Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For October 20/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them
First Letter of John 03/11-22: "This is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."

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 19-20/18
Future of Lebanon’s Catholic Schools at Risk under New Salary Rules/Catholic News Service/October 19/18
Why Does Hezbollah Want Lebanon’s Health Ministry/Hanin Ghaddar/The Washington Institute/October 19/ 2018
Saudi media and the Khashoggi battle/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/October 19/18
Chancellor Merkel’s worries are in Hesse, not Bavaria/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/October 19/18
Jamal Khashoggi’s Final Words—for Other Journalists Like Him/By Robin Wright/The New Yorker/October 19, 2018
Trump considering lower profile women ambassadors to replace Nikki Haley/Joyce Karam/The National/ October 19 2018
Why Trump doesn't want to punish Saudi Arabia/Stephen Collinson, CNN/October 19, 2018

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 19-20/18
Report: Tripartite Meeting Expected to Announce Govt. Formation Decrees
FPM Says Concessions Made to Include LF in Government
Nasrallah Says Some Govt. Hurdles Unresolved despite 'Major Progress'
Aoun Clings to Justice Portfolio, Marada to Keep Public Works
Bassil Says 'Things Very Positive', Urges 'Productive Govt.'
Report: Parties Won’t be Given Veto Powers in New Government
Franjieh: We Won't Join Govt. without Public Works Portfolio
Riachi from Center House: Some Seeking to Harm Hariri's Efforts
From Beirut to Babila, Syrian Refugee Family Returns Home
Lebanon Ranked 147th in Global Peace Index
Hankache: Kataeb Proud to Not Be Part of Government Concoction
Future of Lebanon’s Catholic Schools at Risk under New Salary Rules
Why Does Hezbollah Want Lebanon’s Health Ministry?

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 19-20/18
Saudi Arabia: Investigation shows the death of Jamal Khashoggi in a fight
Holy Land Churches Urge Israel PM to Block Property Law
Canada to welcome Mexican secretaries-designate
President Trump: Pompeo was never given any tape related to Khashoggi
Cautious Turkey Treads Warily in Khashoggi Case
Russia: Khashoggi case will be resolved legally without any allegations
UAE Warns against 'Destabilizing' KSA over Khashoggi
Turkey Widens Khashoggi Search, Quizzes Consulate Staff
Pompeo demands US network to withdraw false quote on Khashoggi
Turkey Searches Istanbul Forest in Khashoggi Case
Putin says it's not up to Russia to persuade Iran to pull out of Syria
Saudi Cleric Slams 'Fabrications' over Missing Journalist
EU's Barnier Says 'Yes', Irish Border Issue Could Sink Brexit Deal
Thousands Protest on Gaza-Israel Border
U.S., S. Korea Suspend Additional Military Exercise
UAE’s Gargash: Region’s security, stability depend on Saudi Arabia
Saudi-Egyptian military exercises to combat terrorism

The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 19-20/18
Report: Tripartite Meeting Expected to Announce Govt. Formation Decrees
Naharnet/October 19/18/A tripartite meeting between President Michel Aoun, PM-designate Saad Hariri and Speaker Nabih Berri is expected in the coming days to announce the government formation decrees, after the progress made in recent days amid concessions from several parties, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Friday. Sources following up on the formation process told the daily “the timing of the formation process was subject to the return of Speaker Nabih Berri from Geneva. He returned back to Beirut Thursday evening, hence the formation decrees will expectantly be issued in the next few days.”The sources added that a “tripartite meeting will be held at Baabda Palace between Aoun and Hariri first after which, according to the constitution, Berri will be invited by the President to join.”On Thursday, Hariri said the new government “will be formed this week and not next week. There are some small pending details and the government will bring together everyone.”For his part, Aoun heralded a “near” government lineup when he told reporters on Thursday that its formation is “just around the corner.” The formation process has made significant progress in recent days amid concessions from several parties.Hariri was tasked with forming the new government on May 24. His mission was hampered by political wrangling over shares, especially over the Christian and Druze seats.

FPM Says Concessions Made to Include LF in Government

Naharnet/October 19/18/The Free Patriotic Movement said the party has made several “concessions” so that no political party, mainly the Lebanese Forces, gets excluded from the government, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Friday. “The FPM backs the formation of a national unity government. We have exerted efforts in that direction making all possible sacrifices and concessions so that no political party gets excluded from the government, mainly the Lebanese Forces,” sources close to Foreign Minister, FPM chief Jebran Bassil told the daily.
Reports have said that Bassil was responsible for the Cabinet formation delay by denying the Lebanese Forces the ministerial portfolios and shares they seek. The formation process has made significant progress in recent days amid concessions from several parties. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said Thursday that the new government “will be formed this week and not next week.” Hariri was tasked with forming the new government on May 24. His mission was hampered by political wrangling over shares, especially over the Christian and Druze seats.

Nasrallah Says Some Govt. Hurdles Unresolved despite 'Major Progress'
Naharnet/October 19/18/Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced Friday that some of the obstacles that are delaying the formation of the new government have not been resolved despite the “major and important progress” of the past few days. “There is major and important progress in the cabinet formation process but matters related to portfolios and names are still pending,” said Nasrallah in a televised speech during a Hizbullah ceremony. “Everyone is awaiting answers and we're concerned with this last part,” he added. Noting that “it is wrong to link between the developments in Lebanon and Iraq,” Nasrallah emphasized that “Iran is not interfering in the issue of the Lebanese government.” “The cabinet formation process is in the hands of President (Michel) Aoun and PM-designate (Saad) Hariri,” Nasrallah stressed, adding that Hizbullah is not interfering in “the distribution of portfolios and shares.”“There are claims that I sat with (Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran) Bassil and informed him of the need to form the government through offering concessions before the U.S. sanctions on Iran enter into force. This meeting did not happen and these remarks were not voiced. We do not impose our will on the FPM, the PM-designate or any of the political forces,” Nasrallah went on to say. “It is clear that there is great optimism and important positivities in the cabinet formation process, but we do not advise anyone to set timeframes, because some obstacles and issues might arise all of a sudden,” the Hizbullah chief added. He underlined that there is a need to form the government seeing as “Lebanon needs it economically, socially and politically.”“The mindset should remain in this context and should not exceed it to settling scores,” Nasrallah urged. And noting that the “main obstacle” is the “failure to agree on unified standards for the formation process,” Nasrallah called on officials to “show modesty.”

Aoun Clings to Justice Portfolio, Marada to Keep Public Works
Naharnet/October 19/18/President Michel Aoun is insisting on naming the justice minister in the new government while an agreement has been reached on keeping the public works portfolio with the Marada Movement, media reports said. Marada Movement chief Suleiman “Franjieh's insistence on the public works portfolio and the failure to give the president an alternative to the justice portfolio have pushed Aoun to cling to justice and backpedal on the stance he voiced yesterday,” MTV quoted sources close to Aoun as saying. The president had on Thursday announced that he will not be the one to obstruct the formation process in its final stages should all other hurdles be resolved. “The president is clinging to the justice portfolio because we are on the verge of a reform drive,” the sources added. “The course that the formation process will take, be it positive or negative, will crystallize on Saturday,” the sources went on to say. “The justice portfolio obstacle is awaiting the answer of the Lebanese Forces to the proposal that has been made by (Prime Minister-designate Saad) Hariri,” the sources said. Tashnag Party secretary general MP Hagop Pakradounian meanwhile confirmed that “there will be two Armenian ministers in the new government,” following talks with Hariri at the Center House. “Optimism continues and we reassure that there will be a government within 48 hours,” Pakradounian added.

Bassil Says 'Things Very Positive', Urges 'Productive Govt.'
Naharnet/October 19/18/Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil announced Friday that “things are very positive” regarding the cabinet formation process, following talks with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. “Things are very positive and I believe that we are in the right track to form a government respecting the standards of fairness and correct representation, a national unity government that does not exclude anyone,” Bassil said after the meeting at the Center House. “What's more important is to have a productive government that would achieve the aspirations that the people have been waiting for, because we do not want to take citizens to new disappointments,” he added. “As for us, we have offered all the necessary concessions so that we reach a government that achieves all these points in terms of numbers and portfolios,” Bassil pointed out. And noting that “this issue is in the hands of the PM-designate, who would consult with the President before they eventually reach an agreement,” Bassil emphasized that the FPM is “not encroaching on anyone's right.” Wrangling between President Michel Aoun and the Lebanese Forces over the justice portfolio is reportedly the new obstacle that is delaying the formation of the government.

Report: Parties Won’t be Given Veto Powers in New Government

Naharnet/October 19/18/A government format expected to be finalized in the next few days could be formed without the so-called “blocking third” that grants parties veto powers, the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat daily reported on Friday. The daily said the new government will not give any political party the power to veto decisions, meaning parties allied to the same group won’t be granted more than 10 ministers in a 30-seat Cabinet. The four so-called sovereign portfolios are to remain with ministers of the same political blocs, preserving the same distribution in Lebanon's current caretaker government, it added. The finance ministry portfolio is to be allocated for the AMAL Movement of Speaker Nabih Berri, the interior ministry for al-Mustaqbal Movement of Premier Saad Hariri, the foreign ministry portfolio for the Free Patriotic Movement, while the defense ministry portfolio will be allocated as part of President Michel Aoun’s share. However, a decision has not been reached yet on the justice ministry, which both the LF and FPM demand that it be allocated as part of their own share.

