January 11/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight
Colossians 01/15-29:" The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—  if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 10-11/18
Middle East Studies Establishment Piles on Israel/Mitchell Bard/The Algemeiner/January 3, 2018
On Iran, Trump Should Be Like Reagan/Richard Goldberg and Dennis B. Ross/Politico Magazine/January 09, 2018
The emerging cohesion of US policies shakes Russia’s schemes in the region
Raghida Dergham/January 10/2018
It’s the turn of the private sector in Saudi Arabia/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/ January 10/2018
Iran’s protests influence politics in Iraq as well/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/ January 10/2018
Will Italy go back to Berlusconi/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/ January 10/2018

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on January 10-11/18
Aoun meets with Tashnag Secretary General, Tourism Minister
Aoun Says Electoral Law 'Reflects True Will of Citizens', Vows Timely Vote
In First in 120 Years…German President to Visit Lebanon
Berri Vows to Confront Any Attempt to Postpone Elections
Oman Inks Oil and Gas Deal with Lebanese Company
Geagea: Preparations Ongoing for Elections; LF Candidate, Hawat, Embraced in Jbeil
Report: Berri Fears Amendments Might Foil Elections
Man Attempts Self-Immolation in Tripoli
Army Dismantles Israeli Espionage Device in South
Lebanese Prosecutor Questions Suspected Killer of UK Woman
Hariri chairs ministerial panel meeting on economic situation
Kardel visits Gemayel in Saifi
Kardel meets Machnouk
Riachy welcomes Turkish Ambassador on farewell visit

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 10-11/18
Drone attack on Russia bases in Syria ‘came from Idlib’
Arab FM’s to meet in February on Trump’s Jerusalem move
Houthi militias loot currency exchange offices in Yemen’s Sanaa
Saudi Arabia reaffirms position on Jerusalem in call between King Salman, Abbas
Bahrain FM praises Saudi Arabia as regional ‘pillar of stability’
Turkey, US relations may deteriorate ‘if Washington doesn’t fix mistakes’
US judge blocks Trump move to end Obama-era immigrant program
Gun attack kills Israeli settler in Nablus
Germany reprimands Iran for anti-Israel spying on its territory
Trump to Reportedly Extend Sanctions Relief for Iran
200 Arrested, Dozens Hurt in Fresh Tunisia Unrest

Latest Lebanese Related News published on January 10-11/18
Aoun meets with Tashnag Secretary General, Tourism Minister
Wed 10 Jan 2018/NNA - President of the Republic Michel Aoun on Wednesday afternoon received at the Baabda palace the Secretary General of Tashnag party MP Hagop Pakradounian, and Tourism Minister, Avedis Guidanian. Talks reportedly touched on the current political situation and Tashnaq's stance vis-a-vis the forthcoming legislative elections in May. MP Pakradounian said that talks dwelt on certain reform points in the electoral law.

Aoun Says Electoral Law 'Reflects True Will of Citizens', Vows Timely Vote
Naharnet/January 10/18/Lebanon's complex new electoral law, which is based on proportional representation for the first time in the country's history, reflects “the true will of citizens,” President Michel Aoun announced on Wednesday. “The parliamentary elections will be held on time according to a new electoral system that reflects the true will of citizens,” Aoun told a French Senate delegation. “The Lebanese have overcome the circumstances that accompanied the Nov. 4 resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri thanks to their solidarity and unity,” the president added. “The army and security forces are working on strengthening stability in the country and are pursuing the remnants of the terrorist groups who were defeated in the outskirts of the Bekaa,” Aoun reassured. The new electoral law replaces the winner-takes-all voting system with proportional representation and reduces the number of electoral districts from 26 to 15. It comes after years of wrangling during which political parties rejected various proposals for fear of losing parliamentary seats.

In First in 120 Years…German President to Visit Lebanon
Naharnet/January 10/18/President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier will visit Lebanon between January 29 and 31, accompanied by his wife and an official delegation at the invitation of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, the Presidency's media office announced on Wednesday.The German president will hold talks with Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri on the general situation and ways to strengthen and develop the Lebanese-German relations in all fields, added the statement. Steinmeier's visit will be the first for a German president to Lebanon in 120 years.

Berri Vows to Confront Any Attempt to Postpone Elections
Naharnet/January 10/18/Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday insisted that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be held on time and that he would confront any attempt to postpone the polls.“Some are trying to raise and stir some dilemmas” regarding the electoral law's technicalities and implementation, Berri told lawmakers during the weekly Ain el-Tineh meeting, while stressing that the perceived attempts will not manage to thwart the elections. Commenting on the debate over the issue of creating so-called polling megacenters that allow voters to cast ballots away from their hometowns, the Speaker pointed out that he was the “first” politician to demand pre-registration of voters, “whereas some of those who want it today had been among its fiercest opponents.”“Such amendments would open the door to canceling the law and consequently the elections, and this is something that we will not tolerate,” Berri pledged. He was apparently referring to remarks voiced Tuesday by Foreign Minister and Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil, who said that the FPM will “fight for” electoral reforms. “They have come up with a lot of excuses to back down from the reforms,” Bassil said. Emphasizing that the law compels the government to introduce magnetic voting cards, the minister said a draft law would be necessary to postpone the procedure to the next elections.“We can agree in advance on the issue. It would only take two minutes and it would not lead to further amendments,” Bassil reassured.

Oman Inks Oil and Gas Deal with Lebanese Company
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 10/18/Oman has signed a deal for oil and gas exploration with a Lebanese company, one month after Lebanon approved its first offshore energy exploration, Omani state media said Wednesday. Beirut-based Petroleb would drill exploratory wells to assess oil reserves in the al-Afif concession area of southern Oman, inland from the Yemeni and Saudi Arabian borders, said the official ONA news agency. Oman aims to "increase oil reserves and raise production rates in the sultanate" and discover new fields, the oil and gas ministry's director of planning and research Saleh bin Ali Anbouri said in a statement carried by ONA. Like other energy-rich Gulf states, Oman was hit hard by the slump in oil prices since mid-2014 and joined an agreement by oil producers to cut output in a bid to shore up prices. Revenues are up three percent from last year at an estimated at $24.7 billion. Spending, however, is projected at $32.5 billion, seven percent higher than last year, according to the finance ministry. The deal with Petroleb is small by regional standards, with an estimated investment value of $20 million for Oman in the first three-year phase and between $20 and $40 million in the second phase. Lebanon last month approved a bid for offshore oil and gas exploration off its own Mediterranean coast -- a vision for years hampered by political instability and domestic wrangling. That deal was awarded to the only bidder, an international consortium including France's Total and Russia's Novatek.

