November 23/1
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me
Mark 08/34-38/09,01: "Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’"

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 22-23/18
Lebanon Is An Occupied Country/Elias Bejjani/ November 22/18
Lebanon's Economy Faces Stark Choice: Reform or Collapse/Associated Press/Naharnet/November 22/18
Christian reconciliations in Lebanon/Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/November 22/18
From Cars to Bars: Carlos Ghosn's Japanese Cell/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 22/18
Trump’s Frankness and the Khashoggi Crisis/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/November 22/18
The Relationship with Europe: A Permanent British Obsession/Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/November 22/18
Is the Trade War Really Holding China Back?/Christopher Balding/Bloomberg View/November 22/18
US Versus China Isn’t a ‘Cold War’/Daniel Moss/Bloomberg View/November 22/18
How Powerful Companies Might Hold Back Growth/Mark Whitehouse/Bloomberg View/November 22/18
Palestinians: We Cannot Accept Anything from Trump/by Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/November 22/18
Turkey Stabilizing Libya? Think Again/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/November 22/18
Yemen’s War Is a Dangerous Proxy in Iran’s Global Battle/Nathalie Goulet/The Hill/November 22/18
Trump’s Magical Thinking on Iran Sanctions Won’t Advance U.S. Interests/Philip Gordon and Robert Malley/Foreign Policy/November 22/18
USAF takes control of Syrian skies. Unidentified air strike on Iranian target/DEBKAfile/November 22/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 22-23/18
Lebanon Is An Occupied Country
Lebanese Officials Stress ‘Real' Independence While Celebrating its 75th Anniversary
Military Parade Marks Lebanon's Independence Day
Lebanon Sulked by Govt. Delay, Celebrates 75th Independence Anniversary
Hariri Says ‘My Lips are Sealed’ on Govt. Formation
UK Congratulates Lebanon on Independence Day
Lebanon's Economy Faces Stark Choice: Reform or Collapse
Berri Pessimistic over Govt. Formation, Says Bassil’s Proposal Was Overlooked
Zakka contacts Aoun, Berri, Hariri on Independence Day
Reception by Lebanon's Ambassador to London marking Independence Day: Lebanese
Ogasapian inaugurates 'Mother and Child' exhibition in Biel
Hezbollah on Independence Day: A national occasion that entails the Lebanese to unite and cooperate
Riachy: Lebanon shall endure
Mikati says independence not just a memory but an act of faith in Lebanon's liberty, sovereignty
Tabsh: We sensed the Pope's love for Lebanon, followup on displaced crisis
Kataeb Party Postpones Foundation Anniversary Ceremony
Dagher Demands Journalist to Respect Viewpoints on Syrian Occupation
Kataeb Figureheads Outline True Meaning of Independence Day
Christian reconciliations in Lebanon

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 22-23/18
Iran says US bases and aircraft carriers within missile range
Iran’s VP confirms organized crime funds enter banking system
Rouhani Backs Zarif amid Rising Internal Tensions
Iraq on Alert after ISIS Resurgence in Mosul
Egypt Wants to Avoid Deadly Confrontation in Gaza
Sweida's Druze Reject Regime Call to Serve
Russia Proposes Easing US Sanctions in Exchange for Iranian Withdrawal from Syria
Khashoggi Murder: Trump 'Ignores' U.S. Leverage over Riyadh
Saudi Warns Crown Prince a 'Red Line' in Khashoggi Probe
Five Dead, 18 Hurt as Car Rams into Children in China
EU, UK Agree Draft on 'Ambitious' Post-Brexit Ties
From Cars to Bars: Carlos Ghosn's Japanese Cell
Egypt says police killed 12 extremist militants in Sinai raid

Latest Lebanese Related News published on November 22-23/18
Lebanon Is An Occupied Country
Elias Bejjani/ November 22/18
Psalm 92:12: "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon".
Today, the Lebanese back home in beloved Lebanon, as well as those living in Diaspora are all remembering with sadness, anger and frustration their country's Independence Day.
Although the country is practically not independent and savagely occupied by Hezbollah, Iran's terrorist proxy army, but every sovereign, faithful and patriotic Lebanese is hopeful and fully confident that this era of terrorism, evilness, oppression and hardship is ultimately going to end. By God's will Lebanon's freedom spring is on the horizon.
Lebanon through its deeply rooted history of 7000 years have witnessed hard times and all kinds of invaders, occupiers, dictators, and tyrants, they all were forced to leave Lebanon with humiliation and Lebanon maintained its freedom and sovereignty. There is no doubt that the fate of the current occupier is going to be any different.
There are numerous reasons behind the ongoing devastating internal and external wars that are being waged against Lebanon and his people. These reasons have varied throughout contemporary history with the changing instruments of fighting, circumstances, financiers and profiteers.
However, the main reasons and targets were always and still are the privileged Lebanese distinctive identity, multiculturalism, freedoms and coexistence. Almost every nation and people in the Middle and Far East look upon Lebanon as a heaven for freedoms and as an oasis for the persecuted.
At the present time and since 1982, the Iranian armed terrorist militia, Hezbollah, which was created by the Iranians with its mini-state during Syria's bloody occupation era of Lebanon (1976-2005) imposes an extremely serious and fundamental threat to all that is Lebanese: culture, identity, history, civilization, freedoms, coexistence, tolerance, democracy, peace, openness, order and law.
But as our deeply rooted history teaches us, this Stone Age armed terrorist group shall by God's will be defeated as was the fate of all invaders, tyrants, dictators and occupiers whose sick minds fooled them that Lebanon could be tamed and his people could be subdued and enslaved. They all were disappointed and forced to leave with humiliation and disgrace.
The Syrian occupier in 2005 and after almost 30 years of savage occupation had to face the same scornful fate. Hezbollah will have ultimately the same end sooner or later although its armed militiamen are Lebanese.
We thank God for the ultimate failure of all savage attacks which the faithful Lebanese shattered with stubbornness, perseverance, courage and self-confidence, and remained attached to their identity, and steadfast against hatred, foreign expansionism schemes and evil conspiracies.
The distinction of Lebanon is that it is a nation of diverse religious denominational groups and civilizations living together in agreeable coexistence, without coercion or oppression or becoming a melting pot, despite transient harsh confrontations at certain periods of history always instigated and orchestrated by external forces. Lebanon’s air of liberty has been made equally available to its extensive mosaic of communities to help them maintain freedom of their cultural and religious particularities and distinctions.
All Throughout history these distinctions gave Lebanon his pluralist flavour and made the majority of the Lebanese people into a homogeneous society attached heart and spirit to the one Lebanese identity that personifies their roots, cultures, hopes and civilizations.
The confessional diversity permits each of Lebanon’s 18 ethnic communities to express its original goodness within its core and the sanctity of its faith. Even though the communities’ perspective towards God may be different, they do not disagree on the truth of God’s essence, and He remains the All Mighty Creator and the source of all good to all people.
Accordingly, all Lebanese have learned that none of them should presume to monopolize God’s relationship through himself, or seek to acquire all God’s graces by eliminating others, because these others were also created by God and are also His children, and that He is the only ultimate judge.
All religions in Lebanon worship the same God, and He definitely accepts them all each according to their sincerity and trust. God knows the content of hearts and intents, and He is not fooled by the various rituals and styles of worship.
The majority of the peace loving Lebanese people strongly believe that no one Lebanese community should claim that it is the best, or the closest, or the only path to God. They all trust in the fact that God knows all wants, and uncovers all intents. Hezbollah is an odd exception among the Lebanese communities.
In conclusion, for Lebanon, the land of the holy cedars to be victorious in the face of the Axis of Evil powers dirty and evil wars against his existence, Each and every Lebanese in both Lebanon and Diaspora has a patriotic and ethical obligation and a holy duty to preserve by all means Lebanon's graceful identity and solidify its implantation in the conscience, hearts and souls of the new Lebanese generations and to root it in their awareness, as well as in Lebanon's blessed soil.
N.B: The above article is from the archive.

Lebanese Officials Stress ‘Real' Independence While Celebrating its 75th Anniversary
Beirut /Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 22 November, 2018/Lebanese officials agreed Wednesday on the importance of achieving a real independence, in a ceremony held at the Defense Ministry near Beirut to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Independence Day. The event was attended by President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and Speaker Nabih Berri and wreaths were laid on the graves of several independence statesmen, including late former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. “On Independence Day, we are more and more in need of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s vision on Lebanon,” said caretaker Interior Minister Nohad Mashnouq from the Defense Ministry. “Martyr Hariri constituted the door for Lebanon’s second independence, with the active role he played at the regional and international levels,” he added. Lebanese Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, stated the real meaning of independence entails maintaining sovereignty in peaceful and bloody battles. The Army Commander added that the Lebanese army would always stand by the people. "I invite you to renew your trust in the army, which will always be by your side until full security is achieved," he stressed. General Security Chief, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, delivered Wednesday the Order of the Day, asserting that his institution's key concern today was the defeat of terrorism. "The General Directorate of the General Security is before a new stage at both the security and administrative levels in order to score new achievements that would add to Lebanon's value in a way that the Lebanese merit," Ibrahim said. Lebanese Forces leader, Samir Geagea, said Lebanon’s independence remains incomplete as long as weapons and strategic military and security decisions remain outside state control. Progressive Socialist Party Leader, Walid Jumblatt, said via twitter: "In this moment in time, we listen to the independence songs of Fairuz and Zaki Nssif. However, I can't help but wonder: What Independence is it that we are talking about? The Lebanon of Fairuz and Zaki Nassif is over. We live in another Lebanon today."

Military Parade Marks Lebanon's Independence Day Thursday 22nd November 2018/As Lebanon marks its 75th Independence Day, a military parade was held at the Shafiq Wazzan Avenue in Beirut's central district where the country's officials and dignitaries gathered to attend the ceremony. President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who is also the caretaker premier, took their seats on the grandstand to watch the parade organized by the Army. In line with tradition, the ceremony began with a 21-gun salute, followed by Aoun laying a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. During the parade, the Army displayed its regiments and military equipment as helicopters also hovered overhead. Brigades from the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, Internal Security Forces, General Security, State Security, Customs and other agencies also took part in the parade. Following the ceremony, the top three leaders headed to the Baabda Palace to greet well-wishers at the annual reception held on this day.

Lebanon Sulked by Govt. Delay, Celebrates 75th Independence Anniversary
Naharnet/November 22/18/Lebanon commemorated on Thursday its 75th independence anniversary in downtown Beirut marking the liberation from the French Mandate, amid uncertainty about the formation of its government six months after the designation of the Premier. President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, and Speaker Nabih Berri headed the officials that joined the celebrations marking the country’s independence. Defense Minister Yaaqoub al-Sarraf, Army Commander General Joseph Aoun and a number of politicians and security figures attended the military parade which was held at Shafiq al-Wazzan Avenue in Downtown Beirut. Aoun placed a wreath on the monument of the Unknown Soldier. Lebanon celebrates its independence amid stalled efforts to form a new government because of disagreements over Cabinet shares and quotas. Hariri was tasked to form a government in May 24, but his mission has since been delayed because of conflict over ministerial shares.

Hariri Says ‘My Lips are Sealed’ on Govt. Formation

Naharnet/November 22/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri told reporters on Thursday that he won’t make any remarks about the stalled formation of the government. In remarks he made from Baabda Palace before joining a reception on the occasion of Independence Day, he said: “My lips are sealed. I won’t say a word about the government.” Harir said he has no plans to meet with pro-Hizbullah Sunni MPs --whose demand for representation has emerged shortly before the government formation delaying the process further. “The problem is not mine,” he said.

UK Congratulates Lebanon on Independence Day

Naharnet/November 22/18/Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Alistair Burt congratulated Lebanon on its Independence Day, the British embassy said in a statement. “The UK was among the first countries to recognise Lebanon’s independence 75 years ago, and remains a staunch supporter of its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Burt. “The relationship between our two countries has never been stronger. The UK is proud of our partnership with Lebanon, as we work together to build strong, legitimate state institutions, secure Lebanon’s borders, support Lebanon with its refugee crisis, and boost our nations’ prosperity,” added the Ambassador. “The UK looks forward to the early formation of a Lebanese government, a government with which the UK can continue to strengthen its partnership. On behalf of Her Majesty’s Government I am delighted to send my congratulations to President Aoun, Prime Minister-designate Hariri, Parliamentary Speaker Berri, and the Lebanese people as they mark this momentous anniversary,” he concluded.

