December 17/18

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
John 03/11-21: "‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’"

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 16-17/18
Israeli Army Says Fourth Hezbollah Attack Tunnel Found Crossing From Lebanon
Lebanon: PM’s Bloc Insists on ‘Non-Provocative’ Candidate to Represent March 8 Sunnis in
Hundreds in Lebanon Protest against Political Stalemate
Israel Discovers 4th Hezbollah Tunnel from Lebanon
Report: Berri Angry at 'Foiling' President’s Efforts ‘Last-Minute’
Report: Signs of ‘Blocking Third’ Impasse ‘Looms’ as Aoun Continues Govt. Discussions
Khalil Presses for Reforms after Moody's Report
Weary Lebanese take to the streets to protest political stalemate
Lebanon: Trapped in a tunnel

Titles For The Latest  English LCCC  Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 16-17/18
Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir arrives in Damascus on official visit
Netanyahu warns Hamas after deadly West Bank attacks
Pompeo, Mattis Underscore Strength of American-Saudi Ties
Kuwait Allows Foreign Investors Larger Shares in Local Banks
UAE Dubs 2019 as Year of Tolerance
Bahrain Official Dismisses Qatar Proposal for Dialogue
Car bomb kills eight people in Syria’s Afrin, says monitor
Syrian Opposition Welcomes Turkish Attack on Kurdish YPG
Outgoing UN envoy makes final pitch for Syria constitution
Washington: East Euphrates, Manbij A Red Line
Houthis Accused of Violating Truce, Amassing Force in Hodeidah
Yemen: Houthis Try to Gloss over their Hodeidah Loss
Egypt Welcomes Ethiopia’s Suspension of Work on Renaissance Dam
Iraqi Parliament Speaker in Erbil to Discuss Pending Disputes
Iraqi air raids kill 16 aides of ISIS leader Baghdadi in Syria
Turkey says strikes PKK in Iraq again despite Baghdad protest
Iraq: Fayadh Attached to his Candidacy for Interior Ministry Portfolio

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 16-17/18
Israeli Army Says Fourth Hezbollah Attack Tunnel Found Crossing From Lebanon/Haaretz/December 16/18
Lebanon: Trapped in a tunnel/Nadim Koteich/Al Arabiya/December 16/18
Trump signs bill to help religious minorities in Iraq, Syria/AP/December 11/18
Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018/December 11/18
Victory for Victims’: Trump Signs Genocide Relief Act for Iraqi and Syrian Christians/Peter Jesserer Smith/National Vatholic Register/December 13/18
"United Nations, Your Silence is Getting Worse": Extremist Persecution of Christians, September 2018/Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/December 16/2018
Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018/December 16/2018
USCIRF Welcomes President Trump Signing the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act/December 16/2018
U.S. Bishops’ Chairman Applauds Enactment of Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act
Victory for Victims’: Trump Signs Genocide Relief Act for Iraqi and Syrian Christians/December 16/2018
As Europe Dithers, Iran’s Arsenal Gets More Deadly/Behnam Ben Taleblu/Bloomberg/December, 16/18
Piketty Should Take Off That Yellow Vest/Leonid Bershidsky/The Guardian/December, 16/18
What does teaching philosophy in Saudi Arabia mean/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/December 16/18
The ISIS demon haunts Iraq again/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/December 16/18

Latest LCCC English Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 16-17/18
Israeli Army Says Fourth Hezbollah Attack Tunnel Found Crossing From Lebanon
تقرير من الهآررتس: الجيش الإسرائيلي يقول أنه عثر على نفق رابع لحزب الله على الحدود مع لبنان
Haaretz/December 16/18
النفق حسب الصحيفة لا يشكل خطراً ولكنه رغم ذلك تم تلغيمه بالمتفجرات وبالتالي كل من يدخله سوف يعرض نفسه للخطر. وجاء في التقرير أن النفق هذا هو مخالف لبنود القرار الدولي رقم 1701 الذي صدر عقب حرب ال 2006.
هذا وكان المتحدث باسم الجيش الاسرائيلي افيخاي ادرعي قد ذكر عبر حسابه على تويتر “ان قوات الجيش الاسرائيلي كشفت خلال نهاية الأسبوع نفقًا إرهابيًا هجوميًا آخر امتد من الأراضي اللبنانية الى إسرائيل حيث يتواجد مسار النفق تحت سيطرة جيش الدفاع ولا يشكل تهديدًا.
The tunnel no longer constitutes a threat but has been rigged with explosives, says military spokesman.
The Israeli army said on Sunday that over the weekend it found a Hezbollah attack tunnel crossing from Lebanon into Israel, the fourth discovered in recent weeks.
Israeli army spokesman added that though the tunnel no longer constitutes a threat, it has been rigged with explosives.
He warned that whoever enters it from the Lebanese side is risking their life, amd accused Lebanon of violating UN Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and the sovereignty of Israel.
The discovery of a third tunnel crossing into Israeli territory was announced on Tuesday by the Israeli army, a week after Israel launched Operation Northern Shield, aimed at destroying cross-border tunnels constructed by Hezbollah.
Lebanese president said last week that Israel’s operation to destroy Hezbollah attack won’t endanger the calm along the frontier. Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, said that Lebanon takes the tunnel issue “seriously” and is prepared to “take measures to remove causes of disagreement” after receiving full report on the situation.
Aoun added that the U.S. has informed Lebanon that Israel has “no aggressive intentions,” and also noted that his country too has “no aggressive intentions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the revelation of the third tunnel: “Hezbollah thought it was digging uninterrupted. We knew about it and planned it [to launch Operation Northern Shield] and it didn’t leak. We’re carrying out exactly what we planned, but we are also prepared for setbacks.”
The premier spoke after holding a security assessment in the Northern Command along with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and other senior commanders. Netanyahu, who is the acting defense minister following the resignation of Avigdor Lieberman, received a security briefing on the current progress in the operation to destroy the tunnels.

Lebanon: PM’s Bloc Insists on ‘Non-Provocative’ Candidate to Represent March 8 Sunnis in

Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 December, 2018/The positive climate that prevailed in Lebanon Saturday that the government crisis would be resolved before the end of the year did not dispel the main obstacle in the problem, which lies in the March 8 bloc’s Sunni MPs’ rejection of “preconditions” in the formation process. Contacts between Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and head of the Free Patriotic Movement Jebran Bassil could not drive the caretaker foreign minister to issue a final position over trading a Sunni minister from the share of President Michel Aoun with a Sunni minister representing the six deputies. Although 200 days have passed since Hariri was nominated to form a new cabinet, signs emerged over reaching a final solution to the crisis after the Sunni deputies showed a more lenient stance in dealing with this file. Sources said a possible solution is linked to first overcoming the demand of Hezbollah and the six deputies to be represented in the government and second, Bassil’s acceptance to trade a Sunni minister from Aoun’s share. Sources from Hariri’s Mustaqbal Movement said he insists that the minister who should represent the March 8 deputies in the next cabinet be “a non-provocative figure,” appointed from the president’s share. Those suggestions would be further discussed in a new round of talks, expected next week, following Hariri’s return from London. One of the deputies in the March 8 Sunni MPs group, Qassem Hashem told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We will meet next Monday to discuss the latest proposals.”

Hundreds in Lebanon Protest against Political Stalemate

Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 December, 2018/Hundreds of Lebanese took to the streets Sunday to protest against a political impasse that has prevented the formation of a new government seven months after elections. Sunday's protests in Beirut were organized by the Communist Party but drew others frustrated by the country's deepening political and economic crisis, said The Associated Press. Wearing red scarves and raising red flags, protesters complained about corruption, poor public services and spiraling public debt that is more than 150 percent of GDP.
One banner reads: "Off to the streets: enough talk." Protester Osama Assad said failure to form the government only "doubles the risks." Hanna Gharib, of the Communist Party, said the protests would escalate. Months after the May parliamentary elections, Lebanese leaders are still at odds on how to parcel out cabinet positions among rival groups according to a political system that shares out government positions among Christians and Muslim sects. The final hurdle to a deal has been Sunni representation, with six Sunni lawmakers who are aligned with the Hezbollah group demanding a cabinet seat to reflect their gains in the election. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri had rejected this demand. He did however, express optimism Thursday that the dispute could be overcome."I think the pressure that we have from the economic crisis ... is pushing more and more people to form the government," he said at Chatham House in London. Heavily indebted and with a stagnant economy, Lebanon desperately needs a new government to implement economic reforms to put its public finances on a more sustainable footing and unlock foreign aid.

Israel Discovers 4th Hezbollah Tunnel from Lebanon
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 December, 2018/The Israeli army announced on Sunday that it has discovered a fourth Hezbollah tunnel running from Lebanon into Israeli territory. The latest tunnel crossing into northern Israel was exposed at the weekend, the army said in a statement. As with the other tunnels, soldiers placed explosives in it to keep out militants from the Lebanese side, it said. The military refused to give the exact location, stressing the tunnel did not "pose an imminent threat". Earlier this month, Israel launched operation Northern Shield to expose and destroy Hezbollah tunnels that the group had dug for use in future conflict. Israel fought a devastating war against Hezbollah in 2006 that was halted by a UN-brokered truce. "The Lebanese government is held accountable for the attack tunnels dug from Lebanese territory," the military statement said Sunday. "This is another blatant breach of UN Resolution 1701 and of Israeli sovereignty," it added, referring to the resolution ending the 2006 war. Hezbollah, which used such tunnels inside Lebanon in the 2006 war, has yet to comment on the Israeli operation. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, UNIFIL, and international community should do more to curb Hezbollah's "acts of aggression against Israel". UNIFIL has verified the existence of two of the tunnels Israel has exposed so far.

Report: Berri Angry at 'Foiling' President’s Efforts ‘Last-Minute’

Naharnet/December 16/18/When the presidential consultations to end the government impasse began last week, Speaker Nabih Berri was reportedly “betting on their success” in recording a breakthrough but was annoyed when that positivity “hit a brick a wall,” media reports said on Saturday. “Lack of responsiveness to the efforts of President Michel Aoun had a negative impact on Berri who expressed his obvious indignation,” said al-Joumhouria daily. “In this situation, I can’t but be more upset to the point of anger. The situation is intolerable. The country is falling apart and many are watching this fall. Unfortunately, speech is no longer useful, because there is no one to hear,” angry Berri was quoted as telling the newspaper. What annoys me the most is the fact that we were on the verge of finding a solution, but they pushed it away for reasons i have no knowledge of,” stressed the Speaker, urging political parties away from provocations. Last week, President Michel Aoun kicked off consultatons with parties related to the government formation gridlock. He held separate talks with Berri, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, and the six pro-Hizbullah Sunni MPs whose demands for representation in the new government lies in the heart of the “latest problem” delaying the formation. The last-minute Sunni hurdle emerged first when the new government was on the verge of formation on October 29 after the Lebanese Forces accepted the portfolios that were assigned to it. Hizbullah has insisted that the six Sunni MPs should be given a seat in the government, refraining from providing Hariri with the names of its three Shiite ministers in a bid to press him. Hariri has rejected the demand, announcing that he’d rather step down than give the aforementioned lawmakers a seat from his own share in the government.

Report: Signs of ‘Blocking Third’ Impasse ‘Looms’ as Aoun Continues Govt. Discussions
Naharnet/December 16/18/The results of contacts between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, aimed at resolving the crisis of forming the government, are expected to unfold in the coming hours following Hariri's return from London today, although a solution to the impasse seem “unlikely,” the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported on Saturday. According to information, a solution for the representation obstacle of pro-Hizbullah Sunni MPs seems “unlikely as recognized by most parties”, said the daily. A new impasse has reportedly emerged namely the refusal of some, especially Hizbullah, to grant President Aoun and his team (headed by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil), 11 cabinet seats granting them a power to veto the government decisions, said the daily. Before Aoun reveals the final outcome of his consultations with Hariri, member of the Strong Lebanon bloc, MP Alain Aoun said a solution for the government impasse “seems blocked as long as no one wants to back down from his conditions.”“Aoun leads the last chance to save the situation and work on forming a government. If he fails to succeed he may take a step, and no one else knows the nature of the option that he may resort to,” the MP said in remarks to the daily. He added: “Hizbullah has previously declared that it does not object to the President obtaining 11 seats. We do not know if some want to put the problem of disruption at the President to cover the real causes.”On the other hand, al-Mustaqbal Movement official told the daily on condition of anonymity: “Who is blocking the government now is one party named Hizbullah, because the agreement between Aoun and Hariri was final, and the decrees to form a government were written and ready, but were halted when the party declined to hand over the names of its ministers.
"Certainly the President has no interest in disrupting his mandate, and Hariri isn’t pleased about disrupting his mission,” he added. Furthermore, Secretary-General of al-Mustaqbal, Ahmed Hariri, said: “The PM-designate will not be subject to the will of Hizbullah and to a group of his representatives. It will not happen today, nor tomorrow or in a 100 years."He stressed that PM "will not go through a government defined by Hizbullah. His government was ready and known to the President, Speaker (Nabih Berri) and all concerned,” pointing out that President Aoun is "working to find a solution.”In a statement indicating further “escalation”, MP Jihad al-Samad of the Consultative Gathering affirmed adherence to their stance saying: “We will only to accept to be represented as part of the Sunni share (Hariri’s), we will not accept o be represented as part of the (Strong Lebanon) bloc, and i won't accept any party to get a veto power in Cabinet.”

