January 03/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Paul Confronts Peter & Condemns his Hypocrisy
Galatians 01/01-21: "Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.  Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.  This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.  We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.  James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.  All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
When Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.  For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.  The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles  know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!  If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Cephas: a Syriac surname given by Christ to Simon (John 1:42), meaning "rock." The Greeks translated it by Petros, and the Latins by Petrus.)"

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 02-03/18
Half Of The Iranians Live Under The Line Of Poverty/Elias Bejjani/January 02/17
Shifts in the Demographic Profile of Hezbollah’s Combat Fatalities: What Do They Mean/Kendall Bianchi/Small Wars Journal/January 02/17
Is the collapse of Iranian regime better for us in the region/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/January 02/ 2018
The protesters in Iran need real help from Washington/Michael Singh/Washington Post/January 02/18
Heroic Women Fighting for Freedom/Khadija/Gatestone Institute/January 02/2018
An Indian Embassy in Jerusalem, Please/Jagdish N. Singh/Gatestone Institute/January 02/2018
What to Make of Latest Protests in Iran/Lawrence A. Franklin/Gatestone Institute/January 02/2018
A Bipartisan "Arc of Justice": Trump Commutes Rubashkin's Unjust Sentence/Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/January 02/2018
Finally, an Iranian Spring/Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi//Al Arabiya/January 02/ 2018
Is it time to concede in Libya/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/January 02/ 2018
Trajectories of the 2018 US policy in the Middle East/Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/January 02/ 2018

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on January 02-03/18
Half Of The Iranians Live Under The Line Of Poverty
End of holidays reaffirm national stability: Aoun
Saudi Ambassador Submits Copy of Credentials to Foreign Ministry
Geagea to Name 'Some Candidates' in Chouf-Aley District
Merhebi: Syrian Refugees Drop Below 1 Million
Pierre Daher censures tampering with public freedom, says will support Ghanem at courthouse on Thursday
Kanaan in wake of Change and Reform bloc meeting: To respect law thrashing out officers' decree
General Security, State Security delegations visit Berri
Aoun tackles security situation with Sarraf
Shifts in the Demographic Profile of Hezbollah’s Combat Fatalities: What Do They Mean

Titles For
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 02-03/18
Overall death toll in Iran protests rises to 20
Iran protests: 450 people arrested nationwide as death toll mounts
Video allegedly documents Iranian security forces killing protesters
Trump denounces ‘brutal and corrupt’ Iranian regime
Iranian woman rallies against ‘generation that brought down the Shah’
Israel extends detention without trial for Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar
‘God help us’: Leaked meeting notes reveal panic among Iranian regime
Egypt files murder charges against man held for Coptic church attack
Egypt hangs five prisoners over bombing that killed military cadets
Israel targets Hamas sites after Gaza rocket attacks
Israel Law Tightens Hold on Occupied Jerusalem Sectors
State Media Says Syrian President Reshuffles Government

Latest Lebanese Related News published on January 02-03/18
Half Of The Iranians Live Under The Line Of Poverty
Elias Bejjani/January 02/17
According to the UN half of the Iranian population (40 million) live under the line of poverty. During the 38 years of the Mullahs oppressive dictatorship regime the majority of the Iranians live a miserable life...It is very clear that the Lebanese refuse the Mullahs role model in their country

End of holidays reaffirm national stability: Aoun
The Daily Star/January. 02/2018/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun said that the peaceful end of the holidays reaffirmed the continuing stability in Lebanon, a statement from his media office reported Tuesday. "The readiness of security institutions and relief organizations ensured that the holidays passed peacefully," he said. He then met with Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf, who briefed the president on the outcome of security measures taken during New Year's, saying they had been a "success."New Year's Eve celebrations have been known to result in injuries and fatalities. This year, the Defense Ministry suspended all weapons licenses from Dec. 22 until Jan. 1, 2018 to stop celebratory gunfire. However, four people were slightly wounded due to gunfire, according to a statement from the Internal Security Forces. The ISF had deployed an extra 12,000 units to monitor the country and reported that no additional serious injuries occurred on New Year's Eve. The Lebanese Red Cross had set up some 46 emergency centers and four control rooms to coordinate the expected increase in demand over New Year’s Eve and reported that they had responded to or transferred 505 cases. Aoun and Yaacoub also discussed preparations for the yet-to-be-scheduled international Rome II donor conference aimed at supporting the Lebanese Army. Yaacoub also stressed the need to train officers. "It is vital to train them so we can modernize the ministry's work," Yaacoub said.. Aoun also met with appointed Ambassador to Bulgaria Toufic Jaber at the Baabda Palace and talked about his duties. On Wednesday morning, he will receive the credential to the newly appointed ambassadors from Cuba, Mexico, Philippines, Fiji and Saudi Arabia, the statement said.

Saudi Ambassador Submits Copy of Credentials to Foreign Ministry
Associated Press/Naharnet /January 02/18/Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid al-Yaacoub has presented a copy of his credentials to Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil in preparation for presenting them to President Michel Aoun, ending a diplomatic tussle over presentation with each country delaying accreditation of the other's diplomat. Yaacoub presented his letters of credence to Bassil at the Foreign Ministry, the State-run National News Agency reported on Tuesday. Unnamed Foreign Ministry sources said: “The delay in accrediting Yaacoub was the result of the delay in accrediting the Lebanese ambassador to Saudi Arabia Fawzi Kabbara in Riyadh.”However, the sources stressed that Lebanon supports “friendly relations with Saudi Arabia,” noting “consensus not to interfere in the internal affairs of Arab countries.”Lebanon's ambassador to Saudi Arabia and his Saudi counterpart were caught in what appeared to be a diplomatic tussle over representation, with each country delaying accreditation of the other's diplomat, though both were named months ago. The delay highlighted tension between SA and Lebanon following the bizarre, now-reversed resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri from Riyadh.Lebanon's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, a member of Hariri's political party, was named to the post in late July and was only accredited late in December in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia named its ambassador in September. Ambassador Walid al-Yaacoub arrived in Lebanon in November, but still has not been sworn in by the president. Lebanon was thrown into a political crisis after the Nov. 4 Hariri resignation which he delivered in a televised statement read from the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Hariri has since withdrawn his resignation and returned home nearly three weeks later. The resignation was widely perceived as Saudi-orchestrated, and part of the kingdom's high-stakes rivalry with Iran. Iran is ally and backer of Hizbllah, which is a partner in the Hariri government. The resignation was viewed as an attempt to break up that unity government and pull the rug from under Iran's ally and destabilize the country. Domestic support for Hariri and international mediation by France and the U.S. helped reverse the resignation. Saudi officials, however, maintained their vocal criticism of Hezbollah. It is not yet clear what the Saudi policy is for Lebanon.

Geagea to Name 'Some Candidates' in Chouf-Aley District
Naharnet /January 02/18/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea will reportedly announce some of the party's candidates in the Aley and Chouf district who will run in the upcoming parliamentary elections, the Saudi-owned daily Asharq al-Awsat reported Tuesday. The daily quoted unnamed sources who also said that Progressive Socialist Party leader and Head of the Democratic Gathering bloc MP Walid Jumblat “will announce the names of his candidates when he gets a clearer image of the future political alliances,” planning to take part in the polls.Jumblat had announced earlier that he would have a consensual list in his stronghold of Chouf-Aley district that would ensure partnership. The “consensual” list would gather all the “main political parties” in Chouf and Aley, Jumblat had noted. In light of the latest row between President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri over the signing of a decree promoting a number of officers, the sources told the daily that “the majority of political forces are reluctant in these circumstances to talk about their alliances in light of what is happening and the escalating tension between parties that could affect the alliances' image.” Lebanon has set a date of May 6 this year to hold its first legislative election in nine years. For the first time, Lebanese nationals living overseas will be able to cast ballots in early voting. Lebanon's parliament has postponed elections several times over security reasons. Its term was supposed to expire in 2013 but lawmakers approved several extensions since then.

Merhebi: Syrian Refugees Drop Below 1 Million
Naharnet /January 02/18/State Minister for Affairs of the Displaced Moein Merhebi said on Tuesday that the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has dropped in the last two years, stressing that maintaining monitoring and registration data facilitates the return of the displaced in the future. In an interview with the pan-Arab al-Hayat daily, Merhebi said: “The latest Syrian refugees census has shown a drop from 1.210 million to 980,000 registered Syrian refugees in two years." The Minister noted that assistance provided for the displaced is notably diminishing because of the scarcity of donor contributions. He pointed out that “the assistance is not submitted to the Lebanese state, but to the United Nations and the relevant organizations that distribute them to the displaced. Merhebi added that refugee registration data can remarkably help the process of the return as it also falls in the "interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese." Lebanon hosts around 1.1 million Syrian refugees registered by the UNHCR, which is a high number for a country like Lebanon whose population does not exceed 4.4 million capita. The Syria refugee influx into Lebanon has strained the country's infrastructure, and has also sparked accusations that refugee camps are harboring militants from the war.The World Bank says the Syrian crisis has pushed an estimated 200,000 Lebanese into poverty, adding to the nation's one million poor.

Pierre Daher censures tampering with public freedom, says will support Ghanem at courthouse on Thursday

Tue 02 Jan 2018/NNA - The chairman of "LBCI" TV channel, Pierre Daher, pledged on Tuesday to support renowned Lebanese journalist, Marcel Ghanem, during the latter's court session set to take place at Baabda Justice Place on Thursday, January 4th at 9:30 am. Daher said that the judicial hubbub surrounding Ghanem's case was no longer about the latter's Kalam Al-Nass episode, which had led to the prosecution of Ghanem on charges of defamation. "The whole matter targets LBCI TV, and through it, the freedom of the press in Lebanon," Daher said. "We will meet next Thursday to raise our voices and oppose any attempt to undermine public freedoms," Daher added.

Kanaan in wake of Change and Reform bloc meeting: To respect law thrashing out officers' decree
Tue 02 Jan 2018 / NNA - Change and Reform Parliamentary bloc leader Ibrahim Kanaan said in the wake of the bloc's regular weekly meeting that the year 2017 had proven to be a year full of accomplishments, pledging many more to come. "During the current era under our strong president, some sides with certain interests would definitely wish to halt the progress of these accomplishments," Kanaan added, confirming his political bloc's keenness on maintaining a state of national consensus over various matters similar to the one that had accompanied the governmental crisis. "We broke the vicious cycle that the state had been stuck in: we endorsed a new electoral law, approved a general budget, as well as oil and gas exploration to support the economy and put an end to the financial and economic crisis," Kanaan said. Touching on the political feud between Speaker of the House Nabih Berri and President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun over a decree promoting a number of Lebanese Army officers who served under Aoun in the late 1980s -- when Aoun was an Army commander -- Kanaan pushed concerned sides to resort to the law and respect its dictates finding appropriate solutions to the officers' seniority issue.

