English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For December 30/2022
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint 02/19-23/:”When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on December 29-30/2022/
God Bless Mohamad Chatah’s Soul/Elias Bejjani/December 27/13
Ronnie Chatah, son of Mohammad Chatah, answering 12 questions about his father’s assassination
Another stupid decision by Lebanon's censors/Elie Abouaoun/December 29/2022
Spanish PM emphasises support for Unifil during Lebanon visit after death of Irish soldier
Berri denies obstructing Aoun, says ex-president led Lebanon to 'hell'
New clash looms as Mikati prepares to call for new cabinet session'
Geagea says Christian rift not behind presidential crisis
Bassil to propose agreement on president, PM, reforms
Report: Bassil, Jumblat discussed nominating Pierre Daher for president
Ibrahim to launch presidential talks after holidays
Aoun says Salameh main culprit in crisis, slams Berri’s 'obstruction'
Lebanese Sunni Scholar Dr. Hassan Moraib: Lebanon Is On The Verge Of Civil War; We Are Ready To Fight 'Like Everybody Else,' Do Not Fear Hizbullah Or The Christians/MEMRI/December 29/2022
Why a federal state is the answer for Lebanon/Khaled Abou Zahr/Arab News/December 30, 2022
Smugglers blamed as Lebanon bans cancer drug
Hizbullah Officials: The U.S. Is A Plague That Afflicts Lebanon, Spreads Chaos There And Is Responsible For All The Injustice In The Region

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 29-30/2022/
Al-Azhar’s greeting to Copts provokes anger/Gobran Mohamed/Arab News/December 29, 2022
Former Jordanian MP Tarek Khoury On Hizbullah TV: The Jews Killed Christ, Drove Nails Into His Arms And Legs; The Enmity Between Judaism And Christianity Is Eternal; Were Jesus Alive Today, He Would Lead The Intifada
Israel swears in Netanyahu as PM of hard-line government
Amir Ohana elected Israel's first openly gay parliament speaker
Israel's ex-intelligence minister Eli Cohen nominated as foreign minister
As Netanyahu returns to office, troubles lie ahead
Israeli Minister Sees Possible Attack on Iran ‘in Two or Three Years’
Iran Replaces Central Bank Governor amid Currency Crash
Second Russian Defense Sector Bigwig Dies in Two Days
Fallen colossus: USSR's terror, triumphs began 100 years ago
Putin is threatening ‘nuclear blackmail’ in Ukraine – but the world must not give in, historian says/Kim Sengupta/The Independent/December 29, 2022
Russia fires missiles at Ukraine's major cities
Kremlin says it is concerned about Karabakh blockade after Armenian criticism
Ukraine hit by new Russian missile barrage
Syria's Kurds launch offensive against IS militants
Brazilian football legend Pele dead at 82

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 29-30/2022/
Republicans Step Up Attacks on FBI as It Investigates Trump/Adam Goldman and Alan Feuer/The New York Times/December 29, 2022
Christians Weren’t Always Welcome Mats for Jihad/Raymond Ibrahim/December 29/2022
The Taliban is Engineering Afghan Society/Hussam Itani/Asharq Al-Awsat/December, 29/2022
The Twitter Files/Tariq Al-Homayed/Asharq Al-Awsat/December, 29/2022
Iran’s nuclear prize for supporting Russia’s war/
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/December 30, 2022
Erdogan's failed rapprochement towards Syria/Fadel Manasfa/The Arab Weekly/December 29/2022

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on December 29-30/2022/
God Bless Mohamad Chatah’s Soul
Elias Bejjani/Published on December 27/13, The Day Mohamad Chatah was assassinated
Once again the Iranian-Syrian Evil Of Axis Criminals brutally assassinate a patriotic, peaceful and intellectual Lebanese dignitary. Today, in occupied and oppressed Lebanon, the former Lebanese minister Mohamad Chatah was murdered in a massive car bomb blast that killed also and seriously injured tens of innocent citizens in Lebanon’s capital, Beirut.
Mohamad Chatah, the courageous outspoken 62 years old moderate academic and noble political figure strongly believed in a free and sovereign Lebanon, dialogue, the language of reason, and in the right to different views and political stances.
Sadly, this morning, Chatah joined all the other patriotic and heroic Lebanese martyrs who with faith and devotion fell while struggling to reclaim Lebanon’s confiscated independence, sovereignty and freedoms.
There is no doubt that the Assad dictatorship intelligence and the terrorist Hezbollah Iranian militia are behind this horrible crime, as they were with evilness and shame accountable for all other similar crimes that occurred since 1960 and targeted Lebanese patriotic leaders, clergymen, officials and politicians.
It is worth mentioning that Chatah’s assassination took place three weeks before the long-delayed opening of a trial of five Hezbollah suspects indicted for the 2005 bombing that killed former Lebanese PM Rafik al-Hariri with 21 other individuals.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), trial is due to start next month in Hague. The suspects are all prominent Hezbollah military members. Meanwhile this terrorist Iranian organization has strongly refused to cooperate with the court, alleging it is politically motivated.
In my capacity as a Canadian – Lebanese Human Rights Activist and political commentator, I strongly and with the harshest terms condemn this barbaric and terrorist crime and call on the free world countries to help the Lebanese people and its patriotic and peaceful leaders by all available means and resources to reclaim Lebanon’s independence that is confiscated by Hezbollah, the Iranian-Syrian Axis of Evil military proxy
Deepest sympathies are extended to the families and friends of those killed in today, and all wish for a speedy recovery to all the injured.
May the souls of all those innocent victims that were killed today rest in peace.

رامي شطح، ابن الشهيد محمد شطح، يجيب على 12 سؤال، في ذكرى اغتيال والده
Ronnie Chatah, son of Mohammad Chatah, answering 12 questions about his father’s assassination


Another stupid decision by Lebanon's censors
Elie Abouaoun/December 29/2022
Another stupid decision by #Lebanon's censors: banning a Christmas Carol because of the word "Israel". Same old scriptures are read in all Churches. We don't need moral police in Lebanon. We know what to watch/not to watch. A random officer cannot decide for us.

Spanish PM emphasises support for Unifil during Lebanon visit after death of Irish soldier
Jamie Prentis/The National/December 29/2022
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has emphasised his support for the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon after an Irish soldier was killed in the country this month. Mr Sanchez made the comments after holding talks with Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miktati during a visit to Beirut. Spain is one of the largest contributors to the peacekeeping mission, with 664 troops from the country stationed in Lebanon. Unifil commander Maj Gen Aroldo Lazaro is Spanish. Mr Sanchez repeated his country's "willingness to support the work of Unifil" in southern Lebanon. His visit to Beirut comes two weeks after Irish peacekeeper Pvt Sean Rooney, 24, was killed when his convoy came under fire. Investigations into the killing are under way and a suspect has reportedly been handed over to the army. The shooting happened in the village of Al Aqbiya, where Iran-backed Hezbollah is highly influential. The group denies involvement in the attack. Mr Mikati told Mr Sanchez that the Lebanese authorities would not hesitate to bring the perpetrators to justice. Mr Sanchez also visited Spanish soldiers at the Miguel de Cervantes base in Marjayoun, southern Lebanon. “Your participation in this United Nations mission in Lebanon is a tangible expression of our country's contribution to world peace,” he told the soldiers. “Your daily effort is aimed at providing well-being to the entire Lebanese society. "With your work you contribute to saving lives, to improve the present and future of the Lebanese and, above all, to give a horizon of an expectation of peace to the new generations of Lebanese.” French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu is expected in Lebanon on Friday to show his support for the country's peacekeepers. About 11,000 UN peacekeepers are stationed in Lebanon, where the interim force has overseen a ceasefire with Israel. More than 300 Unifil troops have been killed since 1978.

Berri denies obstructing Aoun, says ex-president led Lebanon to 'hell'
Naharnet December 29/2022
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday hit back at remarks by former president Michel Aoun. “You did not need anyone to obstruct you, seeing as you promised us hell and fully fulfilled your promise,” Berri said in a statement. “Seventy-four laws were issued without being implemented… topped by the electricity law,” the Speaker added.“You deprived us of seeing the stars at night and you made us see them at noon!” Berri went on to say, using a Lebanese slang expression denoting that someone has caused great harm to others. In an interview aired overnight on OTV, Aoun said that Berri was one of the main “obstructors” during his presidential term. “All that I know is that Speaker Berri was against my election as president and he obstructed 18 files that I was working on,” Aoun said.

New clash looms as Mikati prepares to call for new cabinet session
Naharnet/December 29/2022
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati is inclined to call for a new caretaker cabinet session, despite “all the pledges he has made, especially to Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi,” a media report said on Thursday.
“In agreement with Speaker Nabih Berri, Mikati intends to call for a cabinet session in the beginning of 2023 and its agenda will include preparing a draft law for extending the terms of security and military chiefs ahead of sending it to parliament for a vote,” informed sources told al-Akhbar newspaper.“The fate of the session hinges on the stances of the political forces that took part in the December 5 session, but the mere intention to call for a session reflects a desire to challenge the Free Patriotic Movement and will definitely lead to a clash bigger than the one that marred the last session,” al-Akhbar added.

Geagea says Christian rift not behind presidential crisis

Naharnet/December 29/2022
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has noted that “disputes and divisions within the Christian community are not behind the presidential election crisis.”“The notion that if Christians agree the presidential issue would be resolved is a wrong notion, because we have a candidate and we’re voting for him in every electoral session. Meanwhile there is a Christian group that is allied with Hezbollah and does not want to vote for our candidate,” Geagea said in an interview with al-Massira magazine to be published Friday. This group “is to blame for obstruction, not the Christian disputes,” the LF leader added. As for Speaker Nabih Berri’s call for dialogue, Geagea said: “They are inviting us to an official dialogue meeting. What does that mean? Simply it is an attempt to preoccupy the public opinion with the aim of refraining from tackling the presidential election issue.”

Bassil to propose agreement on president, PM, reforms

Naharnet/December 29/2022
Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil has informed Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat that he intends to propose a presidential initiative after the holidays, ad-Diyar newspaper reported on Thursday. The initiative will be based on “a comprehensive package with prior agreements on the president, the premier and reforms,” the daily said. Bassil also reiterated to Jumblat his rejection of the election of Army chief General Joseph Aoun or Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh, wondering if Christians “no longer comprise a figure who would reassure Hezbollah other than Suleiman Franjieh.”
The FPM chief also hinted to Jumblat that he was sending “positive signals” through common friends to Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea about the need for “rapprochement and dialogue.”

Report: Bassil, Jumblat discussed nominating Pierre Daher for president

Naharnet/December 29/2022
The latest meeting between Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat was “different than all the previous meetings and was not negative at all, contrary to all leaks,” ad-Diyar newspaper reported on Thursday.
The meeting witnessed “a common approach toward the presidential file” based on the two men’s calls for “agreeing on a unifying figure that can talk to all political parties and that would be acceptable to everyone,” the daily added. “Jumblat and Bassil might have found these characteristic in LBCI TV chairman Pierre Daher, agreeing to back his presidential nomination armed with the support of (Maronite) Patriarch (Beshara) al-Rahi for this choice,” ad-Diyar said. It also noted that MP Wael Abu Faour of the PSP put Speaker Nabih Berri in the picture of this atmosphere, which was “also relayed to Haret Hreik.”

Ibrahim to launch presidential talks after holidays
Naharnet/December 29/2022
General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim will hold meetings over the presidential crisis after the holidays, a media report said on Thursday. “He will not be carrying any initiative but will rather try to bridge differences and reach a common vision,” ad-Diyar newspaper reported, adding that his contacts “will involve all parties without exception in light of his good ties with everyone.”Ibrahim has put Speaker Nabih Berri in the picture of what he intends to do, the daily added. “Ibrahim’s move stems from his keenness on speeding up the election of a president in order to halt the bleeding in the country and prevent collapse in all institutions,” ad-Diyar said.

Aoun says Salameh main culprit in crisis, slams Berri’s 'obstruction'
Naharnet/December 29/2022
Ex-president Michel Aoun has charged that Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh is “the main culprit responsible for the situation that the country has reached,” as he noted that Speaker Nabih Berri was one of the main “obstructors” during his presidential term. “All that I know is that Speaker Berri was against my election as president and he obstructed 18 files that I was working on,” Aoun said in an interview on OTV. Separately, Aoun noted that his son-in-law, Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil, is “facing a major attack and a character assassination.”“But thank God, he is strong and able to endure,” the ex-president added, while denying accusations that Bassil had been the “shadow president” during his tenure. “This is certainly incorrect,” Aoun told OTV. As for the unprecedented tensions between the FPM and Hezbollah, the ex-president said “the reconciliation meeting with Hezbollah should be with Jebran” Bassil, revealing for the first time ever that it was Bassil who had forged the 2006 Mar Mikhail Agreement with Hezbollah. “Today he wants to amend and improve it and I support him in that,” Aoun added. As for the October 17 uprising that erupted during his tenure, the ex-president said: “There is a new international policy based on undermining economies to subjugate nations, and it was clear that the October 17 movement was directed against me, seeing as it continued after the government’s resignation and was directly targeted against the president.”Commenting on the issue of the catastrophic Beirut port explosion, Aoun said: “It drew my attention that, after the port blast, statements were made by (then-Israeli PM Benjamin) Netanyahu and (then-U.S. President Donald) Trump speaking of a certain strike but they quickly backpedaled.”

