December 30/18

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
Matthew 16/13-20: “When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah..

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 29-30/18
UNIFIL statement on the investigation into crossBlue Line tunnels
Tenenti says situation calm in South Lebanon
UNIFIL: We Remain Engaged with All Parties to Ensure Full Respect of Blue Line
Hariri media office says published news by "AlAkhbar" Newspaper falls within fabrication context
Ibrahim resumes shuttle diplomacy to clear govt jam
Israel Fills ‘Hezbollah’ Tunnels with Cement
Lebanese MP: Bassil’s Policies Put President’s Term in Danger

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 29-30/18
Egyptian forces kill 40 suspected militants after tourist bus bombed
Iraq’s Grand Mufti: Celebrating Christian holidays ‘impermissible’ for Muslims
US military: Syrian army not in Manbij
Lavrov: Russia, Turkey agree to coordinate on Syria after US pullout
Iranian university angry protest chants against Khamenei's advisor
Yemeni government source denies Houthis’ withdrawal from Hodeidah
Saudi Arabia destroys Houthi ballistic missile targeting Najran
Al-Assaf says his appointment unrelated to al-Jubeir's efficiency
First Gaza rocket in six weeks draws Israeli response
Hamas Denies Sending 800 Gunmen to Egypt in 2011
Offices of Khamenei, Rouhani Issue Inconsistent Reports on Protests’ Anniversary

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 29-30/18
Ibrahim resumes shuttle diplomacy to clear govt jam/Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/December 29/18
Palestinians should accept Trump’s peace plan and build on it/Ray Hanania/Arab News/December 28, 2018
Analysis/If Trump Is Beholden to Russia, Israel Faces Dire Danger in Syria/Chemi Shalev/Haaretz/December 29/18
Analysis/Iran Showed Signs of Slowing Down Its Syria Activity. Then New Weapons Arrived in Damascus/Amos Harel//Haaretz/December 29/18
2018 - the year Iraq’s political battle lines were redrawn/Suadad Al- Salhyd/Arab News/December 29/18
A year Iran will not quickly forget/Camelia Entekhabifard/Arab News/December 29/18
Four reasons Trump’s withdrawal is an error/Hafed Al-Ghwell/Arab News/December 29/18
The growing poverty of political debate/Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/December 29/18
Years end but crises continue/Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/December 29/18
Mattis Resignation Not about policy, It’s About Values/Eli Lake/Asharq Al Awsat/December 29/18
2018: The Year of Misgovernment/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/December, 29/18
UK Welcomes Extremists, Bans Critics of Extremists/Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/December 29/18
The Other Intersectionality: Victims of Islamism/Kenneth Levin/Gatestone Institute/December 29/18

Latest LCCC English Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 29-30/18
UNIFIL statement on the investigation into crossBlue Line tunnels
Sat 29 Dec 2018/NNA - In a press release by UNIFIL in Lebanon, it said: "On the 26 and 27 December, in the course of the ongoing investigation into the presence of tunnels along the Blue Line, UNIFIL together with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) surveyed the premises of an old concrete factory in the southern part of Kfar Kela, after UNIFIL had observed liquified cement flowing out from the building within this facility. The liquid overflowing on the Lebanese side had been injected by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) through a shaft drilled on their end of a tunnel that UNIFIL had previously independently confirmed to be crossing the Blue Line in the same general area. Based on this observation, UNIFIL can confirm that the old concrete factory in Kfar Kela has an opening to the tunnel, which is crossing the Blue Line. UNIFIL is working in close coordination with the LAF in efforts to enable appropriate steps to address the violation of resolution 1701. UNIFIL remains engaged with the parties to ensure that all activities in sensitive areas are duly coordinated, the Blue Line is fully respected by both sides, and to help the parties uphold their respective obligations towards the cessation of hostilities under resolution 1701."

Tenenti says situation calm in South Lebanon
Sat 29 Dec 2018/NNA - UNIFIL official spokesperson Andrea Tenenti told the National News Agency that the situation in South Lebanon "is calm and the UNIFIL forces are operating in coordination with the Lebanese army to maintain stability." Tenenti added that "the UNIFIL Chief Commander, Major General Stephano Del Col, is also in constant contact with both parties, in a bid to avoid any misunderstanding." Finally, he noted that a tripartite meeting would be held to discuss underground tunnels and Israeli violations.

UNIFIL: We Remain Engaged with All Parties to Ensure Full Respect of Blue Line
UNIFIL/ Saturday 29th December 2018/The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stressed on Saturday thay it remains engaged with the parties to ensure that all activities in sensitive areas are duly coordinated, the Blue Line is fully respected by both sides, and to help the parties uphold their respective obligations towards the cessation of hostilities under resolution 1701. "In the course of the ongoing investigation into the presence of tunnels along the Blue Line, UNIFIL together with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) surveyed the premises of an old concrete factory in the southern part of Kfar Kela, after UNIFIL had observed liquified cement flowing out from the building within this facility," read a statement issued by the UNIFIL.The peacekeeping force said that the liquid overflowing on the Lebanese side had been injected by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) through a shaft drilled on their end of a tunnel that UNIFIL had previously independently confirmed to be crossing the Blue Line in the same general area. "Based on this observation, UNIFIL can confirm that the old concrete factory in Kfar Kela has an opening to the tunnel, which is crossing the Blue Line," it noted. "UNIFIL is working in close coordination with the LAF in efforts to enable appropriate steps to address the violation of resolution 1701." The statement also pointed out that the Israeli army informed UNIFIL earlier this week of another operation using explosives on a tunnel south of Ayta Ash Sha’b."This tunnel identified by the IDF was not previously reported to UNIFIL and, therefore, it’s existence has not been independently verified by UNIFIL. On 27 December, UNIFIL conducted a post-blast assessment and observed a crater in the area. UNIFIL is working with the LAF to assess any damage caused by the explosion," it noted.

Hariri media office says published news by "AlAkhbar" Newspaper falls within fabrication context
Sat 29 Dec 2018/NNA - The media bureau of PM-designate Saad Hariri issued on Saturday a press release, denying what has been published on Al-Akhbar newspaper earlier today concerning the recent meeting that took place between PM Hariri and House Speaker Nabih Berri, considering it as "fabricated news". "The article published by Al-Akhbar newspaper about the recent meeting that took place between Hariri and Nabih Berri falls within the framework of fabrications and out of context," the communiqué said.

Ibrahim resumes shuttle diplomacy to clear govt jam
Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/December 29/18
BEIRUT: With backing from President Michel Aoun and Hezbollah, the head of General Security has resumed his shuttle diplomacy aimed at resolving the problem of representing six Hezbollah-backed Sunni MPs in the new government, the last remaining hurdle to the formation, official sources said Friday.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has maintained silence over the Cabinet formation crisis, which has entered its eighth month with no solution in sight.
“Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s silence confirms that a solution is not possible at this time,” former Future MP Mustafa Allouch told Akhbar al-Yom news agency. He said that things might spin out of control and warned of “a major event” that would precede a solution to the Cabinet deadlock.
Allouch, a senior member of the Future Movement’s Political Council, also accused Hezbollah of seeking to impose “new conditions” before a long-term solution is reached to the government crisis. He said Aoun had spoken about this when he said in Bkirki Tuesday that some parties were creating “new norms and traditions” in the Cabinet formation process.
General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim has been meeting with caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Hezbollah officials over the past few days as part of resuscitating a stalled initiative launched by Aoun earlier this month that sought to resolve the issue of representing the six MPs not affiliated with the Future Movement in the next government, the sources said.
Ibrahim was also expected to meet with the six MPs, brought together in a group, known as the “Consultative Gathering.”
“President Aoun’s initiative has been revived with the resumption of Ibrahim’s meetings with Minister Bassil and other parties concerned with the Cabinet formation crisis,” a Baabda Palace source told The Daily Star. “There has been no change in Aoun’s initiative designed to resolve the problem of representing the six Sunni lawmakers in the new government,” the source said.
A key element of Aoun’s initiative calls for representing the six MPs from the president’s share with a candidate from outside their group, rather than one of the six lawmakers themselves, as they had previously demanded. The plan also calls for Hariri to meet with the six MPs as an essential move recognizing their representation in the new Cabinet.
However, the initiative had foundered after Bassil, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, reportedly wanted the group’s candidate, Jawad Adra, to be part of the FPM’s parliamentary Strong Lebanon bloc, while the six MPs insisted that Adra or any other candidate they name should exclusively represent the Consultative Gathering. Last weekend, the six MPs withdrew their support for Adra, one of four candidates they had proposed, saying they reached the decision because “Jawad Adra does not consider himself a representative of the group.”
MP Abdel-Rahim Mrad, one of the six MPs, said Friday that Aoun has the names of three other candidates proposed by the group to represent them in the next government after they withdrew their support for Adra. These are: Hasan Mrad [Mrad’s son], Othman Mazjoub and Taha Naji.
“When President Aoun chooses one of the three candidates to represent us in the new Cabinet, the chosen nominee should belong to the Consultative Gathering and exclusively represent it, and not belong to any other bloc,” Mrad told The Daily Star.
A senior Hezbollah official also confirmed that Aoun’s initiative has been reactivated with a view to resolving the issue of the six MPs’ representation.
In addition to his talks with Bassil and a planned meeting with the six lawmakers, the official told The Daily Star that Ibrahim has also been meeting with Hezbollah officials over the issue.
He added that Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah spoke by telephone with Aoun Wednesday to convey his greetings over Christmas and the New Year.
“A Hezbollah parliamentary delegation led by MP Mohammad Raad is also expected to visit Baabda Palace in the next few days to convey greetings to President Aoun over the holiday season and reaffirm the strategic alliance between Hezbollah and the FPM,” the official said. He was referring to the 2006 political understanding signed by then-FPM leader Aoun and Nasrallah at Mar Mikhail Church, south of Beirut.
The alliance came under strain recently stemming largely from Hezbollah’s support for the six MPs’ push for representation in the new government. Aoun had initially said the six MPs have no right to be represented because they were not part of a single parliamentary bloc.
Hezbollah and the Amal Movement also oppose that the Consultative Gathering’s representative be part of the Strong Lebanon bloc.
Political sources had told The Daily Star that Bassil wanted the six lawmakers to be represented by a minister close to his party so that the FPM and Aoun could maintain “a veto power,” or controlling 11 ministers in a 30-member Cabinet.
Nasrallah and other Hezbollah officials have said they did not object to Aoun and the FPM attaining a veto power. But Speaker Nabih Berri, Hariri and former MP Walid Joumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, are reported to be opposing granting a veto power to the FPM.
Ibrahim’s fresh flurry of activity coincided with a new snag facing the Cabinet formation arising from Bassil’s demand for a redistribution of some ministerial portfolios. The demand was staunchly rejected by Berri and Joumblatt’s PSP.
Despite the gloomy prospects hanging over the Cabinet formation, United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Lebanon Hamad al-Shamsi struck an upbeat note about a resolution to the impasse.
“The government will be formed before the Economic Summit that will be held in Beirut because the summit requires the formation of a government. Hope for the best and you will find it,” Shamsi said before he left with a large Lebanese delegation Friday to Saudi Arabia to attend a concert by iconic Lebanese singer Majida el-Roumi, her first in the kingdom. Lebanon is slated to host the 2019 Arab Economic and Social Development summit in Beirut Jan. 19-20.

Israel Fills ‘Hezbollah’ Tunnels with Cement
Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 29 December, 2018/Israel admitted Friday that the Northern Shield Operation to detect cross-border tunnels dug by “Hezbollah” was expanded to the Lebanese side of the boundary. It said the expansion was aimed at figuring out the nature of the tunnels and how they were dug from several civilian houses. A video was broadcast showing the Israeli army destroying all of the tunnels from Kfarkila into the northern Israeli border town of Metula. The tunnels were filled with cement, which spilled over along the border with Kfarkila, reaching several houses in the Lebanese village. The Israeli army said that through this video, it wanted to show people, especially the Lebanese, that “Hezbollah” is jeopardizing the lives of citizens. It said that after pouring cement into the tunnels from the Israeli side, the material reached homes in Lebanon, a clear sign that the digging operation and the opening of the passageways was made in houses. Israel launched this operation at the beginning of December to destroy tunnels. So far five tunnels have been discovered. Israeli military spokesman Ronen Manelis rejected to consider this step as aggressive. “The Lebanese military and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon are still not doing anything to seal the tunnel shafts,” he said. Manelis said that a material other than clay could have been used, but it wasn’t in order to avoid harming citizens in their houses.

