Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For November 14/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
You cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves
Matthew 23/13-15: "‘But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves."

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 13-14/18
Can Gaza ceasefire free Israeli Air Force to tackle Hizballah missile upgrade plants/DebkaFile/November 13/18
Lebanon can wait too/Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya English/November 13/18
The Arabs, US Midterm Elections and Iran Sanctions/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al-Awsat/November, 13/18
Why a Great US Economy Doesn’t Feel So Great/Noah Smith/Bloomberg View/November, 13/18
Religious Freedom Shouldn’t Be Freedom to Discriminate/Noah Feldman/Bloomberg View/November, 13/18
Will Nikki Haley block diplomatic immunity to Qatar hacking ringleader/Dalia Aqidi/Al Arabiya English/November 13/18
Countdown to mullahs’ belligerence begins/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya English/November 13/18
Foreign powers jockey for influence in northern Syria/Yasar Yakis/Arab News/November 13/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 13-14/18
 US designates son of Hezbollah leader as ‘global terrorist’
Hezbollah Associate on Trial in Paris over Drug Links
Lebanon: Palestinian Camps Home to Armed Groups Under Islamic Labels
U.S. Targets Hizbullah 'Iraq Network' with New Sanctions
Defiant Hariri Calls Himself 'Father of Sunnis', Says 'Won't be Defeated'
Bassil Presents Solution Initiative to Berri and Hariri
Geagea and Miqati Laud Hariri's Remarks
Lebanon's 'Lung' to Gulf Markets Choked by Politics
'Lebanese Connection' Drug Trial to Open in Paris
Lebanon's Parliament Passes Landmark Law to Find Civil War Missing
Bassil after meeting Jumblatt: Tone high but content positive
Kanaan after bloc meeting: Success is for all, victory can only be achieved by solidarity
Riachy informs Hariri of LF supportive stance
Richard at "GE Day": Addressing electricity crisis in country long overdue
Legislative Session Endorses Health Care Bill
The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH).
Gemayel Blames Economic Distress on Presidential Settlement Protagonists
Kataeb Party: Political Forces Must Make Decision on Next Steps in Wake of Nasrallah's Speech
Hankache: Law to Find Civil War Missing Helps Heal Wounds
Can Gaza ceasefire free Israeli Air Force to tackle Hizballah missile upgrade plants?
Lebanon can wait too

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 13-14/18
 Washington Vows to ‘Squeeze’ Iran
Human Rights Reports: 22 Ahvaz Inmates Executed in Iran
Facing US Sanctions, Tehran Set to Lose Economic Deals in Syria
Israeli Report: US Fears Netanyahu’s Rejection of ‘Deal of the Century’
Gaza Militants Announce Egyptian-Brokered Ceasefire with Israel
Report: Saudi 'Kill Team's' Luggage Contained Syringes, Scissors
Egypt Sentences Ex-Governor to 10 Years for Bribery
Egypt Thwarts Suicide Attack against Security Checkpoint in Arish
Pope to Visit Morocco in March
Libyan Kingpins Meet in Sicily despite Warlord's Reluctance
Violence Calms in Yemen's Hodeida amid Diplomatic Pressure
Canada in talks with Pakistan over possibly taking in Asia Bibi
Iranian migrants steal French boat and sail to Britain
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 13-14/18
US designates son of Hezbollah leader as ‘global terrorist’
واشنطن تفرض عقوبات على نجل نصرالله وتعتبره إرهابياً
AFPTuesday, 13 November 2018/The US State Department on Tuesday designated Jawad Nasrallah, son of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, as a global terrorist and accused him of carrying out attacks against Israel in the West Bank. The department also blacklisted Al-Mujahidin Brigades (AMB), which it said had links to Hezbollah and had plotted a number of attacks against Israeli targets from a base in the Palestinian Territories. “Today’s designations seek to deny Nasrallah and AMB the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks,” the State Department said in a statement. It said the actions denied Nasrallah and AMB access to the US financial system. More sanctions would be announced later in the day, the State Department’s top counter-terrorism official Nathan Sales said separately without elaborating. “We will be making some additional announcements at the State Department’s briefing later this afternoon,” Sales told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Earlier on Tuesday, Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri blamed Hezbollah for what he called “a big obstacle” in efforts to form a new government. Hezbollah, a heavily armed Shiite Muslim group, has been pressing a demand for one of six Sunni Muslim lawmakers allied to it to get a cabinet position. Hariri has refused to give up one of the seats allocated for his mainly Sunni party

Hezbollah Associate on Trial in Paris over Drug Links
 حزب الله في المحاكمة في باريس على المخدرات روابط
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 13 November, 2018/An associate of the Lebanese Hezbollah group went on trial in Paris on Tuesday along with 14 other suspects for their suspected involvement in a vast crime ring accused of laundering Colombian drug money through luxury jewellery. The chief defendant is Mohamad Noureddine, a 44-year-old Lebanese businessman with interests in real estate and jewellery. He was arrested in France in January 2016 during police raids that also took place in Italy, Belgium and Germany, after an alert from the US Drug Enforcement Agency.
US officials, who have imposed sanctions on Noureddine over his supposed links to Lebanon's Hezbollah party, suspect the network of operating between South America, Europe and the Middle East since 2012. They identified France, where several of the defendants reside, as being at the center of the syndicate's operations in Europe, reported AFP. The proceeds of cocaine sales were allegedly collected in Europe, then channeled to Lebanon before being transferred to Colombian traffickers.  The funds were moved using a centuries-old system of payment dating from the spice trade called "hawala", passing through a tested network requiring ironclad trust. Hawala operators also offer the advantage of leaving no trace of the transactions. A few months after Noureddine's arrest US police detained the suspected head of the network, Mohamad Ammar, in Florida on charges that he illegally moved hundreds of thousands of dollars into Miami banks. Ammar, who regularly shuttled between California and Colombia's second city Medellin, has since admitted his ties to Colombian drug cartels, prosecutors say, said AFP. Investigators in the "Lebanese Connection" inquiry, also dubbed the "Cedar Affair" after Lebanon's national tree, suspect a main client was a Colombian drug king known as El Chapulin who shipped large quantities of cocaine to Europe. After the drugs were sold, the network used hawala operatives to gather the proceeds, employing well established techniques such as regularly changing mobile phones, coded language and hiding money in cars. Investigators listening in on phone conversations deduced that a "Mercedes 250" referred to a pickup of 250,000 euros, while a "truck" referred to one million euros. The "oven" was a reference to the Netherlands, and Belgium was known as the "mill". The collected cash was then used to buy luxury jewellery, watches and cars which were resold in Lebanon or West Africa. The freshly laundered funds were transferred to the Colombians through currency exchange or money transfer bureaus, reported AFP. Noureddine has admitted to organizing pickups of cash but pleaded ignorance about the provenance of the funds. He has staunchly denied that some of the money could have been destined for Hezbollah as the DEA has suggested. William Julie, a lawyer for one of the defendants who is familiar with cross-border cases handled by both US and European investigators, said such cooperation is "indispensable" but often leads only to "second-tier individuals who shouldn't be caught up in the crackdown". His client, who is considered close to Noureddine, has strongly denied any wrongdoing. He was detained for 18 months before being freed on bail. None of the defendants have criminal records. The trial is scheduled to wind up on November 28.
 Lebanon: Palestinian Camps Home to Armed Groups Under Islamic Labels
Beirut - Sanaa el-Jack/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 13 November, 2018/In September, the Lebanese army intelligence carried out a security operation in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon that led to the arrest of the religious leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades – known as Mufti Al-Sharia - Bahaa al-Din Hajjar, who was involved in the bombing of the Iranian embassy five years ago. A year earlier, the General Security arrested members of a terrorist network, who communicate with their operators from Lebanese areas, especially in the camps of Ain el-Hilweh, Burj al-Barajneh and Shatila, where they were receiving instructions to execute suicide bombings and assassinations, as admitted by the detainees. In 2016, the military intelligence arrested one of the most notorious terrorists, Imad Yassin, who was wanted by 40 judicial warrants, in an operation that was classified as a major achievement in the Ain el-Hilweh camp, without a single drop of blood being shed. Before ISIS’ involvement in the Palestinian camps in the wake of war in Syria, these camps have long been a breeding ground for Islamic extremism, from Esbat Al-Ansar group, which was accused of assassinating four judges in Sidon around 20 years ago, to Fatah al-Islam sparked the Nahr al-Bared camp clashes in 2007. Palestinian Researcher Hisham Dabsi told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Immediately after 1982, no Palestinian Islamic organization was established, except for the war on the camps that the Amal Movement launched in 1985 under the direction of the Syrian regime.” “When the siege was imposed on the Burj al-Barajneh camp in the southern suburbs of Beirut, I was inside the camp. I felt the strong reaction of the Palestinians against Amal Movement, in exchange for a great appreciation for the role of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who issued a fatwa forbidding fighting the Palestinians.” “A group of young Palestinians went to Fadlallah’s mosque in Haret Hreik, listened to his Friday sermon and supported his path. At that time, the idea of the emergence of Hezbollah was taking shape.”According to Dabsi, small groups in Burj al-Barajneh and other camps have distinguished themselves from the existing factions and considered that the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict lies only through Islamic resistance. The majority of these groups remained within the existing organizations, mainly Fatah, until the first uprising in Palestine in December 1987. “With the stone uprising, for the first time, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood formed the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). Palestinians in the Muslim Brotherhood have been screened in asylum countries to form their organization,” he recounted.
“The Islamic Jihad movement, which does not have Brotherhood origins, was formed by a group of Islamists who were students, headed by Fathi Shikaki, Ziad Nakhala and Mohammed Najjar, who was wanted by the US. The latter was welcomed in Beirut’s southern suburbs. They were in contact with Iran through Shikaki, but when Iran asked him to adopt Shiism, he separated from the group.” Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Sheikh Maher Hamoud, head of the World Union of Resistance Scholars, said: “I believe that talking about terrorist bases in the camps is not accurate and accusing the Palestinian Islamic factions of all the crimes is much exaggerated.” He went on to say: “It is true that all kinds of extremism have emerged in the camps, but they have declined. In general, extremists are supported by many parties, hoping to absorb them and return them to the right path.”“In any case, extremism in the Palestinian environment has declined after the defeat of Ahmed al-Assir and the downfall of ISIS in Syria.” A source from Fatah movement said: “After the formation of armed Islamic movements in the camps, rivalry with Fatah started with funding from the Syrian intelligence. The ‘Ahbash’ and Esbat al-Ansar carried out acts of armed sabotage and assassinations.”However, according to Hamoud, the reason behind the rise of Islamic extremism in a previous period, “is due to the absence of a Lebanese and Palestinian authority inside the camps capable of enforcing the law, as well as the abundant presence of sporadic weapons, which are exploited politically.”Asked about the financing of extremist Islamists in the Palestinian camps, the Fatah source noted that the funding of these movements depended on the parties that wanted to employ them. “There is no regional or international intelligence service that has not intervened in these groups, either to obtain information or to carry out some dirty work,” the sources said, pointing that Qatar’s role had declined and then completely stopped. “Currently, Islamic extremist groups are being nurtured by Iran and Syria. Lebanese state intelligence also uses them in different ways to obtain information. In short, these factions are funded and operated within agendas, as needed,” the Fatah sources concluded.
U.S. Targets Hizbullah 'Iraq Network' with New Sanctions
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 13/18/The U.S. Treasury expanded its attack on Hizbullah's financial network Tuesday, hitting key representatives of the Lebanese group in Iraq with sanctions. The Treasury blacklisted Shibl Muhsin 'Ubayd Al-Zaydi, Yusuf Hashim, Adnan Hussein Kawtharani, and Muhammad 'Abd-Al-Hadi Farhat under its Specially Designated Global Terrorists program, saying they moved money, acquired weapons and trained fighters in Iraq for the group. Among the four, Al-Zaydi was a key coordinator between Hizbullah, Iran's blacklisted Revolutionary Guards, and their supporters in Iraq, the Treasury said. He is close to alleged Hizbullah financier Adham Tabaja, and coordinated smuggling oil from Iran into Syria. He also sent Iraqi fighters to Syria allegedly on behalf of the Revolutionary Guard, the Treasury said. The other three were also involved in collecting intelligence and moving money for Hizbullah in Iraq, it said. "Hizbullah is a terrorist proxy for the Iranian regime that seeks to undermine Iraqi sovereignty and destabilize the Middle East," said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. "Treasury's concerted actions aim to deny Hizbullah's clandestine attempts to exploit Iraq to launder funds, procure weapons, train fighters, and collect intelligence as a proxy for Iran," Mandelker said in a statement.