Geagea: Preparations Ongoing for Elections; LF Candidate, Hawat, Embraced in Jbeil

Naharnet/January 10/18/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea held meetings in Maarab with LF cadres in the Jbeil area where talks highlighted the preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections noting that the party's candidate for the Maronite seat, Ziad Hawat, is widely accepted in Jbeil, the National News Agency said on Wednesday. The meeting was held in the presence of LF Executive Committee member Elie Bragid, Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs Joseph Abu Joudeh and LF coordinator of the Jbeil region Charbel Abi Akel, NNA said. Discussions highlighted the preparations for the polls. “LF candidate Ziad Hawat is widely accepted in the area of Jbeil. We have to continue preparations for the polls but at a faster pace in order to reach the desired goal,” said Geagea. Lebanon parliamentary elections are scheduled on May 6, 2018. Hawat was sworn in as Jbeil Mayor in 2010 upon record breaking number of votes in the history of the municipal elections in the city.

Report: Berri Fears Amendments Might Foil Elections
Naharnet/January 10/18/Speaker Nabih Berri expressed concerns that the purpose of proposing amendments to the new complex electoral law is to thwart the upcoming parliamentary elections, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday. Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq notified Berri that proposed amendments regarding the so-called polling megacenters and the creation of magnetic voting cards are difficult to achieve between present and the date of the elections on May 6, 2018, added the daily. Berri pointed out that voters can cast their ballots using their identity cards or passports instead of using magnetic voter cards. Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil insists that reforms must be introduced to the electoral law by including an article on the creation of magnetic voting cards. The interior ministry says the procedure is time-consuming and the ministry won't be able to create cards for around 3,682,000 voters due to time shortage. Bassil said a draft law would be necessary to postpone the procedure to the next elections. Regarding amendments to the law so as to include the so-called polling megacenters where voters can cast ballots away from their hometowns, Berri said it is better not be implemented lest it drags on to other changes, according to the daily. Berri said he fears the reform suggestions could carry intentions to thwart the elections. However, he stressed “the elections will be staged on time and everyone must start preparing.”A ministerial panel tasked with studying the implementation of the complex new law failed on Tuesday to reach an agreement on megacenters.

Man Attempts Self-Immolation in Tripoli
Naharnet/January 10/18/A man set himself on fire near the UN refugees center in the northern city of Tripoli, the State-run National News Agency reported. NNA said the man who was identified as Riad Khalaf al-Ziibo, Syrian, poured benzine all over his hands and body and set himself on fire. He was taken to the hospital. Investigations were opened into the incident.

Army Dismantles Israeli Espionage Device in South
Naharnet/January 10/18/An Israeli spy device was discovered on Wednesday in southern Lebanon, state-run National News Agency reported. It said the “the Lebanese army's Engineering Regiment was dismantling an Israeli espionage device in the outskirts of Western Zawtar in the Nabtieh province.”Several similar devices were discovered in the South in recent years, some of them booby-trapped.

Lebanese Prosecutor Questions Suspected Killer of UK Woman

Associated Press/Naharnet/January 10/18/A Lebanese prosecutor has begun questioning an Uber driver suspected in the murder of a British woman who worked at the UK Embassy in Beirut. Rebecca Dykes was found dead on Dec. 16 on the side of a road, strangled and reportedly showing signs of sexual assault. The suspect, Tarek Houshi, was arrested days later. Lawyer Antoine Abu Deeb, who is representing Dykes' family, declined to provide details about the questioning. Abu Deeb told reporters outside the courthouse Wednesday that the questioning lasted about two hours. He says the suspect answered questions. Abu Deeb said the family is awaiting a possible indictment after Wednesday's hearing before the investigative judge. Houshi has a court-appointed attorney, who has not been publicly identified.

Hariri chairs ministerial panel meeting on economic situation
Wed 10 Jan 2018/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Wednesday presided over a meeting of the ministerial panel tasked with studying the economic situation. The meeting was attended by Ministers Marwan Hamadeh, Raed Khoury, Gebran Bassil, Hussein Hajj Hassan, Avedis Guidanian and Cezar Abi Khalil. The Committee looks into the general guidelines of the economic strategy to be adopted by the government.

Kardel visits Gemayel in Saifi
Wed 10 Jan 2018/NNA - The Lebanese Kataeb party chief MP Sami Gemayel on Wednesday received at the Kataeb's Central House UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Pernille Dahler Kardel, who came on a courtesy visit. Gemayel briefed Kardel on the Party's stance vis-a-vis the currently proposed dossiers, especially with regard to the sovereignty of Lebanon, and the need to preserve public liberties and hold parliamentary elections on time, as per a statement by Gemayel's Media Bureau.

Kardel meets Machnouk

Wed 10 Jan 2018/We look forward to peaceful and transparent elections in Lebanon NNA UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Pernille Dahler Kardel on Wednesday met with Minister of Interior and Municipalities Nohad Machnouk. "They discussed the ongoing preparations for the parliamentary elections in May of this year," a press release by Kardel's Media Bureau said. Kardel praised the work being done by the Minister to ensure that elections are held on time and welcomed the allocation by Cabinet last week of a budget for the elections. "We are looking forward to peaceful and transparent elections in Lebanon in the spring. Elections are essential for the women and men of Lebanon to have a say over the future of their country, and to safeguard the democratic tradition and stability of Lebanon," Kardel said. She said the UN would continue its technical electoral assistance to Lebanon in the run up to the elections. The Special Coordinator commended the role played by Lebanon's security forces and army in protecting the country and its population. "The Special Coordinator and Minister Machnouk also discussed continued international efforts to help address the challenges to Lebanon's security and stability. In this regard, they discussed preparations for a conference in support to Lebanon's security institutions, to be hosted by Italy in the near future," press release concluded.

Riachy welcomes Turkish Ambassador on farewell visit
Wed 10 Jan 2018/NNA - Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, welcomed, at his office in the Ministry on Wednesday, Turkish Ambassador Cagatay Ercyes, who came on a farewell visit upon the end of his diplomatic mission in Lebanon.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 10-11/18
Drone attack on Russia bases in Syria ‘came from Idlib’
AFP/January 10/2018/Drones that attacked Russian bases in Syria last week were sent from Idlib, a “de-escalation” zone controlled by anti-Damascus fighters, the Russian defence ministry's official newspaper said Wednesday. Idlib province has been a source of tension between regime-backer Russia and rebel-supporter Turkey, with Ankara accusing the Syrian regime of stepping up its offensive on key rebel-held areas there. “The drones were launched from the area of Muazzara in the southwestern part of the Idlib de-escalation area controlled by so-called 'moderate opposition' units,” defence ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda said. The ministry has written to the chiefs of the Turkish army and intelligence service to insist that Ankara fully implement a ceasefire in Idlib province, the paper added. Idlib is one of four de-escalation zones in Syria covered by a deal meant to reduce violence that was struck last year by Turkey, Russia and government-backer Iran. On Tuesday, Turkey's foreign ministry summoned the Russian and Iranian ambassadors to Ankara, according to diplomatic sources, after saying the Syrian regime was targeting moderate opposition forces in Idlib near the Turkish border. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said this could torpedo talks aimed at ending the war. Russia is hoping to hold a Syria peace congress in its Black Sea resort of Sochi on January 29-30. Idlib province is almost entirely controlled by anti-government forces that are dominated by a jihadist outfit known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. On Monday, Russia said pilotless drones carrying explosives attacked Russian bases in Syria last weekend without causing any casualties or damage. After two years of Russian military support for the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, President Vladimir Putin announced in mid-December the partial withdrawal of forces from the country, saying their task had been largely completed. The size of the toal Russian deployment in Syria is not known but independent Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer told AFP that up to 10,000 troops and private contractors could have taken part in the conflict.
More than 330,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Syrian war, which began in 2011 as the regime crushed anti-government protests. Millions have been displaced.