Lebanese Sunni Scholar Dr. Hassan Moraib: Lebanon Is On The Verge Of Civil War; We Are Ready To Fight 'Like Everybody Else,' Do Not Fear Hizbullah Or The Christians
MEMRI/December 29/2022
Source: The Internet - "Spot Shot Online (Lebanon)"
Lebanese Sunni scholar Dr. Hassan Moraib, the General Inspector of the Islamic Waqf in Lebanon, said in a video that was published by Spot Shot Online (Lebanon) on December 19, 2022 that if they are backed into a "corner" or "suffocated" by another group, the Sunnis in Lebanon will take up arms and "take to the streets" in order to defend themselves and their honor. He said that the Sunnis carry personal firearms, and that they do not fear Hizbullah. Dr. Moraib also said that he believes that Lebanon is on the verge of civil war, and that the Sunnis will participate in the war "like everybody else" if anybody tries to harm them. In addition, he also pointed out that the Sunnis had been the ones who "taught Hizbullah how to shoot." He added: "When things get serious, we know how to fight." Dr. Hassan Moraib: "The late Rafic Hariri's plan for us Sunnis was based on the pen. He focused on educating people rather than arming them. The day Saad Hariri was forced to arm the people, he just fled the country. He did not want to mess with blood. We [Sunnis] say: 'We have no weapons except for the weapons of the state.' But let me tell you, our people in the Tariq Al-Jadida neighborhood and the other Sunni areas all carry their personal firearms. If we reach a point where we are pushed to a corner and feel under siege, and if any group of people suffocates us, and another group tells us we cannot go into their areas, then our people will take to the streets on their own volition. But do we have such a plan? No, we don't.
"When push comes to shove, our people are known to defend themselves, their area, their dignity, their honor, and their religion, and they fear no one. They do not fear the [Christian] Soldiers of God group, and they do not fear Hizbullah. Everybody should know this. We fear no one but Allah.
"If the state does not want to fulfill its duties, it should tell us, and we will do what we have to do. We will not be the weakest link in Lebanon. "There are personal firearms in each and every home in Lebanon. If it comes down to me, my area, my dignity, and my existence, I will pick up a weapon and take to the street. "Unless a decision is made by the army, the internal security forces, and the intelligence agencies to crack down on the bullies, and prevent the militant manifestations in the streets...Considering the security chaos and economic collapse we are witnessing, we are on the verge of civil war in Lebanon."
Interviewer: "Will the Sunnis take part in this civil war?" Moraib: "Just like everybody else. If someone tries to harm them, they will respond. They think that we are on our knees, but we are not. "We are the ones who taught Hizbullah how to shoot. Hizbullah knows this. We taught them how to carry a gun. Imad Mughniyeh was a soldier in the Fatah movement. Nobody should look down on us. When things get serious, we know how to fight."

Why a federal state is the answer for Lebanon
Khaled Abou Zahr/Arab News/December 30, 2022
During the “Baghdad II” conference in Jordan, French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated in a press interview his objective of finding a solution to Lebanon’s many problems, or more precisely, to the catastrophic situation. There is no doubt that the French president has maintained his focus and agenda for Lebanon. Yet, is he capable of bringing a solution? And would this solution be in favor of the Lebanese people or risk enforcing Hezbollah’s international recognition and control over the lives of Lebanese citizens?
It comes down to the question of what the real problem facing the country is. Is the real problem finding a consensus to elect a new president? Or is the real problem Hezbollah’s status and the obsolescence of the current political system? Does Lebanon need yet another quick, useless fix that keeps eroding the core of its state or does it need to move ahead in this chaos toward a new status? It is simply about choosing between what is pressing and what is important. And the pragmatic way is to focus on the superficial and achieve a political and diplomatic win regardless of the long-term consequences.
I totally understand that the vacuum in the presidency is a source of fear among the Christians of Lebanon. Indeed, in a fragile state, there is always fear in a centralized state of a change being enforced that would make them lose even more. Yet, in reality, and looking at past years, a bad president harms more than no president at all. As a Sunni, I have seen the post of the prime minister be totally humiliated and emptied of is substance. And so, this time, it might be a smarter move for Lebanese Christians to push beyond this fear and aim for a real solution to the country’s many troubles. They are not alone in this mission.
In his latest statements, Macron called for the removal of the political leadership who have blocked reforms. He also mentioned the possibility of a regional conference for Lebanon. One might ask who could attend this conference if the political leadership is removed? I totally abide by his view that Lebanon needs a complete overhaul of its politicians. The latest parliamentary elections have proven that the current political system corrupts all, and absolutely. Therefore, this is the first change that needs to be made.
Everyone knows the situation on the ground will not change without a military explosion. Indeed, there is nothing that can change the status of Hezbollah and its stranglehold on the entire population except violence. It is something no one is capable of or willing to do at this stage and so little change can be expected, no matter the names of those who come to power. The decrepitude of the country will continue as long as this occupation holds.
And so, what is there to do? We must accept that the real problem and the real solution for Lebanon is the need for constitutional change. This is why, and no matter how illogical and futile it seems today, there is a need to look into building a new political system. One that would answer the question, what if the Lebanese were free to choose today? What if there was indeed a single army and no foreign armed militias, what should be done to guarantee prosperity? And who knows, this might be the spark that leads to real change.
When deciding on another global conference for Lebanon, the focus should not be about providing the needed “tick the box” to unlock international aid. It should be about bringing real change. Indeed, when the time comes and just as for the maritime agreement with Israel, the deadlock will vanish and a president with a prime minister will provide the “lipstick” needed to unlock IMF support the country needs. It will be squandered without a doubt. Therefore, when calling for a conference, Macron should focus on supporting the emergence of a new constitutional Lebanon. I strongly believe that a federal state is by far the best solution for the country’s ills.
Despite the heavy criticism that is targeted at the French president, mostly by the French media, I would not denigrate his consistent and never-ending focus on Lebanon. I do not see vanity as many describe it, I see a true will to support and keep the Lebanese in the mind of global and world leaders. This is something Lebanon indeed needs. Yet, what I worry about is the president being dragged into an equation put forward by the Iranian regime and Hezbollah. And that when looking to solve it, this plays directly to their advantage. Unfortunately, in some of his actions, especially when reaching out to regional leaders, this has been the case. Symbolically, Macron had planned to spend Christmas Eve in Lebanon and visit the UN peacekeeping mission in the south of the country. Yet, the cold-blooded killing of a young Irish UN peacekeeper altered his plans. A Hezbollah supporter has since been detained for this murder. It is unlikely this action was taken without the knowledge of the group. It is a reminder that no one moves freely on the roads of Lebanon without the approval of Hezbollah. Not even a French president. It is the message sent by Iran and Hezbollah to Macron that the same applies for any political roadmap.
• Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.

Smugglers blamed as Lebanon bans cancer drug
Najia Houssari/Arab News/December 28, 2022
BEIRUT: A drug used to treat cancer patients has been banned from sale in Lebanon following a World Health Organization alert on a contaminated batch of the product, which officials believe was smuggled into the country. The WHO on Tuesday cited adverse effects in pediatric patients receiving the drug, and said that its product alert referred to a batch of substandard Methothrex (methotrexate), which had been identified in Yemen and Lebanon.
The drug, an immunosuppressant used to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases, is on the WHO model list of essential medicines.
“It is important to detect and remove this contaminated product from circulation to prevent harm to patients,” the WHO alert said.
The statement also called for “increased surveillance and diligence within the supply chains of countries and regions likely to be affected by this product.”Lebanon’s health ministry on Wednesday issued an order banning the drug and took steps to stop its circulation in the country. However, the ministry said that the drug was not registered in Lebanon and had been brought into the country by illegal means.
Lebanon’s failing economy and currency crisis are fueling a market for smuggled drugs and medicines, which authorities fear is a growing threat to public health. The health ministry warned patients against buying drugs from unknown sources, and said that people should consult a list of registered medicines published on its website in order to ensure their safety and avoid the risk of using contaminated products. Joe Salloum, head of the Lebanese Pharmacists Syndicate, said the latest batch of contaminated drugs were most likely smuggled into the country. He described smuggling operations as “the deliberate killing of patients.”Salloum said that smuggled drugs that are not registered with the health ministry are now circulating widely in the country.“These drugs do not meet international standards and those allowing this to happen are deliberately killing patients. This is why we must speed up securing safe medicines for patients, and draw up a plan to directly support the patient to be able to buy the right medicines,” he said. Bilal Abdullah, head of the parliamentary health committee, told Arab News: “The borders and ports lack controls. Dozens of medicines that enter are either expired or contaminated, and they are detected only when patients with serious side-effects are rushed to hospital.” Referring to the product banned by Lebanese health authorities, Abdullah said: “There is a chain that begins with the smuggler, the distributor and the pharmacist who prescribes the drug as an alternative to a drug that contains the same medicinal substance.”
He said that organized crime gangs are involved in smuggling medicines. “These people have nothing to do with religions, politics or sects. All they care about is taking advantage of crises to accumulate illegal profits.”Abdullah called for security and oversight agencies at all borders and ports to tighten procedures as a first step to countering the problem. Fellow health committee member Fadi Alama told Arab News that the market for pharmaceuticals in Lebanon is difficult to control despite measures taken by the health ministry.
“The problem must be addressed as soon as possible, and the health ministry has a good monitoring system that can be used to withdraw these drugs from the market,” he said.