Franjieh: We Won't Join Govt. without Public Works Portfolio
Naharnet/October 19/18/Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh announced Thursday that his bloc will not accept to join the new government if it does not get the public works portfolio. “We want the public works portfolio or the energy portfolio or else we won't take part in the government and will join the opposition without practicing obstruction,” Franjieh said in an interview on MTV. “The public works ministry will be allocated to the National Bloc and I'm not against its allocation to a Sunni minister” from the bloc, Franjieh added, referring to a Marada-led bloc which comprises Sunni MPs. Noting that “80% of the obstacles have not been resolved” despite Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri's optimism, Franjieh said he doubts the government will be formed “without a representative of independent Sunnis.”In an apparent jab at caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, the Marada chief lamented that “there is a minister who is trying to decide on behalf of the president and the PM-designate.” “There are attempts to confine us and they invented a battle over the public works ministry which we were not seeking and it involved an attempt to tarnish the reputation of the public works minister,” Franjieh went on to say. “I do not have a problem with President (Michel) Aoun or Minister Bassil and the problem was raised against us. We do not consider ourselves to be in a confrontation with President Aoun,” the Marada leader however noted. He added: “My allies have not and will not abandon me... (Hizbullah chief) Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah did not abandon me, even in my presidential nomination, and we were in full coordination back then, and today in the government formation process we are coordinating all details.” Franjieh also pointed out that he does not want to “become president” if that requires him to “renounce” his principles.

Riachi from Center House: Some Seeking to Harm Hariri's Efforts
Naharnet/October 19/18/Caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachi of the Lebanese Forces warned Friday that some parties were seeking to undermine Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri's latest efforts to resolve the government deadlock. “Some are seeking to harm PM-designate Saad Hariri's efforts and to turn against the settlement, especially after the formation process neared its final stage,” Riachi said after talks with Hariri at the Center House. “We must endorse unified standards based on appropriate balances,” the minister added, revealing that Hariri has held phone talks with LF leader Samir Geagea to “coordinate the stances.”Hariri also held talks Friday with Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil and MP Wael Abu Faour of the Progressive Socialist Party.Wrangling between President Michel Aoun and the Lebanese Forces over the justice portfolio is reportedly the new obstacle that is delaying the formation of the government.

From Beirut to Babila, Syrian Refugee Family Returns Home
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 19/18/Syrian toddler Luay happily explores his grandfather's modest house near Damascus for the first time. After years as refugees in Lebanon, the three-year-old and his family have returned to their homeland. They are among several thousand Syrians who have made an emotional journey home from Lebanon, where they sought safety from the war that has ravaged their native country since 2011. Worn down by tough economic conditions in Lebanon and seeing regime victories back home as bringing stability, they have taken advantage of return trips coordinated by Lebanese and Syrian authorities. Last month Luay's father Rawad Kurdi, 30, his mother, and his baby sister Luliya decided to make the trip themselves. As the sun was rising, they lined up with dozens of other refugees to board buses that would whisk them out of Beirut. With them were more than a dozen suitcases and boxes -- everything they could carry from their five years in Lebanon. During a nine-hour wait for the buses to move, Rawad was anxious to end his family's long exile. "This return is definitive. I will never leave Syria again," he told AFP. In 2012, Rawad and his 35 relatives were forced to flee their hometown of Babila southeast of Damascus after fighting broke out between rebels and government forces. They came to Lebanon. Three years later, some of the elderly family members including Rawad's father Ahmad returned to Syria, and more have hit the road home since.
'Feel alive again'
Rawad's return to Babila meant Ahmad, now 70, could finally meet the two grandchildren born in Lebanon after he left. A content look on his face, Ahmad sits with one-year-old Luliya in his lap, as Luay scrambles over the couch in the dimly lit living room. "My home is not worth anything without my children and grandchildren. Now, both I and my home feel alive again," said Ahmad, his hands stained black from picking aubergines on his nearby land. Although six of his children have already returned to Syria, another three are still living as refugees in Lebanon. One day, he hopes, they can all be reunited back home. "I'd much rather live with my children and grandchildren in war, than them being safe but far away," he said. Since Syria's conflict erupted, more than five million people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries and another six million are internally displaced. But back-to-back military victories this year have put more than two-thirds of Syria under regime control, including Babila and other areas around the capital in the spring. These wins prompted host countries, like Lebanon, to encourage refugees to move back home. Just under one million Syrians are registered as refugees in Lebanon, although the number is likely higher. This year, Beirut and Damascus began coordinating weekly convoys taking Syrians back home, only if their names are cleared by Syrian security services. Around 6,000 refugees have gone back to Syria in these coordinated returns since April, according to an AFP tally. Others have remained in exile, fearing Syria's compulsory military service or stuck in too much debt to leave Lebanon.
No reason to stay
Rawad said he is exempt from the army because he is overweight. He wanted to leave in 2015 with his father, but said he was unable to cross the border because he could not afford paying fines he had accrued for overstaying his residency in Lebanon. This September, the Lebanese authorities waived these penalties for those taking part in the coordinated returns, and Rawad decided to bring his family home. Back in Babila, he gazes at old photos hanging on the wall. "War has changed us so much, and then came emigration, also leaving its marks on our faces and in our eyes," said the portly tailor in a grey T-shirt and sleeveless black jacket. The fabric workshops he owned in Babila have been looted, but he remains optimistic. "For now, the future's uncertain -- but however long it takes, goodness will only come from this land," he said. The dream of returning home also kept Rawad from seeking asylum in Europe. "As beautiful, quiet and safe as those countries were, they could never be a substitute for the one where my family, my memories and my neighbours are," he said. He spends his days with family or wandering the streets of Babila, eager to get to know its streets and homes again. During such a stroll, his phone rings. It's his brother Ayman, who still lives in Lebanon and is hesitating to return. "There's no reason to stay in Lebanon. The war is over," Rawad reassured him.

Lebanon Ranked 147th in Global Peace Index

Institute For Economics and Peace/ Friday 19th October 2018/Lebanon was ranked in the 147th place in the 2018 Global Peace Index (GPI) which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness. Lebanon was ranked in the 15th place among 20 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. Produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), the GPI is the world’s leading measure of global peacefulness. This report presents the most comprehensive data-driven analysis to-date on trends in peace, its economic value, and how to develop peaceful societies. The GPI measured the state of peace in Lebanon using three thematic domains:
- Level of Societal Safety and Security: 3.1/5
- Extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict: 2.8/5
- Degree of Militarisation: 2.2/5
The results of the 2018 GPI found that the global level of peace has deteriorated by 0.27% in the last year, marking the fourth successive year of deteriorations. Ninety-two countries deteriorated, while 71 countries improved.
Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008. It is joined at the top of the index by New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, and Denmark. Syria remains the least peaceful country in the world, a position it has held for the past five years.
Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq, and Somalia comprise the remaining least peaceful countries.

Hankache: Kataeb Proud to Not Be Part of Government Concoction Friday 19th October 2018/Kataeb MP Elias Hankache on Friday said that the Lebanese are appalled at the bickering and partitioning that have marred the government formation process, adding that this has caused a great disappointment and amid the dangerous economic situation that the country is witnessing.“While subsidized housing loans stopped, the unemployment rate surged to 40%, the electricity deficit increased and fictitious employment still present, we are witnessing a haggle over ministerial seats. That's why, the Kataeb party suggested the formation of a government of specialists to save the country,” Hankache said in an interview on LBCI TV station.Hankache reiterated that the Kataeb was not eager to take part in the government, stressing that the party will be the first to support any plan that would serve the country and its citizens, and the first to stand against any transgression. “We are proud that we are not part of this concoction. It seems as if the political parties’ priority is to form any government, rather than to lift the country up,” Hankache stated. The Kataeb lawmaker said that the ruling authority's performance indicates that it is not possible to make any change through the government, adding that the Kataeb party will deal with each file separately and, therefore, will not be either an absolute opposition or supporter. "We are about to witness a government of barricades as things will go back to the same cycle [of crises] in the coming few months." Hankache warned of the collapse of the country and the disintegration of the state, stressing the need to address the challenges facing our nation before interfering in the internal affairs of neighboring countries. He also called for a rescue plan to pull Lebanon out of the spiral it is whirling inside and to overhaul the state institutions. In another interview on Voice of Lebanon radio station, Hankache emphasized the importance of the draft law submitted by the Kataeb bloc to end the lawmakers' lifelong compensations, stressing that it is aimed at saving the country by implementing austerity measures.