Arab FM’s to meet in February on Trump’s Jerusalem move
AFP/January 10/2018/ Arab foreign ministers will meet early next month to discuss steps against US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the Arab League said Wednesday. The meeting of the League's Council will be held on February 1 in Cairo, its general secretariat said in a memo obtained by AFP. Trump's decision in December to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv sparked deadly clashes in Palestinian territories and was rejected in a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution. Jordan said on Saturday that the League would seek international recognition of the Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital following the US move. In a resolution after an emergency meeting in December, Arab foreign ministers urged the US to rescind its decision and said Washington had "withdrawn itself as a sponsor and broker" of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognized by the international community. The city's status is among the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state. The international community does not recognize the ancient city as Israel's capital, insisting the issue can only be resolved in negotiations.

Houthi militias loot currency exchange offices in Yemen’s Sanaa
Al Arabiya/January 10/2018/Sanaa – Houthi militias have stormed currency exchange offices in Sanaa on Tuesday and looted large sums of money, sources have confirmed. According to eyewitnesses, Houthi gunmen who arrived in five armored vehicles stormed al-Kuraimi exchange office in central Sanaa a while before operating hours ended, disabled surveillance cameras and looted all the money there as well as computers and electronic devices. They also assaulted the employees. Eyewitnesses added that Houthis brought huge bags on their way out, and it is believed that they contained the money looted, which is estimated in the millions. The Houthis also stormed al-Sayfi and Soueid exchange offices in Sanaa and looted them and shut them down. Bankers said this was a systematic plan to destroy the banking sector. Some banking sources said the Houthis justified their move by claiming they seek to protect the Yemeni rial. However, sources have voiced surprise at how looting money can protect the currency from deteriorating. They added that the Houthis looted the money for financial reasons that will not be resolved by confiscating funds and raiding exchange offices. Meanwhile, Houthi militias have kidnapped merchants in Ibb after they refused to pay for “war effort.” A local source said those kidnapped include three gold traders. They were identified as Mohammed al-Sanaa, Khalil al-Qudaimi and Abdulmalik Abu al-Rijal.

Saudi Arabia reaffirms position on Jerusalem in call between King Salman, Abbas

Al Arabiya/January 10/2018/ Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz assured Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the Kingdom’s commitment to the Palestinian cause during a telephone conversation on Tuesday. During the call, King Salman, reaffirmed the Kingdom's firm position on the Palestinian cause and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. For his part, the Palestinian president expressed his deep thanks and appreciation to the King for Saudi Arabia’s historic support for Palestine and its people and for their just cause.

Bahrain FM praises Saudi Arabia as regional ‘pillar of stability’
Al Arabiya/January 10/2018/ Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa reaffirmed in a tweet on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia is the “pillar of the Ummah (Muslim world).”“Saudi Arabia is the pillar of the Ummah and the umbrella of stability during difficult times. It’s fixed and firm policies allow it stand up for the truth and defends its neighbors.”

Turkey, US relations may deteriorate ‘if Washington doesn’t fix mistakes’

Reuters, Istanbul/January 10/2018/ Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that relations with the United States were harmed by Washington's refusal to extradite cleric Fetullah Gulen and its provision of arms to the Kurdish militant YPG.Speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency, Cavusoglu said that ties between the NATO allies could be harmed further if Washington does not correct its mistakes. Ankara has been infuriated with Washington over its refusal to extradite Gulen, whom Turkey blames for a 2016 coup attempt, and U.S. support for the YPG, which it sees as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) waging an insurgency against the Turkish state.

US judge blocks Trump move to end Obama-era immigrant program
FP, Washington/January 10/2018/A US judge on Tuesday blocked President Donald Trump's administration from ending an Obama-era program that provided legal status to young immigrants who entered the country illegally as children. San Francisco-based Judge William Alsup issued his 49-page ruling Tuesday evening, ordering the administration to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). The government is "HEREBY ORDERED AND ENJOINED, pending final judgment herein or other order, to maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis on the same terms and conditions as were in effect before the rescission on September 5, 2017," he wrote.

Gun attack kills Israeli settler in Nablus
Al Arabiya/January 10/2018/An Israeli settler was killed on Tuesday night when an assailant shot at his car near a settlement in the north of the occupied West Bank, the army said. "A suspect opened fire at an Israeli civilian in his vehicle" near Havat Gilad, east of Nablus, an Israeli military spokesperson wrote on Twitter. "The civilian was severely injured and taken to the hospital," the spokesperson said, adding that troops were searching the area for the assailant. According to Al Arabiya’s correspondent, the man died after succumbing to his injuries. About 400,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel for 50 years. The settlements are deemed illegal under international law and widely seen as a main obstacle to peace. Fourteen Palestinians have been killed in unrest since President Donald Trump announced on December 6 that the United States was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. (With AFP)

Germany reprimands Iran for anti-Israel spying on its territory
Reuters/January 10/2018/Germany said on Tuesday it had summoned Iran’s ambassador to reprimand Tehran against spying on individuals and groups with close ties to Israel, calling such acts a completely unacceptable breach of German law. The move comes after the March conviction of a Pakistani man for spying for Iran in Germany went into force. Mustufa Haidar Syed-Naqfi was convicted of gathering intelligence on Reinhold Robbe, the former head of the German-Israel Friendship Society, and an Israeli-French economics professor in Paris, for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards. The Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to deliver the unusually sharp rebuke once the German constitutional court rejected his appeal. The meeting took place on Dec. 22 but was not disclosed until now. “Spying on people and institutions with special ties to the state of Israel on German soil is an egregious violation of German law,” a ministry official said. The official said Philipp Ackermann, acting director of the Foreign Ministry’s political section, had told the Iranian ambassador that “such activities would not be tolerated and were completely unacceptable”.News of the meeting comes days before the foreign ministers of Iran, Germany, France and Britain are due to meet in Brussels to discuss a 2015 landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, and growing concerns about Iran’s crackdown on anti-government protesters. Germany, which helped negotiate the nuclear deal, has sought to balance its interest in expanding trade ties with Iran with its strong commitment to human rights. It has played a key role in European efforts to persuade Washington to keep the nuclear accord in place, an issue that will come up again late this week, when U.S. President Donald Trump must decide whether to reimpose oil sanctions lifted under the agreement. Germany’s domestic intelligence service, which handles counterespionage, highlighted Iran’s spying activities in its annual report in July, noting that Tehran was focused heavily on Israeli or pro-Jewish targets.