General Security, State Security delegations visit Berri

Tue 02 Jan 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, welcomed at Ein Teeneh on Tuesday, the general directors of the Lebanese General Security and the State Security, generals Abbas Ibrahim and Antoine Saliba, heading delegations representing both institutions. Berri's visitors offered him well wishes on the New Year. The House Speaker seized the occasion to laud the roles of each of the two departments preserving security and maintaining stability at the domestic scene. Separately, Berri had an audience with Lebanese ambassadors to Nigeria, Turkey, Korea, Serbia and Tunisia, Houssam Diab, Ghassan Al-Mouallem, Antoine Azzam, Nada Al-Akl and Toni Frangieh.

Aoun tackles security situation with Sarraf
Tue 02 Jan 2018/Politics - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, on Tuesday expressed satisfaction with the safe atmosphere that accompanied the festive season in Lebanon, lauding the measures adopted by the army and security forces to maintain security and safety in all Lebanese regions. "This is an outright confirmation of the stability and security in the country, not to mention relays a bright picture of Lebanon abroad," the President said during a meeting with National Defense Minister, Yacoub Sarraf, at Baabda Palace, and other Baabda interlocutors. In the wake of the meeting, Sarraf said that talks with the President have also touched on the ongoing preparations for Rome conference in support of the Lebanese Army and security institutions. Sarraf also discussed with the President the establishment of centers to train army and security cadets and officers en route to the computerization of their relevant institutions. Sarraf highlighted the importance of such a project, especially in the framework of modernizing the work in the ministry's institutions. On another level, the President will be receiving tomorrow (Wednesday) the credentials of five newly appointed ambassadors to Lebanon: Philippines, Cuba, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Fiji. A ceremony marking the approval of the ambassadors' credentials will be held on the occasion.

