English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For January 03/2023
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Simeon; this righteous Man took Jesus in his arms and said: ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 02/25-35/:”Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on January 02-03/2023
Hezbollah delegation meets Rahi, says Bassil not 'under Hezbollah's umbrella'
Hezbollah posts hit in Israeli strike on Damascus airport
Hezbollah and Nasrallah's son deny reports on secretary-general's health
Berri reviews developments with interlocutors
Army Chief discusses cooperation relations with Lernocu
Judge Aoun Judge Aoun clarifies regarding the European judicial delegation coming to Lebanon
Slim welcomes his French counterpart

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 02-03/2023
One third of global economy will be in recession this year, warns IMF
Pray in the Rain!” Muslim Governor Denies Christians a Church Roof
Israeli strike on Damascus airport kills 4, puts it out of service for hours
Israeli Intelligence Official Calls for Changing Current Iran Strategy
Iranian Dissident Abolfazl Ghadyani: Reform Is Impossible – Iran's Islamic Regime Must Go; Raisi Is A Murderer; It Is Khamenei Who Is Rebelling Against God, Not The Protesters
Mother jailed in Iran for 13 years describes ‘hell’ of prison life
Iran issues warning on mandatory headscarf in cars: Media
Khamenei: Void Left by Soleimani Filled in Many Instances
Exiled Iran Opposition Figures in United ‘Victory’ Message
Israeli foreign minister sees 'Abraham Accords' summit in Morocco in March
Putin faces a tough 2023 for Russian oil as the West's ban and price cap take hold. These 3 experts assess whether the measures will work — and what it means for crude prices.
Ukraine Says It Shoots Down All Drones in Third Straight Night of Strikes
Ukraine Latest: Drones Shot Down as Kyiv Braces for More Strikes
Al-Sisi urges caution for Netanyahu's new government

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 02-03/2023
The Iranian regime’s costly misconceptions/Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami/Arab News/January 02, 2023
The winners and losers of any Turkiye-Syria rapprochement/Chris Doyle/Arab News/January 02, 2023
UK’s many challenges as it seeks to make Brexit work/Andrew Hammond/Arab News/January 02, 2023
Look Ahead 2023: Why the Iranian regime’s future hangs in the balance/Oubai Shahbandar/Arab News/January 02, 2023

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on January 02-03/2023
Hezbollah delegation meets Rahi, says Bassil not 'under Hezbollah's umbrella'

NNA/January 02, 2023
A Hezbollah delegation held talks Monday in Bkirki with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi. “The election of a president is necessary and has the priority over all other matters, that’s why things require more keenness on the election of a president as soon as possible,” Hezbollah official Sayyed Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyed said after the meeting. Calling for a “real and serious” dialogue among the parliamentary blocs to agree “on a president enjoying a high level of consensus and political and popular legitimacy,” al-Sayyed stressed that the country’s next president should not be “a challenge or confrontation president.”
Asked about the nomination of Army chief General Joseph Aoun, al-Sayyed said Hezbollah has the “best relation with the army commander” that is “still ongoing,” but noted that “the presidential juncture is somewhere else.”“We do not put a veto on anyone, but our opinion is clear, and the path toward it is consensus and dialogue,” the Hezbollah official added. As for the relation with Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil, al-Sayyed said: “The FPM is a major movement and its has its weight.”Bassil “has never been under Hezbollah’s umbrella and we know how to agree with him and how and when to disagree with him,” the Hezbollah official added. “We are happy with what has been accomplished regarding the memorandum of understanding with the FPM and we know how to agree with each other,” he said. Al-Sayyed also said that there is no divergence in opinions between Hezbollah and al-Rahi and that the meeting did not tackle the issue of “neutrality or internationalization.”

Hezbollah posts hit in Israeli strike on Damascus airport
Agence France Presse/January 02, 2023
Positions for "Hezbollah and pro-Iranian groups" inside Damascus’ airport and its surroundings were hit in the overnight Israeli airstrike, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday. The targets included "a weapons warehouse," the Observatory added.
The strike killed four fighters including two Syrian soldiers, the Observatory said. This is the second time in less than seven months that the Damascus airport, where Iranian-backed armed groups and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters are present, has been hit by Israel.

Hezbollah and Nasrallah's son deny reports on secretary-general's health
Naharnet/January 02, 2023
An informed Hezbollah source on Monday denied in remarks to Iran’s state news agency IRNA the “rumors” published by some Israeli and Arab media outlets about the health of Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah is in “full health and is recovering after having been infected with the flu virus,” the source said. “The flu infection caused him voice problems and made it difficult for him to deliver the speech that had been scheduled for last Friday,” the source added, stressing that Nasrallah will deliver an address on Tuesday to mark the third anniversary of the assassination of Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Nasrallah’s son Jawad also dismissed the reports as “lies,” tweeting on Sunday evening that he had spoken to his father “half an hour ago.”He was commenting on an Israeli media report that said that “Nasrallah is in a critical health situation, and according to reports he is infection with either the flu or coronavirus.”“He is unconscious and on ventilators,” the report claimed. And citing “reports from Lebanon and Saudi Arabia,” Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported that Nasrallah had been “rushed to intensive care after suffering a stroke.” The daily reported a tweet by Saudi journalist Hussein al-Gawi, who claimed that Nasrallah suffered “a second stroke” and was being hospitalized at the Great Prophet Hospital south of Beirut. Nasrallah is 62 years old and rumors and reports about his health and physical condition are not new.

Berri reviews developments with interlocutors
NNA/January 02, 2023
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri received in Ain al-Tineh the French Minister of Defense Sebastien Lernocu and his accompanying delegation, in the presence of the French Ambassador Anne Grillo.
Conferees reviewed the general conditions in Lebanon and the region and the bilateral relations between the two countries. Berri then welcomed Archbishop Paul Matar, then by former Minister George Qirdahi. Later during the day, Berri met with former Minister Naji Al-Boustani.

Army Chief discusses cooperation relations with Lernocu
NNA/January 02, 2023
Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, received in his office in Yarzeh the French Minister of Defense Sebastien Lecornu, accompanied by the French Ambassador Anne Grillo, and the French military attaché Colonel Gregory with an accompanying delegation. Discussions reportedly touched on cooperation relations between the armies of both countries.

Judge Aoun Judge Aoun clarifies regarding the European judicial delegation coming to Lebanon
NNA/January 02, 2023
Judge Ghada Aoun explained, in a tweet this morning, about the visit of a European judicial delegation coming from Europe to investigate financial crimes, saying: "This group [the European delegation] also has sovereignty and they have a law. If the money laundered reaches their countries, they have the right to investigate, scrutinize, and request an in-depth investigation on this issue.The spatial validity as a result of committing these crimes in their countries allows them to do so. Especially since the Lebanese judiciary does not implement judicial warrants coming from abroad.""There are several prosecutions against President Mikati and Salameh. Have you heard that something happened in this regard?," the Judge added. "Personally, I tried to send legal aid to Switzerland to find out who benefited from the five billion dollars that Al-Muqtaf transferred since 2015, four billion of unknown origin, without result," Aoun went on. "This is our money and our sovereignty. We have the right to ask for justice and get it back, even if it is through the European judiciary," Aoun concluded.

