December 10/18

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 21/34-38/‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’ Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 09-10/18
Great Patriotic Lebanese Poet Maurice Awad Passes Away
Hezbollah's Second-In-Command, Sheikh Naim Qassem: All Of Israel In Our Missile Range
Third Lebanon War Seems Inevitable Amid Threats, Discovery of Terror Tunnels
Lebanon: Government Crisis Grows Bigger as Aoun-Hariri Relationship Stumbles
UNIFIL Says Situation Calm as Israeli Troops Cross Border Fence
Israeli Army Warns Lebanese Border Residents to Evacuate Homes
Qassem Says Hizbullah Missiles Deterring Israel
Israel Uncovers 'Another Hizbullah Tunnel'
Mashnouq: Hariri Won't Quit No Matter the Presidential or Partisan Pressures
Maronite Patriarch: Politicians Have No Right to Neglect the State
Samy Gemayel Mourns Death of Famous Lebanese Poet
Festive season opens on the banks of Lake Bnachii
Empty Flats Raise Fears of Real Estate Collapse in Lebanon
Inside Ghosn’s Cell in Japan: A Tale of Physical, Psychological Mistreatment

Titles For The Latest  English LCCC  Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 09-10/18
AMCD (The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy) Supports the Appointment of Heather Nauert as UN Ambassador
Egypt: Two 'Terrorists' Behind November Attack on Copts Killed
US Envoy to Syria: Cooperation with Syria’s Kurds ‘Temporary, Tactical’
Russia: We have Irrefutable Evidence the Chemical Attack Occurred
First Tangible Success of Sweden Talks: Captives’ Lists
Iran President Warns West of 'Deluge of Drugs'
A Number of Officials Killed in Sudan Helicopter Crash
King Salman receives Bahrain's King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa (SPA)
U.N. Launches Aid Delivery from Jordan to 650,000 Syrians
Trump Denies Collusion after Major Revelations in Russia Probe

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 09-10/18
Hezbollah's Second-In-Command, Sheikh Naim Qassem: All Of Israel In Our Missile Range/
Jerusalem Post/December 09/18
Inside Ghosn’s Cell in Japan: A Tale of Physical, Psychological Mistreatment/Al Arabiya/Sunday 09th December 2018
King Salman receives Bahrain's King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa (SPA)/Arab News/December 09, 2018
Worry Less About Inflation and More About Recession/Ramesh Ponnuru/Bloomberg/December, 09/18
Market Moves Suggest a Recession Is Unavoidable/Jared Dillian/Asharq Al-Awsat/December, 09/18
Will Stockholm Consultations Succeed?/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/December, 09/18
Iran’s terrorist proxies a regional time bomb/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/December 09/18
Turkey’s dilemma should NATO challenge Russia/Yasar Yakıs/Arab News/December 09/18

Latest LCCC English Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 09-10/18
Great Patriotic Lebanese Poet Maurice Awad Passes Away

LCCC: The famous and great Lebanese poet, Maurice Awad passed away today at the age of 85 years. Awad wrote fifty two books and many of his books were translated to many languages. He was nominated for the noble price more than once. His writinsg were in the Lebanese spoken dialogue. Awad wrote numerous well known Lebanese songs and resistance anthems. May his soul rest in peace.

Hezbollah's Second-In-Command, Sheikh Naim Qassem: All Of Israel In Our Missile Range
Jerusalem Post/December 09/18
“There is not a single point in the occupied territories out of reach of Hezbollah’s missiles,” Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem said.
he entire State of Israel is within range of Hezbollah’s missiles, the group’s deputy secretary-general Sheikh Naim Qassem said Sunday. “There is not a single point in the occupied territories out of reach of Hezbollah’s missiles,” Qassem told al-Vefagh – an Iranian Arabic-language newspaper and news website, adding “the Zionists cannot tolerate such a high level of threats in confrontation with Hezbollah, which is why they have no motive for entering another war with Lebanon.”
According to Qassem, the Shi’ite Lebanese group created deterrence which has prevented Israel from taking any action against Lebanon since 2006. “Even when they threaten they say, ‘If Hezbollah attacks us’ they will react, because the rules of engagement created in Lebanon by Hezbollah have made it very difficult for Israel to even consider launching a war against Lebanon,” he said. Last week, Israel launched Operation Northern Shield to uncover and destroy tunnels dug by Hezbollah into Israeli territory. At least three cross-border attack tunnels built by the group into Israeli territory have been discovered by the IDF along the northern border, including one outside the Galilee Panhandle town of Metulla.
A senior IDF officer told reporters that tunnel, which burrowed 40 meters inside Israeli territory but was not yet operational, would have been used by the group’s elite Radwan unit to cut off Metulla from Route 90 and kill as many civilians and troops as possible.
A second tunnel, beginning in the Lebanese village of Ramiyeh and crossing near moshav Zar’it in the Ma’ale Yosef Regional Council, was identified by the IDF on Thursday. The IDF asked UN Peacekeeping troops from UNIFIL to work with the Lebanese Armed Forces to destroy the shaft.
On Saturday night, the IDF announced a third tunnel was discovered and that explosives have been placed in it in preparation for neutralization. The IDF hasn’t yet disclosed the tunnel’s location. The Israeli military believes that the tunnel infiltrations were meant to be used by Hezbollah as a surprise component of the next war alongside a mass salvo of rockets, missiles and mortar shells launched towards Israel. The group, which is referred to as an army by most experts, has amassed an arsenal of an estimated 130,000-150,000 short to long-range rocket and missiles since the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
Thousands of them expected to be launched towards the Jewish State by the Iranian-backed Shi’ite army within the first couple of hours of a future conflict.
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Hezbollah only has several dozen precision-guided missiles. “Hezbollah has two tools [of attack]. One tool is tunnels, and we are depriving them of that. The other weapon is rockets, an imprecise weapon, but they also want precision weapons. This radically changes the balance of power,” he said at an award ceremony for outstanding Mossad operatives at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. “According to Hezbollah’s plans, they were already supposed to be equipped with thousands of missiles, but right now they only have a few dozen [precision-guided missiles]. The reason that they only have a few dozen is, among others, sitting here in this room,” said, alluding to the participation of Mossad agents in thwarting the group from having the technology to build such weapons.
Israel, which has been carrying out air strikes against Hezbollah weapons convoys and Iranian targets in Syria, has warned that it will not allow the group to acquire precision weapons which would threaten the Jewish State. In September Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly that there were several sites in the Lebanese capital of Beirut where he said Hezbollah attempted to convert ground-to-ground missiles to precision missiles. “Israel knows what you are doing, Israel knows where you are doing it, and Israel will not let you get away with it,” Netanyahu said, while holding a placard with three different sites in the Lebanese capital accusing Hezbollah of “deliberately using the innocent people of Beirut as human shields.”The launching of Operation Northern Shield comes amid renewed focus on Iran’s activity in Lebanon after allegations that an Iranian plane carrying weapons for Hezbollah landed at the Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport.

Third Lebanon War Seems Inevitable Amid Threats, Discovery of Terror Tunnels

Israel Today Staff/December 09/2018/Analysts have been saying for years that it was only a matter of time until Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah terrorist militia were again engaged in open conflict. The events of the past several days have finally woken most Israelis up to the seriousness of those warnings. Over the weekend, Hezbollah deputy secretary general Naim Qassem told Lebanese media that his group now possesses missiles capable of hitting every location in Israel. "The entire Israeli homefront is exposed, even Tel Aviv," said Qassem. During the Second Lebanon war, Hezbollah fired medium-range missile as far south as the port city of Haifa and other locations in the lower Galilee region. Tel Aviv and the populous central region of Israel were never in any direct danger at that time. Qassem's warning came amidst what Israel has dubbed "Operation Northern Shield," which has seen Israeli forces uncover at least three Hezbollah-dug tunnels extending from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. It is believed that the massively-armed terror group planned to enter northern Israel in strong numbers and cut off the border town of Metulla at the start of the next war. Some cautioned that Hezbollah might even be planning to conquer and occupy portions of the border region. So far, and as far as the public knows, the IDF has been dealing with those parts of the tunnels that are under Israeli territory. But military officials say that to fully neutralize the threat, Israeli forces might have to enter southern Lebanon and destroy the tunnels at their source.

