February 02/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
If the world hates you, just remember that it has hated me first. If you belonged to the world, then the world would love you as its own. But I chose you from this world, and you do not belong to it; that is why the world hates you
John 15/18-26: "If the world hates you, just remember that it has hated me first. If you belonged to the world, then the world would love you as its own. But I chose you from this world, and you do not belong to it; that is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘Slaves are not greater than their master.’ If people persecuted me, they will persecute you too; if they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours too. But they will do all this to you because you are mine; for they do not know the one who sent me. They would not have been guilty of sin if I had not come and spoken to them; as it is, they no longer have any excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. They would not have been guilty of sin if I had not done among them the things that no one else ever did; as it is, they have seen what I did, and they hate both me and my Father. This, however, was bound to happen so that what is written in their Law may come true: ‘They hated me for no reason at all.’“The Helper will come—the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father. I will send him to you from the Father, and he will speak about me. And you, too, will speak about me, because you have been with me from the very beginning".

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 01-02/18
Lebanese president renews warning in gas field dispute with Israel/Najia Houssari /Arab News/February 02 2018
FPM, Amal call for restraint/Annahar/February 01/18
Middle East's Next Oil War? Israel Threatens Lebanon Over Hezbollah and Natural Gas/Tom O'Connor/NewsWeek/February 02/18
A War of No Choice for Israel in Lebanon/Israel Harel /Haaretz/February 01/18
With Nuclear Weapons, We’re Getting Too Comfortable Thinking the Unthinkable/Richard A. Clarke and Steven Andreasen/The Washington Post/February 01/18
The Real Mystery About Low Inflation/Ramesh Ponnuru/Bloomberg/February 01/18
The World Bank Is Searching for Meaning/Noah Smith/The Bloomberg/February 01/18
The 'Goodness' of Migrants: When Feelings Trump Facts/Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/February 01/18
Trump's SOTU Hit the Right Foreign Policy Notes - Now Comes the Hard Part/John R. Bolton/Gatestone Institute/February 01/18
The "Fake News" Crusade to "Protect" You from Free Speech/Robbie Travers/Gatestone Institute/February 01/18
The new Hitler of the Middle East/Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin/Al Arabiya/February 01/18
Getting into the saving habit in the Gulf/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/February 01/18
On deception and lies within the Iraqi parliament/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/February 01/18
On systematic ignorance during Islamic awakening/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/February 01/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on February 01-02/18
Lebanon Resorting to ‘Diplomacy’ in Oil Exploration Row with Israel
Berri-Bassil Crisis Hampers Government’s Work
Lebanon's Berri says government might stumble over tension
Hariri manages breakthrough through Aoun, Berri
Aoun promises to review road safety proposal
Velayati Says Iran to 'Continue Support' for Hizbullah
Aoun, Berri Agree to Meet, Put End to War of Words
Aoun Warns against 'Creating Atmosphere that Chimes with Israeli Threats'
AMAL, Hizbullah to Run in 'Unified Electoral Lists'
AMAL on Lieberman Remarks: Israeli Aspirations Will be Confronted
AMAL Urges Supporters to Stop Street Protests
Hariri Says 'More Needed from Int'l Community' as 2018 Refugee Plan Launched
Lebanon Says Will Pursue Oil Exploration despite Israeli Criticism
U.S. Defendant Says Slain Lebanese Disliked Him Because He's Gay
Hizbullah Vows to Confront 'Any Attack' on Lebanon's 'Oil and Gas Rights'
Army Affirms 'Situation under Control' after Hadath Shooting
Lebanese president renews warning in gas field dispute with Israel
FPM, Amal call for restraint
Middle East's Next Oil War? Israel Threatens Lebanon Over Hezbollah and Natural Gas
A War of No Choice for Israel in Lebanon

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 01-02/18
Iran Admits to Backing Terrorism
Trump Zeroes in on Iran’s Threats
New protests erupt across cities and towns in Iran
US may use force after Syria found to have developed new chemical weapons
Syrian Democratic Forces: 15 Turkish troops killed in attack north of Afrin
Syrian opposition: Transitional period needed in Syria led by governing body
Turkey Says France 'Cannot Give Lessons' over Syria
Polish Senate passes Holocaust bill slammed by Israel
Jordan cuts ties with North Korea “in line with the policies of its allies”
Nikki Haley: UN list of firms linked to Israeli settlements a ‘waste of time’
Macron Focuses on Democracy, Economy in Tunisia Visit
Files of 10 Terrorists Transferred to Egypt's Grand Mufti in Preparation for their Execution
Tariq Ramadan Remained in Custody over Rape Allegations
Saudi-UAE Military, Security Delegation in Aden
Statement by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister on escalation of violence in Afrin, Syria
950 Miners Trapped in S. Africa after Power Outage
Latest Lebanese Related News published on February 01-02/18
Lebanon Resorting to ‘Diplomacy’ in Oil Exploration Row with Israel
Asharq Al-Awsat/February 01/2018/Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Thursday that his country was using "diplomatic means" to counter Israel's stance regarding an offshore energy block that is disputed in part with Israel. On Wednesday Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman described as "very provocative" Lebanon's offshore oil and gas exploration tender on the countries' maritime border and suggested that Lebanon had put out a tender to international groups for a gas field known as Block 9 "which is by all accounts ours." “We should be aware to what the Israeli enemy is plotting,” Aoun told his visitors, according to a statement issued by Baabda Palace. "Comments by Lieberman about Block 9 are a threat to Lebanon and its right to sovereignty over its territorial waters," the president said on Wednesday. Prime Minister Saad Hariri also described as “invalid" Lieberman’s claims that Block 9 is Israeli. It “comes within Israel’s expansionist policies to undermine the rights of others and threaten regional security,” Hariri said. Lebanon last year approved the licenses for an international consortium led by France's Total, Italy's ENI and Russia's Novatek to move forward with offshore oil and gas development for two of five blocks in the Mediterranean Sea, including Block 9. Lebanese officials say the country will start exploratory offshore drilling in 2019 and say Lebanon wants to assert its resource rights along the length of its maritime territories.

Berri-Bassil Crisis Hampers Government’s Work
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/February 01/2018
Lebanese political officials are seeking to launch mediation efforts to resolve a dispute that emerged after the leaking of a video in which Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), called Speaker Nabih Berri a 'thug', stirring street protests by Berri’s supporters.
A senior ministerial source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and the head of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblat, were leading mediation to prevent an escalating crisis. The Director-General of the General Security, General Abbas Ibrahim, is assuming another a mediating role to prevent the country from sliding into street disputes, which would threaten stability. President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday that streets “have never been a place to resolve political differences.”“What happened in the past two days should not be repeated,” he stressed. In separate remarks on Tuesday, Aoun called for forgiveness, describing the recent events in Beirut’s streets as “a huge mistake that was triggered by a previous mistake.”“I am looking forward to seeing those who traded insults forgive each other, because the nation is bigger than everybody,” he stated.
In response, MP Ali Bazzi, from Berri’s parliamentary bloc, said the speaker has the “strength, courage and patriotism that prompted him to offer an apology to all the Lebanese who were harmed by these protests, even though everyone knows that neither Speaker Berri nor the Amal Movement had anything to do with what happened on the ground.”He noted in this regard that the speaker has been working during the past few days “to prevent movements and demonstrations and has contacted the security leaders through the security official in the movement (Amal), in order to preserve the interests of the country and prevent harming citizens in any region.”Berri also denied all rumors about the resignation of his ministers from the government and stressed, according to Bazzi, that such discussions did not take place at any time. The repercussions of the dispute have affected the government, which is temporarily “frozen”, according to State Minister for Planning Michel Pharaon. The minister said the government “in the last few days, has entered into the storm” but insisted that the disruption was “temporary”.

Lebanon's Berri says government might stumble over tension
BEIRUT (Reuters) /February 01/2018/Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Wednesday the work of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s government work could be obstructed by political tension, al-Manar TV reported, as a row involving President Michel Aoun showed no signs of abating. Aoun’s son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, was caught on camera calling Berri “a thug” earlier this week, causing protests in Beirut and gunfire near offices of Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) east of the capital on Monday. “The government will continue but it might stumble because of the current political tension,” al-Manar, controlled by the powerful Shi‘ite group Hezbollah, cited Berri as saying. The row has worsened a standoff between Berri, a Shi‘ite, and Aoun, a Maronite Christian, that threatens to ignite sectarian tensions in the run-up to a parliamentary election in May. The FPM said on Tuesday that Bassil had already expressed regret for the comments and that it regarded the issue as over. But Berri, in comments to MPs on Wednesday, pressed his demand for an apology “to the Lebanese” for “the insults that happened”. Berri and Aoun, both in their 80s, were enemies in the 1975-90 civil war. Berri and Aoun’s parties are two of the most powerful groups in the coalition government that was formed in 2016. Lebanon has suffered long periods of paralysis in government as a result of political tensions in recent years. “The constitutional institutions not the street are the right venues to resolve political disputes,” Aoun said on his official Twitter feed on Wednesday. Political tensions between Berri and Aoun have been rising since December when Aoun signed a decree promoting dozens of army officers without the signature of Shi‘ite Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, one of Berri’s closest aides. The row has shattered a rare moment of national unity that saved Lebanon from strife during the crisis over Hariri’s shock resignation in November, which he later rescinded. The tensions have also shaken Aoun’s ties with the Iran-backed Shi‘ite group Hezbollah, whose links to Berri and Amal run much deeper than its political alliance with the FPM, which was founded by Aoun and is now led by Bassil.
*Reporting by Dahlia Nehme; Editing by Tom Perry and Richard Balmforth
Hariri manages breakthrough through Aoun, Berri
The Daily Star/February 01, 2018/BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri Thursday facilitated a phone call between President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri where the two leaders discussed recent Israeli threats against Lebanon's oil wealth. Hariri made a phone call to Berri and then passed the phone to Aoun during a sit-down at Baabda Palace between the president and the prime minister. Aoun, according to the presidency's office, told Berri that Israeli threats required the political parties to turn the page on recent disputes for the sake of national unity. His remarks came a day comments made by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman regarding the south Lebanon exclusive economic zone’s Block 9. Lieberman Wednesday described a Lebanese offshore oil and gas exploration tender in an offshore block that is partly in disputed territory on the countries' maritime border as "very provocative." He urged international firms not to bid. "When they issue a tender on a gas field, including Block 9, which by any standard is ours ... this is very, very challenging and provocative conduct here," Lieberman said. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Hariri said that Lebanon would take necessary measures to protect any potential oil and wealth following threats by Israel’s defense minister earlier this week. Hariri also said that the relationship between Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri was heading in a positive direction. Earlier in the day, Aoun said that diplomatic means were already being pursued in face of Israeli aggression towards Lebanon’s oil and gas wealth. Aoun warned visitors at the Presidency’s Baabda Palace of the seriousness of the stance taken by the Israeli defense minister. He also raised concerns over Israel’s self-claimed “rights” to poach Lebanon’s oil and gas, and said Lebanon is working to confront these Israeli threats through diplomatic means, while stressing Lebanon’s right to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity by all means available. He pointed out Israel’s moves targeting Lebanon, warning against both internal and external sources “providing the right climate for Israeli threats to attack Lebanon,” a statement from the presidency office said. In December, Lebanon approved a bid by a consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s ENI and Russia’s Novatek for two of the five blocks put up for tender in the country’s much-delayed first oil and gas offshore licensing round. Lebanon has been vocal in asking for the U.N.’s assistance in designating a triangular, 870-square-kilometer area of disputed territory on the southern maritime border. However, Israel opposes the involvement of external mediators in the matter. A small sliver of Lebanon’s Block 9 sits in the disputed territory, although this does not mean any drilling would necessarily be carried in the contested area. In contrast, a large amount of Lebanon’s Block 8, which was not put up for tender with Block 9, falls inside the disputed territory.

Aoun promises to review road safety proposal
The Daily Star/February 01, 2018/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Tuesday received a delegation from the Youth Association for Social Awareness (YASA) road safety NGO to discuss applications of a national plan to cut traffic accidents. The YASA delegation, headed by its founder Ziad Ak, presented recommendations and a draft of a national plan to develop road safety in Lebanon. Akl called for the application of the traffic law passed in 2015 based on driving exams, especially Article 348 managing the entry of safety standards vehicles into Lebanon. He also demanded that state vehicles, municipalities and public institutions be obliged to follow the terms of the new traffic law. Aoun acknowledged YASA’s efforts, a statement from Baabda Palace said, and promised to follow up on their list of demands with officials concerned. He stressed the importance of awareness and the need for genuine willingness to comply with the traffic law. Aoun said the most crucial thing isn’t to simply add laws, but to adhere to them, calling on youth to be alert during driving to “avoid family tragedies that occur from time to time,” the statement added. NGOs complain that while the new law passed much-needed articles to bring Lebanon’s traffic laws up to date, authorities have so far failed to strictly enforce the rules.

