English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For October 26/2022
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practising self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion
First Letter to the Corinthians 07,01-03.08-14.17.24/:”Concerning the matters about which you wrote: ‘It is well for a man not to touch a woman. ’But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practising self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion. To the married I give this command not I but the Lord that the wife should not separate from her husband = (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say I and not the Lord that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches. In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published
on October 25-26.2022
Mikati pays farewell visit to Aoun
Aoun says told Mikati to 'return in evening' if govt. 'equality' ensured
Berri calls for 'national dialogue', says sessions 'useless' without consensus
Syrian Ambassador says border meeting postponed not cancelled
Reasons behind Syria's decision to put off border meeting with Lebanon
Syria tells Lebanon it is too busy to resolve maritime dispute
‘Dirty bomb’ warning fits Russia record of deception: NATO chief
Deadlock over president, cabinet formation put Lebanon on verge of 'constitutional chaos'
Mikati regrets Bassil's 'tense remarks, provocative expressions'
Bassil gives few more 'hours' for attempt to 'avoid vacuum'
160K Oman-bound captagon pills seized at Beirut airport
Belhaj tells Mikati World Bank ready to give Lebanon $300-500M
Ibrahim: Formation efforts ongoing despite what's being said
Lebanese mediation ongoing for Austin Tice, held in Syria
Crisis-hit Lebanon drifts towards extended power vacuum
Who are Lebanon's potential presidential candidates?
Michel Aoun, the president who 'never gives up'

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 25-26.2022
Rishi Sunak becomes UK prime minister, faces economic crisis
Israeli troops raid gunmen's hideout; 5 Palestinians killed
Iran Using Minors to Suppress Protests in Iran
Iran protestor shot dead after tearing down supreme leader poster
Iran crackdown may burnish Raisi's credentials for top job
Russia ‘has ordered 2,000 more kamikaze drones’ from Tehran
Ukraine urges refugees to stay abroad as winter power cuts loom
Opposition leader says Belarus shouldn't fight for Russia
Russian helicopters taking a beating; Brittney Griner loses 'sham' appeal: Live Ukraine updates
Saudi energy minister warns using emergency stocks may be ‘painful’
Europe’s energy crisis will accelerate hydrogen transition, Saudi minister says

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 25-26.2022
Time to Sanction Iranian Pilots/Emanuele/Ottolenghi/Townhall/October 25/2022
The Putin Pawns in the NATO Alliance? How the West Emboldens Erdoğan's Aggression/Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/October 25, 2022
Made in Tehran: narcotics, missiles and killer drones/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/October 25, 2022
EU’s reputation is riding high, but challenges lie ahead/Kerry Boyd Anderson/Arab News/October 25, 2022

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on October 25-26.2022
Mikati pays farewell visit to Aoun
Naharnet/October 25, 2022  
Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati met Tuesday with President Michel Aoun in Baabda and left without making a statement. Media reports said that the two leaders are not meeting to discuss the deadlocked government formation, but that Mikati is rather paying a farewell courtesy visit to the President, few days before the end of his term. Nidaa al-Watan newspaper reported Monday before the meeting, that the two leaders will discuss the border deal with Israel that will be signed Thursday. Aoun also met on Tuesday with Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim Ali, who said, in a press conference, that Syria did not "cancel" a scheduled appointment with a Lebanese delegation, but rather apologized for not being able to receive the delegation on Wednesday because of "previously-scheduled appointments". The delegation was supposed to head to Syria to discuss the sea border demarcation between the two countries.

Aoun says told Mikati to 'return in evening' if govt. 'equality' ensured
Naharnet/October 25, 2022  
President Michel Aoun on Tuesday stressed that “implementing unified standards in the formation of the government is the right gateway for producing an active government that can run the country’s affairs.”“What’s currently happening contradicts with the principle of the unity of standards, seeing as the parties taking part in the government are the ones naming their ministers, but when the Free Patriotic Movement’s turn comes in the naming process, they (Mikati) insist on interference and picking the ministers instead of the political party concerned,” Aoun lamented, in a chat with journalists at the Baabda Palace. “This is not normal and it cannot be accepted. When each party wants to picks its ministers, others must accept the implementation of a single standard on everyone instead of objecting,” the President added. As for the impending presidential void, Aoun said that the caretaker cabinet “will have incomplete jurisdiction, and accordingly it cannot practice the full powers of the president.”“Resolving the matters is very simple and today I asked PM Mikati to ensure equality among everyone in the formation process and to return in the evening to the Baabda Palace to issue the (cabinet formation) decrees,” the President added.

Berri calls for 'national dialogue', says sessions 'useless' without consensus
Naharnet/October 25, 2022  
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has called for national dialogue to find a successor to President Michel Aoun, describing the unsuccessful parliamentary sessions to elect a new president as a pointless "play."Berri told Asharq al-Awsat, in remarks published Tuesday, that he has started gathering opinions from the political forces about holding a national dialogue after Aoun's term ends, as he considered that "there is no point in calling for more sessions as long as there is no consensus."Berri also reveled his intentions to al-Joumhouria, telling the daily that he will call for the dialogue as soon as he senses a positive response from the parties. "Without a consensus, we will remain trapped in a whirlpool," Berri said.

Syrian Ambassador says border meeting postponed not cancelled

Naharnet/October 25, 2022  
President Michel Aoun met Tuesday with Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim Ali. Ali said, in a press conference, before leaving Baabda, that Syria did not "cancel" a scheduled appointment with a Lebanese delegation, but rather apologized for not being able to receive the delegation on Wednesday because of "previously-scheduled appointments". The delegation was supposed to head to Syria to discuss the sea border demarcation between the two countries. "The meeting was not canceled but the date will be agreed upon later," Ali said, adding that the top Syrian officials had previously-scheduled engagements on Wednesday. According to the Ambassador, Lebanon announced the day of the visit before checking with Syria.

Reasons behind Syria's decision to put off border meeting with Lebanon
Naharnet/October 25, 2022  
There are hidden reasons behind the official Syrian story regarding the rejected meeting on Wednesday between a Lebanese delegation and top Syrian officials, al-Akhbar newspaper reported Tuesday. The daily claimed that Syria was dismayed that President Michel Aoun's decision to discuss the maritime border demarcation with Syria was not shared with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati, and that Mikati did not initiate any contact with Syria. "Syria is discontent with Lebanon's position and its ambiguous official relations with Syria," the daily went on to say, quoting Syrian and Lebanese sources. "the Lebanese government is still boycotting Syria to please the West, limiting its relations with Syria to security coordination and public relations," the sources said. The daily said that Russia is also discontent with Lebanon's position since the start of its war on Ukraine, stressing that a Russian company has been licensed to explore gas in a Syrian block disputed with Lebanon. Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim Ali stated Tuesday that "The meeting was not canceled but the date will be later agreed upon."He said that Lebanon announced the day of the visit before checking with Syria, and that the top Syrian officials had "previously-scheduled engagements" on the day that Lebanon specified. "The delegation had no specific agenda and the appointment's date that Lebanon announced hadn't been discussed and agreed upon with Syria," al-Akhbar said, adding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had showed positivity concerning the matter, in a call with Aoun, days ago. "But the agreement on resuming the border talks was general," the daily said.

Syria tells Lebanon it is too busy to resolve maritime dispute
Najia Houssari/Arab News/October 25, 2022
BEIRUT: Efforts to resolve a maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Syria appear to have foundered after Damascus rebuffed attempts by President Michel Aoun to set up official talks. Aoun discussed the dispute with President Bashar Assad in a telephone call at the weekend, before instructing Elias Bou Saab, the deputy speaker of parliament, to head a Lebanese delegation to Damascus. Syria on Tuesday rejected the delegation, however, saying that Lebanon had failed to send an “official letter” and that its own negotiators were too busy. The rebuff leaves the president without a resolution six days before the end of his term. Ali Abdul Karim Ali, the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, said after meeting Aoun on Tuesday: “Lebanon did not send an official letter to set the dates for ministers and officials in Syria to meet the Lebanese delegation in a timely manner.
“The Syrian authorities thus apologized for not being able to receive the Lebanese delegation because Syrian officials already have prior engagements.”
Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry was separately told by Syria that “the timing is not appropriate for such a visit.” The sea boundary dispute emerged last year after Syria granted a license to a Russian company to explore an area claimed by Lebanon. Syria reportedly wants to tie any agreement to the identity of the Shebaa Farms area, which is claimed by both Damascus and Beirut, as well as Israel. Ali, whom Aoun awarded on Tuesday the National Order of the Cedar, said his country had “always facilitated the outstanding issues between Lebanon and Syria and there is a treaty of brotherhood and cooperation between the two countries.” He requested that “the concerned leaders and ministers meet.”
Meanwhile, the Lebanese General Security service announced hundreds of Syrian refugees would voluntarily go back to their country on Wednesday, in the latest round of a returns initiative that began in 2017. Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the service’s chief, said that returning Syrians to their homeland was a “national duty that we must fulfill.”“There are around 2.8 million Syrians in Lebanon, including refugees; 42 percent of prisoners in Lebanon are Syrians, which puts additional pressure on us,” he said, adding that over half a million had already voluntarily returned since 2017.
“Lebanon rejects the way some humanitarian organizations try to dictate their will to us,” he said.
“We will not submit to pressure because the interest of the Lebanese people is first and foremost, and we will not force any refugee to return. This is our principle and we seek to ease the burden on Lebanon.”However, an official at a refugee camp in Arsal told Arab News that some who had registered to return had “changed their mind for fear of what might await them.” Lisa Abu Khaled, the media official at the UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, told Arab News: “Lebanon says that it has 1.5 million Syrian refugees, while the number of those registered with us is 825,000, and we know that there are many more.”
Lebanon’s Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar said that the return scheme was “safe and there is no pressure; be it a small or a large number of refugees returning. We do not care about the numbers; we rather focus on ensuring a safe return."
About 700 refugees are expected to return to Syria on Wednesday. The Lebanese hope to process around 15,000 every month. “We want to reiterate to the international community that we are a sovereign state," said Hajjar. "Lebanon has provided enough support on the financial and health levels. Today, we no longer have the means to bear such expenses. We have become a poor country, and the only solution is for refugees to return home.”During a visit to a camp in Arsal, Hajjar told Syrian residents that they were “going back according to a mechanism agreed upon between the two countries, and we assume the responsibility of ensuring that everyone who returns to Syria will be safe.” Syria meanwhile said that it had “spared no effort to facilitate the return” of refugees, including enacting a law that pardons “terrorists” not wanted for murder, issuing amnesty decrees and starting a reconciliation process for regime opponents. Lebanon abides by the 2011 decision of the Arab League to suspend Syria’s membership due to the regime’s brutal suppression of popular protests.

