English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For September 21/2023
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Mark 10/17-27: “As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.” ’He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 20-21/2023
Mikati accuses Christians of obstructing reforms, says Berri's dialogue 'best solution'
Lebanon Caretaker PM to Asharq Al-Awsat: Berri’s Dialogue Call is in Everyone’s Interest
Mikati holds joint meeting with Abbas and Erdogan in New York
PM Mikati to LBCI: None of the international officials have approached me with the name of General Joseph Aoun as a presidential candidate
Mikati and Qatari Counterpart Discuss Lebanon-Qatar Relations and Crisis Resolution Efforts
FPM says dialogue should be limited in agenda, time and place
Report: Berri-Bassil mediation underway amid FPM rift over army chief
Geagea tells Berri to skip dialogue, immediately call for presidential vote
UNRWA continues to respond to urgent needs of Ain el-Helweh displaced families
EU Ambassador reaffirms commitment to Lebanon's recovery, emphasizes vital reforms for restoring international trust
Deputy Prime Minister Al Shami: IMF agreement still in effect, reforms key to progress
Lebanese Army, international forces on high alert amid Israeli excavation work near Lebanese border
Is the Quintet becoming a Quartet? Lebanon's presidential mediation uncertainty continues
Lebanon's Solar Power Surge: Citizens and Private Sector Lead the Way

Doha says US-French clash prevented 5-nation statement on Lebanon

Titles For The
Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 20-21/2023
Guterres: The Climate Crisis Has Opened the Gates of Hell
Saudi crown prince says getting 'closer' to Israel normalization -Fox interview
Semafor summit: Jordan’s King Abdullah II laments Syrian drug crisis, Iran’s regional role
Israel, Turkey leaders discuss Saudi normalization in first New York meeting
Awkward meeting looms for Biden and Netanyahu
Israeli Intelligence Threatens Commander of Imam Hussein Brigade in Syria
Iran's new hijab bill promises severe penalties for women
At least 6 Palestinians killed in latest fighting with Israel
Israeli Ambassador Detained After Protesting Iranian President Over Women's Freedom
Saudi Arabia praises 'positive results' after Houthi rebels' visit for peace talks
Raisi at UN demands US end sanctions, accuses it of 'fanning flames' in Ukraine
UN chief puts spotlight on 'movers,' excludes US, China at climate summit
Ukraine, Russia and the tense U.N. encounter that almost happened — but didn't
'Stop the war' and Zelenskiy won't speak, UN Security Council chair tells Russia
Ukraine: Ship blast near Romania, US accused of stoking war, Zelenskyy faces Russia at UN
India warns citizens in Canada to be cautious
World leaders convene for Day 1 of UN General Assembly meeting
Syria's Assad to visit China as Beijing boosts reach in Middle East
Turkey's Erdogan meets Israel's Netanyahu as ties thaw

Titles For The Latest English LCCC
 analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 20-21/2023
The US-Saudi Security Agreement and its Imponderables/Charles Elias Chartouni/September 20, 2023
Another Palestinian Reverie/Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/September 20, 2023
Diplomacy is Ill/Tariq Al-Homayed/Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper/September 20/2023
Mahsa Amini as a ‘Founding Mother’/Hazem Saghieh/Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper/September 20/2023
How North Korea can alter the balance of power in Asia and the Pacific/Raghida Dergham/The National/September 20/2023
The Russian empire is crumbling before Putin’s eyes/Con Coughlin/The Telegraph/September 20, 2023
Ukrainian special services launch strikes on Wagner-backed militia in Sudan/Joe Barnes/The Telegraph/September 20, 2023

Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on September 20-21/2023
Mikati accuses Christians of obstructing reforms, says Berri's dialogue 'best solution'
Naharnet/September 20/ 2023 
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati has accused Christian forces of obstructing the implementation of reforms demanded by the international community and the International Monetary Fund. In an interview published Wednesday in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Mikati said that Christian political forces are boycotting legislative sessions and do not want Parliament to convene to pass the required reforms before a president is elected, while Hezbollah is "cooperating" and supports the majority of the required reforms. Mikati also expressed support for the Speaker's seven-day dialogue initiative. He said that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's initiative is the "best solution" and hoped that the five-nation group on Lebanon would also call for dialogue in order to end the presidential void. The five-nation committee had convened Tuesday at the U.N. headquarters in New York but failed to issue any statement after the meeting, because of "disagreements between the U.S. and France."

Lebanon Caretaker PM to Asharq Al-Awsat: Berri’s Dialogue Call is in Everyone’s Interest
New York: Ali Barada/Asharq Al Awsat/September 20/ 2023
Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, has blamed the Christian political parties for the delay in implementing the reforms required by the international community and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He stressed that his government has completed draft reform laws and referred them to Parliament for endorsement, but the Christian factions refuse to convene, in light of the failure to elect a new president for the country. Mikati acknowledged that electing a president constitutes “the beginning of the solution to the crises.” He said that Speaker Nabih Berri’s call on the various political blocs to hold a national dialogue was in everyone’s interest. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of the meetings of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the caretaker Prime Minister said that Lebanon was a founding member of the UN and remained present and active, even if Lebanon’s crises are no longer a priority in light of other international events. Mikati said he was confident that the main problem today in Lebanon was the election of a president. In this context, he expressed his belief that the “path drawn by Speaker Nabih Berri in his recent speech, which is based on a seven-day dialogue followed by continuous sessions to elect a president, is the best solution.” “When the presidency remains vacant for a year, and all means have been exhausted to elect a president, the solution proposed by Berri becomes logical,” he stated. In response to the opposition’s claim that Iran’s influence was preventing the election of a president, Mikati did not deny that Tehran-backed Hezbollah had a role in Lebanon, but asked: “Did the Lebanese meet and make a decision and the party oppose it?” He pointed to the meetings of the Quintet committee on Lebanon, which includes representatives from the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt, saying: “I hope that in their next session, they will call on [the Lebanese blocs] to respond to the dialogue initiative in order to end the presidential vacuum.”Mikati said that the election of the president “will not completely solve Lebanon’s crisis, but will be the door or a window to form a new government and carry out the required reforms.” He pointed to the decision of the Christian parties, led by the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and the Lebanese Forces (LF), to boycott Parliament’s legislative sessions in light of the presidential vacuum, stressing that electing a president was their priority. The premier emphasized that his government could not be blamed for the delay of reforms, saying that it had sent draft laws to Parliament for approval. “How can the crisis be resolved in light of this [parliamentary] boycott?,” he asked.
On Hezbollah, he said the party was “cooperative and positive in terms of supporting most of the required reforms, but the Christian team does not see the need to address any urgent files before electing a president.”Mikati criticized those who say that Saudi Arabia does not consider Lebanon as a priority. He said: “For me, Saudi Arabia remains, in all cases, the mother, father, and brother for Lebanon.” “When you want to anticipate the future, you have to look to the past. [Saudi Arabia] has always supported the country. I am certain that the Kingdom will not abandon Lebanon,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat

Mikati holds joint meeting with Abbas and Erdogan in New York
Naharnet/September 20/ 2023 
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati has held a joint meeting in New York with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The National News Agency said the talks tackled “issues of common interest.”Mikati also held a bilateral meeting with Abbas, during which they discussed the Palestinian situation, “especially the latest clashes at the Ain el-Helweh camp.”Abbas for his part stressed that he has given instructions for “ending these clashes, halting the fighting, abiding by the Lebanese law and coordinating with the Lebanese state.”Mikati meanwhile emphasized “the priority of ending hostilities and cooperating with Lebanese security agencies to address the current tensions.” The premier also held a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and thanked him for Iraq’s support for Lebanon.

PM Mikati to LBCI: None of the international officials have approached me with the name of General Joseph Aoun as a presidential candidate
LBCI/September 20/ 2023 
PM Mikati to LBCI: None of the international officials have approached me with the name of General Joseph Aoun as a presidential candidate Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati revealed that none of the international officials had approached him with the name of Army Commander General Joseph Aoun as a presidential candidate. During an exclusive interview with LBCI on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Mikati emphasized that he has not heard from the US Deputy Secretary of State any talk of about the end of the French initiative. He considered that there is international stagnation in terms of providing financial assistance to Lebanon until the election of the president and the implementation of reforms. Regarding the Syrian refugee crisis, the caretaker Prime Minister noted that the international community is increasingly aware of the danger posed by the refugee influx. He stated that the army has uncovered the reason for a new wave of Syrians fleeing to Lebanon, which is that smugglers heading to Europe depart from Lebanon, as reported by the Syrians.

Mikati and Qatari Counterpart Discuss Lebanon-Qatar Relations and Crisis Resolution Efforts

LBCI/September 20/ 2023 
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati discussed with the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, at the headquarters of the Qatari mission to the United Nations, the relations between Lebanon and Qatar, and Qatar's efforts to resolve the current crisis in Lebanon.

FPM says dialogue should be limited in agenda, time and place
Naharnet/September 20/ 2023 
The Free Patriotic Movement on Wednesday said it welcomes dialogue aimed at electing a new president on the condition that it be “limited to the issue of presidential elections and the president’s program and characteristics. It also should have “a specific timeframe and place” and should be “non-traditional,” the FPM’s political commission said in a statement issued after a periodic meeting. The proposed dialogue should also be “without a chairman but rather a neutral management” and should take the form of “bilateral, tripartite and multi-party consultations between the heads of the parties, in order to reach the election of a reformist president based on an agreed-on reformist program,” the political commission added. “Dialogue should be followed by an open-ended electoral session in which the agreed-on figure would be elected or there would be democratic competition between the proposed candidates,” the FPM went on to say. Speaker Nabih Berri is expected to call for dialogue in early October.

Report: Berri-Bassil mediation underway amid FPM rift over army chief
Naharnet/September 20/ 2023 
Some parties have launched a mediation between Speaker Nabih Berri and Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil after the latter criticized the Speaker’s call for dialogue, a media report said. The mediation “has been welcomed by Hezbollah,” ad-Diyar newspaper reported on Wednesday, noting that “the two parties have not refused to meet, despite the presence of political obstacles between them.” Separately, the daily said reported a rift within the ranks of the FPM over the presidential nomination of Army chief General Joseph Aoun. “Some Strong Lebanon bloc MPs called General Aoun to express their support for his election as president, after Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab expressed his rejection of Aoun’s election during a TV interview,” the newspaper added.

