January 07/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
Ephesians 02/01-19: "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,  in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 06-07/18
Our Corrupted Leaders Represent our distorted image/Elias Bejjani/January 06/2018
Iran and the Need for Change/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/January 06/2018
The Iranian Game-Show Host Challenging Iran's Rulers/Eli Lake/Bloomberg/January 06/2018
If You Hate America, Why Not Go Back to Your Country/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/January 06/2018
Europe must stand on the side of the Iranian people/Ryszard Czarnecki/January 06/2018

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on January 06-07/18
Our Corrupted Leaders Represent our distorted image
Lebanon: Taif Agreement Prevailing In Berri-Aoun Dispute
Hariri-Geagea Meeting Expected 'within Days'
Berri Says Decree Crisis May Protract till Elections
Arsal Militant Involved in Bombings Sentenced to Life with Hard Labor
Wadih al-Khazen to Mediate between Aoun, Berri
MP Aoun Says President Not Seeking to Undermine Taef Accord
LAF arrests Maher Tleiss in Brital
Rahi urges politicians to build peace on basis of truth, justice and freedom

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 06-07/18
Act 2 of Trump clampdown on Iran: Re-imposing sanctions lifted under nuclear accord
Saudi FM Participates in Arab Ministerial Meeting on Jerusalem
Death of France’s Master of Spies in Arab world ... Philippe Rondot
'Be Careful!' Erdogan Warns French Reporter over Syria Question
Tillerson Backs Trump as Book Casts Mental Health Doubts
Iran Foreign Minister Ridicules Trump 'Blunder' at U.N.
Palestinians Mark Orthodox Christmas amid Boycott Calls
Clashes in Cairo after Detainee Dies at Police Station
Over 2,000 Afghans Sent by Iran Killed in Syria
Two Jets Collide on Ground at Toronto Airport

Latest Lebanese Related News published on January 06-07/18
Our Corrupted Leaders Represent our distorted image
Elias  Bejjani/January 06/2018
We, the Lebanese are fully responsible for the miseries that Lebanon is facing.
Why? Because we allow corrupted and shameless leaders, politicians and clergymen to control our national decision making process and evilly run our country.
Our well know proverb says: "your leaders are an image of you".
Yes currently they are! And because we are opportunists, chameleons, selfish, puppets, subservient, stupid and ignorant we leave in position and power, leaders and terrorist parties like Hezbollah.
Our fate is in our hands and unless we change, our leaders will remain as we are.

Lebanon: Taif Agreement Prevailing In Berri-Aoun Dispute
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al Awsat/January 06/2018/A dispute erupted two weeks ago between President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri over a decree to promote a number of officers without the approval of the Finance Minister seemed more complicated on Friday and bypassed the fact of being linked to the signature of the minister after Berri hinted that the row between the two men is related to the “Taif Accord.” However, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) denies that the quarrel has reached such level, saying that such issue needs to be solved outside the media circles. Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri had signed the decree that sees the promotion of officers who graduated from the military school in 1994. However, Berri insists that the decree should be approved by the Finance Ministry, before going into effect. In the absence of any sight of a solution over the issue, and while each party remains attached to its own position, sources close to Berri told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Speaker “is currently engaged in a battle to protect the Taif Accord.” The announcement from the Berri camp reveals the speaker’s fears from violating the Taif Accord that ended the bilateral rule at the executive level in Lebanon, where decisions needed the signatures of the President and the Cabinet. However, the FPM party, which is close to the President, denies that the quarrel over the signature of the decree to promote a number of officers, who graduated from the military academy in 1994, has reached such elevated level.
FPM member and deputy at the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc told Asharq Al-Awsat that the target and context behind the signature of the decree does not aim to violate the Taif Accord. “The issue was given a larger dimension from its actual size. We are not in the process of messing with the Taif Accord,” he said. Aoun said that solving the dispute needs the presence of direct talks between the two sides. Pending potential contacts between Aoun and Berri, other parties linked to the quarrel also admit the complexity of the situation. Hezbollah earlier announced that the issue was “sensitive,” while efforts exerted by Prime Minister Hariri to come up with a way to bring together the views of Aoun and Berri was still under discussion.

Hariri-Geagea Meeting Expected 'within Days'
Naharnet/January 06/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea could meet within days, possibly next week, to heal the rift between al-Mustaqbal Movement and the LF that followed the premier's Saudi ordeal, a media report said. "The relation is gradually returning to normal," sources close to the LF told al-Akhbar daily in remarks published Saturday. Communication between Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury and Information Minister Melhem Riachi "has made progress and removed a lot of obstacles, which will lead to an imminent meeting between Hariri and Geagea," the sources said. Relations between the two long-time allies were strained after some Mustaqbal officials accused the LF of inciting Saudi leaders to press Hariri to resign. The premier announced his resignation on November 4 from the Saudi capital but eventually rescinded it after reaching a deal with the Hizbullah-led camp. The Mustaqbal-LF row is also linked to Geagea's statement in the wake of Hariri's resignation that the premier should have resigned earlier and that "no self-respecting person would stay in the government after all the events of the past few months."

Berri Says Decree Crisis May Protract till Elections
Naharnet/January 06/18/Speaker Nabih Berri has stressed anew that he will not change his stance over a disputed decree behind an ongoing row with the president, even if he loses the support of all parties who currently share his viewpoint. "I insist on my opinion, even if I end up alone" in the confrontation, Berri told his visitors. "The finance minister's signature is indispensable ," he emphasized. "In Lebanon, anything may happen, and the crisis could protract until the parliamentary elections," Berri warned. The spat between the Speaker and President Michel Aoun broke out after the president and the premier signed a decree granting one-year seniority to a number of officers. Berri and Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil have insisted that the decree should have also carried the finance minister's signature. Aoun and his aides have argued that the decree did not require Khalil's signature because it did not entail any “financial burden,” a point Berri and officials close to him have argued against. Ain el-Tineh sources have meanwhile warned that the decree would tip sectarian balance in favor of Christians in the army's highest echelons. The officers in question were undergoing their first year of officer training at the Military Academy when Syrian forces ousted Aoun’s military government from Baabda in 1990. They were suspended by the pro-Damascus authorities until 1993 before they resumed their officer training course as second-year cadets.