Lebanese MP: Bassil’s Policies Put President’s Term in Danger
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 29 December, 2018/The term of Lebanese President Michel Aoun is under threat due to the policies adopted by his son-in-law Caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, member of the Strong Republic (Lebanese Forces) parliamentary bloc MP Wehbe Katisha told Asharq Al-Awsat.“Aoun has two choices of either taking a firm stance so that we reach the stage of state-building or continue with his mission in inheriting Bassil” the presidency, Katisha said Friday. The lawmaker warned that a government vacuum would lead to the collapse of the economy, a reflection of continuous calls made by several economic entities to salvage the country, the closure of thousands of commercial companies and institutions and the rising deficit and unemployment. Katisha said the government crisis has two dimensions: The first is internal due to the political role played by a party to delay the announcement of the lineup and paralyze the country, and the second is external amid a regional veto preventing the formation of a new cabinet. Without mentioning Iran, the deputy said that foreign interference in Lebanese politics has renewed an internal dispute on Lebanon’s identity. Katisha, a retired general, also held Bassil, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement, responsible for “wasting the last opportunity to form the government when he surprisingly announced that the March 8 Sunni representative of the Consultative Gathering would be part of the presidential share.”A breakthrough seemed possible last Saturday as Jawad Adra emerged as a candidate thought to be acceptable to all sides. However, Adra refused to agree to exclusively represent the Hezbollah-backed Sunni MPs, and it was reported that Bassil has claimed Adra would effectively serve as part of the president’s cabinet share.In his remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Katisha also ruled out a military confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, saying Israeli strikes on Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guards positions in Syria have replaced conventional warfare that includes an Israeli army invasion.

Latest LCCC English Miscellaneous Reports & News published on December 28-29/18
Egyptian forces kill 40 suspected militants after tourist bus bombed
Arab News/December 29/18 /CAIRO: Egypt’s Interior Ministry said on Saturday that security forces killed 40 militants in three separate incidents in North Sinai and Giza, a day after a bombing on a Vietnamese tourist bus in Giza killed four people. Large quantities of weapons and explosives were found during the raids, the state news agency said. Militants reportedly planned attacks against Egypt’s security forces, tourism and Christian places of worship. On Friday, a roadside bomb hit a tourist bus in an area near the Giza Pyramids, killing two Vietnamese tourists and wounding 12 others. The bombing, less than 4 km from the pyramids, on the outskirts of Cairo, is the first deadly attack against foreign tourists in Egypt for more than a year and comes as the tourism sector, a vital source of foreign currency, recovers from a sharp drop in visitor numbers since the country’s 2011 uprising. The bus was traveling in the Marioutiyah area near the pyramids when the crude roadside bomb, concealed by a wall, went off. The wounded included 10 Vietnamese tourists. The other two wounded were the Egyptian bus driver and the guide. The ministry did not say whether the suspected militants were connected to Friday’s attack, but said its forces killed 30 people during raids on their hideouts in Giza where it said “terrorist elements” were planning a series of attacks targeting state institutions and the tourism industry. Security forces also killed 10 suspected militants in North Sinai, where the country is fighting an insurgency led by Daesh. State news agency MENA said that the suspects were killed in a gunbattle. The ministry did not give any details about the suspects’ identity or whether there had been any casualties or injuries among the security forces. The statement said the three raids took place simultaneously. Events such as the bombing of a Russian airliner shortly after it took off from Sharm el Sheikh in 2015, killing all 224 people on board, caused tourist numbers to Egypt to plunge. There are still no direct flights from major tourist markets such as Britain and Russia to the country’s biggest Red Sea resort, Sharm el Sheikh, since that attack. The government says fighting extremist militants is a priority as it works to restore stability after the years of turmoil that followed the “Arab Spring” protests of 2011. Egypt’s military and police launched a major campaign against militant groups in February, targeting the Sinai Peninsula as well as southern areas and the border with. Libya.

Iraq’s Grand Mufti: Celebrating Christian holidays ‘impermissible’ for Muslims
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Saturday, 29 December 2018/Prominent Iraqi cleric and Grand Mufti Abdul-Mehdi al-Sumaidaie said on Thursday that Christian holidays “like New Year’s and Christmas are impermissible” for Muslims, adding that those who celebrate “believe the Christians’ religious doctrine.”During his Friday sermon, at a mosque in downtown Baghdad, Sumaidaie said: “Do not join Christians in Christmas celebrations, because this means that you believe in their doctrine.”His statements caused an uproar in Iraq, with many calling for Sumaidaie’s removal, and for him to be prosecuted. The Cardinal of the Chaldean Church in Iraq and the world Luis Raphael I Sacco denounced Sumaidaie’s statements, adding that a person who adopts such speech is incomplete. Sacco also called on authorities to prosecute him. In his statement, Sacco also said that a man of religion, whatever religion it is, should call for brotherhood, tolerance and love, not division and sedition. Sacco called on the Iraqi government to follow those who spread this rhetoric, and prosecute them, especially when they do it from official platforms. “These are misconceptions, misguided and far from the correct knowledge of religions," he said. "Our peoples today need to deepen the common denominators in order to contribute to the achievement of coexistence, not treachery, atonement and incitement to hatred,” Sacco said. Recently, the Iraqi council of ministers approved Christmas to become a public holiday. This is the first time Baghdad has declared the event a national holiday, involving all citizens after being limited only to Christians for decades. Sumaidaie himself is the self-styled Grand Mufti of all Sunnis in Iraq. The pronouncements of the holder of such a post, though non-binding, hold significant sway over public opinion and behavior. The influential Sunni leader has close ties with the Iraqi government. He adheres to a particular brand of Salafism that strictly rejects individuals from renouncing their faith. He also commands two Sunni brigades in the Hashd al-Shaabi, the majority of which are Shia, some of whom are closely linked to Tehran. Many took to Twitter to denounce Sumaidaie’s statements, and called for his removal from his post.

US military: Syrian army not in Manbij
AFP, Washington/Saturday, 29 December 2018/The Syrian army has not entered Manbij, the US military said Friday, after Syrian forces claimed they had gone into the key northern city and raised the national flag. “Despite incorrect information about changes to the military forces in Manbij city, (the US-led coalition) has seen no indication of these claims being true,” US Central Command spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Earl Brown said. Manbij is a strategic city close to the Turkish border where Kurdish forces have been deployed since 2016. US and French special operations troops are also stationed there, assisting the Kurds, but the Americans will be withdrawing under a surprise pull-out announced by President Donald Trump last week. Brown called on all parties to respect the “integrity of Manbij and the safety of its citizens.”“Our mission has not changed. We will continue to support our coalition partners, while also conducting a deliberate and controlled withdrawal of forces, while taking all measures possible to ensure our troops’ safety and that of our partners on the ground,” he told AFP. The US withdrawal from Syria has sent Kurdish forces scrambling to find allies to fend off a possible attack from Turkey, which views the fighters as “terrorists.”The Kurds have welcomed a regime advance in Manbij province, a pragmatic shift in alliances that will dash their aspirations for autonomy but could help them cut their losses.

Lavrov: Russia, Turkey agree to coordinate on Syria after US pullout
AFP, Moscow/ Saturday, 29 December 2018/Russia and Turkey on Saturday agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria after last week’s shock announcement of a US military withdrawal, Moscow’s top diplomat said. “Of course we paid special attention to new circumstances which appeared in connection with the announced US military pullout,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Moscow. “An understanding was reached of how military representatives of Russia and Turkey will continue to coordinate their steps on the ground under new conditions with a view to finally rooting out terrorist threats in Syria,” Lavrov said. Cavusoglu confirmed the two countries would coordinate Syria operations, adding they also discussed plans to help refugees to return home. “We will continue active work (and) coordination with our Russian colleagues and colleagues from Iran to speed up the arrival of a political settlement in the Syrian Republic,” he said in remarks translated into Russian. Besides Lavrov and Cavusoglu, Russian and Turkish defense ministers Sergei Shoigu and Hulusi Akar also attended the talks.
President Donald Trump last week unexpectedly said he was pulling all 2,000 troops from Syria, declaring that the United States had achieved its objective as ISIS had been “knocked” out. The extremist movement has lost nearly all its territory, although thousands of its fighters are thought to remain in war-battered Syria. On Friday, Russia said it would host a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran on the Syrian conflict early next year.

Iranian university angry protest chants against Khamenei's advisor

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Saturday, 29 December 2018/A large number of students of the Islamic Free University in Tehran demonstrated on Saturday to protest the killing of 10 students in a bus accident. Local media reported that security forces were deployed in the arena of the Science and Research college. They also pointed out that the students shouted slogans against the adviser of the Iranian leader, Ali Akbar Velayati, and called for his trial because of his failure to run the university. A meeting was scheduled to be held today at the university to discuss the bus accident within the campus, but was postponed due to the demonstrations. The accident occurred last Tuesday when a bus carrying 30 students and a driver at the Islamic Free University deflected on the slopes of al-Barz mountains northwest of Tehran, leading to its collision with a concrete pillar, AFP quoted Iranian media as saying.
The university attributed the cause of the accident to the bus driver's heart attack, which was opposed by a large number of students and social media users, who are saying that what caused the accident are the old buses and the lack of road maintenance.

Yemeni government source denies Houthis’ withdrawal from Hodeidah

Reuters/Saturday, 29 December 2018/A Yemeni government source denied reports that the pro-Iranian Houthi militia had withdrawn from the port of Hodeidah. The source said that: “During a meeting on Friday, Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, the head of a United Nations advance team, handed over a memorandum to the parties requesting that the two sides provide, on Tuesday, January 1, 2019, perspectives on the ceasefire and redeployment mechanisms.” The source added: “During the meeting, the government’s delegation told the Dutch general Cammaert that they reject any measures or unilateral actions, emphasizing that any decision must be made through formal means and by approval from the UN redeployment committee.” The source confirmed that the Houthis’ statement on the redeployment in the port of Hodeidah is a clear attempt to maneuver around Sweden peace deal regarding the port which is not acceptable and is considered a violation that might lead to the deal’s failure.
Yemen’s government submits formal complaint to UN
The delegation of the Yemeni legitimate government submitted on Saturday a formal complaint to the United Nations on the announcement of handing over Hodeidah port. For his part, the head of the UN team acknowledged that Houthis did not hand over the Hodeidah port. Earlier, Al Arabiya's correspondent reported that the Yemeni government has not received any notification about the withdrawal of the Houthis from the port of Hodeidah. The correspondent confirmed that the legitimacy observed redeployment and repositioning of the Houthi militias in the province. As per the Sweden peace deal the Houthis must withdraw from the port and handover control to local units of Yemeni coast guards who were in charge of protecting ports before the war. These will be under UN supervision, according to Reuters. The Houthis’ withdrawal from the three ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Rass Issa is intended to be the first step in the implementation of the agreement. The agreement, the first significant breakthrough in peace efforts in five years, was part of confidence-building measures intended to pave the way for a wider truce and a framework for political negotiations. Hodeidah port is considered the entry point for most of Yemen’s commercial goods and aid supplies, and a lifeline for millions of Yemenis. The truce came into force on December 18. Earlier, the United Nations team - tasked with monitoring the ceasefire between the Houthis and the legitimate government - announced that the Houthis started withdrawing from the port of Hodeidah, under the Sweden peace deal, a UN official said Saturday. The official, who requested anonymity, said that the Houthis began to pull back from the Red Sea port at midnight Friday. (2100 GMT Friday). On Friday, al-Hadath news channel’s correspondent reported that an agreement was reached to open the eastern road (known as Kilo 16) which links Sanaa with the port city of Hodeidah and Taiz on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia destroys Houthi ballistic missile targeting Najran

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Saturday, 29 December 2018/The Saudi air defense forces on Saturday destroyed a ballistic missile fired by the Houthi militias targeting Najran, sources told Al Arabiya. There has yet to be a formal statement from the Arab Coalition on the incident.
The missile is the second to be launched by the militias within 24 hours, targeting Saudi soil. The launch of the Houthi missile towards the Kingdom comes in light of successive violations by the militias of the Sweden agreement. On November 2, Najran was also targeted by a Houthi ballistic missile, but Arab Coalition forces succeeded in intercepting it without any injuries caused. Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki had stated that the Houthi militias continuously attempt to threaten the security of the Kingdom, regional security, as well as violate international humanitarian laws.The Houthis fired more than 206 rockets into Saudi Arabia, killing more than 211 civilians and residents, as well as injuring hundreds.