‘Dirty bomb’ warning fits Russia record of deception: NATO chief
AFP/October 25, 2022
DUBAI: Russia’s warning that Ukraine was readying to use a “dirty bomb” fits Moscow’s track record of deception, when it “accuses others for what they intend to do themselves,” NATO’s chief told AFP in an interview on Tuesday. “Russia continues to accuse falsely Ukraine for preparing and making a dirty bomb — that is absurd, because why should Ukraine use a dirty bomb on the territories they want to liberate?” Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to a US aircraft carrier currently in the Mediterranean, USS George H.W. Bush. Western leaders have rejected Moscow’s claim that Ukraine is planning to set off a crude device that could spread nuclear, chemical or biological materials over a wide area. They fear that the Kremlin, which has faced major setbacks in its invasion of Ukraine as NATO countries back Kyiv with weapons and funds, is preparing a “false flag” operation where it launches such am attack and blames it on Ukraine. “The world would see through any attempt to use the allegation as a pretext for escalation,” the United States, France and Britain said in a joint statement. The UN Security Council on Tuesday was to discuss the “dirty bomb” claim. “I would be careful speculating, but we’ve seen this before, we also saw it at the start of the war,” Stoltenberg said in a video interview with AFPTV. “A lot of false accusations against Ukraine were used in a way to ‘excuse’ the invasion that happened later.... We have seen what has happened before and that makes it necessary to follow closely what Russia now does.” Stoltenberg added: “They need to understand that we will not accept a false pretext so that Russia further escalates the war in Ukraine.”During his visit to the US warship, Stoltenberg addressed more than a hundred servicemen and women on board in the flight hangar, in front of a stage with a giant US flag and a line of national flags of NATO’s 30 member countries. The hangar held a couple of F-18 multi-role fighter jets and a portrait of the aircraft carrier’s namesake, former US president George H.W. Bush. The warship was leading a carrier strike group, a flotilla of US Navy vessels that includes a cruiser and four destroyers. Stoltenberg told the personnel in the aircraft carrier that the strike group “sends a powerful message” that NATO allies are in a state of “increased vigilance from the Baltic to the Mediterranean — and the Black Sea” which is off southern Ukraine. While NATO is not directly involved in Ukraine’s struggle against the Russian invasion, it has repeatedly said it will vigorously defend every centimeter of territory in NATO member states that neighbor Ukraine should they be attacked. US President Joe Biden has warned Moscow that it using a nuclear weapon in its war in Ukraine — including a lower-yield so-called tactical nuke —  would be “an incredibly serious mistake.”

Deadlock over president, cabinet formation put Lebanon on verge of 'constitutional chaos'
AFP/October 25, 2022  
Lebanon continues to face a double quandary, with the failure of the parliament for the fourth time to elect a new president and the continued deadlock over the formation of the government, which is supposed to cover for the expected presidential vacancy as President Michel Aoun's leaves office next Monday.
Political analysts say that all indications suggest that mediation to resolve the government formation crisis before the October 31 has come to naught, in light of the insistence of the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gibran Bassil, on continuing his political manoeuvres at the risk of throwing the country into utter constitutional chaos. Analysts say that Bassil, the departing president’s son-in-law, is fully aware of his inability to accede to the presidency. However, he is seeking to preserve his political clout by making sure he plays a crucial role in the formation of the new cabinet party and by insisting on reshuffles within the line-up suggested by Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati. Analysts believe that Bassil is counting on delay to exert pressure on political forces, especially the March 8 camp, to which he belongs, to meet his demands. He is hinting cryptically at the possibility of unexpected steps, such as Aoun's signing of a decree sanctioning the resignation of the government and the announcement by Aounist loyalists of their decision to halt any government activities. The two moves would put the country in a constitutional logjam. Bassil warned clearly, "If a new government is not formed, we could be going to more than constitutional and social chaos." On June 29, in his capacity as caretaker prime minister, Mikati presented a cabinet, which met with a categorical rejection by Aoun and behind him the head of the Free Patriotic Movement.
Over the past three months, Mikati has tried to overcome differences with President Aoun, but all his attempts were rebuffed. This showed that the problem was beyond mere reservations about names in the cabinet or the distribution of portfolios, as Bassil seemed driven by a desire to totally disrupt the process.
Political experts say that it is unlikely a breakthrough will occur in the next few days, despite reports of mediation conducted by Hezbollah and the Director General of Public Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim. The Lebanese political class is worried about the possible repercussions of Bassil's moves, especially the risk that the caretaker government will not be able to cover for the looming presidential vacancy. In that regard, the current week is expected to be crucial. Lebanon’s parliament failed on Monday to elect a president for the fourth time, with just a week left until outgoing President Michel Aoun’s term ends and warnings of a constitutional crisis growing louder. With parliament more fractured than ever after May’s elections, political blocs have been unable to reach consensus on a candidate to succeed Aoun. Lebanese analysts said Pro-Iran militant party Hezbollah has yet to announce a favourite candidate for the presidential office. The presidency has fallen vacant several times since the 1975-1990 civil war but a vacuum now would be especially worrisome. The government is already operating in a caretaker capacity and the country is sinking deeper into a three-year-old financial meltdown.
Economic and political turmoil has sunk the currency by more than 95%, spread poverty, paralysed the financial system and frozen depositors out of their savings in the most destabilising crisis since the country’s civil war. Votes in parliament on Monday were split mostly between independent MP Michel Mouawad, scholar Issam Khalife, who was newly-nominated, blank ballots and some votes for political slogans. Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri set the next session for next Thursday, October 27. Anticipating another vacuum at the top, politicians have stepped up efforts to agree on a new cabinet led by Mikati, to which presidential powers could pass.

Mikati regrets Bassil's 'tense remarks, provocative expressions'
Naharnet/October 25, 2022  
Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati swiftly hit back Tuesday at remarks by Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil. A statement issued by Mikati’s press office said the premier “regrets the tense remarks” of Bassil “at a critical political moment that requires cooperation among everyone, not the launching of arbitrary accusations and stances and the use of confrontational and provocative expressions.”“Mr. Premier considers that the most appropriate thing in this dire situation is to show solidarity to fend off the threats that the country is facing, and cooperation among parliament’s members, including Mr. Bassil, in order to elect a new president for the country and put things again on the natural democratic track,” the statement added. Bassil had earlier said that “through confrontation, he (Mikati) wants a government that usurps the president’s powers.”“He wants to take the country to a sedition, exactly like those who want a confrontation president. This is a constitutional massacre that we will not allow and we will confront it with all our strength,” Bassil added.

Bassil gives few more 'hours' for attempt to 'avoid vacuum'
Naharnet/October 25, 2022
Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil announced Tuesday that the FPM “will exert more efforts” and “will give more hours for the attempt to avoid vacuum,” in reference to the stalled government formation process and the looming presidential vacuum.
“Those who think that the caretaker cabinet will assume the president’s powers are mistaken, seeing as this is a violation of the constitution,” Bassil said at a press conference after the weekly meeting of the Strong Lebanon bloc. “It will be a constitutional body that has lost its legitimacy and conformity to the National Pact and its premier is saying we should not form a government but rather elect a president. Through confrontation, he wants a government that usurps the president’s powers. He wants to take the country to a sedition, exactly like those who want a confrontation president. This is a constitutional massacre that we will not allow and we will confront it with all our strength,” Bassil added. “We don’t want to take part (in the government), we will not grant our confidence and we’re not concerned with this. They want to force us into granting confidence to the government although we are not convinced of it or its premier,” the FPM chief said. Addressing those suggesting that the absence of a new government would expedite the election of a new president, Bassil said: “What guarantees that a president will be elected should no new government be formed?”As for the presidential file, Bassil said that "communication" among the various blocs is "very important".“We visited all the parliamentary blocs to present the paper of presidential priorities, except for the ‘confrontation’ bloc (Lebanese Forces bloc), which did not give us an appointment,” Bassil added.
“Those betting on confrontation have tried their luck,” he said. “Because we are serious, we again call for dialogue … In principle, we will deal positively with the Speaker's call for dialogue,” Bassil added. As for presidential candidates, Bassil said the FPM “will exert efforts to start looking into names.”

160K Oman-bound captagon pills seized at Beirut airport
Naharnet/October 25, 2022  
The Lebanese Customs Administration announced Tuesday that around 160,000 captagon pills were seized Monday at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport. In a statement, Customs said the narcotics were seized in cooperation with the Airport Security Apparatus. The pills were “hidden in a professional way and bound for the Sultanate of Oman through Doha,” Customs added, noting that it has arrested the sender and that an investigation is ongoing under the supervision of the relevant judicial authorities.

Belhaj tells Mikati World Bank ready to give Lebanon $300-500M
Naharnet/October 25, 2022  
Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati held talks Tuesday at the Grand Serail with a World Bank delegation comprising the bank’s Vice President for Middle East and North Africa Ferid Belhaj and Jean-Christophe Carret, the bank’s Country Director for the Middle East Department (Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria). Speaking after the meeting, Belhaj said the meeting was constructive and positive and that the World Bank is ready to offer Lebanon funding worth 300 to 500 million dollars for social aid and projects related to sustainable food and agriculture.
Asked about the issue of the World Bank’s stalled funding for Lebanon’s importation of gas and electricity from Egypt and Jordan, Belhaj said that there are important reforms that the Lebanese state is yet to carry out, such as auditing the accounts of the state-run electricity company, forming an electricity regulatory commission and correcting tariffs.

Ibrahim: Formation efforts ongoing despite what's being said
Naharnet/October 25, 2022  
General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim announced Tuesday that “despite everything that is being said, the efforts are still ongoing in an attempt to form the government.” Ibrahim has been mediating between the parties, mainly PM-designate Najib Mikati and Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil, for several weeks now. Separately, Ibrahim said that the repatriation of Syrian refugees is a “national and nationalistic duty,” noting that “the Syrian side has shown nothing but utter welcoming and transparency in dealing with the file.”He also said that “humanitarian organizations and others that claim to be humanitarian are trying to impose their will” on Lebanon in the issue. “We will not bow to pressures, because the interest of the Lebanese people comes first. We won’t force any refugee to return but we are seeking to alleviate the pressure on Lebanon,” Ibrahim added. Noting that there are currently 2,080,000 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Ibrahim said that nearly 540,000 have voluntarily returned to their country since Lebanon launched a repatriation plan in 2017.

