English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For April 14/2022
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Jesus Shares His Desciples The Passover Meal: For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 22/01-23./:”The festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present. Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’They asked him, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for it?’ ‘Listen,’ he said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ ” He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on April 13-14/2022
Thursday of the Holy Mysteries & the Last Supper: Rituals, Traditions, Values & PrinciplesظElias Bejjani/April 14/2022
US report on Lebanon cites political interference with courts, widespread official corruption
Lebanese remember civil war, as families of 'disappeared' still ask for justice
Bukhari holds talks with Aoun in Baabda
Court of Cassation dismisses one of recusal requests against Bitar
Kuwait envoy says ambassadors return indicates success of Kuwaiti initiative
UNIFIL patrol intercepted by residents in Blida
Lebanese athletes launch #TheUrbanAthletePodcast, in collaboration with UNIC
Geagea says 'Hizbullah disarmament, neutrality, reforms' in LF's electoral program
Joint committees discuss capital control law, to meet anew next week
Saudi, Kuwaiti Ambassadors Meet with Lebanon’s Political and Religious Leaders
Lebanon Disburses Funds to Temporarily Avert Bread Crisis
Saudi Arabia expresses support for humanitarian aid mechanism for Lebanon
With eyes on the presidency, Bassil reiterates support for Hezbollah’s weaponry
No monetary solution for Lebanon’s economic problem
Hussain Abdul-Hussain/House Of Wisdom/April 14/2022

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 13-14/2022
Iranian Commander Says Death of All US Leaders Would Not Avenge Soleimani Killing
Amnesty Accuses Iran of 'Deliberate' Denial of Healthcare to Prisoners
Russia says no escape for last defenders of Ukrainian port, prepares for new offensive
More than 1,000 Ukraine Marines Surrender in Key Port of Mariupol, Says Russia
Russia Says US Spreading Lies on Possible Chemical Attack in Ukraine
Biden, Zelensky discuss US support for Ukraine
Moscow threatens to strike Kyiv if 'attempts' to attack Russian territory continue
Fears Rise in Ukraine of Use of Chemical Weapons
Putin Vows War Will Continue as Russian Troops Mount in East
Polish, Baltic presidents see 'pain and suffering' in Ukraine
Palestinian father of 3 gunned down by Israeli forces in West Bank
240 Russian Air Strikes Target ISIS in Syrian Desert
Tunisian Union Opposes Presidential Preconditions for National Dialogue
Reports: US Special Envoy for Horn of Africa to Step Down Soon
Truck Hits Tourist Bus in Egypt, Kills 10

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 13-14/2022
Audio/Defense Minister Benny Gantz Discusses Israel's Strategic Challenges/
Benny Gantz/Washington Insitiute/April 13/ 2022
GOP senators warn Biden against taking Iran's IRGC off terror list/Elizabeth Hagedorn//Al-Monitor/ April 13/ 2022
Pope Francis Abandons Christ’s Cross to Appease Muslims/Raymond Ibrahim/April 13/ 2022
Egypt hopes Israeli tourists will make up losses from Ukraine war/Mohamed Saied/Al-Monitor/April 13/ 2022
Israel's Ultra-Orthodox not ready to take down Bennett government/Israel Hershkovitz/Al-Monitor/ April 13/ 2022
Erdogan plays to base with criticism of Tunisia/Fehim Tastekin/Al-Monitor/ April 13/ 2022
Ukraine War: The Moral Corruption of Germany's Political Elite/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/April 13, 2022
The Ukrainian Conflict between Crimes against Humanity and Stalemate/Charles Elias Chartouni/April 13/2022
Turkey, Egypt inch toward long-awaited normalization/Yasar Yakis/Arab News/April 13, 2022
Tunisia’s failed development policies/Riadh Bouazza/The Arab Weekly/April 14/2022

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on April 13-14/2022
Thursday of the Holy Mysteries & the Last Supper: Rituals, Traditions, Values & Principles
Elias Bejjani/April 14/2022
On the Thursday that comes before the "Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified, Christian Catholics all over the world, including our Maronite Eastern Church celebrates with prayers and intercessions the "Thursday of the Holy Mysteries", which is also known as the "Washing Thursday ", the "Covenant Thursday", and the "Great & Holy Thursday". It is the holy day feast that falls on the Thursday before Easter that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with His 12 Apostles as described in the four New Testament gospels. It is the fifth day of the last Lenten Holy Week, that is followed by the, "Good Friday", "Saturday Of The Light and "Easter Sunday".
Christianity in its essence and core is Love, Sacrifice, honesty, transparency, devotion, hard work and Humility. Jesus during the last supper with His 12 Apostles reiterated and stressed all these Godly values and principles. In this holy and message proclaiming context He executed the following acts :
He, ordained His Apostles as priests, and asked them to proclaim God's message. “You have stayed with me all through my trials; 29 and just as my Father has given me the right to rule, so I will give you the same right. 30 You will eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom, and you will sit on thrones to rule over the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22/28 and 29)
He, taught His Apostles and every body else, that evil temptation and betrayal can hit all those who detach and dissociate themselves from God, do not fear Him, lack faith, lose hope and worship earthly treasures. He showed them by example that even a disciple that He personally had picked and choose (Judas, the Iscariot) has fell a prey to Satan's temptation. “But, look! The one who betrays me is here at the table with me! The Son of Man will die as God has decided, but how terrible for that man who betrays him!" Luke 22/21)
He, washed His Apostles' feet to teach them by example modesty, devotion and humility. “So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13/12-16).
Modesty was stressed and explained by Jesus after His Apostles were arguing among themselves who is the greatest: "
"An argument broke out among the disciples as to which one of them should be thought of as the greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the pagans have power over their people, and the rulers claim the title ‘Friends of the People.’ But this is not the way it is with you; rather, the greatest one among you must be like the youngest, and the leader must be like the servant. Who is greater, the one who sits down to eat or the one who serves? The one who sits down, of course. But I am among you as one who serves." (Luke 22/24 till 27)
Thursday of the "Holy Mysteries", is called so because in His Last Supper with the 12 disciples, Jesus Christ established the Eucharist and Priesthood Sacraments when "He received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink at all again from the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God comes.” "He took bread, broke it and gave it to the disciples saying: This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me. And when He Likewise, took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you".
Thursday of the Holy Mysteries (Secrets-Sacraments) is the heart of the last Lenten holy week, in which the Maronite Catholic Church lives with reverence and devotion the Lord's Last Supper spirit and contemplation through prayers and deeply rooted religious rituals and traditions:
The Patriarch prays over and blesses the chrism (Al-Myroun), as well as the oil of baptism and anointing that are to are distributed on all parishes and churches.
During the mass that is held on this Holy Day, the priest washes the feet of twelve worshipers, mainly children (symbolizing the apostles numbers). Jesus washed His disciples feet and commanded them to love each other and follow his example in serving each other.
Worshipers visit and pray in seven Churches. This ritual denotes to the completion of the Church's Seven sacraments (Secrets) : Priesthood, Eucharist, Holy Oil, Baptism, Confirmations, anointing and Service.
This tradition also denotes to the seven locations that Virgin Mary's went to look for Her Son, Jesus, after she learned about His arrest. The detention place, The Council of the Priests, twice the Pilate's headquarters, twice the Herod Headquarters, till She got to the Calvary.
Some Christian scholars believe that this tradition was originated in Rome where early pilgrims visited the seven pilgrim churches as an act of penance. They are Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul-outside-the-Walls, Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls, Holy Cross-in-Jerusalem, and traditionally Saint Sebastian Outside the Walls. Pope John Paul II replaced St. Sebastian with the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Divine Love for the jubilee year of 2000.
The Mass of the Lord's Supper is accompanied by the ringing of bells, which are then silent until the Easter Vigil. Worshipers used to kneel and pray the rosary in front of the Eucharist (Blessed Sacrament) all Thursday night. The Blessed Sacrament remains exposed all night, while worshipers are encouraged to stay in the church as much as they can praying, meditating upon the Mystery of Salvation, and participating in the “agony of Gethsemane” (Garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives) in Jerusalem where Jesus spent his night in prayer before His crucifixion on Good Friday.
After the homily washing of feet the service concludes with a procession taking the Blessed Eucharist (Sacrament) to the place of reposition. The altar is later stripped bare, as are all other altars in the church except the Altar of Repose.
Thursday of the "Holy Mysteries", is called so because in His Last Supper with the 12 disciples, Jesus Christ established the Eucharist and Priesthood Sacraments when "He received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink at all again from the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God comes.” "He took bread, broke it and gave it to the disciples saying: This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me. And when He Likewise, took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you".
Jesus ordained His disciples as priests of the New Testament when he said to them during the Last Supper: "But you are those who have continued with me in my trials. I confer on you a kingdom, even as my Father conferred on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. You will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Before Celebrating the Resurrection Day (Easter) worshipers live the "Paschal Mystery" through the Thursday Of the Sacraments, Good Friday and Saturday Of The Light.
Because He loves us and wants us to dwell in His Eternal Heaven, Jesus Christ for our sake willingly suffered all kinds of torture, pain, humiliation and died on the Cross to pave our way for repentance and salvation.
Let us pray on this Holy Day that we always remember Jesus' love and sacrifices and live our life in this context of genuine, faith, love, meekness and forgiveness.

US report on Lebanon cites political interference with courts, widespread official corruption
Naharnet/April 14/2022
The U.S. department of state has stressed, in a report on Human Rights Practices, significant human rights issues in Lebanon. The report cited "serious political interference with the judiciary" and "serious high-level and widespread official corruption."It also mentioned "serious restrictions on free expression and media; violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and the existence of the worst forms of child labor.""Although the legal structure provides for prosecution and punishment of officials who committed human rights abuses and corruption, enforcement remained a problem, and government officials enjoyed a measure of impunity for human rights abuses, including evading or influencing judicial processes," the report said.The report also cited "unofficial detention facilities by Hizbullah, the assassination of Hizbullah critic Lokman Slim, armed clashes between the group and Khaldeh Arab tribes, and killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri."

Lebanese remember civil war, as families of 'disappeared' still ask for justice
Naharnet/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
April 13 is a gloomy date for the Lebanese seeing as it marks the start of the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war. Today, families of the disappeared in Lebanon’s Civil War gathered in Bayt Beirut -- a historic museum that commemorates the civil war -- to ask for justice, as an independent national commission has failed to investigate what happened to the disappeared and to question former officials. An estimated 17,000 Lebanese were kidnapped or "disappeared" during the civil war of 1975-90, according to Human Rights Watch. HRW also reports that "scores of citizens and Palestinians disappeared in Lebanon after 1990 during Syria’s military presence in the country, and are known or believed to have been transferred to detention in Syria." "At the end of the war, the Taef accord made no mention to the fate of the thousands of disappeared. In 1991, the militias were disbanded without being constrained to provide any information about the persons they had kidnapped or release any prisoners they may be holding," the Committee of the Families of Kidnapped and Disappeared says. The main goal of the families is to find and release the people still detained in Syria and Israel, and to receive the remains of the dead in order to bury them. They have contacted officials since 1982, "Prime Ministers, Presidents, Ministers of Justice, the Commission for Human Rights in the Parliament," Committee founder Wadad Halwani said. In 2014, Lebanon ruled that families had the right to the truth about what happened to their missing relatives (right to know), but according to the Committee’s activists, the investigations were "superficial and fragmented." Meanwhile politicians like Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil, ex-PM Saad Hariri, and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea posted tweets about the civil war anniversary. "The suffering of the Lebanese is being repeated in different ways... We will not forget," tweeted Hariri. Geagea posted a tweet that said "we remember it, while others would love to repeat it." For his part, Bassil stressed the importance of protecting civil peace through justice, freedom and dialogue.

Bukhari holds talks with Aoun in Baabda
Naharnet/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari met Wednesday with President Michel Aoun in Baabda to discuss the latest developments. Aoun and Bukhari reportedly discussed reviving the Lebanese-Saudi relations as the Saudi Ambassador informed Aoun about the mechanism of a Saudi-French fund aimed at providing humanitarian support to Lebanon.Bukhari will also meet today with Prime Minister Najib Miqati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, media reports said. The Saudi Ambassador had met with Foreign Minister Bassam Mawlawi as he hosted the incumbent and former foreign ministers over a Ramadan Iftar banquet on Tuesday at the Saudi Embassy in Yarze. From Yarze, Mawlawi confirmed Lebanon's commitment to prevent any harmful act against the Gulf.

Court of Cassation dismisses one of recusal requests against Bitar
Naharnet/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
The Fourth Chamber of the Court of Cassation on Wednesday decided to dismiss one of the recusal requests filed against Beirut port blast investigator Judge Tarek Bitar, media reports said. The request had been filed by the family of blast victim Ali Sawwan. Al-Jadeed TV said the chamber rejected the request because it has no jurisdiction to look into the lawsuit. Bitar’s investigation will however remain suspended seeing as there are several other legal motions that have been filed by various parties. The August 4, 2020 monster explosion at Beirut’s port killed around 231 people, wounded around 7,000 and devastated entire neighborhoods of the capital.

Kuwait envoy says ambassadors return indicates success of Kuwaiti initiative
Naharnet/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
Kuwaiti Ambassador to Lebanon Abdul-Al al-Qinai announced Wednesday that the recent restoration of diplomatic ties between Lebanon and some Gulf countries and the return of their ambassadors to the country are “an indication that the Kuwaiti initiative has succeeded.”This also means that “the two parties in brotherly Lebanon and the Gulf have agreed that the history and the fate that bring them together are more important than anything else,” Qinai added, after talks at the Grand Serail with Prime Minister Najib Miqati. Hoping that the recent spat has been a “summer’s cloud,” Qinai said the ambassadors’ return “will lead to further rapprochement and cooperation.”Miqati for his part stressed “the firmness of the relations between Lebanon and Kuwait,” thanking the Gulf country and its government for their “permanent support for Lebanon and their efforts to restore the purity and vitality of Lebanese-Gulf ties.”

UNIFIL patrol intercepted by residents in Blida
Naharnet/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
A UNIFIL patrol belonging to the French contingent was intercepted Wednesday in the southern town of Blida, al-Jadeed TV said.
The patrol was passing in a narrow internal road, accompanied by a Lebanese Army vehicle, when it got stuck in an alleyway, the TV network said. One of the UNIFIL vehicles then passed over the surface of a water well near the town’s mosque, which resulted in its collapse, al-Jadeed added.
“Consequently, residents gathered and intercepted the patrol, demanding a compensation for the damage,” the TV network said, adding that the UNIFIL patrol was allowed to continue its trip after pledging to compensate for the damaged well.

Lebanese athletes launch #TheUrbanAthletePodcast, in collaboration with UNIC
Naharnet/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
On the occasion of International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, a group of Lebanese professional athletes launched Wednesday, in collaboration with the United Nations Information Center in Beirut (UNIC Beirut) a podcast in Arabic dedicated to sports.
In its 12 episodes, the podcast focuses on the role of physical activity and sports in improving mental health. It also tackles how the practice of physical activity is a fundamental right for all and how it contributes to education, human development, and healthy lifestyles.
The podcast aims at raising awareness about the connection between sports and education, health, human rights and women empowerment. It also aims at influencing behaviors and galvanizing action within sports, as well as inspiring people to consider sports as a valuable tool to overcome any obstacle or crisis. The host, (2019 Wushu World Champion Michel Zammar) and co-host (his coach Ryan Merheb), discuss with high-level Lebanese and Arab athletes the challenges they faced throughout the years, their athletic accomplishments, and give recommendations to young athletes and sports lovers and fans.
The first episode features Fitness and Health Coach Joanna Salameh with whom they highlight the benefits of sports for mental health. In this context, Salameh invited everyone to watch the show, stressing that “wellness is a journey made up of daily conscious healthy practices and a balanced mindset,” saying she will be giving tips that will help everyone --including the youth and elderly -- build a healthy lifestyle. “Being sportsmen ourselves, we are aware of the struggles that the Lebanese and Arab athletes are facing while chasing their dreams, so we would like to help them by providing a platform to spread awareness, educate, and share knowledge and experience in the field of sports,” the host said. In her turn, UNIC Beirut Director Margo Helou highlighted the importance of sports and how it has played an important role in all societies and acted as a strong communication platform that can be used to promote a culture of peace and encourage social inclusion. Helou invited more women and girls to participate in sports as athletes and not as spectators only: “Physical activity can also help foster gender equality and promote equal participation of girls and women in sports.”
The Podcast can be watched on Railway Station Web TV (http://www.railwaystation.live/) and on UNIC Beirut’s Youtube Channel (www.youtube.com/UNICBeirut1)

Geagea says 'Hizbullah disarmament, neutrality, reforms' in LF's electoral program
Naharnet/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea announced Wednesday the LF's program for the upcoming parliamentary elections, urging the Lebanese voters to hold accountable those who have been ruling the country by voting against them in the upcoming polls.
Geagea accused Hizbullah of "dominating the political, strategic and security decisions in Lebanon," and of "speaking on behalf of the Shiites." "The Shiites are Lebanese like us and will benefit from our work, because they are the most deprived despite the heroic victories that Hizbullah talks about," Geagea said. He added that he is not against a real resistance, accusing Hizbullah of "exploiting the concept of resistance." Geagea stressed that "only the state must be armed and only the state must take peace and war decisions." He said that the solution is in implementing the U.N. resolutions and in the maritime border demarcation. He added that Lebanon must preserve its "positive neutrality."Geagea blamed the Lebanese leaders for the crisis, claiming that the LF had asked for reforms before the crisis and promising that his bloc will work to implement these reforms. "There are no magical solutions," Geagea said, citing an agreement with the IMF and a forensic audit as required reforms.

