November 30/1
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site

News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to enter the LCCC Arabic/English news bulletins Achieves since 2006

Bible Quotations For today
Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things
Mark 08/31-38: "Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things. ’He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 29-30/18
In Lebanon, Climate Change Devours Ancient Cedar Trees/AFP/Thursday 29th November 2018
What Mohammed bin Salman’s Presence at the G-20 Means/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/November 29/18
Eternal Jihad: Islam Will Never, Ever Stop”/Raymond Ibrahim/American Thinker/November 29/18
How to Work Your Way Up From the Bottom/Barry Ritholtz/Asharq Al Awsat/November 29/18
Switzerland: "Creeping EU Accession"/Soeren Kern/Gatestone InstituteéNovember 29/18
How Significant Will Be Mohammed bin Salman’s Presence at the G20 Meeting in Argentina/Micheal Young/Carnegie/November 29/18
The Dire Consequences of Rewriting Western-Muslim History/Raymond Ibrahim/The Jerusalem Post/November 30/18
FDA Approves Ground breaking New Cancer Drug/NBC News/Thursday 29th November 2018
The secret behind attacks on Washington and Riyadh/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/November 29/19
Oil price volatility: All eyes on the G20 meeting/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/November 29/19
Russia continues to show disdain for international law and diplomatic norms/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/November 29/19
CIA has no proof against Saudi Crown Prince: US expert/Dalia Aqidi/Al Arabiya/November 29/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 29-30/18
Aoun condemns attempts to eliminate Palestinian right of return
Hariri Appreciates Bassil's Effort, FPM Still Sees Govt. before Holidays
Hariri: I will not change my position
Hariri receives UNCTAD secretary general
Report: Hizbullah Still Keen on Hariri's Designation, Not behind Campaigns
Salameh: Central Bank to Launch Digital Currency Soon
'Consultative Gathering' renews demand to meet with Hariri
Army 'Detains Several Hundred Syrians' in Raids on Camps
Two Suspects Arrested over Gavin Ford's Murder
Trash Pollutes Lebanon's Mediterranean Coastline
Lebanese Businessman Jailed in Paris Drug Trial
Wahhab Files Lawsuit against Hariri over 'Insults, Death Threats'
Druze Sheikh Aql contacts Hariri and Derian
Lebanon: Top Officials Call for Strengthening Security, Human Rights Standards
Army deny news about interception of weaponloaded truck en route to Jahlieh
Mashnouq meets Russian Ambassador, ICMP Director
Army commander meets US Assistant Secretary of Defense, French Ambassador
Abi Khalil raises with KPC official royalties' reduction on imported gas to Lebanon
Inauguration of 4th Anti Cybercrime Forum under Salameh's patronage
In Lebanon, Climate Change Devours Ancient Cedar Trees

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 29-30/18
Rookie legislator leaves Tory caucus over decisions affecting francophones
Canada imposes sanctions on individuals linked to murder of Jamal Khashogg
Syrian air force shoots down ‘enemy target’ south of capital
EU Reiterates Commitment to Iran Nuclear Deal
Ghosn 'Signed Documents to Defer Compensation'
Trump Cancels G-20 Meeting With Putin Over Russian Capture of Ukrainian Sailors
Outgoing U.N. Envoy Rues 'Missed Opportunity' at Astana Syria Talks
United Nations wants Syria to account for war dead, detainees
Merkel Warns 'No Military Solution' to Ukraine Conflict
U.N. Aid Chief Calls for End to Fighting in Yemen
US Treasury imposes cyber-related sanctions on two Iranians

Latest Lebanese Related News published on November 29-30/18
Aoun condemns attempts to eliminate Palestinian right of return
The Daily Star/November 29/18/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Thursday marked the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People by condemning attempts to eliminate the Palestinian right of return. In a message to Senegal’s U.N. ambassador, Cheikh Niang, who chairs the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Aoun said attempts abound to eliminate Palestinian people’s identity and rights. He also stressed the committee's important role in defending the rights of the Palestinian people. “We look forward to the day that the Palestinian people get their inalienable rights,” a statement released by the presidency Thursday quoted Aoun as saying. United Nations Resolution 194, whose 70th anniversary will take place shortly after the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, aims to ensure the right of return for Palestinian refugees and the protection of the Holy Places. It also places occupied Jerusalem under the protection of the U.N. so that the international body can guarantee the right of everyone, including Palestinians, to access it. “Unfortunately, the resolution remained on paper and was not implemented, like many other international decisions for Palestine and its oppressed people,” Aoun said. This year's international day of solidarity seems especially crucial, as the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees has come under fire from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration. The U.S. has backed Israel in accusing UNRWA of perpetuating the conflict in the Middle East due to its support of the belief that millions of Palestinians are refugees with a right to return to their homes in occupied Palestine. In the statement Thursday, Aoun explicitly condemned the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as well as the country’s decision, in August, to cut funding to UNRWA. The U.S. had formerly been the biggest contributor by far to the agency.

Hariri Appreciates Bassil's Effort, FPM Still Sees Govt. before Holidays
Naharnet/November 29/18/The ideas that Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil has proposed for resolving the so-called Sunni hurdle are “still not clear” and have not been officially presented to Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, a source close to the PM said. “There is continuous communication between Bassil and PM-designate Hariri, who considers the former’s endeavor good and beneficial but so far has not yielded any results,” the source told al-Hayat daily in remarks published Thursday. The source added that some leaks suggest that a leading proposal involves giving a government seat to MP Qassem Hashem, who is a member of the Consultative Sunni Gathering and the only Sunni in Speaker Nabih Berri’s Development and Liberation bloc. But “there are no indications that Hariri could accept this formula,” the source noted. An FPM source informed on Bassil’s mediation meanwhile emphasized that the mediation of the FPM chief “will not stop.”“Things are not deadlocked and we still believe that there will be a government before the holidays,” the source added. A minister in the caretaker cabinet meanwhile told al-Hayat that there are three proposed solutions. “The first is raising the government members from 30 to 32, which would allow for the representation of Alawites and Christian minorities. Ex-PM Najib Miqati’s bloc would get the Alawite minister (MP Ali Darwish) in return for giving up his agreement with Hariri on a Sunni minister, and President (Michel) Aoun would get the additional Christian minister,” the minister said. “But Hariri will not approve of an increase in the number of ministers and Berri is also not enthusiastic about such a proposal,” the minister added. The second solution would be Aoun’s naming of a Sunni minister who would be close to him and to Hizbullah and its Sunni allies, the minister said, while noting that “Hariri would get a Christian minister” and that “Aoun does not plan to give up a seat from his share.”“The third solution entails Aoun giving up the Sunni seat he had exchanged with Hariri in return for a Christian seat for the latter. The president would then name a minister from the six MPs or one approved by them,” the minister went on to say. 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.

Hariri: I will not change my position
Thu 29 Nov 2018 at 22/NNA - Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said that he will not change his political position concerning the formation of the government. He said: “I will not change my position, and these words do not aim to challenge anyone, but result from my absolute belief that the political yelling does not lead anywhere, nor does it solve the problem of electricity or waste, or the demands of the citizens”. He added: "Compromises are made when they are for the interest of the country, and I was always among the first people to seek compromises. We live as Lebanese with each other, and the country needs all its sons and groups to rise and advance for the better, but what is currently proposed has nothing to do with compromises nor with the interest of the country and the Lebanese”. Hariri’s stances came during a meeting this evening at the Center House, of the Future parliamentary bloc and Future elected bodies, in the presence of MP Bahia Hariri. During the meeting, the Consultative legislative forum, which organizes the dialogue between the bloc and the elected bodies, was launched.  Separately, Hariri received the United Kingdom Trade Commissioner for the Middle East (Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner) Simon Penney, in the presence of the British ambassador Chris Rampling.After the meeting, Penney said: “It was a pleasure to meet with Prime Minister Saad Hariri just now. We spoke about the trade relationship between the United Kingdom and Lebanon and about opportunities between our two countries moving forward. We discussed a lot of the projects in Lebanon and the potential role UK companies can play in helping those projects go forward”.

Hariri receives UNCTAD secretary general

Thu 29 Nov 2018/NNA - Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri received today at the Center House the Secretary General of UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) Mukhisa Kituyi and ESCWA Deputy Executive Secretary for Programme, Mounir Tabet, in the presence of his advisor Nadim Mounla.

Report: Hizbullah Still Keen on Hariri's Designation, Not behind Campaigns
Naharnet/November 29/18/Hizbullah still wants Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to form the new government and it is not behind the hostile campaigns against him, sources close to the party said. “Despite al-Mustaqbal Movement’s campaigns against it, Hizbullah is still keen on Hariri’s presence in the premier post,” the sources told al-Joumhouria newspaper in remarks published Thursday. The sources also denied claims that the party has issued an “order” to launch political campaigns against Hariri, noting that “the party’s decision to back the demand of the independent Sunni MPs has nothing to do with the exchanges that might happen between some political figures and al-Mustaqbal Movement.”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.

Salameh: Central Bank to Launch Digital Currency Soon 29th November 2018/Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh announce on Thursday that Lebanon will soon issue digital currencies as a form of virtual money prompted by the ongoing rise of electronic means of payment and the emergence of alternatives to cash. Speaking at the opening of the Anti-Cybercrime Forum in Beirut, Salameh said that Bank of Lebanon will be launching digital currencies for local use only, noting that the adoption of electronic money would facilitate payment methods, boost monetary technologies and incur less costs on the consumers. Salameh clarified that the digital currencies to be issued by Bank of Lebanon will be different from cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin.

'Consultative Gathering' renews demand to meet with Hariri

Thu 29 Nov 2018/NNA - The "Consultative Gathering" of the six independent Sunni lawmakers on Thursday renewed their demand to meet with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. The Consultative Gathering's stance came in a statement issued in the wake of its meeting at the residence of the late former Prime Minister, Omar Karami, attended by the Gathering's six deputies. The Gathering dwelt on most recent developments on the local and regional arena. The Gathering brought to attention that former Minister, MP Abdel Rahim Murad has requested meeting with PM-designate Saad Hariri more than once. However, the Gathering said, Hariri has refused to meet with the six lawmakers. The Gathering stressed that the lawmakers' row with Hariri was not in his capacity as "head of the Future Movement" but rather in his capacity as the "PM-designate". The Gathering called once again on the PM-designate to meet with them, leaving it for him to set the time and place. The six Lawmakers also announced that the Gathering withdraws its concession not to demand a specific portfolio in the new Cabinet. They demanded that the ministerial portfolio to be accorded to the Gathering as part of its representation in the government must be chosen in coordination with the Gathering.

Army 'Detains Several Hundred Syrians' in Raids on Camps
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 29/18/The Lebanese Army has detained around 400 Syrians in raids on refugee camps in the eastern Bekaa valley, mostly for overstaying their residence permits, a military source said Thursday. Almost eight years into Syria's war, neighboring Lebanon hosts around 1.5 million Syrians, many of whom live in the east of the tiny country. On Wednesday, the army in the Arsal area detained "33 people with arrest warrants, 56 people without identity papers, and 300 others over expired documents," it said in a statement.
The military source said all were Syrians, and that those with no or out-of-date documents had been handed over to the security forces. Those arrested had "committed an action against the law," they told AFP, without providing any further details. The army from time to time sweeps down on Syrian refugee camps, especially those in the east of the country.Tens of thousands of Syrians live there, many from towns and villages on the other side of the Syrian-Lebanese border. Arsal mayor Bassel al-Hujeiri said that some of those who had been detained on Wednesday were then released overnight, complaining that the way in which the raids were carried out was "not right." "They come to arrest a certain number of wanted people, and end up detaining 400," he said. "They detain this huge number to then determine which ones are wanted among them, when it would be much better if they directly arrested those they wanted without bothering everybody else," Hujeiri said. Last year, the army detained dozens of Syrians in mass raids on camps in Arsal, sparking a controversy after it announced four of them had died in custody. Images circulated on social media showed dozens of bare-chested men lying down on the ground under the scorching sun with their hands tied. Rights organizations demanded an investigation into the cause of their deaths. Many Syrians live in tough conditions in Lebanon, and depend on international aid organizations for their survival. Since the start of the year, around 8,000 Syrians have gone home from Lebanon, according to an AFP tally of official figures. Lebanese security forces however claim tens of thousands have taken part in these returns, which are coordinated between Beirut and Damascus. They waive late fines for those whose residency papers have expired if they agree to return to Syria.
The Syrian conflict has killed more than 360,000 people and forced millions from their homes since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.