Defiant Hariri Calls Himself 'Father of Sunnis', Says 'Won't be Defeated'
Naharnet/November 13/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri delivered a defiant speech on Tuesday and accused Hizbullah of blocking the formation of the new government for a reason that is “bigger” than the so-called Sunni representation obstacle. “There are sides who do not want the country to take a chance and they don’t like the presence of a government and state institutions and they think that sects should come before the state,” Hariri said at a press conference. “There is a decision by Hizbullah’s leaders to block the government and I regret that the party is playing the role of obstruction,” Hariri added, noting that Hizbullah is defying President Michel Aoun and all Lebanese, “not only Saad Hariri.” “No one has the right to say that a certain sect’s representation is being monopolized as he monopolizes an entire sect’s representation,” the PM-designate added, in an apparent jab at Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. “Hizbullah cannot dictate on me whom I should represent. Had these people (pro-Hizbullah Sunni MPs) run in the elections as one bloc, it would have been my duty to represent them, but this is not the right way to talk to your partner in the country,” Hariri went on to say. “Things don’t need all this screaming and intimidation,” Hariri added, addressing Nasrallah. Wondering why Hizbullah “did not name one of them from its own share,” the PM-designate warned that the government is a “national necessity” at all levels. “I have done my part and let all parties shoulder their responsibilities so that the country can move forward,” he added. “Today I do not have a solution or else I would have visited the president,” said Hariri in response to a reporter’s question. “The constitution tasks the PM-designate with forming the government in agreement with the President and there is no third person with them. Period,” a defiant Hariri added. And describing himself as “the father of Sunnis” in Lebanon, the PM-designate emphasized that he knows what “serves their interest.”“Saad Hariri will not be defeated despite their attempts that have persisted throughout the past 13 years.” Hariri underlined. 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 Sunni 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. President Aoun -- a Hizbullah ally -- threw his support behind Hariri and rejected the demand during a TV interview, noting that the aforementioned MPs areindividuals and not a bloc.”Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil is meanwhile trying to convince the rival parties to accept a settlement based on naming a “consensus” Sunni minister.

Bassil Presents Solution Initiative to Berri and Hariri
Naharnet/November 13/18/Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil has proposed an initiative to overcome the so-called Sunni hurdle that is delaying the formation of the new government, media reports said. Bassil presented the initiative in his talks with Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Monday, al-Joumhouria daily said. “It involves an exit that calls for naming the sixth Sunni minister from those labeled as centrist Sunnis instead of him being from the (pro-Hizbullah) six Sunni MPs or provocative to the PM-designate,” the newspaper added. “It is likely that the sixth Sunni minister will be the one whom Hariri has exchanged with the President for a Christian minister, in order to keep Hariri’s share intact,” al-Joumhouria said. Hariri is scheduled to hold a press conference on the latest developments at 3:00 pm Tuesday. 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 Sunni 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.” Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah later announced that his party would accept any solution that the six Sunni MPs would accept but the lawmakers have so far remained defiant.

Geagea and Miqati Laud Hariri's Remarks
Naharnet/November 13/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and ex-PM and Tripoli MP Najib Miqati on Tuesday lauded the remarks that were voiced by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri during his press conference earlier in the day. “As for PM-designate Saad Hariri’s remarks this afternoon, they were accepted in form and reasonable in content,” Geagea tweeted. The LF leader had described Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s remarks on Saturday as “unacceptable in form and unreasonable in content.” Miqati for his part hailed Hariri in a tweet on Tuesday. “PM-designate Hariri, I salute your respect for the constitution and the Taef Accord and for the powers vested in you, hoping others will help your effort to form the government and preserve stability in the country,” Miqati tweeted. Hariri had confirmed in his press conference that a pro-Miqati figure will be allocated a seat in the new government. 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 a grouping of pro-Hizbullah Sunni 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. President Michel 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.”Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil is meanwhile trying to convince the rival parties to accept a settlement based on naming a “consensus” Sunni minister.

Lebanon's 'Lung' to Gulf Markets Choked by Politics
Associated Press/Naharnet/November 13/18/Lebanese exporters rejoiced last month when the Syrian government opened a key land crossing with Jordan that had been closed by years of war, restoring a much-needed overland trade route to lucrative Gulf markets. But lingering disputes between Lebanon and Syria, and political gridlock in Beirut, mean that many Lebanese businesses still rely on longer and costlier transport by sea, further stalling efforts to restore an economy battered by years of war in its larger neighbor. The reopening of the Naseeb-Jaber crossing allowed Mohammed Araji, owner of a trucking firm in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, to retrieve two trucks that had been stranded in Jordan since 2015, when Syrian rebels captured the crossing. Two other of his refrigerator trucks had been parked in front of his house for the last three years. Even before the crossing officially closed, his brother was briefly abducted by rebels while driving a truck through Syria, underscoring the perils they faced in trying to keep the route open. The crossing was Lebanon's "lung," Araji said, and its closure was a "death blow" to the economy, affecting farmers, merchants, industrialists and drivers. So he was pleased when Syrian government forces reopened the crossing and secured the route. But for weeks he was unable to find exporters ready to give him shipping contracts. Finally, on Saturday, he sent his first truckloads to Saudi Arabia after offering an exporter an attractive price. "People are still waiting to see what will happen," he said. The land route through Syria, Jordan and Iraq is vital to Lebanon, which is squeezed between Syria, the closed border with Israel, and the sea. Lebanon's exports plunged from a high of 78 percent of GDP in 2008 — three years before the start of Syria's civil war — to a low of 36 percent in 2017.
Before Naseeb's closing, more than 250 trucks a day headed from Lebanon to markets in Syria, Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf. After the closure, that dropped to some 300 trucks in a good month, bound only for Syria, customs officials said. An estimated 550,000 tons of vegetables and fruits a year used to be exported through the Syria-Jordan crossing, according to Ibrahim Tarshishi, head of the Bekaa farmer's union. Since the shutdown, that flow has dropped by nearly 40 percent, to no more than 330,000 tons. Exports from Bekaa to Saudi Arabia have dropped by 60 percent, according to figures from the Bekaa chamber of commerce. .
After the crossing reopened, Syria and Jordan imposed new transit tariffs on trucks heading to the Gulf. The Syrian increase alone was five-fold, Tarshishi said. Lebanon meanwhile subsidizes transport by sea.Traders hope improved ties between Syria and Lebanon will lead to reduced tariffs, but Lebanon's political leaders are fiercely divided between supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad, and they have been unable to form a government since elections in May. Contacts among Lebanese and Syrian officials remain personal and partisan — and some complain Syria is using the tariffs to force normalization. Experts say opaque policies and decision-making have also hindered trade. Charles Zarzour, the head of the government agency for agricultural exports and imports, said the opening of the crossing has at least offered "psychological relief" to traders. "God willing, when we have a government in Lebanon, it lays down a wise policy that serves the country's interest," including tariff reductions, he told The Associated Press. Syrian officials had no immediate comment. Tarshishi has pressed for an end to the sea shipping subsidies and other government action to revive land exports, but in the caretaker government "no one wants to take responsibility," he said. On a recent afternoon at al-Masnaa, the Lebanese side of the crossing into Syria, nearly a dozen trucks loaded with bananas were bound for Damascus. Just one truck, carrying cleaning supplies, was heading to Jordan. None were bound for the Gulf. Talal Darwish, a produce exporter, is still sending his grapes, apples and pears by sea, and on a recent day, workers raced to prepare a shipment bound for Kuwait. By land would be cheaper and faster — a five-day trip as opposed to 25. He has heard talk of efforts to reduce tariffs, but says "we still don't know officially, so there is no rush."

Lebanese Connection' Drug Trial to Open in Paris
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 13/18/Fifteen alleged members of a vast crime ring accused of laundering Colombian drug money through luxury jewellery and using shadowy middlemen from the Lebanese diaspora go on trial in Paris on Tuesday. The chief defendant is Mohamad Noureddine, a 44-year-old Lebanese businessman with interests in real estate and jewellery. He was arrested in France in January 2016 during police raids that also took place in Italy, Belgium and Germany, after an alert from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. U.S. officials, who have imposed sanctions on Noureddine over his supposed links to Lebanon's Hizbullah, suspect the network of operating between South America, Europe and the Middle East since 2012. They identified France, where several of the defendants reside, as being at the center of the syndicate's operations in Europe. The proceeds of cocaine sales were allegedly collected in Europe, then channeled to Lebanon before being transferred to Colombian traffickers.The funds were moved using a centuries-old system of payment dating from the spice trade called "hawala," passing through a tested network requiring ironclad trust.
Hawala operators also offer the advantage of leaving no trace of the transactions.
Mercedes 250'
A few months after Noureddine's arrest U.S. police detained the suspected head of the network, Mohamad Ammar, in Florida on charges that he illegally moved hundreds of thousands of dollars into Miami banks. Ammar, who regularly shuttled between California and Colombia's second city Medellin, has since admitted his ties to Colombian drug cartels, prosecutors say. Investigators in the "Lebanese Connection" inquiry, also dubbed the "Cedar Affair" after Lebanon's national tree, suspect a main client was a Colombian drug king known as El Chapulin who shipped large quantities of cocaine to Europe. After the drugs were sold, the network used hawala operatives to gather the proceeds, employing well established techniques such as regularly changing mobile phones, coded language and hiding money in cars. Investigators listening in on phone conversations deduced that a "Mercedes 250" referred to a pickup of 250,000 euros, while a "truck" referred to one million euros. The "oven" was a reference to the Netherlands, and Belgium was known as the "mill". The collected cash was then used to buy luxury jewellery, watches and cars which were resold in Lebanon or West Africa. The freshly laundered funds were transferred to the Colombians through currency exchange or money transfer bureaus. Noureddine has admitted to organizing pickups of cash but pleaded ignorance about the provenance of the funds. He has staunchly denied that some of the money could have been destined for Hizbullah as the DEA has suggested. William Julie, a lawyer for one of the defendants who is familiar with cross-border cases handled by both U.S. and European investigators, said such cooperation is "indispensable" but often leads only to "second-tier individuals who shouldn't be caught up in the crackdown."His client, who is considered close to Noureddine, has strongly denied any wrongdoing. He was detained for 18 months before being freed on bail. None of the defendants have criminal records. The trial is scheduled to wind up on November 28.

