Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For November 10/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil
Isaiah 5/21-30: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe to those who are mighty to drink wine, and champions at mixing strong drink; who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice for the innocent! Therefore as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as the dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust; because they have rejected the law of Yahweh of Armies, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore Yahweh’s anger burns against his people, and he has stretched out his hand against them, and has struck them. The mountains tremble, and their dead bodies are as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this, his anger is not turned away, but his hand is still stretched out. He will lift up a banner to the nations from far, and he will whistle for them from the end of the earth. Behold, they will come speedily and swiftly. None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the belt of their waist be untied, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken: whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent. Their horses’ hoofs will be like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind. Their roaring will be like a lioness. They will roar like young lions. Yes, they shall roar, and seize their prey and carry it off, and there will be no one to deliver. They will roar against them in that day like the roaring of the sea. If one looks to the land behold, darkness and distress.

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

Daily Lebanese/Arabic - English news bulletins on our LCCC web site.Click on the link below

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 09-10/18
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel Calls on Lebanese to Ward off Sedition, Gather to Build Nation/ Friday 09th November 2018
Analysis/Israel and U.S. Set Eyes on Lebanon as Iran-Saudi Proxy Clash Heats Up/Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/November 09/18
Europeans React to US Elections/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/November 09/18
Will Houthis Respond to the US Call?/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/November 09/18
Iran and US: Hostages Trade Places/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/November 09/18
Beyond Trump’s sharp exchange with CNN’s reporter/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/November 09/18
The league of culture in Baghdad/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/November 09/18
Russian special forces land in S. Syria. US Raptors “deter” Syrian, Iranian, Russian combat aircraft/DEBKAfile/November 09/18
New Polls: West Bankers Oppose Both Armed Revolt and U.S. Talks/David Pollock/The Washington Institute/November 09/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 09-10/18
Aoun: Efforts Must Focus on Economy, Investments
Independent Sunni MPs Adamant About Ministerial Seat Following Meeting with Aoun
Sunnis Meet at Lebanon's Dar al-Fatwa amid Cabinet Deadlock
Lebanon to Shut Down 79 Factories Polluting Litani River
Aoun Meets Kardel, Slams Israeli Missile Sites Claims
Lebanon’s Jumblatt voices currency fears over political deadlock
Jumblat: Iran Hampering Govt. Formation, Assad Seeks to Revenge on Lebanon
Report: Bassil Has Proposal to Solve ‘Sunni Obstacle’
Hammoud: 19 Generator Owners Vow to Install Meters, Avoid Cutoffs
'Independent Sunni MPs' Meet Aoun, Insist on Govt. Seat for One of Them
Mustaqbal Hits Back at Qassem, Abu Faour Speaks of Russian Initiative
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel Calls on Lebanese to Ward off Sedition, Gather to Build Nation
Tawile: Lebanon's Economic Figures Jeopardize CEDRE
Saade: Discriminatory Laws Need to Be Amended or Abolished in Lebanon
Berri, Adwan tackle developments
Taymour Jumblatt meets chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee of Russian Duma
DCM Edward White Inaugurates New USAID-Funded Pump Station in Ghazzeh
Army chief inspects 2nd Regiment of land border
Analysis/Israel and U.S. Set Eyes on Lebanon as Iran-Saudi Proxy Clash Heats Up

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 09-10/18
US-Turkish Alert in Northern Syria
IS Claims Attack after Australia Knifeman Kills 1, Hurts 2
US’s Bolton says more sanctions likely on Iran
Turkey opens gate with neighboring Syria’s Afrin
Brent Oil Drops under $70 for First Time since April
Somalia Blasts Leave around 20 Dead, Dozens Wounded
Syria Regime Attack Kills 23 Rebels in Truce Zone
Qatar pays Gaza salaries via Israel amid Fatah condemnation
Flash floods in Jordan kill four people in Dabaa, Madaba
Two Iraqi Ministers Risk Losing their Jobs
Damascus: Sweida Hostages Freed
'Hamas, Jihad' Call for Armed Resistance in West Bank
US Pushing for ‘Calibrated’ Approach on Zero Iran Oil Exports
US Clinches Commitment from Iraq after Sanctions Waiver
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 09-10/18
Aoun: Efforts Must Focus on Economy, Investments
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 9 November, 2018/Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said that after stability at the security level had been settled, efforts must now focus on improving the ailing economic situation. “Economy-wise, Lebanon is open to the brotherly and friendly countries, and it welcomes investments in all sectors, especially in the fields of oil and gas exploration,” he said. Aoun’s remarks came during his meeting at the Baabda Palace with Chairman of the British Parliamentary Committee for Friendship with Lebanon, MP John Hayes, accompanied by a delegation from the House of Commons and British Lords. He thanked the British government for helping the Lebanese Army build military towers on the eastern borders, which he said facilitated the monitoring of any infiltration into Lebanese territory and greatly contributed to the war against terrorism and the elimination of its dormant cells. The president noted that the provision of international aid to the displaced Syrians once they move back to Syria would encourage the refugees to return home, renewing calls not to wait for a political solution to the Syrian crisis to guarantee the safe return of refugees. “Today we are in a difficult situation, because the social services we provide to the displaced are part of the inadequate international assistance to cover their needs. So we have social problems in schools and hospitals, adding to the high rate of unemployment caused by the Syrian labor force, as well as the increase of rates of crimes committed on Lebanese territory and against the Lebanese by 30 percent,” according to Aoun. For his part, the British MP praised “Lebanese-British friendly relations”, pointing out that the purpose of the visit was to explore what can be done to support Lebanon.

Independent Sunni MPs Adamant About Ministerial Seat Following Meeting with Aoun Friday 09th November 2018/The independent Sunni lawmakers, who are not affiliated to the Future Movement, on Friday reiterated their demand to be included in the new government, saying that their participation in not up for discussion. "We got 30% of the Sunni votes in the parliamentary elections. When the prime minister-designate refuses to include anyone from outside the Future Movement in the government, then he is contradicting the principle of power-sharing and the new voting system in the country," MP Abdul-Rahim Mrad said following the group's meeting with President Michel Aoun at the Baabda Palace. The six Sunni MPs' demand has been rejected by both Aoun and PM-Designate Saad Hariri, while being shored up by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement. During his latest TV interview, President Aoun said that the independent Sunni MPs do not actually constitute a bloc so that they would be entitled to get a ministerial seat, and that they recently got together and demanded to be represented. Mrad said that the president had called for handling the matter calmly and wisely, pointing out that the situation is being clarified to all parties they are meeting with. “We suggested that any of us would be named to join the government; there’s no other solution,” Mrad affirmed. “We hope that a government be quickly formed, without us being the scapegoat,” he added.

Sunnis Meet at Lebanon's Dar al-Fatwa amid Cabinet Deadlock
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 9 November, 2018/Meetings held at the Dar al-Fatwa in Beirut Thursday were the only development linked to Lebanon’s cabinet formation process. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian received a delegation of independent Sunni deputies including Abdel Rahim Mrad, Qassem Hashem, Adnan Trabelsi and al-Walid Sukkarieh. The deputies, backed by Hezbollah, are demanding a representation in the next cabinet, a request rejected by both President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. "We hope that everyone will do their best to facilitate the formation of the government because they are part of the Lebanese fabric that wants a national government capable of salvaging the country and meeting citizens’ demands," Derian said in a statement after meeting the independent Sunni deputies. The Mufti stressed that Dar al-Fatwa does not differentiate between the Lebanese. It rather strengthens their unity, solidarity, meeting and dialogue, while renouncing differences among them. In another meeting at Dar al-Fatwa, caretaker Interior Minister Nohad al-Mashnouq asserted that Hariri would not step down and that he would definitely form the new government. "Hariri will not back out and he will form the cabinet within days or weeks," Mashnouq said. In response to a question about the independent Sunni MPs, the minister said that "some of them have entered through the back door … this is not the appropriate form of entry." Parliamentary and legislative affairs, in addition to the government deadlock, were also tackled Thursday during a meeting between Speaker Nabih Berri and his deputy Elie Ferzli.
Speaking to reporters following the talks, Ferzli said that Berri highlighted the necessity to form the new cabinet swiftly. "The speaker sees that the formation of the government is a dire need,” he said. For his part, Lebanese Forces deputy Fadi Saad said it was impossible to know how long it would take before Hariri forms his new government in light of the standstill caused by the request of independent Sunni lawmakers. "It is difficult to resolve the crisis unless one of the parties retracts its position, which so far seems unlikely," Saad told Voice of Lebanon radio station. Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance parliamentary bloc removed the “Sunni obstacle” from Aoun’s court after saying it was Hariri’s responsibility to guarantee the representation of the independent Sunni deputies. Alluding to the ongoing stalemate, Hezbollah’s bloc said: "Our commitment to supporting the right and demands of the independent Sunni MPs regarding their participation in the government is both moral and political.”

Lebanon to Shut Down 79 Factories Polluting Litani River
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 9 November, 2018/Caretaker Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan decided on Thursday to shut down 79 unlicensed factories in eastern Lebanon for their role in polluting the Litani River, one of the biggest in the country, and for turning it into an immense sewage canal. According to the Litani River Authority, the level of pollution has caused, in an unprecedented way, a rise in cancer cases in the towns and villages surrounding the River. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, head of the Authority Sami Alawieh welcomed the Industry Ministry’s decision but said it should take practical steps to close down the factories.“There are more than 600 unlicensed factories,” he said. The official also said that a licensed institution, which is polluting the river on a daily basis, also needs to be shot down. The Litani River Authority had approached the Public Prosecutor’s Financial office and informed it about the establishment of Syrian refugee camps on the banks of the River, turning it into a sewage canal and a waste dump. Alawieh said municipalities and governors in the area should be allowed to monitor industrial factories operating near the River and to take the necessary measures to stop them from causing pollution. Dr. Ali Yaacoub, an expert in environmental engineering, described the situation as “an environmental catastrophe.”“Pollution caused a huge rise in cancer cases,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat, saying that around 45 people were recently diagnosed with the disease in the town of Hawsh, on the banks of the Litani River. Yaacoub lamented that the action of the Lebanese authorities had come late after the river became a sewage swamp and garbage dump.

Aoun Meets Kardel, Slams Israeli Missile Sites Claims
Naharnet/November 09/18/President Michel Aoun welcomed on Friday the Acting UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Pernille Dahler Kardel, where he stressed that “Israeli allegations on missile sites in Lebanon are baseless,” the National News Agency reported. “Claims that weapons factories and secret caches exit in a number of Lebanese places are groundless,” assured Aoun. “Members of the diplomatic corps in Lebanon have accompanied (caretaker) Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on a tour during which they were reassured about the groundlessness of these allegations. Also, the UNIFIL command denied the existence of any weapons in the area of operation of the Green Without Borders," he told his guest. "Lebanon is committed to maintaining stability along the border and implementing UN Resolution 1701, at a time when Israel continues to violate Lebanese sovereignty on land, sea and air level, violating all international resolutions issued by the Security Council and the United Nations," Aoun said. He also underlined Lebanon's position "on the return of displaced Syrians to their country," pointing out that "the voluntary returns are taking place under the supervision of the Lebanese General Security, upon the request of displaced Syrians.” The President thus called on the international community to" help secure this repatriation."Kardel, in turn, said: "The United Nations is pleased with the cooperation between the Lebanese army and international forces and the steps taken to strengthen the capabilities of the army and enable it to play its full role," she said, expressing "appreciation for the care that Lebanon provides to the displaced Syrians on its land."

Lebanon’s Jumblatt voices currency fears over political deadlock
Reuters, Beirut/Friday, 9 November 2018/Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt on Friday voiced fears for Lebanon’s currency if the deadlock in forming a new government after a May election continues, and directed blame at the Iran-backed Hezbollah group for the delay.
Lebanon’s rival parties have been unable to clinch a final deal on the distribution of cabinet seats in a new national unity government under prime minister designate Saad al-Hariri. “What worries me is that the continuation of the current crisis will lead to a deterioration in the pound and economic ruin,” Jumblatt was quoted as saying in the daily Jumhuriya newspaper. While politicians have often warned of the risk of an economic crisis in Lebanon, public expressions of concern for currency are rare. Lebanon is facing stagnant economic growth and the world’s third largest public debt to GDP ratio. Central bank governor Riad Salameh has repeatedly said the Lebanese pound, pegged at its current level of 1,507.5 to the dollar for two decades, is stable and not at risk, helped by the central bank’s high foreign currency reserves. International institutions including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have warned that Lebanon’s debt - one of the world’s highest - is unsustainable and the country urgently needs a government to enact fiscal reform. Salameh said on Wednesday that a new government would increase market confidence.
A deal looked close last week when the two main Christian parties settled a dispute over their representation in the government, but since then a dispute over Sunni representation has obstructed an agreement. The heavily armed Shiite group Hezbollah wants one of its Sunni allies to be given a cabinet portfolio to reflect gains they made in the election. Hariri, Lebanon’s main Sunni leader, has objected to this demand. Jumblatt was quoted by Jumhuriya as indicating Hezbollah’s position demanding its Sunni allies take a cabinet role was a result of the United States, which has backed the Lebanese government, reimposing sanctions on its ally Iran. “Lebanon is paying the price currently... The obstruction in forming a government through fabricating the Sunni problem comes in the context of Iran and Hezbollah’s reaction to the latest American sanctions,” he was quoted saying. President Michel Aoun met on Friday with the Hezbollah-allied Sunni MPs, who are also known for close ties to Damascus. Speaking after the meeting, Abdulrahim Mrad, one of the Sunni MPs, said they had asked Aoun to help find a solution. Caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said on Friday after meeting the government’s economic council that “strong political will” was needed to pass next year’s budget. “We cannot delay this any longer and all the parties should therefore exert pressures for the quick formation of the government,” he added.