Hizbullah Officials: The U.S. Is A Plague That Afflicts Lebanon, Spreads Chaos There And Is Responsible For All The Injustice In The Region
MEMRI/December 29, 2022
Lebanon | Special Dispatch No. 10399
Hizbullah has recently renewed its anti-American rhetoric that blames the U.S. for all of Lebanon's problems.[1] One reason for the escalation was remarks made by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf in which she called Hizbullah a "plague."[2] These remarks drew furious responses from Hizbullah officials, chief of them the organization's secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, who stated that America, rather than Hizbullah, is the plague and curse afflicting Lebanon, "whose effects are felt even today and are evident in the economic situation, the living conditions and the economic collapse" in the country.
The second trigger for the escalation in Hizbullah's rhetoric was a November 9, 2022 report in the pro-Hizbullah Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar that the U.S. had refused to grant Lebanon a sanctions waiver to import free fuel from Iran.[3] Iran made an offer in September to provide Lebanon with 600,000 tons of fuel, free of charge, to operate its power stations.[4] In light of America's alleged refusal to allow this, Hizbullah held it responsible for Lebanon's severe energy crisis.
This report presents some of Hizbullah's recent statements attacking the U.S. in this context.
Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah: America Is The Plague That Afflicted Our Country; Hizbullah Is The One That Removed This Plague
Responding to Barbara Leaf, who referred to Hizbullah as a plague, Nasrallah stated, in a November 11 speech on the occasion of Martyrs Day, that the U.S. itself is the plague that afflicted Lebanon and is responsible for its current economic crisis. He said: "Let me address the remarks made several days ago by the official in charge of Lebanon and the region in the U.S. state department,[Barbara Leaf]. She outlined [several] tragic and severe scenarios for Lebanon's future… Describing scenarios that could lead to the elimination of Hizbullah, she used the English word 'plague,' and the [Arabic] translators were divided on how to translate it. Some said it should be translated as 'curse,' namely a curse named Hizbullah, while others translated it as 'plague' or 'epidemic.' [But] who is the curse, plague or epidemic?... We all remember the Israeli invasion in 1982 and what it did in Lebanon when it entered Beirut and most parts of the country. [Everyone remembers] what it has done to the Lebanese, the Palestinians, the Syrians and everyone else. It has perpetrated war crimes, destroyed, bombed and massacred. Is that not the case? And who was it that sponsored, protected, supported and financed [Israel as it did this]? It was the U.S. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was a curse and a plague, and we managed to overcome it. This curse and plague was, first and foremost, an American product… Made in USA…
"You, the U.S. administration, are the curse and the plague that arrived in our country, whereas we [Hizbullah] – who constitute the main branch of the resistance alongside our brethren, the other resistance movements and factions – we are the ones who lifted this curse and removed this American plague. [But] you kick it out the door and it comes back in through the window…
"Who was it that wanted [to create] chaos in Lebanon in 2019 [a reference to the protests that broke out across Lebanon in October 2019 against the economic crisis and government corruption in the country],[5] having failed in its plan to [start] a civil war? It was you Americans… The [instigators of] the chaos in 2019 [i.e., the protestors], did they not demand the resignation of the government and the parliament? That means destroying the country. That is your curse, the American curse, the American plague and the American epidemic… The curse began back then [in 2019] and its effects are evident to this day, in the economic crisis, the living conditions, the economic and administrational collapse and the collapse of [Lebanon's] national currency. America's economic siege [on Lebanon] started at the same time and [also] persists to this day… The siege I am talking about is being imposed by [the Americans] sitting in Washington. It bans any country from investing in Lebanon, extending aid to it, or depositing funds in Lebanon's central bank… Worse, if any country in the world dares to come out against the American siege and extend aid to Lebanon, the Americans come and forbid the Lebanese state, the [Lebanese] government, to accept this aid. What do you call this? A curse and a plague…
"Looking at the region, [we see] an even greater catastrophe. Now that Syria has won the world war [against it], it is suffering terribly in terms of its economy and the living conditions [of its citizens]. What is the reason for this? The American Caesar Act… And who is responsible for the ongoing war in Yemen? Who is responsible for all the injustice in our region? Who is responsible for what is happening in Iran in the recent weeks... and in Palestine? It is the American plague…"[6]
Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Na'im Qassem: The U.S. Is Responsible For Lebanon's Crisis
As stated, the report that the U.S. had forbidden Lebanon to receive free fuel from Iran likewise sparked anti-American responses. Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Na'im Qassem said at a November 9 memorial for a Hizbullah activist: "The U.S. is the reason for the Lebanese crisis. It is the one preventing Lebanon from receiving electricity [from Jordan via Syria] and accepting the Iranian grant [of fuel]."[7] On November 12 Qassem tweeted: "Lebanon has been forbidden to accept a grant of 600,000 tons of Iranian fuel, worth some $350 million. This means depriving Lebanon of 5-6 hours of electricity a day for several months! #Curse the rapacious America."[8]
Deputy Chair Of Hizbullah's Executive Committee: The U.S. Trying To Cause Lebanon's Collapse
Sheikh 'Ali Da'moush, the deputy chair of Hizbullah's Executive Committee, spoke in a similar vein at a Hizbullah Martyrs Day event on November 13. He said: "The main reason for the Lebanese people's suffering is the U.S. administration, which has placed Lebanon under [economic] siege. It is increasing the suffering of the Lebanese people and works to exacerbate the crises and the problems by preventing Lebanon from accepting aid and receiving electricity and gas. [It is also] preventing a solution to the problem of the [Syrian] refugees, interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs and trying to impose [the appointment of a Lebanese] president subordinate to its will.
"The U.S. administration is now planning to bring about Lebanon's collapse [by] sparking disagreements and bringing the situation inside [the country] to an explosion that will destroy it. That is what U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs [Barbara Leaf] revealed when she spoke about a dangerous scenario in Lebanon that will cause the country to be completely destroyed and [then] rebuilt according to the interests of the U.S. and Israel. That means [that it will be built] without the resistance [Hizbullah], because the resistance poses a threat to Israel and gives Lebanon strength in the struggle against [Israel's] ambitions.
"The Lebanese must not forget that the one who supported the Israeli invasion that destroyed Lebanon in 1982, aided it, protected it, sponsored it and financed it, was the U.S., and that the weapons that killed the Lebanese and destroyed large parts of the country in 1993, 1996 and until 2006 were American weapons. We must also remember that the one who brought ISIS, and the [other] terrorists who accuse [fellow Muslims] of heresy, into our region and into Lebanon, and the one who bombed and killed in the Beqaa Valley, in the Dahiya and in Beirut, is the American administration. It was also the one who created the chaos [in Lebanon] and used its servants to spark discord in the country and to impose a siege on the Lebanese since 2019, and was a major reason for the economic and financial collapse and the plunge in living standards.
"[But] as long as we are armed with the spirit of the martyrs – their faith, knowledge, awareness, perception, courage, steadfastness, might, determination, will and readiness for struggle and sacrifice in defending our people and in preserving the honor and sovereignty of our country – the American administration will not mange to realize its plans, its goals and the catastrophic scenarios it is warning the Lebanese about. It will fail and will be disappointed, just like in all its previous attempts."[9]
Head Of Hizbullah's Parliamentary Bloc: If It Weren't For The U.S. The Lebanese Could Have Had Power For 10 Hours A Day
Muhammad Ra'd, the head of Hizbullah's "Loyalty to the Resistance" bloc in the Lebanese parliament, said at a memorial in the town of Harouf on November 10: "The Americans have [now] said explicitly what they concealed when Iran first decided to provide Lebanon with a grant of fuel to meet the needs of the Lebanese people and hopefully activate the power plants for 10-12 hours a day. This grant comes from Iran, which rebels against the American tyrant, and the Americans have imposed sanctions on anyone dealing with Iran. That is the obstacle preventing the Lebanese government from accepting this grant… and that is why [the Lebanese] do not have power [at least] for 10 hours a day…"[10]
Hizbullah's Parliamentary Bloc: The U.S. Will Continue Harming Lebanon If We Refuse To Obey It
Hizbullah's "Loyalty to the Resistance" bloc itself also attacked the U.S. following the Al-Akhbar report. A statement issued after the bloc's November 10 meeting said: "The U.S. administration insists on continuing its barbaric aggression against Lebanon and its people, and has declared, with the utmost arrogance, that accepting the Iranian fuel grant will expose Lebanon to American sanctions. We hereby present this [American] position to all the Lebanese people, so that they know which international element is thuggishly subjecting their country to a siege, and [so they know whose] officials are openly rebuking Lebanon and warning it that it will suffer more unless it submits to the policy of tyranny. We in Hizbullah firmly oppose the rationale of the American hegemony and control, condemn it, and reiterate our insistence that Lebanon exercise its sovereign right to determine its own interests… We hereby declare to our people that we will not agree to be patronized and dictated to by anyone…"[11]
Hizbullah Supporters On Twitter: The Massacres, Crimes And Killing In Lebanon Are An American Curse
Following Nasrallah's speech, many Hizbullah supporters on Twitter likewise directed invective at the U.S., using hashtags like "America is the curse" and "MADE IN USA." Nasrallah's son Jawwad, for example, tweeted: "The massacres, crimes and killing in Lebanon are an American curse."[12]
User Zainab Al-'Ali shared an image depicting the U.S. as Satan, with the hashtag "America is the curse."[13]
User Hassan Fakhoury shared pictures of victims of attacks in Lebanon, and wrote: "The injustice suffered by honorable Lebanese is made in America. The Arabs have agreed on this since 1982… and in 2022 they still do. #MADE IN USA."[14]
[1] For previous examples of this rhetoric, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1606 - Hizbullah Waging Campaign Against U.S. And Its Influence In Lebanon: 'We Know How To Hurt Them And Threaten Their Interests' – November 23, 2021.
[2] Speaking on November 4, 2022 at the Washington-based Wilson Center, Barbara Leaf said: "I'm mindful of the narrative in some parts of this town and elsewhere, that letting Lebanon collapse may somehow enable it to rebuild from the ashes, free of the plague that Hizbullah has represented for so many years. If only it were so simple…" Wilsoncenter.org, November 4, 2022.
[3] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon)ת November 9, 2022. It should be noted that, according to other sources, the U.S. has not given any official reply on this issue. See Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 11, 2022; aljazeera.net, November 14, 2022.
[4] Reuters.com, September 7, 2022. According to sources in Lebanon's energy ministry, Iran has not yet decided whether to provide the fuel to Lebanon, and if so, whether Lebanon will be required to pay for it. Almodon.com, November 10, 2022.
[5] On these protests see Special Dispatch No. 8332 - Lebanese Politicians, Journalists, Before The Outbreak Of The Current Protest-Wave: It Is Hizbullah That Caused The Economic Crisis In The Country – October 25, 2019.
[6] Alahedmews.com.lb, November 11, 2022.
[7] Almanar.com.lb, November 9, 2022. In July 2021 talks commenced between Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan on a deal to supply Lebanon with power from Jordan and gas from Egypt via Syria. U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea said at the time that she would act to facilitate the deal by exempting it from U.S. sanctions under the Caesar Act, which prohibits gas transactions with the Syrian regime. Allowing the deal is in line with the American interest to alleviate Lebanon's energy crisis and render superfluous Hizbullah's efforts to import fuel from Iran. However, as of this writing, the U.S. has not officially consented to the move. Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 6, 2022. See also MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1602 - Jordan, With U.S. Consent, Spearheads Efforts To Return Syrian Regime To Arab Fold – October 19, 2021.
[8] Twitter.com/shnaimkassem, November 12, 2022.
[9] Almanar.com.lb, November 13, 2022.
[10] Alahednews.com.lb, November 10, 2022.
[11] Alahednews.com.lb, November 10, 2022.
[12] Twitter.com/_mjn, November 11, 2022.
[13] Twitter.com/zainab_elali, November 12, 2022.
[14] Twitter.com/hasanm133, November 11, 2022.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 29-30/2022/
Al-Azhar’s greeting to Copts provokes anger
Gobran Mohamed/Arab News/December 29, 2022
CAIRO: Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, Sunni Islam’s oldest and foremost seat of learning, confirmed that controversy and disagreement over congratulating the Christian brothers on the occasion of Christmas has been renewed with the approaching end of each year. The Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism said that this debate was settled by Al-Azhar Al-Sharif a long time ago. Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism added in a statement that this matter was recently evident in the congratulations of Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, the most senior cleric at Al-Azhar, addressed to Pope Francis, Pope Tawadros II, and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, church leaders, and Christian brothers in the East and West. “This congratulations carried an explicit call to raise the voice of brotherhood and peace in order for security and stability to prevail everywhere,” Al-Azhar Observatory said. The observatory said that it noticed the reaction caused by the grand imam’s greetings, which were published on his Facebook page. Compared with 30,000 positive reactions to the congratulations, more than 16,000 “angry and sarcastic” responses came from those who rejected the idea of congratulating Christians on Christmas, based on “ignorance of religious teachings and misconceptions that some promoted about its contradiction with the Islamic faith,” it said.
“In a clear raising of the tone of violence and hatred against the other who dissents in religion, this is an interaction that indicates a wrong understanding of the texts of religion and leads to a threat to public peace and contempt for religion, which entails a legal penalty and a religious violation.”The Al-Azhar Observatory said that these objectors cited false statements about scholars, strict interpretations of Shariah texts, or old fatwas that had their historical context and occasions. This transgression also appeared in the right of anyone who issues fatwas or adopts the saying that congratulating Christian brothers on their holidays is permissible. “This is what we clearly noticed in the comments accompanying the grand imam’s congratulations to the Christian brothers in the East and West,” the observatory said. According to the observatory, this statistic shows the negative side of false and extremist ideas that exploit ignorance of Shariah issues to accuse people of infidelity and mislead people with flimsy charges that only exist in the minds of their promoters and resonate with the weak-minded. “This leads us to repeat the call for the need to fully adhere to the legal fatwas and jurisprudential opinions issued by official institutions in this regard while having good faith in the nation’s scholars and symbols,” it said. The observatory said that congratulation is one of the aspects of “righteousness” that Islam urges us to do toward people in general. It extended its sincere congratulations to the Christian brothers on the occasion of Christmas, “and hopes that the coming year will be a year of goodness and peace, in which all conflicts will end and the spirit of peace and human brotherhood will prevail in the whole world.”The Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism seeks to consolidate the teachings of the true Islamic religion and magnify its message based on moderation, moderation, tolerance, and human brotherhood by providing moderate and meaningful content in various languages, emphasizing the universality of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, and strengthening Egypt’s global position in the field of combating extremism and building community peace.

Former Jordanian MP Tarek Khoury On Hizbullah TV: The Jews Killed Christ, Drove Nails Into His Arms And Legs; The Enmity Between Judaism And Christianity Is Eternal; Were Jesus Alive Today, He Would Lead The Intifada
MEMRI/December 29/2022
Source: Al-Manar TV (Lebanon)
Former Jordanian MP Tarek Khoury said in a December 25, 2022 show on Al-Manar TV (Hizbullah-Lebanon) that the Jews persecuted Jesus and opposed Christianity throughout its entire history. Claiming that Jesus called the Jews the "progeny of vipers" and the children of the Devil, he said that the "enmity between Judaism and Christianity is eternal" and that the Jews killed Jesus. He also said that if Jesus were alive today, he would be the leader of the "resistance" and of the Intifada in Palestine. For more about Tarek Khoury, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 7129. Tarek Khoury: "Jesus and Christianity have been persecuted by the Jews since the days of Christ. The Jews persecuted Christ until they drove nails into his arms and legs in order to get rid of him. "These are the Jews. Jesus described them as 'progeny of vipers,' and elsewhere, he said to them: 'You belong to your father, the Devil.' "This enmity has been eternal, because [the Jews] do not want this character, this ideology, this heroic way of life, to exist and confront them. This is why Christ was persecuted and why Christianity is persecuted to this day. "Many Christians fail to note that the enmity between Judaism and Christianity is eternal, and that it was the Jews who killed Christ. "It must be made clear to every Christian on Earth that the enmity between Judaism and Christianity is eternal. It is nothing new. "In my view, if Jesus were alive today, he would lead the resistance. He would lead the resistance ideology and the Intifada in the land of Palestine."

