LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
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Bible Quotations For today
All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted
Luke 18/09-14: "Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, "God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income."But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’"
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 17-18/18
New Iranian rocket smuggled into Gaza could threaten IDF defenses including Iron Dome/DEBKAfile/November 17/18
Sweden: What 'Humanitarian Superpower'/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/November 17/18
Iraqi President in Riyadh/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/November, 17/18
How effective can US sanctions on Iran really be/Ali Hajizade/Al Arabiya/November 17/18
Awaiting the G20 Summit/Sabena Siddiqui/Al Arabiya/November 17/18
Reflections on religious moderation in Saudi Arabia/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/November 17/18
Discontent over sanctions in Iran will threaten leaders’ legitimacy/Camelia Entekhabifard/Arab News/November 17/18
Flare-Up in Gaza (Part 1): Israeli Political Implications/David Makovsky/The Washington Institute/November 17/18
New Saudi Statement on Khashoggi’s Killing: Policy Response/Simon Henderson/The Washington Institute/November 17/18
Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 17-18/18
Lebanon’s Independence Day Preparations Bring Traffic to a Halt
Hariri: Future Government to Include CEDRE Reforms, Projects in Ministerial Statement
Belhaj on Electricity Crisis in Lebanon: It’s Unbelievable
Shepherd Escapes Israeli Kidnap Attempt in Eastern Shebaa
Hariri and Jumblat Discuss Developments over Dinner
Army Contains Armed Clashes at Dawn in Bekaa
Qassem Says Ball in PM-Designate's Court, Ahmed Hariri Hits Back
Rahi bound for Rome tomorrow
Guidanian: No fear for holiday season as long as security is under control
Turkish Ambassador visits Akkar
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports
And News published on November 17-18/18
New Iranian rocket smuggled into Gaza could threaten IDF defenses including Iron Dome
US Envoy Warns Europe Against Non-dollar Iran Trade
Iran Intends to Inaugurate Fifth University in Syria
Russia Slams US Role in Syria
Israel’s Netanyahu says early election must be avoided
Regime forces seize ISIS holdout in Southern Syria, says monitor
43 civilians killed by anti-ISIS coalition strikes in east Syria
Syrian opposition fails to meet Russia, Turkey’s buffer zone deadline
Iran pushes to influence Syria’s new generation through ‘educational invasion’
UN passes resolution condemning Iran’s human rights record
Latest Lebanese Related News published on
Lebanon’s Independence Day Preparations Bring Traffic to a Halt
Beirut - Viviane Haddad/Asharq Al-Awsat/November, 17/18/Bumper-to-bumper traffic caused by the Lebanese army’s preparations for an Independence Day parade trapped tens of thousands of people in their vehicles on Friday, causing public outrage despite the military issuing an apology. In a scenario repeated in November each year, road closures caused delays lasting more than five hours for many of the capital's commuters. The army leadership apologized for the traffic in a statement shared on Twitter, asking for citizens’ “understanding.” In one incident, a dispute among two people trapped in the gridlock turned into a knife attack near Electricite du Liban headquarters in Beirut’s Mar Mikhael area. One of them was seriously injured. A bus also plunged off a bridge into a side road in Antelias, a northern suburb of Beirut, further complicating matters and causing chaos in the districts alongside. A similar traffic crisis is expected on Monday, when the military plans to carry out the final preparations for Independence Day celebrations set to take place on Nov. 22. Although the Traffic Management Center said two weeks ago that the Lebanese capital could witness heavy traffic, most commuters failed to heed the warning. Traders and shop owners in Antelias, the nearby town of Dbayeh, and Beirut’s Hamra thoroughfare, lamented the situation because of a lack of customers at a crucial time of the year when major sales as part of Black Friday have been announced. “Our hope for profits on this day has been crushed,” Randa Sarkis, a shop owner, told Asharq Al-Awsat. “I will contact my customers and inform them that I have moved the major sales from Friday to Saturday,” said Nayla Samaha, another shop owner. “Most shops remained closed until 1 pm today (Friday) because their owners failed to arrive on time,” she said.
Hariri: Future Government to Include CEDRE Reforms,
Projects in Ministerial Statement
Naharnet/November b17/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said the solution for the formation of the government does not lie with him but with the others. He pointed out that his main goal is to develop the country, adding “we have a golden opportunity to develop Lebanon, especially after the CEDRE conference,” Hariri’s media office said in a statement on Saturday.Hariri noted out that any government that would be formed will include in its ministerial statement all the reforms and projects of the CEDRE conference, stressing that all political parties have already agreed to this. Hariri's stances came during a dinner held yesterday by the Businessmen's Federation for Support and Development IRADA, at the Four Seasons Hotel, in the presence of former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, caretaker Ministers Nouhad Mashnouq and Jamal Jarrah, the president of the municipality of Beirut Jamal Itani, the President of the Economic and Social Council Charles Arbid, the Head of Economic Organizations Mohammed Choucair as well as economic and social figures. Hariri said: “Usually, most associations that visit me have requests. But when I met IRADA, I was surprised when they told me: “We do not want anything from you, but we want to help the country.” I was very heartened by this, because such initiatives help Lebanon, the society and the people. We need such initiatives to help the Lebanese citizen, especially in the economic stage that we are going through. Therefore, I thank you, Assem and all the concerned, for the great work you are doing, and I am confident that this success will help Lebanon, as happened at one stage, when Rafic Hariri educated thousands of Lebanese students. Today you are doing a similar job, thank you.
It is true that today we are a caretaker government and I am the Prime Minister-designate, but my main goal is to develop this country and I think that we have a golden opportunity to do so, especially after the CEDRE conference. It is true that this conference is for large projects, but the foundation of the private sector are the small and medium-sized enterprises, and this is what you are working on and what we must develop. It is this sector that improves the national economy, and the more the small and medium private enterprises sector grows, the more the economy grows. Therefore, if we work, as a public sector, with you the private sector, it will be the basis for the growth we want. In addition, CEDRE is not only a set of projects, it is also a series of reforms. Without these reforms, we cannot advance the country. Most importantly, before heading to that conference, the Cabinet approved all the reforms and projects in it, and any government that will come will include in its ministerial statement all these reforms and projects, and all political parties have already agreed to this.I am optimistic, if the issue of government is solved. The solution does not lie with me but with the others. I wish you all the best. The high professionalism you are working with makes me proud and I wish you success.”
