LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani
The Bulletin's Link on the
Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Latest Lebanese Related News published
on January 30-31/18
Aoun Urges 'Forgiveness' between 'Those who Insulted Each Other'
Naharnet/January 30/18/President Michel Aoun on Tuesday described Monday's unrest as a “major mistake sparked by a mistake,” urging “forgiveness” and keenness on “stability, security and national unity.” “What happened yesterday at the political and security levels harmed everyone and led to lowering the political rhetoric to a level that does not honor the Lebanese,” Aoun said in a written statement. “What happened on the streets was a major mistake sparked by a mistake. Accordingly, and from my constitutional and fatherlike position, I forgive all those who insulted me and my family, and I also look forward to forgiveness between those who insulted each other,” the president added. “The country is bigger than everyone, and it is especially bigger than political disputes, which should not descend into personal attacks, especially that forgiveness always comes after an insult,” Aoun went on to say.
He also urged political leaders to “rise to the level of responsibility to confront the several challenges that are surrounding us, most importantly preserving stability, security and national unity.”Monday's unrest across several Lebanese regions was sparked by the emergence of a leaked video showing Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil – Aoun's son-in-law – calling Speaker Nabih Berri a "thug" during a closed meeting in Batroun. The video comes amid an escalating dispute between Berri and Aoun over a decree granting one-year's seniority to a number of army officers. The footage drew the ire of Berri's aides and political allies, who lashed out at Bassil, as supporters of the Speaker's AMAL Movement blocked roads across the country and encircled the FPM's headquarters in Sin el-Fil. Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil meanwhile described Bassil in a tweet as "lowly" and a "political dwarf."
Lebanon plunges into crisis as Aoun-Berri row escalates
Annahar Staff /January 30/2018 /BEIRUT: Lebanon plunged deeper into crisis Tuesday amid an escalating row between President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. The row broke out after a video in which Aoun’s son-in-law and FPM leader, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, calls Berri a “thug” was leaked on Sunday. The leaked video sparked outrage among supporters of Berri’s Amal Movement who took to the streets on Monday to denounce Bassil’s remarks, blocking roads and burning tires across Lebanon and the surroundings of the FPM’s headquarters in Sin el-Fil, east of Beirut. Aoun on Tuesday blamed the unrest on both parties, saying “what happened on the ground is a huge mistake that was built on a mistake.” In a statement released by his office, Aoun said he forgives all those who verbally assaulted him and his family, urging all parties to “follow suit and forgive one another.”Aoun also called on political leaders to rise to the challenge of their responsibility. Sources close to Berri made no comment on Aoun’s statement. A few hours later, Berri’s supporters once again took to the streets, staging protests and burning tires across Lebanon. Earlier in the day, sources close to the speaker demanded a public apology from Bassil, whose party ruled out such an apology. After a meeting of the FPM’s parliamentary bloc that shortly followed Aoun’s statement, MP Ibrahim Kanaan told reporters that his party has turned the page, signaling that Bassil didn’t intend to apologize. Kanaan added that Bassil had already sought to contain the situation when he expressed his regret in remarks published by the pro-Hezbollah daily Al-Akhbar on Monday. The Shiite militant group Hezbollah, an ally of both Aoun and Berri, had condemned Bassil’s remarks and expressed solidarity with the parliament speaker. Earlier in the day MP Anwar Al-Khalil, a member of Berri's parliamentary bloc, demanded more than just an apology, calling on Bassil to resign from the Cabinet.
Berri Meets German President, Reassures on Stability, Elections
Naharnet/January 30/18/Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Tuesday reassured that he “will not allow anything that jeopardizes stability and the unity of Lebanon and the Lebanese,” a day after his supporters blocked roads and staged a violent demo outside the Free Patriotic Movement's headquarters in protest at leaked remarks by FPM chief Jebran Bassil. Berri also stressed the “importance” of the upcoming parliamentary elections and noted that the vote will be held on time. The Speaker voiced his remarks during talks with visiting German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Monday's unrest across several Lebanese regions was sparked by the emergence of a video showing Bassil calling Berri a "thug" during a closed meeting in Batroun. The leaked video which emerged Sunday comes amid an escalating dispute between Berri and President Michel Aoun over a decree granting one-year's seniority to a number of army officers.
Bassil is Aoun's son-in-law and heads his Free Patriotic Movement party. The footage drew the ire of Berri's aides and political allies, who lashed out at Bassil. Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil described Bassil in a tweet as "lowly" and a "political dwarf."
Change and Reform Reminds of Bassil's Monday Apology, Says 'Dignities are Equal'
Naharnet/January 30/18/The Change and Reform parliamentary bloc noted Tuesday that Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil has already apologized over his leaked remarks against Speaker Nabih Berri, dismissing AMAL Movement's calls for a televised apology. “Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil had voluntarily expressed his regret several days ago and this matter is related to the FPM's ethics,” Change and Reform said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting, referring to Bassil's Monday remarks to al-Akhbar newspaper. The statement was recited by the bloc's secretary MP Ibrahim Kanaan.
Referring to President Michel Aoun's call for “forgiveness,” Change and Reform said it forgives the AMAL Movement supporters who “attacked” FPM's headquarters in Sin el-Fil on Monday. “We are keen on stability and we well not back down from the mission of building the state,” the bloc added. “Our statement is clear and Bassil's voluntary initiative and our forgiveness after President Michel Aoun's stance mean that to us the issue has ended,” Kanaan said, responding to a reporter's question. He also stressed that “the dignities of all Lebanese are equal and therefore there should be respect for the sanctity of public and private properties.” In his remarks to al-Akhbar, Bassil said he “expresses regret” over remarks he voiced “in a closed meeting in a Batroun town away from media coverage.” “The remarks contradict with our et hics and rhetoric and were the result of the atmosphere that engulfed the meeting. No matter how much we attack him (Berri), we do not accept to voice unethical remarks,” Bassil added. In the leaked video, Bassil calls Berri a “thug.”The footage drew the ire of Berri's aides and political allies, who lashed out at Bassil, as supporters of the Speaker's AMAL Movement blocked roads across the country and encircled the FPM's headquarters in Sin el-Fil. The video came amid an escalating dispute between Berri and Aoun over a decree granting one-year's seniority to a number of army officers. Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil meanwhile described Bassil in a tweet that followed the emergence of the video as "lowly" and a "political dwarf."
Geagea Says Monday Unrest Unacceptable despite His 'Respect' for Berri
Naharnet/January 30/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea rejected Tuesday the unrest that accompanied AMAL Movement's protests on Monday, while stressing that he respects the movement's leader Speaker Nabih Berri. “We in the LF party cannot at all ignore or remain silent over what happened yesterday on the streets of Beirut and Metn. Our appreciation of Speaker Nabih Berri is very well-known, but this is something and tampering with public order and Lebanon's stability and security is something else,” Geagea said in a communique. “Regardless of our opinion or evaluation of Minister (Jebran) Bassil's remarks, and regardless of our relation with Speaker Berri and our appreciation for him, we cannot accept what happened yesterday, because it was a blatant violation of the principle and presence of the State,” Geagea added. Accordingly, the LF leader called on judicial and security authorities to address Monday's incidents in a “fair and sound manner” that reflects the presence of a “real state.”“They must take all the necessary measures to prevent the repeat of the violation of security and stability upon every event or political crisis” in the country, Geagea added. He also noted that “the approach of wisdom in Lebanon has managed to spare the country the wars that the region witnessed and is still witnessing, and preserving this approach represents the main gateway for overcoming any crisis.”“Experience has taught everyone that stability is a common interest and that crises do not spare anyone,” the LF leader went on to say. Monday's unrest across several Lebanese regions was sparked by the emergence of a video showing Bassil calling Berri a "thug" during a closed meeting in Batroun. The leaked video which emerged Sunday comes amid an escalating dispute between Berri and President Michel Aoun over a decree granting one-year's seniority to a number of army officers. Bassil is Aoun's son-in-law and heads his Free Patriotic Movement party. The footage drew the ire of Berri's aides and political allies, who lashed out at Bassil. Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil described Bassil in a tweet as "lowly" and a "political dwarf."
German President Meets Christian and Muslim Leaders, Inspects Naval UNIFIL Forces
Visiting German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier inspected on Tuesday the UNIFIL naval peacekeeping forces in the port of Beirut, the State-run National News Agency reported. Earlier, Steinmeier visited Dar al-Fatwa where he met with Muslim and Christian leaders, added NNA.The German President had arrived in Beirut on Monday and met with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun in Baabda. He stressed that Germany “cares about stability in Lebanon and it is in our interest that it continues.”During his two-day, he is set to meet with top Lebanese officials. Steinmeier's visit to Lebanon is the first of a German president to Lebanon in 120 years.
Hariri Begins Official Visit to Turkey
Naharnet/January 30/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrived Tuesday evening in Ankara on an official visit during which he will meet with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. A statement issued by Hariri's office said talks will tackle “the latest developments in Lebanon and the region and means to develop bilateral relations between the two countries in all fields.” Hariri is accompanied by Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, his advisers Nader Hariri and Bassem al-Sabaa, and High Relief Commission chief Maj. Gen. Mohammed Kheir.
Testimony Begins in U.S. Trial for Lebanese Man's Death
Associated Press/Naharnet/January 30/18/Testimony began Monday in the trial of an Oklahoma man charged with first-degree murder and a hate crime in the slaying of his Lebanese neighbor. Stanley Vernon Majors, 63, is accused in the August 2016 killing of 37-year-old Khalid Jabara. In opening statements to Majors' 12-member jury, prosecutors alleged Majors acted out of jealousy amplified by racist views. "It's about jealousy and hate," Assistant District Attorney Becky Johnson said. Johnson said Majors' resentment toward Jabara and the rest of his family became amplified by his dislike of people of color. 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' defense attorney, assistant public defender Travis Smith, told jurors that Majors had untreated schizophrenia. Defense attorneys have indicated they will present a defense based on Majors' mental health, although Majors was previously found competent to stand trial. The first witnesses to testify in the case included 911 operators and a neighbor who testified she heard Khalid Jabara being attacked. Majors' has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His jury was seated on Friday following a week of jury selection and prosecutors have said his trial could last two weeks.