Lebanon's Economy Faces Stark Choice: Reform or Collapse
Associated Press/Naharnet/November 22/18
Lebanon is marking 75 years of independence with a military parade Thursday in Beirut, but many anxious Lebanese feel they have little to celebrate: the country's corruption-plagued economy is dangerously close to collapse and political bickering over shares in a new Cabinet is threatening to scuttle pledges worth $11 billion by international donors.
The World Bank issued a stark warning last week, with one official saying that unless a government is formed soon to carry out badly needed reforms, "the Lebanon we know will fizzle away."
It's been more than six months since Lebanon held its first national elections in nine years but the prime minister-designate, Saad Hariri, still hasn't formed a government to undertake the reforms necessary to unlock the donors' funds. The vote, in which the Shiite militant Hezbollah group and its allies made significant gains, did little to pull Lebanon out of a political impasse. Anger against politicians' apparent indifference, worsening public services and distress over down-spiraling finances and gloomy predictions are building up.
Last Friday, heavy rains caused Beirut's sewage system to burst, turning the city's famous Mediterranean coastal avenue into a river of filthy, foul-smelling black water that engulfed motorists along the otherwise scenic route. On the same day, the military had closed a main artery for drills ahead of the Independence Day parade, paralyzing traffic for hours. Flights from Beirut's international airport were missed and a woman reportedly went into labor on the road. The army later apologized.
Despite a population of over 4.5 million that is among the most educated in the region, Lebanon still has a primitive infrastructure, widespread electricity and water cuts and a longstanding waste crisis that over the past few years saw trash piling in the streets for weeks at a time.
"There is no independence (to celebrate) because corruption is eating us up," said Mohammed al-Rayyes, a shop owner in Beirut's Hamra district. "The coming days are going to be very difficult."
The tiny Arab country has coped with multiple political and security crises over the past decades and also suffered from the seven-year civil war in neighboring Syria, a conflict that has occasionally spilled over the border and brought more than 1 million refugees into Lebanon, putting even more pressure on its dysfunctional infrastructure.
A soaring debt of $84 billion and unemployment believed to be around 36 percent are compounding concerns that the country will finally cave in.
"It is a shame because so much time is being wasted," Ferid Belhaj, the World Bank's vice president for the Middle East and North Africa, said during a meeting with a group of journalists last week.
For years, he said, Lebanese officials have been promising to work on solving the electricity crisis, which costs the country about $2 billion a year and has been the main factor in accumulating Lebanon's debt. Of immediate concern is the future of $11 billion in loans and grants pledged by international donors at a meeting in Paris in April, which Lebanon risks losing if no Cabinet is in place soon to unlock the funds and approve reforms that were set as conditions by the donors and which have been delayed for years. In April, Hariri pledged to reduce the budget deficit by 5 percent over the next five years. The crisis has prompted some Lebanese to change their deposits from the local currency, which has been pegged to the U.S. dollars since 1997, to U.S. dollars for fear the Lebanese pound might collapse. Riad Salameh, the Central Bank governor, has been repeatedly reassuring the markets, saying the local currency is stable.
Mohamad Shukeir, head of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, told the local MTV station that 2,200 businesses closed doors so far this year. Aftershocks of rising tension between the United States and Iran are also felt in Beirut, with Tehran ally Hezbollah being blamed by opponents for preventing Western-backed Hariri from forming a national unity government. Hezbollah has demanded that six Sunni lawmakers allied with the Shiite group and opposed to Hariri be included in his Cabinet — something that Hariri, the country's top Sunni Muslim leader, categorically rejects.
Despite the dangers, political bickering is not likely to end soon and the debt is mounting."The level of debt that we have in Lebanon requires us to act very quickly," said economist Kamel Wazne. "Any delay will expose us to financial collapse."Belhaj of the World Bank said that reforms would act as a buffer to the crisis. But in their absence, "the crisis can be very nasty.""If we don't go about these reforms fast, the Lebanon that we know will fizzle away," he said.

Berri Pessimistic over Govt. Formation, Says Bassil’s Proposal Was Overlooked
Naharnet/November 22/18/Speaker Nabih Berri expressed “pessimism” about the recent government-related issues, rejecting accusations that the Shiite duo (AMAL Movement of the Speaker and Hizbullah) were obstructing the formation process, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. Telling his visitors that he pinned hopes on the latest proposal made by caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil to solve the formation hurdles, he said: “unfortunately it has been overlooked.” Berri rejected accusations that the Shiite duo do not wish for a government to be formed, saying: “Thank God, there is not a Shiite deputy among the six Sunni deputies ... In any case, let them say what they want. We know where the problem is and everyone knows we have made a lot of sacrifices from our own share.” To a question on what will happen next and where are things heading, Berri said: “I have no answer… they have calmed things down, it appears they are taking a rest. I don’t know how long can the country bear.” Free Patriotic Movement chief, Bassil, was trying to mediate a solution for the so-called March 8 Sunni MPs representation gridlock. Bassil had announced Monday that President Michel Aoun is willing to give up the Maronite-Sunni seat swap with Hariri in order to give the PM-designate an additional Sunni seat and leave the sixth Sunni minister to the pro-Hizbullah MPs or a consensus candidate.

Zakka contacts Aoun, Berri, Hariri on Independence Day
Thu 22 Nov 2018/NNA - The family of Lebanese detainee in Iran, Nizar Zakka, said in a statement on Thursday that their son has contacted the President of the Republic congratulating him on Independence Day, and hoping that "the aspirations of the Republic Presidency to have a protective umbrella above every Lebanese would be realized in the new year." Zakka also contacted the Head of Parliament, hoping that "Speaker Nabih Berri would raise the issue of his continued arbitrary detention during his next visit to Iran." Additionally, Zakka managed to contact the Prime Minister-designate from his underground detention cell, hoping that "this occasion would achieve the Premiership's aspirations of being a father to the Lebanese and to protect them wherever they are and to defend their rights, especially in international forums...and to vote in the United Nations for the benefit of the Lebanese people."

Reception by Lebanon's Ambassador to London marking Independence Day: Lebanese
British Business Investment Forum to be held next month
Thu 22 Nov 2018/NNA - Lebanese Ambassador to Britain, Rami Mortada, held a reception on the occasion of Lebanon's Independence Day at his residence in London, attended by British Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Alistair Burt, heads of departments of the British Foreign Office and several members in the House of Commons and British officials, in addition to heads of diplomatic missions accredited in London and members of the Lebanese expatriate community. Addressing the attending guests, Mortada said, "The meaning of independence does not stop at an annual occasion, but extends throughout the year through the values on which Lebanon was founded...values of democracy, openness and dialogue."
"Following the consolidation of security and stability and the successful achievements in combating terrorism, thanks to the sacrifices of the Lebanese army and the security forces, the Lebanese government whose formation is currently underway, will place the issue of economy and structural reform at the forefront of its work agenda through an ambitious plan to accelerate growth and create job opportunities," Mortada went on. The Lebanese Ambassador disclosed that his Embassy is preparing to hold a Lebanese-British Business and Investment Forum in London next month. He described it as "an unprecedented event in terms of connecting with the private sector and creating investment opportunities in the Lebanese economy, especially in infrastructure, oil and gas."Mortada indicated that the Forum will bring together at least 250 British and international companies and will open a new path in Lebanese-British relations, as well as other avenues for cooperation.
"With Britain's emerging from the European Union, Lebanon hopes to have an active British role in stabilizing the region and promoting a culture of dialogue, cooperation and communication among various parties, which will reflect positively on Lebanon," Mortada stated. The Lebanese Diplomat pointed to the "Israeli threats and aggressions that add to the tension in the region, and to the repercussions of the Syrian refugees' dossier." He called herein for "a qualitative approach to this file that would ease the burden on host countries and preserve the social fabric in the region." In turn, Minister Burt expressed his country's pride in its partnership with Lebanon, saying, "Lebanon is synonymous with the values of democracy, openness and culture." He stressed that "the British-Lebanese partnership will continue," hoping that "the new Lebanese government would soon be formed so that work can be pursued to consolidate this partnership." "Britain looks forward to a government that will continue to promote Lebanon's sovereignty and stability, highlight the fundamental reforms required and continue to promote British-Lebanese friendship," Burt affirmed.
The British Minister added that his country is looking forward to the British-Lebanese Business Forum in London during the upcoming month. He disclosed that he will be personally participating in the Forum to send the appropriate message to the British private sector that "Lebanon is a friend of investment and that the prosperity of the Lebanese economy is a common goal."

Ogasapian inaugurates 'Mother and Child' exhibition in Biel
Thu 22 Nov 2018/NNA - Caretaker Minister of State for Women's Affairs, Jean Ogasapian, on Thursday inaugurated the "Pregnant Mother and Child" exhibition, in its second edition, at the Biel Exhibition Center in Furn el Chebbak. Minister Ogasapian toured the various pavilions of the exhibition including the bare necessities of pregnant women, newborn infants and children. Ogasapian highlighted the importance of such exhibitions which contribute to raising awareness about basic health issues, which are of top priority to building a healthy and sound family. The Minister hoped that today's Independence Day would have been a complete celebration with the presence of a new government that meets the aspirations of the Lebanese people, addresses the nation's crises and enhances the country's advancement. "This exhibition is an example of the many cultural and social activities taking place up and down the country, reflecting the vitality of the Lebanese people," he corroborated. It is to note that the exhibition, organized by "Frequency Plus" company for the second year running, lasts till November 25.

Hezbollah on Independence Day: A national occasion that entails the Lebanese to unite and cooperate

Thu 22 Nov 2018/NNA - In an issued statement marking the 75th Lebanese Independence Day occasion, Hezbollah Political Party congratulated all the Lebanese and deemed it a "national event that requires unison, cohesion and cooperation" among citizens. "This national occasion requires all Lebanese to unite, collaborate and cooperate to maintain this independence by adhering to the strength of Lebanon with its army, its people and its resistance, and to preserve national unity and coexistence," the statement underscored. The Party paid tribute to all the fallen martyrs who sacrificed their lives to liberate the homeland, and who fought the colonists, occupiers and takfiris and expelled them from the country. Hezbollah also praised the "solidity of the army, the people and the resistance" equation that brought by liberation in 2000, maintained it in 2006, and completed it by eliminating the takfiri groups in 2017."

Riachy: Lebanon shall endure
Thu 22 Nov 2018/NNA - Caretaker Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, said after paying Independence Day well-wishes to the Lebanese President that despite the fact that Lebanon remained in danger, the Lebanese people would eventually win “thanks to their firm belief in their country.”
“Lebanon shall not falter. Despite all the economic, security, sovereign, and other difficulties, this nation shall rise,” the Caretaker Minister said in a word from Baabda Palace. "Lebanon will endure, but in order to overcome its current crises, it needs more than a year’s time. The nation is in need of a struggle that is greater than its divisions, administrations, and even government. This also entails the government's seriousness handling impending dossiers,” Riachy maintained. He went on to step up calls for respecting competency standards. “They are more important than anything else, and if properly adopted, Lebanon will seriously be on the right path of Lebanon's independence."Riachy finally expressed hope that the new Minister of Information would abide by the mechanisms he had adopted handling Tele Liban dossiers. He also ruled out a disagreement with the President of the Republic over the name of Tele Liban Chairman; however, the Minister pointed to a disagreement with the President over affairs that involve the National NewsAgency.

Mikati says independence not just a memory but an act of faith in Lebanon's liberty, sovereignty

Thu 22 Nov 2018/NNA -"Independence is not just a marked commemoration, but an act of faith in Lebanon, its freedom and sovereignty...and a relentless effort to preserve coexistence between its citizens, safeguard its constitutional institutions and activate the role of its army and security forces," tweeted former Prime Minister, MP Najib Mikati, on Thursday. Mikati expressed his sincere wishes for a "Happy Independence Day" to all the Lebanese.

Tabsh: We sensed the Pope's love for Lebanon, followup on displaced crisis

Thu 22 Nov 2018/NNA - Future Parliamentary Bloc Member, MP Rola al-Tabsh, referred Thursday to Pope Francis' support for Lebanon and the Lebanese, saying, "We sensed the Pope's love for Lebanon, his keenness on its citizens, and his follow-up on the crisis of the displaced." Tabsh was part of the Lebanese delegation accompanying Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Beshara Butros al-Rahi, during the visit to the Vatican. "Pope Francis, a symbol of utmost humility and openness...Thank you for the warm reception," she added.

Kataeb Party Postpones Foundation Anniversary Ceremony Thursday 22nd November 2018/The Kataeb party on Thursday announced the postponement of the ceremony that was set to take place this weekend to celebrate the party's 82nd foundation anniversary. According to the party's statement, the march that was scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Beirut's central district has been deferred due to the expected bad weather during the next few days. Another date will be set soon, the statement added.

Dagher Demands Journalist to Respect Viewpoints on Syrian Occupation Thursday 22nd November 2018/Kataeb politburo member Serge Dagher on Thursday stressed the need to accept and respect each other's viewpoints in order to build a nation together, saying that each of the local factions has a particular perspective towards a certain period in Lebanon's history. Replying to journalist Faysal Abdel-Sater on New TV, Dagher said that the Syrian occupation did not end as a result of a mere "protest", affirming that the Syrian troops' withdrawal from Lebanon in April 2005 culminated a long struggle during which around 6,000 martyrs sacrificed their lives and diplomatic pressure was exerted. Dagher asked Abdel-Sater to take into consideration the multifarious standpoints regarding the presence of the Syrian army in Lebanon, adding that the journalist must realize that a large part of the Lebanese still regard it as an occupation.