Arsal Militant Involved in Bombings Sentenced to Life with Hard Labor
Naharnet/January 06/18/The Military Court on Saturday sentenced jihadist militant Ahmed Ammoun to life in prison with hard labor, the National News Agency said. Ammoun, who goes by the nom de guerre Al-Sheikh and hails from the eastern border town of Arsal, was also stripped of his civil rights.
The militant was convicted of a host of charges including “rigging cars with explosives and blowing them up in several Lebanese areas among them Beirut’s southern suburbs; participating in attacks on army posts in Arsal in 2014; killing citizens and army and Internal Security Forces personnel; and plotting to send bomb-laden cars into Lebanon.”In the wake of the Syrian uprising, the mountainous outskirts of Arsal had served as a safe haven for Syrian rebels and jihadists from the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front groups. The militants were ousted from the area in separate offensives carried out by Hizbullah and the Lebanese and Syrian armies in 2017.

Wadih al-Khazen to Mediate between Aoun, Berri

Naharnet/January 06/18/Ex-minister Wadih al-Khazen, the head of the Central Council of the Maronite Societies, intends to mediate between President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri in the ongoing spat over the disputed officers seniority decree, a media report said. Khazen had met Berri on Friday and is scheduled to meet with Aoun on Saturday to “convey Speaker Berri’s openness to solutions,” al-Liwaa newspaper said in its Saturday issue. Berri’s openness is conditioned on “the regularity of the work of state institutions, partnership and respect for the National Pact,” Khazen has quoted the Speaker as saying. “I will raise the issue with President Aoun today and hear his viewpoint,” Khazen told al-Liwaa. The Aoun-Berri spat broke out after the president and the premier signed a decree granting one-year seniority to a number of officers. Berri and Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil have insisted that the decree should have also carried the finance minister's signature. Aoun and his aides have argued that the decree did not require Khalil's signature because it did not entail any “financial burden,” a point Berri and officials close to him have argued against. Ain el-Tineh sources have meanwhile warned that the decree would tip sectarian balance in favor of Christians in the army's highest echelons. The officers in question were undergoing their first year of officer training at the Military Academy when Syrian forces ousted Aoun’s military government from Baabda in 1990. They were suspended by the pro-Damascus authorities until 1993 before they resumed their officer training course as second-year cadets.

MP Aoun Says President Not Seeking to Undermine Taef Accord
Naharnet/January 06/18/MP Alain Aoun of the Change and Reform bloc has stressed that President Michel Aoun is not seeking to “undermine the Taef Accord,” in response to remarks by Speaker Nabih Berri in this regard. “The objective behind signing the decree of the officers who graduated in 1994 is not to undermine the Taef Accord,” the lawmaker told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published Saturday. “The issue has been blown out of proportion and we do not intend to violate the Taef Accord,” MP Aoun added. He also emphasized that “there is no sectarian motive behind granting one-year’s seniority to a number of officers.” Berri has accused the president, without naming him, of seeking to monopolize power and to “undermine” the Taef Accord. The ongoing Aoun-Berri spat broke out after the president and the premier signed a decree granting one-year seniority to a number of officers. Berri and Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil have insisted that the decree should have also carried the finance minister's signature. Aoun and his aides have argued that the decree did not require Khalil's signature because it did not entail any “financial burden,” a point Berri and officials close to him have argued against. Ain el-Tineh sources have meanwhile warned that the decree would tip sectarian balance in favor of Christians in the army's highest echelons. The officers in question were undergoing their first year of officer training at the Military Academy when Syrian forces ousted Aoun’s military government from Baabda in 1990. They were suspended by the pro-Damascus authorities until 1993 before they resumed their officer training course as second-year cadets.

LAF arrests Maher Tleiss in Brital
Sat 06 Jan 2018/NNA - "As a result of monitoring and follow-up, a force from the Directorate of Intelligence arrested raided the home of Maher Mohamad Tleiss and arrested him in his hometown in Brital, in the Bekaa," a statement from the Lebanese Armed Forces said. The arrestee is wanted by the Interpol and for forming a gang to steal cars, kidnapping and producing counterfeit money, attacking members of the Army, as well as on the suspicion of arms and drug dealing. Interrogation of the detainee is initiated under the supervision of the competent judiciary.

