reservations about Moscow’s activities inside Lebanon.
To be sure, they welcomed Putin’s 2015 intervention in Syria because they were desperate for help at the time, and they have since relied heavily on Russian air cover and diplomatic efforts. Moscow’s involvement changed the course of the war, greatly bolstering Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies. Yet the group is not dependent on Moscow back home in Lebanon, where its position is much stronger, so it tends to perceive any expanded Russian role there as competition for its own powerbrokers in Beirut. This is no doubt why the pro-Hezbollah daily al-Akhbar enthusiastically and erroneously reported that Lebanon had refused the new $5 million military aid package. Likewise, Iran has done quite well at gaining influence within Lebanon’s political, security, and parallel institutions, so it would prefer not to cede any of this control to the Russians.
For his part, Hariri favors a greater Russian role and has visited Moscow several times in recent years. He and other Lebanese elites see the Kremlin as a mediator capable of providing an indirect channel between the Syrian regime and its Lebanese adversaries.
Moscow’s interest is rooted in the strategy of portraying itself as the most credible broker for regional conflict resolution, particularly regarding Iranian-Israeli tensions. Many officials are growing more concerned about the prospect of Israel attacking Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, since the group is reportedly moving its precision missile development efforts back home from Syria (an issue that will be discussed at length in a soon-to-be-published Washington Institute Policy Note). Russia apparently hopes to mediate an agreement like the one reached in south Syria, this time managing escalation between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. To do so, it needs a greater presence in Lebanon.
The Syrian refugee issue gives Moscow further opportunities to establish such a presence. This July, it launched an initiative with Lebanon to repatriate refugees to Syria. The agreement reportedly included facilitating conditions for their return, and hundreds have begun the journey. Yet this is merely a token number compared to the roughly one million refugees residing in Lebanon, and recent reports suggest that Syrian authorities are ignoring Russia’s safety guarantees and killing or detaining many returnees.
Ironically, though, the resultant slow pace of repatriation is allowing Russian officials to consolidate ties with Beirut, gain diplomatic leverage, and keep pressing for further involvement. For example, they reportedly proposed to their U.S. counterparts that Russia deploy a military police brigade twenty kilometers inside Lebanon to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees. National Security Advisor John Bolton reportedly rejected the proposal, but Moscow remains persistent in its quest to establish a military presence inside Lebanon.
Although Putin’s initiatives in Lebanon may ultimately fail, he has repeatedly showed an eagerness to assume a leading role there, and a willingness to invest the time and resources necessary for reaching that objective. In doing so, he is more interested in gaining leverage than finding genuine resolutions to the refugee issue or other pressing problems—the end result of Russian involvement is usually conflict management rather conflict resolution. Beirut and its Western allies should therefore be wary of the Kremlin’s gifts.
More broadly, Putin has long expressed hope that the United States will withdraw from the affairs of Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East. For now, Washington still has leverage via its aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces, and this relationship has helped convince Beirut to reject past security agreements with Russia. But Moscow is steadily filling the gaps wherever Washington is absent, and would almost certainly do so again if U.S. military assistance to Lebanon were to dry up.
*Anna Borshchevskaya is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute. Hanin Ghaddar, a veteran Lebanese journalist and researcher, is the Institute’s Friedmann Visiting Fellow.

The UAE and Yemen’s Islah: A Coalition Coalesces
Barbara A. Leaf and Elana DeLozier/The Washington Institute/December 08/18
To jumpstart the moribund peace process and ensure Emirati influence in postwar Yemen, Abu Dhabi seems willing to swallow its distaste for certain Islamist parties, at least for now.
When it comes to the public calendar of Muhammad bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and the UAE’s de facto head of state, nothing is accidental. Thus, his November 14 meeting with Yemen’s main Islamist political coalition offered potent evidence that diplomatic ice floes are breaking up in the long-frozen effort to negotiate an end to the war.