Lebanese mediation ongoing for Austin Tice, held in Syria
Associated Press/October 25, 2022
Lebanon is still mediating between the United States and Syria over the fate of American journalist Austin Tice who went missing a decade ago in the war-torn country, a Lebanese general said Tuesday. Washington maintains that Tice is held by Syrian authorities. Tice went missing shortly after his 31st birthday on Aug. 14, 2012, at a checkpoint in a contested area west of the Syrian capital of Damascus. A video released a month later showed him blindfolded and held by armed men. He has not been heard from since. Lebanese Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, who met with U.S. officials in Washington in May as part of mediation efforts for Tice's release, told reporters in Beirut on Tuesday that his mission is ongoing but described it as "long and complicated."Ibrahim, head of Lebanon's General Security Directorate, has mediated complicated hostage releases in the past and regularly visits Syria. In August, President Joe Biden accused Syria of detaining Tice, the clearest indication so far that the U.S. is certain that the journalist is being held by President Bashar Assad's government. Just few months earlier, in May, Biden met Tice's parents and reiterated his commitment toward "Austin's long overdue return to his family."Syria promptly denied holding Tice or other Americans.
At the Beirut press conference, Ibrahim struck an upbeat tone. "Matters might be moving slowly but they are going as they should," he said. "The back-and-forth negotiations did not stop."Tice, from Houston, is one of two Americans who went missing in Syria. The other is Majd Kamalmaz, a psychologist from Virginia, who vanished there in 2017. Tice's work has been published by The Washington Post, McClatchy newspapers and other outlets. He went to Syria to cover the conflict that started in 2011, quickly descending into a full-blown civil war. The war has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced nearly half of Syria's pre-conflict population of 23 million. More than 5 million of those are now outside Syria.

Crisis-hit Lebanon drifts towards extended power vacuum
Agence France Presse/October 25, 2022
Already reeling from three years of economic meltdown, Lebanon faces the prospect of its multi-faceted crisis deepening further when President Michel Aoun's mandate expires in a week from now. The deadline looms as the country is headed by a caretaker administration, since key parties have been unable to agree on a proper government to replace one whose mandate expired in May. Parliament has held four rounds of voting since last month, with no candidate garnering enough support from parties to succeed Aoun, prompting fears of a protracted power vacuum.
It's something that Lebanon -- whose currency has effectively lost more than 90 percent of its dollar value in the last three years and whose citizens have seen their bank deposits evaporate -- can ill-afford. Basic political cooperation is required to unlock billions of dollars in rescue funds from wary donors.
"The most likely scenario after the end of Aoun's mandate is a protracted presidential vacuum until Lebanon's major political parties agree on a candidate," said Lina Khatib, head of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House.
Lawmaker Michel Mouawad won the most votes in parliament, garnering Monday the support of 39 lawmakers opposed to Hezbollah in Lebanon's 128-seat parliament. But that was still far from securing the 86 votes needed to win the presidency. Other frontrunners include former minister and parliamentarian Suleiman Franjieh, the scion of a political dynasty who is close to Hezbollah and a personal friend of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
'Systematic disruption' -
"Hezbollah will insist on imposing a candidate," Khatib said. The Iran-backed group has not officially endorsed a candidate but Franjieh was always considered one of the group's preferred choices -- though its Christian ally, Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), will not back him. Jebran Bassil, Aoun's son-in-law who heads the FPM, is also vying for the presidency. Iran's arch-enemy Saudi Arabia will not back Franjieh, a source close to Hezbollah told AFP, because of his close ties to Syria, a country shunned by Riyadh. Mouawad's supporters in parliament accused Hezbollah and its allies of obstructing the vote for weeks to negotiate with other blocs. They had adopted a similar tactic in the last election by boycotting the vote in parliament -- a move that left Lebanon without a president for more than two years, until Aoun's 2016 win. Elias Hankash, a lawmaker from the Kataeb Party who supports Mouawad, accused Hezbollah and its allies of "systematic disruption". Mouawad has good ties with Washington and has repeatedly asked for the powerful Hezbollah -- the only faction to keep its weapons after the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war -- to disarm.
'Embassies worried'
Under Lebanon's longstanding confessional power-sharing system, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian. In Lebanon's divided parliament, no bloc holds a clear majority, which means the main players are forced to agree on a candidate. Hezbollah is betting on a power vacuum to tire out their opponents and obtain an "agreement by coercion", Hankash said. In 2019, three years into Aoun's mandate, a severe financial meltdown plunged the country into one of the world's worst economic crises in recent history according to the World Bank. Lebanon has yet to enact most reforms needed to access billions of dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It's a far cry from the optimism of a mass protest movement born three years ago that railed against sectarianism and the entrenched political elite, but whose momentum slowed when the coronavirus pandemic struck. In August 2020, Lebanon was thrown into further despair when Beirut was ravaged by one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions worldwide, triggered by haphazardly stored ammonium nitrate. "A political crisis is the last thing that Lebanese need right now," a Western diplomatic source told AFP. "Lebanon needs leadership to push through with the reforms needed to implement the IMF deal," the source said. "Most embassies are worried about the very real possibility that Lebanon won't have a president after Aoun's term expires."
For political analyst Sami Nader, should political parties fail to agree on a candidate, the situation "may call for pressure or external intervention" to resolve their dispute.

Who are Lebanon's potential presidential candidates?
Agence France Presse/October 25, 2022
With just one week remaining in Lebanese President Michel Aoun's term, lawmakers are no closer to consensus on his successor, amid fears of protracted horse-trading amongst the entrenched elite.
Here is a list of candidates who have either announced they were running for president or emerged as potential frontrunners.
Suleiman Franjieh
Suleiman Franjieh, 57, is a former lawmaker and minister close to Hezbollah and a personal friend of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. He heads the Christian Marada movement and, like many of Lebanon's prominent political figures, hails from a storied dynasty.
His grandfather and namesake was president when Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war broke out. In 1978, his father, politician Tony Franjieh, along with his mother and sister, were murdered by rival Christian fighters while he was elsewhere in the country.
He has not officially announced his candidacy, but he told local press he was interested in the position. His name had been touted for the presidency many times before but he never secured enough support to win. A source close to Hezbollah told AFP the group backed his candidacy, although their Christian ally the Free Patriotic Movement would not endorse him.
Michel Mouawad
Michel Mouawad, 50, has close ties to Washington and hails from Zgharta, Franjieh's hometown. His father Rene Mouawad was killed 17 days after being elected president in 1989 and his mother Nayla Mouawad is a former minister and lawmaker. He snatched the support of lawmakers opposed to Hezbollah, gathering 39 votes out of 128 when parliament convened for the fourth time on Monday to try to elect a new president. He has repeatedly demanded that Hezbollah disarm. But without the support of the Shiite group and its allies, Mouawad's chances of becoming president are slim.
Jebran Bassil
Aoun's son-in-law Jebran Bassil, 52, has been vying for the presidency for years. He heads Aoun's Christian Free Patriotic Movement and is widely seen as his political heir, with many referring to him as Lebanon's "shadow president".
In 2019, insults against Bassil became a catchcry of mass antigovernment protests as he came to represent, for many Lebanese, the epitome of the elite's corruption and nepotism.
His chances of securing the seat have moreover dwindled since he was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2020 for corruption. He has insisted in speeches and interviews that unnamed rivals have "prevented" him from carrying out reforms. Although he heads one of the biggest Christian parliamentary blocs and is a close ally of Hezbollah, the group has not announced it would endorse him.
The lawmaker headed key ministries, including energy and foreign affairs, in successive governments between 2008 and 2020.
Joseph Aoun
Army chief Joseph Aoun, 58, is on good terms with all sides of the political spectrum, although Hezbollah has criticized him for his close ties to Washington. Naming him would require a constitutional amendment because of his position. The commander, who bears no relation to the incumbent, is widely seen as a compromise candidate that lawmakers could elect if they fail to reach a consensus on their preferred choice. Should he become president, Aoun would be the fourth former army commander to lead the country since the end of the civil war.
- Others -
Others have emerged as potential candidates, but their chances of winning are slim to none. These include former diplomat Tracy Chamoun -- granddaughter of late president Camille Chamoun -- who announced she was running for office.
Her father Dany Chamoun was assassinated in 1990, a murder blamed on rival Christian leader Samir Geagea.
Former foreign minister Nassif Hitti, business tycoon Selim Edde and university professor Issam Khalifeh have also been floated as potential candidates in the local press or in parliament.

Michel Aoun, the president who 'never gives up'
Agence France Presse/October 25, 2022
When Michel Aoun became president in 2016, putting an end to a two-year power vacuum due to political wrangling, he vowed to be the "strong" president Lebanon so desperately needed. But as his mandate draws to a close next week, the country is reeling from an unprecedented economic crisis, with Beirut having been ravaged in 2019 by one of the world's biggest non-nuclear explosions. The blast was preceded by a 2019 mass protest movement that demanded Aoun's departure, along with the rest of Lebanon's entrenched ruling class. "The presidency was a disappointment, even for him," said his nephew, lawmaker Alain Aoun. Yet the 88-year-old leader has repeatedly refused to step down or quit politics, even announcing that he would continue his political fight within his party, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), upon leaving office. The former army chief ran for the presidency on a platform of fighting corruption, vowing to become "everyone's father", a uniting leader in a country where power is divided among sects. But he also ran on a sectarian agenda, promising to defend Christian "rights", after the community lost some of its political power at the end of the civil war. In 2019, mass protests gripped the country as it plunged into a financial crisis dubbed one of the world's worst in recent history by the World Bank. The Beirut port explosion of 2020 further compounded anger against Lebanese leaders blamed for their negligence after tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer caught fire and detonated, killing over 200 people and leaving large swathes of the capital destroyed. "He was subjected to a financial and economic atomic bomb and the explosion in Beirut," his nephew said of Aoun.
"Even if he was not responsible for this, he found himself on the frontline."
'To hell'
A short, stocky man who presents himself as Lebanon's savior, Aoun has often responded to popular discontent with detachment. Amid the nationwide protests in 2019, he went as far as telling Lebanese they should emigrate if they are unhappy from the country he said was headed "to hell". Those formerly in his close circle said he was stuck in denial, with one source painting a picture of a power-hungry leader whose "destructive ambition" meant he was "ready to do anything to become president". When he fled Lebanon in 1990 for opposing Syria's dominance over political life in his home country, everyone thought his career was finished. But in 2005, Syria's army withdrew from Lebanon and Aoun returned, with his FPM snatching 21 out of 128 seats in parliamentary elections. "He is a tenacious leader who never gives up, who never despairs," said Alain Aoun. Aoun is a controversial figure in Lebanon, at once loathed by his opponents and revered as an incorruptible leader by hardcore supporters. A father of three daughters who enjoys reading Arabic poetry in his spare time, Aoun hails from a modest background and pursued a brilliant military career before entering politics. He became army chief in 1984 and four years later was appointed as head of a military cabinet. He then refused to hand over power to his civilian successor, launching the unsuccessful "war of liberation" against the Syrian army, which had entered Lebanon in 1976.
He also fought the Christian Lebanese Forces militia, in clashes that proved disastrous to the community, which found itself divided between two leaders.
- 'Shadow president' -
In 1990, Aoun was forced by Syrian troops that stormed the presidential palace to seek refuge at the French embassy before fleeing to Paris the following year, where he founded the staunchly anti-Syrian FPM. But he made a dramatic about-face upon returning to Lebanon, aligning his movement with Hezbollah. Prior to his election in 2016, his powerful allies had obstructed presidential polls for two and a half years, forcing their opponents to back Aoun's candidacy. As his mandate comes to an end, detractors and former supporters slammed the man who vowed to fight corruption. They have accused him of nepotism, pointing to the ministerial posts held by his son-in-law, FPM chief Jebran Bassil, and to his repeated efforts to secure the nomination of another son-in-law as army chief. Bassil, who is vying for the presidency, was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2020 for corruption, and many refer to him as Lebanon's "shadow president". Insults against Bassil became a catchcry of mass antigovernment protests in 2019, as he came to embody, for many Lebanese, the epitome of the ruling elite's corruption and nepotism. One source formerly close to Aoun said that the president's biggest error was "using his mandate not to crown his career but to start a political dynasty".

