LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani
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Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Latest Lebanese Related News published
on January 28-29/18
Lebanon seeks greater cooperation with Germany
Xinhua| 2018-01-30/BEIRUT, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Lebanon's President Michel Aoun stressed Monday that Lebanon was seeking to cooperate with Germany at all levels, a statement by the presidential media office said. According to the statement, Aoun made his remarks following his meeting with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, at Baabda palace on Monday. "We dwelt on Germany's participation at three crucial conferences that Lebanon is looking forward to," Aoun said. "We reviewed the regional situation and developments, whereby we focused on the necessity to reach peaceful solution to end violence, wars and terrorism," he added. The president also underlined that bearing the burden of Syrian displacement is a joint international responsibility, highlighting the obligation to end the refugees' tribulations and guarantee their secure return to the homeland. "Talks also touched on the security dossier and the fight of terrorism. The meeting was an occasion to broach Lebanon's achievements in that respect and success in uncovering and dismantling tens of terror rings, as well as the successful military confrontation our army had led against the terrorists in the outskirts of North Bekaa," he indicated. "We also focused on the necessity of international cooperation in facing the terrorists, whereas Lebanon is part of the international efforts aiming to eradicate terrorism," he said. "I also highlighted the necessity of Germany's support for Lebanon in the face of the recurrent Israeli violations, whereby I stressed the importance of committing to the full implementation of UN Resolution 1701," he concluded. For his part, Steinmeier hailed the coexistence among Lebanon's various sects and religions. "We care for stability inside Lebanon and it is in our interest that it persists," the German president said.
Steinmeier arrived in Lebanon Monday on a three-day official visit.
Political, Virtual Storm Erupts between Lebanese Parties after FM Calls Speaker a ‘Thug’
Asharq Al-Awsat/January 29/2018 /A video of Lebanese Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, of the Free Patriotic Movement, calling Speaker Nabih Berri a thug has emerged, creating uproar between the parties of each respective leader. According to the leaked video, the minister said of the longtime speaker: “This is a thug not a speaker of parliament.” Bassil made his remarks during an electoral gathering in a town of Batroun, his home region. Hours later, another video emerged in which the FM is seen responding to a question on how to deal with Berri’s policy by saying: “The solution is for us to break him and not for him to break us.”The videos created uproar in Lebanon in political circles and on social media between Bassil’s FPM and Berri’s AMAL Movement. Accusations and curses were traded on social media between supporters of each official. The tensions forced AMAL to issue a statement warning of strife in Lebanon. “The statements issued by head of the FPM threaten the country’s unity, stability and security and an open invitation to strife,” it said. The Higher Islamic Shi’ite Council also intervened and held the presidency responsible for stoking sectarian sentiment in the country. President Michel Aoun is Bassil’s father-in-law. “Targeting Berri, who has long been keen on national unity, stability and coexistence, would lead the country towards internal strife aimed at achieving personal goals,” it added. It held the presidency accountable for this “deplorable” conduct, saying that it is obligated to restore normalcy during this critical phase in Lebanon. The foreign minister soon issued a statement, saying it was unfortunate that the video was leaked. Calls for calm were issued by various Lebanese officials, but the AMAL ministers and lawmakers chose to direct harsh accusations against Bassil. Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, one of Berri's closest aides, described Bassil in a tweet as "lowly" and a "political dwarf." Prime Minister Saad Hariri said "Lebanon does not need more escalation" and that he would exert all efforts to calm the political rhetoric in the country.
Daily Report: FPM and Amal Tension Rises To It’s Peak
Elio Constantine/LF website/January 29/18/The tension between the Free Patriotic Movement and Amal movement is escalating while the national interest and stability require them to contain the situation, especially that mediations have succeeded in the past to keep this tension away from governmental bodies.
In Parallel to the ongoing tensions, the public attention has been shifting towards the upcoming elections, where interest has exceeded the political parties and candidates to include almost every Lebanese citizen. Meanwhile, Hizbullah’s deputy secretary general Sheikh Naim Kassem denied leaks around Hizbuallah winning majority OR third of seats in parliament, saying “We are not building our speculations based on how many seats we would win, but on the capacity of our representation in parliament, and we are not seeking majority or the third”.Sheikh Kasem’s statement doesn’t intend that Hizbuallah is being humble to an extent that it isn’t aiming to win majority or third of parliament, but it actually reflects the real situation, meaning that he knows their true capacity and knows well that they’re incapable of winning the third of parliament, thus, trying to avoid setting unachievable goals which they will be held accountable for after the elections.
Hezbollah may use suicide ships in next war, former naval officer warns/ظابط
إسرائيلي سابق يحذر من امكانية استعمال الحزب قوارب انتحارية في الحرب القادمة
Anna Ahronheim/Jerusalem Post/January 29/2018
Iran “is on the verge of reaching the Mediterranean, including the use of Syrian ports by the Iranian navy."
The Israeli Navy should anticipate Hezbollah using suicide ships in the next war with the terrorist group, R.-Adm. Prof. Shaul Chorev told The Jerusalem Post.
“Hezbollah will not need to equip themselves with ships like Israel, but we must assume they will use asymmetric warfare to challenge Israeli technology like land-to-sea missiles or suicide ships like you see in Yemen,” Chorev, a former deputy chief of naval operations, said following a special geo-strategy conference organized by University of Haifa’s Research Center for Maritime Policy & Strategy and the Chaikin Chair for Geostrategy.
Iran and Hezbollah advisers have been aiding Yemen’s Houthi rebels in their fight against the Saudi-led coalition. In January of last year, two Saudi sailors were killed when Houthi rebels rammed the side of a Saudi frigate off the coast of Yemen with a small boat before a suicide bomber detonated the vessel.
According to Chorev, while it is not in Hezbollah’s interest to start a war with the Jewish state, “when you look at their strategy, it is clear that they will target Israeli strategic assets.”
“The next war with Hezbollah could see a focus on the sea,” he warned.
Israel is highly dependent on the sea with more than 90% of Israel’s imports arriving via boat. But according to Chorev, there is a major lack of awareness about the maritime domain, both among government leaders and the public.
Senior naval officers have told the Post that Hezbollah is a “clear and major enemy” that continues to grow in terms of battlefield experience and their arsenal of advanced weaponry from Iran which has expanded its presence in the eastern Mediterranean due to the civil war in Syria.
“Iran – which supports the Assad regime in Syria – participates in the war alongside Russia and has exploited the situation in order to upgrade its status in the region to almost that of a regional superpower,” Chorev wrote in the center’s 2017-2018 Maritime Strategic Assessment for Israel.
Iran “is on the verge of reaching the Mediterranean, including the use of Syrian ports by the Iranian navy,” he added.
“Iranian ports in the eastern Mediterranean are a real risk for Israel,” Chorev said, stressing that the US and Russia must be persuaded to stop the Iranian Navy from gaining a foothold in Syria.
With fighting raging in neighboring Syria and because of the continued decline of the US involvement in the eastern Mediterranean, the Russian Navy has increased its presence in the area over the past few years.
“The Russians have come into the Middle East taking over from the Americans who have neglected the eastern Mediterranean,” Chorev said, adding that the Russians may limit the operational activity of Israel’s navy.
Similar to the deconfliction mechanism in place between Moscow and Jerusalem over the skies of Syria, Israeli officials have stated that while the navy does not plan to expand any sort of cooperation with the Russian Navy, there is clear communication between the two for preventative safety reasons.
The Israeli Navy is relatively small compared to other IDF corps, but it has a significant amount of territory to protect since the expansion of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from 40 miles (65 km.) to 150 miles (240 km.) four years ago.