Jumblat: Iran Hampering Govt. Formation, Assad Seeks to Revenge on Lebanon
Naharnet/November 09/18/Progressive Socialist Party leader, former MP Walid Jumblat held Hizbullah and Iran responsible for the government formation delay by “inventing” the so-called Sunni obstacle,” as he refused all means to naturalize ties with the Syrian regime which he said “seeks revenge against its opponents in Lebanon.”In an interview with al-Joumhouria daily on Friday, Jumblat said: “Lebanon is currently paying the price of double punishment, the American and Iranian, after it has become stuck on the international-regional line between Washington and Tehran.”“Obstructing the government formation by fabricating the Sunni obstacle, comes in the context of the reactions of Iran and Hizbullah to the recent US sanctions. Therefore, the process of forming the government has become part of the US-Iranian conflict,” said Jumblat.
“US sanctions on Hizbullah will target innocent people and institutions, which we reject. If some believe that assigning John Bolton, the US National Security Adviser, is a joke, then he is unaware of the seriousness of the matter,” he emphasized. However, Jumblatt added: “We should not break the bridges of cooperation with Washington, because there are vital interests we have to take into account,” he said, rejecting any bid to provide the Lebanese army with non-American weapons. “In the framework of its confrontation with the US, Iran is punishing Lebanon by delaying the formation,” stated Jumblat, however he raised concerns that shall the current crisis continue, “it will lead to an economic disaster and the deterioration of the lira because it is not simple that the debt of a small country like Lebanon has already reached 100 billion dollars.”He warned saying “everybody is going to pay the price in case of an economic deterioration. Does Hizbullah think economic collapse will stop at the doors of Dahiyeh?” he asked. On the Sunni obstacle the PSP leader urged Hizbullah to “have an understanding of the delicate domestic situation and drop demands for the representation of Sunni MPs (of March 8 camp) in the government.”On his “strained” ties with the Syrian regime, he said: “I will not conclude my political life with more settlements. We made a settlement after the martyrdom of chief Kamal Jumblat (his father), and after the martyrdom of former PM Rafik Hariri. I believe that is enough.”“Let me die in dignity without getting involved in more humiliating settlements which only destroy my national heritage and the heritage of Kamal Jumblat. I will not change my tone against the regime. Let someone else do,” he stated. The PSP leader accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of seeking revenge against those who opposed him in Lebanon.
“Bashar will not leave Lebanon and will not forget it. The Syrian wants to come back and revenge against the remnants of March 14 camp, the only one left is Fares Souaid.”

Report: Bassil Has Proposal to Solve ‘Sunni Obstacle’

Naharnet/November 09/18/Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil has reportedly made a new suggestion to resolve the hurdle of independent Sunni MPs representation in the new government, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Friday. The Minister has been holding meetings “away from the spotlight” and discussing the issue with various parties, said the daily. The proposal suggests that Sunni MPs allied with Hizbullah be represented by a figure from West Bekaa, excluding from the list of candidates MPs Jihad Abdulsamad and Faisal Karami of the National Bloc, led by Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh, according to the daily. The government was on the verge of formation on October 29 after the Lebanese Forces accepted the portfolios that were assigned to it but a last-minute hurdle over the representation of the aforementioned MPs surfaced. Hizbullah insisted that the six Sunni MPs should be given a seat in the government, refraining from providing Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri with the names of its own ministers in a bid to press him. President Michel Aoun -- a Hizbullah ally and the FPM founder -- threw his support behind Hariri and rejected the demand during a TV interview, slamming the “use of delay as a political tactic” and insisting that the aforementioned MPs are “individuals and not a bloc.” In an attempt to garner support from Grand Mufti of the Republic Sheikh Abdulatif Deryan, said MPs headed to Dar al-Fatwa on Thursday where they met the Mufti. But Dar al-Fatwa made a neutral position standing at an equal distance from all political parties. Deryan assured during the meeting that “Dar al-Fatwa has its doors open to all Lebanese without any differentiation, but rather strengthens their unity, solidarity and dialogue, and renounces differences.”

Hammoud: 19 Generator Owners Vow to Install Meters, Avoid Cutoffs

Naharnet/November 09/18/State Prosecutor Judge Samir Hammoud announced Friday that “the Central Criminal Investigations Department interrogated today 19 generator owners who pledged not to withhold power feed from citizens and to commit to installing meters within 15 days in line with the economy minister’s decree.”The prosecutor ordered the release of the nineteen providers pending further investigations, obliging the owners to obtain memos from the economy ministry to confirm that they have complied with the decree, the National News Agency said.“The rest of the generator owners will be interrogated across Lebanon and further measures would follow in light of their testimonies and after confirming that they had committed to the decrees and laws,” NNA quoted Hammoud as saying. Caretaker Justice Minister Salim Jreissati had on Wednesday issued a stern warning to neighborhood power generator providers, telling them that authorities would “confiscate” their generators should they stage another cut-off protest. Providers had switched off their generators for two hours on Tuesday, plunging most Lebanese regions into darkness, to protest perceived maltreatment at the hands of authorities and security forces. Authorities have been trying to implement a decree obliging providers to install meters for their subscribers amid an uproar over new tariffs and alleged technical difficulties.

'Independent Sunni MPs' Meet Aoun, Insist on Govt. Seat for One of Them

Naharnet/November 09/18/The Consultative Sunni Gathering, a recently-formed grouping of six pro-Hizbullah MPs, held talks Friday with President Michel Aoun in Baabda to press for their representation in the new government. “We said that one of the six MPs should be represented and this is the only solution to us,” MP Abdul Rahim Mrad said after the meeting. “MP Talal Arslan is one individual and he has been represented in the government in one way or another, whereas as his bloc comprises three MPs from the Free Patriotic Movement,” Mrad explained. “We are a gathering that comprises six MPs who won around 30% of the Sunni vote and when the PM-designate rejects representing those who are outside al-Mustaqbal, this contradicts with what everyone has done," the MP added. “Why should (Saad) Hariri monopolize Sunni representation in the government whereas all parties from all other sects are represented in it?” Mrad asked. Noting that Aoun “understood their viewpoint,” the lawmaker said the president asked them to “deal calmly with the issue.”Told that he belongs to Hizbullah’s Loyalty to Resistance bloc, MP Al-Waleed Sukkariyeh meanwhile said: “I’m in the Resistance bloc and the Consultative Gathering is an alliance of a grouping of Sunni MPs who share the same political approach within the Sunni community.”Asked about the possibility that Christian MPs who belong to various blocs could voice the same demand, Sukkariyeh said: “Let them form an alliance and demand whatever they want.”The MPs had visited Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan on Thursday in a bid to garner backing for their call. They also have plans to meet with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in Bkirki. The government was on the verge of formation on October 29 after the Lebanese Forces accepted the portfolios that were assigned to it but a last-minute hurdle over the representation of the aforementioned MPs surfaced. Hizbullah has insisted that the six Sunni MPs should be given a seat in the government, refraining from providing Hariri with the names of its own ministers in a bid to press him. Aoun -- a Hizbullah ally -- threw his support behind Hariri and rejected the demand during a TV interview, noting that the aforementioned MPs are “individuals and not a bloc.”

Mustaqbal Hits Back at Qassem, Abu Faour Speaks of Russian Initiative
Naharnet/November 09/18/Al-Mustaqbal Movement sources snapped back Thursday at Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem over remarks he voiced about the controversial issue of representing the so-called independent Sunni MPs in the new government. “The ball is in the court of the obstructors and the party responsible for obstruction is known by all Lebanese,” the sources told LBCI television. “The PM-designate abides by the constitution and will not turn the formation process into an arena for obstacles… He has accomplished his mission of ironing out the hurdles and others must stop recycling obstacles,” the sources added. Qassem had earlier announced that “the ball is in the court of the PM-designate.” “He has the ability to iron out the obstacles and reach a reasonable and appropriate solution in order to represent the Consultative Gathering,” Hizbullah number two added. MP Wael Abu Faour of the Progressive Socialist Party meanwhile told LBCI that “an expected Russian initiative towards Lebanon may reactivate the stalled cabinet formation process.” Abu Faour was in Moscow on Wednesday along with MP Taymour Jumblat, the head of the PSP-led Democratic Gathering bloc. The government was on the verge of formation on October 29 after the Lebanese Forces accepted the portfolios that were assigned to it but a last-minute hurdle over the representation of the Consultative Gathering – a grouping of pro-Hizbullah Sunni MPs. Hizbullah has insisted that the MPs should be given a seat in the government, refraining from providing Hariri with the names of its own ministers in a bid to press him. President Michel Aoun -- a Hizbullah ally – has thrown his support behind Hariri and rejected the demand during a TV interview.

Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel Calls on Lebanese to Ward off Sedition, Gather to Build Nation Friday 09th November 2018
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Thursday called on all the political forces to make an in-depth assessment of the current situation in Lebanon, urging utmost consciousness amid the critical phase that the country is going through. "If they [political forces] find that everything is going well, then they can stick to the same political approach they are adopting. If not, then they must make a change," Gemayel said in a live interview on MTV. "Everything is in a state of decline due to the political approach that is pushing the country towards the edge," he warned. “We have given a chance to the presidential term since the beginning, but, unfortunately, we are seeing that the same approach based on partitioning and incomplete sovereignty is still prevailing,” Gemayel deplored, blaming the current status quo on the political settlement that was sealed two years ago. “Although we still object to this settlement, we are ready to reach out to everyone, while sticking to our constants and convictions,” Gemayel stated, highlighting that the Kataeb party does not have a personal problem with the president or with the prime minister but rather with the political approach that led to this risky phase.
“Our only goal is to build a better country and to lay the foundations for a better future for the next generations,” he stressed, adding that he highly doubts that the erroneous political approach being currently adopted is actually helping serve this goal. “Being part of this flawed political system does not pave the way for the much-aspired state that we are looking for,” he said. “Being part of the erroneous political system means deferring the problem instead of solving it." Asked about the Kataeb's electoral gains, Gemayel stressed that the party's historic path shouldn't be evaluated based on the number of parliamentary seat it has, noting that a political faction must be assessed based on what it does for the country. "The Kataeb fought the 1958 Revolution with only one lawmaker. In the 1960s, we had subsequently seven, four, eight and then down to one lawmaker. It is not about the number of deputies, but rather about effectiveness," he emphasized. "It's not about what you have, but rather about what you can do for the country."
Gemayel attested to the difficult challenge the party took up in the parliamentary elections, stressing, however, that there is no point in making political gains if this would mean abandoning one's constants. “We had two options: we either go against our constants and convictions in return for more parliamentary seats, or stand firm to what we believe in even if we have to lose.”“When elected as the head of the Kataeb party, I pledged to work hard for a new political approach in the country and not to get drowned in the flaws of the political life in Lebanon. Instead, we want to turn the political life into a mirror that reflects our aspirations and ethics,” Gemayel said. "We decided to do politics differently and to stay away from the system that is based on partitioning."“My goal is to build a country, not to seek personal interests. My political career is entirely focused on making structural change, starting with the mentality, political system and the performance of politicians."
“We admit that we committed mistakes against ourselves, but not once against our country. It is the country that is troubled, not the Kataeb party,” he defended. Gemayel expressed his fear that all the values that the Kataeb party has long defended are today at stake, reiterating unwavering commitment to safeguard the essence behind the Kataeb's existence.“If the Kataeb party wins the whole world and loses itself, it won't be Kataeb anymore.”“We are aware that change cannot be made overnight. We realize that the option the party has chosen will not yield positive results immediately.”“Our martyrs did not sacrifice their lives so that we would yield to this gloomy reality and abandon our values. We must stand firm and resist all attempts to make us become part of this flawed political system. Hold onto your faith in Lebanon!” Gemayel affirmed in his address to the Kataeb partisans.
"Our challenge is big, but the seeds we sowed will flourish, provided that we cling to our constants," he assured, as he reiterated that the Kataeb party does not receive any funds in return for political allegiance. "I am totally proud to say that the Kataeb party's financial situation is at its lowest."
While also addressing the Lebanese, Gemayel urged them not to allow anyone to set barriers between them and to rebuff any attempts to drag them into sectarian sedition. "Our goal is one: building a civilized state." The Kataeb leader revealed that his party was offered to join the government, saying that he refused because he believes that it is impossible for another Cabinet that is full of contradictions to be effective. “We want the government to include a harmonious team. Therefore, it is not compelling to form a government of national unity. As everywhere else in the world, the majority should rule the Cabinet in accordance with the election results,” he explained. “A hybrid government will only turn the situation sour as divergences will persist and grow," he warned. "I fail to sense any sincere will for change and reform in a government formed through partitioning."
“Unfortunately, they are bickering over ministerial seats, while not making any effort to debate the government's vision and plans,” Gemayel criticized. "It is abnormal that, for the past six months, there have been no discussions on future plans for the new Cabinet.”“The way the government formation is being handled is a civil war in disguise,” he said. “A country can only be built with a mentality of peace, not war.” Gemayel renewed his call for a technocrat government, adding that it is no longer acceptable to leave the country in limbo until political forces reach an agreement. “Hariri has two options: either he continues to patch things up or he takes a bold initiative to make a real change,” he stated, urging exceptional steps and drastic measures in order to avert further deterioration. “It is not surprising that Hezbollah wants the Sunni lawmakers affiliated to the March 8 group to be included in the government. They pressured the approval of the proportional voting system to achieve this target,” he noted.
Turning to the economic situation, Gemayel said that the hardships facing the country are the result of the wrong political and fiscal policies adopted throughout the past years, voicing regret that the Lebanese no longer have any perspective for the future as they are gradually losing hope. “According to figures released today by the Finance Ministry for the first six months of 2018, tax revenues have decreased by 3.3% despite the levies that were imposed, the state's expenditures increased by 29% and the public deficit grew by 243%," he elaborated.
“Burying our heads in the sand does not serve the country. It is highly important to examine these figures and search for proper solutions,” he added, slamming the absence of planning, madness and greed as the main reasons behind the gloomy reality of the country’s economy.
“The party was repeatedly accused of populism, whereas we turned out to be right about everything that we warned of. We will continue to speak up the truth no matter what,” Gemayel affirmed. "Had they paid heed to our proposals and warnings, they wouldn't have waited for the latest World Bank report which warned that national debt is expected to rise on an unsustainable path."Gemayel suggested solving the chronic electricity crisis by building plants in collaboration with the private sector, conducting an overhaul in the state administrations, cutting tax evasion and stimulating productive sectors.