Joint committees discuss capital control law, to meet anew next week
Naharnet/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
The joint parliamentary committees convened Wednesday in Parliament to study a capital control draft law before referring it to Parliament’s general assembly. The National News Agency said the session ended without the approval of the draft law as amendments protecting the rights of depositors were introduced to Article 1. "Another session will be held next Wednesday," NNA added. Hizbullah's MP Hassan Fadlallah had said at the beginning of the session that essential amendments were required to make sure the law would protect depositors' rights. "We support the capital control law, but it requires amendments," Fadlallah said. MP Ali Darwish had said there is no consensus about the capital control law, as some MPS are supporting it while others are opposing it. "The law might be subject to intrinsic amendments," he told al-Jadeed on Wednesday. The adoption of a capital control law is one of the reforms requested by the International Monetary Fund to financially help crisis-hit Lebanon. An earlier version of the draft law had been recently rejected by the joint parliamentary committees, which prompted the government to send an amended version. On Friday Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri referred the amended version to the joint parliamentary committees to study it before referring it to parliament’s general assembly.

Saudi, Kuwaiti Ambassadors Meet with Lebanon’s Political and Religious Leaders
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
The Saudi and Kuwaiti ambassadors have visited Lebanon's political and religious figures to address the country's needs. The Saudi Ambassador, Waleed Bukhari, and Kuwaiti Ambassador Abdul-Aal al-Qinai arrived in Beirut last Friday after the Saudi Foreign Ministry announced in a statement that its Ambassador returned in response to calls by "moderate" Lebanese political forces. The ministry also explained that its Ambassador was going back to Lebanon after remarks by Prime Minister Najib Mikati regarding the government's commitment to take the necessary and required measures to "enhance cooperation with the Kingdom and Gulf Cooperation Council countries and to stop all political, military, and security activities affecting the Kingdom and GCC countries." The Kingdom stressed the importance of Lebanon's return to its Arab origins, represented by its national institutions and agencies, for the country to enjoy peace and security and for its people to enjoy stability. The Saudi Ambassador met former Prime Minister Tammam Salam, while Kuwait's Ambassador visited the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian. Lebanese sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Lebanon would receive a humanitarian aid package from the fund formed in cooperation with France amid serious discussions on securing the necessary support for the Lebanese military and security forces. Bukhari briefed Salam on the efforts to help the Lebanese people in light of the country’s financial and economic crisis.
Salam pointed out that Bukhari conveyed the greetings and wishes of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to all the Lebanese because the Kingdom has always had close relations with Lebanon. The former PM indicated that Saudi Arabia has always helped and supported Lebanon, and the diplomat briefed him on all the efforts the Kingdom has been exerting in cooperation with other countries to help the Lebanese.
On the parliamentary elections, Salam said: “We hope that the vote will be an opportunity for positive change for Lebanon and the Lebanese people.”Salam asserted that the Lebanese people consider the Kingdom their second country. “We aspire to boost our relationship with the Kingdom and strengthen our Arab position on every level and in every field."Bukhari wished "the Arab and Islamic world, especially our people in Lebanon, all the blessings of the holy month of Ramadan."The Kuwaiti Ambassador visited the Grand Mufti and affirmed his country's support for Lebanon, hoping its crises would be resolved. Derian praised the initiative taken by the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister to restore fraternal ties between Lebanon, and Arab and Gulf countries. He lauded the "leading role of Kuwait in Lebanon and the region." Derian extended a greeting to all the Arab brothers, stressing that Lebanon will remain loyal, honest, and keen on its national interest and the interest of Arab countries. Kuwait plays a leading role in uniting Arab countries and ranks to confront regional and international challenges that threaten the Arab region. The Kuwaiti Ambassador also visited Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib. After the meeting, he wished Lebanon and its people prosperity, success, and stability.

Lebanon Disburses Funds to Temporarily Avert Bread Crisis
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
Lebanon's government has agreed to disburse $15 million to temporarily resolve growing bread shortages in the country, Economy Minister Amin Salam told Reuters, while saying that the funds would only last a few weeks. Long lines had begun forming outside bakeries across the country since Monday after industry insiders warned that the government had not extended a long-promised credit line for the subsidized good. "I've been looking around since the morning but I couldn't find any bread - there's none at all," Mohammad Mustapha, one shopper in the southern city of Sidon, told Reuters. "I have small children to feed, and it's Ramadan," he said, referring to the holy month for Muslims in which day-long fasts are broken with evening meals. Salam said the government would disburse $15.3 million in credit to importers as a "solution to the issue of subsidized bread". "This will give us a period of about two to three weeks before we need to open another credit line, which we had requested at $21 million," Salam said. He said the government was not currently considering lifting bread subsidies and would instead seek a $150 million agreement with the World Bank to improve food security because in the long term "we won't be able to subsidize anything, much less bread". Lebanon is heavily reliant on food imports and pays for them in dollars, which have become increasingly difficult to obtain since its economy crashed in 2019. Since then, the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value while food prices have gone up more than 11-fold, according to the World Food Program. The bread shortage has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, which supplies most of Lebanon's wheat, and Beirut's inability to store wheat reserves as its largest silos were destroyed in the 2020 Beirut port blast. "We don't have silos and we don't have money," said Ghassan Bou Habib, vice president of Wooden Bakery, one of the country's largest bakery networks. "Bread will become a luxury item – it will become an expensive commodity,"

Saudi Arabia expresses support for humanitarian aid mechanism for Lebanon
Najia Houssari/Arab News/April 13, 2022
BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia has expressed its support for the people of Lebanon and its desire to bolster ties between the two nations following the return of its envoy to Beirut. Walid Bukhari, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, told Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Wednesday that “the Kingdom is keen on helping the Lebanese people during difficult circumstances and strengthening relations between the two countries.” According to the president’s media office, the two men discussed bilateral relations and Bukhari told Aoun about “the mechanism of the Saudi-French joint fund aimed at providing humanitarian support and achieving stability and development in Lebanon.” Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf states recalled their ambassadors from Lebanon in October in protest against insulting statements made by former Information Minister George Qordahi regarding the war in Yemen.
Bukhari last met Aoun in March 2021. That meeting took place after a failed attempt to form a government led by former Premier Saad Hariri and the exchange of accusations of disrupting the process between Hariri and Aoun.
Since returning to Beirut, Bukhari has held talks with religious authorities, current and former prime ministers and interior ministers, foreign diplomats and other politicians.
Kuwaiti Ambassador Abdul-Al Sulaiman Al-Qenaei has also returned to Beirut. He said after meeting Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Wednesday that “restoring diplomatic relations and the return of ambassadors indicate the success of the Kuwaiti initiative.”
He added that both Lebanon and the Gulf states had mutually agreed that their long history was above everything else and that “what happened is in the past and the return of ambassadors will lead to further rapprochement and cooperation that benefit the brotherly countries.”
Wednesday’s developments coincided with the 47th anniversary of the start of the civil war in Lebanon. Hariri tweeted: “The suffering of the Lebanese is repeated in different forms.”Meanwhile, the joint parliamentary committees were unable to approve a draft Lebanese capital control law on Wednesday.
Ibrahim Kanaan, chair of the Finance and Budget Committee, said: “We are making amendments to the current draft.”Politicians have failed to pass the law since 2019 when Lebanon descended into a financial crisis that has paralyzed its banking system and frozen depositors out of their US dollar accounts. Formal capital controls are a policy recommendation of the International Monetary Fund, from which Lebanon hopes to secure an aid package. Lawmaker Bilal Abdullah said the draft contained “defects and needs amendments.”He told Arab News: “The conditions of the IMF are harsh … How will we face people if the flour and medicines are no longer subsidized? What is the point of competing for parliamentary seats in a bankrupt country?
“Some people are preventing any progress toward the country’s recovery plan. However, some are forgetting that the country is bankrupt, and we must not stop negotiations with the IMF.”Pressure is mounting on last week’s preliminary agreement between an IMF team and Lebanese authorities to implement the fund’s conditions to prevent a complete financial collapse. The Depositors Outcry Association protested in Beirut against the draft capital control law. Alaa Khorshid, its head, said: “We cannot accept the theft of our money followed by the enactment of a law to protect the thieves.” In another development, the US Department of State’s report about human rights in Lebanon referred to reliable information about “serious political interference with the judiciary and judicial affairs and imposing severe restrictions on the freedom of expression and media, including violence, threats of violence, arrests, unjustified prosecutions against journalists, censorship and the existence of laws criminalizing defamation, severe restrictions on internet freedom and the forced return of refugees to a country where their lives or freedom are threatened.” The report mentioned “the presence of serious high-level and widespread official corruption” and added that “government officials enjoyed a measure of impunity for human rights abuses, including evading or influencing judicial processes.” The report also cited “unofficial detention facilities by the terrorist Hezbollah party and Palestinian militias.”

With eyes on the presidency, Bassil reiterates support for Hezbollah’s weaponry
Arab News/April 13, 2022
The head of Lebanon’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) Gebran Bassil, voiced his support for Hezbollah’s weaponry, a day after the reconciliation, led by the Iran-backed Shia movement, between the FPM and the Marada movement, led by Suleiman Franjieh. Hezbollah said in a statement Saturday that the movement’s chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had held a meeting with Bassil and Franjieh over a Ramadan Iftar banquet in the presence of a number of senior officials. In a television statement Monday, Bassil said “Hezbollah’s weapons formed a balance that made us able to negotiate the issue of maritime borders with Israel,” noting that he is against the use of these weapons when it comes to conflicts outside Lebanon. Observers said that Bassil is using the issue of Hezbollah's weapons to boost his electoral chances and serve the interests of his party. Bassil had previously criticised Hezbollah’s weapons as the political disputes on government formation raged on between the Shia movement and the FPM.
With the approach of the parliamentary elections scheduled for May 15, Bassil has, however, adjusted his compass and made yet another shift, by voicing his support for Hezbollah’s weaponry for fear of angering the Iran-backed Shia movement. If Bassil loses the support of Hezbollah in the upcoming elections, he might suffer defeat, observers say. In past elections, Hezbollah’s support for Bassil and the FPM enhanced the fortunes of what is described as the Lebanon's largest Christian party in the country. For the upcoming parliamentary elections, Bassil hopes for continued support that will boost the FPM’s chances of winning more seats and help him succeed in his aspiration to become the next president.is successor, observers say, has been a top concern for current president Michel Aoun, who has not hidden his desire to see Bassil, his son-in-law, elected in his place. Bassil, who denies his intention to run for the pesidency, said, "As long as President Michel Aoun is in the Republican Palace, I will not address this point."Any support for the next presidential candidate depends on the results of the parliamentary elections. When Hezbollah backed Aoun, the latter was the head of the largest parliamentary bloc. Observers expect the Free Patriotic Movement led by Bassil to lose a large number of seats in the parliamentary elections, after the FPM’s popularity dwindled among Christians, who are now favouring the Lebanese Forces party led by Samir Geagea.
Such factors, according to analysts, prompted Bassil to raise pressure on Hezbollah in the hope of obtaining an advance pledge that he will succeed Aoun, even if his parliamentary bloc suffers losses in the next parliament. Hezbollah, however, wants to deal pragmatically with the results of the upcoming elections, in which the Shia movement is expected to maintain the size of its parliamentary bloc, while its current ally, the FPM, is unlikely to maintain the same electoral weight. Many Lebanese hold Aoun and his son-in-law partly responsible for the disastrous economic and social situation in the country, especially as Aoun's tenure is nearing its end without any significant achievements. Lebanese political sources said that Hezbollah's refusal to support Bassil as a candidate to succeed Michel Aoun, whose term ends next October, has been the main reason behind the repeated past attacks levelled by the FPM’s leader against Hezbollah. However, the meeting that brought together Bassil with Nasrallah and Franjieh on Saturday has reportedly mended fences. A member of the Democratic Gathering bloc, MP Wael Abu Faour, said that “the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gibran Bassil, will be the March 8 candidate for the presidency, not the head of the Marada movement, Suleiman Franjieh,” noting, “of course, we will not elect Gibran Bassil to the presidency.”He revealed that “President Michel Aoun is exclusively concerned about securing Gebran Bassil's political future.”
Abu Faour's statements came after the meeting that brought Nasrallah together with Bassil and Franjieh.

No monetary solution for Lebanon’s economic problem
Hussain Abdul-Hussain/House Of Wisdom/April 14/2022
The International Monetary Fund offers Lebanon a roadmap to more misery
Before parliament, late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri repeatedly rebuffed calls for unpegging the national currency from the US dollar, including calls that came from the IMF. Last week, Beirut signed an agreement in which it promised to let go of the peg regime that collapsed in 2019.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded last week a Staff-Level Agreement (SLA) with the Lebanese government for a “comprehensive economic reform program aiming to rebuild the economy.” The IMF plan rehashes older proposals that Lebanon’s late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri once turned down. The IMF plan also avoids dealing with the main drag on Lebanon’s economic growth: The existence of the Hezbollah militia that undermines the country’s sovereignty, stability and – most importantly for foreign investments – predictability.
An SLA is concluded at the bureaucratic level and remains subject to the approval of the IMF management and Executive Board, “pending several critical reforms” that the Lebanese government promised to undertake “ahead of the IMF meeting.”
Anyone who knows Lebanon understands that Beirut – with its sovereignty undermined by Hezbollah that uses the bureaucracy to reward its enablers – is unlikely to implement meaningful reform. Lebanon’s SLA agreement with the IMF was most likely inked as an election publicity stunt by incumbent rulers who are competing in the coming parliamentary elections, scheduled for mid-May.
But even if the IMF plan is ever implemented, it is near impossible to arrest the free fall of Lebanon’s economy. The plan is premised on Lebanon’s establishment of a “credible and transparent monetary and exchange rate system,” economic lingo for unpegging the country’s national currency, the Lira, from the USD.
Between 1993 and 2019, the Lebanese Central Bank pegged the dollar at 1500 Lebanese Liras. The architect of this policy was Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005. A UN tribunal convicted at least three top Hezbollah officials in the assassination.
Hariri was the most visionary leader that Lebanon ever saw since independence in 1943. He believed he could turn Lebanon into a leading services economy, exporting engineering, banking, education and healthcare while attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and millions of tourists.
Hariri’s vision was incumbent on regional peace, including with Lebanon’s neighbor to the south, Israel. But if peace was unattainable, the late prime minister believed he could work with a long-term truce that guaranteed Lebanon’s security and stability, and therefore economic growth.
Hariri was forced out of government in 1998 and retook the premiership in 2000 on the back of a sweeping electoral victory. Lebanon at the time was facing economic trouble and the IMF recommended that the country unpeg the lira from the dollar.
Before parliament in 2001, Hariri stood defiant. He insisted that pegging the lira was essential for the trust of foreign investors, for a stable business environment and for national social safety since depreciation would make those salaried in lira poorer. The Ministry of Finance, under then Finance Minister Fouad Siniora, released the “the philosophy of the 2001 budget,” in 100 pages, which stipulated that the cornerstone of Hariri’s economic policy was “maintaining the stability of the exchange rate.”
Hariri argued that the IMF’s recommendation to unpeg national exchange rate did not help Argentina and Turkey, and that if unpegging the currency was wise, Lebanon’s opposition led by then Prime Minister Salim Hoss and Finance Minister George Qorm should have done so during their two years in power.
But Hariri’s plan was not to peg the currency in the absence of growth, which grinds to a halt during war or instability. In April 1996, war broke out between Hezbollah and Israel, instead of rallying behind Hezbollah, a brave Hariri dissented and said that the only solution was for Israel to withdraw from south Lebanon. The would end the vicious cycle of war, Hariri said. “If Israel withdraws, Hezbollah has no legitimate reason to exist and fight,” he told CNN, adding that “it was time to rein in Hezbollah for the good of Lebanon.”
Israel took Hariri’s advice and withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, but Hezbollah did not disarm, forcing Hariri to start rounds of dialogue with the party’s leader Hassan Nasrallah to chart a course of action for the disbanding of the pro-Iran militia. Instead of heeding Hariri’s advice, Hezbollah killed Hariri in 2005.
Hezbollah’s takeover of Lebanon, its participation in wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen and its daily threats of war with Israel, repulsed FDIs and tourism, depressed the country’s services and caused brain drain.
After 2005, the Lebanese Central Bank maintained the peg, but in the absence of growth, it was forced to hike interest rates to unsustainable levels to replenish its Foreign Currency (FX) reserves. Those who bought the central bank’s bonds were local banks, often using money of their depositors. After this Ponzi Scheme emptied all pockets, everything came crashing down. The banks became insolvent and unable to pay back deposits. Most Lebanese families lost their life savings.
Without foreign currency, the country lost its ability to import its basic needs, including wheat and energy, causing shortages, long lines at gas stations, empty drugstores, and severe electricity cuts.
If that’s not enough, the IMF wants the Lebanese government to unpeg the “tariff dollar.” Beirut still calculates its import tariffs on the old 1500 exchange rate, not the market rate which hovers around 25,000. If the government does so, prices in a country that heavily relies on imports will shoot high, making them even more unaffordable to the general population.
The IMF also recommends that Lebanon restructures its debt, that is to say “giving Lebanese depositors a haircut” wherein they lose all or most of their live savings. The government then opens a new page and resumes vacuuming whatever wealth is left in the hands of the hapless Lebanese.
If Lebanon implements these “reforms,” it will receive $3 billion. Before the government defaulted on its bonds in March 2020, Lebanon’s national debt stood at around $100 billion.
Rafic Hariri was right. The problem was not the exchange rate. The problem was not “reining in Hezbollah for good.” Hariri lost his life when he tried to do so.
The IMF does seem to have listened to what Hariri once said. Lebanon’s problem is not monetary. It is economic. The country’s economy needs to grow, and that’s impossible with the continued existence odf the Hezbollah militia. Monetary fixes will not change much, but will only make the Lebanese poorer and give a false illusion of working toward a solution.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 13-14/2022
Iranian Commander Says Death of All US Leaders Would Not Avenge Soleimani Killing
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
The killing of all American leaders would not be enough to avenge the death of Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general said. Soleimani was killed in January 2020 by the US military while on a visit to Iraq. Iran vowed a "crushing revenge" on all those responsible for his assassination. "If all American leaders are killed, this will still not avenge the blood of Soleimani. We have to follow Soleimani's path and avenge him through other methods," Mohammad Pakpour, ground forces commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said. Soleimani was Iran's most powerful military commander, leading Tehran's operations across the Middle East. He was killed at Baghdad airport in a strike ordered by then US President Donald Trump. Pakpour's comments come as Iran and world powers try to tackle stumbling blocks in talks in Vienna on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, which have stalled.One of the unresolved issues is whether Washington would remove the Revolutionary Guards from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list, as demanded by Tehran in order for the deal to be revived.

