A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For December 01- 02/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 46th Day

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A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For December 01- 02/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 46th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
December 02/2019

Tites For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 01-02/2019
Protesters March in Beirut amid Rival Demos in Baabda
Lebanon army separates protests near Aoun’s palace
Sunday of Clarity” marches in Beirut: For a transitional government to face corruption
Lebanese army separates rival protests near president palace
‘Crucial 48 Hours’ as Hizbullah Speaks of ‘Int’l Support’ for Solutions
Lebanon stops migrant boat carrying 34 Syrian refugees
Al-Sayyed: Hizbullah Won’t Bow, No Govt. Next Week
Kanaan: PM May be Named Next Week, Caretaker Govt. Must Act
Kanaan: The President did not ask for dialogue over the form of government only, but over the next stage’s content and form as well
Energy Ministry to open gasoline tender on Monday
Baalbek movement continues its protest at Khalil Moutran Square
Women’s march in Sidon: Rejection of war, corruption, discrimination and intimidation
El-Khalil: Next week will witness the birth of a government in an image that matches the aspirations of the people and the movement
Kouyoumjian: Our youth want Lebanon a developed state, free of corruption and deals
Lebanese Rally against Iraq’s Crackdown on Protesters
French-Lebanese Engineer Chosen as Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Secretary General
Rahi calls for dialogue

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 01-02/2019
Protesters March in Beirut amid Rival Demos in Baabda
Naharnet/December 01/2019
Anti-corruption protesters on Sunday marched from Hamra, Ashrafieh and Mathaf towards central Beirut as rival demos were held near the presidential palace in Baabda. One of the demos in Baabda was organized by the Sabaa Party and civil society protesters while the other was organized by supporters of President Michel Aoun. The army intervened to contain scuffles between the two groups after the National News Agency reported that the rival demonstrators had engaged in a “peaceful and optimistic” dialogue. Scuffles had erupted Tuesday during similar demos in the area, prompting the intervention of security forces. Anti-corruption protesters meanwhile marched Sunday from Hamra, Ashrafieh and Mathaf towards Martyrs Square and Riad al-Solh Square in central Beirut. The protesters marched under the slogans “Sunday of Clarity” and “Unity and Solidarity of the Lebanese People”. They called for the formation of a “transitional government” free of ruling parties’ representatives in order to “take urgent measures in the face of the economic collapse caused by the ruling class.”Protesters also called for “the independence of the judiciary and the prosecution of corrupts and those who robbed public funds and public and private property including bank deposits.”Carrying olive branches, some protesters called on the ruling parties not to try to scare them with “civil war” threats, emphasizing on the peaceful nature of the protests. Protesters have called on President Michel Aoun to call for binding parliamentary consultations to name a new premier following the resignation of Saad Hariri on October 29. Aoun has delayed the consultations, arguing that a prior agreement is needed on the shape of the new government in order to avoid a political clash and a lengthy formation process.

Lebanon army separates protests near Aoun’s palace
The Associated Press/Monday, 02 December 2019
Lebanon’s armed forces have deployed near the presidential palace east of Beirut to prevent friction between rival Lebanese protesters as the stalemate over forming a crisis government continues. Anti-government protesters called for a rally on Sunday outside the Presidential Palace in Baabda to press President Michel Aoun to formally begin the process of forming a new government. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned over a month ago amid nationwide protests accusing the political elite of corruption and mismanagement of the economy. The call prompted a counter-rally by supporters of Aoun.
Army soldiers formed a human chain to separate the groups on a highway leading to the palace, preventing clashes. Meanwhile, hundreds of anti-government protesters marched toward central Beirut amid a deepening economic crisis. On Sunday, Lebanon’s caretaker Trade Minister, Mansour Bteish, said that he and others had asked the central bank governor and commercial banks at a recent meeting to reduce interest rates by roughly half. Since protests erupted across Lebanon on October 17, pressure has piled on the financial system. A hard currency crunch has deepened, with many importers unable to bring in goods, forcing up prices and heightening concerns of financial collapse.

Sunday of Clarity” marches in Beirut: For a transitional government to face corruption
NNA/December 01/2019
“Sunday of Clarity” marches set out in the streets of Beirut today, namely from the Museum, Hamra and Jeitaoui areas, under the slogan of “Unity and Solidarity of the Lebanese People”, in a sign that the demonstrators are clear in their goals and are in solidarity together until their goals are achieved.
The marches are to join in Sodeco and continue towards Riad El Solh and Martrys’ Squares in Downtown Beirut. Protesters called for “a transitional government in which the authority is not represented, so as to adopt urgent measures to face the economic collapse caused by the ruling class, and to ensure the independence of the judiciary and proceed with the prosecution of the corrupt and looters of public and private property and money, including bank deposits.” Additionally, protesters called for “overthrowing the scarecrow of the civil war and its political and cultural system, while emphasizing the unity and peacefulness of the popular uprising squares.”

Lebanese army separates rival protests near president palace
Associated Press/ December 01/2019
The call prompted a counter-rally by supporters of Aoun who called him a “red line.” Army soldiers formed a human chain to separate the groups on a highway leading to the palace, preventing clashes.
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s armed forces have deployed near the presidential palace east of Beirut to prevent friction between rival Lebanese protesters as the stalemate over forming a crisis government continues. Anti-government protesters had called for a rally Sunday outside the Presidential Palace in Baabda to press President Michel Aoun to formally begin the process of forming a new government. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned over a month ago amid nationwide protests accusing the political elite of corruption and mismanagement of the economy. The call prompted a counter-rally by supporters of Aoun who called him a “red line.” Army soldiers formed a human chain to separate the groups on a highway leading to the palace, preventing clashes. Meanwhile, hundreds of anti-government protesters marched toward central Beirut amid a deepening economic crisis.

‘Crucial 48 Hours’ as Hizbullah Speaks of ‘Int’l Support’ for Solutions
Naharnet/December 01/2019
A Hizbullah minister has noted that there could be a solution soon to the government formation crisis after the international community sent a “message” to all political forces. “A solution started looming after the international message reached the various political parties,” caretaker State Minister for Parliament Affairs Mahmoud Qmati said, noting that “several international parties” are pushing for a solution in Lebanon. Describing President Michel Aoun’s decision to postpone parliamentary consultations for naming a new PM as “rational and wise,” Qmati acknowledged that any one-sided government would face huge international pressures. He also said that the re-designation of caretaker PM Saad Hariri or picking someone close to him would help Lebanon win international support for the new government. Sources informed on the negotiations pertaining to the governmental crisis meanwhile said that the next 48 hours will be “important, and perhaps crucial, in terms of negotiations with Hariri with the aim of re-designating him.”The coming hours will determine whether “the language of conditions and counter-conditions has receded,” An-Nahar newspaper quoted the sources as saying in remarks published Sunday.

Lebanon stops migrant boat carrying 34 Syrian refugees
AFP, Beirut/Monday, 2 December 2019
Lebanon’s army on Sunday said it stopped a boat carrying 34 Syrian refugees who were trying to leave the protest-hit country. It stopped the boat near the coast of the northern city of Tripoli on Saturday, it said in a statement. The army said it arrested a Lebanese citizen who was trying to smuggle them out of the country, adding that there were five Lebanese on board the vessel. The boat’s final destination was not immediately clear. Lebanon, a small Mediterranean country of some 4.5 million people, says it hosts around 1.5 million Syrian refugees.Those escaping Lebanon by boat have often tried to cross into Europe through Turkey or Cyprus, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) away. In October, Lebanon said it agreed to work with Cyprus to prevent migrants from reaching its shores. Lebanon has been rocked by unprecedented anti-government protests since October 17. The government resigned two weeks after demonstrations started, bowing to popular pressure. The country’s deeply divided political parties have yet to form a new one.

