December 11/18

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 05/24-30: “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life. ‘Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice. and will come out those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. ‘I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgement is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 10-11/18
In Occupied Leban Media Freedoms Are In Danger
Report: Hazem Amin/Face Book/December 10/18
Israel Army Chief, UNIFIL Commander Discuss 'Border Tunnels'
Israeli Troops Erect New Sand Barrier near Border
Hariri Meets Aoun, Speaks of 'Possible Solutions' for Govt. Crisis
Mashnouq Says ISF Thwarted Bombing Attacks by IS
CLDH - Lebanese Center for Human Rights
Lebanese President Kicks off New Efforts to Speed up Govt. Formation
Lebanon Announces Thwarting of ISIS Terror Plot during May Elections
Hariri says solutions possible to govt deadlock
Jubeir Affirms Saudi Backing for Hariri, Rejects ‘Iran, Hizbullah’s’ Roles
Report: Berri ‘Objects’ to Not Inviting Syria to Beirut Summit
Qaouq Says ‘No Bend, No Break’ Formula Available for Govt.
'The Country is Gone': Alameh, Dib Clash over New Song
In Lebanon, Empty Flats Raise Fears of Real Estate Collapse
Ex-Nissan Boss Ghosn Served Fresh Arrest Warrant
On not losing the compass in Lebanon
Wahhab’s tactics are a recipe for disaster
Hezbollah’s tunnels are part of Iran’s strategy
Analysis/Israel Seeks to Leverage Op Against Hezbollah Tunnels to Complete Lebanon Border Wall
Israeli Official: If UNIFIL Expands Mandate, Few Countries Will Send Troops

Titles For The Latest  English LCCC  Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 10-11/18
France’s Macron vows to use ‘all means’ to restore calm
Netanyahu Announces Oman Allowed El Al To Utilize Its Air Space
Through Strength, Not Weakness, Netanyahu Looks to Normalize With Arab World
Israel Unveils Plans for Regional Quartet Axis
Israel Joins Global Financial Watchdog on Money Laundering
German Reports on Iran's Missile Test Expansion in 2018
Australian-Iranian Population Expert Arrested in Iran
Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire
Al-Abadi: Iran’s intervention prevented me from getting a second term
Arab Coalition Renews Support to UN Envoy to Yemen
Iraq Celebrates One Year since Victory against ISIS

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 10-11/18
In Occupied Leban Media Freedoms Are In Danger/Elias Bejjani/December 10/18
In Lebanon, Empty Flats Raise Fears of Real Estate Collapse/AFP/December 10/18
Ex-Nissan Boss Ghosn Served Fresh Arrest Warrant/Kyodo News/December 10/18
On not losing the compass in Lebanon/Khairallah Khairallah/The Arab Weekly/December 10/18
Wahhab’s tactics are a recipe for disaster/Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/December 10/18
Hezbollah’s tunnels are part of Iran’s strategy/Kyle Orton/The Arab Weekly/December 10/18
Analysis/Israel Seeks to Leverage Op Against Hezbollah Tunnels to Complete Lebanon Border Wall/Amos Harel/Haaretz/December 10/18
Israeli Official: If UNIFIL Expands Mandate, Few Countries Will Send Troops/Jerusalem Post/December 10/18
Netanyahu Announces Oman Allowed El Al To Utilize Its Air Space/Jerusalem Post/December 10/18
Germany’s long goodbye: Thank you Mrs Merkel/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/December 10/18
India forced to rethink Afghan policy as US talks to Taliban/Simran Sodhi/Al Arabiya/December 10/18
French ‘sedition’ and Western democracy/Mashari AlthaydiAl Arabiya/December 10/18
More UN ChicaneryBruce Bawer/Gatestone Institute/December 10/18
The French People Feel Screwed/David Brown/Gatestone Institute/December 10/18
UN Approves Terror, Torpedoes Peace/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/December 10/18
France is Confused in Ailing Europe/Ghassan Charbel/Ashaq Al Awsat/December 10/18
Peak Tech Is a Tale of Evolution and Extinction/Nathanial Bullard/Bloomberg View//December 10/18
Exit Merkel. Enter Hope for Centrism in Europe./Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg /December 10/18
Iran’s three options for surviving US sanctions/Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami/Arab News/December 10/18

Latest LCCC English Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 10-11/18
In Occupied Leban Media Freedoms Are In Danger
Elias Bejjani/December 10/18
:This kind of intimidation is totally condemned and must not take place in Lebanon against a respectful journalists like Mr. Hazem. Sadly media Freedom in the Iranian occupied Lebanon is not respected.

Report: Hazem Amin/Face Book/December 10/18
Today, a detective from the Internal Security Forces (ISF) came to Daraj’s office to inform us about a legal complaint filed against us with relation to an article published on our website a few months ago. We refused to answer the detective’s question about who owns Daraj, and asked to have a lawyer present with us before we proceed with giving further information. The detective then left the office, but the story did not end here. Shortly after the detective left, around 10 armed officers from the ISF arrived. They addressed and treated our colleagues very rudely, and even handcuffed one of the workers in the building where we work. They took me out of the building, in a rough manner, as though they were dealing with some huge crime. Inside the car, they handcuffed me. When I arrived to the police station, things looked different. Normal routine procedures were carried out by officers, which obviously did not require this level of “security alarm” witnessed minutes before reaching the place. The interrogator treated me with respect, and told me that the detective who had visited Daraj accused me of addressing him with insulting expressions and an aggressive tone, which was a completely false accusation. Interrogations ended after two hours, and then I was released. It is worth mentioning that the case I was interrogated about was actually previously dropped by the plaintiff. In Daraj we believe in the right of every person who feels violated by an article or any type of content we produce to resort to justice. But what happened today was more reflective of the ways of a typical police-state, in how its law enforcement officers were behaving acrimoniously with journalists and displaying power and strength, while they are supposed to be representing Law and Order. On my way back to the office, I remembered the threats made during the last few days by a number of politicians and their supporters, against the Prime Minister, with some including death threats against him. Did the State react? No. And this tells a lot about the current paradox we live in. So is Lebanon heading closer towards being a police state?

Israel Army Chief, UNIFIL Commander Discuss 'Border Tunnels'
Associated Press/Naharnet/December 10/18/Israel's military chief has met with the head of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon to discuss the discovery of alleged tunnels Israel says were built by Hizbullah to carry out attacks. Last week, Israel began an open-ended operation to destroy the suspected tunnels. The Israeli military said that during the meeting, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot told UNIFIL's commander, Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, that the alleged tunnels are a "blatant violation" of a U.N. cease-fire resolution that ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah.It added that Eisenkot expressed the importance of the peacekeepers in enforcing the resolution and working to neutralize the suspected tunnels on the Lebanese side of the border.

Israeli Troops Erect New Sand Barrier near Border
Naharnet/December 10/18/The Israeli military embarked on erecting a sand barrier in Mays al-Jabal-Tallet Sharaqi on the border with Lebanon on Monday, LBCI TV station reported. Israel operated under the monitoring of the UNIFIL, added LBCI. On Sunday, 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. Earlier Israeli forces said they uncovered another Hizbullah tunnel dug from Lebanon into the northern occupied territory of Palestine. Israel began an operation last week to detect and "neutralize" what it called attack passageways dug by the Iranian-backed group into northern Israel.

Hariri Meets Aoun, Speaks of 'Possible Solutions' for Govt. Crisis
Naharnet/December 10/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri held talks Monday in Baabda with President Michel Aoun after which he announced that there are “possible solutions” for the government formation crisis. “We discussed several proposals regarding the government issue and there are possible solutions,” said Hariri after the meeting. “There are parties who don’t want the government to be formed but let President Aoun continue his consultations,” Hariri added. “I will continue my communication with him and I don’t want to be negative,” the PM-designate went on to say. Commenting on reports that Parliament could withhold its confidence from Hariri and task someone else with forming the government, Hariri dismissed them as “mere Lebanese bickering.”“The constitution is clear and I will continue my consultations after returning from abroad,” he added. Aoun had earlier in the day met with Speaker Nabih Berri and media reports said that he intends to hold further political consultations over the coming days.

Mashnouq Says ISF Thwarted Bombing Attacks by IS

Associated Press/Naharnet/December 10/18/Caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq on Monday revealed that the Internal Security Forces have discovered and thwarted planned bombing attacks by the Islamic State group. Mashnouq told reporters that the bombs were smuggled in from the rebel-held northwestern Syrian province of Idlib in buckets of cheese, and were intended for targeting places of worship, gatherings of Christians and military posts. The minister added that the attacks were supposed to take place during Lebanon's parliamentary elections in May. He added that those planning the attacks were monitored by the ISF Intelligence Branch for 10 months through a Syrian informer in Lebanon. The announcement came ahead of the Christmas season when many Lebanese celebrate in public places. IS and al-Qaida-linked militants carried out attacks in Lebanon in the past, killing scores.

CLDH - Lebanese Center for Human Rights
December 10/18/On the international day of Human Rights, the Lebanese Center for Human Rights would like to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights!
We currently live in a controversial world where our rights are enshrined in our constitutions, but, violated in our daily lives. More and more people are being deprived of their most basic rights every day. This is why, on this day, CLDH has chosen to shed the light on victims of torture and the families of the disappeared. Victims of torture are people who are deprived of their rights to freedom, to not be harmed, and their right to respect of their human dignity. Victims of torture have a right to fair trial, to compensation, and to rehabilitation, all of which depend on the ability of said victim to prove he/she was subjected to torture, before a court, days – if not weeks – after he/she was tortured. Twenty-eight years after the end of the Lebanese war, around 17,400 individuals are still, to this date, missing or enforcedly disappeared. Their families wait without knowing if their loved ones are alive or dead. On this day, we remember these people and even though we celebrate the recent adoption of the law on the missing and enforcedly disappeared in Lebanon, we eagerly await its implementation that should happen in good faith and with human rights in mind. Day by day, the situation of human rights in Lebanon grows worse. Human rights are being limited to freedom of expression that excludes religion, politics and the degradation of the Lebanese social situation. Human rights are forbidden to those who dare question the legality of a decision, or a governmental spending.We must always keep in mind that human rights are not a gift by the government to its people, it is a right inherent in human nature, acquired by the long struggle towards freedom and democracy. Human rights are indivisible, and should not be prioritized especially in the twenty-first century. Human rights begin with the right to life, to education, and similar rights, but we must always remember that they also include the freedom of expression, right to protest peacefully, and the right to a clean environment.

Lebanese President Kicks off New Efforts to Speed up Govt. Formation
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 10 December, 2018/Lebanese President Michel Aoun began on Monday a series of consultations aimed at speeding up the government formation efforts, reported the National News Agency. He kicked off these consultations by holding talks at the Baabda presidential palace with Speaker Nabih Berri, who left the meeting without making a statement.He then held talks with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who refused to divulge details of the discussions to reporters. “Whenever I tell you anything, the formation efforts become obstructed,” he informed them after meeting Aoun. “Some sides want to form a government and others do not. The president and I want to the formation of a cabinet,” he added. “The president will carry on with his consultations and we will continue to communicate with him,” Hariri stated. Asked if concessions could be made, he replied: “This is what Hezbollah is demanding and it has tossed the ball in my court. I have no problem with that. Everyone knows what is acceptable and unacceptable for me. We are negotiating over some issues.”Government formation is often a drawn-out process in Lebanon, where a complex governing system seeks to maintain a precarious balance of power between its various political and religious communities. Hezbollah has pushed for Sunni politicians allied to its movement, but opposed to Hariri to be represented in the future cabinet. Hariri has refused to give up a portfolio that would otherwise go to his own party. Asked if he will be held responsible for the failure to reach a solution, Hariri replied: “Everyone will be held accountable.”

Lebanon Announces Thwarting of ISIS Terror Plot during May Elections

Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 10 December, 2018/Lebanese Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq announced Monday that security agencies had thwarted terrorist plots that were set to target the parliamentary elections that were held in May. He said that one plot sought to target a church and another sought to target the security forces and military during the elections in order to obstruct them. “The complex security operation lasted nearly a full year and reasserted the idea of a secure Lebanon for residents and visitors,” Mashnouq told a press conference at the Internal Security Forces general directorate. The briefing was attended by ISF chief Imad Othman. In detailing the plots, the minister said that the main member of the operation was a resident of Lebanon. He communicated with a terrorist operations center in Syria’s Idlib. The contacts were ongoing for 10 months. The ISIS terrorist group tasked him to carry out the attack on the day of the elections, which took place on May 6. The attack was thwarted and he was then tasked with another one. His handlers were killed however, and his new contact asked him to travel to Turkey after which the ISF decided to act. Mashnouq remarked that the ISF operation was “remarkable” because it remained undetected for ten months. The security forces succeeded throughout this period in obstructing the plots of the terrorist group. Moreover, he revealed that the terrorist explosives operator had transported explosives to Lebanon twice, each time in a cheese container. He was tasked with building and detonating the bomb in Lebanon. “Beirut is the most secure of capitals and it alone, through the efforts of the security agencies, succeeded in thwarting terrorism,” Mashnouq continued. He stressed that the ISF Intelligence Bureau was carrying out its duties away from political tensions because its main mission is to safeguard the security of the Lebanese regardless of their affiliations.

Hariri says solutions possible to govt deadlock

The Daily Star/December 10, 2018/BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri struck an upbeat tone Monday after meeting President Michel Aoun in a bid to find solutions to the monthslong Cabinet deadlock. "I'm always optimistic that there are solutions to the government crisis, and President Aoun will continue his consultations," Hariri told reporters from Baabda Palace. The premier-designate added: "We discussed with the president several proposals to the government [formation] issue and there are solutions that can be [agreed upon]. President Aoun will complete his consultations and I will continue to communicate with him."On Monday, Aoun initiated a new round of talks aimed at breaking the Cabinet formation deadlock after he asked for separate meetings with Speaker Nabih Berri and Hariri. The president met with Berri at around 3 p.m. for 45 minutes, and met with Hariri at 6 p.m. “There is a lot of pressure on the situation, it’s at a standstill. The country needs an exit from this,” a Baabda Palace source told The Daily Star. “This is a new initiative from the president to find a solution, after [Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran] Bassil’s attempts failed,” the source added. “[Aoun] will also meet with other politicians today in order to discuss the situation,” the source said. Bassil floated two proposals to resolve the problem of representing six pro-Hezbollah Sunni MPs in the upcoming government, but both failed to make any headway, dashing hopes of an imminent breakthrough in the Cabinet formation crisis, now in its seventh month. One of the proposals had been to represent the six parliamentarians from Aoun’s share.