Amnesty Accuses Iran of 'Deliberate' Denial of Healthcare to Prisoners
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
Rights group Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Iran of deliberately denying life-saving medical care to prisoners, saying it had confirmed 96 cases since 2010 of detainees dying after a lack of treatment, AFP reported. The report by Amnesty comes after several high profile cases this year alone of prisoners who died in custody due to what activists say was a failure by Iran to properly treat their illnesses. These include the Iranian poet and filmmaker Baktash Abtin who died in January after contracting Covid-19 and Shokrollah Jebeli, an 82-year-old dual Australian-Iranian national, who died in March after a succession of medical problems. Amnesty said such deaths by deliberate denial of healthcare amounted to an extrajudicial execution while the failure of Iran to provide accountability were another example of the systematic impunity in the country. "The Iranian authorities' chilling disregard for human life has effectively turned Iran's prisons into a waiting room of death for ill prisoners, where treatable conditions tragically become fatal," said Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. "Deaths in custody resulting from the deliberate denial of healthcare amount to arbitrary deprivation of life, which is a serious human rights violation under international law," she added. Amnesty said it had confirmed the deaths in custody of 92 men and four women in 30 prisons in 18 provinces across Iran in such circumstances since January 2010 but these cases are "illustrative, rather than exhaustive" and the true number of cases likely to be higher. The group said it had documented how prison officials frequently deny prisoners access to adequate healthcare, including diagnostic tests, regular check-ups, and post-operative care.
"This leads to worsening health problems, inflicts additional pain and suffering on sick prisoners, and ultimately causes or contributes to their untimely deaths." It said 64 out of the 96 prisoners died in prison rather than hospitals. In the vast majority of cases, prisoners who died were young or middle aged, it said. A large proportion of the deaths took place in prisons in northwestern Iran that house many inmates from the Kurdish and Azerbaijani minorities and in southeastern Iran where prisoners mostly belong to Iran's Baluch minority. Abtin, 47, who had been convicted on national security charges and was seen by activists as a political prisoner, died of Covid-19 about six weeks after he first displayed symptoms in Tehran's Evin prison, Amnesty said. "The authorities caused or contributed to his death by deliberately denying him timely access to specialized medical treatment at a facility well-equipped to deal with cases of Covid-19 after he fell ill with Covid-19 in early December 2022," Amnesty said. It said Jebeli had died after being subjected to "more than two years of torture and other ill treatment through the denial of access to adequate specialized medical care" for conditions including kidney stones, a history of strokes, sciatica in his legs, high blood pressure, and an umbilical hernia. Jebeli, who had been imprisoned in a financial dispute, died in hospital where he had been transferred after he was found unresponsive by other prisoners and had lost all control of his bladder and bowel movements, Amnesty said

Russia says no escape for last defenders of Ukrainian port, prepares for new offensive
Reuters/April 13, 2022
KYIV/LVIV: Russia said it had taken control of the port in Mariupol on Wednesday and that more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines had surrendered in the southeastern Ukrainian city, whose capture would free up forces for a wider offensive. The capture of the Azovstal industrial district, where the marines have been holed up, would give the Russians full control of Mariupol, Ukraine’s main Sea of Azov port, reinforce a southern land corridor and expand its occupation of the country’s east. Surrounded and bombarded by Russian troops for weeks and the focus of some of the heaviest fighting in the war, Mariupol would be the first major city to fall since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Russia’s defense ministry said 162 officers were among 1,026 soldiers of the 36th Marine Brigade who had surrendered to Russian and pro-Russian separatist forces near the Illich Iron and Steel Works. Russian television showed pictures of what it said were marines giving themselves up, many of them wounded. The defense ministry later said Mariupol’s trade seaport was under full control and remnants of Ukrainian forces were blocked and unable to escape, Interfax news agency reported. Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces were attacking Azovstal and the port, but a defense ministry spokesman said he had no information about any surrender. Reuters journalists accompanying Russian-backed separatists saw flames billowing from the Azovstal area on Tuesday, a day after Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade said its troops had run out of ammunition.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ardent supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, urged remaining Ukrainians trapped in Azovstal to surrender. “Within Azovstal at the moment there are about 200 wounded who cannot receive any medical assistance,” Kadyrov said in a Telegram post. “For them and all the rest it would be better to end this pointless resistance and go home to their families.”
Weapons appeal
Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been killed in Mariupol and Russia has been massing thousands of troops in the area for a new assault, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said. “We have destroyed more Russian weapons and military equipment than some armies in Europe currently possess. But this is not enough,” he said in an online video, adding that if Ukraine did not get more tanks, jets, and missile systems, other countries in Europe would be the next targets of Russia. US President Joe Biden announced an extra $800 million in military assistance including artillery systems, armored personnel carriers and helicopters, taking the total to more than $2.5 billion. France and Germany also pledged more arms. Ukraine accuses Russia of blocking aid convoys to civilians marooned in Mariupol. Its mayor, Vadym Boichenko, said Russia had brought in mobile crematoria “to get rid of evidence of war crimes” — a statement that was not possible to verify. Moscow has blamed Ukraine for civilian deaths and accused Kyiv of denigrating Russian armed forces. Moscow’s incursion into Ukraine has seen more than 4.6 million people flee abroad, killed or wounded thousands and left Russia increasingly isolated on the world stage. In the village of Lubianka northwest of Kyiv, from where Russian forces had tried and failed to subdue the capital before being driven away, a message to Ukrainians had been written on the wall of a house that had been occupied by Russian troops.
“We did not want this ... forgive us,” it said. The Kremlin says it launched a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “liberate” Ukraine, a message villagers said had been repeated to them by the Russian troops.
“To liberate us from what? We’re peaceful...We’re Ukrainians,” Lubianka resident Viktor Shaposhnikov said.
Four presidents in Kyiv
Polish President Andrzej Duda said on a visit to Kyiv with his Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian counterparts that those who had committed and ordered crimes must be brought to justice. “This is not war, this is terrorism,” he told reporters. Germany’s president did not join them as he had planned. Zelensky said there had been no official approach and one of his officials denied a newspaper report he had rejected the visit due to Steinmeier’s recent good relations with Moscow. The Kremlin denounced Biden’s description of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine as amounting to genocide, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying this was unacceptable coming from the leader of a country he said had committed crimes of its own. An initial report by a mission of experts set up by Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe documents a “catalogue of inhumanity” by Russian troops in Ukraine, according to the US ambassador to the OSCE. “This includes evidence of direct targeting of civilians, attacks on medical facilities, rape, executions, looting and forced deportation of civilians to Russia,” Michael Carpenter said. Russia has denied targeting civilians and has said Ukrainian and Western allegations of war crimes are fabricated. The Kyiv district police chief said 720 bodies had been found in the region around the capital from where Russian forces had retreated, with more than 200 people missing. International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan said after visiting Bucha, a town where bound bodies of people apparently shot at close range were found, that Ukraine was a “crime scene” and this was within ICC jurisdiction. “We have to pierce the fog of war to get to the truth,” Khan said on Twitter. The major of the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest, said bombing had increased significantly on Wednesday and satellite photos from Maxar technology showed long columns of armored vehicles in the region. At least seven people were killed, including a two-year-old boy, and 22 wounded in Kharkiv over the past 24 hours and Ukrainian forces shot down two Russian planes attacking towns in the region, regional Governor Oleh Synehubov said earlier. Reuters could not immediately verify his statement, but filmed people in Kharkiv quietly carrying bodies from an apartment block hit by shelling. A woman sat sobbing by the body of her son, lying on the floor in the room she said she had implored him to leave before a second explosion killed him.

More than 1,000 Ukraine Marines Surrender in Key Port of Mariupol, Says Russia
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
More than 1,000 Ukrainian marines have surrendered in the besieged port of Mariupol, Russia's defense ministry said on Wednesday of Moscow's main target in the eastern Donbas region which it has yet to bring under its control. If the Russians take the Azovstal industrial district, where the marines have been holed up, they would be in full control of Mariupol, which would allow Russia to reinforce a land corridor between separatist-held eastern areas and the Crimea region that it seized and annexed in 2014. Surrounded by Russian troops for weeks, Mariupol would be the first major city to fall since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, with the battle for the industrial heartland of Donbas likely to define the course of the war. Ukraine's general staff said that Russian forces were proceeding with attacks on Azovstal and the port, but a defence ministry spokesman said he had no information about any surrender. Reuters journalists accompanying Russian-backed separatists saw flames billowing from the Azovstal district on Tuesday. On Monday, the 36th Marine Brigade said it was preparing for a final battle in Mariupol that would end in death or capture as its troops had run out of ammunition. Thousands of people are believed to have been killed in Mariupol and Russia has been massing thousands of troops in the area for a new assault, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said. Ukraine says tens of thousands of civilians have been trapped inside the city with no way to bring in food or water, and accuses Russia of blocking aid convoys. Russia's defense ministry said that 1,026 soldiers of Ukraine's 36th Marine Brigade surrendered, including 162 officers.
Chemical weapons warning
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ardent supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, urged remaining Ukrainians holed up in Azovstal to surrender. "Within Azovstal at the moment there are about 200 wounded who cannot receive any medical assistance," Kadyrov said in a Telegram post. "For them and all the rest it would be better to end this pointless resistance and go home to their families." Russian television showed pictures of what it said were marines giving themselves up at Illich Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol on Tuesday, many of them wounded. It showed what it said were Ukrainian soldiers being marched down a road with their hands in the air. One of the soldiers was shown holding a Ukrainian passport. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar has said there was a high risk of Russia using chemical weapons, echoing earlier warnings by Zelenskiy, who on Wednesday told the Estonian parliament by videolink Russia was using phosphorus bombs to terrorize civilians. He did not provide evidence and Reuters has not been able to independently verify his assertion. Chemical weapons production, use and stockpiling is banned under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. Although condemned by human rights groups, white phosphorous is not banned. Russia denies using chemical weapons, saying it had destroyed its last chemical stockpiles in 2017. Moscow's incursion into Ukraine, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has seen more than 4.6 million people flee abroad, killed or wounded thousands and left Russia increasingly isolated on the world stage. The Ukrainian prosecutor general's office said 191 children had been killed and 349 wounded since the start of the invasion. The Kremlin says it launched a "special military operation" to demilitarise and "denazify" Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext for an unprovoked attack.
Four presidents visiting Kyiv
The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were on their way to Kyiv to meet Zelenskiy, an adviser to the Polish leader said on Wednesday. The four join a growing number of European politicians to visit the Ukrainian capital since Russian forces were driven away from the country's north earlier this month. US President Joe Biden said for the first time that Moscow's invasion of Ukraine amounted to genocide, as Putin said Russia would "rhythmically and calmly" continue its operation and achieve its goals. Russia has denied targeting civilians and has said Ukrainian and Western allegations of war crimes are fabricated. Many towns Russia has retreated from in northern Ukraine were littered with the bodies of civilians killed in what Kyiv says was a campaign of murder, torture and rape. Interfax Ukraine news agency on Wednesday quoted the Kyiv district police chief saying 720 bodies had been found in the region around the capital, with more than 200 people missing. The General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Russian forces were maintaining attacks on civilian infrastructure in the Kharkiv region in the northeast and the Zaporizhzhia region in central Ukraine. At least seven people were killed and 22 wounded in Kharkiv over the past 24 hours, Governor Oleh Synegubov said. A 2-year-old boy was among those killed in the 53 artillery or rocket strikes Russian forces had carried out in the region, he said in an online post. Reuters could not independently verify the information. Russia denies targeting civilians. Putin on Tuesday used his first public comments on the conflict in more than a week to say Russia would "rhythmically and calmly" continue its operation, and expressed confidence his goals would be achieved. Zelenskiy mocked Putin in an early morning address: "How could a plan that provides for the death of tens of thousands of their own soldiers in a little more than a month of war come about?"

Russia Says US Spreading Lies on Possible Chemical Attack in Ukraine
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
Russia said on Wednesday that claims by the United States and Ukraine that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine were disinformation because Moscow destroyed its last chemical stockpiles in 2017. Ukraine's defense ministry said on Tuesday that it was checking claims that Russia may have used chemical weapons in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. US Department of State Spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Tuesday that the United States was concerned Russia may seek to resort to chemical weapons in Ukraine. Russia's embassy in Washington said Ukrainian radicals were preparing to stage provocations with the use of chemical weapons and that the State Department's Price was spreading disinformation. "We call on Washington to stop spreading disinformation," the embassy said in a statement. "Ned Price once again distinguished himself by his idle talk, not substantiated by a single piece of evidence." Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a special operation to degrade its southern neighbor's military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists. Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces. Russia says the West is gripped by discriminatory anti-Russian paranoia and says Western media have provided an excessively partial narrative of the war in Ukraine that largely ignores Russia's concerns about the enlargement of NATO and the persecution of Russian speakers.

Biden, Zelensky discuss US support for Ukraine
Agence France Press/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
President Joe Biden called his Ukrainian counterpart Volodomyr Zelensky Wednesday to update him on "ongoing U.S. support" for Kyiv, the White House said. Zelensky for his part tweeted that he and Biden had discussed an "additional package of defensive and possible macro-financial aid."
The hour-long conversation came as Washington was reportedly poised to announce the delivery of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new military equipment to Kyiv.

Moscow threatens to strike Kyiv if 'attempts' to attack Russian territory continue
Agence France Presse/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
The Russian military on Wednesday threatened to strike Ukraine's command centers in the capital Kyiv if Ukrainian troops continue to attack Russian territory. "We are seeing Ukrainian troops' attempts to carry out sabotage and strike Russian territory," the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. "If such cases continue, the Russian armed forces will strike decision-making centers, including in Kyiv."