Geagea tells Berri to skip dialogue, immediately call for presidential vote

Naharnet/September 20/ 2023 
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Tuesday reiterated his rejection of dialogue over the presidential file, calling on Speaker Nabih Berri to immediately call for “an open session with multiple rounds to elect a president.”In an interview with the Akhbar al-Yawm news agency, Geagea described Berri’s proposed dialogue as a “waste of time” and “tragedy.”“Why doesn’t Speaker Nabih Berri call from now -- as long as he has the intention -- for an open session with multiple rounds to elect a president, instead of holding dialogue for seven days before heading to that session?” Geagea wondered. He added that “hundreds of meetings” have been held between the parliamentary blocs over the presidential file. “Those meetings did not lead to a result, so how can a dialogue comprising more than 50 figures lead to a result?” he asked. “The Axis of Defiance has a single candidate from whom it is not deviating … and how can the defiance camp call for dialogue after it rejected the third choice once it was proposed and before discussing any names,” Geagea explained.

UNRWA continues to respond to urgent needs of Ain el-Helweh displaced families

Naharnet/September 20/ 2023
UNRWA continues to respond to urgent needs of displaced families forced to flee the Ain el-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon, the largest in the country, a statement said. UNRWA is currently hosting 800 people in four of its shelters. “Families have lost everything, and they need everything, especially protection and respite,” said Dorothee Klaus, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon. “Some have run for safety only with their clothes on them. They need food, health care and support for their mental health. It is just devastating that history repeats itself as many families have lived through this horror multiple times,” she added. With partners, UNRWA is providing a package of assistance including the delivery of warm meals, health care, clothes, mattresses, hygiene kits, baby items and psychosocial support, including group counseling and stress management. Yesterday, a large garbage collection operation started to clear 56 metric tons of solid waste from some areas in Ain el-Helweh camp. This will continue over the coming days as waste has piled up across the camp. “Our teams have been working for weeks to support families’ urgent needs. This is a drop in the ocean as much more is needed. We will continue to coordinate with partners to reach all families. We appeal to those fighting and those with influence over them to respect the ceasefire and provide safe access to the camp, including to assess the damage, especially in the eight UNRWA schools that have been taken over by armed groups,” concluded Klaus. Since July 31, when the fighting began, at least 30 people have been killed and hundreds others injured. Fighting had led to massive destruction across most of the camp. Thousands of people have fled. - Highlights of the UNRWA humanitarian response to displaced families:
Mobile health teams provided 803 medical consultations and essential medicines;
School principals and deputy school principals manage the shelters around the clock;
Counselors have provided awareness sessions to 125 people, including stress management, communication with children in emergencies, child protection, anti-bullying, sexual abuse; UNRWA provided psychosocial support and counseling sessions to over 726 people and 216 people, respectively; Rehabilitation of the designated emergency shelters and included water and sanitation facilities. The teams have also included lighting, spraying against insects and garbage collection. UNRWA resumed solid waste collection from some areas inside Ain el-Helweh camp via a local contractor. On September 19, 56 tons were removed from the camp.UNRWA social workers and counselors are supporting through case management and group psychosocial activities. The UNRWA Protection team has carried out protection risk assessments in the designated emergency shelters. Training on child safeguarding was conducted and the team continued to address protection gaps with partners. A needs assessment is ongoing to address the needs of persons with disabilities and older persons.

EU Ambassador reaffirms commitment to Lebanon's recovery, emphasizes vital reforms for restoring international trust
LBCI/September 20, 2023
The new European Union Ambassador to Lebanon, Sandra De Waele, affirmed the European Union's ongoing commitment to Lebanon and its people to set the country on the path to recovery. Ambassador De Waele made these remarks during her meeting with the Caretaker Minister of National Defense, Maurice Sleem, in his office in Yarze early on Wednesday. The meeting included a discussion of the general situation and the relations between Lebanon and the European Union. De Waele emphasized the continuous support for state institutions and underscored the importance of implementing structural reforms to help Lebanon regain international trust. During the meeting, they also discussed projects funded by the European Union, particularly those related to the Integrated Border Management project, highlighting the importance of border control for the benefit of all.
Minister Sleem emphasized that it is now more urgent than ever to address the Syrian refugee crisis, which is the responsibility of the international community as a whole, and called for concerted efforts to address this escalating crisis.

Deputy Prime Minister Al Shami: IMF agreement still in effect, reforms key to progress

LBCI/September 20, 2023
Deputy Prime Minister Saadeh Al Shami confirmed that the agreement at the level of personnel with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which was reached in April of last year, is still in effect. He pointed out that "the IMF is waiting for us to take all the necessary measures to reach a final agreement. If we approve all the required reforms today, there is nothing preventing us from reaching this agreement, but after making some modifications imposed by the delay."Al Shami noted that the impression that the agreement with the IMF has stalled even after the election of a new president and the formation of a new government may be due to the fact that the last delegation faced difficulties by some parties responsible for implementing these reforms. He added, "What also supports this impression is that the current authorities, in all their components, have not fulfilled their commitments, which were expressed in support of the agreement before it was announced in April of last year. Therefore, perhaps with a new president and a new government, this might be possible, although the current parliament will remain in place until 2026."Al Shami explained that it is logical and imperative that any agreement with the IMF takes into consideration the specificity and the current situation of the country. He said, "We have been keen on this during the negotiations. However, at the same time, specific criteria cannot be adopted for a country inconsistent with international standards."Regarding assigning responsibilities for the delay, Al Shami stated, "Everyone is responsible, albeit in varying forms. But if we adopt some of the required reforms and laws correctly, we would have made significant progress towards reaching an agreement, and the IMF would have become more flexible on some remaining contentious issues.""Some wonder how long the IMF can wait, but the question should be how long Lebanon can wait. Time is pressing, and continuing to rely on 'buying time' and 'shadow' plans will not lead to the desired results," he added.

Lebanese Army, international forces on high alert amid Israeli excavation work near Lebanese border
LBCI/September 20, 2023
For the second consecutive day, Israeli army bulldozers continued their work in excavating a road opposite Bastra Farm, adjacent to the withdrawal line, on the southern border with the support of five Merkava tanks. The Lebanese Army and international emergency forces are on high alert on the Lebanese side. The excavation work coincides with intensive Israeli aerial activity. The excavation work near Bastra Farm also coincides with the surveying of the technical fence in Houla and Kroum Al-Mrah on the outskirts of the Meiss El-Jabal border.

Is the Quintet becoming a Quartet? Lebanon's presidential mediation uncertainty continues

LBC/September 20, 2023I
Before the last Quintet [Committee] meeting is not like after it. The Quintet [Committee] may no longer remain a "Quintet" if France's mandate for handling the Lebanese presidency file is revoked. This has begun to become evident through the Saudi-American warning to France and the dissatisfaction with its open-ended initiatives and criticism of one failure after another, offering the Qatari mediator to take its place in the Lebanese arena if the French mediator does not adhere to a short time frame and a clear agenda with desired results. It is worth noting that the Saudi-American divergence with France is not new, dating back to the time of the initial French initiative that promoted Hezbollah and Amal Movement-backed candidate Sleiman Frangieh. In a short time, the Quintet could quickly transform into a "Quartet", or a "Trio" led by Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Qatar. Egypt could either become a complementary member or recede with the French role. Qatar's "assignment" is for its envoy to carry, this time, an agenda bearing the name of a "consensus president" - a president named on a list headed by the Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, along with other names that, according to those proposing them, constitute a solution that bridges the distance between the "axis of resistance" and the "axis of opposition." One solitary detail remains Gebran Bassil, who remains the only one outside of any settlement that would bring Joseph Aoun to the presidency at a time when opposition MPs who elected Jihad Azour are giving their votes to Aoun.  Berri and Frangieh are following suit, not out of conviction in this settlement or the end of Frangieh's chances, but to score "points" against Bassil. The question remains: where does Hezbollah stand on all of these developments? So far, there has been no response or stance reflecting its direction. But will Hezbollah join the settlement that promotes the Army Commander? If it happens, what is the size of this settlement, and what "fruits" will Hezbollah and, behind it, Iran reap from it in Lebanon?

Lebanon's Solar Power Surge: Citizens and Private Sector Lead the Way

LBCI/September 20, 2023
The private sector and citizens have preceded the Ministry of Energy and the Electricité du Liban (EDL) in electricity production from solar energy. The numbers presented at the Beirut Energy Week conference and exhibition indicate significant progress in this field.
Electricity production through solar energy by the private sector is on the rise, as there is a growing need for it, especially considering that the price per kilowatt-hour produced from solar energy is incomparable to the prices of kilowatt-hours from power plants and generators. Despite the challenges the Ministry of Energy and EDL face, they continue to show interest in electricity production from solar energy and other alternative sources. In this context, licenses have been granted to companies for electricity production from solar energy, with Total-Energies expressing interest in this matter.
Electricité du Liban is currently developing the Beirut River station to generate electricity through solar energy. In the realm of alternative energy sources for electricity production, water resources also play a significant role. For this purpose, the United States is funding the reopening the Rechmaya plant, and the Electricité du Liban is collaborating with UNDP on the Nahr El-Bared plant. Additionally, discussions are underway with the Japanese to operate and develop the Qadisha hydroelectric plants. Electricity production through alternative energy sources does not eliminate the production of electricity from gas and petroleum derivatives, nor does it put any related discoveries in Lebanon at risk. Electricity production through solar energy is one of the practical solutions to Lebanon's electricity problem. The electricity mafia and generator owners in the country will be unable to halt this progress, and they will bear the consequences even if the production process takes a long time.

Doha says US-French clash prevented 5-nation statement on Lebanon
Naharnet/September 20/2023
Disagreements between the U.S. and France in the five-nation committee on Lebanon prevented the issuance of a statement after a meeting called for by Paris at the U.N. headquarters in New York, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad said overnight. “It is regrettable for the suffering of the Lebanese people to protract due to political calculations,” Sheikh Tamim added, warning that “state institutions in Lebanon are in danger and it is necessary to find a solution for the presidential vacuum.” Al-Akhbar newspaper meanwhile reported that the meeting witnessed “U.S. objection to the French management of the Lebanese file.” Washington “even demanded a specific timeframe for (French envoy Jean-Yves) Le Drian’s mission,” the daily said. “The French-Saudi rapprochement that Le Drian and (Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid) Bukhari were keen to highlight did not receive support from the Americans, who are clearly pushing for assigning the mission to Qatar,” the newspaper added.

Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 20-21/2023
Guterres: The Climate Crisis Has Opened the Gates of Hell
AFP/September 20, 2023
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened a climate meeting on Wednesday, notable for the absence of representatives from the world's two largest emitters, China and the United States, by stating that humanity's addiction to fossil fuels has "opened the gates of hell." Despite increasing extreme weather events and global temperatures reaching alarming levels, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, while fossil fuel companies reap substantial profits.

Saudi crown prince says getting 'closer' to Israel normalization -Fox interview
Matt Spetalnick and Rami Ayyub/Reuters/September 20, 2023
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a U.S. television interview that his country was moving steadily closer to normalizing relations with Israel and also warned that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, "we have to get one." "Every day we get closer," the crown prince told Fox News according to excerpts of an interview to be shown later on Wednesday, when asked to characterize talks aimed at long-time foes Israel and Saudi Arabia reaching a landmark agreement to open diplomatic relations. The conservative U.S. network's interview with the crown prince, widely known as MbS, comes as President Joe Biden's administration presses ahead with an effort to broker historic ties between the two regional powerhouses, Washington's top Middle East allies. The normalization talks are the centerpiece of complex negotiations that also include discussions of U.S. security guarantees and civilian nuclear help that Riyadh has sought, as well as possible Israeli concessions to the Palestinians. "For us, the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to solve that part," MbS, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, said when asked what it would take to get a normalization agreement. "And we have a good negotiations strategy til now." "We got to see where we go. We hope that will reach a place that will ease the life of the Palestinians and get Israel as a player in the Middle East," he said, speaking in English. MbS also voiced concern about the possibility that Iran, a mutual adversary of Saudi Arabia and Israel that the U.S. wants to contain, could obtain a nuclear weapon. Tehran has denied seeking a nuclear bomb. "That's a bad move," he said. "If you use it, you got to have a big fight with the rest of the world."Asked what would happen if Iran did get a nuclear bomb, MbS said: "If they get one, we have to get one."
While U.S. officials insist any breakthrough is far away and steep obstacles remain, they privately tout the potential benefits of a regional mega-deal.
These include removing a possible flashpoint in the Arab-Israeli conflict, strengthening the bulwark against Iran and countering China's inroads in the Gulf. Biden would also score a foreign policy win as he seeks re-election in November 2024.
The broadcast of the crown prince's comments was scheduled for the same day as a meeting between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which they pledged to work together toward Israeli-Saudi normalization, which could reshape the geopolitics of the Middle East. Both leaders on Wednesday also said Iran could not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon. MbS issued the stark warning to Tehran despite the two countries having agreed in Chinese-brokered talks in March to restore relations after years of hostility. Among the challenges the U.S. faces in brokering a wide-ranging deal would be satisfying MbS's demands. He is reported to be seeking a treaty committing the U.S. to defend the kingdom if attacked, and also wants advanced weapons and assistance for a civilian nuclear program. From the Israelis, MbS is seeking significant concessions to the Palestinians to keep alive prospects for statehood in the occupied territories, something Biden is also pushing for but which Netanyahu's far-right government has shown little willingness to grant. There is a growing a sense of urgency in Washington over China's effort to gain a strategic foothold in Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter. The administration also seeks to further heal ties with Riyadh, which Biden once vowed to make a "pariah" over its human rights record. But an upgraded U.S.-Saudi security relationship would face resistance in the U.S. Congress, where many are critical of MbS over the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Riyadh's intervention in Yemen and its role in high oil prices.

Semafor summit: Jordan’s King Abdullah II laments Syrian drug crisis, Iran’s regional role
Al-Monitor Staff/September 20, 2023
NEW YORK — Jordan’s King Abdullah II expressed doubt as to whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is in control of his country at an Al-Monitor/Semafor event on Wednesday, while also offering his thoughts on the challenges regarding Israel-Gulf normalization, Iran’s role in the region and more. Speaking at The Middle East Global Summit in New York City, King Abdullah said he was unsure whether Assad is fully in charge of the country in light of the “major problem” of drugs and weapons being smuggled into Jordan. “I think Bashar does not want that to happen, does not want a conflict with Jordan. I don't know how much he is in control,” said the king. King Abdullah spoke extensively on the situation in Syria, especially about the flourishing drug trade in the country, saying Iran as well as elements within the government are benefitting from this. "We are fighting every single day on our border to stop massive amounts of drugs coming into our country," he said. "And this is a major issue that all the parties, including some people inside the regime, and the Iranians and their proxies, are all taking advantage of." The king also addressed the ongoing protests in southern Syria against the dire economic situation there, warning that this could lead to a new influx of refugees into Jordan and also Lebanon. “We're back to the beginning of the Arab Spring where people are demonstrating because they are suffering. They're not being able to put food on the table,” he said. “We and the Lebanese could be faced with another wave of refugees.” However, King Abdullah said Jordan cannot accommodate more than the roughly 1.3 million Syrian refugees already in the country, in part due to reduced international support. “We cannot take any more. We're already overburdened. The international support has dwindled dramatically,” he said. The conversation also touched on Jordan’s other neighbor, Israel, including its normalization with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain via the US-brokered Abraham Accords. King Abdullah said the landmark agreement, announced in September 2020 by the Trump administration, will not be successful unless there is a solution to the Palestinian question. “The Abraham Accords started something. But it will never fulfill the aspirations that we all want unless you solve the problem for the Palestinians,” he said. King Abdullah made similar remarks on the United States’ push for normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia. “This belief … by some in the region that you can parachute over Palestine, deal with the Arabs and work your way back — that does not work,” he said. “There's something that Saudi Arabia wants, there's something that the Israelis want, there's something that the Americans want. What you have to add to that component is what do the Palestinians get out of it?”King Abdullah also noted the importance of engagement with Iraq and said the international community needs to engage with Baghdad in order to counter Iran’s influence. “I think all of us in the international community need to step toward Iraq even more now, to be that counter and not to lose the gains that we made there,” he said. Aside from politics, the king made an appeal for greater economic prosperity in the Middle East. He noted increasing Gulf investment in green technology as well as the gas projects involving Lebanon, Israel and Cyprus.
Increased prosperity could be the key to peace, according to the king. “The economic prosperity potential is, I think, what breaks down borders,” said King Abdullah. “Because at the end of the day, most people will vote for peace if they can put food on the table for their loved ones.”

Israel, Turkey leaders discuss Saudi normalization in first New York meeting
Rina Bassist/Al-Monitor/September 20, 2023
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met for the first time Tuesday evening in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly summit. They reportedly discussed the strengthening of bilateral relations and the possibility of Saudi Arabia normalizing ties with Israel. “Our ties are growing stronger,” Netanyahu told Erdogan at the start of the meeting, reported the Israeli press. Erdogan said the two countries should work together for peace in the world, listing energy, technology, innovation, artificial intelligence and cyber security as areas where Israel and Turkey could cooperate. "During the meeting, international and regional issues, political and economic relations between the two countries as well as the latest developments regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were discussed," the Turkish presidency tweeted.
The meeting comes as Ankara is trying to foster better ties with regional countries in a bid to lure funds to recover from an economic crisis. Energy likely topped Erdogan’s agenda his government seeks to map out a potential pipeline project to carry Israeli natural gas to Europe via its territory.
Israel is also interested in energy cooperation with Turkey, but must also consider its strategic alliance with Turkey’s regional rivals Greece and Cyprus and the developing energy cooperation initiatives with those countries. Cyprus, an EU member not recognized by Turkey, is also seeking energy cooperation projects to carry Israeli natural gas to Europe, bypassing Turkey. The two leaders have spoken on the phone a few times over the years, but have not met in person. Erdogan met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008 in Ankara, and then with Prime Minister Yair Lapid in 2022 in New York. Israeli President Isaac Herzog traveled to the Turkish capital in March 2022 for what was considered the official restoration of ties after a decade of isolation. Tuesday’s meeting, on the margins of the UNGA summit currently underway in New York, came one day after the Turkish president told reporters he supported efforts by the Biden administration to broker an Israeli-Saudi deal, saying it would lower tensions in the region. A statement issued by Netanyahu’s office after the meeting said the two leaders had decided to continue promoting Israel-Turkey relations in the fields of trade and energy and that they discussed regional and international issues including the normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Unlike the Turkish tweet, the Israeli one did not mention the Palestinians. The Israeli statement read that Netanyahu thanked Erdogan for "the fruitful cooperation between the security organizations that thwarted the malicious intentions of terrorist groups to harm Israeli tourists in Istanbul and thus saved lives." Netanyahu was apparently referring to Turkish intelligence services working with the Mossad in June 2022 to uncover and foil an Iran-led plot to kidnap and kill Israeli tourists in Istanbul.
"The two leaders mutually invited each other for visits to Israel and Turkey and it was agreed that these visits would be coordinated and take place soon,” the statement read. Shortly before the New York meeting, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that Erdogan is interested in arranging a trip to Israel as soon as possible to pray at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque to mark the centennial of the Turkish Republic, which was founded on Oct. 29, 1923. Netanyahu was scheduled to travel to Turkey last July in what would have been the first visit to Ankara by an Israeli prime minister in 14 years but the trip was postponed, with the Israeli government citing health reasons. Speaking in July before Netanyahu's visit was cancelled, Erdogan said energy cooperation would top the agenda on the Turkish side during the planned talks in Ankara.Tuesday night's meeting was especially significant as it was under a previous Netanyahu government that bilateral relations with Turkey soured, following the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident in which nine Turkish nationals were killed by the Israel Defense Forces. In 2013, during US President Barak Obama’s visit to Israel, Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Erdogan and apologized for the incident. Though he accepted the apology, Erdogan has made many anti-Israel statements over the years, mostly related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some of those comments have been described as antisemitic by countries including Israel and the United States.
Pressured to improve his ties with Washington and following the Abraham Accords normalizing ties between Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan, Erdogan changed his tone some two years ago. Israeli diplomats told Al-Monitor in 2020 that they first detected Turkey’s intention to improve ties with Israel at the mission to NATO in Brussels. In the past, they said, Turkey had often blocked Israeli initiatives for cooperation with the organization. (Israel is not a NATO member, while Turkey is.) But three years ago, they said that Turkish delegates to NATO stopped obstructing Israeli initiatives, suggesting that a change of policy was in the air. Middle East Eye reported Tuesday before the New York meeting that the Turkish leader had told journalists his country supports recent US-brokered attempts to normalize ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia. According to an unnamed source, Erdogan told reporters, "Turkey views the normalization attempts between the two countries positively," adding that it could help diminish tension in the region.

