December 18/18

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 15,03-07: “Jesus told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 17-18/18
UNIFIL statement on the discovery of tunnels along the Blue Line
UN Confirms Hezbollah Tunnels Crossed Lebanon-Israel Border, Violating Security Council Resolution
UN peacekeepers say two tunnels at Israel border breached UN resolution
Army, UNIFIL on Alert as Israeli Troops Erect Barbed Wire
Tension as Israel rolls out barbed wire on Lebanon border
Report: Russia Tells Lebanon ‘Tampering with UN Resolution 1701 Forbidden’
Aoun highlights need for promoting culture of peace
Aoun discusses South Lebanon’s situation with UNIFIL’s Del Col
Tenanti: UNIFIL peacekeepers deployed along Blue Line, situation calm
Hariri meets UNIFIL Commander
Army Commander discusses situation along Southern Lebanese borders with UNIFIL’s Del Col
Berri tackles developments with Ein Teeneh interlocutors
Bassil patronizes Christmas recital at Foreign Ministry
Lebanon under Pressure from Syria to Release Hannibal Gaddafi
Lebanese Pound Overnight Interbank Rate Falls to 15 Pct -Sources
Consultative Gathering ‘Deplore’ Aoun’s Efforts, Express Adamant Positions for Representation
Hizballah distances its forces from proximity with Israeli troops, moves its S. Lebanon HQ to
Lebanese forces draw weapons at IDF soldiers operating along Blue Line
Netanyahu: Israel has missiles that can strike any target in the Middle East
The not-so-trivial pursuit of Hezbollah

Titles For The Latest  English LCCC  Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 17-18/18
AMCD Applauds President Trump for Signing ME Minorities Protection Bill
US sanctions won't change Iran policies says FM
Iran President's Son-In-Law Resigns After Nepotism Claims
Iran says general fatally shot himself by accident
US Senate vote ‘will benefit only Iran’
Sudan president lands in Syria in first visit by Arab leader
Iraqi parliament speaker: Saudi support helped in expelling ISIS
Roadside Bombs Kill Two Policemen in Egypt's Sinai
ISIS Cells in Sinai Used Spy Drones, Received Military Training
Trump Administration Considers Extraditing Gulen to Turkey
Sisi Arrives in Vienna to Participate in Africa-Europe Forum
Turkey Considers Cooperation with Assad if he is Democratically Elected
US-Led Forces Take Out ISIS Command Center in Syria
Israeli Generals Blame Netanyahu for Escalations in West Bank
Sudan’s Bashir Secretly Visits Damascus to Revive Ties

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 17-18/18
UN Confirms Hezbollah Tunnels Crossed Lebanon-Israel Border, Violating Security Council Resolution/Yaniv Kubovich/Haaretz/December 17/18
Hizballah distances its forces from proximity with Israeli troops, moves its S. Lebanon HQ to Tyre/DEBKAfile/December 17/18
Lebanese forces draw weapons at IDF soldiers operating along Blue Line/Jerusalem Post/December 17/18
The not-so-trivial pursuit of Hezbollah/Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/December 17/18
AMCD Applauds President Trump for Signing ME Minorities Protection Bill/LCCC
US Senate vote ‘will benefit only Iran/Arab News/December 18/18
Hezbollah’s Operation Barbarossa’: How Army Chief Pushed Netanyahu to Go After the Tunnels/Yaniv Kubovich/Haatetz/December 17/18
Empty rhetoric did not save Saddam or Qaddafi, it will not save Iran/Ibrahim al-Zoubeidi/The Arab Weekly/December 17/18
As Europe Dithers, Iran’s Arsenal Gets More Deadly/Behnam Ben Taleblu/Bloomberg/December 17/18
Yemen and the Stockholm Window/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat/December 17/18
Theresa May’s Victory Is a Vote Against a No-Deal Brexit/Therese Raphael/Bloomberg/December 17/18
Donald Trump's attempt to rehabilitate Bashar al-Assad is a losing battle/Ahmed Aboudouh/Independent/December 17/18
Be Careful When Dealing With CAIR/Dr. Oren Litwin/The American Spectator/December 17/18
Turkey's Fake Outrage over the Murder of Khashoggi/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/December 17/18
1979: A Pivotal Year in the Arab-Muslim World/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 17/18

Latest LCCC English Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 16-17/18
UNIFIL statement on the discovery of tunnels along the Blue Line
Mon 17 Dec 2018/NNA - UNIFIL has been actively following up on developments relating to the discovery of tunnels along the Blue Line by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). IDF has informed UNIFIL that they have so far discovered four tunnels along the Blue Line. UNIFIL technical teams have undertaken a number of site inspections south of the Blue Line in order to ascertain the facts. Based on UNIFIL’s independent assessment, UNIFIL has so far confirmed the existence of all the four tunnels close to the Blue Line in northern Israel. After further technical investigations conducted independently in accordance with its mandate, UNIFIL at this stage can confirm that two of the tunnels cross the Blue Line. These constitute violations of UN Security Council resolution 1701. This is a matter of serious concern and UNIFIL technical investigations continue. UNIFIL has requested the Lebanese authorities to ensure urgent follow-up actions in accordance with the responsibilities of the Government of Lebanon pursuant to resolution 1701. The situation in UNIFIL ‘s area of operation remains calm. UNIFIL’s leadership is fully engaged with the parties to ensure stability along the Blue Line and prevent misunderstandings in order to keep the area of operation calm.—UNIFIL

UN Confirms Hezbollah Tunnels Crossed Lebanon-Israel Border, Violating Security Council Resolution
Yaniv Kubovich/Haaretz/December 17/18
Lebanese military declared a state of high alert on Monday where Lebanese soldiers prevented Israeli soldiers from unrolling a barbed wire fence in south Lebanon. The UN peacekeeping forces on the Israel-Lebanon border, known as UNIFIL, announced Monday that two of the four previously discovered Hezbollah tunnels cross the Blue Line – the border of Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 – in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War. "UNIFIL has requested the Lebanese authorities to ensure urgent follow-up actions in accordance with the responsibilities of the Government of Lebanon pursuant to resolution 1701," an official statement read. The Lebanese military declared a state of high alert on Monday where Lebanese soldiers prevented Israeli soldiers from unrolling a barbed wire fence in south Lebanon, according to Lebanese reports and a video distributed. An argument reportedly ensued between the soldiers from the two countries near the village of Meiss Ej Jabal before the UN peacekeeping forces, also known as UNIFIL, intervened, separating the sides. The Lebanese objected to the Israelis' placing the fence on the border without the presence of the Lebanese military's geographic team. According to Haaretz's Amos Harel, Israel has now reached the explosive stage in the operation against Hezbollah tunnels. Lebanese army patrols have been facing Israeli forces in the areas where the latter is digging near the border. In particular, tension is rising in those enclaves where the IDF is operating: areas north of the border fence over which Israel claims sovereignty according to a UN decision. In these areas there is no wall or fence separating the Israeli and Lebanese forces. In some places, the IDF has stretched barbed wire to mark the exact location of the border. The Israeli soldiers ended up agreeing to move the fence behind the Blue Line to the Israeli side. The Israeli army confirmed that soldiers placed the fence near the blue line in coordination with UNIFIL in Lebanon. According to the military, the incident passed without violence. The Israeli army said on Sunday that it found a Hezbollah attack tunnel crossing from Lebanon into Israel last week, the fourth discovered in recent weeks. 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.

UN peacekeepers say two tunnels at Israel border breached UN resolution
Reuters/Tuesday, 18 December 2018/UN peacekeepers in Lebanon said on Monday two of four tunnels found close to the border with Israel crossed the frontier demarcation between the two countries, violating a UN resolution that ended a 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said it had so far confirmed the existence of four tunnels which the Israeli army discovered in the vicinity of the border demarcation, known as the “Blue Line”, adding the finds were of “serious concern”. Israel says Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful armed group, dug the tunnels with the aim of launching attacks into Israel with backing from its regional sponsor Iran. Hezbollah has yet to comment. “UNIFIL at this stage can confirm that two of the tunnels cross the Blue Line. These constitute violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701,” the statement said.The UN peacekeepers said they would continue their technical investigations, describing the recent discoveries as “a matter of serious concern,” requesting “urgent follow-up actions” by the Lebanese authorities. Israel and Hezbollah have avoided major conflict across the Lebanese-Israeli border since 2006, though Israel has mounted attacks in Syria targeting what it said were advanced weapon deliveries to the group.Israel has said it is up to UNIFIL to deal with the tunnels on the Lebanese side of the border, and its military said it held the Beirut government responsible for breaching Security Council resolution 1701.

Army, UNIFIL on Alert as Israeli Troops Erect Barbed Wire
Naharnet/December 17/18/Tension was high on Monday along Mays al-Jabal region in South Lebanon after Israeli soldiers installed barbed wire fence in the area, the National News Agency reported. Israeli troops have installed a 200 m barbed wire along the Blue Line, said NNA. The agency said tensions surged after dozens of Israeli troops and three Poclain excavators crossed the electronic border fence in Kroum al-Sharaqi in Mays al-Jabal and started drilling works near the U.N.-demarcated Blue Line.The move prompted the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL peacekeepers to go on alert in the area.

Tension as Israel rolls out barbed wire on Lebanon border
An-Nahar/December 17/18/ Lebanon’s state-run news agency says Lebanese soldiers have gone on alert after Israeli troops rolled out barbed wire along the border. The National News Agency said Monday’s incident occurred on the edge of the southern village of Mays al-Jabal when Israeli troops laid 200-meters (yards) of wire. A video circulating on social media showed Lebanese soldiers protesting and calling U.N. peacekeepers to tell Israeli troops standing nearby to push it several meters back. The Lebanon-Israel border has caught world attention over the past two weeks after Israel said it has exposed four Hezbollah attack tunnels dug from Lebanon.

Report: Russia Tells Lebanon ‘Tampering with UN Resolution 1701 Forbidden’

Naharnet/December 17/18/After recent reports that alleged tunnels were dug from Lebanon into the occupied territory of Palestine, Russia has reportedly told Lebanon that it is “forbidden” to tamper with the UN Resolution 1701 related to the situation on the border between Lebanon and Israel, the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat daily reported on Monday. The daily said that the “Russians have sent a message to the Lebanese side saying it’s forbidden to tamper with the resolution related to the situation on the Lebanese-Israeli border.”Said remarks come after the recent Russian-Israeli Military Security Committee meeting, during which Tel Aviv provided Moscow with details of the tunnels that were recently discovered across the border, added the daily. Apart from Hizbullah’s responsibility for the tunnels, the Russian side has reportedly asked Lebanon to deal with the issue through three proposals, the daily quoted unnamed sources as saying. The first is the need to maintain the rules of engagement in the area covered by 1701, and to instruct the Lebanese army to deal with the matter and remove the causes of tension, which constitutes a commitment to the decision issued after the July 2006 war, they said. They noted that the subject will be on the table of the Security Council within two days, to condemn "the tunnel issue.”United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 is a resolution that was intended to resolve the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. It was unanimously approved by the United Nations Security Council on 11 August 2006. It required all armed groups except the official Lebanese military to remain north of the Litani River following the end of the 2006 Second Lebanese War. On December 4, the Israeli army announced an operation dubbed "Northern Shield" to destroy tunnels it said have been dug under the border by Hizbullah.