Report: Bassil 'Won't Apologize' for Berri Remarks
Naharnet/January 30/18/The Free Patriotic Movement stressed on Tuesday that its leader “will not apologize” for remarks he made about Speaker Nabih Berri, as sources close to the Speaker assured that absence of a “public apology” means “there is no government or (President Michel Aoun's) term,” al-Akhbar daily reported on Tuesday, FPM head and Foreign “Minister Jebran Bassil will not apologize, he would only express regret as he announced through al-Akhbar on Monday,” the daily quoted unnamed FPM sources as saying. They pointed out that a “public apology” as requested by AMAL Movement, “is considered submission which we reject. We only apologize through our deeds and actions not upon someone's asking.”A video emerged Sunday night showing the foreign minister calling Lebanon's powerful parliament speaker a "thug" in a closed meeting. Meanwhile, the daily quoted sources of March 8 camp close to Berri who said: “Shall Bassil refrain from making a public apology, it would mean there is no government or term.”Bassil, is Aoun's son-in-law and heads his Free Patriotic Movement party. The leaked video comes amid an escalating dispute between Aoun and Berri over a decree that promoted a number of Lebanese army officers. The video triggered protests Monday in some areas of Beirut. Some supporters of Berri set fire to tires and to pictures of Aoun and Bassil, shouting slogans against the foreign minister. Hizbullah, an ally of Aoun but also traditionally an ally of Berri's Shiite AMAL Movement, issued a statement categorically rejecting Bassil's statements. Such statements "do not build a state ... but create more crises and disunity," it said. 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. Lebanese politics is still dominated by the same factions that fought one another in the 1975-1990 civil war.
Ain el-Tineh: Bassil's Remarks 'Won't be Ignored'
Associated Press/Naharnet/January 30/18/Lebanon's political atmospheres tensed up following remarks made by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil about Speaker Nabih Berri, which “will reflect negatively on the Presidential term and government” amid unconfirmed chances that AMAL ministers “might resign from the Cabinet,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday. Ain el-Tineh sources (residence of AMAL Movement and Speaker Berri) told the daily: “Shall a settlement be reached it must be based on new rules. Former equations have fallen,” they said, referring to a fragile media truce between AMAL and the Free Patriotic Movement led by Bassil. “Tension was suddenly stirred up after a fragile media truce between FPM and AMAL. This can only be interpreted as an intention to foil the parliamentary elections, but we assured everyone that we are determined more than ever to hold them on time,” they stressed. Emphasizing that Bassil's remarks will not be ignored, they said: “Delusional are those who think that what is happening will be overlooked. We will announce the steps we need to take on time. We have not taken a decision at the level of government.”A video emerged Sunday night showing Bassil calling Berri "thug" in a closed meeting. The leaked video comes amid an escalating dispute between President Michel Aoun and Berri over a decree that promoted a number of Lebanese army officers. Bassil is President Michel Aoun's son-in-law and heads his Free Patriotic Movement party. The footage drew the ire of Berri's political allies, who lashed out at Bassil. AMAL Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil described Bassil in a tweet as "lowly" and a "political dwarf." The video triggered protests Monday in some areas of Beirut. Some supporters of Berri set fire to tires and to pictures of Aoun and Bassil, shouting slogans against the foreign minister.
German President says Syria not safe for refugee return in Lebanon visit
Reuters/ January 29, 2018/BEIRUT: German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that "conditions aren't right" in large parts of Syria to ensure the safe return of refugees as he met Monday with President Michel Aoun at the start of a two-day official visit to Lebanon. Steinmeier arrived at Rafik Hariri International Airport before heading just after 3 p.m. to Baabda Palace where he was officially welcomed by Aoun in a reception ceremony. During his stay, Steinmeier is also set to meet with Lebanon's top officials. After arriving in Lebanon, Steinmeier said that it was too early to repatriate Syrian refugees on a large scale and that the international community would have to continue to support the Middle Eastern nations that have hosted millions of them. Close to 1 million Syrian refugees are living in Lebanon, according to the U.N., amounting to over a fifth of the population. Lebanon's government says with Damascus in control of large sections of Syria it is time to repatriate refugees. Syria's civil war still rages in parts of the country, including a large pocket just outside Damascus. Other parts of the country are stable, but suffered catastrophic damage from nearly seven years of fighting, and the country is struggling to attract funds for reconstruction. "After many failed attempts at the international level ... we have not achieved a ceasefire" for Syria, Steinmeier said. Earlier Monday, Steinmeier met with the German contingent of nearly 300 troops at an air base in northeastern Jordan. Germany carries out reconnaissance and refueling missions over Syria and Iraq, where Daesh (ISIS) once held large areas. Steinmeier told soldiers that the battle against Daesh has been successful, but that their service is still needed to combat remnants of the extremist group and to keep them from resurrecting it. He said soldiers told him they felt welcome and were working in good conditions. "So the right choice was definitely made," he said, referring to a decision last year to move the troops from Turkey to Jordan. Germany relocated the troops after Turkey restricted access to the soldiers, including for visits by parliamentarians. Steinmeier also visited the nearby Azraq camp, home to about 36,000 Syrian refugees. He singled out Germany's role supporting the refugees, saying a recent improvement in providing refugees with the essentials was partly due to significant aid from his country. Germany is the second largest donor country to Jordan, in terms of humanitarian and development aid, after the United States. He also praised Jordan for hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees. Asked about a series of restrictive Jordanian refugee policies, he said critics should keep in mind that the kingdom shoulders a disproportionately large burden. "Yes, much can be improved," he said. "Much needs to be done through international aid. But I believe it's not justified to come with big complaints against Jordan." Jordan sealed its border with Syria in 2016, after a cross-border car bomb attack. The closure left tens of thousands of displaced Syrians stranded in harsh conditions in a remote area of the desert, with only intermittent access to aid supplies. Rights groups have also said that Jordan has forcibly deported hundreds of refugees. - Additional reporting The Daily Star
Lebanon's prominent newspaper, its editor sued for insulting Saudi king
Xinhua/January 30, 2018 / Lebanon's prominent newspaper, its editor sued for insulting Saudi king
Lebanon's public prosecutor has filed a lawsuit against ad-Diyar newspaper and its owner and editor-in-chief Charles Ayoub on charges of insulting Saudi King Salman, the daily said on Sunday. (AhlulBayt News Agency) - The Lebanese public prosecutor's office has filed a lawsuit against the country’s distinguished Arabic-language daily newspaper ad-Diyar and its editor-in-chief Charles Ayoub on charges of insulting Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The Beirut-based newspaper reported on Monday that the prosecution has demanded a one-year's jail term and a fine for Ayoub. Ad-Diyar said Ayoub had compared the Saudi monarch to controversial medieval Sunni Muslim theologian Taqi ad-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah, known as Ibn Taymiyyah for short, and described Saudi Arabia's Persian Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan as an “agent working for the Israeli regime.” Ayoub's article was published during the political crisis between Beirut and Riyadh following Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s shock resignation, which he announced in Saudi Arabia late last November. Hariri returned to Beirut late on November 21, 2017. All political factions in Lebanon had called on him to return back home. Top Lebanese officials and senior politicians close to Hariri had earlier said that he had been forced to resign, and that Saudi authorities were holding him captive. Lebanese President Michel Aoun had also refused to accept Hariri's resignation. Hariri announced his resignation in a televised statement on November 4, citing many reasons, including the security situation in Lebanon, for his sudden decision. He also said that he sensed a plot being hatched against his life. The lawsuit against ad-Diyar and its editor-in-chief came only days after Mount Lebanon Public Prosecutor Ghada Aoun indicted Lebanese comedian Hicham Haddad after he mocked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on his "Lahon W Bass" TV show. Aoun, which indicted Haddad upon the request of General Prosecutor Samir Hammoud, referred the case to Lebanon's Court of Publications.
During New Year's episode of his satire show, Haddad advised bin Salman to "eat less fast food."
Bassil’s Slip of Tongue Ignites Security, Sectarian Tension in Lebanon
Beirut - Caroline Akoum/Asharq Al Awsat/January 30/18/President Michel Aoun needs to intervene to solve a dispute that emerged after a video of Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), called Speaker Nabih Berri a thug, sources close to Hezbollah told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday. The sources said Bassil should also apologize from the Speaker to contain the dispute between the FPM and Berri’s Amal movement, particularly that the verbal attack moved from the political to the personal and sectarian levels. “The mistake is clear and the offender is known,” the source said, adding that Bassil’s offense could not be treated similarly to other disputes, such as the one that emerged lately between Aoun and Berri over a decree to promote a number of officers without the approval of the Finance Minister. The source added: “A minister offended a speaker and therefore, he should correct his mistake.”FPM sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that it was possible to fix the situation. “Efforts are being exerted to reach a solution and contain the problem. However, if the other party decides to escalate, things will be different,” the sources added. A leaked video was released on Monday of the foreign minister speaking during an electoral gathering. In the video, Bassil said of Berri: “This is a thug not a speaker of parliament. The solution is for us to break him and not for him to break us.”The video immediately inflamed sectarian and security tension. Amal Movement members blocked several streets in Beirut and Baalbek on Monday evening, burning tires and removing posters of Aoun and his son-in-law Bassil. Several political figures intervened to contain the situation that reached an unprecedented level. In a statement issued to comment on Bassil’s video, Hezbollah said it categorically rejected the insulting statements against Berri. “This rhetoric cannot build a country or lead to reform, but it creates more crises, causes rifts and endangers the entire situation,” the statement said.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 30-31/18
Boris Johnson to Al Arabiya: Iran ‘up to no good’ with catastrophic policies
In an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya News Channel’s Rima Maktabi, Johnson spoke on recent reports of frayed ties between Saudi Arabia and the UK. (Al Arabiya)
By Rima Maktabi
UK correspondent, Al Arabiya News Channel Tuesday, 30 January 2018
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said that both Britain and Saudi Arabia share a “historic and common perspective” on the challenges of “Iranian disruptiveness” in the Middle East.
In an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya News Channel’s Rima Maktabi, Johnson spoke on recent reports of frayed ties between Saudi Arabia and the UK, as well as the Arab coalition’s campaign in Yemen and attacks on Riyadh by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. “We need to be clear and firm with Iran. It is unacceptable for them to be conniving in the Houthis’ use of missiles against Saudi Arabia … It’s a catastrophic policy they are following,” Johnson said.