Future of Lebanon’s Catholic Schools at Risk under New Salary Rules
مستقبل المدارس الكاثوليكية في لبنان مهدد بسبب قانون سلسلة الرتب والرواتب

Catholic News Service/October 19/18
The future of Lebanon’s long-standing tradition of Catholic education is at risk because of a controversial law governing teacher salaries.
Salary increases for teachers in the private school sector are called for in a law that took effect in August 2017. As a new school year unfolds, school administrators are struggling with how to pay for the raises.
Of Lebanon’s more than 1 million students, 70 percent attend private schools, according to the country’s General Secretariat of Catholic Schools. About 20 percent of private school students attend Catholic schools.
Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, often has called the country’s private education system, particularly Catholic schools, “one of the pillars of Lebanon.”
While the law in question ordered new salary scales for workers in the public sector, it was also applied to private school teachers.
To pay for the public employee salary boost, the Lebanese government increased taxes. But the private schools were left with no mechanism by which to cover teachers’ raises.
Because they receive no financial support from the government, Lebanon’s Catholic schools - which are typically run by religious orders and are not parish schools - rely on tuition paid by the families of enrolled students.
The law requires private schools to raise the salaries of teachers without considering that families must pay the school fees, said Jesuit Father Charbel Batour, who serves on the executive committee of the General Secretariat of Catholic Schools and is rector of College Notre-Dame de Jamhour, a Jesuit-run school founded in 1850.
“The law has been rushed, not well studied,” Batour told Catholic News Service.
So far, the increase of salaries “has not been applied fully because all the private schools of Lebanon are saying that the law somehow is contradictory and not fair,” he said.
“There is a sort of a general refusal of the law which led the majority of the private schools to give half of the increase but not the total because we are waiting for a solution that we hope will come from the parliament,” he explained.
Lelette Chaer, president of the teachers committee at the Jesuit school, told CNS that teachers welcomed the raise.
“In fact, they view it as a long overdue and much-needed adjustment to their salaries,” she said.
“The salary of a typical educator today is extremely limited to the point that it is no longer enough for him or her to meet the basic expenses of a decent life, let alone raise a family in today’s economy,” Chaer explained.
“On the other hand, the teachers realize the need to keep tuitions at a reasonable rate not simply as not to affect enrollment but also because teachers are mindful of economic conditions in the country and the limited capabilities of parents to keep up with the rising cost of living,” she said. “Having said that, tuitions have been raised by schools on a regular basis, but mainly for administrative purposes and infrastructure maintenance.”
Schools have raised tuition to cover part of the raises. Many families, unable to afford the increase, have reluctantly switched to public education for their children.
Consequently, because of the law, more than 500 Catholic school teachers have lost their jobs.
“The law fragilizes the system” of private education, Batour explained. “Instead of putting the money in the right place to invest and modernize education, we are now compelled to give this money in salaries. So the whole system of private education is put into question. This law weakened the whole system.”
While there have not yet been a significant number of schools that have closed because of the crisis, Batour said, “the question is about the future.” He cited a Catholic school in southern Lebanon that dates to the 19th century that had to shut its doors.
Especially at risk are smaller Catholic schools in villages.
The law comes against a continued downward spiral of the Lebanese economy exacerbated by the outbreak of conflict in neighboring Syria in 2011 and the arrival of more than 1 million refugees, equal to one-fourth of Lebanon’s population.
Speaking at the annual colloquium of Catholic schools Sept. 4, Rai said it is “the duty of the state to help parents of students who have chosen private schools, in a sociopolitical situation in which the economic crisis and rising unemployment rates also push many middle-class families toward poverty.”
Rai said the government should “consider private school as part of the public interest,” with “the duty to subsidize it so that it can remain available to all.”
Catholic schools in Lebanon are known for educating not only Christians, but Muslims as well. Christians account for approximately 40 percent of Lebanon’s resident population.
“We have a tradition of collaboration, or openness between the two communities (Muslim and Christian) through the schools,” Batour said.
The Jesuit said that in the Bekaa Valley, for example, there are three Jesuit schools, in one of them 84 percent of the students are Muslim.
“We have a mission: a spiritual mission, a human mission, and a social mission,” Maronite Father Boutros Azar, secretary general of the General Secretariat of Catholic Schools, told CNS of the role of Catholic schools in Lebanon.
“Our Catholic schools are like a bridge between Eastern and Western civilization. The way we teach: to be open to other cultures and religions. We teach about freedom,” Azar said.
“It’s foggy,” Azar said of the future of Lebanon’s Catholic schools. “But we try to look forward with hope that the light of Catholic schools won’t be extinguished.”
Chaer agreed that the schools “have some tough choices to make,” but argued that “the burden of these choices should not be borne by the teachers.”
“Financial planning in any organization is the job of the administration,” she said.
Chaer pointed out that even though the adjustment called for by the policy “may seem a bit stiff in the aggregate, this is simply to make up for years of neglect and should not have come as a surprise to anyone with goodwill toward schools and teachers.”
“A teacher’s job, despite its many devotional aspects, is not a charity.”

Why Does Hezbollah Want Lebanon’s Health Ministry?
حنين غدار/معهد واشنطن/لماذا يسعى حزب الله لتولي حقيبة وزارة الصحة في لبنان؟

