Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For November 06/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty
Letter of James 02/01-13:"My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please’, while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there’, or, ‘Sit at my feet’, have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’, also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement."

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 05-06/18
Zakka Says Lebanese State in 'Coma' over His Detention/Associated Press/Naharnet/November 05/18
Customs Duties, Competition Hit Lebanese Hopes for Quick Boost from Open Syria Border/Reuters/Monday 05th November 2018
The Lebanese Armed Forces and Hezbollah: Military Dualism in Post-War Lebanon/Aram Nerguizian/Italian Institute for International Political Studies/November 05/18
Hezbollah's Role in a New Lebanese Government Causes a Headache for Hariri/Michael Young/The National/November 05/18
Asia Bibi: Pakistan's Judicial Betrayal/Giulio Meotti//Gatestone Institute/November 05/18
Trump’s Iran Oil Sanctions Aren’t Living Up to the Hype/Julian Lee/Bloomberg/November 05/18
Trump Bank Sanctions Will Hit Iran Where it Hurts/Eli Lake/Bloomberg View/November 05/18
Iran and The Winds of Trump/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/November 05/18
The Middle East "Truce": Why Hamas Cannot Be Trusted/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/November 05/18
Iranian regime running out of options as sanctions hit/Dr. Mohammed Alsulami/Arab News/November 05/18
Progress Without Peace in the Middle East/Aaron David Miller and Hillel Zand/The Atlantic/November 05/18/
Implications of US interest rate rise on the Gulf region/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/November 05/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 05-06/18
Hezbollah Attached to Sunni March 8 Representation amid Islamic Criticism
Zakka Says Lebanese State in 'Coma' over His Detention
Rahi from Baabda: Aoun will not accept government formation be hindered
Al-Rahi Visits Aoun, Confirms Geagea to Meet Franjieh Soon
Aoun: Israeli claims about missile sites bogus
Hariri Informs Aoun of Contacts to Solve EDL Fuel Problem
Abi Khalil Says Funds Provided for Fuel Barges, ‘No Extra Power Cuts’
Berri meets British delegation, Finnish Ambassador
Ibrahim talks political developments with Firouznia, Ahmed Hariri
Derian meets Sheikh Ahmad Qabalan, Nigerian Ambassador
Bahia Hariri Says PM-Designate 'Not on a Retreat' in Paris
Hasbani: Finance Committee has approved health card bill
Jumblatt tackles developments with French President’s envoy
Geagea talks current developments with Greek ambassador
Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel: Protection of Lebanon Requires Government Formation, National Unity
Abu Nader Warns Lebanon Facing 'Existential' Crisis
Customs Duties, Competition Hit Lebanese Hopes for Quick Boost from Open Syria Border
The Lebanese Armed Forces and Hezbollah: Military Dualism in Post-War Lebanon
Hezbollah's Role in a New Lebanese Government Causes a Headache for Hariri

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 05-06/18
Pakistan Blasphemy Case Lawyer Says EU, U.N. Made Him Leave against His Wishes
France Issues Arrest Warrants for Three Senior Syrian Officials
Iran President Vows to Defy US Sanctions
Sanctions Resume as US Set to Announce New Iran Blacklist
Lieberman Thanks Trump as Iran Sanctions Take Effect
U.S. Vows 'Relentless' Sanctions as Iran Defiant
Netanyahu Calls Start of New Iran Sanctions a 'Historic Day'
Iran Revolutionary Guards Commemorate Anniversary of US Hostage Crisis
Israeli Minister in Oman to Attend Transportation Conference
Israeli Forces Storm Headquarters of Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs
US Patrols in Syria’s Kurdish Regions Near Turkey Border
Damascus Ready for 'Conditional Cooperation' with Pedersen
Putin’s Special Envoy, Syria’s Assad Discuss Formation of Constitutional Committee
Egypt: ISIS Religious Edicts Provoke Killing Christians
Egypt President Vows to Guarantee Freedom of Worship
Khashoggi Killing: Sons Ask Saudis to Return His Body
Palestinians in Syria's Yarmuk Yearn for Outside Help
Jerusalem’s Catholic leaders seek repeal of Israel’s Jewish nation-state law
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 05-06/18
Hezbollah Attached to Sunni March 8 Representation amid Islamic Criticism
Beirut /Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 4 November, 2018/The formation of a new Lebanese governed continued to stall on Saturday as the March 8 camp, particularly Hezbollah, remained insistent on naming all six deputies in the new cabinet. “The issue of the representation of the independent Sunni ministers is not new,” said Hezbollah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem said Saturday, renewing the party’s attachment to have those deputies represented in the new cabinet. “As Hezbollah, we chose not express our views to the media over the Druze, Christian and Sunni hurdles. We expressed our stances to the concerned officials and Prime Minister-designate to facilitate the formation process,” he added. “We have repeatedly said that the Sunni representation is essential. Just as they resolved the Lebanese Forces and Druze representations obstacles, they must work on ending the independent Sunni ministers issue,” he stated. Hezbollah’s position was countered by criticism from the Higher Islamic Council, headed by Lebanon's Grand Mufti Abdel Latif Derian, which said that parties hindering the birth of the new government aim to paralyze the state and its constitutional institutions. The Council asserted the importance of forming a new government in a calm and collaborative political manner, instead of creating tension and taking stringent positions. For his part, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the so-called “Sunni hurdle” was a fabricated problem to hinder the formation process. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri refuses that a minister be appointed to represent the Sunni March 8 deputies in his new cabinet. On Thursday, he traveled to Paris without offering any details about the latest developments related to the government formation process. A day earlier, President Michel Aoun said the independent Sunni deputies, who demand a ministerial portfolio, “do not form a bloc."
Since his comments, Hezbollah and the president have had no direct contact to discuss the “Sunni hurdle.”

Zakka Says Lebanese State in 'Coma' over His Detention
Associated Press/Naharnet/November 05/18
Lebanese citizen and permanent U.S. resident Nizar Zakka has lamented that the Lebanese state seems to be in “full coma” over his continued imprisonment in Iran. In a statement distributed by his family, Zakka thanked the Iranian “political prisoners” who are jailed with him “underground” for celebrating his birthday. “They prepared dishes, each according to the traditions of his region, as an apology gesture on behalf of those who abducted me and because inviting a person and then arresting him arbitrarily does not reflect the manners of the Iranians,” Zakka said, in a jab at Iranian authorities.He also thanked the prison guards who took part in the dinner banquet. Zakka has been detained in Iran since 2015 over spying allegations. He was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine. In his letter, Zakka also thanked the Lebanese Equestrian Federation, his son Omar and the Lebanese community in Washington for celebrating his birthday, lamenting that the Lebanese state “is still in full coma, ignoring the case of a Lebanese citizen who was abducted in Tehran while being there on an official invitation.”General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim had met Zakka in his prison in August. Ibrahim said at the time that "efforts have started with the Iranian authorities to secure the release of Nizar Zakka."Zakka, who lived in Washington and held resident status in the U.S., was the leader of the Arab ICT Organization, or IJMA3, an industry consortium from 13 countries that advocates for information technology in the region. Zakka disappeared Sept. 18, 2015, during his fifth trip to Iran. He had been invited to attend a conference at which President Hassan Rouhani spoke of providing more economic opportunities for women and sustainable development.
On Nov. 3, Iranian state television aired a report saying he was in custody and calling him a spy with "deep links" with U.S. intelligence services. It also showed what it described as a damning photo of Zakka and three other men in army-style uniforms, two with flags and two with rifles on their shoulders. But that turned out to be from a homecoming event at Zakka's prep school, the Riverside Military Academy in Georgia, according to the school's president. The Associated Press has reported that Zakka's IJMA3 organization had received at least $730,000 in contracts and grants since 2009 from both the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID. Zakka's supporters had written former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry stating that Zakka traveled to Iran "with the knowledge and approval of the U.S. State Department, and his trip was funded by grants" from it. Neither American nor Lebanese officials, who the U.S. says are responsible for providing consular assistance to Zakka, have publicly acknowledged Zakka's work with the U.S. government.

Rahi from Baabda: Aoun will not accept government formation be hindered
Mon 05 Nov 2018/NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, on Monday welcomed at the Baabda palace Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi, with talks reportedly touching on the general situation in the country. Speaking on emerging, Patrirach Rahi underlined the dire need to support the efforts of President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate in the government formation issue. Rahi stressed the importance of consecrating national unity, saying President Aoun will not accept that government formation be hindered. The Patriarch called for facilitating Cabinet formation process, instead of placing obstacles and impediments. He stressed the need to uphold internal balances in a bid to move forward. "We all stand in solidarity with the President and we want all parties to support his position," Rahi maintained, saying solutions should not be at the account of Lebanon, unity and internal balance. In reply to a question about the date of the meeting between former Minister Sleiman Franjieh and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, Rahi said the specific date of the meeting has not yet been set, adding "it might be imminent."

Al-Rahi Visits Aoun, Confirms Geagea to Meet Franjieh Soon
Naharnet/November 05/18/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi confirmed Monday that a much-anticipated reconciliation meeting between Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh will be held “soon,” as he stressed the need to facilitate the formation of the new government. Speaking after talks with President Michel Aoun at the Baabda Palace, al-Rahi called for “supporting the efforts of the president and the prime minister-designate in order to form the government,” while emphasizing “the need to achieve national unity.”“President Aoun will not accept the formation of the government to remain faltering,” the patriarch added. Noting that “strength is not about putting sticks in the wheels but rather about facilitating the formation of the government,” al-Rahi expressed “solidarity” with President Aoun. “We hope everyone will support his stance and the solutions will not be at the expense of Lebanon, internal unity or domestic balance as the president calls it,” the patriarch went on to say. Responding to a reporter’s question, al-Rahi said: “The date of the meeting between ex-minister Suleiman Franjieh and the leader of the LF party has not yet been decided but it might be held soon.”

Aoun: Israeli claims about missile sites bogus
Mon 05 Nov 2018/NNA - President Michel Aoun on Monday deprecated the Israeli enemy's continuous claims about the presence of missile sites in populated areas in Lebanon, especially nearby Rafic Hariri International Airport. "These allegations are bogus and they are taking place while the Israeli violation of the Lebanese sovereignty persists," Aoun said. The President's remarks came during his meeting at Baabda palace with the United Kingdom's Senior Defence Advisor for the Middle East, Lieutenant General Sir John Gordon Lorimer, and an accompanying delegation. Talks reportedly featured high on the security and military situation in Lebanon and the broader region, in addition to the bilateral cooperation between the Lebanese and British armies. During the meeting, Aoun thanked the British government for its support for the Lebanese army in its battle against terrorism, highlighting the necessity to keep vigil in order to preserve stability and security. The President also tackled Lebanon's position from the displaced Syrians' issue and the necessity that they return home. Accordingly, he welcomed that ongoing efforts aiming to reach a solution to the Syrian crisis. Aoun also warned of dividing Syria, stressing on the Syrian territorial integrity. "Lebanon cannot await the political solution to this crisis so that the displaced return to Syria," he underlined. Moreover, Aoun renewed calls to work on reaching a permanent and just solution to the Palestinian Cause, underlining the reverberations of cutting the funding of UNRWA and the implicit intentions to settle Palestinians in the host countries. Separately, Aoun cabled Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to whom he offered condolences following the deadly attack that had targeted a bus with Coptic pilgrims on board. Aoun had earlier met with the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, Joseph Spiteri, who conveyed to him a letter from Pope Francis. In his letter, Pope Francis maintained that "the cause of peace in the Middle East, just like elsewhere in the world, constitutes a common concern we share with President Michel Aoun."The Pope also expressed hope that the relations between Lebanon and the Holy See would contribute to finding effective and permanent solutions to the conflicts in the region. Spiteri also informed the President of the imminent visit of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, to Lebanon.

Hariri Informs Aoun of Contacts to Solve EDL Fuel Problem
Naharnet/November 05/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri contacted President Michel Aoun from Paris and informed him on the outcome of his contacts with Algerian officials that led to the decision to unload fuel from the two Algerian tanker ships to supply Electricite Du Liban, the Premier’s press office said on Monday. Hariri will continue his contacts with the Algerian officials to find a permanent solution to the issue in the coming days, it added. Earlier during the day, caretaker Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said he visited Aoun at the Presidential Palace and notified him that the power barges will start supplying fuel as of today. Abi Khalil also said he informed Aoun of the solution reached to fulfill the country's fuel needs and the measures that had been taken to curb the electricity crisis. Additional power cuts were feared to hit Lebanon as the result of failure to provide necessary funds for purchasing fuel. A blackout was feared as Zouk and Jiyyeh power plants were expected to turn off this week. Lebanon has been contending with rolling blackouts since the days of its 1975-1990 civil war. Successive governments have failed to agree on a permanent solution for the chronic electricity failures, largely because of profiteering, endemic corruption and lack of political will.

Abi Khalil Says Funds Provided for Fuel Barges, ‘No Extra Power Cuts’

Naharnet/November 05/18/Caretaker Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said on Monday that additional power cuts feared to hit Lebanon as the result of failure to provide necessary funds for purchasing fuel have been resolved. "I have notified President Michel Aoun that the power barges will start supplying fuel as of today; and there will be no electricity cuts," Abi Khalil told reporters following a meeting with President Michel Aoun at Baabda palace. A blackout was feared as Zouk and Jiyyeh power plants were expected to turn off this week. Abi Khalil informed Aoun of the solution reached to fulfill the country's fuel needs and the measures that had been taken to curb the electricity crisis. The Minister also indicated that he had updated the President about the Algerian side's readiness to continue providing the needed fuel supply. "The President appreciated the Algerian position and contacted Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who in turn, highly valued the initiative of Sonatrach company," Abi Khalil said. Lebanon has been contending with rolling blackouts since the days of its 1975-1990 civil war. Successive governments have failed to agree on a permanent solution for the chronic electricity failures, largely because of profiteering, endemic corruption and lack of political will.