Lebanon's Parliament Passes Landmark Law to Find Civil War Missing
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 13/18/Lebanon for the first time has passed a law to investigate the fate of thousands of people missing since the civil war and to hold those responsible to account. Rights groups say thousands of people disappeared during the 1975-1990 conflict, and have repeatedly called for a law to help bring answers to their families. "The evening parliamentary session passed Law 19 linked to the forcibly disappeared," Lebanon's state news agency NNA said. The law will see an official commission of inquiry set up to look into the fate of the missing or forcibly disappeared in the tiny multi-confessional country. It gives the families of the disappeared the right to know their fate including their whereabouts or place of burial, as well as the right to exhume and identify them. Under the legislation, those who are responsible for forced disappearances are to be punished through jail time of up to 15 years and fines of up to 20 million Lebanese pounds (around $13,000). Former warlords from Lebanon's conflict are still active in the country's politics. Rights groups who have been campaigning for justice for the victims and their families applauded the new bill. "This is a positive step for thousands of families to find closure," the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement on Twitter. "We stand ready to support the government in the implementation of the law so that families can finally have the answers they've long waited for." Other commissions were established by ministerial decree in the 2000s, but failed to bring any answers for the families. According to Amnesty International, local and international organizations have identified sites of mass graves, but the authorities have previously refused to protect these. Lebanon has been rocked by a series of political crises in recent years, aggravated by the civil war in neighboring Syria. The law on the missing was passed by Lebanon's first new parliament in nine years, and comes as premier designate Saad Hariri has spent five months struggling to form a cabinet.

Bassil after meeting Jumblatt: Tone high but content positive
Tue 13 Nov 2018/NNA - Leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, MP Walid Jumblatt, received this Tuesday at his residence in Clemenceau Head of the Free Patriotic Movement, outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Gebran Bassil, accompanied, by caretaker Minister of Energy and Water, Cesar Abi Khalil, with talks touching on the overall affairs at the local scene.Bassil left without making any statement, only telling the media: "It is true that the tone was high, but the content was positive in terms of forming the government."

Kanaan after bloc meeting: Success is for all, victory can only be achieved by solidarity
Tue 13 Nov 2018/NNA - The "Strong Lebanon" parliamentary bloc held its weekly meeting at the FPM Headquarters in Sin El Fil under the chairmanship of caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. After the meeting, the Secretary of the bloc, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, said: "Minister Bassil has briefed the bloc on the initiative he is undertaking, which is based on the positions issued by the President and the PM-designate in terms of the constitutional rules and the unity of standards to be respected, in addition to the results of the parliamentary elections, in accordance with a proportionality law that imposes non-monopoly of any party to its community.""This confirms that our role as a movement is to facilitate matters, within the constitutional rules," he said. "We play this role today with full conviction because we know that the government delay is harmful harm to everyone." "The bloc relies on the initiative of Minister Bassil and supports every positive action and any positive position issued by any party involved in this dilemma. Success is for all, and victory can only be achieved by solidarity, and what we have experienced in the past is the best evidence to that," Kanaan added. Pertaining to the Zahle electricity issue, Kanaan said "we have shown keenness on maintaining 24-hour electricity while reducing the cost on the people of Zahle. (...) We promise all the Lebanese that this project will serve as a model for all of Lebanon, because we want electricity for all of Lebanon, and we want the private sector to participate in the solution, but within acceptable limits.""As we proved our seriousness in all that has been raised at the financial, humanitarian, electricity and government levels, and our role in bridging the gap between all parties, this is how we will continue to work because surrender has never been in our dictionary. We have all the confidence that with this determination, and during the mandate of a fighter President, our efforts will bear fruit on more than one level, and soon," he concluded.

Riachy informs Hariri of LF supportive stance
Tue 13 Nov 2018/NNA - Prime Minister-Designate, Saad Hariri, received this evening at the Center House Caretaker Information Minister, Melhem Riachy, dispatched by Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. Minister Riachy informed Premier Hariri of the Lebanese Forces’ supportive stance towards his “open, communicative and civilized” position to maintain communication with all sides in a bid to reach a solution to government formation. Riachy brought to attention the LF’s great sacrifices for the sake of government formation, deeming Premier Hariri’s proclaimed position as bearing an exceptional added value. “Hariri’s position is rational and realistic,” Riachy corroborated. The Minister underlined that Hariri’s stance, politically, needs to be fortified so that the government would be formed as quickly as possible. According to the Minister, no party should oppose Hariri’s position, branding it asrational & highly appropriate.”

Richard at "GE Day": Addressing electricity crisis in country long overdue
Tue 13 Nov 2018/ NNA - Following is US Ambassador Elizabeth Richard's statement marking "GE Day": Your Excellency Minister Abi Khalil, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to this event highlighting how General Electric can transform Lebanon's power generation and distribution capabilities. After decades of underinvestment, the power sector here needs this kind of focused attention if it is to deliver for the Lebanese people. I believe that Lebanon is open to foreign investment, andAmerican companies are already performing here in a significant way.I was honored last month to help inaugurate a rehabilitated power plant in North Lebanon, which, along with a twin plant in the South, produces half of the electricity on Lebanon's grid and represents the largest-ever U.S. private sector contract with the Lebanese government. There is much more work to be done, and American firms are best positioned to help. Lebanon's electricity supply capacity is 1,500 Megawatts while demand exceeds 2,700 Megawatts. The production shortages weaken Lebanese citizens' faith in their government and have led to costly and inefficient temporary fixes.Addressing the electricity crisis in this country is long overdue. It is past time to move forward with the energy reforms so desperately needed -- described in the government's five-year investment program and reaffirmed during the CEDRE conference. This economy cannot possibly grow without basic energy infrastructure in place. Fix the power sector and signal to the world that Lebanon is open for business. Several important reforms in the electricity sector are required, including reducing technical losses, switching from diesel to natural gas, increasing transmission capacity, and establishing a regulatory authority for the sector.I also want to stress the importance of a fair and level playing field for international firms in the power sector - and, in fact, in every sector. Lebanon needs policies in place that ensure fair treatment, transparent processes, and respect for contracts. Lebanese entrepreneurs are known across the globe to be world class businessmen and women. There is no reason they cannot attract world class American firms to work in Lebanon as well. As the American Ambassador, I can tell you that our private sector is constantly frustrated by corruption and opaque procurement processes.
I have been very encouraged that Lebanese President Michel Aoun has consistently called for an end to corruption in this country. Of course it is possible. Continue efforts on procurement reform. Publish terms of reference online for all bidders to see. Share technical evaluations for all the offers the government receives. And award contracts to companies that give Lebanon the best long-term value. Changing the business culture in Lebanon will not be easy or always popular, but it will pay off with quality services for all consumers. This will require political courage and engagement by the citizens of Lebanon to get this done.I will leave the floor to the experts who can share details of GE's technologies with you. But I want to re-affirm that my government recognizes the importance of rehabilitating the electricity sector in Lebanon. U.S. private investment in Lebanon and across the Middle East has been and can continue to be a significant driver of economic growth and can play an important role in regional stability. We want to help. American companies want to invest here. Let's work together to make it happen.

Legislative Session Endorses Health Care Bill

Naharnet/November 12/18/The legislative session kicked off at the Parliament on Monday chaired by Speaker Nabih Berri where lawmakers were set to endorse several draft laws, as the government formation process continues to stall, the National News Agency reported. The Parliament endorsed a bill related to health care and medication, said NNA. During the discussion of a 75-billion LBP credit to purchase medicine, caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil indicated that there were no budget reserves.“Where will we get the revenues from to cover this amount?" he asked, saying that the bill is inapplicable. Meanwhile, Berri replied saying: “It is applicable indeed, and the government is obliged to provide the funds.”Before the meeting began, Berri held talks with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. Talks reportedly touched on the Cabinet formation process. A debate erupted between Berri and ex-PM Najib Miqati over legislation in the absence of a government. The latter left the session afterwards.“How can we legislate in the absence of the executive authority,” Miqati asked Berri during the session. Upon leaving the meeting, Miqati said that “legislation of urgent drafts must be based on clear and specific criteria,” stressing on the lack on power balance as the current government is caretaker one. "The current executive power is not qualified to discuss bills that are not urgent," he said. "With all due respect to Speaker Nabih Berri, the Parliament has not taken the initiative to endorse urgent bills, and neither did it approve the non-urgent drafts that needed to be approved," he added. Angered by Miqati’s remarks, the Speaker said: “You can read Article 69 of the Constitution.”Efforts to line up Lebanon’s government have failed since May, amid divisions between political parties whether the Parliament should convene to legislate draft laws before the Cabinet takes shape. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s mission has been delayed over several obstacles, the latest --related to the representation of the so-called Sunni MPs of March 8-- arose when the Cabinet was on the verge of formation.
The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH).
Yesterday the Lebanese Parliament passed a Law concerning the Victims of Enforced Disappearance. Greetings to Ghazi Aad, whose second death anniversary is a few days after this law was passed, and a tribute to the efforts of all who worked on the subject, especially the Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and Missing in Lebanon, SOLID, the Committee of the Families of Detainees in the Syrian prisons and the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH). We also stress the efforts of CLDH as the Lebanese Parliament took into consideration the observations previously made to the report by the center, in particular, those related to criminalizing enforced disappearance, and ensuring the right of parents to seek justice if they so wish, in addition to ensuring the secrecy of witnesses of enforced disappearance when they provide information on the incidents. Finally, we should ascertain the importance of this law, as it clearly recognizes the existence of the crime of enforced disappearance in Lebanon. (Statement)

Gemayel Blames Economic Distress on Presidential Settlement Protagonists 13th November 2018/ Former President Amine Gemayel on Tuesday said that Hezbollah's "arrogance", which was very clear in the latest speech delivered by the group's leader Hassan Nasrallah, is a normal result of the presidential settlement that was sealed two years ago. "What we have been witnessing regarding the government formation and Hezbollah's constant attempts to impose prohibitive conditions is only the tip of the iceberg given that what is hidden is much more dangerous and complex," he told El-Nashra website. Gemayel warned that the ruling class is disregarding Israel's growing threats against Lebanon because of Hezbollah's paramilitary activities, calling for a clear plan to deal with this issue, instead of maintaining the same ostrich policy that has been adopted over the past years. "We wish that everyone in this country would realize their responsibilities, draw lessons and devise a plan to fortify the internal arena by setting out a new formula that confronts dangerous plots." Asked about his opinion on what Prime Minister-Designate Saad Hariri should do regarding the independent Sunni MPs' knot, Gemayel admitted that Hariri is really in a confusing situation, adding that the settlement the latter sealed in 2016 should have been based on clear standards and on a lucid vision for the future. "That settlement should not have been based on partitioning because this is what got us to this level." Gemayel hold all those involved in the 2016 presidential settlement responsible for the "catastrophic" economic situation that the country is currently going through, saying that all of them were either accomplices or witnesses when it comes to squandering and corruption.

Kataeb Party: Political Forces Must Make Decision on Next Steps in Wake of Nasrallah's Speech 13th November 2018/The Lebanese Kataeb party on Monday called on the local political forces to decide in what direction it wants to take the country in the wake of the recent statements made by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, adding that the latter's latest speech implied a provocation against the State institutions and the negative repercussions of the presidential settlement sealed two years ago. "The Kataeb party considers that political forces have two options only: either to consent to the course that the presidential settlement has taken and form a government in accordance with Hezbollah's conditions, or to admit the mistake committed through this settlement and face its consequences," read a statement issued following the weekly meeting of the Kataeb's politburo. "All political forces must make their decision swiftly in a bid to rescue the country from the political and economic bottleneck it is facing," it added. The Kataeb party renewed its call for a government of specialists amid the ongoing failure to form a national unity Cabinet, warning that the government formational stalemate has turned into a structural impasse jeopardizing the foundations of democracy in Lebanon.
The politburo also suggested holding a national conference during which controversial and key issues would be discussed, notably non-state arms, the political system, neutrality, decentralization and anti-corruption fight. The politburo outlined the significant importance that the month of November encloses, given that it marks Lebanon's Independence Day, the Kataeb's foundation anniversary as well as the assassination anniversary of Minister Pierre Gemayel. The party called on partisans and supporters to take part in the mass commemorating martyr Pierre Gemayel on November 21, at 16:30, at the Saint Michael Church in Bickfaya, and to join the march to be staged on November 24, at 17:00, in Beirut Downtown.