Regional press outlets and social media were awash with pictures of bin Zayed (often referred to as “MbZ”) hosting the two leaders of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, a party commonly known as Islah. His meeting with Islah chairman Mohammed Abdullah al-Yadoumi and secretary-general Abdulwahab Ahmed al-Ansi was the second such encounter in a year; he attended a similar meeting hosted by Saudi crown prince Muhammad bin Salman in December 2017. But the latest powwow was held without the Saudis and in Abu Dhabi, marking a crucial turning point between erstwhile antagonists just when the Saudi-UAE coalition is moving toward UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden and maneuvering for influence in postwar Yemen. The United States should capitalize on this step and ensure that the coalition implements a de facto ceasefire, providing diplomatic support to bring the Houthi rebels to the negotiating table.
MbZ’s outreach to Islah may seem surprising given his longstanding antipathy toward the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and its regional variants. For more than two decades, Emirati authorities cracked down on their own country’s main Islamist party, also called al-Islah, in an effort to cleanse the UAE of MB influence. This policy accelerated with the shocking revelation that two young men from the conservative northern Emirates were among the September 11 hijackers. Viewing the group as a threat to the moderate Islam espoused by the UAE, authorities outlawed the group, purged its members from government office, and prosecuted many of them.
The events of the 2011 Arab Spring—particularly the MB’s ascension to power in post-Mubarak Egypt—only hardened Abu Dhabi’s resolve to confront the movement. Joined by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the UAE formally designated the MB as a terrorist organization in 2014, and worked assiduously (if unsuccessfully) to persuade the United States, Britain, and other Western governments to do the same.
The theory driving this approach was seemingly simple—in Abu Dhabi’s view, the MB is a transnational organization that woos adherents away from their national loyalties and provides the ideological underpinnings for the world’s most violent Islamist movements. Yet the regional applications of the MB model have been more complicated in practice. This is especially true with Yemen’s version of Islah, a diverse coalition of groups that includes a local MB branch but also northern tribesmen, conservative businessmen, and Salafi Muslims.
As the Yemen war progressed after 2015, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi found themselves diverging on key issues and relationships, creating uncomfortable political dynamics on the ground. From the outset, the Saudis were willing to work with Islamist parties like Islah to fight their common adversary, the Houthis, and achieve stability in the north. The UAE was reluctant to do so, and was even accused of actively targeting Islah members across the south.
For a variety of reasons, the UAE also relied heavily on non-Islamist commanders and tribes in its fight against the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda. Yet those same factions are now actively pursuing secession—an outcome that Saudi Arabia opposes.
Most important, Abu Dhabi’s relations with internationally recognized Yemeni president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi rapidly deteriorated in 2015, to the point that UAE-backed forces battled Hadi’s forces on several occasions in the streets of Aden. Emirati officials also kept Yemen’s vice president, Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, at arm’s length due to his Islamist ties. In contrast, Riyadh has hosted Hadi and his government since they fled the country and maintained cordial relations with Ali Mohsen.
More recently, however, the UAE has pursued an incremental and very public strategy to develop relationships with a full range of Yemeni political actors, particularly in the south. As such, it has been carefully positioning itself to play an outsize role there after the war regardless of the future government’s political makeup, while still maintaining strategic ambiguity on controversial topics such as southern secession. MbZ’s public meeting with Islah leaders is the latest and arguably most important step in this strategy. Yet his gradual pivot has come with one crucial condition: that Islah publicly sunder its ties to the MB.
The November meeting represents a pivot for Islah as well, continuing its tradition of survival through adaptation. Since its founding in the 1990s, the Yemeni party has comprised strange bedfellows whose differing objectives often led to deep internal divisions.
Although Islah benefited from the 2011 transitional agreement that forced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down, its fortunes were dramatically reversed when the Houthis began their slow-motion takeover of Yemen in 2014. As a movement whose identity was forged in reaction to conservative Sunni Islamist encroachment in the north, the Houthis reviled Islah above all. They burned down the family home of the Ahmars, the tribal group that helped found Islah. And when they captured Sana, they targeted MB members for arrest, torture, and imprisonment. Islah has yet to recover from these blows—its meeting with MbZ may therefore be an attempt to reestablish its political clout and ensure a seat at the postwar table.
As early as 2016, Yadoumi began sending public signals—presumably intended for Riyadh and Abu Dhabi—that his group was not connected to the transnational MB. In December 2017, he and Ansi held their first public meeting with Gulf coalition leaders in Riyadh. The day after that summit, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash posted approving remarks on Twitter regarding Islah’s formal severance of ties with the MB, a potent signal of Emirati intentions.