Berri meets British delegation, Finnish Ambassador

Mon 05 Nov 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, met at his Ain-el-Tineh residence on Monday, with the United Kingdom's Senior Defence Advisor for the Middle East, Lieutenant General Sir John Gordon Lorimer, and an accompanying delegation, in presence of Chargé D'Affaires of the British Embassy in Beirut, Benjamin Wastnage. Talks reportedly touched on the current situation in Lebanon and the broader region. Berri later met with UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Lebanon, Philippe Lazzarini.The Speaker also welcomed the new Finnish Ambassador to Lebanon, Tarja Fernandez, who came on a protocol visit.

Ibrahim talks political developments with Firouznia, Ahmed Hariri

Mon 05 Nov 2018/NNA - General Security chief, Abbas Ibrahim, on Monday received in his office Future Movement Secretary General, Ahmed Hariri, with whom he discussed most recent political developments. Maj. Gen. Ibrahim also met with the new Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammad Jalal Firouznia, who came on a courtesy visit. Talks reportedly touched on the general situation. Ibrahim wished the Iranian ambassador success in his new mission.

Derian meets Sheikh Ahmad Qabalan, Nigerian Ambassador

Mon 05 Nov 2018/NNA - Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdullatif Derian met at Dar-al-Fatwa on Monday, with Excellent Jaafarite Mufti, Sheikh Ahmad Qabalan, with talks touching on affairs relevant to media and the impact of some TV shows on the Lebanese society. "We discussed with Mufti Derian the necessity to hold a meeting for the high-level spiritual leaders in order to follow up and dwell on what is happening in media, regarding TV shows that constitute a violation of all the values and public manners affecting the Lebanese society," Sheikh Qabalan told reporters following the meeting. "We agreed with Mufti Derian over the necessity to carry on coordination to follow up on these affairs, in collaboration with Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rahi, Druze Sheikh Aql Neem Hassan, and the Supreme Islamic Shia Council," he said. "God willing, there will be a conference to tackle this issue," he added. Separately, Derian met with Nigerian Ambassador to Lebanon, Goni Modu Zanna Bura, over the means to bolster relations between the two countries.

Bahia Hariri Says PM-Designate 'Not on a Retreat' in Paris

Naharnet/November 05/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is “not on a retreat” in the French capital Paris, MP Bahia Hariri said on Monday. “The PM-designate is not on a retreat and he is taking his time in the issue of (the cabinet) formation,” the lawmaker, who is also Hariri’s aunt, said. “We’re full of hope that after President Michel Aoun’s remarks we will head towards a solution,” the MP added. Hariri has been in Paris on a private visit since Thursday according to his office. His departure after a last-minute hurdle delayed the formation of his long-awaited government has raised speculation that the PM-designate has left the country in protest at the current situation. The new cabinet was on the verge of formation last Monday after the Lebanese Forces accepted the portfolios that were assigned to it but a row over the representation of pro-Hizbullah Sunni MPs 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. Hariri has reportedly announced that he'd rather step down than give the MPs a seat from his own ministerial share.

Hasbani: Finance Committee has approved health card bill
Mon 05 Nov 2018/NNA - The remaining items of the law proposal on the health card have been approved by the Finance and Budget House committee this morning, a statement by the press office of Caretaker Health Minister, Ghassan Hasbani, announced on Monday. Speaking later from the Parliament, Hasbani indicated that the bill would take its course at the Parliament to become an effective law.

Jumblatt tackles developments with French President’s envoy

Mon 05 Nov 2018/NNA - Progressive Socialist Party Leader, Walid Jumblatt, welcomed on Monday French President Emanuel Marcon’s Special Envoy, Aureliane le Chevalier. The meeting reportedly focused on the most recent developments in Lebanon and the region.

Geagea talks current developments with Greek ambassador

Mon 05 Nov 2018/NNA - Lebanese Forces leader, Samir Geagea, on Monday welcomed in Meerab the new Greek Ambassador to Lebanon, Franciscos Verros, who came on a courtesy visit. Talks reportedly touched on most recent developments in Lebanon and the broader region.

Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel: Protection of Lebanon Requires Government Formation, National Unity 05th November 2018/Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel on Monday met with Maronite Archbishop of Beirut, Boulos Matar, with talks featuring high on the latest developments in the country. Following the meeting, Gemayel hoped that a government would be formed as soon as possible, stressing that the obstruction of the formation process jeopardizes the country and puts it at risk amid the manifold challenges facing it. "It is good to see that both the president and prime minister-designate agree on the so-called 'Sunni indepedent lawmakers knot'. Therefore, they both should take the initiative and form a government swiftly because the country needs it," he said. "The country can no longer endure the repercussions of any further delay," he cautioned. Gemayel called on Hezbollah to halt its obstructive demands, stressing that the government formation is key to the protection of the country. “I tell Hezbollah that the only guarantee of Lebanon’s continuance lies in the formation of a government and in the consolidation of national unity." Gemayel declined to assess President Michel Aoun's performance three years after his election, warning, however, that the country is going through a dangerous phase on the political and economic levels.

Abu Nader Warns Lebanon Facing 'Existential' Crisis 05th November 2018/Kataeb leader's top adviser, Fouad Abu Nader, on Monday warned that Lebanon's identity and power-sharing formula is at stake, saying that the country is now facing an "existential" crisis. "The Taef Agreement was a mere settlement that soon stumbled because it only focused on temporary changes in Lebanon, while disregarding the real dilemma, which is national unity," Abu Nader wrote on Twitter. "Our internal divisions are preventing all-inclusive, unified decisions," he added.

Customs Duties, Competition Hit Lebanese Hopes for Quick Boost from Open Syria Border
Reuters/Monday 05th November 2018
Lebanese exporters hoping to send their goods to the lucrative Gulf market through the reopened Syrian-Jordanian border are grappling with higher Syrian customs duties and competition from producers who have taken their place. The Oct. 15 reopening of the Nassib border crossing holds out the prospect of a much-needed boost for Lebanon’s economy, reviving a trade artery for the overland export of its fruit, vegetables and manufactured goods. But at the Masnaa border, where hundreds of trucks used to cross into Syria each day, there is no sign yet of traffic recovering to the level that existed before the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011.“They are saying the crossing is open. It is just talk,” said Mohamad Abdulrahman al-Bob, a fruit and vegetable merchant, speaking at his packing plant in the Bekaa Valley.“The security is there, but it’s taxes, taxes,” he said, explaining why he has yet to send his goods overland.
“Nothing is clear.”
The amount of goods he exports has halved from 2011 with all his exports today via sea or air. The Nassib crossing was reopened after the Syrian government defeated rebels in the southwest in a Russian-backed offensive. The Syrian government decided in September to increase customs duties on goods transiting through its territory, a decision aimed at providing support for Syrian seaports, state news agency SANA said. Lebanon’s caretaker economy minister Raed Khoury said he had held talks with his Syrian counterpart to urge a reduction of the five-fold increase in the level of customs being applied by Damascus.“Their response is that ‘We, as a country, suffered and the roads are destroyed’ and they want to rebuild the roads,” he told Reuters in an interview. “Our response is that we, as a country (also) suffered from the problem in Syria.” Khoury said more negotiations were needed. “This won’t happen quickly,” he added.
Lebanon’s ties with Syria are complicated by the state’s official policy of “disassociation” from regional conflicts. While some Lebanese leaders are urging a full normalisation of ties, others oppose this. Khoury said the two biggest problems obstructing a recovery of Lebanese exports are the competition from other countries and the fact that, cut off from export markets, many Lebanese producers had been forced out of business.
Before the Syrian conflict, Lebanon exported around $800 million worth of goods via Nassib annually, he said. Agricultural produce accounted for $200 to $300 million of the amount, with the rest being manufactured goods.
He estimates that around 40 trucks are entering Syria from Lebanon, compared to 400 a day before 2011. The reopening of Nassib is seen as a rare chink of light in an otherwise bleak economic outlook. The World Bank said that Lebanon would likely benefit from it in a report that revised down the 2018 growth projection to 1 percent.Revival of the export route can’t come soon enough for Wissam al-Samad, who owns a refrigerated warehouse stacked high with grapes. “When Lebanese goods disappeared from the Gulf market, foreign products replaced them,” he said.
“Work is down by half.”

The Lebanese Armed Forces and Hezbollah: Military Dualism in Post-War Lebanon
أرام ناركزيان: الجيش اللبناني وحزب الله: الثنائي العسكري في لبنان ما بعد الحرب
Aram Nerguizian/Italian Institute for International Political Studies/November 05/18
Lebanon’s competing sectarian political parties have devised a delicately-balanced political system leaving them stronger than state institutions. Despite the primacy of this system, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have become an increasingly professional and capable national military institution after the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in 2005. However the LAF has failed to curtail the autonomy of Lebanon’s political forces, and it has struggled to stave off political penetration of military ranks.
This paradox, combined with the geopolitical forces that shaped Lebanon’s post-war political order, have led to the hybridization of security governance, wherein parallel non-state military actors retain both their operational autonomy and national security legitimacy.
The most obvious manifestation of this are the asymmetric military forces of Hezbollah, a militant Shia political movement which has been represented in parliament continuously since 1992 and at the ministerial level in the Council of Ministers since 2005.
This military dualism endured for almost thirty years, during which the LAF and Hezbollah simultaneously enjoyed a degree of legitimacy and cohabited despite their divergent raisons d'être and developmental trajectories. However, as they evolved and expanded their national security roles and prerogatives in post-Syria Lebanon, military dualism became increasingly brittle as new lines of friction between the LAF and Hezbollah turned into lasting features of Lebanon’s national security landscape.
Hybrid security governance is an anomalous feature of post-war Lebanon. Soon after independence in 1943, the LAF acquired the role of arbiter between rival sectarian and political alliances in 1958 when the LAF intervened directly to neutralize the political imbalance created by a short-lived civil war. The ensuing counter-struggle by confessional elites to restore their patronage networks culminated in the defeat of the military-backed political establishment in the 1970 presidential election and the dismantling of the Deuxième Bureau – the LAF’s military intelligence apparatus. The long civil war of 1975-1990 consequently fragmented the LAF along sectarian lines, and gave way to the sectarian militia order of the civil war years.
As part of Lebanon’s postwar political settlement under the Ta’if Agreement (1989), militias successfully underwent disarmament, demobilization, and partial reintegration. The Pax Syriana era transformed the LAF substantially. Syria’s security and intelligence apparatus in Lebanon worked to recast the LAF into an impenetrable pro-Syrian institution, disconnected from government oversight and control. The former achieved this by interposing itself between the Lebanese military and the country’s political system, thereby quickly penetrating and regulating Lebanese civil-military affairs.
In parallel, one key exception to the dismantling of Lebanon’s post-war militia order was Hezbollah, which enjoyed support from Syria and political patronage from its main international sponsor Iran. Though the civil war was over, Ta’if would serve to reinforce and legitimize the group under the aegis of Lebanese “Resistance” against Israeli occupation, at a time when Israel controlled 10 percent of Lebanon’s territory, thereby consecrating the hybrid security governance system that remains a divisive feature of Lebanon’s national security landscape.
The departure of Syria’s military and intelligence personnel in 2005 disrupted its monopoly on Lebanese foreign and military policy decision-making. Their departure also heralded the return of polarized sectarian politics, the decay of Lebanon’s post-war executive structure, and competing efforts to penetrate and shape the orientation of the post-Syria LAF.
The 2005 to 2017 period was defined by two competing trends in hybrid security governance in post-war Lebanon. On the one hand, the LAF attempted to maintain and develop its military credibility and autonomy. On the other, competing political factions rapidly reasserted themselves after the withdrawal of Syrian security and intelligence personnel and were eager to penetrate and regulate the post-Syria LAF.
First, between 2005 and 2008, the pro-Western 14 March alliance sought to marginalize officers who had either trained in Syria or who had ties to pro-Syrian political forces. The rival 8 March alliance aligned with Syria and Iran similarly sought in 2008-2010 to sideline officers who had received U.S. military education, or were suspected of supporting U.S. policies in the region. Both political camps solicited officers seen to be ideologically sympathetic and strove to promote their professional advancement.
While the LAF struggled to define and preserve itself amidst the polarization of post-Syria Lebanon, Hezbollah sought to adapt to changing regional fortunes. During much of the post-war period, Hezbollah’s power and autonomy were limited by the preferences of the Assad regime in Damascus. However, faced with a growing array of Western-led pressures meant to isolate both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria regionally, Hezbollah quickly gained greater freedom of action at the domestic political level in Lebanon. Meanwhile, driven by strategic competition with U.S. regional allies Saudi Arabia and Israel, Tehran would seek to further develop the militant group’s asymmetric deterrence capabilities.
The LAF’s and Hezbollah’s post-Syria priorities were often in tension over the 2005 to 2010 period. The 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah showed that Syria and Iran could use the transfer of ever-more advanced weapons systems to bolster the group’s domestic and regional bona fides. By contrast, the LAF was largely a bystander in the 33-day conflict of 2006 with only symbolic actions against Israeli forces. Conversely, the LAF’s 2007 fight against Fatah al-Islam militants in the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp showed that the LAF could assert itself and play a preeminent national security role despite the Government of Lebanon’s and the country’s competing March 8 and March 14 alliances’ reluctance to follow suit.
While 2007 was a low point for hybrid security governance, 2008 saw painful reversals when the LAF avoided a direct confrontation with Hezbollah during Beirut street clashes between the Shia militant group and an embryonic Sunni militia of the mainly Sunni 14 March-aligned Future Movement. Some in the LAF saw May 2008 as a case of military neutrality; conversely, others saw it as a “missed opportunity” for the military to signal its objection to domestic military action by any of the country’s competing political/sectarian forces.
The geopolitical battle for Syria started in late 2010 made these competing trends even more complex. Buoyed by mainly U.S. external security assistance and the threat from the spillover of jihadist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from the Syrian civil war, the LAF saw active combat in in 2012 and 2013, while the LAF engaged in large-scale defensive and offensive military operations in 2014 and 2017 respectively, against an external military threat for the first time in the post-war period. Meanwhile, an active military role alongside Assad regime forces in Syria, and the increasingly sectarian nature of Syria’s civil war, enabled Hezbollah to bolster its own national security narrative in Lebanon and the region.
Initially, the LAF’s post-2010 posture in the national security arena seemed poised to erode the rational for hybrid security arrangements in post-war Lebanon. However, the LAF’s thrust to assert national security primacy over groups like Hezbollah would soon begin to stall. An unprecedented military leadership crisis between August 2016 and March 2017 proved especially detrimental: a protracted stalemate in Lebanon’s sectarian political system led to the retirement of key senior officers, botched critical transitions in key command-level posts, and saw the advancement of officers that were either unwilling or unable to sustain the arc of the LAF’s 2010-2016 military transformation.
The LAF’s 2017 Dawn of the Hills campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) illustrates the durability of military dualism in post-war Lebanon. The LAF’s meticulously executed operation caught Hezbollah and most of Lebanon’s sectarian political forces by surprise. However, rather than decisively challenging hybridity in national security politics, the LAF’s national security credibility was challenged yet again when Hezbollah unilaterally reached an agreement for ISIS to withdraw from Lebanon, retroactively took credit for LAF successes, and promoted a narrative of secret cooperation between its cadres, the LAF, and Assad forces.
There is little doubt that the post-war LAF remains the country’s most representative national institution, and highly popular across Lebanon’s confessional dividing lines. It enjoys strong relationships with key international partners, including the United States, has significantly bolstered its national security credentials, and it is eager to play a larger national security role. However, the LAF cannot unilaterally counter the sources of national security hybridity in post-Syria Lebanon: the very same confessional political system that grants Hezbollah a level of communal integration and protection the military can scarcely hope to challenge alone.
In turn, Hezbollah benefits from its preeminent role in Lebanon’s post-war political order. No state institution – including the LAF – will openly challenge Hezbollah’s domestic credibility with its own Shia constituency, and the group’s Resistance operations and expeditionary campaign in Syria have further strengthened Hezbollah’s domestic legitimacy. However, unlike the LAF, Hezbollah does not have the legitimacy and credibility of one of the Middle East’s few fighting militaries, and its preference for hybrid security arrangements does not enjoy the kind of support that was afforded to the group as a result of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah conflict.
On the surface, the determination that both the LAF and Hezbollah wish to play a larger role shaping Lebanese national security politics suggests that there may not be enough room for two preeminent – albeit very distinct – military institutions in post-war Lebanon. However, Hezbollah’s role as a key player in Lebanon’s sectarian political system, and the LAF’s struggle for autonomy in post-war Syria have served to blunt the possibility of open confrontation between the two thus far. Whether this unstable balance persists or not will depend on the trajectory of Lebanon’s precarious sectarian politics, the scale and scope of regional and strategic competition in the Levant, and the ever-present wild card of another Israeli-Hezbollah conflict.