Awkward meeting looms for Biden and Netanyahu
Associated Press/September 20/2023
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to have his long-coveted meeting with President Joe Biden on Wednesday — bringing together the two leaders for the first time since the Israeli leader took office at the helm of his country's far-right government late last year.
Netanyahu has been a frequent visitor to the White House over the years, and Israeli leaders are typically invited within weeks of taking office. The lengthy delay in setting up the meeting with Biden, and the White House decision to hold the meeting in New York rather than Washington, have been widely interpreted in Israel as signs of U.S. displeasure with Netanyahu's new government. "Meeting at the White House symbolizes close relations and friendship and honor, and the denial of that shows exactly the opposite," said Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S.-Israeli relations at Israel's Bar-Ilan University.
"This is not going to be a pleasant meeting," Gilboa said. "It is going to be a sour meeting." The White House was tight-lipped ahead of the Wednesday meeting, declining to offer much detail on what would be on Biden's agenda for the talks. Biden administration officials have repeatedly raised concerns about Netanyahu's contentious plan to overhaul Israel's judicial system, and the topic is sure to come up. Netanyahu says the country's unelected judges wield too much power over government decision-making. Critics say that by weakening the independent judiciary, Netanyahu is pushing the country toward authoritarian rule. His plan has bitterly divided the nation and triggered months of mass protests against his government. Those protests have followed him to the U.S. Large numbers of Israeli expatriates are expected to protest outside Wednesday's meeting in Manhattan on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Early this year, Biden voiced his unhappiness over the overhaul, saying Netanyahu "cannot continue down this road" and urging the Israeli leader to find a compromise. Netanyahu's negotiations with the Israeli opposition have stalled and his coalition has moved ahead with its plan, pushing the first major piece of the legislation through parliament in July. The Israeli government's treatment of the Palestinians has also drawn American ire. Netanyahu's coalition is dominated by far-right ultranationalists who have greatly expanded Israeli settlement construction on occupied lands claimed by the Palestinians for a future state. Israel's government also opposes a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians — a cornerstone of White House policy in the region. The deadlock has coincided with a spike in fighting in the West Bank. The White House said Wednesday's talks would focus on "shared democratic values between our two countries and a vision for a more stable and prosperous and integrated region." The meeting comes at a time of cooling ties between Israel and the Democratic Party. A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that while Americans generally view Israel as a partner or ally, many are questioning whether Netanyahu's government shares American values. Republicans were significantly more likely than Democrats to call Israel an ally with shared values. Tom Nides, who stepped down as U.S. ambassador to Israel in July, said the timing and location of Wednesday's meeting were issues and acknowledged some policy differences. "That's what friends do. Friends argue with each other. We can articulate a strong view against settlement growth. We can say, quite frankly, arguably that they should get some compromise on judicial reform. What's wrong with that?"
But he predicted a good meeting devoid of "fireworks," noting that Biden and Netanyahu are longtime friends and the countries are still close allies. "The relationship is as strong as it has ever been," he said. Biden administration officials downplayed that the meeting is being held on the sidelines of New York, and not Washington. Netanyahu is expected to eventually get a White House invitation, though timing of such a visit could depend on how Wednesday's meeting goes.
Topping Netanyahu's wish list will be discussions on U.S. efforts to broker a deal establishing full diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Netanyahu, who also led Israel when former President Donald Trump brokered the "Abraham Accords" between Israel and four Arab countries, has said that a similar deal with Saudi Arabia would mark a "quantum leap" forward for Israel and the region. The White House has acknowledged that it is seeking such a deal, but obstacles lie in the way. Saudi Arabia is pushing for a nuclear cooperation deal and defense guarantees from the U.S.
The Saudis have also said they expect Israel to make significant concessions to the Palestinians. Biden is likely to make clear to Netanyahu that any deal will need to consider Palestinian interests. Biden is cognizant that the Saudis are wary of proceeding with normalizing relations with Israel at a time when it is led by the most right-wing government in its history, and when tensions have soared with the Palestinians. The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, told reporters "there is no other way" to solve the conflict than by establishing a Palestinian state. But senior ministers in Netanyahu's government have already ruled out any concessions to the Palestinians. Israel is also eager to consult with the U.S. about Iran, particularly over their shared concerns about Iran's nuclear program. Iran says the program is peaceful, but it now enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels. Danny Danon, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.N. who is now a lawmaker in Netanyahu's Likud party, acknowledged that Wednesday's meeting didn't have the cachet of a White House visit. "It doesn't have the image and the ceremony," he told Israel's army radio station. Nonetheless, he said, "It's a meaningful and very important meeting and we should be thankful it's happening."

Israeli Intelligence Threatens Commander of Imam Hussein Brigade in Syria
Tel Aviv/Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper/September 20/2023
The Israeli army’s military intelligence sent warnings to the pro-Iran Imam Hussein Brigade - which is made up of sub-units operating in Syria - and accused the militias of recruiting thousands of soldiers to conduct strikes against Israel.
Israeli intelligence officers said that a unit comprising one thousand members was currently a source of concern for AMAN (the Military Intelligence Division of the Israeli Army), and was practically considered a branch of the Lebanese Hezbollah. According to the officers, the unit owns Iranian-made drones and surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, while its soldiers are well trained, have military patrols and fortified positions, and act like a small army. The Israeli foreign intelligence service (Mossad) has begun investigating weapons smuggling operations through Syria and the Jordanian border to Palestinian armed organizations in the West Bank. The Israeli Army Radio, Galei Tsahal, reported on Tuesday a significant increase in smuggling operations, in terms of quantity and types of weapons. The channel quoted a senior official in the Israeli security services as saying that the last few weeks witnessed the thwarting of two attempts to smuggle weapons across the Jordanian-Israeli border in the Jordan Valley region. One of these operations was described as “large and exceptional,” and included powerful and sophisticated explosive devices. Israel is investigating the possibility of Iran’s involvement. In earlier statements, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel “is aware of the increasing involvement of Iran and terrorist organizations in attempts to transfer weapons and knowledge (i.e. expertise related to weapons manufacturing) to the West Bank.” Israeli army reports indicate that the Imam Hussein Brigade was carrying out hostile activity against Israel, including weapons smuggling. Particular focus was placed on the commander of this brigade, called Zulfiqar Hanawi, 42, a Lebanese affiliated with Hezbollah, who led a military division that was fighting in Aleppo in 2013. According to the reports, Hanawi “works relentlessly to develop the capabilities of his forces and carry out bold operations against American forces, terrorist organizations, Israel, and even against opposition forces (in Syria). He is also involved in importing weapons from Iran and hiding them in Syria or Lebanon.”Some AMAN officers describe him as the successor of IRGC Commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US operation near Baghdad airport at the beginning of 2021.

Iran's new hijab bill promises severe penalties for women
Beatrice Farhat/Al-Monitor Staff/September 20, 2023
Iran’s parliament approved a bill Wednesday that would toughen penalties for women found to be violating the Islamic Republic’s dress code for a trial period of three years.
The so-called “Bill to Support the Family by Promoting the Culture of Chastity and Hijab” passed with 152 votes in favor, 34 against and seven abstentions, according to the country’s judiciary. The bill now requires the approval of Iran's Guardian Council, a 12-member body empowered to vet legislation. The bill was first proposed in April and then amended by the Parliamentary Judicial Commission in July. Its approval coincides with the first anniversary of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini and the ensuing protests against the ruling regime in Iran. Massive nationwide protests erupted last September in response to the death of Amini, who was arrested by the country’s morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic dress code. After coming to power following the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini decreed that all Iranian women must cover their head and neck. Article 638 of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran reads that "women who appear in public without a proper hijab should be imprisoned from 10 days to two months or pay a fine." Under the new bill, which includes 70 articles, women who fail to adhere to the Islamic dress code could face prison terms of five to 10 years. Also, women found guilty of “nudity, lack of chastity, lack of hijab, improper dressing and acts against public decency leading to disturbance of peace” face severe punishments such as 60 lashes as well as prison time. The bill also imposes fines or forces the closure of businesses that do not enforce hijab rules and gives public institutions the right to deny essential services to women violating the dress code. The proposed law also calls for gender segregation in government offices, universities, hospitals and public parks. The bill is the latest move by Iranian authorities as they crack down on protests and other activism. The United Nations and rights groups have expressed concerns over the proposed law. “The draft law could be described as a form of gender apartheid, as authorities appear to be governing through systemic discrimination with the intention of suppressing women and girls into total submission,” a panel of UN experts said in a Sept. 1 statement. A group called Human Rights Activists in Iran also condemned the bill, saying in a Sept. 7 report that it “symbolizes a broader pattern of limited gender equality within the legal framework, reinforcing discriminatory practices against women.”

