November 20/1
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Believe in the light, so that you may become children of light
John 12/31-36: "Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’ After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 19-20/18
US rabbi claims Gulf states 'compete' over ties with Israel/Itamar ichner/Ynetnews/November 19/18
The US and GCC’s twin strategies toward Iran/Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg/Arab News/November 19/18
The new Iraq and the Qatari temptation/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/November 19/18
Cultural diplomacy as a means for dialogue/Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/November 19/18
Water geopolitics in the Middle East/Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/November 19/18
Are We Prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse? Actually, Yes/Stephen Carter/Bloomberg/November, 19/18
Assange Speculation Shows Why Charges Should Be Public/Noah Feldman/Bloomberg/November 19/19
The Rain, the Decline and the Wasted Time of Our Lives/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/November 19/19
Palestinians Arresting Women; Where are the Media/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/November 19, 2018
Who Gains from the US Withdrawal from the Nuclear Arms Treaty/Stephen Blank and Peter Huessy/Gatestone Institute/November 19/18
Egypt’s Economy Rising, Rights Declining/Barak Barfi/The Washington Institute/November 19/ 2018
Analysis/Egypt Is Worried That Israel, Jews, and Gays Could Do Harm to Its 'National Foundations'/Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/November 19/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 19-20/18
Trump Reaffirms Support for Lebanon in Congratulatory Letters to Aoun, Hariri
Bassil Meets March 8 Sunni MPs, Urges Hariri Meeting
Aoun Receives Qatar Ambassador
Grand Mufti Voices Support for Hariri
Mustaqbal MP Says Solution to Sunni Hurdle in ‘Court of Other Team’
Mustaqbal Lauds Aoun's Efforts to Achieve Govt. 'Breakthrough'
Nissan Chief Ghosn Arrested over Financial Misconduct
Lebanon: IMF Reduces Growth Forecasts to 1% as Inflation Rises
Syria Regime Seizes Drug Shipment from Hezbollah-Controlled Region
Beirut Airport Refrains from Refueling Iranian, Syrian Planes
Martyr Pierre Gemayel's 1992 Letter to His Father Disclosed
Hankache: Government Formation Stalemate Proves Political System Is Unviable
Kataeb Party Pledges to Carry on Battle for Change in Wake of Syndical Election Wins

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 19-20/18
Russia, Iran, Turkey to Hold Syria Talks Next Week, Says Kazakh FM
Trump to Hariri: U.S. Looks Forward to Working with Govt. Committed to Upholding Sovereignty
British Foreign Minister Visits Iran for Nuclear Talks
Germany Says Will Bar 18 Saudis over Khashoggi Murder
Trump Says 'No Reason' For Him to Hear Khashoggi Death Tape
Iraq denies mediating between Saudi Arabia and Iran
Kazakh FM: Russia, Turkey, Iran to hold Syria talks November 28-29
Yemeni Rebels Say They Will Halt Rocket Fire at Saudi Arabia
Taliban Confirms Talks with U.S. Officials on Afghan Conflict
Syrian government troops take southern district from Daesh
Jordan, Iraq Set Timeline to Establish Joint Border Industrial Zone
Netanyahu says calling Israeli snap polls now would be ‘irresponsible’
Lieberman Accuses Israeli Govt of Granting Immunity to Hamas Leaders
PLO Rejects US Attempt to Denounce Hamas before UN
Jordan’s Parliament Approves Amendments to Income Tax Law
Egypt, Ethiopia Agree to Resume Nahdha Dam Negotiations Within Two Weeks
Undersea Gas Fires Egypt's Regional Energy Dreams
Reports: GCC summit to be held on Dec 9, Qatar not on agenda

Latest Lebanese Related News published on November 19-20/18
Trump Reaffirms Support for Lebanon in Congratulatory Letters to Aoun, Hariri 19th November 2018/U.S. President Donald Trump cabled both President Michel Aoun and caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri to convey his sincere wishes to the Lebanese people a few days before the Independence Day. In his letters, Trump hailed the "major progress" that the Lebanese government has achieved during the past year, notably the "successful" parliamentary elections that were held in May. Hailing Lebanon's resilience in the fight against terrorism, Trump stressed that his country looks forward to working with the new Lebanese government, and outlined the U.S. commitment to support Lebanon's sovereignty and political independence.“The United States stands firm to its support for a prosperous, secure and peaceful Lebanon,” Trump concluded.

Bassil Meets March 8 Sunni MPs, Urges Hariri Meeting
Naharnet/November 19/18/Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil met Monday with the MPs of the pro-Hizbullah Consultative Sunni Gathering and called for a meeting between them and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri in order to resolve a spat that is delaying the formation of the new government. “The meeting was frank and we voiced our remarks with the aim of reaching a solution,” Bassil said after the meeting. “I call on the parties who are directly concerned with the obstacle to hold a meeting between them in order to reach a solution,” he urged. Bassil also noted that President Michel Aoun is not involved in the standoff. Speaking on behalf of the MPs, the lawmaker Abdul Rahim Mrad said: “We will sit together as MPs of the Consultative Gathering to study our next move and we have reiterated to Mr. Jebran that we insist on the appointment of one of us.”“PM-designate Saad Hariri must become convinced and must offer concessions and we will engage in dialogue with him,” Mrad added. “Rejecting the nomination of one of us is intransigency,” the MP added, in response to a reporter’s question. 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 three Shiite ministers in a bid to press him.

Aoun Receives Qatar Ambassador
Naharnet/November 19/18/President Michel Aoun received at Baabda palace on Monday the Qatari Ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammed Hassan Jaber al-Jaber, the National News Agency reported. Jaber handed his host a written letter from the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, confirming his personal participation in the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, to be held in Beirut on January 19-20, NNA said. The Emir expressed hopes the “summit achieves the desired goals and contributes to support Arab solidarity and promote joint Arab action for the benefit of our peoples and nation.”The Arab Economic and Social Development summits are summits of the Arab League, held at the head of state level to address issues of economic and social development among member-states.

Grand Mufti Voices Support for Hariri
Grand Mufti of the Republic Abdul Latif Deryan stressed support for Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and his continued endeavors for around six months now to form a new government, voicing optimism that a “near solution will be reached.”“No matter how hard things get, the formation of the government needs patience until a new format is reached and an end for the new obstacle is set,” said Deryan in a televised address marking the Prophet Mohammed birthday. He said the hurdle hampering the formation is “strictly political” and not linked to “Sunni representation” as some perceive, “all political parties must cooperate in order to solve it,” he said. “We support Hariri who is struggling to form a homogeneous government capable of confronting all the obstacles,” said Deryan, pointing out “the formation of the government is a necessity and a national responsibility of all political forces.”

Mustaqbal MP Says Solution to Sunni Hurdle in ‘Court of Other Team’
Naharnet/November 19/18/Brushing off all claims that easing the pro-Hizbullah Sunni MPs hurdle lies with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, al-Mustaqbal Movement MP Ammar Houri said on Monday the PM has given all he can to ease the formation of the government and “the ball is in the court of the other team.”“The ball is in the court of the other team, it is not in Mustaqbal’s court,” said Houri in remarks he made to VDL (93.3) radio station. “(Foreign Minister Jebran) Bassil is trying to round the angles with other parties after the last-minute obstacle of Sunni representation was invented shortly before the government formation,” he added. “Hariri (head of Mustaqbal) has given all he can,” added Houri. Free Patriotic Movement chief, Bassil is leading a mediation effort between political parties in a bid to ease the obstacles hampering the formation. Bassil is trying to convince the rival parties to accept a settlement based on naming a “consensus” Sunni minister. 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 Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri with the names of its own ministers in a bid to press him.

Mustaqbal Lauds Aoun's Efforts to Achieve Govt. 'Breakthrough'
Naharnet/November 19/18/Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc on Monday hailed what it called “the efforts that President Michel Aoun is overseeing to achieve a breakthrough” in the stalled cabinet formation process. In a statement issued after its weekly meeting, the bloc also called for “understanding the current challenges, ending the policies of time waste and facilitating the missions of the PM-designate.”“The cabinet line-up is ready with the will and participation of the majority of political forces, except for the side that is still holding back from participation and insisting on imposing its condition of representing the six-MP group,” Mustaqbal added, referring to Hizbullah. 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 Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri with the names of its three Shiite ministers in a bid to press him. Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil, Aoun’s close aide and son-in-law, is meanwhile trying to convince the rival parties to accept a settlement based on naming a “consensus” Sunni minister.

Nissan Chief Ghosn Arrested over Financial Misconduct
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 19/18/Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn was reportedly under arrest in Tokyo on Monday, as his firm accused him of "significant acts of misconduct" and said it would seek to oust him. Japan's public broadcaster NHK and other media outlets said Ghosn --Brazilian-born, of Lebanese descent and a French citizen--had been arrested after being questioned by Japanese prosecutors for various improprieties including underreporting his income. "The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office arrested Nissan chairman Ghosn on suspicion of violation of the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act," NHK said. In a statement, Nissan said it had been conducting a probe into Ghosn for several months after receiving a whistleblower report and had uncovered misconduct going back several years. The Tokyo prosecutor's office had no comment on the reports about Ghosn, who also heads an alliance of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi. Nissan said it had launched an investigation into both Ghosn and Representative Director Greg Kelly several months ago. "The investigation showed that over many years both Ghosn and Kelly have been reporting compensation amounts in the Tokyo Stock Exchange securities report that were less than the actual amount, in order to reduce the disclosed amount of Carlos Ghosn's compensation," the statement said. "Also, in regards to Ghosn, numerous other significant acts of misconduct have been uncovered, such as personal use of company assets, and Kelly's deep involvement has also been confirmed." The company said it had provided information to Japanese prosecutors and would propose to the board of directors that it "promptly remove Ghosn from his positions" along with Kelly. The astonishing news first emerged Monday evening, when the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported Ghosn was being questioned by prosecutors and was likely to face arrest. Public broadcaster NHK reported that Tokyo prosecutors were raiding Nissan's headquarters in the city of Yokohama. Renault shares plunged 12 percent in late morning trading in Paris on the shock news, which emerged after the end of the Tokyo session. "If he is arrested, it's going to rock the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance as he is the keystone of the alliance," said Satoru Takada, an analyst at TIW, a Tokyo-based research and consulting firm. "He is the man of charisma for the alliance. It is likely to have a negative impact on its brand image," he told AFP. Nicknamed Le Cost Killer, Brazil-born Ghosn, 64, is known for overhauling Renault and Nissan starting in the nineties. Renault came to the rescue of the then-ailing Japanese automaker in 1999 and parachuted in Ghosn, who set about slashing costs and jobs in a huge corporate overhaul. In 2016, Ghosn also took charge at troubled Mitsubishi after Nissan threw it a lifeline, buying a one-third stake for about $2.2 billion as it wrestled with a mileage-cheating scandal that hammered sales. Ghosn has a high profile in Japan and is known as a major advocate of the country's auto sector. He has not yet commented on the allegations.

Lebanon: IMF Reduces Growth Forecasts to 1% as Inflation Rises
Beirut- Ali Zeineddine/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 19 November, 2018/The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reconsidered its earlier assessment of the Lebanese economy and reduced growth expectations from 1.7 percent to only one percent. It expected that inflation would increase to 6.5 percent, compared to 1.5 percent of growth and 4.5 percent inflation last year. The new figures will widen the gap between private sector incomes and the cost of living, while the State has supported the incomes of all its employees and increased salaries by over 100 percent, following the adoption of the salary scale law a year ago. The recent growth assessment contradicted recent estimates by the Governor of Banque du Liban (BDL) Riad Salame, who said: “We expect the economy to grow by 2 percent in 2018, which is close to the average growth rate in the Middle East and Africa.”Additional negative indicators emerged in recent statistical summaries issued by the World Bank, where Lebanon’s external debt increased by 4.85 percent to about $73.53 billion at the end of 2017. The long-term foreign debt stocks stood at $64.49 billion, compared to $62 billion in 2016. As for net capital flows, foreign direct investment flows to Lebanon decreased during the past year, in a continuing trend since 2011. It declined from $2.57 billion in 2016 to $2.56 billion in 2017. The external debt-to-export ratio rose from 328.5 percent in 2016 to 341.3 percent in 2017. The IMF report pointed out that the uncertainty over the future of policies and macroeconomic imbalances was contributing to weakening the Lebanese economic growth. It called for working to control public finances in order to reduce dependence on the central bank and to adjust the consequent pressure on the inflation rate. On a positive note, the report said that the continued flow of transfers by Lebanese expats to their home country would play a key role in maintaining private consumption levels in Lebanon. It also praised efforts made to improve the revenues of the Lebanese state, which included raising the value-added tax.

