Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For October 15/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Jerusalem, How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing
Luke 13/31-35: "At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me, "Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem." Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord." ’.

Vote Charbel Bassil for the Catholic Separate French Trustee Board Schools In Mississauga انتخب شربل باسيل لعضوية مجلس أمناء المدارس الكاثوليكية الفرنسية في ماسيسوكا
نشرات اخبار عربية وانكليزية مطولة ومفصلة يومية على موقعنا الألكتروني على الرابط التالي

Daily Lebanese/Arabic - English news bulletins on our LCCC web site.Click on the link below

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 14-15/18
Hezbollah & The Majority of Those Who Allege To Oppose Its Occupation Are Two faces for the same coin/Elias Bejjani/October 12/18
U.S. Senate Approves Two Bills Sanctioning Hezbollah/JTA /October 14/18
Defeat of Bolsonaro will be against the interests of the Christian community in Brazil/Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/October 14/18
October 13, 1990...Excerpts from Memoirs 1990/Dr. Walid Phares/October 14/18
Saudi Stock Market Plummets After Trump Threatens 'Severe Punishment' Over Missing Journalist/Reuters/October 14/18
A Kingdom Divided 'Fake News' From Qatar or a Sign of MBS's Brutal Rule: Saudi Arabia Roiled by 'Murder' of Journalist/Reuters/October 14/18/
5 Key Moments in the Bromance Between Kushner and the Saudi Crown Prince/JTA and Ron Kampeas/October 14/18
US Sanctions on Riyadh Would Mean Washington Is Stabbing Itself/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/October 14/18
The Absent Truth in Khashoggi’s File/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/October, 14/18
Fear Climate Change — and Our Response to It/Tyler Cowen/Bloomberg/October 14/18
Christians Sentenced to Death Under Sharia Law/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/October 14/18
"Genocide against Christians"..Extremist Persecution of Christians, April 2018/Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/October 14/18
International community must try to push Iran out of Syria/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/October 14/18
Emboldened IRGC threatens to make Iran sanctions counterproductive/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/October 14/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 14-15/18
Hezbollah & The Majority of Those Who Allege To Oppose Its Occupation Are Two faces for the same coin
U.S. Senate Approves Two Bills Sanctioning Hezbollah
Report: Macron Asks Aoun to Press All Parties on Govt. Formation
Berri from Geneva warns of attempts to liquidate Palestinian cause
Eight young artists win the 'Boghossian Foundation Award' for Film, Children's Literature, Painting, Dance and Design
Marada Seeks to Confront 'Elimination' as LF Reconciliation Looms
Birth of Lebanese Government Bets on Aoun-Hariri Meeting Next Week
Defeat of Bolsonaro will be against the interests of the Christian community in Brazil
October 13, 1990...Excerpts from Memoirs 1990

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 14-15/18
Saudi Stock Market Plummets After Trump Threatens 'Severe Punishment' Over Missing Journalist
Rohani: U.S. Seeking Regime Change in Iran
London, Paris, Berlin Demand 'Credible' Khashoggi Probe
A Kingdom Divided 'Fake News' From Qatar or a Sign of MBS's Brutal Rule: Saudi Arabia Roiled by 'Murder' of Journalist
Ghassan Salame: Institutions Legitimacy Issue Still Exists in Libya
Guterres Hails Egypt’s Role In Establishing Regional Security, Peace
Russia Escalates Rhetoric Against 'East Euphrates Quasi-State'

The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 14-15/18
Hezbollah & The Majority of Those Who Allege To Oppose Its Occupation Are Two faces for the same coin
Elias Bejjani/October 12/18
Hezbollah and its governing political figures, Trojans, media puppets’ team and all the subservient tools are actual national disasters.
Yes, they are the oppressive occupation, but those hypocrites and opportunists who falsely pose themselves as the opposition under the banners of sovereignty, freedoms, public representation, realism and martyrs’ sacrifices are millions of times worse than them in all domains and on all levels.. and more dangerous especially in regards to the Lebanese distinguishable identity.
Sadly both are in reality and in all political and patriotic stances two faces for the same coin.
Those politicians and political parties as well as activists who have no conscience, self respect or faith and do not fear the God or His Judgement Day, can not be a substitute to Hezbollah, the occupier or to its Trojan tools because they are real and actual threats to the Lebanese people and to all that is Lebanon and Lebanese.
U.S. Senate Approves Two Bills Sanctioning Hezbollah
JTA /October 14/18
The human shields bill, called the Sanctioning the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act, also condemns Hamas, the Gaza terror group, for the practice. The U.S. Senate passed two measures targeting Hezbollah by sanctioning its funders and supporters, as well as those who assist in the Lebanese terror group’s using civilians as human shields. Both bills were approved Thursday with bipartisan sponsorship.The human shields bill, called the Sanctioning the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act, also condemns Hamas, the Gaza terror group, for the practice. The measure would impose sanctions on members of Hamas and Hezbollah who use civilians as human shields, as well as agencies of states that aid the groups in doing so. It will now be headed to the House of Representatives for a vote. The bill sanctioning funders or those who provide resources to Hezbollah, called the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2017, imposes sanctions on government entities that support the group’s armed wing. It also sanctions companies or individuals who aid Hezbollah’s fundraising or recruitment, as well as imposing sanctions on the terror group itself. And it mandates reporting and oversight on support of Hezbollah. The bill, which was passed by the House last month, “strengthens and expands the scope of economic and financial sanctions imposed by previous legislation,” according to a news release from AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby. The bill now awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

Report: Macron Asks Aoun to Press All Parties on Govt. Formation
Naharnet/October 14/18/French President Emmanuel Macron asked President Michel Aoun during their meeting in Yerevan to personally intervene to “facilitate” the formation of the new cabinet, a media report said. “Macron is following up on the government formation file and he asked President Aoun to facilitate the process and press the obstructing parties in order to release the cabinet from captivity,” informed sources told Kuwait's al-Jarida daily in remarks published Sunday. “The French president hinted to Aoun that he needed to press friends before foes,” the sources added. The sources also revealed that Aoun has briefed Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on the outcome of his meeting with Macron. “Macron stressed the need to form the government as soon as possible so that Lebanon gets to benefit from the package of aid and loans that was endorsed at the CEDRE Conference,” Aoun reportedly told Hariri.

Berri from Geneva warns of attempts to liquidate Palestinian cause
Sun 14 Oct 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, warned of attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause, reiterating the "need for Arab Parliaments to respond to such attempts in all parliamentary forums."Berri's words came during a lengthy meeting held by the heads of the Arab Parliamentary Councils and delegations on Saturday evening at the Inter-Parliamentary Union Headquarters in Geneva prior to the opening session of the Union's 139th General Assembly tomorrow morning. Following in the same steps adopted by the Islamic States Parliamentary Group during their meeting in Geneva yesterday, IPU conferees agreed on a proposal submitted by Kuwait and Jordan to include an "emergency item" on the General Assembly's agenda related to Washington's decision to stop UNRWA's financial aids, which constitutes an attempt to exert new pressure on the Palestinian people.
The Arab Parliamentary Union's meeting was co-chaired by Arab Parliamentary Union Head, Egyptian House Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, and Inter-Parliamentary Union President, Gabriela Cuevas Barron, who raised the issue of discussion and voting on the item related to the rights of homosexuals. A long discussion took place during the meeting, whereby Speaker Berri intervened several times to remind participants of the priority of voting on the emergency item as stipulated by the Union's Law, namely regarding the subject of UNRWA and the rights of the Palestinian people. However, Barron informed the attendees that voting over the UNRWA issue and amending the agenda of the Standing Committee would take place in order to pass the issue of gay rights. In turn, Arab Councils' heads and members stressed that priority should be given to UNRWA, adding that the inclusion of the subject of homosexuals was "unacceptable, and lacking urgency.""I think that according to the IPU System, the emergency item must be voted on before anything else," Berri emphasized, adding that "what is happening is against democracy." He warned of "the continuation of such an attempt," while stressing on the Arab and Islamic Parliaments' opposing stand in this respect.

Eight young artists win the 'Boghossian Foundation Award' for Film, Children's Literature, Painting, Dance and Design
Sun 14 Oct 2018/NNA - The Boghossian Art Foundation celebrated the annual distribution of its "Young Lebanese Artists Award" at Villa Aoudeh in Beirut on Sunday, in the presence of Caretaker Culture Minister's Representative, Anne Marie Affeish; Ambassador of Belgium Hubert Cormann; President of the Foundation, Artist Jean Boghossian, and the Foundation's Director in Beirut, Marie Boghossian Salameh, alongside a large number of prominent dignitaries. In her delivered speech on the occasion, Salameh explained that the prize "is usually awarded in the categories of drawing, design, dance and children's literature." She added: "The Foundation, based in Brussels, has decided to add the film category to the award in partnership with the Lebanese Cinema Foundation." "The award, presented since 1992, has given talented Lebanese young people the opportunity to expose their work in Europe and exchange experiences with Arab and foreign artists in the Brussels spaces where every winner has a minimum of one month...and some of whose names are now international," Salameh went on. "Supporting these young people, communicating their ideas and developing their talents reflect the goal of this award, which we celebrate today," she said. In her word on behalf of Caretaker Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury, Affeish thanked the Boghossian Foundation for its "constant support for educational, artistic and cultural projects." "It embodies [the Foundation] its deep-rooted conviction in the youth's role and creativity in promoting the cultural process of the country," said Affeish. She also commended the Foundation for its "continuous effort and contribution to this cultural and educational message that will develop the facets of our Lebanese society and build bridges for the convergence of different civilizations and cultures."