Velayati Says Iran to 'Continue Support' for Hizbullah

Naharnet/February 01/18/Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday that Iran's influence in the region is “indispensable” as he stressed that Iran "will continue to support Hizbullah."“Iran's influence in the region is inevitable. Iran opposes the United States' policy in the Middle East and will continue to support Hizbullah and the Palestinians,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Velayati. In his speech to the international conference on supporting Palestine Intifada, Velayati pointed out that “Hizbullah in Lebanon has been supported by Iran and we are proud to announce that,” he said. “Hizbullah today is in a position that makes the Zionist enemy avoid a confrontation with,” he added. Velayati stressed that “Iran's presence in the region is indispensable,” stressing that Iran will stay “a decisive element in the region, we will continue this approach.” He also alleged that “Iran's presence in Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon came in coordination with the governments of these countries.”

Aoun, Berri Agree to Meet, Put End to War of Words
Naharnet/February 01/18/President Michel Aoun held phone talks Thursday with Speaker Nabih Berri amid an unprecedented row between them and skyrocketing tensions between their supporters. The phone call was held during Prime Minister Saad Hariri's meeting with Aoun in Baabda and at the premier's request, according to MTV. “Hariri called Berri and then gave the phone to Aoun to discuss with the Speaker the Israeli threats over the oil file and the need to convene the Higher Defense Council to discuss the matter,” MTV said. In a statement, the Presidency said Aoun's talks with Berri tackled “the issue of the repeated Israeli violations against Lebanon.” “The challenges we are facing require us to turn the page on what happened lately and to work hand in hand to achieve Lebanon's interest,” the statement quoted Aoun as telling Berri. The two leaders also agreed to meet on Tuesday to “mull the steps that should be taken to confront the repeated Israeli threats and discuss the general situations in the country.”Berri's press office meanwhile echoed the Presidency's statement and added that the two leaders agreed to put an end to the war of words between AMAL and the FPM. According to LBCI television, Berri “appreciated the president's initiative.” Hariri meanwhile announced after meeting Aoun that “God willing, things will become positive between President Aoun and Speaker Berri.” “The dignity of Speaker Berri is part of my dignity, the dignity of President Aoun and the dignity of the Lebanese people. I'm speaking in my name and in the name of the president,” Hariri said. “We are facing a major attack on Lebanon's oil resources, especially in Block 9, and Lebanon will have bold and clear steps in this regard,” Hariri added. The Aoun-Berri spat erupted after the president and the premier signed a decree granting one-year's seniority to a number of officers. Berri and Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil insisted that the decree should have carried the finance minister's signature. The crisis between the two parties deteriorated dramatically after the emergence of a leaked video showing Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil – Aoun's son-in-law calling Berri a "thug" during a closed meeting. The footage drew the ire of Berri's aides and political allies, who lashed out at Bassil, with Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil calling the foreign minister “lowly” and a “political dwarf.”The video also sparked three days of unrest and protests that involved gunfire and sectarianly-charged standoffs between supporters of Aoun and Berri outside the FPM's headquarters in Sin el-Fil and in the town of Hadath – an FPM stronghold.

Aoun Warns against 'Creating Atmosphere that Chimes with Israeli Threats'
Naharnet/February 01/18/President Michel Aoun on Thursday warned against “creating an atmosphere that chimes with Israeli threats,” a day after Israel claimed that an offshore gas field belongs to it and not to Lebanon. Speaking before his visitors, Aoun reiterated his warning of “the dangerous stance voiced by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman about Block 9 in the Exclusive Economic Zone in south Lebanon.”He urged “vigilance over what the Israeli enemy is plotting against Lebanon, especially that parties inside and outside the country are working on creating an atmosphere that chimes with the Israeli threats.”“Lebanon has moved to confront these Israeli claims through diplomatic means, while stressing its right to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity through all means possible,” the president noted. In December, Lebanon approved a first bid to search for oil and gas in two blocks off the country's Mediterranean coast, including one that Israel says belongs to it. Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said Thursday that Lebanon will sign agreements with the explorers -- France's Total, Italy's ENI and Russia's Novatek -- next week and would be ready to begin drilling by 2019.

AMAL, Hizbullah to Run in 'Unified Electoral Lists'
Naharnet/February 01/18/AMAL Movement and Hizbullah officials in Mount Lebanon and the North held a meeting Thursday and announced they will run in unified lists in the upcoming parliamentary elections, as they strongly denounced the foreign minister's remarks about AMAL chief Speaker Nabih Berri.
The interlocutors, who met at AMAL's headquarters, first “strongly rejected” remarks made by Free Patriotic Movement chief Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil about Berri. Bassil had called Berri a “thug” during a closed meeting in Batroun.
They also hailed the Speaker, saying he showed a “comprehensive and national role,” as a sort of “safety valve that enabled Lebanon and the Lebanese to overcome many obstacles and threats.”AMAL and Hizbullah praised the positions of political forces, social, cultural and civil society officials for rejecting Bassil's “rhetoric." They stressed keenness on “national unity,” highlighting the need to stop “sectarian instincts” from affecting the country's political and national entitlements. They also emphasized that Lebanon will stage timely polls and that they will wage the elections in unified lists.

AMAL on Lieberman Remarks: Israeli Aspirations Will be Confronted
Naharnet/February 01/18/AMAL Movement issued a statement on Thursday replying to Israel's threats about an offshore gas block, stressing it will confront the “Zionist aggressive ambitions.”“We pledge our leader Imam Musa al-Sadr and our leader (Speaker) Nabih Berri that we will always confront Israel's aggressive aspirations. We will exert strenuous efforts to consolidate national unity,” a statement titled The Ideological Battle against the Zionist Entity said. “Israel's greed in Lebanon's strategic location, natural reserves and marine resources are not new, but Lieberman's statement is. Israel wants to openly steal Lebanon's marine resources and is trying to gain an international legislation for that,” it added. AMAL leader has always warned of “Israel's plans to sabotage peace in the region,” it said. This is what made the party “insist on cementing the “sovereign” oil block in the south of Lebanon.”On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman described as "very provocative" Lebanon's tender on exploring gas in Block 9. This gas field "is by all accounts ours," the Israeli minister said. Lebanon in December approved a bid for offshore oil and gas exploration off its Mediterranean coast -- a vision for years hampered by political instability and domestic wrangling. That deal was awarded to the only bidder, an international consortium including France's Total and Russia's Novatek.Lebanese officials say the country will start exploratory offshore drilling in 2019. A major finding in Lebanon's southernmost waters could raise the possibility of a dispute with Israel, which is developing a number of offshore gas deposits, with one large field, Tamar, already producing gas, and the larger Leviathan field set to go online next year. There are over 800 square kilometers of waters claimed by Lebanon and Israel, which are technically in a state of conflict. Israel and Hizbullah fought a fierce, monthlong war in 2006.

AMAL Urges Supporters to Stop Street Protests
Naharnet/February 01/18/The AMAL Movement on Thursday urged its supporters not to organize any street protests, after the Free Patriotic Movement accused AMAL supporters of firing weapons in the air overnight in the town of Hadath, an FPM bastion.“The movement thanks all those who have expressed their condemnation and solidarity after the insulting remarks that were voiced against Speaker Nabih Berri,” AMAL said in a statement. And noting that “spontaneous motorized protests have led to some altercations that do not reflect the movement's image and stance,” AMAL called on its supporters to “halt any street action in order not to give an alibi to those seeking to deviate attention from the main iss. Several protests some of which involved road-blocking and rioting were organized across Lebanon over the past three days after the emergence of a leaked video showing FPM chief Jebran Bassil calling Berri a "thug" during a closed meeting in Batroun. The footage drew the ire of Berri's aides and political allies, who lashed out at Bassil, with Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil calling the foreign minister “lowly” and a “political dwarf.” The video comes amid an escalating dispute between Berri and President Michel Aoun over a decree granting one-year's seniority to a number of army officers.

Hariri Says 'More Needed from Int'l Community' as 2018 Refugee Plan Launched
Naharnet/February 01/18/The Government of Lebanon and its national and international partners appealed for USD 2.68 billion to provide critical humanitarian assistance as well as invest in Lebanon’s public infrastructure, services and local economy. “As we are entering the 8th year of the Syria conflict, Lebanon remains at the very forefront of this crisis. This unfortunately continues to have a profound humanitarian, socio-economic, security and political impact on Lebanon and its people. Also, the country continues to host the highest number of refugees per capita in the world which is placing unprecedented strain on the country’s infrastructure and public services,” Lazzarini said. He hailed Lebanon and the Lebanese for having shown “an outstanding solidarity with their Syrian neighbors.” Lazzarini added: “Also, the international community has supported Lebanon generously. In 2017, the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan received more than 1 billion dollars, making Lebanon the second-best funded response in the world – and this impressive international mobilization has enabled us to implement a multifaceted response serving both refugees and host communities.” Noting that “much has been achieved,” the U.N. official pointed out that “this has not been enough to reverse the tide of growing needs and deepening vulnerabilities across the country.”He warned that the situation is gradually eroding and humanitarian and development needs are growing: “76% of Syrian refugee households live below the poverty line and more than 50% of Syrian households live in extreme poverty.”“And we should not forget that 1.5 million Lebanese live below the poverty line,” Lazzarini added. “These are not just numbers and statistics, but human beings suffering daily. These people have names and faces, they have shattered dreams and fears – and they have hopes and dreams, - just like the rest of us. Among them, Riad Dibo, a Syrian refugee, father of 4 children who immolated himself in front of UNHCR office in Tripoli few weeks ago. This out of despair after he was dropped from the list of refugees eligible for assistance. Riad’s action was a direct consequence of the limited resources available. In these difficult times, agencies are forced to make impossible decisions to prioritize among those who need critical assistance,” Lazzarini went on to say.
He added: “Today we are launching the 2018 Lebanon Crisis Response Plan which is our key plan to support Lebanon overcome its challenges. The plan targets vulnerable Lebanese as well as Syrian and Palestine refugees. The Lebanon Crisis Response Plan appeals for USD 2.68 billion and focuses on integrated and innovative humanitarian and stabilization interventions. It brings lifesaving assistance to families, while supporting the delivery of public services all over Lebanon.”Hariri meanwhile noted that Lebanon “has shown hospitality like no other country.” “We are a small country, four and a half million people, four and a half million Lebanese who had the compassion, who had the honor to host those refugees and we will keep on doing that because we believe in human rights, we believe in humanity, we believe that those Syrian refugees ought to go back home one day soon,” the premier said. He added: “A lot has been said about the return of the refugees. My government's position is very clear, nobody is going to force anyone to go back if they do not want to go back.” “We will respect international law, we believe they should go back as soon as the conditions are right, we will work with the U.N. for that because it is the right thing to do,” the PM said. “I want to thank all the donors but I have to say that we need more from the international community... The international community has a responsibility towards these refugees and this responsibility has to be shown every year until this conflict is resolved,” Hariri stressed.

Lebanon Says Will Pursue Oil Exploration despite Israeli Criticism
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 01/18/Lebanon on Thursday pledged to do "everything in its power" to pursue oil and gas drilling off its coast, in response to Israeli accusations that such explorations were "provocative."In December, Lebanon approved a first bid to search for oil and gas in two blocks off the country's Mediterranean coast, including one that Israel says belongs to it. On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said awarding such bids amounted to "provocative behavior" by Lebanon's government. "They issue a tender on a gas field -- including a bloc which by all accounts is ours -- to international groups that are respectable companies, which to my mind are making a serious mistake since it's against all rules and protocol in cases like this," Lieberman said. Lebanese officials have fired back, with Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil on Thursday saying Lebanon would defend its right to drill there. "Israel will do what it can to block us from taking advantage of our oil wealth, and we will do everything in our power to defend it," Abi Khalil told a local radio station. Lebanon will sign agreements with the explorers -- France's Total, Italy's ENI and Russia's Novatek -- next week and would be ready to begin drilling by 2019, he said. Lieberman's comments on Wednesday have set off a firestorm in Lebanon. Hizbullah on Wednesday warned that it would "respond firmly to any attack on our oil and gas rights."And on Thursday, President Michel Aoun pledged Lebanon would "defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity by all available means."Lebanon is looking to tap potential oil and gas reserves after major offshore discoveries by neighboring Israel and Cyprus. On December 14, it approved a bid on blocks four and nine -- just two of the five that were offered.
Block nine is the disputed block with Israel.

