Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For November 01/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, "We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done
Luke 17/05-10: "The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, "Be uprooted and planted in the sea", and it would obey you. ‘Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, "Come here at once and take your place at the table"? Would you not rather say to him, "Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink"?Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, "We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!""

نشرات اخبار عربية وانكليزية مطولة ومفصلة يومية على موقعنا الألكتروني على الرابط التالي

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Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 01/18
As Cabinet formation in Lebanon continues to stall, economy spirals/Georgi Azar/Annahar/October 31/
Jounieh a regional hotspot for pollution, says Greenpeace/Georgi Azar/Annahar/October 31/
How will Hezbollah act in Lebanon’s new government/Mohamed Chebaro/Arab News/October 31/18
US Mid East forces brace for trouble from Iran over impending oil sanctions/DebkeFile/October 31/18
Pakistan: Asia Bibi Acquitted After Years Awaiting Death for "Blasphemy"/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/October 31/18
The real reason behind Susan Rice’s attack on Saudi Arabia/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/October 31/18
Susan Rice, is Iran only a Saudi problem/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/October 31/18
Social or antisocial media/Jordanian King, Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein/Arab News/October 31/18
EU’s fundamental values at stake in year of reckoning/Joschka Fischer/Arab News/October 31/18
What Would Reagan Do on Iran/Simon Miles and Farzan Sabet/Foreign Policy/October 31/18
Most Refugees Won’t Return to Syria until Conditions Are Right/Peter Yeo/The Hill/October 31/18
The Idea of a New Syrian Constitution Is a Diplomatic Fig Leaf/Faisal Al Yafai/The National/October 31/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 01/18
Guterres: Hezbollah will drag Lebanon into war
Aoun Slams 'Use of Delay as Tactic', Asks Hizbullah to Avoid 'Crack in National Unity'
As Cabinet formation in Lebanon continues to stall, economy spirals
Jounieh a regional hotspot for pollution, says Greenpeace
Aoun Meets with EU Ambassador Christina Lassen
Aoun meets UNFPA's Kanim, says Lebanon keen on pluralism in the face of displacement
Report: Aoun Wished Govt. Would Be Formed before Election Anniversary
Hariri, Rampling tackle general situation
Report: Hariri, Khalil Hold ‘Heated’ Meeting Away from Spotlight
Berri on government formation: All we have left is prayersBerri 'Praying' for Govt. Formation, Holds Back on Legislative Session
Berri 'Praying' for Govt. Formation, Holds Back on Legislative Session
Report: Bassil Meets Hariri over Sunni Obstacle, Maronite Seats
Bassil to Aoun: Nothing Will Stop Us
SKeyes Condemns Prison Sentence against Journalist Fidaa Itani
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel Arrives in Moscow to Take Part in Unity Day Celebration
Hankache Lashes Out at 'Time-Waste Heroes' in Wake of Alarming World Bank Report
Press Syndicate delegation pays solidarity visit to Saudi Embassy
How will Hezbollah act in Lebanon’s new government?

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 01/18
U.S. Calls for Yemen Ceasefire
Turkey Doubts Saudi Willingness to 'Genuinely Cooperate' on Khashoggi
Russia Probes Terror after Teen Suicide Attack on Security Service
US Mid East forces brace for trouble from Iran over impending oil sanctions
Guterres letter to UN Security Council announces new Syria envoy
Hundreds of Kurdish fighters arrive in eastern Syria to help fight ISIS
US-backed Syria force suspends anti-ISIS attacks after turkey hits
Blast kills three in Iraq, ISIS claims attack
US calls for end to Yemen hostilities and resumption of peace talks
President Rouhani anticipates difficult months ahead for Iranians
Iran summons Danish ambassador over attack allegations
The spokesman Yaquob Hurr al-Tisteri said that the Danish security authorities thwarted an
South Sudan rebel leader Machar arrives in capital, first time since 2016
In first, Israel appoints woman as ambassador to Egypt
Oman minister visits Ramallah after Netanyahu talks
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 01/18
Guterres: Hezbollah will drag Lebanon into war
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday, 31 October 2018/UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned in a report to the Security Council that the militia group Hezbollah could drag Lebanon into war and called for its disarmament. Guterres said Hezbollah was the most powerful militia in Lebanon and asked in his report whether the Lebanese state could exercise its sovereignty while Hezbollah's strengthens its military arsenal. Guterres also called for the implementation of the resolution calling for the disarmament of militias in Lebanon. His report also warned against the consequences of the participation of Hezbollah in the conflict in Syria, considering it a violation of the policy of self-distancing in Lebanon. Guterres also referred to Hezbollah's assistance to the Houthis in Yemen as military advisers and trainers, saying that their actions pose a serious regional and global threat.

Aoun Slams 'Use of Delay as Tactic', Asks Hizbullah to Avoid 'Crack in National Unity'
President Michel Aoun on Wednesday slammed what he called “the use of delay as a political tactic,” in reference to the stalled cabinet formation process, as he advised Hizbullah to avoid any “crack in national unity.” “We have given some parties a share bigger than their size to relieve them regarding this government,” Aoun said in an apparent reference to the Lebanese Forces. “The government should be formed according to specific standards and it should not marginalize any sect or group and had everyone accepted their sizes there wouldn't have been a problem,” Aoun added in a nationally-televised interview marking two years since his election as president. Asked about the emergence of the so-called Sunni representation hurdle as the new cabinet was on the verge of formation, the president said: “The obstacles are unjustified and using delay as a political tactic undermines the national strategy that we are in dire need for.” “Every minute of delay in the cabinet formation process will cost us a lot,” Aoun warned. “The Consultative Sunni Gathering are individuals and not a bloc and they have grouped together lately and we want the premier to be strong because he has major challenges ahead,” he added.
“As for Hizbullah's stance, we don't want any crack in national unity,” Aoun went on to say, when asked whether Hizbullah's support for the independent Sunni MPs might spark a Sunni-Shiite clash. The president added: “The situation is not easy and I don't know if everyone evaluates things like I do.”
Turning to the tensions between the LF and the Free Patriotic Movement, Aoun said “there is no infighting in the Christian arena but rather conflicting viewpoints.”“There is a political dispute and not a dispute over the country,” he added. Asked about reports suggesting that the financial situation in Lebanon is facing collapse, Aoun said: “I do not have immediate concerns over the economic and financial situations but should we continue in the same manner the danger will become imminent.” “The media is contributing to spreading harmful reports in this regard,” he lamented. The new cabinet was on the verge of formation on Monday after the LF accepted the portfolios that were assigned to it but a last-minute hurdle over the representation of the so-called independent Sunni MPs has surfaced. Hizbullah has thrown its weight behind the MPs' demand and refrained from providing Hariri with the names of its own ministers in a bid to press him to accept giving a seat to the aforementioned Sunni grouping.

As Cabinet formation in Lebanon continues to stall, economy spirals

Georgi Azar/Annahar/October 31/
BEIRUT: As both local and regional experts continue to sound alarm bells over Lebanon’s dire economic state and the need to form a new Cabinet, Lebanese lawmakers have returned to wrangling over the allocation of ministries and the size of their individual shares. The Lebanese Forces ceding ground earlier this week and capitulating to the demands of the Free Patriotic Movement breathed life into hopes of a swift Cabinet formation, yet the emergence of a new obstacle has essentially brought back the main players to the negotiating table. March 8-affiliated Sunni MPs, backed by Speaker Nabih Berri and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, are now demanding to be represented in the upcoming Cabinet. With both Shiite leaders throwing their weight behind the 6 MP-strong coalition, the pro-Hezbollah Sunni bloc is now poised to join the Cabinet, despite Hariri’s utter refusal to cede one minister on their behalf.
With the emergence of this latest stumbling block, the pro-Hezbollah Sunni bloc has continued distancing itself from blame for the latest setback. In an interview Wednesday, MP Walid Sukkarieh maintained his willingness to form a new Cabinet “as quickly as possible,” casting aside “responsibility for the formation delay.” Both Nasrallah and Berri have also refused to hand in the names of their proposed ministers thus far, in an attempt to further pile pressure on Hariri who’s hinted at the possibility of stepping down as Prime Minister-designate.
Hariri found himself in this predicament after suffering a devastating loss during the May 6 parliamentary elections, capturing a mere 17 MPs across Lebanon's districts, down from 27 nine years ago.
This latest development prompted President Michel Aoun to hold talks with Hariri on Tuesday, during which the premier reiterated his refusal to hand over a seat from his own share in the Cabinet to the group of Sunni MPs. But sources close to the negotiation process have noted that a breakthrough could be reached at any moment, a day after the World Bank issued a scathing report warning of further inaction. From rising unemployment and debt to GDP ratio, to increasing poverty rates, the World Bank highlighted Lebanon’s lack of obvious sources for an economic boost before calling for the implementation of swift reforms to tackle these issues. Lebanon’s medium-term economic prospects remain sluggish, it said, indicating that the economy has "struggled to reduce widespread poverty and generate inclusive growth." “The risk profile for Lebanon is rising sharply in light of the convergence of a number of negative local and global factors, including global monetary conditions,” it said. “Fiscal and electricity reforms are highlighted as priorities.” The positive confidence following the CEDRE IV donor conference, during which the Lebanese government secured over $11 billion in grants and soft loans to kickstart the economy, has waned as the government impasse lingers on. The Central Bank has continuously attempted to counter this downward trend, with the latest being a swap of Treasury bills held by BDL with newly MoF-issued Eurobonds in the amount of $5.5 billion, around $3 billion of which were subsequently sold (along with enticements) to banks. This was done to raise BDL's foreign exchange reserves, which reached around $44 billion by the end of June.

Jounieh a regional hotspot for pollution, says Greenpeace

Georgi Azar/Annahar/October 31/
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s city of Jounieh ranked fifth among the Arab world's 23 countries in terms pollution clusters, producing record levels of nitrogen dioxide, according to environmental campaign group Greenpeace. In a report released Monday, Greenpeace listed Jounieh among the world's top 50 pollution hotspots, coming ahead of major cities like Cairo and New Delhi. Satellite data produced by a European Space Agency satellite and analyzed by Greenpeace between June 1 and August 31 showed Jounieh’s nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions to be one of the highest in the world.
Nitrous oxide is a dangerous pollutant emitted into the air when burning fossil fuels such as oil and diesel, with the main source emanating from the transport sector and electricity production plants from the Zouk power factories, as well as the diesel generators located throughout the country. Coal burning and transport emissions are the principal sources of air pollution in the region, the report noted. “Air pollution is a global health crisis, with up to 95% of the world breathing unsafe air. With hotspots across six continents, ranging from cities to industrial clusters to agricultural areas, this new analysis shows us more clearly than ever before just how big a part of the picture NO2 pollution is,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Greenpeace Nordic air pollution campaigner. "We know that Lebanon's air is heavily polluted, but we are surprised that Jounieh is in a position higher than major cities such as New Delhi," said Greenpeace Middle East campaign official Julain Jreissati. . "It is a frightening warning that air pollution in the densely populated areas has reached very dangerous levels, endangering the health of Lebanese citizens. " Nitrogen oxides (NOx) — including NO2 — are estimated to cause many thousands of premature deaths worldwide every year. The world’s biggest hotspot over the three month period is Mpumalanga in South Africa, home to a cluster of a dozen coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of over 32 gigawatts owned and operated by Eskom. - With AP

Aoun Meets with EU Ambassador Christina Lassen
Naharnet/October 31/18/President Michel Aoun met on Wednesday with European Union Ambassador Christina Lassen in Baabda to take stock of recent domestic and regional political developments. The visit coincided with Aoun's two-year anniversary in office and was an opportunity to discuss the milestones that have shaped his tenure so far, including the successful parliamentary elections, as well as upcoming priorities, the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Lebanon said in a press release. In this context, Lassen inquired about the remaining obstacles facing the formation of a new government of national unity, and hoped that they would be resolved soon, for the benefit of Lebanon and the Lebanese people. She also exchanged with the President on his vision for the Ministerial Statement, expressing hope that the next government would take into account the principles expressed by the International Support Group for Lebanon and discussed at the international conferences held in Rome, Paris and Brussels in support of Lebanon earlier this year. These notably included the policy of disassociation from external conflicts, resumption of a national dialogue for a National Defense Strategy, and the implementation of a number of important structural and sectoral reforms needed to attract investments towards Lebanon’s sustainable economic development.Lassen discussed with Aoun the follow-up to the support conferences and encouraged Lebanon to accelerate setting up the follow-up mechanisms agreed in the framework of CEDRE as well as the fight against corruption. "The European Union will continue to support all efforts by Lebanon to implement the necessary reforms, in a spirit of good will and commitment to our pledges", the Ambassador said.

