English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For April 17/2023
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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الياس بجاني/اضغط على الرابط في أسفل للإشتراك في موقعي ع اليوتيوب
15 آذار/2023

Bible Quotations For today
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 20/01-10/:"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes."

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on April 16-17/2023
Patriarch Rahi to MPs: How did you refuse to meet to elect a president, and today you meet and secure a quorum to postpone another constitutional due...
Bishop Audi blames leaders for Lebanon's collapse and corruption
Lebanese Parliament and Cabinet to hold simultaneous session to discuss municipal elections delay
Banks in debt: Negotiations between International Financial Institutions and Lebanese banks
Lebanese parliamentary delegation heads to Washington for crucial talks
Lebanon's tourism industry booms with high occupancy rates during Eid Al Fitr
Report: 5 nations to meet soon, Shiite Duo may give up Franjieh nomination

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 16-17/2023
Pope slams 'insinuations' against John Paul II as baseless
Christian faithful celebrate 'Holy Fire' under restrictions
At least 56 killed, hundreds injured in clashes across Sudan as paramilitary group claims control of presidential palace
No consensus on Syrian Arab League return after Saudi summit
Saudi stocks gain on rising oil prices; Qatar falls
Netanyahu Paints Rosy Picture of Israel in Revolt in Meet the Press Interview
'I'm extremely proud of them' - Father and husband of British-Israelis killed in West Bank calls for peace
Update on the Situation in Sudan
Reports: ISIS Kills 26 People in Syrian Countryside
Arab, Int'l Calls for Calm in Sudan
African Union Rejects External Interference in Sudan
In a First, UN to Commemorate Nakba Day in May
Putin meets Chinese defence minister, hails military cooperation
Russia's economy is hurting - and a new wave of EU sanctions aimed at crippling its 'war machine' are coming. Here are 6 key developments in the past week.
Brazil's Lula calls for 'peace group' to broker Ukraine-Russia deal
Iran: Jail terms for those behind downing of Ukraine flight
Four dead, at least 16 others injured after mass shooting at Alabama ‘Sweet 16’ party

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on April 16-17/2023
'Remove Your Church': The Persecution of Christians, March 2023/Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/April 16, 2023
E-Fuels for German Racing Highways/Najib Saab/Asharq Al Awsat/April 16/2023
The Sanctuary is Actually a Prison/Lydia Polgreen/The New York Times/April 16/2023
The US and its allies are stuck in a violent cycle with Iran-backed militias who want blood but don't want to 'poke the bear'/Jake Epstein/Business InsiderApril 16, 2023
U.S. Deploys Cruise Missile Submarine to Strengthen Deterrence Against Iran/Farzin Nadimi/The Washington Institute/April 16/2023
Minilateralism: A Concept That Is Changing the World Order/Nickolay Mladenov/The Washington Institute/April 16/2023

Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on April 16-17/2023
Patriarch Rahi to MPs: How did you refuse to meet to elect a president, and today you meet and secure a quorum to postpone another constitutional due...
NNA/Sun, April 16, 2023
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Mar Beshara Boutros Al-Rahi, presided over the Sunday Mass in Bkerke, asking the deputies: "How did you refuse to convene to elect a president, and today you meet and secure a quorum to postpone another constitutional due date?"The patriarch also criticized the deputies for not electing a president and held them responsible for the complete economic, financial, developmental and social collapse.

Bishop Audi blames leaders for Lebanon's collapse and corruption
/Sun, April 16, 2023
Metropolitan bishop of the Greek Orthodox, Elias Audi, emphasized the need for fundamental reform in all areas of the country.During his Easter Sunday sermon, bishop Audi stressed that reform requires a political decision, which is currently absent due to the country's lack of a functioning government and leadership. However, he also blamed the leaders for the collapse of the country, the spread of corruption, the inactivity of the judiciary, and the suppression of the truth in the Beirut Port explosion case. "Is it not the responsibility of the Constitutional Council to protect and apply the Constitution and respect the constitutional deadlines? Do they not realize the risks of the increasing number of non-Lebanese that will soon surpass the number of Lebanese?" he asked.

Lebanese Parliament and Cabinet to hold simultaneous session to discuss municipal elections delay
/Sun, April 16, 2023
Both the Lebanese Parliament and Cabinet will hold sessions on the same day.
However, the decision to schedule the legislative and executive sessions together was not coincidental. LBCI sources suggest that the sessions were followed by a surprise visit by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain El Tineh. The two reportedly discussed the postponement of the upcoming municipal elections, which is expected to be on the agenda for both sessions. During the legislative session, the postponement of the municipal and Mukhtar’s elections is expected to be the first and second items of the article. Moreover, parliamentary sources confirmed to LBCI that the elections would be delayed for a year rather than the previously suggested four to six months.
Meanwhile, the agenda of the Cabinet session included, in the ninth and last item, a request from the Interior and Municipalities Ministry to cover the costs of municipal and Mukhtar’s elections. The observers of the Cabinet session clarified that this item would remain on the agenda. When the Parliament approves the proposal to postpone the elections, the item becomes without a subject. Therefore it is withdrawn during the session at the request of the Interior and Municipalities Minister Bassam Mawlawi, thus closing the case of the municipal elections.

Banks in debt: Negotiations between International Financial Institutions and Lebanese banks
/Sun, April 16, 2023
International financial institutions, including the International Finance Corporation (IFC) affiliated with the World Bank, have lent hundreds of millions of dollars to Lebanese banks to lend to Lebanese citizens in various fields, such as the environment, clean energy, women's empowerment, small industries, and others. These loans are expected to be paid back like any other loan in Lebanon. However, with the start of the financial collapse, borrowers of these funds from Lebanese banks rushed to repay them to the concerned banks at a rate of LBP 1,500 per dollar using bank checks. At the same time, international financial institutions took action to recover their funds, including the IFC, whose outstanding loans amounted to $300 million. Moreover, they discussed the issue with the central bank, which told them they had to resolve it with the concerned banks. The IFC wanted to recover its funds outside of Lebanon by transferring them from banks to its account. Still, the concerned banks refused, arguing that they could not repay funds to international financial institutions. At the same time, they could not repay the deposits of Lebanese depositors due to the lack of liquidity. Therefore, the IFC and other international institutions negotiated with the concerned banks to discuss how to repay these debts. Proposals ranged from rescheduling, discounting amounts of these debts, or replacing them with Eurobonds in possession of the concerned banks. Also, it is known that some banks, which only owed minimal amounts, have already repaid them.

Lebanese parliamentary delegation heads to Washington for crucial talks
Lebanon News
/Sun, April 16, 2023
A Lebanese parliamentary delegation including MP Fouad Makhzoumi, his political advisor Carole Zouein, as well as MPs Ghassan Skaff, Elias Stephan, Elias Hankache, and Adib Abdel Massih have left for Washington. However, other MPs will join them in the next two days. The delegation will hold meetings with officials at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, as well as members of Congress. They will also attend a series of lectures given by officials in the US administration and meetings with the Lebanese community. The visit will continue until next Thursday.

Lebanon's tourism industry booms with high occupancy rates during Eid Al Fitr

/Sun, April 16, 2023
As the holiday of Eid Al Fitr approaches, Lebanon sees a surge in airport traffic and hotel bookings. Families who have not seen each other for years are reuniting with tears of joy, while young people flock to join the big celebrations with their loved ones. Airport traffic is expected to increase from Sunday until the first day of Eid Al Fitr, with a 25 percent increase in traffic this month compared to last month during non-holiday periods. However, the first reliance is on Lebanese expatriates, but tourists from Gulf countries, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt are also expected to arrive in the upcoming days. While most Lebanese people spend their holidays at home, many Lebanese and foreigners prefer to stay in hotels. According to the Tourism Ministry, hotel bookings in Beirut have reached 36 percent for Eid Al Fitr, with some hotels exceeding 80 percent occupancy rates. In Mount Lebanon, the bookings have reached 20 percent, with some hotels exceeding 60 percent. These rates are expected to rise as Lebanese and Arab tourists usually book at the last minute. Nevertheless, tourists need to be aware that restaurants are almost fully booked. Restaurants have regained their dynamism, and that is excluding demands for traditional Lebanese food such as mezze, hookah, saj, and grilled lamb. In addition, many Lebanese artists have returned to perform concerts for Eid Al Fitr, and nightclubs are fully booked. According to sources, this year's Eid Al Fitr season promises a bright period for the restaurant industry in Lebanon.

Report: 5 nations to meet soon, Shiite Duo may give up Franjieh nomination
/Sun, April 16, 2023
The five-nation group on Lebanon -- which comprises the U.S., France, KSA, Qatar and Egypt -- will meet soon to discuss the Lebanese presidential crisis and the possibility of launching new initiatives, a media report said on Sunday. “The level of representation in the meeting might be upped,” the al-Anbaa news portal of the Progressive Socialist Party said. Political sources meanwhile told al-Anbaa that “the Amal and Hezbollah duo might give up (Marada Movement chief Suleiman) Franjieh’s nomination to replace him with any candidate who might not be considered provocative by MP Jebran Bassil and the other Christian blocs such as the Lebanese Forces, Kataeb and others.” “Such a figure should also enjoy Saudi acceptance,” the sources added.

Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 16-17/2023
Pope slams 'insinuations' against John Paul II as baseless
ROME (AP)/Sun, April 16, 2023
Pope Francis on Sunday publicly defended St. John Paul II, condemning as “offensive and baseless” insinuations that recently surfaced about the late pontiff. In remarks to tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said he was aiming to interpret the feelings of the faithful worldwide by expressing gratitude to the Polish pontiff’s memory. Days earlier, the Vatican's media apparatus had described as “slanderous” an audiotape from a purported Roman mobster who insinuated that John Paul would go out looking for underage girls to molest. The tape was played on an Italian TV program by Pietro Orlandi, brother of Emanuela Orlandi, the teenage daughter of a Vatican employee who lived at the Vatican. The disappearance of the 15-year-old in 1983 is an enduring mystery that has spawned countless theories and so far fruitless investigations in the decades since. Francis noted that in Sunday's crowd in the square were pilgrims and other faithful in town to pray at a sanctuary for divine mercy, a quality John Paul stressed often in his papacy, which spanned from 1978 to 2005.
“Confident of interpreting the sentiment of all the faithful of the entire world, I direct a grateful thought to the memory of St. John Paul II, in these days the object of offensive and baseless insinuations," Francis said, his voice turning stern and his words drawing applause. Last week, Pietro Orlandi met for hours with Vatican prosecutors who earlier this year reopened the investigation into his sister's disappearance. Italy's Parliament has also begun a commission of inquest into the case. Emanuela vanished on June 22, 1983, after leaving her family’s Vatican City apartment to go to a music lesson in Rome. Her father was a lay employee of the Holy See. Among the theories about what happened to her have been ones linking the disappearance to the aftermath of the failed assassination attempt against John Paul in 1981 in St. Peter's Square or to the international financial scandal over the Vatican bank. Still other theories envision a role played by Rome’s criminal underworld. The recent four-part Netflix documentary “Vatican Girl” explored those possible scenarios and provided new testimony from a friend who said Emanuela had told her a week before she disappeared that a high-ranking Vatican cleric had made sexual advances toward her. Her brother has long insisted the Vatican knows more than it has said. The Vatican prosecutor in charge of the probe says the pontiff has given him free rein to try to find the truth. While at the Vatican last week, Pietro Orlandi provided Vatican prosecutors with an audiotape from a purported Roman mobster insinuating that John Paul would go out looking for underage girls to molest. The Vatican’s editorial director in a scathing editorial noted the insinuation lacked any “evidence, clues, testimonies or corroboration.”Writing in the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Andrea Tornielli said “no one deserves to be vilified in this way, without even a shred of a clue, on the basis of the ‘rumors’ of some unknown figure in the criminal underworld or some sleazy anonymous comment produced on live TV.” John Paul’s longtime secretary, Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, also criticized the insinuations as “unreal, false and laughable if they weren’t tragic and even criminal.” Pietro Orlandi’s lawyer, Laura Sgro, has insisted her client wasn’t accusing anyone.