The navy is also tasked with securing the natural gas drilling rigs that are in Israel’s EEZ, clear targets for enemies on Israel’s northern border. The IDF believes that Hezbollah has long-range missiles that can hit the rigs, which supply a large amount of the electricity used in Israel.
Hezbollah official warns terror group can destroy Israeli army//حزب الله يهدد بتدمير جيش إسرائيل
Anna Ahronheim/Jerusalem Post/January 29/2018
"The day will come when Hezbollah's flag will fly over the honorable city of Jerusalem."
Hezbollah has called an article written by IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis and published on Lebanese opposition websites “provocative words published by a coward.”
“The article is nonsense and a provocation that is published by someone who is a coward,” Hajj Muhammad Raad, the head of Hezbollah’s “Loyalty to Resistance” Lebanese Parliamentary bloc, wrote on the Ahewar website.
“Israel should not act foolishly and complicate itself in a war that will be destructive for it. Hezbollah is stronger today and has capabilities that can destroy the Israeli Army. Israel today has become a regional and international isolationist, and the media spins that come out of it are meant to cover up its distress, because it wants to present itself as strong,” he continued.
On Sunday, an article written by Manelis appeared on several Arab-language media outlets, including being published on the Hezbollah-friendly al-Masdar website and broadcast on the Voice of Beirut radio station.
“The authority of the Zionist entity, whatever it tries, will not be able to persuade the Arab-Muslim peoples to give up the idea of resisting the Zionist occupation,” Raad wrote Monday. “The day will come when Hezbollah’s flag will be raised over the honorable city of Jerusalem and the Palestinians will regain their occupied land.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday stated that Israel was using “all the options” available to it to prevent the production of missiles in Lebanon by Iran and Hezbollah.
With regard to everything related to Lebanon, we can prevent not only by means of bombs, but by operating all the political leverages and others in order to prevent missile production,” he said at the beginning of the Yisrael Beytenu parliamentary group’s meeting.
While Liberman stated that “the last thing I want is for a third Lebanon war,” Israel is “determined to prevent Lebanon from becoming one large factory for the production of precision missiles.”
Manelis urged Lebanese citizens to recognize that their fate is “in the hands of a dictator sitting in Tehran,” which alongside its proxy Hezbollah has turned Lebanon into one large missile factory.
“The ordinary citizen will be mistaken to think that this process turns Lebanon into a fortress,” Manelis wrote in his Sunday op-ed, adding: “It is nothing more than a barrel of gunpowder on which he, his family and his property are sitting.”
“In Lebanon, Hezbollah does not conceal its attempt to take control of the state,” he continued. “In the shadow of Nasrallah’s bullying behavior” the group has built “terror infrastructure and factories to manufacture weapons under the nose of the Lebanese government.”
Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian presence on its borders and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah. They have stressed that both are red lines for the Jewish state.
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would discuss Iran’s efforts in Lebanon with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their upcoming meeting at the Kremlin, telling reporters before leaving for Moscow that this was something Israel would not tolerate.
Netanyahu said that he will also speak with the Russian president about Iran’s “unending efforts to militarily entrench itself in Syria, something that we are adamantly opposed to and will act against.”
He will be accompanied by Military Intelligence Directorate chief Maj.-Gen. Hezi Levy; Environmental Protection and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin; National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat; and Military Secretary to the Prime Minister Brig.-Gen. Eliezer Toledano.
**Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
Report: Lebanese-German Summit Opens in Baabda Monday
Naharnet/January 29/18/A Lebanese-German summit will be held Monday afternoon at the Presidential Palace in Baabda upon the arrival of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Beirut, the first of a German president in 120 years. President Michel Aoun will receive Steinmeier after which the two are to hold a joint press conference. Aoun will throw a dinner banquet in the diplomat's honor in the presence of senior officials and members of Western and Arab diplomatic corps, al-Joumhouria daily said Monday. Well-informed sources told the daily that discussions will focus on the “Lebanese-German ties at different levels, on the magnitude of German aid for Lebanon at the upcoming Rome II Conference (dedicated to provide support for the Lebanese army and security forces), on the Paris IV donor conference for Lebanon on investment, and on the Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region.” “Arab, regional and international issues that concern the two countries, particularly on the Syrian arena and the region, will also be highlighted,” said the sources. On Tuesday, Steinmeier will also meet with Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and inspect the German naval forces and the UNIFIL working in South Lebanon.
Mashnouq Says Bassil's Remarks on Berri Require 'Apology to Lebanese'
Naharnet/January 29/18/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq on Monday urged Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil to show “courage” and apologize to the Lebanese people over leaked remarks against Speaker Nabih Berri. Speaking to reporters after meeting the Speaker in Ain el-Tineh, Mashnouq said Bassil's remarks should be followed by “an apology to the Lebanese.” Noting that Bassil has already apologized in remarks to al-Akhbar newspaper, Mashnouq said the foreign minister “should not lack the courage” to make a public or televised apology. “I came here to urge national calm and to remind the Speaker of his national responsibility... We must rise above trivial things and not allow wrong statements made by anyone to cause any tension in the country,” Mashnouq said about his visit to Ain el-Tineh. “The Speaker has always heeded calls for patience and calm, and I hope all the concerned political forces will continue these efforts, especially that the Speaker has stressed his respect for the Presidency,” the minister added. Mashnouq's visit comes a day after the spread of a cellphone video shot during a Batroun meeting and leaked to media outlets. In the video, Bassil says that Berri is “a thug and not a parliament speaker.”Ties between Berri's AMAL Movement and Bassil's FPM have been historically tense. The latest spat broke out after the president and the premier signed a decree granting one-year's seniority to a number of officers. Berri and Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil 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.
Hariri Meets Aoun: Lebanon Can't Bear More Tension, I'll Exert Efforts to Appease
Naharnet/January 29/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri stressed on Monday that strenuous efforts will be exerted on his part to calm the political rhetoric in the country, the National News Agency said. “Lebanon does not need more escalation, I will do everything in my capacity to appease the situation,” said Hariri after meeting President Michel Aoun at the Presidential Palace in Baabda. Hariri was hinting at a major row between President Michel Aoun founder of the Free Patriotic Movement and his son-in-law Foreign Minister and FPM head Jebran Bassil on one hand, and Speaker Nabih Berri head of AMAL Movement on the other. The spat between the two started over the signing of a seniority decree that promotes a number of officers. Berri and AMAL 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. Differences aggravated further when Berri reportedly asked his supporters over the weekend in Abidjan's Ivory Coast to boycott the February Lebanese Diaspora Energy conference for Africa organized by Bassil. Moreover, a leaked video footage circulated on Monday and showed Bassil addressing a group of people in Batroun on Sunday where he described Berri of being a “bully.”The footage drew the ire of AMAL officials and supporters and lashed out fiercely at Bassil.
AMAL Calls Bassil Remarks 'Open Call for Strife' as Supporters Block Roads
Naharnet/January 29/18/The AMAL Movement on Monday issued a stern warning over Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil's leaked remarks against Speaker Nabih Berri. “Bassil's remarks are an open call for strife,” the movement warned in a statement. It cautioned that such a strife would “destroy all the achievements that have been made at the level of the country and would remind us of the wars of liberation and elimination.”“That's why we call on all those concerned to rein in the hot heads and the delusional minds before it's too late,” AMAL added. Angry AMAL supporters meanwhile blocked roads in the Mar Elias, Salim Salam, Beshara al-Khoury and Bir Hassan areas in Beirut in protest at Bassil's leaked remarks. AMAL's furious response comes a day after the spread of a cellphone video shot during a Batroun meeting and leaked to media outlets. In the video, Bassil says that Berri is “a thug and not a parliament speaker.”Ties between Berri's AMAL Movement and Bassil's FPM have been historically tense. The latest spat broke out after President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri signed a decree granting one-year's 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.