Trump to Reportedly Extend Sanctions Relief for Iran
Associated Press/Naharnet/January 10/18/U.S. President Donald Trump is expected this week to extend relief from economic sanctions to Iran as part of the nuclear deal, citing progress in amending U.S. legislation that governs Washington's participation in the landmark accord, according to U.S. officials and others familiar with the administration's deliberations.But Trump is likely to pair his decision to renew the concessions to Tehran with new, targeted sanctions on Iranian businesses and people, the six people briefed on the matter said. The restrictions could hit some firms and individuals whose sanctions were scrapped under the 2015 nuclear agreement, a decision that could test Tehran's willingness to abide by its side of the bargain. The individuals — two administration officials, two congressional aides and two outside experts who consult with the government — weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity. They cautioned that Trump could still reject the recommendation from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster and that no final decision had been made. They said heated discussions were going on within the administration and with key Republican lawmakers. The State Department and White House didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
Trump must decide by Friday to extend the nuclear-related sanctions relief for Iran's central bank or re-impose the restrictions that President Barack Obama suspended two years ago. The old, central bank sanctions largely cut Iran out of the international financial system, and are considered to be the most powerful of the penalties imposed by the U.S. during the Obama era, along with global penalties for buying Iranian oil. Some Iran hawks want to see both sets of restrictions return, but the six people with knowledge of Trump's plans say the president isn't planning to reinstate either at this point.
The individuals said Trump's top national security aides appear to have successfully made a different case to the president: Waiving anew for 120 days the nuclear-linked sanctions while simultaneously imposing new measures to punish Iran's ballistic missile testing, alleged terrorism support and human rights violations. Such a balance could satisfy Trump's demand to raise pressure on Iran, while not embarking on a frontal assault on the most central trade-offs of the nuclear agreement. While the U.S. and other world powers rolled back economic restrictions on Tehran, the Iranians severely curtailed their enrichment of uranium and other nuclear activity. Trump has complained that many of the Iranian restrictions expire next decade and has vacillated between talk of toughening the deal and pulling the U.S. out entirely.
A senior State Department official told reporters Wednesday that Tillerson and Mattis would be meeting with Trump on the matter before an announcement Friday. Trump, Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence were scheduled to have lunch Wednesday at the White House after a formal Cabinet meeting.
The decision coincides with the administration's efforts to secure a face-saving fix from Congress on the requirement for Trump to address Iran's compliance every three months. In October, Trump decertified the nuclear deal under U.S. law, saying the sanctions relief was disproportionate to Iran's nuclear concessions, and describing the arrangement as contrary to America's national security interests.
Tillerson told The Associated Press in an interview last week that he and others were working with Congress on ways to amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, or INARA, to resolve concerns Trump has with the deal. That will be coupled with diplomacy with European government on addressing Iran's missile testing and support for Lebanon's Hizbullah, Yemen's Shiite rebels and Syrian President Bashar Assad. "The president said he is either going to fix it or cancel it," Tillerson said of the overall deal. "We are in the process of trying to deliver on the promise he made to fix it."
On the INARA law, it's unlikely Congress could move fast enough to codify changes by Friday. So Tillerson and others are hoping to convince the president there's enough momentum to warrant another extension of sanctions relief and not jeopardizing the entire agreement. The goal would be for Congress to make the changes sometime before May, when Trump is next required to address the sanctions. Trump has repeatedly dismissed the Iran deal, one of Obama's signature foreign policy achievements, as the worst ever negotiated by the U.S. He has particularly bristled at having to give Iran a "thumbs up" every few months by acknowledging that it is meeting the requirements to invest in foreign banks, sell petroleum overseas, buy U.S. and European aircraft, and so forth.
Iran hawks in Congress and elsewhere worry the changes being discussed don't strengthen the nuclear deal enough.
One would automatically re-impose, or "snap back," suspended sanctions if Iran commits certain actions, possibly including things unrelated to its nuclear program. Currently, Congress must act for the sanctions to snap back. Another proposal would require snapback if Iran refuses a request from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s atomic watchdog, to inspect a military site not currently being monitored. Iran hawks worry the IAEA, fearing a confrontation with Iran, won't even ask for such an inspection. Other debates center on Iran's missile testing. Hardline Republican Sens. Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz want sanctions back if Iran launches any ballistic missiles capable of targeting territory outside of Iran, such as Israel or Saudi Arabia, and not just an intercontinental missile. Senate Democrats, generally more supportive of the nuclear deal, are pushing their own suggestions. One would let a simple House and Senate majority stop any effort to snap back sanctions, unless the president vetoes the block. While such a mechanism is unlikely to threaten Trump in the short term, some anti-deal Republicans fear it could be used against them under a future Democratic president.