Two Suspects Arrested over Gavin Ford's Murder
Naharnet/November 29/18/Two suspects have been arrested in connection with the murder of British radio presenter Gavin Ford, media reports said, citing Lebanese security sources. The reports said the two men were arrested in the Bekaa and that they are Syrian nationals. The raid that resulted in their arrest was carried out by the Intelligence Branch of the Internal Security Forces, according to the reports. The renowned Radio One Lebanon presenter was found dead Tuesday inside his apartment in Beit Mery. “Ford was strangulated before being dealt a blow to the head, which resulted in his death,” LBCI TV said. Ford's death led to an outpouring of shock and sadness on social media by people who followed his popular morning program on all-music Radio One station. The 65-year-old Ford had worked for the station since the 1990s, gaining a large number of fans in Lebanon.

Trash Pollutes Lebanon's Mediterranean Coastline
Associated Press/Naharnet/November 29/18/Plastic bottles, soft drink cans and blue garbage bags. An old television, discarded vegetables and coffee cups. These are some of the random things that can be seen floating in the sea along Lebanon's coastline. Once a source of pride, the country's Mediterranean coastline has become a source of shame for many Lebanese because of the swirling trash that pollutes its shores. Fisherman Ahmed Obeitri has been a fixture at Lebanon's corniche — a popular seaside promenade in central Beirut — for the past 30 years. He says the trash is killing off what's left of marine life. "These days if a fish comes our way it will only find nylon bags, garbage and sewage to feed on," he said, lamenting over people who eat and drink as they walk on the corniche and then toss their cans, tins and other containers in the sea. "You can open a cafe under water and invite your friends," he added sarcastically. Littering is not Lebanon's only problem. The country has a long-running solid waste management problem that caused summer riots in 2015 as trash piled in the streets. The government solved the problem by simply shifting the trash to landfills and coastal dumps that often run into the Mediterranean. Environmentalists say thousands of tons of trash and untreated waste is getting dumped directly into the sea. Abdullah Absi, a 56-year-old civil engineer, said as a swimmer, the open sewage running into the sea was his biggest problem. A group of 50 swimmers, including Absi, recently organized a 4.6-kilometer (2.9-mile) swim to highlight the problem and the idea that the sea is for all. "We see the violations are increasing and there is no deterrent," he said.

Lebanese Businessman Jailed in Paris Drug Trial

Naharnet/November 29/18/A shadowy businessman from the Lebanese diaspora was sentenced in Paris on Wednesday to seven years in prison for being a lead member of a crime ring that laundered Colombian drug money through luxury jewelry. Mohamad Noureddine, a 44-year-old businessman with interests in real estate and jewelry, was convicted of laundering drug money and criminal conspiracy and fined 500,000 euros ($568,000). He was arrested in France in January 2016 during police raids that also took place in Italy, Belgium and Germany, after an alert from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. U.S. officials, who have imposed sanctions on Noureddine over alleged links to Hizbullah, suspect the network of operating between South America, Europe and the Middle East since 2012. They identified France, where several of the defendants reside, as being at the center of the syndicate's operations in Europe. The proceeds of cocaine sales were allegedly collected in Europe, then channeled to Lebanon before being transferred to Colombian traffickers. The funds were moved using a centuries-old system of payment dating from the spice trade called "hawala," passing through a tested network requiring ironclad trust. After the drugs were sold, the network used hawala operatives to gather the proceeds. The collected cash was then used to buy luxury jewelry, watches and cars which were resold in Lebanon or West Africa. Another key figure in the case, a man named Abbas Nasser, was sentenced to ten years in prison in absentia. He is subject to an arrest warrant. Twelve other defendants involved in the criminal network received various sentences, up to nine years in jail.

Wahhab Files Lawsuit against Hariri over 'Insults, Death Threats'
Naharnet/November 29/18/Ex-minister Wiam Wahhab announced Thursday that he has filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and “his aides” over street banners that have surfaced in Beirut and Tripoli in recent days. “I have filed a lawsuit against Saad Hariri and his aides over the banners which carried insults and death threats and which preceded the leaked video,” Wahhab tweeted, referring to banners apparently hoisted by Hariri supporters in some areas and to a leaked video in which the former minister addresses harsh personal insults to Hariri and his slain father Rafik Hariri. Wahhab has apologized over the video, saying it was leaked without his knowledge and that it was an immediate response to the banners that insulted him. Al-Mustaqbal Movement meanwhile issued a new statement disavowing the banners. “Al-Mustaqbal Movement reiterates its call for friends, supporters and all citizens hurt by the cheap remarks of some parties to refrain from reactions that contradict with the behavior and upbringing of most Lebanese, especially if they emulate the image and approach of those using an impertinent rhetoric to prove their political existence,” the Movement said. Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat meanwhile condemned Wahhab’s remarks against Hariri, saying they reminded him of “the incitement that was practiced by the Syrian Baath several years ago.”

Druze Sheikh Aql contacts Hariri and Derian
Thu 29 Nov 2018/NNA - Druze Sheikh Aql, Naeem Hassan, on Thursday contacted Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, condemning the campaigns against him. He also called Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdullatif Derian within the same frame.

Lebanon: Top Officials Call for Strengthening Security, Human Rights Standards
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 29 November, 2018/President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri asked the country’s military and security bodies to adopt the necessary measures during the holidays, but emphasized firmness with “security and human rights standards.”Aoun chaired on Wednesday a closed meeting of the Supreme Defense Council at the Baabda Palace, in the presence of Hariri, the ministers of finance, national defense, interior, economy and justice, as well as the Army commander, the general prosecutor and the government commissioner to the military court. Aoun and Hariri asked the military and security agencies and the concerned departments to adopt the necessary measures during the holidays to facilitate the movement of citizens, tourists and expatriates, who intend to spend the year-end break in Lebanon, according to a statement by the Council. The meeting also touched on the security situation in the Palestinian refugee camps and the social and health conditions of the refugees, especially after the decline of UNRWA assistance. According to the statement, the Council renewed the request to the relevant security agencies to take into account international principles and standards during investigations carried out with the detainees, especially in terms of the preservation of human rights. Aoun also instructed the concerned bodies to strengthen cooperation and coordination during the preparations for the upcoming Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, which will be held in Beirut on Jan. 16-20.

Army deny news about interception of weaponloaded truck en route to Jahlieh
Thu 29 Nov 2018/NNA - The Lebanese army denied in a communiqué on Thursday news claiming that a truck loaded with weapons had been intercepted by the military on its way to Jahlieh. "The Army Command is keen to deny the truth and to clarify that the said truck and stopped on Nehme highway due to an engine failure," the army indicated, adding that load content is for footage purposes for a university that has already received the needed permission from the army.

Mashnouq meets Russian Ambassador, ICMP Director
Thu 29 Nov 2018/NNA - Caretaker Minister of Interior and Municipalities, Nohad Mashnouq, met Thursday with Russian Ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, over the latest political developments on the local and regional scenes. Talks also touched on the Russian Syrian refugee expatriation plan, in addition to an array of security agreements. During the meeting, Zasypkin highlighted Russia's determination to establish "the best relations with Lebanon, outside the political polarizations and despite the local, regional and international conflicts." Mashnouq also met with the Director General of the International Commission on Missing Persons, Kathryne Bomberger, with whom he discussed the dossier of missing individuals during the Lebanese wars. "The Ministry is fully ready to provide all facilitations and the required assistance to help unveil the fate of the missing persons," Mashnouq stressed.

Army commander meets US Assistant Secretary of Defense, French Ambassador
Thu 29 Nov 2018/NNA - Army Commander General Joseph Aoun on Thursday welcomed at his Yarzeh office, the US Assistant Secretary of Defense Owen West, and an accompanying delegation, in the presence of US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard. Talks reportedly touched on cooperation relations between the armies of the two countries. Maj. Gen. Aoun also met with the French Ambassador to Lebanon, Bruno Faucher, accompanied by Embassy Military Attaché. Talks featured high on the general situation in Lebanon and the broad region. The army chief also welcomed Judge Sakr Sakr.

Abi Khalil raises with KPC official royalties' reduction on imported gas to Lebanon
Thu 29 Nov 2018/NNA - Caretaker Water and Energy Minister, César Abi Khalil, on Thursday met in his office at the Ministry with Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) Deputy Managing Director for Global Marketing, Khaled Ahmad Al-Sabah. The meeting took place in the presence of the Oil Director General Ororo Al-Feghali, and "Sonatrach" Team members. Minister Abi Khalil raised with the KPC Official the issue of reducing royalties on the imported gas to Lebanon in favor of EDL. In the wake of discussions, KPC agreed to cut $0.1 per barrel, equivalent to $0.745 per metric ton.

Inauguration of 4th Anti Cybercrime Forum under Salameh's patronage
Thu 29 Nov 2018/NNA - The 4th Anti-Cybercrime Forum was held Thursday under the auspices of the Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riyad Salameh and in presence of hundreds of delegates representing the judiciary and security authorities, representatives from ministries, relevant government institutions and legal authorities, as well as local and international banking experts, and representatives of technology companies specialized in the fight against cybercrime. The forum was organized by Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal Group in cooperation with the Special Investigation Commission and the Office for Combating Cybercrime and Protection of Intellectual Property at the Directorate General of the Internal Security Forces. Speaking at the Forum's opening session, Salameh indicated that preparations to launch Lebanon's digital currency were underway, noting that this currency is not a virtual one like Bitcoin. "The digital currency will be issued by the Central Bank in Lebanese pound and using it will be strictly local. Its purpose is to facilitate payment methods and activate financial technology," Salameh explained. Moreover, he indicated that the Central Bank and the concerned authorities were looking forward to tracking down and fighting cybercrimes. For his part, ISF Chief General Imad Othman maintained that his institution was working on providing cybersecurity. "We have devised the needed plans to face cybercrimes and we have determined the administrative, logistic and human requirements to venture into plans' implementation in 2019," he said.

In Lebanon, Climate Change Devours Ancient Cedar Trees
AFP/Thursday 29th November 2018
High up in Lebanon's mountains, the lifeless grey trunks of dead cedar trees stand stark in the deep green forest, witnesses of the climate change that has ravaged them. Often dubbed "Cedars of God", the tall evergreens hark back millenia and are a source of great pride and a national icon in the small Mediterranean country. The cedar tree, with its majestic horizontal branches, graces the nation's flag and its bank notes. But as temperatures rise, and rain and snowfall decrease, Lebanon's graceful cedars are increasingly under attack by a tiny green grub that feed off the youngest trees. At 1,800 metres altitude, in the natural reserve of Tannourine in the north of Lebanon, ashen tree skeletons jut out of the forest near surviving cedars centuries old.
"It's as if a fire had swept through the forest," says Nabil Nemer, a Lebanese specialist in forest insects. In ancient times, huge cedar forests were felled for their timber. Egyptian pharaohs used the wood to make boats, and King Solomon is said to have used cedar to build his temple in Jerusalem. But today's culprits lie underground, just several centimetres (inches) below the tree trunk: bright green, wriggling larvae no larger than a grain of rice. Since the late 1990s, infant cedar sawflies have been eating away at the forest in Tannourine, as well as several other natural reserves in northern Lebanon. "In 2017, 170 trees dried up completely and became dead wood," Nemer says.
Like their food of choice, cedar sawflies have been around for thousands of years. They mate in spring and lay their eggs on the cedar tree trunks, where grubs hatch and feast on cedar needles. In the past, the larvae would then head back into the ground to hibernate for up to three or four years, before emerging again as adult sawflies with wings. But a warming earth has disrupted this cycle, especially in the Mediterranean where "climate change is more intense", according to Wolfgang Cramer, a scientist and member of Mediterranean Experts on Environmental and Climate Change (MedECC). In a November report, MedECC said future warming in the Mediterranean region was "expected to exceed global rates by 25 percent". As the ground becomes less cold and humid in winter, sawflies are now springing out of the earth every year, and in larger numbers. Their preferred victims are young cedar trees, aged 20 to 100 years old. Temperatures in Tannourine have risen by two degrees Celsius in the past 30 years and there is less snow than before, Nemer says.
"With the drought, this larvae has been disturbed," he explains. In 1999, the authorities managed to keep the pest in check by spraying insecticides from a helicopter. But for the past four years, the cedar sawfly population has again been swelling.
With chemical pesticides now banned, park authorities have resorted to a more natural, though less efficient treatment: injecting a fungus into the ground to kill the sleeping grubs.The authorities have backed the initiative so far, but it's a mammoth task that needs more funding, man power and laboratories, Nemer says. He says he hopes the state can increase its support, including by creating a nationwide authority to track "forest health".
Race to replenish forests
Forests cover just over a tenth of Lebanon. They are mostly made up of oaks, pines and juniper trees, but also a minority of cedars. As scientists fight to prevent cedar deaths, the government has embarked in a race against time to replenish the country's forests.
Since 2012, it has helped plant more than two million new trees of all kinds across the country, agriculture ministry official Chadi Mohanna says. The project is running a little late on a target of 40 million planted trees by 2030, but he is optimistic it will help mitigate climate change.
"In the next 20 to 30 years, we'll start to see a change, with more humidity, and several degrees less during heat waves," he says. And civil society is also playing a role. Since 2008, non-governmental organisation Jouzour Lubnan has put 300,000 new trees in the ground.
On a recent sunny Sunday, in the rocky natural reserve of Jaj, dozens of scouts gathered to plant cedars, as Jouzour teamed up with the army to mark independence day. Beyond centuries-old trees hugging the mountainside, boys and girls in blue shirts planted 300 saplings just a dozen centimetres high. They protected them with bell-shaped cages and rocks to keep grazing animals at bay. "Cedars have survived millions of years. They can also take on climate change and adapt," said Jouzour co-founder Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat. "We can't lose hope, but we do need to help them."