Belhaj on Electricity Crisis in Lebanon: It’s Unbelievable
Naharnet/November b17/18/World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Ferid Belhaj said what is happening with Lebanon’s electricity sector was “unbelievable,” noting that fundamental reforms must be introduced to reduce burden on the country’s Treasury, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. In remarks he made to the daily, Belhaj said: “What is happening with the electricity sector in Lebanon is unbelievable. The Treasury bears losses of two billion dollars a year so far with no solutions to this crisis.” His remarks came in response to questions posed during a meeting with a group of local and foreign media at the headquarters of the World Bank in Beirut, after the end of his day tour to the Lebanese officials.Belhaj had met with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and the world's business community. He stressed during his meetings on the need for Lebanon to make fundamental and serious reforms, especially in the electricity sector in addition to combating corruption. In light of disagreement among political parties over the means to tackle the longtime electricity crisis, Lebanon has been for decades plagued with power rationing. During his meeting with Aoun, Belhaj affirmed the World Bank's support for Lebanon and the efforts of the President to achieve reform at all levels, mainly the financial file. Belhaj had put the World Bank's potential in Lebanon's disposal in all areas, setting priorities according to the reforms adopted at the Cedre Support Conference for Lebanon, which were considered comprehensive and necessary at this stage.
Shepherd Escapes Israeli Kidnap Attempt in Eastern Shebaa
Naharnet/November b17/18/Israeli forces have tried on Saturday to kidnap a shepherd from the neighborhood of Jabal al-Sadana in the Shebaa town who managed to escape the attempt, LBCI TV station said on Twitter. The patrol confiscated 50 goats belonging to the shepherd.
The Lebanese army began contacts with UNIFIL to find out what had happened and if there was a breach of the withdrawal line, said LBCI.
Hariri and Jumblat Discuss Developments over Dinner
Naharnet/November b17/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri had dinner Friday evening with the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party ex-MP Walid Jumblat and MP Wael Abu Faour at a Beirut restaurant, his office said. “They discussed the latest political developments and the formation of the government,” the office added in a terse statement. 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 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. 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.
Army Contains Armed Clashes at Dawn in Bekaa
Naharnet/November b17/18/Armed clashes erupted at dawn between individuals from the Mazloum and Shehadeh families in the northern Bekaa town of Brital, VDL (93.3) radio station reported on Saturday. A dispute erupted at night and escalated at dawn between young men of said families. Medium and light weapons were used, and three RPGs were fired, added VDL. Lebanese Army forces intervened and pursued the assailants.
Qassem Says Ball in PM-Designate's Court, Ahmed Hariri Hits Back
Naharnet/November b17/18/Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem insisted Friday that the ball is in the court of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri regarding the formation of the new government. “As for us in Hizbullah, we have offered all facilitations to form the Lebanese government and from the very first day we stated our demands, which were not complicated, and the PM-designate accepted the demand to represent the party with three ministers,” Qassem said. “Today the decision is in the hand of the PM-designate, because the problem is coming from him and the solution lies with him. He can resolve the situation by honoring the rule that he has laid out on representing each party according to its results in the parliamentary elections. He can represent the independent Sunnis of the Consultative Gathering with one minister and the problem would be resolved,” Hizbullah number two added.
“We have nothing more to offer. If we want to complete the cabinet line-up to form a national unity cabinet, PM-designate Saad Hariri is the only one who can resolve this issue. If he takes a decision today, the government will be formed, and if he takes a decision in a week, the government will be formed. This matter is his responsibility and he bears the full responsibility in this country,” Qassem went on to say.
Al-Mustaqbal Movement Secretary-General Ahmed Hariri snapped back at Qassem.
“The remarks of Hizbullah’s deputy secretary-general contradict with the truth and facts, seeing as everyone knows that the government line-up has been ready since two weeks and it only needs the names of Hizbullah’s ministers,” Hariri said. “If it presents the names of its three ministers today, it would be formed today, and if it does so in a week, it will be formed after a week, and it bears the full responsibility of delay,” the Mustaqbal official added. “The problem lies with Hizbullah and the solution lies with the PM-designate, according to his powers and the constitutional rules,” he went on to say. 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 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. 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.
Rahi bound for Rome tomorrow
Sat 17 Nov 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Mar Beshara Boutros Rahi and the Council of the Maronite Bishops will be heading to Rome on Sunday, on a pastoral visit to the Apostolic See. Rahi and accompanying delegation are scheduled to meet with Pope Francis.
Guidanian: No fear for holiday season as long as security is under control
Sat 17 Nov 2018/NNA - Caretaker Tourism Minister, Avedis Guidanian, reassured Saturday that there is no fear for the upcoming holiday season as long as security is in place, and as foreseen by travel bookings." Meanwhile, Guidanian urged all responsible sides "to speed-up the government formation because we are missing a lot of opportunities and our immunity is diminishing," and called on citizens to "express their objection to the delayed cabinet formation through demonstrations or sit-ins."Guidanian stressed that he would be the first partake in any demonstration in demand for a new government, if economic bodies decide to protest.Regarding the tourism sector, Guidanian considered that development and growth has been witnessed during the past six months, despite the presence of a caretaker government and Lebanon's absence from global tourism exhibitions. "Today, we suffer from our inability to connect with the foreign tourist world due to failure to renew the contract with 'Visit Lebanon', which played a key role in diversifying our tourism aspects," Guidanian explained. The Caretaker Minister gave some tourism statistics, where the growth rate during the ten months of this year was 30 percent compared with the same months of 2015, 17 percent in 2016 and 5 percent in 2017. Guidanian concluded by expressing his optimism that "we will reach 2 million tourists in 2018."
Turkish Ambassador visits Akkar
Sat 17 Nov 2018 /NNA - The Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon, Hakan Cakil, visited this Saturday the town of Kawasahra, in Akkar, where he inspected a number of projects implemented and financed by the Turkish government. During his visit, Cakil confirmed Turkey's commitment to Lebanese-Turkish bilateral ties, and that his country will always stand by Lebanon's side.
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from
miscellaneous sources published on November
Sweden: What 'Humanitarian Superpower'?
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/November 17/18
Self-proclaimed "humanitarian superpower" Sweden, with its pride in upholding "human rights," decided to take a 6-year old boy, who lost his mother, away from his grandparents and deport him to an orphanage in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Sweden refuses to deport the worst criminals and terrorists if there is the tiniest perceived risk that they might be harmed in the country to which they would be sent.