In January 2018, the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat published an interview with Yadoumi in which he affirmed, “There are no organizational or political relations [between Islah and] the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood.” A month later, the party suspended the membership of Nobel laureate Tawakkol Karman, a prominent MB-affiliated figure who now operates primarily from Turkey. The decision came after Karman made statements critical of the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
These actions paved the way for MbZ to bring Yadoumi and Ansi to Abu Dhabi last month. Posting photos of the meeting on his social media accounts, the crown prince signaled that the UAE has publicly accepted Islah’s separation from the MB and deems it an important player, if not entirely a partner, in Yemen. Islah’s leaders were fulsome in their widely publicized praise of MbZ’s move, asserting that Islah has “never been opposed to the UAE helping to restore order in Yemen.”
The meeting should not be confused for a blossoming friendship, however. Abu Dhabi and Islah will keep a skeptical eye on each other, and for good reason. The Emiratis have certainly not changed their strategic views on political Islamists, and Islah still needs its religious base. For the UAE, getting on good terms with Islah ensures its influence with a potentially relevant postwar player. For Islah, publicly claiming a split with the MB may seem like a fair trade—for now. The party likely wants the UAE to protect it in the south, where separatists generally revile it.
In the longer term, though, Islah will be hard-pressed to survive without its religious base, which has largely come from its MB wing. Like MbZ, Yadoumi is seemingly trying to thread the needle. His statements consistently note that Islah is not connected to the international MB, but his careful wording likewise avoids disassociating the party from any MB-like elements inside Yemen.
As UN envoy Martin Griffiths races the clock to bring Yemen’s warring parties to Stockholm this week, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s efforts to knit up their differences on Islah represent a significant preparatory step. Many observers remain concerned that the main conflict between Hadi and the Houthis will wind down only to see other internal conflicts break out. The degree to which Saudi Arabia and the UAE can synchronize their diplomacy and form a big-tent coalition of Yemeni political actors will shape the odds of establishing a real transition out of civil war.
The United States has an urgent role to play in this regard. The Trump administration’s halting response to the war accelerated recently to stay ahead of potential congressional action aimed at cutting off all U.S. support for coalition operations. But simply calling for a ceasefire is insufficient. To reinforce the work of Griffiths, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi, Washington should choreograph its own political outreach to various Yemeni factions. This would have the added benefit of pressuring the Hadi government and the Houthis to make substantive progress toward a peace deal.
Barbara A. Leaf is the Rosenblatt Distinguished Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute and former U.S. ambassador to the UAE. Elana DeLozier is a research fellow in the Institute’s Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy.

Russian romancing, Saudi intrigue precede OPEC meeting
Simon Henderson/The Hill/The Washington Institute/December 08/18
Those with long memories probably can recall when meetings of the OPEC oil exporters cartel were major news events, on one occasion horrendously inflated by the terrorist Carlos the Jackal seizing the 11 ministers attending. Without the latter ingredient, one hopes, this week’s meeting in Vienna on Thursday and Friday could dominate many front pages.
Even before Tuesday’s almost 800-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average prompted by doubts about a trade deal with China, the market was responding furiously to economic indicators. The price of oil has dropped 30 percent since October — that’s good for manufacturers, but not good for oil companies or, in particular, producers of shale oil, which is not profitable at below $50 per barrel.
Complicating the picture have been clashing political factors: President Trump effectively giving a pass to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman regarding the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi because the U.S.-Saudi partnership is so important, and then the extraordinary high-five caught on video between MbS, as Saudi Arabia’s effective leader is known, and President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires last weekend. Who has the key special relationship, Washington or Moscow?
The White House position was further undermined yesterday when senior senators appeared to conclude after a briefing by CIA chief Gina Haspel that MbS’s culpability in the demise of Khashoggi was as great as many have feared.
The key agenda item for OPEC oil ministers is how to reach agreement on cutting back production so that the price is high enough to support their various domestic budget needs. In their vocabulary, this is market stabilization. In ours, it means higher prices at the pumps; hence, President Trump’s running tweet attacks on the cartel.