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 29-30/18
Rookie legislator leaves Tory caucus over decisions affecting francophones
The Canadian Press The Canadian Press/Thursday, 29 November, 2018/TORONTO — A Progressive Conservative legislator who publicly denounced Ontario's decision to eliminate the independent office of the French-language services commissioner and a planned French-language university has left the Tory caucus. In a letter to the Speaker of the legislature, Amanda Simard says her decision is effective immediately, and she will remain as an independent. "I am no longer a member of the Progressive Conservative Caucus," Simard wrote in the short letter sent Thursday. "I will continue to take my place in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as an Independent." The rookie legislator, who represents a largely Franco-Ontarian riding, broke ranks with Premier Doug Ford's government over the two controversial decisions affecting about 600,000 francophones in the province. Simard said Wednesday that she was not satisfied by the government's announcement late last week that it would create a commissioner position within the office of the provincial ombudsman, establish a Ministry of Francophone Affairs, and hire a senior policy adviser on francophone affairs in the premier's office. She said the "partial backtracking" was not enough. Ford has said the measures regarding the commissioner and the university announced in the fall economic statement were necessary to bring down the province's deficit, although he has not said how much would be saved. Simard argued Wednesday that the moves would not "contribute in any meaningful way" to the provincial belt-tightening.The premier said he had listened to concerns about the changes and already offered some concessions. Simard, who represents the eastern Ontario riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, served as a city councillor in the community of Russell before joining the Tory roster under then-leader Patrick Brown. She holds a law degree from the University of Ottawa and previously worked on Parliament Hill as a policy adviser.

Canada imposes sanctions on individuals linked to murder of Jamal Khashoggi

November 29, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced targeted sanctions under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act against 17 Saudi nationals linked to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
The sanctions target individuals who are, in the opinion of the Government of Canada, responsible for or complicit in the extrajudicial killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on October 2, 2018.
These sanctions effectively freeze the assets of these individuals in Canada. Their listing also renders them inadmissible to Canada pursuant to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
While Canada has imposed sanctions on these 17 Saudi nationals, we continue to call for a transparent and rigorous accounting of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Khashoggi’s murder. The explanations offered to date by Saudi Arabia lack consistency and credibility.
Canada is committed to supporting human rights defenders and will continue to promote freedom of the press around the world.
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi is abhorrent and represents an unconscionable attack on the freedom of expression of all individuals. Canada continues to call for a credible and independent investigation. Those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder must be held to account and must face justice.”
- Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs
Quick facts
The Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act entered into force on October 18, 2017.

Syrian air force shoots down ‘enemy target’ south of capital
Reuters, AmmanThursday, 29 November 2018/The Syrian air force shot down a “hostile target” that was flying over the town of Kiswah, south of the capital Damascus, state media said. State media quoted a military source but did not specify what the target was or where it came from. Syrian opposition sources on the ground said the area was close to where the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group has a powerful presence with several bases. Israel, concerned that Iran’s growing presence in Syria poses a threat to its own security, has struck dozens of Iranian and Iran-backed positions in Syria over the course of the seven-year conflict. Iran is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and supports a number of militias that have fought alongside the Syrian army and its allies. Tehran has expanded its military presence in Syria through its proxies, and Hezbollah is by far the biggest militia.

EU Reiterates Commitment to Iran Nuclear Deal
Geneva - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 29 November, 2018/European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini met Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Geneva on Wednesday and reiterated the bloc's determination to preserve the multilateral nuclear deal, an EU statement said. Mogherini underlined need for continued full and effective implementation of the Iran nuclear deal by all parties, "including the economic benefits arising from it", Reuters quoted the statement as saying. The statement came as Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that Iran should increase its military capability and readiness to ward off enemies, in a meeting with Iranian navy commanders, according to Khamenei's official website. "Increase your capability and readiness as much as you can so Iran's enemies will not even dare threaten these great people," Khamenei said, according to Reuters. He added that his country “does not intend to start war with anyone."

Ghosn 'Signed Documents to Defer Compensation'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 29/18/Nissan's former chairman Carlos Ghosn signed secret documents instructing aides to defer part of his salary without disclosing this to shareholders, a source close to the issue claimed Thursday. Ghosn and close aide Greg Kelly were arrested last week for allegedly conspiring to under-report Ghosn's income by around $44 million -- about half of what should have been reported -- over five fiscal years until March 2015. The 64-year-old tycoon denies the allegations and has not been able to defend himself publicly while he is in a Tokyo detention center. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the misreporting started in the fiscal year 2009/2010 when a new law came into force requiring any company executives earning 100 million yen ($885,000) or more to declare it. "All of a sudden, he had to disclose his pay and when that happened, he started splitting it into two parts, one part that was disclosed and paid within that year, another part not disclosed, to be paid upon retirement in theory," said this source, who is familiar with the Nissan and prosecutors' probe. Ghosn signed documents tasking a small number of his executive assistants -- excluding CEO Hiroto Saikawa, according to a local media report -- to arrange this division of his salary, added the source. The businessman denies signing such documents, according to local media. "Over the years since the law changed, the amount of undisclosed compensation grew and grew to the point where it was much larger than the disclosed amount of around one billion yen," the source claimed. Japanese law requires that the total amount -- including compensation upon retirement -- be disclosed annually, added the source. But Nobuo Gohara, lawyer and former prosecutor, said "it is very doubtful if he was obliged to report it" if the charge Ghosn faces relates to postponement of his compensation until retirement. The motive was reportedly to avoid shareholder and employee criticism over his high compensation. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun daily, Kelly has told prosecutors he had "consulted with the Financial Services Agency about ways to fill in the financial report, and got a response there was no problem" in not reporting remuneration upon retirement. The paper added that Ghosn denies any wrongdoing, telling prosecutors he consulted with Kelly "about dealing with the issue legally."Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for the FSA said the agency "cannot comment on the affairs of an individual company."
Huge sums
Local media have also alleged in recent days that Nissan had provided Ghosn with luxury residences in four countries without any legitimate business reason, paying "huge sums" for residences in Rio de Janeiro, Beirut, Paris and Amsterdam. The source confirmed part of this, saying that the residences in Rio de Janeiro and Lebanon "were paid for by the company but secretly."The payments were made using a subsidiary based in the Netherlands and Kelly was responsible for setting up these arrangements, the source said. Nissan's internal investigation report "does mention the fact that there were several apartments for which the company paid rents that were exclusively for M. Ghosn's use and did not come out of his housing allowance," added this source. These expenses should have been disclosed as compensation but this was arranged without shareholders' approval and generally in secret, added the source. According to local media, Ghosn is also suspected of using Nissan's corporate money to pay a donation to his daughter's university and costs for a family trip. And the Yomiuri Shimbun has said Ghosn paid some "advisory deal" money to his older sister -- $100,000 annually, for a fictive job.

Trump Cancels G-20 Meeting With Putin Over Russian Capture of Ukrainian Sailors
Reuters and The Associated Press/November 29/18/Kremlin says Trump's move hasn't been confirmed, but if true, Putin will have a few more hours for 'useful meetings' on G-20 sidelines. U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday suddenly canceled a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin scheduled for this week's Group of 20 industrialized nations summit in Argentina, citing the current Ukraine crisis. "Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin. I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!" Trump tweeted after departing for the G20 summit. Trump's tweet was a sudden turnaround. Roughly an hour earlier, he had told reporters he would probably meet with Putin at the summit and said it was "a very good time to have the meeting." But Trump had also said he would get a final report during the flight to Argentina on the tension in the region after Russia seized Ukrainian vessels near Crimea on Sunday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was reported saying in Interfax news agency that they have no official information of Trump's decision to cancel the meeting. The spokesman added that if the bilateral meeting is cancelled, Putin, who is currently on his way to Argentina, will have a couple of extra hours for "useful meetings" on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. Earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Putin of wanting to annex his entire country and called for NATO to deploy warships to a sea shared by the two nations. Poroshenko's comments to German media were part of a concerted push by Kiev to gain Western support for more sanctions against Moscow, securing tangible Western military help, and rallying opposition to a Russian gas pipeline that threatens to deprive Ukraine of important transit revenues. His Western allies have so far not offered to provide any of these things, despite his warnings of a possible Russian invasion after Moscow seized three Ukrainian naval ships and their crews on Sunday near Crimea. Moscow and Kiev blame each other for the incident, which took place in the narrow Kerch Strait off Crimea, the Ukrainian region annexed by Russia in 2014. "Don't believe Putin's lies," Poroshenko told Bild, Germany's biggest-selling paper, comparing Russia's protestations of innocence in the affair to Moscow's 2014 denial that it had soldiers in Crimea even as they moved to annex it. "Putin wants the old Russian empire back," he said. "Crimea, Donbass, the whole country. As Russian tsar, as he sees himself, his empire cannot function without Ukraine. He sees us as his colony."
Russia has charged that the Ukrainian vessels had failed to obtain permission to pass from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait between Russia's mainland and the Crimean Peninsula it annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Ukraine insisted that its vessels were operating in line with international maritime rules.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she plans to press Putin at this weekend's G-20 summit in Argentina to urge the release of the ships and crews. "We can only resolve this in talks with one another because there is no military solution to all of these conflicts," she said. NATO said it already has a strong presence in the Black Sea region. The alliance's spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said NATO ships routinely patrol and exercise in the Black Sea, and that they have spent 120 days there this year compared to 80 in 2017. She noted that several NATO allies conduct air policing and reconnaissance flights in the region, adding that members Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey border the Black Sea and have their own military equipment deployed. "There is already a lot of NATO in the Black Sea, and we will continue to assess our presence in the region," Lungescu said. While NATO condemned the Russian action, the alliance is not expected to send ships into the Sea of Azov, a deployment that could trigger a confrontation with Russia. A 2003 treaty between Russia and Ukraine stipulates that permission from both countries is required for warships from others to enter the internal sea.