Shifts in the Demographic Profile of Hezbollah’s Combat Fatalities: What Do They Mean?
ما هي مدلولات التحولات في الملف الديموغرافي للوفيات في الحروب التي يخوضها حزب الله
Kendall Bianchi/Small Wars Journal/January 02/17
In July 2017, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah had a message for anyone who still questioned the value of the Party of God’s involvement in Syria. “Ask the people of Hermel,” he advised. “Continue on to the villages around Hermel, to the Bekaa… and to Baalbek… then answer your own question.”[i] His instructions were rhetorical, but they reflected a key internal organizational trend over the past five years. Since Hezbollah’s entry into the war in Syria in 2012, data drawn from death announcements shows that the geographical distribution of martyr hometowns has shifted away from the Beirut area[ii] and increasingly into the areas Nasrallah mentioned: the Baalbek-Hermel Governorate in the northern and central Bekaa valley.[iii]
This change highlights an interesting trend with respect to where–and possibly how–Hezbollah recruits fighters for the war in Syria. Shifts in the geographic distribution of Hezbollah’s martyrs may reflect changes in party recruitment and manpower policies, regional disparities in the motivations of fighters, or some combination of these factors; it may be impossible to surmise which has played a driving role. Regardless, these shifts in the demographic profile of its martyrs from the past to the present day suggest that the political, security, and economic conditions specific to certain regional constituencies have helped ensure a continued supply of motivated recruits and fighters for the war in Syria.
The analysis presented here is based on two datasets from separate time periods. The earlier dataset encompasses the names and hometowns of over 1,200 Hezbollah members killed in Lebanon from 1982 to 2000; the later dataset includes the same information on nearly 900 fighters killed in action between 2013 and mid-2017, mostly in Syria.[iv] For the purposes of this paper, we assume that the demographic profile of Hezbollah’s combat fatalities does not diverge significantly from that of its fighting force as a whole. We cannot assume, however, that the demographic makeup of Hezbollah’s martyrs reflects that of Hezbollah’s entire organizational membership, given the possibility that manpower policies favor recruits from more politically consequential regions and reward them with more desirable jobs. Thus since the geographic distribution of Hezbollah’s martyrs may diverge from that of Hezbollah’s members writ large, this analysis focuses solely on apparent changes in the composition of the group’s fighting force.[v] [vi] [vii]
An analysis of the demographic profile of Hezbollah martyrs poses a number of methodological challenges. For one, the lack of an official census makes it difficult to assess whether the geographical distribution of Hezbollah’s martyrs is proportional to the distribution of the Shia community across Lebanon (although voter registration data may provide a useful benchmark to contextualize the demographic characteristics of Hezbollah’s martyrs; see below). But since this article examines shifts over time in the geographical distribution of martyrs, controlling for the size of the Shia population in each region is only necessary insofar as the distribution of Lebanon’s Shiites may have also shifted over time. Indeed, migration patterns have generally moved away from peripheral areas and toward the Beirut area, possibly biasing the data. But since the distribution of Hezbollah’s martyrs has shifted away from Beirut, the divergent direction of these trends would only make the findings of this article more striking. Moreover, hometowns identified in death announcements generally refer to town of origin, not town of residence; and as a result, migration patterns may ultimately have little or no bearing on the geographic concentration of Hezbollah’s base of support. Of course, possible discrepancies between town of origin and town of residence could also create methodological problems, given that the personal concerns and political attitudes of displaced families may no longer reflect those of the residents of their town of origin. But available information suggests that the majority of martyrs still resided in their town of origin; although residency data may be incomplete, it is worth noting that only about 10% of martyrdom announcements since 2013 indicate a town of residence that diverges from the specified town of origin.[viii]
Geographical Shifts
Hezbollah’s base of support can be broadly divided into the three regions of Lebanon in which the Shia population is concentrated: Beirut and its southern suburbs[ix], southern Lebanon[x], and the Baalbek-Hermel Governorate in the northern and central Bekaa valley. According to Lebanese government data collected and aggregated by the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections and Lamba Labs, these three regions combined comprise about 90% of Lebanese Shia registered voters in 2017.[xi] Out of the total, 59% originated from southern Lebanon, 21% from Baalbek-Hermel, and 11% from Beirut and the Baabda District (which encompasses Beirut’s southern suburbs of Dahiya) combined.[xii] These figures have remained roughly consistent since 2005–the first year the organization compiled the data. This consistency may be attributed to the fact that Lebanese electoral laws require individuals to vote in their town of origin, derived through the father (or husband, in the case of women married to Lebanese men), and thus does not change when an individual moves to another region.[xiii] Because Hezbollah’s death announcements also identify the martyr’s town of origin, voter registration data may provide an imperfect but useful benchmark against which to gauge the distribution of Hezbollah’s martyrs.[xiv]
The geographical distribution of Hezbollah’s martyrs in the earlier period (1982-2000) corresponds roughly with that of Lebanese Shia registered voters since 2005: approximately 61% of martyrs during this period originated from southern Lebanon, 20% from Baalbek-Hermel, and 9% from Beirut and Dahiya (see Table 1). Since then, however, the distribution of Hezbollah’s martyr base has diverged from that of Shia voters. While southern Lebanon still accounts for about 60% of fighters killed in the later period (2013-2017), the percentage of martyrs hailing from Baalbek-Hermel has jumped from 20% to 28%–an increase of about 40%. This increase has been offset by a sharp decrease in the percentage of martyrs originating from Beirut and its southern suburbs, dwindling from 9% in the earlier period to just 2% in the later period–a reduction of almost 80%. Notably, the city of Beirut produced nearly 60 martyrs between 1982 and 2000, but under 5 between 2013 and mid-2017.
These trends raise an obvious question: what factors have driven the shift in the distribution of martyrs over time? Of course, geographical origin alone does not determine why one man joins Hezbollah’s front lines in Syria while another chooses to remain in Lebanon; motivation is difficult to surmise. There are, however, general conditions present in each region that shape the concerns and motivations of its population. Taken together, these factors likely influence the receptiveness of a given geographical constituency to Hezbollah’s recruiting efforts for the war in Syria. The same is true in an American context, as studies over the years have examined the reasons behind the disproportionate representation of southerners in the ranks of the U.S. military.[xv] Shanea Watkins and James Sherk noted in a 2008 report by the Heritage Foundation that while “demographic characteristics are a poor proxy for the quality of those who serve in the armed forces… they can help to explain which Americans volunteer for military service and why.”[xvi] In the context of Lebanese Hezbollah, examining the prevailing conditions in regions that have experienced shifts in their share of martyrs may help shed light on the factors that have facilitated recruitment specifically for the war in Syria.
The shift in the geographical distribution of martyrs hometowns out of the Beirut area and into the Baalbek-Hermel region likely reflects the rising importance of several overlapping factors in recruiting for the war in Syria: socioeconomic status, security fears, and domestic social tensions.
Socioeconomic Factors
Shifts in the geographic composition of Hezbollah’s martyrs suggests that the group’s fighters in Syria are more likely to be drawn from poorer areas than their predecessors. Since independence, the Lebanese government has focused its development efforts disproportionately on Beirut as an economic center, resulting in the relative marginalization of peripheral regions including the Bekaa valley.[xvii] In 2008, research[xviii] showed that the Baalbek-Hermel region ranked above the national average in both poverty and human deprivation, and the onset of the Syrian war has only exacerbated the situation. In 2016, the UNOCHA reported[xix] that the influx of Syrian refugees had contributed to a population increase of 67% in the Bekaa valley, imposing a significant strain on regional infrastructure as well as the labor market[xx]; poor security conditions, meanwhile, have decimated the tourism sector.[xxi] Thus the shift of Hezbollah’s martyrs from the Beirut area to the Baalbek-Hermel region suggests that by and large, these martyrs originate from lower socioeconomic strata than their predecessors.
In addition to broad regional shifts, micro-level changes in the geographic distribution of Hezbollah’s martyr base also appear to correlate with socioeconomic development. Take, for instance, Hezbollah’s stronghold of Dahiya, south of Beirut. While the majority of Dahiya’s martyrs in the earlier dataset originated from the relatively upscale neighborhood of Ghobeiry, almost all of its martyrs in the later dataset came from poorer areas including Hayy Sollom, Burj al Barajneh, and Haret Hreik. Another possible indicator of the increasing relevance of socioeconomic factors is that Hezbollah’s more recent martyrs hail less often from urban areas than their predecessors did. This change is most obvious in Beirut as described above, but it is also apparent across the country; relatively large cities including Baalbek, Nabatiyeh and Hermel all produce notably fewer martyrs as a portion of their mother district than they did previously. The shift away from cities could indicate that recruits from underdeveloped localities may be more likely to perform military service in Syria. Alternatively, since IDPs living in cities may still list their town of origin as their hometown, the shift may signal that urban Hezbollah fighters in Syria have been drawn increasingly from these IDP populations–which are over-represented among Lebanon’s poor.[xxii] Finally, it is possible that Hezbollah prefers to send men from more peripheral and less politically influential regions to combat units in Syria–rather than sending men from the group’s stronghold on the outskirts of Beirut.
The ostensible increase in the share of martyrs from less developed areas suggests that socioeconomic considerations may play a larger role in mobilizing fighters than they did in the past, since individuals from lower socioeconomic strata are less likely to have economic alternatives outside the party. Recent developments have further limited the availability of economic alternatives to those who do not fight in Syria: As Hanin Ghaddar has noted, rising war budgets have caused the party to focus their domestic service provision more narrowly on fighters and their families rather than the whole community, possibly incentivizing those who require these services to volunteer for military service.[xxiii] A 2015 Daily Beast report indicated, moreover, that some of those who decline to fight in Syria have seen their reservist paychecks and family benefits cut.[xxiv] Combined, these factors may make individuals from poorer, less developed, and more peripheral areas more likely to join Hezbollah–which, under current circumstances, means serving in Syria.
While Hezbollah may simply be benefiting from socio-economic need, one should not discount the possibility that they also intentionally target more marginalized communities to attract recruits for the war in Syria. If this is the case, it would not be the first time the party has demonstrated a shrewd understanding of the relationship between socioeconomic status and a willingness to serve. After the 2006 war with Israel, for instance, the group granted intentionally small one-off payments to fighters and their families. “If we gave them all Range Rovers,” one unnamed official told journalist Nick Blanford regarding the payments, “they wouldn’t want to fight anymore.”[xxv]
Fear in the Bekaa Valley
Security fears resulting from spillover from Syria into Baalbek-Hermel may also help facilitate Hezbollah’s military mobilization efforts. For those living closest to Syria, families and livelihood may be at stake, and thus an uptick in martyrs from towns on or near the border near Qusayr seems like no coincidence.[xxvi] Other localities spread throughout this region also face a tenuous security situation. Conflict mapping[xxvii] across Lebanon has shown that while the Beirut area and the Baalbek-Hermel have experienced comparable numbers of security incidents in the past several years and have both fallen victim to attacks by Sunni jihadists, unrest in the capital is fueled more by “social and legal issues,” while unrest in Baalbek stems frequently from border insecurity and violence by militant groups.[xxviii] Since 2014, Beirut and Dahiya have experienced just over 70 security incidents related to the war in Syria, mostly limited to raids, arrests, and demonstrations; meanwhile, Baalbek-Hermel saw over 500 such disturbances.[xxix] [xxx] As the mapping shows, incidents in Baalbek-Hermel are also more serious in nature, including not only raids and arrests but also shelling of ISIS and Nusra positions, rocket attacks by militant groups, and clashes between Lebanese forces and militants.
The volatile security atmosphere in this region has fostered a climate of fear that may make the population more receptive to Hezbollah recruitment efforts for the war in Syria. A 2015 poll of Lebanese Shiites showed that comparatively fewer residents of the Bekaa Valley (70%) felt safe in their area than residents of the South or Beirut (both over 85%).[xxxi] The source of fear in the Bekaa, moreover, demonstrates support in that region for Hezbollah’s claim that “takfiri” groups in Syria threaten the territorial integrity of Lebanon: nearly 60% of Bekaa Shiites saw takfirism as the most important threat facing their community, compared with only 32% of Beiruti Shiites.[xxxii] Finally, the Bekaa Valley was the only region of the three in which a majority of residents named Hezbollah as the primary security provider in the area[xxxiii]–despite the fact that the Lebanese Armed Forces clash with takfiri groups within Lebanon far more often than Hezbollah does so.[xxxiv] Regional disparities in threat perceptions may thus make the Bekaa Valley particularly ripe for Hezbollah support and recruitment in the present day.
Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah’s rhetoric also seems calculated to stoke the fears of Hezbollah’s base–perhaps for political reasons–which may indirectly benefit Hezbollah recruitment in the Bekaa Valley region. While his speeches make virtually no mention of Syrian refugees, they do make frequent references to “armed men” and “takfiris” who have infiltrated the Baalbek-Hermel region, as well as car bombs and rockets that threaten the population there. “Do we not have a right to intervene to avert the risk of the killing, displacement, rape, and looting of thirty-thousand Lebanese living in the Qusayr region?” Nasrallah asked during a speech in February 2014.[xxxv] In August 2017, Nasrallah addressed ISIS attacks on two Lebanese Christian towns in Baalbek, conjuring up a frightening scenario: “God knows, with these [ISIS fighters] who planned to occupy Ras Baalbek and Al-Qaa, what could have happened in the Bekaa and in the country as a whole.”[xxxvi]
Social Tensions and Sectarianism
One cannot ignore the role that sectarian tensions may play in motivating fighters, given that Hezbollah intervened in Syria under the pretext of defending Shia holy sites. The organization has always recruited largely from Lebanon’s Shia population, but it may be possible to view the role of sectarianism in facilitating mobilization within the context of the two factors discussed above; specifically, socioeconomic frustrations and security fears specific to the Baalbek-Hermel region may help stoke sectarian tensions that benefit Hezbollah’s mobilization efforts.
With regard to the overlap between security concerns and sectarianism, takfiri militants often take cover in the Sunni-majority pockets of the Baalbek district. Their presence there may aggravate Shia fear and mistrust of nearby Sunni communities–propagating Hezbollah’s particular brand of sectarianism, which is not anti-Sunni per se but rather seeks to instigate fear of and hatred for Sunni regional actors that threaten Shia communities or take an anti-Shia line. As for the overlap between socioeconomic frustration and sectarianism, a 2015 poll asked the Lebanese Shia community to name the form of identity that gave them the greatest sense of personal pride.[xxxvii] A breakdown of the results showed that while only about 8% of the wealthiest respondents chose Shia identity, over 30% of the poorest respondents gave the same answer–demonstrating that the extent to which sectarian sentiments influence motivation may correlate with the socioeconomic status of the target population. Additionally, a high concentration of Syrian refugees in the North and the Bekaa has contributed to intense labor market competition in both of those regions. While few Shias inhabit the North, job competition between the largely Sunni refugees and indigenous Shia populations in the Bekaa may cause socioeconomic fears to manifest additionally as sectarian resentment. In sum, the role of sectarianism in incentivizing recruits to volunteer for service in Syria should also be viewed within the context of socio-economic frustrations and security concerns.
The Future of Hezbollah
Whether the trends revealed by the data reflect party policies, recruit motivations, or some combination of both, changes in the demographic profile of Hezbollah’s combat fatalities may have adverse consequences for the organization. For one, the ostensible uptick the number of martyrs from socioeconomically deprived regions may further institutionalize socioeconomic hierarchies within the party, and prompt resentment against perceived or real party policies. Moreover, Hezbollah is unlikely to leave Syria in the foreseeable future, so these casualties will likely continue to mount. And if Hezbollah goes to war with Israel, these hierarchies may result in further inequities in the distribution of casualties among the organization’s supporters. Finally, geographical disparities in threat perception may further divide the organization. A renewed Israeli threat from the southern front would likely draw the attention of residents of the south; but it is possible that residents of Baalbek-Hermel may remain more focused on the proximate takfiri menace.
At present, the shifting geographic distribution of Hezbollah’s martyrs seems to have benefited the group’s ability to wage war in Syria. Whether or not these shifts will bear unintended consequences in the long run, however, remains to be seen.
Table 1 [xxxviii]
* Voting registration dataset only stretches back to 2005.
** As mentioned, Southern Lebanon includes both the South Governorate and the Nabatiyeh Governorate.
*** Although the “Dahiya” suburb of Beirut is administratively attached to the Baabda District of the Mount Lebanon Governorate, for the purposes of this chart it is considered a part of the “Beirut area” category.
End Notes
[i] “Statement of Hassan Nasrallah on television about the course of the Joroud Arsal Battle,” Al Manar, July 27, 2017,
[ii] “Beirut area” refers to both Beirut city proper and the group’s stronghold in the city’s southern suburbs, also known as “Ad-Dahiya al-Janoubia” or simply “Dahiya,” technically located in the Baabda District.
[iii] The Bekaa region of Lebanon has been subject to changes in administrative division over the years. Today, the northern and central Bekaa valley is comprised of the Baalbek-Hermel Governorate, which encompasses the districts of Baalbek and Hermel. The Bekaa Valley region also includes the Bekaa Governorate, encompassing the districts of Western Bekaa, Zahle, and Rashaya.
[iv] Death announcements often do not specify the death location of the martyr. Given that the bulk of Hezbollah’s military operations in recent years have taken place in Syria, it is safe to assume that most of its martyrs since 2013 were killed there.
[v] The earlier data (1982-2000) was drawn from short martyr bios on an official Hezbollah website,; the later data (2013-2017) was collected from martyrdom announcements posted on pro-Hezbollah website
[vi] Data from the 2006 war against Israel was not available in sufficient quantity to include it in the dataset.
[vii] In order to account for the under-reporting of casualty data, statistics presented in this paper should not be interpreted as precise measures, but rather suggestive of broad trends. Moreover, errors and inconsistencies in the group’s own reporting may have also contributed to inaccuracies in the figures presented here–although there is no reason to believe that errors and inconsistencies have biased the data in a particular direction.
[viii] Data on town of residence may not be entirely reliable. Indeed, for the earlier period (1982-2000), it is absent. For the later period (2013-2017) it may be incomplete or inconsistent.
[ix] This category refers to the city of Beirut and its southern suburb of Dahiya, the latter of which is administratively attached is to the Baabda District of the Mount Lebanon Governorate.
[x] “Southern Lebanon” refers to the Nabatiyeh and South Lebanon Governorates combined.
[xi] “Registered voters by confession,” Lebanese Elections Data,
[xii] Because the Baabda District’s Shia population is concentrated in Dahiya, we can assume that the number of Lebanese Shia in Baabda is approximately equal to the number of Lebanese Shia in Dahiya, although the two figures may not be exactly the same; see Sergey Kondrashov, “Lebanon religious groups distribution,” December 29, 2012,
[xiii] Ziad Abu-Rish, “Municipal Politics in Lebanon,” Middle East Report 46, 280 (Fall 2016),
[xiv] Of course, the lack of collated electoral data by these NGOs prior to 2005 makes it difficult to measure the distribution of Shia registered voters in the earlier period (1982-2000) against the distribution of Hezbollah’s martyrs during that time. However, given the fact that the distribution of registered voters remained consistent from 2005-2017 and that individuals vote in their town of origin rather than town of residence, it may be reasonable to assume that the distribution of Shia registered voters has not changed significantly over the past few decades.
[xv] See for example: Ann Markusen, Peter Hall, Scott Cambpell, and Sabina Deitrick, The Rise of the Gunbelt: The Military Remapping of Industrial America (New York: Oxford University, 1991); see also Tim Kane, “Who Bears the Burden? Demographic Characteristics of U.S. Military Recruits Before and After 9/11,” Heritage Foundation, November 7, 2005,
[xvi] Shanea Watkins and James Sherk, “Who Serves in the U.S. Military? The Demographics of Enlisted Troops and Officers,” Heritage Foundation, August 21, 2008,
[xvii] Muzna al-Masri, “Between Local Patronage Relationships and Securitization: The Conflict Context in the Bekaa Region,” Lebanon Support, January 2015,
[xviii] Heba Laithy, Khalid Abu-Ismail, and Kamal Hamdan, “Poverty, Growth and Income Distribution in Lebanon,” International Poverty Centre Country Study no. 13 (January 2008),
[xix] “Bekaa and Baalbek/Hermel Governorates Profile,” UNOCHA, May 2016,
[xx] “Assessment of the Impact of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon and Their Employment Profile,” International Labour Organization, 2014,—arabstates/—ro-beirut/documents/publication/wcms_240134.pdf.
[xxi] Al-Masri, January 2015.
[xxii] See Kristian Alexander, “Lebanon,” in Encyclopedia of World Poverty, ed. Mehmet Okedon (Sage Publications, 2006), p. 630.
[xxiii] Hanin Ghaddar, “Economic Alternatives Could Help Split Shiites from Hezbollah,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, October 18, 2016,
[xxiv] Jesse Rosenfeld, “Hezbollah Fighters Are Fed Up With Fighting Syria’s War,” Daily Beast, December 30, 2015,
[xxv] Nicholas Blanford, “Joining Hezbollah,” The Cairo Review, Fall 2011,
[xxvi] Qusayr was the site of Hezbollah’s first intervention in Syria in 2012.
[xxvii] “Geo-located mapping of conflicts in Lebanon,” The Civil Society Knowledge Center, Lebanon Support,
[xxviii] “Conflict Analysis Bulletin,” Issue 6, The Civil Society Knowledge Center, Lebanon Support (March 2017),
[xxix] To recreate this map, set the parameters to include the years 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. “Primary classification of conflict” is equal to “Border conflicts (Syrian border)”. “Caza” is one of Baalbek, Hermel, Beirut, or Baabda. Zoom in on the map to distinguish between incidents in Baabda that occurred within Dahiya from incidents that occurred in other areas of the district. Note that the “border conflicts” variable is defined below the map, and encompasses spillover conflicts like raids and arrests in Syrian camps or demonstrations related to Syria, even if they do not take place close to the Syrian border.
[xxx] As of December 14, 2017.
[xxxi] “15 Questions for the Lebanese Shia Community,” Hayya Bina, July 2015,
[xxxii] Ibid. Residents of the south also felt the takfiri threat particularly acutely, at 62%.
[xxxiii] Ibid.
[xxxiv] See conflict mapping.
[xxxv] “Sayyed Nasrallah in Memory of Our Martyred Leaders,”, February 2014,
[xxxvi] “Sayyed Nasrallah: We Want Our Country as a Free, Independent, Dear and Noble Sovereign,”, August 2017,
[xxxvii] Lebanese citizenship, Shia identity, and Muslim identity were the three most common answers. See: “15 Questions for the Lebanese Shia Community,” Hayya Bina, July 2015,
[xxxviii] Data on distribution of registered Shia voters adapted from: “Registered voters by confession,” Lebanese Elections Data,
**About the Author Kendall Bianchi
Kendall Bianchi is a research assistant at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. She previously studied Arabic in Jordan on a NSEP Boren Scholarship and in Morocco on a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship. Her work has also appeared in Foreign Affairs and the Washington Institute’s Fikra Forum. Follow her on Twitter at @klbianchi1.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 02-03/18
Overall death toll in Iran protests rises to 20
Staff writer, Al Arabiya/January 02/2018/
As the protests continue in Iranian cities for the fifth day in a row, clashes between the security forces and the protesters led to the rise of the death toll to 20. The death toll, on Monday, rose to 20; 17 demonstrators and three security men. In the first official announcement of the deaths among security forces during the wave of protests, Iranian news agencies reported that a policeman was killed and three others were wounded by a bullet fired by a demonstrator in the city of Najafabad in Isfahan province. The demonstrator reportedly used a hunting rifle in his attack. According to information received by the Al Arabiya, five protesters were killed in the city of Qahdregan, the province of Isfahan, central Iran. According to some reformist and fundamentalist news sources, the clashes occurred when protesters tried to break into the city hall’s building. The IRNA news agency reported the killing of a security man in the city of Najafabad, in Isfahan district during clashes with protesters. Some unconfirmed reports published by sites close to former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad say that the number of people killed in the city are two men from the Revolutionary Guard. Given the previous death toll from Iranian protesters according to official statistics, the number of the lost protestors has risen to 17.