U.S. Defendant Says Slain Lebanese Disliked Him Because He's Gay
Associated Press/Naharnet/February 01/18/A U.S. police officer has testified that an Oklahoma man charged with a hate crime in the killing of his Lebanese neighbor said the slain man didn't like him because he is gay. Testimony resumed Wednesday in the first-degree murder trial of 63-year-old Stanley Majors for the 2016 shooting death of 37-year-old Khalid Jabara. Tulsa officer Josh Metcalf testified Tuesday that Majors called Jabara "creepy" and a terrorist who disliked him because of his sexuality. Defense attorneys have tried to show that Majors was mentally ill and have said he feared that Jabara's family targeted him because he's gay. Majors has pleaded not guilty and was found competent to stand trial. Prosecutors say Majors shot Jabara after years of harassment that included calling the family "filthy Lebanese" and "Moo-slems." The Jabaras are Christian.

Hizbullah Vows to Confront 'Any Attack' on Lebanon's 'Oil and Gas Rights'
Naharnet/February 01/18/Hizbullah on Wednesday hit back at Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman over remarks about offshore gas, pledging to “confront any attack” on Lebanon's “oil and gas rights.”“Lieberman's statements are a new reflection of the continuous Israeli ambitions regarding Lebanon's resources, land and waters, and are part of the hostile policy against Lebanon and its sovereignty and legitimate rights,” Hizbullah said in a communique. “As we express our support for the stances of the three presidents and the rest of Lebanese officials against this new aggression, we reiterate our firm and forthright stance on confronting any attack on our oil and gas rights, defending Lebanon's installations and protecting its resources,” the group added. It was referring to stances by Lebanon's president, parliament speaker and premier and the Lebanese ministers of foreign affairs, defense and energy.
Earlier in the day, Lieberman described as "very provocative" Lebanon's tender on exploring gas in Block 9. This gas field "is by all accounts ours," the Israeli minister said. Lebanon in December approved a bid for offshore oil and gas exploration off its Mediterranean coast -- a vision for years hampered by political instability and domestic wrangling. That deal was awarded to the only bidder, an international consortium including France's Total and Russia's Novatek. Lebanese officials say the country will start exploratory offshore drilling in 2019. A major finding in Lebanon's southernmost waters could raise the possibility of a dispute with Israel, which is developing a number of offshore gas deposits, with one large field, Tamar, already producing gas, and the larger Leviathan field set to go online next year. There are over 800 square kilometers of waters claimed by Lebanon and Israel, which are technically in a state of conflict. Israel and Hizbullah fought a fierce, monthlong war in 2006.

Army Affirms 'Situation under Control' after Hadath Shooting

Naharnet/February 01/18/Supporters of AMAL Movement chief Speaker Nabih Berri opened gunfire shots into the air late on Wednesday in the Beirut's southern suburbs neighborhood of Hadath in protest to the foreign minister's remarks about Berri which compelled an intervention on the Lebanese army's part, the National News Agency reported. NNA said that AMAL supporters in four-wheel drive vehicles and several motorbikes drove into Hadath square and started shooting gunfire into the air. Supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement of Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil soon came to the scene carrying their own weapons. The Lebanese army intelligence deployed in the area and controlled the situation, it added. A security source who spoke on condition of anonymity told al-Joumhouria daily on Thursday: “The matter is very serious and the perpetrators must be punished particularly that what happened in Hadath not only targets the town but also targets Lebanon's stability,” he said. Municipal chief of Hadath, George Aoun, explained what he saw to the daily, he said: “A group of young men stormed the town hoisting flags of AMAL Movement and started firing gunshots into the air prompting people to be alert. We have made several contacts with AMAL leadership but they disclaimed the incident.”"The army was deployed in the area, and the young people who came to defend their town retreated after the army intervened and pursued the shooters” he said. The Lebanese army however has assured that the situation is totally under control. The unrest and protests of the past two days were sparked by the emergence of a leaked video showing Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil – Aoun's son-in-law – calling Speaker Nabih Berri a "thug" during a closed meeting in Batroun. The video comes amid an escalating dispute between Berri and Aoun over a decree granting one-year's seniority to a number of army officers. The footage drew the ire of Berri's aides and political allies, who lashed out at Bassil, as supporters of the Speaker's AMAL Movement blocked roads across the country and encircled the FPM's headquarters in Sin el-Fil.

Lebanese president renews warning in gas field dispute with Israel
Najia Houssari /Arab News/February 02 2018
BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun has renewed his warning against the “dangerous position” taken by Israel’s defense minister on Block 9, in what the president described as the “exclusive economic zone in southern Lebanon.” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Wednesday that “the gas field in Block 9 is ours by all standards,” describing the Lebanese tender to explore a gas field in the Mediterranean, including Block 9, as “very provocative.” Israel’s statement came a week before the Lebanese Ministry of Energy celebrated gas exploration contracts signed with a consortium of companies, including French Total, Italian Eni and Russian Novatek, in Block 9 in the south and 4 in the north of the Lebanese economic zone. In a statement from his press office, Aoun urged “caution to what the Israeli enemy is plotting against Lebanon, especially since there are those who are working at home and abroad to provide a climate which is in harmony with the Israeli threats to attack Lebanon and its right to develop its oil and gas wealth on various pretexts.”
Aoun said: “Lebanon is acting to confront these Israeli allegations by diplomatic means, while reaffirming its right to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity by all available means.” In a telephone interview, Lebanese Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said: “Israeli moves are part of an attempt to disrupt the work of the companies and intimidate them, but it will fail and we’ll continue on the path of exploration.”He added: “Drilling will take place in 2019, and the Israeli threats came on the day after Lebanon moved on this path to use its oil, which disturbed the Israeli enemy.” Khalil said: “Lieberman’s claim is erroneous. Lebanon demarcated its maritime borders in accordance with international law, and will use all means to protect its oil activities.”
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said in a statement on Thursday: “Those who believe that the Lebanese government is powerless are wrong. It will take all necessary decisions, and the Lebanese army and the Lebanese people as a whole stand behind it to defend our interests. The issue is not the number of tanks and planes; rather, it is an issue of national rights and international and Arab credibility which is enjoyed by the Lebanese people. (There is) great Arab and international credibility and great sympathy with the Lebanese army.”
The Lebanese Foreign Ministry sent a memorandum to the UN Secretary-General’s office on Jan. 18 about Israeli allegations on the rights of oil Block 9. The memo responded to a letter from the Israeli mission to the Office of the Secretary-General on Dec. 21.
The Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs published the memorandum, which stated that “the Lebanese Government strongly opposes the Israeli allegations and affirms that Block 9 is entirely located in the special economic zone of Lebanon and requests that reference be made to the geographical coordinates of the maritime economic zone between Lebanon and Occupied Palestine, which were sent by Lebanon to the Office of the Secretary-General on 14 July 2010 and on Oct. 19 2011 and clearly specified that Block 9 is a Lebanese property and is under Lebanese sovereignty. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs saw that “Israel ignores our letter sent to the UN on 20 March 2017, which included our unequivocal declaration that Block 9 falls within the Lebanese territorial waters and affirms the right of Lebanon to launch the process of accreditation, exploration, and extraction of oil or gas without prior approval or authorization from any party, and Israel is not entitled to interfere in any way in Lebanon’s exercise of its sovereign rights.”The State Department warned Israel and its trading partners, including Energean Oil & Gas company, if they decide to take advantage of explorations “in the so-called Israeli field No. 13 and Alon, where the Karish field is located” not to “take advantage of the Lebanese oil or gas through horizontal drilling or in any other way.”

FPM, Amal call for restraint
Annahar/February 01/18
Lebanon dipped into a political crisis after a leaked video of FM Gebran Bassil calling the speaker a “thug” while addressing FPM supporters in his home district of Batroun was broadcast last week.
BEIRUT: In an effort to contain tensions that have emanated in recent days, both the Free Patriotic Movement and Amal Movement released on Thursday separate statements calling on their followers to exert restraint, highlighting the importance of maintaining the country's stability.“We thank all those who stood in solidarity with Speak Nabih Berri in the wake of the derogatory comments aimed at him, but we call on our supporters to refrain from streets protests,” the statement from the Amal Movement said. In parallel, the FPM also released a statement asking their supporters to put an end to street demonstrations, as it “will have serious implications on our national stability and unity.”President Michel Aoun sought to quash the dispute as well, phoning Berri in order to emphasize "on the importance of turning the page and working hand in hand for the sake of the country."
Aoun also met with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, with both men discussing the latest political impasse to hit Lebanon.
Making his way out of the meeting, Hariri assured reporters that "the healthy relationship between President Aoun and Speaker Berri will be preserved, as we are all working on calming the situation." Meanwhile, the Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference in Ivory Coast will go ahead as planned, according to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry on Thursday, despite calls from the Diaspora in Abidjan to postpone the conference. “The first delegation from Beirut has already made their way to Ivory Coast to join the team from the Lebanese Embassy in Abidjan to prepare for the conference,” the statement read.
The ministry announced that delegations from across Africa reached the Ivorian capital, including representatives from businesses and banks supporting the conference. Thursday's statement from the ministry added that communication is ongoing with security forces to ensure all necessary measures are taken for the safety of the event.
"The ministry affirms the need for the Diaspora to dissociate itself from the internal political arguments in Lebanon, as arguments of this sort is what led to their emigration from their homeland in the first place," the statement added. Lebanon dipped into a political crisis after a leaked video of FM Gebran Bassil calling the speaker a “thug” while addressing FPM supporters in his home district of Batroun was broadcast by the “Al-Jadeed” TV station on Sunday. The leaked video sparked outrage among supporters of the Amal Movement who took to the streets to denounce Bassil’s remarks, blocking roads and burning tires across Lebanon. In the video, the foreign minister accused Berri of seeking to derail a diaspora conference in Abidjan by forcing Shiite businessmen to boycott the gathering. Bassil, President Michel Aoun's son-in-law, said Berri threatened to have Shiite businessmen participating in the conference fired from their jobs and the bank funding the diaspora gathering closed.

Middle East's Next Oil War? Israel Threatens Lebanon Over Hezbollah and Natural Gas
Tom O'Connor/NewsWeek/February 02/18
Israel has threatened to invade Lebanon amid a recent spat over natural resources and militant groups that, once again, raised tensions between the longtime foes.
Addressing the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University on Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Lebanon's latest plans to drill in a disputed offshore oil and gas field known as Block 9 were "very, very challenging and provocative," according to Reuters. In the same speech, the far-right minister threatened to wage a full-scale war against Lebanon if Hezbollah launched any attacks against Israel. The Iran-backed Shiite Muslim movement warned it would defend Lebanon's natural resources at any cost. "We reiterate our firm and unequivocal position in decisively confronting any aggression against our oil and gas rights, defending Lebanon's assets and protecting its wealth," Hezbollah told Newsweek in an email
Lebanon did not recognize Israel's 1948 creation, which caused a mass exodus of Palestinians and a regional war between the majority-Jewish state and its Arab, mostly Muslim neighbors. Israel has invaded Lebanon twice, the first time during the 15-year Lebanese civil war and a second time in 2006 in response to Hezbollah cross-border raids. In both instances, Hezbollah led the local resistance against Israel, which ultimately withdrew.
In the latest crisis, Israel has warned foreign companies not to invest in Lebanese plans to explore the Block 9 offshore oil reserve located on the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon. Lebanon awarded bids last month to France's Total Sa, Italy's Eni SpA and Russia's Novatek PJSC to drill for oil and gas in blocks 4 and 9 within Lebanon's exclusive economic zone, but Lieberman warned this was a "grave mistake" and "contrary to all the rules" because Block 9 belonged totally to Israel, Bloomberg News reported, citing an Israeli Defense Ministry statement.
Lieberman also threatened to respond to Hezbollah aggression with a "full strength" invasion, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. He vowed that "If in Israel they sit in shelters, then in the next fighting all of Beirut will be in shelters." These comments have been met with fury back in the Lebanese capital.
"We need to be aware of what the Israeli enemy is plotting against Lebanon, especially with the support of those who are working internally and externally to provide a climate of harmony with the Israeli threats to attack Lebanon," Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Thursday in a statement, according to Lebanon's official National News Agency.
"Lebanon will counter these Israeli claims by diplomatic means, while asserting its right to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity by all the available means,” he added.
Lebanon was still reeling from a dispute between supporters of Aoun, who represented the mostly Maronite Christian Free Patriotic Movement, and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, leader of the Shiite Muslim Amal Movement. Both former civil war foes were members of the pro-Hezbollah March 8 Alliance, but a new dispute emerged when Aoun promoted dozens of army officers without the approval of one of Berri's aides. It escalated when Aoun's son-in-law and party head Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil was caught on video calling Berri "a thug," as Lebanon's The Daily Star reported.
After massive protests rocked Beirut and beyond, Bassil apologized and Berri contacted Aoun Thursday in an effort to unite the two leaders in the face of Lieberman's recent warnings. They agreed to meet Tuesday to discuss the crisis. A day before, the National News Agency reported three Israeli gunboats violating Lebanon's southern maritime boundary near Ras Naqoura, citing an army communique. It would be at least the second such incident in two days.
Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, head of the majority-Sunni Muslim Future Movement that led the opposition March 14 Alliance, was reportedly present during the phone call between Aoun and Berri. Hariri, who himself was the subject of an international drama involving Saudi Arabia and his brief resignation in November, stood by the two.
"We are facing a major aggression with regard to Lebanon's oil wealth, especially in Block 9, and Lebanon will have clear and decisive steps in this regard," Hariri said Thursday in a statement.