Kataeb Figureheads Outline True Meaning of Independence Day Thursday 22nd November 2018/On the occasion of Lebanon's 75th Independence Day, the Kataeb lawmakers and figureheads invoked the true meaning of this celebration, urging unwavering struggle for the sake of the nation. "Do you love Lebanon? Struggle for it," Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel wrote on Twitter. MP Elias Hankache stressed that although it is important to remember the people's struggle and the martyrs' sacrifices to reach a country of freedom, sovereignty and message, it is also more important to secure a normal and easy life for the Lebanese to live with dignity. Speaking at the reception held at the Baabda palace, Hankache hoped that the Independence Day celebration would bring along good news for the Lebanese, either by ending the government formation stalemate or by liberating the country from economic hardships it is facing. The economic situation is very critical and that must serve as an incentive pressing enough for officials to make concessions in the government formation file,” he added. “Hope exists but the political will is still absent," Hankache added. For his part, former Economy Minister Alain Hakim deemed the swift formation of a new government as the gateway to restore trust in the Lebanese economy, sounding the alarm over the critical phase that the country is going through. “The state treasury’s condition is bad and the whole economic environment is degrading when it comes to consumption and investment. However, the monetary situation is still so far in control," Hakim explained. “We need to restore confidence in the Lebanese economy and that can be done by ending squandering and by implementing austerity through administrative reforms,” he elaborated.

Christian reconciliations in Lebanon
Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/November 22/18
Under the supervision of Lebanese Patriarch al-Rai, two longstanding Christian political opponents, Suleiman Frangieh and Samir Geagea, met at the Patriarchate headquarters to end 40 years of enmity. The deep-seated antagonism had started after accusing Geagea of killing Tony Frangieh, Suleiman’s father, in 1978.
Blood feud ends
At that time, Geagea was one of the commanders of the Lebanese Forces that was led by Bachir Gemayel. Then the Israelis invaded Lebanon (1978 and 1982) and during this time, the presidency of Elias Sarkis came to an end thus, the parliament elected Bachir Gemayel as the President. When he was assassinated before taking over the presidency, the MPs held a meeting again and elected his brother Amin for the presidency. Between 1982 and 1988, violent conflict over the LF’s leadership position erupted resulting in eliminations until Geagea won the leadership of the LF – a post he still holds.
In 1988, the two main competitors over the Presidency were: Geagea and General Michel Aoun, the then-commander of the Army. Syrians thought that both parties should be excluded, thus MP Elias Hrawi was elected as president. Aoun was exiled, while Geagea was imprisoned after being accused of other crimes (killing Rashid Karami and Dany Chamoun…) and although he supported Patriarch Sfeir in the Ta’if Agreement, unlike General Aoun. He was only released from prison in 2005 after receiving amnesty from parliament, in which the March 14 Alliance had won a majority after the death of Rafiq Hariri and the Syrian forces’ withdrawal from Lebanon.
The ascendancy of Aoun
In the same year, Aoun returned to Lebanon, where he participated in the elections and won a decent share thus becoming the major Christian leader in Lebanon. It is in this context and due to the animosity between him and the March 14 parties that he struck an understanding with Hezbollah. Since then, Aoun has remained an ally of Hezbollah and its presidency candidate, until he won it in 2016 with the consent of Saad Hariri. Aoun and Geagea reconciled in 2015, and Aoun became almost the only presidential candidate among the Christians as well.
The dispute between Geagea and Frangieh remained frozen when Geagea was in prison while the Patriarchate was active in bringing about a reconciliation. However, nothing decisive happened, even after Geagea was released as the dispute resurfaced between Geagea and Aoun and because the leadership of the Frangieh family was confined to the Zgharta- Ehden district in Northern Lebanon while Geagea’s leadership extended to other Christian areas in Lebanon. The Frangieh family is an ally of the Assad family and in the last elections, Geagea’s party won 15 parliamentary seats while Frangieh’s only won three! What is new was the undermining of the Maarab agreement between Aoun and Geagea. When Hariri started to form a government six months ago, a process which is not complete yet, the main problem was that the President and his son-in-law did not accept giving Geagea more than three ministries, all of which are of the second degree.
The president also wants to nominate his son-in-law Gebran Bassil for the presidency after him. Since Franjieh considers himself the one who deserves the presidency after Aoun, and because Geagea does not have a good chance in becoming a president as the majority in the Parliament is for Hezbollah, its allies and for the Free Patriotic Movement, he thought of retaliating against Aoun and Bassil by standing by Franjieh in the next presidential elections’ battle. Thus, this needed a reconciliation to end the old conflict and help in forming an alliance against Aoun and Bassil.
Internecine conflict
The history of the dispute over the presidency between the Maronites in Lebanon is full of blood and bitter conflicts. Even President Fuad Chehab, who started the era of army commanders becoming presidents, only managed to become the president because the Maronite political leaders were weakened by the internal conflicts (1957-1958) and because the US and Gamal Abdel Nasser intervened in his favor. Those ambitious and contested leaders aligned themselves against his moderate and reconciling tendencies and won in their areas in the 1968 elections. They also managed to get one of them to the presidency in 1970, Suleiman Frangieh, the grandfather. In the 1990s, the Syrians decided who would become the president. Thus Hrawi, the civilian, became the president and he was succeeded by the army commander, Emile Lahoud, their ally.
Minister Bassil travels between Lebanon, Syria and Europe, trying to mediate between Nasrallah and Hariri, believing that this increases his chances to win the presidency. Malicious observers are saying that it’s still too early for the battle over the presidency; however, this is not what Gebran, Frangieh and Geagea think.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 22-23/18
Iran says US bases and aircraft carriers within missile range
Reuters, London/Thursday, 22 November 2018/An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said on Wednesday that US bases in Afghanistan, the UAE and Qatar, and US aircraft carriers in the Gulf were within range of Iranian missiles, as tensions rise between Tehran and Washington. “They are within our reach and we can hit them if they (Americans) make a move,” Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ airspace division, was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency. Hajizadeh said the Guards had improved the precision of their missiles, and specifically said they could hit the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Al Dhafra base in the United Arab Emirates and Kandahar base in Afghanistan that host US forces. US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme in May and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran. He said the deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq. The Islamic Republic’s government has ruled out negotiations with Washington over its military capabilities, particularly its missile program run by the Guards. Iran, which says its missile program is purely defensive, has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if the United States tries to strangle Iranian oil exports. In October, the Revolutionary Guards fired missiles at ISIS militants in Syria after the extremist group took responsibility for an attack at a military parade in Iran that killed 25 people, nearly half of them members of the Guards.

Iran’s VP confirms organized crime funds enter banking system
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Thursday, 22 November 2018/The Iranian Vice President for Legal Affairs Laya Joneydi confirmed that funds collected from “organized crime” are integrated into the Iranian banking system, as there “is no data about the source and destination of laundered money in the country.”Iranian news agency Isna quoted Joneydi as saying “The money resulting from organized crime and drug smuggling enter the banking system because of the lack of transparency about Source and destination of funds.”“We need to have full control to prevent money of organized crime, smuggling and terrorist activities, from entering our banking system,” she said. Iran’s judiciary chief said Monday that government officials must not make accusations of vast money-laundering operations by powerful institutions, which could be exploited by the enemy. Also Read: Internal power struggles erupt in Iran over money laundering, terror support. The criticism followed statements by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the Khabar Online news agency last week in which he said: “Money laundering is a reality in our country, and a lot of people are benefitting from it.”Zarif said: “Thousands of billions” of rials were being laundered by unnamed organizations in Iran, and that these groups were behind efforts to block new laws against money laundering and terrorist financing. “If there is huge money laundering in the country, why did you not report this to the judiciary?” said Sadegh Larijani, judiciary chief, in a speech on Monday, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency. Iran is alone with North Korea on the FATF blacklist, but the Paris-based organization has suspended counter-measures since June 2017 while it works on reforms. One bill on the mechanics of monitoring and preventing terrorist financing was signed into law in August. The remaining three have been approved by parliament but have been held up by higher authorities that oversee legislation.

Rouhani Backs Zarif amid Rising Internal Tensions
London - Adil Al-Salmi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 22 November, 2018/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday justified his deafening silence towards the heated war of words between conservatives and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif by saying it is meant to promote restraint and prevent a national crisis. Rouhani denounced politicians for engaging in name-calling and fierce accusations of corruption and money laundering, saying that fraud and crime are two problems facing countries across the world. Speaking at a cabinet meeting, he said: “Why do we fight over such obvious issues? Yes, the entire world is suffering from money laundering. Show me one country in the whole world in which money laundering does not take place and show me one country in the whole world in which corruption, narcotics and fake products do not exist.”“All of us should strive against money laundering and corruption,” he said, asking: “Why are we bickering with each other so much?” Responding to criticisms, Rouhani further said corruption, bribery and drug addiction exist in Iran, and “we should not get angry with someone for stating these issues.”Ultra-conservative lawmakers have been eyeing means to take down the diplomatic team appointed by Rouhani, considered a moderate reformist by many. Iran’s internal dispute is rising at a time the country is struggling to counter tough US re-imposed economic sanctions and to salvage its national economy. On November 11, Zarif had said that those who make billions of dollars from money laundering are spending millions of them to prevent the approval of the bills on more financial transparency. Zarif's stance sparked wide reactions among Iranian political officials, and on Sunday reports emerged over his possible dismissal. The chief Iranian diplomat was also summoned for more explanation to the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, forcing him to reiterate that he had not accused any state-run institution of money laundering. On Monday, Judiciary Chief Sadeq Larijani criticized Zarif’s remarks, saying: “If widespread money laundering exists in the country, why haven’t you reported this issue?” The conservative Tasnim news agency, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards, quoted a member of parliament as saying that a motion for Zarif’s dismissal is being prepared to be put to a vote. The minister has been demanded by lawmakers to submit whatever evidence he has to support his corruption claims by Tuesday, but he has so far failed to do so. Zarif’s claims followed the Guardian Council rejecting and demanding 11 revisions for passing legislation to join the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). European countries have made demands that Iran up its game on leashing terror funding. Joining the Anti-Terrorism Funding FATF is one of those demands. By rejecting FATF, Iran runs the risk of losing whatever fragile support it has from the international community. Zarif had told Iranian authorities that strong allies, such as China and Russia, are weighing in for Tehran to join the FATF. Iran’s ultra-conservative political partied are concerned with the FATF blocking Revolutionary Guards activity abroad by cutting funds to proxy militias, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthis in Yemen. The Guards’ foreign arm, the Quds Force, looks to be the most threatened by the FATF.

Iraq on Alert after ISIS Resurgence in Mosul
Baghdad – Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 22 November, 2018/A large military delegation, headed by Iraqi Chief of Staff Othman al-Ghanmi, arrived in the Nineveh province to address the latest security developments after a spike in ISIS activity in the region.
The visit reflects the importance the military command places on Nineveh, the province through which ISIS entered Iraq in 2014. The visit was also made after Sadrist movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr tweeted that “Mosul was in danger” and that it was falling prey to terrorism and corrupt figures.
The Qarar alliance, headed by Usama al-Nujaifi, expressed its disappointment that officials were not giving the developments in Mosul enough attention. “We have not seen a serious approach to the factors that led to the emergence of ISIS” after last year’s victory against the group, it said in a statement. The same practices are being adopted in Nineveh and corruption is threatening life there, it warned. “The government’s failure cannot be justified by any excuse,” it stressed. “Infrastructure is still destroyed, corruption is everywhere, foreign meddling is rampant on border crossings and unemployment is very high. These are elements that are ripe to be abused for any terrorist act.”It also cited the federal government and local authority’s failure in meeting the people’s most basic rights, such as obtaining official documents. The bloc therefore called on Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to “intervene immediately” to contain the security situation and unite forces under a single command, making sure that official agencies do not exploit their power to attack and extort the people. Senior Sadrist movement member, former MP Hakem al-Zamli said that the situation in Mosul is similar to the one that prevailed during 2014, noting the smuggling of oil, corruption of security agencies, arbitrary arrests and weakness of the security forces and local governor. He revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that ISIS “is starting to take root in certain regions in southern Mosul because the government has not seriously addressed the situation in the city.” Sadr’s tweet was a real warning given that many ISIS members are present throughout Mosul, he remarked. “The group is really turning into a real threat to Mosul and Iraq’s future,” he warned.