The full interview can be watched by clicking on the below link
London attack accused hoped to kill Corbyn
AFP, London /Wednesday, 31 January 2018/A man accused of deliberately driving a van into a group of London Muslims told his trial on Tuesday that he wanted to kill the British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. Darren Osborne said killing the leftist Labour leader would have been "one less terrorist off our streets", while killing Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan as well "would have been like winning the lottery". Osborne is accused of murdering 51-year-old Makram Ali and trying to kill others in the Finsbury Park area of north London on June 19 last year, after growing angry at recent terror attacks and child sexual exploitation scandals involving gangs of mainly Muslim men, the trial has heard.
Osborne, 48, from the Welsh capital Cardiff, denies the charges.
He is accused of deliberately driving a van at a group of Muslims who had been attending Ramadan prayers at local mosques. Taking the stand at Woolwich Crown Court in southeast London, Osborne claimed he had plotted with two men called Terry Jones and Dave to "plough through as many" people as possible at a pro-Palestinian march. Corbyn was believed to be attending the central London event but was not there, and road closures meant there was no way for the vehicle to get close to marchers, Osborne said. Prosecutor Jonathan Rees asked him: "Were you hoping that you would have an opportunity to attack Jeremy Corbyn and kill him?"Osborne replied: "Oh yeah", adding: "It would be one less terrorist off our streets. "If Sadiq Khan had been there it would have been even better. It would have been like winning the lottery." Osborne claimed that at the time of the collision in the Finsbury Park area, Dave was driving, and carried out the "spontaneous" attack. Both prosecutor and defendant agreed it was "remarkable" that Dave had managed to escape the scene of the attack. Rees said Dave and Terry were "totally fabricated" by Osborne in order to deflect responsibility away from himself. In his opening statement, Rees told jurors that Osborne was "obsessed" with Muslims and deliberately drove into a group near a mosque in what amounted to an act of terrorism. At its opening on January 22, the trial was set to last two weeks.
Iranian opposition cleric accuses Khamenei of abuse of power
Reuters, London/Tuesday, 30 January 2018/Instead of blaming others Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei should take responsibility for Iran’s economic and political shortcomings, an opposition leader under house arrest said in a letter published on Tuesday. In rare public criticism of Khamenei, Mehdi Karroubi accused Iran’s hardline top authority of abusing power and urged him to change the way he runs the Islamic Republic before it is too late. “You have been Iran’s top leader for three decades, but still speak like an opposition,” Karroubi said in an open letter to Khamenei published on Saham News, the official website of his reformist political party. By “opposition”, Karroubi meant that Khamenei, head of a Shi’ite theocracy, should not be wielding ultimate power while criticizing the government of elected President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who wants to liberalize an economy dominated by the elite Revolutionary Guards and other state conglomerates. “During the last three decades, you have eliminated the main revolutionary forces to implement your own policies, and now you should face the results of that,” Karroubi added. Karroubi, 80, a Shi’ite cleric like Khamenei, and fellow reformist Mirhossein Mousavi ran for election in 2009 and became figureheads for Iranians who staged mass protests after hardline conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was returned to power in a vote they believed was rigged. Authorities denied this. Karroubi, Mousavi and the latter’s wife Zahra Rahnavard have been under house arrest since 2011 without trial, by the direct order of Khamenei. The Supreme Leader is commander-in-chief of Iran’s armed forces and appoints the heads of the judiciary. Key cabinet ministers are selected with his approval and he has the ultimate say on Iran’s foreign policy and nuclear program. By comparison, the president wields little power. Karroubi also criticized Khamenei for letting the Revolutionary Guards take a commanding role in the economy as this “has tarnished the reputation of this revolutionary body and drowned it in massive corruption”.
Karroubi cites unaccountable elite
He said that under Khamenei’s leadership, bodies formed at the beginning of the 1979 Revolution to wipe out poverty had turned into conglomerates that own half of Iran’s wealth without a supervisory organization to question their actions. More than 10 million Iranians, among 80 million, now live in absolute poverty, Karroubi said quoting official figures. “Under such conditions, it is natural that the lower classes, who were the grass root supporters of the Islamic Revolution, will turn into a gunpowder barrel,” Karroubi said. Khamenei has often accused Rouhani’s government of responsibility for the lack of headway towards reducing high unemployment, inflation and inequality. He has also blamed members of parliament, former presidents and Western powers. Rouhani, however, was easily re-elected in 2017, suggesting many Iranians still see him as their best hope for improving the economy and easing religious restrictions on society. Karroubi further said December’s nationwide street protests against “corruption and discrimination” were an alarm bell for the authorities to reform the economic and political system. Goaded by soaring food prices, the protests - the biggest in Iran since the post-election unrest of 2009 - took on a rare political dimension, with a growing number of people calling on Khamenei himself to step down. Clashes between protesters and police resulted in 25 deaths, according to official figures. Karroubi also said that by vetting candidates in elections, Khamenei had reduced parliament to “an obedient assembly” under his thumb and the influence of Revolutionary Guards lobbies. The Assembly of Experts, a council of elected clerics charged with electing, supervising and even disqualifying the Supreme Leader, has turned into a “ceremonial council that only praises the Leader”, Karroubi added. Karoubi, an ex-speaker of parliament, has been accused by hardline authorities of being a “seditionist” and “traitor”. In a public letter to Rouhani in 2016, he asked “the despotic regime” to grant him a public trial so he could hear the indictment against him and defend himself.
Pakistani woman says ‘name of her killer’ as she takes last breath
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 30 January 2018/A girl was shot three times in front of her family home in Kohat, north of Pakistan by a man whose marriage proposal she allegedly turned down. Aasma Rani, who was in her 20s, was able to see her killer before he ran away, and in a video of her lying on the floor taking her last breath, she uttered his name: ‘Mujahid’.Mujahid allegedly threatened Aasma and her family several times as they did not want to give him her hand in marriage. The family had also complained to the police about him. Mujahid and his brother waited for Aasma, a medical student in her third year, near her house and opened fire when she arrived. Police said that Mujahid’s brother was arrested on Tuesday, but the killer is still on the loose.
US lifts ban on refugees from 11 countries
AFP/Tuesday, 30 January 2018/The United States announced Monday it was lifting its ban on refugees from 11 "high-risk" countries, but said those seeking to enter the US would come under much tougher scrutiny than in the past. Applicants from 11 countries, unnamed but understood to include 10 Muslim-majority nations plus North Korea, will face tougher "risk-based" assessments to be accepted. "It's critically important that we know who is entering the United States," said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. "These additional security measures will make it harder for bad actors to exploit our refugee program, and they will ensure we take a more risk-based approach to protecting the homeland."The 11 countries, hit with a ban in October in the Trump administration's revised refugee policy, have not been identified officially. But refugee groups say they comprise Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Speaking anonymously, a senior administration official told journalists that the policy of enhanced security assessments for the 11 countries was not designed to target Muslims. "Our admissions have nothing to do with religion," the official said, adding that there is "nothing especially novel" about tougher screening for countries deemed to have a higher level of risk. Donald Trump has pursued a much tougher stance on immigrants and refugees from all countries since becoming president one year ago. Annual refugee admissions have been slashed by more than half to a maximum of 45,000 in fiscal 2018, which ends on September 31.
Trudeau decries Islamophobia a year after Quebec mosque attack
AFP/Tuesday, 30 January 2018/Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Monday for Canadians to stand up against Islamophobia and discrimination as he paid tribute to six Muslims killed a year ago at a Quebec mosque.
Trudeau lamented that acts of hate and discrimination have become "commonplace" or "even tolerated," saying in parliament that "it should never have come to this point.""We cannot bring back those who perished, but we owe it to them to fight the very sentiment that caused their loss. We owe it to them to speak up and stand tall and explicitly against Islamophobia and discrimination in all its forms," he said. On January 29, 2017, just after the Sunday evening prayer, a gunman burst into the mosque in a residential neighborhood of Quebec City and opened fire on worshippers. In addition to the six deaths, four of the victims suffered permanent disabilities in what remains one of the worst attacks on an Islamic place of worship in the West. In the aftermath, thousands of people, including Trudeau, gathered in Quebec City to express their support for the Muslim community. The alleged perpetrator, Alexandre Bissonnette, was formally charged in October for the murder of six people and the attempted murder of another 35 worshipers in the mosque. His trial is scheduled to begin in late March.
PA Will Go to Security Council for Full Membership
Ramallah - Kifah Ziboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/January 30/18/
United States is trying to establish an alternative Palestinian leadership in response to the Palestinian rejection of Washington’s sponsorship of the political process following US President Donald Trump's decision to consider Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, according to a Palestinian security official.
Palestinian security services spokesman Maj-Gen Adnan Damiri indicated that the United States has in fact started a series of steps to undermine the Palestinian leadership, and is now seeking to promote alternative figures. “Challenges are now clear, after US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced the transfer of US embassy to the city, and after the leadership and the Palestinian people stood firmly and clearly against the resolution," he said during a visit to security institutions. Without mentioning names, Damiri, and later Palestinian sources who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat, indicated that those who communicated with Washington and Israel in order to ensure a place in the future are known to the Palestinian authority. The sources said attempts to find alternative leadership were not new, but were now apparently more urgent than ever. They stressed that both United States and Israel are cooperate in order to establish alternative leadership. US officials as well as Israelis met with academics, businessmen and several figures to discuss their future after current President Mahmoud Abbas, according to the sources. It is no secret that Israeli officials began a new policy a year ago to cooperate with Palestinian figures to discuss the region.
A few months ago, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s aide met with Palestinian figures several times as part of his controversial "carrot and stick" plan. The plan is based on creating means of communication with Palestinians that bypasses the Palestinian president in exchange of economic rewards for areas that adhere to security measures. The Israeli ministry, headed by Lieberman, has already drawn up a list of Palestinian Authority figures, academics, businessmen and clerics, seeking direct dialogue with them away from political leadership. Few days ago, Lieberman claimed that several Palestinian financial figures are calling on Israel to remove the Palestinian president describing him as "an obstacle to peace and to the advancement of the Palestinian economy." Lieberman's statement came at a time when other officials announced that the Israeli security system was discussing scenarios for time after Abbas.
US President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt, met at various times with Palestinian figures from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Washington publicly supports Palestinian figures, Palestinian activists say. However, Palestinian officials indicate that Israel and US will not find "Lahad forces" (South Lebanon Army) here or anyone willing to abdicate Jerusalem. Relations between the PA and Washington became tense after Trump's recognition of Jerusalem, and the situation aggravated after Abbas refused to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence. The two sides then entered a confrontation in the Security Council and the United Nations before Abbas stepped up and launched an attack on Washington announcing that it will not be a mediator for any political process. Trump responded by threatening to enforce sanctions and further pressure is expected through the block of financial aid, acceleration of settlement establishment and intensifying attacks, particularly in Jerusalem. "The leadership will continue to face the recent US decision, in coordination with brotherly and friendly countries, organizations and liberals of the world. The threats will only push us to fight more for our national rights," Damiri indicated.