Jubeir Affirms Saudi Backing for Hariri, Rejects ‘Iran, Hizbullah’s’ Roles
Naharnet/December 10/18/The Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir affirmed Saudi backing for Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s endeavors in forming a national consensus government, and “rejected Iran’s interference in Lebanon and Hizbullah’s role.”“We support Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and his efforts aiming to form a national consensus government. We reject Iran’s role in Lebanon’s internal politics and we reject Hizbullah’s heavy role in Lebanon’s politics,” said Jubeir in remarks on Sunday at a press conference at the closing of the Gulf summit in Riyadh. “Lebanon’s unity can be guaranteed and a national unity government can be formed if the entire Lebanese parties prioritize Lebanon’s interest,” added Jubeir. "The GCC countries have always been supportive of Lebanon, but we want Lebanon to have a national unity government, we want it to have a political guarantee that will make Lebanon's interests above all else,” he added.

Report: Berri ‘Objects’ to Not Inviting Syria to Beirut Summit
Naharnet/December 10/18/Lebanon prepares for hosting the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit next month as it still struggles to form a new government, as Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri objected to not inviting Syria to the event, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Monday. The daily said that political circles have recently raised the issue of preparations for the Beirut summit expected mid-next month, in light of aggravating conflict between the political parties over cabinet shares and quotas leaving the country “governmentless.”
A political source who spoke on condition of anonymity told the newspaper: “How would a summit be held in a country bankrupt at the financial and governmental levels?”Meanwhile, Berri has objected to not inviting Syria and asked: “How come Lebanon did not invite Syria to attend the summit? I have reiterated at the Arab parliamentary meetings, that I do not accept meetings without Syria, I will not accept any other Arab meeting without Syria,” he stressed. The Summit is expected to be held in Beirut on January 19-20. According to media reports, “Hizbullah and some political forces allied with the Syrian regime embarked on pressuring Lebanon into inviting the Syrian regime.” Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and a number of political forces have reportedly rejected the matter, arguing that Lebanon must abide by the decisions of the Arab League which suspended Syria’s membership back in 2011 over its failure to end government crackdown on protests. The Arab Economic and Social Development summits are summits of the Arab League, held at the head of state level to address issues of economic and social development among member-states

Qaouq Says ‘No Bend, No Break’ Formula Available for Govt.
Naharnet/December 10/18/A senior Hizbullah official, Nabil Qaouq said there are many suggestions that guarantee the allocation of a ministerial seat for the so-called Independent Sunni MPs “without excluding anyone,” the National News Agency reported on Monday. “The government impasse is getting more complicated each day. It is draining the country’s economy and the morale of Lebanese. We are stepping farther from any solution instead of getting closer,” said Qaouq. “There are many solutions that leave everyone in the “winner” seat. There is a government format that does not break or exclude any of the parties, and at the same time allocates a ministerial seat for the Independent Sunni MPs,” he added without elaborating. Blaming Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri for the government delay, he said: “The problem is that the PM-designate does not want to acknowledge the results of the parliamentary elections which made the Sunni MPs part of the political equation,” he said, adding “they must not be excluded or ignored.

'The Country is Gone': Alameh, Dib Clash over New Song
Naharnet/December 10/18/Lebanese popstar Ragheb Alameh and a number of artists have slammed remarks voiced by MP Hikmat Dib of the Strong Lebanon bloc as a “Daeshist threat.”
“This person’s head must be chopped off. What does he mean by ‘the country is gone’? What is this irresponsibility!” Dib said in an interview on OTV, referring to Alameh’s new Arabic-language political song ‘Tar el-Balad’, which roughly translates into ‘The Country is Gone’ or ‘The Country is Lost’.Dib later tweeted: “Ragheb Alameh, keep your songs about love and passion and leave the country alone.”The lawmaker’s remarks drew a storm of criticism from artists and political figures. Alameh himself hit back through a series of tweets.
“This was my country before being your country… The whole Lebanese people have crowned me as an artist cherished by their hearts and my name shall remain celebrated for hundreds of years, whereas you’ll be gone with a gesture from the smallest finger of your movement’s chief… I advise you to submit a membership application to Daesh,” the popular star tweeted.
“What a shame! These MPs are shameless!” Alameh added. “A little MP threatens you because you have sung about a country’s situation. He wants to intimidate you and silence you. This is unprecedented!! Anyway, I will respond with a stronger song and music. We are not criminals to threaten with beheadings. We threaten them with our music,” the veteran singer went on to say.
In an interview with An-Nahar newspaper, Alameh said he has taken legal measures against Dib.
“I have addressed a report to the state prosecutor to ask Speaker Nabih Berri to lift Hikmat Dib’s parliamentary immunity, but will Berri accept to lift his immunity?” Alameh said.
“Should the Speaker accept my request, I will sue Dib on charges of incitement to murder,” the singer explained. Alameh’s new song urges citizens to raise their voices against the dire political and economic situations in the country. “It’s about time, people it’s about time we raised our voice high! There’s not much time left, the country is gone, people!” says Alameh in the song which has been turned into a music video.

In Lebanon, Empty Flats Raise Fears of Real Estate Collapse

AFP/December 10/18
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, fuelled in part by sales to wealthy Gulf Arabs and Lebanese expatriates.But after civil war broke out in neighbouring 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-metre 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 grinded 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 learnt that the subsidised 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.

Ex-Nissan Boss Ghosn Served Fresh Arrest Warrant
Kyodo News/December 10/18
Former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn was served a fresh arrest warrant on Monday for allegedly understating his remuneration by a further 4.2 billion yen ($37.3 million) in the company's securities reports for the three business years through March, raising the possibility of him remaining in custody beyond Christmas.The arrest on the new allegation came as Tokyo prosecutors indicted Ghosn, one of his close aides and Nissan as a company on a charge of violating the financial instruments law for making misstatements in the company's releases to the market during the five years through March 2015.
"Making false disclosures in annual securities reports greatly harms the integrity of Nissan's public disclosures in the securities markets, and the company expresses its deepest regret," the Yokohama-headquartered automaker said in a statement.
Just ahead of the new developments in his alleged financial misconduct that has rocked the automotive industry, Japan's securities watchdog also filed a criminal complaint against Ghosn, Greg Kelly, a former representative director of Nissan, and the company over the suspected misstatements in the five-year period.
Ghosn, who is credited with rescuing Nissan from near-bankruptcy in the 1990s, and Kelly were initially arrested three weeks ago on suspicion of breaching the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act by allegedly stating only about 5 billion of his 10 billion yen compensation during the five years through March 2015 in the company's securities reports submitted to Japanese regulators. The fresh arrest warrants against the pair allow prosecutors to keep them in custody at a Tokyo detention center and to interrogate them further.
The Tokyo prosecutors' special investigation squad said the men are suspected of conspiring to report only about 2.94 billion yen of the former chairman's nearly 7.2 billion yen remuneration in the past three business years. In total, Ghosn is suspected of having failed to report around 9 billion yen of his pay.
Ghosn and Kelly could face up to an additional 20 days of detention through Dec. 30, with their prolonged interrogation without the presence of lawyers sparking criticism overseas.
The release date on the two executives' initial detention period was Monday, but Japanese law permits police or prosecutors to add further allegations with fresh warrants, meaning a suspect can be detained indefinitely if a court approves it.While visits by people from outside the detention center are restricted, lawyers and embassy officials are allowed to meet them, but not be present during interrogations.
Ghosn and Kelly have admitted to the prosecutors that the former chairman's remuneration was not entirely stated in the reports, but have claimed that it was not necessary to do so because how much he would receive after his retirement had yet to be settled, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. The prosecutors believe the payments were fixed as they have obtained documents on his post-retirement compensation signed by Ghosn. Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa was also found to have signed documents on post-retirement payments crafted by Kelly. The prosecutors have questioned Saikawa on a voluntary basis, believing he knows why and how they were created. Ghosn has told the prosecutors he did not report the full amount because he did not want company workers to lose motivation after learning about his large pay package, according to the sources.

On not losing the compass in Lebanon/عدم إضاعة البوصلة في لبنان
Khairallah Khairallah/The Arab Weekly/December 10/18
خيرالله خيرالله/العرب/10 كانون الأول/18
Amid the deep crisis that Lebanon is suffering from on all levels, some events that are characterized with humor more than anything else happen every now and then. Among these events are for example a protest organized in Beirut by the so-called Sabaa Party in front of the offices of the commission tasked with collecting the Value Added Tax.
Was it a spontaneous protest? Some think so and some doubt that such protests are spontaneous especially if we take into consideration that the activities which happened under the cover of “civil society” were all planned in detail in the presence of Hezbollah behind the curtain. Who remembers these activities during the government of Tammam Salam and the vandalism of public facilities? At the time there was vandalism for the sake of vandalism!
In the presence of the main problem which is Hezbollah’s weapons, the illegitimate sectarian weapons, all other problems are easy at a time when Lebanon is at stake after it became clear that the current Iranian goal is legislating control over the Lebanese state
It’s very well-known who mobilized such parties that claim representing the civil society and which suddenly emerge in circumstances that can in the least be described as mysterious, as to not say another word. However, these activities are suspicious because they simply contributed and continue to contribute to covering the main problem which Lebanon suffers from. The main problem lies in the illegitimate arms which allow the presence of a state within the state – a state that’s become bigger and stronger than the Lebanese one.
A state within a state
This problem has been on since 1969, when the unfortunate Cairo agreement which Raymond Edde warned of was signed. Edde was the only Lebanese politician back then to call a spade a spade and the only Maronite leader who did not accept to be president for any price. He put Lebanon’s interest before his own personal interest and above his legitimate desire to be president.
In the presence of the main problem which is Hezbollah’s weapons, the illegitimate sectarian weapons, all other problems are easy at a time when Lebanon is at stake after it became clear that the current Iranian goal is legislating control over the Lebanese state, or whatever is left of it, via forming a new cabinet.
What is certain is that it is definitely not Saad Hariri, the prime minister-designate, who will work on legislating this Iranian tutelage. Hariri cannot provide a cover for Iranian tutelage. It’s as simple as that. What’s more certain is that what is proposed in Lebanon is focused on avoiding the formation of a cabinet under Hezbollah’s control, i.e. under Iran’s control, at a time when there is American insistence, at least visibly, to put an end to Iran’s expansionist project. In clearer words, Lebanon, with whatever live powers it still has, must prevent Iran’s control over it and must prevent Iran from turning the country into a card that Tehran exploits in a game that only brings destruction and misery.
The American sanctions on Iran are not a joke at all. They are serious and Lebanon cannot lightly deal with them. What’s important is to form a cabinet within certain balances and in accordance with the constitution. What is required is a cabinet that takes into consideration the fact that Lebanon is not an island and that before anything else it must not fall into the trap which Iran, that has begun to lose its temper, is setting for it.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s statement about an Iranian response to American sanctions and that include “drowning the West with drugs and asylum seekers” actually show the extent that Iran has reached these days and how willing it is to go far in confronting these sanctions. Rouhani warned Europe, which strongly opposed the US’ withdrawal from the nuclear deal, that many issues are on stake regarding its efforts to go around the sanctions and continue to trade with it. He expected a “flood” of drugs, refugees and attacks on the West if the sanctions weaken Iran’s ability to contain them. Rouhani said: “I warn those who impose sanctions that if Iran’s ability to fight drugs and terrorism are affected ... you will not be safe from a deluge of drugs, asylum seekers, bombs and terrorism.”
Rouhani made these statements while delivering a speech during a conference on terrorism and regional cooperation attended by Parliament Speakers from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey.
Lebanon’s steadfastness
If such remarks which are characterized with violence have been made by an Iranian figure that is described as moderate, then what has he left for the extremists who think that Iran is a superpower that can confront the world and not just settle with announcing its control over four Arab capitals including Beirut.
Lebanon’s steadfastness is not in a protest here or there calling for the quick formation of a cabinet. Lebanon’s steadfastness begins with rejecting Hassan Nasrallah’s statements and the “standards” which his party sets to form a cabinet. It is in comprehending that there is a coup attempt implemented on stages in Lebanon. There are parties playing their role within the context of implementing this attempt, some in good faith and others in bad faith.
Forming the government will not solve any problem if what is required is submitting to the desires of Hezbollah and those who stand behind it in Iran or who incite it in Damascus and who carry grudges against Lebanon who still has people who seek to avoid strife. At the core of this strife lies an Iranian desire to achieve Sunni and Druze infiltration through the government which Hariri is trying to form.
It’s useful for those who are currently making efforts to speed up the cabinet formation that’s the size of Hezbollah to remember that Iran, which stands behind this party, is interested in neither Lebanon nor the Lebanese people. All what Iran wants is to gain more cards which it thinks it can use to seal a deal with the American “Great Satan” and the Israeli “Little Satan.” Where was that Iranian fuss and the fuss stirred by the “Axis of Resistance,” and which we usually hear, when Benjamin Netanyahu visited Muscat?
During this phase of the new American sanctions on Iran and on whoever cooperates with it and helps it, the discovery of the tunnels which Hezbollah dug in the international troops’ area of operations in South Lebanon and the Israeli alertness at the Blue Line, the Lebanese people have no other choice other than extreme caution. They must increase this caution due to the European situation, especially the French one where President Emmanuel Macron is confronting a real domestic crisis that will probably push him to reconsider his government along with what this means in terms of paralysis, even if temporary, on the level of French foreign policy.
Logic stipulates that forming a Lebanese cabinet amid the current domestic, regional and international givens is a necessity. However, it also stipulates that the priority is for caution on one hand and not losing the compass on another – and the compass is represented in Hezbollah’s weapons and the threat they pose on every Lebanese and the future of their children and on every Sunni, Shiite, Druze and Christian.