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 25-26.2022
Rishi Sunak becomes UK prime minister, faces economic crisis
AP/October 25, 2022
LONDON: Rishi Sunak became Britain’s third prime minister of the year on Tuesday and now must turn his attention to taming an economic crisis that has left the country’s finances in a precarious state and millions of Britons struggling to afford food and energy bills. Sunak, the UK’s first leader of color, met at Buckingham Palace with King Charles III, who had just accepted the resignation of Liz Truss. In Britain’s constitutional monarchy, the monarch plays a ceremonial role in appointing government leaders. Sunak — at 42 the youngest British leader in more than 200 years — is expected to immediately begin appointing a Cabinet and getting to grips with an economy sliding toward recession. The third Conservative prime minister this year, he will also try to unite a governing party that is riven with divisions. Sunak was selected as leader of the governing Conservative Party on Monday as it tries to stabilize the economy, and its own plunging popularity, after the brief, disastrous term of Liz Truss. Truss departed after making a public statement outside 10 Downing St., seven weeks to the day after she was appointed prime minister by Queen Elizabeth II, who died two days later.
Truss offered a defense of her low-tax economic vision and her brief term in office before being driven from the prime minister’s official residence for the last time. “I am more convinced than ever that we need to be bold and confront the problems we face,” she said. She stood by the free-market principles of “lower taxes” and “delivering growth,” despite the market mayhem triggered by her Sept. 23 budget package. Truss wished Sunak success as Britain continues “to battle through a storm.” Sunak’s top priorities will be appointing Cabinet ministers, and preparing for a budget statement that will set out how the government plans to come up with billions of pounds (dollars) to fill a fiscal hole created by soaring inflation and a sluggish economy, and exacerbated by Truss’ destabilizing economic experiments. The statement, set to feature tax increases and spending cuts, is currently due to be made in Parliament on Monday by Treasury chief Jeremy Hunt — if Sunak keeps him in the job. Sunak, who was Treasury chief himself for two years until July, said Monday that Britain faces “a profound economic challenge.”
Sunak becomes prime minister in a remarkable reversal of fortune just weeks after he lost to Truss in a Conservative election to replace former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Party members in the summer chose her tax-cutting boosterism over his warnings that inflation must be tamed. Truss conceded last week that she could not deliver on her plans — but only after her attempts triggered market chaos and worsened inflation at a time when millions of Britons were already struggling with soaring borrowing costs and rising energy and food prices. The party is now desperate for someone to right the ship after months of chaos under Truss and Johnson, who quit in July after becoming mired in ethics scandals. Sunak was chosen as Conservative leader after becoming the only candidate to clear the hurdle of 100 nominations from fellow lawmakers to run in the party election. Sunak defeated rival Penny Mordaunt, who may get a job in his government, and the ousted Johnson, who dashed back from a Caribbean vacation to rally support for a comeback bid but failed to get enough backing to run. As well as stabilizing the UK economy, Sunak must try to unite a governing party that has descended into acrimony as its poll ratings have plunged. Conservative lawmaker Victoria Atkins, a Sunak ally, said the party would “settle down” under Sunak. “We all understand that we’ve now really got to get behind Rishi — and, in fairness, that’s exactly what the party has done,” she told radio station LBC.

Israeli troops raid gunmen's hideout; 5 Palestinians killed
NABLUS, West Bank (AP) /October 25, 2022
Israeli forces raided a stronghold of an armed group in the occupied West Bank's second-largest city, blowing up a bomb lab and engaging in a firefight, the military said Tuesday. Five Palestinians were killed and 20 were wounded, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
The overnight raid in the old city, or kasbah, of Nablus, was one of the deadliest in the West Bank in 2022 and comes at a time of escalating tensions. Television footage showed flames and smoke rising in the night sky over Nablus. The army said it used shoulder-launched missiles. Local residents reported a large explosion that rocked the old city and surrounding neighborhoods. The target of the raid was a group of Palestinian gunmen calling themselves the Lions' Den. The group was responsible for the recent fatal shooting of an Israeli soldier and several attempted attacks, the army said. The five men killed in the raid were in their 20s and 30s, the Health Ministry said. Several of the wounded were in serious condition, the ministry said. Israel’s caretaker prime minister, Yair Lapid, confirmed that Wadie Houh, a leader of the Lion’s Den group, was killed in a shootout with Israeli troops overnight. In remarks at a conference, he said the operation was “an accurate and deadly strike at the heart of terror infrastructure trying to carry out attacks.”Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip staged a general strike in protest of Tuesday's killings. Stores remained shuttered throughout the day in Nablus, Ramallah, Gaza City and other Palestinian cities. Elsewhere in the West Bank, the army said troops fired at a suspect who threw an explosive at them during an arrest raid near the village of Nebi Saleh. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported the death of 19-year-old Qusai al-Tamimi.
Later on Tuesday, dozens of Palestinians gathered near the perimeter fence separating the Gaza Strip and Israel to protest the Israeli military raid in Nablus. The protesters waved Palestinian flags and burned dozens of tires, sending columns of black smoke into the air. The protest ended at sunset and there were no reports of injuries.
The location of the protest in east Gaza City was one of five that saw weekly protests in 2018 and 2019 in which dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli snipers. Gaza’s Hamas rulers launched those protest to demand an easing of the blockade. The protests wound to a halt with unofficial understandings reached between the two sides via regional mediators. Ongoing Israeli arrest raids in the West Bank pose a serious challenge to the Palestinian self-rule government, which administers just over one-third of the territory. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas relies on security cooperation with Israel, particularly against his Islamic militant rivals, to remain in power. At the same time, this cooperation is deeply unpopular among Palestinians who chafe against Israel's open-ended occupation, now in its 56th year. Younger Palestinians are particularly disillusioned. Small bands of gunmen have formed in some areas, first in the Jenin refugee camp, a stronghold of militants, and now in Nablus. These groups challenge the Palestinian Authority and carry out attacks against Israeli targets. In Tuesday's raid, Israeli forces blew up a bomb lab in an apartment in Nablus, the military said. The statement said a number of militants were targeted and noted that Palestinians were reporting casualties. From the wording of the statement it was not immediately clear if some of those killed and wounded were hit in an initial ambush rather than a subsequent firefight. Abbas' spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, issued a statement in which he described the ongoing Israeli raids as a war crime. More than 125 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the West Bank and east Jerusalem this year. The fighting has surged since a series of Palestinian attacks killed 19 people in Israel in the spring. The Israeli army says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has built more than 130 settlements there, many of which resemble small towns, with apartment blocks, shopping malls and industrial zones. The Palestinians want the West Bank to form the main part of their future state. Most countries view the settlements as a violation of international law.

Iran Using Minors to Suppress Protests in Iran
FDD/October 25/2022
Latest Developments
Iran is reportedly using minors to crush protests in Iran. In recent weeks, photos have emerged showing children wearing unforms of the Basij militia, a branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). “Alongside the uniformed police stood many more plainclothes Basiji units. Some of them were clearly minors,” one Iranian protester reported. International law prohibits the recruitment or use of children in hostilities. Two U.S. laws penalize foreign countries and persons who recruit or use children in hostilities.
Expert Analysis
“Iran’s reported use of children to help crush anti-regime protests underscores the regime’s horrific disregard for human rights. The Biden administration should fully implement U.S. laws that require the U.S. government to spotlight and penalize any such violations.” – Orde Kittrie, FDD Senior Fellow
Use of Child Soldiers a Longstanding Battlefield Practice
The Iranian government, Iranian proxies, and IRGC clients have long used child soldiers against their adversaries. The Houthis in Yemen, for example, have recruited thousands of children, some as young as 10, in their fight against the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition. In Gaza, some 50,000 children registered last year for an Iranian-backed, Hamas-run child-soldier training camp, where they received religious indoctrination and “security” training. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has recruited child soldiers for its fight in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime.
Iran May Be Violating International Law
If the reports are correct that Iran is using children to crack down on protests, Tehran is in violation of its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran joined in 1994, and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, which Iran joined in 2002. The Rights of the Child treaty prohibits any recruitment for, and any use in, hostilities of persons under 15. The Worst Forms of Child Labour treaty prohibits forced or compulsory recruitment for use in armed conflict of persons under 18.
The United Nations, including its special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, should investigate Iran’s alleged violations of these treaties.
U.S. Should Name and Penalize Iranian Officials Recruiting or Using Child Soldiers
The Child Soldiers Accountability Act of 2008 imposes penalties, including denial of entry into the United States, on any foreign person who has engaged in the recruitment or use of child soldiers. The U.S. should name and penalize the relevant Iranian officials. Such a step would send an important message to Iran’s anti-regime protesters that the U.S. supports them and is penalizing their Iranian abusers.
The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 requires the U.S. to list annually in its Trafficking in Persons report those foreign governments that recruit or use child soldiers. The State Department included Iran in the 2022 list. The act also requires the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report to describe such recruitment or use of child soldiers. However, the 2021 Human Rights Report on Iran, published in April 2022, included very little information on this abhorrent practice.