The Palestinian president is now seeking to replace the United States as the sole sponsor of the political process, with an international mechanism under the umbrella of the United Nations. PA Minister of Foreign Affairs, Riyad Maliki reiterated on Monday the administration’s ambition to be granted full UN member status, which was first submitted in 2011, ahead of the convening of the United Nations Security Council, on 20 February. Maliki highlighted the need for international protection for Palestinians suffering under Israeli occupation. He stated that the leadership will approach the Security Council in February to demand international protection to the people of Palestine under Israeli occupation. Speaking to the state-owned radio station, the FM asserted that they will call on the Security Council to renew obligations to past resolutions concerning Israeli settlement building, namely Resolution 2334.
Kuwait is going to chair the Security Council in February during which many meetings will be held including the closed monthly meeting on February 20 to discuss the situation in the Middle East, followed by an open meeting of the Security Council on February 21 to discuss implementing previous UN resolutions.
Saudi Arabia Stresses Jerusalem as ‘Eternal Capital of Palestine’
Asharq Al-Awsat/Asharq Al-Awsat/January 30/18/Saudi Arabia reiterated on Tuesday its position before the United Nations Security Council on Jerusalem, rejecting Israeli measures in the holy city, reported the Saudi Press Agency (SPA). The cabinet declared that Jerusalem is the “eternal historic capital of the Palestinians” as stipulated by international resolutions. The meeting was chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and held at the Yamamah Palace in Riyadh. The gatherers warned that any measures taken by Israeli authorities in Jerusalem “are null and void” and may lead to igniting tensions in the Middle East. They may also weaken chances to reach comprehensive and permanent peace based on the two-state solution, added the ministers according to Information Minister Dr. Awad bin Saleh al-Awad. Turning to Yemen, the cabinet underlined the statement issued by the Arab Coalition, which called on all political and social communities in Yemen to exercise restraint and adhere to dialogue in regards to the developments in the temporary capital Aden. The ministers stressed the need for sides to assume their national responsibility and unite their work with the Coalition in its efforts to restore legitimacy throughout Yemen and defeat the Iran-backed Houthi militia. They called on all sides to shun factors that may lead to division and reiterated the Coalition’s call on them to halt the clashes. The alliance vowed to take the necessary measures to restore security and stability in Aden. King Salman also briefed the cabinet on the results of his talks with visiting US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan last week. The cabinet then discussed the Kingdom’s participation at the World Economic Forum at Davos last week, where the delegation highlighted Saudi Arabia’s reform plans and future projects in line with Vision 2030.
Sochi-Hosted Syria Congress Gets underway amid Opposition Boycott
Asharq Al-Awsat/Asharq Al-Awsat/January 30/18/The Sochi congress on Syria kicked off on Tuesday amid the boycott of the opposition and after a two-hour delay sparked by disputes between United Nations envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura, the Turkish delegation and Russia. "There have been some problems with an armed opposition group arriving from Turkey, which said its participation depended on additional requirements," Artem Kozhin of the Russian foreign ministry said in comments reported by the TASS news agency. A rebel source told AFP that Russia had promised to change or remove the symbol of the congress, which features only the Syrian regime flag. But the airport, the road to the conference center and the congress hall itself were still decorated with banners and billboards bearing the logo when the rebels arrived on Monday night, leading to hours of ongoing negotiations.
The Syrian delegation consequently decided to boycott the Sochi event “after promises over ending of Russian bombing and removing Syrian regime emblems were broken.” Head of the delegation Ahmed Tomah announced before departing that the Turkish delegation will "carry our demands," reported Reuters.
Earlier, sources told Agence France Presse that differences had emerged over de Mistura’s demand to form a constitutional reform committee that he would chair. He also submitted a list of possible candidates for the committee, but it was rejected by Russia.
Turkey meanwhile expressed its reservations over the Syrian regime’s dispatch to Sochi of a figure it deems to be a terrorist. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov telephoned his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in order to resolve the dispute. Regime-backer Moscow has invited 1,600 delegates to the meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi as part of efforts to reach a political solution to the Syrian conflict. Syria's main opposition group and Kurdish authorities are boycotting the event, while on Tuesday separate rebel representatives were at Sochi airport but refused to come to the congress before Russia met demands. The main aim of the Sochi talks is to establish a committee to create a post-war constitution for Syria with United Nations backing, according to a draft statement seen by AFP. Moscow said Syrian society would be fully represented at the meeting -- the first of its kind held in Russia -- but almost all confirmed delegates are from either Bashar al-Assad's Baath Party, allied movements or the regime's "tolerated opposition". The Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC), the country's main opposition group, said following two days of UN-led talks in Vienna last week it would not attend the Sochi congress. The SNC accused Assad and his Russian backers of continuing to rely on military might and showing no willingness to enter into honest negotiations.The start of the conference itself was also not without incident. Speaking at the opening session, Lavrov said that "all circumstances are ripe for peace in Syria."
Soon after, some Syrian delegates stood up and heckled the minister, accusing Moscow of killing civilians in Syria with its air strikes, a Reuters witness said. Syrian official Ghassan al-Qalaa said: "I call you upon in the name of millions of Syrian to have mercy upon our country." The incident was also broadcast live on Russian state TV where two security guards were shown approaching one man in the audience indicating that he should sit down and be quiet. Other delegates at the conference in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi stood up at the same time and shouted their support for Russia, the Reuters witness said.
Lavrov told the delegates to let him finish speaking, saying they would have their own say later on Tuesday.
US Releases List of Russian Oligarchs Close to Putin ahead of Possible Sanctions
Asharq Al-Awsat/January 30/18/The US Treasury Department released late on Monday a list of oligarchs and political figures close to President Vladimir Putin and which was drawn up as part of a sanctions package signed into law in August last year. All those included will not necessarily be subject to sanctions, it casts a potential shadow of sanctions risk over a wide circle of wealthy Russians. The figures include the heads of the two biggest banks, metals magnates and the boss of the state gas monopoly. Putin’s inner circle is already subject to personal US sanctions, imposed over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is among the 114 senior political figures in Russia's government who made the list, along with 42 of Putin's aides, Cabinet ministers such as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and top officials in Russia's leading spy agencies, the FSB and GRU.
So are 96 wealthy Russians deemed "oligarchs" by the Treasury Department, which said each is believed to have assets totaling $1 billion or more. Some are the most famous of wealthy Russians, among them tycoons Roman Abramovich and Mikhail Prokhorov, who challenged Putin in the 2012 election.
After the release of the report, the ruble opened down 0.1 percent against the dollar, while shares in some of Russia’s biggest companies fell too.
Among the biggest fallers was Norilsk Nickel, down 1.2 percent after its co-owner Vladimir Potanin was included on the US list. Rusal, the world’s second-biggest producer of aluminum, whose co-owner Oleg Deripaska was also on the list, saw its shares tumble 1.4 percent in Hong Kong.
Representatives of many businessmen, including Potanin, Deripaska, metals magnate Alisher Usmanov and Alexei Mordashov, co-owner of Severstal, declined to comment. Some other businessmen are yet to reply to requests for comment. But Russian market-watchers said the damage from the list was not as great as it could have been. The list appeared to have been drafted based on oligarchs’ net worth, rather than attempting to establish who is closest to the Kremlin, an exercise that could have made it more toxic for those included. The White House said it would not immediately impose new sanctions on Russia. The Treasury Department, in a statement accompanying the list, said people had been included on the list based on their net worth and “their closeness to the Russian regime.”It said inclusion does not denote that people on the list are subject to sanctions or any other restrictions, that they meet the criteria for being put under sanctions, or that they are involved in any malign activity.
Among the businessmen on the list are German Gref, CEO of state-controlled Sberbank, Russia’s biggest lender, and Andrey Kostin, chief executive of the second-biggest lender, VTB, which is also controlled by the Russian state.
Alexei Miller, CEO of state-controlled gas export monopoly Gazprom, was also on the list, as was Severstal’s Mordashov and Leonid Mikhelson, co-owner of private gas producer Novatek. Usmanov, who is part owner of London’s Arsenal football club, and Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of the Moscow-based cyber security company that carries his name, were included on the same list. Russian politicians have expressed dismay at finding that the list included the entire government. Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich told Russian news agencies on Tuesday that he was not surprised to find his name on the list, too, saying that it "looks like a 'who's who' book." The Kremlin said that the list shows that the US views the entire Russian government as enemies. Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday that Moscow would like to take time to analyze the list which he described as "unprecedented" in its scope. Peskov said Russia has yet to understand how individuals on the list, their activities and reputation abroad might be affected. Although he said Russia should not "give in to emotions" before studying the list and its implications carefully, Peskov pointed out to the name of the law: "On countering America's adversaries through sanctions.""De-facto everyone has been called an adversary of the United States," he added. Peskov, as a member of the Kremlin administration, is on the list. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has meanwhile lauded the American administration's list, tweeting that he was "glad that these (people) have been officially recognized on the international level as crooks and thieves."
Saudi Attorney General: Anti-Corruption Settlements Stand at More than SAR400 Billion
Asharq Al-Awsat/January 30/18/The Saudi Attorney General said Tuesday the total number of individuals subpoenaed by the Supreme Anti-Corruption Committee reached 381, a significant number of whom were called to testify or provide evidence. Attorney General Saud al-Mojeb said that “negotiations and settlements with those individuals who were charged with corruption were concluded; and cases were transferred to the Public Prosecution Office to complete the relevant procedures.”The Public Prosecution Office decided to release some for lack of evidence. Others, who admitted to the corruption charges, were released after the government accepted to reach a settlement with them. Al-Mojeb said that the settlements reached include real estate assets, commercial entities, securities, cash and other assets. They have generated an estimated 400 billion riyal ($106.7 billion), he added. The attorney general also said that the remaining 56 still in custody have not reached a financial settlement "due to other pending criminal cases, or in order to continue the investigation process."