Aoun highlights need for promoting culture of peace
Mon 17 Dec 2018/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, on Monday underlined the paramount importance of promoting the culture of peace as an ultimate means to achieve rapprochement amongst nations and peoples. "Love amongst people cannot be mainstreamed without the promotion of the culture of peace," President Aoun was speaking during his meeting this morning at the Baabda palace with the International Peace Ambassador, Founder of Art of Living, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, at the head of a delegation. The delegation extended to Aoun an invitation to visit India for a large cultural event to be held in 2021, similar to the one held in the year 2016 in the presence of around 3.75 million people from 150 countries, including Lebanon. Discussions reportedly covered means of empowering Lebanese youth, promoting dialogue, resolving conflicts, spreading peace and tackling the refugee problem in the world. During the meeting, Ravi Shankar hailed President Aoun's efforts to promote dialogue among civilizations and inter-faiths, commending his endeavors in bringing people together from different religions and races in a bid to reach a better world. Shankar also said that the Association's undertakings aim to establish centers and programs to spread happiness and internal peace, especially among the young people. The Peace Ambassador also noted that the delegation works in particular on a program for refugees in cooperation with the European Union, especially in the region of Tripoli, as well as in the refugee camps in Jordan to spread peace amongst refugees. On the other hand, Aoun met, in the presence of the Chairman of Youth and Sports House Commission MP Simon Abi Remia, a delegation from the Association of Youth Energies for Development, as part of the Association's launching of a project aimed to reinforce the Lebanese youths' steadfastness in their nation. The Head of State deemed the Lebanese youths as the "hope of the future," disclosing that numerous projects of high benefits to Lebanon shall be implemented as soon as the new government is formed. These projects aim to set development in motion and create job opportunities for the youths.Moreover, Aoun met with the President of the Maronite General Council, former Minister Wadih Al-Khazen, with whom he discussed political developments in the country, including government formation efforts.

Aoun discusses South Lebanon’s situation with UNIFIL’s Del Col

Mon 17 Dec 2018/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, on Monday met at Baabda Palace with UNIFIL Commander, General Stefano Del Col, over the most recent developments in the south of Lebanon.

Tenanti: UNIFIL peacekeepers deployed along Blue Line, situation calm

Mon 17 Dec 2018/NNA - UNIFIL official spokesman, Andrea Tenanti, said UNIFIL forces have deployed along the Blue Line, after reports of tension between the Lebanese armed forces and the Israeli army, in a bid "to calm the situation, prevent any misunderstanding and maintain stability.'
"The situation in the area is now calm and our [UNIFIL] peacekeepers are on the ground," Tenanti said.

Hariri meets UNIFIL Commander

Mon 17 Dec 2018/NNA - Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri received today at the Center House the Head of Mission and Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) General Stefano Del Col in the presence of MP Bahia Hariri. They discussed the latest developments in the south as well as the tasks carried out by UNIFIL. Hariri met with the Head of the diplomatic mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Lebanon Baltabay Omarov and discussed with him the bilateral relations. He also received the founder of Art of Living, peace ambassador Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, at the head of a delegation. After the meeting, Ravi Shankar said: "We had a good meeting with Prime Minister Saad Hariri. We discussed about how to bring peace in the whole region and we appreciated all the initiatives he took. We also explained to him the work we are doing in Tripoli and how we are working in various parts of the world and what we can do here to bring inner peace. Outer peace can only come through inner peace. We are offering a number of workshops and projects that we can do with the government." Hariri received separately MPs Bahia Hariri and Sami Fatfat.

Army Commander discusses situation along Southern Lebanese borders with UNIFIL’s Del Col

Mon 17 Dec 2018/NNA - Lebanese Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, welcomed in Yarzeh on Monday UNIFIL Commander, General Stefano Del Col, who visited him with an accompanying delegation. The meeting reportedly touched on the most recent developments along the Southern Lebanese borders.

Berri tackles developments with Ein Teeneh interlocutors

Mon 17 Dec 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, on Monday welcomed at his Ein Teeneh residence Indonesian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ahmed Khazen Hamidi, who paid him a farewell visit upon winding up his mission in Lebanon. The meeting between both men had been an occasion to discuss current developments and bilateral relations between the two countries. President Berri separately met with MP Fouad Makhzoumi and discussed with him the general situation and the government formation process. “We discussed with the House Speaker the most recent developments in the region in light of the israeli threats and developments in Syria,” Makhzoumi said. “We also tackled the representation of one of the six independent deputies in the government, and I think this matter has taken a long course. I hope that Prime Minister Hariri, within the framework of the aspired solution, can meet with the six deputies and tell them that he does not want to appoint them. But we have to swiftly end this matter because it’s not appropriate that six members of the House of Parliament can not meet with the Prime Minister-designate,” Makhzoumi added. Later in the afternoon, Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, met with Berri and briefed him on the security situation and the situation in south Lebanon in light of the Israeli tunnel allegations. The Director-General of Lebanon’s General Security, General Abbas Ibrahim, also met with Berri and briefed him on the overall security situation. The House Speaker later had an audience with a delegation from the Islamic Alawite Council headed by Sheikh Mohammad Khoder Asfour. “We discussed with the House Speaker the demands and rights of the Alawite community in terms of representation in the government and in departments,” Asfour said on emerging.

Bassil patronizes Christmas recital at Foreign Ministry

Mon 17 Dec 2018/NNA - On the occasion of Christmas and New Year, Caretaker Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, on Monday patronized a Christmas recital performed by Artist Abir Neemeh, at the Ministry, attended by scores of ministerial, parliamentary and diplomatic dignitaries.
The Christmas recital, held for the first time at the Ministry, was performed by the renowned artist Abir Neemeh. Welcoming guests at the opening of the recital, Minister Bassil underlined "the noble meanings of Christmas," hoping that "the new year will bring all the good fortune and peace to all countries." Artist Neemeh chanted several hymns and songs marking the occasion in several languages, including Arabic, French, Armenian, Syriac and Italian. Lastly, Neemeh hoped the holy festive season will bring about happiness and joy.

Lebanon under Pressure from Syria to Release Hannibal Gaddafi
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 17 December, 2018/Syria has been pressuring Lebanon to release Hannibal Gaddafi, the son of the late Libyan leader, informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. Hannibal, 43, has been detained by the Lebanese security forces since December 10, 2015. The sources said that the Syrian regime submitted a strongly-worded letter to Lebanese authorities, saying that his detention was not justified, especially since it has become clear that he had no information on the disappearance of Imam Moussa al-Sadr in Libya in 1978.

Lebanese Pound Overnight Interbank Rate Falls to 15 Pct -Sources

Beirut- Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 17 December, 2018/The overnight interbank rate for Lebanese pounds fell to 15 percent on Monday thanks to increased liquidity, two banking sources told Reuters, after last week spiking to 75 percent, its highest rate since a political crisis last year.
A third banking source said the rate was between 10 and 15 percent on Monday. "It's calming down for the time being. Last week it was a bit squeezed," one of the sources said. A range of factors was cited to explain last week's spike, including that banks were seeking to keep their assets at a high level ahead of the end of the year, and that some individuals may be converting pounds to dollars, boosting demand for pounds.

Consultative Gathering ‘Deplore’ Aoun’s Efforts, Express Adamant Positions for Representation

Naharnet/December 17/18/Pro-Hizbullah Consultative Gathering MPs stressed from Baabda on Monday that initiatives that fail to consider their demand for representation in the new government will “never see the light.”“We appreciate President Michel Aoun’s efforts and have a deep understanding of the burdens affecting the country, but we will not accept not to be represented in the government,” MP Jihad Samad of the Gathering said after meeting Aoun in Baabda. “An initiative that does not take our participation in the government into consideration will never see the light,” stressed the MP of the so-called Independent Sunni MPs. However, the MP told reporters that he recited the Gathering’s statement and that any other remarks made by any of the six MPs reflects “individual positions.”The statement comes after reports that a meeting was expected in Baabda between the MPs and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri that could pave the way for allocating a seat for a Sunni MP from outside the Gathering. The MPs had met Aoun a few days ago and expressed adamant positions for representation. Aoun has been holding consultations with the concerned parties for the past week in a bid to ease the “Sunni hurdle.” Reports claimed that Aoun might accept the allocation of a seat for said MPs from his own share.

Hizballah distances its forces from proximity with Israeli troops, moves its S. Lebanon HQ to Tyre
DEBKAfile/December 17/18
Hizballah quietly pulled its forces in S. Lebanon back from close quarters with Israeli troops on Monday, Dec. 17, and changed their operational format, DEBKAfile reports exclusively from military sources. It is too soon to determine what exactly the Lebanese group is up to as regards its next steps, except that the move came a day after the IDF uncovered a fourth cross-border tunnel. Hizballah also silenced its military communications network in South Lebanon and stopped relaying instructions to its command centers and field troops.
In addition –
*The main Hizballah commandcenter for S. Lebanon was suddenly whisked out of Maaroub near the Litani River across to prepared structures at the Mediterranean town of Tyre in a smooth and apparently well-prepared operation.
*The personnel manning Hizballah’sobservation towers facing the Israeli border abruptly abandoned their posts,leaving only a handful of watchers.
*Hizballah agents, who had hung around the border, disguised as local farmers, beggars or shepherds, to watch every movement of the IDF excavations, disappeared. They also stopped trying to whip up local Lebanese civilians for protests on the Israeli border.
*The vehicles with fluttering yellow Hizballah flags which had been driving back and forth opposite the IDF operations have also vanished.
*The hush descending on Hizballah’s communications network has extended to the cell phones used by its operatives.
One theory to account for Hizballah’s abrupt distancing of its S. Lebanese units from contact with the IDF is that it is part of a strategy for fending off a US condemnation resolution at the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Dec. 19. Another is that the IDF will soon finishing uncovering the rest of the Hizballah tunnels and, when that happens, a clash of arms may be expected. Hizballah is preparing for that moment by aligning its military at arm’s length from the IDF.

Lebanese forces draw weapons at IDF soldiers operating along Blue Line
Jerusalem Post/December 17/18
A second confrontation between Lebanese Armed Forces and the IDF was documented Monday during Israel’s Operation Northern Shield to discover and destroy Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnels.A video released by Hezbollah-friendly media showed LAF troops holding their weapons, at times aiming them at IDF troops mere meters away as UNIFIL personnel worked to de-escalate the situation along the Blue Line. The confrontation occurred as Israeli troops installed 200 meters of barbed wire and after Lebanese forces went on alert, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported. The IDF confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that troops had placed barbed wire along the border but in Israeli territory, denying that Israeli troops had crossed the Blue Line into Lebanese territory and had that any violent incidents occurred with LAF troops. The operation was carried out after consultations with UNIFIL, the military said adding UNIFIL troops were present at the time and there were no confrontations with Lebanese soldiers. Lebanon’s Naharnet said that “tensions surged after dozens of Israeli troops and three Poclain excavators crossed the electronic border fence in Kroum al-Sharaqi in Mays al-Jabal and started drilling works near the U.N.-demarcated Blue Line, adding that “The move prompted the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL peacekeepers to go on alert in the area.”Earlier on Monday Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) said that the IDF had launched a reconnaissance balloon over a highway linking the southern Lebanese villages of Kfar Kila to Adaisseh. On Sunday the news agency reported that the LAF installed two mobile cameras to monitor IDF movements in the area.
The Israeli military has been operating across from Kfar Kila for the past two weeks after it launched Operation Northern Shield to discover and neutralize cross-border attack tunnels built by Hezbollah. The first tunnel discovered by the IDF was dug from Kfar Kila and infiltrated some 40 meters into an orchard belonging to the northern Israeli community of Metulla. A fourth tunnel was discovered on Sunday. "The Israeli army has informed UNIFIL of discovering a fourth tunnel, and UNIFIL is fully engaged with the parties to ensure stability in the area,” UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said Sunday.
The IDF says the tunnels are under their full control and have been filled with explosives ahead of their demolitions. Israel believes that the tunnels would have been used by the Hezbollah’s elite Radwan unit to infiltrate into Israel in an attempt to take control of communities and kill as many civilians and troops as possible. Dozens of Hezbollah tunnels are believed to have been dug along the 130 kilometer border between the two countries and the military said operation dubbed “Northern Shield” would take weeks or months to complete.
Israel, which calls the tunnels a “serious violation of Israeli sovereignty," maintains that the Lebanese government is responsible for digging of the tunnels from Lebanese territory.
While the IDF said that it only plans to operate against the Hezbollah attack tunnels on the Israeli side of the border, Lebanon fears that Israel won’t be bound by that limitation and will also operate against the tunnels in southern Lebanon. Israel maintains that the UN Peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) must act to destroy the tunnels on the Lebanese side of the border and the head of UNIFIL Maj.-Gen. Stefano Del Col has called the matter “serious” after confirming the existence of two cross-border tunnels. Earlier in December, the IDF fired warning shots at three Hezbollah militants dressed in civilian clothes attempting to approach the border area where the IDF was carrying out tunnel excavation work. According to the military the three men- who fled back to Lebanon after IDF troops opened fire- took advantage of bad weather to steal IDF equipment deployed to uncover the tunnels.
Lebanon meanwhile said that IDF troops opened fire on a “Lebanese army patrol near the Blue Line in Kroum al-Sharaqi region to the east of Meis al-Jabal village “because of heavy fog in the area.” The incident took place in one of the many enclaves beyond Israel’s security fence with Lebanon but still inside the Blue line which marks the demarcation line between the two countries. These areas, which are not covered by Israel’s fence with Lebanon due to the uneven terrain, have been previously neglected by Israel and a Hezbollah ambush of an IDF patrol led to the Second Lebanon War in 2006.Israel has since increased its presence in those areas, fortifying the fence and clearing away brush to allow for clearer observation.