Rahi urges politicians to build peace on basis of truth, justice and freedom
Sat 06 Jan 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Beshara Rahi, said during Epiphany Mass on Saturday that it is time for politicians to build peace on the basis of truth, justice and freedom. "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening (1 Samuel 3-10)," said Samuel to God, "all the leaders need Samuel's call to build peace on the basis of truth, justice, freedom and love," Rahi said from Bkirki.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 06-07/18
Act 2 of Trump clampdown on Iran: Re-imposing sanctions lifted under nuclear accord
DebkaFile/January 06/18/
On the heels of the first protests to hit the Iranian regime, Washington will turn the screw by negating financial benefits afforded by the nuclear deal. To this end, President Donald Trump will use the deadlines he faces as of next week for certifying the Iranian nuclear deal and approving sanctions waivers. This intent was indicated by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in an AP interview Friday, Jan. 5. Since the president had demanded that the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran be either “fixed or cancelled,” Tillerson said the administration was working with lawmakers on legislation for making it more acceptable to the president. Last October, Trump reluctantly waived sanctions for another three months. However, since sanctions relief was not incorporated in the nuclear deal, which Iran signed with six world nations three years ago, the US may set them aside without being accused of non-compliance. The US may therefore certify the framework while emptying it of the economic benefits the Obama administration granted, which funneled hundreds of billions of dollars to the Iranian treasury.This is what Tillerson meant by “fixing” rather than “cancelling” the nuclear accord. He is charged with reformulating the deal, while upholding the Trump policy for countering Iran’s regional aggression and continuing support for anti-regime protests. These steps are components of the drawn-out, staged war of attrition the Trump administration has begun orchestrating against the revolutionary Shiite regime in Tehran for the year of 2018.
The following steps are already in the pipeline, DEBKAfile reports:
President Trump may refrain this time from signing on to the sanction waivers, but may re-certify Iran’s compliance with the accord.
The US Treasury Department has meanwhile announced new sanctions targeting banks, financial entities and officials – whether involved in Iran’s missile program or propping up the Revolutionary Guard Corps and its actions to suppress popular dissent. Washington will likewise target entities in the Middle East and beyond that serve Tehran and receive Iranian financial assistance and weapons. Examples are Lebanon, Hizballah, the Iraqi Shiite militias under Iranian command, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and others. A broad US strategy is now in place for halting or slashing American aid programs to entities and governments which refuse to cooperate with the administration’s policy objectives.
Donald Trump’s original plan was to work closely with the Europeans on his drive against Iran. Since the European governments have not only opted out of cooperation but are flatly opposed to US support for the Iranian protesters, Washington is forging ahead on its own, without reference to any European capital. Trump has thus scrapped one of the basic principles which gave birth to the nuclear accord, close cooperation between the US, Russia and the leading European powers.
The breakup of this transatlantic partnership confronts Russia’s Vladimir Putin with a dilemma. Lining up with Europe on Iran would place Moscow on a collision course with the Trump administration. That Moscow knows exactly what is at stake was evident in the remarks made by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Jan. 4, in response to Washington’s call for a UN Security Council to discuss repression in Iran: “We warn the US against attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He also cautioned Washington against being “tempted to use the moment to raise new issues with regard to the JCPOA (the 2015 nuclear accord.)

Saudi FM Participates in Arab Ministerial Meeting on Jerusalem
Asharq Al Awsat/January 06/2018/Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir attended on Saturday the Arab ministerial meeting on Jerusalem held in the Jordanian capital Amman. The foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Palestine, and Morocco as well as Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit also took part in the meeting. Al-Jubeir was accompanied by Prince Khalid bin Faisal bin Turki, the Saudi Ambassador to Jordan, and Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Specialized International Affairs Abdurlahman Al-Rassi. Al-Jubeir received his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry on the sidelines of the Arab ministerial meeting.The meeting was attended by the Saudi ambassador and a number of officials.

Death of France’s Master of Spies in Arab world ... Philippe Rondot
Paris - Michel Abu Najm/Asharq Al Awsat/January 06/2018/Few days ago, French General Philippe Rondot died at the age of 81. He was not a regular soldier because he was perhaps the most veteran of those who had been spies in France since the end of the second World War. He held many titles and names, including Philippe Marie Louis Rondot, who was born in Nancy on October 5, 1936; the son of General Pierre Rondot and the author of "Islam and Muslims Today", who graduated from the famous French military academy “Saint-Cyr” in 1965 and chose to join the paratroopers battalion and participate in the Algerian war between 1960 and 1964; and "Max," his pseudonym in the secret service, where he spent most of his career as a spy working for his country regardless of the political identity of the government. Rondot followed his father, who worked for the French intelligence at that time. He was also given the nickname “Colonel Lawrence” after the English officer who played an important role in the Great Arab Revolution against the Turks in order to glorify his successes. Kim Philby, was also one of his nicknames, given after a British spy who was an agent of the Soviets and died in Moscow.
The fact is that Rondot is all these figures at the same time and even more because he was a great intellectual and a top-notch academician. He earned a PhD in political sociology. His works testify his passion for the Arab world, of which he spoke its language fluently. He wrote six books devoted to Syria in 1978, Iraq in 1979, Jordan in 1980, Arab-Israeli Peace Projects in 1980, which was his thesis in the university, Middle East and Search for Peace in 1982, and his last was devoted to Baath movement in 1984. Rondot's knowledge of the Arab world, however, was not written or theoretical. The man knew the Arab world from the inside. He has moved within the framework of his successive jobs among the Arab capitals since joining the Foreign Intelligence Service in 1965 in the operations department. The limited information available about this period of his career indicates that he participated in many foreign military missions and was admired by his superiors. From non-Arab capitals, Rondot, who was a major then, served as assistant director of the French Intelligence Office in Bucharest, the capital of Romania during the Cold War.

'Be Careful!' Erdogan Warns French Reporter over Syria Question
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 06/18/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday lashed out at a French reporter who asked him about claims that Ankara sent arms to Syria. Erdogan told the journalist he was talking like a member of an outlawed group blamed for last year's failed coup in Turkey. At a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron after their talks in Paris, the reporter asked the Turkish leader about a story from 2015 in the Cumhuriyet newspaper which allegedly proved Turkey had sent weapons to Syria. Erdogan has always pinned the scandal on the exiled U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen. Turkey blames Gulen for the 2016 failed coup and accuses him of running a group called the Fethullah Terror Organization (FETO). Gulen denies the charges. "Those are the words of FETO. You should learn not to speak with the words of FETO," Erdogan told the journalist after asking him to repeat the question. The journalist could be heard insisting in French: "I am speaking as a journalist!" "When you ask your questions, be careful on this point. And do not speak with the words of another," warned the Turkish leader. "And I want you to know, you do not have someone before you who will easily swallow this," Erdogan added. The issue had first erupted in January 2014 when prosecutors in southern Turkey uncovered trucks heading to Syria that they said were National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) vehicles stuffed with arms. Ankara later charged those involved in the probe with membership of the Gulen movement. "Those who carried out those operations were Gulenist prosecutors. Now they are in prison," said Erdogan icily. In an apparent reference to American arms supplies to Syrian Kurdish militia that have angered Turkey, he added: "You ask me that question but why don't you ask me why the United States sent 4,000 trucks with arms to Syria?""You are a journalist, right? You should have looked into that as well."Without confirming the incident, Erdogan said that the MIT had "every right" to carry out its operations.
'Terror has gardeners'
Earlier the Turkish president had said terror was not formed by itself. "Terror and terrorists have gardeners. These gardeners are those seen as 'thinkers'. He said "these people" nurture terror with newspaper columns "and one day, you will find, these people will be revealed as terrorists."
Erdogan's trip to Paris to meet Macron was his most important bilateral visit to an EU state since the failed putsch. It was overshadowed by questions about press freedom. The P24 press freedom group says there are 151 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were arrested under the state of emergency in place since July 2016. The issue was raised at the talks, with Macron telling Erdogan to "respect the rule of law." The Cumhuriyet story resulted in its then editor-in- chief Can Dundar being handed a five-year and 10-month jail term for divulging state secrets. He later fled Turkey.