Khalil Presses for Reforms after Moody's Report
Associated Press/Naharnet/December 16/18/Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil says that the Moody's Investors Service report that downgraded the Lebanon’s status shows the urgency of forming a new Cabinet and implementing economic reforms. Khalil's comments Friday came a day after Moody's changed Lebanon's government issuer ratings outlook from stable to negative and assigned it the rating of B3. Lebanon's economy has been under pressure for years from the war in neighboring Syria, a debt of $85 billion equal to 150 percent of its GDP and little growth. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has not been able to form a Cabinet since May's parliamentary elections because of political disagreements."The B3 rating reflects Moody's assumption that a government will be formed in the near term and will implement some fiscal consolidation," said Moody's report.

Weary Lebanese take to the streets to protest political stalemate
The Associated Press/Sunday, 16 December 2018/Hundreds of Lebanese have taken to the streets to protest against a political stalemate that has prevented the formation of a new government seven months after elections. Sunday’s protests in Beirut were organized by the Communist Party but drew others frustrated by the country’s deepening political and economic crisis. Wearing red scarves and raising red flags, protesters complained about corruption, poor public services and spiraling public debt that is more than 150 percent of GDP. One banner reads: “Off to the streets: enough talk.” Protester Osama Assad said failure to form the government only “doubles the risks.” Hanna Gharib, of the Communist Party, said the protests would escalate. Lebanon’s political factions are deeply divided over the war in neighboring Syria and other issues.

Lebanon: Trapped in a tunnel

Nadim Koteich/Al Arabiya/December 16/18
The last thing Lebanon needed after the “tunnels” of political crisis, failure to form a government and increasing indicators of economic and financial collapse was the tunnels of Hezbollah. When discussing politics in Lebanon and whenever there is a crisis, we often use the word “tunnels” and say “Lebanon has entered a tunnel.” When there are solutions to a problem, we would also say: “Lebanon has begun to exit the tunnel.”Here is our little country, entering so many tunnels at the same time! The most recent development is that of Hezbollah’s tunnels which Israel knew earlier about but it has chosen to announce their existence now, thus turning the issue into a political public relations campaign that has no boundaries. The year 2018 looks like 1981 on various levels. The 1981 Israeli invasion of Lebanon failed to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization. A small war broke out in 1981, ending with a cease-fire agreement in July of the same year
The mousetrap
In an interview with the Israeli military radio, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that the Israeli government had lied to the public about the tunnels and it had always denied the concerns of the settlements’ residents on the Lebanese borders about drilling noises being heard all the time.
According to Ya’alon, they lied to the public because Israel wanted to mislead its enemy (Hezbollah) and allow it to continue making the tunnels, so they could monitor it and prevent it from changing its plans and developing any other strategies. Israeli propaganda and the drama on television, which accompanied the news of the discovery of two tunnels and the continued hunt for other tunnels, was met by Hezbollah’s complete silence. Across the border, Hezbollah watched silently the destruction of its military assets, which it would have depended on in any upcoming war.
For its part, the Lebanese state was also confused, especially after UNIFIL, which implements UN Resolution 1701, acknowledged the existence of the tunnels and their expansion from the Lebanese territory towards Israel, which is deemed a hostile action that places Lebanon in a very weak and fragile position.
Israeli targets
Israel wants to achieve several goals out of its campaign. They can be summarized in five points:
1. Undoubtedly it seeks to use the issue of tunnels as an excuse to continue building the barrier wall on the borders with Lebanon, especially in the disputed areas that could leave access for Hezbollah, above or under the ground.
2. Show the collapse of Resolution 1701 and its failure to manage the conflict with Hezbollah and Iran. Israel wants to implicitly blame the UN resolution for becoming a cover for Hezbollah to upgrade its military structure for any upcoming war.
3. Rearranging Israeli security and military priorities in a way that places Iran, Hezbollah and the northern front issues on top, as opposed to other issues such as the southern front, i.e. Gaza. At this point, the departure of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has proven beneficial for this change, especially as Netanyahu was determined to put an end to the latest Gaza clashes, even at a huge political cost.
4. A pretext for raising an Israeli and international public opinion over Iran’s supposed plan to move its war with Israel from Syria to Lebanon because of Russian pressure on it in Syria. According to Russia’s needs, stability in Syria – after freezing domestic fighting – relies on the condition of freezing direct and indirect Israeli-Iranian confrontation in Syria. Thus, for Iran, the priority would be energizing the readiness of the South Lebanon front.
5. The Israeli maneuver is also part of its discussions with Russia over the freedom of Israeli movement in Syria, which has been suspended since September after the crash of a Russian aircraft over Syria and that only resumed 10 days ago. Thus, if Moscow is concerned about stability in Lebanon, as it has stated explicitly, being one of the major investors in the future of the Lebanese energy market, it should back down on its restrictions on Israeli movement in Syria. Lebanon’s calmness in exchange of freedom of movement in Syria or vice versa.
With these five possible aims, the Israeli activity on the borders seems to be the beginning of something and not the end of something. It all falls within a wider context that is related to the wider confrontation with Iran, led by the US administration of President Donald Trump and followed with great enthusiasm by Netanyahu’s government and Arab governments. It is not unlikely that Iran, which is besieged by tough sanctions, will use its influential tools, Hezbollah being its top card, in order to harm others in response. Not to mention that creating enough unrest in the region far from its borders is enough to raise oil prices. Hence Iran would undermine the sanctions strategy that is based on the fragile balance of stopping Iranian oil exports while maintaining a low oil price.
The year 2018 looks like 1981 on various levels. The 1981 Israeli invasion of Lebanon failed to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization. A small war broke out in 1981, ending with a cease-fire agreement in July of the same year. Prime Minister Menachem Begin was subjected to a political campaign because this agreement was tantamount to the first recognition of the PLO. Then came the 1982 invasion which ended the era of the PLO in Lebanon but introduced a new character on the arena, i.e. Hezbollah as we know it today.

Latest LCCC English Miscellaneous Reports & News published on December 16-17/18
Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir arrives in Damascus on official visit
Reuters, Amman/Monday, 17 December 2018/Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrived in the Syrian capital Damascus on Sunday, the first such visit by an Arab leader since the start of the Syrian conflict, Syrian state media said. President Bashar al Assad welcomed him at the airport, official photos showed. Many Arab countries have shunned Assad since the conflict that began early in 2011 after protests calling for his downfall swept Syria.

Netanyahu warns Hamas after deadly West Bank attacks

AFP, Jerusalem/Sunday, 16 December 2018/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he had issued a warning to Hamas after recent deadly attacks in the occupied West Bank, including two shootings claimed by the Palestinian faction. Netanyahu referred to a controversial Gaza ceasefire in November that ended the worst escalation between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war. “I conveyed a clear message to Hamas - we won’t accept a situation of a truce in Gaza and terror in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting, using the biblical name for the West Bank, as is Israel’s official policy. “We will exact a high price over them,” he said of the attacks. Hamas runs the Gaza Strip but also has a presence in the West Bank. Netanyahu’s comments came after two soldiers were shot dead at a central West Bank bus station near a settlement on Thursday. On the same day, a baby prematurely delivered after his mother was shot and wounded in a separate attack nearby on December 9 also died. Hamas claimed responsibility for the December 9 shooting and another in the West Bank on October 7 that killed two Israelis. The two Palestinians behind those attacks were shot dead by Israeli forces during arrest raids last week, Israeli officials said. Israel’s security forces say they have also arrested at least 37 Hamas operatives in connection with recent violence. The attacks came after a deal to restore relative calm to the Gaza Strip that included Israel enabling Qatar to bring fuel and tens of millions of dollars to the besieged territory for salaries. Hardline Israeli politicians opposed the Gaza agreement and have also criticized Netanyahu over the recent West Bank violence. On Sunday, hundreds of settlers protested outside Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem to call on the government to increase security measures as well as settlement construction. Those moves would make Palestinian militants understand that “there’s no point to terror and hope in it,” said Hananel Dorani, chairman of settler group the Yesha council. Participating in the protest were a number of ministers, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home. A ministerial committee headed by Shaked later gave initial approval to a bill that would help legalize settlement homes built on state land without government approval. “The terrorists will know that we’re here to stay,” she said following the vote. “We won’t be deterred by attacks.”On Thursday, Shaked said that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had also approved of a way to help legalize some 2,000 West Bank homes considered illegal by Israel as they are located on privately owned Palestinian land. Right-wing Israelis often call for increased settlement construction and approvals following Palestinian attacks.All Israeli settlements are viewed as illegal under international law, but Israel differentiates between those it has approved and those it has not. Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War. Settlements there are seen as major stumbling blocks to a peace deal since they are built on land the Palestinians want for their future state.

Pompeo, Mattis Underscore Strength of American-Saudi Ties

Washington - Moaz al-Omari/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 December, 2018/US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis stressed the strength of ties between Washington and Riyadh, saying the alliance between them serves both sides and safeguards American people. They added Friday that the US Senate’s vote to cease support for the Yemen war is up for debate in the American administration. "We certainly have great respect for what the legislative branch does and we're in constant contact with members on Capitol Hill so we understand their concerns," Pompeo told reporters. “We are in constant contact with members on Capitol Hill so that we understand fully their concerns and do our best to articulate why our policies are what they are and how we can ensure we are getting the right policy for the United States of America and to keep our country safe.” He added the Saudis serve as a bulwark in combating aggression from Iran that threatens the United States, and that President Donald Trump would not relent on policies aimed at protecting Americans. He said there was a "real risk to the United States of America" from Iran, which is allied with Houthi militias in Yemen.
“There are hundreds of thousands of people that the Iranians killed and been involved in their deaths all across the Middle East. There’s real risk to the United States of America, you’ll recall that the Iranians and their explosive devices killed hundreds of American soldiers. President Trump is determined to make sure that we protect America all the while holding accountable those who committed the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” he said. Mattis said that the Defense Department respects the Senate vote and noted recent progress in seeking to end Yemen’s civil war. The conflict is on the verge of ending according to a political solution, he remarked in wake of the Sweden talks that concluded on Thursday that saw the legitimate Yemeni government and Houthis make progress in resolving the war.

Kuwait Allows Foreign Investors Larger Shares in Local Banks

Kuwait – Merza al-Khuwaldi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 December, 2018/Kuwait announced that it was allowing foreign investors to own a bigger stake of its local banks. A press statement issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on Saturday said investors will be required to gain approval from the Central Bank of Kuwait if the shares they want to buy represent more than 5 percent of a bank’s total capital. The approval of the Central Bank of Kuwait should be obtained if ownership exceeds 5 percent of the bank’s capital, the ministry said. The latest move comes in accordance with Decree 694, which notes that non-Kuwaiti investors shall be allowed to own and trade in Kuwaiti banks’ shares, KUNA reported. The ministry said that the Capital Markets Authority received several enquiries from many international investors regarding loosening up rules for investing in the Kuwaiti market. Investors spoke about the “existence of obstacles or restrictions” imposed on them, possibly referring to the maximum percentage of non-Kuwaiti investors’ ownership in a single bank, which is supposed to not exceed 49 percent of the bank’s total capital, the report added. The decision aims to cultivate a positive investment environment for non-Kuwaitis on the Kuwait Stock Exchange and in line with the state’s vision on creating an attractive environment for foreign investments. More so, the move aims to help attract foreign investors to the country’s large and influential banking sector set with a capital market value of KD11.11 billion (about $39 billion). Previously, acquisition was limited to 49 percent of the bank's capital without obtaining the prior approval of the Council of Ministers which consults with the Central Bank of Kuwait.