Hanin Ghaddar/The Washington Institute/October 19/ 2018
Iran’s economic problems have reportedly decreased the flow of financial patronage to the group, forcing it to seek another slush fund at home.
Since the May parliamentary elections, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has been negotiating between Lebanon’s rival parties to form a new government, seemingly believing that he can establish a power-sharing cabinet similar to the past two national-unity governments. Yet Hezbollah and its allies participated in those previous governments as the minority—now that their coalition controls the majority, they appear less interested in sharing power.
Rather than hoarding cabinet seats for itself, Hezbollah is taking a calculated approach to the situation, allowing its opponents to form a government headed by Hariri while giving its allies control over most of Lebanon’s sovereign ministries. This may help Beirut avoid some of the international pressure that could ensue if significant portfolios are directly controlled by a terrorist group; it could also help Hezbollah sidestep domestic blame if these ministries are mismanaged. Even as it yields sovereign portfolios to other parties, Hezbollah seems intent on directly controlling a key service portfolio itself: the Ministry of Public Health.
After the Defense, Education, and Interior Ministries, the Health Ministry commands Lebanon’s fourth-largest budget at $338 million per year. And while most of the money in the top three ministries is allotted to salaries, the majority of Health Ministry funds are given directly to the public.
Hezbollah reportedly wants access to this cash flow because it is worried about losing some of its funding from Iran. To be sure, foreign Shia militias remain a top budgetary priority for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Yet Hezbollah seems unsure if the estimated $700 million it receives annually from Tehran can feasibly be maintained in light of tougher U.S. sanctions, more of which are scheduled to be implemented on November 4. Likewise, if the growing tension between Iran and Israel erupts into a regional war, Hezbollah may fear that Tehran will be unable to fund the reconstruction of destroyed Lebanese towns as it did in the aftermath of the 2006 conflagration.
Another concern stems from the fact that Iran has made regional military operations its number one priority. As a result, a greater proportion of its funding to Shia militias has been diverted to military activities, so financial support for Hezbollah’s social services networks has been curtailed, leading to significant cuts in services. Today, Hezbollah soldiers and their families are the primary beneficiaries of such services, leaving out many noncombatant members and outside supporters who once received this largesse but now face the prospect of salary cuts and downsizing. Coupled with the draining war in Syria, these trends have stoked discontent among Lebanon’s Shia community.
Some reports even suggest that Hezbollah has struggled to compensate families of fighters killed or injured in the war. For example, the Martyrs Foundation was established in part to provide financial assistance, health, and social support to the relatives of those killed in combat, while the Foundation for the Wounded was formed to help civilians injured during hostilities with Israel or other operations. Today, however, Hezbollah’s health services—which include five hospitals and hundreds of medical centers, infirmaries, dental offices, and mental health providers—can barely meet the needs of wounded soldiers and their families, according to many local reports. Based on the average ratio of killed to wounded in modern combat, the group may have upwards of 9,000 such casualties to take care of.
This is the main reason why Hezbollah is so committed to taking control of the Health Ministry. Doing so would ease its financial burden, enabling the militia to run its own “veterans affairs” health system even if Iranian support is curtailed due to sanctions.
To be sure, the composition of the next government could have implications for foreign aid even if Hezbollah limits itself to managing the Health Ministry, since the group has been wholly or partly designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, some European countries, and various Gulf states. Thus far, Hariri has not publicly objected to Hezbollah taking the Health Ministry, though he noted last week that the World Bank or other international organizations might stop providing aid to the institution. The EU alone has been giving approximately 88 million euros per year to Lebanon’s public health sector under various instruments to help cope with spillover from the Syria war. If Hezbollah controls the ministry, it might be able to access some of these funds at the expense of Syrian refugees.
For its part, the U.S. embassy in Beirut has reportedly threatened to cut any American or international assistance for ministries allocated to Hezbollah. Although Washington does not provide direct aid to the Health Ministry, it is a major player in the World Bank and other organizations that do just that.
Hezbollah officials quickly reacted to these threats, stating that Hariri, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, and President Michel Aoun had already agreed to give the ministry to the party, and that this agreement should not be breached under American pressure. Muhammad Fneish, a senior Hezbollah member who serves as youth and sports minister in the caretaker government, made similar arguments during a recent interview with the group’s al-Manar television network. Unwilling to oppose Hezbollah, Hariri seems to have conceded the ministry and is now focused on allocating other portfolios among rival parties.
Of course, even if Hezbollah ultimately abstains from de jure control over major sovereign and service ministries, its coalition partners—the Free Patriotic Movement and Amal—will most likely take the defense, finance, foreign affairs, and energy portfolios. This would make Hezbollah the de facto decisionmaker in all of these ministries.
Moreover, the group can access major state funds even without taking cabinet seats. Hezbollah officials have reportedly informed Amal that they will take charge of assigning half of the government jobs constitutionally allocated to the Shia community. Traditionally, Amal has used this privilege to maintain its own support base. Yet with fewer patronage dollars to distribute, Hezbollah can no longer afford to leave that significant windfall to Amal. In the end, this approach could yield three important benefits for Hezbollah: (1) alleviating its financial woes, (2) enabling it to provide jobs and salaries to its support base and fighters, and (3) creating a situation where the state’s security and military institutions protect the group and its base from international sanctions or even a military confrontation.
Hariri is right—allowing Hezbollah to control the Health Ministry and other state services will have international repercussions, including potentially unprecedented sanctions on state institutions beyond the banking sector. So far, Washington has refrained from sanctioning Hezbollah-controlled hospitals, but that does not mean it would hesitate to do so if the group takes over the ministry itself. Financial aid from international organizations may likewise see cuts. Just last week, Congress amended the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA) to include more restrictions on institutions and individuals that assist the group, and future amendments could target Hezbollah-controlled state institutions.
U.S. military assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces is not sacred either. Although U.S. Central Command continues to express support for the LAF, Congress is not blind to the national military’s ever-tightening relationship with Hezbollah.
As mentioned previously, Hariri may not be strong enough politically to prevent Hezbollah from taking the Health Ministry. Yet Washington and the international bodies that assist Lebanon’s institutions should continue warning President Aoun, other policymakers, and lawmakers in Beirut that the health sector will face consequences for providing Hezbollah with yet another slush fund. Given its impending economic crisis and new U.S. legislation targeting Hezbollah’s domestic finances, the last thing Lebanon needs right now is to risk its health sector.
*Hanin Ghaddar, a veteran Lebanese journalist and researcher, is the Friedmann Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
October 19-20/18
Saudi Arabia: Investigation shows the death of Jamal Khashoggi in a fight
Al Arabiya/Saturday, 20 October 2018/The Saudi Attorney General said on Friday night that the investigation showed the death of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi during a fight in the consulate. The Attorney General said in a statement that preliminary investigations on the case of Jamal Khashoggi showed his death, and that investigations continue with the detainees in custody of the case and the number so far is 18 people, all of Saudi nationality. The statement also said that royal court adviser al-Qahtani and deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Asiri have been sacked from their positions. Saudi Arabia's King Salman has ordered the restructuring of the command of the general intelligence agency under the supervision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The agency added the order also included updating regulations, determining the agency's powers, and evaluating its methods and procedures. It said the king ordered the formation of a ministerial committee, headed by the crown prince, to oversee the restructure. It will include the interior minister, the foreign minister, the head of the intelligence agency and the chief of homeland security. The committee, according to the King's order, should report to the King within a month.
Holy Land Churches Urge Israel PM to Block Property Law
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 19/18/Three major Holy Land churches on Friday called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to block draft legislation they said was aimed at expropriating their property. In a letter to Netanyahu seen by AFP, heads of the Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches in Jerusalem and a senior Roman Catholic official condemned the bill as "disgraceful." They said its inclusion on the agenda of a government committee meeting scheduled for Sunday reneged on previous commitments to withdraw the law. Swathes of Jerusalem are held by various churches, in many cases under long-term leases from the state. The churches then sublet the properties on the commercial market. In February, Jerusalem municipality began enforcing tax collection on church property -- excluding places of worship. Separately, parliament was working on a law that would allow the state to intervene in the resale of leases to commercial property developers. The religious leaders protested by closing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the site in Jerusalem where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried. Israeli authorities then froze both the tax measures and the legislation, committing to a dialogue with the churches over the issues. In their letter Friday, the churchmen said Netanyahu himself had written to them in July giving "assurances to withdraw the legislation." "We were astonished to realize that this disgraceful bill was listed on the agenda of the ministerial committee for legislation this coming Sunday," it said.
"We are therefore compelled to call yet again for Your Excellency's urgent intervention to stop this bill once and for all."The cabinet office listed the bill among several "added to the agenda" of Sunday's meeting. Listed as a bill for tenants' rights, it aims to safeguard residents of properties assigned to "various bodies" on 99-year leases during the 1950s. The bill's sponsor, MP Rachel Azaria of the centrist Kulanu party says it was meant to solve the problem of "thousands of Jerusalem residents who could lose their homes due to the demands of developers."'

Canada to welcome Mexican secretaries-designate
October 19, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
Canada and Mexico’s enduring partnership is based on a shared commitment to a secure, prosperous, inclusive and democratic world.
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced that she will welcome Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign secretary-designate, to Ottawa on Monday, October 22, 2018. Mr. Ebrard will be joined by a delegation of six fellow secretaries-designate who will be responsible, among other portfolios, for Mexico’s interior affairs, environment, energy, economy, finance and agriculture.
This visit is a key opportunity to further enhance the Canada-Mexico partnership in advance of president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his administration assuming office on December 1, 2018.
After meetings with Canadian ministers in Ottawa, the seven secretaries-designate will split up to visit Montréal, Quebec, and Toronto and Guelph, Ontario, for meetings with provincial governments and various private sector representatives.
“In July I had the privilege to visit Mexico City to meet with president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador. I am delighted that we will have this unique opportunity to welcome the president-elect’s team to Canada. I look forward to meeting again with the secretaries-designate who, among others, will form Mexico’s next government and beginning discussions on how we can work together to further strengthen this essential relationship.”
- Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs

President Trump: Pompeo was never given any tape related to Khashoggi
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Friday, 19 October 2018/US President Donald Trump confirmed in a tweet on Friday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “was never given or shown a transcript or video” relating to Saudi citizen and journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Earlier US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed as well that he had not seen any tape or transcript related to Khashoggi, who disappeared in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2.

Cautious Turkey Treads Warily in Khashoggi Case

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 19/18/Turkey is seeking to strike a fine balance in the controversy over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, aware the aftermath could boost its economy and diplomatic hand but prove highly damaging if the case is mishandled. The probe strikes at the heart of one of Turkey's most sensitive diplomatic relationships, with its ties to fellow Sunni Muslim heavyweight Saudi Arabia marked by public politeness and deep economic links but also years of rivalry and diverging interests.
For President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "it's a very delicate balance he's attempting to strike," Mujtaba Rahman, Europe managing director for the Eurasia Group, told AFP. Khashoggi, a regime insider turned critic of the kingdom's current rulers, has not been seen since he walked through the doors of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 for marriage paperwork. The pro-government Sabah and Yeni Safak dailies, not known to print explosive news that displeases the Turkish authorities, have reported that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate by a Saudi hit squad linked to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Eye on Turkish economy
But in public, Erdogan and top figures have remained extremely cautious, referring to a prosecutors' investigation and stopping short of pinning the blame on Saudi Arabia.
Yet, if the Sabah and Yeni Safak reports are correct, Turkey possesses an audio recording proving the alleged killing of Khashoggi by a Saudi team. It is a piece of evidence that would allow the kingdom no room for maneuver if made public. Instead, Turkey is keeping up the pressure through a drip-drip leaking of information to loyal media, showing Riyadh that Ankara holds the cards while giving the kingdom time to react. Analysts say that Erdogan is mindful of not provoking Riyadh, at a time when the fragile Turkish economy is in need of all the economic support it can get after the lira slumped this summer. According to official Turkish data, almost 586,000 Saudi citizens visited Turkey up to the end of August this year, up from around 373,000 in 2016. Many are coming for more than just tourism, snapping up property and other big investments. "Given the state of Turkish economy, Ankara might be seeking financial aid from the Saudis," Gonul Tol, founding director of The Middle East Institute's Center for Turkish Studies, told AFP.
Competing for leadership
Erdogan has had a complex relationship with Riyadh in the last years that has swung from turbulence to calm and back, but always with a veneer of public respect. Ties were battered by the ousting of the pro-Ankara Islamist Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 which was cheered by Riyadh. Then, the accession of King Salman to power in 2015 appeared to prompt a warming. But the Saudi-backed embargo imposed against Turkey's ally Qatar from 2017 strained ties again. This coincided with the rise of Salman's son Crown Prince Mohammed, seen as the driving force of the embargo. Yet while Erdogan gave full backing to Qatar, even he stopped short of public criticism of Riyadh, calling on the Saudis in July 2017 to behave like the "elder statesman in the Gulf region". While he happily lashed out at NATO allies like Chancellor Angela Merkel, he never once publicly targeted Prince Mohammed. And in recent speeches, Erdogan has avoided discussing the Khashoggi case altogether. As fresh claims made new global headlines Thursday, Erdogan was in the Moldovan region of Gagauzia, busying himself with the concerns of a Muslim minority in one of the former USSR's most obscure backwaters.
"At a time when Turkey's economy is going through a challenging period, Saudis visiting Turkey and their real estate purchases will remain an important source of forex revenue," said Rahman.
But he noted: "But both countries are on the opposite side of the Qatar crisis, ideological enemies and competing for leadership in the Sunni world."
Outstanding issues with U.S. Turkey is also keeping close watch on its relationship with the administration of President Donald Trump, which unleashed the currency crisis in August by sanctioning Ankara over the detention of a U.S. pastor who was finally released on October 12. Trump, whose administration had built up close ties with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has also been conspicuously reticent in the crisis although he did warn of unspecified severe consequences for Riyadh if its involvement was proven. "Turkey is trying to leverage the evidence it claims to have on the alleged killing of Khashoggi to push the Saudis and Americans for concessions," said Tol. She said despite the release of pastor Andrew Brunson, there were "outstanding issues" in U.S.-Turkey relations, notably a looming fine on Turkish lender Halkbank for busting Iran sanctions.