Slim welcomes his French counterpart
NNA/January 02, 2023
Caretaker Defense Minister Maurice Slim received his French counterpart, Sebastien Lecornu, in the presence of French Ambassador Anne Grillo and his accompanying delegation. The pair discussed the historical relations between the two countries in various fields, especially with regard to the continuous French support for the Lebanese Armed Forces. The French minister affirmed "continued support for Lebanon and his country's aspirations for its advancement," stressing the importance of electing a president. He also touched on the issue of illegal immigration across the Mediterranean, indicating in this context the importance of cooperation to combat it. Lecornu, who was inspecting his country's battalion operating within the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon "UNIFIL" since 1978, praised the close coordination and cooperation between the army and the military force in general and the French battalion in particular. He referred to the interest that French President Emmanuel Macron attaches to the situation in Lebanon, and announced that he has a mandate from President Macron to formulate a military cooperation program between the two countries for the next stage and how to develop it in a way that increases the capabilities of the Lebanese army, especially in the field of raising the capacity of the Lebanese Navy. In turn, Slim thanked France for its permanent stance on the side of Lebanon, especially in times of crisis, and its continuous support for him and his institutions, especially the Lebanese army. He explained to his French counterpart the tasks assigned to the army at the borders and at home, pointing to its achievements in confronting terrorism and combating illegal immigration across the Mediterranean. Pointing out the importance of electing a President for the regular work of the constitutional institutions, he considered that all the Lebanese people look forward to accomplishing this important achievement as soon as possible.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 02-03/2023
One third of global economy will be in recession this year, warns IMF
Matthew Field/The Telegraph/Mon, January 2, 2023
One third of the world economy will plunge into recession this year, the head of the International Monetary Foundation (IMF) has warned, as China’s growth stalls amid a surge in coronavirus infections. Kristalina Georgieva said 2023 will be “tougher than the year we leave behind” as the economies of the United States, EU and China all slow down simultaneously. “We expect one third of the world economy to be in recession,” she said, adding that the global economy will “feel like recession for hundreds of millions of people” as markets continue to contract this year. The IMF cut its economic growth predictions in October for 2023, blaming inflationary pressures and rising interest rates. Her forecast came as Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine shows little sign of de-escalating with missile attacks raining down on the country’s cities over the New Year. Meanwhile, economic data from China showed factory activity fell at the sharpest pace since the coronavirus pandemic began as infection numbers skyrocketed. The purchasing managers’ index survey fell by a percentage point to 47.0, signalling a contraction in China’s manufacturing sector. A separate survey by China Beige Book International found that the country’s manufacturing, services and property sectors all weakened sharply in the fourth quarter. It said that China’s gross domestic product likely fell in the fourth quarter compared to a year ago in real terms, and grew only 2pc for the whole year of 2022. After finally loosening Covid rules, China has been hit by an uncontrolled spike in coronavirus infections. On Saturday, President Xi Jinping made his first public remarks since the change in policy, calling for unity as China entered a “new phase” in battling the pandemic.Ms Georgieva said: “For the first time in 40 years, China’s growth in 2022 is likely to be at or below global growth.”However, she added the US market appeared to be “most resilient”, adding it “may avoid recession”. On Monday, data from S&P's European purchasing managers' index showed a small bounceback in business confidence, but suggested manufacturing remained in contraction.

Pray in the Rain!” Muslim Governor Denies Christians a Church Roof
Raymond Ibrahim/Coptic Solidarity/Monday, 2 January, 2023
As recently reported, on Dec. 24, 2022, Muslims attacked a church and its Christians in Egypt, after authorities gave the Christians permission to fix their church’s collapsed roof, which had fallen on and hurt several worshippers. (According to strict sharia, churches must never be repaired but left to crumble over time.) After police arrived and quelled the riots, they temporarily halted roof repairs, though with the promise to the Copts—who had waited for two years to receive formal permission to fix their roof—that they could resume work shortly.
Copts were skeptical because experience taught them that such promises were not to be trusted. But sure enough, and to the Copts’ great relief and surprise, on Dec. 25, they were permitted to resume repairs to the church’s roof, with the added protection of state security forces.
But then, on that same day, the local district governor came to “inspect,” and quickly decided that roof repairs must halt, immediately and indefinitely, even though more than one-third of the work had been completed.
When the Christians present at the site complained, indeed pleaded, “How can we pray when the roof is in such a condition, especially when it’s raining?” the (Muslim) governor barked back—“Cover it with a tarp!” In fact, this is not an option, as the partial repairs already made make it difficult to erect a tarp.
If they did not comply, and continued to work on the roof, the governor angrily threatened that he would completely “demolish” the church.When asked to explain his decision, or at least tell them what they needed to do to resume repairs, the governor gave no answer, and left the site.
All the cement mixers and trucks that the church had hired left on the governor’s orders, resulting in a monetary loss of some EGP 100,000 that the church had paid for them to repair the roof.
And so, as Orthodox Christmas approaches (January 7), the Christians of this community will have to celebrate the Nativity exposed to the elements, with the possibility of rain pouring down on them.
For those unaware, what just transpired is the notorious “good cop, bad cop” routine—Muslim style. The authorities themselves are the ones against repairing this church; but they rely on the Muslim mob to riot, at which point they step in pretending to be the “good guys” who, nonetheless, need to do whatever is necessary—in this case, leave a church in dilapidated and dangerous condition—to prevent violence and bloodshed from erupting again.
Discussing this incident, Adel Guindy, author of A Sword Over the Nile and former president of Coptic Solidarity, said: It appears that the “hidden-hand” that orchestrates this kind of ugly incidents wanted to
get out of the boring routine, and add some excitement, befitting the season’s festivities and celebrations. In all cases, the message remains unchanged: “Christian Copts need always to be humiliated as a reminder of their dhimmi status.”

Israeli strike on Damascus airport kills 4, puts it out of service for hours
Agence France Presse/Monday, 2 January, 2023
Israeli missile strikes on the Syrian capital's airport Monday killed four people including two soldiers and closed the runways for several hours, a rights monitor said. This is the second time in less than seven months that Damascus International Airport -- where Iranian-backed armed groups and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters are present -- has been hit by Israel. The attack around 2:00 am (2300 GMT) put the airport out of service until 9:00 am (0600 GMT), Syria's state news agency SANA and officials said. Israel carried out the strike with "barrages of missiles targeting Damascus International Airport and its surroundings," a military source told SANA, which reported that two Syrian soldiers were killed and two others wounded. But the Britain-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a wide network of sources on the ground in Syria, said "four fighters including two Syrian soldiers were killed." The missiles also hit "positions for Hezbollah and pro-Iranian groups inside the airport and its surroundings, including a weapons warehouse," said Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Observatory. Flights later resumed after repairs of "the damage caused by Israeli aggression," Syria's transport ministry said in a statement. "Air traffic has returned after we restored work on one of the runways, while the process of repairing the second runway continues," transport ministry official Suleiman Khalil told AFP.
'Persistent military action'
Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes against its neighbor, targeting government troops as well as allied Iran-backed forces and fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah. The Israeli army, which said Monday that "it does not comment on foreign reports," has repeatedly said it will not allow its archfoe Iran to gain a foothold in Syria. On December 28, the head of the Israeli army's Operations Directorate, Major General Oded Basiuk, presented the military's "operational outlook" for 2023, where he said that the force "will not accept Hezbollah 2.0 in Syria," the army said on Twitter. "Our course of action in Syria is an example of how continuous and persistent military action leads to shaping and influencing the entire region," Basiuk added. The following day, Israel's military chief Aviv Kohavi gave a speech in which he noted "the armies Iran is trying to establish throughout the Middle East" as one of the facets of Tehran's threat to Israel. "The most important thing to us is the entrenchment, not just through proxies, but through arms, infrastructure, the Iranians are trying to set up in the area near us, primarily in the Syria-Lebanon region," Kohavi said.
More than a decade of war  The airport is in a region southeast of Damascus where Iran-backed groups, including Hezbollah, regularly operate. The last time the airport was out of service was in June 2022 -- also after an Israeli missile strike.
The runway, control tower, three hangars, warehouses and reception rooms were badly damaged in that attack -- forcing the airport to close for about two weeks and flights to be suspended. Just as in Monday's attack, the Observatory said at the time that the strikes had targeted nearby warehouses used as weapons depots by Iran and Hezbollah.

