November 29/1
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, "I am the Messiah!" and they will lead many astray
Matthew 24/01-14: "As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Then he asked them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’ When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, "I am the Messiah!" and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs. ‘Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But anyone who endures to the end will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 28-29/18
America’s Proxy in Syria/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/November 28/18
Easiest Fix for Facebook/Joe Nocera/Bloomberg View/November,28/18
Sweden: Women Raped, Authorities Too Busy/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/November 28/18
Iran’s dangerous influence in Iraq a cause for region-wide concern/Sir John Jenkins/Arab News/November 28/18
Pompeo: Saudi Arabia a powerful force for stability in the Middle East/Arab News/November 28/18
Qatar, the boycott continues/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/November 28/18
Happiness that gives a sense of fulfillment/Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/November 28/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 28-29/18
Higher Defense Council Meets at Baabda Palace
Aoun signs two decrees on retirement salaries, end of service benefits
Berri Speaks of 'New Mechanisms' to Resolve 'Sunni Hurdle'
Khalil Dismisses Allegations about Wages of Civil Servants
Officially Appointed as Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon, Bukhari Arrives in Beirut
Report: Hizbullah ‘Doesn’t Mind’ Naming Figure from Outside Consultative Gathering
Families of Lebanese War Missing Choose to Forgive Past
Italy Arrests Lebanese IS Suspect over Poison Plot
'War of Meters' Continues as More Generators Seized
Lebanese Army Commander, UNIFIL’s Del Col discuss situation along southern borders
ESCWA holds International Conference on ‘Financing Sustainable Development, Curbing Illicit Financial Flows’
Intensive Israeli enemy flights over Nabatieh, Iqlim Tuffah
Ogassapian regrets attempt to justify violence against women in TV program: Media is a key partner in awareness against violence
Jamali, Ambassador of Germany tackle environmental affairs, bilateral ties
Believe in Lebanon: New record in largest underwater photo exhibition

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 28-29/18
Trump Says May Cancel Putin Meet after Ukraine-Russia Sea Clash
Putin Defends 'Lawful' Seizure of Ukrainian Ships
Syria talks on fragile Idlib truce begin in Kazakhstan
Saudi Crown Prince Arrives in Argentina
Mattis: Pulling back US military support in Yemen would be misguided
Kremlin says Putin scheduled to meet Saudi crown prince at G20 summit
Palestine Rejects US Efforts to Condemn Hamas at the UN
Hamas Insists on Toppling Hamdallah’s Govt., Forming National Unity Government
UN Welcomes Libyan Parliament's Amendment of Constitutional Referendum Law
Washington, London Back UN Envoy Griffiths’ Efforts in Yemen
Sadr Says He's Not Behind Delay in Cabinet Formation
Iraq: Security Forces Shut Down Organizations Linked to PKK in Sulaymaniyah

Latest Lebanese Related News published on November 28-29/18
Higher Defense Council Meets at Baabda Palace

Naharnet/November 28/18/President Michel Aoun chaired a meeting with the Higher Defense Council at Baabda Palace on Wednesday, the National News Agency reported. Before the meeting began, Aoun held talks with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. Aoun called the council for the meeting “specifically dedicated to discussing security developments in general and the implementation of security plans in all Lebanese regions in particular,” al-Joumhouria daily reported earlier. The Council meets the President with special focus on special security plans set for the holiday season.

Aoun signs two decrees on retirement salaries, end of service benefits
Wed 28 Nov 2018/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, signed Wednesday two decrees. The first decree, which bears #4048 dated November 28, 2018, stipulates the opening of an additional appropriation in the 2018 budget in the section "joint expenses for retirement salaries."
The second decree, which bears number 4047, stipulates the opening of a supplementary credit in the general budget for the year 2018 in the section "Common expenses for the end of service benefits."

Berri Speaks of 'New Mechanisms' to Resolve 'Sunni Hurdle'

Naharnet/November 28/18/Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday revealed that “new mechanisms” are being discussed in order to overcome the so-called Sunni obstacle that is delaying the formation of the new government. “Everyone knows that it is necessary to form the government in order to confront all problems and challenges, especially the economic and social situations,” Berri said during the weekly Ain el-Tineh meeting. “The country cannot continue on this course and all parties must shoulder their responsibilities to form an inclusive national unity government that fits everyone,” the Speaker added. Berri had on Tuesday met with Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil and discussed with him ideas to resolve the obstacle of representing six pro-Hizbullah Sunni MPs in the new government. The Speaker has recently proposed giving those MPs a Sunni seat from President Michel Aoun’s share as a way out of the dilemma.

Khalil Dismisses Allegations about Wages of Civil Servants
Naharnet/November 28/18/In light of a delayed government formation, caretaker Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil denied media claims that wages for civil servants and retirees were unavailable, the National News Agency reported on Wednesday. Khalil stressed in a tweet that such “allegations” were “false,” assuring the State’s commitment to pay the full dues. "I am keen to clarify that remarks about unavailable salaries and wages for employees and retirees are just media tales far away from being true,” Khalil said. Head of the Beirut Chambers of Commerce Mohammed Choucair had pointed out earlier that the State may reach a point where it will be unable to pay said salaries in light of a government gridlock. “Depression in Lebanon is the result of poverty. Disabling the formation of the government means disrupting the fate of Lebanon,” Choucair had said and raised fears about salaries for public sector employees.
“The state is fully committed to paying all dues and reimbursing all debts. This is something we are used to doing and we will continue to do," stressed Khalil. “We have additional commitments that are now binding and that have exceeded the state budget; we are coordinating with PM-designate Saad Hariri and (Central Bank) governor Riad Salameh to solve this issue," he added.Khalil also indicated that he had discussed this file with President Michel Aoun when he visited Baabda Palace earlier today.

Officially Appointed as Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon, Bukhari Arrives in Beirut
Naharnet/November 28/18/Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid al-Bukhari arrived in Beirut on Wednesday after being officially appointed by Saudi Arabia. Bukhari succeeds Walid al-Yaaqoub, who was pulled out of Lebanon in March, less than three months after his appointment. At the Rafik Hariri International Airport, where he was received by a group of officials and Arab ambassadors in Lebanon, Bukhari thanked in a statement Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz for entrusting him with the post.“I hope I live up to the expectations of the Saudi leadership on developing the bonds of joint cooperation between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia," he said, stressing "we seek to preserve the security, stability and sovereignty of Lebanon."

Report: Hizbullah ‘Doesn’t Mind’ Naming Figure from Outside Consultative Gathering

Naharnet/November 28/18/Although Hizbullah insists on the representation of Sunni MPs of March 8 in the government, it reportedly has no objection to naming a figure from outside the Consultative Gathering provided the six MPs accept this solution, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday.
Sources close to Hizbullah said the party “insists on not handing Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri the names of its ministers (as a pressure factor) until the Sunni MPs obstacles is solved. But the party does not mind naming a figure from outside the Consultative Gathering provided they agree,” they told the daily. 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.

Families of Lebanese War Missing Choose to Forgive Past

Associated Press/Naharnet/November 28/18/Families of Lebanon's war missing are calling on the government to form a commission to look into the fate of relatives nearly three decades after the country's civil war ended. Parliament approved forming such a commission earlier this month. The law was the first official recognition of the problem that haunted families of an estimated 17,000 missing since the war ended in 1990. Despite a 1991 amnesty, the new law called for accountability for war crimes, causing concerns among Lebanon's former warlords, many of whom remain leading politicians. The families said Wednesday they are not seeking accountability but want to know what happened to their relatives. "This law didn't come to create new conflicts but to end old ones," said Wadad Halwani, representative of the families' group.