Trial Underway for American Accused of Killing Lebanese Neighbor
Associated Press/Naharnet/January 29/18/Jurors are preparing to hear opening statements in a trial for an Oklahoma man accused of first-degree murder and a hate crime in the slaying of his Lebanese neighbor. Stanley Vernon Majors is expected to be in a Tulsa courtroom when his trial resumes Monday in district court. The 63-year-old is accused in the August 2016 killing of 37-year-old Khalid Jabara. Prosecutors say Majors fatally shot Jabara after bombarding him and his family for years with racial epithets, including "filthy Lebanese" and "Moo-slems." The Jabaras are Christian. Majors has pleaded not guilty. His attorneys have indicated they'll present a defense based on his mental health, though Majors was previously found competent to stand trial. A jury of nine men and five women, including two alternates, was selected Friday.
FPM calls supporters to restrain from reactions
Mon 29 Jan 2018/NNA - The Free Patriotic Movement called its supporters, in a statement on Monday, to refrain from reacting to the recent events in front of FPM's Sin-el-Fil office, and to leave it to the security forces to address the issue. "Members of Amal Movement attacked the FPM's headquarters in Mirna Chalouhi, whereby they hurled stones at the building, burned tires, and fired gunshots, prompting the office's security to defend themselves and call the army," the statement read. The statement added: "The FPM calls its supporters to restrain from reacting anywhere, and to leave it to the security forces to address the issue. It also calls its officials not to make comment to media and to leave it to the Lebanese to judge. The FPM remains entrusted with stability, as well as with the protection of the nation and the reform of its state."
Kataeb party warns of political feuds threatening civil peace
Mon 29 Jan 2018/NNA - The politburo of Kataeb party on Monday warned of political feuds that had broken out recently among those in power, stressing that such disputes threaten civil peace and indicate a sharp rift. "Kataeb party maintains that salvation lies within the elections and a new political authority that leads the country to the sought change and reform," the party said in a statement following its politburo's weekly meeting. Kataeb also announced that its electoral machine would kick off on February 4.
Bint Jbeil locals march in protest at Bassil's utterances
Mon 29 Jan 2018/NNA - Locals from a number of Bint Jbeil towns gathered this evening in Tebnine and marched the city's streets in protest at Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil's remarks on House Speaker Nabih Berri, National News Agency correspondent reported on Monday. Protesters hoisted Amal Movement flags and chanted pro-Berri slogans. They also burned tires on Tebnine highway.
Jumblatt contacts Berri, deems Bassil's remarks inappropriate
Mon 29 Jan 2018/NNA - "Democratic Gathering" head MP Walid Jumblatt sternly condemned the leaked remarks made by Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister Gebran Bassil against House Speaker Nabih Berri. "Such utterances are inappropriate and unfamiliar with the nature of the internal political relations," MP Jumblatt said in a statement on Monday Jumblatt called for rectifying this unwanted insult through a clear and explicit position that brings matters back to normal, weathers tension in the streets and builds for a new stage that protects internal stability. Jumblatt contacted Speaker Berri to deplore the leaked remarks.
Hariri deplores insult against Berri, calls to weather the storm
Mon 29 Jan 2018/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri deplored, in a statement on Monday, the deterioration of the political rhetoric in the recent hours, regretting its reverberations in the street. "It is sad to see the political rhetoric sliding to the levels it has reached in the recent hours, and to see its reverberations in the street," Hariri said. "The dignity of the President of the republic Michel Aoun and House Speaker Nabih Berri is that of all the Lebanese (...) insulting them is an insult to all of us, to our institutions and sects; and a disgraceful conduct that must stop," he added. "I urge the concerned sides to work on weathering this storm, especially that the challenges we are facing are way more serous than the verbal violence we are witnessing," Hariri stressed. "Lebanon's stability must prevail any other matter," he underlined, renewing confidence in the wisdom of President Aoun and Speaker Berri.
Netanyahu Says Iran Wants Lebanon to Be 'Giant Missile Site'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 29/18/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of wanting "to turn Lebanon into one giant missile site" and warned of the consequences as he left Monday for talks in Moscow. Netanyahu has held a series of discussions with President Vladimir Putin in recent months on Iran's influence in war-torn Syria and in Lebanon. The premier has sought to persuade Russia to limit Iran's presence near Israeli territory and to stop it from entrenching itself militarily in Syria. Israel's military has also issued a series of warnings to Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shiite group backed by Iran. Russia, Iran and Hizbullah are all backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country's civil war. Netanyahu has previously accused Iran of building sites to produce "precision-guided missiles" in both Syria and Lebanon. "I will discuss with President Putin Iran's relentless efforts to establish a military presence in Syria, which we strongly oppose and are also taking action against," Netanyahu said as he departed. "We will also discuss Iran's effort to turn Lebanon into one giant missile site, a site for precision missiles against the state of Israel, which we will not tolerate." Israel has sought to stay out of the Syrian conflict, but acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes to stop what it says are advanced arms deliveries to Hizbullah, with whom it fought a devastating 2006 war. Iran is Israel's main enemy and Netanyahu has repeatedly warned against an entrenched Iranian military presence in the neighbouring country. In November, Netanyahu signalled that Israel would take military action in Syria when it sees fit as it seeks to ensure Iran-backed forces stay away from its territory. Russia and Israel have also established a hotline to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.
Khalil Lashes Out at Bassil over Leaked Video
Naharnet/January 29/18/Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil on Monday lashed out fiercely at Free Patriotic Movement and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil after a leaked video footage that showed Bassil saying that Speaker Nabih Berri is a “bully.”“Let everyone know that his favorite son-in-law is impolite and lowly and his words are not leaks, but rather the rhetoric of decadency and the hooliganism of political dwarfs who think they can reserve a place for themselves among leaders through their arrogance,” said Khalil in a tweet on Monday. Khalil was referring to Bassil, the son-in-law of President Michel Aoun. Khalil added: “Speaker Berri is bigger than positions, his image in the conscience of people will not be tarnished. But now that he has been insulted, all the boundaries he had placed in front of us to prevent us from exposing everyone's history, crimes, killings and deals, have fallen.” Al-Akhbar daily also quoted Khalil as saying: “The red lines have collapsed. They are taking the country into a confrontation we do not want, but we are prepared for it, whatever its shape is. “We used to believe that the President is not involved in what's happening. But it seems he is part of it,” the daily quoted Khalil. A video footage was leaked on social media on Sunday that showed Bassil during a visit to a town in Batroun. Bassil said hinting at Berri: “This is not a head of parliament, this is a bully,” he said after the Speaker's instructions that his supporters boycott the February Lebanese Diaspora Energy conference for Africa organized by Bassil.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News
published on January 29-30/18
Syria Peace Talks to Begin in Russia Despite Opposition Boycott
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 29/18/Delegates on Monday arrived for the first Syria peace congress in Russia, but expectations for the dialogue were tempered after the war-torn country's main opposition group said it would boycott the event. Regime-backer Moscow has invited 1,600 people to the talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi as part of a broader push to consolidate its influence in the region and start hammering out a path to a political solution to end the bloody conflict. Only a fraction of the invitees are set to participate in the event, however, according to a list of participants seen by AFP which has about 350 people on it. The aim of the Tuesday congress is to bring Syria closer to creating a post-war constitution, after two days of separate UN-backed talks in Vienna last week closed without any sign the warring sides had met face-to-face to discuss the groundwork for the document. The Kremlin has downplayed expectations of the event, with presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling journalists Monday that "breakthroughs in the task of political regulation in Syria are hardly possible." He added however that under-representation will not "disrupt this congress or undermine its importance," calling the Sochi talks a "very important" step toward peace. The Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC), the country's main opposition group, said following the talks in Vienna on Thursday and Friday that it would not attend the Sochi congress.