Israeli Intelligence Official Calls for Changing Current Iran Strategy
Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 2 January, 2023
Former head of Israel's Intelligence Department General Tamir Hayman warned that the policy towards Iran served the Tehran regime, criticizing the strategy followed in the recent years. Hayman, the director of the Institute for National Security Research at Tel Aviv University, cautioned that Iran has refrained from entering into serious negotiations on a nuclear deal. He suggested that the new Israeli cabinet establish a new strategy based on a joint US-Israeli military threat of war against Tehran or a serious return to the talks. Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the Israeli Air Force may attack nuclear sites in Iran within two or three years. Hayman touched on Gantz's speech, saying it was clear Israel could attack Iran, but it would be costly, noting that it won't be like the attack on Iraqi and Syrian reactors. Speaking to Haaretz, the official explained that Iran is aware that Israel planned on attacking its nuclear sites, which were built in dozens of underground locations and heavily secured. Hayman warned that such an attack would ignite a war against Iran, which could expand into a regional conflict, adding that Hezbollah in Lebanon may get involved. He was doubtful about the feasibility of an attack against Iran, noting that a large-scale military attack may achieve adverse results, and this option would only make Iran pick up the pace of its nuclear program. At this stage, Iran is not rushing toward acquiring a nuclear bomb but is satisfied with being a threshold state to deter regional countries, according to the Israeli official.
Hayman further said that a nuclear Iran would reintroduce the term "nuclear terrorism," meaning a "dirty bomb" could be accessible to Hezbollah or Palestinian factions. The only thing that must be recognized is that Israel's current strategy has failed, and it would lead to worse results, he warned.
Hayman asserted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government must realize that the current Israeli strategy is unsuccessful. He suggested that Tehran would be faced with two options: proposing a new nuclear deal that it won't reject or devising a plan to attack Iran without a regional war ensuing by obtaining explicit US support to deter it from developing its nuclear program. US support would be linked to Israel's policy on other fronts, Hayman said. Moreover, he warned that Israel must be cautious in the Palestinian arena, human rights issues, and shared values with the US.
Regarding the protests in Iran, Hayman believed they don't currently pose a threat to the Tehran regime. The rallies may lead to a regime change or its overthrow. He noted that the Iranian regime was established after its 1979 revolution, and that it will do everything to ensure another revolution won't topple it.

Iranian Dissident Abolfazl Ghadyani: Reform Is Impossible – Iran's Islamic Regime Must Go; Raisi Is A Murderer; It Is Khamenei Who Is Rebelling Against God, Not The Protesters
MEMRI/Januaru 02/2023
Source: BBC Persian (The UK)
Iranian dissident Abolfazl Ghadyani said in a December 26, 2022 interview with BBC Persian (U.K.) that Iran's Islamic regime cannot be reformed, that it "has to go," and that taking to the streets is the only way to achieve this. He said that the Iranian people have realized that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the "source" of their problems and their "greatest enemy." He argued that the anti-regime protestors in Iran are acting in self-defense, and not out of corruption or rebellion against God, and he predicted that the regime's attempts to intimidate the protestors will only make them more determined to overthrow Khamenei's regime. Adding that President Raisi is a "murderer," Ghadyani also claimed that the Iranian regime had deliberately shot down Ukrainian Airlines flight 752 in early 2020. Abolfazl Ghadyani is a prominent member of the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution, an Iranian anti-regime political movement, and he has served multiple prison sentences for his pursuits.
Abolfazl Ghadyani: "The [Iranian] public has not risen and occupied the streets for no reason.
"Look, these young people who have taken to the streets come, ultimately, from families that have been entirely unhappy with this regime. The new generation, however, has unusual courage. They say 'I have nothing to lose' and take to the streets. Their families behaved conservatively, but they no longer do. They have inherited this 44-year-long ordeal. They know full well that this regime cannot be reformed, that this regime has to go, that there is no other option, and that taking to the streets is the only way to achieve this.
"I am pleased that people have realized that the source of all these calamities is Ali Khamenei himself. People have completely realized this.
"I have said this before many times and I am reiterating it today: Khamenei is the greatest enemy of the Iranian people. I said it when I was [still] in prison.
They killed 176 people when the Ukrainian airplane crashed. They shot it down on purpose. It has become clear that they downed the plane on purpose. Not a single person has been arrested, even though years have passed since this unfortunate affair, this human catastrophe. Not a single person has been arrested, stood trial, or identified [as responsible]. They have made every effort to cover up the affair, so that people forget it and the rights of the [victims] are trampled underfoot.
"In my opinion, the best and most complete examples of people who 'spread corruption upon the land' and 'rebel against God' are Ali Khamenei himself, his henchmen, and his oppressive helpers. Are you paying attention? They are the best example of that, because all they care about is sowing fear and terror in society, beating down on society, and preventing its liberation from the yoke of their oppression.
"Under no circumstances did any of the protestors...Even if a protester had to defend himself, it constitutes legitimate self-defense. He was attacked by an agent [of the regime] and he defended himself, and prevented that agent from killing him. How can he possibly be regarded as someone who rebels against God? How can he possibly be regarded as someone who spreads corruption upon the land?
"They want to raise the morale of the supporters who are abandoning them, and at the same time, they want to intimidate the public. But the outcome will be the opposite. I published a communique about this in the past. The people will become more determined to oust this regime and Ali Khamenei. The people will become even more furious. "Therefore, reforms are completely unfeasible. For this to be possible, there should have been [an indication that the regime] was backing down a little in the past 25 years. It should have backed down a little, but instead, it just kept pushing forward, and you all saw that Raisi the murderer became the president of this country. Raisi the murderer!"

Mother jailed in Iran for 13 years describes ‘hell’ of prison life
Arab News/January 03, 2023
LONDON: A woman imprisoned in Iran since 2009 has shared a letter from inside her “hell-like” prison, it was reported on Monday. Maryam Akbari Monfared, 47, who is a mother to three daughters, was detained more than 13 years ago on charges of supporting the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran. She has been separated from her children since her arrest, and her three brothers and sister were killed by the regime, the Independent reported. “As of December 29, 2022, 13 years have passed since I was separated from my four-year-old Sarah and my two 12-year-old daughters on that winter midnight,” Monfared wrote in her letter. “Without giving me a chance to say goodbye to my loved ones, they took me to Evin prison to give some explanations, and made the ridiculous promise that ‘you will return to your children in the morning.’ “This is not a 4,000-page story, but the pure reality of a life under the domination of fascists who imposed it on us while we refused to give in. On this side of the bars, in the dark desert of torture and oppression, as far as one can see – even where one cannot see – there is just vileness and brutality,” she added. Amnesty International and Center for Human Rights in Iran have repeatedly called for Monfared’s release, describing her as a “prisoner of conscience” being held in “cruel, unlawful and inhumane” conditions and facing “baseless” charges. In her letter, Monfared also shared a message of solidarity with protesters currently demonstrating against the regime in Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini at the hands of the regime’s “morality police.”“To my daughters and sons, who are bravely on the streets ... I say: if you are arrested, do not trust the interrogators even an iota,” she wrote. “To the grieving families ... I say that I share in their grief too. I hold their hands from here and stand shoulder to shoulder with them, stronger than before, for justice. “With the news of every protest and every uprising, and with the sparks of this rebellious flame, the hearts of women whose only hope of freedom is to break these iron gates are filled with hope,” she added.

Iran issues warning on mandatory headscarf in cars: Media
AFP/January 02, 2023
TEHRAN: Iranian police have resumed warnings that women must wear mandatory headscarves even in cars, media reported Monday, as unrest continues following the death of Mahsa Amini. Protests have gripped Iran since the September 16 death of Iranian-Kurdish Amini, 22, after her arrest in Tehran for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women. Tehran generally calls the protests “riots.” Fars news agency quoted a senior police officer who said the “new stage” of the Nazer-1 program — “surveillance” in Persian — was being rolled out “across the country by the police.”
The Nazer program, launched in 2020, concerns the “removal of hijab in cars,” Fars added. When it was launched in 2020, car owners would be sent an SMS text message alerting them of a dress code violation in their vehicle and warning of “legal” action if repeated.
But police have seemingly dropped the threat of legal action, according to messages posted on social media platforms.?“The removal of hijab has been observed in your vehicle: It is necessary to respect the norms of the society and make sure this action is not repeated,” read a message reportedly sent by police and posted on social media.
Iran’s morality police — known as Gasht-e Ershad, or “Guidance Patrol” — have a mandate to enter public areas to check on the implementation of the strict dress code.
Following the protests, numerous women in upmarket districts of the capital Tehran, as well as in more modest and traditional southern suburbs, were observed without a headscarf and without being stopped.
Since September, the morality police’s white and green vans became a much less common sight on the streets of Tehran.
In early December, Iran’s Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri was quoted as saying that the morality police had been closed down.
But campaigners were skeptical about his comments, which appeared to be an impromptu response to a question at a conference, rather than a clearly signposted announcement by the interior ministry which oversees the police.