Wahhab’s tactics are a recipe for disaster
مكرم رباح: تكتيكات وئام وهاب هي وصفة لكارثة

Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/December 10/18

Hezbollah’s only way out of this quagmire is to abandon its support of Wahhab, whose words and actions make a recipe for disaster.
Lebanon, contrary to how it is depicted by the international media, is one of the safest countries in the world with very low crime rates compared to some cities in the United States such as Chicago or Washington.
Yet, this semblance of peace can quickly give way to the outbreak of political violence, which can be equally deadly and can lead to the paralysis of the entire country. The incident that involved pro-Syrian Lebanese politician Wiam Wahhab and the Internal Security Forces that led to the death of one of his bodyguards is a case in point.
Wahhab, a former minister of the environment during the Syrian hegemony over Lebanon (1990-2005), acquired his fame for disregarding political correctness and moral decency, something that unfortunately made him a favourite to many who find his rhetoric as amusing. Yet Wahhab’s Trump-like demeanour is a smokescreen for a more vicious and calculated scheme to peddle the Assad-Iranian agenda.
Part of an elaborate network of pro-Syrian Lebanese mouthpieces, Wahhab has constantly attacked Syria’s opponents, primarily Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt, accusing them of corruption and — more dangerously — of being lackeys of the West.
Wahhab’s attack on Hariri peaked after the latter’s adamant refusal to acquiesce to Hezbollah’s pressures to form the next government and to include a pro-Syrian Sunni minister.
Hariri’s refusal earned him a full barrage of insults from Wahhab, who even insulted Hariri’s late father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri who was assassinated in 2005. These profane remarks provoked sectarian strife and Sunni supporters of Hariri took to the streets to protest across many parts of the country.
Jumblatt’s open support of Hariri led Wahhab to provoke the leader of the Druze by dispatching a car convoy of his supporters to parade through Jumblatt’s hometown of Moukhtara in the Chouf Mountains, a move that was perceived as a provocation and crossing of Druze tribal red lines.
Initially, Hariri’s civilised reaction was to take legal action against Wahhab, who was subpoenaed by the Lebanese judiciary but failed to present himself or his lawyer for questioning.
Wahhab’s contempt led Lebanese authorities to dispatch a sizeable police force to Wahhab’s village as a public rebuke and to inform him of the consequences of his failure to abide by the subpoena.
The police force, comprised of the elite intelligence branch division and travelling in armoured personal carriers, was met with armed resistance by Wahhab’s henchmen who tried to prevent authorities from carrying out their duties. The raid resulted in the death of Wahhab’s bodyguard Mohammed Bou Diab, who was killed by a stray bullet, which may have been fired by his associates.
Wahhab instantly used the tragic incident to victimise himself and accuse Hariri and the Lebanese judiciary of trying to silence him as a “crusader” against their vehement corruption. Helped by local media, which were anxious for ratings, Wahhab turned Bou Diab’s funeral into a venue for pro-Syrian and Iranian politicians and lackeys to show support and to paint him as a legitimate voice of opposition to Hariri and Jumblatt.
Looking through Wahhab’s elaborate and dangerous actions one can see the fingerprints of the Assad regime, which wishes to make a comeback on the Lebanese political scene at any cost, even spilling the blood of the innocent.
These same outdated tactics that Wahhab uses against Saad Hariri were used against Rafik Hariri to remind him that his political — and physical — wellbeing was contingent on him abiding by their directives.
The main problem is not only with the likes of Wahhab but rather with Hezbollah, which nurtures and operates such specimens to badger and harass anyone who dares call them out as true enemies of the Lebanese state. Despite Hezbollah’s open refusal of Wahhab’s earlier statements, it provides him with political and financial support to operate his clientelist network and his militia.
Hezbollah’s actions and its use of puppets might lead one to believe that it is a sign of strength but they confirm Hezbollah’s predicament and distress over impending US sanctions that will cripple its ability to operate. It is no mere coincidence that Wahhab’s ruckus conveniently preceded Israel’s operation in southern Lebanon that involved the demolition of Hezbollah tunnels on the Israeli border.
Hezbollah and its Iranian command might be convinced that Wahhab’s loud mouth and their insistence to transform Lebanon into the next Gaza — by digging tunnels and setting up missile factories — will protect them.
Yet, what is certain is that if Hezbollah truly wants to protect itself, it should realise that it is unwise and counterproductive to take Lebanon hostage and its only way out of this quagmire is to abandon its support of Wahhab, whose words and actions make a recipe for disaster.
**Makram Rabah is a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, Department of History. He is the author of A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American University of Beirut, 1967-1975.

Hezbollah’s tunnels are part of Iran’s strategy
كايل اورتون: انفاق حزب  الله هي جزء من استراتجية إيران
Kyle Orton/The Arab Weekly/December 10/18
No matter how embarrassed it is, the United Nations will not control Hezbollah, nor will the Lebanese government.
Israel announced an operation to “destroy the threat of the terror tunnels” into northern Israel from Hezbollah, the Levantine branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in southern Lebanon.
Unlike the usual international outcry against Israeli operations, much of the opposition this time came from within Israel, where opponents of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu question its timing and intent.
Israeli police recommended — for the third time this year — that Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, be prosecuted for corruption and efforts to disrupt the investigation into allegations against them. While Netanyahu might survive an indictment from Case 4000, the revelations caused political problems that might collapse the government.
When the anti-tunnel operation, dubbed “Northern Shield,” began two days after the police announcement, there were claims Netanyahu was using it to divert attention from the corruption allegations ahead of elections next year.
That stories of Hezbollah tunnelling into Israel had been circulating in the media for four years compounds suspicion about the operation’s timing, as does the public statement that Northern Shield had been planned for 18 months and that none of the tunnels were close to operational.
Yaakov Lappin, a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA), said: “The components that made this operation possible have taken years to mature,” from developing technology to detect and destroy the tunnels in Gaza, to adapting it from that soft sand terrain to the hard rock in the north. It also took time to gather intelligence.
“These processes are the deciding and primary factor in the timing,” Lappin said, adding that “attempts to link it to political interests are not based in reality.”
Efraim Inbar, a BESA fellow and political science professor at Bar-Ilan University was more blunt, saying the idea that the operation had been timed for political purposes was “nonsense.”
Iran’s use of Hezbollah and other foreign IRGC-controlled Shia militias to rescue Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria has been an obvious threat to Israel for years. There was speculation in May that an Israel-Iran war was in the offing. The situation was defused but US and Israeli failure to prevent the fall of Daraa in southern Syria, on Israel’s border, in July left Iran with a contiguous two-front foothold against Israel.
Raising the question: What are the two sides doing?
From the Israeli side, unlike in Syria, where Israel has conducted 200 air strikes in the last two years, “when it comes to Lebanon, Israel first employs media and public deterrence campaigns” to try to get Hezbollah and Iran to desist from “force buildup activities that threaten Israeli red lines,” Lappin said. It is if this fails that “the possibility of pre-emptive action rises considerably.”
Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli Air Force general and currently executive director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, agreed about Israeli strategic messaging. In this case, as Yadlin wrote on Twitter, there were two audiences: Hezbollah, publicising how thoroughly infiltrated the tunnels were and the dangers to them, and the United Nations, particularly the UN Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL), mandated to keep the peace on the border.
The UNIFIL mission is a bad joke and its efforts to police UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the last round of fighting between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, have proven actively counterproductive. As Yadlin pointed out, UNIFIL routinely denies Israeli “allegations” that Hezbollah is violating Resolution 1701 but and is now faced with concrete proof that violations were occurring right under its feet.
No matter how embarrassed it is, the United Nations will not control Hezbollah, nor will the Lebanese government. “There is no Lebanese state,” said Inbar, “only Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon.”
Undoubtedly aware of this, it is possible that the Israelis are laying the political foundations — at home and abroad — for an intervention into Lebanon.
Michael Stephens, a research fellow at the Royal United Service Institute, was recently in Lebanon and said that while “people were worried… most didn’t feel Northern Shield was a prelude to a wider intervention.” Stephens said he had “the sense no one really wants this to escalate.”
“In Lebanon… Israel has refrained from taking known action for the past four years as part of what appears to be a quiet understanding with Hezbollah,” said Lappin. However, complex interactions and the possibility of a miscue means the situation is “unpredictable.”
Iran’s aim — the elimination of Israel — is not in question but it takes what Lappin called a “phased approach.” Through its proxies, arrayed on three of Israel’s borders (Gaza, Lebanon and Syria), Iran can fire missiles to demoralise the Israeli population and “undermine the country’s long-term viability,” said Lappin.
Hezbollah is likely to be given “the role of deterring Israel from striking Iranian nuclear sites.”
Inbar agreed with that stance almost entirely: “The Iranian strategy is one of attrition against Israel, plus the creation of a deterrent against Israeli attack on nuclear installations,” he said.
There had been hope that Russia would avert the need for Israel to act in a major way by restraining Iran in Syria. The longer record makes it doubtful Israel’s deliverance will come from the Kremlin, as does the current strategic situation.
“The Russians know Assad needs boots on the ground to survive,” said Inbar, “and Moscow is unwilling to supply them, so it must rely on Iran. Russia won’t push Iran out [of Syria] anytime soon.”
The question is how much longer Israel’s fate in the Levant will be in its own hands and if it will act in time.
*Kyle Orton is a Middle East analyst. Follow him on Twitter @KyleWOrton

Analysis/Israel Seeks to Leverage Op Against Hezbollah Tunnels to Complete Lebanon Border Wall
عاموس هاريل من الهآررتس: تسعى إسرائيل لإستعمال قوتها وتأثيرها ضد انفاق حزب الله لإستكمال الحائط العازل الذي تبنيه على الحدود مع لبنان

Amos Harel/Haaretz/December 10/18
Operation may take longer to complete than originally thought ■ On the Lebanese side, Hezbollah's silence is deafening ■ Local incidents have the potential of sparking broader conflict
The Israeli operation to locate the tunnels along the border with Lebanon is now entering its second stage. After the surprising announcement about the discovery of the tunnels and the media campaign against Hezbollah, the IDF is now moving on to systematically surveying the border region. So far, the discovery of two tunnels in Israeli territory has been reported, and the location of a third tunnel on the Lebanese side of the border has been provided to UN forces.
In the Lebanese political arena, the continued silence of Hezbollah has stood out – alongside the embarrassment that the affair has brought on among the rest of the country’s power centers.
The IDF’s initial assessment that it would take a month to complete the operation could well turn out to be too optimistic. The identification of the tunnels is proceeding at the planned pace, but it is possible that the destruction of their routes will take longer than originally estimated. The IDF’s assessment was that Hezbollah would avoid a direct military response, as long as the tunnels were located and destroyed inside Israeli territory and as long as the group sustained no casualties as a result of Israeli operations.
The main risk at the moment concerns the spilling over of local incidents into a broader escalation, even without the parties aiming for that. Last Saturday, an IDF engineering force opened fire at three suspicious figures, apparently Hezbollah lookouts, who came close to the area where the IDF is working along the border.
Along with the location and destruction of the tunnels, Israel also wants to take advantage of the discovery and the publicity for two goals: Leveraging it for the public relations war against Hezbollah in the international arena, and speeding up the construction of the new wall at disputed points along the border, in the area of Manara and Misgav Am in the east, and east of Rosh Hanikra in the west.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot met on Sunday in his office in the Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv with the commander of UNIFIL in southern Lebanon, Italian Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col. Eisenkot told him that the digging of the tunnels is a violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701, which was passed at the end of the Second Lebanon War.
The IDF has prepared an intelligence file on every tunnel, which includes data “incriminating” Hezbollah in violating the UN resolution. Israel will try to use the violations by Hezbollah as justification for continuing the work on building the wall, which so far have been conducted at a slow pace in disputed areas, partly out of a fear of a harsh response by Hezbollah.
At a time when a debate is being conducted in Israel over the importance of the discovery of the tunnels, and claims are being made that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF have inflated the important intelligence revelation into an “operation” whose practical significance is limited, Eisenkot actually attributes great importance to it. In closed discussions, Eisenkot describes the tunnels as the secret, missing component in Hezbollah’s plan of attack along the border when a war breaks out.
In his opinion, moving dozens and even hundreds of soldiers through them would have caused greater damage than that expected from the dozens of precision missiles that, in his assessment, are in the hands of Hezbollah today. (The Israeli effort to prevent the smuggling of such precision weaponry from Syria to Lebanon has so far prevented the accumulation of a larger number of such missiles.)
Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah is avoiding, for now, any public comment on the discovery of the tunnels. Over the weekend, Nasrallah’s deputy, Sheikh Naim Qassem, who Israel is not at all certain was in on the secret of digging the tunnels, said that Hezbollah has rockets capable of hitting any place in Israel – a factual statement, even if it says nothing new.
The president of Lebanon, Saad el-Din al-Hariri, reiterated his country’s commitment to Resolution 1701, but in the meantime, he has not visited the area of the border with Israel and has not commented on the crisis. Hariri canceled a planned visit to France because of the “security situation” (the wave of protests in France), without even mentioning the new security situation developing along its southern border.
Israel’s PR war
The public relations war that Israel has been fighting against Hezbollah and the Lebanese government is part of an ongoing diplomatic effort whose goal is to constrain Hezbollah’s and Iran’s moves on Israel’s northern front. Netanyahu’s visit to Metula last week, and the large number of Israeli statements about the tunnel revelations, complete the process whose objective is to deter Hezbollah and prevent the upgrading of its military capabilities.
The battle over legitimacy, including the aspects of international law involved, will assume a large place in any war that could break out in Lebanon in the future. In October, the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, a Washington, D.C. based pro-Israel think tank that brings together retired senior American defense officials and officers, released a detailed report on this question. Three former U.S. generals visited and toured Israel to prepare the report, and met with senior government officials, officers on the IDF General Staff and in the Military Advocate General unit.
The authors of the report, entitled “Israel’s Next Northern War: Operational and Legal Challenges,” say that if a war breaks out in the north, it will not be similar at all to the conflicts Israel has experienced in the past. They expect such a war to have unprecedented amounts of destruction and casualties, including deaths, on both sides. The authors say that Hezbollah’s military capabilities have improved greatly after seven years in which its soldiers took part in the civil war in Syria. But Hezbollah has no illusions it can defeat the IDF on the battlefield. Its goal is to achieve a political victory, states the report.
Hezbollah plans on achieving this victory by intentionally risking the lives of Lebanese civilians (whom Hezbollah uses frequently as “human shields”), manipulation of the narrative about the events of the war and exploitation of the mistakes of the international community in understanding the laws of war. The JINSA authors say Hezbollah and Iran will strive to present Israel during the war as “an immoral murderer of civilians.” Their goal will be to damage Israel’s international legitimacy to continue to fight, before the IDF can translate its military advantage into a victory on the battlefield.
The report says the next war in the north will not be conducted only with tanks and missiles – it will also be a war of information, which will be decided by international public opinion, no less than on the battlefield. They say that Israel often makes more effort than necessary according to international law to protect the lives of enemy civilians. But the authors say that in real time, Israel hesitates and lags in presenting the information that could well prove its claims. The result, during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and during Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip in 2014, is that Israel lost the information war to its enemies.