Outgoing U.N. Envoy Rues 'Missed Opportunity' at Astana Syria Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 29/18/The United Nations envoy on Syria signed off from his posting Thursday ruing "a missed opportunity" to help end the country's long conflict at talks in Kazakhstan's capital Astana. Staffan de Mistura, who announced his resignation last month, capped his term as peace envoy with two days of talks in the Kazakh capital sponsored by power-brokers Russia and Iran -- allies of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad -- and rebel-backer Turkey. A statement from his office noted he regretted that "no tangible progress in overcoming the 10-month stalemate on the composition of the constitutional committee" was made at the talks. The meeting in Astana was "a missed opportunity to accelerate the establishment of a credible, balanced and inclusive, Syrian-owned, Syrian-led, U.N.-facilitated constitutional committee," the statement said. The two-day negotiations that concluded Thursday, are the 11th in Astana since Moscow began a diplomatic push in early 2017 that effectively sidelined other talks on Syria led by the United Nations. The constitutional committee is viewed as a vital element in reaching a political settlement in the country. Speaking after the talks, Russia's Syria negotiator Aleksandr Lavrentyev said the committee was of "upmost importance.""I want to say that we are sufficiently close to our cherished goal," he added, without giving any date. The talks began Wednesday with a 10-week-old Idlib truce deal hanging in the balance after an alleged chemical attack in the government-held city of Aleppo on Saturday triggered retaliatory raids. The exact circumstances of the attack remain murky and bitterly disputed. The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad has blamed rebel fighters for the attack which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said hospitalized 94 people. The incident has strained 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. Speaking late Wednesday, Russia's Lavrentyev said that "additional time" would be required to secure a buffer zone in the region of three million people after an uptick in fighting. The alleged chemical attack "must be dealt with very seriously," he said, calling for qualified international bodies to visit the city to assess the incident. On Sunday, Russia said its war planes had carried out their first strikes in the zone since the deal was reached, in an apparent retaliation.
No space for Washington
The Astana talks have seen the United States and other Western countries kept at arm's length over Syria. A joint communique agreed by the three sponsors targeted Washington's continued military presence in the country. The guarantors "rejected all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism," it said. Earlier this week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the U.S. of using the presence of the Islamic State group in southern Syria as an excuse to keep forces stationed there.Lavrentyev also complained of the extended U.S. presence during the talks in Astana. The United States has attended some previous Astana rounds as an observer but U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey last week ruled out Washington participating in the latest talks. The next set of Syria negotiations in Astana are scheduled for early February, according to the joint communique. Syria's grinding seven-year civil war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions.

United Nations wants Syria to account for war dead, detainees
AFP, United NationsThursday, 29 November 2018/The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria urged the Security Council on Wednesday to press the Syrian government to provide information to families about the fate of those missing or detained during the seven-year war. Following a closed-door informal meeting with council members, the commission chairman said it was crucial to push the government to give a full account after it began in May to release death notifications. “The issues of the detainees and the disappeared should not be dealt after peace, but now is the time to consider this,” said Paulo Pinheiro, who heads the commission set up to investigate human rights violations in the war. In May, the military police and army provided for the first time information to government civil registry offices on the deceased, allowing families to finally learn the fate of their loved ones. “The state is beginning to put out that information, but little else,” said commission member Hanny Megally. “The families have a right to know what happened, where the bodies are, to get information about them.”An international independent body must be given access to all places of detention to confirm who is still alive in detention, he added. The commission hopes council members including Russia, Syria's ally, can encourage the Damascus government to take steps to address demands from the families of lost or missing loved ones. Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions. UN-led diplomatic efforts to end the war have stalled, but Russia, Iran and Turkey are spearheading a separate drive to stabilize the country.

Merkel Warns 'No Military Solution' to Ukraine Conflict
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 29/18/German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday there is "no military solution" to the Ukraine conflict after President Petro Poroshenko asked for NATO naval support in his country's standoff with Russia. Blaming Russia for the tensions, Merkel said: "We ask the Ukrainian side too to be sensible because we know that we can only solve things through being reasonable and through dialogue because there is no military solution to these disputes."Russia fired on and then seized three Ukrainian ships on Sunday, accusing them of illegally entering its waters in the Sea of Azov and detaining their crew, in a dramatic spike in tensions that raises fears of a wider escalation. Kiev accused Russia, which annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, of launching "a new phase of aggression."Poroshenko asked Germany and other NATO countries in comments to Bild newspaper on Thursday to "relocate naval ships to the Sea of Azov in order to assist Ukraine and provide security." Ukraine is not a NATO member but has established close ties with the U.S.-led military alliance, especially since the 2014 Crimea annexation. Merkel, speaking at a German-Ukrainian business forum, said she would discuss the conflict with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a G20 summit in Argentina this weekend. She said a bridge from the Russian mainland to Crimea that Putin opened in May had already restricted shipping access to the Sea of Azov and therefore to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. "The full blame for this goes to the Russian president," she said. "Now what I want is that the facts of what happened are put on the table, that the (crew) are released, and that no confessions are coerced like we have seen on television." "I would also support keeping things calm, but we must also ensure that a city like Mariupol that relies on access to the sea ... is not simply cut off so that large parts of Ukraine can no longer be easily reached."

U.N. Aid Chief Calls for End to Fighting in Yemen
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 29/18/U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock appealed Thursday for a halt to fighting in Yemen amid intense diplomacy to end a war that has pushed millions to the brink of famine. "I'd like to see a cessation of hostilities, especially around the key infrastructure, especially around Hodeida," Lowcock told reporters after arriving in the rebel-held capital Sanaa. Under heavy international pressure, Saudi-backed pro-government forces have largely suspended a five-month offensive on the insurgent-held port city of Hodeida, a key entry point for imports and aid. U.N. agencies say 14 million Yemenis are at risk of starvation and the closure of the port would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis gripping the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country. "I have come because I am very concerned about the humanitarian situation here, which has deteriorated since I was here last," Lowcock said.
"I'd like to see the environment in which the aid system operates, made easier for the aid agencies. "I would like to see stronger economic support, more resources injected into the economy, salaries paid, more foreign exchange so that ordinary people have more money to buy the essentials to survive." Lowcock will spend three days in Yemen to see first-hand the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the U.N. U.N. peace envoy Martin Griffiths is hoping to bring the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels to Sweden in the coming days for negotiations on ending the more than three-year conflict. Lowcock, who last visited Yemen in October 2017, will hold talks with officials in Sanaa and the government-controlled southern city of Aden. The Yemen conflict, which escalated when a Saudi-led coalition intervened on the government's side in 2015, has killed nearly 10,000 people and left up to 22 million in need of humanitarian assistance, according to U.N. figures. Rights groups fear the actual death toll is far higher.

US Treasury imposes cyber-related sanctions on two Iranians
AFP, Washington/Wednesday, 28 November 2018/The US Justice Department charged two Iranian hackers Wednesday with extorting at least $6 million from hospitals, city governments and public institutions in the US and Canada by remotely locking down their computer systems. The DOJ said Faramarz Shahi Savandi and Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri deployed the SamSam Ransomware into the systems of more than 200 institutions, encrypting their operations to make them inaccessible until the owners paid ransoms by bitcoin. Victims included the city governments of Atlanta, Georgia and Newark, New Jersey, the University of Calgary in Canada, major US hospitals in Los Angeles and Kansas City, and Laboratory Corporation of America, or LabCorp, one of the world’s largest medical testing businesses. “The hackers infiltrated computer systems in 10 states and Canada and then demanded payment. The criminal activity harmed state agencies, city governments, hospitals, and countless innocent victims,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The six-count indictment said the two men -- who are still in Iran -- began in December 2015 to hack into target computer systems to install the SamSam malware. Once the malware was executed, it would encrypt all of the data on the victims’ computers, and electronic notes would be left behind telling administrators how to pay a ransom to have their data unlocked. When the city of Atlanta was hit, government computers serving a population of a half-million were crippled for six days in March 2018. People could not pay bills and businesses could not receive payments. The demanded payments were usually relatively small, making it easier for some executives to decide to pay. The Indiana hospital Hancock Health paid four bitcoin -- $55,000 at the time -- in January 2018 to get its systems unfrozen. “The defendants did not just indiscriminately ‘cross their fingers’ and hope their ransomware randomly compromised just any computer system,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski. “Rather, they deliberately engaged in an extreme form of 21st-century digital blackmail, attacking and extorting vulnerable victims like hospitals and schools, victims they knew would be willing and able to pay.” In addition to ransom payments, the Justice Department said, governments and businesses suffered losses of a total of $30 million in their operations. In parallel with the indictment of the two, the US Treasury announced sanctions on two other Iranians, Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan, who allegedly aided the hackers by managing the ransom payments by the virtual currency bitcoin. The two helped the SamSam hackers convert the bitcoin into Iranian rials, and were identified as the people behind two digital currency addresses that handled some 7,000 bitcoin transactions. The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said it was the first time they had publicly attributed digital currency addresses to people being placed on their sanctions blacklist.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 29-30/18
What Mohammed bin Salman’s Presence at the G-20 Means?

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/November 29/18
The G-20 summit in Buenos Aires is a global political summit although it bears an economic name. This is where agreements and difficult political matters are concluded. One of the subjects in its backstage is Saudi Arabia, which found itself under the spotlight as a result of the events of the Yemen war and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Will Saudi Arabia send a low-ranking representative? Does the Saudi crown prince have to miss it? We’ve seen how the campaign that has been launched for weeks now did not succeed in distancing Saudi Arabia or in preventing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from participating in the summit.
No one can deny that by visiting Argentina and four countries on the way to it, Prince Mohammed bin Salman thwarted the attempts of Saudi Arabia’s rivals and did not leave the arena for them. He did not evade confronting the challenges.
There were speculations that the Saudi Crown Prince will avoid going to Argentina but he did the opposite. He went there before the rest of the leaders and he even finished his program that was planned before the crisis and visited the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia on the way to the G-20 summit, and he will visit the rest of the countries on his way back to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia, which is participating in the summit of the world’s largest economies, has this year advanced a rank, and it is ironic that it occupied the rank of Turkey, which has economically slumped behind Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is also participating in the summit following radical reforms it implemented on all legislative and taxation levels and on the role of the government in the market.
Above all that, Saudi Arabia’s request to hold the summit in Riyadh in 2020 was approved and this will anger its rivals, which sought to deprive it of the chance of participating in Argentina’s summit but failed. Riyadh will thus later hold a G-20 summit so how can it be isolated and the Saudi crown prince weakened? The summit is supposed to be about economy, trade and the market. However, most of the meetings of the leaders of the G-20 countries will be on dealing with political disputes, including the Ukraine crisis between the US and Russia, the US accusations against China of expanding beyond its waters.
The issue of Europeans against the US president’s pressure on them in NATO and Brexit, and what this means in terms of future political and commercial consequences, may also come up for discussion. With the Saudi Crown Prince, the main subject will be the Yemeni crisis. Everyone agrees on the importance to end it but there is no practical solution for it. As for the crisis of Khashoggi’s murder, there isn’t much that can be talked about.
Turkey has made great effort to politicize the case and serve the Qatari agenda, and Saudi Arabia carried out the measures expected from it with regard to trying the accused.
It was neither a coincidence nor surprising that Qatar’s emir and his father, the former emir of Qatar, appeared in Turkey in the past few days as this is the part of the harmony, which the Turkish president frankly talked about.
The difficult and complicated case is Yemen. How can Saudi Arabia, at the G-20 summit, calm down the countries objecting to the war or that are facing great pressure in their relations with Saudi Arabia due to the war? This is a thorny issue, and the British now have an important role considering that the international envoy who is tasked with resolving the crisis is British.
There is a new breakthrough after the forces of Yemen’s legitimate government advanced and besieged the Hodeidah Port and entered a number of neighborhoods in the coastal city that’s very important for the Houthis because it funds their budget via fees and looting merchandise from ships.
Saudi Arabia knows that the countries objecting to the war want to stop the war but these countries do not have an alternative solution. This is what American officials echoed few days ago.
What’s the alternative solution to stop the war? The withdrawal of the Coalition’s forces will have horrible consequences. There isn’t a single major country that is willing to send troops to Yemen and manage the situation on the ground.
Therefore, what’s the alternative? Practically, there’s nothing except for expediting the victory of the Coalition’s countries and going back to the political solution which includes all of Yemen’s political components including the Houthis. The G-20 summit will be a very important opportunity to talk about the Yemeni issue but it’s not among its jurisdictions to make decisions about it.