Tillerson Backs Trump as Book Casts Mental Health Doubts
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 06/18/Washington's chief diplomat Rex Tillerson found himself obliged to defend President Donald Trump's fitness for office Friday after a bombshell new book called into doubt his mental health. In an extraordinary portion of a television interview on foreign policy challenges, Tillerson was asked about claims that Trump has a short attention span, regularly repeats himself and refuses to read briefing notes. "I've never questioned his mental fitness. I've had no reason to question his mental fitness," said Tillerson, whose office was last year forced to deny reports that he had referred to Trump as a "moron" after a national security meeting. And, even in defending Trump, the former ExxonMobil chief executive admitted he has had to learn how to relay information to a president with a very different decision-making style. "I have to learn how he takes information in, processes it and makes decisions," Tillerson told CNN. "I'm here to serve his presidency. So I've had to spend a lot of time understanding how to best communicate with him." But Tillerson emphasized the right decisions had been made and that the United States is in a stronger place internationally thanks to Trump's policies.
'Not a typical president'
"He is not a typical president of the past, I think that's well recognized -- that's also why the American people chose him," he said, insisting that he does not expect to be asked to resign in the coming year. Tillerson was forced to mount his defense as Washington devoured a new supposed tell-all -- Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" -- rushed into bookstores after the White House failed to suppress it. The book quickly sold out in shops in the U.S. capital, with some people even lining up at midnight to get their hands on it and others circulating pirated copies. Trump has decried the instant best-seller as "phony" and "full of lies." Journalist Wolff, no stranger to controversy, quotes several key Trump aides expressing doubt about Trump's ability to lead the world's largest economy and military hegemon. "Let me put a marker in the sand here. One hundred percent of the people around him" question Trump's fitness for office, Wolff told NBC's "Today" show. "They all say he is like a child. And what they mean by that is he has a need for immediate gratification. It's all about him."The 71-year-old Republican president, approaching the first anniversary of his inauguration, has responded to the book with fury.
Criticism from aides
"I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book! I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don't exist," Trump tweeted Thursday. But Wolff countered: "I absolutely spoke to the president. Whether he realized it was an interview or not, I don't know, but it certainly was not off the record."The book includes extensive quotes from Steve Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, and its publication sparked a very public break between the former allies. Bannon is quoted accusing Trump's eldest son Don Jr of "treasonous" contacts with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, and saying the president's daughter Ivanka, who imagines running for president one day, is "dumb as a brick." But it is Trump himself who is cast in the most unfavorable light. Late Friday Trump fired another bitter tweet, calling Wolff "a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book." "He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!"
The book claims that for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the president was an "idiot." For chief economic advisor Gary Cohn, he was "dumb as shit." And for National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, he was a "dope."The publication came as it emerged that at least a dozen members of the U.S. Congress were briefed last month by a Yale University professor of psychiatry on Trump's mental health. "Lawmakers were saying they have been very concerned about this, the president's dangerousness, the dangers that his mental instability poses on the nation," Bandy Lee, a doctor, told CNN.
The White House issued a scorched-earth dismissal of "Fire and Fury" along with its author and his sources, with Press Secretary Sarah Sanders calling it "complete fantasy."First lady Melania Trump's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, told CNN that it is "a work of fiction. It is a long-form tabloid that peddles false statements and total fabrications." Behind the scenes, though, Trump has been enraged by the betrayal by Bannon -- a man who engineered the New York real estate mogul's link to the nationalist far right and helped create a pro-Trump media ecosystem. Sanders suggested that Bannon's employer, Breitbart News, should consider firing him. He wasn't fired, but Bannon's main financial backer is formally cutting ties with him, The Washington Post reported. Bannon, who left the White House in August, is also quoted in the book as saying that the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election -- and possible collusion by the Trump campaign -- will focus on money laundering. Wolff confidently defended himself against attacks on his credibility, which have included threats from Trump's lawyers of a libel suit. "My credibility is being questioned by a man who has less credibility than, perhaps, anyone who has ever walked on earth at this point," Wolff said. "I spoke to people who spoke to the president on a daily, sometimes minute-by-minute basis," he added. "I am certainly absolutely in every way comfortable with everything I've reported in this book."

Iran Foreign Minister Ridicules Trump 'Blunder' at U.N.
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 06/18/Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif ridiculed U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday over what he called the foreign policy "blunder" of trying to raise its recent protests at the U.N. Security Council. The Security Council "rebuffed the U.S.' naked attempt to hijack its mandate", wrote Zarif on Twitter. "Majority emphasized the need to fully implement the JCPOA (nuclear deal) and to refrain from interfering in internal affairs of others. Another FP (foreign policy) blunder for the Trump administration." The United States had pushed for the U.N. meeting on Friday to discuss the five days of protests that hit Iran last week, leading to the deaths of 21 people and hundreds of arrests. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley argued the unrest could escalate into full-blown conflict and drew a comparison with Syria. "The Iranian regime is now on notice: the world will be watching what you do," Haley warned. But Russia's envoy shot back that if the U.S. view holds, the council should have also discussed the 2014 unrest in the U.S. suburb of Ferguson, Missouri over the police shooting of a black teenager or the U.S. crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Britain and France reiterated that Iran must respect the rights of protesters, but French Ambassador Francois Delattre said the "events of the past days do not constitute a threat to peace and international security."China also described the meeting as meddling in Iran's affairs, while Ethiopia, Kuwait and Sweden expressed reservations about the discussion. Iran's Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo slammed the meeting as a "farce" and a "waste of time" and said the council should instead focus on addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the war in Yemen. Iranian authorities have declared the unrest over, and held three days of large pro-government rallies across the country between Wednesday and Friday. Iran signed a nuclear deal with the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China in 2015, easing sanctions in exchange for curbs to the country's nuclear program. Trump has fiercely opposed the deal, but the other signatories remain firmly behind it. Trump must decide every few months whether to continue waiving nuclear sanctions, with the next deadline due on Friday. Analysts say there is a chance he may use the latest unrest as a pretext to reimpose sanctions.