Israeli Official: If UNIFIL Expands Mandate, Few Countries Will Send Troops
Jerusalem Post/December 10/18
“If one wanted to change the mandate, it is clear that there would not be 10,000 soldiers” to make up the force, the official said. Israel knows it is unrealistic to change the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from a monitoring force to one that will actively stop Hezbollah from burrowing tunnels into Israel, since few countries would then volunteer their forces for such a mission, a senior diplomatic official told The Jerusalem Post. According to the official, whose country is among the 42 which contribute forces to UNIFIL, Israeli security officials have made it clear that they don’t think a changed UNIFIL mandate is realistic, simply because they won’t get it. “If one wanted to change the mandate, it is clear that there would not be 10,000 soldiers” to make up the force, the official said. Currently the number of troops stands at just over 10,600.
According to UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which helped put an end to the Second Lebanon War in 2006, UNIFIL is to “assist the Lebanese armed forces” in ensuring that southern Lebanon – from the Litani River to Israel’s northern border – is free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen Gadi Eisenkot met on Sunday with UNIFIL’s head, Maj.-Gen. Stefano Del Col, and – according to an IDF statement – stressed that Hezbollah’s attack tunnels that penetrated into Israel are a blatant violation of 1701 and were meant to be a surprise element in Hezbollah’s plan of attack on Israel. Eisenkot briefed Del Col on the progress being made to uncover the tunnels, and “noted the importance he sees in UNIFIL acting to neutralize the tunnels on the Lebanese side and to prevent violation of the [UN Security Council] resolution by a terrorist organization.”
Eisenkot also stressed that the Lebanese government bears ultimate responsibility for Hezbollah’s digging the tunnels. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a group of foreign ambassadors to Kibbutz Misgav Am last week to brief them on the operation to neutralize the tunnels, he did not engage in “UNIFIL-bashing,” one participant in that meeting said. The thrust of his comments was that UNIFIL should more effectively carry out its mandated role, but he stopped short of calling for an expansion of its responsibilities. Netanyahu, did, however, bewail that UNIFIL did not file a single complaint against Hezbollah smuggling rockets into Lebanon, or building tunnels. “We think UNIFIL should discharge its responsibility and actually do it with a much tougher approach and with a bigger force,” he said. Netanyahu told the cabinet Sunday that in parallel with the IDF operation against the tunnels, Israel is conducting a diplomatic campaign to condemn Hezbollah and its patron Iran, and to impose sanctions on them both.
One diplomatic source said that the thrust of this diplomatic push is to get international recognition that by digging tunnels into Israel, Hezbollah has clearly violated Security Council Resolution 1701. The importance of that type of declaration, the source said, is that it would give Israel legitimacy if it is forced to take military action inside Lebanon as a result of Hezbollah actions, in response to the uncovering of the tunnels. Israel, the official said, is working with the US and others to convene a meeting of the Security Council to issue this type of condemnation and acknowledge that Hezbollah carried out an offensive action against Israeli sovereignty. The source said that since Israel is not on the council it cannot initiate a meeting, and that a number of Arab countries are actively opposing it. Israel, the official added, is interested in getting sanctions imposed on Hezbollah as a result of the discovery of the tunnels, since this would go a long way toward getting the European Union to drop the distinction it makes between Hezbollah’s military wing – which it views as a terrorist organization – and its political wing, which it does not. With those as Israel’s key diplomatic aims, the official added, Jerusalem has no interest in getting into a public dispute with UNIFIL or in portraying the organization as an “enemy.

Latest LCCC English Miscellaneous Reports & News published on December 10-11/18
France’s Macron vows to use ‘all means’ to restore calm
The Associated Press/Monday, 10 December 2018/French President Emmanuel Macron is promising “all means” will be used to restore calm after the disruptive protests that have deeply shaken the nation. On Monday night, Macron addressed France for the first time since anti-tax protests around the country turned into rioting in Paris. Trying to sound gentle and calming, Macron acknowledged “anger and indignation” among members of the public over the cost of living. But he also said “no indulgence” would be given to people behind the protest violence. He said “no anger justifies” attacking police or looting stores, saying both threaten France’s cherished liberty.
Minimum wage hikes
Macron announced on Monday a 100-euro ($113) per month increase in the minimum wage from next year in a major concession to “yellow vest” protesters who have roiled the country. The minimum wage was set at 1,498 euros per month pre-tax in 2018 and 1,185 euros after tax. Macron also rolled back most of an unpopular increase in taxes on pensioners which was introduced by his government. He stressed that the protests by mostly low-income people in small town or rural France were the result of long-term problems. “Their distress doesn’t date from yesterday. We have ended up getting used to it,” he said. “These are forty years of malaise that have come to the surface,” he added.

Netanyahu Announces Oman Allowed El Al To Utilize Its Air Space
Jerusalem Post/December 10/18
The move has little practical significance without similar permission from Saudi Arabia. Oman's leader Qaboos bin Said al Said has given El Al the right to fly over his country's airspace, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday.
Netanyahu said that the sultan's permission to El Al came during his visit there in October. His comments came at an annual conference for Israeli ambassadors serving abroad. Earlier this year, Oman and Saudi Arabia granted Air India the right to fly to and from Israel. Saudi Arabia has not given similar permission to El Al, and without that permission, Oman flyover rights is largely symbolic, with little practical significance. Netanyahu also said that it is now possible to fly over Egypt and Chad, a country with whom Israel still does not have formal diplomatic relations but whose president visited two weeks ago and made clear this would happen soon. Netanyahu said that it is “apparently” possible to fly over Sudan, which would make it possible to fly directly to Brazil, cutting at least two hours in flight time from the more circuitous route taken today. “This opens other markets. This is another quarter of a billion people,” he said. Netanyahu's comments about the flights came as he was discussing how Israel's diplomatic relations have flourished, a product of the intelligence and technology it has to offer. “The combination of our intelligence and technological capabilities gives us a map of relations that is getting bigger,” he said Netanyahu said that the most important flight route Israel has is the direct flight to San Francisco. “It doesn't matter how many flight are added, there are not enough,” he said of this route to Silicon Valley. “These are not tourists, these are investors.” The second most important route, he said, was to Beijing and other cities in China. “This is the biggest market that has opened, and it is important to get a free trade agreement.” And the third most important route, he said, is to India, noting that Air India flies to and from New Delhi everyday directly over Saudi Arabia. “Soon we will fly to Mumbai,” he said, referring to direct flight over Saudi Arabia and Oman to Mumbai, since El Al currently flies there via a more circuitous route. “Tel Aviv -Mumbai is a shorter flight than Tel Aviv-London,” he added.

Through Strength, Not Weakness, Netanyahu Looks to Normalize With Arab World
Ryan Jones/Israel Today/December 10/18
For decades it has been assumed that Israel must bend over backwards in order to convince the Arab world to make peace with it. Israeli concessions and "goodwill gestures" were always the order of the day when it came to negotiations, be they with the Palestinians, or other Arab neighbors. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in recent years demonstrated that the above formula is not the only way forward. Indeed, what many see as the path of "weakness" has largely failed to alter Israel's standing among its neighbors. For those who know the Middle East, this probably sounds like a no-brainer. The Arab world respects strength, and views pandering with disdain. Netanyahu credits the projection of strength with leading to incredible steps toward normalization over the past several months, including Culture Minister Miri Regev being welcomed in her official capacity by the United Arab Emirates and Netanyahu himself making a highly-publicized state visit to Oman. On Monday, it was reported that Netanyahu's visit to Muscat in October had resulted in Oman giving Israel permission to use its airspace for commercial purposes. The biggest breakthrough has been warming ties with Saudi Arabia. Senior Israeli officials have of late held a number of meetings with counterparts from the oil-rich kingdom, and Netanyahu is reportedly working hard to fully normalize ties with Saudi Arabia before the next general election in Israel, currently scheduled to take place in November 2019. During last month's historic visit to Israel by Idriss Déby, president of the Muslim-majority African nation of Chad, Netanyahu said that past prime ministers had tried to cozy up to the Arab and Muslim worlds by making "dangerous concessions." Netanyahu vowed to continue following a much different path. "We are getting the world’s support, including by many in the Arab world, through our strong and steadfast standing," he insisted.

Israel Unveils Plans for Regional Quartet Axis
Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 10 December, 2018/Advanced quartet talks between Israel, the US, Greece and Cyprus could be held in the coming months to establish a “regional axis” against Russian-Turkish cooperation, mainly in Syria, Israeli sources. The revelation came hours after the Israeli Prime Minister’s office revealed successful discussions had taken place between Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The sources expected the prime ministers of Israel, Greece and Cyprus, in addition to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to attend the quartet meeting. According to Israel's public broadcaster Kan, the gathering aims to provide US support for strengthening relations between three other countries. The planned quartet axis would be named “The Democratic Axis in the Middle East,” reports said. Sources confirmed that Washington is planning to hold a military maneuver along with the four states in the Mediterranean Sea. Kan also quoted experts in international affairs as saying that “Russia and Putin have expressed concern about the increasing US presence in Cyprus.” It said the Russian foreign ministry had recently said that the US military presence in the island “would not remain unanswered.” On Saturday, Putin and Netanyahu spoke over the phone and discussed the Israeli operations near the Lebanese border, the Kremlin said in a statement. "The president of Russia stressed the importance of ensuring stability in the region," it said. Separately, reports of an attack on Damascus international airport on Sunday night have not been verified yet. Earlier, the regime mouthpiece SANA said that air defenses had opened fire near Damascus airport, before withdrawing the report after what appeared to be a false alarm.
SANA quoted sources at the airport as saying that "there was no aggression" and that "traffic was normal". A well-informed source told AFP that "there was evidently a false alarm.”

Israel Joins Global Financial Watchdog on Money Laundering
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 10 December, 2018/Israel on Monday joined the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global financial watchdog on money laundering and terror financing. It became a full member after it was previously blacklisted by the Paris-based organization. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that membership of FATF would make Israel part of the group of countries "leading the global battle against money laundering and terror financing."Membership of the FATF would also present Israel "as a safe and attractive place for investments" from around the world, Shaked said. FATF president Marshall Billingslea welcomed Israel on becoming the group's 38th member, noting its "rigorous assessment of its measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing," which enabled its membership. Israel's "experience and perspective will make a valuable contribution to our work to prevent the misuse of the financial system," Billingslea, who is also the US assistant treasury secretary for terrorist financing, said in a statement. The organization had blacklisted Israel in 2000 due to what it described at the time as non-cooperation in the fight against money laundering. Israel was removed from the list in 2002 and has since taken steps to address the issue. FATF said that Israel had been an observer in the organization since February 2016 and that its upgrade to membership followed “successful mutual evaluation”. “During this demanding process, the country demonstrated its commitment to protect the integrity of the financial system,” Billingslea said. Shlomit Wagman-Ratner, head of the Justice Ministry’s anti- money laundering and terrorism financing department, said joining the FATF was a national strategic objective. “An additional significant factor is that, for the first time, the State of Israel will be able to take part in setting international rules in the realm of terror financing and money laundering, rules that it is subject to in any event.”The FATF has recently warned Iran it would face further isolation from international finance if it did not clamp down on terrorism financing.

German Reports on Iran's Missile Test Expansion in 2018
Berlin - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 10 December, 2018/Media reports in Germany have revealed that Iran has significantly expanded missile tests in 2018. Iran has missiles that are capable of reaching some European countries, according to Western intelligence documents, which were seen by Germany's Welt Am Sonntag newspaper. The expanded testing may be a violation of the UN resolution endorsing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran nuclear agreement, which called on Iran "not to engage in ballistic missile-related activities designed to use nuclear weapons," the newspaper reported. In 2018, Tehran test-fired at least seven medium-range missiles and at least five short-range missiles and cruise missiles, the newspaper said, citing documents obtained from unspecified Western intelligence services and verified “with various sources.” Iran's missile program has raised international concern, particularly medium-range missiles with a range of up to 2,000 km, which are considered a threat to regional powers.These medium-range missiles can practically reach every part of Israel.

