English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For February 09/2022
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 12/20-28/:”Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’”’

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on February 08-09/2022
Lebanon, The Maronities And Saint Maroun In His Annual Day/Elias Bejjani/February 09/2022
Banks in Lebanon object to proposals in draft government plan
Army Busts Drug Factory in Eastern Lebanon
Report: Aoun Stirs Controversy by Bypassing Berri and Miqati in Sea Border Letter
Cabinet Disapproves Article 16, Will Public Prosecutor Keep his Powers?
Cabinet Forms Committee on Beirut's Blast-Hit Silos
World Bank Says Air pollution Cost in Lebanon Exceeds 3% of its GDP
Hochstein Arrives in Lebanon with New Proposal
Reports: U.S. Explores Hizbullah Stance on Lebanon-Israel Border Demarcation
Lebanon’s Hezbollah chief describes Kuwaiti proposals to Lebanon as ‘dictates’
Nasrallah Slams U.S. Role and Parties that 'Receive Orders from Embassies'
Mired in Poverty, Dozens of Lebanese Join Jihadists in Iraq
Lebanese Free Patriotic Movement MP Nicolas Sehnaoui: Everybody in Our Party Is Resentful about Hizbullah and Our Alliance with Them
US mediator arrives in Beirut to resume Lebanese-Israeli border talks

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 08-09/2022
Canadian Imam Younus Kathrada: Non-Muslims Know That If We Adhere To Islamic Teachings, Islam Will Rule The World, So They Say That Islam Is Backwards, Oppressive
Republicans Vow to Thwart Any Iran Deal if Biden Skips Congressional Review
US Says Iran Nuclear Deal 'in Sight' but Urgent Need to Finalize
Kremlin Denies Putin Promised Not to Hold Maneuvers Near Ukraine
Macron Sees 'Concrete Solutions' as Kyiv Expects Summit with Moscow, Paris, Berlin
Calls for Renewed Protests in Syria’s As Suwayda
Israeli Forces Kill 3 Suspected Militants in West Bank City
Israel's Police Chief Cuts Short UAE Trip over Spyware Probe
First UAE National Council delegation visits Knesset in Israel
Libya's Parliament to Appoint New PM amid Increasing Tensions
Belgium Detains 13 Suspects in Anti-Terror Operation
Sudanese march against military, blocked from reaching presidential palace
UN, Western envoys urge Tunisia to restore judicial watchdog

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 08-09/2022
Palestinians: The Human Rights Violations No One Talks About/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/February 08/2022
What Happens in Ottawa May Not Stay in Ottawa/Tyler Cowen/Bloomberg/February, 08/2022
The End of the Pandemic May Tear Us Apart/Michael Bang Petersen/The New York Times/February, 08/2022
Iran ‘sham’ trial of California resident sparks allegations that world powers have abandoned him/Benjamin Weinthal/Fox News/February 08/2022
The Syria regime's economic failure/The Arab Weekly/February 08/2022-

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on February 08-09/2022
Lebanon, The Maronities And Saint Maroun In His Annual Day
Elias Bejjani/February 09/2022
(From 2013 Archives)
Fouad Afram Boustani, (1904- 1994), the Lebanese Maronite historian described the Maronite denomination as, a faith of intelligence, an identification of life, a solid belief in Catholicism, a love for others, an ongoing struggle for righteousness, a mentality of openness on the whole world, and on its different civilizations, and a vehicle for martyrdom. The Maronites established the state of Lebanon and made it an oasis for the persecuted in the middle East. They believed and practiced multiculturalism and pluralism. They created with the help of other minorities in the Middle East the unique nation of Lebanon.
The Maronites made Lebanon their homeland since the 4th century after converting its native inhabitants to Christianity. They were identified by it, and it was identified by them, they were and still are one entity. The Maronite people were always hopeful, faithful and strong believers in the Christian Catholic doctrine. They made victories of defeats, joy of sorrow and hope of despair. The Maronites successfully created with hard work and a great deal of faith and sacrifices, the Maronite nation by fulfilling its four basic pillars, a land, a people, a civilization and a politically independent entity. They constantly fight for what was theirs, and never ever surrendered to despair.
On the ninth of February for the past 1600 years, Maronites in Lebanon and all over the world have been celebrating the annual commemoration of St. Maroun, the founder of their Christian Catholic denomination.
Every year, on the ninth of February, more than ten million Maronites from all over the world celebrate St. Maroun’s day. On this day, they pay their respect to the great founder of the Maronite Church, Maroun the priest, the hermit, the father, the leader and the Saint. They remember what they have been exposed to, since the 4th century, both good and bad times. They reminisce through the past, examine the present and contemplate the future. They pray for peace, democracy and freedom in Lebanon, their homeland, and all over the world.
Who was this Saint, how did he establish his church, where did he live, and who are his people, the Maronites?
St. Maroun, according to the late great Lebanese philosopher and historian, Fouad Afram Al-Bustani, was raised in the city of Kouroch. This city is located northeast of Antioch (presently in Turkey), and to the northwest of Herapolos (Manbieg), the capital of the third Syria (Al-Furatia). Kouroch is still presently in existence in Turkey, it is located 15 kilometers to the northwest of Kalas city, and about 70 kilometers to the north of the Syrian city, Aleppo.
As stated by the historians, Father Boutrous Daou and Fouad Fram Bustani, Maroun chose a very high location at the Semaan Mountain (called in the past, Nabo Mountain, after the pagan god, Nabo). Geographically, the Semaan Mountain is located between Antioch and Aleppo. People had abandoned the mountain for years, and the area was completely deserted.
The ruins of a historic pagan temple that existed on the mountain attracted Maroun. Boustan stated that St. Maroun moved to this mountain and decided to follow the life of a hermit. He made the ruined temple his residence after excoriating it from devils, but used it only for masses and offerings of the holy Eucharist. He used to spend all his time in the open air, praying, fasting and depriving his body from all means of comfort. He became very famous in the whole area for his faith, holiness and power of curing. Thousands of believers came to him seeking help and advice.
St. Maroun, was an excellent knowledgeable preacher and a very stubborn believer in Christ and in Christianity. He was a mystic who started a new ascetic-spiritual method that attracted many people from all over the Antiochian Empire. He was a zealous missionary with a passion to spread the message of Christ by preaching it to others. He sought not only to cure the physical ailments that people suffered, but had a great quest for nurturing and healing the “lost souls” of both pagans and Christians of his time. Maroun’s holiness and countless miracles drew attention throughout the Antiochian Empire. St. John of Chrysostom sent him a letter around 405 AD expressing his great love and respect asking St. Maroun to pray for him.
St. Maroun’s way was deeply monastic with emphasis on the spiritual and ascetic aspects of living. For him, all was connected to God and God was connected to all. He did not separate the physical and spiritual world and actually used the physical world to deepen his faith and spiritual experience with God. St. Maroun embraced the quiet solitude of the Semaan Mountain life. He lived in the open air exposed to the forces of nature such as sun, rain, hail and snow. His extraordinary desire to come to know God’s presence in all things allowed him to transcend such forces, and discover an intimate union with God. He was able to free himself from the physical world by his passion and eagerness for prayer and enter into a mystical relationship of love with the creator.
St. Maroun attracted hundreds of monks and priests who came to live with him and become his disciples and loyal Christian followers. Maroun’s disciples preached the Bible in the Antiochan Empire (known at the present time as Syria), Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Israel, They built hundreds of Churches and abbeys as well as schools and were known for their faith, devotion and perseverance.
At the age of seventy, in the year 410 AD, and after completing his holy mission, St. Maroun died peacefully while surrounded by his disciples and followers. His will was to be buried in the same grave with his beloved teacher, the great monk, Zabena, in the town of Kena, next to Kouroch city, where a temple was built in Zabena’s name. St. Maroun’s will was not fulfilled, because the residents of a nearby town were able to take his body and bury him in their town and build a huge church on his grave. This church was a shrine for Christians for hundreds of years, and its ruins are still apparent in that town.
After Maroun’s death, his disciples built a huge monastery in honor of his name, adjacent to the ornate spring, (Naher Al-Assi, located at the Syrian-Lebanese border). The monastery served for hundreds of years as a pillar for faith, education, martyrhood and holiness. It was destroyed at the beginning of the tenth century that witnessed the worst Christian persecution era. During the savage attack on the monastery more than 300 Maronite priests were killed. The surviving priests moved to the mountains of Lebanon where with the Marada people and the native Lebanese were successful in establishing the Maronite nation. They converted the Lebanese mountains to a fortress of faith and a symbol for martyrhood, endurance and perseverance.
Initially the Maronite movement reached Lebanon when St. Maroun’s first disciple Abraham of Cyrrhus, who was called the Apostle of Lebanon, realized that paganism was thriving in Lebanon, so he set out to convert the pagans to Christianity by introducing them to the way of St. Maroun. St. Maroun is considered to be the Father of the spiritual and monastic movement now called the Maronite Church. This movement had a profound influence on northern Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus and on many other countries all over the world where the Maronites currently live. The biggest Maronite community at the present time lives in Brazil. More than six million Lebanese descendents made Brazil their home after the massive emigration that took place from Lebanon in the beginning of this century.