Iran protests: 450 people arrested nationwide as death toll mounts
Agencies/January 02/2018/Some 450 people have been arrested in the Iranian capital over the past three days during unrest linked to protests, an official told local media on Tuesday. "200 people were arrested on Saturday, 150 on Sunday and around 100 on Monday," Ali-Asghar Naserbakht, a deputy in the Tehran city governor's office, told the reformist-linked ILNA news agency. Protests have been relatively small in Tehran compared with many parts of the country since the unrest began last Thursday. "We feel the situation in Tehran is more calm than previous days. Already yesterday, it was calmer than before," said Naserbakht. He added that no request had yet been put to the Revolutionary Guards to intervene in the capital. "We will not permit insecurity to continue in any way in Tehran. If it continues, officials will take decisions to finish it," said Esmail Kowsari, a deputy commander for a local branch of the Revolutionary Guards, on state television.
Iranian state television has reported that nine people have been killed overnight amid the nationwide protests and unrest. The report Tuesday puts the death toll in six days of demonstrations to at least 20 people.  State TV said six rioters were killed during an attack on a police station in the town of Qahdarijan. It reported that clashes were sparked by rioters who tried to steal guns from the police station. State TV also said an 11-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man were killed in the town of Khomeinishahr, while a member of Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard was killed in the town of Najafabad. It says all were shot by hunting rifles. The towns are all in Iran's central Isfahan province, some 350 kilometers south of Tehran. The European Union pushed Iran on Monday to guarantee the right to protest as authorities have moved to crack down on days of unrest across the nation. Protests broke out Thursday and have quickly grown to become the biggest test for the regime since mass demonstrations in 2009. "We have been in touch with the Iranian authorities and we expect that the right to peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression will be guaranteed," a spokeswoman for the bloc's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement. "We will continue to monitor developments," the spokeswoman added. The latest demonstrations on Monday came despite President Hassan Rouhani's vow that the nation would deal with "rioters and lawbreakers". Authorities have confirmed more than 400 arrests since the outbreak of the unrest, of whom around 100 have been freed. Rouhani came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, but high living costs and a 12 percent unemployment rate have left many feeling that progress is too slow.

Video allegedly documents Iranian security forces killing protesters

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/January 02/2018/A video was widely shared on social media on Tuesday allegedly showing security forces shooting at protesters in Iran, while their bodies get dragged away from the gunfire. The video titled “Documentation of security forces killing protesters” was re-shared by the Iranian Affairs Twitter account, which has more than 600,000 followers. A man hiding behind a building shot the video on his mobile phone. People are seen running away from the range of gunfire, while others try to drag the bodies of those who were shot.Audio can be heard of the man taking the video and others shouting “slow down! Slow down!” with apparent fear in their voices.

Trump denounces ‘brutal and corrupt’ Iranian regime
AFP, Washington/January 02/2018/US President Donald Trump praised Iranian protesters on Tuesday for acting against Tehran’s “brutal and corrupt” regime after days of bloody unrest, while also lashing out at his predecessor Barack Obama. “The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime,” Trump tweeted, a day after calling for regime change in the Islamic republic. “All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their ‘pockets.’ The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The US is watching!”The comments were Trump’s latest hint of a possible US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- that was a signature foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration. Trump has been vocal on Twitter about the protests in Iran since they erupted last week. On Monday, he said it was “time for change” in Iran and that the country’s people were “hungry” for freedom. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has hit back at Trump’s comments, saying the US leader -- whose “whole being is against the nation of Iran -- has “no right” to sympathize with protesters. Protests began in Iran’s second largest city Mashhad and quickly spread to become the biggest challenge to the Islamic regime since mass demonstrations in 2009. Iranian officials have said online accounts in the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia are fomenting protests, which Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed on the country’s “enemies.”

Iranian woman rallies against ‘generation that brought down the Shah’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya/January 02/2018/A video of a woman chanting slogans against the generation that overthrew the shah’s regime in the 1979 Iranian revolution has been widely shared on social networks by Iranian activists. She was also appealing to young people to continue their uprising to overthrow the Mullah’s regime. “I am a woman but I will stand in the frontlines with you young ones, because you represent the Iranian revolution,” she said to a crowd of demonstrators. The video shows crowds of young people supporting her chants and calls for the continuation of the uprising until the government steps down. Tuesday marks the sixth day of protests and marches in the Iran uprising. Reports indicate demonstrators taking over small cities like Izeh, north of Ahwaz. According to Iranian news agencies, the death toll keeps rising, while several protesters have been injured and arrested.

Israel extends detention without trial for Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar
AFP, Jerusalem/January 02/2018/Israel has extended the detention without trial of a prominent Palestinian politician by another six months, the army said Tuesday, meaning she will spend at least one year in custody. Khalida Jarrar was arrested on July 2 for being a senior member in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a movement considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union. She had been released from prison only a year before. Details of the accusations against her are secret, as is customary with Israeli administrative detention orders, which allow detention without trial for renewable six-month periods. A legislator in the largely defunct Palestinian parliament, she was given a six-month administrative detention order in July. On December 24, the detention was extended by another six months “after security personnel found she still poses a substantial threat,” the Israeli army said. “The decision to hold Jarrar under administrative detention was made as a last resort, after the military official who signed the arrest warrant was displayed confidential information that clearly substantiates the threat posed by Jarrar,” the army said in a statement.
Many PFLP leaders are in custody and Jarrar has been jailed multiple times. The 54-year-old had only been released in June 2016 after 14 months in an Israeli jail for allegedly encouraging attacks against Israelis. Israel says administrative detention is intended to allow authorities to hold suspects while continuing to gather evidence, with the aim of preventing attacks in the meantime. But the system has been criticized by Palestinians, human rights groups and members of the international community who say Israel abuses the measure.