Christian faithful celebrate 'Holy Fire' under restrictions
Associated Press/Sun, April 16, 2023
Christian worshippers thronged the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem to celebrate the ceremony of the "Holy Fire," an ancient ritual that sparked tensions this year with the Israeli police. In the annual ceremony that has been observed for over a millennium, a flame taken from Jesus' tomb is used to light the candles of fervent believers in Greek Orthodox communities near and far. The devout believe the origin of the flame is a miracle and is shrouded in mystery. On Saturday, after hours of frantic anticipation, a priest reached inside the dim tomb and ignited his candle. Each neighbor passed the light to another and, little by little, the darkened church was irradiated by tiny patches of light, which eventually illuminated the whole building. Bells rang out. "Christ is risen!" the multilingual worshippers shouted. "He is risen indeed!" Many trying to get to the church — built on the site where Christian tradition holds that Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected — were thrilled to mark the rite of the Orthodox Easter week in Jerusalem. But for the second consecutive year, Israel's strict limits on event capacity dimmed some of the exuberance. "It is sad for me that I cannot get to the church, where my heart, my faith, wants me to be," said 44-year-old Jelena Novakovic from Montenegro, who, like thousands of others, was trapped behind metal barricades that sealed off alleys leading to the Christian Quarter in Jerusalem's walled Old City. In some cases, the pushing and shoving escalated into violence. Footage showed Israeli police dragging and beating several worshippers, thrusting a Coptic Priest against the stone wall and tackling one woman to the ground. At least one older man was whisked, bleeding, into an ambulance. Israel has capped the ritual to just 1,800 people. The Israeli police say they must be strict because they're responsible for maintaining public safety. In 1834, a stampede at the event claimed hundreds of lives. Two years ago, a crush at a packed Jewish holy site in the country's north killed 45 people. Authorities say they're determined to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.
But Jerusalem's minority Christians — mired in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and caught between Jews and Muslims — fear Israel is using the extra security measures to alter their status in the Old City, providing access to Jews while limiting the number of Christian worshippers.
The Greek Orthodox patriarchate has lambasted the restrictions as a hindrance of religious freedom and called on all worshippers to flood the church despite Israeli warnings. As early as 8 a.m., Israeli police were turning back most worshippers from the gates of the Old City — including tourists who flew from Europe and Palestinian Christians who traveled from across the occupied West Bank — directing them to an overflow area with a livestream.
Angry pilgrims and clergy jostled to get through while police struggled to hold them back, allowing only a trickle of ticketed visitors and local residents inside. Over 2,000 police officers swarmed the stone ramparts. Ana Dumitrel, a Romanian pilgrim surrounded by police outside the Old City, said she came to pay tribute to her late mother, whose experience witnessing the holy fire in 1987 long inspired her. "I wanted to tell my family, my children, that I was here as my mom was," she said, straining over the crowds to assess whether she had a chance. After the ceremony, Palestinian Christians carried the fire through the streets and lit the tapers of the worshippers waiting outside. Chartered planes will ferry the flickering lanterns to Russia, Greece and beyond with great fanfare. The dispute over the church capacity comes as Christians in the Holy Land — including the head of the Roman Catholic church in the region as well as local Palestinians and Armenians — say that Israel's most right-wing government in history has empowered Jewish extremists who have escalated their vandalism of religious property and harassment of clergy. Israel says it's committed to ensuring freedom of worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Friction over the Orthodox Easter ritual has been fueled in part by a rare convergence of holidays in Jerusalem's bustling Old City. A few hundred meters away from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Muslims fasting for the 24th day of the holy month of Ramadan were gathering for midday prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. Earlier this week, tens of thousands of Jews flocked to the Western Wall during the Passover holiday. Tensions surged last week, when an Israeli police raid on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Jerusalem's most sensitive site, ignited Muslim outrage around the world. The mosque is the third holiest site of Islam. It stands on a hilltop that is the holiest site for Jews, who revere it as the Temple Mount. Israel captured the Old City, along with the rest of the city's eastern half, in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed it in a move not internationally recognized. Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their hoped-for state. In its limestone passageways Saturday, Christians pushed back by police were trying to cope with their disappointment. Cristina Maria, a 35-year-old who traveled from Romania to see the light kindled from the holy fire, said there was some consolation in the thought that the flame was symbolic, anyway. "It's the light of Christ," she said, standing between an ice cream parlor and a dumpster in the Old City. "We can see it from here, there, anywhere."

At least 56 killed, hundreds injured in clashes across Sudan as paramilitary group claims control of presidential palace
CNN/Sun, April 16, 2023
At least 56 people have been killed and 595 injured in clashes across Sudan, according to the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors. Sudan’s paramilitary chief Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo claims to have seized most of Khartoum’s official sites after clashes erupted between his armed group and the country’s military on Saturday. “The Rapid Support Forces control more than 90 percent of strategic sites in Khartoum,” Dagalo said in an interview with Sky News Arabia, referring to his paramilitary group. The country’s military leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, disputed Dagalo’s claims and said the military has maintained control over government sites. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Dagalo – also known as Hemedti – described Burhan as a “criminal,” accusing him of instigating fighting on Saturday, which led to three civilian deaths and dozens wounded. Armed clashes were reported throughout Khartoum, including the presidential palace and the capital’s army headquarters. Medical sources at a hospital in central Khartoum told CNN Saturday afternoon the hospital has received dozens of wounded civilians and military personnel in the last several hours. Among those killed was an Indian national working in Sudan, who died after being hit by a stray bullet on Saturday, the Indian embassy in Khartoum tweeted. It identified the man as Albert Augestine, a Dal Group Company employee, and said it was in touch with his family and medical authorities to “make further arrangements.”On Saturday, the embassy issued a notice for all Indians to stay inside and take precautions. Sudan’s military said the Rapid Support Forces infiltrated Khartoum airport and burned civilian aircraft. “To our honorable people, the rebellious forces are continuing with their cycles of traitorous plotting and attacks against our country and its national sovereignty. Since this morning, your Armed Forces sons have been fighting with their lives for our nation’s rights and dignity,” the Official Spokesman of the Armed Forces said in a statement. Dagalo’s meteoric rise to power began when he was a leader of Sudan’s notorious Janjaweed forces, implicated in human rights violations in the Darfur conflict of the early 2000s. His group also killed at least 118 people in pro-democracy protests in June 2019 after troops opened fire at a peaceful sit-in. --- CNN

No consensus on Syrian Arab League return after Saudi summit
Associated Press/Sun, April 16, 2023
After meeting in Saudi Arabia to discuss Syria's political fate, a group of regional leaders promised to continue talks to reach a political solution to the Syrian conflict, but stopped short of endorsing its return to the Arab League.
The meeting, which included top diplomats from the Arab Gulf countries as well as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, was convened days after Syria's foreign minister visited Saudi Arabia for the first time since the kingdom cut off diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012. Syria and Saudi Arabia said Thursday they were moving toward reopening embassies and resuming flights between the two countries for the first time in more than a decade. Syria was widely shunned by Arab governments over Syrian President Bashar Assad's brutal crackdown on protesters in a 2011 uprising that descended into civil war. The breakdown in relations culminated with Syria being ousted from the Arab League. However, in recent years, as Assad consolidated control over most of the country, Syria's neighbors have begun to take steps toward rapprochement. The overtures picked up pace since the massive Feb. 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and the Chinese-brokered reestablishment of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which had backed opposing sides in the Syrian conflict. Saudi Arabia is hosting the next Arab League summit in May, when Syria's membership is widely expected to be on the table. Some members, mainly Qatar, have opposed Damascus' return to the organization. Qatar did not appear to have changed its stance after the meetings convened in Jeddah late Friday. A statement issued by the Saudi foreign ministry Saturday said the ministers had "stressed that a political solution is the only solution to the Syrian crisis, and the importance of having an Arab leadership role in efforts to end the crisis." They agreed to "set up the necessary mechanisms" to do so and hold "intensifying consultations among Arab countries to ensure the success of these efforts. The ministers also condemned recent Israeli police raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City and "emphasized the centrality and priority of the Palestinian cause, and condemned illegal Israeli practices that undermine the two-state solution" with an "independent and sovereign Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem" based on pre-1967 borders, the statement said.
Also on Thursday, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad arrived in Algeria on an official visit to discuss "strengthening bilateral relations" and "coordinating positions between the two countries" in the "Arab and international arenas," Syrian state media reported. Algeria is one of the few Arab countries that did not cut off relations with Syria during the conflict.

Saudi stocks gain on rising oil prices; Qatar falls

LBCI/Sun, April 16, 2023
Saudi Arabia's stock markets ended higher on Sunday after Friday's rise in oil prices, although the Qatari index extended losses for a second session. Oil prices - a key catalyst for the Gulf's financial markets - were up on Friday in a fourth straight week of gains after the West's energy watchdog said global demand will hit a record high this year on the back of a recovery in Chinese consumption. Saudi Arabia's benchmark index (. TASI) gained 0.6%, led by a 1.2% increase in Al Rajhi Bank (1120.SE), while oil giant Saudi Aramco (2223.SE) added 0.8%. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman launched on Thursday four new Special Economic Zones in Saudi Arabia, state media reported on Thursday after the market had closed, citing a statement. The kingdom will allow 100% foreign ownership of companies in the new economic zones. In Qatar, the index (. QSI) fell 0.4%, extending losses for a second session, with petrochemical maker Industries Qatar (IQCD.QA) losing 1.5%. GDP growth in the Middle East and North Africa region will slow to 3.1% in 2023, from 5.3% a year ago, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Middle East and Central Asia department director Jihad Azour said on Thursday. Egypt was closed for a public holiday.

Netanyahu Paints Rosy Picture of Israel in Revolt in Meet the Press Interview
Corbin Bolies/The Daily Beast/April 16, 2023
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a lengthy interview with Meet the Press on Sunday to evade criticism of his proposed judicial reforms, deflect from the staunch conservatism of his government, and diminish the perception that his public approval has tanked—despite multiple polls indicating otherwise. Appearing via satellite from Jerusalem, Netanyahu acknowledged his decision late last month to delay an overhaul of the Israeli judiciary after mass protests threatened to send its military into upheaval. (The proposed changes could have potential political benefits for Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption.) However, despite acknowledging the state of a “divided country,” the embattled prime minister tried to paint it as a mere caveat of an unpopular policy decision.
“There are always these contentious polls,” he said. “We just had a poll three months ago, and it’s called an election. And in fact, what has happened in the last three months is that overwhelmingly, not only the parties that won, but right now the broad base of the Israeli public believes that we have to have these corrections in the judicial system.”But Netanyahu’s rose-colored lenses failed to acknowledge the polling realities within Israel. A Channel 13 poll from April 9 found that 71 percent of respondents believed Netanyahu was performing poorly as prime minister, while a Morning Consult poll from April 10 showed that 63 percent disapproved of his performance—down 5 percent from its last poll. Netanyahu also acknowledged a report stemming from the cache of leaked U.S. intelligence documents that the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, opposed his government over the judicial reforms and led “explicit calls to action” from within. “The truth is that the Mossad legal advisor said that under Israeli law, junior members of Mossad can participate in their demonstrations, not senior members,” he said. “That’s, I think, what led to this misunderstanding. No, I think the Mossad, the military, our internal security services are working hand in hand with me as prime minister to assure the security of the country.”Later in the interview, Netanyahu acknowledged that there is a faction “upset” about his moves, but said it was a minority compared to those who want the reforms. “You wouldn’t know about the other side that wants to have the judicial reform because their demonstrations are not covered,” Netanyahu said. “So yes, there is a divided country right now. I think when I look at the issues themselves, I find a lot more agreement on the specific items.”
Netanyahu also tried to shift the conversation away from the judicial reforms—including Todd’s suggestion that the country call a snap election to determine the public interest in the proposal—to respond to criticisms that his government is “the most radical, extreme conservative government.”
“How many of your audience know that the speaker of the Knesset, the speaker of our Congress, is gay? How many know that he was nominated by me? And how many know that he was overwhelmingly elected just a few months ago? Nobody knows that because it doesn’t fit the bill,” Netanyahu said, also acknowledging investments in Arab sectors. “There is so much misinformation about what is happening in Israel that is fed from Israel political opponents. It’s natural. They’re feeding the political opponents abroad, and so the picture is set.”
But Netanyahu again obscured the reality that brought him back to his role as prime minister. He was reelected after a coalition of ultra-conservative religious and nationalist parties backed his ascension, and he’s previously defended his association by saying he would be the ultimate policymaker. “They are joining me. I’m not joining them,” Netanyahu told NPR in December. He never referenced that coalition with Todd, instead insisting that Israel’s democracy would flourish. “That’s not the real picture,” Netanyahu said. “Israel is a vibrant democracy, has been a vibrant democracy, and will remain a vibrant democracy. And you know the one who’s most committed to that is me.”