The SNC accused President Bashar al-Assad's regime and its Russian backers of continuing to rely on military might -- and showing no willingness to enter into honest negotiations -- as the war in which more than 340,000 people have already died approaches its seventh year. More than three dozen other Syrian rebel groups, including influential Islamists, previously said they would not come to Sochi. And authorities from Syria's Kurdish autonomous region said Sunday they would not participate because of an ongoing offensive on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin by Turkey, which supports Syrian rebels and is co-sponsoring the congress along with regime-backer Iran. Suspicion from the West -Moscow, which has spearheaded rounds of talks from the start of last year in Kazakhstan's Astana, initially hoped to convene the congress in Sochi last November but those efforts collapsed following a lack of agreement among co-sponsors. Western powers have viewed the Russian peace initiative with suspicion, worrying that Moscow is seeking to undermine the UN-backed talks with a view to carving out a settlement that strengthens its ally Assad. But a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the weekend he would send his Syria peace negotiator to Sochi after receiving assurances the conference would not seek to sideline the organisation's own talks. Staffan de Mistura arrived in Sochi Monday, Russian agencies reported. Russia has long sought UN participation in the Sochi congress to lend credibility to its diplomatic efforts, and is reportedly hoping to establish a committee to create a constitution with UN-backing. Moscow's decision to launch a bombing campaign to support Assad in September 2015 -- Russia's first major military operation abroad since Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989 -- is widely seen as a turning point in the multi-front conflict that helped shore up the Syrian president. After two years of military support for the Syrian regime, President Vladimir Putin announced in December last year the partial withdrawal of forces from the country, saying their task had been largely completed. The Syrian war, which has seen millions displaced, began in 2011 as the regime crushed anti-government protests.
Turkey Detains over 300 for 'Terror Propaganda' against Syria Operation
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 29/18/Turkish authorities have detained 311 people suspected of disseminating "terror propaganda" over Ankara's offensive against a Kurdish militia in Syria, the interior ministry said on Monday. The suspects have been taken into custody since the operation against the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia began on January 20. Ankara views the YPG as a "terrorist" offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been waging a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state. The PKK is blacklisted as a terror organisation by Ankara and its Western allies. The operation, supporting Syrian rebels with Turkish ground troops and air strikes, seeks to eliminate the YPG from its western enclave of Afrin in Syria close to the Turkish border. Although the interior ministry did not give details, police raids have taken place across the country, from Izmir on the Aegean Sea to Igdir and Van in the east. Rights groups have expressed renewed concerns over freedom of expression in Turkey. Human Rights Watch last week criticised Ankara's "intolerance of criticism". Among those taken into custody were journalists including writer and activist Nurcan Baysal but she was released on Wednesday. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for national unity over the offensive and has warned that those who responded to calls for protests would pay a "heavy price". Meanwhile, Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has urged the public and media to be careful of "lying, fake, distortive and provocative news, images and gossip". The authorities believe there is deliberate disinformation, especially on social media which includes the use of images that have been "manipulated" or taken from other conflicts but presented as from the current operation. Local officials of Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) have also been detained while the party has criticised the offensive calling it an "invasion". "(The HDP) invites the international community to take immediate action to stop it," it said in a letter on Monday addressed to the United Nations and the European Union. An HDP official told AFP that 209 of its members had been detained over allegations of "terror propaganda" and "inciting people to hatred and hostility" since the offensive was launched. The Turkish government accuses the HDP of being a political front for the PKK but the party denies the claims.
Gunmen Attack Kabul Military Compound, Multiple Casualties
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 29/18/Gunmen launched a pre-dawn raid on a military compound in Kabul on Monday, officials said, in an assault that caused multiple casualties and marked the third major attack in the city in recent days. Defence ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said five soldiers were killed and 10 wounded in the assault claimed by the Islamic State group via its propaganda arm Amaq. "An Afghan army battalion has come under attack this morning. The attackers wanted to breach the battalion," Waziri told AFP, adding the raid had ended. "Two bombers detonated themselves and two were killed by our forces and one was detained alive. The fighting is over but unfortunately we have five deaths and 10 wounded."He said Afghan forces had seized a rocket, two Kalashinkovs, and a suicide vest from the attackers. Officials said the attack was on an army battalion near the Marshal Fahim military academy where high-ranking officers are trained and which was initially identified as the target. An officer at the academy told AFP he could hear an explosion and gunfire. The gunmen did not enter the heavily fortified compound, which is on the western outskirts of the city, an Afghan security source said.
Witnesses told AFP they heard several explosions and gunfire at around 5:00 am (0030 GMT). Security forces have swarmed the area and blocked roads leading to it, but earlier an AFP reporter at the scene could also hear explosions. In October a Taliban suicide bomber killed 15 Afghan army trainees as they travelled home from the Marshal Fahim academy. Militants including the Taliban and IS have stepped up their attacks on beleaguered Afghan security forces in recent months, sapping morale already lowered by desertions and corruption. Afghan troops have taken what the UN describes as "shocking" casualties since international forces pulled out at the end of 2014, though troop casualty figures are no longer released. - Kabul on edge -The latest raid comes days after a Taliban suicide attacker driving an explosives-packed ambulance blew up in a crowded area of the capital, killing at least 103 people and wounding 235 in one of the worst bombings in the city in recent years. The government has blamed Saturday's lunchtime attack, which was followed by a national day of mourning in the war-weary country, on the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network, which Afghan and Western officials suspect of involvement in at least some of the recent attacks in the capital. Monday's ambush came as both Taliban and IS militants have escalated their attacks on Kabul, turning it into one of the deadliest places in Afghanistan for civilians. On January 20, Taliban fighters stormed Kabul's landmark Intercontinental hotel and killed at least 25 people, the majority foreigners, in an ordeal lasting more than 12 hours. But there is still confusion over the true toll from that attack with conflicting figures given by officials and Afghan media reporting higher numbers. Kabul remains on high alert as the city braces for further attacks. Security warnings sent to foreigners in recent days said IS militants were planning to attack supermarkets, hotels and shops frequented by foreigners. Several foreign organisations, including humanitarian groups, are reassessing their operations after a particularly deadly week in the country. IS fighters also attacked Save the Children's office in Afghanistan's east on Wednesday that officials said killed five people and wounded another 26.
Bahrain Court Upholds Jail Term for Top Shiite Cleric
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 29/18/Bahrain's supreme court on Monday upheld a one-year jail term for Shiite spiritual leader Sheikh Isa Qassim and confirmed a decision to revoke the cleric's citizenship, a legal source said. Qassim, 76, who last month underwent surgery, was convicted by a criminal court in May of illegal fundraising and money laundering. Authorities had accused him of abusing his position as a cleric to "serve foreign interests and promote... sectarianism and violence."The supreme court, whose rulings are final, also confirmed the same verdict for two of the cleric's aides, Sheikh Hussein Mahrus and Mirza al-Obaidli, the source said. Qassim was being briefly hospitalised last month for blood pressure and diabetes-related treatment. He has been under de facto house arrest at his residence in the village of Diraz, outside Manama, since his citizenship was revoked two years ago.
The cleric, revered by the Shiite community, was a leader of 2011 protests in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. Bahrain has been shaken by unrest since security forces crushed Shiite-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister. Despite repeated calls from their Western allies, Bahrain's rulers have made no concessions to the Shiite opposition and have intensified a crackdown on critics. The strategic Gulf kingdom is a key regional ally of the United States and serves as home for its Fifth Fleet.