Italy Arrests Lebanese IS Suspect over Poison Plot
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 28/18/Italian anti-terrorism police on Wednesday arrested a Lebanese man suspected of planning a poison attack in the name of the Islamic State jihadist group. The suspect Alhaj Ahmad Amin, who has Palestinian roots, was apprehended for links to international terrorism and is accused of "having joined the terrorist, Islamic pseudo-state, IS," anti-mafia and terrorism chief Federico Cafiero de Raho told reporters. Officials arrested the 28-year-old in Macomer on the island of Sardinia following a tip-off. After an IS member was arrested in Lebanon for plotting to poison the drinking water of the Lebanese Army, it emerged he had a cousin in Italy who "had the idea to carry out a similar operation in Europe," police said. Numerous references to IS and the use of poison had been found on the man's smartphone. The streets around the center of Macomer were blocked off to prevent the suspect from getting away, according to local media reports. He was clapped in handcuffs as he came out of his house and got into his van.

'War of Meters' Continues as More Generators Seized
Naharnet/November 28/18/Economy Ministry inspectors on Wednesday confiscated a neighborhood power generator in Sin el-Fil after its owner refused to install meters for subscribers, a day after a violating generator was seized in Hadath. The inspectors were accompanied by State Security agents. Caretaker Economy Minister Raed Khoury had revealed in an interview with al-Joumhouria newspaper that the Ministry “has moved today into phase three: the confiscation of generators.”According to Khoury, the first phase involved the issuance of 1,500 fines as the second started when generator owners signed pledges to install meters within a specific timeframe. The minister warned that the fourth phase involves measures against “municipalities refraining from performing their duties, seeing as they are the first authority tasked with implementing the state’s decisions.” The “war of meters” between the state and generator owners has been raging ever since the Economy Ministry issued a decree obliging providers to install meters for subscribers as of October 1, a move that was rejected by generator owners who argued that the new tariff is unprofitable.

Lebanese Army Commander, UNIFIL’s Del Col discuss situation along southern borders

 Lebanese Army Commander, Gen. Joseph Aoun, welcomed at his Yarzeh office on Monday, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Commander, Major General Stefano Del Col.The pair reportedly broached the situation along the southern Lebanese border.

ESCWA holds International Conference on ‘Financing Sustainable Development, Curbing Illicit Financial Flows’

Wed 28 Nov 2018/NNA - ESCWA is organizing an International Conference on ‘Financing Sustainable Development ~ Curbing Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs)’ on 28-29 November 2018. The Conference offers an important milestone ahead of the 2019 High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development and the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Taking cue from the United Nations Secretary General’s recently launched ‘Financing the 2030 Agenda’ Strategy (2018-2021), the Conference aims to support the mobilization of long-term development finance and propel the transitioning from ‘funding to financing (F2F)’ transformative change, as well as lead the path towards deploying the necessary measures to combat Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs), especially as these flows continue to evolve, both in scale and sophistication, undermining national and regional propensities to finance sustainable development.
The Arab region has been witnessing discernible progress across all levels of implementing the 2030 Sustainable Development and Addis Ababa Action Agendas’. Nonetheless, there are mounting concerns that financing is not happening at the pace that can turn conflicts, inequalities and other socio-economic hardships into an issue of the past, let alone achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The benefits of the global economic and financial recovery are asymmetrically percolating across regions and countries prompting a race to the bottom to counter underinvestment in critical social infrastructure. The situation is fueling beggar-thy-neighbor dispositions breeding harmful tax competition and fiscal conjectures. Domestic resource mobilization efforts remain hinged on regressive taxonomy. Equally pervasive, informal sectors remain insulated from the overall planning and implementation of the SDG reform agenda.The challenges facing the Arab region are no longer confined to the traditional factors influencing economic frailty rather, today they involve a broader stream of factors, including foreign direct investment reflux; private capital constraints and reversals; debt distress; subdued trade growth and increased exposures to illicit finance. – ESCWA

Intensive Israeli enemy flights over Nabatieh, Iqlim Tuffah

Wed 28 Nov 2018/NNA - Israeli enemy warplanes had been conducting since 6.30 pm intensive medium-altitude flights over the localities of Nabatieh and Iqlim al-Tuffah, National News Agency correspondent reported. This coupled with flights by the Israeli enemy "M.K" spy drone over the localities of Nabatieh.

Ogassapian regrets attempt to justify violence against women in TV program: Media is a key partner in awareness against violence

Wed 28 Nov 2018/NNA - Caretaker State Minister for Women's Affairs, Jean Ogassapian, regretted the fact that "the murder of Manal Assi, the victim of domestic violence at the hand of her husband, has become a media material for a TV program, which reopened wounds that have not yet healed," referring to an episode broadcast on TV yesterday "which provoked anger and rage and hurt the feelings of a large number of citizens.""The timing of the episode coincides with the 16-day campaign about violence against women," said Ogassapian, calling on the National Media Council and the Ministry of Information to act immediately in protest against the promotion of the culture of murder and violence against women and girls in Lebanon. "The media is a key partner in raising awareness and educating the community against violence. It assumes a national and social responsibility to disseminate this culture," he said, warning against the negative impact of justifying violence against women, regardless of the reasons.

Jamali, Ambassador of Germany tackle environmental affairs, bilateral ties

Wed 28 Nov 2018/NNA - MP Dima Jamali visited the German Ambassador to Lebanon, Jörg Berglin, with talks touching on the environmental situation in Lebanon in general and Tripoli in particular. The pair also discussed the political situation, the latest developments in Lebanon and the region and means to promote bilateral relations. The two sides stressed the importance of "empowering the economic role of women in society and creating employment opportunities for young people through investing in vocational and technical education and training in order to achieve the goals of sustainable development, growth and the advancement of society."

Believe in Lebanon: New record in largest underwater photo exhibition

Wed 28 Nov 2018/NNA - "Lebanon has re-entered the Guinness Book of Records for the largest underwater photo exhibition by setting up 137 works of art depicting underwater life in the Jounieh area at a depth of 37 meters," the 'Believe in Lebanon' Association said in a statement this Tuesday.
The exhibition represents a "Message from Underwater" to be seen by amateur scuba divers. The initiative was considered as a "remarkable global achievement for Lebanon" and the association, headed by Colette Haddad, adopted the United Nations' goal 14 on "Underwater Life". It also cooperated with the United Nations Information Center in Beirut and a number of diving clubs led by the Octopus team Club and a large number of artists to complete this work, "which carries a message and a cry to preserve water and its sources as well as underwater life in Lebanon."

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 28-29/18
Trump Says May Cancel Putin Meet after Ukraine-Russia Sea Clash
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 28/18/US President Donald Trump has said he may cancel a long-awaited summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin after a confrontation at sea between Russia and Ukraine led Kiev to warn of the threat of "full-scale war".Trump is scheduled to meet Putin at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires at the end of this week, but warned it would depend on the results of a report being prepared by his national security advisers about Russia's seizure of three Ukrainian ships. "Maybe I won't have the meeting. Maybe I won't even have the meeting," he told the Washington Post on Tuesday. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko earlier warned that the standoff could herald more drastic developments as tensions escalate between the ex-Soviet neighbours. "I don't want anyone to think this is fun and games. Ukraine is under threat of full-scale war with Russia," Poroshenko said. The number of Russian units deployed along the Ukraine-Russian border has "grown dramatically" while the number of Russian tanks has tripled, Poroshenko said, citing intelligence reports but giving no precise timescale for the buildup. He spoke after Russian forces seized three of Kiev's ships off the coast of Crimea on Sunday and captured 24 Ukrainian sailors. On Tuesday, a court in Simferopol, the main city in Russian-annexed Crimea, ordered 12 of the sailors to be held in pre-trial detention for two months. Three hospitalised sailors were also formally detained for two months. The rest are to appear in court on Wednesday.
The move stoked already high tensions between Moscow and Kiev, as Russia continues to accuse the sailors of crossing illegally into Russian waters and of ignoring warnings from its border guards. Kiev has demanded the release of the sailors and urged Western allies to impose further sanctions on Moscow. The US State Department has termed Russia's actions "a dangerous escalation" and said Washington wants to see "our European allies doing more to assist Ukraine."
Putin warns of 'reckless acts'
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. Putin on Tuesday warned Ukraine against any "reckless acts" after Kiev declared martial law in response to Moscow's seizure of the navy vessels. The Ukrainian parliament on Monday voted in favour of Poroshenko's request for the introduction of martial law in border areas for 30 days. This gives Ukrainian authorities the power to mobilise citizens with military experience, regulate the media and restrict public rallies in affected areas. In a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Tuesday, Putin expressed "serious concern" over its introduction. He said he hoped Berlin could intervene with Ukrainian authorities "to dissuade them from further reckless acts".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.
Putin said Kiev's actions were "clearly taken in view of the election campaign in Ukraine". 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.
Sailors on Russian TV
Russian state television has aired footage of some of the captured sailors being questioned by Moscow's security services. One of them 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. Ukraine's naval commander, Igor Voronchenko, said the sailors were pressured into giving false evidence. "I know these sailors, they were always professional. What they are saying now is not true," he told Ukrainian media. 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. The European Union, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and others expressed support for Kiev on Monday, in statements pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia denounced as "predictably anti-Russian". The foreign minister of Austria, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said Tuesday that the bloc will next month consider further sanctions against Moscow over the flare-up. "Everything depends on the accounts of events and the actions of both sides. But it will need to be reviewed," Karin Kneissl told reporters. UN chief Antonio Guterres called for "maximum restraint," urging both sides "to take steps without delay to contain this incident and reduce tensions".