Tawile: Lebanon's Economic Figures Jeopardize CEDRE Friday 09th November 2018/Head of the Kataeb's Economic and Social Council, Jean Tawile, described the latest figures issued by the Finance Ministry for the first six months of 2018 as "alarming", warning that they serve as a proof of Lebanon's inability to adhere to the 2018 state budget ratified by the Parliament. According to the Finance Ministry, the state's revenues decreased by 2% while expenditures increased by 28.85%. Tax revenues also shrank by 3.2%, while the public deficit has rocketed by 234.36%. "These figures indicate clearly that the state is failing to manage the country's finances," Tawile said in an interview with the Arab Economic News website. "There is a serious problem about public expenditures, knowing that the cost of the salary scale, which was initially estimated at around $800 million, will likely reach $1.4 billion; this is 70% more than it was expected when the law was approved," he explained. "No one paid heed when we demanded that an in-depth study would be conducted to assess the economic impact of the salary scale and to determine its cost. Today, it has become clear that what we said was right."Tawile stressed that imposing new taxes was not and will never be the optimal solution to this problem, adding that this is shown in the Finance Ministry's figures according to which tax revenues fell by 3.2%. "This clearly means that the new levies have affected the citizens' purchasing power while failing to boost the state' tax revenues. The new levies have also contributed to increasing tax evasion; a key problem that needs to be addressed," he pointed out. Tawile said that a report issued by the Audi Bank in 2017 noted that tax evasion had reached around $4.2 billion in 2016, expecting that it rose to $4.9 in 2017.
"The most major problem lies in the fact that the public deficit is expected to transcend $6 billion, with a debt-to-GDP ratio hitting 11%," Tawile pointed out. "It is worth noting that countries that took part in the CEDRE conference requested that Lebanon's deficit would be decreased by 5% annually.""The soaring deficit jeopardizes CEDRE. It is impossible for Lebanon to deceive the international community and the countries willing to support it," Tawile stressed. "There is no escape from the financial and structural reforms requested in CEDRE. But the main question to ask is: who will carry out those reforms?"

Saade: Discriminatory Laws Need to Be Amended or Abolished in Lebanon Friday 09th November 2018/Kataeb leader's legal adviser, Lara Saade, on Friday stressed that rape is an unjustified crime whose perpetrator, not the victim, should be punished for, voicing the party's readiness to cooperate with all the concerned associations in order to amend or abolish all discriminatory laws. In an interview with Voice of Lebanon radio station, Saade hailed the campaign launched by Abaad NGO to shed the light on the society's unfair judgment against rape victims. “The unfair laws in Lebanon and the discrimination against women are the result of a mentality that exists in our society, prejudices as well as ways of thinking that we inherited from past generations. It is not enough to change laws, as this mentality and preconceptions must also change,” she stressed. Saade pointed out that Article 522 of the Penal Code was amended thanks to the initiative of Abaad NGO along with several lawmakers, including those affiliated to the Kataeb party.In August 2017, the Lebanese Parliament abolished a law that allowed rapists to avoid prison by marrying their victims. "This is not enough because there are other laws that need to be either amended or abrogated, notably those related to sexual harassment, domestic violence, adultery and sexual extortion,” she noted. "Work should be done on three levels: awareness, change of perception of the subject through education in schools and universities, and awareness campaigns," Saade concluded. "The State has a responsibility to shoulder by contributing to this effort."

Berri, Adwan tackle developments

Fri 09 Nov 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, on Friday welcomed at his Ein Teeneh residence, MP George Adwan. The pair discussed the country’s general situation, especially pertaining to the government lineup issue. Talks also touched on the legislative session to be held next Monday and Tuesday.

Taymour Jumblatt meets chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee of Russian Duma

Fri 09 Nov 2018/NNA - Member of Parliament, Taymour Jumblatt, currently on a visit to Moscow, met on Friday with head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Duma, Leonid Slutsky, who stressed the "depth of relations between Lebanon and Russia", particularly with the Progressive Socialist Party. According to a communique issued by the PSP press office, Mr. Slutsky welcomed the big national role played by the PSP, reiterating Russia's support for Lebanon in the face of all challenges. For his part, Jumblatt said that Russia played an important regional and international role, particularly in the Syrian dossier, which has been impacting the situation in Lebanon. Discussions also focused on ways to develop relations between the Russian Duma and the Lebanese Parliament through proposals that will be advanced to Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri.

DCM Edward White Inaugurates New USAID-Funded Pump Station in Ghazzeh
Fri 09 Nov 2018/NNA - U.S. Embassy Beirut Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Edward White inaugurated a new solar-powered pump station and 300 cubic meter reservoir that will provide clean water to the 21,000 residents of Ghazzeh in the West Beqaa. The Lebanon Water Project (LWP), with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), partnered with the Bekaa Water Establishment (BWE) and Ghazzeh Municipality. In his remarks, DCM White reiterated the U.S. Government’s longstanding support for Lebanon’s water sector, saying, “Since 2000, the U.S. Government, through the United States Agency for International Development, has invested more than $180 million in Lebanon’s water sector. Together with our local partners, this support has included numerous activities to increase the quantity and improve the quality of the country’s water supply.”
This $800,000 USAID-funded initiative provides consistent water supplies, saves up to $60,000 in fuel costs per year, and is one of the initiatives that the $65 million USAID-funded Lebanon Water Project is providing to improve Lebanon’s public water services. USAID works with Lebanon’s Water Establishments, local communities, and private industries to promote conservation, encourage sustainable water usage practices, and preserve the Litani River.

Riachy, Bukhari tackle developments

Fri 09 Nov 2018/NNA - Caretaker Minister, Melhem Riachy, on Friday welcomed at his ministerial office Saudi Minister Plenipotentiary Charge d'Affaires in Lebanon, Walid al-Bukhari. Both men held a tour de horizon on the most recent developments at the local and regional scenes.

Army chief inspects 2nd Regiment of land border

Fri 09 Nov 2018/NNA - Lebanese Army commander-in-chief, General Joseph Aoun, on Friday inspected the command of the 2nd Land Border Regiment in Ras Baalbeck, where he met with the regiment commander, officers, and soldiers. Aoun inaugurated the memorial of Martyr Captain Elias Khoury in a barracks bearing his name. Khoury died while fighting a terrorist group that had tried to detonate a car Hermel in 2014. “The Lebanese Army assumes responsibility for the protection and defence of all the Lebanese regions," General Aoun said, stating that the military institution does not forget its martyrs and their families. General Joseph Aoun also inaugurated "The path of the dawn of Jroud", and then visited the relatives of Martyr Sergeant, Kassem Wehbe, in Arsal.

Analysis/Israel and U.S. Set Eyes on Lebanon as Iran-Saudi Proxy Clash Heats Up
تحليل سيالسي لزفي بارئيل من الهآررتس: إسرائيل وأميركا تضعان لبنان نصب اعينهما في ظل الصراع المحتدم بين وكلاء إيران والسعودية فيه
Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/November 09/18
Israel pivots from Syria to Lebanon as Hezbollah amasses political power ■ Iran finds way to bypass U.S. sanctions and retain presence in region
An anonymous op-ed published by the Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese newspaper "Ad-Diyar" at the end of October blasted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman:
"You, Mohammed bin Salman, you pig, you kill innocent children in Yemen. The Arab nation will avenge your entire term. You, Mohammed bin Salman, you pig, you invited a journalist to murder him and you call yourself a man, no – you're a pig, there's no sign of manliness about you. We don't want your representative here; the acting ambassador should get out, because we don't want a representative of the devil in Beirut."
The article was roundly criticized by almost all of Lebanon's political factions and was slapped with a criminal lawsuit at the demand of Lebanese Justice Minister Salim Jreissati. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's response was also in keeping with the required public stance. "The essay does not represent the Lebanese people's or media's morality in any way. This is a failing attempt to bash the relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia and a blatant violation of the laws preserving the freedom of the press," Hariri said.
He omitted the adjective "excellent" from the term "relations" and refrained from praising the work of the acting Saudi ambassador or defending the Saudi crown prince. Perhaps Hariri understands that exactly one year ago, he was in a similar situation to the one Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi found himself in. The butcher's knife may not have been brandished against Hariri, but he was in house arrest for days in a villa adjacent to Riyadh's Ritz Carlton Hotel, where several dozens of Saudi millionaires and billionaires were incarcerated at Crown Prince Mohammed's orders.
Hariri was forced to broadcast a statement that he was resigning from the prime minister's post. In addition, he was humiliated by being forced to join a tour the crown prince held in a few Gulf states to prove the Lebanese leader wasn't being held captive. In contrast to Crown Prince Mohammed's promise to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi that Hariri would be free to return to Beirut after visiting Egypt, the Lebanese prime minister was forced to land in Cyprus before touching down in Beirut. The crown prince's reckless attempt to affect a coup in Lebanon and appoint Hariri's elder brother to the post of prime minister failed because the Hariri family made it clear that it was united in supporting Saad Hariri, despite their close ties to the Saudi royal family.
Mohammed's conduct in that affair should have made it clear to the United States, which was involved in releasing Hariri from house arrest, that the Saudi crown prince is a ticking time bomb.
But the Trump administration, gripped by anti-Iranian obsession, saw the Saudi move as a plausible way to strike at Iran's influence in Lebanon by removing a prime minister who preserved a certain political stability by maintaining a dialogue with Hezbollah. The failed Saudi coup attempt worsened Hariri's status in May's parliamentary election, in which he lost about a third of the seats to his rivals, including Hezbollah. Since the election, Hariri has in vain tried to set up a cabinet. It has transpired that Hezbollah will not only be a major partner in the cabinet, it could also hold the power to block any decision it doesn't like.
According to Lebanon's constitution, any cardinal decision like approving the budget or going to war requires the support of two thirds of the 30-strong cabinet members. So if one movement or coalition of movements has a third plus one minister it can foil any decision – which is exactly what Hezbollah wants. It is also acting to appoint one more minister from among the independent Sunni elected officials who support the organization, which would expand its power to four ministers. Together with the ministers that Lebanese President Michel Aoun is permitted to appoint, Hezbollah will ensure the required third plus one.
Hariri made it clear to Aoun that Hezbollah's appointment of another Sunni minister spells his political suicide and that he wouldn't agree to it under any circumstances. Such an appointment will also come at the expense of the ministers allotted to Hariri's al-Mustaqbal list.
While Aoun supports Hariri's position, he's proved in the past that he can switch his loyalty. After all, after fighting as general against the Syrian occupation and getting exiled to Paris for 15 years, Aoun returned to Beirut only to become Syria's ally and Hezbollah's Christian political partner.
Another difficulty is Hezbollah's demand for the Health Ministry, which could set Lebanon on a collision course with international institutions that refuse to cooperate with a ministry headed by a Hezbollah official, especially following the American sanctions on Hezbollah and Iran.
But Hezbollah is showing no signs of giving in. Increasing its political power in Lebanon is now much more vital to preserve Iran's power in the country, ensuring Lebanon's continued cooperation with Syria and blocking the American influence in Lebanon. The Lebanese leadership's official version is that the country won't be affected by the sanctions on Iran because of the meagre trade scope between the states. Lebanon's banking system is also complying with the sanctions imposed both on Iran and on Hezbollah.
The organization has stated that it doesn't use the Lebanese banks at all and according to Western reports, it acts through straw companies and businesspeople, who pass on the money for its use.
The American administration reported this week that Iran gives Hezbollah some $700 million a year in funds, weapons and ammunition, but in Lebanon the amount is estimated at less than half of that. Hezbollah, which pays salaries to 70,000 employees – including combatants, maintenance workers, officials and activists in welfare institutions – is an important economic force in Lebanon. The money it gets from Iran also oils the wheels of the Lebanese economy. So if Iran is obliged to slash the assistance, it will have an effect on Lebanon's economic stability as well.
Meanwhile in the U.S., Congress is examining an option to freeze or revoke the military aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces, which reached $120 million last year. Congress members are demanding that U.S. President Donald Trump report not only on military cooperation with the Lebanese army but about implementing UN Resolution 1701, which was passed in 2006 as part of the end of the Second Lebanon War. Under the resolution, the Lebanese army must be deployed in South Lebanon and prevent Hezbollah from gaining control south of the Litani River. It must also help UN forces enforce the resolution, which includes disarming Hezbollah.
The Lebanese army was the first to fight with American special forces against the Islamic State's bases on the Lebanon-Syria border, but it also cooperated with Hezbollah for the same goal. As for disarming Hezbollah, nobody in Lebanon would even consider discussing the issue.
Israel has complained for over a decade that Hezbollah does not implement Resolution 1701 as it continues to arm itself and has obtained tens of thousands of missiles since the war. Israel has warned publicly that if Lebanon continues to allow Hezbollah to set up factories to improve its missiles' accuracy, Lebanon itself would become a target instead of Syria.
Perhaps Israel would prefer to focus on Lebanon following its partial severance with Russia after a Russian plane was shot down in Syria – and the subsequent fear that Russia will act more intensively in the war-torn country.
This is problematic though; despite Israel's attacks, it never received fire from Syria. Strikes on Lebanon, however, could reopen the northern front and increase Hezbollah and Iran's strength, in addition to the damage to lives and property.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah is expanding its presence in southern Syria. According to Lebanese and Western intelligence sources, the organization is trying to recruit militia fighters who received American and Israeli support. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that Hezbollah is offering every new recruit some $200 a month and could recruit as many as 2,000 fighters.
This move is intended to replace pro-Iranian militia fighters from Iran and Afghanistan, part of who have retreated to eastern Syria. One of the goals of the sanctions on Iran is to block its involvement in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. But the Iranian strategy, which is based on local forces like the Houthi rebels in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, will continue assisting the country to maintain a presence in these areas without being affected by the sanctions.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 09-10/18
US-Turkish Alert in Northern Syria
London - Ibrahim Hamidi/- Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 9 November, 2018/With the mounting Turkish military pressure on the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in northern Syria, Washington seeks to balance the quest to defeat ISIS and achieve stability in the area with the necessity to maintain relations with Turkey as the two countries are NATO members. A US administration official told Asharq Al-Awsat that his country was “fully committed to the security of Turkey’s borders." Turkey’s concerns about the security of East Euphrates deserve a detailed and serious discussion between us that fits for two close allies,” he said. The Turkish army bombed sites of the Kurdish People Protection Units in Ain al-Arab (Kubani) in northern Syria. The units - the main component of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an ally of the US-led international coalition, are fighting ISIS.
In response, the coalition dispatched patrols in northern Syria, along with the borders with Turkey, in an attempt to warn Ankara and to send signals about the prospects of the coming phase.Although relations between Washington and Ankara were tense at the time, the two sides reached a "road map" for Manbaj at the beginning of June, which included joint patrols along the lines of contact between the factions of the "Euphrates Shield" backed by Ankara and the Syrian Democratic Forces supported by Washington, as well as the removal of units from Manbaj and the formation of a local council with the agreement of the local residents, the US and Turkey. Currently, US-Turkish relations look better than before, with a series of bilateral steps. But the Turkish military began to escalate military pressure on northeastern Syria, where thousands of US troops are deployed with hundreds of coalition forces. Ankara also began to mobilize Syrian factions for possible ground action against the units. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, a US official stressed his country’s commitment to Turkey’s security as a NATO ally. “Turkey is an ally within NATO and a key partner in the international coalition against ISIS,” he said. “For our part, we are fully committed to the security of its borders. The Manjib roadmap is one example of how we held consultations and coordination with Turkey to address its security concerns.”The US official went on to say that Turkey’s concerns about the security of East Euphrates “deserve a detailed and serious discussion between us that fits for two close allies.”“We will continue to work with Turkey to address its concerns at the same time as we stress the need for stability in northeast Syria to ensure the complete defeat of ISIS,” he added. Perhaps one of the foreseeable possibilities is the establishment of a security line along the border, in which units will be removed and patrols will be conducted by Arabs from the Syrian Democratic Forces and the International Alliance to meet Turkey’s demands. According to an international official, Washington’s allies in the east of the Euphrates will be in the next phase under a two-sided pressure: Turkey, which bombs the units’ areas on one hand, and the Arab tribes that will move against Washington’s allies on the other. But Washington is taking control of this region as part of its strategy for the Middle East, which includes confronting Iran to cut the supply route of Tehran - Baghdad and Damascus - Beirut. In this regard, the US official said: “The mission of the US military forces in Syria is to ensure the total defeat of ISIS. The United States also relies on the use of many elements of the national force to achieve two additional strategic objectives of the same importance in Syria: to ensure the withdrawal of forces operating under the leadership of Iran from all Syrian territory, and to promote efforts to reach a peaceful political solution to the conflict in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2254.” He stressed that the key to a political solution was the formation of the constitutional committee before the end of the year, highly valuing a statement issued in this regard by the leaders of Turkey, Russia, France and Germany after the Istanbul summit.
“We are optimistic about this announcement,” the US official said.