'I'm extremely proud of them' - Father and husband of British-Israelis killed in West Bank calls for peace

Sky News/Sun, April 16, 2023
The father and husband of three British-Israelis murdered in the West Bank this month has told Sky News that he is immensely proud of his wife and daughters, and called on the international community to come together to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In an exclusive interview at the family home in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, Rabbi Leo Dee said he has faith that some good could come from the tragedy and praised the British government for changing its response to the attack. The Dee family were driving up the Jordan Valley in the West Bank on Friday 7 April, en route to a Passover holiday on Lake Galilee.Leo Dee was ahead, in a separate car with two of his children.
Palestinian gunmen shot at the car containing Lucy Dee and two of their daughters Maia, 20, and 15-year-old Rina. Their car was forced off the road, and the terrorists stopped and fired at it again. Twenty bullet casings were found near the car. Maia and Rina were pronounced dead at the scene. Lucy was airlifted to a hospital outside Jerusalem for emergency surgery. "I called Lucy, no answer. I called Maia, no answer. I called Rina, and no answer. We were slightly panicking at this point and I looked on Google family link and found that they were at the Hamra Junction and that seemed to be where this attack was. "My son received on this website a photo of the car. Just the car, and we spotted our suitcases in it, covered in blood."They turned around and drove back to the junction but police wouldn't allow them to go to the car. However, they were shown Maia's ID card. At that point, they knew the worst had happened. "We bombed back down the motorway to Jerusalem, went to the hospital, she [Lucy] had just been taken into intensive care and was being prepared for an operation. "The Friday night of the attack, I was in hospital and I had nightmares and then I woke up and my reality was worse than the nightmares, so I went back to sleep and then I had another nightmare. All I could picture was the moment of the crash and the terrorists and the bullets. "The next night, I decided to focus on the good and I suddenly focused on my two remaining daughters and my son and I thought about them, and I felt a sense of calm and I was able to sleep."Lucy never regained consciousness and died of her wounds three days later. She donated her organs after her death and five people's lives have been saved as a result. "She was declared dead on the Monday and we spent that afternoon, one after another we had half an hour, an hour each to talk to her, we sang to her together and we had a lot of time to have her in front of us," Rabbi Dee said.
One of the recipients of her organs was an Arab.
"I think that is significant to us because Lucy was very much into peaceful relations with our neighbours and I think she would have been very proud that she saved the life of an Arab."Thousands of people have travelled from across Israel and the world to pay their respects and bring food to the family Shiva, the seven-day period of mourning in the Jewish faith. As we arrived, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had just flown in by military helicopter to see the family. "Lucy was an exceptional human being," Rabbi Dee said. "She was a community builder, she was someone who gave and that was really her defining feature.
"The kids picked up from that and they've learnt to give."Maia was working as a counsellor in a school and Reena was at boarding school. "She [Lucy] would stay up all night talking to girls, particularly girls who were struggling in the group and she would try and help them through their difficulties. She was just busy, busy the whole time. I'm extremely proud of all of them." Rabbi Dee was born and grew up in England. He went to Cambridge University and Lucy studied at Oxford - they met in Oxford and married shortly after. Later he was an assistant Rabbi at a synagogue in north London before moving to Radlett in Hertfordshire. They moved to Israel in 2005. Rabbi Dee praised the British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly for hardening the initial British response to the attack and said he was calling it the "Cleverly Declaration", comparing it to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 which said Britain would support the formation of a Jewish state in Palestine. "I feel that statement, saying that Britain stands unequivocally against violence and against terror, is a landmark in British history in terms of the way it's dealt with the State of Israel. "Up until now, there's not been unequivocal condemnation of violence, there's actually been a very sort of wishy-washy condemnation of violence which I think is slightly the Foreign Office's fault," he said. "He [Cleverly], did the right thing, he did the true thing and I can only thank him from the bottom of my heart. This may be the beginning of a new cycle of peace. "We need to stop giving terror any possible window of goodness, we have to condemn it outright, it's outright evil, terrorists are outright evil. They have to be told that and treated as such." The Israeli military and security services are still hunting for the attacker, so far without success. "I don't hold any hate towards them. I feel that the Israeli security forces will do what they usually do which is to track them down and bring them to justice which I think is right because it prevents the next attack that they might do. "I have faith, I have hope and I believe that the violence is actually caused by a small percentage of the Palestinian population and the vast majority of Palestinians are good people. "They are prime victims of the Palestinian regime, as are the people in Gaza victims of their regime."

Update on the Situation in Sudan
APRIL 15, 2023
I welcomed the opportunity April 15 to consult with Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud, Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, about the dangerous fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Security Forces, which threatens the security and safety of Sudanese civilians and undermines efforts to restore Sudan’s democratic transition. We agreed it was essential for the parties to immediately end hostilities without pre-condition. I urge General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan and General Mohamed Hamdan Degalo to take active measures to reduce tensions and ensure the safety of all civilians. The only way forward is to return to negotiations that support the Sudanese people’s democratic aspirations. We continue to remain in close touch with our Embassy in Khartoum and have full accountability of our personnel. We also have been communicating with American citizens who may be in the region about safety measures and other precautions.

Reports: ISIS Kills 26 People in Syrian Countryside
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 April, 2023
ISIS militants have killed 26 people who were foraging for wild truffles in Syria's Hama region, opposition and state media reported Sunday. Amid the economic devastation of Syria’s yearslong war, foraging for truffles can help people earn money, as the seasonal delicacy fetches a high price.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition media group based in Britain, said civilians and military personnel were among the victims of the armed attack in the eastern outskirts of the city of Hama, 115 miles (186 kilometers) north of the capital Damascus. State news agency SANA said that the attack was carried out by members of the ISIS group. Despite their defeat in Syria in March 2019, the militant group’s sleeper cells still carry out deadly attacks both in Syria and Iraq where they once held territories and declared a “caliphate.”Since the truffle hunters work in large groups in remote areas, ISIS militants have repeatedly preyed on them, emerging from the desert to abduct them, kill some and ransom others for money. In February, ISIS sleeper cells attacked workers collecting truffles near the central town of Sukhna, killing at least 53 people, mostly workers but also some Syrian government security forces. Earlier this month, six people were killed by a land mine planted by the ISIS group in the southern Deir Ezzor province also while foraging for truffles, according to state-run news agency SANA.

Arab, Int'l Calls for Calm in Sudan
London, Riyadh, Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 April, 2023
Arab and international officials called for calm and dialogue on Saturday in wake of the clashes between the military and Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah received a telephone call from his United Arab Emirates counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
They discussed the situation in Sudan, stressing the need to end the military escalation and return to the framework agreement in order to restore security and calm. The Saudi Foreign Ministry had expressed its deep concern over the developments in Sudan, calling on the military and all political leaderships to return to dialogue, show restraint and unite ranks to complete the implementation of the framework agreement. The agreement aims to reach a political declaration that would establish political stability and economic recovery in Sudan.
The UAE's embassy in Khartoum said it was following the developments in Sudan with concern. It underscored the UAE's firm stance that calls for ending the escalation and working on reaching a peaceful solution to the crisis, reported the state news agency WAM. Diplomatic advisor to the UAE president Dr. Anwar al-Gargash said: "Our hearts are with Sudan. Violence only breeds violence and there can be no substitute to restraint and dialogue between the warring parties."There can be no other choice besides the peaceful transition and opening a new chapter in the country, he added. The Qatari Foreign Ministry urged all parties to immediately cease fighting, exercise restraint and prioritize public interests. The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry called for an immediate halt to the escalation and for reason and dialogue to prevail to end differences. Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Jassem Albudaiwi expressed his deep concern over the developments in Sudan, calling for calm and restraint. Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Hissein Brahim Taha echoed his concern, urging a ceasefire and dialogue. Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit expressed his concern over the fighting, stressing that the organization was ready to intervene with the parties. In Cairo, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry urged the "greatest restraint" in neighboring Sudan. It called on the parties to prioritize the higher national interests. A spokesman for the Egyptian military said the army was closely monitoring the situation. Head of the Egyptian council for foreign affairs and former Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Orabi told Asharq Al-Awsat that both sides of the fighting in Sudan are the losers in this situation. He said they have "taken a leap into the darkness through a military act that will not yield any fruit and for which the Sudanese people will pay dearly if the situation were to continue." The Algerian presidency, meanwhile, called on all Sudanese parties to stop fighting and prioritize dialogue to overcome disputes
International stances
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged an immediate end to the fighting and the launch of dialogue to resolve the crisis. "Any further escalation in the fighting will have a devastating impact on civilians and further aggravate the already precarious humanitarian situation in the country," he warned. He called on Member States in the region to support efforts to restore order and return to the path of transition. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the "unfortunate developments in Sudan were a cause of deep concern in Moscow." It called on all parties to show restraint and take immediate measures to stop the fighting. Blinken tweeted that he was "deeply concerned about reports of escalating violence between the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces." "We are in touch with the Embassy team in Khartoum - all are currently accounted for. We urge all actors to stop the violence immediately and avoid further escalations or troop mobilizations and continue talks to resolve outstanding issues."

African Union Rejects External Interference in Sudan

Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 April, 2023
The African Union's Peace and Security Council said on Sunday it strongly rejected any external interference that could complicate the situation in Sudan. Sudan's army appeared to gain the upper hand on Sunday in a bloody power struggle with rival paramilitary forces after blasting its bases with air strikes, witnesses said, and at least 59 civilians were killed including three UN workers. The fighting erupted on Saturday between army units loyal to General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of Sudan's transitional governing Sovereign Council, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, who is deputy head of the council. It was the first such outbreak since both joined forces to oust president Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2019 and was sparked by a disagreement over the integration of the RSF into the military as part of a transition towards civilian rule. Saudi Arabia, the United States, China, Russia, Egypt, the UN Security Council and European Union have appealed for a quick end to the hostilities that threaten to worsen instability in an already volatile wider region.

In a First, UN to Commemorate Nakba Day in May
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 April, 2023
The UN will commemorate Nakba Day, which marks the creation of the state of Israel in historical Palestine, for the first time in 2023, according to media reports Saturday. "Commemorating the Nakba must be at the top of our priorities in order to preserve our narrative, which we must adhere to and convey to the whole world," the Palestinian WAFA news agency quoted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as saying. According to Anadolu Agency, Abbas urged all Palestinians to commemorate the Palestinian tragedy of 1948 "to confront all lies and false narratives that attempt to distort history and facts." "What Palestinians everywhere are required to do is to commemorate this tragedy, because it is the first time that the global community does not deny the Nakba," he continued. "On these blessed days, we call on all our people to stand together to face the challenges facing our cause, our land and our sanctities, and to focus our compass towards confronting the occupation and getting rid of it," he stressed. Nakba Day is marked annually by Palestinians on May 15 to remember the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and areas in 1948 after the founding of Israel.

Putin meets Chinese defence minister, hails military cooperation
Reuters/April 16, 2023
Russian President Vladimir Putin met Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu in Moscow on Sunday and hailed military cooperation between the two nations, which have declared a "no limits" partnership. Footage of the meeting posted by the Kremlin showed Putin shaking hands with Li and then sitting down at a table. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was also present. "Development of relations between our two nations is going well in all areas -- in the economy, social, cultural and educational sectors, and in military departments," Putin said in opening remarks. Beijing had announced Li's visit to Moscow last week, saying he would meet defence officials, but made no mention of a meeting with Putin. Chinese President Xi Jinping met Putin in Moscow last month. Russia and China have moved to further strengthen their economic, political and military ties since Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February 2022. Ukrainian forces are finding a growing number of components from China in Russian weapons used in Ukraine, a senior official in Kyiv said on Friday. China has repeatedly denied sending military equipment to Russia.