Hezbollah's Role in a New Lebanese Government Causes a Headache for Hariri
مايكل يانغ: دور حزب الله في الحكومة الجديدة يسبب صداعاً للحريري
Michael Young/The National/November 05/18
News that a new government may soon be formed will cheer many in Lebanon, who are increasingly anxious about the dire economic situation in the country. Until a government takes office, Lebanon will remain in limbo while awaiting urgent policies to address its ballooning public debt.
However, a new government could conceivably represent a headache for the Lebanese, at least if the prime minister-designate Saad Hariri chooses to appoint a Hezbollah figure to be health minister, as seems likely. Legislation passed by the US Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last week explains why.The amended legislation threatens to sanction individuals who knowingly assist, support, recruit, or fundraise for Hezbollah. More significantly, it also sanctions “agencies of foreign governments” that provide the party with arms, financial support, or other forms of assistance. And it also increases sanctions on Hezbollah’s criminal networks, including alleged drug trafficking networks.
Following Lebanon’s parliamentary elections last May, US officials in Beirut made it clear to Mr Hariri that they would oppose a decision to hand the health ministry to a member of Hezbollah. Their argument was that at a time when the United States was tightening the screws on Iran and Hezbollah, America would not take kindly to a decision that gave the party significant patronage power. The ministry is often used by politicians or parties to provide free medical care to supporters, and can generate considerable political capital.
All the signs are that Mr Hariri has ignored these warnings. Hezbollah has insisted on the ministry for several reasons. First, with funding from Iran having diminished owing to US sanctions, the party needs other means to provide services to an electorate unhappy with its focus on Syria in the past five years. Moreover, with the economy in crisis and Hezbollah having to take care of its members injured in the Syrian conflict, a services ministry was seen as a priority.
The party also feels that the momentum is going its way. Hezbollah and its allies appear to have won in Syria, the results of the Lebanese elections were to its advantage, and now the party is seeking to capitalise on all this by demanding that seats in the government be reserved for its allies.
Where this will leave Lebanon, however, is uncertain. One passage in the US legislation should make Lebanese officials wary. It refers to the sanctioning of “certain instrumentalities and agencies of foreign states”, and sets as a condition that the agency in question must have “provided significant financial support for or to, or significant arms or related materiel to” Hezbollah.
Would Washington consider free healthcare to Hezbollah members provided by the health ministry as an example of “significant financial support”? It’s difficult to say that it would never do so. Moreover, there has been talk that if the US takes measures to block the export of medicines to the ministry, Iran would step in to supply medicines of its own − a move that would anger the Trump administration. The sanctions, as outlined in the legislation, are described as the exercise of powers “to the extent necessary to block and prohibit all transactions in all property and interests in property of an agency or instrumentality of a foreign state if such property and interests in property are in the United States, come within the United States, or are or come within the possession or control of a United States person”.
Behind the dry, bureaucratic language, the legislation effectively indicates that if the Trump administration were to sanction the health ministry, the US might seek to prevent dollar transactions in which the ministry engages. This could affect the wide network of hospitals and medical providers with which it works, and it is conceivable that many companies would simply refuse to work with the ministry.
However, there is more to this situation than what happens to the ministry. In recent years, the United States has continued to provide aid to the Lebanese army and state, despite protests from some quarters in the US who affirm that Lebanon and Hezbollah are one and the same. There remains goodwill towards Beirut in the US capital, but it is hardly etched in stone. Placing a Hezbollah minister over the health ministry could alter this favourable mood considerably. Once that happens, it will take a great deal to bring relations back to normal. Lest the Lebanese forget, the US significantly downgraded its involvement in Lebanon in 1984, and it took more than a decade for it to fully re-engage with the state. Lebanon is highly dependent on dollar transactions, an open economy, and the travel of its citizens to and from the US, so it makes no sense for it to alienate Washington, especially at a time when it has lost so much of the backing it once had among Gulf states. It’s unclear what motivated Mr Hariri to ignore the American counsel, particularly when he has spent the past five months heeding each and every condition from his partners in government. The prime minister-designate may feel he doesn’t owe anything to Washington, but nor is a financially debilitated Lebanon capable of weathering a clash with a superpower. If his decision brings the Lebanese new woes, he will have only himself to blame.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
November 05-06/18
Pakistan Blasphemy Case Lawyer Says EU, U.N. Made Him Leave against His Wishes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 05/18/A Pakistani lawyer who saved a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy from death row said Monday that the U.N. and EU made him leave the country "against my wishes" because his life was at risk. Saif-ul-Malook, who has fled to the Netherlands, said he contacted a United Nations official in Islamabad after Islamist violence erupted following the Pakistani Supreme Court's acquittal of Asia Bibi on Wednesday. "And then they (the U.N.) and the European nation ambassadors in Islamabad, they kept me for three days and then put me on a plane against my wishes," the lawyer told a press conference in The Hague.

France Issues Arrest Warrants for Three Senior Syrian Officials
AFP/Monday 05th November 2018/France has issued international arrest warrants for three senior Syrian intelligence officials in connection with the deaths of two Franco-Syrian nationals, legal sources said Monday. The warrants, which target National Security Bureau director Ali Mamluk and two others, were issued for "complicity in acts of torture", "complicity in crimes against humanity" and "complicity in war crimes".The warrants were issued on October 8 but made public only on Monday, according to the International Federation for Human Rights advocacy group (FIDH). The other high-ranking officials sought are Jamil Hassan, head of the Syrian air force's intelligence agency, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud, in charge of the air force intelligence's investigative branch at the Mezzeh military airport in Damascus. They are wanted in connection with the disappearance of Mazen and Patrick Dabbagh, a father and son, who were arrested in November 2013 and went missing after being detained in the Mezzeh detention centre, according to the FIDH.

Iran President Vows to Defy US Sanctions
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 5 November, 2018/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed on Monday to defy the newly re-imposed US sanctions. He condemned the sanctions as an “economic war” Washington is waging in an attempt to curb Tehran’s missile and nuclear programs and weaken its influence in the Middle East. The US move restores sanctions lifted under a 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by the administration of President Barack Obama and five other world powers. It adds 300 new designations in Iran’s oil, shipping, insurance and banking sectors. “Today the enemy (the United States) is targeting our economy...the main target of sanctions is our people,” Rouhani said. “America wanted to cut to zero Iran’s oil sales… but we will continue to sell our break sanctions,” he told economists at a meeting broadcast live on state television. "I announce that we will proudly bypass your illegal, unjust sanctions because it's against international regulations," he said. The sanctions were illegal and unfair, he said. “This is an economic war against Iran but ... America should learn that it cannot use the language of force against Iran ... We are prepared to resist any pressure,” Rouhani said. Trump announced in May his government was withdrawing from what he called the “worst ever” agreement negotiated by the United States. “Iran is a much different country than it was when I took office,” said Trump, adding: “They wanted to take over the whole Middle East. Right now they just want to survive.”The latest tranche of US sanctions aims to significantly cut Iran's oil exports -- which have already fallen by up to one million barrels a day since May -- and cut off its banks from international finance. The United States has given temporary exemptions to eight countries -- including India, Japan and Turkey -- to continue buying oil in a bid to avoid disturbing their economies and global markets. But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed to push Iran's oil sales to zero. "Watch what we do. Watch as we've already taken more crude oil off the market than any time in previous history," he told CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday. Iran's economy was already suffering major structural problems -- including widespread corruption, weak investment and a banking sector laden with toxic assets -- before Trump walked out of the nuclear deal. But Trump's announcement in May helped fuel a run on Iran's currency that has seen the rial lose more than two thirds of its value, driving up prices and forcing the government to resort to food handouts for the country's poor.

Sanctions Resume as US Set to Announce New Iran Blacklist
Washington - Heba El Koudsy /Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 4 November, 2018/The United States is set to announce the full list of Iranian entities that are being targeted in the latest round of sanctions that took effect on Monday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took to Twitter to defend his country’s re-imposition of sanctions amid criticism that they will spark long-term tensions between Washington and Tehran. Tweeting on the 39th anniversary of the US hostage crisis in Iran, he said: “Their courage & resolve over 444 days in captivity continues to underscore our commitment to compel Iran to permanently abandon its outlaw activities.”In an earlier tweet, he stressed: “On November 5, we will place tough sanctions on Iran’s ruling regime. Our aim is to compel Iran to abandon its destructive activities. The sanctions will target the regime—not the people, who have suffered the pain of their government’s mismanagement, theft, and brutality.”Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, he added that the sanctions “aimed at a single purpose -- denying the world's largest state sponsor of terror the capacity to do things like the things they've done in the past few weeks.”
In addition, he spoke of waivers being granted to eight countries to allow them to continue to import Iranian oil. The waivers are temporary and these countries “need a little bit more time to get to zero”.Pompeo maintained that despite the waivers, "these sanctions have already had an enormous impact." “We've already reduced Iranian crude oil experts by over a million barrels per day. That number will fall farther,” he added. He rejected criticism that Donald Trump’s administration was not hard enough on Tehran, saying: “There are a lot of experts that said President Trump's policy wouldn't have any impact because it was just the United States and other countries weren't participating. And, in fact, we have built an enormous coalition to keep this world safe and to deny Iran money.” “The financial sanctions that are being put in place by the Treasury Department and over 600 designations of individuals and companies in Iran will have the intended effect to alter the Iranian regime's behavior,” he continued. A number of hawks in the Trump administration, as well as senior Republican officials, have demanded that harsher sanctions be take against Tehran. Republican senators Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz of Texas have have drafted legislation that would require the Trump administration to demand that Iran be suspended from the international bank transfer system (SWIFT). Iran is already in the grip of an economic crisis. Its national currency, the rial, now trades at 145,000 to one US dollar, down from when it traded 40,500 to $1 a year ago. The economic chaos sparked mass anti-government protests at the end of last year which resulted in nearly 5,000 reported arrests and at least 25 people being killed. Sporadic demonstrations still continue. The United States says the sanctions are not aimed at toppling the government, but at persuading it to radically change its policies, including its support for regional militant groups and its development of long-range ballistic missiles.

Lieberman Thanks Trump as Iran Sanctions Take Effect
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 05/18/Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman welcomed U.S. sanctions that took effect Monday targeting Iran's oil and financial sectors, calling it a "critical" blow to Tehran's actions in the region. "President (Donald) Trump's bold decision is the sea-change the Middle East has been waiting for," Lieberman said in a statement. "In a single move, the United States is dealing a critical blow to Iran's entrenchment in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq and Yemen. President Trump, you've done it again! Thank you."Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday also thanked Trump for the sanctions against his country's main enemy. The measures described by Washington as "the toughest sanctions ever" follow Trump's controversial decision in May to abandon the multi-nation nuclear deal with Tehran. They aim to significantly reduce Iran's oil exports -- which have already fallen by around one million barrels a day since May -- and cut it off from international finance. Israel had long opposed the Iran nuclear deal, saying it was too limited in scope and timeframe. It also said the lifting of sanctions allowed Iran to finance militant groups and its own military activity. Israel is particularly concerned with Iran's involvement in neighboring Syria and has pledged to keep it from entrenching itself militarily there. The other parties to the nuclear deal -- Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia -- opposed the U.S. move and say the accord is working as intended in keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons for now.