Israel swears in Netanyahu as PM of hard-line government
Associated Press/December, 29/2022
Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn into office Thursday, taking the helm of the most right-wing and religiously conservative government in Israel's history and vowing to implement policies that could cause domestic and regional turmoil and alienate the country's closest allies.
Netanyahu took the oath of office moments after parliament passed a vote of confidence in his new government. His return marks his sixth term in office, continuing his more than decade-long dominance over Israeli politics. His new government has pledged to prioritize settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, extend massive subsidies to his ultra-Orthodox allies and push for sweeping reform of the judicial system that could endanger the country's democratic institutions. Netanyahu is the country's longest serving prime minister, having held office from 2009 until 2021 and a stint in the 1990s. He was ousted from office last year after four deadlocked elections by a coalition of eight parties solely united in their opposition to his rule while on trial for corruption. That coalition broke apart in June, and Netanyahu and his ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox allies secured a parliamentary majority in November's election.
"I hear the constant cries of the opposition about the end of the country and democracy," said Netanyahu after taking the podium in parliament ahead of the government's formal swearing-in on Thursday afternoon. His speech was interrupted repeatedly by heckles and jeers from opposition leadership, who at times chanted "weak." "Opposition members: to lose in elections is not the end of democracy, this is the essence of democracy," he said. Netanyahu heads a government comprised of a hard-line religious ultranationalist party dominated by West Bank settlers, two ultra-Orthodox parties and his nationalist Likud party. His allies are pushing for dramatic changes that could alienate large swaths of the Israeli public, raise the risk of conflict with the Palestinians, and put Israel on a collision course with some of its closest supporters, including the United States and the Jewish American community.
Netanyahu's government published its platform, which stated that "the Jewish people have exclusive and indisputable rights" over the entirety of Israel and the Palestinian territories and will advance settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. That includes legalizing dozens of wildcat outposts and a commitment to annex the entire territory, a step that would draw heavy international opposition by destroying any remaining hopes for Palestinian statehood and add fuel to calls that Israel is an apartheid state if millions of Palestinians are not granted citizenship. Netanyahu's previous administrations have been strong proponents of Israel's West Bank settlement enterprise, and that is only expected to be kicked into overdrive under the new government. Israel captured the West Bank in 1967 along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem — territories the Palestinians seek for a future state. Israel has constructed dozens of Jewish settlements that are home to around 500,000 Israelis who live alongside around 2.5 million Palestinians. Most of the international community considers Israel's West Bank settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. The United States already has warned the incoming government against taking steps that could further undermine hopes for an independent Palestinian state. The new government has also raised concerns about impingement of minority and LGBTQ rights.
Outside parliament, several thousand demonstrators waved the Israeli and Pride flags and chanted "we don't want fascists in the Knesset." Another protest was expected in Tel Aviv later in the day. Earlier this week, two members of the Religious Zionism party said they would advance an amendment to the country's anti-discrimination law that would allow businesses and doctors to discriminate against the LGBTQ community on the basis of religious faith. Those remarks, along with the ruling coalition's broadly anti-LGBTQ stance, have raised fears among the LGBTQ community that the new Netanyahu administration would roll back their limited rights. Netanyahu has tried to allay those concerns by pledging no harm to LGBTQ rights. Yair Lapid, the outgoing prime minister who will now reassume the title of opposition leader, told parliament that he was handing the new government "a country in excellent condition, with a strong economy, with improved defensive abilities and strong deterrence, with one of the best international standings ever."
"Try not to destroy it. We'll be back soon," Lapid said.

Amir Ohana elected Israel's first openly gay parliament speaker
Agence France Presse/December, 29/2022
Former minister Amir Ohana was elected as Israel's first openly gay speaker of parliament on Thursday, ahead of the swearing in the of new government. An MP since 2015, the member of incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party was elected with 63 votes in favour, five against and one abstention during a parliamentary vote. He is the third most senior figure after the president and prime minister, according to the country's constitution. In 2019, he became the first gay man to hold a ministerial post when he was selected as Netanyahu's justice minister. A coalition agreement between Netanyahu's Likud and Avi Maoz, the leader of the anti-LGBTQ Noam party, shocked Israel's gay community. According to the agreement, Maoz will be appointed deputy minister in charge of "Jewish identity". Maoz vowed to "study the legal avenues to cancel Gay Pride", he told Israeli radio after the elections, as he joined the far-right formation Religious Zionism. The U.S. ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, recently pledged to judge the government "on its actions rather than on the declarations of certain politicians in the campaign.""I've been to gay pride, I've marched in Jerusalem, I've marched in Tel Aviv and I plan to march again. There's no doubt in my mind that there will be another gay pride in Jerusalem," Nides told Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Israel is more progressive on LGBTQ rights than many of its Middle East neighbours and recognises the marriages of same-sex couples who wed abroad. The outgoing coalition government passed legislation banning so-called "gay conversion therapy" and granting surrogacy rights to all.

Israel's ex-intelligence minister Eli Cohen nominated as foreign minister
Agence France Presse/December, 29/2022
Former Israeli intelligence minister Eli Cohen, an architect of the normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab countries, was Thursday nominated as foreign minister by prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu announced the nomination in a speech to the Israeli parliament as he outlined the direction of his new government, expected to be voted in by lawmakers later in the day, succeeding a coalition government headed by Yair Lapid. In 2020 the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, all normalized relations with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords. Cohen then led the first official delegation to Sudan in January 2021, after the country also signed a normalization agreement with Israel. Cohen takes office as Netanyahu seeks to expand the so-called Abraham Accords to Saudi Arabia. "We laid the foundations for Saudi joining the Abraham Accords," Lapid said in a farewell speech to parliament. "The secret details will be handed to the incoming prime minister. If the new government continues in the route we carved out, normalisation with the Saudis can be reached in a short time."

As Netanyahu returns to office, troubles lie ahead
Associated Press/December, 29/2022
After five elections that have paralyzed Israeli politics for nearly four years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has finally returned to power with the government he has long coveted: a parliamentary majority of religious and far-right lawmakers who share his hard-line views toward the Palestinians and hostility toward Israel's legal system. Yet Netanyahu's joy may be short-lived. Putting together his coalition proved to be surprisingly complicated, requiring nearly two months of painstaking negotiations and a series of legal maneuvers just to allow his partners to take office. Among them: newly created Cabinet positions with widespread authority over security and a law allowing a politician on parole for a criminal conviction to be a government minister. Along the way, he was forced to make generous concessions to allies that include commitments to expanding West Bank settlements, proposals to allow discrimination against against LGBTQ people and boosting subsidies for ultra-Orthodox men to study instead of work. If these plans are carried out, they will alienate large portions of the Israeli public, raise the chances of conflict with the Palestinians, upset Israel's powerful security establishment and put Israel on a collision course with some of its closest allies, including the U.S. government and the American Jewish community. Even members of Netanyahu's Likud Party are grumbling. Netanyahu has sought to play down concerns, saying that he will set policy — little comfort for his many critics who have bristled at his hard-line policies toward the Palestinians. His ultranationalist partners will also have great leverage over him because they have promised to promote legislation that could dismiss criminal charges against him. They are sure to test his limits. Here is a closer look at some of the challenges awaiting the new government:
The Biden administration has expressed unease over the more extreme politicians in the new government, but said it will judge it by policies, not personalities. Early indications do not bode well. A day before taking office, Netanyahu's government said West Bank settlement expansion would be a top priority. It wants to legalize dozens of wildcat outposts and says that it plans to annex the occupied territory at an unspecified time. The U.S. opposes settlements as obstacles to peace. It also considers steps that marginalize the Palestinians, LGBTQ people and other minority groups as detrimental. Netanyahu has vowed to protect minority rights. But if his coalition moves forward, there could be a crisis in relations with Israel's closest ally. Leaders of the American Jewish community have also expressed concern over the incoming government and members' hostility toward the liberal streams of Judaism popular in the U.S. Given American Jews' predominantly liberal political views, these misgivings could have a ripple effect in Washington and further widen a partisan divide over support for Israel.
Many Palestinians have greeted the election of the new government with a shrug. With peace talks already on hold for over a decade, some don't see how any government can make things worse. But that sense of resignation could turn to anger if the new government steps up settlement activities or annexes the West Bank, the heartland of their hoped-for state. Fighting in the West Bank, already at its highest levels in years, could escalate. And if Netanyahu's allies test the tense status quo in east Jerusalem — home to the city's most important and sensitive holy site — violence could spread across Israel and into the Gaza Strip, as it did in 2021. Gaza's Hamas rulers have already warned of an "open confrontation" next year.
The military, along with Israel's police and myriad security agencies, command influence and respect in Israeli society. Netanyahu has historically worked well with his security chiefs. But a pair of appointments have raised questions about that relationship. Netanyahu has placed a far-right provocateur who was once convicted of incitement and supporting a Jewish terrorist group in charge of the nation's police force. He also passed legislation putting a firebrand West Bank settler in charge of settlement policy, including the power to appoint a top general responsible for policies toward the Palestinians. The impending changes prompted Israel's outgoing army chief to contact Netanyahu and express concerns. The army said the men agreed there would be no policy changes until the military presents its viewpoints. "The army must be kept out of the political discourse," it said.
Netanyahu and his allies have announced an ambitious agenda of social changes that are deeply unpopular with the secular middle class, according to a recent survey by the Israel Democracy Institute, an influential think tank. They include plans to weaken the Supreme Court and increase already unpopular stipends for ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students who do not serve in the military or work. A proposal endorsed by his allies would allow hospitals and businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
The judicial changes, headlined by a plan to give parliament the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions, could lead to the dismissal of corruption charges against Netanyahu. These proposals have drawn conflict-of-interest allegations and raised concerns they will destroy country's system of checks and balances.
Protesters are already demonstrating in the streets against the incoming government. Hundreds of members of Israel's powerful high-tech sector, scores of retired fighter pilots and retired diplomats have all published letters against the new government. These trends could all gain steam in the coming months.
Netanyahu wields a firm grip on Likud — by far the largest party in parliament. But several members are unhappy over his generous concessions to smaller parties that have left them without the high-powered Cabinet posts they coveted. Some have even complained publicly. There are no signs of a rebellion. But if they remain unhappy, they could hinder his ability to pass his agenda in parliament.

Israeli Minister Sees Possible Attack on Iran ‘in Two or Three Years’
Asharq Al-Awsat/December, 29/2022
Israel could attack Iranian nuclear sites in two or three years, its defense minister said on Wednesday, in unusually explicit comments about a possible timeline. With international efforts to renew a 2015 nuclear deal having stalled, the Iranians have ramped up uranium enrichment, a process with civilian uses that can also eventually yield fuel for nuclear bombs - though they deny having any such design.  Experts say Iran could potentially raise the fissile purity of its uranium to weapons-grade in short order. But building a deliverable warhead would take it years, they say - an estimate echoed by an Israeli military intelligence general this month. "In two or three years, you may be traversing the skies eastward and taking part in an attack on nuclear sites in Iran," Defense Minister Benny Gantz told graduating air force cadets in a speech. For more than a decade, Israel has issued veiled threats to attack its arch-enemy's nuclear facilities if it deems world powers' diplomacy with Tehran a dead end. However, some experts doubt Israel has the military clout to deliver lasting damage to Iranian targets that are distant, dispersed and well-defended. The Israeli military intelligence forecast for 2023 is that Iran "will continue on its current path of slow progress" in the nuclear realm, according to Israel Hayom newspaper on Sunday. "Iran will only change its policies if extreme sanctions are imposed on it; then it could decide to accelerate enrichment to military grade," said the report, which a military spokesperson confirmed as citing genuine intelligence assessments. Under an ambiguity policy designed to deter surrounding foes while avoiding provocations that can spur arms races, Israel neither confirms nor denies having nuclear weaponry. Scholars believe it does, having acquired the first bomb in late 1966. nlike Iran, Israel is not a signatory to the voluntary Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970, which offers access to civilian nuclear technologies in exchange for the forswearing of nuclear weaponry.

Iran Replaces Central Bank Governor amid Currency Crash
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 29 December, 2022
Iran appointed a new head of its central bank on Thursday after the currency crashed to its lowest level ever against the dollar amid mass protests and ongoing Western sanctions. Mohammad Reza Farzin, 57, a senior banker and former deputy finance minister, was tapped to replace Ali Salehabadi, who resigned after 15 months at the post, the official IRNA news agency reported. The rial was trading at around 430,000 to the dollar on Thursday, down from 370,000 earlier this month. Already battered by years of Western sanctions over Iran's nuclear program, the rial was trading at 315,000 when anti-government protests erupted in mid-September. The protests were ignited by the death of a woman who was detained by the country's morality police. The demonstrations rapidly escalated into calls for an end to more than four decades of clerical rule.
At least 508 protesters have been killed and more than 18,600 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that has closely monitored the unrest. Iranian authorities have not provided an official death toll. Iran’s currency was trading at 32,000 rials to the dollar at the time of the 2015 nuclear accord that lifted international sanctions in exchange for tight controls on Iran’s nuclear program. That deal unraveled after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from it in 2018. The Biden administration had been trying to restore the agreement up until the protests broke out, but those talks hit a deadlock several months ago.