But the Thursday meeting of the mainly Arab oil ministers — plus Nigeria, Venezuela, Iran and a couple of African states — will be undermined by another meeting on Friday that will include non-OPEC producers, of which Russia is the most significant. Several OPEC members think that Saudi Arabia and Russia are going to stitch up a deal to their mutual benefit, leaving the rest of them out in the cold.
The Russian and Saudi oil ministers, Alexander Novak and Khalid al-Falih, have a policy “romance,” according to an unnamed official quoted by the Wall Street Journal this morning. What with the MbS-Putin “bromance” as well, the United States appears to be a mere bystander.
Perhaps the long-term trends still look good for America: the Big Read page in yesterday’s Financial Times was headlined, “Opec: why Trump has Saudi Arabia over a barrel.”
Could the combination of this week’s activities and the apparent inevitability of shale oil’s increasing role lead to the end of OPEC? Quite possibly. The week started by Qatar announcing it was withdrawing from the cartel as of Jan. 1, 2019. There are plausible economic reasons for doing this. Qatar produces a relatively small amount of oil but is a huge producer and exporter of (much cleaner) natural gas. Developing that comparative advantage is what it should concentrate on.
But Qatar also is at diplomatic odds with Saudi Arabia, which has been leading a trade blockade of Qatar since mid-2017, alleging a litany of grievances and essentially accusing Doha of being a bad neighbor. Withdrawing from OPEC was widely interpreted as Doha’s thumbing its nose at Riyadh. However, to add to the confusion, King Salman, still the Saudi leader at least in name, yesterday invited his Qatari counterpart Emir Tamim to the summit of the largely moribund Gulf Cooperation Council scheduled to take place in Riyadh on Dec. 9.
My bet is that Tamim won’t go and instead will send a senior minister. But who knows? These days, a mythical political equivalent of the Dow Jones index is fluctuating widely as well.
Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Does The Netherlands Have a Problem?
Judith Bergman/Gatrestone Institute/Decembe 08/18
"The number of Dutch victims of grooming gangs has risen sharply in recent years". It is estimated that rape-groomers force around 1400 under-age girls into sex-slavery every year. — Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.
"Despite stagnating growth, the size of the Dutch jihadist movement is cause for concern." — Terrorist Threat Assessment for the Netherlands (DTN), published by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism.
It is estimated that 140 mosques in the Netherlands are affiliated with the Religious Affairs Directorate of the Republic of Turkey (Diyanet). One sermon, given in the city of Hoorn, was about jihad and martyrdom: "The one who dies in the way of Allah, never call him dead, but call him alive".
According to the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism of the Netherlands, Islamic terrorism has been growing for several years. "Despite stagnating growth, the size of the Dutch jihadist movement is cause for concern," it wrote. (Image source: iStock)
"Right-wing extremists are growing more confident. They continue to focus on protesting against the perceived Islamisation of the Netherlands, the arrival of asylum seekers and the perceived loss of Dutch identity..." [emphasis added] wrote Dutch authorities in a September threat assessment.
Islamization in the Netherlands, however, is not merely a "perception" of "right-wing extremists" but an increasingly established trend. The threat assessment by the country's National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism, for example, shows that Islamic terrorism has been growing for several years. "Despite stagnating growth, the size of the Dutch jihadist movement is cause for concern," it wrote.
"This group, which grew significantly between 2013 and 2016, may be inclined to embrace a 'revenge narrative' that blames the West for the collapse of the 'caliphate'...Jihadists now no longer have a compelling reason to travel to that part of the world, and their focus has shifted to da'wa, or spreading the jihadist message. This may lead to a rise in the number of jihadists in the Netherlands. In addition to adherents of jihadism, there are also several thousand jihadist sympathisers, and ISIS sympathisers in particular, in the Netherlands."
The Netherlands has been the scene of several attempted jihadist terrorist attacks in recent months. In late September, police arrested seven suspected jihadist terrorists who were planning a massive attack there, including attacking a large event -- the police did not say where -- by attacking the site with automatic rifles and a car bomb. Earlier in September, an Afghan man who had a "terrorist motive" according to Dutch officials, stabbed two Americans at a train station in Amsterdam. "It is apparent from his statements that he believes that in the Netherlands, the Prophet Muhammad, the Quran, Islam and Allah are repeatedly insulted," prosecutors said. In August, another man was shot and arrested at a supermarket in the city of Naaldwijk, where he was waving a knife at people while shouting "Allahu Akbar".