Iran protestor shot dead after tearing down supreme leader poster
Arab News/October 25, 2022
LONDON: Security forces in Iran killed a man in September after he tore down a poster of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the city of Amol, BBC Persian reported on Monday. Erfan Rezaei, 21, was shot in the shoulder and back by a pistol at close range during protests. A source said his family was under pressure to say he had been killed by protesters. Not long after the protest, Rezaei’s mother, Farzaneh Barzekar, was told by officials that he had been admitted to hospital. Hospital nurses refused to tell her where Rezaei was, but after three hours of trying to find him, Barzekar found his blood-soaked clothes outside an operating theater and fainted. Rezaei died as a result of severe damage to his kidney and spleen caused by the bullet wound to his back. The bullet was fired by a pistol from a distance of 5 meters, the BBC reported. His body was given to his family on the condition that they held a quiet funeral, which reportedly was only allowed because Rezaei's father was a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, and Iranians revere those who fought in the 1980-88 conflict. “Every day, I look at your picture for hours and cry. I look at your empty bed and your books. I read your books out loud to your empty bed,” Rezaei's mother posted on Instagram two weeks ago, underneath a video of his grave. Anti-government protests were sparked across the country following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was detained by the Iranian morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab “improperly.”
Wednesday will mark 40 days since Amini’s death and the end of the traditional mourning period in Iran.

Iran crackdown may burnish Raisi's credentials for top job
Michael Georgy and Tom Perry/DUBAI (Reuters)/October 25, 2022
By tightening curbs on women's rights, President Ebrahim Raisi has boosted his hardline credentials and possibly his prospects of becoming Iran's Supreme Leader, even at the cost of provoking mass protests and driving a wedge between many Iranians and the ruling elite, three analysts and a pro-reform official said. A year after Raisi's election marked the end of what many Iranians recall as more pragmatic, tolerant times, his government's tougher enforcement of hijab wearing in the weeks before Mahsa Amini's death in custody on Sept. 16 reflected a full reassertion of hardline influence.
Now, as tens of thousands of protesters call for the Islamic Republic's downfall in response to Amini's death, the hardliners appear to be doubling down, backing their ally Raisi's use of force against the demonstrations, even if policy rests firmly in the hands of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The backdrop is what analysts and insiders close to Iran's decision-makers see as the determination of Khamenei, 83, to shore up the pillars of the Islamic Republic he has led since the death of its founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1989.
Raisi, an outspoken champion of Iran's system of clerical rule, is widely seen by ordinary Iranians, foreign experts and clerical insiders as a contender to succeed Khamenei, even though he has not publicly declared that ambition. The supreme leader has not endorsed a successor and others are also seen to be in the picture, most notably Khamenei's son Mojtaba.
"Raisi truly believes in the supreme leader's revolutionary agenda. He is a hardliner who believes in stricter social and political limitations," said a pro-reform official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivities.
"I don't know whether he has personal ambitions to become the next supreme leader, but whether he succeeds the leader or not, let me underline that Raisi himself is an anti-Western cleric that does not believe in a freer society."
Reuters could not reach officials at the offices of Raisi and Khamenei for comment.
A Khamenei protege, Raisi was elected president in June 2021 in a tightly managed race that brought all branches of the state under hardline control after years of more pragmatic government under ex-president Hassan Rouhani.
Raisi is trusted by the elite Revolutionary Guards, a hardline military force used by the state to violently crush political unrest over the decades, and seen by Iranians as an influential voice in determining the succession to Khamenei.
Appointed by Khamenei to the high-profile job of judiciary chief in 2019, Raisi was placed under U.S. sanctions a few months later over the role he allegedly played in the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Iran has never acknowledged the killings. Asked about the deaths at a June 2021 news conference, Raisi replied that a judge or prosecutor who defended people's security should be praised.
An order by Raisi in July that authorities must enforce Iran's "hijab and chastity law" resulted in more restrictions, such as women being banned from entering some banks, government offices and some forms of public transportation.
Then in Tehran, on Sept. 13, morality police arrested Amini - an Iranian Kurd - for "inappropriate attire". Three days later, she died in a hospital in the capital after falling into a coma. Referring to the day Amini collapsed in custody, the coroner said she had briefly regained consciousness but that "cardio-respiratory resuscitation was ineffective in the first critical minute, resulting in brain damage."
The family deny the 22-year-old had any heart problems.
Women have torn off and burned headscarves during the protests ignited by her death, one of the boldest popular revolts since the 1979 revolution and a symbolic blow against the Islamic Republic, which has sought to impose conservative dress codes on women in public.
"While succession is always in the background of Iranian politics, I view the intensified focus on hijab, which began in earnest this summer, as more a reflection of the unification of hardline power," said Henry Rome of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank.
The stepped up enforcement under Raisi marked a break not only with Rouhani's times, but also the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was known as a hardliner on many issues but resisted strict imposition of dress codes.
"Khamenei is preparing. He wants to leave a legacy, and his legacy should be a strengthening of the Islamic Republic, which translates into a hardening of its internal fabric," said Cornelius Adebahr of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
While the protests have triggered questions over the hijab enforcement policy from some officials - Khamenei adviser Ali Larijani notably asked whether police should be imposing the headscarf at all - hardliners have been unbending.
Interior minister Ahmad Vahidi, a former Revolutionary Guards' commander, has accused protesters of creating "hideous scenes" in the name of women's rights, saying protesters saw "freedom in the nakedness and shamelessness of women".
The Guards are expected to have a big say over the succession, with the next supreme leader more reliant on their support in the face of anti-government dissent, said Kasra Aarabi, Iran Programme Lead at the Tony Blair Institute.
The Guards are also likely to play a major role if Iran decides on all-out repression of the unrest, in which more than 200 people have already been killed, according to rights groups.
But the succession has complicated the leadership's thinking about how tough a crackdown needs to be, since the start of the unrest coincided with rumours about Khamenei's ailing health, three analysts and an official told Reuters in September.
The establishment - a dual system of clerical authority and an elected president and parliament - has been preoccupied with manoeuvring linked to the succession even as it weighs security policy.
Some insiders fear that using more force might expose divisions within its ranks while fuelling more unrest, something it can ill-afford at such a sensitive time, the analysts and official said in September.
Raisi encountered protesters' anger himself during a visit to a Tehran university this month, where female students chanted "Raisi get lost" and "Mullahs get lost".
Echoing Khamenei, Raisi has repeatedly sought to blame the West for the unrest, accusing U.S. President Joe Biden of sowing "chaos, terror, and destruction", and citing Khomeini's description of the United States as "the great satan".
On Raisi's watch, months of indirect talks between Iran and the United States in Vienna on salvaging a 2015 nuclear deal have stalled. Both sides say political decisions are required by Tehran and Washington to settle the remaining issues.
Sanctions on Iranian oil have continued to squeeze Iran's economy, driving the currency to record lows.
Meir Javedanfar, Iran Lecturer at Reichman University in Israel, said: "Raisi is taking such an extreme position on women’s rights because he knows this is what Khamenei wants."
"Following Khamenei's position on women's issue would keep him in the race to replace Khamenei."
(Additional reporting by Michael Georgy in Dubai and Tom Perry in Beirut; Writing by Tom Perry, Editing by William Maclean)

Russia ‘has ordered 2,000 more kamikaze drones’ from Tehran
Reuters/October 25, 2022
JEDDAH: Iran is in a military alliance with Russia and Moscow has ordered 2,000 more “suicide” drones from Tehran, Ukraine’s president said on Monday. Volodymyr Zelensky Israeli leaders’ refusal to support Kyiv had encouraged Russia’s partnership with Iran.“This alliance of theirs simply would not have happened if your politicians had made only one decision … in 2014, when Russia began its aggression against Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “The disgusting sound of Iranian drones is heard in our skies every night. According to our intelligence, Russia has ordered about 2,000 Shahed drones from Iran … and Iranian instructors came to teach Russians how to use them. Zelensky spoke as Western countries accused Russia of plotting to use the threat of a bomb laced with nuclear material as a pretext for escalation in Ukraine. The row began when Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called Western counterparts on Sunday and told them Moscow suspected Kyiv of planning to use a so-called "dirty bomb". The foreign ministers of France, Britain and the US said they rejected the allegations and reaffirmed their support for Ukraine against Russia. “Our countries made clear that we all reject Russia’s transparently false allegations that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its own territory,” they said. “The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation.”Russia’s Defense Ministry said the aim of a “dirty bomb” attack by Ukraine would to blame the resulting radioactive contamination on Russia by accusing Moscow of detonating a low-grade nuclear weapon. “The aim of the provocation would be to accuse Russia of using a weapon of mass destruction in the Ukrainian military theater and by that means to launch a powerful anti-Russian campaign in the world,” it said. Zelensky said the Russian accusation was a sign that Moscow was planning such an attack itself and would blame Ukraine. “If Russia calls and says that Ukraine is allegedly preparing something, it means one thing: Russia has already prepared all this,” he said. “So when today the Russian Minister of Defense organises a phone carousel and calls foreign ministers with stories about the so-called ‘dirty’ nuclear bomb, everyone understands everything well… understands who is the source of everything dirty that can be imagined in this war.”

Ukraine urges refugees to stay abroad as winter power cuts loom
Reuters/October 25, 2022
KYIV: Refugees who fled in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should stay abroad this winter due to blackouts created by Moscow’s bombardment of critical energy infrastructure, a Ukrainian minister has said. In an interview broadcast on Ukrainian national television on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told Ukrainians currently sheltering abroad that they should wait until spring before returning to Ukraine. “I wanted to ask (them) not to return. We need to survive the winter,” she said. Since Oct. 10, Russia has launched waves of missile and drone strikes targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Kyiv says they have damaged up to 40 percent of the power system. A local official in Kyiv, the capital, warned last week that residents needed to be prepared for possible disconnections lasting days or even weeks. The strikes on Ukraine’s infrastructure come against a backdrop of soaring energy, food and other prices in Europe, where most of the millions of refugees who fled Ukraine following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion sought shelter. This poses a problem for refugees, many of whom have struggled to find well-paid, permanent jobs in their new countries of residence. Vereshchuk said the grid “won’t survive” the return of refugees from abroad, and that the situation would “only get worse.” “To return now is to risk yourself and your children, your vulnerable relatives,” she said.