Al-Assaf says his appointment unrelated to al-Jubeir's efficiency
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Saturday, 29 December 2018/In an exclusive interview with AFP, recently appointed Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ibrahim al-Assaf, said that his replacing of Adel al-Jubeir, former Foreign Minister and current Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, has nothing to do with his predecessor’s efficiency. “He (Adel al-Jubeir) represented Saudi Arabia and will continue to represent Saudi Arabia in many events and meetings and discussions around the world. My job will mostly continue on the structure of the ministry,” Assaf said. When asked about the reshuffling being a result of Khashoggi’s murder, he said: “My appointment and that of the others, and the reconstruction of the Council of Ministers, have nothing to do with the Khashoggi affair. Our position is very clear on that. But it is part of a unprecedented transformation of the country itself.”

First Gaza rocket in six weeks draws Israeli response
AFP/December 29, 2018/JERUSALEM: An Israeli aircraft hit a Hamas position in the Gaza Strip late on Friday in response to the first fire from the territory since a November flare-up, the military said. “An army attack helicopter targeted a Hamas military position in the south of the Gaza Strip,” an army statement said. It said it had responded after a “launch toward Israel” that Israeli media said was a rocket. Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas said the Israeli aircraft fired two missiles which damaged one of their positions but caused no casualties. It was the first rocket fire from Gaza since an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire announced on November 13 ended the worst flare-up around the territory since a 2014 war. In the space of 48 hours, hundreds of rockets and mortar rounds were fired into Israel, killing one person and wounding 27. The barrage followed a botched Israeli commando raid which killed a Hamas commander and six other militants as well as an Israeli officer. Seven Gazans were killed and 26 wounded in retaliatory Israeli air strikes before the cease-fire took effect. Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008, and mass protests along the border since March 30 have triggered deadly clashes with the Israel army that have raised fears of a fourth. During a protest on Friday, Israeli fire killed Karam Fayyad, 26, on the border east of the city of Khan Yunis, the Gaza health ministry said. At least 240 Palestinians have been killed since the demonstrations began, most of them by Israeli fire during border clashes but also by air and tank strikes.

Hamas Denies Sending 800 Gunmen to Egypt in 2011
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 29 December, 2018/The Palestinian movement Hamas denied Saturday accusations by former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that it had sent some 800 gunmen to Egypt to stoke unrest during the 2011 uprising that saw his resignation. Mubarak had appeared in court on Wednesday to testify in the 2011 storming of the eastern borders and jailbreak. Former President Mohammed Morsi and others are accused of orchestrating the prison breaks and breaches of the border. Mubarak testified that Hamas had sent hundreds of gunmen into Egypt through tunnels dug under the border with Gaza in order support the Muslim Brotherhood during the revolt. Morsi is a member of the Brotherhood, which Cairo has blacklisted as terrorist. Hamas on Saturday strongly rejected Mubarak’s allegations, condemning the “insistence” on dragging it in Egypt’s internal affairs.
Morsi is currently serving sentences totaling 45 years after being convicted in separate cases of spying for Qatar and on charges arising from the killing of protesters in 2012.

Offices of Khamenei, Rouhani Issue Inconsistent Reports on Protests’ Anniversary
London - Adil Al-Salmi
/Asharq Al Awsat/December 29/18/Less than three days after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani emphasized a role of popular protests across Iran in the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei responded through its weekly newsletter on the occasion of the protests’ first anniversary. The two sides agreed that the popular protests - in which demonstrators chanted slogans condemning the Iranian regime and burned Khomeini’s and Khamenei’s posters - led US President Donald Trump to meet his pledge of withdrawing from the nuclear agreement and take unprecedented measures against the Iranian regime. The US measures strengthened the conviction of various Iranian parties that Washington was intending to overthrow the Iranian political system. But the differences between the two leaders was on the timing of the protests. Rouhani said on Monday that the US withdrawal was the most important economic "problem" facing his government, and again blamed the popular protests that spread in more than 80 Iranian cities. Less than three days later, the weekly “Khat Hezbollah” newsletter, which appears on Khamenei’s official website, published a front-page photograph of a burning bus near protesters, with a title in bold stressing that the 2009 uprising was behind the US withdrawal. Rouhani has since last year been facing harsh criticism over the failure of his economic promises and the collapse of the value of the Iranian currency against the dollar. The riyal crisis grew months after rising inflation, which led to popular protests at the end of December. This is the second time in six months that Rouhani links the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal to the protests that took place in more than 80 Iranian cities, resulting in 21 deaths, according to the authorities. Uncertainty lurks over the real number of those killed and detained during the massive demonstrations. For three weeks, protesters burnt 65 offices belonging to Khamenei’s representatives in Iranian cities, as well as dozens of government buildings and courts. The demonstrators chanted slogans, criticizing top officials for their foreign policy and regional interventions and calling for the overthrowing of the regime. Senior Iranian officials, including Rouhani, sounded the alarm over the collapse of the public’s confidence in the regime.

Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 29-30/18
Palestinians should accept Trump’s peace plan and build on it

Ray Hanania/Arab News/December 28, 2018
Palestinians seem to learn more about their future from Israelis than from anyone else. That makes it easier for Palestinians to justify their policy of rejectionism, which represents their historic inability to achieve anything toward liberating their country.
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s extremist education minister, this week reportedly said US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” would propose the creation of a Palestinian state. Bennett, leader of the racist anti-Arab Jewish Home Party, vowed he would do everything possible to prevent that from happening. Of course, he does not need to do anything because as we already know, the Palestinian leadership will reject Trump’s plan first.
Instead of unveiling a peace plan that is dead on arrival, Trump would be better served if he first developed a strategy to empower a new Palestinian leadership to replace the feeble ones of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas.
They have tried to stand up to Israel’s continued atrocities and war crimes, but unsuccessfully and at great cost. Israel does not adhere to international law or shy away from committing war crimes against non-Jews. And because no one really holds Israel accountable, it can pretty much do what it wants.
The real cause of the weakness of Palestinian leadership is the rise of Palestinian rejectionists who hold sway over society through bullying and violence. Any Palestinian who dares accept a peace plan based on compromise would be targeted by these extremist activists who dominate Palestinians’ failed narrative.
They embrace a delusional ideology of turning back the clock on history and creating a single democratic state where Jews, Muslims and Christians could live as equals. But delusion works when dealing with people who are defined more by their suffering than their optimism.
The best Palestinians can expect is a foothold from which they can strengthen and rebuild their community, and narrow the huge gap that exists in the balance of power with Israel. What should matter most to Palestinians are sovereignty, statehood and real independence.
Even if the Trump plan only proposes Palestinian statehood in a limited area of the West Bank, that state could become the foundation for a stronger Palestinian future that would grow and allow its people to litigate toward equality.
What Palestinian leadership lacks is the courage to stand up to the extremists and rejectionists. Palestinians elected a government, albeit under the oppression of occupation, and that government has never had authority over its own people. Extremists have always managed to pull the rug out from Palestinian empowerment, preventing the PA from achieving anything except dismantling the Oslo Accords.
The extremists say the accords failed because they were flawed, but the truth is that the accords were dragged to failure in the wake of suicide bombings, extremist hatred, and the fanning of Palestinians’ emotions, leading them to national hopelessness.
Ironically, the accords are basically a blueprint of how Israel achieved its own independence. Israel had to fight to implement its existence. The UN partition plan did nothing but define an area. Israel took the proposed Jewish state and half of the proposed Arab state. Then it waited for the opportunity to take the rest, confident that it would do so.
Palestinians lack that confidence in themselves and their rights. They know how to yell, complain and reject. That is all the extremists will allow. But if by some miracle Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could stop looking backward and start looking forward, knowing that Palestinian justice is more powerful than Israel’s military occupation, he could initiate the first steps toward rebuilding his country.Even if the Trump plan only proposes Palestinian statehood in a limited area of the West Bank, that state could become the foundation for a stronger Palestinian future that would grow and allow its people to litigate toward equality. As we balance the field toward becoming equal, Palestinians will weaken the Israelis. Who knows what might happen in the future if there were two states? No one can predict the future, but you can look toward it and build, strengthen and empower. Instead of playing their normal role as rejectionists, Palestinians should embrace Trump’s plan and be strategic in moving forward, taking instead of saying no. They need to break from their all-or-nothing history. We cannot have it all, at least not in this generation, which always leaves us with nothing.
I would rather a small state serving as the foundation for a brighter future, than continue playing the role of suffering victims under an occupation in which we have absolutely no power and survive only on Israel’s whims. Take the Trump plan, shut down the extremists, look to the future, and opportunities will surely arise to make Palestine not just equal to Israel but even better.

Analysis/If Trump Is Beholden to Russia, Israel Faces Dire Danger in Syria
تحليل بقلم شيمي شاليفمن الهآرتس/سوف تواجه إسرائيل خطراً رهيباً في حال كان ترامب مديناً بشيء لروسيا

