January 09/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,  which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way
Ephesians/01/01-15: "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love  he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace  that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding,  he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,  in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.  And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,  who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people,  I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,  far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,  which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 08-09/18
Canada: Islamist-Leftist-Government Alliance Silences Free Speech/Christine Douglass-Williams/Gatestone Institute/January 08/2018
Iran’s President Takes On His Hard-Line Critics/Thomas Erdbrinkjan/NewYork Times/January 08/18
Putin's Goals Went Beyond Saving Assad/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/January 08/2018
Don’t Go to the Library/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/January 08/2018
Protesters in Iran Need Real Help from Int’l Community/Michael Singh/The Washington Post/January 08/2018
Mass Migration: The European Commission's New "Norm"/Alain Destexhe/Gatestone Institute/January 08/2018
Turning point in US–Pakistan relations/Syed Jawaid Iqbal/Al Arabiya/January 08/18
On Saudi social media stars/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/January 08/18
Behind the latest protests in Iran/Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/January 08/18
Iran: A date with freedom/Hussein Shobokshi/Al Arabiya/January 08/18
Sorting Out U.S. and European Differences Over Iran/Jay Solomon/The Washington Institute/January 08/18
Rouhani's Protest Paradox/Maj. Omer Carmi, IDF/The Washington Institute/January 08/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on January 08-09/18
Lebanon: Hariri Seeks Solution that Appeases Both Aoun, Berri
Aoun sticks to his guns, reiterates judiciary's role in decree feud
Berri to Aoun: Constitution is interpreted by Parliament only
Aoun Says 'Committed' to Judicial Decision on Seniority Decree
Finance Minister Ali Hassan KhalilSays No Politics in Electricity Crisis as Agreement Reached with EDL Workers
Berri Replies to Aoun, Says Seniority Decree 'Violates' Constitution
Saudi Envoy: Some Lebanese Parties Don't Want Good Saudi-Lebanese Ties
Kataeb Stresses Importance of Elections, Says Won't Bow to 'Hegemony-Era Practices'
Hariri Meets Zaspykin
Ahmed Hariri Denies Reports of Electoral Alliance with Hizbullah
Reports: Bassil Aims to 'Downsize' LF Role Amid Strained Ties
Report: Mustaqbal, FPM, Marada Consider Forming Electoral Alliance

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 08-09/18
CIA chief Pompeo denies agency role in Iran unrest, predicts new violence
Pope urges efforts to rebuild trust in Syria, North Korea
Iran Warns World to Prepare for US Nuke Deal Withdrawal
Trump, Macron agree that Iran protests are ‘sign of regime’s failure’
Iran bans teaching of English in schools after ‘cultural invasion’ warning
Pence to visit Egypt, Jordan, Israel in January
Qatar, Iran officials discuss tourism cooperation in Kish island
Egypt ex-PM Ahmed Shafiq will not stand for president in 2018
Egypt to Hold Presidential Vote March 26-28
Life Under Fire in North Sinai
Student killed, opposition leader detained as bread protests grip Sudan
France Sees 'Historic' 100,000 Asylum Claims in 2017
Emir of Kuwait Underscores Collective Work to Overcome Challenges in Gulf
Eight children among 21 killed in Syria strikes
Explosion risk for Iranian oil tanker ablaze off China
Jordan Says It Foiled 'Massive' Terror Plot Linked to IS

Latest Lebanese Related News published on January 08-09/18
Lebanon: Hariri Seeks Solution that Appeases Both Aoun, Berri

Beirut - Caroline Akoum/Asharq Al-Awsat/January 08/18/Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri is expected to exert stronger efforts this week to solve a dispute between President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri over a decree to promote a number of officers without the approval of the Finance Minister.
Although sources close to the Prime Minister refused to reveal details of Hariri’s new initiative, they told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday that “efforts were being exerted away from the media with an aim to reaching a positive solution to the current raw.”The same sources said: “We can still reach a solution that pleases both sides.”Aoun and Hariri had signed a 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. Sources close to Aoun and Hariri agree that the current crisis would not affect the government work amid a tacit agreement between all parties stipulating that the cabinet should be distanced from the decree crisis. The Central News Agency quoted on Sunday officials as saying that Hariri will soon meet with Berri to offer guarantees to the Speaker that the Taif Accord is stable and that “none of the political elements are seeking to amend or violate it.”Last week, the Speaker hinted that the row between him and Aoun over the decree is linked to the “Taif Accord.”According to the sources, the crisis is about to end, and there would be “no victor and no vanquished” by adding the signature of the Finance Minister to the decree.Other ministerial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Aoun is holding onto his position, which respects the country’s laws and regulations and is based on former decrees that did not require the approval of the Finance Minister

Aoun sticks to his guns, reiterates judiciary's role in decree feud
The Daily Star/January 08, 2018/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Monday restated his stance on the controversy stirred by a recent decree promoting a number of Lebanese Army officers, saying that the judiciary must be the final arbiter in the matter. Aoun said that his position has remained clear throughout the dispute sparked in December and blasted the perpetuation of the issue.“Since the argument over the decree began, the President suggested that those with objections should review it before the concerned judicial authorities that look into the disputes emerging as a result of the issuance of decrees by the executive authority,” a statement from the president’s office read. “President Aoun has announced his acceptance of the judicial decision even if it would annul the decree and its effects.”The decree sparked a feud between Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri because it promoted several officers who served under Aoun in the late 1980s when he was Army commander. The decree was opposed by Berri, but signed by Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf. However, it wasn’t signed by Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, who is a top political aide for Berri.
The decree seeks to promote around 200 officers, of which only 15 are not Christian, by advancing their seniority and rank by one year. Berri was reported to have been furious because the decree went ahead without the finance minister’s signature and upset the sectarian balance given the fact that a large number of Christian officers stood to benefit from the promotion while only a few Muslim officers would benefit. The speaker said that the dispute would be solved if Khalil adds his signature to the decree. The statement from Baabda Palace condemned the nature of the dispute, saying any issues with the decree should be dealt with through the judiciary. “Despite the president’s clear and decisive position regarding the matter, the argument over the decree continued and at many times took a turn that doesn’t serve national interest,” the statement read. “And for this, the president wants to affirm one last time his commitment to the judiciary’s decision.”

Berri to Aoun: Constitution is interpreted by Parliament only

The Daily Star/Jan. 08, 2018/BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri responded Monday to President Michel Aoun in the ongoing feud over the officer's decree, saying that Parliament was the only body eligible to interpret the Constitution. Berri’s statement was released minutes after Aoun restated his position that objections to the decree should be referred to the judiciary. The decree promoted some 200 officers – the vast majority of whom are Christian - who were under Aoun’s command in the 1980s when he was an Army chief. A statement from Berri responded to Aoun’s call to defer to the judiciary to settle any issues over the decree by saying that the dispute was not only a legal issue that can be appealed before the State Shura Council. Rather, Berri said that the decree violated the Constitution, which can only be interpreted by Parliament. The statement noted that Aoun cannot issue a decree on the matter of the officer’s promotion because it had already been previously discussed and rejected by Parliament.

Aoun Says 'Committed' to Judicial Decision on Seniority Decree
Naharnet/January 08/18/President Michel Aoun's office said on Monday that the President affirms commitment to the judiciary's opinion as for a controversial officers' promotion decree that triggered a spat with Speaker Nabih Berri. “President Aoun confirms his commitment and approval of the opinion issued by related judicial authorities regarding the decree granting seniority for officers of the 1994 Session,” a statement from Aoun's media office said. The statement added: “The judiciary is the appropriate reference to resolve the disputes arising on the legality of decrees and procedures issued by the executive authority.”Furthermore, the statement said that “Aoun believes that the controversy over the decree has taken a different course that does not serve the national interest.”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.

Finance Minister Ali Hassan KhalilSays No Politics in Electricity Crisis as Agreement Reached with EDL Workers
Naharnet/January 08/18/Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil on Monday stressed that there are no “political motives” behind the crisis that has been gripping the electricity sector for several days now, as he announced that an agreement has been reached with the syndicate of Electricité du Liban workers.
“A positive result has been reached in the issue of the new wage scale of EDL workers,” said Khalil after a meeting with Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil and a workers delegation. “All talk of political motives behind what happened is baseless and the discussion was purely administrative and financial,” Khalil added. The minister also clarified that there are two crises in the sector – one related to a strike by EDL workers and another related to third-party service providers. “This agreement puts things on the right track and we have reconciled between the law stipulations and the demands of the syndicate and the employees, and what we have reached reflects a common interest for everyone,” Khalil added. Energy Minister Abi Khalil for his part said EDL workers are expected to resume their administrative and maintenance works to “restore the service to citizens, who have suffered enough” over the past days.
“As for service providers, we are working on new ideas and tomorrow we will resolve this issue,” he added. General Confederation of Lebanese Workers chief Beshara al-Asmar, who took part in the meeting, meanwhile described the reached agreement as “honorable.”“It returns power supply to normalcy and things have been put on the right track,” he said, hoping the deal will also lead to “a solution to the issue of EDL contract workers.”According to Asmar, the contract workers have not been paid their salaries for three months. Several Lebanese regions have witnessed lengthy power cuts or total outages in recent days due to the strikes. On Monday, angry residents blocked the vital Ring highway in Beirut with burning tires and trash bins to protest a several-day power outage resulting from the absence of necessary maintenance for their area's electricity substation.

Berri Replies to Aoun, Says Seniority Decree 'Violates' Constitution
Naharnet/January 08/18/Speaker Nabih Berri's media office replied on Monday to President Michel Aoun's remarks over a controversial decree granting seniority to a number of officers stressing that the act “flagrantly violates Articles 54, 56 of the Constitution.”The statement from Berri's office said: “What happened regarding the decree crisis is not a legal problem to be challenged before the Shura Council. It is a flagrant violation of constitutional rules and of Articles 54 and 56 of the Constitution.”The statement added: “As the honorable Presidency knows, it is virtuous to rectify mistakes if they can not be reversed.”Berri's remarks came shortly after a similar statement released by the Presidency' media office affirming Aoun's “commitment to the judiciary's decision on said decree.”Aoun's statement said :”The judiciary is the appropriate reference to resolve disputes arising on the legality of decrees and procedures issued by the executive authority.”Aoun had many times noted the decree, which has sparked a row between him and Berri, is “lawful,” asking those who have reservations to “go to the judiciary.”Berri on the other hand believes that “those whose constitutional argument is weak would resort to the judiciary.”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. Article 54 of the Lebanese Constitution states that the decisions of the President must be countersigned by the PM and the Minister or Ministers concerned except the decree designating a new PM and the decree accepting the resignation of the Cabinet or considering it resigned. Decrees issuing laws must be countersigned by the Prime Minister.

Saudi Envoy: Some Lebanese Parties Don't Want Good Saudi-Lebanese Ties
Naharnet/January 08/18/Newly-appointed Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid al-Yaaqoub on Monday lamented that some Lebanese parties “do not want good ties” between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. “Unfortunately, there are parties in Lebanon who do not want a good relation between the kingdom and Lebanon,” said al-Yaaqoub in response to a reporter's question after talks with ex-PM Najib Miqati. “They are seeking to distort it with all their might, and we, God willing, are counting on the wisdom of the Lebanese to resolve this problem,” the ambassador added. Al-Yaaqoub also met on Monday with Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel and Information Minister Melhem Riachi as part of his introductory meetings with Lebanese leaders and officials. Talks with Gemayel tackled “the current developments and the situation in the region,” according to the National News Agency.
His talks with Riachi meanwhile addressed “the general situations, bilateral ties and the journalistic relations between the two countries.”