U.S. Vows 'Relentless' Sanctions as Iran Defiant
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 05/18/The United States vowed Monday to be "relentless" in countering Iran as sweeping sanctions took effect, but the Islamic republic defiantly promised to stand up to the "bullying" by Washington. President Donald Trump's administration nonetheless issued eight exemptions from its demand on all countries to stop buying Iranian oil, the country's largest export, amid bitter international opposition to the unilateral U.S. sanctions. Six months after Trump pulled out of an international agreement on ending Tehran's nuclear program, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the ultimate U.S. goal was for Iran to make a "180-degree turn" and abandon its "revolutionary course." While stopping short of urging regime change, he reiterated demands for Iran to end policies rooted in the 1979 Islamic revolution including its support for regional proxies such as the Lebanese militia Hezbollah and its development of missiles. "We hope a new agreement with Iran is possible, but until Iran makes changes in the 12 ways I listed in May, we will be relentless in exerting pressure on the regime," Pompeo said. He said the sanctions -- which took effect on the 39th anniversary of Iranian zealots' seizure of the U.S. embassy following the ouster of the pro-U.S. shah -- intended to "starve the Iranian regime of the funds it uses to fund violent activity throughout the Middle East and around the world."U.N. inspectors say Iran is abiding by an agreement reached with Trump's predecessor Barack Obama to draw down its nuclear program. That deal was backed by European powers, Russia and China and sealed by a U.N. Security Council resolution. "I announce that we will proudly bypass your illegal, unjust sanctions because it's against international regulations," Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech as the sanctions took effect. "We are in a situation of economic war, confronting a bullying power. I don't think that in the history of America, someone has entered the White House who is so against law and international conventions," he added. In one of Tehran's bazaars, there was anxiety over the future. "The shadow of the sanctions has already affected the economy in a disastrous way, people's purchasing power has plunged," said Ehsan Attar in his herbal remedy shop.
Act on your commitments
Rouhani said four countries had approached him during his visit to New York for the U.N. General Assembly in September, offering to mediate with the U.S. but he turned them down. "There is no need for mediation. There is no need for all these messages. Act on your commitments, and we will sit and talk," he said. But Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in an interview published Monday with USA Today, said Iran would consider fresh diplomacy if there were a "different approach" by Washington. The latest tranche of U.S. sanctions aims to significantly cut Iran's oil exports -- which have already fallen by up to one million barrels a day since May -- and cut off its banks from international finance. The Belgian-based SWIFT banking network, the backbone for international monetary transfers, said Monday it had suspended several Iranian banks from its service. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that US sanctions will cause Iran's economy to contract 1.5 percent this year and 3.6 percent next year -- pain that Trump has boasted about as he touts his record ahead of Tuesday's congressional elections. Iran's economy was already suffering major structural problems -- including widespread corruption, weak investment and a banking sector laden with toxic assets -- before Trump walked out of the deal. Rouhani's plan since his election in 2013 was to boost the economy by rebuilding ties with the world and attracting billions of dollars in foreign investment -- a strategy that now looks in tatters.
Eight exemptions to oil sanctions
The United States issued eight waivers to its ban on buying Iranian oil -- to China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey. Pompeo said that the eight had demonstrated that they were reducing purchases of Iranian oil and that the United States recognized special circumstances, as well as the need not to disrupt energy markets. One notable exemption was Iraq. Had it been granted a waiver, analysts say it would have been easier for Iran to mix its crude with production from its neighbor to sell on international markets. The other parties to the nuclear deal -- Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia -- have vehemently opposed the U.S. move and vowed to keep alive the accord, technically known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). "We will do everything necessary in the interests of preserving and expanding international trade, economic and financial cooperation with Iran despite U.S. sanctions," said Russia's foreign ministry. The only support for the U.S. position has come from Iran's regional rivals, notably Saudi Arabia and Israel, whose prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, hailed the start of sanctions as "a historic day." Foreign companies and banks are largely unwilling to make enemies of the U.S. Treasury, and most international firms that set up in Iran after the 2015 deal have been forced to leave, including France's Total, Peugeot and Renault, and Germany's Siemens. "Unfortunately, we were treated dishonorably by both the American and Iranian governments," said Fereshteh Safarnezhad, a 43-year-old teacher, on the streets of Tehran. "The Americans never really committed to the deal and the Iranian government did not spend the cash it got from the deal on the people."

Netanyahu Calls Start of New Iran Sanctions a 'Historic Day'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 05/18/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called the start of new U.S. sanctions against his country's main enemy Iran a "historic day" that will reduce Tehran's "aggression" in the region. "Today is a historic day," Netanyahu told lawmakers from his Likud party, according to his office. "Today is the day the U.S. under President (Donald) Trump's leadership imposed extremely harsh sanctions on Iran, the harshest sanctions imposed on Iran since the effort to curb its aggression began."
Earlier Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called the new sanctions a "critical" blow to Iran's actions in the region. The measures described by Washington as "the toughest sanctions ever" follow Trump's controversial decision in May to abandon the multi-nation nuclear deal with Tehran. They aim to significantly reduce Iran's oil exports -- which have already fallen by around one million barrels a day since May -- and cut it off from international finance. Israel had long opposed the Iran nuclear deal, saying it was too limited in scope and timeframe. It also said the lifting of sanctions allowed Iran to finance militant groups and its own military activity. Israel is particularly concerned with Iran's involvement in neighboring Syria and has pledged to keep it from entrenching itself militarily there. The other parties to the nuclear deal -- Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia -- opposed the U.S. move and say the accord is working as intended in keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons for now.

Iran Revolutionary Guards Commemorate Anniversary of US Hostage Crisis
London - Adil Al-Salmi /Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 4 November, 2018/A day before US sanctions took effect against Tehran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards commemorated on Sunday the 39th anniversary of the US hostage crisis in Tehran. Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Guards, addressed the crowd from the grounds of the former embassy, now known as the "den of spies". He said "economic warfare" was a final bid by Washington to overthrow Iran after decades of failed attempts. "With God's help and the resistance and perseverance of the pious and revolutionary people of Iran, this last weapon of the enemy -- the economic war -- which is accompanied by America's widespread media operation against the nation of Iran, will be defeated," Jafari said. "Never threaten Iran," he warned US President Donald Trump, describing him as America's "strange president". “America has launched an economic and psychological war as a last resort ... But America’s plots and its plans for sanctions will be defeated through continued resistance,” said Jafari. He described as “madness” any US attempt to change the Iranian regime, adding that Washington was not seeking a military confrontation with Iran because it fears Hezbollah and Tehran’s deterrent force. In addition, he said that Iran scored a victory against the US in the latest Iraq elections in an indirect reference to the election of a new president, speaker and prime minister. He signaled that these central positions were now within Iran’s influence.
On Washington’s goal to curb Iran’s influence in the Middle East, including its role in Syria, he remarked that Syria could not achieve stability without Tehran.
Guards deputy commander Hossein Salami threatened to target US interests “if necessary”, saying that Tehran has the power to take the Middle East out of American influence. He made light of the newly imposed US sanctions, asking: “Has Washington curbed Iran and its forces’ influence in the region? Has it managed to alter our political behavior through its economic embargo? Has it convinced us to sit with it at the negotiations table again?” Iranians chanting “Death to America” rallied to mark both the anniversary of the seizure of the US Embassy during the 1979 Revolution and the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran’s key oil sector. Thousands of students in the government-organized rally in the capital Tehran, broadcast live by state television, burned the Stars and Stripes, an effigy of Uncle Sam and pictures of Trump outside the leafy downtown compound that once housed the US mission. Hardline students stormed the embassy on November 4, 1979 soon after the fall of the US-backed Shah, and 52 Americans were held hostage there for 444 days. The two countries have been enemies, on opposite sides of Middle East conflict, ever since. Iranian state media said millions turned out for rallies in most cities and towns around the country, swearing allegiance to the clerical establishment. The Guards avoided parading ballistic missiles during the rallies as was their habit. Images showed plastic rockets in display instead of the actual ones.Iran is already in the grip of an economic crisis. Its rial currency now trades at 145,000 to one US dollar, down from when it traded 40,500 to $1 a year ago. The economic chaos sparked mass anti-government protests at the end of last year which resulted in nearly 5,000 reported arrests and at least 25 people being killed. Sporadic demonstrations still continue. The restoration of US sanctions on Monday targeting Iran’s oil sales and banking sectors is part of a wider effort by Trump to force Tehran to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile programs outright as well as support for proxy forces in conflicts across the Middle East.

Israeli Minister in Oman to Attend Transportation Conference
Muscat - Asharq al-Awsat/Monday, 5 November, 2018/Israeli Minister of Transportation and Intelligence Yisrael Katz arrived Sunday to Oman on an official visit to take part in an international transportation conference. "This is a historical visit that will improve relations [between Israel and Oman]," he said, adding that he intends to present and promote the mutual initiative “Tracks for Regional Peace” to connect the Gulf states to Israel and the Mediterranean sea. Katz noted that this will create an axis that will bypass Iran, claiming that his visit is the beginning of "normalization through strength," describing such a step as “important” and “doable."This is the first time an Israeli minister has been formally invited to participate in an international conference in Oman. The transportation initiative is based on the planned extension of railway tracks in northern Israel, which would link Haifa’s seaport to Jordan’s rail network, which in turn would be linked to the Gulf. In October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Muscat for a day on an “official diplomatic visit”, during which he met with Sultan Qaboos bin Said. The trip was aimed at reviving Palestinian-Israeli negotiations that have been frozen since 2014. Israeli reports revealed on Sunday that Netanyahu had met secretly with Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi in February, helping lay the foundations for the premier’s visit to the Gulf sultanate. The meeting was held on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference and put together by Mossad head Yossi Cohen.

Israeli Forces Storm Headquarters of Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs
Ramallah - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 5 November, 2018/The Palestinian government warned from the escalation led by the Israeli government against Palestinians, their territories, and properties. The government’s warning followed the Israeli forces storming Sunday the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, which spurred clashes. Palestinian government spokesman Youssef Mahmoud called on Arab and Islamic governments to defend Jerusalem and sacred places. He renewed demands that the international community defends the laws it issues. Mahmoud said it was a very “dangerous escalation of the occupation and a flagrant violation of all the international laws and agreements.” He added that the occupation government bears full responsibility for these continuous violations against Jerusalem, citizens and Islamic and Christian sacred places. Israel targets Jerusalem District Governor Adnan Ghaith through arresting him or hindering his work, accusing him of performing official tasks of the authority in the city – a matter that is prohibited by Israel. Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan said that he bans any activity of the Palestinian authority because this violates the Israeli sovereignty. This is the second arrest of Ghaith after being detained on Oct. 20. The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded an urgent international action to stop the ethnic purge in Aghwar, east of occupied Jerusalem and Mount Hebron. The ministry said that the occupation authorities have been launching since years an open-war against the Palestinian existence in the regions classified as general. The ministry demanded all parties to quickly act to provide the basics of surviving as Palestinian citizens in Aghwar, the east of occupied Jerusalem and Mount Hebron. It also called on local, regional and international organizations to follow the occurrences in these three regions and archive them to disclose the occupation violations of the international law.

US Patrols in Syria’s Kurdish Regions Near Turkey Border
Al-Darbasiyah (Syria) - London /Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 5 November, 2018/US forces on Sunday patrolled an area in northeastern Syria bordering Turkey after renewed tensions between Ankara and Syrian Kurds, a spokesman and an AFP reporter said. Three armored vehicles carrying soldiers wearing the US flag on their uniform arrived in the Kurdish-held northeastern border town of Al-Darbasiyah, the correspondent said. Turkey last week raised threats against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, shelling their positions and flagging a possible new offensive. The Kurds spearhead the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance, backed by the US-led coalition, that has been fighting ISIS in Syria. Coalition spokesman Sean Ryan said Sunday's patrol was the second in a week, after a first one by US forces on Friday. "The US forces' assurance patrols enable us to maintain safety and security in the region," he said, but are not carried out "on a regular basis". An SDF spokesman said the US patrols, in coordination with the SDF, were directly linked to recent tensions between the Kurds and Ankara. "They are not routine patrols. They are directly linked to these threats. The objective is to call on Turkey to stop its aggression," Mustefa Bali said. Sunday's patrols were headed towards Ras al-Ain, around 50 kilometers to the west of Al-Darbasiyah along the frontier, he said. The US State Department has said it had been in touch with both the SDF and Turkey to push for de-escalation. Turkey accuses Syria's Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) -- which form the backbone of the SDF -- of being "terrorists". In what appeared to be an attempt by Washington to appease Turkey, US and Turkish troops on Thursday launched joint patrols on the outskirts of the northern city of Manbij. Although the YPG claim to have pulled out of the city after the SDF seized it from ISIS in 2016, Ankara has recently complained that the group still has a presence there, repeatedly threatening military action. On Wednesday, Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions in the Kobane sector of northern Syria killed four fighters, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency. On Tuesday, two days after another round of shelling of Kurdish posts in northern Syria, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country had completed preparations for a new operation to "destroy" Kurdish fighters. Since 2016, Turkey has carried out two operations against Kurdish forces in Syria, the last of which saw Ankara-backed Syrian opposition fighters take the border city of Afrin in March.

Damascus Ready for 'Conditional Cooperation' with Pedersen
Damascus - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 5 November, 2018/Syria said it was ready to cooperate with new UN envoy, Geir Pedersen, as long as he avoids the methods of his predecessor, pro-regime Al-Watan newspaper quoted a Syrian official as saying on Sunday. “Syria will cooperate with the new UN envoy Geir Pedersen provided he avoids the methods of his predecessor,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Meqdad said, quoted by the local newspaper. It would work with him if “he announces his support for the unity of Syria’s land and people and does not side with the terrorists as his predecessor did,” he added.
Damascus has long accused international envoy Staffan de Mistura, who stepped down last month after four years of unsuccessful efforts to settle the Syrian conflict, of “bias” in dealing with the Syrian crisis. This is the first official comment from the Syrian government after the United Nations on Tuesday named the Norwegian diplomat, who takes office at the end of November, to be the fourth envoy charged with finding a peaceful solution to the conflict since 2011. The Syrian opposition has no hopes towards Pedersen’s appointment. A spokesman for the Syrian negotiating body representing a wide spectrum of the opposition forces, Yehya al-Aridi, told AFP a few days ago that the change of envoys would have little impact on the fate of his country in the absence of international will and consensus on a political road map.
But he explained that Pedersen had “experience stretching from Iraq to Lebanon and the United Nations.”“We hope he will be more decisive, and immediately call things by their names. Syria’s file does not need any more flattery,” he stated. Pedersen took part in the 1993 Norwegian team in the secret negotiations that led to the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians. He spent many years representing his country with the Palestinian Authority. He is currently Norway’s ambassador to China and has been ambassador to the United Nations.