Regime Air Raids Kill 33 Civilians in Northwest Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 29/18/Regime air strikes have killed 33 civilians in the past 24 hours in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib where government forces are fighting jihadists, a monitor said on Monday. On Monday alone, the strikes killed 16 civilians including 11 in a vegetable market in the town of Saraqeb, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The 17 others were killed on Sunday in raids on various areas of the province, large parts of which are controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is dominated by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate. "Regime war planes have intensified their strikes over the past 24 hours after relative calm due to bad weather," Observatory chief Rami Abdul Rahman said. Syrian troops had been advancing on Idlib as part of a fierce offensive launched in late December with Russian backing. At the market in Saraqeb, an AFP correspondent saw pools of blood on the ground. Small trucks loaded with sacks of potatoes stood abandoned after their windows were blasted from their frames. In front of a hospital in the town, a motorbike and a car were trapped below the rubble and twisted metal. An alliance of jihadists and rebels overran the vast majority of Idlib province in 2015. On January 21, Syria's army said it had captured the vital military airport of Abu Duhur on the edge of Idlib province, in a breakthrough for the government in the last Syrian province beyond its control. With the airport's capture, the army said, troops would secure a key route leading from the neighbouring province of Aleppo south to the capital Damascus. Syria's war has killed more than 340,000 people and displaced millions since it began in March 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
Pro-Sisi Surprise Candidate to Stand in Egypt Election
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 29/18/Mussa Mustapha Mussa, who heads Egypt's liberal Al-Ghad party that backs President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, told AFP Monday before nominations closed that he will contest the presidential election. The last-minute surprise candidacy comes with Sisi, who has led an authoritarian regime since 2014, set to romp home to victory and another four-year term in the March 26-28 polls. The run-up to the close of nominations has seen any potential opposition sidelined, and many members of Al-Ghad who were once seen as opponents of ousted president Hosni Mubarak are now considered Sisi supporters. "I am finishing up with some remaining matters and will then go to the National Election Authority to present my candidacy," Mussa said. He said he had gathered more than the necessary endorsements to stand. Under Egyptian law, presidential hopefuls must collect endorsements from at least 20 lawmakers, or at least 25,000 registered voters, with a minimum of 1,000 signatures from each of at least 15 provinces. Mussa would be the only other candidate to Sisi after all other possible challengers either ruled themselves out or were subjected to legal proceedings. Last week, media reports said Sayed El-Badawi, leader of the old liberal Al-Wafd party, was a potential candidate. But he withdrew on Saturday and announced his backing for Sisi. In the 2014 election, the official results showed that Sisi had secured 96.9 percent of the votes. On Sunday, he and his regime were accused by five public figures of quashing any opposition. They called on voters to boycott the election.
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 29-30/18
UNRWA: The UN Agency that Creates Palestinian Refugees
Pierre Rehov/Gatestone Institute/January 29/18
According to the UN's own definition, the status of "refugee" cannot be passed from generation to generation -- as it conveniently has been for the Palestinians. A Palestinian with a European, American or Jordanian passport has no reason to be considered a refugee. Except by UNRWA.
"Since the UN took them over, the Palestinians started burying their dead at night, without declaring them, in order to share their rations. As a result, for nearly 20 years, the official death rate in the camps was close to zero. In addition, there was a lot of movement between the camps. But these displacements were rarely recorded, so that a Palestinian could appear in several camps at the same time..." — Said Aburish, Palestinian Refugee and biographer of the late Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat.
UNRWA is not just a humanitarian agency. Its political stance is evident at all levels of the organization. A report from the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, says that the 2016-2017 curriculum for elementary schools in PA, partly funded by UNRWA, "teaches students to be martyrs, to demonize and deny the existence of Israel, and to focus on a 'return' to an exclusively Palestinian country."
In the context of announced budget cuts, the US administration recently announced that it will drastically reduce its financial support of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees). US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley wanted the outright cancellation of the $364 million allocated each year to the UN agency, as long as it did not implement reforms and transparency, but US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was for the time being content to halve the first tranche of aid, originally set at $125 million.
At the heart of this case is the desire of US President Donald Trump to stop financing any agency or international organization that does not reflect American interests. There is also, however, a 180-degree turn on the US position in the Arab-Israeli conflict by the new administration. It seems determined not to make the same mistakes -- and fall into the same traps -- as previous administrations.
First, what is UNRWA?
Established in December 1949 with a one-year mandate, UNRWA aimed at its birth to help resettle the 600,000 Palestinian Arabs who had fled the conflict zone during the rebirth of the state of Israel, after five Arab armies had attacked it -- and lost.
The causes of this exile were threefold, according to several polls undertaken in refugee camps and summarized in an article by Tibor Mende, published in French newspaper Le Monde on April 21, 1951:
"Some did not want to live in a Jewish state, others fled the battle and, once that was over, could not return home. Many more left because they were told that it was for a few days, a few weeks at most, and that they would return with the triumphant Arab armies. "
Surprisingly (or not), no parallel office was created to help the 870,000 Jews expelled and despoiled by the majority of Arab-Muslim countries between 1948 and 1974 -- including those militarily forced out of Judea and Samaria by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which hastened to rename this region the "West Bank" after illegally annexing it in 1948.
It is true that most of the Jews expelled from Arab countries were welcomed by Israel and in the Western world, whereas, with the exception of Jordan, no Arab country bordering the Jewish state made the slightest gesture to help its own victims in a conflict the Arabs had begun. They apparently preferred, instead, to let their co-religionists languish in the worst conditions, presumably in an effort to place the blame for their suffering on Israel.
In 1950, when Canada's General Howard Kennedy and Sir Henry Knight, the first UNRWA leaders, realized that their work was rendered impossible by the politicization of the humanitarian crisis with which they were charged, and that their mandate could not be fulfilled in such a short time, an English Labour MP, Richard Crossrian, was called to explain their failure in the House of Commons. His answer, as reported by Mende in Le Monde, was eloquent:
"As long as we rely on the United Nations to do something serious for the settlement of refugees, we will only deceive ourselves because the United Nations is a political organization. There is the Arab League, and all the politics of the Arab League. The Arab League needs the refugee problem to maintain cohesion against Israel. The refugee settlement would deprive her of her most important complaint ... "
This statement is arguably the best explanation for the fact that UNRWA, created for one year, as noted, is still in operation 70 years later.
In seven decades, the small humanitarian agency has become a monster. UNRWA now has responsibility for more than five million souls, of which only some 20,000 should be considered refugees according to the definition of the UN, which applies to millions of exiles around the world... with the intriguing exception of Palestinians.
"A refugee - within the meaning of the Convention of July 28, 1951 - is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries..."
Therefore, according to the UN's own definition, the status of "refugee" cannot be passed from generation to generation -- as it conveniently has been for the Palestinians. A Palestinian with a European, American or Jordanian passport has no reason to be considered a refugee. Except by UNRWA.
Compare some figures:
All refugees worldwide (with the exception of Palestinians) are supported by the United Nations High Council for Refugees (UNHCR). A staff of 10,966 executives and employees is trying to help 65.6 million victims, from Congo to Myanmar.
UNRWA employs 30,627 executives and 21,571 educators to care for the descendants of Palestinian refugees, whose number, even with the claims of supposedly inherited refugee status, remains ten times lower than all other persons displaced.
In other words, even if one accepts the inapplicable definition of the term "refugee" -- attributed not only to the exiles of 1948 but also to their descendants -- each beneficiary receives assistance in human assistance and money approximately 50 times higher than that of an African or Asian victim of persecution.
UNRWA's annual budget is close to $ 1 billion, of which more than a third, as noted, is funded by the US. Wait, there is more: Unlike other UN humanitarian agencies, the one in charge of the descendants of Palestinian refugees, has a pension fund -- and pensions on the stock market in various countries amount to more than a billion and a half dollars. These figures are astronomical, and only underscore several aberrations of UNRWA.