At least 6 Palestinians killed in latest fighting with Israel

Associated Press/September 20/2023
Israeli military operations in the occupied West Bank and unrest in the Gaza Strip have killed six Palestinians, Palestinian health officials said Wednesday, the latest spike in a wave of violence that has roiled the region for more than a year.
The death toll from the most recent flare-up stood at four late Tuesday. But on Wednesday the Palestinian Health Ministry raised it, saying an Israeli raid into the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank killed four people and wounded some 30 others, while a raid in a separate refugee camp killed another Palestinian. A sixth Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire in unrest in the Gaza Strip, officials said. The deadly violence between Israel and the Palestinians over the last year and a half has surged to levels unseen in the West Bank in some two decades. Israel has stepped up its raids on Palestinian areas and Palestinian attacks against Israelis have been mounting. Tensions also appear to be spreading to Gaza. The Israeli military said Wednesday that troops opened fire toward a Palestinian who was throwing explosives at them while they were on an overnight arrest raid in the refugee camp of Aqabat Jabr. The camp, near the Palestinian city of Jericho, has emerged as one of the focal points of Israel's raids. The Palestinian Health Ministry said Israeli forces killed 19-year-old Dhargham al-Akhras in the raid. The bloodshed in the Jenin camp hours earlier was the latest in that stronghold of Palestinian militants where the Israeli military often carries out deadly raids. In July, Israel launched its most intense operation in the West Bank in nearly two decades, leaving widespread destruction in the camp. The army said that forces carried out a rare strike Tuesday with a suicide drone during the operation and exchanged fire with gunmen in Jenin. While leaving the camp, the army said, an explosive detonated underneath an army truck as gunmen opened fire, damaging the vehicle. No soldiers were injured. Videos posted on social media showed medics unloading the wounded at a hospital, while in other videos, explosions and gunfire could be heard echoing in the camp. As Israeli soldiers withdrew, a crowd of young men chanted: "Oh, you who ask, who are we? We are the Jenin Brigade."After the Israeli military withdrew from the Jenin camp, dozens of gunmen and residents poured into the streets to protest against the Palestinian Authority and its failure to protect them, according to footage shared by residents. Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. Some 190 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the start of the year, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in the confrontations have also been killed. At least 31 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis since the beginning of 2023. In the Gaza violence, health officials said the Israeli military killed a 25-year-old Palestinian along the volatile frontier with Israel as youths mounted violent protests at a separation fence. Unrest over the past week has escalated tensions and prompted Israel to bar entry to thousands of Palestinian laborers from the impoverished enclave. Over the last week, dozens of Palestinians — burning tires and hurling explosive devices at Israeli soldiers — have streamed toward the fence separating Israel from Gaza, which has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007. Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent the ruling Hamas militant group from arming itself.
Hamas says youths have organized the protests in response to Israeli provocations. Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.

Israeli Ambassador Detained After Protesting Iranian President Over Women's Freedom

Kate Nicholson/HuffPost UK/September 20, 2023
The Israel ambassador to the UN was detained after protesting the Iranian president’s speech at the organisation’s general assembly on Tuesday. When president Ebrahim Raisi started to talk at the major summit, Gilad Erdan silently brandished a photo of Mahsa Amini, with a tagline written in red, which reads: “Iranian women deserve freedom now.”Amini was the Kurdish woman whose death in police custody sparked nationwide protests against the suppression of Irainian women last year. The movement’s rallying cry, “Woman, Life, Freedom,” is now known around the world.
Erdan also posted a video on social media prior to his protest condemning the UN for offering a platform to “butcher of Tehran”. After his brief protest, he walked out as Raisi’s long speech began. Clips posted on social media (and reposted on X, formerly Twitter, by Erdan himself), show the ambassador being temporarily detained by UN security after his intervention. This was not the only way Raisi’s speech caused controversy, as the president started to accuse the US of encouraging violence in Ukraine. But, the Iranian president tried distanced his country from Russia too, claiming that any Iranian-made drones hitting Ukrainian cities must have been sold before Moscow invaded back in February 2022. Tehran did also host a Russian defence delegation led by Moscow’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu on the same day of Raisi’s speech, though. Demonstrations outside the UN’s New York City headquarters also criticised the international organisation for even inviting Iran and giving it a platform to speak. The West is still concerned over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, so the UK, France and Germany are refusing to lift sanctions on the country originally agreed to in the 2015 nuclear deal. Meanwhile, the US imposed new sanctions on both individuals and entities from Iran on the day of Raisi’s address, all of which are meant to target the unmanned aerial vehicle development in the country.

Saudi Arabia praises 'positive results' after Houthi rebels' visit for peace talks
Associated Press/September 20/2023
Saudi Arabia on Wednesday praised the "positive results" of negotiations with Yemen's Houthi rebels after they visited the kingdom for peace talks, though Riyadh released few details on their discussions to end the war tearing at the Arab world's poorest nation. The five days of talks, which represented the highest-level, public negotiations with the Houthis in the kingdom, come as Saudi Arabia tries a renewed bid to end the yearslong coalition war it launched on Yemen. That conflict had become enmeshed in a wider regional proxy war the kingdom faced against its longtime regional rival Iran, with which it reached a détente earlier this year. The Saudi Foreign Ministry in a statement early Wednesday marking the end of the Houthis' trip "welcomed the positive results of the serious discussions regarding reaching a road map to support the peace path in Yemen." "The kingdom continues to stand with Yemen and its brotherly people and ... encourages the Yemeni parties to sit at the negotiating table to reach a comprehensive and lasting political solution in Yemen under the supervision of the United Nations," the statement read. The Houthi delegation even met with Saudi Arabia's defense minister Prince Khalid bin Salman, the brother of the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, during their visit. In a social media post, Prince Khalid referred to those visiting him as the "Sanaa delegation," not using either the Houthis nor the rebel group's formal name, Ansar Allah. "I emphasized the kingdom's support for Yemen and reaffirmed our commitment to promoting dialogue among all parties to reach a comprehensive political solution under U.N. supervision," Prince Khalid said. Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the chief Houthi negotiator, wrote online that the rebels "held extensive meetings with the Saudi side in which we discussed some options and alternatives to overcome disagreements that previous rounds touched upon." "We will submit them to the leadership for consultation and in a way that will help in speeding up the disbursement of salaries and addressing the issues of the humanitarian situation that our Yemeni people are suffering from, leading to a just, comprehensive and sustainable solution," Abdul-Salam said. The Houthis long have demanded the Saudi-led coalition pay salaries of all state employees under its control — including its military forces — from Yemen's oil and gas revenues, as well as open all airports and ports under Houthi control as part of any peace deal. The rebel-controlled SABA news agency acknowledged the delegation's return to Sanaa, without elaborating on the talks. Officials at the United Nations, which is now hosting the annual General Assembly in New York drawing world leaders, did not immediately comment on the Saudi remarks. A joint statement issued by the United States and the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation Gulf Arab bloc led by Riyadh, commended "Saudi Arabia's sustained efforts to encourage Yemeni-Yemeni dialogue." "The ministers also emphasized their support for an inclusive, Yemeni-Yemeni political process under U.N. auspices that durably resolves the conflict," that statement read. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also met with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on ending the war on the sidelines of the U.N. summit. "We are, in our judgment, in a moment of opportunity, opportunity to help the people of Yemen chart a path toward a durable peace and durable security," Blinken said. Yemen's conflict began in 2014 when the Houthis seized Sanaa and much of the country's north. The internationally recognized government fled to the south and then into exile in Saudi Arabia. The Houthi takeover prompted a Saudi-led coalition to intervene months later and the conflict turned into a regional proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the United States long involved on the periphery, providing intelligence assistance to the kingdom. However, international criticism over Saudi airstrikes killing civilians saw the U.S. pull back its support. But the U.S. is suspected of still carrying out drone strikes targeting suspected members of Yemen's local al-Qaida branch. The war has killed more than 150,000 people, including fighters and civilians, and created one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters, killing tens of thousands more. A cease-fire that expired last October largely has held in the time since, however. Saudi Arabia, its local allies and the Houthis conducted a prisoner exchange in April as part of peace talk efforts.

Raisi at UN demands US end sanctions, accuses it of 'fanning flames' in Ukraine

Associated Press/September 20/2023
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has demanded an end to US sanctions against the clerical state, after a halt in talks on restoring a nuclear deal. "These sanctions have not yielded the desired results. It is time now for the United States to bring a cessation to its wrong path and choose the right side," he told the UN General Assembly. Raisi also said Tuesday that his country will never give up its right "to have peaceful nuclear energy" and urged the United States "to demonstrate in a verifiable fashion" that it wants to return to the 2015 nuclear deal. Addressing the annual high-level meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, Raisi said the American withdrawal from the deal trampled on U.S. commitments and was "an inappropriate response" to Iran's fulfillment of its commitments. Then-President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the U.S. out of the accord in 2018, restoring crippling sanctions. Iran began breaking the terms a year later and formal talks in Vienna to try to restart the deal collapsed in August 2022. Iran has long denied ever seeking nuclear weapons and continues to insist that its program is entirely for peaceful purposes – points Raisi reiterated Tuesday telling the high-level meeting that "nuclear weapons have no place in the defensive doctrine and the military doctrine" of the country. But U.N. nuclear chief Rafael Grossi said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press that the Iranian government's removal of many cameras and electronic monitoring systems installed by the International Atomic Energy Agency make it impossible to give assurances about the country's nuclear program. Grossi has previously warned that Tehran has enough enriched uranium for "several" nuclear bombs if it chose to build them. The IAEA director general also said Monday he asked to meet Raisi to try to reverse Tehran's uncalled for ban on "a very sizable chunk" of the agency's inspectors. Raisi made no mention of the IAEA inspectors but the European Union issued a statement late Tuesday saying its top diplomat, Josep Borrell, met Iran's Foreign Minister on Tuesday and raised the nuclear deal and the inspectors as well as Iran's arbitrary detention of many EU citizens including dual nationals. At his meeting with Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the EU said Borrell urged Iran to reconsider its decision to ban several experienced nuclear inspectors and to improve cooperation with the IAEA. Borrell again urged the Iranian government to stop its military cooperation with Russia, the EU statement said. Western nations have said Iran has supplied military drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine, which Tehran denies. Raisi spoke to the General Assembly a day after Iran and the U.S. each freed five prisoners who were in jails for years. The U.S. also allowed the release of nearly $6 billion in Iranian frozen assets in South Korea for humanitarian use. The five freed Americans arrived in the U.S. earlier Tuesday. The Iranian president made no mention of the prisoner swap. Israel's U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan walked out of the assembly hall when Raisi got up to speak, carrying a sign with a picture of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in police custody in Iran last year, sparking worldwide protests against the country's conservative Islamic theocracy. Raisi accused the United States of worsening the Ukraine war but insisted that Tehran -- which has provided drones to Russia -- would back a peace settlement. "The United States of America has fanned the flames of violence in Ukraine in order to weaken the European countries. This is a long-term plan, unfortunately," he told the United Nations General Assembly. "We support any initiative for a cessation of hostilities and the war," Raisi said.