U.S. Praises Qatar Ties, Calls for Gulf Unity
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 30/18/The United States praised Qatar for its improved counterterrorism cooperation Tuesday and warned that its rift with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf neighbors has hurt the fight against extremism. Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a diplomatic boycott of Qatar and closed their frontiers last year, accusing the gas-rich emirate of cosying up to Iran and sponsoring Islamist groups. U.S. President Donald Trump, fresh from a successful trip to Riyadh, seemed at first to take the Saudi side in the dispute and demanded that Qatar, which denies the charges, change its behavior. But U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have been working to bring the dispute to an end and bind both Qatar and its opponents into a deeper mutual alliance. On Tuesday, these diplomatic efforts produced the first of what may become an annual U.S.-Qatari Strategic Dialogue, hosted by Tillerson and Mattis for their counterparts from Qatar. In opening remarks, neither side criticized Saudi Arabia or its ambitious crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman by name, but both sides stressed the importance of unity in the Gulf Cooperation Council. "As the Gulf dispute nears the eight-month mark the United States remains as concerned today as we were at its outset," Tillerson said, opening the meeting of senior U.S. and Qatari officials. "This dispute has had direct negative consequences economically and militarily for those involved as well as the United States."
Saudi Arabia is also a long-time ally of the United States and is bigger, richer and more influential than Qatar, which lies on a peninsula off its neighbor's Gulf coast in gas-rich waters. But Qatar has parlayed its riches into an outsize influence with key economic investments in Western countries underpinning ties and winning prizes like hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup. It has also annoyed its neighbors by funding and hosting the Al-Jazeera satellite network, which broadcasts Arabic news and views across the region that make some governments uncomfortable. And it has fostered ties with some Islamist groups, giving it a role in regional crises that is unwelcome to some leaders. Sometimes this is helpful to the United States: The Taliban has an office in Qatar, which serves as a back-channel for the U.S. to get messages to their Afghan foe even as their troops fight. But Qatar's ties to groups like the Palestinian movement Hamas, who the United States views as terrorists, have hurt ties. Nevertheless, Qatar is also host to the huge Al-Udeid air base, a hub for allied aircraft in many Middle East conflict and home to thousands of U.S. personnel and a forward command center. Tillerson and Mattis both praised Qatar's improved cooperation in counterterrorism and praised the military relationship, while expressing the hope that the spat with Saudi would end.
Syria Fighting Displaces 270,000 in Winter
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 30/18/More than 270,000 Syrians have fled fighting in the northwest provinces of Idlib and Hama between government forces and rebels since mid-December, a senior U.N. aid official said Tuesday. Camps for the displaced are overstretched, forcing many to seek shelter in some 160 makeshift settlements in Idlib, assistant-secretary general for humanitarian affairs Ursula Mueller told the Security Council. "During these cold and wet winter months, many families have nothing else than improvised tents which they share with others," she said.With Russian military backing, Syrian troops launched an offensive in late 2017 against jihadists and allied groups in Idlib, the last province still fully outside the government's control in the nearly seven-year war. "Airstrikes and fighting in southern Idlib and northern Hama have resulted in over 270,000 displacements since December 15," said Mueller. At least 16 hospitals and clinics were attacked in Idlib last month alone, she added. Further north, in the Afrin area, some 15,000 people have been displaced within the district and another 1,000 have fled to neighboring Aleppo governorate, said Mueller. Turkey launched air strikes and shelling on the border region on January 20, targeting the Kurdish YPG militia that it considers a terror group. Mueller told the council that Syria had blocked all aid convoys to besieged areas in January after allowing only two relief shipments to reach hard-to-reach areas last month. Access to other parts of Syria are being hampered, with local authorities requesting changes to aid operations in the northeast, she said. The new hurdles in deliveries of food and medical supplies came after U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock visited Syria earlier this month. More than 13.1 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid including 6.1 million who have been displaced within the country.
Saudi-Led Coalition Calls for Immediate Ceasefire in Aden
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 30/18/The Saudi-led Arab coalition on Tuesday called for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen's interim capital of Aden where heavy fighting has erupted between government troops and the southern separatists. "The coalition renews its call to all parties to ceasefire immediately and end all forms of armed conflict," the coalition said in a statement cited by the Saudi SPA agency. "The coalition affirms that it will take all necessary measures to restore security and stability in Aden," the statement said. The coalition said it regretted that the warring sides did not respond to its earlier calls for restraint and calm. The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said late Monday that at least 36 people have been killed and 185 others wounded in two days of fighting in Aden. Fighting intensified on Monday after the warring sides began using tank and artillery firepower as the port city remained paralysed. Separatists' forces late Monday advanced on the presidential palace and captured two military camps near Aden international airport, security sources told AFP. The fighting is taking place between troops loyal to the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, based in Riyadh, and security forces loyal to the southern separatists which are trained and backed by the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia and UAE are the main partners in the Arab coalition that has been waging war on the Iran-backed Huthi rebels which took over the Yemeni capital Sanaa in September 2014.
US Releases 'Putin List' of Russians Eligible for Sanctions
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 30/18/The US Treasury has released a long awaited list of Russian officials and business leaders eligible for sanctions under a law designed to punish Moscow for its alleged meddling in the election that brought Donald Trump to power. The list published shortly before midnight Monday features the names of most of the senior members in President Vladimir Putin's administration -- 114 politicians altogether -- and 96 business people the US considers 'oligarchs' close to Putin and worth at least $1 billion each. The seven-page unclassified list, which does not trigger sanctions right away, features Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and top officials in Russian intelligence agencies. Also on the list were the chief executives of big state-owned companies such as energy giant Rosneft and Sberbank. The list was widely expected to infuriate Putin and send shivers through his inner circle and Moscow's moneyed elite, threatening to cut them off from world finance. Monday was the deadline for its release under a law passed last year by Congress over the objections of Trump, whom critics in the US say has been oddly reluctant to criticize Russia or Putin. Under the same law, the State Department Monday also declined to punish any US or foreign companies for dealings with Russian arms companies. It argued this was not needed because governments around the world have already nixed billions in contracts with those Russian firms. US lawmakers passed the law -- called the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act -- out of concern that Trump, eager to have warm ties with Putin, might not take tough action to punish Moscow and Russian officials for interfering in US elections and destabilizing Ukraine.
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 30-31/18
The End of the 'Strong Dollar' Policy
Daniel Moss/Bloomberg/January 30/18
The end of US leadership is on everyone's lips. Today's installment is the Treasury secretary's endorsement of a weaker dollar. Not so fast. Despite the way the ideal of a "strong dollar" has been thrown around in official rhetoric the last couple of decades, the reality is that Treasury secretaries of both political colors have dialed it up and dialed it down to suit the needs of the moment. At various points along the way the "strong dollar" was said to have been ditched. It's been declared dead many times, but never seems quite buried.
Observers may be suffering from some confirmation bias this week. Because the Trump administration has made so many deeply flawed decisions that surrender America's pre-eminent role, it's easy to see Secretary Steven Mnuchin's remarks as a big, dramatic shift for the worst.
I wish I had a portrait of George Washington for every time someone has pronounced the end of the "strong dollar" policy. I remember sitting in Bloomberg's London newsroom hearing that the sky was falling when Paul O'Neill and John Snow, the first two Treasury chiefs under George W. Bush, veered from the script developed by Robert E. Rubin, who held the post under Bill Clinton and is most closely associated with the term. People quickly moved on, and it wasn't the end of civilization.
One particularly excited call to me from a reporter accompanying Snow to a Group of Seven meeting in Normandy in 2003 comes to mind. The shift was real; the consequences so small they struggle to be remembered. Snow tried to focus on what a "strong dollar" actually was. Hard to counterfeit, a store of value that reflected "demand and supply for currencies." Not a bad idea. People just didn't want to hear it. It all got lost in the noise of "abandoning the strong dollar." Perhaps it was because people just didn't like Bush.
Earlier in Bush's term, O'Neill was crucified for having the temerity to suggest to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper in 2001 that "we don’t follow, as is often said, a policy of a strong dollar." Rather, he said, the US favors a strong economy. The logic being that a strong economy would be reflected in a strong dollar. So great and so instant was the uproar that O'Neill's spokeswoman recanted to traveling reporters in rushed conversation at a Milan airport. Whatever else O'Neill may have wanted to talk about at the G-7 meeting in Sicily that weekend, it was completely drowned out by his protestations that the strong dollar hadn't been ditched. He said he'd hire a brass band in Yankee Stadium to announce it, if he ever did.
Even the man often portrayed as the master of currency-market messaging, Rubin, wasn't averse to massaging the beloved strong dollar line when needs suited. For one, in early 1997, Rubin noted that the dollar had been strong "for some time now," leading traders to speculate that Team Clinton didn't want its beloved strong dollar to get too much of a good thing. And Rubin wasn't beyond selling the dollar either. He did that in 1998, largely to rescue the yen, but you get the picture. The dollar was sold again, in 2000, under Larry Summers to prop up the euro, then in its infancy. The "strong dollar" mantra has taken on some mythology that was never really there in practice.
Every pronouncement on the dollar needs some historical context. When Rubin arrived at Treasury in 1995, the dollar had been beaten up by the yen and what was then the German mark. The first two years of the Clinton administration, when Lloyd Bentsen was Treasury secretary, had been characterized by trade clashes with Japan. Important point here: While the latter Clinton years were seen as the glory days of free trade and free markets, the first two years had a distinctly protectionist vibe to them. So while some things change, others seem familiar. There's no guarantee Trump's tenure will turn out the same way, though administrations do tend to become more multilateralist the longer they stick around. Finally, the ability of Treasury secretaries and finance ministers in general to fundamentally rock the currency world has diminished greatly over the years. The Plaza Accord of 1985 was a seminal event in post-war economic history because the moves it initiated were so great and so lasting. And perhaps because James Baker, then the Treasury secretary, is so revered. And also because the few economies represented at Plaza -- it was then the Group of Five -- accounted for so much more of the world economy. You have to remember that in 1985, the Soviet Union still existed and China was yet to really get going. Neither really had markets to speak of. So if you think Mnuchin's comments mark the end of an era or signify something dramatically new, you might be right. Then again, you will probably be right again during his tenure or, if history is a guide, under his successor.
The strong dollar keeps giving. Even in its grave.
Russia's Failure in Sochi
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/January 30/18
While Moscow has been trying to win the race against time to achieve an "appropriate" peace deal in Syria, Assad’s forces have raided 93 times Idlib's countryside, including helicopters striking residential neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” shelled the region of Ghouta - where 400,000 people are besieged – on the outskirts of Damascus. How could all this be happening while officials are negotiating a peace draft? Why do Russia, Iran and other countries think that the Syrian opposition will accept any solution when the message conveyed to the Syrian people is of fighting, destruction and displacement?