Putin’s Special Envoy, Syria’s Assad Discuss Formation of Constitutional Committee
Damascus, London – Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 5 November, 2018/Russian President's Special Envoy on Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev discussed Sunday with Syria's Head of regime Bashar al-Assad the results of the recent Istanbul summit on Syria which called for the formation of the constitutional committee. Lavrentiev is expected to arrive in Tehran today to discuss with officials the results of the summit as well. Media office of the Syrian presidency announced that Assad met Lavrentiev and the accompanying delegation in Damascus, during which the Russian officials informed Assad of the development at the quartet summit that took place on October 27. The presidency said in a statement that Assad discussed with the Russian envoy “forming the committee to discuss the current constitution.” They agreed "to continue joint Syrian-Russian work towards removing the obstacles still in the way of forming this committee", it said. The Russian envoy also discussed with Assad efforts exerted by Moscow with regional and international parties to remove the obstacles to progress on finding a political solution for Syria.
Last week, an unprecedented quartet summit on Syria was held in Istanbul between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The summit called for the committee to be formed by the end of the year to discuss a post-war constitution, “paving the way for free and fair elections” in the war-torn country.
The push for a political solution to end the Syrian conflict is evident from the invitation to form the constitutional committee, which resulted from the intra-Syrian dialogue in Sochi last January. UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was tasked to form the committee to include 150 members and meet in Geneva. Both the regime and the opposition submitted a list of 50 representatives, after de Mistura's efforts to submit a list of 50 names have failed, knowing that the Envoy is short time after he announced he would step down at the end of the month. Following a meeting in Damascus with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moalem on October 24, de Mistura told the Security Council in a televised briefing that Moalem strongly underlined principles of sovereignty and “non-interference in internal affairs of UN member states.”
The Government had already declined the UN offers to engage it directly on the constitutional committee and its follow-up, added the Envoy, indicating that: “Minister Moalem stated that the Astana guarantors had rejected the initial UN proposal on a third list.”
Nine rounds of indirect talks sponsored by the United Nations have failed since 2016, as both Moscow and Ankara continue their efforts to end the war, although a political settlement is still far from being reached. Deputy commander-in-chief of Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Brigadier General Hossein Salami, indicated that Iranian forces have no plans to stay in Syria on the long run. "The presence of Iran in Syria was at the request of the Syrian government, and we have no long-term plan to remain in this country," Salami was quoted by Iran's Fars news agency on Sunday. He also stressed that there are no disagreements with Russian officials in Syria, and described media reports promoting that as fabrications. Fars also quoted Russian Ambassador to Tehran Levan Dzhagaryan confirming that Putin’s Envoy will visit Tehran on Monday. Lavrentyev plans to hold talks with Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani on the latest developments in the crisis. Lavrentyev visited Tehran last July and met with Assistant Secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council for Foreign Policy and International Security Saeed Ayroani.

Egypt: ISIS Religious Edicts Provoke Killing Christians
Cairo - Waleed Abdul-Rahman/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 5 November, 2018/A study conducted by the Global Fatwa Index showed that 100 percent of the religious edicts, or fatwas, issued by ISIS against Christians provoke violence against them.
Around 30 percent of ISIS religious edicts target Christians, revealed the study issued by the Global Fatwa Index, which is affiliated with Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah. ISIS continuously issues fatwas that urge killing Christians, fighting them and demolishing their churches. The Global Fatwa Index considered that religious edicts are a key weapon for terrorist groups which they use against anyone who oppose their views and creed. For these groups, those fatwas justify the killing of those who do not follow them, whether they are Christians or Muslims. Sixty percent of the religious directives issued against Christians, globally, were by unofficial figures and parties. Ninety-five percent of them were illegal because they were issued by unauthorized parties that do not have a disciplined religious methodology. Major edicts that led to conflicts and strife are: forbidding accepting gifts from Christians on their holidays, prohibiting congratulating them on these occasions and banning giving Christians a ride to church. The study recommended expanding doctrinal discipline and establishing media channels to promote Quranic verses addressing non-Muslims. It also advised correcting the misconceptions of jihad and encouraging coexistence between Muslims and other communities.

Egypt President Vows to Guarantee Freedom of Worship

Cairo - Mohammed Nabil Helmi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 5 November, 2018/Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi pledged to guarantee freedom of religion and belief in the country, two days after gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians on their way back from visiting a monastery in Minya, leaving seven dead and at least 10 injured. Sisi was speaking at an event during the second day of the World Youth Forum, held in Sharm El-Sheikh, South Sinai. It was attended by 5,000 participants of different nationalities, as well as a number of international officials and prominent Egyptian officials.
Addressing the audience, Sisi stated that in Egypt there was no authority that rules places of worship, except for mosques, adding that everyone has the right to worship. Sisi explained that if Egypt had other religions, the state would build places of worship for them. “The country has been keen on building churches in new and old cities, and even [places of worship] for other religions, for Jewish citizens,” he said, adding: “A citizen is free to worship or not worship; everyone is free, and the state does not interfere in this.” The president also highlighted the importance of “reforming religious discourse” initiative, which he said “is one of the most important demands of Egypt and the world."
Speaking at another event, on "Rebuilding societies and States in the context of post-conflict," Sisi said that the course of reform in Egypt "is a national responsibility and this has been proven through the Egyptian experience." He said that countries have had to pay a great humanitarian, financial and moral cost due to the crises and chaos they have endured. He continued: "The people who demanded change and acted in good faith aiming to achieve reform in their country, lost more due to chaos than it would have lost if the situation in their country remained unchanged."Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, reiterated that Cairo’s foreign policy in the field of building and sustaining peace is based on the concept of “non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries” and promoting political solutions to resolve crises, in accordance with international resolutions and agreements. The meeting was also attended by UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative of UN Sec-Gen (SRSG) to Libya, Ghassan Salame, Director of the Geneva Center for Security Policy Christian Dussey, and Lebanese State Minister for Presidential Affairs Pierre Raffoul. A session on “Water security in the wake of climate change" recommended integrating and motivating young people to face the challenges of climate change and providing networks for integration and effective communication with society and governments. Sisi pointing out that corruption is one of the negative impressions taken of Africa, specifically regarding weak anti-corruption measures, if there are procedures at all. Sisi expressed Cairo's interest in achieving stability in Europe “because the common interest is our [Egypt and Europe's] stability and our security.”The “Model Arab African Summit” was also discussed in the forum by a number of dignitaries, including the representative of Eritrea, who praised the "Peace Agreement with Ethiopia" and the "rapid response from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to achieve peace.”

Khashoggi Killing: Sons Ask Saudis to Return His Body

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 05/18/The sons of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi have asked Saudi authorities to return the body of their father so the family can properly grieve, they told CNN in an interview aired Sunday. Khashoggi was killed inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul by a team sent from Riyadh on October 2, a murder Turkey's president said was ordered from "the highest levels" of Saudi Arabia's government. "I really hope that whatever happened wasn't painful for him, or it was quick. Or he had a peaceful death," Abdullah Khashoggi told the US network during the interview in Washington. His brother Salah said "all what we want right now is to bury him in Al Baqi in Medina with the rest of his family," referencing a cemetery in Saudi Arabia. "I talked about that with the Saudi authorities and I just hope that it happens soon." Turkey's chief prosecutor said recently that Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the consulate and also confirmed the body was dismembered. Yasin Aktay, an advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, hinted in an article published on Friday that the body may even have been destroyed in acid.
Khashoggi's killing has provoked widespread outrage and sharp criticism from Washington, usually the staunchest of allies. Khashoggi's sons voiced worry that the work of their father, a columnist for The Washington Post, was being distorted for political reasons.
"I see a lot of people coming out right now and trying to claim his legacy and unfortunately some of them are using that in a political way that we totally don't agree with," Salah told CNN. "My fear is that it's being over politicized." "Jamal was never a dissident. He believed in the monarchy, that it is the thing that is keeping the country together."The brothers said they have relied primarily on news reports to piece together an understanding of their father's death. "There's a lot of ups and downs.... We're trying to get the story -- bits and pieces of the story to complete the whole picture," Abdullah said. "It's confusing and difficult.""It's not a normal situation and not a normal death." Salah emphasized that "the King has stressed that everybody will be brought to justice. And I have faith in that."The murdered journalist's fiancee meanwhile has called on US President Donald Trump to back Turkey's efforts to probe the death.
Palestinians in Syria's Yarmuk Yearn for Outside Help
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 05/18/After years of fighting, crippling siege and bombardment, what was once the Palestinian diaspora's largest urban settlement in southern Damascus has been reduced to a sea of debris. Former residents of the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk are desperately counting on assistance from abroad to help raise the once-bustling neighborhood back out of the rubble. "We've lived through a terrifying nightmare," said 46-year-old Amina, one of the camp's very few remaining residents. It "didn't kill us, but now we need someone to rebuild the houses so our people and neighbors can return," she said, wearing a long black robe and white headscarf. In May this year, Syrian government and allied forces retook the neighborhood, which had for years been the Islamic State jihadist group's only bastion in the capital. Five months on, it is a ghost town where bulldozers have carved wide passages through a sprawling jumble of concrete debris and mangled steel rods. Foreign "countries need to help us because we're like a cripple who needs a crutch to walk again," Amina said. Founded in 1957 with tents for Palestinians forced to leave their homes by the establishment of Israel, Yarmuk grew into a sprawling neighborhood of permanent structures that became home to 160,000 Palestinians, as well as Syrians. In 2012, around 140,000 residents fled clashes, leaving the rest to face severe food shortages under government siege.And three years later, IS jihadists entered the area, bringing further suffering to remaining residents.
- Salvaged playground -
Despite all this, dozens of families including Amina's remained inside the camp, and others have since trickled back in. A few children snake between the charred carcasses of buses and cars lining a street on their way to a school outside the camp. In Amina's street, one of the only roads in Yarmuk still inhabited, a recently returned neighbor has cobbled together a playground. Abu Bilal has brought together swings, a small merry-go-round and a slide in an alley adorned with portraits of President Bashar al-Assad and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. "I created this space so the neighborhood’s children could be happy," said the 54-year-old, who now works sweeping streets recently cleared of rubble. "What I do is not enough for people to come back, but I hope donor countries" will help, he said. In September, bulldozers started to clear Yarmuk's main roads of rubble, with funding from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and are expected to take another two months to finish clearing side streets. "Rebuilding requires (foreign) countries and huge capital," said Palestinian engineer Mahmud Khaled, a member of a committee overseeing the rubble clearing. But Palestinian and U.N. officials say the camp's future is still unclear, as Damascus has not yet given a green light for any re-building or officially allowed residents to return.
- 'Future of the camp'? -
The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, says its 23 premises in the camp including 16 schools are damaged, but it will not fix any if the government does not officially allow residents to return. "What is the future of the camp? Will the government allow people to go back or not?" UNRWA's head in Syria, Mohammed Abdi Adar, said. "Before we can do anything, we must get a clear answer," he told AFP. Even then finding funding would be tough, said the official, whose agency has been facing a funding crisis since the United States cut vital support. "Many donors are saying they will not support the reconstruction in Syria," Abdi Adar said, though he stressed the aim for UNRWA was simply to re-establish services. Syria's war has killed more than 360,000 people, displaced millions and ravaged large parts of the country since it started in 2011. Regime ally Moscow has called for assistance in rebuilding Syria so millions of refugees can return. In July, the government tasked the ministry of works to draw up new plans for Yarmuk, as well as other Damascus suburbs retaken from rebels and jihadists, sparking fears that the camp could fall under a controversial new law for redevelopment. Under this law, if their land is part of a new development, owners inevitably lose their property but can apply for compensation if they can prove ownership. Individual Palestinians and Syrians own property in 80 percent of the Yarmuk camp, while the remainder is owned by the Syrian state and managed by its authority for Palestinian affairs.
For now, Palestinian officials say the government has assured them that Yarmuk is under no threat. They are pushing for a 2004 plan to be followed for reconstruction.
Jerusalem’s Catholic leaders seek repeal of Israel’s Jewish nation-state law
AFP, Jerusalem/Monday, 05 November 2018/Senior Catholic clerics in Jerusalem called Sunday for Israel to repeal a controversial law giving Jews a “unique” right to self-determination in the country.“We must draw the attention of the authorities to a simple fact,” bishops and archbishops of the Roman Catholic, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic and Greek Melkite churches said in a joint statement. “Our faithful, the Christians, our fellow citizens, Muslim, Druze and Baha’i, all of us who are Arabs, are no less citizens of this country than our Jewish brothers and sisters.”The nation-state act was passed by parliament in July and forms part of Israel’s basic laws- a de facto constitution. It speaks of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jews and demotes Arabic from its former status as an official language. Because it omits any reference to equality or the country’s democratic nature, Israeli Arabs say it will legalize discrimination. There were widespread Arab protests after it passed into law and some Jewish politicians said it should be amended. President Reuven Rivlin said the act “in its current version is bad for the state of Israel and bad for the Jews”. Arabs account for some 17.5 percent of Israel’s nearly nine million population. “Christians, Muslims, Druze, Baha’i and Jews demand to be treated as equal citizens,” said the letter which was also signed by the Maronite archbishop of Cyprus and the Greek Melkite archbishop of Petra, in Jordan. “We, as the religious leaders of the Catholic Churches, call on the authorities to rescind this basic law and assure one and all that the state of Israel seeks to promote and protect the welfare and the safety of all its citizens.”