Opposition leader says Belarus shouldn't fight for Russia
TALLINN, Estonia (AP)October 25, 2022
An opposition leader in exile from Belarus said Tuesday that her country's soldiers should lay down their arms if they are deployed to Ukraine under pressure from Russia. Russia used Belarus as a staging ground for troops and weapons when it invaded Ukraine eight months ago. Concerns persist that the authoritarian president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, might agree to send his own troops south into Ukraine. Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has been in exile in Lithuania since 2020, said the leadership of Belarus has become a hostage of powerful allies in Moscow who provide political and economic support. She opposes the direct involvement of Belarus in the war. “If it happens that under pressure, under threats, Belarusian troops will be deployed, we're urging our soldiers to lay down their arms, join the guerillas, change sides, join the Ukrainian military,” Tsikhnouskaya said during a visit to Estonia. Moscow has pumped billions of dollars into shoring up the Soviet-style, state-controlled economy of Belarus with cheap energy and loans. Lukashenko, who has been president since 1994, survived the largest mass protests in the country’s history following a 2020 presidential election that the opposition and the West denounced as rigged. Tsikhanouskaya ran against Lukashenko in that election, and many believed she won. She was forced to leave Belarus under pressure from the government. "Lukashenko, of course, is very dependent on the Kremlin, because it is the Kremlin that helped him in 2020 to hold on to power, and right now he is paying his debt to the Kremlin,” Tsikhanouskaya told The Associated Press. Lukashenko has publicly supported Russia’s attack on Ukraine, drawing international criticism and sanctions against Minsk. Still, he has repeatedly rebuffed speculation that Belarus would send its own soldiers to fight alongside Russia.
Earlier this month, however, Belarusian authorities announced the establishment of a joint “regional grouping of troops” with Russia and said some 9,000 Russian soldiers would be stationed in Belarus. Tsikhanouskaya said there currently was no evidence of a planned Belarusian deployment in Ukraine. The 1,000-kilometer Belarus-Ukraine border has been mined, she pointed out, and “the Ukrainian forces are also prepared for the possible offensive” from Belarus. She also spoke out against Belarus storing Russian nuclear weapons — a possibility Lukashenko also has mentioned. “A possible scheme they have is following: if the irrational thinking of Putin, all of the sudden, leads to doing this terrible thing with terrible outcome, it will be done from the territory of Belarus, (so Putin can) demonstrate that ‘I’m not alone like this, I have an ally,’" Tiskhanouskaya predicted. In the meantime, hundreds of Belarusians volunteered to fight in Ukraine as part of the Kastus Kalinousky regiment. A separate guerilla movement in Belarus has disrupted the movement by rail of Russian military equipment.
“A guy who in 2020 took his shoes off to stand on a bench (during a demonstration) is fighting in the Kalinousky regiment now,” Tsikhahouskaya said. “We see that Belarusians are not all that patient... But I remain committed to peaceful change.”sikhanouskaya has formed a Cabinet in exile, and two former high-level security officials joined it. She invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to form “an alliance with the democratic Belarus” but has not yet received a response. Still, Tsikhanouskaya said, one “should view Belarus as occupied territory."“Now is not the time to compare our pains," Tsikhanouskaya said. “We are now in the same boat. Of course, the situation is completely different; there is ... a terrible war there while in Belarus there are political and military repressions. But we draw on the fact that Russia considers neither Ukraine, nor Belarus sovereign independent states."Lukashenko harshly suppressed mass antigovernment protests triggered by his 2020 reelection. Police arrested 35,000 people and brutally beat scores. Tsikhanouskaya told the AP that 150,000-200,000 Belarusians have left the country, and 1,349 political prisoners are currently behind bars. They include the co-winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, Ales Bialiatski, founder of Belarus' most prominent human rights group, and opposition politician Siarhei Tsikhanouski, who is Tsikhanouskaya’s husband.

Russian helicopters taking a beating; Brittney Griner loses 'sham' appeal: Live Ukraine updates
John Bacon/The Associated Press/October 25, 2022
Russia's fleet of attack helicopters is taking a beating at the hands of Ukraine's portable air defense systems, the British Defense Ministry said in its most recent assessment of the war.
There have been at least 23 verified losses of Russia’s Ka-52 HOKUM attack helicopters in Ukraine since the invasion, representing over 25% of the Russia's fleet of 90, the assessment says. Dozens of other helicopters also have been shot down.
"Russia is still failing to maintain adequate air superiority in order to reliably carry out effective (airplane) support near the front line," the assessment says. "And its artillery ammunition is running low."
Russian commanders are likely resorting to high-risk attack helicopter missions as one of the few options available to provide close support for troops in combat, the assessment says.
►Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the U.S.-led West of increasing arms supplies and providing intelligence to the Kiev regime in an effort to "destroy our centuries-old national statehood."
►Norway’s domestic security agency says it has detained a man who entered the country as a Brazilian citizen but is suspected of being a Russian spy.
►German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived in Kyiv for his first visit to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion. He said he wanted to "send a signal of solidarity to Ukrainians.”
GRINER 'VERY NERVOUS': Brittney Griner's drug charges appeal in Russia: What we know
White House blasts 'sham' Russian appeal hearing in Griner case
A Russian court's rejection of Brittney Griner's appeal of a nine-year prison sentence for drug possession means the WNBA basketball start will "continue to be wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another sham judicial proceeding today," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. Sullivan said the administration is continuing to talk with Russian officials about a possible prisoner swap. And he lauded Griner's family for "courage in the face of these unimaginable circumstances."
Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, said the Russian court dispensed a very quick resolution unlike the appeals process in U.S. federal courts.
"Griner’s best hope now appears to be some form of prisoner swap with Russia," he said.
Griner, who appeared in a Moscow-area courtroom via videolink from a cell at her detention facility, was arrested Feb. 17 after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Griner, 32, said she had inadvertently packed them in haste and that she had no criminal intent. One week after her arrest Russia invaded Ukraine and U.S.-Russia relations sank to a near-historic low, complicating efforts to free her.
Chechnyan leader wants Ukraine cities 'wiped off the face of the Earth'
The Kremlin-backed head of the Russian region of Chechnya says the Russian military should destroy Ukraine cities in retaliation for Ukrainian shelling of Russian towns along the border.
Authorities in Russia’s Kursk and Belgorod regions have reported Ukrainian shelling that damaged infrastructure and residential buildings. Ramzan Kadyrov said on Telegram that if a "shell flies into our region, entire cities must be wiped off the face of the Earth so that they don’t ever think that they can fire in our direction.” Kadyrov has been a frequent critic of the Russian military effort. Earlier this month, Kadyrov blasted Colonel-General Alexander Lapin should be fired after retreating from the Donetsk region city of Lyman.
"If I had my way I would have demoted Lapin to private, would have deprived him of his awards and would have sent him to the front line to wash off his shame with the rifle in his hands," Kadyrov wrote on Telegram.
IAEA to inspect two Ukrainian nuke plants after 'dirty bomb' claims
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi said the agency is preparing to inspect two Ukrainian nuclear facilities amid Russia’s claims that Ukraine is developing a “dirty bomb.” Ukraine requested the inspection after its nuclear energy company Energoatom claimed that Russia was carrying out unauthorized construction work near the Zaporizhzhia plant's Dry Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility. Energoatom warned that destruction of containers stored there could lead to radiation contamination over hundreds of square miles.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine live updates: Russian helicopters downed; Griner loses appeal

Saudi energy minister warns using emergency stocks may be ‘painful’
Reuters/October 25, 2022
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Tuesday that some were using their emergency stocks and using it as a mechanism to manipulate markets when its purpose should be to mitigate any shortages of supply.“It is my duty to make clear that losing emergency stocks may be painful in the months to come,” the minister said addressing the Future Initiative Investment (FII) conference in Riyadh. US President Joe Biden announced a plan last week to sell off the rest of his release from the nation’s emergency oil reserve by the year’s end and begin refilling the stockpile as he tries to dampen high gasoline prices ahead of midterm elections on November 8. He also said Saudi Arabia remained the world’s most reliable oil supplier and had increased its sales to Europe to 950,000 barrels in September from 490,000 barrels the same time a year ago. When asked about how to get the energy relationship with the US back on track, the prince said Saudi Arabia had chosen to be “the maturer” party. “We keep hearing you ‘are with us or against us,’ is there any room for ‘we are with the people of Saudi Arabia’?” Relations between the US and the Kingdom have become increasingly strained in recent weeks since OPEC+ announced a production cut, which was ostensibly seen by the White House as Saudi Arabia aligning itself with Russia. The Kingdom, OPEC’s largest oil producer, denied the accusation and said that it was a purely economic decision intended to stabilize a volatile oil market.