Kataeb Stresses Importance of Elections, Says Won't Bow to 'Hegemony-Era Practices'
Naharnet/January 08/18/The Kataeb Party on Monday called on citizens to “prepare for the elections,” while emphasizing that it will not bow to “oppressive practices” that belong to the Syrian “hegemony era.”“The Kataeb Party calls on citizens to prepare for the elections, which are the definite and only way to rebuild Lebanon, renew its political life and hold accountable a futile political class that has distanced itself from the state's sovereignty and people's living and social concerns,” said Kataeb in a statement issued after its politburo's weekly meeting.It accused the ruling class of being “preoccupied with the splitting of shares, the forging of shady deals and passing arbitrary taxes without studying their economic and social impact.”The party also pledged to the Lebanese to “continue to expose all forms of corruption, waste of public money and shady deals, no matter what the cost may be.”“Those whose practices had failed during the hegemony era will not today succeed, even if they use all forms of pressure and frail excuses,” Kataeb added, apparently referring to its row with Justice Minister Salim Jreissati. “This ruling class and its supporters cannot defeat those who are supported by the people,” the party went on to say.

Hariri Meets Zaspykin

Naharnet/January 08/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday received at the Grand Serail the Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zaspykin in the presence of Hariri's adviser for Russian Affairs George Shaaban where talks highlighted the latest developments and the means to promote bilateral relations between the two countries, Hariri's media office said. Zaspykin said: “We discussed means of developing relations between the two countries in all fields this year in light of PM Hariri's recent visit to Moscow.” “We also touched on a meeting scheduled in Spring for the Joint Government Committee on Economic and Cultural Cooperation that will convene in Beirut, as well as on military and technical cooperation,” added the Ambassador, noting that Russia has provided $500,000 in assistance to vaccinate Lebanese and Syrian children through UNICEF.

Ahmed Hariri Denies Reports of Electoral Alliance with Hizbullah
Naharnet/January 08/18/Reports of a five-party electoral alliance that comprises Hizbullah are baseless, Mustaqbal Movement secretary-general Ahmed Hariri stressed on Monday. “Our dispute with Hizbullah is a major dispute that starts in Lebanon and involves Syria, Iraq and Yemen as well as Hizbullah's entire role within the Iranian scheme. This major dispute cannot be turned into an electoral alliance under any formula that may be proposed,” Hariri said in an interview with Future TV. Recent media reports had said that Mustaqbal intends to be in an electoral alliance with the Free Patriotic Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party, Hizbullah and AMAL Movement in the upcoming parliamentary elections that will be held in May.

Reports: Bassil Aims to 'Downsize' LF Role Amid Strained Ties
Naharnet/January 08/18/Relations between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces have been “extremely strained” lately amid concerns it could threaten the “Maarab understanding” and reports alleging that FPM chief Jebran Bassil plans to downsize the LF's Christian role, media reports said on Monday. A political source closely observing the relations between the two parties told pan-Arab al-Hayat daily: “Differences between the two have reached the red line. The LF decided to bite the wound out of keenness on the sustainability of the Christian-Christian reconciliation sponsored by President Michel Aoun and LF chief Samir Geagea and welcomed in the street after a bloody and political conflict that lasted more than a quarter of a century.” Aoun (FPM founder) and Geagea were the sponsors of the 2016 Maarab understanding to end nearly 30 years of conflicts between the two Christian parties. The agreement led the LF to announce its backing of Michel Aoun for the country’s presidency. He was elected later that year. The source said that “strained ties prevailed between the two after the latest diplomatic and administrative formations issued by the government in which head of the FPM (and Foreign Minister) Jebran Bassil, got the biggest share. He meant to deliver a message to the Christian community that he is undoubtedly the strongest among the Christian leaders.” On condition of anonymity, the source added that Bassil “rebelled” against the LF's position in the government when the party rejected his plan to lease power generation vessels.”“Bassil has waved more than once about his willingness to reach a swap with the LF but he did not receive any response,” said the source, adding that “Bassil has therefore began planning to downsize the LF.'s role.”

Report: Mustaqbal, FPM, Marada Consider Forming Electoral Alliance
Naharnet/January 08/18/Contacts are reportedly underway between al-Mustaqbal Movement, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Marada Movement in order to strike an electoral alliance to stand in the upcoming parliamentary elections, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Monday. The matter has not been yet resolved pending the completion of negotiations between head of Mustaqbal PM Saad Hariri and Marada chief MP Suleiman Franjieh, said the daily. Franjieh has previously announced the possibility of striking a coalition with Msutaqbal in the polls scheduled in May, 2018. On the other hand, the Kuwaiti As-Seyasah daily said “the FPM and Marada Movement will likely hold a meeting in the next stage to discuss the elections issue.”Meanwhile, MP Butros Harb “is heading in principle towards an alliance with the Marada, now that the chances of his alliance with the Lebanese Forces have diminished.”Lebanon has set a date of May 6, 2018 to hold its first legislative election in nearly a decade. 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.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 08-09/18'
CIA chief Pompeo denies agency role in Iran unrest, predicts new violence
AFP, Washington/January 08/18/The head of the CIA on Sunday denied his agency had any role in fomenting the recent anti-government protests in Iran but predicted the violent unrest “is not behind us.”Mike Pompeo, named a year ago by US President Donald Trump to head the intelligence agency, told Fox News Sunday that economic conditions in Iran “are not good.”“That’s what caused the people to take to the streets,” he said. He blamed what he called Tehran’s “backward-looking” regime for turning a deaf ear to the voices of the people.
Asked about a claim by Iran’s prosecutor general, Mohammad Javad Montazeri, that a CIA official had coordinated with Iran’s regional rivals to work with exiled Iranian groups to stir dissent in Iran, Pompeo replied simply: “It’s false.”“This was the Iranian people — started by them, created by them, continued by them, demanding a better set of living conditions and a break from the theocratic regime.”
Looming deadlines
Trump has repeatedly tweeted his support for Iranian protesters while castigating the Tehran regime, seizing on the recent unrest to again slam the multiparty nuclear deal with Iran as deeply flawed. Trump faces deadlines around mid-month on whether to renew temporary waivers or restore US sanctions on Iran. In October, Trump refused to certify that Iran was respecting its commitments under the 2015 nuclear accord, but did not reimpose sanctions or abandon the deal itself. The administration has not revealed its intentions, but the Iran unrest is seen as a possible pretext for blowing up the nuclear accord. The US Congress has been working on legislation aimed at tightening terms of the agreement in ways that might satisfy Trump’s demands, and Pompeo expressed careful optimism that it might succeed. “They could do something,” he said. “They could take some of the weaknesses from the agreement… extend deadlines (and) snap back sanctions into place where they could really happen.” But Bob Corker, head of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said last week that while talks on Iran were continuing with the White House and its European partners, no new bill was imminent.
Any agreement, Corker said, would take several more weeks to work out.

Pope urges efforts to rebuild trust in Syria, North Korea
Associated Press/Naharnet/January 08/18/Pope Francis urged concerted international efforts Monday to rebuild trust on the Korean peninsula and in Syria, using his annual foreign policy address to demand that political leaders put the dignity of their people before war, profit or power. In a wide-ranging speech to ambassadors from some 185 nations, Francis reaffirmed the need to respect the status quo of Jerusalem and refrain from any initiative that exacerbates hostilities. Francis didn't cite the United States by name, but many elements of his speech could have been read as an implicit appeal to the Trump administration: He called for governments to provide universal health care for all, demanded they respect commitments made in Paris in 2015 to curb global warming, urged them to better integrate migrants and to participate in a "serene and wide-ranging debate" on nuclear disarmament.
Speaking on the 100th anniversary of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's proposed League of Nations, Francis said today's leaders can learn two lessons from the ashes of World War I: "That victory never means humiliating a defeated foe," and that war isn't deterred by the "law of fear, but rather by the power of calm reason." Francis has voiced rising alarm about the threat of nuclear conflict in the Koreas, asserting at a special Vatican nuclear conference in November that there simply is no reason for an atomic arms race and every reason to destroy existing stockpiles. On Monday, he listed the threat of nuclear war on the Korean peninsula at the top of his rundown of global hot spots. He said it was of "paramount importance" to support every effort at dialogue "in order to find new ways of overcoming the current disputes, increasing mutual trust and ensuring a peaceful future for the Korean people and the entire world."
He also called for confidence-building measures in Syria and for the international community to facilitate the return of all refugees, particularly Christians who have fled communities that have had a Christian presence since the time of Christ. He didn't refer to the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, but he cited "recent" tensions in the Holy Land in renewing what he called the Vatican's "pressing appeal that every initiative be carefully weighed so as to avoid exacerbating hostilities." He urged a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians and for Jerusalem's status quo to be respected, noting the city is sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims. Francis' sole mention of his native Latin America was over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Venezuela, where the Holy See had tried — but failed — to facilitate talks between the government and the opposition. The Argentine pope said he hoped elections this year in Venezuela would resolve the existing conflicts and give residents hope for the future.

Iran Warns World to Prepare for US Nuke Deal Withdrawal
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 08/18/Iran warned the world on Monday to prepare for the possible withdrawal of the United States from the landmark nuclear deal agreed in 2015. "The international community must be prepared for the US possibly pulling out of the JCPOA," said deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi, using the technical name for the nuclear deal. Iran signed the accord in 2015 with six world powers, agreeing to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of many international sanctions.  US President Donald Trump openly despises the deal -- a central foreign policy achievement of his predecessor Barack Obama -- but has so far continued to waive the nuclear-related sanctions at regular intervals as required to stay in compliance. The next deadline for Trump to waive sanctions falls on Friday.  "It's been more than a year that the US president has sought to destroy the JCPOA with all his efforts," said Aragchi, speaking at the Tehran Security Conference. "We in Iran are prepared for any scenario. The international community and our region will be the biggest loser, since a successful experience in the international arena will be lost," he added. "Our region will not become a safer region without the JCPOA."A withdrawal by the US will lead to an "appropriate and heavy response," added foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi. "The US administration will definitely regret it," he said on state television. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is due to travel for talks with the European parties to the deal -- Britain, France, Germany and the EU -- at the end of the week. Zarif denied reports that the talks would focus on the recent protests in Iran that claimed 21 lives, saying such claims were "baseless and unfounded". "Given the importance of JCPOA these days, and in particular considering the US destructive policies, based on talks we've had, we agreed to have a consultative meeting between Iran and the three European Union members," said Zarif, according to state broadcaster IRIB.

Trump, Macron agree that Iran protests are ‘sign of regime’s failure’
Reuters, Washington/January 08/18/US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke on Saturday, the White House said on Sunday, and Trump provided Macron with an update on developments on the Korean Peninsula and the two discussed demonstrations in Iran. The White House said the conversation was intended “to underscore” US, South Korean and international resolve to achieve the complete denuclearization of North Korea. “The Presidents also agreed that the widespread demonstrations in Iran were a sign of the Iranian regime’s failure to serve its people’s needs by instead diverting the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism and militancy abroad,” the White House said in a statement.

Iran bans teaching of English in schools after ‘cultural invasion’ warning
Reuters/January 08/18/Iran has banned the teaching of English in primary schools, a senior education official has said, after Islamic leaders warned that early learning of the language opened the way to a western “cultural invasion”. “Teaching English in government and non-government primary schools in the official curriculum is against laws and regulations,” Mehdi Navid-Adham, head of the state-run high education council, told state television. “The assumption is that in primary education the groundwork for the Iranian culture of the students is laid,” he said. The teaching of English usually starts in middle school in Iran, at the ages of 12 to 14, but some primary schools below that age also have English classes. Some children also attend private language institutes after their school day, while children from more privileged families attending non-government schools receive English tuition. Iran’s Islamic leaders have often warned about the dangers of a “cultural invasion”, and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, voiced outrage in 2016 over the “teaching of the English language spreading to nursery schools”.Khamenei, who has the final say in all state matters, said in a speech to teachers: “That does not mean opposition to learning a foreign language, but [this is the] promotion of a foreign culture in the country and among children, young adults and youths.” While there was no mention of the announcement being linked to more than a week of protests against the clerical establishment and government, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have said that the unrest was also fomented by foreign enemies. Iranian officials said 22 people were killed and more than 1,000 arrested during the protests that spread to more than 80 cities and rural towns, as thousands of young and working-class Iranians expressed their anger at graft, unemployment and a deepening gap between rich and poor. A video of the announcement of the ban was widely circulated on social media on Sunday, with Iranians calling it “the filtering of English”, jokingly likening it to the blocking of the popular app Telegram by the government during the unrest.