Palestinians Mark Orthodox Christmas amid Boycott Calls
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 06/18/A row over land sales threatened to put a damper on Orthodox Christmas Eve celebrations in Bethlehem on Saturday, with three Palestinian municipalities calling on the public to stay away. The municipalities of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, all in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, called for the boycott over Jerusalem's Greek Orthodox patriarch allegedly allowing controversial real estate sales. Theophilos III was expected on Saturday afternoon to lead a traditional Christmas procession to Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, which Christians believe marks the birthplace of Jesus. The mayor of the Christian town of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, said he wanted Theophilos removed from his post over controversial sales of church land to Israeli settlement groups in mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem. "Our move today is a protest against the patriarch over the sale of land of the Orthodox," mayor Nicola Khamis told AFP. Palestinian state news agency WAFA however said President Mahmoud Abbas and prime minister Rami Hamdallah were expected to attend Saturday's procession. The church elected Theophilos in 2005 after dismissing his predecessor Irineos over an alleged multi-million-dollar sale of church land to Jewish buyers. But Khamis says the practice continues. "Theophilos ignored all the demands and continued selling this land even if the (Christian) majority is against it," he said. "Today we are taking a stand to say the patriarch must stop the selling of the land."Property transactions with Jewish buyers anger Palestinians, who see Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state. In August, Theophilos himself denounced an Israeli court ruling upholding deals made before his appointment between the church and Israeli pro-settlement organization Ateret Cohanim for two hotel properties near the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City of east Jerusalem. He said the church would appeal to Israel's supreme court over the ruling. According to Israeli media, the 2004 agreements were for 99-year leases on hotel properties near Jaffa Gate. The church went to court against Ateret Cohanim, claiming the deals were signed illegally and without its authorization. The Greek Orthodox Church is the biggest and wealthiest Christian Church in the Holy Land. Its Jerusalem patriarchate commands massive wealth, largely in land portfolios in Israel, the occupied West Bank and Jordan. Eastern Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, while those in the West observe it on December 25 due to differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars.

Clashes in Cairo after Detainee Dies at Police Station
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 06/18/Clashes erupted between Egyptian protesters and policemen on Saturday outside a Cairo police station over the death of a young man in custody, security sources said. Nine people were injured and 20 people arrested in the overnight scuffle in Cairo's working class neighborhood of Moqattam, they said. The security sources said a young man nicknamed Afroto, who was arrested on Friday for alleged drug trafficking, died after a violent brawl with other detainees. But protesters accused the police of being responsible for his death. They set fire to tires and cars near the police station, leading the fire brigade to intervene. Calm returned to Moqattam later in the morning after Cairo's security chief pledged a probe into the detainee's death, promising not to obscure any police involvement. The prosecutor examined the body and ordered an autopsy. Egypt has tried and sentenced several policemen for violent deaths in detention in recent years. Rights groups have repeatedly denounced alleged torture and deaths in detention. Egypt's interior ministry has said it does not condone torture but said there have been "individual" cases of abuses. Police abuses fueled a 2011 uprising that toppled veteran dictator Hosni Mubarak and ushered in years of political instability.

Over 2,000 Afghans Sent by Iran Killed in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 06/18/More than 2,000 Afghans deployed by Iran have been killed fighting in Syria on the side of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, an official in the volunteer force told Iranian media. The Fatemiyoun Brigade of Afghan "volunteer" recruits has been fighting in Syria for five years, said Zohair Mojahed, a cultural official in the brigade. "This brigade has given more than 2,000 martyrs and 8,000 wounded for Islam," he said in an interview with the reformist Shargh newspaper published Saturday. Iran rarely provides figures on the numbers fighting and killed in its operations in Syria and Iraq. The last toll was provided by the veterans organization in March, which said 2,100 volunteers had died without specifying how many were foreign recruits. Iran denies sending professional troops to fight in the region, saying it has only provided military advisers and organized brigades made up of volunteers from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Fatemiyoun is reportedly the biggest military unit deployed by Iran in Iraq and Syria, made up of recruits from Afghanistan's Shiite minority. Iran has backed Afghan forces in the past against the Taliban in their own country, as well as mobilizing them against Saddam Hussein's forces in the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88. Some 3,000 Afghans died fighting Iraq in the 1980s, Mojahed said. Tehran offers Iranian citizenship to the families of those foreign fighters "martyred" in the conflicts of Syria and Iraq. Iranian media has reported on the funerals of volunteer "martyrs" and aired television features about their presence in Syria.