In spite of sharp criticism from Sweden's highest government agencies, the Swedish government defied Swedish law to allow 9,000 mainly undocumented Afghan men, whose asylum applications were rejected, to study in high school alongside Swedish adolescents.
As early as 2001, a news report by newspaper Dagen showed that Christian asylum seekers had their applications rejected in Sweden far more frequently than Muslim asylum seekers.
Self-proclaimed "humanitarian superpower" Sweden, with its pride in upholding "human rights," decided to take a 6-year old boy, who lost his mother, away from his grandparents and deport him to an orphanage in Ukraine.
In October, Sweden, which apparently likes to see itself as a "humanitarian superpower," decided to expel and deport a 6-year old boy to the Ukraine. The boy had been technically orphaned when his mother died and his father, who lives in the Ukraine, formally renounced custody of his child in a Ukrainian court. The boy, Denis, has no other relatives in the Ukraine and would therefore have to go straight to an orphanage.
In 2015, Denis's mother brought him from the Ukraine to Sweden -- where his mother's parents were already living. She applied for a residence permit for herself and her son, but it was rejected, for reasons apparently still undisclosed. News outlets do not seem to have been digging into why her original request was rejected. The Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) decided to deport Denis, even though he is living with his maternal grandparents, who have applied to adopt the child.
Denis "has not given probable cause that he will not be suitably taken care of upon [his] return to Ukraine" wrote the migration authority in its decision. They also mystifyingly referred to the decision as being "in the child's best interest".
That the boy is technically an orphan and that his grandparents, with whom he lives in Sweden, have begun adoption proceedings, is not enough to stop the deportation, said Karin Fährlin, unit head at Migrationsverket.
"This is a matter of... a boy who is a Ukrainian citizen, and then it is primarily family, or the father, or Ukrainian authorities who must answer for this child. That's the reason [for the deportation]", she said.
The decision to deport Denis, after it became known to the public in Sweden, caused an enormous scandal. More than 60,000 Swedes signed a protest against the deportation on Facebook and several celebrities and politicians expressed their revulsion over the decision. "His mother just died. He has no father. He is six years old and cannot stay with his grandparents in Sweden but will be deported to a Ukrainian orphanage. This is inhuman and disgusting," wrote one TV personality, Jessica Almenäs.
The pressure from the public evidently became too much. Officials at Migrationsverket temporarily stopped the deportation and admitted that they had made their decision "too quickly". "There are several investigative measures that we should have taken," said Per Ek, Press Director at Migrationsverket. "That's what we will be working on now".
Wrong decisions are made by state authorities and government agencies all the time; what makes this decision different is that it was made by the migration authorities of Sweden, the Foreign Minister of which claims that the country is a "humanitarian superpower."
A self-proclaimed "humanitarian superpower" is not supposed to take 6-year-olds away from their grandparents and deport them to orphanages in Ukraine. Sweden takes such pride in upholding the "human rights" of all, that it refuses to deport the worst criminals and terrorists if there is the tiniest perceived risk that they might be harmed in the country to which they would be sent.
In contrast to the decision about deporting 6-year old Denis, the Swedish parliament, in June, passed a special law allowing a very large number of rejected asylum seekers to stay in Sweden, despite harsh criticism from the highest government agencies. The new law allowed 9,000 unaccompanied male "minors" from Afghanistan, whose asylum applications were rejected -- and who therefore should have been deported -- to acquire temporary residence permits in Sweden.
Approximately 7,000 of these "unaccompanied child migrants" reportedly turned out to be older than 18 and therefore were not even minors. The temporary permits would be given if the "minors" planned to attend high school or were already enrolled in one. Notably, even those among the 9,000 whose identities were unverified -- presumably, because they had no papers -- were allowed to stay.
So, in spite of sharp criticism from Sweden's highest government agencies, the Swedish government defied Swedish law to allow 9,000 rejected, mainly undocumented, Afghan men to study in high school alongside Swedish adolescents.
Both the police and the Swedish migration courts heavily criticized the legislation: it broke with Swedish law, which requires people who want to stay in Sweden to be able clearly to identify themselves. Lowering this requirement reduces the ability of the Swedish authorities to know who is living in the country.
The Swedish Council on Legislation (Lagrådet), a government agency consisting of current and former Supreme Court justices who deliberate on the legal validity of legislative proposals, reportedly pronounced its harshest critique ever about the measure. It wrote that, "the limit has been reached for what is acceptable in terms of how legislation can be formulated". This verdict, however, did not stop the Swedish parliament from passing the law anyway. Neither did the fact that a majority of Swedes -- 54% -- were against letting the 9,000 Afghans stay. According to the government, the cost to taxpayers of absorbing the 9,000 Afghan "minors" is estimated at more than SEK 2.9 billion (roughly $319 million) over the next three years.
Sweden then determined that a vulnerable 6-year old child who just lost his mother, and who is living with his grandparents and studying in a Swedish preschool must be deported. (At least until public outrage forced it to reexamine its decision.)
Unfortunately, the decision to deport Denis does not even appear to be a one-time error, but rather an indication of what seems a trend in Sweden of favoring certain immigrant groups over others.
As early as 2001, a news report by the newspaper Dagen showed that Christian asylum seekers had their applications rejected in Sweden far more frequently than Muslim asylum seekers. Out of all Christian refugees who had applied for asylum in Sweden in 2000, fewer than half (40%) were granted asylum. In the Muslim group, 75% of all applicants were granted asylum.
After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the persecution of Iraqi Christians by jihadists began to exponentially increase. Nevertheless, Sweden was rejecting and deporting Christian Iraqi asylum seekers back to Iraq in 2009: Of 25 Iraqi Christians whom Sweden deported in 2009, 24 fled from Iraq again, while one hid in Mosul, according to Sveriges Radio.One Christian couple, who had fled Iraq in 2005 and lived in Sweden for four years, were forcibly deported back to Iraq in 2009. They then fled from Iraq to Turkey. "I loved Sweden and the Swedish people, but I will never forget how inhumanely the people who threw us out treated us. It was like a nightmare. Were they really Swedish?" the couple told Sveriges Radio.