Syria Regime Seizes Drug Shipment from Hezbollah-Controlled Region
Homs - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 19 November, 2018/The Syrian regime seized over the weekend a drugs shipment that had departed from the western al-Qusayr region that is controlled by its ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah group, informed sources in the city of Homs told Asharq Al-Awsat. The confiscation of the shipment, which was headed to regime-held Latakia, highlights the differences between the regime and Hezbollah, both of which control the Syrian-Lebanese border areas. The sources emphasized the importance of the news being released on regime agency SANA, adding that this was a message to Hezbollah and possibly even its backer, Iran. The drugs seizure was not reported by either Hezbollah or Iranian media. SANA reported Saturday that concerned authorities confiscated in the Homs province a large shipment of captagon narcotic pills that were concealed in wooden doors. The shipment was being transported via a Kia vehicle that was carrying a Homs license plate. The drugs were packed for shipping and were being delivered from Qusayr to Latakia, it reported. The concerned authorities arrested the smugglers. The informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the arrest was not simply a thwarting of a smuggling operation, but it was the “exposure of only the lowest rung of operations and an attempt to pressure those behind it.”This confirms the existence of differences or possible a struggle for power between the regime and Hezbollah, they added. Hezbollah has since capturing Qusayr in 2013 cut down trees and turned agricultural property into tobacco and cannabis farms, revealed locals who were forced out of the region. They said that the armed group was still preventing their return even though the regime has restored its control over it. US government reports revealed that 30 percent of Hezbollah’s income is generated from the drug trade throughout the world. Syria has long been a passage for the drug trade and this activity had spiked since 2005. These figures were confirmed by a regime anti-drug campaign that was carried out in 2010.

Beirut Airport Refrains from Refueling Iranian, Syrian Planes

Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al Awsat/November 19/19/Lebanon has made a commitment to refrain from supplying Iranian and Syrian airlines with fuel at Beirut airport, in line with US sanctions. These companies are on a long list of sanctions received by the country. Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport responded to the decision of international sanctions on a number of airlines, including Iranian airlines. The airport refrained from supplying the aircraft of those companies with fuel. The list includes more than 20 airlines from 15 countries around the world. Senior Lebanese sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the list included Iranian airlines, such as Iran Air, Mahan Air and others, Syrian airlines such as Cham Wings and Syrian Arab Airlines, in addition to a Belarusian airline, Belavia. The list also includes other airlines that do not land in Beirut, the sources said. “The decision is international and cannot be disregarded by Lebanon,” Lebanese political sources said. “Lebanon will not violate international resolutions, but will abide by them.” They said that government instructions received at the airport ordered full commitment to the list. Several international companies supply Beirut airport with jet fuel, some of which are linked to the parent companies British Petroleum (BP) or Total, which have taken the decision to abide by the sanctions. The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The decision is effective and is being applied at the airport since the US sanctions against Iran came into force.”In recent statements, Secretary of the Association of Iranian Airlines Maqsoud Asadi Samani confirmed the halting of supply of fuel to Iranian aircraft at the airport in Beirut, saying: “Unfortunately, in recent days, there were talks about this issue, and we have now reached the stage of implementation. Iranian airlines cannot currently refuel at the Lebanese airports.”

Martyr Pierre Gemayel's 1992 Letter to His Father Disclosed 19th November 2018/A few days before the 12th anniversary of the assassination of Minister Pierre Gemayel, the Kataeb Students’ Department and MP Elias Hankache posted a letter that the martyr had written in 1992, upon his return to Lebanon, to his father, former President Amine Gemayel, who was still in exile. Gemayel sent his father a letter to inform him that he had decided to stay in Lebanon in order to pursue his academic education", deeming his decision as "an unavoidable necessity both on the social and psychological levels.”The late son beseeched his father to consent to his decision and not to refuse his request to stay in Lebanon, asking him to trust his option. "I lay thousands of warm kisses on your precious and bright forehead," Gemayel concludes in his letter.

Hankache: Government Formation Stalemate Proves Political System Is Unviable 19th November 2018/Kataeb MP Elias Hankache said that the government formation stalemate proves that Lebanon's political system has become unviable, adding that the State and the country's entity itself have become jeopardized by the post-elections partitioning and the conflict it is causing. "Lebanon and the Lebanese must be freed from the prison they have been incarcerated in. This would only happen through the formation of a national rescue government that includes competent specialists; one that rises up to the challenges, stops the disintegration of the State and halts the large-scale deterioration in the country," he told the Kuwaiti Al-Anbaa newspaper. Hankache stressed the need to adopt a decentralized system that would help develop the State even during ministerial void, calling on the bickering rivals and partitioning partners to realize the repercussions of their actions. "Even if a government is formed, it won't be anything other than a Cabinet of political, partisan and sectarian trenches," Hankache said. "How would the new government be productive and honor its pledges as long as it will consist of the same people who previously caused disasters and ordeals?" he asked. "In addition to that, Hezbollah, which will be a main component in the government, deals with the Lebanese with arrogance and superiority as it continues to bypass the Constitution, laws and norms." "How will it be possible to enforce accountability on a government that is actually a miniature replica of the Parliament?" the lawmaker wondered.

Kataeb Party Pledges to Carry on Battle for Change in Wake of Syndical Election Wins 19th November 2018/The Kataeb party congratulated the candidates who won the syndical elections that were held on Sunday, hailing their win as a proof of the will of change amid the mentality of partitioning and spoil sharing that is prevailing over the country. Kataeb candidate Emilie Hayek won a seat in the Order of Dentists, as she was able to get more votes than another contender on the rival list backed by the Free Patriotic Movement, the Lebanese Forces and the Future Movement. Independent candidate Roger Rbeiz, who was supported by the Kataeb party, was elected as the head of the Dentists Order. As for the elections at the Beirut Bar Association, the Kataeb candidate Raymond Jamhouri won a seat in the order's retirement fund council, along with Imad Martinos, an independent candidate supported by the party, who won membership of the Bar's council. "The Kataeb party promises all the Lebanese and partisans to carry on its change battle at all levels until we reach the Lebanon that we all dream of," the party concluded in its statement. Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel also congratulated the winners, stressing that syndicates serve as a gateway to struggle and a platform to serve people and defend their interests.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 19-20/18
Russia, Iran, Turkey to Hold Syria Talks Next Week, Says Kazakh FM
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 19/18/Russia, Iran and Turkey will hold the next round of talks on Syria's conflict on November 28-29 in the Kazakh capital Astana, Kazakhstan's foreign minister said on Monday. "The participants plan to discuss the current situation in Syria, in particular in Idlib, creating conditions for the return of refugees and internally displaced people, and post-conflict reconstruction," Kairat Abdrakhmanov said in Astana. The meeting will be the 11th in the Astana peace process -- set up in early 2017 by Russia and Iran, who support President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria, and opposition backer Turkey. Abdrakhmanov said representatives of Damascus and armed opposition groups would take part, but did not specify what level of officials from Russia, Iran and Turkey would attend. The Astana process was launched after Russia's military intervention in Syria tipped the balance in the regime's favour. It has gradually eclipsed an earlier UN-sponsored negotiations framework known as the Geneva process. This month's meeting comes with continued violence threatening plans for a buffer zone around Idlib, the last major opposition stronghold in Syria. Russia and Turkey agreed in September to set up the buffer zone to avert a Syrian regime offensive, but jihadists who hold around 70 percent of the area have refused to withdraw. Fighting in the area has continued, with jihadists on Friday killing 22 regime fighters in an attack on government forces in the northwest of Hama province near the planned zone.

Trump to Hariri: U.S. Looks Forward to Working with Govt. Committed to Upholding Sovereignty

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 19/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has received a cable of greetings marking Lebanon’s Independence Day from U.S. President Donald Trump, Hariri’s office said on Monday. “We deeply value the partnership between our two countries and applaud the great progress your government has made over the past year, including by holding a successful legislative election and remaining steadfast in the fight against terrorism,” Trump says in the cable. “The United States looks forward to working with a new Lebanese government that is committed to upholding Lebanon’s sovereignty and political independence,” the U.S. leader added. “The United States stands firm in our support for a prosperous, secure, and peaceful Lebanon,” Trump went on to say. Hariri has been trying to put together a cabinet since May 24. His mission has been hampered by several obstacles related to the representation of the various parties, the last of which is a spat over the representation of six pro-Hizbullah Sunni MPs.

British Foreign Minister Visits Iran for Nuclear Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 19/18/British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt visited Iran for the first time on Monday for talks about the nuclear deal and freeing UK nationals held in Iranian jails. Hunt met his counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, but neither side took questions from reporters. It was the first visit to Tehran by a Western foreign minister since the United States withdrew from the multi-nation nuclear deal in May. Britain is determined to keep Iran in the agreement by finding ways to work around renewed US sanctions. "The Iran nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearised Iran," Hunt said, in a statement issued in London. "It needs 100-percent compliance though to survive. We will stick to our side of the bargain as long as Iran does. "But we also need to see an end to destabilising activity by Iran in the rest of the region if we are going to tackle the root causes of the challenges the region faces."Hunt was due to discuss Iran's role in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and the ongoing cases of detained British-Iranian dual nationals. One notable case is that of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving a five-year jail sentence for alleged sedition. "More than anything, we must see those innocent British-Iranian dual nationals imprisoned in Iran returned to their families in Britain," he said. "I have just heard too many heartbreaking stories from families who have been forced to endure a terrible separation. "So I arrive in Iran with a clear message for the country's leaders: putting innocent people in prison cannot and must not be used as a tool of diplomatic leverage." On Yemen, Hunt was to stress concerns at reports that Iran has supplied ballistic missiles and weapons to the Huthi rebels, his ministry said.

Germany Says Will Bar 18 Saudis over Khashoggi Murder
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 19/18/Germany will bar 18 Saudis from entering its territory and Europe's Schengen passport-free zone over their alleged links to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Monday.Berlin has "decided that Germany should impose an entry ban on 18 Saudi citizens, who are presumed to be in connection with this deed, in the Schengen information system," Maas told reporters.