Negotiators in Sochi consider military escalation as a means of pressuring the opposition to accept the agreement, which is what usually happens in wars! But this is not true in the case of Syria. First of all, fighting will not determine areas of influence now. Second, negotiators can not sign any agreement without local approvals and the support of regional and other major countries. In fact, the shelling of Syrian cities and towns will ruin the Sochi negotiations, not help their cause.
What's worse than intensifying military operations is the leaked information about the draft communique, which has been disappointing for not including any changes that could convince Syrians and the world about the seriousness of the peace process in Sochi. The opposition is receiving a proposal to accept the status quo, where the political regime and the government's entity are maintained. It is seen as a surrender agreement. Forcing Syrians to accept it will prolong the war for years and the Assad regime will lose everything the Russians and Iranians have fought for and achieved over the past three years.
But even with our disagreement with Russia concerning some details on Syria, we cannot ignore the importance of the Sochi negotiations, and the significance of peace that can be achieved if proposed in a reasonable manner. It is within the interests of all Syrian people to end the war and meet their reasonable and just demands and the opposition’s desire for participation in higher political institutions, ensure regional security by pulling out Iranian and other militias, and assure Syria's sovereignty and independence. Failure in Sochi means failure of the Russians. The conflict would expand further. The situation has become more complicated with Turkey’s direct involvement in the war, the divisions it sparked, and the dispute with the US, which like Russia and Iran, has become militarily active in Syria's war.
We know that Russia has important cards, including the ability to pressure Assad and Iran, which enables it to impose a reasonable solution better than the one currently offered. However, all indications point to failure because Damascus’ allies insist on imposing a surrender rather than peace agreement. After that, delegations will pack their bags and head to Vienna to start again a different peace process that may not have better chances of success than the previous Sochi and Geneva conferences.
Team Trump Must Match its New Rhetoric on Syria with Action
Josh Rogin/The Washington Post/January 30/18
The raging battle between two US allies in northern Syria is a stark illustration that despite some new rhetoric, the Trump administration still lacks the will and leverage needed to lead a solution to the Syrian crisis, or even to properly defend US interests there. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson correctly identified the United States' challenges in post-ISIS Syria in a speech two weeks ago in California, including confronting the ongoing terrorist threat, Iranian expansion and Bashar Assad's brutal aggression. By announcing that US troops would remain in the country, Tillerson seemed to acknowledge that on-the-ground influence is necessary for the United States to achieve its objectives. Inside the administration, officials tell me that getting Syria policy that far was a herculean effort. Many in President Donald Trump's orbit still advocate focusing solely on ISIS and letting the rest of Syria's chips fall where they may. There's still a contingent that wants to cut and run. While the Trump administration now says publicly that the United States does have long-term interests in Syria, it hasn't yet connected that to a real plan. What's clear is that the current US commitment in Syria is not enough.
"Those who know history know everything is a question of leverage," French author Bernard-Henri Lévy told me.
As Turkey's assault on Syrian Kurdish forces near its border continues into its second bloody week, the Trump administration has chosen to tacitly endorse the campaign. Lévy sees that as a betrayal of the Kurds, who have fought ISIS with US support and share the basic values and goals of the United States.
In his view, both the Obama and Trump administrations abdicated responsibility and leadership in Syria, creating a vacuum that powers such as Turkey, Iran and Russia have rushed to fill. Those powers saw the United States abandon Iraqi Kurds when Iraqi and Iranian militias attacked them last year, and they calculate that there's no cost for attacking Syrian Kurds today.
"The real interest of America is to support the Kurds because they are faithful allies. [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan is not a faithful ally," Lévy said, calling the United States' tolerance of Turkey's assault a "scandal."
Tillerson last week said the United States is trying to persuade Turkey to limit the scope of its attacks on the Kurds in the Afrin area of Syria. Behind the scenes, US officials are scrambling to prevent Turkish forces from attacking nearby Manbij, where US forces sit, as Erdogan has threatened to do.
Others argue the United States can and should respect Turkish security concerns but need not throw the Kurds under the bus in the process. Yet even if the Trump team can strike that balance, it wouldn't address the fundamental flaw in its Syria strategy - a lack of sufficient leverage on the ground to realize Tillerson's vision. "We have committed ourselves to a very tactical, myopic fight in Syria from the very beginning, which has worsened these broader strategic issues, including the relationship with Turkey, the Syrian civil war and confronting Iran," said Wa'el Alzayat, a former State Department official who now runs a nonprofit organization called Emgage. The Trump administration is still repeating many of President Barack Obama's key mistakes. The United States is depending on Russia to exert pressure on the Assad regime, which Moscow has proven unwilling or unable to do. The Trump administration touts a UN-sponsored peace process as the political way forward, but it has been a perennial failure. The effort to confront Iran in Syria is not properly resourced. There's no real pressure on Assad to halt his mass atrocities. What are the alternatives? Short of a large increase in US troops, which nobody is advocating, there are several ways the United States can strengthen its hand in Syria. First, the United States must not abandon the Kurds it has trained. That could prompt them to strike deals with the Assad regime or Russia, with horrendous consequences.
Second, the United States must make a play for influence with Arab groups that still defend Sunni-populated areas. This means resuming support for moderate rebels, especially in Idlib province, where the Assad regime and its partners are advancing. It also means adding more Arabs to the Syrian Democratic Forces and supporting local governance in areas not under Assad's control. Third, the Trump administration should raise the pressure on Assad, Russia and Iran, including through sanctions, the credible threat of US force and whatever else might persuade them to honor de-escalation agreements they are violating and negotiate in good faith. As of now, they have no intention to do so. A year into Trump's presidency, his administration is saying the United States has a long-term interest in Syria. The next step is to match those words with action.
Europe Isn't Quite as United As It Claims
Ferdinando Giugliano/Bloomberg View/January 30/18
The choreography could not have been better last week. The leaders of the euro zone’s three largest economies took the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos one after the other to deliver the same message. In the era of Donald Trump’s “America First,” the leaders of Italy, Germany and France all spoke up to oppose protectionism and embrace multilateralism. Cooperation will start at home, they pledged: the euro area will strive to forge closer ties starting this year. In an era of security, trade and currency tensions, such a show of unity is encouraging. However, scratch below the surface and what becomes clear is that it is also misleading. Europe may stand against economic nationalism, but its governments remain resistant to acquisitions from abroad – even from within the European Union. And while a grand coalition government in Germany is the best hope for unlocking institutional reform in the euro zone, red lines remain over the completion of the banking union and the creation of a fiscal union. Start with trade: The single market is a remarkable achievement, which has severely limited the ability of governments to prop up national champions. However, when a national player becomes a takeover target, politicians tend to ignore the principles of the single market. Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron initially blocked a takeover of French shipyard STX by Italy’s Fincantieri. He then reversed course, after the Italians gave up their insistence on an outright majority of the company.
Meanwhile, Spain has been throwing road-blocks in the way of Italy’s Atlantia, which is trying to purchase Abertis Infraestructuras, the Spanish infrastructure company and toll-road operator. Finally, France’s Vivendi is having to put up with increasing government scrutiny over its ownership of Telecom Italia, after Rome asserted the so-called “golden power” rule. This can give the Italian government a say over the strategic decisions of the Telecom group.
The EU is also full of divisions over how to reform the euro zone. At Davos, Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister, said that “everything is on the table” when it comes to completing the monetary union. But if you dig a little deeper, differences start to emerge. Take the banking union project, which is needed to ensure that governments are not left alone in dealing with financial problems. Most politicians and technocrats, including the European Central Bank, agree that the banking union needs a joint deposit guarantee scheme, which ensures that individual countries can rely on a common pot of money to compensate depositors in case of failure. Germany and the Netherlands have made it clear that they first want to see European banks reduce the levels of non-performing loans sitting on their balance sheets, and place limits on the amounts of sovereign bonds lenders can hold. Several other euro zone countries, such as Italy and France, disagree. Of course, these disagreements are not new. The optimists believe that what matters is a new climate of collaboration between member states, no doubt helped by the economic recovery.
France would like the euro zone to reach some meaningful progress on institutional reform by June. The euro zone is certainly in a better place than it has been for quite some time. Its defense of multilateralism and opposition to protectionism is also in striking contrast with the rhetoric coming from the US administration. However, while we should rejoice for the EU’s newfound unity, we should not fall for it. For all the Davos display, the path to a truly closer union has only just begun.
Palestinian Blackmail: US Is Our Enemy
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/January 30, 2018
The Palestinians' mock trial and "execution" of Trump and Pence gives the Palestinians a green light to target Americans physically. More interesting still is that members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction participated in the mock trial and "execution" of the US president and the Vice President.
Strikingly, this event took place inside a refugee camp that is run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). More precisely, the execution took place outside a school run by UNRWA. Trump and Pence were "hanged" with the UNRWA flag flying atop the school in the background.
The US and other Western countries would do well to take the Palestinian campaign of threats and incitement extremely seriously – and severely counter these threats. Submission to the intimidation will simply result in even more intimidation, more violence and more threats.
Palestinian incitement against the US has reached new heights. While the Palestinians have never been fans of the US, the past few weeks have revealed the extent to which they truly loathe Americans. The US, it is worth noting, funds the Palestinians to the tune of nearly $800 million every year -- $368 million every year to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA); and $400 million every year to the Palestinian Authority (PA), with $363 million from USAID and $36 million every year for security.
This is how the Palestinian incitement machine works: PA leaders and officials set the tone, while ordinary Palestinians take to the streets to express their hatred of the US.
Hardly a day passes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip without a photo or effigy of President Donald Trump and US flags being burned before local and foreign journalists and camera crews.
Such scenes have become commonplace since Trump's December announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
A Palestinian woman holds an assault rifle to the head of an effigy of US President Donald Trump in Gaza, December 9, 2017. (Image source: Ruptly video screenshot)
Until recently, such scenes of rage were reserved for Israeli leaders and the Israeli flag. The Palestinians, however, have now added the US to their list of enemies -- they do not like Trump's announcement on Jerusalem and see him as being "biased" in favor of Israel.
Most recently, US Vice President Mike Pence was placed on the Palestinian list of the condemned. Pence's visit to Israel and his speech before the Knesset turned him, too, into an enemy of the Palestinians.