At the time, Sveriges Radio also spoke to Nina Shea from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, who said that an ethnic cleansing of Christians was ongoing and that it was enough just to be a Christian in Iraq to be considered under persecution. Human rights organizations at the time also said it was not safe to return Christians to Iraq: they were certain to be persecuted for their faith.
None of that, however, stopped the Swedish migration authorities from deporting Christians. The authorities said again that the Christians had "not given probable cause that there is an actual, predictable risk that they would personally be submitted to serious abuse" if they were to return to Iraq.
In 2014, the "humanitarian superpower" was deporting Christian minorities, such as Assyrians, to Iraq, where ISIS had appeared on the scene with its ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing of all religious minorities with rape, torture, enslavement and murder. However, that did not impress the "humanitarian superpower". In one of several decisions to deport Assyrian Christians to Iraq, the Swedish migration authorities wrote
"Because of IS's [Islamic State's] activities in the North, fighting has decreased in Bagdad. There are, however, terrorist attacks and shootings in Baghdad... The Migration Authority finds that you have not given probable cause that your fear of being seriously abused is justified... You are therefore not seen as... needing protection..."
In July 2017, Swedish migration authorities decided that an Iranian actress, Aideen Strandsson, who had secretly converted to Christianity in Iran before coming to Sweden in 2014 on a work visa, should be deported back to Iran, even though in Iran, she could face prison -- with the accompanying rape and torture common in Iranian prisons -- and, as apostasy in Iran is subject to the death penalty, also possibly death. At Strandsson's hearing, a Swedish migration official reportedly told her it would not be as bad for her in Iran as she expected because it "would only be six months in prison". Swedish officials also reportedly told her that converting to Christianity was her decision, so now the consequences of that decision were her problem, not theirs.
Swedish police have a backlog, so mercifully it could take considerable time before Strandsson is deported. As of August 2018, Strandsson still did not know the date of her impending deportation.
There are an estimated 8,000 Christians under deportation orders hiding in Sweden, according to Swedish Attorney Gabriel Donner, who has assisted an estimated 1,000 Christian asylum-seekers facing deportation.
According to Donner, migration officials do not understand why someone would become a Christian:
"This is most apparent when they come to the question when a convert says I converted because of the love I have received from Jesus Christ. And they almost mockingly ask the convert, what do you mean by love? It's just completely alien to them."
Additionally, in January 2018, the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) stopped Sweden from deporting a former Muslim, Abdul Malik, to Pakistan. Having arrived in Sweden in 2012 from Baluchistan (a region in Pakistan), he converted to Christianity in 2015, was baptized and worked on Bible translations. Despite all this, the Swedish authorities did not believe that his conversion was genuine and in 2017 decided to deport him. In Pakistan, he was at risk of torture and arrest, not only for his political activities on behalf of Baluchistan, but also for converting to Christianity.
As it turns out, Sweden does not seem to be such a "humanitarian superpower" after all.
*Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
Iraqi President in Riyadh
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/November, 17/18
The aspirations of Iraq and Saudi Arabia for bilateral relations fluctuate wildly from a high of hoping for comprehensive cooperation to a low of simply acceptance of traditional diplomacy. The visit to Riyadh by new Iraqi President Dr. Barham Salih comes at a time when there is a need for relations to be reinvigorated to reflect a shift in the situation regionally, as well as internally within Iraq. Salih’s first official engagement since his election by the Iraqi parliament is a tour of the Gulf, and his visit to Riyadh marks the grand conclusion. The Kingdom would have been the first stop on the tour, one of the Iraqi president’s assistants said, had it not been for previously scheduled visits by King Salman to the regions of Saudi Arabia. Thus Salih arrives in Saudi Arabia with a good understanding of the latest political positions of Iraq’s neighboring states.
The era of the new Iraqi presidency has begun and it calls for optimism in order to complete the journey and cross the bridge over the abyss infested with the mines of Iran, Syria and terrorism. It is an abyss, thankfully, that the previous presidency managed to avoid. Salih seeks the solidarity of neighboring countries, as well as their respect for his nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He does not want Iraq to be a passageway for armies or a battlefield for regional wars.
Indeed, last summer’s crises have shown the variety of challenges facing the new government in Baghdad, over and above Iran’s trans-boundary militias, the Iran-backed Iraqi militias, and the broken Daesh remnants and their escapees who have fled Syria. Aside from all these issues, the former government had to deal with crises that were no less serious, including public outrage about water contamination and power outages. The new government faces the same crises — soiled relations with Tehran and contaminated water — and so it will take a tremendous political effort to provide security, stability and everyday public services, and to start the development process. Among Iraq’s six neighboring countries, Saudi Arabia is the most capable of helping the Iraqi authorities move toward economic development. In his speech to the latest investment conference, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman named Iraq as one of the regional countries expected to enjoy increasing economic success.
Both literally and figuratively, Iraq finds itself stuck between two competing neighbors: Saudi Arabia and Iran. The tripartite relationship among Riyadh, Baghdad and Tehran is tangled and complex. It remains to be seen how senior officials in Iraq decide they want to define this relationship and deal with the two governments. Furthermore, both the Saudis and the Iranians consider Iraq to be a geopolitical extension and a first line of defense, and believe it could be a source of stability as well as instability.
However, despite the similarities in their visions, the differences are clear in the conflicting practices of Iraq’s neighbors. Saudi Arabia wants Iraq to be its passage to Syria, Turkey and Central Asia, through which buses of pilgrims, food trucks and industrial products can pass. Iran wants to use Iraq as a “highway” for the transportation of militants and arms, and of funding for its wars in the region.
Riyadh wants Iraq to be stable and successful, which is how it views Egypt, so that it can put pressure on Baghdad to secure its borders and enjoy a thriving trade relationship.
The Iranian regime wants Iraq to remain a “milking cow,” so it can continue to challenge Western economic sanctions and fund the activities of Quds Force, Hezbollah and others in Syria and Lebanon. These are the practices of the Iranian supreme leader’s regime in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to which it exports chaos, militants and weapons.
Saudi Arabia can be a major economic partner that contributes to Iraq’s recovery and enhances the stability of its central authority, rather than allowing it to fall under the control of Iran’s warlords. Later, Iraq might be able to play a role, post-US economic sanctions, by pushing Tehran toward moderation instead of opening the borders to allow it to destroy countries and wage wars. President Barham Salih has had a distinguished political and government career and we have known him to be a symbol of a united and modern Iraq. He has a clean political history, clear of sectarian and ethnic conflicts, and most of his ideas have been implemented as development, education and coexistence projects on the ground. I had the privilege of working closely with him on the board of trustees of the American University of Kurdistan, which opened its doors to all Iraqis and continued to operate during the peak of terrorism and local conflicts.