A War of No Choice for Israel in Lebanon
صحيفةهآرتس الإسرائيلية: لا خيار لإسرائيل بل الحرب مع لبنان
Israel Harel /Haaretz/February 01/18
The quiet on Israel's border with Lebanon is an illusion of those who prefer to bury their heads in the sand- and as it continues, Hezbollah stocks up on arms almost uninterrupted
 The individuals who were responsible for the fiasco of the Second Lebanon War, together with most of the people who are evaluating its results today, make a claim that would appear to be unassailable: Israel’s military victory in 2006 may have been only partial, but time has shown that Israel achieved the primary goal of the war, many years of quiet on the northern border.
Anyone who is being honest with himself, however, knows that this is an illusion; it’s the quiet of those who prefer to bury their heads in the sand, and it came at a heavy price.Israel allowed Hezbollah to smuggle in more than 150,000 missiles and rockets into Lebanon. These include thousands of precision-guided rockets that, at the stroke of Iran’s fancy, could hit hundreds of strategic targets throughout Israel. They could cause thousands of casualties, destroy civilian and military installations and significantly debilitate the nation’s economy and morale, to name just a few effects. Most of these projectiles were smuggled in under Likud governments, that is to say on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s watch. “Silence is filth” and “give up blood and soul,” wrote Ze’ev Jabotinsky — (“my teacher and mentor,” Netanyahu calls him) — about this kind of quiet.
This false quiet on Hezbollah’s part doesn’t stem (solely) from Israeli deterrence; it is aimed at allowing the organization to complete its mission undisturbed: that is, to place in Lebanon strategic weapons aimed at Israel’s inhabitants and wait for the order.
Hezbollah rightly assumes that Israel, unlike it, would never indiscriminately hit a civilian population, certainly not in Lebanon, and would never “send Lebanon back to the Stone Age.”
In addition to Israel’s natural reluctance to commit such acts, Lebanon has an international layer of defense that falsely distinguishes between the country of Lebanon, which is ostensibly innocent of malicious intent, and Hezbollah, before which the state is helpless.
Hezbollah’s assumption proved Israel’s policy of containment has turned its citizens into the hostages of a cruel, unconstrained terror organization that is operated by a power filled with hatred for Jews which openly threatens to destroy the Jewish state with impunity. The sporadic bombardments in Syria of Iranian convoys carrying rockets to Lebanon are just pyrotechnics. They destroy scores of rockets, while hundreds and thousands continue to reach Hezbollah.
Israeli army headquarters is ready for D-Day, but refuses to admit, even to itself, the consequences of restraint: The longer the decision is delayed, the higher and more painful the price will be. And if we also “grant” our enemy the “right” of first strike, as is our wont, the price will be unbearable. What would a counterstrike achieve? After all, Israel has still not recovered from the national trauma of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
The Israeli government, preferring a sit-and-do-nothing policy — apart from an occasional slap here and there — has not gotten any closer to peace. On the contrary, its containment policy has allowed Iran and Hezbollah to prepare for war.
The moderate, cautious and defensive general staff — which during the past three wars in the Gaza Strip did not even pursue a victory — is a partner to this historical and strategic failure. Only recently, after a critical delay, were there signs of a change in direction. Statesmen and military figures are beginning to realize that the price of “and the land had rest [supposedly]” could exact a bloody price that the nation cannot endure. In such circumstances, everyone among us who is trying to block the measures that are necessary to avoid another national trauma by calling such steps “a war of choice” is making a bitter mistake. If their opposition is accepted, they and those they influence are liable to cause the nation an eternal tragedy.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 01-02/18
Iran Admits to Backing Terrorism
Asharq Al-Awsat/February 01/18/The top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei said on Thursday the country's leadership had no intention “to abandon” its support for Lebanon’s “Hezbollah,” the Syrian regime and Houthi insurgents in Yemen. "Iran's influence in the region is inevitable and to remain a key player in the region, this influence will continue," the adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, was quoted by Fars news agency as saying. Iran backs head of the Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad, Houthi rebels and “Hezbollah.”US President Donald Trump, who sees Iran as a rising threat to regional stability in the Middle East, has pledged to curb Tehran’s attempts to extend its influence in the region.

Trump Zeroes in on Iran’s Threats
Asharq Al-Awsat/February 01/18/President Donald Trump has summoned the country to a "new American moment" of unity in his first State of the Union and warned of the dangers from "rogue regimes," like Iran and North Korea. Trump's address Tuesday night blended self-congratulation and calls for optimism amid a growing economy with ominous warnings about deadly gangs, the scourge of drugs and violent immigrants living in the United States illegally. He also spoke forebodingly of catastrophic dangers from abroad, warning that North Korea would "very soon" threaten the United States with nuclear-tipped missiles. “Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups,” the president said. He also upped the ante in his stand-off with Iran, vowing US support for street protests against Tehran's regime. "When the people of Iran rose up against the crimes of their corrupt dictatorship, I did not stay silent," Trump declared. "America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom," he promised, to applause from assembled lawmakers. “I am asking the Congress to address the fundamental flaws in the terrible Iran nuclear deal,” he added. The president also highlighted gains made against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, while warning that "there is much more work to be done" in the war against the militants.

New protests erupt across cities and towns in Iran
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/February 02/2018/Protests have erupted once again in scores of Iranian cities and towns on Thursday, according to the network of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK). According to the MEK Young people chanted “death to the dictator” and “death to Khamenei” in Isfahan while people gathered in Enghelab (revolution) Square, and Azadi (freedom) square in the western city of Sanandaj and chanted “death to dictator.”Protesters clashed with State Security Forces (SSF) and set an SSF kiosk on fire, the MEK said. Authorities tried to disrupt the Internet connection in the city but clashes continued. Water cannons to disperse the crowd in Sanandaj. In Kermanshah a woman reportedly started the protests. “Death to Khamenei” was chanted when plain-clothed security officers began arresting protesters. Anti-riot forces who arrested 7 protesters in Kermanshah, were overrun by protesters forcing them to release the arrested, the MEK said. In Tuyserkan at Hamedan province, Zarin Shahr at Isfahan province and Rasht in northern Iran clashes between people and security forces also erupted. Despite the cold weather in Zarin Shahr and heavy presence of security forces, an anti-regime gathering took place at the main mosque of Masjed Azam where people chanted “Death to Khomeini, death to Khamenei”.

US may use force after Syria found to have developed new chemical weapons
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English /February 01/2018/The Trump administration says that they reserve right to take military action against the Syrian government if needed to prevent or deter use of chemical weapons. Senior officials said that the recent chemical attacks in Syria suggest Assad’s forces may be developing new weapons. The characteristics of recent alleged attacks suggest Syria is producing chemical weapons despite a 2013 deal to destroy its program. The officials say it's "highly likely" that Syria kept a stockpile of weapons. The officials also say Syria may be making new kinds of weapons, either to improve their military capability or to escape international accountability. The officials also say the Islamic State group keeps using chemical weapons such as sulfur mustard and chlorine. The officials say the militants are using shells or improvised explosive devices to deliver the chemicals.
The officials weren't authorized to discuss the assessment on the record and briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. (With The Associated Press and Reuters)

Syrian Democratic Forces: 15 Turkish troops killed in attack north of Afrin
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/February 01/2018/The Syrian Democratic Forces’ media center said its members carried out an attack against Turkish troops in the town of Buki, north of Afrin, and killed 15 soldiers and injured others.It added that they launched another attack on the town of Khalil and killed at least three Turkish soldiers and destroyed two vehicles loaded with explosives. Neither Turkey nor any other Syrian opposition group confirmed these reports. Meanwhile, Turkish fighters shelled the People’s Protection Units in Dermak Mountain in Afrin, the Anadolu Agency reported. The Turkish army continues to bring reinforcements to its units that are deployed on the borders with Syria. Turkish army forces and Free Syrian Army troops also seized control of the Ayn Batman Mountain, in northeast Afrin, of the Qorna Mountain and of the town of Bak Obasi.

Syrian opposition: Transitional period needed in Syria led by governing body
Staff Writer, Al Arabiya English /February 01/ 2018/Syria’s High Negotiations Commission called for a transitional period led by a transitional governing body with executive power, stressing the importance of finding a comprehensive solution to the Syrian crisis. “We will continue to work in this spirit for a democratic State and the eradication of terrorism,” the commission’s head, Naser al-Hariri, said in a press conference in Istanbul on Thursday. He added that any dialogue between the factions of the Syrian people must be at their will, and that “the dialogue must be away from the criminals and the regime of tyranny, not for its benefit.”He said that the opposition is ready and willing to discuss all issues related to UN resolution 2254 which calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria. Hariri also welcomed statements made by Stefan De Mistura in the Sochi talks, saying that the outputs of the Sochi conference should be delivered to the UN and be in line with international resolutions. He added that the commission did not officially participate in Sochi, but some opposition individuals participated at their own personal will, not in the name of the opposition commission. Hariri considered the Geneva talks as the main platform to solve the Syrian crisis, and the main problem was to apply a ceasefire. On Thursday, the UN’s Jan Egeland, the Special Advisor to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, said that the situation in Idlib is “screaming for a ceasefire” and that Russia, Turkey and Iran need to ensure that there is a de-escalation. He added that Syrian government cooperation on humanitarian aid is at an all-time low since the humanitarian taskforce began in 2015. He said that humanitarian diplomacy in Syria “seems to be totally impotent.”

Turkey Says France 'Cannot Give Lessons' over Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 01/18/Turkey on Thursday told France to refrain from giving "lessons" over its campaign in Syria, where Ankara is pressing a fierce offensive against Kurdish militia. The warning from Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu came a day after French President Emmanuel Macron told Ankara that it would be a "real problem" if its intervention turned into an outright "invasion". "France cannot give us lessons on this issue," Cavusoglu told reporters in televised comments. "We are not France, which occupied Africa," Cavusoglu added, referring to France's colonial past. Turkey launched an offensive on January 20 against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week threatening to expand the operation, straining relations with Ankara's NATO allies. Turkey says the YPG is a terror organisation allied to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). But the United States has backed the YPG as a key secular ally in the fight against the Islamic State group. "Unfortunately Europeans are two-faced," Cavusoglu said. He claimed that European leaders had expressed support for Turkey's campaign in Syria during talks with Ankara, but that they had changed their stance in subsequent public comments. Reacting to Macron's remarks, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Wednesday that any suggestion that Ankara had broader designs in Syria, beyond pushing the YPG back from the border, was "totally wrong". "The whole world knows, or should know, that Turkey is not engaged in an invasion," he said, comparing Ankara's operation "Olive Branch" with a seven-month cross-border offensive in 2016/2017 against both Kurdish militia and IS extremists.

