English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For January 22/2023
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Jesus said to Nicodemus: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

John 03/03-21: There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 The same came to Jesus by night and said unto Him, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, unless God be with him.”Jesus answered and said unto him, “‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on January 21-22/2023
Etienne Saqr-Abu Arz: Prosecuting Ibrahim Murad, falls within the framework of suppressing freedom of opinion and expression
Oueidat positively evaluates 1st round of European investigations
Bankers make 'confessions' to European investigators as 'wildcard witness' emerges
European delegation ends 1st round of questioning in Lebanon
European investigators to quiz Salameh next month
More MPs join sit-in inside Lebanon’s parliament amid political crisis
Lebanese Interior Minister: No Room for Agendas Promoting Division
Egypt Says Nasrallah’s Statements About Economy Are 'Nonsense'
Lebanon to pay UN $1.8m arrears after losing voting rights
'Lebanese Forces' Party denies organizing training camps in some areas, calls for taking urgent measures against Fadi Boudia
Foreign Affairs Ministry responds to media reports holding it responsible for failure to pay Lebanon's contributions to the UN
Mawlawi calls for keeping any cabinet meeting away from sectarian competition & bickering, says municipal elections will take place on time
Lebanon participates in Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran in February
'Russian House' in Beirut initiates application process to Russian universities
Meeting between Economy Minister & ESCWA Executive Secretary to review trade policies for Lebanon
Lahoud appeals from Berlin to world agricultural ministers & organizations to embrace Lebanese farmers & their agricultural produce

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 21-22/2023
Iranian currency falls to record low amid isolation and sanctions
Iran Guards warn EU terror label would be 'mistake'
EU to Expand Sanctions on Iran Next Week
Iranians Protest in Zahedan Despite Tight Security
Saudi Arabia just said they are now 'open' to the idea of trading in currencies besides the US dollar — does this spell doom for the greenback? 3 reasons not to worry
Protests in Stockholm, including Koran-burning, draw strong condemnation from Turkey
Ukraine Adviser Tells Allies 'Think Faster' on Military Support
The NATO Alliance Is Holding Strong on Ukraine. But Fractures Are Emerging.
The company used by Putin to put 50,000 Russian mercenaries in Ukraine will be deemed a 'transnational criminal organization' by the US
Turkiye cancels Sweden minister visit over planned protest
Israeli films face state funding cut for covering West Bank occupation
Israeli settler shoots Palestinian dead in land dispute
Palestinian Man Killed by Israeli Forces in West Bank
Canada to repatriate 23 citizens detained in north-east Syria camps
In message to Iran, Jordan boosts military deterrence

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 21-22/2023
EU’s Double-Standards on Iran’s Human Rights: Business First/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/January 21, 2023
Tunisia’s Stability is Libya’s Stability/Gabriel al-Obaidi/Asharq Al Awsat/January, 21/2023
The Not-So-Great News About Lower Inflation/Peter Coy/The New York Times/January, 21/2023
US-Israeli dilemma as window for diplomacy with Iran closes swiftly/Yossi Mekelberg/Arab News/January 21, 2023

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on January 21-22/2023
Etienne Saqr-Abu Arz: Prosecuting Ibrahim Murad, falls within the framework of suppressing freedom of opinion and expression
January 21/2023

Press Release: The Guardians of the Cedar Party – the Lebanese National Movement: Lebanon’s lung is freedom
The corrupt regime that controls power in Lebanon continues to practice a policy of repression, muffling free voices, and intimidating opinion-holders and free speech.
In this context we strongly believe that the judicial persecution of Mr. Ibrahim Murad, falls within the framework of suppressing freedom of opinion and expression, the freedom upon which the Lebanese have lived, and for which they have sacrificed for thousands of years and until today, martyrs and tears to preserve and defend its values.
Within the frames of these patriotic values, and in the name of the honorable Lebanese people, we strongly denounce in the strongest terms any security or judicial prosecution against Mr. Ibrahim Murad, and stand with him and with all the free fighters who call for the liberation of Lebanon from all foreign occupations, especially the Iranian one, through its armed proxy that has been perching on the chest of the Lebanese since four decades.
Finally, we affirm to the Lebanese immoral regime that policies of repression and intimidation does not work, and will not discourage the honorable Lebanese from demanding the liberation of their country, or defending their freedom and dignity, no matter what the at any cost.
We finally remind all those concerned, that freedom has been the lung of Lebanon through which it breathes, and will have no life without it.
Long live Free Lebanon.
Etienne Saqr – Abu Arz
(Free Translation by Elias Bejjani)

Oueidat positively evaluates 1st round of European investigations
Naharnet/January 21, 2023
State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat has described as “positive” the first round of investigations that was carried out in Beirut by three European judicial delegations probing the wealth of Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh. “Our evaluation of the first round of investigations in positive and it can be capitalized on for future cooperation that serves the Lebanese investigation,” Oueidat told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published Saturday. “The investigation conduct respected the international treaty for combating corruption,” Oueidat added. “We also respected the Lebanese law through cooperating with the Europeans and our participation in the investigations and the management of sessions in the presence of Lebanese judges,” Oueidat went on to say, noting that the judiciary was keen on “preserving national sovereignty.”

Bankers make 'confessions' to European investigators as 'wildcard witness' emerges
Naharnet/January 21, 2023
Lebanese bankers are giving testimonies that have started nearing the extent of “confessions” in the investigations that are being carried out in Lebanon by three European delegations as part of a probe into Riad Salameh’s wealth, a media report said. “The Lebanese investigation, from which the Europeans want documents for their own investigation, included preliminary information and significant inquiries about transfers made from Raja Salameh’s accounts to his brother Riad and close associates,” the Nidaa al-Watan newspaper reported on Friday. “The investigations have determined that $70 million were transferred from a bank owned by a defaulting political family,” the daily added. “The interrogation of Al-Mawarid Bank CEO Marwan Kheireddine tackled those transfers as well as accounts for Raja Salameh whose deposits swelled from $15 million to $150 million between 1993 and 2019 before being withdrawn on the eve of the crisis,” Nidaa al-Watan said. One of the witnesses, the president of a well-known brokerage company, meanwhile “left for Luxembourg to be interrogated by investigators there and it is possible that he might turn into a protected ‘wildcard witness’ in return for valuable confessions related to Raja and Riad Salameh that might be in his possession,” the newspaper added. Informed sources meanwhile said that the Lebanese judiciary is relatively cooperating with the European investigators, after reports said that “sanctions might be imposed on any judge who does not cooperate, in line with the U.N. anti-corruption treaty that Lebanon signed in 2008.”

European delegation ends 1st round of questioning in Lebanon
Associated Press/January 21, 2023
A European legal team has wrapped up the first round of questioning of Lebanese bankers and current and former Central Bank officials in Beirut. The questioning is part of a probe on money laundering linked to Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh. The European judicial delegation -- with representatives from France, Germany, and Luxembourg -- questioned nine people this week, including current and former central bank officials as well as the heads of several commercial banks, several Lebanese judicial officials told The Associated Press. The delegation arrived in Beirut earlier this month to interrogate embattled Central Bank Governor Salameh and more than two dozen other people, some of them his close associates, in a European money laundering investigation of some $330 million. In March last year, authorities in France, Germany and Luxembourg froze more than $130 million in assets linked to the investigation. There have been reports that a brokerage firm, Forry Associates Ltd., owned by Raja Salameh -- the brother of the Central Bank governor -- was hired by the Central Bank to handle government bond sales in which the firm received $330 million in commissions.
The governor, who has denied all charges of corruption, calling them politicized, said earlier that "not a single penny of public money" was used to pay the brokerage firm. Switzerland and Liechtenstein have also opened probes against Riad Salameh on money laundering allegations. The Lebanese chief prosecutor's office on Friday said Lebanese judicial officials helped the European delegation in the investigation regarding money transfers in the three countries. It did not provide any further details.

European investigators to quiz Salameh next month

Agence France Presse/January 21, 2023
European investigators will question Lebanon's central bank chief Riad Salameh next month as part of a probe into his and his brother's affairs, a judicial official told AFP. Investigators from France, Germany and Luxembourg heard witnesses in Beirut this week as part of the case of suspected financial misconduct including possible money laundering and embezzlement. Salameh and his brother Raja both deny any wrongdoing. The central bank chief, in office for three decades, is widely blamed for monetary policies that contributed to an unprecedented economic crisis in Lebanon, but he has dismissed such criticism. "The European judges will return next month to complete their investigations with 18 financial and banking figures... including Salameh and people close to him," said the official on condition of anonymity. On Friday, the investigators heard former interior minister Raya El Hassan, who also chairs the board of directors of Lebanese lender Bankmed. They had already heard evidence for more than eight hours Tuesday from Ahmad Jachi, a central bank vice governor from 2003 to 2008, as well as Marwan Kheireddine, who heads Al Mawarid Bank. They also questioned former vice governor Saad Andary on Monday.
The bankers were asked about accounts held by Raja Salameh, as well as "money transfers to the brothers' accounts abroad," a judicial official told AFP earlier this week. Investigators also examined the central bank's ties to Forry Associates Ltd, a British Virgin Islands-registered company that listed Raja Salameh as its beneficiary. Forry is suspected of having brokered Lebanese treasury bonds and Eurobonds at a commission, which was then allegedly transferred to Raja Salameh's bank accounts abroad. France, Germany and Luxembourg last March seized assets worth 120 million euros ($130 million) in a move linked to a probe by French investigators into 72-year-old Salameh's personal wealth. Lebanon opened its own probe into Salameh's affairs last year, after the office of Switzerland's top prosecutor requested assistance with an investigation into more than $300 million allegedly embezzled from the central bank with the help of his brother.

