English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For March 13/2022
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
The Third Lent Sunday/The Miracle Of Healing The haemorrhagic Woman
Luke 08/40-56: 40/Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 12-13/2022
The Bleeding Women's Miracle: Faith & Hope/Elias Bejjani/March 13/2022LF Accuses FPM of Stirring Political Clashes to Postpone Elections
Corona - Healh Ministry: 763 new Corona cases, 7 deaths
What is happening in Lebanon is unacceptable, tweets Abdel Samad
Taymour Jumblatt: Upcoming elections an essential juncture along the struggle path towards sovereignty
Lebanon goes international with 'AMACO'
"Sulkiness hears no logic," tweets Bassil
Abou Faour: Handing Lebanon over to Iran will not happen
The General Directorate of Oil reminds fuel traders of strict measures in the event of manipulation of the official price
Cash or card? Confusion rages over Lebanon’s new payment system
Takieddine: Losses of the US, the Zionist entity and Europe from the fall of Ukraine into the hands of the Russians are incalculable
Supermarket owners: Payment method will become 50% cash-50% credit card

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 12-13/2022
Russian Demands Threaten to Derail Iran Nuclear Talks
US pays $2 million every month to protect Pompeo, aide from Iran threat
US official warns Israel not to be 'last haven for dirty money' funding Russian invasion of Ukraine
Leaders of France and Germany Hold New Talks with Putin
Ukraine President Appeals to Mothers of Russian Soldiers
Russian Forces Squeeze Kyiv, Surround Mariupol
UN Experts Say Russian Media Law Amounts to Information ‘Blackout'
US Accuses Russia of Violating Nuclear Safety Principles in Ukraine
Israel, Ukraine Deny Report Bennett Recommended Yielding to Russian Demands
Eastern Europe Embraces Ukraine Refugees as Workforce
Concern Grows over Traffickers Targeting Ukrainian Refugees
Will Russia Bring Syrian Fighters to Ukraine?
Croatia Urges NATO Cooperation after 'Drone from Ukraine' Crashes in Zagreb
Turkey, Armenia Hold 'Constructive' Talks on Mending Ties

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 12-13/2022
Turkey: Occupies Northern Cyprus, Goes for the Rest/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/March 12/2022
Sisi in Riyadh…The Consolidation of an Arab Regional Order/Zuhair Al-Harthi/Asharq Al Awsat/March 12/2022
Another Chernobyl Disaster? Russian Invaders Are Taking the Risk/Tobin Harshaw/Bloomberg/March 12/2022
Russia and the US Helped the Demise of the Iran Talks/Camelia Entekhabifard/Asharq Al Awsat/March 12/202
War Crimes Charges Wouldn’t Scare Putin/Stephen L. Carter/Bloomberg/March 12/2022
Why Are the Biden Administration, EU, Appeasing the Iranian Regime?/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/March 12/ 2022
Dealing with Egypt’s demographic dilemma/Mohamed Abulfadl/The Arab Weekly/March 12/2022

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 12-13/2022
The Bleeding Women's Miracle: Faith & Hope
Elias Bejjani/March 13/2022
(John 6:68): “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life"
Whenever we are in real trouble encountering devastating and harsh conditions either physically or materially, we unconsciously react with sadness, anger, confusion, helplessness and feel abandoned. When in a big mess, we expect our family members and friends to automatically run to our rescue. But in the majority of such difficult situations, we discover with great disappointment that in reality our heartfelt expectations do not unfold as we wish.
What is frustrating and shocking is that very few of our family members and friends would stand beside us during hardships and endeavour to genuinely offer the needed help. Those who have already walked through these rocky life paths and adversities definitely know very well the bitter taste of disappointment. They know exactly the real meaning of the well-know saying, "a friend in need is a friend indeed".
Sadly our weak human nature is driven by inborn instincts that often make us side with the rich, powerful, healthy and strong over the poor, weak, needy and sick. Those who have no faith in Almighty God find it very difficult to cope in a real mess.
Meanwhile, those whose faith is solid stand up with courage, refuse to give up hope, and call on their Almighty Father for help through praying and worshiping. They know for sure that our Great Father is loving and passionate. He will not abandon any one of us when calling on Him for mercy and help because He said and promised so. Matthew 11/28-30: "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
One might ask, 'Why should I pray?' And, 'Do I have to ask God for help, can't He help me without praying to Him?' The answer is 'no'. We need to pray and when we do so with faith and confidence God listens and responds (Mark 11/:24): "Therefore I tell you, all things whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received them, and you shall have them"
Yes, we have to make the effort and be adamant and persistent. We have to ask and knock in a bid to show our mere submission to Him and He with no doubt shall provide. (Matthew 7/7 & 8): "Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened".
On this second Sunday of Lent in our Catholic Church's Eastern Maronite rite, we cite and recall the miraculous cure of the bleeding woman in Matthew 9/20-22, Mark 5/25-34, and Luke 8/43-48. As we learn from the Holy Gospel, the bleeding woman's great faith made her believe without a shred of doubt that her twelve years of chronic bleeding would stop immediately if she touched Jesus' garment. She knew deeply in her heart that Jesus would cure her even without asking him. Her faith cured the bleeding and made her well. Her prayers were heard and responded to.
Luke 8/:43-49: "A woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her living on physicians, and could not be healed by any, came behind him (Jesus), and touched the fringe of his cloak, and immediately the flow of her blood stopped. Jesus said, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes press and jostle you, and you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 8:46 But Jesus said, “Someone did touch me, for I perceived that power has gone out of me.” When the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared to him in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. He said to her, “Daughter, cheer up. Your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
The woman's faith cured her chronic bleeding and put her back in the society as a normal and acceptable citizen. During that era women with uterus bleeding were looked upon as sinners, defiled and totally banned from entering synagogues for praying. Meanwhile, because of her sickness she was physically unable to be a mother and bear children. Sadly she was socially and religiously abandoned, humiliated and alienated. But her faith and hope empowered her with the needed strength and perseverance and enabled her to cope successfully against all odds.
Hallelujah! Faith can do miracles. Yes indeed. (Luke17/5 & 6): " The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you would tell this sycamore tree, ‘Be uprooted, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you". How badly do we today need to have a faith like that of this women?
Let us all on this second Lent Sunday pray with solid faith.
Let us ask Almighty God who cured the bleeding women, and who was crucified on the cross to absolve our original sin, that He would endow His Holy graces of peace, tranquility, and love all over the world. And that He would strengthen the faith, patience and hope of all those persecuted, imprisoned, and deprived for courageously witnessing the Gospel's message and truth.

LF Accuses FPM of Stirring Political Clashes to Postpone Elections
Naharnet/March 12/202
Lebanese Forces sources have accused the Free Patriotic Movement of stirring “political clashes” with the aim of postponing the May 15 parliamentary elections. “The FPM remembered the issue of megacenters only two and a half months before the elections, and it did not mention it in 2018, which raises suspicions,” the sources told ad-Diyar newspaper in remarks published Saturday. “The LF backs the megacenters idea because it boosts the voting turnout and this is in its interest, and it also lessens the burdens on citizens amid the current economic and financial crisis,” the sources pointed out. The sources also noted that prior to the megacenters controversy, the FPM had “raised the issue of the sixteenth district and the prosecution of Maj. Gen. Imad Othman, which means that it is deliberately stirring political clashes in order to postpone the parliamentary elections.”“The Strong Lebanon bloc is seeking to tell people that it is reformist on the eve of parliamentary elections, although it is non-reformist, seeing as it has not accepted the appointments mechanism law and the judiciary’s independence law,” the sources added. “Therefore, the FPM has nothing to do with reform,” the LF sources charged. Cabinet had this week dropped the megacenters plan, postponing it to 2026, but senior FPM sources have said that the Movement might seek parliament’s ruling on the issue in addition to other escalatory measures.

Corona - Healh Ministry: 763 new Corona cases, 7 deaths
NNA/March 12/2022
In its daily report on the COVID-19 developments, the Ministry of Public Health announced Saturday the registration of 763 new Coronavirus infections, which raised the cumulative number of confirmed cases to-date to 1,084,114.The report added that 7 deaths were recorded during the past 24 hours

What is happening in Lebanon is unacceptable, tweets Abdel Samad
NNA/March 12/2022
Former Information Minister, Dr. Manal Abdel Samad Najd, tweeted today on the dire economic situation, saying: "What is happening in Lebanon is not acceptable, whether at the economic, daily-living or social level...Politics was created to serve a country, not to destroy it!! The black market dollars rise and drop, yet consumer prices rise and do not drop...and the people are oppressed at all instances...Let us have mercy on what's left of our people....#Lebanon_is_not_ok!"

Taymour Jumblatt: Upcoming elections an essential juncture along the struggle path towards sovereignty
NNA/March 12/2022
Head of the Democratic Gathering, MP Taymour Jumblatt, affirmed that "the upcoming parliamentary elections will be an essential junction along the path of the ongoing struggle for sovereignty and what we see today of old - new attempts to control the country and besiege sovereign votes..." He added: "The date of these elections will be a date to confirm political constants so that Lebanon remains an oasis of diversity in the face of all the abolitionists of some political forces and civil movements." The MP's words came during a working meeting he held with the central electoral committee of the "Progressive Socialist Party" at Al-Mukhtara Palace today, in the presence of his sister Dalia Jumblatt, and with the participation of Deputies Marwan Hamadeh, Akram Chehayeb, Bilal Abdallah and Faisal Al-Sayegh, and the new candidates expected to run in the upcoming elections. Jumblatt gave his directives "to demonstrate the required and effective interaction with the youth, and to involve them in decision-making and building the future they aspire for...in the face of the despair and frustration that has afflicted the Lebanese people in general and pushed the youth to emigrate.

Lebanon goes international with 'AMACO'
NNA/March 12/2022
"AMACO Group" participated in the "Paper One Show" Exhibition on March 7-9, 2022 - the seventh edition of the first international exhibition of tissue paper in the Middle East and North Africa, which was held in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. The exhibition was a success after it brought together many of the world's leading manufacturers of sanitary paper, and major producers and suppliers in this sector from across the region, including Eastern Europe, Russia, the CIS, the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa. Several heads and managers of leading Arab and international companies in the sanitary paper industry visited Lebanon's "AMACO" pavilion, where they were briefed on the latest developments in the industrial group's machinery technologies, making it a pioneer in the manufacture of tissue paper converting machines.

"Sulkiness hears no logic," tweets Bassil
NNA/March 12/2022
Free Patriotic Movement Chief, MP Gebran Bassil, said today via Twitter: "In the parliamentary session of October 19, the 'sullen group' dropped many reform provisions in the electoral law, such as the Lebanese Diaspora constituency and voting at the place of residence, and March 27 was fixed as the date for the parliamentary elections....I am not an expert in weather forecasts, but during said session I presented a census of the last 10 years on the storms occurring in the month of March, yet 'grump' hears no logic...!"He added in a second tweet: "It is good that the President of the Republic, in his authority, set the elections date on May 15 and hence, rescued the elections...But as for the megacenter and the representatives of the immigrants, neither does he have any powers nor do we have the majority...That is why the "sulky group" dropped them in Parliament, the Constitutional Council and the government."

Abou Faour: Handing Lebanon over to Iran will not happen
NNA/March 12/2022
Member of the "Democratic Gathering" parliamentary bloc, MP Wael Abu Faour, considered Saturday that "Lebanon's huge catastrophe was in the Mar Mikhael agreement, which in fact meant handing Lebanon over to Iran, in exchange for satisfying the greed of the presidential and authoritarian Free Patriotic Movement, which was achieved by President Michel Aoun reaching presidency..."However, Abou Faour asserted that "Aoun's presidential mandate is in its final phase, and the handing over of Lebanon to Iran will not happen."

The General Directorate of Oil reminds fuel traders of strict measures in the event of manipulation of the official price
NNA/March 12/2022
“A number of social media platforms are circulating news about the intention of some fuel traders to take advantage of the harsh winter conditions and the citizens’ need for heating, by adopting a price that is different from the official price," the General Directorate of Oil indiacted in a statement this Saturday. "It is important for the General Directorate of Oil to remind fuel traders that it will take the maximum measures against the violators, up to completely depriving them of obtaining fuel from any of the importing and distributing companies in the event of any such news from the Ministry of Economy or any security authority empowered to protect the citizen," it warned.

Cash or card? Confusion rages over Lebanon’s new payment system
Najia Houssari/Arab News/March 12, 2022
Supermarkets asked to split payments between systems, as gas stations refuse to accept full card payments
Ukraine crisis adds to country’s 'inflationary depression' as generator kingpin warns people may soon run out of money to buy fuel
BEIRUT: Supermarket owners in Lebanon have blamed “hard-line measures” from the Banque du Liban for the introduction of a new payment system for their customers. The central bank’s change requires the payment of 50 percent of the value of purchases in cash, and 50 percent through bank cards, on account of “low liquidity” in markets, according to Nabil Fahed, head of the Syndicate of Supermarket Owners. This development came the same day as gas station owners decided to stop accepting full payments for fuel via bank card. Dr. Jassem Ajaka, an economist, described the repercussions as “economically catastrophic, as long as the amount of banknotes in Lebanese pounds that a citizen can withdraw from banks is limited while prices are rising.” This situation, he claimed, would make people consume less, causing a decline in GDP and a larger contraction in the economy.
Charles Arbid, president of the Economic and Social Council, said that Lebanon “is experiencing inflationary depression: That is, consumption and economic movement are stalled.”
Operational prices are also rising for sectors such as energy and transportation, developments which, he said, require the immediate launch of a three-dimensional participatory dialogue at government level with employers and workers to devise solutions and take action.
He added: “No solutions are magical and readily available.”
The Association of Banks in Lebanon, meanwhile, will pay the government-approved social assistance to public sector employees, including the military. This assistance is equivalent to half of an additional salary per month, with a minimum of 1.5 million Lebanese pounds ($993) and a maximum of 3 million pounds. Sixty percent of this is paid in cash, and other means of payment are being adopted to transfer the remaining 40 percent by bank card or check. Nawal Nassr, president of the Public Administration Staff Association, said: “We can no longer afford to be approached with this level of absurdity. “So far, we are committed to a day of attendance and we will stop doing so if this procedure is applied.”The repercussions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has exacerbated the world’s oil crisis and its derivatives, have also reached Lebanon.
A gallon of gasoline in the mediterranean country currently costs 500,000 pounds, and must now be paid for in cash.
Abdo Saade, head of a group of private generator owners, warned on Saturday that monthly subscription charges would increase between 30 percent to 40 percent due to the high price of diesel for his generators. Prices currently range between 800,000 and 2 million pounds, and possibly even more depending on consumption, he said, “After March 15, we may turn off generators in most areas because of people’s inability to pay consumption fees and (the) lack of liquidity,” Saade added. The severe economic crisis that Lebanon has faced for two years has prevented bank transfers abroad, with several banks introducing new rules to manage deposits. Withdrawal ceilings in Lebanese pounds and dollars are no longer commensurate with the amount of money that citizens need to pay for their expenses.Traders argue that they have resorted to this procedure because they pay importers in cash for their goods.
Ajaka explained: “Why do they want to pay cash? The first reason is that suppliers accept only cash, meaning that the problem is with the supplier, whose reasons to do so need to be investigated. The second reason is that traders work with illegal people. The third reason is to keep the money in cash as a safety margin in the event of a deterioration in the situation.”
He pointed out that traders “argue that banks ask them to put their daily income in (the) banks for them to transfer money in cash to their employees when paying their salaries.”Ajaka added that reliance on cash increased tax evasion, because traders then declare less of their business, and deprived the banking sector of resources to pump back into the economy. One Beirut bank manager, who declined to be named, told Arab News that the BdL “works by activating a banking text to dry the market from the Lebanese lira (pound), in addition to taking other measures aimed at curbing the black market that manipulates the dollar exchange rate. “At the same time, it has decided not to respond to the banks’ requests for liquidity in the Lebanese lira, asking them to get it from the market.” The bank manager added: “The central bank believes that the liquidity in lira that came out of it in huge quantities did not return to the central bank through the circulation. So where did this money go? It either went to storage or to supply the black market.” The source said although Greece adopted this measure during its economic crisis, it cannot be adopted for a long time. Ajaka believes that the authorities are likely to “issue laws and decrees to oblige traders to accept payment by bank cards because it is not possible to continue with cash in this way.”

Takieddine: Losses of the US, the Zionist entity and Europe from the fall of Ukraine into the hands of the Russians are incalculable
NNA/March 12/2022
Head of the National Accord Party, Bilal Takieddine, said via Twitter today: "The losses of the United States of America, the Zionist entity, and Europe from the fall of Ukraine into the hands of the Russians are incalculable...Ukraine is an advanced base for money laundering and espionage, and laboratories for biological weapons...!Today, all their dreams have collapsed before their eyes, and they have nothing else to do but wailing and weeping!"

Supermarket owners: Payment method will become 50% cash-50% credit card
NNA/March 12/2022
The Syndicate of Supermarket Owners announced in a statement that "all of its members have started applying the new payment method, based on 50% cash and 50% using bank cards."
The statement indicated that "the syndicate was forced to adopt the new payment mechanism, under the pressure of the strict measures taken by the Central Bank."The syndicate also hoped that "the monetary situation in the country will be stabilized as soon as possible so that things will return to the way they were in the past, which is in the interest of everyone, especially the citizens."

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 12-13/2022
Russian Demands Threaten to Derail Iran Nuclear Talks
Agence France Presse/March 12/2022
Last-minute Russian demands related to the Ukraine conflict threatened to derail the near-complete process of reviving the Iran nuclear deal, as the EU announced negotiations would be paused. The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted that the pause was "due to external factors," despite the fact that "a final text is essentially ready and on the table."The current round of negotiations started in late November in the Austrian capital Vienna between Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia, with the U.S. taking part indirectly. They had progressed most of the way toward their aim -- the revival of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which began unravelling when former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018. The EU diplomat who has been chairing the talks, Enrique Mora, told reporters that delegations had got to the point of "negotiating footnotes."He praised in particular the United States and Iran for their "very constructive, very positive approach", adding that he hoped to see the talks resume "very, very soon."However, last week Russia said it was demanding guarantees that the Western sanctions imposed on its economy following its invasion of Ukraine would not affect its trade with Iran. As with the original JCPOA in 2015, Moscow had been expected to play a role in the implementation of any fresh deal, for example by receiving shipments of enriched uranium from Iran. "The Ukraine conflict has now entered the Vienna talks in a very real way," Eric Brewer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative told AFP. He said the "blanket guarantee" demanded by Moscow "has thrown a wrench into this process at the last minute that really threatens to upend talks and prevent the restoration of the JCPOA."The United States on Friday put the ball in Iran and Russia's court after the EU announcement. "We are confident that we can achieve mutual return to compliance... (if) those decisions are made in places like Tehran and Moscow," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
Energy 'weapon'
One EU source close to the talks said that Russia had at first made "reasonable" requests related to its civilian nuclear activities in Iran, but that they were then broadened "outside the scope of the JCPOA."Another diplomat from one of the European parties to deal said that "if the Russian block is confirmed to be definitive, we will be obliged to look at other options," adding that Moscow could not be allowed to "take the deal hostage."The head of the British delegation Stephanie al-Qaq tweeted that she was "deeply disappointed" at the pause in the talks. The last-minute hitch must be resolved in the "next few days", she warned, or else the agreement was "likely to unravel."After he withdrew from the JCPOA, Trump went on to reimpose sanctions on Iran, including on its vital oil sector. That prompted Iran to start disregarding the curbs laid down in the deal on its nuclear activity. The JCPOA aimed to ensure Iran would not be able to develop a nuclear weapon, which it has always denied seeking. "Russia's gambit may be to delay the revival of the deal in order to avoid a flood of Iranian oil on the market" and the subsequent fall in prices, Clement Therme, Iran specialist at France's Paul Valery University told AFP. "In keeping prices high, the Kremlin can use energy as a weapon against the West," he added.
Russia rejects blame
As for Iran itself, "the Islamic Republic isn't in a position to counter the Russian strategy," Therme said. "Moscow is making use of Iran's weakness."Tehran itself has blamed the US for "creating challenges" in the final stage of the talks. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a tweet Friday that "no external factor will affect our joint will to go forward for a collective agreement."Russia's ambassador to the U.N. in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, told reporters outside the talks venue that he rejected "attempts to put all the blame on the Russian Federation", insisting that other parties to the talks "need additional time."A European source said it was now up to Iran and China to apply pressure to Moscow to make sure the deal was not scuppered.

US pays $2 million every month to protect Pompeo, aide from Iran threat
The Associated Press, Washington/12 March ,2022
The State Department says it’s paying more than $2 million per month to provide 24-hour security to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a former top aide, both of whom face “serious and credible” threats from Iran. The department told Congress in a report that the cost of protecting Pompeo and former Iran envoy Brian Hook between August 2021 and February 2022 amounted to $13.1 million. The report, dated February 14 and marked “sensitive but unclassified,” was obtained by The Associated Press on Saturday. Pompeo and Hook led the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran and the report says US intelligence assesses that the threats to them have remained constant since they left government and could intensify. The threats have persisted even as President Joe Biden’s administration has been engaged in indirect negotiations with Iran over a US return to a landmark 2015 nuclear deal. As a former secretary of state, Pompeo was automatically given 180 days of protection by the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security after leaving office. But that protection has been repeatedly extended in 60-day increments by Secretary of State Antony Blinken due to “a serious and credible threat from a foreign power or agent of a foreign power arising from duties performed by former Secretary Pompeo while employed by the department,” the report said. Hook, who along with Pompeo was often the public face of the Trump administration’s imposition of crippling sanctions against Iran, was granted the special protection by Blinken for the same reason as Pompeo immediately after he left government service. That has also been repeatedly renewed in 60-day increments. The latest 60-day extensions will expire soon and the State Department, in conjunction with the Director of National Intelligence, must determine by March 16 if the protection should be extended again, according to the report. The report was prepared because the special protection budget will run out in June and require a new infusion of money if extensions are deemed necessary. Current US officials say the threats have been discusses in the nuclear talks in Vienna, where Iran is demanding the removal of all Trump-era sanctions. Those sanctions include a “foreign terrorist organization” designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that Pompeo and Hook were instrumental in approving.
The Vienna talks had been expected to produce an agreement soon to salvage the nuclear agreement that President Donald Trump withdrew the US from in 2018. But the talks have been thrown into doubt because of new demands made by Russia and a small number of unresolved US-Iran issues, including the terrorism designation, according to US officials.

US official warns Israel not to be 'last haven for dirty money' funding Russian invasion of Ukraine
Josh Marcus/Yahoo/Sat, March 12, 2022
Amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the US is urging Israel to take a harder line against Russia and cease accepting its “dirty money.”“What we are asking among other things is for every democracy around the world to join us in the financial and export control sanctions that we have put on Putin. We have to squeeze the regime, we have to deny it the income that it needs,” US under secretary of state for political affairs Victoria Nuland – a former UN ambassador to Nato – told Israel’s Channel 12 News on Friday. “You don’t want to become the last haven for dirty money that’s fueling Putin’s wars,” she added.
Thus far, Israel hasn’t joined the US and the EU in levying tough sanctions against Vladimir Putin and his cronies, or in giving military aid to Ukraine. Instead, the country has sought to balance its relations with Ukraine and Russia. It has received thousands of refugees from Ukraine and sent humanitarian aid like medical equipment to the former Soviet republic, while Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett became the first foreign leader to meet with Vladimir Putin since the war began during a visit to Moscow on Saturday. Mr Bennett has also reportedly urged Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish and an admirer of Israel, to accept Russian terms for a ceasefire, which would likely include formally ceding eastern regions of Ukraine to Russian influence and backing away from a goal of joining Nato. High-net worth individuals already appear to be heading from Russia to Israel, with 14 private jets taking off from St Petersburg and landing in Tel Aviv in the last 11 days. Russian-Israeli oligarch Roman Abramovich, known for his past ties to Putin, has been a particular target of sanctions in other countries including the UK and Canada. Earlier this month, a number of prominent Israeli leaders including those from Yad Vashem, the country’s official Holocaust memorial and museum, urged the US to avoid sanctioning Mr Abramovich, given his prolific financial support of Jewish causes.
The memorial later announced on Thursday it would suspend ties with Mr Abramovich, despite a recently announced “eight-digit” donation he made to the institution

Leaders of France and Germany Hold New Talks with Putin
Agence France Presse/March 12/2022
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz were holding new talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the war in Ukraine on Saturday, the Elysee palace said. The three leaders had already spoken by telephone on Thursday when both Macron and Scholz had "demanded an immediate ceasefire by Russia." Since meeting Putin in the Kremlin on February 7, Macron has had nine phone calls with the Russian leader, his office said.

Ukraine President Appeals to Mothers of Russian Soldiers
Asharq Al Awsat/March 12/2022
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday called on the mothers of Russian soldiers to prevent their sons being sent to war in Ukraine. "I want to say this once again to Russian mothers, especially mothers of conscripts. Do not send your children to war in a foreign country," Zelensky said in a video address released on Telegram. "Check where your son is. And if you have the slightest suspicion that your son could be sent to war against Ukraine, act immediately" to prevent him being killed or captured, he said. "Ukraine never wanted this terrible war. And Ukraine does not want it. But it will defend itself as much as necessary," he added. On Wednesday, Russia for the first time acknowledged the presence of conscripts in Ukraine and announced that a number of them had been taken prisoner, AFP said. Moscow had previously claimed that only professional soldiers were fighting there. The announcement came as posts from mothers without news of their sons sent to Ukraine multiplied on social networks. Kyiv last week invited mothers of Russian soldiers captured on its territory to come and pick their children up. The Ukrainian defense ministry published phone numbers and an email through which they could obtain information about them. Kyiv claims to have taken dozens of prisoners since the start of the Russian invasion. During the conflict between Moscow and Chechen separatists in the 1990s and 2000s, many young Russian conscripts were sent to the front, and some were taken prisoner. In a movement that fueled anti-war protests in Russia at the time, women mobilized to try and bring their sons back alive or bring their bodies back -- even going to Chechnya themselves.

Russian Forces Squeeze Kyiv, Surround Mariupol
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 12 March, 2022
Russian forces inched towards Kyiv Saturday and pounded civilian areas in other Ukrainian cities as concerns grew over the besieged southern port of Mariupol, where officials said more than 1,500 people had been killed. Air raid sirens sounded Saturday in several cities, including the capital Kyiv, Odessa, Dnipro and Kharkiv, according to Ukrainian media. More than two weeks after Moscow shocked the world by invading Ukraine, the United Nations and others said it may be committing war crimes in cities such as Mariupol, which for days has been under attack by Vladimir Putin's forces, AFP reported.
Survivors have been trying to flee Russian bombardment in a freezing city left without water or heating and running out of food. The situation is "desperate," a Doctors Without Borders official said. "Hundreds of thousands of people... are for all intents and purposes besieged," Stephen Cornish, one of those heading the medical charity's Ukraine operation, told AFP in an interview. "Sieges are a medieval practice that have been outlawed by the modern rules of war for good reason." Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky said they were trying to arrange evacuations from besieged cities but Russian forces were disrupting efforts. "Mariupol remains blocked by the enemy. Russian troops did not let our aid into the city and continue to torture our people, our Mariupol residents," Zelensky said in a video address late Friday. "Tomorrow we'll try again. Once again, send food, water and medicine for our city." As Russia widens its bombardment and talks between Moscow and Kyiv seemingly go nowhere, Zelensky's pleas for NATO to intervene have grown increasingly desperate. US President Joe Biden on Friday again ruled out direct action against nuclear-armed Russia, warning that it would lead to "World War III".
Instead, Washington added more layers of sanctions to those already crippling Russia's economy, this time ending normal trade relations and announcing a ban on signature Russian goods vodka, seafood and diamonds. The United States and the European Union also suspended the export of their luxury goods to Russia. "Putin must pay the price. He cannot pursue a war that threatens the very foundation of international peace and stability and then ask for help from the international community," Biden said from the White House.
He spoke as the United Nations said 2.5 million people had now fled Ukraine and around two million more had been internally displaced by the war.
'Nobody buries them' -
Yulia, a 29-year-old teacher who fled Mariupol, said her mother-in-law was still there and told them "the attacks don't stop". "There are many corpses on the street and nobody buries them," she told AFP. In a video address released Saturday, Zelensky appealed to Russian mothers to prevent their sons from being sent to war. "I want to say this once again to Russian mothers, especially mothers of conscripts. Do not send your children to war in a foreign country," he said. Zelensky said more than 12,000 Russian troops had been killed in the invasion. US estimates put the number of Russian fatalities at 2,000 to 4,000 while Moscow's only official toll, announced last week, said 498 Russian troops had been killed. In Ukraine's second city Kharkiv, doctors at a hospital described spending two days pumping ash from the stomach of an eight-year-old child whose home was blasted by a Russian missile.
"He still has cinders in his lungs," Dima Kasyanov's doctor told AFP. Dnipro, an industrial hub of one million inhabitants, saw its image as a relatively safe haven shattered when three missiles hit civilian buildings Friday. Images of its charred or destroyed buildings -- including a kindergarten with windows blown out -- now join those from Kharkiv and Mariupol as testimony to the brutal conflict. "Today, we were supposed to host people who need a lot of support," said Svetlana Kalenecheko, who lives and works in a clinic that was damaged.
"Now we can't help anyone."The attacks on civilians prompted a new flurry of warnings from the Hague and the United Nations on Friday that Russia is committing war crimes. "We are really heading towards an unimaginable tragedy," Cornish, of Doctors Without Borders, warned, insisting that "there is still time to avoid it, and we must see it avoided".
Meanwhile, the Kremlin is slowly surrounding Kyiv, with Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak calling it a "city under siege".He tweeted that it was "ready to fight", with checkpoints prepared and supply lines in place, adding: "Kyiv will stand until the end". The Ukrainian military has said Russia is trying to take out Kyiv's defenses to the north and west, where suburbs including Irpin and Bucha have already endured days of heavy bombardment.Russian armored vehicles are also advancing on the capital's northeast. As the slow but steady advance continues, so has the tide of refugees.
About 100,000 people have been able to leave the northeastern city of Sumy, the eastern city of Izyum, and areas northwest of Kyiv in the past two days, Ukrainian officials said. Zelensky warned living conditions were deteriorating fast. "In the Sumy, Kyiv and Donetsk regions, there is no more electricity. Yes, there are problems with heating. There is no gas, no water," he said."It's a humanitarian catastrophe."
'Murderers from Syria' -
Foreign combatants have already entered the Ukrainian conflict on both sides, and on Friday, the Kremlin ramped up efforts to bring in reinforcements, particularly from Syria. A furious Zelensky accused Russia of hiring "murderers from Syria, a country where everything has been destroyed... like they are doing here to us". In southern Ukraine, Russian soldiers abducted the mayor of Melitopol, which Zelensky said was a "sign of weakness" and a "crime against democracy". The global ripple effects of the conflict continued elsewhere. Last-minute Russian demands related to the conflict threatened to derail the near-complete process of reviving the Iranian nuclear deal Friday. And the fighting spurred vows to bolster the European Union's defenses, with EU leaders describing the invasion as a wake-up call. "There's no denying the fact that two weeks ago we woke up in a different Europe, in a different world," European Council chief Charles Michel said. Russia also moved Friday to block Instagram and launch a criminal case against its owner Meta, as Moscow fired back at the tech giant for allowing posts calling for violence against Russian forces.
- 'We will not fight'
Talks have so far made no progress towards ending the fighting. Putin has said negotiations were being held "almost daily", but US Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking in Bucharest, said the Russian leader had shown "no sign of engaging in serious diplomacy". At the United Nations, Western countries accused Russia of spreading "wild" conspiracy theories after Moscow's envoy told diplomats that America and Ukraine had researched using bats to conduct biological warfare. The US envoy said Russia had made the claims as part of a "false flag effort" for using chemical weapons of its own in Ukraine. Biden warned Russia would pay a "severe price" if it used chemical weapons. But he again carefully steered clear of any indication that such an attack would be a red line that could draw direct US military action. "We will not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine," he said.

UN Experts Say Russian Media Law Amounts to Information ‘Blackout'
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 12 March, 2022
A Russian law giving Moscow stronger powers to crack down on independent journalism is placing Russia under a "total information blackout" on the war in Ukraine, UN independent experts said on Friday. Moscow, whose forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, last week blocked Facebook and other websites and passed a law that imposed a prison term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally "fake" news about the military. The move prompted the BBC, Bloomberg and other foreign media to suspend reporting in the country, although the BBC said it was resuming English-language reporting from Russia on March 8 because of the "urgent need to report from inside Russia". "Russia's recent adoption of a punitive 'fake war news' law is an alarming move by the government to gag and blindfold an entire population," three independent UN experts appointed by the top UN rights body, the Human Rights Council, said in a statement. "...the law places Russia under a total information blackout on the war and in so doing gives an official seal of approval to disinformation and misinformation," they continued. The experts, known as Special Rapporteurs, are Irene Khan, Clement Voule and Mary Lawlor and are tasked with reporting on violations of the freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly and on the situation of human rights defenders. Russian officials have said that false information has been spread by Russia's enemies such as the United States and its Western European allies in an attempt to sow discord among the Russian people. It calls its actions in Ukraine a "special operation" to disarm it, counter what it views as NATO aggression and capture leaders it calls neo-Nazis. The UN experts also called on a newly-established international commission of inquiry being set up by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate alleged violations of freedom of expression and the media by Russia. The council is the only intergovernmental global body to promote and protect human rights worldwide. While its decisions are not legally binding, they carry political weight and can authorize probes into violations.

US Accuses Russia of Violating Nuclear Safety Principles in Ukraine
Asharq Al Awsat/March 12/2022
The United States on Friday accused Russia of violating nuclear safety principles in Ukraine and demanded its invading forces stop firing on nuclear power plants, but added that there were no signs detected yet of any radiological release.US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a Twitter post that radiation monitors in much of Ukraine were still functioning although the United States was concerned by lack of data from safeguards monitors at Chernobyl or Zaporizhzhia, which is Europe's largest nuclear power plant. Both sites are under Russian forces' control but are being operated by Ukrainian staff in conditions that the International Atomic Energy Agency says endanger the safety of the facilities. "We remain concerned about Russia's reckless actions and violations of nuclear safety principles," Granholm said. "We are monitoring reports of damage to a research facility in Kharkiv. Near-term safety risk is low, but the continued Russian firing on nuclear facilities must cease," she said. After fighting and apparent shelling around the Zaporizhzhia plant a week ago, the Russian military accused Ukrainian forces of a "provocation." Granholm said the US could not confirm reports that power has been restored to Chernobyl. Russia's energy ministry said on Thursday that Belarusian specialists had restored electricity supply to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Ukraine and its allies are concerned about the risk Russia's invasion poses to nuclear facilities across the country, including power plants and research centers. The head of a nuclear research facility in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv said the grounds of the institute had been struck by Russian shells during recent fighting, but the core housing nuclear fuel remains intact.

Israel, Ukraine Deny Report Bennett Recommended Yielding to Russian Demands
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 12 March, 2022
A top Ukrainian adviser and an Israeli official on Saturday pushed back against a media report suggesting Israel tried to nudge Ukraine into caving to Russian demands during talks. Israel has been engaged in diplomatic efforts to try to end the war in Ukraine. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. A report carried by Israel's Walla news, the Jerusalem Post and US news site Axios had suggested, citing an unidentified Ukrainian official, that Bennett had urged Ukraine to give in to Russia.
Israel, "just as other conditional intermediary countries, does NOT offer Ukraine to agree to any demands of the Russian Federation," Ukrainian adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter. "This is impossible for military & political reasons. On the contrary, Israel urges Russia to assess the events more adequately."A senior Israeli official, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, called the report "patently false"."At no point did Prime Minister Bennett advise President Zelenskiy to take a deal from Putin - because no such deal was offered to Israel for us to be able to do so," the official said.
"Bennett has at no point told Zelenskiy how to act, nor does he have any intention to."

Eastern Europe Embraces Ukraine Refugees as Workforce
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 12 March, 2022
Eastern European countries are embracing the millions of Ukrainians fleeing Russia's invasion as a potential workforce but analysts warn it be challenging to integrate them all. Some 2.5 million people have already fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations, which calls it Europe's fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II. More than half are now in Poland but tens of thousands are also staying in Moldova and Bulgaria, which have some of the fastest shrinking populations, AFP said. "Those who are now arriving in the territory of the EU are well-qualified and meet the demand for labor," said Sieglinde Rosenberger of the University of Vienna, though she warned the welcoming attitude could change. Other experts asked how eastern European countries, which have a lower GDP than their western counterparts, can handle a huge influx. Acutely aware of the burden, some countries have already called for more assistance.
'Intelligent, educated'
In a letter to the government, the association of Bulgarian employers' organizations said they could employ up to 200,000 Ukrainians. They said those who were of Bulgarian origin and able to speak the language would be particularly welcome. Meanwhile, IT, textile, construction and tourism sector representatives also said they were keen to hire tens of thousands of people. Bulgaria's population has dwindled from almost nine million at the fall of communism to 6.5 million now, owing in part to emigration. The welcome comes from the highest levels. Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov described Ukrainian refugees as "intelligent, educated... highly qualified." "These are people who are Europeans, so we and all other countries are ready to accept them," he said. Some 20,000 Ukrainians are currently in Bulgaria -- the EU's poorest member -- though their numbers are expected to rise if Russia seizes Odessa on the Black Sea. Hungary -- which touts its restrictive migration policy but also struggles with a labor shortage -- has also welcomed Ukrainians. "We are able to spot the difference: who is a migrant, they are coming from the South... and who is a refugee," nationalist premier Viktor Orban said. "Refugees can get all the help," he said last week. Whether Ukrainians will stay is another question as many arriving move on to elsewhere in Europe where they may have relatives or better prospects.
Integration issues
But countries where a large number of refugees end up staying, such as Poland, could become overburdened since many are children and elderly -- thus unable to work. "How will these large numbers be integrated across Europe? This is going to be a problem," Brad Blitz of the University College London told AFP. The "breaking point" was yet to come, he added. Moldova, wedged between Ukraine and Romania with a population of 2.6 million people, has called for urgent help with about 100,000 refugees. "We will need assistance to deal with this influx, and we need this quickly," Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita told visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last weekend. Gerald Knaus of the think tank European Stability Initiative said the EU should prepare now to move hundreds of thousands of people within the bloc. "It will not work with strict quotas. It will rely on bottom up political support and political leaders saying, 'We step forward,'" he told AFP. He said the crisis, however, could turn "into one of the great moments of bringing Europeans together around a humanitarian cause". The University of Vienna's Rosenberger said governments that sought to restrict migration had now quickly changed their stance in the face of public sympathy with Ukraine. But that welcome might not last forever when "in a few months, poorer and less qualified people are expected to come," she said.

Concern Grows over Traffickers Targeting Ukrainian Refugees
Asharq Al Awsat/March 12/2022
One man was detained in Poland suspected of raping a 19-year-old refugee he’d lured with offers of shelter after she fled war-torn Ukraine. Another was overheard promising work and a room to a 16-year-old girl before authorities intervened. Another case inside a refugee camp at Poland’s Medyka border, raised suspicions when a man was offering help only to women and children. When questioned by police, he changed his story, AFP said. As millions of women and children flee across Ukraine’s borders in the face of Russian aggression, concerns are growing over how to protect the most vulnerable refugees from being targeted by human traffickers or becoming victims of other forms of exploitation. “Obviously all the refugees are women and children,” said Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams, the UNHCR’s head of global communications, who has visited borders in Romania, Poland and Moldova. “You have to worry about any potential risks for trafficking — but also exploitation, and sexual exploitation and abuse. These are the kinds of situations that people like traffickers … look to take advantage of,” she said. The UN refugee agency says more than 2.5 million people, including more than a million children, have already fled war-torn Ukraine in what has become an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Europe and its fastest exodus since World War II. In countries throughout Europe, including the border nations of Romania, Poland, Hungary, Moldova and Slovakia, private citizens and volunteers have been greeting and offering help to those whose lives have been shattered by war. From free shelter to free transport to work opportunities and other forms of assistance — help isn’t far away.
But neither are the risks.
Police in Wrocław, Poland, said Thursday they detained a 49-year-old suspect on rape charges after he allegedly assaulted a 19-year-old Ukrainian refugee he lured with offers of help over the internet. The suspect could face up to 12 years in prison for the “brutal crime,” authorities said. “He met the girl by offering his help via an internet portal,” police said in a statement. “She escaped from war-torn Ukraine, did not speak Polish. She trusted a man who promised to help and shelter her. Unfortunately, all this turned out to be deceitful manipulation."
Police in Berlin warned women and children in a post on social media in Ukrainian and Russian against accepting offers of overnight stays, and urged them to report anything suspicious. Tamara Barnett, director of operations at the Human Trafficking Foundation, a UK-based charity which grew out of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking, said that such a rapid, mass displacement of people could be a “recipe for disaster.”“When you’ve suddenly got a huge cohort of really vulnerable people who need money and assistance immediately,” she said, “it’s sort of a breeding ground for exploitative situations and sexual exploitation. When I saw all these volunteers offering their houses … that flagged a worry in my head.”The Migration Data Portal notes that humanitarian crises such as those associated with conflicts “can exacerbate pre-existing trafficking trends and give rise to new ones” and that traffickers can thrive on “the inability of families and communities to protect themselves and their children.”
Security officials in Romania and Poland told The Associated Press that plain-clothed intelligence officers were on the lookout for criminal elements. In the Romanian border town of Siret, authorities said men offering free rides to women have been sent away.
Human trafficking is a grave human rights violation and can involve a wide range of exploitative roles. From sexual exploitation — such as prostitution — to forced labor, from domestic slavery to organ removal, and forced criminality, it is often inflicted by traffickers through coercion and abuse of power. A 2020 human trafficking report by the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, estimates the annual global profit from the crime is 29.4 billion euros ($32 billion). It says that sexual exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking in the 27-nation bloc and that nearly three-quarters of all victims are female, with almost every fourth victim a child. Madalina Mocan, committee director at ProTECT, an organization that brings together 21 anti-trafficking groups, said there are “already worrying signs,” with some refugees being offered shelter in exchange for services such as cleaning and babysitting, which could lead to exploitation.
“There will be attempts of traffickers trying to take victims from Ukraine across the border. Women and children are vulnerable, especially those that do not have connections — family, friends, other networks of support,” she said, adding that continued conflict will mean “more and more vulnerable people” reaching the borders. At the train station in the Hungarian border town of Zahony, 25-year-old Dayrina Kneziva arrived from Kyiv with her childhood friend. Fleeing a war zone, Kneziva said, left them little time to consider other potential dangers. “When you compare ... you just choose what will be less dangerous,” said Kneziva, who hopes to make it to Slovakia’s capital of Bratislava with her friend. “When you leave in a hurry, you just don’t think about other things.”A large proportion of the refugees arriving in the border countries want to move on to friends or family elsewhere in Europe and many are relying on strangers to reach their destinations. “The people who are leaving Ukraine are under emotional stress, trauma, fear, confusion,” said Cristina Minculescu, a psychologist at Next Steps Romania who provides support to trafficking victims. “It’s not just human trafficking, there is a risk of abduction, rape ... their vulnerabilities being exploited in different forms.”At Romania’s Siret border after a five-day car journey from the bombed historical city of Chernihiv, 44-year-old Iryna Pypypenko waited inside a tent with her two children, sheltering from the cold. She said a friend in Berlin who is looking for accommodation for her has warned her to beware of possibly nefarious offers. “She told me there are many, very dangerous propositions,” said Pypypenko, whose husband and parents stayed behind in Ukraine. “She told me that I have to communicate only with official people and believe only the information they give me.”
Ionut Epureanu, the chief police commissioner of Suceava county, told the AP at the Siret border that police are working closely with the country's national agency against human trafficking and other law enforcement to try to prevent crimes. “We are trying to make a control for every vehicle leaving the area,” he said. “A hundred people making transport have good intentions, but it’s enough to be one that isn’t … and tragedy can come.”
Vlad Gheorghe, a Romanian member of the European Parliament who launched a Facebook group called United for Ukraine that has more than 250,000 members and pools resources to help refugees, including accommodation, says he is working closely with the authorities to prevent any abuses. “No offer for volunteering or stay or anything goes unchecked, we check every offer,” he said. “We call back, we ask some questions, we have a minimal check before any offer for help is accepted.” At Poland’s Medyka border, seven former members of the French Foreign Legion, an elite military force, are voluntarily providing their own security to refugees and are on the lookout for traffickers.“This morning we found three men who were trying to get a bunch of women into a van," said one of the former legionnaires, a South African who gave only his first name, Mornay. "I can’t 100% say they were trying to recruit them for sex trafficking, but when we started talking to them and approached them — they got nervous and just left immediately.”“We just want to try and get women and kids to safety," he added. “The risk is very high because there are so many people you just don’t know who is doing what.”Back at her tent on the Siret border, Pypypenko said people were offering help — but she wasn't sure who she could trust. “People just enter and tell us that they can take us for free to France,” she said. “Today we are for three hours here … and we had two or three propositions like that. I couldn’t even imagine such a situation, that such a big tragedy could be the field of crime.”

Will Russia Bring Syrian Fighters to Ukraine?

Associated Press/March 12/2022
With Russia's war on Ukraine now in its third week, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday approved bringing in volunteer fighters from the Middle East, particularly Syria. Syria clearly has a rich pool of fighters to draw from. Russia's military is deeply entrenched in the Mideast country, where its intervention - starting in 2015 - helped Syrian President Bashar Assad gain the upper hand in the ongoing, 11-year civil war. But less clear is how significant, large or effective a Syrian deployment would be. On Friday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke of "more than 16,000 applications" already from the Middle East, though he didn't specify which country. Syrian opposition activists say Russia recently began recruitment efforts in Syria for the Ukraine war, but put the scale of those efforts so far at far lower numbers. The announcement came after the Ukrainian government said about 20,000 foreigners from various nations have already joined the so-called International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine, most of them from Western countries. So who are these potential pro-Russia volunteers?
Syria's long, grueling war has given rise to a multitude of armed factions, militias and mercenaries on all sides of the conflict. The ranks of pro-government paramilitary groups in Syria include tens of thousands of so-called National Defense Forces, Christian militia fighters and army defectors skilled in urban and guerilla warfare. They also include other Russian-supported auxiliary units and militias that fought alongside the Syrian military. "If need be, Russia could quickly recruit members of these groups to fight in Ukraine," according to Danny Makki, a Syria analyst. Joined by Iran-backed fighters from nearby Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere in the region, these forces not only battled Syrian rebels, they also helped fight the Islamic State group after it overran large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014. Thousands of mercenaries from the Russian private contractor Wagner Group have also deployed in Syria. "Given the misery of the Syrian economy, there would be no shortage of combat-hardened men of military age willing to put their lives on the line for a modicum of material gain," Makki wrote in an analysis for the Middle East Institute, where he is a non-resident scholar. It wouldn't be the first time Syrian fighters are recruited for conflicts abroad. Turkey, another major actor in Syria, recruited Syrian mercenaries to boost its fighters in other wars. These include conflicts in Azerbaijan and Libya, where the presence of thousands of foreign fighters, including those from Syria, Sudan and Turkey, remains a major obstacle to peace.
Evidence is only just beginning to emerge of recruitment among Syrian fighters, particularly in government-controlled territories.
Omar Abu Layla, a Europe-based activist who runs the DeirEzzor 24 Syria war monitoring group, said recruitment run by the Wagner Group has gone on for days in the eastern province Deir el-Zour near the border with Iraq. Abu Layla said that so far, dozens of men have signed up in the province. He claimed Russia was offering volunteers from the country between $200 and $300 to operate as security guards in Ukraine for six months at a time. Some Syrian observers and activists suggest any recruitment going on is so far largely symbolic and remains in the very early stages. On Friday, an ad for a "combat role" in Ukraine was posted on a closed Facebook group for soldiers of the Fourth Armored Division, one of the largest in the Syrian army. It offered a payment of $3,000 depending on an applicant's expertise and said registration was limited. Russia's Defense Ministry-run TV channel aired footage purportedly from Syria showing armed men in uniform it described as would-be volunteers. The men waved Russian and Syrian flags and held up a sign bearing the letter "Z" - used on Russian armored vehicles in Ukraine and now a symbol of support for Russian troops. Ahmad al-Ahmad, an opposition activist in northwestern Syria, said that in the government-controlled northern town of Ethraya, the Russians have asked senior officers with the Fifth Corps, a Russian-backed Syrian army force, to recruit young men with experience in urban fighting who are ready to go to Ukraine. As many as 3,000 people have registered in southern Syria, he said. It was not immediately possible for The Associated Press to confirm those reports. Syrians for Truth and Justice, an independent civil society organization, said in a report this week that it had interviewed at least two Syrians based in Damascus' countryside who registered with Syrian government security services. They confirmed that lists with potential recruits' names are to be presented to Russian forces in Syria for approval to deploy to Ukraine.
Battle-hardened fighters with experience in urban warfare in Syria have in some cases little to lose. Still, despite their decade at war, Syrian fighters, for example, are not known for being particularly competent combatants. Back in 2015, It took the Russian air force, Lebanon's Hizbullah fighters and Iranian forces to shore up Assad's fledgling military against the opposition. Foreign fighters have usually had the upper hand in battlefields throughout the conflict, including in the war on IS. Syria experts have also questioned the usefulness of recruits from the Middle East in Ukraine, where they don't speak the language and are not familiar with the terrain or the harsh weather conditions. However, if the war stretches on and Russian forces get bogged down, foreign fighters will become a more attractive option. Makki, the analyst, said reports of Syrians fighting with Russia are premature. "However, given Moscow's increasing losses, Syrians make for attractive, low-cost mercenaries in Russia's eyes," he said.

Croatia Urges NATO Cooperation after 'Drone from Ukraine' Crashes in Zagreb
Agence France Presse/March 12/2022
Croatia's prime minister Saturday urged closer cooperation within NATO after a military drone, which he said was launched from Ukraine, crashed in Zagreb. The Soviet-era Tu-141 reconnaissance drone crashed in the Croatian capital late Thursday, damaging around 40 parked vehicles, but no one was injured. It entered Croatia's airspace from Hungary, having flown in from Romania, officials said earlier. All three countries are NATO members. "According to what we know now it was obviously launched on Ukraine's territory," Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told reporters on Saturday. "We don't know in whose possession it was," he said, adding that both Ukraine and Russia claimed it was not theirs. Plenkovic, speaking at the site of the incident, said he had sent a letter to his European Union counterparts and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg over the incident. "Whether it was accidental, a mistake or intentional, we do not know at this moment." The incident "points to the need for closer cooperation within NATO", he said. He stressed the drone flew undisturbed over the alliance's three member states. "We cannot tolerate such a situation any more," the prime minister said. "It was a very clear threat that requires a reaction." According to officials, the drone flew over Hungary and Croatia before crashing. Local security experts immediately labelled the incident a NATO failure. President Zoran Milanovic said Friday "it's a matter of NATO joint command." On Friday, a NATO official told AFP that the military alliance's "integrated air and missile defense tracked the flight path of an object which subsequently crashed in Zagreb."The drone crashed around 11:00 pm (2200 GMT) Thursday in a park close to the Jarun lake. Some six kilometers (four miles) from the city center, the site is just next to a students residence with some 4,500 people and residential buildings. The 14-meter (46-foot) drone, weighing more than six tons, still has to be dug out from a crater that it made when crashing. Zagreb is located some 550 kilometers flying distance from the border with Ukraine, which Russia invaded on February 24.

Turkey, Armenia Hold 'Constructive' Talks on Mending Ties
Asharq Al Awsat/March 12/2022
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he held "productive and constructive" talks with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan on Saturday as they bid to mend ties after decades of animosity. The two met at a diplomatic forum in Antalya on Turkey's southern coast. Ankara has had no diplomatic or commercial ties with Armenia since the 1990s but they held talks in January in a first attempt to restore links since a 2009 peace accord, which was never ratified. Saturday's meeting was the first sit-down meeting between the two countries' foreign ministers since 2009. They spoke briefly on the sidelines of an OSCE meeting in November last year, AFP said. "It was a very productive and constructive conversation," Cavusoglu told reporters after the talks, which lasted 30 minutes. "We are making efforts for stability and peace." Speaking through a translator, Mirzoyan said: "We are continuing the process of normalizing relations without preconditions ... We are making efforts."The two countries are at odds over several issues, primarily the 1.5 million people Armenia says were killed in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor to modern Turkey. Armenia says the 1915 killings constitute a genocide. Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but contests the figures and denies killings were systematic or constitute genocide. The two countries have said the January talks were "positive and constructive," raising the prospect that ties could be restored and borders reopened. Tensions flared during a 2020 war over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Turkey accused ethnic Armenian forces of occupying land belonging to Azerbaijan. Turkey has since called for a rapprochement, as it seeks greater regional influence.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 12-13/2022
Turkey: Occupies Northern Cyprus, Goes for the Rest
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/March 12/2022
"The air and sea invasion yesterday devastated the resort strip of tourist hotels on the north coast of Cyprus. Greek Cypriots and foreigners huddled under mattresses in the cellars of ruined buildings." — The New York Times, July 22, 1974.
"But back in Ankara today, the newspapers were full of photos of smiling Turkish troops clustered in front of tanks draped with the star and crescent flag, holding their weapons high, and of Greek Cypriot hostages being given water by Turkish soldiers." — The New York Times, July 28, 1974.
Currently, Turkey appears to be targeting the rest of the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union. The government of Cyprus is now dealing with an "illegal immigration crisis" which it says Turkey is orchestrating. Government authorities state that the majority of migrants entering the free part of Cyprus are being smuggled illegally through the Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus.
Meanwhile, according to Turkish media, Turkey is planning to construct a military naval base in the Karpasia Peninsula in the Turkish-occupied north.
Despite the uncountable war crimes Turkey has committed in Cyprus, the Turkish government has condemned the UN for having its "peacekeeping forces" there.
The West, however, remains silent -- not merely empowering Turkey to commit further atrocities but rewarding it. The US recently killed, at Turkey's request, the EastMed natural gas pipeline project, which would have transported gas from US allies Israel and Cyprus, via Greece, to Western Europe. The EastMed pipeline would have been particularly important in light of Russia's ability, with the Nord Stream and other pipelines, to blackmail the continent in winter by cutting off much of its gas supplies.
Turkey will now be able to continue its crimes against the Yazidis in Iraq, the Kurds in Syria and the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh with no repercussions.
"Turkey's occupation of Cyprus has now become the first modern Islamist fundamentalist attempt to capture Western world territory and resources." — Philip Christopher, president of the International Coordinating Committee - Justice for Cyprus, Ekathimerini, May 20, 2018.
Aggression by Turkey's military appears to be on the rise in Cyprus -- in areas it does not yet occupy. According to the Cypriot media, on February 8, Turkish soldiers approached Greek Cypriot farmers working in fields near the village of Denia in the United Nations "Buffer Zone," and threatened to kill them if they did not leave. Pictured: Turkish Army soldiers and tanks on parade in Nicosia, in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, on July 20, 2021.
Aggression by Turkey's military appears to be on the rise in Cyprus -- in areas it does not yet occupy. According to the Cypriot media, on February 8, Turkish soldiers approached Greek Cypriot farmers working in fields near the village of Denia in the United Nations "Buffer Zone," and threatened to kill them if they did not leave.
The Turkish soldiers threatened the Greek Cypriot farmers about ten days after Turkey "slammed" the UN for extending its Cyprus peacekeeping mandate.
When the UN Security Council approved a six-month extension of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) on January 27, 2022, the government of Turkey was not pleased. They condemned the UN decision on the grounds that the UN had not received "the consent of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)", an illegal entity recognized only by Turkey.
"Reiterating that Turkey supported the TRNC's condemnation of the U.N. resolution on the extension, the statement said that Ankara will fully back the steps the [TRNC] administration chooses to take in this regard," the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reported.
To accompany its news report, Daily Sabah published an aerial photo of the "flag" of the TRNC next to a quote by the founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk that reads (in Turkish): "Happy is the one who says 'I am a Turk'". The "flag" had been painted on the Kyrenia mountain range, north of Nicosia, in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus.
The Turkish presence in Cyprus dates back to 1570: Ottoman troops invaded and plundered the island. Thousands were murdered, many churches were converted into mosques, and some Muslims from Anatolia were transplanted to Cyprus. In 1878, Britain assumed administration of Cyprus; in 1914, it annexed Cyprus, which became an independent republic in 1960. Britain, Greece and Turkey became guarantors of the constitution and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus under the 1960 "Treaty of Alliance". Fourteen years later, however, Turkey would violate the treaty and commit an ethnic cleansing there.
So, how did that "Turkish flag" end up on the Kyrenia mountain range?
Noted for its historic harbor and castle, Kyrenia is a Greek Cypriot city built by the ancient Greeks, who were named Achaeans. Since the 1974 Turkish invasion, however, Kyrenia has been under unlawful Turkish occupation and the city's population consists now almost completely of illegal settlers from Turkey, who were allocated properties stolen from Greek Cypriots. The city -- like the rest of the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus -- is now controlled by the TRNC, which is not recognized by international law.
Turkey's massive military invasion against Cyprus in 1974 was purportedly meant to restore constitutional order after a Greek coup, which lasted for less than a week. Turkey's actions, on the other hand, indicated that their goal had actually been ethnic cleansing and colonization. Until the 1974 invasion, the northern part of Cyprus - like the rest of the island – had been majority-Greek. The Turkish invasion forcibly changed that. Today, more than 40,000 Turkish troops are illegally stationed in the occupied area. The indigenous Greek Cypriot residents have never been allowed to return and reclaim their homes and lands.
The democratically-elected mayoral officials of Kyrenia, who had to leave the city after the invasion, wrote:
"The Turkish invasion of July 20th 1974 destroys everything. The Greek residents of Kyrenia, terrified by the gunfire of the Turkish air force, scatter and seek shelter in basements. Three days after the invasion a cease fire agreement is achieved, but the Turkish troops violate it, invade and loot the city while many citizens are slaughtered. Most of the Kyrenians who choose to stay find themselves trapped and are transferred to the Dome hotel from where the Turks force them to gradually abandon the city along with the rest of the Greeks in the district."
The Turkish invasion, launched on July 20, 1974, was reported by The New York Times, which noted that that Turkish forces started bombing northern part of Cyprus indiscriminately:
"Striking at dawn, Turkish troops borne by transport ships and assault boats stormed ashore on the north coast near Kyrenia and on the south coast near Limassol. Simultaneously, hundreds of paratroopers dropped into the capital of Nicosia.
"Turkish jets bombed and strafed a variety of targets, including the Nicosia airport, a Greek Army encampment and other garrisons. Turkish Warships, meantime, pounded Greek‐Cypriot/shore installations on both coasts...
"A pooled dispatch said that Turkish fighter‐bombers had struck a mental hospital in Nicosia, killing at least 20 persons and wounding 60."
The next day, the New York Times continued:
"The air and sea invasion yesterday devastated the resort strip of tourist hotels on the north coast of Cyprus. Greek Cypriots and foreigners huddled under mattresses in the cellars of ruined buildings.
"Turkish warships shelled the northern port of Kyrenia and smaller communities to the west as American‐made A4 Skyhawks of the Turkish Air Force bombed roads, bridges, hotels and other buildings.
"The shelling and bombing seemed indiscriminate, with no regard for civilian areas or casualties."
On July 28, 1974, according to the New York Times:
"The reporters said that for many people being held by the Turks at the Kyrenia's Dome Hotel there was 'confusion, despair and terror.'
"One correspondent related the tale of one tourist, Margaret Gavrielides, a British citizen, who with her son Andreas was being held in the Dome Hotel .
"The Gavrielides family... crawled under beds. They heard an artillery shell explode in the backyard, and then voices.
"Mr. Gavrielides went to the door. A Turkish soldier fired, according to his wife.
"Her husband was taken to a medical station. She has not heard of or from him, since that day a week ago. The Turkish soldiers separated the men and threatened to rape the women, Mrs. Gavrielides said.
"But back in Ankara today, the newspapers were full of photos of smiling Turkish troops clustered in front of tanks draped with the star and crescent flag, holding their weapons high, and of Greek Cypriot hostages being given water by Turkish soldiers."
The Turkish military campaign was accompanied by murders, unlawful detention of both soldiers and civilians in what amounted to concentration camps, systematic execution of civilians, as well as the torture and mistreatment (including systematic rapes) of Greek Cypriots. These crimes were documented by the two volumes of a historic report by the then European Commission of Human Rights, adopted in 1976, initially covered up, but then leaked to the British Sunday Times in 1977 and eventually declassified in 1979.
On August 6, 1974, the New York Times reported:
"Greek Cypriots from small villages around Kyrenia told stories today of murder, rape and looting by the Turkish Army after its invasion of Cyprus. The villagers are among 20,000 civilians driven from their homes by the Turks along the northern coast of the island.
"One ashen-faced man told tearfully how his wife and two young children were shot before his eyes by Turkish soldiers who rounded up villagers before shooting them. A married woman whose husband was shot by the Turks and young girl who saw her fiancé shot told how they were then raped at gunpoint by Turkish soldiers...
"Eleni Andrea Mateidou, 28, who was married with two children, told of another mass shooting of able-bodied men at her village, Trimithi. Her husband Andreas, 27, and father-in-law were among them. Later she was among village women raped at gunpoint by the Turkish soldiers, she alleged. 'We went out with our hands raised but the Turks started beating us,' she said. 'They took off the top clothes of my husband and father-in-law and led them to the river bed in the village. Then they were shot. The women of the village were taken to the house of a British woman who had been evacuated. They were there raped at gunpoint.'
"'At one point another soldier came up with a baby in his arms. He asked who the mother was. I thought if I said it was mine it might save me. However, when I said I was the mother he threw it to the ground.'"
Despite the collapse of the coups in Greece and Cyprus by July 23, 1974, restoration of the legitimate government of Cyprus, and a ceasefire agreement, Turkey launched a second invasion of Cyprus three weeks later, on August 14, 1974. This time, Turkey gave no pretext but its second military campaign was even more violent, terrorizing more Greek Cypriot natives into fleeing their homes and lands. Those two invasions resulted in the Turkish occupation of 36% of the territory of Cyprus and 57% of its coastline.
On August 15, the New York Times reported:
"Turkish forces, which began a heavy air and ground attack early yesterday, appeared today to be on their way toward seizing control of much of northern Cyprus... A strong air strife [sic] on Nicosia sent thousands of Greek Cypriots fleeing southward.
"A psychiatric hospital close by a Greek Cypriot camp was hit for a second time in less than a month. Three bombs struck outbuildings, injuring 36 patients and 3 staff members. In the previous attack, a direct hit on a ward killed 27 patients and wounded nearly 100."
Despo Marango, a 17-year old from the village of Ashia in the Famagusta District, fled in her father's truck after Turkish tanks entered the town. "We took 20 people on the truck including old women," she recounted. "The Turkish troops came and fired on us and hurt four people. The Turks came into our homes and stole things."
On August 17, 1974, the New York Times wrote:
"Turkey's invasion forces completed the division of Cyprus into two areas yesterday and declared a ceasefire... on the 14th anniversary of the independence of Cyprus from Britain."
To this day, approximately 170,000 Greek Cypriot refugees are still denied by Turkey their right to return home. Over 160,000 illegal settlers or colonists have been transferred to the occupied area by Turkey (the exact number of the illegal settlers is not known; Turkey has not revealed the data). More than a thousand persons in Cyprus are still listed as missing.
Meanwhile, the ancient culture and history of the occupied north are being wiped out to perpetrate the myth that the area is Turkish. Geographical names have been Turkified and many Christian churches and monasteries have been destroyed or used for sacrilegious purposes.
The Archangelos Michael Church, built in Kyrenia in 1860, was converted into "an icon museum" in 1990 after its congregants had fled the invading Turkish soldiers in 1974. According to a 1994 report, icons were "stolen from the church". According to a 2021 news report:
"The church, which was closed for renovation years ago due to the crookedness of its minaret [tower], is kept in ruins despite the completion of the renovation. A shopkeeper said: 'Since the minaret of the icon museum was crooked, it was considered dangerous so the minaret was rebuilt. It took several years to build. They built it, and it has been 6-7 years since it's finished, but it [the museum/former church] is still waiting in ruins.'"
Currently, Turkey appears to be targeting the rest of the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union. The government of Cyprus is now dealing with an "illegal immigration crisis" which it says Turkey is orchestrating. Government authorities state that the majority of migrants entering the free part of Cyprus are being smuggled illegally through the Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. The Cypriot government added that Cyprus was facing "significant demographic change", "ghettoisation in urban areas" and "acute socio-economic effects" as a result of the illegal migrant crisis.
Meanwhile, according to Turkish media, Turkey is planning to construct a military naval base in the Karpasia Peninsula in the Turkish-occupied north.
Despite the uncountable war crimes Turkey has committed in Cyprus, the Turkish government has condemned the UN for having its "peacekeeping forces" there.
Turkey has also refused to comply with its obligations under the UN resolutions concerning Cyprus and many international conventions it has signed. In 2018, for instance, in response to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) demanding the release of Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said: "ECHR's rulings are not binding on us."
The West, however, remains silent -- not merely empowering Turkey to commit further atrocities but rewarding it. The US recently killed, at Turkey's request, the EastMed natural gas pipeline project, which would have transported gas from US allies Israel and Cyprus, via Greece, to Western Europe. The EastMed pipeline would have been particularly important in light of Russia's ability, with the Nord Stream and other pipelines, to blackmail the continent in winter by cutting off much of its gas supplies.
Turkey will now be able to continue its crimes against the Yazidis in Iraq, the Kurds in Syria and the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh with no repercussions.
Philip Christopher, president of the International Coordinating Committee - Justice for Cyprus, wrote: " Turkey's occupation of Cyprus has now become the first modern Islamist fundamentalist attempt to capture Western world territory and resources."
*Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.
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Sisi in Riyadh…The Consolidation of an Arab Regional Order
Zuhair Al-Harthi/Asharq Al Awsat/March 12/2022
The Arab scene continues to affirm, with its successive setbacks that reflect its nature par excellence, that the Arab world’s problems are deeply rooted and becoming increasingly complex and difficult as time goes on.
That is evident from how crises/ alliances are dealt with, whether within the Arab region or at the regional and international levels. Arabs’ relations with another or other neighboring countries have, since the middle of the twentieth century, gone through several phases, with several factors playing a significant role- whether it is the formation or disintegration of alliances or among themselves or even with the great powers of the time.
Nonetheless, there have been several inspiring episodes, courageous and positive stances were made. They inspire optimism about what is to come despite all the tragedies and frustrations. Perhaps the years 1973, 1990 and others saw remarkable alliances between Saudi Arabia and Egypt being formed for the first time in the history of Arab solidarity.
Any serious discussion about an Arab bloc genuinely capable of confronting today’s challenges simply amounts to securing the Arab circle. Thus, it is correct to say, as some have been asserting, that compromising the security of Egypt or Saudi Arabia compromises Arab national security. “Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the backbone of an Arab regional system in crisis that only a strategic alliance between the two countries can address.”
That can be achieved once they shape their “bilateral relationship according to national security requirements and needs.” It is no secret that Riyadh and Cairo coming to an agreement is tantamount to an Arab alliance being formed. The constant visits between the leaders of the two countries have exposed those who tried to undermine it.
The Saudi-Egyptian rapprochement means, in my estimation, rearranging regional priorities and confronting the projects of regional influence. Thus, traditional and old Arab alliances are no longer tenable, especially with the rise of Iran and Turkey. Indeed, the situation is deteriorating at all levels. The Saudi-Egyptian alliance has become a requisite for safeguarding Arab national security. This alliance is a requisite for confronting the Iranian, Ottoman/Turkish, and American/Israeli axes, as well as creating a balance of power in the region.
It has become evident that we are missing an effective Arab policy that can fill the void, which has become necessary, though we acknowledge that this Arab policy is not being shaped as we would like it to be. That is a crucial aspect of the crisis, and once we begin developing and implementing a solid Arab policy, it means the solution stage has begun.
The agreement between Riyadh Cairo has come at the right time, and it is tantamount to the development of an Arab alliance that can confront any other in a new political environment.
President Sisi’s visit to Riyadh was made to enhance the two sides’ exchange of “views on issues and matters of concern to the two countries on the regional and international leveled,” as demonstrated by their affirmations that they are working on coordinating their positions in a manner that serves their interests and enhances security and stability in the region and the world.
They also emphasized the importance of joint Arab action and the importance of the role of the Arab League in framing and strengthening the mechanisms of joint Arab action and resolving the crises in the region in line with relevant UN Resolutions and the principles of international law. Perhaps the crux of their position is continued support for peace in the Middle East, stressing the need to reach a comprehensive and final settlement for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in accordance with the two-state solution, relevant UN resolutions, and the Arab Peace Initiative in a manner that guarantees the right of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. That puts the brakes on the plots of opportunists seeking to exploit circumstances or situations and conjure up lies to unjustly attack and insult Saudi Arabia. And so, it is not surprising that they emphasized the importance of concerted international efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.
Riyadh and Cairo affirmed the “indivisibility of Arab security and the importance of joint Arab action and full Arab solidarity for preserving Arab national security through its countries’ capabilities and capacities, which are sufficient for allowing them to assume this responsibility, which falls on all Arab countries.”
They also stressed their “rejection of any attempts by regional parties to interfere with Arab countries’ internal affairs or threaten their stability and undermine the interests of their people- whether through the incitement of ethnic and sectarian tensions, terrorism and terrorist groups, or expansionist perceptions that do not respect the sovereignty of states and the principles of respect and good neighborliness.”
And they agreed to “continue to fight terrorist organizations in the region in all their forms” ... and praised “the level of cooperation and security coordination between the two countries and their intentions to enhance this coordination to further security and stability in the two brotherly countries.”
The two sides focused on the threats posed by Iran’s hostile behavior towards the countries of the region and the dangers that the regime possessing weapons of mass destruction would pose to the region and the world, stressing that any international agreement in this regard must include the countries of the region.
They voiced their “rejection of terrorist militias continuing to threaten maritime navigation,” stressing that “these militias’ military capabilities cannot be overlooked. They are a direct threat to the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the countries of the region.” This powerful message was clear and to the point, leaving our Arab world reassured because an Arab alliance is standing up for it and that Cairo and Riyadh are standing behind this alliance.
Our beloved Egypt, as usual, reiterated its full solidarity with Saudi Arabia, its support for all the measures the Kingdom has taken to protect its national security, and its rejection of any attacks on Saudi territory, stressing that the security of the Kingdom and the Arab Gulf region is an integral part of Egyptian national security.
Riyadh and Cairo are laying the groundwork for the reformulation of priorities in a way that safeguards Arab national security and confronts terrorism. Their agreement on an array of objectives and the types of threats facing them means the emergence of an Arab front capable of facing risks and dealing with challenges. This strengthens efforts to develop a framework joint Arab action system and supports it for the good of its people.

Another Chernobyl Disaster? Russian Invaders Are Taking the Risk

Tobin Harshaw/Bloomberg/March 12/2022
In the fantastically terrifying HBO miniseries “Chernobyl,” the scientist Valery Legasov warns, "If we don't find out how this happened, it will happen again." The same could be said, I fear, about the predations of a revanchist Russia, where President Vladimir Putin seems as blinkered to reality as the most deluded members of the Soviet Politburo.
The explosion of the No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant outside Pripyat, Ukraine, in April 1986 was one of the great failures of the Communist regime. Now, in trying rebuild that Soviet empire, Putin’s troops have seized not just the radioactive ruins at Chernobyl but also the functioning nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia, the largest in Europe.
What are the odds of another Chernobyl-scale disaster? The International Atomic Energy Agency says it’s unlikely. But I raised the issue with Serhii Plokhy, the author of the forthcoming “Atoms and Ashes: A Global History of Nuclear Disasters,” and he takes a darker view. Plokhy, who grew up in Ukraine, is the director of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University. He also wrote a fantastic book on another potential nuclear catastrophe: “Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis.” Here is a lightly edited transcript of our discussion:
Tobin Harshaw: The Chernobyl site is no longer transmitting data to the IAEA, and the electricity has been cut off. How much of a concern is that?
Serhii Plokhy: The concern is enormous, and the threat of a nuclear accident is very real. The emergency generators can work for only 48 hours; after that there will be no electricity to keep the equipment going. In the new 1.5 billion euro confinement over the damaged 4th unit of the station, electricity is needed to keep the pressure lower than in the atmosphere, not allowing the radioactive particles to get out of the structure.
But the biggest concern is the spent-fuel facility that contains 20,000 fuel assemblies. One needs electricity to keep the assemblies from overheating, or they can start disintegrating and releasing enormous amounts of radiation into the atmosphere.
TH: How dangerous is it that an exhausted skeleton crew of Ukrainian prisoners of war is now overseeing the ruins?
SP: The Ukrainian personnel at the Chernobyl facilities are kept in virtual captivity, are not allowed to communicate with their superiors or loved ones, have no medicine, little food — which they are saving, as no one knows what comes next. They are doing their best, working in shifts to keep the equipment functioning and radiation levels under control. With the recent damage to the power supply by the military action in the area, a lot depends on their professionalism. But they are under enormous stress, and if this is not a recipe for a nuclear disaster, I do not know what is.
TH: More generally, how stable is the facility now, in terms of a potential disaster in either war or peacetime? Is the “new safe confinement” that covered the old steel and concrete sarcophagus a lasting solution?
SP: Yes, it is a lasting solution. The structure should be good for another 100 years or so. But there is one caveat: There should be no war in the area, no shelling, no disruption of the supply of electricity, etc. The facility prevents the escape of radiation from the damaged reactor, but does nothing to deal with the source of that radiation — the remains of the fuel and radioactive debris in the damaged reactor. The removal of that source of radiation is a task for the next few decades. That is, of course, if the current war ends and the Ukrainian nuclear regulating authorities restore their control over the facility and the unpopulated Exclusion Zone as a whole.
TH: When the Russians were seizing the Zaporizhzhia plant, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned in a video message that an explosion there could spell the “end of Europe.” Was that hyperbole?
SP: The continuing occupation of the Zaporizhzhia plant could lead to a nuclear disaster that could dwarf Chernobyl. The reactors have been shut down by the Ukrainian personnel. But it takes a long time for their active zones to be cooled. If the war continues, the electricity can be cut like happened at Chernobyl.
What could follow is well known from the story of the Fukushima plant in Japan. There, four reactors either experienced a partial meltdown, or their containment structures exploded, because of the lack of electricity needed to pump water and cool the reactors. In Fukushima, the prevailing direction of winds was toward the ocean. There is no ocean around Ukraine, just European landmass. So, yes, the end of Europe as we know it was and still is a distinct possibility.
TH: Why have the Russians apparently made taking these plants a high priority? To scare the West?
SP: The Chernobyl nuclear power plant was in the way of the Russian troops moving from the Belarus border to Kyiv, the shortest route available to the aggressors, and they used it, raising radiative dust in the Exclusion Zone with their tanks and equipment. The Zaporizhzhia plant happened to be on the way from Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, toward central Ukraine. But the Russians could easily have passed it by. The point was indeed to scare Ukraine and the world. We are dealing here with nuclear terrorism.
TH: Apparently people are stockpiling against disaster. Bloomberg News reports that the price of a bottle of potassium iodine pills on Amazon has more than doubled since the beginning of the year. Is this sort of precaution smart or silly?
SP: Ukrainians lived through Chernobyl, so for them a threat of another Chernobyl happening is not purely theoretical. The new nuclear crisis is happening literally in their backyards; the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is located next to the city called Enerhodar [“energy’s gift”] of over 50,000 inhabitants. Under the circumstances, it would be silly not to take precautions. The media outlets put on their sites instructions on what to do in case of a nuclear emergency.
TH: Finally, you grew up mostly in Ukraine. What are your hopes and fears right now about the war?
SP: My hope is that it ends soon, and that Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, along with the basic principles of international order, are restored. My fear is that the war drags for a long, long time. Out of that fear comes another hope, for the international action, not just solidarity, that would not allow that to happen.

Russia and the US Helped the Demise of the Iran Talks
Camelia Entekhabifard/Asharq Al Awsat/March 12/2022
European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has declared a pause in the Iranian nuclear negotiations in Vienna, caused by “external factors.”
“A final text is essentially ready and on the table,” Borrell tweeted. “As coordinator, I will, with my team, continue to be in touch with all JCPOA participants and the US to overcome the current situation and to close the agreement.”
These vague words left the people of Iran and other observers in the world wondering: Why were the talks stopped? Were all the issues raised in almost a year of indirect Iranian-American talks already solved? What did he mean exactly by “a final text” being “ready and on the table”? Have the US and Iran reached an agreement on lifting the sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)? How about the sanctions on Ali Khamenei’s household? Or has Iran accepted the conditions put out there by the European Union and crossed its own red lines?
Until just a couple of weeks ago, before Russia’s military attack on Ukraine, there was no news of even relative agreements on the above-mentioned issues. Tehran had openly declared that it won’t cross its own red lines and has asked for lifting of all sanctions and US’s commitment to the continuation of the deal in future governments as a condition for reviving the Iran deal.
It would be very naive if we believed the “external factors” (which most guess to be linked to Russia) are the main reason for the pause in the talks or disruption of attempts at the JCPOA’s resurrection.
As the Western attempts to increase pressure on Russia heighten, and there is even a danger of a military confrontation with the Russians, the EU and the US do all they can to put the blame for all international conflicts on Russia.
The 2015 Iran deal had many shortcomings. I say this not as an opponent of Iran or an extremist in the West but as an expert of the regional geopolitics and international relations.
In the final months of his second administration, President Obama attempted to bring about this deal and finally inked it despite many existing criticisms of Tehran’s policies in the region and the conditions of human rights inside Iran.
The deal was not desired by the regional countries and Israel. It also failed to bring about the needs of the Iranian nation.
The deal came about but the Western countries showed no desire to be present in the Iranian market. As a dictatorship with a securitized regime, Iran is not considered a sure and stable market.
Following the nuclear deal, the relations of Iran with neighbors did not improve. Iran’s regional interventions and tensions created by IRGC-linked militias were not reduced.
In 2013, when a new round of nuclear talks began, Iran had a pre-condition to enter them: sticking to the nuclear program and not going beyond this issue.
Optimism about the outcome of the talks and how they could change Iranian behavior opened the way for the inking of the JCPOA in 2015. The deal was finally reached.
The next US president, Donald Trump, left the deal in 2018. We should ask a simple question: In more than two years that had passed since the deal, did Western countries respect their promises to support investment of foreign companies in Iran and create more jobs in Iran?
Or did the Iranian behavior change in the region? Did it stop supporting Houthi militias in Yemen or Lebanon’s Hezbollah? What happened to Iran’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain?
With the current regime, and given the political and security approach in Iran, how rational and practical is it to believe that the EU and US truly wanted to resurrect the previous deal?
The Iranian nuclear program has led to some serious concerns. If we are to believe the reports by the US security and military establishment, Iran is only a few weeks away from building the nuclear bomb. If there is such a worry in the West, it also exists for China and Russia. Russia, an ally of Iran, is now presented by the EU and the US as the indirect agent leading to the defeat of the talks in Vienna and is itself amongst the main opponents of arming Iran with a nuclear weapon.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine was prompted by its worries about Kyiv acquiring a nuclear weapon (since it has the knowledge for producing nuclear weapons and also the necessary nuclear plants) and also its joining of the EU which would mean a nuclear armed state close to Russian borders.
It is naive to consider Russia the reason for the collapse of the talks with the West just because it has asked a guarantee for exemptions from sanctions in return for inking the deal.
Russia has repeatedly voted yes to resolutions in the UN Security Council that condemn Iran. There is nothing it won’t do to stop Iran from becoming nuclear.
Russia’s demand from the US and the West that its commercial and technical deals with Iran be exempt from sanctions, should be seen alongside the West’s many worries about the return of the JCPOA. Russia has now given the West an easy way out of the dead-end it had reached in the nuclear talks: It can blame Moscow.
We should remember that the UN arms embargo on Iran already expired in October 2020 and the sunset clause will also kick in by 2025. These are serious worries for the US.
On January 11, 2022, 110 Congressmen wrote to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. They asked the Biden administration to leave the Vienna talks. This was less than two months ago. The letter explicitly asked for a deal without a sunset clause. The letter asked for increased pressure by US and partners on Iran to stop the progress in its nuclear program. It asked for the use of sanctions that would lead to negotiations for a better and harsher deal without any sunset clause.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the clash between the US and the West and Russia’s new demands in the Iran talks have now given an opportunity to the West to claim there is no possibility of the talks continuing.
In the current conditions, Iran won’t be able to blame the West for the disruption in the talks. The status quo now favors the West, the US and even Russia and China.
While it’s not clear how long the Ukrainian crisis can last, the increase in oil prices will take care of some of the immediate needs of the Iranian regime and its financial problems.
But the disruption of nuclear talks can lead to an uptick in tensions and more Iranian provocations in the region. Seizure of ships, tensions in the Arabian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, increased rocket and drone attacks by Houthis against countries of the region can all be part of the subsequent strategies by Iran and the IRGC to show their anger from the failure of the nuclear deal.
In such conditions, the Europeans will organize a new round of negotiations with Iran which will not need Russia. They’ll take care of the minimum demands of Iran and the West.
In the next three months, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will submit a new report about the questions raised following the observance of radioactive material in three undeclared regions. Following the responses by Iran, the full report will be sent to the Board of Governors. After that, we can expect new talks. In such talks, there will be no "sunset" clause, no repeal of the arms embargo and there will be banking and financial exemptions and an end to the boycott of Iranian oil. In response, the Iranian nuclear program will be limited and under the full supervision of the IAEA.
In simpler words, we can say that the Russian attack on Ukraine led to an opportunity for the sun to finally set on the JCPOA.

War Crimes Charges Wouldn’t Scare Putin
Stephen L. Carter/Bloomberg/March 12/2022
The horrific carnage in Ukraine has led to cries across the world for Vladimir Putin to be charged with war crimes. I share the outrage, and would like to see the Russian president punished. But the threat of a future war crimes trial isn’t likely to prove much of a deterrent.
Let’s start at the top. Although for many people, “war criminal” is a political category, legally the conclusion follows indictment, arrest, trial and conviction — none of which are easily obtained. Nowadays, the trial is typically held in the Hague before the International Criminal Court, but special courts can also be established. (Under US law, war crimes can also sometimes be tried in federal courts. )
Could Putin face formal charges? Easily. Under the Rome Statute, the 1998 treaty that created the ICC, targeting civilians is a crime. Since 2010, launching a war of aggression has also been a crime. We can make the list as long as we like. It’s easy to imagine that an investigation of the invasion opened by the ICC on Feb. 28 will result in Putin’s indictment.
Then the problems begin.
For one thing, it’s tricky to get him arrested. The ICC has not held trials in absentia. As the then-president of the court pointed out in 2007, “without sufficient support in arresting and surrendering persons, there can be no trials.” Recent hints that the court might be reconsidering this principle have been met with derision by international lawyers. So Putin might avoid trial simply by staying put.
However, a court established for a limited purpose can set up the rules however it wants. When the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was established in 2009, for example, many observers were surprised by its reintroduction of trial in absentia. A special Ukraine court could hear the case against the Russian president without his participation. But such a process would make it easier for Putin and his supporters to reject the outcome for violating fundamental norms of fair process.
Even if Putin somehow does wind up facing trial, conviction is often difficult, even when the world expects it to be easy. The ICC acquits most defendants. Small wonder. Conviction of a war crime requires proof of intention. Deaths of noncombatants won’t automatically lead to an inference of intent — not without evidence clearly indicating a “plan or policy” to attack them.
Moreover, even when evidence abounds, at the ICC the wheels of justice grind exceeding slow. Consider the case of Laurent Ggabo, the former president of Ivory Coast, who in 2011 was sent to the Hague to face charges, including murder, stemming from the violence that followed his 2010 electoral defeat. The trial did not begin until 2016, at which point Ggabo had already spent nearly five years in custody. Presentation of evidence took two years more. In January 2019 — three years after the trial began — charges were dismissed. The prosecution appealed. Ggabo was finally released in March of 2021, nearly a decade after his arrest.
It’s no defense of Ggabo, whom most observers believe has lots of blood on his hands, to say that 10 years is a long time. As attractive as we might find the image of Putin languishing in jail for a decade, stripped of wealth and power, awaiting a final verdict, that can’t happen unless it’s possible to arrest him.
If Ukraine wins the war and Putin is toppled from his throne, his successors might be only too happy to turn him over. (Assuming they haven’t already dealt with him.) But if Putin prevails — annexing, say, the eastern third of Ukraine as a new Russian province — then there would be a contest of wills. An indicted Putin could be arrested if he set foot in any signatory nation, but he could choose simply to remain at home, testing the mettle of the West. Sanctions can’t last forever, particularly once the war ends. Putin might reason that the West won’t be willing to go on sacrificing economically if the only justification is enforcing a warrant.
There are political obstacles, too.
Enthusiasm for the ICC has been waning of late, in part because of its large budget, in part because it acquits more often than it convicts, and in part because it’s increasingly seen as a tool of the West. Moreover, the court isn’t exactly flavor-of-the-week in Washington just now. ICC prosecutors are currently looking into crimes allegedly committed by the US (and the Taliban) in Afghanistan. Although President Joe Biden has revoked his predecessor’s sanctions on the ICC over the investigation, his administration continues to insist that no probe of the conduct of US forces is necessary.
If the ICC process proves too cumbersome, alternatives might be available. Ukraine (aided by my Yale Law School colleague Harold Koh) is currently suing in the International Court of Justice, demanding an injunction to halt the invasion. Purely symbolic? Maybe not. Ukraine could then pursue war reparations. As of this writing, the estimated damage from the invasion exceeds $10 billion. An award of, say, triple the final figure, to be paid in a currency of Ukraine’s choice — on top of the astonishingly high cost of Russia’s military losses — might prove a stronger deterrent than a war crimes indictment of Putin.
But none of this is likely to matter unless Russia is first defeated on the field of battle. Tribunals rarely convene to punish winners.

د. ماجد رفي زاده/معهد جيتستون: لماذا تقوم إدارة بايدن والاتحاد الأوروبي باسترضاء النظام الإيراني في كل ما يتعلق بالإتفاق النووي؟
Why Are the Biden Administration, EU, Appeasing the Iranian Regime?
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/March 12/ 2022

Many Iranians, meanwhile, in defiance of Iran’s regime, gathered outside the Ukrainian embassy in Tehran to express their support for the Ukrainian people, criticize the Iranian government for supporting Russia, and chanted “Death to Putin”.
As police began cracking down on the protesters, the Biden administration and the EU remained silent.
Why are the Biden administration and the EU appeasing the Iranian regime, which has for four decades attacked Americans and carried out terrorist activities and assassinations?
The Biden administration and the other members of the JCPOA nuclear deal negotiated in 2015 (China, France, Russia, the UK and Germany) — with the European Union — instead of holding Iran to account, are evidently determined to reward it. It is not quite clear for what. For years of unspeakable behavior, both to its own citizens and internationally?
Meanwhile, as the US has been negotiating this new agreement, US intelligence services have just identified “at least two Iranians” as trying to assassinate former officials of the Trump administration. The Biden administration is said to have been trying to cover up the plot lest it derail the negotiations to shower Iran with “rewards”.
The Iranian regime, an official state sponsor of terrorism, has carried out terrorist activities around the world for almost four decades. Why are the Biden administration and the EU not implementing the same policies towards Iran’s regime as they are towards Russia?
Iran’s theocratic regime, an officially designated state sponsor of terrorism, has carried out terrorist activities around the world for almost four decades. Why are the Biden administration and the EU not implementing the same sanctions and policies towards Iran’s regime as they are towards Russia? Pictured: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hosts Russian President Vladimir Putin in Iran on November 23, 2015. (Image source: khamenei.ir via Wikimedia Commons)
While the European Union has leveled different kinds of sanctions on Russia, including restricting access to the EU’s capital and financial markets, the EU nevertheless continues to appease Moscow’s staunch ally, the world’s largest sponsor of state terrorism, Iran.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is opportunistically using the humanitarian tragedy in Ukraine to spread the narrative that the war is not Russia’s fault, but rather that the West and the “mafia regime” of the US, which is trying to negotiate a new nuclear deal with the mullahs, are to be blamed. Meanwhile, he is trying to advance his country’s revolutionary principles and hegemonic ambitions and promoting his long-held anti-American and anti-Western policy.
Iranian politicians are also pointing the finger at NATO concerning the Ukraine crisis. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was part of the “Death Committee” in the 1988 massacre, telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing his support and stating, according to Iran’s state-controlled Mehr News Agency: “The continued expansion of NATO is a serious threat against the stability and security of independent countries in various regions of the world.”
Many Iranians, meanwhile, in defiance of Iran’s regime, gathered outside the Ukrainian embassy in Tehran to express their support for the Ukrainian people, criticize the Iranian government for supporting Russia, and chanted “Death to Putin”.
As police began cracking down on the protesters, the Biden administration and the EU remained silent.
The protestors, however, mobilized on social media outlets and disseminated chants such as “the Russian embassy is a den of spies”, “Putin murders, the stupid ones support him”, “Long live Ukraine” and “Long live peace.”
No matter how much blood is shed in Ukraine, it is extremely unlikely that the Iranian regime will abandon its favorable policy towards Russia. As the current tensions continue between Russia and the West, based on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow also finds no better geopolitical ally than the Iranian regime. The Ukraine crisis brings Russia and Iran’s theocratic establishment closer together, as both of them confront the West.
Both Putin and Iran’s leaders seem to be attempting to restore their empires and their wounded prestige and pride, both regionally and internationally. Iran and Russia have been attempting to reinforce how the international community views them, for example, presenting themselves as influential state actors in Syria, by significantly ratcheting up the political and economic capital they spend to secure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power. Assad, a physician who in 2011 had promised to push for more political reforms, has, a decade later and with Russia’s help, piled up a record of massive abuses and war crimes that include gassing innocent civilians with chemical weapons, bombing schools and hospitals, and causing thousands to disappear.
Why are the Biden administration and the EU appeasing the Iranian regime, which has for four decades attacked Americans and carried out terrorist activities and assassinations?
Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, has been accused of terrorist attacks, such as the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut, in which 241 U.S. Marines were killed; the 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing in Beirut; the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in which 17 sailors were killed; the 1984 United States Embassy annex bombing in Beirut; as well as the 9/11 attacks in the United States, for which federal courts ordered Iran to pay the families of the victims $7.5 billion. Hezbollah and Iran were also reportedly behind the 1992 attack on Israel’s Embassy in Buenos Aires, in which 29 people were killed.
A Washington, DC district court found:
“The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran (“Iran”) has a long history of providing material aid and support to terrorist organizations including al Qaeda, which have claimed responsibility for the August 7, 1998 embassy bombings.”
It was also the Iranian government that provided aid to Al Qaeda to carry out terrorist attacks against the US in general. The court added:
“Iran had been the preeminent state sponsor of terrorism against the United States and its interests for decades. Throughout the 1990s — at least — Iran regarded al Qaeda as a useful tool to destabilize U.S. interests. As discussed in detail below, the government of Iran aided, abetted and conspired with Hezbollah, Osama Bin Laden, and al Qaeda to launch large-scale bombing attacks against the United States by utilizing the sophisticated delivery mechanism of powerful suicide truck bombs.”
Iran has also been funding and supporting at least three proxy terrorist groups: Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip; Hezbollah, which has effectively taken over Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen, who, under Iranian supervision, seem to be trying to help Iran displace Saudi Arabia’s monarchy. According to the Wilson Center in Washington, DC:
“Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the elite Qods Force provided arms, training and financial support to militias and political movements in at least six countries: Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Syria and Yemen…. In 2020, the State Department estimated that Iran gave Hezbollah $700 million a year. In the past, Tehran had historically given $100 million annually to Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. “
The Biden administration and the other members of the JCPOA nuclear deal negotiated in 2015 (China, France, Russia, the UK and Germany) — with the European Union — instead of holding Iran to account, are evidently determined to reward it. It is not quite clear for what. For years of unspeakable behavior, both to its own citizens and internationally? The new deal, which has been has been called the “worst deal ever,” would reportedly provide the mullahs with the ability to enrich uranium, the ability soon to have an unlimited number of nuclear weapons, the missile systems to deliver them, removal of from the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, international legitimacy and billions in cash. If anyone thinks that this arrangement will stop, or even slow down, Iran’s malign activates at home or abroad, they are living in a world of make-believe. Iran never even signed the 2015 deal, let alone honored it.
Meanwhile, as the US has been negotiating this new agreement, US intelligence services have just identified “at least two Iranians” as trying to assassinate former officials of the Trump administration. The Biden administration is said to have been trying to cover up the plot lest it derail the negotiations to shower Iran with “rewards”.
The Iranian regime, an officially designated state sponsor of terrorism, has carried out terrorist activities around the world for almost four decades. Why are the Biden administration and the EU not implementing the same sanctions and policies towards Iran’s regime as they are towards Russia?
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US foreign policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu
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Dealing with Egypt’s demographic dilemma
Mohamed Abulfadl/The Arab Weekly/March 12/2022
As one compares the demographic policies of Egypt and Thailand one cannot miss a striking paradox. While Egypt is sparing no effort to reduce population growth, using both enticement and intimidation to urge citizens to have no more than two children, a poor country like Thailand, which is no better off than Egypt, offers cash grants and tax incentives to increase the country’s birth rate, even though it boasts a population of about 70 million, some 40 million less than Egypt.
Overall economic capacity may be somewhat similar in both nations, but the way of dealing with the population issue is different. Successive governments in Egypt have tried for nearly forty years to push people to cut the birth rate, but with no real success. They used a range of propaganda but did not bother to think out of the box, so as to invest in this demographic bulge.
What happened in Thailand in Southeast Asia, is that its government realised that the population will see a significant decrease by 2030, which means that with an ageing population, there could be labour shortages and a decline in the working-age group.
All birth-control programmes in Egypt have so far failed to achieve their goals, as there are religious, social and economic considerations at play in a large segment of the population. It does not matter how much money the authorities spend on their public relations efforts.
The Egyptian government wants to blame the population for the increase and refuses to question its own plans and methods.
Instead of complaining about demographic growth, the government could be working on educating, training, rehabilitating and preparing its labour force to adjust to the needs of neighbouring markets.
The government is talking about giant development projects, the construction of sophisticated infrastructure, splendid new cities and the reclamation of millions of acres of land. All such projects can absorb a large part of the population growth, which officials are trying to depict as one of the most serious challenges the country faces, without however offering any solution to it.
The main problem lies in the failure of the government’s plans to prepare young people for the job market. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi recently said the government needed to hire engineers. About 300,000 local graduates in engineering and computer sciences came forward. But only 111 passed the tests.
Some have described Sisi’s words as an abdication of responsibility. But he was pointing to a problem in the educational system, which has granted these students practically useless university degrees. This is a situation that must be corrected, as all previous plans to modernise education were unable to supply the labour market with adequately-trained graduates in engineering and other disciplines.
Therefore, the population increase is a symptom of a disease and not the disease itself. It requires some more innovative thinking in order to maximise its potential assets and limit its risks. How otherwise does the government explain why some Egypt-based companies have to rely on foreign labour ?
Appreciating the human resources potential in Egypt, as in Thailand, is the first step that the government must take to avoid behaving as if it is facing a devastating scourge due to overpopulation.
The demographic decline will come automatically once anarchic urbanisation is curbed. Against such a background, some families see more births as a useful economic tool.
Instead of focusing its efforts on holding conferences and making statements urging people to reduce the number of newborn, the government should offer out of the box thinking which could resolve a large part of the problem. Just blaming the population will not solve anything.
*Mohamed Aboelfadl is an Egyptian writer.