Netanyahu: Israel has missiles that can strike any target in the Middle East
Jerusalem Post/December 17/18/Amid rising tension in the North, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Monday that Israel has missiles that can reach any target throughout the Middle East. “They develop offensive missiles here that can reach any place in the region and any target,” Netanyahu said during a visit to Israel Aerospace Industries outside of Tel Aviv. “This is an offensive force that belongs to the State of Israel and is relevant for all of our different fronts. They develop weapons here that don’t exist in any other country. “There is a group of minds and people here who develop the best of the defenses needed for the State of Israel. This includes micro satellites that are fired into space, and some missiles that you see here behind me. Space is a huge field that the State of Israel is entering.”Netanyahu was asked about reports that the US was blocking the Israeli sale of 12 F-16 C/D Barak fighter jets to Croatia. “This is ongoing between the countries and I have dealt with this personally,” Netanyahu said. “It is too early to say anything clear about this. We are working on this.”Earlier this week, Channel 10 reported that the Trump administration was blocking the $500 million deal, although Croatia’s defense minister, Damir Krsticevic, denied reports that Washington does not want the European country to buy the planes.

The not-so-trivial pursuit of Hezbollah

Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/December 17/18
Hezbollah continues to disregard the economic challenges and persists in investing in its own infrastructure of offensive tunnels into Israel as well as missile factories.
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist, a quote credited to French essayist and poet Charles Baudelaire, that accurately depicts Hezbollah’s role in derailing the formation of the Lebanese cabinet, a process that has stalled since May.
Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s pursuit to form the government has been an uphill battle ostensibly plagued with the refusal of the many factions to compromise over certain portfolios, ones they deem crucial to maintaining their clientelist provisions. However, this horse trading and imagined obstacles mask the fact that Hezbollah is the main impediment to this simple governance measure.
Hezbollah, similar to the devil’s actions, convinced part of the Lebanese public that it is uninterested in partaking in the corrupt acts of government and that its participation in cabinets was done out of national duty rather than political expediency.
Consequently, Hezbollah permitted its main Christian ally, President Michael Aoun’s party, the Free Patriotic Movement, to conjure up arbitrary conditions, starting with what became known as the Druze complex and later a Maronite one, all with the intentions of weakening an already feeble Hariri.
Once these trivial hitches were presumably resolved, Hezbollah introduced a new hurdle by demanding the inclusion of a pro-Assad Sunni minister representing a makeshift parliamentary bloc whose members were relics of Syrian hegemony before 2005.
Hariri, who was so close to announcing his cabinet, categorically refused Hezbollah’s curveball, which, above all, wanted to embarrass him in front of the international community and Gulf states that are alarmed at Iran’s unmitigated control over Lebanon.
Constitutionally as prime minister-designate, Hariri has full authority to refuse Hezbollah’s bullying or even Aoun’s. The post-war Taif Agreement grants him that prerogative and does not specify a time limit for his mission.
Subsequently, Hariri’s defiance saw Hezbollah unleash one of its sinister mouthpieces, Wiam Wahhab, whose verbal attack included Hariri’s late father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Wahhab’s reckless — yet calculated — act incited sectarian tensions and Sunnis took to the streets to show support for Hariri.
Having failed to achieve its goal, Hezbollah pressured Aoun, who declared that he would turn to the parliament to revoke Hariri’s commission, a threat he did not carry out. Aoun’s sacrilegious and erroneous reading of the constitution was a manoeuvre to pressure Hariri, who, in his unwavering stance, refused to grant the so-called independent Sunni MPs an audience.
Despite the imaginative suggestions to resolve the standoff over the government by expanding or greatly reducing its number, the task does not seem to be an easy matter to resolve and will only happen after Hezbollah and its allies get the following concessions.
Hezbollah needs Hariri to grant it implicit assurances that he will not fully cooperate with the Trump administration on enforcing sanctions on Iran and its network of operators. Perhaps this process of wishful thinking by Hezbollah wrongfully presumes that the US administration will not impose sanctions on Lebanon because Beirut receives considerable US aid for its armed forces and is deemed too valuable to the stability of the region.
More important, Hezbollah wishes to publicly discuss the amendment of the constitution and the Taif Agreement through which the system would be divided to three factions — Christian, Sunni and Shia — rather than the existing bipolar Muslim-Christian arrangement. Such a system has no political implications for Hezbollah, which is not really interested in pursuing politics the sake of politics but because it virtually grants Hezbollah veto power crucial to protect and legitimise its military activity.
Leaving the ruckus of the government formation aside, what could Hariri’s cabinet do to rescue Lebanon and its failing economy? When Hariri went to the CEDRE economic aid conference last April, he asked for funds to overhaul Lebanon’s non-existent infrastructure and to stimulate the economy, one that is doomed unless all local factions come together and provide a tranquil political environment to attract investors.
Hezbollah, however, continues to disregard the economic challenges and persists in investing in its own infrastructure of offensive tunnels into Israel as well as missile factories it intends to use in its next conflict with Israel.
The tunnels, which were recently exposed by the Israelis, go beyond embarrassing the Lebanese government for not abiding by UN Security Council Resolution 1701 but affirm that no forthcoming cabinet can derail or convince Hezbollah to abandon its devilish suicidal venture.

Latest LCCC English Miscellaneous Reports & News published on December 17-18/18
AMCD Applauds President Trump for Signing ME Minorities Protection Bill

December 15/2018
Washington DC: The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy applauds President Trump for signing the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018. AMCD’s founding members have worked for over 30 years to help the suffering minorities in the Middle East.
“The systematic discrimination of religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East by ISIS, the Taliban and the Islamic Republic of Iran is an insult to the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all members of the human family which will lead to a world-wide catastrophe if unchecked," said AMCD co-chair Hossein Khorram.
Commenting on President Trump's signing of the legislation, Dr Walid Phares, who launched the first coalition of Middle East Christians and other minorities in the United States back in September 1991 said, “This is a benchmark in the history of defending oppressed minorities.”
Phares, AMCD's senior advisor, had been a pioneer in counter persecution advocacy and academic research while he lived in the Middle East prior to his emigration to America in 1990. Phares has also been a prolific writer on the subject, with books and articles appearing for over three decades. In his first testimony to the Senate in 1997, to then Senator Sam Brownback (now Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom), and later as an expert with Congress, Phares proposed a strong US policy towards minorities in the Middle East. He included the topic of religious persecution as a senior national security advisor to Presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012 and four years later worked on similar policy suggestion as a foreign policy advisor to now President Donald Trump.
Continued Dr. Phares, "After over 30 years of hard work, overseas and in the US, to promote the rights and safety of these vulnerable communities in the Middle East and Africa, I am thrilled to see a US President signing this historic document after Congress had voted for several resolutions in the same direction, over the years."
Phares, also a co-secretary general of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counter Terrorism (TAG) has led several NGOs delegations to the UN Security Council in 2014 and 2015 to introduce the idea of declaring the ethnic cleansing and massacres of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, as a genocide, a war crime and a crime against humanity, concepts adopted by the Council later.
“Now we need to develop a policy of resettlement of the refugees back to their towns and villages and provide protection for them. That would be a fulfillment of their aspirations,” said Phares.
“The American Christian community has been slow to awaken to the slow-motion obliteration of the ancient Christians of the Middle East,” said AMCD co-chair Tom Harb. “These communities trace their origins back to the First Century and have kept the language of Jesus Christ (Aramaic) alive in their liturgies.”
“We simply cannot allow Christianity to be snuffed out in the land of its birth,” added AMCD co-chair John Hajjar. “This bill throws Christians in the Middle East a much needed life-line.”
Bravo, President Trump!

US sanctions won't change Iran policies says FM
Doha (AFP) - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday said US sanctions will have no impact on the policies of the Islamic republic at home or abroad. "It is obvious that we are facing pressure by the US sanctions. But will that lead to a change in policy? I can assure you it won't," Zarif told the Doha Forum policy conference in Qatar. "If there is an art we have perfected in Iran and can teach to others for a price, it is the art of evading sanctions," he added. The US imposed two sets of sanctions on Iran this year, after earlier unilaterally pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal with global powers. Discussing the Yemen conflict, Zarif denied Tehran had ever armed the Huthi rebels battling pro-government forces in the country. "We have never provided weapons to Huthis," he said when challenged on what arms it had supplied. "They have enough weapons, they don't need weapons from Iran," Zarif said. He said there were only "allegations" that Iran had sent weapons to Yemen, whereas there were "facts" that other countries had shipped arms. "I don't need to show any evidence about the jets that were flying in Yemen bombing the Yemenis. "Those are American-made jets and those are Saudi fighters, I assume, which are piloting those jets," Zarif said. "If there are allegations about Iranian weapons, there are facts about US weapons, facts about Saudis bombing the hell out of the Yemenis," he added. Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia intervened in the Yemen conflict in 2015 as part of a coalition backing the government. Zarif said the United States and its ally Saudi Arabia were responsible for the "humanitarian nightmare" in war-torn Yemen. He also accused Riyadh of seeking "tension" with Iran. Zarif also alluded to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi, saying Saudi Arabia believes "it can get away with murder". Khashoggi, a palace insider turned critic of the regime, was killed shortly after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Iran President's Son-In-Law Resigns After Nepotism Claims
Tehran- Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 17 December, 2018/Iran President Hassan Rouhani's son-in-law resigned on Monday just two days after his appointment as head of Iran's geological survey sparked accusations of nepotism, official news agency IRNA reported. Kambiz Mehdizadeh, in his early thirties and reportedly married to Rouhani's daughter in a low-key wedding this August, was appointed to the senior position in the industries and mining ministry on Saturday. The move sparked criticism on social media and from some lawmakers. "I thank you for finding me worthy and inviting me to work alongside you in this ministry, but I ask to be relieved of my service so that I can continue my scientific and research activities," Mehdizadeh wrote in a resignation letter, according to IRNA. Mehdizadeh is a PhD student in petroleum engineering, who has also served as an advisor to Iran's oil ministry, taekwondo federation and national youth organization, according to the conservative Tasnim news agency. The minister who appointed him, Reza Rahmani, defended his choice just hours before the resignation, saying Mehdizadeh was "chosen based on his competence and being the president's son-in-law had nothing to do with it," according to IRNA. Iranians on social media renewed criticism of nepotism that had spread last year with the hashtag "#good-genes" -- a reference to the son of a prominent reformist politician who attributed his business success to inheriting "good genes" from his parents. "I had no idea even sons-in-law could inherit #good-genes!" wrote one Twitter user on Sunday in reference to Mehdizadeh's appointment. Earlier in the summer, another online campaign called on senior officials to come clean about the privileges their children enjoy, particularly those studying in the United States and other Western countries. The campaign titled: "#Where-is-your-kid" pressured several government figures to respond, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who said his children had returned to Iran after studying abroad. This is not the first time Rouhani is accused of nepotism and corruption. Rouhani's brother, Hossein Fereydoun, served as his assistant and a member of his team before he was detained for corruption by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) intelligence service and court orders. The nephew of the Iranian president heads the People's Relations Department at his office and is the adviser to his chief of staff.