How dare Pence voice his support for Trump's Jerusalem announcement and deliver a pro-Israel speech before the Israeli parliament? After eight years of being spoiled beyond their dreams by the Obama administration, this is nothing short of anathema to the Palestinian people.
Last weekend, the Palestinians' anti-American campaign reached a peak, when activists in a refugee camp near Bethlehem held a mock trial for Trump and Pence.
Initiated by the "Popular Resistance," a coalition of various Palestinian factions, Trump and Pence were "tried" before a Palestinian "peoples' court" in the Al-Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem.
The "court" found Trump and Pence "guilty" of endorsing a "racist" and "biased" policy, and they were sentenced to death by hanging. The court also ruled that the bodies of Trump and Pence would be burned after their "execution."
It is also worth noting that nothing here was hidden. The "trial" and "execution" were put on public display, and journalists and photographers were invited to document the "historic" event. The Palestinian activists burned US flags and carried placards that read: "Zionism = Nazism = Fascism" and "USA = ISIS = Terror."Strikingly, this event took place inside a refugee camp that is run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). More precisely, the execution took place outside a school run by UNRWA. Trump and Pence were "hanged" with the UNRWA flag flying atop the school in the background.
More interesting still is that members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction participated in the mock trial and "execution" of the US president and vice president.
Mohammed Al-Masri, Secretary-General of Fatah in Bethlehem, praised the activists for displaying their deep hatred for the US and its leaders. "This is a popular trial," Al-Masri explained. "The Palestinian people are entitled to bring to trial anyone who extorts them or denies their rights." He also accused the US administration of seeking to get rid of the current Palestinian Authority leadership.
Another senior Fatah official who attended the "trial" and "execution" was Mohammed Lutfi. He said that the mock trial was aimed at sending a message "to all the people of the world that they should support the Palestinians and defend the Palestinians' rights against the US administration's violation of all agreements [signed between Israel and the Palestinians]."
Never mind that it was PA President Mahmoud Abbas himself, now in the 13th year of his four-year term in office, whose calls for blood have been violating the Oslo Accords for years, or that just a few days earlier had said that the Oslo Accords, signed by his predecessor, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, were "dead."Mohammed Al-Lahham, member of the Fatah "Revolutionary Council," a body dominated by Abbas loyalists, said the event was organized to express Palestinian outrage with the US administration's policies. He pointed out that in addition to Al-Aida, residents of two other UNRWA-run refugee camps, Dheisheh and El-Azza, also participated in the mock trial and "execution" of Trump and Pence.
Such an unprecedented display of hatred and encouragement of violence against American leaders could never have taken place without the approval of Abbas, who is also the chairman of Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah. Once again, Palestinians are being taught by their "leaders" that, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars they receive annually from the US, they are meant to disgorge murderous venom at America. In fact, the mock trial and "execution" of Trump and Pence gives a green light to Palestinians physically to target Americans.
This incitement against the US should come as a surprise to no one. The activists -- who are burning photos and effigies of Trump and Pence and American flags -- listen with rapt attention to the anti-American rhetoric coming from Palestinian Authority leaders. Trump and Pence are vilified on a daily basis by Palestinian leaders and media outlets.
Palestinian leaders have managed to turn the US into an enemy in the eyes of the Palestinians. By stating that the US can no longer be trusted to play any role in a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Palestinian leaders have turned Trump and the entire US administration into "Zionists" and enemies of Arabs and Muslims. Most importantly, this is not only a show of disrespect towards the US and its leaders: it is in fact a call for terrorism against American citizens. In the world of the Palestinians, any world leader who does not hate Israel or dares to challenge the Palestinian narrative is defined as the enemy. How will any of Trump's Middle East envoys ever be able to visit Ramallah or Bethlehem after this wave of incitement?
The US and other Western countries would do well to take the Palestinian campaign of threats and incitement extremely seriously -- and severely counter these threats. Submission to the intimidation will simply result in even more intimidation, more violence and more threats.
Things are going from bad to worse with respect to Palestinian intimidation. From the Palestinian Authority's point of view, if you do not support us, we will put you on trial and hang you. When will the world begin to grasp what kind of blackmail is going on here?
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.
© 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.
Oxford University: Delirious Capital of Political Correctness
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/January 30, 2018
Oxford University had been criticized for "lack of racial diversity". So, in the name of the multiculturally correct view, Oxford purged "male, pale and stale" with gay, female and black icons. If you think about it honestly, that is racist.
The Oxford Equality and Diversity Unit, which monitors respect for the canons of anti-racism, has ruled that not looking into the eyes of a student belonging to a minority constitutes a "microaggression" that can lead to "mental disorder". Oxford's multicultural political correctness looks as if has come right out of George Orwell's "1984".
For the first time in 800 years, Oxford eliminated the obligatory course on Christianity for theology students.
Oxford Professor Timothy Garton Ash announced that today, at British universities, "Jesus Christ would be banned".
"Don't feel guilty about our colonial history", Oxford Professor Nigel Biggar titled a column in The Times. He asked his colleagues and students to have "pride" in many aspects of their imperialist past:
"Pride at the Royal Navy's century-long suppression of the Atlantic slave trade, for example, will not be entirely obscured by shame at the slaughter of innocents at Amritsar in 1919. And while we might well be moved to think with care about how to intervene abroad successfully, we won't simply abandon the world to its own devices".
Dozens of Oxford academics immediately united to condemn the "simple-minded" defense of British colonialism by the professor. Student associations also branded Biggar a "racist" and a "bigot", and asked the university to suspend him. Trevor Phillips, former chair of the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission, said that Biggar's critics are using "an attack line of which Joseph Stalin would have been proud". Its goal, in fact, seems the moral destruction of the intellectual adversary.
Biggar's case illustrates the atmosphere in Oxford, the West's capital of political correctness. Oxford's students and professors are the leaders of a movement which, under the guise of "anti-racism", is closing the Western mind and killing the Western culture with dogmatism, tribalism, anti-intellectualism and groupthink. All this indoctrinating has led only to a militant loathing of the Western past and a public revulsion for humanistic Western values, culture and the ability at least to try to correct our wrongs -- as only the West does. Students and professors are now unable to explain why a culture that treats women and men equally or that protects freedom of thought is superior to a culture that subjugates women and oppresses individual choice.
Oxford now preaches the cult of "diversity". But the true diversity for which a university should fight -- the diversity of opinion and thought -- is continually eroded and often completely destroyed. Roger Scruton, in an article for The Times, defined what is happening at Oxford as an "indoctrination without doctrine" and has charged Western universities with reviving the notion of "heresy".
A series of hagiographic portraits of former students now appears on the walls of Britain's most famous university. The initiative is part of Oxford's "Diversifying Portraiture". The university had been criticized for "lack of racial diversity". So now, in the name of the multiculturally correct view, Oxford has purged "male, pale and stale" with gay, female and black icons. If you think about it honestly, that is racist.
For almost a year, Oxford University debated whether to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from campus, because of his links to slavery and colonialism. Rhodes's statue was not dismantled, but a plaque commemorating Rhodes on Oxford's Oriel College was removed from public view.
Pictured: A statue of Cecil Rhodes on the outer wall of Oxford University's Oriel College. For almost a year, Oxford University debated whether to remove the statue, because of Rhodes' links to slavery and colonialism.
Besides statues and portraits, the multiculturalists have targeted the curriculum. Malia Bouattia, when she was head of the UK National Union of Students, declared that a "Eurocentric" curriculum had a "psychologically devastating" impact on black students.
In November 2018, Oxford's Magdalen College announced that it will introduce mandatory courses for first-year newcomers on "institutional racism, cultural appropriation and implicit bias," to ensure that ethnic minorities do not feel "offended".
Oxford also announced that history students would be required to write "at least one exam paper focusing on black, Asian and other non-European history," to balance the "white" curriculum. Shortly before that, for the first time in 800 years, Oxford University eliminated the obligatory course on Christianity for theology students. Oxford's multicultural political correctness looks as if has come right out of George Orwell's "1984".
This frightening racist wave of institutional "anti-racism" is also trying to reprogram the students' private habits. The Oxford Equality and Diversity Unit, which monitors respect for the canons of "anti-racism," has ruled that not looking into the eyes of a student belonging to a minority constitutes a "microaggression" that can lead to "mental disorder". Joanna Williams, a university lecturer at the University of Kent, said that the Oxford decision is "completely ridiculous" and will make students "hypersensitive" about how they interact with each other. Williams labeled it a "thought crime".
Even the Oxford Dictionary, the most complete catalogue of words ever written in any language, has been purged of some words deemed "offensive". The dictionary came under pressure from some feminists, apparently impatient that the voice that describes them there also lists connotations such as "rabid". Oxford even banned from the Freshers' Fair the Christian Union, one of the largest student associations. Oxford charged it with "homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism". This atmosphere spurred Oxford's Professor Timothy Garton Ash to announce that at British universities today, "Jesus Christ would be banned".Perhaps we now understand why Philip Larkin refused to teach at Oxford. He wrote: "My idea of hell on earth is a literary party, and I have an uneasy feeling that the post carries with it a lot of sherry-drill with important people".
Multiculturalists, in the name of "diversity", are turning Western culture into a hell. At the end of this road, Western culture will be unrecognizable and no one will want to fight for it. Will this delirium please stop?
**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.
Pakistan’s next-gen politicians
Syed Jawaid Iqbal/Al Arabiya/January 30/18
Where are politics in Pakistan headed? Will the masses continue to listen to the rhetoric of the politicians well past their prime and believe in their promises? Do they have any choice?
Until a few years back, there was no one else to turn to but the same old faces who would contest elections time after time and would be returned to the parliament in their traditional constituencies because they were the only people on the horizon. It appears things are changing now and a new generation of politicians is entering the arena. The promises made by the older guard are becoming outdated and there is no public confidence left in them. The people are also wiser. They are more aware of their rights and wish to use their votes more judiciously because they strongly believe that they cast their votes rather imprudently in the past. Openness in the media initiated by General Pervez Musharraf has played the role of a catalyst in this context. It is also a reality that more young people have joined the electorate in Pakistan and they will not exercise their vote unless they are not sure that they are voting for the right man or woman. They know that the old crop of politicians don’t come up to their standards because they have never delivered.