Eternal Jihad: Islam Will Never, Ever Stop”

Raymond Ibrahim/American Thinker/November 29/18
Editor’s note: Andrew E. Harrod, PhD, JD, Esq, recently reviewed my book, Sword and Scimitar on American Thinker. Titled, “Eternal Jihad: Islam Will Never, Ever Stop,” it follows:
The “West and Islam have been mortal enemies since the latter’s birth some fourteen centuries ago,” warns Islam scholar Raymond Ibrahim in his recent book Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West. His extensive analysis bears out the apt title of this volume, whose documented history is equally ill remembered and yet vital for modern Westerners.
Ibrahim begins by elucidating the disturbing conceptual core of Islam and its seventh-century Arab prophet, Muhammad. “The appeal of Muhammad’s message lay in its compatibility with the tribal mores of his society,” Ibrahim notes.
For seventh-century Arabs – and later tribal peoples, chiefly Turks and Tatars, who also found natural appeal in Islam – the tribe was what humanity is to modern people: to be part of it was to be treated humanely; to be outside of it was to be treated inhumanely.
Accordingly, Islam “deified tribalism, causing it to outlive its setting and spill into the modern era.” Islamic doctrines like al-wala’ wa al-bara’ (“loyalty and enmity”) created an umma faith community or “‘Super Tribe’ that transcends racial, national, and linguistic barriers.” Not surprisingly, the Arabic umma “is etymologically related to ‘mother’ (umm) – to one’s closest kin.”
Ibrahim “records a variety of Muslims across time and space behaving exactly like the Islamic State and for the same reasons” – namely, Islam’s promotion of warfare against non-Muslims. Islam’s deity “incites his followers to war on the promise of booty, both animate and inanimate – so much so that an entire sura, or chapter of the Koran, ‘al-Anfal,’ is named after and dedicated to the spoils of war.” Jihadists following Islamic canons thus “‘use’ or ‘loan’ their lives as part of a ‘bargain’ or ‘transaction’ – whereby Allah forgives all sins and showers them with celestial delights.”
Ibrahim examines how Islamic afterlife doctrines beckon the faith’s battlefield martyrs. Islam’s celestial pleasures include houris or “supernatural, celestial women … created by Allah for the express purpose of gratifying his favorites in perpetuity.” “That Islamic scriptures portray paradise in decidedly carnal terms” reflects the “primitivism of Muhammad’s society.”
As Ibrahim notes, being on jihad’s receiving end was hardly divine. Khalid bin al-Walid, the “Sword of Allah” from Islam’s founding seventh-century epoch, “looms large in the Arab histories of the early Muslim conquests and is still seen today as the jihadi par excellence.” Yet Islamic histories record that jihadists like him “were little more than mass-killing psychotics and rapists.”
Similarly, Ibrahim observes that Ottoman sultan Bayezid I (reigned 1389-1402), “like many other Muslim leaders before and after him, was at once pious and depraved, with no apparent conflict between the twain.” This devout depravity includes the various forms of slavery that have existed throughout Islamic history like the Ottoman devshirme. Ibrahim quotes one modern historian to the effect that “jihad looks uncomfortably like a giant slave trade.'”
Non-Muslims will find baffling Ibrahim’s observation that Islamic doctrines claimed to sanctify imperialistic horror as holy:
In Arabic and other Muslim languages, the historic Islamic conquests are never referred to as ‘conquests’ but rather as futuh – ‘openings’ for the light of Islam to enter[.] … [E]very land ever invaded and/or seized by Muslims was done ‘altruistically’ to bring Islam to wayward infidels.
Such “altruism” devastated historic Christendom, Ibrahim notes. What people today call the “West” in Europe “is actually the westernmost remnant of what was a much more extensive civilizational block that Islam permanently severed.” Due to Islamic conquests spreading out from the Arabian Peninsula following Muhammad’s death in 632, by 700:
… all ancient Christian lands between Greater Syria to the east and Mauretania (Morocco) to the west – approximately 3,700 miles – were forever conquered by Islam. Put differently, two-thirds (or 65 percent) of Christendom’s original territory – including three of the five most important centers of Christianity – Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria – were permanently swallowed up by Islam and thoroughly Arabized.
Ibrahim highlights Islamic depredation of the Mediterranean, which “for centuries had been the world’s greatest economic highway uniting East and West, first in the classical civilization of Rome, and then in Christendom.” Subsequently this “Muslim Lake” became the “hunting ground for pirates and slavers.” Particularly “[a]fter the “conquest of Egypt, the importation of papyrus into Europe terminated almost overnight, causing literacy rates to drop back to their levels in pre-Roman times.”
Contrary to “widespread and entrenched myths concerning the purported tolerance and enlightenment” in places like Islamic Spain, Ibrahim documents longstanding Christian resistance to Islamic aggression. He dispenses with the “distorted and demonized version of” the Crusades, which responded to Islamic conquest of, and oppression in, the Holy Land. “Despite popular depictions of crusaders as prototypical European imperialists cynically exploiting faith, recent scholarship has proven the opposite,” he notes.
“Great lords of vast estates,” Ibrahim observes, “parted with their wealth and possessions upon taking the cross” as Crusaders. This sacrifice reflects an inconvenient truth for politically correct pieties:
Shocking as it may seem, love – not of the modern, sentimental variety, but a medieval, muscular one, characterized by Christian altruism, agape – was the primary driving force behind the crusades.
Ibrahim is not shy about sacrificing progressive sacred cows about Islam. He particularly notes that violent and vice-filled Islamic biographies of Muhammad have “especially scandalized Christians” historically. “Indeed, for people who find any criticism of Islam ‘Islamophobic,’ the sheer amount and vitriolic content of more than a millennium of Western writings on Muhammad may beggar belief.”
Ibrahim warns that his research presents no mere academic discussion or ancient history. Modern Muslim men assaulting Western women in Europe and elsewhere often “are drawing on a long tradition of seeing pale infidels as the epitome of promiscuity.” In sum:
Muslims still venerate their heritage and religion – which commands jihad against infidels – whereas the West has learned to despise its heritage and religion, causing it to become an unwitting ally of the jihad.
Against such induced historical amnesia Ibrahim performs a valuable service. Contrary to postmodern trends in Western society, Muslim behavior shows that not all believe that God is dead, history has ended, and everything is relative. Christians, with their long histories of fighting against, and suffering under, Islam should be at the forefront of offering critical, loving truths about this faith.

How to Work Your Way Up From the Bottom

Barry Ritholtz/Asharq Al Awsat/November 29/18
Ralph Scamardella, this week’s guest on Masters in Business, began at the bottom of the restaurant industry, washing dishes. He persisted, working his way up to assistant chef to head chef. He cooked at legendary venues like the Plaza Hotel’s French restaurant and at Polo under superchef Daniel Boulud. But his focus was on the business side of what’s known in the industry as the back of the house. He now is head chef and partner at Tao Group, one of the biggest fine-dining restaurant outfits in the country. According to industry trade publication Restaurant Business, Tao Group has seven restaurants ranked in the top 100 in terms of revenue, including No. 1 Tao Asian Bistro in Las Vegas ($42.5 million), plus two others in the top 10, including Tao Downtown in New York (No. 3 at $33.4 million) and Lavo New York (No. 7 with $26.8 million).
Every great chef has to not only be a very good cook, but also understand equipment, personnel management, budgeting and costs, logistics, hospitality and more. It’s much more complex than most people realize. More important than being a great cook is having an excellent eye for spotting talent.

Switzerland: "Creeping EU Accession"
Soeren Kern/Gatestone InstituteéNovember 29/18
The EU has now increased the pressure by resorting to blackmail: Brussels is making its recognition of Switzerland's SIX Swiss Exchange, the fourth-largest stock market in Europe, contingent on Swiss acceptance of the framework agreement.
The measure was opposed by a coalition of Swiss business groups, which convincingly argued that it was a question of economics and access to international markets for the export-dependent country. "Ultimately, it is about maintaining prosperity in Switzerland and keeping the companies and jobs here," said Monika Rühl, director of the business group Economiesuisse.
"The SVP rejects a one-sided submission to EU institutions, aimed at establishing an institutional connection of Switzerland to the EU apparatus, with a dynamic EU legal takeover and, ultimately, the subordination of Switzerland to the EU Court of Justice. A dynamic adoption of EU law would be another massive erosion of our direct democracy." — Swiss People's Party.
Swiss voters have resoundingly rejected a referendum calling for the Swiss Constitution to take precedence over international treaties and law.
Two-thirds (66.2%) of voters in the November 25 referendum opposed the "self-determination" initiative, put forward by the eurosceptic Swiss People's Party (Schweizerische Volkspartei, SVP), the largest party in the Swiss parliament.
SVP leaders had argued that the new law was necessary to safeguard national sovereignty from further encroachment by supranational organizations such as the European Union and the United Nations.
The Swiss government countered that the proposal would undermine Switzerland's economic stability as it would require Bern to amend existing bilateral agreements with the EU, the country's largest trade partner, to bring them into compliance with the Swiss Constitution.
The proposal's defeat comes ahead of pending decisions by the Swiss government over whether to sign a wide-ranging EU "framework agreement," and a controversial UN "migration pact."
Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but has gained access to the European single market by signing a series of bilateral agreements in which Switzerland has given away large slices of its national sovereignty, including control over boundaries and immigration. In all, Switzerland has more than 120 bilateral agreements that govern its relations with the European Union.
The EU is now pressing Switzerland to sign a comprehensive "framework agreement" that would require Bern to cede even more sovereignty to Brussels. The EU, for instance, wants Switzerland to subject itself to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). If Switzerland complies with the demand, the ECJ would outrank the Swiss Supreme Court as the final arbiter of legal disputes in the country.
The EU has now increased the pressure by resorting to blackmail: Brussels is making its continued recognition of Switzerland's SIX Swiss Exchange, the fourth-largest stock market in Europe, contingent on Swiss acceptance of the framework agreement. Switzerland's current stock exchange agreement with the EU expires at the end of December; failure to renew it would deprive the Swiss exchange of EU-based business that generates more than half its volume.
Swiss leaders have said they doubt that any proposed treaty could win the backing of parliament or voters in a referendum under the Swiss system of direct democracy.
Bloomberg News encapsulated the dilemma facing Switzerland:
"The Swiss government now faces the prospect of choosing between two evils: agree to the EU framework deal only to have it torpedoed by voters in a referendum, or renege on the treaty and risk reprisals from Brussels that hurt the economy."
A key point of contention in Swiss-EU relations revolves around a long-running dispute over the EU's "Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons." The agreement, which Switzerland signed in June 1999, allows EU citizens to live and work in Switzerland, and vice versa. The original agreement applied to 15 EU member states, but with the enlargement of the European Union in 2004, 2007 and 2013, the agreement now applies to 28 EU member states, including the poorer countries in Eastern Europe.
In an effort to curb the increasing amount of crime associated with immigration, Swiss voters in November 2010 approved a referendum to deport foreigners who commit serious crimes in Switzerland.
The EU warned that deporting EU citizens for any reason would be a violation of Switzerland's treaty obligations regarding the free movement of persons. The Swiss parliament, seeking to avoid economic reprisals, eventually passed a watered-down law aimed at reconciling the will of Swiss voters with Switzerland's obligations under EU law.
SVP MP Adrian Amstutz argued that in its zeal to please the EU, the Swiss parliament's new deportation law would prove to be worthless in practice: "According to the parliament's implementation of the law for the deportation initiative, courts would have the possibility to put aside a deportation — even in the case of the most serious offenses — via the hardship clause. Current legal practices show that judges would frequently make use of this option. As a consequence, hardly any foreign criminals would be deported."
In February 2014, Swiss voters approved a referendum to reintroduce quotas for immigration from EU countries. Proponents of the quotas argued that foreign workers were driving down wages and increasing demand for housing, health, education and transport.
The EU warned that any restrictions on access to the Swiss labor market would violate the agreement on the freedom of movement of persons, and threatened "serious consequences." The Swiss parliament again yielded to EU pressure, this time by passing watered-down restrictions on immigration.
Another flashpoint in bilateral relations involves the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In November 2014, the ECHR prohibited Switzerland from sending Afghan asylum seekers back to Italy. Although Italian authorities had agreed to take them back, the ECHR ruled that doing so would violate Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Prohibition of Inhuman and Degrading Treatments) because of overcrowding and poor conditions at Italian asylum facilities.
SVP leader Christoph Blocher criticized the ECHR for ignoring the principle of subsidiarity, which holds that decisions should be taken, if possible, at the local level:
"Don't we trust federal judges to decide on human rights issues? We had those principles written into our constitution well before the ECHR. The problem with the convention is that it decides things from far away. The consequences, what happens next, don't concern the judges."
Martin Schubarth, a former Swiss federal judge, echoed those concerns:
"It is unacceptable that a small panel of [ECHR] judges, who generally lack the expert knowledge about the [Swiss] legislative authority, handle matters in an undemocratic way instead of the [Swiss] authority itself."
In February 2018, Swiss public television SRF reported that the European Commission had presented the Swiss government with a 19-page "sin list" of Swiss violations of EU law.
Switzerland's ongoing disputes with the EU, and the concomitant erosion of Swiss sovereignty, prompted the SVP to sponsor the referendum to ensure the precedence of Swiss law.
The sponsor of the initiative, SVP MP Hans-Ueli Vogt, expressed surprise at the scale of the defeat — a rare setback for the SVP, one of the most successful anti-EU parties in Europe — but said he would continue to fight against "creeping EU accession."
The measure was opposed by a coalition of Swiss business groups, which convincingly argued that the referendum was a question of economics and access to international markets for the export-dependent country. "Ultimately, it is about maintaining prosperity in Switzerland and keeping the companies and jobs here," said Monika Rühl, director of the business group Economiesuisse.
Some Swiss newspapers described result of the referendum as a "fiasco" and a "serious setback" for the SVP. Others were more circumspect. "The object of the initiative was very legitimate: it was about national sovereignty and its relationship with international law in a globalized world," noted La Liberté, a paper based in Fribourg. The Geneva-based L'Express added:
"The SVP suffered a defeat because it failed to mobilize and convince beyond its base. The voters wanted a pragmatic assessment between international law and national law. Depending on the situation, one or the other should apply. The definitive prevalence of one over the other, on the other hand, is not shared by the majority."
La Tribune de Genève wrote: "What the Swiss have supported this Sunday is a pragmatic, negotiated, piecemeal approach to our national interests. Voting is in no way a declaration of love to a European Union in crisis."
The Swiss People's Party said that despite the loss, the referendum "brought a welcome and suppressed debate about the relationship between Swiss law and international law and the importance of direct democracy." The SVP added that its fight for Swiss self-determination would continue:
"First of all, the SVP demands that Switzerland not join the UN migration pact. We are counting on the pledges of the representatives of the other parties, that at the very least it is presented to the parliament with the aim of holding a referendum on the matter, so that Swiss voters can have their say about such a far-reaching pact.
"Secondly, the SVP rejects a one-sided submission to EU institutions, aimed at establishing an institutional connection of Switzerland to the EU apparatus, with a dynamic EU legal takeover and, ultimately, the subordination of Switzerland to the EU Court of Justice. A dynamic adoption of EU law would be another massive erosion of our direct democracy."
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