Polish Senate passes Holocaust bill slammed by Israel
AFP, Warsaw/February 01/18/Poland’s senate on Thursday passed a controversial Holocaust bill, which was designed to defend the country’s image abroad but has instead sparked a diplomatic row with Israel. The bill, which sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as Polish or accuses Poland of complicity in the Third Reich’s crimes, was approved by 57 votes to 23 in the upper house of parliament, with two abstentions. Israel had earlier called for the bill to be dropped, seeing one of its provisions as an attempt to deny Polish involvement in Nazi Germany’s extermination of Jews. “We have no tolerance for the distortion of the truth and rewriting history or denying the Holocaust,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. The lower house of parliament, which like the senate is controlled by the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, had passed the bill on Friday -- triggering the protest from abroad. Knesset lawmakers penned a proposed bill of their own Wednesday amending Israel’s law regarding Holocaust denial, so that diminishing or denying the role of those who aided the Nazis in crimes against Jews would be punishable with jail.
Before the vote on the Polish bill, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert expressed “concern” that “if enacted this draft legislation could undermine free speech and academic discourse”. “We are also concerned about the repercussions this draft legislation... could have on Poland’s strategic interests and relationships -- including with the United States and Israel,” she added. The bill was approved by 57 votes to 23 in the upper house of parliament, with two abstentions. (AP)
‘Right to defend’
To take effect, the legislation still needs to be signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda, who has 21 days to do so. In theory he could veto the bill but on Monday he said: “We absolutely can’t back down, we have the right to defend the historical truth.”He added that he was “flabbergasted” by Israel’s “violent and very unfavorable reaction”. Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II, losing six million of its citizens including three million Jews.
Muslim World League: Holocaust is a crime that no one can deny or undermine
Helping Jews, even offering them a glass of water, was punishable by death in occupied Poland. More than 6,700 Poles -- outnumbering any other nationality -- have been honored as “Righteous Among the Nations”, a title given to non-Jews who stood up to the Nazis, by Jerusalem’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem said it opposes the Polish bill, as it “is liable to blur the historical truths regarding the assistance the Germans received from the Polish population during the Holocaust”. But it added that to refer to the extermination camps the Nazis built in Poland as Polish is “a historical misrepresentation”. American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris urged Polish leaders “to withdraw the legislation and focus on education, not criminalization, about inaccurate and harmful speech”.

Jordan cuts ties with North Korea “in line with the policies of its allies”

AFP, Amman Thursday/February 01/2018/US ally Jordan has cut diplomatic ties with North Korea “in line with the policies of its allies”, a government source said on Thursday. The decision comes months after similar moves by Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, who are also key regional allies of the United States. In November, the US called on all countries to cut off trade and diplomatic ties with North Korea after it carried out a series of weapons test, including intercontinental ballistic missiles that brought the US mainland into range. The Jordanian government source acknowledged that relations between Pyongyang and Amman were “never very strong” but said ties were cut “in line with the policies of Jordan’s allies”. The decision was ratified by a royal decree, according to the government’s website. Jordan is a key recipient of American financial and military aid. Last year, the United States allocated $470 million to Jordan’s army and air force, the American embassy said. Three years ago, Washington said it would increase overall US assistance to Jordan from $660 million to $1 billion annually for between 2015 and 2017. In October the United Arab Emirates said it had stopped issuing visas to North Korean nationals and downgraded relations with Pyongyang, following similar moves by Qatar and Kuwait.

Nikki Haley: UN list of firms linked to Israeli settlements a ‘waste of time’
AFP, United Nations/February 01/2018/US Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday slammed a UN report on 206 companies with ties to Israeli settlements as “a waste of time and resources” that showed an “anti-Israeli obsession.”The office of the UN high commissioner for human rights released the report that did not name the companies but could pave the way to a “blacklist” of businesses that Israeli officials fear would be targeted for an international boycott. “This whole issue is outside the bounds of the High Commissioner for Human Rights office’s mandate and is a waste of time and resources,” Haley said in a statement. The report was in response to a resolution adopted in 2016 by the UN Human Rights Council that called for the creation of database of all companies doing business with the Israeli settlements, which the United Nations considers illegal under international law. “While we note that they wisely refrained from listing individual companies, the fact that the report was issued at all is yet another reminder of the Council’s anti-Israel obsession,” said Haley.
Anti-Israel bias
“The United States will continue to aggressively push back against the anti-Israel bias, and advance badly needed reforms of the Council,” she added.
Of the 206 companies under review, 143 are based in Israel or in the settlements, 22 in the United States, seven in Germany, five in the Netherlands and four in France. The report had been due to be released last year but was repeatedly delayed. Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon strongly condemned the report, calling it a “shameful act, which will serve as a stain on the UNHRC forever.” “We will continue to act with our allies and use all the means at our disposal to stop the publication of this disgraceful blacklist,” he vowed. Israeli settlements are seen as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

Macron Focuses on Democracy, Economy in Tunisia Visit
Tunis - Al Munji Al Saidani/Asharq Al-Awsat/February 01/18/French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Tunisia on Wednesday to “support the democratic transition” of the country, which is weakened by economic and social problems. Macron landed in Tunis a few weeks after demonstrations, some of which escalated into night riots, rocked several Tunisian cities. He is scheduled to sign a series of economic, security, academic and cultural agreements during talks with President Beji Caid Essebsi and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed. “France must support the young Tunisian democracy”, Chahed stressed in remarks to France 24. “We are a true democracy, with a freedom of press, freedom of speech, and you won’t find that in many countries.” In an interview with the French-speaking daily La Presse, Macron said he would announce during his visit “an additional effort in ... the reduction of inequalities and unemployment of youth, and increased investment in future sectors, including renewable energies and new technologies.” While praising the “positive signals” sent by the government, he said that “the Tunisian state also has reforms to carry out so that Tunisia becomes a more attractive destination for foreign investments.”In his visit to Tunisia, which follows trips to Morocco in June and Algeria in December, the French President is accompanied by his wife Brigitte along with several officials including Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer, and businessmen like Stéphane Richard and Xavier Niel. A call is launched to French companies to “reinvest massively in Tunisia,” said the Elysee. “The Tunisian government wants to take advantage of this visit to find a solution to the debt of Tunisia to France,” asserted the Tunisian newspaper, Assabah, referring to the conversion of 30 million euros of debt into investment projects, an amount that Paris has not confirmed, according to AFP. The outstanding Tunisian public debt to France amounted to 2.380 billion dinars, or about 800 million euros as of December 31, 2016, according to Tunisia. An agreement will also be signed to better collaborate in the fight against terrorism while the state of emergency remains in force in Tunisia two years after being instituted in the wake of bloody terrorist attacks.

Files of 10 Terrorists Transferred to Egypt's Grand Mufti in Preparation for their Execution

Cairo - Walid Abdul Rahman/Asharq Al-Awsat/February 01/18/Giza Criminal Court has referred Wednesday the case of 10 terrorists to the Grand Mufti of Egypt for a consultative non-binding opinion on whether they can be executed, as per Egypt’s penal code. The court charged them with joining an outlawed group that aims to obstruct state institutions from carrying out their duties, as well as attacking state institutions from 2013 to March 2015. They were also charged with targeting Christians in terrorist attacks, destabilizing society and planning to attack police and military personnel. The court set the verdict on March 10 to sentence the 10 accused in addition to five others on the same case. The case involved 16 accused, but one died during the trial. Notably, the verdict can be appealed, and the judge can also rule independently of the Mufti. On the other hand, the Public Prosecution in Suez decided to renew the detention of elements from ISIS cell, which have been in prison for 45 days on pending investigations, and were accused of planning to carry out terrorist attacks. The National Security Service in Suez arrested the members of the cell and seized documents confirming their links with ISIS and their preparation to carry out terrorist operations. Meanwhile, an Egyptian court on Wednesday gave 15 Muslim people one-year suspended jail sentences over a December attack on an unlicensed Coptic Church in a village south of Cairo. The Giza misdemeanor court also fined the owner of the building, a Christian man, 360,000 Egyptian pounds ($20,500) for turning his residency into a church without a license. Dozens of Muslims from the village of Kafr al-Waslin attacked the church after Friday prayers on Dec. 22, smashing windows and breaking everything inside. The prosecution had charged the defendants with inciting sectarian strife, damaging national unity, showing force and destroying private properties.

Tariq Ramadan Remained in Custody over Rape Allegations
Paris - Asharq Al-Awsat/February 01/18/Academic Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt, remained in custody in Paris on Thursday over rape allegations. Ramadan was taken into custody by French police following accusations of rape, a judicial source said on Wednesday. The source said a preliminary investigation was opened in October after two complaints were filed against Ramadan claiming he violently attacked them. Ramadan denies allegations that he raped two women last year as feminist activist Henda Ayari said she was assaulted by him in a Paris hotel room in 2012. The second woman, name undisclosed, reported Ramadan to police alleging that he had raped and violently assaulted her in a hotel room in Lyon in 2009. Ayari, 40, former salafist, detailed the alleged attack in her book, "I Chose to Be Free," published in France in November 2016, but gave her attacker a false name. However, last October and after the sexual scandals and #MeToo campaign, Ayari named the attacker as Ramadan and made a formal police complaint. On his Facebook page on Oct. 28, Ramadan described the allegations as a "campaign of lies" carried out by his "longtime enemie.""It is sad to see our opponents reduced to supporting deception…. The law must now speak, my lawyer is in charge of this file. We expect a long and bitter fight. I am serene and determined," he added. In November, Oxford University announced that Ramadan, 55, took a leave of absence from his post as professor of contemporary Islamic studies "by mutual agreement". Ramadan said in a statement in November: “Contrary to reports in the French-language press, I have taken leave of absence upon mutual agreement with Oxford University, which will permit me to devote my energies to my defence while respecting students’ need for a calm academic environment.”

Saudi-UAE Military, Security Delegation in Aden
Asharq Al-Awsat/February 01/18/A high-ranking military and security delegation from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has stressed the importance of abiding by a ceasefire decision in the southwestern Yemeni city of Aden. The delegation, which arrived in Aden on Wednesday night, highlighted the need to abide by the ceasefire decision of the Arab Coalition to return to normalcy, the UAE's official WAM news agency reported on Thursday. The delegation called for restoring security and stability, providing services to citizens and continuing with re-development as the situation was before the latest events. It also called for “refocusing efforts on the front lines against the Houthis", saying what had happened did not serve the task of legitimacy and the Coalition in completing the liberation of the Yemeni territories, WAM reported. The Coalition delegation toured the streets of Aden to ensure the return of normalcy and security to the interim capital. The members of the delegation stressed the unity of the position of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, saying they will support Yemen until the full liberation of its territories, noting that the mission of the Coalition is to restore legitimacy, security and stability to Yemen.

Statement by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister on escalation of violence in Afrin, Syria
February 1, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement on the security situation in Afrin, Syria:
“Canada is deeply concerned by the escalation of hostilities in northwest Syria, and is closely monitoring the situation, including its impact on civilians.
“Canada recognizes Turkey’s legitimate security concerns. However, we urge restraint and call for every possible effort to be made to protect civilians and fully respect international humanitarian law.
“Our focus must continue to be on defeating Daesh. This requires a collective and concerted effort with all our friends and allies in the region, whose roles and sacrifices in attaining this common objective we recognize and value immensely.”