Lebanon: Government Crisis Grows Bigger as Aoun-Hariri Relationship Stumble
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 9 December, 2018/The crisis of forming the Lebanese government is no more restricted to the traditional dispute over portfolios and the ministerial representation of each party but has transformed into a powers' conflict. This issue has started to jeopardize the relationship between Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, putting the settlement at stake after Aoun hinted he would send a letter to the parliament requesting it to take an initiative to resolve the government’s crisis.
Although the content of Aoun’s letter to the parliament hasn’t been written yet, the Future movement considered that any letter that aims to pull out the designation from Hariri represents an unprecedented provocation to the Sunnis. However, sources from the presidential palace refused considering this letter a violation of the constitutional powers of the prime-designate. An official in the March 14 bloc saw, in a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, that this permanent waving by Aoun and his political team to limit the designation is a manipulation of the constitution and charter. Sources from the Lebanese Presidential Palace media bureau underpinned the importance of the relationship between Aoun and Hariri as well as the continuity of efforts to overcome obstacles obstructing the government formation. The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that there is no struggle on powers between the first and third presidencies but an understanding on rescuing the country. The president has the right to dispatch a letter to the parliament informing the deputies that the assignment of prime-designate faced political objections hindering the formation of the government, added the sources. Sources close to Hariri also believed that it is the right of the president to address the parliament, but warned of exploiting the letter to undermine the powers of the prime-designate and to impose new constitutional rituals. Rached Fayed, a member of the political office at Future Movement, told Asharq Al-Awsat that this would be a provocative step to the Sunnis.

UNIFIL Says Situation Calm as Israeli Troops Cross Border Fence
Naharnet/December 09/18/The U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reassured Sunday that the situation on the southern border is calm after Israeli drilling outside the border fence stoked the already heightened tensions in the area. The tensions surged after dozens of Israeli troops and a Poclain excavator crossed the electronic border fence and started drilling works near the U.N.-demarcated Blue Line. The move prompted the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL peacekeepers to go on alert in the area. The National News Agency said the Israeli excavator erected a sand barrier around 20 meters away from the Blue Line as Israeli troops deployed behind it and a surveillance balloon hovered over the Kroum al-Sharraqi area. The Israeli army also brought dozens of military vehicles and Merkava tanks to a military route behind the border as an MK drone overflew the tense area.
The Israeli troops deployed “very close” to Lebanese soldiers on the opposite side of the border, the Lebanese National News Agency said. Israeli forces also put blue marks on some rocks near the Blue Line and extended a black cable on the ground. “UNIFIL forces intercepted them when they tried to install a barbed wire in a disputed area,” NNA said. The Lebanese Army meanwhile reinforced its positions in the area and brought vehicles carrying 106mm guns to the border town of Mays al-Jabal. UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti said the situation remains calm and that no Blue Line violation was recorded, reassuring that U.N. peacekeepers are present on the ground to monitor the situation and preserve stability. “They are working in coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Mission’s command is engaged with the parties to maintain stability,” NNA quoted him as saying. The Israeli army said Tuesday that it had launched an operation to “neutralize” suspected “attack tunnels” allegedly dug by Hizbullah across the frontier. It said its activities will remain confined to Israeli territory but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have warned that the military “may have to operate inside Lebanon.”

Israeli Army Warns Lebanese Border Residents to Evacuate Homes 09th December 2018/The Israeli Army on Sunday issued a warning to Lebanese citizens to “temporarily leave” their homes located over the alleged cross-border attack tunnels dug by Hezbollah, as troops are preparing to destroy the underground passages.
“Hezbollah built terror tunnels under Kfar Kila and Ramya that infiltrate into Israeli territory, making the area a barrel of explosives,” read a Twitter post by the Israeli army’s spokesperson Avichay Adraee. “We are determined to neutralize these tunnels, and we don't know exactly how homes on the Lebanese side will be impacted by the demolition operation."“Is it not time for you to insist that Hezbollah give you clear answers?” he asked. “Are you living in safety when you know that your houses are located above a barrel of explosives? We recommend that you thoroughly consider temporarily leaving the concerned buildings for your safety."

Qassem Says Hizbullah Missiles Deterring Israel
Naharnet/December 09/18/Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem has announced that Hizbullah missiles that can “target every point” in Israel are “deterring” Israel. “Since the year 2006, the Zionist enemy has been deterred by the strength of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon and by Hizbullah’s decision,” Qassem said in an interview with an Iranian newspaper. “The Israeli domestic front, even Tel Aviv, and every point in the Zionist entity can be targeted by Hizbullah’s missiles,” Hizbullah number two added, suggesting that his group has precision-guided missiles in its arsenal. “In their discussions, the Zionists cannot bear this level, that’s why the idea of war on Lebanon will not be on the table. Even when they analyze and threaten, they say if Hizbullah attacks us, which means that they would do a reaction and not an action. The rules of engagement that Hizbullah has created in Lebanon and the rules of deterrence have made the idea of a war initiated by Israel against Lebanon very difficult,” Qassem explained. His remarks come amid heightened tensions sparked by an Israeli engineering operation on Lebanon’s border aimed at “neutralizing” alleged “attack tunnels” dug by Hizbullah across the frontier. The operation was launched on Tuesday and Hizbullah has not yet issued an official comment on the development.

Israel Uncovers 'Another Hizbullah Tunnel'
Associated Press/Naharnet/December 09/18/Israeli forces have said that they uncovered another Hizbullah tunnel dug from Lebanon, an announcement that came shortly after troops fired at suspected members of the Lebanese militant group who approached the site of Israeli army engineering working to thwart suspected tunnels. The find makes this at least the second purported cross-border tunnel discovered since Israel began an operation this week to detect and "neutralize" what ot called attack passageways dug by the Iranian-backed group into northern Israel. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli army spokesman, told reporters the new tunnel runs into Israel but "does not pose an imminent threat to Israeli communities." He said explosives were placed in the tunnel to prevent infiltration into Israel, adding that Israel holds the Lebanese government responsible "for the activities and all Hizbullah violations."Earlier on Saturday, the Israeli military fired at three Hizbullah suspects who approached the border where the army was working. Conricus said Israeli troops crossed the fence into Lebanon but did not exceed the U.N.-established demarcation line, or Blue Line. He says Israeli forces also installed technological sensors to control a tunnel. According to Conricus, Hizbullah activists made use of bad weather in an attempt "to probably take the sensors" but fled after Israeli forces opened fire at them. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss Israel's intention to "foil the tunnels' threat," according to a statement from Netanyahu's office. Netanyahu vowed to continue efforts "to prevent the establishment of an Iranian presence in Syria and to act against Iranian and Hizbullah aggression," the statement added. It also said that Netanyahu and Putin agreed that mutual security teams will meet to discuss the threats and Israel's "Operation Northern Shield," as the operation to eradicate the alleged tunnels is called.

Mashnouq: Hariri Won't Quit No Matter the Presidential or Partisan Pressures
Naharnet/December 09/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri will not step down from the mission of forming the new government no matter the “pressures,” caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq said on Sunday. “We must show solidarity with PM-designate Saad Hariri so that we manage to rescue Lebanon, because the economic situation is very bad,” Mashnouq said. “Hariri will not back down from the mission of forming the government, will not quit and will not change his stance, no matter the pressures and regardless whether their source is presidential or partisan,” Mashnouq added, in an apparent jab at President Michel Aoun and Hizbullah. “He has the support of Beirut’s MPs and the support of al-Mustaqbal Movement’s MPs and their allies and we back him in all his steps, because the formation of the government is necessary, no matter what the obstacles might be,” the minister went on to say.

Maronite Patriarch: Politicians Have No Right to Neglect the State Sunday 09th December 2018/Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi renewed his call for politicians to relinquish their obstinacy and give up their demands to help form a new government as soon as possible, adding that political forces should have mercy on the fragmenting country and the suffering people. During his Sunday sermon, Rahi pointed out to the situation prevailing in Lebanon, saying that it is driving the Lebanese to immigrate to better countries given the deteriorating economy which is forcing businesses to shut their doors. “Had there been mercy in their hearts for the past 7 months, they would’ve formed the government and risen above their interests a while ago," he stressed. “Instead of holding on to details, let them favor the country over all else, and abandon the knots that are being imposed here and there." The Patriarch reiterated his call for officials to not neglect the State institutions, people and entity, adding that they do not have the right to do so. “You are not the State’s masters, but its servants,” he concluded.