Russia's economy is hurting - and a new wave of EU sanctions aimed at crippling its 'war machine' are coming. Here are 6 key developments in the past week.
Zinya Salfiti/Business Insider/April 16, 2023
Russia's economy is hurting and a new wave of EU sanctions targeting its "war machine" are coming. Growing links to China, an unstable currency and "cherry-picked" data are key developments. Here are six key things to know about what's going on in Russia over the past week. Russia's economy is reeling from the web of Western sanctions imposed on it after Vladimir Putin launched his war in Ukraine — and an official from the European Union recently said that Moscow will soon face a new wave of penalties coming from Europe. The country's finances have taken a massive hit. Russia's private sector is shrinking, it has posted a $29 billion deficit in the first three months of 2023, and its main revenue sources – oil and gas exports – have plunged since a price cap was imposed by Western powers late last year. Russia's growing economic ties to China, its unstable currency, and rising doubts about the accuracy of official government data coming out of Moscow are just some the key developments over the past week. Here are 6 key things to know about what's going on in Russia as it grapples with the impact of sanctions on its economy:
1. It's not clear how Russia's economy is faring
The world's top forecasters can't seem to agree on whether Russia's economy is expanding or contracting. That's in part because of the questionable accuracy of the official data provided by Putin's government since the war began. Seven predictions from the likes of JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, the IMF, Bank of Russia and more, all have different – and conflicting – estimates of Russia's real GDP in 2023.
2. "Cherry-picked" data
Economists around the world have cautioned against relying too much on economic forecasts and predictions that heavily depend on official data coming from Moscow's government. They said official stats are trying to paint a rosy picture of a resilient economy that's withstood the impact of sanctions – when in reality, the economy is in tatters. "Since the Ukrainian invasion, our data has shown that the Kremlin's economic releases have become increasingly cherry-picked, selectively tossing out unfavorable metrics while releasing only those that are more favorable," two Yale researchers said. Alexei Bayer, an independent economist, echoed this view and said the situation is much worse than it seems. "Russian economic statistics are a collection of lies and distortions," Bayer said. "They are meant to convince people at home that their economy is chugging along despite the war, and people abroad that Western economic sanctions don't work and therefore should be rescinded."
3. There's a massive hole in the Kremlin's budget
Russia – the world's second-larges oil and gas producer — lost over $15 billion in oil and gas revenue during the first quarter of 2023, thanks to the price cap aimed at crippling Moscow's energy exports. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he's optimistic that the situation will improve in the next few months given rising oil prices. Still, some experts said the country has lost its largest export markets, and these shrinking markets for Russia's resources will eventually push the Kremlin to cut spending on infrastructure and social programs.
4. Falling energy export revenue is shaking the ruble
The Russian ruble is coming off its worst week against the dollar since last year, cratering more than 5%. The falling currency comes as the country's energy export revenue dipped, and evidence mounts that Russia's recession in 2022 was way worse than initially thought.
5. Russia is becoming more economically linked to China
Russians purchased 41.9 billion rubles worth of China's yuan currency in March, more than tripling the 11.6 billion rubles they bought the month before, according to reports from the country's central bank. While Putin rejected the idea that his country is becoming more economically dependent on China, and said it's a notion that comes from "jealous people," Chinese President Xi Jinping was able to secure sweeping trade agreements between the nations without offering up any concrete support in Ukraine. "The main conduit of a deeper integration of China into Russia has been the Chinese yuan which is now perceived by the Russians as a much safer reserve currency to keep," Kpler analyst Viktor Katona told Insider.
6. New EU sanctions are looming
The embattled Russian economy is set to face a fresh round of painful sanctions.
Mairead McGuinness, a top EU official, confirmed on Thursday that Europe has plans to roll out its 11th package of penalties against Russia.
She didn't specify what the new sanctions would be aimed at. However, earlier rounds targeted Russia's oil and gas exports, key technologies, access to its currency reserves, and both individuals and companies.

Brazil's Lula calls for 'peace group' to broker Ukraine-Russia deal
ABU DHABI (Reuters)/Sun, April 16, 2023
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Sunday again proposed establishing a group of countries not involved with the Russia-Ukraine war to broker peace, saying he had discussed the matter with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping earlier this week. "I think we need to sit on a table and say, 'that's enough, let's start talking' because war never brought and will never bring any benefit to humanity," said Lula, who has been critical of the United States and the European Union for their role in the conflict. The Brazilian president told reporters in Abu Dhabi, where he finished a trip to Asia, that he was trying to gather a group of leaders that "prefer to talk about peace rather than war."He cited Xi and the president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, both of whom he met this week. Lula had previously said the group should gather countries not "encouraging" war, adding that nations that are supplying weapons should be convinced to stop doing so. The United States and the European Union have been providing Ukraine with weapons and other support since Russia invaded the neighboring country more than a year ago. Germany earlier this year reportedly asked Brazil to supply arms as well, but Lula refused. Lula repeated that the decision to start war was "made by two countries," appearing to also place some blame on Ukraine, and added that ending it will be harder as more nations would need to be persuaded. "We are trying to form a group of countries that have no kind of involvement with the war to talk to Russia and Ukraine, but also the U.S. and EU, to convince people that peace is the best way to establish a process of conversation," Lula said. Lula had a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy earlier this year. On Monday, his administration will host Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Brasilia.

Iran: Jail terms for those behind downing of Ukraine flight
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP)/Sun, April 16, 2023
An Iranian court has sentenced an air defense commander allegedly responsible for the deadly downing of a passenger plane amid Iran-U.S. tensions several years ago, a state news agency reported Sunday. Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard mistakenly shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight in January 2020. The missile strike killed all 176 people on board and came as Tehran and Washington teetered on the brink of war. The Guards commander who officials purport ordered the strike was sentenced to 13 years in prison, the official judiciary news outlet said. Mizan said the commander did not follow protocols in the moments leading up to the shooting down of the plane. The commander was ordered to pay fines to families of victims, the report added. Mizan said the court also sentenced two personnel allegedly involved in running the surface-to-air missile system Tor M-1 to one year in prison each. After a lengthy series of hearings, the court sentenced at least seven other personnel and air defense officers to up to three years in prison. According to Mizan, the verdicts are appealable within 20 days. The report did not identify any of the defendants by name or further details. The judiciary news agency also said Iran's government plans to pay $150,000 for each victim to their families. It did not elaborate on how this money will be delivered to the families. The hearing sessions have faced international criticism since starting in 2021. At that time, an association of the victims’ families also criticized the hearing and cast doubts on the court's legitimacy. The group also alleged that none of the defendants were present at hearings. Just hours before the shootdown in January 2020, Iran had fired ballistic missiles at American bases in Iraq in retaliation for the U.S. drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