More MPs join sit-in inside Lebanon’s parliament amid political crisis
Najia Houssari/Arab News/January 21, 2023
BEIRUT: More MPs have joined independent lawmakers staging a sit-in inside Lebanon’s 128-seat parliament to protest at the ongoing vacuum of power. Protesters held their own sit-in outside parliament in solidarity with MPs angry at the failure to elect a new president.
Reformist MPs Najat Saliba and Melhem Khalaf launched their protest in the plenary hall of parliament last Thursday to put pressure on factions to elect a president, nearly three months on from the post falling vacant. Reformist MPs Halima Kaakour and Firas Hamdan joined the protesters on Friday night, in addition to George Okais and Razi Al-Hajj from Lebanese Forces. Khalaf told Arab News: “We are not protesting; we are applying the law. “We don’t have the right to complain, as the Lebanese people have been living for months without electricity and services. “Our presence in the plenary hall shows the people that patience results in a functional country. “We don’t want to convey helplessness to the people.
“Our legal duties compel us, pursuant to article 74 of the constitution, to be present in the parliament without invitation and elect a president without any conditions.”The MP added that article 75 stipulated that the deputies had turned into an electoral body and “we don’t have the right to perform any other role.”
He added: “Some 26 deputies have arrived in the plenary hall to confirm the eligibility of the step we took.”Independent deputy Abdel Rahman Al-Bizri said: “There should be a democratic political breakthrough inside parliament. It is the only solution for the crisis.
“The deputies inside the parliament are not staging a protest, but carrying out their duties. “The parliament has a real chance to carry out its role and elect a president away from any foreign and regional considerations.” Al-Bizri believes that the action initiated by Khalaf and Saliba may have helped bring matters to a head after 11 failed electoral sessions. He emphasized that the main purpose of the move was to protect the Lebanese presidential and parliamentary system. Okais said: “What’s needed is to unify the opposition against Hezbollah and its allies and turn the presidential elections into a purely Lebanese process, if the intentions are good. “We don’t mind holding a dialogue to discuss a presidential candidate other than Michel Moawad, provided he’s a reformist and sovereign candidate.”Okais added that he had told the protesting deputies in the hall that what they were doing was “a noble act,” but added he had questioned what was to follow. He highlighted what he termed a strategic and ideological divergence between the protesting MPs. He said: “If the opposition does not agree on one name, then the protest will be in vain and similar to climbing up a tree without knowing how to get down.”Progressive Socialist Party MP Bilal Abdallah said it was necessary to “follow a new dynamic when tackling the presidential election.” He added: “We don’t boycott nor disrupt the process, but we urge everyone to hold more dialogue that actually generates effective results, rather than futile ones.”Regarding the results of dialogue between Hezbollah and the Progressive Socialist Party on the presidential elections, Abdallah said: “It revolved around the need to keep elections away from current political alignments and confrontations, and avoid repeating the scenario of the former mandate. “Dialogue with other political parties continues in order to reach an internal settlement and turn the presidential election into a purely Lebanese process. “It seems that foreign countries do not care about Lebanon today, and solutions and follow-ups are not their priority. That’s why we took this step and we won’t stop.” Lebanon has had neither a president nor a fully empowered Cabinet since Michel Aoun’s term ended in October.

Lebanese Interior Minister: No Room for Agendas Promoting Division
Beirut - Mohamed Choucair/Asharq Al-Awsat
Lebanon’s caretaker Minister of Interior and Municipalities Judge Bassam Mawlawi on Saturday affirmed that the Lebanese have put fighting in the past and that any bet on its resurfacing will fail. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Mawlawi stressed that there is no room for political agendas intending to undermine the unity of Lebanon, lead to its division and revert the country to the chaos it experienced prior to the Taif agreement. Mawlawi said that whoever tries to ignite sectarian strife will face resistance from all the Lebanese. The minister insisted that Lebanon’s Christians and Muslims insist on adhering to the state project.
Mawlawi pointed out that there is no political background to security problems that occur from time to time in more than one of Lebanon’s regions. According to the minister, most of Lebanon’s security problems are restricted to incidents of looting, burglary, and individual disputes that security and military forces deal with firmly. Lebanon’s security forces have been able to arrest dozens of perpetrators and refer them to the judiciary for trial, affirmed Mawlawi. He emphasized that the local and external conditions that were behind the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in the spring of 1975 have now disappeared, although its tragic effects still echo in the minds of the Lebanese. Mawlawi believed that the solution to the crisis experienced by Lebanon today begins with electing a president for the republic. Asserting that electing a president is the gateway to reorganizing the constitutional institutions, Mawlawi pointed to the vote being the responsibility of parliament solely. “I hope that favorable conditions will ripen to end the presidential vacuum. Because the government does not replace the president,” Mawlawi told Asharq Al-Awsat. The minister also supported Lebanese cabinet meetings that he said are handling urgent and pressing needs that cannot be postponed. “Those criticizing cabinet meetings contribute to emptying institutions and paralyzing their ability to respond to the suffering of the Lebanese,” said Mawlawi. He emphasized that the crisis in Lebanon cannot be resolved by resorting to populist bidding, exploiting the suffering of citizens, and returning to fighting. Condemning sectarian discourse, Mawlawi stressed the importance of moderation in politics to reduce tensions and incitement. He stated that any elected president should address Christians and Muslims without distinction. He emphasized that the Lebanese should help themselves as a condition for seeking help from the international community.

Egypt Says Nasrallah’s Statements About Economy Are 'Nonsense'
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 January, 2023
Spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Abu Zeid on Friday called remarks by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah about the economic situation in Egypt “nonsense” and “an attempt to recall fake heroism.”Nasrallah’s statements are likely linked to Egypt snubbing Iranian attempts to open channels for communication between Cairo and Tehran, an informed source who requested anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat. “There are repeated requests and contacts on the part of Tehran to try to advance relations with Egypt,” the source said, adding that Iran believed that ties would warm up after its delegation attended the COP27 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh. Nevertheless, Egypt has not yet reacted to Iran’s attempts, the source explained. Almost a week ago, Nasrallah had received Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Beirut, and they discussed developments and political situations in Lebanon, Palestine, and the region. “Egypt's calculations regarding Iran are accurate and linked to regional and Arab relations, and Cairo is committed to a comprehensive vision, not momentary changes,” the source affirmed. The past months witnessed repeated Iranian signals regarding “strengthening relations with Egypt.”Amir-Abdollahian confirmed, last July, that “strengthening relations between Tehran and Cairo is in the interest of the countries of the region and the peoples of the two countries.”In a speech on the anniversary of the launch of Hezbollah’s affiliated Consultative Center for Studies and Documentation, Nasrallah invited attendees to examine the economic situation in Egypt, the first country to sign a peace agreement with Israel. Nasrallah said that Egypt’s commitment to peace with Israel did not prevent its economy from needing loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He also reviewed the situation in Jordan and other countries. Ties between Egypt and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah have witnessed sharp and rare turns during the past two decades. Egypt had previously arrested a Hezbollah cell that was operating on its soil. It convicted the members of the cell in 2010 with court rulings ranging from six months to life imprisonment, but cell leader, Sami Shehab, managed to escape prison in 2011. In 2015, Shehab received a new sentence in absentia of two years in prison.

Lebanon to pay UN $1.8m arrears after losing voting rights
Ismaeel Naar/The National/January 21, 2023
Lebanon vowed to pay the $1.8m it owes to the UN's operating budget on Friday after losing its voting rights in the 193-member UN General Assembly. Lebanon is among six countries to lose its right to vote after not meeting minimum contributions, along with Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Venezuela, South Sudan and Gabon, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday. In response to the suspension, Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the payment process would take place immediately. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants would like to clarify that all the payment stages of the required amount have been completed,” the ministry said. “After the necessary contacts with each of the Lebanese Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, it has been confirmed that the final payment process will take place immediately in a manner that preserves Lebanon's rights in the United Nations.”Lebanon previously lost voting rights temporarily in 2020 for failing to pay its share with the UN saying at the time that "we fully recognise that the recent events in Lebanon have challenged the banking system, delaying part of this money.”Gabon is serving a two-year term on the UN Security Council, although its voting rights there are not affected. The UN Charter says members with arrears that equal or exceed the amount of their contributions for the preceding two full years lose their voting rights. It also gives the General Assembly the authority to decide if failure to pay is "due to conditions beyond the control of the member". In that case, a country can continue to vote. According to the secretary general’s letter, the minimum payments needed to restore voting rights are $76,244,991 for Venezuela, $1,835,303 for Lebanon, $619,103 for Equatorial Guinea, $196,130 for South Sudan, $61,686 for Gabon and $20,580 for Dominica. The General Assembly decided that three African countries on the list of nations in arrears ― Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia ― can keep their voting rights. It granted the three countries the same exemption last year.
*AP contributed to this report

'Lebanese Forces' Party denies organizing training camps in some areas, calls for taking urgent measures against Fadi Boudia
NNA/January 21, 2023
"Lebanese Forces" Party categorically denied in an issued statement today what was reported by the so-called Fadi Boudia about LF’s opening of training camps in some areas and sending several members to Jordan to be trained by Jordanian and British officers.
The statement asserted that “in parallel with the Party’s legal department’s intention to file a lawsuit for the third time against Boudia, LF urges the concerned judiciary to take the necessary and immediate measures to put an end to this person’s practices and false fabrications, which must not continue due to their negative repercussions on more than one level.”

Foreign Affairs Ministry responds to media reports holding it responsible for failure to pay Lebanon's contributions to the UN
NNA/January 21, 2023
The media office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants responded, in an issued statement today, to "several media reports that unjustly held the Ministry responsible for Lebanon's failure to pay its contributions to the United Nations and thus depriving it of the right to vote."
In this context, the statement clarified the following:
1- The Ministry has been following-up for several months on the issue of paying the dues and unpaid contributions to-date by Lebanon to several international and regional organizations, including the United Nations, which affects Lebanon's right to vote.
2- For this purpose, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates conducted several contacts, reviews and meetings with the concerned official authorities, to assist in transferring the necessary funds to Lebanese missions abroad to pay contributions and arrears. In this connection, Minister Abdallah Bou Babib received promises to resolve the issue of transferring the necessary funds as soon as possible.
The statement concluded by stressing that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants has previously cautioned about this matter, and continues to stress the necessity of immediate handling of this dossier due to its importance and Lebanon's role in international and regional institutions.