Australian-Iranian Population Expert Arrested in Iran
Tehran - London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 10 December, 2018/Iran has detained an Australian-based academic on charges of trying to “infiltrate” Iranian institutions, according to state media.State news agency IRNA identified the detainee as population expert Meimanat Hosseini-Chavoshi who was held as she was leaving Iran. Hosseini-Chavoshi is affiliated with the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. Population control became a sensitive issue in Iran when the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a decree in 2014 calling for a population increase after decades of state-promoted birth control. In October, Khamenei called for greater efforts to combat enemy “infiltration” as tensions escalated with the United States after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran, according to Reuters. Commenting on reports of detention of several experts advocating population curbs, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei told reporters that authorities have arrested one person in this regard and are seeking three or four other people. The judiciary’s news website Mizan quoted Ejei as saying “Everyone knows that the enemy is trying to infiltrate state bodies... and affect decision-making."He added that foreign intelligence agencies stand behind many academic institutions, but some individuals who work there are not aware of that. Last week, IRNA said there were reports that authorities had detained an Australian-based population expert on charges of trying to “infiltrate” state bodies in Iran. IRNA quoted an attorney who named the detained woman as Hosseini-Chavoshi, and said that she did not have legal representation yet. The agency quoted Kayhan as saying Hosseini-Chavoshi was detained by security forces in a drive against “enemy infiltration elements” as she was leaving Iran. In 2017, Reuters reported that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had arrested at least 30 dual nationals in recent years, mostly on espionage charges. Among those held was British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Iran does not recognize dual nationality and does not routinely announce arrests or charges of dual nationals, whose rights to consular assistance are enshrined in the UN Vienna Convention. In other news, police arrested 10 people Sunday in connection with the suicide attack in southeastern Iran that killed two police officers. Separatist group “Ansar al-Furqan” has claimed responsibility for Thursday's assault in which an explosives-laden car was driven into a police station in Chabahar. Authorities rejected this claim of responsibility for the attack, which also injured around 40 people. Police chief Hossein Ashtari said 10 people had been arrested without giving any further details. The group released a photo of the alleged suicide bomber on Saturday, identified as Bassim Abdullah Aziz, according to the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors militant activities.

Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire
AFPMonday, 10 December 2018/Syrian state media said Sunday that air defenses had opened fire near Damascus airport, before withdrawing the report after what appeared to be a false alarm. “Our air defenses engaged hostile aerial targets in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport,” the official SANA news agency said, without providing more details. But the report was later withdrawn by both SANA and state television without explanation. SANA then quoted sources at the airport as saying that “there was no aggression” and that “traffic was normal”.A well-informed source told AFP that “there was evidently a false alarm”. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the sound of explosions rocked an area close to the airport and fire from air defenses was also heard. The latest incident comes just over a week after Syria accused Israel of striking south of the capital. The Britain-based Observatory said those were the first missiles to hit Syria since an air defense upgrade after the downing of a Russian plane in September. Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian targets, many of them in the area south of Damascus. Iran and Russia are the government’s key allies in the civil war that has raged Syria since 2011, and Moscow’s intervention in 2015 dramatically turned the tables against the rebels.

Al-Abadi: Iran’s intervention prevented me from getting a second term

Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishMonday, 10 December 2018/Former Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and president of the Al-Nasr coalition raised concerns over Iraq’s national security. Today marks Iraq’s one-year anniversary on its defeat over ISIS that tightened the noose on the country in 2014. Al-Abadi expressed his fear that the victory over ISIS, and the elimination of sectarianism, as well as the country’s hard-fought sovereignty and security, could be sacrificed at the hands of foreign intervention. The former prime minister on Sunday blamed Iran for meddling in Iraq’s political structure, which he claims prevented him from winning a second term. In a televised statement on al-Sharqiya he says,” I believe that Iran impeded my chance of a second term because of my commitment to the US sanctions on Tehran”. Al-Abadi added that, “the Iranians had started to feel threatened by me at this point, hence their support towards the current prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi”.Al- Abadi explains that his stance against Iran in terms of US sanctions was very clear but, at the same time, he would never expose his country to danger

Arab Coalition Renews Support to UN Envoy to Yemen
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 10 December, 2018/The Saudi-led Arab coalition reiterated on Monday its support for the mission of United Nations special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths. Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said that the alliance backs Griffith’s efforts in all fields at the Sweden peace talks between the warring Yemeni parties. Moreover, he revealed that the coalition had held talks with International Committee of the Red Cross representatives during which it received a list of the names of 340 captives held by the Iran-backed Houthi militias. The list was delivered to the ICRC representatives, who will hand it over to the relatives of the captives. Maliki told a press conference in Riyadh that the joint forces financially supported the legitimate Yemeni government in order to provide medical treatment to the wounded forces of the national army. It has also prepared means to treat them inside or outside Yemen in cooperation with the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center. In addition, he said that the United Arab Emirates recently announced that it had provided treatment to more than 124 wounded in Egypt. On the humanitarian level, Maliki said that since March 2015 and until December 2018, the coalition has issued 35,413 permits to deliver aid through all Yemeni portals. Two hundred and eighty-eight permits were issued between December 3 and 10 alone. He stressed that Saudi Arabia was supporting Yemen through its comprehensive humanitarian operations plan. It provided the country with three cranes that were delivered to the ports of Aden and Mukalla. The cranes will help in unloading relief aid and raise the operational capacity of the ports. Furthermore, he highlighted the delivery of the second batch of Custodian to the Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s oil derivatives grant. The batch boasted 65,000 tons of fuel and 32,000 tons of diesel fuel that will be used to operate 64 power plants to service 10 provinces. The two batches have so far cost $120 million.

Iraq Celebrates One Year since Victory against ISIS

Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 10 December, 2018/Iraq on Monday celebrated a year since defeating the ISIS terrorist group, with Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi pledging to fight corruption next. Addressing a group of Iraqi military officers, he said it was a "proud day for all of us when our brave country defeated the enemies of life, dignity, freedom and peace.""The final victory we hope for is achieving our people's ambitions and hopes," he said. He called on Iraqis to renounce their differences and to come together for a better future. “The time has come to leave behind all the past mistakes and conspiracies to open the doors of hope for our children for a better future," he said, vowing to rebuilt the demolished areas and help displaced people to return to their homes. "Corruption was and remains one of the many faces of ruin and terrorism. If we do not eliminate corruption, our victory will be lacking."A year ago, his predecessor Haidar al-Abadi announced the conclusion of a three-year battle to oust ISIS, putting an end to its so-called "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq after it seized swathes of Iraq. In a congratulatory note on Twitter, Iraqi President Barham Saleh said Monday marked "the anniversary of victory over the ugliest criminal assault that history has seen". "Our heroes achieved military victory at a high price, giving us the duty to achieve the final victory with a political, social, and cultural win," he said. ISIS, which traces its roots to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, sent shockwaves across the world when it swept across a third of Iraq in 2014. It swiftly took over the northern city of Mosul, making it the de facto capital. For three years, Iraqi government troops, paramilitary units, and US-led coalition forces waged a brutal fight to oust the terrorists, finally recapturing Mosul in June 2017.
In the early hours of December 9, Abadi announced "victory" over ISIS, and the following day was declared a national holiday. To mark the one-year anniversary, checkpoints in the capital were decorated with Iraqi flags and balloons, as security forces patrolled the streets playing patriotic music.
As part of the celebrations, authorities plan to reopen parts of Baghdad's fortified Green Zone — home to key government offices and embassies — to the public. The move is billed as an act of transparency following protests against corruption and poor public services.
But beyond the celebrations, the country remains mired in crisis.
Parliamentary elections in May produced no clear ruling coalition, with political divisions paralyzing Abdel Mahdi's efforts to fill key cabinet positions. "Lacking both a political and a popular base, Abdel Mahdi has found himself hostage to the very vested interests and political forces that Iraqis hoped his government would stand up to," said Fanar Haddad, an Iraq expert at the National University of Singapore's Middle East Institute. "The prolonged government formation process has had far too much business-as-usual for a population that was expecting -- indeed demanding -- a new start following the territorial defeat of ISIS." Abdel Mahdi's pledge to stamp out corruption is identical to the one made by Abadi when he announced the win against ISIS last year. The former premier was unable to tackle embezzlement of public funds in Iraq, which is the 12th most corrupt country in the world according to Transparency International. The challenges extend beyond the political. Much of the country remains in ruins, including large swathes of the north, as authorities struggle to gather funds to rebuild. More than 1.8 million Iraqis are still displaced, many languishing in camps, and 8 million require humanitarian aid, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). "If this is what 'victory' looks like, then there is little to celebrate for millions of Iraqis still haunted by the crimes of the ISIS and the long war to eliminate it," said NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland. "They have largely been forgotten by their own government and the international community." Observers also fear an outbreak of violence either between rival political forces once united against ISIS, or between authorities and a protest movement angered by lack of services and jobs. And while ISIS no longer holds large chunks of territory, it can still wage hit-and-run attacks that chip away at the sense of security many hoped would return.

Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 10-11/18
Germany’s long goodbye: Thank you Mrs Merkel
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/December 10/18
Germany’s Iron Chancellor of the new millennium is now stepping into history and in an emotional farewell speech to her ruling Christian Democrats (CDU), she has stepped down as party leader. She has stepped down still fighting for the basic values she passionately believes in and exhorted her party to carry on by example. “Our liberal values must be defended, internally and externally,” she said. Ms Merkel's speech was punctuated by applause and she got a standing ovation of more than six minutes at the end. CDU delegates at the congress in Hamburg also held up signs saying “Thanks boss” Despite quitting as CDU leader she plans to complete her fourth term as German chancellor, which runs until 2021. She was first elected chancellor in 2005 and is not seeking a term beyond 2021. Who are the potential successors as this is important for relationship not only within the European Union, but in the relationship with a transactional US President. CDU party secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, known as AKK by her initials, who is favoured by Merkel as her successor, was generally considered the front runner The 56-year-old former prime minister of the state of Saarland was appointed CDU general secretary earlier this year and is the party favourite, polls had suggested.
Popular in Saarland and Berlin, she has an unpretentious style and a reputation for calm analysis, as well as political acumen. Her greatest strength is also her greatest weakness; she is a Merkel loyalist, perceived as someone who will replicate much of the chancellor's style and policy and some will not forgive Mrs Merkel for recent local state elections and ignoring the noise of populist anti-immigration sentiments. But if she failed to win a majority of the 1,001-member votes on the first ballot, some thought her primary rival, Friedrich Merz, had a very strong chance to edge her out for the party leadership. The millionaire businessman was a powerful player in the CDU in the early 2000s but left politics when he fell out with the chancellor. With her final departure as Chancellor, Mrs Merkel will join that pantheon of great female leaders like Mrs Ghandi and Mrs Thatcher who have shown men what the so-called weaker sex can achieve
Private sector career
Since then the 63-year-old lawyer - who has strong links to America - has built a career in the private sector and works for US investment firm Blackrock. He appeals to the more conservative and business-minded wing of the party and has the official backing of current Bundestag President and ex-Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. The third candidate, Jens Spahn, had no chance of winning, the health minister is ambitious and, aged 38, the youngest of the three candidates. A former banker, he was once described by Mr Schäuble as “one of the great hopes for the future of our party”.
But Mr Spahn is facing some deep rooted prejudices in what is on the surface a liberal and open German society and has ruffled feathers as he is sharply conservative, Catholic and gay, and is a divisive figure for many. As a prelude to the vote, AKK is said to have given “the best speech of a lifetime” at the conference, while Merz is said to have given one of his most lacklustre speeches, and that from supporters in his own camp. The delegates voting in Hamburg was competitive and went to a second run off with AKK defeating conservative favourite Friedrich Merz by 517 votes to 482 in runoff ballot but Kramp-Karrenbauer graciously offering her fellow candidates Merz and Jens Spahn a role in running the CDU, and extending a hand following the hotly contested race to succeed Merkel. This was reciprocated much to the relief of Mrs Merkel who did not want to exit the political scene only to leave a bitter inter party civil war like the UK’s Conservative party is now facing over Brexit uncertainties.
The new leader
In his concession speech, Merz offered his backing for Kramp-Karrenbauer and urged his supporters to get behind the party’s new leader. She will now be viewed as first in line to run for chancellor in 2021 after Merkel’s surprise announcement in October that her fourth term will be her last.
But some had really believed that Merz could still likely win, on two counts: the first is that the third candidate Spahn was almost certain to call for his supporters to vote for Merz in a second round, and second, and more importantly, Merz has the considerable backing of Bundestag President and CDU veteran Wolfgang Schaeuble, who many in the CDU consider “the best Chancellor Germany never had,” and who will be discreetly marshalling support for Merz. German political observers have long felt Schaeuble has been the power behind the manoeuvrings inside the CDU and the Christian Social Union over the last year to dislodge Merkel as Chancellor. If Merkel’s favoured candidate AKK had lost to Merz, some suspected it would have accelerated Merkel's departure as Chancellor, either in new federal elections or a vote of confidence, probably sometime after the May European Parliamentary elections next year.
Even after AKK’s win, Merkel's Grand Coalition with the Social Democrats will remain weakened by the internal CDU and CSU turmoil, as well as the SPD's own party problems. Some had feared that if Merz did take the CDU party leadership, that the odds would have risen significantly that it could push the SPD into leaving the Grand Coalition and into opposition for a period to rebuild the party’s standing and to counter the gains by the Greens in the political centre in German politics. If the SPD does pull out, it will mean new federal elections, again, probably after the May European elections. AKK’s win is a relief for many as it signals continuity with Mrs Merkel’s policies and some stability in a European continent beset by domestic populist pressures, the latest being the French street rioting against President Macron. With her final departure as Chancellor, Mrs Merkel will join that pantheon of great female leaders like Mrs Ghandi and Mrs Thatcher who have shown men what the so-called weaker sex can achieve, and be role models for future generations of female politicians.

