English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For December 27/2022
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to
Saint Matthew 23/29-39/24,1-2: “‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation. ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” ’ As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Then he asked them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on December 26-27/2022/
Video-Text: Christmas Is A Holy Event For Openness Prayers, Contemplation, & Forgiveness/Elias Bejjani/December 25/2022
Lebanon Detains Hezbollah Supporter in Probe of Irish UN Peacekeeper’s Killing
Bassil has reportedly met with Franjieh and Mikati
The Shiite Islamic Council condemns the satirical programs that affect the sect: We will be held accountable by legal and judicial means
Mysterious explosions rock 3 Hezbollah sites in Syria
A remarkable Phone Call from Safa to Aoun and Bassil
Lebanon Inflation Rate Increases 189% in First 11 Months
A Timeline of Economic, Political Dire Straits in Lebanon

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 26-27/2022/
Iran Says UK-Linked Arrests Reflect ‘Destructive Role’ in Protests
Iran slams Britain after protest ‘network’ arrested
Protest Held in Brussels to Call for Release of Belgian Held in Iran
Elon Musk says around 100 Starlinks now active in Iran
Netanyahu looks to vote in new government on Thursday
New Israeli Laws Cement Racial Discrimination
Ukrainian Drone Downed in Russian Air Base, 3 Killed
The AP Interview: Ukraine FM aims for February peace summit
Medvedev: Only Russia's Nuclear Arms Preventing West from Declaring War
Eight dead in failed Daesh prison assault in Syria: Monitor
Turkish Defense Minister Visits Syrian Border, Stresses Dialogue
UN Official Meets Taliban, Urges Reverse of NGO Female Worker Ban
S. Korea fires warning shots after N. Korean drone incursion

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 26-27/2022/
US Military's Failing Deterrence Against China/'They Are Putting Capability in the Field Faster Than We Are'/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute./December 26, 2022
In India, the Case of a Missing American Ambassador/Meenakshi Ahamed/Asharq Al-Awsat/December, 26/2022
Is Russia helping Iran to pursue its hostile agenda?/Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami/Arab News/December 27, 2022
Zelensky goes to Washington/Trisha De Borchgrave/Arab News/December 26, 2022

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on December 26-27/2022/
Video-Text: Christmas Is A Holy Event For Openness Prayers, Contemplation, & Forgiveness
Elias Bejjani/December 25/2022
ذكرى الميلاد هي فرصة مقدسة للصلاة والتأمل والإنفتاح على الغير والمسامحة

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. (Luke 02/11)
Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 02/14)
The holy birth of Jesus Christ bears numerous blessed vital values and principles including love, giving, redemption, modesty and forgiveness.
Christmas is a role model of love because God, our Father Himself is love.
Accordingly and in a bid to cleanse us from our original sin He came down from heaven, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. (John15/12)
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John15/13)
Christmas is way of giving …God gave us Himself because He is a caring, generous, forgiving and loving and father.
Christmas embodies all principles of genuine redemption. Jesus Christ redeemed us and for our sake He joyfully was crucified, and tolerated all kinds of torture, humiliation and pain
Christmas is a dignified image of modesty ..Jesus Christ accepted to be born into a manger and to live his life on earth in an extremely simple and humble manner.
Let us continuously remind our selves that when our day comes that could be at any moment, we shall not be able to take any thing that is earthly with us for the Day of judgment except our work and acts, be righteous or evil.
Christmas is a holy act of forgiveness ….God, and because He is a loving and forgiving has Sent His Son Jesus Christ redeem to free us from the bondage of the original sin that Adam and Eve committed.
Christmas requires that we all genuinely pray and pray for those who are hurt, lonely, deserted by their beloved ones, feel betrayed, are enduring pain silently pain, suffer anguish, deprived from happiness, warmth and joy .
Christmas is ought to teach us that it is the duty of every believer to practice his/her faith not only verbally and via routine rituals, but and most importantly through actual deeds of righteousness….
Christmas’ spirit is not only rituals of decorations, festivities, gifts and joyful celebrations…But deeds in all ways and means by helping those who need help in all field and domains.
Christmas’s spirit is a calls to honour and actually abide by all Bible teachings and values.
In this realm we have a Biblical obligation to open our hearts and with love extend our hand to all those who are in need, and we are able to help him remembering always that Almighty God showered on us all sorts of graces and capabilities so we can share them with others.
Christmas is a time to hold to the Ten Commandments, foremost of which is “Honour your father and your mother”.
Christmas is a good time for us to attentively hear and positively respond to our conscience, which is the voice of God within us.
Christmas should revive in our minds and hearts the importance of fighting all kinds temptations so we do not become slaves to earthly wealth, or power of authority.
Christmas for us as patriotic and faithful Lebanese is a time to pray for the safe and dignified return of our Southern people who were forced to take refuge in Israel since the year 2000.
Christmas for each and every loving and caring Lebanese is a holy opportunity for calling loudly on all the Lebanese politicians and clergymen, as well as on the UN for the release of the thousands of Lebanese citizens who are arbitrarily and unjustly imprisoned in Syrian prisons.
Most importantly Christmas is a time for praying and working for the liberation of our dear homeland Lebanon, from the Iranian occupation.
No one should never ever lose sight for a moment or keep a blind eye on the sacrifices of our heroic righteous martyrs who willing sacrificed themselves for our homeland, identity, existence, and dignity. Our prayers goes for them on this Holy Day and for peace in each and every country, especially in the chaotic and troubled Middle East. May God Bless you all and shower upon you, your families, friends, and beloved ones all graces of joy, health, love, forgiveness, meekness and hope.

Video-Text: Christmas Is A Holy Event For Openness Prayers, Contemplation, & Forgiveness
Elias Bejjani/December 25/2022

Lebanon Detains Hezbollah Supporter in Probe of Irish UN Peacekeeper’s Killing
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 26 December, 2022
The Lebanese army detained over the weekend a main suspect in the recent killing of an Irish UN peacekeeper in a move coordinated with the Hezbollah party, two security sources and a Hezbollah spokesperson said. The man is a supporter of the Iran-backed party, but not a member of the group, the Hezbollah spokesperson told Reuters. The security sources said the man was suspected of firing shots at a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicle that was travelling through south Lebanon on Dec. 15. Private Sean Rooney, 23, was killed in the incident, the first fatal attack on UN peacekeepers in Lebanon since 2015. Hezbollah has officially denied involvement in the incident, calling the killing an "unintentional incident" that took place solely between the town's residents and UNIFIL. On Dec. 16, Ireland's then-foreign and defense minister Simon Coveney told state broadcaster RTE that he did not accept Hezbollah's assurances that it had no involvement. "We don't accept any assurances until we have a full investigation concluded to establish the full truth," he said. UNIFIL has operated in Lebanon since 1978 to maintain peace along its border with Israel. It was expanded after a UN resolution that halted the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon.

Bassil has reportedly met with Franjieh and Mikati
Naharnett/Monday, 26 December, 2022
Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil has recently met with Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh and caretaker PM Najib Mikati despite the political campaigns he has waged against them in recent weeks, a media report said on Monday. “Bassil did not hesitate to fulfill the request of a common friend by meeting his invitation to have lunch with Mikati at his banquet and later to meet with Franjieh,” Asharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted a political source as saying. The source identified the common friend as a businessman who had previously sponsored similar meetings. “Bassil met with Mikati on December 15, on the eve of the consultative ministerial meeting that he (the caretaker PM) hosted the next day at the Grand Serail,” the source said. If confirmed, the meeting between Franjieh and Bassil would be the first between them since the iftar banquet that they attended in Ramadan at an invitation from Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, prior to the May 15 parliamentary elections. According to the report, the Mikati-Bassil meeting ended without positive results and the dispute between them over the powers of the caretaker cabinet has continued. Bassil’s meeting with Franjieh was meanwhile limited to “exchanging views over a number of issues” without tackling the presidential file. “It was Franjieh who suggested keeping the presidential elections file out of the agenda of the meeting that gathered him with Bassil, because he does not intend to take unilateral steps after having entrusted Nasrallah with coordinating with Speaker Nabih Berri over the presidential file,” the source added. Bassil had confirmed Sunday upon leaving the Christmas Day mass in Bkirki that he has been “making a lot of meetings” that the press is not knowing about.
“You have busted us with only a few ones,” Bassil told reporters.