950 Miners Trapped in S. Africa after Power Outage
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 01/18/About 950 gold miners were stuck underground in South Africa on Thursday after a power cut, the mine's owner said, though the workers were not reported to be in immediate danger. The Sibanye-Stillwater mining company said a massive power outage had prevented lifts from bringing the night shift to the surface at the Beatrix gold mine, near the central city of Welkom. "We sent rescue teams down, accounted for all the people and obviously are trying to get them out of there as soon as possible," James Wellsted, spokesman for Sibanye-Stillwater, told ENCA television. "All employees appear to be fine. We are supplying food and water," Wellsted added in a telephone message to AFP. About 65 people were rescued during the day, with 950 remaining trapped underground by early evening, the company said. Wellsted said that engineers were struggling to get emergency generators to operate and re-start the lifts. "We are busy working on that issue at the moment," he added. The Beatrix mine is in Free State province, 290 kilometers (180 miles) southwest of Johannesburg.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 01-02/18
With Nuclear Weapons, We’re Getting Too Comfortable Thinking the Unthinkable
Richard A. Clarke and Steven Andreasen/The Washington Post/February 01/18
A dangerous disconnect is emerging between the horrific impacts of even the limited use of nuclear weapons, and leaders and policymakers who seem intent on threatening nuclear use in an ever-expanding range of scenarios. If this continues, the risk that a nuclear weapon will be used for the first time in more than 70 years — deliberately or otherwise — will grow. We must return to a more sober dialogue and approach to policy.
The Trump administration appears poised to expand the circumstances under which the United States might use nuclear weapons, including in response to a cyberattack. The time when leaders and policymakers in the United States, Russia and other countries had anything close to a personal connection with the effects of even a single nuclear weapon is becoming more distant. Memories of a smoldering Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the stark fear generated by the Cuban missile crisis or the massive protests sparked in the early 1980s by the deployment of US and Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe no longer drive or even inform policy. As former secretary of state George P. Shultz told Congress last week, “I fear people have lost that sense of dread.”
When nuclear theory or war-gaming moved from the Pentagon to the White House during the Cold War, it was more often than not met by a skeptical president and civilian leadership, who rightly recoiled from risking nuclear catastrophe. That is not the case now.
Five years ago, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board published a report equating the impact of Chinese and Russian capabilities to launch an “existential cyber attack” against the United States with the impact of a nuclear attack — and recommended that the United States be prepared to threaten the use of nuclear weapons to deter cyberattacks. When the board’s recommendation was exposed to the light of day by the two of us and others in 2013, it was publicly rebuked and, as a matter of policy, quietly discarded.
But just last month, the board’s proposal became US policy. In December, the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy quietly expanded the role of nuclear weapons in US defense plans, stating they are “essential” to prevent “non-nuclear strategic attacks” — i.e., cyberattacks.
This week, the Trump administration is expected to release its “Nuclear Posture Review.” A leaked pre-decisional draft reaffirms the policy of threatening nuclear use to prevent cyberattacks, but goes even further — expanding the role of US forward-deployed nuclear weapons in NATO’s European defenses.
For decades, the United States has been moving to reduce the relevance of forward-deployed nuclear weapons in Europe, and for good reason: US nuclear weapons in Europe have virtually no military utility, and their storage at bases in multiple countries presents a serious security risk. Removing them would reduce the risk of terrorism and instability, and would free up resources across NATO for other urgent defense tasks.
Moreover, as NATO has repeatedly stated, “The supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic forces of the Alliance.” With three nuclearized member states — the United States, Britain and France — NATO has a robust nuclear deterrent capable of being employed anywhere in defense of NATO interests.
The Trump Nuclear Posture Review not only rejects this logic, it ties our forward-deployed forces to NATO’s strategic forces as part of the bloc’s “supreme guarantee.” So rather than move in the direction of reducing nuclear risks by removing nuclear weapons from vulnerable sites, we will instead further cement them in place — when there is ample evidence of terrorist interest in nuclear facilities and, as is presently true in Turkey, evidence that the security of US nuclear weapons reportedly stored there can change literally overnight.
Raising the profile of nuclear weapons in our defense plans comes at a time when the disastrous consequences of even limited nuclear use is becoming even more apparent. Alan Robock and his colleagues at Rutgers University — using newly updated climate models and the much greater computing power now available — have concluded that even a limited nuclear exchange (50 to 100 weapons) could create a “mini-nuclear winter” whose effects could last two to three years and create tens of millions of deaths from starvation because of the collapse of grain crops brought on by climate change.
Nuclear weapons present a unique threat of national devastation and global extinction. They are good for only one purpose: deterring nuclear attacks. Policies equating cyberthreats to nuclear threats, or raising the profile of nuclear weapons in our conventional defenses, undermine the credibility of nuclear deterrence by threatening use for lesser contingencies and makes nuclear use more likely.

The Real Mystery About Low Inflation

Ramesh Ponnuru/Bloomberg/February 01/18
Where’s that inflation we were promised? That’s the question Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown asked economist Marvin Goodfriend during contentious hearings over his nomination to the Federal Reserve Board.
In 2011, Goodfriend had said that inflation would grow more severe. But inflation, as the senators noted, has been relatively low since then.
The Fed says it wants a measure of inflation called the PCE deflator to rise by 2 percent a year. Since the economic recovery began, the measure has almost always been below that target.
While Goodfriend was particularly vocal, he’s hardly alone in having expected higher inflation than we have seen. The Fed itself has routinely projected that inflation will soon hit the 2 percent target. It keeps moving the date we are going to hit it into the future.
A lot of financial commentary has puzzled over the “mystery of the missing inflation.”
Unemployment is low, interest rates are low, and during the early years of the recovery the Fed made large-scale asset purchases to ease credit. Many people associate each of these things with rising inflation. Yet it keeps failing to materialize.
Low inflation may sound like a happy surprise, but economists express concern about it for a number of reasons. Most of all, they worry that if the Fed has lost the ability to raise the inflation rate, it may not be able to take effective action to counter the next recession.
There are convincing explanations for the Fed’s failure to hit its 2 percent target: a complicated one and a simple one.
The complicated one observes that monetary policy has not been as accommodative as it might seem. Low interest rates have reflected a low natural rate of interest more than they have reflected Fed easing. The asset purchases were advertised and understood to be temporary, blunting their inflationary impact. Perhaps most important, the Fed has been paying banks interest on excess reserves -- IOER -- that is above the corresponding market interest rate.
George Selgin, a monetary economist at the libertarian Cato Institute, explained the effects of this last policy in recent congressional testimony:
By keeping its IOER rate above corresponding market interest rates, as it has done since November 2008, the Fed has prevented additions to the supply of bank reserves from resulting in any general increases in the supply of credit. Instead, increases in total bank reserves were matched by roughly equal changes in banks’ excess reserve holdings.
Even during the early years of the recovery, the Fed’s policies have worked at cross purposes with each other, with the interest on excess reserves counteracting the Fed’s asset purchases.
The deeper explanation for why the Fed hasn’t hit its target is the simpler one: It doesn’t really want to hit it. Or, at least, it doesn’t want to hit it as much as it wants other things.
It has become easier to see this in recent years, as the Fed has taken multiple steps that unequivocally reduce inflation. From December 2015 onward, the Fed has raised the federal funds rate five times, and it was talking about raising it long before it acted. The Fed has also slowly moved to reduce its asset holdings. The Fed wouldn’t have done either of these things if higher inflation were its top priority.
It has given other goals – such as “normalizing” interest rates by bringing them closer to historical averages – precedence over higher inflation. And it has decided that it would rather keep paying interest on excess reserves, a policy that it believes gives it more control over interest rates, than lower its payments in a way that might increase inflation. Goodfriend overestimated how inflationary the Fed was willing to be. So have a lot of other people. The real mystery, at this point, is why so many people find low inflation mysterious. The Fed isn’t hitting its target because it doesn’t take its target seriously.

The World Bank Is Searching for Meaning
Noah Smith/The Bloomberg/February 01/18
Paul Romer’s departure last week as chief economist of the World Bank isn’t an event about just one man and his former job. His exit was undoubtedly influenced by individual factors, but it also illustrates broad challenges for the Bank as an institution.
Romer is, to put it bluntly, a contentious man. A celebrated researcher of economic growth, he has spent years vigorously attacking the ideas of his doctoral adviser, macroeconomist Robert Lucas, and the very field of macroeconomics itself. At the World Bank, his tenure has been marked by heated disputes, including one over how many times the word “and” should be used in official communications.
That sort of approach can be very useful in an academic setting. Indeed, many of Romer’s criticisms of macroeconomics were truths that others in the field had been afraid to speak (though I’m not so sure about his grammatical advice). But when it comes to navigating the complex bureaucracy of an institution like the World Bank, perfectionism, bluntness and prickly precision are not necessarily the most endearing traits.
But the bigger question concerns the Bank itself. The immediate cause of Romer’s departure probably had to do with a public clash over the widely cited Ease of Doing Business rankings. This index, which the World Bank updates frequently, is intended to measure how easy it is to start a business in a particular country. An accommodating business environment is assumed -- both by the Bank and by many economists -- to be a good thing. It’s believed to result in more creative destruction -- the constant churning of industries and businesses that improves the economy through competition that eliminates inefficient producers. It also reduces monopoly power, by making it easier for new companies to enter a market and compete.
That’s the abstract theory, anyway. In reality, the ease of doing business is hard to measure -- the Bank’s criteria might not capture the factors that are most important in encouraging business dynamism, or the rankings might weight the factors incorrectly. Rich countries tend to be ranked higher, but this might just be because countries make it easier to do business once they get rich.
Romer made headlines earlier this month when, speaking to reporters from the Wall Street Journal, he accused the Bank of changing its rankings unfairly. Romer noticed that changes in the factors used to construct the index had the effect of raising Chile’s ranking under conservative governments and lowering it under socialist ones. Romer later clarified that he didn’t mean to assert that politics was a factor in the Bank’s decisions, but nevertheless the damage to the reputation of the rankings, and of the Bank itself, could be long-lasting. Though Romer’s tenure as chief economist had been marked by many clashes, this battle was probably the last straw.
Political motivations or no, however, the overall usefulness of the Ease of Doing Business rankings is highly questionable. Many free-market enthusiasts, such as John Cochrane of the Hoover Institution, believe that if countries up their position in the World Bank’s rankings, growth will follow as a matter of course. But the evidence says otherwise. In 2016, economics student and blogger Evan Soltas measured whether large increases in a country’s position in the rankings were followed by growth. He found no measurable effect, even in the long term, and that taking the World Bank’s advice on structural issues seems to do very little if anything for economic growth.
If Soltas’s result holds -- and given the poor performance of other rankings of business conditions, it seems likely it will -- it means that the World Bank has been recommending policies based more on faith and assumptions than on real hard evidence. Since countries often work hard to improve their position in the rankings, this means that the Bank has probably been squandering its policy clout. And if reforms intended to climb up the rankings end up making societies less equal, the Bank could even have been having a negative impact on the world’s poor. That would be a mistake along the same lines as the one made by the Bank’s sister organization, the International Monetary Fund, which recommended fiscal austerity policies that it later admitted had hurt the countries they were designed to help.
If true, this would be bad for the World Bank, which has been suffering an identity crisis in recent years. Global growth means that few countries need or want the Bank’s development loans, leaving it searching for a reason to continue existing. Many had envisioned the Bank, which employs a large number of academically trained economists, functioning as a think tank to advise countries on how to boost growth. No one needs or wants a think tank that is known for giving bad advice.
So although Romer’s exit will take the World Bank out of the headlines for a while, the deeper questions about its future remain. Its problems are much bigger than one contentious chief economist.