Trump Says 'No Reason' For Him to Hear Khashoggi Death Tape

Associated Press/Naharnet/November 19/18/President Donald Trump said there is no reason for him to listen to a recording of the "very violent, very vicious" killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has put him in a diplomatic bind: how to admonish Riyadh for the slaying yet maintain strong ties with a close ally. Trump, in an interview that aired Sunday, made clear that the audio recording, supplied by the Turkish government, would not affect his response to the Oct. 2 killing of Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post who had been critical of the Saudi royal family. "It's a suffering tape, it's a terrible tape. I've been fully briefed on it, there's no reason for me to hear it," Trump said in the interview with "Fox News Sunday." ''I know everything that went on in the tape without having to hear it."On Saturday, Trump said his administration will "be having a very full report over the next two days, probably Monday or Tuesday." He said the report will include "who did it." It was unclear if the report would be made public. American intelligence agencies have concluded that the crown prince ordered the killing in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey, according to a U.S. official familiar with the assessment. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Others familiar with the case caution that while it's likely the crown prince was involved in the death, there continue to be questions about what role he played. Trump noted to "Fox News Sunday" that the crown prince has repeatedly denied being involved in the killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. "Will anybody really know?" Trump asked. "At the same time, we do have an ally, and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good."
A Republican member of the Senate intelligence committee said that so far, there is no "smoking gun" linking the crown prince to the killing. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, who has received a confidential intelligence briefing on the matter, told ABC that "it's hard to imagine" that the crown prince didn't know about the killing, but he said, "I don't know that we absolutely know that yet."He said that Congress will await the Trump administration's report in the next two days and that the U.S. will need to be clear about the ramifications of sanctions, given Saudi Arabia's strategic role in the Middle East.
For his part, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said the crown prince has been a "wrecking ball" in the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. "I hate to say that because I had a lot of hope for him being the reformer that Saudi Arabia needs, but that ship has sailed as far as Lindsey Graham's concerned," the South Carolina Republican told NBC's "Meet the Press." "I have no intention of working with him ever again," said Graham, who is in line to be the next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Intelligence officials have been providing information to Trump for weeks about the death, and he was briefed again by phone Saturday by CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he flew to California. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders provided no details of his call but said the president has confidence in the CIA. "The United States government is determined to hold all those responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable," the State Department said in a statement. "Recent reports indicating that the U.S. government has made a final conclusion are inaccurate. There remain numerous unanswered questions with respect to the murder of Mr. Khashoggi."
The statement added: "The U.S. government has taken decisive measures against the individuals responsible, including visa and sanctions actions. We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those accountable who planned, led and were connected to the murder. And, we will do that while maintaining the important strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia." Before his call on Air Force One, Trump told reporters that when it came to the crown prince, "as of this moment we were told that he did not play a role. We're going to have to find out what they have to say." That echoed remarks by national security adviser John Bolton, who said earlier this week that people who have listened to an audio recording of the killing do not think it implicates the crown prince. Trump has called the killing a botched operation that was carried out very poorly and has said "the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups." But he has resisted calls to cut off arms sales to the kingdom and has been reluctant to antagonize the Saudi rulers. Trump considers the Saudis vital allies in his Mideast agenda.
But members of Congress are pushing Trump for a tougher response to the killing. The administration this past week penalized 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but American lawmakers have called on the administration to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia or take other harsher punitive measures. Turkish and Saudi authorities say Khashoggi, a Saudi who lived in the United States, was killed inside the consulate by a team from the kingdom after he went there to get marriage documents.

Iraq denies mediating between Saudi Arabia and Iran

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Monday, 19 November 2018 /The Iraqi presidency denied on Monday reports claiming that Iraq is playing the role of 'mediator' between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The presidency published on its website a “denial and clarification” of news published by the media that “Iran offered negotiations with Saudi Arabia, and that the Iraqi President Barham Salih proposed to mediate and carry a message to Riyadh from his Iranian counterpart.”The presidency denied the news, stressing “the need to take accurate information from its reliable sources.”It added in a statement: “With regard to the details of President Barham’s recent tour, we reiterate what the President of the Republic said in all his meetings that Iraq does not play the role of mediation but rather seeks to spare Iraq the repercussions of the conflict in the region.”The statement added: “Iraq is a point of convergence of common interests between its Arab and regional environment as part of its quest to consolidate friendship and brotherhood, while maintaining full sovereignty and respect for other countries.”Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz received the Iraqi president during a visit to the kingdom on Sunday, where talks focused on ways to enhance cooperation between the two countries. Salih arrived in Riyadh, after a tour of the region, which included Iran, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Kazakh FM: Russia, Turkey, Iran to hold Syria talks November 28-29

Reuters, Astana/Monday, 19 November 2018/Russia, Iran and Turkey will hold the next round of talks on Syria’s conflict on November 28-29 in the Kazakh capital Astana, Kazakhstan’s foreign minister said on Monday. “The participants plan to discuss the current situation in Syria, in particular in Idlib, creating conditions for the return of refugees and internally displaced people, and post-conflict reconstruction,” Kairat Abdrakhmanov said in Astana. The meeting will be the 11th in the Astana peace process -- set up in early 2017 by Russia and Iran, who support President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, and opposition backer Turkey. Abdrakhmanov said representatives of Damascus and armed opposition groups would take part, but did not specify what level of officials from Russia, Iran and Turkey would attend. The Astana process was launched after Russia’s military intervention in Syria tipped the balance in the regime’s favor. It has gradually eclipsed an earlier UN-sponsored negotiations framework known as the Geneva process. This month’s meeting comes with continued violence threatening plans for a buffer zone around Idlib, the last major opposition stronghold in Syria. Russia and Turkey agreed in September to set up the buffer zone to avert a Syrian regime offensive, but extremists who hold around 70 percent of the area have refused to withdraw. Fighting in the area has continued, with extremists on Friday killing 22 regime fighters in an attack on government forces in the northwest of Hama province near the planned zone.

Yemeni Rebels Say They Will Halt Rocket Fire at Saudi Arabia
Associated Press/Naharnet/November 19/18/A senior leader of Yemen's Shiite rebels says the group will halt rocket fire into Saudi Arabia for the sake of peace efforts. A Saudi-led coalition has been waging war against the rebels, known as Houthis, to restore Yemen's internationally recognized government to power. The rebel leader, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, says the Iran-backed rebels ordered the cessation of rocket and drone attacks on the Saudis and forces loyal to coalition member the United Arab Emirates at the request of U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths. The statement was carried by rebel-controlled media early on Monday. Griffiths announced on Friday that both sides had agreed to attend talks in Sweden "soon" aimed at ending the three-year war. The announcement followed an informal de-escalation last week around the key port city of Hodeida.

Taliban Confirms Talks with U.S. Officials on Afghan Conflict

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 19/18/The Taliban held talks with US officials in Qatar on ending the Afghan conflict last week, the militants confirmed Monday, but said no agreement was reached on "any issue". The statement comes a day after US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad expressed hopes in Kabul that a peace deal could be struck before the Afghan presidential election, scheduled for April 20 next year. Khalilzad was in the Afghan capital after a second round of regional meetings with top government officials to coordinate efforts on ending the 17-year war. Senior Taliban officials met with a "high-ranking" US delegation in Qatar on November 14, 15 and 16, the militant group said in a WhatsApp message, without mentioning Khalilzad. The Taliban has a political office in the capital Doha that serves as a de-facto embassy. "These were preliminary talks and no agreement was reached on any issue," spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said. "We want to reassure our Mujahideen and Muslim nation that the representatives of the Islamic Emirate will never agree to anything that does not adhere to Islamic principles." The second Taliban-US meeting in as many months come as the militants step up attacks on beleaguered Afghan security forces, which are suffering an unprecedented level of casualties. The death toll among Afghan soldiers and police is nearing 30,000 since the start of 2015, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani revealed this month -- a figure far higher than anything previously acknowledged. In a recent report, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) cited the NATO mission in Kabul as saying this summer's toll had been worse than ever for Afghan forces. Khalilzad told reporters on Sunday that he recognised the "complexity" of the conflict, but insisted he wanted to "make as much progress as possible as soon as possible". His comments underscore an apparent increasing sense of urgency in the White House and among American diplomats for a peace deal to be done quickly. Washington is facing competition from Moscow, which this month hosted an international gathering on Afghanistan that was attended by the Taliban.

Syrian government troops take southern district from Daesh
AP/November 19, 2018/ DAMASCUS, Syria: Syrian government forces and their allies have captured a southern district from the Daesh group. The development comes after weeks of fighting that left scores dead on both sides. The government-linked Syrian Central Military Media says the army took Tulul Al-Safa region on Monday, ending the presence of the extremists in the country’s south. Despite being mostly defeated in Syria and Iraq over the past two years, Daesh still has hideouts from where they launch attacks. With the capture of Tulul Al-Safa, a rugged mountainous region east of the Sweida province, Syrian troops now control wide parts of the country’s south. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, reported that government forces captured the area on Saturday.

Jordan, Iraq Set Timeline to Establish Joint Border Industrial Zone
Amman – Mohammed al-Daameh/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 19 November, 2018/Jordanian Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Tareq al-Hammouri and Iraqi Minister of Industry and Minerals Saleh al-Jabouri have agreed on the required practical steps to establish a joint industrial zone on the border between the two countries. They set a detailed program of the executive procedures to establish the industrial zone that is aimed at reinforcing economic cooperation in all fields. They stressed that all conditions are adequate to implement this strategic project that is backed by Iraqi President Barham Salih and Jordan's King Abdullah II. Both parties underlined the significance of engaging the Jordanian and Iraqi private sectors in the process of establishing an industrial zone in order to provide the success factors of this bilateral project. Hammouri and Jabouri’s discussions included facilitating procedures related to the entrance of Jordanian commodities to the Iraqi market and exempting them from customs, in accordance with the bilateral free trade agreement, following up on the establishment of a commercial center for Jordanian commodities in Baghdad and rehabilitating the Trebil border crossing. Hammouri said the discussions will give a strong push for economic cooperation between Amman and Baghdad. Jordan stands by Iraq to move to the stage of construction and reconstruction, as well as achieving stability, peace and security through qualified investors and experienced companies to enable Iraq to merge internationally, regionally and in the Arab region, he added.

Netanyahu says calling Israeli snap polls now would be ‘irresponsible’

AFP, Jerusalem/Sunday, 18 November 2018/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday calling snap elections now would be “irresponsible” as he vowed to push on despite a coalition crisis. Speaking in an impassioned televised address to the nation, Netanyahu also said he would retain the defense ministry portfolio at least for now and work to convince his coalition partners to remain in the government. “To go to elections now would be irresponsible,” Netanyahu said. “The security of the country is above political considerations.” Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s far-right Jewish Home party has threatened to withdraw from the coalition if he is not named defense minister. Netanyahu spoke of his military experience in his address and said he could not publicly explain the sensitive security moves currently being taken by Israel. The longtime premier made the appearance as he came under pressure over a controversial ceasefire deal last week that ended the worst escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war. On Wednesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned over the ceasefire, throwing the government into crisis. After Lieberman’s withdrawal along with his Yisrael Beitenu party, Netanyahu’s government was left clinging to a one-seat majority in the 120-seat parliament. Netanyahu spoke after a crucial meeting with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on resolving the coalition crisis. Kahlon’s office said earlier that his meeting with Netanyahu ended without a conclusion and they would meet again later in the week.

Lieberman Accuses Israeli Govt of Granting Immunity to Hamas Leaders
Tel Aviv- Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 19 November, 2018/The ex-Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, continued his sharp criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and its method of making political decisions, especially in the cabinet. He accused the government on Sunday of giving immunity to Hamas leaders. “It simply makes no sense that after Hamas launches some 500 rockets at Israeli communities outside Gaza, at the south of the country, the heads of Hamas effectively get immunity from the Israeli security cabinet,” he said. According to Lieberman, the financial aid from Qatar that Israel allowed to be transferred to the group “is purely $15 million of terrorism-funding.”“We are currently feeding a monster, which, if we don’t stop its rearmament and force-building, in a year we will get a twin to Hezbollah – with all that entails,” he stressed. Hezbollah is seen as the Jewish state’s main rival in the region with an arsenal of over 100,000 mortar shells, rockets, and missiles. Lieberman resigned last week over the cabinet's decision to accept a ceasefire ending two days of fighting with Palestinian militants in Gaza.

PLO Rejects US Attempt to Denounce Hamas before UN
Ramallah, Washington - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 19 November, 2018/The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) announced Sunday its rejection of the American administration’s attempt to condemn Hamas before the United Nations. PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat denounced a draft resolution proposed by US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that calls on the UN General Assembly "to condemn Hamas for its endless incitement of violence against Israel and for firing rockets into Israel." He said that the draft "turns the facts upside down." "Israel is the one who bears full responsibility as a result of the continuation of its occupation and its colonial settlement,” Erekat said, accusing it of “imposing a siege, carrying out arbitrary arrests and committing ethnic cleansing.”He called on the international community to condemn the American administration that is “turning against international laws and treaties.”Erekat also urged Hamas to immediately respond to Egyptian efforts to end the internal Palestinian division and achieve reconciliation.Cairo sponsored in October 2017 an agreement between Hamas and Fatah to hand over the administration of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority, however continuous disputes between the two movements have hindered the deal.