Four dead, at least 16 others injured after mass shooting at Alabama ‘Sweet 16’ party
Graig Graziosi/The Independent/Sun, April 16, 2023
Four people were killed and at least 16 others were wounded in Dadeville, Alabama, over the weekend after a "Sweet-16" birthday party turned violent. The party took place Saturday night at the Mahogany Masterpiece Dance Studio, witnesses told WRBL. Gunfire erupted at the party around 10:30pm, injuring more than 20 people. Witnesses told the news broadcaster that most of the more than 20 victims are teens, though that information has not been confirmed by law enforcement. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency confirmed that four people died in the mass shooting, according to AL.com. No further information on their identities or the details of the shooting were provided. No arrests were announced, and no further information on the whereabouts of the shooter were provided. Numerous families have reportedly gathered to wait outside area hospitals where their loved ones are presumably being treated.
Little information has come out officially about the shooting in the hours since it happened. A grisly photo — showing six people lying on the ground inside the dance studio next to the words "praying for Dadeville" — has emerged after the shooting, according to the broadcaster. First responders said they were aware of the shooting, and a group of social media users are trying to get the image removed. Ben Haynes, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dadeville, said he spent the night with the families of the victims, according to ABC News. Family members of the victims reportedly told Mr Haynes that an argument inside the party sparked the shooting, and that there were more than 50 people at the party when the violence broke out. The situation is under active investigation the by the ALEA's State Bureau of Investigations, the Dadeville Police Department, and the Tallapoosa County Sheriff's Office. Governor Kay Ivey acknowledged the shooting on social media. “This morning, I grieve with the people of Dadeville and my fellow Alabamians,” she wrote. “Violent crime has NO place in our state, and we are staying closely updated by law enforcement as details emerge.”Dadeville's mayor, Jimmy Goodman, said that the residents were "in shock" and that they were "doing our best to cope with it.""We're just trying to make do," he told the news outlet. The mass shooting is the latest in a violent spring across the US South. In late March, a woman shot and six people at a private school in Nashville, including three 9-year-old children. A few weeks later a mass shooter in Louisville, Kentucky, killed six people and injured nine others at his workplace.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 16-17/2023
ريموند إبراهيم/كايتستون: قائمة باحداث اضطه9اد المسيحيين في العالم خلال شهر آذار/2023
'Remove Your Church': The Persecution of Christians, March 2023
Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/April 16, 2023
"You should remove your church, because we cannot watch our members turning to Christianity and keep quiet." — Sheikh Shafi Mukama "ordering the father and son to leave [their church] in 2022, while other from the mob kept watch outside," morningstarnews.org, March 22, 2023, Uganda.
"Requirements for obtaining permission to build houses of worship in Indonesia are onerous and hamper the establishment of such buildings for Christians and other faiths.... [T]hey are often met with delays or lack of response from officials. Well-organized radical Muslims secretly mobilize outside people to intimidate and pressure members of minority faiths." — morningstarnews.org, March 24, 2023, Indonesia.
"According to the UN, ongoing insecurity in eastern DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] has displaced 300,000 from their homes in February alone." — opendoors.ph, March 22, 2023, Democratic Republic of Congo.
"It is a massacre like...killing animals." — A key church minister, persecution.org, International Christian Concern March 20, 2023, Democratic Republic of Congo.
"For leaving Islam to accept Christ," say a Mar. 19 report, "a young mother... was chained in her home, subjected to electrical shocks at a psychiatric hospital and has lost her children." .... [H]er problems began, chiefly from her Muslim husband, who "tried to force her to renounce her faith by chaining her legs and tightening the chains.... [H]er parents and siblings are all Muslims [a local source said], who believe she is suffering mental illness for believing in Christ." — morningstarnews, March 19, 2023, Sudan.
"[S]ince the start of the war, the Christian population has reportedly diminished by more than 80 per cent, from an estimated 1.5 million to 250,000... More than 350 churches have been destroyed in attacks carried out by terrorists during this period.... On the 20th anniversary of the Iraq war, therefore, I want to raise awareness about the country's Christians, in the hope that the international community acts to prevent their tragedy from continuing before it is too late." — Report by Natasha Dado, thenationalnews.com, April 16, 2023.
"The rampant trafficking of Coptic women and girls is a direct violation of their most basic rights.... The crimes committed against these women must be urgently addressed by the Egyptian government, ending impunity for kidnappers, their accomplices, and police who refuse to perform their duties.... The large majority of these women are never reunited with their families or friends because police response in Egypt is dismissive and corrupt. There are countless families who report that police have either been complicit in the kidnapping or at the very least bribed into silence." — copticsolidarity.org, March 16, 2023 and September 10, 2020, Egypt.
"For Christians in the Middle East, the Christmas season is not 'the most beautiful time of the year' as in the popular Andy Williams song. On the contrary, after two millennia of Christian presence, the Middle East is slowly but surely being cleansed of Christians.... It is striking that the Western powers, which have a majority Christian population, are not concerned at all by such a disaster." — Matija Šerić, "Christians In The Middle East: A Persecuted And Forgotten People," eurasiareview.com, April 15,2023.
"The only country in the region with a growing Christian community is Israel, where the Christian population grew by 1.4% in 2020.... Christians in Israel benefit from the only functioning democracy in the Middle East... According to the Israel Bureau of Statistics from December 2021, 84% of Christians surveyed said they were satisfied with life in Israel." — Matija Šerić, "Christians In The Middle East: A Persecuted And Forgotten People."
The report further makes clear that Christians suffer, not just from "terrorists," but Muslim state and society: "The legal political and social order in many Arab countries is a source of discrimination....[T]he system is hostile towards all non-Muslims, especially Christians. Christians are often not second or third but tenth class citizens, they suffer discrimination in the educational system, in the workplace, the community tries to ostracize them." — Matija Šerić, "Christians In The Middle East: A Persecuted And Forgotten People."
According to a recent report titled, "Gaza Churches Struggle to Survive", "Gaza's Christian community is struggling to survive after years of steady decline in numbers. Only an estimated 1,000 Christian remain in the Gaza Strip, an area of more than 2 million residents." Pictured: St. Barfirious Church in Gaza City on September 15, 2006, shortly after terrorists attacked it with a hand grenade. (Photo by Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images)
The following are among the murders and abuses inflicted on Christians by Muslims throughout the month of March 2023:
Muslim Attacks on Churches
France: On Mar. 16, a man, previously "on file for his Islamist radicalization," stormed the Saint-Hippolyte Church in Paris and disrupted its service. He also stole the church's six foot tall Plexiglas cross, which had supported a 400-year-old wooden Christ. It was later found nearby, said police, "smashed into many pieces." The man was "taken to the psychiatric infirmary of the Paris police headquarters, his condition not being considered compatible with his police custody."
Two weeks earlier, on Mar. 2, another man, described as of an "African type," vandalized Saint-Eustache Church, one of the largest churches in Paris, by smashing the protective glass of an altar with a fire extinguisher. The report notes that "The suspect's modus operandi ... [is] comparable to that of the Saint-François-Xavier church [vandalism], where damage had been committed on Tuesday, February 28."
In fact, a total of eight churches in Paris alone were vandalized, sometimes with arson, since the start of 2023.
Finally, on Mar. 8, a Muslim migrant from Senegal entered the Saint-Louis Cemetery, in Évreux, and proceeded to break off and desecrate the crucifixes affixed to some 30 graves. Although he was arrested, according to the report, "His custody was lifted due to his mental health condition. The individual was hospitalized."
Germany: On Mar. 11, what were described as five or six "youths" attacked a Munich church during evening service, by smashing a window. Afterwards, they accosted and insulted the Christians as they exited. They made "disparaging remarks" about Christianity, cried "Allahu Akbar!" ["Allah is the greatest!"] and even managed to sneak in a seemingly random "sh*tty Jews!" The "youths then fled," concludes the German language report, adding "Police investigations are ongoing."
Austria: On Mar. 15, Viennese police headquarters announced a heightened risk of terrorism against churches, prompting an increased presence of security agents and police. According to the German language report,
"[T]he police intelligence service received information about a planned attack by a Syrian Islamist terrorist cell. The threat is apparently aimed at the compatriots who fled to Austria to escape the war and dictator Bashar al-Assad. According to this, they were to be murdered during a visit to Mass because they did not go into battle as holy warriors for jihad."
Middle Eastern churches, including Syriac and Coptic, were especially warned and provided with additional security. The report adds that "It is unclear how long the churches will be guarded due to the 'increased risk of Islamist-motivated attacks.'"
Uganda: On Mar. 15, a Muslim mob attacked and razed a church building to the ground (image here). Pastor John Balidawa, 35, and his son, 14, were inside the church preparing for an all-night prayer vigil when they heard stones striking the building. Then six Muslims, led by an Islamic leader, stormed the church and ordered the pastor and son to leave. "When I refused to obey their orders, the sheikh and two others started slapping me and then pushed me to the floor and thereafter stepped on my stomach," said Pastor John. "Others started boxing my son, who started wailing and crying for help. For me and my son to survive is by God's grace." The pastor fell unconscious and awoke alongside his son in a hospital bed. They both sustained several broken bones, cuts, and bruising. Pastor John subsequently learned that the enraged Muslims had completely destroyed his church. On the following day a note was found at the site of the demolished church:
"No more church in this area. This area is holy ground for Allah's worship only."
About a quarter of the church's congregation were converts from Islam; it is believed that this fact helped propel the attack. Earlier, in 2022, the same sheikh had sent a message to a more senior Christian leader: "You should remove your church, because we cannot watch our members turning to Christianity and keep quiet." Discussing the recent demolition, this Christian leader said:
"This incident has scared many believers.... The priority now is to safeguard the faith of the Christians from falling away from the faith, especially those members who converted from Islam to Christianity."
Indonesia: On Sunday, Mar. 19, Muslims intruded into a church during a worship service. Discussing the incident, the Rev. Julles Purba said, "They told us that from now on, we should not hold worship service here since, they said, we have no permission." The pastor refused to comply and continued the service until the end. One of the Christians later uploaded onto social media a video of the confrontation, with the comment:
"What happens with our worship? It is only once a week, in a closed room, bothers no public order. Does it bother your faith? My house is 50 meters away from the mosque, 5 x listening to the call to prayers a day, not to mention chanting prayers and recitation & we never feel disturbed, guys."
Although the church building is small and its congregation consists of only 36 members, it also has no walls and allows passersby to see in. The report concludes:
"Requirements for obtaining permission to build houses of worship in Indonesia are onerous and hamper the establishment of such buildings for Christians and other faiths... Indonesia's Joint Ministerial Decree of 2006 (SKB) makes requirements for obtaining permits nearly impossible for most new churches. Even when small, new churches are able to meet the requirement of obtaining 90 signatures of approval from congregation members and 60 from area households of different religions, they are often met with delays or lack of response from officials. Well-organized radical Muslims secretly mobilize outside people to intimidate and pressure members of minority faiths."
Kyrgyzstan: On Sunday, Mar. 26, police entered St. Nicholas Church in Talas during evening mass and fined two Slovak nuns after they read from the Bible (initial reports said only one nun was fined) According to more recent report,
"Officials accused the nuns of illegally preaching Catholicism in Talas without authorization from the State Commission for Religious Affairs.... The nuns did the two readings of the Sunday Mass. But they did not preach or officiate at Mass. A national regulation stipulates that foreigners gain special permission for missionary work such as preaching or officiating at Mass. Police claimed to have photographic evidence against the nuns preaching.... [P]olice prevented the Catholics from leaving the church for about an hour and a half until the nuns signed the document.... A central Asian nation and a former Soviet republic, about 90 percent of Kyrgyzstan's estimated 6.8 population is Muslim, seven percent Christian and about three percent do not follow any religion, according to official data."
The Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Democratic Republic of Congo: Muslim terrorists from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) — which is "driven by an Islamic expansionist agenda and purposely targets Christians" — slaughtered at least 69 Christians during the course of three raids. Other Christians were abducted and several buildings, including a health clinic and a hospital, were torched to the ground. "According to the UN, ongoing insecurity in eastern DRC has displaced 300,000 from their homes in February alone," according to Open Doors. Describing the carnage, a local Christian minister said, "It is a massacre like... killing animals." Another said,
"Christians are suffering.... Christians have moved to areas deemed secure and the church, the body of Christ, is in danger, and where Christians go, suffering continues.... [T]he church is in danger."
As the ADF is allied with the Islamic State, the latter issued a statement claiming the killings, which, it emphasized, targeted "Christians." The accompanying photo depicted Christian property in flames.
Uganda: On Mar. 10, Muslims murdered a relative after he embraced Christianity and became a pastor. Earlier that day, his extended family had invited Pastor Adinani Bulwa, 42, to his parents' home to discuss religion. Once he arrived, "he was pressured to recant the Christian faith," his widow, who accompanied him, reported, "but he said he was ready to die for Christ's sake." Before long, more Muslim relatives barged into the family home:
"They were saying, 'We are a Muslim family, and Allah is our God.' We were shaken, and the children and I hid ourselves in the bedroom while leaving my husband at the sitting room."
His relatives proceeded to grab and yank the pastor outside:
"[W]e heard a loud wailing. We remained inside the house. My husband did not return. Early in the morning, I went to see a Christian neighbor who accompanied me to the scene of the incident only to see my husband at a distance half naked [and dead]. I could not control my emotions and shouted in a loud voice. Thereafter I fainted due to shock."
Nigeria: The ignored genocide of Christians continued non-stop. Some of the more notable atrocities include:
Mar. 23: Fulani herdsmen slaughtered a pastor in his home and abducted his wife.
Mar 10: Muslims broke into another pastor's home, butchered his son, and abducted his wife and three other family members. The pastor was away attending his brother's funeral at the time.
Mar. 4: Muslims murdered another pastor and his two sons.
Mid-March: Muslims interrupted a funeral and abducted 56 Christians. The funeral was for a priest that the same terrorists had earlier "burned to ashes." Last reported, the terrorists were demanding an exorbitant ransom of N200 million to release the Christians. Discussing this nonstop persecution and slaughter of Christians in Nigeria, the Rev. Joseph Hayab said,
"Who will we cry to and who will we run to for help except God? Imagine that since the carnage [and] kidnapping of Christians started in Kaduna state, no arrests have been made."
General Muslim Persecution of Christians
Sudan: "For leaving Islam to accept Christ," say a Mar. 19 report, "a young mother ... was chained in her home, subjected to electrical shocks at a psychiatric hospital and has lost her children." Awatif Abdalla Kaki, a 27-year-old mother of four in Omdurman, embraced Christ earlier this year — at which point her problems began, chiefly from her Muslim husband, who "tried to force her to renounce her faith by chaining her legs and tightening the chains."
"Asserting that she was mad, he then forcibly took her to a psychiatric hospital, where she received an unidentified injection and electrical shocks against her will.... Abdalla's legs were injured from the chains, and although her husband has taken their children to his parents' house to live with him, he maintains a large influence on her family and remains a threat... The oldest of her four children is 8 years old.... 'She continues to live in mental anguish' [a local source said], adding that her parents and siblings are all Muslims who believe she is suffering mental illness for believing in Christ. 'I fear for her safety and pray that she can get a refuge outside her home so that she has peace of mind and can grow in her new faith.' Abdalla is receiving no assistance from any Christians."
Gaza: According to a Mar. 8 report titled, "Gaza Churches Struggle to Survive,"
"Gaza's Christian community is struggling to survive after years of steady decline in numbers. Only an estimated 1,000 Christian remain in the Gaza Strip, an area of more than 2 million residents."
Among the factors contributing to the diminishing number of Christians are "internal pressures faced from radical Islamist factions in the Hamas-controlled territory":
"Christians of all denominations have played an important and out-sized influence on healthcare, education and business in the Gaza Strip for centuries. Today, among evangelicals, only one known Protestant church continues, it's [sic] leadership struggling to lead its flock ever since the Bible Society's Christian bookstore's manager was martyred in 2007 by local Islamist militants; this was followed by an exodus of church leaders. The Greek (which make up most of Gaza's Christians in numbers) and Catholic churches face daily pressures from the ruling administration of Hamas' Islamization efforts..."
Iraq: A Mar. 20 report , "Iraqi Christians are threatened with extinction 20 years after the US-led invasion," marking the twentieth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq focused on the plight and current status of that nation's Christian minorities:
"... The history of Iraqi Christians, widely referred to as Chaldeans, Assyrians and Syriacs, dates back more than 5,000 years to Mesopotamia, which many consider to be the cradle of civilisation. Most Chaldeans, Assyrians and Syriacs don't identify as Arabs because they are indigenous people and speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, which is dying out.... [S]ince the start of the war, the Christian population has reportedly diminished by more than 80 per cent, from an estimated 1.5 million to 250,000... More than 350 churches have been destroyed in attacks carried out by terrorists during this period.
The author, an Iraqi Christian, says the persecution has had a personal impact:
"... ISIS murdered two of my [Christian] cousins whose only crime was following their religious teachings. The war undoubtedly made the country vulnerable to terrorism. Prior to that, Christians had felt safer and enjoyed more religious freedom and protections. After then president Saddam Hussein was toppled from power at the start of the invasion, many Christians were subjected to persecution by terrorists and forced into exile from their ancestral lands.... In 2010, the church my mother took her communion in, Our Lady of Salvation Church, in Baghdad, was bombed in an attack by suicide bombers that left dozens dead.... On the 20th anniversary of the Iraq war, therefore, I want to raise awareness about the country's Christians, in the hope that the international community acts to prevent their tragedy from continuing before it is too late."
Egypt: According to a brief Mar. 15 report:
"[A]t least five Coptic [Christian] women and young women have 'disappeared' over the span of three weeks. In all these cases, their families have lodged police reports and issued pleas to the authorities to help find their missing loved ones."
As documented here, the abduction, rape, and forced conversion of Christian girls and women is endemic to Egypt. In the words of Coptic Solidarity, a human rights group:
"The capture and disappearance of Coptic women and minor girls is a bane of the Coptic community in Egypt, yet little has been done to address this scourge by the Egyptian or foreign governments, NGOs, or international bodies. According to a priest in the Minya Governorate, at least 15 girls go missing every year in his area alone. His own daughter was nearly kidnapped had he not been able to intervene in time... The rampant trafficking of Coptic women and girls is a direct violation of their most basic rights to safety, freedom of movement, and freedom of conscience and belief. The crimes committed against these women must be urgently addressed by the Egyptian government, ending impunity for kidnappers, their accomplices, and police who refuse to perform their duties. Women who disappear and are never recovered must live an unimaginable nightmare. The large majority of these women are never reunited with their families or friends because police response in Egypt is dismissive and corrupt. There are countless families who report that police have either been complicit in the kidnapping or at the very least bribed into silence."
The Middle East: On Mar. 16, a comprehensive report titled, "Christians In The Middle East: A Persecuted And Forgotten People," was published by Eurasia Review. Key excerpts include:
"It [life] is especially difficult for Christians in the Middle East – the region where Jesus was born, preached, died and resurrected as the Bible teaches. For Christians in the Middle East, the Christmas season is not 'the most beautiful time of the year' as in the popular Andy Williams song. On the contrary, after two millennia of Christian presence, the Middle East is slowly but surely being cleansed of Christians. ... Some of the oldest Christian communities in the world are in danger of disappearing .... It is striking that the Western powers, which have a majority Christian population, are not concerned at all by such a disaster."
The report also found that the number of Christians is in steady decline:
"In 2010, Christians made up 6% of the population in the region.... Christians currently make up about 4% of the population of the region – 15 million believers. This is a drastic drop compared to the beginning of the 20th century, when there were slightly more than 20% Christians. If there had been no discrimination, violent persecutions and massacres by the states and Islamist groups there, there is no doubt that the number of Christians would not have remained at 20% but would have grown.... The only country in the region with a growing Christian community is Israel, where the Christian population grew by 1.4% in 2020.... Christians in Israel benefit from the only functioning democracy in the Middle East... According to the Israel Bureau of Statistics from December 2021, 84% of Christians surveyed said they were satisfied with life in Israel."
The report further makes clear that Christians suffer, not just from "terrorists," but Muslim state and society:
"The legal political and social order in many Arab countries is a source of discrimination. As such, the system is hostile towards all non-Muslims, especially Christians. Christians are often not second or third but tenth class citizens, they suffer discrimination in the educational system, in the workplace, the community tries to ostracize them."
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by extremists is growing. The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location. It includes incidents that take place during, or are reported on, any given month.
© 2023 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