Samy Gemayel Mourns Death of Famous Lebanese Poet Sunday 09th December 2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Sunday lamented the passing of famous Lebanese poet Maurice Awad, hailing him as an irreplaceable person.
"What saddens us as much as the death itself is the fact that we will never again meet such people," Gemayel wrote on Twitter."Rest in peace our dear poet and writer of the anthems of our Lebanese resistance. We promise that the revolution of your intellect and poems will remain the beacon that lights our way during difficult times," he pledged.

Festive season opens on the banks of Lake Bnachii
Sun 09 Dec 2018/NNA -The "Christmas by the Lake" team, headed by Rima Franjieh, and in partnership and cooperation with the Zgharta Municipalities Union, launched Sunday the 11th season of festivities on the banks of Lake Bnachii, amidst Christmas carols and musical performances. The opening included many activities and featured a 30-meter long Christmas tree, Christmas grotto and a Santa Claus home, in addition to various entertainment and colorful Christmas decoration stations spread along the banks of Lake Bnachi. Taking part in the opening event was also the Antonine University's School of Music group, which consisted of 20 people singing hymns and Christmas songs to celebrate the holy season. In his word on the occasion, Zgharta Municipalities Union Head, Zeeni Kheir, expressed his keenness on "organizing and supporting such activates that cater to a large number of citizens." He also stressed the importance of these initiatives "as they contribute to the tourism industry and encourage the countryside, and thus achieve sustainable development in the region." In turn, "Christmas by the Lake" Festival Director, Pierre Ziadeh, emphasized "the continuation of cultural, musical and other activities throughout the year as a cornerstone of community development, which contributes to creating new jobs for young people and motivates them to stay in their hometowns."

Empty Flats Raise Fears of Real Estate Collapse in Lebanon
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 09/18/Ghostly apartment blocks and half-built buildings dot Lebanon, as entrepreneurs and experts fear that the country's key real estate sector is on the brink of collapse. The small Mediterranean country's construction sector witnessed an unprecedented boom from 2008, fueled in part by sales to wealthy Gulf Arabs and Lebanese expatriates. But after civil war broke out in neighboring Syria in 2011, political insecurity caused these sales to dwindle and local demand to drop. A slump in oil prices from 2014 compounded this slowdown, leaving thousands of apartments unsold across Beirut, and forcing some developers to freeze construction sites. "Some 3,600 unsold apartments exist today in Beirut alone," says Guillaume Boudisseau, an expert at the Ramco real estate consultancy firm. In front of Beirut's port, a building dubbed "The Coast" is one of many luxurious apartment blocks desperately looking for buyers. The tower was completed in 2014, boasting views over the Mediterranean and moored cargo ships from its 500-square-meter apartments. But in the four years since, just two of its 21 flats have been sold. "When we started works in 2010, the context was very different," said owner Hussein Abdallah, who had hoped to make lucrative sales. Instead, the businessman had to hand over ownership of eight flats in the building to the bank to pay off his debt.
Demand 'non-existent' Other entrepreneurs have decided to halt building altogether.
A road back from the Beirut seafront, the construction of another tower ground to a halt two years ago, with only the concrete outer shell completed. "We only sold a single apartment off plan," its owner said, asking to remain anonymous. He reduced the price by 20 percent, "but it didn't help," he added. Near the capital's iconic Martyrs' Square, the foundations of another high-brow project -- "Beb Beirut" -- stand frozen in time, concrete pillars jutting out from the ground, and rusty rebar rods protruding from them. Still cranes loom overhead, while all around the stunted construction site sparkling new apartment blocks appear completely empty. Owner Mireille Choufany decided to stop building two years ago. "Demand is almost non-existent," she said. Outside the capital, real estate sales have also dwindled. Sales dropped by 19 percent during the first ten months of the year in southern Lebanon, and by the same percentage in the north, according to the country's real estate registry. Multi-confessional Lebanon has been without a government since May, threatening to derail an already fragile economy. The deadlock is the latest in a series of political crises that make Lebanese reluctant to invest in apartments -- both luxury and smaller-scale. To make matters worse, at the start of the year, the central bank suspended a subsidy to real estate loans for less well-off Lebanese. Among them, 33-year-old bank employee Marwan, who signed a contract to buy a flat in January. "The next day, I learned that the subsidized loans had been suspended," he said, asking that his family name be withheld.
Billions owed
Marwan paid 20 percent of the apartment's cost when he signed, but "was counting on the loan to pay the rest," he said. "Now I risk losing the amount I already paid, without even getting a flat."To avoid a devaluation of the Lebanese pound -- which has been trading at a fixed rate of 1,500 against the dollar since the mid-1990s -- banks increased deposit rates, causing lending rates to jump more than 10 percent, which further discourages buyers from taking out loans. A banking source said they feared any collapse of the real estate sector could have repercussions on the banking sector. Builders and home buyers owe $24 billion to banks, which is equivalent to more than a third of credits to the private sector, the source told AFP. To avoid disaster, bank and real estate companies launched an investment platform in October that aims to raise $250 million to purchase some of the unsold properties. "The aim is to buy up more than 200 flats in greater Beirut and sell them on the foreign market," focusing on Lebanese expatriates, said Massaad Fares, head of the Legacy One platform. But Wael el-Zein, chief of Lucid Investment Bank which is taking part in the project, says that it will not even cover 10 percent of unsold dwellings. "It's a lifebuoy to avoid drowning, while waiting for political respite," he said. Jihad Hokayem, a real estate investment expert at the Lebanese American University, agreed such initiatives were only temporary fixes. "These measures cover up existing or potential bankruptcies. It's the beginning of a total collapse" of the real estate sector, he said.

Inside Ghosn’s Cell in Japan: A Tale of Physical, Psychological Mistreatment
Al Arabiya/Sunday 09th December 2018
“Gratitude in the Japanese way!”… Solitary confinement, isolation from the outside world, a “mat” to sleep on, a small food tray and eight hours of daily intensive interrogation. This was the way legendary figure of Lebanese descent Carlos Ghosn, the savior of Nissan, was treated in his Japanese prison. These are not mere fantasies or hallucinations, but rather a crime movie produced by the Japanese this time. In clear and precise words, Hadi Hachem, Advisor to the Director of the Office of the Lebanese Foreign Ministry, discloses for the first time in an exclusive interview to Al Arabiya, Ghosn’s conditions of detention which, according to him, violate international treaties and human rights provisions. He added: “The accused is innocent until proven guilty. So we have many reservations about Ghosn’s detention, the place where he is being held in solitary confinement, similar to those charged with criminal offenses which widely surpass the charges of financial crime." He continued expressing his dismay: “Carlos Ghosn is a prominent Lebanese figure who marked the world of expatriation. Therefore, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry is closely following the developments in the case through its official intermediary, the Lebanese ambassador to Japan, Nidal Yehya, who in turn has been working diligently and met Ghosn more than once in his place of detention and brought him a mattress after being only offered a mat to sleep on.
But the prison administration categorically refused food supplies to Ghosn through any external intermediary. "He was severely affected psychologically and had already lost some weight, five kilograms since the day of his arrest on November 19, just two weeks ago. He is subjected to eight hours of intensive interrogations every day and so we fear he will be dictated or forced, under psychological pressure, into confessing something he did not commit ... Hashem explicitly says that" According to Hashem, “Ghosn is tired psychologically!”
Hachem does not hide his concern that Ghosn could fall victim to economic interests and international fracture. “The case has larger dimensions than the arrest of one single person. He is not allowed to communicate with his family at all, but three lawyers have been appointed to follow his case.”“Who will replace him, if he is proven innocent?,” asks Hachem. “We demand a fair and transparent trial.”
An arrest in crime movie style! He describes Ghosn's arrest as quite “unusual” in a conservative society such as Japan, mixing several theatrical elements like in a crime movie: "The moment the plane arrived, people climbed up and then cameras were seen recording, which is surprising in itself. Moments later the plane’s windows were asked to be closed... "
Raiding his apartments in Beirut
The chapters of the crime movie did not stop there. Few days ago, the Lebanese media reported that a Japanese delegation raided Ghosn’s apartments in Beirut, affirming that they were the property of Nissan. Hachem stated in indignation: "The decision to raid the apartments must be done on a judicial order and under Lebanese law if these apartments were owned by Ghosn or even by Nissan. In both cases, these apartments’ occupancy was lawful, whether under a lease, a concession or a consent agreement which is not important in itself. What is indeed important to note is that the decision to raid has to be legal!”
A detention of 70 days?
According to what is being circulated in the media, Ghosn’s detention may be extended. As specified by Japanese law: “If the first 23 days are not enough, the plaintiffs can re-arrest the suspect on the basis of other allegations."
Among the options available to the prosecutors in Tokyo is to extend Ghosn’s detention for the second time on Decembe 10, providing them with 23 additional days to interrogate the suspect until the end of December. They can resort to extending his detention for a third time based on other charges, which means that Ghosn can remain under detention until January 21! What is the Lebanese role then? Hashem’s answer was clear: “We will retort to every act with an action of our own ... we will observe the developments in the investigation, and we will inevitably challenge the ruling if not proven with facts and evidence.”Hachem concludes with a certain sorrow: “This man, who created 400,000 jobs, provided work for thousands of families and saved three major companies, does not deserve to be thanked in that sort by way by the Japanese.”