The 'Goodness' of Migrants: When Feelings Trump Facts

Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/February 01/18
No one asked what in the hearts of the migrants of Calais is so very "good", and what "goodness" is so lacking in the hearts of the British people that it needs topping-up from the camps of Calais.
It is worth reflecting on just two recent terrorist plots, by people who did not bring only "goodness" when they came from Calais.
The question fails to get asked: "What exactly did we gain from their presence in our country? And what exactly was the 'goodness' that you think they brought?"
In Western Europe, there is still only an overwhelming political and social price a price to pay for appearing to be against mass immigration. Public opinion polls may consistently show the public to be opposed to mass migration. But in public, it remains most acceptable, and indeed commonplace, to continue to utter bromides about the benefits that migration brings, including the advantages from any and all illegal immigration.
Recently on the BBC's main political discussion programme, Question Time, the panel were asked about immigration and, as so often in the British immigration debate, the subject of the situation in Calais, France came up. Over recent years Calais has repeatedly become the place for illegal camps of illegal migrants to congregate, in the hope of moving from France to the UK. Some of these migrants attack lorries and disable vehicles to try to climb aboard them. Others attempt other ways to get through the Channel Tunnel, either on a vehicle or on foot.
A group of migrants gather near a truck depot in Calais, France, on January 19, 2018. Calais is a central hub for illegal migrants to congregate, in the hope of moving from France to the UK. Some of the migrants attack UK-bound lorries and disable vehicles, to try to climb aboard them.
Of course, if these people were genuine asylum seekers with genuine asylum claims, they have already passed through several countries in which they could and should have claimed asylum. That they are congregating around the entrance to the Channel Tunnel in Calais is a demonstration not that they are legitimate asylum seekers in search of safety, but illegal migrants seeking to get into Britain.
Like everything else in the immigration debate, and often life, feelings most of the time trump facts. The discussion on the BBC's Question Time was, in that sense, utterly typical. One of the guests on the panel was the Hollywood scriptwriter Dustin Lance Black. A social and political liberal, Black used his time there to make one extraordinary claim in particular:
"Understand that some of these people who are in Calais trying to get here. They're not coming to try and steal from you or to ruin your culture. They're coming here because you're a giant, beautiful beacon of hope for them. And I hope that the government finds it in their heart to spend some of that money to make sure that their conditions are liveable there and to let some of them in, to share their goodness with your greatness."
This speech was greeted with a roar of applause from the audience and audible approval from other members of the panel including the Conservative cabinet minister, Margot James. No one asked what there is in the hearts of the migrants of Calais that is so very "good", and what "goodness" is so lacking in the hearts of the British people that it needs topping-up from the camps of Calais.
So even in a society as self-delusional and self-forgetting as modern Britain, it is worth reflecting on just two recent cases of people who did not bring only "goodness" when they came from Calais.
At the beginning of January, Munir Mohammed of Derby was convicted of an attempted terrorist attack. It is believed that Mohammed and two collaborators were planning a Christmas terrorism spectacular involving a bomb attack. Mohammed was apparently only days away from achieving his aims when he was arrested by the British police. And where was Mohammed from? Born in Eritrea, he grew up in neighbouring Sudan. In June 2013, he and his pregnant wife left for Europe and took the now traditional route into Turkey and from there into Europe via the Greek island of Samos. Somewhere on the route from Athens through the Balkans, his wife lost her baby and he promptly dumped her.
By January 2014, Mohammed had reached France and from there he managed to pay a smuggling gang to get him through the Channel Tunnel. He successfully hid in a lorry in order to reach the UK, and got out of the lorry on the motorway service station on the M1. After applying for asylum, he got caught in the long backlog of cases, met a new girlfriend, and with her and another accomplice plotted to carry out a mass casualty terrorist attack that was only very narrowly averted.
Also this January, the British courts saw 18-year-old Ahmed Hassan Mohammed Ali. Born in Iraq, he came to the UK illegally via Calais in 2015. He now stands charged with leaving a bomb on a London Underground train at Parsons Green tube station last September during the morning rush hour. The detonating part of the device went off, causing minor burns to some of the passengers and leading to a stampede in which a number of schoolchildren on the train were hurt. Fortunately, however, the device itself failed to go off, so a bomb that would have led to dozens of body bags being needed again in London resulted instead only in minor injuries and a lot of terrified children.
Ahmed Hassan Mohammed Ali and Munir Mohammed are both migrants from Calais. Both were in Britain illegally. Still, the question fails to get asked of people such as Dustin Lance Black: "What exactly did we gain from their presence in our country? And what exactly was the 'goodness' that you think they brought?" That such people would probably have no answer to this question is one thing. That so few people would even bother to ask such questions publicly is another. But one day they will ask, and with increasing -- and justifiable -- anger.
**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.

Trump's SOTU Hit the Right Foreign Policy Notes - Now Comes the Hard Part
John R. Bolton/Gatestone Institute/February 01/18
President Trump's first State of the Union address was not heavy on national security issues. It did, however, make one critical point: In reviewing the international achievements of his first year in office, Trump was abundantly clear that the Obama era is over. Primarily retrospective assessments like Trump's are perfectly legitimate for a president finishing his initial year, especially given what his policies are replacing.
Gone was President Obama's self-congratulatory moral posturing, replaced by a concrete list of accomplishments that will inevitably increase the power of America's presence in the world. Trump's policy is not only not isolationist — as many of his opponents (and a few misguided supporters) contend — his pursuit of Ronald Reagan's "peace through strength" approach actually demonstrates that Obama's detached, ethereal retreat from American assertiveness internationally amounted to the real isolationism.
Donald Trump's 2018 State of the Union address. (Image source: The White House)
Most importantly, Trump again committed to palpably more robust military budgets and an end to the budget-sequester mechanism, the worst political mistake made by Republicans in Congress in living memory. Sequestration procedures were liberal dreams come true, forcing wasteful increases in domestic programs in order to obtain critical military funding. The sooner this whole embarrassing exercise is behind us, the better.
As Secretary of Defense James Mattis frequently points out, harking back to Jeane Kirkpatrick's famous comment, there cannot be an adequate American foreign policy without an adequate defense policy.
Trump chose to single out the need "to modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal," the bedrock of America's deterrence capabilities. Indeed, Trump went on, quite rightly, to cast doubt on the "Global Zero" notion of actively working to eliminate all nuclear weapons. For many of those who pursue "Global Zero," the real target is not rogue states like Iran or North Korea, or strategic threats like Russia or China, but the United States itself. Trump basically said in response, "When the lions lie down with the lambs, call me." Just so.
I wish the president had also stressed the profound need to rapidly scale up our national missile defense capabilities, a program that was all but eviscerated during the Obama administration. Indeed, we must devote far more attention to capabilities beyond the original Bush program, which focused on addressing the relatively limited threats of the rogue states, which might have the capability to launch handfuls rather than hundreds of ballistic missiles at American targets. It is past time to return to Reagan's original vision of "strategic defense," so that the United States can have adequate defenses against Russia's large, newly upgraded and modernized missile arsenals, and also against China's rapidly increasing capabilities.
Increasing our defense capabilities is not just important: It is urgent. The global bills accrued because of failures by prior administrations are coming due on Trump's watch, underlining the gravity of the international threats facing the United States. With immediate, continuing threats from international terrorism and nuclear proliferators like North Korea and Iran, plus strategic threats from Russia and China, America's agenda is full to overflowing.
On radical Islamic terrorism, Trump could point to the military success against the ISIS caliphate and new rules of engagement for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, while recognizing that we remain at risk as long as this dangerous political ideology persists. There was no better manifestation of the president's commitment to winning the "long war" than his unequivocal statement that our terrorist prison at Guantánamo Bay would remain open. Trump thereby emphatically rejected the Clinton and Obama administrations' "law enforcement" paradigm for handling terrorism, and embraced the "war paradigm," which brings into play a different mind set, different national powers and different legal authorities and constraints.
Trump was very clear that he regards the regimes controlling Iran and North Korea to be the basic problems, and that nuclear weapons in their hands were unacceptable, a formulation very close to George W. Bush's admonition that we could not allow "the world's most dangerous weapons" to fall into the hands of "the world's most dangerous leaders." Trump did not explicitly call for regime change in Tehran and Pyongyang, but he came close enough that fire bells should be ringing in the night in both Iran and North Korea. U.S. actions, and those of other like-minded countries, should now follow, to make it clear that the way to minimize the chances for the use of force against the rogue states' nuclear programs is to get new regimes that renounce the existing programs, and quickly dismantle them.
Trump cited both Russia and China as "rivals... that challenge our interests, our economy and our values," thereby giving the lie (yet again) to those who say he is somehow blind to the Russian threat. While the president's comments on China focused primarily on economic and trade issues, there is no doubt he understands the strategic nature of the Chinese challenge as well.
In the days following this well-received State of the Union, Trump must now develop a comprehensive series of policies for dealing with the due bills now cascading across his desk. Most immediately, the administration must decide on what it is prepared to do to ensure that, as Trump said to the United Nations General Assembly in September, denuclearization is the only way forward for North Korea and Iran. Preventing nuclear-capable rogue states (not accepting them, as Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, said she was prepared to do) is clearly the right outcome.
What Trump must reject, immediately, is what we have been doing for years, and which has manifestly failed. In the military context, Gian Gentile has described what he calls "a strategy of tactics," which purports to be a strategy but is not one in fact. Under a nonproliferation "strategy of tactics," we have aimlessly tried a little of this, then a little of that, hoping that something would work out. It hasn't. And there is not time for persisting in this failed approach.
Understandably, Trump may not have wanted to address these complex and dangerous issues in what was already a longer-than-average State of the Union. Fair enough, but the hard analysis and planning, and the even harder decisions, are coming very soon.
*John R. Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is Chairman of Gatestone Institute, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad".
*This article first appeared in The Hill and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.
© 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 "Fake News" Crusade to "Protect" You from Free Speech

Robbie Travers/Gatestone Institute/February 01/18
Even if judgements against some of these websites might be overturned in courts, doing so is clearly an enormous financial burden, as the would-be censors doubtless know. But what a handy way not to have one's policies questioned -- especially, one assumes, during elections.
Attempts to censor "competing narratives" is probably just a tip-off that certain individuals are afraid their political ideas will be unable to withstand the questions asked or the test of time.
"If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society." — Natan Sharansky, The Case for Democracy.
"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear," George Orwell wrote in his ant-totalitarian novel, 1984. He would probably have frowned upon the latest UK Government blueprint to create a regulatory agency that will ultimately strangle freedom of expression.
Scrutiny against "Fake News," is undoubtedly a positive development. It means that at least people are questioning the news they are consuming. Yes, it is a problem that so much disinformation and misinformation exists. It is, however, a far bigger problem if they do not. The public's resolve should be that disinformation is not combated by a regulatory body controlled by Government. Individual arguments, with evidence, is what belongs in a democracy, which can only survive if it is a marketplace of ideas.
If having a Government body decide what can and cannot be published – thereby creating a culture of both official censorship and self-censorship -- is not enough to concern you, the briefest glance at what this newly created British body would consider "Fake News" should send you running into the street.
This new UK Government body would deem worthy of censorship "Satire or parody which means no harm but can fool people". According to these geniuses, satire and parody are "Fake News."
Satire often relies on mixing believability and absurdity -- not necessarily to fool people but to point out serious problems in a more approachable way. This can be done to draw people's attention to take a harder look at what they are consuming, or to make a wider political point humourously. The idea that satirical publications would be possibly removed and censored because people might believe them sounds disingenuous at best, and at worst autocratic.
It is easy to see how Governments might be tempted to censor criticism by satire or any other way. Someone might end up exposing truths that the government would rather were not made public. Someone high up might, God forbid, even be the butt of a joke. All jokes, then, will be required to conform to the Government's opinions, while jokes that mock the opposition will be left untouched? Who regulates the regulators? Criminalising jokes is the first step toward the end of freedom. Look at Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has filed over 1,800 cases against cartoonists, and others who dared to make a joke at his expense.
This new British body, according to a UK Government Spokesperson, will reportedly be "tasked with combating disinformation" -- but what counts as "disinformation"?
If "disinformation" is determined by Government, the Government is free to censor anyone who challenges its opinion, or what it might like its subjects to believe. Who would you trust to run the bureau that decides which political opinions are malicious and dangerous. and which should be censored because they are "fake"?
Even if you agree with the UK Government, that, say, Russia poses a dangerous geopolitical threat by spreading disinformation, it is the job of the government to let you hear it, and then tell you why it is not correct. The danger remains that while the current government might not abuse its powers of censorship, the next one might. Giving power to a Government you trust only means that, later on, you may well find out that you have given that power to a Government you may not trust.
Moreover, does this new body mean that individuals could be challenged for presenting alternative opinions, or for challenging facts released by a Government? What if such challenges could be deeply important? How, then, is one to expose, for instance, wrongdoing by the Government? Sadly, this kind of policy seems poised not only to become a reality in Britain; it seems to be setting up shop throughout Europe.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron is leading a crusade against whatever some judicial official decides is "Fake News." Macron says websites that carry fake news will be "banned" "in order to protect democracy," supposedly because they present false narratives. Macron notes that France "needs" "emergency bans," to silence websites regarded by the French Government as sharing "fake news" -- especially, one assumes, during elections.
Even if judgements against some of these websites could be overturned in court, doing so would clearly be an enormous financial burden, as the would-be censors doubtless know. But what a handy way not to have one's policies questioned! Opposition could be silenced, even if temporarily, while you run your citizens through a legal gauntlet worthy of Galileo; meanwhile the Government can have the run of the corral to shape a discourse that favours -- itself. Governments also usually fight with endless time and endless resources.
Macron claims that he is attempting to "protect democracy." No, one does not protect democracy by restricting the freedom of speech by the members of that democracy. Democracy means letting the people (demos) have open access to information and coming to their own conclusions.
Germany has already passed laws which demand that any "hate speech" or "fake news," be removed from social networking. Immediately, the political opposition paid the price. Beatrix von Storch, a prominent member of parliament of the advancing AfD party, was suspended on January 2, the day after the law went into effect, for her twitter posts. What a nifty way to silence her and others -- and their ability to challenge the Government.
Even more dangerous, Ireland's Government is proposing legislation that would mean individuals could spend up to five years in prison for disseminating supposedly "Fake News" on internet accounts. How could a threat of imprisonment not have a chilling effect on open discourse? In a free society, Government should not be able to jail an individual for sharing opinions with which it disagrees. As the Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky wrote in his book, "The Case for Democracy," it is precisely the "The Town Square Test" that determines whether or not a society can even be considered free:
"If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society."
The UK Prime Minister's Spokesperson noted that , "We are living in an era of fake news and competing narratives." All right, time to compete. Explain to the public why your narrative is better. Where is it written that narratives should not compete? Political discourse depends on having differing ideas clashing, enabling different individuals to test their ideas through talk rather than through jail. A society with a single narrative is inherently a totalitarian one -- "Big Brother" -- that does not tolerate anyone questioning its essential orthodoxies. Attempts to censor "competing narratives" is probably just a tip-off that certain individuals are afraid their political ideas will be unable to withstand the questions asked or the test of time.
If Macron, and other European leaders truly want to "defend democracy" -- a premise that seems open to question -- it is time they made the case for defending it by supporting freedom of speech, unassisted by the "bear hug" of a "protective" government. If the values of human rights, democracy and freedom are as great as many know them to be, then "Fake News" will quickly be exposed as merely that, and not pose a threat to "True News" for very long.
**Robbie Travers, a political commentator and consultant, is Executive Director of Agora, former media manager at the Human Security Centre, and a law student at the University of Edinburgh.
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The new Hitler of the Middle East