IS Claims Attack after Australia Knifeman Kills 1, Hurts 2
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 09/18/Police said a Somali immigrant killed one person and wounded two others in a rush-hour stabbing spree in the heart of Australia's second city Friday, labelling it a terrorist attack.
The unnamed man drove a 4X4 truck loaded with gas bottles into the bustling city centre of Melbourne, ignited the vehicle in a ball of flames and then attacked passers-by with a knife, police said. He stabbed three people before being confronted by armed officers who eventually shot him in the chest. One victim died at the scene and the attacker died later in hospital. Counter-terrorism police and intelligence officers are still piecing together how the incident occurred, but said the attacker was known to intelligence services. The group Islamic State -- which often claims responsibility for such attacks -- said via its propaganda arm that the perpetrator was an "Islamic State fighter and carried out the operation." Witness footage showed police struggling for at least a minute to corral the towering man -- who was wearing a dark tunic -- as he lunged, slashed and stabbed wildly at two officers.
At least two members of the public bravely stepped in to help police. One man was armed with a cafe chair while another -- swiftly dubbed an "Aussie hero" on social media -- repeatedly tried to ram the suspect with an empty metal shopping cart. But the attacks continued unabated before one officer opted for lethal force, shooting the suspect in the chest. "We are now treating this as a terrorism event," said Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton, who said the suspect was "someone that is known" to police through family connections.The unnamed assailant was said to reside in Melbourne's northwestern suburbs, but had come to Australia from Somalia in or around the 1990s, when the country was ravaged by a civil war. Witness Chris Newport, 60, described how he first heard a loud noise and saw a truck on fire, rolling across the tram tracks before a second, louder bang. "He was holding a knife and running around the place," he said of the attacker. "Someone had a shopping trolley and was trying to stop him. Two police turned up really quickly, but there was only a couple of them. He started to go at them and there was a loud bang -- they shot him," he told AFP.
Double blow for city
The authorities will face inevitable questions about how someone known to the intelligence services nonetheless managed to carry out an attack. Officers said they "are not looking for anyone further at this early stage" and there was no immediate evidence of an ongoing threat related to the attack. The injured police officers are being treated for cuts and scrapes and are not thought to be in a serious condition. Forensic investigators combed through the scene late Friday, where the dead victim's body lay covered in a white plastic sheet.
A three-block-wide exclusion zone has been set up by police. Melbourne is Australia's second largest city, a cosmopolitan metropolis of almost five million people famed for its cafes, bars, restaurants and high standard of living. Friday's attack is a double blow for the city as it coincides with an ongoing murder trial of 28-year-old James Gargasoulas, accused of ploughing his car into crowds in the same area in 2017, killing six people. But the situation away from the immediate crime scene quickly returned to normal. State Premier Daniel Andrews described the attack as "evil" but said the city would not be bowed. British Prime Minister Theresa May offered her support to the country. "My thoughts are with the people of Melbourne and all of Australia following today's appalling attack. We stand with you against terror," she tweeted. Government sources say Australia has been the target of around a dozen terror plots in recent years. Few have been successful, sophisticated or caused mass casualties, but this latest attack is likely to fuel the already heated debate over migration.

US’s Bolton says more sanctions likely on Iran
AFP, Paris/Friday, 9 November 2018/US National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Friday that more sanctions were possible on Iran just days after a new round of measures touted as the most punishing ever on Tehran entered into force. Bolton said two rounds of unilateral US sanctions introduced by President Donald Trump in August and most recently on Monday had had a “quite significant” effect on the Iranian economy and the country’s actions abroad. “I think that you’re going to see even more sanctions coming into play over time and much tighter enforcement of the sanctions,” Bolton told reporters in Paris.
Asked what would be the target of the sanctions, he replied, “There are other things we can do in the terrorism and counterterrorism area.” The International Monetary Fund forecasts that the 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.
Belligerent activity
“We’ve seen indications that it has affected their belligerent activity in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Not enough yet, but it’s beginning to have that effect,” Bolton said. “We’ve seen a continuation and exacerbation of political discontent inside Iran. That opposition continues to manifest itself. Economically the Iranian currency is going through the floor, inflation has quadrupled and the country is clearly in recession.” He said “the objective is still to drive Iranians exports of oil to zero” despite waivers given to the biggest buyers of Iranian oil, including China, India and South Korea. “It’s with some satisfaction that I noticed today the price of oil is down,” he added.

Turkey opens gate with neighboring Syria’s Afrin

Reuters, Ankara/Friday, 9 November 2018/A border gate between Turkey and Syria’s Afrin opened on Thursday, Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said on Friday.
The border crossing is dubbed “Olive Branch” after the Turkish operation that saw Ankara take the northern Afrin region from Syrian Kurdish forces this spring. The Turkish military has pushed into the northwest in two offensives, the first being “Euphrates Shield”, when it drove ISIS militants from territory along the border in 2016. On Wednesday, US-led coalition air strikes against ISIS extremist group killed 20 of the extremists Wednesday as they attacked an oil field in eastern Syria, a monitor said. Read more

Brent Oil Drops under $70 for First Time since April
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 09/18/Oil prices and stock markets slumped Friday, with Brent North Sea crude tumbling under $70, while the dollar strengthened as the Federal Reserve flagged more US interest rate hikes. Brent struck a seven-month low points on surging US energy stockpiles before a weekend meeting of major oil producing nations. European and Asian stock markets slid as a rally triggered by unsurprising US midterm election results faded further. In midday deals, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index lost 0.8 percent, as markets waited also on a Brexit deal to smooth Britain's exit from the European Union. In the eurozone, Frankfurt's DAX 30 index dropped 0.6 percent and the Paris CAC 40 retreated 1.0 percent, also as worries resurfaced over Italy's troubled economy. US stock markets closed mostly lower Thursday, with Asian equities following suit on Friday. Tokyo ended down 1.1 percent. Hong Kong shed 2.4 percent and Shanghai finished 1.4 percent lower, also after data showed another drop in Chinese factory prices, while tech firms were hit by a series of weak earnings results from mainland firms. Benchmark oil contract, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in January, slumped to $69.13 per barrel, the lowest level since April. It later recovered to $69.75, but still down almost a dollar since Thursday's close. New York's West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for December tanked to a February low of $59.28 per barrel -- later trading at $59.82.
"European markets are following their Asian counterparts lower... as a hawkish Fed quelled bullish sentiment seen throughout much of the week," noted Joshua Mahony, analyst at IG trading group. "The dollar has been the centre of much of the post-Fed price action, with recent declines in the greenback reversing overnight. "The strength in the dollar has helped enhance the decline in the pound," which took a knock also from mixed British growth data, he added.
Shares in European energy companies meanwhile tanked in the wake of oil's drop.
BP shed 2.0 percent, Shell gave up 1.0 percent and Total lost 2.5 percent.
Stock markets had enjoyed a midweek rally after traders bet that the expected gridlock on Capitol Hill would keep US President Donald Trump from pushing through measures that would likely stoke inflation and in turn rate hikes. Rising US borrowing costs have been one of the major issues weighing on global equities this year. However after its latest policy meeting Thursday, the Fed repeated that it expected "further gradual increases" in the key interest rate as the US economy strengthens.
- Key figures around 1230 GMT -Oil - Brent Crude: DOWN 90 cents at $69.75 per barrel
Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 85 cents at $59.82
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.8 percent at 7,081.18 points
Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.6 percent at 11,454.46
Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.0 percent at 5,082.81
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.8 percent at 3,211.49
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.1 percent at 22,250.25 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 2.4 percent at 25,601.92 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 1.4 percent at 2,598.87 (close)
New York - Dow: FLAT at 26,191.22 (close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1349 from $1.1364 at 2200 GMT
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3028 from $1.3063
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 113.85 yen from 114.07 yen