That brings in younger politicians who are now considered by their seniors to have acquired enough maturity to contest elections at the national, provincial and local levels. There are many prominent faces among the new lot. There is Bilawal Bhutto, the son of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari. He may earlier have conveyed the impression that he was merely the son of an outstanding mother and represented a continuation of the Bhutto legacy. He was not considered to have much of a political acumen and people generally thought that he had been propped up by his father and made her chairman of the PPP while Zardari presented himself as co-chairman to run the affairs of the Party. To them, Bilawal was only a figurehead who did everything at this father’s bidding. It appears things are changing now and a new generation of politicians in Pakistan is entering the arena.
It has been noticed of late that Bilawal Bhutto is emerging as a person of concrete political views and it is said in some circles that he does not see eye to eye with his father on many issues. There may be a long distance for him to cover in becoming a true leader of the people but he has the advantage of the Bhutto legacy and he can use it to his advantage rather than letting his father further push Sindh into backwardness through his corrupt practices.It is expected that if Bilawal is allowed to pursue his own political bent instead of continuing to perform in his father’s shadow, he may come up with new ideas that would benefit the people. If this happens, the fortunes of the Pakistan People’s Party are sure to revive and it could be put back on the rails as a genuinely national party instead of its current status as a party of only Sindh.
Bilawal’s two sisters, Bakhtawar and Asifa could have taken the political route too but they have not showed any inclination so far.
The next Sharif?
In the Punjab, two young people are emerging in politics and could hold promise for the future. One is Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of Nawaz Sharif and the other is Hamza Sharif, the son of Shahbaz Sharif. Both are first cousins but they have a lot of room to be groomed individually and emerge as heirs to their respective fathers’ political legacies. Maryam has already been groomed by her father in politics and has displayed a rare understanding of both provincial and national issues. She began her political career in 2012 when she was in charge of Nawaz Sharif’s 2013 election campaign. She also headed the BISP (Benazir Income Support Programme) for some time after her father became the Prime Minister. Nawaz wants to see Maryam as the new ‘Benazir’ of Pakistan and has therefore provided her all opportunities as Bhutto did for Benazir. He took her to Simla, included her in meetings with Indira Gandhi and made her in charge of the India Desk at the foreign office. She also hosted a current Affairs TV programme called ‘Encounter’ in the early 70s.
After Nawaz Sharif came to power, Maryam was appointed chairperson of the Youth Programme. She also ran the prime minister’s media cell. She became more politically active in 2017 after her father was disqualified by the Supreme Court and successfully campaigned for her mother, Kulsoom Nawaz, for the NA-120 by-elections. Maryam Nawaz holds promise if she crafts a separate political route and manages to steer clear from the politics of her father. What is expected from her is leadership that would appeal to the common Pakistani and not the feudals.
Hamza Shahbaz has so far played a political role in Punjab but so firm is his father’s grip on provincial politics that Hamza is not recognized as a political leader of consequence. He has shown a clearer understanding of issues and, if given more latitude he is likely to emerge as a leader not hemmed in by the narrow views of outdated politicians. The political legacy of the Gandhi family having been passed on to the new generation is also visible in India but only future developments will reveal the true potential.
China’s jihadist crisis reaches a critical juncture
Giorgio Cafiero/Al Arabiya/January 30/18
In recent years, jihadists born in dozens of countries worldwide from Albania to Zimbabwe have joined extremist groups operating in the Levant. Since ISIS lost its strongholds in Mosul and Raqqa last year, security apparatuses across several continents have been deeply concerned about the threat of their own citizens, who became further radicalized, highly-trained, disciplined, and battle-hardened in Iraq and Syria, returning home to wage terrorism.
China is a case in point. As of May 2017, 4,000-5,000 radicalized Uighurs from China’s northwestern Xinjiang Province, where the country’s Turkic-speaking Muslim minority is concentrated, had entered the ranks of ISIS and other extremist entities in Syria, according to Damascus’ ambassador to Beijing. These Uighur fighters, who came to Syria via Turkey and Southeast Asia, have engaged in direct combat with the Syrian Arab Army amid decisive battles throughout the conflict.
The dominant Uighur faction involved in the Syrian crisis has been the al-Qaeda-affiliated Turkestan Islamic Movement (TIP). In Syria, the TIP had joined the umbrella of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), formally known as al-Nusra Front, yet the hardline Uighur jihadist faction’s agenda in Syria has always been about more than just overthrowing Assad. The TIP has fought in Syria to gain greater recognition among global jihadist networks, raise international awareness about the Uighurs’ grievances in Xinjiang, and send a message to authorities in Beijing about the its strength as a fighting force.
With a growing number of Uighurs flowing into Syria to join the ranks of extremist forces, jihadists on the ground have sought to capitalize on China’s growing oppression of Uighur/Islamic identity in Xinjiang. ISIS’ publications in the media have included Uighur-language editions and the TIP has released many propaganda videos from Syria vowing to spill blood in China. Laws in Xinjiang that restrict Uighurs’ right to practice their religion and preserve their culture such as the ban on “abnormal” beards and veils have fed into the jihadists’ anti-China narratives.
Protecting China’s Eurasian frontier
At this juncture, officials in Beijing are increasingly alarmed by the potential for such militant Uighurs to make good on their threats to bring their violence from the Syrian battlefields back to northwestern China. In recent years, militant Uighurs have attacked police and civilians in China, as well as Chinese diplomats in Kyrgyzstan and tourists in Thailand. Such deadly acts of terrorism have involved bombs and knives.
Jihadist factions in Xinjiang and beyond have exploited such perceptions of oppression and human rights abuses to radicalize more marginalized Muslims in northwestern China. Such transregional terrorists will continue to do so as Beijing’s “security state” in Xinjiang imposes further restrictions on Uighur life.
At the heart of Beijing’s main concerns about China’s jihadist crisis is the reality that terror and unrest in the northwest significantly threatens the country’s ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative that aims to establish China as the center of global trade in the 21st century. As OBOR relies on Xinjiang as a corridor linking eastern China to Central Asia and, by extension, Europe, China has sought to protect its Eurasian frontier from terror threats with a security-centered strategy.
The Chinese will build a “Great Wall” in Xinjiang to fortress the restive province from militants in neighboring countries, according to a January 23 state-run media report. By tightening the screws on political, social, and cultural practices in Xinjiang, encouraging Hanifaction, and pushing an economic modernization program, Chinese authorities are determined to weaken Uighur aspirations for independence and/or greater autonomy in the northwest. In practice such policies, while responsible for fueling economic growth in Xinjiang throughout the 21st century, have also displaced Uighurs in large numbers and contributed to grievances stemming from “aggressive attempts to assimilate Uighurs into Han culture” via educational institutions and work programs.
Regardless of the debate over the extent to which Uighur violence is more an outcome of legitimate grievances or a nihilistic and radical ideology, the growing crackdown in Xinjiang risks reinforcing rebellious attitudes toward the Chinese Community Party that Uighurs have held for decades. Jihadist factions in Xinjiang and beyond have exploited such perceptions of oppression and human rights abuses to radicalize more marginalized Muslims in northwestern China. Such transregional terrorists will continue to do so as Beijing’s “security state” in Xinjiang imposes further restrictions on Uighur life.
Simultaneously, with conflicts raging on in Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere throughout Greater Central Asia and the Middle East that have lured jihadist Uighurs from Xinjiang, China’s foreign policy vis-à-vis these regions will become increasingly intertwined with Beijing’s quest to promote OBOR’s spirit of “peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness” in China’s northwestern frontier.
In late 2015, China signaled it was considering deploying the People’s Liberation Army and the People’s Armed Police outside of the country to conduct counter-terrorism operations, highlighting Beijing’s growing unease about threats posed to Chinese interests abroad by militant Uighurs. Odds are good that China will conduct a more assertive foreign policy in Greater Central Asia and the Arab world aimed at countering jihadist menaces involving Uighurs. Whereas China’s non-intervention and economic-centered approach to international affairs largely limited Beijing’s hand in such regions’ security environments in the past, menaces in Xinjiang will likely shift China’s foreign policy in a new direction based on rising levels of interest in coordinating counter-terrorism efforts with allies in the Muslim world’s conflict areas.
Immigrant success stories prove we’re still learning from history
Hussein Shobokshi/Al Arabiya/January 30/18
I attended one of the episodes of the Dr. Oz Show on his personal invitation. It was a successful program conducted by the doctor who is of Turkish origin and has succeeded in a legendary way in the land of Uncle Sam. I studied the success of this “immigrant” amid racial discourse in the United States of America today and (other countries of the world) calling for an end to accepting more migrants and laying out policies to control and prevent their access. The interesting thing now is that the greatest companies in the US today are headed by “immigrants” such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Pepsi Cola but the fever of racism against the direction of nature has reached the Arab world, which is speaking with the same intensity of ignorance. The Arab countries have emerged and enjoyed their economic, social and cultural glory because of the presence of immigrants there.
Egypt was the result of the contribution of Al-Shawam, the people of the Fertile Crescent, who contributed greatly in the most important literary, media, artistic and cultural achievements as well as immigrants from Europe and Central Asia. Azbekiya in downtown Cairo was named after the merchants who came to Egypt from Uzbekistan. The Armenians were the important presence in Iraq and Iran, which knew many of those who migrated, especially in the cases Sham and Iraq migrated to the models of great and dignified of the people of the Arabian Peninsula known Aqil and the people of Zubayr were striking for parables in success. Gulf states have seen an important presence of people who migrated from different countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen were the best citizens and producers and beneficiaries of the country they were in. Here are the people of Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Hadramawt and Yemen in all parts of the world best ambassadors of their culture and ethics were the best example their involvement and harmony in the new national fabric. This renewed discourse in America has to do with the person of the ruling president and not with the American approach, which teaches that it is based on the thought and culture of immigration. This period is a period of re-impetus for American values.
The corrupt and the good
The truth is that the American Constitution states that “all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” A significant number of Americans today have full conviction that there is a great imbalance in what is happening, an issue against the foundations on which the Constitution of America itself. Justice and rights and equality, an issue that cannot be “guaranteed” today in the polluted and toxic atmosphere that no longer affect America only, but exported abroad and traded by the oppressed and obsessed everywhere and they are only waiting for the opportunity to release their toxins and diseases and complex deficiencies.
The movement of people between states is a natural state and all attempts to prevent them have failed because it produces the corrupt and replaces it with the productive good, which existed since the beginning of creation and it is certain that it will continue. Those who stood before it under the name and emblem of religion, patriotism and economy fell into an abyss. History does not lie. This is what is being heard in the American media and universities, and in their presentation they rely on statistics, opinions and documented examples.