Hankache: Law to Find Civil War Missing Helps Heal Wounds 13th November 2018/Kataeb MP Elias Hankache on Tuesday stressed that the ratification of the law concerning those forcibly disappeared during the Lebanese civil war helps heal the wounds of the families who still don't know the fate of their children, dedicating this law is to the soul of Ghazi Aad, founder of the Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile (SOLIDE). "This law should have been approved a long time ago. The war ended and that painful page must be turned,” Hankache told Voice of Lebanon radio station.
“There must be a reconciliation between the Lebanese. Nations are built on honesty and reconciliation."
Can Gaza ceasefire free Israeli Air Force to tackle Hizballah missile upgrade plants?
ترى هل يؤمن وقف اطلاق النار في غزة للقوات الجوية الإسرائيلية التصدي لقواعد صواريخ حزب الله المتجددة

DebkaFile/November 13/18
It is obvious from the Israeli security cabinet’s vague statement at the end of a 7-hour meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13, that the ministers don’t believe the sudden ceasefire declared by Hamas in victory speeches will hold. “IDF attacks on Gaza will continue as required,” said the cabinet statement, as though this needed saying after a 460-missile Palestinian barrage on southern Israel, two deaths, 100 injured, substantial damage and major disruptions from yet another horrendous onslaught from the Gaza Strip.
According to various local sources, the cabinet quietly instructed the IDF not to be drawn into a major operation in the Palestinian enclave for the time being, but to stand ready for coming events – i.e., the next Palestinian rocket cycle that is due in in two days, two weeks or some time in the future. The revival of this bane is a truism which every military expert – and most of all the battered population of southern Israel – take for granted. This time, the Israeli Air Force was required to strike 160 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets with no noticeable impact on the Palestinian organizations’ belligerence. What will be required of the IDF in the next round? The same old ineffective operations against Hamas? Or maybe another round of cabinet meetings for inconclusive decisions?
At Tuesday’s session, four ministers objected to the cabinet’s decisions as formulated by the prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu: They were Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Minister for Jerusalem affairs, Ze’ev Elkin.
Verbal acrobatics can no longer disguise the fact that Netanyahu sought to turn the clock back to “normal,” as though an entire population could forget the fear, the burning homes and explosions of the last 36 hours – the “normal” being weekly mob assaults on Israeli troops on the Gaza border and the continuing flow of Qatari dollars into Hamas’ coffers, in return for fake “calm.”
Amid Israel’s crumbling deterrence against Palestinian terrorists, the prime minister was motivated in his decision on Tuesday by two considerations that were not brought to the public notice:
1-The S-300 air defense missiles Russia has deployed to Syria. Netanyahu’s brief chat with President Vladimir Putin in Paris on Sunday yielded no concurrence for the resumption of Israeli air strikes against Iran. It is now up to him to decide whether to take this as a Russian embargo on Israel overflights, or to go ahead and risk resuming those air strikes. In the worst case, the Israeli air force might have to operate on two fronts: Syria and Gaza.
2-Israel has tied its hands with an ultimatum to Beirut to shut down Iran’s workshops in Lebanon for adding precision-guidance to Hizballah’s surface missiles, or else face Israeli attacks to destroy them. There was no date on the ultimatum. But to carry it through, every ounce of Israel’s air force capabilities will be required. The question is how did Israel’s policy-makers failed to avoid a situation which paralyses its ability to operate against strategic foes in Syria and Lebanon?

.Lebanon can wait too
Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya English/November 13/18
It’s no secret that Lebanon is currently passing through a deep crisis as expressed by the inability to form a cabinet that can resolve the country’s serious problems. The crisis is open to all possibilities including raising the issue of the current mechanism which basis is the constitution after the Taif Agreement that was reached in 1989 and that stipulated equal sharing of power.
Forming a cabinet is no longer just linked to ministerial shares and the desire to harm Saad Hariri. It has gone beyond this. There is someone who wants to confirm that the party which forms the cabinet and selects the ministers is well-known. It’s the same party that selects who the president is. In the end, the president in Lebanon was not elected unless after everyone agreed that it will be the person whom Hezbollah nominated to hold the post. What Lebanon is currently witnessing falls within the context of a series of shifts which happened after the Taif Agreement. The first shift was on November 22, 1989 when President Rene Moawad, who expressed the real spirit of the Taif Agreement with its Arab and international covers, was assassinated. The purpose was to deprive Lebanon of these two covers and to strengthen Syrian tutelage. This is what in fact happened when the Syrian regime directly got rid of Moawad. This rarely happens as most of the time the Syrian regime uses a local tool to carry out a task, like the case was with the assassination of Bachir Gemayel.
Blowing up Moawad’s convoy on Independence Day was one of the few times when the Syrian regime went straight to killing someone through its apparatuses. The Syrian regime did this before with Kamal Jumblatt in 1977 when a well-known Syrian officer named Ibrahim Howaiji and members from his force assumed the task of killing Jumblatt. There’s no doubt that Lebanon is not an easy bite that Iran, despite everything it did, can smoothly swallow. Lebanon can pay a high price for standing in the face of Iranian ambitions.
Syria’s complete tutelage over Lebanon passed through several stages of which the most prominent were the assassination of Kamal Jumblatt, Bachir Gemayel and Rene Moawad and the entrance of the Syrian troops to the presidential palace in Baabda and the ministry of defense in Yarze on October 13, 1990.
This happened in well-known circumstances amid a scandalous incapability of many Lebanese figures, especially Christians, to read the balance of regional and international powers.
What seems required in 2018 by forming a cabinet led by Saad Hariri is to perform a final transition of tutelage from Syria to Iran. This is it. Hezbollah, which is a mere brigade in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, did not hide that it wants to build on the explosion of the Rafic Hariri convoy and the assassinations that followed to make the country into what it is today.
Imposing Iranian tutelage
We cannot separate between the assassination of Rafic Hariri – his killing led to halting all the projects that aim to restore life to Lebanon – and the current situation. What’s currently happening aims to dedicate the transition from the Syrian tutelage to the Iranian tutelage. Just like strengthening the Syrian tutelage passed through different phases, the attempt to strengthen the Iranian tutelage is also passing through different stages beginning with the rejection to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1559 in 2004. The Resolution which Syria and Iran rejected calls for disbanding all Lebanese militias. The party meant here is the only remaining militia which is Hezbollah. The attempts that aim to reach a phase where Hezbollah forms the Lebanese cabinet have been ongoing ever since getting rid of Rafic Hariri. All the Lebanese figures who were targeted were targeted to achieve this purpose. The July 2006 War did not happen by coincidence. The aim of this war was to achieve victory over Lebanon. This is what actually happened. The sit-in in Downtown Beirut only aimed to harm the Lebanese economy and displace whoever is left of Christian youths from Lebanon. Nothing happened by coincidence in Lebanon. The process of imposing Iranian tutelage, or to be more specific, the process of attempting to impose this tutelage passed through several stages. It’s a process which honorable Lebanese people, of whom Saad Hariri is the most prominent, are still resisting. Among these stages are the invasion of Beirut and the mountains in May 2008. Getting rid of the first government which Saad Hariri formed to pave way to form the cabinet of Najib Mikati is one of these stages. The aim was to reach a phase where they use a constitutional cover to turn Lebanon into what it is today. Closing the parliament for over two years also aimed to serve this purpose. Hezbollah never hid that the target of the strange electoral law on which the recent elections were held was the Sunni sect. Hezbollah has achieved what it wants through this law. It actually wanted to achieve much more and it would have done so if it hadn’t been for Saad Hariri who made great efforts during his electoral campaign and subjected his life to danger by being in the streets and mingling with people across Lebanese areas.
Hezbollah has through certain people who accept to be its “political refugees” managed to infiltrate the Sunnis. And now, its current concern is to find the cover which guarantees it that it becomes a guardian, in the name of Iran, over Lebanon. Lebanon entered the final chapter of the Iranian scenario which aims to control Lebanon in a constitutional way, i.e. by translating the results of the parliamentary elections on the governmental level. Saad Hariri is only needed as a front, nothing more. They want Hariri to today implement the Iranian conditions which he refused when he visited Tehran as premier in November 2010.
Facing Iranian ambitions
What’s certain is that Saad Hariri has not changed. He will not form a cabinet according to Iranian standards and he will not submit in 2018 to what he refused submitting to in 2010. He will not accept opening the banking system for Iran hence inflicting disasters on Lebanon and its people. There’s no doubt that Lebanon is not an easy bite that Iran, despite everything it did, can smoothly swallow. Lebanon can pay a high price for standing in the face of Iranian ambitions. However, can we say that Tehran is in a comfortable position that allows it to act the way it behaved in the past? Is Iran after the US sanctions, which will get stricter day after day, the same Iran before the sanctions? This is the main question these days. Iran and its tools can wait. Lebanon, and Saad Hariri as well, can also wait although this will cost it a high price. However any losses are still less harmful than completely falling under Iranian tutelage.
 The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 13-14/18
Washington Vows to ‘Squeeze’ Iran
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 13 November, 2018/US National Security Advisor John Bolton vowed Tuesday to "squeeze" Iran "until the pips squeak", a week after a tough new round of sanctions came into force, compelling Tehran to find ways to evade the restrictions in oil trade and banking. Speaking in Singapore ahead of a summit, Bolton said: "We think the (Iranian) government is under real pressure and it's our intention to squeeze them very hard. "As the British say, squeeze them until the pips squeak. "We are also going to significantly increase the enforcement of sanctions." President Donald Trump has dramatically increased pressure on Tehran, withdrawing from the 2015 international deal aimed at ending its nuclear program and introducing several rounds of unilateral US sanctions. The latest tranche of measures have been touted as the toughest yet, and aim to significantly reduce Iran's vital oil exports and cut off its banks from international finance. "There's no doubt Iran has already started to try and find ways to evade the sanctions both on oil in particular and financial markets," Bolton added. Bolton stressed that "most of the countries of Europe have passed through denial and anger and many of them are already at acceptance that we're out of the deal." "Others are getting to that point," he said. In the face of widespread opposition to the sanctions, Washington issued temporary exemptions to eight countries to its ban on buying oil from Iran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that Washington would not be able to cut Iran's oil exports to zero.
Human Rights Reports: 22 Ahvaz Inmates Executed in Iran
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 13 November, 2018/Human Right activists confirmed on Sunday that Iran has executed Ahvaz inmates who were arrested last September in connection to an attack against a Revolutionary Guards military parade. Sources said officials from the Iranian Intelligence contacted the families of 22 inmates, informing them of their execution and having them pledge not to hold any gathering or ceremonies, while authorities refused to hand over the bodies for proper burials. Other sources close to the victims’ families said the 22 executed inmates were arrested on Sept. 24 by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence in connection to the parade attack. Human Rights Monitor website quoted activists in Ahvaz as saying that the office of the regime’s intelligence ministry contacted the families of the executed detainees on Nov. 10 to summon them at its headquarters. “On their arrival, they were given their loved ones’ death certificates and ordered not to hold any funeral ceremonies or mourning rituals or to receive anyone at their homes for condolences,” the activists said, adding that the regime threatened to arrest anyone violating its orders. The Revolutionary Guards had vowed to exact “deadly and unforgettable” vengeance for the attack on the parade that killed 25 people. The assault was one of the worst ever against the most powerful force of Iran, as it struck a blow at its security establishment. “Considering (the Guards’) full knowledge about the centers of deployment of the criminal terrorist leaders ..., they will face a deadly and unforgettable vengeance in the near future,” the Guards had said in a statement carried by state media. Following the Sept. 22 attack on the parade, Iranian authorities waged a campaign against Ahvaz minorities, arresting hundreds in the Khuzestan province, according to the HRM website.
Facing US Sanctions, Tehran Set to Lose Economic Deals in Syria
Damascus - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 13 November, 2018/Washington’s newly imposed sanctions on Iran have given rise to many speculations concerning the fate of Tehran’s recently stepped up investments in Syria. Despite Iran and Syria labeling their relationship as ‘strategic’ when it comes to political, military and security cooperation, their economic ties have remained humble with a small trade exchange valued at $361 million between 2010 and 2011. Most of trade happening between the two is skewed to benefit Iran, and fails to meet forecast hopes. Both Damascus and Tehran had hoped to achieve a whopping $2 billion exchange.  Iranian investment is at the bottom of the list when compared with other countries that ventured in Syrian markets that opened up to better global trade relations in 2000. The number of projects undertaken by Iran between 2006 and 2010 totaled seven only, and included a cement manufacture plant, energy supply contracts, and car production deals involving the Syrian Iranian Car Manufacturing Company LLC (SIAMCO). During that very same period, Turkey bagged a total of 26 investment projects in Syria. Back in 2010, the Syria government approved 37 foreign investment projects, ten of which belonged to Turkey. After the 2011 uprising set Syria on a downward spiral of bloodshed and devastation, the country’s gross domestic production took a crippling blow and bled an estimated $226 million in losses. Syria’s currency lost up to 90 percent of its value, leaving 85 percent of the Middle Eastern country’s population below the poverty line. In the aftermath of the Syria Civil war, unemployment aggravated to a staggering 53 percent in 2015 and coincided with depleted national foreign currency reserves, with reports saying the country was left with a diminishing 5.88 percent of its pre-war foreign currency reserves. Reaching such a tattered state of affairs forced the Syrian regime to seek out squeezing more economic help from Iran, in addition to military and political support. Responding to regime calls, Tehran increased its economic input in Syria by late 2011. Nevertheless, the contribution did not come by for free. Iran soon subdued the Syrian regime by inking multiple agreements stringing across the entirety of Syrian economic sectors. Quintessential to its influence in Syria, Tehran secured a considerable share in production industries linked to the war-torn country’s sovereign wealth and natural resources. These stakes were handed over to Iran to settle outstanding debts. In August 2013, Tehran loaned Damascus $3.6 billion to cover for the regime’s oil derivatives expenditure.  But it was agreed that the money buys Iranian oil exclusively. Later in July 2017, Bashar Assad approved his country acquiring another $1 billion loan to finance exports. Syria’s energy, telecommunications, financial, construction and industrial sectors-- to some degree--are spending Iranian credit. But it will not be a walk in the park for Iran to secure its share of the Syrian economy. Russia, a strong regime ally, is also seeking to grab serious investment projects in Syria.  In light of competitiveness, observers believe that Moscow might use US sanctions to sway the situation in its favor, especially in forcing the Syrian regime to hand over energy sector concessions, previously promised to Iran, to Russian companies.  US sanctions are also expected to reduce the spread of Iran proxy militias in Syria because of lack of funds—signs of the US economic sanctions effecting Iran’s regional standing began showing as Russian troops began replacing Iran-linked forces in military outposts in eastern Syria. For example, Russian forces have taken control of locations, formerly held by Iranian militias, in Abu Kamal, a city on the Euphrates river in eastern Syria’s Deir Ezzor province near the border with Iraq.
Israeli Report: US Fears Netanyahu’s Rejection of ‘Deal of the Century’
Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 13 November, 2018/American officials are concerned that their Israeli allies could form an obstacle in the implementation of the “Deal of the Century,” reported an Israeli daily. It explained that Palestinians have been open about rejecting the deal, while the Israelis have not. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been building his strategy on the basis of Palestinian rejection of the deal. Moreover, he is planning to bring forward the elections date so that he will not have to deal with this peace plan. The Jerusalem Post said Monday that “the finishing touches are being put on the plan, and it could be rolled out as early as next month or in January.”However, the paper added: “The US schedule doesn’t seem to match up with Israel’s schedule as Netanyahu is apparently toying with the idea of moving up the elections, scheduled now for November 2019.” Since “no one in the coalition believes the government will last until then”, and that Netanyahu is likely “to dissolve the government in the coming months”, the Jerusalem Post noted that “there would be no point in [the US] rolling out a peace deal that Israel will not be able to embrace”. Washington understands that Israeli polls indicate that Netanyahu is most likely to win the elections, the paper pointed out, adding that in order for the premier to achieve this victory, he will have to repeat his 2015 experience by shifting to the right-wing extremist discourse. Back then, he retreated his support for the establishment of a Palestinian state and said such a state would never take place during his rule. “If the plan calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state”, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett could use that to “attack Netanyahu, who would be caught in a dilemma,” the newspaper explained. “On the one hand, he would be expected to embrace the plan that had been forged by an administration that he claims is the most pro-Israel in American history. But if he does embrace it, he gives ammunition to his political adversaries,” the report continued. “If, however, Netanyahu distances himself from the plan, this could also have far-reaching implications and create an unprecedented rift between him and US President Donald Trump.”The newspaper described its report as a US message to Netanyahu, warning him against the consequences of rejecting the "Deal of the Century".