UAE Dubs 2019 as Year of Tolerance
Dubai - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 December, 2018/The United Arab Emirates declared 2019 as the Year of Tolerance after 2017 was the Year of Giving and 2018 was the Year of Zayed, declared President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Saturday. The leader said 2019 would highlight the UAE as a global capital for tolerance, instilling the values of coexistence and peace in local, regional and international communities, state news agency WAM reported. "Instilling values of tolerance carries on Sheikh Zayed's legacy and teachings," Sheikh Khalifa said, adding that the Year of Tolerance will focus on five main pillars. The first will be to deepen the values of tolerance and coexistence among cultures and peoples by concentrating on teaching the youth the values of tolerance, while the second seeks to solidify the UAE as the global capital for tolerance. The third factor will see the UAE enacting multiple cultural programs and contributions to build tolerant communities, while the fourth pillar will focus on legislative and policy-oriented objectives that contribute to mandating cultural and religious tolerance. The fifth pillar will focus on promoting tolerance and coexistence via targeted media initiatives and projects. In July 2015, Sheikh Khalifa issued Federal Decree Law No. 02 of 2015 on Combating Discrimination and Hatred, which aims to protect everyone in the UAE and fight discrimination. In 2016, the UAE Cabinet introduced the first post of the Minister of State for Tolerance and launched the National Tolerance Program. “We look forward to further contributing towards building societies that believe in the values of tolerance, cohesion and dialogue,” Sheikh Khalifa added. "Here in the UAE," he said, "the Year of Tolerance will be celebrated as a national effort towards further advancing a decades-long dream of creating a tolerant and cohesive society, open to peoples of varying cultures and religions from around the world. The UAE and Tolerance go hand-in-hand."“We want government policies that further consolidate tolerance and a deep sense of community, and to spread this values among our youth and future generations,”Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai said.

Bahrain Official Dismisses Qatar Proposal for Dialogue

Al-Dammam - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 December, 2018/Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa questioned on Saturday Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s call for dialogue to resolve the Arab Gulf crisis. He pointed out to the double standards in the call in that it was made by someone who had snubbed the recent Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit that was hosted by Riyadh a week ago. “Qatar calls for dialogue and its emir does not attend the Riyadh summit,” tweeted Sheikh Khalid. “It calls for mutual respect, while attacking our leaders and countries nonstop,” he added in reference to Doha’s media campaigns against Gulf unity. “It calls against meddling in the internal affairs of others, while it has been ceaselessly conspiring against others,” continued the minister. Sheikh Tamim had recently stated that Qatar’s stance had not changed from the Gulf crisis, adding that he is committed to dialogue to resolve it. He made his remarks during the opening of the annual Doha Forum that is being held under the theme of policy-making. He also called during his speech for ending the Arab boycott against his country. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates imposed in 2017 a diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar over its support for terrorism. UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar Gargash interpreted Shiekh Tamim’s plea as a “desperate” attempt to introduce temporary solutions to the crisis without actually addressing its core problem. It is clear that the Qatari regime is aware that its people realize that they are living in “unnatural” circumstances given the Arab boycott, he added. This explains Sheikh Tamim’s call, he noted in a tweet. “The regime’s desperate pleading to western capitals has not succeeded and it is an unconvincing policy,” Gargash remarked. “Despite this, Doha, with Turkish and Iranian protection, is still pursuing this path.” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said Saturday that Doha was still committed to the GCC, adding that his country was still counting on Kuwait and other regional powers to help resolve the Arab boycott.

Car bomb kills eight people in Syria’s Afrin, says monitor
AFP, Afrin/Sunday, 16 December 2018/A car bomb killed at least eight people including four civilians near a pro-Turkey rebel post in the northern Syrian city of Afrin on Sunday, a British-based war monitor said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not clear who was behind the blast in the city, which was seized from Kurdish forces earlier this year. The explosion comes after the Turkish president on Wednesday threatened to launch a new offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. The Observatory said the blast wounded dozens, and the toll was likely to rise. “The car bomb exploded near a position of pro-Turkey fighters” in a market, killing four civilians and four fighters, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. At the site of the explosion, fresh herbs and vegetables were strewn on the ground near blackened market stalls. Vegetable seller Abu Yazan al-Qabuni told AFP he was in the market towards midday when he saw a van enter. “We thought it was carrying vegetables,” he said. After a huge blast rocked the area, he ran to the site of the explosion, finding wounded people and body parts on the ground. “I put them in a bag and buried them,” he said. “There are no armed gangs, no terrorists here. We’re a vegetable market,” he added, indignant. The city of Afrin was captured in March this year from the YPG by Turkish armed forces and Syrian rebels backed by Ankara. Turkey accuses the YPG of being “terrorists”, but the Kurdish militia also forms the backbone of a US-backed alliance fighting the Islamic State group in Syria. YPG forces are present in areas along the Turkish border to the east of Afrin.

Syrian Opposition Welcomes Turkish Attack on Kurdish YPG
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 December, 2018/The opposition Syrian National Coalition welcomed on Saturday Turkey’s military operation against “terrorist organizations” east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria. It said: “Turkish forces in cooperation with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are continuing their preliminary preparations to launch a battle against terrorist groups east of the Euphrates.” The announcement was made shortly after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump said Friday they were seeking “more effective” cooperation on Syria. Coalition chief Abdulrahman Mustafa said: “The suffering of the Syrian people is continuing at the hands of the Bashar Assad regime and other terrorist groups, such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah and Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).”The YPG is the military branch of the Kurdish US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. “Any military operation to eliminate these organizations is welcomed,” said Mustafa. The FSA is prepared to take part in the operation aimed at expelling these groups from east of the Euphrates, said the Coalition. Some 15,000 fighters will take part with the Turkish forces in raiding over 150 positions east of the river. On Friday, the Turkish military struck YPG positions in the eastern Aleppo countryside. An FSA commander confirmed the strikes to the German news agency. The YPG has meanwhile been fortifying its positions against any onslaught.

Outgoing UN envoy makes final pitch for Syria constitution
AFP/Monday, 17 December 2018/Outgoing UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on Sunday said that peace in the war-wracked country could be won through a post-war “inclusive constitution”. De Mistura is trying to set up a UN-backed constitutional committee for Syria that would include 50 members chosen by Damascus, 50 by the opposition and 50 by the United Nations, before stepping down later this month. “One can win territorially in conflict, especially if one has strong military support from friends, but the issue is can you win peace,” he said. De Mistura urges for steps towards reconstruction, rehabilitation, and the return of refugees, “We are getting into that phase,” he said. The planned constitutional committee was agreed at a Russia-hosted conference in January. The committee would be tasked with negotiating a new post-war constitution that would pave the way towards elections and turn the page on a seven-year devastating war. The constitution already faced objection from the Syrian government. The opposition pushed for an entirely new constitution, but Damascus said that it will only discuss altering the current one. In October, Damascus rejected a list presented by de Mistura of 50 civil society representatives and technical experts. “You cannot win a war, full stop,” de Mistura stressed “But peace could be accomplished through a credible inclusive constitution”, he added. De Mistura, an Italian-Swedish diplomat who has been the UN’s peace envoy since July 2014, was due to step down at the end of November, but he agreed to stay on for an extra month to lead a final push. Last month he said the UN is still hoping to send invitations to committee members by mid-December and convene a first meeting before December 31. Russia, Turkey, Germany and France have called for the committee to be formed by the end of the year.

Washington: East Euphrates, Manbij A Red Line
Ankara, London – Saeed Abdul Razek and Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 December, 2018/US officials sent a message to Syrian opposition and military leaders allied with Ankara, saying the East Euphrates area and the city of Manbij are a “red line” to the American army. In the past two days, contacts intensified between political and military officials from Washington and Ankara after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted his country would launch a new offensive against US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria. Sources said some Syrian opposition factions have already decided to join the Turkish army in their military operation. However, Washington urged them against such a step. “Any participation by the Syrian National Coalition or the Free Syrian Army in any way is an attack on the United States and the Coalition Forces, and it will lead to direct confrontation with Coalition Forces and the United States of America. That will fully destroy the relations between the United States and the Syrian National Coalition and the Free Army,” it warned. In the message to the Free Syrian Army and National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the American officials said US forces and SDF are intertwined and one cannot be attacked without incurring a response from the other, said the sources. "When elephants dance, you must stay away from the dance floor," the US officials said. On Thursday, Ankara sent more forces and military vehicles to areas near the Syrian borders, despite a warning from Washington that any unilateral military action in Syria would be a "grave concern" and "unacceptable.” Brett McGurk, the US presidential envoy in the fight against ISIS, said Saturday that any Turkish military operation would not be realistic. For his part, Erdogan’s advisor Ibrahim Kalin said: “We are part of the international coalition against ISIS and we support the fight against terrorists, so we want to coordinate our efforts.”In return, Abdurrahman Mustafa, head of the Syrian opposition coalition, said any military operation aimed at removing the Kurdish units would be welcomed and supported.

Houthis Accused of Violating Truce, Amassing Force in Hodeidah

Jeddah - Asmaa al-Ghaberi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 December, 2018/The Iran-backed Houthi militias are continuing their violations of the United Nations truce in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, charged Yemeni military sources. The Houthis attacked national army and resistance positions and shelled residential buildings that have left casualties among the civilians, they added. Spokesman for the Amaleeqa Brigades Waddah al-Dbeish said that the militias had over the past two days heavily shelled residential areas in the al-Hok district in Hodeidah, forcing many civilians to flee. Despite its commitment to the truce, the Brigades was forced to retaliate to the shelling, he told Asharq Al-Awsat. Many militants were killed in the attack. Moreover, the Houthis are continuing on amassing their forces in Hodeidah, Dbeish revealed. They have also deployed their forces in Hodeidah and disguised them as interior ministry officials in an attempt to maintain their control of the city. The Amleeqa Brigades called on the UN and its special envoy Martin Griffiths to assume their responsibilities in confronting these violations. It said that the violations are a reflection of the Houthis’ record in reneging on agreements, vowing that it will retaliate to any attacks.

Yemen: Houthis Try to Gloss over their Hodeidah Loss
Cairo - Ali Rabih/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 December, 2018/The Iran-backed Houthi militias have been attempting since their delegation’s return from the Sweden peace consultations to gloss over their losses in the coastal Hodeidah province. The legitimate government and Houthis agreed during the weeklong talks, which concluded Thursday, to a cease fighting in Hodeidah and withdraw their troops as part of confidence-building measures to pave the way for a wider truce and political negotiations. The Houthis attempted to portray the deal as a political victory against the legitimate government, while in fact they were covering for their losses when they agreed to withdraw from Hodeidah ports and pave the way for UN supervision. Head of the Houthis’ so-called ruling council Mahdi Mshat received the militant delegation that had taken part in the Sweden talks to laud it on its performance.
The delegation had in fact thwarted UN agreements on economic issues, employee salaries and Sanaa International Airport. Head of the illegitimate Houthi government Abdulaziz bin Habtour had meanwhile dispatched a cable to the militia leader to congratulate him on the success of the Sweden talks. He deemed them a “major national and international achievement.” “This is the first step on the path towards peace and achieving Yemen’s security, stability and sovereignty,” he claimed. Yemeni activists dismissed the Houthi allegations, saying they were “promoting their illusions to their followers whereby they are claiming to have achieved a political victory.”“The reality is that the militias agreed to place Hodeidah and its port under international control,” they noted. The Houthis were better off handing control of Hodeidah to the legitimate government and withdrawn from it without resorting to the UN.
Meanwhile, the government rejected criticism against it in wake of the announcement of the Hodeidah deal. Deputy chief of its Sweden delegation Abdullah al-Uleimi said: “The Stockholm agreement on Hodeidah will ultimately lead to the Houthi withdrawal and transition of administrative power to the legitimate government.”“The entire world has understood the Hodeidah deal, except for the Houthis, who are still trying to promote their illusions to their followers and their ally, Iran,” he tweeted. “The Sweden consultations exposed the Houthi violation of the humanitarian situation in Yemen to the entire world,” he continued. Information Minister Moammar al-Eryani said that the Houthis’ succumbing to the political course confirmed that military force, political will and the support of the Saudi-led Arab coalition were effective weapons to force the militias to accept peace and end their coup. The Sweden deal binds the Houthis to unconditionally continue consultations during the upcoming round that is scheduled for January, he added. Moreover, he noted the positive outcomes of the Stockholm deal in that it called for removing Houthi-planted landmines from Hodeidah and its ports, which is confirmation of the militias’ illicit practices. The minister added that the deal underlined the three references as the foundation for the solution to the crisis in Yemen. The references are the national dialogue outcomes, Gulf initiative and UN Security Council resolution 2216.