Al-Sayyed: Hizbullah Won’t Bow, No Govt. Next Week
Naharnet/December 01/2019
MP Jamil al-Sayyed has stressed that no premier-designate will be picked next week to form the new government. “According to the obvious indications, there will be no government next week and the issue is related to its shape,” al-Sayyed, who is close to Hizbullah, said in a TV interview. “Hizbullah won’t cede in peacetime what it didn’t cede in wartime,” al-Sayyed emphasized, suggesting that calls for forming a technocrat government are aimed at reining in Hizbullah’s political influence. “Several proposals were raised, the first of which was the exit of all former ministers from the government, including foreign minister Jebran Bassil,” the MP said. “The president informed Hizbullah of this format and the latter dispatched finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil and Hizbullah secretary-general’s political aide Hussein Khalil to resigned PM Saad Hariri to inform him of this format, but he then moved to demanding other things, including the formation of a technocrat cabinet,” al-Sayyed revealed. He added that Hariri then demanded a technocrat cabinet, the dissolution of parliament and the finance portfolio. At this point, Hizbullah, the Free Patriotic Movement and the AMAL Movement “preferred to keep the caretaker cabinet,” al-Sayyed said.

Kanaan: PM May be Named Next Week, Caretaker Govt. Must Act
Naharnet/December 01/2019
A premier-designate is supposed to be named next week if the intentions turn out to be “honest,” Strong Lebanon bloc secretary MP Ibrahim Kanaan said on Sunday. “It is needed to activate the work of the caretaker government pending the formation of the new government,” Kanaan said in a radio interview.
“Any official must work for 24 hours amid the current circumstances and it is a duty to maintain the continuity of the state and its institutions,” he said. He added: “We must show solidarity to halt the collapse.”e prosecution of the corrupt and looters of public and private property and money, including bank deposits.” Additionally, protesters called for “overthrowing the scarecrow of the civil war and its political and cultural system, while emphasizing the unity and peacefulness of the popular uprising squares.”

Kanaan: The President did not ask for dialogue over the form of government only, but over the next stage’s content and form as well
NNA/December 01/2019
MP Ibrahim Kanaan pointed out in an interview with “Voice of Lebanon” Radio Station today that “the President of the Republic did not ask for dialogue on the form of government solely, but on the content and form of the next stage as well.”He added: “The Free Patriotic Movement advocates holding the binding parliamentary consultations immediately, but to form which government, and for what purpose and what program?””What is required of the PM-designate is to be able to form a government quickly,” he said, noting that “President Aoun is trying within his constitutional powers to secure the conditions of this rapid formation that the country needs.”Kanaan indicated that next week is expected to be the week of commissioning, followed by the cabinet formation, if intentions are true. However, he deemed that “the activation of the work of the caretaker government is required, until the formation of the new government,” stressing that hands ought to be joined together to stop the country’s collapse. “The citizen wants answers from the civic movement to determine his options; is the movement with the displaced staying? Does it support a free economic system or another system? What election law does it want? Are we before a project that places the poor class against the rich?” questioned Kanaan. He considered that “there are practices in the name of the revolution that contradict the slogans raised.”The MP highlighted the need for efforts to be focused on developing a common vision, away from contradictory choices that contribute to obstruction. “What’s needed is a Lebanese project that we market internationally, and not an external project that markets Lebanon,” he said. Kanaan concluded by expressing a word of praise for the initiatives of women and mothers in the popular movement, for their conscious and wise demonstration, hoping that a woman would be commissioned to form the next government.

Energy Ministry to open gasoline tender on Monday
NNA/December 01/2019
The Department of Oil Installations called on concerned companies to participate in the tender to import gasoline for local market use, tomorrow Monday at 10:00 a.m. in the presence of Caretaker Minister of Energy and Water Nada Boustani, in Hazmieh.

Baalbek movement continues its protest at Khalil Moutran Square
NNA/December 01/2019
Baalbek’s citizens rallied in the square of the poet Khalil Moutran in front of the city’s archaeological site today, cutting off the entrance of the city on the commercial market’s side across the square, NNA correspondent reported.
Protesters pursued their vigil carrying Lebanese flags and chanting their demand slogans, while the Lebanese singer Ahmed Kaabour contributed with some of his songs.

Women’s march in Sidon: Rejection of war, corruption, discrimination and intimidation

NNA/December 01/2019
A women’s march set out from Qunaya roundabout towards the intersection of Elia in Sidon this afternoon, to protest against war, corruption, discrimination and intimidation, in which women from Sidon and its neighboring areas participated, carrying Lebanese flags and chanting slogans calling for unity and popular demands. The message behind the organized march was to “break down all sectarian barriers, and to keep away the specter of war and infighting,” and to “emphasize that Sidon, like other Lebanese regions, will remain united and away from all forms of strife, and will remain a city of diversity and coexistence, and a role model for national unity.”

El-Khalil: Next week will witness the birth of a government in an image that matches the aspirations of the people and the movement
NNA/December 01/2019
“Development and Liberation” Parliamentary Bloc Member, MP Anwar El-Khalil, anticipated the birth of a new government next week, whose image would reflect the aspirations of citizens and the people’s movement.
Speaking to the popular delegations who visited him at his Hasbaya residence today, El-Khalil said: “Our limited information indicates that the commissioning process will be followed by the formation process in a single basket. If this expectation is true, it will carry next week to the Lebanese the news that we have been awaiting for a long time, and we hope that this government will be in the form that the people desire and the popular movement demands.” “We do not forget the problems related to the economic, financial and banking issue, which can never be solved unless there is a responsible government,” El-Khalil underlined. He emphasized the need for the new cabinet, once formed, to immediately address the economic issue, pointing herein to the agreed upon “list of reforms” presented by Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Referring to Lebanon’s payment of its foreign debts, El-Khalil said: “This is what we have always stressed. Lebanon is not like the Greek State and has not failed, even once, to pay its external debts or banks as well.” He concluded by stressing that “everyone should work on the birth of the government, which would contribute to a speedy improvement of the economic situation.”

Kouyoumjian: Our youth want Lebanon a developed state, free of corruption and deals
NNA/December 01/2019
“The flavor of Lebanon’s independence this year is the flavor of the revolution,” said Caretaker Social Affairs Minister, Richard Kouyoumjian on Sunday. Addressing the students of Vahan Tekeyan School in Bourj Hammoud in an event marking Independence Day, Kouyoumjian said: “The new generation dreams of a modern state and from here we see its rally around the Lebanese army and its refusal that any party takes up arms.”He added: “The army has proved its capability to carry out its duty to the utmost, whether in the battles of Nahr al-Bared and Fajr al-Jouroud, or in maintaining security at home.” Kouyoumjian hoped that “the coming days will bring about political solutions to the situation, for Lebanon is under political, economic and social crises.”