How effective can US sanctions on Iran really be?
Ali Hajizade/Al Arabiya/November 17/18
US President Donald Trump kept his promise, and new US sanctions are in full force. Their stated goal is to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero. The sanctions cover even the shipping industry of Iran, citizens and companies from third countries doing business with Iran are also at risk of being sanctioned.
To me, total suspension of the Iranian oil export does not seem to be realistic. At least, a whole sea and land blockade is necessary to achieve this goal. At the same time, there are many allies and partners of the US among Iranian oil purchasers, and they could not give up Iranian oil immediately. It seems Washington understands this very well. In his speech in Hamilton Society, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, John R. Bolton, stated the following:
“We want to achieve maximum pressure, but we don’t want to harm friends and allies either.” That’s why exceptions were made for eight countries.
If the regime will not swerve from the path under the pressure of sanctions and will continue its activity, which seems a more likely scenario, then Washington will have to look for other methods of impact on Iran and its activity in the near future. However, we should not forget that the lion’s part of the Iranian’s export is oil and oil-products, so even the reduction in exports at half can finish off the already weak Iranian economy. Iran carries “the honorary title” of one of the world’s outcasts. During the years of sanctions and isolation, Iran has created many backdoors (illegal ports, schemes of oil and fuel smuggling, etc.). Even before the sanctions, some facts pointed to numerous efforts of Iran to use different tricks in oil exports. One of such tricks is to sell Iranian oil by presenting it as oil from another country. There is also the unloading of Iranian oil off the coast of Malaysia. One of the most common methods to avoid sanctions is the use of “ghost tankers.” Iran began to practice these methods long before November 4. All these measures together can grant Iran a certain level of oil export and consequently fiscal revenue.It will take, at least, a couple of months to understand how effective the US sanctions are. After the reduction of Iranian oil exports by, at least, one half, we can note the success of the strategy.
Trying to avert a crisis
Iran is in a deep social-economic crisis, caused not only by the US sanctions but also by environmental, ethnic and institutional issues, emanating from the character of the Iranian regime. Iran has faced a severe water crisis, which has already led to mass migration of rural people to cities and the reduction of farmlands. That would increase Iran’s food-import dependence and contribute to a price increase. The Iranian currency is actually in free fall. Undoubtedly, the Iranian rial will continue its devaluation, against the background of tougher sanctions. The regime’s repressions against religious and national minorities also makes the situation explosive.Despite the growing internal problems, the Iranian regime is not phasing down its expansionist policy and expenses. Billions of dollars are being spent on the arms expenditure and the maintenance of the repressive apparatus. Iran is involved in conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and Iranians fight for superiority in Lebanon and Iraq.
In Afghanistan, Iran is supporting Sunni radicals, Tehran tries to expand its influence to Bahrain, increase its influence in South Caucasus. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent annually on lobby and propaganda activities outside the country. Symptoms of a systemic crisis in Iran are already apparent. In general, Iran reminds us of the USSR in the second half of the 1980s.Although the US officials claim that their primary goal is to force the Iranian regime to change their behavior, not a regime change, at this rate the regime can bring its economic and political collapse onto itself.
It is unlikely that Iran will accept all conditions imposed by the US and curtail its expansionist activity in the region and there are some compelling reasons. In this regard, we should refer to the character of the Iranian regime, to the mentality of the persons who represent it. Unlike North Korea, the Iranian regime is not the regime of one person. First of all, giving up expansionism and support of terrorist organizations would be a demonstration of weakness, which will affect the credibility of the authorities within the country (it is essential in totalitarian regimes). It can also lead to division among the ruling elite.
Secondly, there are powerful groups in Iran, who get large financial and political dividends from the Iranian expansionist policy.
No one in Tehran wants to be an object of their anger.
Since the 1980s, Iran has been consequently building a complex network of influence and terror in the Middle East, often with the complicity of the US, I should note. Tehran has spent giant financial recourses, gave many lives, and that’s why it seems unlikely that Iran might give up all of this, even under the threat of the US sanctions.In addition, one of the US demands, for example, is to stop supporting Bashar al-Assad. A reasonable demand, but it can play against the US in the long-term. The point is, if Iranians withdraw from Syria, the part of Syria controlled by Bashar al-Assad will be passed to Putin completely. Right now, Iranians compete with Russians for the influence. Taking the Iranians away, the US risks playing into the hands of Moscow. Developments in Georgia and Ukraine show that the West is powerless in squeezing Russia out of occupied territories. I believe all the risks and possible consequences should be weighed. If the regime will not swerve from the path under the pressure of sanctions and will continue its activity, which seems a more likely scenario, then Washington will have to look for other methods of impact on Iran and its activity in the near future.
Awaiting the G20 Summit
Sabena Siddiqui/Al Arabiya/November 17/18
Happening just a week from now in Buenos Aires, this year’s Group of Twenty (G20) summit carries added significance as it holds potential to break ice between the US and China. According to reports, a ‘meeting plus dinner’ would take place between President Trump and President Xi, giving them more opportunity to settle issues in a casual setting, his would also be their first face- to- face meeting in a year. Ending the trade war is in everyone’s interest as US-China relations have a trickle-down effect on global markets and an adverse impact on global growth. Consequently, the G20 promises to be in the limelight in the coming days. Just to add perspective; the G20 was raised to summit level in the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2008. Impacting 85 percent of the world economy, it represents two -thirds of the world’s population and 75 percent of world trade. Successfully bringing together the world’s leading industrialized and emerging economies, the group constitutes of the US, UK, France, Italy, Mexico and Germany plus the European Commission representing the EU, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Turkey, Australia, South Africa, South Korea, Russia, Brazil, India, Argentina, China and Japan.
As far as the G20 summit is concerned, it stands to gain clout if its platform helps in reducing the trade war frictions troubling the world and re-establishes the trust missing in Sino-US ties nowadays
Attended by heads of state as well as top officials from key international organizations, it is useful for achieving a consensus for policy-making and stabilizing the global economy. This year three main topics are on the agenda; the future of work and the implications of innovation and automation, global infrastructure requirements, physical and digital, and the importance of food security and sustainable agricultural development. Initially, promoting sustainable economic development to reduce poverty and development imbalances of the Asian and Latin American growing economies were the main concerns of the G20 and it focused on global economic growth, financial market regulation and international trade only. Now it includes diverse matters such as development, employment and labor policies, climate change and digital technology also under its ambit.