Mawlawi calls for keeping any cabinet meeting away from sectarian competition & bickering, says municipal elections will take place on time
NNA/January 21, 2023
In an exclusive interview with Radio Free Lebanon, caretaker Minister of Interior and Municipalities Bassam al-Mawlawi reassured all Lebanese that "the security situation is under control", stressing that the security services are carrying out their duties to the fullest. The minister called for distancing any government meeting devoted to addressing people's urgent issues from sectarian rivalry and strife, declaring that "Muslims in Lebanon are more keen on the presence and role of Christians than the Christians themselves."Commenting on whether the municipal and optional elections will take place on time, the Minister of the Interior indicated that the ministry insists on achieving the constitutional and legal entitlements on time. He stressed that "there are 110 municipalities out of the total number of dissolved municipalities in Lebanon, and preparations in the Ministry of Interior are ready, and on the first of February, the electoral lists will be announced."

Lebanon participates in Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran in February
NNA/January 21, 2023
The Fajr International Film Festival has revealed an invitation to participate in the activities of its forty-first session in its national and international branches, which are run by the Iranian Mojtaba Amini, with wide local and international participation. According to a statement, the festival starts from February 1 to 11, with the aim of presenting and honoring the selected works of Iranian and international cinema in the local and international sections. The organizers of the festival announced the submission of 578 films to participate in the international section of the 41st International Film Festival, and according to the public relations report of this prominent international film event, a total of 578 films from 72 countries submitted to participate in the international section of the festival, including the sections "Saadat Cinema" and "East Face" (Asian-Islamic). Among the most prominent countries that applied to participate in the festival in addition to Iran are: Italy, Malaysia, Singapore, Portugal, Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Argentina, India, Chile, Tajikistan, Estonia, Latvia, the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada , Poland, England, Turkey, Myanmar, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Indonesia, Romania, Ukraine, Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden, Iraq, Hong Kong, Moldova, Armenia, Greece, Mongolia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic, Azerbaijan Republic, Mexico, America, Spain, Bulgaria, Brazil, Belarus, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Georgia, Serbia, Dominica, South Korea, Lithuania, Egypt, Syria, Oman, Taiwan, Lebanon, Morocco, Finland, Kuwait, Macedonia, Cambodia, Qatar, Norway, Austria, Vietnam, Thailand and Iceland. The international section of the Fajr International Film Festival aims to recognize the valuable works of Iranian and international cinema and to promote and encourage the production of works compatible with Iranian cinema. The 41st edition of the Fajr International Film Festival will start from the next 1st to 11th, and the international section of the festival will be held in two competitive sections (Saadat Cinema and the Orient Facade) and the non-competitive part of the World Cup section (Festival Festival) will be held in the capital Tehran.

'Russian House' in Beirut initiates application process to Russian universities
NNA/January 21, 2023
The Russian House in Beirut is in the process of selecting Lebanese students who wish to study in Russian universities at the expense of the Russian Federation government for the year 2023-2024, noting that the Russian government has allocated 145 scholarships for the Lebanese this year. Applicants from all levels of university education and majors are accepted. Those wishing to participate in the selection must register on the official website: https://education-in-russia.com, until February 20, 2023. Additional information about registration and required documents can also be obtained by visiting the Russian House in Beirut in person or via their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StudyInRussiaForLebanese
Or call: +961-7169730.

Meeting between Economy Minister & ESCWA Executive Secretary to review trade policies for Lebanon
NNA/January 21, 2023
The Ministry of Economy and Trade announced, in an issued statement on Saturday, that it is analyzing and reviewing, in cooperation with ESCWA, trade policies for Lebanon and bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, in collaboration with the relevant ministries. In this context, a meeting was held on January 19, 2023, attended by Caretaker Minister of Economy and Trade, Amin Salam, and the Secretary Executive Director of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Dr. Rola Dashti, in the presence of senior officials from the Ministries of Economy, Trade, Industry, Agriculture and Finance in the ESCWA building in central Beirut. It was decided to form a technical committee to submit proposals for what should be amended to these agreements, in addition to issuing recommendations in the field of restructuring customs duties. Minister Salam stressed "the need to work seriously to develop policies that are compatible with the current stage at the local and regional levels, and to advance the Lebanese economy from an economy that relies on imports to a diversified and competitive economy capable of exporting and attracting foreign."He added: "Despite the different trends and opinions, everyone agrees that the time has come not only to develop trade agreements and create new visions, but to employ them in building a new economic reality for Lebanon on the economic map of the Mediterranean." For its part, "ESCWA" indicated in a statement that "over the past two decades, the cumulative deficit in the Lebanese trade balance amounted to more than 250 billion US dollars, and in the same context, Lebanon recorded a low performance in terms of the trade returns of the two free trade agreements it concluded with European Union and with the Arab countries.”

Lahoud appeals from Berlin to world agricultural ministers & organizations to embrace Lebanese farmers & their agricultural produce

NNA/January 21, 2023
Ministry of Agriculture’s Director-General Louis Lahoud, representing Caretaker Agriculture Minister Abbas Hajj Hassan, participated in the meetings of the world's ministers of agriculture in Berlin - Germany, within the framework of the 15th World Forum for Food and Agriculture and the International Green Week for the year 2023, in the presence of 83 ministers of agriculture from around the world and general managers of international organizations. Lahoud headed Lebanon’s delegation that included the economic attaché at the Lebanese Embassy in Germany, Abdo Medlej, and the advisor to the Minister of Agriculture, Salem Darwish. Discussions during the ministerial meeting at the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin touched on the conditions of the agricultural sector, food and food security, combating hunger in the countries of the world, food systems that are resistant to crises, climate and biodiversity-friendly, and improving cooperation between countries for global food sustainability.Lahoud conveyed to the attendees the greetings of the Minister of Agriculture, and presented the conditions of the agricultural sector in Lebanon and the repercussions of displacement on agriculture and food security in Lebanon, as well as the repercussions of the economic crisis on farmers, the rise in energy prices, and agricultural production requirements such as medicines, veterinary vaccines, fertilizers, seeds, and fodder materials. He also presented the projects carried out by the Lebanese Agriculture Ministry, especially in the field of plants and animals, agricultural processing and forest wealth. In this context, Lahoud appealed to world ministers of agriculture and general directors of international organizations to embrace the agricultural sector in Lebanon, support agricultural infrastructure, programs and projects, and open markets to Lebanese agricultural products, in order to help farmers remain steadfast and introduce hard currency into the sector.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 21-22/2023
Iranian currency falls to record low amid isolation and sanctions
DUBAI (Reuters)/January 21, 2023
Iran's troubled currency fell to a record low against the U.S. dollar on Saturday amid the country's increasing isolation and possible Europe Union sanctions against Tehran's Revolutionary Guards or some of its members. Ties between the EU and Tehran have deteriorated in recent months as efforts to revive nuclear talks have stalled. Iran has detained several European nationals and the bloc has become increasingly critical of the violent treatment of protesters and the use of executions. The EU is discussing a fourth round of sanctions against Iran and diplomatic sources have said members of the Revolutionary Guards will be added to the bloc's sanctions list next week. But some EU member states want to go further and classify the Guards as a whole as a terrorist organisation. The dollar was selling for as much as 447,000 rials on Iran's unofficial market on Saturday, compared with 430,500 the previous day, according to the foreign exchange site Bonbast.com. The rial has lost 29% of its value since nationwide protests following the death in police custody of a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, on Sept. 16. The unrest has posed one of the biggest challenges to theocratic rule in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The economic Ecoiran website blamed the continued fall of the rial on an apparent "global consensus" against Iran. "Increasing political pressures, such as placing the Revolutionary Guards on a list of terrorist organisations, and imposing restrictions on Iran-linked ships and oil tankers... are factors pointing to a global consensus against Iran, (which may affect) the dollar's rate in Tehran," Ecoiran said. The European Parliament called on Wednesday for the EU to list Iran's Guards as a terrorist group, blaming the powerful force for the repression of protesters and the supply of drones to Russia. The assembly cannot compel the EU to add the force to its list, but the text was a clear political message to Tehran. Panama's vessel registry, the world's largest, has withdrawn its flag from 136 ships linked to Iran's state oil company in the last four years, the country's maritime authority said this week. Iran's central bank governor Mohammad Reza Farzin on Saturday blamed the fall of the rial on "psychological operations" which Tehran says its enemies are organising to destabilise the Islamic Republic. "Today, the central bank faces no restrictions in terms of foreign currency and gold resources and reserves, and media deceit and psychological operations are the main factors behind the fluctuation in the free exchange rate," state broadcaster IRIB cited Farzin as saying. Facing an inflation rate of about 50%, Iranians seeking safe havens for their savings have been trying to buy dollars, other hard currencies or gold.

Iran Guards warn EU terror label would be 'mistake'
Agence France Presse/January 21, 2023
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on Saturday warned the European Union against making a "mistake" by listing it as a terror group, after the bloc's parliament called for the measure. Members of the European Parliament voted on Wednesday to include the IRGC on the 27-nation bloc's terror list in "light of its terrorist activity, the repression of protesters and its supplying of drones to Russia". The vote is non-binding but comes with EU foreign ministers already due to discuss tightening sanctions on the Islamic republic next week. "If the Europeans make a mistake, they must accept the consequences," IRGC chief Major General Hossein Salami said, according to the Guards' Sepah News website, in his first remarks on the EU move. The European Union "thinks that with such statements it can shake this huge army," Salami said. "We are never worried about such threats or even acting on them, because as much as our enemies give us a chance to act, we act stronger," he added. The Guards oversee the volunteer Basij paramilitary force, which has been deployed against protests since mid-September triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, after her arrest for allegedly violating Iran's dress code for women. Authorities in Iran say hundreds of people, including members of the security forces, have been killed and thousands arrested in the unrest. The Guards, formed shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, answer to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and boast their own ground, naval and air forces. The United States has already placed both the IRGC and its foreign arm, the Quds Force, on its list of "foreign terrorist organizations."Salami's comments came as he received Iran's parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a former commander of the Guards air force. "We in the parliament are ready to deal firmly with any action that tries to harm the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and distort the truth," Ghalibaf was quoted as saying by Sepah News.