Egypt Welcomes Ethiopia’s Suspension of Work on Renaissance Dam
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 December, 2018/Cairo welcomed Ethiopia’s suspension of work on the Renaissance Dam on the Nile River for the next four years, revealed informed Egyptian sources. It will not be completed until 2022, more than four years behind schedule, because of possible defects with the hydro-electrical plant's equipment, an official said Thursday. The sources described news as “positive”, adding that they will benefit upcoming negotiations between Cairo and Addis Ababa. An Egyptian parliamentary source credited Cairo’s pressure on Addis Ababa for Ethiopia’s decision. The dam's construction managers have concerns about the quality of the electro-mechanical works that were handled by the country's military-run Metal and Engineering Corporation. "We have a plan to generate power from the first two units within the coming two years and then probably the dam will be completed in the year 2022," the dam's construction manager, Kifle Hora, told The Associated Press on Thursday. Experts are assessing some electro-mechanical equipment for possible defects, he said. "Based on the assessment, we are going to devise a remedial solution which we may have to take," he said.
"We first noticed problems with the dam's electro-mechanical and metal works two years ago but we only started taking detailed measurements in the past few months," Ethiopia's Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity Minister, Sileshi Bekele, said. "This (military) corporation has no prior experience and I highly doubt if some of the people have ever seen a hydropower plant. The government made a mistake in assigning a local contractor that has no knowledge and experience of such a complex project. In my opinion, it was a grave mistake and we are paying a price for that," Kifle said, adding that construction of other parts of the dam is continuing. The deadline for completing the dam is not important, said the informed sources, but it is important for Ethiopia to commit to agreements reached with Egypt.

Iraqi Parliament Speaker in Erbil to Discuss Pending Disputes
Erbil – Ihsan Aziz/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 December, 2018/Iraqi parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi kicked off on Friday an official visit to the Kurdistan Region, his first to the area since his appointment to his post. He held talks with Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, who was recently nominated for the Kurdish presidency. The two officials discussed pending political and security affairs between Erbil and Baghdad and efforts to form a new Iraqi government. They underline the need and importance of filling the remaining vacant seats in the cabinet. The case of refugees in Kurdistan was also addressed.
Later, Halbousi held talks with former Kurdish President Masoud Barzani on the political process in Iraq and the obstacles it is facing, including completing the cabinet lineup. The warned of the repercussions of failing to form the government, while stressing the need to preserve balance in state institutions, especially in the security and military sectors. Halbousi also held talks with Kurdistan’s general intelligence chief Masrour Barzani, who has been nominated to form the next Kurdish government. They discussed bolstering ties between Erbil and Baghdad, as well as the Kurdish region’s budget.

Iraqi air raids kill 16 aides of ISIS leader Baghdadi in Syria
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Sunday, 16 December 2018/Iraqi fighter jets launched an air raid in Syria’s Sousa east of the country, killing 16 aides of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to the Iraqi interior minister.A military source revealed that the 16 terrorists were killed during a gathering they were holding in the area. He added that a second strike targeted another location killing 13 would-be suicide bombers, who were preparing to enter Iraq through the desert bordering Syria to execute terrorist operations targeting the Iraqi capital Baghdad , Karbala, Samarra and Kirkuk.
The source revealed that among those killed were senior ISIS leaders, one of them is Mushtaq Anad Haram al-Mouhamadi, an Iraqi national known as Abu Omar and carries the title war minster responsible for what is classified by ISIS as the “Middle Euphrates State.”
Also killed is al-Baghdadi's deputy Sijad Ali Hussein who is known by the name the Iraqi Abu Saffia, accused of overseeing the implementation of the bombings of the recent massacre in Karrada in Baghdad, and participating in the implementation of a number of terrorist operations in Iraq and Syria.
Four other senior ISIS leaders were also killed including: Abdul Hamid al-Salmani who was in charge of transporting suicide bombers from Syria to Iraq and vice versa, the director of the terrorist organization’s operations room Omar Abdul Salman al-Fahdawi, who was charged with overseeing terrorist operations in Syria, Iraq and abroad, Shaker al-Hardani, known as Shaker Rocket, for overseeing the program of engineering effort to manufacture rockets within ISIS, Abu Saleh al-Obeidi responsible for security matters in the extremist group and Abu Hamza, a Yemeni national in charge of the so-called suicide bombers in Syria.

Turkey says strikes PKK in Iraq again despite Baghdad protest
Reuters, Istanbul/Sunday, 16 December 2018/Turkish warplanes struck PKK targets in northern Iraq on Saturday, the military said, ignoring protests from Baghdad which said Turkey’s repeated air strikes violate Iraqi sovereignty and endanger civilians. Iraqi authorities summoned Turkey’s ambassador in Baghdad on Friday after Ankara said it killed eight militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Turkey said it would continue attacking the PKK as long as it sought refuge in Iraq. In a statement on Twitter, Turkey’s armed forces said they carried out air strikes in northern Iraq on December 14 and 15, killing seven militants. It was not immediately clear whether those casualties were in addition Friday’s toll. Turkey regularly hits PKK bases across its southern border, saying the militants use the mountainous northern Iraqi region as a base for deadly attacks inside Turkey, where the Kurdish separatist group has waged an insurgency since the 1980s. In a speech on Saturday, Erdogan said Turkish air strikes against PKK targets in the Iraqi region of Sinjar earlier this week had “turned those places into their graveyards.”“We will bury them in the holes they dug,” he told supporters in Turkey’s southwestern city of Denizli. Erdogan threatened to launch a ground offensive in northern Iraq earlier this year. This week he also announced an imminent operation against a Kurdish militia in neighboring Syria. The US-backed YPG militia, which has been fighting ISIS in Syria, controls Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey. Ankara says it is an extension of the PKK and poses a direct threat to Turkey. “The activities of the PKK terrorist organization in the territory of Iraq and Syria have become a national security issue for Turkey,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said. Turkey’s operations “will continue as long as terror organizations nest on Iraqi soil and as long as Turkey’s security needs require it to,” Aksoy said. The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. It has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast that has killed about 40,000 people.

Iraq: Fayadh Attached to his Candidacy for Interior Ministry Portfolio

Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 December, 2018/Falih Fayadh said on Saturday he insisted on being nominated for the post of interior minister, two months after disputes in Baghdad over the defense and interior ministers have obstructed finalizing the cabinet of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. “I will leave my nomination for the post of interior minister in the hands of the Prime Minister, and he is the person to decide who he wants to nominate. However, I will not give up my right to run for the post and I will not withdraw,” he stressed. Speaking during a ceremony held by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) committee in Baghdad, he said Abdul Mahdi should not yield to any pressure exerted by other parties while choosing nominees for the remaining vacant ministerial portfolios. Fayadh’s stance came only days prior to a parliament session aimed at voting on the remaining eight spots in Abdul Mahdi’s government. The current statements hint there are no chances that the political crisis will be resolved during Tuesday's session. “There are no signs that Abdul Mahdi would present his cabinet lineup on Tuesday due to an expected lack of quorum. However, next Thursday may be a turning point because several members of the al-Binaa bloc are seeking to secure the quorum,” an official political source told Asharq Al-Awsat. The bloc and the Fatah alliance have backed the candidacy of al-Fayadh to the Ministry of Interior. Leader of Fatah alliance Hadi al-Ameri stressed last week that his coalition did not nominate Fayadh for the post of interior minister, but he was rather Abdul Mahdi’s choice. However, the PM was quick to respond during his weekly press conference, saying Fayadh was the candidate of political blocs, not his. Commenting on the issue, the political source said, the Binaa bloc and the Fatah alliance are saying they support Fayadh in case he was nominated by the prime minister. “Claiming that Fayadh is not their candidate is part of the ongoing dispute between those blocs and other reformist parties, particularly the Sairoon bloc, headed by Moqtada al-Sadr,” the source said. Sairoon hinted to foreign pressure, mainly Iranian, is pushing for Fayadh’s nomination, while it insists on an “Iraqi decision” in choosing security-linked ministerial portfolios, it added. On whether Abdul Mahdi and the Binaa bloc will withdraw their support to Fayadh’s nomination, the source said: “There is a certain acceptance of the fait accompli and a decision not to escalate more in case there is a lack of quorum in Tuesday’s meeting.” He said all signs hint that the Binaa bloc supports Fayadh in case he is nominated by the prime minister. “That means that all parties, including Fayadh, have thrown the ball in Abdul Mahdi’s camp,” the source explained.

Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 16-17/18
Trump signs bill to help religious minorities in Iraq, Syria

December 11/2018
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump signed legislation on Tuesday to help ensure humanitarian relief reaches the members of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria who have been targeted for genocide by Islamic State militants.
“In recent years, IS has committed horrifying atrocities against religious and ethnic minorities in Syria and Iraq, including Christians, Yazidis, Shia and other groups,” Trump said.
He said the bill directs U.S. assistance toward persecuted communities, including through faith-based programs. It also allows government agencies to help groups that are investigating and prosecuting IS’ “despicable acts.”
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., introduced the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act. He said the measure also urges foreign governments to help apprehend IS perpetrators by adding identifying information on suspects to their national security databases.
“The future of endangered religious and ethnic minorities targeted by IS for genocide, and pluralism in the Middle East, will depend on help from the United States.” Smith said.