Marada Seeks to Confront 'Elimination' as LF Reconciliation Looms
Naharnet/October 14/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh are expected to hold a historic meeting soon that would turn the page on decades of animosity between the two Christian parties. “Rapprochement between Marada and the LF is a positive factor and there could be a meeting soon between Geagea and Suleiman Franjieh, whose house remains open to everyone, and he welcomes all forces that seek to engage in dialogue with him,” Marada official and ex-MP Karim al-Rassi told al-Joumhouria daily in remarks published Sunday. Stressing the importance of “building a broad Christian coalition to confront this elimination onslaught,” in an apparent jab at the Free Patriotic Movement, al-Rassi noted that “the only leader who can bring Christians together is Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, who played this role during a certain period.”Al-Rassi added: “It is in the interest of all Christians to agree on defining red lines that do not allow any party or component to cross them, and we need to restore the confidence of Christians in their country and state.”Marada accuses Geagea of playing a role in the 1978 Ehden Massacre that resulted in the death of Tony Franjieh, his wife and his three-year old baby in addition to dozens of Marada supporters. The LF denies the allegations.

Birth of Lebanese Government Bets on Aoun-Hariri Meeting Next Week
Beirut - Caroline Akoum/Asharq Al-Awsat/October, 14/18
Presidential sources told Asharq Al-Awsat Saturday that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun are expected to meet next week. “Whether Hariri would present to President Aoun a ministerial formula or not is up to the PM-designate,” the sources said. Describing the cabinet formation process, the sources said up till Saturday, some parties were lenient in their positions, while others remain stringent. “Consultations are ongoing, and the overall climate is not negative,” the sources said. For their part, Hariri’s sources said the Prime Minister-designate is keeping a level of optimism regarding the government formation process. However, they said Hariri and Aoun have not yet discussed names of possible ministers allocated to each party. “All circulated ministerial formulas are inaccurate,” they said. A telephone call initiated Saturday by Hariri to Aoun broke the scene of political tension and verbal confrontations between Lebanon’s political parties, particularly following the comments of caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil against the Lebanese Forces. Hariri contacted Aoun to congratulate him on his safe return from Yerevan, after his participation in the Francophone Summit. Hariri praised Aoun’s speech at the summit, which expresses Lebanon’s message of improving dialogue between civilizations. The phone call came amid ongoing verbal confrontations between supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement from one part, and the LF and the Marada Movement from another part.
Addressing a delegation of AUB, LAU and NDU University students who succeeded in the recent student elections, LF leader Samir Geagea said the recent student elections is a small sample that offers an idea of the real popular representation of the Lebanese Forces.
“The main goal [of our opponents] is to reduce the representation of the Lebanese Forces in the next government,” Geagea said. Earlier, Bassil had renewed his commitment to his initial demands and added a new node, to obtain the ministry of public works, which was formerly set as the share of the Marada Movement.

Defeat of Bolsonaro will be against the interests of the Christian community in Brazil
Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/October 14/18
Middle East Christian sources are warning that Iran and its allies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, are using strong pressure on Churches in these countries to influence the CNBB (National Council of Bishops in Brazil) to break neutrality in Brazil's Presidential election against Jair Bolsonaro. The sources warn that a defeat of Bolsonaro will be against the interests of the Christian community in Brazil and certainly weaken the survival of Christians in the Middle East
Brazilian sources claim Iran is meddling in Presidential elections especially the second round. Tehran would lose influence if Jairbolsonaro would be elected. Pro Iran Beirut and Damascus networks are mobilizing their communities in Brazil for Haddad

October 13, 1990...Excerpts from Memoirs 1990
الدكتور وليد فارس وذكريات مؤلمة من واقعة 13 تشرين الأول 1990
Dr. Walid Phares/October 14/18
7 AM, Beit Mery, October 13, 1990. Sukhois flying over the Baabda district, bombing the Presidential palace. I can see them clearly from the balcony of the Del Sol Hotel, where I was staying. First thought that came to my mind: Assad got the green light from (US Secretary) Baker. It's done, the attack is coming. Few minutes later, hundreds of artillery pieces opened fire from Beirut, Southern Suburb, Airport vicinity, Shuf, and Aley. Maybe from other areas. I saw this infernal concerto blasting, and the entire areas from Baabda to Broumana receiving thousands of shells. Scary, impressive and stressful. But as I discussed it with Dany Chamoun, Gebran Tueni and Prime Minister Aoun ad his cabinet, few days earlier, we knew it was to happen. The invasion was in the making.
Having lived the entire 15 years’ war in Lebanon and never left the mother land more than 15 to 20 days, one or two times, I had witnessed enough experiences to convinced me that even a large-scale military attack wouldn't have taken half of the "East Beirut" defended by the Lebanese Army. For as we've seen in 1978, the Syrians were on the inside of Beirut and its suburbs, yet they failed, while facing few hundred fighters. The two Metns had a few Lebanese Army brigades, and a very supportive population.
Surely the Syrians would have progressed a little, and they did. But rapid counter attacks would have kept them out of balance. They were moving into hostile areas, with civilians fully opposed to them. The issue, the entire issue was about the leadership. Would the General fight or not? By 8:40 AM (more or less) we heard on the radio that the Prime Minister took refuge at the French embassy and surrendered the command of the Army to pro Syrian General Lahoud. The Lebanese Army is a regular force and unlike militias, obeys orders swiftly. Most of the fight ceased. The battle was lost politically, not militarily, so was the war.
What led to the disaster is part of forthcoming books, because it wasn't fairly exposed to several generations in Lebanon. Some of the witnesses are no longer alive, others keep it for themselves, some are afraid of the truth, and a few prefer not to expose themselves to the inquiring public.
Around 730 AM I called Gebran Tueni whose house was at one kilometer from my hotel. He told me the clashes are around Deir el Qalaa, and that he is isolated. We tried to call Danny Chamoun but his line wasn't answering. The question was: what should the population do? Gebran and Danny (I learned later) wanted to call Yarze and the Lebanese Front to continue the resistance. If the people would be mobilized to resist, the army would resume the resistance, they thought. Then there would negotiations. I learned later that officers wanted to continue the defense. As long as Yarze and Baabda were in good hands, the invasion would fail.
But the pro Syrian forces had prepared a comprehensive plan, including psychological warfare. Hundreds of phone calls targeted the Presidential palace, politicians, families of officers. The psy-op campaign aimed at achieving via intimidation what may not have been achieved on the ground.
I was told decades later, ironically by Syrian officers, who were part of the invasion and who later moved to the opposition, that even the Assad command wasn't sure about the full success. They had learned a strong lesson in the summer of 1978. They feared being caught inside Ain Remmaneh, large villages facing a vast guerilla.
The night before the invasion I had called Rene Ala, the French ambassador with whom I had kept a close contact during the year. Ala informed me that there was coming, but the Lahoud forces and their Syrian allies were still waiting orders. He asked me what do I expect to happen. I told him "there are close to 700,000 inhabitants in the free areas (under Yarze control) and Army brigades. If the attacks last longer, there would be more volunteers from the population to back the army. If the leadership knows what it is doing and keep calm through the storm." I argued that even divided, the free areas can sustain the Assad attack. But France should take the matter to the UN Security Council immediately after a ceasefire. Ambassador Ala said this was possible and President Mitterrand was considering it. We had a longer conversation (to be cited in my memoirs later)
Confident that it will be a wild day, and even few more hot days, it will end with a ceasefire. It would have been a combination of a Souk el Gharb and an Ashrafieh 100 days war. Lebanese Army officers told ma later that they had the capacity of sustaining weeks of firm battlefield lines, and months of sporadic exchanges. All what was needed were a solid grip by the command and some international initiative. I knew that the latter was coming but I had no idea how Baabda would react. I was not privy of the mass psychological campaign to take out the resolve of the Government. Then of course there was the question about the military and political position of the Lebanese Forces command. What would they have done had the Lebanese Army and the population resisted the Syrian Army for weeks? We'll write about that later
Reality was that by 9 AM, the Prime Minister surrendered, Yarze followed during the morning, the various units and the Maghawirs by the afternoon. By 4 PM, the last free enclave had fallen
*Excerpts from Memoirs 1990)
*Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 14-15/18
Saudi Stock Market Plummets After Trump Threatens 'Severe Punishment' Over Missing Journalist
Reuters/October 14/18
After nearly two hours of trade the index was down 7.0 percent, its biggest drop since December 2014, when oil prices were crashing. Saudi Arabia's stock market plummeted in early Sunday trade, as investors worried about deteriorating relations with the international community following the disappearance of a Saudi journalist, while markets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai rose. After nearly two hours of trade the index was down 7.0 percent, its biggest drop since December 2014, when oil prices were crashing. Shares in the region's biggest petrochemical producer, Saudi Basic Industries, tumbled 7.9 percent.
"It’s the political environment. The market is reacting negatively to sentiment around the Khashoggi case and the political noise around it," said Salah Shamma, head of investment for the region at Franklin Templeton Emerging Markets Equity, a big global fund manager. Shamma noted the fundamental situation of the Saudi economy had not so far been affected. But regional traders said speculation the Khashoggi case might deter some inflows of foreign investment - and that a backlash in the U.S. Congress could lead to U.S. sanctions against some Saudi individuals - had triggered panic selling of stocks by some local investors. "It seems that international accounts are punishing the Saudi exchange," a regional broker added. Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Riyadh and a U.S. resident, disappeared on Oct. 2 after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkey believes he was deliberately killed inside the building and his body removed. Riyadh has dismissed the claims. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday there would be "severe punishment" for Saudi Arabia if it turned out that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate. Media companies and some technology executives have pulled out of a major Saudi investment conference scheduled for next week in Riyadh because of growing outrage over the disappearance. Other stock markets in the Gulf opened higher on Sunday but began falling as Riyadh plunged, with the Dubai index sinking 1.4 percent.