Europe’s energy crisis will accelerate hydrogen transition, Saudi minister says
Arab News/October 25, 2022
RIYADH: The energy crisis in Europe will accelerate the oil and gas sector’s transition to renewables and hydrogen, Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih said. Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on Oct. 25, he added that the world has witnessed many transitions, with the security transition being the most prominent. Referring to Europe, Ukraine, and China and Taiwan’s crisis, he said: “We have this transition taking place and I believe, and it's going to, continue and perhaps to continue to accelerate.”Al-Falih pointed out that there has also been a transition in trade and supply chains, noting the impact of globalization on them.“If you think of these, each one of them is subjecting countries, companies and individuals to insurance premiums.”Speaking on the economic transition, he said higher inflation and higher premiums that are paid “are setting the stage for long lower income and growth.”With regards to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, he said it “was designed for the world we are living today and the world we are going to live in 10-15 years from now.”During the business forum, Al-Falih noted that the US is well known to be a friend, pointing out that both countries enjoy “fantastic” relationships that go back to the 1930s. Most recently, an escalating dispute over the decision by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, to cut oil production has put the US and Saudi Arabia in a tug of war.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 25-26.2022
إيمانويل أوتولينغي/تاون هول: حان وقت معاقبة الطيارين الإيرانيين
Time to Sanction Iranian Pilots
Emanuele Ottolenghi/Townhall/October 25/2022
Last month, the Biden administration added four Iranian cargo planes to its U.S. Department of Commerce blacklist of aircraft involved in export control violations. Among the aircraft is a Boeing 747 operated by Iran’s airline Qeshm Fars Air, which the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned in 2019 for its role supplying Syria-based Iranian forces and their proxies with military equipment. According to Treasury, the airline operated regular cargo flights to Damascus “delivering cargo, including weapons shipments” on behalf of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’ special operations and expeditionary branch, the Quds Force.
Qeshm Fars Air’s planes have been flying to Russia since the February invasion of Ukraine and are currently delivering military equipment. According to the Department of Commerce, these aircraft could be transporting drones, which Iran is selling to Moscow “to support Russia’s war machine.” But the Qeshm Fars flights also continue to supply Iranian forces in Syria and their proxies, highlighting the central role this regime-controlled airline plays in Iran’s ongoing support for Russian aggression and Syrian oppression. The Biden administration should heighten the impact of its sanctions by designating the pilots and crews that operate these flights, not just the aircraft. Sanctioning the planes makes it harder for them to secure maintenance services and jet fuel, since service firms do not want to risk punishment from Treasury. Targeting crews as well as planes could lead to countries denying them entry or form the basis for local law enforcement actions.
Designating three Iranian pilots, until recently detained in Argentina, would be a great place to start this effort.
The three Iranians—Gholamreza Ghasemi, Abdolbaset Mohammadi, and Saeid Valizadeh— were part of a 19-member crew of five Iranians and 14 Venezuelans who landed in Buenos Aires on June 6, 2022, aboard a cargo aircraft operated by Emtrasur, a subsidiary of the U.S.-sanctioned Venezuelan airline, Conviasa. The U.S. Department of Justice issued an international warrant to seize the plane and local authorities have investigated the crew members on suspicion of terrorism. Twelve of their companions were allowed to return home in early September, but Ghasemi, Mohammadi, and Valizadeh were detained longer, likely due to their direct involvement in Qeshm Fars Air weapons deliveries to Syria on behalf of the Quds Force. The three were only allowed to leave Argentina last weekend.
New evidence seized aboard the aircraft by local authorities, which the author obtained from an Argentinian source familiar with the investigation, proves the three pilots’ involvement in at least 18 flights between Tehran and Damascus, operated by Qeshm Fars Air, between the summer of 2020 and May 2022. These flights were likely carrying military assistance destined to Iran’s military operations in Syria and to Iran’s proxies in the area.
Qeshm Fars Air flight logs found aboard the seized aircraft and made available to the author show that Ghasemi flew seven of the 18 Tehran to Damascus roundtrip flights; Mohammadi flew 17 out of 18 of those flights; and Valizadeh flew once, on May 17, 2022, just three weeks before the Emtrasur aircraft landed in Buenos Aires. Ghasemi is the most important of the three: corporate records for Qeshm Fars Air, obtained from the commercial platform Sayari Analytics, list the Emtrasur aircraft’s captain as a shareholder, board member, and managing director. Given his senior position in the airline, and his active role as an aircraft captain flying cargo on behalf of the Quds Force, Treasury should sanction him. Such action would have significant consequences for Ghasemi’s ability to travel internationally. Additionally, a terrorism designation would provide additional evidence to Argentinian authorities currently involved in the investigation against Ghasemi and his associates, which, despite their release, is ongoing.
In most cases, reported Israeli strikes on Iranian and Syrian military objectives in Syria coincide with, or shortly follow the arrival of the Qeshm Fars Air cargo to Damascus. As the main carrier of weapons’ deliveries to Syria, the short time that elapses between its flights to Syria and Israeli attacks on Syrian military targets is suggestive of a correlation, namely that Israel is targeting military equipment and technology that Qeshm Fars Air is delivering.
For example, on May 21, 2022, four days after Valizadeh’s lone flight of the blacklisted Qeshm Fars Air aircraft, Al Jazeera reported Israeli strikes against ammunition depots near Damascus. And on April 9, 2022, four days after Mohammadi flew the same aircraft to Damascus, Al Arabiya News reported Israeli attacks in Syria against weapons depots and centers where Iran is manufacturing and developing missile and unmanned aerial vehicles. Indeed, the evidence of a correlation between certain Qeshm Fars Air flights and possible arms deliveries that Israel targeted extends to other flights, beyond the ones known to be operated by Ghasemi, Mohammadi and Valizadeh. This warrants sanctions against not just the three currently detained pilots in Argentina, but their colleagues as well.
Flight records from the commercial flight tracker Flight Radar 24 show that the Commerce-blacklisted aircraft, Qeshm Fars Air EP-FAA, flew to Damascus and back on December 4, 2021. Three days later, Al Jazeera reported Israeli attacks on Latakia’s seaport. EP-FAA flew to Damascus and back on October 19, 2020. Israel targeted three Iranian-backed militias near Quneitra two days later, as reported by The Times of Israel. EP-FAA also flew to Damascus and back on July 13, 2020. The Associated Press reported that Israel had carried out an attack seven days later against targets around Damascus, including ammunition depots, which killed a Hezbollah fighter. According to Iran International, Western intelligence sources revealed that a June 2022 Israeli strike on Damascus international airport forced Qeshm Fars Air to temporarily suspend its flights to Syria. The same report mentions Ali Naghi Golparast, the CEO of Qeshm Fars Air and a board member of the airline alongside Ghasemi, as the key man in charge of weapons’ logistics and deliveries on behalf of the Quds Forces. Chats that Argentinian authorities found on Ghasemi’s phone make explicit mention of Golparast as someone who could intervene to facilitate the crew’s release.
The evidence against Iranian aircraft’s material support for terrorism is overwhelming. Treasury sanctions provide the legal basis for targeting individuals involved in these operations. The evidence that emerged from the Argentinian investigation into the Emtrasur flight has now identified three individuals directly implicated in these operations, which may lead to the identification of more crew members involved in sanctionable activities.
Ghasemi, Mohammadi, and Valizadeh no longer languish in a hotel in Buenos Aires, and may soon resume their active roles in Iran’s military airlifts to Syria and Russia. The Biden administration should sanction Iranian pilots to further disrupt Iran’s cargo operations.
*Emanuele Ottolenghi is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a non-partisan research foundation in Washington D.C. Follow him on Twitter: @eottolenghi.