Second Russian Defense Sector Bigwig Dies in Two Days
Allison Quinn/The Daily Beast/December 29, 2022
The former commander-in-chief of Russia’s ground forces died in a military hospital earlier this week—the second bigwig in the country’s military industrial complex to die in just two days. They are just the latest senior Russia military or political elites to drop dead unexpectedly in recent months. Alexei Maslov, a retired army general, was serving as a special representative of military-technical cooperation for Uralvagonzavod, Russia’s largest tank manufacturer, when he died “unexpectedly” last Saturday, the company announced in a statement. No cause of death was given. Maslov, who was appointed as Russia’s military representative to NATO in 2008, died just two days after Vladimir Putin abruptly canceled his first visit to Uralvagonzavod since 2019. The Russian leader was expected to fly into Yekaterinburg last week before heading to Nizhny Tagil to meet with staffers at the tank factory, where workers have been enduring 12-hour days, six days a week due to fulfill orders for the war against Ukraine. Local authorities in Yekaterinburg went to ridiculous lengths for his impending visit, reportedly banning drivers of local public transportation from letting passengers out anywhere near Putin’s motorcade. Authorities in Nizhny Tagil reportedly forbid student drivers from using the streets. But then Putin’s visit was abruptly canceled at the last minute, local media reported. Maslov’s death came just a day after Alexander Buzakov, the director general of Admiralty Shipyards, died suddenly and “tragically” from unknown causes. Buzakov, who St. Petersburg Gov. Alexander Beglov credited with making sure Russia’s military was “prepared for confrontation with the West,” had previously told Russian state media the shipyard was preparing to fulfill a Defense Ministry order for diesel-powered submarines capable of launching Kalibr cruise missiles—the same ones Moscow has been using for months to launch attacks on Ukraine.

Fallen colossus: USSR's terror, triumphs began 100 years ago
MOSCOW (AP)/Thu, December 29, 2022
With its brutality, technological accomplishments and rigid ideology, the Soviet Union loomed over the world like an immortal colossus. It led humankind into outer space, exploded the most powerful nuclear weapon ever, and inflicted bloody purges and cruel labor camps on its own citizens while portraying itself as the vanguard of enlightened revolution. But its lifespan was less than the average human's; born 100 years ago, it died days short of its 69th birthday. The Soviet Union both inspired loyalty and provoked dismay among its 285 million citizens. The dichotomy was summarized by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who served in its notorious KGB security agency. “Anyone who doesn’t regret the passing of the Soviet Union has no heart,” he said. “Anyone who wants it restored has no brains.” On the centenary of the treaty that formed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, The Associated Press reviews the events of its rise and fall.
Five years after the overthrow of Russia's czarist government, four of the socialist republics that had formed in the aftermath signed a treaty on Dec. 30, 1922 to create the USSR: Ukraine; Byelorussia; Transcaucasia, which spread over Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan; and Russia, including the old empire's holdings in Central Asia. The USSR, which later expanded to include Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, left the republics with their own governments and national languages, but all subordinate to Moscow.
Vladimir Lenin, the first Soviet leader, was already in poor health when the USSR was formed and died little more than a year later. Josef Stalin outmaneuvered rivals in the ensuing power battle.
Stalin incorporated private landholdings into state and collective farms. Resistance to collectivization and the policy's inefficiencies aggravated famines; Ukraine's 1932-33 “Holodomor” killed an estimated 4 million people, and many term it an outright genocide.
Driven by Stalin's fear of rivals, Soviet authorities in the 1930s launched show trials of prominent figures alleged to be enemies of the state and conducted widespread arrests and executions often based on little more than denunciation by neighbors. Estimates say as many as 1.2 million people died in 1937-38, the purge's most intense period.
World War II inflicted colossal suffering on the Soviet Union, but cemented its superpower status and swelled citizens' hearts with the conviction that theirs was a virtuous and indomitable nation.
An estimated 27 million Soviets died. The Battle of Stalingrad was among the bloodiest in history; Nazi and affiliated forces besieged Leningrad for more than two years. The Red Army doggedly pushed back and slowly advanced until reaching Berlin, ending the war's European theater.
The war left Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia incorporated into the Soviet Union, as well as what later became Moldova. Stalin used wartime conferences to demand a Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, eventually drawing Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and East Germany behind the “Iron Curtain.”
Stalin's death in 1953 was traumatic for Soviets who venerated him. Huge crowds gathered to pay their respects and more than 100 people reportedly died in the crush. He left no designated successor, and the country's leadership became embroiled in jockeying for power. Nikita Khrushchev cemented his position at the top in 1955.
Formerly a loyal functionary, Khrushchev turned on his predecessor once firmly in power. In a speech to a Communist Party congress, he railed for hours against Stalin's brutality and the “cult of personality” he engendered. He later had Stalin's body removed from the Red Square mausoleum where Lenin's body also lay.
The speech was a key point in what became known as the Khrushchev Thaw, a period of relaxed repression and censorship.
Khrushchev was ousted in 1964 in a vote by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, which was led by Leonid Brezhnev. He became the USSR's leader.
The 1957 launch of Sputnik-1, the first artificial satellite, sparked enormous concern in the United States that the Soviets were speeding ahead technologically. The U.S. accelerated its space program, but the USSR sent the first human into outer space, Yuri Gagarin, four years later. American Alan Shepard's 15-minute suborbital flight the next month only emphasized the space gap.
Perhaps the closest the world ever came to full nuclear war was the 1962 confrontation between the U.S. and the USSR over the presence in Cuba of Soviet nuclear missiles, which Khrushchev sent in response to U.S. nuclear-capable missiles placed in Turkey. The U.S. ordered a naval blockade of the island and tensions soared, but the Soviets agreed to pull back the missiles in return for the removal of U.S. missiles from Turkey. The positive offshoot was the establishment of a U.S.-USSR hotline to facilitate crisis communications.
In the Brezhnev years, Washington and Moscow engaged in the so-called “detente” period that saw several arms treaties signed, improved trade relations and the Apollo-Soyuz spacecraft docking, the first joint mission in outer space. That ended after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Brezhnev died in 1982, and relations withered under successors Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, who were in ill health and died after less than 15 months in office.
Despite Afghanistan's reputation as “the graveyard of empires,” the Soviets sent in troops in 1979, assassinating the country's leader and installing a compliant successor. Fighting dragged on for nearly a decade. Soviet troops — 115,000 at the war's height — were battered by resistance fighters used to the rough terrain. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began a withdrawal in 1987 and completed it in 1989. More than 14,000 Red Army troops died in the conflict that eroded the image of Soviet military superiority.
“They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work." This sarcastic line became popular in the Brezhnev era as the economy staggered through low and even negative growth. The rigidity of central planning was seen as a major cause along with high defense spending.
The dour torpor that set in during the late ‘70s lifted when Gorbachev was chosen Communist Party leader after Chernenko’s death. Personable, a relative youngster at 54 and accompanied by his fashionable wife, Raisa, Gorbachev brought a strongly human touch to a grim and opaque government, sparking enthusiasm dubbed “Gorbymania” in the West. Within months, he was campaigning to end economic and political stagnation, using “glasnost,” or openness, to pursue the goal of “perestroika” — restructuring. He signed two landmark arms agreements with the U.S., freed political prisoners, allowed open debate, multi-candidate elections and freedom to travel, and halted religious oppression. But the forces he unleashed quickly escaped his control. Long-suppressed ethnic tensions flared into strife in areas such as the southern Caucasus. Strikes and labor unrest followed price increases and consumer good shortages so severe that even showpiece Moscow stores were bare.
Gorbachev's standing in the West was undermined when a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in 1986, spewing radioactive fallout over much of Europe for a week. Despite Gorbachev's vaunted glasnost, the Soviets did not inform the outside world, or even their own citizens, of the disaster for two days. They allowed a large May Day event in Kyiv despite elevated radiation levels.
Although the USSR had sent troops to put down uprisings in the satellite states of Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1956 and 1968, it did not intervene when democratization and waves of dissent spread through East Bloc countries in 1989. The most vivid consequence of standing back came when East Germany opened passage to West Germany: Jubilant demonstrators swarmed the Berlin Wall that had blocked off the city's Soviet sector since 1961, and hammered chunks off it.
The Soviet prime minister, defense minister, KGB head and other top officials, alarmed at growing separatism and economic troubles, on August 19, 1991, put Gorbachev under house arrest at his vacation dacha and ordered a halt to all political activities. Tanks and troops ground through the streets of Moscow, but crowds gathered to defy them. Russian President Boris Yeltsin clambered onto a tank outside the parliament building to denounce the coup plotters. The attempt collapsed in three days and Gorbachev returned to Moscow, albeit with his power severely weakened.
Over the next four months, the USSR disintegrated with the slow drama of a calving glacier, as several republics, including Ukraine, declared independence. Yeltsin banned Communist Party activities in Russia.
The leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus in early December signed an accord stating the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. On Dec. 25, Gorbachev resigned and the USSR's flag was lowered from the Kremlin. Debate persists on what felled the colossus: its repressive ways, poor decisions by ailing leaders, adherence to an arguably unviable ideology — all could have played a part. Thirty years later, analyst Dmitri Trenin, then-director of the Moscow Carnegie Center, told The Associated Press: “The collapse of the Soviet Union was one of those occasions in history that are believed to be unthinkable until they become inevitable.”

Putin is threatening ‘nuclear blackmail’ in Ukraine – but the world must not give in, historian says
Kim Sengupta/The Independent/December 29, 2022
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches its first anniversary, both sides are preparing for fresh offensives with flickering hopes of a ceasefire extinguished almost as soon as they surface. For the historian Timothy Snyder, this war in the heart of Europe, one of the most momentous in recent history, will end with paradigm shifts and a new reality in the international order - but not the cataclysmic nuclear apocalypse some fear. Speaking to The Independent, he said: “Putin has introduced nuclear rhetoric. There is a temptation to give in to nuclear blackmail, it has become a matter of obsessive importance to many. This is what Putin wants, to make us worry about threats he is just alluding to. “We need to keep a perspective on this, need to remember that superpowers lost in Vietnam and Afghanistan humiliatingly and didn’t use nuclear weapons. There is a realisation that it is essential to support Ukraine, not just by the Biden administration, but Nato and democratic countries.”Snyder, whose writing and teaching courses as a professor at Yale University have focused on Ukraine and Russia, is a vociferous advocate for Ukraine, fulsomely espousing the country’s fighting spirit and holding that a Russian defeat is essential for democracy. His online lecture course, ‘ The Making of Modern Ukraine’ has been viewed more than 4.6 million on YouTube in 70 countries. The admiration is reciprocated. To Volodymyr Zelensky “Timothy Snyder is an outstanding historian and a true friend of Ukraine who tells the whole world about the importance of Ukraine, its true history, values, the way they were shaped, and why we need to protect them.”Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, followed up by saying his government would be open to a “peace” summit at the UN, with Secretary General Antonio Guterres as the mediator.
A day later, however, the response from the Kremlin was uncompromising. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov issued an ultimatum that unless Ukraine accepted Russia’s demands including ‘demilitarisation and denazification’ and acceptance of territorial losses, the Russian army will “decide the issue”. This was followed by intense strikes across Ukraine on Kherson, Kyiv, Zhytomyr and Odesa.
For Snyder this was further evidence that Moscow is not serious about peace. In any event, he asks, why should Ukraine accept the loss of sovereign territories when it has been successfully retaking swathes of it in the military campaign? I last met Snyder in Ukraine in September when the current Ukrainian counter-offensive began in the Kharkiv oblast, taking key strategic towns like Izyum. The success of the troops led to the reclamation of towns and villages such as Lyman in the Donbas and Kherson in the south, a key target for the Russians. Such victories helped steady Western backing, which seemed to be fraying, for Ukraine. Last week Zelensky went to Washington to address a joint session of Congress and receive confirmation of a US civilian and aid package of $45 million, including Patriot missile defence systems. “What is very apparent now is that Ukrainians are great warriors and [there is] recognition that they are fighting this war for all of us, for the democratic world,” said Snyder. “And they are doing this calmly against an enemy which has committed terrible atrocities, and openly wanted the destruction of their country.”Snyder is doing his own bit. He is a leading figure, along with the actor Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame, and the superstar singer and actor Barbra Streisand in a crowdfunding campaign to raise $ 1.25 million organised by the Ukrainian group United 24. The money raised is for “Shahid Hunter”, a system to counter the Iranian made Shahid drones being used by Russia to inflict severe damage to infrastructure, aimed at cutting off electricity and heating during the bitter winter months. “We are half way there with the funding which is great,” said Snyder. “I could have become involved in other projects like restoring libraries. That would have been easier. I didn’t want to do the easy thing. I asked the Ukrainians what they wanted, and they said focus on drones.
“It makes sense to focus on something which is targeting civilians, a crime the Russians are committing.” There needs to be focus on the broader aspect of war crimes, Snyder wanted to stress, and efforts should not falter just because it may be difficult to make perpetrators face justice.
“Was Nuremberg important because some people were executed, or because of the principles it established? There needs to be a tribunal to examine what happened, we need to record for history what is being done in Ukraine.”
Snyder’s own interpretation of history has been criticised in some quarters. His book ‘Bloodlands’, which charts the deaths of 14 million people in eastern and central Europe at the time of Hitler and Stalin has received widespread praise, but has also been attacked by some in the far-left for allegedly pandering to right-wing nationalism. In Snyder’s own homeland, there are strident voices against the Biden administration’s support for Ukraine, mainly from supporters of Donald Trump, such as Fox broadcaster Tucker Carlson and Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Despite such dissent, there is still broad backing among both Democrats and Republicans for supporting Ukraine, Snyder maintained. “The progress being made by Ukrainian forces shows that the investment being made is being paying off. This is not just an investment in this conflict, but deterrence against other ones. “What is happening in Ukraine may well deter China from attacking Taiwan. At the end of this war, the world may well be a safer place.” How and when the war will end is an issue of widespread debate and conjecture. Snyder holds: “It isn’t just Russian forces in Ukraine that are in retreat, Putin is really in retreat. Ordering mobilisation is plainly not something he wanted to do. It was big enough to anger the population but not big enough to change the course of the war. “We have seen hundreds of thousands of Russians leave the country because of mobilisation. Those who have been sent to the war, survive and come back, will be dissatisfied and angry, they will just add to those in the military who are discontented. We have seen that discontent in very senior ranks, the High Command being brutally criticised.”Reflecting on the future, Snyder added: “Putin has rivals, others will emerge. We don’t know how any power struggle will go in Russia. I don’t expect anything sudden or dramatic: we’ll hear less and less of Putin, more from others in the hierarchy, it’s possible he may just fade away.”