Rohani: U.S. Seeking Regime Change in Iran
Reuters/October 14/18/Iranian president accuses the U.S. of using psychological and economic warfare against the Islamic Republic during a speech at Tehran University. The United States is seeking "regime change" in Iran, President Hassan Rohani said on Sunday, adding that the current U.S. administration is the most hostile that the Islamic Republic has faced in its four decades. Tensions have increased between Iran and America after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a multi-lateral agreement on Iran's nuclear programme in May. "In the past 40 years there has not been a more spiteful team than the current U.S. government team toward Iran, Iranians and the Islamic Republic," Rohani said in a speech broadcast on state TV. "There was a time when there was one person who had enmity. The rest were moderate. Now...the worst have gathered around each other," he added in a speech marking the beginning of the academic year at Tehran University. Rohani accused the Americans of using psychological and economic warfare and questioning the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic. "Reducing the legitimacy of the system is their final goal. When they say getting rid of, regime change in their own words, how does regime change happen? Through reducing legitimacy, otherwise a regime doesn't change." He used the English phrase "regime change" to emphasise his point. Washington reintroduced steps against Iran's currency trade, metals and auto sectors in August. With U.S. curbs on Iran's oil exports set to come into force next month, some Iranians fear their country is entering an economic slump that may prove worse than the period from 2012 to 2015, when it last faced major sanctions. Vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri played down the impact of the planned restrictions. "America will certainly not be able to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero," Jahangiri said on Sunday, according to Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). "America thinks Saudi Arabia can replace this oil. But right now Iran's oil has reached more than $80 and with half the previous exports we will have the same income as before," he added on comments on the IRIB website.

London, Paris, Berlin Demand 'Credible' Khashoggi Probe
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 14/18/Britain, France and Germany insisted Sunday that "light must be shed" on the whereabouts of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as they called for a credible investigation into his disappearance. In a joint statement, Britain's foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian and Germany's Heiko Maas said whoever was responsible for the Saudi journalist's disappearance must be held to account. Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain official documents for his upcoming marriage. "Defending freedom of expression and a free press and ensuring the protection of journalists are key priorities for Germany, the United Kingdom and France," the ministers said in a statement issued by the Foreign Office in London. "In this spirit, light must be shed on the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," it said, indicating all three countries were treating the matter "with the utmost seriousness." "There needs to be a credible investigation to establish the truth about what happened, and -- if relevant -- to identify those bearing responsibility for the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, and ensure that they are held to account. While expressing support for joint Saudi-Turkish efforts to look into his disappearance, they said the Saudi government must provide "a complete and detailed response", indicating that such a message had been conveyed "directly" to Riyadh. Turkish officials say they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi mission and lurid claims suggesting he was tortured and even dismembered have been leaked to the media. Saudi Arabia warned Sunday it would retaliate against any sanctions imposed on the oil-rich kingdom over Khashoggi's disappearance, as the Riyadh stock market plunged on growing investor jitters. From tech tycoons to media giants, a host of Western companies are now distancing themselves from the Gulf state, imperiling Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's much-hyped economic reform drive.

A Kingdom Divided 'Fake News' From Qatar or a Sign of MBS's Brutal Rule: Saudi Arabia Roiled by 'Murder' of Journalist
Reuters/October 14/18/
For some Saudis, the alleged killing is a story cooked up by regional opponents to tarnish the kingdom’s reputation. For others, though, it is a sign that Saudi Arabia may be headed in the wrong direction.
Some Saudis are treating Turkish allegations that prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in their country's consulate in Istanbul as fake news perpetrated by Qatar.
Others see the alleged murder of Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as a chilling message for opponents of the Saudi government and a sign that the crown prince's much heralded reforms are unlikely to embrace real freedom of expression. Khashoggi, a high-profile commentator on the Middle East, entered the consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to obtain marriage documents. Saudi officials say he left shortly afterwards but Turkish officials and his fiancee, who was waiting outside, said he never came out. Turkish sources have told Reuters the initial assessment of the police was that Khashoggi was deliberately killed inside the consulate. Riyadh has dismissed the allegation as baseless, saying that Khashoggi left the building soon after he arrived. Neither Turkey nor the Saudis have produced evidence to prove their assertions.For some Saudis, the alleged killing is a story cooked up by regional opponents to tarnish the kingdom’s reputation. "I cannot talk about these things, but I am sure the accusations against my country’s leadership are wrong. We have enemies, you know," Aziz Abdullah, a law student in Saudi Arabia, told Reuters. For others, though, it is a sign that Saudi Arabia may be headed in the wrong direction.
Only a few Saudis interviewed by Reuters were prepared to criticise the government openly. But several who spoke on condition of anonymity said the allegations called into question the crown prince's promises to open up the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom. "Everyone is spooked. It's like there are flies on the walls listening to everything. I don’t believe freedom of expression falls at all into the reform plans, just the opposite," said a Saudicitizen in Jeddah. "But on the other hand, you get cinemas and entertainment. It's like an unspoken arrangement. No freedom, but you'll have amusements. Let's not mistake 'amusements' for freedom please."A Saudi woman in her mid-thirties described the case as "like watching a movie". "The government thinks they can get away with things like these, whether he was murdered or kidnapped… There is always this feeling that we need to have our guard up and watch what we are saying. We are not entirely safe," she said. Saudi officials did not respond to questions about such perceptions.
But they have consistently said they are committed to the course of modernisation charted under Prince Mohammed, which aims to create jobs for young Saudis and make the country a more attractive place to live for locals and foreign investors. Saudi Arabia's biggest online newspaper Sabq accused the international media, including Reuters, of using Khashoggi's disappearance to try to undermine that reform drive. "They used an incident of a Saudi citizen's disappearance to attack Riyadh and to try to stir international opinion to distort the bold steps of Saudi towards internal reform and to block the bright, new reality of the region," Sabq said.
The crown prince, who runs the day-to-day affairs of Saudi Arabia, has won admiration from Western powers over the last year for vowing to modernise Saudi Arabia. He has implemented a series of high-profile reforms, including ending a ban on women driving and opening cinemas in the conservative kingdom.
But those moves have been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, a purge of top royals and businessmen on corruption charges, and a costly war in Yemen. He has also put all security entities under his central control. In the week since Turkey alleged Khashoggi was killed, tightly controlled Saudi newspapers have accused Qatar and other enemies of the kingdom of whipping up a crisis over the journalist's disappearance. The aim, they say, is to tarnish Saudi Arabia's reputation. Saudi Arabia's Okaz newspaper dismissed the reports of Khashoggi's death as Qatari "theatrics," language echoed in a report on Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia. An Okaz columnist accused Khashoggi of pursuing "terrorist objectives" like "inciting public opinion" and "destabilising the country." "When we first heard the news (of Khashoggi's disappearance), we thought this could be true. Authorities would want him for criticising our leadership," said Fatima, 29, a saleswoman at one of Riyadh's glitzy shopping malls.
"But when the Qatari media said they (the Saudis) killed him, we now believe it is definitely fake news, it is a bunch of lies, this is a game from Turkey and Qatar and both support Iran." Abu Nasir, a 35-year old engineer, believes Saudi Arabia will change for the better, even though Khashoggi's case has drawn fierce international criticism of the crown prince, including from the United States, his most important ally. "We believe in the Vision and support our leadership," he said. "My kids will grow up in a country that is totally different than the one where I grew up. This is all I care about."
If MbS, as the crown prince is widely known, is to succeed, he will need billions of dollars in foreign investment, and the confidence of local and international banks and companies. The Khashoggi case has the potential to hurt that confidence. "It is getting more and more scary to express your opinion, even if you discuss the basic feasibility of a plan, you cannot be sure you will be safe," said one Saudi banker. Some young people, an important demographic for MbS as he pushes through sensitive changes in a country traditionally ruled by consensus among senior princes, are starting to question the future that has been promised them. "I started to wonder, have we miscalculated the dream? Will we have to sacrifice freedom of expression for economic development and some basic rights?" said Sarah, a Saudistudent abroad.

Ghassan Salame: Institutions Legitimacy Issue Still Exists in Libya
Cairo - Abdul Sattar Hatita/Asharq Al-Awsat/October 14/18/UN Special Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame affirmed that the institutions’ legitimacy problem still exists in Libya and this matter can only be resolved through general elections. He expressed rejection of the dominance of any militia over Tripoli, weeks after a ceasefire, sponsored by the mission, went into effect. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper after his arrival in Cairo on Saturday, Salame stressed that the UN mission works on holding the elections soon. He said that certain local Libyan factors led to the delay in elections and not the Italian-French dispute over this subject. Salame expressed his hope that a security and economic plan would be able to prepare the right conditions in the country for some kind of stability that leads to a permanent political solution.
He added that the security plan focuses on fostering the ceasefire and rejecting the power solution, noting that the security arrangement committee in the capital has been changed and a strong committee has been set up. Salame added that a group of economic reforms was adopted, leading to a remarkable drop in the commodities’ prices in Libya and a progress in the exchange rate of the dinar against the dollar. Regarding foreign assistance, the Security Council is clear in this aspect – it will not deploy the blue helmets in Libya because the mission is entrusted with political work and not peace-keeping, continued Salame. "Therefore, the mission is sponsoring a ceasefire but has no forces to intervene militarily."

Guterres Hails Egypt’s Role In Establishing Regional Security, Peace
Cairo/Asharq Al-Awsat/October 14/18/ UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres praised Saturday Egypt’s pivotal role as peacekeeper in the Middle East. He also hailed the economic reforms carried out by Egypt and efforts exerted by its government to improve the investment environment and to empower women.Guterres made the remarks at a closed ministerial meeting on financing climate change that was held on the sidelines of the 2018 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, organized in Indonesia’s Bali city. The meeting was attended by President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde and Egyptian Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr. Nasr stressed that Egypt aims to increase projects in environment-friendly sectors, including new and renewable energy in addition to sustainable infrastructure and agriculture. She also indicated that Egypt has the Middle East’s largest solar power plant, noting in this regard that 11 plants were set up in Aswan’s village of Benban with total investments of $730 million to use the sun’s energy as a renewable source of clean electricity.
She also explained that this was achieved by forming an alliance of nine international banks, all of which are investing for the first time in the renewable energy sector. The alliance includes the African Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Arab Bank of Bahrain, CDC Group in the UK, Europe Arab Bank, Finance in Motion, Finnfund, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the Development Bank of Austria. The Minister called on the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency to increase Egypt’s support in the renewable energy sector, following its success in this field.