UN chief puts spotlight on 'movers,' excludes US, China at climate summit
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters)/September 20/2023
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday will gather heads of state and business leaders that he has identified as taking stronger action on climate change for a meeting aimed at building momentum ahead of the COP28 climate summit. Missing from the list of 34 speakers representing countries at Guterres' Climate Ambition Summit are the world's biggest emitters China and United States, as well as the United Arab Emirates, the host of the COP28 gathering in December. The summit will feature speeches from leaders who are responding to his call to "accelerate" global climate action, including Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Pakistan, South Africa and Tuvalu. Guterres said one of the aims was to spur action from countries and companies whose climate plans were not in line with the global climate target. Non-member states and international financial institutions that will get speaking slots include Allianz, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the city of London and the state of California. U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change John Kerry will attend the summit but will not deliver a speech, a spokesperson said. The Secretary-General's office has kept a close hold on the list of invited speakers. Guterres' climate adviser Selwin Hart said in an interview with Reuters this week that the purpose of the summit was not to "embarrass" countries or companies that did not make the cut but to inspire more action from others. The criteria for a leader to be selected to speak include proposals to update their country's pre-2030 climate plan; updated targets to achieve net-zero emissions energy transition plans that commit to no new oil, gas or coal; and plans to phase out fossil fuels. New climate funding pledges or adaptation plans are also among the criteria for countries to particpate. For businesses, cities and financial institutions, the UN requries them to represent transition plans aligned with UN integrity recommendations, emission reduction targets for 2025 that include indirect emissions, as well as plans to phase out fossil fuels that do not rely on carbon offsetting. Guterres has been blunt in his public assessment of countries' climate actions and whether they will deliver on the Paris agreement goal to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C. "I'm not sure all leaders are feeling the heat. Actions are falling abysmally short," he said in his opening remarks of the UN General Assembly. A report released by the U.N. earlier this month said existing national pledges to cut emissions were insufficient to keep temperatures within the 1.5 C threshold. More than 20 gigatonnes of further CO2 reductions were needed this decade - and global net zero by 2050 - in order to meet the goals. China's mission to the United Nations and UAE did not immediately respond for comment.

Ukraine, Russia and the tense U.N. encounter that almost happened — but didn't

UNITED NATIONS (AP)/September 20, 2023
It was a moment the diplomatic world was watching for — but didn't get.
In the end, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov avoided staring each other down Wednesday across the U.N. Security Council's famous horseshoe-shaped table. Zelenskyy left before Lavrov arrived.
The near-miss was somewhat to be expected. Yet the moment still spoke to the U.N.'s role as a venue where warring nations can unleash their ire through words instead of weapons. The choreography also underscored the world body's reputation as a place where adversaries sometimes literally talk past each other. Zelenskyy denounced Russia as “a terrorist state” while Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia sat facing him near the other end of the table's arc. As Zelenskyy launched into his remarks, the Russian looked at his phone, then tucked the device away.
Zelenskyy left before Lavrov's arrival, which came as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was accusing Russia of having “shredded” key provisions of the U.N. Charter. Lavrov, in turn, reiterated his country's claims that Kyiv has oppressed Russian speakers in eastern areas, violating the U.N. charter and getting a pass on it from the U.S. and other western countries. Across the table was Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya, his eyes on his phone during at least parts of Lavrov's remarks. (Blinken, for his part, took handwritten notes.) If there was no finger-pointing face-off, the atmosphere was decidedly prickly. Before Zelenskyy's arrival, Nebenzia objected to a speaking order that put the Ukrainian president before the council's members, including Russia. (Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, the meeting chair, retorted: “You stop the war, and President Zelenskyy will not take the floor.”) Zelenskyy had been in the same room, but hardly eye to eye, with a Russian diplomat during the Ukrainian leader's speech Tuesday in the vast hall of the U.N. General Assembly, which this week is holding its annual meeting of top-level leaders. (Russian Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyansky later said, wryly, that he'd been focusing on his phone and “didn't notice” Zelenskyy's address.) Before that, Zelenskyy last encountered a Russian official at a 2019 meeting with President Vladimir Putin. There’s a long history of delegates walking out on rival nations' speeches in the council and other U.N. bodies, and it's not unusual for speakers to duck in and out of Security Council meetings for reasons as simple as scheduling. The group's member countries must have a presence during meetings but can fill their seats with any accredited diplomat. Ukraine isn't a member but was invited to speak. Ahead of the meeting, Zelenskyy suggested that U.N. members needed to ask themselves why Russia still has a place on a council intended to maintain international peace and security. There have been verbal fireworks — by diplomatic standards, at least — during the council's scores of meetings on the war. And even the seating chart was a sticking point last year when Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba both attended a council meeting that, like Wednesday's, happened alongside the General Assembly’s big annual gathering. The two foreign ministers had no personal interaction at that 2022 session, which Lavrov attended only briefly, to give his speech. But beforehand, a placard marking Ukraine’s seat was moved after Kuleba apparently objected to its placement next to Russia’s spot. This time, the two countries' seats were separated from the start.

'Stop the war' and Zelenskiy won't speak, UN Security Council chair tells Russia
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 20 (Reuters)/ September 20, 2023
It was to be Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy's first in- person appearance at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Moscow's invasion of his country, and Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia objected to him taking the floor before the 15 council members. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, serving as president of the tense session, responded with a gibe at Moscow, which has long said the invasion does not amount to a war but was a "special military operation". "I want to assure our Russian colleagues and everyone here that this is not a special operation by the Albanian presidency," Rama, known for a piercing sense of humor, said to muted laughter across the room. "There is a solution for this," Rama continued. "If you agree, you stop the war and President Zelenskiy will not take the floor," said Rama, whose country serves as president of the council for September. Nebenzia went on to say the session was a show and criticized Rama for what he said was a political stance rather than an act of a neutral guardian of procedure. In seeking to justify its invasion, Moscow has said Ukraine's ambitions to integrate with the West - including NATO - pose a threat to Russia's national security. When given the floor after the back-and-forth, Zelenskiy suggested Russia be stripped of its veto right as one of five permanent members of the post-World War Two U.N. Security Council as punishment for attacking Ukraine. Zelenskiy said the only way to a lasting peace was a full withdrawal of Russian troops and restoration of Kyiv's control over its territory within the 1991 borders following the fall of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine: Ship blast near Romania, US accused of stoking war, Zelenskyy faces Russia at UN

Business Insider/September 20, 2023
Russian forces are suffering steep losses in the western Zaporizhia Oblast in Ukraine.
Russian units lost more than 300 troops in one day, a US think tank said, citing a Ukrainian official.
Ukrainian forces are seeking to breach Russian defensive lines in the region.
Russian forces suffered steep casualties on a key part of the front line in Ukraine, losing more than 300 troops in one day, according to a US think tank. The Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think tank that provides daily updates on the conflict, said that Russia is likely struggling to find "combat-effective" units in the face of mounting losses in the western Zaporizhia Oblast, one of the key points of Ukraine's counteroffensive. Citing Ukrainian military spokesman Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun, it said Russia suffered 313 casualties near the village of Tavariisk on Monday, where ferocious fighting has raged in recent weeks. It's an increase on the 200 casualties Russian forces in the area suffered in each of the previous two days, said Shtupen. After weeks of grueling fighting as part of their counteroffensive to drive back Russia from territory it occupies in south and east Ukraine, Ukrainian forces in late August achieved a significant success: they broke through Russia's first line of defense and took control of the village of Robotyne. It brought them one step closer to breaching Russia's formidable defensive lines and advancing on the strategically vital town of Melitopol, a Russian logistics hub. Insider was unable to independently verify the casualty figures cited by the ISW, but the think tank said it had previously assessed that elite Russian airborne, or VDV, units appeared to have been significantly "degraded" in launching counterattacks against Ukrainian forces in Robotyne. It said so-called "storm V units" of Russian convict recruits had been sent to the region, presumably to act as "cover" should elite units need to retreat. "'Storm-Z' detachments are often combat ineffective and will likely provide the Russian defense in western Zaporizhia Oblast with marginal combat power," it noted.
The report echoes claims by British military intelligence, which in a tweet on Monday said that VDV paratroopers were being deployed to Robotyne, that the units were significantly under strength, and that their deployment signalled that Russian ground forces in the region were over-stretched. "Throughout the war, Russian commanders have attempted to regenerate the airborne forces as a highly mobile, striking force for offensive operations. Once again, they are being used as line infantry to augment over-stretched ground forces," it said. Ukraine is believed by analysts to be preparing for an attack on the town of Tokmak, which sits on a road to the strategically vital town of Melitopol. The core aim of Ukraine's southern counteroffensive is to sever Russia's land bridge to the occupied Crimea peninsula by seizing Melitopol.

India warns citizens in Canada to be cautious
Meryl Sebastian /BBC News, Cochin/September 20, 2023
India has urged its citizens travelling to or living in Canada to "exercise utmost caution". The advisory comes a day after tensions escalated between the countries with each expelling a diplomat from the other side. Canada said it was investigating "credible allegations" linking the Indian state with the killing of a Sikh separatist leader. India strongly denied this, calling the allegations "absurd".Analysts say relations between the countries, which have been strained for months, are now at an all-time low. How India-Canada ties descended into a public feud Why Western nations fear India-Canada row On Wednesday, India's foreign ministry said it issued the advisory "in view of growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada". The Indian government has often reacted sharply to demands by Sikh separatists in Western countries for Khalistan, or a separate Sikh homeland. The Khalistan movement peaked in India in the 1980s with a violent insurgency centred in Sikh-majority Punjab state. It was quelled by force and has little resonance in India now, but is still popular among some in the Sikh diaspora in countries such as Canada, Australia and the UK. Canada has the highest number of Sikhs outside Punjab and has seen several pro-Khalistan protests and demonstrations. In June, reports said India had raised a "formal complaint" with Canada about the safety of its diplomats there. In Wednesday's statement, Delhi said that some recent threats were directed at its diplomats and some Indians "who oppose the anti-India agenda". "Indian nationals are, therefore, advised to avoid travelling to regions and potential venues in Canada that have seen such incidents," it said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday that intelligence agencies were investigating whether "agents of the government of India" were involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen - India had designated him a terrorist in 2020. Nijjar was shot dead in his vehicle by two masked gunmen outside a Sikh temple on 18 June in British Columbia. "Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty," Mr Trudeau told the Canadian parliament on Monday. India reacted strongly, saying that Canada was trying to "shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists" who had been given shelter there. Some Indian media reports claimed the statement from Delhi followed a similar Canadian advisory for its citizens travelling to India. Canada's government confirmed its travel advice for India had been updated on Monday but said it had been "as part of pre-scheduled and routine maintenance in the section on travel health information". "No new risk information has been added to the India TAA [Travel Advice and Advisories] page," a spokesperson told the BBC. Ottawa's advisory asks its citizens to "exercise a high degree of caution" because of the "risk of terrorist attacks throughout" India.