Putin Defends 'Lawful' Seizure of Ukrainian Ships
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 28/18/President Vladimir Putin insisted Wednesday that Russian forces were in the right to seize three Ukrainian ships last weekend, but President Donald Trump expressed "deep concern" at Moscow's actions against a U.S. ally. In his first extensive remarks since the confrontation at sea on Sunday, Putin said it had been orchestrated by Kiev as a "provocation." He said the Ukrainian ships had entered Russian territorial waters and refused to respond to requests to stop from Russian patrol boats. "What were they (Russian forces) supposed to do?" Putin said when asked about the incident at an international investment forum in Moscow. "They were fulfilling their military duty. They were fulfilling their lawful functions in protecting Russia's borders. They would do the same in your country."
Moscow and Kiev have traded angry accusations since Russian navy vessels fired on, boarded and captured the three Ukrainian ships off the coast of Crimea. After warning of the threat of "full-scale war", Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday signed an act imposing martial law for 30 days in regions bordering Russia, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Western governments have rallied behind Kiev, accusing Russia of illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov, used by both countries, and of using force without justification. Trump on Tuesday threatened to cancel planned talks with Putin at this week's G20 summit in Buenos Aires over the incident. The White House said Trump and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the Ukraine-Russia incident by telephone and "the two leaders expressed deep concern about the incident in the Kerch Strait and the continued detainment of Ukraine's vessels and crew members."
'Bring our boys home'
The Kremlin said it still expected the Putin-Trump meeting to take place and played down the threat of cancellation, with foreign policy advisor Yuri Ushakov saying: "The meeting is equally needed by both sides."The Ukrainian vessels -- a tug and two gunboats -- were trying to pass through the Kerch Strait from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, but were refused access and chased into international waters by 10 Russian vessels. Kiev has demanded the return of its ships and the release of 24 sailors taken prisoner during the confrontation.The sailors have been put before a court in Simferopol, the main city in Russian-annexed Crimea, and ordered to be held in pre-trial detention for two months.Detention orders were made against 15 of them on Tuesday, including three still in hospital, and nine more on Wednesday. "We condemn this demonstration of barbarism and are multiplying our efforts to bring our boys home," Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said on Twitter after the court rulings. Ukraine's foreign ministry sent Moscow a diplomatic note in protest at the "illegal" detentions. Sunday's incident was the first direct confrontation between Ukraine and Russia in the long-running conflict pitting Kiev 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.
New S-400s deployed to Crimea
Russian military officials said Wednesday that Moscow would soon deploy more of its advanced S-400 air defense systems in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. One more of the systems would be joining three others already deployed in Crimea, they said. The Ukrainian parliament on Monday voted in favor of Poroshenko's request for martial law, which gives authorities the power to mobilize citizens with military experience, regulate the media and restrict public rallies in affected areas. It was unclear how it would be applied in the border areas and Poroshenko has suggested it is meant essentially as a preventative measure. The European Union, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and others have expressed support for Kiev, in statements pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia denounced as "predictably anti-Russian." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shifted the blame to the West, accusing the United States and Europe of encouraging Ukraine. "I think it reflects Washington's tendency to indulge any and all action taken by the Kiev regime, even inciting them to provocative actions," Lavrov told reporters in Geneva. Moscow has suggested that Kiev provoked the incident to boost support for Poroshenko, who is facing a tough re-election battle in a presidential vote set for next March.

Syria talks on fragile Idlib truce begin in Kazakhstan
/Arab News/November 28, 2018/ASTANA, Kazakhstan: Negotiators from Iran, Russia and Turkey met in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on Wednesday, the Kazakh foreign ministry said, for two days of talks aiming to preserve a fragile 10-week-old truce in northern Syria. Talks were underway between delegations from the three regional power-brokers as well as the Syrian government and opposition, the ministry said in a statement. In addition to cooling the conflict around the northern province of Idlib — Syria’s last major rebel and militant stronghold — discussions will focus on creating conditions for the return of refugees and internally displaced people, as well as post-conflict reconstruction, the ministry said. The United Nations will be represented at the negotiations by Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, according to the statement, in what will likely be his last engagement on the conflict before leaving the post. The 10-week-old Idlib truce deal is in the balance after an alleged chemical attack in the government-held city of Aleppo on Saturday which has triggered retaliatory raids. The exact circumstances of the purported attack on three districts of the government-held city are murky and bitterly disputed. The Syrian government of Bashar Assad has blamed fighters in neighboring Idlib for the attack, which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said hospitalized 94 people. The incident has put strain on an already fragile agreement reached in mid-September to fend off a fully-fledged assault on Idlib, which Syria’s regime — backed by Russia and Iran — has said it is committed to re-taking. More than half of the region is controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), a powerful alliance led by the militants of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, who have not commented on the Aleppo attack. In September, Russia and rebel backer Turkey agreed to set up a U-shaped buffer zone around Idlib to keep pro-government forces outside the region of some three million. But on Sunday, Russia said its war planes had carried out their first strikes in the zone since the deal was reached. Moscow said the raids were a response to the shelling of Aleppo by “terrorist groups” operating inside a part the planned demilitarised area held by HTS. The negotiations in Astana were expected to conclude on Thursday and are the eleventh of their kind since Moscow began a diplomatic push in early 2017 that effectively sidelined UN-led negotiations on Syria. The United States has attended some of the Astana rounds as an observer, but Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey said last week that Washington would not attend these talks. Syria’s grinding seven-year civil war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions.

Saudi Crown Prince Arrives in Argentina
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 28 November, 2018/Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, arrived in Argentina on Wednesday after leaving Tunisia on the last leg of his Arab tour. Upon leaving Carthage Presidential Palace, the Crown Prince was seen off by Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, the Saudi Press Agency reported. At the Presidential Airport, the Crown Prince was also seen off by Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, and a number of senior officials, it said. Crown Prince Mohammed will attend the G20 summit in Buenos Aires at the end of this week. His Arab tour included Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Tunisia.

Mattis: Pulling back US military support in Yemen would be misguided
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday, 28 November 2018/US Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said that pulling American military support in Yemen and weapons sales to partners would be misguided. Mattis’ statement came during his meeting with US senators in a closed briefing at Capitol Hill on Wednesday. “It is in our interests to end the civil war, to counter Iranian influence and stop Iranian-supplied Houthi rocket and unmanned aerial vehicle attacks on UAE and Saudi Arabia and their civilian populations,” Mattis was quoted as saying. “Our withdrawal of limited military support would further remove any reason for the Arab coalition to hold up their operation against Hodeidah Port. Taken together, our disengagement and resultant loss of influence would have the opposite effect of mitigating the humanitarian crisis,” Mattis added. Mattis cautioned senators that it took the US “too long to get here” and that a change in American approach would work against U.N. Special Envoy Martin Griffiths’ efforts by breathing new life into the Houthis' combat operations, “just when they are reluctantly engaging with the UN interlocutor,” he said.