India forced to rethink Afghan policy as US talks to Taliban

Simran Sodhi/Al Arabiya/December 10/18
The situation in Afghanistan remains the crux around which many of the regional security issues in South and Central Asia revolve. World powers have never been out of this equation either. The United States army has been in the country for 18 years now and realizes what many others did before it. Afghanistan is not an easy place to control or even govern for a foreign power. So the United States President Donald Trump, who had been acting tough with Pakistan over its terror on its territories reached out with a letter seeking Pakistan’s help in achieving peace in Afghanistan. Trump, perhaps has realized, that without Pakistan’s active support, no progress in Afghanistan is possible. For India, the recent developments are a source of worry. One: India was quite happy that Trump was talking tough to Pakistan and that under him the US had even withheld military assistance to Pakistan to the tune of $2.5 billion.
His letter to Khan now raises new questions. Two: the recent Moscow Format under which Russia hosted the Afghanistan Peace Conference in Moscow where it invited 11 countries. Interestingly, the Taliban also sat at the high table to discuss the future of Afghanistan. India was represented at a ‘non official’ level by two former diplomats. At the Moscow Format, China and Iran also sent their representatives indicating that the conflict in Afghanistan is no longer limited to an India-Pak equation but there are additional players invested in the future of Afghanistan. The fact that India decided to send two former diplomats and make its presence felt at the Moscow Format is the first solid indication that New Delhi will have to re-asses and rethink its Afghan policy
High Peace Council
While the Afghan government was not represented, members of the Afghan Peace Council did attend the Moscow meet. The High Peace Council was created during the tenure of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and its main objective is outreach to the Taliban. The appointments are made by the government, but the composition is largely from outside the government. Former Ambassador Anil Trigunayat says that India has maintained a policy of not making a distinction between a good or bad Taliban and “broadly maintain that the Taliban is a terrorist organization”. “The Taliban card has been used by Pakistan with both the Russians and the Americans,” he said. Trigunayat pointed out that India’s decision to send in two former diplomats in the Moscow Format ensured that India was not ‘keeping aloof’ as far as the future of Afghanistan is concerned even as “India does not want official talks with the Taliban.” He said that eventually the Taliban will have to be made a part of the peace process in Afghanistan. He added that going back to the 1980s it was the Americans and the Pakistanis that were responsible for creating the Taliban. “Today, the Americans realize that without the Taliban, it is not possible to resolve Afghanistan”, he said. For India, this is a huge source of worry for it has publicly maintained for years now that it will not engage in talks with the Taliban, and even the “good” Taliban and the “bad” Taliban distinction that much of the world is now willing to buy in, India is in no mood to do so.
However, the fact that India decided to send two former diplomats and make its presence felt at the Moscow Format is the first solid indication that New Delhi will have to re-asses and rethink its Afghan policy.
Bitter pill
If talking to the Taliban is one bitter pill India is being forced to swallow, another is the acceptance that despite all the terror tags that Pakistan has on itself today, Trump has also given in to the reality that without Pakistan, there is no forward movement here. Former Ambassador Veena Sikri said that this is “an evolving situation and we need to wait and watch”. She pointed out that there is also another way of looking at Trump’s letter to Imran Khan; and that the US and Trump might be giving Pakistan the message that they know “they are helping the Taliban and the US wants to make sure that Pakistan doesn’t do that.” Sikri said that today the Taliban control some areas of Afghanistan and the fact that they know they can always fall back into Pakistan constitutes the real problem. So far, the Afghan government and the US had sided with India on not talking to the Taliban as that would be seen as a kind of legitimacy for their violent campaigns. However, of late, Russia, Iran, and China have shifted stands and today reflect a view that in Afghanistan, only a political settlement can solve the crisis and that the Taliban need to be a part of the dialogue. In July this year, Pakistan hosted a meet of the intelligence chiefs of Russia, Iran and China. The spy chiefs of all the four nations met to discuss ways to control the spread of Islamic State from Afghanistan into their own territories. Iran, for example, shares a long border with Afghanistan and today is concerned that the violence might just spill over.
The Taliban headquarters are based in Quetta, capital of the Balochistan province, in Pakistan. The Afghan government has many a times pointed the finger at Pakistan over terror attacks on its territory, alleging that Pak support for the Taliban is behind many of these attacks.
India faces a grim choice as the situation in Afghanistan changes with the participation of more regional players and more significantly many those who are willing to talk to the Taliban. A reassessment of its Afghan policy is underway and the decision to send two former diplomats for the Moscow Format gave it a representation at the future of Afghanistan and a little more time to adjust to the changing security paradigm.

French ‘sedition’ and Western democracy
Mashari AlthaydiAl Arabiya/December 10/18
What is happening in the French capital Paris has shaken the country and put it on alert in such an unprecedented manner, according to the estimates of the French government itself. The commander of the French Gendarmerie has highlighted the police’s readiness to address the developments and the interior minister warned of “infiltrating radical members.” Meanwhile chants in Paris’ streets and squares said: “Let Macron, the dictator, fall!” Of course, President Emmanuel Macron is not a dictator as he was elected to the presidency based on the republic’s old democratic system. France is the base of the liberal “revolution” in the modern world. However, raising such slogans as the French people burst out their rage due to the government’s tax policies reflects the extent of the current French anger. The French executive authorities said they were in a state of high alert and called on the French people to have “a republican spirit!” The western experience in the pattern of governance is actually a pioneering, rich and inspiring experience but it’s neither the last of solutions nor the magical wand to all problems. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in an interesting comment that the past three weeks of protests have “created a monster that escaped from its creators,” in reference to the yellow vest movement which French people from the middle-class launched to condemn the government’s social and tax policies, but later began to raise different demands. High school students were the ones who most recently joined the protests.
Understanding liberalism
Things always start with certain demands, most often economic ones. However as other social tributaries flow in, the situation transforms from a limited stream of water into a sweeping river where political anger is above economic frustration. It’s something that resembles a popular revolution. This is how things sometimes happen. Or as the French minister noted, a yellow monster out of control was created. Some Arab activists who “preach” liberalism are confused and trying to explain what’s happening in France. When it comes to democracy and liberalism according to these Arab liberal preachers, they say: “There is no solution to any problem, any regime, any people or any state in the world except through the western liberal model.”The western experience in the pattern of governance is actually a pioneering, rich and inspiring experience but it’s neither the last of solutions nor the magical wand to all problems.
What’s important is to provide justice, a decent living, economic success and of course security via any method and way. Excuse us, Arab liberal preachers, but what happened and what is currently happening in France and what may happen in Belgium later tell us that there isn’t one single and unified recipe to solve all the world’s problems.

More UN Chicaneryالمزيد من مغالطات الأمم المتحدة
Bruce Bawer/Gatestone Institute/December 10/18
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration -- which seeks to criminalize criticism of migration -- is nothing more or less than a dangerous effort to weaken national borders, to normalize mass migration, to blur the line between legal and illegal immigration, and to bolster the idea that people claiming to be refugees enjoy a panoply of rights in countries where they have never before set foot.
One thing about the agreement, in any event, is irrefutable: almost nobody in the Western world has been clamoring for this. It is, quite simply, a project of the globalist elites. It is a UN power-grab.
It is something else, too: it is an effort to enhance the clout of the UN's largest and most influential power bloc -- namely, the Arab and Muslim states. Briefly put, whatever this deal is or is not, it is definitely not good news for the West, for freedom, or for national identity and security.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration -- which seeks to criminalize criticism of migration -- is nothing more or less than a dangerous effort to weaken national borders, normalize mass migration, blur the line between legal and illegal immigration, and bolster the idea that people claiming to be refugees enjoy a panoply of rights in countries where they have never before set foot. Pictured: Migrants walk towards a holding camp in Dobova, Slovenia on October 26, 2015.
In Britain, the rage over Muslim rape gangs and Theresa May's Brexit foul-up is spreading. In Germany, anger about Merkel's recklessly transformative refugee policies is mounting. In France, the growing cost of immigrant freeloaders to taxpayers has sparked the most sensational public demonstrations since 1968. In Italy and Austria, opponents of the Islamization of Europe now hold the reins of power. Elsewhere in Western Europe, more and more citizens are standing up to their masters' open-borders dhimmitude.
Yet much of this principled and patriotic resistance may turn out to be for naught, thanks to the so-called Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which is scheduled to be signed by representatives of the UN member states at a December 10-11 conference. Supporters of the compact are quick to reassure its critics that it is not a binding treaty and that it reaffirms the concept of national sovereignty. Nevertheless, when you come right down to it, it is nothing more or less than a dangerous effort to weaken national borders, to normalize mass migration, to blur the line between legal and illegal immigration, and to bolster the idea that people claiming to be refugees enjoy a panoply of rights in countries where they have never before set foot.
As for the 34-page-long document itself, it is written in the kind of numbing, abstraction-heavy prose that will be familiar to anyone who has ever read anything issued by the UN. It declares that "migration is a defining feature of our globalized world, connecting societies within and across all regions, making us all countries of origin, transit and destination." It states that the goal of the Global Compact is "to create conducive conditions that enable all [!] migrants to enrich our societies through their human, economic and social capacities, and thus facilitate their contributions to sustainable development at the local, national, regional and global levels." It also affirms that:
"[w]e must save lives and keep migrants out of harm's way. We must empower migrants to become full members of our societies, highlight their positive contributions, and promote inclusion and social cohesion. We must generate greater predictability and certainty for States, communities and migrants alike. To achieve this, we commit to facilitate and ensure safe, orderly and regular migration for the benefit of all."
There is a lot more where this came from, and it is not entirely clear what most of it means. Is it just a load of empty, feel-good rhetoric, or is it meant to commit signatories to specific action? What does it mean to say that the Global Compact "mainstreams a gender perspective" or that "a whole-of-government approach is needed to ensure horizontal and vertical policy coherence across all sectors and levels of government"? On the other hand, the document certainly does appear to encourage illegal migration. It unambiguously urges governments to feed their citizens propaganda about the delights of migrants and migration and to "sensitiz[e] and educat[e] media professionals on migration-related issues and terminology" and, in effect, to strong-arm journalists who refuse to play ball. Some readers of the document say that it calls for the criminalization of any criticism of migration, although its backers deny this.
One thing about the agreement, in any event, is irrefutable: almost nobody in the Western world has been clamoring for this. It is, quite simply, a project of the globalist elites. It is a UN power-grab. As the Guardian reported last year, Louise Arbour, the hack put in charge of this project, "regards the global compact as a chance to shift world opinion on the need to address future migration, in the same way that the UN had managed to persuade the world it needed to address climate change." In short, this is yet another reminder that the UN is run by power-hungry busybodies who see it as their job not to respond to and act upon world opinion but to shape it and, if necessary, punish it.
It is something else, too: it is an effort to enhance the clout of the UN's largest and most influential power bloc – namely, the Arab and Muslim states. Just check out the UN website devoted to this Global Compact -- it's illustrated by a picture of a young man and woman holding their index fingers and thumbs together to form a heart. She is in hijab. Repeat: she is in hijab. Briefly put, whatever this deal is or is not, it is definitely not good news for the West, for freedom, or for national identity and security. It seems fitting that the December 10-11 signing ceremony will take place in Marrakesh, Morocco.
US President Donald J. Trump, to his credit, saw through this mischievous piece of work last December, when he announced that the U.S. wanted nothing to do with it. He got flak for that move. In a UN vote this past July, the Global Compact was approved by every member nation except for the U.S. But then at least some media starting paying attention and a resistance formed. In recent weeks, more and more governments have said that they are not going to sign the deal after all. So far, the list includes Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Poland, Slovakia, and Switzerland.
In several other Western European countries, the issue is still being debated. I suspect the situation in Norway, where I live, is not unique. Most of the political parties here ardently support the Global Compact and, in the run-up to the signing ceremony, have striven -- with the collaboration of the country's mainstream media -- to keep this potentially controversial agreement out of the public eye in the run-up to the signing ceremony. After a handful of alternative news and opinion websites sounded the alarm about the deal, however, it was reported on December 5 that the Progress Party had forced the government to allow a parliamentary discussion of the proposed accord.
Alas, the Big Three countries of Western Europe are all in. Theresa May has committed her government to the deal. Ditto Angela Merkel. Emmanuel Macron has stuck to his line that the Global Compact is "admirable." What's more, thanks to Justin Trudeau, whose mantra continues to be "diversity is a source of strength," Canada is on board as well.
So while there is no need to worry that the Global Compact will supersede the U.S. Constitution any time soon, there is legitimate reason for concern that this devious deal will constitute yet another obstacle to citizens of the free world who care about protecting and preserving their countries -- but whose elites are dead set on thwarting their will.
*Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. His other books include A Place at the Table (1993), Stealing Jesus (1997), Surrender (2009), and The Victims' Revolution (2012). A native New Yorker, he has lived in Europe since 1998.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The French People Feel Screwed
David Brown/Gatestone Institute/December 10/18
Macron makes no secret of his wish to be seen as a global leader for environmental reform. He forgets that back at home, among the people who elected him, fuel prices really matter.
There are images online of police removing their helmets and firefighters turning their backs on political authority to show their support for the protestors.
For the first time in his presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.
"Yellow Vests" protesters chant slogans on the Champs-Elysées near the Arc de Triomphe on December 8, 2018 in Paris, France.
On December 4, French Prime Minister Édouard Phillipe told deputies of the ruling party, "La République en Marche", that a proposed fuel tax rise, which had led to the largest protests France has seen in decades, would be suspended.
The protesters, called Gilets-Jaunes -- "Yellow Vests," because of the vests drivers are obliged by the government to carry in their vehicles in the event of a roadside breakdown -- say that the fuel tax was the last straw from a president who took office with a promise to help the economically left-behind but instead has favoured the rich.
Even by French standards, the protests of the "Yellow Vests" during the weekend of December 1 were startling. Burning cars and vast plumes of grey smoke seemed to engulf the Arc De Triomphe as if Paris were at war. Comparisons were drawn with the Bread Wars of the 17th Century and the spirit of the Revolution of the 18th Century.
For more than two weeks, the "Yellow Vests" disrupted France. They paralyzed highways and forced roads to close -- causing shortages across the country – and blocked fuel stations from Lille in the North to Marseilles in the South.
During protests in France's capital, Paris, the "Yellow Vests" were soon joined by a more violent element, who began torching cars, smashing windows and looting stores. 133 were injured, 412 were arrested and more than 10,000 tear gas and stun grenades were fired.
One elderly lady was killed when she was struck by a stray grenade as she tried to shutter her windows against the melee.
There was talk of imposing a State of Emergency.
The "Yellow Vests" present the most significant opposition French President Emmanuel Macron has faced since coming to office in May 2017. Unlike previous protests in France, which have divided public opinion, these have widespread support – 72% according to a Harris Interactive Poll published December 1st. Fuel tax rises -- announced in November before being retracted on December -- were intended to help bring down France's carbon emissions by curbing the use of cars. Macron makes no secret of his wish to be seen as a global leader for environmental reform.
He forgets that back at home, among the people who elected him, fuel prices really matter to those outside big cities, where four-fifths of commuters drive to work and a third of them cover more than 30km each week.
The increases have incensed people in smaller communities, where they have already seen speed limits reduced to please the Greens and cuts to the local transport services.
These additional costs-of-living increases come at an extremely bad time for ordinary French people working outside of Paris. Lower-middle class families are not poor enough to receive welfare benefits but have seen their income flat-line whilst cost-of-living and taxes have risen.
An analysis by the Institut des Politiques Publiques think-tank shows that benefits cuts and tax changes in 2018 and 2019 will leave pensioners and the bottom fifth of households worse off, while the abolition of the wealth tax means that by far the biggest gains will go to the top 1%
This is tough to swallow. Macron is seen as being out of touch with ordinary people and is unlikely to escape his new title, "the President of the Rich."
"People have this feeling that the Paris technocrats are doing complicated things to screw them," said Charles Wyplosz, an economics professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.
It is probably not as complex as that. The French people feel screwed.
As employment and growth are slowing, Macron, for the first time in his presidency, is under serious pressure. Unemployment is at 9%; his efforts to reform Europe are stalling, and his approval rating has plummeted to just 23% according to a recent opinion poll by IFOP.
Images of Macron at the Arc De Triomphe daubed in graffiti calling for him to step down, or worse, have done little to bolster his image abroad.
So far, Macron had said he would not bow to street protests. To underline his point, in September 2017, he called protestors against French labour-market reform "slackers".
The political U-Turn on the fuel tax is a turning point for the Macron presidency. The question is : What next, both for Macron and the "Yellow Vests"?
Macron most likely needs to plough ahead with his reform agenda, and doubtless knows he has the support of a solid majority in the National Assembly to do so. France is crippled by debt (nearly 100% of GDP) and its grossly bloated public sector. There are 5.2 million civil servants in France, and their number has increased by 36% since 1983. These represent 22% of the workforce compared to an OCDE average of 15%.
Tax-expert Jean-Philippe Delsol says France has 1.5 million too many "fonctionnaires [officials]. When you consider that public spending in France now accounts for 57 per cent of gross domestic product. Soon the system will no longer function as there will be less and less people working to support more and more people working less".
Macron's mistake, in addition to a seeming inclination for arrogance, is not to have made national economic reform his absolute priority right from his initial grace period after his election. Lower public expenses would have made it possible to lower taxes, hence creating what economists call a virtuous circle. Instead, he waited.
Now, at a time when he is deeply unpopular and social unrest is in full sway he is looking to make further reforms in unemployment benefits, scaling them back by reducing the payments and the length of time beneficiaries can receive the money. The "President of the Rich" strikes again.
There is talk that he may also re-introduce the wealth tax to try to placate the protestors.
Macron's presidential term lasts until May 13, 2022. Understandably, Macron will be focused on the elections to the European Parliament expected to be held May 23-26, 2019. Headlines have signalled that Marine Le Pen and the National Rally (formally National Front) are ahead in the polls at 20%, compared to Macron's En Marche at 19%.
The shift is understandable, given the divide between the countryside, where Le Pen has solid support, and the cities, where Macron's centre-left prevail.
In contrast, the "Yellow Vests" have galvanised support after standing up for the "impotent ordinary", and seem much buoyed by the solidarity they have been shown by both fire fighters and the police. There are images online of police removing their helmets and firefighters turning their backs on political authority to show their support for the protestors.
Whilst Macron's political opposition may be fragmented, this new breed of coherent public opposition is something new. Leaderless, unstructured and organised online, the "Yellow Vests" have gained support from the left and right, yet resisted subjugation by either.
Being leaderless makes them difficult to negotiate with, or to reason with in private. The "Yellow Vests" seem acutely aware of this strength, given their firm rebuttal of overtures for peace talks from the Macron government.
Enjoying huge support from the public and with reforms to the social welfare system on the horizon, the "Yellow Vests" are not going away.
For the first time in his Presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.
After Macron rebuked nationalism during his speech at the armistice ceremony, Trump was quick to remind the French President of his low approval rating and unemployment rate near 10%. A stinging broadside from Trump on twitter suggests that Macron may well be relegated to Trump's list of global "Losers":
"Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two - How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!"
The "impotent ordinary" in the United Kingdom, who might feel betrayed over Brexit, and the nationalists in Germany, who have suffered under Merkel , are no doubt staring in wonder at the "Yellow Vests", wishing for the same moxie.
The historian Thomas Carlyle, chronicler of the French Revolution, said the French were unrivaled practitioners in the "art of insurrection", and characterised the French mob as the "liveliest phenomena of our world".
Mobs in other countries, by comparison, he argued were "dull masses" lacking audacity and inventiveness. The blazing yellow vests of the French protest movement , however, have made Macron appear increasingly dull and weak too.
*David Brown is based in the United Kingdom.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