Aoun meets UNFPA's Kanim, says Lebanon keen on pluralism in the face of displacement

Wed 31 Oct 2018/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, welcomed at Baabda Palace on Wednesday the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Natalia Kanim. "Lebanon is endeavouring to promote the rights of women and children and to enhance their participation in the country's political life," Aoun told his visitor. "Freedom of expression is safeguarded in Lebanon, and the independence of the judiciary is effective. The best conditions for prisoners are maintained, and their rights are guaranteed," Aoun told the UN official. "The state encourages Lebanese women to be effective in the field of legislation, and women are appointed in several positions within the executive branch," Aoun added. The President also explained to Kanim achievements on the economic level, starting with the adoption of a modern economic reform plan, reaching the national security plan through which terrorist threats have been eliminated. He also briefed her on the achievement of parliamentary elections "on the basis of proportionality for the first time in Lebanon's history, which enabled the representation of all the Lebanese alike." The President of the Republic stressed ongoing efforts to form a new government and to begin the completion of reforms, as well as to take advantage of decisions and recommendations of the international conferences such as CEDRE, Rome 2, and Brussels. Moreover, Aoun stressed Lebanon's keenness on preserving cultural, ethnic and religious diversity in the region, especially in the face of attempts at displacement and division. In turn, Kanim expressed her pleasure to visit Lebanon, and thanked President Aoun for receiving her with her accompanying delegation.Kanim praised the relations linking Lebanon to the United Nations organizations in general, and to the United Nations Population Fund in specific. "We are looking forward to strengthening this cooperation under the auspices and care of President Aoun," she said. The UN diplomat lauded that "the existing partnership with the Lebanese National Commission for Lebanese Women, headed by Mrs. Claudine Aoun Roukoz," hoping that Lebanese women will participate more and more in the Lebanese political life.

Report: Aoun Wished Govt. Would Be Formed before Election Anniversary

Naharnet/October 31/18/President Michel Aoun was reportedly disappointed that a government was not formed before his second anniversary as head of state, the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reported on Wednesday. Well-informed political sources said the new obstacle, related to the representation of opposition Sunni MPs, that delayed the government formation further, has “echoed negatively” among circles of the President and his Free Patriotic Movement. Aoun was hoping the government would be formed before he celebrates the second anniversary of his election, which happens today, the daily said. The President is set to make a televised appearance on the occasion to talk about the achievements of his presidential term and the plans that he is counting on to implement through the new government. A new obstacle had emerged Monday in the cabinet formation process after Hizbullah insisted that a grouping of Sunni MPs opposed to Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri should be represented in the government. The so-called Sunni hurdle is the last obstacle delaying the formation of the government after a standoff over Christian and Druze seats was resolved. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has meanwhile announced that he'd rather step down than give independent Sunni MPs a seat from his own ministerial share. The sources told al-Hayat that “as much as this new condition constitutes a slap for Hariri and his mission, it also constitutes a slap for Hizbullah’s ally Aoun, who was hoping to celebrate the anniversary under a new government.”
Hariri, Rampling tackle general situation
Wed 31 Oct 2018/NNA - Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri received this evening at the Center House the British Ambassador to Lebanon, Chris Rampling, with whom he discussed the general situation and the bilateral relations. Premier Hariri also met with Mufti of Tripoli and the North Malek Shaar, with most recent developments and northern affairs featuring high on their talks.
Report: Hariri, Khalil Hold ‘Heated’ Meeting Away from Spotlight
Naharnet/October 31/18/As wrangling over representation in the new government takes new forms each day, a “heated” meeting was reportedly held away from the spotlight between Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and senior Hizbullah official Hajj Hussein Khalil, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday. The two men have met two day ago, during which Khalil (Hizbullah secretary-general's political aide) insisted that a grouping of Sunni MPs, opposed to Hariri, should be represented in the government, said the daily. The meeting was described as “heated”, and when Hariri asked to provide him with the names of Hizbullah’s new ministers, like other parties did, Khalil refused in a bid to press the PM-designate to accept his demand. The new obstacle had emerged Monday after a long-running standoff over the representation of the Lebanese Forces was resolved earlier in the day. Hariri was tasked with forming the government in May. His mission has since been delayed because of wrangling between the country’s political parties over shares and quotas. Later on Wednesday, al-Mustaqbal Movement sources told LBCI TV station: “We have no knowledge about such a meeting.”

Berri on government formation: All we have left is prayers
Wed 31 Oct 2018/NNA - Visiting MPs within the framework of "Wednesday Gathering" with House Speaker Nabih Berri. quoted him as saying that he has undertaken all the necessary contacts on the subject of government formation. According to the visiting lawmakers, Berri said: "All we have left in this regard is prayers." Speaker Berru sounded the alarm once again on the seriousness of the current economic situation and its repercussions at the social and daily living conditions. Berri also addressed the issue of the pollution of the Litani River, expressing his dissatisfaction with the method adopted sp far to resolve this crisis. Berri urged the General Prosecution to get hold of this case to reach a radical solution to this crisis. MPs said the Speaker had the intention to call for a legislative session, however preferred to postpone his decision pending developments on the local scene.
Berri 'Praying' for Govt. Formation, Holds Back on Legislative Session
Naharnet/October 31/18/Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced Wednesday that “all we can do is to pray for the government to be formed.”Berri also warned over the economic situation in the country and the “dangerous developments” in the region, telling MPs that he prefers to hold back on a legislative session that he had intended to call for in light of “the current situation and circumstances.”The new cabinet was on the verge of formation on Monday after the Lebanese Forces accepted the portfolios that have been assigned to it but a last-minute hurdle over the representation of the so-called independent Sunni MPs has surfaced. Hizbullah has backed the MPs' demand and refrained from providing Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri with the names of its own ministers in a bid to press him to accept giving a seat to the aforementioned Sunni grouping.
Report: Bassil Meets Hariri over Sunni Obstacle, Maronite Seats
Naharnet/October 31/18/Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil held talks Wednesday at the Center House with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. MTV said Bassil carried to Hariri a proposal from President Michel Aoun to resolve the so-called Sunni obstacle that is delaying the formation of the new government. “The proposal calls for naming a Sunni minister not provocative to Hariri from the President's share,” the TV network said. The proposed candidate “should not belong to Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh's bloc, which means that MPs Faisal Karami and Jihad al-Samad are excluded,” MTV added. Separately, Bassil carried to Hariri a demand from Aoun to “redistribute seats among sects, especially those allocated to Maronites, after the Lebanese Forces demanded that it be represented by two Maronites, a Greek Orthodox and an Armenian Catholic,” the TV network said. “Aoun wants the LF to be represented by one instead of two Maronites and Center House sources have said that, 'in this case, it seems that they don't want a government,'” MTV added. The new cabinet was on the verge of formation on Monday after the LF accepted the portfolios that were assigned to it but a last-minute hurdle over the representation of the so-called independent Sunni MPs has surfaced. Hizbullah has backed the MPs' demand and refrained from providing Hariri with the names of its own ministers in a bid to press him to accept giving a seat to the aforementioned Sunni grouping.

Bassil to Aoun: Nothing Will Stop Us
Naharnet/October 31/18/Head of the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc and Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil praised the “achievements” made during the term of President Michel Aoun (FPM founder), while lashing out at rival parties without naming them as the President marks the two-year anniversary in office. Addressing Aoun, Jebran said: “No one can stop the achievements of the (presidential) tenure, because in a period of only two years you were able to achieve what they did not achieve in decades.” Without naming anyone, Bassil added addressing Aoun: “You have succeeded where they failed. They have placed obstacles, lied and cursed. Their only concern was to undermine the accomplishments of others without themselves achieving anything. As for us, we have made a vow and we will carry on until the end, nothing will stop us.”Aoun is set to make a televised appearance marking his two-year anniversary as head of state to talk about the “achievements” of his presidential term and the plans that he is counting on to implement through the new government.
SKeyes Condemns Prison Sentence against Journalist Fidaa Itani
Source: Beirut – SKeyes/October 31/18/On October 22, 2018, the Baabda criminal court judge Ahmad Shehade sentenced journalist Fidaa Itani to two months in prison and fined him 35 million Lebanese pounds for libel, defamation and slander against Minister of Foreign Affairs and Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil, following a Facebook post he published. On June 29, 2018, Itani was sentenced to four months in prison and fined 10 million Lebanese pounds in other lawsuits filed by Bassil. Complaints against Itani were also previously lodged by Wafiq Safa, a Hezbollah high-ranking official and Nader Hariri, former chief-of-staff to the Prime Minister. The SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom firmly condemns the use of justice as a tool of repression and intimidation against journalists and opposition activists. The Center is also strongly opposed to any prison sentence against journalists and calls on the Editors’ Syndicate to adopt a firm position on this issue and refrain from playing up to political parties. Fidaa Itani currently lives in the UK where he was granted political asylum to shield him from the serious threats he had been receiving during the last years he spent in Lebanon. Journalists have the duty to shed light on flawed government performance and hold authorities to account. And authorities have the duty to secure an atmosphere of freedom and justice while preserving citizens’ right to access information. The “Stability v. Freedom” equation that parties in power are trying to inculcate in the minds of Lebanese people is totally unacceptable.
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel Arrives in Moscow to Take Part in Unity Day Celebration 31st October 2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Wednesday arrived in Moscow upon an invitation he received to take part in Russia's National Unity Day celebration at the Kremlin. Gemayel will be meeting with officials at the Russian Foreign Ministry, as well as the State Duma and Orthodox Patriarchate. The Kataeb leader is accompanied by his deputy Salim Sayegh, MP Elias Hankache, former MP Fady Haber

Hankache Lashes Out at 'Time-Waste Heroes' in Wake of Alarming World Bank Report 31st October 2018/MP Elias Hankache on Wednesday lashed out at political forces that have been haggling over ministerial shares while Lebanon’s risk framework is “rising sharply”, as per the World Bank. On Tuesday, the World Bank issued its Lebanon Economic Outlook report in which it warned that the utility of some of the tools used by the central bank is being depleted after years of implementation."On the other hand, the heroes of time-waste and bickering over ministerial shares are moving from one complexity to another, as the end up submitting to a 'God-given' will instead of forming a rescue government," Hankache wrote on Twitter.