Pence to visit Egypt, Jordan, Israel in January
Reuters, Washington/January 08/18/US Vice President Mike Pence will visit Egypt, Jordan and Israel from Jan. 20 to 23, the White House said on Monday, embarking on a tour originally planned for last month after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Pence will hold talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said in a statement. Pence, a strong supporter of Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, will also visit the city’s Western Wall and give a speech at the Israeli parliament, it said.
Trump’s decision on Jerusalem and announcement in December that the United States would start the process of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv led to uproar and protest in the region. “At President Trump’s direction, the vice president is traveling to the Middle East to reaffirm our commitment to work with the US’s allies in the region to defeat radicalism that threatens future generations,” said Alyssa Farah, a spokeswoman for Pence. He plans to discuss with the three leaders “ways to work together to fight terrorism and improve our national security,” she added. The status of Jerusalem, which is home to Muslim, Jewish and Christian holy sites, is one of the thorniest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who were furious over Trump’s move and have declined to meet with Pence. The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the full city. Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal capital, while Palestinians want the capital of an independent state of theirs to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognized internationally. Pence postponed a planned visit to Egypt and Israel last month to stay in Washington for a congressional vote on Trump’s tax overhaul plan.

Qatar, Iran officials discuss tourism cooperation in Kish island
Al Arabiya English/January 08/18/Delegations representing Iran and Qatar met in the Iranian island of Kish to discuss ways to boost tourism cooperation between the two countries. The meetings were attended by a number of Iranian tourism officials and a Qatari delegation. They discussed ways to enhance cooperation between Qatar Airways and Iranian airlines. The Qatari delegation toured Kish airport to check its infrastructure and faclities in order to weigh the possibility of landing Qatar Airways flights there. The president of Qatar’s Hotel Owners Association is expected to visit the island soon following an official invitation from Iranian officials. The meetings are not the first of their kind. Qatar and Iran have begun trade relations since Qatar was boycotted by four prominent countries in the Arab world. The two sides also discussed ways to strengthen security and economic ties. Meanwhile, the Iranian city of Bushehr was designated as a trading base between both the countries. These meetings coincide with rising unrest in Iran where thousands are taking to the streets to protest regime corruption.

Egypt ex-PM Ahmed Shafiq will not stand for president in 2018
AFP, Cairo/January 08/18/Former Egyptian premier Ahmed Shafiq on Sunday announced he will not stand in the 2018 presidential elections, reversing a pledge to challenge at polls set to be dominated by leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Shafiq’s decision to scrap his candidacy came after he was returned from the United Arab Emirates, where he had been living in exile since 2012, back to Egypt last month. “I have decided to not run in the upcoming 2018 presidential elections,” Shafiq said in a statement posted online. “I saw that I will not be the best person.” Shafiq, appointed premier by former president Hosni Mubarak shortly before his overthrow in 2011, was seen as a main challenger for Sisi, who is expected to cruise to a new term despite not yet officially announcing his candidacy.

Egypt to Hold Presidential Vote March 26-28
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 08/18/Egyptians will head to the polls on March 26-28 in the first round of a presidential election, National Elections Authority chief Lasheen Ibrahim said on Monday. A second round will be held on April 24-26 if required, he told a news conference in Cairo.
Ibrahim said the commission would accept applications from presidential hopefuls between January 20 and 29. "The provisional list of candidates and the numbers of their supporters will be published" in state-run newspapers al-Ahram and al-Akhbar on January 31, he said. Once any appeals by rejected candidates are settled, "the final list of candidate names and their symbols will be announced and published in the official gazette and Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar newspapers" on February 24, he said. That will mark the official start of the campaign, which will run until March 23, Ibrahim said, with final results to be announced on May 1. Egyptians living abroad can vote between March 16 and 18, he added, with second round ballots on April 19-21 if necessary. Incumbent Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is widely expected to stand for re-election and win in the first round. The former army chief was elected in 2014, a year after leading the military to oust his predecessor Mohamed Morsi amid mass protests against the Islamist's year-long rule. On Sunday, former premier Ahmed Shafiq, once seen as a main challenger to Sisi, said that he would not be a candidate, reversing a previous pledge to stand. Shafiq was appointed premier by Hosni Mubarak shortly before he was toppled from the presidency in the 2011 uprising, and only narrowly lost out in the 2012 election to Morsi.
Years of turmoil
After years of political, security and economic turmoil since Mubarak's ouster, many Egyptians might have voted for Shafiq, nostalgic for a continuation of Mubarak's rule, analysts believe. Other potential candidates include Khaled Ali, a rights lawyer and 2012 presidential candidate who challenged the government over Red Sea islands Egypt gave to Saudi Arabia. In November, Ali announced his intention to stand again in 2018. However, he had been sentenced in September in absentia to three months in jail on accusations of "offending public decency," a ruling he appealed. The sentence was over a photograph Ali says was fabricated and that appeared to show him making an obscene gesture while celebrating a court ruling in the case of the islands' transfer. Ali has said only the committee organizing the election can decide whether that ruling would disqualify him as a candidate. Another hopeful, colonel Ahmed Konsowa, was given six years in prison in December by a military court after the previous month announcing his intention to stand. Konsowa's lawyer said his client was given the sentence for stating political opinions while still a serving officer, even though Konsowa said he had been trying to resign from the military for more than three years. Lawyer Asaad Heikal said Konsowa had only followed Sisi's example in announcing his candidacy. Sisi was in uniform when he did so, before later resigning as defense minister.

Life Under Fire in North Sinai
North Sinai - Asharq Al-Awsat/January 08/18
The forty-year-old resident of North Sinai, Hasan Salem, tries to overcome his fear of the unknown by clinging to life on his own land. He rides his horse or walks 10 km from his house in al-Jura village, south of Sheikh Zuwaid, until he arrives at the nearest point where cars reach. From there, he looks for a pick-up truck ride to the market where he shops for his his family of five children and elderly parents. Hasan's weekly route reflects the life of many residents of the village of Jura, located 15 kilometers south of the city of Sheikh Zuwaid. For years, the village has witnessed clashes pitting the army and police forces against terrorist groups, most members of ISIS– Sinai Province. The on-going war continues in the northeastern part of the Sinai peninsula. Salem is a member of the Sawarka, the largest tribe in Sinai, and his family along with 400 other families of about 3,000 men, women and children, still live in the villages of Abu al-Aaraj, Jura, and al-Dhahir in Sheikh Zuwaid. Others decided to move to safer areas inside Sinai and other provinces, fleeing war and persecution by ISIS militants, who accuse many of them of collaborating with Egyptian security forces.According to the Information Center of North Sinai Governorate, the area of center Sheikh Zuwaid is 783 square kilometers, of North Sinai's total area of 27 thousand square kilometers, and the estimated population of the center is about 60,000 of the total population of North Sinai of 455,000 until 2016. Official data between 2013 and mid -2017 estimated the number of displaced people following the war on terrorism in North Sinai about 6,700 families comprising more than 26,000 people. Hassan Salem told Asharq Al-Awsat the real difficulties faced by those living in areas where police launched the war on terrorism began after they were totally isolated late 2016.
"We will not leave our villages. We live on a land surrounded by death from all sides, but we are happy that we are a faction of steadfast people in North Sinai. I say this despite the suffering from simple matters such as going to the market ... to bring the necessities for the family from Sheikh Zuwaid," confirmed Salem. Salem pointed a sudden illness or a woman going into early labor are the most excruciating.  He explained that at night time villagers have to wait till dawn and then travel to the nearest road used by cars. "Cars, vehicles, and any kind of motorcycles are banned in our areas. They come under fire when spotted," added Salem. Another issue for North Sinai residents is education. Salem explained that the village's schools are operating with only four teachers, adding that it is difficult to bring staff from outside the village because of the difficult conditions. Haj Ali Mohamad, a farmer from al-Jura in his fifties, tells Asharq Al-Awsat of the electricity problem. "The main station is located in Sheikh Zuwaid.Every now and then there are power cuts because of the terrorist attacks," said Mohamad. The transportation problem also causes a water crisis. Haj Ali Mohamad said that, he and other farmers, have been warned by ISIS not to tend to their olive and plum trees. "It turns out that they planted the lands with explosives and mines," he added. Al-Dhahir, like its neighbor Jura, is about 13 kilometers south of Sheikh Zuwaid and home to about 60 families. Ahmed Abu Salmi, 20, explains that the villagers managed to operate two schools, one elementary and the other preparatory, and a nursery. The schools now operate in the village council after a number of armed men destroyed the previous school and detonated it using explosive devices.
The situation is not that different at a third nearby village, Abu al-Aaraj. However, Abu al-Aaraj is close to the road and last checkpoint which allows the cars to pass. According to a resident, Sameh Abu al-Aaraj, six houses in the village were shelled, while seven people were killed and others were wounded.
Abu al-Aaraj told Asharq Al-Awsat that people here live in their land, and some of them have farms that are irrigated from salty water wells not suitable for drinking. Member of parliament of Sheikh Zuwaid Ibrahim Abu Shuaira said the villages south of the center are linked to the city through one main road, which civilians are banned from crossing and only security forces and buses belonging to the multinational forces are allowed to use.
Abu Shuairah said that he received "complaints from residents in those areas demanding the opening of the road.”

Student killed, opposition leader detained as bread protests grip Sudan
Reuters/January 08/18/Protests over rising bread prices broke out across Sudan on Sunday, leading to the death of a student and the arrest of a prominent opposition leader as authorities confiscated newspapers and looked to clamp down on growing unrest.The demonstrations followed a similar protest in the southeastern city of Sennar on Saturday after bread prices doubled following the government’s announcement late last month that it was eliminating subsidies in its 2018 budget. In the southeastern city of al-Damazin, police fired tear gas on Sunday as about 400 demonstrators chanted “No, no to price rises!” and some burned tyres, a local resident told Reuters. The removal of subsidies is part of austerity measures as the country struggles in the face of inflation running at about 25 percent and an acute shortage of hard currency that has sapped import activity. Newspapers are frequently confiscated in Sudan, which ranks among the worst in the world for press freedom (AFP).Austerity measures in Sudan have sparked sporadic public protests in the past few years. Amnesty International says that up to 185 people may have been killed in 2013 when thousands took to the streets in demonstrations against fuel price increases.
Protests have since been much smaller and the main opposition parties have called for peaceful demonstrations against the bread price rises. On Sunday protests spread to downtown Khartoum and three cities to the south; the southwestern cities of Nyala and Geneina as well as al-Damazin, residents in these areas told Reuters. A high school student was killed and six others wounded in Geneina during the protests, a statement from the Geneina governor said. It did not give a reason for the death but said the incident would be investigated. Authorities arrested Omar Al-Dageir, the president of one of the country’s largest opposition groups, the Sudanese Congress Party, members of the party said. Authorities also blocked the sale of six daily newspapers carrying critical coverage of the subsidy cut and price rises, editors of the papers told Reuters. Minister of State for the Interior Ministry, Babkar Daqna, denied demonstrations were in response to price rises and said that destructive protesters will be “dealt with forcefully” state news agency SUNA reported. Sudan has begun a series of economic reforms in line with International Monetary Fund recommendations to try to bolster the economy, months after a US decision to lift sanctions raised hopes that badly needed investment may return. This month Sudan devalued its pound currency to 18 per U.S. dollar, more than double its previous peg of 6.7 pounds to the dollar. The rate on the black market hit about 29 pounds to the dollar last week.