Kremlin says Putin scheduled to meet Saudi crown prince at G20 summit

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday, 28 November 2018/A meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is scheduled in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agenda at the G20 summit in Argentina, the Kremlin said on Wednesday. the Kremlin added that President Putin will discuss with Saudi Crown Prince the Syria file and oil markets, at G20 summit in Argentina. The development of bilateral relations is a priority in the meeting between Putin and Saudi Crown Prince, said the Kremlin. In the meantime, Russian President Vladimir Putin credited on Wednesday, Saudi Crown Prince for the commitment of OPEC and its allies to the oil production agreement. US President Donald Trump had also stated that he would be willing to meet with the crown prince at the summit. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih had confirmed the news last week that the crown prince will be attending the summit, and said that the participation of the crown prince at the G20 summit is part of his foreign tour where he has already visited the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and Tunisia. Climate change, steel and migration have emerged as sticking points in the final communique that world leaders will issue at the end of the Group of 20 summit in Argentina later this month, an Argentine government official said earlier last week. The Kremlin also said it still expects a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump to go ahead as planned. Trump, in an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday, said he may cancel his planned sit-down with Putin in Argentina following Russia's seizure of three Ukrainian naval ships last weekend. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that the meeting is on and that Russia has not received “any other information from our US counterparts.”The long-simmering conflict between Russia and Ukraine burst into the open on Sunday when Russian border guards fired on three Ukrainian vessels and seized the ships and the crew.With AP

Palestine Rejects US Efforts to Condemn Hamas at the UN
New York - Ali Barada/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 28 November, 2018/The US administration has stepped up its diplomatic efforts to obtain crucial support at the UN General Assembly for a draft resolution condemning Hamas for firing rockets from Gaza into Israel, a move rejected by the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Authority considered the US move "provocative" for ignoring the actual reasons of the conflict, saying it aims to "absolve Israel of its responsibilities" as a state occupying Palestinian land. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is lobbying for the support of the 193 members at the General Assembly before presenting the proposed draft resolution in order to ensure a major diplomatic achievement in her name before the termination of her mission at the end of this year. Instead of distributing the draft resolution, the US mission handed over a memorandum, which Asharq Al-Awsat obtained a copy of, to a number of countries. The memo states that the General Assembly issues a disproportionate number of resolutions against Israel each year, adding that such anti-Israel resolutions harm the credibility of the United Nations.It says the proposed resolution condemns rocket firings into Israel and demands Hamas to put an end to the use of violence. In nearly 20 resolutions critical of Israel every year, none of them mentions Hamas, indicated the memo, adding that there is no General Assembly resolution referring to the movement. The draft resolution will also include reaffirming the support for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The memo also called on Hamas to stop all provocative actions and violent activities, including the use of airborne incendiary devices. The US memo urged UN chief Antonio Guterres and the organization’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, to cooperate more on stability with concerned partners. In response, the Palestine Mission to the UN sent a counter-memo to member states indicating that the US draft is "an extension of the current political decisions of the US administration against the Palestinian people”, beginning with its decision on Jerusalem in December 2017. The mission warned that such behavior is detrimental to the peace process and exacerbates the political stalemate. It stressed that the draft, issued amid the US administration's continued failure to recognize Israeli violations against Palestinian rights, aims to exempt Israel from its responsibilities at the international level. The mission also strongly rejected claims that General Assembly resolutions on the Palestinian issue and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are hostile to Israel, explaining that these decisions “are firmly based on international law and resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, including Resolution 2334.” The Palestinian mission regretted that the US draft ignored all preceding resolutions, undermining decades of international efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace based on the two-state solution. It considered the initiative “provocative” with “dubious objectives” and in no way contributing to the serious efforts of concerned parties to reduce tension and reach reconciliation and peace.

Hamas Insists on Toppling Hamdallah’s Govt., Forming National Unity Government
Ramallah - Kifah Ziboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 28 November, 2018/Hamas demanded resignation of the PA government in Ramallah, headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, as a precondition for progress in the negotiations. Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said on Tuesday that the existing PA government could not put an end to the split because, according to him, it was part of the problem and not part of the solution. "The solution for fixing the situation is the establishment of a national unity government based on representation of all factions as was agreed to in Beirut at the beginning of last year," said Abu Marzouk, adding, "that government will implement the reconciliation agreement from 2011." The attack on Hamdallah’s government came one day after announcing he is ready to implement all what would be agreed upon in Cairo between Hamas and Fatah, including the preparation to carry out presidential and legislative elections. Hamas’s insistence to topple Hamdallah’s government was one of its conditions during its discussions with Egypt, in addition to its request to lift sanctions imposed by the PA on Gaza Strip and a commitment by the PA to pay the salaries of government employees in Gaza. Egyptian-sponsored talks on the reconciliation file haven’t seen any violation, but it has come to an end, informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. Egypt had given Palestinian delegations an opportunity to discuss "compromises,” the source stressed. They explained that Hamas has agreed to "empower" the government, including the "controversial issues", only after adopting the "2011 agreement,” with respect to the security forces and factions’ arms. In addition, the movement requested that the empowerment of the current government to be limited by a time-frame, followed by forming a government of national unity, whose task is to hold general presidential and legislative elections. Sources pointed out that Fatah movement has refused to take control over Gaza Strip with conditions and wants full empowerment by the current government, without relating to the actions of the Palestinian President against the Strip. They said after taking control over Gaza, Fatah will be responsible to provide all the necessary services. The movement also refused to form a unity government now and wants to keep the Palestine Liberation Organization's away from the current division.

UN Welcomes Libyan Parliament's Amendment of Constitutional Referendum Law

Cairo - Khalid Mahmoud/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 28 November, 2018/The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) welcomed on Tuesday the eastern-based parliament’s vote with an overwhelming majority on the constitutional referendum law amendment. In a tweet on Tuesday, UNSMIL said it welcomed "the efforts of the House of Representatives (Parliament) to adopt the necessary legislation to move to the stage of fixed institutions through a referendum on the draft constitution and the holding of general elections.” It also wished them success in their endeavors. On Monday, the parliament voted to amend the Constitutional Declaration, a sort of mini-constitution governing power, which makes article six of the referendum law on the country's permanent constitution irrevocable. It also approved restructuring the Presidential Council to consist of one president and two deputies instead of the current one, which consists of one president and nine deputies. Regarding the situation in south Libya, UNSMIL said it had briefed foreign embassies in the country and the international community on the deteriorating situation in Libya's south. A mission statement clarified that the briefing discussed the political, social and security dynamics and access to basic services, humanitarian situation in the region and UN support. During her political briefing, UNSMIL Deputy Head for Political Affairs Stephanie Williams focused on the dire security situation and lack of access to basic services in this resource-rich region.If left unchecked, the fragility in the south could destabilize all Libya, she said, stressing the need for the international community's support. Her statement came as the Sharqiya Municipality in southern Libya confirmed the kidnapping of three of its elders on their return from Umm al-Aranib area at Zwila-Tamsa Road on Monday night. Mayor Mohammed al-Arabi said he believed that Chadian gangs are behind the kidnapping, pointing out that the fate of the abductees is unclear.