Press Syndicate delegation pays solidarity visit to Saudi Embassy

Wed 31 Oct 2018/NNA - A delegation of the Lebanese Press Federation, led by Dean, Aouni al-Kaaki, on Wednesday visited the headquarters of Saudi Embassy IN Beirut, in solidarity with the Kingdom and in condemnation of the front-page editorial published in "Ad-Diyar" daily newspaper. The delegation was greeted by Saudi Minister Plenipotentiary Charge d'Affaires Walid al-Bukhari, in the presence of UAE Ambassador to Lebanon, Saeed Hamad al-Shamsi, and Kuwait's Ambassador, Kuwaiti Ambassador to Lebanon, Abdel Aal al-Qinai. Al-Kaaki condemned the editorial published in the Lebanese daily, noting that "it was a dark day in the history of the Lebanese press."He expressed discontent of the Lebanese journalistic and press body in this regard, underlining that Lebanon is the country of liberties, culture, science and ethics. Al-Kaaki apologized to all Saudi officials, and to the Saudi ambassador, recalling that Lebanese officials have deplored what took place. For his part, Kuwaiti ambassador al-Qinai said that journalist Charles Ayoub did not take into account the national interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese people, stressing that the information sector delivers the constructive message of ethics, with its prime mission to bring people and countries closer together. Bukhari, for his part, highly appreciated the solidarity visit by the Lebanese media delegation, who represent the principles of moderation and moral values. The Saudi diplomat said what happened did not reflect Lebanon's press ethics, neither in content nor in message. He said he has received several contacts from reporters who do not share the views of Saudi Arabia, yet they voiced solidarity with the Kingdom. Bukhari also thanked the President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, who in his words, personally followed up on the case and instructed the Minister of Justice to take immediate legal action in this regard. Bukhari also thanked the positions of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, Progressive Socialist Party head Walid Jumblatt, Information Minister Melhem Riachy, and all officials who deplored such a conduct. Bukhari announced that diplomatic measures will be taken against the daily, noting that his Country will not allow any irresponsible media to disrupt relations between Lebanon and the kingdom, which is keen on the security, stability and prosperity of Lebanon. The UAE ambassador Al-Shamsi stressed the paramount need for necessary legal measures to deter such abuses.
How will Hezbollah act in Lebanon’s new government?
محمد شبارو: كيف سيتصرف حزب الله في الحكومة الجديدة

Mohamed Chebaro/Arab News/October 31/18
Many descriptions have been used over the years to refer to the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah. It was seen as a militant group; a terror group; a resistance group fighting Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon; a key supporter of the Palestinian cause rejecting all forms of peace with the Zionist enemy; a unit in the Iranian revolutionary guards working to advance Iran’s interests in the Arab world; and a protector of the Shiite community in Lebanon and beyond. Slowly but surely, Hezbollah became a political force recognized by many Western governments as the political wing of a Lebanese Shiite militant group capable of getting its representatives elected as MPs in Lebanon’s parliament, as ministers in the Cabinet, or as officers across all key units of the embattled Lebanese armed forces and security forces.
In short, Hezbollah has, over the years, moved from being a mere militia propped up by Iran and Syria to a Trojan horse not only controlling Lebanon, but also penetrating the state and societies in the Middle East, as well as shaping the wider narrative in the Arabic-speaking world.
But, if the Cabinet formed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri is sworn in at long last, history will record the first time Hezbollah has ascended to control the Lebanese government and, by default, the country through democratic means. This is the result of a carefully recrafted electoral law that has ensured Hezbollah and its allies from across Lebanon’s confessional and religious divide earned the majority of seats in Parliament and the government so that it is firmly and constitutionally in full control of the country’s executive branch. This is a battle that Hezbollah started with the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. This killing led to the speedy withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon after 30 years. Hezbollah, with Iranian and Syrian blessing, quickly filled the void, announcing that Syrian interests in Lebanon were the party’s own interests and therefore they would be upheld to counter the independence movement that emerged after Hariri’s assassination.
The second important event was the return from exile of the Maronite Christian ex-army general Michel Aoun, who tried but failed to remove Syrian forces from Lebanon through a destructive war of liberation in 1989. Upon his return, Aoun quickly positioned himself and his reform and change Free Patriotic Movement as Hezbollah’s key Christian ally. Hezbollah promised to support Aoun’s presidential bid as and when the matter arose.
Lebanon, with such a government, is most likely to be in the eye of the storm since the US is tightening the noose on Iran — Hezbollah’s paymaster general.
Thirteen years have lapsed between the senior Hariri’s assassination and the ascendance of Hezbollah to finally dominate the executive branch of government in Lebanon. This was not bloodless. Hezbollah, it is thought, followed Hariri’s assassination with a series of politically motivated killings of MPs opposed to the regime in Syria or opposed to Hezbollah’s remaining as an armed militia within the state of Lebanon. The campaign saw the deaths of several MPs, politicians, journalists and key military commanders seen as an obstacle for Hezbollah and the long-term plans of its patrons, Iran and Syria.
The war in Syria and the failure to topple Bashar Assad’s regime has further emboldened Hezbollah. A carefully crafted campaign of political intimidation, obstruction, disinformation, manipulation and exploitation of all political groups in Lebanon led to Hezbollah and its key Christian allies winning the largest number of seats in the parliamentary elections held in May 2018. This was after carefully tailoring the electoral law to deny groups opposed to Hezbollah and its patrons from achieving a majority. As a result, the new Lebanese Cabinet will include 18 pro-Hezbollah ministers and only 12 for Saad Hariri and his anti-Syria allies.
It will be interesting to monitor how the new government, which could be labeled the first Hezbollah-formed and dominated government in Lebanon, will govern and run the country. This is important as, since its emergence as a key powerbroker, Hezbollah has undermined all other governments, institutions and players in its game of vying for absolute control of Lebanon’s political, economic and social affairs. Though headed by PM Saad Hariri, Lebanon, with such a government, is most likely to be in the eye of the storm since the US is tightening the noose on Iran — Hezbollah’s paymaster general. Lebanon today is a heavily indebted country and it needs the support of international institutions and Western powers to shield it from economic collapse.
Lebanon, we were told, was a miracle. A miracle from its inception as an idea, a miracle that it made it in the modern world as a nation state, and also miraculously survived many rounds of civil strife. Saving Lebanon this time, with a proscribed terrorist party in the heart of its government, is maybe a long shot. In the last 20 years, Hezbollah has positioned itself as the only party that “can” in Lebanon, with its clear monopoly on power and success. In the past, the fractured nature of the country meant that Hezbollah could hide behind a weak government. If the new government is sworn in, it will be interesting to see how Hezbollah will manage its affairs from within after years of pretending to be in the shadows as an opposition group.
* Mohamed Chebaro is a British-Lebanese journalist with more than 25 years’ experience covering war, terrorism, defense, current affairs and diplomacy. He is also a media consultant and trainer.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 01/18
U.S. Calls for Yemen Ceasefire
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 31/18/The United States called Tuesday for a ceasefire and peace talks in Yemen, as the Saudi-led military coalition sent more than 10,000 new troops toward a vital rebel-held port city ahead of a new assault. Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said the US had been watching the conflict "for long enough," adding that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are in a US-backed coalition fighting Shiite Huthi rebels, are ready for talks. "We have got to move toward a peace effort here, and we can't say we are going to do it some time in the future," Mattis said at the US Institute of Peace in Washington. "We need to be doing this in the next 30 days."He said the US is calling for all warring parties to meet with United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths in Sweden in November and "come to a solution." US-Saudi ties have cooled in recent weeks after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the conservative kingdom, that has also tarnished the image of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict between embattled Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognized by the United Nations, and the Huthis in 2015. Nearly 10,000 people have since been killed and the country now stands at the brink of famine, with more than 22 million Yemenis -- three quarters of the population -- in need of humanitarian assistance. The pro-government coalition deployed its reinforcements to the Red Sea coast ahead of a new offensive on Hodeida "within days," a military official told AFP earlier. He said they would also "secure areas liberated" from the Iran-linked Huthi rebels, and that forces from Sudan, part of the coalition, had moved in to "secure" areas around the city. Huthi rebels have for the past 10 days been stationing fighters on rooftops of buildings in Hodeida city, government military officials told AFP. The adjacent port is the entry point for more than 70 percent of imports to the impoverished country.
Peace is 'the only way' -The United States has faced fierce international criticism for its role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition, especially after a series of strikes killed scores of civilians. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for an end to all coalition air strikes in Yemen's populated areas. "The time is now for the cessation of hostilities, including missile and UAV (drone) strikes from Huthi-controlled areas into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," Pompeo said in a statement. "Subsequently, coalition air strikes must cease in all populated areas in Yemen." Mattis said US support is based primarily on teaching the Saudi air force to improve targeting and to not drop bombs when there is any doubt about what they might hit. "Our goal right now is to achieve a level of capability by those forces fighting against the Huthis that they are not killing innocent people," he said. Mattis said the ceasefire should be based on a pullback of Huthi rebels from the border and a ceasefire, and the parties must come together to end the war. "That will permit the special envoy Martin Griffiths... to get them together in Sweden and end this war. That is the only way we are going to really solve this," he added.
Last month, UN-led peace talks failed to take off after Huthi rebels refused to fly to Geneva over what they said was the UN's failure to guarantee a safe return to the capital Sanaa, which the group has controlled since 2014. Pompeo said the peace talks would aim to "implement confidence-building measures to address the underlying issues of the conflict, the demilitarization of borders and the concentration of all large weapons under international observation.""A cessation of hostilities and vigorous resumption of a political track will help ease the humanitarian crisis as well," he added. "It is time to end this conflict, replace conflict with compromise and allow the Yemeni people to heal through peace and reconstruction."

Turkey Doubts Saudi Willingness to 'Genuinely Cooperate' on Khashoggi

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 31/18/Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and then dismembered as part of a premeditated plan, Turkey's chief prosecutor said Wednesday, making details of the murder public for the first time. The revelations came just hours after Saudi Arabia's chief prosecutor left Istanbul, and the Turkish prosecutor's office said it was "obliged" to reveal the details after the talks produced "no concrete results." Gruesome reports in the Turkish media had previously alleged that Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Washington Post contributor critical of the powerful Saudi crown prince, had been killed and cut into pieces by a team sent from Riyadh to silence him. His body has not been found. "In accordance with plans made in advance, the victim, Jamal Khashoggi, was strangled to death immediately after entering the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 for marriage formalities," said a statement from the office of Istanbul chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan. "The victim's body was dismembered and destroyed following his death by suffocation -– again, in line with advance plans," it added. "Despite our well-intentioned efforts to reveal the truth, no concrete results have come out of those meetings."Riyadh sent the head of its investigation to Istanbul this week seeking to draw a line under a crisis that has brought near unprecedented scrutiny on Saudi Arabia. However a senior Turkish official said earlier Wednesday that Saudi officials seemed "primarily interested in finding out what evidence Turkey had against the perpetrators.""We did not get the impression that they were keen on genuinely cooperating with the investigation," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
No 'local co-conspirators'?
After arriving on Sunday, Saudi Arabia's Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb met with Fidan twice, visited the consulate and spoke with Turkey's MIT intelligence agency. He flew out of Istanbul on Wednesday afternoon without making a public statement. After initially insisting Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, then saying he died in a brawl during an interview gone wrong, the Saudi regime has since admitted he was killed by a "rogue operation" and arrested 18 people. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged the Saudi regime to reveal the location of Khashoggi's body and who ordered the hit.  Erdogan has also called on Riyadh reveal the identity of local "co-conspirators" that media reports claimed had disposed of Khashoggi's body. However Mojeb said that Saudi authorities had made no such statement about local collaborators, the Istanbul prosecutor's office said. The Saudi prosecutor’s office meanwhile invited Fidan and his delegation to Riyadh "along with the evidence they have obtained," it added.
'Truth needs to come out'
The case has sorely strained relations between the ultra-conservative kingdom and the West. France said Wednesday that "not enough" was being done to find those responsible for the murder of Khashoggi, who was an insider in Saudi royal circles before going into self-imposed exile in the United States last year. "This crime has to be punished and the perpetrators identified. The truth needs to come out," Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. In an editorial published Tuesday, the Washington Post accused Riyadh of "deflecting questions by pretending to investigate" the murder. It said the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump was "playing along" and "pretending to believe that the Saudis can conduct a credible probe -- even though a chief suspect is the kingdom's own autocratic ruler." The editorial also urged the U.S. Congress to impose sanctions on those responsible -- "including, if the available evidence points to him, Mohammed bin Salman — and reshape U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia."The affair has tarnished the image of the crown prince, who has positioned himself as a Saudi reformer. He has denounced the murder as "repulsive" and strongly denied any involvement. Trump meanwhile has called the case "one of the worst cover-ups in history", but warned against halting a Saudi arms deal, saying it would harm U.S. jobs. However relations between the long-time allies have cooled after the murder and on Tuesday Washington called for a ceasefire and peace talks in Yemen, where the U.S. has faced fierce international criticism for supporting a Saudi-led coalition. Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said the U.S. had been watching the conflict, in which nearly 10,000 people have been killed, "for long enough."