The threat level for the Netherlands remains at "substantial" (level 4 on a scale of 1 to 5), which means that the risk of an Islamic terrorist attack in the Netherlands is very real, although not necessarily imminent.
There are several other factors, apart from Islamic terrorism, that show an increase in the Islamization of the Netherlands:
One is the growth of Islamic parties. In the last parliamentary elections, Denk, a Muslim party that was formed six months ahead of the elections by two Turks who were former members of the Socialist party, received one-third of the Muslim vote and three seats in parliament. The party does not hide its affinity for Turkey: Criticism of Turkey is taboo, as is its predictable refusal to name the Turkish mass-slaughter of the Armenians during the First World War a genocide. The Denk party ran on a platform against the integration of immigrants into Dutch society (instead advocating "mutual acceptance", a euphemism for creating parallel Muslim societies); and for the establishment of a "racism police" that would register "offenders" and exclude them from holding public office. In July, a former political activist for Denk, Hussein Jamakovic, sent an email to the Telegraaf newspaper, as well as three other news organizations. The email said, "May you get cancer, you filthy, far-right cancer Jews." The email came after the news outlets brought reports claiming that Jamakovic had expressed sympathy for ISIS. In June, a van was deliberately driven into the entrance of the Telegraaf newspaper's building, where it burst into flames.
Another facet of the increasing Islamization is the preaching of jihad in mosques. The Religious Affairs Directorate of the Republic of Turkey (Diyanet) distributes its official Friday sermons to Turkish mosques across the world; the mainstream media in the Netherlands have publicized at least one case of such a sermon being preached, at the mosque in the city of Hoorn. It is unclear in just how many mosques this sermon was preached, but it is estimated that 140 mosques in the Netherlands are affiliated with the Diyanet. The sermon was about jihad and martyrdom:
"Our soldiers show the whole world that we are sacrificing everything to protect our faith, flag and country. (...) Every son of our country who, in the power of his life, drinks the sweet nectar of martyrdom, shouts at us. (...) The one who dies in the way of Allah, never call him dead, but call him alive".
According to the Diyanet representative in The Hague, Dutch-Turkish imams write their own sermons. He then claimed that the war sermon was not preached anywhere in the Netherlands. That is simply not credible -- why would the Diyanet make an exception for Turkish Muslims in the Netherlands of all the places it seeks to influence?
The new mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, said in September that she would close down mosques if imams are spreading messages of hate, but "only as a last resort". According to, Halsema said that closing mosques is "a very rigorous [action] and that is something you only do as a last resort." You must be able to act if "an imam gives disgusting sermons, such as saying women should be subservient or that homosexuality is a crime". According to the news report, she also said that, unlike her predecessor, Jozias van Aartsen, she did not plan to develop links with fundamentalist and Salafist organizations. "I will not invite people who are not democratic and who do not take equality between men and women seriously to the office," she said.
Another aspect of the increasing Islamization is that vandalism and violence against Jews have risen dramatically. A report published by the Dutch Public Prosecution Service in April listed 144 confirmed criminal offenses in 2017 involving hate crimes, including intimidation, vandalism, assault and incitement to hate or violence. Of those cases, 41 percent were "directed against Jews," who only account for 0.2 percent of the Dutch population.
A poll of 557 Dutch Jews published in November showed that nearly half of them were afraid of identifying themselves as Jews, with 43% saying they take active steps to hide their Jewish identity and 52% saying anti-Semitism on the street has become more common. In addition, 34% said they had experienced anti-Semitic remarks directed against them and 11% had experienced anti-Semitic violence directed against them.