How Significant Will Be Mohammed bin Salman’s Presence at the G20 Meeting in Argentina?

Micheal Young/Carnegie/November 29/18
A regular survey of experts on matters relating to Middle Eastern and North African politics and security.
Madawi Al Rasheed | Visiting professor at the Middle East Center, London School of Economics
Mohammed bin Salman’s presence at the G20 meeting in Argentina will add insult to injury. With everything pointing to his central role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, his appearance will send a clear message to a world awaiting real justice. It will be interpreted as reassurance by Saudi Arabia’s close economic and political partners that the regime in general and Mohammed bin Salman in particular will remain unscathed by a crisis of a global magnitude.
His appearance will tarnish all states present at the meeting and implicate them in overlooking a serious breach of diplomatic norms and human rights. It will also confirm the crown prince’s impunity, which can only empower him to continue silencing dissent and even murdering critics abroad. It also means that claims by the world’s major economic players that they are pursuing a moral and ethical foreign policy are empty, and that they are willing to engage in a travesty reflecting a serious degeneration into dangerous pragmatism.
Martin Jay | Beirut-based journalist, winner of the United Nations Correspondents’ Association’s Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Prize in 2016
The presence of Mohammed bin Salman in Argentina will be significant in that it will show that he is out of the woods in terms of how far the liberal, left-wing U.S. media are prepared to go in achieving their goal, which is to remove him as Saudi crown prince. For most of the world, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi last October is old news. It’s only still a subject of naive and delusional opinion pieces from, say, the Washington Post, as the United States—along with the United Kingdom, France, and Germany—are major arms suppliers to Saudi Arabia. So there is a pretext for the opprobrium, no matter how fatuous it may be given that these countries more or less invented illegal rendition themselves. The presence of Mohammed bin Salman in Argentina will be a signal to the world that the House of Saud has invested a lot in the young crown prince and that he is destined to be the next king and protect its legacy and future.
Simon Henderson | Baker fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute
For Middle East watchers, the presence of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit will be very significant for a variety of reasons, some apparently trivial but many, under the current circumstances, important.
At the very least, it will show he feels secure that there will be no family putsch against him in his absence. If precedent is followed, he will be wearing traditional Arab robes rather than a Western business suit. But with whom will he have one-on-one meetings and who will seem to be wanting to keep a distance from him? Where will he stand in the official photograph and who will stand near him?
I asked a veteran former diplomat how officials will cope with the challenge. His response was short and wonderfully diplomatic: “Careful placement.” For British, French, German, European Union, and Turkish representatives, it will be intriguing to observe the solutions found.
For non-Middle East watchers, the prince’s presence is of much less significance. Also, other than the opportunity of appearing on the world stage, there is no particular need for Mohammed bin Salman to turn up. Indeed, at the G20 summit in Hamburg in 2017 the kingdom was represented by its former finance minister, Ibrahim al-Assaf, a minister of state.
Yasmine Farouk | Visiting scholar in the Carnegie Middle East Program
It will be significant, as it will represent Mohammed bin Salman’s first international test since the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. The crown prince has doubled down on his public appearances lately, whether at home or in the Arab world, but only with friendly leaders whose countries showed public support in the aftermath of the killing. The setting will be radically different during the G20 summit, beginning with the presence in Buenos Aires of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Mohammed bin Salman will have three aims to further consolidate his position. First, to refute international media reports about the uncertainty of his future as crown prince. Second, to meet world leaders who couldn’t or wouldn’t host him in their own capitals. And third, to complement his local media campaign with pictures confirming his and Saudi Arabia’s triumph over the “international conspiracy” that followed Khashoggi’s killing.

The Dire Consequences of Rewriting Western-Muslim History

Raymond Ibrahim/The Jerusalem Post/November 30/18
How can a fundamentally weak Muslim world be a threat to an economically and militarily superior West?
One of the least explored answers to this conundrum revolves around an antithesis – namely, how the West portrays Islam today, compared to its actual historic experiences with Islam.
In fact, from Islam’s first contact with Western civilization and for more than a millennium thereafter, Muslims behaved not unlike the Islamic State and on the same conviction: that Islam commands war on – and the enslavement or slaughter of – non-Muslims.
During this perennial jihad that began in the seventh century, almost three-quarters of Christendom’s original territory – including all of North Africa, Egypt, Greater Syria and Anatolia – was permanently swallowed up by Islam.
European nations and territories that were attacked and/or came under Muslim occupation (sometimes for centuries) include: Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Iceland, Denmark, England, Sicily, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Lithuania, Romania, Albania, Serbia, Armenia, Georgia, Crete, Cyprus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Belarus, Malta and Sardinia.
Between the 15th and 18th centuries alone, approximately five million Europeans were abducted and enslaved in the name of jihad. (Exactly how many were kidnapped during the great Arab slave raids on Europe between the poorly documented eighth and 11th centuries is unknown.)
The largest Islamic army ever to invade European territory – some 200,000 martyrdom-seeking jihadis – came as late as 1683 to conquer Vienna but failed.
But even as the Ottoman Empire was beginning its slow retreat from eastern Europe, the Muslim slavers of the so-called Barbary States of North Africa wreaked havoc all along the coasts of Europe – reaching even Iceland. The United States of America’s first war – which it fought before it could even elect its first president – was against these Islamic slavers. When Thomas Jefferson and John Adams asked Barbary’s ambassador why his countrymen were enslaving American sailors, the “ambassador answered us that it was founded on the laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that... it was their right and duty to make war upon them [non-Muslims] wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners...”
In short, for well over a millennium – punctuated by a Crusader-rebuttal about which the modern West is obsessed – Islam posed an existential threat to Western civilization (as copiously documented in my new book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West).
After writing, “For almost a thousand years, from the first Moorish landing in Spain [711] to the second Turkish siege of Vienna [1683], Europe was under constant threat from Islam,” Bernard Lewis elaborates: “All but the easternmost provinces of the Islamic realm had been taken from Christian rulers... North Africa, Egypt, Syria, even Persian-ruled Iraq, had been Christian countries, in which Christianity was older and more deeply rooted than in most of Europe.
Their loss was sorely felt and heightened the fear that a similar fate was in store for Europe,” as wave after wave of Islamic attacks crashed against the continent.
Yet no sooner did Europe neutralize Islam that it forgot all about its ancient antagonist. As historian Hilaire Belloc (b. 1870) observed during the peak of Western might and Muslim weakness:
“Millions of modern people of the white civilization – that is, the civilization of Europe and America – have forgotten all about Islam. They have never come in contact with it. They take for granted that it is decaying, and that, anyway, it is just a foreign religion which will not concern them. It is, as a fact, the most formidable and persistent enemy which our civilization has had, and may at any moment become as large a menace in the future as it has been in the past.”
But worse than just “forgetting,” the West has rewritten history to fit its postmodern paradigms. Today, whether as taught in high school or college, whether as portrayed by Hollywood or the news media, the predominant historic narrative is that Muslims are the historic victims of intolerant Western Christians (as I was once informed during a televised interview).
Even otherwise objective history books contribute to this distorted thinking. They talk of “Arab,” “Moorish,” “Ottoman,” or “Tatar” – rarely Islamic – invasions, without mentioning that the selfsame rationale – jihad – impelled those otherwise diverse peoples to assault the West.
But all this is history, it might be argued. Why rehash it? Why not let it be and move on, begin a new chapter of mutual tolerance and respect, even if history must be “touched up” a bit?
This would be a somewhat plausible position if not for the fact that, all around the globe, many Muslims are still exhibiting the same imperial impulse and intolerant supremacism of their forbears (reportedly 215 million Christians are currently experiencing “high levels of persecution,” mostly in the Muslim world; others are experiencing a genocide in the name of jihad.)
None of this should be surprising: in classrooms all across the Islamic world, Muslim children are taught to glorify the jihadi conquests of yore – while despising infidels. Thus, while the progressive West demonizes European/Christian history – when I was in elementary school, Christopher Columbus was a hero, when I reached college, he became a villain – Mehmet the Conqueror, a pedophile whose atrocities against eastern Europe make the Islamic State appear tame, is praised every year in “secular” Turkey on the anniversary of the savage sack Constantinople.
It is often said that those who ignore history are destined to repeat it. What does one say of those who rewrite history in a way that demonizes their ancestors while whitewashing the crimes of their persecutors?
The result is before us. The history recounted in Sword and Scimitar is not repeating itself; sword waving Muslims are not forcing their way into Europe. Rather, various Western European nations are opening their doors to and lying prostrate before Islamic aggression. In Germany and the United Kingdom, crime and rape have soared in direct proportion to the number of Muslim refugees accepted. Sweden alone – where rape has increased by 1,472% since that country embraced “multiculturalism” – is reportedly on the verge of collapse.
In the future (whatever one there may be) the histories written about our times will likely stress how our era, ironically called the “information age,” was not an age when people were so well informed, but rather an age when disinformation was so widespread and unquestioned that generations of people lived in bubbles of alternate realities – until they were finally popped.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is the Judith Rosen Friedman fellow at the Middle East Forum.