Somalia Blasts Leave around 20 Dead, Dozens Wounded
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 09/18/About 20 people were killed and dozens wounded Friday in a string of explosions near a popular hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu, police said. "We are getting (information that) about 20 people died in the attack and more than 40 others were wounded. Most of these people were civilians who were passing by the area when the attack occurred," Abdulahi Ahmed, a Somali security official, said.
Twin car bombs exploded in the capital within moments of each other, followed by gunfire and a third blast, sending thick plumes of black smoke into the sky, according to an AFP reporter.
Mogadishu faces frequent bombings at the hands of Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate which has been fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed Somali government for over a decade.
The blasts occurred near the Sahafi hotel and Criminal Investigation Division (CID) police headquarters. "The target of the attack was the Sahafi hotel and even though the attackers used car bombs to make their way into the premises, the security forces stopped them," said Ahmed.
"All of the four Shabaab attackers were killed outside" the hotel building, he stressed.
An initial "two blasts struck the perimeter of the Sahafi hotel along the main road," said police official Ibrahim Mohamed, who earlier gave a preliminary toll of more than 10 dead.
Witnesses said a third blast came from a suicide bomber who detonated an explosives-laden vest at the hotel's front entrance, as three attackers in Somali military uniform were shot at the rear entrance.
Abdulkadir Abdirahman, director of Mogadishu’s Aamin ambulance service, earlier said his team had recovered 10 bodies and 40 wounded. But Bashir Hassan Farah, another ambulance medic, later said he saw 20 dead bodies, most of them civilians. According to sources, the fatalities included the son of the owner of the hotel, Abdirashid Ilqeyte, who was killed in a Shabaab attack on the establishment in November 2015. The bombs destroyed parts of the hotel perimeter despite layered security, and several shops and other buildings nearby were destroyed. Sources said several civilian minibuses and rickshaws that were passing by when the blast occurred, were destroyed and passengers killed and wounded. "There was chaos after the blast. Some of the vehicles were buses, which caught fire. I could see people screaming as they fled the buses," witness Fadumo Ali told AFP. "This area is always dense and traffic jams are normal. This increased the casualties. Most of the dead and wounded were civilians," added Awil Mohamed, another witness. The Shabaab claimed responsibility.
"Armed members from the Shabab Al-Mujahideen carried (out) a complex attack targeting Sahafi hotel in Mogadishu where senior Somali government officials stay," the militant group said in a statement quoted by a pro-Shabaab website. "The attack was opened with a martyrdom car bomb blast and the fighters made their way into the building." The Shabaab were forced out of the capital by African Union troops in 2011. But they still control parts of the countryside and attack government, military, and civilian targets, seemingly at will, in Mogadishu and towns in the region.

Syria Regime Attack Kills 23 Rebels in Truce Zone
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 09/18/Syrian government forces killed 23 rebels near Idlib province on Friday, the deadliest clash to rock a buffer zone where a Russian-Turkish truce is to be enforced. The attack on a position held by the Jaish al-Izza rebel group took place on the edge of the northwestern province of Idlib, in an area due to be de-militarised. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, government forces moved in to take a high building held by the rebels in a rural area of neighbouring Hama province. Idlib and some surrounding areas are the last major rebel bastion in Syria, where the Russian-backed government has in recent months retaken much of the territory it had lost since the civil war erupted in 2011. It had threatened an assault on rebel territory, home to around three million people, but a deal for a de-militarised buffer zone around it was reached in September between Moscow and rebel backer Ankara. Several deadly skirmishes have occurred since the deal but 23 is the highest number of known fatalities in a single incident inside the planned buffer zone, the Observatory said.
- Deadliest clash -"This is the highest death toll in the de-militarised zone since it was announced," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based monitoring group, told AFP.
He said at least 35 rebel fighters were also wounded in the clash but could not provide a casualty toll for government forces. It was not clear what prompted the attack, which did not appear to signal any large-scale government offensive or otherwise threaten the September 17 truce deal. The government troops pulled out of the buffer zone after the flare-up, the Observatory said, adding that the fighting went on for much of the night. Jaish al-Izza is a rebel group which was formerly supported by the United States and is mostly active in the Lataminah area of Hama province, where the attack took place. It is not a member of the main rebel alliance in the Idlib area and after initially rejecting the truce deal struck by Moscow and Ankara, it had begun complying and pulling back its heavy weaponry. The withdrawal of the most radical fighters and the removal of heavy weapons from the planned buffer zone has not happened in full but the agreement successfully averted an all-out government assault.
- Turkey and Russia -Aid organisations had warned that a fully-fledged offensive on Idlib could spark the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the civil war so far.Moscow is expected to restrain Damascus while Ankara is supposed to use its leverage on the rebels, including jihadists, to get them to regroup in specified areas and halt attacks on strategic regime-held territory. Only sporadic incidents have broken out in the 15- to 20-kilometre (nine- to 12-mile) buffer zone in the past two months, killing 18 civilians and three fighters before Friday's clash. The task assigned to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is near impossible, observers say, but the pause in fighting in Idlib has been largely respected. "Erdogan knows Russia needs him to ultimately convert its military victory into a political victory in Syria," said Karim Emile Bitar, of the Paris-based Institute of International and Strategic Affairs. He has since shifted the focus to northeastern Syria, where he has been threatening a military assault against Kurdish-held areas along the border. The Kurds are the main allies of the US-led coalition in its push against the last pocket controlled by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria. In response to the Turkish threats, they have suspended their involvement in the fight against the jihadists, leaving Washington in a bind.

Qatar pays Gaza salaries via Israel amid Fatah condemnation

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Friday, 9 November 2018/Palestinian civil servants in Gaza Strip which is under the control of Hamas movement received salary payments, after a $15 milion Qatari cash infusion was handed to Hamas with Israeli approval. However, Palestinian Fatah movement headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the move, saying Qatar was working to consolidate the Palestinian divide and that Hamas is selling the Palestinian blood at a $15 milion price tag. The $15 million Qatari cash infusion which is the first of a total of $90 million that would come into Gaza over the next six months with Israeli approval, arrived via Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport, before it was transported by land to Gaza Strip, in the car of Qatar’s ambassador to Gaza, Mohammed al-Emadi, through the Erez crossing with Beit Hanoun, north of Gaza Strip.Israeli media revealed that the lists of Palestinian civil servants who were paid, went through “security screening” in Israel within a process agreed upon by the Qatari mediators.
“Humiliating masquerade”
Meanwhile, Hamas’s political rivals, the Palestinian Authority and the Fatah movement described the move as a “humiliating masquerade” and stressed that Hamas, throughout the previous period, was circumventing the Palestinian cause under the name of the “March of Return” and the “Resistance’s Weapons” with occasional shelling exchanges on Gaza border with Israel every Friday since last March, amid an Israeli blockade. Under these slogans, weekly bloody marches were staged leading to the deaths of more than 220 Palestinians by the Israeli forces over the last eight months.
But the real goal of these marches, according to critics of Hamas, is to put pressure to resolve the crisis of the salaries of thousands of Hamas members working in the administrative apparatus in the Gaza Strip since the coup against the Palestinian Authority.
Branded a terrorist group in the West, Hamas has been under years of embargo by Israel and neighboring Egypt. Hamas leaders said in the past they had received funds from other countries, including Iran. Observers for Qatar were present at all 12 post offices across Gaza to monitor the salary disbursements. Employees had to present their identity card and be finger-printed.
Qatari envoy’s convoy stoned
Palestinian protestors stoned the Qatari ambassador’s convoy during his visit to Gaza on Friday, as shown in a video that was widely shared on social media.
Hamas employees exceed 40,000 person
Hamas has hired over 40,000 people in Gaza since 2007 but many appeared to have been excluded from the list of payees. “They told me they don’t have money for me,” one employee told Reuters on condition that he would not be named. “Maybe Israel vetoed my name?”
Officials from Hamas, Qatar and Israel have been largely silent about the details of the Gaza payouts arrangement. But a member of right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet played down their significance. “This is not money that is going to Hamas activities. It is money that is going to the salaries of civil servants, in an orderly, organized manner,” Environment Minister Zeev Elkin told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM. Elkin accused Abbas, whose peace talks with Netanyahu stalled in 2014 and who is boycotting the United States because of its pro-Israel policies, of cutting salaries to “inflame Gaza, because he has not been successful on other fronts”. “The Qataris came along and said: ‘We are willing to pay this instead of Abu Mazen (Abbas), in order to calm Gaza down’. What does it matter who pays it?” Elkin said.
Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the executive committee of the Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organization, criticised the move. “Arrangements through Qatar and elsewhere prolong the crisis of Palestinian division,” Abu Youssef told Reuters. Doha’s donation, as well as UN-Egyptian truce mediation and winter rains, have tamped down the violence at the border, where Gaza medics say Israeli army fire has killed more than 220 Palestinians since the protests began on March 30. Israel, which says its lethal force prevents armed infiltration, has lost a soldier to a Gaza sniper and tracts of forest and farmland to incendiary material flown over the frontier on kites or helium balloons. “This is one of the fruits of the ‘March of Return’,” Abraham Baker, a police officer who received a full salary, said, using the Palestinian term for the protests, which demand rights to lands lost to Israel’s in the 1948 war of its founding.
*With Reuters

Flash floods in Jordan kill four people in Dabaa, Madaba
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Friday, 9 November 2018/Four people were killed on Friday in Jordan’s Dabaa and Madaba after torrential rains swept across several parts of the country, according to Al Arabiya news channel correspondent. The Jordanian civil defense rescued a young girl and recovered the body of her sister after heavy flash floods swept their father’s vehicle in the Malih area of the governorate of Madaba, while 11 others were injured in different areas of the country. A spokesman for the Civil Defense Iyad al-Amro, told Al Arabiya that members of the Civil Defense were searching for three other missing members of the surviving child’s family. Jumana Ghunaimat, Minister of State for Media Affairs and government spokesperson, said that the security departments are coordinating the rescue operations in more than one area which had heavy rainfall, noting that 3,762 tourists were evacuated in the city of Petra in southern Jordan. The southern part of Jordan witnessed flash floods due to torrential rain, especially in the areas of Maan, Wadi Musa, Petra tourist city, and the provinces of Madaba and al-Balqa. The Minister of the Interior, the Minister of State for Public Information, the Government’s spokesperson and other senior officials gathered at the National Center for Security and Crisis Management to monitor the situation. On October, 25, at least 18 people, mainly schoolchildren and teachers, were killed in a flash flood near Jordan’s Dead Sea that happened while they were on an outing, rescuers and hospital workers said.

Two Iraqi Ministers Risk Losing their Jobs

Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/- Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 09 November, 2018/The Iraqi Accountability and Justice Commission announced Thursday that two ministers approved by Iraq’s parliament may be sacked before the rest of cabinet is agreed after finding out they were members of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The Commission is responsible for the policy of “de-Baathification,” or ensuring no Saddam-era officials or senior members of his Baath party play a role in Iraq’s government. The Commission sent a letter to the parliament over two nominees to the 22-minister government in order to complete its formation, which further complicated the situation. "Two names will be subject to procedures by the Accountability and Justice Commission," said Commission spokesman Fares Abdel-Sattar, without specifying who. He said in a press statement on Thursday that the body has "sent a letter to the Council of Representatives, including a detailed explanation of the status of each of the 22 names.” A parliamentary source told AFP the officials were Minister of Youth and Sports Ahmad al-Obeidi and Minister of Communications Naim al-Rubaye, who were only approved by lawmakers last month. Both received parliament's vote of confidence on October 25 along with 12 other ministers. Rubaye was reportedly a member of the intelligence services and a mid-level Baath party official, a security source told AFP, but it was unclear what role Obeidi had. According to the parliamentary official, these two ministers could be sacked and replaced by a vote of confidence in the future. The name of the de-Baathification Commission, which was established during the era of US civil administrator for Iraq Paul Bremer and following the ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, has been changed to "Accountability and Justice".
Almost six months after the legislative elections, the Iraqi government is still not complete. Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, has only offered part of his cabinet to parliament because some of his candidates have been opposed by the Council of Representatives, especially those nominated to head the internal and defense portfolios. The Commission’s announcement comes in response to a request submitted by Parliament Speaker Mohammad Halbousi in October 25 to ensure detailed and accurate information about government candidates.

Damascus: Sweida Hostages Freed

Damascus - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 9 November, 2018/The last 19 Druze women and children abducted by ISIS in July from the southern Syrian province of Sweida were freed Thursday and welcomed by their relatives, Damascus announced. The terrorist group seized on July 25 about 30 people when it rampaged through Sweida from a desert enclave outside the city, killing more than 200 people and detonating suicide vests. ISIS executed a 19-year-old male student among the hostages in August and then a 25-year-old woman in early October. The militants said a 65-year-old woman held by the group died from illness. Two women and four children were released last month in a first step of an agreement that also saw women and children related to ISIS extremists freed from regime jails. Local journalist Nour Radwan said the hostages were brought to a military base in the north of Sweida province, where they were met by family members. The group would next head to Sweida city, where dozens of people had gathered to welcome them home, said Radwan. State TV aired footage of the women, children and teenagers in a desert area standing with soldiers who gave them bread and water. The soldier then asked the women and children for their names and wrote them on a piece of paper. The TV later aired footage showing the former hostages having meals around a table.