Latest LCCC English Miscellaneous Reports & News published on December 09-10/18
التحالف الأميركي الشرق أوسطي للديموقراطية يرحب بتعيين هيذر نويرت سفيرة لأميركا في الأمم المتحدة
AMCD (The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy) Supports the Appointment of Heather Nauert as UN Ambassador

December 9, 2018
Washington DC: The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy fully supports President Trump’s pick to replace UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, the intelligent and capable Ms. Heather Nauert.
Ms. Nauert has been a first-rate journalist for many years, working at both Fox News and ABC News and covering a variety of national and international affairs. More recently, Ms. Nauert has proven herself very capable of representing the administration as State Department spokeswoman. In this role, she has worked closely with Secretary Pompeo and earned his trust and confidence as well as that of the President.
“The fact that the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) opposes Nauert’s nomination is proof she is right for the job,” said AMCD co-chair John Hajjar. “CAIR is an arm of the global Muslim Brotherhood operating in the US as a ‘civil rights organization.’ The UAE has designated CAIR a terrorist organization and they have proven links to Hamas. So again, if they are opposed to Nauert’s nomination, that is a good sign.”
”CAIR operatives have repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups with American blood on their hands,” stated AMCD vice chair, Hossein Khorram. “Several former CAIR officials have been convicted of various crimes related to jihad terror in the United States and CAIR has opposed every anti-terror measure that has ever been proposed or implemented. Its California chapter actually distributed a poster telling Muslims not to talk to the FBI, and its officials have told Muslims not to cooperate with law enforcement.”
Khorram, himself a Muslim, finds CAIR's silence in condemning terror and not cooperating with FBI totally un-American.
“The Iranian people have endured the implementation of Sharia law by the Islamic Republic, proving it to be a total failure that has brought death and famine to one of the wealthiest countries in the world," continued Mr. Khorram. “Ms. Nauert comments on Sharia law are based in proven facts that Sharia law is a failure and should never be implemented in any country let alone the United States which is the beacon of democracy in the world – the very antithesis of Sharia Law.”
“Ms. Nauert is well respected in the journalistic community and the diplomatic community in Washington,” added AMCD chair, Tom Harb. “She is poised and unshakable under pressure. We believe she will represent the United States brilliantly at the United Nations.”
“This appointment continues President Trump’s dedication to promoting intelligent and capable women to high-level posts in the administration,” added AMCD Secretary Rebecca Bynum. ‘We applaud this latest example of the administration’s dedication to selection on the basis of talent and merit. Ms. Nauert is a superb choice to fill Ms. Haley’s shoes.”
AMCD lends its full support to this excellent nomination.

Egypt: Two 'Terrorists' Behind November Attack on Copts Killed
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 9 December, 2018/Egyptian police killed two gunmen suspected of involvement in last month’s attack on a bus carrying Christians in Minya governorate, the interior ministry said in a statement. Security forces had previously killed 19 militants suspected of involvement in the Nov. 2 attack. Police, helped by the military, found the gunmen in Assiut governorate, which lies to the south of Minya, the statement added. They were in possession of three automatic rifles, one shotgun and an unspecified amount of ammunition, Reuters reported. ISIS claimed responsibility for last month’s attack, which took place at exactly the same spot as a May 2017 attack that killed 28. ISIS also claimed responsibility for that attack.

US Envoy to Syria: Cooperation with Syria’s Kurds ‘Temporary, Tactical’
Ankara - Saeed Abdulrazek/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 9 December, 2018/US Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey said his country would take some steps by the end of this year to ensure criteria for the road map in Manbij as soon as possible.He pointed out that Washington's support for the Kurdish warriors is tactical and temporary, stressing the need to collaborate closely with Turkey to reach a final solution in Syria. “We want to have cooperation with Turkey across the board on all Syrian issues,” Jeffrey told reporters after the meetings. “We think that there will be no final conclusion of this (Syria) conflict without very close Turkish-American cooperation, and as I said, Manbij is a good model for that cooperation,” he said. The United States has been carrying out a security audit by fulfilling its commitment on the departure of members of Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and People's Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij, Jeffrey noted, adding that it is making sure they are not included in local councils and local military personnel in the city.“We are committed to accelerated and concrete progress on the Manbij roadmap by the end of the year,” Jeffrey said in his statements following the third meeting of the Turkey-US working group, which was concluded in Ankara on Friday night. He added that Turkey and the US had "agreed to continue to work on joint planning with regard to other areas as mentioned in the roadmap." Jeffrey also noted that joint group discussed all issues related to Syria, starting from east of the Euphrates River until northwestern province of Idlib. He explained that other areas, in which a model can be applied, will be addressed during the joint planning phase, which has been launched and includes supporting Turkey in Idlib too.Notably, US and Turkish foreign ministers signed the Manbij roadmap agreement in Washington on June 4. It stipulated the withdrawal of Kurdish YPG from the city to the east of the Euphrates and joint supervision to achieve its security and stability until the formation of a local council for its administration in a 90-day timeframe. However, the implementation of the agreement was delayed, and Ankara held Washington responsible for this delay. Early November, Turkish and US forces started patrolling in the outskirts of Manbij, but elements of the Kurdish YPG are still inside the city.

Russia: We have Irrefutable Evidence the Chemical Attack Occurred

Moscow - Raed Jaber/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 9 December, 2018/Russia strongly condemned recent US statements refuting Moscow and Damascus’ concerning the chemical attack on Aleppo, Syria, on November 24, indicating it has irrefutable evidence the attack took place. The Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement on Saturday indicating that the State Department statement is an attempt "toward vindicating international terrorists operating in Idlib linked with pseudo-rescuers from the White Helmets who have back-stabbed their Western patrons with their provocation." The Russian side has conclusive evidence proving that militants used munitions with toxic agents against civilians in Aleppo, said the Ministry, without providing further details on the evidence. Earlier, the US State Department claimed earlier that there had been no chemical attacks staged near Aleppo on November 24 saying that the Assad regime and Russia falsely accused “the opposition and extremist groups of conducting a chlorine attack in northwestern Aleppo.”The Russian Defense Ministry further noted that the US statement is meant to hinder an "unbiased investigation" into the Aleppo attack by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Further, the Ministry indicated that US allegations may be "geared toward diverting attention of the world community from the crimes committed by US warplanes in eastern Syria” adding that Hajin have been bombed for more than a month, killing tens of civilians every day.
The State Department strongly refuted the narrative asserting it has credible information that pro-regime forces likely used teargas against civilians in the city. “The United States has information indicating Russian and Syrian personnel were involved in the teargas incident, and believes that both countries are using it as an opportunity to undermine confidence in the ceasefire in Idlib.”The statement noted that Washington 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 OPCW. “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,” warned the statement.
Similarly, Britain's Foreign Office said it had "seen nothing to support the claims" made by Russia and Syria. "The UK assesses it highly unlikely that chlorine was used in this incident, as the regime and its Russian allies have claimed. It is highly unlikely that the opposition was responsible," a statement said. The Office noted that 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. In turn, Russian Embassy in Washington issued a statement through its Facebook page saying it does not rule out that the Department of State’s allegations about the recent chemical attack are aimed at distracting the public attention from the crimes of the US aviation in the east of the Middle Eastern country where dozens of civilians die every day. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a US official said that suspicions were raised when Russia and Syria immediately put out similar official media accounts after the attack. He added 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 noted. The Syrian regime has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons in the Syrian war, including a sarin gas attack in April 2017 in the town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 people. In October, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) accused Damascus of the sarin gas attack.