Two Jets Collide on Ground at Toronto Airport
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 06/18/Two jets collided on the ground at a Toronto airport on Friday, setting the tail of one aircraft alight and prompting passengers to evacuate the other via an emergency slide. Both WestJet and Sunwing confirmed that their planes were involved in the collision at 18:19 local time (2319 GMT) at Toronto Pearson International, the second such incident at the airport in five months. Several hours after the collision the airport said all WestJet passengers were safely at the terminal, adding that one of the airport's fire and emergency service personnel was undergoing hospital treatment.
"At this time, airport operations have not been significantly affected by the incident but continue to be challenged by the extreme cold weather conditions," the airport's statement said. The panicked shouts and cries of those aboard were audible on one Instagram video shot by a passenger inside the WestJet plane.
The clip showed flames erupting from the Sunwing aircraft, sending black smoke spewing into the frigid night air. "Our plane was crashed into by another plane right after the pilot announced they were 'low on staff,'" wrote the user who posted the video, under the handle stephen_belford. WestJet said on Twitter that the Boeing 737-800 plane had 168 guests and six crew onboard, and had arrived in Toronto via Cancun. Waiting to proceed to the gate, the aircraft "was struck by a Sunwing aircraft pushing back from the gate," WestJet said. "Due to the position of the aircraft on the laneway, WestJet guests required evacuation via emergency slide. Emergency crews were on hand and responded immediately," the airline tweeted. The company did not specify if the incident resulted in injuries but said "all 168 guests and six crew are accounted for.""We can confirm guests are safely in the terminal and they are in the process of clearing customs."In a statement posted on its social media pages Sunwing said "there were no Sunwing crew or passengers onboard at the time of the incident," adding that its aircraft had been "under tow by our ground handling service provider" prior to the collision.
Toronto's weather was clear but overnight the temperature plunged below -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit). The Transportation Safety Board had arrived at the scene and launched an investigation. The collision is the second such incident at Toronto Pearson in recent months. In early August, a Canadian and a Polish passenger jet clipped wings on the ground at the airport, causing "serious" damage but no casualties.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 06-07/18
Iran and the Need for Change
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/January 06/2018
In a country as repressive as Iran, it's difficult to gauge where the current countrywide protests are leading. But a bold theory that predicted the recent transition to democracy in Tunisia may offer some clues. In 2008, US demographer Richard Cincotta predicted that Tunisia — then under a well-established authoritarian regime — would probably democratize before 2020 based on the age structure of its population.  When Cincotta aired the forecast at a meeting of Middle East experts sponsored by the US State Department, the audience burst into laughter. "One well-known Middle East scholar laughed until he was in tears," Cincotta recalled in a 2017 paper explaining his age-structural theory of state behavior. "Because the laughter did not subside, the session’s chair ended the question and answer session." Today, Tunisia is the one success story of the Arab Spring chain of revolutions that began there in 2010. It is classified as "Free" by Freedom House, whose rating system Cincotta uses in his analysis. The reason Cincotta picked it out among regional neighbors — including those that would soon live through revolutions, too — was that thanks to a sustained near-replacement fertility rate, the Tunisian population's median age was rapidly increasing, moving the country along Cincotta's age-structural scale. The scale has four stages: youthful (median age under 25), intermediate (under 35), mature (under 45) and post-mature (higher than 45).
In "youthful" countries with high fertility rates, schools are usually crowded, investment per student is low and competition for jobs among young people is intense. That raises their propensity to protest and increases the chance of a revolution. According to Cincotta, the probability that a regime controlling a population with a median age of 15 is free from civil conflict is about 60 percent. It goes up to 80 percent at an average age of about 27, and civil conflict becomes almost unthinkable when half the population is older than 40. While a country is in a youthful phase, however, an uprising is highly unlikely to result in sustainable democratization.
Today, Iranians are getting older. Thanks to successful fertility-control policies of the 1980s (now regretted by the country's religious leadership), Iran is rapidly going through the intermediate age-structural phase, just as Tunisia did. This, according to Cincotta, is a window for economic growth and political change favoring the middle class. Countries in this phase usually have just enough resources for a workable education system, and there are plenty of young workers and consumers — and few enough dependents, both young and old — to ensure increases in prosperity, as well as demand for democracy. In the 2017 paper, Cincotta published his model's predictions of the probability of certain Middle Eastern countries' being declared "Free" in the current year by Freedom House.
The paper came out early last year, and Iran's democratization looked so unlikely that Cincotta was forced to add a disclaimer: "Ideological political monopolies (e.g., Iran) characteristically behave without deference to the order of the list." Now, after a week of protests and even riots that have combined economic and political demands, including liberalization and greater openness to the world, some lasting democratic change no longer looks out of the question.
It may not come through a violent revolution, though. In an article published by the Carnegie Endowment in December, but before the protests began, Cincotta and Karim Sadjadpour wrote: As Iran’s youth bulge dissipates and the country’s median age increases, the population will likely become increasingly averse to risky, violent confrontations with the regime. Some of the current protests' dynamics suggest that this prediction may turn out to be accurate. Young people under the age of 25 appear to be the driving force of the anti-government actions, and they definitely make up the bulk of the hundreds of activists detained by the authorities so far.
While the country's leaders have threatened tough action, and, indeed, some 20 people have been killed in street fighting, President Hassan Rouhani has offered some conciliatory rhetoric. He acknowledged the people's right to protest and the legitimacy of their economic gripes. That may mean concessions and a partial liberalization are likely. Just as the protests were starting, Tehran police announced that they would no longer arrest women for breaking the country's women dress code. Economic measures to pacify protesters unhappy about rising prices, corruption and inequality may well follow.
Iran's religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has blamed Iran's "enemies" for the unrest. But perhaps the country's demographics have more to do with it than any foreign interference. Though Cincotta's theory has been dismissed as simplistic and criticized for not providing robust proof of causation, it's intuitively convincing: A country with a young population has a relatively higher chance to change, and as it matures and more people have something to lose, this change is more likely to be peaceful and sustainable. The corrupt, highly unequal, repressive status quo is shaky in Iran because it doesn't fit the country's demographic window of opportunity. Regardless of how change takes place in Iran, it's worth noting the high probability of democratization that Cincotta's method assigns to Turkey.  President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's regime looks rock-solid and bent on tightening screws. But Iran, too, looked immutable just weeks ago, and so did Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's regime in 2008.