Lebanese Rally against Iraq’s Crackdown on Protesters
Naharnet/December 01/2019
Dozens of people in protest-swept Lebanon have staged a candlelit vigil outside Iraq’s embassy to denounce the excessive use of force against demonstrators there. They raised pictures of Iraqi protesters who have been killed since the unprecedented anti-government movement began on October 1.
Some raised the Lebanese flag, while one woman wrapped the Iraqi tricolor around her shoulders. Iraq’s grassroots protest movement has been the largest the country has seen in decades — but also the deadliest. More than 420 people have been killed and 15,000 others wounded since early October, according to an AFP tally compiled from medics and an Iraqi rights commission. The toll spiked dramatically this week, when a crackdown by security forces left dozens dead in Baghdad, the Shiite shrine city of Najaf and the southern hotspot of Nasiriyah — the birthplace of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, who vowed to resign on Friday. Lebanon has also seen an unprecedented anti-government protest movement since October 17. Layal Siblani, the organizer behind the vigil, said the spiraling crackdown in Iraq this past week prompted the idea. “The uprising in Iraq and the uprising in Lebanon are one,” she told AFP.
“A protester killed there is a protester killed here.”Like their counterparts in Iraq, Lebanese demonstrators are rallying against corruption, unemployment and appalling public services. They are also pushing for an end to the kind of political system that prioritizes power-sharing between sects over good governance.
Despite confrontations with security forces and supporters of established parties, protesters in Lebanon have largely been spared the violent crackdown seen in Iraq. But rights groups and the United Nations last week criticized security forces for failing to protect protesters after they were attacked by backers of Hizbullah and the AMAL Movement at several locations. Amnesty International on Friday urged the Lebanese Army “to end arbitrary arrests” and “torture” of peaceful protesters following a wave of detentions. Hussein, at the vigil outside the Iraqi embassy, said Lebanese protesters had a duty towards those in Iraq. “We have to stand in solidarity with our Iraqi counterparts who are being arrested and killed on a daily basis,” he said.

French-Lebanese Engineer Chosen as Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Secretary General
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 01/2019
A French-Lebanese engineer has been chosen as secretary general of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi auto alliance, part of a new business framework announced a year after former boss Carlos Ghosn was arrested. Hadi Zablit, 49, will oversee industrial cooperation projects to improve the efficiency and financial performance of the partnership, a source close to the matter told AFP on Friday, confirming a report in French newspaper Le Figaro.The operational revamp aims to mark a new start for the trio as they battle to emerge from the shadow cast by the legal woes of Ghosn, detained last November over allegations of financial impropriety. Zablit is currently business development chief for the French-Japanese auto alliance, which sold 10.6 million vehicles worldwide in 2017. The dual citizen, born in Lebanon, first joined Renault as an engineer and product manager in 1994. He left to work for the Boston Consulting Group in 2000 and returned to the French car giant nearly three years ago. Ghosn’s sudden arrest last year at a Tokyo airport sent shockwaves through the business world. The 65-year-old Brazil-born executive — one of the world’s best-known and respected tycoons — is now out on bail after 130 days in a Japanese detention center. He faces charges of deferring part of his salary until after his retirement and concealing this from shareholders, as well as siphoning off millions in Nissan cash for his own purposes. Ghosn says he is innocent and is seeking to have his case declared null and void — even if legal experts and his own defense deem his chances unlikely.

Rahi calls for dialogue
NNA/December 01/2019
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi, said Sunday that “it is time for those who control political power to resume national dialogue to break the deadlock and solve all pending matters to save the state from doom.”
Speaking during Sunday Mass in Bkirki, Rahi added that “Lebanon needs genuine men of politics who work for elevating the country from its suffering on the political, social and security levels.”Rahi also called on the demonstrators to maintain their protests, civilized and peaceful, in order to form a government and begin serious reforms.

Titles For The Latest Lebanese LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 01-02/2019
‘Murder, Starve, Oppress’: Envoy reveals Hezbollah operations in Venezuela/Abdulla Almanai/Al Arabiya/December 01/2019
Iran’s proxies in Iraq, Lebanon signing own death warrants/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/December 01/2019
Lebanon’s total economic collapse creeping ever closer/Randa Takieddine/Arab News/December 01/2019
Hezbollah, Amal turn to violence as ongoing protests shake Lebanon’s sectarian system/Simon Speakman Cordall/The Arab Weekly/December 01/2019
No end in sight for political impasse in Lebanon amid fears of ‘economic free fall’/Samar Kadi/The Arab Weekly/December 01/2019
There is light at the end of the tunnel for Lebanon/Khairallah Khairallah/The Arab Weekly/December 01/2019
Sunday’s March of Clarity: Restating the revolution’s demands/Nessryn Khalaf/Annahar/December 01/2019
Lebanon: Money Transfer Crisis Affects Foreign Workers/ Hanan Hamdan/Asharq Al-Awsat/December 01/2019
Lebanese Shi’ite Scholar Sami Khadra: I Apologize For The ‘Bad Image’ Of Lebanese Women As Revealed In Protests/MEMRI/December 01/2019
Lebanese Rally against Iraq’s Crackdown on Protesters/Asharq Al-Awsat/December 01/2019
AMCD Commends UN Secretary General for Stance on Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon/AMCD/December 01/2019
Hezbollah uses Germany to finance terrorism, weapons purchases – report/Jerusalem Post/December 01/2019

The Latest Lebanese LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 01-02/2019
‘Murder, Starve, Oppress’: Envoy reveals Hezbollah operations in Venezuela
Venezuela’s Vanessa Neumann.
Abdulla Almanai/Al Arabiya/December 01/2019
Lebanese Hezbollah controls vast swaths of territory in Venezuela, has close ties to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and leads drug trafficking and illegal gold mining efforts in the country, Venezuelan opposition ambassador to the UK Vanessa Neumann told Al Arabiya English in an exclusive interview.
“The Hezbollah presence in Venezuela has been part of the death and suffering of my people. [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah is interfering in our politics and giving training to murder, starve, and oppress us,” Neumann said in an interview at the IISS Manama Dialogue summit in Bahrain.
Neumann described how Hezbollah controls swaths of territory in the country.
In Venezuela’s western region, the group has led a drug trafficking organization for decades, according to Neumann, who says she was relayed this information by Hezbollah commanders in 2012 in Beirut.
In the eastern region, Hezbollah is profiting from illegal gold mining, with the gold being transferred to Turkey and Iran on airplanes owned by Maduro, said Neumann. Venezuela is known to have some of the world’s largest gold reserves. Hezbollah, which Iran assisted in founding and continues to back today, is designated as a terrorist organization by many countries including the US. Despite Hezbollah being most known for its destabilizing and terrorist activities in Lebanon and Syria, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed the organization has active cells throughout South America, specifically mentioning Venezuela during an interview in February.
Neumann said Venezuela’s relationship with Hezbollah and its backer Iran “comes straight from the top.”
“Nicolas Maduro has direct relations with Hezbollah. Maduro’s foreign minister Jorge Arreaza visits Hassan Nasrallah directly,” said Neumann.
Syrian-Lebanese Venezuelan Tareck El Aissami, who currently serves as Minister of Industries and National Production under Maduro, is “Hezbollah’s main point of contact, bagman in Venezuela,” according to Neumann.
The US blacklisted El Aissami for drug trafficking in 2017. El Aissami and his family have helped sneak Lebanese Hezbollah militants into the country, gone into business with a drug lord and shielded 140 tons of chemicals believed to be used for cocaine production, according to a secret dossier reported by The New York Times. Neumann says she hopes the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will help fight the Maduro-Hezbollah alliance in Venezuela.
“Hezbollah are part of the repressive regime. While they help our oppressors and our murderers, they personally enrich themselves. By helping us purge the Hezbollah influence, it will help us attain the free and democratic Venezuela we are trying to attain,” said Neumann.
Neumann was appointed to her position as ambassador to the UK by Venezuela’s interim ruler Juan Guaido, who assumed his position in January following the disputed re-election of his rival Maduro. Guaido is recognized as Venezuela’s leader by almost 60 countries, including the US and UK.
Venezuela, once one of the richest countries in South America, is now in the midst of one of the Western Hemisphere’s worst humanitarian crises. Government repression and economic recession have caused a mass exodus. It is estimated the number of refugees will reach eight million by the end of 2021.
Venezuelans are faced with deadly shortages of food and medicine.
Neumann said Hezbollah is part of the system that keeps Venezuelans hungry while personally enriching themselves. “We have hundreds of thousands of children starving and every morning a mother has to decide which of her children she is going to feed because she can’t feed all of them. And Hezbollah is intricately involved in this,” said Neumann.

Iran’s proxies in Iraq, Lebanon signing own death warrants
Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/December 01/2019
With 400 already dead, the killings in Iraq escalated horrifically at the weekend following the torching of Iran’s consulate in the holy city of Najaf. About 70 protesters were gunned down in just 48 hours, largely at the hands of unaccountable Tehran-backed paramilitaries. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative incited Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi militants to “pursue” and “uproot” those responsible for the consulate fire.
Tehran’s crackdown strategies in Lebanon, Iraq and upon its own streets increasingly reek of desperation. Playing for time and making cosmetic political changes have failed. Attempts to terrorize and crush the demonstrations have simply brought out thousands more furious and defiant protesters. When Hezbollah personnel taunted protesters with their yellow flags and sectarian slogans, citizens defiantly chanted back: “This is Lebanon, not Iran,” and “Hezbollah is a terrorist.” Accusations of being “Zionist stooges” or failing to support the “axis of resistance” used to intimidate Hezbollah’s critics into silence. Now such rhetoric is incessantly ridiculed in the protest camps.
At recent international conferences, regime-connected Iranian academics have floated proposals for converting Hezbollah into a purely political entity. Hezbollah is Tehran’s crown jewel in terms of its overseas sedition. The fact this is even being mooted suggests a degree of panic within the regime due to the existential threat that current developments pose.
Having used an iron fist against Iranian protesters, Khamenei believes that proxies in Iraq and Lebanon haven’t been sufficiently aggressive. On Nov. 21, Khamenei summoned to Tehran Iraqi officials, including paramilitary leaders Falih Al-Fayyadh and Hadi Al-Amiri, and reportedly demanded “extreme levels of violence” to crush protests, even if the death toll extended into the thousands. “Iran will not give up Iraq and will not allow its influence to be reduced,” Khamenei was quoted as saying.
The Quds Force’s Qassem Soleimani micromanaged the crackdown. Most deaths in Iraq are attributable to his paramilitary allies. According to eyewitness accounts, Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq personnel in Shiite-majority towns like Nasiriyah and Amarah opened fire on protesters from the roofs of their own offices, as well as driving around shooting indiscriminately at citizens. There have been intensifying campaigns of abductions by paramilitaries, with instances of torture reported.
In the wake of the Najaf consulate incident, proxy leaders Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis (Kata’ib Hezbollah) and Qais Al-Khazali (Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq) called for deploying their forces in the holy cities, claiming — improbably — that protesters were plotting to attack their outspoken defender Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani. Indeed it was Al-Sistani’s call for Iraq’s leaders to “reconsider their choices” that is credited with forcing Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s resignation. Tehran has pursued various pretexts for beefing up its presence in Iraq’s holy cities, having recently seen its proposal to send 20,000 Iranian security personnel to “protect pilgrims” rebuffed.
Abdul Mahdi’s resignation was jubilantly celebrated by demonstrators, but it changes nothing. The prime minister has been threatening to resign for weeks and was only prevented by the interventions of Soleimani, Al-Amiri and Al-Muhandis. Just as in Lebanon, constituting a new government could take months and will simply promote a new combination of the same corrupt, discredited faces. Protesters’ goals can only be achieved when the entire Tehran-sponsored sectarian system is razed to the ground.
Khamenei is desperate for rapid and decisive solutions because prolonged instability in Lebanon and Iraq weakens his ability to hold sway
Khamenei is desperate for rapid and decisive solutions because prolonged instability in Lebanon and Iraq weakens his ability to hold sway, while risking further contagion of unrest to Iranian cities. As well as harming ordinary Lebanese, the imminent collapse of the banking system would also impact Iran and Hezbollah, which have systematically laundered and hoarded funds via these channels. Tehran furthermore fears that, just as happened in 1982, Israel would exploit Lebanese civil conflict to try and eradicate the “resistance” once and for all.
Hezbollah can only hold sway in Lebanon via the collaboration of Christian leaders like President Michel Aoun and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, whose support within their communities is rapidly draining away. Hassan Nasrallah fears that killing protesters will further unite Lebanon against Hezbollah. Nevertheless, just as Khamenei arm-twisted Nasrallah into wading into the Syrian conflict, if Hezbollah’s paymasters demand blood, then the streets of Beirut will obediently run red.
The fatigued response from Western leaders has encouraged Iran’s allies that they can repress citizens with impunity. If we are to avoid an exponentially higher death toll, then diplomats must forcefully stipulate that there will be meaningful consequences (UN measures, sanctions, war crimes investigations, diplomatic action, etc.) if the aspirations of demonstrators are ignored and the authorities continue down the path of repression.
Although Khamenei is trying to peddle the model of brutal crackdowns as a magic solution to domestic unrest, protests inside Iran persist and may become further inflamed. Iranian protesters have been brutally crushed over and over again in recent years, yet still they courageously come out against their oppressors.
In the late 1970s, the shah of Iran desperately oscillated between confused attempts to appease Iranian demonstrators and botched crackdowns, which only succeeded in uniting the entirety of Iran against him. The result was the 1979 revolution, in which Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came out on top and ruthlessly crushed all other segments of the opposition.
The protests in Iraq and Lebanon today are likewise on the brink of passing the point of no return. Through their escalating reliance on brutal and excessive force, Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi and Hezbollah are tantalizingly close to signing their own death warrants, as they continue to undermine any remaining popular legitimacy among their grassroots supporters.
If this is indeed the beginning of the end for Iranian hegemony in Iraq and Lebanon, then we still have a long and bloody road ahead of us. Khamenei, Nasrallah and Al-Amiri are far from admitting defeat. Tehran has invested billions in its regional dominance strategy and won’t simply walk away. Their knee-jerk response to recent setbacks may be to ramp up the killing. This will reap a horrific toll, yet such atrocities will ultimately only serve to reinforce the popular determination to eliminate all manifestations of Iranian influence — permanently.
• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

Lebanon’s total economic collapse creeping ever closer
Randa Takieddine/Arab News/December 01/2019
A gathering of Lebanese anti-government protesters getting haircuts in front of the central bank building in Beirut last week attracted many jokes and much amusement. The protesters were expressing their rejection of a potential move by banks to take a proportion of their depositors’ money — known as a “haircut” — as a result of the country’s ongoing financial crisis.
The demonstrators were having fun and enjoying this original way of protesting despite their fears over the uncertainty of the outcome of their popular uprising against corruption and the failures of the political classes. Salim Sfeir, the head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, said in an interview with Reuters that a haircut would not solve the problem and, on the contrary, would scare off customers. The Lebanese diaspora has plenty of money overseas and this money would never come back if there was a haircut, Sfeir said.
The Lebanese economy is experiencing its worst crisis since the civil war began in 1975. Government debt amounts to $88.4 billion — 150 percent of Lebanon’s gross domestic product. However, despite the liquidity crisis that is endangering the country, Lebanon last week settled a maturing $1.5 billion Eurobond, signaling to the market that, despite the political and economic crisis, it has not defaulted.
But the political stalemate — with the political class denying the people’s demands for a new government of honest, independent people — is aggravating the financial situation. The banks were shut at the beginning of the protest for two weeks. They reopened last week but limited weekly withdrawals to $1,000 and restricted transfers abroad. Added to that, depositors can only withdraw money in Lebanese pounds, which they can change for US dollars with an exchange agent. As a result of this unofficial market, the dollar rate reached as high as 2,000 Lebanese pounds, even though the currency is officially pegged to the dollar at 1,500.
These measures have created panic among the people. A growing fear surfaced about the possibility of banks failing to give money to their depositors. The confidence of nonresident depositors has been lost. Banks have been targeted by many protesters, some shouting at central bank governor Riad Salame to “give us back the stolen money.” Rumors have spread in the cities, with crowds rushing to the banks to withdraw money.
The central bank said last week that it was allowing banks to borrow dollars without limits at 20 percent interest to secure depositors’ needs, but stressed that the funds should not be sent abroad. The Institute of International Finance said that deposits had dropped by more than $10 billion dollars since the end of August. An important part of this money was sent abroad, while more than $4 billion of it is being kept in people’s homes.
Hezbollah and its allies are dragging their feet with no concern for the demands of the people.
One group of Lebanese economists proposed an emergency economic rescue plan, which recommended: The careful management of Lebanon’s rapidly dwindling foreign currency reserves; defending the value of the Lebanese pound, including tighter measures of capital control; a deep fiscal plan to fight corruption; new social policies to protect those most affected by the current crisis; a negotiated debt reduction plan with a fair sharing of the burden across society; and a monitoring mechanism that allows the people to put pressure on their leaders to implement these reforms while state oversight mechanisms are reinforced.
The country is on the brink of total economic collapse, with people getting poorer, more than 250 restaurants closing, many people unable to pay for imported goods because of the dollar restrictions, and hotels cutting salaries and laying off many workers. Unemployment is increasing rapidly.
The start of a solution to this catastrophic situation could come from international and regional support, but only if a credible government with honest, capable ministers who can inspire confidence is formed. But, since Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation, President Michel Aoun, who is constitutionally required to start consultations with Parliament to nominate a replacement, has been delaying. The president and his foreign minister son-in-law Gebran Bassil, who are allies of Hezbollah, are in denial over the requests of the protesters on the street. They think the country can wait while they endlessly discuss with their ally Hezbollah its choice of government. Both seem to want a mix of political and technocratic ministers to come back with the same politicians who are hated on the street. The pro-Iran Hezbollah is insisting on having Hariri back on its own conditions, whereas Hariri insisted on a purely technocratic government, as demanded by the popular will. Hezbollah has less to lose from the liquidity and economic crisis. Its money is in homes or in its caves and tunnels — it has no money in Lebanese banks because of American sanctions. Nevertheless, the group has a large number of government employees who need their end-of-month salaries. But this does not look to be a worry for Hezbollah.
The financial crisis is being driven by the rising burden of servicing and refinancing the public debt and the sharp fall of capital inflows. Meanwhile, Hezbollah and its allies are dragging their feet with no concern for the demands of the people. Some observers of Hezbollah’s relations with Iran think that, usually, Hassan Nasrallah has the leverage to act however he sees fit in Lebanon but, this time, in view of the violent outcomes of the popular uprisings in Iran and Iraq, Tehran is pressuring Hezbollah not to give in to the protesters’ demands. The unstable political situation, the serious incapacity of a political class that is eager to keep its benefits, Hezbollah’s grip on its power to decide the kind of government it wants, and the corruption of many in government and within the administration all contribute to making the future of Lebanon very bleak unless something is quickly done to save it.
*Randa Takieddine is a Paris-based Lebanese journalist who headed Al-Hayat’s bureau in France for 30 years. She has covered France’s relations with the Middle East through the terms of four presidents.

Hezbollah, Amal turn to violence as ongoing protests shake Lebanon’s sectarian system
Simon Speakman Cordall/The Arab Weekly/December 01/2019
TUNIS – As Lebanon’s protests stretch into their second month, much of the early optimism is giving way to an overriding sense of caution, as the country finds itself navigating rising sectarian violence, government paralysis and an economy that looks to be rapidly circling the financial plug hole.
On the street, protesters are calling for the dismantling of Lebanon’s confessional system of government, where positions and ministries are allocated according to religion or sect, in favour of a technocratic body capable of tackling the corruption and reversing much of the economic damage they feel the current system has wrought.
For supporters of the Shia, Amal and Hezbollah groups, who see their political survival as vested in the status quo, the struggle is becoming increasingly desperate. Brutal clashes between protesters and supporters of the two groups rocked Martyrs’ Square in Lebanon November 24, as moped-riding counter-protesters attempted to force their way into the crowds of anti-government demonstrators.
“We are standing before two dangers that are racing with each other, the danger of financial collapse and the danger of security collapse. It is an unprecedented situation,” Nabil Bou Monsef, deputy editor-in-chief of the An-Nahar newspaper, told the Associated Press.
Foreign Policy reported chants of “Terrorists, terrorists, Hezbollah are terrorists,” had taken hold among protesters in Beirut, a public sentiment unimaginable just a few weeks ago.
One senior Shia cleric, Sheikh Ali al-Khatib, cautioned against the street again spinning out of control, leading “our nation into a slide towards anarchy.” He urged politicians to “remedy the situation and contain the deterioration,” Reuters reported. The state’s military, the heavily Western-backed Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), has appeared to hold back and, assuming the role of policeman, concentrated on keeping roads open and warring crowds of protesters apart.
Mona Yacoubian, senior adviser for Syria, Middle East and North Africa at the US Institute of Peace, cautioned “…though their behaviour has been largely professional, there are some worrying trends to watch: First, the LAF appears to be largely absent in Hezbollah and Amal strongholds, increasingly allowing thugs and others to intimidate protesters in those areas. Second, there are reports that elements of the LAF, particularly military intelligence, are arresting and torturing protesters.”
While initially both Hezbollah and Amal appeared accommodating of the protesters, going to lengths to sympathise with their grievances, their leadership has clung to the notion of government by confessional divide, which they insist is vital for Lebanon’s survival.
“The last few days have witnessed a decided shift in the behaviour of Amal/Hezbollah supporters,” Yacoubian said. “They have become increasingly brazen in their intimidation tactics, harassing protesters, burning tents and essentially looking to turn the otherwise peaceful protests violent.”
“It appears that this shift in behaviour could be the result of Hezbollah leadership determining that the protests increasingly pose a threat to the status quo and may lead to an outcome that is not favourable to their interests,” she added. Yacoubian said two developments, in particular, appear to have underpinned the shift in tactics: “increasing pressure to form a cabinet — Hezbollah is insisting on some political elements to the cabinet, rather than a purely technocrat cabinet as demanded by the demonstrators. Second, it is interesting to note that this shift also coincides with the outbreak of demonstrations across Iran, initially peaceful and against gas price hikes, but quickly evolving into protests against the supreme leader and the revolutionary government. Protests in Iraq are also becoming increasingly dangerous and violent.”However, Yacoubian cautioned that, though there was no direct link between Lebanon’s protests and those in Iraq or Iran, the popular cries for good governance and an end to corruption were strikingly similar. “Hezbollah and Amal are prime beneficiaries of the current status quo in Lebanon and would be threatened by a shift in the system of governance,” Yacoubian concluded.

No end in sight for political impasse in Lebanon amid fears of ‘economic free fall’
Samar Kadi/The Arab Weekly/December 01/2019
BEIRUT – More than a month after anti-government protests toppled Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s cabinet, there is no indication that a new government will be formed soon despite looming economic and financial collapse. Demonstrations demanding an overhaul of the entire political system and a ruling class accused of corruption and bankrupting the country have rocked Lebanon since mid-October, forcing Hariri to resign on October 29. Protesters came from all walks of life, regions and sects challenging the sectarian-based system. “The protest movement has definitely destabilised the (sectarian) political parties. None (including Hezbollah) can now claim to command the total allegiance of its partisans or community. All the politicians are being questioned and held accountable for widespread corruption at a time of financial and economic duress,” said Riad Tabbara, former Lebanese ambassador to the United States and director of the Centre for Development Studies and Projects (MADMA).
The country’s bitterly divided political leaders have yet to form a new cabinet. Hariri’s outgoing cabinet remains in a caretaker capacity as leaders haggle over the next government make-up, which the protesters demand be composed entirely of independent experts. President Michel Aoun has yet to schedule mandatory parliamentary consultations to appoint a cabinet. Aoun, whose Christian Free Patriotic Movement party is backed by Hezbollah and the Shia Amal movement of Speaker Nabih Berri, said he supports forming a government of technocrats and representatives of the popular movement but also including members of established parties.
Hariri, the main leader of the Sunni community, said he will not head the next government, an obvious reaction to the rejection of his condition to lead an independent cabinet with extraordinary powers. While politicians were dragging their feet, tensions have been on the rise. In the most recent violence, Hezbollah and Amal followers attacked anti-government protesters in several spots in Beirut and in the southern port city of Tyre. Intense clashes, mostly fist-fights and stone hurling, occurred between Chiyah and Ain Remmaneh, a former frontline in Beirut during the civil war (1975-1990). In reaction, hundreds of women from all religions marched pledging no return
to civil strife.
Protesters remained defiant despite the repeated attacks. “They are trying to instil fear in us as people, so we don’t progress and stay at home. But the attack gave us a sense of determination,” Dany Ayyash, 21, told Agence France-Presse.
Michel Nawfal, a political observer, said the violence was a “turbulence” that is unlikely to be repeated. “It was a failed attempt to intimidate the protest movement and turn it into sectarian friction. In fact, these acts backlashed and tarnished the image of the concerned parties, even within their own community.”
“The next turbulence will be triggered by the collapsing economy unless a reliable and capable government is formed quickly to deter the economic free fall,” Nawfal said. “Businesses are closing down; others are paying half salaries and many people are no longer able to pay for their children’s schooling… That will definitely lead to strong reactions.”
Lebanon is reeling under the worst financial crisis in decades with unprecedented control in place over banking transactions. Fearing capital flight and amid a hard currency shortage, commercial banks have placed tight restrictions on withdrawals and transfers abroad. Faced with the restrictions, customers turned to the black market where the price for US dollars has surged since the start of the unrest, reaching over 2,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, about a third higher than the pegged rate of 1,507.5. “The absence of a functional and efficient government compounded with more than a month of protests that put the country to a standstill is obviously speeding up economic collapse,” says Tabbara. “Lebanon’s main foreign currency resources have stopped almost totally. These include remittances by Lebanese expatriates, foreign direct investment (FDI) and tourism. For instance, hotel occupancy which reached 70-80% in September and October, dropped drastically to 5% after the outbreak of the protests,” Tabbara said. “The situation in Lebanon could be described as a stunt doing acrobatics on the verge of a ravine,” he warned. With no sign of a political breakthrough amid the failing economy, Lebanon is in for a long crisis, Nawfal contends. “Lebanon is experiencing not only a cabinet crisis; but a crisis of its entire (sectarian-based) political system, which is no longer viable,” he said. “The system should either be reformed or changed altogether. There would be a transitional period during which solutions and ways of reforming the political system can be explored. But, in the meantime, a social security network is needed urgently as we are heading towards a more difficult period which necessitates supporting the most impoverished classes.”Tabbara underlined Lebanon’s need for international support to help pull it out of the economic and financial mayhem. “But the authorities need to win the confidence of the international community first in addition to winning back the trust of the Lebanese.”

There is light at the end of the tunnel for Lebanon
Khairallah Khairallah/The Arab Weekly/December 01/2019
Friends of Lebanon cannot deal with a country whose government includes Hezbollah ministers.
There is a need to simplify things in Lebanon in order to avoid wasting more time, and time is a luxury that Lebanon cannot afford right now in light of the gravity of the economic crisis. It seems useful to note that the Lebanese banking system, which was the first line of defence for the country and its economy, has lost some foundations following the recent measures taken that restrict people’s access to their funds in Lebanese banks and their ability to transfer them elsewhere. In the past Lebanon was a safe haven for both the rich and the poor from Lebanon, Arab countries and the wider world, but, with these measures who in their right mind would be willing to risk depositing their money in Lebanese banks? With these restrictions on fund transfers, one of the reasons for the existence of Lebanon is gone. This reveals the depth of the crisis that the country is going through, a crisis that clearly seems to have been completely ignored by Lebanese President Michel Aoun in his speech on the eve of the 76th anniversary of independence.
His words revealed a strange inability to understand the complexities of the current situation and the need to move to a higher level of thinking, that is to consider whether there is room to seek a way out of the deepening crisis away from the complexes, obsessions and knots of the past. This includes the Rafik Hariri complex from which everybody at the Free Patriotic Movement is suffering. The president’s speech was characterised by ignoring the reasons for the economic crisis, despite his focus on corruption. And even his talk about corruption was misplaced. The reason is simple. Corruption has become a common phenomenon in the country with the establishment of the quota system, one that is staunchly supported by Hezbollah, which is only interested in making Lebanon a playing card in Iran’s hand.
It is this grave reality that Aoun omitted to mention in his independence anniversary speech. This omission simply confirms the fear that the era in place since his election as president on October 31, 2016, is really Hezbollah’s era. Such an era cannot defend the interests of Lebanon and the Lebanese. This is an era that refuses to grasp the meaning and significance of the popular revolution that erupted on October 17 and it cannot solve any of the underlying problems. To give just one small example, how can the camp controlling this era justify the dismal situation of electricity in Lebanon when ministers from it have been at the helm of the Ministry of Energy since 2008? This sector is costing the Lebanese state $2 billion a year in losses and fixing it can easily absorb a good chunk of Lebanon’s deficit. Is there a bigger corruption than the one in the electricity sector? Some might argue that there are plenty of other sectors where corruption is widespread but we cannot ignore the fact that the electricity sector has been under the domination of the Aoun camp for more than 10 years, always benefiting from a cover generously provided by Hezbollah. It is a party that cares less about what may happen to Lebanon and more about making it an Iranian “space.”Is Lebanon an Iranian “space” or not? This is the fundamental question that needs to be addressed right now. And yet Aoun chose not to answer this question in his anniversary speech. He simply disregarded the fact that the Lebanese know very well what they want. They want to end the “Hezbollah era,” which is responsible for bringing about US sanctions against Lebanese banks and for isolating Lebanon from its Arab environment.
To get out of its crisis, Lebanon needs a miracle. Unfortunately, it is not possible to bet on the present era to achieve this miracle for at least two reasons.
First, it’s hard to find among the political class people who are gutsy enough to examine the relation between the economic crisis and Hezbollah’s dominance over decision making in Lebanon, including who to have as president and how to form the cabinet. The second reason why this miracle is not possible under the current circumstances has to do with the fact that it is impossible to dissociate the components of the current era and Hezbollah. Hezbollah has not come all this way since October 31, 2016, to accept to back away a bit and agree to a cabinet made up of qualified and specialised individuals and headed by Saad Hariri or someone else with Hariri’s qualities. The fact remains, however, that until further notice, there is no other alternative to Hariri among the Sunnis in Lebanon, especially when it comes to opening channels of fruitful dialogue with the Arab world, the US administration and senior European officials concerned with Lebanese matters. Neither the Americans nor the Arab countries really capable of helping Lebanon are willing to deal with a government that includes Hezbollah ministers.
No one can deny that Hezbollah is in Lebanon to stay but these same sane persons cannot ignore the fact that Lebanon’s economy concerns all Lebanese and that the deposits in banks are for all Lebanese, including members of the Shia community that Hezbollah claims to have seized. In case the banking sector is exposed to any harm, there will be no discrimination between this Lebanese and the other based on their sects. The difficulty of the Lebanese situation is due to the fact that the “Hezbollah era” cannot overturn itself. That miracle requires politicians of another kind, people who can deal with the situation in a cool and rational manner and not fall prey to the illusion that Lebanon’s gas and oil will be flowing by tomorrow. Oil and gas specialists are saying that no gas will appear before 2029 at best. Lebanon is heading for a disaster, despite the high hopes raised by the popular revolution, which still needs to write a clear and reasonable list of demands. There may be a glimmer of hope at the end of the dark tunnel if all parties become convinced of the necessity to place authority in the hands of specialists who will tackle the economic problems with the help of Lebanon’s friends in the world. What must be understood is that these friends of Lebanon cannot deal with a country with a government that includes Hezbollah ministers. That’s all there is to it. Can Hezbollah’s era overturn itself and accept this last chance?