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 05-06/18
Asia Bibi: Pakistan's Judicial Betrayal
القضاء الباكستاني يخون المسيحية اسيا بيبي بعد تبرئتها من تهمة التجديف الباطلة
Giulio Meotti//Gatestone Institute/November 05/18
"I am requesting the president of the United States, Donald Trump, to help us exit from Pakistan." — Ashiq Masih, Asia Bibi's husband.
"Placing Asia Bibi on the ECL [no-fly list] is like signing her death warrant." — Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association.
Blasphemy laws in Pakistan "have been used to target religious minorities, pursue personal vendettas, and carry out vigilante violence. On the basis of little or no evidence, the accused will struggle to establish their innocence while angry and violent mobs seek to intimidate the police, witnesses, prosecutors, lawyers and judges." — Amnesty International.
Pictured: Ashiq Masih, the husband of Asia Bibi, together with their daughter Eisham Ashiq, campaigning for Asia's release in 2015. (Image source: HazteOir/Flickr)
The joy over the acquittal of Asia Bibi lasted barely 24 hours. The Christian mother of five from Pakistan was forced to spend eight years in prison, much of the time on death row, ostensibly for "blasphemy," before the Supreme Court cleared her of any offense.
"I can't believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really?", Asia Bibi said by phone after the historic sentence, according to AFP news agency.
Unfortunately, massive street protests by extremist Muslims immediately erupted to pressure the government to delay her release. The phone network in some areas was suspended for reasons of "security". Rioting caused schools in Islamabad, Punjab and Kashmir to close. Roads were blocked, paralyzing parts of Islamabad, Lahore and other cities. Christian schools warned parents to come and get their children for fear of violence. Churches were put on high alert. Protesters hold placards that read: "Hang Asia Bibi".
"There will be a war if they send Asia out of country," warned Khadim Hussain Rizvi, leader of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), an Islamist party that supports blasphemy laws.
Threats by vigilante mobs who called for her death and warned of national unrest evidently worked. Pakistan's government, after saying it would begin the process of preventing Asia Bibi from leaving the country, has now been accused of signing her "death warrant".
The government apparently succumbed to pressure and signed an agreement giving in to many of the demands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik. Pakistan's government also promised not to oppose a legal petition to reverse Asia Bibi's release, and to put her name on the "exit control list" (ELC), a no-fly list, to prevent her from leaving the country.
"Placing Asia Bibi on the ECL is like signing her death warrant", said Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association.
The agreement," tweeted analyst Mosharraf Zaidi, "was a "historic capitulation".
"It's almost certain that Bibi will not be able to live in the country after her acquittal", the famous Pakistani novelist Mohammed Hanif wrote in The New York Times.
"[B]arring her from leaving the country grants tacit permission to Tehreek-i-Labaik to hunt her down and murder her," wrote Robert Spencer, a human rights activist and author of 18 books that include New York Times bestsellers.
Asia Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, just applied for asylum in the United States, Canada and England. "I am requesting the Prime Minister of the UK help us and as far as possible grant us freedom", he said. "I am requesting the president of the United States, Donald Trump, to help us exit from Pakistan", he added. That is why the pact between the Islamists and the government is seen as a betrayal. "The agreement has sent a shiver down my spine", Masih said. "The current situation is very dangerous for us. We have no security and are hiding here and there, frequently changing our location".
Meanwhile, Asia Bibi's fate remains "uncertain".
Pakistan, country of 197 million people, armed with nuclear warheads, and an ally of the West with 97% of its population Muslim, has gone mad over the just acquittal of this Christian woman. Not only has the Pakistani judicial system tortured her for eight years by segregating her alone in a windowless cell. Now that Asia Bibi has been cleared, there are untold thousands ready to murder her.
The Islamists seem to think that what is at stake in the acquittal of Asia Bibi is a more open Pakistan, a defeat for sharia law and some hope for the few persecuted Christians there. Her ordeal shows clearly how the rule of law has broken down in Pakistan. According to Amnesty International:
"Pakistan's blasphemy laws are overbroad, vague and coercive. They have been used to target religious minorities, pursue personal vendettas, and carry out vigilante violence. On the basis of little or no evidence, the accused will struggle to establish their innocence while angry and violent mobs seek to intimidate the police, witnesses, prosecutors, lawyers and judges."
Recent attacks against Pakistani Christians included an attack on a church in Quetta in December 2017 that killed 9 people; a suicide attack targeting Christians celebrating Easter in March 2016 at a Lahore playground and which left 70 dead; two bomb blasts at churches in Lahore in March 2015 that killed 14; a twin suicide bomb attack at a Peshawar church in 2013 which left around 80 dead, and nearly 40 houses and a church burned by a mob in 2009, in the town of Gojra in Punjab, with eight people burned alive. Last March, a Pakistani court acquitted 20 people of being part of a mob that burned alive a Christian couple who had been falsely accused of "blasphemy". The Christian couple were tortured and their bodies incinerated in a brick kiln.
"The only punishment for a blasphemer is beheading", extremist Muslims chanted in the streets of Pakistan after Asia Bibi's acquittal. Her lawyer, Saif Mulook, already fled the country in fear of his life, but stated that the risks were worth the reward. "I think it's better to die as a brave and strong man than to die as a mouse and fearful person" he said.
The Muslim judges who acquitted Asia Bibi, Supreme Court President Mian Saqib Nasir and Judge Asif Khosa, have also received death threats. They were doubtless aware of the potential danger to their lives, but bravely went ahead and took the risk of becoming targets of the vigilante groups.
"They all three deserve to be killed," an Islamist leader, Muhammad Afzal Qadri, told a protest in Lahore. "Either their security should kill them, their driver kill them, or their cook kill them... Whoever, who has got any access to them, kill them before the evening".
Every day, Asia Bibi risks being murdered by these extremists. Prison officials revealed that even last month, before her acquittal, two inmates were arrested for planning to strangle her to death. Since 1990, 62 people have been killed in Pakistan after being accused of "blasphemy".
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." Malik Mumtaz Qadri, Taseer's murderer, who was later executed for the crime, became a hero, a "martyr", in Pakistan. A mosque was named after him, people came with their children to see him in jail and he released CDs of himself singing.
If Asia Bibi were to be murdered, it would be a gigantic defeat for any kind of judicial process and a gigantic victory against Christians -- comparable to their having been expelled Christians from their heartland in Iraq.
At this point, one can only fear for Asia Bibi, as well as other Christians in South Asia. In the West, there seem only to be yawns about her being hunted. Nearly a week of violent protests and threats against her life has not moved the European public to take to the streets to insist on her freedom. No resolution has come from the otherwise vocal UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. No pressure has been placed on Pakistan to assure her immediate and safe release. No conferences have been convened by EU officials in Brussels or Strasbourg.
European and Western governments should be doing do whatever they can to save her. Offer her honorary citizenship, as the city of Paris did in 2015. Shield her in a foreign embassy in Pakistan. Above all, provide asylum in a Western democracy.
During the last few years, Pakistan has been at the center of many Islamist attempts to curb freedom of speech in the West. Islamist hardliners rioted when the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten published cartoons of Mohammad. Geert Wilders last August cancelled a Mohammed cartoon contest after large-scale protests in Pakistan. After the massacre at the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, violent riots took place in Pakistan. A Pakistani minister offered a $100,000 bounty to anyone who killed the man who made the film "Innocence of Muslims". The word "blasphemy", hanging over Asia Bibi's head, is the same used by extremist Muslims to target the West.
The judges, in their acquittal of Asia Bibi, said: "She appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare's King Lear, 'more sinned against than sinning'".
Will the West stand and help this persecuted Christian? She is us.
*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.
**Enclosed picture: Ashiq Masih, the husband of Asia Bibi, together with their daughter Eisham Ashiq, campaigning for Asia's release in 2015. (Image source: HazteOir/Flickr)

Trump’s Iran Oil Sanctions Aren’t Living Up to the Hype
Julian Lee/Bloomberg/November 05/18
US sanctions designed to push Iran’s oil exports to zero come into force at midnight, but the hard line initially signaled by President Donald Trump is softening as the deadline approaches. With countries that have already cut their purchases to zero now being granted waivers to buy Iran’s oil, the country’s exports may well go up, not down, in November. These were billed as the “strongest sanctions in history,” intended to prevent Iran from exporting any oil at all. But the reality hasn’t quite lived up to the hype: In the six months before they fully took effect, the impact of the Trump sanctions looks remarkably similar to those of his predecessor in 2012.
Not So Tough
So far, the impact of Trump's sanctions on Iran's oil has been no stronger than Obama's
With the November deadline looming, it became clear that buyers which agreed to reduce their purchases of Iranian oil might be able secure waivers from the sanctions. Back in August, Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said these would be “few and far between.” This week, it emerged that the US has agreed to let eight countries keep buying Iranian oil. Details of the deal are sketchy, although Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has promised they will be revealed on Monday. The eight include China and India, the biggest buyers of Iran’s oil, as well as other key US allies in Asia, Japan and South Korea. Turkey will also be permitted to continue buying, but the softening doesn’t extend to Europe. It isn’t yet clear how frequently the waivers will need to be re-validated, or by how much buyers will need to reduce their purchases to avoid penalties.
Under President Barack Obama, waivers lasted for six months and were renewed if countries had cut purchases by about 20 percent during that period. The conditions are expected to be at least as tough under Trump.
Condensate Exports
One big difference from the Obama-era curbs is that the Trump sanctions cover exports of condensates, a light form of oil extracted from gas fields. These have become more important to Iran as gas extraction has increased from the South Pars field that it shares with Qatar. But exports are expected to dwindle again as processing increases at a new refinery designed to process the liquids for domestic use.
Most buyers of Iran’s oil have taken a cautious approach since May. France and South Korea both halted purchases in June. Spain and Japan followed in September. Turkey has cut its purchases by about half compared with the previous summer, while Italy and Greece — the other significant EU buyers of Iranian oil — have made similar cuts. After a jump in the early summer, exports to India have also fallen. China, the biggest buyer of Iranian oil, has yet to cut purchases, although the government has told at least two state oil companies to avoid purchasing from the country.
Trump’s selective waivers are likely to have the perverse impact of allowing processors in South Korea and Japan to resume buying limited volumes from Iran in November. This could easily amount to as much as 300,000 barrels a day, given that their combined purchases a year ago were almost twice that much. The Chinese state-owned companies are also likely to return to the market. The rebound will be partly offset by a further drop in European purchases, but these amounted to less than 100,000 barrels a day last month.
To be sure, Iran will only have restricted access to the money generated from these sales: Payments will have to be held in escrow accounts in the purchasing countries. But an increase in Iran’s oil exports in the first month of sanctions isn’t exactly the outcome Trump will have been hoping for.

Trump Bank Sanctions Will Hit Iran Where it Hurts
Eli Lake/Bloomberg View/November 05/18
For the last month, it looked as though President Donald Trump’s campaign of maximum pressure against Iran would include a loophole.
Sanctions on Iran’s banks, oil exports, ships and ports, lifted in 2015 as part of a nuclear weapons agreement that Trump exited in May, will be reimposed on Monday. But it was not clear until Friday whether those banks would be allowed to participate in the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift. That is the system that allows the world’s banks to communicate with one another, making global transactions possible.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin ended the suspense. “We have advised Swift that it must disconnect any Iranian financial institution that we designate as soon as technologically feasible to avoid sanctions exposure,” he told reporters on a conference call.
Swift is a big deal. Isolating Iran from it compounds its financial crisis. Even if companies were willing to risk being cut off from the US economy to purchase Iranian oil, it will be almost impossible for Iran to receive the payments if its banks aren’t part of Swift.
So it’s not surprising that Swift was at the center of a policy fight within the Trump administration and Congress. On one side were the Treasury Department and the State Department. They worried that a full Swift cutoff would strain relations with allies in Europe who have been trying to keep Iran inside the nuclear deal along with Russia and China.
On the other side was National Security Adviser John Bolton and hawks in Congress who feared that Iranian access to Swift would be a lifeline to evade sanctions and wait until a friendlier US administration took power.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has discussed plans for creating a policy vehicle that would shield European concerns from US sanctions. Such a mechanism would rely on Iranian access to Swift.
Administration and congressional sources tell me that the decision to announce the Swift decision was made on Thursday evening. Most Iran policy-watchers then were expecting the Trump administration to punt. Politico reported on Thursday evening that Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was preparing legislation to force the Swift cutoff.
Mnuchin himself was trying to thread a needle by not making it appear that the US was dictating which banks Swift needed to blacklist, according to these sources. That said, Mnuchin also told reporters that the US could impose sanctions on Swift itself.
In the end, the Swift decision represented a compromise. Mnuchin said that some Iranian financial institutions that were not sanctioned could remain on Swift, but only to conduct transactions involving food and medicine.
Nonetheless, the Iran hawks came out on top.
“It would be better if all Iranian financial institutions were disconnected from Swift,” said Richard Goldberg, a former Senate Republican staff member who helped design the Iran sanctions in the early 2000s. “But this is a whole lot better than letting all Iranian banks remain on Swift.”
Goldberg told me that the Treasury will have to watch the humanitarian exemption for Swift closely. In one of the biggest sanctions-evasion schemes in history, a Turkish bank funneled up to $100 billion, by some estimates, into Iran’s coffers in 2013 and 2014, largely under the guise of humanitarian transactions.
Mark Dubowitz, chief executive officer of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a driving force in the Iran sanctions debate for the last decade, told me that he, too, was pleased with the announcement on Swift.
He said that it dealt both a material and psychological blow to the Iranian regime because isolation from the world’s financial system makes it more toxic to investors and its own population. But Dubowitz also said that he supported the exemption for humanitarian transactions. “I expect the humanitarian channel to be used effectively by Secretary Pompeo to put the regime on the defensive over food and medicine,” he said.
The ball is now in Iran’s court. Since the US pulled out of the nuclear deal in May, its leaders have warned that they will resume the industrial production of nuclear fuel that was largely suspended after the pact’s implementation in 2016. We will find out soon if expulsion from Swift is enough to make the regime follow through on that threat.

