English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For December 02/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God
Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 02/11-22/ Therefore remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “uncircumcision” by that which is called “circumcision” (in the flesh, made by hands), that you were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in his flesh the hostility, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man of the two, making peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, having killed the hostility through it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and to those who were near. For through him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God, being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom the whole building, fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.

From that city many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the word of the woman
John 04/39-42/ From that city many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the word of the woman, who testified, “He told me everything that I have done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of your speaking; for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on December 01-02/2021
More UN Security Council meetings needed on Lebanon, Iran: US envoy
Miqati after Meeting Aoun: Govt. is Running, Cabinet is Not
Miqati: No Solution Can be Imposed through Obstruction, Coercion
Report: No Imminent Cabinet Session, Stances Unchanged
Judicial Sources Fear Truth May Never be Reached in Port Blast Case
Berri Calls for Parliament Bureau, Finance and Justice Committees to Convene
Lebanon on Macron’s Agenda in Riyadh, ‘Only if Kordahi Resigns Before Dec.
UK Ambassador Announces $1.4 Million in Support to Lebanese Army
World Bank Says Poverty is on the Rise in Lebanon
Lebanon’s Opposition Prepares to Confront Amal, Hezbollah with Unified Lists
Lebanese President Michel Aoun Defends Hizbullah, Remains Silent When Asked If Information Minister Kurdahi Should Resign
Reports: No Lockdown Planned during Holidays in Lebanon
The sacrifice/Nicholas Frakes/Now Lebanon/December 01/2021

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 01-02/2021
Despite concerns, UAE picks up positive signs from Iran
U.N. Envoy Warns of Risk of New Israel-Palestinian Violence
Kuwait opposition figures return home after emir’s pardon
Countries Agree to Negotiate WHO Pandemic Accord
Canada/Minister Joly speaks with Italian counterpart
Israeli Report: Hamas Plans Operations to Stir Chaos in West Bank
Egypt, UAE Discuss Military Cooperation
US Secretary of Defense Orders Investigation into Syria Airstrike that Killed Civilians in 2019
Yemeni President: We Are Facing an Iranian Project Targeting Arab Nation
Algeria's Top Parties Keep Power in Local Elections
Jordan to Expand Oil and Gas Exploration Activities
Analysis: President Erdogan’s rate cuts are high-risk gamble ahead of 2023
Turkish Lira Hits 14 to USD in Face of Erdogan’s ‘Dangerous Experiment'
Iraq’s complex political landscape puts Sadr to the test

Titles For The Latest The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 01-02/2021
The Moral Imperative to End China's Regime/Gordon G. Chang/Gatestone Institute/December 01/2021
‘Israel could take unilateral action against Iran if sanctions lifted’/Lahav Harkov/Jerusalem Post/December 01/2021
Israel has ‘free rein’ to deal with Iran’s precision weapons, not its nuclear program/Jacob Nagel/Israel Hayom/December 01/2021
Why The Iran Nuclear Talks Were Over Before They Began/Richard Goldberg/19fortyfive.com/December 01/2021
Beyond 43 or 48/Hazem Saghieh/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 01 December/ 2021
Tunisian president considers acting by decree against electoral lists that received illicit funds/Sghaier Hidri/The Arab Weekly/November 01/2021
Hard to be optimistic about Libyan elections/Habib Lassoued/The Arab Weekly/November 01/2021

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on December 01-02/2021
More UN Security Council meetings needed on Lebanon, Iran: US envoy
Joseph Haboush, Al Arabiya English/01 December ,2021
The UN Security Council needs to have more “open meetings” on Lebanon and Iran, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Monday, while criticizing Israeli attacks on Palestinians.
Speaking after a recent trip to the West Bank, Jordan and Israel, Greenfield said the practice of Israeli settlement expansion went back decades. “This is nothing new for us. But the practice has reached a critical juncture, and it is now undermining even the very viability of a negotiated two-state solution,” she told a UN Security Council briefing on the situation in the Middle East. The Biden administration has been uncharacteristically critical of Israel’s moves to expand illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. Last month, the State Department blasted announcements by Israel that 1,300 new settlement homes would be built in the occupied West Bank, in addition to discussions over 3,000 more homes. “I heard stories about Israeli settlers attacking Palestinians, ransacking homes, and destroying property in the West Bank, and this is an issue that I discussed extensively with Israeli counterparts. I was told how many Palestinian families fear eviction from their homes because it is nearly impossible to get building permits as settlements expand,” Greenfield said Tuesday. But Greenfield pointed out that Israel was subjected to regular attacks by terrorist organizations, “including Hamas, Hezbollah, both of whom are funded by Iran.” She added: “The impact of Iran’s regional malfeasance, nuclear aspirations, and hatred for Israel cannot be ignored.” As for what could be done to advance a two-state solution, Greenfield said Palestinians and Israelis needed to work things out between themselves. The UN Security Council could facilitate constructive steps. “We can enforce Security Council resolutions intended to constrain Iran’s regional malign activities, nuclear threats, support for terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah.” Greenfield also noted that Israeli officials voiced their concern that the UN was “intrinsically biased against Israel.”“They interpret the overwhelming focus on Israel in this body as a denial of Israel’s right to exist and an unfair focus on this one country – and they are correct,” she said, adding that Security Council monthly meetings on the Middle East focus “almost exclusively on Israel.”“This Council’s attention should reflect all areas that threaten international peace and security, and we should have open meetings on Lebanon and meet on Iran more regularly. Israel does not define the Middle East,” the US diplomat said.

Miqati after Meeting Aoun: Govt. is Running, Cabinet is Not
Naharnet/Wednesday, 01 December, 2021  
Prime Minister Najib Miqati met Wednesday with President Michel Aoun at the Baabda Palace. When leaving, Miqati only said that “the government is functioning but the Council of Ministers is not,” answering a question by a journalist. It is not the first meeting this week after which Miqati leaves without a statement. The Prime Minister had also met Monday with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and left Ain el-Tineh without making any statement. Aoun, Berri and Miqati had met in Baabda on Independence Day. Miqati said after the talks that the “meeting represented serious dialogue and, God willing, it will lead to a good outcome.”

Miqati: No Solution Can be Imposed through Obstruction, Coercion
Naharnet/Wednesday, 01 December, 2021
Prime Minister Najib Miqati stressed Wednesday that “there can be no solution” for the political-judicial crisis “except through state institutions.”“And there can be no solution imposed through obstruction or coercion,” Miqati added. Noting that he will wait before calling for a Cabinet session, the premier hoped all parties “will become convinced to keep Cabinet away from anything that it has nothing to do with.” “We had agreed that the judiciary is independent and that any dispute should be resolved in the judiciary, according to the Constitution’s articles and without any political interference,” Miqati added.
He also pointed out that he has sought and will “continue to seek a solution and back any step that would reconcile viewpoints.”Cabinet has not convened since October 14, when a political crisis erupted over the investigations of Beirut port blast investigator Judge Tarek Bitar, with Hizbullah and Amal Movement demanding that a decision be taken in Cabinet to remove him over alleged bias. President Michel Aoun’s camp and other parties meanwhile said they reject political interference in the judiciary.

Report: No Imminent Cabinet Session, Stances Unchanged
Naharnet/Wednesday, 01 December, 2021
The calls for reactivating Cabinet are falling on deaf ears, a ministerial source said. “Cabinet has been idle for the past month and a half pending a political decision to resolve the crisis of the investigative judge into the Beirut port blast Tarek Bitar, and accordingly there will not be an imminent Cabinet session,” the source told al-Joumhouria newspaper in remarks published Wednesday. “The stances have not changed,” the source added. Cabinet has not convened since October 14, when a political crisis erupted over the investigations of Judge Bitar. Hizbullah and Amal Movement demanded that a decision be taken in Cabinet to remove Bitar over alleged bias, as President Michel Aoun’s camp and other parties said they reject political interference in the judicial authority.

Judicial Sources Fear Truth May Never be Reached in Port Blast Case
Naharnet/Wednesday, 01 December, 2021  
The judicial path has been “affected by the political path” in the Beirut port blast investigation and there are fears that truth might never be reached, judicial sources said. Beirut port blast investigator Judge Tarek Bitar is now suspended, pending the implementation of the decision of the General Commission of the Court of Cassation, the sources added. The Court of Cassation last week said it is the only authority eligible to look into recusal requests against Bitar. “We are now waiting for the pending recusal requests to be transferred from the Court of Appeals to the Court of Cassation,” the judicial sources added. “Higher Judicial Council head Suheil Abboud will have to choose which chamber of the Court of Cassation’s chambers will look into these requests,” the sources said.

Berri Calls for Parliament Bureau, Finance and Justice Committees to Convene
Naharnet/Wednesday, 01 December, 2021
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday called the Parliament Bureau to convene at Ain el-Tineh on Friday afternoon. Berri also called the Finance committee and the Justice Committee to hold a joint session on Monday at the Parliament. The joint session will study an urgent draft law aiming to put exceptional and temporary restrictions on bank transfers. Media reports meanwhile said that there could be a parliamentary “settlement” to the crisis resulting from the Shiite duo’s insistence on Judge Tarek Bitar’s removal. Under the reported settlement, the accused ex-PM and former ministers would be referred to a parliamentary panel of inquiry and a “bargain” would be made with the Free Patriotic Movement under which it would provide a “Christian” cover to a parliamentary session that would approve the panel, the reports said. The FPM would in return get “electoral gains, especially as to the amendments of the electoral law and the six expat seats,” the reports added.

Lebanon on Macron’s Agenda in Riyadh, ‘Only if Kordahi Resigns Before Dec.
Naharnet/Wednesday, 01 December, 2021
Prime Minister Najib Miqati affirmed that France has informed him that Information Minister George Kordahi must resign before French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Riyadh, al-Akhbar newspaper said. “If Information Minister George Kordahi doesn’t resign before December 4, Lebanon will not be on the agenda of French President Emmanuel Macron’s scheduled talks in Riyadh,” Miqati reportedly said. Al-Akhbar learned that France is pressuring for Kordahi’s resignation to have in its hands a persuasion card when discussing the Lebanese file with the Saudis. Accordingly, Miqati restarted his contacts with the political parties to demand for Cabinet to convene, stressing on the necessity of resolving the crisis with the Gulf, especially with KSA, and demanding Kordahi’s resignation. Miqati also intensified his communication with Kordahi and the political parties objecting to the minister’s resignation. He contacted Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Hizbullah, ex-minister Suleiman Franjieh and Kordahi, informed sources told al-Akhbar. The sources added that Kordahi is still holding onto his opinion, and refusing to resign “without guarantees that his resignation will solve the problem with KSA, especially that Saudi officials have assured that the problem surpasses Kordahi’s statement and is rather about Hizbullah’s dominance over Lebanon.”