Iran says general fatally shot himself by accident
Associated Press/Monday, 17 December, 2018/TEHRAN, Iran – The website of Iran's Revolutionary Guard is reporting that a general who fought in Syria and Iraq has allegedly accidentally killed himself while cleaning a gun. Gen. Ghodratollah Mansouri allegedly shot himself in the head by accident while cleaning his pistol, according to the Sunday report. The report added that Mansouri was veteran of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and a "defender of the shrine," a reference to Iranians who fight against the extremist Islamic State (ISIS) group in Syria and Iraq. Since 2014, Mansouri was a regional commander of the Guard's ground forces in the northeastern city of Mashhad, some 560 miles east of the capital Tehran. Hundreds of Iranian forces have been killed fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

US Senate vote ‘will benefit only Iran’
Arab News/December 18/18
The resolutions were based on “unsubstantiated claims and allegations,” Saudi Arabia said
“We are a frontline state in the war against terrorism and the Iranian-aligned militias who are our common enemies”
The Saudi stance drew support from the Arab Parliament and the Muslim World League, along with analysts and experts
The Arab world threw its weight behind Saudi Arabia’s assertion of its sovereignty on Monday after what Riyadh described as “blatant interference” in its internal affairs by the US Senate.
The move followed Senate resolutions calling for withdrawal of US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and blaming Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October. The resolutions were based on “unsubstantiated claims and allegations,” Saudi Arabia said. “The Kingdom categorically rejects any interference in its internal affairs, any and all accusations, in any manner, that disrespect its leadership ... and any attempts to undermine its sovereignty or diminish its stature,” it said.
The Saudi stance drew support from the Arab Parliament and the Muslim World League, along with analysts and experts. Arab Parliament speaker Dr. Mishaal bin Fahm Al-Salami urged the US Senate “not to interfere in Saudi Arabia’s internal affairs, not to disrespect its leadership and not to undermine its stature.” The Arab Parliament opposed any attempts to undermine the Kingdom or targeted its leadership, reputation and prestige, Al-Salami said. Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary general of the Muslim World League, said undermining the sovereignty and leadership of Saudi Arabia was “a red line that no one … is allowed to cross.”“This interference is only in the interest of the wicked,” he said.
Salman Al-Ansari, founder of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC) in Washington, told Arab News it was “unfortunate that members of the US Senate have buckled under the relentless information warfare that has been waged against Saudi Arabia. “Any vote against the Saudi leadership is a vote against Saudi youth. It is a time of change, dynamism and limitless possibilities in Saudi Arabia, and the crown prince exemplifies that.” Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar in Riyadh, told Arab News the US and Saudi Arabia were allies and only Iran would gain from a rift between them. “We are a frontline state in the war against terrorism and the Iranian-aligned militias who are our common enemies,” he said.
“Many Americans are unaware of what is happening in the region and how President Obama’s opening up to Iran emboldened Tehran to run amok. By creating this rupture, the US Senate surely realizes who benefits from it. Iran, of course, our common enemy

Sudan president lands in Syria in first visit by Arab leader
The Associated Press/Monday, 17 December 2018/Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir on Sunday became the first Arab League leader to visit Syria since civil war erupted there nearly eight years ago.
Al-Bashir was greeted at the Damascus airport by Syrian President Bashar Assad before they both headed to the presidential palace, where they held talks on bilateral relations and the latest developments in Syria and the region, according to the state-run news agency.
Syria was expelled from the 22-member Arab League soon after war broke out in 2011. Arab countries have sanctioned Damascus and condemned Assad for using overwhelming military force and failing to negotiate with the opposition. The Syrian state news agency SANA quoted the Sudanese president as saying during the meeting with Assad that he hopes Syria will recover its important role in the region as soon as possible. He also affirmed Sudan’s readiness to provide all that it can to support Syria’s territorial integrity. SANA said Assad thanked al-Bashir for his visit, asserting that it will give strong momentum for restoring relations between the two countries “to the way it was before the war on Syria.”Photographs transmitted by SANA showed the two leaders shaking hands at the airport in front of a Russian plane that appears to have brought al-Bashir to Syria. Russia, a key ally of Assad, maintains an airbase southeast of the Syrian city of Latakia.

Iraqi parliament speaker: Saudi support helped in expelling ISIS
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Monday, 17 December 2018/Iraq’s Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi said on Monday after his meeting with King Salman that “Saudi Arabia had a major role in supporting Iraq in its war against terrorist organizations, especially ISIS”. Halbousi added that “Iraq has passed a difficult stage thanks to the support of Saudi Arabia, which contributed to the expulsion of ISIS from many regions and cities in Iraq”. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz received Halbousi as well as a number of Iraqi members of parliament in the al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Monday. They discussed bilateral relations between both countries and avenues of cooperation between the Saudi Shura Council and Iraq’s Council of Representatives. The meeting was attended by Saudi Minister of Interior Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef, Shura Council President Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed al-Sheikh and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. On the Iraqi side, Iraqi MPs Abdul Malik, Nahla Jabbar, Nayef Maqif, Sherwan Mirza, Hussein Majid, Ali Yousif, Faleh Sari, Ziad Al Janabi attended the meeting alongside Iraqi Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dr. Qahtan Al Janabi.

Roadside Bombs Kill Two Policemen in Egypt's Sinai
Cairo- Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 17 December, 2018/Egyptian security officials say two roadside bombs have hit a police convoy in northern Sinai, killing two conscripts. The officials say Monday's attack just west of the border town of Rafah also wounded six conscripts. The bombs struck two armored vehicles that were part of a convoy on a search-and-destroy mission in the area. Egypt has for years battled radical militants in the Sinai Peninsula. An all-out campaign by tens of thousands of troops and police against the militants began early this year, hitting hideouts, arms and ammunition depots and detaining scores of jihadis. The campaign has also nearly halted high-profile attacks.

ISIS Cells in Sinai Used Spy Drones, Received Military Training
Cairo - Walid Abul Rahman/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 17 December, 2018/Egypt announced on Sunday that members of ISIS terrorist cells in Sinai had spied on the country with drones, adding that they had received military training inside the country and abroad. The judiciary referred 43 ISIS suspects, held in the Sinai State case, to criminal trial on charges of carrying out violent acts in the Cairo, Giza, northern Sinai, Dakahlia, Qalyubia, Faiyum and Kafr al-Sheikh districts. Hamada al-Sayyed, a former football player in the Aswan club, is among the suspects. The defendants are charged with forming seven splinter ISIS cells in 2015 and up until February. They plotted to carry out terrorist crimes, attack security forces and police and change the system of rule in Egypt by force by obstructing the constitution and laws. They also planned to attack public institutions and Christians and their places of worship. Three of the suspects funded the cells and others obtained weapons, ammunition and material to build explosives. One of the defendants also acquired a drone equipped with a camera. Investigations revealed that the suspects had received military, security and technical training in ISIS camps in northern Sinai. Some members of the cell had joined terror groups in Syria where they also received military training. Security forces and the police have since February 9 been carrying out a major campaign to crackdown on terrorists in northern and central Sinai.

Trump Administration Considers Extraditing Gulen to Turkey
Ankara - Saeed Abdul RazekAsharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 17 December, 2018/Turkey has revealed that the US administration is considering extraditing cleric Fethullah Gulen for his alleged role in an attempted coup in Turkey two years ago. US President Donald Trump told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Washington was "working on" the extradition, announced Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The cleric has been living in a gated compound in eastern Pennsylvania after leaving Turkey in 1999. Erdogan has held Gulen responsible for the deadly attempted coup against him in 2016, a charge Gulen has denied. Cavusoglu pointed out that everyone focused on the issue of American pastor Andrew Brunson, whom he claimed was a CIA agent. He was tried in Turkey on charges of supporting terrorist organizations, including the Gulen movement and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Brunson was released and allowed to leave Turkey on October 12.
Cavusoglu added, however, that there are greater issues within the framework of Turkish-US relations, especially Washington's support for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey regards as an extension of the PKK in Syria. The minister also claimed the FBI had evidence that Gulen's organization, known as FETO, “had been violating US laws, including tax fraud, visa fraud and also some other illegal activities.” He told a conference in Qatar that Ankara had also requested the extradition of more than 80 Gulen followers living in the United States. “Our expectation is very clear,” Cavusoglu said, adding that “we have bilateral agreements and international law is there.”“Last time we met in Buenos Aires, President Trump told President Erdogan that they have been working on that,” he indicated, “but we need to see concrete steps because it has been already two years, almost three years.”Turkey has repeatedly requested that Gulen be handed over, or that he be prosecuted in the United States. But, Washington refused and under former President Barack Obama, the administration said information Turkey has handed it supporting Ankara's claim Gulen orchestrated the coup has not been sufficient to extradite him. Last week, Erdogan said Turkey would launch new initiatives abroad to target sources of funding for Gulen supporters. In related news, Erdogan said Sunday that Ankara intended to buy 120 US-made F-35 fighter jets amid speculations that the transfer might be halted. “We will buy 120 F-35 aircraft produced by the United States. Some of the components for the aircraft will be produced in Turkey,” he said at a rally in Istanbul. Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters on Saturday on the sidelines of the Doha Forum that Ankara had doubts that the United States may cancel the deliveries of its F-35 fighters to Turkey if the latter buys the Russian air defense system S-400. "We are not just buyers, we are part of the [F-35 development] project...So, it is not that easy to deny Turkey the supply of these jets", he said.

Sisi Arrives in Vienna to Participate in Africa-Europe Forum
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 17 December, 2018/Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi kicked off on Sunday a four-day official visit to Austria. He is scheduled to take part in the high-level Africa-Europe Forum, along with a number of African and European leaders, to boost bilateral partnership. The forum begins on Monday. His Vienna visit comes at an invitation by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, current president of the Council of the European Union, and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, current Chairperson of the African Union. Sisi’s visit will include a summit meeting with Kurz, as well as bilateral talks with a number of Austrian officials, politicians and investors to discuss bilateral cooperation, especially in investment, trade, technology, innovation, education, scientific research, transport and railways. They will also exchange views and coordinate stances on regional issues and issues of common concern. Sisi is also set to deliver a speech at the forum that focuses on Egypt's vision, which aims at pushing forward development efforts in Africa. A number of roundtable meetings will be held on the sidelines of the forum to tackle African-European cooperation in the fields of agriculture and technology, obstacles facing African-European cooperation, higher education and scientific research, investment in new projects, linking cities and mobilizing finance to address climate change in Africa and achieve sustainable energy, e-government, means of accelerating e-commerce in Africa and communications. The leaders participating in the forum will hold a high-level dialogue, entitled "Cooperation in the digital age," on the cooperation between Africa and the European Union in the field of innovation and digital technology. Egypt's ambassador to Vienna and its representative to international organizations Omar Amer said that Sisi's visit will contribute to enhancing bilateral cooperation in the fields of trade and investment.