Khamenei: Void Left by Soleimani Filled in Many Instances
London, Tehran - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 2 January, 2023
On the eve of the third anniversary marking the death of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei affirmed that the gap left behind by his passing was largely filled. Khamenei met with Soleimani’s family, Revolutionary Guards Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami, and Soleimani's successor, Ismail Qaani. In his speech, Khamenei used the term “resistance front” several times, which is what Iran calls armed militias and factions that owe ideological loyalty or have close ties to the cleric-led country’s regional agenda.
These proxies are sponsored by the Quds Force that is primarily responsible for extraterritorial military and clandestine operations. Khamenei said Soleimani “delved into complex political issues and carried out good deeds,” and that he “breathed new life into the resistance front.” He specifically referred to Iran’s role in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Yemen. The Iranian leader praised Soleimani’s accomplishments against ISIS. Elsewhere, Khamenei expressed his appreciation to Qaani, by saying “the void due to the absence of the General [Soleimani] has been filled in many instances.” Khamenei's official website quoted him as saying that those groups linked to the Quds Force see themselves as the “strategic depth” of Iran.  “This movement will continue in this direction,” vowed Khamenei. Soleimani was the mastermind in the wars waged by Iran’s proxies across the region. Khamenei had appointed him as commander of the Quds Force in 1998. He played a pivotal role in recruiting, financing, and arming groups, in addition to his role in Iran's regional foreign policy. At the height of the civil war in Iraq in 2007, the US military accused the Quds Force of supplying explosive devices to militias affiliated with Iran, which caused the deaths of many US soldiers.  He was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport in January 2020.

Exiled Iran Opposition Figures in United ‘Victory’ Message
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 2 January, 2023
A group of prominent exiled Iranian pro-opposition figures have issued a coordinated message predicting 2023 will be a year of "victory" with the regime shaken by protests. Those sending the message include leaders from the fields of culture, human rights and sports. The Iranian diaspora has long been seen as lacking unity, split into different political factions and strategies for dealing with the Islamic republic, that ousted the shah in 1979.  But with protests still continuing in Iran over 100 days after they were sparked by the death of young Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, the message appears an attempt to find a long-sought unity. "The year 2022 was a glorious year of solidarity for Iranians of every belief, language and orientation," it said.  "With organization and solidarity, 2023 will be the year of victory for the Iranian nation. The year of freedom and justice in Iran." The message was sent simultaneously on social media by a variety of figures, ranging from the influential US-based dissident Masih Alinejad to the son of the ousted shah, Reza Pahlavi, who also lives in the United States.
'Hopeful sign'
Prominent actors Golshifteh Farahani and Nazanin Boniadi also tweeted the message, as did Zar Amir Ebrahimi, who won the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival in France last year. "We are united to reach freedom," Farahani wrote on her Instagram account. "We will stand together and will not be silent". Prominent rights activists to post the message included Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, and Hamed Esmaeilion, who has led the Canada-based campaign for justice for the victims of the Ukraine Airlines flight shot down by Iran in January 2020.  From the field of sports, they were joined by former Iranian international football star Ali Karimi, who has been a vociferous supporter of the protest movement.  The protest movement sparked by the death of Amini, who had been arrested for allegedly breaching the country’s strict dress code, is presenting the clerical leadership with its biggest challenge since the 1979 revolution. The crackdown has seen 476 people killed, according to Norway-based rights group Iran Human Rights. Two people have already been executed over the protests, while IHR says at least 100 detainees are at risk of execution. The United Nations says at least 14,000 people have been arrested, with several well-known figures such as the actor Taraneh Alidoosti still in detention. Roham Alvandi, a history professor at the London School of Economics, said the message was a "hopeful sign in dark times". With the authorities showing little sign of offering concessions to protesters, the Fars news agency reported that Iranian police were launching a new drive to step up enforcement of the obligatory hijab.

Israeli foreign minister sees 'Abraham Accords' summit in Morocco in March
JERUSALEM/Reuters/Mon, January 2, 2023
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on Monday he planned to attend a summit in March with counterparts from Arab countries that have drawn closer to Israel following a U.S.-sponsored diplomatic drive in 2020. Cohen, who took office last week as part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new hard-right coalition government, said the summit would be hosted by Morocco, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. The statement did not name other countries. Israel has in the past cited Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan as belonging to the normalisation agreements dubbed the "Abraham Accords". "Expanding the accords to other countries is not a matter of 'if' but of 'when'," said Cohen, adding that Israel's ties with current partners had yielded $2.85 billion in 2022 trade and "a significant contribution to security (and) regional stability". Netanyahu, now in his sixth term, has voiced hope of establishing relations with Saudi Arabia, which shares Israel's worries about Iran. But Riyadh has been cool to normalisation in the absence of progress in the Palestinians' statehood drive. The directors-general of the foreign ministries of countries participating in the March summit are scheduled to meet in Abu Dhabi next week, Cohen said. Last March, Israel hosted the Emirati, Bahrain, Moroccan and Egyptian foreign ministers, along with the U.S. secretary of state, for an event dubbed the Negev Summit.

Putin faces a tough 2023 for Russian oil as the West's ban and price cap take hold. These 3 experts assess whether the measures will work — and what it means for crude prices.
Zahra Tayeb/Business Insider/Mon, January 2, 2023
Oil markets may face headwinds in 2023 as fresh Western sanctions and a price cap on Russian oil come into effect. Analysts expect a slump in Russian crude output to squeeze global supplies, putting upward pressure on oil prices. Demand from China is expected to pick up as zero-COVID restrictions ease, adding to the tightness in energy markets. Brace for a drop in Russian oil output and a spike in global crude prices next year as fresh Western sanctions against Moscow take hold and with China's energy demand set to rebound, three industry analysts told Insider. The next round of European Union sanctions on Russian oil products are due to take effect on February 5. It comes in response to the country's invasion of Ukraine, and will affect refined petroleum products such as diesel. It follows an EU embargo on seaborne imports of Russian crude effective December 5 and a G7 move to cap the country's oil at $60 a barrel. Both measures aim to blunt Moscow's export revenue while still keeping Russian crude flowing through global markets to prevent a supply shock. According to analysts, the next round of sanctions — combined with a rebound in Chinese demand as zero-Covid restrictions ease — will likely squeeze oil markets and push prices higher. Russian crude output could fall by 1 million barrels a day
"We expect the European ban on seaborne Russian crude and refined products (to come into force on February 5) to result in a drop of Russian production of at least 1 million barrels per day in 2023, with Russia having difficulties in finding alternative markets," said Giovanni Staunovo, a commodity analyst at UBS Global Wealth Management. Indeed, Russia has threatened it would slash production by up to 700,000 barrels a day in retaliation to the G7 price cap, suggesting another potential hit to the country's oil output. The nation has been rerouting increasing volumes of its oil to India and China amid rising political tensions with Europe, one of its biggest markets, due to the war in Ukraine. In the week leading up to December 9, Moscow sent 89% of its crude, amounting to about 3 million barrels a day, to Asia. But shipments to Asia are now proving more difficult as European sanctions make it tougher for traders to find enough insured vessels to transport Russian crude. According to Rystad Energy, however, the risk of a sharp decline in Russian crude production was more acute in mid-2022, when global supplies were tighter. "As long as US shale performs and delivers growth, we see the market moving towards a more normal equilibrium," Louise Dickson, a senior analyst at Rystad Energy told Insider.
Crude prices could climb past $100 a barrel
With global supplies expected to get squeezed, crude prices will likely soar past $100 a barrel next year, according to Saxo Bank's Ole Hansen and UBS Global Wealth's Staunovo. "The embargo on seaborne crude from now and fuel products from February will likely have a price-supportive impact on markets," said Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo. The supply disruptions should add to the "expected tightness when demand picks up in China following the current virus surge," he added. Those risks raise the likelihood of oil prices topping $100 a barrel, according to Hansen. "Following a soft first quarter, I see the price of Brent returning to a $90-100 dollar range. What happens later will depend on the strength of an incoming economic slowdown," he added. UBS's Staunovo echoed his view. Oil prices have trended upward since mid-December after months of declines as supply comes under pressure following EU sanctions on seaborne Russian crude and threats by Moscow that it will slash production in retaliation to the G7-imposed price cap. Brent crude, the international benchmark, has risen by more than 10% from this year's lows reached earlier in December, standing at around $83 a barrel at last check on Friday.
"The real test will come on 5 February with the implementation of a products ban," Rystad's Dickson said. "A loss of Russian refined products in Europe will pull extra on US products at a time when refinery dynamics are still quite tight, as evidenced by last summer's gasoline price surge in the US and diesel crunch in Europe," she added.