Washington, London Back UN Envoy Griffiths’ Efforts in Yemen
Riyadh - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 28 November, 2018/Yemeni information Minister Moammar al-Eryani on Tuesday stressed that the key Red Sea port city of Hodeidah needs to return to government control, and the presence of paramilitary Houthi militias is inadmissible. Eryani, in a tweet, said that Yemeni authorities welcomed the plan for Hodeidah proposed by UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths so long that it sticks to the three key references for peacemaking that encompass a total hand over of the port city to Yemen’s freely-elected government. Political analysts believe, rushing in their efforts to achieve a settlement for the Yemeni crisis, Washington and London diplomats are relentless in their attempts to squeeze more concessions out of the Aden-based Hadi government, but backers of the constitutional establishment insist on the need to restore all Yemeni state institutions to central administrative governance. Iran-allied Houthis militias, according to Hadi supporters, must be reined in by international pressure so that the war-torn country may kickstart the road to national recovery. The legitimate Yemeni government, based in Aden and headed by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, rejected on Monday any UN peace effort not based on the three references which are the national dialogue outcomes, the Gulf initiative and the UN Security Council resolution 2216. UNSC resolution 2216 both sanctioned the Iran-backed Houthi leader, Abdulmalik al-Houthi, and called for the disarmament of all paramilitary factions. “The arms embargo against the spoilers of peace, including Houthi leaders, would send a strong signal that the use of violence in defiance of Council resolutions would not be tolerated,” said the 2015 resolution. Apart from the three references, the Yemeni government reiterated its unlimited support to initiatives led by UN envoy Griffiths, especially on brokering peace with Houthi militias in upcoming talks to be held in Sweden. After spending some two months of intensive shuttle diplomacy, Griffiths managed booking peace consultations for early December 2018, after the last Geneva-held round in September failed due to Iran-backed Houthi militias making made last-minute conditions. Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Yamani also met Tuesday with US Ambassador Matthew Tueller. Discussions between the two focused on underway efforts made by UN’s Griffiths for holding a round of new peace consultations, Yemeni state media reported. Intent on ending the suffering of Yemenis and stopping bloodshed, Yamani stated that Hadi’s government positively responded to the call by the UN envoy and will be engaging in upcoming negotiations. He, however, noted that government endeavors are challenged by the putschist militia's intransigence and persistent fighting. Tuller, for his part, reiterated the Trump administration's stance on supporting political settlement in Yemen under the three terms of reference.

Sadr Says He's Not Behind Delay in Cabinet Formation
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 28 November, 2018/Leader of the Sadrist Movement Muqtada al-Sadr denied on Tuesday being the reason behind the delay of cabinet formation. "I am not behind delaying the conclusion of cabinet formation, but I am behind postponing their plots," Sadr said on his Twitter account. He accused some parties, who refuse anti-corruption reforms, of working together "to bring back the corrupt people" against the will of the Iraqi people. He addressed the political blocs in a tweet after postponing the parliamentary session, which was expected to vote Tuesday on the candidates for the remaining eight ministerial posts in Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet. He questioned them about the reasons why they are calling on him to accept the quota and corruption and sell the country while he is working on their survival and preservation of Iraq’s pride and dignity.
Sadr also made it clear that he will only approve the candidates who are free of any political affiliation to take the office at the ministries of interior and defense. “I will not accept a minister of defense or interior who is affiliated [to a political party],” Sadr said in a statement on his official Twitter account. “I urge the prime minister to move swiftly to fill the cabinet posts that are still vacant, except for those of defense and interior,” he said. “I cannot throw my support behind individuals who are not independent who have been nominated for these two cabinet postings,” he added. He stressed also that the such two vital ministerial portfolios should be filled with independent cadres in order to maintain Iraq’s dignity and independence and not to allow any country to interfere in Iraq’s domestic affairs. At the end of his tweet, Sadr suggested that Abdul Mahdi should open the door for “great commanders,” who liberated Iraq from ISIS militants, to run for the defense and interior ministries instead, adding that “our neighbors are our friends, not our masters.”In this context, Sairoon spokesman Qahtan al-Jubouri told Asharq Al-Awsat that Sadr’s decision to grant freedom to the Prime Minister in selecting his cabinet members and abandoning quotas’ approach represents a lifeline for the political process. “Sadr's suggestion to Abdul Mahdi to choose the ministers of defense and the interior from those who fought terrorism is the best solution to the problem we have been experiencing due to the lack of consensus on the candidates for these two important portfolios,” Jubouri noted. He pointed out that if political blocs want to raise to the level of challenges and agree with the directives of the religious reference, they must work to prove this by choosing the interests of the country and its citizens instead of their partisan, sectarian and narrow interests, which are completely rejected by all Iraqis.

Iraq: Security Forces Shut Down Organizations Linked to PKK in Sulaymaniyah
Sulaymaniyah - Ihsan Aziz/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 28 November, 2018/Kurdish security forces “Asayish” began shutting down several headquarters and offices of political parties and civil organizations linked to Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), banned in Turkey. On October 29, deputy prime minister of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Qubad Talabani, issued an order to close the offices and headquarters of all parties and organizations without a formal license issued by the KRG. The resolution, however, is only limited to parties and civil organizations ideologically associated with the PKK, such as Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) and its civil women's organization. The Workers' Party is known for adopting the principles of imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan. However, several parties recently established in the Region continue to perform their activities normally, even though they have not obtained their official authorizations yet. Commander at PAK, Hussein Karkuki, described the Kurdish authorities' decision as political and lacking any legal basis, given that his party has been officially licensed by the federal authorities in Baghdad since 2018 to exercise their political work throughout Iraq.
Karkuki told Asharq Al-Awsat that the party had been asking the KRG to issue them an official permit to carry out their activities, but the authorities ignored their request. According to the Law, the Ministry of Interior has to either refuse or approve such request within 45 days, otherwise the party is considered officially licensed. “So our party is legally licensed and we will not leave our headquarters and will not close it,” asserted Karkuki. He explained that the security authorities of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the ruling party in Sulaymaniyah, had asked his party to comply with the decision to avoid any “embarrassment” with the Turkish authorities. PUK is under direct pressure from Turkey to ban the activities of parties and organizations loyal or linked to the PKK in Sulaymaniyah. In turn, Turkish authorities will normalize its relations with the Patriotic Union, and lift the air embargo imposed on Sulaymaniyah International Airport. "Even if we close our headquarters in Sulaymaniyah, we will continue our political activities in other forums and communities," Karkuki confirmed. Political parties had emerged in the region mid-last year and have not received official authorization. For instance, Coalition for Democracy and Justice party was founded by Iraqi President Barham Salih last spring, however, it is not authorized yet. Few weeks ago, the party changed its name to Patriotic Alliance after Salih resigned from the party and joined the PUK. Member of New Generation Movement, Aram Saeed, said that his party, which did not get official authorization yet, won four seats in the Iraqi parliament and eight in the Region's parliament during the elections that took place on September 30. He considered having members in both parliaments is in itself "an authorization to perform political work."Saeed told Asharq Al-Awsat, “Our movement is engaged in political activity without any hindrances, and no security authority ordered us to close our headquarters,” adding
that they will act accordingly if they were ordered to shut down.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 28-29/18
America’s Proxy in Syria
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/November 28/18
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.