‘God help us’: Leaked meeting notes reveal panic among Iranian regime
Staff writer, Al Arabiya/January 02/2018/Leaked notes from meetings between Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the country’s political leaders and heads of security expressed that the recent nationwide protests have hurt every sector of the economy and “threaten the regime’s security”.The report which was leaked to Fox News, covered several meetings up until December 31. It was translated from Farsi to English and was provided from a high level source within the regime to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), according to the news agency. The meeting notes between Iran’s leading figures discussed the rising unrest and how to clamp down on it. “Religious leaders and the leadership must come to the scene as soon as possible and prevent the situation (from) deteriorating further,” the report said. “God help us, this is a very complex situation and is different from previous occasions.”“In Tehran today, people were chanting slogans against Khamenei and the slogans used yesterday were all against Khamenei,” it added. According to Fox News, the notes said that the intelligence division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is “monitoring the situation” and “working all in coordination to prevent protests.”The notes also show that the regime is aware of the slogans being chanted. It specifically mentions slogans that included “Death to the dictator,” and “the leader lives like God while the people live like beggars.”A “red alert” has not yet been declared according to the notes, as it would lead to direct military intervention in the protests, but the Iranian leaders predicted that sending IRGC or the Bassij forces would “backfire” and further “antagonize the protesters.”They also mention NCRI leader, Maryam Rajavi, and the “Infidels,” which the translation says refers to “the West,” “are united for the first time.” It continued, “Maryam Rajavi is hoping for regime change,” saying the protests are “definitely organized,” and “the security forces report that the MEK is very active and is leading and directing them.”Support for the protests from President Trump and US officials were also mentioned in the report. “The United States officially supported the people on the streets.” The notes continued by saying the US and the West “have all united in support of the Hypocrites.”The meeting notes also warn that all those affiliated with leadership “must be on alert and monitor the situation constantly.”“The security and intelligence forces must constantly monitor the situation on the scene and conduct surveillance and subsequently report to the office of the leadership,” the notes said. As the protests continue in Iranian cities for the sixth day in a row, clashes between security forces and protesters led to the rise of the death toll to 20, with Iranian State TV reporting nine more killed on Tuesday.

Egypt files murder charges against man held for Coptic church attack
Reuters/January 02/2018/Egypt’s public prosecutor has filed murder charges against a man accused of killing 11 people in an attack on a Coptic church and a Christian-owned shop in a Cairo suburb last week, judicial sources said. The man, arrested after the Dec. 29 attack, was receiving medical treatment in custody for injuries sustained in an exchange of gunfire with authorities outside the church. The prosecutor ordered him detained pending investigations, the sources said. “He is accused of premeditated murder, attempted murder, possession of an unlicensed weapon and using it for terrorist activity,” a judicial source said. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks shortly afterwards, in a statement carried out by its Amaq news agency, though it provided no evidence for the claim. Militants have claimed several attacks on Egypt’s large Christian minority in recent years, including two bombings on Palm Sunday in April and a blast at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral in December 2016 that killed 28 people.

Egypt hangs five prisoners over bombing that killed military cadets

AFP, Cairo/January 02/2018/Egyptian prison authorities executed on Tuesday five inmates who had been sentenced to death, four of them over a bombing that killed military cadets, security officials said. The hangings came days after the execution of 15 inmates convicted of attacking police and the military in the largest mass execution in Egypt in recent memory. Four of those executed on Tuesday had been sentenced to death by a military court over a 2015 the bombing at a stadium north of Cairo that killed three military cadets. The fifth had been sentenced to death over a criminal matter, the sources said without elaborating. The other four had been accused of having links with the Muslim Brotherhood movement of former president Mohammed Morsi whom the army toppled in 2013 following protests against his single year in office. On December 26, prison authorities hanged 15 inmates sentenced to death by a military court over attacks on the police and military in the Sinai Peninsula.

Israel targets Hamas sites after Gaza rocket attacks
AFP, Gaza/AFP, Cairo/January 02/2018/Israeli aircraft attacked Hamas bases in Gaza early Tuesday in response to a rocket from the Palestinian enclave targeting southern Israel hours before, concurring sources said. The aircraft targeted a “military compound belonging to the terrorist organization Hamas,” a statement from the army read. Palestinian security sources said the strikes were in Khan Younes in the south and Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, causing damage but no casualties. On Monday night, a rocket hit a town in southern Israel, causing however no damage or casualties. Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired 18 rockets or mortar rounds at Israel in violence that erupted after US President Donald Trump’s controversial December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, six of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system. The projectiles are often fired by fringe Islamist groups, but Israel holds Gaza’s militant rulers Hamas responsible for any attacks from the territory and retaliates by targeting Hamas positions. “The IDF holds Hamas solely accountable for events in the Gaza Strip,” the Tuesday army statement read.

Israel Law Tightens Hold on Occupied Jerusalem Sectors
AF/Naharnet /January 02/18/Israel's parliament on Tuesday gave final approval to legislation aimed at making it more difficult for the government to hand the Palestinians parts of Jerusalem under any future peace deal. The bill, approved by a 64 to 51 vote, is the latest blow to remaining hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Formulated by Shuli Moalem-Refaeli of the far-right Jewish Home party, it comes weeks after US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital sparked deadly protests in the Palestinian territories. It also follows a vote earlier this week by the central committee of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party in favour of extending Israeli sovereignty over settlements in the occupied West Bank. The Likud vote was non-binding, but was a further expression of the hopes of many right-wing Israelis who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state. The law approved Tuesday determines that any ceding of lands considered by Israel to be part of Jerusalem would necessitate a two-thirds majority vote in parliament -- 80 out of 120 members of the Knesset. It also enables changing the municipal definition of Jerusalem, which means that sectors of the city "could be declared separate entities," a statement from parliament read. Israeli right-wing politicians have spoken of unilaterally breaking off overwhelmingly Palestinian areas of the city in a bid to increase its Jewish majority. The new law is however not necessarily definitive. It can be changed by a regular parliamentary majority of 61. Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community. It claims all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state. - 'The occupation's positions' -The issue is among the most contentious in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "We've ensured the unity of Jerusalem," Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads Jewish Home, said after the vote. "The Mount of Olives, the Old City ... will forever remain ours," he wrote on Twitter. Dov Henin of the opposition's mainly Arab Joint List said the new law should be called "the law to prevent peace". "Without an agreement on Jerusalem there will be no peace," he said ahead of the final vote. "The law means that there will be bloodshed."Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the Israelis were moving ahead with such measures because the United States had stayed silent and signalled approval with Trump's Jerusalem declaration. "The US adminstration is adopting the occupation's positions," Erekat, the Palestinians' longtime chief negotiator, told Palestinian radio. "The Palestinians will fight against US and Israeli attempts to impose solutions." Trump's December 6 decision upended decades of precedent and broke with international consensus, but maintains that Jerusalem's final status would have to be decided in negotiations between the two sides. It has led to deep anger among Palestinians, with president Mahmud Abbas saying the United States can no longer play any role in the Middle East peace process. On Monday, Abbas said the White House "has refused to condemn Israeli colonial settlements as well as the systematic attacks and crimes of the Israeli occupation against the people of Palestine". Speaking of the Likud vote, he said "we hope that this vote serves as a reminder for the international community that the Israeli government, with the full support of the US administration, is not interested in a just and lasting peace."

State Media Says Syrian President Reshuffles Government
Associated Press/Naharnet /January 02/18/President Bashar Assad reshuffled his government Monday replacing the ministers of defense, information and industry, Syria's state news agency SANA reported. SANA did not give a reason for the government reshuffle that comes at a time when Assad's forces have been gaining ground over the past two years under the cover of Russian airstrikes and with the help of Iran-backed fighters. It said army commander Gen. Ali Ayoub has been named defense minister replacing Fahd Jassem al-Freij who had held the post since 2012. Ayoub had been the army chief of staff since July 2012 until he became defense minister. The agency added that Imad Sarah has been named information minister while Mohammed Mazen Youssef was chosen as the new minister of industry. The announcement came as different parts of Syria witnessed violence, mostly in the suburbs of the capital Damascus and northwestern Syria, where troops are on the offensive on the southern edge of Idlib province. Heavy clashes broke out between Syrian government forces and insurgents east of Damascus when troops tried to reach under the cover of a dozen airstrikes a force trapped inside, opposition activists said.
The clashes have been ongoing for three days but on Sunday, rebels backed by al-Qaida-linked fighters attacked troops and pro-government gunmen capturing parts of a military installation and surrounding a force inside. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Syria-based activist Mazen al-Shami said Monday's fighting was concentrated inside the military installation near the suburb of Harasta, where the government force has been trapped. The Observatory said the Syrian air force conducted at least a dozen airstrikes on Harasta and nearby suburbs. Al-Shami reported dozens of airstrikes. He said the government brought in reinforcements overnight and is trying to reach the trapped force. The Observatory said three days of violence in the suburbs of Damascus known as eastern Ghouta has killed 35 civilians, as well as 24 government troops and 29 insurgents. An official with the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham insurgent group said the government is negotiating the passage of its fighters trapped in the military installation. The official, who asked not to be named because of the secrecy of the talks said the negotiations are in their preliminary stages. Syria's state media did not mention the trapped force but blamed insurgents for the violence saying that they are firing shells into government-controlled areas killing at least one civilian.The U.N. says government forces are holding nearly 400,000 people under siege in eastern Ghouta. The region was once a hotbed of protest against President Bashar Assad's government.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 02-03/18
Is the collapse of Iranian regime better for us in the region?
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/January 02/ 2018
First of all, this analysis should not be considered as a guarantee that the Iranian regime is falling apart or that it has inevitably fallen.
The fact remains that the regime in Tehran has powerful structures and institutions. It represents an empowered segment that cannot be easily removed via demonstrations. However, the importance of the people’s movement – which surprised us again just as it did in 2009 – is that it would help later on in entire or partial change. Before talking about its repercussions on our region, we wonder about its effect on the Iranian regime, which will impact us accordingly. There are several possibilities. First, that security forces will suppress the demonstrations, as it did 8 years ago when it did not hesitate to kill unarmed demonstrators in front of phone cameras. The second possibility is that the regime will make some sacrifices, such as dismissing Rouhani and his government, to bring the crisis under control. The third possibility is that the demonstrations will grow in size and violence will spread, which will make the opposition figures within the regime, whether the two opponents the Revolutionary Guard and army, benefit from the crisis. The fourth possibility, which is unlikely, is that the regime will fall and the situation will be like Syria and Libya. For countries in the region, ideal scenario would be that the regime does not collapse but changes foreign policy and stops aggressive approach
Defying the regime
Irrespective of whichever scenario plays out, the protesters are defying the regime in Tehran. Their confidence has been shaken in the eyes of the majority of Iranians and the world. This will continue to be the case even if demonstrations end in the next few days. President Rouhani’s speech was supportive of this idea; that the government should listen to its citizens. As for the third and fourth possibilities, that a group would take over the regime or it would fall, it would be dangerous not only for Iran but for the entire region. For countries in the region, especially Arab countries, the ideal scenario would be that the regime does not collapse but that it changes its foreign policy and stops its aggressive approach. This scenario may seem strange, but it’s justified that the region now suffers from a state of destruction that cannot afford new chaos, additional civil wars and millions of refugees. But if the uprising of the Iranian people has made a change in the Iranian policy, stopped its foreign operations and forced the regime to start the internal reforms and development, this would be the perfect choice compared to the frightening scenario of the collapse of the regime. The issue in this hypothesis is that the nature of the Iranian regime is not a civil one that is capable of changing itself, but rather a religious-security one, in other words fascist and religious. It is difficult to reform its thoughts, line and how it sees the world around. This now depends on senior leaders, who must constantly meet because of the critical developments threatening the regime. If they withstand the crisis and learn their lessons, the regime may survive, but if they resist and decid to confront the demonstrators with bullets, this will not prevent future uprising. Revolutionary Guards leaders, along with senior clerics, are arrogant and believe they can turn the republic into a regional empire that occupies countries in the region. They believe they can compete with international powers, threaten their interests in the Middle East. They seek to besiege Saudi Arabia, threaten Israel, and fight several wars at the same time.
This is the way arrogant people think. They disregard limits to Iranian power in a country whose people suffer, and whose economy is one of the poorest in the region.