Banks in Lebanon object to proposals in draft government plan
AFP/The Arab Weekly/February 08/2022-
Lebanon’s banking association said on Monday it opposed proposals set out in a draft government plan for tackling the financial crisis, saying they would cause a long loss of confidence in the financial sector. The Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) added that it had not seen an official version of the plan.
A senior Lebanese government source said the plan had not yet been finalised and was being discussed with the IMF. The draft aims to plug a huge hole in the financial system and foresees returning just $25 billion out of a total $104 billion in hard currency deposits to savers in US dollars. Lebanon’s banks have been a major lender to the government for decades, helping to finance a wasteful and corrupt state that went into financial meltdown in 2019. The collapse has resulted in depositors largely being shut out of their savings and the local currency losing more than 90% of its value. ‘Not acceptable at all’“This hypothetical draft plan indicates it can eliminate the so-called ‘losses’ in order to balance the books. This approach … is a liquidation approach and will lead to a persistent loss of confidence for generations to come,” the ABL said. “Other than what has been published and reported in the media, we haven’t seen any official draft of any plan prepared by the government,” it said, adding it had not participated in drafting the blueprint. Under the draft, the majority of dollar deposits would be converted to Lebanese pounds at several exchange rates, including one that would wipe out 75% of the value of some deposits. It estimates losses in the financial sector at $69 billion and sets a 15-year timeframe for paying back all depositors. The ABL’s approval is not required for the government to adopt and begin implementing a plan, but experts say support from the banking sector could contribute to solving the crisis.“If true, this reported approach in addressing the losses occurred in the financial sector is not acceptable at all and will definitely not reverse the spiral downhill of the economy,” the ABL said.
The ABL said it would not endorse a plan that would lead to a “nominal haircut on customers’ deposits” or totally wipe out shareholder equity, but was open to shouldering some losses from Eurobonds restructuring and private sector loans. The government began talks with the IMF in January as part of efforts to secure a bailout seen as crucial to begin charting a path out of the crisis. A viable financial plan is key to that process. A previous plan drawn up under a government in 2020 was shot down by banks, the central bank and powerful political parties, ending IMF talks at the time.An IMF spokesperson said last week it could not comment on reports that the fund had rejected aspects of the government’s plan during the talks that began in January. A Lebanese official source said the IMF had asked Lebanese officials to “work on parts of the plan.”As part of efforts to plug the $69 billion hole in the financial system, the draft plan envisions a bail-in of large depositors to the tune of $12 billion, equivalent to 72% of shares in the banking sector, thereby reducing shareholders and creditors to less than a third. The ABL said any bail-in should be assessed on a case-by-case basis for each bank and should only come after “we get to a consensual and comprehensive agreement with the government and after the government fulfils its legal obligation to restore Central Bank solvency”. The ABL also noted its “strong objection” to a proposal for bank shareholders to maintain majority shares in the sector in exchange for injecting $1 billion in fresh capital.

Army Busts Drug Factory in Eastern Lebanon
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 8 February, 2022
The Lebanese army announced on Monday that it has busted a drugs and captagon factory in eastern Lebanon. Suspects involved in smuggling drugs to Syria were also arrested as part of an intense campaign that was launched last week to crack down on the drug trade. The Lebanese government had vowed in recent weeks to crack down on the illicit activity after it had sparked a crisis between Beirut and Arab Gulf countries. Gulf countries have made numerous drug busts that were traced back to Lebanon.In a statement on Monday, the army said a military unit and an intelligence bureau patrol raided the houses of several wanted suspects in the town of Brital in Baalbek in eastern Lebanon. They arrested a Syrian national, busted a narcotics factory and seized quantities of cannabis and captagon pills, weapons and ammunition, and several vehicles and motorcycles. In the Baalbek's Jroud Nahle region, an intelligence bureau patrol arrested a Syrian and two Lebanese nationals for forming a drug smuggling ring that operates abroad. Last week, authorities carried out several security raids that led to the arrest of suspects and seizure of drug factories. On Friday, the army arrested a Lebanese man in the Hermel region. He was wanted for several crimes, including theft, firing weapons, terrorizing the people, and drugs and arms smuggling. That same day, the intelligence bureau referred to the concerned judiciary Lebanese and Syrian nationals on charges of forming a network that smuggles drugs abroad. The army said the network had smuggled narcotics to Germany, Slovakia, Djibouti and Saudi Arabia.

Report: Aoun Stirs Controversy by Bypassing Berri and Miqati in Sea Border Letter
Naharnet/Tuesday, 8 February, 2022
President Michel Aoun has stirred controversy by avoiding to consult with Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Miqati regarding a letter that he sent to the U.N. about the sea border demarcation with Israel, media reports said.The letter was delivered by Lebanese Ambassador to U.N. Amal Mudallali at the Presidency’s demand and following a request from Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib, Kuwait’s al-Anbaa newspaper reported. The letter states that Lebanon will now negotiate over Line 29 instead of Line 23 while preserving its right to amend Decree 6433 should there be procrastination, the daily quoted official sources as saying. Speaking to the newspaper, parliamentary sources said Aoun addressed the letter in a “unilateral” manner without consulting with Berri and Miqati, and that Bou Habib has cited Miqati’s “preoccupation with the draft state budget” as an “excuse.”
The parliamentary sources added that Aoun’s move might be aimed at appeasing Washington so that it lifts the sanctions imposed on Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil.Informed sources meanwhile said that the visit of U.S. energy envoy Amon Hochstein to Lebanon is aimed at “splitting” the offshore oil and gas reserves between Lebanon and Israel instead of demarcating the maritime border.

Cabinet Disapproves Article 16, Will Public Prosecutor Keep his Powers?
Naharnet/Tuesday, 8 February, 2022
Cabinet convened Tuesday at the Grand Serail to discuss 76 items on its agenda, amid reports about a possibility of raising a controversial matter, the Article 16. Al-Jadeed TV said Cabinet discussed the article and did not approve it, after earlier reports negated that the article will be studied in today's session.
The article, if approved, removes some important powers from the Public Prosecutor and gives them instead to the minister of justice. "Any employee or director in a public institution would be referred to the Civil Court of Appeals instead of being referred to the Public Prosecutor and all investigations will be conducted by public prosecutions instead of the Public Prosecutor," LBCI explained. Media reports had also linked the subject to the investigation into the Beirut port blast, although the draft law was proposed before the 2020 blast.It was first proposed in 2018 by Free Patriotic Movement MP Ziad Aswad and was refused twice before. "It will probably be refused by Cabinet," said lawyer Paul Morcos. Morcos told LBCI that the draft law will be discussed in Parliament, regardless if approved or not by Cabinet. Parliament has the power to take the final decision, regarding creating or rejecting any law.

Cabinet Forms Committee on Beirut's Blast-Hit Silos
Naharnet/Tuesday, 8 February, 2022
Acting information minister Abbas Halabi said Tuesday that a ministerial committee has been formed to study the fate of Beirut's Blast-hit silos facing the threat of collapse. The ministerial committee will prepare a report by the end of February, Halabi said. Experts had warned that a section of the grain silos that absorbed much of last year's Beirut port blast must be demolished to avoid collapse. Swiss company Amann Engineering, which has offered laser scanning assistance to Lebanon since the cataclysmic August 4 explosion, called the most damaged of the disemboweled silos an "unstable, moving structure.""Our recommendation is to proceed with the deconstruction of this block," the company said in a report.

World Bank Says Air pollution Cost in Lebanon Exceeds 3% of its GDP
Agence France Presse/Tuesday, 8 February, 2022
Environmental pollution will cost Lebanon more than 3% of its GDP, the World Bank said, urging a green post-Covid-19 recovery for the region. Air pollution costs the Middle East and North Africa $141 billion per year, or around 2% of GDP on average, it said in a report. "Productivity falls if residents cannot work after they or their family members fall ill from air pollution, and health care costs can be a substantial burden on both individuals and governments," said the report. The average resident will be ill for 60 days in his lifetime due to air pollution, with town dwellers breathing in 10 times the level of pollutants considered safe by the World Health Organization, it said. The report singled out "low environmental standards" in the transportation and industry sectors, the use of low quality fuel, and burning waste as the main drivers of air pollution in the region. The Mediterranean is one of the most plastic-polluted seas in the world, it said, adding that the average resident dumps more than six kilograms (13 pounds) of waste into its waters each year.The Mediterranean has "as much plastic flowing into it each year as the volume of fish taken out from the two most commonly caught species", the report said. Sea pollution drives coastal erosion, a major threat to livelihoods, especially among the poor, it said. In countries that rely on tourism for revenue such as Tunisia, coastal erosion could cost the country up to 2.8% of its GDP. "Polluted skies and seas are costly to the health, social and economic wellbeing of millions of people in the Middle East and North Africa region," said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank vice president for the region. "As countries recover from Covid-19, there is an opportunity to change course and choose a greener, bluer and more sustainable growth path," he said.

Hochstein Arrives in Lebanon with New Proposal
Naharnet/Tuesday, 8 February, 2022
U.S. Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein arrived in Lebanon Tuesday carrying a new proposal regarding the maritime borders demarcation between Lebanon and Israel. Amos' visit comes after Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz had said that "Israel is ready to resume the maritime border talks with Lebanon."Indirect negotiations, mediated by the U.S., had been stalled after a disagreement on a disputed area. Two weeks ago, Lebanon sent a letter to the U.N. to pressure for speeding up the negotiations. The letter mentions a disputed area that includes a gas field, the Karish field that Lebanon is considering a disputed area. It considers any Israeli attempt to explore gas in the area a threat to international peace and security. As negotiations resume, Lebanon hopes that oil and gas discoveries in its territorial waters will help it overcome an unprecedented economic and financial crisis.'

Reports: U.S. Explores Hizbullah Stance on Lebanon-Israel Border Demarcation
Agence France Presse/Tuesday, 8 February, 2022
The U.S. has started to explore Hizbullah's position on the demarcation file between Lebanon and Israel, al-Akhbar newspaper said. The newspaper said it has learned that the Americans are examining Hizbullah's stance on the maritime borders demarcation, specifically regarding the common fields between Lebanon and Israel.U.S. Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein will return to Lebanon mid-week carrying a new proposal. Al-Joumhouria newspaper had reported Hochstein will suggest “stopping discussions over the above-the-water lines and focusing on splitting the resources based on the basins that are under the water.” “The shares of the two states can be split based on the sizes of these resources, away from the approach of direct lines,” the daily added.“This would be easy should it turn out that the basins of each of the two sides are closed, which would preserve their rights to their underwater resources,” the newspaper said.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah chief describes Kuwaiti proposals to Lebanon as ‘dictates’
Reuters/09 February ,2022
The head of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah on Tuesday described as “dictates” a recent Kuwaiti list of proposals aimed at repairing Lebanon’s ties with Gulf Arab nations, strained largely over what the say is Hezbollah’s growing influence. “Lebanon is a sovereign country and should not be sent dictates,” Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview on Arabic-language Iranian TV channel Al Alam when asked to comment on the proposals. A diplomatic source previously told Reuters that the proposals included a request to step up security in Lebanon, prevent drug smuggling to the Gulf and hold May parliamentary elections on time. Nasrallah added that he nonetheless supported Lebanese-Gulf dialogue. Lebanon’s ties to the Arab Gulf and particularly Saudi Arabia, formerly a major donor to Beirut, hit rock bottom last year over what the Saudi foreign minister said was Hezbollah’s growing influence in the country. Relations had deteriorated for years, causing knock-on effects within Lebanon. Top Sunni Muslim political leader and ex-prime minister Saad Hariri, a former close ally of Saudi Arabia who has since lost its backing, announced his withdrawal from politics last month and said he would not field candidates, upending elections. Hariri cited Iran’s growing role in Lebanon as one of the reasons for his exit. Nasrallah described Hariri’s decision as “unfortunate,” adding: “We were hoping it wouldn’t happen, but it happened.”Shia Muslim Hezbollah has long been a political opponent of Hariri but has also participated in several governments he headed under Lebanon’s complex sectarian power-sharing system.