Gaza Militants Announce Egyptian-Brokered Ceasefire with Israel
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 13/18/Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip announced an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Israel on Tuesday after a severe escalation of violence threatened to descend into full-blown war. The groups, including Hamas, issued a joint statement saying they would abide by the ceasefire as long as Israel did the same. Israel had not commented on the announcement. "Egypt's efforts have been able to achieve a ceasefire between the resistance and the Zionist enemy," the statement said. "The resistance will respect this declaration as long as the Zionist enemy respects it." The violent escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza was the worst since a 2014 war. Seven Palestinians were killed in Gaza over the course of some 24 hours as Israeli strikes targeted militants and flattened buildings while sending fireballs and plumes of smoke into the sky. Sirens wailed in southern Israel and tens of thousands of residents took cover in shelters overnight as around 400 rockets and mortar rounds were fired from the Gaza Strip, wounding 27 people, including three severely. The violence began on Sunday with a botched Israeli special forces operation inside the Gaza Strip that turned deadly and prompted Hamas to vow revenge.

Report: Saudi 'Kill Team's' Luggage Contained Syringes, Scissors
Luggage carried by a 15-member Saudi team dispatched to Istanbul included scissors, defibrillators and syringes that may have been used against journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi consulate, a pro-government Turkish daily said Tuesday. X-ray images of the luggage were published in the Sabah newspaper as the New York Times reported that a member of the team at the consulate had told a superior by phone to "tell your boss," suspected to be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that the operation was accomplished. Turkish media has published gruesome details of the murder of 59-year-old Khashoggi who according to a Turkish prosecutor was strangled and dismembered soon after he entered the Istanbul consulate on October 2 to obtain paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee. After repeated denials, Saudi Arabia finally admitted Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and Riyadh critic, had been murdered at the mission in a "rogue" operation. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the 15-member Saudi team travelled from Riyadh to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi. The luggage carried by the team was loaded into two planes that left for Riyadh at 1520 GMT and 1946 GMT on October 2, Sabah newspaper said.The luggage contained 10 phones, five walkie-talkies, intercoms, two syringes, two defibrillators, a jamming device, staplers, and scissors, the paper reported.
'Tell your boss'
The team was being led by Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, the man named by Turkish media as the head of the operation against Khashoggi. The New York Times, quoting sources familiar with a recording of Khashoggi's killing, reported Monday that Mutreb -- a security officer who frequently travelled with Prince Mohammed -- picked up a phone at the consulate to say "tell your boss" that the operation was accomplished. Turkish intelligence officers have told U.S. officials they believe Mutreb was speaking to one of the prince's aides, it reported. And American intelligence officials believe "your boss" was a reference to Prince Mohammed. Erdogan has said the order to murder Khashoggi came from "the highest levels" of the Saudi government and he pointedly failed to absolve Crown Prince Salman of responsibility. Ankara has shared voice recordings linked to the murder with a number of countries including Saudi Arabia as well as the United States and its Western allies. But Turkish officials say they played them the recordings but did not hand them over. "We played the voice recording linked to the murder with anyone who wanted," Erdogan told Turkish journalists aboard a plane returning from Paris where he attended commemorations at the weekend marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. "The recording is really disastrous," he said in quotes published by Sabah. "When the Saudi intelligence agent listened, he was shocked and said this could only be done by someone who got heroin."Khashoggi's body has never been found, but Sabah reported on Saturday that his killers poured his remains down the drain after dissolving them in acid.
Egypt Sentences Ex-Governor to 10 Years for Bribery
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 13 November, 2018/The Giza Criminal Court sentenced former Menoufia Governor Hisham Abdel Basset to 10 years in prison and fined him EGP15 million for accepting a bribe of over EGP27.45 million. It also acquitted two other defendants in the same case. Attorney General Nabil Ahmed Sadek referred the defendants to a criminal trial at the conclusion of investigations initiated by the Supreme State Security Prosecution. The two defendants who were brought to the criminal trial, along with Abdel Basset, are Ahmed Said Mubarak, the mediator in bribery, and Egyptian businessman Essam Ahmed Fathi, who gave the bribe. Investigations by the Administrative Control Authority revealed that the governor took bribes from the owner of a private company. Investigations and recordings of telephone conversations and video conferences proved that Abdel Basset tasked the implementation of a construction project, due to be implemented by a public sector company, to Fathi, who offered the governor a bribe through a mediator. The public sector company also authorized the second defendant to pay its dues, and the third defendant, Said, mediated to provide bribes to the first defendant by buying a number of cars and renovating and furnishing two housing units in Al-Mohandiseen and Alexandria. Investigations revealed that the governor has allocated four construction projects for the governorate at an estimated cost of EGP5.61 million, whereas the actual cost of the four projects is only EGP12 million. The Abdel Basset received bribes worth EGP5.27 million from those projects. He has the right to challenge the ruling before the Court of Cassation, the country's highest civil court.
Egypt Thwarts Suicide Attack against Security Checkpoint in Arish
Cairo, Northern Sinai (Egypt) - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 13 November, 2018/Egypt’s Central Security Forces (CEF) thwarted a suicide bomb attack on security checkpoint in Arish city, North Sinai, announced the interior ministry on Monday. The attack attempted to target the “Batal 5” checkpoint in Arish. The suicide bomber, who was wearing an explosive belt, was killed before he could detonate his explosives. The ministry did not disclose the date of the failed attack and whether there were any other casualties. Soon after, the security forces combed the area around the checkpoint. Security leaderships in Sinai emphasized vigilance around the clock in search for terrorist elements. Egypt launched Operation Sinai 2018 in February to target "terrorist and criminal elements and organizations" in northern and central Sinai, as well as parts of the Nile Delta and the Western Desert. Separately, the North Sinai governorate announced Monday that it was paying new compensation to “fishermen, drivers and undocumented workers, who were affected by the war on terror.”The Governorate’s statement estimated their numbers at more than 450 workers. "I am among the workers who have been affected by the events in the region and the closure of gas stations months ago," Mohammed Abdelkader, a taxi driver in Arish city, told Asharq Al-Awsat. Abdelkader, a father of three children, said that he used to work as a taxi driver in Arish. However, his work almost came to a stop between February and May, he stressed, adding that the Ministry of Social Solidarity started paying him urgent compensation. “During the past two months, we have seen a relative improvement in the situation after the opening of gas stations, albeit it was provided in limited quantities,” he said. In May, North Sinai announced that emergency relief allowances will be given for those affected by the war on terror in North Sinai. It said that the North Sinai Relief Fund will give out 500 Egyptian pounds (about $28). 