Jordan’s Parliament Approves Amendments to Income Tax Law
Amman- Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 19 November, 2018/Jordan’s lower house of parliament approved a new IMF-backed tax law on Sunday after Prime Minister Omar Razzaz warned that the country would pay a heavy price if the bill was not passed. The parliament introduced some changes in a move to help the economy move ahead as Jordan seeks to lower its huge debts through a combination of austerity measures and an IMF bail-out. Prior to the vote, the Prime Minister warned deputies Jordan would pay a heavy price if parliament failed to approve the legislation, meaning the country would have to pay even higher interest rates on its substantial foreign debt. He said the law promotes social justice by targeting the wealthy and combats long-time corporate tax evaders, but opposition deputies argue it will hurt the already stagnant economy and diminish middle-class incomes. "The individuals who will be affected are the top 12 percent income earners, it won't affect middle and low-income earners," Razzaz responded. The parliament approved the amendments to the income threshold raising it from an annual JD18,000 as in the government's version of the law to JD20,000 for families and from JD9,000 to JD10,000 for individuals. Under the existing law, the figure is JD24,000 for households with JD4,000 in exemptions on VAT medical and educational receipts and invoices and JD12,000 for individuals. Members of the parliament also approved raising the VAT exemption to reach JD2,000 instead of JD1,000 in the government’s proposed bill for families, and to JD1,000 for individuals, provided that such expenses are covered by bills for health, education, loan interests or an Islamic finance and investment instrument. Income tax on banks will remain at 35 percent as in the original law and not 37 percent as proposed by the government. The income tax for the industrial sector was set at 14 percent; 35 percent for the banking sector and 24 percent for telecom, electricity, mining, insurance, reinsurance and financial brokerage firms as well as legal persons practicing lease business. In addition, the parliament determined that those whose income annual income exceeds JD1 million are subject to a 35-percent income tax. Speaking to German News Agency (DPA), Minister of Finance Ezzedin Kanakriyeh said that the amendments will reduce the expected proceeds of the law to JD100 million instead of JD290 million. He pointed out that these amendments will affect the law in general. The bill needs to be approved by the upper house of the Senate to enter into effect and then a royal decree will be issued before it is published in the Official Gazette. The bill sparked controversy in Jordan last June after the government resigned following protests in the country before Omar al-Razzaz was appointed as prime minister and the law was withdrawn from Parliament for amendments.

Egypt, Ethiopia Agree to Resume Nahdha Dam Negotiations Within Two Weeks
Cairo- Mohammed Abdu Hassanein/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 19 November, 2018/Egypt and Ethiopia have agreed to resume negotiations over the Nahda Dam within the next two weeks, hoping to reach consensus on points of contention in an introductory report presented by a French advisory office. The report focuses on the effects of the Ethiopian dam on the river’s streams (Egypt and Sudan).Egypt's Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said he and his Ethiopian counterpart, Abiy Ahmed, agreed “to start bilateral discussions in the next two weeks to reach consensus on unsettled points.” Ethiopia has been building the dam on one of the main reaches of the Nile to supply its territories with electricity. Egypt fears the dam will restrict the waters coming down from Ethiopia's highlands, through the deserts of Sudan, to its fields and reservoirs. Ethiopia, which wants to become Africa's biggest power exporter, says it will have no such impact. Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have been carrying out a series of technical and political negotiations for years, but they have failed to find a decisive consensus so far. Madbouly met on Sunday with Ahmed on the sidelines of the 11th African Union Extraordinary Summit in Addis Ababa.
He conveyed a message from President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on means of developing bilateral relations to the level of integrated partnership and activating mechanisms to achieve this, according to a statement by the Egyptian Cabinet. During his participation in the meetings on behalf of Sisi, Madbouly said he agreed with his Ethiopian counterpart on establishing a trilateral Egyptian, Sudanese and Ethiopian fund via a meeting among the governors of the central banks of the three countries to finalize the agreement. He noted his country's readiness to exchange expertise in the field of constructing new cities and roads in Ethiopia in light of the development plan adopted by Addis Ababa. Abiy, for his part, stressed his personal concern with preserving the rights of Egypt and all the African countries associated with the Nile River, noting that both sides agreed during their meeting to start bilateral negotiations within the next two weeks to reach an agreement.

Undersea Gas Fires Egypt's Regional Energy Dreams
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 18 November, 2018/Egypt is looking to use its vast, newly tapped undersea gas reserves to establish itself as a key energy exporter and revive its flagging economy, said an AFP report on Sunday. Encouraged by the discovery of huge natural gas fields in the Mediterranean, Cairo has in recent months signed gas deals with neighboring Israel as well as Cyprus and Greece. Former oil minister Osama Kamal said Egypt has a "plan to become a regional energy hub". In the past year, gas has started flowing from four major fields off Egypt's Mediterranean coast, including the vast Zohr field, inaugurated with great ceremony by President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. Discovered in 2015 by Italian energy giant Eni, Zohr is the biggest gas field so far found in Egyptian waters. The immediate upshot has been that since September, the Arab world's most populous country has been able to halt imports of liquefied natural gas, which last year cost it some $220 million (190 million euros) per month, said AFP. Coming after a financial crisis that pushed Cairo in 2016 to take a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, the gas has been a lifeline. Egypt's budget deficit, which hit a record 103 percent of GDP in the financial year 2016-17, has since fallen to 93 percent. Gas production has now hit 184 million cubic meters a day. Having met its own needs, Cairo is looking to kickstart exports and extend its regional influence. It has signed deals to import gas from neighboring countries for liquefaction at installations on its Mediterranean coast, ready for re-export to Europe. In September, Egypt signed a deal with Cyprus to build a pipeline to pump Cypriot gas hundreds of kilometers to Egypt for processing before being exported to Europe. That came amid tensions between Egypt and Turkey -- which has supported the Muslim Brotherhood, seen by Cairo as a terrorist organization, and has troops in breakaway northern Cyprus. In February, Egypt, inked an agreement to import gas from the Jewish state's Tamar and Leviathan reservoirs. A US-Israeli consortium leading the development of Israel's offshore gas reserves in September announced it would buy part of a disused pipeline connecting the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon with the northern Sinai peninsula. That would bypass a land pipeline across the Sinai that was repeatedly targeted by extremists in 2011 and 2012, explained AFP. The $15-billion deal will see some 64 billion cubic meters of gas pumped in from the Israeli fields over 10 years. Independent news website Mada Masr reported that Egypt's General Intelligence Service is the majority shareholder in East Gas, which will earn the largest part of the profits from the import of Israeli gas and its resale to the Egyptian state. Kamal said he sees "no problem" in that, adding that the agency has held a majority stake in the firm since 2003. "That guarantees the protection of Egyptian interests," he said, according to AFP. Ezzat Abdel Aziz, former president of the Egyptian Atomic Energy Agency, said the projects were "of vital importance for Egypt" and would have direct returns for the Egyptian economy. They "confirm the strategic importance of Egypt and allow it to take advantage of its location between producing countries in the east and consuming countries of the West", he said. The Egyptian state is also hoping to rake in billions of dollars in revenues from petro-chemicals. Its regional energy ambitions are "not limited to the natural gas sector, but also involve major projects in the petroleum and petrochemical sectors," said former oil minister Kamal. Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek El Molla recently announced a deal to expand the Midor refinery in the Egyptian capital to boost its output by some 60 percent. On top of that, the new Mostorod refinery in northern Cairo is set to produce 4.4 million tons of petroleum products a year after it comes online by next May, according to Ahmed Heikal, president of Egyptian investment firm Citadel Capital. That alone will save the state $2 billion a year on petrochemical imports, which last year cost it some $5.2 billion. Egypt is also investing in a processing plant on the Red Sea that could produce some four million tons of petro-products a year -- as well as creating 3,000 jobs in a country where unemployment is rife.

Reports: GCC summit to be held on Dec 9, Qatar not on agenda
Al Arabiya English, Dubai/Monday, 19 November 2018/The upcoming Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit is likely to be held in Riyadh on December 9, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai reported. The newspaper pointed out that "the level of representation has not been determined and will be subject, as every time, to last-minute consultations." However, the indicators show that the Qatar file will not be discussed at the summit, according to news agencies. Diplomats and Gulf sources told Reuters that they have seen no new ideas or concrete moves by the concerned parties, to end the issue, and in addition, Qatari policies do not reflect any shift so far. “I don’t see any change on Qatar. The crown prince’s message was interpreted wrongly” a diplomat said. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi say the dispute is not a priority, and at least three diplomats and other sources familiar with Gulf policy reiterates that recently.“The Qataris are raising the price for resolving the crisis,” said one Western diplomat. “The Emiratis are happy to keep the Qataris isolated.”Qatar and UAE authorities did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi reassured Washington that the dispute will not deter the formation of a proposed Middle East security alliance, which would include Doha, diplomats said.They said the UAE still strongly supports Saudi against Iran and on its economic and social reforms, seen by Abu Dhabi as essential to replicating the UAE model of a business-friendly, tolerant Muslim society to combat extremism. “The Emiratis see Saudi Arabia as the only choice to lead the region. They haven’t blinked in their belief that Riyadh’s reform plans are the best and only option,” said Elizabeth Dickinson, Senior Analyst for the Arabian Peninsula at the International Crisis Group.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 19-20/18
US rabbi claims Gulf states 'compete' over ties with Israel
Itamar Eichner/Ynetnews/November 19/18
Rabbi Marc Schneier, who maintains close ties with Persian Gulf, believes we will see establishment of official diplomatic relations between Israel and the six emirates as soon as 2019; 'We will soon see the official forming of relations with Bahrain, and the rest will follow.' Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), who maintains extensive ties with countries in the Persian Gulf, said he has recently seen a vast improvement in relations between Israel and the Gulf states.
Schneier, who is known as a rabbi to many US celebrities, said in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth that the six Persian Gulf emirates are competing over who will be the first to go public with their relationship with Israel, and establish diplomatic ties.
"I believe we will soon see the official forming of relations with Bahrain, and the rest will follow," he asserted. Over the past 15 years, Rabbi Schneier has visited many palaces in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
According to him, the Iranian threat is what stands behind the change in attitude toward Israel. "Israel and the Gulf states face the same existential threat—Iran."
However, economic opportunities is another driving force behind the improved relations.
"The current Emir of Qatar and leaders in Saudi Arabia said that the combination of Gulf’s wealth and Israel's high-tech knowledge could potentially transform the region into the most successful area in the world,” Schneier explained. "If in the past it was argued that the Gulf states would be willing to establish official relations with Israel only after peace with the Palestinians is achieved, then today the leaders of these countries say that merely returning to the negotiating table will suffice," said the rabbi.
"I believe we will see diplomatic relations developing with all six Gulf states as early as 2019," he emphasized.