Turkey Considers Cooperation with Assad if he is Democratically Elected
Ankara - Saeed Abdul Razek/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 17 December, 2018/In a clear turnaround on its previous stances, Turkey declared Sunday that it was prepared to cooperate with Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad if he were to be democratically elected to power. The elections must be transparent and held under the supervision of the United Nations, Ankara stated. “If it is democratic election, and if it is a credible one then everybody should consider (working with him),” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a conference in Qatar. “At the moment, we are trying to draft a constitutions that the Syrians themselves will write,” he continued. Elections under UN supervision will then follow, the minister stated. At the end, the Syrian people will decide who runs their country after the elections, Cavusoglu stressed. In August, Turkish parliament Speaker Binali Yildirim had stated that Assad could temporarily remain in power, “but he could not be part of Syria’s future.” He suggested that a solution could be reached in cooperation with Russia, Iran and other countries that are concerned with resolving the Syrian crisis. In September, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had declared that peace efforts in Syria could not continue with Assad still in power. He deemed Assad a terrorist who had killed over a million of his people, saying it wold be impossible to work with him in the future.

US-Led Forces Take Out ISIS Command Center in Syria
London- Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 17 December, 2018/United States-led coalition forces have destroyed an ISIS group command center inside a mosque in the Syrian border town of Hajin, the US military said. Its statement comes as Kurdish-led forces mop up the final remnants of ISIS militants in Hajin, the largest settlement in the last pocket of territory controlled by the hardliners. More than 16 heavily armed ISIS fighters were at the command and control node at the mosque when it was destroyed by a precision strike last Saturday, a statement from the Combined Joint Task Force read. The extremists, who were all killed in the strike, were using the mosque to command attacks against coalition partners, it said. The ISIS group "continues to use protected structures to launch attacks against our coalition partners, with complete disregard for the infrastructure and innocent human lives", the statement added. Fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces secured Hajin after weeks of heavy fighting last Friday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Israeli Generals Blame Netanyahu for Escalations in West Bank

Tel Aviv- Nazir Majli/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 17 December, 2018/A number of former generals in the Israeli army and intelligence are criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for ignoring warnings from the security establishment concerning the dangers of escalations in the West Bank. The generals pointed out that Netanyahu lightly treated the warnings that the stalemate in the peace process would “blow up” in Israel’s face. In this regard, MP Omer Barlev asserted that the government ignored warnings of Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot when he said in August that the absence of a political horizon leads to an escalation in the West Bank. The government also dismissed Eisenkot’s suggestions on Gaza and a series of restrictions that would make things easier, added Barlev, indicating that tension forced Israel to settle with Hamas and allow Qatar to fund it with millions of dollars. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak also attacked Netanyahu for acting like a collaborator with Hamas, saying both want to destroy the Palestinian Authority. Barak said that “the Israeli army and the Shin Bet must fight terrorism.”Barak criticized decisions announced by Netanyahu in wake of recent operations, including house demolitions, saying they “encouraged terrorism”. He noted that if recent measures were security-related, the government should not have waited for recent operations to establish them. In the meantime, the Israeli cabinet meeting saw Sunday intense tension and exchanged accusations between Netanyahu and his Likud party ministers in face of ministers of the ultra-Orthodox settler party, the Jewish House, who attended the meeting after taking part in a protest against the government. The government held its session in light of recent Israeli operations in several areas of the West Bank, where the Israeli forces demolished houses, arrested families, closed villages and towns including Ramallah, and approved a series of settlement projects. Netanyahu said Sunday he had issued a warning to Hamas after recent deadly attacks in the West Bank, including two shootings claimed by the group. “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 the cabinet meeting. The PM announced that he had directed the Defense Ministry to establish new industrial zones near the Avnei Hefetz and Beitar Ilit settlements and to advance plans for the construction of 82 homes in the Ofra settlement. “There will be other steps,” Netanyahu vowed. Army and intelligence representatives presented reports detailing that what has been happening so far was not an uprising but a wave of operations by a single Hamas military cell operating in the central West Bank.

Sudan’s Bashir Secretly Visits Damascus to Revive Ties
Damascus, Khartoum- Asharq Al Awsat and Ahmed Younes/Monday, 17 December, 2018/Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir made a surprise visit to Damascus on Sunday and met with Syria Regime President Bashar al-Assad, in a sign of revival of bilateral relations since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011. Assad received the Sudanese president at Damascus airport - according to SANA, the official Syrian news agency - and accompanied him to the People’s Palace where discussions touched on “bilateral relations and developments in Syria and the region.” The news agency noted that the two officials stressed that circumstances and crises in many Arab countries “necessitate new approaches to Arab action based on respect for the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs.”“Developments in the region, especially in Arab countries, emphasize the need to invest all energies and efforts in order to serve Arab issues and confront schemes that target countries and peoples of the region,” SANA quoted the two officials as saying. Bashir said he hoped Syria would recover its important role in the region as soon as possible. He also affirmed Sudan’s readiness to provide all that it could to support Syria’s territorial integrity. Assad, for his part, thanked the Sudanese president for his visit, asserting that it would give strong momentum for restoring relations between the two countries “to the way it was before the war on Syria,” according to the Syrian news agency. In Khartoum, State Minister in the Foreign Affairs Ministry Osama Faisal said in a brief statement at the airport upon Al-Bashir’s return from Damascus that the two presidents “agreed to find new approaches to Arab action based on respect for the sovereignty of States and non-interference in their internal affairs.”Earlier on Sunday, the Sudanese presidential press sent an urgent call to journalists and correspondents to come to the airport and informed them that Bashir would return from a “secret” visit.

Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 17-18/18
Hezbollah’s Operation Barbarossa’: How Army Chief Pushed Netanyahu to Go After the Tunnels
تقرير من الهآررتس يتناول تفاصيل وحيثيات القرار الإسرائيلي العسكري الذي دفع نيتنياهو لتنفيذ عملية انفاق حزب الله على الحدود مع لبنان
Yaniv Kubovich/Haatetz/December 17/18
Discussions on how to respond split Israel’s leadership, with the PM equivocating about the timing and Eisenkot advocating immediate action
On the eve of the first day of Operation Northern Shield, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chief of General Staff Gadi Eisenkot stood alongside each other at a press conference and demonstrated a united front regarding the urgent need to destroy the tunnels under the border with Lebanon. Yet, Eisenkot had to exert quite a bit of pressure on the politicians to get to that moment at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv. Months of tense debates that climaxed with the resignation of former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who believed his constant struggle with the defense establishment could end his political future, the evening with the unified message.
Conversations Haaretz conducted with some of those involved in the discussions preceding the operation reveal that the prime minister equivocated about the suitable time for such an operation until it was approved on November 7. Netanyahu was well-versed in the details of the tunnel project, for which the Israel Defense forces had been preparing for two years. Sources said that Netanyahu wasn’t hesitating about whether to act; the question for him, as for Eisenkot, was the timing.
A source privy to some of the discussions about launching the operation in the north asserted that Eisenkot exerted more pressure on this issue than on any other issue since taking over as chief of general staff. According to people who were at the discussions, Eisenkot pushed to start destroying the tunnels as soon as possible and wrangled with several security cabinet ministers, especially with Lieberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Eisenkot insisted it would be mistaken to launch an operation in the south before tackling the threat of Hezbollah tunnels, they said.
“This is the organization’s [Hezbollah’s] next Operation Barbarossa against Israel,” Eisenkot said, referring to Germany’s surprise invasion against the Soviet Union in June 1941. “This is Hezbollah’s most significant part of the next confrontation,” he noted in arguing to prioritize the northern front over the southern one. “It is building on this card, which could be its signature achievement.”
During another discussion, Eisenkot presented a letter from Northern Command head Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, in which the general warned that the delay could lead to the loss of the element of surprise, and would allow Hezbollah to carry out a deadly attack.
At another meeting, the chief of staff asked specifically to include Strick’s warnings in the minutes. Security sources said that Netanyahu was not pleased that Eisenkot had brought the letter, let alone sought to insert it in the protocol. But according to the sources, this was the moment that shifted the balance, because afterward Netanyahu gave the operation the green light. “Eisenkot, like all those present at that security discussion, knew unequivocally that no one could avoid taking responsibility for a terror attack coming from Lebanon when there were minutes in which the chief of staff and the head of Northern Command were warning of one,” said an official familiar with the details.
Irreparable relationship
The backdrop to the discussions on Operation Northern Shield was the harsh criticism over the way Israel was responding to Hamas in the south. The pressure was also coming from Lieberman, whose relationship with security officials had become so hostile that it was disrupting their work together.
The tension between the defense minister and the chief of staff had been evident in the Elor Azaria affair, the disputes over closing Army Radio, the return of terrorists’ bodies and in other cases where Lieberman believed the defense establishment was not backing the policies he advocated in the Defense Ministry and the military. Another incident that increased the tension occurred when Eisenkot submitted the candidacy of Maj. Gen. Roni Noma as the sole nominee to be the next head of Military Intelligence. Sources familiar with the situation said that Lieberman had told Eisenkot that he should submit the name of at least one other candidate to enable a choice. A few weeks later, Eisenkot was informed that Lieberman had chosen Maj. Gen. Tamir Heyman as head of Military Intelligence, after consulting with several former senior IDF officers.
At the end of March, when the Friday demonstrations began near the Gaza perimeter fence, the tension further worsened. The gaps between Lieberman’s position and that of defense officials regarding the Gaza policy gradually turned the tension into hostility, to the point where the relationship became irreparable.
At one of its peak moments, Lieberman told senior IDF officers that he felt “as if I were talking to the Peace Now leadership.” The defense minister announced at the time that he would stop supplying fuel to Gaza until the demonstrations and incendiary kites stopped. After a certain lull, there was a conference call in which the heads of the defense establishment expressed support for allowing fuel back into Gaza due to the humanitarian crisis there. The call involved Lieberman, the chief of Military Intelligence, the head of the Shin Bet security service, Eisenkot and the coordinator of government activities in the territories. According to sources familiar with the conversation, after he compared the security officials to Peace Now leaders, Lieberman hung up, leaving his surprise listeners on the line.
In another meeting, after a heavy barrage of rocket fire at Israel from the Gaza Strip, Lieberman demanded a decisive blow against Gaza. When a few of those present asked him what he meant, Lieberman replied: Attacks from the air that will scare them, so they understand they have crossed the red lines. Bennett presented a plan for a military operation that would also lead to the evacuation of Israeli residents in the area near the border with Gaza. Bennett also wanted aerial attacks, but without having soldiers enter the Gaza Strip.
The operation in the north was approved at this meeting, and the defense establishment thought it would be irresponsible to be dragged into a conflict with Hamas only a few days before such sensitive operations against Hezbollah. Eisenkot looked like a man who had lost his patience, said sources acquainted with the discussion. Eisenkot said that it would be impossible to deliver a harsh blow acting only from the air, said Eisenkot, according to those sources. Weakening Hamas would require a ground operation, he stressed, adding that all involved needed to realize the implications of such a decision.
Eisenkot and Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman, and after them National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, were unanimous in their views concerning the need to act in the north, and not at the same time as an operation in Gaza. All the leaders of the defense establishment agreed it was necessary to first exhaust all efforts to reach an arrangement with Hamas.
The commander of the IDF’s Operations Directorate, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, said the humanitarian situation in Gaza was making the security situation worse. Haliva said that Israel could initiate economic and practical steps to prevent an escalation of the situation. He foresaw a two-month window of opportunity to move to bring about calm in the south.
The IDF’s coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, agreed with Haliva and presented data on the crisis in the Gaza Strip. But Lieberman did not want to hear it, said one of the sources. “Lieberman would become annoyed with the officers every time they would talk about the humanitarian situation,” said the source. “He didn’t let them say humanitarian crisis, it would drive him crazy.”
Netanyahu supported Eisenkot concerning the south, and left Lieberman all by himself with his positions. At a meeting after the day of fighting in which Hamas fired hundreds of rockets at Israel, on November 12, all those at the meeting went out for a short break, during which someone showed Lieberman a tweet from journalist Sharon Gal. “This toy Rambo defense minister is silent,” said the tweet. “I’m embarrassed that I was a Knesset member in Yisrael Beiteinu under this defense minister, who except for talk is not doing anything.” At that moment, Lieberman realized that he was seen as being responsible for the restrained response in the south and he expected to pay the political price for it, said sources familiar with the details.
Top priority
Thus, the discussions regarding the Hezbollah tunnels came about against the backdrop of this tension on the table, and the military – with Netanyahu’s support – trying to prevent broader military action in Gaza. Netanyahu did not talk mention an exact when he informed security cabinet members about the Hezbollah tunnels and sought approval for the operation. Eisenkot thought it was best to start the operation immediately, both for practical reasons and because Netanyahu and the other ministers who supported restraint in Gaza were losing their ability to withstand the public’s criticism.
Eisenkot’s position was reinforced by Haliva and Heyman at the meeting in which Eisenkot compared the Hezbollah tunnels to Operation Barbarossa. Haliva said the issue of the tunnels was top priority, not just over dealing with Hamas, but also over Hezbollah’s project for precision missiles, which has kept the IDF very busy in Syria.
In one of the meetings just before the approval of the tunnel operation, Eisenkot introduced the warning letter by Strick, the Northern Command head, about possible scenarios if Israel did not undertake the operation against the tunnels. Strick said the preparations for the operation had been completed and the military had the intelligence information needed for the operation. Strick also said that any delay would increase the possibility of the information leaking out and being exposed in the media, and the IDF could well lose its element of surprise, which was of critical importance. If Hezbollah learned that Israel knew about the tunnels, the threat to Israeli communities along the border with Lebanon would grow, said Strick. It was possible that Hezbollah would take advantage of this and act against Israel from the tunnels, he warned. Such action could make the situation worse than what was expected from the response to an operation to destroy the tunnels. The tunnels were intended to provide Hezbollah with victory pictures for Nasrallah as the first Muslim leader in years to fight against the IDF on Israeli soil, added Strick. Netanyahu was not pleased that Eisenkot presented the letter from Strick, and made it clear that the matter had been on the agenda for a long time and had received proper treatment, even without warning letters, said defense sources.
Lieberman also brought in reinforcements to support his position, in which Israel needed to begin an operation in the Gaza Strip and postpone the tunnel operation in the north by a few weeks or months. Lieberman invited the head of the Research Division of Military Intelligence, Brig. Gen. Dror Shalom, who said more intelligence was needed to ensure the tunnels would be found. Eisenkot allowed Shalom to give his briefing. There were those who reminded Lieberman that only a few months earlier it was Shalom who contradicted his statements in meetings about attacking Gaza. “But in this case, Shalom’s opinion matched Lieberman’s interests,” said a defense source.
During the briefing in which the approval of the tunnel operation was discussed, Eisenkot pressed to include Strick’s letter in the minutes of the meeting. He began reading out a few sentences from the letter for the minutes. “As far as Netanyahu and all those who were in the room at the time, it was a step that led to the final approval of the operation, even if someone still had minor reservations,” said a source familiar with the situation.
Another source involved in the matter said that if such an incident had taken place, even if it was not conducted from inside the tunnels and led to an escalation between Israel and Hezbollah, it would have placed the responsibility on Netanyahu and the members of the security cabinet. This is what made the approval of the tunnel operation the obvious choice, said the source.
The preparations for the tunnel operation took about two years, so a difference of a week or two from the set date would not have had any great affect, said security sources. “The intelligence assessment that preceded the decision on undertaking the operation was that Hezbollah would not respond, because the work would be in [Israeli] territory and Hezbollah would find it difficult to find an excuse to take action,” said a security source. “In addition, the assessments were that Hezbollah was in a very difficult situation concerning Iran and Lebanon, something that made it difficult [for Hezbollah] to go and fight Israel today.”
Eisenkot was not a partner in all these optimistic assessments and said in meetings that there is always uncertainty concerning Hezbollah’s action in extreme situations, so Israel must prepare for the worst possibility of a graduated escalation – all the way up to a war in the north. “It was important to Eisenkot, before the operation, to complete all the training exercises of the [front-line] divisions and to bring the IDF to high readiness in preparation in case the operation would lead to an escalation,” said the defense source. Eisenkot thought that “we are not completely past the threats and developments that could very well come in response to the [tunnel] operation.”
A spokesman for Lieberman said, “This is a mix of lies and absurdities that mostly points out the distorted approach and prejudices of the leakers and those who make use of these same leaks.”
Operation Barbarossa
(German: Unternehmen Barbarossa) was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II. The operation stemmed from Nazi Germany’s ideological aims to conquer the western Soviet Union so that it could be repopulated by Germans, to use Slavs, especially Poles, as a slave-labour force for the Axis war effort, and to seize the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories.[24]