200 Arrested, Dozens Hurt in Fresh Tunisia Unrest
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 10/18/More than 200 people have been arrested and dozens hurt during clashes in several parts of Tunisia, the interior ministry said Wednesday, after a second night of unrest driven by anger over austerity measures. The North African country has been hailed for its relatively smooth democratic transition since its 2011 uprising, but seven years after the revolution tensions over economic grievances are high. Tunisia has seen rising anger over hikes in value-added tax and social contributions after a tough new budget was applied at the start of the year. Interior ministry spokesman Khalifa Chibani told local radio that 49 police officers were wounded during clashes across the country and that 206 "troublemakers" were arrested overnight. Properties were damaged, he said, including a branch of the Carrefour supermarket chain in the suburbs of Tunis that was looted.
A witness said youths threw stones at shop windows on Tuesday evening, taking advantage of the chaos to steal goods including electrical appliances. The police intervened, firing tear gas. The army has been deployed around banks, post offices and other government buildings in the country's main cities, the defense ministry said.
Stones, tear gas
In Tebourba 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of the capital Tunis, hundreds of young people took to the streets on Tuesday after the funeral of a man in his 40s who died in the unrest. Police have insisted they did not kill the man. The results of an autopsy have not been made public. Unrest was also reported in the working-class neighborhoods of Djebel Lahmer and Zahrouni on the outskirts of Tunis, the central cities of Gafsa and Kasserine, and the northern town of Jedaida. But AFP correspondents said calm had returned to these areas on Wednesday morning. In the central town of Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the protests that sparked the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, youths blocked roads and hurled stones, causing the police to retaliate with tear gas, an AFP reporter said. A representative of Tunisia's Jewish community said two Molotov cocktails were thrown at the entrance to two Talmudic schools on the Mediterranean island of Djerba, but their interiors were not damaged.
Friday protest
The recent unrest started with peaceful protests against the austerity measures last week, but escalated into clashes with police in the night of Monday to Tuesday. Activists have called for a massive demonstration on Friday against the austerity measures, which are expected to increase the cost of living.
They have called for the revision of the legislation behind the VAT and social contribution hikes, as well as better welfare for struggling families. "There are acts of looting and robbery but also a political message from a section of the population that has nothing to lose and feels ignored" seven years after a revolution demanding work and dignity, said political scientist Selim Kharrat. He said that many public buildings have been targeted while the government has "taken a pretty strong stance against the protesters." The powerful UGTT trade union said young unemployed Tunisians had legitimate demands but condemned the "violence and looting," calling for peaceful protests. Tunisia's economy has struggled since the 2011 revolution, which was fueled by unemployment and graft. Protests are common in the North African state in the month of January, when Tunisians mark the anniversary of the revolt that unseated dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. January 2016 saw the biggest wave of public discontent since the uprising as the death of an unemployed protester in Kasserine sparked days of unrest. In December, unemployed protesters and activists marched through the streets of Sidi Bouzid, angry over the lack of jobs and opportunities that continue to plague residents. The revolution in Tunisia began in the town in December 2010 after street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and later died in a protest over unemployment and police harassment that spiraled into Ben Ali's overthrow.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 10-11/18
Middle East Studies Establishment Piles on Israel
Mitchell Bard/The Algemeiner/January 3, 2018
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The Middle East Studies Association gave up all pretense of being a scholarly organization when it was taken over by the followers of Edward Said in the 1980s, and began propagating Orwellian interpretations of Middle East history and politics to advance a political agenda that promotes or rationalizes Islamism, parrots Palestinian propaganda, and engages in unbridled attacks on Israel's legitimacy and the West.
Nowhere was this more evident than last month's annual conference of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) in Washington, DC, at the overflow panel, "Thinking Palestine Intersectionally," featuring Sherene Seikaly, Noura Erekat, Samera Esmeir, Judith Butler and Angela Davis.
I don't recall hearing the word "scholar" in the introductions and discussion, but the word "activist" was repeatedly used to describe the participants and their work. The panel was organized by Seikaly, a historian from UC Santa Barbara, who is a co-founder and co-editor of Jadaliyya, "an independent ezine produced by the Arab Studies Institute." If you visit the site, you will be invited to sign up for a newsletter and will be requested to choose your country. It appears that every country in the world is listed except one — Israel. One country that does not exist — Palestine — is listed.
Noura Erekat, a co-editor of Jadaliyya, is a law professor who admits that she is an activist. A gifted speaker, Erekat rattled off the standard leftist clichés about Israeli occupation, militarism, racism and settler colonialism. She displayed her ignorance of basic history by claiming armed groups took control of the PLO in 1968.
Erekat denounced Israeli actions in Gaza, omitting any reference to the Hamas rocket bombardment that precipitated the IDF operations, lauded convicted liar and terrorist Rasmea Odeh as a freedom fighter who empowered Arab women, and defended the virulent Israel-hater Linda Sarsour. Perhaps the best example of her extremism was repeating the big lie that Israel murdered Yasser Arafat.
Before getting to the predictable bashing of the Trump administration, Erekat labeled US support for Israel "emblematic of everything that is wrong with the United States." She praised the Black Lives Matter movement for doubling down on support for Palestinians because of their shared opposition to "structural racialized violence." The audience laughed when she ridiculed a feminist whose New York Times op-ed expressed concern that "my support for Israel will bar me from the feminist movement" because, inter alia, the International Women's Strike platform called for the "decolonization of Palestine" as part of "the beating heart of this new feminist movement."
Erekat bragged that the Palestinian cause is rising, while support for Israel declines. As evidence, she cited a Pew survey revealing Democrats as less sympathetic to Israel and more supportive of Palestinians than Republicans. But one poll is hardly a trend and, as I've written elsewhere, Democratic support for Israel is actually at the same level that it was in the 1970s.
Panelist Judith Butler, whose field is comparative literature rather than Middle East studies, might be more aptly called a specialist in contortion studies, given her effort to redefine antisemitism to exclude BDS. Butler claimed that critics of Israel are not antisemitic, but Zionists could be antisemitic if they support Israel. Angered that people she finds abhorrent, such as Steve Bannon, would be lauded as pro-Israel, she was nostalgic for the day when the UN voted to equate Zionism with racism, and was unhappy with its 1991 repudiation.
As part of her jujitsu interpretation of BDS, Butler maintained that BDS advocates, as supporters of social justice, must oppose antisemitism, as if there is no contradiction in supporting a campaign denying Jews the right to self-determination in their homeland while condemning antisemitism. Her explanation? One should oppose racism and colonialism, but the boycott targets only Israeli "institutions," not Jews or Israelis. Setting aside her ignorance of "colonialism," and Zionism's historic opposition to it, who does she imagine that BDS will harm other than the Jews and Israelis who staff these "institutions"?
Panelist Samera Esmeir, who teaches rhetoric at UC-Berkeley, acknowledged that artists in the Palestinian Authority (PA) equated BDS with censorship. Nevertheless, she advocated BDS and rejected normalizing relations with Israel. In this, she and other BDS proponents proffer an authoritarian cult wherein professors impose their views on Palestinians from the comfort of Western universities, with no regard for the Palestinians' welfare. Their protestations of concern for the latter's human rights would be far more convincing if they denounced the PA's corruption and human rights abuses, the imposition of sharia by Hamas in Gaza, the mistreatment of Palestinians in Lebanon, and their slaughter in Syria.
Angela Davis, the final panelist to speak, is a celebrity communist activist with no training in Middle East studies. Her presentation's only connection to the topic was her reference to the "intersectional insight" of the UN's equation of Zionism with racism, which activists had expected to be the beginning of the end for Israel. She lamented its 1991 repeal, which she blamed on the Reagan-Bush era and the consolidation of global capitalism.
There was no time for Q & A, but it is unlikely that the panelists would have been challenged by the overflow audience of several hundred Stepford students and faculty who applauded wildly for Davis's incoherent remarks, Butler's empty assertion that Israel's claims to represent the Jewish people do not make it true, and Erekat's declaration of "mad love" for convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh.
And so MESA, true to form, singled out Israel for opprobrium with blatantly pro-Palestinian, anti-American panelists who excused terrorism, antisemitism and ahistorical revisionism. As a barometer of the American academe's attitude toward the Jewish state, MESA's accuracy is as undeniable as it is troubling.
The good news is that MESA was essentially forced to shelve any endorsement of BDS by what its board saw as the greater necessity of condemning the immigration ban. Normally, hypocrisy is no obstacle to MESA's biased approach to politics, but apparently its leadership recognized that calling for a boycott of Jews while attacking what they claim is a ban on Muslims was a step too far.
*Dr. Mitchell Bard, a Campus Watch Fellow, is the author/editor of 24 books, including the 2017 edition of "Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict"; "The Arab Lobby"; and the novel "After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine."
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On Iran, Trump Should Be Like Reagan
في تعامله مع إيران على ترامب أن يتبع نموذج تعامل ريغن مع روسيا