Iran and The Winds of Trump
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/November 05/18
Donald Trump is demanding the Iranian regime to do what it is unable to achieve or to respond to. He demands a final divorce from the nuclear dream, which some hawks consider an “insurance policy” against US surprises.
He also requests that the revolution be forced to retire under a state that maintains its army and “guards” within its borders, and avoids infiltrating into the maps of others, destabilizing them and encircling them with rockets. He demands that Iran complies with the conditions of a natural state, which does not give itself the right to use oil revenues and militias to restructure the territory according to its plans, and to keep a firm grip on the decisions of regional capitals.
Those familiar with the Iranian regime say that igniting the revolution is one of the conditions of life of this system. Refraining from “exporting the revolution” undermines the entire project and puts the system under the test of the country’s economic figures, which are not encouraging at all. This is how a new chapter begins today in the four-decade US-Iranian confrontation. A political, diplomatic and economic confrontation, interspersed with some security incidents, but without sliding into a broad and direct military battle. Some believe that the new chapter may be the most difficult, and its outcome will determine Iran’s location on the regional map, and the size of its role.
US sanctions, which came into force at dawn this morning, target the vital oil and banking sectors. Analysts agree that the sanctions will cause great damage to the Iranian economy, despite Iranian ingenuity in circumventing the sanctions. There is no exaggeration when saying that regional countries are fully concerned about the new chapter of confrontation. Tehran is deeply involved in the region’s conflicts and for decades has been running a large-scale coup against their previous balances and traditional roles.
On the eve of the new chapter, exchanged messages were blunt and heated. President Trump clearly said that the “objective is to force the regime into a clear choice… Either abandon its destructive behavior or continue down the path toward economic disaster.” He also called on the regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions, change its behavior, respect the rights of its people and return in good faith to the negotiating table.
Through multiple statements by its officials, the US Administration drew the features of its orientation, and stressed that the goal was to change Iran’s behavior, not change its regime, and that the door was open to return to the negotiating table, if Tehran decides to seriously reconsider its conduct and ambitions.
On the other side, messages were also clear. Thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran, recalling what happened on November 4, 1979. On that day, demonstrators stormed into the US embassy in Tehran. For over 444 days, angry students detained 52 Americans. The purpose was to humiliate the “Great Satan” and to suggest that America itself was taken into small cages like the hostages of its embassy. Iranians were loudly chanting: “Death to America.” For decades, those slogans have been repeated. It is clear, however, that America has not died, and the evidence is that it is launching a new round of unprecedented sanctions against the Iranian regime.
As part of the mobilization efforts to confront the new phase, IRGC leaders have been insistent on the struggle. Spiritual leader Ali Khamenei declared that Trump “disgraced the rest of the US prestige and liberal democracy.”
Before his election as president, Trump considered the nuclear deal with Iran a “disaster”, noting that it gave the regime a certificate of good conduct without changing its behavior. He said that the deal allowed Tehran to use its financial and diplomatic revenues to maintain its ballistic program and its destabilizing policy aimed at changing systems of countries and the identities of cities.
There were those who believed that Trump would hint at abandoning the agreement but would not execute his threat, especially as the other two signatories protested his move. But this is Trump. It is hard to predict how far he would go with a file or another.
The new chapter of US sanctions begins at a time when the difficulties of the Iranian economy are no longer concealed. There have been clear indications in the past months: the depreciation of the riyal and rising inflation and unemployment. The Iranian protests also expressed a popular outrage that was manifested in the strikes of truck drivers and teachers. Moreover, the Iranian ordinary people feel that they have to prepare for more difficult days that require them to further tighten the belt.
In contrast, Iranian authorities have little choice. It is clear that they are trying to lure a stronger or clearer European position. Nothing suggests that Europe can play an exceptional role in this context. The “financial mechanism” that has been discussed will not work before months, and its results may be limited. Major European companies prefer safety; and it is difficult to choose Iranian markets, if it means losing the US markets.
Europe is not living its best days. Britain continues to prepare divorce proceedings. The rebellion against the spirit of the European Union is spreading. Angela Merkel is not willing to seek a new mandate, and there are those who expect Germany to witness some political instability.
Iran is betting on time. It may be betting on its ability to wait for the end of Trump’s term. It is also counting on European voices that believe that sanctions are affecting the people, and not this type of regime… and that the reformist movement in Iran will be the first victim of any new sanctions that the regime will consider as a blockade on the country and not against it.
In light of the North Korean precedent, Trump dreams that painful sanctions will persuade Iran to return to the negotiating table, with the willingness to change its behavior this time. We must wait to see if Iran will be able to resist sanctions within its borders or move its regional papers here and there.
Will the Iranian reactions reach the level of direct or indirect harassment of American soldiers in the region or the security of straits and corridors?
A new chapter begins. Here are the winds of sanctions blowing on the Iranian economy. In the wind season, you have to search for the seat belt.

The Middle East "Truce": Why Hamas Cannot Be Trusted
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/November 05/18
These benefits for Hamas are exactly why the proposed truce is dangerous and sends the wrong message to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists. A truce now says that if you engage in violent, extortionistic acts, you get what you want.
This victory for Hamas will, of course, only increase the terrorists' appetite and motivation to continue their attempts to kill as many Jews as possible. They will see any truce as a retreat on the part of Israel in the face of violence and terrorism.
Hamas will now have more time to prepare for the next war against Israel. The proposed truce will give Hamas breathing space to smuggle more weapons into the Gaza Strip, dig new tunnels and recruit thousands of Palestinians to its ranks.
A real truce between Israel and the Gaza Strip will be achieved only after the jihadi terrorists are removed from power, and not rewarded for violence and threats.
It is no secret that most of the Arab countries do not trust Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group. President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority, for instance, as well as many Palestinians, do not have any confidence in Hamas, particularly after the summer of 2007, when the Islamist movement violently seized control of the Gaza Strip. Earlier this year, Abbas threatened that "shoes will be pouring" onto the heads of Hamas leaders.
Now, however, Israel is being asked to trust Hamas. This request is coming from Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations, whose representatives have been working hard the past few weeks to arrange a truce agreement between Israel and Hamas.
According to unconfirmed reports, the proposed truce calls for reopening all the border crossings between the Gaza Strip on one side, and Israel and Egypt on the other. The truce also apparently calls for expanding the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip coast to 9 miles; paying salaries to thousands of Hamas employees, and increasing fuel supplies to the only power plant in Gaza. Qatar -- a country that has long been supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot, Hamas -- will be required to pay for the fuel and the salaries, according to the proposed truce agreement.
What will Israel get in return? Calm. This means a Hamas promise temporarily to stop launching terrorist attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip. This promise by Hamas also includes temporarily halting the weekly, Hamas-sponsored, violent riots along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
Last weekend, there were already signs that Hamas was interested in reaching a deal with Israel. The protests that Hamas launched on November 2 along the Gaza-Israel were less violent than the previous ones. This change was the result of direct orders issued by the Hamas leaders, who have apparently reached the conclusion that a truce agreement, at this stage, will be good for their group.
"The restless efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the UN to end the blockade on the Gaza Strip are nearing success," said senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya. Hamas and the other Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, he added, were now waiting for Israel's response to the mediation efforts made by Egypt, Qatar, and the UN. Hamas has excellent reasons to be happy with the proposed truce with Israel. The agreement does not require Hamas to make any real concessions other than temporarily to stop its terrorist attacks on Israel.
The proposed accord does not require Hamas to disarm or dismantle its militia. Hamas is not being asked to relinquish control over the Gaza Strip, or pave the way for the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza. Hamas is not being asked to destroy the terror attack tunnels it has dug along the border with Israel. Hamas is not being asked to stop smuggling weapons, for use against Israel, into the Gaza Strip. Hamas is not being asked to renounce violence or recognize Israel's right to exist. Hamas is not being asked to accept a two-state solution or abandon its dangerous, genocidal ideology.
All that Hamas is being asked to do is to sit quietly and behave nicely so that the group and its supporters can get salaries and fuel, and enjoy other privileges, such as economic and humanitarian aid.
These benefits for Hamas are exactly why the proposed truce deal is dangerous and sends the wrong message to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists. A truce now says that if you engage in violent, extortionistic acts, you get what you want.
Hamas will see any truce with Israel as a victory. The agreement will come after seven months of violent riots along the border with Israel. It will be seen by Hamas as a victory because it will look as if the violent protests, including the launching of thousands of rockets, mortar shells, and incendiary kites and balloons towards Israel have finally achieved their goal: forcing Israel and the international community to ease restrictions imposed on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
What is disturbing is that Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip already view the current mediation efforts to achieve a truce with Israel as a reward for the past few months' deluge of anti-Israel terrorist attacks.
They apparently believe that without the violent demonstrations and terrorist attacks, which began last March, the international community would not have moved to seek a solution to their economic and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
This victory will, of course, only increase the terrorists' appetite and motivation to continue their attempts to kill as many Jews as possible. They will see any truce as a retreat on the part of Israel in the face of violence and terrorism.
When terrorists are smiling and celebrating what they perceive as victory, the world needs to worry.
Israel is again taking a big gamble by considering a truce. It also taking a big risk by putting its faith in the Egyptians, Qataris and the UN: Hamas has repeatedly and consistently violated previous cease-fire agreements with Israel.
By continuing to dig terror tunnels along Gaza's border with Israel, Hamas has violated previous cease-fires. By continuing to conduct daily rocket tests, Hamas has violated virtually all of the previous cease-fire agreements. By dispatching Palestinians to plant explosive devices, infiltrate the border with Israel, and launch arson kites and balloons, Hamas has violated every previous cease-fire. In recent months, Hamas has repeatedly broken even temporary cease-fires with Israel.
As for Egypt, Qatar, and the UN, they are acting strictly out of concern for their own and Hamas's interests. Egypt wants a truce between Hamas and Israel because it wants quite along its shared border with the Gaza Strip. Qatar wants the truce because this wealthy Arab emirate wants to bolster the standing of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in the Arab and Islamic world. The UN, for its part, wants to prove to the world that it still relevant, influential and capable of contributing to stability, security and peace.
Not one of the three parties is trying to achieve a truce in the Gaza Strip out of love for Israel or a genuine concern for anyone's security.
Hamas will be the biggest winner if and when an agreement is reached through Egypt, Qatar and the UN. Economic and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip will absolve Hamas of its responsibilities towards the Palestinian population there. Hamas will no longer have to worry about poverty and unemployment because the international community will now be taking care of the people in the Gaza Strip. Hamas will no longer have to worry about paying salaries to thousands of Palestinian employees or purchasing fuel needed to keep the power plant operating. Qatar has already pledged to cover the expense of the fuel and employees' salaries.
Hamas will now have more time to prepare for the next war against Israel. The proposed truce will give Hamas breathing space to smuggle more weapons into the Gaza Strip, dig new tunnels and recruit thousands of Palestinians to its ranks. Hamas will not take advantage of the truce to build hospitals and schools or create new job opportunities or improve the living conditions of the Palestinians under its rule. All Hamas wants is a break so that it will be able to strengthen itself in preparation for the next war against Israel. Egypt, Qatar and the UN are now pressuring Israel to give Hamas an opportunity to amass more weapons and terrorists.
Israel is being asked to give those who seek its destruction yet another chance. Israel is being asked to give those who seek its destruction more fishing areas that will facilitate their mission of smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip. Israel is being asked to open its borders to oblige those who call for its destruction day and night. Israel is being asked to send fuel and medical aid to those who burn its flags and, on a daily basis, in the mosques and public squares of the Gaza Strip, call for its obliteration.
Israel is being asked to make all these gestures to Hamas at a time when most Arabs have stopped trusting the terrorist group years ago. The Syrian regime dumped Hamas shortly after the beginning of the civil war in 2011 because of its support for the anti-Bashar Assad opposition forces. In 2012, the Syrian authorities closed down Hamas offices in Damascus and expelled several leaders of the terrorist group.
Jordan also shut down the Hamas offices in Amman two decades ago, and in 1999 expelled several Hamas officials from the kingdom.
The Egyptians cordially hate Hamas: they consider it a "threat" to their national security because of its affiliation with Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist groups fighting against the regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Some Egyptians have also accused Hamas of working with the Islamic terrorist groups in the Sinai Peninsula.
Saudi Arabia has gone even further by denouncing Hamas as a terrorist organization.
These are only a few examples of how Arab countries view and deal with Hamas. Israel, meanwhile, is being asked to help Hamas by easing restrictions on the Gaza Strip. It is a request that poses a severe threat to Israel's security. Ironically, the threat to Israel that this truce presents is far more severe than the current assaults Israel is undoubtedly hoping that the truce will stop. If Hamas's Arab brothers do not trust this terrorist group, why should Israel?
The proposed truce may bring calm along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, but only in the short term. Hamas is not going to change its ideology or policies as a result of any temporary truce. It will always continue to work towards achieving its goal of seeing to it that Israel is "removed from the map."
This goal is why Israel needs to remain on high alert even if a truce is reached. Hamas's goal is also why the international community needs to understand that striking deals with terrorists simply emboldens terrorists and their friends in ISIS and other jihadi groups. The only way to deal with Islamist terrorists is by making sure that they are the first to "disappear from the map." A real truce between Israel and the Gaza Strip will be achieved only after the jihadi terrorists are removed from power, and not rewarded for violence and threats.
*Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.
**Pictured: Ashiq Masih, the husband of Asia Bibi, together with their daughter Eisham Ashiq, campaigning for Asia's release in 2015. (Image source: HazteOir/Flickr)

