English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For November 13/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father
Saint John 15/15-21/:”I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. ‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on November 12-13/2021
Hardened hearts, Poor insights, and death of consciences/Elias Bejjani/November 13/2021
Question: "What are some hindrances to a potent prayer life?"/GotQuestions.org/November 12/2021
Aoun Suspects Some Seeking to 'Keep Syrian Refugees in Lebanon'
Aoun-Berri Twitter Argument over Port Probe Solved
U.N. Poverty Envoy Says Lebanon Failing Its People
Mezher Refuses to Appear before Judicial Inspection
Kordahi Says Ready to Resign if KSA Offers 'Guarantees'
Supported by Hezbollah, Kordahi sets conditions for submitting resignation
UN envoy calls Lebanon ‘ failing state’, blames government for woes
Jumblat Says Doesn't Want to Join 'Anti-Hizbullah Front'
Rochdi Says U.N. Provided Fuel to Critical Health and Water Facilities
EU Official in Lebanon to Address Poland-Belarus Border Situation
Turkish FM to Visit Lebanon Tuesday
Lebanese minister in Saudi spat still unwilling to step down
Hezbollah rejects calls for minister to quit over Yemen comments
A void to fill/Nicholas Frakes/Now Lebanon/November 12/2021
Lebanon’s State Ponzi Scheme Seeks Jewish Investors/Tony Badran/The Tablet web site/November 12/2021

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 12-13/2021
In message to Iran, Gulf states, Israel hold first joint sea exercises
Jockeying for premiership divides Shia parties, Sadr could look for army officer if not Kadhimi
US staying in Syria until ISIS threat eliminated: State Department
Lack of contact from Iran govt ‘astonishing’: UN nuclear watchdog
US, Qatar against normalizing ties with Syria’s Assad regime
World Bank says it is ready to support Morocco
Paris conference on Libya to try to dispel doubts about December elections
World Leaders Bolster Troubled Libya ahead of Key Election
Russia Sends Paratroopers to Belarus for Drills near Poland
Pakistan Hosts U.S., Russia, China for Talks on Afghanistan
Calls Mount for Israel to Free Palestinians on Hunger Strike
Gaza Doctor Seeks Apology from Israel for Daughters' Deaths
Bomb Hits Mosque in Afghanistan, Wounds at Least 15
Canada temporarily withdraws non-essential personnel from Canadian embassy in Haiti

Titles For The Latest The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 12-13/2021
Erdoğan's Quest for a New Sharia-Based Alliance/Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/November 12/2021
Could UAE Opening to Syria Mark Major Shift for Region?/Seth J. Frantzman/The Jerusalem Post/November 12/2021
Dispelling lies about the Sudanese army/Ali Sarraf/The Arab Weekly/November 12/2021
The May 2021 Israel-Hamas war was a stress test for normalization/Jonathan Schanzer/Al Arabiya/November 12/2021
Iranian aggression in the Gulf must be deterred/Luke Coffey/Arab News/November 12, 2021

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on November 12-13/2021
Hardened hearts, Poor insights, and death of consciences
Elias Bejjani/November 13/2021
"Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.” (John 09/39)
Undoubtedly, our beloved occupied Lebanon has been going through extremely harsh and difficult times for several years.
Sadly, the great and bright Lebanon has been by force  replaced by everything that is not Lebanese, because of the hegemony and occupation imposed by the terrorist Iranian Armed proxy, Hezbollah.
The savage and cancerous Iranian occupation has hit badly all sets of norms, values, faith and the basic foundations of patriotism.
In bid to cajole and appease the occupier, many Lebanese individuals and groups chose to be blind in both heart and insight.
What actually is disastrous the most, lies in the fact that many Lebanese are not able any more to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong.
Therefore, they live in a complete cognitive darkness, far from God and His teachings.
They fell into the traps of sin, and became enemies of their own sacred homeland, Lebanon. They sided with the Iranian occupier and abandoned their fellow citizens who are impoverished, persecuted and tortured.
As a result of this terrifying “faith abandonment,” many of our people, leaders, and political parties have become role models to every thing that is shame, surrender, and corruption.
Self inflicted atrocities in thinking and acts are no longer confined to the majority of  the corrupted leaders, who sold themselves to the demons of occupation because of selfishness and greed, but are also prevalent among large segments of our citizens.
In the same frames of defamation and obscenity of standards, we find that many free Lebanese people and true believers in sovereignty, freedoms, identity, and the deeply rooted history of Lebanon are subjected to unfair official and judicial harassment and persecution.
This sad reality exposes the shame of many politicians, and the so-called leaders who replicate the evil acts of those who bet on the clothes of Christ and shared them after His crucifixion .
However, despite all sorts of  abandonment, disbelief and denial, the free and the faithful among our people and leaders, although they are few, will ultimately leaven the dough of the whole nation, and return it to where it was, and to where it should be..
Those free and patriotic Lebanese citizens, and despite all the harassments that befall them, shall continue to resist stubbornly, relying on God's will, who made Lebanon His temple and blessed it with dozens of saints.
It remains, that currently the rudder of the ship of our mother country, Lebanon is held and controlled by wicked shepherds, leaders, politicians and officials who not wise, blind and not insightful.
Lebanon's corrupted Leaders, officials and politicians have fallen into the devil's temptations because of their lack of faith, hope greediness, and accordingly put our sacred Lebanon into all kinds of dangers, hazards and difficulties.
In summary, when a blind person leads another blind person, both will definitely fall into the pit . Therefore, what is required of our people, for the sake of their salvation and the salvation of our country, is that they do not put their support behind blind leaders with hardened hearts, poor insights, and death of consciences, and the same time stand tall  to say No to all kinds of earthly temptations.

Question: "What are some hindrances to a potent prayer life?"
GotQuestions.org/November 12/2021
Answer: The most obvious hindrance to a potent prayer life is the presence of unconfessed sins in the heart of the one who is praying. Because our God is holy, there is a barrier that exists between Him and us when we come to Him with unconfessed sin in our lives. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). David concurred, knowing from experience that God is far from those who try to hide their sin: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18).
The Bible refers to several areas of sin that are hindrances to effective prayer. First, when we are living according to the flesh, rather than in the Spirit, our desire to pray and our ability to effectively communicate with God are hindered. Although we receive a new nature when we are born again, that new nature still resides in our old flesh, and that old “tent” is corrupt and sinful. The flesh can gain control of our actions, attitudes, and motives unless we are diligent to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) and be led by the Spirit in a right relationship with God. Only then will we be able to pray in close communion with Him. One way living in the flesh manifests itself is in selfishness, another hindrance to effective prayer. When our prayers are selfishly motivated, when we ask God for what we want rather than for what He wants, our motives hinder our prayers. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Asking according to God’s will is the same as asking in submission to whatever His will may be, whether or not we know what that will is. As in all things, Jesus is to be our example in prayer. He always prayed in the will of His Father: “Yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Selfish prayers are always those that are intended to gratify our own selfish desires, and we should not expect God to respond to such prayers. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Living according to selfish, fleshly desires will also hinder our prayers because it produces a hardness of heart toward others. If we are indifferent to the needs of others, we can expect God to be indifferent to our needs. When we go to God in prayer, our first concern should be His will. The second should be the needs of others. This stems from the understanding that we are to consider others better than ourselves and be concerned about their interests over and above our own (Philippians 2:3-4).
A major hindrance to effective prayer is a spirit of unforgiveness toward others. When we refuse to forgive others, a root of bitterness grows up in our hearts and chokes our prayers. How can we expect God to pour out His blessings upon us undeserving sinners if we harbor hatred and bitterness toward others? This principle is beautifully illustrated in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23-35. This story teaches that God has forgiven us a debt that is beyond measure (our sin), and He expects us to forgive others as we have been forgiven. To refuse to do so will hinder our prayers.
Another major hindrance to effective prayer is unbelief and doubt. This does not mean, as some suggest, that because we come to God convinced that He will grant our requests, He is somehow obligated to do so. Praying without doubt means praying in the secure belief and understanding of God’s character, nature, and motives. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). When we come to God in prayer, doubting His character, purpose, and promises, we insult Him terribly. Our confidence must be in His ability to grant any request that is in accordance with His will and purpose for our lives. We must pray with the understanding that whatever He purposes is the best possible scenario. “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:6-7).
Finally, discord in the home is a definite obstacle to prayer. Peter specifically mentions this as a hindrance to the prayers of a husband whose attitude toward his wife is less than godly. “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7). Where there is a serious conflict in family relationships and the head of the household is not demonstrating the attitudes Peter mentions, the husband’s prayer communication with God is hindered. Likewise, wives are to follow the biblical principles of submission to their husbands’ headship if their own prayers are not to be hindered (Ephesians 5:22-24).
Fortunately, all these prayer hindrances can be dealt with at once by coming to God in prayers of confession and repentance. We are assured in 1 John 1:9 that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Once we have done that, we enjoy a clear and open channel of communication with God, and our prayers will not only be heard and answered, but we will also be filled with a deep sense of joy.

Aoun Suspects Some Seeking to 'Keep Syrian Refugees in Lebanon'
Naharnet/November 12/2021  
President Michel Aoun on Friday told a visiting EU official that Lebanon has “suspicions” that some forces are seeking to “keep” Syrian refugees in Lebanon. “Lebanon hosts more than 1.5 million displaced Syrians and around 500,000 Palestinian refugees, and this hosting has left numerous repercussions on the Lebanese economy and aggravated the financial, social, educational and health crises it is facing,” Aoun told European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas. “Lebanon, which is taking measures to prevent illegal migration from its territory, hopes it will be treated reciprocally by world nations, especially European countries, because it can no longer bear further burdens,” the President added.“The international community’s continued disregard for the Lebanese calls seeking to facilitate the return of displaced Syrians to their country has started to create suspicions that some are seeking to keep them in Lebanon, which is something that the Lebanese cannot accept due to its negative impact on the demographic situation that is based on balance between the various Lebanese components,” Aoun went on to say.

Aoun-Berri Twitter Argument over Port Probe Solved
Naharnet/November 12/2021
A heated argument between President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Twitter was solved due to high-level talks in the past 24 hours, al-Joumhouria newspaper said Friday.
Aoun said in a tweet Wednesday that “innocents do not fear the judiciary,” and “those who put themselves in the accusation position mustn't blame those who think badly of them.”Berri swiftly responded, saying that “the judiciary should not be the judiciary of those in power,” while Hizbullah refrained from commenting. The Cabinet has failed to hold a single session since Hizbullah and Amal said they will boycott Cabinet meetings until it takes a clear stand on demands to replace port blast investigator Judge Tarek Bitar.

U.N. Poverty Envoy Says Lebanon Failing Its People

Agence France Presse/November 12/2021
The Lebanese government is failing its people, the U.N. envoy on extreme poverty Olivier De Schutter said Friday, warning that the country is on course to becoming a failed state. "Lebanon is not a failed state yet, but it is a failing state, with a government failing its population," he told a press conference in Beirut at the end of a 12-day visit to Lebanon. "I saw scenes in Lebanon that I never imagined I would see in a middle income country," he said. Lebanon's fragile government, formed in September to stem the country's worst-ever financial crash, has yet to take serious action to stop its downward spiral. Around 80 percent of Lebanon's population is estimated to be living under the poverty line, as defined by international organizations. After having fully lifted subsidies on fuel, the authorities are now gradually reducing them on medicine and flour. The Lebanese pound has lost 90 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market. A long-promised ration card program to assist the country's poorest has yet to materialize, with the cash-strapped government struggling to secure World Bank funding. "While the population is trying to survive day-to-day, the government wastes precious time," De Schutter said.
"The government's inaction in the face of this unprecedented crisis has inflicted great misery on the population," he said. The state's total absence has left many helpless in the face of Lebanon's unprecedented economic meltdown. The price of essential foodstuffs has almost quadrupled in just one year, according to latest data from the Lebanese government. Inflation rate averaged 131.9 percent over the first six months of 2021, the World Bank says. Last month, the Save the Children charity warned: "Children in Lebanon are skipping many of their meals as parents struggle to afford basic foods."

Report: Mezher Refuses to Appear before Judicial Inspection
Naharnet/November 12/2021
Acting head of the Civil Court of Appeals Judge Habib Mezher has refused to appear before inspection, al-Anbaa newspaper said. Judicial sources told the Kuwaiti newspaper, in remarks published Friday, that Mezher “cannot give information about a case that he was looking into."
The sources added that Mezher also refused to appear before the inspection commission because the summoning is “selective” and “singled him out among other judges with similar lawsuits filed against them.”The legal department of “The People Want Reform of the System” group had filed a disciplinary complaint against Mezher before the Judicial Inspection Authority, requesting to refer him to the Disciplinary Commission and to immediately suspend him from work and suspend his membership in the Higher Judicial Council until a disciplinary decision is issued. The complaint also requested from the Public Prosecution to start an immediate judicial investigation with Mezher for the two crimes of “moral forgery” and “attempt to breach the confidentiality of a criminal investigation.”Mezher had sparked controversy after he started looking into the case against Beirut Port Blast lead investigator Judge Tarek Bitar, with the Court of Appeals announcing that he had been “exclusively” tasked with handling a recusal lawsuit against Court of Appeals judge Nassib Elia. Mezher was later summoned by Court of Appeals chief Judge Habib Rizkallah who notified him of his recusal in the case against Bitar, telling him that he “exceeded his jurisdiction.”The recusal request had been filed by the lawyer Rami Ollaiq of the Muttahidoun activist group along with Ziad Risha.

Kordahi Says Ready to Resign if KSA Offers 'Guarantees'
Naharnet/November 12/2021
Information Minister George Kordahi announced Friday that he would consider resigning if Saudi Arabia offers Lebanon “guarantees” on reversing the measures it has taken since the eruption of the diplomatic row related to his remarks on the Yemen war.
“I’m not clinging to any ministerial post and I don’t want to challenge anyone from my position, neither the premier nor the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which I love,” Kordahi said after meeting Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain el-Tineh. “I don’t know the reason behind this unexpected storm and we’re studying the issue. We will see the developments and if we obtain the guarantees that I had raised with (Maronite) Patriarch (Beshara) al-Rahi I will be ready” to submit my resignation, the Minister added. Lamenting that many Lebanese parties have “exploited” his issue, Kordahi said there are two opinions in the country. “The first backs the minister’s resignation and the second supports him, because this stance reflects dignity, pride and keenness on the country’s sovereignty.”“It’s not because of me that the government is not convening and I am not the problem,” the minister added, while noting that he did not discuss the issue of resignation with Berri.