Russia Probes Terror after Teen Suicide Attack on Security Service
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 31/18/Russia launched a terrorism probe Wednesday after a 17-year-old student blew himself up at the regional headquarters of the FSB security agency, wounding three employees. Several minutes before the suicide blast in the northern city of Arkhangelsk, a post on an anarchist forum warned of an imminent explosion. Investigators said they were checking whether the suspected bomber was a member of any banned organizations and talk to his friends and relatives to "find out the motives for the crime." An explosive device detonated in the FSB building shortly before 9:00 am (0600 GMT), authorities said. Investigators identified the bomber as a 17-year-old local resident. An official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, named the suicide bomber as Mikhail Zhlobitsky, a student at a local technical college. Investigators probing the attack released a photo of the suspect -- a skinny young man with a backpack -- inside the FSB building. Authorities cordoned off streets around the building for several hours, with police and experts combing the area for clues. Attacks on police and security services are common in Russia's restive Northern Caucasus, but are rare in the rest of the country. President Vladimir Putin -- himself a former FSB officer -- was informed about the explosion, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, but declined to speculate on the motive. Investigators said they had opened a probe into terrorism and illegal possession of ammunition. Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigative Committee probing the case, said the young man's motives should be established "as soon as possible." Investigators searched Zhlobitsky's apartment and questioned his relatives and friends. Three FSB employees were hospitalized with injuries after the blast in Arkhangelsk, which is more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) north of Moscow. "One man is in surgery," a spokeswoman for the regional FSB told AFP.
'FSB has gone mad'
Seven minutes before the blast, a post in an anarchist forum on Telegram, a messaging service, warned that the FSB building would be the target of a "terror attack." The writer of the post, who signed as Valeryan Panov, said he would claim responsibility for it. "The reasons are quite clear to you," said the post. "It (the FSB) is inventing cases and torturing people. I will most likely croak in the blast," he added. "I wish you a bright future of anarchist communism." The FSB is the main successor to the feared KGB agency known for persecuting dissidents in the Soviet era. Starting in 2017, the FSB has launched several cases against young anarchists in the cities of St Petersburg and Penza., an anarchist website, have labeled the arrests "repressions" and said the young men were being tortured in custody. The website said on Wednesday evening however that the attacker in Arkhangelsk "has never been in contact with us", that they don't know of any "noticeable anarchist activities" in the northern city. Attacks by anarchists on Russian authorities have in the past included setting police cars on fire and throwing Molotov cocktails at the offices of the ruling party United Russia. Regional governor Igor Orlov said that the authorities were working to establish the type of explosive used. "Things are very serious," he said, blaming the attack on "destructive forces" that influence young Russians. "We are taking measures to increase security of all public and state buildings in Arkhangelsk region," he added.
US Mid East forces brace for trouble from Iran over impending oil sanctions
DebkeFile/October 31/18
The threat of a forceful Iranian response to the US embargo on its oil sales, which goes into effect on Nov. 5 ,was contained in Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif’s remark on Tuesday, Oct. 30: “Unfortunately, a law-breaking country seeks to punish a country that abides by the law… This method will have severe consequences for the world order.” The threat of “consequences to the world order” may be translated into such options as Iranian disruption of world oil supplies, a substantial military attack on US or Arab Middle East targets, on Israel – or all of these actions in successive stages. Iran has concentrated in Iraq and along its Gulf coast large numbers of Saeghe stealth drones (modeled on the advanced US RQ-170 Sentinel captured by Tehran in 2011). Al Qods Brigades forces operating in Syria have also been armed with these sophisticated drones. UAVs of different types were given to the Iraqi Shiite militias serving Tehran at home and in Syria as well as the Lebanese Hizballah. The Saege drones have taken over the tasks of the exploding speedboats formerly used by Revolutionary Guards as primary weapons against Western and Arab oil tanker shipping in the Persian Gulf. The Iranian drone attack on ISIS concentrations in eastern Syria on Oct. 1 appeared to many Western and Middle East military experts to have been a kind of dress rehearsal for the use of this UAV for deadly air strikes on US, Israeli or Arab targets. Then, 11 of these stealth drones were launched from Iran and flew across the entire width of Iraq to reach their targets, without being intercepted or even sighted by US, Israeli or Jordanian forces. The Saeghes hit Syrian base with miniature, precision-guided Sadid-345 glide bombs. Then, this Revolutionary Guards weapon made its debut performance in real combat conditions and returned safely to base. Al Qods chief Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani has been placed in charge of all forthcoming Iran’s military preparations.

Guterres letter to UN Security Council announces new Syria envoy
AFP, United Nations/Wednesday, 31 October 2018/United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has informed the Security Council that he wishes to appoint Norwegian diplomat Geir Pedersen as the next special envoy to Syria, diplomatic sources told AFP Tuesday. Pedersen is currently Norway's ambassador to China and has previously served as its envoy to the UN. "I am pleased to inform you of my intention to announce the appointment of Mr Geir O Pedersen as my Special Envoy for Syria. In taking this decision, I have consulted broadly, including with the government of the Syrian Arab Republic," Guterres wrote in a letter seen by AFP. "Mr Pedersen will support the Syrian parties by facilitating an inclusive and credible political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people," the letter read. It also thanked Staffan de Mistura, the outgoing envoy, "for his more than four years of concerted efforts and contributions to search for peace in Syria."The leaders of Turkey, Russia, France and Germany met in Istanbul at the weekend and called for a political solution to the war and a permanent truce in the last major rebel-held bastion of Idlib. Their joint statement called for a committee to be established to draft Syria's post-war constitution before the end of the year, "paving the way for free and fair elections" in the war-torn country. The Syria conflict, which began with anti-government street protests in 2011, has claimed more than 360,000 lives and drawn in foreign powers and various jihadist groups.

Hundreds of Kurdish fighters arrive in eastern Syria to help fight ISIS

AFP, Beirut/Wednesday, 31 October 2018/Hundreds of Kurdish fighters have arrived in eastern Syria to help a US-backed alliance fight ISIS after a major setback last week, a monitor said Tuesday. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Arab alliance backed by the US-led coalition, launched an offensive on September 10 to expel ISIS from their holdout of Hajin on the Iraqi border. They advanced slowly with support from coalition air strikes, but faced sand storms and a vicious fightback including suicide bombers, which forced them to retreat on Sunday. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, at least 72 SDF fighters were killed in last week’s ISIS counter-attack, one of the extremist group’s deadliest operations this year. The monitoring group said hundreds of Kurdish fighters, men and women, had arrived on the outskirts of the Hajin pocket since then. “Since Sunday, over two days, 500 fighters from the Kurdish special forces, the People’s Protection Units and the Women’s Protection Units have been sent,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. Later on Tuesday, he said “at least 100 SDF fighters” had arrived from the northern city of Manbij, bringing the total number of reinforcements to arrive over the past two days to 600. Several thousand SDF fighters were already present in the area, he said. An SDF spokesman said Kurdish fighters “experienced in fighting ISIS” had been sent as reinforcements to the Hajin front, but said he could not confirm numbers. “These units will take part in fighting ISIS on the Hajin front,” Mustefa Bali said. On Sunday, an SDF commander told AFP that military reinforcements and heavy weapons had been sent to the front. He said the alliance would launch a new assault as soon as the reinforcements had arrived. Coalition strikes on the area Tuesday killed at least nine extremists, the Observatory said. More than 300 SDF fighters and around 500 ISIS extremists have been killed in the past seven weeks of fighting, according to the monitor. The coalition estimates that 2,000 ISIS militants remain in the Hajin area. ISIS overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” across territory it controlled. But the extremist group has since lost most of that territory to various offensives in both countries. In Syria, its presence has been reduced to parts of the vast Badia desert and the Hajin pocket. More than 360,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria’s war erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

US-backed Syria force suspends anti-ISIS attacks after turkey hits

AFPWednesday, 31 October 2018/A Kurdish-led force backed by the US-led coalition said Wednesday it was suspending operations against ISIS after Turkish shelling of Kurdish militia posts in northern Syria. The Syrian Democratic Forces, joint Arab-Kurdish units led by the Kurds, announced a “temporary halt” to their operation launched in eastern Syria on September 10 while condemning the “provocations” of Turkey.

Blast kills three in Iraq, ISIS claims attack
Reuters, Baquba/Wednesday, 31 October 2018/Three Shiite Muslim pilgrims were killed by a roadside bomb as they walked to a holy site near the northeastern Iraqi city of Khanaqin on Tuesday, police said. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, the group’s news agency Amaq reported. The claim could not immediately be verified. The Sunni Muslim militants are active in the area and have targeted Shiite pilgrims in the past. ISIS has waged a campaign of kidnappings and killings since its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and neighboring Syria collapsed in 2017.

US calls for end to Yemen hostilities and resumption of peace talks
Arab News/October 31, 2018/United Nations says it aims to re-launch Yemen peace talks “within a month”Pentagon chief Jim Mattis says Saudi Arabia and the UAE are ready for talks
DUBAI: The United States has called for a cessation of hostilities in Yemen and the resumption of vigorous efforts for a political solution to the crisis. The United Nations on Wednesday responded saying it aims to re-launch Yemen peace talks “within a month.” The talks are expected to take place in Sweden. The call is the latest effort to end the war, which was triggered when the Iran-backed Houthi militia seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and forced the internationally recognized government to flee. An Arab coalition including Saudi Arabia and the UAE intervened in early 2015 after the militia seized Aden. Pro-government forces then drove the Houthis from much of the south of the country. Senior US official called for a ceasefire to take hold within 30 days, but it also placed blame on Iran for fueling the conflict. “The United States calls on all parties to support UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in Yemen based on agreed references,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. “The time is now for the cessation of hostilities, including missile and UAV strikes from Houthi-controlled areas into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Subsequently, Coalition air strikes must cease in all populated areas in Yemen.”Pompeo called on parties to start consultations in November, under the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, in a third country. The consultations would aim for a possible adoption and implementation of “confidence-building measures to address the underlying issues of the conflict, the demilitarization of borders, and the concentration of all large weapons under international observations. “A cessation of hostilities and vigorous resumption of a political track will help ease the humanitarian crisis as well,” the US state secretary added. “It is a time to end this conflict, replace conflict with compromise, and allow the Yemeni people to heal through peace and reconstruction,” Pompeo said. The last attempt at peace talks in Geneva collapsed in September when the Houthis failed to attend. Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are ready for talks.“We have got to move toward a peace effort here, and we can't say we are going to do it some time in the future,” Mattis said at the US Institute of Peace in Washington. Mattis called for demilitarization of Yemen's border with Saudi Arabia “so that the Saudis and the Emirates do not have to worry about missiles coming into their homes and cities and airports.”He also said measures should be taken to “ensure that all Iranian-supplied missiles to the Houthis" are put under “international watch.”
Mattis put primary blame on Iran. He said its proxies and surrogate forces are fueling the conflict. UN envoy Martin Griffiths welcomed the calls for an immediate resumption of talks. “I urge all concerned parties to seize this opportunity to engage constructively with our current efforts to swiftly resume political consultations to agree on a framework for political negotiations,” he said. “We remain committed to bring the Yemeni parties to the negotiations table within a month.”Sweden's foreign minister said Wednesday that Griffiths has asked Sweden to host such talks. The move was backed by British Prime Minister Theresa May. The conflict in Yemen has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with the UN estimating that three-quarters of the population — or 22 million people — in need of immediate humanitarian support. Nearly 10,000 people have died in the conflict since March 2015. The fighting has become focussed on the port of Hodeidah held by the Houthis. On Tuesday, pro-government forces made significant gains on several frontline positions near the port.