EU to Expand Sanctions on Iran Next Week
Brussels - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 January, 2023
The European Union will add 37 individual entries to its sanctions against Iran on Monday, two European diplomats told Reuters, as the bloc works on listing Tehran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. Foreign ministers from the bloc are to agree to adopt the fourth package of sanctions on Tehran over its repression of demonstrators at an already-scheduled meeting in Brussels on Monday. Demonstrations have swept Iran since the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, 22, after her arrest in Tehran for allegedly failing to adhere to the strict dress rules. Iran has arrested at least 14,000 people in the wave of protests, according to the United Nations.Authorities have executed four people for their role in the unrest and imposed the death penalty on a total of 18, triggering widespread international outrage. The EU has already imposed asset freezes and visa bans on more than 60 Iranian officials and entities over the crackdown on protestors, including targeting Tehran’s morality police, Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders, and state media. But the 27-nation EU has so far stopped short of blacklisting the Revolutionary Guard itself as a terror group despite calls from Germany and other member states to take the step.
Iran has warned the bloc against taking the move and EU officials are wary that it could kill off stalled attempts to revive the 2015 deal on Tehran’s nuclear program being mediated by Brussels.“I think it’s not a good idea because it prevents you from going ahead in other issues,” a senior EU official said.

Iranians Protest in Zahedan Despite Tight Security
Tehran, London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 January, 2023
Thousands took to the streets in Zahedan Friday despite the checkpoints and roadblocks established by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces and police officers. Videos from the march showed protesters carrying banners and chanting against the Iranian government.
The military forces designated checkpoints in different areas of Zahedan and outside the homes of Baloch citizens in anticipation of these protests. Residents complained about the treatment of the military forces, as everyone was interrogated, searched, and forced to show their identity cards. According to the Iran International website, military forces were also present at some schools, noting that they had been converted into what resembled military bases. Iran has been witnessing massive protests for months, after the death of the young woman, Mahsa Amini, on September 16, 2022, at the hands of the "morality police."
Despite pressures and threats, anti-regime Friday protests continued for the fifteenth week in Zahedan. According to the United Nations, Iran arrested at least 14,000 people during the protests. The authorities executed four people for their role in the unrest and imposed death sentences on 18 people, sparking widespread international outrage.The EU will impose new sanctions on 37 Iranian officials and organizations over the crackdown on protests but is still debating listing the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group, diplomats said Friday. Foreign ministers from the bloc will agree to adopt the fourth package of sanctions against Tehran due to its repression of the demonstrators at a scheduled meeting on Monday in Brussels. The EU imposed sanctions, including freezing assets and a visa ban on more than 60 Iranian officials and entities over the suppression of protests, including the morality police, IRGC commanders, and state media. However, the EU is still discussing adding the IRGC to the blacklist of terrorist organizations despite calls from Germany and other member states to take this step. For its part, Iran warned the EU against this move, and European officials fear that it could hinder attempts to revive the 2015 agreement on Tehran's nuclear program, mediated by Brussels. "I think it's not a good idea because it prevents you from going ahead in other issues," a senior EU official said. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry said that the EU foreign ministers are expected to agree to impose more sanctions targeting IRGC commanders at their meeting in Brussels on Monday. Asked at a regular government news conference in Berlin whether sanctions could hamper diplomatic efforts to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, the spokesperson said: "The focus of our policy currently is increasing pressure on the Iranian regime."

Saudi Arabia just said they are now 'open' to the idea of trading in currencies besides the US dollar — does this spell doom for the greenback? 3 reasons not to worry
Vishesh Raisinghani/MoneyWise/January 21, 2023
The 2023 World Economic Forum has been going on for just a few days and we’re already getting a glimpse of the future the global elites envision for us all. Saudi Arabia’s Finance Minister, Mohammed Al-Jadaan, stunned reporters in Davos when he expressed that the oil-rich nation was open to trading in currencies beside the U.S. dollar for the first time in 48 years. “There are no issues with discussing how we settle our trade arrangements, whether it’s in the U.S. dollar, the euro, or the Saudi riyal,” Al-Jadaan said. His comments are the latest signal that powerful nations across the world are plotting a “de-dollarization” of the global economy. Here’s why replacing the dollar is gaining popularity and why dethroning the greenback is easier said than done.
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Rebellion against the dollar
The dollar’s dominance of global trade and capital flows dates back at least 80 years. Over the last eight decades, the U.S. has been the world’s largest economy, most influential political entity and most powerful military force.
However, economists from other countries are increasingly worried that the country has “weaponized” this position of power in recent years, according to the CBC. The U.S. implements sanctions to punish countries in conflict, threatens to devalue its own currency to win trade wars and leverages it to support its own economy at the expense of the rest of the world. Unsurprisingly, these moves have inspired a backlash from China, Russia and other prominent countries.
At the 14th BRICS Summit last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced measures to create a new “international currency standard.” Meanwhile, China has been urging oil producers and major exporters to accept yuan for payments. This rebellion against the U.S. dollar could erode some of its influence, but there are reasons to believe the greenback’s dominance will be sustained.
Replacing the dollar would be hard
The U.S. dollar’s dominance is underappreciated. As of late-2022, the greenback accounts for 59.79% of total foreign reserves. In comparison, the Euro accounts for 19.66%, while the Chinese renminbi accounts for just 2.76% of global reserves.
China could expand its market share by twenty-fold and still lag the U.S. dollar by a wide margin. Put simply, replacing the U.S. dollar in foreign reserves is easier said than done.
Other countries have a lot of catching up
Reserve currency status is closely correlated with the size of the issuing country’s economy. In other words, the largest economy usually has the reserve currency status.
During the 19th century, the British pound was the world’s reserve currency because the British Empire’s colonies needed it for trade and commerce. For the past century, the U.S. dollar has dominated because the American economy is the largest by far.
China’s growth has slowed down in recent years and some believe it will never overtake the U.S. Meanwhile, Russia was the 11th largest economy before it invaded Ukraine, despite being economically smaller in size than California or Texas alone.
And India is growing rapidly, but it would need to grow 628% to match the U.S.’s GDP today. That could take 25 years.
America’s economic lead is simply insurmountable.
The U.S. will still be OK
The final reason Americans shouldn’t be worried about the dollar losing influence is that the worst-case scenario isn’t so bad. Some analysts believe that the future could be more multilateral.
The U.S. may lose influence in some segments of the global economy but not lose dominance everywhere. For instance, the Chinese yuan could become more important for trade and cross-border payments, but the dollar could remain the preferred reserve currency for central banks of developed nations. That’s far from an economic nightmare for Americans.

Protests in Stockholm, including Koran-burning, draw strong condemnation from Turkey
STOCKHOLM (Reuters)/January 21, 2023
Protests in Stockholm on Saturday against Turkey and Sweden's bid to join NATO, including the burning of a copy of the Koran, sharply heightened tensions with Turkey at a time when the Nordic country needs Ankara's backing to gain entry to the military alliance. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms the vile attack on our holy book ... Permitting this anti-Islam act, which targets Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of freedom of expression is completely unacceptable," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. Its statement was issued after an anti-immigrant politician from the far-right fringe burned a copy of the Koran near the Turkish Embassy. The Turkish ministry urged Sweden to take necessary actions against the perpetrators and invited all countries to take concrete steps against Islamophobia. A separate protest took place in the city supporting Kurds and against Sweden's bid to join NATO. A group of pro-Turkish demonstrators also held a rally outside the embassy. All three events had police permits. Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said that Islamophobic provocations were appalling. "Sweden has a far-reaching freedom of expression, but it does not imply that the Swedish Government, or myself, support the opinions expressed," Billstrom said on Twitter. The Koran-burning was carried out by Rasmus Paludan, leader of Danish far-right political party Hard Line. Paludan, who also has Swedish citizenship, has held a number of demonstrations in the past where he has burned the Koran. Paludan could not immediately be reached by email for a comment. In the permit he obtained from police, it says his protest was held against Islam and what it called Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's attempt to influence freedom of expression in Sweden.
Several Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait denounced the Koran-burning. "Saudi Arabia calls for spreading the values of dialogue, tolerance, and coexistence, and rejects hatred and extremism," the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO following Russia's invasion of Ukraine but all 30 member states must approve their bids. Turkey has said Sweden in particular must first take a clearer stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt. At the demonstration to protest Sweden's NATO bid and to show support for Kurds, speakers stood in front of a large red banner reading "We are all PKK", referring to the Kurdistan Workers Party that is outlawed in Turkey, Sweden, and the United States among other countries, and addressed several hundred pro-Kurdish and left-wing supporters. "We will continue our opposition to the Swedish NATO application," Thomas Pettersson, spokesperson for Alliance Against NATO and one of organizers of the demonstration, told Reuters.
Police said the situation was calm at all three demonstrations.
Earlier on Saturday, Turkey said that due to lack of measures to restrict protests, it had cancelled a planned visit to Ankara by the Swedish defence minister. "At this point, the visit of Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson to Turkey on January 27 has become meaningless. So we cancelled the visit," Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said. Jonson said separately that he and Akar had met on Friday during a gathering of Western allies in Germany and had decided to postpone the planned meeting. Akar said he had discussed with Erdogan the lack of measures to restrict protests in Sweden against Turkey and had conveyed Ankara's reaction to Jonson on the sidelines of a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group. "It is unacceptable not to make a move or react to these (protests). The necessary things needed to be done, measures should have been taken," Akar said, according to a statement by Turkish Defence Ministry. Turkey's Foreign Ministry had already summoned Sweden's ambassador on Friday over the planned protests. Finland and Sweden signed a three-way agreement with Turkey in 2022 aimed at overcoming Ankara's objections to their membership of NATO. Sweden says it has fulfilled its part of the memorandum but Turkey is demanding more, including extradition of 130 people it deems to be terrorists.