E-Fuels for German Racing Highways
Najib Saab/Asharq Al Awsat/April 16/2023
The German car industry succeeded in amending the European Union's plan to ban the sale of cars running on internal combustion engines by 2035. Simultaneously, a new Dutch pro-farmers party is threatening to derail the government's plan for large reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector by 2030.
The political and military conflicts and economic downfalls afflicting the world overshadowed these two events. However, their far-reaching results will inevitably emerge soon, with repercussions on climate action and beyond. Policy makers must realize that ignoring to properly deal with these voices in a constructive manner threatens to delay climate and environmental action programs for decades. What is required is a positive dialogue with all constituents, and a willingness to amend policies in order to make them more responsive to environmental, social and economic realities, as this is the best option for combating emerging populist drifts.
The EU's Green Deal included banning the sale of any new cars that emit carbon after 2035, allowing only zero-carbon engines, which inevitably excludes all internal combustion engines. However, the Free Democratic Party, a member of the ruling coalition in Germany, succeeded in including a loophole: after a last-minute campaign by Germany, the EU agreed to exempt cars running on e-fuels from the Deal. Although burning these fuels emits carbon, proponents endorse them as a practical solution for a transitional phase, because they can replace fossil fuels used not only in cars, but in other applications also, such as heating appliances. Their response to the fact that using these types of fuels contradicts the goal of zero-carbon is that their net outcome is "carbon neutrality", as the carbon emitted when they are burnt is compensated by the carbon captured from processes to produce them. However, the challenge remains in imposing tight controls, because current conventional fuels can be used in the same internal combustion engines made for e-fuels. As fossil fuels will remain available to consumers in European markets for decades after 2035, to serve cars produced before that date, the only control will be decreasing the price of e-fuels to make them more competitive; this might not be feasible, as production of e-fuels is sophisticated and highly expensive.
Electro-fuels are a type of synthetic fuels, manufactured using captured carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide, together with hydrogen obtained from sustainable electricity sources such as wind and solar, and in some cases include nuclear. Those opposing e-fuels believe that they merely postpone the problem without solving it, as what is required is to reach "zero carbon emissions", not a mere neutral outcome. Zero-carbon can only be achieved by using electric or hydrogen-powered engines, rather than internal combustion, which, by its nature, generates carbon emissions. While electric cars operate on batteries that are charged from external sources, hydrogen engines operate on fuel cells placed in the car itself, which generate electricity as a result of the interaction of hydrogen with oxygen, with emissions limited to water residues.
Synthetic e-fuels are worth being seriously considered, as, if their use is combined with strict controls, they may help in a smooth transition to clean, zero-emissions energy. But the fact that major German car manufacturers are the main parties lobbying for them raises doubts about credibility and real intentions. These same companies, which pride themselves on producing some of the fastest cars in the world, have also been pushing for years to prevent a speed limit on German roads, to keep their cars a favorite among speed-loving drivers. To date, they have succeeded in imposing their will and preventing change, with the support of the same political parties that promote slogans of democracy and freedom, as if freedom is the right to die, to be killed on the roads, or to multiply carbon emissions. Driving at 120 km/h increases carbon emissions by 30 percent in comparison with 100 km/h, and multiplies with higher speeds surpassing 200 km/h on German highways (autobahn). Therefore, it is necessary to start setting a speed limit on German roads to prove the seriousness of dealing with environmental and climate issues, in addition to basic safety concerns. Otherwise, talk about the climate benefits of e-fuels will remain confined to public relations, which hides other goals than what it claims.
On the other side of the German border, where the Dutch government limited the speed to 100 km/h, the problem is different. The Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB), which occupies only one seat in the Dutch House of Representatives, won the largest number of seats in the local councils last month. This gave BBB a strong impetus to their demand to delay the government's plans to tackle nitrogen emissions, including a significant cut in livestock and a reduction in intensive farming. Because methane and nitrogen, along with carbon dioxide, are two of the most powerful greenhouse gases, the Dutch government has put in place a program of fast reduction that it says is necessary to meet its climate targets, based on the EU timetable to which it has committed. This means converting thousands of farms, especially those that produce fodder and raise cows and pigs, to other environmentally-friendly agricultural activities. Even though they acknowledge climate risks, farmers are still calling for a much slower pace of action, not only for economic reasons but mainly to preserve a way of life, according to their proclamations.
The renewed strength of the farmers' party forced the Dutch government and the European Union to open the door to negotiations again. It is hoped though, that the negotiations will not be dominated by populist arguments on the farmers' side, or strict adherence to goals which might lack realism on the part of some factions in the Dutch government and the EU.
The situation is nonetheless not entirely bleak, as different voices also picked up. Some car companies in Germany, which have invested billions in electric engines, objected to extending the deadline for internal combustion engines beyond 2035, and demanded strict restrictions to prevent abuse of this exceptional measure. Shortly after passing the conditional exemption, EU countries reached an agreement to accelerate the transition to renewable energy, to 45 percent by 2030, a significant increase from the previously set target of 32 percent. On the other side of the Atlantic, California enacted a plan requiring that half of the trucks sold in 2035 be electric.
The main condition for the success of any measures to protect the environment and combat climate change is a radical change in consumption patterns. This is because the continuation of unrestrained consumer habits is certain to eliminate any benefits from cleaner production systems, whether by using renewable energy or e-fuels. Ultimately, if the choice is between lifestyle and life itself, drivers in Germany as well as farmers in the Netherlands, must opt for life.
*Najib Saab is Secretary General of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development- AFED and Editor-in-Chief of Environment & Development magazine.

The Sanctuary is Actually a Prison
Lydia Polgreen/The New York Times/April 16/2023
When a fire broke out last week at a Mexican detention center for migrants and asylum seekers in Ciudad Juárez, just across the border from El Paso, it seemed like cosmically bad luck, a double tragedy: People forced — by political instability, criminal violence, climate change or economic deprivation — to flee their homes, faced a devastating fire while trying to seek refuge. At least 39 people died. The world took notice. Mexican authorities launched a criminal investigation.
But was it really so random? Or was this double tragedy a portent of what’s to come in a world where seemingly unsolvable conflict and climate change are already creating disasters across the globe?
When I saw the news reports, my mind immediately turned to my recent trip to southern Türkiye, where I went to report on the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in February. There are more than 3.5 million Syrians in Türkiye who have fled the Syrian civil war; I met dozens of them while traveling in the country. When the earthquake hit, they, too, faced cosmically bad luck, a double tragedy.
The earthquake was an act of God, but their situation is man-made. These Syrians cannot return to their homeland because of the brutal conflict there. But they can’t really go anywhere else, either, because the Turkish government has — in exchange for 6 billion euros from the European Union — sealed its seafront to prevent anyone from heading to Europe.
The people who died in the Mexican detention center were similarly trapped. Facing unprecedented arrivals from South and Central America, the United States has pressed Mexico to warehouse asylum seekers, relying on a Trump-era pandemic policy that it may soon effectively replace by restarting the practice of detaining families who try to cross the border without authorization.
This is the morally dubious system that the rich world has created for managing the tens of millions of people in the poor world who have fled their homes: Stay there, but we’ll pay. As more and more people seek to escape natural disasters, conflict or some cruel combination of the two, rich countries have demonstrated that they will go to great lengths to ensure that these displaced people stay as far as possible from their shores, keeping them stuck in an excruciating purgatory in so-called “third countries.”
It was only a matter of time before one of these holding pen countries found itself in crisis — an earthquake, a climate change-induced natural disaster, a new war or political crisis — destabilizing the supposedly safe refuge while creating further humanitarian disasters.
Do the grand global commitments the world made to protect defenseless people in the aftermath of World War II mean anything anymore? The rich world has developed a shockingly high tolerance for cruelty in order to keep out desperate people.
I traveled through parts of Türkiye with Ahmed Kanjo. Early in the war, Ahmed was an anchor based in Aleppo, Syria, for an Arabic-language news station. But since fleeing with his family to Türkiye, he had struggled to make a living practicing our craft. I hired him to work with me as an interpreter.
The earthquake had damaged the apartment building where he lived with his wife and four children. He sent his family to stay with his brother in another region for safety from the endless aftershocks, but returned to Gaziantep, Türkiye, to work. So he was bunking in Gaziantep with his friend Abdul Kadir, a young man who told me he had escaped from Aleppo after being beaten and harassed by the Syrian intelligence services.
One evening, Ahmed, Abdul Kadir and some of their friends sat cross-legged on the floor, drinking spiced coffee, the air thick with cigarette smoke. I thought about Ahmed’s work as a television journalist. He had shown me video clips, including one in which he was hunkered down in a trench, speaking to the camera as explosions and gunfire rang out around him. Even though I don’t speak Arabic I could tell he was a gifted presenter, cool under fire but able to convey to the viewer the emotional and physical stakes of battle. Ahmed told me he missed his work.
“Every conversation revolves around where you are going to go,” he said. “The world thinks the Syrians in Türkiye are fine. They opened a sanctuary, but it is actually a prison.”
Ahmed and I shared more in common than a profession. My roots are in Ethiopia, a country, like Syria, famous for producing refugees. My mother escaped just as a brutal Marxist military dictatorship took hold. She married an American and they bequeathed to me the dark blue passport that made it possible for me to move freely in the world, to have the job that brought me to Türkiye, to live a life of freedom. What, other than the luck of geography, separated my life story from Ahmed’s? Or any of our lives, for that matter.
During a lull in the conversation a quiet, gravelly voice spoke up.
“Do you have any questions for me?”
It was Abdul Kadir’s 90-year-old grandmother, Rabia, who had been sitting quietly, listening to our conversation while resting on a daybed.
I asked her what life in Türkiye was like.
“We felt safe here because there are no barrel bombs, there is no shelling, there is no war,” she said. But it was clear that absence of fear was not sufficient to make a life.
I asked what she missed most.
Her olive oil, she said. She pressed it herself, from trees in her yard.
“We left all our memories in Syria,” she told me.
This longing for home is something people who rail against migrants never seem to think about. I think of my mother, an American citizen for decades now, who will every now and then tell me she wants to build a house in her hometown in Ethiopia. In every poor country I have visited there are the half-built houses of those who emigrated, brick-and-mortar repositories for the dream of return. Very few people choose to leave home. It chooses you.
In the aftermath of World War II, the world created a system to protect people forced to flee because of war and persecution. “Refugee” is a legal designation for someone fleeing across an international border because of persecution or conflict, which is technically distinct from the broader category of migrants, people who move from one country to another for other reasons — economic or physical survival, for example. These categories have always been more porous than we’d like to admit, but in a world beset by conflict and calamity the difference begins to feel quite academic.
Like a lot of postwar commitments, our commitment to refugees has, over time, come to exist more in theory than in practice. It is officially a shared global responsibility, but in reality, the burden of hosting these people has fallen overwhelmingly on poor and middle-income countries, with rich countries largely footing the bill.
At home, rich countries create an impossibly narrow path to asylum that excludes almost everyone with a valid claim while preserving the possibility, however scant, that a lucky few will pass through the eye of a needle. But in reality, the eye of the needle has all but closed. The United States and Europe acknowledge the existence of a category of person called a refugee, who is worthy of special protection, but we make the barriers to seeking that protection nearly insurmountable. Instead, we treat the people who seek to prove their worthiness like criminals until proven otherwise.
The governments of rich countries may well be satisfied with this bargain, in which those forced to flee their homes are provisioned at the expense of rich country taxpayers with the basic needs for human survival. But even this meager program, which does considerable violence to the original idea of refuge, does not enjoy a great deal of support among the citizens of the rich world. Instead, we appear headed for a Hobbesian future in which we simply accept the awful fate of certain peoples as the bad luck of geography.
It appears we have no choice but to continue on this gloomy path. The politics of migration have become completely toxic. In 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany boldly declared in the face of an influx of refugees to Europe: “We can manage it.” Germany took in more than a million people fleeing conflict and persecution, the vast majority of them from Syria. Germany did manage. But voters across Europe rebelled. The following year Merkel and other E.U. leaders struck their bargain with Türkiye to stop the flow of migrants.
No one else stepped up. Of the roughly 32 million refugees in the world today, the United States’ current cap for resettlement is just 125,000. In 2022 the United States came nowhere near meeting it, resettling just 25,000 refugees. The Biden administration struck its deal with Mexico after a political uproar — stoked by Republicans and their allies in the news media — greeted the arrival of tens of thousands of Venezuelans escaping from their country’s economic and political collapse.
“It’s clear that there’s pretty radical polarization of political views,” said David Owen, a philosopher who writes frequently about the moral and ethical dimensions of migration. “The space of policymaking is moved quite far to the right.”
It is hard to imagine a leader with the moral courage to do today what Merkel did back in 2015. Even the ostensibly good guys in the rich world want to seal the borders.
Canada — and its liberal prime minister, Justin Trudeau — has long portrayed itself as a country willing to welcome refugees and eager for skilled immigrants to replenish its work force. But the truth is that, facing an influx of people illegally crossing via its border with the United States, Canada acted like any other country: At the end of March, Washington and Ottawa struck a deal that allows Canada to turn back more people who try to cross the border from the United States. As the French say, “Chacun pour soi et Dieu pour tous.” Every man for himself and God for all.