'Hamas, Jihad' Call for Armed Resistance in West Bank

Ramallah - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 9 November, 2018/"Hamas" and "Palestinian Islamic Jihad" Movements called for adopting armed resistance option in the West Bank to face the settlement project. “This option will remain present by our people’s will,” said Hamas in a statement. The Jihad Movement for its part noted that this option is a normal response to settlers’ crimes. Both movements' stances were announced after injuring two settlers in an attack near Ramallah. Two Israelis were lightly injured Wednesday during a shooting attack near a Jewish settlement in the central West Bank, Israeli army spokesman said.
The army said the two were on a bus that was fired upon on Route 466 near Beit El, north of Ramallah and were injured by glass after a window shattered due to gunfire. Israeli troops were searching the area for suspects, it added. The Israeli army closed the roadblocks there, deployed units on the outskirts of the town and began combing to find the gunmen. Recent escalations have raised Israeli fears after a Palestinian attacker killed Israelis in an industrial area in October and carried out stabbing crimes later. Hamas hailed the shooting attack on the settlers’ bus near Ramallah and Israel’s failure to detain resistor Ashraf Naalowa from last month’s operation. “Palestinians in all West Bank’s cities are now imposing heroic feuds in the face of the occupation," Hamas said. It stressed that the confrontations fought by the people in Nablus and the heroes of Jenin camp against the occupation forces, is a message to the leaders of the enemy and settlers that people support the resistance and its choice to defeat the Israeli occupation. “Our enemy leaders must understand our people’s message. No security for their project, and that they must leave our beloved land,” Hamas stressed, adding that persistence of settlers to loot their land will only be met by the resistance’s escalation. "Jihad" also blessed the escalation in the resistance’s operations in the West Bank, considering it a normal response to the Israeli army and settlers’ crimes. It considered this escalation a proof of the failure of arrest and prosecution policies adopted by the occupation authorities against the Palestinian people in the West Bank. “These operations form a unit in the confrontation against occupation and against terrorism and aggression,” the movement stressed.

US Pushing for ‘Calibrated’ Approach on Zero Iran Oil Exports
Washington - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 9 November, 2018/The United States is determined to push Iranian oil exports to zero, US Special Representative Brian Hook said on Wednesday, through a 'calibrated' approach using maximum economic pressure without lifting oil prices.
Hook warned all ports and insurance companies to steer clear of Iranian ships, which it called a "floating liability" after the imposition of sweeping US sanctions. "We are going to be continuing our path to zero," Hook said. "We do want to achieve maximum pressure without harming friends or allies and we don't want to lift the price of oil. ... We have calibrated this very well."His comments came after the deputy head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, said that his country can flourish under sanctions and would defeat the United States in the economic war. The United States resumed sanctions on Iran's oil, shipping and banking industries on Monday after President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal earlier this year. It granted temporary exemptions to eight countries allowing them to continue importing Iranian oil, although it said the ultimate goal is to completely halt exports from Iran.Trump said during a press conference on Wednesday that his administration granted the temporary waivers in order to stop the price of oil from going up.

US Clinches Commitment from Iraq after Sanctions Waiver

Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 9 November, 2018/The United States has granted Iraq a waiver to allow it to keep importing electricity from neighboring Iran despite renewed American sanctions on Tehran, a US official said Wednesday. The US State Department's representative on Iran, Brian Hook, said that Iraq had been granted a special permission. "We granted Iraq a waiver to allow it to continue to pay for its electricity imports from Iran. We are confident that this will help Iraq limit electricity shortages in the south," Hook told reporters in Washington. Iraq is now expected to demonstrate to the US how it would wean itself off Iranian gas, a well-informed Iraqi source told AFP. "The US gave us 45 days to give them a plan on how we will gradually stop using Iranian gas and oil," the source said. On Monday, the United States re-imposed tough sanctions on Iraq's financial institutions, shipping lines, energy sector, and petroleum products. The exemption granted to Iraq came after talks between Iraqi and US officials, including from the White House and Treasury, the source said. This week, Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi said Baghdad was in talks with both sides to protect its interests. "Iraq is not a part of the sanctions regime. It talks to everyone, and does not want to get involved in a conflict that it's not a part of," he told reporters Tuesday. Gutted by the international embargo of the 1990s and the US-led invasion of 2003, Iraq's industries produce little. Instead, its markets are flooded with Iranian goods -- from canned food and yoghurt to carpets and cars. These non-hydrocarbon imports amounted to some $6 billion (five billion euros) in 2017, making Iran the second-largest source of imported goods in Iraq. Perhaps most consequential for Iraq's 39 million people is their dependency on Iran for electricity. Chronic cuts, which often leave homes powerless for up to 20 hours a day, were a key driving factor behind weeks of massive protests in Iraq this summer.
To cope with shortages, Baghdad pipes in natural gas from Tehran for its plants and also directly buys 1,300 MW of Iranian-generated electricity.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 09-10/18
Europeans React to US Elections
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/November 09/18
"Many commentators around the world have looked at the US election results as a chicken looks at a knife: not knowing exactly what to do with it.... It is now proven that Donald Trump's election was not an accident. The victory in the Senate, even if anticipated, shows for the first time in a great democracy that a populist can keep power after having begun to exercise it." — Les Échos.
"...Trump is expected significantly to increase pressure on Europeans to invest the target of two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense. Above all, Berlin will face pressure to spend billions and billions of euros, because the federal government is far from achieving this goal." — Die Welt.
"Many in the country had hoped that the first full electoral verdict on the presidency of Donald Trump would deliver a decisive repudiation of Trumpism. The results do not bear this out." — Irish Times.
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives with Vice President Mike Pence to give remarks a day after the midterm elections on November 7, 2018 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
The American midterm elections attracted intense interest in Europe, where much of the political and media establishment are hostile to U.S. President Donald J. Trump, and many had openly hoped that the vote on November 6 would weaken him and his legislative agenda.
Newspapers and magazines across Europe provided saturation coverage of the elections. The overwhelming majority of commentaries and editorials, while customarily vitriolic in tone, grudgingly acknowledged that the midterm results did not amount to the total repudiation of the Trump Administration and may even help the president's chances for reelection in November 2020.
In terms of transatlantic relations, many observers raised fears that if the Democrats, who won control of the House of Representatives, succeed in thwarting Trump's domestic initiatives, the president may place more focus on foreign policy and increase pressure on free-riding European allies to spend more for their own defense.
What follows is a brief summary of some of the European media coverage of this year's U.S. midterm elections.
In Britain, the BBC, in an article entitled, "Midterm Election Results: What it all Means for Trump," wrote:
"Even handing over power to Democrats in the House of Representatives may have a bit of a silver lining for the president. Now he'll have someone to blame if the economy takes a turn for the worse (and, given business cycle realities, it might). He's got a ready-made explanation for why he can't get anything done in the next two years — and a pitch for what needs to change in the next election.
"Day in and day out, he'll have a set of clear political opponents to contrast himself with.
"Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama lost control of the House in their first term in office and went on to win re-election."
The left-leaning Guardian, in an article, "Don't be Fooled. The Midterms Were Not a Bad Night for Trump," agreed:
"While there was a Democratic 'blue wave,' it was modest, in line with usual midterm shifts, particularly when one party is in charge of all the branches of government. Trump will celebrate this as a victory, which is not without merit.
Another Guardian article, "Democratic Presidential Frontrunner for 2020 Fails to Emerge from Midterms," observed:
"As many as two dozen Democrats are said to be seriously considering running for president. The sprawling field spans the ideological spectrum of the left and is distinguished by gender, race and age....
"The major fault line is between those who believe the party's next presidential nominee should be unapologetically liberal who can boost turnout among progressives, minorities, young people and other base voters, and those who believe the party should nominate a candidate who can chart a more moderate course that appeals to independent and undecided voters in battleground states."
In an opinion essay, Guardian commentator Jonathan Freedland wrote:
"While Democrats in the House can launch investigations, Republicans in the Senate can keep appointing judges. Trump retains the power to put a third justice on the supreme court, as well as packing lower benches with reliable conservatives who will be in place — making decisive rulings on civil rights and the like — for the next 40 years. That could prove Trump's most lasting legacy.
The left-leaning Independent, in an article entitled, "What Does the Democrats' Win in the House of Representatives Mean for US Politics?" wrote:
"The Democrats may be in a stronger position than they have been in Congress for eight years, but without majorities in both congressional houses they will still struggle to block many of the Trump administration's political moves....
"Donald Trump has already registered his 2020 campaign slogan as 'Keep America Great.'....
"Most presidents who lose one or even both houses in their first midterms go on to re-election — including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon."
The center-right Evening Standard, in an opinion essay, "Midterms Show It's Going to Take a Lot More to Topple Donald Trump," wrote:
"There is a difference between an electoral scolding and a tornado of public fury. Even the most partisan opponent of the President would be hard pushed to describe these elections as transformational in character....
"Trump was indeed chastised by the US electorate: but scarcely to the extent that he might have feared, and many hoped. The resilience of his political base and the strength of the US economy — which has recorded growth near or above three percent in five of the seven quarters since he took office — saw him through: bruised but still standing.
"What will it take to topple this man? A lot more than the Democrats have yet mustered."
In another Evening Standard commentary, "Moral Rage Alone Won't Win Power," essayist Ayesha Hazarika observed:
"The big lesson for the Left is that while liberal disgust at Trump was a powerful driver, it isn't enough.... This is a battle of ideas, who we are and what we believe. Even if you loathe Trump and the Republicans, you know their script. Low taxes, low regulation, jobs, borders, traditional values and guns. Make America Great Again. Not one political geek in the room knew what the core positive Democrat message was, or if one even existed."
In France, the center-right Le Figaro, the country's oldest national daily, in an article entitled, "Trump in a Strong Position for 2020," wrote:
"The Trump Fortress is besieged but its ramparts are solid. By depriving it of its majority in the House of Representatives, but strengthening it in the Senate, Tuesday's elections normalized a presidency that the Democrats hoped to disqualify as a historical anomaly....
"Although his ability to govern is going to be seriously undermined, the president feels he is in a good position to be re-elected in two years. His fiercest opponents, who dreamed of having his rhetoric and nationalism disqualified at the ballot box, have ended up with a president who has become 'normal' in two elections, firmly established at the head of his party and ready to fight in 2020."
The Journal du Dimanche, in an article entitled, "Donald Trump Lost Midterms, Not the Presidential Election of 2020," wrote:
"For the next two years, Donald Trump will rule the country with a Democratic House of Representatives, which will be able to block his reforms and launch investigations into his affairs. As he has shown several times since his campaign in 2016, the billionaire is never as formidable as when he is attacked.
"While he has run his political program for two years, he could use the Democratic opposition to tighten even more his base around him: nothing like a common and identified adversary."
France's leading business newspaper, Les Échos, in a commentary, "Trump, Beaten but Still Standing," observed:
"Many commentators around the world have looked at the US election results as a chicken looks at a knife: not knowing exactly what to do with it....
"In fact, Donald Trump never stopped proposing a referendum on his personality and style. His bet is partly won: it is now proven that his election was not an accident. The victory in the Senate, even if anticipated, shows for the first time in a great democracy that a populist can keep power after having begun to exercise it.
"The battle will now rage in Washington on the assumption of a second term of Donald Trump in 2020. But what lessons can be learned from the vote for the rest of the world and Europe? The choice by voters for someone with a big ego as a remedy for the supposed powerlessness of 'traditional' leaders is not a parenthesis. On the Old Continent, and particularly in France, where opposition parties are weak, the political and economic elites must realize this."
In Germany, the center-right Die Welt, in an article entitled, "For the Europeans, Everything Could Now Get Worse," lamented that Trump might increase the pressure on Europeans to spend more on defense:
"The mood between the US and the EU is likely to worsen further. Put simply, Trump is expected significantly to increase pressure on Europeans to invest the target of two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense. Above all, Berlin will face pressure to spend billions and billions of euros, because the federal government is far from achieving this goal."
In an analysis for the left-leaning Die Zeit, columnist Martin Klingst wrote:
"From a German perspective, the result of these midterms is unclear: Donald Trump's Republicans lose the majority in the House of Representatives, but expand their majority in the Senate. And even the elections of governors in more than 30 American states are not as devastating for Republicans as expected. Why, one wonders, have voters not punished the unpopular Trump and his party far more severely?
"The answer is simple: Because this election took place not in Germany, but in America, which, by reestablishing a balance of power in Congress, returned to political normality on November 6, despite and because of Trump....
"These midterm elections have also shown: Donald Trump remains an unpredictable and strong opponent for the Democrats. It will not be easy for them to take the president out of office in two years. Almost everywhere Trump fought in this Republican campaign, his supporters have won. By contrast, his party critics have lost."
The Frankfurter Rundschau, in, "Trump Will Exploit the Weaknesses of the Democrats," wrote:
"The Democrats have a chance in the presidential elections in 2020 only if they prove their own political ability, drive a coordinated course and advertise with charismatic minds for a change. Currently, the party lacks all three conditions. Trump will exploit this weakness. He will flatter power-hungry faction leader Nancy Pelosi today and demonize her tomorrow. He will lure the Democrats with poisoned offers and defame them as blockers if they refuse."
Germany's leading business newspaper, Handelsblatt, in an article, "The Success of the Democrats Will Not Slow Down Trump's 'America First' Policy," wrote:
"Seldom before has the world followed the congressional elections in the USA with such interest. Above all, people from outside the country wanted to know one thing: Is US President Donald Trump a unique industrial accident in American history or a message for a permanent change of course for the world power? The midterm elections have given no clear answer — at least nothing definitive.
"Although Trump is politically weakened by the victory of the Democrats in the House of Representatives ... for the rest of the world hardly anything changes.
"The Democrats share Trump's protectionist instincts and will particularly support Trump's aggressive course on China. Even Europe cannot hope for support from the now-Democratic-dominated House of Representatives in the fight against Trump's punitive tariffs. Trump has enough leeway to tighten his 'America First' policy, for example with duties on automobiles....
"Apart from trade, the House has little say in America's foreign policy....
"In general, Germany must be ready to remain the target of American foreign policy. When it comes to moving Berlin towards higher defense spending, Democrats and Republicans may not use the same approach, but both agree on the point."
In Ireland, the Irish Times, in an article, "Donald Trump Likely to be Vindicated by Midterm Results," wrote:
"Many in the country had hoped that the first full electoral verdict on the presidency of Donald Trump would deliver a decisive repudiation of Trumpism. The results do not bear this out.
"If anything, Donald Trump is likely to be vindicated by the results. In recent weeks he has been criticized by many, including members of his own party, for not focusing on the strong economy in the run-up to the election and instead focusing on immigration. The better-than-expected performance of Republicans seem to suggest that his strategy worked.
"Trump will also argue that his decision to focus on the Senate and not the House races proves that he still has the political instincts that helped win him the White House in 2016. Ultimately the three states he visited on his last day of campaigning on Monday — Ohio, Indiana and Missouri — all delivered Republican victories. Trump's final tweet of the day on Tuesday seems to suggest that the President is pleasantly relieved at the results of the midterms. 'Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!'"
In Italy, Corriere della Sera, the country's largest-circulation newspaper, in an opinion article entitled, "United States: Signs of a Split Country," observed:
"One thing is certain: Trump is not an anomaly destined to be quickly forgotten. The anti-system wave that carried him to the White House was not a quirk of history; it is one of the signs of our time. In some respects, his electoral result in 2018 is more solid than that of 2016. Then it was outsider's luck; now it is the substantial estate of a leader who became head of the Republican Party."
The Milan-based Il Giornale, in an opinion essay, "America Hostage to Minorities," observed:
"Do not be deceived by the headlines of some newspapers. It is true that Donald Trump lost the House, while consolidating his majority in the Senate. It is not true, however, that the Democrats have swept back America. Quite the opposite. There was no blue wave against the tycoon. The Democrats absolutely have not found the person who can defeat Trump at the next election. Instead they risk becoming increasingly hostage to minorities. In fact, it will be very difficult for the party to find a programmatic synthesis to unite all of the extremely different interests. The Democrats have not yet found the new Barack Obama."
Italy's leading business newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore, in an analysis entitled, "A Second Term for Trump is No Longer an Impossible Event," wrote:
"If these mid-term elections were to be — as they were — a referendum on Donald Trump, the result is not the condemnation that many in America and especially in the rest of the world were hoping for....
"In a sense, today the Republican party is even more his own than it was yesterday. And this increases the possibility that a second term in two years is no longer an impossible eventuality. It would have been if the Republicans had lost the majority in the Senate.
"The results of the midterm election will allow him to reshape his court in the White House, as Louis XIV did in Versailles. For each presidency the midterm elections are an opportunity to make changes to the presidential team.
"Before the midterms, half of Democratic voters considered Republican voters to be enemies, and vice versa. From now on it will be more difficult to return to a bipartisan policy that everyone claims and no one practices: the head-on collision will continue until the great presidential battle of 2020."
In The Netherlands, the country's newspaper of record, NRC Handelsblad, in an analysis, "The Trump Era is Far from Over," stated:
"The big question for friend and foe of the United States is whether the election results point to a weakening or strengthening of Trumpism... Foreign countries would do well not to cheer too soon. Because it is not at all said and done that the end of the Trump era is nigh. This applies to countries that have difficulty with Trump's approach, such as Iran. That is true, conversely, also for countries that benefit from his policies, such as Israel....
"It is also not obvious that the 'America First' president will suddenly adopt radically different positions. His aversion to alliances like the European Union is deep. The idea that freeloaders are taking advantage of the US is not just an opinion, but a conviction Trump has cherished for years. It therefore remains very logical that he will continue to put the European NATO partners under pressure to increase their defense spending.... US presidents tend to respond to mid-term losses with changes in domestic policy but continue to pursue the already set course in foreign policy with extra energy.
"Trump has great freedom of movement in trade policy. The rest of the world has already experienced this during the last two years. Should Trump direct more political energy to trade policy, then that will be especially detrimental to China, which incidentally has dug its heels in the sand. No one benefits from a large-scale and long-term American-Chinese conflict: it is detrimental to the entire world economy. Beijing can expect little from a Democratic House of Representatives: many Democrats are also critical of China.
"A bright point is that a Democratic House of Representatives attaches more value to good relations with the EU. Europe could therefore be spared, perhaps in the form of a trade agreement.
"Canada and Mexico, in renegotiating the NAFTA treaty, agreed to an American ban on concluding treaties with 'non-market economies' (read: China). Japan is also being pressured by the Americans to accept these new clauses.
"The question is whether Europeans should be deprived of this sovereignty. Probable answer: no. Whether this will lead to a new impetus in European-Chinese trade relations is the question. Distrust in increasing Chinese investment in EU countries is growing in Brussels. This is how Europe stays between the two fires of the ruling and the emerging world power."
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
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Will Houthis Respond to the US Call?

Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/November 09/18
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threw a stone in the stagnant waters of the Yemeni crisis, after calling on all parties to agree on a ceasefire and enter into negotiations in the next 30 days. In parallel, UN Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffith announced that he would work to hold new negotiations between the parties to the conflict within a month. This is an important development that will lead to finding real exits for the Yemeni crisis. The Yemeni government welcomed the call for a ceasefire and a solution based on the three references, namely the Gulf Initiative, the outcome of national dialogue and UN Security Council Resolution 2216. However, will this important and necessary invitation to dialogue, which was received sportively by the Yemeni legitimacy, be faced with positivity by the Houthis? Unfortunately, all the previous attempts to reach a peaceful solution did not work, in the absence of a practical move by the Houthis to enter into serious negotiations to end the war. In fact, in all past negotiations over the Yemeni crisis, the Houthis were a stumbling block to any peaceful solution. In order for any new US vision not to be a clone of the previous initiative by former US Secretary of State John Kerry - which was doomed to failure because it did not take into account the relevant international resolutions – it should reject the status quo and insist on bringing back the situation in Yemen to its previous state, before the Houthi coup in September 2014.
However, until now, the US invitation is nothing more than mere statements, it’s not yet a plan nor a program. Any peace plan must pass through the UN Security Council and be in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions, mainly Resolution 2216. Here, we should not overlook the new wave of US sanctions on Iran; the Iranian regime finds in the Houthi coup and the continuation of the war a golden opportunity to respond indirectly to the US and to maintain instability in the region. Are the Houthis really capable of engaging into peace and going to negotiations with a real desire to end the war, while Tehran refuses to do so?! The answer is known.The Yemeni legitimacy, the Arab Coalition and the international community have a sincere desire to end this war, which resulted from the coup. Good intentions alone, however, do not end of a war.
Mattis, in the same speech delivered in Bahrain where he called for negotiations, noted that his country was against the supply of arms from Iran to the terrorist organizations in Yemen and Lebanon. He also said that “Iran threatens global security”, pointing out that Tehran sought to expand its dominance outside its borders and intervene in the affairs of neighboring countries. He stressed that unless the factors contributing to the continuation of this war are stopped, by curbing the Iranian intervention in Yemen’s affairs and its ownership of the Houthi decision, stopping Iran’s export of arms and ballistic missiles to the Houthis, and cutting the umbilical cord between the Houthis and Tehran, any talk of ending the war may be difficult to implement. Every sane person hopes to end the shedding of blood and to stop the war. No one is against the principle of establishing the long-awaited peace, safeguard the Yemenis’ rights and end their sufferings. But all this depends on a group that considers the continuation of the coup as a victory, even if it stands alone, with only one state pushing it to continue with its intransigence.

Iran and US: Hostages Trade Places

Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/November 09/18
Just days after the Trump administration in Washington reactivated a set of sanctions against the Islamic Republic, the mood music in Tehran is a mixture of boastful jubilation and ersatz defiance designed to cover and failure to develop a credible response.
“Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has implicitly welcomed the re-imposition of sanctions in the hope that it will strengthen support for his “resistance economy” policy inspired by North Korea’s “juche” (self-reliance) according to which Iran would benefit from a long spell of isolation in which to tighten its “Islamic” moorings.In contrast, President Hassan Rouhani has pinned his hopes on a weakening of the Trump administration in the aftermath of the US midterm elections and the start of the next presidential campaign. In the meantime, he has kept the door open for talks with the US, presumably with a Democrat winning the White House in 2020.
By putting the US at the center of preoccupations both men make the same mistake in different ways.
Khamenei sees the ultimate success of his “juche” in a continued defiance of the US regardless of the cost for Iran, and presumably prays in secret that the conflict with “Great Satan” will never end. His policy reminds me of the bug who, in a short story by Voltaire, is driven mad by the ticking of the clock on the wall and decides to do his own “juche” by rushing headlong into a mechanism it does not quite understand. Though the kamikaze operation ends badly for the bug, the champion of “juche” has a whale of a time while it lasts. Rouhani makes the same mistake of putting the US at the center of Iran’s political life by linking everything to the American electoral cycles.He reminds me of the goat in a Persian limerick who, dying of hunger, is consoled by its owner with a lullaby of “don’t die, the spring is coming, you shall have cucumbers and melons!”Khamenei does not realize, or does not want to admit, that the Iranian economy is in a mess because of his regime’s bizarre ideology and the incompetence and corruption of the elite in charge, not because of any foreign sanctions.
The most serious set of sanctions were imposed on Iran under President Bill Clinton in the 1990s after the world learned of Tehran’s secret plans to develop a nuclear capability. That meant that the Islamic Republic had already had more than a decade without what Clinton called “crippling sanctions”. And yet, thanks to incompetence and corruption, plus a deliberately prolonged war with Iraq, the Islamic Republic failed to create the governance institutions needed for genuine economic development. The Islamic Republic’s economic failure was and remains largely due to its own contradictions of which the hate-fascination attitude to the US is only one aspect.
Rouhani is digging an even bigger hole by making Iran a “Republican vs. Democrat” issue of American domestic politics.
Even then, he is mistaken in believing that when it comes to dealing with the Islamic Republic, Democrats are “softer” than Republicans. Since November 1979 when the Khomeinist “students” seized the US Embassy in Tehran, successive Washington administrations have imposed 35 rounds of sanctions on Iran. Of these only 11 were imposed by Republican presidents.Of the 24 rounds imposed by Democrat presidents, 14 came under President Barack Obama who, like Clinton before him, expressed a bizarre empathy for the Khomeinist regime.Clinton apologized to the mullahs for “our past mistakes” but signed the sanction papers nevertheless. Obama was prepared to suspend the “crippling sanctions” but kept them dangling like a sword of Damocles above Iran’s head. He smuggled money to Tehran to help the mullahs Republic pay the military but, at the same time, “regulated” Iran’s access to its own oil income.
Trump has imposed no new sanctions.
What he has done is to reactivate sanctions imposed, but sporadically ignored, by Obama. However, there is one big difference this time. After 1979, when the first sanctions were imposed by President Jimmy Carter, Iran succeeded in building a complex network of contacts to circumvent them. Under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the architecture of the sanctions-busting system was reliable enough to allow the Islamic Republic to ignore many of the punitive measures taken by the US and its allies. The difference now is that the Trump administration seems to have obtained almost complete knowledge of the Iranian sanction-busting network that involves over 700 individuals, companies, banks, and false flag aircraft, tankers and ships in 30 nations in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Latin America and even the US itself.
As Islamic Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif told the Iran Chamber of Commerce, the US has “identified all our breathing points” and could take measures to block them.
The pro-Democrat faction within the Khomeinist ruling elite always argued that successive Democrat Presidents, from Clinton to Obama, went along with anti-Iran sanctions only to silence “the Zionist lobby” but in practice ignored sanction-busting operations because, in their hearts, they sympathized with the Islamic Republic’s “struggle against a bullying superpower.” Trump, however, cannot be suspected of any such sympathies and thanks to the information he now has on how Tehran busted most of the sanctions is in a position to make life more difficult for the Khomeinist leadership.
Tehran has been jubilant about because eight nations have been exempted from an embargo on Iranian oil provided Iran’s income is put in an escrow account usable only for food and other humanitarian imports, a scheme that could morph into a modified version of the “oil-for-food” scheme seen in Iraq in the final years of Saddam Hussein. Switzerland, which represents Iran’s interests in the US, is currently in talks with the Trump administration to devise similar exemptions for at least some companies that would be allowed to trade with Iran, provided Tehran isn’t allowed to spend the proceedings as it pleases.
Almost 40 years after Khomeinist “students” took US diplomats as hostages it is the Islamic Republic that finds itself a hostage of the ”Great Satan”.