The Shiite Islamic Council condemns the satirical programs that affect the sect: We will be held accountable by legal and judicial means
NNA/Monday, 26 December, 2022
The Supreme Islamic Shiite Council denounced the campaign of slander, misinformation and defamation targeting the Shiite Islamic community and its beliefs, as well as the resistance under the guise of satirical programs or otherwise in service of the Zionist project.
The council affirmed that “those who hide behind the slogan of freedom of speech and the media in order to offend people’s dignity and honor, are only expressing themselves and their degrading and obscene cultures,” calling on the state and censorship authorities to put an end to this immoral slip and hold them accountable, especially before the judicial public prosecution.The Council indicated that they consider "this statement as a notice to it to implement the legal requirements required by this notice," stressing that the Shiite Council will continue to prosecute these people and hold them accountable through legal and judicial means.

Mysterious explosions rock 3 Hezbollah sites in Syria
Newspapers/December 26 / 2022
Areas controlled by the Lebanese Hezbollah, near the Syrian governorate of Homs, were subjected to 3 explosions, the source of which is not yet known, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The observatory said, "It was not known if the three explosions were in areas under the control and influence of Hezbollah in the western countryside of Qusayr, and the Dabaa military airport, due to Israeli strikes from over Lebanese territory, or because of targeting from within the same area."

A remarkable Phone Call from Safa to Aoun and Bassil
Newspapers/December 26 / 2022
The official of Hezbollah's Coordination and Liaison Committee, Wafiq Safa, confirmed in an interview with "OTV" channel, in response to a question about whether there was a rupture between Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement. He said: “I called both Bassil and Aoun and extended to them best wishes  on the Christmas Day on behalf of the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, hoping that the coming days will bring more dialogue and communication for the benefit of both parties.” Safa affirmed that "the message of the Lord Christ is a message of goodness and love, and in this blessed time, we hope that a calm atmosphere away from tensions between the various parties will prevail, for the good of Lebanon and the Lebanese."

Lebanon Inflation Rate Increases 189% in First 11 Months
The National/Monday, 26 December, 2022
Inflation in Lebanon increased an average 189.4 per cent in the first 11 months of 2022, from the same period a year earlier, according to data from the Central Administration of Statistics. Hyperinflation continued for the 29th consecutive month, rising annually to about 142.4 per cent in November from the same month a year earlier, the administration's Consumer Price Index showed. The CPI increased about 3.74 per cent from October 2022. Lebanon is expected to post the second-highest inflation rate in the world this year, behind Sudan, according to Fitch Solutions.The country is in the grip of an economic crisis described by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history and has yet to enforce critical structural and financial reforms required to unlock $3 billion of assistance from the International Monetary Fund. Reforms hinge on the formation of a new government, the election of a president and consensus among the country's political elite. Politicians are deadlocked over the formation of a new cabinet seven months after parliamentary elections were held and after the six-year term of former president Michel Aoun expired at the end of October. Political impasses have led to political vacuums in the country in the past and stalled its economic progress. Lebanon was without a president for two and a half years until Mr Aoun's election by the 128-seat parliament in 2016. His predecessor, Michel Sleiman, was elected in 2008 after the position had been vacant for 18 months. Securing IMF backing will help to unlock a further $11 billion of assistance that was pledged at a Paris donor conference in 2018, which is also tied to a string of reforms. Lebanon's economy collapsed after it defaulted on about $31 billion of eurobonds in March 2020, with its currency losing more than 90 per cent against the dollar on the black market. According to the latest CPI reading, the price of miscellaneous goods and services in November increased fivefold while the cost of water, electricity, gas and other fuels rose more than four times. Communication costs increased more than fourfold while education and transport prices soared more than three times each.
Rates at restaurants and hotels and the prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages more than tripled. The World Bank projects that Lebanon's real gross domestic product will contract 5.4 per cent in 2022, assuming the “political paralysis” continues and there is no action to put in place an economic recovery strategy. This year's contraction comes after the economy shrank by about 58 per cent between 2019 and 2021 — the largest contraction among 193 countries, the Washington-based lender said in a report in January 2022. ---

A Timeline of Economic, Political Dire Straits in Lebanon
AFP/Monday, 26 December, 2022
Lebanon for more than three years has been mired in a deep financial, economic and social crisis, aggravated by a political deadlock.
Here is a recap since turmoil broke out in October 2019.
Protests erupt
Mass protests follow a government announcement on October 17, 2019 of a planned tax on voice calls made over messaging services such as WhatsApp.
In a graft-plagued country with poor public services, many see the tax as the last straw, with demonstrators demanding "the fall of the regime".
The government of prime minister Saad Hariri scraps the tax the same day.
But protests continue over the ensuing weeks, culminating in demonstrations calling for the overhaul of a ruling class in place for decades and accused of systemic corruption.
Hariri's government resigns in late October.
First default
Lebanon, with a $92 billion debt burden equivalent to nearly 170 percent of its gross domestic product, announces in March 2020 that it will default on a payment for the first time in its history.
In April, after three nights of violent clashes, then-prime minister Hassan Diab says Lebanon will seek International Monetary Fund help after the government approves an economic rescue plan.
But talks with the IMF quickly collapse.
Catastrophic blast
A massive explosion on August 4, 2020 at Beirut port devastates entire neighbourhoods of the capital, kills more than 200 people and injures at least 6,500.
Revelations that the pile of volatile ammonium nitrate that caused one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded had been left unsecured in a warehouse for six years, further enraging the Lebanese public.
Political impasse
Diab's government resigns in the wake of the blast, a little more than seven months after taking office.
Diplomat Mustapha Adib is named new premier but bows out after less than a month, and Hariri, who already served as prime minister three times, is named in October.
One of worst crises
Amid runaway inflation, authorities announce in February 2021 that bread prices will rise further.
In June, the World Bank says Lebanon's economic collapse is likely to rank among the world's worst financial crises since the mid-19th century.
New government
After nine months of political negotiations, Hariri steps aside on July 15 saying he is unable to form a government.
Billionaire Najib Mikati, Lebanon's richest man and already twice prime minister, forms a new government on September 10 after a 13-month vacuum.
Bloody clashes
But the new government is shaken by demands from the powerful Hezbollah movement for the judge investigating the Beirut blast to be removed on grounds of political bias.
Tensions come to a boil on October 14 when a shootout kills seven people following a rally by Hezbollah and its ally Amal demanding Tarek Bitar's dismissal.
Accord with IMF
On January 24, 2022 the IMF launches talks with Lebanese officials.
Mikati's government meets for the first time after months of negotiations between rival factions.
On February 11 the IMF calls for fiscal reforms to ensure Lebanon can manage its debt load as well as measures to establish a "credible" currency system.
On April 7, the lender says it has reached a staff-level agreement to provide Lebanon with $3 billion in aid over four years.
Hezbollah and its allies lose their parliamentary majority in May 15 legislative elections. Mikati is appointed on June 23 to form a new government. He has not yet succeeded.
Political deadlock deepens on October 31 when Aoun's mandate expires without a successor in place. The divided parliament has met 10 times in a bid to appoint a new president but each attempt has failed.
In an interview published on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron calls on Lebanon to "get rid" of its entrenched political leadership who have blocked reforms vital to saving the bankrupt economy. ---