Empty rhetoric did not save Saddam or Qaddafi, it will not save Iran
Ibrahim al-Zoubeidi/The Arab Weekly/December 17/18
As they face the impasse of US sanctions and their aftermath, incessant protests and internal unrest, the Iranian rulers are behaving like Saddam Hussein did at the end of his rule in the face of a looming American invasion of Iraq. So did Muammar Qaddafi, for that matter, when clashes broke out in Benghazi between his army and its popular committees and the Islamic opposition backed by “our brethren in Qatar,” as he had put it.
Iranian leaders are doing the exact same thing as those two. They are trying to convince the Iranian citizen that he is the first and last victim of America’s sanctions, that he is the target of its aggressive policies and that he must increase his commitment to the Iranian government, bear all his bitterness and renounce his freedom, security and the survival of his children for the nearly sure victory over the Americans and their allies. The Iranian citizen won’t be fighting for just his present and his future but for the pride of his long history and heritage.
Just like Qaddafi and Saddam before them, the Iranian rulers are the ones who should bear the biggest share of the blame for the plight of their people because of their stubbornness and arrogance. They opted for policies of defiance and confrontation but armed only with muscle flexing and slogans, the same weapons that were of no good use to anyone before them.
In a conference on terrorism and regional cooperation attended by the speakers of the parliaments of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey, Iranian President Hassan Rohani threatened European countries and the United States with a “flood” of drugs, refugees and attacks should US sanctions weaken Iran’s ability to address these problems.
“We face a comprehensive attack that threatens not only our independence and our identity but also our historic relations,” he said of US sanctions. He renewed his threat to close the Strait of Hormuz should the United States try to prevent his country from exporting its oil.
Iranian news agency Tasnim quoted the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Mohammad Ali Jafari, as saying: “We have the scientific capability to increase the range of our missiles but this is not part of our current policy because most strategic enemy targets are already within 2,000km. This range is enough to protect the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Commander of the Iranian Air Force General Aziz Nasirzadeh went one notch above Jafari’s threat and announced that Iran was endeavouring to increase the range of its missiles. “One of our most important programmes is to increase the range of missiles and ammunition. We do not see any restrictions on us in this area,” Nasirzadeh said.
The insistence of the Iranian rulers on escalation through defiance and stubbornness and on rejecting negotiations and dialogue as they face the risk of catastrophic consequences for their own regime and their people is beyond reason or wisdom.
They know the safest and most effective way for them to save face before their people and the world is to stop useless defiance and adopt a policy of compromise internally and of rational dialogue with the outside world. It’s as simple as that. They’ve got to let go of their supremacist dreams of national superiority, for such dreams died and disintegrated centuries ago and are no longer suitable for the age of roaming on Mars.
Rather than persist in arrogance and stoking simmering fires, Iran’s al-Wali al-Faqih can, with a single pen stroke, halt all funding of the gangs of murderers, arsonists and looters in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. And that’s just abroad.
Inside Iran, he can easily stand up to corrupt associates and agents. He can order Iran’s riches be spent helping the millions of poor Iranian citizens, on infrastructure and construction projects, on revitalising Iran’s trade and industry and on restoring Iran’s friendly relations with its neighbours. Wouldn’t that be much more beneficial to the Iranians, the region and the world?
If Saddam had spent half of the revenues of the Iraqi treasury on improving infrastructure, boosting the economy, facilitating the lives of Iraqi citizens and guaranteeing their dignity and livelihood, millions of Iraqis would have sprung to defend him and his regime. He would still be smoking his Cuban cigars and celebrating the coronation of his faithful son Qusay.
Qaddafi was no different. Had he discarded his Green Book, cancelled his “People’s Republic” and established a state based on the rule of institutions, justice and the law and had he been generous to his opponents before his supporters with just half the fortune that he and his children stashed abroad or wasted on arming guerrillas and political parties here and there, he would still be reclining in his tent now and watching his faithful son, Saif al-Islam, run the Qaddafi family kingdom safely.
It is too late for Saddam and Qaddafi to regain some degree of rationality and realism, after having ruled for a long time and imagined themselves as Antarah Ibn Shaddad or Khalid Ibn al-Walid or Omar Mukhtar.
The Iranian regime, however, has time to reconsider its approach and grab the safety lifeline available to it. Tehran has the opportunity to spare its people unnecessary hardships before it goes down the same fateful road of Tripoli and Baghdad but will it listen?

As Europe Dithers, Iran’s Arsenal Gets More Deadly
Behnam Ben Taleblu/Bloomberg/December 17/18
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.

Yemen and the Stockholm Window
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat/December 17/18
Yemenis - regardless of the political side to which they belong - have no right to close the window that was opened thanks to the “Stockholm Agreement”. The risk of losing the opportunity to regain peace will only deepen the losses and increase the dangers that threaten Yemen and its citizens. Moreover, the train, which stopped in Stockholm to help civilians get out of the war, may return late next time.
Yemenis need to ensure that their families have food… that their children regularly go to school. They need the necessary level of security and basic services. They also need to feel the presence of one roof that they can live under, even if they disagree with each other. There is no ceiling in the end, other than the state and legitimacy, no matter the disagreements and differences.
Yemenis need no one to remind them of the dangers of living without a state that extends its authority over all of its territory. The Somali lesson is still fresh and powerful. The most dangerous thing that can happen to a country is that the world gets accustomed to seeing it torn and drenched in its blood, unable to save itself and resisting the will of others to save it.
The world has forgotten bleeding Somalia. It is sometimes remembered when rude practices of pirates threaten navigation. Lessons have shown that it is difficult to force people to establish peace if they do not make their own decision in this direction. The world can put off a fire in a theater. It can also impose a cease-fire. But peace remains an internal endeavor. The immunity of any country starts with the decision of its children to live together and pay the price of such a decision.
Returning from war is much harder than falling into it. The war gives birth to bitterness, which is not easy to overcome.
Disputing parties in a torn country have a double need for external support. They find themselves in the midst of conflicts that are beyond their potential, their size and their ability to shape them. For these reasons, the “Stockholm Agreement” seems to be an opportunity for Yemenis. They will commit a serious mistake if they lose it due to non-Yemeni considerations. It is an opportunity to stop the bloody confrontations… An opportunity to breathe and think seriously about concrete steps to get out of war… It is also an opportunity to surpass the barricades of confrontation and get rid of dictionaries of hatred, to discuss an agreement under the rule of law and institutions and pave the way for coexistence based on the principles of fraternity, good neighborliness and respect for international covenants.
The Stockholm Agreement is an opportunity for many reasons. First, there is a clear international will to end the war in Yemen, because of the major human and economic losses, and to avoid a high level of tension in the region. The efforts of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, have clearly demonstrated this will. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ participation in the meeting in Sweden provided additional evidence of active international involvement in sponsoring the quest for peace. Statements made by the United States and those of the permanent members showed that Guterres had full authority in this regard.
The second reason is the clear support of the “Arab alliance” for a political solution in Yemen according to the references previously adopted. This was evident when both Guterres and Griffiths thanked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his personal involvement in facilitating an agreement in Sweden.
The third reason is that some Houthis feel that the Iranian support will only prolong the war launched by their coup, and that military balances on the ground will not be in their favor, as the situation around Hodeidah and elsewhere has shown.
Negotiations will not be easy; not only because the devil is in the detail, but also because Yemen’s structure is as difficult as its terrain; and because war has added new fears to old worries.
The Swedish station was an opportunity to hop on the train. Houthis will commit a grave mistake if they deliberately jump out of it. The deteriorating situation in the areas they control has put pressure on them. It is not enough to control a capital, a zone or an arsenal. You have to guarantee people’s needs. Concealing painful facts with old slogans is no longer valid.
Another important event came in parallel with the Yemeni meeting in Sweden. It started from the feeling of states along the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden that they must take care of their interests and not leave this vital waterway under the mercy of powerful countries’ initiatives and arrangements. Accordingly, Riyadh witnessed the launching of a regional bloc of seven Arab and African countries: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia and Jordan. The purpose of the bloc is to enhance security and stability in the region and to secure navigation and world trade.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubair said that a meeting would be held in the near future for senior officials in the concerned countries to finalize the new entity’s charter that will cover the fields of economy, environment, commerce, investment, development, security and military work.
It is clear that the countries of the region feel the need to emerge from conflicts that only lead to increasing poverty, instability and depletion of resources. Many losses will afflict those who lose the chance of peace in Yemen and the opportunity of stability and prosperity in the Red Sea.