Egypt Wants to Avoid Deadly Confrontation in Gaza
Ramallah - Kifah Zboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 22 November, 2018/A high-ranking Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo on Wednesday following an invitation from Egyptian intelligence to discuss possible solutions to help move the Palestinian reconciliation forward. Hamas deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, led the delegation which also included members from abroad Musa Abu Marzooq, Izat Resheg, and Husam Badran, as well as members from Gaza Khalil al-Hayya, and Rawhi Mushtaha. Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, said in a press statement that the visit of Hamas delegation was made in accordance to an official Egyptian invitation. “The visit aims at promoting the bilateral ties, ending the siege that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for 12 years and achieving a national unity in accordance to 2011 reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo,” Barhoum added. A Fatah delegation is also expected to arrive in Cairo next week to discuss with Egyptian officials what they have reached with Hamas. Fatah demands that Gaza Strip is fully handed over to the current government including security, crossings, tax collection, land authority and the judiciary, without any conditions. But Hamas demands first lifting the sanctions on the Strip, forming a national unity government and recognizing its former employees as staff of the Palestinian Authority. Cairo sees reconciliation a necessary step after enforcing the truce in Gaza and a way to reach a long agreement in Gaza through the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), similar to the agreement that ended the 2014 war. Egyptian officials will discuss with Hamas handing over the Strip to the current government, in accordance with an agreed timetable, with the subsequent consultations to form a national unity government. Egypt believes that paying salaries of Hamas employees through Qatar over the next six months has removed a major obstacle from both sides. The movement has previously asked to agree on specific payments to its employees rather than immediate integration or full salaries which was rejected by Fatah given that a specialized committee is working on it. Egypt will suggest postponing the discussion of the issue of weapons of the resistance in Gaza till after “reforming” the PLO and holding elections with the participation of Hamas. In addition, Cairo is considering launching an agreed timetable that could last for two months or more for the transfer of power, security, crossings, financial collection, the judiciary and the land authority, with the possibility of forming joint and specialized committees, in which Egypt could be part of. This new move comes a week after Egypt set up a new truce in Gaza. Cairo fears that failure to achieve reconciliation will lead to war amid exchanged threats from both sides. These threats came after a violent escalation, the worst since a 2014 war, between the Palestinians and Israel put the enclave on the brink of war. During the recent flare-up, 500 rockets were fired from Gaza Strip and Israel launched 160 raids on Hamas and Jihad locations. Egypt wants to avoid another escalation; an effort which is shared by the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov. Mladenov stated that Egypt holds the key to the political process to end the violence. “We have been working with the Egyptians for a couple of years. We do not have a better partner anywhere in the Arab world than Egypt,” he asserted. Speaking Wednesday at the Jerusalem Post annual conference, the UN Envoy indicated that there is a common understanding that going to war in Gaza now is against the interests of Israel, the Gaza people and against the best for the region. “What I have seen is that no one wants a war in Gaza now. It is going to be damaging for everyone,” he noted.

Sweida's Druze Reject Regime Call to Serve
London - Beirut /Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 22 November, 2018/Nearly eight years into the Syrian war, Selim still refuses to perform his military service, just like many fellow Druze from Sweida province rejecting the regime's conscription call. "I don't want to get involved in the Syrian bloodbath," said the 27-year-old, who gave a pseudonym for fear of reprisals. Last week, the head of the regime, Bashar al-Assad, urged the minority, which accounted for around three percent of Syria's pre-war population, to send its young men to the army. After rotating out some very long-serving conscripts, the regime is looking for fresh blood to beef up its ranks and exercise real control over the swathes of land it reconquered from insurgents. Assad's appeal came after the government helped release, earlier this month, a large group of Druze civilians who had been taken hostage by ISIS in Sweida. His call appeared to terminate a deal whereby the Druze were allowed to organize their own militia rather than serve in the army, but its implementation could prove tricky. "I don't want to have to kill the people of Hama, the people of Homs or any other province, for the sake of keeping one man in power," Selim told AFP by phone from Sweida. "The army is your grave," said the young man, explaining that the lack of a time limit on conscription during war means recruits will not be able to know when they can return home. To be on the safe side, Selim never leaves Sweida, a province in southern Syria that borders Jordan and where the Syrian security services have a limited presence. In July, Selim was among hundreds of other residents who took up arms to pin back ISIS after a series of attacks that left at least 260 people dead. During the assault, the deadliest to have hit the Druze community since the start of the war, the militants kidnapped about 30 people, mainly women and children. The last of the surviving hostages were released on November 8, leading to Assad's demand that the Druze contribute to the national war effort. "The regime is trying to tell us: it's ISIS or the military service," said Selim. Khattar Abu Diab, a Paris-based professor of political science and a specialist in Druze affairs, said Assad was attempting to intimidate the minority. "He wants to use the residents of Sweida as cannon fodder for future battles," he said. Sweida was mostly spared by the deadly Syrian conflict and only faced sporadic militant attacks they managed to repel. Residents on several occasions in 2014 besieged detention centers to obtain the release of men who had been rounded up to join the army. At the time the central government was at its weakest, stretched very thin on many fronts and had humored the Druze not to risk opening up another. That level of autonomy now comes at a cost for Sweida, where security is all but guaranteed by the presence of the Syrian police. Some residents see a deliberate government effort to maintain a level of chaos in the province. "The regime uses other means to punish Sweida: ISIS instead of barrel bombs, crime and disorder instead of arrests," activist Hamam al-Khatib said. According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, around 30,000 Druze men are liable for military service. The group's head, Rami Abdel Rahman, alleged that the government told Druze leaders it would remove the ISIS threat if they promise to support the conscription drive. ISIS militants who had been holding out in the volcanic area of Tulul al-Safa, between Damascus and Sweida, finally retreated last week after heavy regime bombardment and a government-negotiated deal. Regardless of the agreements being cut in Damascus and by their leaders, Druze youngsters willing to serve in the national army are hard to come by. "The war just keeps going on ... we are not killing machines," said Uday al-Khatib, a 25-year-old Sweida resident. "Yes, the Sweida youth don't do military service, I'm one of them, but we are the ones who pushed back ISIS and the army didn't help us," he told AFP in a phone interview.

Russia Proposes Easing US Sanctions in Exchange for Iranian Withdrawal from Syria
Tel Aviv - Nazir Majali/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 22 November, 2018/Russia offered Israel and the United States a deal involving Iran's withdrawal of its forces from Syria in exchange for an ease in US sanctions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a closed session of the Knesset, according to an official at the Israeli council.The official indicated that the offer is still initial and unclear, but is a matter of interest for both Tel Aviv and Washington. Channel 10 news reported on Tuesday that Netanyahu divulged the Russian offer during a closed session of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday. He told the committee that Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested a deal to Israel and the US that would see Iran remove its forces from Syria in exchange for an easing of Washington’s sanctions against Tehran. The channel spoke to three members of the committee who attended the meeting and confirmed the information. Based on the report, Israel is yet to determine its position on the Russian proposal, and it did not refer to the US position. It seems that one of the attendees had asked Netanyahu about the recent diplomatic crisis with Russia, and whether Putin indeed refuses to discuss with the PM. Netanyahu spoke optimistically of his recent meetings with the Russian president and told the committee that Putin’s proposal was only a preliminary idea. Russia blames Israel for the downing of the plane in Syria last September and killing 15 Russian servicemen. However, Netanyahu believes the suggestion is a step towards ending the crisis between the two countries because Russia needs to cooperate with other states to find a solution for the Iranian presence in Syria. The PM confirmed that US, Russia and Israel are highly cooperating regarding the situation in Russia, according to the three members. Earlier this month, US Special Representative for Syrian Engagement James Jeffrey visited Moscow and Tel Aviv where he held talks with top officials as well as Netanyahu and discussed ending Iranian presence in Syria. The Russian embassy in Israel refused to comment according to Channel 10, though a senior US State Department official commented that talks were ongoing “with the UN and other parties promote a political solution in Syria. We do not detail the content of these diplomatic talks.”Meanwhile, Israel Hayom newspaper reported that Jeffery told some political reporters Tuesday night that Iranian forces are in Syria not just to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, but to carry out their own long-term regional hegemonial program. The Envoy then noted that in some respects, they want to subvert the Syrian authority just like they have done in Lebanon and Yemen, and just like they attempted to do in Iraq. The newspaper indicated that Jeffrey's remarks are consistent with growing reports of extensive Iranian efforts to turn Syria from largely Sunni Muslim into a Shiite-majority country. “Last week, Iran announced it was opening another university in Syria, which was set to join the list of schools it already operates in the country,” according to the newspaper. Jeffrey said that many in the international community believe the war in Syria has come to an end, however, a flare-up is possible any minute. He explained that the areas to most cause concerns regarding the Syrian matter are that of Israel-Iran followed by Jordan and Iran. "For the moment, Jordan's major concern, as Jordanian officials talk to us, is both Iran's movement into regions close to Jordan and of course the remnants of terrorist forces along the Jordanian border. Jordan has suffered terribly from terrorist attacks and we are committed to its security," he told the reporters.

Khashoggi Murder: Trump 'Ignores' U.S. Leverage over Riyadh
Agence France Presse/Naharnet /November 22/18/US President Donald Trump has doubled down on his partnership with Saudi Arabia, calling it an indispensable ally after a journalist's grisly murder, but critics say his position ignores Washington's enormous leverage over Riyadh. Trump on Tuesday gave Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a pass on Jamal Khashoggi's murder, glossing over the Central Intelligence Agency's reported conclusion that the kingdom's de facto ruler had authorised the killing. "Maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" Trump said, implying Prince Mohammed's culpability in Khashoggi's killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 hardly matters. What does, he asserted, was the Gulf kingdom's role as a bulwark against rival Iran, its multi-billion dollar investments in the US –- including several arms deals -- and its perceived stranglehold on global oil prices.
Trump was widely pilloried for what critics called his mercantile priorities that made him appear more like a lobbyist for the oil-rich kingdom, raising the prospect of strong congressional action against Saudi Arabia. But Trump's firm backing of the kingdom in the face of global outrage reinforced what officials in Riyadh often say: the US-Saudi relationship is too big to fail. "Structural ties -– intelligence, counterterrorism cooperation and energy -- really are too big not only to fail but to place at risk," said Hussein Ibish, a scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington."But transactional aspects of the relationship -– weapons sales, investments that are valued by Trump -– shouldn't become an excuse to make a Faustian pact and turn a blind eye to justice."
'Substantial leverage'
Trump's stance ignores what the Washington-based Center for International Policy says is America's "substantial leverage over Saudi behaviour". "The Saudis need US weapons and equipment more than we need to sell them," former US Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller wrote for CNN's website. "It would be very difficult and expensive for the Saudis to make good on their periodic threats to 'buy foreign' if they can't get what they want from the United States."Experts say Riyadh is more susceptible to American pressure than Trump asserts, as its economy is intertwined with that of the US. Seeking to diversify its oil-reliant economy, the kingdom's vast Public Investment Fund has multi-billion dollar stakes in a host of US firms -- from global ridesharing giant Uber to virtual reality start-up Magic Leap. Largely lacking business expertise outside of its oil and petrochemical industries, Riyadh has poured millions of dollars into consultancy firms such as McKinsey and the Boston Consulting Group. US fact-checking website PolitiFact disputes Trump's claim that Saudi Arabia has agreed to invest $450 billion -- including $110 billion worth of arms deals –- in the United States. Many of the investments exist only on paper, it says. And US arms sales to Saudi Arabia have accounted for fewer than 20,000 American jobs a year, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of jobs claimed by Trump, according to the Center for International Policy.
'We can buy the world'
Prince Mohammed is likely to weather the crisis over the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist critical of the de-facto ruler, and could rule Saudi Arabia for the next half century. The kingdom appears emboldened by Trump's support. "To the world: Saudi Arabia First," screamed a headline in the pro-government Okaz newspaper on Wednesday, echoing Trump's "America First" mantra. The full-page article heaped praise on Trump for not "acting foolishly" against the kingdom. Dozens of what appeared to be Saudi bot accounts lionised Trump with messages of gratitude peppered with heart emojis. "There's a feeling that we can buy anything, that we can buy the world," a Saudi analyst in Riyadh told AFP following Trump's statement. Shrugging off the global pressure, Prince Mohammed is expected to attend the Group of 20 summit later this month, raising the electrifying prospect of face-to-face encounters with world leaders who have strongly condemned the murder. "I think in some ways this typifies the crown prince's approach, which is... to say 'no, we're going to double down'," said Jon Alterman, from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. "If you're going to deal with Saudi Arabia, you will be dealing with the crown prince." But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who claims the orders for the Khashoggi's killing came from "the highest levels" of the Saudi government, appears unlikely to follow Trump's lead.
Same for the CIA.
In leaking its assessment that Prince Mohammed authorised the murder, the CIA was sending the message that it was willing to "take on Trump", said James Dorsey, a fellow at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. The move also suggested "the agency does not believe Prince Mohammed's survival as king-in-waiting is crucial to US national security or the stability of the kingdom," Dorsey added.