In the build up to this year’s event, back-channel talks have been going on since a while between the two largest economies. Chinese officials started providing a doable outline of potential concessions to the US since a few months. Engaging positively for the first time since the trade war started, even a bilateral trade agreement is possible if things go well. Since bilateral high-level dialogue was resumed just weeks before this meeting, hopefully sensitive matters would have been mulled over so that talks do not strike a dead end. If not, then no solid results will be achieved and no framework for agreement would transpire.
Anticipating an escalation of tensions, Moody’s is not very optimistic and predicts that the ten percent tariffs on US $200 billion of Chinese goods would increase by 25 percent by January 1, 2019. In fact, it is estimated that China’s growth rate would slow down to six percent from 6.7 percent next year, and the main impediment is the fact that it has not agreed to go through with the major structural reforms the Trump administration demands. Abandoning the “Made in China 2025” state program does not seem likely either and it is one of the main US demands.
Consequently, minimal results are expected from the talks, Anne Van Pragh from the global credit strategy and research unit at Moody’s says, “We don’t expect much breakthrough at G20. If the two sides agree to anything, it will be partial and short-lived because it’s not just about tariffs. It’s about geopolitical tensions and a rising China that is challenging to the US.”
Meanwhile, investors around the world await the event and the smallest positive indication from these talks would drive up the stock market. According to them, it does not matter if no deal is done, even a “basic agreement” would suffice to “drive up the market 2000 points higher.” Apparently, tumbling stocks have always motivated Trump to try out a fast remedy and the current scenario might make him lenient. As far as the G20 summit is concerned, it stands to gain clout if its platform helps in reducing the trade war frictions troubling the world and re-establishes the trust missing in Sino-US ties nowadays. There is some hope as even in the past, a lot of important business was settled on the sidelines. Notwithstanding the glitches, the G20 remains an excellent opportunity for de-escalation even though it might not completely clear up the air. At the end of the day, even if nothing substantial is achieved from this year’s G20 Summit, at least it provides a permanent venue for nations of the world to keep the doors of communication open.As Mike Callaghan had said, “The G20 has shortcomings, but it is an active forum of international economic consultation at the highest level. In a highly integrated global economy, cooperation and dialogue are essential.”
Reflections on religious moderation in Saudi Arabia
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/November 17/18
Saudi Arabia has unveiled its new developmental phase via several paths that run in parallel with the government’s war on extremism and spreading of a culture of moderation and coexistence among various sects and religions.
A few days ago, Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a delegation of senior evangelical Christians from the United States headed by Joel Rosenberg and former US Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, in addition to heads of other evangelical American organizations. This step paves the way for the road taken by Saudi Arabia via plans for dialogue among various religions and forums which are being held under the auspices of the Muslim World League. The league is carving new concepts of coexistence in an unusual new language for Muslims in the world - language of regeneration and reform from within religious institutions in accordance with the interests of Muslim societies and the preservation of human brotherhood. There have been exceptional religious personalities but they lacked the condition of institutional work and were abandoned by political patronage so their project failed, as was the case with great distinguished imams, hence their legacy diminished
In this context, the Prince Khalid Al-Faisal Moderation Award has been granted this year to Secretary General of the Muslim World League Sheikh Mohammed Al-Issa. Any observer can distinguish the difference between his rhetoric and the rest of the tautology presented in some official fiqh groups and circles. In addition to his fiqh skills, he is known for his moderate religious discourse, which sets him apart from the inane disputes between the Muslim Brotherhood, Sururism, Al-Jamiyah, Ahl al-Hadeeth, Hizb ut-Tahrir, and other Islamic groups who are clashing with one another.
His rhetoric is not the outcome of a crisis like the case is with other symbols of these currents and who employ different fiqh and analysis without reflection or a keen eye. This dilemma has dominated much of the fiqh and sharia writings during the last half century in Saudi Arabia specifically and in the Islamic world in general.
As I have been passionate about following up on the fiqh and sharia discourse and the areas of religious renewal since my days at the Faculty of Sharia, it has become clear that the emergence of personalities from within the religious institutions who take it upon themselves to renew the fiqh concepts and reform them, restore what has been corrupted by conflicts among the different movements and apply the purposes of sharia, its concepts and conclusions while easing useless tautological burdens is a difficult task. However, after following Al-Issa and his works in this important institution, I feel very optimistic, especially since the project of moderation is sponsored by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the promoter of tolerance and the architect of moderation.
Curricula of coexistence
In an interview with Al-Issa, he said: "Religion is one of the important keys to finding a solution, since it holds a crucial part in much of the general sentiment. The religious rhetoric has great influence along with educational curricula in the world." He clarified that he is “calling for strengthening the curricula to enhance the idea of coexistence, and if the Islamic world is asked for more ways to promote the values of coexistence, peace and respect for the other, we accept it.
We actually call for strengthening it more and more. Muslims lack the requisite amount of cultural and civilized communication. We’re not just talking about the educational studies but also about the process of dialogue for understanding, rapprochement and humanitarian cooperation and correcting the misconceptions, so that we can overcome the situations of apprehension and fear, and then accept each other’s convictions. Convictions can only be influenced with convictions.”
Any reformation in religious thought can only be done under two conditions. First, the work must be institutionalized, not be solely individual or partisan, but within a civil institution concerned with religious affairs, as is the case with the League.
The second is that this religious reformation must be done under political patronage and a formal cover to alleviate societal tension against any different religious concepts, ancient fiqh opinions or legitimate space that has been robbed and dimmed.
This task of understanding sharia, its doctrinal research, the principles of rhetoric, fiqh and its origins and interpretation, the Quran and proof and hadith with its sources and modifications can take several years, and the dysfunction that lasted for centuries cannot be solved within a short period of a few days.
There have been exceptional religious personalities but they lacked the condition of institutional work and were abandoned by political patronage so their project failed, as was the case with great distinguished imams, hence their legacy diminished. The voices of the crowd and the ignorant may have come against them and distorted their projects and academic circles.The bet now is on religious reformation within the capable institutions that have the authority and jurisdiction, and I am confident that the rhetoric that is presented in Saudi Arabia is the locus of moderation desired in the Islamic world.