The protesters in Iran need real help from Washington
Michael Singh/Washington Post/January 02/18
Michael Singh is managing director and senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
With Iran experiencing its largest, most widespread protests in years, thoughts in the White House will inevitably turn to Iran’s 2009 “Green Movement,” sparked by what was widely considered to be the rigging of presidential elections by Iranian authorities that year. President Barack Obama’s administration, unsure how to help the protesters and reluctant to scuttle its nascent engagement with Tehran, responded to the demonstrations with diffidence, prompting criticism from left and right alike.
It should thus come as little surprise that President Trump — fresh off repudiating Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran — has taken the opposite tack and thrown his weight behind the protesters. But the Trump administration faces the conundrum that has long stymied U.S. officials seeking to support dissidents abroad: What precisely can we do, beyond issuing statements? After all, a loud statement unsupported by action is unlikely to have more impact than one delivered sotto voce.
Like so many protests around the world, the current demonstrations in Iran appear to have begun with bread-and-butter concerns. Iranians expected their lives to improve after the 2015 nuclear deal, and although Iran has experienced economic growth overall, Iranians still face rising prices and high unemployment. Economics and politics are inextricably linked, so it is not surprising that protesters have also decried corruption and expenditures on foreign conflicts in Syria and elsewhere at a time when domestic needs seem so great.
Given its own concerns about Iran’s regional policies, Washington has a stake in this debate. Yet many, including many Iranians, will advise the United States and other foreign governments to stay quiet on the protests for fear of tarnishing them by association with outside powers. But the regime will seek to paint protesters as foreign agents regardless of the reality. The best way to counter this is not to remain silent but to ensure that U.S. statements of support are broadly multilateral and are backed with more practical steps.
The United States and its allies should, through public statements, private messages, U.N. resolutions and whatever other vehicles are available, clearly express their support for Iranians’ right to protest. They should also warn authorities in Iran against any violent suppression of the demonstrations, whether such violence takes place on the streets or — as occurred after the 2009 protests — later on in homes and prisons, out of the public eye. Both the regime and demonstrators should be made constantly aware that the world’s attention is fixed on them.
If the regime resorts to violence anyway, the international response should focus on diplomatic isolation. European and Asian states should reduce their diplomatic ties with Iran and downgrade Iran’s participation in international forums. Sanctions may also have a role, but they should be carefully targeted against those responsible for any crackdown — as well as those outside Iran who facilitate their actions — so as not to harm the Iranians whom the measures aim to support.
Such warnings alone are unlikely to deter Iranian authorities, who have proved both savvy and ruthless in employing their security apparatus against dissidents. Thus another focus of the international community’s response should be helping Iranians elude that apparatus and exercise the basic rights that it seeks to deny them.
In 2009, State Department official Jared Cohen, without authorization, implored Twitter to forgo a shutdown for scheduled maintenance that happened to coincide with the protests in Iran. Present-day officials, journalists and tech execs should take their cue from Cohen but go further, seeking to provide platforms outside Iran for dissidents to speak out and supply accurate information to those inside Iran about both the protests and the costs of the regime’s policies, along with the technical tools Iranians need to evade censorship and surveillance.
Finally, the Trump administration should consider how its broader Iran policy affects what happens inside Iran. This is not to say that the United States should be in the business of currying favor with the regime’s “moderates” — Washington has engaged in such efforts over the decades, largely fruitlessly. Instead, the United States can sharpen the choices facing Iran as a whole — and strengthen the arguments of pragmatists arguing for a change in policy — by raising the costs of Iranian regional adventurism and nuclear pursuits while keeping the door open to diplomacy should Iran wish to pursue its interests peacefully.
Western officials should avoid projecting their own hopes onto the Iranian protesters, whose grievances appear varied and are not necessarily aligned with our own complaints about the regime. Western officials should also keep their expectations of the protests in check. They could gather steam, or they could subside. The sign of a successful policy response will be its ability to survive either eventuality, based on the premise that an Iran that is more responsive to the needs of its people will be less dangerous to its region and to the United States.

Heroic Women Fighting for Freedom
Khadija/Gatestone Institute/January 02/2018
Iranian women, like many others, are sick and tired of living in layers upon layers of imprisonment.
Take note, those of you who want to see real women freedom-fighters. Look into the streets of Iran or listen to the chess champion Anna Muzychuk.
Iranian women, by risking their lives, have unmasked the faces of those trying to promote burqas and hijabs as supposed "symbols of liberation".
The desperate attempt of Iranian people pouring out onto the streets against the Islamist regime exposes the bitter life that Iran's citizens, especially women, have been forced to live for nearly forty years in the name of Islamic law, (sharia).
These demonstrations have also shown the ugly face of Islamists who take their own people hostage to quench their thirst for power -- by repression, jail, torture, executions -- any way they can.
Iranian women, like many others, are sick and tired of living in layers upon layers of imprisonment.
The regime in Iran clearly feels shaken by the resolve of these protestors: Iran's leaders have promised to soften their misogynistic laws by not imprisoning women in Tehran who appear in public without their veils on.
The protesters, however, do not seem to be buying this offer: they are seeking the full elimination of extremism in the country. There is clearly no more trust in the promises of this regime.
The skeptics, in fact, are right. There is a catch. Although the regime announced that it would not arrest women who set aside Iran's strict dress code, the regime also stated that these women would have to attend special "morality classes" by the sharia police.
Now why would a regime want that? Could it be so that the regime can document these women to keep a watch on them?
Iran's leaders have promised to soften their misogynistic laws by not imprisoning women who appear in public without their veils on. Instead, the "offenders" would have to attend special "morality classes" by the sharia police.
The shackles Iranians are trying to break are exactly the same ones that organizations such as CAIR, and cohorts of Islamist regimes such as Linda Sarsour, have been trying to sell to the Western public as symbols of "fashion" and "liberation".
Such apologists simply serve as mouthpieces for these extremist regimes, which not only enslave their own people but also distort the economic and intellectual development of their people through a mindset of supremacy and hatred throughout global arena.
When the organizers of the Women's March in the U.S. cherry-picked "abuses," they left a vast number of women behind, unnoticed and unwelcome, who have been subjected to inhuman treatment for centuries.
These so-called "liberators" of Muslim women actually do enormous harm to women trapped in totalitarian societies, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. In the name of Islamic law (sharia), these theocracies simply impose anti-woman rules.
We seldom meet the truly heroic women activists, such as the Ukrainian chess grandmaster, Anna Muzychuk. She blew away the bubble created by the women marchers who were promoting wearing the hijab: she refused to participate in a tournament in Saudi Arabia because of its mistreatment of women:
"Exactly one year ago, I won these two titles and was about the happiest person in the chess world but this time I feel really bad. I am ready to stand for my principles and skip the event, where in five days I was expected to earn more than I do in a dozen of events combined."
The courage expressed by Ms. Muzychuk is a rebuttal to religiously conservative societies regarding the bitter reality they inflict. It cannot be whitewashed away by pretty words, greedy purveyors of clothing, or disingenuous speeches.
In her refusal to submit to the demands of Muslim extremists, this brave chess player has shown more about activism for real women's rights in 2017 than everyone else combined.
Most Muslim women, wherever they live, have to go through hell even to win a tiny bit of equality, freedom or respect from their own societies. They are subjected to harshly discriminatory legal and financial laws. They are officially worth, for example, "half the value of a man" if they testify in court (Qur'an 2:282; Sahih International) or in inheritance (Quran 4:11; Sahih International). They are often coerced into polygamy as one of up to four wives, and can be "triple-talaq" divorced by being told "I divorce you" three times (Quran, 2:222-286). They also may be married off as prepubescent girls, and stoned to death as "adulteresses" if they have been raped, unless four male witnesses to the incident testify to the contrary in court (how likely is that?).
Such laws merely serve the interests Islamist spin-doctors and other extremist Muslims, by advancing their sharia-inspired agendas in the West.
The "women's rights" marchers in the West defended wearing the hijab while ignoring the daily abuse of Muslim women, such as honor killings, male guardianship, forced marriages, prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM), abuse of women by religious institutions such as Sharia councils, so popular in the UK, and sham practices such as halala.
Due to the rigid and never-changing norms of Muslim societies, these women have been denied their basic rights to self-determination and a free life.
The world should be supporting the struggle of Iranian protesters in their courage to challenge these extremist Muslims up front.
The people of Iran, unlike their counterparts in Egypt and Libya, are trying to get rid of a rigid, totalitarian theocracy and replace it with a democracy.
For countless women in religiously conservative societies, freedom still remains a dream. It is high time for the world to start tackling the real issues of women's rights head-on.
**Khadija Khan is a Pakistani journalist and commentator, currently based in Germany.
© 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.