Saudi Warns Crown Prince a 'Red Line' in Khashoggi Probe

Agence France Presse/Naharnet /November 22/18/Saudi Arabia has warned criticism of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a "red line", after Donald Trump heaped praise on the kingdom in defiance of warnings he was giving Riyadh a pass on a journalist's grisly murder. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Wednesday that calls for the crown prince to be held accountable for the grisly killing of Jamal Khashoggi would not be tolerated. His comments came as the US president praised Saudi Arabia for keeping oil prices low -- one strand of his argument against punishing Riyadh even though the CIA reportedly found strong evidence that the crown prince, the de facto Saudi leader, was involved in the murder. "In Saudi Arabia our leadership is a red line. The custodian of the two holy mosques (King Salman) and the crown prince are a red line," Jubeir told the BBC. "They represent every Saudi citizen and every Saudi citizen represents them. And we will not tolerate any discussion of anything that is disparaging towards our monarch or our crown prince." Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote for The Washington Post and had been critical of Prince Mohammed, was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, killed and reportedly dismembered. After lengthy denials, Saudi authorities admitted responsibility and said 21 people had been taken into custody. However, a CIA analysis leaked to the US media went further, reportedly pointing the finger at the crown prince. But Trump, on holiday at his Florida Mar-a-Lago Club on Wednesday, doubled down on a statement from Tuesday that he was essentially ignoring the killing of Khashoggi because of what he said were more important US strategic and commercial interest. "Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82," he tweeted. "Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let's go lower!" Jubeir insisted that Prince Mohammed had not been involved in the killing. "We have made that very clear. We have investigations ongoing and we will punish the individuals who are responsible for this," he said. He called on Turkey to come forward with all its evidence about the slaying and stop leaking out information. The foreign minister said the murder was a "rogue operation" by intelligence officers. Jubeir also said any possible US sanctions on Saudi Arabia would be short-sighted.

Five Dead, 18 Hurt as Car Rams into Children in China
Agence France Presse/Naharnet /November 22/18/A car rammed into a group of children crossing a street in front of an elementary school in northeast China on Thursday, killing five people and injuring another 18, state media said. Police took the driver into custody and are investigating the cause of the incident in Huludao, Liaoning province, the official CCTV broadcaster said on its Weibo social media account. Unverified videos circulating on social media appeared to show a car veering onto the wrong side of the road and ploughing through the line of pupils, with the impact from the crash throwing bodies across the road. Other gut-wrenching footage showed at least two small children lying unconscious and bleeding on the street. The screams and cries of children could be heard in the background, as onlookers milled around the scene of the collision. Victims of the crash are undergoing medical treatment, according to CCTV. The incident happened around noon. The ages of the victims were not released.Police from Jianchang county in Huludao city did not immediately respond to AFP requests for comment.
Dangerous roads
Grisly car accidents are common in China, where transportation authorities have struggled to enforce safety regulations, which are often flouted or go unenforced. According to authorities, 58,000 people were killed in traffic accidents across the country in 2015 alone. Violations of traffic laws were blamed for nearly 90 percent of accidents that caused deaths or injuries that year. Earlier this month, at least 13 people died when a bus plunged off a bridge in Chongqing municipality, after the driver got into a fist fight with a passenger who had missed her bus stop. Search and rescue teams dispatched more than 70 boats, as well as a team of scuba divers and underwater robots, to find the wreckage and retrieve bodies from the water. In February, a van packed with pressurised gas tanks and petrol-filled bottles caught fire and ploughed into pedestrians in Shanghai, leaving at least 18 people injured. Authorities concluded that it had been a "traffic accident". But a 2013 incident was blamed on militant separatists. Two tourists were killed at the time when a car rammed into bystanders in Beijing's iconic Tiananmen Square before bursting into flames. Three attackers also died in the incident, which Beijing blamed on separatists from the restive western region of Xinjiang. And in September, 11 people died and dozens were injured when a car struck a crowd in a public square in the central Hunan province city of Hengdong. Police detained the driver, a man in his 40s, and described him as a "vengeful repeat offender" who had daggers in his car and intended to "cause serious damage".

EU, UK Agree Draft on 'Ambitious' Post-Brexit Ties
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 22/18/The European Union and Britain agreed Thursday a draft declaration on their post-Brexit relations that sets out an "ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership," officials said. The two sides have also agreed a draft deal extending the transition period by one or two years beyond the end of 2020, a final sticking point of the divorce deal. European Council President Donald Tusk said the EU executive, the European Commission, informed him it has agreed the political declaration on the future ties with Britain. "I have just sent to EU27 a draft Political Declaration on the Future Relationship between EU and UK," said Tusk, who represents the 27 remaining EU member countries. "The Commission President (Jean-Claude Juncker) has informed me that it has been agreed at negotiators' level and agreed in principle at political level," Tusk tweeted. He said EU leaders still have to endorse the draft declaration, which is due to accompany a draft of agreed terms for Britain's withdrawal from the bloc on March 29. The EU leaders are due to meet at a summit in Brussels on Sunday to endorse both documents. "The declaration establishes the parameters of an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership across trade and economic cooperation" and other areas, according to a copy of the document seen by AFP. The other areas cover law enforcement, criminal justice, foreign policy, security and defence and wider areas of cooperation, according to the draft. In an update of the withdrawal agreement, both sides have agreed to extend the post-Brexit transition period from December 31, 2020 "for up to one or two years." The transition period is designed to allow governments and businesses to adjust to a new relationship after more than four decades of close ties. Following the announcement of the draft declaration, the British parliament said Prime Minister Theresa May will make an "emergency statement" to MPs on Thursday. Downing Street said the prime minister was holding a teleconference with cabinet ministers about the deal.

From Cars to Bars: Carlos Ghosn's Japanese Cell
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 22/18
A solitary cell, 30 minutes of daily exercise and two baths a week: Carlos Ghosn's new routine is a world away from the private jets and lavish parties the millionaire tycoon once enjoyed. The 64-year-old auto industry titan of Lebanese descent stands accused of serious financial misconduct and is being questioned at a concrete 12-floor detention centre in northern Tokyo which also houses convicted criminals and even death-row inmates. While it is impossible to know Ghosn's exact surroundings, lawyers who have made several visits there to clients as well as former detainees paint a picture of an austere facility where solitude is the biggest enemy. Veteran attorney Yoshiro Ito said the barren rooms have nothing but a bed, toilet, and a handle-less door with an iron-barred window. Detainees follow a strict routine. Wake-up call is shortly before 7am and lights out at 9pm. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided. For an extra charge, inmates can order additional food from pre-approved options. It is a far cry from the macaroons and colourful cakes photographed at Ghosn's Marie-Antoinette-themed wedding party thrown in 2016 at the sumptuous Palace of Versailles near Paris. Inmates have the option of taking half an hour of physical exercise and can take a bath twice a week. "You can wear your own clothing but ties, strings and belts are taken away to prevent suicide," said Ito. Books and letters can be sent in but are all censored by prison officials.
'Extremely lonely'
Generally, high-profile detainees are kept away from other inmates, with the cells either side and in front left vacant. "There are solitary cells as well as rooms that can accommodate several people, but in special cases like Mr Ghosn, I believe he is undoubtedly in a solitary room," said lawyer Ito.
Takafumi Horie, a Japanese businessman detained at the same centre and later jailed in 2011 for securities fraud as head of Internet giant Livedoor, said the toughest part was "not being able to talk to people". Frenchman Ghosn has received a visit from the French ambassador as part of consular protection and the Brazilian consul has also seen the businessman who was born in Porto Velho in northwestern Brazil. But Horie said his overriding memory at the centre is being "extremely lonely." "There was a guard who spoke to me through a small hole on the door and said he would talk to me for a short while... Honestly, I cried," said Horie in his book "Tettei Kosen" ("Total Resistance"). Horie said there was no track of time in the cell, as the clock was removed "because some people try to commit suicide or harm themselves by using plastic or glass covering the clock."Even toothbrushes and hand towels were taken away each night, said Horie. "Until I was detained, I didn't realise that losing the freedom to look at my face (in the mirror) was this tough," said the former inmate.
Following Ghosn's arrest, Horie tweeted it would also be "pretty cold" at this time of year.
'American crime drama'
Toshio Sakamoto, who worked as a prison guard there for nearly three decades, said conditions would be "very tough" and not just for Ghosn, but also for officials monitoring a maximum of 3,000 inmates. "He's super-famous and rich and a foreign national. It's very difficult to detain someone like him due to the language barriers and difference between Japan's justice system and the system he knows," Sakamoto told AFP. If he had complaints, he would only be able to address the detention centre staff, whose English would unlikely be strong enough to understand every detail, added the former guard. "It's a disaster for the Tokyo Detention Centre. You must be very careful to prevent any mishap, which could be an international issue. I wouldn't want to be there myself," he said. He described the centre as a "monster" not just because of its size but "because you never know what will happen there". Sakamoto said he was aware of cases where paparazzi-style conmen deliberately commit a crime so they can spy on famous inmates in the hope of splashing their story. "It's just like an American crime drama in there," he said.

Egypt says police killed 12 extremist militants in Sinai raid
The Associated Press, el-Arish/Thursday, 22 November 2018/Egyptian authorities say police killed 12 extremist militants when security forces stormed three deserted buildings used as militant hideouts in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula. An Interior Ministry statement on Thursday said that the militants were the first to open fire on the policemen as they surrounded the buildings in the Mediterranean coastal city of el-Arish. The statement said there were no casualties among the police. Egypt has for years battled extremist militants in Sinai. The insurgency intensified in 2013 after themilitary ousted an president Mohammed Morsi, whose one-year in power proved divisive. However, a large military operation launched this year against the militants in northern Sinai has significantly reduced the number of attacks.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 22-23/18
Trump’s Frankness and the Khashoggi Crisis

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/November 22/18
An anonymous source at the CIA said that the Saudi Crown Prince is responsible and another source, also anonymous, at the State Department was quoted as saying that there were reports that implicate Saudi Arabia in the crime. Afterwards, American President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied this. The leaks which seemed to be part of a campaign adopted by some American dailies were attributed to anonymous sources in the CIA, State Department and others and came after a drop in leaks by Turkish officials. All this pushed the White House to publicly announce that it was standing by the Saudi government in the controversy surrounding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
This is why Trump chose to announce his administration’s statement in a long, written and frank statement. In order for the message to reach everyone, the president also made a public appearance and spoke to the press about his statement.
The Secretary of State also made a public appearance and confirmed the statement’s content. The White House, therefore, abandoned the game of leaks and psychological and media war. Trump had previously clarified his legal stance that there is nothing that requires the government to intervene as neither the man killed is American nor the territory where he was killed is American. Trump also clarified that he is not convinced of the accusations and emphasized that Saudi Arabia is an important country for the US.
By doing so, he is trying to silence the parties exerting pressure, whether in the Congress, and most of them are from the rival Democratic Party, or Turkey, which he responded to by using its same approach as he leaked information to embarrass it. Turkey has been using the crime to push Trump to make concessions to release a convicted Turkish banker or hand over an opposition figure in exchange of stopping its campaign against Saudi Arabia. The Khashoggi case is an incidental weapon in a battle that has already existed on the American arena for two years between the Republicans, the president’s party, and his rival Democrats. In this battle, personal accusations were made against the president, against his family and candidates of which the most recent was appointing a judge to the Supreme Court.
The ongoing pressure on Trump regarding Saudi Arabia preceded the Khashoggi case. It existed over support for the Yemeni war where his opponents have called on him to cease backing Saudi Arabia and the Arab coalition in the battle against the Houthis, Iran’s allies in the war-torn country. Now, pressure is being exerted to boycott Saudi Arabia, particularly to end arms sales and to stop military intelligence cooperation and inflight refueling of Saudi jets. What are their demands? Stop the war in Yemen and withdraw Saudi troops and their allies there. Trump had a new response and said that Saudi Arabia does not want war and is willing to withdraw from Yemen now if Iran ends its support of the Houthis. It is futile to talk about deterring Saudi Arabia without making Iran - which has been behind the coup in Yemen all along - exit Yemen. Trump has made it his major foreign political project to confront Iran and he has in fact begun to impose sanctions to force Tehran to halt its nuclear military program and stop spreading chaos in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and other countries.