FDA Approves Ground breaking New Cancer Drug
NBC News/Thursday 29th November 2018
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new cancer drug that is the first to be designed from the start to fight a specific genetic mutation, not a traditional cancer type. The new drug, named Vitrakvi, is not approved to fight breast cancer or lung cancer or colon cancer. Instead, it’s designed and approved to treat cancers that arise anywhere in the body that carry a certain genetic characteristic.
“Traditionally in cancer therapy, we've treated patients based on where their cancer came from, what part of the body. What makes Vitrakvi unique is that it works regardless of where the cancer came from as long as it has the specific mutation,” said Dr. David Hyman, chief of early drug development at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
While several drugs are approved to treat a variety of different cancers based on genetic mutations, Vitrakvi, known generically as larotrectinib, is the first that is approved from the beginning to treat cancers solely based on the mutation. “Today’s approval marks another step in an important shift toward treating cancers based on their tumor genetics rather than their site of origin in the body,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.
“We now have the ability to make sure that the right patients get the right treatment at the right time. This type of drug development program, which enrolled patients with different tumors but a common gene mutation, wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago because we knew a lot less about such cancer mutations.”Keytruda was the first example of a drug approved to treat a genetic mutation. Originally FDA approved in 2014 to treat melanoma that had spread, the makers of Keytruda showed it could treat other tumor types, if they had the same mutation that drives some cases of melanoma. Now it’s used against a range of tumors, including breast cancer.
Vitrakvi treats a different genetic mutation involving genes called NTRK genes. Rarely, they can fuse together and cause the out-of-control growth that results in tumors.
“Prior to today’s approval, there had been no treatment for cancers that frequently express this mutation, like mammary analogue secretory carcinoma, cellular or mixed congenital mesoblastic nephroma and infantile fibrosarcoma,” the FDA said.
Anna Plaza says her daughter, Rihanna, is living proof of how well the drug can work if given to the right patient. When Rihanna was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut last year, she had an enormous mass on her arm. “They didn't know what was wrong. They just knew it was a mass and they covered it up with a Pamper and we needed to get transferred to another hospital because nobody knew what to do with us,” Plaza told NBC News.
“I was like, ‘oh my God, what am I going to do? What are we going to do?" she added. "It was horrible."Biopsies showed Rihanna had a rare tumor known as infantile fibrosarcoma, a malignant soft tissue tumor typically found in children under one year of age.
Chemotherapy did little to help the tiny baby. The family eventually was referred to the clinical trials being done to test the drug at Memorial Sloan Kettering. “It was a syrup. She would take it once in the morning, once at night.” Surprisingly, the baby liked it. Three days later, the tumor was already shrinking. “When we went back to Memorial Sloan Kettering, they were even more shocked,” said Anna Plaza’s husband Enrique. “They were like ‘Whoa, we've never seen this process go fast. We've seen it in months, but so fast, within a week?’” he added. “We were happy because they didn't have to cut her arm off.”
Surgeons could much more easily remove the tumor afterwards. "If we hadn't shrunk it first, she could had ended up with a forearm and a hand that didn't work the way they should for the rest of her life," said Dr. Todd Heaton, a pediatric oncologist who helped treat her. Rihanna still goes for follow-up treatments and, as with so many targeted cancer therapies, only a small percentage of cancer patients are helped. “For patients that have this mutation — it is a revolution for these patients,” Hyman said.
“But what we really have recognized about cancer is that it's not a one-size-fits-all approach, and we need to apply the best therapy for every patient.”
Another roadblock — health insurance companies don't always pay for the genetic tests needed to guide doctors to the targeted drugs. Hyman hopes having a specific FDA approval can help change that. And these drugs are not cheap. Bayer, which partners with the company that makes Vitrakvi, says it will cost $393,600 a year, while the pediatric syrup formulation will cost $11,000 a month.

The secret behind attacks on Washington and Riyadh
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/November 29/19
Well-known American journalist Leon Wieseltier wrote articles criticizing Obama administration’s stance on the Syrian war in The New Republic magazine. There were horrific scenes of children’s bodies while the superpower kept silent.
Back then, the press did not push Obama to take a more decisive position – not to topple Assad but to at least intimidate him and put an end to the increasing number of those killed every day.
It actually supported him and agreed with him on the idea that entering Syria means not exiting it, i.e. a new Iraq. Neither the president nor the press want any American soldier to be killed for this purpose. Back then, The New York Review of Books published a headline that resembled a warning shot to President Obama. It read: “Stay Out of Syria!”Wieseltier, who is angry and is frustrated by his colleagues’ and friends’ position, wrote in an article: “The world does not end in Iraq. The left looks away from human suffering.”Few months later, Obama decided to strike Assad after he went too far but what’s strange is that the press, in addition to other reasons, discouraged him.
A prominent author commented on this in the Washington Post saying that Obama’s main strategy is not to intervene and he must commit to it no matter the circumstances! President Obama backed down on his stance and the rest of the story is known.
We have witnessed a similar situation with Iran. When the Green Movement erupted, President Obama kept silent and the supporting press did not mind this. It supported his opinion, which meant that any word that comes out of his mouth will be employed in favor of the regime against the protestors.
The Khashoggi case is being used to weaken the strongest Saudi stance that confronts Iranian and Brotherhood projects in the region and supports the project of stability and moderation
Wrong tactic
It proved to be wrong tactic as Tehran viewed this as a sign to go on without being punished. Hence it crushed the revolution and shed innocent blood. Many were killed and many others were detained and tortured including western and American journalists who were later used for bargaining.
Despite the ongoing Iranian violations in and outside the country, and the regime conniving with the Syrian regime to commit horrific massacres, no angry campaigns were carried out against the regime’s figureheads, such as Rouhani and Zarif. There was instead media celebration after the famous phone call Obama made to Rouhani when he was in New York on his way to the airport. The Iranian deal was signed two years later and a bigger celebration ensued.
Famous talk shows hosted important members in the Iranian lobby, and the purpose was clear: Rehabilitate the regime and cleanse it from the blood of thousands of the Iranians and non-Iranians.
The serious press was not morally provoked but the opposite happened as it welcomed the decision and viewed it as a lesson in political realism. An anchor who is mesmerized by Obama said: He killed Bin Laden and sealed a deal with the Iranians; this is not America’s president but Superman!
In these exact same hours, the Iranians and Hezbollah’s militias were finishing off Syrian children and burying them under the rubble. The tragic situation continued but the press remained busy with the “historic achievement” and attacked whoever criticized it.
All this changed with the murder of one person named Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi government announced the details of the crime, arrested the culprits and put them on trial. It is an isolated crime unprecedented in Saudi history and its culprits are on trial.
However, we witnessed major campaigns against Riyadh – campaigns we have never witnessed before. They came from the same parties, which viewed silence as some sort of wisdom despite the horrific massacres and the large number of those killed and sealed deals with those who committed these crimes without arresting any of those involved in them.
Flagrant contradiction
What’s with this flagrant contradiction in stances? A part of the answer to this question was noted by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who wrote in an article published on Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal: “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 worldwide, including hundreds of Americans, and brutalizes its own people?”
“Where was this echo chamber, where were these avatars of human rights, when Mr. Obama gave the mullahs pallets of cash to carry out their work as the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism?,” he wrote. This answer explains the reason behind the objections and the main campaign on the American president and the Saudi crown prince. It’s an ideological and political dispute in which everything, Khashoggi, the Russian collusion, Yemen’s war and the nuclear deal, is being employed to attack Trump’s Washington and Riyadh.
The Khashoggi case is being used to weaken the strongest Saudi stance that confronts Iranian and Brotherhood projects in the region and supports the project of stability and moderation, as Pompeo noted in his article. It is also through this same prism that we can understand the attack on Trump via the accusation of collusion with Russia as the aim is to exhaust him on the domestic front and break up his alliances abroad. When Trump stood next to Putin in Helsinki in a press conference, the former CIA chief during Obama’s term slammed him and accused him of treason! They are making accusations without new evidence and are only concerned with weaving a story and nurturing it with rumors and unsubstantiated details regardless of any truth; in other words, fake news.
These are the most common and effective methods of biased leftist organizations, activists and media outlets. This explains the secret of these parties’ transformation into platforms, which attack Riyadh and the Trump administration and which are made up of Obama’s supporters and sympathizers with Iran and Sunni and Shiite political Islam groups. And from this, we can understand the reality of the relentless attacks as we see these desperate and frequent attempts by those who were silent earlier, exploiting Khashoggi’s blood or the Russian collusion to make political gains and ideological victories.

Oil price volatility: All eyes on the G20 meeting
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/November 29/19
The global oil markets have been in a state of shock, with price volatility and falls of 7-8 percent in one day becoming a new norm and causing a panic on whether oil prices will fall below another benchmark – the $50 per barrel levels.
The sharp falls had posted a seventh consecutive weekly loss, amid intensifying fears of a supply glut even as major producers consider cutting output.
A bit of a bounce back in crude oil prices on Monday and Tuesday after steep plunges in recent weeks should provide some relief to many oil producers, not least Saudi Arabia, who are under understandable pressure to prepare a viable strategy of output cuts to put a floor under oil prices through the turn of the year and set the stage for a modest rise in prices – and the Kingdom's oil revenues – next year.
The forthcoming G20 meeting of leading world economies in Argentina at the end of November will provide an indication on whether the bull or bear market traders will decide the next stages of oil price benchmarks, with costly outcome to those who make the wrong bet.
In simple terms, the key parameters remain oil supply, demand and short-term geo political shocks in that order to determine oil prices. Oil supply, led by US producers, is growing faster than demand and to prevent a build-up of unused fuel such as the one that emerged in 2015, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is expected to start trimming output after a meeting on Dec. 6.
That is on the supply side. On the demand side matters have become less certain. A trade war between the world’s two biggest economies and oil consumers, the United States and China, has weighed upon the market.
This is the dilemma that Saudi Arabia, the largest OPEC producer finds itself in and when it has to make some decisions to create some stability in world oil prices. A probable first phase of the Kingdom’s oil strategy will play out at the G20 meeting that starts this Friday.
Iran stands to lose out and has been calling for the abolition of the existing two monitoring committees on the ground that they are dominated by countries that adopt policies against its interests
Two-fold objective
And it is notable that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is going to Buenos Aires and bringing energy minister Khaled al-Falih with him. The objective is twofold: to strike an understanding with Russian President Vladimir Putin on committing Russia to at least token cuts in crude output at the December 6 OPEC-plus meeting, and; from President Trump, a reprieve from threatening tweets on the ground that Saudi Arabia has done its utmost to increase production when called upon in face of outages from Iran, Libya , Venezuela and others and to plan to cut back when prices are hovering at dangerously lower levels that threaten the on-going economic transformation agendas of key oil producers.
The rise and subsequent fall in oil prices this year has been almost entirely driven by production decisions in Saudi Arabia, Russia and the USA and their policies towards managing the impact of renewed sanctions on Iran. According to BP data, the troika accounted for 36 million barrels per day of crude and condensates production in 2017 (39 percent of the global total) compared with just 27 million bpd from the rest of OPEC (30 percent of the global total).
But there are divergent interests within this troika as production has surged even further this year as US shale firms ramped up output in response to higher prices, while Russia and Saudi Arabia relaxed production curbs put in place at the end of 2016.
With the way cleared at the G20 meeting, a second stage of the Saudi oil strategy will be a credible headline of output cuts at the crucial OPEC meeting in Vienna on December 6 with the Kingdom acutely aware it will have to deliver the bulk of the cuts, and possibly increase the 500,000 bpd in cuts already indicated for December to as much as 750,000 in order to have a more meaningful price impact. With an additional 250,000 to 350,000 bpd in cuts from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, OPEC would be within range of a targeted minimum of 1.2 million bpd in cuts starting in January. Will this be enough to stop the slide in oil prices?
This is where the Kingdom’s undoubted supremacy as the world’s oil central banker comes into play and, in principle, there could be additional potential cuts in output in mind by February or March after they see how oil prices respond to the OPEC cuts and the impact of the Iranian sanctions, any signs of a truce in the US-China trade war spat as well as a better sense of global demand going into the seasonal build up in the second quarter.
The bet, for now is that further cuts that would bring them to or just below the 10 million bpd mark in output may not be needed if prices stabilize by then and even begin a modest rise.
Flexible monitoring
The setting up of a more flexible monitoring committee with a new secretariat in Vienna headed by Russia to recommend production cuts or increases on a consensus basis from January will provide Saudi Arabia with the necessary cover to take action quickly instead of waiting for a unanimous OPEC ministerial decision.
In this new system, the locus of decision-making has shifted from the twice-yearly OPEC conference in Vienna to the periodic meetings of the JMMC and bilateral briefings among ministers.
Iran stands to lose out and has been calling for the abolition of the existing two monitoring committees on the ground that they are dominated by countries that adopt policies against its interests. And are not aboding by OPEC unanimous decisions. The inclusion of Russia as a key energy player with OPEC has been a decisive one.
In this context, it is not surprising that the distinction between OPEC and non-OPEC members has become increasingly blurred and decision-making shifted outside the organization. Discussion and analysis have moved away from OPEC’s twice-yearly ministerial conference to the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC), which blends OPEC and non-OPEC members.
The JMMC contains two leading non-OPEC producers (Russia and Oman) and just four OPEC countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Algeria and Venezuela) plus the OPEC president (currently the United Arab Emirates). Iran’s exclusion from membership of the JMMC is symptomatic of its marginalization within OPEC and the wider oil market.
To all intents and purposes, OPEC has been marginalized as a troika of the United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia takes critical decisions about the oil market. It is a fact of life and other OPEC members have to learn to live with it, as production decisions made in the troika tend to determine whether the oil market will be over- or under-supplied in the short to medium term, while other OPEC and non-OPEC countries watch from the side-lines.
Or simply align their output policies with those of Saudi Arabia. There are exceptions such as Libya and more importantly Iraq, which is planning in increasing its production capacity to 5 million barrels per day – bpd - from just over 4 million bpd and has been able to increase its output significantly in 2017/18.
Can Saudi Arabia make the necessary cuts without harming its fiscal position? The room for the Kingdom’s cuts in output was built into the surge production in November, which some analysts claim reached as much just shy of 11 million bpd in November after having reached 10.72 million bpd in October. The November surge is unsustainable. But coupled to the shifting market sense of lower oil demand next year -- a forecast shared by the Saudis, which accounts for their reluctance since summer to increase output to the extent they did -- the higher output in October and especially in November, no doubt played a contributing role in pushing crude prices sharply lower.
Another factor was that the Saudi surge was also timed to offset the loss of Iranian crude exports as the US-orchestrated sanctions were expected to further erode Iranian crude exports reaching the market. President Trump’s sudden reversal to allow so many exemptions to the oil sanctions meant the loss of Iranian crude never materialized, adding to the current oversupply and took both the Kingdom and the Iranians by surprise as the latter seem to thrive under a siege economy mentality.
Dramatic collapse
The dramatic price collapse set off the alarm bells, where the hard realization sank in that they oil producers such as Saudi Arabia would pay in lost revenues and especially lost standing when they abandoned their own hard-negotiated OPEC plus Vienna Framework to increase output under pressure from President Trump.
It will not be smooth sailing as few oil producers are willing to agree to proportioned output cuts, while Moscow, whose participation is considered essential by the Saudis are maybe still unwilling to give Riyadh a commitment to output cuts.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hopes to change that, at least in terms of verbal support for output cuts, in his meeting with Putin on the side-lines of the G20 meeting.
The fear remains that a rhetorical support with promised cuts against “future” projected output might not be enough and It is uncertain whether the OPEC cuts, even with the hard barrel cuts by the Kingdom and its Gulf allies, will be enough to stabilize oil prices at a higher sustained range to seek average crude prices around a $70 benchmark for next year.
As the balance of power has shifted away from historically important producers such as Iran, Nigeria and Venezuela, so the focus of decision-making has also flowed into new channels like the new Russian chaired Vienna based Secretariat.
As power shifts to the troika and its closest allies, the semi annual OPEC conference and its OPEC/non-OPEC follow-up committees have become a cosmetic side show rather than where the real decisions are taken, raising some interesting questions on whether there is any life left in OPEC after all.