Richard Goldberg and Dennis B. Ross/Politico Magazine/January 09, 2018
The president can sanction Iran while strengthening the nuclear deal. History shows it can be done.
In just three days, President Donald Trump must once again decide what to do about the much-debated Iran nuclear deal. Most are framing his choice as a binary one: Kill it or keep it? Although the emergence of a popular uprising against the Iranian regime undoubtedly complicates the politics of Trump’s decision, the president should reject such false choices and find a path that can sustain broad consensus at home and abroad. There is always a middle path to discover in foreign policy—and, in this case, a path that can uphold American values, defend our national security and keep our commitments to close allies.This basic idea is not ours alone; it can be credited to President Ronald Reagan, who successfully negotiated a major arms control agreement with the Soviet Union—all while publicly calling it an “evil empire,” building up America’s strategic deterrence, promoting regime change and applying economic pressure tied to the Soviet record on human rights.
Republicans and Democrats may differ over the strengths and weaknesses of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the Iran nuclear deal is formally known. But the White House, Congress and our allies share legitimate concerns—most significantly, the difficulty of fully verifying Iran’s compliance with the agreement. Iran’s ballistic missile program, which was not part of the JCPOA, continues to make alarming progress. And so-called sunset provisions in the deal could allow Iran to build a more robust uranium enrichment capability in a few short years, once certain restrictions expire.
But where we should not differ is in our commitment to core American values—human rights and democracy. It is inside this commitment where we can find a way forward together.
In Iran today, people have been taking to the streets to denounce a regime that diverts the resources of its population toward terrorism, regional destabilization and proliferation while denying its citizens the basic values of freedom and democracy the West takes for granted. The Iranian people, it appears, have finally had enough of a financial system that launders their small but hard-earned wages to export terror, Shia militias and missiles to foreign lands. They’ve had enough of a regime that cares more about investing in the religious trusts—known in Farsi as bonyads—and the very same Revolutionary Guard now deployed against them.
The Iranian protesters are making a statement and we should not ignore it. The president would be well within his rights under the JCPOA and international law to follow Reagan’s example and answer them with action. Just as the Iranian regime feels free to spread its power and reach within the region notwithstanding the JCPOA, so should the United States and Europe feel free to impose sanctions tied to human rights, terror and missiles notwithstanding the same.
The sanctions relief provided under the JCPOA should not be interpreted as a blanket immunity for Iranian officials, banks and other government instrumentalities to expand their illicit activities. If such a person or entity is found to be connected to the Revolutionary Guard, terrorism, missile proliferation and human rights abuses, it most certainly can and should be subject to sanctions—even if sanctions for that person or entity were initially suspended by the JCPOA.
The JCPOA must not prevent us from fulfilling our international obligations on human rights, terrorism and proliferation. It cannot handcuff the United States and its allies from using all available means of state power to stop these illicit activities. Indeed, the American people were repeatedly assured by then-Secretary of State John Kerry that nothing in the JCPOA precluded the United States from imposing sanctions for such non-nuclear activities.
Many international agreements throughout history were hatched by adopting vague language that could be interpreted in different ways by different parties. That is especially true for arms-control agreements, and the JCPOA is no exception. The administration would be wise to try to convince the Europeans that non-nuclear sanctions are an acceptable and highly effective way of raising both the internal and external costs to the Iranian regime for its aggressive behavior.
Of course, the Iranian dictators won’t like it. They might even claim such sanctions violate the nuclear deal and threaten to abandon their commitments. But they would be wrong—and they alone would bear the blame and consequences of exiting the JCPOA.
Next week’s presidential decision needs to rise above partisanship in a manner that galvanizes the support of the free world. Silence is not an option, nor is keeping money flowing to regime officials, banks and government entities that suppress the basic rights of the Iranian people. Those managing the Iranian economy and those financial institutions in Iran that seek to do business with the international community should know they will pay a price for engaging in illicit behavior.
*Richard Goldberg, an architect of congressionally enacted sanctions against Iran, is senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
**Ambassador Dennis B. Ross, former special assistant to President Barack Obama, is the William Davidson distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The emerging cohesion of US policies shakes Russia’s schemes in the region
Raghida Dergham/January 09/2018
The clang of the conflict between the figures surrounding US President Donald Trump hides behind it something more important, namely, the increasing cohesion of US foreign policy. At first glance, the Trump administration appears entirely scattered to the tune of the president’s undisciplined tweets and the chasm between the quasi-silent US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley, key administration figure and US envoy to the UN, who has earned for herself the reputation of a hawk. But a deeper look reveals the features of emerging cohesive policies.
These policies are focused on: First, on the relationship with Russia, especially on issues where the two countries radically diverge such as Ukraine and Iran, with Syria being the primary arena for the latter’s containment. Second, on shoring up alliances, where it has become clear in the Middle East that the restored traditional alliance with Saudi Arabia is the cornerstone of the policies of the administration, ever convinced that Riyadh is a key partner in any effort to contain Sunni radicalism, and that Tehran is the source of Shia radicalism that helps fuels the Sunni iteration. Third: On considering China a delayed long-term challenge, while acknowledging the benefits of accord with Beijing on issues like North Korea, on which the US remains alert not least because of the personal nature of the confrontation between the two countries’ leaders. Fourth: On considering nations like Turkey to be also among delayed but medium-term priorities. Fifth: On using ‘soft power’ approaches when it comes to rival nations, non-state actors, and individuals who falsely believe they are not on the US radar, through sanctions, probes, and other unexpected measures. Sixth: Preserving the special alliance with Israel, given that Trump’s Evangelical base is staunchly pro-Israel. Seventh: Pressuring European allies especially in the context of agreeing on sanctions as an instrument of soft power, while threatening military options or abolition of agreements such as the nuclear deal with Iran if necessary. Eighth: Upturning strategies pursued by former President Barack Obama, including by letting Iran understand that whatever US-sanctioned contract had allowed Tehran to triumphantly seek hegemony in the region is now expired.
US National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster appears to be the leading shaper of US foreign policy alongside Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and CIA chief Mike Pompeo, who has been mentioned repeatedly as a possible replacement for Tillerson at the State Department. Tillerson has said he would remain in his post, and has suggested he was a sane voice in and a cornerstone of the Trump administration’s upcoming policies. He has to suffer Nikki Haley’s one-upmanship because she is close to the president. However, Tillerson realizes that the demise of Steve Bannon, Trump’s once close confidante, because of Michael Wolff’s expose in his book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, will benefit her bearing in mind that there was no love lost between Haley and Bannon. Bannon, who had commanded huge influence over the White House, tried to salvage some of his power, but Trump has been able to contain him through his network of backers and contributors, even forcing him to apologize for not speaking out against the book and for insulting Trump’s son. Family comes first for Donald Trump and Bannon’s sin was unforgivable.
In the beginning, US Defense Secretary James Mattis was a star in the Trump administration, but his standing has declined amid the clash of personalities, the backtracking from pledges, and the reconsideration of certain positions such as those related to Iran. He was among those who saw the worth of Obama’s policies on Iran, but he was met with unexpected resistance to such views. His retreat from some of his previous attitudes was also seen as proof that he was a ‘closeted liberal’, but his own view has been that he was pursuing a sense of pragmatism to ensure the US does not get further involved militarily in any arena.
Nikki Haley brought with her to the UN headquarters a flurry of threats against those fail to stand with America. She said it explicitly: “The US will be taking name and will respond.” She made it clear that her top priority is Israel and the rehabilitation of the Jewish state, not as a UN member state, but as an exceptionally important state because of its ties to the US. She threatened and she delivered on Jerusalem, and she is determined to limit the influence of the international organization, by intimidating the General Secretariat and the member states. Yet Nikki Haley aspires to far more than her current post, and is building on Trump’s base to put herself forward as a presidential candidate later. Some praise her political fierceness, personal ambition, and early preparations, while others believe she is gambling by standing between the maestro and the orchestra, in that she is overexposing herself at Trump’s expense.
The Iranian issue is important for Haley, albeit less so than Israel. The US ambassador has used the UN platform to peddle the policies of her president aggressively without regard for international reactions, including by the allies and friends of the US. She is a ‘bulldozer’ proud of Trump’s America First slogan. She is not bothered by the fact that the secretary of state has divergent views. Haley sees herself as a member of the Trump administration just like Tillerson, and she has skillfully chosen her allies in the administration, focusing on the White Houser rather than the State Department – that is, Donald Trump himself and McMaster.
If Tillerson survives in his post, he will likely have to adapt to and abide by US foreign strategies steered by McMaster and Pompeo, and look beyond his oil and gas expertise. Otherwise, either Pompeo or Haley could replace him, most likely the former.
In region, the headline of the US strategy is the special alliance with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with its Qatari and Iranian dimensions. The administration wants cohesion in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and, unlike Tillerson, believes that the burden is on Qatar in this context. Regarding Iran, the strategic decision is to rein in Iran’s regional ascendancy and expansion in the Arab geography.
Regarding Russia, a new decision by the administration is for the US to stay in Syria, in both its own bases and as part of an international coalition able to head off Russian-Iranian schemes in Syria. This decision stems from the administration’s belief that Russian leader Vladimir Putin is not interested in and not ready for working as a partner with the Trump White House to contain Iran’s expansion and consolidation in Syria. Putin, Washington has concluded, is not honest in his suggestions that the Russian-American bilateral relationship is a priority for him.
For this reason, the Trump administration has decided to head off the Russian march to reap the spoils of its investments in Syria. It has decided to block Moscow’s monopoly of the political process via the Sochi talks that the Russians want to replace the Geneva Process with. It has made it clear to Moscow that it will remain in Syria both militarily and politically, and that Russia’s plans for reconstruction, investments, the political process, and military bases will not go ahead as intended.
Moscow is furious. Tehran is also angry, because the new US policies have hindered its regional projects, and shown solidarity with the Iranian opposition and protests at home. Turkey is concerned because it will be shackled by the new policies of the Trump administration, after having thought it guaranteed its position through the Astana equation and the Russian-Iranian-Turkish triangle. Europe is worried because it is starting to feel the heat from across the Atlantic, and fears that any further policies of appeasement with Iran would not necessarily guarantee its narrow interests. Iraq is tense in an election year and because the current equation leaves it caught between the US rock and the Iranian hard place, with Tehran’s insistence on preserving the Popular Mobilization militias as a living exported embodiment of its Islamic revolutionary model. Syria is no longer reassured about its ability to declare victory soon. Lebanon is still burying its head in the hands, its leaders believing they are above accountability. Only the allies of the Trump administration feel reassured by the development of US strategic policies.