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 26-27/2022/
Iran Says UK-Linked Arrests Reflect ‘Destructive Role’ in Protests
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 26 December, 2022
Iran's foreign ministry said on Monday that the arrests of citizens linked to the United Kingdom showed London's "destructive role" in the recent protests in Iran. Asked by a reporter to comment on Sunday's announcement in Tehran of the arrest of seven people linked to Britain, foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said: "Some countries, especially the one you mentioned, had an unconstructive role regarding the recent developments in Iran. "Their role was totally destructive and incited the riots". Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Sunday that the seven, including some who held dual nationality, were arrested over anti-government protests that have rocked the country. The British foreign ministry had said it was seeking further information from Iranian authorities on the reports that British-Iranian dual nationals had been arrested. Kanaani said Tehran had notified the detainees' respective governments and had "communicated their crimes" to them. For "humanitarian reasons", he said, the detainees had been allowed to contact their families over the Christmas holidays. Tehran has blamed foreign enemies and their agents for orchestrating the protests, which have turned into a popular revolt by Iranians from all layers of society, posing one of the boldest challenges to the country's clerical rulers since the 1979 revolution. It has also taken increasingly aggressive steps against dual nationals, arresting dozens since the unrest began. Such moves have brought more international condemnation and isolated Tehran. Rights group HRANA said that as of Sunday, 507 protesters had been killed, including 69 minors. It said 66 members of the security forces had also been killed. As many as 18,516 protesters are believed to have been arrested, it said. Kanaani said the files of some of the detainees had been completed, while those of others were still being investigated.

Iran slams Britain after protest ‘network’ arrested
AFP/December 26, 2022
TEHRAN: Iran on Monday blasted Britain’s “non-constructive role” a day after the Islamic republic announced the arrest of a UK-linked “network” involved in the three-month protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death. Protests have gripped Iran since the September 16 death of Iranian-Kurdish Amini, 22, after her arrest in Tehran for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress code for women. Tehran generally calls the protests “riots” and accuses its foreign foes, including Britain, of stoking the unrest. State news agency IRNA reported Sunday the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the country’s south had arrested seven people, including dual nationals, who had operated “under the direct guidance of elements from Britain.” Asked about their arrest during a Monday press conference, foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said “some countries, especially the one you mentioned, had a non-constructive role in relation to the recent developments in Iran.”“Their role was quite provocative in inciting extremism and riots,” Kanani said of the foreign nations. The group, which IRNA described as an “organized network,” had been “leading subversive conspiracies, especially during the recent riots,” the report quoted a Guards statement as saying. The seven arrested in Kerman province “have been involved in planning, leading and producing content as well as field actions in the recent riots,” it added. Some of them are “dual nationals who were trying to escape from the country,” the statement said without elaborating.
Iran’s judiciary said last month that 40 foreigners, including dual nationals, had been arrested in the unrest. The foreign ministry’s Kanani said Monday that “during the recent riots, several citizens of European countries have been arrested with varying degrees of involvement in the riots.”
“Consular and political information has been given to their respective countries,” he added. “The role of the citizens of a certain number of countries, especially European and western European countries... is quite clear and proved.”A number of Westerners, including dual nationals, had already been in custody in Iran before the protests broke out in September. Western governments have accused Tehran of employing a “hostage-taking” policy aimed at extracting concessions or secure the release of Iranians held abroad.

Protest Held in Brussels to Call for Release of Belgian Held in Iran
Brussels - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 26 December, 2022
Supporters of a Belgian aid worker being held in Iran staged a Christmas Day protest in Brussels to demand his immediate release, with a spokesman questioning why a prisoner swap treaty was stalled. Around 50 people took part in the demonstration under constant rain in the center of the Belgian capital, brandishing pictures of the aid worker, Olivier Vandecasteele, AFP reported. A spokesman for the campaign to free Vandecasteele, Olivier Van Steirtegem, said the gathering took place because "it's the first year that Olivier is marking Christmas as a hostage in Iran". He said the situation was "unthinkable for his family," who did not even know where Vandecasteele was being detained. Vandecasteele, 41, was seized in February and has since been held in conditions that Belgium's government has described as "inhumane". Last week, Iran imposed a 28-year jail term on him, stirring an already bitter debate over a stymied prisoner exchange treaty. The Belgian government subsequently urged all Belgians in Iran, including dual nationals, to leave the country over the risk that they could be arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned. Belgium insists Vandecasteele is innocent and was being held as a hostage as Tehran attempts to force Brussels to release an Iranian agent convicted of terrorism. Under a treaty Belgium and Iran signed earlier this year, Vandecasteele would have been eligible to be swapped for the Iranian Assadollah Assadi. Assadi, an Iranian diplomat who was stationed in Austria, was arrested in 2018 after German, French and Belgian law enforcement foiled a plot to set off a bomb at a rally outside Paris by an Iranian exiled opposition group. After three years in detention, he was sentenced last year in Belgium to 20 years in prison for terrorism. But in early December, Belgium's constitutional court suspended the implementation of the prisoner swap treaty pending a final ruling on its legality within the next three months. Van Steirtegem said the Belgian government believed the stalled treaty was "the only path" to getting Vandecasteele freed. "The question is whether we can accept leaving a Belgian man to potentially die in Iranian jail. All that because we don't want to transfer a prisoner from here who has already served five years in prison."

Elon Musk says around 100 Starlinks now active in Iran
Reuters/December 26, 2022
SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Monday that the company is now close to having 100 active Starlinks, the firm's satellite internet service, in Iran, three months after he tweeted he would activate the service there amid protests around the Islamic country. Musk said, "approaching 100 starlinks active in Iran", in a tweet on Monday. The billionaire had said in September that he would activate Starlink in Iran as part of a U.S.-backed effort "to advance internet freedom and the free flow of information" to Iranians. The satellite-based broadband service could help Iranians circumvent the government's restrictions on accessing the internet and certain social media platforms amid protests around the country. The Islamic Republic has been engulfed in protests that erupted after the death in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody after being arrested by the morality police for wearing "unsuitable attire".

Netanyahu looks to vote in new government on Thursday
Reuters/December 26, 2022
TEL AVIV: Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu called a vote in parliament on his new government for Thursday Dec. 29, the speaker of the Knesset said on Monday, after almost two months of coalition wrangling. Netanyahu’s bloc of right-wing and religious parties won a clear victory in parliamentary elections last month, but the veteran leader has had a harder time than expected in finalizing deals with his partners. Despite campaigning together, Netanyahu has struggled to meet the demands of his allies, who have demanded a significant slice of power in exchange for their support. Ahead of the vote in parliament and a formal swearing in of the new government, Netanyahu will have to officially present the members of his Cabinet. Israel’s longest serving prime minister has vowed to govern for all Israelis but he will head one of the most right-wing governments in the country’s history with key ministries in the hands of hardliners. Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the Jewish Power party will have authority for police as security minister while Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party will have broad authority to allow the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Both oppose Palestinian statehood and support extending Israeli sovereignty into the West Bank, adding another obstacle to a two-state solution, the resolution backed by Palestinian leaders, the US and European governments. The Finance Ministry is expected to be shared by Smotrich and Aryeh Deri, from the religious Shas party, with each man serving for two years. Deri’s appointment will depend on parliamentary support for a legal amendment allowing him to serve despite a conviction for tax fraud. Liberal Israelis have also been alarmed by statements from a number of other members of coalition parties in favor of allowing some businesses to refuse services to people based on religious grounds. President Isaac Herzog, the head of state who stands outside day-to- day politics, said on Sunday that any threat to the rights of Israeli citizens based on their identity or values would be counter to Israel’s democratic and ethical traditions. “A situation whereby citizens of Israel fear threats against them based on their identity or values runs counter to the basic democratic and ethic principles of Israel,” Herzog, whose role is largely symbolic, wrote on Twitter.