First, according to UNRWA:
"a refugee from Palestine is a person whose usual place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 and who lost both his home and his means of livelihood because of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. "
Clearly, any immigrant worker or visitor, regardless of his or her origin, could thereby enter the UNRWA statistics, if he could justify having spent just those two years inside what then became Israel.
Yasser Arafat's biographer, Said Aburish, a refugee from the northern region of Israel, and also a former adviser to the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, disclosed other aberrations when interviewed by the author:
"Since the UN took them over, the Palestinians started burying their dead at night, without declaring them, in order to share their rations. As a result, for nearly 20 years, the official death rate in the camps was close to zero. In addition, there was a lot of movement between the camps. But these displacements were rarely recorded, so that a Palestinian could appear in several camps at the same time, multiplying the financial support to which he was entitled." (Interview by the author, in 2006, featured in the documentary "From the River to the Sea.")
When it comes to UNRWA, however, the terms used to describe their mission quickly lose their meaning. The suburbs of Jenin and Ramallah, for instance, composed of small plush houses, bordering some overcrowded residences, continue to be called "refugee camps," while tents and stoves have long been replaced by solid constructions, all with sewage and electricity.
To quote a former minister and history professor, Shlomo Ben Ami, in an interview with the author, in May 2006: "Administrations, to survive, tend to perpetuate the problem they are supposed to solve".
UNRWA has mushroomed -- largely on account of at least five generations of "inherited refugee status" -- without apparently having even tried to solve a single refugee problem in seven decades.
In the 1960s, the Israeli government developed a humanitarian project for the self-rehabilitation of Gaza refugees. The idea was simple: it was to build modern residential neighborhoods in the unexploited areas of the formerly-Egyptian Gaza Strip. The 160,000 Palestinians living in camps there would obtain free loans, allowing them quick access to the property, while many would participate in the construction of units, infrastructure, schools and hospitals, in exchange for a salary that would allow them to repay the loan.
The reaction was not long in coming. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat immediately appealed to the Arab League, which immediately put pressure on the United Nations, causing the organization to immediately to condemn Israel for this initiative, and .and concluded its resolution with the following injunction: "Return the refugees to the camps!" The project was aborted after only 7,500 Palestinians were able to enjoy it.
This "incident" was reported by Tibor Mende in Le Monde. Mende discovered, on the ground, that any initiative aimed at integrating or rehabilitating Palestinian refugees from Lebanon -- where, today, they still have no rights, no access to the labor market, nor to the most basic care -- was prohibited, and concluded:
These examples support the generally held view that the United Nations would spend large sums of money to create a refugee problem rather than solve it."
Proponents of UNRWA, however, such as UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric, are right to say that, in a certain way "UNRWA is a stabilizing presence on the ground". If tomorrow the more than 50,000 UNRWA employees, 95% of whom are Palestinians, were left without work; and rations, aids, and access to education for dependents were removed, the already explosive situation in the "camps" could become equally unfortunate.
Another more serious problem remains: UNRWA is not just a humanitarian agency. Its political stance is evident at all levels of the organization. A report from the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, says that the 2016-2017 curriculum for elementary schools in PA, partly funded by UNRWA, "teaches students to be martyrs, to demonize and deny the existence of Israel, and to focus on a 'return' to an exclusively Palestinian country."
Ann Dismorr (right), the Director of UNRWA in Lebanon, poses with a map that erases the State of Israel and presents all of it as "Palestine." (Image source: Palestinian Authority TV via Palestinian Media Watch)
On February 12, 2017, the non-governmental organization "UN Watch" sent a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres, denouncing the actions of about 40 UNRWA officials. The officials' Facebook pages, the report shows, make apologies for Nazism, venerate Hitler, call for the extermination of Jews, celebrate the murder and kidnapping of Israelis, publish Hamas propaganda to the glory of "martyrs" and, more generally, deny the right to Israel's existence, whatever its boundaries. With his back put to the wall by these overwhelming revelations, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness hastened to call for an investigation -- against UN Watch!
Even the most moderate among UNRWA loyalists continue to promote the myth of a "right of return" -- a wish that can never be realized because it means flooding the tiny country of Israel (roughly the size of Vancouver Island) with millions of "Palestinian refugees" in order demographically to outnumber the Jews there and thus create the end of Israeli democracy -- and preventing any attempt at "integration".
During the wars between Israel and the terrorist organizations that rule Gaza, rockets were commonly fired from UNRWA schools or from near its hospitals.
Access to several terror tunnels was dug under UNRWA's infrastructure; ammunition was found in its college. Of course, when questioned on these points, UNRWA officials hastened to condemn the intolerable use of their neutrality for the purposes of war! But that did not stop UNRWA from returning the rockets and other mortars found in its infrastructure to Hamas.
Several video reports by the Center for Near East Policy to students at UNRWA schools are even more disturbing. No child, questioned on this point, recognizes the right to the existence of Israel. All girls and boys dream of one day becoming martyrs to the Palestinian cause, and some unashamedly say that their greatest wish is to kill Jews. When asked about the source of their motivation, most said that their teachers taught them that their country was "stolen by the Jews.
So, how to deal with such a situation?
The first logical solution would be to merge UNRWA with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), thus ending the "Palestinian exception," while distributing UN budgets more equitably among the true refugees suffering extreme misery.
Unfortunately, UNRWA is dependent on the UN General Assembly, where the anti-Israeli automatic majority, led by the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, has so far been preventing any change in its current status.
The gradual withdrawal of funds allocated by the US seems a positive measure, provided that the resulting shortage leads UNRWA to reform its structure and mode of operation. The danger is that rogue countries will probably try to take over.
The next step would be for the UN to be transparent; to have outside monitors from the US make sure that no member of any terrorist organization is a part of its staff; to trade its highly questionable school curriculum for an education toward peace; to denounce the paramilitary training that sometimes takes place in the courtyards of its schools and, as a token of good faith, to begin by canceling the world tour of its "young ambassador", Muhammad Assaf, who, during his talks, only encourages violence.
It is hard not to include a quote from UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness: "UNRWA will continue to work tirelessly to ensure the full implementation of our mandate, as defined by the General Assembly. "
In other words, in 30 years, if nothing is done, UNRWA, instead of managing the fate of supposedly between 5 - 6.5 million Palestinians as it does now, will be managing the fate of 40 million.
**Pierre Rehov, born and raised in North Africa, is a reporter, author and the director of "Hostages of Hatred" and "Silent Exodus", documentary films about Palestinian and Jewish refugees.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.
The Dark Secret of Two-Faced Academics
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/January 29/18
Nadine el Enany, the first signatory of the appeal against the United States' so-called "Muslim ban", is one of the signers of the appeal to boycott her Israeli academic colleagues.
The restrictions the U.S. administration placed on potentially hostile immigrants were intended to prevent terror attacks on Americans and their free, democratic way of life. The goal of the campaign against Israel is to attack the freest and only democracy from Casablanca to Calcutta -- and a place where Muslim students are free -- freer, in fact, than in many Muslim and Arab countries.
The dark secret of the hypocritical academic class is that apparently what they really relish is the idea of Israel's destruction.
The United States government's restrictions (or "ban") on the admission of travelers from six Muslim-majority countries (which were chosen by former President Obama) -- unless, as President Donald J. Trump has said, there can be vetting -- triggered the anger of the Western academic community. Their distress seems to center around the exclusion from the United States of researchers and scholars from Islamic countries sanctioned by the American administration. Harvard, Yale and Stanford sued the White House. 171 scientific societies and academic organizations protested what they wrongly titled Trump's "Muslim ban". "Among those affected by the Order are academics and students who are unable to participate in conferences and the free communication of ideas", says an appeal signed by 6,000 scientists, academics and researchers around the world.