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin/Al Arabiya/February 01/18
In an interview with The New York Times, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, described the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as “the new Hitler of the Middle East”. The Crown Prince said: “We learnt from Europe that appeasement in such cases will not work. We do not want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat in the Middle East what was done in Europe.”This assessment by the Crown Prince of the Iranian situation seems quite apt as, since the revolution, Iran has adopted a brutal ideology, namely Vilayat-e-Faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist), which is the legitimate cover for the continuation of the revolution and incitement of problems and terrorism in the region and around the world. The Guardian Jurist, also known as Supreme Leader, is the ultimate authority in Iran, quite similar to the Papal States of the Middle Ages. The Papal States regarded the leader as God’s representative on Earth. Article five of the Iranian constitution expresses that as long as Imam Mahdi remains in occultation, the absolute guardianship and the leadership of the Ummah in Iran is given to a Jurist who is decent, pious, informed of the demands of the times, brave and qualified for leadership.
After decades of Saudi, Gulf and international patience, full confrontation is the optimal and final solution for dealing with such a regime
Sectarian view
In addition, Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist does not acknowledge nationalism as it has a sectarian view that claims the loyalty of all Shiites of the world to Iran. The constitution says that the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution has the right to rule the “Shiite” nation since the original legitimate leader, i.e. Imam Mahdi, is in occultation. This suggests that the utmost loyalty of every Shiite in the world must be to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution. Thus, Iran transformed sectarianism into constitutional texts by turning the Shiites of the world into an agenda under the rule of the Guardian Jurist. It turned them into armed groups, spy cells, militias and organizations with utmost loyalty to the Guardian Jurist with no account of their nationalism.Many Shiite militias are operating on the directions of the Guardian Jurist including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, Houthis in Yemen, and sleeper cells in the Gulf States or around the world. Referring to its close ties with Shiites in Iraq including Sistani and other Iraqi Shiite clerics who studied in Qum, the Director of the Gulf and Middle East Center of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Hamed Reza Daghani, said that the Iranian “soft power” in Iraq was the key factor in achieving Iranian ambitions in Iraq and in the region.
Totalitarian ideology
Therefore, the Crown Prince’s description is profound and precise as the Iranian totalitarian ideology is no different to Nazi Germany or any totalitarian regime embracing expansionism, racism and disregard for all international conventions. Over the past eight decades of its emergence, containment and compromise only resulted in failure in dealing with the totalitarian ideology. After decades of Saudi, Gulf and international patience, full confrontation is the optimal and final solution for dealing with such a regime, a main supporter of terrorism which continues to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and to destabilize their peace and security. Only confrontation can give birth to those who choose to abandon the totalitarian revolutionary ideology and reject revolutionary concepts for the concepts of nationalism, national states, respect for international conventions and refrain from intervening in the internal affairs of other countries. This is the only way to create a healthy political atmosphere that may contribute to the stability of the region and change its current chaotic reality.

Getting into the saving habit in the Gulf
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/February 01/18
Given the economic uncertainties of higher inflation and the introduction of VAT taxes, consumer spending in the Gulf has taken a bit of a battering. The choice is clear – spending more from past saving or controlling budgets and saving more. For many people, individual reasons for saving are different, whether it is for retirement, supporting children’s future education needs or to having the financial freedoms to do as one pleases. What are common though are the different paths adopted by individuals for building wealth and the manner of saving. When it comes to savings, there is no right or wrong answer and ultimately it depends on your needs and what you want your savings to achieve. For some investors these needs are met by having a mix or multiple saving vehicles that fulfill short and long term saving objectives, and these are re-assessed on a regular basis to see if the initial saving objectives are being met or not. Savers have to be both flexible in readjusting their saving targets as well being committed to meeting such targets. With so much on offer in the Gulf, and enticement all around, sometimes such targets seem difficult to meet.
How does one know how much to save and say “enough” has been saved? Again, this can only be answered by each individual investor who has a clear objective on why he is saving, the length of time he can maintain a regular saving plan or time horizon, and the liquidity needs of the individual saver.
These objectives need to be flexible, as individual circumstances might change, or the state of the economy or government policies o for example. As such it is important to stick to a target, but one that is sustainable overtime. Putting aside 50 riyals or dirhams a week is consistently doable, than setting an ambitious target of 1,000 a week only to drop it after a few weeks. While economic fluctuations and the changes in government policies are outside the control of individuals, the commitment to make savings to meet future needs is within their control
Saving for retirement
For those saving for retirement purposes, the earlier the saving habit and contributions are made, the better is time on their side in terms of expected future returns and given that there are not many company sponsored retirement plans in the Gulf this makes retirement planning even more important. The difficult aspect of cutting or control of spending is in deciding what one is willing to give up despite impulse spending temptations.
The above might seem difficulty at first for many people, but on closer analysis it is achievable as the key aspect is setting a realistic budget and sticking with it. Once one has had several months of successful experience with one’s budget, one can go to a next higher level of looking at further control of spending.
Throughout, some questions need to be answered such as admitting to oneself that maybe you are spending too much on something and then thinking deeply on why you spend so much on this item? Does it just make you feel good? Is it compulsive purchasing?
The culture of saving has a long history in the Gulf, especially amongst the older generation who passed through harder times than the younger generation, and the mechanism of saving has also evolved over time with increased investment channels, education and financial services availability compared with the favored saving in gold or silver coins in the past. Market research shows that 90 percent of Gulf citizens feel that it is important to have enough money to live off during retirement. Yet the survey also indicates that only 16 percent feel well prepared for retirement and furthermore that 84 percent of the citizens sampled do not know what their retirement income will look like. At the same time only 39 percent of the survey participants feel that they understood their short-term finance well, but only 20 percent felt the same about their long-term finances. This indicates that a culture of long term savings has still not taken place in the Gulf.
Periods of higher inflation
The savings ratio is affected during periods of higher inflation. Without exception, the national saving ratios of the GCC countries were affected in 2009 which witnessed some reduction in the national saving levels due to the rise in inflation in the region. Saving levels rose again from 2010 for all GCC countries when inflation levels fell back but with recent subsidy cuts and introduction of VAT taxes, inflation is again rising in the Gulf, and Gulf borrowing rates also rising as Gulf currencies are tied to dollar interest rate rises. The security of one’s employment and future job prospects are also important factors in the ability of an individual to save and with the Gulf countries embarking on a more localization of employment policies, this puts expatriates in even a more difficult situation. However, the introduction of indirect taxes is probably easier to cope with in the short term as individuals have more control by having a choice in either purchasing that commodity or not, or reducing their level of purchase of that commodity and saving more. All this will influence the ability to save. While economic fluctuations and the changes in government policies are outside the control of individuals, the commitment to make savings to meet future needs is within their control. One of the major mistakes for irregular saving is that circumstances change and one should plan for these circumstances because they do happen. To save successfully, one has to recognize that one’s choices are vulnerable to these changes and this might force a change of heart in saving behavior.
To overcome this, put your “smarter” self to be in charge: when choosing to save money, rely on your most motivated self to make the right decision. Sometimes the most powerful force is “inertia”, or doing nothing.In a strange way, financial inertia can be useful if one knows how to handle it, whereby the aim is having to do as little as possible which leads one to adapt the path of least action – namely, instituting automatic transfers to effect regular saving. Doing this makes it out of sight and out of mind and thus acceptable as a habit. Whatever path is chosen it is time for Gulf residents to seriously re-examine their saving habits.

On deception and lies within the Iraqi parliament
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/February 01/18
If we were in a country whose government respects itself and which respects its citizens and looks after them, we would have witnessed a serious uproar following the recent developments related to the upcoming elections in Iraq.What Members of Parliaments revealed after it was decided to prohibit anyone who does not at least have a Bachelor Degree to run for the elections is a serious scandal. It turned out many members of the higher legislative body in the country violate the law day and night. Others collude with them and lie and cheat to serve their personal and partisan interests at the expense of the public interest which they were entrusted with. Current MPs who do not have a BA opposed the amendment to the electoral law because they would not be able to run for the elections again. They went to the federal court to appeal it but the court rejected the appeal. So they went back to Parliament and demanded altering the amendment so they can run again. To achieve their objective, some of them warned that if the Parliament does not eliminate this condition, they will have to expose other MPs’ lies. Logically speaking, the parliament’s presidential committee must be aware of all these details but it seems it is twisting facts as well.
The worst scandal is what hasn’t been exposed yet, and it’s a fact that there are several violations that have been overlooked and ignored
Violating the law
According to news reports earlier this week, MPs who would be harmed by this condition said that if the law is not amended again, they will call for investigating 13 MPs who attained higher degrees while serving as MPs, i.e. they violated the law which stipulates that a state employee cannot hold his post and study at the same time. They added that they will also expose 30 others who have a BA but do not have a Baccalaureate which is mandatory to go to college! The huge scandal is that legislators have violated the law by serving as MPs and studying at the same time. What’s worse is that there are other legislators who are aware of this violation but only decided to take action after they found themselves in a situation where their personal interests are threatened! They’ve now adopted the policy of: “If I'm going down, I'm taking everybody with me!” The worst scandal, however, is what hasn’t been exposed yet, and it’s a fact that there are several violations that have been overlooked and ignored. And at the end of the day, they tell you they are busy and occupied with establishing the state and building a system of governance and they expect you to believe this.

On systematic ignorance during Islamic awakening
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/February 01/18
Saudi author Mohammed al-Mahmoud said in a tweet that Saudi Islamic scholar Safar al-Hawali said in a lecture that when poisonous gas was used against the Afghans, it cleared like a cloud and the winds then directed it towards the infidels’ path, adding that the wind was the God’s soldier.
Safar al-Hawali was a master of Sahwa (Islamic awakening) as he significantly contributed to establishing it and lecturing about its ideas. I am certain that many people who heard him talk about Afghanistan believed him. This example and other stories which create faith in myths and legends are what distinguished the Sahwa rhetoric the most during that phase. You can only imagine the extent of ignorance which is actually one of the most important factors that hindered human development in the past three decades. This ignorance controlled youths back then. Sahwaists, whether they belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood or the Sururi Movement, knew that this was the best way to control people who cannot read and who are not well-educated. They made them more ignorant, unreasonable and illogical and fought all modern cultural phenomena and philosophy that encourage modern reasonable thinking. Sahwaists, whether they belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood or the Sururi Movement, knew that this was the best way to control people who are not well-educated
Fall of Sahwa
Therefore, the fall of the so-called Sahwa, its ideology and preachers was inevitable as they destroy reason, oppose development, bet on ignorance and myths and cherish ignorance. They adopted this approach at schools as they controlled their curricula, at media outlets as they terrorized their employees and at mosques and preaching workshops. They were never ashamed of opposing science, philosophy and logic and slamming those who act upon them. A Salafist once said: He who adopts logic is a non-believer. Those who echo these statements do not know that all the technological products they use today are actually the result of reasonable and logical thought.
I am certain that Sahwa collapsed for logical reasons of which the most important is the rationality that relies on discussions which spread thanks to the telecommunications revolution. Criticism is no longer supervised as thanks to technology, it’s widely shared across the world.
Since man is logical by nature, awareness increased in an almost revolutionary manner - that is when compared with the time when ignorant Sahwa leaders dominated the scene.
If societies have really learnt anything, then going back to this ignorant phase of believing myths will be almost impossible if not totally impossible. This is why I am reassured that the phase of institutionalized and systematic ignorance has become history in our country.