The Putin Pawns in the NATO Alliance? How the West Emboldens Erdoğan's Aggression
Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/October 25, 2022
Turkey's Islamist President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been militarily threatening a fellow NATO ally, Greece, using increasingly threatening language. He also proudly announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised him to make Turkey an international natural gas hub, therefore selling his gas via Turkey, avoiding Western sanctions.
What does Erdoğan get in return? Huge American (and other Western) pats on the back.
Erdoğan, while explicitly threatening a NATO ally, has a plan to seriously undermine Western sanctions on Russia.... The project will enable Turkey to store Russian gas in Thrace and sell it to willing European buyers. This will effectively kill Western sanctions on Russia. Turkey will earn transit fees from every cubic meter of Russian gas sold to European buyers. A win-win for two autocrats.
What was the U.S. administration's response to all that? Approval for fighter jet sales!... An earlier version of the bill had linked the sale to the condition that Turkey would not use the aircraft against Greece.
Erdoğan is now hopeful that Congress should give the green light to the F-16 deal before the end of the year.
What other insane, anti-Western moves should Erdoğan make before U.S. President Joe Biden understands that Turkey's Islamist autocrat is a Putin pawn inside the NATO alliance?
Or is Biden a Putin pawn as well?
Turkey's Islamist President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been militarily threatening a fellow NATO ally, Greece, using increasingly threatening language. He also proudly announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised him to make Turkey an international natural gas hub. Pictured: Erdoğan meets with Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on September 16, 2022. (Photo by Alexandr Demyanchuk/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
Turkey's Islamist President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been militarily threatening a fellow NATO ally, Greece, using increasingly threatening language. He also proudly announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised him to make Turkey an international natural gas hub, therefore selling his gas via Turkey, avoiding Western sanctions. What does Erdoğan get in return? Huge American (and other Western) pats on the back.
"The most dangerous period for Greece," Steven Cook from the Council on Foreign Relations wrote in the Greek daily Kathimerini, "is the period leading up to the elections, which Turkey is absolutely adamant on winning as he wants to be president for the 100th anniversary of Turkey's democracy in 2023. He will use any means at his disposal and Greece is an issue that arises naturally in his planning. But the Aegean is very close to Turkey and the fighter jets of the two countries fly in very close proximity, so we cannot rule out an accident or a misunderstanding or a mistake."
In September, Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos visited the eastern Aegean island of Kastellorizo, some two kilometers off Turkey's southern coast. This visit, according to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was a "provocation."
"Seeing [the Greeks'] provocative behavior lately, we forgot that they know how to swim. If they cling to this mindset, knowing how to swim will come in handy," Akar said. This logic needs an explanation. Why should the visit to a part of a sovereign state be a provocation against a neighboring country? Especially within the borders of NATO?
On October 6, President Erdoğan said that Greece should take his warnings seriously. He was resorting to the menacing rhetoric he had used in recent months, the same that had prompted the U.S. to urge the two NATO allies to negotiate. A month earlier, Erdoğan had fueled tensions in the Aegean Sea by saying that "we might come suddenly one night" – implying a military invasion of Greece.
Further unnerving Greece, Turkey on October 18 test-fired a locally made, medium-range ballistic missile over the Black Sea.
A mobile platform was used to fire the missile from an airport near Turkey's eastern Black Sea port city of Rize at around 7 a.m. local time. The projectile flew 561 kilometers (350 miles) before falling off the coast of the port of Sinop, the furthest any such weapon developed in the country has travelled. The secretive missile, the Tayfun (Typhoon in Turkish), was developed and built by Roketsan, a state-controlled missile manufacturer.
On October 21 Erdoğan admitted the program, saying, "Now that we have our Tayfun... This is a message to certain countries." Erdogan did not name these countries but Turkish state broadcaster showed a map that depicted Greece as being within range of the Tayfun missile.
The message reached the relevant audience. Major Greek newspapers Kathimerini, Ta Nea, To Vima and television channel Skai extensively covered the launch of the Tayfun.
Erdoğan, while explicitly threatening a NATO ally, has a plan to seriously undermine Western sanctions on Russia. On October 19, Erdoğan said that he had agreed with Putin to build a natural gas hub in Turkey. The project will enable Turkey to store Russian gas in Thrace and sell it to willing European buyers. This will effectively kill Western sanctions on Russia. Turkey will earn transit fees from every cubic meter of Russian gas sold to European buyers. A win-win for two autocrats.
What was the U.S. administration's response to all that? Approval for fighter jet sales! On October 11, the Senate removed two amendments to a bill designed to prevent the F-16 fighter jet sales to Turkey from the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). An earlier version of the bill had linked the sale to the condition that Turkey would not use the aircraft against Greece.
Erdoğan is now hopeful that Congress should give the green light to the F-16 deal before the end of the year. "Turkey and the U.S. have so far held four meetings on the F-16 issue. In New York [UN General Assembly meeting in September] I met with U.S. senators who were very positive. Talks are ongoing. The [U.S.] administration is taking the necessary positive steps [to enable the sale]," Erdoğan told reporters on October 21.
What other insane, anti-Western moves should Erdoğan make before U.S. President Joe Biden understands that Turkey's Islamist autocrat is a Putin pawn inside the NATO alliance?
Or is Biden a Putin pawn as well?
*Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was recently fired from the country's most noted newspaper after 29 years, for writing in Gatestone what is taking place in Turkey. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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Made in Tehran: narcotics, missiles and killer drones
Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/October 25, 2022
Iran may be falling apart before our eyes, as furious mass protests and general strikes enter their sixth week and continue to gain momentum. But some economic sectors are enjoying a golden age: The exporters of crystal meth, weaponized drones and a broad spectrum of other murderous contraband goods have never had it so good. It came as a wake-up call to many that the kamikaze drones raining death on civilians throughout Ukraine were in fact Iranian imports. Moreover, intelligence experts established that Iranian military personnel had based themselves in Crimea to exert direct control over these killing machines, and to learn lessons with a view to future advances in Iranian military hardware. Devastating strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have prompted a new exodus of refugees toward Europe before the cold of winter sets in.
Tehran has already delivered 1,750 drones to Moscow, in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution. Iran has also agreed to export hundreds of surface-to-surface missiles, with widespread concern that these relatively low-cost weapons could significantly reconfigure the contours of the Ukraine conflict. Iranian officials boast that a further 22 countries have expressed interest in weapons purchases as a result of the opportune publicity afforded by the carnage in Ukraine.
Iranian drones and missiles have also been used to stage attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and Hezbollah in Lebanon threatened drone strikes against Israeli offshore drilling facilities if it didn’t get what it wanted. The Iran-backed Houthi militia used drones to target international shipping last week at a Yemeni oil terminal. Iran’s missile program, the largest and most sophisticated in the region, now comprises thousands of warheads, and missiles with a range of 2,000km.
As for narcotics, an investigation by the Washington Post exposed the devastating consequences of Iran’s growing role in the methamphetamine trade. As of 2017, innovations in methamphetamine production — including the sourcing of a key ingredient from a plant endemic to Central Asia — made the drug much cheaper to synthesize, and Iran has become a global production center.
Turkish authorities report how cross-border smuggling networks are controlled by Iranian nationals, with a near doubling of seizures over the past year. Jordan’s anti-narcotics department, meanwhile, reported a 20-fold increase in seizures of methamphetamine (more than 45 tons) already this year.
Matters are infinitely worse in Iraq, where Basra has become an immense regional hub for the narcotics trade, controlled by powerful Iran-backed militias with government connections. These Hashd Al-Shaabi militias make a killing by monopolizing the mass movement of contraband goods, including heroin from Afghanistan. Social workers and medics testify to the devastating impact this has on Iraq’s society, where sky-high unemployment, political chaos, and the absence of a social safety net create optimal conditions for a hopeless generation seeking to lose themselves in chemical oblivion. Until recently, drug addiction levels in Iraq were negligible.
The consequences for Iran itself have been devastating. According to (probably massively inaccurate) official Iranian statistics there are about 4.4 million nationwide drug users and addicts, and at least 5,000 drug deaths per year.
Western states apparently regard Iran’s multibillion-dollar narcotics and military exports as a distant problem, destabilizing faraway states, but these massive revenue-generating activities are allowing Iran to mutate into a global threat.
In two other states under Iranian tutelage — Syria and Lebanon — legitimate economies have imploded, to be replaced by multibillion-dollar narco economies dedicated to producing immense volumes of the highly addictive drug Captagon. Hundreds of millions of Captagon tablets are being smuggled through ports in south Europe and across the Arab world.
Powerful vested interests this year pressured Lebanon’s judicial system to indefinitely suspend a verdict against the “King of Captagon,” Muhammad Daqou, on charges of attempting to smuggle 800,000 Captagon tablets worth $94 million from Latakia to Malaysia. Daqou controls vast production facilities on the Lebanon-Syria border. His wife Sahar Mohsen is a close relative of Wafiq Safa, Hezbollah’s head of security, who controls the movement of weapons and drugs in and out of Lebanon. Daqou was released from custody despite a photo of the invoice for the Malaysian drugs consignment being found on his phone.
To exert control over a swath of territory in the lawless Lebanon-Syria border region, Hezbollah has overseen a policy of demographic engineering, bussing in new residents whose loyalty can be guaranteed. In late 2021, paramilitary forces linked to Daqou subjected the border village of Tfail to an eight-hour armed assault, with the goal of terrorizing local people into leaving.
Hezbollah also has a massive stake in the cocaine trade, facilitated by Lebanese émigré communities stretching from South America to West Africa and back through a network of Lebanese and regional financial institutions.
The profits are clandestinely invested back into paramilitary and terrorist activities, enabling Tehran to reinforce its preeminent regional posture. In the same way, international oil sanctions prompted the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to take over large segments of the oil export industry, meaning that billions of dollars in revenues are funneled back into war-making and bankrolling instability, as well as into the corrupt pockets of leading ayatollahs and Revolutionary Guard officers.
Western states apparently regard Iran’s multibillion-dollar narcotics and military exports as a distant problem, destabilizing faraway states, but these massive revenue-generating activities are allowing Iran to mutate into a global threat.
Where do people think the massive funds have come from to pay for an acceleration of uranium enrichment? How has a state besieged by decades of sanctions come to possess the largest and most sophisticated missile arsenals in the region, which it generously distributes to its paramilitary puppets? Where has the money come from for vast reinforced underground bunkers and tunnels, making both conventional and nonconventional arsenals invulnerable to attack? And who ultimately underwrites the salaries and equipping of hundreds of thousands of Khomeinist militiamen throughout the region?
This is not as much a threat for Iran’s immediate neighbors as it is for a planet that doesn’t in the near future desire to have to grapple with a terrorist state that possesses the globe-straddling annihilative capacities of 100 North Koreas.
This is yet another example of the failure of global leadership, as world leaders neglect to take seriously the malign consequences of the tide of drugs, weapons, nuclear technology and terrorism flooding out of Iran. Do they seriously not recognize the threat, or do they simply lack the vision and resolve to take action?
• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

EU’s reputation is riding high, but challenges lie ahead
Kerry Boyd Anderson/Arab News/October 25, 2022
Polling suggests that the EU is enjoying high favorability ratings among Europeans and around the world. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the UK’s post-Brexit struggles have highlighted the union’s value. However, it faces significant headwinds.
The Pew Research Center recently published results from a poll conducted in the spring that looked at public views of the EU. Among 10 EU countries, 72 percent of Europeans expressed favorable views. The union ranked highest among Poles, with 89 percent of respondents in Poland saying that they view the EU favorably. Greeks were the most divided, with only 50 percent expressing positive views. In six of the 10 countries, positive views of the EU were at an “all-time high,” according to Pew, and several countries showed significantly higher ratings since last year.
Other surveys and analysis also suggest that Europeans are feeling particularly good about the EU this year. For example, the Standard Eurobarometer survey, conducted in the summer, found increased trust in the EU and noted that the “approval rate of the euro has reached its highest level ever.”
Furthermore, this has been a good year for the EU’s reputation abroad. Among nine non-EU countries, the Pew poll found a median of 64 percent of respondents with favorable views of the institution, ranging from 84 percent in South Korea to 50 percent in Israel. In the US, a crucial ally for Brussels, the poll found that 64 percent of Americans had a positive view.
Perhaps the primary reason driving support for the EU this year is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Europeans responded with anger toward Moscow and admiration for Ukraine’s determination to defend itself. Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly expected Europe to respond in a divided and weak fashion; instead, a unified Europe rallied behind Ukraine. A survey by the European Council on Foreign Relations from May found that 73 percent of Europeans blamed Russia for the war, and most expressed a desire to assist Ukraine by providing economic aid, sending weapons and accepting refugees. More recent polling from individual European countries, conducted in October, suggests that majorities in several states continue to support sanctions on Russia and are willing to accept some economic pain as a consequence.
The EU’s reputation also benefited from the economic and political fallout of Brexit. British supporters of leaving the EU argued that Brexit would improve economic competition, reduce regulation, and strengthen British independence and pride. Instead, since leaving the union in 2020, the country has experienced political crises, increased trade difficulties, a fiscal crisis, heightened risks of unrest in Northern Ireland, and increased potential for Scottish independence. Brexit is not fully responsible for all of these problems, but it has contributed to them and certainly did not solve anything.
The recent resignation of Liz Truss as prime minister after only 45 days, in the wake of a currency crash and economic crisis prompted by her planned budget, highlighted the reality that leaving the EU did not make life better for Britons. On the contrary, multiple polls over the summer and fall showed increasing regret among the British public over Brexit.
A July poll found that 52 percent of Britons thought that leaving the EU was the wrong decision, while another survey from June showed that 45 percent believed that Brexit “made their daily life worse” — a significant increase over the previous year. A more recent UK poll from October found that 59 percent of the public now believe that Brexit damaged the country’s economy. The unfulfilled promises of Brexit have undermined the arguments against the EU made by some right-wing European parties that initially hoped to exit the EU or at least to reduce its role.
While the EU is experiencing high levels of popularity, the institution faces major challenges. Europeans are keen to support Ukraine and willing to pay higher energy prices to reduce their own dependence on Russia, but they are less united behind a long-term vision for ending the war. While some polling suggests that Europeans have little interest in calling for compromise with Russia, other surveys find that many Europeans are worried about the economic impacts and risks of nuclear conflict, and want the war to end quickly; they may be likely to support some compromises with Russia. If Europe faces extreme energy shortages and high prices this winter, support for Ukraine might fade. So far, most Europeans see Russia as the main obstacle to peace, but their support for Ukraine might diminish if Kyiv appears intractable and they are struggling to pay their energy bills. The recent resignation of Liz Truss as prime minister after only 45 days, in the wake of a currency crash and economic crisis prompted by her planned budget, highlighted the reality that leaving the EU did not make life better for Britons.
While Europeans currently express strong support for Ukraine and clearly blame Russia for the war, long-standing ideological divides still exist among European populations and pose future challenges to the EU. Europeans who share a right-wing ideological perspective are much less likely than those on the left to feel favorably toward the union. For now, the war in Ukraine and Brexit have taken some of the wind out of the sails of right-wing parties that seek to undermine the EU or promote their own countries’ departures from the union, but they remain an important factor in European politics.
European leaders have an opportunity to build on current goodwill toward the EU and push forward policies that could cement a sense of the institution’s importance and value for European citizens — as well as its role on the world stage. Maintaining unity behind EU policy toward Russia and Ukraine is the most immediate opportunity and challenge.
*Kerry Boyd Anderson is a writer and political risk consultant with more than 18 years of experience as a professional analyst of international security issues and Middle East political and business risk. Her previous positions include deputy director for advisory with Oxford Analytica. Twitter: @KBAresearch