It’s the turn of the private sector in Saudi Arabia
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/ January 10/2018
Commenting on Saudi King Salman’s royal orders on Friday, royal court adviser Saud Al Qahtani said on Twitter: “Upon today’s orders, the state pumped SAR 50 billion. Add to that the funds in the Citizens Account which are 30 billion. This is a total of SAR 80 billion which means that the purchasing power has greatly increased. This will increase the private sector’s profit. We await your initiative as always. You know your national duty more than anyone else. Not to mention that pleasing your employees will improve your success and increase your profit.”I have no doubt that patriotic merchants will contribute to this royal initiative, each according to his effort and generosity. I also have no doubt that the SAR 80 billion pumped by the state and the private sector’s contribution to confront high prices will positively affect the market’s activity and the increased demand on products and services and revive the economy. Merchants who do not contribute to this initiative and do not make efforts to keep up with it must not allege they’re patriots especially that they are this negative and disappointing. Patriotism is about giving and sacrificing money and soul. Saudi citizens have proven their love to their country at several occasions. This social solidarity develops the state and contributes to its security and stability. The kingdom during King Salman’s era is full of activity, vitality and decisiveness which curbed plenty of enemies. The kingdom’s rivals increased as a result of directly confronting threats and naming its enemies. The Saudi state, which is about 300 years old, would not have survived and become deep-rooted if it had not been for harmony between its leaders and citizens
Kingdom’s welfare
Merchants’ and businessmen’s contribution to this national initiative will reflect on the kingdom’s welfare, strength, unity, security and stability. King Salman’s initiative is clear proof that the state’s command and leadership ever since the days of King Abdulaziz until King Salman’s understand citizens and their problems and livelihood challenges and seek to resolve them no matter how much funds are needed. As long as the state spends on citizens, the money will stay within the country and be part of the operating capital thus increasing the cash flow in the market.
The Saudi state, which is about 300 years old, would not have survived and become deep-rooted if it had not been for harmony between its leaders and citizens. The state has strongly stood in the face of changes, challenges and enemies. Many have tried to destabilize it and weaken it for three centuries but it was all in vain. Thank you our leader and thank you to your faithful crown prince as ever since we’ve known you, you have been rulers who never disappointed your citizens.