In December 2017, a Syrian asylum seeker, Saleh Ali, smashed the windows of a kosher restaurant in Amsterdam. For that, he served just 52 days in prison even though he had reportedly told an officer that the attack was "only the first step." Asked about the next step, he said: "I will tell you later, no one needs to know."In May, a Syrian asylum seeker, Malek F, stabbed three people in the Hague, while looking to harm "Christian and Jewish kuffars " according to the prosecution's report of the recent trial. He said that "kuffars" [unbelievers] were akin to "animals or retarded people". Two days earlier, Malek F. had brought a knife to a church in The Hague but when no one opened the door when he knocked, he left. Yet another disquieting characteristic of the Islamization is the grooming and rape of under-age girls, as seen for more than a decade in the UK. According to recent reports, "The number of Dutch victims of grooming gangs has risen sharply in recent years". It is estimated that rape-groomers force around 1,400 under-age girls into sex-slavery every year. Known in the Netherlands as "loverboys", they groom the girls with drugs, alcohol and gifts and then blackmail them into sex-slavery. Research has shown that 89% of the rape-groomers have migrant origins and that 60% are Muslims. Some young girls have 20 "customers" a day. "Minors are set to work in another country [Belgium] as a method to keep them from running away" according to reports. The men can earn "up to 800 euros a day on a girl".
Does the Netherlands have a problem?
**Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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Italy Adopts Hardline Immigration Law
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/December 08/18
Under the new law, the Italian government will only grant asylum to legitimate refugees of war or victims of political persecution. Asylum seekers may now lose their protection if they are convicted of crimes including: threat or violence to a public official; physical assault; female genital mutilation; and a variety of theft charges.
"I wonder if those who contest the security decree have even read it. I do not really understand what the problem is: it deports criminals and increases the fight against the mafia, racketeering and drugs." — Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini.
Italy will not sign the United Nations Global Compact for Migration, nor will Italian officials attend a conference in Marrakech, Morocco, on December 10 and 11 to adopt the agreement. The Global Compact not only aims to establish migration as a human right, but also to outlaw criticism of migration through hate crimes legislation.
Italy, a main European gateway for migrants arriving by sea, has approved a tough new immigration and security law that will make it easier to deport migrants who commit crimes. Pictured: Migrants in a wooden boat wait to be picked up by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station Phoenix vessel on June 10, 2017 off Lampedusa, Italy. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
The Italian Parliament has approved a tough new immigration and security law that will make it easier to deport migrants who commit crimes and strip those convicted of terrorism of their Italian citizenship.
Italy's lower house of parliament, the Camera dei Deputati, voted 396 to 99 on November 28 to approve the new law, which was sponsored by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. The law had previously been approved by the Italian Senate on November 7. The measure was promulgated by President Sergio Mattarella on December 3.
Also known as the "Security Decree" or the "Salvini Decree," the new law includes several key provisions:
Eliminates Humanitarian Protection. A primary objective of the new law is to limit the number of migrants granted asylum in Italy. To achieve this aim, Article 1 of the decree abolishes residence permits for so-called humanitarian protection, a form of security available to those not eligible for refugee status.
Under the previous system, the conditions to qualify for humanitarian protection — one of the three forms of protection granted to asylum seekers, in addition to political asylum and subsidiary protection — were vague and subject to abuse. Migrants arriving in Italy were able to claim humanitarian protection, which lasted for two years and provided access to a job, social welfare benefits and housing.
Under the new law, the Italian government will only grant asylum to legitimate refugees of war or victims of political persecution. The new law also introduces a series of special permits (for health reasons or natural disasters in the country of origin) with a maximum duration of between six months and one year.
Extends Period of Detention for Migrants. Article 2 of the new law authorizes Italian authorities to detain migrants held at so-called repatriation centers (Centri di permanenza per il rimpatrio, CPR) for a maximum of 180 days, up from a maximum of 90 days. The extension is in line with the period considered necessary to verify a migrant's identity and nationality.
In addition, Article 3 provides that asylum seekers may be held for a maximum period of 30 days at so-called hotspots, identification facilities at the EU's external borders. If identity is not established in the 30 days, asylum seekers may also be held in repatriation centers for 180 days. In other words, asylum seekers may be held for 210 days to verify their identity.
Increases Funds for Deportation. Article 6 provides for the allocation of additional funds for repatriations: 500,000 euros ($570,000) in 2018, 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) in 2019 and another 1.5 million euros in 2020.