First Tangible Success of Sweden Talks: Captives’ Lists

Rimbo, Sweden - Badr al-Qahtani/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 9 December, 2018/The process of exchanging detainees and captives lists is the first fruitful outcome of the three days of meetings. Yemen's Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on Saturday that the processes of handing out and receiving the detainees and captives lists will occur within the coming hours, considering the step as positive and constructive for the consultations. During a phone-call, Yamani said that there will be a progress in the airports’ issue including Sanaa airport, on Sunday and Monday. United Nations envoy to Yemen Martin Griffith commended the positive spirit the two parties are demonstrating in the Sweden Consultations.  “The two parties are engaged in a serious and constructive way in discussing the details of confidence-building measures, the reduction of violence, and the framework for negotiations. We hope we will achieve progress during this round of consultations”. Griffiths reiterated the importance of continued restraint on the ground and calls on the two parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. “We are working to the background of a very fragile situation in Yemen. We hope that de-escalation will be maintained on different front lines, to give a chance for progress to be achieved on the political consultations”. Member of Houthis delegation Abdul-Malik Al-Hajri said enough progress has been made on the airport issue that some positive results could be announced as early as Sunday. "There was a wide-ranging discussion on the re-opening of Sanaa airport and, God willing, there will be some positive results tomorrow on a comprehensive scenario for the reopening of Sanaa airport," he told a news conference. He suggested Amman, Jordan's capital, as a candidate for an inspection stopover.
UN Resolution 2216 is the Base
Abdel-Wahhab Tawaf, Yemen's former ambassador to Syria, hailed the talks in Sweden. He lauded the efforts exerted by the UN and the international community to find a comprehensive resolution for the Yemeni crisis. Tawaf stressed that Griffith should rely on the three references as bases for the solution, work on finding a comprehensive solution for the crisis, and not dividing solutions in Yemen in addition to not transforming the role of the UN and aid international organizations in Yemen into a substitute of the role of the Yemeni republican institutions.
He added that seeking the way to implement UN resolution 2216 is the basis of the UN work in Yemen.

Iran President Warns West of 'Deluge of Drugs'

London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 9 December, 2018/Iranian President Hasan Rouhani warned Westerners that boycotting Iran undermines their ability to fight drugs and terrorism in their origins, adding that they will not be able to survive the deluge of drugs, refugees, attacks and assassination.
In a televised speech, Rouhani cautioned that if Iran is weakened through sanctions, many people will not be safe, asserting that those “who do not believe what we say, better look at the map.”Drug trafficking poses a major challenge to Iran, which shares borders with Afghanistan, world's largest opium producer, and Pakistan, a key transit route for drugs. He reported that Iran spends $800 billion annually in fighting drugs, which guarantees better health for peoples from Eastern Europe to Western America and from Northern Africa to Western Asia. “Think for a moment that if a hole shows up in this barrier, what a disaster will happen.” A UN report published in 2014 showed that Iran accounted for two thirds of the world’s opium seizures and one fourth of the world’s heroin and morphine seizures in 2012. The President noted that his country has been determined to fight terrorism and devoted hundreds of its valuable forces to continue this tireless fight against violence and extremism, and it spends millions of dollars each year. “Without this devotion and expenses, this region would witness the rise and empowerment of the savage caliphate of ISIS in a very wide domain,” he asserted, however, “we do not expect westerners to pay their share for the security and stability that we have provided to them.” Rouhani stated that economic terrorism means promoting terror about the economy of a country and intimidating other countries to prevent them from doing trade and investing in the target country. The withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), re-imposition of sanctions and the measures against Iran and its trade partners are clear examples of economic terrorism, added the President. Rouhani was speaking during his meeting with Speakers of China, Russia, Afghanistan, Turkey and Pakistan on the sidelines of a counter-terrorism inter-parliamentary summit in Tehran. More than 700,000 undocumented Afghans have returned from Iran this year as the Iranian economy tightens, according to data from the UN’s migration agency. On the sidelines of the summit, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Saturday that US have turned the region into a “powder keg,” knowing that the amount of weaponry, which is sold on the part of the US, is unbelievable and quite a lot in excess of what the region needs. “This indicates the very dangerous policy that the Americans pursue in our region,” he added.
Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said Israel, the United States and unnamed 'regional powers' provide support for terrorist groups that carry out deadly attacks in Iran. "In their perspective, the kind of terrorism that is in line with their purposes is not considered to be terrorism worthy of condemnation," Alavi added.

A Number of Officials Killed in Sudan Helicopter Crash

Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 9 December, 2018/At least seven local government officials were killed in a helicopter crash in Sudan's eastern al-Qadarif state on Sunday, state news agency SUNA reported. The state's governor and three security officials were among the dead. A number of people were also injured in the incident, SUNA said. The officials had been carrying out a security tour of the province. It was not immediately clear what caused the crash, Reuters reported. State TV earlier reported that a plane, not a helicopter, had crashed. Al-Qadarif state is known for its farmland and agricultural projects.

King Salman receives Bahrain's King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa (SPA)

Arab News/December 09, 2018
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said on Sunday the Kingdom is keen to maintain the entity of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and strengthen its current and future role. “In order to enhance the security, stability, development, prosperity and wellbeing of the citizens of member states, the GCC has become our fundamental asset,” said King Salman. King Salman welcomed leaders and heads of delegations from the six GCC member states, including the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar, for the 39th GCC summit in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh. However, Qatar sent its state minister of foreign affairs to head its delegation to the summit, which drew criticism from Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed, who tweeted: “Qatar’s emir should have accepted the fair demands (of the boycotting states) and attended the summit.”On regional developments, the king said the Iranian regime continues to promote terrorism and threaten regional stability, and that the Iranian regime is continuing its aggressive policies and interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. King Salman said this required all of of the GCC member states to work wit partners to maintain security, stability in the region and the world, and the insistence on the need to achieve full and adequate guarantees toward Iran’s nuclear program and its program for the development of ballistic missiles. King Salman stressed that the Kingdom continues to defend Arab and Islamic issues in international forums.
“The Palestinian cause is at the forefront of its concerns and it seeks to achieve the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the establishment of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he added. Saudi Arabia called on the international community to assume its responsibilities to protect the Palestinian people from the brutal Israeli practices, “which is meant to provoke the sentiments of Arabs, Muslims and peace-loving people.”On Yemen, King Salman said that the Arab coalition was keen to accept a request from the legitimate government in Yemen to rescue the country and its people from a group that turned on the government with the intent of tampering with the country’s security and stability. He said the coalition countries also worked to restore hope to the Yemeni people through relief and humanitarian assistance programs and to reach a political solution to the Yemeni crisis in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 2216, the Gulf Initiative and its executive mechanism, and the outcome of Yemen’s comprehensive national dialogue. The Kingdom also called for a political solution to end the Syrian war and the establishment of a transitional government that will guarantee Syrian unity and the departure of foreign forces and terrorist groups. King Salman said the Kingdom is also keen to build strong and strategic relations with Iraq, which is a key pillar for the Arab security system.
Following the closed-door meeting, member states adopted the Riyadh Declaration, which included seven action points that tackled several areas. The first point was to establish a roadmap to achieve integration among the GCC states to develop growth and prosperity, in order to strengthen regional security and stability. In the field of joint defense, they committed to appointing a unified GCC military commander as an important step to complete the joint defense system. The leaders stressed the utmost importance of developing a unified and effective GCC foreign policy, based on the Statute of the Council and working to preserve its interests and gains and avoiding regional and international conflicts. They affirmed their support for the Palestinian cause and the unity of the Palestinian people, as well as a solution to the conflict in Yemen and the Syrian crisis. Speaking during the meeting, Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, thanked King Salman for his generous invitation in hosting the 39th session and said, “the convening of this session of our distinguished council at its scheduled date, despite the circumstances we are going through, confirms our care for the GCC and the continuation of its assemblies.”“It also reflects our understanding of the achievements we have reached within its framework and our efforts to preserve them.”“We are aware of the situation in our region, the serious challenges facing it and its alarming escalation, which calls on us to reflect our unity and to strengthen our joint action to support our march.”The Emir also warned against media campaigns that he said have threatened Gulf unity. “We call for an end to media campaigns in the region that breach our values and principles, plant the seeds of strife among our children, and will destroy everything we have built and every pillar we have erected.”The Emir acknowledged that the current conflict in Yemen poses a direct threat and hoped the ongoing consultations in Sweden would be a success.