Russia Escalates Rhetoric Against 'East Euphrates Quasi-State'
Moscow, Beirut, London - Raed Jabr/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 14 October, 2018/Moscow escalated its rhetoric Saturday against Washington’s latest moves in areas east the Euphrates in Syria, by using the Kurds to create a quasi-state. “To the east of the Euphrates River, there are vast lands where absolutely unacceptable things happen. The US is trying to use these territories through their Syrian allies, particularly, the Kurds, in order to create a quasi-state there,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. Speaking to French media outlets, the Minister accused the US of trying to create conditions for a normal way of living for their subordinates, and a structure of authority, which is an alternative to those legitimate structures of the Syrian Arabic Republic. Lavrov added that Washington was encouraging refugee resettlement in the territories under their control, undermining the peace process in the country. He also accused the US of trying to keep the situation in Syria tense, so no one can be certain of what happens next. The US-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria since 2014. The East Euphrates area witnessed in the past hours a remarkable field development after ISIS militants kidnapped 130 families from a displacement shelter in the eastern countryside of Syria's Deir Ezzor. Director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel-Rahman explained that the terrorist group attacked the Hajeen camp, on the outskirts of ISIS-controlled pockets and kidnapped more than 130 families, including 90 women who had escapade from the hands of rebels. Earlier, the SOHR documented the presence of intense battles between the ISIS and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the same area from where the families were kidnapped. Separately, and after a long absence from the political scene in Syria, photos published on the Facebook account of Syrian poet, Hadi Daniel, showed the country's former Vice President Farouk Sharaa at his residence in Syria. Daniel lives in Tunisia. He visited Sharaa last Monday.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 14-15/18
5 Key Moments in the Bromance Between Kushner and the Saudi Crown Prince
JTA and Ron Kampeas/October 14/18
At the center of the U.S.-Saudi relationship is Kushner, whom Trump has tasked with relaunching Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
In March, Saudi Arabia was on the brink of a new age of modernity. At the epicenter of the transformation were Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser. But allegations this week that bin Salman — or MBS, as he is known — ordered the brazen murder of a dissident Saudi journalist in Istanbul, Turkey, have roiled the prince’s reputation as a modernizer. So where does that leave Kushner, who cultivated a close friendship with MBS in part to advance Kushner’s efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks? Does Kushner counsel the president to distance the United States from Saudi Arabia? Or does he wait out the storm and return to the bromance when things are quieter?
Despite some favorable media coverage at the time of his last U.S. visit in March, much reporting suggested — even before the disappearance in Istanbul last week of Jamal Khashoggi, a permanent resident of the United States — that MBS’s reforms were more show than substance.
Yes, women could drive, but the activists who helped bring about the change were languishing in jail. Yes, he seemed ready for closer relations with Israel, while also bombing Yemen into submission, with little regard for civilian casualties. Yes, the extended Saudi royal family seemed on board with his changes, but maybe a period of imprisonment and torture in 2017 had something to do with that. With the Khashoggi crisis in full bloom, the Trump administration is scrambling for a strategy. Trump himself is wary of penalizing a nation that spends big money on U.S. arms.
“I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that’s being poured into our country on — I know they’re talking about different kinds of sanctions,” he said Thursday, referring to moves in Congress to sanction Saudi Arabia, “but they’re spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs, like jobs and others, for this country.”
Saudi Arabia also figures large in Trump administration plans to isolate Iran. At the center of the U.S.-Saudi relationship is Kushner, whom Trump has tasked with relaunching the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The drive for a peace deal is what ostensibly brought Kushner and MBS together, but their relationship has broadened to include arms sales and regional strategy making. Here are five key moments in the Kushner-MBS bromance.
The first meeting
According to The Washington Post, MBS and Kushner became friendly when the crown prince first visited Trump as president in March 2017. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was next on the agenda but was delayed by a snowstorm, which allowed the two 30-somethings to become acquainted. That set off a long distance relationship, with frequent phone calls, the Post reported.
Open arms and an arms deal
One result of the closeness was a major shift: A president’s inaugural trip has traditionally been to a neighbor, Canada or Mexico. Trump instead first headed to Saudi Arabia, in May 2017, and Kushner was instrumental in setting the agenda — so instrumental that he says he got a rabbi’s permission to join his father-in-law on the Shabbat flight. (Which rabbi? That’s still a mystery.) The trip went off smoothly — remember that glowing orb Trump and MBS’s dad touched together? And Trump signed a $110 billion arms sale deal with the country.
That Lebanon business
Kushner visited with MBS in Saudi Arabia in October 2017, supposedly to discuss advance of the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. A week or so later Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, turned up in Saudi Arabia to resign, citing the overweening influence in his country of Hezbollah, the Shiite militia aligned with Iran. It was a bizarre moment, and soon Hariri was back in Lebanon having rescinded his resignation. What happened? Hariri has close business and family relations in Saudi Arabia, and MBS may have coerced his resignation as a means of sowing chaos in Lebanon, which he reportedly hoped would spark a punishing Israeli assault on Hezbollah. No one told the Israelis and they were not game to be Saudi Arabia’s proxy in its longstanding dispute with Iran. Did Kushner give MBS a green light? They chatted until 4 a.m. during the visit. We may never know what they discussed, but the proximity (and secrecy) of his visit so close to the Lebanon fiasco led to speculation that Kushner winked at MBS’s maneuvering. The crown prince arrested a bunch of his extended family at around the same time. That was the second round of arrests; the first was in June, soon after the Trump visit. Making matters murkier, Trump praised the prince for the arrests in a tweet.
That peace deal
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was summoned to Saudi Arabia the same month as Hariri, November 2017. What was said was not clear, but according to subsequent reports, MBS pressed Abbas to accept Kushner’s terms for a peace deal that would comprise a Palestinian quasi state with its capital in Jerusalem’s suburbs, as opposed to the city itself. Abbas reportedly declined, and Saudi statements denied that MBS had ever embraced such a proposal.
One year later …
A year after their snowbound bromance began, MBS was back in the United States for what was to be a turning point in the U.S.-Saudi relationship. He met with Trump, and Kushner helped organize a busy itinerary for the prince, including stops in high-tech centers on the East and West coasts to talk investment. MBS and his modernization proposals received glowing attention from influential columnists. Marring the visit was the revelation, first reported at the time by The Intercept, that MBS told Persian Gulf buddies that he had Kushner “in his pocket.”
Is that the case? The Khashoggi mystery is not going away, and we may learn more soon.
*JTA News Agencies and Affiliates

US Sanctions on Riyadh Would Mean Washington Is Stabbing Itself
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/October 14/18
I read the Saudi statement in response to the American proposals regarding sanctions on Saudi Arabia. The information circulating within decision-making circles within the kingdom have gone beyond the rosy language used in the statement and discuss more than 30 potential measures to be taken against the imposition of sanctions on Riyadh. They present catastrophic scenarios that would hit the US economy much harder than Saudi Arabia’s economic climate. If US sanctions are imposed on Saudi Arabia, we will be facing an economic disaster that would rock the entire world. Riyadh is the capital of its oil, and touching this would affect oil production before any other vital commodity. It would lead to Saudi Arabia's failure to commit to producing 7.5 million barrels. If the price of oil reaching $80 angered President Trump, no one should rule out the price jumping to $100, or $200, or even double that figure.
An oil barrel may be priced in a different currency, Chinese yuan, perhaps, instead of the dollar. And oil is the most important commodity traded by the dollar today.All of this will throw the Middle East, the entire Muslim world, into the arms of Iran, which will become closer to Riyadh than Washington.
This is all when it comes to oil, but Saudi Arabia is not just about oil, it is a leader in the Muslim world with its standing and geographical importance. And perhaps trusted exchange of information between Riyadh and America and Western countries will be a thing of the past after it had contributed to the protection of millions of Westerners, as testified by senior Western officials themselves. Imposing any type of sanctions on Saudi Arabia by the West will cause the kingdom to resort to other options, US President Donald Trump had said a few days ago, and that Russia and China are ready to fulfill Riyadh’s military needs among others. No one can deny that repercussions of these sanctions will include a Russian military base in Tabuk, northwest of Saudi Arabia, in the heated four corners of Syria, Israel, Lebanon and Iraq. At a time where Hamas and Hezbollah have turned from enemies into friends, getting this close to Russia will lead to a closeness to Iran and maybe even a reconciliation with it. It will not be strange that Riyadh would stop buying weapons from the US. Riyadh is the most important customer of US companies, as Saudi Arabia buys 10 percent of the total weapons that these US companies produce, and buys 85 percent from the US army which means what’s left for the rest of the world is only five percent; in addition to the end of Riyadh’s investments in the US government which reaches $800 billion. The US will also be deprived of the Saudi market which is considered one of the top 20 economies in the world. These are simple procedures that are part of over 30 others that Riyadh will implement directly, without flinching an eye if sanctions are imposed on it, according to Saudi sources who are close to the decision-makers.
The truth is that if Washington imposes sanctions on Riyadh, it will stab its own economy to death, even though it thinks that it is stabbing only Riyadh!