President Rouhani anticipates difficult months ahead for Iranians
The Associated Press, Tehran/Wednesday, 31 October 2018/President Hassan Rouhani says Iranians may face more difficulties in the months ahead after the US imposes new sanctions on Monday. Speaking in a televised cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Rouhani said: “The situation was hard for people in the recent months, and it may be hard in the next several months, too.”The US has been re-imposing sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord with Western powers in May. Also read: How will the approaching US sanctions affect Iran’s economy? On Monday, the US plans to impose sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas industry. Ahwazi official tells Al Arabiya English details of Iran attack in Denmark.
Iran summons Danish ambassador over attack allegations
Arab News/October 31, 2018/DUBAI: Iran's foreign ministry summoned the Danish ambassador on Wednesday, following the arrest of an Iranian-Norwegian national for allegedly plotting an attack in Denmark. According to statement from the ministry, the Danish ambassador met with a senior official for European affairs at the foreign ministry Wednesday morning. “In this meeting the official strongly denied the biased reports on a foiled attack plot on an Iranian dissident in Denmark and its attribution to the Islamic republic of Iran,” spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said, warning against “hasty and controversial actions.”Meanwhile, the British government has also expressed deep concern over recent reports of Iranian assassination attempts abroad. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Tuesday that his country fully supported Denmark’s move in the face of illegal Iranian intelligence activities. The statement came after Denmark’s foreign ministry recalled its ambassador to Iran for consultations in response to an alleged plot from Tehran which targeted to assassinate the leader of the Danish branch of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz. Iran’s ambassador to Denmark Morteza Muradine was also summoned for a meeting. A Norwegian citizen of Iranian background was arrested on Oct. 21, Denmark’s security service chief Finn Borch Andersen said, on suspicion he was aiding an unknown Iranian intelligence service “to act in Denmark” and for involvement in planning to kill an opposition member. “We are dealing with an Iranian intelligence agency planning an attack on Danish soil. Obviously, we can't and won't accept that,” Andersen told a news conference. The unidentified suspect denied wrongdoing in a court appearance and is now in pre-trial custody until Nov. 8. (With AFP)

The spokesman Yaquob Hurr al-Tisteri said that the Danish security authorities thwarted an
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday, 31 October 2018/In a new development regarding Denmark’s move to recall its ambassador to Iran, it has been revealed that a foiled attack was targeting the leader of the “Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz” who is residing in the Scandinavian country. In an interview with Al Arabiya English the spokesman of the “Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz” Yaquob Hurr al-Tisteri said that the Danish security authorities thwarted an attempt targeting the head of the movement Habib Jaber.
When asked whether this failed plan is a continuation of the plan that led to the assassination of Ahmed Mawla (who was also a leader of the “Struggle Movement”) last year in the Netherlands, al-Tisteri said: “Iran has never stopped its plots against our Arab Ahwazi people and its activists, especially since our cause and the struggle of our people has now escalated considerably, but certainly this will not discourage the movement of the struggle and the rest of our organizations from going forward to lift the injustice and oppression of our people and their right to self-determination.”The spokesman revealed that they are coordinating with a law firm in the Scandinavian country “to prepare a legal file based on the available information on the role of the Iranian regime in this failed attack to be presented to the Danish judiciary.”
He confirmed during the interview that “Denmark has officially announced that it will move to urge the EU countries to take a common stand against the Iranian regime for its direct role in this thwarted operation,” adding “the Danish security chief also issued a strong warning to the Iranian intelligence services’ reluctance to repeat any attempt of this kind.”Tisteri concluded by saying that: “The failed operation that was revealed today is a consistent Iranian approach toward the demands of our fair Ahwazi people and the demands of other non-Persian peoples, and once again shows that the Iranian state has no solutions other than terrorism against just demands.”

South Sudan rebel leader Machar arrives in capital, first time since 2016
Reuters, Juba/Wednesday, 31 October 2018/South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar returned to the capital Juba on Wednesday, according to a Reuters witness, more than two years after he fled the country after the collapse of a 2016 peace deal. Machar, the former vice president, fled to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo in 2016 after fierce fighting broke out in Juba, killing hundreds of people. He later travelled to South Africa, where he was held under house arrest until earlier this year. Last month he and President Salva Kiir signed a new peace deal in the latest attempt to end the five-year war.

In first, Israel appoints woman as ambassador to Egypt
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/October 31/18/On Tuesday, Israel appointed its first female ambassador to Cairo since the Egypt-Israel peace treaty was signed in 1979. Amira Oron will be succeeding outgoing ambassador David Govrin, after he finished his mandate nearly two years after taking office. Oron is the second Israeli woman to serve as ambassador to an Arab country after Einat Schlein, who was Israel’s top representative in Jordan. Oron has vast experience in diplomacy where she served as Israel’s ambassador to Turkey for two years, and has been working at the foreign ministry for 27 years. She was also the director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Communications in the Arab World. Oron studied Islamic and Middle Eastern studies and speaks Arabic. Cairo and Tel Aviv did not reveal the date of the new ambassador's arrival. Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979 after four wars between the two countries.
Oman minister visits Ramallah after Netanyahu talks
AFP/October 31, 2018/RAMALLAH: An Omani minister met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday and delivered a letter about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s surprise visit to the Gulf sultanate last week, official Palestinian media said. Yusuf bin Alawi, minister in charge of foreign affairs, gave Abbas the letter from Oman’s Sultan Qaboos, official Palestinian news agency WAFA said. It gave no further details on their discussions in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians have been concerned by Israel’s bid for rapprochement with Gulf countries.
Frozen peace efforts and Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territory have been obstacles to Israeli attempts to win official recognition from countries in the region. But there has long been talk of under-the-radar contacts, particularly regarding Iran, which is the enemy both of Israel and Gulf states.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 01/18
Pakistan: Asia Bibi Acquitted After Years Awaiting Death for "Blasphemy"
باكستان تلغي حكما بالإعدام على المسيحية اسيا بيبي التي كانت أدينت بالتجديف

Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/October 31/18
Asia Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010 because she is a Christian and because she was thirsty. Today, justice was served when her conviction was overturned.
Now, Bibi may be targeted for assassination when she is released. Islamists have placed a bounty on her head of 50 million rupees ($375,000). Salman Taseer, a brave Muslim who was governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, was murdered just for expressing support for her. Pakistan's federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also murdered for defending Bibi.
Lawyers defending Christians and others accused of blasphemy are sometimes murdered as well.
In the ultimate irony, just a few days ago, the so-called European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld this same blasphemy law. The ECHR ruling is unspeakable. It is time to remove the unelected judges of that unaccountable and unappealable court.
Asia Bibi and two of her five children, pictured prior to her imprisonment on death row in 2010 for "blasphemy."
After 3,422 days of cruel and unjustified imprisonment as "the first woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy," the death penalty verdict against Asia Noreen Bibi has finally been overturned.
Pakistan's Supreme today set aside the death sentence against Bibi, a Roman Catholic mother of five. After being convicted in a trial in 2010 for false accusations of "blasphemy", now justice has actually prevailed. Killing Bibi because her Muslim co-workers were offended that she, an "unclean" Christian, drank water from a communal well, was too much even for Pakistan, where Christians are habitually persecuted.
Bibi is now being "held at an undisclosed location for security reasons." Islamist hardliners have already threatened the judges that if she is freed, those responsible would meet a "horrible" end.
On June 14, 2009, Asia Bibi drank water from a communal well on a hot day, while working in a field. Two Muslim women alleged that because she, a Christian, had touched the water from the well, the entire well was now haram (forbidden by Islamic law). Asia responded by saying "I think Jesus would see if differently from Mohammed," that Jesus had "died on the cross for the sins of mankind," and asked, "What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind?" This enraged the other women, who pushed and spit on her.
Five days later, as she worked in another field, a crowd of "dozens of men and women," calling for Bibi's death, beat her savagely and carried her to the village, where police arrested her. Qari Muhammad Sallam, the village imam (who had not been present at the water dispute), and the women who said Bibi had defiled the well-water, told the police chief that Bibi had "insulted the Prophet Mohammed."
On November 8, 2010, after just five minutes of deliberation, Asia Noreen Bibi, under Article 295 of Pakistan's Penal Code, was sentenced to death by hanging.
Asia Bibi was sentenced to death because she is a Christian and because she was thirsty.
Islamists cheered the verdict. Asia Bibi was alone against an entire country ready to sacrifice its weak Christian minority to appease the Islamists. After Bibi's arrest, her family moved houses 15 times in five years. In the last weeks there have been reports of Asia suffering dementia. Eight years of solitary confinement, with the daily risk of being murdered in prison, have been a brutal form of psychological torture. For fear of being poisoned in prison, Bibi was allowed even to prepare her own meals.
A few days ago, during the plenary meeting in Strasbourg, the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, said:
"Asia Bibi enraged some women for having drunk from a well. According to those women, such contact with Christian lips would have contaminated the water. After being attacked and reported for blasphemy, Asia Bibi risks being hanged. I ask the Pakistani authorities... to make sure that woman can have a fair trial and to avoid any form of discrimination or religious prejudice."
Now, we must fear that when Bibi is released, she will be targeted for assassination. Islamists have placed a bounty on her head of 50 million rupees ($375,000).
Salman Taseer, a brave Muslim who was governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, paid with his life just for expressing support for Asia; he was murdered by his own bodyguard, who said "he did this because Mr Taseer recently defended the proposed amendments to the blasphemy law." In another example of justice prevailing, his murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, was executed.
However, lawyers defending Christians and others accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are sometimes murdered as well. Pakistan's federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also murdered for defending Bibi. Although no one has even been officially executed in Pakistan for the crime of blasphemy, "many have been murdered purely on the basis of accusations against them", Newsweek reported. According to Human Rights Watch, since 1990 at least 60 people accused of blasphemy have been murdered. Last year, a student was lynched by a mob for allegedly committing blasphemy.
Thousands of extremist Muslims rallied in Pakistan in the last few weeks in order to pressure judges to uphold the death sentence. They chanted "Hang infidel Asia" as they marched through the streets. Now Pakistani Islamists say that the judges who acquitted Asia Bibi "deserve death". That is why Bibi now needs to flee the country. Several countries have already offered her asylum.
Since Asia Bibi was condemned to death, Christians in Pakistan have suffered a string of especially deadly terror attacks. An Islamist suicide bomber even targeted and slaughtered Christian children at a playground in a public park. Where was the West?
French priest Pierre-Hervé Grosjean asked in Le Figaro: "How could the country of human rights be silent in the face of this injustice? ... How can one want to save the Christians of Iraq from the barbarians of ISIS, if one is not able to save a Christian from the laws of an allied country?... Non-believing friends, her fate also concerns you: through her, it is the freedom and the dignity of each one that you defend. Your word is precious and courageous. Your silence would be terrible".
But the silence has been terrible.
No one took the streets of Europe to protest Asia Bibi's imprisonment. No major Western columnist penned articles proclaiming "Je Suis Asia Bibi." Western secular human rights groups, always ready and willing to embrace any cause, largely remained missing in action. The campaigners to free terrorists from a relatively comfortable prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had no time to ask for Asia Bibi's release. No feminist organization supported this Christian mother. The United Nations, which just condemned France for its law banning the niqab, also stood silent. It was a conspiracy of cowardice.
After years in a windowless cell, Asia Bibi has triumphed over her would-be executioners. Injustice against Christians will continue, however, along with the West's craven silence in the face of their persecution. Asia Bibi's case is also the story of the West's moral suicide.
Where have our philosophers, humanists and journalists been during these last nine years of injustice? It is this sad indifference that is devouring the West.
In the ultimate irony, just a few days ago, the so-called European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld the same sort blasphemy law. The ECHR ruling is unspeakable. As Grégor Puppinck, head of the European Centre for Law and Justice, said, "the decision by the ECHR would have justified the conviction of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons..." It is time to remove the unelected judges of that unaccountable and unappealable court.
*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.