Easiest Fix for Facebook
Joe Nocera/Bloomberg View/November,28/18
In the US, social media giant Facebook Inc. has become a problem. It makes its money — $23.3 billion in 2017 adjusted earnings 1 — by running roughshod over privacy concerns, selling users’ data to advertisers. Along with Amazon, Apple and Google, it has “aggregated more economic value and influence than nearly any other commercial entity in history,” as the marketing professor Scott Galloway wrote in Esquire earlier this year.
It’s a monopoly, having either bought or crushed most potential competitors. It stifles innovation; as my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Noah Smith noted recently, potential startups can’t get capital if venture capitalists think they might wind up as Facebook roadkill. (Such companies are said to be in Facebook’s “kill zone.”)
And then there are the issues that have emerged since the 2016 election: how Facebook looked the other way as Russian interests spread disinformation; how it was slow to act as its platform was used to foment murder and rape in Myanmar; how it turned over user data to Cambridge Analytica, the political data firm working on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
As more has emerged about Facebook’s business tactics, as well as its efforts to quash complaints, critics have come forth with lots of ideas about what to do about Facebook. Over 30 senators have co-sponsored a bill that would force Facebook to abide by the same disclosure rules for political ads as television and newspapers. The New York Times called for congressional hearings. Antitrust economists have come up with a number of intriguing ideas to rein in Facebook.
But the idea that makes the most sense — the one with the best chance to dilute Facebook’s power, spur innovation and insert competition into the social media industry — is the solution Tim Wu proposes in his new book, “The Curse of Bigness.” 2 It’s the Occam’s razor solution: break Facebook up.
Wu, of course, is the Columbia University law professor best known for coining the phrase “net neutrality.” His short book is a plea to return to the day when antitrust enforcement meant something more than focusing on whether consumer prices might rise — which, he points out, was most of the last century. It’s only been the past few decades that the “consumer welfare standard” first championed by Robert Bork became the sole prism though which antitrust regulators looked at mergers. That misguided focus has helped bring about a concentration of power not seen since the days of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil.
“Back then,” Wu told me the other day, “the general counsel of Standard Oil made a speech in which he said that trying to prevent corporate concentration was like trying to prevent the rain from falling.” Monopolies were viewed as the natural course of capitalism. But President Theodore Roosevelt believed that no company should be more powerful than the federal government, and that the drive to monopolize, as Wu writes, “seemed inevitably to come with its own morality.”
One of Wu’s core points is that there’s nothing wrong with saying that too much industry concentration is something we should oppose — that even if consumer prices aren’t affected, there are a raft of negative consequences, both political and economic. Rarely are those negatives on such vivid display as they are right now at Facebook.
Nor is there anything wrong with calling for monopolistic companies to be broken up.
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.