Ukraine Adviser Tells Allies 'Think Faster' on Military Support
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 January, 2023
A senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged Kyiv's allies on Saturday to "think faster" about stepping up their military support, a day after they failed to agree on sending battle tanks coveted by Kyiv. "You'll help Ukraine with the necessary weapons anyway and realize that there is no other option to end the war except the defeat of Russia," Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter. "But today's indecision is killing more of our people. Every day of delay is the death of Ukrainians. Think faster."Ukraine's partners this week pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in new military aid but were unable to agree on sending the German-made Leopard 2 tanks Kyiv has long sought during a conference at the Ramstein Air Base on Friday, Reuters said.

The NATO Alliance Is Holding Strong on Ukraine. But Fractures Are Emerging.
David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt/The New York Times/January 21, 2023
WASHINGTON — The billions of dollars in new arms for Ukraine announced this month — including British tanks, American fighting vehicles, and howitzers from Denmark and Sweden — are testament to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s failure to split the NATO allies after nearly a year of war. But small yet significant fractures are getting too big to hide. The differences are over strategy for the coming year and the more immediate question of what Ukraine needs in the next few months, as both sides in the war prepare for major offensives in the spring. And although most of those debates take place behind closed doors, Britain’s impatience with the current pace of aid and Germany’s refusal to provide Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine broke out into public view this week. When the new British foreign secretary, James Cleverly, visited Washington this week, he gathered reporters for lunch and made the case that it is possible for Ukraine to score a “victory” in the war this year if the allies move fast to exploit Russia’s weaknesses. Officials in Poland, the Baltic States and Finland have largely agreed with the British assessment. American officials pushed back, saying it is critical to pace the aid, and not flood Ukraine with equipment its troops cannot yet operate. And they argue that in a world of limited resources, it would be wise to keep something in reserve for what the Pentagon believes will probably be a drawn-out conflict, in which Russia will try to wear Ukraine down with relentless barrages and tactics reminiscent of World War I and World War II. On Friday, at the conclusion of a meeting in Germany of the dozens of nations supplying the war effort, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, repeated the assessment he has offered since the fall. “For this year, it would be very, very difficult to militarily eject the Russian forces,” he said. The best that could be hoped for is pressing Russia into a diplomatic negotiation — the way most wars end — although senior American diplomats say they have low expectations that Putin will enter serious talks.
Then came the more immediate blowup with the German government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, over his refusal to send what many military experts believe could be a decisive weapon in Ukrainian hands: German-built Leopard 2 tanks.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spent several days trying to persuade the Germans to ship them, or at least allow Poland and other nations that use the tanks to reexport them. But by the time the meeting with scores of allies ended, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius reported that no agreement had been reached, although he said they would make a decision “as soon as possible.” He and Austin tried to focus on the unity of the effort to confront Russia, rather than the obvious rift over arms.
Differences of strategy among wartime allies is the norm, not the exception. In World War II, there were major debates about whether to focus on defeating Nazi Germany first and turn to Japan — which had actually attacked American territory — second. Similar debates happened during the Korean War, Vietnam and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because the United States was providing the bulk of the fighting force, it usually prevailed. But in interviews with U.S., British and other European officials, including senior military leaders, it is clear that Ukraine is different. Only the Ukrainians are on the line, and no one wants to tell them how to fight a battle in which their forces, the only ones engaged in the daily brutality, have shown both grit and determination. But with both Russia and Ukraine planning fresh offensives, the debate over strategy and arms has reached what the NATO secretary-general has called “an inflection point.”The Ukrainians have made no secret that much as they appreciate the support of their allies, what they are getting is not enough. When Britain announced this week that it was sending Challenger 2 tanks, Ukraine’s foreign minister and defense minister issued a joint statement thanking the British government but adding that “it is not sufficient to achieve operational goals.”Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was typically blunt. After thanking the United States for a $2.5 billion contribution of arms, atop $3 billion announced several weeks ago, he said: “Hundreds of thank yous are not hundreds of tanks.” In an appearance on German television, he said: “If you have Leopards, then give them to us.”
American officials were clearly frustrated after their negotiations with the German government this week. Germany had begun by saying that it would send Leopard tanks, and authorize others to, if the United States sent its M-1 Abrams tank as well. The United States declined, saying the tank is such a gas guzzler — it employs a jet engine — and requires such a supply line to keep running that it would not be useful in Ukraine’s environment. (The officials dodged questions about why a tank so difficult to operate on European battlefields is in the American arsenal.) The British Challengers and German Leopards are more flexible and easier to run. But in public, Austin and others avoided criticizing Scholz, who in their view has managed the biggest reversal of German foreign policy — starting with the suspension of two pipelines bringing gas from Russia — quite skillfully.
Scholz’s real concern, they suspect, is that he does not believe the world is ready to see German tanks near the borders of Russia, a reminder of the Nazi invasion in World War II. One senior American official said this week that if Scholz and the German public are worried about that, in these circumstances “they are the only ones who are.”
Although Germany did not say yes to sending Leopard tanks this week, it didn’t say no, either — at least not yet. But Ukraine has a very narrow window of time in which to launch a potentially decisive spring offensive before the Russians do, and the tanks are a key part of that effort. Before that launch, Ukraine has to muster thousands of combat-ready troops, receive new advanced weapons from the West, and train their soldiers in how to use and maintain those arms. Getting all that done would be, according to Milley, “a very, very heavy lift.”That’s why Germany’s delay on approving tanks was so frustrating to Austin and other top Western officials who had been trying all week to reach an agreement with their German counterparts to provide what Ukraine needs now to wrest back territory. “If we stop now or limit or diminish it, it will all have been in vain,” Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Wopke Hoekstra said in an interview. “We have to double down. There is no substitute for victory on the battlefield.”Speaking about the current German position, a British official said that London’s commitment to send Challenger tanks was intended to encourage other nations to do likewise, and that the British government still hoped it would. At a news conference after Friday’s meeting, Austin sought to play down the importance of the Leopard tanks and highlight what Germany has provided — fighting vehicles, air defenses and training ranges for Ukrainian soldiers — no doubt hoping Berlin eventually would come around on Ukraine’s main request. “This isn’t really about one single platform,” Austin said, quickly pivoting to note that Ukraine was still getting more than 100 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and nearly 90 Stryker combat vehicles from the United States, the equivalent of “two brigades of combat power.” Still, Austin signaled the calendar is not on Ukraine’s side. “We have a window of opportunity here, between now and the spring,” he said. “That’s not a long time.”
© 2023 The New York Times Company

The company used by Putin to put 50,000 Russian mercenaries in Ukraine will be deemed a 'transnational criminal organization' by the US

Stephanie Stacey/Business Insider/January 21, 2023
The US will designate Russia's Wagner Group a "transnational criminal organization."
This opens "additional avenues" to pursue Wagner's weapons supplies, the White House said.
The military contractor has committed "atrocities and human rights abuses" in Ukraine, it added.
The military contractor that Vladimir Putin is increasingly dependent on to fight Ukrainian forces will be designated as a "transnational criminal organization," the White House announced on Friday.
The Wagner Group, which is closely linked to the Kremlin, has about 10,000 mercenaries and 40,000 former prisoners deployed in Ukraine. Its forces were responsible for "atrocities and human rights abuses," according to National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby.
The new designation puts the Wagner Group in the same category as international drug cartels, organized crime syndicates and human traffickers, but stops short of deeming it to be a "foreign terrorist organization." It comes alongside a fresh package of sanctions and will open up "additional avenues" for the US to target the contractor's global business network that supplies weapons and cash to its mercenaries, Kirby told a press briefing. "We will work relentlessly to identify, disrupt, expose and target those who are assisting Wagner," he said. US officials also released an image, dated November 18, which they say showed rail cars travelling between Russia and North Korea to supply rockets and missiles for the Wagner Group. "The arms transfers from are in direct violation of United Nations security council resolution," said Kirby. Russia has become increasingly reliant on Wagner's mercenaries in Ukraine as more of its own forces are killed. On Friday the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, said at a briefing in Germany that Russian casualties now totalled "well over 100,000" and had become an "absolute catastrophe for Russia." The Wagner Group's leader, longtime Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, has become increasingly powerful since Russia invaded its neighbor last February. He recently demanded credit for some of Russia's advances in Ukraine, signalling growing tensions between Wagner and the Russian defence ministry. Wagner has been notoriously brutal in Ukraine, both toward Ukrainian forces and civilians, as well as its own fighters. Russian prisoners sent to fight in Ukraine for Wagner say they've witnessed public executions of deserters and those who failed to obey orders. Wagner mercenaries have also been accused by the United Nations and Human Rights Watch of committing human rights abuses in a number of African nations, including the Central African Republic, Libya and Mali.

Turkiye cancels Sweden minister visit over planned protest
AFP/January 21, 2023
ISTANBUL: Turkiye said on Saturday that it had called off a visit by Sweden’s defense minister over a planned anti-Turkiye protest in Stockholm. “At this point, Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson’s visit to Turkiye on January 27 has lost its significance and meaning, so we canceled the visit,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said. The Swedish minister visit was aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance. Turkiye has been angered by permission obtained by a right-wing extremist to demonstrate later on Saturday in front of the Turkish embassy in the Swedish capital. The Danish-Swedish politician, Rasmus Paludan, whose anti-Islamist actions sparked riots across Sweden last year, has expressed his intention to “burn the Qur'an,” Islam’s holy book, during his protest on Saturday. Turkiye had on Friday summoned Sweden’s ambassador to “condemn this provocative action which is clearly a hate crime — in strongest terms,” a diplomatic source said. This is the second time in more than a week that Sweden’s ambassador to Turkiye was summoned. Last week, he was called to answer for a video posted by a Kurdish group in Stockholm that depicted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan swinging by his legs from a rope. Sweden, along with neighboring Finland, needs Turkiye’s consent to join NATO. Both countries dropped decades of military non-alignment last year when they applied to join the Western defense alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ankara says any progress depends on Swedish steps to extradite people it accuses of terrorism or of having played a part in the 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan. Turkiye argues that Sweden has not done enough to crack down on Kurdish groups that Ankara views as “terrorist.”