Chemi Shalev/Haaretz/December 29/18

The dynamics of deterioration are familiar: In 1970 the IAF shot down five Soviet jet fighters under disturbingly similar circumstances
The reaction of the Russian Defense Ministry to the alleged Israeli attack on Damascus on Wednesday was troubling in its harshness - but it didn’t stray from the stern tone the ministry has adopted since the downing of Russian spy plane over Latakia in September. Ministry spokesperson Major-General Igor Konashenkov warned last month against a “provocation” that will be carried out by “hot-heads.” He didn’t mention Israel by name, though it was clear to whom his warning was addressed.
The more that Russia is entrenched in Syria, the more it feels bound by its role as patron and protector. This is doubly true after Donald Trump’s announcement last week of the impending withdrawal of U.S. forces, which effectively ceded hegemony over Syria to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Moscow has no choice but to defend its lost honor whenever Israeli jets or missiles sow destruction in its protectorate and emerge unscathed. The humiliation is compounded by the fact that Russia’s much-ballyhooed retaliation for the downed plane, supplying Syria with advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
The ritual, which began before the downing of the plane but has turned more intense in its wake, is that the Russian defense establishment plays the bad cop, while Putin improvises: He can play good cop, silent cop or truly scary cop, depending on what’s needed. Putin doesn’t want a direct clash with Israel and may privately appreciate its help in degrading Iran’s presence in Syria. But there is a limit to his patience and tolerance, and after Trump’s officially handed over the keys, the bar is now set far lower
A scenario in which Israel crosses the Kremlin and its red lines, because of mishap or smashing success, is more realistic today than ever. Tensions between the two countries will flare, warnings will turn to threats, and the danger of a direct clash will increase dramatically. The dynamics of such an escalation are well-known to Israeli historians and participants who are still alive, because this is exactly what happened half a century ago, in a different world but under disturbingly similar circumstances.
On July 30, 1970 a task force of Israeli Mirage jet fighters shot down five Soviet MiG-21 jets, with Soviet pilots manning them, in an air battle over the Suez Canal. The incident was no coincidence but a planned ambush carried out by the Israel Air Force under the codename “Rimon 20.” Israel decided on the risky attack against a superpower in order to signal the Soviets that it would no longer refrain from attacking the Soviet-manned jets and anti-aircraft missile batteries that the Kremlin had dispatched to defend Egypt. Then too, Moscow found itself compelled to escalate, against its better judgment, after Israeli air attacks exposed the failure of the sophisticated anti-aircraft array that it had given Egypt. It increased its own military involvement in response to the damage to its prestige, as protector and as weapon-manufacturer.
The aerial knockout inflicted by Israel did not lead to further clashes, however, but it didn’t pave the way for the crushing blow that Israel had intended to inflict on the Egyptians either. The dogfight over Suez alarmed the Nixon administration, worried about getting dragged into a fight in the Near East while it was engaged in the disastrous war in the Far East. The administration pressured Israel to agree to a cease-fire, which was signed within a week. The clash was put off for three years, until October 6, 1973, during which Moscow improved and expanded both the Egyptian and Syrian air defense capabilities. The Yom Kippur War exacted a steep price: In three weeks of fighting, Israel lost 102 fighters, 51 on each front.
Those were the days of the Cold War, when the Middle East was one of several arenas in which the two superpowers clashed and competed. The administration in Washington could be distant and reserved toward Israel on any other matter, but its protection against direct threats by the Soviets was virtually guaranteed. It happened in 1967, when Washington made clear that if the Soviets carry out their threat to intervene in order to save the Syrian regime, the U.S. would declare war, and once again in the final days of the 1973, when similar circumstances brought the two countries to the brink of nuclear war.
The objectives and considerations of Putin in 2018 are not materially different than those of Leonid Brezhnev and the Soviet leadership in 1970. Following a hiatus of introspection that lasted close to two decades, starting with the collapse of communism and ending with Putin’s consolidation of power, Russia has once again adopted an imperialist strategy. It seeks to make the Middle East into a Russian sphere of influence. Control of the region is necessary, among other things, in order to serve as a forward post and as a counterbalance against U.S. forces in the Gulf and in Europe. All U.S. presidents, from Eisenhower to Obama, were forced to deal with containing Russia’s Middle East ambitions, each in his own way and own success, or failure. But no one doubted their commitment to fighting Russia off, until Trump became president.
Trump is still seen as a good friend of Israel, but the withdrawal from Syria has eroded the public’s confidence in the stability and reliability of his support. The exit from Syria has been interpreted as an expression of his isolationist tendencies and his wish to extract the U.S. from costly military interventions, as he promised during the campaign. During his Christmas visit to U.S. troops in Iraq, Trump presented his more transactional view of international affairs: Israel gets $4.5 billion a year, he said, as if that was the only nature and extent of support that Jerusalem could expect from its friends in Washington.
Questions of deterrence, projections of power, international leadership or the traditional Middle East view of hasty withdrawals as tantamount to cutting and running are either foreign to Trump or pale in significance in his eyes compared to fulfilling his “America First” ideology, which, it now turns out, could exact a steep price from Israel.
But it’s one thing to ascribe Trump’s withdrawal to his beliefs - self-centered and muddled as these may be - and quite another if his behavior, including the Syrian retreat, stems from a far more sinister place. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has yet to unveil a smoking gun pointing directly at Trump but what is already known is enough to raise suspicions that the president is beholden to the Kremlin in one way or another.
There’s no doubt that Russia devoted enormous resources and many millions of dollars to boost Trump’s candidacy and there’s no doubt than an inordinate number of his closest confidants met frequently with representatives of the Kremlin during the election campaign in order to advance the same goal. Even if Trump didn’t play an active role in a conspiracy to collude, he should certainly be aware just how much he owes the Russians.
Former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo said this week that the question of collusion is marginal anyway. The Russians examined the candidates and came to the conclusion that Trump best served their interests. After making the decision, they used disinformation and psychological warfare and deployed an army of cyber bots to distribute them far and wide. Given that only 70,000 votes in three states were needed to make Trump president, one can hardly discount the claim that were it not for Russia’s intervention, Clinton would now be sitting in the White House.
But whatever his true motivation, by any results-oriented yardstick Trump has proven to be a Russian dream come true, advancing the Kremlin’s interests as if he was a hired hand; He disdains allies, praises enemies, weakens NATO, bickers with China, revokes sanctions against Putin’s cronies and repeatedly hints that the West should come to terms with the invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea - never mind the division and demoralization that he sows inside the U.S. Throwing away the keys to Syria is part of the same trend. Under such circumstances, can one rely on Trump to protect Israel if and when it will face a direct threat from Moscow? Iran, maybe. But Russia?
Under such dangerous circumstances, Trump could turn out to be not the friendliest American president in history, as Netanyahu portrays him, but the most dangerous. Even if one accepts the contention that it was Obama who opened the doors for Russia to enter the Middle East or that it was Obama who first abandoned Syria, the 44th president frequently confronted Putin’s ambitions and pushed back. The fear that Clinton would continue the same line and even toughen it is what convinced the Kremlin to support Trump in the first place.
The detachment of America from the Middle East is worrying enough for Israel in the arena of its fight against Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, which all enjoy Russia’s patronage to one degree or another. But it is a clear and present danger if Russia knows that Washington won’t resist any pressure or threat on Israel: The void creates a clash that’s just waiting to happen. The Israeli army is strong and resilient but still a midget compared to Russia’s million soldiers, 3500 jets, 15,000 tanks, 55 submarines and thousands of nuclear bombs. For Israel, a direct clash with Russia is the worst of its nightmares, the sum of its fears. This is true in normal times and doubly so when the U.S. president cannot be relied on even during Israel’s most dire need.
As conservative columnist Bret Stephens wrote in the New York Times this week about the impact of Trump’s Syria retreat: “During the eight years of the Obama presidency, I thought U.S. policy toward Israel couldn’t get worse. As with so much else, Donald Trump succeeds in making his predecessors look good.”
In political terms, a confrontation with Russia could serve Netanyahu’s election campaign. It would enhance his image as Mr. Security while distracting from his legal complications. But it is a gamble nonetheless: Another run-in with Moscow could undermine Netanyahu’s claim to have reached understandings with Putin. Worse, it could shine a nasty spotlight on his total and potentially fatal decision to invest Israel’s all in Trump.
Such a perception could boomerang against Netanyahu on April 9, though one should always consider the possibility that the Kremlin has already evaluated the various candidates and decided that Netanyahu would best serve its purposes and interests. In which case, any loss of public support for Netanyahu for mishandling Israel’s global relations would be more than offset by legions of Russian cyber bots, sent out to spread lies and animosity, as only they can.

Analysis/Iran Showed Signs of Slowing Down Its Syria Activity. Then New Weapons Arrived in Damascus
تحليل بقلم عاموس هاريل من الهآرتس: إيران تظهر بوادر تباطؤ لأشاطها في سوريا ومن ثم وصلت أسلحة جديدة إلى دمشق

Amos Harel//Haaretz/December 29/18
Even though Netanyahu sought to declare the Hezbollah tunnel op over, the Israeli army will need at least a few more weeks ■ A false U.S. report shows just how fondly conspiracies are received in Israel.
Israel resumed its airstrikes on Syria this week, according to foreign reports. The reason was provided Wednesday night by a senior Israeli official who spoke with The Associated Press.
Over the summer, Russia promised Israel it would keep Iranian forces 80 kilometers from Israel’s border in the Golan Heights. In exchange, Israel promised not to interfere with the Assad regime's efforts to regain complete control over southern Syria.
But the Russians didn’t keep their promise. The Iranians are still active, especially around Damascus, which Moscow now defines as an enclave to which the deal doesn’t apply.
In the months since September, when a Russian spy plane was downed by Syrian anti-aircraft fire following an Israeli airstrike, Tehran seemed to have slowed its arms smuggling to Hezbollah and its military entrenchment in Syria because of Russian pressure. Israel therefore greatly curtailed its airstrikes.
But Tuesday night, a new Israeli strike was reported, apparently targeting a new arms shipment that had just arrived in Damascus. Russia issued a condemnation, but this was restrained compared to its demonstrative fury in September.
The Russians and Syrians also have other ways of responding. But the S-300 aerial defense system that Moscow gave Damascus following the spy plane incident wasn’t activated, and neither were the sophisticated systems the Russians have deployed in Syria. In a speech at a graduation ceremony for air force pilots, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We’re standing firm on our red lines, in Syria and everywhere else.”
The northern front will remain highly complex and sensitive in the coming year, as well. The strategic campaign being waged there is far from stabilizing.
This week, the Israel Defense Forces located and blew up a fifth assault tunnel dug by Hezbollah under the Lebanese-Israeli border. There will be at least another few weeks of activity against the tunnels.
But Netanyahu and ministers from his Likud party have recently insisted that the tunnel operation is almost over.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump is insisting that his decision to remove America’s 2,000 troops from Syria is the right one. Israel, he said Wednesday during his first Christmas visit to his soldiers in Iraq, will manage on its own. That’s what it gets $4.5 billion a year from America for.
A ludicrous report was published in the United States this week, claiming that the American withdrawal from Syria was coordinated with Israel to remove U.S. troops from the firing line prior to a major planned IDF offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Haaretz’s correspondent in Washington, Amir Tibon, checked this claim with officials in both the Trump administration and Israel and received categorical denials.
He then offered an interesting diagnosis: Given the enthusiasm with which this story was received by the right wing in Israel, there is fertile ground here for websites trafficking in conspiracy theories. If someone decided to set up an Israeli website similar to America’s lie-filled Infowars site, run by the charlatan Alex Jones (aliens, leftists and dark plots by our enemies), he could make a lot of money off it.