Supported by Hezbollah, Kordahi sets conditions for submitting resignation
The Arab Weekly/November 12/2021
BEIRUT--Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi said Friday he would consider resigning if diplomatic measures taken against his country are dropped. Kordahi criticised the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen during a pre-recorded interview that was aired on Lebanese television last month. His remarks angered Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, which responded by recalling their ambassadors from Beirut.
Unspecified guarantees
“I haven’t heard yet of any guarantees, not from domestic nor external powers, but if these guarantees come in… then I am ready,” Kordahi told reporters when asked about his possible resignation. “I am not holding on to a ministerial position … I am not in a position to challenge anyone,” Kordahi said after meeting Lebanon’s parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri. Kordahi did not specify what guarantees he was seeking but they are thought to be a rollback of the diplomatic measures taken by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies over his comments. According to observers, the support of Iran-backed Hezbollah has emboldened Kordahi to escalate the crisis, setting conditions and acting as if from a position of power. However, Kordahi’s approach could backfire, with Gulf states having nothing to lose and possibly planning to escalate their punitive measures on Lebanon.
In addition to recalling its ambassador, Saudi Arabia banned Lebanese imports and asked the Lebanese envoy to leave the kingdom. A security source said on Wednesday that, as a result of the spat, Kuwait would also limit the number of visas it issues for Lebanese nationals.
Hezbollah’s role
The stand-off, which threatens to plunge Lebanon deeper into economic meltdown, has created rifts over Kordahi’s resignation, with Lebanon’s powerful Shia movement Hezbollah opposing such a move. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah rejected on Thursday calls for Kordahi’s resignation, underlining the slim chances of the crisis easing any time soon. Nasrallah also said Saudi Arabia faced complete failure in the Yemen war, where he said the fall of the city of Marib to the Iran-aligned Houthi movement would have big consequences. He added that Kordahi’s comments were “calm and objective” and the Saudi reaction exaggerated. Nasrallah also accused Saudi Arabia of seeking a civil war in Lebanon, and he said that Riyadh had contrived the crisis over the Kordahi comments as part of “the battle with the resistance.” Riyadh has said Kordahi’s comments were a symptom of Hezbollah’s dominance of Lebanon. Nasrallah denied that Hezbollah dominated the country, saying it could not always get its way. Earlier this month, the Saudi foreign minister said that Hezbollah’s dominance in Lebanon and not just Kordahi’s comments had prompted the kingdom to take action. More than 300,000 Lebanese live in Gulf Arab states, providing a key lifeline for its faltering economy, according to the Gulf Labour Markets and Migration think-tank. Saudi Arabia is Lebanon’s third-largest export market, accounting for six percent of the country’s exports in 2020, worth around $217 million, according to Lebanon’s chamber of commerce.

UN envoy calls Lebanon ‘ failing state’, blames government for woes
The Arab Weekly/November 12/2021
BEIRUT--The Lebanese government is letting down its people, the UN envoy on extreme poverty Olivier De Schutter said Friday, warning that the country is on course to becoming a failed state. “Lebanon is not a failed state yet, but it is a failing state, with a government failing its population,” he told a press conference in Beirut at the end of a 12-day visit to Lebanon. “I saw scenes in Lebanon that I never imagined I would see in a middle-income country.”According to the United Nations, around 80 percent of Lebanon’s population is estimated to be living beneath the poverty line as defined by international organisations. The World Bank estimates poverty rates will increase by as much as 28 percent by the end of 2021 as Lebanon grapples with a financial crisis it has branded as one of the planet’s worst in more than 150 years. “While the population is trying to survive day-to-day, the government wastes precious time,” De Schutter said. “The government’s inaction in the face of this unprecedented crisis has inflicted great misery on the population,” he said. A foreign currency crunch, rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the ruling elite, has seen the Lebanese pound lose 90 percent of its black-market value against the greenback since the crisis started in 2019. It has prompted banks to deny depositors access to their dollar savings, forcing many to withdraw their money in Lebanese pounds at a central bank-set exchange rate, in what experts have called a de facto haircut.
‘Sleep hungry’
Lebanon’s fragile government, formed in September to stem the country’s financial crash, has yet to take serious action to stop the downward spiral. After having fully lifted subsidies on fuel, the authorities are now gradually reducing them on medicine and flour. A long-promised ration card programme to assist the country’s poorest has yet to materialise, with the cash-strapped government struggling to secure World Bank funding. Meanwhile, consumers are paying at least three times as much as a year ago for bread, grains, vegetables or meat, according to latest data from the Lebanese government. To fill a medium-sized vehicle’s tank, Lebanese would now have to pay more than the monthly minimum wage of 675,000 pounds ($29). Last month, the Save the Children charity warned: “Children in Lebanon are skipping many of their meals as parents struggle to afford basic foods.” Among them is 33-year-old Mirna Momneh, a mother of four who is bracing herself to lose her nine-year-old daughter to a complicated brain tumour because she cannot afford to buy her medicine, yet alone food.“Every night, I go to sleep, expecting to wake up to find that my daughter has passed,” she said. Mirna and her husband, a former taxi driver, are both unemployed, forcing the family to rely on sporadic handouts from a local mosque to put scarce food on the table. “Sometimes, we go to sleep hungry,” she said.

Jumblat Says Doesn't Want to Join 'Anti-Hizbullah Front'

Naharnet/November 12/2021
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat has announced that he does not want to be part of an “anti-Hizbullah front.” “I don’t want to join an anti-Hizbullah political front. My (recent) stance was spontaneous and a description of a harsh reality. We are suffocating and we had to scream,” Jumblat said in an interview with French-language daily L’Orient-Le Jour. Asked about the possibility of joining such a front, Jumblat said: “I’ve had enough of fronts.”“I’m not anyone’s man and no one can take me for granted,” Jumblat added. “Some of my stances are similar to Hizbullah’s stances, and this suits the party, but when they oppose its interests, you become in its crosshairs,” the PSP leader lamented. As for Lebanon’s ties with the Gulf countries, Jumblat said: “It is unacceptable to provoke them and push them to isolate us, because this is against the national interest.”“The policies that contradict with the national interest have gone too far,” he added. Commenting on the upcoming parliamentary elections, Jumblat revealed that he will ally with the Lebanese Forces in Chouf and Aley because there is not a single “common denominator” with the Free Patriotic Movement.
As for the relation with ex-PM Saad Hariri, the PSP leader emphasized that the relation with him is “historic” and cannot be “abandoned.” “It is true that we have political differences with Saad Hariri, but he and his political dynasty have a special place in my heart. I have criticized his management of certain files, but this does not mean that our strategic relation must be damaged as a result of that,” Jumblat added. The PSP leader also said that he sees “no reason for optimism in Lebanon or the region,” warning that Lebanon “is losing its identity and is threatened with vanishing.”

Rochdi Says U.N. Provided Fuel to Critical Health and Water Facilities

Naharnet/November 12/2021
United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, Dr Najat Rochdi, said that from the end of September, and as part of the Emergency Response Plan launched by humanitarian actors to step up assistance for the most vulnerable populations affected by the on-going crisis in Lebanon, 3.1 million liters of fuel have been provided to 515 critical facilities delivering vital services, including over 195 health facilities and 320 water pumping stations so far. Rochdi added that “this exceptional fuel distribution to healthcare and water facilities across Lebanon has been ensuring provision of critical health, water and sanitation services to the most vulnerable populations affected by the ongoing energy crisis and preserve lifesaving humanitarian activities in all districts.”The development of this fuel delivery plan has been covering all Lebanese Governorates, allowing the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis in Lebanon to continue getting access to functioning health services and to safe drinking water, Rochdi said. "More than 300 water pumping stations have been provided with fuel, lessening most vulnerable families’ dependence towards more expensive alternatives such as bottled or trucked water tankers."
Rochdi went on to say that over the past weeks, "the emergency fuel supply has been guaranteeing uninterrupted health activities to those most in need."The provision of emergency fuel has allowed 24 public hospitals to remain open, supporting more than 887 functional hospital beds, including care for COVID-19 patients, she said.The U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon added that "in parallel, the National AIDS Program / National Tuberculosis Program, as well as 138 Primary Health Care Centres (PHCCs), have been able to maintain essential health services to serve the most vulnerable at a critical period of unprecedented rise of demand." "This emergency plan has also ensured the uninterrupted operation of 12 cold chain sites to safeguard storage of routine and COVID-19 vaccines and medications for catastrophic illness such as cancer therapy," Rochdi said. Rochdi thanked the leadership of the World Food Program (WFP) in Lebanon "working hand in hand with the Health and WASH sectors in handling the logistics of fuel operations as part of the U.N. coordinated Emergency Response Plan (ERP)."
This US$383 million humanitarian plan has been launched three months ago to deliver crucial life-saving humanitarian assistance to most vulnerable Lebanese and migrants affected by the crisis in Lebanon, in complement to the humanitarian activities already implemented under the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan and UNRWA programs, stressed Dr Rochdi. Dr Rochdi also sincerely thanked donors to OCHA-managed Lebanon Humanitarian Fund (LHF) and the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) pooled funding mechanism "for their generous contributions to financing critical elements of the collective fuel distribution." "The rapid mobilization of these financial resources has enabled the humanitarian community to act swiftly in response to critical humanitarian needs," Rochdi said. "The unsolved energy crisis in Lebanon unfortunately continues to jeopardize basic health and water services supply across Lebanon, threatening the life of thousands of families in Lebanon. I call on the Government of Lebanon to take its responsibility in ensuring that families in Lebanon have unhindered access to essential services and in implementing necessary measures to sustainably address the on-going energy crisis,” Dr Rochdi added.

EU Official in Lebanon to Address Poland-Belarus Border Situation
Naharnet/November 12/2021
Beirut is the second stop in a series of visits made by European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas to engage with partner countries, which are key in helping the European Union to put a stop to the unscrupulous instrumentalization and weaponization of people by the Lukashenko regime. "Change is happening," Schinas said, adding that he was in Dubai Thursday and that he was "impressed by the commitment of authorities of the UAE to work with us to put an end to these practices." Schinas saluted the decision by the Turkish Civil Aviation authority to "also limit this type of operations."He said that he got "assurances" from his interlocutors in Lebanon that "they are also ready to work with us on this on that respect." "We must build, and we are doing it, an international coalition against the use of people as political pawns," Schinas said. "Let me be very clear about what is happening: people are being sold a lie by smugglers who fly them to Minsk and create the impression that they will ensure safe passage to Europe," he added. "This is happening via partner countries, regional hubs, and this will not be allowed to continue.""We have already enacted a series of sanctions against the Belarusian regime and will be reinforcing those with a fifth package that will come into force next week," Schinas went on to say. He added that "now, we are working side-by-side with the US and others that these sanctions are effective as of December." "When it comes to the European Union," Schinas said, "we are working with partners in the region to make sure that they understand and contribute to our efforts. I want to thank all of them for their openness and constructive spirit." The Vice-President announced that the European Commission is also "engaging with talks with air carriers from third countries that are involved in these operations" and that "efforts are being dividend.""As President von der Leyen already underlined, we have at our disposal powerful means, tools and instruments, to act," Schinas said, adding that he is confident that "we will not be forced to use it, because, as I was saying earlier, change is already happening."Schinas thanked Lebanon for the "significant efforts already undertaken to limit the number of flights to Minsk and to their overall commitment in the joint-management of refugee challenges in the region." "We are seeing progress on all fronts," Schinas told a press conference in Lebanon, adding that he would soon be travelling to Iraq and Turkey.

Turkish FM to Visit Lebanon Tuesday

Naharnet/November 12/2021
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is to visit Lebanon next Tuesday as an affirmation of Turkey’s support for the Lebanese government, al-Joumhouria newspaper said Friday. Al-Joumhouria added that Çavuşoğlu, coming from Iran, will meet with top Lebanese leaders and convey to Prime Minister Najib Miqati an invitation from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to travel to Ankara, on an official visit.Starting Wednesday, Çavuşoğlu will open a number of projects executed by a Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, Tika, most notably two solar energy projects in Dbaye and Tripoli, media reports said.

Lebanese minister in Saudi spat still unwilling to step down
BEIRUT (AP)/November 12/2021
Lebanon’s information minister at the heart of the country’s diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia said Friday he would only step down if he received unspecified guarantees that his resignation would resolve the crisis. Pressure has mounted on George Kordahi, a former TV game show host, to apologize and step down after comments criticizing the war in Yemen that a Saudi-led coalition is waging against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, describing it as “absurd” and an “aggression” by the kingdom. Kordahi made his comments in August before he took the ministerial post and Lebanon has said the remarks about Yemen, aired in late October, do not represent official government views. Saudi Arabia has withdrawn its ambassador from Beirut and asked the Lebanese envoy to leave the kingdom. It has also banned Lebanese imports, undermining the small nation’s foreign trade and depriving it of millions of dollars as it struggles amid the economic meltdown. Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have also pulled their top diplomats from Lebanon, deepening the discord. “When there are guarantees, I am ready,” Kordahi told reporters in Beirut on Friday. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati had earlier appealed to Kordahi to do the “right thing,” indicating he would like him to resign. So far, there have been “no guarantees," Kordahi also said, without elaborating. He spoke a day after the leader of Lebanon’s Shiite militant Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, said Lebanon should offer no concessions to Saudi Arabia, which he accused of fabricating the crisis to undermines Lebanon’s sovereignty. Saudi officials said the rift is rooted in the growing influence of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, and Lebanon’s drift further into Iran’s orbit, the kingdom’s regional archival. Kordahi also said that he has handed over a message asking for guarantees to Lebanon’s Christian Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bishara Rai. But he didn't say what his conditions were. Kordahi said he and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri discussed Friday government plans for a new media law, indicating he is carrying on with business as usual. Many Lebanese fear further punitive steps from Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region — there are hundreds of thousands of Lebanese living in Gulf Arab states. Lebanese in the diaspora send millions of dollars in remittances, which help keep Lebanon afloat as it struggles with an economic meltdown.