Nasrallah Slams U.S. Role and Parties that 'Receive Orders from Embassies'
Naharnet/February 08/2022
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has lashed out at what he called the “subversive” U.S. influence in Lebanon, while questioning the Lebanese identity of political parties which he said are “receiving orders from embassies.”Noting that “U.S. attempts to open communication channels with Hizbullah” through various parties “have not stopped” over the past years, Nasrallah charged in an interview on Iran’s al-Alam TV that “the American influence in Lebanon is subversive.”“The U.S. embassy in Awkar recruited Lebanese nationals to gather information for the Israelis,” he said.
“The entire Lebanese banking system is subject to the decisions of the U.S. Treasury,” Nasrallah noted, adding that “delegations from the U.S. embassy are roaming the country and are interfering in the issue of elections.”Stressing that Hizbullah's decisions are Lebanese and do not come from Iran, Nasrallah added that “some parties which receive orders from embassies must be asked about their Lebanese identity.”“I ask all those accusing Hizbullah to tell us about a single act that Hizbullah did for the sake of Iran rather than for the sake of Lebanon,” he said, emphasizing that “Hizbullah belongs to this country and its history and social fabric.”As for the upcoming parliamentary elections, Hizbullah’s leader said that “no one can predict the elections' result from now.”
“It is wrong to say that the elections will be a battle between those who are with the resistance and those who are against it,” he added, while noting that there are parties that are neutral regarding the question of resisting Israel. He however added that Hizbullah “wants the resistance's friends to be plenty in parliament.”Asked about the paper of demands that has been recently submitted to Lebanon by the Gulf countries, Nasrallah said “it would have been better to go to a dialogue between Lebanon and the Arab countries.”“This would have been appropriate and we support this,” he said. “The paper calls for handing over Hizbullah's arms in return for the bread of the Lebanese,” Nasrallah charged. Blasting Saudi Arabia and the UAE for “interfering in Lebanon's affairs and in the domestic affairs of all Arab countries,” Nasrallah added: “We (in Hizbullah) are not interfering in Saudi Arabia or the UAE. They are waging a war against the Yemeni people and we are supporting the Yemeni people.”Asked about the possibility of Israel carrying out a strike to destroy Hizbullah’s precision-guided missiles, Nasrallah ruled out such a scenario and said that the missiles “are not present in one place.”
“This does not allow Israel to destroy them,” he added. He also noted that Israel would need an all-out war and not a military strike in order to destroy these missiles. “Is Israel ready to go to a real and full war?” he added. “Israel fears war and it is using the economic and financial issue to reach a handover of Hizbullah's weapons,” Nasrallah went on to say, noting that Israel is “still betting on the Lebanese domestic situation.”Hizbullah’s leader also reiterated that his group “does not seek war” and is not fond of it while stressing that it is “not afraid of it.”
“We will not give up our national interests if threatened by war,” he added.

Mired in Poverty, Dozens of Lebanese Join Jihadists in Iraq
Agence France Presse/February 08/2022
Zakaria al-Adl was presumed to have attempted a sea escape to Europe after he had gone missing over the summer, but then the young Lebanese man turned up dead in Iraq. A native of the northern city of Tripoli, the 22-year-old is one of at least eight men who have been reported killed in Iraq since December 2021, as a suspected jihadist militant.They all hail from impoverished Tripoli districts, and were allegedly lured into joining the Islamic State group by the promise of a decent salary, according to a security official. Dozens more from the same Mediterranean port city are believed to have recently joined IS ranks with their recruitment handled by a Tripoli jihadist who lives outside Lebanon, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity about the sensitive issue. "We didn't know he was in Iraq until we were notified of his death" in December, Zakaria's mother, Ghufran al-Adl, 56, told AFP from their one-bedroom apartment in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood, one of the country's poorest. Zakaria had been missing since last summer, but it wasn't until the Iraqi army in December published images and videos of slain IS fighters in Iraq's western Anbar desert that his family came to know of his death.
His brother Ali al-Adl played one such video on his phone, which appeared to show the corpse of Zakaria beside another body on the hood of a car.
In a statement at the time, the Iraqi army said it had killed 10 IS jihadists in strikes and clashes.
Youth 'on the sidelines' -
Zakaria's family said poverty and not ideological affiliation is what primarily drove the young man to join jihadist ranks, at a time when Lebanon is grappling with an unprecedented financial crisis. "When he disappeared, we thought that he was planning to go to Sweden illegally," Ali said.
"He left because of poverty," Ali said of his brother, who used to run a vegetable cart. Ghufran, who is in urgent need of heart surgery that her family cannot afford, said that her son "lived and died on the sidelines". Since August, dozens of young men have disappeared from Tripoli, which has been especially hard hit by the country's financial crash. "The number of young men who joined IS is estimated at 48," said a security official, explaining that the latest wave of recruits left Lebanon on January 18. "Their families informed authorities of their whereabouts after receiving calls from them while they were in Iraq," the same source added. Only five of the 48 have yet to be accounted for, the official added. Even before the 2019 onset of Lebanon's financial crisis, Lebanon's second city was widely seen as a volatile militant bastion. Its poorest neighborhoods have been major supporters of Sunni militants responsible for attacks against the army and involved in jihadist activities in Tripoli and beyond. Thousands have been detained on suspicion of terrorism links, many without trial. The security official believes that "financial motives" are the main reason Tripoli's youth are joining IS ranks.The group is luring its recruits with the promise of "salaries reaching up to $5,000 a month", the official said. Iraq's National Security Adviser Qassem al-Araji said Sunday that Baghdad has started talks with Lebanese authorities over the IS threat.
Lebanon's interior minister is expected to visit Baghdad soon to discuss concerns, he added.
 'Your darling is dead'
In January this year, the Wadi al-Nahleh village near Tripoli received news that Omar Seif was among five of its residents killed in Iraq. Omar left Tripoli on December 30 and died nearly a month later, according to his family.
Omar's mother found out about it via WhatsApp, according to a relative who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity. She had sent Omar a message asking: "How are you, my darling?"The response she received, from a number Omar had previously used to call her, read: "Your darling is dead."
The Iraqi army issued a statement naming Omar and two of his cousins as Lebanese citizens killed in air strikes targeting IS fighters in the eastern province of Diyala. AFP had met Omar's mother two weeks before his death. She claimed poverty took her son, an ex-convict detained on suspicion of involvement in attacks against the army -- and who had virtually no job prospects after being released from jail. "He was desperate," she told AFP then, asking not to be identified for security reasons. "No one wanted to hire him... so he worked as a day laborer."Omar was planning to marry his fiancée within the coming two months which caused him to obsess over finances, his mother added, blaming the Lebanese state for her son's fate.

Lebanese Free Patriotic Movement MP Nicolas Sehnaoui: Everybody in Our Party Is Resentful about Hizbullah and Our Alliance with Them
MEMRI/February 08/2022
Source: OTV (Lebanon)
Lebanese MP Nicolas Sehnaoui, a member of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Lebanon's former Minister of Telecommunications, said in a February 2, 2022 interview on OTV (Lebanon) that the FPM and the Christians it represents feel resentful about Hizbullah and the FPM's alliance with it. He explained that initially, people had thought that Hizbullah would be the best partner for protecting and straightening out Lebanon, but that Hizbullah's actions have indicated otherwise. He said that had Hizbullah allied with the Christians in order to establish a proper state in Lebanon, the country would have been stronger and much better off.

US mediator arrives in Beirut to resume Lebanese-Israeli border talks
Najia Houssari/Arab News/February 08, 2022
BEIRUT: Amos Hochstein, the US envoy appointed by the Biden administration this month to mediate Lebanon’s maritime border dispute with Israel, held talks on Wednesday with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Mikati on the future of the negotiations.Aoun expressed “Lebanon’s readiness to continue to cooperate positively” with the process. However, the points of contention remain. “The administration of President Joe Biden is ready to help Lebanon and Israel find a mutually acceptable solution to their common maritime borders,” the State Department said. Hochstein, who is also the State Department’s senior adviser for energy security, also met Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib, Energy Minister Walid Fayyad and army commander Gen. Joseph Aoun.
The speaker’s office said Berri’s discussion with Hochstein focused on “multiple files, particularly the demarcation of the maritime and land border between Lebanon and occupied Palestine. The framework agreement announced in October last year was confirmed.”
The US administration’s framework agreement for talks, which was implemented a year ago by Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker, includes two demarcation zones, for land and maritime borders. In accordance with the agreement, the US acts as mediator at the request of both sides. Lebanon has been seen as struggling with the demarcation of its maritime borders. After submitting a border proposal to the UN in 2011, Lebanese officials decided that it was based on mistaken estimates and demanded an additional 1,430 square kilometers, an area that includes part of Israel’s Karish gas field. The Israelis oppose this. Berri told Hochstein: “We have a new opportunity to resume negotiations in the southern Lebanese town of Naqoura, thanks to the new US efforts in this context.”
He also highlighted “the importance of excluding Lebanon from the sanctions of Caesar’s law in the topics of piping Egyptian gas and electricity from Jordan through Syria to Lebanon.” Lebanon has been experiencing widespread power outages as a result of fuel shortages amid a crippling economic crisis. The Caesar Act is US legislation sanctioning the Syrian government for war crimes against the Syrian people. “The US envoy conveyed to Berri an optimistic view about positive progress being achieved in what relates to these matters,” the speaker’s office said.
Oil industry governance expert Diana Al-Qaisi told Arab News: “The US mediator has reached out to the Egyptian minister of electricity regarding redirecting the Egyptian gas into Lebanon.”She added that Hochstein’s talks in Lebanon focused on diplomacy and how best to facilitate negotiations between Lebanon and Israel on their maritime border to agree a mutually acceptable solution, though Lebanon continues to stand firm in its demands. Lebanese officials have yet to agree a strategy for the next phase of negotiations and their starting point for talks on the border.
The focus of Lebanese authorities then shifted on Wednesday to the nation’s financial crisis and a forensic audit of Banque du Liban, the country’s central bank. President Aoun met a delegation from the company Alvarez and Marsal, who informed him that the audit of the bank’s accounts was due to begin on Thursday morning. Aoun urged them to work quickly due to the urgency of the task. On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund opened negotiations with the Lebanese government to agree a strategy to begin to address the country’s insolvency. Jihad Azour, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department, stressed the need to address the losses faced by the financial sector and determine an accurate picture of the current financial situation in the country. “Last time we had a full update of the situation was August 2020, before the resignation of the previous government, therefore many things have happened and we need to update the numbers and have a new baseline,” he said.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 08-09/2022
Canadian Imam Younus Kathrada: Non-Muslims Know That If We Adhere To Islamic Teachings, Islam Will Rule The World, So They Say That Islam Is Backwards, Oppressive
MEMRI/February 08/2022
Source: The Internet - "Muslim Youth Victoria on YouTube"
In a Friday, January 28, 2022 sermon at Muslim Youth Victoria, Canadian Imam Younus Kathrada said that non-Muslims fight against Islam and are afraid of it because they know that "Islam is superior." He said that non-Muslims know that if Muslims adhere to Islam, this would mean their "demise" and the rise to dominance of Islam. He added that the opponents of Islam believe in the Islamic texts predicting that Islam will rule the world even more than Muslims do, and that this is the reason that they label Islam as backwards and oppressive. For more about Sheikh Younus Kathrada, see MEMRI TV Clips Nos. 9256, 9050, 8878, 8409, 8289, 8003, 7896, 7534, 7098, 6950, and 6906. Younus Kathrada: "And Islam is superior over all other religions, although those who associate others with Allah, detest that. They don't want Islam to prevail over all religion.
"You know when I look at these verses... When I read them and when I ponder these hadith of the Prophet, it becomes so clear to me why the non-Muslims are actively fighting against Islam. Why they are afraid of Islam. It is as though they believe in these texts more than we do. They know for a fact, they know for a fact that Islam is superior. And they are afraid that you and I will now begin to adhere to Islam. That makes them scared. Because if we now start applying the laws of Allah in our lives — well, it means their demise. It means they will be defeated. The day we go back to the Quran, and the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet, that is the day Muslims will dominate. This is what they are afraid of. They are afraid of Islam. "In this other Hadith, the Prophet tells us that the religion that is Islam will reach everywhere the night and day reach. In other words, there isn't a place on the face of this Earth, except that Islam will reach it. "The opponents of Islam, they know these texts are true. It is as though they believe in them more than we ourselves believe in them. And this is why they tirelessly oppose Islam. Anything to do with the laws of Islam: 'Oh, this is backwards, this is not suited for this time and age, this is oppression,' and so on and so forth. We hear it, day in and day out."

Republicans Vow to Thwart Any Iran Deal if Biden Skips Congressional Review
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 8 February, 2022
A group of 33 Republican senators warned US President Joe Biden on Monday that they would work to thwart implementation of any new Iran nuclear agreement if his government did not allow Congress to review and vote on its terms. Led by Senator Ted Cruz, a long-time opponent of the 2015 nuclear deal, the senators told Biden in a letter dated Monday that they would use "the full range of options and leverage available" to ensure that his government adhered to US laws governing any new accord with Iran.
Indirect talks in Vienna between Iran and the United States on reviving the 2015 agreement are due to resume on Tuesday. Talk of a possible agreement has driven oil prices lower, with markets anticipating that the possible removal of sanctions on Iranian oil sales could boost global supplies. The Biden administration has been trying to revive the deal, which lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities, a deal from which former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in 2018.
Iran later breached many of the deal's nuclear restrictions and kept pushing well beyond them. According to Reuters, Cruz and other senior Republican senators told Biden that implementation of any new deal would be "severely, if not terminally hampered" if he did not meet statutory obligations aimed at ensuring congressional oversight over revisions or changes to the 2015 Iran nuclear accord. They provided no details about their plans, but Republicans have used various tactics to slow down other legislation or put holds on Biden's nominees, including many for ambassador posts. Democrats control the 50-50 Senate only by virtue of a tie-breaking vote that can be cast by Vice President Kamala Harris, but they could lose control of the Senate and the House of Representatives in mid-term elections later this year.
The senators said any nuclear agreement with Iran was of "such gravity for US national security" that it would by definition be a treaty requiring the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate, they argued. Any deal that fell short of Senate-ratified treaty would "likely be torn up in the early days of the next presidential administration," they added, anticipating a Republican victory in the 2024 presidential race. In addition, they noted that a 2015 law passed before completion of the initial nuclear deal requires that any new “agreement” related to Iran’s nuclear program to be transmitted to Congress for a 60-day review period during which Congress could pass a joint resolution of disapproval that would essentially prevent the deal from going into effect.It said those mandates would be triggered by Iran's progress toward developing a nuclear weapon over the past year, which would require new oversight measures.

US Says Iran Nuclear Deal 'in Sight' but Urgent Need to Finalize
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 8 February, 2022
The United States said Monday a deal was possible with Iran on its nuclear program but that an agreement had to be completed urgently as Tehran advances its capabilities, on the eve of renewed talks. The negotiations -- attended by China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, Iran and the United States -- will resume in Vienna after being halted at the end of last month. They come after parties in recent weeks cited progress in seeking to revive the 2015 accord that was supposed to prevent Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb, a goal it has always denied pursuing. "A deal that addresses all sides' core concerns is in sight, but if it is not reached in the coming weeks, Iran's ongoing nuclear advances will make it impossible for us to return to the JCPOA," a US State Department spokesperson said, referring to the 2015 framework agreement. Parties have been negotiating in Vienna since last year with indirect US participation. Former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the pact in 2018 and reimposed tough economic sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to begin pulling back from its commitments under the deal and step up its nuclear activities. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the answers that "the United States brings tomorrow to Vienna will determine when we can reach an agreement." "We have made significant progress in various areas of the Vienna negotiations" including on guarantees that Iran seeks that a new US administration would not breach the deal once again, Khatibzadeh told reporters. Experts say the Iranians have deviated so much from the restrictions of the 2015 deal that they are only weeks away from having enough fissile material to make an atomic weapon.
Washington has sought direct negotiations in this home stretch, but said talks remain indirect at Iran's request. According to AFP, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called it "the decisive moment" in an interview with the Washington Post published Monday. "We gave them a clear message that now this is the time for decisions and for progress, and not for prolonging the process," he said. "We hope that they will use the chance.""We are five minutes away from the finish line," Russian negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov said in an interview published Monday by the Russian daily Kommersant. "A draft of the final document has been crafted. There are several points there that need more work, but that document is already on the table," he continued. On Friday, Washington made a gesture by announcing it was waiving sanctions on Iran's civil nuclear program, a technical step necessary to return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.The waiver allows other countries and companies to participate in Iran's civil nuclear program without triggering US sanctions on them, in the name of promoting safety and non-proliferation. The move "should facilitate technical discussions necessary to support talks on JCPOA return in Vienna," negotiators of Britain, France and Germany said in a joint statement Saturday. For Iran, though, the move fell short. "Real, effective and verifiable economic benefit for Iran is a necessary condition for the formation of an agreement," Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said in a tweet. "The show of lifting sanctions is not considered a constructive effort."Shamkhani said Sunday that Washington and Tehran had so far failed to produce "balance" in their commitments during the Vienna talks. "Despite limited progress in the #ViennaTalks, we are still far from achieving the necessary balance in the commitments of the parties," he tweeted.

Kremlin Denies Putin Promised Not to Hold Maneuvers Near Ukraine
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 8 February, 2022
The Kremlin denied on Tuesday that Vladimir Putin had promised French President Emmanuel Macron that Russia would stage no further maneuvers near Ukraine for now, pouring cold water on a tentative French assertion of diplomatic progress. Macron, who visited Moscow on Monday, is the highest ranking Western leader to have met the Russian president since Moscow massed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian frontier in what NATO countries fear is preparation for war. Putin and Macron announced no breakthroughs at a news conference on Monday but a French official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said overnight that Putin had promised to hold no new maneuvers near Ukraine for now. The official also said Putin had promised to withdraw Russian troops from Belarus at the end of exercises there, which are set for later this month. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said reports of any undertaking not to hold maneuvers near Ukraine were "not right". Putin had also given no new promise about when Russian troops would leave Belarus, Peskov said. They were expected to return to bases in Russia at some point after the drills, but "no one had ever said they would stay" in Belarus, he said.Macron's Elysee Palace office appeared to row back from the French official's remarks on Tuesday, saying the official was mentioning points that were discussed by Macron and Putin, rather than a specific new promise by the Russian leader. Macron defended his mission as having prevented a further deterioration of the crisis. He had never expected "for one second" that Putin would make concessions, he told journalists after arriving in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, where he was due to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Western fears of an invasion. Western countries, particularly the United States, say they fear Putin is preparing to invade Ukraine. Moscow says it is planning no invasion but could take unspecified "military-technical measures" unless a number of security demands are met, including a promise from NATO never to admit Kyiv. The United States and the European Union have threatened Russia with sanctions if it attacks Ukraine. US President Joe Biden warned on Monday that if Russia invades Ukraine, "there will be no longer Nord Stream 2". He did not specify how he would go about ensuring the recently completed pipeline between Russia and Germany would not be used. Macron, who is expected to stand for re-election in April, has portrayed himself as a potential mediator. He said before he left on his trip to Moscow that he believed Russia did not have designs on Ukraine but wanted to renegotiate European security arrangements. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said ahead of Macron's talks with Zelenskiy that Kyiv was "waiting with interest for the signals that Mr Macron brought from Moscow". But he added: "We will not cross our red lines and no one will be able to force us to cross them."He did not specify which red lines he was referring to, but Kyiv has repeatedly said it would oppose any negotiations over its fate without its participation, or any deal with Russia that interfered with its right to join alliances such as NATO.

Macron Sees 'Concrete Solutions' as Kyiv Expects Summit with Moscow, Paris, Berlin
Agence France Presse/Tuesday, 8 February, 2022
French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that after talks with the Russian and Ukrainian leaders he saw paths forward on easing tensions. "We now have the possibility to make these negotiations move forward" between Russia and Ukraine, he said after talks in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, adding that he also saw "concrete, practical solutions" for reducing tensions between Moscow and the West. Zelensky for his part said he expected to hold a summit soon with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany. "We expect that in the near future... we will be able to hold the next talks between the leaders of the Normandy quartet," Zelensky told a press conference, referring to negotiations aimed at ending the festering conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Calls for Renewed Protests in Syria’s As Suwayda
Daraa (Syria) - Riad al-Zein/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 8 February, 2022
Renewed protests have swept Syria’s southwestern governorate of As Suwayda as demonstrators marched and staged sit-ins demanding building a country for “all Syrians” and implementing UN resolution 2254, which calls for a political transition in the country. On Monday, protesters blocked roads between villages as well as Damascus-Suwayda Highway. They only opened roads for students, emergency cases, and trucks with food and fuel. In the provincial city, also named As Suwayda, protesters gathered in front of a prominent place of worship and marched towards the main square in large numbers. They also blocked roads using burning tires and shouted anti-government slogans. The recent wave of demonstrations come as discontent grows among Syrians towards the deteriorating living and economic conditions in the country. Protesters called on all Syrians, including soldiers, civilians, and civil servants to disrupt the status quo and join the peaceful demonstrations demanding the basic and legitimate rights of citizens. Demonstrators called on civil servants to skip work on Tuesday and join the protests. They also pushed shop owners to close their stores in the city and for government institutions to shut down.
Hamza, a protester in As Suwayda, said that shuttering government institutions comes to deliver the demands of demonstrators and defend the rights of civil servants. According to Hamza, civil servants are getting paid the shocking wage of $40 a month..Rayan Maarouf, an editor at the As Suwayda 24 news network, told Asharq Al-Awsat that protests dispersed on Monday noon with calls for renewing them on Tuesday. Maarouf pointed out that protests in As Suwayda included individuals from the whole social spectrum in the governorate. Notable participation was made by clerics, intellectuals, and key opposition figures.Sporadic protests turned into a demonstration denouncing the authority in Syria, noted Maarouf, adding that demonstrators chanted against humiliation and injustice and condemned the corruption of the authority and the waste of public money.

Israeli Forces Kill 3 Suspected Militants in West Bank City
Associated Press/Tuesday, 8 February, 2022
Israel says security forces killed three Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday who had been responsible for recent shooting attacks. The Shin Bet internal security agency says the men were armed and in a vehicle, and were killed in a clash with security forces. No Israelis were harmed in the shooting, it said. The Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed the three deaths. Photos of the three men circulating online show them posing with assault rifles, with one wearing a headband of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed group loosely tied to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party. The militant group said the three men are "heroic martyrs" and vowed revenge in a statement circulated on a Fatah-affiliated social media group. It identified them as Ibrahim al-Nablusi, Adham Mabrouk and Mohammed al-Dakhil, without giving their ages.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz congratulated the security forces and said he had recently ordered stepped-up security in the area. "We will continue our proactive operations, and we will thwart and catch anyone who tries to harm human life," he said. Recent weeks have seen a number of stabbing and shooting attacks by Palestinians in the West Bank. An Israeli settler was shot dead near a settlement outpost in December. Settlers have also carried out a number of attacks recently against Palestinians and Israeli activists, causing injuries and property damage but no fatalities. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, and Palestinians want it to form the main part of their future state. Nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers reside in the territory alongside more than 2.5 million Palestinians.

Israel's Police Chief Cuts Short UAE Trip over Spyware Probe

Associated Press/Tuesday, 8 February, 2022
Israel's police commissioner cut short an official foreign trip Tuesday and rushed home to deal with a growing scandal over reports of illegal spying, including on members of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's inner circle. Under mounting pressure, Kobi Shabtai returned early Tuesday from the United Arab Emirates, where the police forces were to establish professional ties during a longer visit. The decision came a day after a local newspaper reported that police illegally used spyware, including on the phones of Netanyahu's son and others, prompting a high-level investigation and upending the opposition leader's corruption trial. "In light of recent publications and in order to keep a close eye on developments, the commissioner will shorten his visit," the police said in a statement, noting that Shabtai supports an investigation headed by a judge. The national police force, the statement added, "has nothing to hide from the public."Shabtai's early return reflected the seriousness of the allegations reported by the Calcalist business newspaper, which have ricocheted across Israel's political and legal landscapes. In addition to Netanyahu's circle, targets have included former ministry directors, mayors and political activists.
The reports have said that police used the powerful Pegasus surveillance software, made by Israeli firm NSO Group. Pegasus has been linked to a number of abuses by authoritarian governments around the world.
On Monday, the outlet claimed that Pegasus had become "one of the most used tools for intelligence collection in the hands of the police" and had been used against politicians, protesters, business moguls, ministry directors and Netanyahu's close advisers and son. Like previous reports, the paper cited no sources, but for the first time named people allegedly surveilled by the police. The police denied the allegations and on Tuesday said no evidence of illegal activity had been uncovered. But the reports drew condemnation from across Israel's political spectrum. They threw Netanyahu's ongoing corruption trial into disarray after a key witnesses was named as a victim of the alleged hack.Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the allegations, if true, are "very serious."
Netanyahu demanded a "strong and independent investigation" into the alleged misuse of the spyware, calling it a "black day for Israel" as proceedings in his trial were put on hold. Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, who oversees the nation's police force, announced the a government commission of inquiry headed by a retired judge to "investigate in depth the violation of civil rights and privacy in the years in question." He said the alleged violations appear to have been carried out under former officials in previous governments. Israel's previous police chief, Roni Alsheikh, who was in command during much of the alleged snooping, has declined to comment on the matter. Calcalist said the police used spyware against a phone registered to Netanyahu's son, Avner, as well as two communications advisers and the wife of another defendant in one of three corruption cases against the former leader. It remains unclear whether any of the information allegedly gathered was used against Netanyahu. Also unclear is whether any of the information allegedly gathered was used against the former prime minister. Barlev's probe follows announcements by Israeli police and the attorney general's office that they would investigate. Last week, police for the first time acknowledged finding evidence pointing to improper use of spyware. Officials have not said which spyware was used. But Calcalist said it was Pegasus. NSO has been mired in controversy after the spyware was linked to eavesdropping on journalists, activists and politicians in several countries. The newspaper said police used the spyware to gather intelligence before any investigation had been opened — and without judicial warrants. Pegasus allows operators to quietly infiltrate a target's mobile phone and gain access to the device's contents, including real-time communications. Other Israeli companies have also produced powerful spying tools.NSO does not disclose its clients and says it does not have access to the intelligence they collect or control how its products are used. It says all of its sales are approved by Israel's Defense Ministry and that its technology is used by governments to combat crime and terrorism.

First UAE National Council delegation visits Knesset in Israel
AFP/The Arab Weekly/February 08/2022-
Three members of the United Arab Emirates’ Federal National Council visited Israel’s parliament Monday, becoming the first Emirati delegation there since the US-brokered normalisation of ties in 2020. “When we talk about Abraham Accords agreements, we want you to look at the big picture,” Ali Rashid al-Nuaimi, chairman of the council’s defence, interior and foreign affairs committee, said at the Israeli foreign and defence committee. “It’s not a political agreement only, it’s not an issue related to security and defence issue. No, it is an agent of change for the whole region,” Nuaimi said, advocating “full engagement in all sectors.”Prior to the visit to the Knesset, the Emirati delegation visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial. The UAE became the third Arab nation to normalise ties with Israel after Egypt and Jordan, a move that angered the Palestinians as it recognised the Jewish state before the establishment of a Palestinian one. Nuaimi said that after the 2021 war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist rulers of Gaza, “people were questioning what will happen to the Abraham Accords,” the name of the agreements brokered under the Donald Trump administration. “I want everyone to know there is no way back, we are moving forward, we are not repeating history, we are writing history,” he said. Ram Ben Barak, head of the Israeli foreign and defence committee hosting Nuaimi as well as fellow Federal National Council members Sara Falaknaz and Marwan Almheiri, called his guests “neighbours and brothers.”“There’s a misconception, as though the normalisation agreement was based on just one element, of shared threats and challenges, but that’s the smallest part of the deal,” he said. “Israel is committed to the agreement and plans on enhancing and expanding it in all fields.”Bahrain and Morocco have also normalised ties with Israel under the accords. Sudan has agreed to do so, but formal diplomatic relations have not yet emerged amid rising instability in Khartoum.

Libya's Parliament to Appoint New PM amid Increasing Tensions
Associated Press/February 08/2022
Libya's parliament said it will name a new prime minister this week to head the transitional government, a move that will likely lead to parallel administrations in the already chaotic nation. Two candidates — former Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga and Minister-Counsellor Khalid al-Baibas — have submitted their bids to replace Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. They appeared in a parliamentary session Monday in the eastern city of Tobruk to present their plans. Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh said a vote to name one of them as prime minister will take place Thursday, following consultations with the High Council of State, an advisory body based in the capital of Tripoli. The effort to replace Dbeibah stems from Libya's failure to hold its first presidential election during his watch. It has been a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in the oil-rich Mediterranean nation.
Originally scheduled for Dec. 24, the presidential vote was postponed over disputes between rival factions on laws governing the elections and controversial presidential hopefuls. Lawmakers have argued that the mandate of Dbeibah's government ended on Dec. 24.
Dbeibah has repeatedly said he and his government will remain in power until "real elections" take place. He has accused Saleh, the speaker, of fueling the division in the country. The prime minister, who hails from the powerful western city of Misrata, also urged the crafting of a new constitution before heading to elections. Saleh, the influential speaker, said lawmakers adopted a roadmap to hold the presidential election within 14 months after agreeing on constitutional amendments. He said a parliamentary committee will hold consultations with the High Council of State to craft the needed amendments within a week. Libya is governed by a constitutional declaration since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Khaled al-Mashri, head of the council, said members have agreed with the parliament to adopt a defined roadmap for elections even as a new government is appointed.
"We approved the parliament's demand to change the government, but it is necessary to determine the constitutional path for the elections first," he told a news conference Sunday in Tripoli. The parliament's move to appoint a new government is a setback to the U.N. mission in the country, which advocates for rescheduling the presidential vote as early as June.
U.N. deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said Monday negotiations were ongoing with Libyan parties to try to avoid a return to "the sort of discord and disarray that has marked the past decade.""We do implore the Libyan parties to take a look back at what the last years have brought and see in that, that there's really no future to that approach," he said when asked about concerns that Libya could return to rival political authorities. The move also increases concerns that the country could once again slide into armed conflict. Western governments have urged that the current government remain in place until the vote is held to avoid chaos and confusion. Armed groups in western Libya have already announced their objection to changing the government. They called for local and international parties to help agree on a roadmap with a specific timeframe to make changes to the constitution, achieve national reconciliation and unify the military. Dbeibah, a powerful businessman from Misrata, was appointed prime minister in February last year as part of a U.N.-brokered, Western-backed political process. His government's main task was to steer the deeply divided country toward national reconciliation and lead it through elections.
Libya has been wrecked by conflict since the NATO-backed uprising toppled then killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The country was for years split between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by militias and foreign governments.The presidential vote has faced many deep-rooted challenges, which remain unsolved. Those include controversial candidates and disputed laws governing elections as well as the deep mistrust between rival factions.

Belgium Detains 13 Suspects in Anti-Terror Operation
Agence France Presse/February 08/2022
More than 100 Belgian police raided multiple addresses around the port city of Antwerp on Tuesday and detained 13 people suspected of links to a jihadist group. The operation was launched under the authority of anti-terror magistrates as part of a broader investigation, federal prosecutors said in a statement.
"An Antwerp group within the Salafist jihadist milieu has come under scrutiny and the aim of this operation was to further map out the group's activities," it said. "Thirteen people were deprived of their liberty and will appear in the course of the day before the investigating judge, who will decide on a possible arrest."The Belgian cities of Brussels and Antwerp have been singled out in the past as alleged rear bases for international jihadist extremism. Antwerp was the base of the jihad group Sharia4Belgium, which was founded in 2010, and several of its members went on to fight for hardline groups in Syria.
Its former leader, Fouad Belkacem, was sentenced in 2015 in Belgium to 12 years in prison, then stripped of his Belgian nationality in 2018. Sharia4Belgium has been officially dissolved but Belgian law enforcement fears it could still be a source of inspiration for some Islamists.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks of 13 November 2015, which left 130 dead, Belgium was accused of being a rear base for international jihadism. The initial investigation revealed that several of the attackers were from the working class Brussels district Molenbeek, and that the attacks were planned there.
Belgium itself became a target after the arrest in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the Paris attack gang, now on trial in France. On 22 March 2016, Brussels was hit by a double suicide bomb attack that was claimed by the Islamic State group.
Bombers from the same jihadist cell that attacked Paris blew themselves up at Brussels Zaventem airport and in the metro, killing 32 people and wounding 340.

Sudanese march against military, blocked from reaching presidential palace
AFP/The Arab Weekly/February 08/2022
Thousands of Sudanese marched against military rule on Monday in Khartoum and other cities, with some voicing concern about the return to government of members of the ousted regime of the former president, Omar al-Bashir. In the capital security forces repeatedly firing tear gas rounds blocked protesters trying to reach the presidential palace, halting them more than a kilometre away from the building. Some people were seen injured and bleeding and others fainted, carried away on motorcycles. "Kill, kill, we're not scared," some Khartoum protesters chanted. Others gathered in the nearby cities of Bahri and Omdurman and regional capitals Madani, Kassala and El Geneina. Protesters were more numerous than in recent weeks in Khartoum and several other cities. Huge crowds have regularly taken to the streets demanding a return to civilian rule since a coup on October 25 coup ended a power-sharing arrangement that began in 2019. The protests have continued despite a crackdown that has killed at least 79 and injured more than 2,000, according to medics aligned with the protest movement. Military leaders have said the coup was necessary as a corrective measure, that the right to protest is protected and have ordered investigations into protester deaths.Led by neighbourhood resistance committees, protesters have demanded the armed forces exit politics completely and accused the military of working with members of the Bashir's regime. "We came out today to gain civilian rule and to stop the return of members of Bashir's party that (General Abdelfattah) al-Burhan re-appointed. They want to bring back Bashir's regime," said Hassan Ahmed, a 41 year-old engineer. Bashir was ousted by the army following a 2019 popular uprising and replaced by a military-civilian power-sharing arrangement which ended after the October 25 coup. Since then the military has appointed some Bashir-era veterans to a caretaker government and begun to review the work of a taskforce that sought to seize regime assets and remove former regime stalwarts from the civil service.Some of these fired employees have been reinstated at the country's foreign and justice ministries, the judiciary and the central bank.

UN, Western envoys urge Tunisia to restore judicial watchdog
AFP/February 08, 2022
TUNIS: Tunisian President Kais Saied faced growing pressure on Tuesday from judges, the UN and world powers after he scrapped a key judicial watchdog, triggering renewed accusations he is moving toward authoritarian rule. Saied dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council on Sunday, months after sacking the government and seizing wide-reaching powers in the North African country, often lauded as the only democracy to emerge from the 2011 Arab revolts. The former law professor had long inveighed against the council, accusing members of blocking investigations into the 2013 assassinations of leftist political figures Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi. He had also accused his nemesis, the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party that had played a central role in Tunisian politics for the decade between the revolution and Saied’s power grab, of infiltrating the body.
The president, who has put fighting corruption at the heart of his program, insisted Monday that he would “never interfere with the judiciary” and that removing the judicial council was necessary as Tunisians wanted the country “cleansed.”But his removal of the council, set up in 2016 to shield judges from government influence, sparked renewed anger from critics who say he is installing a new dictatorship, 11 years after the fall of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Those fears have been fueled by the increasing use of military courts to try civilians.In Tunis, the envoys of the G7 nations and the European Union said they were “deeply concerned” about Saied’s move against the council, “whose mission is to ensure the sound functioning of the justice system and respect for its independence.”“A transparent, independent and efficient judiciary and the separation of powers are essential for a functioning democracy that serves its people,” they said.Amnesty International said Saied’s “attack” on the body was “a grave threat to fair trial rights.”“If the President enacts a decree to dissolve or suspend the institution, it will sound the death knell for judicial independence in the country,” said the rights group’s regional director Heba Morayef.
That came hours after Washington — which has often given Saied the benefit of the doubt following similar moves — also voiced its concern, calling an independent judiciary “a core element of an effective and transparent democracy.”“It is essential that the government of Tunisia holds its commitments to respect the independence of the judiciary, as stipulated in the constitution,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price. A month after his July 25 power grab, Saied had given himself new powers effectively allowing him to rule by decree and suspending parts of the 2014 constitution — a document he has since vowed to replace. His latest move gets rid of a body that had been mandated to ensure the functioning of justice, keep the judiciary independent and appoint judges.
On Monday, police blocked access to the council’s headquarters, preventing members and staff from entering. The body’s president Youssef Bouzakher called the move “illegal,” and on Tuesday the Association of Tunisian Magistrates said it was “a flagrant violation of the separation of powers” that would be ensured in a “democratic regime.”The association also announced a judges’ strike “at all courts across the country on Wednesday and Thursday” as well as a protest outside the council’s offices on Thursday. Ennahdha said Saied’s decision showed he was “trying to take control of the judicial apparatus to use it to eliminate his political rivals.”Saied’s move also sparked criticism from the UN in Geneva, where High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called it “a big step in the wrong direction.”Dissolving the body “is in clear violation of Tunisia’s obligations under international human rights law,” she said.
She also pointed out that the judicial council’s establishment in 2016 had been seen as a major advance for the rule of law, separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary in Tunisia. Bachelet also decried online hate campaigns and threats directed at the council’s members, and called for all necessary measures to be taken to ensure their safety. She said that since July, “there have been increasing attempts to stifle dissent, including through harassment of civil society actors.”

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 08-09/2022
Palestinians: The Human Rights Violations No One Talks About
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/February 08/2022
In August alone, the PA security forces committed 287 violations against Palestinians, including arbitrary arrests of a physicist, activists, lawyers and others. Ten detainees went on hunger strike in PA prison and the health condition of two others deteriorated as a result of torture.
The report analyzed 250 arrest cases between January 2018 and June 2021, and noted: "Not a single case went without one or more instances of violation of procedures related to arrest, detention and fair trial guaranteed by the Palestinian Criminal Procedures Law and the Palestinian Basic Law of 2003." — Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism, 2021.
Under the current circumstances, the Biden administration is stating that it wants to facilitate Abbas' creation of another Arab dictatorship that suppresses public freedoms and sanctions torture and intimidation.
The ICSPR and ARIJ reports show that the Palestinian dictatorship entity already exists and is actively arresting, torturing, and killing its critics. What else do Blinken and the rest of the international community need to hear before they stop trying to empower such abusive governance and instead heed the voices of these Palestinians?
After Palestinian Authority (PA) security officers murdered Palestinian anti-corruption activist Nizar Banat in June 2021, dozens of Palestinians took to the streets to protest the crime. In response, PA security officers beat and arrested many of the demonstrators, including journalists and human rights activists. Pictured: Plain-clothed PA security officers beat a man in Ramallah on June 26, 2021, during a demonstration to protest the murder of Banat.
While international "human rights" organizations such as Amnesty International make false and baseless claims against Israel, most continue intentionally and systematically to ignore the human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority (PA).
A report published on January 29 by the Palestinian NGO International Commission to Support Palestinian Rights (ICSPR), which seeks to raise awareness of human rights among Palestinians, revealed that the year 2021 witnessed severe setbacks in the exercise of public rights and freedoms under the PA in the West Bank.
Ironically, human rights violations increased after PA President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree on February 20, 2021 for boosting public freedoms ahead of the Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections, which were supposed to take place on May 22 and July 30 respectively. Abbas later called off the elections, apparently out of fear that his ruling Fatah faction was set to lose the parliamentary vote, as it did in the last election in 2006.
Abbas's decree called for "establishing an atmosphere of public freedoms in all the territories of Palestine, including the freedom to practice political and national activities." The decree also called for "banning the detention, arrest, prosecution of, or holding to account, individuals for reasons relating to the freedom of opinion and political affiliation."
The ICSPR report, however, found that despite the decree, last year sustained "grave violations and abuses" against Palestinians in the West Bank by the PA and its security forces.
The violations and abuses, according to the report, include Abbas's decision to call off the elections on the pretext that Israel refused to allow the vote to take place in Jerusalem. Abbas had cited Israel's alleged refusal as the only reason for his controversial decision to postpone the elections indefinitely.
The ICSPR report, however, emphasized that, contrary to Abbas's claim, the PA leadership did not submit a request to the European Union for holding the elections in Jerusalem. Additionally, the PA leadership did not notify international parties of Israel's alleged refusal to allow the elections to take place in Jerusalem, the group noted. The report stated:
"The decision to postpone the elections was most likely due to differences within the Fatah faction [headed by Abbas] and its fear of not achieving victory... The decision to delay the elections is an assault on the right of the Palestinian people to practice the democratic process."
After PA security officers murdered Palestinian anti-corruption activist Nizar Banat in June 2021, dozens of Palestinians took to the streets to protest the crime. In response, PA security officers beat and arrested many of the demonstrators, including journalists and human rights activists.
On July 5, 2021, ICSPR revealed, a number of female Palestinian journalists and political activists were beaten and arrested during a protest outside the PA police headquarters in Al-Bireh, the twin city of Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians.
According to the ICSPR report, more than 200 Palestinians were arrested by the PA security forces in 2021 because of their political affiliation and for expressing their views in public. The PA security forces also continued to target dozens of Palestinian journalists during the same year.
"The data shows that there is an official [PA] policy to undermine freedom of expression through detentions or attacks on journalists and activists," the report stated.
"The [Palestinian] judiciary was involved [in this policy] by extending the detention of dozens of human rights and anti-corruption activists, although the detentions were against the background of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. A number of detainees had reported that they were beaten and denied fair trials."
In August alone, the PA security forces committed 287 violations against Palestinians, including arbitrary arrests of a physicist, activists, lawyers and others. Ten detainees went on hunger strike in PA prison and the health condition of two others deteriorated as a result of torture. Moreover, another four Palestinians running in the parliamentary election complained that they had been assaulted by the PA security forces.
The ICSPR report revealed that the PA security forces arrested dozens of Palestinians on the eve of the anniversary of the founding of the Islamist Hamas movement. The PA security forces also targeted Palestinians who celebrated the release of Palestinians from Israeli prison and confiscated Hamas banners and flags.
On December 22, 2021, Amir Al-Liddawi, a Palestinian from the city of Jericho, died of wounds he sustained while he was being chased by PA security officers during a reception for a Palestinian released from Israeli prison.
In two separate incidents, the PA security forces attacked mourners participating in the funerals of Jamil Al-Kayyal and Amjad Abu Sultan, who were killed during clashes with the Israeli army in Nablus and Bethlehem.
The report concluded:
"The political and arbitrary arrests carried out by the Palestinian Authority security services is a flagrant violation of the international law... Political and arbitrary detention is prohibited in all international treaties and human rights conventions. It is also a grave infringement on the Palestinian Basic Law."
Another report, published on December 14, 2021 by Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ), a media organization based in Jordan, also accused the Palestinian Authority of committing human rights violations, including torture.
The report pointed out that PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh stated in February 2021 that the Palestinian security forces do not detain people for freely expressing their opinion.
"The truth, however, was far from that," the ARIJ report said.
"In the same month, the Independent Commission for Human Rights recorded nine complaints related to political arrests made by the security services in the West Bank whose head is the prime minister himself as he is also Minister of Interior [in charge of the PA security forces]."
The report analyzed 250 arrest cases between January 2018 and June 2021, and noted:
"Not a single case went without one or more instances of violation of procedures related to arrest, detention and fair trial guaranteed by the Palestinian Criminal Procedures Law and the Palestinian Basic Law of 2003."
On January 31, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone with Abbas. The two, according to the PA's official news agency Wafa, discussed the latest developments in the Palestinian territories and bilateral relations between the Palestinians and the Americans. US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said:
"They [Blinken and Abbas] discussed the importance of strengthening the US relationship with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, as well as the need to improve quality of life for Palestinians in tangible ways. They also discussed the challenges facing the Palestinian Authority and the need for reform."
Glaringly absent from this phone conversation with Abbas was mention of the scandalous human rights violations committed by the PA.
The Biden administration does not seem to be concerned with such violations, including the massive crackdown on Palestinian journalists and human rights activists. Unless the wrongdoing can be pinned on Israel, this administration clearly could not care less.
Blinken reportedly told Abbas that the Biden administration is committed to the "two-state solution."
Under the current circumstances, the Biden administration is stating that it wants to facilitate Abbas' creation of another Arab dictatorship that suppresses public freedoms and sanctions torture and intimidation.
The ICSPR and ARIJ reports show that the Palestinian dictatorship entity already exists and is actively arresting, torturing, and killing its critics. What else do Blinken and the rest of the international community need to hear before they stop trying to empower such abusive governance and instead heed the voices of these Palestinians?
*Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.
© 2022 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.

What Happens in Ottawa May Not Stay in Ottawa
Tyler Cowen/Bloomberg/February, 08/2022
The nationwide truckers’ protest in Canada, known as the “Freedom Convoy” and centered in Ottawa, reflects so many global trends that it’s hard to say what it means. But the movement may well end up as the most consequential story of the year.
Under one plausible reading, many Canadians are exhausted by their government’s pandemic restrictions. The protests started in January, when laws took effect requiring truckers who crossed the border to be vaccinated. Since then, the protests have grown to reflect a broader Canadian opposition to Covid restrictions. The Canadian economy, unlike the US economy, saw a big job loss in January, in part because Canada has been more reluctant to liberalize.
This reluctance is puzzling, because it is now safe to lift most Covid restrictions, in the US as well as Canada. In that regard, the Freedom Convoy genuinely stands for some important freedoms. Travel, for example — either domestic or international — is not easy. If you are Canadian and do not wish to be vaccinated against Covid, it can be difficult to lead a normal life.
That is not to say that all their grievances are justified. I am generally skeptical about government mandates, but I am also very pro-vaccine. At this point in the pandemic, for the vast majority of people, getting vaccinated is far and away the best option.
The protests also have a darker side. The protesters have established a serious infrastructure of their own in Ottawa, replete with cranes and tent cities, and control much of the center city. The situation “is absolutely catastrophic both for the rule of law and for the long-term security of Canada,” tweets Canadian journalist Matt Gurney. “Everyone sees this. This is a massive failure of the state.”
So much of Canadian identity is wrapped up in being “nice” that it may be hard for Canadians and their leaders to fathom that they could lose control of their capital city. As Gurney says, it is simply assumed that Canada is “rich, stable and peaceful,” a more polite counterpart to its southern neighbor. But Canadians may be in for a rude awakening about how easy it is for the government to temporarily lose control: “I think the danger of a large violent incident in Ottawa is growing fast.”
Obviously the Canadian police and armed forces have far greater power than the truckers. But when it comes to imaginative fervor, the truckers have the advantage, just as did the forces that stormed the US Capitol on Jan. 6. Who would have thought such a thing could have happened?
At least some parts of the protests reflect White supremacist and extremist ideas. Confederate flags and swastikas have been spotted, though on Twitter there is vociferous disagreement about how representative these signs are.
The debate is not merely over symbols. Using GoFundMe, donors sent C$10 million ($7.8 million) to support the efforts of the truckers. GoFundMe decided not to pass those funds along, claiming the Freedom Convoy had violated its terms of service and promising refunds. Should financial infrastructure companies such as GoFundMe be making such political decisions? While a private company has a legal right to do this, such decisions could end up as de facto restrictions on political speech.
This is all happening in a country that is already chipping away at free speech. Under the guise of regulating “hate speech,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed new restrictions on internet speech last year. Of course such restrictions would have a chilling effect. So maybe the Freedom Convoy is part of a backlash to the underlying trend of restricted discourse. One way or another, freedom of speech will be asserted.
So far at least, the Freedom Convoy has yet to attract sustained and widespread coverage in the US mainstream media. Maybe Americans just aren’t used to Ottawa being the epicenter of political conflict. But now that it is, we should probably be prepared for other surprises as well.

The End of the Pandemic May Tear Us Apart
Michael Bang Petersen/The New York Times/February, 08/2022
For countries with high vaccination rates, 2022 may be the last year when strong measures are required against Covid-19. The end of the pandemic, however, will not come easily.
One might imagine that the end of the emergency would be joyfully welcomed. But conflicts over whether schools should remain open and the value of mask mandates reveal that just because the prognosis for Covid-19 has improved does not mean that public officials are absolved from the need to make hard choices about policy. A waning pandemic does not mean the end of leadership on Covid, but may instead mean it’s more necessary than ever.
The pandemic situation is now much more ambiguous and disjointed than it was at the beginning. In Denmark, for example, where around 81 percent of our population is vaccinated, high case numbers did not lead to high rates of severe disease during the Omicron wave. Because of this, leaders are rolling back all restrictions for the second time.
This was not necessarily an obvious decision. One could easily ask: Why are we letting down our guard when infections in Denmark had reached their highest point in the entire pandemic?
As a researcher and an adviser to the Danish government on the pandemic, I have repeatedly stressed that we need to make complex trade-offs between deaths, the economy, public well-being and constitutional rights. There is not a single right answer for how to proceed. Within the set of legitimate strategies, the choice of strategy is often less important than whether or not people follow and support it.
In Denmark, a clear majority of Danes support rolling back restrictions. My team’s research, which follows Covid-19 behaviors and attitudes in Denmark, six other European countries and the United States, suggests that the proportion of Danes who feel Covid-19 is a societal threat is dropping sharply. Throughout the pandemic, our surveys showed that the primary concern among Danish people was not their personal health, but whether our hospitals were overwhelmed. Now that the risk most Danish people care about is gone, the country can smoothly transition out of crisis mode. (If restrictions need to come back because of a more dangerous variant, there would most likely be support for them.)
But this won’t necessarily be the case everywhere, especially in countries where there’s less trust in authorities and more discordance over what the goals of Covid-19 restrictions are.
Our research has shown that public trust has taken a hit in many countries, including Denmark. As fatigue, personal costs and miscommunications have accumulated, the public has become wary. Until recently, the people losing the most trust have been those who felt that their governments’ responses were too heavy-handed. However, according to our data, the Omicron wave has also chipped away at the trust of those who have been supportive of their government’s approach up until now. Lifting restrictions while cases are soaring can seem like betrayal after two years of seeking to “flatten the curve.”
The key ingredients of an effective pandemic response — communication, trust and a shared sense of threat — are slowly dwindling. This can lead to social strife and will make it harder for leaders to steer their populations out of the crisis.
For two years people have debated the value of masks, vaccine passports and more, to the point that they are no longer opinions but identities. And when opinions become identities, they warp our understanding and make it harder to change one’s mind as the situation changes. The truth is that we are all biased. For example, research shows that in the United States, Republicans tend to overrate the risks of getting vaccinated, and Democrats tend to overrate the risks from the disease.
Without a joint sense of the risks of Covid, and with open questions about things like the likelihood of getting long Covid or how effective the vaccines are at preventing transmission, it can seem increasingly impossible to bridge divides and unite people toward a shared view of what the end of this crisis looks like.
Because Covid-19 vaccines are effective in preventing severe disease from the virus but less effective in preventing infections, the continued spread of the coronavirus in highly vaccinated populations will become a Rorschach test: Everyone will see something different. People who remain worried about getting Covid-19 will see high cases during surges, which will justify their concerns and strengthen their own observance of mask-wearing and distancing. Calls for removing restrictions will seem dangerous. People who are less vulnerable to infection will focus on the lessened severity and do the opposite. They may view calls to keep restrictions in place as unnecessary and infringing on their freedoms.
For people who have been highly vigilant about Covid-19, the end of the pandemic could end up feeling like defeat. At some point, it will be time to lift restrictions and lower the guards. The people they’ve been debating about masks or whether the crisis is improving will then be right. It won’t be because this position was always correct, but because the circumstances have changed.
That’s why strong leadership is so critical for ending the pandemic. As the need for restrictions lessens, it’s up to public health and political leaders to explain why restrictions are being lifted, just as they had to explain why they were being imposed in the first place. Authorities must tell the public why they are placing more responsibility on individuals and, ideally, address the concerns of those who may not be ready, as well as those who remain at higher risk, like the immune compromised.
As we tentatively approach the end of the crisis period of the pandemic, leaders need to help people put risk into perspective. If countries haven’t articulated how they will deal with pandemic trade-offs, they need to do so now. The longer it takes for the realization that the risk from Covid is lowering, the longer the crisis will last and the deeper the divides it will create. Should new variants turn the presumed end (at least for Denmark) into a brief pause, such cleavages will make the next round with the virus even more difficult.