UK Ambassador Announces $1.4 Million in Support to Lebanese Army
Naharnet/Wednesday, 01 December, 2021 
At the High Level Steering Committee on Tuesday, British Ambassador to Lebanon Ian Collard, along with U.S. Ambassador Dorothy Shea and Canadian Ambassador Chantal Chastenay, met Lebanese Army Commander General Joseph Aoun to discuss the security of the Lebanese-Syrian border.
"The discussions focused on the Lebanese Armed Forces’ mission to secure the entirety of the Lebanese-Syrian border and the challenges they are facing during Lebanon’s many crises. During the meeting, Ambassador Collard announced a $1.4 million uplift to strengthen LAF’s resilience with spare parts for Land Rovers previously donated by the UK Government and for protective personal equipment for female soldiers deployed on border operations," the British embassy said in a statement. After the meeting, Ambassador Collard said: "I congratulated General Aoun on the positive role that the Lebanese Armed Forces continue to play in safeguarding the country, as the sole legitimate defender of Lebanon’s people. Lebanon is experiencing an unprecedented crisis and the Lebanese Armed Forces are pivotal to ensure stability and safety for all citizens." "I am pleased to announce a donation of $1.4 million of spare parts for the Land Border Regiments as a part of the UK’s continuing support to the LAF. Since 2010, the UK has committed over £84 million, allowing the LAF to optimise its capabilities, develop and modernize to become a respected, professional armed forces able to defend Lebanon and provide security along its border with Syria. We remain proud partners of the Lebanese Armed Forces and we look forward to strengthening our military and security relations further," Collard added.

World Bank Says Poverty is on the Rise in Lebanon
Beirut - Ali Zeineddine/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 01 December, 2021
A World Bank report has said that in 2021 the number of poor Lebanese is expected to have increased by 1.5 million over baseline, and by 780,000 Syrian refugees. At the international poverty line, the increase in poverty is found to be around 13 percentage points from baseline by the end of 2020, and 28 percentage points by end of 2021 for the Lebanese population. For Syrian refugees, the increase is estimated at around 39 percentage points by end of last year, and 52 percentage points from baseline by end of 2021. The World Bank data is consistent with the latest assessment conducted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which concluded that the poverty rate in Lebanon doubled from 42 percent in 2019 to 82 percent of the total population in 2021. According to the agency, nearly 4 million people live in multidimensional poverty, representing about one million households, of whom 77 percent are Lebanese. The rise in poverty rates is proportional to the aggravation of inflation rates and the erosion of the purchasing power, as the price index, according to the Central Statistics Department, recorded an annual increase of 173.57 percent until the end of October. The international institutions, which are closely following the exacerbation of the crises in Lebanon for the third year in a row, fear severe collapses caused by hyperinflation, which is further driven by the lifting of government subsidies and the continued devaluation of the local currency against the dollar. This was confirmed by UNICEF field surveys, which showed that 8 out of 10 people in Lebanon live in poverty, 34% of whom are in extreme poverty. Lebanon is also witnessing an unprecedented deterioration in the health care system, as hospitals suffer from a shortage of fuel, which leads to frequent power cuts, and a shortage of basic materials. Prices of medications have also seen a significant increase after the government subsidy was restructured and reduced. This has made a large number of families unable to afford health care. In this context, the report pointed out that while donor agencies, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Program, increased their assistance to refugees, this aid remained incommensurate with the deterioration of the value of the lira. With the absence of reliable information on the poor, the World Bank does not expect recovery to take place imminently, but it stresses, on the other hand, that radical reforms and social protection programs help a lot in alleviating the impact of multiple crises.

Lebanon’s Opposition Prepares to Confront Amal, Hezbollah with Unified Lists
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 01 December, 2021
Opposition groups have high hopes that the October 2019 uprising would achieve a breakthrough in the next year’s parliamentary elections. Such breakthrough, which electoral experts expect in many constituencies, would constitute a major achievement in the strongholds of Hezbollah and the Amal movement. The Bekaa third district, which includes six Shiite seats, South Lebanon’s third constituency, which has eight Shiite seats, and South Lebanon’s second constituency, which includes Tyre and Sidon villages with six Shiite seats, are the main strongholds of Hezbollah and Amal, which the opposition seeks to breach.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Human Rights Activist and Lawyer Wassef al-Harakeh said that the Shiite sect is part of the national fabric, “although it has a certain specificity that well-known political parties try to exploit to make it feel always targeted.” “After all, it is not easy to make a change in a society that is greatly influenced by religious legacies,” he remarked. Harakeh asserted, however, that people remain influenced by the possibility of change and are looking for salvation. “Here comes the role of the opposition groups to put forward a real project that would change this status quo,” he underlined. “We will fight the electoral battle in all areas and with unified lists in the regions where Hezbollah and Amal have a strong presence,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat. A Shiite opposition figure, Ali al-Amin, agrees with Harakeh, saying Hezbollah has so far “succeeded in suppressing this situation.”“Therefore, the elections will constitute a test, despite our belief that there are no free elections under Hezbollah’s arms,” Amin stated. Al-Amin told Asharq Al-Awsat about “extensive contacts among all opposition groups to strengthen an electoral front in the face of the ruling system, especially the Shiite duo.”He continued: “The ability to achieve a breakthrough is possible in more than one area, especially areas that Hezbollah does not fully control, such as Zahle and Jbeil. Some breaches can also be made in Baalbek-Hermel, and in the South.”

Lebanese President Michel Aoun Defends Hizbullah, Remains Silent When Asked If Information Minister Kurdahi Should Resign
MEMRI/December 01/2021
Source: Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar)
On November 30, 2021, Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar) aired an interview with Lebanese President Michel Aoun. President Aoun said that Hizbullah represents one third of the Lebanese population, and that it has done nothing wrong and hurt nobody within Lebanese territory. He said that Hizbullah has respected the local law and that it has fully adhered to U.N. Resolution 1701, which calls for the disarmament of militias in Lebanon. Later in the interview, President Aoun was asked if Information Minister George Kurdahi, whose recent statements have caused a crisis of relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, is being asked to resign from his position, like former Lebanese Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe had been asked to resign after making statements that similarly inflamed Lebanon’s relations with other Arab countries (see MEMRITV clip no 8857 for more information). President Aoun remained silent and did not answer the question.

Reports: No Lockdown Planned during Holidays in Lebanon
Naharnet/December 01/2021
There is no inclination to lock down the country and the ministerial panel tasked with following up on the anti-Covid precautionary measures has not submitted any recommendation for a curfew, Grand Serail sources said on Wednesday, denying media reports in this regard. “The challenge lies in the fact that hotel bookings are high in the holidays season and the committee will study all preventative proposals in order not to lock down the country after the holidays,” the sources added. MTV had earlier reported that a 7pm-7am curfew would be declared from December 10, 2021 until January 10, 2022.“Those who are vaccinated and negative test holders in all sectors will be allowed to move from one place to another,” MTV added.

The sacrifice
Nicholas Frakes/Now Lebanon/December 01/2021
As Lebanon’s economic crisis worsens, more and more children drop out of school to find work so that they can help their families.
16-year-old Rifaat Mouwas left school a year ago and now is working as a mechanic so that his family can have a second income since his father's job as a fruit and vegetable salesman is no longer enough. Photo: Nicholas Frakes, NOW.
Rifaat Mouwas, 16, bent down to examine the motorbike, his grease-covered hands feeling the gears as he searched to see what the problem was.
“These all need to be replaced,” he stated.
About a year ago the teenager stopped going to school because his family could not afford it anymore. Instead, he got the job at a mechanic shop in his neighborhood, Bab al Tabbaneh, in Tripoli. It’s not that he was ever passionate about motorbikes or dreamed of being a mechanic. But a job was a job.
The oldest of seven children, he felt it was his duty to help provide for the family since his father’s job selling fruits and vegetables was no longer enough.
“​​Our financial situation is really difficult,” Mouwas told NOW solemnly. “I’m just learning [the work] and working in order to provide for my family nothing more or less,” he stated. Making this hard choice has become more and more common in Lebanon as the economic situation in the country continues to deteriorate. Many parents have been forced to make the impossible choice of pulling their eldest children out of school so the family can have another source of income and save money on school fees. According to a November 2021 report by UNICEF, the situation in Lebanon has had an increasingly worsening impact on children in the country. “The devastating crisis has increased children’s vulnerability and exacerbated inequality. Many children have no other choice but to work, find themselves on the street or faced with other serious risks, including child marriage, trafficking and sexual exploitation,” the report said. The report estimates that around 440,000 refugee children and an “unprecedented” 260,000 Lebanese children may never go back to school, rather opting to find work to provide a secondary income for their families.Taha Sabagh, 17, dropped out of school to provide for his family, but they are still barely surviving as the economic crisis continues to worsen and his parents need healthcare. Photo: Nicholas Frakes, NOW.
The eldest drops out
“I would [return to school] if I can, but what is important is to provide for my family. I work weekly, with a salary that ranges between 100,000 Lebanese lira to 110,000 lira,” Mouwas said. “A person cannot go to school, or even work in good conditions, and do anything. The person just tries to manage several jobs in order to provide for his family.”Despite his sacrifice, two of his siblings also had to drop out of school because the family can’t afford the expenses. Only his youngest brother attends a school in Ebbeh. Mouwas knows he is not the only one in this situation and doesn’t complain. He knows many other boys like him who were forced to drop out and work. Just like Mouwas, Taha Sabagh, 17, dropped out three years ago, figuring that getting to work at a younger age would help him get a bit ahead in life. He now works at a small bakery where he helps with the cleaning while he learns how to make pastries, like manouche. His father, Omar, is a carpenter and works in a small workshop right next to the bakery in the Zahrieh neighborhood of Tripoli. When Taha first decided to not attend high school, his father was staunchly opposed to it and urged him to reconsider.
But while Omar Sabagh, 51, would like his son to return to school, he says he has to admit that Taha’s work helps bring a steady income for the family. Carpentry is a dying trade and the father is able to find work only every couple of months.
“Taha gets paid in dollars, $25 which is good,” Omar explained. “Life has become really difficult. I don’t know what to say. Now, the owner of the carpentry shop is thinking of selling it, which will make me jobless.”“The situation is really bad. It’s zero. We say ‘Thank God’ that we are working, but this doesn’t negate the fact that it’s difficult,” he explained. The importance of his work is not lost on Taha who is only too aware of how challenging the current situation is.
“It’s really bad,” the younger Sabagh told NOW. “Not just our family but any family in Lebanon. The rent is expensive, generator for electricity is also expensive. Everything.”Omar has two other children, aged 10 and 11, who are able to go to school but only because they attend a government-funded school so he does not have to pay any fees. Otherwise, they would not be able to attend any school. Other parents are also struggling to keep their children in school.
Mohammad al-Hajj, 31, owns the garage where Mouwas works.
The mechanic has two daughters, aged four and two, with the four-year-old going to a private school. However, al-Hajj is quick to mention that it is not a good private school and is just one that he can afford since he only has to pay the equivalent of $100 a year in fees. “Any more than that and I wouldn’t be able to pay,” al-Hajj told NOW. “The school takes care of the books. It’s part of the $100 payment.” Should the situation continue to worsen and with his youngest daughter reaching school-age soon, it is uncertain whether or not both, or even one of them, will be able to attend a school. For now, both al-Hajj and Sabagh say they are just struggling to put food on the table and even that has become uncertain.  With the ongoing economic crisis, diabetic Omar Sabagh, 51, has been unable to find insulin shots. He is forced to rely on his 17-year-old son Taha for income. Photo: Nicholas Frakes, NOW.
Empty plates
In the UNICEF report, which conducted a survey in April 2021 and followed up in October 2021, the percentage of children who are forced to skip meals has gone up significantly in only six months between the two studies. It found that 53 percent of families had at least one child who skipped a meal in October 2021, as compared with 37 percent in April. Sabagh and al-Hajj try their best to ensure that their families are able to eat something each day. But the quality and quantity of food have dropped drastically as prices have skyrocketed in Lebanon.
“We can eat a little bit,” al-Hajj said. “We’ll eat things like rice, yogurt, maybe some kibbe one day and cabbage another, eggplant.”It is not until the end of the month that they eat any sort of meat, if they can afford it. Due to the ongoing fuel and electricity crises that have seen Lebanon experience increased power cuts, with the government providing one to two hours of electricity a day. Private diesel-based generators provide anywhere from six or more hours, but that also depends on how much a family can afford, as fuel prices have also increased.
In addition to this, families are constantly worrying about healthcare needs as the cost of medicine has skyrocketed and, in dire situations. If they needed to go to a hospital, they “cannot even afford to open the door”, Al-Hajj explained.
Rifaat Mouwas says his work is “neither good nor bad”. For the young man, it is just a way for his family to survive. Photo: Nicholas Frakes, NOW
Taha’s father, Omar Sabagh is diabetic and needs insulin injections.
“I am diabetic and cannot find my medications,” he exclaimed, holding up a syringe.” I got a needle for insulin, it was expired but I took it anyway. It now costs 100,000 Lebanese lira!” Since he cannot find the medication that he so desperately needs, his fingers and toes have become infected. His wife also received a medical procedure for her stomach and needs antibiotics. This makes the little money that he receives from his work and the income that Taha brings home hardly enough. Taha says he left school so that he could build a future for himself and become a baker’s apprentice. But with the economic crisis, he has no choice but to work as a janitor so that his family can survive. “I am learning this profession, in order to get married in the future,” he said. “In order to provide for my family, and let them live a better life than I have lived. But unfortunately, in Lebanon, I feel it’s not possible to do so. The situation is really difficult.”Any aspirations that Mouwas had a year ago of finishing school and going to university are long gone, he says. He now worries about making enough money to buy what his family needs. School is no longer part of his life or plans for the future, and he doesn’t even mention it anymore. He only worries that his wages will not be enough to help his family. “I cannot get anything,” he stated as he looked down hopelessly at the motorbike parts in front of him. “Everything is expensive and one does not have the money for it. The financial situation is zero and people cannot afford anything. You need to work hard in order to provide just the minimum for your family.”
Rayanne Tawil contributed reporting.
*Nicholas Frakes is a multimedia journalist with @NOW_leb. He tweets @nicfrakesjourno.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 01-02/2021
Despite concerns, UAE picks up positive signs from Iran
The Arab Weekly/November 01/2021
A senior Emirati official said on Tuesday the United Arab Emirates would soon send a delegation to Iran as part of efforts to improve ties with rival Tehran and that Abu Dhabi was keeping its Gulf allies in the loop. “The sooner the better,” Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president, told reporters when asked when a UAE delegation would hold talks in Tehran. “There is a recognition by the Iranians to rebuild bridges with the Gulf. We are picking that up positively,” he said, adding that Abu Dhabi still shared concerns about Iran’s regional activities. Earlier in November, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani tweeted that Iran and the UAE have agreed to open a new chapter in bilateral relations. On a visit to Dubai, Bagheri Kani met senior Emirati officials, Emirati state news agency WAM reported at the time, in a rare visit which comes as the UAE moves to reduce tensions with rival Tehran. WAM said Bagheri Kani, who is also Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, met Gargash and Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs Khalifa Shaheen Almarar. The discussions stressed the importance of strengthening relations “on the basis of good neighbourliness and mutual respect,” working for greater regional stability and prosperity and developing bilateral economic and commercial ties, WAM said.
Bagheri Kani said in a tweet that Iran and the UAE had agreed to open a new chapter in bilateral relations, without elaborating. The visit came ahead of the resumption of indirect talks between Tehran and Washington in Vienna on Monday to try to revive a 2015 nuclear pact, which Gulf states have criticised for not addressing Tehran’s missile programme and regional proxies.Gargash earlier in November said that the UAE was taking steps to de-escalate tensions with Iran. US President Joe Biden wants to negotiate a return to compliance with the nuclear deal that his predecessor Donald Trump quit in 2018, re-imposing sanctions. Iran, which denies pursuing nuclear weapons, responded by resuming building its stockpile of enriched uranium. Gulf states, uncertain of the Biden administration’s role in the region and seeking to avoid a return to heightened tensions of 2019 that saw attacks on tankers in Gulf waters and Saudi energy infrastructure, have moved to engage with Iran. Sunni Muslim power Saudi Arabia, which is locked in several proxy conflicts with Shia Iran around the region, launched direct talks with Iran in April. Riyadh has described the talks as “cordial” but said they remained largely exploratory.

U.N. Envoy Warns of Risk of New Israel-Palestinian Violence
Agence France Presse/Wednesday, 01 December, 2021
The U.N. Mideast envoy has warned that without quick and decisive action to address the key drivers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the region risks plunging into "another deadly escalation of violence."
Tor Wennesland told the U.N. Security Council it's essential that the parties "calm things on the ground," reduce violence across the Palestinian territories, avoid unilateral steps including new Israeli settlement building, and solidify the May cease-fire that ended an 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip. In addition, he called for urgent action to tackle the severe fiscal and economic crisis threatening the stability of Palestinian institutions in the West Bank. But he warned: "Even a full and immediate financial package may not be sufficient or come quickly enough – if at all – to help buffer the consequences of the current situation." Wennesland told reporters afterward there is "broad consensus" among the 15 council members that to prevent a possible imminent conflict "there needs to be a pushback on activities in and around Jerusalem and the West Bank," financial stability for the Palestinian Authority so it can pay salaries, and a halt to settlement activity. As the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Wennesland represented the United Nations at the first in-person meeting in two years of envoys of the so-called Quartet of Mideast mediators on Nov. 18 in Norway's capital, Oslo.
A statement from the Quartet -- the U.N., U.S., Russia and the European Union -- urged Israel and the Palestinians to address the ongoing violence, settlements, and "the untenable fiscal crisis within the Palestinian Authority." It welcomed steps announced by Israel "to reach out to the Palestinian Authority and assist with the fiscal crisis" but expressed deep concern at developments in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza.
The Palestinians have sought an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but imposed a crippling blockade when the Palestinian militant group Hamas seized power from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' forces in 2007. Wennesland called Tuesday for a coordinated approach to "restore a political horizon that will help stop the endless cycle of crisis management and move back towards meaningful negotiations to end the (Israeli) occupation and resolve the conflict on the basis of U.N. resolutions, international law and previous agreements."He said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres supports holding a Quartet meeting at ministerial level to focus on medium and longer-term issues to achieve a two-state solution, and he has spoken to the other members, but "we are not there yet." He added that the envoys are working very hard and are in weekly contact. Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky also warned of the risks of "large-scale hostilities" like the Israel-Hamas conflict in May and called on the international community to urgently ensure stability on the ground, provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, and create conditions for resuming peace negotiations. He said the Quartet, which was established in 2002, is the only internationally recognized body to bring the Middle East peace process back on track. It has been criticized for its failure to get either Israel or the Palestinian Authority to change their policies and negotiate an end to their more than three decades-old conflict. Polyansky said Russia has been pushing for a ministerial meeting of the Quartet which Moscow feels "is overdue, but not everyone from our partners is ready for such a move right now." U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who recently visited Israel and the West Bank, told the Security Council that the Biden administration still strongly believes in a two-state solution "in which a Jewish and democratic Israel lives in peace alongside a sovereign, viable Palestinian state."
She reiterated U.S. opposition to Israeli settlement expansion, saying "the practice has reached a critical juncture, and it is now undermining even the very viability of a negotiated two-state solution."
Thomas-Greenfield said Israel and the Palestinians "are locked in a spiral of distrust" that is preventing cooperation, and rebuilding "some degree of confidence in each other" is key to advancing toward peace.
She made no mention of the Quartet but said that in her meetings "both sides spoke of the need for confidence-building measures to break down the walls of distrust."Trust-building needs to be worked out mainly between Israelis and Palestinians, the U.S. ambassador said, but the Security Council can facilitate constructive steps by enforcing its resolutions "to constrain Iran's regional malign activities, nuclear threats, support for terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah." Thomas-Greenfield said the council can also denounce incitement to violence by terrorist organizations or individuals and promote efforts to improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians by urging Israel to grant more work and building permits and facilitating humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Gaza.

Kuwait opposition figures return home after emir’s pardon
The Arab Weekly/November 01/2021
Several prominent Kuwaiti opposition figures have returned home from a decade of self-exile after getting amnesty from the ruling emir, a long-awaited move celebrated Tuesday that’s aimed at ending the political paralysis that has burned a hole in public finances. Faisal al-Muslim was the latest to be greeted early Tuesday by screams of joy from relatives and supporters who had gathered at the open-air diwaniya, the all-male customary Kuwaiti gathering. Attendees in traditional white robes and checkered headdresses crowded around al-Muslim, jostling to shake his hand. Muslim is among several opposition Islamist lawmakers who had been sentenced to prison for storming the Kuwaiti Parliament amid the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 as the government moved to grind out dissent. Like many, he fled and had been living in exile in Turkey as the country’s remaining opposition pressed the emir to issue a royal pardon and pave the way for their return. The emir issued the amnesty decree earlier this month as tensions escalated between Kuwait’s fully-elected parliament and emir-appointed government, with angry lawmakers using their limited powers to block the government’s economic reforms. The royal edict pardoned and softened the sentences of nearly three dozen Kuwaiti dissidents. Well-known former opposition leader Musallam al-Barrak returned home last week with great fanfare. The political deadlock has bred a worsening financial crisis in the wealthy, oil-rich sheikhdom, with Kuwait’s general reserve fund running dry. The parliament, meanwhile, refuses to let the government raise the public debt ceiling and drum up badly needed billions of dollars.
As oil prices plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic, the government continued to pay lavish public sector salaries without addressing the widening deficit, prompting ratings agencies to downgrade Kuwait for the first time in its history. After Muslim returned, Kuwaitis celebrated with tea and a ceremonial sword dance. “All the houses in Kuwait are very happy by the return of al-Muslim and those who were with him,” said Dokhi al-Hasban, one of the attendees. “The merciful mother…embraces her sons regardless of their minds, their conceptions and their ideology.”Many parliamentarians, although deeply disenchanted by the political wrangling, say they’re energised by the return of key opposition figures. “The situation doesn’t encourage us to be in the National Assembly, but maybe we could have another political role…like as a party or organization,” said former conservative lawmaker Waleed al-Tabatabaie. “We should benefit the youth by our experience.”Kuwait stands out in the region for its full-throated parliament and history of lawmakers publicly criticising official corruption.

Countries Agree to Negotiate WHO Pandemic Accord
Agence France Presse/Wednesday, 01 December, 2021
World Health Organization member states agreed Wednesday to start building a new international accord on how to handle future pandemics and ensure there can be no repeat of Covid-19. The economic turmoil and millions of lives lost during the coronavirus crisis triggered calls for new international defenses strong enough to prevent a future such disaster. At a special meeting in Geneva, the 194 WHO member states unanimously adopted a resolution launching the negotiating and drafting process for a new international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. The process will present its final outcome to WHO member states in 2024. "The adoption of this decision is cause for celebration and cause for hope that we all need," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in closing the three-day gathering. "Of course, there is still a long road ahead. There are still differences of opinion about what a new accord could or should contain. But you have proven to each other and the world that differences can be overcome and common ground can be found."
'End this pandemic' -
The three-day meeting of the World Health Assembly -- the WHO's decision-making body comprising all 194 member states -- was an unprecedented special session on considering a new accord on pandemics. It came with the world nearly two years into the Covid-19 pandemic and shaken by the emergence of the newly-discovered Omicron variant of concern, deemed by the WHO to pose a "very high" global risk. "I have one simple request for all member states, and that is: end this pandemic," Tedros said in his closing speech. "Just in the past week, this virus has demonstrated that it will not simply disappear. How many more lives and livelihoods it takes is up to us. "Ending the pandemic is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice." Countries agreed to establish an intergovernmental negotiating body "to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response."The body's first meeting must be no later than March 1 next year to elect two co-chairs and four vice-chairs. A progress report will be presented at the regular World Health Assembly annual gathering in 2023, with the final outcome presented for consideration at the 2024 WHA.
Differences remain
As Tedros hinted, despite Wednesday's agreement, differences remain between countries on how far they are prepared to go in terms of legally-binding commitments on issues like equitable vaccine distribution, knowledge-sharing, financing, oversight structures and powers to investigate outbreaks.
The United States, notably, is lukewarm on locking into a treaty. China -- where the first Covid-19 cases were detected -- voiced willingness to negotiate an agreement, without specifying whether it should be binding, adding that the process should avoid "stigmatization."In a statement, Washington said it wanted to "strengthen the international legal framework" to "make the global health system stronger and more responsive."The European Union, much warmer on a treaty, said Wednesday's decision would make history. "We need a game change in our global health architecture, so that the international community can respond to future pandemics collectively, effectively and immediately," Lotte Knudsen, the EU's ambassador in Geneva, said in a statement. "The situation and our citizens demand it."Britain's ambassador Simon Manley said there was "no better response" to Omicron than the WHA's move towards strengthening the legal framework underpinning the collective response to pandemics. The adopted resolution acknowledged the need to address the "development and distribution of, and unhindered, timely and equitable access to, medical countermeasures such as vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics."
Jaouad Mahjour, the WHO assistant director-general for emergency preparedness, said the decision showed a strong commitment to "ensure that a crisis like this never happens again."

Canada/Minister Joly speaks with Italian counterpart
November 30, 2021 - Riga, Latvia - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today spoke with Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, on the margins of the NATO Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
The ministers underscored the importance of NATO, particularly in safeguarding transatlantic security and promoting a rules-based international order. The ministers exchanged views on the situation in Ethiopia and the need to resolve the ongoing conflict through peaceful dialogue. They also shared concerns about Russia’s military build-up in and around Ukraine and discussed how the international community can support de-escalation.
The ministers discussed the importance of the Canada-Italy relationship. Minister Joly emphasized Canada’s support for open, rules-based trade, and the full implementation of CETA. She also highlighted the need for cooperation to build on the countries’ already strong commercial relationship to advance the post-COVID economic recovery. Minister Joly and Minister Di Maio also agreed that strong transatlantic ties are crucial to addressing the most pressing issues of our time, such as climate change.

Israeli Report: Hamas Plans Operations to Stir Chaos in West Bank
Tel Aviv - Nazir Magally/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 01 December, 2021
Leaked Israeli intelligence information revealed the arrest of a large cell of 60 members who confessed that Hamas had plotted to carry out major attacks against Israeli targets to make Israeli army invade the West Bank and stir chaos that would eventually cause the fall of the Palestinian Authority.
The information, parts of which were published in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, and others in a report by the Information Center on Intelligence and Terrorism attributed to Major General Meir Amit in Tel Aviv, said that Hamas - in parallel with its negotiations through the Egyptian mediator for calm with Israel and reconciliation with the PA - was working in two directions: the first, preparing for a missile war with Israel by developing its missile stockpile and its advanced drones, and second by plotting bombing operations.
The report claimed that Hamas was trying to strengthen its position in the region to force Israel to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip and find a new understanding mechanism in the West Bank. The Intelligence Center confirmed that the movement’s “attempts to encourage terrorist operations in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), while maintaining relative calm in the Gaza Strip and trying to push the settlement forward, were aimed at harming Israel on the one hand, and strengthening Hamas’ position within the Palestinian regime, by challenging the PA and harming its ability to govern, on the other.”“Hamas’ efforts to activate terrorist cells in Judea and Samaria are ongoing. Most of them were thwarted at an early stage by Israel, sometimes with the help of the PA, but other times the movement succeeded in carrying out deadly attacks,” the intelligence center reported.

Egypt, UAE Discuss Military Cooperation
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 01/December, 2021
UAE Minister of State for Defense Affairs Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Bowardi met with Egyptian Defense Minister General Mohamed Ahmed Zaki on the sidelines of the 2nd edition of Egypt International Defense and Security Exhibition Tuesday. They discussed international and regional developments and ways to enhance defense and military cooperation. Bowardi hailed the highly-organization exhibition, which is a major military forum in the Middle East. He emphasized the deeply rooted and historic ties between the two fraternal countries. Also during the event, Egyptian Chief of Staff Osama Askar met with his Saudi counterpart General Staff Fayyad bin Hamed al-Ruwaili, Chief of Staff of the Algerian People's National Army Said Chengriha, and Chief of Staff of the Qatari Armed Forces Salem bin Hamad bin Mohammed bin Aqeel al Nabit. The officials discussed means to strengthen military and security fields, as well as future cooperation in various fields, EDEX 2021 kicked off on Monday at the Egypt International Exhibition Center in New Cairo. It continues until December 2.

US Secretary of Defense Orders Investigation into Syria Airstrike that Killed Civilians in 2019
Washington - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday,01 December, 2021
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered a renewed investigation into a 2019 airstrike in Syria's Baghouz that resulted in the deaths of civilians.
US Army Forces commander Gen. Michael Garrett has been assigned to conduct the investigation, which will review "reports of investigation already conducted" while also conducting "further inquiry into the facts and circumstances" of the strike, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday.
Garrett will have 90 days to finish the review that will cover "civilian casualties that resulted from the incident, compliance with the law of war" and "whether accountability measures would be appropriate," Kirby said. Austin’s decision comes after a New York Times investigation report this month that described allegations that top officers and civilian officials had sought to conceal the casualties from the airstrike.The report showed that the death toll — 80 people — was almost immediately apparent to military officials. A legal officer flagged the bombing as a possible war crime that required an investigation.
In a news conference two weeks ago, Austin vowed to overhaul military procedures and hold top officers responsible for civilian harm, but he did not outline any systemic problems that had allowed civilian casualties to persist on battlefields in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
The attack was part of the final battle against ISIS. The Baghouz strike was one of the largest civilian casualty incidents of the war against ISIS, but it has never been publicly acknowledged by the US military. A F-15E attack plane hit the spot with a 500-pound bomb. Five minutes later, when ground forces saw people fleeing the blast site, the F-15E dropped two bombs of the same weight on the survivors. The task force that investigated the Syria strike acknowledged that four civilians were killed, but it also concluded that there had been no wrongdoing by the Special Operations unit. In October 2019, the task force sent its findings to the Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla. Austin, who became defense secretary this year, received a classified briefing this month about the strike and the military’s handling of it from General McKenzie, who oversaw the air war in Syria. In an email to the Senate Armed Services Committee this spring, the legal officer who witnessed the strike warned that “senior ranking US military officials intentionally and systematically circumvented the deliberate strike process,” and that there was a good chance that “the highest levels of government remained unaware of what was happening on the ground.”A spokesman for the Armed Services Committee, Chip Unruh, said that the panel “remains actively engaged and continues to look at the matter.” Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, announced this month that his panel would also investigate the strike and the military’s handling of it.

Yemeni President: We Are Facing an Iranian Project Targeting Arab Nation
Aden/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 01 December, 2021
Yemen’s legitimate government faces an enemy that knows only war and imposing a fait accompli, said Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, expressing regret at the international community’s inability to meet the arrogance of Iran-backed Houthi militias. Addressing Yemenis on the eve of the 54th anniversary of Yemen’s independence, Hadi vowed to continue the struggle for the state to regain power and end the Houthi-led coup. “We will continue our struggle until we restore the state, end the coup, and these militias submit to peace and national consensus,” said the president. Hadi said that every year that passes proves to all Yemenis that the road to restoring their state lies in their unity. He pointed out that the Houthi coup militia chose the total war on the homeland and arrogantly rejected all peace initiatives. Moreover, he accused Houthis of working for a rogue state that believes in war, violence, and vandalism to secure influence and hegemony. “Yemen is facing a purely Iranian project that targets faith, religion and the homeland, and aims to strike our Arab nation using Houthi militias that have agreed to be a cheap tool to tear the nation apart,” added Hadi.
“Although we have responded to all peace initiatives and have sincerely interacted with all peace efforts, we find ourselves in front of an enemy that no longer sees peace and seeks to impose a fait accompli,” noted the Yemeni leader.
“Unfortunately, we found the international community standing helpless in the face of this arrogance,” he added. Hadi stressed that government troops and local tribes would “bury” Houthi militants in the deserts of Marib and not allow them to seize control of the strategic city. “Marib, the gateway to the defense of the Arabian Peninsula, will not fall, and their project will fall in front of the solidity of our heroes, and its deserts will bury the dreams of their (Iranian) masters.”

Algeria's Top Parties Keep Power in Local Elections
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 01 December, 2021
The parties behind the Algerian president's governing majority dominated local and regional elections, while Islamist parties saw their support diminish, according to official results. The head of the election authority, Mohamed Charfi, announced the results Tuesday evening after Saturday’s elections. The vote came amid widespread worry and frustration over rising prices for basic goods, housing and health care. The long-ruling FLN party won the most seats in town halls around Africa’s largest country, followed by allied party RND, The Associated Press reported. Support for Islamist parties El Bina and the MSP fell sharply compared to June legislative elections. The FFS, a party of the pro-democracy hirak protest movement that pushed out longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2019, was far behind. The FLN and RND also won the most seats in Algeria’s 58 regional assemblies. But no party won an absolute majority, so they will have to negotiate to form majority coalitions, AP said. Widespread disillusionment kept turnout low, at 34-36%, but that was still higher than the 23% participation rate in the June legislative elections. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune framed the voting as the final step in a process of renewing politics after Bouteflika’s ouster, following presidential and legislative elections. However, the FLN party remains dominant, and pro-democracy activists say the political changes since 2019 have been only cosmetic and failed to make Algerian politics more open and fair.

Jordan to Expand Oil and Gas Exploration Activities
Amman - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 December, 2021
Jordan’s Energy Minister Saleh Al-Kharabsheh said on Tuesday that his country would begin oil exploration in two areas, Al-Jafr and Al-Sarhan, in February.
The minister revealed that a detailed study of the East Al-Jafr region is currently underway to drill three medium-depth wells, in cooperation with the National Petroleum Company. In televised statements, the minister said: “Work is underway to collect data on oil exploration areas in Jordan,” adding that a specialized company would be contracted to process and analyze the data for each of these areas. Al-Kharabsheh expected that the next two years would witness a strong activity of oil and gas exploration in most regions of the kingdom, where 2,000 kilometers of two-dimensional seismic surveys would be analyzed, and then interested companies would be invited to apply for exploration licenses, according to a ministry statement. This comes as Jordan hopes to start supplying Lebanon with electricity by the end of 2021, according to earlier statements. Under an agreement announced last month, Egypt will supply Lebanon with natural gas via a pipeline running through Jordan and Syria, to help increase its electricity production. The deal is part of a US-backed plan to ease electricity shortages in Lebanon.

Analysis: President Erdogan’s rate cuts are high-risk gamble ahead of 2023
Reuters/01 December ,2021
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is putting his political life on the line with a risky wager that driving down interest rates will reverse his skidding opinion polls, despite what is already a heavy economic toll on voters.
The country’s leader of nearly two decades is ploughing on with a “new economic model” he says will boost jobs, growth, exports and cheap credit - and ignoring for now a resulting historic drop in the lira, as well as soaring inflation.
The policy shift could signal a last-ditch attempt by Erdogan and his ruling AK Party (AKP) to shore up his socially conservative, working and lower middle class voter base ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2023, analysts said. But surging prices and currency devaluations are already wreaking havoc on Turks’ household budgets and future plans. In Istanbul’s working class Kasimpasa district, an AKP bastion where Erdogan, a pious Muslim, studied the Koran and played soccer as a boy, few can ignore the rocketing cost of living - and some said it could sway their votes. “People who come by my teahouse are complaining a lot about prices. The economic struggle is on everyone’s agenda,” said Abdurrahman Erenli, serving tea to a handful of customers across the road from a mosque where Erdogan used to pray. “People are changing their views due to the situation in the economy. I think votes for the AKP will come down in the next election, for sure, though they still have very solid support.” It is a far cry from the early years of AKP rule when its pursuit of free market policies and orthodox monetary policy helped to rebuild Turkey’s economy after a deep crisis in 2001.
Under pressure from Erdogan, Turkey’s central bank has slashed its policy rate by 400 basis points to 15 percent since September. It will likely cut again this month, despite inflation that is near 20 percent and is expected to approach 30 percent.
The fallout has been dramatic. The lira shed some 30 percent in November alone, its second-worst month ever, reflecting Turkey’s deeply negative real rates as well as its high foreign debt and heavy reliance on imports. Turks are now struggling to find some medicines and buy some other imports such as mobile phones. Opposition leaders are demanding snap elections. “This country cannot be abandoned to this ignorance anymore,” said IYI Party leader Meral Aksener. Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AKP and its nationalist allies MHP are now at level-pegging with an opposition alliance, each with about 39 percent support, according to a MAK Danismanlik poll published on Saturday. A Metropoll survey showed Erdogan’s job approval has hit a six-year low. Polls also show he would lose to likely presidential candidates including Aksener and Istanbul’s mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition CHP. “It is clear the ruling alliance is losing support. The steps in the economy need to yield results, otherwise there may be vote losses,” said a senior government official who requested anonymity.Digging in . A senior AKP official said the new measures would yield benefits by the time of the election. “Of course we have entered a difficult period (but) what is needed now is time,” the official said. Reuters has reported, citing sources, that Erdogan ignored appeals in recent weeks, even from within his government, to reverse what he has called Turkey’s “economic war of independence.”Erdogan has defended the rate cuts six times in the last two weeks and said there is “no turning back,” with almost every speech driving the currency to new record lows. The lira touched 14 to the dollar on Tuesday, down from 6.9 in February before Erdogan sacked the previous central bank governor and began aggressively pushing his easy-money views.
The depreciations stoke import prices and broader inflation expectations in a country where food prices are up nearly 30 percent from last year. “The most acute issue is high inflation,” said Can Selcuki, general manager of Istanbul Economics Research, a consultancy.
“I expect the elector sentiment regarding both the government and Erdogan to sour further.”

Turkish Lira Hits 14 to USD in Face of Erdogan’s ‘Dangerous Experiment'
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 December, 2021
Turkey's lira plunged as low as 14 to the US dollar and hit new lows against the euro on Tuesday, capping a historical month of selling after President Tayyip Erdogan again endorsed aggressive interest rate cuts despite widespread criticism and soaring inflation.
The lira fell as much as 8.6% to the greenback, which was boosted after hawkish comments from the US Federal Reserve, underscoring the risks for Turkey's economy and for Erdogan's own political future. The lira ended the session down 4.6% to the dollar, at 13.415, and at 15.2809 to the euro, Reuters reported. The currency has lost some 45% of its value so far this year and 28.3% in November alone, rapidly eroding Turks' earnings and savings, upending household budgets and even leaving them scrambling to find some imported medicines.
The monthly sell-off was among the currency's largest ever and joins the ranks of crises in 2018, 2001 and 1994 for the big emerging market economy.
Tuesday's tumble came as Erdogan, for the fifth time in less than two weeks, defended the monetary easing that most economists have called reckless.
In an interview with state broadcaster TRT, Erdogan said there was "no turning back" from the new policy direction. "We will see that the interest rates will fall markedly and hence there will be an improvement in exchange rates before the elections," he said. Turkey's leader of nearly two decades faces sliding opinion polls and a vote by mid-2023. Polls show Erdogan would lose head-to-head with the most likely presidential opponents. Under pressure from Erdogan, the central bank has slashed rates by 400 basis points to 15% since September and is widely expected to ease again in December. With inflation running near 20%, real rates are deeply negative. In response, the opposition has called for an immediate policy reversal and snap elections. Concerns about central bank credibility took another blow on Tuesday after a top official was said to have left his post.
"It's a dangerous experiment Erdogan is trying to run and the market is trying to warn him about the consequences," said Brian Jacobsen, senior investment strategist, multi-asset solutions at Allspring Global Investments.
"Imports are likely to rise in price as the lira falls, making inflation worse. Foreign investment could be scared away, making it harder to finance growth. Credit default swaps are pricing in a higher risk of default," he added.
"Investors are getting more and more nervous. ... It's a toxic brew."
Turkey’s five-year credit default swaps , the cost to insure against a sovereign default, jumped 6 basis points from Monday’s close to 510 bps, the highest since November 2020, according to IHS Markit.
Spreads to safe-haven U.S. Treasuries (.JPMEGDTURR) widened to 564 bps, also the widest in a year. They have widened 100 bps from earlier this month.
Turkey's economy grew 7.4% year-on-year in the third quarter, according to official data released on Tuesday, boosted by retail demand, manufacturing and exports. Erdogan and other government officials have stressed that while there may be price pain for a while, the monetary stimulus should boost exports, credit, jobs and economic growth. Economists say the depreciation and accelerated inflation - which is seen reaching 30% next year due in large part to the currency devaluation - will derail Erdogan's plan. Virtually all other central banks are raising rates or preparing to do so. Erdogan predicted inflation would ease and the current account would turn to surplus next year.
"Some people are making efforts to make them seem weak, but the economic indicators are in very good condition," Erdogan said. "Our country is now at a point that can break this trap, there is no turning back."
"Turkey will not live in a trap of exchange rate, inflation and interest rates," he added. Reuters has reported, citing sources, that Erdogan ignored appeals in recent weeks, even from within his government, to reverse policy.
A central bank source said on Tuesday that the executive director of the bank's markets department, Doruk Kucuksarac, had left his post and had been replaced by his deputy, Hakan Er. Kucuksarac did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A banker who requested anonymity said Kucuksarac's departure was further evidence of an "erosion and devastation" of the institution after this year's mass leadership overhaul and years of political influence on policy.
Erdogan sacked three monetary policy committee members in October. Governor Sahap Kavcioglu was only appointed to the post in March after the president fired his three predecessors in the last 2-1/2 years over policy disagreements.
November inflation data will be released on Friday and a Reuters poll forecast that it will rise to an annual 20.7%, the highest level in three years.
"Monetary policy is likely to remain under political influence and not tight enough to significantly reduce inflation, stabilize the currency and restore investor confidence," said credit ratings firm Moody's.

Iraq’s complex political landscape puts Sadr to the test
The Arab Weekly/November 01/2021
Iraq’s parliamentary elections last month shuffled the key players, with the movement of Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr taking nearly a fifth of seats, according to results released Tuesday. But without an absolute majority in the fragmented 329-seat legislature, parties will have to form alliances. Led by firebrand Sadr, the Sadrist movement won 73 seats in parliament, expanding its haul from 54 in the outgoing parliament. Sadr is the scion of an influential clerical family. He raised a rebellion after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and has now reinvented himself as a reform champion. A self-styled defender against all forms of corruption, Sadr has distinguished himself from other top Shia figures by seeking distance from both Iranian and US influence.
The mercurial Sadr has yet again emerged as kingmaker following last month’s parliamentary polls. Today, as in past years following the overthrow of former president Saddam Hussein, Iraq cannot ignore the grey-bearded preacher who once led a militia against American and Iraqi government forces.
Now he wants his Sadrist movement to lead the formation of the next government. The composition of this government and who will be prime minister, will depend on the outcome of negotiations between Sadr and his opponents.
Sadr wants an accommodation with Iran that would allow him to compete against its allies politically without the constraints currently imposed by the “greater coercive power” of the armed pro-Iran factions, said Ben Robin-D’Cruz, a specialist in Shia movements at Aarhus University in Denmark.
“But the Iranians have been reluctant to do that, because they don’t want to empower Sadr and they don’t consider him reliable,” the analyst said.
Sadr retains a devoted following of millions among the country’s majority Shia population, including in the poor Baghdad district of Sadr City.
“He can occupy the streets. No one in Iraq can do it as well as him,” said Hamdi Malik, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Perhaps uniquely in Iraq, Sadr has “a very obedient base” which also comprises a formidable online presence attacking his rivals in cyberspace, Malik said.
“Everything is revolving around him. That in Iraq is very important,” he added.
Sadr initially said he would not take part in the parliamentary election but then reversed course, saying his movement would participate in order to help “end corruption.”Robin-D’Cruz said Sadr “tries to position himself simultaneously in the centre of the political system while distancing himself from it.”
His religious character, the researcher added, “allows him to create this illusion of transcending politics.”
Reality check
With Sadr expected to play a key role in the defining the contours of the upcoming political landscape in Iraq, observers say that the nature of a fragmented political system, based on ethnic and sectarian quotas, means the Shia cleric will have to trade with rivals to form a coalition. The military clout of pro-Iran militias, the observers add, ensures they will almost certainly have to be part of the equation. Hence, they say, that it would be naive to assume that Sadr, who has always had an ambiguous relationship with Tehran, will act as an anti-Iranian force.
Pro-Iran factions
The Fatah (Conquest) Alliance parliamentary grouping, the political arm of the Shia Hashed al-Shaabi former paramilitary force, saw its representation plummet from 48 to 17 seats. The alliance had made its debut in parliament following the last election in 2018, shortly after the Hashed helped defeat the Islamic State group. The alliance’s leader Hadi al-Ameri also heads the Badr organisation, one of the Hashed factions. Hashed leaders had earlier rejected the preliminary results as a “scam”, and their supporters held street protests chanting “No to fraud.”
The alliance has consistently called for the expulsion of US troops from Iraq.
Another pro-Iran faction is the State of Law Alliance, an offshoot of the Daawa Party, both led by Nuri al-Maliki, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2014.
A surprise outcome for this Hashed partner saw it strengthen its political base from 24 to 33 seats.
The all-new Alliance of State Forces brings together the groups of former prime minister Haider al-Abadi, who led the fight against ISIS and Ammar al-Hakim, who leads the moderates in the Shiite camp. With a meagre four seats, they have lost their clout, after having earned 42 and 19 seats respectively in the previous polls. In addition, 43 candidates unaffiliated to political parties have been elected as “independents.”However, experts believe some may end up being co-opted by the major parties.
Sunni groups
The Taqaddum (Progress) movement, led by speaker of parliament Mohammed al-Halbussi, won 37 seats in parliament. That makes it the second-largest force in the chamber. He was elected speaker with the support of the pro-Iran blocs, but has cultivated relations with regional powers including the United Arab Emirates. Taqaddum’s main Sunni competitor is the Azm (Determination) movement of controversial politician Khamis al-Khanjar, who has been sanctioned by Washington amid accusations of corruption. Azm won 14 seats.
Anti-establishment players and Kurds
Imtidad, a newly-created party representing the protest movement that began in 2019, took nine seats. The party presents itself as “a non-sectarian, anti-nationalist, anti-racist political movement, which seeks to build a civilian state”.
It is popular in the city of Nasiriyah, the epicentre of the demonstrations in the poor Shiite south. Autonomous Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, has long been dominated by two parties. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of the Barzani clan, won 31 seats. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of the Talabani clan took 17, under the Coalition of Kurdistan banner.
Kurdish opposition party New Generation jumped from four to nine seats.

The Latest The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 01-02/2021
The Moral Imperative to End China's Regime
Gordon G. Chang/Gatestone Institute/December 01/2021
The Communist Party of China operates one of the most immoral regimes in history. For instance, it kills in great numbers.
The Genocide Convention, in Article I, requires signatories, such as the United States, "to prevent and to punish" acts of genocide.
Preventing and punishing does not include strengthening the despicable ruling group by, for instance, buying Chinese products.
If there is now no reasonable hope for a benign Chinese communism — almost all observers and political leaders once thought the system would evolve in a welcomed direction — then we must not tolerate the regime, which means we have, in the first instance, a moral imperative to cut ties with it.
Cutting ties would result in ending the reign of the Communist Party, which has always been dependent on continual infusions of foreign cash.
The Communist Party of China operates one of the most immoral regimes in history. For instance, it kills in great numbers. China's impossible-to-justify crimes in recent years have been the work of one of the most dangerous figures in history, Xi Jinping, the current Chinese ruler.
"We do business in 100 countries," said Jamie Dimon to Fox News Channel's Maria Bartiromo in early August. "And we do, we do it under the laws of those lands and under the law of America as they apply."
"Foreign policy is set by the American government, not set by JPMorgan," Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, argued.
Dimon is correct. The U.S. government does not prohibit banks or other companies from doing business in China.
Yet doing business in China strengthens a horrific regime, so the issue is not about legality, as Dimon suggests. It is about morality.
We must, therefore, ask: Is it moral to do business in the People's Republic of China?
The Communist Party of China operates one of the most immoral regimes in history. For instance, it kills in great numbers.
We begin in the metropolis of Wuhan. The world still does not know how COVID-19 started, but it is 100% clear that Beijing deliberately spread the disease beyond China's borders. While lying about contagiousness for at least weeks — Chinese doctors knew it was highly transmissible human-to-human but officials said it was not — Beijing was busy locking down Chinese cities while pressuring other countries to not impose travel restrictions and quarantines on arrivals from China. Then, after finally admitting transmissibility, China's officials said the disease would infect fewer than SARS, the disease at the turn of the century that sickened 8,400 people worldwide and killed 810.
Therefore, each of the more than 5.1 million COVID-19 deaths outside China should be considered a murder. The intentional spread of the disease is, so far, the crime of this century.
Also murdered are the tens of thousands of Americans who each year have overdosed on fentanyl compounds, which are formulated in China. The ingredients — and sometimes the final products — are made in that country. The Chinese fentanyl gangs are far-flung and international in scope. They have their money laundered by other Chinese gangs through China's state banks.
The Communist Party, in its near-total surveillance state, knows about the activities of these gangs and therefore approves of them. Chinese officials undoubtedly profit from the fentanyl trade. The intentional killing of others without just cause — the inevitable result of Beijing's protection of the fentanyl gangs — is also murder. In one year alone, from May 2020 to April 2021, fentanyl killed about 64,000 Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
China, in addition to murdering foreigners, is "disappearing" and killing its own people, starting with critics and dissidents.
Most notably, it has, in the horribly misnamed Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, built a chain of concentration camps that have held an estimated three million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic minorities. Minorities are dying in those camps in large numbers. We know this because officials built a crematorium and cemetery between two of their internment camps, in Aksu City.
Inside those facilities, inmates are systematically tortured. Beijing has institutionalized slavery, offering the labor of tens of thousands of minorities to domestic and foreign companies. The Chinese state maintains a policy promoting the rape of Uyghur and other Turkic women. Officials are organ-harvesting minorities and imprisoning children in "orphanages" resembling prisons. Policies imposed on Tibetans appear to be similar in many respects to those forced on the Turkic peoples.
These crimes against humanity in Xinjiang constitute "genocide" as defined in Article II of the Genocide Convention of 1948. Both the Trump and Biden administrations have declared that China is committing this unspeakable crime.
The Genocide Convention, in Article I, requires signatories such as the United States, "to prevent and to punish" acts of genocide.
Preventing and punishing does not include strengthening the despicable ruling group by, for instance, buying Chinese products. "We are each responsible for our actions, whether they're in our backyard or an ocean away," Jonathan Bass, CEO of Los Angeles-based WhomHome.com, told Gatestone. "In 2010, I realized that the way Chinese factories treated workers was not in line with the values that America represented. Slave labor in any form is unacceptable." Bass then moved high-value jobs to North America and assembly jobs to Mexico.
Is there a moral imperative to leave China, like Bass? There is such an imperative if the Chinese regime cannot be dissuaded from committing atrocities.
Those impossible-to-justify crimes have been the work of one of the most dangerous figures in history, Xi Jinping, the current Chinese ruler. Some have suggested that Xi is merely an aberration of China's communism, implying that his crimes are his doing, not inherent in the communist system.
Xi's era, marked by an attempt to return to totalitarianism, resembles that of Mao Zedong, the founder of the People's Republic. Mao turned what was supposed to be a regime run by a committee into a regime run by one man, and then he almost destroyed the Chinese state with ruinous campaigns such as the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward.
Mao's eventual successor, Deng Xiaoping, normalized politics. Deng started institutionalizing the Communist Party by developing norms, guidelines, understandings and rules. Foreign observers gushed over the rise of what they called a "meritocratic" system.
Xi, in a Mao-like grab, has reversed the process, deinstitutionalizing the Party by seizing power from just about everyone else. Mao has also been called an aberration, but he was not. China has been ruled by strongmen both at the beginning of the Communist period and now. That system, which from its Maoist beginning has idealized struggle, demands a strongman. It is Deng and his two successors who are the aberration.
The Chinese communist system, by its very nature, demands uniformity, and to further its goals justifies the elimination of all refusing to conform. All China's communist leaders, but especially Mao and Xi, are blood-soaked.
If there is now no reasonable hope for a benign Chinese communism — almost all observers and political leaders once thought the system would evolve in a welcomed direction — then we must not tolerate the regime, which means we have, in the first instance, a moral imperative to cut ties with it.
Cutting ties would result in ending the reign of the Communist Party, which has always been dependent on continual infusions of foreign cash. Among other things, ending Chinese communism would make Jamie Dimon, who quipped this month that his bank would outlast the Communist Party, look prophetic.
*Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China, a Gatestone Institute distinguished senior fellow, and a member of its Advisory Board.
© 2021 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

‘Israel could take unilateral action against Iran if sanctions lifted’
Lahav Harkov/Jerusalem Post/December 01/2021
Lapid calls to put credible military threat on the table; negotiations in trouble as European diplomats doubt Iran’s seriousness.
Lifting sanctions on Iran could lead to military action by Israel, officials in Jerusalem warned world powers, as negotiations to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program continued on Tuesday.
If the US lifts sanctions – along with international sanctions soon to be lifted under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal – Iran could reach the nuclear threshold within six months, Israel has warned.
At that point, Israel could find it necessary to take unilateral action.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called for the world to ramp up the threat to Iran in order to deter it from developing a nuclear weapon.
In a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Lapid emphasized that Israel views the talks as an attempt by Tehran to stall as it advances its nuclear program, and the world must have a plan B.
“Sanctions must not be lifted from Iran,” Lapid said. “Sanctions must be tightened. A real military threat must be put before Iran, because that is the only way to stop its race to become a nuclear power.”
The meeting with Macron came a day after Lapid relayed a similar message in a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Defense Minister Benny Gantz plans to fly to Washington next week to discuss the nuclear threat, as well.
Nuclear talks continued on Tuesday, after world powers and Iran reconvened in Vienna on Monday for the first time since June, to negotiate an Iranian and American return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal.
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Israel opposes the JCPOA because it insufficiently limited Iran’s uranium enrichment, and, in fact, legitimizes further enrichment after the agreement expires, the so-called “sunset clause,” which paves the way for an eventual nuclear bomb. In addition, the JCPOA did not address Iran’s other malign actions in the region.
But worse than the JCPOA, Israeli officials say, would be an interim deal that would barely restrict Iran’s nuclear program.
Jerusalem has grown increasingly concerned that the US is considering such an agreement, which some diplomats have called “less for less.” It would have the US lift some sanctions in exchange for Iran freezing – but not rolling back – its nuclear program, which has advanced far beyond the JCPOA’s restrictions.
Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz said in an interview with KAN that this should be called “more for less,” as Iran would be getting a cash influx while conceding almost nothing.
Israel’s diplomatic efforts are overwhelmingly focused on the US, in order to convince Washington not to lift sanctions.
France, Germany and the UK have been sympathetic to Israel’s messages, a senior Israeli diplomatic source said this week, and Russia has been attentive. While there has been communication between China and Israel about the Iranian nuclear threat, Beijing has been less receptive.
Diplomats in the Vienna talks from the E3 – France, Britain and Germany – told Reuters on Tuesday that there will be a problem if Iran does not show this week that it is taking the negotiations seriously.
It remained unclear to the diplomats whether Iran would resume talks where they left off in June, when, they estimated, an agreement was 70%-80% complete.
The sides had yet to resolve the matter of Iran’s advanced centrifuges, used to enrich uranium.
As for reports that Iran is moving toward 90% enrichment of uranium – the level required for a nuclear weapon – the diplomats said that could endanger the talks, but cautioned that those reports are not confirmed.
Reaching an agreement is urgent, the diplomats said, but they did not want to impose an artificial deadline.

Israel has ‘free rein’ to deal with Iran’s precision weapons, not its nuclear program

Jacob Nagel/Israel Hayom/December 01/2021
Even the Russians and Syrians support Israeli action against Iran in Syria. However, the Biden administration is tying Israel's hands when it comes to Iran's nuclear program.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz recently revealed details from an incident in 2018, in which an Iranian drone was shot down upon entering Israeli airspace after being launched from the T4 airbase in Syria. The drone’s mission was to deliver explosives to terrorist groups in Judea and Samaria. The interception of the drone, which is also a type of precision weapon, marked another chapter in the war against Iran’s efforts to smuggle weapons, through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and to other terrorist groups as well.
According to foreign media reports, the number of Israeli attacks has increased significantly recently, and not a week goes by without reports of one or more strikes in Syria. Most of the attacks are aimed at Iranian infrastructure and forces in Syria, and target efforts to transfer precision components to Lebanon.
This is the “campaign between the wars” launched by Israel several years ago to enforce its “red lines” in Syria and damage Iran’s nuclear program. Israel has made it clear it won’t allow Iranian forces and proxy militias to operate and establish a foothold in Syria, and won’t allow Syria to be used as a transit hub for game-changing weapons earmarked for Hezbollah. Precision weapons are not just rockets, but also unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles, and multirotor drones.
Israel initially adhered to a policy of ambiguity, but changed its mode of thinking, and since 2019 government and military officials have revealed that thousands of Iranian targets have been destroyed in recent years. The message was devised for a specific audience: Iran, Russia, and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Since 2009, Iran has been focused on developing precision weapons under orders from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the understanding that such weapons are “game-changers.” Accordingly, the IDF chief of staff determines that these weapons and their components are the second-greatest threat to Israel, after Iran’s nuclear program. Israel understands that the plans are intertwined, as part of a long-term Iranian plan, and that both must be stopped.
The interesting twist recently is that while the alleged Israeli attacks are ongoing, the Russians and Syrians are not complaining. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett have invested tremendous energy in convincing Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia’s interest is to remove Iran from Syria. Israel stressed that as long as the threat persists and Iran violates Israel’s red lines, the attacks will continue, there won’t be stability in Syria, and Russia’s investment in the country will be in jeopardy. Russia finally understands and accepts this narrative. Whether Putin takes active steps to remove Iran from Syria is another question, but he is permitting Israel to act freely.
Assad, for his part, who likely wouldn’t be in power without Russian and Iranian intervention in his country’s civil war, recently joined the Russians in tacitly coming to terms with the Israeli airstrikes. The Iranians have begun overstepping their bounds, and Assad realizes that they are exploiting Syria and violating its sovereignty. He understands that without dislodging them from Syria, he also won’t be re-welcomed into the family of Arab nations. Iran’s precision-weapon program also poses a threat to Lebanon, which is on the verge of economic and social collapse. If weapons keep being smuggled to Hezbollah, and particularly if precision weapons keep being manufactured and converted in factories on Lebanese soil, Israel will have no choice but to attack in Lebanon. This could escalate into all-out war, which would put the final nail in the coffin of the beleaguered country.
All this is happening amid the backdrop of renewed nuclear talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna. Israel wants a good, comprehensive deal that terminates its ability to acquire a nuclear bomb, forever. US President Joe Biden and his special Iran envoy Robert Malley have adopted an approach that is very much conflicting. The precision weapons are not part of the negotiations – and it’s uncertain this is a bad thing at this stage – in order to focus on the nuclear program. The precision weapons issue should be addressed parallel and separate to the nuclear issue, while the campaign between the wars should be intensified.
The American desire for a “less for less” deal has led to a “more for less” framework. The removal of American sanctions, even if partial, will allow Iran to rehabilitate its economy and continue supporting terror, as it does with its precision weapons operations, and at the same time would send a message across the globe that doing business with Iran is again worthwhile. Ergo it is “more for less,” because Iran would have to give up “far less.”
The Iranian doctrine is predicated on four pillars: The US has the ability to attack – but Biden is weak and won’t do it; Israel understands the US is weak and won’t attack alone, because it can’t alone; Iran believes its economy can withstand the pressures at their current level; and finally, the Iranian leadership senses there is no credible threat against the regime, the lives of its officials or their personal assets.
As long as these four pillars stand, the Iranians think they can come to Vienna with maximalist, absurd demands, and at the same time do as they please in Syria and elsewhere in the region. They are only willing to discuss sanctions relief, American assurances that any future administration will abide by an agreement, even if that demand contradicts American law, and the cessation of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s open investigations. The Iranians have not agreed to discuss what they will give in return, in terms of their nuclear program, violations, or regional behavior.
Washington understands Israel’s position regarding the precision weapons, hence the White House is quietly ignoring the campaign between the wars, but it insists on returning to negotiations with a poorly conceived approach. Israel has “free rein” to deal with the precision weapons, but not the nuclear program, not even through its considerable cyber capabilities – which of course is unacceptable from Israel’s perspective. The actions against the precision weapon threat will continue under Washington’s approval and virtually open support of the Russians and Syrians; and the Israeli actions against the Iranian nuclear program could lead to a conflict.
*Brig. Gen. (Res.) Professor Jacob Nagel is a former national security adviser to the prime minister and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, non-partisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Why The Iran Nuclear Talks Were Over Before They Began

Richard Goldberg/19fortyfive.com/December 01/2021
Indirect talks between the United States and Iran resumed this week in Vienna with world powers eager to find out if the Islamic Republic would agree to curtail its nuclear program. The truth: the negotiations were over before talks began and, without a change in Washington’s strategy, Tehran will soon become a nuclear weapons threshold state.
The reversal of fortunes for the Islamic Republic is breathtaking. The regime entered 2021 with just $4 billion in accessible foreign exchange reserves, according to the International Monetary Fund – down from more than $120 billion in 2017. The next year, the Trump administration ceased America’s participation in the JCPOA and launched a “maximum pressure” campaign that stretched Tehran’s finances to the breaking point. The regime cut back on subsidies, provoking mass demonstrations calling for an end to the dictatorship.
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In 2020, General Qassem Soleimani, a top general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) died in a U.S. military strike. Unknown assailants gunned down Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of Iran’s covert nuclear-weapons program, throwing the regime further off-kilter. And Iran faced increasing pressure from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to account for previously unknown and still undeclared nuclear sites throughout the country – and to explain why the agency discovered nuclear material at several of them.
The regime found itself backed into a corner. Until January 20, 2021.
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President Joe Biden replaced his predecessor’s campaign of maximum pressure with one of maximum deference. Biden hoped that goodwill gestures would induce Tehran not just to return to the JCPOA, but to reach a follow-on agreement that included even tougher restrictions. In theory, the follow-on agreement would address the JCPOA’s many deficiencies – most importantly, its lack of restraints on either Iran’s missile program or its support for terrorism, and the deal’s sunset provisions, which would allow Iran to become a nuclear weapons threshold state after several years.
Biden’s strategy has turned out to be carrot-filled and stickless. The administration stopped enforcing its most important sanctions, allowing Iran to significantly increase its exports of crude oil to China. Washington would even unfreeze billions of dollars of regime assets to allow Iran to pay off its foreign debts.
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Biden has also avoided taking any actions that he thinks might provoke Tehran and jeopardize a return to the JCPOA. When Iran ordered its proxies in Iraq and Syria to attack U.S. troops and related targets, the president responded with pinpricks or not at all. He took no action in March when a U.S. contractor died after an Iranian-backed attack on a U.S. base in western Iraq – nor did he respond militarily to a UAV strike on U.S. troops in Syria in October.
Rather than reciprocate Biden’s restraint, Iran seized on American weakness – increasing the frequency of attacks on the U.S and its allies while pushing its nuclear program far beyond levels once perceived as possible redlines for U.S. military action. Tehran has enriched uranium to 60 percent purity – nearing weapons grade – produced uranium metal – a component of nuclear weapons – and blocked IAEA access and verification efforts at key sites. Despite all this, the Biden administration instructed its allies not to put forward any resolutions of censure at the IAEA’s quarterly Board of Governors meetings.
The results? To use a football metaphor, Iran was arguably backed up to its own 1-yard line at the end of 2020 and is now driving deep into America’s red zone after just 10 short months.
Last December, Mr. Biden told New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman he wanted to negotiate new agreements “to tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear constraints, as well as address the missile program.” One year later, undermined by his own uneasiness about U.S. power and red lines – Iran enters the Vienna talks poised to keep pushing Biden to see how much more the United States will pay for Iran doing less than before.
With the administration walking right into a trap of its own making, it’s time for Congress to demand a policy reset on Iran. That includes exercising its statutory prerogative to review any nuclear agreement concluded with Iran before the president can lift any sanctions.
Congress should reject any deal that lets Tehran keep stonewalling the IAEA and fails to demand a full accounting of Iran’s prior nuclear weapons-related activities. Deceit isn’t a foundation for an effective agreement.
And a deal that suspends U.S. terrorism sanctions on Iran without the clerical regime halting its sponsorship of terrorism should also be rejected. Legislation codifying this principle would strengthen the Biden administration’s hand at the negotiating table. That would preclude Biden from providing financial lifelines for Iran’s central bank, oil company, tanker company and petrochemical company – all of which remain under U.S. sanctions for directly supporting terrorism.
In nuclear diplomacy, no deal is better than a bad deal. The President needs a reminder.
*Richard Goldberg is a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He served on Capitol Hill, on the U.S. National Security Council, as the governor of Illinois’s chief of staff and as a Navy Reserve Intelligence Officer.