President Donald Trump signs Executive Order 13780, which places limits on travel to the U.S. from certain countries, and by all refugees who do not possess either a visa or valid travel documents, on March 6, 2017. (Image source: The White House)
What is more "progressive" than a Western academic community struggling to keep the scientific gates open? Sadly, however, many of those who have promoted these appeals have been instrumental in spreading other, racist, appeals to boycott their Israeli colleagues. It is, in the same universities, the "Israel Ban". The discrimination is not directed at scientists from Yemen or Somalia, but only at those with a passport from the Jewish State.
Nadine el Enany, for instance, the first signatory of the appeal against the United States "Muslim ban", is one of the signers of the appeal to boycott her Israeli academic colleagues. The same double standards apply to Sarah Keenan and Bill Bowring, and to Italian professor Paola Bacchetta, who teaches "gender studies" at Berkeley. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, a professor of literature at SOAS University in London, announced that, to protest Trump's supposed "xenophobia", he will cancel a U.S. tour for his book. What about protesting his own xenophobia? A progressive "conscience" did not prevent Adib-Moghaddam from also signing an appeal to boycott Israeli researchers and professors.
There dozens of instances of professors -- such as Gareth Dale, PhD Supervisor at Brunel University, and Steven Rose, a British professor who has been signing appeals against Israel since 2002 -- who fight for the rights of Iranian researchers but clearly wish to deprive Israelis of the same rights.
The attorneys-general of 16 states claimed that Trump's ban harms universities. Where were these attorneys-general when U.S. academic groups approved a boycott of Israeli scholars? Missouri State University announced its support for students who might be targeted by Trump's ban. Why has no university launched the same campaign on behalf of targeted Israeli scholars?
Roger Waters, one of the high-profile figures from the art world who attacked Trump's travel ban, last year called on Radiohead to cancel their concert in Israel. The student government of the University of Wisconsin-Madison unanimously passed a resolution to divest from companies in Israel.
The renowned scholar Ruth Wisse noted this paradox in the Wall Street Journal:
"If universities are willing to fight the government's travel ban against students from Muslim-majority countries, why are members of their faculties fighting to prevent exchange with academic counterparts in the Jewish homeland?"
The restrictions the U.S. administration placed on potentially hostile immigrants were intended to prevent terror attacks on Americans and their free, democratic way of life. The goal of the campaign against Israel is to attack the freest and only democracy from Casablanca to Calcutta -- and a place where Muslim students are free; freer, in fact, than in many Arab countries.
When Trump signed his presidential decree, the entire world rose up against the US. But nobody protested the 16 Muslim states, including Yemen, Iran, Iraq and Syria, which have a blanket ban on Israelis entering their countries. Author and historian Martin Kramer noted:
"In fact, six of the seven states featured in Trump's executive order ban entry of Israeli passport-holders: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. (So, too, do another ten Muslim-majority states.) Those same six states also won't admit anyone whose non-Israeli passport includes an Israeli visa."
Where have the liberal professors and researchers been, who now attack Trump's ban, when many Muslim states closed their gates to Israeli Jews?
The great historian Bernard Lewis already noted in 2006:
"Virtually all the Arab governments announced that they would not give visas to Jews of any nationality. This was not furtive—it was public, proclaimed on the visa forms and in the tourist literature. They made it quite clear that people of the Jewish religion, no matter what their citizenship, would not be given visas or be permitted to enter any independent Arab country. Again, not a word of protest from anywhere. One can imagine the outrage if Israel had announced that it would not give visas to Muslims, still more if the United States were to do so".
Wisse notes a further paradox in this shameful double standard: "Not coincidentally, Iran and Syria, two countries singled out by the travel ban, are also dedicated to the destruction of Israel".
The dark secret of the hypocritical academic class seems to be that what they really relish is the idea of Israel's destruction.
*Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.
Who is Using the Taliban?
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/ Asharq Al-Awsat/January 29/18
More than 280 people were killed and injured in the Afghan capital when a suicide bomber detonated a booby-trapped ambulance, in one of a series of increasing terrorist attacks carried out by the Taliban. These major events will further aggravate regional disputes in Afghanistan’s surroundings, particularly with Pakistan. The situation is escalating to an extent that for the first time in the history of the two countries' relations, the US announced punitive measures against its ally Pakistan.
Is someone using Afghanistan and terrorism in the Indian subcontinent like it was used in Iraq and Syria?
There have always been rumors and media accusations that Pakistan supports the Taliban, but no one can prove it, at least not at the academic and media levels. Large US losses in Afghanistan and the rise of violence in Pakistan ruined the relations between Islamabad and Washington.
The US considered Pakistan a strategic ally for over four decades especially during the Cold War, and it was one of the countries that most supported Pakistan after its independence from India.
But it seems that the happy days have come to an end.
Pakistan’s domestic political situation has been miserable since the coup on Nawaz Sharif and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, which all came during the chaotic developments in Afghanistan that affects and is affected by Pakistan.
I do not want to jump to conclusions amid the absence of proven facts and accuse Iran of being a key player there, but there’s plenty of evidence indicating just that. Iran’s security and propaganda presence is strong in Afghanistan and it’s becoming stronger and more influential in Pakistan. A lot has been said about Tehran’s relations with Taliban, which resembles its relations with al-Qaeda whose most prominent commanders still live in Iran.
Add to that, we must not forget Iranian confessions admitting to having a major role in what was called back then the Iraqi jihadist resistance against the US invasion of Iraq. Later on, it turned out there are relations between the Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps and terror groups in Syria as part of the complicated conflict there.
Pakistan is besieging itself by not taking enough measures to reassure the international community that it is fighting the Taliban, which has become more violent and dangerous than ISIS and al-Qaeda. This does not deny the fact that, following Afghanistan, Pakistan is one of the countries that are most affected by terrorist groups. Accusations made by its rival, India, claim that Islamabad supports armed or separatist Islamist groups make the situation more difficult.
We knew that Qatar’s attempts to contain the Taliban will fail because Doha’s method in managing relations with extremist groups, like “Hezbollah” in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and even al-Nusra Front in Syria, is always based on buying temporary political positions with huge sums of money.
But, Doha's ability to change the situation through deals or influencing these organizations have always failed.
Qatar rushed to contact the Taliban when it heard about US negotiations with the Afghan organization. It opened an office for the Taliban in Doha and flooded it with money so it can be a mediator between the organization and Washington. As a result, Qatar succeeded in releasing Western hostages held by the Taliban, like it did with al-Nusra Front before, in exchange for huge ransoms in what looked like money laundering!
It’s only natural that political negotiations later ended in failure.
It’s undeniable that the Taliban is a terrorist group, but this does not negate the importance of its tribal and provincial relations in Afghanistan. Pakistan is still the most qualified state to resolve this situation, whether by force, political solutions or both. This is Pakistan’s only chance to get out of the bad situation it has reached today.
Protectionism Can't Fix Trade Imbalances
Michael Pettis/Bloomberg View/January 29/2018
Donald Trump's administration has recently announced new tariffs on solar panels and washing machines. It has hinted at more to come. The rationale for these measures is that they'll reduce American trade deficits -- in particular, the widening deficit with China -- and thus benefit the US economy. Rather than take Washington’s assumptions at face value, however, we must consider how protectionism affects capital flows.
Policy makers largely ignore the indirect impact of trade intervention on capital. But what happens to capital is ultimately what will determine how these measures affect the economy.
Consider the case with China. If protectionist measures did in fact cause China's trade surplus with the US to drop, there are broadly three ways it could happen. Chinese investment flows to the US could remain unchanged. They could drop. Or they could rise.