Pope to Visit Morocco in March

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 13/18/Pope Francis will visit Morocco on March 30 and 31 on a trip that will take him to Rabat and Casablanca, the Vatican said Tuesday. The pontiff was "accepting the invitation extended by King Mohammed VI and the bishops" to visit the majority-Muslim North African country, it said.

Libyan Kingpins Meet in Sicily despite Warlord's Reluctance

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 13/18/The main players in the Libya crisis met in Sicily on Tuesday for Italian-sponsored talks aimed at kickstarting a long-stalled political process and triggering elections despite searing emnities in the divided country. Eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar went into a meeting with his U.N.-backed rival Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and other leaders, an Italian official said, ahead of more inclusive roundtable talks after Haftar's office in Benghazi denied he was attending the actual conference. Haftar arrived in the Sicilian capital of Palermo from his Benghazi stronghold on Monday evening after days of doubts over his crucial presence, but did not attend a working dinner with other leaders. Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame, European Council President Donald Tusk and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian were also at the Sarraj-Haftar meeting on the conference sidelines, hosted by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Italy is the latest country aiming to bring Libya's disparate and often warring factions together after a Paris summit in May saw the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and Haftar agree to hold national polls on December 10 -- a date which has fallen by the wayside. Acknowledging the chaotic political situation since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was deposed in 2011, the United Nations last week conceded elections will not be viable at least before the spring of 2019. Haftar, whose forces control all of northeastern Libya, refuses to sit down at the same table as the Islamist leaders he fiercely opposes, militarily and ideologically. "Haftar is being difficult as he has done several times in the past," said Paris-based Libya specialist Jalel Harchaoui. "This attitude cuts both ways because it has a sensational effect that momentarily ups his value, but his interlocutors who are humiliated by this will always remember," he said. Analysts say the Sicily summit risks being compromised not only by tensions between Libyan factions but also the competing agendas of foreign powers.
Just as in May, the key Libyan invitees are Haftar, the eastern parliament's speaker Aguila Salah, GNA head Sarraj and Khaled al-Mechri, speaker of a Tripoli-based upper chamber. The GNA says it will use the Palermo talks to lobby for security reforms that unify the army, a constitutionally rooted electoral process, economic reform and an end to "parallel institutions."
'A fundamental step'
For Rome's populist government, a top priority is stemming the flow of migrants who exploit Libya's security vacuum in their quest to reach European shores, often via Italy. U.N. envoy Salame told the Security Council on Thursday that a national conference in early 2019 would be organized to provide "a platform" for Libyans to spell out their vision for the future. But diplomatic wrangling between Italy and France also hangs over this summit. In September, Italy's defense minister and parliamentary speaker both partly blamed France for Libya's security crisis, which continues to simmer seven years after the NATO-backed uprising toppled Gadhafi. The Italian swipes came as Tripoli was plagued by militia clashes that killed at least 117 people and wounded more than 400 between late August and late September. Salame's deputy Stephanie Williams on Monday hailed the GNA's moves to secure Tripoli since then but said more must be done to "generate regular forces ready to assume security responsibilities in the capital."Rome and Paris have for months been at loggerheads over Libya's election timetable. While France repeatedly endorsed the December date, Italy opposed it. Italy has not been alone in pushing for elections to be delayed. December 10 was also viewed sceptically by Washington and Moscow. One Italian diplomatic source said that no definitive poll date should be set at the summit and it is "not sure that there will be a final document" after the talks. According to diplomats and analysts, Russia, France, Egypt and the UAE support Haftar, while Turkey and Qatar have thrown their weight behind rivals to the eastern strongman, especially Islamist groups.

Violence Calms in Yemen's Hodeida amid Diplomatic Pressure

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 13/18/Diplomatic efforts appeared to have eased fighting in Yemen's Hodeida Tuesday, as Britain said the Saudi-led coalition had agreed to the evacuation of wounded rebels from the country ahead of proposed peace talks in Sweden.
After nearly four years of conflict in Yemen, home to what the U.N. calls the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe, the United States and Britain are now pressing Saudi Arabia and its allies to end the war against the Iran-backed Huthi rebels. The office of British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Saudi-led alliance fighting on the side of the government had agreed to the evacuation of up to 50 wounded Huthi fighters to Oman following his visit to Riyadh. The move comes ahead of another proposed round of peace talks in Sweden later this month, it said. Clashes between Saudi-backed troops and rebels in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida abated Tuesday, after nearly two weeks of fighting which left nearly 600 people dead, including civilians. But residents in Hodeida, home to a port vital for food imports and the delivery of humanitarian aid to millions at risk of starvation, say they now fear a siege on the city, where exit routes are being blocked one by one and hospitals seized by armed fighters.
Port attack
Rebel-held Hodeida was hit Monday night by what multiple sources said were two air strikes -- the first targeting of the docks since government forces launched a major offensive to retake the port five months ago. The port's deputy director, Yahya Sharafeddine, said the main entrance to the docks had been "the target of air raids" but was fully functioning Tuesday. Three security guards were wounded in the attack, he said. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned the destruction of the port could trigger a "catastrophic" situation in a country where 14 million people are at risk of starvation. Four employees in Hodeida port who requested anonymity told AFP that a rebel commander had been killed in the Monday attack. The Huthis, who seized Hodeida in a 2014 takeover that included the capital, on Tuesday accused the government of the attacks on the port via their Al-Massirah TV. The coalition has come under intense international pressure to end the conflict, particularly following the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the kingdom's rulers, in his country's consulate in Istanbul on October 2.Pentagon chief Jim Mattis on Saturday confirmed his country had halted its controversial aerial refueling support for coalition aircraft involved in the Yemen war.
Lull in violence
Pro-government troops reached residential neighborhoods in Hodeida Sunday, triggering fears for civilians who could be trapped in the city. Residents reported Tuesday that the fighting had slowed overnight, and rebel media -- which regularly claims attacks on loyalists -- did not report any new fighting. "The violent battles stopped on Monday night. We heard a few gunshots here and there at night, but it seems to be calm this morning," a resident told AFP by telephone, requesting anonymity. "We haven't heard any explosions, unlike the past two weeks." Other residents have said they feared being trapped in the city, where only one major exit route is still open to traffic and the transport of food and aid, on the northern edge of the city. Aid groups have urged both parties in the conflict to keep roads open to allow civilians to escape and the transportation of aid through the Hodeida port. The docks as well as Sanaa international airport are under a near-total blockade by Saudi Arabia and its allies, who accuse Iran of smuggling arms to the Huthis. Tehran denies the accusation. The United States, Britain and France this week called for the cessation of hostilities in Yemen and the resumption of negotiations to end the four-year war, a call echoed by the U.N. secretary general. U.N. mediator Martin Griffiths -- whose efforts to host negotiations in Geneva in September failed -- met with Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani in Riyadh for talks on reviving the peace process, Saudi Arabia's state news agency reported. Griffiths has said he hopes to host talks in Sweden by the end of the year.

Canada in talks with Pakistan over possibly taking in Asia Bibi

AFP, Paris/Monday, 13 November 2018/Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that his government was holding talks with Pakistan over potentially offering asylum to Asia Bibi, a Christian woman recently freed from prison after her blasphemy conviction was overturned. “We are in discussions with the Pakistani government,” Trudeau said in an interview with AFP in Paris, where he was attending a peace conference organised by French President Emmanuel Macron. “There is a delicate domestic context that we respect which is why I don’t want to say any more about that, but I will remind people Canada is a welcoming country,” he said. Bibi has been blocked from leaving Pakistan after the overturning of her conviction prompted a wave of protests among Islamist hard-liners. She has since been flown to a “safe place” in the country as several governments have offered to grant her family asylum.
Her husband has appealed in particular to Britain, Canada and the United States, claiming that Bibi’s life would be in danger as long as she lived in Pakistan. Bibi’s conviction stemmed from a 2009 incident when she was asked to fetch water while out working in the fields. Muslim laborers objected to her touching the water bowl as a non-Muslim. A fight reportedly erupted, and a local imam then claimed Bibi insulted the Prophet Mohammed. Bibi has consistently denied the charges and her prosecution rallied international rights groups, politicians and religious figures.