Israeli films face state funding cut for covering West Bank occupation
Arab News/January 21, 2023
LONDON: Two documentaries covering different aspects of the occupation of the West Bank by the Israel Defense Forces could have their funding from the Israeli government retrospectively revoked. The films, “H2: The Occupation Lab” and “Two Kids a Day,” tackle the themes of Israel’s control of the city of Hebron and the arrests of Palestinian children by IDF soldiers and their subsequent treatment in Israeli custody. Miki Zohar, Israel’s culture minister and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, wants state grants awarded to help make the films to be returned, and said he will “revoke funding” for films and cultural activities “that promote our enemy’s narrative” and “present Israeli soldiers as murderers,” requiring creators in future to pledge not to harm “the state of Israel or IDF soldiers.”The move comes after the documentaries were targeted by Betsalmo, an Israeli pressure group run by right-wing cultural activist Shai Glick, in order to have public screenings of them canceled. It is not the first time the film industry in Israel, which is heavily reliant on state grants, has faced pressure from the government over depictions and documentation of the treatment of Palestinians.
In 2015 Miri Regev, the then culture minister, introduced a bill that was later defeated in the Knesset to make film funding dependent on “loyalty” to the state, and created the Samaria Film Fund to counter negative portrayals of Jewish settlers. The current government, roundly considered the most right wing in Israel’s history, has also seen proposals to radically reform the country’s judiciary and dismantle the state broadcaster, a vital source of funding and support for documentary filmmaking. “H2: The Occupation Lab” covers the history of Hebron and the interactions between local Palestinians, the IDF and Israeli settlers, and the impact that has had on the once prosperous city. Its co-director, Noam Sheizaf, said that “Israel has decided to turn culture into propaganda,” having denounced Israel’s activities in Hebron as “Jewish supremacy in its most blatant and unapologetic form.”He added: “Our film argues that not only the [Palestinian] territories, but also Israel is going through a process of ‘Hebronization.’ What’s crazy is that the process that’s at the heart of the film happened to the film itself. “The feeling is that this is happening in the context of a watershed moment. If all of these things come to pass, this will be a very different country, overnight.”“Two Kids a Day” follows the experiences of four children from the Aida refugee camp accused of throwing stones at IDF soldiers — one of whom was detained for four years. Hundreds of children have been arrested for such offenses, often taken from their homes in the middle of the night. David Wachsmann, the director of “Two Kids a Day,” said: “These two films are in the eye of the storm, but this is an attack on freedom of expression in Israel, on culture and on every Israeli artist.”

Israeli settler shoots Palestinian dead in land dispute
Mohammed Najib/Arab News/January 21, 2023
RAMALLAH: A 42-year-old Palestinian was gunned down and killed by an Israeli settler near Ramallah on Saturday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health has said. The accused claimed that he opened fire after Tariq Ma’ali tried to stab him on Al-Raisan mountain, near Kufur Ni’ama town, northwest of Ramallah. Palestinian sources told Arab News that Ma’ali was seeking to reclaim his land adjacent to the plot where the settler took control three years ago. There was a verbal dispute that developed into a quarrel, during which the settler shot Ma’ali, killing him. His death takes to 18 the number of Palestinians killed by Israelis since the start of the year, a total which includes four children. Ma’ali is the second victim of settler violence during that time. Observers say there has been a significant increase in attacks on Palestinians by the settlers since the formation of a right-wing government in Tel Aviv. Ibrahim Melhem, a spokesman for the Palestinian government, told Arab News that the rise reflected “the features of the extremist government’s program and policy, which relies on killing Palestinians and seizing their land.”He added: “There is no way to confront this killing, except with an international judicial decision to protect Palestinian civilians from the terror of the Israeli army and settlers. “We are heading for worse, more dangerous, and deteriorating conditions in the coming days.”Political analyst Riyad Qadriya told Arab News: “The current Israeli government supports settlements, which encourages settlers to seize more Palestinian land and continue physically attacking Palestinian citizens and destroying their properties.”He added that the killings and the deduction of funds from the Palestinian Authority “lead to frustration among the citizens and officers of the Palestinian security services, some of whom may join resistance forces.”
Hamas said the Palestinian people “will continue their struggle against the Israeli occupation and respond to continuous crimes through more qualitative attacks until its removal from the Palestinian lands.”Meanwhile, Israeli armed forces stormed several villages in the West Bank at dawn on Saturday. They arrested a person from the town of Ajja, near Jenin, who had been shot a few days earlier. Eyal Alima, an Israeli military analyst, told Arab News that the country’s leadership believes that “a dangerous deterioration of the security situation in the West Bank is inevitable.”High-ranking Israeli military sources said that the incursions into Palestinian cities will continue until the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan on March 23. An Israeli security official, who chose to remain anonymous, told Arab News: “We want to remove all elements and nutrients of tension before Ramadan, which is a sensitive period for security because of Al-Aqsa Mosque.”Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich earlier this month took the decision to deduct $40.85 million from the PA’s funds and transfer them to Israeli families of “terror victims.”National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir believes the amount deducted should be increased, reducing the fund available for Palestinian prisoners’ families.Melhem said: “What else can we expect from Ben-Gvir and Smotrich other than measures of their terrorism and corruption?”

Palestinian Man Killed by Israeli Forces in West Bank
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 January, 2023
Israeli fire killed a Palestinian Saturday, the Palestinian health ministry said, after he allegedly attempted to stab an Israeli in a West Bank settler outpost, according to the Israeli military. The Palestinian health ministry identified the man as Tariq Maali, 42, saying only that he was shot northwest of the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli military said the man arrived at the outpost and tried to stab an Israeli civilian. Israeli media reported he was armed with a knife and that the settler shot him, The Associated Press reported. Palestinians and rights groups accuse Israel of using excessive force against the Palestinians, who have in recent years carried out a spate of shooting, stabbing and car-ramming attacks. The military says soldiers, and in some cases civilians, face complex, life-threatening situations. Saturday’s death was the latest in months of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Tensions have soared in the West Bank, where the Israeli military has been conducting near-nightly arrest raids since last spring after a wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis killed 19 people. Another 10 Israelis were killed in a second string of attacks later last year. Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. The Palestinians see them as further entrenchment of Israel’s open-ended, 55-year occupation of lands they seek for their future state. Saturday’s death put at 18 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank since the beginning of 2023. Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed by Israel in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 2022, according to figures by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, making it the deadliest year since 2004. Israel says most of the dead were militants. But Palestinian stone-throwers, youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations also have been killed.

Canada to repatriate 23 citizens detained in north-east Syria camps
The National/January 21, 2023
Canada will repatriate 23 citizens who have been detained in north-east Syria in camps for family members of ISIS fighters, officials and a lawyer have said. It would be the largest such repatriation of ISIS family members yet for Canada, and it comes after the families challenged the government in court, arguing Ottawa was obliged to repatriate the group under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Earlier on Friday, the foreign ministry announced its decision to repatriate six Canadian women and 13 infants. And a court later ruled that four men seeking repatriation as part of the group must also be sent back to Canada, said lawyer Barbara Jackman, who is representing one of the men. "I've spoken to the parents and they're really, really happy," Jackman said of the court decision, adding that the judge requested that the men be repatriated "as soon as reasonably possible."The foreign ministry said: "The safety and security of Canadians is our government's top priority. "We continue to evaluate the provision of extraordinary assistance on a case-by-case basis, including repatriation to Canada, in line with the policy framework adopted in 2021," it said. Up until now the government of Justin Trudeau has treated the detained IS families on a case-by-case basis, and in four years only a handful of women and children have been repatriated. Since the destruction of the so-called Islamic State "caliphate" across Syria and Iraq in 2019, more than 42,400 foreign adults and children with alleged ties to the Islamic State group have been held in camps in Syria, according to Human Rights Watch. Repatriating them is a highly sensitive issue for many countries, but rights groups have denounced their reluctance to bring back their own nationals from the camps, controlled mostly by Syrian Kurds. Human Rights Watch said around 30 Canadian citizens, including 10 infants, remain in the camps. Farida Deif, the group's head in Canada, said that Global Affairs Canada has informed a number of them by letter that they fulfil the requirements for repatriation. However, she said, "none of the men have been notified of anything or have been part of any agreements thus far". The authorities did not say when the 19 would come to Canada or whether any of them would face legal proceedings for their association with Islamic State. Last October, Canada brought back two women and two children from Syria. In 2020, Ottawa allowed the return of a five year old orphan girl from Syria after her uncle initiated a legal action against the Canadian government.