The Iranian Game-Show Host Challenging Iran's Rulers
Eli Lake/Bloomberg/January 06/2018
Seyed Mohammad Hosseini makes for an unlikely revolutionary. The last time he was in Iran was in 2011. He was a minor celebrity, as the host of "Simorgh," a zany game show on which he would ask contestants to perform silly stunts for prizes. Today he lives in America and urges Iranians to burn mosques and deface police stations. Since March of last year, Hosseini has been broadcasting messages to the people of Iran on Telegram, Instagram and other social media platforms urging them to #restartIran, a hashtag and the name of a movement he is now hoping will earn the support of the US government.
"We started with a color protest," he told me. "We told people to spray colors on the walls of buildings that belonged to the Basij." (The Basij is the state militia that was deployed to terrorize protestors and keep order during past uprisings.) After this, Hosseini said they moved on to urging Iranians to throw rocks at the windows of government buildings. "Then we said there should be a fire protest," he said. "They should burn down government mosques and police stations."
Hosseini is by no means a leader of the current protests in Iran. The demonstrations do not appear connected to his campaign. But he is an important element of the unrest. There is an undercurrent of violence to the uprising this time around that was missing from the protests of 2009, after a stolen presidential election. It's one of the reasons Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, has called for those damaging property to be prosecuted.
Potkin Azarmehr, an Iranian broadcaster based in London who has been poring through cell-phone videos from Iran in recent months, told me he has counted at least 20 videos of property damage using the #restartIran hashtag since the fall. "I am not saying the protests have anything to do with Restart," he told me. "They are only a small part of this. But 20 incidents in three months are not isolated. It shows that something as ridiculous as this campaign is getting a reaction and that Iranians are losing their fear."
Hosseini's campaign has also worried Telegram, the low-bandwidth messaging app used by millions of Iranians. The government has just taken this app offline. Telegram banned Hosseini's first account, "showman1," in October. He has since migrated to mirror accounts on Telegram. In an Oct. 29, 2017, post, Telegram founder Pavel Durov wrote that Hosseini's account was an example of a "line one shouldn't cross." He said the account "started to urge its members to throw stones into the windows of public buildings and vehicles (schools, temples, buses) and film it." The service asked Hosseini to stop this "vandalism contest," but he ignored Telegram and "launched another creepy competition urging their 100K+ users to burn mosques by throwing Molotov cocktails into them and film it. As a result, we were left with no other option but to block."
It's understandable why some Iranians and their allies in the West may want to get behind Hosseini's #restartIran movement. The Iranian regime deploys violence against students, activists, minorities, labor leaders and anyone else who challenges their country's clerical fascists. Why shouldn't the resistance treat the regime in kind? But at this stage, it would be a strategic error.
The state has many more guns than the people do. The best odds for the uprising come through nonviolent civil disobedience. The goal for Iran's demonstrators now should be to build as wide a coalition as possible. If regular people feel threatened by revolutionaries, they will not feel safe enough to join the opposition to the dictator. The opposition must create a space where regular police officers feel empowered and safe enough to disobey if ordered to disperse crowds and arrest activists.
Nonviolent resistance has a far better track record in bringing down tyrants in the modern world. It's true that massive state-to-state wars ended regimes in Nazi Germany and Fascist Japan. But Iranians today are not asking to be invaded. A good model for Iran is the uprising that unseated Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia or Eduard Shevardnadze in Georgia. These campaigns succeeded because the leader's henchmen, in the end, would not shed blood to keep the boss in power.
Hosseini is not impressed by these arguments. He told me Iranians want revolution by any means possible. His next goal is to get an audience with President Donald Trump. "I like Trump," he said. "He was a reality television star. I am a reality television star. We are on the same page."