The US and GCC’s twin strategies toward Iran
Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg/Arab News/November 19/18
The US’ Iran strategy is finally out in public and a legitimate question has been raised as to whether the region’s key players, in particular the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), have a similar strategy or are they only reacting to the US’ moves?
I would argue that the GCC has had an Iran strategy in place for some time, the last articulation of which was agreed by the GCC ministers of defense, interior and foreign affairs in 2017, and endorsed by the GCC summit in April 2017. The GCC and US strategies are quite similar and their centerpiece is an enhanced GCC-US Strategic Partnership, established at the May 2016 Camp David summit of heads of state, and reconfirmed in the consequent GCC-US summits of 2016 and 2017.
In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out the most detailed public articulation of the Trump administration’s strategy on confronting Iran. Pompeo outlined the “Trump doctrine,” which is that Iran is put on notice that the US will not allow its destabilizing activities to go unchecked, and is willing to use force to stop them. In addition, the Trump administration is pursuing a “maximum pressure” campaign designed to choke off revenues that the Iranian regime uses to fund violence throughout the region and to allow its agents to covertly plot around the world.
What are the most important elements of the GCC strategy toward Iran? The strategy starts by identifying the main sources of threats emanating from Iran: Military and asymmetric, as well as territorial, political, diplomatic, economic and environmental. The strategy addresses each group of threats, outlining the actions required to deal with them. Finally, the strategy includes a political process on how the confrontation could be defused.
While the GCC has been building its own defenses to stop Iran’s extraterritorial reach, it has also several times attempted to engage Iran diplomatically.
The military threats include nuclear, ballistic and conventional weapons. On Iran’s nuclear program, the GCC has expressed its support for the Trump administration in calling for a revamped deal that removes the so-called sunset clauses and establishes a more robust inspection system to ensure that it is and will remain a peaceful, non-military program.
On Iran’s ballistic missiles program, the GCC strategy calls for a strengthened international regime to supplement the restrictions outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 2231. At the same time, the GCC is building a ballistic missile defense shield in cooperation with the US.
And, finally, to face Iran’s conventional military threats, the GCC is enhancing its military capabilities in the air, on land and at sea, with considerable progress. It has built a unified military structure that includes all services. This process has been brought closer to completion with the recent appointment of Gen. Eid Al-Shalawi as commander of the GCC Unified Military Command — the first in the GCC’s 37-year history.
The most difficult part of confronting Iran is how to deal with its asymmetric threats, mainly its use of terrorism and sectarian strife to destabilize the region and beyond. On confronting Iranian-sponsored terrorism, the GCC and its partners, such as the US and the UK, have developed various tools to disrupt the work of terrorists supported by Iran, especially intercepting and weakening their funding through sanctions. To counter Iran’s sectarian speech and that of its proxies in the region — particularly in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria — the GCC has established various centers to counter the terrorists’ messaging, which is used to recruit and radicalize young people.
Territorial threats include Iran’s occupation of three UAE islands (Greater and Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa), as well as incursions into the GCC’s territorial seas, continental shelf and maritime economic zones, which are rich in oil and minerals.
Environmental threats include the risk of accidents in Iran’s nuclear reactors, especially the Bushehr nuclear plant, which came online a few years ago and is located near a major earthquake fault line. There have been close calls at the facility after some major earthquakes.
While the GCC has been building its own defenses to stop Iran’s extraterritorial reach, it has also several times attempted to engage Iran diplomatically. In 1986, the GCC articulated 10 principles based on the UN Charter and asked Tehran to commit to them, but without success, as Iran was more interested in military solutions at the time of the Iran-Iraq war. There was limited success later, during the presidencies of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1997) and Mohammed Khatami (1997-2005). A number of security agreements were signed and a general thaw in relations took place.
That hopeful period was put in abeyance with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the GCC continued to engage Iran during his presidency, without success. The Arab Spring events of 2011 led to a break in the dialogue because Iran saw it as an opportunity to pursue its goals without having to change its behavior or engage with its neighbors. It succeeded in extending its hegemony to Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. It attempted to do the same thing in Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia but failed.
Despite an energized Iranian interventionist policy throughout the region, the GCC has identified a political process. In response to an Iranian message in 2016 to start a new page, the GCC sent a letter through Kuwait to Iran, suggesting a course of action to build confidence and engage peacefully. Thus, while the GCC is enhancing its own elements of power — military, economic and cultural — it is also leaving the door open for a political solution to defuse the conflict with Iran.
*Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is the GCC Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs & Negotiation, and a columnist for Arab News. The views expressed in this piece are personal and do not necessarily represent GCC views. Twitter: @abuhamad1

The new Iraq and the Qatari temptation
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/November 19/18
Iraq is a large country that’s swayed by all forms of influence. Iran is greedy for it and the US sees it as a goal to reach. However, before all that, Iraq is for its people with their different sects and orientations, and their interests must be served. It is in the Iraqis’ best interest to shield the country from wars and from mortgaging its wealth and security in favor of this or that neighbor.
Iraq today has a new parliament, a new prime minister and a new president who is the Kurdish sensible politician Barham Salih who made his first foreign tour and visited Iran and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf cou
Will Iraq today be biased towards the “harmful” Iranian neighbor after the international American economic and political restraints tightened around the Iranian regime? We ask this while being aware of the size of Iranian political investment and depth inside Iraq.
Iraqi President Barham Salih’s visit to Riyadh and his meeting with King Salman is a good sign. We’re not saying it’s a sign towards matching Iraqi policy with Saudi Arabia but towards putting Iraq and the Iraqis’ interest above all other considerations
This investment is enveloped with the fangs and claws of gangs affiliated with Iran in Iraq – gangs whose statuses strengthened to the point where they have political wings represented in the parliament, like the case is with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group in Lebanon. Speaking of Hezbollah, the party exported its expertise in political destruction to Iraq via its delegate there, Mohammed Kawtharani.
Qatari meddling
Since Qatar, under the authority of Hamad bin Khalifa and the Brotherhood’s planning, is an ally in a harmful alliance whose pillar is Iraq and Turkey, it’s trying to access the Iraqi arena via this alliance.
News reports from inside Iraq state that Qatar is today promoting to Iraq’s rulers the idea of having Iraq join an alliance that includes it, Iran, Syria and Turkey, and that is based on the mutual political and economic interests among all five countries.
This piece of news, which is not surprising given the behavior of Qatar’s current rulers, sheds light on the importance of maximizing Iraq’s national powers which call for preserving the wealth and security of Iraq that has been suffering since 1990 until today. It also gives importance to focusing on Iraq’s domestic affairs such as development and improvement of public services (water, electricity, health, education, etc..) and keeping away from Iranian harmful policies and Qatari-Brotherhood schemes.
What strengthens the validity of this piece of news is that the National Axis Alliance, which includes most of the Sunni political powers, rejected that Iraq become part of this alliance that consists of the five countries.
Anyway, Iraqi President Barham Salih’s visit to Riyadh and his meeting with King Salman is a good sign. We’re not saying it’s a sign towards matching Iraqi policy with Saudi Arabia but towards putting Iraq and the Iraqis’ interest above all other considerations, including the Iranian and Turkish and even the Saudi ones, since as long as Iraq will focus on development and stability, there will be no other Saudi Arabian consideration anyway!
Will the Americans, who paid plenty of money and sacrificed plenty of men in Iraq, accept that Iraq becomes an affiliate of a hostile axis?
The gamble is on the wise men of Iraq and its vigilant people and on all those who want Iraq’s interest before anything else.

Cultural diplomacy as a means for dialogue
Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/November 19/18
At its core, diplomacy depends on achieving results and goals with the most flexible, least violent and low-cost methods that avoid security or military measures as much as possible.
In some cases, “hard power” is used diplomatically, as a means not an end in order to achieve goals that leaders cannot achieve through conventional means or through dialogue. Therefore, “force” is used as a quick and short-term option that has specific goals.
In this context, diplomacy has several aspects, one of which is “cultural diplomacy.” This was the focus of a discussion held in Manama last month, which was attended by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed and a group of young diplomats.
Of course, “cultural diplomacy” doesn’t only depend on the culture of the individual – though this is definitely important – but it should also include a comprehensive program, an action plan and collective effort
Abdullah bin Zayed spoke about “cultural diplomacy” as “a gateway of cooperation aimed at spreading our high humanitarian mission and our common Arab culture”, as well as “sharing innovative ideas with regard to the development of future diplomatic work and foreseeing the prospects for diplomatic cooperation and coordination to address the rapid changes on the regional arenas and the international scene.” He added that this necessitates an unconventional approach to political action, development of old mechanisms and expansion of new areas of work in the departments of foreign ministries in the Gulf to focus on what can be called “complementary diplomacy,” of which culture is one of the key pillars.
Using culture as a bridge
A former diplomat once told me that while he was on a visit to an important and influential country for bilateral talks, the head of the delegation had to leave for a few minute. He told me: “I found myself alone with the president of that country, and wondered what I can talk to him about, instead of just being silent. Within a few seconds, I began talking about an important historical figure who had changed the policy of the country in question.
The president was happy to respond and started telling me about that figure’s character and explained how and why he loved and respected that person’s ideas. Even after the head of the delegation returned, we continued talking on the same subject; because the president was proud how his guest knew details of his country’s culture and history.”
This is a simple example of how culture can create a bridge between interlocutors, make minds meet, help solve problems and diffuse crises.
“Cultural diplomacy” is not an easy art to cultivate. It requires a person to have a great deal of knowledge and wisdom. A diplomat needs to be knowledgeable in the history and civilization of the country he visits, understand customs and the key traditions in addition to knowing the background of the people he meets and the topics that will be discussed so that he is able to read the mind of his interlocutor and negotiate with him, and this requires more training, knowledge and patience. It is not just a mechanical drill that easily delivers any political gain.
Of course, “cultural diplomacy” doesn’t only depend on the culture of the individual – though this is definitely important – but it should also include a comprehensive program, an action plan and collective effort, which will be discussed in the next article.

Water geopolitics in the Middle East
Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/November 19/18
In the 21st century, the Middle East will witness a new and unalike kind of war. Despite economic pressures, ethnic and sectarian dissections, terrorism activities, religious radicalism, organized crime and environmental crisis, the likelihood of water war has escalated in recent years in the region due to the scarcity of this natural resource and due to the drought waves for decades. Water scarceness is of boundless geopolitical significance. Nihilists and visionaries likewise are susceptible to assume that water has or would have profound geopolitical insinuations. Water resources are a fundamental factor for local clashes in the region, fuelled by deteriorating economic development plans in the Middle East, which would exacerbate water war dynamics.
Prospects of war in the Mideast
The Arab world is 14 million square kilometers, of which 87 percent is desert. About 50 percent of renewable Arab water resources are located outside the Arab region. This is evident in the trajectory of international rivers, such as the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates. Studies show that the share of Arab citizens in renewable water will shrink from 1200 cubic meters annually to 400 cubic meters per capita per year by 2025. Furthermore, 15 Arab nations have fallen below water poverty line, meaning that they will not be able to meet their basic water requirements by 2025.
Since water and food security are interrelated, and since economic, military and security aspects are of due importance for any country, a lack or absence of any of these elements would lead to either internal war or a regional war; thus, affecting the face and future of the region. In a panoramic view, the picture is becoming increasingly murkier as the Arab population continues to grow, while water resources are destroyed by armed conflicts or become scarce due to droughts which have depleted groundwater resources.
Renewable and non-renewable water resources have shrunk. This has been the case in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt; however, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have been spending huge amounts of money on desalination process which would be adequate as long as oil and gas prices are high.
The Levant and Iraq have been amongst the worst affected by scarcity of rainfall and water shortages in the past two decades. Turkey insists that any agreement on sharing of the Tigris and the Euphrates water Syria and Iraq depend heavily on political harmony between the three countries. Of course, the Kurdish issue is the essence of any water deal between the three states as well as oil and gas cooperation.
Countries in charge should all sit and discuss water security for the generations to come to avert them any wars that would lead to enormous toll of deaths if conflicts break out
The Israelis also recognize that the dearth of water resources is weakening their position strategically. Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir had been stressing on the interdependence of security and water. Shimon Peres, former head of the State of Israel, believes that water is more important than land, and that control of water sources makes Israel a geographically closed and independent country as no other neighboring country would dare threaten Israel’s sovereignty.
Former Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon said that in fact (the Six-Day War) began the day Israel decided to turn the Jordan River water inside Israel by diverting the branches of the river to exercise more pressure on Jordan later on and to twist the government’s arm to accept Israeli conditions and terms.
The Israelis are also cognizant of the complexity of their water crisis. The water level of the Sea of Galilee has dropped to the lowest level in a century, and the salt water infiltrates heavily into the underground crevices. Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are among the countries most forced to settle water issues and reach an understanding on sharing their water resources. Jordan is one of the countries most affected by the water crisis, and the water agreement between Amman and Tel Aviv was essential in the Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement. The question here is: Will Israel respect this deal in the future?
Regional water wars
At present, many factors can lead to insecurity and be the main causes of instability and war. Religious or ethnic differences, poverty, hunger and lack of resources are the most important. The geographical distribution of water is one of the major geopolitical dimensions of natural resources. This distribution is an important factor in the ability of governments to control these assets. Political reasons of war on natural resources including water is a sufficient drive to ignite new conflicts among Middle East countries as such a valuable resource is key to prosperity and development at all levels.
Will there be a war on water in the Middle East?
The 21st century is undergoing demographic increase in the Middle East, posing pressure on water. Economists believe that scarcity of water in the region is more threatening than anywhere else in the world. For millennia, this scarcity has played an essential role in determining political relations in the region. Ideological, religious and geopolitical differences have also been associated with water-related tensions.
Though competition over water resources in the Middle East region is very old, rivalry has intensified in recent years. To cite as an example, the Sudanese-Egyptian-Ethiopian competition over the Nile Water and the Syrian-Turkish-Iraqi rivalry over the Tigris and the Euphrates water can trigger a regional war for many years.
Future of Water Security
Climate change, low rainfall and poor water resources management, and the absence of a sound economic plan for water and soil use are among the factors that will lead to increased competition for wars over water resources. Israel is also trying to control Palestinian and Lebanese water sources in order to increase water productivity. Thus, water crisis and the inability of the countries of the region to manage such a calamity would be conducive to internal conflicts, which may affect food security and other vital interests of the region, leading to further battles on water.
To conclude, the countries in charge should all sit and discuss water security for the generations to come to avert them any wars that would lead to enormous toll of deaths if conflicts break out.