UN Approves Terror, Torpedoes Peace
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/December 10/18
Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist groups have interpreted the failure of the US-sponsored resolution as an internationally sanctioned license to continue killing Jews.
What Hamas is telling the UN and the rest of the world is: "Now that you have refused to brand us terrorists, we have the right to launch all forms of terrorist attacks and kill as many Jews as possible." Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders are, in fact, threatening not only to continue, but also to step up, their terrorist attacks on Israel.
When Hamas and its supporters celebrate, the few Palestinians who are described as moderates and pragmatists and who are opposed to violence and terrorism, will have to hide.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah have boasted that what happened at the UN was a "slap in the face of the US and Israel." In fact, what happened at the UN is a severe blow to the "moderates" among the Palestinians and to any chances of reaching a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now that the UN has legitimized Palestinian terrorism, no Palestinian leader will be able to return to the negotiating table with Israel. Thus, with this move, the UN has expertly torpedoed even the remotest possibility of peace talks.
The UN General Assembly on December 6 voted down a US-sponsored resolution condemning the activities of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups. (UN Photo/Loey Felipe)
The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas could not have wished for a better birthday gift than the one with which the United Nations General Assembly presented it last week.
In a few days, Hamas will hold a massive celebration in the Gaza Strip to mark its 31st anniversary. Hamas leaders are expected to pass on to their supporters the nice gift the terrorist group has just received from the UN -- a gift that enables them to continue launching rockets at Israel and planning how to kill as many Jews as possible on the way to eliminating Israel and replacing it with an Islamic state.
Although a majority of UN member states voted in favor of a US-sponsored resolution condemning the activities of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, it failed to be adopted at the UN General Assembly. The resolution condemned Hamas for "repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and for inciting violence, thereby putting civilians at risk", and for its use of resources to construct military infrastructure "including tunnels to infiltrate Israel and equipment to launch rockets into civilian areas."
Although 87 members voted in favor, and 58 against with 32 abstentions, the resolution failed, because prior to the vote, the General Assembly passed a different resolution requiring a two-thirds majority for endorsing the US-sponsored resolution.
The failure of the UN to endorse the US resolution is not only one of the best gifts Hamas has received for its anniversary; what is worrying is that Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist groups have interpreted the failure of the US resolution as an internationally sanctioned license to continue killing Jews.
There is no need to ask experts on Palestinian affairs about this perception, or conduct a study or a poll. All one has to do is listen to what Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been saying in Arabic.
As leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have commented, the failure of the US resolution is a "major victory for the Palestinian resistance."
What happened at the UN General Assembly last week is a "big boost for the Palestinian resistance," commented senior Hamas official Khalil al-Haya.
Besides the joy the terrorist groups have been expressing in recent days, they are now thanking and praising the countries that opposed the US resolution in particular, and the UN in general, for giving Palestinians a green light to continue the fight against Israel. In other words, Hamas is saying thank you to those countries that do not consider suicide bombings and rocket attacks as acts of terrorism.
The "resistance," for those who are still unfamiliar with Palestinian terminology, refers to various forms of terrorist attacks targeting Israeli soldiers and civilians. "Resistance" includes, among other things, suicide bombings, shootings, stabbings, car-ramming attacks, rocket and missile attacks, stone-throwing and hurling firebombs at Jewish families driving on the highways of the West Bank.
By failing to endorse the US-sponsored resolution, the UN has sent the following message to Palestinian terrorists: "You have nothing to worry about because the UN will not label you terrorists if you attack or kill Jews." This message has been fully absorbed by the terrorists in the Gaza Strip, who are now celebrating their "victory" at the UN.
Hours after the UN failed to endorse the resolution, the Hamas leadership announced that the "armed struggle" against Israel will continue. The announcement came as Palestinians were also marking the 31st anniversary of the eruption of the First Intifada, also known as the "Rock Intifada." "The resistance is a legitimate right guaranteed by all international laws and conventions," Hamas said. "This includes the armed struggle, which constitutes a strategic choice for safeguarding the Palestinian cause and restoring Palestinian rights."
The timing of the Hamas announcement was not coincidental; it came hours after the terrorist group heard and watched how the UN had refused to pass a resolution condemning Palestinian terrorists for firing rockets at Israel. It is also no coincidence that Hamas chose to emphasize the term "armed struggle" in its statement. Like the word "resistance," "armed struggle" also refers to terrorist attacks to take over all the land "from the river to the sea" -- meaning from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west; in short, all of Israel.
What Hamas is telling the UN and the rest of the world is: "Now that you have refused to brand us terrorists, we have the right to launch all forms of terrorist attacks and kill as many Jews as possible." Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders are, in fact, threatening not only to continue, but also to step up, their terrorist attacks on Israel.
Besides Hamas and Islamic Jihad, other Palestinian factions have also interpreted what happened at the UN General Assembly last week as a green light to proceed with their genocidal schemes to kill Jews and annihilate Israel. The PLO's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) have joined the chorus of Palestinian terrorist groups celebrating the downfall of the US resolution. They, too, see the failure of the US resolution as a license to continue launching terrorist attacks against Israel. Like the rest of the terrorist groups, PFLP and DFLP have perceived the failure of the resolution as legitimizing violence and terrorism.
Prior to the vote, the Palestinian terrorists said they feared that if adopted, the US resolution would "criminalize" the Palestinian fight against Israel. Even Hamas's rivals in the supposedly moderate and secular Fatah faction expressed this fear.
Fatah, too, was worried that the resolution would paint all Palestinian groups in one color, making it impossible to distinguish between Fatah and Hamas. Since Fatah has also been involved in anti-Israel terrorism, it feared that labelling Hamas a terrorist group for indiscriminately firing rockets at Israel would create a precedent, and that Fatah would be next to be added to the list of the international community's list of terror groups.
When Hamas and its supporters celebrate, the few Palestinians who are described as moderates and pragmatists and who are opposed to violence and terrorism, will have to hide.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah have boasted that what happened at the UN was a "slap in the face of the US and Israel." In fact, what happened at the UN is a severe blow to the "moderates" among the Palestinians and to any chances of reaching a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now that the UN has legitimized Palestinian terrorism, no Palestinian leader will be able to return to the negotiating table with Israel.
Thus, with this move, the UN has expertly torpedoed even the remotest possibility of peace talks. Thanks to the "peace-loving UN," December 2018 may well go down in history as the day the UN gave the green light to Palestinian terrorists to continue perpetrating violence on Israel and Jews. The blood of the next Jewish victim will be on the hands of the UN and those countries that worked hard to scuttle a simple and sane resolution: one that condemns terrorism.
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

France is Confused in Ailing Europe

Ghassan Charbel/Ashaq Al Awsat/December 10/18
In democracies, public opinion is a reckless and insidious horse. It takes you to the palace in a powerful wave, but quickly expects you to do miracles beyond your powers, disregarding the bureaucratic, political and psychological obstacles. The moment you fail to astonish it, it begins to disseminate its remorse through frustrations, protests and settling of accounts. Today, technology has changed the rules of the game. It made it harder and more dangerous. With smartphones, every citizen has become an independent party. Everyone has his own newspaper on his phone screen. Everyone has been granted the opportunity to harass, oppose, condemn and circulate news and rumors. Social media can assemble scattered opinions and turn them into rivers, and accumulate dispersed winds into a thundery storm. In the past, authorities were monitoring prominent parties, unions and rebels. But now, how is it possible to implant a policeman in the phone and mind of every citizen?
A few weeks ago, Emmanuel Macron was able to achieve great dreams despite the polls that confirmed the massive fall in the high tide that took him to the Elysee Palace. The European stadium awaited a man who could speak on behalf of the continent and not only on behalf of his country. The European scene was tempting. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who in recent years has been the backbone of European joint work, has begun to prepare for her departure. She abandoned the leadership of the party to later leave the Chancellery headquarters. On the other hand, British Prime Minister Theresa May is busy completing divorce proceedings with the European Union, struggling on the Brussels front and trying to avoid the stabs of her opponents and the daggers of her fellow party members.
Only France seemed eligible to fill the void that would be caused by Merkel’s path to retirement and May’s European divorce. Macron was preparing himself for this major role. Europe is not at its best. The misunderstanding between the two sides of the Atlantic is strong.
Donald Trump uses a dictionary that is hard for the leaders of the ancient continent to accept. He demands Europe to assume greater responsibilities in self-defense. He reminds its leaders that the US military has saved the continent twice, but America is tired of generous spending to ensure the safety of its allies.
Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, misses no opportunity to weaken the Atlantic and Western spirit. He regained Crimea under the logic of reuniting the branch with its trunk. He shook the stability of Ukraine, reminding the Europeans that Russia will not tolerate attempts to besiege it, encircle it or regard it as a second-level force.
The issue is not just about US-Russian rivalry. Europe must try to find a place in the new world that is taking shape. The Asian advancement is no longer a mere media speculation. It is a tangible fact. Beijing is living under the strongest leadership it has known since Mao Zedong. The master of the world’s second economy wants more than the Silk Road for his country. In parallel with China’s ascension, one must bear in mind India’s technological advances, which qualify it to be a big player in the coming phase, alongside America, China and Europe.
More than ever, the world seems blown away by surprises. Trump’s arrival to the White House is not a simple event. His way of managing America and world affairs is new, strange, difficult to ignore and hard to catch up with. When America changes, the world changes too. Putin’s Russia is not an easy opponent either. The tsar manipulates the cards, moves his pawns and then asks the world to acknowledge his gains. At this time, Europe seems confused, suggesting sometimes that it was swiftly founded while ignoring that its countries are advancing at different paces.
It is not easy for the British people to choose to exit the EU and then find out at the Brexit advocates do not have a convincing plan to face the burden of divorce. Public opinion sometimes commits costly adventures under the weight of populist voices, discontent with taxes, declining confidence in the political class, and the flow of news and illusions through social media. Macron dreamed of qualifying France for a bigger role in Europe. He knows that the current world needs a modern economy free of the weight of old ideas and notions that prevent the economy from growing, advancing and competing. He knows that the French have to accept bitter measures if they want a sustainable economy that can attract investments. So he initiated some reforms.
But the young president soon became “the president of the rich.” He was blamed for restricting the decisions at the Elysee and not giving enough space to the institutions and to the necessary efforts to motivate the ordinary citizens. The gap between the president and the street has widened and campaigns and accusations have intensified.
The French people have a long history of protests. The current president was not yet born when they flowed into the streets of Paris in May 1968. On that day, the Elysee was ran by a man named Charles de Gaulle. His powers were wide and his aura was greater. France sank into chaos and confusion, and it seemed that those who ripped up street paving stones had also uprooted the pillars of the regime. De Gaulle chose not to surrender and bet on the French fear of the unknown fate looming on the horizon. He dissolved the national assembly, organized general elections and achieved victory. A year later, he cited disappointing results in a referendum on decentralization and stepped down. He lost hope in his ability to convince the French, who were making fun of the ordinary president and hated the president with the aura. Macron was dreaming of the great European role when the yellow jackets took to the streets. As usual, the wrath of the people was mixed with practices of those with precedents. Among the protesters, there are those who attack the government, its taxes and policies… and those who complain about the European project itself and the Brussels directives… Right-wing radicals and extremists from the left. France is tangled between the role and its requirements, the rescue and its costs. It is a troubled country in a troubled continent, where many migrants dream of throwing themselves into its capitals.