New Israeli Laws Cement Racial Discrimination
Tel Aviv - Nazir Magally/Monday, 26 December, 2022
New Israeli draft laws allow a doctor to abandon their professional oath to treat any patient and gives them the right to refuse to treat on religious grounds. Opposition lawmakers said the new laws were an abandonment of values for Israel. Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid described them as the most extensive moral deterioration that could lead Israel to become a dark state. Lapid blamed new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the rise of such sentiments, saying he was "leading us to a benighted state [ruled by] Jewish law." Hundreds of citizens marched in Haifa, protesting the new draft laws, which also say doctors should have the right not to treat homosexuals if it is against their religious belief and if another doctor is on hand to see them. Most of the protesters were primarily concerned with the issue of homosexuals. Still, many, including former generals in the army and intelligence, supported Arab demonstrators who opposed the law.  Another clause in the law allows the separation of males and females in wedding halls and grants hall owners the authority to bar homosexuals from entering. The law also allows Jews to buy land plots at low prices in the Negev and Galilee with the aim of Judaizing them. Authorities would allow Israeli forces to clamp down on Arabs. New regulations also support education in Jewish towns by including them in the nationally preferred areas, according to which they will be granted tax concessions, excluding Arab cities in Galilee and the Negev. Netanyahu's Itamar Ben-Gvir defended the provisions, saying it was good to have a law that allows freedom, adding that the left talks about democracy but acts like a dictatorship. Labor MP Gilad Kariv said Israel must decide whether to be a society that respects all people or one that discriminates between them under pretenses, asserting that the law would be used to discriminate against minorities, such as Arabs and Haredi. A poll published by the Israeli Kan showed that 48 percent of Israeli citizens believe the situation in the country would be worse by the end of Netanyahu’s term in office in four years. Only 29 percent of the respondents said Israel's status would improve, while 38 percent rejected expanding Ben-Gvir's powers and 36 percent supported it. Nearly half of the respondents were dissatisfied with the composition of the new government coalition, compared to 37 percent who did.

Ukrainian Drone Downed in Russian Air Base, 3 Killed
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 26 December, 2022
Russian air defense troops downed a Ukrainian drone as it approached an air base in southern Russia and three military personnel died after being struck by debris, Russian news agencies said Monday. It was the second attack on the Engels base this month. Engels, in the southern Saratov region, lies more than 600 kilometers (370 miles) from Ukraine. "On December 26, at around 01:35 Moscow time (2235 GMT), a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down at low altitude while approaching the Engels military airfield in the Saratov region," the TASS news agency reported, quoting the defense ministry. "As a result of the fall of the wreckage of the drone, three Russian technical servicemen who were at the airfield were fatally injured." On December 5, Moscow said Ukrainian drones had caused explosions at the Engels airfield and another base in the Ryazan region. According to TASS, the defense ministry said no planes were damaged. Ukraine has never publicly claimed responsibility for attacks in Russia, but has said, however, that such incidents are "karma" for Russia's invasion. Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an offensive on Ukraine on February 24.

The AP Interview: Ukraine FM aims for February peace summit
KYIV, Ukraine (AP)/Mon, December 26, 2022
Ukraine’s foreign minister said Monday that his nation wants a summit to end the war but he doesn’t anticipate Russia taking part, a statement making it hard to foresee the devastating invasion ending soon. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press that his government wants a “peace” summit within two months at the United Nations with Secretary-General António Guterres as mediator. Kuleba said that Russia must face a war-crimes tribunal before his country directly talks with Moscow. He said, however, that other nations should feel free to engage with Russians, as happened before a grain agreement between Turkey and Russia. The AP interview offered a glimpse at Ukraine's vision of how the war with Russia could one day end, although any peace talks would be months away and highly contingent on complex international negotiations.
Kuleba also said he was “absolutely satisfied” with the results of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit to the U.S. last week, and he revealed that the U.S. government had made a special plan to get the Patriot missile battery ready to be operational in the country in less than six months. Usually, the training takes up to a year. Kuleba said during the interview at the Foreign Ministry that Ukraine will do whatever it can to win the war in 2023. “Every war ends in a diplomatic way," he said. “Every war ends as a result of the actions taken on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week that no Ukrainian peace plan can succeed without taking into account “the realities of today that can’t be ignored” — a reference to Moscow’s demand that Ukraine recognize Russia’s sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed in 2014, as well as other territorial gains. Kuleba said the Ukrainian government would like to have the “peace” summit by the end of February. “The United Nations could be the best venue for holding this summit, because this is not about making a favor to a certain country," he said. “This is really about bringing everyone on board.”At the Group of 20 summit in Bali in November, Zelenskyy made the long-distance presentation of a 10-point peace formula that includes the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian troops, the release of all prisoners, a tribunal for those responsible for the aggression and security guarantees for Ukraine. Asked about whether they would invite Russia to the summit, he said that Moscow would first need to face prosecution for war crimes at an international court.
“They can only be invited to this step in this way," Kuleba said.
About U.N. Secretary-General's role, Kuleba said: “He has proven himself to be an efficient mediator and an efficient negotiator, and most importantly, as a man of principle and integrity. So we would welcome his active participation.” The U.N. spokesman’s office had no immediate comment. Other world leaders have also offered to mediate, such as those in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The foreign minister again downplayed comments by Russian authorities that they are ready for talks. "They (Russians) regularly say that they are ready for negotiations, which is not true, because everything they do on the battlefield proves the opposite,” he said. Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed few days ago that his country is ready for talks to end the war in Ukraine, but suggested that the Ukrainians are the ones refusing to take that step. Despite Putin's comments, Moscow's forces have kept attacking Ukraine — a sign that peace isn't imminent. Zelenskyy's visit to the U.S. was his first foreign trip since the war started on Feb. 24. Kuleba praised Washington's efforts and underlined the significance of the visit. "This shows how both the United States are important for Ukraine, but also how Ukraine is important for the United States,” said Kuleba, who was part of the delegation to the U.S. Ukraine secured a new $1.8 billion military aid package, including a Patriot missile battery, during the trip. Kuleba said that the move “opens the door for other countries to do the same.”He said that the U.S. government developed a program for the missile battery to complete the training faster than usual “without any damage to the quality of the use of this weapon on the battlefield.”While Kuleba didn't mention a specific time frame, he said only that it will be "very much less than six months." And he added that the training will be done “outside” Ukraine.
During Russia’s ground and air war in Ukraine, Kuleba has been second only to Zelenskyy in carrying Ukraine's message and needs to an international audience, whether through Twitter posts or meetings with friendly foreign officials. On Monday, Ukraine called on U.N. member states to deprive Russia of its status as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and to exclude it from the world body. Kuleba said they have long “prepared for this step to uncover the fraud and deprive Russia of its status.”The Foreign Ministry says that Russia never went through the legal procedure for acquiring membership and taking the place of the USSR at the U.N. Security Council after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “This is the beginning of an uphill battle, but we will fight, because nothing is impossible,” he told the AP.