The Relationship with Europe: A Permanent British Obsession
Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/November 22/18
These are very interesting and exciting times in the UK. In the midst of testing intentions and wills, there seems to be some sort of consensus that the Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has lost the initiative both in the country and in her own party. Like her predecessor, David Cameron, Mrs. May took over the leadership as a suitable “compromise” candidate between the Party’s warring factions. Indeed, given the long and deeply-rooted conflict with the Conservatives regarding Europe, in addition, to the clear-cut disagreement between the hardline ideological right and the remnants of the moderate heirs of the “One Nation Toryism”, the Party developed a skill of running towards a leader whose main political asset is – more or less – having the minimum number of enemies. Historically, the Labor Party’s incessant slide toward the extreme left during the 1970s, benefitted the only non-compromise Conservative leader since the end of WW2; and, that was … Margaret Thatcher. In order to better understand British politics, it is worthwhile to recognize two important factors: The first, is that sometimes the most powerful or popular figures do not automatically become party leaders, and subsequently prime ministers, because the more powerful they are the more enemies they have.
The second, is that gaining the “center ground” often gives one of the major parties, Conservatives and Labor, a better chance of winning power.
By the end of WW2, the Conservatives were led by Winston Churchill; while Clement Attlee led Labor to victory after the first general elections held after that war. Despite the victory, the country’s infrastructure suffered great devastation, which required urgent rebuilding. Society itself needed a period of rehabilitation. In such circumstances, qualities and programs differed between those necessary to win the war embodied in Churchill’s Conservatives, and those necessary to rebuild the post-war institutions and services as represented by Attlee’s Labor. After taking over the government, Attlee, the quiet and rational Labor soon embarked on building the institutions of the social security network led by the National Health Service, as well as various projects designed to deal with unemployment and trade unions’ rights, which were exactly what the wounded society badly needed then.
Both Conservatives and Labor passed through several landmarks in terms of ideology and interest-based political priorities, both internally and internationally. The two parties also lived under two types of leaderships: strong leaderships that were able to fully carry out their priorities, and compromise leaderships that insured the internal unity of their respective parties.
The Conservative Richard “Rab” Butler and Labor’s Dennis Healey were exceptional statesmen, however, ideological orientations and political interests deprived both of their parties’ leaderships, and subsequently becoming prime ministers. On the other hand, others managed to enter 10 Downing Street either because political circumstances favored them, or because they were viewed as “safe options” that would not rock the boat, and not pose a challenge or danger that may damage their parties.
As far as Europe is concerned, the UK joined what became the European Union under the moderate Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath who governed between 1970 and 1974. After his return to Downing Street, Labor ex-Prime Minister Harold Wilson (he governed between 1963 and 1970, and later between 1974 and 1976) the UK confirmed its intention to remain within the European community in a referendum held on June 1, 1975.In general, the moderates in both parties, Conservatives and Labor, were pro-Europe, while extremists in both camps were more or less anti-Europe. The Conservative right was always too “nationalistic” and strongly in favor of free market capitalism, while the hardline Labor left infrequently viewed the idea of a European “common market” as a right-wing capitalist idea that only serves the interests of the “bourgeoisie” and big financial trusts and blocs.
Heath’s loss to Wilson in 1974 opened the doors within the Conservative Party for a leadership battle between the moderate wing led by William Whitelaw and the extremist wing whose real leader, Sir Keith Joseph, picked for the post his “protégé” Margaret Thatcher. With Thatcher’s victory, the party began a steady move to the right, as Labor were moving further and further to the Left.
The Spring of 1979 general elections, ended with a victory to Thatcher, who quickly began her “rightist Revolution”, buoyed later by the rise of “Reaganism” in the US and the slow death of the USSR. Later on, thanks to the Falklands War of 1982 and Labor’s suicidal ultra-left swerve. Thatcher solidified her position with a sweeping elections victory in 1983, followed by a third in 1987. Despite this renewed mandate, Europe remained a divisive issue for the Conservatives; more so, because Thatcher firmly believed that the “special relations” with Washington were far more important than its relations with both Europe and the Commonwealth countries. Against her position, stood a strong pro-Europe bloc led by prominent figures like former Defense Secretary Michael Heseltine. Low-wage East European labor force that was believed by some to threaten British jobs was one of the most talked about issues in defense of Brexit. What is ironic, however, is the fact that the pro-Brexit “Thatcherist” right was very keen to welcome the former “Warsaw Pact” countries of Eastern Europe into the EU in order to “dilute” the influence of Germany, France and the Benelux Countries, and weaken the idea of European integration.
As far as Labor is concerned, the situation does not look much different. The moderate Labor have always found many common ideological denominators with Europe’s moderate left, especially, following the gradual erosion of London’s traditional relations with its former Commonwealth, and whenever America voted for the Republicans. Across the political divide, Labor’s radical left, including grass-root constituency parties’ activists and unskilled labor force shifted towards the isolationist, protectionist and anti-globalization camp. In fact, a high percentage of traditional leftists voted with the right-wing isolationists, even racists, in the Brexit referendum of 2016.Realistically, what Theresa May is hoping to achieve today is “crisis management” – nothing more – against a background of acute and old divisions which are not expected to go away. But, she is being confronted by two groups; one that wants to leave Europe whatever the cost; the other, that believes the whole idea of Brexit was a wrong adventure. All this is taking place, while Labor is being led by an extremist and dogmatic leadership whose convictions worry many people, including, many loyal Labor supporters.

Is the Trade War Really Holding China Back?

Christopher Balding/Bloomberg View/November 22/18
With China posting its weakest growth in a decade, officials have blamed a “challenging external environment” – polite language for the trade war. It makes for a good sound bite with an obvious villain. But in reality, responsibility for the slowdown rests squarely with Beijing’s policies and cracks in the economy.
For all the headlines and hand-wringing, the macro-level impact of US tariffs on China is tiny. Growth in the country’s exports to its largest trading partner, currently at 13 percent, is on track to record its best rate in 10 years, largely thanks to US strength.
Even without trade barriers, it’s unlikely Chinese exports would grow much faster. If export growth to the US were to hit 20 percent, for instance, that would add just $22 billion to a current GDP of about $13 trillion. Put another way, such an increase would nudge the 9.7 percent third-quarter nominal GDP growth figure to a less-than-overwhelming 9.85 percent. The bigger drags on the economy are Beijing’s policy decisions, such as restricting credit growth and investment. When President Xi Jinping was reelected chairman of the Chinese Communist Party in October 2017, new total social financing was growing at 31 percent year-to-date. One year after his coronation, this broad measure of credit is down 13 percent. Xi’s maneuver to sharply curb credit growth so soon after taking control for a second term was a prudent one – and its economic impact far outweighs that of the trade war. Assume Beijing chose to restrict new total social financing growth to 10 percent rather than shrinking it 13 percent. This would have added 4.1 trillion yuan ($590 billion) to economic activity, nearly thirty times more than the effects of the spat with Washington. China’s move to limit investment, another necessary step to improve the economy, is also slowing growth. In 2015, fixed-asset investment amounted to 80 percent of GDP, and it has been falling since. As of September, the figure was growing at a relatively restrained 5.4 percent, or just 55 percent of 12-month GDP.
Measures of confidence – for investors, consumers and businesses – have fallen through 2018. Whether we can blame this on the trade war is debatable, and even more questions emerge about the ultimate impact on behavior. Foreign direct investment in China is up, in line with historical norms, and the fall in the yuan from a stronger dollar has muted the impact of tariffs. Beijing has made a sound policy decision to rein in runaway credit and investment-driven expansion, for which policymakers should be commended. Slowing consumption – as people struggle to pay their mortgages and real-estate transactions drop – is a legacy of the debt-fueled growth Beijing championed after the 2008 financial crisis. China now faces significant economic challenges. Beijing has announced a steady stream of stock-market bailout funds, financing for private and small enterprises, and measures to get the economy back on track. It is a profound disservice, however, to conflate those problems with a short-term trade war, which will have minimal impact on the country’s policy and economic challenges in the long run.

US Versus China Isn’t a ‘Cold War’
Daniel Moss/Bloomberg View/November 22/18
The collapse of a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders last weekend in Papua New Guinea isn’t the end of the world. In fact economic relations between the 21 nations won’t change much. Most need both China and the US — and that’s what they will continue to get. For the first time since leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group began meeting in 1993, they failed to agree on a communique. Rivalry between America and the Middle Kingdom was blamed. Observers inevitably compared the tension to the Cold War. The analogy is not helpful. APEC statements have long since ceased to be meaningful. The expansion of the group’s membership to include places as remote from the core of Asia as Peru and Russia made moving the ball on any substantive issue very tough. Since its heyday in the mid-1990s, APEC has evolved into a kind of platform where leaders and top executives just happen to meet and chat. The far-flung diverse membership means statements are little more than bromide platitudes. It’s good that these nations get together in some forum. But don’t conflate this theater with substance.
China’s ascendancy is often portrayed as an end to unchallenged American primacy. In absolute terms, that’s true. From some of what’s said, you would think the US didn’t matter. That is far from true. The global supply chains that snake through East Asia mostly lead to US-based corporations. An entire development model has been based on them.
It’s entirely conceivable that the trade clash between the US and China actually strengthens these chains. To the extent manufacturing and assembly shifts out of China to more US-friendly locations in the region, it will enhance American influence. The US dollar’s dominance is often underappreciated. Many Asian currencies have some kind of anchor to the dollar rather than China’s currency, the yuan. This can be a curse. During periods when the dollar strengthens significantly, often because of tighter monetary policy from the Federal Reserve, emerging markets in Asia feel the heat. Policy then responds to American dynamics rather than what the People’s Bank of China does. Indonesia was recently praised by the International Monetary Fund for its textbook response to the latest EM ructions. If a rescue is needed, the IMF is likely to be at the forefront rather than China. The US is the biggest and most influential shareholder. China’s economic footprint is growing. Projections have the size of China’s gross domestic product overtaking the US sometime around 2030. That brings with it some gravitational pull. It’s already happening, with or without a botched summit or two. Chinese companies are increasing their direct foreign investment in Southeast Asia significantly. That’s rubbing up against the traditional dominance of US and Japanese firms. But countries like Indonesia have historically been wary of too much Chinese influence. A nationalist like President Joko Widodo, running for re-election next year, isn’t going to rush to China’s embrace.
Many countries like both the continuity of the US and the added wealth that comes with Chinese overtures. They have been playing both sides for a while and can keep doing that. Yes, the US and China are vying for influence. A growing rivalry doesn’t have to be apocalyptic.
This is a competition for influence within the overarching capitalist system. China is part of the global capitalist order in a way the Soviet Union never was. The rivalry is evolution, not revolution.

How Powerful Companies Might Hold Back Growth

Mark Whitehouse/Bloomberg View/November 22/18
There’s a pretty good argument that US companies are using the power that comes with increasing size and market dominance to hold down workers’ wages. But is this phenomenon also holding back the entire economy? Judging from data on industrial production, that’s a distinct possibility.
Imagine a world in which everyone works for the same company. That single employer would be able to set wages well below what a free market would dictate, because the employees would have nowhere else to go. Such “monopsony power” can also exist when a few companies dominate a labor market — a situation that is common in the US, and has probably helped drive workers’ share of national income near record lows. There’s more. Theory suggests that the exercise of monopsony power should also stunt aggregate economic growth. If wages are artificially low, fewer people will choose to work. As a result, companies won’t run at full capacity, because in their efforts to pay less they will also depress the supply of labor.
So what’s actually happening? Well, US industrial companies are still operating well below capacity, even though the economy is in its tenth year of expansion. Specifically, the Federal Reserve estimates that as of October, capacity utilization stood at 78.4 percent, 1.4 percentage points below the long-term average. No less interesting are the reasons companies give for operating below capacity — a question that the Census Bureau has been asking since the late 1990s. Within that time frame, fewer than ever are citing a lack of demand, while more than ever are saying that they can’t get enough workers.
To be sure, monopsony isn’t the only possible explanation. Maybe the long-term unemployment wrought by the last recession permanently impaired the labor supply. Maybe workers don’t have the skills companies need. Or maybe lagging productivity growth has made labor, rather than industrial capacity, the binding constraint on the economy. Still, monopsony power over wages deserves attention – particularly on the part of the federal authorities who, by allowing mergers to render markets increasingly concentrated, helped make it an issue in the first place.

Palestinians: We Cannot Accept Anything from Trump
by Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/November 22/18
According to the reports, the White House "peace team," led by senior adviser Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, has been working on the plan for two years -- and President Trump wants it published between December 2018 and February 2019.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his representatives in Ramallah have radicalized their people against the Israeli government to a point where meeting or doing business with any Israeli official is tantamount to treason. This is why Abbas does not and cannot return to the negotiating table with Israel and also why Abbas cannot change his position toward the Trump administration.
Wasel Abu Yousef, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official, said this week that the Palestinians were moving on three levels to thwart Trump's upcoming plan: rallying worldwide support for the Palestinian position against the plan, uniting all Palestinians, and opposing attempts to normalize relations between the Arab countries and Israel.
In a recent speech demonstrating the degree of anti-US sentiments, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the Trump administration "liars" and boasted that the Palestinians were the first to stand against and combat President Trump's "deal of the century." Pictured: Abbas delivers a speech at the United Nations on September 27, 2018 in New York City.
Hardly a day passes without the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) affirming its strong opposition to US President Donald Trump's yet-to-be-announced Middle East peace plan, also referred to as the "deal of the century." Palestinian leaders have convinced their people that Trump is the worst person on the face of the earth and that no one should be doing business with him.
The Palestinian Authority is not the only Palestinian party that continues to voice its opposition to the upcoming peace plan. No Palestinian group or individual has come out in favor the plan, although no one in the Middle East seems to have seen it or knows anything about its details. Trump has united the Palestinians in a way that no Palestinian or Arab has been able to do since the beginning of the Hamas-Fatah war 11 years ago.
The Palestinians are united in their opposition to the Trump administration and its policies, especially in the aftermath of the US president's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as well as its decision to cut US funding to the Palestinian Authority for paying terrorists and to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The Palestinians have already determined that the US peace plan is "biased" in favor of Israel, and that is why, they say, they cannot accept it.
The Palestinian Authority and its rivals in Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions appear to disagree on everything except their hostility to Trump and his administration. They all refer to the "deal of the century" as a "conspiracy aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause and rights."
The anti-Trump rhetoric that the various Palestinian parties employ is identical: Trump is not someone the Palestinians or any Arab or Muslim can trust. Trump, they argue, has surrounded himself with a team of "Zionists" who have allegedly endorsed the policies of the Israeli government.
This week, after reports surfaced that Trump was scheduled to meet with his top national security and foreign policy advisors to discuss the details and release of the US peace plan, the Palestinians stepped up their verbal attacks on the US administration. This time, the Palestinians accused the Trump administration of endorsing a "Zionist policy" in the Middle East. According to the reports, the White House "peace team," led by senior adviser Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, has been working on the plan for two years -- and Trump wants it published between December 2018 and February 2019. These reports have made the Palestinians rather anxious. They say that do not want to deal with the Trump administration in any way. They say that they consider the Trump administration one of the most anti-Palestinian administrations in modern history.
Palestinian leaders have also radicalized their people against the Trump administration to a point where no Palestinian would ever dare to even be seen meeting in public with a representative of the Trump administration.
The situation is so bad that Palestinians who recently met with Greenblatt in Jerusalem asked that their names not be published. Here is all that Greenblatt was able to say on Twitter: "I appreciated a candid discussion yesterday on the path to peace with Palestinian friends. We're committed to hearing from all partners who share this goal."
In case anyone was wondering why the "Palestinian friends" were afraid to have their names published, it is worth noting that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority have been officially boycotting the Trump administration. In recent months, Palestinian activists belonging to Abbas's ruling Fatah faction have been waging a campaign against Palestinians invited to meet with US officials in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Last September, for instance, the activists staged a protest outside a hotel in east Jerusalem where Palestinian businessmen were scheduled to meet with a US delegation. Some of the Palestinian businessmen turned back and left the hotel out of fear of being shamed and physically attacked by the activists.
Last July, Palestinians thwarted a planned visit to the city of Nablus in the West Bank by a US consular delegation. The planned engagement was part of an ongoing US commitment to improve cooperation and expand economic opportunities for Palestinians. The visit was cancelled out of concern for the safety of the US delegates, after Palestinian protesters threatened to foil the meeting and called for boycotting the visiting delegation.
Earlier this year, Palestinian protesters chased US diplomats out of Bethlehem.
These incidents are the direct result of the Palestinian Authority leadership's recurring attacks on the Trump administration. Abbas and his senior officials and spokesmen in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians, have turned the Trump administration into the number-one enemy of the Palestinians.
The Palestinian media is full of examples of how the PA leadership has delegitimized and demonized the US administration in the eyes of Palestinians.
This week, for example, the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Foreign Affairs again accused the Trump administration and its officials of being "blindly biased" in favor of Israel and its policies. The Palestinians also "never miss an opportunity" to point out that Trump's "peace team" consists of Jews like Greenblatt, Kushner and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. In its statement, the ministry referred to Friedman as "the settler," denounced the "peace team" as an "American Zionist team" and accused them of "misleading international public opinion and world leaders."
In recent months, Abbas himself has vowed at least 15 times to thwart Trump's upcoming plan. At one point, Abbas went as far as comparing the unseen plan to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which saw the British government commit to the creation of a state for Jews in historic Palestine. "If the Balfour Declaration passed, this deal will not pass," Abbas said in reference to the prospective Trump plan.
In another speech demonstrating the degree of anti-US sentiments, Abbas called the Trump administration "liars" and boasted that the Palestinians were the first to stand against and combat the "deal of the century." The Palestinians, he pledged, will "continue to fight against this plan until they foil it." Given that strong incitement against the Trump administration and its policies, as well as the continued boycott of White House officials, it is hard to see how Abbas or any other Palestinian would be able to accept anything that comes from the Americans.
This move is precisely parallel to the one they have taken with Israel. Abbas and his representatives in Ramallah have radicalized their people against the Israeli government to a point where meeting or doing business with any Israeli official is tantamount to treason. That is why Abbas does not and cannot return to the negotiating table with Israel and also why Abbas cannot change his position toward the Trump administration.
Rather than building state institutions and imposing reforms, democracy and accountability, the Palestinian Authority leadership is now focusing its energies on foiling the US peace plan. Apparently, this effort is more pressing than improving the living conditions of the Palestinians.
Wasel Abu Yousef, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official, summed up the current Palestinian strategy when he said this week that the Palestinians were moving on three levels to thwart Trump's upcoming plan: rallying worldwide support for the Palestinian position against the plan, uniting all Palestinians, and opposing attempts to normalize relations between the Arab countries and Israel.
Were Palestinian leaders to impose a small portion of these efforts to bringing democracy, freedom and accountability to their people, the Palestinians would be further from the brink of disaster. But the two Palestinian governments -- in the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- are far from interested in doing something so positive for their own people. On the one hand, these regimes are still engaged in a struggle to the death over money and power; on the other, they agree on sabotaging a peace plan they know nothing about. A peace plan just might include something positive for the Palestinians -- something else the Palestinian leaders know precious little about.
**Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
© 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.

Turkey Stabilizing Libya? Think Again.
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/November 22/18
"The chaotic situation enables the emergence of enclaves of terror, inspired by the ideology of ISIS and al-Qaeda. The world should make sure that Libya does not turn into another pre-2001 Afghanistan-like state on the doorstep of Europe." — Dr. Mordechai Kedar and Dr. Dan Gottlieb.
"Since there is almost no power on the ground in Libya with which the EU can come to an agreement to stop the influx of illegal migrants from the sub-Saharan states through Libya to Europe, this migration route will probably continue to be a gateway for many more thousands of Africans into Europe." — Dr. Mordechai Kedar and Dr. Dan Gottlieb.
The forging of alliances among the key players in the Mediterranean -- such as Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel and the Balkan states -- is equally crucial in the endeavor to stabilize Libya. Ankara's questionable ties with the violent Islamist forces in Libya, however, demonstrate that Turkey currently has little, if anything, to contribute to stabilization.
Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when an armed revolt during the "Arab Spring" led to the ouster and death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Pictured: Anti-Gaddafi rebels take positions while fighting government troops on March 9, 2011 near Ras Lanuf, Libya. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Turkey was miffed. A Turkish delegation, including Vice President Fuat Oktay, stormed out of a recent two-day international conference in Palermo, Italy, held to deal with the crisis in Libya, on the grounds that it was not included in an unofficial meeting.
Claiming that Turkey was purposely being "excluded" from the meeting between eastern Libyan military officer Khalifa Haftar and other conference participants, Oktay released the following written statement:"Unfortunately, the international community has not acted as one body today. Through a last-minute fait accompli, some people exploited the Italian hosting and intervened in the process one-sidedly..."Unlike others, we are open to wider dialogue with all Libyan and regional actors...It is impossible for conferences like these to contribute to the process without Turkey's participation..."
Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when an armed revolt during the "Arab Spring" led to the ouster and death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The Colonel, as Gaddafi was called, ruled the "Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" for 42 years after a 1969 military coup that overthrew King Idris I.
Political power in the country, the current population of which is around 6.5 million, has been split between two rival governments. The western regions of the country, led by Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj, have been governed by the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), created in 2015 and based in Tripoli. The Tobruk-based government, led by Haftar, is in control of eastern territories.
According to "A Quick Guide to Libya's Main Players" released by the European Council on Foreign Relations: "In Libya there are very few truly national actors. The vast majority are local players, some of whom are relevant at the national level while representing the interests of their region, or in most cases, their city. Many important actors, particularly outside of the largest cities, also have tribal allegiances...
"Several types of actor scramble for power in today's Libya: armed groups; 'city-states', particularly in western and southern Libya; and tribes, which are particularly relevant in eastern and southern Libya...
"Turkish companies have, according to the UN panel of experts, delivered weapons to one side (the defunct Libya Dawn coalition) and Qatar has maintained links with one Libyan politician and former jihadist – Abdelhakim Belhadj – since 2011. Yet none of the major Libyan actors respond to input from Ankara or Doha the way that Tobruk aligns itself with Cairo's policies."
In February 2015, Reuters reported that then Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni "said his government would stop dealing with Turkey because it was sending weapons to a rival group in Tripoli, so that 'the Libyan people kill each other.'"
In October 2017, Libya's attorney general issued arrest warrants for and imposed travel bans on 826 suspected terrorists, most of whom lived in Turkey and Qatar. In June 2017, the Libyan Army spokesman, General Ahmed al-Mesmari, described Turkey, Qatar and Sudan as "the triad of terrorism in Libya."
In an analysis for the Arab Center Washington DC think tank in December 2017, the scholar Mustafa Gurbuz wrote: "Turkey has long been at odds with the HoR, popularly known as the Tobruk government. Ankara supported the General National Congress (GNC), which was dominated by Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated parties -- the Justice and Construction Party and Loyalty to the Martyrs Bloc... [Haftar] has gained legitimacy in the eyes of western powers as his militia forces crushed the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia and other Islamist militants in eastern Libya. Moreover, his war on the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Libya Dawn coalition attracted armed support from Sisi's Egypt... The Turkish government believes that Haftar's controversial past -- as Qadhafi's general and later his archenemy supported by the CIA -- is a serious impediment for Libya's Islamic-leaning constituency to accept him..."In a recent article, Dr. Mordechai Kedar and Dr. Dan Gottlieb concluded:
"The state is divided, and there are no prospects of a solution in the foreseeable future.
"The chaotic situation enables the emergence of enclaves of terror, inspired by the ideology of ISIS and al-Qaeda. The world should make sure that Libya does not turn into another pre-2001 Afghanistan-like state on the doorstep of Europe.
"Since there is almost no power on the ground in Libya with which the EU can come to an agreement to stop the influx of illegal migrants from the sub-Saharan states through Libya to Europe, this migration route will probably continue to be a gateway for many more thousands of Africans into Europe. The consequences for the EU are complex and difficult.
"The question that Europe, the US, Canada, and the UN should deal with is this: in what situation will the world intervene in Libya once again to contain the domestic chaos before it spills out to other parts of the world? The sooner this question is answered, the better."
Italy's international conference appears to have been an attempt to do just that.
The West's bearing responsibility for the problems in Muslim states such as Libya, however, is short-sighted. Islamic jihadism arrived in Libya and the rest of North Africa in the 7th century, at the time of the Christian Byzantine Empire, and has largely remained there ever since. Chronic violence, brutal repression of dissidents and the persecution of non-Muslims and non-Arab natives have been part of the regional landscape there since then, and continue to this day.
Although some analysts romanticize Gaddafi's rule, and place sole blame for the current mess in Libya on US foreign policy, Gaddafi was no "moderate."
As the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported in 2010, Gaddafi "called to wage Jihad against Switzerland and called upon Muslims to boycott Swiss products, airlines, shipping companies, and embassies, [stating] 'If Switzerland were situated on our border, we would fight it."
To a certain extent, Gaddafi practiced what he preached. According to the History Channel:
"During the 1970s and '80s, Qaddafi's government financed a wide variety of Muslim and anti-U.S. and anti-British terrorist groups worldwide, from Palestinian guerrillas and Philippine Muslim rebels to the Irish Republican Army and the Black Panthers. In response, the U.S. imposed sanctions against Libya, and relations between the two nations steadily deteriorated. In 1981, Libya fired at a U.S. aircraft that passed into the Gulf of Sidra, which Qaddafi had claimed in 1973 as Libyan territorial waters. That year, the U.S. uncovered evidence of Libyan-sponsored terrorist plots against the United States, including planned assassination attempts against U.S. officials and the bombing of a U.S. embassy-sponsored dance in Khartoum, Sudan."
The current turmoil in Libya, then, appears also to be the result of the decades-long pro-jihadist legacy of Gaddafi. The question nevertheless remains as to what can be done to counteract it today.
The West's interests lie with the actors of stability, such as Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. As Giuseppe Dentice -- a research fellow at Italy's Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) -- explained:
"...The main objective of the Egyptian involvement in Libya is the containment of Islamist and Jihadist militias in the Sinai Peninsula to avoid their spread along the Western Desert. Moreover, these actions are aimed to eradicate a deeper proliferation of illicit traffics (illegal immigration, arms and drugs smuggling) through Libya to Egypt and vice versa."
The forging of alliances among the key players in the Mediterranean -- such as Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel and the Balkan states -- is equally crucial in the endeavor to stabilize Libya.
If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's policies ever change, Turkey could become a member of this alliance. Ankara's questionable ties with the violent Islamist forces in Libya, however -- and its sudden withdrawal from the international conference on the Libyan crisis -- demonstrate that Turkey currently has little, if anything, to contribute to stabilization.
*Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute. She is currently based in Washington D.C.
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Yemen’s War Is a Dangerous Proxy in Iran’s Global Battle
Nathalie Goulet/The Hill/November 22/18
While the world was fixated on the existential threat of ISIS — a terrorist group that controlled mostly rural territory and had limited, if any, backing by foreign states — the Houthi extremists in Yemen have achieved what their counterparts in Iraq and Syria could only dream of: Domination and destabilization of a country already devastated by poverty, tribal conflict and corruption. For nearly a decade, the Houthis have controlled large parts of Yemen, including the capital of one the world’s poorest countries. They have erected their own terrorist state architecture in Sana’a and used their base to launch missile attacks not only on Riyadh’s airport but Abu Dhabi’s. And they’ve done it all with the full backing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which even loaned its Yemeni proteges the Iranian revolutionary slogan: “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam.”
Evidence of Iranian military involvement in Yemen has become overwhelming. Last year U.S. officials presented evidence that Iran supplied short-range ballistic missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen, which then were fired at civilian areas of Saudi Arabia, targeting nationals of various countries. Even U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres submitted evidence to the Security Council that Iran was supplying ballistic missiles to Houthi rebels in defiance of U.N. resolution 2231. But it’s not Sana’a — or even Yemen — that the Houthis and their Iranian paymasters are really interested in. It’s the oil shipping routes in the Red Sea, just off Yemen’s coast, as indicated by the Houthi attack on Saudi oil tankers in July which caused the Saudi kingdom to suspend Red Sea oil shipments, a move that affected the world’s oil markets.
Iran is an ideologically driven state and its end-game is, ultimately, to use its proxy occupation of Yemen to control the global oil supply and weaken its Sunni neighbors.
That is shocking, but what’s worse is that the Houthis are not taken seriously in Western capitals. In fact, many mainstream newspapers and politicians in the Western world have taken a surprisingly favorable tone towards them. Just last week, a number of French members of parliament expressed support for the terrorists in the National Assembly, despite their control of Hodeida causing famine on an epic scale. The propaganda value of anti-Saudi sentiment, currently in vogue in some corridors of Western power, and images of starving children presented without context has allowed some opinion-formers to ignore the bigger picture — that the coalition is in Yemen fighting terrorism at the request of the Yemeni government and in the presence of the U.N.
It is a bigger picture that we can no longer afford to ignore, for the sake of Yemen’s children. Amnesty International has criticized the Houthis for systematically recruiting child soldiers to fight on the front lines of the conflict. And the NGO Yemeni Coalition for Monitoring Human Rights Violations revealed at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva that the Houthis have committed atrocities against thousands of Yemeni civilians, including women and children, who have been victims of illegal executions and death under torture. This makes it all the more astounding that the leader of the Houthi organisation, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, was last week able to use the Washington Post to communicate to Western audiences and position himself as a reputable leader. That is not to suggest we should not strive for peace. But to make peace possible in Yemen, the first step is to recognize the enemy for what it is: a regionally dominant but globally dangerous Iranian proxy acting as a terrorist army.
None of this should surprise us; Iran’s appetite for coordinating terrorist attacks on foreign soil is well-established. A recent U.S. State Department report declared that Iran remains one of the world's leading state sponsors of terrorism, with funding networks and operational cells working around the world. And, last month, the Belgian and French governments charged an Iranian diplomat with planning a bomb attack — just the latest in a long line of global Iranian terror complicity going back to the 1983 Beirut attack carried out by the Shiite group Hezbollah, which killed 241 U.S. Marines.
Once we have recognized the enemy for who they are, we need to combine this with a diplomatic strategy leveraging key regional mediators, such as Oman, which are Western allies while also having well-established back channels to Tehran. For years, Iran has been part of the problem; now we need it to be part of the solution. But none of this can happen with the continuing support of Houthi terror and war crimes. In order to prevent a new Hezbollah coming to pass in Yemen, we must shut down its fundraising and supply lines from Iran and its proxies around the world. Failure to do so would be one of the biggest geopolitical — and humanitarian — failures of our time.