U.N. Launches Aid Delivery from Jordan to 650,000 Syrians
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 09/18/The United Nations said Sunday it began delivering aid to hundreds of thousands of Syrians through the Jaber-Nassib border crossing with Jordan, which reopened two months ago. In total, "369 trucks carrying 11,200 metric tons of... assistance for over 650,000 people" will be involved in the four-week operation, the U.N.'s humanitarian agency OCHA said. The "exceptional" delivery, which amounts to one-month's worth of aid, would be carried out by six U.N. agencies and one international NGO, it added.
"This is a major logistical operation in an effort to mitigate the suffering of the Syrian people," said Anders Pedersen, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Jordan. Among the immediate needs of Syrians were food, shelter, water and medical care, according to OCHA. "We are working closely with our U.N. partners inside Syria to ensure this assistance reaches those who need it most," Pedersen added. Syrian regime forces retook control of the border crossing from rebels in July. Known as Jaber on the Jordanian side and Nassib in Syria, the crossing is a key Middle East trade route and its reopening in October after a three-year closure was seen as a boon for the economies of both countries. Syria's civil war has killed more than 360,000 people since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011. More than half the country's 23 million people have fled, with 6.6 million of those internally displaced and more than 5.6 million going abroad, according to U.N. figures.

Trump Denies Collusion after Major Revelations in Russia Probe
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 09/18/U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday again denied that his campaign colluded with Russian operatives, but made no comment on claims that he directly organized hush payments to ward off a possible sex scandal during his White House run. Trump took to Twitter, his favorite means of communication, to address the multiple court filings that dropped on Friday in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller's sweeping investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
"AFTER TWO YEARS AND MILLIONS OF PAGES OF DOCUMENTS (and a cost of over $30,000,000), NO COLLUSION!" the president said. Later, he told reporters: "We are happy with what we are reading. There was no collusion whatsoever. There never has been. The last thing I want is help from Russia on a campaign." While the filings indeed did not appear to reveal evidence of collusion, they did offer a wealth of new information about what Mueller's team is looking into, along with other federal prosecutors in New York. Prosecutors directly implicated Trump in efforts to buy the silence of two women who claimed they had affairs with him, saying he directed his then-attorney Michael Cohen to offer them hush money. "With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election," the New York prosecutors said. "In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1," they added, referring to Trump. The payments are technically unrelated to the Russia probe, but prosecutors painted a damning picture of the "extensive, deliberate, and serious criminal conduct" of Cohen -- once a member of Trump's inner circle of trusted aides. In August, the 52-year-old Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance law in connection with the payments. "Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election," prosecutors said.
'Synergy on a government level'
In a separate sentencing memo, Mueller said that Cohen was in contact with a Russian national as far back as November 2015 who offered "synergy on a government level." That was months before Trump formally won the presidential nomination and well before previously reported contacts. The Russian national claimed to have ties to the Kremlin and repeatedly proposed a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The individual said the meeting could have a "phenomenal" impact "not only in political but in a business dimension as well," but Cohen never followed up, Mueller said. That combination of political and business interests could spell trouble for Trump, whose real estate empire was seeking to build a signature tower in Moscow as late as mid-2016 in the midst of his White House bid. Last week, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the Moscow real estate project. Recent filings in the Mueller probe have suggested the White House knew that Cohen planned to lie to lawmakers about his contacts with Russians. Due to his "relevant" and "substantial" help, Mueller declined to recommend additional jail time, but Cohen is still expected to face four to five years behind bars.
Multiple 'lies'
Also on Friday, new twists and turns emerged in the case against Trump's onetime campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was convicted in August of financial fraud and witness tampering charges and pleaded guilty to a second set of charges a month later. Prosecutors accused Manafort of multiple "lies" to investigators: about his contacts with administration officials even after striking a plea deal; about a debt payment; and about his interaction with a suspected Russian intelligence officer. The breach of the plea deal could lead to a stiffer jail sentence than the 10 years originally envisaged for the 69-year-old veteran Republican consultant. Manafort has been convicted mostly on charges related to his work for pro-Moscow politicians in Ukraine between 2004 and 2014. But he has also been investigated for his possible role in alleged campaign collusion with Russia. Mueller has been inching ever closer to the White House, and on Friday, Trump fired off a volley of tweets against a probe he dubs a "witch hunt," accusing Mueller of "big time conflicts of interest" and alleging he coerced false testimony from witnesses.
For Senate Democrat Richard Blumenthal, a former federal prosecutor, Trump is in legal jeopardy. "The pieces of the mosaic or the puzzle are coming into place, and the walls are closing in on Donald Trump, and his inner circle, including his family," Blumenthal said.
"I believe he could be indicted and the trial could be postponed until after he finishes service."

Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 09-10/18

Worry Less About Inflation and More About Recession
Ramesh Ponnuru/Bloomberg/December, 09/18
Any move by the Federal Reserve is the subject of concern and debate, as it should be. President Donald Trump has gotten involved in that debate, breaking a tradition of recent decades of presidential silence about Fed policy. He is “not even a little bit happy” about higher interest rates.
Some economists join Trump in thinking that the Fed is raising them too quickly. Others side with the Fed: Harvard professor Martin Feldstein, a longtime adviser to Republican presidents, argues that we need interest rates to be high enough that they can be brought down to stimulate the economy in the event of a recession.On the question of whether the Fed is being too aggressive, some agnosticism and equanimity are called for. If the Fed has erred in either a hawkish or a dovish direction, it has erred only slightly. (Fed Chairman Jay Powell’s comment that interest rates are now “just below” a neutral level suggests as much.)
Both unemployment and inflation remain significantly below the average of the last 50 years. Expected inflation is running near the Fed’s 2 percent target. You can’t reasonably ask for a much better performance, especially if you accept that inflation target.  We should use this moment of relative monetary calm to consider deeper questions, such as whether that target is the right one. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker thinks it is too high and allows too much debasement of the currency over time, pointing out that “a 2 percent inflation rate, successfully maintained, would mean the price level doubles in little more than a generation.”If Volcker is right, we should move the target from the 2 percent target to something closer to 0. He argues that lower inflation would not risk raising unemployment or turning into a dangerous deflation. But if he casts doubt on the costs of reducing the inflation target, he does not establish that this course would have large benefits. He does not, that is, establish that persistent 2 percent inflation is worth worrying about.A high and highly variable inflation rate adds uncertainty to the economy, frustrating households and businesses as they try to make their economic plans. But if the Fed keeps inflation moving in a narrow band around a low average, that problem dwindles. Whether that average is 0 or 2 matters less than that it’s predictable.
The real failing of the current monetary regime is not that it generates too much inflation. We haven’t had ruinous levels of inflation since the early 1980s (something for which Volcker’s own chairmanship deserves great credit). We have, however, had a severe recession and a weak recovery, beginning a decade ago, and it is not at all clear the Fed is well-equipped to prevent a recurrence.
There are several reasons for concern about how the Fed will respond to the next downturn. Because it targets inflation, it may be tempted to tighten money inappropriately after a negative supply shock. In 2008, for example, higher oil prices seem to have led to a more restrictive Fed policy than warranted.
Stabilizing the business cycle requires treating increases in inflation differently if they are caused by a lower money supply or increased public demand for money balances, on the one hand, or a reduction in the availability of a key resource on the other. The stricter the inflation-targeting regime, the less likely the Fed will be to make those distinctions.
Another possible complication during the next downturn: Because interest rates have been generally declining for a generation and the Fed typically relies on reductions in interest rates to boost the economy, it may find itself with little ability to help in the next recession.
This is why Feldstein wants higher rates now. That solution, though, creates problems of its own. It requires a more restrictive policy, and thus higher unemployment and lower economic output, than economic circumstances themselves would dictate, just to preserve the central bank’s room to maneuver. It risks starting recessions in the cause of being able to fight them. Since 2008, the Fed has taken to paying banks interest on their excess reserves. This policy allowed it to recapitalize the banks during the financial crisis without creating runaway inflation. But it also, as a new book and study explain, undermined the Fed’s efforts to promote recovery.The Federal Reserve may be tempted to dismiss Trump’s criticisms as off base and politically motivated, especially since it seems to be steering monetary policy pretty well at the moment. But it should not be complacent about how prepared it is in case it hits a rock.