France Sees 'Historic' 100,000 Asylum Claims in 2017
Asharq Al-Awsat/January 08/18/Asylum claims in France hit a record 100,000 last year, official figures showed Monday, as President Emmanuel Macron's government draws up hotly-debated new legislation on immigration. "It's a historic level," Pascal Brice, head of refugee protection agency Ofpra, told AFP, though he noted the numbers are just half of those seen in neighboring Germany last year. "It confirms that France is one of the countries receiving the most asylum claims in Europe," said Brice. Albanians formed the biggest group of applicants despite their country being considered safe by France, Agence France Presse reported. Macron's government is preparing to unveil a bill on immigration next month, but his centrist Republique En Marche (Republic On The Move) party are divided on how to tackle the issue. Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe have vowed to speed up the process for managing asylum requests and offering improved conditions for successful applicants. But they have also promised a much tougher line on economic migrants that would see an increased number of deportations and tighter controls on people arriving. In his New Year's message, Macron warned that France "cannot welcome everyone" although he pledged an immigration policy that walked the line between "humanity and efficiency". Albanian Influx . Albanians made up the biggest group applying for asylum in France last year -- some 7,600 adults, almost all of them set to be sent home because their home country is considered "safe". Brice attributed the 66-percent jump in Albanian asylum claims to "economic emigration", an issue he said was worrying authorities in both countries. Afghans made up the second biggest group last year with nearly 6,000 applications, followed by migrants from Haiti, Guyana and Sudan. Applications from Syria were down 10 percent to just over 3,000, though almost all of them were granted asylum. Ofpra also reported a sharp rise in applications from francophone west Africa including Ivory Coast and DR Congo. Brice said they were part of the wave of migrants crossing to Europe from Libya.

Emir of Kuwait Underscores Collective Work to Overcome Challenges in Gulf

Asharq Al-Awsat/January 08/18/Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah stressed on Monday that the countries of the Arab Gulf cannot confront current challenges alone. “Collective work is the way to face challenges and fortify ourselves in order to preserve the achievements of the Gulf Cooperation Council,” he said during the opening of the 11th meeting of parliament speakers of the states of the Gulf, which is hosted by Kuwait. In addition, he predicted the Gulf crisis with Qatar was headed to a resolution, saying: “The ties that bind us are greater than can be affected by a passing incident.”“There is a great responsibility shouldered by the Gulf legislative agency,” he remarked. Sheikh Sabah continued: “Each of us is aware of the circumstances in the region, which are unfortunately deteriorating.”This in turn represents a challenge “that demands us to cooperate on all levels.” he stated, according to the Kuwait news agency (KUNA). He therefore expressed his optimism that the meeting of parliament speakers and other gatherings like it would represent an opportunity to underline ties of fraternity and friendship between the Gulf. “Our Gulf entity has over the past four decades achieved blessed goals and gains that bolster our ability to meet the aspirations of the people of our nations,” he added. Kuwait has playing the role of mediator to resolve the crisis between Qatar and the four counter-terrorism countries of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. The four countries had severed their diplomatic and economic ties with Doha in June 2017 in protest against its support for terrorism.

Eight children among 21 killed in Syria strikes
AFP /January 08/ 2018/Air strikes by regime and Russian aircraft on rebel positions in the northwestern province of Idlib killed at least 21 civilians, including eight children, a monitor said Monday. The strikes carried out on Sunday were the latest against jihadists and rebels in a week-old regime offensive on Idlib, the last province in Syria to escape government control. The raid left "at least 21 dead, including eight children and 11 members of the same family" west of the town of Sinjar in the southeast of the province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "Regime and Russian strikes are continuing today on several parts of Idlib" province, Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based monitoring organisation, told AFP.

Explosion risk for Iranian oil tanker ablaze off China
AFP, Beijing/January 08/18/An Iranian oil tanker ablaze off the Chinese coast is at risk of exploding or sinking, authorities said Monday, as they reported there was no sign of survivors 36 hours after the vessel erupted in flames. A huge fire was still raging around the stricken ship, which had been carrying 136,000 tonnes of light oil, with fierce heat and thick black smoke billowing from the vessel and the surrounding sea. Rescuers attempting to reach the crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis were being beaten back by toxic clouds, China's transportation ministry said. The Panamanian-flagged 274-metre (899-foot) tanker Sanchi is “in danger of exploding or sinking,” the ministry said. The accident happened on Saturday evening 160 nautical miles east of Shanghai. The tanker, operated by Iran's Glory Shipping, was heading to South Korea when it collided with a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship, the CF Crystal, carrying 64,000 tonnes of grain. Ten government vessels and “many fishing ships” were helping with the ongoing rescue and clean up effort, the transportation ministry said, adding that a South Korean coast guard ship was also on the scene. A US Navy aircraft participated in the search on Sunday, scouring a large area before returning to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. Iran's Petroleum Ministry said the tanker belongs to the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and was delivering its cargo to South Korea's Hanwha Total. The ship and its cargo were insured, a statement said. It was the second accident in less than two years involving a tanker owned by the NITC. In August 2016 an Iranian supertanker and a container ship collided in the Singapore Strait, causing damage to both vessels but no injuries or pollution. Saturday's collision was the latest fatal maritime accident to hit East Asia in recent years.

Jordan Says It Foiled 'Massive' Terror Plot Linked to IS
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/January 08/18/Jordan's intelligence service has foiled a "massive" scheme of simultaneous attacks on military installations, shopping centers and other targets by a cell linked to Islamic State extremists, the state news agency said on Monday.
The Petra agency said the cell planned to carry out the attacks last November, seeking to harm national security and create chaos. It says security forces arrested 17 people and seized weapons and other materials. It says media organizations and moderate clerics were among would-be targets. Petra says the suspects had planned to finance their plot by robbing banks and stealing cars in the towns of Ruseifa and Zarqa, strongholds of domestic support for Islamic militants. Pro-Western Jordan has been a key member of the U.S.-led military campaign against IS in neighboring Iraq and Syria.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 08-09/18
Canada: Islamist-Leftist-Government Alliance Silences Free Speech
حكومة التحالف الإسلامي-اليساري الكندية تسكت حرية الكلام

Christine Douglass-Williams/Gatestone Institute/January 08/2018
"I... make a distinction between those who choose to practice Islam in peace and harmony with others, and those with an agenda to subvert democratic constitutions, demand special privileges over other creeds, and attack innocent people as a supremacist entitlement. It is odd to be removed from a race relations foundation for my private work in criticizing Islam, which is not a race." — Christine Douglass-Williams, Jihad Watch, December 21, 2017.
Canada's Motion M-103 puts Islam above all other religions in that any other religion can be discussed openly, criticized openly and even be mocked openly without punishment or state penalty.
"The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions." — Muslim Brotherhood Plan for North America.
Political Islam espouses the opposite of all I stand for as an activist for human rights for all. I oppose its treatment of women, female genital mutilation (FGM), child brides, killing of gays, goals to obliterate Israel, raping of infidel women, blasphemy laws etc., as any proponent of human rights and those who battle intolerance should.
For writing and warning about political Islam, I was terminated as a director at the federal government's Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), an agency usually at arms-length from the federal government.
As I wrote at Jihad Watch: I have been terminated from the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, four months after a threatening letter by Heritage Minister Melanie Joly about my writings on Islam at Jihad Watch,
Joly made good on her threats. The Privy Council has terminated my appointment, despite my years of dedicated commitment to the Foundation, on which I also served as Chair of the Investment Committee, and as a member of the Human Resource and Executive Committees. Why? Because I dared to criticize political Islam on Jihad Watch, and because of My Personal Warning to Icelanders, in which I warned about the deceptive works of Muslim Brotherhood operatives in their infiltration of the West. Their tactics are well documented.
I personally make a distinction between those who choose to practice Islam in peace and harmony with others, and those with an agenda to subvert democratic constitutions, demand special privileges over other creeds, and attack innocent people as a supremacist entitlement. It is odd to be removed from a race relations foundation for my private work in criticizing Islam, which is not a race.
Canadian Press (CP) gave my story balanced coverage. It was run by Post Media outlets, Canoe, The National Post and even Huffington Post. The lengthy Toronto Star story -- "Board member of anti-racism agency fired amid accusations of Islamophobic commentary" -- however featured a number of far-left, pro-Islamist sources; among them: The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), CAIR-CAN/NCCM and the Mosaic Institute.
In examining these questionable organizations: According to the SPLC, "Antifa" is not a hate group but Jihad Watch is, and its Director, Robert Spencer is "one of America's most prolific and vociferous anti-Muslim propagandists". The Washington Examiner described the SPLC as "a fraud and nobody should treat them as responsible actors". Unfortunately the Toronto Star did. Now, the Christian Broadcasting Network has rightly bemoaned that "Merry Christmas and Jesus are appearing on the SPLC's monitoring hate hashtags list." Even the left-leaning Politico asks the question: "has the Southern Poverty Law Center lost its way?"
CAIR-CAN, renamed the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), is an affiliate of the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR). Although it changed its name, it admitted to being the same organization. CAIR is designated as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates, "placing it in the company of Al Qaeda, Islamic State", and was found to be an unindicted co-conspirator in America's largest terrorism funding trial in its support for Hamas, The Holy Land Foundation trial. CAIR-CAN/NCCM has foisted upon Canada its "Islamophobia" agenda, which is heavily pushed by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in order to shut down any criticism of Islam.
CAIR-CAN/NCCM has been involved in the establishment of "anti-Islamophobia" charters in six major Canadian cities and an "Islamophobia" snitch line. CAIR-CAN/ NCCM "sent a formal letter to the government in October", where its executive director, Ihsaan Gardee, said my removal from the CRRF is an "appropriate corrective measure taken by government to address (her) disturbing public record." Back in August, CAIR-CAN/NCCM stated that I had no place on the CRRF, and that they were "confident the federal government will take appropriate action with respect to this matter."
The Mosaic Institute is a little known promotions partner of CAIR-CAN/NCCM with allied "diversity" and "inclusion" initiatives that heavily endorses the "Islamophobia" narrative. The Mosaic Institute also compares the peaceful black civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter. The Mosaic Institute stated that my removal "reflects that the personal behaviors of a board member do actually matter."
Also weighing in was "expert" Amarnath Amarasingam, an ideologue who ignores the worst, unprecedented attacks and assaults by Islamists while asking the question "what about the terrorism of the far right?" He states, "the idea that someone who sits on the Canadian Race Relations Foundation's board would have anything to do with Jihad Watch or Robert Spencer is mind-boggling to me."
The Toronto Star article about my "firing" illustrates a concerning portrait of how far the Muslim Brotherhood has managed to weave its way into Liberal/leftist policy circles:
Tom Quiggin, a former military intelligence officer and a court-appointed expert on jihadist terrorism in Canadian courts, documents a troubling trend in Canada, such as the bullying of a Sun Media Journalist, Anthony Furey; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's passion in battling "Islamophobia;" his pro-Islamist sympathies in welcoming back foreign Islamic State fighters; and tabling an anti-islamophobia motion M-103 in parliament.
Motion M-103 can be traced to troubling, influential players in Canada with historic links to the Muslim Brotherhood. As Quiggin writes:
"Douglass-Williams' firing is worrying as it emanates from the Canadian Heritage Ministry – the same ministry which is holding hearings into the anti-Islamophobia Motion M103....the firing does not occur in isolation and should be seen in a specific context. Canada has an Islamic supremacist entryist problem in government... anyone who speaks out against this support for the cause of political Islam will be silenced by the Government of Canada as it moves towards a greater acceptance of Islamic extremism and violence."
When repeated calls to incorporate the term "anti-Muslim bigotry" in Canada's plan to "eliminate all forms of racism" was presented as an alternative to "Islamophobia", it was flatly rejected. Canada's influential Jewish advocacy group, CIJA stated:
"We stand in solidarity with the Muslim community against anti-Muslim bigotry...Words matter. We believe the wording of M-103 is flawed. Specifically, we are concerned with the word 'Islamophobia' because it is misleading, ambiguous, and politically charged."
Words indeed matter, "Islamophobia", unlike "anti-Muslim bigotry" is a word that is intended to beat down critics of Islam, is heavily pushed by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in its efforts to criminalize criticism of Islam.
This wished-for criminalization -- complete with jail terms, fines or even death sentences -- includes prosecuting those who sound the alarm against the spread of Islamism and jihad terror. This is the essence of M-103, which is a "slap in the face to democracy." Such resolutions pose a grave danger to the freedoms of Canadian citizens and destabilizes the future of the country, not to mention its relations to the United States.
According to the Muslim Brotherhood plan for North America: "The process of settlement is a 'Civilization-Jihadist Process' with all the word means. The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions."
Canada's Motion M-103 puts Islam above all other religions in that any other religion can be discussed openly, criticized openly and even be mocked openly without punishment or state penalty.
The infiltration detailed in the Muslim Brotherhood plan requires the participation of Western partners, and the racism industry has been the seat of its efforts. Pro-Islamist groups have managed to brand "Islamophobia" (including criticism of political Islam) as a form of "racism" and hate. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Trudeau declares that "we have a problem with Islamophobia in Canada", although Canada has a much bigger problem with anti-Semitism, followed by anti-black and anti-gay hate crimes.
Motion M-103 has become a wall of divide, mostly along partisan lines. Many who support M-103 claim that it is just a harmless "anti-racism" motion and cast opponents to it as racist and "Islamophobic". Critics, however, consider that M-103 usurps democratic rights and freedoms and imposes sharia values in which Islam will not, and must not, be criticized. The Toronto Sun also points out how M-103 Heritage Department committee hearings turned to "prosecution" and "censorship" of those who criticize Islam. Rebel Media, for instance, was cited as a possible target.
A "bombshell" revelation recently exposed an alliance between far leftist radicals and ISIS/al-Qaeda jihadists. Former editor in chief of The New York Times Magazine and best-selling author, Edward Klein, uncovered in his book, All Out War: The Plot to Destroy Trump, "an FBI field report about the collusion between American anti-Trump radicals and foreign ISIS/al-Qaeda operatives." While this uncovers an extreme alliance between the "left" and Islamists, there are varying degrees to this troubling partnership. There seems to be a strong tendency for leftists to sympathize with and facilitate Islamists. In Canada, for example:
The Conservative Party sought to defund terrorist-linked groups, strip citizenship from terrorists, implement a zero tolerance policy on "barbaric cultural practices", overwhelmingly voted against the passing of "anti-Islamophobia" Motion M103 and shut down Iran's embassy in Ottawa. The Liberal Party, conversely, has repealed the Conservative provision to strip the citizenship of terrorists, erased use of the phrase "barbaric cultural practices" and introduced the anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 that referenced the Conservatives as "Islamophobic". Trudeau has defended returning ISIS fighters with a stunning personal passion, while under tough questioning by Conservative opposition leader Andrew Scheer in Parliament.
It is also worthwhile to highlight that an article by the Toronto Star entitled, "Canadians need to do a better job of calling out racist language and actions", outed a "working relationship" between the Toronto Star, the Mosaic Institute and the NCCM/CAIR-CAN. In a panel, these three organizations assembled together and criticized Donald Trump, the late conservative Toronto mayor Rob Ford, Conservative Party politician Kelley Leitch, Steve Bannon and "white supremacy".
In a registered letter dated July 27, 2017, which eventually led to my termination of duties on the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, Heritage Minister Melanie Joly wrote to me:
"I have become aware of language used in your online articles and blogs that appear to be inappropriate and inconsistent with the CRRF mandate vision of promoting diversity and inclusion, and respect for democracy".
Joly cited three specific articles: My personal Warning to Icelanders, where I highlight the smooth strategies of the Muslim Brotherhood in their practice of deception and dissimulation (aka: taqiyya)
Canada Moving Toward Criminalizing Islamophobia, providing background information as M-103 headed for a Parliamentary vote
I Was Challenged: Why Write About Jihadists and Muslim Migrant Crimes?.
In each of these articles, I overtly explain and highlight the actions of Islamic supremacists and supremacism, and the dangers they pose to democracy.
I found it particularly troubling and peculiar that Joly would accuse me of violating the CRRF mandate of promoting diversity, inclusion and respect for democracy when this is precisely what I did in my dedicated duties at CRRF. Outside of the CRRF, I do the same routinely in my writings. Political Islam espouses the opposite of all I stand for as an activist for human rights for all. I oppose its treatment of women, female genital mutilation (FGM), child brides, killing of gays, goals to obliterate Israel, raping of infidel women, blasphemy laws etc., as any proponent of human rights and those who battle intolerance should.
*Christine Douglass-Williams is author of the book The Challenge of Modernizing Islam. She is also an international award-winning broadcast journalist, regular writer for Jihad Watch and past external advisor to the former Office of Religious Freedom in Canada.
© 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.