World leaders convene for Day 1 of UN General Assembly meeting
Associated Press
Welcome to the United Nations. Over the course of the next week, leaders from scores of countries will take the marbled dais that, despite being geographically located in midtown Manhattan, belongs to the world. It's part of the U.N. General Assembly's General Debate, in which a parade of speakers will cycle through the iconic hall from Tuesday, Sept. 19, through Tuesday, Sept. 26. At the United Nations and on the sidelines, pressing topics will reflect the myriad global crises at hand: climate change, rampant inequality, Russia's war in Ukraine, public health and geopolitical instability, among others. Presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and other high-ranking representatives are convening under the 78th session's theme of "Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all."Check back here throughout for live updates from The Associated Press in and around the U.N. General Assembly, as leaders address and engage with their peers, constituencies at home and the world at large. A team of AP staffers at the United Nations, around New York and across the globe is providing highlights, analyses and key context in all formats.
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who is attending his first U.N. General Assembly as president, is speaking just as the country's main opposition parties challenged his election and asked the Nigerian Supreme Court to sack him as president.
The 71-year-old Nigerian leader is attending this year's session confronted with various challenges at home, from the resurgence of coups in West Africa — whose regional bloc he leads — to Nigeria's growing economic hardship.
"If this year's theme is to mean anything, it must mean something special and particular to Africa," said Tinubu. (For more on that theme, check out our backgrounder.)
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi said his country will not withdraw from its "obvious right for peaceful use of nuclear" technology and urged the United States to return to the 2015 nuclear deal. He reiterated that a nuclear arsenal has "no room" in Iran's military doctrine.
Raisi also urged the U.S. to return to nuclear deal by showing good will through "trust-building policy." In 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the deal and imposed more sanctions. The remarks came a day after Iran and the U.S. freed prisoners of both sides who were in jails for years. The U.S. also allowed Iran to have access to nearly $6 billion in frozen assets. The Americans arrived home today.
Some nations post their speeches only in Arabic, others only in French, others just in English. Some have a couple languages. Then there's Uzbekistan, which apparently wants to make absolutely certain people hear what President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has to say. While he delivered it in Uzbek, his speech was posted on the U.N. website in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish just minutes after he concluded. Speakers of those languages cover more than half the world's population, were they so inclined to read the speech. Those transcripts come from the countries, not the U.N.
That's what's called managing your constituency.
It took more than 5½ hours before a female leader took the podium at the 78th U.N. General Assembly's General Debate. That spot went to Her Excellency Katalin Novák, the president of Hungary (where the power lies, really, with the head of government, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán). She spoke of supporting Ukraine, of the importance of strengthening families, of parental freedom. And after Novák concluded her speech, a tiny telling moment: "And now I ask for protocol to accompany His Excellency," the translator — a woman — said in English. She quickly corrected herself: "HER Excellency."Two speeches later came Nataša Pirc Musar, president of Slovenia. There's only one other woman scheduled to speak Tuesday: Peru's Dina Boluarte. This came a day after U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, highlighted a U.N. report that said it will take 286 years for men and women to reach equality under the current rate of the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals.
That takes us to 2309.
That would be Dmitry Polyansky, Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador. AP's chief U.N. correspondent, Edith M. Lederer, ran into him shortly after Zelenskyy finished speaking and asked him for comment."Did he speak?" Polyansky told her. "I didn't notice he was speaking. I was on my phone."
"It is not only about Ukraine."
— Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky, advocating for the 10-point Ukrainian Peace Formula to solve conflicts even beyond Russia's war in his country.
If it's important to be in the room where it happens, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa made a note of who wasn't there. Ramaphosa was the 14th man to take the rostrum Tuesday, the first day of the General Debate. Taking note of the number of men in the General Assembly Hall, he asked: "Where are the women of the world?"In his speech, he stressed the need to empower women and have them participate equally in decision-making. Fifty percent of cabinet members in South Africa are women, and Ramaphosa said he was accompanied by an all-female delegation to the United Nations.
Jordan's King Abdullah II called on the international community to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he said remains "the central issue in the Middle East."
"No architecture for regional security and development can stand over the burning ashes of this conflict," he said in his address to the U.N. General Assembly. "Seven and a half decades on, it still smolders." The last serious peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down more than a decade ago. Recent diplomatic initiatives like the Trump-era Abraham Accords have focused on forging regional ties between Israel and Arab countries. The Biden administration hopes to build on those accords by brokering a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. But the Saudis have said such a deal would have to include major progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state, something Israel's right-wing government staunchly opposes. Jordan, a close Western ally, made peace with Israel in 1994 but strongly supports the Palestinian cause.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called Tuesday for a swift end to renewed fighting in a war-torn Nagorno-Karabakh region, but strongly sided with Turkey's ally Azerbaijan in defending its sovereign rights in the South Caucasus area.
Azerbaijan launched military strikes in recent days after weeks of escalating tension in the region populated by ethnic Armenians — triggering international concern of a possible new conflict. Erdoğan said there was "a historic opportunity awaiting all of us" to secure peace in the southern Caucasus region.
"In order to make use of this opportunity we attach importance to the normalization of our relations with Armenia," Erdogan said. "From the outset we always supported diplomacy between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Unfortunately, we see that Armenia cannot make use of this historic opportunity."
He reiterated that Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijani territory "so no other status can be dictated."Despite initiatives in recent years to normalize ties, relations between Turkey and Armenia are scarred by decades of mistrust and hostility over the mass killings of Armenians more than a century ago. An estimated 1.5 million people were killed in the events that are widely viewed by scholars at the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.
Colombia's President Gustavo Petro delivered an ominous prophecy with grandiose language, painting a grim picture of what lies ahead if nations fail to swiftly redesign life on this planet. "It has been a year in which humanity lost and without hesitation has advanced the times of extinction," he began. "It would seem as though the global leadership has made enemies with Life." Eloquent oratory is a skill Petro often deploys, and lately has done so to project himself as a global leader on climate change — and to reproach others for failing to fully heed its peril. At the U.N., he said that what he called "the crisis of Life" has already begun, as signaled by migration of climate refugees, and warned that in the coming half-century, their numbers will reach 3 billion. His country, today covered by lush forests, will transform to desert, he said, and its people will decamp en masse, "no longer attracted by the sequins of the wealth, but by something simpler and more vital: water."
His speech at times resembled literary prose, particularly his characterization of the ongoing migration flow. In the Spanish-language transcript submitted, "Life" is indeed capitalized.
President Joe Biden asked the U.N. Security Council to immediately authorize the Kenya-led multinational force to help fight gangs and restore peace in Haiti.
Biden in his speech at the General Assembly thanked Kenyan President William Ruto for his "willingness to serve as lead nation of UN security support mission" in the Caribbean nation where growing gang violence has killed many. Kenya's decision to lead that mission has been criticized by Ruto's opponents and Haitians have been skeptical about that mission. "I call on the Security Council to authorize this mission now," Biden said. "The people of Haiti cannot wait much longer."
Polish President Andrzej Duda likened the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the World War II occupation and partition of his own country by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and urged the world to hold Moscow accountable for its "barbaric actions."
"Poland lost its independence, was wiped (off) the map of the world, and subjected to an extremely brutal occupation. This is precisely why we understand the tragedy of Ukraine better than any other country," Duda said. Ukraine, he argued, was acting like a homeowner "defending his home against a mugger," and required continued international support to pursue its own defense. Duda added: "Today, the victim is Ukraine. Tomorrow, it could be any one of us." Duda's country took in more Ukrainian refugees than any other in the first few months of the war, though Germany now has more Ukrainian citizens registered.
As U.S. President Joe Biden pledged support to Ukraine, warning that no nation can be secure if "we allow Ukraine to be carved up," there was a round of applause in the General Assembly Hall. U.N. cameras showed Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky, sitting in Ukraine's seat in the General Assembly, clapping his hands. He's scheduled to speak later today.

Syria's Assad to visit China as Beijing boosts reach in Middle East

Associated Press/September 20/2023
Syria's President Bashar Assad will head to China later this week in his first visit to Beijing since the start of his country's 12-year conflict during which China has been one of his main backers, his office said Tuesday. China has been expanding its reach in the Middle East after mediating a deal in March between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and it continues to support Assad in the Syrian conflict, which has killed half a million people and left large parts of the nation in ruins. China could play a major role in the future in Syria's reconstruction, which is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars. Syria last year joined China's Belt and Road Initiative in which Beijing expands its influence in developing regions through infrastructure projects. Assad's office said the Syrian leader was invited by Chinese President Xi Jinping for a summit and will head Thursday to Beijing along with a high-ranking Syrian delegation. Syria's worsening economic crisis has led to protests in government-held parts of the country, mainly in the southern province of Sweida. Syria blames the crisis on Western sanctions and U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters who control the country's largest oil fields in the east near the border with Iraq. Diplomatic contacts between Syria and other Arab countries have intensified following the Feb. 6, earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria killing more than 50,000 people, including over 6,000 in Syria. Assad flew to Saudi Arabia in May where he attended the Arab League summit days after Syria's membership was reinstated in the 22-member league. Since Syria's conflict began in March 2011 with pro-democracy protests and later turned into a civil war, Iran and Russia have helped Assad regain control of much of the country. China has used its veto power at the U.N. eight times to stop resolutions against Assad's government, the latest in July 2020. Chinese authorities also closely coordinate with Syrian security services on the presence of thousands of Chinese fighters who are based in Syria mostly in the last rebel stronghold in the northwestern province of Idlib. Since 2013, thousands of Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority from western China, have traveled to Syria to train with the Uyghur militant group Turkistan Islamic Party and fight alongside al-Qaida, playing key roles in several battles. Assad's last and only visit to China was in 2004, a year after the U.S.-led invasion of neighboring Iraq and at a time when Washington was putting pressure on Syria. Assad's office said that his wife, Asma, will accompany him to China this week. Over the past years, Assad has made several trips abroad including visits to Russia, Iran, United Arab Emirates and Oman.