Theresa May’s Victory Is a Vote Against a No-Deal Brexit

Therese Raphael/Bloomberg/December 17/18
Conservative lawmakers in the UK voted on one question, but decided another. Their choice may not make the path for an orderly Brexit any easier, but it may make a disorderly Brexit a little less likely.
The ballot presented to 317 Tory members of parliament on Wednesday night was straightforward: It asked them whether they had confidence in their party leader, Prime Minister Theresa May. The result — she prevailed by 200 votes to 117 — shows that many clearly don’t.
But if the verdict offers May little comfort personally, it shows that MPs understood the real question they were being asked was somewhat different. Were they willing to gamble on Britain exiting the European Union without a deal?
It is hard to see their answer as anything other than a vote of no confidence in the hardline Brexiters who have been pushing for months to replace May with a leader who would champion a no-deal Brexit. The result suggests the Tories want to hold the center ground, which is where May has belatedly sought to lead them.
Unfortunately, she has squandered much good faith along the way and now leads with diminished authority. There have been missteps, reversals and a disastrous election that complicated things for her party enormously by forcing it to rely on the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party for its majority.
But it speaks volumes that those failures weren’t enough to persuade the majority of her MPs to throw in their lot with the hardline Brexiters who had been threatening a no-confidence vote for months until they finally got the 48 letters necessary to trigger it this week. The only reason to cling to May now is that the alternative leadership is clearly a bigger risk. Her position as leader cannot now be challenged again from within her own party for 12 months.
What doomed the Brexiters’ arguments against her leadership was the growing realization in recent months that they had no plan of their own. Their vague strategy to withhold some of the divorce payment, deny the problem of the Irish border, seek to reopen negotiations and hope that German carmakers make a fuss wasn’t just unconvincing; it was so ridiculous as to make transparent their real aim of leaving without a deal.
No deal is what happens when every other option has failed — it isn’t an outcome anyone runs toward with glee. Most Conservative MPs seemed to realize that on Wednesday. But fighting on all fronts has cost May more of her already much-diminished authority. She has now said she will not stay on to fight the next election, which will come as a relief to many in her party.
That leaves the all-important question of what Wednesday’s vote means for Brexit itself. And here little has changed: her party is divided and the fate of Brexit is undecided. There is still no parliamentary majority for Theresa May’s deal, which she will bring to a vote most likely in January, and no majority for holding a second referendum.
That means the hardline Brexiters haven’t lost entirely: The default, if parliament doesn’t agree another course of action, is that Britain leaves the EU, deal or no deal, at the end of March.
May will continue to seek concessions from the EU that might make her deal more palatable to MPs, but there are plenty in parliament who want to see her fail, either because they want no deal or because they want it to go to a second referendum or, as in the case of the opposition Labour Party, new elections. All her victory has proved is her deal has, possibly, 200 supporters — in a parliament of 650. There now comes a three-way fight.
May acknowledged earlier in the day that the exit negotiations might have to be extended if a new leadership selection process was underway. It’s now more likely that she will need to request that the Article 50 timetable be extended to allow the UK more time to resolve Brexit; but that requires unanimous EU approval, something that would likely only be granted in the event of a referendum or general election.
The best that can be said is that Wednesday’s vote cleared the air and sent a message to one wing of the Conservative Party that their time has not come. That is a blow to the hardline eurosceptics to whom May mistakenly pandered early on, but one should never underestimate their determination to fight on. A change of leader, MPs realized, would be little more than a distraction and another risk. Britain doesn’t need either right now.

Donald Trump's attempt to rehabilitate Bashar al-Assad is a losing battle
محاولة دونالد ترامب لإعادة تأهيل بشار الأسد هي معركة خاسرة

Ahmed Aboudouh/Independent/December 17/18
It must be the US president who sent the Sudanese leader to Damascus. When will the West understand that sharing a bed with a monster will give you nightmares?
The door is opened for Bashar al-Assad. Again.
The Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir, being the first Arab leader to visit Damascus and meet with Assad, is not the news; it is who sent him over there. Donald Trump must have surely played a key role in sanctioning this visit to the Syrian capital; at the Helsinki summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin in July, the US, Russia and Israel came to a joint agreement to keep the Syrian dictator Assad in power.
Trump likes Assad. He thinks he is one of the "tough guys" who managed to force their will over the international community. It’s no secret anymore that he gets on well with his parallels: Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and the Saudi crown prince Mohamed bin Salman.
The American strategy in Syria, if there is such a thing, is full of holes. Trump imposes the harshest set of sanctions on Iran, for its malicious destabilising behaviour in the Middle East, and at the same time pulls its most important ally from under the bus. He raises questions on Russia's increasing role in the region, yet gives Syria away to the Russians.
Never mind the raucous shows he comes up with every time civilians get hit with chemical weapons, and his threats to punish “animal Assad” – it is all, as he might say himself, fake. The US president is not sparing much thought for Syrian civilians, their rights or their safety. Earlier this year, he promised that Assad would “pay a price” for dropping of chemical bombs on a rebel-held part of the city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta. Now, instead, it’s time for his rehabilitation.
On Sunday, the very same day Bashir was visiting Damascus, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a conference that Turkey and other world powers would consider working with Assad if he won a "democratic election". Still though, nobody from Turkey has landed in Damascus – yet.
So why has Bashir been welcomed into Syria? Because he is the weak spot of the Arab world. Bashir is another Assad, on a smaller scale. His nation remains in the grip of a nasty civil war, which split his country in two and is still wreaking havoc in South Kardafan and the Blue Nile provinces. Just like Assad, Bashir is considered a leader of a rogue regime and remains under tough economic sanctions. Although Trump’s administration announced last year that the sanctions, which have been in place since 1997, will be lifted, Bashir’s government is still bogged down in negotiations with Washington.
Bashir’s impasse turned him to a desperate prey, ready to do anything to stay, politically and economically, afloat. His daring economic reforms, which tumbled the Sudanese pound to a record low 47.5 against US dollar, weakened his efforts to change the constitution, allowing him to stay in power indefinitely. No Arab ruler who came to power through the ballots – in the Arab fashion of democracy, of course – would have the strength to cling on without American consent.
And just like Assad, Bashir is on the route to be rehabilitated.
In October 2017 the US announced the permanent lifting of a raft of sanctions, stating that the African nation had begun addressing its concerns about terrorism. This summer, Saudi Arabia agreed to supply Sudan with oil for the next five years to help in tackling its energy crisis, after Bashir sent troops to support the Saudi-backed government in the bloody Yemeni civil war.
Western governments seem eager to repeat the same mistakes. Policies of Rehabilitation of bloodthirsty ruthless despots have taken us nowhere but to a Middle East which turned into a homeland of daily atrocities, chaos and extremism. Walking down the same road is a naive strategy.
After the chemical weapons attack on Halabja in March 1988, which killed more than 5,500 Kurdish civilians, the world thought it would be the end of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. But the west decided to give him another chance, and some time. It was not until Saddam decided to invade Kuwait that Washington and its allies realised they had been fools to imagine that they could turn Iraq under this lunatic leader to be the region’s cop. Later still, they had to rush to the Middle East again to try to fix their own bungling plan. But did they learn from their mistake? Of course not.
A couple of years earlier, American fighter jets conducted a series of warning air raids on the Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi’s house in Tripoli, and other targets in the country. But after the downing of the Pan AM Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988 – the same year of Halabja chemical attack, ironically enough – everyone thought: that’s it for Gaddafi, he is done. But it turned out that he was not. He would go through the same rehabilitation loop for the next two decades, until the very same West fathoms that sharing a bed with a monster will give you nightmares.
Now, Trump is playing the same game with Assad.
After seven years of fierce fighting, triggering the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War, nobody seems to understand what (and how long) it will take the West to understand that redeeming Assad is a lost cause – even if the price of accepting that will be a few American military bases in the north of Syria and guarantees on Israel’s security.
Trump's position on Bashir and Assad is another example of how people in the West still can’t understand the complexity of the politics of the Middle East and never will. But remember: history repeats itself, and payback time will come. Again.

Be Careful When Dealing With CAIR
Dr. Oren Litwin/The American Spectator/December 17/18
To the surprise of moderate Muslims and counter-extremism activists across the United States, Houston mayor Sylvester Turner proclaimed December 9 as “CAIR-Texas, Houston Day.”
He glowingly described the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) as a grassroots civil rights organization, “seeking to advocate for justice and mutual understanding.”
The idea that CAIR works for “justice and mutual understanding” is laughable. CAIR is an exponent of political Islamism, and is rigidly intolerant even of moderate Muslims who challenge their extremism, with some regional directors slurring them as “Uncle Toms” and even calling Somali Muslim activists “anti-Muslim” for opposing the terror group Al-Shabaab.
This is to say nothing about CAIR’s open endorsement of the anti-Israel BDS movement, or frequent indulgences in anti-Semitism. A jarring example is Zainab Arain, ironically the author of CAIR’s “2018 Civil Rights Report. She accuses Israel of funding the Taliban and stealing the organs of Palestinians, often citing articles written by white-nationalist extremists. Even more grotesque is when CAIR-Florida communications director Wilfredo Ruiz claimed that Jews “throw dead dogs and monkeys” on Muhammad’s grave.
“CAIR-Houston Day” marked CAIR-Houston’s 17th annual banquet. The banquet featured political luminaries such as U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas (who also issued her own “Certificate of Congressional Recognition” marking the event). But the headline speakers for the banquet were highly objectionable: Islamist activist Linda Sarsour and CAIR-Florida executive director Hassan Shibly. Sarsour viciously attacks counter-Islamist activists to the extent of wishing she could “take their vaginas away,” labels her opponents “Zionist trolls” and wrote “Nothing is creepier than Zionism,” and was called a racist even by other Progressive activists; and a new investigative report has revealed that her supposed role as cofounder of the Women’s March was highly exaggerated, and she participated in the airbrushing of the true founders to serve her own prodigious ambition and her Islamist agenda.
Shibly, meanwhile, last year openly endorsed a radical transnational network that calls for the murder of Ahmadiyya Muslims, who are seen by many Islamists as heretics. Earlier, Shibly called on Muslims traveling from Arab countries to refuse to cooperate with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, and attacked homosexuality as “a quick way to earn God’s wrath.” (Nor is this a one-off, as this month Shibly retweeted a post from Shadee Elmasry, who is uncompromisingly hostile to LGBT people even as political allies; and last month Shibly retweeted Suhaib Webb, who has elsewhere stated that homosexuals are “cursed.”)
Mayor Turner’s office was asked for comment on the radical speakers appearing at the banquet. He responded with a terse, “I have been and continue to be a strong supporter of Israel.” Fair enough, but that misses the point. Our concerns with CAIR are more about its activity in the Mayor’s own city of Houston and the rest of the United States, not its activism against Israel.
Sylvester Turner is no doubt trying to reach out to the Muslim community of Houston, which is the largest in Texas. But Mayor Turner, who was recognized with an “A+” rating on LGBT issues by Equality Texas, ought to be more careful who he decides to endorse. By showering such accolades on CAIR, Turner is harming the efforts of true moderates and strengthening CAIR’s oft-repeated claim to speak for all American Muslims — even though many Muslims do not accept its radicalism.
*Dr. Oren Litwin is a Research Fellow for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

Turkey's Fake Outrage over the Murder of Khashoggi
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/December 17/18
There are at least 170 journalists and media workers currently in Turkish jails and prisons, according to the Platform for Independent Journalism.
Hrant Dink, as editor-in-chief of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper, Agos, wrote about the Armenian Genocide. For this he was prosecuted under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which makes it illegal to insult Turkey or Turkish government institutions or to "denigrate Turkishness." Dink was shot dead outside his newspaper's office in Istanbul on January 19, 2007. Eleven years after the murder, the trial is still in progress.
The Turkish government still has not officially recognized, apologized for, or made reparations on behalf any of these and other such crimes at any time in its history; impunity for past injustices continues to lead to present injustices.
It is high time for members of the Western media to stop relying on Turkish officials as sources of reliable information in their reports on Khashoggi, and start highlighting Turkey's ongoing deadly persecution of its own journalists.
There are at least 170 journalists and media workers currently in Turkish jails and prisons, according to the Platform for Independent Journalism. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's public expression of outrage over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, then, is not merely hypocritical; it is utterly fake, and should be called out as such. Pictured: Silivri Prison, Turkey. (Image source: CeeGee/Wikimedia Commons)
Since the October 2 murder of Saudi Muslim Brotherhood political activist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been condemning the perpetrators of the "ferocious murder," vowing that his government would "uncover what has happened" and portraying himself as a champion of human rights.
During a press conference at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on December 1, Erdogan said:
"Through our intelligence organization, we have already informed the whole world of this incident [Khashoggi's death] and are still doing so. Particularly the American media and the Western media are following this matter and our intelligence organization answers all of their requests and conveys all required information to them."
This statement is tragically two-faced for several reasons. The first is that the Turkish government is the world's largest jailer and killer of journalists -- so much so that every year, April 6 is commemorated by Turkey's Journalists Association (TGC) as the "Day of Murdered Journalists". The event was initiated on April 6, 1909, when the first murder of a Turkish journalist, Hasan Fehmi, took place for criticizing the government. The Platform of Solidarity with Arrested Journalists (TGDP) reported that between 1909 and 2012 -- in 103 years -- 112 journalists and writers were murdered in Turkey.
The second reason is that the Turkish intelligence organization which Erdogan claimed is providing the Western media with information about Khashoggi's murder has provided no information to family members and others seeking the truth about the fate of Turkish journalists and activists who have disappeared without a trace.
Worse, the Erdogan government has been cracking down on a leading grassroots organization, "Saturday Mothers," that has been holding peaceful weekly vigils since 1995 on behalf of disappeared loved ones. On August 25, Istanbul police forcibly broke up one such vigil by using water cannons and tear gas against participants and detaining dozens of them, including veteran protester Emine Ocak, who is in her 80s. A week later, on September 1, police and anti-riot vehicles were once again deployed to put a stop to the demonstrations. Since then, the government has continued its weekly clampdown.
"Disappearances" were among the most horrific, yet commonplace, incidents of the 1980s and 1990s in Turkey. During those years, many people, mostly Kurdish civilians -- including activists, politicians, journalists and businesspeople -- were kidnapped and murdered. It was then that the group "Saturday Mothers" was formed.
To this day, the exact number of victims remains unknown, and no perpetrator has been brought to justice. Meanwhile, the Erdogan government does not even tolerate debate on the issue. In 2005, for instance, the Istanbul Criminal Court sentenced Fatih Taş, the head of the Aram Publishing House, to six months in prison for "openly insulting the Republic of Turkey," after he published a book entitled Kayıpsın diyorlar ("They Say You Disappeared"). The book was about the 1994 disappearance of a 19-year-old journalist, Nazım Babaoğlu, who was taken into police custody while working on an investigative report in southeast Turkey. In September this year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemned Turkey for having violated Taş's freedom of expression.
Sadly, journalists and human-rights activists in Turkey continue to be murdered by "unknown assailants." In November 2015, for example, Tahir Elçi, a prominent Kurdish human-rights lawyer, was shot dead in broad daylight during a press conference. Three years later, the murderers remain "unidentified," and Turkish police recently prevented lawyers in Ankara from holding a memorial gathering in his honor.
Another noted case is the murder of the Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, known for advocating minority rights. Dink, as editor-in-chief of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper, Agos, wrote about the Armenian Genocide. For this he was prosecuted under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which makes it illegal to insult Turkey or Turkish government institutions or to "denigrate Turkishness." Dink was shot dead outside his newspaper's office in Istanbul on January 19, 2007. Eleven years after the murder, the trial is still in progress. Out of the 85 defendants -- including police, intelligence and gendarmerie officials -- only six have been jailed pending trial. The next court hearing, the 83rd, will be held on December 18.
Assyrian (Syriac) intellectuals in Turkey have also been systematically targeted. Professor Ashur Yousuf, publisher of the Assyrian newspaper Mhadyono Dothuroye, and Bişar Hilmi Borucu, publisher of the newspaper Şifuro, were murdered during the 1915-1923 Assyrian genocide. Both newspapers folded after the murders. As the Turkish government still aggressively denies the genocide, no justice has been delivered for the descendants of the victims.
Murders of Assyrians did not end with the genocide. Many Assyrian Christian community leaders, such as Şükrü Tutuş, former mayor of the town of Idil, and Edvard Tanrıverdi, whom the locals called "the best medical doctor of the region" in Midyat, were murdered in the 1990s. Despite repeated calls by Assyrians for justice, the murderers of all these victims "remain unknown" and still freely wander about.
Today, almost all media outlets in Turkey are in the Turkish language; most of those belonging to minorities have been eliminated. The country's Greek-language press, for instance, is almost extinct. During the 1955 anti-Greek pogrom in Istanbul, Turks in the city attacked everything owned by Greeks, including newspapers. Professor Speros Vryonis Jr. writes:
"All three principal dailies, the Apoyevmatini, the Tachydromos, and the Embros suffered heavy losses. The first two had both their offices and printing establishments completely wrecked. In the case of the Embros only its offices were destroyed since it had no printing press of its own."
The Turkish government still has not officially recognized, apologized for, or made reparations on behalf of any of these and other such crimes at any time in its history; impunity for past injustices continues to lead to present injustices. There are at least 170 journalists and media workers currently in Turkish jails and prisons, according to the Platform for Independent Journalism.
Turkey has also exported its tradition of persecuting dissident journalists all the way to Cyprus, the northern part of which it has been illegally occupying since 1974. Şener Levent, a prominent Turkish Cypriot journalist, for instance, is being tried by both the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" (recognized only by Turkey) and by prosecutors in Ankara.
Erdogan's public expression of outrage over the killing of Khashoggi, then, is not merely hypocritical; it is utterly fake, and should be called out as such. It is high time for members of the Western media to stop relying on Turkish officials as sources of reliable information in their reports on Khashoggi, and start highlighting Turkey's ongoing deadly persecution of its own journalists.
*Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute and is currently based in Washington D.C.
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1979: A Pivotal Year in the Arab-Muslim World
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 17/18
A series of dramatic events swept across the Arab and Muslim worlds in 1979, the aftershocks of which still reverberate today, 40 years later.
Here is an overview.
Iran: Islamic revolution
On January 16, Iran's last monarch, the pro-Western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, flees the country after months of protests against his regime. The spiritual leader who led the uprising from exile, Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, makes a triumphant return on February 1.
The shah's government falls 10 days later when the army turns against him. The following day, public radio announces the fall of the monarchy and "the end of 2,500 years of despotism".
An Islamic republic is proclaimed on April 1, its legislation based on Sharia law.
On May 5, Khomeini creates the elite Revolutionary Guards who will become the regime's elite army.
A drop in Iran's oil output during the revolution drives up prices, sparking an energy crisis in Western economies.
Egypt: first Arab-Israel peace treaty
On March 26, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin sign in Washington the first ever peace treaty between the Jewish state and an Arab nation.
The accord, inked in the presence of US president Jimmy Carter, ends the state of war between the neighbours and sets the terms for Egypt to recover in 1982 its Sinai Peninsula, which Israel invaded in 1967.But Arab countries slam the treaty as a betrayal and break off relations with Egypt.
Sadat, also criticised at home, is assassinated in October 1981.
Syria: cadets massacred
On June 16, 80 Syrian military cadets are massacred in a hail of gunfire and grenades after being assembled at their academy in the northern city of Aleppo. The men are from the Alawite sect of the Shiite Islam minority, as is the president Hafez al-Assad, father of the current leader, Bashar al-Assad.
The instigator of the attack is a training officer from the Sunni majority, angered by the regime's open favouritism towards Alawites. The government reacts by cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood, which undertakes an armed uprising before being crushed in the central city of Hama in 1982 at a cost of between 10,000 and 40,000 lives.
Iraq: Saddam Hussein siezes power
On July 16, Saddam Hussein becomes Iraq's president as one of the strongmen of the Baath Party in power since a 1968 coup.He goes on to rule with an iron fist, drawing Iraq into a string of conflicts, including war with Iran, until he is ousted in the US-led invasion of 2003 and executed three years later.
Iran: US embassy hostages
On November 4, Islamist students seize the US embassy in Tehran, demanding the extradition of the shah, who is receiving medical care in the United States. Fifty-two diplomats will be held for 444 days. It leads to the rupture of relations between Washington and Tehran, still in place today.
Saudi Arabia: deadly Mecca siege
On November 20, more than 400 Muslim fundamentalists storm the holiest mosque in Islam, in Mecca, western Saudi Arabia, and take hostages from among the thousands of worshippers there.
They claim to have with them the new redeemer, or Mahdi, whose appearance is predicted in several hadiths to cleanse the Muslim world of "impurities" introduced from the West.
Saudi forces launch an assault
two weeks later in which at least 333 soldiers, rebels and civilians are killed.
It is the start of the rise of Islamist extremism in Saudi Arabia.
Afghanistan: Soviet invasion
On December 27, Soviet troops invade Afghanistan to back its embattled communist government, leading to a nine-year occupation. It triggers an armed resistance by Afghan mujahedeen backed by the United States and Saudi secret services. Wealthy Saudi national Osama bin Laden plays a key role, recruiting mostly Arab volunteers to the insurgency and going on to inspire a worldwide anti-Western jihad, or holy war, as the head of Al-Qaeda.