Iran’s President Takes On His Hard-Line Critics
Thomas Erdbrinkjan/NewYork Times/January 08/18
TEHRAN — President Hassan Rouhani of Iran lashed out at his hard-line opponents on Monday, saying the protesters who have shaken Iran in recent weeks objected not just to the bad economy but also to widespread corruption and the clerical government’s restrictive policies on personal conduct and freedoms.“One cannot force one’s lifestyle on the future generations,” Mr. Rouhani said, in remarks reported by the ISNA news agency. “The problem is that we want two generations after us to live the way we like them to.”
In his most extensive comments yet on the protests, Mr. Rouhani said that those people who took to the streets across the country did so because they were seeking a better life. “Some imagine that the people only want money and a good economy, but will someone accept a considerable amount of money per month when for instance the cyber network would be completely blocked?” he asked. “Is freedom and the life of the people purchasable with money? Why do some give the wrong reasons? This is an insult to the people.”
Mr. Rouhani, a moderate, has been seeking a relaxation in social controls, but he faces resistance from hard-liners in unelected power centers like the judiciary, vetting councils and the state news media. They want to keep in place the framework of Islamic laws that effectively dictate how people should live, despite enormous changes in Iranian society in the past decade alone.
Iran’s judiciary and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blame the country’s “enemies” for the protests in over 80 cities, which started on Dec. 28. They said the actions were organized by the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia with the aim of bringing down the Islamic government.
They call the hundreds of protesters who have been arrested “rioters” and want all social media to be banned. In a move seemingly unrelated to the protests, but one that gives insight into hard-liners’ attitudes, all English classes in elementary schools were banned on Sunday to combat the spread of Western influence.
Several political supporters of Mr. Rouhani say that the first protest in the city of Mashhad was actually masterminded by the hard-liners, in an attempt to discredit the government.
The Iranian president has twice run for office promising to reinvigorate the economy, but has little to show for it. To make matters worse, his recent budget enraged many by calling for cuts in fuel subsidies and cash payments to the poor, alongside sharp rises in spending for many clerical institutions.
But the protesters have also spoken of a host of other problems, including endemic corruption and the government’s expensive support for the Syrian government and Shiite groups throughout the Middle East, particularly Hezbollah, the Shiite movement in Lebanon.
Seeking to blunt criticism over the economy, Mr. Rouhani stressed the breadth of the protesters’ demands as well as their validity.
“The people have demands, some of which are economic, social and security-related, and all these demands should be heeded,” he said on Monday. He did not directly refer to slogans calling for Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to step down, but he said that no one was exempt from criticism.
“We have no infallible officials and any authority can be criticized,” he said.
Mr. Rouhani said that the social media platform Telegram, used by over 40 million Iranians but blocked during the protests, would be reopened. The photo-sharing app Instagram, which was also closed, has been partially reopened but is still not usable on mobile devices.
“Everything good has its disadvantages,” Mr. Rouhani said of social media, “but one cannot say that, for instance, automobile and motorcycle factories should be completely closed due to the dangers that these have.”

Putin's Goals Went Beyond Saving Assad
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/January 08/2018
The Russian Defense Ministry is denying a report by a leading Moscow newspaper that seven Russian warplanes were destroyed in a New Year's Eve attack on the Khmeimim air base in Syria. Two Russian servicemen died in the attack, according to the ministry. Clearly, fighting in Syria isn't over for Russia yet, despite President Vladimir Putin's self-congratulatory conversations with Syrian ally Bashar al-Assad.  Recently, however, General Valery Gerasimov, head of Russia's General Staff, made public his post-mortem of the Syrian operation, revealing Russia's military priorities in Syria and its persistent conviction that every conflict in which it is involved is a proxy war against the US. That war won't be over even once Syrian violence subsides. In the interview with pro-Kremlin daily Komsomolskaya Pravda, Gerasimov provides the basis for Putin's claims that Russia has defeated ISIS. These claims, of course, compete with those of US President Donald Trump, who has said the victory was his, and those of former US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who claims in a recent memoirthat Russia was merely a "spoiler" of a winning strategy Carter had devised.
Though neither Russia nor the US can credibly claim a full victory, the current map of Syria leans toward the Russian version: The Assad regime controls most of the country's territory, an amazing achievement after barely holding on to 10 percent of it in the summer of 2015.
Both great military powers used similar strategies, refusing to put boots on the ground in a major way and relying instead on local forces to do the fighting. "'Lasting defeat required enabling local forces to reclaim territory from ISIS and hold it rather than attempting to substitute for them," Carter wrote. "That meant focusing US forces on training, equipping, enabling, and often accompanying them." It worked only partially for the US -- mainly to the extent that it helped Kurdish fighters, who now control Syria's northern and northeastern areas.
Gerasimov, for his part, said Russia focused on assisting the demoralized, fatigued Syrian regime army: "We helped them, repaired their equipment right there on the ground. Today, the Syrian army is ready to defend its territory."
Both Russia and the US claim they fought ISIS rather than pursued political goals. But US officials have long claimed that Russian bombing raids targeted anti-Assad rebel groups rather than ISIS terrorists. In his interview, Gerasimov counters that claim by comparing airstrike numbers:
Look, all this time the international coalition delivered eight to 10 airstrikes a day. Our aviation, with a rather insignificant force, delivered 60 to 70 airstrikes a day on militants, on infrastructure, on their bases. At times of the highest tension it was 120 to 140 strikes per day. That was the only way to break international terrorism's back in Syria. As for eight to 10 strikes a day... Well, perhaps the coalition's goals were different.
Russia also managed to test more than 200 types of weapons that the Russian military had recently adopted or was about to adopt. The designers of the weapons systems were sent to Syria to oversee how their products worked. Among other things, the Syrian conflict provided Russia with its greatest opportunity so far to deploy drones -- up to 60 of them a day were in the air, Gerasimov boasted.
"Today, an absolute majority of the glitches have been fixed," Gerasimov said. "That we have tested equipment and weapons under combat conditions is huge. Now, we're confident in our weapons."  There's a second reason the testing aspect of the campaign was so important for Russia: In their minds, its soldiers are pitting themselves against the West. Gerasimov accuses the US of maintaining bases in Syria now to "repurpose" former ISIS fighters as anti-Assad ones to "destabilize the situation." One reason Russia is maintaining a military presence in Syria despite Putin's repeated claims of withdrawal is to counter this "destabilization." Any military decisions Russia makes these days are made with an eye to a barely concealed conflict with the US. That's how the Kremlin and the Russian generals see the eastern Ukraine conflict, in which US weaponry may soon be used, and, to a large extent, the Syrian one.