Medvedev: Only Russia's Nuclear Arms Preventing West from Declaring War
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 26 December, 2022
Russia's nuclear arsenal and the rules Moscow has laid out for its use are the only factors preventing the West from starting a war against Russia, a top ally of President Vladimir Putin said in an article published on Sunday. Former President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, also said Moscow would pursue its war in Ukraine until the "disgusting, almost fascist regime" in Kyiv was removed and the country had been totally demilitarized. In an interview aired separately on Sunday, Putin said Russia is ready to negotiate with all parties involved in the war, but said that Kyiv and its Western backers have refused to engage in talks. "Is the West ready to unleash a fully-fledged war against us, including a nuclear war, at the hands of Kyiv?" he wrote in a 4,500-word article for the Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper. "The only thing that stops our enemies today is the understanding that Russia will be guided by the fundamentals of state policy ... on nuclear deterrence. And in the event that a real threat arises, it will act on them."Putin and other senior officials have repeatedly said Russia's policy on nuclear weapons dictates they can be used if there is a threat to territorial integrity. Russia has the world's largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, with close to 6,000 warheads, according to experts. Earlier this month, Putin said the risk of a nuclear war was rising, but insisted Russia had not "gone mad" and that it saw its own nuclear arsenal as a purely defensive deterrent. "The Western world is balancing between a burning desire to humiliate, offend, dismember and destroy Russia as much as possible, on the one hand, and the desire to avoid a nuclear apocalypse, on the other," said Medvedev, according to Reuters. If Russia did not get the security guarantees it is demanding, he said, "The world will continue to teeter on the brink of World War Three and nuclear catastrophe. We will do everything we can to prevent it". Medvedev also said Russia could forget about normal ties with the West for years and perhaps decades to come and would focus instead on relations with the rest of the world.

Eight dead in failed Daesh prison assault in Syria: Monitor
Reuters/December 26, 2022
QAMISHLI: Six members of Kurdish-led security forces and two extremists were killed Monday in a failed Daesh assault near a prison for extremists in northern Syria, a war monitor said. The failed assault targeted a Kurdish security complex in Raqqa, the group’s former de facto capital in Syria, which includes a military intelligence prison housing militants, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. “The jihadists were targeting the military intelligence prison” housing hundreds of extremists, including 200 high-level militants, said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based monitor.
Kurdish-led authorities announced a state of emergency in Raqqa and have put the city on lockdown as security forces hunt down extremists at large. Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack, saying two of its fighters had launched it, one of whom had escaped. The group said the attack came to avenge “Muslim prisoners” and female relatives of extremists living in the Kurdish-administered Al-Hol camp. Al-Hol, home to more than 50,000 people, is the largest camp for displaced people who fled after the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) led the battle that dislodged Daesh fighters from the last scraps of their Syrian territory in 2019. The spokesperson of the SDF, which controls Raqqa and Al-Hol, confirmed the death of six security forces to AFP. The assault was near a prison with Daesh inmates, he said, but “IS failed to attack the prison because our forces thwarted their attack,” Farhad Shami said. Security forces are still searching the area to arrest members of the cell, he added. This is the most significant jihadist attack on a prison since Daesh fighters launched their biggest assault in years in January, when they attacked the Ghwayran prison in the Kurdish-controlled city of Hasakah.
Hundreds were killed in the assault that lasted for a week and aimed to free fellow extremists. Syria’s war, which broke out in 2011, has killed close to half a million people and spurred the largest conflict-induced displacement since World War II.

Turkish Defense Minister Visits Syrian Border, Stresses Dialogue
Ankara - Saeed Abdulrazek/Monday, 26 December, 2022
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar visited Türkiye's command center on the border with Syria overnight on Saturday. According to the Ministry of Defense, the minister and accompanying army commanders were briefed about the situation on the border during a meeting with officers and soldiers at the Operation Spring Shield command center. Akar told reporters that Ankara was in talks with Moscow about the situation in northern Syria and using the Syrian airspace for a potential cross-border operation against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). "We are in talks and discussing with Russia about all issues, including opening the airspace," he said. He added that Türkiye is sending the necessary messages to all parties concerned with the Syrian file and taking steps without allowing anyone to undermine its sovereignty, independence, rights and interests. Akar pointed out that the Euphrates Shield, Olive Branch, Peace Spring and Spring Shield operations were "carried out successfully" against what he called "terrorist targets" in northern Syria. He stressed that Türkiye is determined to protect its rights and never ignores peace, talks, and dialogue, reiterating that Ankara will try to resolve problems reasonably and rationally. Türkiye and Russia have held talks earlier this month. Moscow wanted to dissuade Ankara from resorting to a military operation that included a ground invasion of SDF positions in Manbij, Tal Rifaat and Ain al-Arab. The Russian plan included the withdrawal of the SDF forces and their weapons from Manbij and Ain al-Arab. They would be replaced by the Syrian regime forces, while the SDF would maintain the Asayish security forces that would be integrated into the regime's security forces, revealed sources. However, Türkiye demanded the withdrawal from Tal Rifaat and the return of the Syrian regime as an alternative to the SDF, including security forces and border guards. Russia, Iran, and Türkiye continue to pressure the SDF to hand over Ain al-Arab and Manbij to the regime. The SDF demanded guarantees regarding its future after handing over the areas, noting that the US had forced Türkiye to freeze the ground operation in northern Syria. Akar's visit to the border and the talks with Russia regarding a possible ground operation came amid the escalation of the Turkish forces and the factions of the so-called Syrian National Army against SDF areas in the east and west of the Euphrates.

UN Official Meets Taliban, Urges Reverse of NGO Female Worker Ban
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 26 December, 2022
The acting head of the United Nations' mission to Afghanistan told the Taliban administration's acting economy minister to reverse a decision to ban female NGO workers during a meeting, according to a statement on Monday. "Millions of Afghans need humanitarian assistance and removing barriers is vital," UNAMA said in the statement, adding that UNAMA's acting head and humanitarian coordinator Ramiz Alakbarov had met with economy minister Mohammad Hanif. Hanif's ministry on Saturday ordered all local and foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) not to let female staff work until further notice.