Market Moves Suggest a Recession Is Unavoidable

Jared Dillian/Asharq Al-Awsat/December, 09/18
As a longtime market observer, what I find most interesting about the latest correction in equities has the feeling of inevitability that it will turn into something worse. It wasn’t this way in late January, when everyone wanted to buy that dip. It certainly wasn’t this way in 2007, when the magnitude of the recession was grossly underestimated. Even the Federal Reserve is getting into the pessimism. Chairman Jerome Powell signaled last week that a pause in interest-rate hikes might be forthcoming. What’s interesting about that is Powell surely knew that such a reference might be interpreted as bowing to pressure from President Donald Trump and yet he did it anyway. In essence, he risked the perception of the Fed’s independence probably because he knows the economic data is worsening. Just about everyone I talk to in the capital markets, including erstwhile bulls, acknowledges that things are slowing down. Yes, the Institute for Supply Management’s monthly manufacturing index released earlier this week was strong, but jobless claims are ticking up and I am hearing anecdotal reports of a wide range of businesses slowing down. Even my own business is slowing. Anecdotes aside, oil has crashed, home builder stocks have been crushed, and the largest tech stocks in the world have taken a haircut. If we get a recession from this, it will be a very well-telegraphed recession. Everyone knows it is coming.
A recession is nothing to fear. We have lost sight of the fact that a recession has cleansing properties, helping to right the wrong of the billions of dollars allocated to bad businesses while getting people refocused on investing in profitable enterprises. Stock market bears are so disliked because it seems as though they actually desire a recession and for people to get hurt financially. In a way, they are rooting for a recession because they know that the down part of the cycle is necessary. There are signs that capital has been incorrectly allocated. In just in the span of a year, there have been three separate bubbles: one in bitcoin, one in cannabis and one in the FAANG group of stocks: Facebook, Apple,, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet. This is uncommon. I begged the Fed to take the punch bowl away, and it eventually did, and now yields of around 2.5 percent on risk-free money are enough to get people rethinking their allocation to risk.
Yet, I wonder if it is possible to have a recession when so many people expect one. The worst recessions are the ones that people don’t see coming. In 2011, during the European debt crisis, most people were predicting financial markets Armageddon. It ended up being a smallish bear market, with the S&P 500 Index down about 21 percent on an intraday basis between July and October of that year. It actually sparked a huge bull market in the very asset class that people were worried about: European sovereign debt. We may one day have a reprise of that crisis, but if you succumbed to the panic at the time, it was a missed opportunity.
But just the other day, the front end of the US Treasury yield curve inverted, with two- and three-year note yields rising above five-year note yields. Everyone knows that inverted yield curves are the most reliable recession indicators. Of course, the broader yield curve as measured by the difference between two- and 10-year yields or even the gap between the federal funds rate and 10-year yields has yet to invert, but as I said before, there is an air of inevitability about it. Flattening yield curves always precede economic weakness. They aren’t much good at exactly timing the top of the stock market, but you can get in the ballpark. I suppose all recessions are a surprise to some extent. If you are a retail investor getting your news from popular websites or TV channels, you might not be getting the whole picture. In the professional community, it is becoming harder to ignore the very obvious warning signs that a downturn is coming. In bull markets, everything works. In bear markets, the only thing that really works is short-term government and municipal bonds and cash. Ample opportunity is being given to cut exposure to risk, and it’s clear that few people are taking advantage of it. They never do.

Will Stockholm Consultations Succeed?
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/December, 09/18
In the Johannesburg Palace, where the conference center is situated 60 km north of Stockholm, Sweden, Yemen's warring parties meet for the first time since the failure of the Kuwait consultations in April 2016. The Yemeni government, recognized by the international community, faces Houthi militias that overtook the power in Sanaa four years ago, following a full-scale coup. Yemeni government long reached out to any negotiations that would pave the way for peace, however, Houthis always refused this step, before military operations finally pushed them to accept a new round of consultations.
The United Nations, which sponsors the dialogue between the two parties and is afraid of a new failure, described what is happening in Sweden as "consultations" rather than "negotiations" because no one can guarantee that the Houthis will actually get aboard the faltering peace train, and that they will not be going to Sweden just to throw dust in the eyes.
Through the Stockholm consultations, UN is namely seeking to reach a negotiated agreement to ensure Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah will be fully operated. For three years now, the legitimate government, along with the Arab Coalition, have been asking the United Nations to oversee and supervise operations in the port, but to no avail. The success of such an agreement is expected to maintain the path of major humanitarian aid to the Yemeni people from being obstructed or destroyed, which Houthis have been doing since the beginning of the war. This is considered one of the main dilemmas Yemeni people are forced to face, given the importance of Hodeidah port for the country.
The government rely on the port for about 90 percent of Yemen's food imports, while Houthis continue to create obstacles to prevent aids from reaching the beneficiaries. The Stockholm consultations aim to end the war through international efforts with a number of confidence measures, but unfortunately, they are limited. The most important measures discussed are the exchange of prisoners, reopening of Sanaa airport, paying salaries of government employees and guaranteeing humanitarian access for all parties. The two parties will then move on to the second phase of the dialogue towards a political solution until elections are held. The United Nations is optimistic about signing the long-awaited agreement on prisoners' exchange, which would be the first formal agreement between the two sides since the beginning of this conflict.
But would such a consensus be enough to end the war without considering the major issues that caused this war?
Stockholm consultations are the fifth between the two parties, after the previous four failed, knowing that the last one in September failed even before it was launched. Given that Houthis are not interested in a political settlement, and they continue to drain the remaining state funds, it is only reasonable to witness an atmosphere that lacks optimism in the consultations, especially since the current talks were not established as peace negotiations, rather as consultations. The UN Envoy has set simple goals for the talks. The exchange of prisoners is one of the main achievements that the Envoy expects to be achieved, however, the real issue that everyone is missing is that Iran continues to push for war and up till now, did not order its Houthi ally to move forward in the peace process. Is it possible to overlook the fact that the aggression in Yemen had been a Houthi coup against a peaceful political transition of powers which was approved by the Yemeni forces?! Without a real agreement that would guarantee safe borders between Saudi Arabia and Yemen and prevent the establishment of another “Hezbollah” in Yemen, with the three references as part of the political solution, all attempts to end the Yemeni crisis will not achieve a real breakthrough.
Houthis will take advantage of such consultations again and again, as they have done in the past, to maintain their goal of keeping the war ongoing.