Peak Tech Is a Tale of Evolution and Extinction
Nathanial Bullard/Bloomberg View//December 10/18
The history of technology is one of emergence, finding markets and eventually being challenged by other, newer platforms. New technologies can be tracked along an S-curve, starting from zero, growing slowly, then quickly, before hitting a natural plateau. These S-curves emerge in many different sectors, at both industrial and consumer scale. Each curve is steeper than the one before it. Only radio has a noticeable decline on the way to its peak, during World War II. For long-term planners in the energy sector who must consider the growth of particular technologies, the S-curve suggests a predictable path to peak deployment. What happens after that, though, is less predictable.
Electrical systems analysis, in particular, assumes that technologies are deployed based on the cost and efficiency of different types of power plants, the costs of fuel, the age of assets, and the needs of operating an electrical grid. A feature of deployment in electricity is that even if technologies are no longer new, they remain part of the system: For example, in the US, we use much less oil to generate power than we did 50 years ago, but we don’t use zero. There are century-old hydroelectric plants still generating power today, though no utility or power producer is building new ones.
There are two other features of large power plants that lend credence to the assumption that electrical-generation technologies eventually reach some sort of equilibrium. The first is that they’re big — physically large, centralized, planned over a long time, cost hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, and operate in a stable policy and regulatory framework.
The second is that technologies aren’t the same, even if they meet the same ultimate goal of delivering electrons; some technologies, such as nuclear power, are designed to run at peak capacity indefinitely (except for maintenance), while others, such as reciprocating engines burning natural gas, are only meant to run at designated times. Every technology has its place in a properly functioning system. Let’s return, then, to those licensing S-curves. With the introduction of and licensing of new broadcast technologies in the UK, incumbent technology licensing declined. But it didn’t just decline: It vanished.
After each technology’s S-curve peaked, it proceeded to disappear. There’s no equilibrium between licenses for black-and-white TV and color TV. The total market for these technologies has stayed proportional to the number of households in the UK, but the composition of that market has changed significantly as one technology replaces what came before it. New power technologies — wind, solar, batteries — are highly distributed and therefore have a different total market than coal and nuclear plants. A dramatically cheaper coal plant might not get built as the grid might not need its output; dramatically cheaper solar creates its own market, as do dramatically cheaper batteries. At the same time, that market might be limited to cohorts of the population, such as those who own their homes and are willing to purchase an asset that will last for the term of a mortgage or longer.
Or it might not be. In Australia, solar has already reached 6 percent penetration of rental properties as investors purchase solar-equipped homes and rent them out. As that number rises, we will need to revisit our assumptions about which types of buildings will host solar power and therefore reassess Australia’s total market for solar power.
The second thing to consider is that rapidly improving, highly distributed energy technologies can leapfrog their logical predecessors; think mobile phones replacing landlines in developing countries. Electric vehicles are an example, too: Automakers' tech roadmaps tend to move from pure combustion vehicles to hybrid vehicles to plug-in hybrid models that have both a battery and an internal combustion engine to all-electric vehicles. There are lots of assumptions within those roadmaps, including that consumers would want vehicles with both batteries and an engine for reasons of cost and vehicle range. That’s not what's happening right now: As batteries improve and become cheaper, and as consumers' preference for pure electric vehicles takes shape, automakers are jumping right past plug-in hybrids and directly to pure electric cars. Look at a technology’s S-curve in isolation, and it shows growth to a point of saturation. That saturation, though, isn’t happening in isolation; it is displacing some other technology, sometimes quite dramatically. Tech platforms are either growing or shrinking; they don’t necessarily achieve equilibrium. Each wave of growth doesn’t necessarily spare what came before it; sometimes one wave wipes out its predecessor before it even begins to develop. Something to think about for system planners.

Exit Merkel. Enter Hope for Centrism in Europe.

Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg /December 10/18
Chancellor Angela Merkel has been accused of killing German politics with her boa constrictor-like dominance and her contempt for electioneering fireworks. But on Friday, as she handed over the leadership of the Christian Democratic Union, it was clear that exciting political competition is alive even within the CDU, and that Germany’s next chancellor and Europe’s next de facto leader will be a star politician. That star is Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel disciple and chosen successor, who wiped tears from her eyes when the chancellor finished her farewell speech with a heartfelt “It was a joy and an honor.” That doesn’t mean a heated debate over the direction of German conservatism and Germany itself is over. The 1,000 delegates assembled in a cavernous hangar-like hall at the Hamburg Fair picked Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is known as AKK, over the corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz and Health Minister Jens Spahn. AKK won as much thanks to her convincingly emotional delivery as to her deep knowledge of the party and her weeks of tirelessly canvassing local CDU organizations.
Post-World War II German politics have rarely been a show, especially in the Merkel era. The last competitive CDU election was in 1971. On Friday, though, party members enjoyed a rare spectacle.
First, Merkel delivered a farewell speech. It was low-key; she even joked about “typical Merkel -- bone dry and to the point.” The point was her pride that the conservative party she took over in 2000 has changed beyond recognition, taking on a broader outlook. The chancellor, who has helped make the party a consistent election winner, was rewarded with an almost-10 minute standing ovation as delegates waved signs saying “Danke, Chefin” (“Thank you, boss”). She was presented with a conductor’s baton as a farewell gift and shown a touching clip of her historic moments.
The sentimental part over, it was time for the three candidates to try to win over the delegates. Both AKK, who spoke first, and Spahn, who took the floor last, used rhetorical devices: AKK’s theme was “courage” (to leave one’s comfort zone), Spahn’s refrain was “I care” (about what Germany will be like in 2040: At age 38, Spahn was the youngest candidate). Merz scorned oratory and was true to his image as a prickly truth-teller, pointing out that the CDU was losing voters to the right-wing populists from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and not doing enough to differentiate itself from its Green and Social Democratic rivals on the left.
All three, however, agreed about one thing: The CDU, they said, is the last remaining Volkspartei (people’s party, the German term for a centrist umbrella party) in Germany, perhaps even in Europe. These moderates, both on the center left and the center right, have been losing elections from France to Poland, and the potential CDU leaders stressed they couldn’t allow that to happen to their party. Most of the delegates were already familiar with the candidates’ positions on the issues: The trio had been campaigning since early November at regional CDU conferences, in TV appearances and newspaper interviews. The differences between the two leading contenders were clear ahead of time. AKK, the former minister president of the small state of Saarland and CDU general secretary, is more socially conscious; Merz more of a business-friendly libertarian. AKK inherits Merkel’s focus on tolerance, while Merz leans toward identity politics. AKK is in favor of forging compromises; Merz aims to show strength. AKK is softer on immigration, though she is tougher that Merkel. Merz has questioned the necessity of the constitutional provision spelling out the right to asylum and has proposed kicking out immigrants who commit crimes and banning them from the European Union.
These differences are important for the future direction of the CDU and even the future of German conservatism. But the lively debate and the cliffhanger leadership election -- none of the candidates won convincingly in the first round, and Spahn’s original voters ended up deciding the outcome narrowly in favor of AKK -- are more important for Germany as a whole. The CDU is a deeply traditional party; only 6 percent of members are younger than 30 and only 15 percent are under 40. At the beginning of the conference, it took Merkel several minutes to read the list of prominent CDU members who died in the last few months. And yet the party has shaken off the mothballs. It looks alive again, and that’s helping with voters: Just before the conference, a poll showed the CDU at 30 percent after months of lounging in the 20s. It’s still Germany’s biggest political force, by far, and the internal debate is a rehearsal for the next election, which isn’t likely before 2021 because AKK won’t try to unseat Merkel as chancellor and the CDU’s coalition partners need time to try to recover public support. The race should reawaken Germans’ interests in politics as a spectacle, as something of a sports competition that ’s more fun than the Merkel-era snoozefests, even though voters shouldn’t expect an American-style smackdown, given the traditional importance of a wonkish command of policy issues .
AKK, with her honest emotions, her oratorial skill and her mastery of Merkel-like backroom politics, has the potential to be an even stronger leader for the party and for Germany than her mentor has been.

Iran’s three options for surviving US sanctions
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami/Arab News/December 10/18
Last week I wrote of the current impact of the US sanctions imposed on Iran. The scope of the sanctions, their effect on some economic sectors and the continuous economic decline over the past three months, as well as the swift impact of the second phase of sanctions, were all reviewed. Now I will review the options that Iran may resort to in order to mitigate the impact of the sanctions.
The first option centers on the regime adopting a strategy of escalation by several means. This includes targeting US and Western interests in the region through groups and militias affiliated to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), such as Hezbollah, the Houthis and the Popular Mobilization Forces. This step could be taken directly by the IRGC through the harassment of oil tankers in the Arabian Gulf and by an escalation in Afghanistan or on the Israeli-Lebanese front by using Hezbollah or Hamas. This would serve as a warning to Washington to pressure it to reconsider the policies that aim to tighten the economic noose around the Iranian regime’s neck.
The US move would be strengthened by the EU adopting a similar position on the Iranian missile program, or by imposing sanctions on Tehran, even while retaining a commitment to the nuclear pact. This option would be costly for Iran diplomatically, politically and militarily. Furthermore, the Western response may be larger than the initial action. Some countries may find that the time is ripe for them to carry out military operations against Iranian sites both inside and outside the country.
The second option for Tehran lies in maintaining its current policy of “resistance” and “resilience” domestically, while working to buy time over the next two years until it becomes clear which party will be in office in the US after the next elections in 2020. It is possible for the Iranian regime to continue exporting oil on a smaller scale, with the US granting exemptions to eight countries, allowing them to import oil during the sanctions period. This could enable the regime to endure sanctions for several years through the restructuring its economy, adopting austere economic policies, raising non-oil exports, improving the role of the IRGC’s “parallel economy” and the charitable associations linked to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s office, as well as by reviving its dormant economic sleeper cells, including entities and individuals, to help the Iranian economy survive this testing period.
This option could be introduced over the short and medium terms, especially if Washington softens in the implementation of its policies. Iran’s adoption of this option would be conditional on the willingness of other regional nations, particularly its neighboring states, to help Iran circumvent sanctions.
The third option would see Iran’s leaders conclude that the two previous options are high-risk gambles, as their economic and political costs could be too high to countenance. This would lead them, however begrudgingly, to accept the need to renegotiate the terms of the nuclear deal with the US administration, since the problems resulting from the other possible scenarios could further undermine the already unpopular regime domestically, as it faces worsening protests and demonstrations across the country.
Iran could well show some flexibility on regional and international issues that it deems to be low priority
Due to this pressure, the regime might negotiate with the US administration to cut a deal simply to bring a swift end to the economic losses it is already incurring, particularly if the eight countries temporarily exempted from US sanctions decide instead to abide by the sanctions and cease economic dealings with Iran. The regime could gain more time by conditional negotiations, which would include the lifting or freezing of part of the sanctions.
Whilst this option is likely to be strongly opposed by the IRGC, Khamenei is likely to be more pragmatic, and President Hassan Rouhani’s government would probably support it. Iran will ultimately find itself pushed toward begrudgingly accepting this option, especially if the popular protests at home continue and the regime falls short of meeting most of its financial commitments at home and abroad.
Regarding this last option, Iran could well show some flexibility on regional and international issues that it deems to be low priority. This will not happen at the outset of any negotiations, but the regime would keep any such concessions as its trump card that it can use if the negotiations reach an impasse. In my view, this option is the most probable if the US continues to pressure Iran and works to convince its neighbors to cease cooperation with the regime to circumvent sanctions, as well as tracking all Iran’s violations, and penalizing and blacklisting firms and individuals helping Iran to evade the sanctions.
In conclusion, the success or failure of the US strategy on Iran depends primarily on Washington’s seriousness in implementing its sanctions and the extent to which its allies are willing to cooperate. Yet it also depends to some degree on the US providing alternatives to cover shortages in the energy market, attracting countries currently importing Iranian oil, and Washington offering services better than those provided by Iran, as well as swiftly identifying and closing any loopholes in the sanctions and subjecting any agreement to continuous assessment.
*Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is Head of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami