November 28/1
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive for ever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades
Book of Revelation 01/09-20: "I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, ‘Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.’Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive for ever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades. Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 27-28/18
Ukrainian Lawmakers Approve Martial Law as Tensions with Russia Escalate/CNN International/November 27/18
Targeting the Right People for our Advocacy/Badri Meouchi/Executive Magazine/November 27/18
Even a ‘Diplomat’s Diplomat’ Can’t Solve Syria’s Civil War/David Kenner/The Atlantic/November 27/18
The Vulgar Marxism of Middle East Punditry/Steven A. Cook/Foreign Policy/November 27/18
America’s Proxy in Syria/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/November 27/18
Why Is US Economic Growth Under Attack/Michael Strain/Bloomberg//November 27/18
Your Iraq is Najd and Saudi is Iraqi/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/November 27/18
Iran trains squads for terrorizing US forces in Syria. US air/naval buildup for striking back/DEBKAfile/November 27/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 27-28/18
Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home
Established Lebanese lawyers to join Ghosn defense team
Zakka’s Family Urges Lebanon to Treat Him Like Carlos Ghosn
Roads Blocked in Protest at Wahhab’s Anti-Hariri Remarks
France Urges Swift Govt. Formation, Affirms Support for Lebanon
Bassil Meets Berri, Says ‘Just’ Solution Must Be Reached to Form Govt.
Mustaqbal Denounces Hizbullah ‘Hate Campaigns’ against Hariri, Late Father
Report: Adamant Hizbullah Says Hariri Holds Solution to Sunni MPs Obstacle
Merehbi: Syrian Abuses Slow Return of Refugees
Famous Radio One Host Gavin Ford Found Dead
Jumblat Condemns ‘Defamation’ Campaign against Hariri
Samy Gemayel Meets with British Ambassador, Stresses Need for Technocratic Government
Kataeb Party Calls on Top Officials to Seize ‘Historic Opportunity’
LADE Issues Final Report on Parliamentary Elections
Hankache Renews Call for Rescue Government to Face Challenges

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 27-28/18
Netanyahu Says to Visit Chad Soon to Restore Ties
Deby: Alliance With Israel Aims at Fighting Terrorist Activity
Israeli State Prosecution Recommends Charging Netanyahu
Israel Arrests Palestinian Authority Members in East Jerusalem
Israel: Trump to Unveil ‘Deal of the Century’ in 2019
Pompeo, Mattis to Brief US Senators on Saudi as Concerns Mount
Briton Jailed by UAE for Spying Returns to London after Pardon
Turkey Searches Villa of ‘Close’ Saudi Prince Associate
Putin Warns against ‘Reckless’ Moves after Ukraine Declares Martial Law
Iran Vows to Fight Trump’s Israel-Palestinian Deal
Further Russia Sanctions Possible over Ukraine, EU Presidency Says
Macron Acknowledges Protests, but Won’t ‘Change Course’
Three U.S. Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan
Erdogan Warns Greece, Cyprus over ‘Reckless’ Oil, Gas Exploration
After Months Stuck in Malaysia Airport, Syrian Refugee Allowed Entry into Canada
Egypt Blacklists 161 Brotherhood Members as Terrorist
Poroshenko Says Ukraine under Threat of ‘Full-Scale War’ with Russia

Latest Lebanese Related News published on November 27-28.18
Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 27 November, 2018/Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday emphasized the need for Syrian refugees to return to safe areas in their country. Aoun was speaking during a meeting at the Baabda palace with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, in the presence of his accompanying parliamentary delegation. The president said linking the Syrian refugees’ return to their homeland to reaching a political solution in Syria “raises doubts regarding their stay in their host countries,” citing the example of the Palestinian refugees. “Seventy years have passed and the solution of the Palestinian issue has not yet been reached,” he noted. Aoun informed Bracke that Lebanon has asked the international community and the international organizations affiliated to the United Nations to provide assistance to the displaced Syrians after their return, because they are contributing to the reconstruction of their country. In response to a question, Aoun expressed his surprise at “international positions that ignore the need for the return of Syria refugees.” He stressed that Lebanon was witnessing an economic crisis due to accumulating challenges, the impact of the international economic situation and the influx of displaced Syrians. Bracke, for his part, said his country would become a member of the Security Council as of next January, and would contribute to supporting Lebanon’s causes at international platforms. Also on Monday, Speaker Nabih Berri and Bracke signed a three-year extension to 2021 of a partnership protocol between the two countries’ councils, which provides for parliamentary cooperation in sharing expertise in legislation and supervision.

Established Lebanese lawyers to join Ghosn defense team
Georgi Azar/Annahar/November 27/2018/The current president of the Lebanese Bar Association, Andre Chidiac, and its former head, Amal Haddad, will join Ghosn's defense team after certain discrepancies were found in the Japanese state's case.
BEIRUT: An international team of lawyers and legal experts, including established Lebanese attorneys, are set to take on the case of former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, sources told Annahar.
The current president of the Lebanese Bar Association, Andre Chidiac, and its former head, Amal Haddad, will join Ghosn's defense team after certain discrepancies were found in the Japanese state's case. The team also includes Japan's former head of the special investigations department of Tokyo Prosecutors’ Office, Motonari Otsuru, who during his time of public service, was tasked with investigating crimes of this nature. Ghosn is accused of falsifying securities reports and underreporting his earnings by Japanese authorities, which led him to be dismissed by both Nissan and Mitsubishi. Ghosn has up to this point retained his position as Renault CEO and chairman, with the French automobile giant being the largest Nissan shareholder. The French government also owns 15 percent of Renault. Thus far, French authorities have yet to condemn Ghosn, awaiting further concrete evidence turning these allegations into facts.

Zakka's Family Urges Lebanon to Treat Him Like Carlos Ghosn
Naharnet/November 27/18/The family of Nizar Zakka -- a Lebanese citizen and U.S. green card holder who has been detained in Iran since 2015 -- has called on the Lebanese state to give his case the same attention it has given to Carlos Ghosn’s arrest in Japan. “As we value the speed in which the Lebanese state, represented by the Foreign Ministry, has acted in to follow up on Mr. Carlos Ghosn’s case, out of its duty towards its citizens whether they are Lebanese or of Lebanese origin, we reiterate our call for this political-diplomatic drive to involve the case of our son Nizar, who is arbitrarily detained in Iran,” the family said in a statement. “Three long years of oppression, torture and official negligence towards his just cause have passed -- years that have caused deep wounds to him and his family,” the family lamented. “We are eagerly waiting for the protective shield that has been offered to Mr. Ghosn to be extended over Nizar, which would allow for his quick release and return to his family,” the family added. Zakka has been detained in Iran since 2015 over spying allegations. He was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine.
Zakka, who lived in Washington and held resident status in the U.S., was the leader of the Arab ICT Organization, or IJMA3, an industry consortium from 13 countries that advocates for information technology in the region. Zakka disappeared Sept. 18, 2015, during his fifth trip to Iran. He had been invited to attend a conference at which President Hassan Rouhani spoke of providing more economic opportunities for women and sustainable development.
On Nov. 3, Iranian state television aired a report saying he was in custody and calling him a spy with "deep links" with U.S. intelligence services. It also showed what it described as a damning photo of Zakka and three other men in army-style uniforms, two with flags and two with rifles on their shoulders. But that turned out to be from a homecoming event at Zakka's prep school, the Riverside Military Academy in Georgia, according to the school's president.
Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Sunday instructed Lebanese Ambassador to Japan Nidal Yahia to offer assistance to Carlos Ghosn, the chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, after he was arrested for alleged financial misconduct. Ghosn, 64, was born in Brazil of Lebanese descent, and educated at elite colleges in France, where he started in industry at tiremaker Michelin. He has maintained his ties with Lebanon, where he has invested in a winery.

Roads Blocked in Protest at Wahhab's Anti-Hariri Remarks
Naharnet/November 27/18/Several roads were blocked Tuesday evening in the capital Beirut in protest at remarks voiced by ex-minister Wiam Wahhab against Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. The Traffic Management Center said protesters blocked the road between Qasqas and the airport, the Sports City road near Tariq al-Jedideh, the nearby Cola roundabout and the vital Corniche al-Mazraa highway. The coastal highway between Beirut and the South had witnessed similar protests overnight. Al-Mustaqbal Movement’s leadership meanwhile issued a statement urging “members and citizens in the capital and all regions to refrain from any negative reactions such as road blocking and tire burning.”Urging them to “abide by the law, cooperate with the competent authorities and not to heed calls that could harm stability,” the leadership asked al-Mustaqbal’s regional departments to “address any violation on the ground in order to preserve the safety of citizens’ movement.”Wahhab has lashed out repeatedly at Hariri in recent days against the backdrop of the ongoing spat over the formation of the new government. “Had his father not been the martyr premier (Rafik Hariri), no one would have even appointed him as a building janitor,” Wahhab tweeted. Hizbullah MPs Hassan Fadlallah and Al-Walid Sukkariyeh have also hit out at Hariri in recent days.

France Urges Swift Govt. Formation, Affirms Support for Lebanon
Naharnet/November 27/18/French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday stressed France’s support for Lebanon, and urged President Michel Aoun to speed up the formation of the government in order to initiate the necessary reforms, the Lebanese Presidency said on Twitter. “France is committed to the implementation of international conferences for Lebanon. The formation of a national unity government must be expedited in order to initiate the necessary reforms,” said Macron in a message congratulating Aoun on the occasion of Independence Day. Macron emphasized France’s continued support saying: “Lebanon can always count on France’s backing to face the challenges it is facing.”

Bassil Meets Berri, Says ‘Just' Solution Must Be Reached to Form Govt.

Naharnet/November 27/18/Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Tuesday held government talks with Speaker Nabih Berri at Ain el-Tineh, and assured in statements after that a government can only be formed through “mutual acceptance” between political parties. “A government can only be formed through mutual acceptance. It can not be formed through imposition or rejection,” Bassil told reporters after the meeting, noting he made “three suggestions” that could help ease the so-called Independent Sunni MPs representation hurdle. “I don’t believe there is an internal decision by any of the domestic parties to hamper the formation. A political will is available to form a government,” he added. “It is necessary to form a productive government not based on provocations. In order to achieve this, a number of principles must be taken into consideration. Berri and I have discussed three suggestions in order to help solve the obstacle,” the Free Patriotic Movement chief stated without elaborating on the ideas he presented the Speaker with. The new government was on the verge of formation on October 29 after the Lebanese Forces accepted the portfolios that were assigned to it but a last-minute hurdle over the representation of the pro-Hizbullah Sunni MPs surfaced. Hizbullah has insisted that the six Sunni MPs should be given a seat in the government, refraining from providing Hariri with the names of its three Shiite ministers in a bid to press him.

Mustaqbal Denounces Hizbullah ‘Hate Campaigns’ against Hariri, Late Father
Naharnet/November 27/18/Al-Mustaqbal Movement denounced on Tuesday Hizbullah-launched “hate campaigns” targeting Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and his late father ex-PM Rafik Hariri. “Evidently Hizbullah has ordered its deputies and allies to launch campaigns against Hariri and his late father. This campaign will lead nowhere but complicate things further,” an unnamed senior Mustaqbal source said. Replying to accusations made MP Walid Sukkarieh, of the pro-Hizbullah Consultative Gathering deputies demanding representation in the government, the source said: “Why demand representation in a government which Sukkarieh and the March 8 deputies accused of working for an Israeli-American axis.”Sukkarieh has claimed that “financial collapse started the moment (late) Hariri assumed power,” and accused the Premier of “fighting for the victory of the American-Israeli project in the region.”For his part, Hizbullah MP Hassan Fadlallah lashed out at late Premier Rafik Hariri --assassinated in a massive explosion in Beirut in 2005-- claiming “the approach of Hariri back in 1992 has destroyed Lebanon’s economy and finance.”Former Minister Wiam Wahhab, of the March 8 camp, hurled insulting remarks against the Premier and his close associates and security staff, which drew the ire of Mustaqbal supporters. The Mustaqbal source urged Hizbullah to “watch the tongue of its allies,” assuring that such campaigns will not make Hariri withdraw from his mission. “If they plan to lure Hariri into withdrawal, I assure them it will not happen,” he concluded. The new government was on the verge of formation on October 29 after the Lebanese Forces accepted the portfolios that were assigned to it but a last-minute hurdle over the representation of the pro-Hizbullah Sunni MPs surfaced. The MPs are: MP Abdel-Rahim Mrad, Adnan Traboulsi, Qassem Hashem (Amal Movement parliamentary bloc) Walid Sukkarieh (Hizbullah parliamentary bloc), Jihad al-Samad and Faisal Karami belong to a bloc that includes the Marada Movement. Hizbullah has insisted that the six Sunni MPs should be given a seat in the government, refraining from providing Hariri with the names of its three Shiite ministers in a bid to press him.

Report: Adamant Hizbullah Says Hariri Holds Solution to Sunni MPs Obstacle
/Naharnet/November 27/18/Hizbullah has expressed adamant positions on Tuesday that easing the Sunni MPs obstacle delaying the government formation lies with "no one else" than Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday. Unnamed senior Hizbullah sources told the daily: “The solution is strictly in the PM-designate’s hands and no one else. We have already told everyone without exception that we are not the party concerned to resolve the representation issue of the Consultative Gathering deputies. We are the most loyal to our allies and will not back down at all.”
On Hariri’s insistence not to make further concessions in favor of said MPs representation, the sources stressed they won’t back down. “We have waited for two years and a half for President Michel Aoun to be elected. We won’t back down on representing the Consultative Gathering deputies, but will wait for the therapeutic initiatives to come from the Premier. We will wait for it,” they said. The sources confidently emphasized saying “these MPs will eventually be represented in the government despite the uproar.”

Merehbi: Syrian Abuses Slow Return of Refugees
Associated Press/Naharnet/November 27/18/A Lebanese minister says some Syrian refugees who have returned home from Lebanon have been killed, detained or forced to join the military, leading to a slowdown in the return of Syrians residing in Lebanon. Caretaker Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Mouein al-Merehbi told The Associated Press Tuesday that so far about 12,000 Syrian refugees have returned home since June. That is a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands who fled to Lebanon to escape the civil war, which began in 2011. Merehbi said that at the height of the war the number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon reached 1.2 million, adding that the number now is about 940,000, after some returned to Syria or were resettled in other countries.

Famous Radio One Host Gavin Ford Found Dead

Naharnet/November 27/18/Radio One Lebanon’s renowned host Gavin Ford was found dead Tuesday inside his apartment in Beit Mery.Citing preliminary investigation revelations, LBCI television said the British radio host was “murdered.”“Ford was strangulated before being dealt a blow to the head, which resulted in his death,” the TV network said. Radio One mourned its celebrated host on Twitter. “We are heartbroken to announce the passing of our dear Gavin Ford, a member of our team for many joyful years,” it said. “We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues all over the world. Rest In Peace Gavin,” the radio network added. Tributes have started pouring in on social media for Ford, who had been one of Lebanon's most loved radio hosts for years. Should the suspected murder be confirmed, Ford would be the second British national to be killed in Lebanon within less than a year. British embassy employee Rebecca Dykes was killed by an Uber driver on December 16, 2017. A Lebanese investigative judge on February 8 demanded the death penalty for the driver, accusing him of raping Dykes before strangling her with a rope.

Jumblat Condemns 'Defamation' Campaign against Hariri
Naharnet/November 27/18/Progressive Socialist Party ex-MP Walid Jumblat on Tuesday condemned what he described as a “defamation” campaign against Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. “Our partner in the country is like a robot. He has no feelings and unfortunately no appreciation of anything, even if the matter leads to economic deterioration. At least this is how things look,” Jumblat tweeted, in an apparent reference to the Hizbullah-led camp. Noting that the Lebanese situation is being “linked” to the political developments in Iraq and Syria, Jumblat reiterated his call for a “settlement” and emphasized that the formation of a new government is a “priority.”He also deplored “defamation against Sheikh Saad Hariri.”Two Hizbullah MPs and a pro-Hizbullah ex-minister have launched blistering verbal attacks against Hariri in recent days. Their criticism has also targeted ex-PM Rafik Hariri’s economic policies. The new government was on the verge of formation on October 29 after the Lebanese Forces accepted the portfolios that were assigned to it but a last-minute hurdle over the representation of pro-Hizbullah Sunni MPs surfaced. Hizbullah has insisted that the six Sunni MPs should be given a seat in the government, refraining from providing Hariri with the names of its three Shiite ministers in a bid to press him. Hariri has rejected the demand, announcing that he’d rather step down than give the aforementioned lawmakers a seat from his own share in the government.

Samy Gemayel Meets with British Ambassador, Stresses Need for Technocratic Government 27th November 2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Tuesday reiterated the need to form a government of specialists to pull the country out of the spiral of hardships it is whirling into and to spare the Lebanese further deterioration, urging both President Michel Aoun and PM-Designate Saad Hariri to shoulder their responsibility towards the country and take this proposal seriously. During his meeting with British Ambassador Chris Rampling at the Kataeb's headquarters in Saifi, Gemayel wished the newly-appointed diplomat good luck on his new mission in Lebanon, praising the UK's continuous support to the Lebanese army, especially the aid it had offered for the military to consolidate its control over the border with Syria. “We expressed our concern over the deteriorating economic and living conditions in Lebanon following the unemployment rate has surged to 40% amid a sense of irresponsibility while the country is sinking,” Gemayel said.

Kataeb Party Calls on Top Officials to Seize 'Historic Opportunity' 27th November 2018/The Lebanese Kataeb party on Monday said that President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-Designate Saad Hariri have a "historic opportunity" to rescue Lebanon, urging both officials to make a structural change by revolting against the political performance that is currently controlling the country. "The prevailing political performance is now jeopardizing the State and the entity after its catastrophic repercussions have reached the level of a complete collapse for which the citizens are paying the price through their social and livelihood security, and the nation through its independence, sovereignty and stability," the Kataeb's politburo said in a statement issued following its weekly meeting. The Kataeb party called on Hezbollah to take a bold decision to put itself under the authority of the Constitution and the laws amid the pivotal and decisive phase that Lebanon is going through, asking it to work hand in hand with other local forces to build together a free, sovereign and stable country. "The Kataeb party, which has engaged in revolutions against all forms of mandate, occupation and tutelage since Lebanon's independence, is today in a state of uprising against the deplorable condition that the country has reached due to the constant and systematic deferral of the state building and the confiscation of its decision-making power," the statement stressed.

LADE Issues Final Report on Parliamentary Elections 27th November 2018/Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) on Tuesday released its final report in which it evaluated the parliamentary elections that were held on May 6, 2018. According to LADE's report, the 2018 polls were not democratic for many reasons, such as controlled electors’ voting decision that was chained by vote-buying and clientelism. It also deemed the electoral law as unfair for electors and candidates alike, adding that it failed to secure fair representation, raised the bar on spending, and deprived the Army personnel and youths between 18 and 21 from casting their votes. The report also described the management of the elections as biased and impartial, criticizing the fact that the polls were run by 17 ministers who were also candidates. LADE, founded in 1996, is a civil, independent and nonprofit organization specialized in elections and how closely they are linked to democracy. The association is concerned with monitoring the elections in their different forms as well as studying the electoral systems and laws according to the international democratic electoral standards, especially standards that guarantee free, fair and transparent elections.

Hankache Renews Call for Rescue Government to Face Challenges

Naharnet/November 27/18/Kataeb MP Elias Hankache on Tuesday renewed his call for a rescue government that would include specialists who can address the manifold challenges facing the country. “An economic collapse is looming, the market stagnation is fatal, the recession is dangerous, poverty is rampant, etc …” Hankache wrote on Twitter. “Enough making up new terms to describe the problem, enough diagnosing the problem, enough evading austerity, and enough being careless towards the future. Move to finding a solution which starts with the formation of a rescue government of experts."

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 27-28/18
Netanyahu Says to Visit Chad Soon to Restore Ties
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 27/18/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he will travel to Chad soon to announce the reestablishment of diplomatic ties after a first-ever visit by the central African nation's president. Netanyahu held a second meeting with Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno on Tuesday before his departure. The two leaders held a first meeting after Deby's arrival on Sunday and security issues were expected to be high on the agenda. A statement from Netanyahu's office said he will travel to Chad soon and make a joint announcement with Deby on the resumption of diplomatic relations after a decades-long rupture. It did not specify a date. "The leaders discussed common threats and the fight against terrorism, as well as increasing bilateral cooperation" in areas including agriculture, counter-terrorism, technology, solar energy, water and health, the statement said. Both leaders called the visit "historic" as they met in Jerusalem on Sunday, with Netanyahu's office describing the trip by the leader of the Muslim-majority nation as the result of hard-won diplomatic efforts. The two leaders have declined to comment on whether their talks have included arms deals. Chadian security sources say the country has acquired Israeli equipment to help battle rebels in the country's north. Chad is also one of several African states engaged in Western-backed operations against Boko Haram and Islamic State group jihadists. Pressure from Muslim African nations, accentuated by the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, led a number of African states to sever relations with the Jewish state. But in recent years, Israel has held out the prospect of cooperation in fields ranging from security to technology to agriculture, to improve ties on the continent. Diplomatic relations between Israel and Chad, a country of some 15 million people, were severed in 1972. Deby is one of Africa's longest-serving leaders. He took over the arid, impoverished nation in 1990 and won a disputed fifth term in April 2016.

Deby: Alliance With Israel Aims at Fighting Terrorist Activity
Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 27 November, 2018/During his official meeting on Sunday to mediate to improve Israel’s relations with African countries, including Sudan, to enable Israeli aviation to use African routes. Deby expressed his optimism that these countries would respond to Israel’s demand to activate a direct flight line, from Latin America to Tel Aviv through African airspace, which would shorten the flight by three hours. In parallel, he said that the growing terrorist activity in the Middle East “is pushing for an alliance between the Arab countries that are exposed to terrorism and Israel.”Deby arrived in Tel Aviv on Sunday for a first official visit by a senior Chadian official to the country in 46 years. In a joint press conference following their meeting, Netanyahu said that the bilateral talks dealt with the “changes that have taken place in the Arab world’s dealings with Israel, which were translated into my visit to Oman, which will be followed by other visits close to Arab countries very soon.”He continued: “Chad is an important African country for Israel. In the past two years, I have been in Africa three times, in the East and the West. I hope to get to the center of Africa with you and bring with me Israeli businessmen and large companies, to make every effort to improve the living conditions” in the continent. Deby, for his part, said: “The current visit reflects our intention to pursue the contacts that were underway behind the scenes. We want to enter into a new era of cooperation and renewal of diplomatic relations.”Commenting on the Palestinian Cause, he noted: “Of course, our diplomatic relations, which I personally welcome, are not something that will ignore or conceal the Palestinian cause; I myself have declared at the United Nations on more than one occasion my country’s desire to reach a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. We believe that this peace must reflect the principles of the Security Council, the Arab League and the Madrid principles, in addition to the bilateral agreements between the two parties.”

Israeli State Prosecution Recommends Charging Netanyahu
Tel Aviv – Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 27 November, 2018/After two months of studying police recommendations, Israel’s state prosecutor appointed to oversee and review the corruption allegations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Liat Ben Ari, has reportedly recommended the premier be charged in at least one of three cases against him. Ben Ari presented her final recommendations in Cases 1000 and 2000 to State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan. In Case 1000, the prime minister is suspected of receiving benefits from billionaire benefactors including Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in exchange for assistance on various issues. Ben Ari maintained there was sufficient evidence to lodge an indictment, and her recommendations will now be reviewed by Nitzan, who will then present a final recommendation to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, before the latter decides whether to press charges against the prime minister. This recommendation is considered a major step forward in the trial of Netanyahu, given that Ben Ari is the official most familiar with this case and it is not possible for the General Prosecutor to take a different approach to her recommendations. Mandelblit has already announced, however, that a final decision on indictments in the two cases will only be made together with the findings of another ongoing investigation, Case 4000. In Case 4000, also known as Bezeq-Walla, Netanyahu is suspected of pushing for regulations that benefited Shaul Elovitch, owner of Wala news site and Bezeq, country’s largest telecommunications firm. Walla is suspected of providing advertisements and positive coverage for the PM. Sources estimate that the transfer of investigation material to the Public Prosecution will lead to indictments against Netanyahu during the first third of next year, unless there were any surprising changes. They confirmed that police recommendations indicate that investigators are seriously convinced there is solid evidence against Netanyahu that he committed a bribery violation in Cases 1000 and 2000. This is a serious offense that means stigmatizing him which could ban him from assuming high government responsibilities. However, if there is any doubt about this assessment, Case 4000 contains more serious accusations and solid evidence, which means that Netanyahu’s close adviser will not be able, even if he wanted, to save the premier from an indictment. With regard to Case 4000, Netanyahu’s former adviser, Nir Hefetz, had signed the state’s witness agreement which led to additional evidence against the PM in the three cases. Sources close to Mandelblit revealed that he wants to treat the three cases as one, in order to delay the indictment, which would allow Netanyahu to gain more time and run for another election. However, police and prosecution’s fast recommendations in the cases will prompt him to accelerate the verdict, especially that the press is directly charging him of conspiring to save Netanyahu. Netanyahu has maintained he did nothing wrong claiming on numerous occasions that "there will be nothing, because there is nothing" and recently announced that “Case 4000 has collapsed.”

Israel Arrests Palestinian Authority Members in East Jerusalem
Ramallah – Kifah Zboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 27 November, 2018/Israel escalated its open war against the Palestinian official presence in East Jerusalem, arresting on Monday 32 people belonging to the Palestinian Authority security services and the Fatah movement.
The unprecedented wave of arrests came just a day after the detention of Jerusalem Governor Adnan Ghaith, the highest-ranking Palestinian official and President Mahmoud Abbas’ representative in the city. Israeli police said it had arrested persons “suspected of” recruiting staff and working for the Palestinian security services. Israeli forces raided many houses in Jerusalem in the largest-ever campaign against the PA. They arrested young men and published pictures of Palestinian security services membership cards, uniforms and other various equipment. Israel has threatened that it would deal “firmly with residents and Israeli citizens acting on behalf of the Palestinian Authority” and what it described as “other terrorist organizations.” It added that such acts “violate the law and harm the sovereignty and security of the State of Israel.”Israeli authorities prevent any official action by the PA in Jerusalem as a unified capital city of Israel. Thus, sovereignty over the city is Israeli, but the Authority regards the city as the capital of the future Palestinian state. Spokesman of the Palestinian security forces, Maj. Gen. Adnan Al-Dumeiri, said that the wave of arrests would “not prevent the people in general and Jerusalemites in particular from performing their national, moral and humanitarian duties.”The recent measures by the Israeli security are believed to be linked to recent investigations by Palestinians and the arrest of a resident of East Jerusalem on suspicion that he facilitated the selling of land to Jews. The man was transferred to the Palestinian general intelligence prison. Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported that the detention of Israeli citizen Issam Aqel constituted a danger to the security of the state and that Israeli actions against the PA were aimed at forcing the Palestinians to release him.

Israel: Trump to Unveil ‘Deal of the Century’ in 2019
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 27 November, 2018/Israel announced on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump will unveil his so-called “Deal of the Century” peace plan on the Middle East in 2019. "As far as we know, they speak with us about beginning of '19, which is coming soon," Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said. "We don't know the details of the plan but we know that it's completed,” he told reporters. The ambassador said early next year was considered the best timing because it will be several months before expected elections in Israel.A rollout of the peace plan in early 2019 will allow Trump to "present it without interfering in our political debate in Israel," he said. Israel will come to the negotiating table to discuss the plan, Danon said, but the Palestinians will try to block it. US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said in a statement on Monday it would be shared “at the appropriate time,” adding that: “Our timing, our strategy and our messaging is and will be entirely our own.”The Palestinians have severed ties with the Trump administration after his December decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and declare the city Israel's capital. The US administration has also cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid. The Palestinians see the city as the capital of their future state. International consensus has been that Jerusalem's status must be negotiated between the two sides. At the annual UNs gathering of world leaders in September, Trump said in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he wanted to unveil a peace plan over the next two to three months. Danon said he did not know if the two-state solution was included in the US plan. Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and lawyer Jason Greenblatt, who have led efforts to draft the plan, traveled to the region several times for talks on the proposals. Greenblatt said in an October interview with the Times of Israel news site that the plan would "be heavily focused on Israeli security needs" while remaining "fair to the Palestinians".

Pompeo, Mattis to Brief US Senators on Saudi as Concerns Mount
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 27/18/Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Pentagon chief Jim Mattis will brief US senators Wednesday on developments related to Saudi Arabia, amid mounting bipartisan concern about the kingdom, a senior Republican lawmaker said Monday. President Donald Trump's emphatic support of Riyadh in recent weeks has rankled some Republicans. And the continuing brutal Saudi-led war in neighboring Yemen, which has caused an urgent humanitarian crisis, has also triggered concern. Bob Corker, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Trump critic, told reporters that Pompeo and Mattis would brief the full Senate at 11:00 am (1600 GMT) in a closed-door session. Corker said he also hoped Central Intelligence Agency director Gina Haspel would attend. Trump last week called Saudi Arabia a "steadfast partner" and said it was unclear whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was aware of the plan to kill Jamal Khashoggi, who Riyadh has acknowledged died inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate. Trump has also cast doubt on the CIA's reported conclusion that the crown prince, also known as MBS, was behind the killing. With tensions high over Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Corker said it was crucial to "hear from the administration as to where this is going."The scheduled briefing comes as liberal Senator Bernie Sanders moves to re-introduce a resolution, as early as this week, to end US participation in the Yemen war, months after his initial effort fell short. Corker signaled it could have broader backing this time. "I have a pretty good gauge on how people feel about Saudi Arabia right now, and I'd say we're in a very, very different place than when we kept this from happening" in March, Corker said. "I'm considering what the options are to make sure that we deal appropriately with Saudi Arabia on multiple issues right now."Republican Senator Marco Rubio also expressed concern, saying he had supported US involvement in the war as a check on Iran's influence and because he believed American technology sold to Saudi Arabia would help avoid the killing of civilians. "Unfortunately, that hasn't played out that way," Rubio said. Some US lawmakers have called for a strong US response to Khashoggi's murder, including blocking arms sales and imposing sanctions beyond those that Washington slapped on 17 Saudis allegedly involved in the killing. "If the President does not reconsider what actions our government should take toward the Saudi Government & MbS, Congress must act instead," Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, tweeted on Sunday.

Briton Jailed by UAE for Spying Returns to London after Pardon
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 27/18/British academic Matthew Hedges returned to London on Tuesday, his family said, a day after the UAE pardoned his life sentence for spying in a case he described as "very surreal". "After almost seven months of detention, including six months in solitary confinement, British PhD researcher Matthew Hedges has returned safely back to London," his family said in a statement. Concluding an ordeal which stunned Britain, he was welcomed back to Britain by his wife Daniela Tejada and other members of his family. "I don't know where to begin with thanking people for securing my release," Hedges said in the statement. "I have not seen or read much of what has been written over the past few days but Dani tells me the support has been incredible." He thanked the British embassy in the United Arab Emirates, the Foreign Office and especially his wife for their efforts in securing his release. "She is so brave and strong. Seeing her and my family after this ordeal is the best thing that could have happened," Hedges said. "I thank you all once again. This is very surreal." Britain thanked its Gulf ally after he was among more than 700 prisoners pardoned by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan for next month's National Day. The UAE showed footage at a news conference in the capital Abu Dhabi in which Hedges purportedly confessed to being an MI6 foreign intelligence agent. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed gratitude to the oil-rich state, which London considers a strategic Middle East ally and supplies with arms. "I am so happy to have my Matt home," Tejada said on Tuesday. "We are overjoyed and exhausted! "Matt and I, as well as his family, really need some time to process everything that we have been through. "No one should ever have to go through what he did and it will take him time to heal and recover. He is very overwhelmed. To say we are happy is an understatement." Hedges, a 31-year-old researcher at Durham University, was detained while researching the UAE's foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011. He was arrested on May 5 at Dubai airport. He was sentenced to life in jail by a court in Abu Dhabi last week after he was convicted of spying for a foreign country. UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said the pardon allowed the two countries to refocus on developing relations.

Turkey Searches Villa of 'Close' Saudi Prince Associate

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 27/18/One of the villas searched by Turkish police for the remains of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi belonged to a friend of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, reports said Tuesday. Crime scene investigators using sniffer dogs and drones searched the Saudi businessman's residence and an adjacent villa during a 10-hour probe on Monday in the northwestern province of Yalova, Hurriyet daily reported. Officers inspected three wells in the villas' gardens, Hurriyet said, while DHA news agency reported there were claims the buildings were illegal. The villa belongs to Mohammed Ahmed al-Fawzan after he bought the land on which it is built on in 2014, the news agency reported.Hurriyet described Fawzan as a "close friend" of Prince Mohammed. In a video shared on the daily's website, large portraits of the crown prince and King Salman could be seen hanging on a wall inside the villa. The second villa belonged to a business named Omary Tourism Gida, DHA agency reported. Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post, was strangled and dismembered by a team of 15 Saudi officials after he went into Riyadh's Istanbul consulate on October 2.
Khashoggi's body has not been found although police have searched the consulate, the consul general's residence and a forest in Istanbul. There have been reports that Khashoggi's body was cut up and dissolved in acid. Pro-government media has said acid traces had been found in the consulate's drains. The Istanbul public prosecutor in charge of the investigation said on Monday that one of the Saudi suspects, Mansour Othman M. Abahussain, spoke to Fawzan on the phone a day before Khashoggi's killing. Fawzan was not in Turkey at the time but the prosecutor believed the phone call was intended to find a way to remove or hide Khashoggi's body after its dismemberment. Turkish officials have not said Fawzan is in any way linked to the murder and have not released any information about what, if anything, was found at the two villas. After weeks of denial, Riyadh admitted Khashoggi, 59, was killed in what it described as a rogue operation, denying claims the crown prince ordered his death. A former insider turned dissident, Khashoggi had written critical editorials of the kingdom and once compared the crown prince to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the murder was ordered by the highest levels of the Saudi government but insisted King Salman was not to blame.

Putin Warns against 'Reckless' Moves after Ukraine Declares Martial Law

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 27/18/Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine against any "reckless acts" on Tuesday after Kiev declared martial law in response to Moscow's seizure of three of its navy vessels. The Ukrainian parliament late on Monday voted in favour of President Petro Poroshenko's request for the introduction of martial law in parts of the country for 30 days. The decision came as Ukraine and Russia face their most dangerous crisis in years after Russian forces fired on, boarded and captured Kiev's ships on Sunday off the coast of Crimea. The incident was the first major confrontation at sea in the long-running conflict pitting Ukraine against Moscow and Russian-backed separatists in the country's east. It has raised fears of a wider escalation -- in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014 -- and prompted international calls for restraint and offers of mediation. Martial law gives Ukrainian authorities the power to mobilise citizens with military experience, regulate the media and restrict public rallies in affected areas. Moscow has accused Kiev of planning Sunday's confrontation as a provocation aimed at drumming up support for Poroshenko ahead of elections next year and convincing Western governments to impose further sanctions on Russia. In a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin expressed "serious concern" over the introduction of martial law, the Kremlin said in a statement. Putin said Kiev's actions were "clearly taken in view of the election campaign in Ukraine".He said he hoped Berlin could intervene with Ukrainian authorities "to dissuade them from further reckless acts". Dramatic television footage -Sunday's incident has been playing out on Russian and Ukrainian television screens, with dramatic footage of Russian ships chasing down a Ukrainian tugboat that was trying to pass through the Kerch Strait from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov. Ukraine has accused Russian border patrol vessels of ramming the tugboat, which was accompanied by two small warships, and of firing on the Ukrainian vessels. Russia's FSB security service, which oversees border forces, confirmed weapons had been fired and the vessels seized, but accused Ukrainian ships of crossing illegally into Russian waters and of ignoring warnings. Tensions have been building for months over the Kerch Strait, especially after Russia built a new bridge across the waterway that gives it a land connection to Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014. Moscow has so far resisted calls to release the three ships or the 24 sailors it has detained, suggesting they could face criminal action. In a move sure to further anger Kiev, Russian state television late on Monday aired footage of some of the captured sailors being questioned by Moscow's security services. One of the sailors is heard saying "the actions of the Ukrainian armed vessels in the Kerch Strait had a provocatory character" -- parroting the version of events put forward by Russian authorities. Western governments have rallied behind Kiev in the dispute, accusing Russia of illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov and of taking military action without justification. Kiev urged the United States and European Union to impose more sanctions on Russia over the latest incident. Britain, Canada, France, Germany and others expressed support for Kiev on Monday, with EU President Donald Tusk calling for Russia to return the Ukrainian sailors and ships and "refrain from further provocations". The United Nations Security Council met in an emergency session on the crisis on Monday, where US envoy Nikki Haley called the seizure of the ships an "outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory" and slammed "yet another reckless Russian escalation". She did not, however, threaten further sanctions on Russia and President Donald Trump suggested it was up to European governments to handle the crisis. "We don't like what's happening and hopefully it will get straightened out. I know Europe is not -- they are not thrilled. They're working on it too. We're all working on it together," Trump told reporters at the White House.

Iran Vows to Fight Trump's Israel-Palestinian Deal
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 27/18/Iran is determined to fight against U.S. Donald Trump's anticipated Israel-Palestinian peace plan, parliament speaker Ali Larijani said Tuesday according to semi-official news agency ISNA. Trump has dubbed his administration's long-awaited plan the "ultimate deal", which has already unsettled the Palestinians although no details have yet been disclosed. Speaking in Tehran, Larijani said the "deal of the century" was a "plot" between Iran's arch foe Israel and the United States to establish Israel's domination in the Middle East. "We will stand against the regime of Israel and won't let this deal take place in the region," Larijani said at an annual conference on Islamic unity. "If Americans are imposing sanctions on Iran today and are putting pressure on Iran, the reason for it is because Iran has stood against Israel," he added, quoted by ISNA. Earlier this year, Washington pulled out of the landmark international nuclear accord with Iran and reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran. "In order to achieve their objective they try to create new political arrangements in the region," Larijani said of U.S.-Israeli strategy in the Middle East.
The parliament speaker also singled out regional rival Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as he warned countries against normalizing relations with Israel. Countries in the region "should know that they would not benefit at all by letting (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu to their countries,", Larijani said. "People in the region, in any country, regard Israel as a cancerous tumor and hate it," he added. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman earlier this year reaffirmed his country's "steadfast" support for the Palestinian cause, after coming under fire for saying both Israelis and Palestinians "have the right to have their own land." Israel has diplomatic relations with just two Arab states -- Egypt and Jordan -- but Netanyahu has been pushing for broader regional ties. The Israeli premier traveled to Oman in October, while two of his ministers visited the UAE.

Further Russia Sanctions Possible over Ukraine, EU Presidency Says
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 27/18/The European Union will next month consider further sanctions against Russia over the latest flare-up in the Ukraine conflict, the foreign minister of Austria, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said Tuesday. "On the issue of further sanctions, time will tell -- we have a summit in December," Karin Kneissl told reporters after talks with her German counterpart Heiko Maas. "Everything depends on the accounts of events and the actions of both sides. But it will need to be reviewed."Kneissl said it was "one side's account versus the other's" in the latest tensions, in which Kiev declared martial law in response to Moscow's seizure of three of its navy vessels. Thus the facts would need to be studied before conclusions could be drawn, she said. Maas said the latest escalation showed "that the annexation of Crimea... is also a problem for the security of us all in Europe". He repeated Berlin's call for Russia to release the seized ships and sailors "as soon as possible". "Both sides must now do their part for deescalation," he added. The United States and EU have already imposed sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict. Ukraine's Western allies have accused Russia of using force without justification in the naval confrontation, while Kiev urged its partners to impose further sanctions on Moscow.

Macron Acknowledges Protests, but Won't 'Change Course'

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 27/18/French President Emmanuel Macron sought to take the heat out of mass anti-government protests over taxes on Tuesday, saying he had heard the anger but would not change course. The 40-year-old centrist acknowledged that many struggling households felt penalized by an increase in fuel taxes this year, the spark for road blockades and demonstrations over the past 10 days. He offered minor concessions, saying he would propose a mechanism to adjust tax hikes when they occurred at the same time as an increase in oil prices internationally -- as they have this year. And he called for a three-month national consultation to draw up a roadmap for accelerating the country's transition away from fossil fuels -- which he insisted remained his overall objective. "What I've taken from these last few days is that we shouldn't change course because it is the right one and necessary," he told lawmakers at the Elysee palace in Paris. In an hour-long speech, Macron repeated several times that he had understood the anger expressed by hundreds of thousands of people who have taken to the streets in high-visibility yellow jackets. He conceded that many French people felt that taxes were "imposed from above" and promised to accelerate the work of the government to lighten the load for working families and cut public spending. One of the most frequent complaints from the so-called "yellow vests" is Macron's perceived elitism, as well as his pro-business policies since taking office in May last year."I have seen like many French people the difficulties for people who have to drive a lot and have problems making ends meet at the end of the month," he said. "I believe very profoundly that we can transform this anger into the solution."
Nuclear plans
Macron also used the speech on France's energy transition -- an address scheduled before the protests began -- to announce a program for closing nuclear reactors. France will shut down 14 of the country's 58 nuclear reactors currently in operation by 2035, with between four and six closed by 2030, he announced. The total includes the previously announced shutdown of France's two oldest reactors in Fessenheim, eastern France, which Macron said was now set for summer 2020. He also announced that France would close its remaining four coal-fired power plants as part of France's anti-pollution efforts by 2022. France relies on nuclear power for nearly 72 percent of its electricity needs. The government wants to reduce this to 50 percent by 2030 or 2035 by developing more renewable energy sources. Macron said he would ask French electricity giant EDF to study the feasibility of more next-generation EPR reactors, but will wait until 2021 before deciding whether to proceed with construction. EDF has been building the first EPR reactor at Flamanville along the Atlantic coast of northwest France. It was originally set to go online in 2012 but the project has been plagued by technical problems and budget overruns.

Three U.S. Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 27/18/Three US soldiers were killed and three wounded by a bomb in Afghanistan Tuesday, NATO said, taking the number of American service personnel to die in the war-torn country this year to 12.
NATO's Resolute Support mission would not immediately release any details about the soldiers, but said they had been killed when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near Ghazni city in central Afghanistan. An American contractor was also wounded, it said, adding that the four injured in the blast were receiving medical care. The casualties come just days after another U.S. soldier was killed in Afghanistan's Nimroz province on Saturday. An initial review showed the soldier was "likely accidentally shot by our Afghan partner force", a NATO statement said Tuesday, adding that the "tragic" incident occurred as they engaged in a battle with al Qaida militants. "There are no indications he was shot intentionally," the statement added, naming the soldier as Sgt Jasso without giving a first name. General Scott Miller, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said Jasso was killed "defending our nation, fighting al Qaida alongside our Afghan partners." Jasso's death follows a spate of so-called "insider attacks" that have rattled foreign troops tasked with training and assisting Afghanistan's military. More than 2,200 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban regime from power. The number of American casualties has fallen dramatically since the end of 2014 when Afghan forces took over from U.S.-led NATO combat troops to secure the country. Since the start of 2015, 58 Americans have been killed, President Ashraf Ghani said earlier this month. In the same time period, nearly 30,000 Afghan police and soldiers have died, Ghani said -- a figure much higher than any previously acknowledged. The Taliban have intensified attacks on Afghan forces, inflicting record casualties even as the United States ratchets up efforts to engage the militants in peace talks. More than 17 years since the start of the conflict, the U.S. is trying to find a way out of the war. U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is spearheading efforts to strike a peace deal with the Taliban before Afghanistan's April presidential election. A Taliban delegation met with Khalilzad in Doha in October and November to discuss ending the Afghan conflict.

Erdogan Warns Greece, Cyprus over 'Reckless' Oil, Gas Exploration

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned that "reckless" oil and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean was a danger for Cyprus and Greece, a day after two European energy giants bid for new licenses. Erdogan in recent weeks has stepped up his rhetoric against energy exploration off Cyprus, which has been divided between the internationally-recognized Greek southern portion and the breakaway Turkish north for over four decades. Ankara objects that such exploration deprives Turkish Cypriots of the island's offshore resources and analysts fear the current tensions risk turning into a major standoff. "The reckless behavior of Greece -- supported by European states -- acting together with the Greek Cypriot administration is a danger and above all a threat to themselves," Erdogan told ruling party lawmakers in Ankara. His comments come a day after Cyprus said energy giants Total and Eni jointly bid for another license to explore and exploit oil and gas reserves off the island. "We will use our rights under international law and conventions to the end. And we are determined to put in their place anyone who wants to stop us," Erdogan warned. "Profiteering is wrong. Profiteering in international relations is much worse," he said. The Total and Eni bid came despite previous warnings by Erdogan to foreign oil companies against energy exploration off EU member Cyprus. In November, he described those who defy Ankara on the issue as "bandits of the sea" who would face a similar response as its foes in Syria. Turkish forces still occupy the country's northern third after invading in 1974 in response to a Greek military junta-sponsored coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece. The northern part of the island was declared the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognized only by Ankara. UN..-sponsored efforts to reunify the island have not been successful. The Turkish foreign ministry has previously said the natural resources around Cyprus "belong not only to the Greek Cypriot side, but to both sides", warning it would take all necessary measures to protect its rights in coordination with the northern part. Analysts have warned that the situation is extremely combustible and, in February, a drilling ship contracted by ENI to explore off Cyprus abandoned its mission after Turkish warships blocked its path.

After Months Stuck in Malaysia Airport, Syrian Refugee Allowed Entry into Canada
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 27 November, 2018/After being stuck for months at a budget terminal at a Malaysian airport, a Syrian refugee was finally granted a permanent residency in Canada, his lawyer revealed on Tuesday. Hassan al-Kontar's plight became widely known after he shared posts on social media that showed him surviving on donated airline meals, washing and giving himself a haircut in the toilets at Kuala Lumpur International Airport's Terminal 2, reported AFP. He had been stuck since March -- blocked from entering Malaysia because of visa issues and barred from traveling to other countries, and was detained last month by immigration officials. "I know I look like someone who ran from the stone, middle ages. I'm sorry for that," the smiling 36-year-old said in a Twitter video Monday, looking tired and stroking his bushy beard. "For the last eight years, it was hard, long journey. The last ten months, it was very hard and cold."After Kontar's arrest, Malaysian officials had said they were going to work with Syrian authorities to deport him back to his war-torn homeland. But Kontar's lawyer Andrew Brouwer said they brought the Syrian directly to the Kuala Lumpur airport on Monday before he was put on a Vancouver-bound flight. Brouwer said his client was recognized by Canada as a refugee and was granted permanent residency under the country's refugee sponsorship program. We were of course very pleased that Malaysia appeared to agree and abide by international law," he said. Malaysia's immigration office said in a statement Tuesday that it had held talks "on the basis of concern and humanity... with the embassy of the country that agreed to receive his relocation," without naming Canada, said AFP. In the video on his Twitter account Kontar said he was in transit in Taiwan and that he would be reaching his "final destination" the following day. "I could not do it without the support and the prayers from all of you," he said. Kontar is not the only asylum seeker who has been left in limbo at an airport for a long period of time. In 2015 an Iraqi family spent more than two months in an empty smoking cubicle in a Moscow airport, relying on passengers to bring them food and water. Kontar's case also recalls the 2004 film "The Terminal," in which Tom Hanks plays a man who finds himself stuck in a New York airport after his government collapses, rendering his papers useless.Millions of Syrians have fled a devastating seven-year civil war that has left more than 350,000 people dead.

Egypt Blacklists 161 Brotherhood Members as Terrorist
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 27 November, 2018/An Egyptian court upheld on Monday a sentence to blacklist as terrorist 161 members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. The suspects include 20 women, four of whom are related to prominent businessman Hassan Malek. The sentence was originally issued in 2014 and an appeal against it has since been filed. The appeals court rejected the filing on Monday and upheld the blacklisting of these individuals. The accused will now have their assets frozen and they will be barred from traveling. Separately, the court upheld a verdict on the sentencing of 77 suspects for their involvement in the storming of the Zagazig University. They were originally sentenced to ten years in jail for inciting violence, belonging to terrorist groups and killing protesters during the 2013 Rabaa sit-in that was held in support of former President Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Poroshenko Says Ukraine under Threat of 'Full-Scale War' with Russia
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 27/18/Russia has sharply increased its military presence on the border with Ukraine, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on television on Tuesday, warning of the threat of "full-scale war.""The number of (Russian) tanks at bases located along our border has tripled," Poroshenko said in an interview, adding that "the number of units that have been deployed along our border -- what's more, along its full length -- has grown dramatically." He said that the military buildup meant that the country is "under threat of full-scale war with Russia." Poroshenko didn't give Russian troop numbers but said the information on the military buildup was based on intelligence reports. He said that numbers of Russian troops in Crimea had tripled since Moscow annexed the peninsula in 2014. Russian forces on Sunday fired on and captured three Ukrainian ships and their crews off Crimea, sparking the most dangerous crisis between the ex-Soviet neighbors in years. Russia has sharply increased its military presence on the border with Ukraine, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on television on Tuesday, warning of the threat of "full-scale war.""The number of (Russian) tanks at bases located along our border has tripled," Poroshenko said in an interview, adding that "the number of units that have been deployed along our border -- what's more, along its full length -- has grown dramatically."He said that the military buildup meant that the country is "under threat of full-scale war with Russia." Poroshenko didn't give Russian troop numbers but said the information on the military buildup was based on intelligence reports. He said that numbers of Russian troops in Crimea had tripled since Moscow annexed the peninsula in 2014. Russian forces on Sunday fired on and captured three Ukrainian ships and their crews off Crimea, sparking the most dangerous crisis between the ex-Soviet neighbors in years.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 27-28/18
Ukrainian Lawmakers Approve Martial Law as Tensions with Russia Escalate
CNN International/November 27/18
Ukrainian lawmakers on Monday voted to introduce martial law in the border areas with Russia after it seized three Ukrainian navy ships and detained 24 sailors in a key waterway that holds strategic importance for both countries. It's the first time Ukraine has enacted martial law since the conflict with Russia began in 2014, indicating a major escalation in tensions between the two former Soviet Republics. The law -- which could give the government extraordinary powers over civil society -- will start on November 28 and will last 30 days. In Parliament, 276 members voted for the motion.
In a statement on Twitter, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko said martial law would be introduced only in regions bordering Russia, or adjacent to regions where Russian troops are posted. That includes regions bordering the Azov and Black Seas and a portion of the border with Moldova's Transnistria region, where Russian troops are stationed. "This is where the blow can be struck," Poroshenko said. The Ukrainian government's introduction of martial law follows a confrontation with Russia Sunday around a waterway linking the Azov Sea and the Black Sea. Ukraine said two of its small gunboats and one tugboat were attacked by Russian naval forces Sunday after entering the Kerch Strait en route to the city of Mariupol.
Video of the incident released by Ukrainian officials appeared to show a Russian ship ramming the Ukrainian tugboat.The incident provoked fury in Kiev, while Russia accused Ukraine of acting as the aggressor, calling the incident a "dangerous provocation" by Kiev. During an emergency UN Security Council meeting to defuse rising tensions after Sunday's confrontation, US Ambassador Nikki Haley called the incident "yet another reckless Russian escalation" and demanded that the Kremlin release the sailors. "This is no way for a law-abiding, civilized nation to act," Haley said, adding that it was an "outrageous violation" of Ukraine's sovereignty.
"Impeding Ukraine's lawful transit through the Kerch Strait is a violation under international law. It is an arrogant act that the international community must condemn and will never accept."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday called for restraint by Ukraine and Russia following the incident. "The United States condemns this aggressive Russian action. We call on Russia to return to Ukraine its vessels and detained crew members, and to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters," he said in a statement. Ukraine's navy said six of its sailors were injured in the incident on Sunday. It added that the tugboat and one of the gunboats were disabled and towed away by the Russian navy. The other gunboat was undamaged but was also seized by Russia, Ukraine said.
On Monday, Russia's state news agency RIA reported that all 24 sailors aboard the three boats were detained by Russia, citing sources in Crimea's security agencies. Three of the sailors were now in a hospital, it added.
The Kerch Strait -- a shallow, narrow stretch of water just 2 to 3 miles wide at one point -- connects the Azov Sea with the Black Sea and runs between the Crimean Peninsula and Russia. It is an important economic lifeline for Ukraine, as it allows its ships to access the Black Sea.
Russia has 'no justification' says NATO
Ahead of an extraordinary meeting of NATO-Ukraine ambassadors in Brussels late Monday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia had "no justification" for seizing the Ukrainian ships.
"What we saw yesterday was very serious because we actually saw Russia use military force against Ukraine in an open and direct way," Stoltenberg said, adding that NATO has increased its presence in the black sea region. "We have to show Russia that its actions have consequences."
Earlier Monday, Stoltenberg pledged the alliance's "full support for Ukraine's territorial integrity" following a morning phone call with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Similarly, European Union foreign affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic condemned Russia at a press briefing on Monday. She called on Russia to "immediately release the vessels and the crew."
European member states of the UN Security Council -- including France, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the UK -- also called on Russia to restore freedom of passage at the Kerch Strait, in a statement. On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the incident as a "dangerous provocation" by Kiev that required "special attention and special investigation," the state news agency TASS reported. Russia and Ukraine have been locked in long-simmering conflict since the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea by Russia in 2014, and a war with Russian-backed separatists in the country's east has claimed more than 10,000 lives.
What happened
Ukraine and Russia offered conflicting accounts of the incident, each accusing the other of violating the laws of the sea. A 2003 agreement confirms the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait as domestic waters of Russia and Ukraine. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) Border Service in Crimea reported that three Ukrainian warships had illegally entered Russia's territorial waters and were carrying out dangerous maneuvers, according to Russian state news agency TASS. TASS reported the three Ukrainian vessels were detained by Russian forces and that "weapons were used to force them to stop.""They did not respond to legitimate demands by the ships and boats of Russia's FSB Border Guard Service escorting them to stop immediately and performed dangerous maneuvers," the FSB said, according to TASS. Three Ukrainian servicemen were wounded and received medical care from the Russians, TASS said. The Ukrainian navy, on the other hand, said Russian border patrol vessels "carried out openly aggressive action" against the Ukrainian ships. President Poroshenko's office described the Russian action against the Ukrainian navy ships as "an act of aggression aimed at deliberately escalating the situation in the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait," and called for international condemnation of Moscow and the imposition of new sanctions.Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov also tweeted video he claims shows the two ships colliding. The video appears to be shot from on board a Russian vessel. A commander can be heard speaking Russian, swearing and ordering his crew to "slam him from the right," "squeeze him" and finally warning those on board to "hold on" before the moment of impact.
It's unclear how Avakov obtained the video. Similar clips were released by Russian state media but those did not show the actual collision. In a post on Facebook, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the incident had been devised to "divert attention from the internal problems that are ravaging Ukraine and blame the neighbor responsible for all of Ukraine's troubles." In the wake of the incident, Russia temporarily closed off the strait. However, it has since been reopened for civilian ships, according to TASS. Video from the scene showed a tanker blocking the waters under the bridge and fighter jets flying near the bridge. On Sunday, Poroshenko convened a military cabinet emergency meeting and later tweeted he would appeal to Parliament to declare martial law. "There are no red lines" for Russia, he said. "We consider such actions categorically unacceptable. And this aggression has already led to consequences."Ukraine and the United States have been accusing Russia of interfering with international shipping in and out of the Kerch Strait for some months now. Russian state media has reported the confrontation is a provocation orchestrated by Ukraine and others in America to disrupt the forthcoming meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires this week.

Targeting the Right People for our Advocacy
Badri Meouchi/Executive Magazine/November 27/18
When Lebanon signed the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2008, our political elite unwittingly embarked on a path toward better governance and more transparency. For many reading this article, this statement will come as a surprise—particularly given the high levels of corruption in Lebanon today and the general perception that no one is tackling this problem.
But perceptions of rampant corruption in Lebanon notwithstanding, it cannot be denied that important work has been taking place behind the scenes over the past few years—work that most Lebanese are unaware of. In 2012, for example, a steering committee at the cabinet level was created, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, to begin the work of adapting the Lebanese legal and regulatory framework to comply with the requirements of UNCAC. In 2017, the Access to Information Law was finally approved, having originally being presented as a draft law to Parliament in 2009 by a coalition of 17 NGOs, which included the Lebanese Transparency Organization (LTA), and members of Parliament. This year has also seen numerous positive steps: In April 2018, the government announced Lebanon’s first ever National Anti-Corruption Strategy, and in September 2018, Parliament approved three laws that will further reinforce the legal and regulatory framework in the fight against corruption. These laws focus on whistleblower protection, transparency in oil and gas exploration, and e-government transactions. There are further draft laws, such as a new law on illicit wealth and one on the creation of a National Anti-Corruption Agency, that are still lingering in Parliament, awaiting approval.
And lingering is the right word to use, because while our political elite have set off on a path to reform, there is a clear perception among members of Lebanon’s civil society that this same elite is using every possible delaying tactic. Many would argue that the only reason Parliament suddenly approved three anti-corruption laws in September is because Lebanon desperately needs international support to prop up the national economy, which is at its weakest since the end of the civil war. This support will hopefully be delivered through international commitments made during CEDRE, but only if the new government enacts and implements key reforms, including reforms in the different public procurement processes under its control.
Within this context, what role should the LTA and other like-minded NGOs play? On the one hand, we need to continue advocating for further anti-corruption legislation and learn how to advocate more effectively, through improved use of collective action and other advocacy tactics. On the other hand, we also need to play an active role in enabling the actual implementation of the anti-corruption laws that have already been approved. This will mean working with citizens, the media, the private sector, and our allies in the public sector—acting as a watchdog on the implementation of these laws.
One example of the role anti-corruption activists can play is the current initiative to establish an independent audit committee, chaired by civil society, to monitor the transparency and fairness of the bidding processes managed by the High Council for Privatization and Public-Private Partnership (HCP). The HCP, created back in 2000 as the High Council of Privatization, was mandated as Lebanon’s public-private partnership (PPP) body last year, with the passage of the PPP law. This is significant, as 20 projects under CEDRE are categorized as PPPs, so their bidding processes will be managed by the HCP. These projects include improvements to the electricity sector, waste management, public transportation (such as the expansion of Beirut’s airport), and water management. Each of these projects can have a significant positive impact on the daily life—and health—of Lebanese citizens, and it is our right to be informed about how funds are allocated to and spent within these projects. In this context, the HCP should be commended for enabling this independent monitoring process—a first in Lebanese history, and hopefully an inspiration for other like-minded public entities.
So, who should we be aiming our advocacy at? Who is accountable to us as Lebanese citizens? MPs? Ministers? I would argue none of the above. Indeed, they are all chosen and nominated by just six people—the heads of the political parties that dominate politics in the country. All of our advocacy efforts should be aimed instead toward these six individuals.

Even a ‘Diplomat’s Diplomat’ Can’t Solve Syria’s Civil War

David Kenner/The Atlantic/November 27/18
If the only thing you knew about Syria was UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura’s briefing to the Security Council this month, you might assume dramatic events were afoot. There had been an important meeting in Istanbul, he said, while equally vital summits in Astana, Kazakhstan, and of the G-20 countries in Buenos Aires, were in the offing. The work under way was “absolutely urgent,” he told the council, and the coming weeks “will be of crucial importance.”
Outside of such briefings, however, there is no suspense about the outcome of the Syrian war. President Bashar al-Assad, with the help of his Russian and Iranian allies, has used brute force to pacify the majority of the country. Half of the Syrian population have fled their homes, and the violence reached such a fever pitch that the United Nations lost count of the number of lives claimed by the war. The prospects for de Mistura’s peace plan are nonexistent—Assad is not about to relinquish his hard-won battlefield gains at the negotiating table.
The Swedish-Italian diplomat’s tenure is emblematic of the international community’s struggles to grapple with Syria. His term provides a window into the forces that have made the conflict so resistant to diplomacy, and has served as a launching point for a debate among analysts and would-be peacemakers about diplomats’ roles in resolving the world’s worst crises.
De Mistura is the diplomat’s diplomat. He is known for his dapper suits and pince-nez spectacles, speaks seven languages, and has worked for the United Nations over a four-decade-long career that has taken him from Sudan to Kosovo, from Iraq to Afghanistan. When he leaves his post in December, he will have served as the face of UN diplomacy in Syria for more than 1,600 days. The combined tenure of his two predecessors, by comparison, was roughly half that long. His defenders often refer to this fact as a point in his favor, praising his perseverance in such a thankless task. (De Mistura, through a spokesman, declined an interview request for this article.)
To his detractors, however, de Mistura’s only legacy is presiding over an effort that has grown ever more divorced from reality. Mouin Rabbani, who briefly served as the head of de Mistura’s political-affairs unit, and another of the envoy’s former aides, who declined to be identified, described the diplomatic track that de Mistura oversees as a Syrian version of the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process”—an effort that exists mainly in the minds of a cottage industry of diplomats. Nearly every cease-fire championed by de Mistura has collapsed, and he proved largely powerless to negotiate the entry of aid to areas besieged by Assad’s government. He is accused of lending his imprimatur to a diplomatic charade, even as the Syrian government and its allies conducted a scorched-earth policy against rebel-held parts of the country.
De Mistura came to office in summer 2014, when U.S. and European diplomats were coming to terms with the fact that their initial assumptions about the course of the Syrian war had been badly misguided. Assad’s regime had proved considerably stronger than many had predicted. De Mistura’s predecessor, Lakhdar Brahimi, advised the Syrian president in their first meeting that he should adhere to a recent international communiqué and declare that he was willing to resign if it was in the country’s best interest, said Mokhtar Lamani, the head of Brahimi’s office in Damascus. Relations were strained for the rest of Brahimi’s tenure.
From the start, de Mistura vowed to cultivate better ties with Damascus. “What he wanted to do is build trust with the Russians and the regime,” said Wa’el Alzayat, a former State Department official who worked on Syria with de Mistura. “His approach was don’t be confrontational; don’t call out the Russians and the regime for their violations.”
In his public statements, de Mistura struck a relentlessly optimistic note about the potential for a diplomatic breakthrough. He touted a potentially “historic junction” for peace in 2016, said that the train for diplomacy was “warming up its engine” in 2017, and vowed to “strike while the iron is hot” for negotiations in 2018. Meanwhile, he kept repeating a mantralike assertion that there was no military solution: “The one constant in this violently unpredictable conflict is that neither side will win,” he told the Security Council in September 2016.
Assad never got the memo. De Mistura’s signature initiative early in his tenure was an effort to negotiate a “freeze” to the fighting in Aleppo, where pro-Assad forces were attempting to besiege the rebel enclave in the east of the city. As the government offensive continued apace, he was forced to continually define-down success—moving from an attempted cease-fire in the entire province, to a six-week suspension of aerial and artillery bombardment in the city, and then finally to a cease-fire in a single neighborhood. Eventually, it was military men who determined the fate of Aleppo: The city was retaken by the government after a grinding offensive left thousands dead and whole districts in ruins.
In the course of his efforts, de Mistura received a firsthand lesson into just how little criticism the Syrian government would accept. In May 2015, he condemned the Syrian government for a barrel-bomb attack on a market in a rebel-held town that killed at least 70 people. According to multiple officials involved in the negotiations, who declined to be identified, Assad responded by cutting off contact, dashing the UN envoy’s hopes for a cease-fire. The discussions surrounding a freeze in Aleppo were the last time that de Mistura would meet with Assad personally—in the future, he would be received by only lower-level officials.
Following the fall of rebel-held Aleppo, some diplomats might have resigned. De Mistura chose to push forward. But to keep his diplomatic process alive, he also moved the diplomatic goalposts: With both Syrian and Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, critics contend, diplomats’ priority has been to keep the process alive—even if nobody really believes it can achieve a meaningful result. “The mission became the extension of the mission,” said Rabbani, the former de Mistura aide, who is currently a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies.
At its worst, de Mistura’s efforts allowed world powers to maintain a diplomatic facade, even as they relied upon their military to establish new facts on the ground. As the Syrian government and its allies continued to gain strength, Russia spearheaded a diplomatic initiative that pushed de Mistura further toward the political margins. The culmination of that effort was a 2017 agreement reached in Astana among Turkey, Russia, and Iran to establish four “de-escalation” zones in rebel-held areas across the country. Though the sponsors paid lip service to de Mistura’s Geneva-based negotiation effort, it was widely reported that the Astana process served as a separate track. The UN envoy nevertheless threw his weight behind the talks, saying that they “should be seen as laying the basis for a renewed Geneva process.”
“From the point of view of the sponsors of Astana, de Mistura’s role was to lend it international legitimacy,” said Rabbani. “And I don’t think he realized that he was basically blessing his own irrelevance.”
In his briefings to the Security Council, de Mistura described a future in which the de-escalation zones resulted in a decrease of violence. In reality, they allowed the Syrian government and its allies to temporarily shift forces away from those regions and concentrate on pacifying other ones. Once those areas had been retaken, pro-Assad forces renewed their assault on the de-escalation zones.
De Mistura’s final diplomatic initiative has been the creation of a committee to draft a new Syrian constitution. For the past year, he has attempted to launch the initiative with participation from both opposition and government members, and is staying in office until December to determine whether there is any prospect for success. While it is possible that the committee will be formed, its ultimate goal of free and fair elections leading to a political transition remains as far away as ever. In a parting shot at de Mistura, the Syrian government daily al-Thawra accused him of conspiring with “terrorists.” “You have arrived at the wrong address, and knocked on the wrong door, and come at the wrong time,” it said.
The hopelessness of these diplomatic efforts has led to calls that the incoming special envoy, Geir Pedersen, should scrap the entire process. De Mistura’s defenders argue that public condemnations of those standing in the way of peace will do nothing to change the reality on the ground, and that admitting defeat would hardly save a single life.
“The argument that by stopping the political process you can reinvigorate it, I don’t think that’s the case at all,” said Nikolaos van Dam, the former Dutch envoy for Syria. “It doesn’t at all mean your successor has a mission which is a little bit more possible.”
By maintaining the political process at all costs, critics would argue, diplomats risk becoming accomplices to the very abuses they are trying to stop.
“At some point, [diplomats] need to speak out in ways that make those standing in their way uncomfortable,” said Alzayat, the former State Department official. “At the end of the day, if they are really committed to the work they are doing, they need to put themselves out there and resign.”
At the height of the onslaught in Aleppo, de Mistura ended his briefing to the Security Council by explaining why he would stay in office. “Any sign of me resigning would be a signal that the international community is abandoning Syrians,” he said.
Two years later, there are few Syrians of any political persuasion who labor under the illusion that the international community, as constituted in the United Nations, can affect the course of their lives. And there are few diplomats who would honestly say that they have a blueprint for changing that reality.

The Vulgar Marxism of Middle East Punditry
Steven A. Cook/Foreign Policy/November 27/18
Years ago, when I was still a graduate student, I used to get regularly invited to a fancy lecture and dinner held annually at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. I typically accepted, but when the night rolled around I had to drag myself there. The lecture always interrupted my study routine, I was forced to wear a suit and eat rubbery chicken, and the last thing I wanted to do was engage in small talk when I should have been reading.
One year that small talk involved someone who turned out to be the dean of Wharton, and when he learned that I was a Ph.D. candidate in political science with a research interest in the Middle East, he went on for some time about how if there was only economic development in the region all would be well. I had heard this argument many times before, and when the dean asked me my thoughts I let my crankiness get the best of me. “Ah well, the only places left in the world where Marxism is alive and well are at U.S. business schools,” I said, joking. The dean looked at me sharply as I explained that Karl Marx believed there was an underlying economic cause for every political phenomenon, and plenty of Americans—not just business professors, but also policymakers—seemed happy to make the same mistake.
My snark did solve one problem—I was never invited back to that lecture and dinner. But it created a sort of obsession. I am now well into my second decade of trying to beat back lazy analysis, especially of the Middle East, by way of economic determinism. Despite mounds of evidence, the idea that people—whether in Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Tunisia, or the United States—make choices based solely on what is in their wallets will not go away.
Only recently did Robert Samuelson, who writes about the economy for the Washington Post, discover that, when it comes to the rise of anti-establishment politics, “It’s not the economy, stupid!” It was gratifying to read something that validated my grumbling, but still, Samuelson’s headline writer did not quite get it right. Samuelson’s column—and certainly any discussion of uprisings around the Arab world—should be titled, “It’s not just the economy, stupid.”
It’s hard not to notice the parallels between the famous demand for “bread, freedom, and social justice,” that rang out during the Egyptian uprising in 2011 and U.S. President Donald Trump’s critique of a rigged political system that has undermined American culture and economic life. I am not saying that Egyptian demands for a more just, inclusive, and open society are the same as the president’s angry and vengeful critique of the U.S. establishment. But the lightness of what Tahrir demonstrators wanted to build and the darkness of Trump followers’ aims to tear things down are linked in that they connect dignity, politics, and economics in a way that cannot easily be disentangled.
Still, it seems that the U.S. policy community has been generally slow to recognize the shortcomings of policies based on half-baked economic determinism. The reasons for this are both obvious (there is a glaring need for economic development in the Middle East) and mundane (foreign service officers have a fairly good sense of what they need to do to help countries develop their economies). Then there is the all-consuming issue of stability. U.S. officials have devoted resources to economic development in friendly countries in the region not necessarily out of altruism but because they tend to believe in the “fat and happy” theory of politics. If people benefit from the system, they are unlikely to rise up against it. As an aside, this is not always true. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria are cautionary tales of countries that experienced (uneven) growth and became unstable.
Analysts have come to recognize that the underlying assumption of “it’s the economy, stupid” is faulty. But the bias among policymakers remains. Take, for example, the case of Turkey under the Justice and Development Party (AKP). President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been successful for so long because he, like Trump, has a vision that encompasses a broader spectrum of issues in addition to prosperity. And, of course, it helped that Turkey clocked high economic growth for a good portion of the 2000s. But the other components of AKP’s transformative agenda—allowing people to live their religious identities more freely, the establishment of Turkey as a regional power with broader ambitions, and an uncompromising nationalism, to name a few—were also critical to the party’s longstanding success. Even so, Washington tends to see Turkey’s economy as the basis for Erdogan’s dominance. Successive reports from the U.S. Congressional Research Service cite the economy’s growth as a primary reason for the AKP’s success.
As the Turkish economy faltered through 2018, journalists and analysts pondered the possibility that Erdogan would take a political hit in last June’s presidential election, but he won with 52.6 percent of the vote—a slightly better margin than his 2014 victory. When the lira’s slide turned into a meltdown in August, Erdogan’s grip on the country didn’t loosen. Instead, he successfully appealed to identity, religion, and national dignity to thwart the logic of the market and deflect responsibility for the mess. Erdogan’s opponents in Turkey are still predicting that the economy will bring the Turkish leader down, and when the lira plunged over the summer, there was concern in Washington, on Wall Street, and in the press that recent economic mismanagement would produce instability in Turkey and beyond. It’s a classic example of economic determinists not appreciating the power of ideas.
The counterexample to Turkey is Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt. He had lived through the excesses of both Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, so he staked out a middle ground. During his last decade in office, Mubarak called upon Egyptians to safeguard “stability for the sake of development.” From the perspective of U.S. policymakers at the time, the fact that Mubarak appointed an economic policy team of self-declared reformers who were empowered to pursue neoliberal policies was a positive development that would finally put Egypt on track for sustained growth and stability. This might have been materially satisfying for those who benefited from privatization, a more flexible exchange rate, and a more permissive investment environment, but there was nothing emotionally satisfying in the appeal for stability. Mubarak’s failure to articulate a positive, moral, uplifting future that Egyptians could believe in meant it was hard to rally pretty much anyone to his defense at the first sign of trouble. The folks who tell you that the economy is paramount would have predicted a different outcome.
Almost everyone I know in the scholarly community nods knowingly any time someone declares that “ideas matter,” but this consensus does not translate easily into policy. How do you tell a foreign service officer to promote dignity and a positive vision of the future? As talented a group as U.S. diplomats are, this is not something they are equipped to do. It is not even necessarily their place to do it. Still, a better understanding of the dynamic interaction between the economy, the quality of politics, and dignity would serve everyone. That way, the next time Arabs rise up and demand “bread, freedom, and social justice,” we’ll know that economic development is not the only thing they want.

America’s Proxy in Syria
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/November 27/18
A report by Asharq al-Awsat mentions in full detail that the new American step in Syria against Iran’s militias and forces is to establish local militias to fight them. Expanding the confrontation in Syria comes at the same time as the new round of sanctions on the supreme leader’s regime is implemented, and it’s an advanced step against the Russian missiles, which obstructed the Israeli air force.
30,000 Kurdish Syrians are being recruited, armed and trained within the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) east of the Euphrates. Most of them are Kurds and there are also some Arabs. Hence, the Euphrates River became the new separating border, as west of the river there are Assad’s forces and their allies, Iran and Russia, and east of the river there are US forces and their allies.
The Americans do not hide their aims as in addition to fighting ISIS, they are trying to restrict Iranian forces, the Quds Brigade and its militias, and improve their negotiating situation regarding Syria’s governance.
The Russians’ act of bringing in S-300 surface-to-air missiles succeeded in protecting the Iranian presence on Syrian territories from Israeli shelling, but it harmed the former agreement of adopting the Assad regime in governing Syria and ending the civil war. The Russians’ insistence to protect the Iranians made the Americans resort to expanding the role of Syria’s Kurds to confront ISIS, Iran, the regime and even the Turks.
The Kurds are saying they have 60,000 fighters on the ground and 30,000 other fighters being trained by the Americans. These numbers seem exaggerated. QSD’s announced mission is confronting ISIS and the Iranians but since most of the militias consist of Kurds, the Turks stand against them and against those who support them. The Turks have become politically closer to the camp of the Assad regime, the Iranians and Russians in order to prevent the Kurds from being a force that’s close to their southern borders, even if they are Syrian Kurds. This further complicates the situation and makes it more mysterious. This is what the Turkish defense minister angrily said as he noted “the Americans are further complicating an already complicated situation.”
The truth is the Americans are doing what others did. The Kurds had cooperated with Damascus, and the Iranians cooperated with them to threaten the Turks. Ankara’s government submitted to Tehran, Russia and Damascus and altered its stances accordingly. The Americans are now establishing Syrian Kurdish militias as a striking force against several parties and this revives the hopes of the Syrian opposition that it has an opportunity to resume its fighting activities after it has lost most of what it gained of villages and territories during the civil war.
The Americans are also imitating Iran. They are resorting to proxies; militias that do the job instead of them, just like the Iranians did more than four years ago when they hired Lebanese, Iraqi, Afghani and Pakistani militias to fight on their behalf in Syria. The Americans, who learnt the lesson in Iraq and Afghanistan, are trying to do the same and have begun relying on local recruits. The concept of proxy militias strengthened the Kurds’ victories against ISIS.
The American side’s abstention from cooperating with the Russians in the new round of negotiations among the Syrian parties aims to push Moscow to deal with the new policy, which is not ending the war and not having Assad govern the entire of Syria unless they get the Iranians and their militias out of Syria.
Truth is Moscow’s story that it neither has influence over the Assad regime nor the capability to get the Iranians out does not convince anyone. Without the Russian air force, the Syrian regime forces and the Iranian forces cannot keep new territories, and without the S-300 missiles, Israeli airstrikes will kill more of the Iranian regime forces. The Russians want the Iranians to stay on the ground to strengthen their political negotiations and achieve full victory at the end of the Syrian war. However, due to the Americans’ militarization on the east of the Euphrates, they, through QSD, control vast Syrian areas, from Iraq’s borders in the south to Turkey’s border in the north, hence the Russians have to choose between victory without the Iranians or resuming the war through them.

Why Is US Economic Growth Under Attack?

Michael Strain/Bloomberg//November 27/18
Economic growth is under attack. Or, more specifically, the idea that public policy should place a large amount of emphasis on the economy’s rate of growth is under assault by the political right as well as the left.
Traditionally, conservatives have placed a premium on growth as the best way to advance the fortunes of all Americans. But in recent years, some on the right have adopted more of the thinking espoused by Stephen Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former adviser, and other so-called populists, playing down the importance of growth to the well-being of many working-class Americans.
The latest argument for that position comes from Oren Cass, a conservative policy analyst at the Manhattan Institute. In his new book, “The Once and Future Worker,” Cass argues that the results from decades of policies designed to encourage GDP growth are “embarrassing” and have “steered the nation off course.” Michael Anton, a former Trump adviser and a senior fellow at the conservative Claremont Institute, offers a similar view, questioning the presumption that technological and economic progress is desirable and that innovation is “per se good.”
On the left, “democratic socialism” and other varieties of aversion to the economic status quo have long dismissed the importance of making growth a top priority — and the influence of these voices is on the rise.
If the risk to US society from the chance that this (surprisingly) bipartisan thinking could harden into conventional wisdom weren’t so dire, it would be tempting to dismiss the negativism toward economic growth as a straw man and move on. I don’t know of any serious economist or public figure who argues for a singular focus on maximizing GDP growth at the expense of all else.
To their credit, the populist critics of a growth-oriented public policy often acknowledge that the US does pursue programs that reduce the economy’s rate of growth by impairing the functioning of the market through, for example, taxing higher-income Americans in order to fund safety-net programs. But that acknowledgment serves to make their critiques — and their general posture toward economic growth — even harder to understand.
Indeed, conservatives have been right in their traditional focus on growth. Let’s recall why.
This task is made easier by the visible proof that the hot US economy is the best jobs program available for lower-wage and vulnerable workers. As I wrote in a column earlier this month, this strength is benefiting low-wage workers more than other groups.
The unemployment rate for the least-skilled workers is outperforming its average to a greater extent than for higher-skilled workers. Earnings are growing significantly faster for workers without a high school diploma than for higher-educated workers. The rate of employment among workers with a disability has jumped 26 percent in the last six years. The formerly incarcerated seem to be having a much easier time in the workforce than in previous years, and employers are less likely to require background checks on job applications.
Growth doesn’t just help low-income and working-class households in the short term. Over longer periods, seemingly small changes in the growth rate have large consequences. In the past four decades, for example, real GDP per person has increased from about $28,000 to over $55,000, growing at about 1.7 percent per year. If growth instead had been 1 percent, average GDP per head would be about three-quarters what it is today.
Today’s critics of growth-focused public policy are correct that a rising tide does not lift all boats equally, and it doesn’t lift them instantaneously. But over time, all boats do rise considerably.
There’s another reason that now is the wrong time to question the importance of growth. Demographic pressures are pushing the economy’s potential growth rate below its historical average. During this period, we need to be talking more — not less — about how to make GDP grow faster.
Populists are of course correct that we also need to be talking about targeted programs designed to help the working class — even if funding these endeavors can slow growth. There are many such programs that are worth the trade-off, including earnings subsidies (which Cass also supports expanding). But populists need to be reminded that it is precisely a growing economy that creates the financial and political space for these types of programs.
Undervaluing growth will lead us to make imprudent choices, forgetting the true cost of programs. Among the populists on the left and right, downplaying growth makes it easier to attack free trade and immigration, ignore the national debt, and support expensive and inefficient programs like federal job guarantees.
Imagine the world in the year 1900. There was no air travel, no antibiotics, no iPhone, no Amazon Prime, no modern high school and no air conditioning. Compared with today, people were starved for knowledge and leisure.
Anyone who played down growth a century ago wouldn’t have known they were arguing against any of these things, because none of these growth-enabled features of modern life had been invented yet. But they would have been putting the existence of all these at risk by stifling, even marginally, the economic engine that allowed for their creation.
What in the world of tomorrow doesn’t yet exist? We need growth in order to find the answer — both for ourselves, and for posterity.
Economic growth also advances moral goods. In a world with slow growth, the easiest way for me to do better is for you to do worse. In a world with rapid growth, I can do better without making you worse off. You can do better, too.
Growth facilitates aspirations. Those who undervalue it should remember that dynamism and increasing opportunity allow the young to dream and to strive, and allow the rest of us to apply our talents, efforts and skills to contribute to society in the best way possible, to provide for our families, and to lead full and flourishing lives.The rise of populism has created a bipartisan challenge to the importance of economic growth. If this challenge isn’t met, the frustrations of today could haunt our tomorrows.

Your Iraq is Najd and Saudi is Iraqi!
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/November 27/18
It’s a heartbreak that I never visited Baghdad, the capital of civilization, especially as I’ve heard my grandfather, Abdulaziz Aldakhil, may he rest in peace, tell us about Buraydah in the center of Najd before cars were invented, and how it was and still is the largest camel market in the world.
My grandfather and his father’s trade was selling back-then the most important means of transportation, the “ship of the desert,” i.e. the camel, as the case was with a large number of people in Najd. These people were dubbed the “Agailat Community” because they tied their camels. The term actually comes from the word “agal”, the cord which Arabs wear on top of the shemagh. Once they arrived to their destination, they took off their agal and used it to tie their camels, like we park our cars today in shaded areas.
It’s rare to find a Saudi who does not have a memory in Iraq or with the Iraqis as water from the Tigris and the Euphrates was an attraction and the shade of Basra’s palms extended to our cities and deserts through Az Zubayr
When speaking about Iraq, my father and uncles talk fondly of it and its people. Some paternal cousins are still there ever since our grandfathers began immigrating there around 200 years ago.
The rupture of Saudi ties with the Iraqis and vice versa became a reality ever since Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in the 1990s. This rupture, which lasted until recently, lasted for a quarter of a century, or a bit more. As much as this rupture pains me, I console myself with the thousands of those exiled from Iraq from all sects and ethnicities, who feel a great deal of pain for not being where they grew up and for being away from their family and friends.
I’ve seen Iraqis who are financially well-off in Europe and America, but once I talk to them about Iraq, they get very emotional and teary eyed. How wouldn’t they, for as it’s said: “No matter how many homes on earth are familiar to a man, his longing is always to his first home.”
Memories in Iraq
It’s rare to find a Saudi who does not have a memory in Iraq or with the Iraqis as water from the Tigris and the Euphrates was an attraction and the shade of Basra’s palms extended to our cities and deserts through Az Zubayr. There are those who lived there and spent the prime of their youth, and those who were born there and who became grandfathers. Suq Al-Shuyukh in Nasiriyah has its significance for the people of Najd. Who among the Saudis does not enjoy the singing of Hudairi Abu Aziz or Dakhil Hassan? Once songs emerged in Baghdad, they became common amongst us. All the Saudis who studied in Iraq’s universities in the 1960s and before that and after it speak like the older people spoke of their knowledge in Abbasid Baghdad.
The crisis which Iraq went through, from wars to the siege, concerns the Saudi who lived there and carried good memories. Tribes extended and became intertwined despite the different sects, such as the tribes of Shammar, Al Shaalan, Al Jabbour and Tayy. Some people’s memories have been tainted by the hate deepened by intolerant political Islam preachers but the memory of literature lives on and one example is Mohammed Saeed Al-Habboubi, the Iraqi jurist who hails from Najaf, who said: “Your homeland is Najd, and the admirer is Iraqi, so except for wishful thinking, there will not be an encounter.”
One of the main reasons Founder and King Abdulaziz Al-Saud pursued “the Brotherhood of those who obeyed Allah” was their frequent invasions of Iraq and the last of this was at the beginning of the 1920s. Afterwards, the historical meeting between the kings of Saudi Arabia and Iraq took place, and the relations were flawless until the second Gulf War.
Our grandfather, the journalist from Qassim, Suleiman Al-Saleh Aldakhil went to Baghdad to study and discover Iraq’s rich world until he became one of the Baghdadis. The journalist and intellectual carried his fondness of the people of Iraq in his heart and suitcase, as he was taught by Baghdad’s intellectual Mahmoud Shokry al-Alusi and he knew Hibatuddin Shahrestani, Al-Najafi and Al-Kazimi. These relations may seem strange to those who bear hate in their hearts today. Anyone who browses Al-Najaf’s Al-Ilm magazine (1910-1912) can see there was cooperation with Suleiman as his name is seen on this magazine where he promoted his daily Al-Riyadh. The magazine was printed with Al-Riyadh, which he issued in Baghdad in 1910.
Iraqi scholars were welcomed at King Saud University after they were expelled for political reasons from the University of Baghdad. When a political Islam symbol tried to incite against them, King Faisal bin Abdulaziz received them to reassure them so they don’t feel worried and to make them feel they were home. Their Saudi students still remember them by honoring their names. These days have ended but the photo of linguist Mohammed Mahdi al-Makhzoumi decorates the Arabic faculty’s forefront at the university. Following that warm meeting, psychologist Nouri Jaafar named his daughter Njoud and his grandson Faisal. Iraq’s strength is strength for its neighbors, its pride is their pride as it is the home and the family.
Political quakes pass through and our countries cross the turning points of history but the neighbor remains, and have you seen a country that chooses its neighbors?! It’s a fate, and neighboring Iraq with its people, soil and water has been the beautiful fate.
Al-Habboubi said with the sentiment of a fond man: “Except for wishful thinking, there will be no encounter;” however, we say: We wished and the encounter happened, and we will not allow the haters to renew rupture. Al-Habboubi, may he rest in peace, also said: “Your homeland is Najd and the admirer is Iraqi,” may he allow us to say: “Your Iraq is Najd and the Saudi is Iraqi.”

Iran trains squads for terrorizing US forces in Syria. US air/naval buildup for striking back
إيران تدرب فرق لإرهاب القوات الأمريكية في سوريا وواشنطن تزيد من استعداداتها الجوية والبحرية لتوجيه ضربات جديدة

DEBKAfile/November 27/18
Iran’s proxy militias in Syria are being trained and armed for terrorizing US forces in eastern Syria, starting with IEDs like the bombs that bedeviled American forces in Iraq in 2004-2006. The mastermind of this campaign is Iran’s Mid East commander, Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that US commanders in Syria were forewarned of the coming campaign after it was approved by Tehran as retaliation for the sanctions re-imposed by the Trump administration. They learned that terror squads, detached from the Iraqi and Afghan militias encamped in the eastern Syrian Deir ez-Zour province, had in the last few days completed their specialist training by Al Qods and Hizballah bomb experts. They were taught how to blow up American military installations, bridges and transportation routes and how to plant IEDs outside buildings and on the roads frequented by US military traffic. The American commanders were also apprised by intelligence informants that Iran was sending large quantities of IEDs via Iraq for the use of the newly-trained terror squads. They are a new type of device, compared to the IEDs used in Iraq, with a more powerful bang and the capacity to disable the armored vehicles used by US forces in eastern Syria.
The US army, for its part, is reported by our sources to have rushed another 500 Marines to the big Al Tanf garrison, which straddles the borders of Syria, Jordan and Iraq, for boosting the security of US troops in the region. They are augmented by 1,700 members of the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) which operates under US command.
It is estimated that Al Tanf will be the first target of attack as soon as Tehran gives the green light for the campaign to start, because it is set in desert terrain where terrorist squads can move at speed. If Iran pulls this initial operation off, it will be extended to other US military locations – in all, at least 12 ground bases and another four air bases in northeastern Syria. They range from Manbij up near the Turkish border up to Al-Hasakeh, the hub of the pro-American Kurdish YPG militia’s political and command headquarters in northern Syria.
In the second half of the month, the United States launched a large-scale air and naval exercise based on the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier and its strike group of five warships, which are present opposite the Syrian shore, as well as US air bases in the Persian Gulf. (See an earlier DEBKAfile article on US flights around the clock over Syria.) British, Israeli and French air contingents have joined the exercise. The French Dupuy de Lome spy ship has also reached Syrian waters and is coordinating its operations with the USS Truman.
Our military sources say that by these moves, Washington is notifying Tehran that the moment US forces come under attack in Syria, America and its allies will strike back at the foundations of the Iranian presence in Syria.