Sweden: Women Raped, Authorities Too Busy
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/November 28/18
According to Mikaela Blixt, after a man attacked her in the street and tried to rape her, the police did nothing, even though she knew where her attacker lived and could easily have identified him.
The Swedish mainstream media outlet, Expressen, wanted to interview Blixt, but, according to her, only on condition that she not mention that her attacker was an Afghan migrant.
Not only women, but almost one out of three Swedes, do not feel safe in Sweden, according to a new poll that asked 6,300 Swedes how safe they feel in their homes and communities.
It is curious that the Swedish police not only have sufficient resources to charge people who attend peaceful demonstrations, but also people who allegedly commit thought crimes.
Getting the Swedish police even to file a report of an attempted rape against a woman is, to say the least, difficult -- itself a sign that something is rotten in the "feminist" kingdom of Sweden. Yet the Swedish police not only have sufficient resources to charge people who attend peaceful demonstrations, but also people who allegedly commit thought crimes. (Image source: iStock)
"Sweden," stated its government in November 2015, "has a feminist government. We place gender equality at the heart of both national and international work... The overall objective of the Government's gender equality policy is equal power for women and men to shape society and their own lives. This is ultimately a question of democracy and social justice."
Wait a minute. Shouldn't women living under a "feminist government" be able -- at a bare minimum -- to leave their homes without the fear of becoming victims of sexual assault?
22,000 sexual crimes were reported in 2017 to the Swedish police, 7370 of them rapes, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet, or Brå). That number corresponds to an average of 20 reported rapes per day -- twice as many as in 2005. Those are just the reported rapes. In 2012, for instance, only 20% of all rapes were reported to the police, according to Brå.
Unlike what the Swedish media has been preaching for years -- that most rapes occur in private settings and are committed against victims who know already their attacker -- the large majority of rapes are, in fact, committed in the public sphere by men who have never previously met their victim, according to Brå. Out of the 842 men sentenced for rape or attempted rape in the past five years, noted a report by Svt Nyheter (Swedish Television) 58% were foreign-born -- from the Middle East and North Africa, southern parts of Africa and other places outside of Europe. When it came to men sentenced for attempted rape, as well as violent rape, where victim and perpetrator did not know each other beforehand, 80% of the men were foreign born and 40% had only been in Sweden for a year or less.
Getting the police even to file a report of an attempted rape against a woman is, to say the least, difficult -- itself a sign that something is rotten in the "feminist" kingdom of Sweden.
In the little town of Deje in central Sweden, for example, an Afghan migrant, who lives at the migrant center in town, recently assaulted, knifed and attempted to rape a woman, Mikaela Blixt, as she was walking her dog in broad daylight.
The attacker first kicked Blixt's small dog into the air, then forced Blixt to the ground and cut her hip with a knife. She managed to escape from her attacker, and made it home with her dog. Shocked and bleeding, she tried to report the assault to the police.
That effort proved almost impossible. When Blixt called the Swedish emergency services phone line, the police refused even to talk to her. They told her that as the attack was no longer in process, she would have to call the non-emergency number. "If you want to report the assault you will have to suffer a bit of a phone queue," the policewoman warned her, according to Blixt. After spending nearly the entire day trying in vain to get through to the police on the phone, she drove the next day to the nearest police station in the neighboring town, where, 24 hours after the assault, police finally took the report.
After Blixt's visit to the police station, she saw evidence of her sexual assault hanging outside the migrant center: the trousers her attacker had worn had been washed and hung out to dry, but may still have had traces of her blood on them. She notified the police, but they did not have time to come that day to secure the evidence. In fact, according to Blixt, the police did nothing, even though she knew where her attacker lived and could easily have identified him.
Blixt wrote about her experience on a local community Facebook page, in an apparent attempt to get in touch with another woman, who had been raped in the area two weeks earlier. Blixt's post was shared thousands of times -- which led the police to contact Blixt and admonish her that she was damaging their ongoing investigation, which, to all appearances, was not even slightly ongoing. The police also refused to publicize a description of the perpetrator, claiming, incomprehensibly, that the perpetrator might make the investigation "more difficult."
Even though the police supposedly had neither the time nor the resources to attend to that attempted rape, they did show up in force when 80 citizens of Deje gathered in a demonstration in solidarity with Blixt and "against violence". Two police patrols and a policeman in civilian clothes came to watch over the peaceful event and, once it had ended, charged its organizer with violating the public order. Apparently, he had not applied for permission to demonstrate. Swedish police have no problem with migrant rapists, but do not suffer unannounced peaceful demonstrations.
The Swedish mainstream media outlet, Expressen, wanted to interview Blixt, but, according to her, only on condition that she not mention that her attacker was an Afghan migrant.
What is disturbing is that the police seemed so studiously uninterested in finding and arresting the rapist -- at least until her case went viral on Facebook. Only a week after Blixt was assaulted, three women in the neighboring town of Karlstad were raped on the same night. The next day there, a fourth woman was the victim of an attempted rape.
That police do not prioritize such cases of rape is apparently nothing new. In September 2017, Swedish police admitted that they do not have sufficient manpower to solve rape cases, even in those instances where they know who the rapist is.
It is curious, then, that the police not only have sufficient resources to charge people who attend peaceful demonstrations, but also people who allegedly commit thought crimes. In October, Christopher Larsson, a politician in the Sweden Democrats (SD) party in the city of Karlskrona, was charged for "inciting hatred" ("hets mot folkgrupp") after he wrote on SD's Facebook page:
"It is a day of sorrow on Friday, when the minaret will sound for the first time over Karlskrona with 'Allah is great', the same phrase as 'Allahu Akhbar' that Islamists shout when they blow themselves up".
A member of parliament for the Social Democrats, Magnus Manhammar, reported Larsson to the police. The Social Democrats -- the party that effectively still rules the country, as Sweden has not been able to form a new government since the elections in September -- even published a press release in which it said that Larsson's Facebook post, "links the new minaret to terrorism". According to the prosecutor, Larsson's post "identifies Muslims as blameworthy by describing them as terrorists and oppressors of women and by claiming that their views are medieval".
Incidentally, not only women but almost one out of three Swedes do not feel safe in Sweden, according to a new poll that asked 6,300 Swedes how safe they felt in their homes and communities. Astonishingly, when the newspaper that ran the poll asked a psychologist, Siri Helle, to explain the statistic, she said that people were just "scared of the dark": "We live in one of the world's safest countries and we have never been as safe as now."
What might be important to ask is: What is happening to Sweden?
*Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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Iran’s dangerous influence in Iraq a cause for region-wide concern
Sir John Jenkins/Arab News/November 28, 2018
What times we live in. Sometimes it seems as if everything we used to believe about the Middle East and North Africa — indeed about the world — is crumbling to dust before our eyes. At other moments, we seem to find ourselves unexpectedly presented with scenes from an old and familiar play with a happy ending; only to find ourselves back in the theater of the absurd.
The recent visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Oman and his reception there by Sultan Qaboos has once again aroused fevered speculation that normalization between Israel and the Arabs might really be gathering pace and that the “deal of the century” announced by US President Donald Trump shortly after he assumed office last year is perhaps more than just a slogan.
I personally doubt this. I don’t think that one visit to Muscat, even combined with the playing of the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” at an international judo tournament in Abu Dhabi — or reports of meetings between senior Israeli political, intelligence and military figures in Cyprus and elsewhere — mean that we are any nearer a lasting solution to the Palestinian issue. And it is that — the creation of a Palestinian state on terms satisfactory to the Palestinians themselves and to other Arab leaders — that is the only real answer, regardless of how incapable the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah or the destructive refuseniks in Gaza, Beirut and Istanbul are of meeting the political challenge themselves.
What is interesting in this is the willingness many people have to suspend critical judgement when they are presented with a story they passionately want to believe.
And there is another such story, of more immediate importance and rather nearer to the Gulf, in Iraq. The last elections produced, in many ways, an unexpected result, with particular gains for the Sadrists (Sa’irun), a fracturing of the State of Law alliance and a poor performance by the list associated with then-PM Haider Abadi, who at one point had been seen by some in the West as the future of Iraq.
The usual haggling then started. But, instead of a prime minister from one of the major Shiite parties, we ended up with one — Adel Abdul-Mahdi — who had once belonged to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq but who rebadged himself as an independent technocrat. And, instead of a president from one of the two main Kurdish parties, we got Barham Salih, who had broken with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and established his own party on the eve of the elections.
The two posts seemed to go together, with a deal being hurriedly struck and then pushed through the Council of Representatives (perhaps improperly), even though there was substantial opposition from some of the more established Shiite politicians and from the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Both Abdul-Mahdi and Barham are, in different ways, impressive and certainly attractive personalities. Combined with Mohammed Al-Halbousi — the former governor of Anbar — as Speaker, this looked to many like a dream team. Perhaps at last Iraq could start to put its many problems, including sectarianism, corruption, terror, political fragmentation and bad governance, behind it and find a more constructive way to rebuild itself.
The trouble is that those who think this way — and there are still lots who do, particularly in Western capitals — are again allowing themselves to be seduced by a comforting fairy story. Quite honestly, if any of these positions had really mattered, Iran would have made sure it had the final word. Tehran hasn’t gone away simply because elections showed most Iraqis wanted to decide their own future. Or because it has been forced to retrench by renewed US sanctions and the economic damage its own leaders have inflicted; or because of the clear evidence of popular discontent and the emerging threat from Daesh-related terror groups or Ahvaz separatists; or because repeated Israeli strikes on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or Hezbollah positions in Syria and indeed Iraq have made it rethink its position in the wider region. These are all serious and real, but Iran has a plan and is doubling down on it.
In Iraq, Iran had already purposefully penetrated the institutions of government, the economy and, in many ways, the social fabric of the country so deeply that it could not be removed without serious damage. Even the clear signs of growing resentment toward Iran in what had been the heartlands of its post-2003 support in southern Iraq had not been sufficient to shift its position. The protests in Basra and elsewhere were caused largely by the long-term inability or unwillingness of the central and provincial governments to invest in service provision in an area that produces the vast majority of Iraq’s oil exports.
Instead, they allowed Iran to gain a position by which it exported power to Iraq from Iran, used Iraq as a captive market for its agricultural and energy products, and increasingly as a base for the construction of an embedded system designed to enable it to bypass financial sanctions. For example, through the informal dollar trade and the budget-linked funding mechanisms for the Iranian-aligned Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), developing a dependency it could and will exploit.
In all this, the man to watch is not the president, the prime minister or the speaker. It is Hadi Al-Ameri, the commander of the Badr Brigade, who is ably assisted by Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis of Kata’ib Hezbollah and Qais Al-Khazali of Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq. That is where the real power in the state resides. They have just persuaded the PM to align the salaries of their PMU forces with those of the regular security forces, but without any proper supervision, thus formalizing a structure, under construction for years, where a parallel military force is created and its position entrenched in order to bolster those who simply use politics as a shield against scrutiny in order to exercise real but hidden power.
And there is something else to watch. In April, Israel attacked an air base in Syria and killed several IRGC officers. In May, the Iranians retaliated by firing missiles at the occupied Golan Heights, causing minimal damage but provoking further extensive Israeli strikes inside Syria. These strikes were designed to impede Iranian efforts to resupply Hezbollah with more advanced and accurate missiles and to develop basing for their forces inside Syria, and to warn Iran of the consequences of continuing to do so. The trouble is that the Iranians continue to press ahead, simply accepting further damage — most vividly through an Israeli strike in Abu Kamal on the Syria/Iraq border in June — as a price to pay.
The Israelis haven’t stopped either. Even after being blamed by Moscow for the recent downing of a Russian aircraft by incompetent Syrian air defenses, they have (quietly) launched at least three further strikes. But, under current conditions, they can delay but not definitively stop Iran.
And consider what happened in early September, when the IRGC launched missile strikes on sites belonging to two Iranian Kurdish opposition parties, the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan PDKI, inside Iraq near Koya. These strikes were far more accurate than those the IRGC had earlier launched against the Golan and the missiles travelled more than 500 kilometers — the distance they would have to travel if they were fired not from Iran but from inside western Iraq toward Israel.
Tehran hasn’t gone away simply because elections showed most Iraqis wanted to decide their own future.
The KDPI, at least, had conducted some low-level attacks inside Iran, but the PDKI had not. So the message couldn’t just be about what to expect if you attack Iran. Nor could it just have been about the burning of the Iranian consulate in Basra the day before. Iran is very deliberate in what it wants people to think. In this case, it was almost certainly declaring a willingness to hit back at anyone in the region, not just inside Iraq. Even Israel — which does not want a third potential front against Iran — is not safe.
Iran is constantly improving the accuracy of its ballistic missiles (an area of international scrutiny actually weakened by the nuclear deal) and both Syria and Iraq are now potential theaters for offensive action against those who threaten the Islamic Republic. Iran has also probably transferred some of the same missiles it used to hit Koya to PMU forces in Iraq. Shades of Hezbollah and the Houthis.
Israel is watching all this like a hawk. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was really the point of Netanyahu’s trip to Oman. But it is not clear how the declared policies of the US, the UK and indeed other EU states will help address the challenge. The US is at least genuinely ratcheting up the financial and economic pressure on Iran and Hezbollah and is making noises about remaining in Syria to support the Syrian Democratic Forces in the north and continue combating Daesh (which never went away and is now coming back strongly in certain areas, but that’s another story). But there is some doubt about how joined up this all is. Meanwhile, neither the UK nor its EU partners have a clear and comprehensive position. Nor, quite frankly, do the Arab states of the region, which are distracted by other issues (something that only benefits Iran). That spells danger.
*Sir John Jenkins is an Associate at Policy Exchange. Until December 2017, he was Corresponding Director (Middle East) at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), based in Manama, Bahrain, and was a Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. He was the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia until January 2015.