قانون العراق وسوريا للإبادة الجماعية والمساءلة لعام 2018
Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018
To read the full text of the Bill click on the link below
(Sec. 4) This bill states that is U.S. policy to ensure that humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery assistance for nationals and residents of Iraq or Syria, and of communities from those countries, is directed toward ethnic and minority individuals and communities with the greatest need, including those individuals and communities that are at risk of persecution or war crimes.
(Sec. 5) The Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development may provide assistance, including financial and technical assistance, to support the efforts of entities, including nongovernmental organizations with expertise in international criminal investigations and law, to address crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes in Iraq since January 2014 by:
conducting criminal investigations,
developing indigenous investigative and judicial skills to adjudicate cases consistent with due process and respect for the rule of law, and
collecting and preserving evidence for use in prosecutions.
The State Department shall encourage foreign governments to identify and prosecute individuals who are suspected of committing such crimes, including members of foreign terrorist organizations operating in Iraq or Syria.
(Sec. 6) The State Department shall identify:
threats of persecution, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes against members of Iraqi or Syrian religious or ethnic groups that are minorities in Iraq or in Syria with respect to whom the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has committed such crimes in Iraq or Syria since January 2014 or who are members of other persecuted religious or ethnic groups;
persecuted religious and ethnic minority groups in Iraq or Syria that are at risk of forced migration and the primary reasons for such risk;
humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery needs of these individuals; and
entities, including faith-based entities, that are providing such assistance and the extent of U.S. assistance to or through such entities.
(Sec. 7) The State Department shall provide Congress with:
a description of the efforts taken and proposed to implement this bill; and
an assessment of the feasibility and advisability of prosecuting individuals for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes in Iraq since January 2014 or in Syria since March 2011.
Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018
Begun and held at the City of Washington on Wednesday,
the third day of January, two thousand and eighteen
To provide relief for victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes who are members of religious and ethnic minority groups in Iraq and Syria, for accountability for perpetrators of these crimes, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. Short title.
This Act may be cited as the “Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018”.
SEC. 2. Findings.
Congress finds the following:
(1) The Secretary of State of State declared on March 17, 2016, and on August 15, 2017, that Daesh (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS) is responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and other atrocity crimes against religious and ethnic minority groups in Iraq and Syria, including Christians, Yezidis, and Shia, among other religious and ethnic groups.
(2) According to the Department of State’s annual reports on international religious freedom—
(A) the number of Christians living in Iraq has dropped from an estimated 800,000 to 1,400,000 in 2002 to fewer than 250,000 in 2017; and
(B) the number of Yezidis living in Iraq has fluctuated from 500,000 in 2013, to between 350,000 and 400,000 in 2016, and between 600,000 and 750,000 in 2017.
(3) The annual reports on international religious freedom further suggest that—
(A) Christian communities living in Syria, which had accounted for between 8 and 10 percent of Syria’s total population in 2010, are now “considerably” smaller as a result of the civil war, and
(B) there was a population of approximately 80,000 Yezidis before the commencement of the conflict in Syria.
(4) Local communities and entities have sought to mitigate the impact of violence directed against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria, including the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil (Kurdistan Region of Iraq), which has used predominantly private funds to provide assistance to internally displaced Christians, Yezidis, and Muslims throughout the greater Erbil region, while significant needs and diminishing resources have made it increasingly difficult to continue these efforts.
SEC. 3. Definitions.
In this Act:
(1) APPROPRIATE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES.—The term “appropriate congressional committees” means—
(A) the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate;
(B) the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate;
(C) the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate;
(D) the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate;
(E) the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate;
(F) the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives;
(G) the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives;
(H) the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives;
(I) the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives; and
(J) the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives.
(2) FOREIGN TERRORIST ORGANIZATION.—The term “foreign terrorist organization” mean an organization designated by the Secretary of State as a foreign terrorist organization pursuant to section 219(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189(a)).
(3) HUMANITARIAN, STABILIZATION, AND RECOVERY NEEDS.—The term “humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery needs”, with respect to an individual, includes water, sanitation, hygiene, food security and nutrition, shelter and housing, reconstruction, medical, education, psychosocial needs, and other assistance to address basic human needs, including stabilization assistance (as defined by the Stabilization Assistance Review in “A Framework for Maximizing the Effectiveness of U.S. Government Efforts to Stabilize Conflict-Affected Areas, 2018).
(4) HYBRID COURT.—The term “hybrid court” means a court with a combination of domestic and international lawyers, judges, and personnel.
(5) INTERNATIONALIZED DOMESTIC COURT.—The term “internationalized domestic court” means a domestic court with the support of international advisers.
SEC. 4. Statement of policy.
It is the policy of the United States to ensure that assistance for humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery needs of individuals who are or were nationals and residents of Iraq or Syria, and of communities in and from those countries, is directed toward those individuals and communities with the greatest need, including those individuals from communities of religious and ethnic minorities, and communities of religious and ethnic minorities, that the Secretary of State declared were targeted for genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, and have been identified as being at risk of persecution, forced migration, genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.
SEC. 5. Actions to promote accountability in Iraq for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
(a) Assistance.—The Secretary of State and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development are authorized to provide assistance, including financial and technical assistance, as necessary and appropriate, to support the efforts of entities, including nongovernmental organizations with expertise in international criminal investigations and law, to address genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, and their constituent crimes by ISIS in Iraq by—
(1) conducting criminal investigations;
(2) developing indigenous investigative and judicial skills, including by partnering, directly mentoring, and providing necessary equipment and infrastructure to effectively adjudicating cases consistent with due process and respect for the rule of law; and
(3) collecting and preserving evidence and the chain of evidence, including for use in prosecutions in domestic courts, hybrid courts, and internationalized domestic courts, consistent with the activities described in subsection (b).
(b) Actions by foreign governments.—The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, shall encourage governments of foreign countries—
(1) to include information in appropriate security databases and security screening procedures of such countries to identify suspected ISIS members for whom credible evidence exists of having committed genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, and their constituent crimes, in Iraq; and
(2) to apprehend and prosecute such ISIS members for genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, as appropriate.
(c) Consultation.—In carrying out subsection (a), the Secretary of State shall consult with and consider credible information from entities described in such subsection.
SEC. 6. Identification of and assistance to address humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery needs of certain persons in Iraq and Syria.
(a) Identification.—The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, and Director of National Intelligence, shall seek to identify—
(1) threats of persecution and other early-warning indicators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes against individuals who are or were nationals and residents of Iraq or Syria, are members of religious or ethnic minority groups in such countries, and against whom the Secretary of State has determined ISIS has committed genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes;
(2) the religious and ethnic minority groups in Iraq or Syria identified pursuant to paragraph (1) that are at risk of forced migration, within or across the borders of Iraq, Syria, or a country of first asylum, and the primary reasons for such risk;
(3) (A) the humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery needs of individuals described in paragraphs (1) and (2), including the assistance provided by the United States and by the United Nations, respectively—
(i) to address the humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery needs of such individuals; and
(ii) to mitigate the risks of forced migration of such individuals; and
(B) assistance provided through the Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization and Funding Facility for Expanded Stabilization; and
(4) to the extent practicable and appropriate—
(A) the entities, including faith-based entities, that are providing assistance to address the humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery needs of individuals described in paragraphs (1) and (2); and
(B) the extent to which the United States is providing assistance to or through the entities referred to in subparagraph (A).
(b) Additional consultation.—In carrying out subsection (a), the Secretary of State shall consult with, and consider credible information from—
(1) individuals described in paragraphs (1) and (2) of such subsection; and
(2) the entities described in paragraph (4)(A) of such subsection.
(c) Assistance.—The Secretary of State and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development are authorized to provide assistance, including financial and technical assistance as necessary and appropriate, to support the entities described in subsection (a)(4)(A).
SEC. 7. Report.
(a) Implementation report.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees that includes—
(1) a detailed description of the efforts taken, and efforts proposed to be taken, to implement the provisions of this Act;
(2) an assessment of—
(A) the feasibility and advisability of prosecuting ISIS members for whom credible evidence exists of having committed genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes in Iraq, including in domestic courts in Iraq, hybrid courts, and internationalized domestic courts; and
(B) the measures needed—
(i) to ensure effective criminal investigations of such individuals; and
(ii) to effectively collect and preserve evidence, and preserve the chain of evidence, for prosecution; and
(3) recommendations for legislative remedies and administrative actions to facilitate the implementation of this Act.
(b) Form.—The report required under subsection (a) shall be submitted in unclassified form, but may contain a classified annex, if necessary.

USCIRF Welcomes President Trump Signing the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act
WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today welcomed President Donald Trump signing H.R. 390, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act. This bill promotes accountability for crimes committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and provides for the urgent needs of persecuted religious and ethnic communities such as Christians and Yazidis. USCIRF has recommended that the Congress pass this bill since June 2017.
“I commend President Trump for signing this important bill providing relief and assistance to communities who desperately need our help,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga, who attended the White House luncheon Vice President Pence hosted in honor of victims of religious persecution. “Through this bill we send the message that those responsible for these crimes, including genocide, will not escape justice. I also commend Representatives Chris Smith and Anna Eshoo for their commitment and hard work to craft this legislation and help ensure its passage.”
Present at the White House Oval Office signing ceremony were USCIRF Commissioner Tony Perkins and former Commissioners Elizabeth Prodromou and Nina Shea, who worked jointly and in a bipartisan way on the passage of the legislation.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at or Kellie Boyle at or +1-703-898-6554.

U.S. Bishops’ Chairman Applauds Enactment of Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act
December 11, 2018
WASHINGTON—Today, after more than two years of hard work and bipartisan cooperation in the US Congress, the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) applauds the enactment of the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act (H.R. 390).
This critical legislation will direct humanitarian relief to genocide victims in Iraq and Syria and hold ISIS perpetrators accountable.
“Today is a signal of hope for the critically vulnerable of this region. We thank Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), the bill’s author, and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), its lead cosponsor, and President Donald Trump for signing it into law,” says Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services USA and Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.
“Less than 200,000 Christians remain in Iraq, down from 1.4 million in 2002 and 500,000 in 2013, before ISIS swept through the region on its genocidal campaign. Many of the remaining Christians in Iraq are displaced, mostly in Erbil in the Kurdistan region, and need desperate assistance to return to their homes and stay in Iraq. After the ISIS invasion, 60,000 Yazidis fled to Europe, and of the 550,000 Yazidis still in Iraq, 280,000 remain displaced and only 20 percent have been able to return to their historic homeland of Sinjar, according to the Yazdi organization Yazda.
The Catholic Church has consistently raised its voice in support of the most vulnerable who are facing persecution and displacement in the Middle East and around the world. Pope Francis has denounced the persecution, torture and killing of Christians in the Middle East, calling it a “form of genocide” that must end, and lamenting the wider conflicts that have put so many in danger. USCCB has joined with Pope Francis in condemning the actions of those who would persecute others solely for reasons of their faith and ethnicity.”

Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., President Donald J. Trump, Chris Smith (R-NJ), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Committee on International Justice and Peace, genocide, Iraq, Syria, Christians, ISIS, Erbil, Yazidis, persecution, displacement, conflict, fait, ethnicity, humanitarian relief
Media Contact:
Judy Keane