Ukraine Says It Shoots Down All Drones in Third Straight Night of Strikes
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 2 January, 2023
Ukraine said on Monday it had shot down all Russian drones in a massive wave of attacks, after Moscow launched an unprecedented third straight night of air strikes against civilian targets, intensifying its air war for the New Year holiday. Russian officials meanwhile were reeling from reports that large numbers of Russian troops had been killed in a strike on a dormitory where they were being housed in occupied Ukraine alongside an ammunition dump. Kyiv and Russian nationalist bloggers said hundreds of Russian troops died. Russian-installed officials spoke of high casualties without giving a number. Russia has seen in the new year with nightly attacks on Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, hundreds of kilometers from the front lines. That marks a change in tactics after months in which Moscow usually spaced such strikes around a week apart. After firing dozens of missiles on Dec. 31, Russia launched dozens of Iranian-made Shahed drones on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2. But Kyiv said on Monday it had shot down all 39 drones in the latest wave, including 22 shot down over the capital. Kyiv said the new tactic was a sign of Russia's desperation as Ukraine's ability to defend its air space had improved. Russia had been trying to destroy Ukraine's energy infrastructure for months but had failed as Ukraine obtained better defenses, presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said on Telegram. "Now they are looking for routes and attempts to hit us somehow, but their terror tactics will not work. Our sky will turn into a shield."
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy praised Ukrainians for showing gratitude to the troops and one another and said Russia's efforts would prove useless. "Drones, missiles, everything else will not help them," he said of the Russians. "Because we stand united. They are united only by fear."
Ukraine's air defense systems worked through the night to bring down incoming drones and to warn communities of the approaching danger.
"It is loud in the region and in the capital: night drone attacks," Kyiv Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said. "Russians launched several waves of Shahed drones. Targeting critical infrastructure facilities. Air defense is at work." Russia, which has seized and claims to have annexed around a fifth of Ukraine, has turned to mass air strikes against Ukrainian cities since suffering humiliating defeats on the battlefield in the second half of 2022. It says its attacks, which have knocked out heat and power to millions in winter, aim to reduce Kyiv's ability to fight. Ukraine says the attacks have no military purpose and are intended to hurt civilians, a war crime.
‘Massive blow’ in Makiivka
Russian nationalist war bloggers seethed with anger on Monday after reports of mass casualties of soldiers housed in a dormitory alongside ammunition at a former vocational school in Makiivka, twin city of regional capital Donetsk in Russian-occupied east Ukraine. Unverified footage posted online showed a huge building reduced to smoking rubble. Daniil Bezsonov, a senior Russian-installed official in the Moscow-controlled parts of the Donetsk region, said the building had suffered a "massive blow" from US-made rockets on New Year's Eve just after midnight. According to preliminary reports, it was being used as personnel quarters, he said. "There were dead and wounded, the exact number is still unknown," Bezsonov said on the Telegram messaging app. "The building itself was badly damaged." Russia's TASS state news agency said at least 15 people were injured. Ukraine's defense ministry said as many as 400 Russians were killed there "as a result of 'careless handling of heating devices'". Igor Girkin, a former commander of pro-Russian troops in east Ukraine who has emerged as one of the highest profile Russian nationalist military bloggers, also said the death toll was in the hundreds. Ammunition had been stored in the building, which detonated when the barracks was hit. "What happened in Makiivka is horrible," wrote Archangel Spetznaz Z, another Russian military blogger with more than 700,000 followers on Telegram. "Who came up with the idea to place personnel in large numbers in one building, where even a fool understands that even if they hit with artillery, there will be many wounded or dead?" A source close to the Russian-installed Donetsk leadership told Reuters the casualty reports were exaggerated and the death toll appeared to be less than 100. Ukrainian troops saw in the New Year on the front line in the eastern province of Donetsk. One soldier, Pavlo Pryzhehodskiy, 27, played a song he had written on a guitar after 12 of his comrades were killed in a single night. "It is sad that instead of meeting friends, celebrating and giving gifts to one another, people were forced to seek shelter, some were killed" during the New Year holiday, he told Reuters.
"It is a huge tragedy that cannot ever be forgiven." In a nearby trench, soldier Oleh Zahrodskiy, 49, said he had volunteered after his son was called up as a reservist. Now, his son is in hospital, fighting for his life with a brain injury, while his father mans the front.
"It is very tough now," he said, holding back tears. Russia has flattened Ukrainian cities and killed thousands of civilians since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his invasion in February, saying Ukraine was an artificial state whose pro-Western outlook threatened Russia's security.
Ukraine has fought back with Western military support, driving Russian forces from more than half the territory they seized. In recent weeks, the front lines have been largely static, with thousands of soldiers dying in intense warfare. In a stern New Year's Eve message filmed in front of a group of people dressed in military uniform, Putin vowed no let-up in his war. "The main thing is the fate of Russia," Putin said. "Defense of the fatherland is our sacred duty to our ancestors and descendants. Moral, historical righteousness is on our side."

Ukraine Latest: Drones Shot Down as Kyiv Braces for More Strikes
Bloomberg/Mon, January 2, 2023
Ukraine warned that Russia may launch more attacks over the Orthodox Christmas holiday later this week even as it downed all 39 Iran-made Shahed drones launched overnight, according to the country’s air defense command. Russia had launched a barrage of drone attacks shortly before midnight on New Year’s Day, as sirens went off in southern, eastern, central and northern regions of Ukraine. Loud explosions were heard in the capital Kyiv, including downtown. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on New Year’s Day that Russians were “afraid. And they are right to be afraid because they are losing. Drones, missiles, nothing else can help them.”Russia shelled the central market in Beryslav, in the liberated part of the Kherson region Monday morning, injuring at least five people, Kherson governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said on telegram. Russian military forces have carried out 51 air strikes on Ukraine, mostly with with Iranian-made Shahed drones, Ukraine’s general staff said earlier. All of the missiles were shot down, the report said. Russia also made 55 MLRS attacks hitting, among other targets, a children’s hospital in Kherson. “The threat of enemy air and missile strikes on critical infrastructure remains throughout Ukraine,” it said. Ukraine’s air defense forces are preparing for possible Russian attacks on Orthodox Christmas Eve on Jan. 6 and Christmas on Jan. 7, military spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said on TV. “Attacks are happening three days in a row. Thus we should be prepared for new ones — keeping the powder dry and rockets charged,” he said, adding that Russia has not changed its intentions regarding Ukraine. Developing economies are increasingly suffering from Russia’s war in Ukraine because it has led to higher food, fuel and fertilizer prices, India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said after a meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg in Vienna. Jaishankar added that differences must be settled in negotiations. European natural gas prices started the new year declining as mild weather curbed demand. Benchmark futures dropped as much as 7.9% to the lowest level since February 21, extending three weeks of net declines. Weather forecasts point to temperatures above seasonal norms for most of the region in the next two weeks, which will help Europe avoid depleting its stocks too soon as it goes through the winter. Kyiv’s energy infrastructure was damaged as a result of Russia’s night attacks, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram. Water supply continues as normal, he said. Russia launched a barrage of drone attacks shortly before midnight on New Year’s Day, as sirens went off in southern, eastern, central and northern regions of Ukraine. Loud explosions were heard in the capital Kyiv, including downtown. The capital region’s air-defense system responded to the attacks, local authorities said on Telegram. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram one person was wounded. He did not provide details. Russia launched a massive missile attack on Dec. 31, followed by drone attacks, as Ukrainians were celebrating the New Year, damaging residential houses, schools, private cars and university buildings. “Russian terrorists were pathetic, and they entered this year staying the same,” Zelenskiy said in his daily video address to the nation, praising the air defense forces for shooting down 45 drones the night before.