2018 - the year Iraq’s political battle lines were redrawn
Suadad Al- Salhyd/Arab News/December 29/18
BAGHDAD: Thousands of followers of Muqtada Al-Sadr gathered on a recent Friday evening in Tahrir Square, central Baghdad, to show their support.
They were there to praise the Shiite cleric, who has become a key power broker since May elections, for the way he has gone about selecting his preferred candidates for the ministries responsible for the country’s security. Men and women waved Iraqi flags and banners reading “our neighbors are our friends, not our masters,” a reference to Iran’s political and military interference in Iraq. Most recently this has been through Tehran’s efforts to impose its own candidates to run the ministries of interior and defense. At the same time, hundreds of miles to the south, another demonstration took place in Basra. Crowds gathered to protest against attempts by Shiite political parties to elect a new governor to replace the current one. As’ad Al-Eidani won a seat in parliament during the election and aligned himself with pro-Iran factions. But he wants to keep hold of the powerful provincial position, especially if he is unable to gain a cabinet post. The protesters had responded to Al-Eidani’s call for support and tried to raid the provincial council building as local leaders met inside to decide on his replacement. Stones and Molotov cocktails were thrown and riot police responded with tear gas and live bullets, allowing the council members to leave with no vote having taken place. It was the latest protest to hit Basra in 2018, where local and national level political tensions have spilled over into violence in the province. Basra remains desperately impoverished despite being the country’s main oil-producing hub. The two scenes in Baghdad and Basra encapsulated the tensions that engulfed Iraq in 2018 - a year in which there was a sea change in Iraq’s political dynamic that overspilled into violence on the streets of Basra. The main battle lines shifted from between the government and extremist militants feeding on disenfranchised Sunnis, to between two Shiite political factions, one pro Iran and the other anti.
A fresh start
Little more than a year ago, former Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi declared victory over Daesh after three years of battles against Iraqi security forces backed by the Shiite-dominated paramilitary troops and the US-led international military coalition.
Territories held by the militants in the north and west were liberated and the number of bombings in Baghdad and other provinces significantly declined. But what came next was a succession of political crises that exposed the vulnerabilities of Iraq’s political system.
“We can certainly define 2018 as the year of political crisis,” Abdulwahid Tuama, an Iraqi political analyst told Arab News. “As soon as the war against Daesh came to an end by the end of 2017, the political crises began to follow one after the other.”
Shiites, who bore the brunt of the war after tens of thousands volunteered to fight, have been acting as if they were “the actual winners.”They filled a political vacuum left when Sunni forces melted and let down their constituents during the 2014 Daesh invasion and Kurds in the north were left weakened by a failed independence bid, Tuama said.
New young forces emerged after 2014 under the command of Shiites to help win back Daesh-held areas - but this only served to set up the next power struggle. “The first sign of the post-Daesh period is the transformation of the nature of the political conflict in Iraq from a Shiite-Sunni conflict into a Shiite-Shiite conflict,” Abbass Al-Yassiri, the head of the Baghdad-based Ishan Center for Political Studies told Arab News. “Defeating Daesh has redrawn the map of the national powers as Shiites have emerged as the biggest winners while Sunnis and Kurds withdrew into the shadows. “The fragmentation of the Sunni and Kurdish political forces have forced them to join the powerful Shiite forces to grant them room in the Iraqi political scene.” The absence of political competition encouraged Shiite leaders to run separate lists for the parliamentary elections for the first time since 2005.
Three main alliances were formed. Sairoon, was sponsored by Sadr, whose followers once fought American forces in the country before he switched to opposing Iran. Al-Fattah was led by Hadi Al-Amiri, commander of Badr Organization, the most powerful Shiite armed faction, which is supported by Tehran.
Confident of a second term, Al-Abadi, put together the Al-Nassir coalition. The three coalitions reflected the military alliances created on the ground during the battle against Daesh. Emboldened by their role and military successes, the Iranian-backed forces came together under Amiri’s Fattah list. “They (Shiite parties) wanted to know the area of influence each of them held, so they were not keen to run for elections in one big electoral coalition,” a prominent Shiite leader told Arab News.“They have been saying, that they want to ally with each other, but actually they do not. “They seek to weaken each other to make it easy to subject the loser to the laws of the winner.”
Democratic progress or political apathy
The 2018 electoral campaigns were the most expensive and bitter since the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein. Allegations of sex scandals and threats were used as tools to exclude some candidates and discredit their electoral lists. Abadi and his candidates along with women were the most targeted. The fourth parliamentary elections since the 2003 US-led invasion were held on May 12, with more than 7,000 candidates taking part. There were no security violations across the country on polling day, but the even bigger surprise was the lack of participation, especially in Shiite-areas. The turnout was 44 percent, the lowest since 2005.  The results put Sairoon in first place, Fattah second and Nassir in third. Abadi, and his Islamic Dawaa Party, were the biggest losers and it was a bitter defeat for him to swallow. Abadi had restored a relative balance between the two main external powers vying for influence in Iraq - the US and Iran. He successfully invested funds provided by Washington and its allies into the Army and Counter Terrorism Service while also making use of Iranian support and funding for the armed Shiite factions, which represented the back bone of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) fighting Daesh.
His success in leading the country through one of its many dark periods and backing from the US still left him in the strongest position for prime minister. Amiri, on the other hand, emerged as a representative of the Iranian-backed forces. “The actual conflict was between the US and Iran not Abadi and Amiri,” Tuama, said. “Iranians saw Abadi as the man of the US who they can’t trust, so they had to clip his wings.” The surprise was the big win for Sadr.
Abadi launched an investigation into allegations of fraud, which found “large manipulations” took place in favor of some lists and candidates. The special committee he set up recommended suspending members of the Independent High Electoral Commission and a manual re-count of votes.
At the same time tensions started to increase between Sadr and the Iran-backed faction Assaib Ahl Al-Haq. As the winners and losers exchanged accusations of fraud and intimidation, a huge explosion hit an impoverished Shiite district of the capital on June 6, killing 32, and injuring scores more. All the victims were Sadrists. The investigation found the bomb had targeted a weapons store belonging to Sadr’s Brigades of Peace. In the private offices of many Shiite leaders, the fingers of blame pointed at Assaib Ahl Al-Haq. Five days later, a large fire broke out at a warehouse in east Baghdad, where the electoral commission had stored ballot boxes and electoral equipment. The blaze destroyed many votes, hindering the re-count in part of Baghdad, where most of the fraud allegations were made. Accusations of who started the blaze were again directed to Assaib Ahl Al-Haq.
“All the Shiite leaders and their international backers (Iran and US) were worried and they had to decide either to cancel the election results or continue monitoring the skirmishes between Sadrists and Assaib and risk the outbreak of fighting at any moment,” a prominent Shiite leader told Arab News.
“Chaos was the alternative in both cases, so going with the partial manual re-counting of votes, seemed a great deal.”In the end, the manual re-count did not change the results.
Summer of protest
As soon as initial results were announced in June, the winners started frantic negotiations to form new alliances to reach a majority in the 329-seat parliament. The biggest alliance can nominate the prime minister and form a government. The Shiite forces and their Sunni and Kurdish allies split into two camps, one led by Sadr and the other by Amiri. Although both managed to attract most of the parliamentary blocs, neither succeeded in collecting the necessary 166 seats. As tensions between political rivals in Baghdad escalated, people in Basra suffered through temperatures of 50C with no mains electricity. The already widespread outages became worse when Iran stopped exporting power to Iraq because of new US financial sanctions. Mass demonstrations took place in Basra in July against the outages and a break down in other basic services including clean water. The protests expanded to target the lack of jobs and high level of poverty.
Iraq’s economy relies entirely on the revenues from Basra’s oil. The province, which is home to dozens of local and international oil-related companies, puts out 3.5 million barrels per day. Protesters targeted local governmental buildings in the city center, and the oil fields nearby.
Some Iranian-backed factions such as Assaib Ahl Al-Haq and Kataib Hezbollah-Iraqannounced their support for the demonstrations, which spread to other parts of the province. Many tribes joined, and cut off roads leading to the oil sites and prevented the arrival of staff. By the end of the second week of July, at least eight demonstrators had been killed and scores wounded, including security personnel. Government and political party buildings were set on fire, as the demonstrations spread to other Shiite provinces. “There were multiple players trying to achieve different goals … the demonstrations were ridden by several Shiite political forces,” Tuama, said. “The strongest message that was sent was … the Iraqi oil sector is within the range of the Iran-backed Shiite factions.”  Abadi sought to calm the demonstrators by offering to provide tens of thousands of jobs and release hundreds of millions of dollars to fund infrastructure projects in the southern provinces that had stalled since 2014 because of the sharp drop in oil prices and the costly war on Daesh. he demonstrations were suspended “to give the government an opportunity to improve the basic services.”
Race to control parliament
The Federal Court ratified the results of the elections on Aug. 19. Negotiations between the two sides, now known as Reform (led by Sadr) and Al-Binna (led by Amiri), made remarkable progress, to form the largest bloc and agree on government’s program.
They also agreed to nominate the Shiite veteran politician and former vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi as an independent candidate to be the prime minister, ending Abadi's hopes of a second term. Without warning, the negotiations collapsed and the two sides announced they would work separately to form a government. Sadr’s arch foe, the former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, who many blame for staking sectarian tensions when he was in power, was accused of sabotaging the deal. “They were behaving like kids,” an Al-Binna’a negotiator told Arab News. “Whenever we agree to announce our alliance, Maliki appears in one of the television channels to say something that provokes Sadr, and the latter turns against us.”
Four months after the election, parliament had still not convened and Iraqis became increasingly frustrated that the politicians were again failing to tackle the long list of problems affecting their daily lives. There had been no real reconstruction in areas liberated from Daesh in the north and west and more than 1.5 million displaced people were still living in tents. The money released by Abadi had still not reached local governments, especially in Basra, where the terrible state of water had led to 140,000 cases of poisoning. Deadly protests erupted again in Basra, with government buildings and Shiite armed faction offices set ablaze. At least 10 protesters were killed. On Sept. 7 the Iranian consulate building in southern Basra was set on fire by protesters chanting against Iran and its interference in Iraqi affairs. The chaotic protests had dangerously escalated under unclear leadership and attempts to hijack them. With a lost purpose and lack of direction, local leaders and the tribes decided to withdraw. “It was clear that things were heading towards chaos, and that big players were directing the events (in Basra),” a federal Iraqi intelligence officer told Arab News. “The demonstrations were completely derailed.”
“The investigations we conducted later revealed that several regional and international players were behind what happened in Basra in those days. Even the demonstrators, some of whom were killed, were shot purposely by snipers.”
A new government
To stop the escalation and under pressure from Shiite leaders and the US, Sadr and Amiri agreed to resume negotiations. The two sides decided the only way forward was to join together under a single joint coalition. By the end of September, they had agreed on a parliamentary speaker, a president and the prime minister. Adel Abdul Mahdi presented his cabinet in early October to parliament for a vote, but a dispute erupted over the nominations over eight of the 22 candidates, including the proposed ministers of defense and interior. Falih Al-Fayadh, the national security adviser, head of the national security apparatus, and the head of Popular Mobilization Units, is at the heart of the dispute. He is also, and one of Amiri’s key allies. Sadr considers Fayadh a man of Iran, so he vetoed his candidature to be the interior minister. Binna’a’s leaders accuse Sadr of rejecting Fayadh because he turned against Abadi after the election. But even within Binaa there are many against his nomination. “Sadr rejects Fayadh because he is Iran’s candidate,” a Binna’a negotiator told Arab News. “Iran wants to reward Fayadh for aborting Abadi’s attempts to retain his position by giving him the interior ministry. “Iran also wants to ensure one of its allies controls the ministry of interior as it is one of the most important keys to control the security in Iraq.” Iraq goes into 2019 once again in a political deadlock. More than six months after the election, five ministries, including interior and defense are still unfilled and the new prime minister is under increasing pressure. Political uncertainty driven by external players like Iran and the US will continue to be a key feature, but hopefully for Iraqis, the country will edge away from violence and instability. Unfortunately, poverty, lack of electricity and clean water, and the unending corruption that drains the state coffers of one of the world’s biggest oil producers, will continue to hold back an improvement in Iraq’s daily lives.

A year Iran will not quickly forget
Camelia Entekhabifard/Arab News/December 29/18
The year that is now drawing to a close was full of surprises for ordinary Iranians, and for the regime that rules over them.
It began with unprecedented national protests that swept the country from late December 2017 and continued into mid-January 2018. Most shocking, perhaps, were the slogans demanding regime change. For the first time since the revolution in 1979, the name of the ousted Pahlavi dynasty was chanted loudly by Iranians asking for the late monarch’s son, Reza Pahlavi, to return and replace the mullahs. US President Donald Trump kept his promise to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama and President Hassan Rouhani’s team in 2015. In May 2018, after twice extending his deadline, Trump finally walked away from the deal. The market reaction to Trump’s decision, and the return of sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program, caused a fall in the value of the Iranian currency against the US dollar. Panicked Iranians formed long lines in front of the currency exchange offices to convert their rials into dollars. This extreme public reaction was an expression of a loss of trust in state institutions, and uncertainty about the future.  Today the regime in Tehran is confronted with serious challenges. It will not halt the spread of corruption, or refund public wealth spent on exporting the regime’s ideology in foreign military adventures. Politicians in Tehran face a crisis of legitimacy. Regardless of what the regime may claim, poverty, unemployment and the living condition of millions of Iranians are a real issue. Scattered protests form spontaneously around the country every day — sometimes teachers, sometimes laborers, sometimes people who have lost their savings in a bankrupt business. The year that is now drawing to a close was full of surprises for ordinary Iranians, and for the regime that rules over them.
Iran is a difficult nation to manage for rulers faced by such deep public anger against them and their supporters. At the same time, most Iranians do not know what the alternative would be if the regime changed. The current circumstances will continue in 2019, as Iranians are squeezed financially and the sanctions implemented by President Trump have a greater impact on people’s lives, with no indications of a change in behavior by the regime. I believe the real danger confronting the regime is neither the political challenges nor the legitimacy crisis, but their age. The foundation stones of the revolution and guardians of the establishment are senior clerics who are passing away one by one. They don’t even retire, since conservative replacements are hard to find. The most recent to depart was Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council. It was rumored that Hassan Rouhani was interested in that job when it became vacant in 2017, but Shahroudi was appointed instead. So even Rouhani, with his revolutionary credentials, was not considered sufficiently conservative for such a role. And let us not forget that the supreme leader himself, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is 79 years old. His succession will be one of the biggest challenges facing the regime in 2019.
*Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth (Seven Stories Press, 2008).