Beyond Trump’s sharp exchange with CNN’s reporter
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/November 09/18
The conflict between journalists and Republican presidents is nothing new. Journalists sought to tear apart the image of President Nixon and describe him as a thief and a liar and ignored all his accomplishments, which still influence our world today. He opened the door of world order which China entered from after taking off its Communist clothing. President Nixon had a famous sharp exchange with journalist Dan Rather, and journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein managed to make him quit.
During the past years, this media attacked President Bush Jr. ignoring his important achievements that served the world by destroying the al-Qaeda organization, the most dangerous terrorist group in the modern era. If he hadn’t taken this important step after the September 11, 2001 attacks, al-Qaeda would have probably been stronger, its leader Osama bin Laden would have been sitting on his throne in Kandahar and he wouldn’t have been killed with his body dumped in the depths of the Arabian Sea. Despite all this, the media pictured him in unfair and negative way and exaggerated his mistakes and ignored his good deeds.Trump's supporters also saw him as a stubborn fighter who did not keep silent, like his Republican predecessors did, over the insults and criticism directed against him by journalists who describe them as racists and naïve rural people whose characteristics are mythical piousness
Journalists versus Republicans
It’s an old battle with partisan motives. These journalists prefer the Democrats over the Republicans for internal social and economic reasons. This is why their criticism decreases with any Democratic president and increases with any Republican president. What’s new is that this battle has entered a different stage with Trump who refused to bite his tongue. Former Republican presidents were polite and they responded to slaps with smiles under the pretext of maintaining the status of the presidency. However, they paid the price of that by having their image distorted with the absence of a conservative media that can protect them and defend them. Trump threw away all of these old traditions and dumped them in the trash bin and decided to get involved himself and respond to attacks with counter-attacks. Some rightfully thought he was making a fatal mistake when he made an enemy of the leftist liberal press when he was a presidential candidate given the massive power of the media that’s capable of burying whoever comes in its way. In a suicide mission, Trump opted for a confrontation and he won despite all the propaganda against him and despite the media’s frank support of his rival.
This unexpected victory revealed several points. First of all, the attack on Trump when he was still a presidential candidate did not weaken him, but increased his popularity among his supporters who saw he was confronting these intensified campaigns alone and winning in the end. His supporters also saw him as a stubborn fighter who did not keep silent, like his Republican predecessors did, over the insults and criticism directed against him by journalists who describe them as racists and naïve rural people whose characteristics are mythical piousness.
Although Trump is a New Yorker, a rich and worldly figure and not religious, he managed to mobilize these angry masses behind him by not submitting and by defying the arrogant elite in Los Angeles and New York. Millions were shocked when he described a famous broadcaster who insulted him as a “fat cow” and as he responded to Hillary Clinton’s attack saying she was a “nasty woman.” The Republican audience never knew a candidate who broke all the classical traditions of poise and politeness and responded to their rivals with the same harsh language they are using.
Game changer
If Trump had been defeated, we would have seen his move as the stupidest move a candidate could make because the media is the party that makes the image of the politician, but his victory tipped the scale and confused journalists before anyone else.
Trump’s victory made him realize that the media and political game changed and that conditions that applied to his predecessors do not apply to him. He refused to listen to the advice of some of his consultants who advised him to enjoy a certain presidential manner and stop tweeting and he did the opposite relying on his instincts and hunch.
He increased the tone of confrontation because he knew that silence over the journalists’ attacks will weaken him, destroy his image and distort his achievements. This is what we saw during the past two years when the media pursued him over every single detail and sought not only to embarrass him and weaken him but to expel him from the White House. They pursued him like witches were hunted down in the Middle Ages in order to burn his image under the pretext of the Russian meddling and appointing conservative judges in the Supreme Court. The aim was to distort his achievements in the economy and topple him. However, the results of the recent mid-term elections are evidence of his popularity and the power of his electoral base and they also revealed that the media which opposes him could not win over him.
What is interesting in all of this is that the market of journalism revived with this endless fervent match, and sales and the ratio of views increased. This is an additional reason for the media coverage to be almost completely on President Trump, his family, food, relations with women and the tiny details of his life. The sharp exchange of words between him and CNN’s Jim Acosta comes within this context. Trump is benefitting from this media attack on him on the electoral and political level, and journalists are also financially benefitting and gaining popularity from throwing stones at him; however, they are only capable of wounding him but not finishing him off. Trump will kneel on his knees if the economy weakens and unemployment increases and his supporters will topple him before his rivals do, but so far this seems distant.

The league of culture in Baghdad
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/November 09/18
One of the disadvantages of sectarian quotas in ministries and governmental posts is that bad models hold positions that have nothing to do with them, and the public interest is preyed on in favor of the personal interest. In this case, it’s the interest of a party or several parties that monopolize the representation of a sect since the society is only looked at and considered from a sectarian angle. The ministries of defense, interior, finance and foreign affairs are usually the sovereign ministries, and sometimes they also include the ministries of energy, oil and public works depending on the importance of each portfolio in the country that’s stricken with sectarian calculations. This is happening in Baghdad, the city of civilization and culture, the Baghdad of Al-Jahiz, Abu Nuwas, Tawhidi and Al-Ma’mun. Baghdad is thus being deprived of its civilization
Losing Baghdad
This can be seen when a cadre from the Lebanese Hezbollah holds the tourism ministry, for instance! Or to have a member of the Iraqi League of the Righteous – compared to the latter, Hezbollah is a party that resembles the Green Party that protects the environment – hold the culture ministry in Iraq!
In an article published in the Iraqi Al-Mada newspaper, Iraqi writer Ali al-Sarray sadly noted this reality amid the debates to form the Iraqi cabinet under the leadership of Adil Abdul Mahdi. He quoted Abdul Ameer Ottiban, an MP representing the League of the Righteous movement, as saying: “The ministry of culture is our right. We are the ones who taught people and the world culture…and how to act and to be a role model.”Sarray adds in bitter irony: “In order for the quote not to be out of context, (I must note) that the MP was angrily responding to Atheel al-Nujaifi, the former governor of Nineveh, who objected to giving (a party that carries arms) the portfolio of culture.”This is happening in Baghdad, the city of civilization and culture, the Baghdad of Al-Jahiz, Abu Nuwas, Tawhidi and Al-Ma’mun. Baghdad is thus being deprived of its civilization.
This is Iraq, and this is Baghdad and this fate of civilization after culture became a “prey” granted to a group that fights intellect, art and life.

Russian special forces land in S. Syria. US Raptors “deter” Syrian, Iranian, Russian combat aircraft
القوات الخاصة الروسية تتمركز في جنوب سوريا. وطائرات "رابتور" الأميركية "تردع" الطائرات المقاتلة السورية والإيرانية والروسية

DEBKAfile/November 09/18
Unfolding Russian, US and Israeli military steps are raising the big power stakes in Syria on the eve of a Trump-Putin summit, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. Russian special forces have arrived and been attached to the Syrian military command in the southern Al-Safa region east of the Druze town of Sweida – officially as “advisers” to the Syrian offensive against ISIS, and markers of Islamist targets for Russian air strikes. Russia pulled those units out in June after helping Bashar Assad’s army capture rebel-held territory on Israel’s Golan and Jordan’s borders. Now, the Russians are attached to the Syrian Army’s elite 42nd Brigade-Ghiath Forces of the 4th Division.
DEBKAfile: The insertion of Russian units into this flashpoint border area stokes military tensions which are already rising in anticipation of the resumption of Israel’s air operations over Syria after a six-week pause. This became more likely after President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, said: “Russia has been permissive, in consultation with the Israelis, about Israeli strikes against Iranian targets inside Syria, We certainly hope that that permissive approach will continue” after the deployment of new Russian S-300 air defense systems in Syria.
Jeffrey addressed this message to Moscow on Monday, Nov. 7, just one day after the Pentagon disclosed that US Air Force F-22 Raptors had recently completed their first “combat surge” in operations over Syria and, in doing so, “deterred 587 enemy” Syrian, Iranian and Russian combat aircraft in the crowded skies there. “The F-22s flew deep into Syrian territory,” said the Pentagon communique, “facing both enemy fighters and surface-to-air missiles systems.”
The US overflights therefore took place in the face of the Russian S-300s emplaced in Syria. It was the first time that the US Defense Department had described the mission of US stealth aircraft operations in Syria as deterrence against combined Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces. Until now it was defined as a counter-terror operation against ISIS.
While the F-22s’ “combat surge” over Syria was said to have been “maximized over a three-day period,” no date was offered; nor was the area covered disclosed. In the light of the Pentagon’s disclosure, James Jeffrey’s appeal to Moscow to remain “permissive” in the face of Israel air strikes in Syria takes on the aspect of a warning that US Raptors will henceforth cover Israeli’s aerial operations over Syria.
DEBKAfile’s military sources add: This week, Russia boosted its eastern Mediterranean fleet opposite the Syrian coast. On Thursday, the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s Admiral Makarov frigate with long-range Kalibr cruise missiles and Admiral Grigorovich passed through the Bosporus. They are to join the Admiral Essen and Pytlivy frigates, the landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov and the Vishny Volochek missile corvette, which were already in place.
The Syrian scene is clearly heating up and all the parties are maneuvering for advantageous positions just two days before Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet in Paris on the sidelines of events marking the World War 1 armistice centenary.

New Polls: West Bankers Oppose Both Armed Revolt and U.S. Talks

David Pollock/The Washington Institute/November 09/18
Two fresh public opinion polls taken in October paint a strikingly mixed picture of popular attitudes among the roughly 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The biggest surprise is that on many peace process issues, these Palestinians voice a harder political line than do their kinfolk in Gaza (see my previous post, "Most Gazans Want Israeli Jobs, Not Hamas Mobs"). Only one-quarter of West Bankers want to resume diplomatic discussions with the United States aimed at a peaceful response to their problems, though on the other hand just one-quarter say they want "armed struggle" against Israel now.For U.S. policymakers, the implications of these findings are clear. Pressing the Palestinian Authority (PA) to come back to the table, let alone to make concessions, would have precious little popular resonance in the West Bank and could even backfire. But apprehension over an explosion of mass anger in that territory is probably also misguided. Instead, popular attitudes are surprisingly more receptive to practical U.S. economic interventions in Gaza; perhaps this is where the most urgent U.S. efforts should be concentrated.
The rejection by most West Bankers of violent resistance against Israel is in line with their current personal priorities. The vast majority say their top priority is either “having a good family life” (49%) or “making enough income to live comfortably” (38%), rather than “working to establish a Palestinian state” (11%). Even as a second priority, just 23% pick that political option.
For progress toward their national goals, most West Bankers prefer “peaceful resistance,” international recognition, or even negotiations with Israel—if the latter offers some concessions first. The top three picks in that category, each with one-quarter of the responses, are: build a highway for West Bankers to bypass the Jerusalem checkpoints; stop building settlements beyond the wall; or stop settler violence. By comparison, releasing prisoners or “sharing Jerusalem as a capital” have dropped lower on this list of desired gestures of Israeli goodwill.
Significantly, one other Palestinian political option that attracts great popular support, though rarely if ever polled before, is the suggestion to “work more closely politically with Palestinians inside the 1948 lines.” In the two separate new polls reported here, three-quarters of West Bankers endorse this position, including nearly a third who say it would have “very positive” results. Given the recent nationalist political activism among Israel’s roughly 2 million Arab citizens, nearly equal in numbers to their counterparts just across the (largely imaginary) Green Line in the West Bank, this is an orientation that bears closer examination in future surveys and other analysis.
As for an American role, the rejection of talks with the United States is in line with low Palestinian expectations regarding that approach. A mere 11% think it likely that President Trump “will make a serious effort to help solve the Palestinian problem.” Asked what they would most like the United States to do for them, half pick “stay out of Palestinian and Mideast affairs altogether” (Among Gazans, in sharp contrast, just 16% are interested in this option). A distant second place goes to “put pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians,” with 22% of West Bankers selecting this option.
Alongside these negative attitudes, awareness of recent U.S. pressure seems high. Three-quarters say they have heard at least a fair amount about the funding cutoff for the UN Relief and Works Agency (though just 18% think this will yield any changes). Even more (82%) know about the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem. The majority also say they have heard about closing the PLO office in Washington. It must be noted, however, that 36% say they have heard more than a little about “the start of official American negotiations with Hamas”—an entirely fictitious prompt, and one not actually even rumored lately, but used as a “control variable” for this question.
On another all-too-real issue, less than half (43%) claim to be familiar with the Taylor Force Act, which cuts funding to the PA because of its payments to convicted terrorists. Nevertheless, on that very controversial issue, an equally and unexpectedly large proportion agree that the government “should give prisoners’ families normal social benefits like everybody else—not extra payments based on their sentences or armed operations.” This confirms the highly counterintuitive finding first reported in a previous poll from May 2017.
On a tactical level, again surprisingly, West Bank views are also significantly more militant than Gazan views. For example, just 36% of West Bankers want Israeli firms to provide more jobs in their territory. Somewhat more (42%), but still a minority, want “direct personal contacts and dialogue with Israelis, to support those who want peace.”
More ominously, at least the same proportion in one of our latest polls favor “ending security coordination with Israel.” Findings from the other poll, where fewer respondents volunteered a “don’t know” response, are even worse: 63% say that stopping this security coordination would have at least a “somewhat positive” effect.
Notably, too, West Bank attitudes toward their own government in Ramallah are skeptical at best. Both polls show a solid majority (62-67%) saying, in opposition to current PA practice, that Hamas “should be allowed to operate politically in the West Bank in a free and open fashion.” Asked about the PA’s future prospects, only 20% expect it to remain in power more or less as it is today. The remainder are divided among a variety of other prognoses: either anarchy, or else greater control of the West Bank by Hamas, by local authorities, or even by Israel. Nevertheless, a mere 21% of West Bankers would favor “dissolving the PA and forcing Israel to take over full responsibility” for the entire territory.
The findings discussed in this article come from two independent, face-to-face surveys conducted during the period October 3-19 by highly respected Palestinian pollsters based in Ramallah and Beit Sahour. Both used standard geographic probability techniques, interviewing representative samples of 732 and 500 randomly selected respondents, respectively. Full methodological details are available on request.
**David Pollock is the Bernstein Fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on regional political dynamics and related issues.