Al-Sisi urges caution for Netanyahu's new government
Associated Press
/January 02, 2023
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has urged Israel's new hard-line government to refrain from "any measures" that could inflame regional tensions, in a phone call congratulating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his return to office. The leaders spoke days after Netanyahu's new Cabinet was sworn in, promising in its coalition guidelines to make settlement construction in the occupied West Bank a top priority. According to a statement from the Egyptian leader's office, al-Sisi stressed "the necessity of avoiding any measures that could lead to a tense situation" and further complications.
Al-Sisi also said his government would continue its efforts to "maintain calm" between Israel and the Palestinians, the statement added.
Netanyahu's office said the two leaders discussed Egyptian-Israel ties and stressed "the importance of promoting peace, stability and security for the sake of both peoples and for all peoples in the Middle East." Netanyahu returned to power on Thursday for an unprecedented sixth term as Israel's premier, taking the helm of the most right-wing and religiously conservative government in the country's 74-year history. Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank could increase already worsening tensions between Israel and the Palestinians and upset the international community. Most of the world considers settlements built on territories sought by the Palestinians to be illegal and obstacles to peace. Egypt and Israel reached a historic peace accord in 1979. Relations have generally been cool between the two countries, though behind-the-scenes security cooperation remains strong. There have been growing signs of overall cooperation in recent years. In 2021, then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with al-Sisi in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, in the first official visit to Egypt by an Israeli prime minister in over a decade. The two Middle Eastern countries also signed a deal with the European Union in June to increase liquified natural gas sales to European countries that aims to reduce their dependence on supplies from Russia amid the war in Ukraine. Egypt has also for years served as a key mediator between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The bitter enemies have fought four wars since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 — most recently an 11-day conflict in May 2021. Egypt has been working quietly to arrange a long-term truce.

Israeli army kills 2 Palestinians in West Bank confrontation
Agence France Presse/January 02, 2023
Israeli forces killed two Palestinians, including a man claimed by an armed group as a member, during a confrontation that erupted early Monday when troops entered a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian health officials said. The two men were killed in the village of Kafr Dan near the northern city of Jenin. The Israeli military said it entered Kafr Dan late Sunday to demolish the houses of two Palestinian gunmen who killed an Israeli soldier during a firefight in September. The military said troops came under heavy fire and fired back at the shooters. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified those killed as Samer Houshiyeh, 21, and Fouad Abed, 25. Houshiyeh was shot several times in the chest, according to Samer Attiyeh, the director of the Ibn Sina Hosipital in Jenin. Attiyeh initially said Abed was 17, but the ministry later gave his age as 25. An armed group, the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, later claimed Houshiyeh as a member. The group, an offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, published an older photo in which Houshiyeh had posed with rifles. Video on social media showed his body wrapped with the armed group's flag as his mother and other mourners bid farewell. It was not immediately clear whether the second Palestinian killed was also affiliated with a militant group. Israel says it demolishes the homes of militants as a way to deter potential attackers. Critics say the tactic amounts to collective punishment. The year 2022 was the deadliest in the West Bank and east Jerusalem since 2006. The Israeli military has been conducting near-daily raids into Palestinian cities and towns since a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis killed 19 last spring. More than 150 Palestinians were killed last year. A fresh wave of attacks killed at least another nine Israelis in the fall. The Israeli army says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed. Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. The Palestinians see them as further entrenchment of Israel's 55-year, open-ended occupation of the West Bank. Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war and the Palestinians seek those territories for a future state.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 02-03/2023
The Iranian regime’s costly misconceptions
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami/Arab News/January 02, 2023
For political scientists studying political systems, misconceptions are one of the most dangerous potential pitfalls and are capable of leading to misleading conclusions. In the context of Iran, there are mounting calls to suspend cooperation with Russia in the latter’s military operation in Ukraine. Key Iranian actors have noted the negative impacts of this cooperation and they believe it has added to the multiple ongoing crises gripping the domestic front. The number of complaints about this Iranian misconception are growing, particularly among the Iranian hard-liners who have seized control of all the levers of power in the country; they are extremely concerned at the continuing cooperation with Russia. For example, in an editorial titled “Why are they angry at Zelensky?” columnist Mohammed Javad Pahlavan argued that the official Iranian assessment of the future of the war in Ukraine was incorrect. The columnist asserted that this misconception and underestimation of the Ukrainian situation added a new error to a long chain of Iranian misconceptions.
The editorial emphasized that this misconception, which was primarily caused by the regime’s failure to correctly assess Russia’s inability to militarily annex Kyiv within a week, reflected a disastrous underestimation of Ukraine’s president and of his country’s ability to resist the Russian military machine. On the ground, as Pahlavan pointed out, no such lightning annexation of the Ukrainian capital occurred. The columnist further noted that, despite 10 months passing since the war began, Russia has still been unable to annex Ukraine due to the Ukrainian people’s staunch resistance.
Setbacks for Russia and its inability to achieve its military objectives in Ukraine led to resentment among Iranian hard-liners
Contrary to the Iranian leadership’s expectations, the Ukrainian army — due to Western supplies of advanced weapons, including sophisticated defense systems far superior to the Russian equivalent — has succeeded in liberating lands forcibly annexed by Russia at the start of its invasion. The columnist claimed that these setbacks for Russia and its inability to achieve its military objectives in Ukraine led to resentment among Iranian hard-liners and supporters of Russia’s war against Ukraine. This Iranian resentment, Pahlavan asserted, surpasses even that of the Russians themselves.
It appears that the Iranian regime’s misconception on Russia’s war against Ukraine and the supreme leader’s decision to move ahead with extensive cooperation with Moscow have further prolonged Iran’s economic crisis and living squeeze by complicating and suspending the nuclear talks in Vienna, which the Iranian people had hoped would eventually lead to sanctions being lifted and their economic and living conditions improving. This domestic situation provides further impetus for future massive protests, albeit sporadically due to the regime’s brutally repressive policies toward protesters.
At the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine, Iranian hard-liners believed that, by throwing their weight behind Moscow’s position, they would be able to improve their negotiating position in Vienna with Europe and the US. However, Russia’s failure to achieve its military objectives in Ukraine — alongside Iran taking a tough stance in the nuclear talks because of its misconception of the future trajectory of the war and of the capabilities of Russia, Ukraine and their respective backers — deprived the Iranian regime of the benefits it could have gained if it had decided to proceed with the nuclear talks in a way that eventually led to comprehensive or partial sanctions relief. Russia has failed to achieve its main objective 10 months since the war started, while none of the sanctions imposed on Iran have been lifted.
The Iranian hard-liners’ repeated misconceptions have led them to the most dangerous period of their rule, bringing them under far greater criticism from the long-suffering Iranian people, especially now that the regime is cutting into their resources. The people have already endured many years of exclusionary domestic policies, absurd misadventures and foreign relations established on a selective, rather than a standard, objective basis. This comes amid waves of protests across the country against conditions like those seen immediately before the outbreak of the 1979 revolution four decades ago.
Given the regime’s repeated failures to address complex crises, its stubbornness in continuing foreign misadventures that have squandered Iranian resources, its misunderstandings and underestimation when it comes to joining regional and international alliances primarily to maximize its interests, and given its own intrinsic dogmatic nature, many more voices are expected to be heard opposing its policies. Pro-regime media outlets supportive of Tehran’s domestic and foreign policies are also expected to tone down their support, particularly in light of the new phenomena and political transformations caused by the waves of massive protests, including the quantum advancements in the protesters’ strategies and tools, the range of mobilization methods, different social segments joining the protest movement and, most importantly, the Iranian opposition no longer fearing the consequences. Protesters are now willing and daring to unleash an unprecedented level of anger against the clerics, whose totalitarian political system preserves their theocratic ideology, which is the chief pillar of clerical rule in Iran.
*Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is president of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami

The winners and losers of any Turkiye-Syria rapprochement
Chris Doyle/Arab News/January 02, 2023
The first formal ministerial meeting between Turkiye and Syria in 11 years should be turning heads. Russia hosted talks last week between Defense Ministers Hulusi Akar and Ali Mahmoud Abbas. Is a rapprochement some form of a realistic 2023 bet?
This is quite the turnaround given the decade-long hostilities between the two countries, with ties having been cut in 2012. Turkiye has been the chief sponsor of the external Syrian opposition to the Assad regime. Opposition fighters received training from Ankara as well as weapons. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has referred to his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, as a terrorist. And Turkiye has launched four major military invasions into northern Syria and still occupies significant parts of the area. Talks would appear set to continue into 2023, with foreign ministers possibly up next in mid-January. Who knows, this might even lead to some form of presidential summit in the early spring. Akar also left open the possibility of extending existing cooperation on the ground with Russia to include the Syrian regime.
For those paying close attention, this should not have come as a surprise. Turkish-Syrian intelligence links resumed under the table a while back. Since last August at least, Erdogan has talked of the need for diplomacy between the two governments and stated that regime change in Damascus was no longer Turkish policy. Erdogan made his desired path clear. “First, our intelligence agencies, then defense ministers and then foreign ministers could meet. After their meetings, we as the leaders may come together,” he said last month. The respective heads of intelligence were also at the Moscow summit.
Russia’s game is the easiest to fathom. The meeting took place in Moscow under Russian auspices. The rehabilitation of its long-term Middle East vassal would serve it well. Allies are gold dust right now for the sanctioned state stuck in the Ukrainian quagmire. President Vladimir Putin needs a success or two. He will also wish to exclude Iran and limit its influence in Damascus, even as the Russian military has been buying up Iranian technology including drones.
The bigger game for Putin will be Turkiye as a key NATO member. If he were to lose in Ukraine, he could distract from the humiliation by winning over Ankara. Already, Turkish-Russian trade is up, as are energy links. It still looks a long shot, but Putin clearly believes he can tempt Turkiye away from the US orbit. Who will be the losers? Syrian Kurds certainly fear the consequences of a Turkiye-Syria deal. The Syrian regime has carefully calculated that the Kurdish groups can never trust the Turkish leadership, so will ultimately have to gravitate back to an uneasy modus vivendi with Damascus. What choice do they have? The Syrian regime would then become responsible for ensuring that the Kurdish groups are contained and pose no perceived threat to Turkish interests. That said, the Syrian regime may struggle to deliver on any commitment to control Kurdish groups and areas. The Syrian regime craves the full reunification of the country under its control, even if it has been prepared to be patient to achieve this goal.
A fresh Turkish invasion, which has been signaled for some time, is not off the table. In November, Turkiye launched major air attacks against Kurdish groups following the deadly bombing on Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue, which the Turkish authorities swiftly attributed to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Erdogan wants Putin’s backing to proceed and to deal a severe blow to Kurdish groups before Turkiye’s adventure in Syria is halted. Note that it is Russia’s go-ahead that is sought, not Washington’s.
Another loser would be the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition. Protests have already erupted at the prospect of Turkish-Syrian normalization in Turkish-controlled areas of Syria. Erdogan has used these opposition groups as a tool ever since 2011. However, as easily as he nurtured them, he can also ditch them now. He knows the Syrian regime will not fall. The opposition groups have reached new levels of impotence and ineffectiveness. The danger is that they provide few bonuses for Ankara and can be a liability. That said, Erdogan will probably keep them as a card up his sleeve should any arrangement with Assad go sour. Still, it is likely that the Syrian regime will, one day, with Russian backing and Turkish acquiescence, launch a final assault on Idlib in the northwest of the country. The Syrian regime craves the full reunification of the country under its control, even if it has been prepared to be patient to achieve this goal.
Syrian refugees would also be under even greater threat if any deal materializes. Erdogan has made no secret of his intention to return many of the 3.8 million of them said to be in Turkiye back to Syria. Ideally, he wants them to be relocated to northern Syria to form a demographic buffer between Turkiye and the Syrian Kurdish areas. In fact, many have already been forcibly sent back into Syria, albeit not to the areas they originated from. Erdogan is deeply conscious that hosting refugees has become an unpopular burden on the country, given its economic difficulties.
This leaves the resurgent Daesh. The largely Kurdish Syrian Defense Forces has been in the vanguard of trying to suppress the extremists, with backing from the global anti-Daesh coalition, notably the US. Above all, it controls camps such as Al-Hol in northeastern Syria, which holds 50,000 people, many of whom sympathize with Daesh. Only a week ago, a Daesh sleeper cell killed six SDF members. Daesh has much to gain from any Turkish attempt to weaken the SDF and will seize on any opportunities this creates.
The Turkish and Syrian governments will convert this into a joint battle against terrorism. This was clear from the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s statement, which referred to the need to “combat all terrorist organizations in Syria.”
As for the ramshackle dregs of the Assad regime, its survival looks even more secure. It will delight in this as yet another step toward normalizing regional ties, but also for the full reassertion of its countrywide authority.
But this is no triumph. The Syrian economy is in tatters. More than half the population struggle to feed their families. The country and society are fractured and brutalized. Widespread anger and despair mean that the regime’s foundations remain weak, with little prospect of recovery. Syrians feel cruelly abandoned, but are more than capable of taking matters into their own hands at some point in the future.
• Chris Doyle is director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, in London. Twitter: @Doylech