The US and its allies are stuck in a violent cycle with Iran-backed militias who want blood but don't want to 'poke the bear'
Jake Epstein/Business InsiderApril 16, 2023
US forces in the Middle East routinely trade fire with Iran-backed militias.
It's part of a years-long cycle of violence involving multiple actors who all know the limits.
Experts told Insider that the risk of escalation is low, but miscalculations can happen and have.
Another round of violence in the Middle East recently bloodied US troops, killed an American, and left local militia fighters dead. This bloodshed is part of a years-long cycle of violence in the region that has killed scores of people and tends to keep everyone involved on edge.
An American contractor was killed and several US troops were injured in late March when a suspected Iranian drone struck a base in Syria. The incident prompted the US to carry out a series of deadly strikes against Iran-backed militias, who then responded by carrying out a few more attacks against coalition bases in Syria.
Several experts told Insider that despite regular exchanges of fire like this, the risk of escalation is relatively low right now because the US and Iran know there's a limit as to how far they can go. Both sides have their own strategic interests, and neither wants to trigger an all-out confrontation. But even still, miscalculation is possible, and these deadly exchanges nearly sent the US and Iran to war just a few years ago.
"The Biden administration is very, very clear in not wanting to escalate or rock the boat," said Dareen Khalifa, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group. "And the other side also doesn't want to poke the bear."
The most recent confrontation began on March 23 when a one-way explosive drone hit a coalition base near Hasakah in northeast Syria, killing a US contractor and wounding five service members and an additional contractor. The intelligence community suspected that the drone was Iranian in origin.
In response, two US Air Force F-15E fighter jets carried out airstrikes later that evening against IRGC Quds Force facilities in Syria, killing eight Iran-backed militants. The Quds Force is a branch of the IRGC — or Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — which itself is a branch of Iran's military, though it has a tendency to work closely with regional militias.
Iran-backed militias then retaliated against the strikes by carrying out more attacks the next day against coalition bases in Syria, called the Green Village and Mission Support Site Conoco, wounding several more US troops.
"We do not seek conflict with Iran, we don't seek escalation with Iran," Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters at a March 24 briefing. When asked if Iran was responsible for killing the American contractor, he said that because Tehran backs the militant groups, it "has a responsibility to ensure that they are not contributing to insecurity and instability, but clearly they continue to do that."
Attacking the US is 'low-hanging fruit'
This deadly exchanges between the US and Iran-backed militias in late March are nothing new, and sparks of violence between sides are a regular thing that's been happening for years. Since January 21, 2021, when President Joe Biden took office, Tehran's proxies have carried out 83 attacks against US service members in Iraq and Syria, a US Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesperson told Insider this month. "We hold Iran accountable for these attacks," they said.
"In response to a pattern of Iranian and Iran-backed attacks against US personnel and facilities in Iraq and Syria and the continuing threat of future such attacks, the United States has taken, and as necessary, will continue to take military action against the IRGC and its affiliates," Ryder, the Pentagon spokesperson, said on March 30.
The years-long pattern of violence features trends and upticks that span presidential administrations, and sometimes work in a cyclical way. It also involves a shadowy conflict between Israel, a key US ally, and its regional foe Iran.
Russia, which is currently waging war in Ukraine, controls much of the airspace above Syria. There, it allows neighboring Israel to carry out strikes against Iran-backed assets and target weapons shipments bound for Tehran's proxy groups like Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon. Lacking the capabilities to attack Israel and in an attempt to avoid major escalation, Iran-backed fighters respond by targeting US forces in Iraq and Syria instead.
"The trend has been very clear," said Alex Vatanka, the director of the Iran program at the Middle East Institute. "As soon as the Iranian special forces and their proxies showed up in Syria, the Israelis started hitting them. And the Israelis made all sorts of deals to hit the Iranians and get away with it."
Khalifa, the International Crisis Group analyst who works on security and governance in Syria, said it's often the case that when there's an uptick in Israeli attacks against Iranian assets in Syria, for example, this leads to an uptick in Iranian attacks on US positions in the country. She referred to the strategy to attack the US as chasing "low-hanging fruit."
Israel carried out several strikes against positions in Syria last month, including a March 22 airstrike near an airport in Aleppo. The next day, Iran-backed militias attacked US forces near Hasakah, killing the American contractor.
"Iran always feels that it's easier to retaliate against the US than it is against Israel," said Ali Vaez, the Crisis Group's Iran project director. Retaliation against Israel, he said, "is not something that they are capable of doing, and the US is much more exposed in Iraq and Syria."
'Systematically contained violence'
The complex series of relationships is not the only motivating factor for Iran.
Iran-backed engagements with US forces in Iraq and Syria are also motivated by a desire to inflict discomfort on the small American presence in both countries. From a strategic standpoint on the Iranian side, they see the attacks as a way to signal to the US that they can be a destabilizing force and make life difficult for Washington's troops, Khalifa said.
These tit-for-tat exchanges between the US and Iran have existed for decades, Vatanka said. Both he and Vaez noted that it's a clear Iranian policy to try and gradually push US forces out of the region — a desire of Tehran's that only deepened after the 2020 assassination of Qassem Soleimani, who was the Quds Force commander.
"Iranians understand that getting the US out of Iraq and Syria is a relatively low bar and pretty significant achievement for them," Vaez said.
But there's a limit as to how far each side is willing to go when they confront each other, because nobody wants to get entangled in a full-scale war. Khalifa said that what's happening in Syria, for example, has been "systematically contained" because it's clear to all parties how much they can get away with and generally where the red lines are.
Both Iran and the US are "much more aware of their limitations" and lack any "desire to sort of go out for a head-on confrontation," Vatanka said. War would be catastrophic for Iran, and it would be a major distraction for the US as it deals with major powers like China and Russia. "And that's why you have the cautious approach and sort of willingness to sometimes meet each other halfway, or certainly stay away from all-out shooting war, because neither side sees that to be their interests," he noted.
Vatanka said that while heated engagements between the US and Iran-backed militias might see escalation every now and then, unless there's a "political change of heart" in Washington or in Tehran to "take the gloves off, and I don't see any signs of that, then this is more or less what we've seen for years now" in Syria and Iraq.
Although the likelihood of an all-out war between Washington and Tehran seems relatively low at the moment, the exchange of rockets and airstrikes still comes with a risk of grave miscalculation.
Tensions skyrocketed after Soleimani's assassination — which followed a deadly exchange between US and Iran-backed forces — and nearly sent Washington and Tehran to war as the latter lobbed ballistic missiles at US positions in Iraq, injuring dozens of American service members and heated rhetoric intensified. Cooler heads, however, ultimately prevailed, de-escalating the situation.
"Things could go wrong," Khalifa. "At least on the Iranian side, it's not the most precise of strikes. There is room for miscalculation, and there is room for things going off plan." Still, she said, it's quite unlikely that either party would escalate to the point that ignites a full-blown conflict.