The Absent Truth in Khashoggi’s File
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/October, 14/18
The world has never seen a highly controversial case as that of the disappearance of colleague Jamal Khashoggi, with its growing circle of predictions, its many conclusions and increasing rumors amid a rare amount of information... Around 6,000 news, articles and reports from 68 countries around the world, most of them do not rely on real information, official sources, or evidence. For the first time, perhaps in the history of some honest media – not mentioning the media that spread lies and fake news – we see that anonymous sources are quoted to promote a story from one angle… False news, false accusations of murder, unprecedented incitement, cheap claims, hysterical attacks, even legal aspects not taken into account in explicit charges of murder, without regard to the legal rights of those accused or sentenced. Perhaps some would say that it is not new to a number of media outlets to use these techniques to promote a story; but what is strange is to see what we thought was solid media, racing to rely entirely on one side of the story - the unofficial Turkish sources – receiving sporadic information that is considered absolute truth; a situation we have never seen before in the world of journalism.
Since the first day of Jamal’s disappearance, the majority of reports published and broadcast contained many fallacies and fabricated stories based not on facts but on speculation and leaks. Those campaigns have put as a target the Kingdom, not the truth.
Unfortunately, the safety of Jamal did not seem to be the concern of those reports, as Saudi Arabia was the only target of the serious accusations and systematic escalation. If it were another Saudi citizen, we would have seen the same scenario; while if Jamal weren’t Saudi, we would not have witnessed the tenth of this unfair media campaign. The campaign of serious accusations against the Kingdom was non-objective as if there were those who sought to politicize the case since its early hours, before knowing the truth of its details and the results of the relevant investigations. Anticipating the results of the investigations into this case reached advanced levels that may have a negative effect on the outcomes. Verdicts were issued in advance and the defendants were labeled prematurely.
The worrying fact is that whatever the outcome of the official investigations carried out by a joint Saudi-Turkish team, the machine that is operating continuously will not wait for the investigation team to complete its task. Isn’t it the first time that the legal rule is reversed so the accused should prove the guilt of the accuser, instead of the accuser proving the guilt of the accused?! The fierce and unprofessional campaign waged by the Western media, in this case, will have a very serious impact on deepening the gap between East and West and will allow those, who are looking for these loopholes, to disseminate their poison. It is true that the press has the right to search for the truth and race for information, but it has no right to resort to incitement to make accusations based only on conclusions. It is certain that we will later discover that wherever the truth behind Khashoggi’s disappearance is, the repercussions of the unprofessional coverage will resonate among those who seek opportunities to strike the cord of the conspiracy theory and hatred of the West. Their misconceptions will be reinforced despite the fact that much of that gap has been bridged in the last few years.

Fear Climate Change — and Our Response to It
Tyler Cowen/Bloomberg/October 14/18
The potential costs of climate change, already the subject of heated debate, may actually be understated. It’s not just the potential disruptions to weather systems, agriculture and coastal cities; it’s that we may respond to those problems in stupid and destructive ways. As the philosopher and cartoon character Pogo said: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”Consider how poorly we have responded to many non-climate-related problems. In the case of Brexit, for example, the Leave movement was arguably responding to some real problems. The European Union bureaucracy is too stringent, and perhaps the U.K. did not have an ideal arrangement with immigration. But Brexit is careening toward disaster, with no good plan on tap, the two major parties in splinters, the British pound declining, the Irish “Good Friday” agreement at risk, and the U.K. seriously talking about food stockpiles and other emergency measures.
It would have been better if the British had responded to their country’s problems in a less extreme way, or simply learned to live with the problems they had. Instead, they voted for a rash and poorly thought-out remedy.
Similarly, you might think that supporters of President Donald Trump have legitimate concerns about illegal immigration and US unwillingness to stand up to China. Still, that did not require a presidential “remedy” that has brought chaos and corruption to the White House and US foreign policy alike.
In short, the world increasingly appears to be reaching for extreme and imprudent remedies to admittedly complex problems. These overreactions do not seem to be mere accidents, but arise from some pretty fundamental features of polarized politics — namely, that discourse has become less rational and technocratic. When it comes to climate change, all this plays out in interesting ways. In the US, imagine that many Florida residents have to leave their residences permanently, due to fiercer storms or rising sea level. The rational approach might involve well-functioning insurance markets, some public-sector transfers and compensation, and better infrastructure planning. The idea would be to limit the number of such moves or at least to lower their cost. That could prove very costly but essentially manageable.
But that is probably not what we will get. Instead, the debate may well radicalize Florida politics, which has consequences for national politics as Florida is a swing state. On the federal level, an infrastructure bill would invariably direct too much money to wasteful new projects in less populated states. Everywhere, the harsh, non-sympathetic tone of the debate will further corrode American politics.
Looking outside of the US: Imagine that climate change forced or induced the migration of many people from Bangladesh. An ideal international reaction would involve foreign aid plus the cooperative parceling out of refugees to different countries. Circa 2018, following the crises in Syria and Libya, does anyone really expect such a rational outcome? A more likely, though admittedly speculative scenario, is clashes on the border with India, the further radicalization of Indian politics (“build a wall”), refugee camps full of hundreds of thousands of people, and more extremist terrorism in Bangladesh.
I am struck by the costs of climate change suggested in the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, hardly a source of denialism. Its cost estimate — “1 to 5% of GDP for 4°C of warming” — is relatively reassuring. After all, global GDP is right now growing at more than 4 percent a year. If climate change cost “only” 4 percent of GDP on a one-time basis, then the world economy could make up those costs with less than a year’s worth of economic growth. In essence, the world economy would arrive at a given level of wealth about a year later than otherwise would have been the case. That sounds expensive but not tragic. Unfortunately, that is not the right way to conceptualize the problem. Think of the 4 percent hit to GDP, if indeed that is the right number, as a highly unevenly distributed opening shot. That’s round one, and from that point on we are going to react with our human foibles and emotions, and with our highly imperfect and sometimes corrupt political institutions. (Libertarians, who are typically most skeptical of political solutions, should be the most worried.) Considering how the Syrian crisis has fragmented the EU as well as internal German politics, is it so crazy to think that climate change might erode international cooperation all the more? The true potential costs of climate change are just beginning to come into view.

Christians Sentenced to Death Under Sharia Law
الدكتور ماجد ربيزاده: أحكام على المسيحيين بالإعدام في إيران بظل قانون الشريعة الإسلامي

Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/October 14/18
In response to the latest abuses against Christians, Amnesty International has initiated an "urgent action" appeal. It has called on the Iranian regime to "quash the convictions and sentences of Victor Bet-Tamraz, Shamiram Isavi, Amin Afshar-Naderi, and Hadi Asgari, as they have been targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedoms of religion and belief, expression, and association, through their Christian faith." However there are far more stories of Christian persecution throughout Iran, than just these four.
After significant pressure from legal and human rights groups, the Islamist leaders of Iran commuted Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani's sentence from death to 10 years in prison. He will have 10 years of his life stolen from him, just because he practiced his faith.
What is important to note is that in countries, run by sharia law, the constitution becomes inferior to the Islamist laws of the land. When radical Islam gains power, every article in the constitution becomes contingent on compliance with sharia. The rights that are promised in the constitution therefore become null and void.
It is not enough to hope that one day Christians will be able to practice their faith in Iran without fear of persecution or death; action must be taken by the global community to ensure that the Iranian regime stands by its own constitution and provides its Christian citizens with equal rights and protections.
Frequently, Shiite Islamic preachers and leaders can be heard stating that Islam recognized "People of the Book," which refers to Christians and Jews. This assertion sounds as if Islam gives Christian and Jews the same level of status and respect as their Muslim counterparts.
That argument was recently confirmed when the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, claimed that "Christians have the same rights as others do." With that confirmation, it might be easy to assume that Christians are relatively safe in Iran. But are they?
In speeches, and on paper, these words probably give the impression that Christians are not only welcome in Iran, but given equal rights and protections. However, the everyday experiences of Christians in Iran, tell a very different story.
Violence and persecution against Christians have, under the sharia law of Iran, increased significantly. One recent case documents the traumatic experiences of Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi, ethnic Assyrian Christians, along with Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari, who converted to Christianity from Islam. Each were sentenced by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran to a combined total of 45 years in prison. Despite Iran's claims that they have equal rights and protections, they may never see freedom again.
What terrible crime must they have committed to warrant such a harsh punishment? Surely it had to be more than simply being Christians? After all, the President of Iran had made it clear that Christians enjoy equal rights. The ambiguous charges they faced included vague terms such as conducting "illegal church activities" and threatening "national security."
Why would there be animosity toward Christians in Iran that might drive the kind of persecution these four faced? Even though Christians make up a very small part of the population, they have always been viewed, under Iran's sharia law, as a threat to "national security". Iran's total population is roughly 80 million, with anywhere between 117,000 and 3 million of that total being Christians, according to various estimates.
The international community has recently taken note of the abuse of power wielded against Christians in Iran. The latest report, from Amnesty International, pointed out that, "Christians in Iran have been a target of harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials, and imprisonment on national security-related charges solely because of their faith." Yet, atrocities against them continue.
It is worth noting that, before the Islamic revolution, in order to gain support and power, fundamentalist Muslim leaders promised the Christians in Iran that they would have the same rights as Muslim citizens. They also assured Christians that they would be able freely to practice their faith. As a result, many Christians, trusting that they would enjoy the freedom that was promised to them, supported the Muslim leaders. Instead, after the Islamic revolution, anyone who did not believe in the Islamist and revolutionary ideals of the sharia theocracy became the enemy. Even recently, the Iranian president stated:
"Our revolution was victorious when we were all together... All Iranian races, all Iranian religions, Shiites and Sunnis, Muslims, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians -- whoever believes in the constitution, that is our criteria. He is a revolutionary and he must be respected."
Unfortunately for the Christians of Iran, they are not being respected at all.
In response to the latest abuses against Christians, Amnesty International has initiated an "urgent action" appeal. It has called on the Iranian regime to "quash the convictions and sentences of Victor Bet-Tamraz, Shamiram Isavi, Amin Afshar-Naderi, and Hadi Asgari, as they have been targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedoms of religion and belief, expression, and association, through their Christian faith." However, there are far more stories of Christian persecution throughout Iran, than just these four.
Many other Christians are being jailed for baseless charges such as "Propagating against the Islamic Republic in favor of Christianity." The organization "Article 18," which promotes religious freedom and supports persecuted Christians living under sharia law, wrote on Twitter on August 9, 2018:
A #Christian couple have reported that a court in Boushehr has just sentenced them & 10 other #Iranian Christians to one year in prison each for "Propagating against the Islamic Republic in favour of Christianity". This group of Christian converts were arrested on April 7th, 2015
There does not yet exist any information about their release.
The oppression does not end here. Another Christian couple who converted from Islam, was also recently charged with "orientation toward the land of Christianity," according to Mohabat News. Even though the Christians have been told they have the right to practice their religion, they are being arrested and tormented for it.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was previously sentenced to death for apostasy, because he converted from Islam to Christianity. After significant pressure from legal and human rights groups, the Islamist leaders of Iran commuted Nadarkhani's sentence from death to 10 years in prison. He will have 10 years of his life stolen from him, just because he practiced his faith.
The American Center for Law & Justice in Washington, D.C., has launched a petition for Nadarkhani's release. As of October 2nd, more than 112,000 people has signed the petition. The ACLJ pointed out that "Iran's actions violate its own constitution that guarantees religious freedom, and multiple international human rights treaties." However, he remains in prison.
This may seem confusing and contradictory to some; what is important to note is that in countries run by sharia law, the constitution becomes inferior to the Islamist laws of the land.
When radical Islam gains power, every article in the constitution becomes contingent on compliance with sharia. The rights that are promised in the constitution therefore become null and void. The Christians in Iran who believed that by supporting the Islamic revolution they would be gaining protections and equal rights are now instead living in constant fear. Only increased pressure from the international community may create a change within Iran that might afford these innocent people some protections against the brutal acts that they face.
It is not enough to hope that one day Christians will be able to practice their faith in Iran without fear of persecution or death; action must be taken by the global community to ensure that the Iranian regime stands by its own constitution and provides its Christian citizens with equal rights and protections.
*Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated scholar and serves on the advisory board of Harvard International Review, an official publication of Harvard University.
© 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.