Don’t Go to the Library
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/January 08/2018
Don’t go to the library. This trip is a trap. The rich library is a strict court. A store to sell poison, questions and doubts. Some believe that this trip is no longer useful and that you can read a book on your device or smartphone. There is a great difference however between buying a rose and going to a garden.
During the final days of 2017, I was in Paris where I visited a local library. I was awestruck. If you are an aspiring writer, your visit will remind you of all the hard work that goes into writing a book. If you are a journalist, the visit will open up old wounds. This is a beautiful and deadly profession all at the same time. It is beautiful because it forces you to weather storms and deadly because it consumes your time with tiny details. Every night a newspaper dies along with its news and articles and gives way for a new day for its makers. I said awestruck because you are in the presence of giants who lit up their ages to warm up the reader for years, decades or centuries to come. Giants whose books have become landmarks in history. It is not an easy feat, for example, for a book published in the 19th century to make it through the deadly 20th century and persist to our present day.
I know that cities are guarded by the police, but the library gives you the impression that the real guards are those who sleep in its stacks and stand as beacons of light. Storytellers, poets, scholars, critics and painters. It is as if this accumulation of creativity is what fortifies the city against spiritual and intellectual depletion and connects its past to its future.
French writers never grow tired of recalling former glories from their history and they never grow tired of critiquing them. They go into the details of events and stories and they do not hesitate in tarnishing once pristine images should they come across new information. No one can survive a critique or a redrawn image after it is rid of inaccurate stories. This is why you always find new books on Napoleon, Louis IV, Marie Antoinette, Mazarin, Richelieu and other figures who played key roles in this age or that. You also find new books on the horrors of the French Revolution. You find new readings of the behavior of some of the players in World War II. The French also never cease to recall stories about De Gaulle and Petain. You will find on shelves a selection of poetry collected by former President Georges Pompidou. Love letters written by Francois Mitterrand to his girlfriend and the mother of his daughter. The cultured president was ardent about translating his passion into words. You will find a book about Jacques Chirac, another by or on Nicolas Sarkozy. The same can be found of Francois Hollande, while you may come across books that try to decipher the mystery of how current president Emmanuel Macron made it to the Elysee. You will come across a beautiful realization that the majority of French presidents dream of becoming writers. Perhaps they feel that the French people will certainly forget those who came to office, but they will definitely remember a good or interesting book. France has a special place in its heart for the writer. We saw this before the end of the year when Macron bowed before the Invalides where Napoleon is buried. He, along with two other presidents, bowed before the coffin of writer, journalist and French Academy member Jean d'Ormesson. Listening to Macron’s eulogy, one was reminded of France’s rich literary history. As an Arab journalist, I wonder at how a former president can remain alive and dedicate his time to writing. I recalled that late Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh once told me how he was in awe of the phenomenon of former presidents in Lebanon. Our culture has no room for a former president. Many of those I have interviewed have been assassinated. Many books try to help the reader understand this turbulent world. Books about Vladimir Putin, who becomes more complex as one tries to understand him. Books on China, the Silk Road and the Asian rise. Books on terrorism, assimilation, waves of migrants and the North Korean leader, who is boasting of his nuclear button. Books about the digital world, information revolution and the astounding technological advance that has changed the economy, politics, education and the individual’s relationship with the world.
The richest wing of the library holds the writers and poets who enriched France and whose tales and poems survived the test of time. Voltaire, Moliere, Flaubert, Balzac and Stendhal. Hugo, Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Lautréamont, reaching the Surrealists and their successors.
Amid these rich shelves, one has to ask oneself. Will the works of these writers be read in the future? Will someone breathe new life into them? Will the youths who grow up in “institutes” and social media want to and have time to delve into these masterpieces? I noticed that the majority who leafed through these books are at least over 30. Where are the new readers? Will we witness books inspired by Twitter and similar apps?
The Arab always turns back to his woes. This is a normal library in a normal city. This is a country that treats its artists as if they were a treasure. When will the Arab have a normal city that is not on the verge of civil war or militia invasions? What have we done with the very few men who can rightfully be described as beacons of light and what have we done with their works? The Arab always finds a reason to be sad or envious. This is why I told myself: I wish I had not gone to the library.

Protesters in Iran Need Real Help from Int’l Community

Michael Singh/The Washington Post/January 08/2018
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 US 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 US 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, UN 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.
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 US statements of support are broadly multilateral and are backed with more practical steps.
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.

Mass Migration: The European Commission's New "Norm"

Alain Destexhe/Gatestone Institute/January 08/2018
The Commission, based in Brussels, is not elected but, according to EU treaties, it has a monopoly -- yes, a monopoly -- on initiating legislation at the European level. A Commissioner is an appointed bureaucrat, one for each member state -- often a former top politician, now sidelined in his country of origin, therefore with very little democratic legitimacy.
First of all, many of the migrants are not qualified; and second, they receive social benefits so there is little or no incentive for them to work. Articles supporting the claims of the officials -- that Europe needs more migrants in order to fund the healthcare and pensions of aging Europeans -- neglect that this plan can only succeed IF the migrants work. These assumptions, therefore, appear to be based on ideological bias rather than scientific evidence.
The new norms, like the size of apples or the curvature of cucumbers, should, according to the European Commission, be determined by the European Commission. Migration will not be a question open for debate. It will be a "norm" determined by the Commission.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, recently published a startling opinion, advocating for more immigration as an inescapable reality to which European citizens should just adapt without any further discussion.
The article illustrates much of what is wrong with European institutions, in particular the European Commission, a mixture of bureaucratic arrogance, false creed based on dogma rather than facts, and a disdain for democratic debate. The Commission, based in Brussels, is not elected but, according to EU treaties, it has a monopoly -- yes, a monopoly -- on initiating legislation at the European level. Each Commissioner is an appointed bureaucrat, one for each member state -- often a former top politician, now sidelined in his country of origin, therefore with very little democratic legitimacy.
"It is time to face the truth.... The only way to make our asylum and migration policies future-proof is collectively to change our way of thinking first," wrote Avramopoulos. Does he think that grass-roots citizens do not think? Like Zeus -- another Greek -- on Mount Olympus, the truth comes from the upper floor of the Berlaymont building, the official headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, as a top-down process. Hey, stupid dudes who want to control immigration, just listen the new self-proclaimed God-bureaucrat and shut up because: "we cannot and will never be able to stop migration". Period.
It is very clear, from survey after survey, Eurobarometer after Eurobarometer, election after election, that a huge majority of European citizens are not only worried about immigration but want -- if not to stop it -- to reduce it drastically, and regain the lost control over borders and over who is allowed to get inside Europe and who is not. Brexit and the recent election campaigns in the UK, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic had immigration as a core issue. This trend is extremely clear and these "signals" cannot just be dismissed by Avramopoulos writing that "Migration is an emotional, sensitive issue... influenced by rising nationalism, populism and xenophobia." So, any reluctance to slow down immigration is categorized as "racist" and disqualifies whoever intends to raise an objection to the future Brave New World dreamed up by the European Commission?
According to our Commissioner, this populism and racism has, "limited our opportunities to put in place smart, forward-looking migration policies", policies that will be thought and implemented by, guess who? The enlightened European institutions, of course.
In a normal democratic process, every country should, ideally, be able to decide, through national parliaments, its migration policies. At a European level, the willingness of the majority of citizens should be taken into account. But Avramopoulos could not care less. According to this unelected Greek Commissioner, this is because "at the end of the day, we all need to be ready to accept migration, mobility and diversity as the new norm". The new norms, like the size of apples or the curvature of cucumbers, should, according to the European Commission, be determined by the European Commission. Migration will not be a question open for debate. It will be a "norm" determined by the Commission.
So, do we really have to accept migrants and refugees? According to the Commission, "It is not only a moral imperative but also an economic and social imperative for our aging continent". This is another false cliché. In his book Exodus: How Migration is Changing Our World, Oxford Professor Paul Collier explains that he has reviewed all the major scientific articles supporting the claims that migrants will be able to pay for the social benefits of aging Europeans, only to conclude that he was absolutely not convinced at all. First of all, many of the migrants are not qualified; and second, they receive social benefits, so there is little or no incentive for them to work.
Articles supporting the claims of the officials -- that Europe needs more migrants in order to fund the healthcare and pensions of aging Europeans -- neglect that this plan can only succeed if the migrants work. These assumptions, therefore, appear to be based on ideological bias rather than scientific evidence.
But what about the almost four million young unemployed citizens already inside the European Union? The unemployment rate for them has actually been between 15-20% in recent years. Don't politicians have "a moral imperative" (to speak like Avramopoulos) first to give them a job and a future before welcoming more new migrants? In Greece, Avramopoulos's country, the unemployment rate for youths is not 17% -- the current European average -- but more than 40%. In Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy -- countries with extremely high rates of unemployment -- there is also a generation of young and educated people, but they are unemployed and face an uncertain future. Many young Greek people do not see any reason to stay in Greece and would like to leave the country. Does Commissioner Avramopoulos plan to replace them with migrants or does he accept this internal, almost forced, migration within Europe as their fate? Another "norm"?
Perhaps the saddest aspect of his article is that Avramopoulos is not a leftist or a green or even a social-democrat politician. He is from New Democracy, a right-wing party. He is the living proof how far the Left has come to dominate the intellectual landscape in European institutions and imposed its way of thinking. With "right-wing" politicians such as Angela Merkel or Avramopoulos betraying their own constituents, one should not be surprised by the rise of "populism" that they themselves so often denounce.
Alain Destexhe is a Senator in Belgium, Former Secretary General of Médecins Sans Frontières and Former President of the International Crisis Group.
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Turning point in US–Pakistan relations?
Syed Jawaid Iqbal/Al Arabiya/January 08/18
US President Donald Trump chose to ring in the New Year with a warning to Pakistan on Twitter.
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given US nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump said. “They give safe havens to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
Earlier when Trump unveiled his new strategy toward Afghanistan, he didn’t mince words while condemning Pakistan. “It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order and peace,” he said.
It’s unclear just what exactly sparked Trump’s latest warning to Pakistan. As one observer speculated, Trump’s outburst was something that had been fed to him by his close team. According to State Department spokesperson Heather Neuert the US has now suspended its security assistance to Pakistan.
It is important to know how the United States will approach Pakistan in 2018. Washington had built a relationship of goodwill with Pakistan over the last six decades.
The country has been a US-ally since the 1950s, especially when Cento and Seato were America’s favorite babies against the Soviets and communism. Even today, despite all the bitter talk, Pakistan enjoys the status of a non-Nato American ally.
Strategically placed as it is at the cusp of the gateway to Central Asia, the Middle East and South Asia, Pakistan does not need to get too perturbed about the situation
A sea change? But now it seems a sea-change is coming in America’s attitude toward Pakistan. Trump’s senior advisers have been advising the US President to steer clear of this Islamic country. Lisa Curtis, the senior director for South and Central Asia has advised the United States to cease viewing Pakistan as an ally unconditionally. President Barack Obama too had used harsh words against Islamabad during his term in office but, considering the various ups and downs, the US did not take drastic action against Pakistan. Imran Khan, the Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf says that Pakistan should now formulate a policy that divorces the country from US objectives in the region because Pakistan can find new directions by including China, Iran and Russia in its foreign strategy.
Options available to the Trump administration with regard to Pakistan remains extensive. There could be more sanctions and its status as a non-NATO ally could be withdrawn. But it is also a fact that the US needs Pakistan’s cooperation to enable its military presence in Afghanistan, which is set to expand modestly under Trump.
Where will US-Pakistan relations go in 2018 and beyond? Will Trump start a new chapter of ties with Pakistan? Gulbadin Hekmatyar, the former prime minister of Afghanistan and head of the Hizb-e-Islami, says the reason for America’s growing irritation with Pakistan is due to the fact that a new regional coalition is coming up in the region which does not include America.
In a recent interview, Hussain Haqqani, the former Pakistan ambassador to the US, said: “I think that the relationship between the two countries is definitely not going to get any better.”
Strategically placed as it is at the cusp of the gateway to Central Asia, the Middle East and South Asia, Pakistan does not need to get too perturbed about the situation. In a response to Trump’s tweet, Pakistan has said the US was scapegoating Pakistan for its own failure to bring peace to Afghanistan after 16 years of war.
Coalition fund
The fact is that out of the total CSF (Coalition Support Fund) payable to Pakistan for its continued facilitation to the US war effort in Afghanistan, the US still owes Pakistan more than $9 billion.
Strategic analyst Imtiaz Gul says Pakistan’s civilian and military institutions should collate a coordinated and consolidated fact-sheet on the US assistance to Pakistan since 2001 and issue a separate sheet on the CSF as its narrative on the US-Pakistan relations since 2001.
The Adviser on Finance in the Pakistan federal government, Miftah Ismail, has already said that there was nothing to worry about the US stopping payments to Pakistan. He said the sum of $255 million payable annually against military financing was merely a day’s expenses made by Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments.
It is a fact that Pakistan is the country hardest hit by terrorist attacks, having lost thousands of civilians and soldiers to the violence that has convulsed the region since the Sept. 11 attacks. The country has spent billions of dollars in countering terrorism and is to this day embroiled in anti-terrorist activities. This too costs money and Pakistan spends all this from its own resources.
China to the rescue
There is also news that Pakistan might switch to the Chinese yuan against the dollar for trade with China. Pakistan hosts a major central infrastructure scheme called CPEC and is home to the nearly $60 billion Chinese project which could be a potential game-changer for Pakistan.
Since China is Pakistan’s close neighbor and the relations between the two countries are very deep, it would be advisable for Pakistan to come closer to China rather than hope for any economic or military support from the US which is thousands of miles away.
China has already extended considerable civil and military aid to Pakistan, especially in the military and aviation sectors. The two countries have together developed the JF-17 jet fighter, which is said to be superior to the American F-16.
While Washington has refused to sell more F-16s to Pakistan, China has given the country the capability to produce its own JF-17s and induct them in the Pakistan Air Force. In fact, Pakistan has become one of the few countries in the world whose air forces produce their own jet fighters.
China has also been defending Islamabad’s counter-terrorism track record, saying the country has made great efforts and sacrifices towards combating terrorism though the US and the rest of the international community do not recognize this in a clear manner.
The relations between China and Pakistan, as compared to US-Pakistan relations, have grown because Pakistan is treated by China on an equal sovereign footing and the latter does not show any heavy-handedness.
The war in Afghanistan
What Washington needs to realize is that without Pakistan’s cooperation, it cannot possibly continue fighting a war in Afghanistan – and win it. It will do a lot of good to President Trump and his foreign policy advisors to realize this immediately and treat Pakistan as a friend and ally which has been with the US through thick and thin – and there is no deceit involved. It seems it is India that is playing a deceitful game with the US. The strategy of its policy-makers and political analysts is to create conditions wherein America gets totally fed-up with Pakistan.
Trump is a novice at politics and tends to be bowled over by his advisors, many of whom toe the Indian line. India’s approach is to have Pakistan ousted from its status as an American ally and break its ties with the US. It can then present itself to the US as a huge consumer market. Out of its naivety, once America is dependent on the Indians in the region, they will milk the US. When this happens, and if Trump is then still around, he will discover that America has been taken for a ride and faces isolation in an important region of the world.