Discontent over sanctions in Iran will threaten leaders’ legitimacy
Camelia Entekhabifard/Arab News/November 17/18
Donald Trump had often said that the “Iran deal was a bad deal,” but when he became president of the United States, he didn’t withdraw from it immediately.
In fact, it took him more than a year to decide on his course of action, but every three months he shot a warning in the direction of Tehran with a deadline saying he would pull out of the nuclear deal if it did not meet his demands. Finally, in May, despite western countries’ efforts to keep the US committed to the deal, Trump pulled the US out of the agreement, perhaps to show the Iranians that he was indeed serious.
The first round of “soft” sanctions returned in August, while the “hard” sanctions, on oil, shipping and banking, were imposed Nov. 4. Unsurprisingly, the cost of living in Iran has quadrupled in a matter of months in comparison with last year. Affordable living has become harder and harder for average Iranians, and their frustration with the Iranian regime, like their debts, is also increasing day by day. Now they are even angry with the reformists, represented by President Hassan Rouhani. Through social media, Trump and his administration tell ordinary Iranians that their government is spending their money on regional conflicts, and the sanctions will restrict the financial resources available to the regime to spend on its regional activities.
Rouhani has served his two terms, and his party will need to find a popular alternative candidate to convince Iranians to trust them for another term. It is no secret that the Islamic republic supports, funds and arms Shia militia groups in the region, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and Islamic Jihad and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. Now similar groups in Iraq and Syria are also on Iran’s payroll. Israel needs to make peace with Palestinians and normalize its relations with countries in the region, but that cannot be possible as long as Tehran is funding the militia.
Looking ahead to how both countries’ political fortunes could change, Trump can run for election again in 2020, if his candidacy is approved by the Republican party. However, Rouhani has served his two terms, and his party will need to find a popular alternative candidate to convince Iranians to trust them for another term. If the economical and political situations continue, it is likely that a conservative candidate will win the next presidential election in 2021.
Iran’s current leaders cannot look beyond the Islamic revolution of 1979 which brought them to power and cannot transform themselves into modern, progressive nation. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, argues that Iran will not abandon its regional interests on the orders of the US, calling on the Americans to leave the region, where they do not belong and have created so many problems. The sanctions will have a devastating impact on ordinary Iranians, but it is hard to say whether they will result in regime change or just in the regime changing its behavior. Maybe it is somewhere in between. Exemptions for some countries importing Iran’s oil may be extended for another six months to see if Iran takes some progressive actions at least in Yemen and Syria, in favor of the US allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The challenge confronting President Rouhani and his reformists is how to survive the sanctions and the public anger over them. Whether Trump wins his next election or not, they will face a big challenge to their legitimacy.
*Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth (Seven Stories Press, 2008). Twitter: @CameliaFard
Flare-Up in Gaza (Part 1): Israeli Political Implications
David Makovsky/The Washington Institute/November 17/18
Netanyahu’s government has splintered following a new round of violence, raising questions about the utility of escalation versus reinstating the ceasefire with incremental infrastructure improvements in Gaza.
This PolicyWatch is the first in a two-part series on the latest hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Part 2 will discuss the status of Egyptian-brokered ceasefire talks.
Earlier this week, an Israeli special forces raid against Hamas targets in Gaza triggered the heaviest fighting seen between the two sides since the 2014 war. In the aftermath, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) favored reinstating the Gaza ceasefire—a position that triggered a cascade of domestic political developments. Deeming this policy too accommodating, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman resigned in protest, prompting Netanyahu to meet with Education Minister Naftali Bennett in a bid to preserve their coalition’s razor-thin Knesset majority (61 seats to 59). They failed to reach an agreement, however, making it likely that Netanyahu will be forced to dissolve his government and move to early elections. Although the new election date has not yet been announced, it will presumably fall in the coming months, setting the stage for contentious campaign debates on the country’s current security calculus.
WHY NETANYAHU AND THE IDF ADVOCATE CEASEFIRE
Polls conducted after the Gaza flare-up indicate that 74 percent of Israelis are unhappy with Netanyahu’s handling of the crisis. Yet the prime minister and IDF still favor preserving the ceasefire arrangements that Egypt has been brokering for months. Their reasoning is twofold.
First, many senior security officials see Gaza as a distraction from Israel’s primary military challenge: keeping Iran from entrenching a Hezbollah-style military infrastructure in Syria. The seriousness of this priority became evident earlier this year when Israel broke the taboo on directly attacking Iranian military assets, including a May 10 operation in which seventy such targets were struck inside Syria.
Second, some officials question whether further military operations in Gaza would achieve any worthwhile gains. Shortly before this week’s fighting, Netanyahu stated that Israel does not seek an “unnecessary war” in Gaza, language that he does not usually employ in public. Meanwhile, his government backed efforts by the UN envoy, Egypt, and Qatar to increase fuel deliveries to Gaza, which could help double the territory’s daily electricity supply and improve its sewage capacity.
In return, Hamas was expected to rein in demonstrations near the Gaza security barrier, which have frequently escalated into mass arson attacks on Israeli agricultural fields near the border. The group’s leaders have made clear that another war will not help them given Israel’s overall military advantage; in their view, retaliatory strikes are a better means of shaping the situation to their advantage, at least in the near term.
Yet the consensus on avoiding war and improving infrastructure could mask a key analytical difference between Netanyahu and the IDF: namely, whether to pursue a major economic shift in Gaza. Netanyahu is more reticent than the generals on this point, with critics arguing that he favors the status quo in order to keep the Palestinian polity weak and divided between Gaza and the West Bank. Others believe he is beholden to domestic pressure stemming from the families of dead Israeli soldiers, whose remains Hamas continues to hold as a bargaining chip for a future prisoner release. These families and associated political factions demand that Israel oppose major improvements in Gaza until the remains of their loved ones are returned, amid unfounded hope that this can somehow be achieved without a massive release of Hamas operatives.
Yet Israel’s debate over whether to facilitate economic aid to Gaza may be moot if Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas continues to oppose such measures. The prevailing view is that extensive investment in the territory requires the internationally backed PA to reclaim local authority from Hamas, which many governments regard as a terrorist group. Instead, Abbas has refused any such return and attempted to block various economic benefits, including the above-mentioned fuel deliveries. His reasons for doing so will be discussed at length in Part 2 of this PolicyWatch—whatever his goal may be, the practical result is that Israeli engagement with Gaza will remain incremental for the time being.