S. Korea fires warning shots after N. Korean drone incursion
Agence France Presse/Monday, 26 December, 2022
South Korea accused the North of flying "several" drones across their shared border on Monday, prompting Seoul's military to deploy warplanes and fire warning shots to ward them off. "Our military first detected a North Korean unmanned aerial vehicle around the Gimpo airspace at 10:25 am (0125 GMT)," the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement. "Several North Korean unmanned aerial vehicles invaded our airspace" in the border areas around Gyeonggi province, it added. The incursion prompted Seoul to fire warning shots and deploy fighter jets and attack helicopters. One of the warplanes, a KA-1 light attack aircraft, later crashed in Hoengseong County, Yonhap news agency reported. The military did not indicate whether the objects had been shot down, or had gone back over the border, one of the most heavily-fortified locations in the world. But Yonhap reported that South Korean warplanes were trying to shoot down the drones, some of which reached airspace near the capital Seoul. Flights were temporarily suspended at Gimpo and Incheon international airports -- the country's two major hubs -- for about an hour at the request of the JCS, according to Yonhap, which cited an official from South Korea's transport ministry. Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the incident marked the first time that South Korean flights were suspended over "the appearance of North Korean drones", adding they were likely for spying purposes.
"Considering North Korea's poor level of drone development, there is little possibility that they carry the drone attack capabilities used in modern warfare," he added. "It is speculated that they came over to our area as part of reconnaissance training during the recent winter training."
Drone operations
The incursion is the first time in five years that North Korean drones have invaded South Korean airspace and comes as Pyongyang has carried out an unprecedented blitz of weapons tests this year, including the launch of its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile yet. Last week, Pyongyang also fired two short-range ballistic missiles and claimed to have developed new capabilities to take images from space, saying it would be ready to launch a reconnaissance satellite by April next year. The North's drone operations are a growing security concern in Seoul, but Pyongyang has denied any involvement and accused South Korea of fabricating evidence. In 2017, Seoul's military fired warning shots at a flying object that entered the country's airspace from North Korea across the Demilitarised Zone. A year earlier, South Korean soldiers fired warning shots at a suspected North Korean drone that crossed the western part of the border, the most sensitive part of the Demilitarised Zone. In September 2015, South Korea triggered an anti-aircraft warning and sent an attack helicopter and fighter jet to track down a drone that crossed the border, without success. In 2014, a South Korean fisherman found the wreckage of a North Korean drone in his net near a frontline island south of the rivals' disputed Yellow Sea border.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 26-27/2022/
US Military's Failing Deterrence Against China/'They Are Putting Capability in the Field Faster Than We Are'
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute./December 26, 2022
In just two years since 2020, when the Pentagon wrongly estimated that it would take China a decade to double its nuclear stockpile at the time of approximately 200 nuclear warheads, China has already doubled its stockpile.
"As I assess our level of deterrence against China, the ship is slowly sinking, It is sinking slowly, but it is sinking, as fundamentally they are putting capability in the field faster than we are. As those curves keep going, it isn't going to matter how good our [operating plan] is or how good our commanders are, or how good our forces are – we're not going to have enough of them. And that is a very near-term problem." — Admiral Charles Richard, defense.gov, November 3, 2022.
Unfortunately, the US is facing China with a lot of outdated military hardware.
Instead of doing all in its power to counter those adversaries, however, the Department of Defense has been focusing precious time on extremism, diversity, equity and inclusion, and climate change within the military....
In July, the Senate Armed Services Committee called on the Pentagon to stop its programs to prevent and root out extremism within the military, most notably Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's "stand-down" directive, which the military spent 5.4 million hours on implementing, at a cost of more than $500,000.
Overall, since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, at a time when every effort should have been geared towards countering top military threats, the Department of Defense spent nearly six million hours on extremism, diversity, equity and inclusion training, and climate change.
In just two years since 2020, when the Pentagon wrongly estimated that it would take China a decade to double its nuclear stockpile at the time of approximately 200 nuclear warheads, China has already doubled its stockpile. Unfortunately, the US is facing China with a lot of outdated military hardware. Pictured: DF-17 hypersonic missiles at a military parade in Beijing, China, on October 1, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin gave a stern warning about US competition with China earlier this month at the Reagan National Defense Forum:
"These next few years will set the terms of our competition with the People's Republic of China. And they will determine whether our children and grandchildren inherit an open world of rules and rights — or whether they face emboldened autocrats who seek to dominate by force and fear...
"The PRC is the only country with both the will and, increasingly, the power to reshape its region and the international order to suit its authoritarian preferences."
One of the Pentagon's main concerns is China's continued accelerating nuclear buildup. Every year, the Pentagon's estimates of China's nuclear buildup appear to grow exponentially.
When the Pentagon assessed China's nuclear arsenal in its annual report to Congress in November 2020, it projected that China's nuclear warhead stockpile, which the Pentagon then estimated to be in the low 200s, would "at least double in size" over the next decade. Just one year later, in November 2021, the Pentagon found itself acknowledging that China's nuclear buildup was taking place at an astonishing speed, with the nuclear warhead stockpile now possibly quadrupling over the next decade, to up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027.
Now, in Pentagon's 2022 annual report to Congress, released at the end of November, the Pentagon has doubled last year's projection. The report estimates that if China continues at its current pace, by 2035 it will have 1,500 nuclear warheads, adding:
"Over the next decade, the PRC aims to modernize, diversify and expand its nuclear forces. Compared to the PLA's [People's Liberation Army] nuclear modernization efforts a decade ago, current efforts exceed beyond previous attempts in both scale and complexity...
"In 2021, Beijing probably accelerated its nuclear expansion; DoD estimates China's operational nuclear warheads stockpile has surpassed 400."
In just two years since 2020, when the Pentagon wrongly estimated that it would take China a decade to double its nuclear stockpile at the time of approximately 200 nuclear warheads, China has already doubled its stockpile. According to the Pentagon:
"The PLA plans to 'basically complete modernization' of its national defense and armed forces by 2035. If China continues the pace of its nuclear expansion, it will likely field a stockpile of about 1500 warheads by its 2035 timeline."
Given the Pentagon's previous faulty estimates, China may likely have those 1,500 warheads much sooner than 2035. There is also no reason why China should stop at 1,500 warheads. As part of its plans to become the preeminent world power by 2049, China could well continue working towards nuclear superiority over the US.
By comparison, the US has deployed 1,700 nuclear warheads out of a total inventory of 5,428 warheads, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
The Commander of US Strategic Command, Adm. Charles Richard gave an extremely concerning warning in November about China's rapid buildup, which he estimated was out-competing the US.
"As I assess our level of deterrence against China, the ship is slowly sinking," Admiral Charles Richard said.
"It is sinking slowly, but it is sinking, as fundamentally they are putting capability in the field faster than we are. As those curves keep going, it isn't going to matter how good our [operating plan] is or how good our commanders are, or how good our forces are – we're not going to have enough of them. And that is a very near-term problem."
This devastating critique of US military capabilities was only lightened up in one area, where the US still dominates, according to Richard:
"Undersea capabilities is still the one ... maybe the only true asymmetric advantage we still have against our opponents. But unless we pick up the pace, in terms of getting our maintenance problems fixed, getting new construction going ... if we can't figure that out ... we are not going to put ourselves in a good position to maintain strategic deterrence and national defense."
Richard also warned that the US will have to completely change how it sees its own national defense:
"We have to do some rapid, fundamental change in the way we approach the defense of this nation. I will tell you, the current situation is vividly illuminating what nuclear coercion looks like and how you, or how you don't stand up to that...We used to know how to move fast, and we have lost the art of that... That's how we got to the Moon by 1969. We need to bring some of that back. Otherwise, China is simply going to outcompete us, and Russia isn't going anywhere anytime soon."
The United States is now facing two nuclear-capable, strategic peer adversaries at the same time – Russia and China.
"We are witnessing one of the largest shifts in global geostrategic power the world has ever witnessed," Richard said in March.
"Today, we face to nuclear capable near peers who have the capability to unilaterally escalate to any level of violence in any domain worldwide with any instrument of national power at any time. And we have never faced the situation before like that in our history. The strategic security environment is now a three-party nuclear near peer reality. Today's nuclear force is the minimum required to achieve our national strategy."
Unfortunately, the US is facing China with a lot of outdated military hardware, according to Richard,
"Right now, I am executing my strategic deterrence mission under historic stress crisis levels of deterrence crisis deterrence dynamics that we've only seen a couple of times in our nation's history. And I'm doing it with submarines built in the 80s and 90s, an air launch cruise missile built in the 80s, intercontinental ballistic missiles built in the 70s, a bomber built in the 60s, part of our nuclear command and control that predates the internet, and a nuclear weapons complex that dates back to the Manhattan era. We must modernize the nuclear triad."
Instead of doing all in its power to counter those adversaries, however, the US Department of Defense has been focusing precious time and resources on extremism, diversity, equity and inclusion, and climate change within the military:
In July, the Senate Armed Services Committee called on the Pentagon to stop its programs to prevent and root out extremism within the military, most notably Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's "stand-down" directive, which the military spent 5.4 million hours on implementing, at a cost of more than $500,000.
The request to halt the programs came after it became known last December that the amount of hours and money expended on the effort had resulted in the finding of just 100 "cases of extremism," or around .005%, in a military employing 2.46 million people.
In addition, since January 21, 2021, the military spent 529,771 hours on developing, preparing, delivering, attending or assessing new "diversity, equity and inclusion" training, including training in or discussions of critical race theory at the cost of $476,874. Those hours do not include time spent on pre-existing diversity, equity and inclusion" training programs that were in place prior to January 21, 2021.
Finally, the military spent 1,059 hours and $5,000 on the research, development, writing or coordination of the "DoD Climate Adaptation Plan" since January 21, 2021.
Overall, since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, at a time when every effort should have been geared towards countering top military threats, the Department of Defense spent nearly six million hours on extremism, diversity, equity and inclusion training, and climate change.
*Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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In India, the Case of a Missing American Ambassador
Meenakshi Ahamed/Asharq Al-Awsat/December, 26/2022
It is hard to imagine the United States going for two years without an ambassador representing its interests in Beijing, Berlin, Moscow or Tokyo. Yet Roosevelt House, the American ambassador’s residence in New Delhi, has remained unoccupied since January 2021 — the longest gap on record.
There is no shortage of talk in Washington asserting India’s importance to the United States. President Biden sees it as “one of the most important relationships” for the United States. Yet if India is an “indispensable” partner for America, as the president has declared, why has he allowed the position of ambassador to India remain vacant for almost two years?
American ambassadors to India have often played a vital role in advancing relations between the two countries. In 1962, when India was invaded by China, John Kenneth Galbraith was the American ambassador. Galbraith, who was close to President John F. Kennedy and had good relations with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, was instrumental in getting the United States to ship arms and supplies to India.
Until then, Nehru had been lukewarm to American overtures. By swiftly coming to India’s aid, Galbraith changed how Indians saw America and brought Kennedy and Nehru closer. American support for India in 1962 would prove to be a turning point in the relations between the two countries.
India’s problems with China are far from over. Both nuclear powers, they share a 2,100-mile border, and lay claim to territories controlled by the other. China has been increasing its clout in Nepal and Bhutan, which have long been Indian spheres of influence. For decades, Beijing and New Delhi maintained a cold peace, but the growing muscular nationalism in Xi Jinping’s China and Narendra Modi’s India eventually led to confrontations on the disputed border in 2020 in which scores of Indian and Chinese soldiers were killed. More recently, tensions rose on Dec. 9 after Indian and Chinese forces clashed on the mountainous border near the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China calls South Tibet. Relations between China and India have been further soured after joint military exercises last month by the United States and India near the India-China border. The Biden administration has also stepped up efforts to deepen its cooperation with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the informal security alliance of India, Australia, Japan and the United States that seeks to counter China’s rise, a grouping that Beijing views as hostile.
The shared challenge of China has pushed America and India closer. For the past two decades, Republican and Democratic administrations have made India an essential partner in the American strategy to contain China. The Biden administration’s National Defense Strategy report calls for enhancing India’s ability to deter China’s aggression “and ensure free and open access to the Indian Ocean region.” American encouragement of India’s rise has rare bipartisan support, which makes the absence of a US ambassador in India even more surprising.
There are significant economic reasons for greater American engagement with India, which recently surpassed Britain as the world’s fifth largest economy. While India remains poor in per capita terms (it has roughly $2,200 in GDP per person), it is one of the fastest growing major economies and a vital market for trade and investment.
India is a major supplier of pharmaceuticals, including vaccines to the world. In 2021, the US direct investment in India was around $45 billion. As concern mounts over China’s outsize role in global supply chains, American companies have begun to seek manufacturing hubs outside that country. J.P Morgan estimates that by 2025, Apple may make roughly 25 percent of its iPhones in India. The US Embassy will need to provide support to American companies trying to enter India.
And India plays an important role in difficult global negotiations on global health, climate change or technology policy. Richard Verma, the US ambassador to New Delhi during the Obama administration, said that India was essential in getting an agreement on the Paris climate accords. Mr. Verma helped facilitate some of the initial meetings that led to engagement between Indian and American leaders.
Major policy decisions such as the climate accords were agreed on by President Barack Obama and Mr. Modi. But in bilateral negotiations, an ambassador plays a key role in hammering out details of trade and defense agreements relying on his or her personal relationships.
India assumed the leadership of the Group of 20 in December and has lost no time in projecting itself as a peacemaker following a rules-based international order. India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, arguably one of the most talented international diplomats operating today, projects an image of India on the world stage as a responsible nuclear power, resolute against terrorism, and a global force for good.
The United States will need to continuously assess the degree to which it and India still share liberal, democratic values. Ambassadors such as Galbraith, Chester Bowles, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Frank Wisner, mixing with civil society, the press, bureaucrats and politicians of all stripes, were able to provide an informative and nuanced assessment about the country’s trajectory.
In April 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Robert Goheen, a former president of Princeton, as his ambassador to India. Mr. Goheen had been born in India and was in a position to observe if India’s experiment with democracy had survived the “Emergency,” the difficult period between June 1975 and March 1977 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended constitutional rights, assumed extraordinary powers, jailed opposition leaders and silenced the press. The work of diplomats can be hard to pin down as they juggle multiple roles. One of the critical responsibilities of an ambassador is to provide accurate assessments about the political landscape of the host country and to be his government’s eyes and ears on the ground. The absence of an American ambassador today may actually suit policymakers in New Delhi. It allows them to avoid careful scrutiny of its domestic affairs.
For decades, American officials lamented that India’s meager diplomatic presence imposed a ceiling on what India and America could accomplish together. New Delhi has worked to raise its international profile, especially in Washington. It is a shame that America has failed to reciprocate.
A US ambassador is the symbolic projection of American power. During the decades when India was strategically unimportant to the United States, Washington still sent important ambassadors to India. Today there is a glaring absence at the Roosevelt House in New Delhi.