On Saudi social media stars
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/January 08/18
A Twitter campaign has been going on in Saudi Arabia recently calling blocking the so-called social media stars because of their vanity and reckless attitude that only aims to make gains and that disrespects people’s moral values. This was the general excuse behind the launch of this campaign and of course there is more to it. Yes, there are ugly phenomena that have spread like wildfire ever since these social media platforms began to consume our time. Many people have become obsessed with social media networks and some who are inexperienced in journalism or economics or other fields started to voice their opinion and propose solutions. They went as far as claiming that if it hadn’t been for their Twitter activity, people’s lives would not have changed for the better. Frankly speaking, some official parties and major companies helped turn these people into “stars” and “symbols” by pumping millions into their bank accounts in exchange of making few tweets or snapchat stories. Is the current awakening just a meaningless vent of anger? Social media stars may have seen it as a reflection of envy. By the way, I agree that some of those criticizing them actually want to be as famous as they are. This is certain.
Is the current awakening just a meaningless vent of anger?
The dangerous aspect
However, there’s more to the story. The more dangerous aspect is about the future of values which govern logic and reasoning. Who is supposed to lead who and upon what basis? How do families, schools and people in general maintain the glue of values that hold the society together?
I haven’t touched on the security harm which these social media platforms pose as they are used by old and new terrorist groups to recruit and mobilize people, destroy societies and coordinate attacks. I’ve only talked about the psychological harm they cause due to their vain effect on the general consciousness.
Vanity is vanity, since the days of Habannaka until the era of social media.

Behind the latest protests in Iran
Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/January 08/18
For more than a week now, Iran has been in something of turmoil with crowds of various sizes holding protests in more than 30 cities including the capital Tehran. Thanks to scenes not seen in Iran since 2009 when the regime managed to put down a popular uprising in Tehran, many questions have been raised about what is euphemistically referred to as “the events”. The first question is: Who are the protesters? As always, the regime’s analysis is that the protests are the result of conspiracies by the United States which, with the departure of President Barack Obama who sought accommodation with the present leadership in Tehran, is now committed to regime change under President Donald Trump. The regime’s analysis is too childish to merit detailed rebuttal. Suffice it to say that while the Trump administration may like regime change in Iran it has, so far at least, done absolutely nothing to move in that direction. In any case, if regime change were as easy as merely desiring it the US would have achieved changes of regime in Cuba and North Korea long ago. The US and, in different contexts, other major powers can help prolong the life of a regime by bestowing on it the legitimacy it does not deserve and providing it with the economic and political sustenance it needs to survive. This is what the Nixon-Ford administration did vis-vis the moribund Soviet Union in the 1970s. And this is what the Obama administration did for the Islamic Republic between 2009 and 2017, a policy still pursued by the European Union. However, short of full-scale invasion and conquest, no outside power, no matter how great, can bring down a regime that enjoys a measure of domestic support and enough self-confidence to hang on against heavy odds. To be sure, every now and then major powers are dragged into regime change conspiracies but often end up betting on horses that also run at best. Regime change is the work of the people of each country concerned; outsiders can only help by not propping up the oppressors.
But if this not an “American conspiracy”, who is protesting in Iran? The answer is: people who are unhappy with their lot.
If Iranians want their country to leave the ranks of losers and oppressed nations, they need a new and better regime of their own choosing
Young spearheads
As far as I have been able to make out of the protests which concerned almost all of Iran’s provinces, they were spearheaded by young, educated, mostly middle-class men and women with the aim of airing their grievances against a system that is perceived as a failure in all domains.
Some grievances are economic in nature. Mass unemployment is a big issue with 25 percent of university students unable to find a job for up to four years after graduation. Officially the rate of unemployment hovers around 12 percent, yet when we come to major urban areas the rate is often much higher. Then there is inflation, at around 13 percent per annum, eating into the meager incomes of average families. To make matters worse there is rampant corruption and embezzlement on an industrial scale. In 2017 alone, five banks and investment funds collapsed, wiping out the savings of at least 2.5 million middle-class and lower-middle-class families. Since the failed institutions were controlled by prominent mullahs and/or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), their failure is seen as a failure of the system. The collapse of several pension funds, including that of the teachers, has compounded the effects of the corruption scandal. Interestingly, no one has been arrested in connection with any of those failures with those believed to be responsible; allowed to flee to exile in Canada. However, the protests showed it is impossible to divide issues into purely economic and purely political. In fact, all issues in any society are ultimately political because policies affect all walks of life. For example, exempting so many banks and pension funds from rules of transparency and legal accountability with the excuse that they are controlled by top mullahs or the IRGC is based on a political decision. The fact that Iran churns out hundreds of thousands of degree-holding men and women with little or no marketable skills is also the fruit of a political decision.
Ordinary people
The protest also revealed a remarkable understanding by “the ordinary people” of the huge cost of a misguided foreign policy that has turned Iran into a partner in crimes committed by tyrants in Syria and terrorists in Lebanon and Yemen. Iran has no interest in helping Bashar al-Assad slaughter the Syrian people or Hassan Nasrallah play Mameluke in Beirut. One slogan repeated throughout the protests was a call for the release of all political prisoners. The fact that for almost four decades, the Islamic Republic has been the world's number-one in the number of political prisoners and number-two for executions after China is also a political, not an economic issue. Is Iran heading for regime change? Over a decade ago that I reached the conclusion that only regime change can bring Iran out of the historic impasse created by Khomeini and his successors. Reaching that conclusion, explained in detail in the book “The Persian Night”, was not because I didn’t like the Khomeinist regime, which I certainly don’t. Nor was it because I thought that the Khomeinist regime was any worse that its allies in North Korea, Venezuela or Zimbabwe. My argument was based on the belief that the Khomeinist regime, good or bad, simply doesn’t work. And this is exactly the conclusion that many within the regime have also reached. Until recently, some within the regime or in its outer reaches believed that regime change might be avoided through change within the regime. But years of experimenting with that concept, under Presidents Muhammad Khatami and more recently Hassan Rouhani; have shown that the Khomeinist regime lacks any mechanism for reform and change from within. For Iran, regime change is the wisest, the most prudent and the least costly option. This does not mean that I am predicting regime change in Tehran from now until our Iranian New Year in March. All I am saying is that if Iranians want their country to leave the ranks of losers and oppressed nations, they need a new and better regime of their own choosing. To foreign powers dreaming of accommodation with Iran, I say: abandon that illusion. A regime that has problems with its own people is bound to have problems with other nations. Four decades after the mullahs seized power Iran must stop acting as a vehicle for a bankrupt “revolution” and re-became a nation-state behaving like a country. And that requires regime change.

Iran: A date with freedom
Hussein Shobokshi/Al Arabiya/January 08/18/
This is not the first time that mass demonstrations against the regime have erupted in Iran, and it appears that they will not be the last. The recent demonstrations continued for days in a number of cities across Iran, including the capital Tehran, all calling for an immediate withdrawal from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The protesters called for the suspension of state spending on the regime’s adventures abroad, asking the government to rather combat poverty and corruption at home. They condemned and insulted the symbols of the regime, such as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. There are many good reasons for the start of such demonstrations in such an intensive form. The most important reason is that there is a whole generation which grew up in the midst of the revolution only to witness their country facing miseries while the influence of those in the circle of power increasing.
They were deprived of a decent living, employment opportunities and prosperity. They only saw the growing hatred of the world toward the Iranian regime and the increase of country’s enemies as a result of the continued export of extremism and recruitment of the evil militias in different parts of the world.
It is no longer possible to deceive the Iranian people with the revolution, which the regime has been promoting for more than four decades
Masks of the resistance
The masks of the resistance, revolution and religion have all fallen, revealing to the people and the world that it is dealing with a repressive regime that takes advantage in the name of the religion and the Palestinian cause only to cause destruction, hatred and enmity from all sides. Phases in history are not wrong and they always repeat themselves because they bring back the God’s established way. We have seen what happened and the way the Soviet Union collapsed from inside like a house of cards after decades of bitter infringements of freedoms. The citizens of the Soviet camp realized that in the name of revolutions, advocacy for the weak against the tyrants, they were only prisoners inside a large cage. They were robbed of their will and freedom, while living in fear and anxiety in an unprecedented way. This is the truth and this is what is happening today in Iran. It is no longer possible to deceive the Iranian people with the revolution, which the regime has been promoting for more than four decades. The citizens have not reaped the benefits of any of the promises. The Iranians have migrated and been displaced all over the world as a result of a long war.
Neighboring countries
Their country’s bad relations with all the neighboring countries, its support to the militias who are causing bloodshed and terrorism, disturbing the civil peace, security stability of the entire region, reflect badly on the Iranian people, who are mainly youth. The demonstrations took shape and some of the protests were joined by policemen who helped the citizens. In the universities, a group of students burst out with enthusiasm and violence, and some cars and public buses were destroyed in a clear sign that the barrier of fear had been broken. It is a snowball that rolls from the high peaks and takes it to the growth, shape and external momentum of the Iranian opposition with its various races, forming and interacting until the “typical typhoon” is formed, leading to the “turning point” that matters. These demonstrations are likely to be the point of no return in the relationship between the Iranian regime and its people to provide many factors and elements internal and external to support change, which was not available and promised before, which failed and aborted the previous movement. In the next few days, it is very important to watch what happens in Iran because 2018 may be the year of freedom for the Iranian people, a freedom that is long overdue.