Russia: Khashoggi case will be resolved legally without any allegations
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Friday, 19 October 2018/Russia’s Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed hope that the case of Saudi citizen and journalist Jamal Khashoggi who disappeared in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, will be solved “in accordance with the law without any allegations.”Peskove further said that Moscow is satisfied with the cooperation between Turkish and Saudi officials. The spokesman noted that it is impossible to interfere in one way or another with the current situation and investigations. On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow won’t spoil relations with Saudi Arabia without hard facts. Meanwhile, a Russian delegation will take part in the Future Investment Initiative business forum next week in Saudi Arabia, where it will meet Saudi officials and present Russian art, the Russian Direct Investment Fund said on Friday. Full story

UAE Warns against 'Destabilizing' KSA over Khashoggi
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 19/18/The United Arab Emirates warned Friday that the growing controversy over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi should not be exploited to "destabilize" Saudi Arabia. The UAE state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, tweeted that Abu Dhabi was "firmly" opposed to "politicization (of the case) and efforts to destabilize Saudi Arabia," its close ally. Pro-government Turkish media have repeatedly claimed that Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and U.S. resident who wrote for the Washington Post, was tortured and decapitated by a Saudi hit squad inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, although Turkey has yet to divulge details about the investigation. But the controversy has already put the kingdom -- for decades a key Western ally and bulwark against Iran in the Middle East -- under unprecedented pressure amid reports it is scrambling to provide an explanation to take the heat off its rulers. It is also a major crisis for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a favorite of the Trump administration who has portrayed himself as a modernizing Arab reformer, but whose image and even position at home could now be gravely undermined.

Turkey Widens Khashoggi Search, Quizzes Consulate Staff

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 19/18/Turkey on Friday widened the investigation into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after his visit to the Saudi consulate, searching a forest in the city and interviewing the mission's staff. Ankara denied giving any audio recording to U.S. officials from the investigation about Khashoggi, a former royal insider who moved to the United States after becoming a critic of the current House of Saud leadership. U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledged that Khashoggi was likely dead, even as his fate remained unclear 17 days after he vanished. Pro-government Turkish media have repeatedly claimed that Khashoggi was tortured and decapitated by a Saudi hit squad inside the consulate, although Turkey has yet to divulge details about the investigation. But the controversy has already put the kingdom -- for decades a key Western ally and bulwark against Iran in the Middle East -- under unprecedented pressure amid reports it is scrambling to provide an explanation to take the heat off its rulers. It is also a major crisis for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a favorite of the Trump administration who has portrayed himself as a modernizing Arab reformer, but whose image and even position at home could now be gravely undermined. Close ally the United Arab Emirates warned on Friday the controversy should not be exploited to "destabilize" Saudi Arabia.
Turkish employees testifying
Fifteen staff, all Turkish nationals, were testifying Friday at the chief prosecutor's office, state-run news agency Anadolu said. It has been reported Turkish employees were given the day off on October 2, the day Khashoggi disappeared. Among those giving statements inside Istanbul's main courthouse were the consulate driver, technicians, accountants and receptionists. Istanbul's Belgrad forest became a target of the investigation after police focused on the vehicles which had left the consulate on the day Khashoggi disappeared, NTV television reported. At least one vehicle is suspected to have gone to the forest. The forest, a vast area and sufficiently remote for even locals to regularly get lost there, is nearly 15 kilometers (over nine miles) from the consulate. Investigators already conducted two searches of the consulate and a nine-hour search of the consul's residence this week. Pro-government daily Sabah on Friday published new CCTV images of some of the Saudi team arriving in Istanbul and reported that two of the men landed in the city on October 1. Previously, local media said the 15 men arrived in Turkey on October 2 on two private planes. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu did not reveal probe details but promised to share information in due course "in a transparent manner.""It is out of the question for us to share this or that information with any country," he said.
No tape given'
The key potential piece of evidence in the investigation is an alleged audio tape whose existence has been reported by pro-government media. They say it proves Khashoggi was tortured and then killed. ABC News on Thursday quoted an unnamed Turkish official saying U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heard the audio tape and was shown a transcript of the recording during his visit to Ankara. But Pompeo said he had neither "seen" nor "heard" a tape and had not read a transcript while in Ankara where he met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Cavusoglu.
Cavusoglu on Friday also denied the claims and said it was "out of the question for Turkey to give any kind of audio tape to Pompeo or any other U.S. official."Trump said he now believed Khashoggi was dead and warned of "very severe" consequences should Riyadh be proven responsible.
U.S. gives Saudi more time
The New York Times reported that Saudi leaders could blame General Ahmed al-Assiri, a top intelligence official close to the crown prince. Previously U.S. media said Saudis were preparing a report that Khashoggi's death resulted from a botched interrogation. As Washington seeks to avoid a long-term rupture with its ally Riyadh, Pompeo told Trump the Saudis should be given "a few more days to complete" an official probe. The furore has also blown a huge hole in next week's Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. It was meant to showcase Prince Mohammed's plans for reform but has now been hit by a stream of big name cancellations including U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But the UAE state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, tweeted that Abu Dhabi was "firmly" opposed to "politicization (of the case) and efforts to destabilize Saudi Arabia."

Pompeo demands US network to withdraw false quote on Khashoggi
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Friday, 19 October 2018/US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed on Friday that he had not seen any tape related to the case of Saudi citizen and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2.
Pompeo denied ABC News’ report, calling it “factually false.”Al Hurra news channel quoted Pompeo: “I did not hear an audio tape and I did not see any transcript, and the network that announced it must withdraw this headline.”Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said that Turkey had not shared any audio recordings with his US counterpart. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump criticized rapidly mounting global condemnation of Saudi Arabia over the mystery of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, warning of a rush to judgment and echoing the Saudis’ request for patience. American network ABC News quoted a Turkish senior official as saying on Thursday that US Secretary of State Pompeo had heard an audio tape and saw a transcript during his visit to Turkey this week. But Pompeo has denied it. Pompeo was queried by reporters on a flight to Mexico City, part of a tour to Mexico and Panama. “I’ve heard no tape, I’ve seen no transcript,” Pompeo told reporters in the only question he would take on the topic.

Turkey Searches Istanbul Forest in Khashoggi Case
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 19/18/Turkish investigators have searched a forest in Istanbul as part of the probe into the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, local media reported on Friday. Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, vanished after a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 for paperwork. Turkish sources and pro-government media have pointed to Riyadh's involvement in what they say is his murder by a team of 15 Saudis especially sent to Istanbul for the task.
Riyadh has strongly rejected the claims, although some of the Saudis are believed to have close links to the crown prince. US President Donald Trump on Thursday said he now believed Khashoggi was dead. The search of Belgrade Forest on Istanbul's European side began on Thursday, Turkish daily Cumhuriyet and NTV broadcaster said. The forest, a vast area and sufficiently remote for even locals to regularly get lost there, is nearly 15 kilometres (over nine miles) away from the Saudi consulate. The area became a target of the investigation after police focused on the vehicles which had left the consulate on the day Khashoggi disappeared, NTV channel reported. At least one vehicle is suspected to have gone to the forest. Turkish police already conducted two searches of the consulate and a nine-hour search of the consul's residence this week. The Saudi consul, Mohammed al-Otaibi, abruptly left Istanbul for Riyadh on Tuesday. Pro-government daily Sabah on Friday published new CCTV images of some of the Saudi team arriving in Istanbul and reported that two of the men landed in the city on October 1. Previously, local media said the 15 men arrived in Turkey via two private planes on the day that Khashoggi went missing, which then returned to Riyadh via Egypt and Dubai.

Putin says it's not up to Russia to persuade Iran to pull out of Syria

Reuters/October 19/2018/SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that it was not up to Russia to persuade Iran to pull its forces out of Syria, and that the governments calling for Iran to leave should provide guarantees that they would not meddle in Syria's affairs.
Putin was speaking at a forum in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

Saudi Cleric Slams 'Fabrications' over Missing Journalist
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 19/18/The prayer leader at Mecca's Grand Mosque called Friday for "unity" in the face of "fabrications" against Saudi Arabia, over two weeks after a dissident journalist's disappearance sparked a diplomatic crisis. Riyadh has faced mounting international pressure since Jamal Khashoggi went missing after entering Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate on October 2. Pro-government Turkish media have reported he was tortured and dismembered by a Saudi hit squad, claims rejected by Riyadh. "Repeated accusations, allegations and biased media campaigns will not discourage (Saudi Arabia) from holding to its principles," Sheikh Abderrahman al-Sadis said during a sermon accompanying Friday prayers at the mosque in Mecca, the holiest site in Islam. The kingdom "depends on God alone, then on the wisdom of its leadership and the unity of its sons to fight false allegations," he added. He urged Saudis to "depend on the facts and avoid jumping into speculation and basing positions on... fabrications", adding that a "campaign" against the kingdom was "a provocation against the feelings of more than a billion Muslims" around the world. Sermons accompanying Friday prayers at the Grand Mosque are seen as reflecting the Saudi leadership's take on world events. Saudi public figures have taken to Twitter to express support for authorities' handling of the Khashoggi affair, while newspapers in the kingdom have condemned a "media campaign" against it.