Russia fires missiles at Ukraine's major cities
Thu, December 29, 2022
STORY: Russia fired scores of missiles into Ukraine early on Thursday, targeting Kyiv, the northeastern city of Kharkiv, and other cities in a massive aerial bombardment that knocked out power, Ukrainian authorities said. In Kyiv, a team of emergency workers searched through the smouldering wreckage of a residential house destroyed by a blast. Ukraine's military said it shot down 54 missiles out of 69 launched by Russia in an attack that began at 7am local time. Air raid sirens rang out across the country and in Kyiv sounded for five hours - one of the longest alarms of the war. Some residents rushed to take shelter in this metro station. Russia has mounted numerous waves of air strikes in recent months on Ukrainian critical infrastructure, leaving millions without power and heat in freezing temperatures. The latest blitz came hard on the heels of the Kremlin's rejection of a Ukrainian peace plan, insisting that Kyiv must accept Russia's annexation of four Ukrainian regions.
These homes were destroyed near Zaporizhzhia
"I went to sleep in my room, but wanted to watch the TV. So I fell asleep. I woke up to everything shaking, crumbling. I got up and screamed to my husband, 'where are you?' I ran barefoot on glass. He appeared and glass was falling on him."Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians, but Ukraine says its daily bombardment is destroying cities, towns, and the country's power, medical and other infrastructure. Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what President Vladimir Putin calls a "special military operation" to demilitarize its neighbor.
Kyiv and its Western allies have denounced Russia's actions as an imperialist-style land grab.

Kremlin says it is concerned about Karabakh blockade after Armenian criticism
MOSCOW (Reuters)/December 29, 2022
The Kremlin said on Thursday Russia was concerned about tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over a blockade of the road linking breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia and would keep trying to mediate, after Armenia's leader criticised Russia's stance. In response to a question from reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "We are concerned about the tension that has arisen around the Lachin corridor, and the Russian side will continue its efforts, both in contacts with Yerevan and in contacts with Baku." The corridor, which allows supplies from Armenia to reach the 120,000 ethnic Armenians who control the mountainous region, has been policed by Russian peacekeepers since 2020. Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but its inhabitants are predominantly ethnic Armenian and it broke away from Baku's control in a war in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as the Soviet Union was disintegrating. In 2020, Azerbaijan retook territory in and around the enclave after a second war that ended in a Russian-brokered ceasefire, and peacekeepers deployed along the Lachin corridor, which became the only route into and out of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani civilians identifying themselves as environmental activists have blockaded the road since Dec. 12. Nagorno-Karabakh authorities say food, medicine and fuel are running short in the enclave. The Armenian news site Hetq had on Thursday quoted Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as saying that Russian peacekeepers had not fulfilled their obligations under the 2020 ceasefire. Pashinyan was quoted as accusing the Russian forces of "becoming a silent witness to the depopulation of Nagorno-Karabakh". Pashinyan said that if the Russian troops were unable to ensure stability and security in Nagorno-Karabakh, they should make way for a United Nations peacekeeping mission. Pashinyan and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Lachin corridor at an informal meeting in St Petersburg on Monday.

Ukraine hit by new Russian missile barrage
Agence France Presse/December 29, 2022
A fresh barrage of Russian strikes battered Ukraine on Thursday, wounding at least three people including a teenager in Kyiv and cutting electricity in the west. On Thursday morning, blasts were reported across the vast country including in the Ukrainian capital, the second city Kharkiv in the east and the western city of Lviv on the border with Poland. Most of Lviv, where Russian strikes are still rare, was left without electricity, its mayor Andriy Sadoviy said. "The enemy is attacking Ukraine from various directions with air and sea-based cruise missiles from strategic aircraft and ships," Ukraine's air force said on social media. Presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said that more than 120 missiles had been fired by the 'evil Russian world' to destroy critical infrastructure and kill civilians en masse." "We're waiting for further proposals from 'peacekeepers', he wrote ironically on Twitter. The attacks came 10 months into Moscow's offensive in Ukraine where Russian strikes have been battering the country's energy grid, leaving millions in the cold and dark in the middle of winter.
- Three people wounded in Kyiv -
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said that at least three people were in wounded in the strikes, including a 14-year-old girl. He warned of potential power cuts and called on residents to stock up on water. Two private houses were hit by fragments of downed missiles in the east of the capital while an industrial enterprise and a playground were damaged in the city's southwest, local officials said. In the east, a "series of explosions" hit Ukraine's second city Kharkiv, mayor Igor Terekhov said.Governor Oleg Synegubov said "critical infrastructure" was targeted in the region of Kharkiv and its main city where four missiles hit eastern and southern neighbourhoods. In the historic city of Lviv, mayor Sadoviy warned of potential water cuts. Lviv governor Maksim Kozytski said that air defence was at work and called on residents to stay in shelters. In the south, Odessa governor Maksym Marchenko said air defence shot down 21 missiles over the region. "Fragments of one of the enemy missiles fell onto a residential building, fortunately there were no casualties," he said. He added that there was damage to energy infrastructure and emergency power cuts were enforced in the region. Moscow has said the strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure are a response to an explosion on the Kerch bridge connecting the Russian mainland to the Crimean peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014. The Kremlin has said it holds Kyiv ultimately responsible for the humanitarian impact of the strikes for refusing to capitulate to Russian negotiation terms.
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was convinced that Moscow would achieve its goals in Ukraine sooner or later thanks to its "patience" and "perseverance". "We are in no hurry," he said. He reiterated Moscow's stance that for talks to resume Kyiv should recognise the annexation by Russia of four Ukrainian regions. "Our absolute priority is four new Russian regions," Lavrov said. Western intelligence and military sources have said that Russia is struggling to meet the ordnance needs for the invasion, but Moscow has pushed back. "We will never run out of Kalibrs," the Russian defence ministry said on messaging app Telegram, referring to the cruise missiles used to batter Ukraine.

Syria's Kurds launch offensive against IS militants
Agence France Presse/December 29, 2022
Syrian Kurdish-led forces said Thursday they had launched an offensive against Islamic State group fighters, days after jihadist gunmen launched a deadly prison attack. Six Kurdish fighters were killed Monday when IS militants attacked a complex in Raqa, the jihadist group's former de facto capital in Syria, in a bid to free fellow militants imprisoned there.The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said the offensive, dubbed "Operation al-Jazeera Thunderbolt", aimed to "eliminate" IS gunmen from areas that had been "the source of the recent terrorist attacks". The SDF said the operation was being carried out alongside the U.S.-backed coalition, although there was no immediate confirmation from the international force that they were taking part. The SDF statement said that in addition to the thwarted Raqa attack, IS fighters had recently carried out eight assaults in the northern Syrian areas of Deir Ezzor, Hasakeh and the Al-Hol camp for displaced people, which houses family members of IS militants. Referencing recent Turkish airstrikes on Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, the SDF said IS was trying to "take advantage" of the situation by "carrying out more terrorist attacks". After a meteoric rise in Iraq and Syria in 2014, IS saw its so-called caliphate collapse, but fighters remain. Supported by an international anti-jihadist coalition led by the United States, the SDF spearheaded the fight against IS in Syria and drove the group from its last stronghold in the country in 2019. IS continues to claim attacks in Iraq and Syria, and the SDF regularly launches operations against the jihadists in Syria. The group said Monday's attack on Raqa aimed to avenge "Muslim prisoners" and female relatives of jihadists living in Al-Hol camp. In September, Kurdish authorities arrested more than 200 people in Al-Hol following the discovery of tunnels and an arsenal of weapons used by jihadists.

Brazilian football legend Pele dead at 82
Agence France Presse/December 29, 2022
Brazilian football icon Pele, widely regarded as the greatest player of all time and a three-time World Cup winner who masterminded the "beautiful game," has died at the age of 82, his family said Thursday."Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace," daughter Kely Nascimento wrote on Instagram. Named athlete of the century by the International Olympic Committee in 1999, Pele is the only footballer in history to win three World Cups -- 1958, 1962 and 1970. Nicknamed "O Rei" (The King), he scored more than 1,000 goals in one of the most storied careers in sport, before retiring in 1977. He had been in increasingly fragile health, battling kidney problems and colon cancer -- undergoing surgery for the latter in September 2021, followed by chemotherapy. - 'Samba football' -Born October 23, 1940, in the southeastern city of Tres Coracoes, Edson Arantes do Nascimento -- Pele's real name -- grew up selling peanuts on the street to help his impoverished family get by. His parents named him for famed American inventor Thomas Edison. But he was soon given the nickname Pele, for his mispronunciation of Bile, the name of a goalkeeper at Vasco de Sao Lourenco, where his footballer father once played. Pele dazzled from the age of 15, when he started playing professionally with Santos. He led the club to a flurry of titles, including back-to-back Intercontinental Cups, against Benfica in 1962 and AC Milan in 1963. Known for his genius with the ball, he epitomized the sublime style of play called "samba football" in Brazil, where he was declared a "national treasure." He scored an all-time record 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches for Santos (1956-74), the Brazilian national team, and the New York Cosmos (1975-77). But beyond his records, he will be remembered for revolutionizing the sport, his ever-present number 10 on his back. The first global football star, he played a lead role in the game's transformation into a sporting and commercial powerhouse, tapping his preternatural athleticism despite his relatively small size -- 1.70 meters (just under five-foot-seven). He also played with heart, visible in the iconic black-and-white footage of the 17-year-old phenom bursting into tears after helping Brazil to its first World Cup title, in 1958. Eight years earlier, seeing his father cry when Brazil lost the 1950 World Cup final at home to Uruguay, he had promised to bring the trophy home one day.
- Sports royalty -Pele reached the pinnacle of his greatness at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, the first broadcast in color, where he starred on what many consider the greatest team of all time, with talents such as Rivellino, Tostao and Jairzinho.
He was often welcomed like royalty when traveling abroad with Santos or the national team. Legend has it in 1969 his arrival in Nigeria was the occasion for a 48-hour truce in the bloody Biafra war.
Pele declined offers to play in Europe, but signed for a brief, lucrative swan song with the Cosmos at the end of his career, bringing his star power to the land of "soccer."
His reign extended beyond the pitch, with gigs as a movie star, singer and later sports minister (1995-1998) -- one of the first black cabinet members in Brazil.
But he faced criticism at times in Brazil for remaining quiet on social issues and racism, and for what some saw as his haughty, vain personality. Unlike Argentine rebel Diego Maradona, his rival for the title of greatest of all time, Pele was seen as close to those in power -- including Brazil's 1964-1985 military regime.
- Final match -Pele's public appearances had grown increasingly rare, and he frequently used a walker or wheelchair.
He was hospitalized several times for urinary infections, then again in 2021 and 2022 for the colon cancer that marked the beginning of the end. But he met his health problems with trademark humor.
"I will face this match with a smile on my face," he posted on Instagram in September 2021, after surgery to remove his colon tumor.
He was deeply moved when Maradona, his longtime friend and rival, died of a heart attack in 2020 at age 60.
"The world has lost a legend," he wrote. "One day, I hope, we will play soccer together in the sky."