UK’s many challenges as it seeks to make Brexit work
Andrew Hammond/Arab News/January 02, 2023
Two years after the post-Brexit UK-EU free trade agreement came into effect, a key shift is underway in UK politics, with the center of debate increasingly turning away from “Brexit versus Remain” toward how best to make Brexit work in practice.
This change has largely been driven by the growing political momentum of the UK’s opposition Labour Party under its leader, Keir Starmer, who is reshaping the debate over Brexit. Following the success of the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum, plus Boris Johnson’s landslide general election win in December 2019, Starmer has ruled out any government he leads after the next election seeking to rejoin the EU.
A key, pragmatic reason for taking this stance is that the country is in such turmoil, with no clear post-Brexit settlement emerging under the Conservatives, meaning that all of the energies of a Starmer government would need to be focused on this issue. The UK economy is forecast to face the worst downturn of any significant advanced economy in 2023, alongside a wider sense of political drift seen in recent years under the successive leaderships of David Cameron, Theresa May, Johnson, Liz Truss and now Rishi Sunak.
With Labour having ruled out rejoining the EU, and the Conservatives now having very few pro-European legislators in their midst following the purges under Johnson’s premiership, it is unlikely that the UK will go back to the Brussels-based club during this political generation. So, Labour’s focus is now much more on making Brexit work better for the country, given the mess the Conservatives are making.
In a speech last summer, Starmer pledged to “deliver on the opportunities the United Kingdom has to sort out the poor EU withdrawal deal Johnson signed, and end the UK’s Brexit divisions once and for all.” He argued that making Brexit work is essential because the nation “cannot move forward or grow the country or deliver change or win back the trust of those who have lost faith in politics if we’re constantly focused on the arguments of the past.”
Sunak’s room for compromise is limited, given the balance of political opinion within the Conservative Party
The shift in Labour’s position comes in a context whereby support for the UK rejoining the EU has been growing steadily over the past year, with one recent poll suggesting 57 percent would favor rejoining, with 43 percent against. This 57 percent figure is the highest since before the Brexit referendum in 2016.
Part of the reason that public opinion is moving in this direction is the growing evidence that the “hard Brexit” deal, known as the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which the British Parliament ratified on New Year’s Eve 2020, is causing economic damage. One think tank, the Center for European Reform, recently asserted that the UK’s gross domestic product is now 5.5 percent smaller as a result of Johnson’s agreement compared to remaining in the EU.
What is becoming clearer is that Johnson’s deal created structural impediments to trade that are not improving. This has been highlighted by national business groups like the British Chambers of Commerce, with proposals made for additional UK side deals with the EU on issues including import value added tax, veterinary services and professional services to smooth out the many rough edges of the existing deal.
It is in this context that there is growing support across the political spectrum, even within Sunak’s government, for a closer economic relationship with the EU. For instance, Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt has admitted that Johnson’s hard Brexit deal has created damaging trade barriers.
The key remaining challenges to Hunt dismantling these barriers include the fact that his political position within the post-Johnson Conservatives is fragile, given the strong support in the parliamentary party and wider membership for a hard Brexit. A second challenge for Hunt is that there remains a series of irritants in post-Brexit ties arising from Johnson’s 2020 deal, which the Conservatives are finding very hard to resolve with the EU, especially given the lack of trust between the two sides.
Top of the list is the post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland — a complex issue on which the EU enjoys significant support from the Biden administration. So much so, in fact, that President Joe Biden may even cancel his planned visit to the UK and the Republic of Ireland in the run-up to the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement unless this issue is resolved.
While a breakthrough cannot be ruled out in 2023, Sunak’s room for compromise is limited, given the balance of political opinion within the Conservative Party. It is possible that this issue will be left to fester, especially with the government’s planned Northern Ireland Protocol bill threatening to rip up the UK’s commitments under the 2020 deal. The stakes in play are therefore huge and historic, not just for the UK but also the EU. A new, more constructive partnership, which is much more likely under a new UK government, can hopefully bring benefits for both sides at a time of significant global geopolitical turbulence.
*Andrew Hammond is an Associate at LSE IDEAS at the London School of Economics.

Look Ahead 2023: Why the Iranian regime’s future hangs in the balance
Oubai Shahbandar/Arab News/January 02, 2023
WASHINGTON D.C.: “Margh bar diktator” — or “death to the dictator” — has become the rallying cry of a massive wave of protests that have consumed nearly the entire Islamic Republic of Iran.
Though the news media remains under the tight control of the state’s internal security apparatus, grainy cell phone video of protests from schools, strikes at energy facilities, and rallies along main roads from Tehran to Ahvaz are shaking the rule of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as never before.
The last big challenge to the status quo in Tehran came in 2009 during the Green Revolution, which captured the world’s imagination at a time when social media offered real-time access and a badly needed voice for dissatisfied Iranian youth calling for reform.
Tehran’s response to the 2009 protests, during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, was brutal and swift.
But while the world was captivated by what seemed to be a breaking point for the “Islamic Revolution,” the cries for reform were met with exceptional brutality and mass killings carried out by the Basij, the plainclothes paramilitary arm of the government, and special units of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) known as Pasadran. Protesters inside Iran are as determined as ever. According to 32-year-old Atefeh, a member of the Resistance Units of the People’s Mojahedin from the Iranian city of Rasht, “the poverty, destruction, and embezzlement of the regime against (Iran’s) people” are driving forces that have “fueled the speed and progress of the uprisings and protests ... Iran has completely changed in these three months.”
This time around, observers and experts believe that Khamenei’s forces may not be able to use the same playbook to quell what is becoming a sustained nationwide uprising. Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iran analyst for the US-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Arab News that he thinks Khamenei’s regime is living on borrowed time. Placards showing victims of the regime’s repression (below) were displayed near the French National Assembly in Paris this month. (AFP)
“There is a sea of blood between the regime and majority of Iranians. After three decades of failed experience with the reform project, Iranians don’t buy the myth of reform anymore, be it political, economic or social. And the regime has put itself in a position that making concessions to the protesters will most likely only expedite its fall,” he said. Physical and sexual violence, and the executions and sweeping arrests of those calling for change in Iran in previous years have coincided with promises that improvements in the economic and social environment were just around the corner. However, this tactic may have also run its course, and the prospects for compromise have diminished.
Ghasseminejad said: “The use of brute force has become the regime’s only option. So far it has not worked, and even if it temporarily works, as we have seen over the last five years, every round of protests is followed by an even bigger one.”
So, will 2023 bring about the collapse of what began in 1979?
It is an outcome that no longer seems too far-fetched. While the IRGC may hold a monopoly on the violence that it wields in an attempt to quell popular unrest, other factors are coming into play that could catalyze the Iranian regime’s downfall.
Saeed predicts that “various factors will decide the fate of the Islamic Republic in 2023.”
“For example, the death of the supreme leader or a military attack against the nuclear facilities are two events which can happen over the next year and will have significant consequences for the revolution in Iran,” he told Arab News.
A sudden shock to the system could happen. Khamenei can no longer lean on the former head of the Revolutionary Guards elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad in 2020.
With Soleimani’s death, Khamenei is unable to use him as a master strategist exporting Iran’s ideological influence in the region. Soleimani also played a lesser — but equally notable — role in organizing the Revolutionary Guards’ crackdown on protesters in the past.
While Tehran has been able to weather these storms by a mixture of bloodshed and political agility at home, the dire economic situation facing Iranians from all walks of life, and across the ideological spectrum, is perhaps the main existential threat facing the ruling elite.
A recent report from the Washington D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War said: “The Iranian economy appears to be entering a period of potentially significant disruption. Protester coordinators and other social media users have called on Iranians to urgently withdraw their bank account savings and buy gold in recent days.”
Fred Kagan, director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, says the steep decline of Iran’s currency is driving unprecedented inflation and putting serious stress on the banking system.
Macroeconomic trends coupled with the protests are forcing Khamenei and the IRGC, who have taken over large parts of key sectors of the economy, to rethink how they have traditionally handled business.
“We think it’s too soon to tell where this is headed or how bad it will be, but if serious economic instability were added to the crimes the regime is already committing against its people and the brutality and simple viciousness with which it is oppressing them, that could add energy to a protest movement,” Kagan told Arab News. He thinks the current protests are better organized with longer staying power than before. The regime is particularly conscious of the importance of maintaining the solvency of a banking sector that is heavily connected to the IRGC and charitable trusts called “bonyads,” which have enriched key ruling elite families that Khamenei relies upon. According to Kagan, Tehran “could face the prospect of having to use its own hard currency reserves to bail out banks ... The protesters have already been experimenting with using coordinated strikes and boycotts to cause limited economic disruptions.”
The reaction of the regime to the protests may also eventually extend to freezing bank accounts and withdrawals, as part of a more targeted approach. However, Kagan claims that such efforts “could potentially start to cascade in ways that would be very problematic for the regime.”
The economic engine keeping the regime afloat is heavily intertwined with Iran’s wider geopolitical aspirations: Selling and exporting its Shahed drones to aid the Russian war machine in Ukraine has brought it badly needed cash. Its energy exports continue to bring in sufficient hard currency to enable the regime’s survival amid exceptional domestic turbulence, according to Ghasseminejad.
“Tehran is still exporting more than 1.1 million barrels per day of oil and its non-oil exports remain strong. Imposing symbolic and targeted sanctions on human rights violators is a good thing, but denying the regime the revenue to fund its oppression machine should be one of the key priorities,” Ghasseminejad said.
Khamenei and his successor may be able to weather the storm. Past experience has shown that the international community, Western Europe in particular, has rushed to do business with Tehran after condemning its actions both inside and outside of its borders.
However, with the economy in free fall, and more and more Iranians saying they have little left to lose, 2023 could bring the chance of a transformational change that was so brutally quashed in 2009.