EU's Barnier Says 'Yes', Irish Border Issue Could Sink Brexit Deal
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 19/18/The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Friday the thorny issue of the border between Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland could sink the negotiations on Britain's exit from the European Union. "The answer is yes," he said when asked on France Inter radio if the Irish border issue could cause the negotiations to collapse. "I believe we need a deal. I'm not yet sure we'll get one. It is difficult, but possible." European Union leaders warned Britain on Thursday they would offer no more concessions to break the deadlock in Brexit negotiations, but expressed confidence that a deal can be done before the country leaves the bloc next March. A Brussels summit wrapped up without progress after British Prime Minister Theresa May offered no new proposals, beyond suggesting she could accept a longer transition period after Brexit. May has been struggling since the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU to reconcile the demands of her eurosceptic Conservative party with the realities of negotiating with Brussels. Her difficulties were laid bare by the fury sparked back home at her suggestion that she could extend a post-Brexit transition period to address the Irish border issue. Both sides have agreed there should be a legally-binding "backstop" arrangement to avoid frontier checks between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland if and until a new trade deal solves the issue. This would come into effect after the transition ends -- but both sides strongly disagree on its terms, and the issue is holding up the rest of the Brexit talks. Britain crashing out of the EU without an agreement is viewed as potentially catastrophic as tariffs, customs and regulatory issues could severely disrupt trade.

Thousands Protest on Gaza-Israel Border

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 19/18/Dozens of Palestinians were hit by Israeli gunfire Friday as thousands protested near Gaza's border with Israel, the health ministry in the enclave said. Following calls to avoid an escalation in violence, the demonstrators largely kept their distance from the fortified frontier fence. But at least 115 Palestinians were injured -- 77 by live fire -- in clashes with Israeli soldiers, the health ministry in Gaza City said. Rockets fired from Gaza on Wednesday had brought the territory's Hamas rulers and Israel closer to a widescale confrontation. Since March, Palestinians have moved right up to the border fence every Friday and occasionally breached it, leading to clashes in which more than 200 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed. While thousands again gathered for the latest protests in northern Gaza, the demonstrators largely remained at least 100 meters (yards) from the border. An AFP correspondent said Hamas security officials in at least one location were seen discouraging protesters from nearing the fence. Kites and balloons equipped with incendiary devices were launched across the border into southern Israel, and the Israeli army said one of its aircraft targeted a group of men launching balloons. An Egyptian security delegation visited the Gaza Strip on Thursday and encouraged Hamas leader Ismail Haniya to calm the protests, an Egyptian official said. United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov, in a tweet, also urged all sides "to exercise restraint, to proceed in a peaceful manner, and to avoid escalation." On Wednesday, two rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave at Israel, with one destroying a house in the southern city of Beersheba. In response Israeli air strikes targeted around 20 Hamas targets in Gaza.

U.S., S. Korea Suspend Additional Military Exercise

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 19/18/U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his South Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong-doo have canceled the "Vigilant Ace" military exercise that was slated for December, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Friday. The two officials agreed to suspend the drill to "give the diplomatic process" with Pyongyang "every opportunity to continue," spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement. "Both ministers are committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces," the statement read, saying the need for future exercises would continue to be evaluated. The decision came as Mattis met with Jeong and South Japanese Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya on Friday at a security summit in Singapore. White's statement said Iwaya was "consulted" on the matter. Mattis did not mention the decision when he spoke to reporters after his meetings with Jeong and Iwaya. Following U.S. President Trump's June meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the United States said it would suspend "select" exercises with South Korea, including the large-scale Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises scheduled for August.
Vigilant Ace is an air exercise aimed at improving coordination between the two armies that takes place every year in early December in South Korea. Last year, 230 aircraft and some 12,000 U.S. and South Korean troops participated. In August Mattis had said the Pentagon would "see how the negotiations go, and then we will calculate the future, how we go forward."U.S. and South Korean forces have been training together for years, and routinely rehearse everything from beach landings to an invasion from the North, or even "decapitation" strikes targeting the North Korean regime. Last month, the then nominee to head U.S. and U.N. forces in South Korea said the pause in drills had been a "prudent risk" to help facilitate a detente on the peninsula. But there "was certainly a degradation in the readiness of the force, for the combined forces," General Robert Abrams told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing. Abrams went on to say that the continued suspension of the drills risked a further erosion in "readiness and capability and interoperability of the combined forces," though he noted officials were working to minimize issues by running smaller scale staff exercises.

UAE’s Gargash: Region’s security, stability depend on Saudi Arabia

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Friday, 19 October 2018/UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash stated in a tweet on Friday that the region’s security and stability depend on the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, stressing the need to stand firmly against pre-judgement, politicizing and attempts to undermine the stability of Saudi Arabia and limiting its role. He tweeted saying that: “Two scenes in the crisis targeting Saudi Arabia, the first is the search for the truth amid leaks and counter leaks and the second is the aim of targeting Riyadh and its position. In this, we stand firmly against politicizing, pre-judgement and attempts at undermining Saudi Arabia and limiting it role...”He followed with another tweet saying: “From our point of view, the region’s security, stability and role in the international scene, depend on Saudi Arabia with all the political, economic and religious importance it carries. From this point of view, it is necessary to distinguish between the search for the truth with all its significance and targeting Riyadh and its role.”

Saudi-Egyptian military exercises to combat terrorism

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Friday, 19 October 2018/Saudi-Egyptian military exercises executed by the two countries’ armed forces in the southern military area have ended on Friday. The exercises saw the participation of Omani, Bahraini, and Emirati monitors.
Colonel Tamer al-Refai, the military spokesperson of the Egyptian armed forces, said that the last stage of the military exercises included having the forces perform a joint operation to defeat a terrorist cell in a civilian area, clearing the area from any terrorists, and working on restoring life for the residents. There were also joint live fire exercises. The military exercises began, according to Refai, with aerial reconnaissance conducted in multirole combat aircrafts and capturing pictures of terrorist targets. Reconnaissance engineers were also pushed to detect and disarm explosive devices, and to secure routes and intrusion lines. Refai also said that forces besieged areas, securing the civilian neighborhoods and performed storming operations into the area to clear it from terrorists. The military was also trained to provide civilians with medical, administrational, and psychological support to make the facilities of the town operational again and restore life as they knew it. The training also included chasing and eliminating terrorist cells fleeing towards mountainous areas, using direct and indirect artillery firing . At the end of the military exercises, the Egyptian defense minister’s assistant reaffirmed the strong Saudi-Egyptian military ties, complementing the level of cooperation and coordination between their forces against arising terrorism in the region. Major General Ahmed al-Muqarren, deputy leader of the royal Saudi land forces, passed the greetings of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to the forces participating in the exercise, complementing their efforts and high performance level.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on
October 19-20/18
Saudi media and the Khashoggi battle
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/October 19/18
Has the Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood media won against Saudi media and against the media that loves Saudi Arabia in the Khashoggi battle?
It’s a direct question and answering it is not as easy as it seems to those who shallowly look at matters without finding the joy (and I am not saying the ‘chore’) of diving deeper into matters.Yes, it became clear in the Jamal Khashoggi fuss during the past few days that the Qatari-Brotherhood (I insist on this mixture between Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood as there’s no meaning to one without the other) fuss was the loudest. The are Al Jazeera platforms and its employees, the Brotherhood “mujahideen” in the world and the sensitive and caring people who are concerned about human rights and freedom of expression but are among the supporters of the Khomeinist Iran! There is also the left journalists in the West, in the US and other countries. Al-Jazeera and its sisters were the loudest because they addressed an audience that expects such coverage from them. It was swimming in its regular pool, and if it had said otherwise, this audience would not have listened to it.
Saudi media
All these harnessed their efforts to promote their own narrative about Jamal Khashoggi. They pulled out their swords, wielded their spears and directed their arrows, and they thought and estimated, hence, their black dust obscured the eyes.
This is all true but there are people, whether Saudis and others, who directed their anger at the Saudi media, especially on prominent outlets, both audiovisual and print media. They said: Where is the voice of Saudi journalists? Where are we (Saudi media) from dailies like the Washington Post and the New York Times and channels like CNN, CNBC and BBC..etc.? Others said that we did not succeed in prorogating our story and the supporters of the Brotherhood, Iran and the left succeeded in solidifying their story, and this is due to lack of freedom of expression or the dominance of emotional enthusiasm over “professionalism” on some of us.
I – although I have “real” notes on the general media scene, but this is not the space to explain them – completely disagree with the previous diagnosis. Al Jazeera and those who adopted an approach similar to it, whether in Arabic or other languages, did not impose their narrative because they are more  “professional.” This is wrong as Al Jazeera is so far from professionalism, as much as street singer Sha’bola is far from reading Beethoven’s notes. Al-Jazeera and its sisters were the loudest because they addressed an audience that expects such coverage from them. It was swimming in its regular pool, and if it had said otherwise, this audience would not have listened to it. Those who liked the coverage of the Qatari-Brotherhood media are those who personally or whose fathers were biased against Saudi Arabia in the Kuwait war in 1990 before Al Jazeera or Al Arabiya existed. There’s nothing great about Al Jazeera and its sisters! Does this mean that our media is fine and does not need a new vision, a different approach and qualitative tools?
The answer is of course not, as it actually needs that. The purpose of the previous remarks is to disagree with the false diagnosis. Perhaps this is to be continued.