Fears Rise in Ukraine of Use of Chemical Weapons
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
The United States said Tuesday it has "credible information" that Russia may use "chemical agents" in its offensive to take the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, reigniting concerns about the use of such prohibited weapons, AFP reported. While the West and Kyiv have been warning Moscow since the start of its invasion on February 24 against any use of chemical weapons, fears have grown this week after unconfirmed reports emerged that such weapons may have already been deployed. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Tuesday that it was "concerned" by allegations that chemical weapons had been used in Mariupol, a strategic port city besieged by Russian forces in the east of Ukraine and the scene of heavy fighting. The OPCW, to which both Russia and Ukraine belong, referred to "accusations leveled by both sides around possible misuse of toxic chemicals."
The Ukrainian Azov battalion, which is engaged in the defense of Mariupol, said Monday that a Russian drone had dropped a "poisonous substance" on soldiers and civilians in Mariupol. The battalion claimed people were experiencing respiratory failure and neurological problems. "Three people have clear signs of poisoning by warfare chemicals, but without catastrophic consequences," battalion leader Andrei Biletsky said in a video message on Telegram. He accused the Russians of using chemical weapons during a strike on the city's large Azovstal metallurgical plant. The accusation has not been confirmed by any independent source, although Ukrainians, British and Americans have said they are trying to verify it. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday he was "not in a position to confirm" the allegations. But he continued: "We had credible information that Russian forces may use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents that would cause stronger symptoms to weaken and incapacitate entrenched Ukrainian fighters and civilians, as part of the aggressive campaign to take Mariupol." "We share that information with Ukraine... and we're in direct conversation with partners to try to determine what actually is happening, so this is a real concern," Blinken told reporters. AFP has been unable to verify the Azov battalion's claims, which were also shared by Ukrainian lawmakers. Mariupol has been under siege for weeks, and Ukrainian forces are warning of its imminent fall.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States was "ready to assist" with the investigation. He said US officials "already have been in direct conversations with our Ukrainian partners as they are collecting facts and evidence." "We do stand ready to assist in case we can be useful in terms of that investigation," he said, adding that the US concerns were based on "recent information that was available to us before the reports emerged yesterday." Pavlo Kirilenko, the Ukrainian governor of the Donetsk region, said that several people had suffered damage to their airways after the drone strike in Mariupol. "Last night, around midnight, a drone launched an explosive device and three people who were in the area of the Mariupol metallurgical plant, or near it, felt unwell" and had to be hospitalized, Kirilenko told the US news channel CNN, according to a translation provided by the Ukrainian news agency Interfax-Ukraine. Their lives did not appear to be in danger, he said, but "from the damage to the airways and skin, we understand that it is a chemical substance. But it is too early to say that it is a gas and to draw conclusions." Kirilenko said he wanted to verify "100 percent" the nature of the substance before making more formal accusations. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he took the threat of chemical weapons use "very seriously."

Putin Vows War Will Continue as Russian Troops Mount in East
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
Russia vowed to continue its bloody offensive in Ukraine as the war neared its seventh week Wednesday, as President Vladimir Putin insisted the campaign was going as planned despite a major withdrawal and significant losses. Thwarted in their push toward the capital, Kyiv, Russian troops focused on the eastern region of Donbas, where Ukraine said it was investigating a claim that a poisonous substance had been dropped on its troops. It was not clear what the substance might be, but Western officials warned that any use of chemical weapons by Russia would be a serious escalation of the already devastating war.Russia invaded on Feb. 24 with the goal, according to Western officials, of taking Kyiv, toppling the government and installing a Moscow-friendly regime. In the six weeks since, the ground advance stalled and Russian forces lost potentially thousands of fighters and were accused of killing civilians and other atrocities. Putin said Tuesday that Moscow “had no other choice” and that the invasion aimed to protect people in parts of eastern Ukraine and to “ensure Russia’s own security.” He vowed it would “continue until its full completion and the fulfillment of the tasks that have been set.”
Meanwhile Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was expected to receive the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — his staunch European allies.
“We are visiting Ukraine to show strong support for the Ukrainian people, will meet dear friend President Zelenskyy,“ Estonian President Alar Karis tweeted. For now, Putin’s forces are gearing up for a major offensive in the Donbas, where Russian-allied separatists and Ukrainian forces have been fighting since 2014, and where Russia has recognized the separatists’ claims of independence. Military strategists say Moscow believes local support, logistics and the terrain in the region favor its larger, better-armed military, potentially allowing Russia to finally turn the tide in its favor. In Mariupol, a strategic port city in the Donbas, a Ukrainian regiment defending a steel mill alleged that a drone dropped a poisonous substance on the city. The assertion by the Azov Regiment, a far-right group now part of the Ukrainian military, could not be independently verified. The regiment indicated there were no serious injuries.
Zelenskyy said that while experts try to determine what the substance might be, “The world must react now.”
The claims came after a Russia-allied separatist official appeared to urge the use of chemical weapons, telling Russian state TV on Monday that separatist forces should seize the plant by first blocking all the exits. “And then we’ll use chemical troops to smoke them out of there,” the official, Eduard Basurin, said. He denied Tuesday that separatist forces had used chemical weapons in Mariupol.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said officials were investigating, and it was possible phosphorus munitions — which cause horrendous burns but are not classed as chemical weapons — had been used in Mariupol, which has been pummeled by weeks of Russian assaults. Western leaders warned that if chemical weapons are found to have been used, it would amount to a grievous breach of international law. President Joe Biden for the first time referred to Russia’s invasion as a “genocide” and said “Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.”
The Pentagon said it could not confirm the drone report but reiterated US concerns about Russia using chemical agents. Britain, meanwhile, has warned that Russia may resort to phosphorus bombs, which are banned in civilian areas under international law, in Mariupol. Most armies use phosphorus munitions to illuminate targets or to produce smoke screens. Deliberately firing them into an enclosed space to expose people to fumes could breach the Chemical Weapons Convention, said Marc-Michael Blum, a former laboratory head at the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
“Once you start using the properties of white phosphorus, toxic properties, specifically and deliberately, then it becomes banned,” he said. In Washington, a senior US defense official said the Biden administration was preparing another package of military aid for Ukraine to be announced in the coming days, possibly totaling $750 million. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans not yet publicly announced. Delivery is due to be completed this week of $800 million in military assistance approved by Biden a month ago. In the face of stiff resistance by Ukrainian forces bolstered by Western weapons, Russian forces have increasingly relied on bombarding cities, flattening many urban areas and killing thousands. The war has driven more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes — including nearly two-thirds of the country’s children.
Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said humanitarian corridors used to get people out of cities under Russian attack will not operate on Wednesday because of poor security.
She said that in the southeast Zaporizhzhia region, Russian troops blocked evacuation buses, and in the Luhansk region, they were violating the cease-fire. "The occupiers not only disregard the norms of international humanitarian law, but also cannot properly control their people on the ground. All this creates such a level of danger on the routes that we are forced to refrain from opening humanitarian corridors today.” Moscow’s retreat from cities and towns around Kyiv led to the discovery of large numbers of apparently massacred civilians, prompting widespread condemnation and accusations of war crimes. Zelenskyy said evidence of “inhuman cruelty” toward women and children in Bucha and other suburbs of Kyiv continued to surface, including alleged rapes.
“Not all serial rapists reach the cruelty of Russian soldiers,” Zelenskyy said. More than 720 people were killed in Kyiv suburbs that had been occupied by Russian troops and over 200 were considered missing, the Interior Ministry said early Wednesday.
In Bucha alone, Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said 403 bodies had been found and the toll could rise as minesweepers comb the area.
In the Chernihiv region, villagers said more than 300 people had been trapped for almost a month by the occupying Russian troops in the basement of a school and only allowed outside to go to the toilet or cook on open fires. Valentyna Saroyan told The Associated Press she saw at least five people die in Yahidne, 140 kilometers (86 miles) north of Kyiv. In one of the rooms, the residents wrote the names of those who perished during the ordeal — the list counted 18 people. Villagers say they don’t know the cause of the deaths. Russian soldiers allowed them to remove the bodies from time to time in order to bury them in a mass grave at the local cemetery. Julia Surypak said the Russians only allowed some people to make a short trip home if they sang the Russian anthem. Another resident, Svitlana Baguta, said a Russian soldier made her drink from a flask pointing a gun at her face.
Ukraine’s prosecutor-general’s office said Tuesday it was also looking into events in the Brovary district, which lies to the northeast. It said the bodies of six civilians were found with gunshot wounds in a basement in the village of Shevchenkove and Russian forces were believed to be responsible. Prosecutors are also investigating allegations that Russian forces fired on a convoy of civilians trying to leave by car from the village of Peremoha in the Brovary district, killing four people including a 13-year-old boy. In another attack near Bucha, five people were killed including two children when a car was fired upon, prosecutors said. Putin falsely claimed Tuesday that Ukraine’s accusation that hundreds of civilians were killed by Russian troops in the town of Bucha were “fake.”Associated Press journalists saw dozens of bodies in and around the town, some of whom had their hands bound and appeared to have been shot at close range.

Polish, Baltic presidents see 'pain and suffering' in Ukraine
Associated Press/April 13, 2022
The Polish and Baltic presidents on Wednesday visited the Ukrainian town of Borodyanka not far from Kyiv, with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda saying it was "permeated with pain and suffering". "It is hard to believe that such war atrocities could be perpetrated in 21st-century Europe, but that is the reality. This is a war we must win," Nauseda said in a statement. "The place is permeated with pain and suffering. Civilian Ukrainians were murdered and tortured here, and residential homes and other civilian infrastructure were bombed." Poland had announced earlier that Nauseda and his fellow heads of state -- Polish President Andrzej Duda, Estonia's Alar Karis and Latvia's Egils Levits -- had met in the Polish city of Rzeszow near the Ukraine border before boarding a train for Kyiv. The Polish president's office later tweeted a photo of their meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. "Our goal is to show support to President Zelensky and the defenders of Ukraine in a decisive moment for this country," Polish presidential adviser Jakub Kumoch said in a statement. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Poland on Tuesday and said he had planned to go on to Ukraine but was turned down.
"I was prepared to do this, but apparently, and I must take note of this, this was not wanted in Kyiv," he told reporters on Tuesday. Steinmeier, a former foreign minister, is facing criticism at home and abroad for his years-long detente policy towards Moscow, which he has since admitted was a mistake.

Palestinian father of 3 gunned down by Israeli forces in West Bank
Mohammed Najib/Arab News/April 13, 2022
RAMALLAH: Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man and injured dozens more in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Mohammed Assaf, 34, secretary of the Fatah movement in the village of Kafr Laqif near Qalqilya, was killed while driving through the area as Israeli forces were launching raids in Nablus and the surrounding towns, officials said. His death was the latest in a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence that erupted as Muslims mark the holy month of Ramadan. Ahmed Jibril, director of the Red Crescent in Nablus, told the Palestinian news agency Wafa that four civilians were hit by live rounds, one of whom was struck in the chest and is in a serious condition. Eight others were hit by rubber-coated metal bullets, including one who sustained an eye injury, while 47 had breathing difficulties after inhaling tear gas fumes during clashes with occupation forces in Beita, south of Nablus. Nine young men also suffered bruising after being knocked over by Israeli patrol vehicles. Israeli forces invaded Beita, Al-Lubban Al-Sharqiya and Urif, south of Nablus, and the eastern area of Nablus to protect the settlers who stormed Joseph’s Tomb. The soldiers searched several houses in the towns and arrested five people. Condemning the Israeli excesses, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said “occupation soldiers continue to murder for the sake of murder, with a license granted by the prime minister of the occupying state, Naftali Bennett, without the slightest regard for international laws and norms.”He added: “The martyr, Assaf, the father of three children, was shot in the chest while he was in Nablus this morning.”Also on Wednesday, three young men were injured by live rounds and a fourth was arrested when Israeli special forces stormed the Kadoorie University campus in Tulkarm. Witnesses said that an undercover unit shot an employee of a private security company at the university and wounded another. Less than a week after the Tel Aviv shooting attack, the Israeli army and its internal security agency, Shin Bet, expanded their operations in the West Bank to other cities and towns. While Bennett has given the Israeli security forces a free hand in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, fear remains palpable on Israeli streets with police, border guards and reservists deployed in large numbers at train stations in central Tel Aviv and Clock Square in the center of Jaffa where the premier lives.
There have been enhanced security checks in shopping malls and train stations by private security guards, and some civilians have been seen carrying weapons in anticipation of an attack. The situation is the same in western Jerusalem. In the Damascus Gate area, Israeli forces can be seen wearing protective helmets in preparation to tackle any security threats.

240 Russian Air Strikes Target ISIS in Syrian Desert
Homs - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
The Russian army has expanded its military operations in the Syrian desert region since early April, following the decline of its operations in March and late February, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The Observatory indicated that the Russian fighter jets launched 240 air raids on the Syrian desert since early April. It stated that Russian fighter jets launched over 55 airstrikes over the past 36 hours, targeting ISIS hideouts and caves in the al-Sokhnah desert in Homs's eastern countryside, al-Rusafa desert Al-Raqqah, and another area in Aleppo-Hama-Al-Raqqah triangle, amid confirmed reports on human and material losses. On Monday, SOHR sources reported that regime security services arrested three new members of "National Defense Forces" from al-Sokhnah town in the eastern countryside of Homs for "communicating with ISIS cells." The security services arrested the commander of the National Defense in al-Sokhnah town for communicating with ISIS cells earlier. SOHR monitored a security alert among regime forces and Iranian militias in Palmyra, anticipating sudden attacks by ISIS cells on military positions in the area. Russian warplanes intensified their air raids on ISIS hideouts in central and northeastern Syria, including Homs countryside, Deir Ez-Zor, and Raqqa. ISIS terrorists increased their attacks against the regime forces and Iranian militias, injuring and killing dozens, following a drop in Russian airstrikes in March. The opposition's "Flight Observatories" reported that Russian forces launched hundreds of warplanes from Hmeimim airbase towards the Syrian airspace between Homs eastern countryside and Raqqa to the Deir Ez-Zor desert.
The Observatories reported that over 200 air raids were carried out with high-explosive missiles, targeting ISIS hideouts over the al-Sukhna area. Earlier this week, unknown armed men launched a guided missile against a military site of the Iraqi Hezbollah militia, killing four of its members. They bodies were later transferred to the Deir Ez-Zor Hospital, which is secured by military units affiliated with the Fourth Division, led by Maher al-Assad. Meanwhile, Iran sent anti-aircraft missiles to the eastern countryside of Homs, accompanied by new military reinforcements that reached the "Moheen" military warehouses and other sites east of Homs, according to Syrian activists. An opposition observatory official stated that over the past few days, Iran sent anti-aircraft missiles from the Abu Kamal area in Deir Ez-Zor to Homs countryside, accompanied by sending new weapons and ammunition in ambulances as camouflage.
The new movement coincided with further military reinforcements, including dozens of Iraqi Harakat al-Nujaba militia members, to the Zamlat al-Mahr 1 field in Homs' eastern countryside. ISIS fighters increased their attacks in the Syrian desert targeting military sites of the Syrian regime forces, Iranian militias, and military convoys. Since this year, about 133 members, including officers, have been killed in various attacks. The regime executed several combing campaigns to pursue ISIS remnants in the Syrian desert, which did not yield results. The terrorist organization uses a new military tactic that relies on the element of surprise and sudden operations against military bases and convoys of the regime and Iran in the Syrian desert.

Tunisian Union Opposes Presidential Preconditions for National Dialogue
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
Tunisia's powerful UGTT union said on Wednesday that any national dialogue on proposed changes to the constitution must be without preconditions and not based on the results of public online consultations announced by President Kais Saied. The position of UGTT, which has more than a million members and can shut down Tunisia's economy with strikes, broadens opposition to the president's plans to move forward with fundamental reforms without real dialogue. Saied dissolved parliament last month, imposing one-man rule. In a move his opponents say is a coup, he seized control of the executive powers in the middle of last year and has since ruled by decree. "The Union is pressing for the dialogue to be without preconditions," Noureddine Taboubi, head of the union, told reporters, adding an online consultation would be inadequate. Ahead of planned constitutional amendments in July, Saied said last week the reforms would be based on the results of an online consultation, in which only 500,000 of a total population of 12 million inhabitants participated. Saied has denied seeking to impose an individual rule and said he wanted the people to have sovereignty. In the latest of a series of unilateral decisions, Saied also said people would vote for individuals in the next parliamentary elections expected in December rather than the lists they have chosen from in previous elections. The country's two main parties Ennahda and Free Constitutional, which are bitterly opposed, have both said they will boycott any referendum to restructure the political system unilaterally. The opposition accuses Saied of trying to impose his personal project and that he only wants dialogue that will support his proposals. A European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee said following a visit to Tunisia that a genuinely inclusive national dialogue is imperative.