Russia continues to show disdain for international law and diplomatic norms
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/November 29/19
As European leaders were busy discussing the particulars of the Brexit agreement, the Kremlin decided to use the opportunity to engage in some gunboat diplomacy and up the ante with Ukraine.
Not satisfied with annexing the Crimea, Putin gambled on shoring up his declining approval ratings by seizing three Ukrainian naval vassals and blocking access to the Sea of Azov.
Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, swiftly went to parliament to request immediate martial law for sixty days, which handed him new emergency powers – and which may incidentally assist his presidential re-election in March – which he was expected to lose.
Neither side wishes to revisit the shooting match of 2014 but neither side wishes to let a political opportunity to grandstand with nationalistic rhetoric like this pass. The challenge will be for both sides to keep the skirmish confined to bombast without it escalating into full scale war with global strategic implications.
While Western leaders are rightly concerned, we must not lose sight of the background in which these events are happening: after a “hugely successful” operation in Syria where Russia managed to preserve the Assad regime and reconfirm the status of Russia a serious global power, an embolden Kremlin has concluded that the envelope can be pushed quite far without any meaningful response from the West. And pushed it must be continuously to incessantly prove the point.
Challenge will be for both sides to keep skirmish confined to bombast without it escalating into full scale war with strategic implications
Flexing muscles
And it is not only on the international stage that Putin is flexing his muscles. At home, journalists and dissidents critical of the Kremlin have an unfortunate tendency to end up dead – whether within Russia, or indeed on the streets of foreign cities.
Indeed “something about the climate” in Western countries seems to quite inhospitable to those Russians fleeing the wrath of Putin or his cronies, for whatever reason. It is almost as if the forces of nature themselves actively enforce the omerta underpinning the core of current the Russian state.
But wayward Russians are not the only ones whose life-expectancy is adversely affected by the Kremlin’s opinions. Nobody should expect to fly over areas where Russia is “not fighting a war”, and not be blown out of the sky by Russian rockets fired from Russian territory.
Unless, of course, they are deliberately trying to get themselves blown up by Russian Buk missiles, to stoke international Russophobic sentiments.
But perhaps the deadliest thing you can do, is be Syrian and need to go the hospital. If Assad bombs and chemical weapons won’t get you, then “accidental” Russian aerial bombardment most certainly will. When Libya’s Gaddafi did half of this stuff, he was shunned by the world and blockaded into oblivion. When Putin does this stuff, it is a Russophobic conspiracy by the very Western leaders he helped elect to power. And aspiring European leaders will stand by him.
Complete disdain
What we have with the current Kremlin government is a long-standing and fast exacerbating pattern of complete disdain for international laws and diplomatic norms. In fact, the very point of many of these actions seems to be nothing more than to test the West’s commitment to those norms, and to undermine them – perhaps best exemplified by the Skripal poisoning in London.
There is not other discernible reason for why Moscow would risk direct confrontation with London than to prove that it can flout norms with impunity, in the expectation that London would be incapable of mounting a meaningful response.
And so far that gamble has largely paid off: Russia is not substantially worse off for attempting to assassinate British citizens on British soil, despite all the international condemnation.
But this needs to stop. We cannot allow Putin to undermine the fabric of our international order any further. This is a distraction we can do without as we must face the existential challenges of climate change in the decades to come.
The actions of the Kremlin in Ukraine so far already warrant the kind of blanket containment imposed on North Korea. The first step is to acknowledge a blatant reality and categorise the problem appropriately: the current Russian regime is a terror state.
The next step is to use all available international mechanisms we have used previously on terror states, to impose appropriate costs on the Kremlin, and to circumscribe their ability to kill random civilians around the globe with impunity.
And lastly, we will need to engage with the Russian people and confront them with this existential question: are you happy being governed by a terrorist, mafia-style regime?

CIA has no proof against Saudi Crown Prince: US expert
Dalia Aqidi/Al Arabiya/November 29/18
For two years, the US President Donald Trump has been trying to undo several decisions and agreements made by his predecessor, Barak Obama, that have caused a lot of concern and distress in the Gulf region.
The Obama Administration was convinced that Iran will be the US peace partner in the region. Therefore, the former US President used all his abilities to push Tehran to the forefront, according to Jim Hanson, the President of the Security Studies Group in Washington DC.
“Obama’s policy had really changed things for a lot of Gulf States when they see their enemy being empowered by the United States,” he added.
Riyadh was Trump’s first overseas destination following his inauguration in which, Hanson noted, he met with the world’s Muslim leaders. “He also met with King Salman and the Crown Prince to basically talk about how they could form a counterweight to what President Trump saw as Iran’s malign influence as opposed to Iran’s role as a partner for peace,” he pointed out.
“This had completely upset the US media’s reflexive support for President Obama. Media outlets have a vested interest in the idea that Tehran was not the bad guy and anything that jeopardizes the Iran deal was a problem. Therefore, they began their attacks,” Hanson told Al Arabiya English. He emphasized that Khashoggi’s case was a lever the media used to attack Trump and his Saudi allies, and to damage both of them at the same time.
The leaked CIA Report
Following the US President’s announcement, in which he stated that the CIA report “might” be true, without either confirming or denying, Trump and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were targeted through a smear campaign which Hanson described as a “crusade,” due to the historical significance of the crusade which is similar to what implies currently.
“The media attacks are hallmarks of a crusade. The US media has been attempting to impose western ideas, western concerns, and desires on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by deciding to depose a royal leader of another sovereign nation. This is a crusade from my perspective,” he stressed.
Hanson, who was a member of the US Army Special Forces for counter-terrorism and insurgency in more than a dozen countries, highlighted, to Al Arabiya English, that the CIA does not have evidence that the Crown Prince is responsible for Khashoggi’s death. Otherwise, the people who leaked the CIA report certainly would mention it, if that information really existed.
"The CIA report did not state that it has a proof that Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the killing. Instead, it said that it believes with high confidence that the Crown Prince was responsible, because in a country like Saudi Arabia, it is almost inconceivable that he would not have,” he emphasized, adding that the modernization steps taken by the Crown Prince have resulted in several internal enemies.
Hanson expressed his astonishment that all the western journalists were taking the word of someone who is known as the “largest journalists’ jailer in the world.”
“The journalists looked at the Turkish President, Racep Tayyip Erdogan, as the voice that tells the truth about the Khashoggi’s killing. This one person’s death was more important to the media than everything that was happening in Iran where several opposition activists were killed by the Iranian regime. Meanwhile, Turkey had done the exact same thing. Is one person supposed to completely change the strategic balance in the Middle East?,” he wondered, describing the thought as “absurd.”
The fact that Saudi Arabia and several Gulf States began to see Iran as a much bigger threat than Israel, had thrown the usual power balance out of whack, Hanson stated, reiterating that the American Left and its media saw this incident as an opportunity to take down Trump and his Saudi allies.
“Qatar and Turkey have performed some very good power plays to damage their rival, Saudi Arabia, and to gain leverage over the United States. Turkey was asking for numerous kinds of concessions from Washington. While Ankara has released the detained US Pastor, Andrew Brunson, it requested the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, Erdogan’s biggest political foe who resides in the US,” Hanson confirmed.
He highlighted that Doha and Tehran, alongside the media have a strong desire to push the coalition of the KSA and UAE out of Yemen, which will grant an undesirable victory to Iran in the region, “Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and the majority of the GCC capitals have aligned with Washington against Tehran to prevent the Iranian mullahs from doing anything irrational. If the US and Saudi Arabia were no longer allies, Iran would feel emboldened,” according to Hanson.
What next
On Tuesday, a report published by the Associated Press suggested that, during the G-20 summit, which will be held on the 30th of November in the Argentinean Capital Buenos Aires, the Saudi Crown Prince will come face to face with President Donald Trump who has defended USties with the kingdom, which will be good, according to Hanson.
“I think at some level there will be a very short heart-to-heart talk. Trump will say to the Crown Prince ‘You told me you did not do it, but we need to make sure this never happens again.’ Then Mohammed bin Salman’s response might be like: ‘I was put in charge of reforming the intelligence agencies; we will make sure this does not happen again.’ Trump is then going to take his word for it," the president of the Security Studies Group told Al Arabiya English, speculating that a fairly strong statement will be issued to stress that the US is moving forward with the Saudi Crown Prince.
On the other hand, Hanson expressed his doubts that the 2019 US House of Representatives, which will be dominated by the Democrats, will be able to change the nature of the US-Saudi partnership, “I think the democrats will try to, but they really cannot. That is the fortunate thing about the way the US government is set up. The executive branch controls the foreign policy,” he commented.
Hanson criticized Doha’s decision to add more Qatari Airways flights to Iran, by noting that this step will make the US sanctions on Iran less effective and stressing that Qatar is going to pay a price for that. He reiterated that the Qataris are still funding terrorism. “They still fund all the bad guys, and I think that is why the Qataris are tighter with Iran. Both countries are the main funders for Hezbollah, Hamas, and all the bad stuff that is going on," he argued.
He concluded his thoughts by urging the US Administration to be wary of the Qatari government and to, potentially, reduce the tight alliance with Doha due to its insistence to fund terrorist groups in the region.