If You Hate America, Why Not Go Back to Your Country?
Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/January 06/2018
No matter what the Islamists' current status or situation, they would lash out at the US, the West and Americans. Meanwhile, American taxpayers were providing hundreds of thousands of dollars to them in scholarships, free accommodation, and often even a monthly stipend. By comparison, many American students struggle to pay their own tuition and housing; many graduate with debt.
Some believed that the US was simply supposed to do these favors for them for free of charge. Others argued that this was an opportunity to take advantage of America, and should be done for the sake of furthering Islamic political and religious views.
The US has been funding the lives of these extremists as they endanger our country and the lives of all Americans, and spread hatred towards America, Christianity, Judaism and the West. Is this how American taxpayers want their hard-earned contributions to be used?
When I first arrived in America, I would ask every extremist and fundamentalist Muslim I met: "How has your life been since you came to the United States?"
It was clear that their living standards were much better than back home. I knew well the lands they had come from, their economic standards and restrictions, their lifestyle, the social, and the religious, economic and political landscapes of the region.
They were surely about to say how much their lives had improved, and how grateful they were to be in a new, less restricted environment. Instead, they expressed anger and even hatred of their new country and its culture. What they could not put into words, was clearly written across their faces: revulsion and disgust.
It seemed they were comfortable disclosing their true feelings in Farsi or Arabic about the US, Americans, the West, Christians, and Jews. As we had all come from, grown up in, and worked in the same region, many of them mistakenly assumed that we both shared the same hate-filled views. Once they discovered that was not the situation, some even tried to reshape my views: as I was new to the country, I probably did not yet understand.
Everything in this country, they patiently explained, was kufr: blasphemy, filthy, infidel. They went on harshly to criticize American culture and the Western lifestyle. Their list of complaints was unending: how men and women dress, how people interact, how people work and celebrate life, go to parties, date, marry, dance, drink -- there did not seem one aspect of American life that did not enrage them.
A wealthy Islamist imam, who explained that he was poor in his prior country and had accumulated all of his wealth after coming to the US by expanding existing mosques and attracting people and donations, ironically bashed the US for not allowing Islamist imams to grow financially. He could not explain why. It was just another hypocritical tool, used as an excuse to hate America and brainwash followers to hate America. Despite the fact that he had gone from poverty to riches beyond anything he could have dreamed, he was quite angry at his new country.
More intriguingly, this attitude was apparent among both academics and non-academics. No matter what the Islamists' current status or situation, they would lash out at the US, the West and Americans. Meanwhile, American taxpayers were providing hundreds of thousands of dollars to them in scholarships, free accommodation, and often even a monthly stipend. By comparison, many American students struggle to pay their own tuition and housing; many graduate with debt.
When asked what they thought of the free education that they were receiving at the best universities in the world, which ensured their success in life, a sense of entitlement would appear. Some believed that the US was simply supposed to do these favors for them for free of charge. Others argued that this was an opportunity to take advantage of America, and should be done for the sake of furthering Islamic political and religious views.
When asked for details about their home country from where they immigrated or fled, surprisingly, they had nothing bad to say. Everything in their home country was heaven-like. They beautified and worshiped their authoritarian and Islamist regimes.
Finally, I asked the question that burned in my mind: Why, if they hated the US so much, did they not they go back to their beloved home country? What if all their expenses were covered, such as plane tickets to their native land?
Instead of the earlier lengthy explanations, the general response was evasive. Some even remained perfectly silent or refused to answer.
The question itself had unmasked me. In their eyes, just by asking this question, I had revealed myself as an outsider. In that moment, I joined the crowd of multitudes of human beings that they hate and refuse to tolerate.
Even if one puts their Islamist agenda aside, their extreme ungratefulness seemed jolting. The United States had given them a home, a green card, citizenship, free scholarships, salaries, unlimited opportunities, and freedoms they had never known: freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly.
Here they were enjoying equality under the law, security, and so many other benefits that would be considered extreme luxuries or unheard of in their previous homelands -- everything they had been deprived of in their earlier home. No other country would have provided them with half of this. So why did they demonstrate and ratchet up anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic sentiments, while at the same time rejecting the idea of returning to their original country? How could they enjoy all of these benefits America offered them, and yet, at the same time, yearn for its destruction? There do not seem to be such anti-American sentiments expressed by other immigrants from non-Islamist countries, or from Christians or Jews who fled from Islamist states in the same region.
It is now time to reconsider whom we are freely providing money and resources to -- including those Islamists who have already been in the United States for generations. It is the time to reconsider whom we are allowing to enter this country, and providing with free shelter, scholarships, cash, freedom of speech, and all the rights that come with the constitution. The US has been funding the lives of these extremists as they endanger our country and the lives of all Americans, and spread hatred towards America, Christianity, Judaism and the West.
Is this how American taxpayers want their hard-earned contributions to be used?
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He is the author of "Peaceful Reformation in Iran's Islam". He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu.
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Europe must stand on the side of the Iranian people
Ryszard Czarnecki/January 06/2018
Jan. 5 (UPI) -- More than one week has passed since the massive protests broke out in Iran. It started from the country's second-largest city with spontaneous demonstrations against poverty and government corruption, but spread across Iran with lightning speed.
The slogans quickly turned political calling for the downfall of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They have reached over a hundred cities and towns, some of which were not familiar to even many Iranians before. This rightly suggests that we are faced with a nationwide popular demand against a corrupt and rotten medieval theocracy, which is now on its last legs. At least 50 protesters have been shot dead by the security forces so far, according to daily reports provided by the network of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran -- better known by its initials PMOI or Persian acronym MEK -- which is the popular grass-root opposition movement that the regime has been accusing of organizing the protests. Iran's repressive elite force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has begun a house-to-house search in many smaller towns, arresting those identified in the rallies, terrorizing the people and threatening them not to take part in any protests. The officials have announced over 1,800 arrests so far but the real figure is feared to reach several thousand.
According to Amnesty International, within two days some 423 detainees were registered in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. The human rights organization stressed that "the Iranian authorities have an appalling track record of carrying out mass arbitrary arrests of peaceful demonstrators. Given the alarming scale of the current wave of arrests, it is highly likely that many of those held are peaceful protesters who have been detained arbitrarily and now find themselves in prisons where conditions are dire and torture is a common tool to extract confessions and punish dissidents."
The world has been watching with amazement and admiration the footage of the extraordinary bravery of Iranians risking their lives on the streets to get their country back from the ayatollahs. But the response from the international community has been all but clear.
While the U.S. administration has been quick to declare support for the demonstrators and has maintained a steady line of advocacy in favor of the protesters over the past week, the European Union has been cautious and reluctant to declare any support. The EU's diplomacy chief, Federica Mogherini, waited five days before showing any reaction. And then, after at least a dozen protesters were declared dead, instead of making a formal declaration, she retweeted comments made by her spokesperson.
"The EU is following the demonstrations in Iran. We have been in touch with the Iranian authorities. We expect that the right to peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression will be guaranteed, following President Rouhani's public statements. We will continue to monitor the situation Iran‏," the EU spokesperson tweeted on Monday.
But on Thursday, Amnesty International stressed that "despite President Hassan Rouhani's assurance on Sunday, 30 December, 2017 that protesters have the right to criticize the government, the authorities' subsequent rhetoric has suggested they intend to respond to the unrest in an increasingly ruthless manner."
The Iranian Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani demanded a "strong action" from "all prosecutors." The Head of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, Mousa Ghanzafar Abadi, warned that the Ministry of Interior had declared the protests illegal and that those who continued to engage in demonstrations would face severe penalties. He threatened that the protest leaders and organizers could be charged with "enmity against God" (moharebeh), which is punishable by the death penalty, "as they are connected with foreign intelligence services and are implementing their agendas." Supreme leader Ali Khamenei accused the country's "enemies" of stirring the unrest.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence criticized European allies in an op-ed in The Washington Post on Wednesday. "Unfortunately, many of our European partners, as well as the United Nations, have thus far failed to forcefully speak out on the growing crisis in Iran," Pence wrote. "It's time for them to stand up."
The support in the United States is quite bipartisan. The U.S. Congress and Senate Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, as well as former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have all declared support for the Iranian freedom movement.
The EU now risks to quickly lose its credibility in the eyes of many Iranians who are shocked and have expressed anger on social media on the lack of resolve from European diplomacy to be on their side.
This is not a fight between "moderates" and "hard-liners," or Tehran vs. Trump. It's a fight between a brave people who want liberty and their brutal oppressors. The EU needs to choose a side. It's time to stop wasting time with the mullahs who will soon be history. It's time to side with the future free Iran.
**Ryszard Czarnecki, is vice president of the European Parliament.