Trump’s Magical Thinking on Iran Sanctions Won’t Advance U.S. Interests
Philip Gordon and Robert Malley/Foreign Policy/November 22/18
When U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May his plans to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and re-impose economic sanctions, one of the many reasons he gave was to compel better Iranian behavior across the Middle East. Iran, senior administration officials often said, was “behind every problem” in the region, and cutting off its oil exports would choke off the resources it was using to foment instability in neighboring countries. Earlier this month, the sanctions went into force.
In Trump’s vision, sanctions are a quasi-magical, multi-purpose tool: They would force Iran back to the table to accept an improved nuclear deal, include restrictions on Tehran’s ballistic missiles program, and give inspectors unlimited access. They would compel Iran to end its support for regional groups hostile to the United States. And they might even lead the Iranian people, facing a collapsing economy, to rise up and sweep aside the Islamic regime.
That’s an impressive wish-list. It’s also utterly implausible. If the tough new U.S. sanctions did in fact lead Iran to embrace less aggressive behavior in the region, that would be a most welcome development. But the problem is that, far from incentivizing better Iranian behavior, let alone producing a new Iranian regime, the administration’s approach is likely to make that behavior worse. The availability of resources for foreign proxies has never been the main constraint on Iran’s regional interference—which comes fairly cheap—and nothing in the Islamic Republic’s long history suggests that it will simply cave to U.S. demands, even under heavy economic pressure. By imposing comprehensive sanctions that will only be lifted if Iran does everything the United States wants, the administration is likely ensuring that Iran will do nothing it wants.
This dynamic is likely to be most clear, and most tragic, in Yemen. A small but real chance exists today to wind down a conflict that has gone on for far too long. The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October, along with sharply deteriorating humanitarian conditions and heightened media attention, has increased pressure on the Saudi leadership to change its approach. Last month, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took unusually tough stands, calling on all sides to implement a ceasefire and come to the negotiating table—a stance now backed by a credible Congressional threat to cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia if Riyadh does not cooperate. The administration has also announced that it will cease providing in-air refueling to Saudi planes for Yemen bombing operations. These new measures mark a change in the Trump administration’s posture toward the Saudis, for whom U.S. support had previously been virtually unconditional.
There is good reason to doubt whether the Saudis and their Emirati partners are ready to halt the war, given all they have invested and their genuine concerns about Iranian and Houthi threats and intentions. Still, pressure to repair the kingdom’s reputation along with a growing realization that military victory is not on the horizon offers some hope for change. The Saudis and Emiratis don’t exactly welcome the pressure for new talks, but it could prove to be an opportunity for them to get out of a costly and disastrous conflict.
Unfortunately, even if Saudi Arabia and the UAE somehow could be compelled to accept a ceasefire and agree to necessary compromises in peace negotiations, the United States now has less influence than ever on the Saudi-led coalition’s Houthi adversaries and their Iranian backers. Having re-imposed the full range of sanctions on Iran, and made clear it will only lift them if Iran complies with a dozen desirable but wildly unrealistic demands, the Trump administration has deprived itself of any usable leverage. The message to the Iranians is that if they help secure a ceasefire and press the Houthis to compromise they will remain under comprehensive U.S. sanctions anyway, and that if they don’t help, there is little more we can do. All in all, Tehran now has no reason to cooperate and every reason to obstruct.
The administration’s approach to Iran could harm U.S. interests in Iraq as well. With the recent elections of a new, pragmatic president and prime minister in Baghdad, prospects for more inclusive and effective governance have risen—which could advance both U.S. and Iranian interests. But if Iran is convinced that the United States aims to destroy its economy unless the regime either meets maximalist U.S. demands or gives up power, it could easily decide to retaliate where they have most influence. That would likely be right next-door in Iraq, where powerful pro-Iranian Shiite militias could readily target U.S. troops, as they did regularly in the aftermath of the 2003 Iraq war. The administration could retaliate militarily against Iran and bank on its fear of dangerous escalation. But Tehran could just as well bank on Washington’s fatigue with war.
Even short of that, the crippling economic sanctions on Iran will have a devastating impact on Iraq’s already feeble economy, and perhaps its political stability too. Iraq depends on Iran for natural gas (which it produces but cannot refine domestically), electricity (the majority of which is imported), water, and cheap food imports. Last summer, it saw violent protests in Basra, when the lack of available energy for air conditioning and a water crisis during 120-degree weather led residents to rise up in anger at both their own government and the Iranians who supply the electricity. If the administration forces Iraq to wind down its gas imports from Iran, more such protests are likely, seriously threatening otherwise promising political developments. That would be a further unintended consequence of a policy designed to promote regional stability.
Finally, and ironically, Trump’s renewed sanctions might have a more counterproductive impact on the region the more they actually succeed in bringing the Iranian economy to its knees. Since the sanctions were announced last spring, Iran has made clear it will continue to abide by the nuclear restrictions of the nuclear deal so long as the countries still committed to it continue to purchase a certain amount of Iranian oil. Thanks to continued imports by China, India, Turkey, and others, Iranians are still selling more than one million barrels per day, slightly more than they were when U.S. sanctions were lifted in 2015.
If Trump manages to drive those exports closer to zero, however, Iran’s incentive to abide by the nuclear restrictions will also diminish. At that point, it is unlikely to aggressively expand its nuclear program in a way that would alienate its economic partners or appear to justify a U.S. or Israeli military strike, but it could announce a resumption of some of the banned nuclear activities. If it did so, Trump would have created for himself the same dilemma Obama faced in 2015—either allow Iran to develop a potential nuclear weapons capacity, or destroy it with military strikes. The latter almost certainly would prompt Iranian retaliation throughout the region, including potential Hezbollah missile strikes on Israel, Houthi attacks on Riyadh, and militia attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq —not exactly the more congenial regional policy Trump claims the new sanctions are designed to produce.
Administration officials have been congratulating themselves in recent weeks, already declaring re-imposition of sanctions a success, since investment in Iran has dropped precipitously, Iranian oil exports are down significantly, and the Iranian economy is shaky. But the issue was never whether it was possible for the United States to lead an effort that increased the pain inflicted on Iran. The issue is whether that pain— which unfortunately will hurt the Iranian public long before it hurts the regime—helps achieve U.S. interests. On that score, far from producing a more cooperative Iran, Trump’s sanctions are on track to achieve the exact opposite.

USAF takes control of Syrian skies. Unidentified air strike on Iranian target

DEBKAfile/November 22/18
This new game changer in Syria, revealed here by DEBKAfile, provoked an exceptionally detailed threat from Tehran: “US bases in Afghanistan, the UAE and Qatar, and US aircraft carriers in the Gulf are within range of our missiles,” said Brig. Gen. Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ airspace division, on Wednesday, Nov. 21. “We can hit them if they (Americans) make a move. Our land-to-sea missiles have a range of 700 km (450 miles) … and the US aircraft carriers are our targets.” he said.
Iran’s airspace chief was responding to the abrupt change in the skies over Syria. For the past week, the: US Air Force has kept F-22 stealth planes and F/A 18F Super Hornet fighters flying over Syria around the clock. Gen. Hajizadeh knew exactly where they were coming from – the US Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar and the US Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE. Why he slipped the Kandahar base into his list is a mystery because none of the USAF planes over Syria come from there. The USS Harry Truman Carrier Strike Group is another matter, since some of the US fighter bombers circling over Syria come from its decks. This five-ship strike group reached Syrian waters late last week. They also had cruise missiles aboard.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that these US overflights are taking place without interruption: as one group flies back to base, another takes its place. Their constant presence in Syrian air space has chased all other warplanes, especially those of Russia and Syria, out of the sky. US pilots also report that the S-300 air defense systems, which the Russians began importing to Syria in October, are not operational and are unlikely to be before January. This is what Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon was talking about on Tuesday, Nov. 20, when he said: “Russia’s S-300 air defense systems in Syria have no impact on United States’ operations in the country.” He also aimed a warning at Moscow: “Any additional arms sent into Syria only serves to escalate the situation at this point.”
Is this a window of opportunity?
According to an exclusive report reaching our military sources, unidentified aircraft attacked an Iranian target in Syria on Monday, Nov. 19. This was not a major operation and the target was small. All the same, it was the second attack on an Iranian site in Syria since Israel discontinued its aerial attacks in the second half of September. The first, on Oct. 23, appears to have been carried out by unidentified missiles against the Damascus region. After the air strike, Washington hastened to send out quiet messages that the USAF was not involved. However, so long as the Russian S-300s are non-operational and the US Air Force provides an umbrella, Israel is offered a window of opportunity for resuming its assaults on Iran’s presence in, and arms deliveries, to Syria. There is no knowing how long that window will stay open.