Reports: US Special Envoy for Horn of Africa to Step Down Soon
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa David Satterfield will step down from his role before summer, sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday, after less than six months on the job and at a time of persistent political turmoil in the region. Deputy Special Envoy Payton Knopf will take over the post in an acting capacity, sources said, adding that Satterfield's departure was not imminent. Earlier, the State Department announced Satterfield and Knopf were set to arrive in Ethiopia on Wednesday, for meetings with Ethiopian government officials, representatives of humanitarian organizations, and diplomatic partners. The State Department had no official comment when asked about Satterfield's departure. The news of Satterfield's expected departure, first reported by the Foreign Policy magazine, comes at a time of multiple crises in the region. A more than year-long conflict in Ethiopia has sparked accusations of atrocities on both sides, while Sudan is in economic and political turmoil following an October coup. The frequent change of personnel also raises questions about the Biden administration's commitment to the region, particularly at a time when it is grappling with pressing foreign policy crises elsewhere, primarily the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The region remains an "absolute priority" for the administration, a senior State Department official said, without elaborating further. Satterfield, a long-time career diplomat with decades of experience, had replaced Jeffrey Feltman, another veteran US diplomat who had stepped down at the end of last year after about nine months in the job. Feltman continues to serve in an advisory capacity. Two leading human rights groups last week accused armed forces from Ethiopia's Amhara region of waging a campaign of ethnic cleansing against ethnic Tigrayans during a war that has killed thousands of civilians and displaced more than a million. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a joint report that abuses by Amhara officials and regional special forces and militias during fighting in western Tigray amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity. They also accused Ethiopia's military of complicity in those acts. Ethiopia's government said in a statement last week it was committed to holding all those responsible for violations of human rights and humanitarian law accountable. Amhara government spokesman Gizachew Muluneh told Reuters last week the allegations of abuses and ethnic cleansing in western Tigray were "lies" and "fabricated" news. Last week, the United States expressed concern about reports of ethnically motivated atrocities Tigray and called for an end to unlawful detentions based on ethnicity. In Sudan, the military takeover derailed a transition that had raised hopes of an end to decades of autocracy, civil conflict and economic isolation after former president Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in a 2019 uprising.

US Prosecutors Rest Case Against ISIS ‘Beatle’
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday against an alleged member of the notorious ISIS kidnap-and-murder cell known as the "Beatles."El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, declined the opportunity to testify in his own defense at his trial in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.
Asked by Judge T.S. Ellis if he wanted to take the stand, Elsheikh said "No," the first time his voice had been heard during the two-week trial. Elsheikh is charged with the murders of American freelance journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig, and suspected of the kidnapping of nearly 20 other Westerners in Syria. Ten European journalists, relief workers and Syrians held hostage by the "Beatles" have testified over the past few days of their brutal treatment at their captors' hands. Elsheikh's lawyers declined to cross-examine any of the witnesses and presented only 20 minutes of excerpts from interviews he gave to media outlets as his defense. The interviews were conducted after Elsheikh and another alleged "Beatle," Alexanda Amon Kotey, were captured in January 2018 by a Kurdish militia in Syria, according to AFP. Unlike now, Elsheikh acknowledged in the interviews that he had interactions with the Western hostages, who dubbed the hostage-takers the "Beatles" because of their British accents. Elsheikh's lawyers contend that he lied about being a "Beatle" in the interviews so he would be transferred to the United States instead of being put on trial in Iraq, where he would have faced a certain death sentence. The final former hostage to testify was Danish photographer Daniel Rye Ottosen, who recounted how he was given 25 blows for his 25th anniversary. He also recalled having a knife placed against his throat and a gun thrust into his mouth. The prosecution and defense are to deliver their closing arguments on Wednesday, and the case will go to the jury. Foley, Sotloff and Kassig were killed by their ISIS jailers and videos of their murders released for propaganda purposes. According to witnesses and her family, Mueller -- the other American -- was turned over to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who raped her repeatedly. ISIS announced her death in February 2015 and said she was killed in a Jordanian airstrike, a claim that was disputed by US authorities. Elsheikh and Kotey were turned over to US forces in Iraq following their capture. They were flown to Virginia in 2020 to face charges of hostage-taking, conspiracy to murder US citizens and supporting a terrorist organization. Kotey pleaded guilty in September 2021 and is facing life in prison. The other "Beatle," Mohamed Emwazi, the notorious executioner known as "Jihadi John," was killed by a US drone strike in Syria in 2015.

Truck Hits Tourist Bus in Egypt, Kills 10
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 13 April, 2022
A tourist bus collided with a truck on a highway in southern Egypt and burst into flames on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people including four French and a Belgian, authorities said. The crash happened some 55 kilometers south of the ancient city of Luxor, as it was travelling to the temples of Esna on the west bank of the Nile River, provincial authorities said in a statement. Along with the tourists, five Egyptians were killed in the crash. At least 14 others were injured, including eight from France and six from Belgium, they said. Many bodies were charred, and the injured suffered from burns, bruises and fractures, according to a health official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media. The Associated Press quoted Aswan Provincial Governor Ashraf Attia as saying the injured were taken to hospitals and were in stable condition.
Wednesday’s accident came five days after a bus crashed on a highway near the Red Sea, killing three including two Polish tourists.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 13-14/2022
Audio/Defense Minister Benny Gantz Discusses Israel's Strategic Challenges
Benny Gantz/Washington Insitiute/April 13/ 2022
Benjamin "Benny" Gantz has served as Israel's minister of defense since 2020. He is the former chief of general staff of the Israel Defense Forces.
Brief Analysis
Watch a conversation with Israel's minister of defense as he shares his insight into Israel's dramatically changing security environment. Israel's security environment is undergoing dramatic changes. While Jerusalem is expanding partnerships and holding landmark summits with a range of Arab countries under the Abraham Accords, strategic uncertainty persists due to Russia's war in Ukraine, renewed Palestinian terrorist attacks at home, and Iran's multiple threats, from nuclear, missile, and drone advances to its support for terrorist groups along Israel’s northern and southern borders.
To discuss how Israel is meeting the challenge of this evolving security environment, The Washington Institute hosted a virtual Policy Forum with Minister of Defense Benny Gantz. Minister Gantz is the leader of Israel's Blue and White Party, a key pillar of the country’s coalition government, and former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces. He has pursued an active agenda in office, traveling to Morocco and Bahrain to sign breakthrough security agreements and meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, and U.S. secretary of defense Lloyd Austin. During this exclusive public event, he will discuss the country's current strategic challenges in conversation with Washington Institute executive director Robert Satloff. The Policy Forum series is made possible through the generosity of the Florence and Robert Kaufman Family.

GOP senators warn Biden against taking Iran's IRGC off terror list
Elizabeth Hagedorn//Al-Monitor/ April 13/ 2022
The Republican letter comes as nuclear talks remain at a standstill over Iran's insistence that the United States delist the IRGC as a terrorist organization.
A group of Republican senators warned President Joe Biden on Monday against lifting the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ terrorist designation, which Iran has made a condition of its return to the landmark nuclear accord.
Whether the IRGC remains on Washington’s formal list of terror organizations remains the principal sticking point in the now-paused talks in Vienna. The Trump administration imposed the designation a year after it withdrew from the nuclear pact, marking the first time the United States had ever branded part of another country’s military as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
On Monday, 14 Senate Republicans wrote that dropping the label would be “wildly misguided” given that the IRGC has "shown no meaningful change in conduct."
Last week, armed groups linked to the IRGC were blamed for attacks in Syria and Iraq that targeted facilities hosting the US-led international coalition. The IRGC took credit in March for a ballistic missile attack near the US Consulate in the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil.
“The removal of this terrorist designation from an organization that continues to carry out acts of terror will undoubtedly show the world that the United States’ terrorist designations are political tools that this administration is willing to barter and trade whenever it suits its political goals,” read the letter led by Sen. John Kennedy, R-La.
On Friday evening, The Washington Post quoted an unnamed senior administration official as saying Biden doesn’t plan on meeting the Iranians’ demand for delisting. The Republican senators called for the Biden administration to go a step further by “publicly and categorically” rejecting any discussion of taking the IRGC off the terror blacklist.
Experts point out that if the FTO designation were lifted, the IRGC would remain sanctioned under other authorities, including the list of specially designated global terrorists (SDGT). The IRGC’s shadowy overseas arm known as the Quds Force is also an SDGT.
Recent statements from administration officials have fueled speculation that US negotiators could offer Iran a compromise whereby the IRGC’s FTO designation would be revoked in exchange for the Quds Force’s placement on the terror list as a separate entity.
Last week, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told a congressional hearing that he believed the Quds Force was a terrorist organization whose delisting he would not support.
State Department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter echoed Milley’s remarks, telling Al-Monitor on Friday that “the president shares the chairman’s view that IRGC Quds Forces are terrorists.”
Al-Monitor later asked the State Department whether it considered the IRGC in its entirety to be a terrorist organization, and a spokesperson replied that “we are not going to negotiate in public.”
“The president has made clear he’ll do what’s in the best interest of US security — and the onus here is really on Iran at this stage, particularly on this issue,” the spokesperson said on Monday.
Naysan Rafati, a senior Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group, cautioned against reading too much into the administration’s parsing. "It could be a distinction that hints at a wider consideration being made within the administration to see if those things could be split up. It may not," he said. "And then even if it is, the question becomes is that a distinction that the Iranians would be willing to accept?"
Tehran has signaled it is unwilling to budge. An unnamed Iranian diplomat told Reuters that Iran rejected the idea of branding the Quds Force a terrorist organization in return for delisting the broader organization. Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said such a compromise would amount to “Western mirror-imaging 101.” “If the administration makes the case that the Quds Force is a terrorist group and the parent entity — the entire IRGC — is not a terrorist group, this would be a needless bureaucratic decision not represented by the facts on the ground,” he said.

Pope Francis Abandons Christ’s Cross to Appease Muslims
Raymond Ibrahim/April 13/ 2022
Pope Francis, a leading advocate of Doormat Christianity, is at it again. Although it is traditional for papal podiums to depict the crucifix, during his recent visit to the island of Malta, Pope Francis ditched the cross lest it offend Muslim migrants. As the archdiocese of Malta openly admitted, “The podium will not be adorned with a crucifix, given that the majority of migrants are Muslim.”
Instead, the podium backdrop used by Francis consisted of recycled plastic bottles with red blobs meant to highlight the two primary reasons Francis was visiting Malta—to defend migrants and the environment: “When you look deeper, you will see that the sea is made of recycled plastic bottles, because there is more plastic than fish in our sea,” artistic director Carlo Schembri explained. “And the red blobs are life jackets — the lives of people lost at sea.”
While this was meant to highlight the hazards illegal Muslim migrants experience crossing the Mediterranean, one wonders (but doubts) if Francis remembered the dozens of Christian migrants who were intentionally thrown overboard and drowned in the Mediterranean by their Muslim counterparts.
Meanwhile, Dr. Philip Beattie, an economist at the University of Malta, explained the reality of his island’s migrant situation: “The majority of the illegal immigrants trafficked to Malta on rickety boats leaving the Libyan coastline are not genuine refugees, but economic migrants — and are mainly Muslim young men aged between 18 and 28.”
Beattie also got to the heart of the matter:
Saint Paul preached “Christ crucified — a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” [1 Cor. 1:23] when he brought the gospel to Malta. The Apostle boasted in the scandal of the Cross. Why is the pope ashamed of the Cross before Muslims, especially during Lent?
Perhaps it’s not just shame; perhaps Francis, whose Maltese mission was in large part to support the many Muslim migrants who have flooded the tiny island, removed the cross as a precaution—lest offended Muslims cause a scene and thus compromise his presentation of them as poor victims in need of more state aid and concessions. After all, and as is well documented in this article, past and present, Muslims have engaged in an unwavering pattern of desecrating and destroying the cross, especially in churches and Christian cemeteries.
The fact that Francis’s shameful conduct took place in Malta is especially ironic, if not ominous, for Malta was the scene of one of the worst Islamic invasions of history, one worth remembering.
On May 18, 1565, Muslims, in the guise of Ottoman Turks, savagely besieged Malta. The defenders of that tiny island were led by the Knights of Saint John (formerly the Hospitallers).
The Ottomans proceeded to subject the tiny island to, at that time, history’s most sustained bombardment (some 130,000 cannonballs were fired in total). “I don’t know if the image of hell can describe the appalling battle,” wrote a contemporary: “the fire, the heat, the continuous flames from the flamethrowers and fire hoops; the thick smoke, the stench, the disemboweled and mutilated corpses, the clash of arms, the groans, shouts, and cries, the roar of the guns . . . men wounding, killing, scrabbling, throwing one another back, falling and firing.”
The vastly outnumbered Knights of Christ fought tooth and nail; many of them were ritually mutilated, their hearts and entrails pulled out to cries of “Allahu Akbar.” Afterwards—and speaking of the crucifix that Francis is ashamed of—the Muslim invaders mockingly nailed their bodies to crosses and set them adrift in the harbor.
Despite this, the Knights and Maltese defenders so persevered that, on September 11, the Muslim invaders raised the siege and retreated.
Today, Islamic invasions of Europe continue, though under the guise of a “refugee crisis”—one that the head of the Catholic world is doing all he can to facilitate, not in the name of Christianity, as evidenced by his abandonment of the cross, but supposed humanism, even as many migrants continue acting like their invading and conquering forbears, including by destroying the hated cross.
Days prior to the Islamic siege of Malta, Jean Parisot de Valette (1494–1568), the grand master of the Knights of Saint John—“his disposition is rather sad,” wrote a contemporary, but “for his age [seventy-one], he is very robust” and “very devout”—explained to his men what was at stake:
A formidable army composed of audacious barbarians is descending on this island; these persons, my brothers, are the enemies of Jesus Christ. Today it is a question of the defense of our Faith as to whether the book of the Evangelist [the Gospel] is to be superseded by that of the Koran? God on this occasion demands of us our lives, already vowed to His service. Happy will those be who first consummate this sacrifice.
Amazingly, everything he said is now explicitly or implicitly rejected by the current pope—even though Valette’s words are largely still applicable: masses of people who not infrequently behave like “audacious barbarians” are still “descending on this island,” as well as all of Western Europe, even though they are and openly behave as “the enemies of Jesus Christ.” Moreover, “Today it is [still] a question of the defense of our Faith as to whether the book of the Evangelist is to be superseded by that of the Koran.”
And in the midst of such an existential struggle, the so-called vicar of Christ is doing everything in his power to compel Christians to drop their guard and take in and appease more and more Muslims—even as he abandons the cross of Christ, lest it offends these selfsame Muslims.
Surely Valette—whom the capital of Malta is named after in honor of his sacrifice—is turning in his grave.
Raymond Ibrahim is author of the new book, Defenders of the West: The Christian Heroes Who Stood Against Islam

Egypt hopes Israeli tourists will make up losses from Ukraine war
Mohamed Saied/Al-Monitor/April 13/ 2022
At a time when Egypt’s tourism sector has suffered a setback due to the war in Ukraine, the first direct flight from Israel is set to land in Sharm el-Sheikh this month, which may boost the number of Israeli tourists in the Egyptian coastal resorts in the Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt is currently looking for alternative tourist markets as part of a government plan to increase the number of tourists in a bid to save the vital sector that has been affected by Russia's war on Ukraine.
The war halted the flow of tourists from the two countries, which makes up a third of the total number of tourists in Egypt annually, pointing to a real crisis in the tourism sector.
Tourism accounts for nearly 12% of Egypt's gross domestic product and is one of the main sources of foreign currency in a country whose economy is already under pressure amid unprecedented inflation.
Meanwhile, Egypt and Israel agreed last month to operate direct flights between Tel Aviv and Sharm el-Sheikh in the south of the Sinai Peninsula where Egypt’s top resorts overlook the Red Sea.
While Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office indicated that direct flights are expected to begin this April, the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation has not made any official announcement in this regard.
According to Israel, the two countries reached an agreement when an Israeli delegation led by the Shin Bet visited Egypt in September 2021 to discuss with the Egyptian side the safety and security of the new flight route.
Egyptian authorities completed in 2021 the construction of a 36-kilometer concrete and wire wall around the Sharm el-Sheikh resort. The project, which was announced in 2019, aims to tighten security measures at the popular coastal attraction in a bid to attract tourists.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Bennett announced the opening of a flight route during the first official visit by an Israeli prime minister to Egypt in Sharm el-Sheikh in September 2021.
Tel Aviv believes that increasing the number of flights between the two countries would further warm relations. EgyptAir, the state-owned carrier of Egypt, currently operates direct flights between Tel Aviv and Cairo.
Egypt is the first Arab country to have signed a peace agreement with the Jewish state in 1979 before the two countries started operating direct flights. EgyptAir is the parent company of Air Sinai, which operated flights between the two countries without carrying the Egyptian flag or the company's logo.
Since Sisi took office in 2014, he has been keen to strengthen diplomatic and security relations with Israel, which have reached unprecedented levels today.
Israir Airlines indicated last month that it intends to operate 15 weekly flights on the Tel Aviv-Sharm el-Sheikh route as soon as it obtains the necessary approvals.
Israeli tourists wishing to visit Sharm el-Sheikh would usually resort to private planes, buses or taxis.
Paul Rivlin, a visiting professor of economics in the Middle East at Emory University, told Al-Monitor that the direct flights between the two countries have considerable potential to revitalize Israeli tourism to Sharm el-Sheikh and will help Egypt overcome some of the effects of the Russian war in Ukraine.
The sea resorts in Sinai are the most attractive destinations for Israeli tourists. More than 700,000 Israeli tourists visited Egypt in 2019, according to the Israeli Embassy in Egypt.
Egyptian tourism experts who spoke to Al-Monitor believe that the operation of direct flights between Egypt and Israel will increase the number of tourists coming to Egypt, but it will not be enough to compensate for the accumulated losses the tourism sector has incurred over the years.
Egypt’s tourism revenues hit $2.8 billion from July to September 2021, according to the country’s central bank, compared to $801 million for the same period in the previous fiscal year.
Egypt had hoped for a better tourism season this year with most of the world countries easing COVID-19 restrictions. However, the Russian war in Ukraine has further burdened tourism, which is a key source of national revenues in Egypt.
Egypt was one of the first countries to begin receiving tourists in July 2020 while strict precautionary measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus were still in place globally, in a desperate attempt to save its ailing sector. Tourism revenues decreased by 70% in the same year due to the pandemic and the ensuing closure of many tourism facilities and hotels, and travel and movement restrictions that affected most of the world's countries.
Despite that, Egypt's tourism revenues reached $4 billion in 2020, and the country received 3.5 million tourists that year. This is while its tourism revenues hit $13 billion in 2019, with more than 13 million tourists. Magdy Sleem, a former official at the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, told Al-Monitor that direct flights between Egypt and Israel may promote Israeli tourism in the country with time, but he also called for the need to target other markets in Europe, East Asia and Latin American countries.
He added that Israeli tourism alone will not compensate for the Egyptian losses incurred due to the war in Ukraine and the pandemic. “We will seemingly see the lowest number of tourists visiting Egypt in years,” he said.
Egypt launched last month the Follow the Sun advertising campaign on social media, including Facebook, TikTok and Instagram, to attract tourists from the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France and the United States, in an attempt to bridge the gap that the Russian and Ukrainian tourists left behind due to the war. Moreover, the Cabinet decided on March 22 that charter flights landing in Egypt would continue to receive cash subsidies from the government until the end of October. These sums range from $1,500 to $3,500 to airlines per flight. The program, which aims to boost tourism, was supposed to end in April.
Sleem anticipated that less than 2 million tourists would visit Egypt this year, which implies a 50% decrease compared to 2020.
Expectations of a weak tourist season this year may change after the major Russian tourism company, Biblio-Globus, resumed its flights to Egypt, where 300 Russian tourists arrived in Hurghada on April 3 — the first such trip since the Russian war began in Ukraine.
The flight was organized directly from Zhukovsky International Airport to Hurghada International Airport via Red Wings airline, a regional leisure operator, instead of Russian Airlines. Russian tourists wishing to travel to Egypt must have a schedule of four days or more. It is expected that Russian companies will increase their flights to Egypt, coinciding with the decision of authorities in Moscow to lift coronavirus restrictions on regular and charter flights to 52 “friendly” countries, including Egypt, starting April 9, Russian news agency TASS reported Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin as saying.
Red Wings is offering two flights a week to Hurghada from April 3-10. Beginning April 13, the flight operator will offer four flights a week.
In 2019, the second-largest number of tourists visiting Egypt came from Ukraine with 1.6 million people, namely a 32% increase compared with the previous year.
More than 727,000 Ukrainian tourists entered Egypt in 2020, according to the Ukrainian Embassy in Cairo, which comprised 21% of the total number of foreign tourists in Egypt that year.
The Ukrainian State Agency for Tourism said in a January report that 1.46 million Ukrainians visited Egypt in 2021, making Egypt its second most popular tourist destination after Turkey.
Russia has been the first source of tourists in Egypt for years, with nearly 3 million Russian tourists visiting Egypt in 2014, before Moscow ordered a suspension of flights to Egypt after a Russian charter flight crashed in Sinai in 2015 killing all 224 passengers on board. In July 2021, Russia decided to resume flights to and from Egypt. Since then, 700,000 Russians visited Egypt until the end of 2021, with 125,000 Russian tourists entering the country in the first two weeks of 2022, according to Russian Ambassador to Cairo Georgy Borisenko. Sleem said that the repercussions of the war in Ukraine will cast a shadow on tourism in Egypt for a while, which will affect the 2 million people working in the sector.
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Israel's Ultra-Orthodox not ready to take down Bennett government
Israel Hershkovitz/Al-Monitor/ April 13/ 2022
Despite the political upset between the coalition and the opposition, the ultra-Orthodox seem in no hurry to topple the current government.
United Torah Judaism representative Moshe Gafni speaks after a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at the president's residence on April 5, 2021, in Jerusalem, Israel. - Amir Levy/Getty Images
Knesset member Idit Silman quit the coalition and joined the opposition April 6, ending the government's parliamentarian majority. Silman quit following instructions by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz for hospitals to allow non-kosher food during the upcoming Passover holiday.
Some observers claim that several opposition politicians were involved in Silman’s decision, while others say that even before the crisis, ultra-Orthodox politicians approached Defense Minister Benny Gantz to propose he quit the cabinet and form a government with them and the Likud. Gantz said yesterday, "I miss the ultra-Orthodox in this government. Nothing will happen in one week without chametz in hospitals. We in the army will work to find the right balance between the High Court and the preservation of tradition."
Israel’s two major ultra-Orthodox parties have been exiled from power for nine months. As members of the Knesset opposition since mid-June 2021, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Shas used filibusters and other tools to exhaust the eight-party coalition and disrupt its work. Their intense efforts exhausted them, too. Silman’s announcement did not surprise UTJ’s seven seasoned Knesset members, who had already identified cracks in the fragile coalition. “We realized immediately that the weakest link in the coalition was actually the Yamina party of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett,” one UTJ lawmaker told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, predicting that Silman would not be the last Yamina member to jump ship.
But before the ultra-Orthodox parties and their so-called “natural partners” in the Likud could march arm-in-arm back to the seat of government, UTJ leader and veteran lawmaker Moshe Gafni rained on the parade.
Gafni said he told Silman that “the people of Israel were proud of her for the fight she was waging and I was glad she had made the move.” However, Gafni added that the opposition should also engage in soul-searching and ask itself who has the best prospects of putting together a government without calling new elections. UTJ was signaling that its support should not be taken for granted.
Gafni himself made clear that his main concern was preventing the premiership from falling into the hands of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who is particularly reviled in ultra-Orthodox circles over his centrist party’s perceived anti-clerical bias. Under the power-sharing agreement between Bennett and Lapid, if Bennett’s government is toppled, Lapid would serve as interim prime minister until elections are held.
Gafni tried to walk back his comments. “What was published in my name that we are allegedly not supporting Netanyahu for the premiership is not true,” he said in a statement. But the damage had been done. Some of his fellow UTJ lawmakers claimed his remarks were made before he had consulted with the party’s rabbis. In response, Gafni’s aides posted a photo showing him meeting with Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, spiritual leader of the UTJ’s Degel Hatorah faction, along with a report that the two had agreed to work together to prevent Lapid from becoming prime minister.
What game is Gafni playing? While the ultra-Orthodox legislator certainly wants to block Lapid from becoming prime minister, he could also be motivated by personal reasons. The current constellation left Gafni the only senior ultra-Orthodox politician. Thus, continuing with the current Knesset could work toward his personal advantage.
To answer lies in the intricate internal divisions and power struggles among the ultra-Orthodox in the last 30 years. The political representatives of its two main streams, the Hassidim and the Lithuanians, have long been at odds. In 1988, the Lithuanians split from the Agudat Israel party that represented both groups in the Knesset and formed Degel Hatorah, which no longer accepted the authority of Agudat Israel rabbis. Their independent run netted the new party only two Knesset seats compared to Agudat Israel's five.
The two parties joined forces once again for the 1992 elections after four tumultuous years. They have since run together on a single UTJ ticket despite their rivalry, with the power balance between them strictly maintained – 60% of the Knesset seats won by the combined list were given to lawmakers representing the Hassidic Agudat Israel and 40% to the Lithuanian stream’s Degel Hatorah.
The 2018 municipal elections disrupted this delicate balance when Degel Hatorah trounced Agudat Israel, buttressing claims that when push comes to shove, the ultra-Orthodox community obeys the Lithuanian leaders. Degel Hatorah's success heralded dramatic changes on the national level, leaving the two factions on equal footing and handing Gafni the party’s top leadership position.
Two other dramatic events this past year have made Gafni the ultra-Orthodox's unchallenged political leader. Aryeh Deri, chair of the other ultra-Orthodox party Shas, quit the Knesset last January in a plea arrangement with the state after his corruption indictment. He now runs his party unofficially. Shortly afterward, Agudat Israel’s political leader Yaakov Litzman signed his own plea deal in another affair and also announced he would not run in the next elections.
Gafni finds himself well positioned at a crossroads. The man who barely made it into the Knesset 33 years ago and has since fought for his faction’s legitimacy is now single-handedly leading the entire ultra-Orthodox camp.
If Gafni stands firm and refuses to vote to disband the Knesset, it will cost Netanyahu a shot at the premiership. Perhaps Netanyahu would be consoled by the thought that Deri and Litzman, the partners who helped him hold onto power, are also out of the game. The trio worked well together over the years, but there was never any illusion that given the right opportunity, any of them would betray the others.

Erdogan plays to base with criticism of Tunisia
Fehim Tastekin/Al-Monitor/ April 13/ 2022
By slamming the dissolution of Tunisia’s parliament, Erdogan may have emboldened his ideological allies from the Ennahda party, but his criticism might backfire to further isolate political Islam.
Non-interference in domestic affairs and ending support for the Muslim Brotherhood have been two major conditions that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has faced in his fence-mending quest with Egypt and other Arab countries, leading him to tone down his rhetoric on regional issues in the past couple of years. Yet the Tunisian president’s decision to dissolve parliament has prompted a fresh outburst by Erdogan, fueling diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
Erdogan’s condemnation was meant as support for his close friend Rachid Ghannouchi, speaker of the dissolved assembly and leader of the Brotherhood-affiliated Islamist Ennahda party. “We see the developments in Tunisia as the smearing of democracy. The dissolution of a parliament of elected representatives is … a blow to the will of the Tunisian people,” he said April 4.
Erdogan spoke out after several days of silence following President Kais Saied’s March 30 decision to dissolve parliament, which he had suspended last year. Tunisia should stick to its election roadmap, Erdogan said, stressing that the political transition in the country could succeed “only through an inclusive and meaningful dialogue in which all segments of society, including parliament, are involved.”
Erdogan’s criticism generated a harsh response from Tunis. Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi called his Turkish counterpart to reject Erdogan’s comments, and his ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador. “Tunisia expresses its astonishment at the Turkish president's statement … these comments are unacceptable," the Foreign Ministry said. “Tunisia affirms its keenness on close relations with friendly countries but adheres to the independence of its decision and rejects interference in its sovereignty or the choices of its people," it said. And Saied, referring to Tunisia’s Ottoman past, said his country was no longer an Ottoman province and “not waiting for orders from any authority.” The Tunisian people, he added, “will say their word away from any interference.”
Saied had suspended the parliament and the immunity of its members and dismissed the government in July 2021 following a wave of anti-government protests. Soon after, he issued a decree expanding his executive powers. In February, Saied dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council and appointed a temporary replacement for the body. He had criticized the council for delaying investigations into political assassinations in the wake of the 2011 popular rising that had led to Ennahda’s ascent to power, protecting figures affiliated with Ennahda and impeding efforts to stamp out corruption.
In a countermove March 30, more than a half of the suspended parliament’s members held an online session to vote through a bill repealing the president’s extraordinary executive decrees. Saied immediately convened a meeting of the National Security Council, at which he announced the dissolution of the legislature for what he called a “coup attempt.” The deputies faced a probe on charges of conspiring against state security.
Under a roadmap that Saied announced last year, Tunisia is expected to hold a referendum on a draft new constitution on July 25 and then parliamentary polls in December. Tired of corruption of economic woes, many Tunisians had initially supported Saied’s moves, but the president has come under mounting criticism that he is becoming a new autocrat.
Ennahda, which was part of the government that Saied dismissed and had the largest number of seats in parliament, has said it will boycott the referendum and the elections.
Given Ennahda’s ideological affinity and close ties with Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, the political crisis in Tunisia holds the potential to hit Turkish-Tunisian relations. The Brotherhood’s ouster in Egypt in 2013 had opened deep rifts between Ankara and Cairo, which have yet to be healed. Ankara and Tunis had so far refrained from steps that could cause lasting damage to their ties. But now that Ennahda faces the risk of political isolation as a result of the transformation that Saied seeks, Ankara is growing concerned that it could lose Tunisia as well.
Meanwhile, the U-turns that Ankara has recently made to ease tensions with regional countries have disappointed Erdogan’s Islamist supporters. Hence, he might have felt compelled to break his silence on Tunisia in a bid to refresh his leadership credentials, both at home and abroad.
In a string of backpedaling moves, Erdogan has reconciled with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which he had accused of financing the 2015 coup attempt in Turkey; forced the Brotherhood’s Istanbul-based TV channels to tone down their criticism of Cairo; and accorded a warm welcome to Israel’s president in Ankara. Eager to reconcile with Saudi Arabia as well, Turkey last week halted the trial of 26 Saudi nationals over the gruesome murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul and handed the case over to Riyadh.
Yet Erdogan’s criticism of Saied might make things even harder for Ghannouchi, who has been accused of using his role as parliament speaker to collude with Turkey and Qatar and advance the Brotherhood’s transnational agenda. Tunisian anti-terror police questioned Ghannouchi April 1 on charges of having plotted against state security. Erdogan’s criticism, widely seen as an attempt to save Ennahda, might backfire also by influencing skeptics to back Saied’s roadmap.
That Tunis responded sternly to Erdogan while mostly fudging over the reactions of other countries indicates that the row has domestic political implications. Erdogan is seen as a leader who could embolden Ennahda, and his comments rekindled debates targeting the party. Arab media accompanied their coverage of Erdogan’s comments with the following remarks of Ghannouchi: “We are not isolated from the world. We have inter-parliamentary relations and friends around the world. We are in contact with all parties with whom we share objectives.” While Ennahda’s ties with Turkey and Qatar are constantly evoked, some media outlets have gone as far as to report the outlandish claim that the Brotherhood had asked the Turkish military to intervene to overthrow Saied.
Al Arab newspaper opines that Erdogan has bowed down to Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia and is now extending a helping hand to Ghannouchi to reburnish his image as the defender of Islamist causes. According to the paper, he has reverted to his old style of interfering in Arab domestic affairs by replacing Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi with Saied as his target.
Zouhair Maghzaoui, secretary-general of Tunisia’s People’s Movement party, sees Turkey as the “last card” of Tunisia’s Islamists in their quest for external support. “Erdogan’s statements are part of his Muslim Brotherhood ties in the region and in response to demands by the Ennahda movement, given that Tunisia is the last stronghold of Islamists in the region,” he said. For Tunisian analyst Nabil Rabhi, Erdogan “wants the Brotherhood's return to power.”
In defiant remarks April 9, Ghannouchi said Tunisia was in the grips of “an unprecedented crisis reinforcing a dictatorial regime that has seized all power.”
The row has triggered also calls to boycott Turkish goods in Tunisia. Some observers argue that Tunisia should review or freeze its 2004 free trade agreement with Turkey because it has favored Turkish interests. Turkish goods have flooded the Tunisian market and dealt blows to local producers, they note, stressing that Tunisia’s trade deficit with Turkey is the third largest after its trade deficits with China and Italy.
Turkey’s diplomatic tensions with Tunisia could cast a pall also on its efforts for normalization with Arab heavyweights.
For Egypt, which has shown no hurry to advance the normalization offer that Turkey made last year, Ankara had to be put on a test to show commitment on non-interference and ending support for the Brotherhood. And though Erdogan has shown willingness to give concessions on the Brotherhood, Cairo has remained rather cool to the Turkish leader. Erdogan might feel frustrated and reckon that he has no reason to soften further now that the Ukraine crisis has helped him break his isolation on the Western front as well. In sum, the latest episode with Tunisia suggests that Erdogan would not easily part with his old habits or turn his back on the Brotherhood unless he gets a meaningful response from the governments with which he seeks normalization.