Chancellor Merkel’s worries are in Hesse, not Bavaria

Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/October 19/18
It is not only Mrs May of the UK that is having a horrible time dealing with Brexit and mutinous cabinet ministers, but the German Chancellor’s grip on her Grand Coalition Partners is now very much in danger.
As the dust settles after the pounding of the coalition partner Christian Social Union (CSU) took in its home bastion of Bavaria, the besieged Chancellor Angela Merkel is now facing even more uncertainty with another key test of her policies, especially on immigration, in the state of Hesse.
The most important political takeaway from the Sunday 14 October results was not the (generally expected) drop in the CSU or even the rise of the Greens as Bavaria's second largest party. It was how badly the Social Democrats (SPD) fared. SPD support, which is already barely polling 16 percent at the federal level, plunged by more than half to barely 9.6 percent in the Bavarian vote, and that significantly raises the stakes for the SPD in the state election in Hesse on October 28.
By all counts, the SPD is not expected to win in Hesse, but if it polls less than the near 29 percent it picked in the last Hesse election, it is very likely to foment an open internal party revolt against the current party leadership under Andrea Nahles, and set in motion a move to withdraw from the ruling Grand Coalition in Berlin in order to start a long process of rebuilding its political base and identity. No politician, however lofty their loyalties, want to be hitched to losing partners.
Even if the SPD revolt drags out rather than igniting immediately, while it would keep the fragile Grand Coalition intact -- none of the main political parties, be it the Christian Democrats CDU , the CSU, or the SPD, want an early federal election -- it will further weaken Chancellor Merkel’s hand in negotiating key European Union or foreign policy issues and could still trigger a challenge to Merkel's leadership at the CDU party conference in December.
And the potential fallout from Hesse on German coalition politics could have major implications for broader, pan-Euro issues critical to markets, including the European Council’s stance towards the government in Rome, the populist revolts and European Parliamentary elections in May, and the upcoming succession battles for the leadership of the ECB and European Commission.
Should Hesse turn in a stunning result, with the CDU actually losing its standing as the largest party in the wealthy state, it would almost certainly trigger a serious challenge to Merkel’s party leadership
Seismic European changes
Just like the snail paced Brexit talks are laying bare the tensions in Europe among populist and more liberal parties, so a collapse in the German Grand Coalition will also set in motion some seismic European changes.
The CSU’s 37.3 percent, a freefall from its usual 50 percent plus polling, was the worst in its home state since 1950, and will be forcing it into only its second governing coalition since 1962, probably with the Free Voters, a breakaway CSU faction that polled 11.6 percent.
The media made much of the doubling in the Green vote to 17.8 percent and a similar surge on the opposite end of the political spectrum for the right wing anti-immigration party AfD to 10.7 percent, enough to put them into the state parliament for the first time.
The more important impact of the Bavarian results is how the CSU adjusts to its erosion of support in its home state and also learn from the mistake s of the strategies adopted to remain in power.
The fate of Horst Seehofer, Merkel’s interior minister who tried to play a tough anti-immigration card to bolster the CSU against the rise of the AfD as well as boost his own standing within the CSU, will be determined by the internal CSU discussions in the next week or so, but following the Bavaria election disaster one would suspect he will take the fall by resigning from the cabinet.
The most immediate lesson taken on board by the CSU leadership is that its late in the day ramping up of the anti-immigration issue badly backfired, sending its more moderate wing to the Greens and its more rigid right wing to the AfD.
However, greater attention should be focused on the repercussions of the Bavarian electoral outcome for the SPD, without whose participation Chancellor Merkel's Grand Coalition would collapse. A CDU-Green coalition government currently rules Hesse.
Stunning result
Should Hesse turn in a stunning result, with the CDU actually losing its standing as the largest party in the wealthy state, home to the Frankfurt financial centre, it would almost certainly trigger a serious challenge to Merkel’s party leadership – just last month the CDU deputies in the Bundestag ousted her long serving fraction leader Volker Kauder. The latest polls, however, for now suggest a loss of support for the CDU, but that it should still lead the negotiations to form another coalition government, most likely a repeat with the Greens. As such, the polling results to keep a close eye on are for the SPD, currently polling just 23 percent or so compared to its 28.8 percent results five years ago. If its support collapses even further, say, below 20 percent, it could very well trigger an open revolt of the party’s rank and file against the party leadership led by Nahles and Olaf Scholz, currently serving as Merkel's finance minister. But politicians will always be politicians and Nahles tried her best to blame the SPD's rapidly declining political fortunes to the bitter infighting between the CDU and the CSU.
A further erosion of the party’s political support – which has historically polled 40 percent plus in the German federal elections – would drive it into a fading role in Germany’s political left of centre, supplanted more or less by the Greens as Germany’s more muscular centrist party; all the more reason for the embattled SPD to withdraw from the Merkel-led government and start a long rebuilding in opposition. We suspect that argument will become overwhelming within the SPD. Whether the SPD does indeed take steps down that road, and how soon, and indeed, whether it would force snap elections is unclear and a next move on the German political chessboard. But Hesse is most certainly the next risk point to be monitored in terms of German, and EU, political stability.
For the Gulf, another key European economic giant about to become politically split between a pro and liberal Europe and inward looking Germany only factions is not going to help in the wider multi-lateral international development and financial stability cooperation.
Any future Greece like bailouts following the 2008 global financial crisis, driven by Germany, will become more difficult to receive support.

Jamal Khashoggi’s Final Words—for Other Journalists Like Him

By Robin Wright/The New Yorker/October 19, 2018
On October 3rd, the day after Jamal Khashoggi disappeared, the Washington Post received a final column left behind with his assistant when he went off to Turkey to get married. It was, in seven hundred words, poignant and personal and epically appropriate, considering his fate. “The Arab world was ripe with hope during the spring of 2011. Journalists, academics and the general population were brimming with expectations of a bright and free Arab society within their respective countries,” he opined. “They expected to be emancipated from the hegemony of their governments and the consistent interventions and censorship of information.” Instead, rulers grew ever more repressive after the short-lived Arab Spring.
Today, hundreds of millions of people across the Middle East “are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives,” Khashoggi wrote. They are either “uninformed or misinformed” by draconian censorship and fake state narratives. As the headline of his last published words asserted, “What the Arab world needs most is free expression.”
In his death, Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and former government supporter who became a vocal and fearless critic of the current Saudi crown prince, has galvanized global attention far more than he was able to do during his life. The horrific details of his murder and dismemberment have had an effect he would never have imagined—putting into serious question the fate of a Saudi leader, the state of U.S.-Saudi relations, American foreign-policy goals in the world’s most volatile region, and even policies that have kept dictators in power. The repercussions are only beginning.
But Khashoggi was hardly a lone voice decrying political repression in the Middle East, as he acknowledged in his final Post column. Saudi Arabia may be the most cruel and ruthless government in the region, but it uses tactics embraced by dictators, sheikhs, and Presidents across twenty-two countries.
In 2014, Egypt’s military-dominated government seized all print copies of the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, whose name means “The Egyptian Today.” Al-Masry Al-Youm is that rare private newspaper in the Arab world where young reporters once dared to question government policies in hard-hitting editorials and groundbreaking journalism. “The Egyptian government’s seizure of the entire print run of a newspaper, al-Masry al Youm, did not enrage or provoke a reaction from colleagues. These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community,” Khashoggi wrote. “Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly followed by silence.”
The world, particularly the West, is partly culpable for looking the other way, he wrote. It is a tragic irony that the world is paying attention to Khashoggi’s death, yet still not making an issue of a sweeping problem that could determine the future of a region of twenty-two countries and four hundred million people. On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, announced that he would not attend the Saudi investment conference known as “Davos in the Desert,” which is pivotal to the crown prince’s plans to modernize the kingdom’s oil-reliant economy. The British trade minister, the French and Dutch finance ministers, and the president of the International Monetary Fund also backed out after Khashoggi’s disappearance. But no foreign government is addressing the broader political practices in any other country, or any other case, in the region.
In his column, Khashoggi drew attention to imprisoned colleagues who receive no coverage. “My dear friend, the prominent Saudi writer Saleh al-Shehi, wrote one of the most famous columns ever published in the Saudi press,” Khashoggi noted. “He unfortunately is now serving an unwarranted five-year prison sentence for supposed comments contrary to the Saudi establishment.” Shehi, who had more than a million followers on Twitter, was charged with “insulting the royal court” for his statements about widespread government corruption in his columns for the newspaper Al Watan and on a local television program.
Michael Abramowitz, the president of Freedom House and a former national editor at the Washington Post, told me that Khashoggi rightly identified the broader stakes. “Khashoggi’s final column accurately pinpointed the appalling lack of political rights and civil liberties in much of the Arab world, especially the right to freely express oneself,” he said. Khashoggi began his last piece by citing Freedom House’s 2018 report—and the fact that only one Arab country, Tunisia, is ranked as “free.” Abramowitz told me, “What is especially sad is that, while we are properly focussed on the outrageous actions by the Saudi government to silence one critic, we must also remember that countless other bloggers, journalists, and writers have been jailed, censored, physically threatened, and even murdered—with little notice from the rest of the world. And, in some cases, notably Egypt, conditions have deteriorated.”