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 29-30/2022/
Republicans Step Up Attacks on FBI as It Investigates Trump

Adam Goldman and Alan Feuer/The New York Times/December 29, 2022
WASHINGTON — When George Piro learned that some of his former colleagues were spreading unfounded rumors about him, he was stunned.
Piro, 55, was a highly decorated agent in the FBI. During his 23-year career, he earned a national intelligence medal for the months he spent interrogating Saddam Hussein, supervised several high-profile shooting investigations and consistently earned reviews that were among the highest for agents who ran field offices. Now, he stood accused of misconduct by a group of former agents who had been placed on leave and called themselves “the Suspendables.” In a letter sent this month to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the group surfaced persistent accusations against the bureau, saying it had discriminated against conservative-leaning agents. The group’s letter also falsely suggested that Piro, who once ran the FBI’s office in Miami, had played a suspicious role in the bureau’s search this summer of Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump’s private club and residence in Florida.
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“These claims are absolutely false,” Piro said in an interview. “I dedicated my life to the country and the FBI. I am disappointed that former agents would spread lies about me.”
The attacks on Piro, and his angry rebuttal of them, are emblematic of a toxic dynamic that is increasingly central to Republican Party politics. Trump’s supporters — among them, Republicans poised to take over the House next month — have seized on the letter’s accusations and stepped up their assaults on the FBI, seeking to undermine the bureau just as it has assumed the lead in an array of investigations of Trump.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who will be the Judiciary Committee’s chair next month, has pledged to investigate what he describes as the politicization of the FBI as well as that of the Justice Department. In a taste of what is to come, the committee’s Republican staff released a 1,000-page report last month that asserted that the FBI hierarchy “spied on President Trump’s campaign and ridiculed conservative Americans” and that the “rot within the FBI festers in and proceeds from Washington.’’
Historically, the FBI’s most vocal critics have come from figures on the left, who have accused it of using heavy-handed tactics in investigating groups like trade unionists or civil rights activists. Conservatives and Republicans have, at least by tradition, supported the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
A majority of the attacks laid out in the Suspendables’ letter to Wray, who was appointed by Trump, echoed those by the Judiciary Committee. The panel’s report also condemned the bureau for using counterterrorism tactics to investigate conservative parents at school board meetings — an allegation that seemed to have come from a mischaracterization of the FBI’s plan to track threats of violence against school board officials.
The report further accused the agency of “helping Big Tech to censor Americans’ political speech” — a claim that misrepresented the way the FBI has sought for years to curb online disinformation, especially when it comes from foreign actors. Long before the House report or the letter to Wray were released, Trump and his allies in Congress and the news media were already targeting federal law enforcement officers and demonizing those who scrutinized the former president.
The attacks began in 2018, after federal agents searched the office of Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, for evidence of campaign finance violations. After the search, Rudy Giuliani, another lawyer close to Trump, went on the warpath. He declared that the FBI’s office in New York — with which he had worked closely as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan — had behaved like “storm troopers” in conducting the raid.
Since then, Trump and his supporters have gone after the bureau for its role in investigating his campaign’s ties to Russia; for purportedly failing to investigate issues surrounding Hunter Biden’s laptop; and for using informants to infiltrate a group of militiamen charged in a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. Some critics, including former agents, have attacked the FBI for pursuing those in the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, describing the criminal prosecution of the rioters as political persecution.
This drumbeat of vitriol has created a reflexive reaction against the FBI as nefarious and partisan among large swaths of the right, even as Trump has lost a measure of political support.
“The FBI is the largest criminal gang in the country,” right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza recently wrote on Twitter, adding, “It’s America’s version of the KGB or the Chinese state police.”
To be sure, the FBI has made several grievous errors in recent years. It failed to follow up on a tip that might have prevented a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. It bungled an investigation in 2015 into claims that a doctor for USA Gymnastics had sexually abused young women.
In 2020, an FBI lawyer pleaded guilty to doctoring an email that was used in preparation to ask a court to renew an order to wiretap a former Trump campaign adviser. Questions have also been raised about whether the bureau, which is in charge of preventing terrorism, could have done more to stop the Capitol attack with the use of secret informants it had within two of the far-right groups involved in the riot.
Some recent attacks on the FBI by right-wing officials and figures in the news media seem intended to make money. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., sells “Defund the FBI” baseball hats; Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump adviser, peddles T-shirts reading, “FBI: Fascist Bureau of Intimidation.”
The barrage of messaging comes as the bureau itself has faced violence.
In August, an Ohio man, enraged by the search of Mar-a-Lago, tried to break into the FBI’s field office near Cincinnati and was ultimately killed in a shootout with local police. Investigators later discovered social media posts he had written encouraging others to kill federal agents.
On Dec. 16, a Tennessee man who was facing charges of assaulting police during the Capitol attack was charged again with plotting to assassinate several of the federal agents who had investigated him. He was also accused of planning an attack on the FBI’s field office in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The Suspendables’ letter and the House Republicans’ report were both apparently drawn from statements by former FBI agents who left the bureau under a cloud and then came forward as self-described whistleblowers. Among them is Steven Friend, a former agent from Florida, who refused to take part in a SWAT raid this summer of a Jan. 6 suspect facing arrest on misdemeanor charges.
“I have an oath to uphold the Constitution,” Friend, a 12-year veteran of the bureau, told his supervisors when he declined to join the raid Aug. 24 in Jacksonville, Florida, which he deemed an excessive use of force. “I have a moral objection and want to be considered a conscientious objector.”
According to Justice Department records, there was only one Jan. 6-related arrest in the Jacksonville area Aug. 24: that of Tyler Bensch, who was accused of being a member of a right-wing militia group connected to the Three Percenter movement.
What Friend omitted from his account — which was published in The New York Post and widely shared online — was that while Bensch was charged with only misdemeanors, documents in his case say that on Jan. 6, 2021, he posted a video of himself outside the Capitol wearing body armor and a gas mask and carrying an AR-15-style rifle. The documents also say that witnesses told the FBI they had seen photographs of Bensch carrying a similar rifle at other times.
Former FBI agents who have served on SWAT teams said the use of tactical agents during arrests has nothing to do with the charges someone is facing but is based instead on a risk assessment of the suspect.
“When in doubt, you use SWAT,” said Robert D’Amico, who served on the Miami tactical team for four years and the hostage rescue team for almost two decades. “You never let the charges dictate the tactics.”
Last year, two FBI agents were killed and three more were wounded while serving a search warrant in a case involving child pornography in Florida. The suspect did not have a violent history and had been deemed low risk. The deadly episode illustrated the dangers of serving warrants or arresting suspects considered not threatening. The agents worked for Piro.
Friend’s lawyer said his client objected to the SWAT team arrest because he wanted to “de-escalate” the situation and avoid what he described as another Ruby Ridge — a reference to a botched FBI raid on a white supremacist compound in Idaho in 1992 that has becoming a rallying cry for far-right extremists.
The FBI declined to comment on the attacks against Piro, but three former and current law enforcement officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters, said he was not under investigation when he retired from the bureau.
Piro said he was depressed by how some former agents had turned on the bureau.
“I am saddened by their behavior and their total disregard for those who are working for the FBI,” he said, “and those who came before them to make the FBI the premier law enforcement agency in the world.”
© 2022 The New York Times Company

Christians Weren’t Always Welcome Mats for Jihad
Raymond Ibrahim/December 29/2022
In what follows, John Zmirak interviews me for The Stream:
Stream contributor Raymond Ibrahim has written two books about the nearly 1,400-year struggle between the Christian world and Islam, Sword and Scimitar and Defenders of the West. Both of them would make terrific Christmas gifts, especially for teenage boys and young men who need heroes.
The Stream’s John Zmirak interviewed the author about each book. This is part two, on Defenders of the West (click here for part one).
Christians Used to Defend the Innocent
John Zmirak: Tell us a bit about Defenders of the West.
Raymond Ibrahim: It’s about, and to quote that book’s subtitle, “The Christian Heroes Who Stood Against Islam.” Whereas Sword and Scimitar told the long story of conflict between Islam and the West in the context of eight decisive battles, Defenders of the West does so in the context and through the eyes of eight decisive men — Duke Godfrey, El Cid, Richard Lionheart, Saint Ferdinand, Saint Louis, John Hunyadi, Skanderbeg, and Vlad the Impaler. Each staunchly stood against Islamic aggression in the West and Islam’s three main theaters of war: the Holy Land (three chapters), Spain (two chapters), and the Balkans (three chapters).
Zmirak: What inspired you to write Defenders of the West?
Ibrahim: There seems to be a massive deficit of heroes nowadays, and I wanted to show that it wasn’t always like this. Western people did not always take it for granted that their leaders (meaning “politicians”) would be cynical, politically-correct, self-serving, and cowardly — far from it. So I looked around in history for those leaders who embodied the opposite traits: sincerity, altruism, self-sacrifice, patriotism, and above all, death-defying courage. Especially those who displayed those qualities facing the West’s historic enemy, and my specialty, Islam.
Cowardly, Servile Christians Today
Zmirak: What is it about Christianity as preached today that prevents such men coming forward now?
Ibrahim: Ah, that’s a whole book unto itself. Much of the change you allude to revolves around how Christianity is understood nowadays. Its passive and peaceful qualities — “turning the other cheek,” etc. — have all but come to define Christianity. In reality, of course, most of Christian history and doctrine offered abundant room for defensive warfare and righteous wrath — particularly in the context of Just War. That’s a concept I explore throughout the book, contrasting it to the incessant war-mongering of Jihad.
Christians of former days believed it was their right and duty to defend Christian lands and people — and they fought fire with fire to do it, sacrificing much in the process, including their lives. Such is the irony. Western civilization would have long since perished without the sorts of men featured in Defenders of the West. But today they are largely seen by their Western descendants as exemplars only of the patriarchy, “toxic masculinity,” xenophobia, and, of course, “racism.” How and why that change came about tells us more about us than them.
Can We Still Have Heroes?
Zmirak: Who was your favorite hero in defending the West, and why?
Ibrahim: This is difficult to answer; besides, I wouldn’t want to influence anyone with my own personal inclinations. Ultimately, the stories of all eight men are remarkable and inspiring. Accurate movies should be made for each and every one of them. It seems that each character has something different to offer, resonating differently with different readers. For example, I’ve shared the book with several colleagues and each of them responded with a different favorite character.
Fighting Against Slavery
Zmirak: What do you hope is the biggest takeaway from the book?
Ibrahim: Ultimately, I think the book offers very exciting — though currently little known — biographies of eight singular warriors. As such, it should make for an enthralling read. At the same time, it documents some interesting patterns that are otherwise unknown or ignored — that, for example, Muslims invaded various parts of Europe, massacred and enslaved millions over the centuries, and always on the same jihadist logic that Islam’s apologists today insist is “un-Islamic.” In other words, the book was designed to be both entertaining and informative: by reading about the dramatic lives and struggles of these iconic fighters, and thereby gaining a much better understanding of the past with Islam, readers will also gain a much better understanding of their present.
Put differently, and as mentioned, the people of the West now accept as a dogmatic premise that Islam was historically and for centuries an advanced, enlightened, and tolerant force — especially in comparison to Europe. As long as that myth persists, all the violent and terrible things currently being committed in Islam’s name must be chalked up to other factors — territorial disputes, grievances, economics, education, politics. Never Islam itself.
Such logic is admittedly sound — but only as long as its first premise remains unchallenged. Defenders of the West shatters it.
Zmirak: Thanks, Raymond. I especially like that, for all its scholarship, Defenders of the West is a brisk and engaging read. In the words of Victor Davis Hanson (from his foreword to the book):
Defenders of the West is engaging storytelling of fascinating people and forgotten events at its best. Although anchored in arcane or archaic texts, it reads and flows like an adroitly crafted novel, buttressed by a scholarship that allows those of the past to speak for the past.
I think it would make a great Christmas gift. Where can people get it?
Ibrahim: Thank you, John; it’s appreciated. Defenders of the West can be purchased from many book dealers (linked here), including Amazon and Conservative Readers.