In the first case, America's trade deficit with the world would remain unchanged as a portion of its deficit with China would simply shift to other countries. This may seem counter-intuitive, but if Chinese exporters sent as much capital to the US as before, the resulting effects on the economy -- on the dollar, interest rates, lending standards and so on -- would keep the deficit as high as ever, with no change in US debt or unemployment.
In the second case, if protectionist measures disrupted China's capital exports, its capital deficit and trade surplus would then decline, as would the US capital surplus and trade deficit. This would result in a reduction in America's overall trade deficit, underpinned either by lower debt or lower unemployment.
In the third case, finally, protectionist actions might result in increased Chinese capital exports to the US. In that event, even as China’s trade surplus with the US fell, America's deficit with other countries would rise by even more, increasing its overall trade deficit, underpinned this time either by rising debt or rising unemployment. Much of the debate over Trump's trade policy seems to miss the point that the economic effects of any trade measure depend on how it affects capital. This is because policy makers assume that capital flows simply respond to changes in trade. Although this was true for most of modern history, it no longer is -- and hasn't been for more than five decades.
For centuries, capital flows were quite small and consisted mainly of trade finance, with the capital account adjusting automatically to changes in the trade account. That made predicting the consequences of protectionist measures easy: They would reduce the bilateral trade deficit and thus the overall deficit.
But it no longer works that way. Global capital flows are now huge and driven mainly by the independent decisions of millions of investors in the US and abroad. Because the capital and trade accounts must still balance to zero, however, the direct impact of intervention is usually subsumed under the indirect effects on capital flows. Protectionist measures may indeed directly affect bilateral trade. But if America's capital inflows rise, so must its overall trade deficit. This is because higher inflows will cause adjustments in the economy -- potentially including lower credit card rates, a stronger dollar, weaker lending standards, higher unemployment and surging asset markets -- that cumulatively cause savings to drop and force the overall deficit to rise, even as the deficit with China falls.
Why might protectionist measures increase capital inflows into the US? If they increased financial and economic uncertainty in China, they could cause Chinese capital flight to increase sharply. By raising American growth prospects, they could also boost capital inflows into the US.
What's important to recognize is that the deep trade imbalances afflicting the US in recent years mainly reflect the impunity with which other countries exploit access to its capital account. Capital markets in the US are deep, flexible and completely open, making it easy for countries that aim to run trade surpluses to park their excess savings there. As a result, the US is forced to absorb roughly half the world's excess savings. Even though American businesses are sated with cheap capital, and sit on hoards of unused cash, money is still pouring into the US and forcing its capital account into surplus. It thus has no choice but to run a trade deficit. Rather than intervene directly, only to undermine global trade and worsen these imbalances, Washington must address the role the US plays in absorbing global capital. This is the only way to resolve American trade deficits.
The Seat at Davos is Better than the Seat at Hmeimim
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat/January 29/18
Had the Indians surrendered to the recommendations, myths and wars of their ancestors, their country would now be a massive bomb threatening humanity. It is fortunate for them that they bade farewell to their ancestors and turned to the future. It is also lucky for them that their leader Mahatma Gandhi had originally called for opening the windows for “the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible.”This is what I felt as I sat at the grand hall where Indianan Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the opening address at the 48th World Economic Forum (WEF) held in Davos.
Incidentally, the image of a leader is not made in Davos. It is also certainly not made on the television screens of our regions or at its podium. Here, we cannot hide behind stoking national or nationalist sentiments. The Davos audience is a tough crowd and you must address them with terms from its own dictionary. Dreams here should be backed by the numbers, not the illusions.
The numbers… the numbers… the numbers
Modi’s reputation preceded him at Davos. He is the prime minister of the largest democracy in the world. A democracy that has succeeded in achieving coexistence among all of its cultures and affiliations. It is today trying to “create a shared future in a fractured world,” which was the slogan of this year’s gathering at Davos. The image that preceded Modi to the podium is that of a country that succeeded in the past few years, despite a heavy legacy, in helping millions of people leave the hell of poverty. The feat went beyond defeating hunger and it led India on to the train that is headed towards the future. This train is characterized by the spirit of Davos where experts speak louder than orators.
The numbers allowed Modi to speak of the future as a person who belongs to it and who fights for determining its characteristics. The numbers allowed him to raise the torch of globalization, warning against protectionism and its repercussions, and noting that it had lost its luster.
Modi set three priorities for globalization to regain its shine: A fair global economy that includes all social segments should be established, the policy makers should commit to a world that is based on recognized rules, and international organizations should be reformed in a manner that makes them more in line with the policies of states and their economies and security. It was noticeable that he narrowed global challenges down to terrorism, child recruitment, climate change and isolationist policies.
I recalled that a year ago, we heard in the same hall a speech by India’s traditional foe. Chinese President Xi Jinping had arrived at Davos while raising the banner of globalization, while the world watched as the White House fell in the hands of a businessman called Donald Trump, who raised the slogan “America First.”Mao’s inheritors did not revolt against his legacy and they preserved his mausoleum, but they did not allow the “Great Captain” the honor of ruling the country from the grave. They kept the party as a means to govern and maintain stability, but they ruined the Red Book when they inserted phrases on profit, investment and proper environment to attract capital.
The Chinese leader came to Davos with the halo of a country that succeeded in taking millions of people out of poverty. As expected, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China cemented Xi’s leadership and included his thought in the constitution, making him second to Mao. Who knows, may be history will later remember the second man as the first’s savior when he poured globalization all over his recommendations.
Trump’s shadow loomed large over the 48th World Economic Forum before he even arrived at Davos, America is after all America and Trump is Trump. His absence is palpable. His presence stormy. The smart French president Emmanuel Macron was keen on criticizing the master of the White House without naming him before his arrival at Davos. Addressing WEF founder Klaus Schwab, he said: “We speak of globalization in a place that has become cut off from the world due to the snow.” He joked about the heavy snowfall, saying it might lead some people to question climate change. “Fortunately you didn’t invite anybody skeptical of global warming this year,” he added in an obvious reference to Trump.
The numbers… the numbers… the numbers
The war that was predicted between globalization and “America First” did not break out. Trump made his closing speech using reconciliatory terms. He used words from the dictionary that he is accustomed to using. He reminded the gatherers that this was the first time that the White House is being ruled by a businessman and that his predecessors were always politicians or generals. He said that “America First” does not mean America alone and that its prosperity is important for the prosperity of the world. He addressed what he considered a positive assessment of his first year in office and called on the world to invest in his country and take advantage of the opportunities it provides. In the past, we used to long to see an Arab country reserve a seat at Davos. This year, the Saudi seat was noticeable and its seemed to have taken up a natural place for itself there. The Saudi delegation’s arrival at the Swiss town was preceded by the image of a “new Saudi Arabia” that is connected to Vision 2030, structural reforms, empowering women and the youth, combating corruption and providing a safe environment for investment. Officials appeared assured because the dream of a “strong and moderate Saudi Arabia” is a dream that is backed by the numbers and it includes a plan to focus on education, technology and innovation. The United Arab Emirates’ participation at Davos also fell in line with its visions.
Since I am a political journalist from the Middle East, I was bound to notice the absence of the Russian shadow over the snow-covered Swiss town. I asked a European, who is well-informed on the Middle East, about the absence. He replied that Trump came from the world of businessmen, while Vladimir Putin came from the world of the KGB. He noticed that Putin saved Russia from fragmentation and restored the international clout that it had lost.
He did not however succeed in achieving an economic shift that stays abreast the massive technological and industrial revolution that the world is witnessing. He concluded by saying that the years to come will reveal that booking a good seat in the world of Davos is better than reserving one at the Hmeimim military base in Syria. It is time for the dictionary of hackneyed phrases to admit defeat.