Iran ‘sham’ trial of California resident sparks allegations that world powers have abandoned him
Benjamin Weinthal/Fox News/February 08/2022 |
Iranian regime 'scapegoating an innocent man' over bombing allegations, Jamshid Sharmahd's daughter says
Jamshid Sharmahd, a German Iranian dissident and long-term legal resident of California who was abducted by Iran’s regime in Dubai in 2020, went on trial Sunday and could face the death penalty, all over what critics are calling false links to a deadly bombing at a mosque in 2008.
Political prisoners routinely face sham legal proceedings and coerced confessions in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The German and European governments are facing intense criticism for prioritizing a nuclear deal with Tehran over securing the release of the 66-year-old Sharmahd, who has lived in the U.S. since 2003 and campaigned against the Islamist tyranny.
Gazelle Sharmahd, Jamshid’s daughter, wrote to Fox News Digital via email from California, saying, “This is not a court or a trial at all, this is a propaganda show they have been preparing for the last 18 months. It is very disturbing that the free world can stand by and do little to help Jimmy [Jamshid] and so many others who are going through this.”
She added, “The Iranians are fabricating charges and scapegoating an innocent man to make an example of him in order to shock the entire opposition, no matter which part of the opposition, but all people who work for a free Iran or hold points of view different from the Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei].
“Jimmy has not had access to his own lawyer in Iran or to his legal team in the U.S. This is a violation of his fundamental rights. How can you try someone without allowing them to review the evidence against them? Only savage people do this, not a civilized society,” Gazelle wrote.
Jamshid is the spokesperson for the Los Angeles-based Kingdom Assembly of Iran exile opposition group. Iran’s regime has alleged, without providing any evidence, that Sharmahd was complicit in a 2008 bombing of the Hosseynieh Seyed al-Shohada Mosque in the city of Shiraz. The bombing resulted in the deaths of 14 people, and 215 others were injured.
Attorney Jason I. Poblete, who is president of Global Liberty Alliance and is representing the Sharmahd family, told Fox News Digital: “The German and American governments have a duty to secure Mr. Sharmahd’s unconditional release from Iran; they are not doing nearly enough. If the U.S.-Iran envoy, Robert Malley, cared more about helping Americans rather than inking a deal Iran is already breaking, Jimmy and other hostages would be home today.”
Poblete was referencing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name for the nuclear deal, which Iran’s regime has breached. The U.S., Germany and other world powers have been seeking in Vienna to trade sanctions relief for Iran’s regime in exchange for a renewed agreement they hoped would impose temporary restrictions on Tehran’s capability to build nuclear weapons.
Gazelle asked, “America and Germany, where are you? You go to Vienna to fancy hotels [for nuclear talks] while my dad is paraded in this made for a television show or kangaroo trial. Where is your humanity? The so-called international community: Where is this compassion for your fellow human being? If Iran wants to be treated as an equal among the nations, it has to earn it. The supreme leader is making a mockery of you all.”
A State Department spokesperson told Fox News it’s “aware of the reports” of Sharmahd’s detention. The German Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment.
Gazelle Sharmahd said, “This is supposed to be a public event, but it’s all staged.”
Masih Alinejad, a Voice of America journalist and a women’s rights campaigner, tweeted, “His name is #JamshidSharmahd. This German-Iranian was kidnapped from Dubai by the Islamic Republic of Iran for being critical of the regime. He faces an unfair trial today. Meanwhile, EU & Germany don’t want to raise his case because ‘the nuclear deal with Iran is more important.’”
The Iranian government sought to abduct Alinejad in Brooklyn, the FBI said in 2021, because of her opposition to the clerical regime in Tehran.
Sharmahd said, “My dad was almost assassinated by the regime on U.S. soil, right here in California. Now he is kidnapped in the UAE; the UAE is not safe and they have not helped either. Repeated overtures to the UAE in D.C. and their high-priced lobbyists have been ignored. What do they have to hide, the UAE? The Iranians and the WGAD [the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention body of independent human rights experts] have been more responsive to our American legal team than the UAE, Germany and the U.S.”
Fox News Digital previously reported that agents of the Islamic Republic sought to assassinate her father in California in 2009 because of his opposition activities, including his radio talk show.
The 2009 assassination plot garnered widespread media attention and resulted in the conviction of Mohammad Sadeghnia, who arranged the planned murder.
Sharmahd gave birth to a girl on Dec. 31, 2020. She said the situation has been “killing us” because her father was “not going to see her.” The baby, Jamshid’s first grandchild, is named Kiana (“elements of nature,” i.e. earth, wind, fire, etc., in Persian).
She added, “We still do not know how he is, we just saw these pictures that were allowed to be circulated by the press. I can see the sheer terror in my dad’s face, even hidden behind the mask and the prisoner uniform. They could not hide the terror that is evident in his eyes.
“555 days of isolation, torture and forced confessions, yet he is still in shock when they present this garbage of a show trial to him. How can anyone endure this amount of physical and psychological pressure for such a long time?” she said.
*Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. You can follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

The Syria regime's economic failure
The Arab Weekly/February 08/2022-
Iran took advantage of the popular uprising that erupted in Syria eleven years ago to initiate a process of profound demographic change.
This operation targeting Sunnis, Christians and Druze continues to this day. The Iranian seizure of parts of Syria went through several stages. The difference between the late Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar al-Assad is that the latter put all his eggs in the Iranian basket.
The Syrian regime did not even realise the danger of covering up for the assassination of Rafik Hariri and his companions on February 4, 2005, a process that led to its exit from Lebanon and laid the ground for the "Islamic Republic's" control of Syrian decision-making in Damascus itself. Iran was able to do this after Hezbollah, with the weapons it wields for its sectarian ends, to fill the void left by the Syrian withdrawal in Lebanon.
The current Syrian regime cannot be rehabilitated, not just because it is a minority regime based on the dominance of the security services or because it has destroyed the social fabric of the country. It is so also because, before anything else, it has failed economically.
The economic failure reflected the political failure that will grow in size in 2022. The domestic players have changed, after the replacement of the clique surrounding Rami Makhlouf, the cousin of the head of the Syrian regime with that of Bashar al-Assad’s wife, Asma al-Akhras. For more than twenty years, Rami Makhlouf had been in control of the main levers of the Syrian economy, from the duty-free shopping in and outside the airport to telecommunications and all other sectors that could provide a source of financial income for Makhlouf's companies and partners. In addition, Rami, who was attentive to the interests of the Alawite sect and cared that the majority of the sect members remained loyal to Bashar.
The Syrian regime was effectively established in 1963 following a military coup against civilian rules that was called the “era of secession”. The danger it now poses for the country stems from the fact that it has destroyed the Syrian economy and everything related to trade, services, agriculture and Syria’s position in the region. Most important of all, it has destroyed the institutions of the Syrian state, especially the judiciary, which is now controlled by higher ruling circles. Since there is no judiciary, no one wants to invest in Syria.
The middle and upper-middle classes, which had been the mainstay of Syrian society and its social fabric, have vanished. These classes have had the ability to produce and build a system linked to the world market. Syria had potential in every field. From industry to banks and companies that are able to undertake large projects. At end of the fifties of the last century and after the nationalisation drive that was carried out in Syria during the days of the merger with Egypt and the transfer of the failed Nasserite experiment to Syria, the emigration of the Syrian elite began. This emigration continues to this day, much of it to Lebanon and the Gulf states. Lebanon benefited greatly from Syrian talents. It benefited from cadres in many fields, including industry, commerce, construction and banking.
Syria faces today an unprecedented economic crisis, as a direct result of many years of extortion which replaced economic liberalisation. The rule of the state-controlled by the Alawite sect and the security services replaced the rule of justice and law. The higher ruling authorities that control the Syrian economy these days do not know how to get out of the impasse.
There is no limit to the Lebanese collapse. But there is also no limit to the Syrian collapse either. If Lebanon suffers from Iranian occupation, Syria suffers from five forms of occupation at once. What happened in Syria is because the state which was supposed to serve its people has become a state that joined ranks with those who wanted to profit from the cause of Palestine. Trading in Palestine, which led to the fall of the Golan under the Israeli occupation since 1967, was the beginning of a series of disasters that brought Syria to what it is today. The Syrian regime is waiting for pledges from Tehran, which is readying itself for a deal with the US administration leading to the lifting of US sanctions on Iran.
Even if Iranian dollars started flowing again to the Syrian regime's coffers, the crisis will still remain. It is the crisis of a country where there has been no logic for many years, a country where no one wondered about the point of buying weapons from the Soviet Union since the mid-fifties for the last fifty years and why such weapons were never used to liberate an inch of the Golan, while they were used to suppress the Syrians, the Lebanese and the Palestinians and to blackmail Jordan by all possible means, including the waters of the Yarmouk River and drug smuggling.