Hezbollah rejects calls for minister to quit over Yemen comments
Bloomberg/BEIRUT (Reuters)/November 12/2021
The Hezbollah leader rejected calls for the resignation of a Lebanese minister who sparked a diplomatic rift with Riyadh by criticising its military intervention in Yemen, underlining the slim chances of the crisis easing any time soon. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, also said Saudi Arabia faced complete failure in the Yemen war, where he said the fall of the city of Marib to the Iran-aligned Houthi movement would have big consequences. Saudi Arabia's ties with Lebanon, which have been strained for years by the growing role of the heavily armed Hezbollah, have hit a new low since the airing of an interview in which information minister George Kordahi sided with the Houthis and said Yemen was being subjected to external aggression. Saudi Arabia has expelled the Lebanese ambassador, recalled its envoy to Lebanon and banned all Lebanese imports. Several of its Gulf allies have also expelled Lebanese ambassadors and recalled their own. Nasrallah said Kordahi's comments were "calm and objective" and the Saudi reaction exaggerated. Nasrallah accused Saudi Arabia of seeking a civil war in Lebanon, and he said that Riyadh had contrived the crisis over the Kordahi comments as part of "the battle with the resistance". Riyadh has said Kordahi's comments were a symptom of its dominance of Lebanon. Nasrallah denied that Hezbollah dominated the country, saying it could not always get its way. Kordahi says the interview was recorded before he became a minister and has refused to apologise or step down. Prime Minister Najib Mikati has called on Kordahi to put the national interest first, suggesting he wanted him to quit. But he has stopped short of explicitly demanding his resignation. Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a military intervention in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government.
The Houthis have been advancing in Marib governorate and have vowed to march on Marib city, the last stronghold in northern Yemen of pro-government troops. Saudi Arabia says Hezbollah arms, supplies and trains the Houthis. Nasrallah said Hezbollah had no role in Houthi "victories" in Yemen. "I say to the Saudis, if you truly want to be rid of the Yemen issue, it is not via putting pressure on Lebanon or on Hezbollah in Lebanon ... there is one way: accept a ceasefire, lift the siege and go to political negotiations," he said.

A void to fill
Nicholas Frakes/Now Lebanon/November 12/2021
Turkish flags and pictures of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have appeared in the Lebanese northern city of Tripoli, but local politicians doubt that Turkey can fill the gap left by the Gulf States.
A poster depicting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hangs at the end of a road with the caption praising the president as the defender of Arabs and Muslims. Photo credit: Nicholas Frakes, NOW.
A poster of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointed forcefully at anyone that happened to be walking by. “May God protect the leader [Erdogan] of the Arab and Islamic nation,” the poster said.
This poster, like many others in the Zahrieh neighborhood of Tripoli, was put up by Omar Mrad, 41, and his family. When Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Yemen announced at the end of October that they ceased diplomatic and trade relations with Lebanon, Mrad celebrated the announcement. He sees it as a golden opportunity for Turkey to swoop in and save the day.
“Personally, Saudi Arabia does not represent me,” he explained. “Today when the person just takes concern in his or her own area, he or she will not consider other areas, like other countries. This is a type of person you cannot believe in or depend on them,” he told NOW, hinting at the Gulf countries. Turkish flags and pictures of President Erdogan are showing up more and more on the streets of the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli, but while some supporters cheer for Ankara’s increased involvement as a patron of the Sunni community, local politicians and analysts doubt that it would have the interest and the resources to fill the gap left behind by the Gulf states.
Rabih Dandachli, head of the Beirut-based Recode think tank, is skeptical.
“This is the time for them to intervene or show their interest,” Dandachli told NOW. “But what we see on the ground now, we don’t see any political interest, we don’t see any intentions to interfere, we don’t see any statements from here or there, we don’t even see any additional role being played by those [Turkish-affiliated] NGOs.”
Omar Mrad looks at a Turkish flag he painted on his building. He believes Ankara should play a bigger role in Lebanon. Photo credit: Nicholas Frakes, NOW.
The red flag of Turkey
According to Mrad, his family has a long history with Turkey, with his great ancestors immigrating to Turkey, making their fortune and returning to Tripoli, Lebanon. While he does not currently possess a Turkish passport, he says that he is working towards gaining citizenship there.
It is this family history with Turkey and the fact that “Turkey is a country close to Tripoli [historically]” that powers his love for the country and its leader. Tripoli itself still boasts many monuments and structures, such as the clock tower in Tal, that were built by the Ottomans when Lebanon was part of the empire until the end of World War 1.
“Lebanon has the eastern identity and belongs to ancient civilizations,” Abu Ali, a 41-year-old owner of a kiosk in Tal Square, told NOW.
With Lebanon’s economic crisis crippling the country for the last two years, the lack of a major role by Turkey in Lebanon infuriated Mrad. He blamed the country’s politicians for this.
“The politicians call for supporting Lebanon but the politicians refused the Turkish help,” Mrad exclaimed. “[Erdogan] is a person who is willing to face everyone in defense of what is right. He made Turkey great again. They do not need anything from abroad anymore. They are the new China.”
After the diplomatic crisis between Lebanon and the Gulf began following an interview with Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi from August, prior to his appointment to the government, that had him claiming that the Iran-backed Houthis were simply defending themselves against Saudi aggression, Mrad was not surprised by the Gulf’s response.
“They are just the idea of putting money and investing,” he said. “Today, with the accusations against Kordahi, they just gave up on Lebanon, and are thinking of ways in order to kick out Lebanese people.”
Mrad hopes that the lack of support from the Gulf will force the Lebanese government to accept any help offered by Turkey, especially if it meant that Turkey’s role in Lebanon would drastically increase.
For Abu Ali, it does not matter where the help comes from as long as it means that Lebanon is receiving some help that would pull the country, at least somewhat, out of the economic crisis that the World Bank described as one of the worst in 150 years. “We as Lebanese, we don’t want problems or war or anything, we just need help from KSA, USA, Turkey or any country to end this misery that Hezbollah is causing,” he stated. “We are open and understanding citizens who accept any country that is willing to help.”He added that an increase in relations with Turkey could make things more complicated given its history with Lebanon as an occupying power, and the complicated relationship that Turkey has with the Gulf.
“The situation is really bad. Turkey is not on good terms with the Gulf countries; therefore, I don’t know if it can help Lebanon, especially that it occupied Lebanon in the past.”
But Mrad insists that Turkey should be the one to help Lebanon, and even went a step further, arguing that it would not necessarily be a bad thing if Turkey completely took over Lebanon and would actually be in the country’s benefit.
Mrad’s justification for Turkey being the best option for Lebanon has to do not only with his faith in Erdogan, but also the fact that it allows Lebanese to enter its borders without requiring a visa, a policy put in place in 2010. Turkey, he said, is a primary destination for Lebanese seeking job opportunities. “In my opinion, as a Tripolitan, we wish that Turkey would take over again,” he said. “Let Turkey take what they want and give us insurance. Even with everything that has happened in the past, it had to happen in order to spread Islam. At least, when Turkey was here, they helped build a lot in Lebanon.”But is the Turkish government interested in replacing the Gulf’s role in Lebanon?
Mustafa Mrad, Omar's uncle, sits near his family's building, smoking a water pipe. Mustafa says he was the first one to put up the Turkish flags and posters in Tripoli. Photo credit: Nicholas Frakes, NOW.
No interest
Following the August 4 Beirut port explosion, Turkey was quick to offer a helping hand. The Turkish health minister, Fahrettin Koca, said that his country would send 20 physicians to help treat the wounded.
In addition to that, Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said that “Turkey has extended a helping hand to Lebanon, which lost most of the wheat storages in the explosion in Beirut. TIKA [Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency] will deliver about 400 tons of wheat to the Lebanese authorities.”
TIKA, a government department within the prime minister’s office, is Turkey’s main arm that provides assistance to developing countries, specifically to Turkish communities in these countries.
But since the Beirut blast, Turkey has not been very active when it comes to its involvement in Lebanon, despite efforts by individuals and communities that have been trying to push for deeper relations between the two countries, especially after the diplomatic crisis with the Gulf.
“We don’t see that Turkey is serious about filling this gap in Tripoli or in north Lebanon or in the Sunni areas,” Moustafa Alloush, a former MP for Tripoli, told NOW.
“For some time, the traditional Turkish community in Tripoli and in north Lebanon have been trying to build real connections with Turkey, specifically now.”Both Alloush and Dandachli agree that making a move in Lebanon is not in the interest of Erdogan, given Turkey’s own economic woes and the upcoming presidential elections that are threatening to remove Erdogan from power for the first time in 19 years.
“Erdogan has his own business to take care of. He has an upcoming election that he needs to win. To me, if he doesn’t win, then that’s an issue and he knows that,” Dandachli explained.
This does not mean that Erdogan does not have ambitions to expand Turkey’s influence in the region and beyond. Turkey has been active in Syria, where it occupies part of the North, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh where Turkey sent Syrian militias to fight on their behalf. It has also pushed for the past decade to increase its influence over some Balkan countries, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo.
“Definitely Erdogan has that ambition [of regional expansion],” Alloush said. “They would love to, but the economic situation which is not as Erdogan is hoping for and the constraints concerning its capabilities and [the disagreements with] the international community major powers will prevent Turkey from being a major player [in Lebanon].”
According to Dandachli, the Saudis themselves might be preventing Turkey from making any big, decisive move.
“If Turkey came, it would appear that Turkey is coming to inherit them. The vacancy that the Saudis are leaving, they are not leaving it for someone to fill,” he stated. “The Gulf does not want to come back to find someone sitting in their seat.”
Since Turkey is also a predominantly Sunni country, it is likely that the majority of its focus, if it became involved in Lebanon, would be the Sunni communities in areas like the north of the country and Sidon, south of Beirut, where they would be more positively received.
Even in this context, the Gulf states have always taken the lead over Turkey in terms of influence, with Saudi Arabia playing the largest role when it comes to Sunni politics in Lebanon, and other Gulf countries, such as the UAE, having far more social impact on a practical, humanitarian level.
“When you talk about the parliamentary representatives of Sunnis, you will rarely find someone who is in favor of Turkey,” Dandachli said. “On the other hand, you will find that all of them fall under the influence of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.”
“Turks support local entities in some Turkmen areas and in some historic heritage [sites] of the Ottomans. But last year, the UAE distributed 80,000 vouchers for Coop [markets in Tripoli]. It will be much higher in impact and spread than renovating an old Sufi worship place.”
None of this deters Mrad.
Despite the lack of action by Turkey to fill the gap left by the Gulf, he continues to say that he would fight for Turkey if it came down to it. And even as Lebanon’s crisis continues to worsen by the day, he remains hopeful that Erdogan will pull Lebanon out of its deepening hole. “If there comes any war, and they need support, we will be the first ones fighting in Turkey’s favor,” Mrad stated.
*Rayanne Tawil contributed translations to this report.
**Nicholas Frakes is a multimedia journalist with @NOW_leb. He tweets @nicfrakesjourno.

Lebanon’s State Ponzi Scheme Seeks Jewish Investors
Tony Badran/The Tablet web site/November 12/2021

The reeling regime in Beirut would like some of that magic Jewish money, please.
he Lebanese ambassador to France made news last week when he invited a number of Jews of Lebanese heritage, who had long since fled that country, for a “family reunion” at the embassy in Paris. A bewildered and wisely suspicious 70-year-old woman, who left Lebanon decades ago, asked the ambassador, “Why now?”
Lebanon is “in danger,” the ambassador replied. “All its citizens who belong to different religious sects must come together to save it.”
Allow me to translate: What we have here is known as the Lebanese swindle.
You might have heard about the country’s two-year-long economic and financial crisis, the result of a Ponzi scheme that went bust in late 2019, exposing the bankrupt, dysfunctional country that always lay beneath the glitzy façade of the Travel + Leisure version of Beirut. This nationally managed scam can be traced back to the end of the country’s civil war in 1990, when the warlords and oligarchs launched a campaign to attract the capital of Lebanese expats. These expats were enticed with a glorified tourism ad campaign promising that they could take ownership of their country and rebuild it, a fallacy perfectly calibrated to tug at their heart strings, appeal to their vanity, and suspend their disbelief. Oh yes, yes: This country run by the Assad crime family, whose “statesmen” are the very same warlords from the civil war, and where a terrorist organization continues to wage war against its southern neighbor—this country is now, at last, a real, normal state. Bring your money, children of Lebanon, park it in our banks, move your families home, and start businesses here.
The expats bought the dream, and once they’d invested their entire lives in it, they became accomplices in the perpetuation of the lie. Even non-Lebanese foreigners followed suit and moved their dollars and euros, even their families, to Beirut. They all became instrumental in expanding the national Ponzi scheme from mere false advertising into policy advocacy in Washington, D.C., and capitals across Europe. And boy did U.S. and European officials buy into the scam, too. In fact, much of what passes for policymaking on Lebanon in the United States and Europe is premised on the same emotional and sociological impulses leveraged by the tourism ad.
Take, for example, comments from the French and British ambassadors in 2018—a year before the Ponzi scheme was exposed and Lebanon went belly up. French Ambassador Bruno Foucher reassured the Lebanese that President Emmanuel Macron would never allow Lebanon to be destabilized, describing the country as a “model of savoir-vivre.” For his part, the outgoing British ambassador, Hugo Shorter, using the hashtag #beautifullebanon on Twitter, offered his own contribution: “Lebanon ... is an exceptional country. There’s no other country like it in the world that I’m aware of.” Between skiing in the morning and swimming in the Mediterranean in the afternoon, you see, you don’t even notice the garbage overflowing in the streets. “There is a complexity here, which is, from a professional point of view, very stimulating,” Shorter went on. Just make sure you bring U.S. dollars and deposit them in Lebanon’s exceptional, stimulating banks. Shorter’s tourism ad testimony went on, reflecting the Lewis Carroll-like, smoke and mirrors, mind-altering and reality-warping nature of his host country: “When I first arrived, I felt it was a bit like looking at a kaleidoscope that was constantly changing … its complexity is such that there are many different levels of reality and dynamics that are overlapping.”To a normal person, Shorter’s chronicle of his stint in Lebanon sounds less like a dreamy adventure than a descent into madness: After the shock of arrival into what feels like an insane asylum, connections with reality become tenuous and sanity is lost, replaced by multiple, overlapping realities. Such exciting complexity!
It might sound like an insult to call Shorter’s description hallucinatory, but delirium is quite literally what the Lebanese government is selling. The same week its embassy in Paris reached out to the Lebanese Jews of France, its minister of tourism unveiled the country’s new official slogan, apparently designed to gild and embrace his country’s dysfunction: “Lebanon: I love you in your madness”.“This will be our touristic identity that the world will see,” Minister Walid Nassar said at a news conference in Beirut. Henceforth it was official: Lebanon’s identity is madness. Truer words were never spoken.
Henceforth it was official: Lebanon’s identity is madness. Truer words were never spoken. Ambassador Shorter might have made a compelling case for the psychedelic experience of Lebanon, but it’s not for everyone. Take the Saudis, for example. After riding the Lebanese crazy train for decades, in 2016 the new leadership in Riyadh decided it was time to get off, eventually leading the Saudi foreign minister to refer to relations with the Hezbollah-dominated country last week as “pointless.” Predictably, when a mirror is held up to Lebanon’s politicians and the previously mentioned expats, they go berserk. The more tightly held the fantasy, the more severe the collision with reality, leading to psychic disintegration.
The task, therefore, is to repair the fantasy, to restore the scheme. Which brings us back to the invitation of the Jews to the embassy in Paris. In the service of this official makeover, Lebanese oligarchs, as well as the foreign think tank-journalism-NGO-activist class, have decided to enlist Lebanon’s Jews. Of course, there is no Jewish community in Lebanon. Lebanese Jews all live abroad, and most haven’t been in Lebanon for half a century. Unlike the Muslim and Christian Lebanese expats who were brought back after 1990, no one has any illusions about the Jews returning to (let alone investing in) Lebanon. Their hoped-for role in the Lebanese con is different, and the Lebanese ambassador in Paris was not subtle about it: As the holders of inordinate influence in the West, the all-powerful Jews should be enlisted to help Lebanon market the latest iteration of its national scam.
To get the underlying premise, consider a scene from Roman Polanski’s 2002 film The Pianist. A Nazi officer comes to the Warsaw ghetto and explains to the Jews there that, by being allowed to send someone to the market to buy potatoes and bread, they were being afforded a great opportunity for making “good business”: Instead of eating the food, they could sell it! “Isn’t that something where you, Jews, are good in [sic]? Make money?”
That line might as well have been playing on repeat in the Lebanese ambassador’s head, because his message to the Lebanese Jews of Paris was essentially the same: Isn’t there a way for you, omnipotent and shifty creatures, to use your magical powers to help us get more money and international support?
The other useful role that Jewish presence and support can play is to help repackage an old Lebanese saw: the cosmopolitan “tolerance” of its mythical past. Convivencia is always a good draw. The world must save Beirut, the Paris of the Middle East, the last Levantine city of multicultural coexistence. Look, we have Jews. We love Jews!
Tellingly, the oligarchs of the Lebanese regime didn’t have to personally promote this lie; once more, it was the Lebanese “intelligentsia” that marketed it on the regime’s behalf. The whole episode was so transparently contrived that, in one amusing instance, the fraudulence was almost too awkward to bear. When a Lebanese Middle East studies professor in the United States decided to chip in with a celebratory tweet, applauding the government’s outreach to the Jews of the Lebanese diaspora and expressing hope that they might one day get invited “to their spiritual abode, their Beirut Synagogue,” he included two ostensible pictures of that “Beirut Synagogue” (whose actual name escaped him). The pictures were, in fact, of the Villa Abdel Kader, a palace with no Jewish connection whatsoever, located a few streets away.
Less amusing in all this is the role of the U.S. government. It’s not only that Washington has for years, up to and including the recent financial meltdown, propped up the myth of a clean and solvent Lebanese banking sector that in reality serves as Hezbollah’s laundromat. It’s that the U.S. government, like Lebanese diplomats and Beirut expats, is itself helping market the misleading tourism ad. Take Amos Hochstein, the State Department’s senior adviser for global energy security. Hochstein was sent to Beirut last month to revive maritime border demarcation talks between Lebanon and Israel. The talks broke down last December, when the Lebanese, predictably, decided to expand their claims by several hundred kilometers, so as to include Israeli waters and offshore gas fields.
In Beirut on Oct. 21, Hochstein gave an interview to an Arabic-language channel, in which he made a pitch straight from the Lebanese oligarchs’ script:
And look, in 2016, when I was here, had we reached a resolution in 2016, today, you wouldn’t have any blackouts in Lebanon. The lights would be going on and you would be paying the cheapest gas prices, because you need, paying consumers, Lebanese people, would be paying producer prices and you’d likely be exporting. … What we don’t want is to sit in 2025 and ask the questions, what could have been? Instead, let’s come back and have this interview in 2025, when gas is flowing for the first time to Lebanon from its own fields, and when you’re joining the rest of the Eastern Mediterranean in selling gas into the global market, and you become a global exporter of a product. That’s, that’s what’s at stake here. That’s what’s on the table.
Sure, why not? The last block that was explored turned up dry, and you’ve yet to even begin further exploration, and sure you’re a corrupt, insolvent mess, but never mind all that. In four years you could not only be done with all your electricity problems; you could be exporting gas! Washington loves you in your madness. At one point, Hochstein’s interviewer punctured his fantasy bubble with a sharp reality check: Isn’t Hezbollah under U.S. sanctions, she asked? You know, the terrorist group that runs Lebanon, its “government” and its “institutions”? Much of Hochstein’s response could’ve been delivered by a Lebanese politician—or activist:
I see Lebanon as a country. I don’t think of Lebanon as—Hizballah as Lebanon. … This U.S. administration fully supports Lebanon, supports the progress of Lebanon, recognizes the opportunity that is Lebanon. ... If we want to make sure that Lebanese people are traveling and moving back to Lebanon, rather than moving out of Lebanon, then you have to have hope for people that the situation will change and that they can build a better life here. That’s the goal of this administration. We want to support its military and we want to support its economy as long as it continues to act on the promises that are being made on all of the reform agenda and the idea of building back—not a new Lebanon, but bringing back the old one that was such a great place for people to live and to grow.
Oh, it’ll be fine! Hezbollah? What’ve they got to do with it? Personally, I don’t see Hezbollah as Lebanon. People can move back and build their lives here. They can be exporters of gas—just think of all the benefits. Sure, Hezbollah, with its missiles and army, will be tapping into and directly benefiting from those funds, but who’s to say? That could even be a good thing. Think of how much they’d have to lose! Just imagine with me. It could be like the Lebanon of old. You’ve got PLO-era Lebanon, you’ve got hostage-crisis-era Lebanon, you’ve got Syrian occupation Lebanon—a kaleidoscope of possibilities, really. Multiple layers of complex, overlapping realities. Don’t you worry, this administration fully supports this wonderland, and is content to underwrite its alternate reality with hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Just put it on the taxpayer’s tab.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 12-13/2021
In message to Iran, Gulf states, Israel hold first joint sea exercises
The Arab Weekly/November 12/2021
MANAMA-The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have launched joint naval exercises with Israel for the first time, amid tensions with Iran, US and Israeli military officials said Thursday. The five-day manoeuvres are taking place in the Red Sea, a year after the two Gulf Arab countries normalised ties with Israel. “It is exciting to see US forces training with regional partners to enhance our collective maritime security capabilities,” said Vice-Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command. “Maritime collaboration helps safeguard freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade, which are essential to regional security and stability.”The exercises, which began on Wednesday, include boarding, search and seizure training on the USS Portland, an amphibious transport dock ship. It is the first publicly announced military cooperation by the UAE and Bahrain with Israel since they established diplomatic relations in September last year. The normalisation deals broke with decades of Arab consensus on no diplomatic ties with the Jewish state without a resolution to the Palestinian conflict.
Iranian threat
An Israeli military official, who declined to be named, said the drills were also aimed at keeping shipping lanes safe, including from Israel’s arch-foe Iran. Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and the United States share concerns about Iran, which has previously been accused of orchestrating attacks on shipping in the region. The joint naval exercise “will increase cooperation and the safety of the sea, not just the Red Sea, because we are dealing with Iranian terror,” the official said. “This terror has many dimensions as you saw with the Mercer Street (tanker) a couple of months ago,” he added.
Iran was blamed for a July 29 drone strike on the tanker MT Mercer Street operated by a London-based firm ultimately owned by Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer. The strike killed a former British soldier and a Romanian. Iran denied it was responsible for that attack, or others in the area. The Rea Sea is linked to the Mediterranean through the strategic Suez Canal and borders Yemen where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting alongside government forces against Iran-backed rebels since 2015. It lies next to the Gulf of Aden, which saw a rash of attacks on shipping by Somali-based pirates in the first decade of the 21st century before patrols by navies from around the world largely halted them. The Israeli military official said the drills would serve as “deterrence” and also demonstrate “capabilities of defence when needed.”Iran this week launched its own naval exercises near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint for global oil shipments.

Jockeying for premiership divides Shia parties, Sadr could look for army officer if not Kadhimi
The Arab Weekly/November 12/2021)
BAGHDAD--Political talks between Shia factions in Iraq have fleshed out two different trends in the competition for the premiership as well as a readiness to accept a compromise to overcome the current logjam caused by the results of the October general election. Although the bloc led by Muqtada al-Sadr won a clear lead in the Shia districts, which placed it in a comfortable negotiating position, it failed to garner sufficient seats to allow it to be the dominant party in the next government. This has prompted other Shia parties to join ranks as part of the so-called “coordination framework”.
Observers say that the situation that emerged from the 2021 elections is akin to that in 2010 when the two Shia blocs won by a close margin. As a result of the October poll, the Sadrist bloc controls 74 seats, while the seats the “coordination framework” forces control an overall total of some 70 seats. So far, Sadr has not been able to find a Shia ally within the “coordination framework” in order to a larger majority, before starting negotiations over portfolios in the next government with Sunnis and Kurds. However, within the Sadrist bloc and the “coordination framework,” two trends as well as a possible compromise have emerged over the premiership candidacy and the distribution of Shia ministerial portfolios. The Sadrist bloc backs reappointing Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the current prime minister, to form the new government. If objections to Khadimi come from the “coordination framework,” which includes representatives of the Shia militias loyal to Iran and the Rule of Law coalition led by Nuri al-Maliki and others, the Sadrists would prefer to appoint a senior officer from the Iraqi army to head the next government. And if this option also fails, Muqtada al-Sadr will nominate former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to form the new cabinet. Although Abadi is part of the Shia “coordination framework” forces, he is close to Sadr, Kadhimi and moderate political forces, but has been forced to coordinate with pro-Iran factions because of his resounding defeat in recent elections. Iraqi political writer Masar Abdul Mohsen Radi believes that Sadr will only choose a political party figure.
Talking to The Arab Weekly, Radi suggested that choosing Haider al-Abadi to form the next government will undermine Maliki’s political standing. He said, “Choosing Abadi means destroying Maliki’s presidency of the Dawa Party.” The “coordination framework” forces prefer to endorse Maliki’s nomination but would not say so publicly. Instead, it floats names such as that of the current National Security Adviser Qassem al-Araji, Basra Governor Asaad al-Eidani, former Youth Minister Abdul-Hussein Abtan and MP Muhammad Shiaa al-Sudani. The same names currently circulating within the “coordination framework” have been been mentioned during various government formation talks since 2014, with none of them having a serious chance of being chosen. This suggests that they are all test balloons for media consumption. Sources familiar with the negotiations indicate that the Sadrist bloc and the “coordination framework” are expected to postpone the choice of the candidate for prime minister until agreement is reached on dividing ministries among the different parties within the overall Shia quota and then choosing each minister. Sources told an Arab Weekly correspondent in Baghdad that this scenario, which appears to be advancing with the help of Iranian mediation, will mean granting the Sadrist bloc six portfolios in the new government and the same number to the “coordination framework” parties.
The sources say that trying to forge an internal Shia consensus at this stage may mean, to a large extent, agreeing on Kadhimi, or, to a slightly lesser degree, choosing Abadi. Analysts say such speculation reflects the magnitude of the decline in Iranian influence, as Kadhimi and Abadi, both Shia, are considered allies of the Arab Gulf countries and the United States and are not acceptable to pro-Iran Shia hard liners. Iraqi political writer Hamid Al-Kafaei said, “the winning forces should not give up their right to form a government because such a concession has had dire consequences in 2010 when we ignored election results and allowed the losing forces to form a government.”According to sectarian quotas that have become the political norm in Iraq, the position of prime minister and commander-in-chief of the armed forces belongs the Shia majority. Kafaei said, “The Iraqi people want change and want a new, efficient, loyal government that will pull the country out of the abyss and address the urgent problems that have weakened and disintegrated the country, primarily confronting the armed militias linked to Iran and stripping them of the official legitimacy which the former parliament gave them during the era of Haider al-Abadi. He added, “Kadhimi’s government failed in all the tasks that it was supposed to address, the first of which is the task of prosecuting the killers of the demonstrators, fighting corruption, doing justice to the poor and the deprived and improving services, so renewing its term in office renewal would be a grave mistake. Abadi’s government had also failed in the past and the country is still suffering from its failures. Besides, it is not right to bring a loser in the elections to lead the government.”