In message to Iran, Jordan boosts military deterrence
The Arab Weekly/January 21/2023
The United States’ sale of F-16 fighter jets to Jordan reflects Washington’s commitment to the security of its traditional allies in the region and to strengthening deterrence in the face of Iran’s aggressive behaviour in the region, analysts said late Friday. The Royal Jordanian Air Force Command has signed a deal to buy 12 F-16 fighter jets in a bid to help modernise its aging air force, the armed forces’ official website reported. The deal was signed Thursday by Royal Air Force Commander Brigadier General Pilot Muhammad Fathi Hiasat and US Deputy Chief of mission in Amman Rohit Nepal. According to the Jordanian statement, the deal comes within the framework of boosting defense capabilities and military deterrence, to increase the level of combat readiness. It will also strengthen joint cooperation between Jordan and the US, including in combating terrorism and enhancing stability in the region, the air force said. In February 2022, the US State Department approved the sale of s with an estimated cost of $4.21 billion — a deal that also included radios, targeting pods and associated munitions components like guided missile tail kits. In the event of a US-Iran conflict, Jordan could be pulled in, and in that case Jordanian F-16s would likely be part of a coalition targeting Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq. The F-16 is the backbone of the Royal Jordanian Air Force, which operates 43 F-16As as the primary combat aircraft and 18 F-16Bs. Jordan operates 230 aircraft in total, which is a relatively large but ageing fleet. Last year, Jordan’s King Abdullah II revealed in an interview with CNN that his country had been “attacked by Iranian-made drones.”It was not the first time that the Jordanian king has warned of an Iranian threat looming over his country. A decade ago, King Abdullah warned of the emergence of a “Shia crescent” in the Middle East, that Iran would create between its borders and the Mediterranean Sea, as it would comprise Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and perhaps Jordan. What the Jordanian king referred to was a network of militias affiliated with the Iranian regime under the supervision of the Revolutionary Guards. Dr. Nabil al-Atoum, Head of the Iranian Studies Unit at the Umayya Centre for Research and Strategic Studies, confirmed the presence of an Iranian threat to Jordan, especially after Iran and the Shia militias reinforced their positions on the southern borders of the Kingdom.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 21-22/2023
د. ماجد رفي زاده من معهد جيتستون: معايير الاتحاد الأوروبي المزدوجة بشأن حقوق الإنسان في إيران لأن الأولولية هي للمصالح التجارية
EU’s Double-Standards on Iran’s Human Rights: Business First
Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/January 21, 2023

The European Union’s charter stresses that “Human rights are at the heart of EU relations with other countries and regions. The European Union is based on a strong commitment to promoting and protecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law worldwide”. This is clearly not the case when it comes to the EU’s appeasing relationship with the ruling mullahs of Iran.
Meanwhile, Germany, which preaches about human rights and its “feminist foreign policy”, has actually increased its business with the Iranian regime.
If the EU truly desires to stand with the women of Iran and human rights, it can halt its business dealings and trade with Iran. Other reasons for the EU to cease enriching this toxic regime include its delivery of weapons to Russia and support for militia and terror groups. These include the Houthis fighting a war in Yemen; Hizballah, close to wrecking Lebanon; and Hamas, torturing the people of Gaza and crushing dissent for more than a decade.
By prioritizing its business and trade with Iran over promoting human rights and countering terrorism, the EU is emboldening and empowering the expansionist regime of Iran to suppress and kill more of its citizens, stamp out the women-led revolution for freedom, supply Russia with more weapons, and sponsor more terrorist groups worldwide.
By prioritizing its business and trade with Iran over promoting human rights and countering terrorism, the European Union is emboldening and empowering the expansionist regime of Iran to suppress and kill more of its citizens, stamp out the women-led revolution for freedom, supply Russia with more weapons, and sponsor more terrorist groups worldwide.
The European Union’s charter stresses that “Human rights are at the heart of EU relations with other countries and regions. The European Union is based on a strong commitment to promoting and protecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law worldwide”. This is clearly not the case when it comes to the EU’s appeasing relationship with the ruling mullahs of Iran.
The Iranian regime is ramping up its killing spree, torture and arrests.
Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Diana Eltahawy, said on January 11, regarding the regime’s suppression: “It is abhorrent that the Iranian authorities persist in their state-sanctioned killing spree as they desperately seek to end the protests and cling to power by instilling fear among the public. The arbitrary executions of Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, just days after their death sentences were upheld, reveal how the Iranian authorities continue to wield the death penalty as a weapon of repression, and serve as a chilling reminder that scores of others remain at risk of execution.”
Meanwhile, Germany, which preaches about human rights and its “feminist foreign policy”, has actually increased its business with the Iranian regime, even as the mullahs are brutally crushing women who are fighting tyranny and risking their lives to have freedom. According to Fox News: “Germany’s longstanding efforts to conduct business with the Islamic Republic of Iran include a robust trade relationship at a time when the regime has reportedly killed at least 700 protesters and arrested as many as 19,000. Berlin is facing intense criticism for placating Tehran. The protests across Iran in response to the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini have pushed Germany’s so-called ‘feminist foreign policy’ into the spotlight. The regime’s notorious morality police allegedly tortured Amini to death for failing to ‘properly’ wear her mandatory hijab. Germany has consistently been the Islamic Republic’s most important trade partner.”
Some of Iran’s major trading partners are in fact among members of the European Union. According to Mehr News Agency: “Iran and the European Union’s 27 member states traded €4.36 billion worth of goods during the first 10 months of 2022, registering a 14.28% rise compared with last year’s corresponding period…
“Germany was the top trading partner of Iran in the EU region during the period, as the two countries exchanged over €1.6 billion worth of goods, 15.44% more than in a similar period of the year before.
“Italy came next with €555.39 million worth of trade with Iran to register an 11.14% year-on-year rise, Finacial [sic] Tribune reported.
“The Netherlands with €351.94 million (down 10.76%) and Spain with €296.06 million (up 13.12%) were Iran’s other major European trade partners.”
Instead of issuing superficial verbal condemnations while doing business with the mullahs, the European countries need to recall their representatives and ambassadors from Tehran, and sever diplomatic ties with Iran. In fact, during a conference at the Press Club Brussels, organized by the International Committee in Search of Justice, several former members of the European parliament called for all European countries to “end their hypocrisy” and shut down their embassies in Iran. Ingrid Betancourt said: “This is the first revolution conducted by women … and while women are fighting for their rights, men are being attacked and persecuted by the regime, too — everyone. These women, at this moment, are putting their lives at stake and they are doing this for all of us, all of the women in the world … if we don’t get this right, we won’t be able to get any other issues right…. This is about mankind, humankind…. We are not doing anything. I am offended by the lack of action our governments are having with what is going on in Iran”.
If the EU truly desires to stand with the women of Iran and human rights instead of doing business with the regime, it can take collective action to halt its business dealings and trade with the Iranian regime. Other reasons for the EU to cease enriching this toxic regime include its delivery of weapons to Russia and support for militia and terror groups. These include the Houthis fighting a war in Yemen; Hizballah, close to wrecking Lebanon; and Hamas, torturing the people of Gaza and crushing dissent for more than a decade.
By prioritizing its business and trade with Iran over promoting human rights and countering terrorism, the EU is emboldening and empowering the expansionist regime of Iran to suppress and kill more of its citizens, stamp out the women-led revolution for freedom, supply Russia with more weapons, and sponsor more terrorist groups worldwide.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US Foreign Policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu
© 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.
Picture enclosed: Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (R) meets with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Tehran on June 25, 2022. (Photo by Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)


Tunisia’s Stability is Libya’s Stability
Gabriel al-Obaidi/Asharq Al Awsat/January, 21/2023
The interconnectedness of Libya and Tunisia did not emerge recently. Their link is historical, and Libya’s instability is thus impacted by the economic - and even the political - conditions of Tunisia. They share a 460 km-long border, which is significant for mobility and economic exchange between the two. It bears witness to the movement of people and migration throughout the two countries’ history- before this mobility was constrained by travel manuals called “passports,” borders, and customs.
The ties between Libya and Tunisia go beyond their shared dialect, the similarity of which is particularly pronounced in Western Libya, and their shared cultural customs. This delicious cuisine that is common to both gave us couscous, which is its most prominent dish. Despite the fact that the French had colonized Tunisia while the Italians were in Libya, they share a national history through their struggle against colonialism.
This connection goes back to the era of the Carthaginian Empire, and it extends to the period of Islamic conquest, then Ottoman colonialism, and finally, the reigns of Gaddafi and Bourguiba. These two leaders announced that the two countries would unite at one point, but it was the shortest unification in history (48 hours). The two countries’ economic ties were maintained even when there were tensions between Gaddafi and Bourguiba. The two men clashed although Bourguiba is of Libyan origin, as are many other Tunisians. This is the case because, before they gained their independence, no borders curtailed movement and migration between them because of their kinship ties.
Even the political situation of the two countries does not differ. The only difference is that Libya was subjected to an assault that did not merely bring down the regime but also brought down the state and drained the army. This led to the emergence of armed militias. Meanwhile, in Tunisia, the regime fell, but the state remained. Thus, we will not see a politically or economically stable Tunisia until the political and security problems of Libya, which have led to a political deadlock, are resolved. While Tunisia Beji Caid Essebsi’s Tunisia distanced itself from the events in Libya, choosing not to play an active role in resolving the crisis, the Ennahda government blatantly interfered, siding with the militia government and political Islam against the Libyan National Army. The Ennahda government’s decision had negative repercussions for Tunisia’s economy, as the Ennahda government, when it was in power, did not address the crisis in Libya by working to ensure reconciliation between the conflicting parties.
Indeed, the exact opposite happened. The godfather of Ennahda and its leader, Rashid Ghannouchi, intervened in favor of his fellow political Islamists. In fact, he and his former prime minister are accused of sending Tunisian youths, male and female, to Libya and Syria, deceiving them and pushing them to fight there in the name of religion under the slogan of “Jihad and Nikah” through preachers associated with Ennahda.
The miscalculations that the Ennahda government made throughout the dark decade of Libya and Tunisia, during which Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers ruled both countries, destabilized both Libya and Tunisia.
The Gate to Africa could well be the first toward economic integration between Libya and Tunisia. It is an extremely significant and consequential step towards fortifying relations and seeing them translate into improved economic ties and industrial cooperation between the two countries that are Africa’s gateway to the European Union.
Tunisian diplomacy has always managed to absorb Libya’s anger. This has been the case since the era of Gaddafi, the Gafsa Uprising, and the dispute between him and Bourguiba. It remains true today after the dispute stirred by political Islam, which prompted the head of the national unity government, Abdelhamid Dabaiba, in an unprecedented move for a head of government, to respond to a Tunisian newspaper that was described as “provocative.” The newspaper said Libya is “a haven for terrorists.” Dabaiba’s response broke with diplomacy, “Tunisia is where the terrorists came to Libya from over the past few years, and it is the country of terrorism.”However, the truth is that both Libya and Tunisia were victims of political Islam, which utilized violence to ascend to power and moved terrorists and weapons between the two countries. This resulted in tragedy for both sides. Libya and Tunisia both underwent a dark decade, which both managed to overcome today. Despite the fleeting summer clouds in Libyan-Tunisian relations, the strongly rooted historical, geographical, and human relations the two countries share are stronger and more robust. These ties mean the countries’ national security and economy are intertwined. Thus, no country can have any stability in isolation of the state of affairs in the other one. The same is true for the prospects of economic growth and the development of industry in both countries.