Iranian regime running out of options as sanctions hit
النظام الإيراني ومحدودية الخيارات مع بدأ العقوبات
Dr. Mohammed Alsulami/Arab News/November 05/18
The second tranche of US sanctions on Iran have now taken effect. The new sanctions have been described by the White House as the strongest and most crippling in the history of sanctions imposed on the Iranian regime since the 1979 revolution. This package will reimpose all the sanctions previously lifted following the signing of the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group of nations in 2015.
These sanctions are only the latest in a number of massive political and economic challenges facing the regime at home and abroad, with widespread public anger rising steadily at the regime’s brutal, oppressive, theocratic Vilayat-e Faqih (“Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist”) ruling system. Calls for the ousting of the rulers, which nobody would have dared express a few years ago, are now common.
The hottest issue at the moment is the mounting US pressure on Tehran, including the halting of exports of Iranian oil, which the US wants to see reduced to zero. We know that the US administration did not achieve this objective before the start of the second package of sanctions. Eight nations have been exempted from this embargo, including China, Japan, India, Italy and Turkey, all of which were granted an opportunity to slowly reduce their reliance on Iranian oil. These temporary exemptions indicate that the US administration is intent on achieving its ultimate objective, albeit with a little alteration to the original timeframe.
The continuing steep decline of the value of the Iranian rial against foreign currencies, especially the US dollar and the euro, is expected to continue through the coming months. This comes despite Tehran’s efforts to maintain the current value of its currency for domestic political ends. Iranian banks are also set to face more difficulties, with the Central Bank expected to be shaken by a number of crises in the upcoming months. Iran will also face obstacles in getting revenues from its oil and non-oil exports.
Compounding the regime’s woes, European governments’ efforts to find alternative financial mechanisms and solutions to circumvent the US sanctions have been wholly unsuccessful. Meanwhile, countries like Turkey, India, China and Japan may resort to paying for their oil imports from Iran through the traditional barter process, such as trading goods for oil rather than for cash, which may require a reduction in the price of Iranian oil to attract buyers.
In the past week, Iran’s attempt to drum up trade by putting its oil on sale at a local bourse was largely unsuccessful, attracting only a few buyers and forcing the regime in Tehran to further reduce the price to sell at least some of its output.
All of the options currently available to Iran aim solely to curb rather than to avert losses, meaning the negative impact of the sanctions will definitely take a heavy toll.
While some small European and Asian companies that have no dealings with the US may continue to deal with Iran, these will be too small to save the Iranian economy or to fill the vacuum left by the departure of big companies.
Conducting oil transactions via barter would primarily be beneficial for the importers, who can both guarantee a buyer for their products and use Iran’s dire economic circumstances to impose their own conditions. This will also increase the regime’s suffering, making it harder for the leadership to obtain hard currency and leading to further deterioration in the nation’s economy. Ultimately, the regime in Tehran may be forced to accept the 12 conditions laid out by the Trump administration to have the sanctions lifted and resume negotiations.
The Iranian regime is awaiting the results of the 2020 US elections to discover whether the current administration will be re-elected or a new one will come to power. This is a high-stakes gamble, which will place the rulers in a more complicated situation should Trump win a second term or if a new administration adopting the same current hard-line policy comes to power. This is apart from the possibility of a rise in domestic pressure on the regime due to worsening living conditions.
Iran’s regime also remains unable to provide any solutions to its domestic crises, which continue to expand both geographically and socially, accelerated by the large-scale collapse of the small and medium-sized commercial sector. These two sectors have been effectively pushed out of the market in light of the plummeting national currency, heavy taxes, and bureaucratic obstacles.
In the meantime, the sectors run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which have overcome all these obstacles through exemptions and facilitations, are also dependent on smuggling and on effective ownership of government firms that offer direct and indirect facilitations to other IRGC-affiliated firms under civilian names.
This point will pose significant challenges to the US Treasury Department’s efforts to track individuals and entities associated with the IRGC and place them on the sanctions list. While it is true that Washington constantly announces new lists of names, the IRGC owns many entities domestically and overseas that may need more time and extraordinary efforts to identify and blacklist.
Overseas, meanwhile, with the possible exception of Russia and China, and — for political reasons and others related to competitiveness — with the US, many nations, including European countries, are being forced to stop dealing with Iran, albeit gradually. Investing in Iran is almost impossible at present.
While some small European and Asian companies that have no dealings with the US may continue to deal with Iran, these will be too small to save the Iranian economy or to fill the vacuum left by the departure of big companies.
On a related note, regional nations, especially the Gulf countries, are expected to adopt a carrot-and-stick approach in their efforts to force Iran to comply with US measures through, inter alia, building relations with companies that have been forced to withdraw from the Iranian market or to freeze their trade relations with Iran and to grant these firms competitive investment shares in local markets. By contrast, transactions with firms that ignore US sanctions and deal with Iran will be halted.
*Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is Head of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami

Progress Without Peace in the Middle East
تقدم في الشرق الأوسط ولكن لا سلام
Aaron David Miller and Hillel Zand/The Atlantic/November 05/18/
Flanked by his wife, his national-security adviser, and the head of the Mossad, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit last week to Oman and met with its leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
Beyond the headline is a stunningly paradoxical trend line: The most significant period of Israeli-Arab de facto cooperation since the last real peace process, in the 1990s, is now taking place without one. Netanyahu and his right-wing government are reversing the notion that only peace with the Palestinians can ensure Israel’s acceptance into an angry and hostile Arab world. The Arab street may still oppose Israel, but Arab leaders clearly don’t.
Netanyahu isn’t the first Israeli prime minister to meet Qaboos at home. Yitzhak Rabin had that honor in 1994. And while the current spate of Israeli-Arab activity is nowhere near the salad days of the 1990s in the wake of the Oslo Accords, the extent of Israeli contacts both above and below the table are impressive, especially because it’s the hard-line Netanyahu running the show and not the moderate Rabin.
Netanyahu has long boasted of secret Israeli relations and cooperation with Gulf states, telling the Knesset as recently as last week how “Israel and other Arab countries are closer than they ever were before.” And while he tends to exaggerate, consider the following.
On Sunday, Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev—one of the Netanyahu cabinet’s most vocal critics of the Palestinians—became the first senior Israeli official to visit Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The same day, after years of being forbidden to display national symbols at Gulf sporting events, the Israeli national anthem played when the Israeli judo team won a gold medal at the International Judo Federation’s Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi. Next week, Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz will visit Oman and Communications Minister Ayoob Kara will visit Abu Dhabi. An Israeli gymnastics team is also currently competing in Qatar.
These moments of soft diplomacy appear to be bearing fruit for Israel’s foreign-policy agenda. After Netanyahu’s visit, Oman’s foreign minister stated, “Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this. The world is also aware of this fact.” Bahrain’s foreign minister expressed support for Oman’s role in trying to catalyze Israeli-Palestinian peace, and his Saudi Arabian counterpart declared that the peace process was key to normalizing relations.
The biggest prize for Israel is, indeed, a relationship with Saudi Arabia — a goal that has been pushed and encouraged by Donald Trump’s administration, particularly the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who’s established a close tie with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely known as MbS. Hurdles include King Salman’s desire to ensure that his impulsive son doesn’t give too much to the Israelis too soon and MbS’s alleged involvement in the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which might lead him to cut a lower profile internationally. But there are signs that the Saudis are giving up their old hard-line opposition to Israel. When Trump moved the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Saudi Arabia had a decidedly low-key reaction; Saudi Arabia opened its air space to Air India’s commercial flights to Israel; an unofficial Saudi delegation visited Israel to push the Arab Peace Initiative; and it’s been reported that the Israelis are selling the Saudis millions in surveillance equipment, and even assisting MbS with his security.
Something is clearly happening.
The Arab world’s new openness to Israel is driven in part by increasing impatience and annoyance with the Palestinians. The record of Arab-state betrayal and conflict with the Palestine Liberation Organization is well known. Indeed, with the exception of Egypt, every Arab state that shares common borders with Israel has fought bloody battles with the Palestinian national movement. Today the Saudis and Egyptians are frustrated with a weak Mahmoud Abbas and worried about Hamas. The silence of the Arab world in the face of recent Israeli-Hamas confrontations in Gaza, including the last major conflict, in 2014, which claimed more than 2,000 Palestinian lives, was deafening.
Add to this the Arab states’ fear of Iran and Sunni jihadists, and a desire to please the Trump administration—and suddenly it’s obvious that Israel and its neighbors are bound by common interests.
Tensions, of course, remain. Last week, Jordan’s King Abdullah—under domestic pressure as a result of Netanyahu’s policies toward the Palestinians—announced that he would terminate two land leases with Israel agreed to in their 1994 peace treaty. But even this problem may in the end be worked out in subsequent negotiations.
The upshot of all of this isn’t that the Arab world is moving at breakneck speed to desert the Palestinians, or to fully normalize ties with Israel. But Netanyahu appears to be dealing with an Arab world ready to engage incrementally with Israel despite that fact that a peace deal is not forthcoming. In a volatile and combustible Middle East, the prime minister should enjoy his thaw while it lasts.
Implications of US interest rate rise on the Gulf region
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/November 05/18
The independence of the US Federal Reserve or Central Bank seems to be under threat from President Trump who is casting doubts about Fed Chairman Jerome Powell fitness as Chairman of the Fed and blaming him for hasty decisions to raise interest rates and derailing the US economic recovery and even complaining that the Fed had “gone loco – crazy”.
President Donald Trump said the Federal Reserve is moving too fast with interest-rate increases and dismissed concerns about inflation, extending his run of criticism that central bankers have largely disregarded as they push ahead with higher borrowing costs. Asked if he regrets nominating Powell to his Fed chairmanship, Trump was quoted as saying “Too early to tell, but maybe.”
But the Fed Chairman seemed unmoved and has said neither he nor other Fed officials are letting Trump’s frequent complaints affect them, with the Chairman pointedly adding that “my focus is essentially on controlling the uncontrollable. We control what do.”
So far the Federal Reserve has stood its ground with implications far beyond the US economy but to those countries whose currencies are pegged to the US dollar, and hence, US interest rate movements. The latest communications by Federal Reserve officials are seen as further confirmation of a strong economy showing no signs of slowing and a still tightening labour market that should soon lead to faster wage growth.
In other words, this is an affirmation of the continued gradual pace in rate hikes mapped out by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and in the wave of similar remarks by so many other Federal Open Market Committee in recent weeks, reflecting an unusually firm Committee consensus.
The drop in the US headline unemployment rate to 3.7 percent is impressive, and even if the job creation figure was only 134,000, the big upward revisions mean the October month’s job gains still translates into a very healthy 208,000 average a month over the first nine months of this year compared to last year’s 182k average – and that in an economy that is supposed to be running out of workers.
For Gulf businesses, the expected US interest rate hikes should be warning enough to prepare them to re-examine existing loan portfolios
Good news
In good news for the president, wages grew at their fastest rate for close to a decade. The unemployment rate in the US has not remained below 4 percent for a sustained period since the Vietnam War. The US has now added jobs every month for 97 months in a row – the longest run of job gains on record.
Second, for the Powell-led Fed, higher wage growth in itself will not cause anxieties over inflation, and that helps to put into context Powell’s remarks that drew so much reaction in the markets.
Some do not think his remarks were meant as a hardening per se of a hawkish messaging on the Fed's already presumed base rate path. He was instead delivering pretty much the same message but speaking to a more lay audience; Powell in fact has made a point of not only speaking in plain English but also reaching to a wider public than the markets or any particular tweeters.
A December hike is about as certain as possible under the current outlook, and while the risks going into next year look to be tilted to the upside that all but ensures 2019 is equally certain to see further rate hikes, we would caution the actual rate decisions, and thus the pace and ultimate number of hikes, will be taken on a meeting to meeting basis.
This goes against President Trump wishes and he made his intentions clear by stating bluntly “I like low interest rates,” but whether the Fed will grant him his wish is another matter with an institution that vigorously defends its independence.
This is not particular to the United States as the current faceoff between the Indian Central Bank and the Indian Government testifies to political pressure to rein in central bank independence to government economic policies and loosen credit policies with Indian national elections next year.
Economic expansion
And so the US face off also continues – with Fed Chairman Jerome Powell aiming to extend the second-longest US economic expansion on record by moving interest rates up just quickly enough to prevent overheating, but not so rapidly that the central bank chokes off growth.
It is a fine balancing act that has political ramifications for the US mid-term but more crucially the next Presidential elections. President Trump understands this and he was on the spot when he stated that the economy is enjoying “record-setting” numbers and “I don’t want to slow it down even a little bit, especially when we don’t have the problem of inflation.”
Economic facts and data will show who is on firmer ground, but for Gulf businesses, the expected US interest rate hikes and resultant Gulf interest rate rises should be warning enough to prepare them to re- examine their existing loan portfolios and lock in longer term fixed lower rates if possible.
Some lower tier credit risk customers might not have the luxury to do so, but top tier clients and new customers can at least try as higher interest rates are coming as surely as night follows day. But it is not the private sector that can start to plan ahead but Gulf regulators too.
These should now request Gulf commercial banks carry out stress testing their current loan portfolios against the expected interest rate hikes to assess any incremental non-performing loan (NPL) loss contingencies from marginal credits and those most likely affected by higher borrowing costs.

نزار زكا: دولتي لا تزال في غيبوبة كاملة

Zakka Says Lebanese State in 'Coma' over His Detention
Associated Press/Naharnet/November 05/18
Hezbollah's Role in a New Lebanese Government Causes a Headache for Hariri
مايكل يانغ: دور حزب الله في الحكومة الجديدة يسبب صداعاً للحريري
Michael Young/The National/November 05/18
The Lebanese Armed Forces and Hezbollah: Military Dualism in Post-War Lebanon
أرام ناركزيان: الجيش اللبناني وحزب الله: الثنائي العسكري في لبنان ما بعد الحرب
Aram Nerguizian/Italian Institute for International Political Studies/November 05/18
Progress Without Peace in the Middle East
تقدم في الشرق الأوسط ولكن لا سلام
Aaron David Miller and Hillel Zand/The Atlantic/November 05/18/
Iranian regime running out of options as sanctions hit
النظام الإيراني ومحدودية الخيارات مع بدأ العقوبات
Dr. Mohammed Alsulami/Arab News/November 05/18