The real reason behind Susan Rice’s attack on Saudi Arabia
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/October 31/18
The Khashoggi case has become a game of bids and a political ball. But it has clearly exposed strong ideological orientations and deeply repressed feelings, not only of ordinary people, but also of high-profile officials who have hidden their real stances and shrouded them with diplomacy and official courtesy.
The most prominent of these figures are top members of former President Barack Obama’s administration. They removed their masks and invested in the Khashoggi case in order to attack President Trump and weaken him before the elections, while distorting the image of Saudis in order to embellish that of their Iranian friends. It’s clear that this collective rush to quash all diplomatic traditions was because they thought this as their once in a lifetime chance.
Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote a disgruntled article in the New York Times and based it on the Khashoggi case to doubt the role of Saudi Arabia and to state that the kingdom is an ally that cannot be depended on. When reading the article, one quickly realizes that Rice’s aim is irrelevant to Khashoggi. She seeks to attack Trump and gain points against him to serve her Democratic Party. It’s said that she will run for Congress in the 2020 elections.
Susan Rice is the impudent and publicized face of political exploitation of the Khashoggi case, which clearly exposed moral hypocrisy and a desire to exploit the case of a Saudi citizen against his own country for purely political and ideological goals.
This is the domestic aim, but the foreign goal is related to Rice’s doctrine that clashes with Saudi Arabia’s role and stance.
Rice, like Obama, is inclined to the Iranians on political and ideological fronts. Rice was not upset by the Iranians’ military and political expansion in the region. She did not fully criticize them when she was a UN ambassador, and as national security advisor, she did not take any practical steps to limit the horrific crimes the Iranians committed. She rather confirmed her soft reconciliatory stance via the Iranian nuclear deal which she celebrated with her team.
Rice directed her anger at the Trump administration and its ally Riyadh due to repealing the great achievement of the Obama administration. She has repeatedly said that withdrawing from the nuclear deal is utmost stupidity and will enable the Iranians to win in the end. This is of course not true as the Iranian regime is facing difficult circumstances amid an unprecedented economic siege.
Ideology is preventing Rice from seeing the facts on the ground. She does not say anything about the proclaimed crimes of the Tehran regime, whether those committed in Iran or outside it such as in Syria. She does not say anything about the terrorist militias which Iran planted across the world, and she views Iran as a strong and important ally. At the same time, she intentionally ignores the vital Saudi role in protecting the region’s stability via an ongoing fierce war against Sunni and Shiite terror groups and rogue regimes and uses the isolated Khashoggi case, in which legal measures have been taken and announced to the world, in order to picture Saudi Arabia as the unreliable reckless power.
Obama administration gave a green light to Iran
During the Green Movement in 2009, the Iranian authorities committed horrific violations, killed hundreds and arrested thousands. Back then, Rice did not write an article in the New York Times demanding to punish Iran. On the contrary, she kept silent just like President Obama, who back then said his remarks will be exploited against the rebels. What happened is that the American administration’s silence actually gave a green light to the Revolutionary Guards to finish off protestors and mercilessly shed blood. Afterwards we were certain it was a trick because the Obama administration had kept silent in order not to sabotage the nuclear deal which it was later going to propose to the Iranians.
Rice did not only keep silent over this bad development that year and she did not only attack the Trump administration and his closest ally, Saudi Arabia, after withdrawing from the nuclear deal but she also called on the current American administration to keep silent over the recent popular protests in Iran after Trump and members of his administration voiced their support of the revolting Iranian people.
Rice’s stance that ideologically opposes Saudi Arabia is not limited to the Khashoggi case. There have been previous stances before such as to those related to the Saudi-Canadian dispute. Rice posted tweets attacking the American administration for not taking a firm position against Saudi Arabia, a position that harmonizes with American values and interests.
In the eyes of Rice, American interests harmonize with the Iranian interest even if the Iranian regime is the largest sponsor of terrorism according to the US State Department itself. At the same time, she incites against Saudi Arabia due to a diplomatic dispute with another country. It’s difficult to imagine that Rice will say something about the recent Iranian explosions plans in France and the recent assassinations which the Iranian intelligence planned in Denmark. It’s strange that Rice attacks Saudi Arabia after Canada violated diplomatic norms and interfered in an internal affair at the time when President Trump describes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a coward and weak.
Most members of Obama’s team like former Vice President Joe Biden and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan repeat the same ideas and make the same demands. However, Rice is the impudent and publicized face of political exploitation of the Khashoggi case, which clearly exposed moral hypocrisy and a desire to exploit the case of a Saudi citizen against his own country for purely political and ideological goals.
Rice tried to present a logical discussion but she voiced grudges in the form of recommendations to the American administration to end the alliance with Saudi Arabia and pursue rapprochement with Iran. It’s easy to understand this bitterness if we put this stance in a political and ideological context. Saudi Arabia stood in the face of a leftist ideological project in the Middle East, a project which the Obama administration adopted in Egypt. The kingdom also stood against Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Therefore it’s not strange to see these three parties, the leftists, the Iranians and the Brotherhood, sleeping on one bed and currently uniting in a camp that’s directed against Saudi Arabia and particularly against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. However this hostile camp has revealed the opposite of its goals as it revealed the strength of the Saudi state, the rootedness of political legitimacy and the solidity of the Saudi people’s national identity.

Susan Rice, is Iran only a Saudi problem?
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/October 31/18
What Danish security service chief Finn Borch Andersen revealed on Tuesday about the involvement of Iran’s agents in preparing for a terrorist attack in Denmark is an additional new evidence to the nature of the threat embodied by the ruling Khomeini regime in Tehran.
“We are dealing with an Iranian intelligence agency planning an attack on Danish soil. Obviously, we can’t and won’t accept that,” Andersen said. Before that, the French authorities expelled Iranian diplomats because of the proven involvement of Iranian agents and diplomats affiliated with the Iranian intelligence in planning a terrorist attack in France against an Iranian opposition gathering. The perpetrators prepared for the attack from neighboring Belgium.  These are quick examples which happened around the same time and which express the essence of the Iranian behavior in Europe whose politicians defend keeping the (political) nuclear deal with its Khomeini regime. This “bad” deal was overturned by US President Donald Trump in a way that sparked the rage of the Obama movement, including the “tailor” of the deal former US Secretary of State John Kerry and Obama’s closest advisor, who inherits his temper, Susan Rice.
Within the context of riding the wave of the raging attack using the Jamal Khashoggi case, Rice expanded the scope of her attack on Saudi Arabia and on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the man behind the vision, change and the new Saudi Arabia.
It’s as if putting up with the Iranian behavior, the way it was during Obama’s era, in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon...etc. is good and beneficial for the US itself. The real agenda of the Obama movement has been clearly exposed long before the Khashoggi case. Khashoggi’s case was thus a mere excuse in Rice’s attack on Saudi Arabia in her article in the New York Times. Mrs. Rice is angry at the new Saudi Arabia and President Trump, and among her frank excuses as to why she is this angry, is because Saudi Arabia boycotted Qatar, America’s friendly ally.
What’s more dangerous, according to the loyal wise politician Rice, is her criticism of Saudi Arabia because “it urged Trump to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran!”The picture is crystal clear. It’s as if putting up with the Iranian behavior, the way it was during Obama’s era, in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon...etc. is good and beneficial for the US itself.
Problems with Iran
It’s as if America does not have its own problems with Iran, regardless of Saudi Arabia. Iran’s operations against the US, ever since the establishment of the Khomeini regime, are no secret. There aren’t only explosions and assassinations and the establishment of hostile militias as America was also poisoned with the consequences of drugs and money laundering as seen in the famous Project Cassandra which Susan’s president, i.e. Obama, pretended not to notice. Another example is the explosion of the Pan Am flight and the death of all civilian passengers on board above Lockerbie in Scotland in December 1988.
Years later, it turned out that the real culprit is the Iranian regime and not Qaddafi, as published by the Daily Mail which cited a book by American writer Douglas Boyd. The question is: Mrs. Rice, is Iran’s problem only with Saudi Arabia?