Iranian migrants steal French boat and sail to Britain

AFP, Lille/Tuesday, 13 November 2018/A group of Iranian migrants stole a fishing boat from a French port and sailed across the Channel to Britain, slipping past border officials to complete a journey attempted by thousands each year. Seventeen migrants, including three children, reached England early Tuesday aboard the fishing boat stolen from a French port near Calais, British officials confirmed Tuesday. Britain's Home Office, the interior ministry, said the group was intercepted at Dover harbor. “Fourteen men and three minors, all of whom presented themselves as Iranian, were found on board,” a spokesman said, adding that their asylum cases would be reviewed and that the minors had been referred to social services. French prosecutor Pascal Marconville, who is leading the investigation into the theft, said the engine had been hotwired (started without a key) and that the migrants managed to “escape the watch” of port authorities in making their getaway. Every year, thousands of migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, many of them minors, attempt to reach Britain by stowing away on trucks crossing to England, mainly through the French port of Calais. For many the attempt ends in failure, with French police routinely detaining migrants caught trying to climb onto trucks. On Monday evening, French officials became suspicious after noticing a boat that was taking a “bizarre” route across the Channel, said Ingrid Parrot, spokeswoman for maritime authorities in northern France. Officials tipped off British authorities and contacted the owner of the 12-metre (40-foot) boat, who said it had been stolen from the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer, about 35 kilometers (21 miles) west of Calais. Parrot called the crossing “unprecedented”, noting that migrants had previously used much smaller boats to try reach their journey's end, with little success. So far this year French maritime officials have launched 23 operations either to rescue migrants at sea or to stop groups about to set sail. On land, meanwhile, the police continue to routinely clear migrant camps around Calais, two years after dismantling the squalid “Jungle” settlement, which was home to over 7,000 people at one point. Last month, French authorities cleared 1,800 people, most of them Iraqi Kurds, from a makeshift camp near the port of Dunkirk.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 13-14/18
The Arabs, US Midterm Elections and Iran Sanctions
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al-Awsat/November, 13/18
Those are very tense, exciting times, filled with ambiguity and obstinacy.
Last week, the re-imposed US sanctions against Iran took effect. A day later, American voters went to the polls in the midterm elections, which were virtually a referendum on President Donald Trump’s policies and approaches to global political and economic issues.
As far as we, the Arabs are concerned, it is business as usual, as we have grown accustomed to watching and hoping, as a result of our decades old failure to build a proper “Arab Lobby” that would anticipate and interact.
To be fair, there may well be valid excuses.
It would very difficult, if not impossible, to build a single Arab vision, or develop unified Arab priorities abroad when the domestic scene in the Arab world is divided and disorientated, with conflicting readings and contradicting interests; where spite overtakes farsightedness, a strategy of the “necessary minimum agreement” is confused with tactics of the “acceptable margins of disagreement”.
So, if we are unable, within our own homeland, to find the required consensus to arrest our decline and establish a dialogue based on common interests, how could we ever reach the stage of building understandings and plans to deal others?
Just the opposite is how our regional competitors for supremacy in the Middle East are conducting themselves. They are quite active and maneuvering well; indeed, even, after approaching the precipice, they always manage to turn back, and thus, avoid falling. They do so for two important reasons:
1- Their decisions are centralized, controlled and coherent, so they efficiently send the desired message, and then haggle and barter efficiently in order to, at least, avoid losing when winning proves impossible.
2- They understand the strengths and weaknesses of democracy. So, on one hand they skilfully invest in the media, public relations and others instruments of “soft power”, and on the other, they know how to wait and ask, and when to insist or retreat; as they know that the ruling parties in western democracy do not govern indefinitely, but remain in power as long they win elections.
Israel, thanks to its western political traditions and culture, is pretty aware of this fact, and has mastered the game impressively.
In Iran too, despite the ruling elite’s ultra-conservatism, hawkish provocative rhetoric, and its flagrant aggressive policies has “digested” the “Israeli know-how”, and blended it successfully with its traditional “cultural dissimulation”.
This is why, it has three different discourses: the first, directed to Iranian interior within the context of its “police state” apparatus; the second, to the Arabs with the help of its sectarian militias and sponsorship of extremism and terrorism, and divisive agitation under fake “liberation” slogans; and the third, to western democracies, whereby it sends its western-educated “moderates” to reflect the desired gentle, civilized and glossy image.
Even Turkey, which feels it has every right to reclaim some of its former regional power, that was lost after the Ottoman defeat in WWI, is gradually learning from its mistakes in dealing with the West. Currently, it is playing tough and soft with Russia, its old nationalist and religious enemy; and with western Europe in the thick fog of history and repercussions of immigration; and lately with America, the former “Cold War ally” and current “uneasy partner” in the days of rising “political Islam” and “western populism”!
Barack Obama’s Middle East policies were, without doubt, totally disastrous as far as the Arabs are concerned. His policies led to freeing Iran’s hands, while destroying Arab entities through deceptive Utopian promises, that were soon undermined by immoral principles. Indeed, regardless, of appeasing Iran and favoring it at the expense of the Arabs of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, the former Democrat administration in Washington did virtually nothing for the Palestinians.
Thus, when the Republicans won the presidential elections two years ago and Trump declared his intentions to change Washington’s policies towards the Middle East, many Arabs were happy. They did, despite the new president’s hardline positions towards Muslim and Arab communities in the US, which were later implemented in a series of restrictive measures. Then, they were followed by Trump’s decision to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus, not only serving the interests of extremist Israelis, but also the fake justifications for Iranian intervention in the region.
It is true that Trump’s rhetoric against Tehran’s “mullahs” has been tough and aggressive, and has led to the re-imposition of sanctions, but it is also true that many senior figures in his administration have repeated that its intention “was not to bring down the regime, but rather change its behavior”! In fact, during the past days, despite Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s reminder for the Iranian leadership of the 15 points he had made preconditions for settling the ongoing conflict with Iran, the decision to exempt several major importers of Iranian oil from sanctions has weakened them significantly.
On Iran too, the official US “tough” talk has not been reflected in the “soft” western stance towards Yemen’s Houthis, who are very much an integral part of Iran expansionist regional project. The same applies to Syria, where the few bombardments of regime targets soon gave way to a fluid political situation that differs little from how things were during the Obama years, augmented with tacit regional, Arab and international “normalization” with the pro-Tehran Assad regime. In the same vein, one would also deal with Washington’s passive reactions to what is happening in both Iraq and Lebanon, where pro-Iran militias dominate the scene, define and decide security strategies, and prevent at will the formation of governments.
With regard to the US midterm elections, Trump warned about the likelihood that the Democrats may win the House of Representatives. This, surely means weakening his “anti-Iran” policies, and undermining any effective measures against Tehran. If we recognize that European positions have been open against the sanctions, we need to prepare ourselves for a difficult period in the Middle East, one which would include another round of the blackmail-intended psychological war.
So, we must be aware of the clear-cut international collusion with the pro-Iran “forces of the status quo” in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, as well the intentional ignoring of Tehran’s direct responsibility in the post-Houthi coup tragedy in Yemen.
Why a Great US Economy Doesn’t Feel So Great
Noah Smith/Bloomberg View/November, 13/18
John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, describes the economy “strong.” CNN says it’s “soaring," and the Washington Post labels it “good.” I myself have referred to it as a “boom.”But others wonder how this strong, great economy can be soaring when wages aren’t rising very quickly.
Meanwhile, my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Stephen Gandel notes that most Americans’ wealth hasn’t gone up during this boom. Most middle-class Americans keep their wealth in their houses, while the rich tend to put more in the stock market. But stocks have seen the bulk of the gains since President Donald Trump took office.
Even real estate isn’t doing so well for ordinary Americans these days, since the foreclosures of the housing bust and tighter lending standards have shifted housing wealth from the middle class to the rich. And that’s just what’s happening recently. Over the longer term, Americans have been suffering from steadily falling mobility. Only about half of 30-year-olds now make more money than their parents did at a similar age.
How can things be booming when average Americans are treading water? The answer has to do with the way economists think about the economy. In both their formal models and their mental ones, economic performance is divided into two very different components — macro and micro. That divide has seeped into popular language and punditry, occasionally causing unnecessary confusion.
In simple terms, the basic story economists tell goes something like this: Over the long run, economic prosperity is determined by the march of technology and the quality of human institutions. These combine to drive the growth in productivity, which measures how much output the economy can create for a given set of inputs. They also determine how what the economy produces gets distributed — technology can reward some skills and devalue others, while the government can redistribute wealth and privilege certain occupations over others.
Various subfields of economics deal with the gritty details of things that are thought to affect productivity — taxes, public goods, economic development, education, health, research and development, financial markets, etc. Increasingly, these fields — which comprise a majority of what economists study — are grouped together under the name of microeconomics.
In the short term, economists believe, the business cycle can cause fluctuations around the long-term trend. When a financial crisis, tight monetary policy or some other shock causes aggregate demand for goods and services to fall, businesses stop investing and lay off workers. The ensuing recession causes a mismatch — offices and factories sit empty, while workers who could fill those offices and factories stay at home playing video games. The downturn doesn’t last forever, but in the most severe situations it can persist for as long as a decade. The branch of economics which deals with this sort of temporary phenomenon is called macroeconomics.
Since the Great Depression, economists have gotten used to referring to macroeconomic conditions as “the economy.” Recessions and booms dominate the public discussion. When a large share of workforce is employed — as the chart below shows — people say “the economy” is good, even if productivity is slow, mobility is stagnant and inequality is increasing.
The job market is so strong that even people on Social Security Disability are re-entering the workforce.
But this labor market upswing is relative to a long-term productivity trend that looks increasingly gloomy. That stagnant productivity is probably a major reason wages are rising so slowly — though workers don’t always capture the gains from productivity growth, it definitely helps. Lower productivity also means less wealth available for the government to redistribute.
In other words, economists and commentators are calling the economy “great” because that’s what they’re used to doing. They just mean that most people have jobs. This standard terminology ignores the question of how much those jobs pay, or which classes of society reap the gains.
Of course, the macroeconomy and the microeconomy aren’t completely disconnected. An extended macroeconomic boom will tend to push up wages. It can even raise productivity, since it prompts companies to invest in the latest technological advances. So it’s good to keep aggregate demand strong, by not tightening monetary and fiscal policy unnecessarily.
But a good macroeconomy isn’t enough. The long-term trends of low productivity and high inequality have to be addressed. Microeconomic policy is much harder than macro, since it requires digging deep into the guts of institutions and industries, and fixing a million little things such as regulations, infrastructure, research, taxes, education and trade policy. There are rarely any big, quick, simple solutions. But the job must be tackled nonetheless, or Americans will eventually realize that a great economy isn’t so great after all.
Religious Freedom Shouldn’t Be Freedom to Discriminate
Noah Feldman/Bloomberg View/November, 13/18
A South Carolina foster-care agency has asked the Trump administration to rule that it has a constitutional right to discriminate against non-Protestant and gay parents under the religious-freedom guarantee of the First Amendment.
Some evangelical Christians will be upset if the agency doesn’t get an exemption from anti-discrimination rules so that it can receive federal money. But other religious groups, not to mention the American Civil Liberties Union and gay-rights organizations, will probably sue if it does. The legal issues are complicated, and it isn’t clear who would win.
Miracle Hill Ministries is based in an area of South Carolina where it is one of the main foster care agencies licensed and contracted by the state to put children in group homes and then connect them with foster parents.
According to excellent reporting by the Greenville News, the agency had a budget of just over $1 million in the fiscal year ending in July 2017, of which 47 percent came from the South Carolina Department of Social Services. Some significant percentage of that came from the federal government.
According to its website, Miracle Hill has “been recruiting Christian foster families since 1988.” In practice, that means the agency won’t work with Jews, Catholics, Muslims, atheists or anyone in a same-sex relationship. The agency says that its structure is pervasively religious, and that its staff prays over every placement. Children in the agency’s group homes engage in regular religious exercises.
In many liberal states where the issue has arisen, Catholic foster-care agencies that refuse to serve gay couples have had to shut down their operations rather than conform to state laws that ban discrimination. In July, for example, a federal court refused to order the Philadelphia Department of Human Services to use religiously affiliated foster-care agencies that won’t work with same-sex couples.
South Carolina is different. If it were just up to the state, Miracle Hill would get a religious-freedom exemption to anti-discrimination rules. Several other conservative states have granted such exemptions to foster-care agencies.
But it isn’t only up to the state. Agencies whose state funding comes from federal sources have to comply with federal regulations, or else the state has to give refunds to the US Department of Health and Human Services. That’s why Miracle Hill and the state have asked the federal agency to grant an exemption of its own.
Part of what makes the case unusual is that Miracle Hill doesn’t only discriminate against gay parents, as many other denominations do, but won’t do business with anyone who isn’t a committed Protestant.
In political terms, that means the requested exemption requires the administration of President Donald Trump not only to say that it’s OK with anti-gay discrimination, but that it’s willing to fund an agency that won’t place children with God-fearing (or God-denying) parents of all other religious denominations.
As a matter of principle, there isn’t really much difference between refusing to place children with gay parents and refusing to place them with Catholics, Jews or Muslims. Either way, the Christian agency is saying that it only feels comfortable placing children with people whose way of life matches what they believe God requires of all humans. Miracle Hill is just less ecumenical than Catholic Charities.
Should the Trump administration grant the exemption? And would it be legal if it did?
My view is that the exemption should not be granted. There are good reasons for the federal rules that say the government won’t fund programs that discriminate wrongfully.
Religious groups are and should be constitutionally entitled to discriminate on the basis of religion when it comes to deciding who can belong to their churches and congregations. But if they are going to receive federal funds to perform public services, it’s reasonable to require them to conform to the wider society’s generally shared values about discrimination. Imagine how outrageous it would be if Miracle Hill refused to place black children.
If the Trump administration does grant the exemption, however, it might be legally permitted to do so. The Supreme Court has allowed religious exemptions from other federal and state requirements in the past. And it has upheld the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which grants religious-liberty exemptions from federal requirements that impose too heavy a burden against religious exercise and there is no compelling government reason not to give the exemption. Yet it is also possible to argue that granting an exemption would violate the clause of the federal Constitution that bars “an establishment of religion.”
That’s because an exemption granted only to Miracle Hill, a Protestant group, allowing it to discriminate against non-Protestants, would endorse a particular religion. It’s unconstitutional for the government to send a message to some citizens that they are insiders, favored members of the community based on their religion, and to others that they are outsiders who are disfavored. The way around that would be for the Trump administration to make its exemption general, applying to any foster-care agency that wants to discriminate on the basis of its own religious belief. But that would mean also allowing agencies to discriminate on the basis of race, provided they claimed that their religion required it.
The upshot is that the exemption should not be granted. The vast majority of Christian foster-care agencies find it in their consciences to place children with the best parents available, irrespective of their religion. The Trump administration shouldn’t give Miracle Hill a special right to discriminate.
Will Nikki Haley block diplomatic immunity to Qatar hacking ringleader?