Four reasons Trump’s withdrawal is an error
Hafed Al-Ghwell/Arab News/December 29/18
Shifting tides in global geopolitics come with a number of developments that can be frustrating to keep track of, let alone account for their implications. The Trump administration has more or less upended what has been a traditional US role in global affairs, from needless trade spats to tense NATO summits and a haphazard Middle East policy. It remains unclear whether sudden policy shifts such as the decision to withdraw from Syria and pull some US troops out of Afghanistan have strategic aims.
Until 2000, US foreign policy had largely settled in the formation of coalitions with friendly governments for trade, security cooperation and/or creating bulwarks against aggressors. However, immediately after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush committed to a massive deployment of US forces to pursue Osama bin Laden. Although US military firepower decimated the Taliban’s control and influence in Afghanistan, peace and the establishment of a friendly Kabul government remained elusive.
However, the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan was only the beginning of a larger War on Terror that led to the invasion of Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Back in Afghanistan, far from winning hearts and minds, US policy abdicated leadership in favor of warlords and ethnic groups. As a result, potential stability became plagued by corruption and kleptocracy reaching the highest levels of power in Kabul. Unfortunately for ordinary Afghans, the US presence became synonymous with hardship and atrocities typical of an alienated citizenry — a boon for a weakened Taliban itching to regain its strength and vie for power in the face of increasing US disinterest.
The US has spent a staggering $1.6 trillion in the Afghan war effort and reconstruction — in perspective, more than twice the size of Saudi Arabia’s economy.
Even Daesh has managed to maintain a presence in Afghanistan and instigated terrorist attacks despite the presence of about 14,000 US troops. It is now estimated the Taliban is controlling more territory in Afghanistan than it did before the US invasion.
Thus, President Trump’s decision to suddenly start withdrawing 7,000 US troops is worrying, for Afghans and the Middle East. Despite the staggering human and financial cost of the war and the calls at home to draw down US military involvement in far-off countries, unusual influences may have driven Trump’s desire to pull US troops from the region.
US withdrawal will confirm the narrative of a global superpower in decline, and will make it more likely that allies and other states even beyond the MENA region seek new security arrangements.
In Syria’s case, withdrawing troops will go a long way to appease NATO ally Turkey, which has consistently objected to the US arming and training Syrian Kurdish forces which tied to the outlawed PKK. In Afghanistan, US officials have met and held talks with Taliban representatives twice this year in a bid to arrive at a peace agreement. Unfortunately, the Taliban declines to speak to the Kabul government.
Some US politicians, Democrats included, have welcomed Trump’s decision. Others, Republicans included, have been less amenable. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis went so far as to resign in protest.
There are some catastrophic implications of a sudden, swift drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan, Syria and even Iraq. First, Washington is likely to have little influence in the countries it withdraws from, making it impossible to control inevitable developments in the power vacuums left in their absence. Complete drawdowns in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq will probably lead to a resurgence of nefarious actors such as Daesh, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, turning already unstable countries into hotbeds for cross-border insurgency and terror attacks.
Second, a reduction in the US presence in the region will further entrench the conclusion that for all its wealth and military might, US power and influence is on the decline. This will feed into a potentially damaging narrative that the US will no longer be willing or able to deploy its military in order to secure its interests and those of its allies — a welcome development for the West’s adversaries and potentially troubling for US allies.
Third, it is likely that a swift drawdown will be interpreted as a victory for adversaries intent on driving the US out of these countries. As a result, it could increase regional instability.
Finally, US withdrawal will confirm the narrative of a global superpower in decline, and will make it more likely that allies and other states even beyond the MENA region seek new security arrangements.
In the meantime, the region can only wait to see whether the Trump administration will amend the policy or opt for an alternative solution that involves Russia, China, Europe and regional partners. This way, even if US troops are withdrawn, there would still be a formidable coalition that can impede the growth or resurgence of the elements that prompted US involvement in the first place.
*Hafed Al-Ghwell is a non-resident senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Institute at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He is also senior adviser at the international economic consultancy Maxwell Stamp and at the geopolitical risk advisory firm Oxford Analytica, a member of the Strategic Advisory Solutions International Group in Washington DC and a former adviser to the board of the World Bank Group.

The growing poverty of political debate
Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/December 29/18
As the year 2018 draws to a close, what are the trends that it highlighted in political life?
The first trend represents a growing global disaffection with international organizations to the benefit of the traditional nation-state. Supporters of the status quo regard that trend as an upsurge of populism and judge it as a setback for human progress whatever that means.
Today it is not the United Nations alone that is reduced to a backseat driver on key issues of international life. Its many tentacles, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, too, have been reduced to a shadow of their past glory. In the 1990s the two outfits held sway on the economies of more than 80 countries across the globe with a mixture of ideology and credit injection. Today, however, they are reduced to cheer-leading or name-calling from the ringside. Another significant trend concerns the virtual collapse of almost all political parties across the globe. Even in the United States and Great Britain, which have the oldest and most solidly established tradition of party politics, the system has been severely shaken
Political systems decline
The European Union, too, is clearly on the decline. Despite Pollyannish talk of creating a European army and closer ties among member states, the EU has lost much of its original appeal and faces fissiparous challenges of which the so-called Brexit is one early example. I believe that the only way for the EU to survive, let alone prosper, is to recast itself as a club of nation-states rather than a substitute for them. Less than a decade ago, the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas and the German Pope Benedict XVI claimed that the nation-state was dead and that in Europe at least, the way to salvation was a revival of Christianity as a cultural bond if not as a traditional faith. However, the trend towards decline has also affected almost all Christian churches, especially where and when they tried to cast themselves as political actors.
A similar decline could be seen in all other international groupings ranging from the African Union to the Organization of the American States, and passing by the Arab League, the Russian-led Eurasian bloc, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the South American Mercosur.
Another significant trend concerns the virtual collapse of almost all political parties across the globe. Even in the United States and Great Britain, which have the oldest and most solidly established tradition of party politics, the system has been severely shaken.
In the US the Democrat Party has morphed into a hodgepodge of groups from crypto Marxists to bleeding-heart liberals held together by little more than their common hatred for President Donald J Trump. For its part, the Republican Party, first shaken by the so-called Tea Party, has been reduced to second fiddle for the Trumpist “revolution”.
More divisions between parties.
In Great Britain, Brexit has divided the two main parties, Conservative and Labour, into three factions that could, in time, morph into separate parties. For at least two centuries Britain’s power was mainly based on the stability of its institutions and the ability of its political elite to meet every challenge with a firm attachment to the rule of law plus moderation. All that edifice has been shaken by Brexit. In France and Italy, insurrectionary parties have wrested power away from the traditional one. In France, the Gaullist and Socialist parties that governed the country for seven decades have been pushed to the sidelines by the Republic-in-March movement of Emmanuel Macron which, in turn, is now shaken by the “Yellow vest” insurrectionary outfit. In Italy, too, all traditional parties, have been driven off stage by populist groupings of both left and right. In Germany, the Alternative for Deutschland (AFD) has cut across the left-right divide to win a leading role in national politics. Even a well-established regional party such as Christian Socialist Union (CSU) is now in decline in its home-base of Bavaria. Within the year now ending, a number of mostly new parties forced their ways into the center of power in several European countries notably Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Holland and Sweden. Interestingly, the more ideological that a party is the more vulnerable it is to the current trend of decline in party politics. This is why virtually all Communist and nationalist parties have either disappeared or been reduced to a shadow of their past glory.
Separatist parties, including in the Basque country and Catalonia in Spain, have achieved nothing but an upsurge of chauvinism within the ethnic Castilian majority. Another trend that took shape in 2018 concerns the emergence of single-issue politics, replacing debate on large overarching policies, as the norm in many countries. Once again, Brexit in Britain was the most glaring example. Those seeking withdrawal from the European Union appeared prepared to ignore all other issues provided they could promote that single quest, not to say obsession.
The massive development of cyberspace has given single-issue politics an unexpected boost. Today, almost anyone anywhere in the word could create his or her own echo-chamber around a pet subject from Frisian secessionism to saving the polar bears from extinction, shutting out the outside world and its many other concerns. Here, the aim is to fight for one’s difference with as much passion as possible.
That trend is in contrast with another trend, promoted by the traditional, or mainstream media, offering a uniform narrative of events. Turn on any TV or radio channel and go through almost any newspaper and you will be surprised by how they all say the same thing about what is going on. Thanks to a sharp decline in field reporting, mostly caused by economic constraints, mainstream media today have to depend on a narrow compass provided by a few agencies and/or “citizen” journalists. That, in turn, encourages the growing belief that facts are nothing but opinions expressed in the manner of shibboleths.
All that leads to an impoverishment of political debate. The weakening of political parties, trade unions, international organs, and institutions like parliaments that provided platforms for debate and decision-making, has deprived may societies of both a space and a mechanism for the battle of ideas and the competition among different policy options. The bad news is that 2018 was not a good year for pluralist politics. The good news is that 2019 may expose the fundamental flaws of fissiparous populism.

Years end but crises continue
Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/December 29/18
It’s no longer good nor acceptable to repeat the various facets of Arab problems or study the phases of their transformation. This is because there’s simply nothing new to inform readers of, and there is also nothing which may bring hope, let alone a breakthrough.
Some frustrating cases exemplify what I mean for which I shall provide solutions, but they might appear as wishful thinking. Let’s begin with Libya. Towards the end of 2017, we were trying to be optimistic about the new approach, which the then-new international envoy Ghassan Salame had developed. The veteran politician and diplomat believed that the best option was to hold elections and draft a constitution. The French were excited about the proposition and had gathered several parties in Paris to meet in this regard. However, the controlling militias who fear elections intensified the unrest. Instead of trying to find a solution, they left Paris and headed towards Italy which had lost hope in a comprehensive solution and headed in the direction of sealing contracts with militias to prevent migration towards its shores. Italy thought France was chasing a mirage!
The year 2018 thus ends with Arab problems worsening. Solutions to these crises or even possibilities of solutions lie in the hands of the regional and international “others”
Salame still hopes to hold elections in April, but observers believe this is simply impossible. So what can be done? All militias must be eliminated and the UN must condemn Turkey for supplying Libya with arms. But who will assume this task? The national Libyan army supported by the Egyptians and the Algerians, and if a decision is required, the Arab League can make one. The national accord government in Tripoli can support the decision or can be silent because the matter depends on the will of the militias, just as is the case in Lebanon.
Twist in the Syrian tale.
By the end of this year, developments took a turn for the worst in Syria. Regarding, the US’ decision to withdraw its troops from Syria, those who want them to stay there think that the Americans have struck some balance vis-à-vis the Russians, Iranians and Turks. I have heard a Lebanese expert say that Iranians are the biggest winners and the Israelis are the biggest losers as a result of US withdrawal. There’s no doubt that the move will benefit the Turks and harm the Kurds. However, American presence did not bother the Iranians. I personally believe that the presence of the Russians and Americans together prevented the outbreak of a major war.
Therefore, US withdrawal from Syria may bring the war between Israel and Hezbollah closer. The Turks and Israelis both find themselves in the unusual situation of helping Bashar al-Assad. The Turks want to put pressure on the Kurds and the armed opposition under its control, and the Syrian regime benefits from this. If Hezbollah and the Iranian position weakens as a result of a possible Israeli strike, even then the Syrian regime benefits! It’s not clear if these scenarios will play out, but the American withdrawal will not bring the Syrian crisis closer to a solution. Meanwhile, no party has voiced its readiness to pay the cost of ending the conflict and of bringing back the displaced because if the Russians, Iranians and Turks handle finding a solution, the West and Europeans will not get involved in bearing the burden!
The still ominous Yemen
Let’s take a look at Yemen. At first glance, it seems that the settlement regarding Hodeidah is a positive development considering that it may mark the beginning of the end of war. However, I think the Houthis will not move further on this path, not because they are strong or because they are foolish but because moving toward it is the worst option for Iran right now. The US siege is suffocating, hence the latter wants to upset others by using the cards it still holds, which include Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. Therefore, the Houthis will have to revert to fighting no matter how much it may cost them. They may leave Hodeidah if they have to but it will be more difficult to end the siege on Taiz and get them out of Sanaa and some central provinces. They may have been forced to stop fighting now to catch their breath, but there’s one more month and there is little for the white thread to stand out from the black one!
Iraq, Lebanon in Iran’s orbit
The Americans and Arabs pretend to place their bets on Iraq and Lebanon. There are in fact different political parties in Iraq and their extent of loyalty to Iran varies. The core of the Iraqi malaise is not linked to this or that political party as they are mere mouthpieces and no more. The problem is that the entire Iraqi security is in Iran’s hands and its influence is not limited to the Popular Mobilization Units, but even extends to commanders of the Iraqi army, the federal police and counter-terrorism forces.
These forces guarantee control of Iran even if all politicians oppose it, which they do not. The current conflict over the ministries of defense and interior has distracted some observers from the fact that Maliki has overnight managed to get one of his famous supporters the post of Baghdad’s governor!
Lebanon’s situation at the end of 2018 seems more difficult than Iraq’s. There hasn’t been a functioning government for seven months now. At one point, forming a cabinet is obstructed due to Hezbollah’s pressure and at another it’s obstructed due to the president’s pressure. Meanwhile, quarrels escalate on the borders with Israel, either due to the excuse of tunnels or the excuse of missiles. The occurrence of war is a matter of time and depends on when Israel decides that a war is in its interest.
The problem is that there is an armed militia in Lebanon that controls major facilities and exploits them at the financial, economic and political levels and controls decisions of war and peace bypassing the authority of army commanders, the president and the prime minister. The Americans and Arabs which categorize Hezbollah as a terrorist militia have sought to choke the party at the financial and logistical levels and they also help the army. However, the army and the international troops have done nothing to enforce UN Resolution 1701 and keep Hezbollah away from the borders! Therefore, Lebanon at the end of 2018 is entering a state of desperation particularly, when it comes to its banking sector which has managed to overcome several crises before, but it seems it cannot withstand the dire situation this time.
Israel exploiting Fatah-Hamas row.
Hamas’ leader Sinwar in Gaza boasts of the great ties the group has with Iran. If it hadn’t been for shame (well anyway shame is not one of Sinwar’s traits) he would have also boasted of his good relations with Israel. Israelis know that a national solution and the issue of Jerusalem cannot be dropped, without toppling the Palestinian National Authority. Therefore, they have maintained a truce with Hamas which they view as a marginal problem for Egypt and not for themselves and focus on applying their pressure on the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Since Hamas hates Fatah more than it hates Israel, it has announced escalation of its operations in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Hamas has influence on a few hundred Palestinians, whom the Jews have driven mad! This is the situation of the Palestinian cause by the end of 2018. There is no conflict with Israel but a conflict between Fatah and Hamas. When Egypt tries to satisfy one party, the other party gets upset, and vice versa. Meanwhile, there are no solutions on the horizon for the problem between Fatah and Hamas, let alone for the Palestinian cause itself!
As if the exacerbating crises in 2018 and the past five years weren’t enough, unrest now threatens two more Arab countries, Sudan and Algeria. Sudan has needed reform since the 1990s. It had lost its unity and is about to be divided again. All this is happening because the current military governance does not accept sharing power and has not succeeded in providing development to the citizenry. In Algeria, the president has been unwell for nearly a decade and the military that is still in control continues to renew and extend his term. The economic crisis is worsening in this otherwise rich country because of mismanagement and unemployment that has risen to 30% among the youth.
The year 2018 thus ends with Arab problems worsening. Solutions to these crises or even possibilities of solutions lie in the hands of the regional and international “others.”