Sunday’s March of Clarity: Restating the revolution’s demands
Nessryn Khalaf/Annahar/December 01/2019
The aim was to remind everyone of what the protesters are actually requesting and desire to see as an outcome of this revolution.
BEIRUT: Since the dormant Lebanese politicians have proved to be inactive in fulfilling the demands of the distressed protesters, this Sunday’s demonstration was established as the Sunday March of Clarity (مسيرة أحد الوضوح). At 2 pm, protesters assembled in front of the National Museum, Sassine Square, and the Central Bank preparing to march to Sodeco. Then, at 3 pm, the steadfast protesters marched from Sodeco to Martyrs’ Square and Riad el Solh. Holding banners that read “our demands are clear, we want a technocratic government” and “national unity against sectarianism,” protesters once again asserted the pleas, which the government has turned a deaf ear to for the past 46 days.“Many political parties are trying to instill fear in the people’s hearts by bringing up the prospect of a new civil war, but we won’t let that happen,” Nada Karaki, a protester in Sodeco, expressed while waving the Lebanese flag.
Marwan el Helou, a demonstrator in Riad el Solh, told Annahar that “my wife and I are here today because we want to provide our children with a future that does not comprise of wars, corruption, unemployment, and immigration.”
The aim was to remind everyone of what the protesters are actually requesting and desire to see as an outcome of this revolution. That includes the establishment of a transitional government with exceptional legislative powers, whose members are not affiliated with any of the ruling political parties.
Many protesters expressed their dissent and irritation with the country’s feeble political and economic situation during the march, and Maria Abou Arraj, an economics graduate from AUB protesting in Martyrs’ Square, told Annahar that “immediate procedures need to be implemented to halt Lebanon’s severe economic collapse and protect citizens from drowning in a pond of poverty.”The zealous citizens also chanted and reemphasized their unity through anti-sectarian slogans like “we don’t want sectarianism” and “the government will not divide us.”
Their demands are plain and conspicuous, and while the government may be refusing to listen, they will not abandon their ardent cause.

Lebanon: Money Transfer Crisis Affects Foreign Workers
 Hanan Hamdan/Asharq Al-Awsat/December 01/2019
A few days ago, Bouzi, an Ethiopian worker, was unable to transfer a small sum to her family back home after learning that a money transfer company has placed a ceiling for financial transfers to $300 per week.
Bouzi told Asharq Al-Awsat she had to return the next day and send only $200 to her family. The Ethiopian girl is one of few foreign domestic workers who are still receiving their salaries in the US dollar. “The majority of foreign domestic workers are now being paid in the Lebanese Lira,” Zeina Ammar, a Lebanese activist with the Anti-Racism Movement, told Asharq Al-Awsat. She said the Movement encourages employers to pay those workers in the US dollar to help them avoid facing problems when transferring the money to their homeland. “A week ago, the money transfer companies accepted to transfer their salaries in the Lebanese Lira at the exchange rate of LL1,520 per $1. But, now, they are only accepting transfers in the US dollar, a move that prevented several workers to send money to their needy families or forced them to exchange their salaries at a rate of LL2,000 per $1,” Ammar said.
In Sidon, several money transfer firms were accepting sums the Lebanese Lira, however, they exchange those sums at a high rate, exceeding the LL1,508 set by the Central Bank.
Malak, a Lebanese woman from the southern city, said she had to pay an extra LL120,000 ($80) to the money transfer firm to be able to send LL450,000 ($300), the salary of her domestic helper, to Ethiopia.
What happens with the foreign domestic workers in Lebanon applies to all foreign workers who are paying the price of the currency crisis. Director of the Employees’ and Workers’ Unions in Lebanon (FENASOL), Castro Abdullah, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Most foreign workers at local factories and companies are now losing 30 to 40 percent of their salaries. Those workers have to exchange their salaries paid in the Lebanese Lira to the US dollar before transferring the sum to their families.”However, head of Public Relations at OMT Joyce Mouawad told Asharq Al-Awsat the company had not placed any ceiling or new measures on money transfers. She said OMT operates through Western Union and abides by international rules.

Lebanese Shi’ite Scholar Sami Khadra: I Apologize For The ‘Bad Image’ Of Lebanese Women As Revealed In Protests

MEMRI/December 01/2019
Lebanese Shi’ite Scholar Sheikh Sami Khadra responded to a viewer’s question on a religious TV show aired on Iranian Kawthar TV on November 20, 2019, about vetting online dating candidates. Khadra said that many people across the Arab world want to marry Lebanese women because Lebanon is the land of Jihad and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. However, he recommends that these men “take their time.” He wondered whether they were familiar with Lebanese women, “their mentality, their views, their clothes, their habits, their customs,” as revealed in the recent protests. Khadra continued to apologize to the Arabs and Muslims “for the bad image of Lebanese women”. He said that the entire Lebanese society was portrayed badly in the protests, especially the women, “their expressions, their clothes, their movements, their absurdity…” This video, which was also posted on Khadra’s Twitter account, generated angry reactions in Lebanon. Following the backlash, Khadra posted a video, in which he said that this did not apply to 95% of Lebanese women.
Sami Khadra: “We are experiencing a certain problem. Many brothers from across the Arab world call me to express their fascination with Lebanese women.”
Interviewer: “There is a certain general perspective…”
Sami Khadra: “Perhaps the reason is that Lebanon is the country of Jihad and resistance, the country of Hassan Nasrallah, and they see the mujahideen and so on… So they call and say that they want to marry a Lebanese woman. I get many such messages. If anyone starts a matchmaking office, he is bound to make good business. There is nothing to prevent them from getting married, but I tell them to take their time. I ask if they are familiar with Lebanese women’s mentality, their views, their clothes, their habits, their customs, their demands, their conduct… The way they mix with men in public… In Lebanon, we have many problems in this respect.”
Interviewer: “Right.”
Sami Khadra: “What exposed us the most is what happened in the past 10 days – the so-called Lebanese protest. I am very sad to say…”
Interviewer: “The image of women that was revealed…”
Sami Khadra: “I apologize to all the Arabs and Muslims for the bad image of Lebanese women portrayed during the demonstrations. Lebanese society as a whole was portrayed badly, and especially Lebanese women: Their expressions, their clothes, their movements, their absurdity…”
Interviewer: “Indeed, this was a comic play…”
Sami Khadra: “It was very shameful.”