Dalia Aqidi/Al Arabiya English/November 13/18
Before she officially resigns from her post as US ambassador to the UN the end of 2018, Nikki Haley will decide on whether she will block diplomatic immunity for an alleged “paid agent of Qatar” who hacked and shared the private communications of a US citizen. Earlier, Haley announced that she would be resigning from her post at the end of the year.The Jerusalem Post said “Before she heads into the next stage of her career, Haley will have one more chance to intervene on behalf of the pro-Israel community: blocking diplomatic immunity for a paid agent of Qatar (one of Iran’s closest allies) which hacked and disseminated the private communications of an American citizen.”
The legal team of Elliot Broidy, a former vice chair of the Republican National Committee, has accused longtime UN official and Moroccan national Jamal Benomar of serving as the ringleader in the Qatari hacks of more than 1,200 individuals, including Broidy himself. Benomar is seeking to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that he has diplomatic immunity.The alleged ringleader claims in a court filing that he “is a member of the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom Morocco to the UN” and therefore enjoys diplomatic immunity. The filing acknowledges Ben Omar’s contacts with Qatari officials and US-based Qatari agents.
Moroccan-born Ben Omar, who had a 25-year U.N. career and last served as special adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for conflict prevention, had been sued by Broidy for, allegedly, orchestrating his dissemination stolen emails and documents to the media in to damage Broidy’s reputation.
The Jerusalem Post said “Given her post at the United Nations, it falls to her to decide whether to accord Benomar diplomatic immunity. The US Mission at the United Nations, overseen by Haley, has ultimate discretion over who receives accreditation from the UN as a diplomat. Her choice will determine whether Qatar, a leading partner of Iran and enemy of Israel, faces consequences for its assault on the private data of American citizens, or whether it can continue to prey on Americans with impunity.”
Ben Omar’s attorney, Abbe Lowell of Winston and Strawn LLP, wrote in a pre-motion letter to a US district court that Ben Omar’s alleged diplomatic status made him “immune from jurisdiction for actions performed in the course of his duties.” Ben Omar had never previously claimed Moroccan diplomatic status. Lowell argued that because the ex-diplomat “Ben Omar enjoyed derivative sovereign immunity not only based on Qatar’s immunity as a sovereign, but on Morocco’s immunity as a sovereign as well. Consequently, this Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, and the case must be dismissed, because the alleged actions of Ben Omar are protected under derivative sovereign immunity.”Spanning from 2014-2018, the hack’s alleged targets include Broidy, an ex-CIA official, a Democratic Party operative, and “range from Syrian human rights activists to Egyptian soccer players,” Bloomberg recently reported. According to the report, the hackers’ IP addresses “linked back to the internet service provider, Ooredoo, which is majority-owned by Qatari government agencies.”
Broidy’s attorney, Lee Wolosky, filed a letter with the court outlining what he described as “fatal flaws” with Ben Omar’s argument. “To date, the U.S. government has not agreed to extend diplomatic immunity to him,” adding “according to the U.N., the Moroccan Mission to the retained Defendant as a consultant or advisor on August 1, 2018 – after the July 23, 2018 filing of this lawsuit.” Wolosky further alleged that “Ben Omar’s participation in the conspiracy to hack and distribute Broidy’s electronic information was disclosed through discovery.” That discovery produced communications by Ben Omar’s co-conspirators, one of whom stated he was sure that the defendant ‘took the credit’ for personally reviewing the hacked materials before they were distributed to the press.”The letter also disclosed that Ben Omar “profited personally from the scheme,” pointing out that he was recently appointed to the Lagardère Supervisory Board, a multinational media conglomerate headquartered in Paris in which the largest shareholder is Qatar Holding LLC, a part of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.
Wolosky wrote in his letter, “In a deposition, one of Defendant’s co-conspirators testified that their work was done for “money” and that he was considering suing Ben Omar because the co-conspirator was owed ‘five to ten million.’”Ben Omar was best known for his tenure as the U.N.’s special envoy in Yemen, where he was responsible for attempting to mediate that country’s civil war between Iranian-armed Houthi rebels and the government.The Arab coalition accused Ben Omar of being fixated on Hadi-Houthi peace talks and on his own legacy, instead of emphasizing the continued Houthi aggression. Ben Omar’s time as envoy was also marked by indications of his pro-Qatar bias, Broidy’s lawsuit noted. “We are looking into what privileges and immunities apply,” a spokesperson for the Unite States Mission to the UN replied to Al Arabiya English’s inquiry, adding that it is the only answer the mission has at this time.

Countdown to mullahs’ belligerence begins
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya English/November 13/18
It seems that the United States is serious this time in putting pressure on the Iranian regime in a way that leaves the latter with three options: change its hostile behavior towards its neighbors, comply with US conditions, or collapse. According to the US, the present round of sanctions is the toughest in its history against rogue states, as they put it. Here, I want to clarify a point regarding the eight states exempted from boycotting the Iranian oil trade. This exemption is not permanent but time bound. It means that it would end within a few weeks, as emphasized by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. The other thing regarding these exemptions is that the financial return of these sales will be deposited in a bank account outside Iran to ensure that it is spent in the form of goods and services within Iran, so that it is not spent on Iranian militias abroad. The question here is: Will the sanctions have an immediate effect on Iran’s economic conditions? I do not think so. I do not believe that the Americans expect that either. It seems that the Iranian regime had prepared itself for these sanctions long ago, by stockpiling oil outside its territory. This would enable it to absorb the impact of the crisis for some time. However, this resistance would definitely weaken over time, in a way that would make the sanctions fulfill its goals.
Dangerous repercussions
The US, as its politicians mentioned, does not seek to completely overthrow the whole regime; but rather to correct its behavior and curb its ambitions, whether by preventing it from owning nuclear power or ballistic missiles which are an integral part of the these nuclear capabilities. At the same time, the US wants to cut off its militant arms which it uses to threaten its neighbors and fund terrorism with. As for overthrowing the whole regime, I do not believe that the Americans seek that. Overthrowing the regime like what happened with Saddam’s regime in Iraq would create a similar situation to what happened in Iraq, but it would be the Shiite version. This would have dangerous repercussions on the region’s stability and security.
The retreat of the mullahs’ regime in Iran from its ambitions and its resorting to rationality as well as peaceful coexistence with its neighbors is what the entire world, including the neighboring countries which this regime has harmed for over four decades, hopes for. As I said in previous articles, the first people who are going to benefit from clipping the wings of the mullahs’ regime are the Iranians themselves. These strict sanctions would convince them that having this expansionist mentality of the Middle Ages and the neglect of human beings almost completely is impossible in today’s world, and that religious countries with an expansionist mindset cannot be accepted in the modern age. Sooner or later this would make the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist come back to its senses, oblige it to protect the state from failing and forget about exporting the revolution. This latter task was one of Khomeini’s most important wills before he died. It’s also possible for the situation to aggravate as the mullahs may insist on resistance and steadfastness. This is however hardly possible. The retreat of the mullahs’ regime from its ambitions and its resorting to rationality as well as peaceful coexistence with its neighbors is what the entire world, including the neighboring countries which this regime has harmed for over four decades, hopes for.

Foreign powers jockey for influence in northern Syria
Yasar Yakis/Arab News/November 13/18
A summit meeting held in Istanbul last month brought Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan together with his Russian and French counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They were not, of course, expected to solve the Syrian crisis, but they reconfirmed their resolve for convening the constitutional committee before the end of the year, as well as their tacit support for the agreement reached in Sochi between Erdogan and Putin for the prevention of carnage in the northern Syrian province of Idlib. As the light at the end of the tunnel becomes clearer in the Syrian crisis, the foreign actors’ race to gain leverage continues unabated in the north of the country. This is, at the same time, a race to gain zones of influence. The Sochi agreement on Idlib is an important milestone in the evolution of the Syrian crisis. It brought Turkey deeper in the crisis and took it one step closer to Russia. The power balance in Idlib thus tilted slightly in favor of Turkish-Russian cooperation. Iran is also part of this cooperation in its capacity as a member of the Astana triumvirate, but it is not as active as the two others. However, this cooperation is counterbalanced by Russia’s strong support for the Syrian regime. Iran stands on the Moscow-Damascus side of this equation.
Turkish-Russian cooperation has fared well so far, but it is likely to face another crossroads when the day comes to decide what to do with the extremist opposition fighters in Syria. In another chapter in the northern Syrian arena, the tension is not entirely eased between Ankara and Washington on the evacuation from Manbij of the Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG). This tension stems from the repeated postponements by the US of living up to a promise made to Turkey when Manbij was being liberated, in 2016, by the US-led anti-Daesh coalition. Turkey did everything it could to prevent the YPG fighters from crossing to the west of the Euphrates.
After years of intensive negotiations, a road map was drawn up by Turkey and the US, which provided for the evacuation of the YPG fighters from the city, but the US is dragging its feet with a view to striking a delicate balance between NATO ally Turkey and a non-state actor, the YPG.
To demonstrate its disillusionment with Washington’s ambiguous attitude, the YPG made some overtures to Damascus to reach a modus vivendi on the city’s administration and the exploitation of the natural resources in the areas east of the Euphrates. Parallel to this evolution, in March 2017, the Legislative Assembly of Manbij approved the appointments of the members of 13 municipal committees, which included 71 Arabs, 43 Kurds, 10 Turkmen, eight Circassians, an Armenian and a Chechen. Each committee acts as a ministry and, at the beginning of October, the Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria announced the opening of provincial branches of these committees in other parts of the self-declared autonomous regions.
Turkish-Russian cooperation has fared well so far, but it is likely to face another crossroads when the day comes to decide what to do with the extremist opposition fighters in Syria.
Erdogan repeatedly states that, once Manbij is cleared of YPG “terrorists,” the administration of the city will be entrusted to the “legitimate representatives,” meaning that the Kurds who support the YPG will be left out. This statement indicates that the “legitimate representatives” means different things to different parties. Major actors have different designs for the east of the Euphrates. Turkey’s top priority has always been to thwart any attempts to create a Kurdish entity in the north of Syria. It only belatedly grasped the importance of the east of the Euphrates and that the emergence of a Kurdish entity there would have more lasting negative effects on Turkey’s security than the Euphrates Shield or Olive Branch operations.
For the US, the most important task is to supply weapons and ammunition and provide training to the YPG, despite Turkey’s fierce opposition. Another task is to uproot the Iranian presence in the region before the Kurdish self-rule is consolidated.
Russia is also strongly supporting the Kurdish cause, but prefers, at this stage, to remain slightly distant and let the US exhaust all its ammunition, so that it may enter the scene in this part of the game when it can play a more conclusive role. The US and Russia may be cooperating on many Kurdistan-related issues. They are certainly on the same boat for drafting a constitution favoring the devolution of powers to the local administrations and leaving the road open for a federal structure in the longer run. For Iran, northern Syria is important for helping Damascus extend its sovereignty to the entire territory; not letting the US settle there; and keeping the supply line open to the Lebanese Hezbollah. The power balance in Syria will evolve according to the interactions among these and innumerable other factors.
*Yasar Yakis is a former foreign minister of Turkey and founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Twitter: @yakis_yasar