Eases Revocation of Protection. Article 7 extends the list of crimes for which refugee status or subsidiary protection can be withdrawn. Asylum seekers may now lose their protection if they are convicted of crimes including: threats or violence to a public official; physical assault; female genital mutilation; and a variety of theft charges. The asylum application may also be suspended if the applicant is in a criminal proceeding for one of the aforementioned crimes and would result in the refusal of asylum in the event of a final conviction. Furthermore, refugees who return to their country of origin, even temporarily, will lose international and subsidiary protection. Establishes List of Safe Countries of Origin. Article 7-bis provides for the establishment of a list of safe countries of origin, namely countries which have democratic political systems and where "generally and consistently" there is no political persecution, torture or inhumane or humiliating treatment or punishment, threat of violence or armed conflict.
At least 12 EU countries already have such lists, which are used to prevent abuses of EU and national asylum systems. According to the decree, asylum seekers from countries on the list will be required to provide proof that they face danger in their home countries. The law also introduces new categories that qualify an asylum application as "manifestly unfounded" in the case of: people who have made inconsistent statements; people who have made false information or provided false documents; people who refuse to be fingerprinted; people who are subject to deportation orders; people who constitute a danger to order and security; foreigners who entered Italian territory in an irregular manner and who did not immediately apply for asylum.
In addition to the list of safe countries of origin, Article 10 institutes the principle of "internal flight," that is "if a foreign citizen can be repatriated in some areas of the country of origin where there are no risks of persecution, the application for international protection is rejected."
Downsizes the Asylum Seeker Shelter System. Article 12 stipulates that henceforth only unaccompanied minors and those persons who qualify for international protection will be allowed to use the system for the reception of asylum seekers and refugees (Sistema di protezione per richiedenti asilo e rifugiati, SPRAR), the ordinary reception system managed by Italian municipalities. All other asylum seekers will be processed through the Extraordinary Reception Centers (Centri di Accoglienza Straordinaria, CAS) and by Reception Centers for Asylum Seekers (Centri di Accoglienza per Richiedenti Asilo, CARA). The changes are aimed not only at reasserting central control over the asylum process, but also at restricting access to all but the most basic social services.
Authorizes Revocation of Citizenship. Article 14 provides for revoking Italian citizenship from those who are not Italian by birth and convicted of crimes related to terrorism. Those subject to revocation include: foreigners who acquired citizenship after ten years of residence in Italy; stateless persons who acquired citizenship after five years of residence in Italy; children of foreigners born in Italy who acquired citizenship after the age of 18; spouses of Italian citizens; and adult foreigners who were adopted by an Italian citizen.
The revocation of citizenship is possible within three years of the final conviction for crimes related to terrorism, by decree of the President of the Republic on the proposal of the Minister of the Interior.
Article 14 also increases the waiting period to obtain citizenship to 48 months from 24 months.
Boosts Security Measures. The new law also introduces rules aimed at strengthening measures to guarantee public safety, with particular reference to the threat of terrorism and the fight against criminal infiltration in public tenders.
In an effort to prevent vehicular attacks on pedestrians in crowded places, Article 17 requires car rental agencies to increase controls on individuals who rent trucks and vans. Article 19 authorizes police in municipalities with populations above 100,000 persons to use electric tasers, while Article 24 includes measures to strengthen anti-mafia laws and prevention measures. The Italian mafia has been accused of profiting from the migration crisis.
At a press conference, Interior Minister Salvini said that the new law would provide order for a dysfunctional asylum system. "With criteria, common sense and excellent results, we put order, rules, seriousness, transparency and uniformity in the asylum reception system that had become a commodity, a business out of control and paid for by the Italian people." He added:
"We must welcome those fleeing wars, but there is no room for economic migrants. In the era of global communication, a clear message is being sent to migrants in all countries of origin, and also to smugglers, who will understand that they need to change jobs. He who escapes from war is my brother, but he who comes here to sell drugs and create disorder must return to his country."
The new law has been roundly condemned by Italy's mainstream media, left-leaning political parties, as well as by NGOs and other groups dealing with immigration. Salvatore Geraci, of Caritas Italia, an Italian charity, described the law as "the worst in Italian history" and as "pathogenic, useless and harmful." He added: "The text is largely a result of prejudices and electoral calculations, simplistic approaches to a complex and articulated phenomenon."