Victory for Victims’: Trump Signs Genocide Relief Act for Iraqi and Syrian Christians
Peter Jesserer Smith/National Vatholic Register/December 13/18
The Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act is hailed as a vital piece in keeping the Christian presence alive in ancestral homelands.
WASHINGTON — Just one day after Iraq celebrated the anniversary of its total victory over the Islamic State terrorist army, President Donald Trump signed into law a new bill designed to provide dedicated U.S. support directly to the Christian and Yazidi victims of ISIS’ campaign of genocide.
“The law in itself is an achievement,” Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Erbil told the Register, saying it was “a victory for the victims and a recognition of the painful road they walked.”
Faith leaders and representatives of the indigenous Iraqi communities targeted for extinction gathered around President Trump in the White House Oval Office as he signed the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act (H.R. 390) into law Dec. 11.
The president passed out replica signing pens to each representative, but gave the pen he personally used to sign the long-awaited legislation to Archbishop Warda himself. Afterward, the archbishop gave the president a blessing in Aramaic, “the language of Jesus,” and recited the Lord’s Prayer.
The bipartisan law, sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., will authorize and direct the federal government to fund organizations, including faith-based groups, that are on the ground providing Christian, Yazidi and other survivors targeted by ISIS the resources they need to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
Carl Anderson, the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, attended the signing and told the Register the bipartisanship showed “the best that is America” and that the country was on the side of genocide victims.
“National strength is defending people who are defenseless,” Anderson said. “I think today really showed what is best about America, in a lot of ways.”
Liberation From ISIS
In 2014, ISIS had marched into Iraq from Syria, conquering a vast swath of land for its self-declared “caliphate.” The army inflicted vicious atrocities on non-Sunni peoples under its control, devastating the numerically small Christian and Yazidi communities. ISIS finally turned its reign of terror on the remaining Sunni Muslims.
Iraqi forces eventually liberated the Nineveh Plain and Mosul from ISIS, declaring victory over the so-called caliphate Dec. 10, 2017, and allowing Christians for the first time in four years to celebrate Christmas in the shattered city.
Since last year’s liberation of their ancestral homeland on the Nineveh Plain, Christians have been returning slowly. But without the infusion of serious capital, the destruction inflicted by ISIS across northern Iraq, along with other ethnic groups staking claims in their old villages due to their absence, has hindered the pace of their repatriation. The Nineveh Reconstruction Committee estimates the reconstruction will cost $250 million. (This estimate does not include Mosul, which was flattened by airstrikes and fierce house-to-house fighting to liberate the city.)
The population of Christians in Iraq is down significantly: Fewer than 200,000 Christians remain of the 500,000 estimated in Iraq before ISIS.
Archbishop Warda said there is no room for error: Christians need security and economic stability in order to have a future in Iraq, where they first received the Gospel nearly 2,000 years ago. The country needs reconciliation programs, he said, and Christians, with immediate support, can become “missionaries of reconciliation.”
Now that the U.S. has enshrined these commitments into law, the archbishop said what needs to follow is action.
“Any future minor problem will likely be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back,” he said. “We are among the oldest Christians on Earth, and we will disappear within 10 years if there is no change for us.”
Strengthening Support Networks
Until now, the survival of Iraq’s indigenous Christian communities has relied upon an extended international network of Catholic charitable organizations, such as Aid to the Church in Need and the Knights of Columbus, who raised funds from their supporters and worked with the local Christian churches to help genocide survivors.
Aid to the Church in Need raised $100 million and helped jump-start the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee coordinating the restoration of their communities.
In Karamles, Christians will celebrate the Nativity of the Lord in a beautiful new church, the Mar Addai Chaldean Catholic Church, thanks in large part to the Knights of Columbus. The Knights dedicated themselves to the rebuilding of the town’s churches and homes, in coordination with the Archdiocese of Erbil, ever since the region’s liberation from ISIS.
Anderson explained the legislation will also bring about important regulatory reform that will enable the U.S. government to work with “entities on the ground the locals trust, that understand the local situation, and have a proven record of getting aid to the people who need aid.”
He said the law will cut out “middlemen” that have proved ineffective in getting assistance to Christians and Yazidis. Previously, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had preferred to work through the United Nations in providing support to refugees and internally displaced persons.
However, most Christians and Yazidis who fled ISIS avoided going into camps for the displaced over fears for their safety and did not register with the U.N. After ISIS was driven out, the U.N. still failed to provide the targeted assistance they needed to rebuild their presence before other ethnic groups moved into the void.
Rep. Smith told the Register that he resolved to write H.R. 390 after visiting Erbil in December 2016. During that visit he saw firsthand the desperate situation of the Christians who had been kept alive thanks to the local Church and international Catholic aid organizations.
“We met all these people whose lives had been saved by the Knights of Columbus, Caritas, and Aid to the Church in Need,” he said. “Without that, it was an unmitigated disaster.”
The next step will be appropriations amendments to fund the work, but Smith said federal agencies could draw from the billions in humanitarian aid available to get started. USAID Director Mark Green already made an on-site visit earlier in 2018 to assess for himself the need.
“Whatever the need is, this [law] is a major part of making sure that need is met,” Smith said.
Need Is Great
Edward Clancy, the director of outreach at Aid to the Church in Need (USA), told the Register that one of the main issues is the lack of infrastructure to make the villages habitable and economically viable again. They are still working on delivering the basics of 21st-century life: food, water, sanitation, electricity and mobile communications.
Clancy said the Yazidis have suffered enormously: Thousands of men and boys are buried in mass graves, and thousands of women and girls are traumatized as victims of sex slavery, he said. But one strength they have is their communities are still intact in Iraq. Christians are on the brink of extinction in Iraq, because nearly nine out of 10 Christians are no longer in their native lands.
Syria’s Christian population, Clancy said, has also suffered similar catastrophic losses, as Christians have fled the country’s violence.
Clancy said getting aid to Christians in Syria is difficult because the territory where they are safe, controlled by President Bashar Assad, is under U.S. sanctions.
Clancy hoped the bill would allow the federal government to work with entities to provide targeted aid to those communities in Syria. Otherwise, the sanctions put in place against President Assad could “do the work that Daesh did not complete.”
Preventing the Next Genocide
The new law also directs the federal government to evaluate and address the humanitarian conditions that might force survivors to flee their homelands entirely and identify the warning signs of deadly violence against the communities that have survived genocide in Iraq and Syria.
Archbishop Warda hopes the bill will make sure the history of the genocide is taught in schools, so that Iraqis will resolve never to allow these horrors to happen again.
“The history will be written by the victims this time,” he said.
The law also supports entities that will investigate, gather evidence and bring the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq to justice.
“The more we do this, the more it may have a chilling effect on others, because they know they will be hunted down,” Smith said.
The new law also marks a positive step toward repairing the devastation to indigenous Christians caused by years of violent strife in the region.
Anderson said the Knights will continue working with Christian communities on projects with private funding and also partner with USAID on various projects, sharing their experience working with churches.
“Our experience has been if you work with the local Church entities, they are very effective,” he said. “They are taking care of their people.”
With appropriate support, Archbishop Warda sees a continued future for Christians in Iraq. He made a pastoral visit to Telleskof, where one of his priests pointed to the young people at work as a sign of hope.
“They are full of energy. They would like to stay and rebuild their village.”
Peter Jesserer Smith is a Register staff writer