Ukraine War: The Moral Corruption of Germany's Political Elite
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/April 13, 2022
Questions are being belatedly asked — and grudgingly answered — about many aspects of Merkel's failed Russia policy, including her decisions to block Ukraine's prospective membership of NATO, gut the German military, undermine the transatlantic alliance, and institutionalize Germany's overdependence on Russian energy supplies.
The responsibility for Germany's failed Russia policy goes far beyond Merkel: German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and a large cross section of Germany's business, media and political elite have supported — and continue to support — pro-Russia (as well as pro-China and pro-Iran) policies that sacrifice democracy, human rights, and the rule of law on the altar of financial gain.
"The president of Germany is not ready to admit any of his huge personal responsibility for the failure of Berlin's Russia policy mistake. Even in times of such a war he wants to build new bridges with Russia." — Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk, interview with the Los Angeles Times.
"The modus operandi of German & EU politics is the indefinite postponement of conflicts. This seemed to have worked well in times of peace (though not in relation to Russia, obviously). The consequences of such an approach in times of war can be catastrophic." — Stefan Auer, Professor of European studies, University of Hong Kong.
"The problem in my view is one of mindset.... This Zeitenwende [turning point in German-Russian relations] will only succeed if it arrives in the heads of an entire complacent generation of boomer politicians in Germany who have to accept that their naïveté, egocentrism and smug self-righteous conviction in the supposed higher morality of their actions has directly contributed to the greatest catastrophe in European politics since 1945." — Georg Löfflmann, a German professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick
"Germany's stubborn insistence on engaging with the Russian leader in the face of his sustained aggression (a catalog of misdeeds ranging from the invasion of Georgia to assassinations of enemies abroad and war crimes in Syria) was nothing short of a catastrophic blunder, one that will earn Merkel a place in the pantheon of political naiveté alongside Neville Chamberlain." — Matt Karnitschnig, Chief Europe Correspondent, Politico.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine is forcing a long-overdue reevaluation of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel's legacy of appeasing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pictured: Merkel greets Putin at the G20 economic summit on July 7, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images)
Russia's invasion of Ukraine is forcing a long-overdue reevaluation of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel's legacy of appeasing Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Questions are being belatedly asked — and grudgingly answered — about many aspects of Merkel's failed Russia policy, including her decisions to block Ukraine's prospective membership of NATO, gut the German military, undermine the transatlantic alliance, and institutionalize Germany's overdependence on Russian energy supplies.
A growing number of commentators in Germany and elsewhere are saying that Merkel's years-long deference to Putin made his invasion of Ukraine possible, and some are even accusing Germany of being complicit in the war.
The responsibility for Germany's failed Russia policy goes far beyond Merkel: German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and a large cross section of Germany's business, media and political elite have supported — and continue to support — pro-Russia (as well as pro-China and pro-Iran) policies that sacrifice democracy, human rights, and the rule of law on the altar of financial gain.
Some commentators worry that Germany's pro-Russia policies will be difficult to reverse in the post-Merkel era because, they say, it is ingrained in the worldview of an entire generation of contemporary German leaders.
Facing intense political pressure after Russia invaded Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged to reverse Germany's pro-Putin policies. A month later, he is being accused of backtracking or backsliding on many of his promises. Especially disgraceful is the German government's repeated excuse-making to deliberately delay promised shipments of weapons to Ukraine.
Even with mounting evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, German policy toward Russia remains hostage to naïve idealism and the energy dependency it created. More than half of the gas and coal that Germany imports comes from Russia, as does a third of its oil, according to the German Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Some analysts have postulated that Scholz is waiting for the war to end — regardless of who wins — so that Germany can return to the status quo.
Ukrainian Pressure
In recent weeks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk repeatedly have called out the hypocrisy of the German government's Russia policy:
April 3. Zelenskyy rebuked Merkel for enabling Russia's invasion of Ukraine:
"Questions must be asked, not only about Russia, but also about the political behavior that actually allowed this evil to come to our land. Today is the fourteenth anniversary of the NATO Summit in Bucharest. At the time there was a chance to take Ukraine out of the 'grey zone' in Eastern Europe, out of the grey zone between NATO and Russia, out of the grey zone in which Moscow thinks it can do anything, even the most dreadful war crimes.
"Under optimistic diplomatic statements that Ukraine could become a member of NATO, then in 2008 the refusal to accept Ukraine into the alliance, was hidden, among some politicians, an absurd fear of Russia. They thought that by refusing Ukraine, they would be able to appease Russia, to convince it to respect Ukraine and live normally next to us.
"During the 14 years since that miscalculation, Ukraine has experienced a revolution and eight years of war in Donbas. And now we are fighting for life in the most horrific war in Europe since World War II.
"I invite Mrs. Merkel and Mr. [Nicolas] Sarkozy to visit Bucha and see what the policy of concessions to Russia has led to in 14 years, to see with their own eyes the tortured Ukrainian men and women.
"I want to be correctly understood. We do not blame the West. We do not blame anyone but the specific Russian military that did this to our people and those who gave them orders. But we have the right to talk about indecision, about the path to Bucha, to Hostomel, to Kharkiv, to Mariupol."
April 1. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Melnyk said: "The president of Germany is not ready to admit any of his huge personal responsibility for the failure of Berlin's Russia policy mistake. Even in times of such a war he wants to build new bridges with Russia. It clearly sends a clandestine signal to Moscow: Once the war is over we are still here. We keep the flag flying. We will restore the historic German-Russian ties."
April 2. Melnyk tweeted: "Dear German government, you can sleep on and worry about fuel prices, inflation, and recession. Only: by looking the other way, Russia is committing a genocide in the middle of Europe. And Germany is dutifully financing these massacres. Good night, German coalition government."
April 3. Melnyk tweeted: "German 'Never Again' is bullsh*t. Pure hypocrisy."
April 4. Melnyk, in an interview with Germany's ARD television, called for an urgent reappraisal of Germany's Russia policy: "If this German foreign policy catastrophe is not dealt with then there is a risk that something similar will happen again and that you will become dependent on Russia again."
April 4. Melnyk, in an interview with Tagesspiegel, said: "For Steinmeier, the relationship with Russia was and remains something fundamental, even sacred, no matter what happens. Even the war of aggression makes no difference."
April 5. Melnyk tweeted: "German economy. Economy. Über alles. German prosperity. Prosperity. Über alles. Morality? Decency? Historical responsibility? None. So much for the embargo of Russian gas, oil & coal — even after the massacre at Bucha. Dear German government, how much longer will you look on?"
April 8. In an interview with Reuters, Melnyk said:
"It's not just Russian gas, it's oil, coal, metals, diamonds and other raw materials. We (Ukraine) have become the biggest victim of this perverted relationship. Ukrainians are paying for this failed German policy with their lives.
"This kind of hypocrisy with Russia dates back to Nord Stream 1 (gas pipeline). Germany's huge dependence on Russia, at a time of the worst aggression since the Second World War, is shameful.
"Germany is as far away from giving us the support we need today as it was at the start of the war. More than 40 days later, the German political elite apparently still does not believe that Ukraine can win the war."
April 10. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, in an interview with the American television news program Meet the Press, said that Merkel's decision in 2008 to exclude Ukraine from NATO was a "strategic mistake." He added: "If we were a member of NATO, this war wouldn't be taking place."
April 12. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier abandoned plans to visit Ukraine after Zelenskyy refused to meet with him. A Ukrainian official in Kyiv told the German newspaper Bild: "We all know about Steinmeier's close ties to Russia. He is currently not welcome in Kyiv."
Sorry Not Sorry
On April 4, in a terse statement prepared by an aide, Merkel, who has remained conspicuously silent since the Ukraine war began on February 24, responded to Zelenskyy:
"Retired Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel stands by her decisions in connection with the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest."
German journalist Rayk Anders commented:
"Merkel let it be known today 'that it was right not to accept Ukraine into NATO.' Even in the middle of the war and in front of the bloody shambles of her foreign policy, she can't see her own mistake. Incomprehensible."
A few hours later, Steinmeier, who was reelected to a second term as German president just over a week before the Ukraine war began, issued an apology (of sorts) for his many years of appeasing Putin. The German head of state, who appears to be extraordinarily close to the Russian government, said:
"My sticking to Nord Stream 2 was clearly a mistake. We held on to bridges that Russia no longer believed in and which our partners had warned us about.
"My assessment was that Vladimir Putin would not accept the complete economic, political, and moral ruin of his country for his imperial madness. Like others, I was wrong.
"The bitter balance sheet: We failed to establish a common European house (ein gemeinsames europäisches Haus) that includes Russia. We failed to integrate Russia into a common security architecture.
"With a Russia under Putin, there will be no return to the status quo as it existed before the war."
Nord Stream 2, a highly controversial energy pipeline, was designed to double shipments of Russian natural gas to Germany by transporting the gas under the Baltic Sea. Facing intense international pressure after Putin invaded Ukraine, Berlin reluctantly halted the pipeline.
Steinmeier, Merkel and others have long ignored concerns that Nord Stream 2 would effectively give Moscow a stranglehold over German gas supplies. The leaders of many countries in Eastern and Western Europe warned that the pipeline would subject the continent to Russian blackmail.
German commentators noted that Steinmeier's apology actually sounded like a non-apology: by using the words "we" and "like others," he was essentially saying that he is not really to blame because many other German officials also supported Berlin's disastrous Russia policy.
Jochen Bittner, who writes for the German newspaper Die Zeit, tweeted:
"This 'like others' from Steinmeier is a self-righteousness that is difficult to bear. First, others weren't chancellery chiefs and foreign ministers. And second, there were admonishers and warners. They were willingly defamed as 'warmongers' and 'swashbucklers.'"
Steinmeier, who has held many senior positions in the German government since 1999 — including the post of foreign minister between 2005 and 2009, and again between 2013 and 2017 — did not offer his resignation.
Hans-Jürgen Jakobs, a senior editor with Handelsblatt, a prestigious German business newspaper, wrote that Merkel and Steinmeier issued their statements only because they were under political pressure to do so:
"The grand coalition partners Angela Merkel and Frank-Walter Steinmeier worked together for a good seven years. She as chancellor, he as foreign minister. They received much applause. With Vladimir Putin turning a civilized country into a slaughterhouse, however, the duo's performance looks a lot worse than we thought when they left office. The interwoven energy policy and Ostpolitik (Russia policy) is literally blowing up in their faces.
"The two politicians were only really motivated to issue their current statements because of critical voices from Ukraine: Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The difference: the Social Democrat [Steinmeier] has regrets, the Christian Democrat [Merkel] has no regrets.
"If Steinmeier's re-election had been scheduled for April rather than February, eleven days before the invasion, he would have been more worried about getting a second term."
In an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio, Melnyk said that Steinmeier's admission of error was only a "first step" and called for the German president to back up his words with deeds:
"It is important for us that these statements are now followed by actions, but these actions are missing. Like many of my compatriots, I would like the German president not only to show his remorse, but also that, as head of state, he demands that Germany draw lessons from the Bucha massacre, and from other atrocities, that we in Ukraine are now experiencing day and night....
"We believe that what has happened here in Germany over the past two decades urgently needs to be dealt with, not only politically, but also at the level of society and the media. Everything really needs to be exposed and examined. How could it come to the point that Germany is almost completely dependent on the Russian state in terms of energy policy? And that Ukraine has become a hostage of these relations and has to pay for this suffering with civilian casualties?"
The chief foreign correspondent for Die Welt, Klaus Geiger, wrote:
"Olaf Scholz's change of course on February 27 was driven by fear — not courage. Ukraine was lied to, the closeness to Russia remained behind the scenes. This is one of the reasons why the Bucha massacre was possible."
Promoting Failure
German officials responsible for creating and implementing Merkel's failed Russia policy are now being promoted to positions of even more influence and responsibility:
Jens Plötner, a so-called Putinversteher (someone who "understands" Putin) who served as chief of staff to Foreign Minister Steinmeier, is now national security advisor to Chancellor Scholz. Plötner, a strong supporter of Nord Stream 2, bears considerable responsibility for the policies that led to Germany's energy dependence on Russia. He now says that he is leading a "policy change" to end that dependency.
Christoph Heusgen, Merkel's top foreign policy advisor who served as German Ambassador to the United Nations from 2017 to 2021 (he managed Germany's shameful two-year anti-Israel stint on the UN Security Council), has been named chairman of the Munich Security Conference, a high-profile annual conference on international security policy. The position will allow Heusgen to continue to have an outsized voice on German foreign policy and transatlantic relations.
Heusgen has downplayed German policy failures by portraying Merkel as a victim of Russia. In a recent appearance on German national television, he claimed that Germany had "misjudged" Putin. This misjudgment occurred despite years of warnings from Eastern and Western Europe and the United States.
On September 25, 2018, when U.S. President Donald J. Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly, Heusgen, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and other members of the German delegation were filmed sneering when Trump warned:
"Reliance on a single foreign supplier can leave a nation vulnerable to extortion and intimidation. That is why we congratulate European states, such as Poland, for leading the construction of a Baltic pipeline [Baltic Pipe, a gas pipeline from Norway via Denmark to Poland] so that nations are not dependent on Russia to meet their energy needs. Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course."
Heusgen is now presenting himself as a Russia hawk, but not everyone is buying it. Meanwhile:
Thomas Bagger, a long-time senior foreign policy advisor to Steinmeier, has been appointed to the position of German Ambassador to Poland.
Steffen Seibert, Merkel's long-time spokesman, has been named German Ambassador to Israel. With a straight face, day in and day out for more than a decade, he sold Merkel's failed policies to the German public.
Seibert's promotion has been heavily criticized on social media: German author Alexander Wallasch tweeted: "Steffen Seibert goes to Israel as ambassador. Dear Israelis, sorry in advance!" Another commentator noted: "Merkel is infiltrating Israel. I feel sorry for them." Yet another tweeted: "Our former chief liar and denier falls up the career ladder." Paul-Anton Krüger, Berlin bureau chief for Süddeutsche Zeitung, reported that Seibert's promotion had been coordinated beforehand between Merkel and Scholz.
Twitter Takes
Many analysts and commentators from Germany and elsewhere have taken to Twitter to offer cogent and concise analyses of Germany's failed Russia policy.
German geopolitical analyst Ulrich Speck noted:
"For Germans who invested so much in the partnership with Russia it's hard to accept that they were wrong. They always thought they were 'rational,' smarter than the Central Europeans who were warning about Russian aggression, and who the Germans saw as irrational, 'traumatized.'"
In another tweet, Speck added:
"German Russia policy since 2005 was a co-production of [Germany's two main parties] the CDU [Christian Democrats] and the SPD [Social Democrats], which is why both parties do not really want to distance themselves from it, change of era or not."
Anders Östlund, a Swedish analyst with the Center for European Policy Analysis, tweeted:
"There is something fundamentally wrong with the value system in the German political establishment. The acceptance of wars and atrocities and the unwillingness to take action to stop the wars and atrocities will haunt Germany for a long time.
"The German leadership cannot claim to be against wars and atrocities when it passively stands by and watches such events unfold when the German government has had the power to stop them.
"The last twenty years Germany has acted like a corrupt and morally decadent policeman. It has looked on as crimes were committed despite having the powers to interfere and it has up until the last months always expressed more understanding for the perpetrator than the victim.
Stefan Auer, a professor of European studies at the University of Hong Kong, tweeted:
"The modus operandi of German & EU politics is the indefinite postponement of conflicts. This seemed to have worked well in times of peace (though not in relation to Russia, obviously). The consequences of such an approach in times of war can be catastrophic."
Bojan Pancevski, Germany correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, noted:
"During the eurocrisis [2009-2012], Germany helped impose austerity on ailing partners, demanding their immediate pain for a collective gain. Now, however, Germany is asking the EU for years to correct its policies that made it the world's biggest buyer of Russian gas."
Marcel Dirsus, a German analyst at the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University, tweeted:
"If you're German, please stop saying that nobody could've seen this war coming. People warned us for years, but we chose to ignore them because doing so was better for business and we like to think of ourselves as more clever than everyone else. Turns out we aren't.
"This is not a moment for Germans to throw up their hands and pretend that everyone is totally surprised by Putin. We should be asking for forgiveness for our arrogance and try to learn from our allies because they got it right and we got it wrong."
Czech political analyst Monika Richter wrote:
"The emperor is naked. At the critical moment, Germany has shown itself to be a feckless, unreliable ally, more deeply corrupted & coopted by its 'commercial' authoritarian entanglements than many (esp in the US) realized. With friends like these, you don't need enemies.
"It's time for Biden to stop pussy-footing around Berlin in prostration for his predecessor's offenses and privileging the bilateral relationship over other allies and the imperatives of transatlantic security — which, indeed, Germany has been consistently sabotaging for years.
"Strategic corruption is a disease, and it has weakened the German state to such an extent that it now clearly jeopardizes the global democratic community. We need to respond with tough love and public exposure of the disease....
"The rot runs deep, and it has been allowed to fester for far too long. Enough is enough."
Mareike Ohlberg, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, wrote:
"I am deeply unimpressed by all the figures on German TV currently telling us that they couldn't have seen coming what Putin would do, that Nordstream 2 would turn out to be a problem. I was in so many talks where German officials dismissed CEE [Central and Eastern Europe] warnings.
"The fact that the people who were so fundamentally wrong about everything and so nasty to their European neighbors are the people we're STILL turning for advice to now frankly offends me."
German Russia expert Janis Kluge tweeted:
"Personal view: Today, no country in the West should feel more responsibility for #Ukraine's security than #Germany. Consequently, Germany should do more than any other country to help Ukraine....
"–We worked hard to keep Ukraine out of NATO.
"–We denied Ukraine arms, even blocked others from doing so.
"–We cooperated directly with Russia's military until at least 2014.
"–We funded Russia's armament more than most.
"–We helped Russia bypass Ukraine's gas transit (NS1&2).
"But most of all, we were [in World War 2] the last ones to invade, bomb and kill in Ukraine, and vowed 'never again.' It is painful to see that other countries are stepping up more than Germany at this historic time. I hope that we can still change course."
Georg Löfflmann, a German professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick, concluded:
"The problem in my view is one of mindset.... This Zeitenwende [turning point in German-Russian relations] will only succeed if it arrives in the heads of an entire complacent generation of boomer politicians in Germany who have to accept that their naïveté, egocentrism and smug self-righteous conviction in the supposed higher morality of their actions has directly contributed to the greatest catastrophe in European politics since 1945."
Newspaper Commentary
The Chief Europe Correspondent of Politico, Matt Karnitschnig, in an essay — "Putin's Useful German Idiots" — wrote that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a repudiation of a whole generation of German politicians from across the political spectrum:
"Germany's stubborn insistence on engaging with the Russian leader in the face of his sustained aggression (a catalog of misdeeds ranging from the invasion of Georgia to assassinations of enemies abroad and war crimes in Syria) was nothing short of a catastrophic blunder, one that will earn Merkel a place in the pantheon of political naiveté alongside Neville Chamberlain.
"Slowly but surely, it's begun to dawn on Germans that Merkel's soft-shoe approach to Russia — which reached its zenith with the 2015 decision to green light the Nord Stream 2 pipeline despite Russia's annexation of Crimea and its role in the separatist war in eastern Ukraine — didn't just open the door for Putin to go further, it effectively encouraged him to do so.
"Russia's invasion of Ukraine is not just a repudiation of Merkel's chancellorship, however, but of a whole generation of German politicians from across the spectrum blinded by nostalgia for Ostpolitik and Wandel durch Handel, the 1970s-era détente policies championed by Chancellor Willy Brandt that according to German legend led to the end of the Cold War.
"Germany's collective responsibility is why turning the page is easier said than done. There is no Churchill-like figure in German politics who has been warning for years of the perils of trusting Putin. While Merkel deserves most of the blame for falling into the Russian leader's trap, the truth is that Germany's entire political class is guilty....
"During the Cold War, the term 'useful idiot' became a label for moderates in the West who fell victim to the communists' credulous arguments.
"From Germany's veto of NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia in 2008 to its pursuit of gas deals with Moscow to its resistance to send arms to Kyiv — the country's leaders have served as Putin's useful idiots.
"All the while, the so-called Russlandversteher, the smug Russian sympathizers who populate the country's political establishment, rejected criticism of their course, insisting they knew better while (literally) laughing in Washington's face.
"No one's laughing anymore."
In an opinion article — "A Failed Generation of Politicians" — Jasper von Altenbockum, an editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, wrote that it will be impossible for Germany to forge a new security policy as long as the existing generation of politicians remain in office:
"The expectation was to create peace without weapons from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Anyone who rebelled against this view, mostly Eastern Europeans, were considered hillbillies. The German debate was thought to be ahead of its time and hid behind German history. In truth, however, the doubters were the realists and German idealism was the product of provincial thinking. This was entirely in line with the West German tradition of having others pay for security, under whose umbrella it was easy to moralize....
"German idealism is now proving to be a historical error, a deception, the moral and material failure of a generation....
"It seems unlikely that a new start in German and European foreign and security policy is possible. It is not to be expected from Germany's governing coalition. A good start would be if German politicians used the word 'we' sparingly. Because we didn't fail; we didn't deceive ourselves: That was you."
Writing for Bloomberg Opinion, German commentator Andreas Kluth, in an article — "Germany's President Embodies the Past Sins of Its Russia Policy" — argued that Steinmeier is the embodiment of Germany's disastrous policy toward the Kremlin:
"With this and other outbursts of undiplomatic honesty, Andrij Melnyk, Ukraine's ambassador in Berlin, has come to embody Germany's guilty conscience. When not seated like a moral phantom in the gallery of the Bundestag and glowering down at parliament's speakers, he goes from one talk show to another, relentlessly reminding Germans how they're falling short of the historical responsibility they're constantly invoking — by not sending Ukraine enough weapons, continuing to buy Russian gas, or what have you.
"By aiming at Steinmeier, Melnyk has picked what is in some ways the most obvious and symbolic target....
"As a Social Democrat who's been chief of staff to one former chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, and foreign minister to another, Angela Merkel, Steinmeier played a leading role in almost every misguided gesture Germany has made toward Putin in the last two decades....
"During all those Schroeder and Merkel years, Steinmeier was saying cheese for the photographers next to Putin and his cronies. Like other German politicians, especially Social Democrats, he became an oratorical robot spouting the German conventional wisdom: the only way to deal with Moscow is dialogue and more dialogue, as well as more economic and cultural exchange.
"Politely but obstinately, Steinmeier rebuffed the Poles, Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians — not to mention the Ukrainians — who worried that Germany was in hock to the Kremlin. He lectured them that energy dependence was instead interdependence and would make the Russian Bear cuddly rather than scary. In 2016, when NATO maneuvered near its eastern flank, Steinmeier theatrically decried this 'saber-rattling and warmongering' by his own country's defensive alliance. Hear any echoes?
"For Steinmeier, the 'relationship to Russia was and is something fundamental, even holy,' Melnyk told a German newspaper this week. For decades, he added, Steinmeier has 'woven a spider's web' of pro-Kremlin contacts. Melnyk then named some of them, including the current foreign-policy advisor of Chancellor Olaf Scholz....
"Germany's policy elites and intellectuals will have a lot of soul-searching to do for years to come. Few are doing so honestly."
The chief correspondent of Deutschlandradio, Stephan Detjen, in an article — "The Mistakes of the Previous Russia Policy are Deeply Rooted" — concluded:
"Frank-Walter Steinmeier represents the problematic aspects of German Russia policy over the past decades in three ways: as a social democrat, as a close companion and long-time confidant of Gerhard Schröder and finally as foreign minister in two of Angela Merkel's cabinets. This made Steinmeier a symbolic figure. The biting criticism, which was leveled against him, in particular by the Ukrainian ambassador Andriy Melnyk, was primarily aimed at the current German President. But it goes far beyond the person of Steinmeier. It applies to basic attitudes of German politics that have grown culturally and are superimposed economically. It's about interests, hopes and illusions....
"The bloody landmarks that Putin left behind in his neo-imperial expansion were always recognizable without any special German thoughtfulness: Grozny, South Ossetia, Syria, Crimea, the Donbas. The question is why they were not properly perceived and interpreted in Germany.
"The search for answers forces one to confront a mentality that goes far beyond politics. It mixes ... anti-Americanism, unscrupulous lobbying Gerhard Schröder, the cold sense for German business interests and the hard-nosed rationalism of Angela Merkel, who was able to visit Alexei Navalny, who had been poisoned by Putin, in the Berlin Charité one day and dismiss the toxic Nord Stream pipeline project as a purely private business matter the next.
"The view of the reality of Putin's Russia was obscured not least by a questionable culture and dialogue policy. Shady sponsors, naïve idealists and tough ideologues, supported by the state, cultivated the mystically charged image of a German-Russian special relationship that coolly ignored the interests, freedom and independence of other Central and Eastern European countries.
"All of this is food for thought that cannot be left for discussion at some indefinite time after the war. It is the prerequisite for being able to provide better answers than in the past to the challenge from Putin now — and in the future to the challenges from the neo-imperial and autocratic powers in Beijing, Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere."
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
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The Ukrainian Conflict between Crimes against Humanity and Stalemate
Charles Elias Chartouni/April 13/2022
The latest evolutions in Ukraine have amply demonstrated the fallacy of Putin’s Rhetoric, and his vain attempt at weaving a coherent narrative to justify this unwarranted bloodshed. The wanton destruction of Ukraine, the savage and indiscriminate bombardements of dense urban areas, train stations, sheltering theaters, civilian populations and nuclear sites, the collective massacres carried out in Mariupol, Ducha, and Kramatorsk train station, the usage of chemical weapons and fragmentation bombs, are altogether egregious examples which illustrate the terrorist nature of these deliberate and carefully planned war massacres, and their attending cortege of indiscriminate gang rape (women, children, elderly people), vandalism and marauding.
The moral depravity highlighted throughout this extremely destructive war was particularly illustrated in the crafted narrative (spurious strategic considerations-NATO beleaguerment, ethnic cleansing targeting Russians in the Donbas region, Nazi takeover, denial of reality….). The outright forgery was self defeating and plainly debunked, when the ultimate savagery and its nihilistic overtones unfolded at full length in the different sequences of this gruesome and pointless war. The bogging down of this war is no hazard, it’s the outcome of faked considerations, intentional misrepresentation, conspicuous miscalculations, and an overarching strategic goal which aims at the destruction of the post-Cold War geopolitics and the disruption of the EU and the Transatlantic alliance.
The Ukrainian resistance and political unity were quite effective containing the military offensive (10.000 dead Russian soldiers), displaying the weaknesses of a corrupt, undertrained and unmotivated Russian army, and the rickety foundations of a corrupt autocracy relying on islamist terrorists and criminal gangs. Putin’s last statement reflects his multiple equivocations, obvious deadlocks, inevitable downscaling of his military objectives (Donbas vs Ukraine), moral depravation and psychotic blinders (blaming massacres and random savagery on British staging and Ukrainian propaganda), and relegating Ukraine to the paltry status of a “frozen conflict”, which was aptly coined to portray his modus operandi in different operation theaters ( Georgia, Ukraine, Syria,Lybia…). When President Biden voiced his moral outrage and called for Putin downfall, he pointed in the right direction, since this war is the outcome of his deranged mind, moral delinquency and inability to reengage the consensuses of contemporary international civility. Putin is a dictator that should be firmly contained and overthrown, if Russia is to win back its chances of normalization and democratization.