Are We Prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse? Actually, Yes
Stephen Carter/Bloomberg/November, 19/18
Are we properly prepared for the zombie apocalypse? OK, you’re thinking that’s just science fiction. It could never happen, so why bother getting ready? But after watching some of the frenzied television coverage of this week’s sudden snowstorm that paralyzed the Eastern Seaboard, I’m not so sure. Reporters kept asking each other, in all solemn gravity, who’s to blame for the fact that cities and states were so poorly prepared. The usual academic wisdom is that if we prepare for every low-probability event, we’ll bankrupt ourselves. Only hindsight bias insists that the signs of every unlikely catastrophe were always there. But it’s a hindsight bias to which we cling, venting our fury at those who didn’t put the clues together. So in the highly unlikely event that the zombie apocalypse happens, journalists and commentators, from their fortified redoubts, will certainly be demanding to know why nobody planned for this eventuality.
Happily, we have an answer: The US military is on the case.
Well, sort of seriously.
On the website of the US Strategic Command, you can find CONPLAN 8888-11, a detailed plan for “counter-zombie dominance” prepared by a group of junior officers as part of a training exercise. The document, which came to public attention a few years ago, is festooned with disclaimers, including a large red box on the first page informing readers that the assignment was based on a “completely fictitious scenario” — but presumably the disclaimers would themselves be disclaimed in any congressional hearing attempting to fix blame in the event of an actual zombie invasion. So let’s spend a few minutes taking CONPLAN 8888-11 more or less seriously. Once we take the plan seriously, it makes interesting reading. Were its advice followed during the zombie disasters portrayed so regularly on small screen and large, we wouldn’t see the US military so easily swept aside in the opening hours of the invasion.
That’s the term used again and again in the document — “invasion” — and surely it’s the most accurate way to conceptualize the disaster that would follow a zombie infection. Undead hordes shambling through the streets should be treated the way one would treat any other invaders. This means the goals must be to protect the uninfected population and to eliminate the invaders. Zombies can’t be deterred or bargained with, so they must be destroyed. The immediate difficulty is the same one that worries their television and film counterparts: “Zombie forces will become stronger with each human casualty,” because “each human casualty will become a zombie.”
Therefore it’s important to create hardened protected sites and to guard critical infrastructure. Because zombies will be drawn to human population centers and can’t swim (or can they?), roads should be barricaded and blocked at checkpoints. Local authorities will be tasked with maintaining potable uncontaminated food supplies. If none of this works, evacuation will be ordered. Law enforcement and military personnel are warned not to allow survivors to “go back for” family, friends, and loved ones. Any who do must be left behind.
The plan anticipates that human survivors would raid police stations, sporting-goods stores and armories for weapons. This is apparently seen as a feature, not a bug. All official transmissions would be sent uncoded, so that survivors might intercept them and know where to link up with military forces.
The planners accept the popular view that zombies are not alive, a proposition that widens the choice of potential strategies. Ordinarily, the measures that may be taken in armed conflict are legally and ethically restricted, but “US and international law regulate military operations only insofar as human and animal life are concerned.” Small wonder, therefore, that the plan envisions the use of nuclear weapons within U.S. territory as necessary.
The idea is to use enough force to destroy large concentrations of zombies, then conduct reconnaissance to hunt down the rest. Finally, when the emergency ends, government will be turned back over to civil authorities. It all sounds good — good enough for us to wonder why “The Walking Dead” features no surviving military forces. (They can’t all have been ambushed by the governor.) But as CONPLAN 8888-11 freely admits, there are potential problems. For one thing, determining where to deploy forces requires accurate intelligence, which likely would not be forthcoming. The document advises assuming “worst-case scenarios derived from popular culture references.” For another, deployed military forces will be expected to carry sufficient supplies to operate for 40 days, after which the planners believe most of the zombies will have died from decay or lack of food. (Although this assumption seems to be the consensus of various sources, it may be overly optimistic.) The difficulty, as the planners confess, is that the US military may not possess enough food and water for the necessary forces to deploy for so long without resupply.
Moreover, the document notes, not enough military facilities are actually hardened against zombie attack. Command-and-control aircraft would be safe, but after a few days refueling operations would likely break down. The planners suggest that surviving aircraft try for Hawaii or various other Pacific islands, but seem pessimistic that many would make it. (In “World War Z” — the novel, not the film — many of the world’s leaders, including the president of the United States, successfully take to the sea.) . And course there’s the risk that the invaders will turn out to be Evil Magic Zombies, or EMZs, in which case there will be little that conventional military force can achieve. Still, the planners have a suggestion: “The Chaplain Corps may provide the only viable means of combating EMZs.” They document adds, ominously: “Atheists could be particularly vulnerable to EMZ threats.”But put all of these concerns aside. At least somebody’s trying. You want the government to plan for low-probability disasters? Here’s a plan for a low-probability disaster. Sure, the chances of a zombie apocalypse are infinitesimal. But should it ever happen, the last few survivors (those who beat the 0.0088 probability of surviving 100 days) will likely behave just like the journalists who seemed surprised to discover that snowstorms are occasionally worse than predicted. They’ll want to know who’s to blame.Good to know somebody’s thinking ahead.

Assange Speculation Shows Why Charges Should Be Public

Noah Feldman/Bloomberg/November 19/19
The word-processing error that unintentionally revealed the Justice Department’s sealed charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is fascinating, not least because analogous mistakes can be found in texts going all the way back to the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh.
It also raises important legal policy questions: In a free, open society, what justifies the use of secret indictments? Are they a nefarious tool of the deep state, like secret trials? Or are they a valuable mechanism for allowing law enforcement to do its job? The accidental disclosure of an Assange case originated with a federal prosecutor who was filing a motion with a federal court in Virginia to seal the criminal complaint against one Seitu Sulayman Kokayi. Twice in the short document, the name of the person whose charges were supposed to be sealed was given as “Assange” rather than “Kokayi.” The Kokayi case was recently unsealed, and the error was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert who monitors court cases.
Anyone who’s ever worked as a lawyer or a paralegal can tell you how this happened. Law firms and legal offices keep copies of sample documents containing boilerplate language — like the language prosecutors use to explain why a sealed criminal complaint is necessary.
Often, the sample documents have names filled in. When I was a summer associate at a white-shoe firm 20 years ago, all the sample documents used the name of the investment bank that the firm had faithfully represented for more than half a century. In the Assange case, the sample document was probably changed and saved when the prosecutors filed the Assange sealing request.
The lawyer drafting the document has the job of changing the names from the sample. The prosecutor in the Kokayi case was most likely in too much of a rush — and didn’t proofread.
But don’t be too scornful. The error is as old as books — or rather older. Consider this example from the ancient Gilgamesh epic, pointed out to me by the brilliant Bible scholar Idan Dershowitz, who is writing a book on what he calls “errorology.” The epic tells the story of a worldwide flood and a man who survives it on an ark filled with animals. (Sound familiar?)
In the Gilgamesh version, the role of Noah is played by a man called Utnapishtim. But in Tablet XI of the epic, the text accidentally calls the same hero by the name Atra-hasis.
This slip-up allowed scholars to realize that the flood story must have been taken from an earlier text, in which Atra-hasis is the hero. When it comes to Assange, the error also conveys information — namely that prosecutors prepared a request to seal the charges. Subsequent reporting confirmed that the case is out there, although we don’t know what the alleged crime is.The justification for sealing an indictment is typically that if the defendant knew he had been indicted, he would evade arrest by fleeing or avoiding capture. Sealing is supposed to be a last resort, usable only when the government couldn’t simply redact the defendant’s name from the charging documents. The decision is up to the court, not the prosecutor. That’s why the request to seal was being filed in the Kokayi case — and why it was filed in Assange’s case as well. The legal requirement of justification, as well as the assignment of the authority to the judge, not the prosecutor, both signal that sealed indictments aren’t desirable.
The US Constitution requires that criminal trials be open to the public. It’s a basic principle of the rule of law in a democracy that there be no secret criminal proceedings. Publicity enables scrutiny, oversight and protest if the law isn’t being followed or if it isn’t being applied fairly.
Secret indictments come uncomfortably close to secret trials. In principle, the public should be able to know whom the government seeks to punish. Assange is a perfect example of why the public ought to know who is being charged. The case most likely raises tricky questions about freedom of speech. If he was a pure recipient and publisher of leaks, he deserves First Amendment protection. If he went further than that, and solicited criminal disclosures or coordinated his leaks as part of a conspiracy to distort electoral results, his conduct may have been outside the reach of the Bill of Rights and plausibly criminal.
We don’t know what he did or is alleged to have done — and that’s just the point. Sealed indictments don’t satisfy the public need to debate and consider the rightness of the prosecution. Yet it must also be remembered that if Assange is apprehended and stands trial, we would immediately know the nature of the charges. And if he’s never caught, he’ll never be put on trial. The U.S. doesn’t try people in absentia. It could be plausibly argued that the sealed charges were needed in this case to help the US catch him. I’m not sure that argument should have convinced a judge. Assange has certainly long known that the US was interested in extraditing him. That’s one reason he has stayed so long in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The sealing may therefore not have been warranted, all things considered.
But that decision was properly for a judge to make. There are some situations where sealing an indictment is clearly warranted. And we now know about this one — courtesy of an epic fail of find-and-replace.