The Not-So-Great News About Lower Inflation
Peter Coy/The New York Times/January, 21/2023
The news that consumer prices fell in December from November — yes, monthly inflation was negative — was not as wonderful for the Federal Reserve as you might expect. Fed officials are trying to persuade the financial markets and the public that the fight against high inflation is far from over, and this data point doesn’t help make its case.
These convolutions require a bit of explanation. But first, take a look at this remarkable chart of the Adjusted National Financial Conditions Index, which is maintained by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Look at what’s actually happening, though. Back in early July, financial conditions were more restrictive than the long-term average. Now they’re less restrictive than average — even though in the interim the Fed has raised its target range for the federal funds rate by nearly 3 percentage points. (The zero line in the Chicago Fed’s adjusted index represents average financial conditions given the current level of economic activity and inflation.)
Why aren’t the markets doing what the Fed wants? Investors seem to have concluded that although the Fed is raising interest rates now, it’s going to start cutting them by the end of the year — either because it has won the war on inflation or because the economy is in trouble, or some combination of the two. Judging from futures trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, traders expect the federal funds rate to peak in June and be back around where it is now by December. (Complicating matters: December’s slight price decline was fully expected, and many traders had bet on an even bigger slowdown in inflation.)
So here’s the paradox for the Fed: It has managed to persuade the financial markets that it really will lower inflation. But the more credible its promise is, the more investors start looking past the current tightening cycle to the subsequent loosening cycle. Fed officials worry that the resulting easy financial conditions will keep the labor market tight and wage pressures strong, preventing them from hitting their inflation target. So they’re forging ahead with rate hikes even as inflation declines. It’s a strange pas de deux that could wind up being very bad for the US economy.
The clearest evidence that something is wrong is that short-term interest rates are high (signaling the market’s belief that the Fed is determined to keep raising them) while long-term interest rates are low (signaling the market’s belief that rates will be lower in the future, either because of low inflation or a recession or both). This is the inverse of the usual pattern, in which long-term rates are higher than short ones. It’s known as an inversion of the yield curve, and as I wrote last month, it’s a reliable recession signal.
The alarm bell that was ringing loudly last month is ringing even more loudly now. In December, the yield on three-month Treasury bills was 0.8 percentage point higher than the yield on 10-year Treasury notes, which at the time seemed huge. Now the spread has grown to 1.2 percentage points. That’s bigger than any previous gap in records maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis going back to 1982.
Jerome Powell and other Fed officials worry that if they stop raising rates now, or even slow the rate of increase too much, they won’t manage to get inflation back down to their target of 2 percent a year. It’s true that the monthly decline in prices in December was a one-off, caused mostly by a big decline in gasoline prices and airfares that won’t be repeated every month. Prices excluding food and energy rose 0.3 percent in December from November. Duy, the Fed watcher at SGH Macro Advisors, points out that while goods price inflation has tapered off, services inflation and wage pressures remain.
But the opposite risk is that the Fed will tighten too much. Fed officials are starting to take that risk into account. After making four consecutive giant-size increases in the federal funds rate last year, the Federal Open Market Committee put through a smaller hike in December and may go even smaller at its next meeting in February, judging from recent statements by committee members.
On the other hand, while Fed officials may be talking about slowing the rate of increases, they still seem more or less united about eventually getting the federal funds rate a bit above 5 percent, which is three-quarters of a percentage point higher than it is now. “The Fed needs to see clear, clear evidence that inflation has left the system in its entirety,” James Knightley, chief international economist for ING, told me.
Perhaps in part in reaction to the Fed’s hawkishness, the confidence of US chief executives has collapsed. According to a Conference Board quarterly survey, in the spring of 2021 its aggregate measure of confidence was the highest since records began in 1976. By the fourth quarter of last year it had plunged to the lowest since the global financial crisis in 2009 — worse even than during the pandemic recession in 2020. If the chief executives act on their bearishness — not a certainty — they could start to cut back on advertising, equipment purchases and hiring, making their forecasts into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Christina Romer, the outgoing president of the American Economic Association, said at the big economics conference in New Orleans this past weekend that based on her research with her husband, David Romer, Fed policymakers should not be surprised or frustrated that the interest-rate increases they’ve already put through have failed to slow the underlying inflation rate. Judging from experience, those past increases are likely to start slowing inflation — and raising unemployment — right around now.
“Policymakers are going to need to dial back” on raising rates before the problem of inflation is “completely solved,” said Romer, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama administration. If instead they keep raising rates until inflation is utterly vanquished, she said, “they almost surely will have gone too far.”

US-Israeli dilemma as window for diplomacy with Iran closes swiftly
Yossi Mekelberg/Arab News/January 21, 2023
At the beginning of this month, the US and Israeli air forces conducted a joint drill at the Nevatim air force base in southern Israel. US F-15 fighter jets, together with Israel’s F-35 stealth fighter jets, simulated what were described as strikes on targets deep in enemy territory. In light of the stalemate in reviving the Iran nuclear deal, this phrase is nothing more than a euphemism for both air forces practicing an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and other strategic sites in that country.
In recent months, tensions between Iran and other sectors of the international community, especially the US and Europe, have been accelerating, and not only around the nuclear issue. This leads to the conclusion, a dangerous one, that the window for diplomatic negotiations is closing swiftly and is being replaced by a trajectory of continuous collision. The only question that remains concerns the magnitude of the conflict, and whether it will end with a direct military confrontation.
In a recent press conference, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was categorical in stating that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran nuclear deal, is not a priority for Washington in terms of timing or context. But there was also a warning to Tehran that the Washington administration’s position is clear — “that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon.” To underline Biden’s determination to stop Iran’s march toward a nuclear military capability, Sullivan visited Israel last week and met with the country’s political and military leadership to discuss strategies to not only avert Tehran’s evolving nuclear threat, but also counter its other menacing activities in the region.
Iran is increasingly positioning itself as a pariah state, with brutality at home against its own people, the supply of “kamikaze drones” to Russia for use against Ukraine, and its damaging role in places such as Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A central factor in settling international conflicts through negotiation is the establishment of mutual trust and goodwill. During the years of the more pragmatic presidencies of Mohammed Khatami and especially Hassan Rouhani, when the nuclear deal was agreed, the international community, especially the West, was prepared to take risks with its Iranian interlocutors, as it was assessed that in the complex political realities in Tehran the agreement had also received the blessing of the more radical elements in the leadership, including the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
There was also a subtext among the UN Security Council’s P5+1 that for the regime in Tehran the deal not only supplied the bait of removing the international sanctions against it, but also that such a development was another step in empowering the more pragmatic elements within the regime, as the removal of sanctions and the resulting improvement in the country’s economic situation would be credited to them.
The US and Israel would like to see the current demonstrations across Iran develop into a full-blown revolution that ends in toppling the regime.
This second assumption is hard to either corroborate or disprove, because America’s short-sighted withdrawal from the JCPOA during the Trump administration changed the dynamic of this agreement and led to the acceleration of Iran’s nuclear project. This sorry saga left both the US and Israel with a crucial dilemma: Did their commitment to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons merit the use of direct military force, or could it be achieved by sanctions, diplomatic pressure and clandestine operations?
In Israel there is a new government, the most hawkish in its history, which is already facing a deep constitutional crisis. With the exception of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Middle East outlook concentrates on containing Iran and especially its nuclear ambitions, the rest of the government is more interested in Israel’s domestic politics and its relations with the Palestinians. This should allow Netanyahu more freedom to set the strategy vis-a-vis Iran, and not only on the nuclear issue. Israel is very likely to confront Iran and its Hezbollah ally in Syria and Lebanon in order to prevent them from further strengthening their stronghold in Syria and continuing to arm their Lebanese ally with more sophisticated weapons, which is a source of grave concern that it will encounter these weapons in due course in a confrontation with Hezbollah with the encouragement of Tehran.
Similarly, the “war between the wars,” which entails a wide range of covert operations, including assassinations and cyberattacks, is expected to continue, but the question is whether these are expected to intensify, not only as Iran gets closer to a nuclear military capability, but also as a result of Netanyahu’s efforts to deflect from his own domestic difficulties, in particular his corruption trial. Biden and his administration have little trust in Netanyahu. The president was Obama’s deputy when the JCPOA was signed, and as Netanyahu, then Israel’s prime minister, made a blunt intervention in US domestic politics in an attempt to stop that 2015 nuclear deal. Yet, if the US decides to sanction a military operation against Iran, Israel’s capabilities in the air and in intelligence could be very useful. However, this might also complicate the regional political scene, especially if the anti-democratic elements in Israel should further strengthen their hold on the society and politics of the country, and their government moves closer toward the annexation, albeit de facto, of the West Bank.
Tehran at the same time is underestimating the antagonism it is creating by supporting Moscow in its unjustified and brutal war against Ukraine and by its own brutality against those who participate in legitimate protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, hundreds of whom have been already killed by the security forces or executed after summary trials. The hanging earlier this week of Iranian-British dual national Ali Reza Akbari — labelled by British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly as “a barbaric act that deserves condemnation in the strongest possible terms” — is a further push for the international community to respond decisively. The US and Israel would like to see the current demonstrations across Iran develop into a full-blown revolution that ends in toppling the regime. But this is unlikely to happen soon, as the protests have failed to gather sufficient momentum and critical mass. This leaves the US and Israel, and many others, wondering how to deal with the regime, and not only on the nuclear issue. For now, it remains unclear whether either or both have an adequate answer beyond a few tweaks at the margins that might not be enough.
• Yossi Mekelberg is professor of international relations and an associate fellow of the MENA Program at Chatham House. He is a regular contributor to the international written and electronic media.
Twitter: @YMekelberg