Mattis Resignation Not about policy, It’s About Values

Eli Lake/Asharq Al Awsat/December 29/18
US President Donald Trump's tweets Thursday announcing the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis by the end of February were polite and respectful. And it would be easy to attribute this resignation to a difference in policy: Trump ignored Mattis and went forward with a hasty withdrawal of US forces from Syria. It looks like Trump is about to do the same thing in Afghanistan. But that does not capture what has just happened. Just read the retired general’s resignation letter. In it, Mattis shows that he is thinking about something much bigger than Syria policy.
Here are some noteworthy quotes: “Our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships.” And: “We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.” And this: “We must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries.”Then Mattis goes in for the kill shot. “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”
The strong implication here is that Mattis no longer believes the president thinks allies should be respected. He is resigning because he does not believe Trump agrees with him that America should work to preserve a liberal international order. He is resigning because Trump is not as resolute and unambiguous with America’s adversaries as Mattis believes he should be. In other words: This is not about policy. It’s about values — and, according to his letter, Mattis no longer believes the president shares his values. That said, there are practical implications. On Wednesday, most Republican senators were furious in a policy lunch with Vice President Mike Pence over the substance and process of the Syria decision. Expect that rebellion among Republican senators to get hotter in the coming days as America’s Kurdish allies in Syria brace for a pending onslaught from the Turks.
Trump could have used Mattis to bring the Senate around to his thinking on Syria. He doesn’t have that option anymore.
The president’s supporters may still feel unfazed, even confident. Trump has burned through two chiefs of staff, two national security advisers, a secretary of state and an attorney general in less than two years. He has survived. This resignation, though, is different. As I wrote two months ago, Mattis provided Trump with a powerful shield. Whatever you thought of his views, Mattis embodied military virtue and the spirit of public service. As long as he served the president, reluctant Republicans could point to the Pentagon and say: If Mattis supports Trump, then so do I. They can no longer do that.

2018: The Year of Misgovernment
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/December, 29/18
The dictionaries have decided on their 2018 words of the year. Oxford picked “toxic.” Merriam-Webster went for “justice.” Collins chose “single-use.” I’d zero in on “misgovernment.” Surely, 2018 saw a staggering number of misruled countries.
The most egregious examples are in the news every day. US President Donald Trump tops the chart as he runs out of straws to clutch in trying to convince Americans that his election has been good for them. The stock market bump of which he was so proud is disappearing. The fiscal deficit is the highest since 2012. Trade wars notwithstanding, the trade deficit is at a 10-year high. The turnover on the presidential staff has reached catastrophic levels: 65 percent of Trump’s “A Team” had been replaced since his election as of Dec. 14, according to the Brookings Institution, and that doesn’t even include cabinet members (12 of the 24 officials in the cabinet have been replaced and now a 13th, Defense Secretary James Mattis, is leaving). Trump is having trouble filling once-coveted positions, and the officials he fired and those who have resigned are sometimes unconstrained in criticizing him — a situation that, were it to occur in a corporation, would have tanked its stock.
All this doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Trump has done. The damage he has wreaked on the US role in the world is only beginning to manifest itself. Almost everywhere (with a few exceptions such as Israel and South Korea) favorable views of the US are declining, and people are becoming convinced that the US doesn't care about other countries’ interests. Alliances are loosening and the multilateral world order is creaking.Almost as obvious is the misgovernment of the UK. Blind to the reality of disappearing economic growth, slowing business investment and a growing trade deficit, Prime Minister Theresa  May’s government has persevered in trying to pull the country out of the European Union and in fantasizing about withdrawal terms that the EU rejected from the start. Even beyond these two most obvious examples of mismanagement and incompetence, things aren’t looking much better. Last year, Emmanuel Macron of France looked like the Western world's great hope with his sweeping reform plans and a grand vision for a tighter-knit EU. He ends the year in retreat before what’s looking like the most effective Facebook-driven revolt in a Western nation to date, the Yellow Vest movement that started as a protest against a small increase in fuel taxes but grew into a violent anti-elite rebellion. Macron has undermined his reform ambitions by making concessions to the Yellow Vests worth up to 11 billion euros ($12.5 billion) a year, and his popularity hasn’t recovered, remaining at a dismal 27-percent approval in public opinion polls.
Another potential leader of the west, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, spent most of the year hobbled by an open revolt within her party, the Christian Democratic Union, and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union. The conservative rebels paralyzed the government demanding tougher immigration policies and forcing Merkel into exhausting backroom battles that left her drained, sometimes even apathetic. The Union performed badly in two important state elections, and Merkel was forced to give up the party leadership.  This was a year of chaos in other democracies, too.
In Spain, Mariano Rajoy's center-right government buckled under the weight of corruption scandals and the outgoing prime minister spent a whole day at a restaurant as Socialist rival Pedro Sanchez unseated him in a kind of parliamentary coup.
The shortage of competent, clear-headed, hubris-free leadership in today's world may be a freak accident. But if it's the new normal, living in this world will require new skills from ordinary people, too. Vigilance and easy mobility in case a country deteriorates intolerably are two of them; a capacity for constructive protest is a third. Bad leadership isn't just something we read about on news sites. It could signal the deterioration of institutions, both global and domestic, that shape our lives.

UK Welcomes Extremists, Bans Critics of Extremists
دوغلاس موراي: بريطانيا ترحب بدخول المتطرفين وتفرض حظراً على من ينتقدهم

Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/December 29/18
In November, it was reported that the Pakistani Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi, was unlikely to be offered asylum by the British government due to concerns about "community" relations in the UK. What this means is that the UK government was worried that Muslims of Pakistani origin in Britain may object to the presence in the UK of a Christian woman who has spent most of the last decade on death row in Pakistan, before being officially declared innocent of a trumped-up charge of "blasphemy".
One person who has had no trouble being in London is Dr Ataollah Mohajerani, Iran's former Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Mohajerani is best known for his book-length defence of the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa against the British novelist Salman Rushdie.
This week we learned that the UK government has allowed in a man called Brahim Belkaid, a 41-year old of German origin, believed to have inspired up to 140 people to join al-Qaeda and ISIS. His Facebook messages have included messages with bullets and a sword on them saying, "Jihad: the Only Solution".
It is almost as though the UK government has decided that while extremist clerics can only rarely be banned, critics of such clerics can be banned with ease. The problem is that the trend for taking a laxer view of extremists than of their critics keeps on happening.
Britain's idea of who should be allowed to travel to the country (and stay) looks ever more perverse. One person who had no trouble immigrating to the UK is Dr Ataollah Mohajerani, Iran's former Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, who wrote a book-length defence of the Ayatollah Khomeini's death sentence against the British novelist Salman Rushdie. Pictured: Salman Rushdie in 2015. (Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)
The British government's idea of who is -- and who is not -- a legitimate asylum seeker becomes stranger by the month.
In November it was reported that the Pakistani Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi, was unlikely to be offered asylum by the British government due to concerns about "community" relations in the UK. What this means is that the UK government was worried that Muslims of Pakistani origin in Britain may object to the presence in the UK of a Christian woman who has spent most of the last decade on death row in Pakistan, before being officially declared innocent of a trumped-up charge of "blasphemy".
Yet, as Asia Bibi – surely one of the people in the world most needful of asylum in a safe country – continues to fear for her life in her country of origin, Britain's idea of who should be allowed to travel to the country (and stay) looks ever more perverse.
One person, for instance, who has had no trouble being in London is Dr Ataollah Mohajerani, Iran's former Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Mohajerani is best known for his book-length defence of the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa against the British novelist Salman Rushdie. After the Khomeini's call on the world's Muslims to kill Rushdie for writing a novel, Mohajerani wrote a 250-page book, A Critique of the Conspiracy of The Satanic Verses, which justified the death-sentence. For more than a decade, however, apparently fallen out with part of the regime in Iran, Mohajerani has been living in Harrow, where he intermittently keeps up his campaign against Rushdie.
We have also seen time and again how extremist clerics such as the Pakistani clerics Muhammad Naqib ur Rehman and Hassan Haseen ur Rehman have been allowed to enter the UK despite their track records of supporting the murder of people merely suspected of having blasphemed against, or apostasised from, Islam. Nevertheless, while the UK government continues to allow clerics such as these to enter Britain, it develops an ever-growing banned list of people who are not Muslim but who have been critical of aspects of Islam. It is almost as though the UK government has decided that while extremist clerics can only rarely be banned, critics of such clerics can be banned with ease.
Some people might say that as it is 30 years since Mohajerani wrote his book justifying the murder of a British citizen, we should all let bygones be bygones -- as though advocating murder is the sort of thing anyone might do in a moment of weakness. The problem is that the trend for taking a laxer view of extremists than of their critics keeps on happening. The Canadian blogger Lauren Southern may not be allowed into the UK because she constitutes a threat to public order. Yet, this week we learned that the UK government has allowed in a man called Brahim Belkaid, a 41-year old of German origin, believed to have inspired up to 140 people to join al-Qaeda and ISIS. The British press this week discovered that he was able to settle in Leicester nearly five years ago after returning from Syria, where he is suspected of having supported terrorist groups. It does not appear that Belkaid has used his time in the UK to lie low or mull over his past mistakes. As his activities on the streets and on social media attest, he has in fact been openly continuing to preach and recruit for his radical version of Islam.
As The Times reported this week, Belkaid was photographed handing out hardline translations of the Quran to fans celebrating the local football team's victory in Leicester in 2016. He has also used his social media presence to call for the destruction of the USA and to promote his own extremist views as well as the views of other extremists like him.
His Facebook messages have included messages with bullets and a sword on them saying, "Jihad: the Only Solution". In another post, he poses smilingly with one arm on a carton of washing powder labelled "ISIS". By any analysis it is clear that Belkaid is doing in Britain precisely what he was doing in Germany.
There are several possible explanations for how such an insane policy could continue to operate in the UK. The first is that the British government does not know what it is doing, and that while it is unbelievably good at spotting Canadian bloggers who it thinks might pose some risk, it is just less adept at recognising the names, faces and backgrounds of well-known ISIS recruiters. That is one explanation. But it is the sort of explanation -- known in Britain as a "cock-up theory" -- which begins to run dry as a pattern develops. After all, to have allowed in one jihadist may look like an accident, to keep on letting them in looks like carelessness. Moreover, that this goes in tandem with the extreme strictness applied by the UK government to any critics of Islam who may be trying to enter the UK begins to look like a policy.
It is also possible that this is a policy decision. The British government may honestly have come to the conclusion that while Islamist extremism is a containable problem, the possibility of wider public "radicalisation" against elements of the Muslim community in the UK and worldwide is a much more serious one. To put it another way, they may have decided that the terrorist attacks in Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge, Borough Market, Woolwich and elsewhere are unlikely to be repeated, while Darren Osborne's solitary attack on worshippers coming out of Finsbury Park Mosque last year is part of a pattern.
Other than the "cock-up theory" or a general (if misguided) policy decision, it is hard to see what else is going on here. The decisions that keep being revealed to have been made by the UK border agency and the whole asylum and immigration policy of the UK government are so inexplicable that they are precisely the sort of thing to give rise to the most fevered and fetid conspiracy theories -- such as that politicians and civil servants are more afraid of being accused of "racism" than of letting Islamic extremists loose in the country. If the UK government wants to avert the spread of such conspiracy claims, it should act hard and fast. Specifically, it should be able to crack down hard to prevent people like Belkaid from being allowed to reside here. Curtailing such easy, open-and-shut cases would do an enormous amount to reassure the British public and to persuade us that although the UK's border agencies may not be perfect, at least they are not suicidal.
*Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England. His latest book, an international best-seller, is "The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam."
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The Other Intersectionality: Victims of Islamism
كنيث لافين: التقاطع الآخر: ضحايا الحركة الإسلامية