Pompeo: Saudi Arabia a powerful force for stability in the Middle East
Arab News/November 28, 2018
JEDDAH: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said Saudi Arabia is a powerful force for stability in the Middle East and warned against any attempts to harm US relations with the Kingdom.
In a staunch and strongly worded defense of the relationship between Washington and Riyadh, Pompeo said downgrading ties would be a “grave mistake for the national security of the US and its allies.”He highlighted Saudi Arabia’s stance against Iran, the role played in the fight against Daesh, and the Kingdom’s aid efforts for Syrian refugees. Writing on the State Department’s official blog, Pompeo also defended America’s support for the Arab Coalition’s military operation in Yemen against the Iran-backed Houthi militia. “The Kingdom is a powerful force for stability in the Middle East,” Pompeo said. “Saudi Arabia, like the US – and unlike these critics – recognizes the immense threat the Islamic Republic of Iran poses to the world.
“An emboldened Iran would spread even more death and destruction in the Middle East, spark a regional nuclear-arms race, threaten trade routes, and foment terrorism around the world.”
Pompeo’s comments were published shortly before he and Defense Secretary James Mattis briefed senators about Saudi Arabia and the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
The Saudi journalist was murdered in the Kingdom’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2, in what Saudi prosecutors say was a botched repatriation attempt by rogue agents. The case has led to some pressure from within Washington for the Trump administration to review the historic and deep relations between the two countries.
But this was dismissed by Pompeo, who said Khashoggi’s death was being used by Donald Trump’s opponents to try to undermine his rebuilding of ties with Saudi Arabia.
“Is it any coincidence that the people using the Khashoggi murder as a cudgel against President Trump’s Saudi Arabia policy are the same people who supported Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Iran – a regime that has killed thousands world-wide, including hundreds of Americans, and brutalizes its own people?” he said.
Pompeo said the vast social and economic reforms underway in Saudi Arabia under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would not be helped by downgrading relations with Riyadh.
“The crown prince has moved the country in a reformist direction, from allowing women to drive and attend sporting events, to curbing the religious police and calling for a return to moderate Islam,” he said. On Yemen, Pompeo said the crown prince had acted quickly “to root out Iran’s destabilizing influence” and praised the Kingdom’s aid efforts in the country.
“Iran has no interest in easing Yemeni suffering; the mullahs don’t even care for ordinary Iranians,” he said. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has invested billions to relieve suffering in Yemen. Iran has invested zero.”He announced that the US would provide an additional $131 million for food aid in Yemen.Mattis told members of the Senate in the closed-doors briefing that US involvement in Yemen is central to American security interests. He warned that ending US involvement in the conflict would "be misguided on the eve of the promising initial negotiations."
Pompeo said Saudi Arabia’s other efforts in the region had also helped contain Iran, combat extremist groups and relieve the suffering of the displaced.
He said in Iraq, Saudi Arabia was “working to secure Iraq’s fragile democracy and keep Baghdad tethered to the West’s interests, not Tehran’s.”
“Saudi Arabia has also contributed millions of dollars to the US-led effort to fight Islamic State and other terrorist organizations,” the Secretary of State said.

Qatar, the boycott continues

Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/November 28/18
Many foreigners and Arabs betted on the disruption of the strong alliance between the Arab quartet: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain, due to the intensified political and media attacks regarding the Yemeni war and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
The attack was in fact unprecedented, and the concentrated coordination between its three parties, the Muslim Brotherhood, Khomeinists and leftists reached an unprecedented level of intensified efforts.The aim of the massive campaigns on Saudi Arabia and on the crown prince’s character, the architect of hope and the new vision and the man of decisiveness who’s besieged the invading Iranian Khomeini project, was to repeal the power of the alliance that’s based on its four decisive Arab pillars, Riyadh, Cairo, Abu Dhabi and Manama. There is no change, no hesitation and no weakness. Principles are principles before the campaigns over the murder of Khashoggi and the Yemen war and after them
No change, no hesitation
However, these efforts were thwarted and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman kicked off his international tour beginning with the friend, UAE, then he headed to the loyal Bahrain and later to Egypt, which represents power and Arab pride. Afterwards, he will kick off an interesting tour in North African countries. The end of this international tour will be the G-20 summit in Argentina.  There is no change, no hesitation and no weakness. Principles are principles before the campaigns over the murder of Khashoggi and the Yemen war and after them. There were all these rumors and false news, which are cooked by the Al Jazeera channel and all of Qatar’s networks and the Muslim Brotherhood about the Saudi kingdom and its governing institution, and about the Arab quartet’s backing out from for instance boycotting Qatar until it ends its policy of supporting terrorists and inciting strife.
The fate of all these desires is disappointment. News reports about the Saudi crown prince’s visit to Egypt stated that Egypt and Saudi Arabia reaffirmed that they will confront Iranian interferences. These reports also noted that President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman adhere to the conditions of reconciliation with Qatar without any concessions.
All those who betted and worked on marginalizing the Arab quartet and defeating Saudi determination today must try again some other time!

Happiness that gives a sense of fulfillment
Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/November 28/18
“The sign that shows real progress in every creative work is the pleasure we derive from it, and then we realize that only work is what is pleasurable, and this alone is enough.”Here, Aristotle refers to a concept that philosophers have long discussed for several centuries, and it is the meaning of “happiness” that stems from “pleasure” and “delight.” Both of these sentiments are not only a spiritual feeling or a physical sensation devoid of any sense, but are also directly linked to the mind and thought, that is in fact the way by which one can achieve happiness.
A poetry verse by Al-Mutanabbi, a musical piece by Mozart; maybe a chocolate bar, a delicious meal cooked with passion, a movie, a scientific equation, a dance, or feeling the warmth of the sun one afternoon near a water pool, all of these may give you the desired happiness. These things may be enjoyed by a multitude of individuals, but they will not necessarily derive the same pleasure, and perhaps some may even find them boring.
“Happiness” has been converted from a moment we live and experience to a mere picture to be posted on Instagram. Once happiness is caught by the physical lens of a camera, it ceases to exist like a hunted gazelle soaking in its own blood
This disparity in influence, apart from being the result of differences from person to person, and from one experience to another, is mainly due, according to Aristotle, to “happiness” being, linked to the “wisdom” achieved through contemplation.
Contemplation designates the act of reflecting about things; to identify with the moment and seek joy in the present, not what comes after the work. It is a practice which immerses a person in the life he now lives and not the dreams he aspires to achieve one day!
For example, there is the scent of a perfume when it works on our senses, its fragrance actually does not only linger in the nose, but also in the spirit and the mind. When one is made aware of the history behind this fragrance, where it came from, how it was made, the herbs and precious oils used in it, and the farms and high mountains from which it was brought, then all this history and narration will be impossible for us to feel in our souls for just a brief moment. We are attracted to it the moment we sense this fragrance, and it will linger like it’s two lovers’ eternal embrace.
The meaning of happiness
This does not complicate the meaning of “happiness,” which even the simplest people and individuals from society who can neither read nor write can feel. This is another path for tapping at its source and its apogee. It is a path which normal people would not follow for every individual has his own happiness, the one that most suits him.Returning to the concept of “contemplation,” Socrates believes that happiness’ only limits are those of contemplation as the more we develop our ability to contemplate, the better our prospects for achieving happiness. For him this relationship is not “coincidental, but the result of contemplation as one can even say happiness is a kind of contemplation.” Contemplative thinking is a type of spiritual and mental sport which relies on anchoring and adapting one’s self. Through contemplation one even perceives happiness in the burning of a forest or the crashing waves of the ocean.
This has nothing to do with what some modernists are trying to promote via a distorted concept of “positivity”, which has become a mere product of consumption tastelessly marketed via shallow writings that are far from contemplation and knowledge and that work on modeling humans and turning them into simpletons with meaningless smiles which they rush to capture with their blunt lenses and share on social media networks while depicting them as moments of joy and happiness.
“Happiness” has been converted from a moment we live and experience to a mere picture to be posted on Instagram. Once happiness is caught by the physical lens of a camera, it ceases to exist like a hunted gazelle soaking in its own blood!
Happiness does not require its memories to be imprinted by a machine, or recorded on videos to be shared on mobile phones, but only demands of our souls to be in harmony with what makes them joyful, and to be what they want and not what others want, even if it means for this soul to wander alone. The soul can live in a state of suspended joy as long as one knows the way.