"Genocide against Christians"..Extremist Persecution of Christians, April 2018
ريموند إبراهيم: إبادة ضد المسيحيين…اضطهاد المتطرفين للمسيحيين خلال شهر نيسان 2018
Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/October 14/18
Two days later, Christian homes in the region were attacked again. "Some Muslim villagers had a meeting in one of the mosques. They incited people against us. After the meeting they set fire to a wood store owned by my brother, and four other houses," said another Christian resident. Police responded by arresting five Christians as they tried to put out the fire. — Egypt.
On April 27, the government made the death penalty "mandatory" for anyone who blasphemes against Islam... And in the case of blasphemous remarks or sacrilegious acts, according to the law, the death penalty is now mandatory." — Voice of the Martyrs, Mission Network News, Mauritania.
A Christian nun who was driven out of her convent in Qaraqosh, Iraq by the Islamic State was denied a visa from the nation that provided refugee status to tens of thousands of Muslim men. — United Kingdom.
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Pakistan: A Muslim man set a Christian woman on fire because she refused to convert to Islam and marry him. Asma Yaqoob, 25, with burns covering nearly 90 percent of her body, died five days later. According to her father, his son and he were waiting for Asma, a domestic servant, at the home of her employer, when she answered a knock on the door. "After some time we heard her screaming in pain," he said. They "rushed outside to see what had happened" and saw Rizwan Gujjar, 30, a onetime family friend, fleeing "while Asma was engulfed in flames." Three months earlier Gujjar had begun pressuring Asma to marry him. She, "not wanting to recant her Christian faith," politely declined and tried to avoided him, says another report. So, on April 17, when she answered the door, he doused her with gasoline and set her aflame. According to her mother:
"Asma told us that on the night of the attack, Gujjar had come to Zaman's [her employer's] house and told her that she has no other choice but to renounce her faith and marry him in court the next morning. My daughter refused, upon which he emptied a bottle of petrol on her body and set her alight... My daughter is a staunch Protestant Christian and had been resisting Gujjar's pressure for a long time. She was not interested in him and had repeatedly complained about his misbehavior. When all efforts failed to convince Asma to cave in to his demand, Gujjar attempted to kill her."
"Asma's family were persistent in getting her the best treatment they could find, and traveled hundreds of miles to a hospital equipped with a burn unit," said an activist acquainted with the case in a statement. "They did everything they could possibly do. This family will have a lot of trauma to work through and they are in shock. It is hard for anyone to see the life of a loved one so young and full of talent snuffed out."
In a separate incident, Islamic jihadis killed at least six Christians and wounded several others in two attacks, both in Quetta, Pakistan, near the Afghan border. In the first, on April 3, armed men riding motorbikes opened fire on a rickshaw carriage and killed a family of four Christians returning from the previous day's Easter celebrations. A 12-year-old Christian girl received bullet wounds but survived. A note saying that "this is the first episode of genocide against Christians," was found at the murder scene.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility. In a statement, it said that a "covert unit" of jihadis had "managed to target a number of the combatant Christians.... [the jihadis] shot them with a pistol, which resulted in the killing of four of them, and all praise is due to Allah." One official, however, said other Sunni militants operating in the region might have been responsible. "Since security was tight in churches, we believe that the terrorists chose to target the Christians on the roads instead," he added.
As the genocidal note had predicted, Christians were targeted again. Less than two weeks later, another group of unidentified assassins riding motorbikes opened fire on Christians as they left church after Sunday service on April 15. At least two worshippers were slain and five others—including two girls aged 11 and 13—were injured by bullets.
Lamenting his son, Azhar, whose corpse was riddled with 14 bullets, his father said , "The terrorists have not just killed Azhar. They have also killed me and his mother." His son was still alive when locals took him to a hospital, "but there was no doctor present there to attend to him."
Talking of his slain nephew, Iqbal—who as the only able-bodied male was his family's breadwinner—his uncle said, "We are poor and hardly make enough money to meet both ends. These Islamist terrorists have taken away the only hope of a better future for my sister's family."
Four months before these two attacks, Islamic suicide bombers assaulted Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, where they killed nine and wounded dozens. "The Christian community is feeling insecure and threatened," said Pastor Simon about the bombed church: "We are not safe at places of worship, schools, or residential apartments. The majority of Christians are so depressed they are not sending their children to school and even avoid going to gatherings such as social or religious events."
Nigeria: Muslim Fulani herdsmen slaughtered about 350 Christians and torched hundreds of homes and scattered churches in 27 different attacks throughout the month of April.
In one instance, the Islamic herdsmen stormed St. Ignatius Church during the service and massacred 19 Christians, including two priests, on April 24 in Benue State. According to a report, "the parishioners and the priests had gone for early morning mass at about 5:30 a.m., when the herdsmen who stormed the village and the church wasted no time in spraying bullets on everyone in sight...." The motivation of the murderers was not missed on the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, which in a statement, regretted the "deadly attack by herdsmen/Jihadists."
On the following day, April 25, in the Guma region, "Seven Christian villagers who were displaced in previous attacks and were taking refuge in the church premises were killed," according to a local authority.
Another statement concerning another of the deadly raids (in Saghev village, Friday, April 20) noted:
"Ten [Christian] corpses have so far been recovered, with many others injured. The armed herdsmen also burnt numerous houses, shops and other property in the area. This mindless attack was unprovoked, and we urge security agencies to arrest the herdsmen behind the killings for prosecution."
Although Western media often portray these attacks as based on land disputes with no religious motive—but rather Muslim Fulani herdsmen wanting Christian land for their flocks to graze on—20 of the 27 regions attacked have no-grazing laws, meaning that even if there were no Christians on the land, the Fulani would still be unable to graze there.
Egypt: One month after a Christian soldier was killed by his Muslim commander over his faith, another Christian soldier was killed on April 22. The family of Michael Farahat Saad, 22, was told that he died when a rifle he was cleaning accidentally fired, killing him instantly. According to one report, however, "a doctor at Qusiya General Hospital who examined the body said the bullet wound entered from the back and exited from the front, shattering the jaw. The entry and exit wounds indicated someone else shot him." Michael is one of about nine Christian soldiers to be murdered in recent times by Muslim officers and soldiers because of their faith.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Philippines: In an attack described by police as bearing "the signature of an Islamic extremist group," a bomb explosion rocked a church during Sunday mass. According to the report:
"Attendees of the mass christening at St. Anthony Parish Church ... were left in shock after an explosion just outside the church on Sunday, April 29, followed by authorities detonating a separate IED [improvised explosive device] just a few meters from the church. The explosion, which injured 2 persons [who required hospitalization], was heard around 12 p.m. while the church was packed with people attending a mass christening..."
Egypt: Local Muslims attacked the Virgin Mary and Pope Kyrillos VI Church in Beni Meinin on 14 April—hours after the Building Authority Committee came to inspect the building to prepare for legalizing its status as a church. One local resident said:
"Many Muslim young men from our village and villages nearby gathered in front of the church building and began pelting it with stones and bricks while shouting 'Allahu akbar' ["Allah is the greatest"], and 'We don't want a church in our village.' ... Windows and a door were smashed and some of the church's contents destroyed. They also pelted Coptic-owned houses next to the building. Five Copts received minor injuries."
Two days later, Christian homes in the region were attacked again. "Some Muslim villagers had a meeting in one of the mosques. They incited people against us. After the meeting they set fire to a wood store owned by my brother, and four other houses," said another Christian resident. Police responded by arresting five Christians as they tried to put out the fire. "The police are conniving with Muslim villagers. We were attacked, our homes destroyed, some of us arrested—where are our rights? ... There is a situation of fear and panic among the Christians and there isn't any protection for us."
Separately, three Islamic militants were apprehended before they managed to bomb Christian churches in Egypt. According to a report, "police at a security checkpoint found a bag in the possession of one of the defendants which contained printed material detailing support for Daesh [Islamic State]. During the investigation, one of the suspects confessed to the charge of forming a cell with some of his friends to target churches during the Easter celebration." During the previous Easter's celebrations, "nearly 40 Christians were killed and 100 others were wounded in two suicide bombings..."
Finally, a Muslim man appearing to be in his thirties attempted to break into the St. George church in Cairo. According to the report:
"... [the man] angrily shouted Islamic slogans of 'There is no god but Allah,' 'The nation of Muhammad will triumph,' and 'I will uphold Islam,' as well as cheers denouncing Christianity and the Cross. He held a club in his hand, with which he began attempting to destroy whatever he could reach, and succeeded in breaking a lamp on the church gate before the guards, who had hastened to close the gate, caught him."
Police eventually came and took him in. Although police said it was not clear whether he acted independently or as part of an organization, "Passers-by say that, on the other side of the street, there stood four other young men who cheered the assailant and egged him on."
Cyprus: On "Wednesday night [April 4], about 20 Muslim migrants attacked a Christian congregation outside St. Mary's church during the holy liturgy in Leukosia," according to one report (original Greek here).
"Most of the Christians were inside the church when 20 Muslims suddenly arrived at the temple's yard and began screaming, cursing, and beating the attendees. According to statements given by locals at Sigma live news, one of the Muslims was waving an adze [axe-like tool] and tried to use it against members of the congregation. The Muslims disappeared after the police, called in by the terrorized believers, appeared on the scene."
Pakistan: Unidentified vandals in Lahore set a church under construction, the Gospel of Jesus Mission, ablaze by apparently lobbing a bomb over its open roof, on April 15. "The altar, pulpit, dozens of Christian books, carpets, pedestal fans, plastic chairs, tables, wall clock, wooden crosses, tarpaulin, handmade fans, and worship instruments were desecrated and burnt to ashes," stated the report. "We are a poor community," said one church member. "We did not have enough funds to complete the [roof] construction. Everything we had has burnt, I don't know how we will be able to restore the church as the officials even have not visited us." According to church pastor, Yousaf Aziz John, local Christians "started constructing this church about three years ago and [are] still collecting small donations for it... We could not blame anybody for doing such [a] horrible act, however it's clear that Christians are unacceptable in this society and are not given equal rights, equal dignity, and freedom of religion."
Discussing this incident, one human rights activist said:
"There is a hostile attitude against Christians in the society. In 2014, we had to face a severe resistance while building a church in a village near Lahore. People abused us and threatened us of dire consequences. The Muslims pelted stones at our under-construction church. Such things are conducted to create a fearful atmosphere that the community may abandon the place."
Explaining how "[a]ttacking places of worship is an unchecked trend in Pakistan," the report concludes:
In September 2013, All Saints Church was bombed in Peshawar, killing hundreds of worshippers. In March 2015, two churches were bombed in Lahore which killed roughly two dozen Christians. In 2016, two other churches were set on fire in Kasur and Lahore. In October 2017, militants threw a grenade at Gospel Faith Church in Quetta. In December of 2017, another church was attacked in Quetta, killing nine worshipers. In 2018, several attacks on Christians, their properties, and their places of worship speak volumes about the situation of religious freedom in Pakistan. The community as a whole is frightened and worried for what is to come in the future.
Germany: A Muslim migrant from Pakistan who vandalized two churches was hospitalized. According to the report:
"For the second time in a few days, a church in Chemnitz has been damaged by vandalism. Several stained glass windows were smashed in at the St. Peter's Church in Theaterplatz on Monday evening [April 23]. The man who is responsible for the deed had already broken into the church of St. Mark on the Sonnenberg over the weekend and had also rampaged there. He was provisionally arrested at the church. The suspect is a 24-year-old asylum seeker from Pakistan. The property damage incurred at the church amounts to around 3000 euros, according to police."
Although attacks on churches in Muslim nations are common, "state police ruled out a political or religious motive for his actions" and said the man had been "housed in a specialist clinic."
Nigeria: An April report says that Muslim Fulani "herdsmen had destroyed 500 church buildings since 2011 with attacks that have displaced 170,000 people."
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom and Dignity
Mauritania: On April 27, the government made the death penalty "mandatory" for anyone who blasphemes against Islam, says one report, thereby "increasing worry among Christians in the African nation." According to the Voice of the Martyrs:
"This new law sort of becomes more stringent — that three days [originally granted to blasphemers] to repent disappears. Everyone is going to be punished. Even if you do repent, you are still going to be punished. And in the case of blasphemous remarks or sacrilegious acts, according to the law, the death penalty is now mandatory."
Discussing the persecution Christians face, the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance warned that "the gospel of salvation is severely repressed" in Mauritania.
Morocco: Security agents detained for 24 hours a Christian man for having gospel literature and four other religious books in his backpack. Authorities stopped the 35-year-old Moroccan as he left his home in Rabat on the morning of April 18. The Christian was released without charges after being detained for 24 hours. Things might have been different if he had more books or was perceived as evangelizing to Muslims. According to one report:
"Article 220 of the Moroccan Criminal code calls for imprisonment of six months to three years and a fine of 200 to 500 Moroccan dirham (US$20 to US$ 49) for employing enticements 'to shake the faith of a Muslim.' Such 'enticements' could include education, health care, orphanages and other aid that Christians consider biblical commands. The harassment comes as Moroccan Christians are beginning to call on the government to respect their religious rights."
Algeria: Authorities in the city of Tizi-Ouzou closed down Early Childhood Home, a day-care center for Christian children established 14 years ago by the Full Gospel Protestant Church. On April 17, Pastor Salah Chalah was summoned to the local police station, where he was accused of illegally running the center, which is located on the church's premises. He was ordered to close it down. At the time, around 20 children, aged between one and five, were enrolled in the center, under the supervision of four teachers, all Christians. "Since it was established 14 years ago, the care centre has never been threatened by authorities, though the church premises have been inspected on a regular basis by the intelligence agency," Chalah said. "The centre only exists to teach Christian values to our children in their early childhood, because in neighbouring nurseries, the teaching of the Quran and Islamic values form an integral part of the official curriculum."
Gaza: In an interview, Fr. Mario da Silva, a Catholic priest, said that the local Christian population has shrunk to its last 1,000 inhabitants—five times less than it was six years earlier—in part because "there is now a lot of fear with the news that the Islamic State has arrived, coming from the Sinai Peninsula, in Egypt ... There have already been threats. There is also fear of the Salafist groups who are coming in from the south." He explained how, "[e]very year Christians have one permit to leave and visit the holy places on Easter and Christmas," at which point many of them never return.
Iraq: "An explosive charge believed to be planted by Islamic State militants went off while four children were playing outside a medical complex at the Christian-majority Bartella town in eastern Mosul," said a local source. "The explosion left the four children injured." The report adds that "Bartella, largely inhibited by Christians, was emptied from inhabitants when the IS group seized the town in August 2014. After controlling the town, IS ordered the Christians to pay a tax, convert to Islam, or die by the sword, prompting the residents to flee the town." Documentarian Gwendolen Cates, who spent year in the Arab nation, also said, "The Christians of Iraq, along with other religious minorities, live in constant fear and face potential genocide. ... The minorities are being increasingly 'ghettoized,' with their land being taken."
Pakistan: a Muslim man raped a 13-year-old Christian girl on April 11 in Lahore. According to the brief report, "Three young Muslim men stood guard while another identified only as Shehryar raped her."
According to the victim's mother, "They are now pressing us to reconcile by offering us money, but we have resolved not to compromise over our daughter. The Muslim boys have ruined the life of my daughter, and we will not rest till we get justice."
United Kingdom: A Christian nun who was driven out of her convent in Qaraqosh, Iraq by the Islamic State was denied a visa from the nation that provided refugee status to tens of thousands of Muslim men. Four years earlier, ISIS had invaded and occupied Sister Ban Madleen's convent, prompting her to flee for her life. She settled with thousands of other internally displaced persons, mostly Christians, in Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan), where she set up kindergartens for the children. When the opportunity for her to visit her sick sister in the UK came, officials denied her. According to the report:
The letter from UK Visas and Immigration, a division of the Home Office, gives the reasons for refusing Sister Ban a visa: that she had not provided evidence of her earnings as a kindergarten principal, and that she had not provided confirmation that the Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena would fund her visit. For these reasons, the letter says the clearance officer is not satisfied that she is genuinely seeking entry for a permissible purpose. Rather than allowing Sister Ban to provide the necessary evidence, the letter, a copy of which the Catholic Herald has seen, ends: "In relation to this decision there is no right of appeal or right to administrative review." The letter acknowledges the importance of family visits, and accepts that Sister Ban had previously travelled to the UK and complied with the terms of her visa, but points out that she was issued that visa seven years ago in 2011 and comments specifically on her absence of recent travel to the UK.
"Do they not know what happened between 2014 and now?" wondered one Fr. Kiely, who is acquainted with her case. He further confirmed that denying religious orderlies visas in not uncommon in the UK: another nun with a PhD in Biblical Theology from Oxford was denied twice; another nun was denied entry for not having a personal bank account; a Catholic priest was refused a visa for not being married; and three archbishops from Iraq and Syria were refused entry despite being invited by the country's Syriac Orthodox Church for the consecration of the UK's first Syriac Cathedral, an event attended by Prince Charles.
**Raymond Ibrahim, author of the new book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by extremists is growing. The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.