Sorting Out U.S. and European Differences Over Iranفرز المواقف الأميركية والأوروبية المختلفة حول إيران
Jay Solomon/The Washington Institute/January 08/2018
Their wildly divergent responses to Iran's protests may be the first salvos in an imminent standoff over the future of the nuclear agreement and international sanctions.
If the international response thus far is any indicator, Iran's protests risk driving a wedge between the United States and Europe, potentially imperiling the West's ability to forge a common front on a wide range of regional and proliferation issues. To close this rift, Washington may need to reassure Brussels that it will not scrap the nuclear agreement—a message that must be delivered quickly given the decisions President Trump will make on a series of sanctions waivers that expire in mid-January. According to senior U.S. officials working on Iran, however, European governments and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini would need to respond in kind by showing a much greater willingness to address the deal's shortcomings and challenge Tehran on its human rights record.
Currently, the White House is putting together a string of initiatives following weeks of unrest in Iran, all aimed at placing significantly more financial and diplomatic pressure on the regime's clerical rulers and military leadership. These include more sanctions on the security services, a naming-and-shaming campaign against individuals and entities accused of wide-scale corruption and repression, and a catalog of the funds Iran has spent to support its armed proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. The administration is also trying to find common ground with Europe on how to significantly strengthen the nuclear accord, mainly by addressing concerns about ballistic missile development and the sunset clauses that will allow Tehran to drastically increase its nuclear activities in about a decade.
Yet senior U.S. officials say they have seen few signs in recent days that the EU or individual European governments are prepared to take a more aggressive stance. Rather, the White House is concerned that the Europeans are prioritizing their business interests in Iran and the sanctity of the nuclear accord over any strategy that might buoy the protestors. As Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a January 3 Washington Post op-ed, "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." For their part, European officials have voiced concern that the Trump administration may use the protests as a pretext to back out of the nuclear deal.
Such discord is hardly new—Iran policy has regularly divided the United States and Europe since the 1979 revolution overthrew the U.S.-backed shah and brought a radical Islamist regime to power. The Clinton and George W. Bush administrations often clashed with European allies over sanctions and the wisdom of engaging Tehran, while Brussels worried that Washington might launch military strikes on Iran after clandestine nuclear sites were discovered in 2002.
President Obama's election helped forge a rare consensus on Iran, with Washington and Brussels jointly emphasizing the search for a diplomatic agreement on the nuclear threat. Leaders on both sides of the Atlantic also sought to directly engage what they viewed as reform-minded factions inside the Iranian government, hoping they could moderate the regime's foreign activities and allow for more political freedoms at home. This strategy culminated in the 2015 nuclear agreement, which lifted most international sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Yet Iran's nationwide unrest over the past two weeks has highlighted the Trump administration's sharply different approach. The president was quick to voice support for the protestors on Twitter and warn Tehran against a forceful crackdown. Conversely, various European leaders have taken a much more guarded approach, pressing both the regime and protestors to refrain from violence. U.S. officials were particularly stunned when French president Emmanuel Macron warned Washington and its Middle Eastern allies not to take a hawkish stance toward Tehran days after the protests erupted: "The official line pursued by the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, who are our allies in many ways, is almost one that would lead us to war," he told reporters on January 3. Soon thereafter, France, Germany, and Britain sidestepped Washington's tough line on Iran during a January 5 UN Security Council meeting on the protests, instead using the forum to voice their commitment to the nuclear deal.
An immediate area of potential U.S.-European contention is the question of whether to impose (or in some cases reactivate) sanctions on Tehran in light of its crackdown on protestors. Most sanctions were lifted in early 2016, but there are differing interpretations among the global powers over which Iranian entities could be targeted in any new financial pressure campaign. Many senior U.S. officials believe that all Iranian individuals and organizations should be targetable if they support human rights abuses or terrorism, even if they were removed from past sanctions lists as part of the nuclear agreement. Yet Tehran and many European governments argue that reimposing sanctions on these entities would violate the agreement.
U.S. officials have also spoken of penalizing Iranian state media outlets for their alleged role in supporting the regime's crackdown, as well as targeting entities owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and cash-rich foundations controlled by the Supreme Leader. Yet the EU might challenge U.S. attempts to reimpose sanctions on foundations like the "Execution of Imam Khomeini's Order" (EIKO). The Treasury Department sanctioned that organization in 2013 on charges of corruption and sanctions evasion, but the penalties were later lifted under the nuclear deal.
The Trump administration's view of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is fundamentally different from that of most European governments. The EU generally sees him as a moderate who wants to use the nuclear agreement and foreign investment as tools for promoting political freedoms and engagement with the West. In contrast, Trump's top advisors have charged the Obama administration with being hoodwinked by Rouhani's negotiators, whom they see as nothing more than the friendly face of a despotic regime. Trump aides also believe that the protests are proof that Rouhani is incapable of reforming the Iranian state, since most of the demonstrations have focused on the government's economic failures. As one White House official put it, "The government can't do what the protestors want them to do."
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is scheduled to visit Brussels in the coming days for talks with Mogherini and his counterparts from Britain, Germany, and France. There, he is expected to argue that more foreign investment will allow Rouhani to meet the protestors' demands.
Against that backdrop, European officials are keeping a close eye on President Trump's looming decisions about sanctions waivers. If U.S. officials want to keep the nuclear deal intact in the hope of repairing it down the road, they will need to maintain the waivers enacted by the Obama administration in 2016, at least for now. The president's top aides indicate they are still uncertain about which way he will go, though one senior White House official acknowledged that the protests "will have a bearing" on his waiver decisions.
Even if Trump extends the waivers, American diplomats expect a fight with Europe over the future of relations with Tehran. Alongside its desire to punish the regime for cracking down on protestors, the White House has signaled that it might not allow Boeing and Airbus to move forward with their planned aircraft sales to Iran. EU officials have said that this would cost European companies billions of dollars and put the nuclear deal in further jeopardy, heightening the stakes of Trump's decision considerably.
**Jay Solomon is the Segal Distinguished Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute and author of The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, and the Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East.

Rouhani's Protest Paradoxالاحتجاجات وروحاني والتناقض
Maj. Omer Carmi, IDF/The Washington Institute/January 08/2018
If the protests intensify, President Rouhani may be hard pressed to unravel his greatest dilemma: how to honor his economic and reform promises while preserving his decades-long commitment to the regime's core principles.
During his 2017 reelection campaign, Hassan Rouhani portrayed himself as Iran's best hope for economic recovery, sporting slogans such as "Freedom, Security, Peace, and Progress" while promising to promote "justice and reforms." Rouhani even attacked the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), claiming that improvements could only be achieved if "groups with security and political backing" refrained from interfering in the economy.
Yet President Rouhani's actions since then suggest that he is not keeping his campaign promises. Over the past few months, he has softened his tone on the IRGC, failed to appoint female ministers to his cabinet, and selected controversial figure Mansour Gholami, a former university president who has relations with the conservative camp, as minister of science—a post highly valued by reformists because it supervises the country's universities. As a result, Rouhani has suffered harsh criticism from prominent reformist figures for "shifting to the right" of the political map.
The current demonstrations therefore represent an acute challenge for Rouhani. Some of the protestors have chanted slogans directly against him, even calling for his death. More generally, they have centered their demonstrations around corruption and poverty—two issues that Rouhani promised to alleviate during his campaign.
In summer 1999, the Iranian regime faced widespread protests following the closure of a reformist newspaper that had criticized the leadership on human rights issues. The demonstrators were mostly middle-class students with a reformist orientation, and their efforts to highlight the lack of basic freedoms in Iran included chanting slogans against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The regime responded harshly, killing six students and detaining more than a thousand in only six days.
At the time, Rouhani was secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, a major player in Iran's security establishment, so he presumably took part in the decisionmaking process leading to the crackdown. On the day the protests ended, he addressed a pro-regime gathering and accused the demonstrators of serving a "foreign plot" aimed at toppling the regime. In his words, "The enemy launched an onslaught on the foundation stone of the Revolution's patriarchal structure...and attacked the sacred sanctity of velayat-e faqih [referring to the doctrine granting the Supreme Leader his all-encompassing authority]." He then claimed that offending this principle was equal to "offending the entire nation," and warned that arrested rioters would be tried for being "enemies of the state" and "corrupt on earth"—crimes punishable by death. According to some reports, Rouhani later explained that he could not have done anything else because he was in the government at the time.
In other instances during his years on the council, Rouhani placed gag orders on reformist newspapers and took various measures to limit public criticism of the regime. When asked about such policies in 2002, he argued that there is a difference between "freedom" and "shambles," emphasizing that all Iranians must follow the law. He repeated the same logic years later when asked why he remained silent during the Green Movement, arguing that those demonstrators were obligated to act within the limits of the law and calling the movement "seditious" in 2011.
Since the latest protests broke out, Rouhani seems to be following the regime's talking points. In a recorded speech on December 31, he argued that "the people are completely free to criticize and express their protests," but only in a way that "would lead to the betterment of public life and the country's situation." He went on to reiterate his basic "law and order" mindset by arguing that criticism is "different from violence," and that disaffected Iranians should find a "correct, legal, and logical way" to voice their criticism. Otherwise, he said, the protests will be "false" and "please the enemies."
Rouhani's advisors followed in his footsteps by suggesting the prospect of reforms while warning against any attempt to destabilize Iran. One advisor, Hesamodin Ashna, published a Twitter poll asking the public if they were willing to cease the protests in return for a new plan of action to meet their demands (despite the obvious unreliability of online polls, it bears mentioning that nearly 60 percent of 17,500 voters said no). And senior advisor Akbar Torkan noted that although the government should indeed take steps to combat corruption, the United States and Israel were eager "to take advantage of the protests."
Such rhetoric might work for Rouhani in the short term, particularly if the protests decline. But if they persist or intensify, or if the regime adopts a harsher response, he will be forced to face a dilemma. On the one hand, he is the president of Iran and therefore cautious not to make any moves that might shake the foundations of its government. After all, he has been an integral part of the Islamic Republic since the days of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, serving as an air force commander, deputy speaker of parliament, and numerous other key roles. Above all, he seeks to preserve the core concepts and goals of the Islamic Republic, even though he sometimes takes a more pragmatic path toward doing so than others in the regime.
On the other hand, Rouhani was elected under the promise of moderation, reform, human rights, and, most important, economic recovery. The current dissent in the streets erupted in large part because of his inability to address the latter promise—in fact, some would argue that the high expectations he and his advisors have encouraged since the nuclear deal contributed to the public's deep disappointment. Accordingly, if the regime cracks down forcefully and he cooperates, he would likely lose some support even among his core constituents.
Although the Supreme Leader remains Iran's ultimate decisionmaker, Rouhani can still use his limited influence to affect Khamenei's calculus—especially if his messages are echoed by the Iranian public, as seemed to happen with the nuclear issue. No matter how the protests turn out, they will serve as a wakeup call for the president. Going forward, he may finally realize that the economy is in need of urgent recovery, and that failure to achieve that goal will spur a new wave of protests, likely more intense than the current round. To begin this recovery, he may decide to make tough decisions on economic reforms that will hurt major actors in the Iranian system.
Rouhani might also seek to jumpstart the economy by attracting more foreign companies and investments to Iran. Yet this would require him to understand that there is a tradeoff between Iran's destabilizing activities in the Middle East and its desire for economic improvement. The international community could foster this state of mind by emphasizing to him—in public and private—that many businesses will remain gun-shy about engaging with Tehran as long as it continues its malign behavior abroad and its development of ballistic missiles. Amid the chants of angry protestors, such a message might resound more clearly in the halls of Rouhani's presidential residence than ever before.
Of course, Khamenei may still reject any pleas from Rouhani about foreign adventurism and missiles. The Supreme Leader is a fierce hardliner who believes in the concept of "exporting the revolution," so even if he is persuaded to allow economic reforms (a move whose major effects would only be felt in the long run, not in the short term), he will be reluctant to decrease support for Iran's network of proxies abroad. In that case, foreign pressure could help convince Rouhani that he should use his limited presidential tools to impede certain IRGC activities in the region. These tools include decreasing defense budget allocations, using his control over the Defense Ministry to hinder cooperation with the IRGC, and stepping up his occasional public criticism of the IRGC. This approach might not completely change Iran's behavior in the region, but it could challenge some of the plans that leaders of the IRGC-Qods Force likely have for the Middle East.
**Omer Carmi, a former visiting military fellow at The Washington Institute, has led analytical and research efforts in the Israel Defense Forces pertaining to Middle East and national security issues. The opinions expressed in this PolicyWatch are his own and do not reflect the views of the IDF or the Israeli government.