Iran’s protests influence politics in Iraq as well
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/ January 10/2018
Commenting on the ongoing protest movement in Iran, a well-known Iraqi writer and journalist posted on his Facebook page a picture of diarrhea treatment pills and wrote the following brief commentary: “There is a great demand for this treatment in the Green Zone. It is said that men are on edge, carefully following developments in the region.” The Green Zone is the closed and heavily fortified part of Baghdad. The ruling political class controls this region that Saddam Hussein and his entourage once occupied. Saddam even built huge mansions and palaces here that his successors, the rulers of the day, squabble with each other to live in. This area is popularly called the ‘arrogant zone,’ a phrase that expresses the hatred of the Iraqis, or at least their indignation towards the people of this region as it has become emblematic of the stolen wealth of the Iraqi people on a large-scale, a claim that even the rulers do not deny.
Many Iraqi citizens are outraged by the frequent appearance of IRGC chief in Iraq and view it as a violation of their national pride and dignity
Iraq infested with Iran’s minions
The sarcastic post immediately received hundreds of likes and comments. Many Iraqis believe that majority of the powerful political class in the country is either openly working for Iran is silently strengthening its growing political, military, and economic clout in the country.This trend is reflected in various facets of Iraqi life and even statements of Iranian military and civilian leaders point to their open interference in Iraq as well as Lebanon, Syria and Yemen as if they are their legitimate sphere of influence. This fact is further reinforced by the frequent appearance of the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, General Qasem Soleimani, on the war fronts against ISIS and within the Green Zone, comfortably interacting with the leaders of the Iraqi military forces, even as many Iraqi citizens are outraged by his presence and view it as a violation of their national pride and dignity.
Iraqis have started taking keen interest in social media and in public life, in the wake of the Iranian protests since their commencement. The protests have received the support of Iraqi journalists, commentators and prominent activists, many of whom have been participating in protests within Iraq – demanding political reform, improved public services, end to administrative and financial corruption on an almost weekly basis since mid-2015 in Baghdad and across several cities having Shiite majority. The comments in social media outlets and posters in the streets reflect an Iraqi desire for change in Iran so that the latter eases its grip over Iraq. The commentators and social media users have been particularly keen on reflecting upon the slogans raised by Iranian protesters that seek internal reforms and highlight the economic problems. Many writers, commentators, and bloggers have taken a stand against this public position. These are mostly members of the Shiite political forces in power.It is noteworthy that these writers, along with prominent Shiite politicians, remained silent in the first two days of the protest and did not disclose their position on the Iranian protest movement, until Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei accused the protesters of being “agents” of foreign powers. Thereafter, Iranian loyalists in Iraq started echoing the same accusation against Iranian protesters.
The double standard
For their part, Iraqi writers, commentators, and activists who harbor sympathy towards the Iranian movement drew attention to the position of the Shiite political forces and their double standards. They point out that the position of Iraqi Shiite Islamists which was once in favor of the Bahraini Shiite opposition now opposes protest movement in Iran. This change of heart has occurred due to their bias toward the Iranian regime even though the regime does not care about the interests of the Shiites. Several factors influence the position of pro-Iranian Iraqis. The most important of them being that any weakness in the power of the Iranian regime would reduce its influence in Iraq and weaken the hegemony of the Shiite political forces in Iran over political, economic and social life, which could positively affect the desired political reform process along with the fight against administrative and financial corruption that has poisoned the lives of Iraqis for several years. On the other hand, there is fear that Tehran will take a hard line in its foreign policy after the recent protests, which exposes the internal fragility of the regime there. This type of regime often chooses to export its crises abroad, instead of looking for solutions for its internal problems. Even Saddam’s regime did this several times and the result was that he dug his own grave, leaving Iraq in total ruin and a political class that did nothing but worsen the situation.

Will Italy go back to Berlusconi?
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/ January 10/2018
The spectre of another Italian election and added European political uncertainty is looming, but with an added twist about the re-emergence of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. It seems that once written off politicians do have seven charmed lives after all. Markets had reacted negatively to news in December that the major political parties in Italy agreed to hold a general election on March 4, 2018, little more than a mere three months away. Investors fear the likely uncertainty after the vote, with polls pointing to a hung Parliament, more political instability, and the possibility of a new election shortly thereafter adding to European woes following Spanish regional and Austrian national election shocks. While an inconclusive outcome is certainly possible, some analysts believe the elections are far more likely to ultimately lead to a coalition government with its political centre of gravity firmly anchored in the centre – along the lines of the 2013 Italian elections. The precise political leanings of this coalition will depend on how well the center-right and center-left perform relative to one another, but at this point it seems fair to say the centre-right has a decisive advantage, with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia – according to some private polls – projected to win almost 20 percent of the votes. Will the old man of Italian politics make a comeback?
The centre-left 5Star Movement is nevertheless likely to be the first party, which will feed uncertainty in markets, but as things stand it would still be beaten by a center-right alliance between Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, the Northern League, and the extreme right Brothers of Italy, now polling at a combined 36 percent against the 5Star’s 28 percent. That means the centre-right, under the shadow of a resuscitated Berlusconi, and not the 5Stars, will have first shot at forming a government. The coming Italian elections should at least add a bit of spice and intrigue compared to more dull European political affairs
Combined center-right
But since analysts expect even a combined center-right to come close to winning an absolute majority, talks with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) will also likely be needed, which will put current Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni as a leading contender for the Premiership in the event of a grand deal.
This is the crunch for a possible period of political uncertainty in Italy, with manoeuvring of coalition partners. Other leading contenders for Prime Minister should a grand coalition be formed include Economy Minister Carlo Calenda, currently in charge of some critical economic dossiers, and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani. Berlusconi may prefer for Tajani to remain in Brussels to assuage EU fears of a center-right government that is likely to include the more populist and Eurosceptic Northern League. Pointedly, Northern League leader Matteo Salvini has talked a lot about leaving the Eurozone, though it is fair to say his party has already shown, during its last tenure in government between 2001 and 2006, that it usually barks more than it bites. Berlusconi is also said to have hinted that he thinks he could become prime minister himself if the centre-right coalition were to win an absolute majority. But given that his ban from public office only expires in 2019, even in the event of a clean victory of the centre-right – which is highly unlikely – his shot at the premiership is close to zero. Political sources do point out that a judgement by the European Court of Human Rights on Berlusconi’s public office ban is expected to come out in May or June of next year. The colorful and fun loving tycoon might be tempted to flip the tables if the ruling were to come out favourable to him, but some doubt that even that would not be enough to push him back to head of state. On the other side of the aisle, former prime minister Matteo Renzi’s center-left PD is currently in third place, behind 5SM and FI, polling at around 23 percent, and unlikely to catch up. The PD has been shattered by a scandal related to covert efforts by Undersecretary to the Prime Ministry Maria Elena Boschi, Renzi’s close political ally and personal friend, to devise a bailout of Banca Etruria, whose senior management included her father. Given the above, the coming Italian elections should at least add a bit of spice and intrigue compared to more dull European political affairs. For this we have to thank ‘bunga -bunga’ Berlusconi.