Some argue that Israel should ignore the PA and reach a long-term ceasefire with Hamas, but that approach would raise quandaries of its own. Many observers would likely accuse Israel of willfully dividing the Palestinian people. Moreover, such a move could further undermine the PA (an entity that has supported recognition of Israel’s statehood) while empowering Hamas (a group that could use a ceasefire as an opportunity to rearm).
Despite Israel’s heated debate about reestablishing the ceasefire, Netanyahu has tellingly averted an actual cabinet vote on the matter. The ministers have heard much from security officials about the importance of a ceasefire, and it is unclear whether critics have put forward any alternative proposals that address the costs of door-to-door fighting in Gaza, never mind the implications of reassuming security control over lands that Israel withdrew from in 2005. Yet the two most prominent critics, Liberman and Bennett, are locked in a battle to succeed Netanyahu, so they have sought to consolidate a right-wing flank based on perceived opposition to the ceasefire approach.
For his part, Netanyahu likely realizes that most voters have no appetite for another Gaza war. Yes, many of his Likud Party constituents live in southern Israel, where the latest salvo of Hamas rockets fell, but he seems to believe they will oppose further escalation once they are reminded about the high cost in blood and treasure. He is also well aware that his predecessors Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert were toppled from power in the aftermath of major outbreaks of violence (i.e., the second intifada in 2000-2001 and the Lebanon war in 2006).
The full political implications of this week’s developments are not yet known, though elections seem imminent given Netanyahu’s unwillingness to meet Bennett’s demand for the defense portfolio. In addition, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has been pushing for early elections because he believes the prime minister is too beholden to ultraorthodox and hard-right factions, so his center-right Kulanu Party and its ten Knesset members may seek to exert themselves more forcefully if they join another Netanyahu coalition. Whatever the case, moving the timetable up would hold clear benefits for Netanyahu. Despite unfavorable ratings on the Gaza crisis, recent polls put him ahead of other candidates, and he could score a victory before facing potential indictments stemming from multiple police investigations. In fact, he might regard a win as a public mandate to actively oppose these investigations while he holds office for another term.
THE U.S. DIMENSION
Early elections in Israel also serve the Trump administration’s interests. The ongoing delay in presenting a new U.S. peace plan has led some to speculate that Washington is sparing Netanyahu from having to deal with this issue on the campaign trail—where he would be torn between preserving his close relationship with the White House and addressing right-wing objections to some of the plan’s provisions. By waiting until after early elections, U.S. officials may hope that the next Netanyahu government will incorporate centrist parties that are more receptive to President Trump’s ideas. (The administration’s formal position is that its plan will emerge in the next two months, but many are skeptical of this claim due to past delays.)
To be sure, the gaps between Netanyahu and Abbas make it unlikely that a U.S. peace plan could succeed anyway. Yet early elections could at least affect the Israeli political map at the margins. They also provide better timing for the Trump administration than the original schedule of November 2019, when the U.S. presidential campaign season would have made a peace push too difficult politically. Of course, as developments proved this week, actions on the ground can shake up the best-laid plans. The durability of the ceasefire will tell U.S. officials all they need to know about the prospects for making headway on substantive peace initiatives in the coming months.
*David Makovsky is the Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute and helped created its interactive mapping tool "Settlements and Solutions: Is It Too Late for Two States?"
New Saudi Statement on Khashoggi’s Killing: Policy Response
Simon Henderson/The Washington Institute/November 17/18
Riyadh’s shifting, dubious storyline presents a dilemma for allies who want to reestablish good working relations with the world’s largest oil exporter.
Earlier today, the Saudi Public Prosecutor’s Office released its latest statement on the murder of exiled journalist Jamal Khashoggi, announcing that eleven people have been charged in the incident and that five of them face a potential death penalty. Another ten are being held for further investigation.
In determining how they should react to this statement, policymakers will likely apply two tests:
1. Is the Saudi explanation convincing? This is a particular concern with regard to public opinion in countries that supply weapons to the kingdom—especially the United States, where Congress plays a major role in approving arms deals.
2. Is it adequate? This remains a concern for the many U.S. allies who are horrified by the incident. Yet policymakers also recognize the need to preserve working relations with Riyadh in order to maintain stable oil prices and avoid disrupting the global economy.
Today’s statement largely reiterates Riyadh’s main narrative: that the October 2 murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was a rogue operation, and that Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS) was not involved in any way. Yet this claim remains dubious given the prince’s closeness to some of the suspects, including media aide Saud al-Qahtani, who has since been sanctioned by the United States and barred from leaving the kingdom.
Many of the statement’s details strain credulity as well. Last month, for instance, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir stated that Khashoggi’s body had been left intact, rolled up in a carpet, and given to an unnamed Turkish contractor for disposal. In response, the Turkish government asked for the contractor’s name, to no avail. The new Saudi statement admits that the body was dismembered, then continues to claim that the body parts were given to a local “collaborator,” again nameless—though Riyadh has offered to show Turkish authorities a “composite sketch” of this individual based on descriptions from one of the detained suspects.
Going forward, Washington and its allies seem to realize the necessity of maintaining working ties with MbS, the kingdom’s main decisionmaker in light of his father’s age and poor health. But as British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt stated while visiting Riyadh this week, officials have been very frank in emphasizing how important it is for Saudi Arabia’s strategic partners “to know this cannot and will not happen again.” Likewise, U.S. defense secretary Jim Mattis warned Riyadh last month about the threat to “regional stability” and the need to hold the perpetrators accountable.
Many officials may still hope that the advances in economic and social policy enacted by MbS can survive the crisis. As Israeli ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer argued last week, “We must not throw the prince out with the bathwater.” For the moment, however, foreign investors—whose financial and technological assistance is indispensable to the prince’s planned economic transformation—will likely remain cautious about committing themselves.
Turkey has reportedly shared some audio intelligence of the murder with officials in the United States, Britain, Canada, France, and Germany. Yet these officials have few levers to influence Saudi policy on the affair. Those around MbS are letting it be known that he is prepared to maintain his brazen approach until the crisis dies down. Ankara still holds a strong hand, though—if the past is any indicator, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will soon leak out more information about what his security services have discovered.
**Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at The Washington Institute.