The Taliban is Engineering Afghan Society
Hussam Itani/Asharq Al-Awsat/December, 29/2022
No one is going to launch a nuclear bomb on Afghanistan in response to the challenge raised by the Taliban government’s education minister, Mohammad Nadim, who is adamant about banning women from receiving an education. A more probable outcome is that Afghan women will be alone in fighting the war this regime insists on waging against society.
Mohammad Nadim has used two pretexts to justify the de facto decision of the de facto authorities in Afghanistan- first, women attending without a male guardian and second, women not wearing the veil. Despite the condemnations of Muslim bodies like al-Azhar, whose Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb has said the decision “does not represent Islamic Shariaa and goes against the message of the Holy Quran,” the Afghan education minister has stressed that the movement will not walk back on its decision “even if they drop an atomic bomb on us.”
The Taliban followed up its decision to ban women from attending university with a ban on women working in NGOs under the pretext of “complaints of women employees’ noncommitment to the Islamic dress code.” This decision impelled three NGOs to suspend their operations in the country at a time when the catastrophic state of the economy in Afghanistan has made the role they play there, distributing meals and providing medical care to marginalized communities, more critical than ever. Both decisions have come after the Taliban banned girls from secondary school, only allowing them to complete elementary education. The obscurity around the reasons for the decisions of the Taliban wanes when we account for three matters. First, like other ideological parties, be they religious or secular, the Taliban seeks to create an ideal/ virtuous/ good society. In this pursuit, they follow in the footsteps of an uncountable number of political parties in the East and West that have decided to build a society in their image and based on their ideals.
In the Taliban’s vision for an ideal society, which it has not scaled down since it entered Kabul for the first time in 1996, women have no place outside their homes. And so, it is beside the point whether the Taliban attributes this vision for society to its particular interpretation of Islam or the traditional tribal values prevalent in Afghanistan. What matters is that it will be implemented by force if with resistance, which will be primarily local. And so, it would not be an overstatement to claim that banning women from receiving an education comes within the framework of conscious social engineering.
Second, we have the circumstances under which the Taliban rose to power. They came to rule the country after a twenty-year war, which convinced the movement it had a right to exercise authority based on the revolutionary legitimacy it gained after destroying the foreign occupiers and their local allies. Thus, the Taliban does not believe that anyone has a right to question it or hold it to account, especially not the foreigners who paid no mind to the Afghan villages being bombed by American planes, as a Taliban official put it.
Moreover, these decisions come at a time when the Taliban does not have elections of any kind on the agenda. It is not concerned with enlarging its popular or political support base. As was made clear from the way it handled the negotiations with representatives of other Afghan forces towards the end of Ashraf Ghani’s tenure, the Taliban will go about implementing its social and political program in full. The countries that have maintained ties with Kabul do not see domestic matters as a priority and have thus not been affected by the decisions of the government in place.
As for the third factor, it is that ISIS has been increasingly active in Afghanistan. It has been escalating its armed attacks, some of which have targeted Kabul, while others include planting explosives and launching sporadic attacks across the country. Seeing ISIS as its competition, the Taliban wants to outdo the former by showing itself to be as extreme as possible in its interpretation of religious questions. From this angle, we can understand the context of reports about disagreements between hardliners and moderates within the movement’s top brass. It goes without saying that Afghan women will be the victims of this competition, as they are weak- an easy target for extremists of any camp.
The resistance that Afghan women have demonstrated with their demands for their basic rights to work and receive an education is nothing short of heroic. First and foremost, it stems from the refusal of Afghan society, after being ravaged by decades of war and foreign occupation, to be shackled and prevented from continuing to reform itself, regardless of who is in power. Women carry the heaviest burden in saving society and waking it up from the coma it has been in for so long. This is going to be an extremely difficult task, considering the history of the country and the series of disasters that have hit it without pause for centuries. It seems that the “shortcoming” that the late poet Hafez Ibrahim believed to be the root of the problem in the East, our neglect of women’s education, will remerge every few years in a new form and under different pretenses.

The Twitter Files
Tariq Al-Homayed/Asharq Al-Awsat/December, 29/2022
Something strange is happening. While the news is brimming with stories about the administrative decisions Elon Musk has made since acquiring Twitter, more important news about the company has not been covered by the media. In what has become known as the “Twitter files,” Musk demonstrates that Twitter was not genuinely impartial and that it did not guarantee everyone freedom of speech.
Among the most important of these files is how Twitter suppressed the story about the president’s son Hunter Biden published by the ‘New York Post.’ Another of the files shows that the wife of former president Barack Obama had been involved in a campaign to ban Donald Trump from Twitter.
The files also show that the FBI interfered with Twitter’s oversight under the pretext of safeguarding the integrity of the elections, which the FBI commented on by saying it was normal procedure.
That is not all. The journalist Twitter hired, Matt Taibbi, revealed that President Biden’s team was in regular contact with Twitter, pushing the company to delete certain tweets attacking Biden. Taibbi has presented evidence to back up his claims.
It has also been revealed that Twitter knew of secret accounts managed by the American army that sought to promote US interests in the Middle East, and they were not closed despite breaking laws against promotional accounts.
Commenting on the news, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has said he blames himself for having given the company so much power in regulating “freedom of expression,” adding that his biggest mistake was investing in tools that allowed Twitter to steer conversations instead of leaving this to its users, which made the company come under “external pressure.”Dorsey also criticized the decision to ban Trump from the platform but also defended this step from a business standpoint. “We did the right thing for the public company business at the time, but the wrong thing for the internet and society.”
Despite all of that, the Twitter Files did not get the coverage they deserved, neither in the US, the West, nor the Arab world. To be fair, Issa al-Nahari, an upright journalist working at the Arabic language version of ‘The Independent’ provided the deepest coverage of this story. Though shameful, it is understandable that American and Western media outlets ignored it because of ideological divisions and the leftist media’s pro-Twitter bias, which only ended with Musk’s arrival, and its determination to mislead the public and further their liberal leftist agenda. However, the question here is: what justifies the Arab media’s neglect of this important story, which could open the door to serious conversations about the agendas of social media platforms, warn users against the dangers of this ideological effort to misguide them, and show that “social media freedom” is a lie?
We all remember how, during what was falsely called the Arab Spring, President Obama presented access to Twitter and Facebook as human rights, demonizing moderate states under the pretext that they were silencing their people by controlling social media.
The truth unfolding before our eyes tells us the opposite. It has become clear that the American administration and federal authorities are the ones intervening, monitoring, and steering. And so, the pressing question is: why has the Arab media ignored this dangerous story? Is there an answer?

Iran’s nuclear prize for supporting Russia’s war
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/December 30, 2022
When the conflict between Russia and Ukraine began in February, the idea that the Iranian regime could play a critical role in the war was inconceivable to some people. But the Islamic Republic has gradually escalated its involvement in the conflict. Iran’s first move, alongside staunch ally Syria, was to vote in April against UN General Assembly Resolution ES-11/3, which suspended Russia’s membership of the UN Human Rights Council. Later, in the first instance of military cooperation between Moscow and Tehran during the conflict, the theocratic establishment in Iran began supplying kamikaze drones to Russia. This led to the Ukrainian foreign ministry stripping the Iranian ambassador in Kyiv of his accreditation and reducing the embassy’s diplomatic staff, according to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.
The Islamic Republic recently threatened Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in response to his speech at the US Congress this month during which he accused Tehran of supplying weapons to Russia. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said, in a statement published on the Iranian regime’s official ministry website: “Mr. Zelensky had better know that Iran’s strategic patience over such unfounded accusations is not endless.” He added that Ukraine’s president should “draw a lesson from the fate of some other political leaders who contented themselves with the US support.”
However, the evidence that the Iranian regime is delivering weapons to Russia, and therefore adding fuel to the conflict’s fire, is overwhelming. The EU has concluded that Tehran is indeed “provid(ing) military support for Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine” in the form of the “development and delivery of unmanned aerial vehicles to Russia.”
As its involvement escalated to the next level, the Islamic Republic began to dispatch troops to Crimea to assist Russia in its attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure and civilian population, and to enhance the effectiveness of the suicide drones. US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that “the Iranians decided to move in some trainers and some technical support to help the Russians use them (the drones) with better lethality.”Currently the Iranian regime is also planning to provide Russia with ballistic missiles, alongside the drones. It is worth noting that the Iranian regime has the largest and most diverse ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East. The Iranian regime is increasing its involvement in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
But how does the Islamic Republic benefit from its involvement in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine? First of all, after being hit by draconian international financial sanctions, Tehran is seeking partners with which it can increase trade and skirt the US-led sanctions.
According to the latest report from Bloomberg, Tehran and Moscow are establishing a new transcontinental trade route, stretching about 3,000 kilometers from Europe to the Indian Ocean, which is “beyond the reach of any foreign intervention.”The report adds: “The two countries are spending billions of dollars to speed up delivery of cargos along rivers and railways linked by the Caspian Sea. Ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show dozens of Russian and Iranian vessels — including some that are subject to sanctions — already plying the route.”Militarily speaking, there is an opportunity for the Iranian regime to learn from failures of its drones during the Russia-Ukraine war, and use the information it gains to further perfect its drone technology and ballistic missile program. In addition, the Islamic Republic will most likely ask Russia to supply it with advanced military technology in return for Tehran’s support.
As British Defense Minister Ben Wallace told the UK parliament this month: “Iran has become one of Russia’s top military backers … In return for having supplied more than 300 kamikaze drones, Russia now intends to provide Iran with advanced military components, undermining both Middle East and international security — we must expose that deal. In fact, I have, just now.”Thirdly, by supplying weapons to a global power such as Russia, the regime in Tehran is asserting itself on the world stage as a major state player with significant military power.
Finally, it is not unrealistic to assume the Iranian regime will seek Russian assistance to advance its nuclear program. Moscow and Tehran previously worked together to construct several nuclear reactors in Iran and advance the regime’s nuclear technology. It has become increasingly clear that the Islamic Republic is rushing to cross the nuclear threshold and become a nuclear-armed state.
As Zelensky has correctly warned: “I have a question for you: How does Russia pay Iran for this, in your opinion? Is Iran just interested in money? Probably not money at all but Russian assistance to the Iranian nuclear program. Probably, this is exactly the meaning of their alliance.”
The Iranian regime is increasing its involvement in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. By adding fuel to the fire, Iran’s leaders are attempting to benefit themselves, economically and militarily.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist.
Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Erdogan's failed rapprochement towards Syria
Fadel Manasfa/The Arab Weekly/December 29/2022
During a phone call with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Ankara will not set a timetable for its operations in Syria and that its war against terrorism will continue unhindered.
The phone call came a week after Turkish forces targeted the strongholds of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, in response to the deadly bombing on Istiklal Street in Istanbul last November. It came also after Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to entice Bashar al-Assad towards reconciliation as Assad did not see in it any benefit for him at present.
The Syrian president rejected the outstretched hand of Erdogan. Ankara’s declared purpose was to overcome past differences and set the stage for new relations, just as it did with its foes of yesterday, and I mean here Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE as part of what has been dubbed “zero- problems diplomacy.”With this rejection, Ankara missed an opportunity to receive a Syrian authorisation that would have amounted to a green light to launch its military operation in northern Syria, without being accused of violating the sovereignty of another country. Turkey in fact wants to hit two birds with one stone: maintain strong relations with Russia, which has a military presence in Syria, and reconcile with a regime that it sees has clearly gained the upper hand over the 2011 uprising.
The official Syrian news agency, SANA, chose this particular juncture to publish a story about the 83rd anniversary of Turkey's occupation of the so-called Iskenderun District, a geographic area under Turkish rule today. Syrian media had avoided talking about the issue when Syrian-Turkish relations were at their best. The SANA story, which comes in the midst of Ankara's attempts to end its dispute with Damascus, clearly shows that Syria wants to seize the current opportunity to place the Iskenderun issue on the agenda of any future talks as part of its conditions for normalisation with Turkey.
Although he failed in his leadership of the country and was unable to do away with the corruption plaguing his officials, hence fuelling the fires of the people's uprising against his rule, Assad is a man who wisely reads developments and pragmatically changes positions when necessary.
Perhaps his decision not to move forward towards returning to the Arab League stemmed from his conviction that this return would not have brought any gains to Syria and above all would not have earned it international or regional legitimacy. Rather, it would have pushed it to accept Gulf dictates that would have jeopardised its close relations with Iran, which is an unacceptable option for the regime. It is so for many reasons, including Syria’s consideration for Iran’s position regarding the 2011 events and its military support, which helped save the Damascus regime when many of its friends denied it a helping hand.
With Turkey, Assad also toes a pragmatic line. He is very much aware that Turkey needs to pursue a policy of rapprochement with Damascus to rid itself of the Kurds in northern Syria and ensure control by Turkish Army forces over the two countries’ common border. This would render Erdogan a service that Assad does not want to provide for free. The Syrian president knows for a fact that there are interests at stake for Turkey in seeking rapprochement with Damascus. It wants stabilise its borders and tighten the screws on the Kurds, in addition to being relieved of the Syrian refugees’ burden. But accepting the return of these refugees to their home country will come with a steep price for Assad, as his regime is floundering under the pressure of economic and energy problems.
Erdogan could have used some economic inducements to show Syria goodwill and the advantages it could reap from reconciliation. He could have announced Ankara’s readiness to sponsor a Syria reconstruction conference or closed the media outlets based in Turkey and that are unsettling to Assad and his regime. He could even have postponed the military operation he seeks to carry out in northern Syria, until his rapprochement with Damascus became a reality.
Turkish diplomacy was somewhat hasty when it reached out directly to the Russians about the situation in Syria, thinking that the solution would come from Moscow and not from Damascus, and that Assad would agree to meet with Erdogan without hesitation assuming that Syria needs Turkey more than the opposite.. The opportunity is still there despite Assad's refusal to reconcile with Erdogan’s Turkey. But the Turkish military operation in northern Syria should be set against the background of a precise and quick mission and not just be a cover for violating the sovereignty of Syrian. The regime in Ankara must also clearly define its position towards the Syrian opposition groups some of which are active in Turkey. Furthermore, the border issues must be settled in a way that does not associate Assad with a normalisation process that alters the geography of Syria for the sake of Turkey’s national security. Otherwise, the rapprochement of the two regimes will stay in limbo for a long while.
*Fadel Manasfa is a Palestinian writer.