Social or antisocial media?
بقلم ملك الأردن، عبد الله الثاني بن الحسين: هل وسائل الإعلام الإجتماعية هي اجتماعية أو معادية اجتماعياً
Jordanian King, Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein/Arab News/October 31/2018
Writing this article is a way for me to address all dear Jordanians and encourage a constructive discussion on our priorities and multiple key national issues, some of which I have highlighted during my various meetings and recently in the Speech from the Throne, covering political, economic, and social aspects. I will continue to shed light on such important national matters through various platforms. In this article, I have decided to focus on a crucial issue—that of disturbing trends on social media platforms.
Our current era may be witnessing the most profound change in the history of media and communications, and in the way information is consumed, produced, spread, and interacted with. I am sure most of you are reading this article on their mobile phones, and once done, some of you will be sharing their opinions and thoughts on social media. I look forward to reading them.
Today, social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, enable us to make our voices heard. They provide us with unprecedented opportunities to connect with each other, to express our opinions and exchange views, to come together around key and humanitarian causes, and to highlight and discuss critical issues while building on them through constructive dialogue.
None can deny Jordan’s steadfastness in the face of adversity. No force, agenda, or attempts to sow sedition can sway Jordanians from their commitment to protecting the homeland at the first sign of an attempt to threaten its security and unity.
These tools and technologies have become vital for us all, myself included. They are a means for me to listen to citizens’ thoughts and opinions, as much as possible, unfiltered, without mediators, barriers or restrictions.
Although times and tools may change, the high values of compassion and solidarity will remain at the heart of the Jordanian ethos. This is what distinguishes us. It is the anchor that enables us to stand firm in the face of all storms.
None can deny Jordan’s steadfastness in the face of adversity. No force, agenda, or attempts to sow sedition can sway Jordanians from their commitment to protecting the homeland at the first sign of an attempt to threaten its security and unity. These deep-rooted values we have inherited and strive to instil in our children are the protective, sturdy shield we maintain and are proud of.
However, seeing recent attempts to shake this anchor on social media platforms has pushed me to write this today. When navigating social media platforms, we often face an overwhelming volume of hostility, libel, and hatred. These platforms have almost become a place for slander and defamation; they are rife with hurtful comments and misinformation, and they almost lack any sense of moral or social responsibility, or adherence to the laws in place to deter and hold all offenders to account.
What we witnessed lately with the Dead Sea incident—which has caused deep pain to us all—and some of the commentary that followed indeed prove that this anchor has been shaken. It reminds us that using social media requires that we do so with a sense of responsibility as we engage over events of a national scale. I find myself compelled to examine some patterns of this engagement. We must differentiate between those who criticised performance and called for identifying the responsible parties—this stems from deep concern and we need that—and between those few who have been offensive to the memory of the children we have lost, which makes us question the basis of their relationship with society and the goals behind this negativity that has, unfortunately, robbed them of their humanity. We must also question who is behind these opinions that are far removed from the values of our society.
Dealing with the aftermath of the deeply painful Dead Sea incident requires taking stock of shortcomings and aspects of negligence, in order to hold to account those who prove to be responsible and to learn lessons that would enable us to avoid such painful incidents in the future. It also requires a deep, comprehensive reflection on the scope and nature of engagement on social media platforms.
It is evident to all observers of online discussions that rumours and fabricated news are used by certain individuals to mislead their followers, fuelling their own agendas and polarising public opinion, or settling personal and political scores.
[We] have been long warned of rumours and rumourmongers; God says in the Holy Quran: “O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done.” (Al Hujurat: Verse 6)
Amongst lies, empty slogans, and false heroisms, negativity and frustration thrive. Readers are often left confused between truth and rumour. An air of suspicion, confusion, and pessimism, lingers in society because of a rumour that bases its credibility solely on its ability to go viral. Thus, the virtual world no longer reflects the real image of our deep-rooted values, our society, and our everyday reality.
It has been said that a lie can travel halfway around the world, before the truth can get its boots on. An MIT study supports this, reporting that fabricated news is 70 percent more likely to spread on a social media platform such as Twitter than a factual report.
This calls to mind the wave of rumours and false stories that spread while I was on my annual break, and continued even after I returned and resumed my activities. The question persisted: where is the king? Some went as far as questioning my presence even as I stood before them. Can it be that an illusion perpetuated by screens has become a reality to some?
Unfortunately, some people have tried to spread rumours targeting the morale and unity of Jordanians. And when those people are confronted with the fact that their accusations are baseless, they still argue: there is no smoke without fire. I can surely say that those with ill intentions towards Jordan will always find a way to spark a crisis out of nothing.
From time to time, I find myself compelled to address this issue, and we must all never hesitate to confront, those who hide behind their screens and lies with the truth. Whoever suffers harm may resort to court to seek justice, for we are a country of institutions governed by law.
Anyone who offends a Jordanian—whether from my bigger Jordanian family or my immediate family—offends me personally.
To put the phenomenon of misinformation in context, we must remember that it is not unique to Jordan. It is a global phenomenon and challenge. The impact of fabricated news and misinformation was evident in key moments over the past two years across Europe and the United States. As a result, we are witnessing a global trend of countries developing laws to address the spread of fabricated news and misinformation.
Today, there is an urgent need to develop our laws to ensure the protection of freedom of expression, protect citizens’ right to privacy, combat rumours and misinformation, and counter hate speech, especially since several senior executives of the world’s largest social media platforms have openly recognised that their platforms could be abused for negative and destructive purposes.
In light of these pressing developments which must be addressed, it is important to strike a balance between safeguarding freedom of expression—a right we are always committed to protecting—and between the rights and priorities integral to the stability and welfare of our society. This will positively contribute to enriching the public debate necessary to combat the phenomenon of using social media irresponsibly and negatively in many instances.
Social media companies undoubtedly have a key role in countering the negative use of social media platforms, through ongoing technical enhancement, and regular reviews of ethical and legal terms of use. Moreover, governments are compelled to work transparently and provide accurate, timely information to the public in this era of openness. And I hope that our current government will rise to public expectations in this regard. We also cannot disregard the role of media platforms and professionals as key pillars in the flow of information and communication. They must enhance their professional standards and uphold their ethical responsibilities.
More important, however, is our responsibility as individuals and societies not to be a passive audience, but to be active and critical of what we read, what we believe, and what we share with others. We must apply reason and common sense to weigh news and information.
Let us reflect and ask ourselves: where would we end up if we were not responsible and cautious when interacting on social media? What would our future look like if we abandoned rationality and reason; if we chose rumours over truth; if our discourse were based on lies and hearsay; if character assassination became the norm? Imagine what would happen if officials were too paralysed by fear to take the right decisions to serve the country and its citizens, or if they were rushed to take arbitrary, uninformed decisions. If citizens did not have reliable facts and information readily available, how could they make informed decisions and engage in responsible national dialogue on decisive issues?
Indeed, Jordan still has a long way to go to fulfil its aspirations and become what Jordanians strive for and well deserve; many challenges remain before us. Therefore, our first priority is development and reform. Countries are not built on scepticism and self-doubt, nor on undermining and denying achievements. They are built by determination, will, hard work, and positive and constructive engagement in national issues.
As we proudly near the centennial of the Jordanian state, and as the world around us develops at an unprecedented pace, let us march confidently and positively towards the future, lest we are left behind. Let us utilise the tools of this age in our favour, enriching them with our Jordanian identity, values, and ethics that have guided this homeland’s journey over a century.
• Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein is the king of Jordan. Published in conjunction with Jordan Times and Al-Rai.

EU’s fundamental values at stake in year of reckoning
Joschka Fischer/Arab News/October 31, 2018
Politically, 2019 will be an extraordinarily important year for the EU. The UK is currently on track to leave the EU on March 29. And, following elections to the European Parliament in May, nearly all of the most important leadership positions across EU institutions will turn over. Thus, depending on how parliamentary seats are distributed, Europe could witness a major realignment of power among member states, within EU institutions, and between member states and the Parliament.
The new distribution of power within EU institutions will be reflected largely through personnel. New presidents of the European Commission, the European Council, and the European Central Bank will be appointed, and a new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will be chosen. If nationalist Euroskeptic parties become the largest group in the European Parliament, these appointments could represent an abrupt break from the past.
EU member states are more divided now than ever, even on the most fundamental issues concerning the European project. The broad pro-European consensus of the past has been replaced by a resurgent nationalism. Moreover, east is increasingly pitted against west, and north against south. And there is good reason to fear that these widening rifts will be reflected in the new composition of the Parliament, making majority governance difficult, if not impossible.
Today’s de facto grand coalition between the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) most likely will not survive beyond the elections. The S&D, in particular, is in deep — indeed, existential — crisis across Europe. And there are new players on the field, including French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist La Republique En Marche! and a smattering of radical Euroskeptic and nationalist parties.
The broad pro-European consensus of the past has been replaced by a resurgent nationalism.
Given the unprecedented prominence of nationalist parties in this election cycle, the usual pro forma European campaign issues will inevitably take a back seat. This will be a contest about Europe and the future of European democracy. Recent developments in a number of member states have challenged foundational EU principles, such as the rule of law and the separation of powers. These democratic institutions, as well as questions of European solidarity and sovereignty, will all effectively be on the ballot.
Needless to say, the parliamentary elections will have far-reaching implications for Europe’s future in a rapidly changing world. The current president of the US has such disdain for the EU that many now talk of “the end of the West.” An increasingly revanchist Russia is waging wars along the European periphery and in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking his country down the path of authoritarianism. And China is demanding recognition as a global power.
Worse still, US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to withdraw the US from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia raises the threat of a renewed arms race. And this is coinciding with an escalating climate crisis and a global contest for predominance in artificial intelligence, the risks of which are still largely unaccounted for.
Against this dismal backdrop, the question is what will become of Europe? Will Europeans manage to hold on to their sovereignty, or will their self-inflicted disunity render them ever more dependent on other powers?
Pro-EU parties must make Europe’s place in the world a central issue of the parliamentary election campaign; otherwise, they will suffer a shattering defeat at the hands of the new nationalists. The nationalists want to return to the past — it is up to the pro-Europeans to offer answers for the future.
Make no mistake: A nationalist victory next year would rock the EU to its core and throw it into another deep crisis. It would represent a defeat for the fundamental values of the European project. Given the scale of the threat, pro-Europeans cannot count on business as usual. Recent upheavals in many member states’ party systems have altered the electoral calculus, and the pro-Europeans must adapt accordingly.
For my part, I foresee next year’s elections auguring dramatic change in Europe. For better or worse, the question of Europe itself has been politicized, and now it must be decided. There will either be a rebirth of nationalism or a victory for EU-level democracy and unity. Sadly, pro-Europeans cannot hope for any help from abroad. In fact, the opposite is true: Europe must be vigilant in policing foreign interference in its affairs — including its elections.
In recent years, there has been much talk of the EU suffering from a “democratic deficit.” But the fight for a majority in the European Parliament actually represents a major opportunity for democracy. Pro-Europeans need only wake up in time to seize it — or Europe’s enemies will.
*Joschka Fischer, Germany’s foreign minister and vice chancellor from 1998 to 2005, was a leader of the German Green Party for almost 20 years. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2018.

What Would Reagan Do on Iran?
Simon Miles and Farzan Sabet/Foreign Policy/October 31/18
Despite Saudi Arabia’s admission that the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi earlier this month was premeditated, the Trump administration appears determined to maintain the U.S. partnership with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel to put unprecedented pressure on Iran. The next step in this master plan will be the Nov. 5 full reimposition of sanctions on Iran.
According to recent reports, Peter Schweizer’s 1994 book Victory has helped inspire the U.S. approach to dealing with Iran, including the sanctions campaign to force the country to capitulate to U.S. demands. Their reliance on Schweizer’s account reveals the pitfalls of policymakers looking to the past to make policy for the future. The book’s boosters contend that the strategy of “maximum pressure”—unrelenting economic, ideological, and covert-action measures short of war against the Soviet Union—that allegedly brought down the Cold War nemesis can have a similar effect today on Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even echoed this theme in a recent article.
The only problem is that Schweizer’s narrative of U.S. policy and the Soviet collapse in the 1980s is flawed; it is not a reliable guide on how to deal with Tehran. In fact, the application of maximum pressure based on this triumphalist history may be counterproductive, strengthening the most conservative and hawkish elements in the Islamic Republic, alienating an increasingly destitute Iranian population, and weakening the trans-Atlantic alliance. The Trump administration’s current approach to Iran has little in common with the carefully calibrated approach President Ronald Reagan actually took toward the Soviet Union. Schweizer’s book has appeal in Washington because it tells a compelling tale of U.S. policymakers effecting change in a complex world. “Examining the collapse of the Soviet Union outside of the context of American policy,” Schweizer sums up, “is a little like investigating a sudden, unexpected, and mysterious death without exploring the possibility of murder.” And in his telling, the man who slayed the Communist behemoth was Ronald Reagan.
But Schweizer’s work is far from a complete recounting of the facts of the case. After all, he did not have access to U.S. or Soviet archives and all they revealed at the time of writing, and he disregarded anything that detracted from Reagan’s own role, such as the idea that the Soviet Union died of self-inflicted injuries. Missing from Schweizer’s narrative is any semblance of Soviet agency; Moscow is acted upon but does not act. This is not how the Reagan administration saw the Soviet Union, and, crucially, it is not how President Donald Trump’s should see Iran.
Schweizer is correct that the Reagan administration intensified pressure on the Soviet Union, but pressure was not the sum total of U.S. policy toward Moscow during the 1980s. It ignores Reagan’s overtures to the Kremlin, long predating the arrival on the scene of the reformist Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. Some of these moves, such as Reagan’s spring 1981 letter to Leonid Brezhnev, urging the then-Soviet leader to work with him to reduce international tensions, are well known. Others remain in the shadows, such as the back channel established by U.S. Ambassador to West Germany Arthur F. Burns that same year. As Reagan denounced the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” destined for “the ash heap of history,” Burns was reassuring his top-level Soviet interlocutors that this was no different than “parents getting carried away by anger and using insulting language towards their own children.”
Nor were all opportunities to undermine the Soviet Union seized. For instance, after the Soviet air force shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in September 1983 after it strayed into Soviet airspace near Sakhalin Island, the Reagan administration did not capitalize on an opportunity to hold Moscow publicly accountable for each of the 269 deaths, including one member of the U.S. Congress. Instead, the Reagan administration chose to restrain itself. U.S. negotiators did not discard the progress made in the intermediate-range nuclear weapons talks underway in Geneva, for example, but kept working with the Soviets to reduce nuclear arsenals in Europe. Reagan knew how to wield the carrot, as well as the stick.
Comparing the Soviet Union in its twilight to Iran today is at best an imperfect analogy. Since the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, Iran has lurched back and forth between flawed reform and counterreform. Today, reformers are barely hanging on to elected power centers and are thwarted by hard-liners who wield authority from unelected perches. At the same time, the Islamic Republic has undeniably undergone meaningful changes over the last four decades, from an authoritarian system with a state-led economy and highly restricted society, to a competitive authoritarian one with a mixed economy and fewer social restrictions. Elections, largely a rubber stamp on Khomeini’s charismatic rule until the 1990s, today give Iranians a limited measure of choice in shaping their political future, even if that choice is between a narrow range of regime insiders. The economy, whose commanding heights the state once jealously guarded, now incorporates more market mechanisms and private actors, even if it remains riddled with mismanagement and corruption. Society, once completely suffocated by the strict imposition of Islamic mores, now sees Iranian women defiantly casting off their veils in public, even if they still sometimes pay a heavy price for their transgressions.
This gradual but marked change has been grudgingly conceded by ruling hard-liners, under pressure from the brave activism of Iranian citizens, who are using every opportunity to enact change including the limited space opened up by reformers who—like Gorbachev—want to save the system.
A Victory-style strategy of maximum pressure on Iran could set off a cascade of unintended consequences that would harm long-term U.S. interests. The specter of a hard-line backlash to Gorbachev loomed over U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union during the late 1980s, tempering the harshest instincts of the Reagan administration. Soviet hard-liners’ attempted coup in August 1991 showed just how right the White House had been to worry what would happen if it pushed Gorbachev too far. It was certainly never taken for granted that the liberal opposition or the flawed but courageous Boris Yeltsin would succeed Gorbachev. A policy of maximum pressure today is likely to force Iran’s fractious elites to unite around the goal of regime survival and further empower actors such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, help Tehran incite anti-American resentment among ordinary Iranians suffering under sanctions, and hurt the United States’ standing in the world.
In part as a consequence of this policy, the Hassan Rouhani government has been on the back foot, relying more heavily on the conservatives rather than reformists in his coalition and finding it expedient to engage in confrontational rhetoric toward the United States. And as the two countries and their respective allies have moved closer to military confrontation and an economic siege under Trump, the Revolutionary Guards who dominate the country’s ballistic missile program, proxy warfare networks, and illicit business activity stand to further strengthen their already formidable position.
These possibilities take on greater significance in light of the looming succession process to replace the aging supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. While the framework and context in which this succession will unfold largely remains a mystery, the balance of power within Iran is likely to influence its outcome. Finally, although Iranians since 1979 have turned their ire inward toward their own rulers, a policy of maximum pressure could endow the waning anti-Americanism of the Islamic Republic with a new sheen of nationalist rationalization.
Beyond Iran, the Trump administration’s policy of maximum pressure has undermined the trans-Atlantic alliance and strained other important global partnerships. U.S. pursuit of a punitive sanctions campaign against Iran without consideration for allies’ interests has cast the United States as an intransigent actor, drawing scrutiny away from Tehran’s troubling human rights record, regional role, and ballistic missiles.
European efforts to diminish the impact of U.S. sanctions, for example by creating a barter system to facilitate European Union-Iran bilateral trade in the absence of private financial institutions’ willingness to do so, could undermine the U.S. dollar’s position as the global reserve currency, harming the future efficacy of sanctions as a tool of U.S. statecraft and Washington’s ability to finance its foreign policy by running deficits.
Rather than using Schweizer’s hagiographical Victory as a template, the Trump administration may want to take a page out of Reagan’s actual playbook. Whatever mix of diplomatic, economic, and military means the administration employs, it should consider incorporating three key elements.
First, Washington must heal the breach with Europe. Reagan understood the importance of the trans-Atlantic alliance for confronting the Soviet Union, and any campaign to address Iran’s behavior is likely to be more successful with Europe on board.
Second, avoid bolstering hard-liners and hold good-faith negotiations over pressing issues. Reagan was aware of internal Soviet dynamics and entered into direct talks with genuine openness when it was called for.
Finally, minimize the negative impact of U.S. policy on ordinary Iranians. Reagan never lost sight of the fact that in the struggle against “the evil empire,” everyday citizens throughout the Eastern bloc were communism’s main victims and, crucially, the most valuable agents of change. It was they, after all, who tore down the Berlin Wall.