Trump considering lower profile women ambassadors to replace Nikki Haley
Joyce Karam/The National/ October 19 2018
The list now includes the current US ambassadors to Canada and France, Kelly Craft and Jamie McCourt
Ten days after her resignation, the Trump administration has pivoted its search to lower profile women diplomats and people in the business arena to replace outgoing US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Two sources with knowledge of the process have told The National that Mr Trump wants a woman for the job to counter a decline in female support for the Republican Party, and compensate for a shrinking number of women in his cabinet. With the departure of Ms Haley, only two women will be left in the cabinet, education secretary Betsy Devos and transportation secretary Elaine Chao.
The same sources have indicated that the Trump administration is now mainly looking at three women candidates for the position, they are:
US ambassador to Canada, Kelly Craft: she is a former businesswomen who also served in the George W Bush administration as a delegate to the United Nations. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report last week that she is being considered for the position.
US ambassador to France, Jamie McCourt: she was confirmed to the position last November and is also the United States Permanent Observer to Council of Europe. Ms McCourt comes from a business background as well, and was a former executive.
Nancy Brinker: a former US ambassador and a prominent name in the Republican Party both as a former George W Bush official, and as founder of the Susan Komen organisation to fight breast cancer. CNN first reported Ms Brinker’s name last week, and sources confirm she is being considered by the White House for the position.Part of the debate, sources said, is now also about the nature of the position and whether to keep it as a cabinet level or demote it to an ambassador position under US secretary of state Mike Pompeo. US national security adviser John Bolton who has clashed with Ms Haley and wants to exert more influence on foreign policy supports demoting the position.
This could explain why another prominent name that was being considered, Dina Habib Powell, has taken her name out of the running last week. Sources said that two of the three women that are being considered would be open to serving as non-cabinet ambassadors.
Other names being discussed for the position are, according to Foreign Policy magazine: acting under secretary of state for public affairs Heather Nauert; and current US ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman. Sources said former senator Joseph Lieberman is still in the mix, but his stock has dropped given Mr Trump’s preference to pick a woman. White House chief of staff John Kelly is reportedly supporting Ms Craft’s nomination. Ms Haley is expected to leave her position by the end of the year, and the White House is planning to nominate a successor by the end of the month. Congress would then have to confirm the nomination.

Why Trump doesn't want to punish Saudi Arabia
Stephen Collinson, CNN/October 19, 2018
Washington (CNN)The Trump White House may have too much at stake to make Saudi Arabia pay a proportionate price for the apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi. If Riyadh finds a scapegoat and absolves senior members of the royal family over the disappearance of The Washington Post columnist in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago, Trump may accept it. For multiple geopolitical and domestic political reasons, the administration has far more to gain from helping engineer a face-saving exit for itself and its ally from its biggest foreign policy crisis in nearly two years in office than by making an example of the Saudis in a belated stand for human rights. The kingdom forms the foundation of President Donald Trump's Middle East policy, and a decision to severely punish its rulers could spark an estrangement that would cripple his hopes of confronting Iran. It would also weaken Washington's strategic position in the region and offer an opening to rival powers. And back home, a chill with the Saudis would mean Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner would lose considerable political face after investing significant capital in wooing the royal court. That's why many observers are cynical about the White House's insistence that it's waiting for evidence from probes conducted by the Saudi and Turkish government before deciding its course of action. When the truth about what happened to Khashoggi emerges — that he was likely killed by organs of the Saudi state possibly with the knowledge of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman it might turn out to be highly inconvenient for the White House.
Buying time
Trump could find himself browbeaten into joining reluctantly with American allies to censure the Saudis for what appears to be a gross act of inhumanity and contravention of international law. That's why when he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are insisting on space for the Saudis to conduct an investigation, it looks a lot like they are buying time for the kingdom to construct a cover story that could help the storm blow over. After all, allowing the accused murderers to probe the murder is hardly likely to produce a verdict that will be above suspicion and be internationally accepted. "The only way you are going to get a fair and impartial investigation is to have it be done from the outside," said CNN national security commentator Max Boot. "They are not going to implicate their crown prince who is in charge of the entire state." Still, an investigation that comes up with a coherent, if not a plausible narrative about the horror that unfolded in the consulate, might horrify political opponents in the US and democratic allies, but it could be enough for Trump. After all, he has a long record of accepting the verdicts of incomplete investigations -- see the truncated probe into allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh -- and he has accepted denials of misconduct about White House staffers and fellow Republicans when its politically convenient. And he's happy to take the word of foreign strongmen — even when they contradict the assessments of his own intelligence agencies — as he did when Russian President Vladimir Putin denied election meddling.
Saving the relationship
There were signs on Thursday that the administration was trying to finesse the awkward politics of the Khashoggi disappearance — while insulating its first priority — seamless relations with the Saudis, for further harm. Trump, who has been fiercely criticized after offering the Saudis a possible way out by suggesting that "rogue killers" might be to blame, returned to his earlier line Thursday of promising "severe" consequences. And Vice President Mike Pence issued the most strident warning since Khashoggi vanished. "If a journalist lost their life at the hand of violence, that is a threat to a free and independent press around the world and there will be consequences," Pence said. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin meanwhile pulled out of an investment conference in Saudi Arabia later this month. If was not clear if those statements by the President and Vice President hinted a toughening administration stance, especially because Trump's rhetoric frequently fluctuates given the political demands of a particular moment. And Pence's language was robust and useful for domestic political consumption, But it's unlikely to drown out Trump's more pragmatic statements in recent days, at least in the ears of Saudi royals who intimately understand the power dynamics in this and previous presidential administrations. And while Mnuchin's move was a significant political gesture, it was largely symbolic, since a long list of withdrawals from foreign officials and media sponsors had already rendered the investment event largely meaningless.
There are also signs that the administration is above all most concerned with preserving its relations with the Saudi royal court. Trump admitted with characteristic frankness that he was vexed by the impact of the episode on diplomacy with the kingdom."This one one has caught the imagination of the world, unfortunately," Trump told the New York Times in an interview Thursday.
"It's not a positive. Not a positive."
The disappearance of Khashoggi has highlighted a cold eyed approach to foreign policy that runs counter to America's historic reverence for universal rights. But it is in line with Trump's approach to American power and reluctance to criticize hard men leaders with whom he has an affinity, and is willing to indulge in order to win economic results with his transactional foreign policy. Two sources told CNN on Thursday that Jared Kushner has been advising Trump to proceed slowly and cautiously on the Saudi matter, despite criticism coming from Capitol Hill. The New York Times, cited an official familiar with the situation, as saying that Kushner, Trump's Middle East fixer, believed that outrage over Khashoggi's disappearance would pass in time, just like other controversies blamed on the crown prince. Trump is all in with the Saudis. In many ways, the administration is far too gone into its big bet in the Middle East to allow one murder to hold it back. It realigned US foreign policy following the Obama administration, gathering Saudi Arabia and other Arab autocracies in the Gulf and in Egypt and the right-wing government in Israel close. The administration's first priority in the region is the isolation and pressuring of Iran and what Washington sees as its nefarious activity across the region. Any action to punish the Saudis would weaken the alliance of Gulf and Araba states it needs to carry through its policy. As the world's biggest oil exporter, Riyadh will play a crucial role in balancing global oil markets next month when the administration seeks to put a clamp on nations buying Iranian oil exports. The Khashoggi episode also comes at a moment of tense geopolitical competition in the Middle East, as Moscow uses its beachhead in Syria to challenge traditional US influence. There is little doubt that if Washington sought to ban arms sales to Riyadh, as some in Congress would like, that Russia would seek to fill the breach. Trump has made the commercial relationship between the US and the Saudis, which he says accounts for billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, the centerpiece of his argument for not disrupting the relationship.
There are few indications that the administration will react strongly to Khashoggi's apparent death on human rights grounds, even though he was resident in the US and worked for a major US newspaper.
The President, in his affinity for strongmen leaders, and repeatedly in policy addresses, has made clear he does not believe that universal rights and democratic standards should form the basis of foreign policy.
And though there has been intense heat on Capitol Hill, it is not clear that Khashoggi episode has caused him any trouble with the voters he really cares about — those who form his fervent base who embraced his calls for an "America First" approach to the world during the 2016 campaign.
*CNN's Kevin Liptak and Jeff Zeleny contributed to this story