US staying in Syria until ISIS threat eliminated: State Department
Joseph Haboush, Al Arabiya English/13 November ,2021
The US said Friday that terrorist groups in Syria were threatening its national security and that US troops would not withdraw until the threat was eliminated. “Terrorist groups like ISIS in Syria directly threaten US national security and the Syrian people. The United States remains committed to the military mission against ISIS,” a tweet from the State Department read. Conflicting reports have surfaced in recent months over the commitment of US President Joe Biden to remain in the Middle East after the colossal, deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan. But US officials and diplomats have previously told Al Arabiya English that their troops would remain in Iraq and Syria until their missions were complete. In Iraq, after coming under increased pressure from Iran-backed militias and political parties, Washington agreed to end its “combat mission” and transition to more of a supervisory role. Although US troops are in Iraq at the invitation of Baghdad, pro-Iran factions are calling on US troops to leave the country. As for Syria, the US continues its anti-ISIS fight in the northern part of the country. And on Friday, the State Department put to bed any doubts that the US was considering withdrawing in the foreseeable future.
“We will maintain our mission in Syria until the threat posed by the terrorist group is eliminated,” the State Department said.

Lack of contact from Iran govt ‘astonishing’: UN nuclear watchdog
AFP/12 November ,2021
The head of the UN nuclear watchdog said Friday it was “astonishing” that he has had no contact with the new Iranian government over several important outstanding issues since it took office. Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had been hoping to visit Iran before the next meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors starts on November 22 but made clear on Friday that he was disappointed that no invitation had yet been forthcoming. Grossi’s latest comments come as diplomats prepare for international talks in Vienna to restart later this month on the restoration of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. In parallel with those efforts, the IAEA has been trying to resolve several other issues with Iran, including restrictions on some of its inspections activities imposed earlier this year.Grossi visited Tehran in September where he clinched a deal over access to surveillance equipment at Iran’s nuclear facilities but had hoped to return soon afterwards to have further discussions with the government of ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi, who took office in August. “I have not had any contact with this government... that has been there for more than five months,” Grossi told reporters on Sunday, adding that the only exceptions had been “technical conversations” with Iran’s new atomic energy chief Mohamed Eslami. “This is astonishing and I am saying it openly because I’m saying it to them,” Grossi said. “There’s a long list of things we need to discuss,” he said. Days after Grossi’s September visit to Tehran, the IAEA complained that contrary to the agreement struck there it had been denied “indispensable” access to a centrifuge component manufacturing workshop where it needed to service equipment. Another long-standing issue between the IAEA and Iran relates to questions the agency has about the previous presence of nuclear material at undeclared sites in the country. The agency has said in numerous reports that Iran’s explanations about the material have not been satisfactory. Discussions on those issues at the Board of Governors meeting could lead to a resolution critical of Iran. On November 29, just a week after the start of that meeting, diplomats are due to convene for the talks on the 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA). Those talks have been suspended since June. The JCPOA began disintegrating in 2018, when the United States unilaterally pulled out under President Donald Trump and began imposing crippling sanctions on Iran, including a unilateral ban on its oil exports. In response, Iran began in 2019 disregarding strict curbs on its nuclear activities under the JCPOA. Trump’s successor Joe Biden says he hopes to return to the agreement but progress towards reviving the deal has been slow.

US, Qatar against normalizing ties with Syria’s Assad regime
Joseph Haboush, Al Arabiya English/12 November ,2021
The top diplomats from the US and Qatar met in Washington on Friday, saying they were not considering normalizing relations with Syria’s government for the time being. “We don’t support normalization, and again, we would emphasize to our friends and partners to consider the signals that they’re sending,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a joint press conference with Qatar’s Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani. Both diplomats were asked their position after Tuesday’s visit to Damascus by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed where he met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. On Friday, Blinken said he was “concerned about the signals that some of these visits and engagements” were sending. “And I would simply urge all of our partners to remember the crimes that the Assad regime has committed and indeed continues to commit,” he added. For his part, the Qatari FM said normalizing ties with the Assad regime was not a step Doha was considering “right now.” “We believe that all the crimes he has committed against his own people, he needs to be held accountable. But also, we support the political resolution and political transition over there in a peaceful way with the support of the Security Council Resolution 2254,” he said. But he stopped short of criticizing the decision by the UAE to re-engage with the Assad regime. “They are making their decisions based on their own assessments and their own concern, and this is their sovereign right. We cannot criticize,” he said. “It will be a wishful thinking to have all the countries in the regions united when it comes to the issue of Syria,” he added. But Al-Thani said he hoped countries would be discouraged from normalizing ties with the Syrian regime “in order not to undermine the misery of the Syrian people who are – what they are under, what they are living in right now.”

World Bank says it is ready to support Morocco
The Arab Weekly/November 12/2021
RABAT--The growing momentum of the ongoing economic reforms in Morocco, along with government’s efforts to quickly pull the country out from the coronavirus crisis, have encouraged the World Bank to announce its readiness to support the kingdom in carrying through development plans and creating more jobs. During a visit to Rabat, vice-president for the MENA region at the World Bank Ferid Belhaj said on Wednesday that Morocco’s development policies and reforms are an example for the whole MENA region, thus renewing the international financial institution’s backing for the kingdom’s policies and reforms. Belhaj, who is on a visit to Morocco from November 9 to 13, welcomed “the willingness of the new government and its firm commitment to the implementation of major priority projects in Morocco.”The new Moroccan government is armed with a comprehensive economic plan which would likely put the country on a track to improve indicators including those of business, exports, commercial and industry. Belhaj voiced the World Bank’s interest in strengthening its support for Morocco’s economic and social development efforts. He also praised the efforts made within the framework of the new development model, noting that Morocco is “on the right track”. Belhaj said the World Bank was willing to provide its support, both financial and technical, for the various large-scale reforms being undertaken by the kingdom. He also revealed said that the institution has increased its financial commitment to Morocco for two years. “We’re at about $1.8 billion,” he said, noting the World Bank’s intention to continue with that level of commitment. The World Bank agreed last June to grant Rabat a loan of $ 450 million for the development of financial services technology.
The step is part of the organisation’s contribution toward plans to increase banking flexibility and achieve effective financial inclusion in Morocco, to ensure that companies and individuals have smooth access to banks for liquidity and borrowing. Last December, the World Bank provided a quarter of a billion dollars to the Green Generation Strategy Programme for Moroccan agriculture, as part of a joint operation with the French Development Agency, with the aim of increasing the sector’s profitability, enhancing its sustainability and unifying the efforts of states around the world to combat climate change.
During a working session with Belhaj, Morocco’s Economy and Finance Minister Nadia Fettah Alaoui said that the partnership which binds Morocco to the World Bank Group is “exemplary.” She gave as an example that the Bank’s assistance for this year has made it possible to finance key sectors of the Moroccan economy, in particular social services (including education, health, social protection, human development), the financial sector, agriculture and transport. The minister invited the World Bank, as part of its continued support for reform projects initiated by Morocco, to further strengthen its financial backing for government efforts to contain the fall-out from the coronavirus crisis and to press on with its development programme. In a report published earlier this year, World Bank experts predicted that the Moroccan economy would grow by 4.6 percent this year, boosting a previous forecast. The World Bank’s estimates are almost identical with the expectations of the High Commission for Government Planning, which is the official statistics authority in Morocco.

Paris conference on Libya to try to dispel doubts about December elections

The Arab Weekly/November 12/2021
PARIS— France is hosting an international conference on Libya on Friday as the North African country heads into long-awaited elections next month, a vote that regional and world powers hope will pull the oil-rich nation out of its decade-old chaos despite threats by potential spoilers and foreign interferences. The presidential vote on December 24, and legislative elections, are the core parts of a UN plan to help restore stability, but the calendar has been under pressure as tensions resume between rival camps. There are also fears that some of the factions will not recognise the results of the polls, especially Islamists and “revolutionary” militias, who have threatened not to accept the outcome of the vote. Success of the election could otherwise mark a turning point in the history of Libya since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled the regime of long-time ruler Muammar Gadhafi. Key players attending the meeting will include US Vice-President Kamala Harris and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, one of Paris’s closest allies in the Middle East. Harris said Monday she will take part in the conference “to demonstrate our strong support for the people of Libya as they plan for elections.”Libya will be represented by Mohamed al-Menfi, the head of the transitional presidency council that carries out head-of-state functions ahead of the elections, as well as Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah. Libyan media have reported that Dbeibah will be accompanied by foreign minister Najlah al-Mangoush, despite her suspension by the presidency council in a move that highlighted tensions between the premier and the presidency council. The French are trying to put a positive spin on the event. “The elections are within grasp. There is a strong momentum in Libya for them to go ahead. The stability of the country is at stake,” said a French presidential official, who asked not to be identified by name. Earlier this week, Libya opened registration for election candidates, with speculation mounting over possible presidential bids by Libyan National Army (LNA) commander, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and Gadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam, both deeply divisive figures. A leading contender could also be current Premier Abdulhamid Dbeibah, if he manages to disentangle the legal complications surrounding his potential bid as he has not formally announced his candidacy yet. The electoral law stipulates that any candidate in an official position, should effectively declare his bid three months before the December vote by leaving office, albeit temporarily. The scheduling also remains unclear, presidential and parliamentary elections were both slated for December 24.In early October, parliament then pushed back the legislative elections until January, though world powers and the UN want them held simultaneously.
French stakes
Elysee officials have been at pains to present the conference as an international effort, co-presided by France, Germany, Italy, the United Nations and Libya itself. But it represents the latest foray into high-stakes international diplomacy by Macron, who is expected to seek re-election in April and whose country also takes on the EU presidency in January. In May 2018, a year into his term in office, Macron also convened the key Libyan leaders for a conference in Paris where they agreed to hold elections that year. Since then, France has faced accusations that it has favoured Haftar in the conflict against the UN-mandated governments in Tripoli.
Paris has rejected the claims.
Macron wants the conference to endorse a plan for the departure of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya, the French presidential official said. Turkey sent in troops as well as thousands of pro-Ankara mercenaries units from Syria to shore up the Tripoli government. Observers also accuse Moscow of deploying mercenaries belonging to the Wagner group, which is allegedly controlled by a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a rare visit to Western Europe amid tensions between Moscow and the West, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be attending.
But in a new sign of the tense relations between Ankara and Paris, Turkey is only sending its deputy foreign minister, Sedat Onal.
Rifts and threats
One prominent absentee is Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was invited by Paris but is staying away after taking umbrage at comments by Macron criticising his country’s “political-military system”. The dispute prompted an unusual expression of contrition from the Elysee, which said it “regretted” the misunderstandings caused by the remarks. The conference comes less than six weeks before Libyans are scheduled to cast their ballots in the first round of the presidential elections on December 24. Parliamentary elections are to take place nearly two months later, along with a second round of the presidential vote. The long-awaited vote, however, still faces challenges, including unresolved issues over election laws and occasional infighting among armed groups. Other obstacles include the deep rift that remains between the country’s east and west and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and troops. The UN has estimated that there have been at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya over the past few years, including Russians, Syrians, Turkish, Sudanese, and Chadians. A leading rights group questioned Thursday whether Libyan authorities can hold free and fair elections. Human Rights Watch criticised what it said were Libya’s restrictive laws that undermine freedom of speech and association, as well as the presence of armed groups accused of intimidating, attacking and detaining journalists and political activists. “The main questions leaders at the summit should ask are: can Libyan authorities ensure an environment free of coercion, discrimination, and intimidation of voters, candidates, and political parties?” it said in a statement. In July, the UN special envoy for Libya, Jan Kubis, accused “spoilers” of trying to obstruct the vote to unify the divided nation. The Security Council has warned that any individual or group undermining the electoral process could face UN sanctions. Politicians and warlords in western Libya issued statements this week opposing holding the vote according to the laws ratified by the country’s parliament. Khaled al-Meshri, head of Tripoli-based Supreme Council of State, went further and threatened in televised comments to resort to violence to prevent LNA commander Khalifa Haftar from taking office if he is elected.

World Leaders Bolster Troubled Libya ahead of Key Election
Associated Press/November 12/2021
France is hosting an international conference on Libya on Friday as the North African country heads into long-awaited elections next month, a vote that regional and world powers hope will pull the oil-rich nation out of its decade-old chaos. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and several world leaders will take part in the Paris conference, and are expected to push for transparent, credible elections. They will also urge the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign forces from Libya, as stated in last year's U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended fighting between rival factions in the country.
Libya has been engulfed in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising 2011 that toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The oil-rich country was for years split between rival governments - one based in the capital, Tripoli, and the other in the eastern part of the country. Each side is backed by different foreign powers and militias. Friday's conference is co-chaired by France, Germany, Italy, Libya, and the United Nations, and attended by international and regional high-level officials. The participants are expected to push for an "indisputable and irreversible" election process, a joint commitment to fight trafficking of people and weapons through Libya. They also are expected to advocate for tangible efforts withdraw mercenaries and foreign troops, according to French President Emmanuel Macron's office.
Harris said Monday she will take part in the conference "to demonstrate our strong support for the people of Libya as they plan for elections." Also expected to attend are Libyan leaders Mohamed el-Manfi, head of the presidential council, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush. The conference comes less than six weeks before Libyans are scheduled to cast their ballots in the first round of the presidential elections on Dec. 24. Parliamentary elections are to take place nearly two months later, along with a second round of the presidential vote.
The long-awaited vote, however, still faces challenges, including unresolved issues over election laws and occasional infighting among armed groups. Other obstacles include the deep rift that remains between the country's east and west and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and troops. The U.N. has estimated that there have been at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya over the past few years, including Russians, Syrians, Turkish, Sudanese, and Chadians. A leading rights group questioned Thursday whether Libyan authorities can hold free and fair elections. Human Rights Watch criticized what it said were Libya's restrictive laws that undermine freedom of speech and association, as well as the presence of armed groups accused of intimidating, attacking and detaining journalists and political activists.
"The main questions leaders at the summit should ask are: can Libyan authorities ensure an environment free of coercion, discrimination, and intimidation of voters, candidates, and political parties?" it said in a statement. In July, the U.N. special envoy for Libya, Jan Kubis, accused "spoilers" of trying to obstruct the vote to unify the divided nation. The Security Council has warned that any individual or group undermining the electoral process could face U.N. sanctions. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said this week, "We want to see an election which the Libyan people can believe in, that is credible, and that is in line with the past agreements."Politicians and warlords in western Libya issued statements this week opposing holding the vote according to the laws ratified by the country's parliament. Khaled al-Meshri, head of Tripoli-based Supreme Council of State, went further and threatened in televised comments to resort to violence to prevent powerful military commander Khalifa Hifter, a potential frontrunner in the presidential race, from taking office if he is elected. Libya's civil war escalated in 2019, as Hifter, who commands the self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, launched an offensive to take Tripoli from armed militias loosely allied with the then U.N.-supported but weak government in the country's capital. Hifter, who was allied with an east-based administration, was backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and France. However, his 14-month campaign and march on Tripoli ultimately failed in June 2020, after Qatar and Turkey intensified their military support, with the latter sending mercenaries and troops to help shore up western Libya militias.

Russia Sends Paratroopers to Belarus for Drills near Poland
Associated Press/November 12/2021
Russia sent paratroopers to Belarus Friday in a show of support for its ally amid the tensions over an influx of migrants on the Belarusian border with Poland. The Russian Defense Ministry said that as part of joint war games Russian paratroopers will parachute from heavylift Il-76 transport planes in Belarus' Grodno region that borders Poland. The Belarusian military said the exercise involving a battalion of Russian paratroopers was intended to test the readiness of the allies' rapid response forces due to an "increase of military activities near the Belarusian border."
It said that as part of the drills, which will also involve Belarusian air defense assets, helicopter gunships and other forces, troops will practice targeting enemy scouts and illegal armed formations, along with other tasks.
Earlier this week, Russia sent its nuclear-capable strategic bombers on patrol missions over Belarus for two straight days. Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York that the flights came in response to a massive build-up on the Polish-Belarusian border. Russia has strongly supported Belarus amid a tense standoff this week as thousands of migrants and refugees, most of them from the Middle East, gathered on the Belarusian side of the border with Poland in the hope of crossing into Western Europe.
The European Union has accused Belarus' authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, of encouraging illegal border crossings as a "hybrid attack" to retaliate against EU sanctions on his government for its crackdown on domestic protests after Lukashenko's disputed 2020 reelection. Belarus denies the allegations but has said it will no longer stop refugees and migrants from trying to enter the EU. The Belarusian Defense Ministry accused Poland on Thursday of an "unprecedented" military buildup on the border, saying that migration control did not warrant the concentration of 15,000 troops backed by tanks, air defense assets and other weapons. Russia and Belarus have a union agreement envisaging close political and military ties. Lukashenko has stressed the need to boost military cooperation in the face of what he has described as aggressive actions by NATO allies.

Pakistan Hosts U.S., Russia, China for Talks on Afghanistan
Associated Press/November 12/2021
Pakistan on Thursday hosted talks with special envoys from the United States, Russia and China on the path forward for Afghanistan, where a deepening humanitarian crisis has forced many Afghans to migrate to neighboring countries since the Taliban takeover in August.
The international community has not recognized the government appointed by the Taliban. Afghanistan's Taliban-appointed foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, did not attend the meeting but later met with the special envoys in Islamabad. He also met separately with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other officials to discuss a range of issues, including how to help Kabul overcome a deepening economic crisis and avoid a refugee crisis. The meeting released a joint statement appealing for the international community to urgently provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. It also urged the Taliban to form an inclusive and representative government that respects the rights of all Afghans and provides for the equal rights of women and girls to participate in all aspects of the Afghan society. The statement "welcomed the Taliban's continued commitment to allow for the safe passage of all who wish to travel to and from Afghanistan and encouraged rapid progress, with the onset of winter, on arrangements to establish airports countrywide that can accept commercial air traffic, which are essential to enable the uninterrupted flow of humanitarian assistance."It also condemned recent deadly attacks in Afghanistan and asked "the Taliban to cut ties with all international terrorist groups, dismantle and eliminate them in a decisive manner, and to deny space to any terrorist organization operating inside the country."Thursday's gathering in Islamabad comes weeks after Russia hosted similar talks on Afghanistan, which Washington did not attend. On Wednesday, India hosted senior security officials from Russia, Iran and five Central Asian countries to discuss the ramifications of the Taliban takeover. India's archrival Pakistan and its ally China boycotted those talks. The Taliban seized power in a blitz offensive that captured the capital, Kabul, and most of the country on Aug. 15, ahead of the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of war.
In his remarks at the meeting, Qureshi expressed concerns that an economic collapse in Afghanistan would cause broader instability. "All of us have common concerns related to Afghanistan and also have a shared interest in the country's peace and stability," he said, and also called for the release of Afghan funds frozen by the world community. Qureshi urged for an "engagement with the new Afghan government" to "help consolidate peace and stability, promote sustainable economic development and help constrict space for terrorist outfits operating from and within Afghanistan," he said.
"With international funding dried up, it has become difficult to pay even salaries, let alone pursue development projects," he added. "The common man is reeling under the effects of a severe drought. Any further downward slide will severely limit the new administration's capacity to run the government" in Afghanistan. After the meeting, Qureshi said he had told participants the talks would be more productive with the Taliban representative in the room. He said the next meeting of the group was due in Beijing, where the Taliban representative will be invited.
Pakistan has been urging nations to free Afghanistan's assets abroad to enable the Taliban to access those funds to avert the deepening crisis. The Taliban-run administration currently does not have access to the Afghan central bank's $9 billion in reserves, most of which is held by the New York Federal Reserve.

Calls Mount for Israel to Free Palestinians on Hunger Strike
Associated Press/November 12/2021
Israel has faced growing calls to release five Palestinians who have been on hunger strike for weeks to protest a controversial policy of holding them indefinitely without charge, including one who has been fasting for 120 days and is in severe condition. Israel says the policy, known as "administrative detention," is needed to detain suspects without disclosing sensitive intelligence, while the Palestinians and human rights groups say it denies them due process. Suspects can be held for months or years without seeing the evidence against them.
Palestinians have been holding rallies across the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza in solidarity with the hunger strike and to protest against administrative detention. Prisoners have held a number of hunger strikes in recent years to protest the policy and to campaign for better prison conditions, but the latest appears to be among the most serious. The Israeli military did not respond to a request for comment.
The five Palestinians, ranging in age from 28 to 45, have been on hunger strike for at least 32 days. A sixth prisoner ended his 113-day hunger strike on Thursday after being told he will be released in three months, his lawyer said. Kayed Fasfous, 32, has been on hunger strike for at least 120 days and is hospitalized in Israel. His weight has dropped from 95 to 45 kilograms (210 to 100 pounds), according to a recent evaluation by Dr. Amit Tirosh, an Israeli physician, on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. He drinks around 1.5 liters of water a day and takes a few grains of sugar at a time, but stopped consuming salt because it upset his stomach and is refusing infusions. He has difficulty speaking, suffers short-term memory loss, hearing difficulty and a permanent headache, raising concerns of cognitive damage, the report said. Tirosh said his condition is "life-threatening" and that even if he stops the hunger strike, he will still need to spend several weeks in the hospital.
Tirosh told The Associated Press that a hunger strikes can cause "severe, prolonged and irreparable" brain and cognitive damage. Fasfous' detention has been suspended on health grounds, but Israel has refused his request to be transferred to a hospital in the occupied West Bank, where he says he would halt his hunger strike. "The hospital becomes kind of a prison," said Ran Goldstein, the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. "He is not arrested anymore, however, he cannot leave Israel." Fasfous would also be subject to arrest again once he recovers. Israel regularly detains Palestinian suspects from across the occupied West Bank, including in areas governed by the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority. Hundreds of Palestinians, including Fasfous' brother, took part in a demonstration in the West Bank town of Dhahiriya on Thursday in solidarity with the hunger strikers.
"The only demand of Kayed is freedom," said his brother, Khalid Fasfous. He said his brother told the family "he will be victorious if he is released or if he is martyred." An Israeli prison service official said three of the hunger strikers are in stable condition under 24-hour medical supervision in a prison medical facility, while another, who has been fasting for 30 days, does not require that degree of care. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the prison service does not generally share medical information about prisoners. Miqdad Qawasmeh, 24, who had been on hunger strike for 113 days, ended his strike early Thursday after being told he will be released in February, his lawyer, Jawad Boulos, told The Associated Press. Israel's prison service said it is holding at least 488 people in administrative detention. Roy Yellin, of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, said administrative detainees are held in "a Kafkaesque legal reality that Israel has created specifically for Palestinians under which they are detained for an indefinite period of time without real legal recourse to prove their innocence." He said administrative detainees are often held on suspicion that they might carry out an attack, with military judges granting "rubber-stamp" approval. "Administrative detention is a measure that Israel used almost exclusively for Palestinians and almost never for Jews," he said, calling it part of the "apartheid reality" of Israeli rule.

Gaza Doctor Seeks Apology from Israel for Daughters' Deaths
Associated Press/November 12/2021
Izzeldin Abuelaish captured widespread sympathy in Israel when he lost three daughters and a niece in an Israeli strike during the 2009 war in the Gaza Strip. Now, the Palestinian doctor is seeking justice in Israel's highest court. Abuelaish is scheduled to appear before the Supeme Court in Jerusalem on Monday in hopes of receiving an apology from Israel and compensation for his loss. The Harvard-educated doctor, a widower who moved to Canada after the tragedy, says he is hopeful that he will prevail. But after a lower court rejected his case in 2018, he knows he might have traveled 9,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) only to lose again. In an interview with The Associated Press, Abuelaish said that such an outcome would only shine a brighter light on the injustice of his family's pain. Either way, he says, the retelling of the story is a step in itself on the path toward a legacy of peace for his daughters — of "creating life from death and killing.""If we have a positive answer from the court, this is a great success," Abuelaish said. But whatever the legal result, "I am determined we are not the victims anymore."Abuelaish, 66, was an obstetrician and peace activist well known in Israel even before the tragedy. He had worked in an Israeli hospital while living in Gaza. And during the war, launched to end Hamas' rocket fire on Israeli border towns, he often gave updates to Israeli media in fluent Hebrew. But on Jan. 16, 2009, live television broadcast a nightmarish, real-time report from Abuelaish to Israelis watching Channel 10 for news about the war. "My daughters have been killed," he sobbed into a phone. A journalist listened at the other end of the line as the audio aired live. The blast from the Israeli strike took the lives of his daughters Aya, 14, Bessan, 21, and Mayar, 15, as well as his niece Noor, 17. Footage from the scene shows Abuelaish directing the evacuation of another daughter, Shatha, 17, who was severely wounded but survived.
For 13 years, Abuelaish has battled in Israeli courts and the public arena to deliver justice to his family for what he says was a terrible mistake by the Israeli army. The government says the law shields the military from liability for wartime actions. In 2018, a lower court sided with the army. Abuelaish's appeal to that ruling had been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, until Monday. There have been bright spots, Abuelaish said. Two weeks ago, he learned that an expectant Israeli mother had read of his journey and decided to name her baby Aya — after his own daughter. Abuelaish says he'll meet the girl, now 8 years old, and her family over the weekend. "I am so moved," he said, reading from the letter a few days before leaving his home in Toronto for Israel this week. "I didn't know what to do, what to say."That's rare for the widower and father of five surviving children, who has spoken around the world about the need for facts, truth and equality — and the cost of hate and war. He's been clear about what he wants to make of his daughters' legacy. His book is titled in part, "I Shall Not Hate."Abuelaish's presence in Israel is an accomplishment in itself. Few Gazans are allowed to enter the country and the success of his cooperation with friends and colleagues in Israel is even rarer. He has established the Daughters For Life Foundation to give out scholarships, as it did on Thursday to two young women at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He also wants to establish a college for Middle Eastern women, perhaps in Cyprus, named for the foundation and dedicated to his daughters. On Wednesday in Jerusalem, he lobbied members of the Knesset to support that project. "My daughters' names now are written on their graves, in the stone," Abuelaish told reporters outside Israel's parliament. "I want to see their names written on an institution that spreads light and hope and wisdom to young women."He hopes for the validation of Israel's high court on Monday, but the legal outlook is difficult, one expert said. The Supreme Court will consider whether the lower court's finding was correct under Israel's tort law.
The court "won't even get to the question of whether the military acted properly," said Yuval Shany, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute and a law professor at Hebrew University. In a statement to the AP on Wednesday, the Israeli Defense Ministry pointed to the lower court ruling that the strike on the Abuelaish home occurred during a war.
It also reiterated expert testimony that shrapnel retrieved from two bodies was traced to equipment used by Palestinian militants. That, the ministry said, supports the contention that the five-story home was thought to have served as a Hamas position.
Abuelaish vociferously denies that. He is adamant that there were no militants and no warning until the shells struck. The 2009 conflict was the first of four wars between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has controlled Gaza since 2007. The bitter enemies fought their fourth war in May. Still, there are signs of change in the region — a new diverse coalition of eight parties took office in Israel in June, with Arabs part of the government for the first time. Dovish Jewish-led parties are also part of the government. Abuelaish says he got an empathetic reception this week from lawmakers in Knesset, an improvement from his last visit to Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid gave him a hug. "Maybe," said Shany, "this government will be more open than the previous one to making such a statement" of apology, "just because the composition is more diverse."
Win or lose in court, Abuelaish has plans afterward — in Gaza. "I want to go to my daughters grave, to say to them: 'I am here. I didn't give up, I didn't forget you'," he told reporters in Jerusalem. "Until then ... I am educating for your justice."

Bomb Hits Mosque in Afghanistan, Wounds at Least 15
Associated Press/November 12/2021
A Taliban provincial spokesman says a bomb exploded in a mosque during Friday prayers, wounding 15 people in eastern Afghanistan, where Islamic State group militants have been waging a campaign of violence.
Qari Hanif, the government spokesman for Nangarhar Province, said the bomb appeared to have been planted inside the mosque in the town of Traili, located in the mountainous Spin Ghar area outside the provincial capital Jalalabad. IS militants have been carrying out nearly daily shootings and bombings against Taliban fighters in the province. IS bombings against mosques in the area have been much rarer, however, since the region is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim. The group is known for bombing mosques belonging to Afghanistan's Shiite minority that have killed hundreds of people. Since coming to power in Afghanistan three months ago, the Taliban have been waging a counterinsurgency campaign, vowing to put down the threat from IS. IS is an enemy of the Taliban. The two groups share a hardline interpretation of Islam and over the years engaged in some of the same violent tactics, such as suicide bombings. However, the Taliban have focused on seizing control of Afghanistan, while IS adheres to global jihad. On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Taliban intelligence service told reporters in Kabul that the agency has arrested close to 600 IS members, including key figures and financial supporters. The spokesman, Khalil Hamraz, said at least 33 IS members have been killed in gun battles with Taliban security forces.

Canada temporarily withdraws non-essential personnel from Canadian embassy in Haiti
Essential staff continues to support Canadians in Haiti

November 11, 2021 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
Global Affairs Canada today issued the following statement:
“The security situation in Haiti is rapidly deteriorating and is being exacerbated by ongoing fuel shortages.
“As a result, Global Affairs Canada is temporarily withdrawing non-essential Canadian employees as well as family members of Canadian embassy staff from Haiti.
“The safety of Canadians is our highest priority at all times, and to this end our embassy in Port-au-Prince remains open. Consular officials stand ready to help Canadians in Haiti who need emergency assistance. They can be reached at 011 (509) 2-812-9000 or by email at PRNCECS@international.gc.ca.
“We continue to advise Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to Haiti and encourage all Canadians in Haiti to check our Travel Advice and Advisories webpage regularly and to register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service.
“Canadians can also contact Global Affairs Canada’s Emergency Watch and Response Centre 24/7 at: Phone: 1 613 996 8885
Email: sos@international.gc.ca
SMS: 1-613-686-3658
“As a long-standing friend of the people of Haiti, Canada remains deeply committed to helping Haiti achieve a more democratic, secure and prosperous future. Canada will always step up to assist the Haitian people, as we have done in the past.”

The Latest The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 12-13/2021
Erdoğan's Quest for a New Sharia-Based Alliance

Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/November 12/2021
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Islamist ambitions seem to be seeking an international role in post-U.S. Afghanistan in alliance with the Taliban, Qatar, Pakistan and Malaysia. The trouble is, Turkey, among the new sharia alliance in the making, is the only country with institutional ties to the Western world.
Biden has weakened himself and his country so badly that the superpower was reduced to the point of being blackmailed by NATO's only Islamist member. Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has made it clear: "If the U.S. is to be in the Middle East, it must cooperate with Turkey."
Afghanistan is not Erdoğan's only pro-sharia ambition after the U.S. withdrawal... Turkey ramped up its drone attacks on Yazidis in Iraq's Sinjar district..... "The Turkish drone strikes increasingly threaten to undercut refugee repatriation inside Iraq and create space for the Islamic State to regroup, as the most effective Kurdish groups fighting ISIS are Sinjar's grassroots Kurdish and Yazidi militias," warned Michael Rubin in the Washington Examiner.
Erdoğan's Islamist, neo-Ottoman ambitions are now taking a pro-sharia turn. That is bad news for the region to Turkey's south and east. Worse, it is a slow-fuse time bomb for the West.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Islamist ambitions seem to be seeking an international role in post-U.S. Afghanistan in alliance with the Taliban, Qatar, Pakistan and Malaysia. The trouble is, Turkey, among the new sharia alliance in the making, is the only country with institutional ties to the Western world. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
U.S. President Joe Biden's lamentable decision to unilaterally withdraw from Afghanistan is paving the way for the emergence of a new sharia-based alliance, including NATO member Turkey -- theoretically a Western ally. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Islamist ambitions appear to be seeking an international role in post-U.S. Afghanistan in alliance with the Taliban, Qatar, Pakistan and Malaysia. The trouble is, Turkey, among the new sharia alliance in the making, is the only country with institutional ties to the West.
Turn now to SADAT, a Turkish military consultancy and training company, though hardly an ordinary one. There were claims that the Erdoğan government, through SADAT, sent arms shipments to Syria to help the jihadists. Critics, including opposition lawmakers, have been inquiring about SADAT's activities, after suspecting its real mission may be to train official or unofficial paramilitary forces to fight Erdoğan's multitude of wars, both inside Turkey and without.
SADAT is owned by retired general Adnan Tanrıverdi who was appointed in August 2016 as Erdoğan's chief military advisor, but quit in 2020. In 1996, Tanrıverdi was forced to resign from the military due to "suspected radical Islamist activities." In a 2009 speech, Tanrıverdi said:
"To defeat Israel, the country must be forced into defensive warfare, all of its forces must be engaged and the war must be prolonged.
"What should Turkey do? The resistance units in Gaza should be supported by anti-tank and low-altitude anti-aircraft weapons.
"Turkey, Iran, Syria, the Iraqi Resistance Organization and Palestine should form the nucleus of a defense structure. Within this context the formation of an Islamic rapid reaction force consisting of an amphibious brigade, an armored brigade and an airborne brigade should be encouraged."
Recently, SADAT advocated the idea of Turkey supporting and helping the Taliban -- a group it has called a resistance movement -- to establish a sharia state in Afghanistan. A research piece published on September 13 by Ali Coşar, a retired colonel and board member of SADAT, advocated that Turkey help the new Afghanistan run by the Taliban in cooperation with Pakistan, Qatar and Malaysia.
Coşar dismisses the description that the Taliban is a terrorist organization: "They [the Taliban] are members of a resistance movement that fought against colonial America for 20 years to take over the government and establish a state that practices sharia. ..." Just like Ottoman Turks who ruled conquered lands under sharia law, he reminded his listeners.
Biden has weakened himself and his country so badly that the superpower was reduced to the point of being blackmailed by NATO's only Islamist member. Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has made it clear: "If the U.S. is to be in the Middle East, it must cooperate with Turkey."
Seth J. Frantzman wrote in the Jerusalem Post in August:
"The victors in Kabul will be those who benefit from the Taliban taking power. They will also be those who benefit or cheer as the U.S. appears humiliated.
"Among those 'winners' are Qatar, Russia, China, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran. This can be seen in various ways. Most of these countries hosted the Taliban or tacitly backed them."
Afghanistan is not Erdoğan's only pro-sharia ambition after the U.S. withdrawal.
As the international community focused on the chaos unfolding in Afghanistan, Turkey ramped up its drone attacks on Yazidis in Iraq's Sinjar district. The most recent strikes destroyed a medical clinic. Analyst Michael Rubin warned in the Washington Examiner.:
"The Turkish drone strikes increasingly threaten to undercut refugee repatriation inside Iraq and create space for the Islamic State to regroup, as the most effective Kurdish groups fighting ISIS are Sinjar's grassroots Kurdish and Yazidi militias."
Biden's catastrophic miscalculation in Afghanistan will also have unwanted repercussions in Syria. In an interview with The Independent, Abu Mohammad al-Joulani, leader of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist group, commented on the Afghan situation: "The aftermath of the U.S. surprise withdrawal from Kabul will also have an impact on the Kurds [or, as he put it, 'the US-backed enemies of the Syrian revolution']."
HTS is a dominant jihadist power in the Idlib "de-escalation zone" in northern Syria. HTS has never been in direct confrontation with the Kurds. Al-Joulani's words, however, highlighted his open hostility towards the Kurdish administration that, as he purports, is only able to control a huge swath of Syria and maintain relative stability thanks to the US support. As soon as the last U.S. plane takes off from the Syrian soil, according to al-Joulani, this Kurdish dream will crumble.
When combined in a simple analytical way, Erdoğan's pro-sharia ambitions and the terrorist al-Joulani's statements herald a new jihadist proxy army for Ankara fighting on Syrian soil. The unwritten deal looks too apparent: HTS fighting Turkey's regional enemies, the Kurds and the Syrian regime, in return for tacit Turkish support for international recognition as a legitimate entity rather than as a terrorist one.
Erdoğan's Islamist, neo-Ottoman ambitions are now taking a pro-sharia turn. That is bad news for the region to Turkey's south and east. Worse, it is a slow-fuse time bomb for the West.
*Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was recently fired from the country's most noted newspaper after 29 years, for writing in Gatestone what is taking place in Turkey. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
© 2021 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Could UAE Opening to Syria Mark Major Shift for Region?
Seth J. Frantzman/The Jerusalem Post/November 12/2021
Syria's President Bashar Assad (right) meets with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed in Damascus in this photo released by Syrian state-run media on November 9, 2021. (SANA)
The United Arab Emirates foreign minister's meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus this week is raising eyebrows around the region and in Washington. The visit is symbolic and important, and could mark a shift in the region.
The UAE and other countries have made quiet overtures to Damascus for years, and there is an emerging consensus between the Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and their partners that the time has come to bring Syria and its regime in from the cold.
France 24 noted that "the visit is widely seen as a sign of regional efforts to end Assad's diplomatic isolation, as Syria grapples with a spiraling economic crisis caused by years of conflict and compounded by Western sanctions."
The UAE's official position is that it supports efforts to end the "crisis" in Syria. This is a reference to more than a decade of conflict in the country.
Syria is divided today. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces control eastern Syria, Turkey controls parts of northwest and northern Syria, and the regime controls the rest of the country. Russia plays a role in Damascus and Latakia, helping the regime; Iran plays a role in Albukamal, T-4 and near the Golan, where its proxies, such as Hezbollah, threaten Israel.
The UAE wants to see Syria "consolidate stability in the country and meet the aspirations of the brotherly Syrian people," UAE media reported.
The US is nonplussed. It has tried to isolate the Syrian regime. Up until 2013, there was a thought that Washington might intervene on behalf of the Syrian rebels, who became more fractured over time and more extreme. As ISIS took over part of Syria and committed genocide in 2014, US policy shifted.
Amid the 2015 Iran deal and fight against ISIS, US efforts to remove Assad ended.
Amid the Iran deal, the US moved to fight ISIS with an international coalition, and efforts to remove Assad ended. Under the Trump administration, the US shifted to a closer partnership with Israel on concerns about Iranian entrenchment in Syria. However, America also was cut out of discussions by the Russia-backed Astana process. Russia, Turkey and Iran sought to run Syria.
Turkey invaded the country beginning in 2016 and ethnically cleansed Kurds. Russia helped the Assad regime retake Aleppo in 2016. The US helped the Syrian Democratic Forces defeat ISIS. In 2019, the Trump administration betrayed its own SDF partners and enabled a Turkish invasion, but then backtracked on withdrawing from Syria. Now the situation looks like a frozen conflict.
Images are deceiving, however. In 2018, the regime retook the areas near the Golan. It has sought to reopen relations with Jordan and possibly even import fuel from Egypt to help Lebanon meet its energy needs. The US, meanwhile, maintains sanctions on the regime. Like Iran, an ally of Assad, the regime wants outreach to China.
The UAE visit is important because the Emirates is a key partner of the US and also because it has a peace deal with Israel.
State Department spokesman Ned Price: "This administration will not express any support for efforts to normalize or rehabilitate Bashar Assad, who is a brutal dictator."
"This administration will not express any support for efforts to normalize or rehabilitate Bashar Assad, who is a brutal dictator," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters this week.
But the US must say this: It knew the visit was coming.
America is already concerned about its partners in the region. Washington is estranged from both Cairo and Riyadh on key issues. The US is also angered by a recent coup in Sudan. The sand in the region appears to be slipping out from under America's feet. That means that it has problems with most of its traditional allies and friends. Ankara is now run by an anti-American regime that buys weapons from Russia and abuses migrants and human rights.
Insofar as there is a pro-US alliance system, it is the one that is made up of Israel, Greece, Cyprus, the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan. Oman, Tunisia, Morocco and Kuwait can be seen as important, stable states as well. Iraq is held hostage by Iran, except for the autonomous Kurdish part. But even there the Iranians have sent a delegation this week. Turkey has threatened new invasions of the Kurdish region in Syria and bombs Kurdish areas weekly.
There are now questions about US policy on Syria. On the one hand, America seemed to indicate that Jordan and Egypt might supply Lebanon with energy via Damascus. On the other hand, the US may reconsider its role in eastern Syria. Brett McGurk, architect of American policy with the SDF and a key US official today, may oppose that.
There are some in the Biden administration who want to go softer on Iran. Others want to be tough, and the US has put in place new sanctions against Iran's drone program. But Tehran is also trading oil with Beijing, up until a recent incident in which Iran stopped a tanker full of its own oil which had returned from China.
The UAE trip is likely not a trial balloon for the Biden administration.
US comments portray the UAE trip as problematic. That means it's likely not a trial balloon for the Biden administration. It is worth recalling here that the Emirates was making overtures to Assad back in December 2018. Syria's intelligence chief Ali Mamluk has also been meeting with Egyptians since 2016, with a key visit in December 2018, around the time the UAE signaled a new opening to Damascus.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Assad in September 2021 and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in October. Egypt, Jordan and Syria agreed on an energy plan in September. Jordan's king received a phone call from Assad on October 3. It was the first time in a decade the men officially spoke.
Syria also sent one of its ministers to visit Saudi Arabia in May, another first visit in a decade. It is believed that the Gulf states are now open to new investment in Syria. They are treading lightly and moving slowly and pragmatically.
The calculus for the new trend is clear. The UAE and Saudi Arabia want "stability" in the region. They oppose the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey's regime is led by the AKP, which has roots in the Brotherhood. Hamas is linked to the Brotherhood, as are the former regime in Sudan, which was pushed out in 2019, and the former Morsi regime in Egypt. Qatar is close to Turkey and the Brotherhood.
The regional rivalry in this context is one in which Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Cairo see Assad as potentially returning to the Arab League states and being a bulwark against extremists in Idlib, as well as possibly moving him away from Iran. The Assad regime is poor and weak and must rely on Iran. The belief is that with a little support, the regime might adjust its stance slightly.
Israel's position here is complex. The Jewish state has improved relations with Jordan, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain, key states involved in the Syria initiative. It had decent relations with moderate rebel groups near the Golan until they were defeated in 2018 by the Assad regime. Since then, Israel has worked to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria. But Jerusalem also has decent relations with Moscow and has held talks with Russia about Syria.
While some US voices are soft on Iran, there's a consensus that Assad is a bad actor.
In the West, this move by the UAE may be seen as controversial. This is because in some sectors, especially in the US, the Assad regime is seen as a personification of evil. It is seen by some as worse than Iran, having committed vile abuses over the years. While there are voices in Washington who want a soft approach to Iran, there tends to be a consensus that Assad is a bad actor.
Prior to 2011, this was not the case. Those, like former US secretary of state John Kerry, who opposed Israel's peace with the Gulf wanted to explore better ties with Tehran and Damascus.
But there is another narrative, one that is common among those who have backed the Syrian rebels: that the Assad regime must be opposed.
Turkey and Qatar are sometimes seen as key to opposing the regime. As such, this narrative posits that the UAE and Saudi Arabia are part of an authoritarian system in the region, seeking to work with fellow authoritarian Assad.
However, Turkey and Qatar are also authoritarian states, so the overall question is which of these alliance systems one prefers.
The Turkey-Qatar system tends to be close to Hamas, the Taliban and extremist groups. The Saudi-led system tends to be close to authoritarian regimes that are ostensibly more secular. The Iranian system backs Hamas, Hezbollah, Iraqi militias and other proxies that are eating away at countries.
When the UAE says it wants "stability," it is arguing that the instability caused by Iran – and by Turkey's role in Idlib in Syria, and with Hamas in Gaza and in Libya – is the greater threat.
For a Washington that has withdrawn in places like Afghanistan, the question will be whether the new initiative by the UAE and other pro-American countries can bring stability or achieve any goals that the US might want to achieve.
What most countries have learned is that as the US takes a back seat in the region, preferring to concentrate on China, other countries have been left to take the reins and see what may come next. The UAE is trying to be part of that process.
For Israel, a key issue will be whether the Iranian threat can be reduced in Syria as part of this new stability that the Gulf countries think might be enabled. For this reason, the UAE is working closely with Jordan on discussions about the region.
The issue is that the Assad regime has in the past pretended it would reduce Iran's role. It said this before 2011 and even during the conflict. But the Iranians continue to have a major role in Syria.
*Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.

Dispelling lies about the Sudanese army
Ali Sarraf/The Arab Weekly/November 12/2021
The idea that the Sudanese army strives to protect the country and ensure its stability as well as the notion that it is a “national army” are both lies. It is time they are refuted. It is rather an army with a dark history of abuses, crimes and acts of discrimination against the Sudanese. There are many cases of transgressions that amount to war crimes. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is supposed to be tried for “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” in The Hague, because of the behaviour of his forces in Darfur and elsewhere, was in fact directing an army whose actions matched his personal worldview. War, with all that it meant, continued for about a decade without a single officer objecting to it. Not one, including Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan. It is an army of coups. And if its officers did not find anyone against whom to turn, it would turn against itself. This is what the country’s historical record since its independence shows. When I tried to list all items in the record of shame of its successful and failed coup attempts since 1957, I found there were too many cases to list and gave up trying. Because of its unquenchable thirst for power, it should be considered a “political army” and not a military one. This is another lie that does not even need to be refuted. It has been in power in the country for many more years than have been the civilians. It ended up transforming political parties into mere instruments of protest, which it blocked and then suppressed. There is no civilian political leader in the country who has not been imprisoned and humiliated by officers directed by others officers.
If Sudan was divided, it was because of the atrocities that the army continued to commit against the southern Sudanese, until secession became the only solution. The claim that ​​the army “has preserved the unity of the country” is hardly credible, because no one is responsible for the dismembering of Sudan but the army. In order to carry out a coup, the army can come up with any pretext. Bashir, for example, turned against an elected government, because of high inflation. Then he increased his remuneration tenfold. Now that Burhan has returned to exercise his superiority over civilians and to add his name to the record of disgrace, it is time for the Sudanese to deal with their army realistically. Which is that, no matter what they do, their army will carry out another coup, and then another, till forever. It does not matter what kind of government is in power. Leftist or rightist, socialist or capitalist, revolutionary or reactionary, religious or non-religious, the army will eventually turn against it,
Dissolving the army does not seem like a realistic option. Because the army will turn against any government, even if the entire world unites around it and even if the country ends up sinking to the depth of hell. Since the army is fond of politics and craves power and since it believes it has led the country to a safe harbour in its previous revolutionary experiments in prosperity and progress, why not give it the opportunity to come to power as a political party, like any political party? Rather than exclude the military from exercising power, why not offer them the opportunity to rule by democratic means? Without this option, Burhan experienced an early bout of depression. He quickly felt tempted to carry out a coup. But is it possible to convince this army that it can enter the democratic fray like any political party aspiring to power? if so, the main proviso should be that it enters elections in peace and exits in peace. It can rule if it wins but get out of power if it loses. And above everything else, it should stop hatching coups. This army has an advantage that makes it superior to political parties. It can be on the left or on the right. It can be socialist or capitalist. It can be revolutionary or reactionary. It can also be all of the above at the same time. Driven by an instinctive thirst for power, it can adapt to any ideology it needs. This is something other parties cannot do. God created the Sudanese army to carry out coups. All the Sudanese need to do is to set new rules of the game which do not deprive this great army of its right to assume power, like other political parties. Sudan obviously has no need to protect the country against any external threat. It must instead protect itself from its own army.

The May 2021 Israel-Hamas war was a stress test for normalization
Jonathan Schanzer/Al Arabiya/November 12/2021
With the signing of the Abraham Accords last year, a rare sense of optimism washed over the Middle East. Many in Israel believed that these agreements signaled that the Arab world had given up on the Palestinian cause. Perhaps that was too optimistic. The decision to normalize relations with Israel meant that these countries would prioritize developing a working relationship with a nearby Middle Eastern country. It did not mean that they would renounce Palestinian nationalism. The Gaza war of May 2021 made that abundantly clear.
During those 11 days of war, the new diplomatic relations between Arab states and Israel faced a significant test. Nevertheless, as one senior Emirati official stated during a July briefing I attended, “they did not fail.”
At the onset of the crisis, all four countries – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan – criticized Israel. Khartoum rebuked Israeli responses to Hamas rocket attacks as “coercive action.” Abu Dhabi called on Israel to “take responsibility for de-escalation” at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where violence had flared. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI noted that Israeli “violations” could “fuel tensions.” Bahrain punched the hardest, calling upon the Israeli government “to stop these rejected provocations against the people of Jerusalem.”
Gulf states that were widely believed to be considering diplomatic ties with Israel also weighed in. Saudi Arabia condemned Israel’s “flagrant violations” during the war and called on Israel to end its “dangerous escalation.” Oman, which had recently hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018, also rebuked Israel, stating that the sultanate “salutes the resilience of the Palestinian people and their legitimate struggle and calls for achieving peace based on international legitimacy and a two-state solution.”
The visuals of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza certainly elicited a visceral reaction from many Arab observers. Some Gulf Arab contacts of mine from the Gulf expressed anger over some of Israel’s social media messaging during the war. In particular, they found one tweet objectionable because it cited the Quran to justify Israel’s military response against Hamas.
All of this served to underscore that change does not happen rapidly in the Middle East. Official change may have come quickly with the signing of the Abraham Accords. However, attitudes about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict itself were not going to change overnight.
Still, a particularly positive message came out of the United Arab Emirates. Ali al-Nuaimi, the chairman of the defense affairs, interior, and foreign relations committee of the UAE federal national council, published an article in Newsweek after the war. In the piece, he asserted that the “Palestinian people’s rights and hopes have been hijacked by Hamas to serve an Iranian agenda.” He called upon the rest of the region to work together to sideline Iran and its proxies.
Bahrain’s foreign minister also had a positive message, which he shared with the American Jewish Committee in June. “Hopefully, the people of the region can see the benefits, and, in particular, the Israelis and Palestinians can see the benefit of the peace,” he said. For Bahrainis, he said, “the most important benefit is that the values of the Bahrainis are being really recognized. We are sending the message from a small nation, saying that peace is the way forward.” He concluded, “We need the international community to convince Iran that it cannot prosper by trying to subvert and undermine other countries.”
In one troubling sign from Morocco, however, the country’s Islamist prime minister hosted Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh in Rabat in mid-June. But even there, one could discern some positive signs. When the prime minister sent a letter of support to Hamas, the kingdom would not permit him to do so on official letterhead. Instead, he was forced to use the Islamist Justice and Development Party’s letterhead. A few short months later, Yair Lapid, Israel’s new Israeli foreign minister visited the country, where he signed three separate agreements, and opened full diplomatic ties between the two countries.
For its part, the Sudanese government officially welcomed the end of the war. During the conflict, the president of Sudan’s transitional Sovereignty Council asserted that “normalization has nothing to do with Palestinians’ right to create their own state,” stressing that the Israel-Sudan normalization agreement represented “a reconciliation with the international community which includes Israel.” After the war, he also boldly declared that Sudan had ruled out resuming ties with Iran, noting that his country viewed the Islamic Republic as a “security threat.”
The war demonstrated that the Palestinian issue is still an emotional one. The Arab world has decidedly not given up on Palestinian nationalism. At the same time, the new diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab states weathered the storm.
*Jonathan Schanzer is senior vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, DC. He is the author of the new book Gaza Conflict 2021: Hamas, Israel and Eleven Days of War (FDD Press). Follow him on Twitter @JSchanzer.

Iranian aggression in the Gulf must be deterred
Luke Coffey/Arab News/November 12, 2021
The naval branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has had a busy year so far. At least 11 major maritime incidents in the Gulf since January are thought to have been the responsibility of the IRGC. These incidents include hijacking commercial oil tankers and holding their crews hostage, as well as IRGC speedboats harassing US Navy vessels. For years, Iran has stated that the US Navy has no business being in the Gulf. Tehran has also repeatedly threatened to “close the strait,” referring to the strategically important Strait of Hormuz. In the past few months, there has been a catalog of Iranian aggression aimed at commercial shipping, in what can best be described as 18th century-style piracy. Just last month, Iran seized the MV Southys, a Vietnamese-flagged oil tanker, in the Gulf of Oman. To mark the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran celebrated its capture of the vessel by broadcasting footage of the ship on state television.
In early August, armed Iranians boarded the Asphalt Princess, a Panamanian-flagged civilian ship sailing in international waters in the Gulf of Oman. And, a few days before the Asphalt Princess was attacked, a suspected Iranian drone struck a commercial oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire. This incident, which also took place in international waters, left two people dead. If it was not for the debacle that was unfolding in Afghanistan at the same time, it is likely that these two incidents would have garnered far more international attention.
The last time the international community tried to get serious about maritime security in the Gulf was during the summer of 2019, after a spate of Iranian attacks against commercial shipping. At the time, calls for a new international coalition to deter Iranian aggression were rebuffed by the Europeans, who did not want to be seen as backing the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign against Tehran.
Two years later, the world needs to wake up to the fact that securing the Strait of Hormuz and protecting global shipping is an international obligation. Not only are the issues of international norms and the rule of law at stake, but there will also be huge economic consequences if the free flow of oil and gas from the Gulf is restricted or stopped altogether. This is especially true at a time when some parts of the world are already facing an energy crisis, or at the very least a spike in prices.
As the world’s premier maritime power, the US must lead new deterrence and security efforts in the Gulf. Admittedly, there are some American politicians who dismiss the idea that the US should play any significant role in keeping the Strait of Hormuz open because the US imports so little oil and gas from the region. This is a shortsighted view. The US might not depend on Middle Eastern oil or liquefied natural gas, but the economic consequences of a major disruption of supplies would ripple around the globe.
The world needs to wake up to the fact that securing the Strait of Hormuz and protecting global shipping is an international obligation.
For example, Japan, the world’s largest importer of LNG, gets 30 percent of its gas delivered through the Strait of Hormuz. It also gets 80 percent of its oil from the Gulf. Imagine the effect on the Japanese economy if these desperately needed resources were not available. The economic shock waves would be felt around the world. One thing the Biden administration could do to boost security in the Gulf is breathe new life into the Middle East Strategic Alliance concept first proposed by the Trump administration. The idea behind MESA was to improve burden-sharing between the US and the Gulf states when it comes to security. The original thinking was that, as MESA’s military capacity grew, this would lead to better regional security and stability.
Of course, President Joe Biden will be loath to resurrect a proposal that originated from his predecessor. However, the Biden administration was originally reluctant to embrace the Abraham Accords but is now supportive of that Trump-era initiative. While MESA never got off the ground under Donald Trump, Biden should pick up where he left off.
One of the reasons why maritime security would be a great way to jump-start MESA is because this is one area of US-Gulf cooperation that has a track record of success. MESA could build on the existing Combined Maritime Forces already operational in the region. The CMF is a 34-country coalition of the willing headquartered in Bahrain that has been conducting various security, counterterrorism and counterpiracy operations in the Gulf and the wider region since 2004. Crucially, the CMF already includes the participation of regional countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. This cooperation could be formalized as part of MESA.
However, even with a steady drumbeat of Iranian aggression in the Gulf, it is unlikely that the Biden administration will stand up to Tehran anytime soon. One of Biden’s top foreign policy objectives is securing a new nuclear deal with Iran. The desperation coming from the White House to resume the negotiations is almost palpable. With Iran suggesting that talks might resume this month, the Biden administration will do nothing to risk upsetting Tehran.
US leadership is essential for deterrence and security to be established in the Strait of Hormuz, but it cannot do it alone. The free flow of shipping through the Strait of Hormuz is not only a US strategic priority, but also an international priority.
With Iran’s new hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi in power, expect IRGC provocations to increase. It will be far easier to deter Iranian aggression in the Gulf than it would be to defeat it. The warning lights are flashing. It is time for action.
• Luke Coffey is Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation.
Twitter: @LukeDCoffey