Kenneth Levin/Gatestone Institute/December 29/18
Censored from today's campuses is discussion of another, in various respects competing, intersectionality: That of the shared, intersecting, predicaments of today's victims of Islamist aggression, including terrorism.
Hamas's operatives have trained in Sudan and worked with Sudanese forces, including those that have been engaged in the Darfur genocide. This is the organization whose supporters are leading movers behind the campus intersectionality/boycott campaign and have become the moral arbiters of campus political correctness.
Of those killed at the Twin Towers on 9/11, 215 were black (136 men, 79 women). Other African Americans were murdered in subsequent Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks in California and Florida and elsewhere, and are as likely to be victims of future such terror attacks as anyone else. But work to prevent, and minimize the impact, of such assaults apparently counts for no more to Black Lives Matter, when weighed against promoting an anti-Israel agenda, than it does to SJP and other Hamas-linked groups.
The "intersectionality" promoted on campuses and beyond by Hamas/SJP and their fellow travelers seeks, in pursuit of its anti-Israel agenda, to distract attention from the Islamist onslaught, its ongoing savaging of populations in Africa, Asia and America.
The term "intersectionality" was coined by an African-American academic, Kimberlé Crenshaw, in 1989 to denote the circumstance of being the target of more than one bias. Crenshaw saw herself as the potential victim of both anti-black racism and misogyny, thereby living at the intersection of the two bigotries. In recent years, the term has gained prominence on many of the nation's campuses to signify something else: the supposed shared, "intersecting," predicaments of racial and ethnic groups -- as well as women and sexual minorities -- victimized by white male racism and its history of imperialism, colonialism, exploitation and slavery.
While one can fully acknowledge the depredations of European imperialism and its exploitation of non-European populations, one can also debate the extent of its current impact on non-European populations, women and sexual minorities. Except that one cannot debate it: In much of Western, including American, academia today, such debate is not permitted.
Similarly censored from today's campuses is discussion of another, in various respects competing, intersectionality: That of the shared, intersecting, predicaments of today's victims of Islamist aggression, including terrorism. Those victims are mainly people of color -- black Africans, Arabs, Kurds, Pakistanis, Afghans and east Asians -- but also many whites. They are mainly Muslims, but also include Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Druze and people professing no religion.
Why should these two intersectionalities, despite their different focuses on perpetrators and victims, be competing? Because allies of the Islamist assault have played a prominent part in promoting the campus version of intersectionality. Consequently, in the campus version, Israel is assigned a role that is the opposite of the one it actually plays in the world, including with regard to the other intersectionality.
The movement to try to destroy Israel by strangling it economically, through boycotts and the like, is largely the creation of supporters of the Islamist group Hamas, listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Department of State. The goal of the economic assault, often openly acknowledged, is Israel's annihilation. On campuses, the chief promoters of this agenda, members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), follow the lead of off-campus proponents and cast Israel as a European colonial state supposedly planted in the Middle East by the West to subjugate local populations and advance imperial interests in the region.
SJP and the other drivers of the economic attack on Israel have sought to broaden their ranks by invoking their brand of intersectionality: Members of all victimized populations, particularly people touched by European colonialism, ought to join together and rally to the Palestinian cause as the world's paradigmatic example of victimization. They ought to work for the ostensibly world-repairing fix of Israel's destruction.
Many others have pointed out obvious absurdities in the composition of this anti-Israel alliance: feminist groups supporting a cause whose chief adherents routinely abuse women and subject them to enforced subservience and widespread physical, all too often murderous, assault; LGBT advocates embracing those who uniformly mete out the most horrific treatment to LGBT individuals in their midst. But the disconnects from reality go further. It was the Palestinians who were, in fact, the beneficiaries of Western colonialism.
In the post-World War I break-up of defeated empires and creation of new states on former imperial lands, the League of Nations gave Britain a mandate to oversee re-establishment of a Jewish National Home in the ancestral Jewish homeland, formerly a part of the Ottoman Empire. Yet Britain, pursuing what it saw as its own colonial interests, worked to subvert its Mandate responsibilities to the Jews and instead advance Arab interests. It did so not least because it believed the Arabs would be more accommodating of British colonial policy. Thus, it fostered wide-scale Arab immigration into Mandate territory while repeatedly blocking Jewish access. In the course of doing so, and seeking to prevent Israel's creation, Britain betrayed its commitments to both the League of Nations and, subsequently, the United Nations charter.
Few, however, are aware of this historical reality, or the later history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Campuses have become purveyors of indoctrination rather than education. The promoters of the Hamas-linked effort to try to crush Israel economically, using the campus version of intersectionality as an anti-Israel tool, need not fear being confronted by an informed audience. In contrast, the other intersectionality, that of the shared, intersecting predicaments of the victims of Islamist aggression, is not a matter of history but of current affairs, of events that seep into public awareness despite efforts to downplay them. It therefore presents a potentially greater challenge to those on campus seeking to advance an anti-Israel agenda.
The head of the Islamist regime in Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, was first indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2009 on charges of genocide for his nation's mass murder of the Muslim -- but black, not Arab -- population of Sudan's Darfur region. Sudanese crimes against the people of Darfur continue, and al-Bashir remains Sudan's president and has been supported by the Arab League over the years since his initial indictment. Hamas, however, has done more than simply give political support to al-Bashir. Its operatives have trained in Sudan and worked with Sudanese forces, including those that have been engaged in the Darfur genocide. This is the organization whose supporters are leading movers behind the campus intersectionality/boycott campaign and have become the moral arbiters of campus political correctness.
Sudan, for more than half a century after gaining its independence, also waged an on-again, off-again genocidal war against the black, predominantly Christian and animist, peoples of southern Sudan. The Khartoum regime killed some two million of them before southern Sudan became a separate country in 2011. Through the last decades of this genocidal war, Hamas was again there supporting the Sudanese government.
Perhaps "Black Lives Matter," which has joined the Hamas-inspired anti-Israel/intersectionality bandwagon, ought to enlarge its name to "Black Lives Matter, Except When Snuffed Out by Islamists."
Israel, in contrast, supported the southern Sudanese during the years of their struggle to stave off the Islamist onslaught from Khartoum and has continued to help them as they address the difficult challenges facing their new nation.
As Islamist threats in sub-Saharan Africa have increased, other black African states, some with long connections to Israel, some with newer relations, have turned to Israel for help in their fight against Islamist terror. In recent years, these include, among east African nations, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania.
In 2015, a government spokesman in Nigeria, by far the most populous country in Africa, stated, "Israel has been a crucial and loyal ally in our fight against Boko Haram [the Islamist group that has murdered thousands of Nigerian Christians]. It is a sad reality that Israel has a great deal of experience confronting terrorism."Of course, much of that terror confronted by Israel has been perpetrated by Hamas.
The United States experienced its own encounter with massive Islamist terrorism on September 11, 2001. The majority of victims were white Christians, but also among the murdered were blacks, Hispanics and Asians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and followers of other faiths.
Shortly after 9/11, American officials, including representatives of local, state and federal law enforcement bodies, began reaching out to Israel in order -- like leaders in Nigeria and the nations of east Africa mentioned above -- to learn from Israel's painfully acquired experience in dealing with terror. This is another facet of the intersectionality that connects victims of Islamism.
To this day, groups of law enforcement officers, other American officials and emergency medical personnel travel to Israel or attend conferences in the United States addressed by Israeli anti-terror and emergency medicine experts. They do so to sharpen their own skills as they seek to anticipate and prevent terror attacks, to respond effectively when attacks occur, and to deal not only with policing challenges but also the emergency medical and other challenges presented by terrorist assaults.
As those in America who have participated in such programs attest, they have proven extremely valuable in actual responses to terror threats and terror events.
However, Students for Justice in Palestine, and other Hamas-linked groups and defenders of Islamism, particularly on campuses but beyond campuses as well -- in their efforts to defame and isolate Israel as a step in pursuit of the Jewish state's annihilation -- have sought to end such contacts and exchanges. As always, they turn truth on its head by asserting that Israeli police and military forces wantonly target innocent Palestinians and, invoking intersectionality, they declare that the aim and effect of cooperation between Israeli and American law enforcement bodies is not to help in the struggle against terrorism but to train American police to better target American minorities, particularly young black men.
SJP's camp followers in the intersectionality scam have embraced this line and also campaigned for an end to cooperation between Israeli and American anti-terror groups. Among those doing so is, again, Black Lives Matter. Of those killed at the Twin Towers on 9/11, 215 were black (136 men, 79 women). Additional African Americans were killed on the planes commandeered by the terrorists and at the Pentagon and were among the heroic first-responders who subsequently lost their lives due to medical problems contracted at the World Trade Center site on that day and in the days that followed.
Other African Americans were murdered in subsequent Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks in California and Florida and elsewhere, and are as likely to be victims of future such terror attacks as anyone else. But work to prevent, and minimize the impact, of such assaults apparently counts for no more to Black Lives Matter, when weighed against promoting an anti-Israel agenda, than it does to SJP and other Hamas-linked groups.
Similarly campaigning for an end to Israeli and American cooperation in fighting terrorism has been, shamefully, the organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which advocates the dissolution of Israel. Illustrative is the role played by members of JVP in leading a campaign in Durham, North Carolina, that resulted in the city council passing a resolution prohibiting any participation of the city's police force in joint programs with Israeli law enforcement bodies.
The Islamist assault is not going away. It will continue to claim its victims in large numbers across the globe. At the same time, the intersectionality of its victims, the shared, intersecting predicaments of its targeted groups, will continue to be reflected in nations working with Israel to learn from the Jewish state's painfully acquired expertise in dealing with terrorism.
The "intersectionality" promoted on campuses and beyond by Hamas/SJP and their fellow travelers seeks, in pursuit of its anti-Israel agenda, to distract attention from the Islamist onslaught, its ongoing savaging of populations in Africa, Asia and America, and the alliances with Israel formed by its victims. In doing so, the intersectionality of the campuses has become, in effect, an enabler and abettor of Islamism's depredations, including mass murder.
*Kenneth Levin is a psychiatrist and historian and author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.