U.S. Deploys Cruise Missile Submarine to Strengthen Deterrence Against Iran
Farzin Nadimi/The Washington Institute/April 16/2023
Amid rising tensions with Tehran and its regional proxies, the United States is sending a message by openly deploying one of its few guided missile submarines to the region.
Typically, U.S. submarine deployments are not announced in advance, especially when the vessels are entering a potentially hot zone of operation that may require them to rely on stealth, their main operational advantage. Yet conventionally armed guided missile submarines are an exception—their presence is occasionally made known as a show of deterrence. This seemed to be the main purpose when U.S. Naval Forces Central Command announced on April 8 that the USS Florida (SSGN-728) had been deployed to the Middle East “to help ensure regional maritime security and stability.” The Florida is one of only four guided missile/special forces submarines in U.S. Navy service—vessels that are usually tasked with top-priority clandestine missions.
Increased U.S.-Iran-Israel Clashes
On March 23, a U.S.-manned forward base near Hasaka, Syria, was attacked by an explosive drone launched by Iraqi Shia militias affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Among other casualties, an American contractor was killed in the attack—an outcome that crossed Washington’s red lines and triggered multiple U.S. airstrikes inside Syria. Yet those strikes were only partially successful in deterring Iran and its proxies—a salvo of rockets was soon fired at another U.S. compound in Syria, raising concerns about further escalation.
These clashes coincided with a series of Israeli standoff precision airstrikes against IRGC and Hezbollah targets in Syria beginning on March 30. The resultant deaths of two IRGC officers and other operatives prompted Tehran to issue promises of revenge. On April 2, a drone of reportedly Iranian origin tried to penetrate northern Israel from Syria but was shot down. The next day, Israel downed a Hamas Shahab drone as it tried to enter from the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, rising tensions in the West Bank led to multiple rocket strikes against Israel, some launched by Palestinian factions in south Lebanon and others from Gaza and Syria. In response, Israel conducted bombing raids targeting the launch sites. The risk of escalation is significant given ongoing tensions at the Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif and Iran’s declared “Qods (Jerusalem) Day,” which falls today, the last Friday of Ramadan. In this environment, the United States and its partners can benefit from the USS Florida’s deterrent effect and robust intelligence collection capabilities—and, if necessary, from its additional firepower.
Signaling with Submarines
According to media reports quoting U.S. defense officials, suspicious Iranian drone activities in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, and Red Sea spurred the U.S. Navy and United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) to issue warnings of potential shipping attacks on April 5-6. The warnings were especially geared toward Israeli cargo ships and tankers, which were reportedly asked to navigate away from Iranian waters with their transponders turned off. Since February 2021, the IRGC has attacked Israeli-linked commercial vessels in the Gulf of Oman or Arabian Sea at least seven times, using suicide drones and/or limpet mines to damage the ships and, in one case, kill crewmembers.
It has been a while since the U.S. Navy acknowledged the deployment of a submarine to the region. On December 21, 2020, the USS Georgia—another SSGN, the designation used for nuclear-powered guided missile submarines—transited the Strait of Hormuz while surfacing alongside two U.S. missile cruisers. That deployment came during another period of high tensions marked by two developments: the imminent first anniversary of the U.S. strike that killed IRGC Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani, and the November assassination of top Iranian nuclear official Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, allegedly by Israel. At the time, the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group was also deployed to the northern Arabian Sea to support troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Another high-profile deployment came on October 19, 2022, when U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Michael Kurilla was given a tour of the ballistic missile submarine USS West Virginia in the Arabian Sea. These vessels are considered key tools of strategic deterrence and part of the U.S. nuclear triad, and they do not often patrol in the Middle East. The move was interpreted as a message to Russian president Vladimir Putin (who had recently threatened to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine) and Iran (which had been supplying Moscow with suicide drones for use in Ukraine, and possibly short-range ballistic missiles as well).
How Could an SSGN Be Used Against Iran?
The Navy’s four converted Ohio-class SSGNs are usually tasked with highly secretive intelligence gathering and conventional strike missions. They are armed with up to 154 vertically launched precision-guided TLAM-E Tomahawk cruise missiles (UGM-109E Block IV) with a range of up to 1,600 km and a 454 kg warhead. This version of the Tomahawk is capable of loitering in flight and has a two-way satellite datalink that can receive updated mission data for retargeting, course corrections, and damage assessment. This ability is especially useful for targeting air defense systems and mobile ballistic missile launchers.
The 1,600 km range could enable an SSGN submerged at a safe distance in the Arabian Sea to clandestinely launch cruise missiles at targets deep inside Iran, using any ingress point along its 784 km coastline with the Gulf of Oman and most of its 1,600 km land borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan. This puts all of the regime’s military sites, military industrial facilities, and other targets in the south and east within striking range, as well as some of its main nuclear sites. Although the TLAM-E does not have significant hard-target penetration capabilities, its multi-effect programmable warhead still allows for some degree of “bunker busting,” especially when several missiles hit a single point sequentially.
With a vessel like the USS Florida in theater, Iran’s monitoring capabilities and cruise missile defenses along these vast and remote borders could be stretched quite thin (for a more detailed discussion of the regime’s air defense, including graphics, see PolicyWatch 3626). In January 2021, false reports of penetration by American cruise missiles from several directions reportedly caused confusion within Iran’s military command following its strike against al-Asad Air Base in Iraq—so much so that an IRGC TOR-M1 short-range air defense system shot down a Ukrainian civilian airliner near Tehran.
Converted Ohio-class submarines are also equipped with a thirty-ton dry deck shelter. This gives them the ability to deliver and recover SEAL commando teams on clandestine missions using submersibles or small boats.
These capabilities, coupled with robust intelligence gathering and task force command-level secure communications, give SSGNs carrier-like abilities when a carrier is not available. SSGNs also offer logistical advantages compared to a carrier strike group, such as quicker deployment and concealment of their whereabouts—though as noted above, the Pentagon will sometimes publicize a submarine deployment to achieve the same deterrent effects as a carrier presence.
In the current case, the Florida was apparently forward-deployed to the Middle East because the Russia-focused mission of the George H. W. Bush Carrier Strike Group in the East Mediterranean has been extended. Although the carrier group can still project airpower into Syria from the Mediterranean, cruise missiles launched by the Florida would offer a much better alternative against potential targets in both Iran and eastern/southern Syria, which could be struck from standoff range in the Arabian Sea or Gulf of Oman. Low-flying Tomahawks are difficult to detect and counter, especially if launched from submerged SSGNs.
Interestingly, Tehran is eyeing a stealthy submarine launch capability of its own. Since at least 2019, the Iranian national navy has been developing and testing a canister-based system for launching Nasr antiship missiles from submarine torpedo tubes; these missiles now have a reported range of around 100 km. Iranian submarines still lack slant or vertical launch systems for long-range cruise missiles, but the regime is likely working on this capability.
Despite making overtures to American partners in the Gulf, Iran is still committed to pushing the United States out of the region and posing a clear and present danger to its forces in Syria and elsewhere. It has also been developing “anti-carrier” capabilities in the form of antiship homing ballistic missiles with a claimed range of up to 2,000 km.
In this environment, the U.S. Navy’s flexible and stealthy guided missile submarines are an excellent alternative to carrier deployments when needed, providing a way to enhance deterrence against Tehran and its proxies by maintaining a persistent clandestine presence—and delivering occasional public reminders of U.S. firepower. Notably, all four SSGNs are slated for retirement between 2026 and 2028, with no replacement in sight. Until then, however, the prospect of 154 Tomahawks causing massive damage inside Iran could send a powerful message, since the regime is obviously much more sensitive to potential strikes on its home territory versus far away in Syria.
*Farzin Nadimi is an associate fellow with The Washington Institute, specializing in security and defense in Iran and the Gulf region.

Minilateralism: A Concept That Is Changing the World Order
Nickolay Mladenov/The Washington Institute/April 16/2023
The UAE, Israel, India, and other countries are showing why smaller-scale collaboration based on shared interests can offer distinct advantages in a multipolar world. The global order has experienced notable shifts in the past century, and the conclusion of the Cold War ushered in a unipolar world. But the new millennium, and the emergence of multipolarity, has presented significant obstacles to collaboration. One response to these challenges has been the growing popularity of “minilateralism,” an international relations concept that involves small groups of nations collaborating to tackle problems or pursue mutual goals.
A clear example of minilateralism occurred when the UAE, India, and France recently announced their shared commitment to work together through a trilateral framework in various fields such as defence, energy, and technology. The UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, has also formed minilateral partnerships with India to establish an information and communications technology center in Ethiopia, and with Israel to advance a health care facility in Ghana. Additionally, the UAE, along with Indonesia and five other countries, launched the Mangrove Alliance for Climate at COP27 in Egypt. The alliance aims to increase the preservation and rehabilitation of mangrove ecosystems.
While minilateralism has its risks, such as the possibility of exacerbating power imbalances, it also has the potential to be a flexible and innovative approach to diplomacy, particularly in tackling global challenges like climate change, health care, and food security. As such, the rise of middle powers—states with moderate influence on the international stage—and rapid technological advancements make it clear that minilateralism is here to stay and is a viable way forward for countries seeking to address issues that cannot be tackled in isolation.
An Outdated IR Formula
During much of the 20th century, global diplomacy was largely shaped by a bipolar international system, in which the superpowers held sway over most of the world’s political and economic resources. Then in the early 1990s, the world shifted toward a unipolar system, with the United States assuming the role of the sole global leader. But that era is now over, and today, we’re witnessing another shift in traditional international relations. The Covid-19 pandemic exposed humanity’s vulnerabilities and the inadequacy of the current multilateral system in addressing global health crises. Climate change has also become an increasingly urgent challenge for the survival of humanity. Both crises have forced us to question how nations can collaborate to confront problems that no single country can handle alone. Despite growing demands for cooperation, the existing system of international relations is struggling under the weight of long-standing and emerging geopolitical rivalries. For example, the Russia-Ukraine war has reintroduced protracted land warfare to the European continent, a development many believed was a relic of history. Additionally, the impending trade and technological division between the US and China has significant implications for much of the world.
Moreover, the meteoric rise of artificial intelligence and the pressing issue of food scarcity in many parts of the world further complicate the mix of problems world leaders must address. Overall, the challenges facing the world appear daunting and seemingly insurmountable. Traditional systems of cooperation are breaking down. A new approach is needed.
The Return of Minilateralism
Minilateralism is not a new concept. From the Concert of Europe in the early 19th century to the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, and the US) today, minilateralism has been around for years. However, its prominence has increased at a time when major global powers are grappling with significant conflicts, such as the war in Ukraine and the growing divide between the US and China.
Minilateralism’s notable characteristic is an emphasis on shared interests instead of shared values or ideological alignment. As a result, nations can collaborate on critical issues without having to agree on everything or hold the same worldview.
The International Solar Alliance (ISA), recently established with its headquarters in India, illustrates this well. The ISA is a coalition of 121 countries, primarily in the developing world and including the UAE, with a shared objective of promoting solar energy and combating climate change. The ISA illustrates how diverse nations can work together to achieve a common goal, irrespective of their ideological or religious differences.
In the Middle East in particular, minilateralism has gained popularity, as many countries grapple with the repercussions of decades of conflict, instability, and foreign intervention. In this context, states are increasingly seeking to form partnerships and coalitions to help them address shared challenges. The historic Abraham Accords of 2020 not only normalised relations between Israel and three key Arab states, but also opened the door to new formats of cooperation that were previously unimaginable. The nascent Negev Forum, which brings together the US with Israel, the UAE, Egypt, Morocco, and Bahrain in a new framework for regional cooperation, is another example.
One of the advantages of minilateralism is that it can be more agile and adaptable than traditional diplomatic channels. In 2021, India, Israel, the UAE, and the US announced a “Partnership for the Future” that soon became known as the I2U2 format. This innovative cross-regional initiative aimed to spur non-traditional cooperation. While it took the Quad 15 years from its inception for its leaders to meet in Japan in 2022, the first I2U2 summit, albeit virtual, took place less than a year after its formation. For Gulf states, minilateralism is currently a strategic imperative with significant implications for their security, competitiveness, and prosperity. The Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy (AGDA) in Abu Dhabi, which I lead, has hosted several Track II discussions aimed at exploring new partnerships among the UAE, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, and Israel.
These discussions have centred on forging agreements on issues such as energy, infrastructure, trade, and technology. By doing so, Gulf states hope to build a network of minilateral partnerships that can contribute to their economic growth and stability while also enhancing regional and global security.
Middle Powers’ Moment
As middle powers increasingly shape international affairs, the appeal of minilateralism is becoming the preferred approach for many countries. Speaking at AGDA a few months ago, India’s external affairs minister, S. Jaishankar, described minilateralism as a “form of diplomacy [that] is here to stay, and it is the way forward for many” countries.
Minilateral formats are nimbler and more flexible than traditional diplomacy, allowing countries to react faster to crises or opportunities without being bogged down by bureaucracy. This flexibility also allows governments to build stronger, more intimate relationships based on shared interests, rather than being forced to work within the framework of a larger, less cohesive group.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which began in 2013, is the most prominent example of this trend. The BRI aims to construct a new global trade network spanning Asia, Europe, and Africa through investment in infrastructure projects, trade, and people-to-people exchanges.
Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) initiative is similar, with a focus on promoting regional economic growth and stability by building bridges with other nations. First introduced by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2016, FOIP seeks to ensure an Indo-Pacific region that is prosperous and peaceful. The initiative welcomes the participation of all nations that share its vision, and there is no fixed number of countries that are part of it.
N. Janardhan, director of research and analysis at AGDA, says new clubs are also being formed to control vital resources; he points to Indonesia’s plan to build “an OPEC-like” structure to control trade in nickel, cobalt, and manganese.
No Silver Bullet
Minilateralism does have drawbacks. One risk is that it may be exclusionary and exacerbate power imbalances, potentially prioritising short-term interests over long-term goals. Its proliferation may also lead to a multitude of conflicting agreements, with different nations forming alliances based on narrow interests rather than shared values. This fragmentation of the international order could make it even more challenging to address global challenges that require a coordinated global response, such as climate change, food security, and nuclear proliferation. International fragmentation could ultimately make it more difficult for nations to achieve collective goals and hinder the efforts of international organisations such as the United Nations to promote peace and stability.
Still, the strength of minilateralism lies in identifying avenues for mutually and globally beneficial cooperation, rather than pursuing a collective (and often intractable) security agenda. By emphasising interests, promoting greater collaboration, and leveraging new technology and innovation, middle powers can take a more proactive and equitable approach to addressing global concerns. Potential drawbacks notwithstanding, minilateralism is, and will remain, a constructive tool for cooperation among nations.
‘Innovative and Flexible Approach’
Put simply, the benefits of minilateralism outweigh the costs. The rise of middle powers and rapid technological advancements make it clear that minilateralism is a viable way forward for many countries, including those in the Middle East.
By focusing on specific issues and working collaboratively, middle powers can make a significant impact on the world stage by bypassing the bureaucratic red tape that so often derails progress. The benefits of minilateralism are clear, and its continued proliferation is a sign of its growing importance in today’s complex and rapidly changing world.
*Nickolay Mladenov is the Segal Distinguished Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute. This article was originally published on the Gulf News website.