"United Nations, Your Silence is Getting Worse": Extremist Persecution of Christians, September 2018
Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/December 16/2018
"[T]wo young masked men entered the pharmacy and dragged my father outside. They told him to kneel in the street. They put two guns at my father's head and told him to convert to Islam. But he shook his head. Then they shot him." — Open Doors, August 23, 2018, Egypt.
"Our father, Bashir Masih, was a sanitary worker," explained the family's son Fiaz Masih. "He built this house a few years back, when he retired from his job; however Muslims could not bear that Christians would live in such a good, big, and furnished house. We are the only Christian family in the neighborhood. They wanted to snatch our property. Therefore, they started threatening us to leave the house otherwise they will [accuse us of] committing blasphemy against Islam." — Pakistan.
"Indonesia had a reputation for an interpretation of Islam that embraced religious tolerance. But Muslim extremists have been urging the adoption of Islamic law throughout Indonesia, creating religious divides." — Voice of America, October 1, 2018.
In Kenya, Islamic terrorists stopped a bus that was traveling to Garissa and murdered two Christians for refusing to convert to Islam. Pictured: A road in Garissa, Kenya. (Image source: Adam H T Geelle/Wikimedia Commons)
The Slaughter of Christians
Central African Republic: As many as 42 people — mostly Christian women — "were hacked to death ... after suspected Islamist rebels attacked a group of civilians in the central town of Bria" between September 4-5. Some died by machete, others by gunshot. At least one of the butchered women was pregnant. "They [Seleka militants] don't want to see any Christians here," one church leader said. "Christians never go to town.... They have barricaded all roads, and if you venture out, you are at your own peril. We Christians have nothing else to do, no food to eat, no place to go. We rely only on prayers. Please pray for us!"
Democratic Republic of Congo: Armed Muslim militants slaughtered as many as 40 people in the Christian town of Beni. According to one report:
"... the assailants, in great number, attacked the city by surprise at around 5.30pm ... They fired light and heavy weapons, and targeted residential areas, causing panic among the inhabitants... Eyewitnesses said some of the victims were killed with machetes, while an undetermined number of others were injured. According to a local pastor, at least 27 victims have been identified as members of local churches."
A week earlier, on September 18, the same extremists murdered a Christian grandmother and injured four of her grandchildren. "These rebels who call themselves the Muslim Defense International also hit near our base in Ngadi three times," said an aid worker. According to the report, the group "has operated in the region since 1995, has been blamed for hundreds of civilian deaths over the past four years and of trying to uproot Christians from north-eastern DRC through attacks, rape, looting, kidnap and murder."
Kenya: Extremists murdered two Christians in the name of Islam for refusing to abjure their faith. According to one report, on September 14:
"... a group of Islamic terrorists stopped a bus that was traveling to Garissa. The militants ordered everyone off the bus and demanded identification... the terrorist group of seven men separated the Muslims from the Christians. They demanded three of the passengers recite the statement of faith [the shahada, 'There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger,' which instantly transforms a nonbeliever into a Muslim]. The two Christians who refused to recite the statement were tied up and executed."
One week later, on September 22, a Muslim mob stoned three Christians to death while chanting "Allahu Akbar!" ("Allah is greater!"). The attack came in response to the killing of jihadi terrorists at the hands of governmental security forces. According to an eyewitness:
"Fredrick [one of the three slain] was on top of a new house he was contracted to build. His two assistants were on the ground mixing mortar when the mob arrived in [a] hurry, chanting takbir, takbir, takbir [that is, calling on the mob to shout "Allahu Akbar"]. From a distance, I saw the men hurling construction stones towards Fredrick and his coworkers. The three managed to flee into a nearby hotel for safety, although they had been badly injured. The Muslims relentlessly followed them up and stoned them to death."
"This is a sad day in our family," added Frederick's brother:
"We have lost a man who was skilled in construction and loved all of us. He always reminded us to pray and trust God even in difficult times. That is what is keeping us going after losing him. We were expecting to see him before the end of the year but now what we have is the memories, a widow, and two children to take care of.... Where were the police to protect [them]?"
Pakistan: Resentful that a Christian was in a position over them, Muslim hospital employees attacked Faraz Masih, 26, with acid on September 5. His face highly disfigured and with several other burns around his body, he finally succumbed to death ten days later in a hospital. According to the victim's father, Badar Masih:
"Faraz was a young graduate and serving as Assistant Admin Officer in a local hospital for about two years. On September 5th at around 2 a.m, when he was going home from the hospital, some unknown assailants sprayed acid upon him... My son was targeted for his Christian faith. I don't think we, the Christians, are safe in Pakistan. However, it is our country and we love it with our soul and spirit. We won't seek refuge."
Faraz had been harassed and beat several times before. A few months earlier, a group of men wearing masks surrounded him and "stuck their boots in his mouth, claiming that 'a Christian is not even able to lick their shoes.'" His father adds: "They threatened to kill him unless Faraz left his job. They said that his spiritual impurity contaminated the health of 'pure Muslims.'" "Faraz often complained that some of his Muslim staff members were unhappy with his excellent performance and they disliked Faraz for his honesty and Christian background," said his mother. "My son was running my kitchen. He was very gentle to everyone in the vicinity. He had no enmity. He was an active member of the Church. However, he was usually not given a day off to go to Church for Sunday prayer service."
Philippines: On September 2, Muslim militants bombed a café in the town of Insulan. Jun Mark Luda, an 18-year-old catechist who taught Christian principles in public schools during his free time, and his 15-year-old cousin, Marialyn Luda were killed in the blast; 14 others were injured. Jun Mark Luda "was smart and talented. His jolliness was contagious. We are saddened by his death," said a church acquaintance before adding that such ongoing attacks "destroy the harmony between Muslims and Christians." Army commander Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana "blamed the attack on the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State." The same group was accused of bombing St Anthony's Catholic Cathedral on April 29, 2018.
Egypt: A September 4 report revealed how Palestinian Islamists murdered a Christian man for refusing to convert to Islam:
"[A] few years ago [the Christian] family lived at peace with their Muslim neighbors in El-Arish, a small city on Egypt's Mediterranean coast... Baghat was a veterinarian who had good relations with his Muslim colleagues and friends. However, everything changed when Palestinian immigrants with a very strict view on Islam moved to the village.... [They] began threatening believers by spreading leaflets warning Christians to leave the city or die.... One Sunday morning, Baghat woke up early to go to church, and then went to work at the veterinarian clinic of one of his Muslim friends."
Baghat's 17-year-old son Marqos recounts what happened next: "[T]wo young masked men entered the pharmacy and dragged my father outside. They told him to kneel in the street. They put two guns at my father's head and told him to convert to Islam. But he shook his head. Then they shot him. When I heard he'd died, I couldn't walk to the morgue."
Another report that appeared on September 13 presents statistics concerning the plight of Egypt's Christians:
"Egypt's Coptic Christian minority bore the brunt of Islamist extremist persecution of Christians in 2017. ISIS's operations across Egypt, including its Sinai insurgency, intentionally killed 97 Copts in 18 attacks.... Attacks against Coptic Christians comprised 53 per cent of the group's public activity, including 11 assassinations. The deadliest incident occurred in April, when two suicide bombers coordinated attacks on Palm Sunday celebrations, killing 47 people. ISIS carried out a number of multi-casualty assaults against Copts, killing a total of 69 people in only three incidents... ISIS has declared that Coptic Christians are apostates who must be eliminated from Egypt. The group outlined its hatred in a video in February 2017, describing Copts as its "favorite prey" and vowing to "kill every infidel" and "liberate Cairo." In the footage, the group threatened to wipe out all "worshippers of the cross," specifically referring to the Coptic pope and wealthy Copts. Hundreds of Copts reportedly left Sinai in response to increased violence and fear in February, coinciding with ISIS's threats. Overall, the Middle East's Christian population is in decline."
Nigeria: On September 7, following the burning alive of a pastor, his wife, and children at the hands of Muslim Fulani herdsmen, the Rev. Ezekiel Dachomo appeared in a short video surrounded by a mournful crowd carrying the body of another killed Christian woman. He made an impassioned appeal for assistance from the U.S., Britain and the U.N.:
"America, please stand for us. We are dying ... Please, allow us to survive. We have nobody. Only God in heaven can stand for us. Please, I am begging you. United Nations, your silence is getting worse ... Please, please, I'm begging you stand for the helpless ... Yesterday, one of my colleagues, the reverend, was slaughtered with his wife and his children, and I was right there ... Look at the women; immediately they were commiserating, after the Fulani herdsmen have fully burned down two villages.... Who would stand for us? There is nobody. Everybody ... We are now ready to do [our] last prayers, since an Islamic agenda is taking over the nation....They have already [been] assigned our lands ... Our villages have been reallocated to Fulani herdsmen, and nobody is talking. Even my colleague reverends are keeping quiet. Women are dying every day, men are dying. What do you want us to do? Please, please, I am begging you, congressmen, [men] of London...please I am begging you, stand for the helpless. There is nobody [else]!"
Niger: Suspected extremists kidnapped an Italian priest, leaving "the communities he served for 11 years in shock and sorrow." Fr. Pier Luigi Maccalli, 57, was abducted by eight armed men who entered his parish in Bamoanga late at night and seized him from his bedroom. Two nuns were also taken, though initial reports indicate that they escaped. On hearing of his kidnap, various communities gathered around his parish in Bamoanga. According to the mayor, Diara Banyoura:
"There was a feeling of sorrow among them. Dozens gathered in silence. Others can hardly hide their emotions. They shed tears as they tried to express their emotions, saying: 'How can this happen to someone who has been always giving a helping hand to people in need?'"
Jihad on Christians in Pakistan:
Local Muslims looted and then burned a Christian home—the only one in the neighborhood of Gujar Khan—because they did not want Christians living near them. "Our father, Bashir Masih, was a sanitary worker," explained the family's son Fiaz Masih.
"He built this house a few years back, when he retired from his job; however Muslims could not bear that Christians would live in such a good, big, and furnished house. We are the only Christian family in the neighborhood. They wanted to snatch our property. Therefore, they started threatening us to leave the house otherwise they will [accuse us of] committing blasphemy against Islam."
On September 20, local strongman Muhammad Kamran burst into the family home and beat his elderly parents. "My father got injuries and mother's hand got fractured," said Fiaz. "Muhammad Kamran often threatened us to bear the consequences if we don't leave the house. His abusive and threatening conversation is recorded on the mobile phone." On the following day,
"[a]n armed group of Muslims led by Muhammad Kamran intruded [the family] house in daylight and thrashed the entire family.... The attackers beat men, women, and children of the family and therefore some of us have severe injuries. They set fire to the house, including beds, furniture, sofa, cabinets, televisions, refrigerator, air-conditioners, fans, and vandalized vessels and other stuff. A new vehicle was set on fire and other valuables [including] cash money, jewelry, prize bonds, and mobile phones were looted."
According to a subsequent account:
"The family reported the incident to the local police at Gujar Khan Police Station. At that time the police refused registration of a crime and told the Masih that if they pursued a First Information Report (FIR) they themselves would be charged with blasphemy. ...the police forced an already perplexed family into a state of terror leaving them to dread potential blasphemy charges."
Separately, a Muslim man hurled an 18-year-old Christian woman, Binish Paul, from a rooftop because she refused to convert to Islam and marry him. Her legal representative said she suffered "severe fractures to her legs and spine" as a result of the impact before elaborating: "For months, Taheer [her professed Muslim suitor] had been putting pressure on Binish to convert to Islam. Over and over again, she refused. This culminated in the violent act." Not only did local police ignore the family's pleas for intervention, but "[t]hey also received serious threats from the family of the perpetrator. If the case were not closed, then they would all be accused of blasphemy."
A young Christian student, who reportedly lost sight in one of his eyes during a separate Muslim mob attack on his family home on August 28, was in fact blinded in both eyes, noted a September 5 report. Vikram Alvin, the victim, explained in an interview:
"I can't believe this has happened to me. I was going to complete my studies in civil engineering this year and now that opportunity has been taken away from me. After completing my course, I had a job lined up with a large firm but the stable future I saw before me is now fraught with uncertainty.... I have done nothing to deserve such treatment I only stayed faithful to God, yet these evil men began to be jealous of the success of our family and the hatred they have for our faith boiled over.... I am unmarried and few women will want to marry me now what is left of my life will now be very difficult."
Finally, as an indicator of the widespread abuse of Christians in Pakistan, a September 13 report "documented 14 cases of severe persecution, human right [sic] violations, and violence against Christians" in just the previous month alone:
"In less than 31 days, four Christians were killed.... Three women were raped... and three more were forced to convert to Islam.... Entire Christian communities also suffered greatly, as a community in Kasur was attacked and beaten for seeking to protect their church... 11 Christians ... were severely beaten and tortured throughout Pakistan.... Doctors in Khanewal also had to remove the uterus of a Christian teenager who was brutally raped by three men."
Attacks on Christian Churches and Cemeteries
Indonesia: On September 27, authorities shut down three churches on Sumatra Island. "[T]he authorities cited violation of public order and building permit ordinances. Dozens of congregants wept as the churches were closed," notes one report. "We had been worshipping here since 2004 and fulfilled all building license requirements," said the pastor of one of the closed churches. "We have even built a good relationship with the local authorities. Yet the permit was not granted. The rapid church growth in the area during the last decade may have caused restlessness among the majority-Muslim neighborhood." Another local source said the churches were closed to forestall a planned Muslim protest:
"The [Muslim] village head filed a complaint with the higher authorities and rallied the support of radical group Islamic Defenders Front to hold protests against the churches. The day before the church closures, a letter had been circulated saying that a thousand Muslim residents would rally in front of the three churches on Friday, September 28. The government decided to seal the churches to prevent the commotion."
As to why the churches lack the necessary permits, "[t]he local government," explained Reverend Gomar Gultom, secretary of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, "keeps delaying the process to have the permit, or just reject it without any reasons."
"There are thousands of other [Muslim] places of worship that don't have permits, but continue to operate. I just can't understand why they won't let us have our churches. I can understand if [the local government] prohibited us from having the permits if we used the buildings for criminal activities, but we used them to praise God."
According to a report:
"The move by officials in the West Kenali village of the Alam Barajo district of Jambi province is the latest push to close churches in a move that followed more than 1,000 closures in more than a decade. Until then, Indonesia had a reputation for an interpretation of Islam that embraced religious tolerance. But Muslim extremists have been urging the adoption of Islamic law throughout Indonesia, creating religious divides."
Egypt: Because they "objected to the presence of a church in the area," hundreds of Muslims rioted and attacked Christian homes and knifed two Christians, one in the head the other in the face. According to one report:
"Four [Christian] homes were ransacked, looted and partially set on fire by a Muslim mob during the three-hour-long attack, which was reportedly in protest of one of the properties being used as a home church. A local source ... said the small Coptic community had been warned about the attack on August 31 a few days before it took place. Despite reporting the threat to police, officers did not respond until the attack had nearly finished..."
The attack occurred in the village of Dimshau Hashim. Approximately 450 of its 30,000 population are Christian. "A similar assault for the same reason had taken place in a neighboring village weeks earlier," notes another report.
A year after the government established a committee to affect a 2016 law for the swift legalization of churches, only 220 of the 3730 churches waiting have been legalized, another report revealed. At this rate 17 years are expected to pass before all the churches — many of which have already waited between 15-20 years — are legalized.
Due to the notable dearth of churches, "Coptic Christians in various parts of Egypt have been left with no choice but to hold funeral services in the streets because of the closure of their churches," said Egypt's Watani. For example, denied a church and attacked for trying to use a home as one, the funeral of a 68-year-old Christian was held in the streets of Dimshau Hashim — where a Muslim attack on Christian homes mentioned above occurred — under tight security on September 6 (video and pictures here). A few days earlier in the village of Qasr Haidar the funeral of another man was also held in the streets after the village church was closed due to Muslim protests and riots. In yet another instance, the "funeral service of a Coptic man was held outside St. Moses Church in the town of Dairout. The church was closed 20 years ago and since then the Christian community has not been able to receive a permit for its re-opening."
Algeria: Suspected Islamists desecrated over 30 Christian graves at La Reunion War Cemetery, one of few Christian cemeteries remaining in the Muslim nation. According to one report:
"The graves were ransacked and tombstones smashed. Investigators believe that Islamist motives are at play. While the government is pursuing an investigation, the desecration of these graves come at a time when the Algerian authorities have increasingly harassed the church. During the past year, a number of churches have closed by authorities citing vague safety reasons. Although some have reopened, it is widely believed that these closures are part of a broader strategy pursued by the government to isolate [the] Christian community. Algeria is a Muslim majority country which is governed by Islamic law."
Another Christian cemetery was vandalized a few weeks earlier.
Pakistan: A brief report with few details noted that unknown arsonists torched a Christian church under construction on a small plot on September 25 in the 97% Muslim majority nation.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of the new book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by extremists is growing. The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.
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As Europe Dithers, Iran’s Arsenal Gets More Deadly

Behnam Ben Taleblu/Bloomberg/December, 16/18
This week Iran confirmed that it recently test-fired a missile, which the US categorized as a medium-range ballistic missile “capable of carrying multiple warheads,” a transgression of a 2015 United Nations Security Council resolution. Unfortunately, this was hardly news: Iran has made a habit out of testing, using and even transferring ballistic missiles across the Middle East.
The US has reacted strongly with sanctions both before and after it pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. And while European officials have condemned such behavior — even at the UN — they have yet to take any serious action to dissuade Iran from continued missile tests. Regardless of whether Europe’s efforts to keep the nuclear pact alive are successful, the EU should join with the US and check Tehran’s ballistic missile threat.
In the early months of this year, before the US withdrew from the nuclear deal, American diplomats shuttled across the Atlantic to find a way to improve that accord by including ballistic missiles as part of a larger political agreement. During that process, the EU was reportedly deliberating over penalties against entities that support Iran’s ballistic missile programs. In the end nothing came of it. Indeed, a closer look at Europe’s record reveals that the last batch of nuclear- and missile-related sanctions from the EU against Iran came a whopping six years ago.
What has changed since 2012, however, is Iran’s ballistic missile program. In addition to maintaining the region’s largest arsenal, the regime is improving select systems as well as focusing on greater accuracy. Iranian military officials say they see no technical roadblocks to building longer-range missiles. In addition, Tehran has been shipping short-range, surface-to-surface missiles to new actors in war zones, such as to the Houthis in Yemen and to Shiite militias in Iraq.
Iranian media outlets appear to have stopped reporting on all test launches, likely to avoid public scrutiny. In the immediate aftermath of this month’s launch, Tehran’s response was vague, promising to continue missile testing while lambasting the US And when Iranian officials did confirm the launch, they did so without mentioning the missile’s type.
To really make Iran reconsider its flight-testing calculus — as well as its technology procurement, production and export of missiles in the region — Europe and the US need a new framework. This requires picking up where efforts to “fix” the nuclear pact left off. This should include at least the following three components. The first is a clear and resolute commitment to keep Iran from getting an intercontinental ballistic missile — which could put all of Europe in range — whether it is developed domestically or acquired from abroad. While Iran already has missiles that can strike the southeast rim of Europe, an ICBM would threaten the entire continent. To prevent this, Europe and the US must synchronize messaging and pressure against Iran’s satellite-launch program, which is likely a cover for the regime’s long-range missile aspirations.
The second is establishing a multinational task force to share intelligence and thwart Iranian technology procurement and the financing of its proliferation efforts. Iran’s missiles deserve the same amount of high-level trans-Atlantic attention and diplomacy as the nuclear issue. Despite Iran’s robust defense industry and drive for self-sufficiency, the regime continues to go shopping abroad, deploying front companies and taking advantage of jurisdictions of weak central authority to further its missile inventory and capabilities.
Finally, and perhaps most important, is a commitment to sanctions that can kick in automatically in response to a diverse array of missile activities by Iran. The penalties must be tied to all of Iran’s known missile force, regardless of range. The severity of each penalty will need to be based off whether it is in response to a test, military operation or transfer, as well as the known capabilities of the missile and what relevant Security Council resolutions it transgresses.
Iranian officials are very clear on the value of their growing arsenal. Europe, with strong backing from the US, needs to finally turn its words into deeds.