Lebanese Rally against Iraq’s Crackdown on Protesters
Asharq Al-Awsat/December 01/2019
Dozens of people in protest-swept Lebanon staged a candlelit vigil outside Iraq’s embassy on Saturday to denounce the excessive use of force against demonstrators there. Participants at the Beirut observance raised pictures of Iraqi protesters who have been killed in an unprecedented anti-government movement. Some raised the Lebanese flag, while one woman wrapped the Iraqi tricolor around her shoulders, said AFP. Iraq’s grassroots protest movement has been the largest the country has seen in decades — but also the deadliest. More than 420 people have been killed and 15,000 others wounded since protests began on October 1, according to an AFP tally compiled from medics and an Iraqi rights commission. The toll spiked dramatically this week, when a crackdown by security forces left dozens dead in Baghdad, the city of Najaf and the southern hotspot of Nasiriyah. Nasiriyah is the birthplace of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, who vowed to resign on Friday. Lebanon has also seen an unprecedented anti-government protest movement since October 17. Layal Siblani, the organizer behind the vigil, said the spiraling violence in Iraq this past week prompted the show of solidarity.
“The uprising in Iraq and the uprising in Lebanon are one,” she told AFP. “A protester killed there is a protester killed here.” Like their counterparts in Iraq, Lebanese demonstrators are rallying against corruption, unemployment and poor public services. They are also pushing for an end to the kind of political system that prioritizes power-sharing between sects over good governance. Despite confrontations with security forces and supporters of established parties, protesters in Lebanon have largely been spared the violent crackdown seen in Iraq. But rights groups and the United Nations last week criticized Lebanese security forces for failing to protect protesters from attacks by backers of the Shiite Hezbollah and Amal movements. Amnesty International on Friday also urged the Lebanese army “to end arbitrary arrests” and torture of peaceful protesters following a wave of detentions. Lebanon and Iraq are ranked among the most corrupt countries in the region by anti-graft watchdog Transparency International. At the vigil on Saturday, a demonstrator who gave his name as Hussein said that in light of excesses committed by Lebanese security forces, protesters had a duty towards their peers in Iraq. “We have to stand in solidarity with our Iraqi counterparts who are being arrested and killed on a daily basis,” he said.

AMCD Commends UN Secretary General for Stance on Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon
AMCD/December 01/2019
The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy commends United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres for boldly calling for the Lebanese government to disarm Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. A new UN report has confirmed that Hezbollah is preventing the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) in southern Lebanon from operating in Hezbollah-controlled areas. In September, Hezbollah launched rockets against Israel’s defense forces in Northern Israel and the terror group is now preventing the UNIFIL from inspecting the area.
Said Secretary General Guterres, “I call upon the Government of Lebanon to take all actions necessary to ensure the full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), which require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon so that there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than those of the Lebanese State.”
“The Lebanese government must disarm Hezbollah or it will never regain full sovereignty over its territory,” said AMCD co-chair, John Hajjar. “Unfortunately, the government may not be strong enough to accomplish this alone and the UN peacekeeping force does not have the mandate to help with that mission. The UNIFIL was tasked with keeping the peace between Lebanon and Israel after the Lebanese government was supposed to have disarmed this terrorist organization. Unfortunately, Hezbollah never disarmed and so Iran now has control of vast swathes of Southern Lebanon.”
“No country can survive in the long-run with a foreign terrorist organization operating freely within its territory,” added AMCD co-chair, Tom Harb. “Iran has poured millions of dollars into Lebanon, employing Hezbollah fighters and supplying them with advanced weapons, including the rockets they fire into Israel. If Lebanon is to survive, its national armed forces must be strengthened while Iran’s forces are diminished.”
“We applaud President Trump for applying strong sanctions against Iran,” said AMCD vice-chair, Hossein Khorram. “The people of Iran are rising up in protest against their nation’s limited resources being lavished on terrorist groups in foreign countries. They’re tired of sacrificing for the mullah’s foreign adventures. They want to turn toward positive goals of national development and away from the mullahs’ obsession with destroying Israel.”

Hezbollah uses Germany to finance terrorism, weapons purchases – report
جيروسالم بوست: حزب الله يستخدم ألمانيا لتمويل الإرهاب ومشتريات الأسلحة
Jerusalem Post/December 01/2019
Some 30 mosques and cultural centers in Germany have links to Hezbollah, according to a 2019 Hamburg intelligence agency report.
The Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah uses a center in Berlin as well as other locations across Germany to recruit members and raise funds for terrorism and weapons purchases, according to a report by the Berlin-based Tagesspiegel newspaper.
Tagesspiegel on Saturday published a detailed exposé on how the Lebanese terrorist organization uses Germany for “money generated” illicit activities and those funds are “used for arms purchases and for financing attacks.”
According to the article, Hezbollah members “use Germany as a place for drug trafficking, trade in stolen cars and money laundering. The implications of the group for the drug business are well documented.”
The report said that Hezbollah’s “main routes now move from South America to Africa into the EU. Cocaine reaches Germany mainly via the ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg.”
Within the capital city of Berlin, “Hezbollah is also allowed to spread propaganda here in the Reuterstrasse, recruit new members, collect donations – and then forward them to Beirut,” Tagesspiegel reported.
The Islamic Center Imam Riza, a Shi’ite institution, is located on Reuter Street in the Berlin district of Neukölln. Berlin’s intelligence agency – the rough equivalent of Shin Bet – revealed in its 2019 report that 250 Hezbollah members live in the capital. A total of 1,050 Hezbollah members and supporters operate across Germany, according to other German intelligence reports.
Muhamad Abdi and Sebastian Leber, the Tagesspiegel journalists who wrote Saturday’s article, reported that the Islamist Tevekkül Erol, from the Islamic Center Imam Riza, preached against Israel and spreads Hezbollah propaganda on Twitter and Facebook. Erol circulates incitement messages from the Hezbollah leaders who are celebrated as “the right fighters” against the USA, they wrote. He has also posted the Hezbollah logo that depicts an upraised arm grasping an AK-47 assault rifle.
When asked by Tagesspiegel if he is a member of Hezbollah, Erol refused to comment.
The Berlin paper wrote that Erol is filled with anger as he scolds the “Zionists who kill our siblings in Palestine with bombs.”
The radical Islamist lashes out at the USA and Muslims who dare to conduct business with the “Zionists” or forge diplomatic relations with Israel, the report noted. It also said that Erol claimed that these Muslim who align themselves with the USA and Israel will regret their bad deeds.
He declared, “They will all end up in hell.”
The Tagesspiegel article reports that Erol spreads incitement online, including antisemitic conspiracy theories. A telling example, Erol contends that the Jews are behind the terrorist organization the Islamic State. Erol says that the slain Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is Jewish and his real name is Simaun Eliot.
The paper reported that a second building near the Islamic Center Imam Riza is a meeting and prayer place for supporters of Hezbollah. The association Al-Irschad is, according to security officials, a hot spot for Hezbollah members. The paper wrote that Islamists like Kassem R., who pledged his loyalty to Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah on Facebook, visits Al-Irschad. Kassem is a barber who posted photographs of his two sons in soldier’s uniforms, one of which was holding a firearm.
Some 30 mosques and cultural centers in Germany have links to Hezbollah, according to a 2019 Hamburg intelligence agency report.
“In Germany, there are currently about 30 known cultural and mosque associations in which a clientele regularly meets that is close to Hezbollah or its ideology,” wrote the intelligence agency.
The Jerusalem Post exclusively reported in August that a Hezbollah mosque in the German city of Münster posted a shocking video on its Facebook page announcing it was proud of terrorism and its allegiance to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
A Lebanese member of the Imam Mahdi Zentrum Shi’ite mosque in Münster declared: “We belong to the party of Ruhollah [Khomeini]. We have been accused of being terrorists – we are proud of terrorism.”
In July, the Post reported an increase of Hezbollah members in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where Münster is located. According to the intelligence document reviewed by the Post, the number of Hezbollah members climbed from 105 in 2017 to 110 in 2018 in North Rhine-Westphalia.
The Iranian regime supplies Hezbollah with funds and weapons and the Lebanese Shi’ite organization is Tehran’s chief strategic ally in the Middle East.
The Al-Mustafa Community Center in the northern German city-state of Bremen is a major hub for raising funds for Hezbollah, according to an intelligence report from the city-state of Bremen.
The German government has rejected appeals to outlaw Hezbollah’s so-called political wing from the country; the military wing was banned by the Germany and the European Union in 2013.
The Iranian regime supplies Hezbollah with funds and weapons and the Lebanese Shi’ite organization is Tehran’s chief strategic ally in the Middle East.