Most Refugees Won’t Return to Syria until Conditions Are Right

Peter Yeo/The Hill/October 31/18
It seems logical: As the brutal Syrian civil war appears to wind down, the estimated five million Syrians who fled the violence in their homeland will soon be asked to return home. Neighboring countries with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees can shed the burden of hosting foreign populations. Syrian refugees, who overwhelmingly say they want to return to their homeland, begin the transition. A rational scenario perhaps, but there’s one catch: most refugees won’t return until conditions in Syria are right.
The sooner U.S. policy makers and countries hosting Syrian refugees plan for this reality, the better. I recently returned from Lebanon, where I met with Syrian refugees, Lebanese officials and UN refugee workers. The refugees I met fell into four groups:
Some will return to Syria only if there’s regime change. These refugees want a broad political settlement, President Assad gone, the Syrian Constitution rewritten and American guarantees of their safety and freedom upon their return. We cannot and should not, dismiss these dreams, however unlikely.
Other refugees will accept something less. Their return is tied to an end to fighting in their communities and an assurance of basic security for them and their families. They want the Syrian government to pledge that men will not be drafted into the Syrian military when they return, or be forced to engage in whatever fighting remains. They want a reliable process to recover their property if others occupy it.
A smaller group has begun to return voluntarily, despite the fact that UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, believes conditions in Syria are not yet conducive to a return in “safety and dignity.”Reports from inside Syria will determine the pace of voluntary repatriation; extended Syrian families and friends are in close contact with each other via WhatsApp.
Others won’t be allowed to return at all. The Syrian government will deny them re-entry based on perceived political affiliations or their homes will be gone, occupied by largely Shia families settling in Syria as part of a forced demographic transition.
Lebanon, hosting more than one million Syrian refugee, which is equivalent to 25 percent of their population, welcomed them at first. Now some senior ministers want them to go home. They’re treated like out-of-town guests who have over-stayed their welcome.
They are blamed for driving down wages and taxing Lebanon’s fragile infrastructure and health care system. Perhaps most significantly, many Lebanese fear that the Syrian refugees will stay for generations, as more than 400,000 Palestinians did after 1948. With most refugees being Sunnis, this potential outcome threatens to further complicate Lebanon’s complex confessional political system. The Syrian refugees are no happier. They are living in limbo, afraid to leave settlements for fear of being jailed or deported and without access to jobs in the formal economy. Vital humanitarian assistance provided by UNHCR and the World Food Programme, supported generously by the American taxpayers, has made a crucial difference. UNHCR has also been an important intermediary between Syrian refugees and the communities that are hosting them.
What can U.S. policy makers and the global communities do to help these refugees and a country like Lebanon that has supported these refugees beyond their capacity?
First, while Russia and the U.S. have divided sharply over the Syrian Civil War, we need to find common ground together to help those Syrian refugees who choose to return to do so successfully. We must work with regional players, as challenging as that will be, in support of the UN’s efforts to establish minimum standards for refugee returns, including security guarantees, limitations on military conscription, ensuring property restitution and UNHCR access to monitor and assist returning refugees.
Second, the U.S. and other donor countries need to plan and fund multi-year financial and political commitments to support the UN’s humanitarian aid to the refugees in Lebanon and surrounding countries. The wealthy countries of the Arab world, which have provided only token financial support for the refugees, must also invest more.
Third, recognizing the complexities of U.S. policy towards Lebanon, including the strong political power of Hezbollah, we must find ways to assist the government and people of
Lebanon, through development assistance and financing from international financial institutions. Their continued generosity in hosting refugees despite their own political and economic challenges deserves recognition and support. Lebanon must not be abandoned at this critical moment in the region’s history. The Syrian civil war has been a tragedy. The U.S. and the global community must ensure that this devastation is not further compounded by prematurely abandoning millions of Syrian refugees and the Lebanese people who offered them sanctuary.

The Idea of a New Syrian Constitution Is a Diplomatic Fig Leaf

Faisal Al Yafai/The National/October 31/18
Over the past few days, two of the forums tasked with ending the Syrian war have coalesced their efforts around the writing of a new constitution for the nation.
First, over the weekend, came a push from the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who will step down next month after four years in the job. Speaking to the UN Security Council, he seemed to pin his hopes on a new constitution being created but said Damascus was blocking the creation of a drafting committee. At last month's UN General Assembly, Syrian foreign minister Walid Al Muallem went so far as to warn against external intervention in the forming of a committee.
Then, on Saturday, Turkey and Russia pulled off quite a remarkable coup, getting the leaders of Germany and France to go to Istanbul and essentially endorse a plan that the Russians had first manufactured, issuing a communique calling for a drafting committee to be established before the end of the year.
They proposed this despite knowing – because Mr De Mistura had told them just hours before – that the Assad regime was stalling on the formation of the committee and refusing to accept the UN's authority in appointing members to the committee.
Cynical observers might wonder if the renewed push for the committee to be formed in the next few weeks is simply a way of allowing Mr De Mistura to leave with some diplomatic dignity at the end of November.
In any case, the idea of a new Syrian constitution is a mere diplomatic fig leaf, concocted to spare the blushes of western powers for having been comprehensively outmanoeuvred by Russia and the Syrian regime. A new constitution will not, as the leaders declared, pave the way for elections and an end to the war. The Assad regime will not allow a genuinely new constitution. And even if there was a new constitution, it would not solve the issues it is meant to address.
The sudden focus on this new constitution is puzzling, given that, from the moment it was proposed in January, it has created divisions among Syria's opposition and looked extremely unlikely to ever happen.
Recall that the proposal for a 150-member committee made up of both government and opposition figures to rewrite the constitution and pave the way for elections was first proposed at a Russian-backed conference in the Black Sea resort of Sochi earlier this year, at a time when Russian fighter jets were dropping bombs in support of the Assad regime.
Mr De Mistura inexplicably took the idea back under the auspices of the UN-led Geneva process, despite leading opposition figures saying at the time that it was unworkable and the wrong moment to try it.
The opposition argued at the time that what was needed was a transitional government to prove that there would be a move away from the Assad regime. Worse, they pointed out, seeking to rewrite the constitution in Syria, at a time when war was still ongoing and the regime was fighting for its survival, was hardly conducive to a genuinely impartial process.
Still, the idea has not gone away and Mr De Mistura last week asked Russia and Turkey to push the regime to stop blocking the establishment of the committee, so that the process of writing a constitution – nearly a year after it was first proposed – can actually begin.
But there will be no new constitution. That much ought to have been clear to a seasoned diplomat. Instead, the endless debate with the regime is a ruse to delay and ultimately deny the committee any power.
The idea is that one third of the seats on the committee will go to the regime, a third to the opposition and a further third to independents, some of whom would be proposed by the UN. But the regime has consistently objected to any but the most anodyne of opposition members and now refuses to allow the UN to even propose independents.
In any case, a new constitution, if one were ever drafted, would not solve the two issues it is meant to address – even aside from the fact that the lack of Arab consensus on a new course for Syria or a seat at the negotiating table in these discussions remains a sticking point, as Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the League of Arab States, said on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue.
But, setting aside that hurdle, the regime will never allow genuine opposition any representation, which means that the grievances that sparked the uprising will remain, and there will be no justice for those killed, maimed, dispossessed or forcibly removed from their homes. There will be no truth about what happened to the tens of thousands who have disappeared after being detained by the regime, and no reconciliation among the communities affected.
Nor would a new constitution solve the refugee crisis. One of the reasons why Germany and France have been persuaded to back the creation of a new constitution is because they believe it would influence the decision of Syrian refugees to return home.
Yet with Bashar Al Assad remaining in place, it is unlikely many would feel safe enough to go home. I've argued previously that the most likely outcome is for Russia to persuade the regime to accept fresh elections, which would be convincingly “won” by the regime, thereby offering a route back to international respectability.But on the ground, this would be the same old Assad regime – the one that initially shot peaceful protesters, that tortured men and women to death and that now still leads to the disappearance of refugees who have returned home – meaning few of those Syrians who felt threatened enough to leave would feel safe to go back.The truth is that attempts to end the conflict have not gone well for the West and establishing peace is going just as badly. There is little that can be done now to stop Mr Al Assad remaining as president of Syria indefinitely, and European powers and Turkey know it. A new constitution is merely a means of repackaging the inevitable, with some kind of imprint of them playing a part in negotiations. On the ground, nothing will change and for Syrians, any new constitution will not be worth the paper it is printed on.