Is Russia helping Iran to pursue its hostile agenda?
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami/Arab News/December 27, 2022
Russo-Iranian cooperation has seen significant levels of qualitative development since the outbreak of Russia’s war with Ukraine. According to a ministerial statement delivered by Ben Wallace, Britain’s defense minister, to the House of Commons on Dec. 20, Iran will receive advanced military capabilities from Russia in return for supplying Moscow with drones. The high-stakes questions preoccupying observers are: What can Iran obtain from Russia in return for defying the major world powers and venturing into strategic cooperation with Moscow? And what benefits could it gain in return for giving up on the nuclear deal and the economic gains expected to result from it, particularly in light of the unprecedented crisis the regime has faced since September when popular protests broke out across the country following the killing of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the regime’s so-called morality police?
For starters, it is worth noting that Iran, like other nations, previously bowed, willingly or unwillingly, to Western pressure and threats by not providing any kind of assistance, particularly military help, to Russian President Vladimir Putin in his war on Ukraine. However, Tehran’s position has shifted in recent months and it has become the only country to ignore the West’s warnings. There are, of course, several factors behind this policy change. These include the suffocating economic crisis in Iran, stalled talks over reviving the nuclear deal, US sanctions, and the search by several global powers for a more equitable world order.
A primary motivation behind Iran’s rush to step up cooperation with Russia is its ideological face-off with the US and the West, as well as its defiance of Washington’s unilateral hegemony over the global order. This is seen as not only a reason for the growing Russo-Iranian cooperation, but also for Iran to position itself as an essential party in this confrontation.
Within a short period, indications of increasing cooperation between the two states have emerged, particularly in the economic and military fields. Militarily, Iran has provided Moscow with drones that have devastated Ukraine’s infrastructure. Officers from Iran’s infamous Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have served as military advisers to Russian forces in Ukraine, gaining a foothold for Iran in Europe. It is believed that Russia wants to obtain more missiles and military equipment in order to meet its needs, ensuring that the cycle of war will continue.
Economically, Western pressures, as well as the rapidly eroding legitimacy of both the Russian and Iranian regimes at home, have accelerated the two nations’ efforts to open up new channels of economic cooperation. These include using local currencies in economic dealings; exchanging expertise on circumventing sanctions; and cooperating in the field of energy, which Russia needs after its sales to Europe were severed and a European cap was set on the price of Russian oil.
Iran, on the other hand, has practically broken the embargo imposed on its arms sales, and the road is now clear for the two sides to conclude further arms deals. There is no question that Russo-Iranian cooperation will result in mutual exchange of expertise, and perhaps joint efforts to develop drones and other military equipment. Additionally, Russia has supported Iran’s space project, with Moscow helping Iran to launch a satellite, reportedly for espionage and intelligence purposes, in August.
This cooperation is also expected to have profound results in the future, particularly in the Middle East. Russia’s rush to offer Iran advanced technology as part of its revenge against the US and the West will shake the regional balance of power on multiple levels, particularly since it could extend to include Russian nuclear assistance to Iran, or at least Russian protection against Tehran being held accountable by the international community should it exceed the nuclear threshold. Of course, this would immediately catapult the whole region into a nuclear arms race, with grave and extremely undesirable consequences.
Diplomacy and engagement without maximum pressure will not force Iran to a 'middle ground' or to make concessions.
Russo-Iranian cooperation has also thwarted regional initiatives aimed at easing tensions and encouraging Iran to accept the progress made in recent months to settle regional differences. This is evidenced by the stalled dialogue with regional powers, the spoiled truce in Yemen, and the stalemate in Syria.
In addition, Iran’s hostile behavior has been strengthened by this close alliance with Russia, with Tehran resuming its threats to ships, as well as to maritime navigation in the region. Iran has also used cooperation with Russia as a lever to influence nuclear talks, and to have its ballistic missiles program and malign regional behavior excluded from the agenda. Iran has shown no willingness to end its subversive role in the region.
Moreover, Putin’s desire for revenge against the West could prompt him to provide Iran with advanced weapons and defense systems, and to conclude further arms deals — driven by the need to inject more resources into the Russian economy — such as the S-400 ballistic missile system and advanced Sukhoi fighter jets. This, too, will gravely harm the military balance throughout the region, and curb the strategy to deter Iran adopted by the US and its regional allies.
In summary, it could be said that cooperation with Russia has nourished Iran’s inclination to defiance. As a result, Tehran has rebuffed attempts to revive the nuclear deal and undermined the path of diplomacy on which the Biden administration has long gambled. Iran has also taken advantage of current variables on the global stage to enhance its points of leverage. Iran’s regional behavior is certainly not expected to become any less volatile and dangerous when it is strengthened by Russian political and diplomatic support, as well as military backing, in appreciation of its supportive position toward Moscow. Increased cooperation could catapult the entire Middle East into further chaos, and torpedo any settlement related to Iran’s regional behavior and missile program. This comes at a time when the war in Ukraine is giving the US and wider West no leeway to impose further deterrent measures on Iran.
Finally, it should be emphasized that the Middle East will not stand idle in the face of any strategic imbalance of power in Iran’s favor. Tehran should not pursue regional policies driven by a hostile ideology. Russia, meanwhile, should reconsider any policies that threaten the regional balance since this will diminish Moscow’s influence in the region and undermine its relations with several regional powers. The West also needs to understand the message that Saudi Arabia and other regional countries have sought to convey: Diplomacy and engagement without maximum pressure will not force Iran to a “middle ground” or to make concessions so that deep-rooted ideological and historical differences can be peacefully settled.
• Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is president of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami

Zelensky goes to Washington
Trisha De Borchgrave/Arab News/December 26, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s trip to Washington last week was a high-wire performance. With an intense, respectful earnestness, he deftly but genuinely thanked the American people and their political leaders for the $100 billion they have provided to keep Russian forces on the back-foot following their full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.
But how do you say thank you when $100 billion is not enough?
Zelensky’s visit was impeccably timed before Republicans take control of the House next month. Despite the Democrat majority in the Senate, this could complicate the approval of more US military hardware and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Ukraine’s president came as the quiet but determined hero, not of make-believe sit-coms, but of real-life fortitude, channeling every person’s deepest fear — the senseless deaths of their children and the unimaginable, overnight collapse of everyday life due to war.
Zelensky has lost none of the humility that he displayed during his 2019 visit to Washington, when, freshly elected and, arguably, out of his depth at home and abroad, he still disarmed the preening, self-satisfied then US president, Donald Trump, as the latter tried to extract what looked like capo-to-capo favors.
Yet, in just the last few short, brutal months, Zelensky has presided over the outmaneuvring of a far larger enemy in ways that have defied all expectations, perhaps even his own.
This experience has given him a new confidence and presence. In an April 2022 online interview with the then Chatham House director, Sir Robin Niblett, Zelensky listened intently to the questions put to him while asking for the institute’s advice, jotting down insights on a notepad and responding to off-camera events as the war unfolded in real time around him. His vulnerability was all too apparent.
In Washington last week, he once again smiled for the cameras. But his previous ill-fitting suit is now replaced with the informal military fatigues of a modern war leader; his hardened features belie the ordinary man he still thinks himself to be. He appears shocked and appalled by experiencing the worst of humanity while having to manage his country’s complex relationship with the world’s foremost superpower.
At the start of the Russian onslaught, and at huge personal risk to himself and his family, he appealed to US policymakers with the words, “I need ammo, not a ride.” He is still on-message. Last week’s Washington accolades and standing ovations may be tokens of the respect he deserves, but this diminutive man is now one of the most revered leaders on the world stage today, precisely because of his personal courage as well as the sacrifice of his people.
He remains astute enough not to define what victory looks like to him until he has tested the full limits of America’s military support for Ukraine.
But these accolades could not disguise the enormity of the task ahead of him. Because victory for Ukraine lies as much, if not more, in the corridors of Washington as it does on its own battlefields. Asking for ever-advanced military capabilities, Zelensky had to convince American legislators that their tax-payer billions will continue to enable Ukraine’s de-centralized fighting collective to push back Moscow’s centralized but un-unified and sluggish forces.
And yet America’s billions and Ukrainians’ courage could end up simply funding a stalemate that will prolong the agony of Ukrainians and potentially destabilize the West, running the risk of plunging Europe and the US into a wider conflict with Russia.
So far, Ukrainian successes such as the liberation of Kherson and Kharkiv have not deterred the Russians from continued territorial advances elsewhere in Ukraine and from plunging the country into freezing temperatures and darkness by shelling energy grids and residential areas.
Like an outer-planetary beamed experience, Zelensky traveled to the White House from Bakhmut where some of the fiercest fighting is currently taking place and where the Russians are digging trenches by the minute, as well as pillboxes and tank trap ditches straight out of the Second World War.
For Zelensky there is no such thing as a peace agreement without a Ukrainian victory. But what does a Ukrainian victory and a Russian defeat look like? Does it entail the re-taking or ceding of Ukrainian territory to the internationally recognized borders of January 2014 or January 2022? Are Ukraine’s allies willing to risk Russia’s humiliation and the potential implosion of the current regime, or push for Russia’s seething retreat to prepare for a third invasion in the next few years?
Might the Biden administration and its successors prefer to fund a potentially more stable stalemate that restrains Russia from escalating beyond Ukrainian borders, and puts Belarus off from entering a long and protracted proxy conflict?
President Zelensky returned with warm promises of expanded American aid to fight another day for the dignity, security, freedom and future of his people. But that seems sufficient only to fuel a continuing conundrum for now, sustaining Ukraine’s half of an irresolvable war, while the US decides whether it can live with a stalemate or wants to commit to helping Ukraine secure a victory.
What is clear is that Zelensky remains astute enough not to define what victory looks like to him until he has tested the full limits of America’s military support for Ukraine.
• Trisha De Borchgrave writes for print and online media and is based in the UK. Twitter: @TrishdeB