An Indian Embassy in Jerusalem, Please
Jagdish N. Singh/Gatestone Institute/January 02/2018
New Delhi should now appreciate this American logic and refrain from opposing the current US administration's decision on relocating its own embassy wherever it likes. New Delhi would have done better to vote against the resolution and support Washington on the capital transfer also to improve its ties with its two important natural democratic allies -- the United States and Israel.
In the post-Cold War landscape, relations between Washington and New Delhi have attained new heights. India today needs American support for defence platforms and membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. US President Donald Trump has already described India as a leading global power and expressed his readiness to support it in reaching this status.
India's vote in favour of the recent UN General Assembly resolution critical of U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and shift its embassy to the holy city is most unfortunate. The resolution, adopted with 128 in favour to nine against, with 35 abstentions, expressed "deep regret" over this decision and stressed that Jerusalem "is a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant U.N. resolutions."
The Trump administration's decision on Jerusalem is very much in harmony with the morality of American democracy and the resolution of its Congress, and that if there are 56 Islamic states in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC); seven officially Roman Catholic states (Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Liechtenstein, Malta and Monaco); four officially Protestant states (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden); one Eastern Orthodox state (Greece), and one Anglican state (Great Britain), surely there is room for one Jewish state for a people who have continuously lived on that land for nearly 4,000 years.
Jerusalem has been in the heart of Jews. Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon repeated the claim to Jerusalem: "Jerusalem always was the capital of the Jewish people, is and will continue to be the capital of modern Israel. No vote at the General Assembly can change that."
Ironically, the holy city was not part of Israel in the original 1947 UN Palestine partition plan. Under this plan Jerusalem was to be ruled by an international trusteeship. Confronted with the opposition of many Arab and Muslim countries to the very idea of a Jewish state, (not to speak of Jerusalem), the Jews in 1948 declared Israel as an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. Israel liberated so-called East Jerusalem in 1967 from Jordan, which had illegally captured in the 1948-49 war. In June 1980, the Israeli government passed a "Basic Law" declaring Jerusalem "complete and united" as its capital.
Aware of this reality, the United States Congress had already passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, which urged the US to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to the Holy City. In June 2017, the US Senate reaffirmed Jerusalem as Israel's capital: "Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital. Acknowledging this is a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace."
New Delhi should now appreciate this American logic and refrain from opposing the current US administration's decision on relocating its own embassy wherever it likes. New Delhi would have done better to vote against the resolution and support Washington on the capital transfer also to improve its ties with its two important natural democratic allies -- the United States and Israel. In the post-Cold War landscape, relations between Washington and New Delhi have attained new heights. India today needs American support for defence platforms and membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. US President Donald Trump has already described India as a leading global power and expressed his readiness to support it in reaching this status.
After the establishment of full diplomatic ties between New Delhi and Jerusalem in January 1992, economic, technological, military and diplomatic relations between the two capitals have moved from strength to strength. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Israel (July 4-6, 2017), India and Israel signed agreements in the fields of water, agriculture, and space. Netanyahu and Modi upgraded the current bilateral relationship to a "strategic partnership" and agreed to take "strong measures... against terrorists, terror organisations, their networks and all those who encourage, support and finance terrorism, or provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups."
Now, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit India this month. He and Modi are expected to focus on taking cooperation on "the double T's" -- Technology, including agriculture and water conservation, and counter-terrorism to the "next level."
In the interest of growing Indo-Israeli ties, New Delhi would do well to join Guatemala and other nations, declare Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move its embassy to Jerusalem. The standard practice is to establish embassies only in a given state's capital. There should be no exception to this practice.
When, in 1948 Israel declared itself an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, India was among the first nations to recognize the Jewish state.
India, as the US, could locate its embassy in West Jerusalem. A Middle East expert, Raphael Cohen-Almagor, founder and director of the Middle East Study Group (MESG) at Britain's University of Hull, recently stated:
"All nations respect fellow nations and establish their embassies in the nation's chosen capital. Israel should not be an exception. All nations should establish their embassies in West Jerusalem. This move does not undermine the idea of two-state solution. According to the vision of two-state solution, East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine and West Jerusalem the capital of Israel."
Pictured: Officials and staff celebrate India's 70th Independence Day on the grounds of the Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv, on August 15, 2016.
**The author is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.
© 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.

What to Make of Latest Protests in Iran?

Lawrence A. Franklin/Gatestone Institute/January 02/2018
Security forces, such as agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), are photographing the protests, enabling police later to arrest leaders of the protests, violence-prone demonstrators, and those holding aloft political and anti-regime placards.
The regime will, of course, try to weather this latest round of protests while arresting leading agitators, to be followed by torture, "recanting" show-trials, and executions.
For the past several days, Iranians have demonstrated against a government that has not delivered on promised economic improvement and against a regime whose ruling clerical class they despise.
The public's animosity against the existing order, as past protests indicate, is no surprise. Particular aspects of this latest series of demonstrations, however, invite a critical eye by Iran-watchers.
The current protests began, not as usual, in the Iran's capital, Tehran. The protests began in Mashhad, center of the wealthiest and most powerful religious foundation in the country. At first, the crowds were demonstrating for the long-promised but undelivered economic benefits that were supposed to follow the roll-back of internationally-applied sanctions against Iran, after the Obama administration delivered more than $150 billion to the Islamic Republic.
By the second night of protests, the demonstrators became more hostile and began to focus on political complaints. As a consequence, the regime may have viewed the spreading demonstrations more ominously.
In the past, demonstrations beginning in Tehran would then spread to smaller cities, provinces where non-Persian minorities were dominant, and then to rural regions. This time, it appears that rural citizens were in the streets early on. Also, the ongoing protests are not led or limited in large part to students and middle-class professionals, centered in northern Tehran. These protests also reportedly include laborers from South Tehran, usually the constituency of populist candidates such as former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (term: 2005-2013).
The regime, for its part, while quick to mobilize security forces and counter-demonstrations, has been slow to employ lethal suppressive measures. However, security forces, such as agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), are photographing the protests, enabling police later to arrest leaders of the protests, violence-prone demonstrators, and those holding aloft political and anti-regime placards.
The protests, like many past eruptions in Iran, are not tightly coordinated, and lack recognized leaders and a common agenda. The regime will, of course try, to weather this latest round of protests while arresting leading agitators, to be followed by torture, "recanting" show-trials, and executions.
**Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve.
© 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.

A Bipartisan "Arc of Justice": Trump Commutes Rubashkin's Unjust Sentence
Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/January 02/2018
There are several important lessons to be gleaned from President Trump's act of justice and compassion. First, even in this age of hyper-partisanship, there are issues of simple justice that can unite diverse elements. Second, no one should ever give up on the quest for justice, even when all legal appeals have been exhausted.
The Bible commands, "Justice, Justice you must run after". It requires active pursuit of justice -- not passive acceptance of injustice -- for the right result to be achieved.
As Martin Luther King Jr. put it: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
The president of the United States has the constitutional authority to pardon any defendant and commute any sentence. It is a power rarely used. Recently, US President Donald Trump commuted an outrageously unjust sentence imposed on a Chasidic Jew named Sholom Rubashkin, who had been convicted of a bank fraud that generally warrants a sentence of a few years and a fine. This case was tried in the Iowa federal court. The prosecution manipulated the sale of Rubashkin's company to lower the price, thereby increasing the loss to the bank. Under the federal sentencing guidelines, the greater the loss, the higher the sentence. The prosecutor recommended a sentence of 25 years, more than 10 times what this crime warranted. But even that was not enough for the judge, who -- remarkably -- increased the sentence over the one recommended by the overzealous prosecutor. The final sentence was 27 years -- more than sentences often imposed on murderers, rapists, armed robbers and mobsters. This was especially unjustified, as Rubashkin had a clean record and a large family. There is no explanation for this wildly excessive sentence other than bias.
Appeals failed, but those seeking justice would not give up. I received a call from a prominent business and religious leader, Isaac Schapira, who pleaded with me to look into the case. I did, and concluded that this was a perfect case for a presidential commutation of such an unjust sentence. I was not alone. Dozens of former prosecutors, judges and other law enforcement officials agreed, including former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, Harvard Professor Phillip Heymann, former Justice Department official Larry Thomson, and many others. We were joined by elected officials, including Senator Orrin Hatch and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. The advocates for justice for Rubashkin included Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, prosecutors and defense attorneys, Jews and non-Jews, women and men. In this age of partisan division, we all united around this call for simple justice and compassion. We worked with Rubashkin's superb lawyer, Gary Apfel, and his earlier lawyers, including the legal icon, Nathan Lewin.
The joint effort was coordinated largely by an organization called The Aleph Institute. The moving force was an energetic rabbi, Zvi Boyarsky, who seemed never to sleep, and called others and me at all hours of the day and night. He solicited letters from prominent individuals from the day of the sentencing until the day of the commutation.
We had tried in vain to obtain a commutation from President Obama, who had pardoned or commuted the sentences of many small-time drug dealers who had received unjustly long sentences, but he did not act on the Rubashkin request.
When President Trump was elected, we renewed our effort. I played a small role in bringing the matter to President Trump's attention. I had been invited to the White House to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because I have a long-term friendship with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When that discussion was concluded, I raised the issue of Rubashkin, emphasizing the unfairness of the prosecution manipulating the sales price of his company and the loss to the bank in order to secure a higher sentence. As an experienced businessman, President Trump understood the unfairness of this tactic. He said he would look into the matter of commutation.
Several months later, he commuted Rubashkin's sentence to the 8 years he had already served He did not pardon him -- and did he not commute the large financial penalty and probationary aspects of the sentence. Rubashkin was immediately freed from prison on the last day of Chanukah and returned to his large family and community to celebrate a joyous Sabbath.
There are several important lessons to be gleaned from President Trump's act of justice and compassion. First, even in this age of hyper-partisanship, there are issues of simple justice that can unite diverse elements. Second, no one should ever give up on the quest for justice, even when all legal appeals have been exhausted. The Bible commands, "Justice, Justice you must run after". It requires active pursuit of justice -- not passive acceptance of injustice -- for the right result to be achieved As Martin Luther King Jr. put it: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Thanks to all the justice-seekers who worked together, and thanks to President Trump, on the last day of Chanukah, that moral arc moved a little bit closer to justice.
**Alan M. Dershowitz, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School and author of "Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Differences endangers Democracy."
© 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.

Finally, an Iranian Spring

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi//Al Arabiya/January 02/ 2018
When Iranians protested, mostly in Tehran, for the best half of 2009, they were angry about the rigged presidential election in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeated his “reformist” rival Mehdi Karroubi. The “Green Revolution,” was about the government —not the regime change. It was led by an elite, educated and well-to-do metropolitans supporting to the reformist movement. Recent protests are different in many ways. It started in Mashhad, a conservatively religious city, and the birthplace of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, where some 160,000 angry investors lost their life savings in a fraud residential project. Banks owned by the Revolutionary Guards suddenly closed down wiping out all deposits. And many companies haven’t paid salaries for up to a year! For a couple of years, after the burning of the Saudi Embassy, Shiite tourists from wealthy Gulf region ceased to come and hundreds of business closed down. Poor, unemployed and hungry people went out to call for a new revolution. They were calling Khamenei a dictator who lives in luxury while his people suffer, wishing him and President Hassan Rouhani death, as both of the are two sides of the same coin.
The city is governed by two of Khamenei top allies, Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda and Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi. The latter had participated and lost in the last presidential elections as representative of the supreme leader’s camp and the hardline movement.
Instead of calming the crowd, Alamolhoda advises the authorities: “If the law-enforcement agencies do not punish the troublemakers, the enemies will publish tapes and pictures telling the world that the regime of the Islamic Republic has lost its revolutionary spirit in Mashhad.”
These slogans summarize the sentiments of the Iranian people about their regime’s foreign policies and their devastating repercussions on development, economy and society
A religious and conservative town
Other cities followed. Isfahan, the third largest city in Iran, after Tehran and Mashhad joined the ranks. Teachers and retirees came out demanding their salaries and money lost in the failing banks and projects. The city is also a religious and conservative town. Its support of the Khomeini revolution in the late seventies was a decisive factor in its victory. Tens of thousands of their sons were killed in the Iran-Iraq war. One protester has lost four sons in Iraq, and a fifth in Syria. Instead of rewarding him, they took away his pension, he complains. Now, he cannot support what is left of his family. He is not alone, according to official statistics, 20 percent of the population is below poverty line and 40 percent of them need food aid, that is 60 percent of the 80 million Iranians. Twenty millions live in shantytowns. Not to mention an inflation rate exceeding 20 percent, and a currency rapidly losing value. The result is a hike in rates of crime, drug addiction and prostitution. The slogans raised in the demonstrations are telling: “Neither for Gaza, nor for Lebanon, my life is only for Iran,” “Forget Syria, remember us!,” “May your soul rest in peace, Reza Shah,” “freedom or death,” “Release political prisoners,” “Leaders live in paradise, people live in Hell,” “Death to Hezbollah.”
Sentiments of the people
These slogans summarize the sentiments of the Iranian people about their regime’s foreign policies and their devastating repercussions on development, economy and society. While austerity measures worsened an already tough life, the Syrian regime received $20 billion to kill its own people, and Hizbollah gets $1,200 billion a year to do the regime’s dirty business. Not to mention other costly expenses to support militias in Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain. As a protester put it, “We give an Afghan, Pakistani or Arab terrorist up to $1500 a month, with accommodation, food and transportation, while I live in a shack, and my hard-earned income of $250 is delayed or stolen. Few former Iranian leaders sided with their people. Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has just revealed the existence of 63 bank accounts for the head of the judiciary Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani and the corruption of his brother Ali Larijani, the Parliament Speaker. Others exposed the extent of criminality that reached the highest offices. Top bosses in ministries, banks, charities and religious institutions were found guilty of embezzlement, fraud, sexual harassment and child abuse. Worse, the leadership, including the Supreme Leader, has protected and defended the guilty and tried to hid their crimes. If the large, industrial and commercial metropolitans groan, imagine the suffering in the remote and marginalized areas. The racist and sectarian regime has always ignored the mostly Sunni Kurdish, Baluchi, Kurdish, Azeri, Turkmen and Afghan communities. Shiite Arabs fared no better. Over 60 towns have joined the rebellion, so far. Iran is awakening. Iranians are demanding their freedom, democracy and rights. They regretted supporting a revolution that turned against them. The world is watching, as it did in the spring of 2008. This time around it should interfere if the regime terrorizes its own people. Since they pretend to be a democracy, they should be held to its standards.