Beyond 43 or 48

Hazem Saghieh/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 01 December/ 2021
People’s memories fade over time. That is obvious. Numbers, dates, and names speak to this fading more than anything else. With that, it is nonetheless strange for a pillar of politics to forget the date of his country’s independence. At the very least, remembering these occasions is considered part of a politician’s toolbox. What, then, are we to say when the politician being referred to pledges, day and night, to protect this country and safeguard its dignity, to say nothing about him having the final say about military and judicial affairs, as well as economic and foreign policy decisions...
For that reason, what happened a few days ago remains important and is not a fleeting moment. It will continue to be indicative for a long time. Its indications go beyond the superficial, and it was more than a lapse.
What the Hezbollah secretary-general did in his speech, twice in a row, before receiving a small paper saying that Lebanon had gained its independence in 1943, not 1948, shows that his country is not part of this politician’s toolbox. The date he missed is one every student who has completed primary school is familiar with, and he is a man who, to be fair, does not lack knowledge in many fields and is certainly among the most knowledgeable of Lebanon’s politicians, as well as being among those most dedicated to his toolbox.
Still, Lebanon’s independence is not among the things he knows about.
The above could be understood as a call for excessive patriotism, for lyrical attachment to national folklore, from holidays to flags, commemorations and songs. That is not the case in the slightest. Such forgetfulness, if it stems from a personal mood, individualistic inclination, hatred for politics, or a humanist and internationalist view of the world, is commendable and encouraged. However, what the secretary-general, who is extremely politicized, did is not forgetting, but replacing: he said 48 when he had been referring to 43. 48 is the year in which Israel was established, calling it the year of its independence, at the expense of the Palestinian people who suffered Nakba.
This replacement continues a tradition that came before Hezbollah, which sees Lebanon’s independence only from the lens of the conflict with Israel and the West. Lebanon and its independence, according to this tradition, are meaningless in themselves, and both could always be forgotten. They are outside the political toolbox. The only thing that makes them memorable is the extent to which they serve that conflict, that is, the extent to which Lebanon serves as an arena for this conflict and its political holidays and commemorations are part of a radical and militant narrative of history.
However, this tradition, which goes back to the days of the independence obtained eight decades ago, used to go further than this: deriding this independence itself. For, first of all, it is not among the histories celebrating militancy in the region, keeping in mind that these histories, from those of the ‘gangs’ in South Lebanon, to the Revolt of 1920 in Iraq, the Battle of Maysaloun in Syria, and the successive wars in Palestine, were, unfortunately, nothing but defeats that followed defeats. It is, secondly, an independence that was not accompanied by bloodshed and processions for martyrs that militants boast of- keeping in mind that the experiences of innumerable countries teach us that the more blood is spilled in battles for independence, the more tyrannical the regime that governs the nation that had obtained its independence. Thirdly, and also fortunately, this independence did not cut Lebanon off from the West. Would it have been a respectable independence if it had left behind a state that only traded with Comecon countries and only had friendly relations with countries in the Soviet camp that has become a thing of the past?
This tradition lost, with time and its bitter experiences, many of those who had believed in it. They reevaluated their positions, walked back on them, and woke up to their need for a country. However, one of Hezbollah's secrets, one of the sources of its unique appeal to some, lies precisely here:
It did not only refrain from backing down. It fortified and entrenched the old tradition with alternative rhetoric and framing: instead of the event, in this case, independence, having been peaceful, it was flooded with martyrs and martyrdom in such a way that threatened to drown daily life. And instead of the event being loose, untied to militant political histories, it was tied anew to those histories, to which epic religious and sectarian histories were added. And instead of the event’s weak link to Sovietism and its block, its link to Khomeini’s Iran, Assad’s Syria, and their axis of resistance was strengthened.
Here, we find the most prominent shortcoming of the phrase “all of them means all of them ” that was raised by the October revolution. While the others are corrupt, part of the regime and so on, they know the date in which Lebanon obtained its independence, and they consider political engagement, including their looting and corruption, to be on a national basis that had been established by this independence. Hezbollah is alone in not knowing that date, and it doesn’t care to know. Thus, if we were to use Mao Zedong’s language, we could say that the primary contradiction is with it, while the secondary contradictions are with the others.

Tunisian president considers acting by decree against electoral lists that received illicit funds
Sghaier Hidri/The Arab Weekly/November 01/2021
Tunisian President Kais Saied has threatened to act by decree on the findings of the Court of Accounts probing the 2019 elections. This would cancel those electoral lists which have been proven to have received illicit foreign financing.
Saied also accused the judiciary of being too slow to act on the findings of the Court of Accounts. His move would mean dissolving parliament.
Rached Ghannouchi, the speaker of the suspended body and head of Ennahda party, vowed at the weekend that parliament would return soon “whether people like it or not”. Websites affiliated with the Islamist party Ennahda echoed this view. Kais Saied’s threats, which came after several warnings he gave following the 2020 Court of Accounts’ report, have sparked controversy within the Tunisian political class with questions over the “constitutionality” of such a step.
But political observers are unanimous that the president is preparing to decree the dissolution of parliament.
Saeid said on Monday during a meeting with constitutional law experts Sadok Belaid and Professor Amine Mahfoudh, “there are delaying tactics at play so the deadlines for legal prosecution pass hence making it impossible to dismiss the lists. What is the value of laws drawn up by dozens of deputies who have received foreign funding?”
And he continued, according to a video posted on the presidency’s Facebook page on Monday evening: “Evidence of violations has been found by the Court of Accounts, so what are they waiting for? I think we must take other measures within the framework of decrees.”
This is not the first time that Kais Saied has criticised the judiciary for what he considers to be stalling tactics in the face of the findings by the report of the Court of Accounts. What was new this time was his threat to issue decrees that would address the matter.
Analysts said that the president’s threat to dissolve parliament by decree is a clear message that there is to be no return to the days before July 25 when he suspended parliament and dismissed the prime minister.
Saied made his remarks after the suspended speaker of parliament said a few days ago: “Parliament will return, whether people like it or not,” in an attempt to revive discussion about the chamber’s return, a possibility which no longer seems to be on the country’s agenda. Observers pointed out that the head of the Ennahda movement is counting on external pressures and the difficulty Tunisia faces in obtaining funding to overcome the severe financial crisis bequeathed by previous governments. Ghannouchi is also seeking to return to the political foreground and jockeying for a role in any dialogue with President Saied, although that kind of dialogue is unlikely. Protracted legal procedures have prevented courts from examining the cases raised by the Court of Accounts and from taking a decision on the lists that are suspected of receiving illicit foreign financing. Because of the courts’ inaction, parliament has remained in limbo since its suspension on July 25. “It is expected that the President of the Republic will announce new procedures to act on the report of the Court of Accounts, especially Chapter 163 of the electoral law, which provides for the abolition of lists that received foreign funding during the electoral campaign, which means the dissolution of parliament,” said political analyst Ibrahim Oueslati.
Talking to The Arab Weekly, he added, “This announcement is expected to take place on December 17, which will henceforth become a holiday instead of January 14.” Mass protests against the rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali started on December 17, 2010. His regime was toppled on January 14, 2011. There has been political squabbling about whether celebration of “Revolution Day” should take place on December 17 or January 14.
Oueslati added that Kais Saied may also announce a number of draft decrees related to the political reforms he announced September 22, as well as details of the online dialogue he wants to hold about the political system. However, Saied has not yet offered any details about the time limit for his exercise of power by decree. Threatening to resort to presidential decrees to act on the Court of Accounts report has provoked mixed reactions on the political scene. Some have welcomed any decisive move against parties suspected of corrupt practices. But there are others who warned that the president’s move could put the country on a slippery slope. Leftist leader Mongi Rahoui, urged the president to “accelerate the issuance of the necessary decrees to bring down the electoral lists that received foreign funding in the 2019 elections.”But other political figures warned about such a course of action. MP Mabrouk Korchid considered that “the direct use of decrees to cancel legislative lists would be a grave mistake.”The Court of Accounts, which is the highest judicial supervisory body in Tunisia, found in its report that the Islamist party Ennahda had signed a contract with a US public relations firm to promote the party’s reputation amid elections.

Hard to be optimistic about Libyan elections
Habib Lassoued/The Arab Weekly/November 01/2021
The main obstacles are currently armed groups, political money and the abuse of influence. Naturally, those who possess wealth, power and weapons take precedence. As for people of good will, the present situation does not match their aspirations, especially since the slogans of freedom, democracy, pluralism, integrity and transparency, along with the promises of the United Nations and the international community are nothing but illusions which have no connection with reality. Everything that is going on in Libya at the present time confirms that the presidential elections are facing major challenges. Perhaps it is fortunate for the UN envoy, Jan Kubis, that he will leave his post permanently on December 10. The contenders for the position of head of state look as if they are competing for the presidency of regions, governorates or municipalities, or the leadership of tribes or clans. In Libya’s vast geography, which spans an area of ​​1,750,000 square kilometres, no one candidate for president can move between borders and roam the regions freely. Haftar cannot go to Tripoli, Misrata, Zawiya or the Nafusa Mountains, nor can Dbeibah move around Tobruk, Derna and Benghazi easily, nor can Seif al-Islam Gadhafi come out of his hideout to travel between cities and villages.
What happened in Sabha is evidence that what is happening in Libya currently has nothing to do with freedom, democracy or popular will. The Sabha court was prevented from convening to announce its decision on the appeal lodged by Seif al-Islam against the rejection of his candidacy application by the Higher National Electoral Commission (HNEC). He was excluded from the race because of pressure from the authorities and from domestic and external forces, which believe that allowing him to run might unsettle everything once and for all, given the wide popular base he enjoys.
Everyone understands that Dbeibah has laid his hands on judicial, administrative, security and service agencies in the west of the country and has been able to take advantage of his position as head of the government to garner support. During the past few months, he has worked day and night for one single goal, which is to be president and then to enable the lobby he represents to extend its control over Libya and its vast wealth, in the absence of a constitution that could limit his powers and prerogatives.
There are some issues that do seem to have been settled, including that Seif al-Islam Gadhafi is not to be allowed to run, for fear, by his rivals, of his victory. He remains the third party in the showdown. He does not have an armed force on the ground like the other two parties, namely the Libyan National Army in the east led by Haftar and the militias in the west of the country, which are supposed to be under the control of the current government.
Another settled issue is that Dbeibah will not give up his bid for the presidency and he will inevitably be reinstated among the presidential candidates. Some parties within the HNEC have begun to float the idea ofa postponement, even if it is for only a few days. Regional powers, including Turkey and Italy, are working to this end.
In the event that Dbeibah wins, the east will reject him. If Haftar wins, the west will not accept him. Neither of the two can assert his authority over the entire country. Thus inevitably the situation would remain in limbo and the schedule for the evacuation of foreign forces and mercenaries would be abandoned.
The biggest mistake the international community has made is to insist on organising presidential elections in a country that is still torn apart. Most of the candidates for the post are virtually unable to move around most of the country and are rejected by the active forces on the ground.
Priority should have been given to dissolving militias, collecting weapons, unifying the military, evacuating foreign fighters, declaring a comprehensive national reconciliation and gathering all parties under one roof to announce the inauguration of a new phase in which each of them agrees on what political leaders and government authorities are expected to do. The current scene is closer to surrealism. Everything that will result from it will be absurd. The final outcome will be the upholding of the interests of those who control the treasury in exchange for the continued disintegration of the state and the suffering of the people.