Salvini retorted: "I wonder if those who contest the security decree have even read it. I do not really understand what the problem is: it deports criminals and increases the fight against the mafia, racketeering and drugs."
Salvini, leader of the anti-immigration League (Lega) party, formed a new coalition government with the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) on June 1. The government's program, outlined in a 39-page action plan, promised to crack down on illegal immigration and to deport up to 500,000 undocumented migrants. Italy is a main European gateway for migrants arriving by sea: 119,369 arrived by sea in 2017, after 181,436 in 2016, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). An estimated 700,000 migrants have arrived in Italy during the past five years, but since Salvini took office, the number of arrivals has fallen sharply. During the first eleven months of 2018, only 23,000 migrants arrived, according to the IOM.
Meanwhile, Salvini announced that Italy will not sign the United Nations Global Compact for Migration, nor will Italian officials attend a conference in Marrakech, Morocco, on December 10 and 11 to adopt the agreement. The Global Compact not only aims to establish migration as a human right, but also to outlaw criticism of migration through hate crimes legislation.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, addressing Parliament on November 28, said: "The Global Migration Compact is a document that raises issues and questions that many citizens have strong feelings about. Therefore, we consider it right to put the debate in parliament and subject any final decision on the outcome of that debate, as Switzerland has done. So, the government will not participate in Marrakech, reserving the option to adopt the document, or not, only when parliament has expressed its opinion."
More than a dozen countries have announced they will not sign the agreement. Western countries include: Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the United States.
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
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On Iraq: The lesson has not been learnt
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/December 08/18
When King Faisal I assumed power in 1921, Iraq was neither a state nor even a semi-state. It was divided into several states under the Ottoman era whose protracted and backward occupation had ruined Iraq’s great cultural heritage. King Faisal had to begin from scratch, but in just 12 years, he managed to establish the modern state of Iraq. When he died in 1933, his successors did not find any difficulty in managing the state, as he established the cornerstone for it: The constitution, the laws and the administration department required for a state with its three authorities.
Abd al-Karim Qasim ruled Iraq for less than four years, during which he made major economic and social changes. His achievements included abolition of the feudal system and the Tribal Disputes Code in favor of the modern state system. This is in addition to agrarian reforms, expansion of education, health, social and cultural services. The current Iraqi regime is now into its 16th year. However, it has not matured enough like King Faisal I’s regime did in less than 12 years and it also did not reach the extent of maturity which Qasim’s rule reached in less than four years
This is in addition to regaining 99.5 percent of the land granted to foreign oil companies, which later paved the way to nationally invest in oilfields, establish industrial, agricultural and irrigation projects planned by the reconstruction council in the last years of the royal era and legislate the new personal status law, which guaranteed women many of their rights.
Current regime falls short
Within 10 years (1968-1978), Al-Ba’ath Party established a powerful state, by stopping the war against the Kurds and recognizing their rights, mainly autonomy. The party also paved the way for a powerful state by being open to other political forces (Kurdish, Arab nationalism and the Communist Party), nationalization of oil and construction of large factories, planning agricultural and irrigation projects, building ports and highways and developing the public services system (electricity, water, health, education, sewage and transport). It managed to end illiteracy, all before Saddam Hussein turned against the leadership of his own party turning everything into ashes with his aggressive wars and flagrant violence against those who had different opinions. The current Iraqi regime is now into its 16th year. However, it has not matured enough like King Faisal I’s regime did in less than 12 years and it also did not reach the extent of maturity which Qasim’s rule reached in less than four years and al-Ba’ath regime reached in less than 10 years. The current regime has in the past 15 years increased the extent of comprehensive destruction caused by Saddam Hussein’s regime. There is not the faintest hope that it would change its course which is only reproducing destruction, crises, disasters and ordeals — a fate we have been suffering for the past 15 years. The corrupt people who manage the current regime have not even left the aspired and desired state its cornerstone as the transitional phase that the corrupt had agreed upon shall remain open for several years and decades as this is what the permanence of corruption requires!