The Rain, the Decline and the Wasted Time of Our Lives

Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/November 19/19
Everyone has a story he loves to tell, even to a passing stranger. I love stories, I enjoy the role of the listener and hate that of the speaker. I always considered the taxi driver as the open book of a city and the honest reflection of its pulse and concerns.
I have recently experienced this in New York, on my way from the hotel to the airport. The driver asked me if I was an Arab, so I confessed. He also inquired about my country of origin. He said he had not visited Lebanon, but he heard that it was a beautiful and pleasant country.
I cannot deny that Lebanon is a beautiful country or deserves to be described as such. Whether it was pleasant, however, was a complex and controversial issue. I did not want to go into commenting on it. The driver said he was happy to be in New York. Life is not easy, and you have to struggle, but you feel like a human being. You pay your taxes and the state defends your rights. If you have been attacked or treated unfairly you resort to the court. The judge does not mind your assets and your color. Those days have gone. You can file a lawsuit against the President and collect your rights.
The tenure of Donald Trump does not worry him, he said. His policy seems to be beneficial to the economy. Other things are not important. I can go and vote against him if I like. The president here comes and goes.
He left some time for me to comment on the long stay of presidents in our region. I did not. I prefer questions over answers.
He told me that he would never be a millionaire, but he had stability, comfort, and health insurance. He said he threw himself in America to save the rest of his life, considering that life in the country from which he came is definitely wasted. He stressed that he did not want to return to his homeland, and that he would never go back on his decision. He considered living in a country not governed by the law a tragedy, and the absence of serious institutions a recipe for destruction, albeit sometimes delayed.
He said that one time when he was young, he decided to get a driving license. A date was set for his exam. On that day, his brother accompanied him to the concerned officer’s bureau in the relevant department. He waited there to know, a bit later, that his driving license was ready. Just being at the officer’s bureau spared him the burden of the exam. Before leaving, his brother shook the officer’s hand warmly, slipping in something in an expression of appreciation. The driver said that the incident raised his fears, especially as his relatives told him about the ability of university students to buy exam questions in advance.
He said that wasting the time of our lives is no less dangerous than wasting blood. Citizens spend their lives following up on transactions that cannot be completed unless they slip in the hands of the concerned employees something to get their work done. He said that a year ago, he decided to visit his relatives. Unluckily, the rain fell heavily during his visit. He recounted how the capital sank into the water, the vehicles were stranded, people were distressed and garbage piles flooded everywhere. He talked about major losses and many wasted hours. He concluded by saying: Our countries are not livable. The underdeveloped schools are wasting our days, so does unemployment. Corruption is consuming the time of our lives.
The idea of wasting life struck me. Poverty is a waste of life, so is ignorance, corruption, lack of planning and absence of institutions. Another form of wasting life is states’ adherence to "degenerative" education that is far from the needs of the modern age and economy. Millions of students flock into disciplines that are not needed by the labor market. The survival of the same old work environment incites negativity, in parallel with the spread of technological illiteracy in an age that is advancing at an amazing pace with successive revolutions.
It is also possible to include sectarian and harmful speech in the context of squandering lives and assassinating rescue chances. In the same framework, the phenomenon of large migrations can be understood. People feel that staying in their country is a punishment for them and their children. They are so desperate to escape even in the “boats of death.” Experts in the future are talking about waves of immigrants who will hit the European continent in the next two decades because of the continuing failure of the countries, in which they were born.
Arabs used to eagerly wait for the rain to come. Rain means life in the soil. It means awakening trees, flowers and seasons of wealth. Recently, many new nodes have been added to the Arab people’s complexes, namely rain and torrents. Whenever it rained abundantly, we found ourselves in a scandal here or there. It rains and our faults are exposed. Water does not run in the sewers because of corruption. Streets turn into lakes, and the citizens have to use boats to reach their homes. The scandal also targets institutions such as the civil defense and fire departments. Money is wasted in less important places, while the budget is narrow in institutions that save people’s lives- if they had modern equipment.
God’s enemy is social networking. Every scandal or tragedy is received on the phone, which has become a stark newspaper throughout the day and night. Beirut witnessed a shameful chapter of this kind a few days ago. I do not want to give the impression that rain is the only perpetrator. The reasons for wasting lives in Lebanon are many. They involve the consecration of strange and horrific rules that constitute a gross and flagrant violation of the dignity of citizens, wasted months without the ability to form a government, keeping the presidential palace vacant, waiting for the savior who fails to rescue, or disrupting Parliament for very confusing reasons.We are tired of complaining. We are tired of lamenting. The truth is painful. Those who don’t seek to grow regress. Some cosmic villages head towards the future, while we continue the journey of decline and waste of life.

Palestinians Arresting Women; Where are the Media?
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/November 19, 2018
Mahmoud Abbas does not want his people and the rest of the world to know that his security forces are arresting women for criticizing a social security law or providing financial aid to Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip.
Unlike Jbara and Marab'eh, Ahed Tamimi was lucky to be arrested by Israel. Had she been arrested by the Palestinian Authority, no one would ever have known.
This attitude is another example of the anti-Israel bias of the international media and community. It is yet another example of how the West gives the Palestinians a pass to violate human rights and crack down on dissent.
Last August, the Palestinian Authority (PA) protested because Israel arrested a Palestinian woman from Hebron on charges of incitement and affiliation with Hamas. The 42-year-old woman, Lama Khater, is also known as a strong critic of the President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority.
Khater's scathing attacks on Abbas and his government, however, did not stop the Palestinian Authority from condemning Israel and demanding her immediate release.
This was not the first time that the Palestinian Authority has condemned Israel for arresting a Palestinian woman who voiced criticism of Abbas and his policies. Last year, the Palestinian Authority condemned Israel for arresting Khaleda Jarrar, a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, one of several PLO terrorist groups. Jarrar was arrested by Israel for membership in a terrorist group and incitement.
The incidents concerning Khater and Jarrar came to mind this week as Palestinian sources revealed that Mahmoud Abbas's security forces in the West Bank arrested two Palestinian women.
The first woman, Majdoleen Marab'eh, was arrested in the West Bank city of Qalqilya after she criticized the Palestinian Authority's controversial social security law.
The law, which has sparked a wave of protests among Palestinians, calls for deducting 7% of private sector employees' monthly salaries for a social-security fund and setting the retirement age for men and women at 60 years.
The second woman recently arrested by the Palestinian security forces is Suha Jbara, a mother of three from a village near Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians in the West Bank.
According to Palestinian sources, the 31-year-old Jbara was arrested on November 2, when more than 25 Palestinian security officers raided her home and arrested her in front of her three children. The sources said she was suspected of transferring donations collected from Palestinians in the West Bank to the families of Palestinians killed and wounded by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip.
Her father, Badran, said she was first taken to a Palestinian Authority detention center in Ramallah where, after a brief interrogation, she was transferred to the PA's notorious Jericho Prison. He said that although his daughter suffers from a heart disease, she has been denied medical treatment and was being held in harsh conditions. A lawyer appointed by her family has since been banned from seeing her.
Jbara's family has expressed deep concern about her health. "We're very concerned about her condition because she's being held in harsh conditions," the family complained. "Her three children, aged 12, 9 and 8, have since been crying, and are refusing to eat and go to school."
"In the past few days, there is widespread outrage on social media over the arrest of Suha Jbara," said Obada Subeih in a blog in the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera network. "Undoubtedly, the Palestinian Authority has become a heavy burden on the Palestinian people. The charges attributed to her are a moral scandal for the Palestinian security forces and the Palestinian political leadership in Ramallah."
Several Palestinians took to social media to express extreme consternation over the arrest of Jbara, and described her imprisonment as "disgraceful." They also launched several hashtags demanding her release and calling on the International community to exert pressure on the Palestinian Authority to stop targeting women. These appeals, however, have thus far fallen on deaf ears. The Palestinian media in the West Bank, which is directly and indirectly controlled by Abbas's Palestinian Authority, has ignored the arrest of the two women. As far as Abbas's media outlets are concerned, there is no need to report about the plight of Palestinian women arrested by the PA. The only women whose stories are published in the Palestinian Authority media are those who are arrested by Israel for security-related offenses. Abbas does not want his people and the rest of the world to know that his security forces are arresting women for criticizing a social security law or providing financial aid to Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip.
One can understand why the Palestinian media has deliberately chosen to ignore the Palestinian Authority's crackdown on Palestinian women. But it is hard to understand why the international media and human rights organizations continue to turn a blind eye to such practices. The two women would have won the attention of the Western media and human rights groups had they been arrested by Israel. Then, Western journalists based in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv would have visited the families of the two women a long time ago and published several articles on their ordeal.
Take, for example, the case of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi, who was arrested and sentenced to prison for slapping an Israeli soldier last year. She has since become the darling of the Western media, whose representatives have turned her into an icon and "symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation."
Unlike Jbara and Marab'eh, Tamimi was lucky to be arrested by Israel. Had she been arrested by the Palestinian Authority, no one would ever have known.
This attitude is another example of the anti-Israel bias of the international media and community. It is yet another example of how the West gives the Palestinians a pass to violate human rights and crack down on dissent, while remaining obsessed with Israel. Moreover, it is another example of the hypocrisy of Abbas, who condemns Israel for combating terrorism and incitement, while he throws Palestinian women in jail.
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Who Gains from the US Withdrawal from the Nuclear Arms Treaty?

Stephen Blank and Peter Huessy/Gatestone Institute/November 19/18
Russia has violated not only the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), but, according to former senior White House nuclear arms official Frank Miller, every major arms-control agreement it has signed with the United States.
The same kind of deception has been characteristic of China.
The truth is that there is no INF arms-control regime to be saved. It is senseless to pine for a treaty that only one power -- the United States -- observes. Self-abnegation here only enables others to shoot first and make threats that the US cannot answer.
Those who warn against US withdrawal from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) are forgetting the very important lesson that made it a viable tool for ending the Cold War in the first place three decades ago: what President Ronald Reagan at the time called "peace through strength." Pictured: President Reagan and the Soviet Union's General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev sign the INF in Washington, DC on December 8, 1987.
The US renunciation of the 1987 United States-Soviet Union Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) has generated much skepticism in the arms-control community -- particularly in much of Europe, and from Japan.
These countries hoped not only to keep Russia and the United States in the 1987 treaty (despite Russia's major violations of the INF treaty), but persuade China to become a party to the treaty and thus be forced to eliminate the hundreds of INF-range missiles China has deployed in Asia and ranged against US and its allied interests.
Critics have presented the following five main arguments against the US move:
It enables Russia to build as many INF missiles as it likes, while simultaneously allowing Moscow to blame Washington for reneging on the treaty.
It imperils the entire structure of arms control, including the possible 2021 extension of the United States-Russia 2010 New START Treaty.
It would require extensive consultation with Europe or risk undermining allied cohesion and offering Moscow new targets in its campaign of political warfare against the NATO alliance.
It is unnecessary -- despite Russian violations -- because the US has adequate conventional air-launched and sea-launched cruise missiles to keep Russia at risk and defend Europe, and presumably America's Pacific allies, against China.
It concedes a strategic advantage to Russia, since no INF-equivalent missile is in production by the United States to match Russian INF missile deployments.
These arguments, however, do not hold up to scrutiny.
Given the fact that the Russian and Chinese threats are present and growing, the US decision to withdraw from the treaty and deploy weapons to counter these threats actually strengthens -- not weakens -- both deterrence and the defense of America's allies.
Unfortunately, however, most critics refuse to accept the implications of Russia's acknowledged violations of the treaty, as well as both Russian and Chinese continued rapid production of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles (as Beijing is not a party to the INF treaty).
Moreover, Russia has violated not only the INF treaty, but, according to former senior White House nuclear arms official Frank Miller, every major arms-control agreement it has signed with the United States. In addition, according to the US nuclear specialist Mark Schneider, when Russia released its official nuclear-weapon figures earlier this year -- as stipulated in the New START treaty -- and announced a reduction in nuclear warheads, Moscow allegedly deployed more than two dozen additional multiple warhead missiles.
The same kind of deception is characteristic of China. Although Beijing often declares that it has a "no first use" nuclear doctrine, it is not a party to any nuclear-arms-reduction treaty, and therefore does not disclose its true nuclear capacities, doctrine and strategy.
US military commanders in Asia and US Pacific Command (PACOM) thus have voiced growing anxiety about the military missile balance in the Asia-Pacific Theater.
The point is that Russia and China both habitually brandish nuclear weapons against US allies, presumably to try to fragment America's European and Asian alliances.
To counter such threats effectively and stand up to the intimidation culture and tactics of Russia and China, the US would do well create a conventional and nuclear capability that is at least on a par with those of Moscow and Beijing. Rather than undermining arms control, this might induce Russia to negotiate in better faith in any future negotiations with the US and could drive a wedge between Russia and China.
The truth is that there is no INF arms-control regime to be saved. It is senseless to pine for a treaty that only one power -- the United States -- observes. Self-abnegation here only enables others to shoot first and make threats that the US cannot answer.
Those who warn against US withdrawal from the treaty are forgetting the very important lesson that made it a viable tool for ending the Cold War in the first place three decades ago: what President Ronald Reagan at the time called "peace through strength."
In short, deploying military forces the US needs to deter its enemies really needs to go forward in the absence of sound and verifiable treaties that would otherwise end these threats.
*Stephen Blank is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council; Peter Huessy is director of Strategic Deterrent Studies at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
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Egypt’s Economy Rising, Rights Declining
 براك برفي من موقع معهد واشنطن: الإتصاد المصري يتصاعد والحقوق تتدنى