Piketty Should Take Off That Yellow Vest

Leonid Bershidsky/The Guardian/December, 16/18
Thomas Piketty, the rock-star economist, doesn’t burn cars or deface the Arc de Triomphe, yet his “Manifesto for the Democratization of Europe” has some striking similarities with the demands of the French protesters. Trying to appease the Yellow Vests by adopting parts of his manifesto would be a mistake.
The reforms proposed by Piketty and a group of intellectuals and politicians — notably Pablo Iglesias, leader of Spain’s leftist Podemos party — include the creation of a European Assembly. It would have the power to shape a common budget and impose common taxes, something that at present requires the unanimous agreement of EU member states.
Piketty advocates four measures that would collect a total equivalent to 4 percent of Europe's GDP:
- Raising the rate of corporation tax to 37 percent throughout Europe, from an average of 22 percent, with larger companies paying a higher levy than smaller ones.
- An additional tax on high earners: a 10 percent levy on incomes of more than 100,000 euros a year, doubling to 20 percent for those of more than 200,000 euros a year.
- A wealth tax of 1 percent on estates valued at more than 1 million euros and a 2 percent charge on those worth 5 million euros or more.
- A carbon emissions tax.
The latter, of course, wouldn’t please the Yellow Vests. After all, President Emmanuel Macron’s fuel taxes set off the protests. But the first three do echo their calls for higher levies on big corporations, wealth and higher earners. They may not have the data Piketty cites concerning the drastic decline of corporate taxes and levies on high incomes since the 1980s, with the revenue replaced through higher indirect taxes, but the protesters do have a gut feeling that the rich are getting richer while they get poorer, and bear most of the tax burden.
The Yellow Vests probably wouldn’t spend the money in the way Piketty proposes, though. He wants half of the collected funds to devolve directly to member states so they can lower value-added taxes and employees’ social contributions. The rest would be spent in the countries where the tax is levied, but on common programs — the biggest of which would be funding for university research.
I’m not sure anti-elite protesters would endorse giving a quarter of the money taken from the rich to academics, or the substantial spending on the energy transition that Piketty wants. They’re more focused on a higher minimum wage and pension increases.
The problem with the redistribution proposed by both the Yellow Vests and Piketty isn’t with the spending, but with the confiscation. What is being proposed is essentially a return to the fiscal policies of the 1970s, which provoked Astrid Lindgren to write her satirical essay “Pomperipossa in Monismania.” In 1976, the children’s author was confronted with a tax bill of 102 percent of her income. In the tale, Pomperipossa is, like her, a writer living in the tax-hungry country of Monismania. She wrote:
People should not be punished and persecuted just because they by honest means — with or without their will — happened to make money. But this was, as far as Pomperipossa could understand, what was happening now. With pure destitution grinning square in her face, it was hard for her to see it any other way. What is this, she thought, a remarkable sour, jealous stench reeking all over Monismania? And why is no one speaking up loudly: “This cannot stand, for then all industriousness in our beloved country will end and there will be no small business people left in our land to tax.”
Lindgren’s complaints are relevant to the modern demands to tax the rich, even though they purport to exempt small business. Many business owners would be hit by the additional income taxes. Even if they earn 100,000 euros or more a year, they might not consider themselves to be rich. In France, according to Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report, more than 2.1 million people have assets of more than $1 million, mostly in the form of real estate. Most of these people aren’t super-rich; many are modest entrepreneurs, creators, engineers, people with decent incomes from demanding, competitive jobs. Hit them with new taxes and watch them flee to the US and Asia. They won’t stay like patriotic Lindgren, whose essay helped to topple the Swedish government in 1976. And no amount of government funding for universities will repair the damage that envy-based taxation can wreak on economies already finding it hard to innovate.
As for higher corporate taxes, they make even less sense in a legal environment that turns a blind eye to elaborate tax avoidance measures. Multinationals that don’t even pay the current rates will be even less likely to pay higher ones. Companies should be forced to pay a fair share of taxes where they operate — but that has little to do with higher rates. It means closing loopholes and, in some cases, taxing revenue rather than profit, as France and Germany have agreed to do in the case of internet companies that rely on online advertising.
There are some bad reasons why corporate and upper-middle-class income taxes have dropped in recent decades; the emergence of tax loopholes provided by globalization and the ensuing tax competition is one. But there are good reasons, too: the need to stimulate investment, corporate research and development, risk-taking, and entrepreneurship. There are no data that would indicate these policies have been ineffective. Poverty rates haven’t risen in Europe compared with the high-tax era.
It’s not clear, therefore, that higher tax rates for the “rich” and for businesses would solve any specific problem, much less as Piketty has suggested, save Europe from itself.

What does teaching philosophy in Saudi Arabia mean?
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/December 16/18
The developmental shift Saudi Arabia is witnessing is not only limited to economic growth or common traditional plans but it also includes other fields such as culture and education. News that philosophy will be introduced to high schools in Saudi Arabia has been the talk of those interested in the field, and also got its share of media coverage, educational analysis and intellectual debate. There has been an old debate between experts in teaching philosophy and it can be summed up in two points. The first one thinks that teaching philosophy in certain manners may produce a mentality that lacks comprehension and understanding. This is an extreme elitist vision, as philosophy is not a scientific branch but a non-written critical thinking system. The second opinion is that teaching philosophy marks the minimum of critical thinking and liberation of the mind from the captivity of ready-made answers.
Teaching philosophy makes it inevitable for teachers to adopt an approach that’s different than bombarding students with ready-made answers or crushing their young minds. Teaching philosophy must be carried out via a discussion without reprimand
Benefits of philosophy
Teaching philosophy does not aim to graduate millions of philosophers but it can benefit those who plan to be doctors or engineers and even those who engage in the military. Philosophy is a rich subject and it’s not about memorizing. Reading exceptional texts enriches the mind. I agree with the second opinion because I am optimistic about its influence. There are several Arab experiences where philosophy has positively affected the societies, which studied it. It’s important to note books that help in this regard such as Frédéric Laupies’s book First Lessons of Philosophy, Madani Saleh’s book Articles in Philosophical Lesson and Bertrand Russell’s book A History of Western Philosophy. They are all diverse exercises on several texts, concepts and subjects. Since philosophical curricula have been printed, teachers can refer to them as they teach the mind how to tackle different eastern, Islamic and western philosophical textsز
Philosophy is not complicated like some claim. It’s true that it requires practice, an addiction to reading and a comprehension capability but it’s possible to overcome its challenges via two ways that pave way to those who desire to know more about this field and specialize in it, and they are either via reading on one’s own or pursuing academic studies. A reader can for instance read analyses about the philosopher he’s researching about.
For example, it’s a must to read Imam Abdel-Fattah Imam before reading Hegel, to read Abdel Rahman Badawi before reading Aristotle, to read Fathi al-Miskini before reading Heidegger, to read Motaa Safadi before reading Deleuze, to read Paul Rabinow before reading Foucault and to read Hassan Hanafi before reading Spinoza. These are a few examples. One can then possess philosophical encyclopedias and after understanding the terminology of each philosopher and understanding his approach and expressions, the deep reading of the original publications can begin. Here the reader will understand the pleasure of specializing in philosophy and will realize the depth of texts and their role in developing the mind.
One of Herbert Spencer’s most beautiful quotes is: “(The world’s) truths are not accepted upon authority alone; but all are at liberty to test them-nay, in many cases, the pupil is required to think out his own conclusions. Every step in a scientific investigation is submitted to his judgment. He is not asked to admit it without seeing it to be true. And the trust in his own powers thus produced, is further increased by the constancy with which Nature justifies his conclusions when they are correctly drawn. From all which there flows that independency which is a most valuable element in character.”
Teaching philosophy makes it inevitable for teachers to adopt an approach that’s different than bombarding students with ready-made answers or crushing their young minds. Teaching philosophy must be carried out via a discussion without reprimand as philosophy looks into intuitions and the void. Students have the right to ask whatever questions they have without fear or else what is the value of philosophy if the basis of teaching it is not to promote independency and not fearing ideas and having courage to confront questions and thoughts? High school is an appropriate stage to teach philosophy since at this age, students begin to make up their minds regarding their career path and educational and academic preferences. Philosophy can thus contribute to improving one’s choices. Teaching philosophy does not destroy constants and does not oppose principles. It’s a wide space for general discussions, educating the mind and guarding the intellect from intolerance and rigidity. Of course it’s not the task of philosophy to produce remarkable societies but it’s a step in the right direction and harmonizes with Saudi Arabia’s developments under its leadership.

The ISIS demon haunts Iraq again
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/December 16/18
The government of Iraq announced December 10 a national holiday in which governmental institutions close to mark the first anniversary of defeating and expelling ISIS from the country. However, this is a bit misleading as ISIS has revived some of its activity in recent months in a number of areas from where it was expelled earlier. Statements about this activity is no longer limited to a number of journalists, security experts, political and civil activists, as even leaders of political blocs and influential parties have started issuing warnings against the dreaded terror group’s return.
Speaking at a press conference recently, leader of Kurdistan Democratic Party Masoud Barzani warned that “the ISIS threat is not over and has returned to (some) areas in a way that’s worse than before.” He said that it’s more dangerous than before, noting that the “organization strongly returned because the reasons that led to the rise of ISIS and al-Qaeda have not been resolved.”
A week before Barzani’s statement, leader of the Sadrist movement Moqtada al-Sadr issued a warning on Twitter saying: “Mosul is in danger, terrorist cells are getting active and the corruptors are spreading destruction,” and added the hashtag ‘Save Mosul’.
The liberated areas, especially Nineveh Governorate, have recently witnessed a series of attacks, bombings, murders, kidnapping and road blockages attributed to ISIS. The menace extends as far as the Saladin Governorate in the south and the Diyala Governorate in the east. Under pressure from the pleas of the residents of these areas, Iraqi parliamentary members were forced to form an investigating committee for the security breaches in Mosul which had spread to several other western governorates. It is obvious that this ‘return’ of ISIS is not because it has become very powerful. Official Iraqi statistics actually indicate that the number of its members killed in the war to restore areas they occupied since June 2014 exceeded 20,000. This is in addition to hundreds of prisoners held by Iraqi forces. Meanwhile, the international coalition sources estimate 80,000 members of ISIS were killed in Iraq and Syria.
Endemic corruption
The secret behind ISIS’s resurging activity is linked to the Iraqi state which has not been able to bring normalcy in the liberated areas. There are still tens of thousands of families who fled cities and villages during the military operations against ISIS and have been incapable of returning and continue to live miserably in camps.This is all due to the state’s inability to rebuild the devastated areas, despite allocation of funds for the process — most of which were provided by rich Arab and foreign countries. The inability to reconstruct these areas is due to the reluctance among government departments to initiate reconstruction operations. There have been frank accusations against government officials of having swindled reconstruction money, in collusion with contractors and the companies that were supposed to carry out reconstruction operations.
This is a general problem in Iraq as according to government sources, the number of stalled investment projects in Iraq is over 30,000. Corruption is the main stumbling block. In Mosul, the largest city invaded by ISIS in 2014, there is no sign of commencement of any government reconstruction program. In fact, all the reconstruction effort, such as the rebuilding of houses and institutions in the city has been done by the local residents, who have received modest support from local and foreign charity organizations.
Another reason that has helped ISIS revive is that some military and security forces tasked with protecting and securing the liberated areas did not perform their duties like they should in a way that helps them gain the locals’ approval and hence cooperation. The head of the previous parliamentary security and defense committee, Hakim al-Zamili, recently stated that some military units’ preoccupation with financial affairs, selling lands, accepting bribes, smuggling scrap, drugs, goods and oil have helped in the return of terrorist groups to Mosul and its outskirts. This is reminiscent of the situation in Mosul and other western areas and cities just before ISIS invaded them.
The faltering center
According to local media reports, some officials of armed groups that participated in the liberation of Mosul a year ago have taken off their military suits and become businessmen. Many of them now control the oil market, real estate and auctions in the city. Influential parties are also involved in such practices and have formed “economic committees” to regulate them. This is why during his meeting with Nineveh Governorate MPs three weeks ago, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said he will work toward dissolving these partisan “economic committees.”
Certainly, the political crisis which Baghdad has experienced recently over the issue of government formation, wherein even the ministers of defense and interior have not been appointed, has exacerbated the situation.
It has hindered the restoration of much needed security and stability for launching reconstruction projects in the devastated cities. It has also impeded the return of displaced citizens to their areas to support the military and security forces in confronting the terrorist militia that is making efforts to restore its previous status via its sleeper cells in several areas and cities and its armed groups that roam freely. Truth is, if the current situation continues as such, it will encourage ISIS to expand and escalate its operations in the future while the influential political class in Baghdad remains preoccupied with its conflicts over government posts.