Is it time to concede in Libya?

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/January 02/ 2018
Though it continues to be overshadowed by the conflicts in other parts of the world, the civil war in Libya is still going strong. And like many such conflicts in marginal countries since WW2, the conflict is sustained in no small part by the power exerted by outside forces.
The conflict is a multi-faceted, multi-front affair between a range of actors ranging from tribal militias, sectarian militias, the local ISIS chapter, militias associated with the former Qaddafi armed forces and intelligence services, and so on. But the two leading parties are the Tobruk faction in the east, dominated by the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by General Khalifa Haftar, a former Qaddafi army officer, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli in the West.
Roughly speaking, the GNA has UN and Western backing, but its authority and military power in the country are rather lacking, while Haftar’s LNA has the backing of Moscow, is in control of the majority of the country’s oil resources and is militarily the strongest faction in the civil war.
Unlike the situation in Syria, however, there is a way to resolve the conflict if the international community, and particularly Europe, are willing to make certain difficult compromises. The GNA has had something no other faction in the conflict has enjoyed: international legal legitimacy.
But this month, that legitimacy is coming into question. The GNA has been established through the auspices of the UN with a mandate to bring the warring parties in the Libyan conflict together. Crucially, that mandate was originally stipulated to last one year, and could only be extended by one more year. This month, the two years have elapsed. Would a Qaddafi or Qaddafi-style military dictatorship not be preferable to the ongoing civil war, as far as the people of Libya are concerned?
Parallel state
General Haftar has already pointed out that the GNA mandate has elapsed, and therefore it has no better legal standing than any other warring party in the civil war. He is thus urging the supporters of the GNA to rally around him and the Tobruk parallel state he has been building over the last few years, as the authority most likely to be able to reunite the country, pacify the tribal and sectarian militias, and drive ISIS out of Libya. Problem is, he has a point. All the facts on the ground seem to confirm that if anyone can impose order and peace in Libya, it is him. Regardless of the fact that there is every chance he will become a military dictator in the mould of Egypt’s al-Sisi, if not quite as extreme as Qaddafi, and regardless of the fact that he is aligned with Putin, the fact of the matter remains that he is the best chance there is for peace in Libya.
So the West now has a dilemma: do they continue to support the GNA beyond its UN mandate and prolong the civil war, and with it, the refugee flows through Libya? Or do they concede and grant Libya to Haftar at the risk of giving Putin another strong ally on Europe’s border?
Haftar, for his own part, has already proposed that he will stop the refugee flows to Europe if he gains control of Libya’s western sea coast. That should appeal to Europe at least. The US is unlikely to change their position, but Europe could easily flip to back Haftar.
The moral question
The moral questions about such a decision are hard enough. We do not know quite what kind of leader Haftar will turn out to be if he is let loose on Libya. But would a Qaddafi or Qaddafi-style military dictatorship not be preferable to the ongoing civil war, as far as the people of Libya are concerned? To say nothing of the fact that it would ultimately be us in the West who end up answering that question, and not the Libyans themselves. But as far as Europe is concerned, the geopolitics of this might be significantly more straightforward. Moving swiftly and decisively behind Haftar could help end the civil war and secure the Libyan sea border from the refugee flows. And if done well, it might even attract Haftar out of Putin’s sphere of influence, if Haftar’s new Libyan administration is given due support and access to Europe’s energy markets. Whether Europe’s leaders will be as quick to pursue this window of opportunity as they were to bomb Libya during its Arab Spring uprising against Qaddafi remains to be seen.

Trajectories of the 2018 US policy in the Middle East
Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/January 02/ 2018
The importance of the Middle East region for the US stems from the fact that it is part of a wider geography which includes Europe and Asia, whose security has been one of the main American concerns since the 1900s.
The Middle East has been considered a source of conflict since the 1948 war between Arabs and Israelis, affecting not only neighboring countries in Asia, Africa and Europe but also countries distant from it, such as the US and Australia. Thus, the importance of the Middle East to the US is an essential element of its global security system. Washington perceives that failure to resolve conflicts in the region affects its national security as well as the security of its allies. This has been clear when a violent waves of attacks struck the United States and Western Europe in 2017 because the Middle East, though distant from the US in geography, is very influential in its domestic security and stability as well as prosperity.
Many other Middle East crises badly affect American stability and security, ranging from the influx of refugees from Syria, threats ofweapons of mass destruction including chemical weapons. The other issue that Mideast countries cause to the US is energy and oil as the Middle East oil producers either aggravate the performance of the American economy or improve it based on the prices of oil in the global market. However, Americans believe that Russians won the first round of 2017 in the Middle East by winning the war in Syria, which has strengthened the position of the Kremlin internationally. This could be a very positive justification for the Americans to reconsider their status in the Mideast and how to counter Russia and China which are expanding their influence in the Middle East and Africa. American concerns are linked to major developments in Syria that took place last year. These developments are also significant for the Kremlin, particularly in view of the forthcoming presidential elections in spring as they are not only linked to the strengthening of Russia’s regional and international influence but also in calming domestic fears that Russia is not slippinginto a new Afghanistan or facing a wide and heated confrontation with the United States. US involvement in Middle East this year will be more than in 2017 as it will try hard to find a new balance of power
US in the Middle East in 2018
Washington now has a great opportunity to benefit from its security partners in the Middle East region. What is happening in Iran at present is a new development that is not only triggered by burgeoning inflation in the country but more deep-seated resentment among most Iranians towards the country’s domestic and foreign policies. The Americans believe that ‘ordo ab chao’ (out of chaos comes order) should start in Iran so that peace prevails. US President Donald Trump tweeted a warning against Iranian government regarding its crackdown on protests and demonstrations saying: “The world is watching”. Iran from Trump’s viewpoint can be drawn away from its Russian orbit if it stops sectarian and proxy wars and gives up its plans of having a nuclear weapon. Thus, the US administration would cement its relations with its traditional allies in the region to enable them to thwart any Iranian misadventures. Trump considers North Korea as the US’ first major threat and Iran as the biggest threat to the stability of the Mideast region, given Tehran’s ambitions to dominate the Middle East as a revolutionary theocracy. The American strategic plan for the Middle East in 2018 is expected to first scrutinize Iran’s strategy in the region and analyse its capabilities politically, economically, and militarily in order to avoid direct confrontation with Tehran because it is active in many countries in the region unequivocally as in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Bahrain and clandestinely in some countries in Africa and in Asia.
As Iran advances its influence in many Mideast countries which have very weak governments, Washington would seek indirect intervention in Iranian affairs. Therefore, Trump’s administration is expected to address its 2017 failure of strategies in the Middle East to neutralise Iranian presence in the Arab states. This will start with enhancing ties with Iraqi government to freeze Iranian influence. Since US-Iraq relations appear more stable at present, mainly in light of the camaraderie of Trump with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, the commonality of their perspectives along with those of some other Shiite clerics in Iraq who oppose Iranian influence as they favour Iraq regaining its Arab identity, it can be speculated that the Americans would use their utmost to ensure that Abadi wins the coming elections in order to neutralise Iran from intervening in Iraqi affairs. In 2018, the United States is expected to reinforce ties with Abadi administration and would seek to incorporate Iraq into the regional and international community, mainly with talks about the reconstruction of Iraq. Washington will also push for continuous US military training for Iraqi soldiers to thwart the return of any terrorist group including ISIS to free Iraq from Iranian dependence.
The US policy in Syria
On 5 December 2017 the US Defense Department announced that the American forces in Syria would remain as long as necessary to ensure that ISIS will not return to Iraq and Syria. It is expected that the American presence in Syria would hinge upon the situation in eastern parts of the country as it seeks to stop terrorist factions and to stabilise the liberated areas with no clear timetable for pulling out US troops from Syria. The United States has nearly 2,000 soldiers on the ground in Syria. The growing involvement of Russia in the Middle East and the American presence in the Mideast would lead to the rise of extremist activities in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Thus, Moscow and Washington will be competing not only in the Middle East region but also in Central Asia. The Palestinian issue returned to the top of regional issues in past few weeks and it will be so in 2018 after Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Jerusalem issue will be a key factor in reshaping American ties in the Middle East in 2018. Turkish President, RecepTayyip Erdogan, countered Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem by hosting a meeting for the Organisation of Islamic Conference in Istanbul December 12, 2017. It is expected that Americans would try to mend fences with the Turkish government, especially after news of a meeting between Syrian opposition and pro- government representatives will be held in Sochi in January 29-30 after Russians have mediated talks between Syrian Kurds and the Turkish government for Kurdish representatives to attend the upcoming Sochi conference. Thus, American involvement in the Middle East in 2018 is likely to be much more active than it was in 2017 and Washington will try hard to find a new balance of power and more countries will join its alliances in order to neutralize Iranian presence in Arab countries and to defuse any wars by focusing on Central Asia and Afghanistan which are closer to China and Russia, the arch rivals of the USA, to keep them away from the Mideast region.