Iran’s terrorist proxies a regional time bomb
Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/December 09/18
A federal trial in the US is studying evidence that the Islamic Republic of Iran was responsible for hundreds of bombings that killed and maimed more than 1,000 US troops stationed in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. The $10 billion lawsuit could mean the plaintiffs becoming eligible for financial compensation from a fund for victims of state-sponsored terrorism. Over a billion dollars has already been seized from banks that laundered money for Iran as compensation for Tehran’s global role in terrorism. Iran’s backing for thousands of attacks by Iraqi Shiite militants is well documented, along with evidence of supplying arms to Sunni extremists. The challenge now is to convince a jury beyond all reasonable doubt that Iran was directly responsible. As Tehran adopted the strategy of bogging America down in an unwinnable conflict in Iraq, US forces came under attack from increasingly lethal munitions. Explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) were complicated to manufacture and required special training to use, but they easily penetrated tank armor. EFPs deployed by both Sunni and Shiite militants originated in Iran and most had even been forged in the same machine. Iran’s Qassem Soleimani established entirely new Iraqi militia forces, such as Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq and the Hezbollah Brigades.
Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq gained notoriety for a 2007 raid against the coalition headquarters in Karbala, during which four US soldiers were kidnapped and then murdered. This raid avenged a coalition operation against a Quds Force convoy in northern Iraq, during which Soleimani only escaped because Kurdish politicians hid him in a safe house. In the aftermath of these incidents, leading figures affiliated with Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq — including Hezbollah operative Ali Daqduq and Qais Al-Khazali, who today is a prominent politician and paramilitary leader — were rounded up. In recently published testimonies, Al-Khazali detailed to his captors how Soleimani oversaw the smuggling of weapons and funds to militants. “The ultimate goal of Iran is to destroy the Americans,” Al-Khazali told his captors, adding: “Iran is using both the US and the Iraqis to keep each other busy through fighting while Iran pursues their own agenda.” America was unwise not to heed these warnings.
The West and Arab world’s failure to support their Baghdad allies is producing a government dedicated to imposing Iran’s will. These same forces are today threatening renewed attacks against Western assets, while battling to secure a controlling interest in the new Iraqi government, including retaining control of the Interior Ministry. From 2005, veteran militant and then-Interior Minister Bayan Jabr oversaw the mass recruitment of tens of thousands of former paramilitaries as security personnel. Under militant control, the ministry established a network of secret prisons, in which thousands of arbitrarily detained Iraqis were brutally tortured to the point of death. The wholesale incorporation of militants into the police and armed forces has continued ever since.
Between 2005 and 2008, rogue Interior Ministry death squads murdered thousands of Sunni citizens. Attacks focused on mixed areas of Baghdad, which quickly became almost 100 percent Shiite, also eradicating much of the Christian population. Militants in police uniforms abducted civilians and murdered them with electric drills. Others were burnt alive, decapitated, stoned and tortured to death in orgies of brutality that anticipated and exceeded Daesh. Baghdad’s morgues overflowed with corpses. According to the official UN tally, 34,452 civilians were killed in 2006 alone, while a total of 4.7 million people became displaced. Sunnis in Adhamiyah dug up their football pitch and filled it with the bodies of the dead. Renewed bouts of sectarian bloodletting by these paramilitaries followed the post-2014 recapture of cities like Fallujah, Ramadi and Tikrit from Daesh, during which thousands of civilians were executed or abducted and thousands of homes were destroyed.
If Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi hands the Interior Ministry to Falih Al-Fayyadh, he allows Iran-backed militias to continue expanding their stranglehold over the state. Since 2014, Al-Fayyadh has headed the commission overseeing the Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi paramilitary umbrella force. I got into an argument with Al-Fayyadh at the 2017 IISS Manama Dialogue, where he denied well-documented massacres and war crimes by Al-Hashd. He called these militants “national heroes” and claimed they couldn’t be sectarian because of token Sunnis and minority personnel within their ranks.
Seven months after parliamentary elections in Iraq and Lebanon, Iran-backed factions have imposed political paralysis in order to shoehorn their nominees into leading positions. In both states, the deeply flawed system of sectarian distribution of posts was designed to ensure that all sects were properly represented. However, Iran’s allies have subverted this process by cramming Sunni and Kurdish allies into the roles of parliamentary speaker and president in Iraq. Hezbollah is trying to pull off the same trick in Lebanon.
These processes are a parody of democracy. Tehran’s Iraqi allies won a tiny proportion of parliamentary seats, yet are dictating key government posts. The West and Arab world’s failure to support their Baghdad allies is producing a government dedicated to imposing Iran’s will, while sidelining other components of Iraq’s society.
Ongoing US trials into Tehran’s role in terrorism should be a salutary reminder of the consequences of allowing Iran to consolidate itself regionally, including in Syria, where Tehran’s proxies are expanding in the east, while escalating tensions with Israel in the southwest. One day soon we will wake up to new reminders of why we were so dangerously wrong to allow Iranian proxies to insinuate themselves at all levels of the region’s political, military and social systems. With militants skilled in the arts of sectarian cleansing, mass murder and crimes against humanity within striking distance of chokepoints for global maritime trade, like Bab Al-Mandab, Hormuz and the eastern Mediterranean, this is not just a localized threat. Once Iran believes its regional posture to be impregnable, we will face a much more dangerous reckoning in the near future; making the confrontation with Daesh look like a walk in the park.
*Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate, and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

Turkey’s dilemma should NATO challenge Russia
Yasar Yakıs/Arab News/December 09/18
Tension is once again mounting between Russia and Ukraine, this time in the sea. On Nov. 25, the Russian navy fired at and seized a Ukrainian tugboat and two ships off the Crimean peninsula when they were on their way from Odessa to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov. The Ukrainian Security Agency (SBU) said that officers who were onboard were fulfilling counterintelligence operations for the Ukrainian navy in response to “psychological and physical pressure by the Russian intelligence services.”
The Russian Federal Security Service said the Ukrainian navy ships entered Russian territorial waters and that its forces fired at them. It is clear from these two statements that, in this contention, there are two truths, not one. The truth according to Russia is that Crimea joined the Russian Federation in 2014, so Moscow is entitled to prevent the entry of foreign vessels to its territorial waters. The truth according to Ukraine is that it does not recognize Crimea’s annexation by Russia, and therefore challenges Moscow’s claims on territorial waters. Despite this, according to a statement by the SBU, Ukraine informed the Russian side beforehand that its ships would cross the Kerch Strait on their way to Mariupol. In light of this background, it is clear that the conflict stems from the efforts of both sides to make their respective claim prevail. Under a 2003 treaty between Moscow and Kiev, the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov are shared territorial waters. Mariupol and Berdyansk ports in the Sea of Azov are key to Ukraine’s exports of grain and metallurgical products and also for importing coal. However, according to Russia’s claims, transit through the Kerch Strait has to be carried out according to the general rules of international law that regulate “innocent passage.” This allows non-coastal countries’ ships to go through the territorial waters of a coastal country, but that the coastal country has the right to intercept the ship, inspect the cargo and refuse the passage if the cargo contains military equipment that could be used against the coastal country. Sometimes these inspections may turn into a full-fledged harassment.
To make things more complicated, Russia has built a bridge over the Kerch Strait, connecting the Russian mainland and the Crimean peninsula. It sent an empty tanker to anchor under the bridge, thus closing the strait to international traffic. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan contacted both his Russian and US counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Russia is eager to keep this conflict as a bilateral issue with Ukraine and wants to avoid the intervention of third counties. The Vienna-based Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe urged Russia and Ukraine to refrain from any further provocations. NATO strongly supported Ukraine and blamed Russia. British Admiral Lord West proposed sending a Royal Navy destroyer, but this proposal is more easily said than done because of the unique international status of the Black Sea. A convention signed in 1936 in Montreux, Switzerland, determines the sea’s status. According to the convention, there are limitations on the presence of the naval forces of non-riparian countries. It provides that non-Black Sea countries’ vessels present in the sea cannot exceed 45,000 tons. Furthermore, such vessels cannot stay more than 21 days in the Black Sea.
During the Russia-Georgia conflict of August 2008, the US wanted to send a military hospital vessel of 68,000 tons to the Georgian coast, but the Turkish government had to refuse passage through the Turkish straits on the grounds that this demand was not in compliance with the Montreux Convention. Russia is eager to keep this conflict as a bilateral issue with Ukraine and wants to avoid the intervention of third counties. The situation would become more complicated and a host of questions would arise if the Russia-Ukraine conflict leads to a major military clash with the involvement of NATO. Would Turkey send troops to fight Russia while they cooperate so closely in Syria? Would Romanian and Bulgarian vessels be counted, in terms of the Montreux Convention, as non-Black Sea vessels should they participate in a NATO-led operation against Russia?
NATO is also considering sending troops to Ukraine, not to fight with Russia, but to train Ukrainian troops. Would Turkey contribute troops to this? Russia would consider this as a hostile attitude, but there is nothing infringing international law in this case. It will be more a political conflict. Furthermore, the Montreux Convention makes a distinction according to whether Turkey is at war or not. Article 20 says: “In time of war, Turkey being belligerent... the passage of warships (through the Turkish straits) shall be left to the discretion of the Turkish government.” Turkey will face a difficult choice because of this article. Would it open the straits to NATO countries’ vessels?
*Yasar Yakis is a former foreign minister of Turkey and founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Twitter: @yakis_yasar