Turkey, Egypt inch toward long-awaited normalization
Yasar Yakis/Arab News/April 13, 2022
A new semi-concrete step has been taken to further mend Turkish-Egyptian relations, as Turkey has decided to appoint a senior diplomat to Egypt. The diplomat, Salih Mutlu Sen, previously served as Ankara’s permanent representative to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Two details are worth noting in this step. First, news of the appointment came from neither Turkey nor Egypt — it came from a UK-based media outlet. The second detail is that, deviating from established practice, the ambassador has been appointed as a charge d’affaires. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said: “The present charge d’affaires in Cairo had completed his term. He is now being replaced by a new one.” The Egyptian authorities did not make any comment on the subject.
Nine years ago, when the two countries withdrew their ambassadors from each other’s capital, the representation was lowered to charge d’affaires level. Turkey has also resorted to this practice in its relations with Israel. In that case, Ankara used to send an ambassadorial-level diplomat to Tel Aviv and call him the charge d’affaires.
Something similar may now be taking place in Egypt. It appears that the two countries have not yet agreed to return relations to the full ambassadorial level. Egypt may be insisting on doing everything according to the book, so there will be records in the archives. Or Cairo may not yet be ready to elevate the representation to the ambassadorial level. In other words, it may still be dragging its feet to see if Turkey fulfills some additional conditions.
The main reason for the withdrawal of ambassadors was Turkey’s disproportionate reaction to the 2013 removal of the Mohammed Morsi-led government in Egypt by Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. The reason for Ankara’s strong reaction was the ideological affinity between the ruling Justice and Development Party and the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Ankara’s objection to Morsi’s removal was understandable. However, international practice in this field is that, once law and order has been established, countries begin to recognize the new government and establish relations with it, as it is not expected to remain cut off indefinitely. Last year, Turkey belatedly woke up to the reality that being cut off from Egypt had detrimental effects on its national interests. So it took initiatives to mend fences. This time, Egypt has put forward conditions. It asked the Turkish government to control the activities of Muslim Brotherhood members operating in Turkey. To meet the Egyptian demands, Ankara asked Brotherhood activists not to broadcast television programs that criticized the Abdel Fattah El-Sisi government and instead produce cultural and social programs. Cairo asked Turkey to extradite these activists to Egypt, but they were eventually moved to third countries.
Apparently, the Egyptian government was not fully satisfied with Turkey’s attitude on the way the Brotherhood question was handled. We can see this in the slow progress of the thaw between the two countries.
Turkish-Egyptian relations will continue to move forward, but hurdles remain. While the reconciliation process was underway, fighting in Libya broke out. Turkey and Egypt found themselves on opposing sides in this crisis. Though the Government of National Unity, which was formed in March 2021, eased the tensions between the Tripoli and Tobruk governments, Turkey and Egypt still do not see eye to eye on the Libyan conflict.
When the reconciliation initiative between Turkey and Egypt was launched last year, Cavusoglu said that Ankara would make some goodwill gestures to Egypt within NATO. It later turned out that this gesture was the removal of Turkey’s veto preventing Egypt from forming a partnership with the alliance in the eastern Mediterranean.The Turkish media last week carried news about possible cooperation in the field of tourism, originating from Russia. As Ankara did not join NATO and EU countries in imposing economic sanctions on Russia as a result of its invasion of Ukraine, Russian tourists may extend their trips from Turkey to Egypt. Turkish-Egyptian relations will continue to move forward, but hurdles remain.
*Yasar Yakis is a former foreign minister of Turkey and founding member of the ruling AK Party. Twitter: @yakis_yasar

Tunisia’s failed development policies

Riadh Bouazza/The Arab Weekly/April 14/2022
The rural population in Tunisia, which has suffered from inadequate development policies since independence, is trapped in miserable and tragic conditions. It faces poverty, unemployment, marginalisation and lack of opportunities.
There is no better description for this social and economic reality than to say that the state has succeeded in anchoring underdevelopment.
For years, the hinterland served only as a labour reservoir for the coastal areas. We waited for too long for a revolution in the vision of the political elite and the ruling class in favour the disadvantaged parts of the country. Nothing materialised. There were steps taken towards the development of these regions when the population was smaller during the times of the late presidents Habib Bourguiba and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. But they were not enough to achieve the set goals. Post-2011 politicians continued the same pattern. Instead of ending the practices of those who preceded them, or at least improving on them, they only used the issue as a slogan in their electoral campaigns. Internal displacement or migration from the countryside to the cities is a major determinant of human development, as it reflects the extent to which a region is able to thrive socially and economically. Most importantly, the exodus rate is a measure of any region’s ability to offer incentives to its inhabitants to stay and not to leave.
Indicators are always a key benchmark in matters of development. In the case of Tunisia, the numbers seem shocking, but not surprising when we see that the country ranks 95th globally and 9th in the Arab region on the global human development index out of 170 countries. This is despite the past high scores that were achieved in many development indicators, before the last decade with all its strikes and work stoppages.
Political, economic, institutional and administrative factors have stood in the way of regional development, as the 16 successive governments, with the exception of the present administration of Najla Bouden, which were in power during the more than six decades did not care much about the equitable distribution of material and immaterial resources. This included public budgets allocated to infrastructure and the concentration of investments and projects with sustainable economic viability.
But the events of December 2010 to January 2011, although they seemed to be an uprising against the prevailing development situation, exposed urgent development flaws and structural imbalances in the management of the economy. This was illustrated by the state’s inability to achieve balanced and sustainable growth as a result of a political and social system dominated by an elite of politicians and businessmen, who reaped personal benefits at the expense of the rest of the population.
Dozens of government plans have not changed nor left an imprint on the views of Tunisian politicians as well as businessmen and investors, about what can be done to reduce socio-economic gaps.
Overall, there has been more mismanagement than erroneous assessment of the situation. Despite the adoption of the principle of “positive discrimination” in the 2014 constitution, differences between parts of the country became the main characteristic of development. Even if we assume that the authorities before 2011 did not carry through their plans to the fullest, the policies of governments after that date had an opportunity to break with the past. They did not however offer alternative visions. On the contrary, they contributed to the widening of the chasm between regions.
As a result, rural discontent worsened. Internal displacement increased as people left their regions to escape hunger. Even agriculture, which is supposed to be among the pillars of the state’s national security, could not draw in the local rural population. This was not because of climate change, nor because of production costs and prices, but rather because there was no systemic planning that could turn the country into a bread-basket that benefits everyone. Tunisia sorely needs to revitalise its countryside, not only through agriculture, but also by encouraging young people to pursue their own projects while providing them with means to succeed. The stark contrast in living conditions and development standards in the north, centre-west, the southwest and the southeast regions, which have always been neglected by authorities compared to development in the coastal regions, is a model that must be completely overhauled and rebuilt from scratch. History will say that the current politicians of Tunisia, with circumstances beyond their control only when it came to the pandemic, have deliberately or unintentionally perpetuated the disparities that made the poverty rate exceed the figure recorded in 2010 by a full percentage point to reach 21.5 percent, according to the data of the National Institute for Statistics. Even if it is already frightening, this figure may spike further. One government after another has made development the basis for their economic goals, but their planning has failed to keep pace with the requirements of the future. One can only ask: when will the authorities start moving?
*Riadh Bouazza is a Tunisian writer.