Barak Barfi/The Washington Institute/November 19/ 2018
Cairo has made progress on returning to its pre-revolution economic levels, but censorship, surveillance, and other humanitarian abuses continue to accelerate.
On October 31, an IMF staff team reached an agreement with Egypt to release the fifth of six $2 billion aid tranches agreed upon in November 2016. The organization’s positive assessment of Cairo’s economic reforms reflects President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s willingness to enact painful financial restructuring that his predecessors either refused to countenance or abruptly halted before completion. Now that the country is emerging from the economic doldrums, Washington should urge it to enact political reforms that give citizens more public space to engage their leaders and debate their future.
The 2011 revolution led to political and security instability, triggering an economic crisis after Egypt’s traditional revenue streams from foreign direct investment and tourism fell dramatically. After Sisi overthrew a Muslim Brotherhood-led government in 2013, he eventually accepted an IMF austerity program to increase revenues through tax reform and slash expenses by cutting energy subsidies. In return, the IMF pledged $12 billion in low-interest loans.
Since then, the country’s financial health has improved significantly, largely returning to pre-revolution levels. The IMF projects growth to reach 5.3% this year and 5.5% in 2019—far above the 4.3% average during Hosni Mubarak’s presidency. Foreign currency reserves reached $44.5 billion last month, compared to $36 billion in December 2010. In early November, Tourism Minister Rania al-Mashat noted that the number of foreigners visiting Egypt had increased by 40% from September 2017 to September 2018. Meanwhile, better-targeted subsidies have decreased leakage (i.e., diverting resources to unintended targets such as the wealthy), while more-focused social programs have provided cash transfers and free school meals to the poor. Such improvements led the IMF to praise the central bank’s “prudent monetary policy” and “commitment to a flexible exchange rate policy,” while the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development lauded Egypt’s “improved competitiveness.”
If approved, the staff team’s recommendation would leave only one more tranche to be disbursed in March 2019 before Egypt completes the program—a feat the country has never accomplished. Previous presidents opted out of IMF programs once they were able to alleviate deficits in balance of payments or reduce interest payments on foreign debt. President Sisi’s willingness to press on reflects an ability to make politically risky decisions that his predecessors, especially Mubarak, lacked.
Not all is rosy, however. The most recent Finance Ministry Bulletin indicated that the annual budget deficit fell by only 0.1% in July/August, equivalent to an annual decline of 0.6% (though the government projects that the deficit will shrink by 1.4% in fiscal year 2019, down to 8.4%). Elsewhere, food subsidies increased from $2.6 billion in FY 2017 to around $4.8 billion in the FY 2019 budget, while foreign direct investment fell from $7.93 billion in FY 2017 to $7.72 billion in FY 2018—far from the $10.9 billion peak reached in 2007, before the financial crash. And though Egypt is once again accessing debt markets via international bond offerings rather than relying on costly domestic private bank loans, its credit is still deemed highly speculative by the three major ratings agencies.
For these reasons, the country’s foreign debt ballooned from $35 billion in December 2010 to $92.6 billion in June 2018. With foreign aid falling to around $63.2 million in FY 2019, Cairo will have to service this debt on its own; interest payments are currently slated to skyrocket 42%.
Egypt has also failed to meet IMF benchmarks on submitting an automatic fuel-price-index mecha­nism and outlining plans to sell state-owned enterprises. Moreover, it still suffers from microeconomic shortcomings in worker productivity, industry competitiveness, mismatched worker skills, and economies of scale (firms with five or fewer employees account for 60% of Egypt’s private sector, according to the IMF). Indeed, Cairo has not made much progress in achieving the IMF goal of “structural reforms to promote higher and inclusive growth, increasing employment opportunities for youth and women.”
Historically, domestic consumption rather than exports fueled Egypt’s growth—a trend that has failed to generate the hard currency necessary to service the debt and subsidize foreign purchased commodities such as wheat. Until Egypt tackles these challenges, it will continue to lag behind other countries.
Although Egypt has made important strides in macroeconomic reform, political liberalization has regressed since Sisi took power. In a letter to Congress this August, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that “the overall human rights climate in Egypt continues to deteriorate,” with Cairo “enforcing legislation that conflicts with its human rights obligations.” Amnesty International concurred, characterizing the country as “an open-air prison for critics” in a September campaign.
In July, parliament approved legislation that would subject anyone with more than 5,000 followers on social media to surveillance. Egyptians have already been detained for speaking out on topics as politically innocuous as sexual harassment—criticisms that often went unpunished under Mubarak. In October, for instance, economist Abdul Khaliq Faruq was arrested for publishing a book blaming poverty on corruption, even though he had written several other similar works in the past.
One bright spot was Sisi’s recent comment urging the revision of a controversial 2016 law whose restrictions have made it virtually impossible for NGOs to function. Such limitations earned the ire of the Trump administration, which responded by withholding $261 million in aid last year. Although the aid was ultimately released this July, American and international pressure likely contributed to Sisi’s willingness to countenance amending the law. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether he actually follows through, since he may simply be propitiating foreign benefactors with hollow promises.
Washington still views Egypt as a valuable Arab ally despite Cairo’s loss of regional influence in recent years. To promote stability, U.S. officials should encourage Sisi’s government to lift some restrictions on civil and political freedoms. In particular, the legislation criminalizing dissemination of “false news” includes harmless critiques of society and lamentations about the country’s lethargy, thereby catching far too many ordinary citizens in its net. Another onerous law requires online news sites to pay $37,500 for media permits, a decree that Reporters Without Borders labeled “extortion.”
Despite these issues, Sisi has shored up the economy and helped stabilize the tumultuous post-Mubarak era. As such, his rule does not appear to be in jeopardy, rendering austere measures to keep the public in check unnecessary. The United States should encourage Egypt to repeal these measures, favoring quiet entreaties over threats of additional aid cuts. Given Trump’s cordial relationship with Sisi, such requests can be broached in one of their frequent phone calls. The pressure that Washington applied on the NGO law indicates that Egypt is still susceptible to U.S. influence. Such levers should be used to put Cairo back on the path to political liberalization.
**Barak Barfi is a research fellow at New America, where he specializes in Arab and Islamic affairs.

Analysis/Egypt Is Worried That Israel, Jews, and Gays Could Do Harm to Its 'National Foundations'
تحليل لزفي برئيل من الهآررتس:  مصر قلقة من أن إسرائيل واليهود والمثليين يمكن أن يضروا بمؤسساتها الوطنية

Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/November 19/18
The letter containing the warning was sent to a university president from the office of Education Minister Mahmoud Abu al-Nasr, but there are more “others” whose influence the Egyptian public needs to be protected from.
“Dear Dr. ____, esteemed university president, I am pleased to send my best wishes to your excellency and to inform you that I have received a letter from the deputy national defense chief regarding the desire of the European Union’s Erasmus [student exchange] program to work with Egyptian universities on the selection of student candidates. They are to travel to Europe in the context of their course work outside of Egypt. We have come to know that several of the courses [in Europe] have aimed at instilling values and concepts (homosexuality, acceptance of the other, particularly Jews and Israelis, etc.) meant to break up society and the family and do harm to national foundations. I hereby ask with all due respect that you not cooperate with these courses without obtaining security approval in this regard.”
The letter, which was labeled “confidential, important and highly urgent,” was sent to the university president, whose name and whose university I was asked not to disclose, from the office of Egyptian Education Minister Mahmoud Abu al-Nasr.
Like Israel, in Egypt too, international institutions’ cultural and educational programs have been met with suspicion and even hostility. The concern has been over the programs’ interference in “the country’s internal affairs” not only when it comes to foreign, economic and legal policies but also harm to “national foundations” and the structure of society, as the education minister’s letter would have it.
In Israel, the education and culture ministers as well as the strategic affairs minister are responsible for the subject, whereas in Egypt, it’s the intelligence service that sets the rules. Maybe in Israel, the subject will soon be dealt with by the Shin Bet.
The interesting and outrageous aspect of the letter relates to the definition of “the other” against which the Egyptian society has to defend itself. Protecting against the influence of gays, Jews and Israelis on the fabric of Egyptian society is essential to preserving the purity and unity of society. Any attempt to teach that these “others” should be accepted harms the country’s security and therefore any curriculum devoted to such a purpose undermines the nation’s foundations.
It’s all right to cooperate with Israel on defense and economic issues and join forces with Israel to fight terrorism and buy natural gas from the Israelis, but Egypt needs to ensure that it is not polluted by the cultural influences that Israel or the Jews in general might export to the country.
In Israel, one can actually understand the Egyptians’ fears. After all, Israel has banned Palestinian poets from the school curriculum. A novel about a romantic relationship between an Arab man and Jewish woman was struck from the general high school reading list in Israeli schools. And films depicting the cruelty of the occupation are perceived as a threat to national values in the country. So it shouldn’t be surprising that a country like Egypt is adopting a similar policy when it comes to Israelis and Jews.
But we can all relax. Israel, the Jews and gays are not the only “others” whose influence the public needs to be protected from. Egypt is full of “others” who exist in its midst and damage its purported unitary character. In addition to these three, there are also Egyptian women who wear a niqab, the Muslim head-covering that leaves only the woman’s eyes visible.
Last month, a female member of the Egyptian parliament, Ghada Ajami, sponsored a bill that would bar women from wearing the niqab in public places, including hospitals, schools, and government and non-government offices. In support of her bill, Ajami said a society that is “living in difficult security conditions and is fighting terrorism” has the right “to bar the wearing of the niqab in public places because it conceals the identity of the person wearing it.” Ajami later retracted the proposed legislation but the debate that it sparked on social media didn’t abate. Security arguments are no longer accepted as self-evident, particularly when the Egyptian regime is waging all-out war against religious organizations whoever and wherever they may be.
But one person who has come to the defense of women, both religious and non-religious, to wear what they wish is Nawara Negm, who in a lengthy, well-honed and sharp article on the Mada Masr website actually took aim at the country’s intellectual elites, “all of whom express themselves as if they were citizens of the European Union and as if Egypt were completely subject to the international treaty on human rights.” The intellectuals who have expressed support for the ban on the niqab have argued that women could be carrying explosives on their bodies en route to committing terrorist attacks, but Negm says sarcastically that they forget that the major terrorist attacks in Egypt have been committed by men “without any concern that they would have to wear a niqab to hide under.”
Another elite, those who object to the bill on the grounds of women’s rights and the right of the woman to wear what she wants, also came in for a rebuke from Negm: “Since when was the Egyptian woman free to choose what she wears, her way of life, how she expresses herself and her tone of speech? On a daily basis, the Egyptian woman looks in the mirror when choosing clothing that will protect her from harassment on the street, rather than clothes reflecting her taste and personality. She chooses to speak in a particular tone so people don’t say that she is insolent and crude. She walks on the street like a male soldier so as not to attract attention and get looks. ... She has to choose between the holy task of finding a husband and the need to deflect men’s glances. She chooses work that won’t cause the public to talk about her. She has to come and go at times when she won’t be harassed and she even sometimes chooses her life partner out of a desire not to remain single.”
The female “other” is dangerous to society so “don’t speak about women’s freedom and dignity in a country like Egypt,” writes Negm, whose father is one of Egypt’s greatest popular poets, Ahmed Fouad Negm, who sat in jail for years for his critical poetry and whose mother is the prominent author Safinaz Kazem. No Egyptian intellectual, however, has agreed to speak on behalf of Jews and gays. They are “others” who are too dangerous.

Analysis/Egypt Is Worried That Israel, Jews, and Gays Could Do Harm to Its 'National Foundations'
تحليل لزفي برئيل من الهآررتس:  مصر قلقة من أن إسرائيل واليهود والمثليين يمكن أن يضروا بمؤسساتها الوطنية

Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/November 19/18

Egypt’s Economy Rising, Rights Declining
 براك برفي من موقع معهد واشنطن: الإتصاد المصري يتصاعد والحقوق تتدنى

Barak Barfi/The Washington Institute/November 19/ 2018