International community must try to push Iran out of Syria
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/October 14/18
Iran is turning Syria into another Iraq. This means that, even after Bashar Assad regains control of the remaining territories, and even after the Syrian civil war comes to an end, the senior cadre of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its elite group, the Quds Force, which carries out covert and overt operations beyond Iran’s borders, will continue to have a decisive role in Syria’s military operations.
This also means that the Iranian regime will be deeply infiltrating the Syrian security, intelligence and political establishments. As in Iraq, Tehran will continue pursuing a sectarian agenda, pitting the Shiite and Alawite population against the Sunnis, stifling any path to democracy, rule of law, and justice in Syria, as well as empowering and emboldening Shiite militias across the country.
Strategically and geopolitically speaking, it will be much easier for the Iranian leaders to continue supporting and arming Shiite groups in nations that share a border with Syria, such as in Lebanon. Tehran will also be endangering the national security of Israel.
These changes may impact the political chessboard of the Middle East and bring about severe repercussions for the region. Therefore, the major question is: How can the Iranian regime be forced out of Syria?
First of all, it is important to point out that it would be unrealistic to believe that Iran can be forced to leave Syria entirely. These two odd bedfellows — the secular state of Assad and the Shiite theocracy — have had an amicable relationship for nearly four decades. The convergence of strategic interests between the Alawite state and the Islamic Republic, such as a shared animosity toward the US and Israel, the desire to control the political affairs of Lebanon, and the perspective that the Sunnis are their rivals, have made their alliance robust in spite of their differences.
But this should not mean that Tehran ought to be allowed to continue enjoying its enhanced military presence and influence in Syria’s territories, thanks to the Iranian regime’s political opportunism during the last seven years of conflict and civil war, which has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
In addition, it is not realistic to argue that Tehran will leave Damascus as the result of diplomatic negotiations. This is because, from the prism of the Iranian regime, it is in Tehran’s interest to keep Assad in power — along with scoring victories against many rebel groups, assisting Assad’s forces to regain the captured territories, and suppressing the oppositional groups. This has resulted in Iran hemorrhaging billions of dollars to keep the Alawite state in power.
The best option is to have an informed plan to minimize Iran’s influence and military presence in Syria as much as possible.
The best option is to have an informed plan to minimize Iran’s influence and military presence in Syria as much as possible. In this case, the best scenario is to return the situation to the status of Iran-Syria ties in the pre-war era, ideally to the period when Hafez Assad was in power. During that era, although the two countries were allies, Damascus exercised significant independence from Iran in carrying out its foreign and domestic policies.
To accomplish such an objective, several strategies ought to be pursued at the same time. To begin with, through political, strategic or some economic concessions, Russia can be persuaded to pressure Assad into urging Iran’s forces to leave Syria. It is worth noting that there have been incidents showing that Moscow and Tehran are in competition in Syria. It is contrary to Russian interests to acquiesce to Iran’s full entrenchment.
Secondly, economic pressures and sanctions will make it more difficult for Tehran to sustain its military bases in Syria because they will cut off the flow of funds to the IRGC. Stopping funding to Iran’s Shiite proxies and militias can also reduce Iran’s increasing influence in Syria. The US must also stand with Israel in continuing to pressure Iran out of Syria.
Thirdly, it is important to point out that, as long as the Syrian people are living in a shambles and enduring economic difficulties, and as long as the Syrian state is fragile and weak, Iran will continue to have the upper hand in Damascus and wield significant power. As a result, empowering the Syrian people to revive economically and politically, and emboldening the Syrian civil society, which has a strong Arab nationalist sentiment, will put the nation in a better position to protest against the Iranian presence.
In addition, Iran is currently reaping rewards in the reconstruction of Syria in several sectors, including mobile services, transportation, housing construction and power plants. Tehran must not be permitted to be the dominant developer of the Syrian infrastructure. Other countries can seize the opportunity by offering more competitive deals to Damascus.
Finally, supporting Iran’s civil society and the opposition will increase domestic pressure on the Iranian regime, which will subsequently force the Iranian leaders to focus on internal issues in order to prevent another popular uprising.
A multi-faceted strategy is required to lessen Iran’s military, political and economic influence in Syria. Governments around the world must act now to reduce Iran’s influence there before it is too late.
**Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Emboldened IRGC threatens to make Iran sanctions counterproductive

Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/October 14/18
Even ahead of the imposition of additional oil sanctions in November, US measures against Iran are undoubtedly causing intense economic pain. However, many credulous souls complacently predict Tehran’s hurried return to the negotiating table, or believe that, with the first flexing of Trump’s muscles, this regime will simply implode. Instead, hardliners relish these renewed tensions, which they seize on as proof of American bad faith; arguing that Iran should have never have negotiated in the first place.
These same hardliners and paramilitary warlords are currently rushing to enrich themselves through dominance of regional criminal networks, heralding a new, lucrative era of sanctions evasion. Many of these techniques were perfected during the 2005 to 2015 global sanctions, when, instead of paramilitary spending being curtailed, funding for militants in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen soared.
Tehran’s Mafioso regime is ill-adjusted to managing a peacetime economy. It functions best through organized crime, militancy and gangsterism. To evade sanctions, Iranian tankers have begun ferrying thousands of barrels of oil around the world simply by turning their tracking beacons off, traveling under other nations’ flags, and forging documents. Front companies, meanwhile, pop up around the world to launder Iranian funds and smuggle weapons and goods.
President Hassan Rouhani inadvertently highlighted the scale of clandestine oil trading when he boasted that he had reduced the annual value of these activities from $22 billion to $12.5 billion. Iran also hopes to move about a million barrels per day through an “energy exchange” — a process that, prior to 2015, created a generation of profiteers. Under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the sanctions regime accelerated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) wholesale takeover of the national economy. As Ahmadinejad’s economic mismanagement and sanctions killed off legitimate businesses, the IRGC strode in and took over.
A recent article in Foreign Policy magazine argued that US officials deliberately downplayed the IRGC’s smuggling activities because “the trade embargo is empirically shown to have a significant expansionary effect on the scale and value of smuggling in Iran, in a black market controlled by the IRGC.” The Obama administration also turned a blind eye to these criminal networks. Several kingpins from Hezbollah’s international narcotics trade were allowed to slip through the net to avoid antagonizing the ayatollahs and undermining a flawed nuclear deal.
Iran is also looking to benefit from its growing stranglehold of the Iraqi, Syrian and Lebanese economies. Iranian ministers recently struck deals with the Assad regime for monopolizing reconstruction projects, including an ambitious plan to rebuild the regime’s military. Such influence affords Tehran multiple revenue streams and additional routes for smuggling oil and goods. The financial systems in these states have been widely abused for money laundering and terrorism financing — resulting in a succession of sanctionary measures from the US Treasury.
As Ahmadinejad’s economic mismanagement and sanctions killed off legitimate businesses, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ strode in and took over.
On the back of Ahmadinejad’s outreach efforts to Latin American leaderships (some themselves complicit in the narcotics trade), Hezbollah began transiting large quantities of drugs and contraband goods through the American continent, with billions in revenues laundered through the banking system. Last month, a pivotal figure for Hezbollah’s South American drugs operations, Ahmed Assad Barakat, was detained by Brazilian police. In areas of Beirut, the Beqaa Valley and Basra, such activities have a devastating impact on local communities, ironically with the highest rates of addiction being found within Iran itself. Iran has also been deeply involved in smuggling weapons across Africa and has a record of collaborating with illegal global proliferation networks to obtain parts for its ballistic and nuclear activities.
It is bad enough that Iran is involved in activities that kill millions. However, instead of such revenues being used to reduce the suffering of Iranian citizens, this money goes to the IRGC’s Quds Force and Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese and Yemeni paramilitary forces, which use extortion, abduction, murder, torture and rampant destruction to destabilize their own nations.
A senior Western politician explained to me that there had previously been some sympathy toward Tehran’s aggressive posturing — wasn’t Iran surrounded by enemies? While legitimate security concerns can be amicably addressed, a belligerent ideology aspiring to regional supremacy only becomes greedier through attempts at appeasement. These malignant transregional ambitions are encapsulated by the brash megalomania of the Quds Force’s Qassem Soleimani. The Houthis, Hezbollah and Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi are tools toward this goal of exporting the revolution and dominating the region.
This isn’t just about maintaining oil exports or self-defense, this is about capitalizing on a dizzying range of illegal activities to bankroll an offensive paramilitary strategy; exploiting trading choke points like the Strait of Hormuz, the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the Eastern Mediterranean to hold the world to ransom.
Just a minute — you may say — weren’t Trump’s sanctions designed to halt Iranian expansionism? Trump enjoyed tearing up the nuclear deal because it sabotaged a signature Obama policy and made him look tough. Yet, with his pitiful attempts to beg Rouhani to meet him at the UN, Trump demonstrated his fundamental incomprehension of the threat posed by this gangster regime.
Sanctions are necessary and in some senses are working. Yet, without vigorously confronting loopholes, sanctions risk becoming counter-productive. Instead, Trump buries his head in the sand and pretends that his Middle East policy is flawless. Meanwhile, the EU adds insult to injury by breaking with America to appease and enable Tehran through a bizarre financing mechanism that nobody believes can function anyway.
During the Ahmadinejad era, the IRGC expanded from being a relic of Iran’s revolutionary past to a generously-funded, region-straddling monster, monopolizing the economy, spreading terrorism abroad and pursuing an ever more confrontational path.
If Trump, Europe and the international community don’t pull together and act quickly and decisively, we risk suffering a new phase of IRGC expansionism, underpinned by an infinitely stronger and more aggressive regional posture than even just a decade ago.
**Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate, and has interviewed numerous heads of state.