Turkey's Erdogan meets Israel's Netanyahu as ties thaw

Associated Press/September 20/2023
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in New York Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said "ties between the two countries were improving". After more than a decade of tensions, relations have improved with recent high-level visits, including that of Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Ankara last year. In Tuesday's meeting at Turkish House on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly, "the two leaders decided to continue advancing bilateral relations in trade, economic matters and energy," Netanyahu's office said, and extended reciprocal invitations for visits "soon." They also discussed "regional and international issues, including normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia," the statement said. Though Saudi Arabia was not one of the Gulf and Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel as part of the 2020 US-brokered Abraham Accords, speculation has grown of an impending deal. Riyadh has repeatedly said it would stick to the decades-old Arab League position of not establishing official ties with Israel until conflict with the Palestinians is resolved. On Tuesday, Erdogan and Netanyahu also discussed "the latest developments regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," according to a statement from the Turkish presidency. Erdogan is a fervent supporter of the Palestinian cause and a fierce critic of Israel -- but he has also altered regional strategy by initiating an outreach to Israel after years of tensions, including sending congratulations to Netanyahu after his victory in December elections. Ankara's relations with Israel froze over an Israeli raid on a Turkish ship carrying aid into the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory, which killed 10 civilians in 2010. A brief reconciliation lasted from 2016 until 2018, when Turkey withdrew its ambassador and expelled Israel's over the killing of Palestinians during a conflict with Gaza. Netanyahu meets US President Joe Biden on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly for the first time since being re-elected, in what is expected to be a tense encounter. Relations between Netanyahu and the Biden administration have been rocky since the Israeli leader made his political comeback at the head of a coalition of hard-right and ultra-Orthodox parties in December. They are also expected to discuss the potential deal to normalize ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia -- both key U.S. allies.

Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 20-21/2023
The US-Saudi Security Agreement and its Imponderables
Charles Elias Chartouni/September 20, 2023
The projected agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia might be a major turnaround, in the life of both countries, which impels transformations in both the Middle Eastern strategic landscape and international dynamics. Nonetheless, too many imponderables are to be weighed before finalizing a treaty shrouded with innuendos and contradictions. The basics of such a treaty revolve around common values, shared strategic interests, and future undertakings that need to be meticulously reviewed. The ongoing liberalization in Saudi Arabia is definitely a good starting point, be it within the country itself, or at the international level, since internal reforms and shifting away from Wahhabism, its proselytizing strategies and subversive goals is a milestone in Islamic reforms worldwide; The equivocations of the nascent relationships with Iran have not yet dissipated the mistrust, and addressed the lingering strategic concerns; the normalization of relationships with the State of Israel is essential to jumpstart negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, and reach an agreement between the two; the two parties are fully cognizant of the immense political impact of such an agreement and its influence on future political developments.
The reservations within US Congress cannot be swayed, unless the stipulations of the impending political agreement are duly explicited and acted upon by the engaging parties. Otherwise, the US government has to convince Netanyahu of the timeliness of an agreement with the Palestinians, and the need for him to reengage the negotiations in bona fide to finalize a peace treaty based on the Two States template, as a contribution to the overarching strategic umbrella and its multiple effects insofar regional stabilization, and as an ultimate bulwark against Russian, Chinese and Iranian subversion inroads in the region. The Netanyahu’s deliberate undermining of the rule of law and separation of powers, are putting at stake Israeli civil concord, the future of Israeli democracy, and the diplomatic breakthroughs of the Abraham Accords. The US diplomatic offensive is a game changer if the Saudis are firmly willing to continue their normalization dynamic at both ends, the Israelis overcome their reinstated reclusiveness and get over the bitter legacy of an institutionalized enmity, and the US transpartisan opposition ready to engage the new dynamic, monitor it and give it a chance. Obviously, nothing is to be taken for granted but the future stakes of this new dynamic are not to be underrated or offhandedly dismissed.

Another Palestinian Reverie
Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/September 20, 2023
On August 29, 2023, Sheikh Issam Amira, a prominent member of the Palestinian Hizb al-Tahrir party, argued that the "liberation" of Palestine is nothing compared to the potentially great conquests that Islam has in store for the rest of the non-Muslim world — including the United States.
What crime did these non-Muslim cities, nations, and continents commit against Muslims to deserve being targeted for violent conquest?
"The Party of Satan is America, Europe, Russia, and all Western nations, and all infidel [non-Muslim] nations everywhere.... Everyone who opposes Allah and his prophet is to be stricken with disgrace and misery. Not just that, they are to be broken in the here, and sent to the fire in the hereafter." — Sheikh Issam Amira, YouTube, August 29, 2023.
Although [Hizb al-Tahrir] means the "party of liberation," and although it pretends its sole interest is "liberating" Palestinians from Israel, when its members get together there seems to be an additional plan, not just for Jews.
Palestinian cleric Nidhal Siam made clear that, from an Islamic perspective, for Christians as well, liberation and conquest are one and the same.
"Oh Muslims, the anniversary of the conquest [fath/ÝÊÍ, literally, "opening"] of Constantinople brings tidings of things to come. It brings tidings that Rome will be conquered in the near future, Allah willing." — Nidhal Siam, Jerusalem Post, January 20, 2020.
[The Palestinians] seek sympathy from the international community, despite the fact that until 1964, there reportedly were no Palestinians.
It also might be helpful to recall that until the seventh century and the birth of Muhammad, there were no Muslims – anywhere – let alone Palestinians.
The word Islam means "submission."
"Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day, nor comply with what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, nor embrace the religion of truth from among those who were given the Scripture, until they pay the tax, willingly submitting, fully humbled." — Qur'an, 9:29 Khattab translation.
Those conquered are given three choices: to convert to Islam; to remain tolerated, second-class citizens, called dhimmis, pay a "protection" tax [jizya], and live according to humiliating rules to remind them of their inferiority, -- such as being allowed to ride a donkey but not a camel or horse. The third choice is to die.
It is also helpful to remember that the Qur'an is not made up of "suggestions; Muslims consider it the word of God, similar to the Ten Commandments. One cannot say, "Oh, Allah didn't really mean that." Yes, Allah did...
In each of these military engagements, Muslims were the aggressors: they invaded non-Muslim territory and, apart from the Battle of Tours, which they lost, they butchered and enslaved the inhabitants, and appropriated their lands — for no other reason than that they were "infidels" — non-Muslims.
Many Palestinians, seemingly without seeing the irony, present themselves as a conquered and oppressed people whose land was stolen, while, in the same breath, they praise former conquests and wish for future ones -- replete with oppression and land-grabbing from other peoples only because they are not Muslim.
True, the Palestinians are oppressed, but by their own leaders, whom the international community keeps funding and supporting; not by Israelis, who of necessity respond to violence against them, but do not initiate it.
Perhaps the lesson, when all is said and done, is that Islamic notions of "justice" are based on a simple dichotomy: Whenever Muslims conquer, slaughter, subjugate or steal land, that is "just;" whenever they encounter the authority of "infidels," that is "unjust."
Hence the hatred for Israel, Rome, Europe, or wherever "infidels" still govern.
On August 29, 2023, Sheikh Issam Amira, a prominent member of the Palestinian Hizb al-Tahrir party, argued that the "liberation" of Palestine is nothing compared to the potentially great conquests that Islam has in store for the rest of the non-Muslim world — including the United States. (Image source: MEMRI)
On August 29, 2023, Sheikh Issam Amira, a prominent member of the Palestinian Hizb al-Tahrir party, argued that the "liberation" of Palestine is nothing compared to the potentially great conquests that Islam has in store for the rest of the non-Muslim world — including the United States:
"What is the Palestinian cause compared to the conquest of Rome, for example? Or the conquest of Latin America in its entirety? Or the conquest of North America?"
Amira went on to say that he personally knows that Australians are "dying of fear" from the nearby Muslim nations of Malaysia and Indonesia, "because they know that one of these days the Muslim armies will come from Indonesia and bring Islam to Australia, like it or not."
What crime did these non-Muslim cities, nations, and continents commit against Muslims to deserve being targeted for violent conquest?
As Amira explained in the same sermon, Islam commands Muslims to hate, fight, humiliate and, ideally, conquer any and all non-Muslims — including family members — simply because they are non-Muslims. He cited the Qur'an:
"You will not find a people who believe in Allāh and the Last Day having affection for those who oppose Allāh and His Messenger, even if they were their fathers or their sons or their brothers or their kindred." (Qur'an 58:22)
Amira said this was the proof text that Muslims must never befriend or ally with non-Muslims, as they are Satan's minions. "The Party of Satan," he stressed, "is America, Europe, Russia and all Western nations, and all infidel [non-Muslim] nations everywhere." He also quoted:
"They were stricken with disgrace and misery, and they invited the displeasure of Allah for rejecting Allah's signs and unjustly killing the prophets." (Qur'an 2:61)
After saying that this verse was about the Jews, he went on to broaden it to apply to all non-Muslims:
"Everyone who opposes Allah and his prophet is to be stricken with disgrace and misery. Not just that, they are to be broken in the here, and sent to the fire in the hereafter. Why? — because they are the party of Satan!"
Amira is certainly not the only Palestinian to harbor such hostility for the non-Muslim world. One need look no further than to his political party, Hizb al-Tahrir. Although its name means the "party of liberation," and although it pretends its sole interest is "liberating" Palestinians from Israel, when its members get together there seems to be an additional plan, not just for Jews.
Hizb al-Tahrir, for instance, in 2020, held a large, outdoor event near al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem to commemorate the anniversary of the Islamic conquest of Constantinople (May 29, 1453). There, as he had done before, Palestinian cleric Nidhal Siam made clear that, from an Islamic perspective, for Christians as well, liberation and conquest are one and the same.
After all the takbirs (chants of "Allahu Akbar" ["Allah is greatest"]) had subsided, Siam preached:
"Oh Muslims, the anniversary of the conquest [fath/ÝÊÍ, literally, "opening"] of Constantinople brings tidings of things to come. It brings tidings that Rome will be conquered in the near future, Allah willing."
What did Rome do that it deserves to be conquered? Absolutely nothing — except that, since the conquest of Constantinople, Islam has seen Rome as the symbolic head of the Christian world, and therefore in urgent need of conquest. Or, in the words of the Islamic State:
"We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah... [We will cast] fear into the hearts of the cross-worshipers."
Like Amira, Siam went on to pray for the day when "Islam will throw its neighbors to the ground, and that its reach will span across the east and the west of this Earth. This is Allah's promise, and Allah does not renege on his promises."
Those assembled and he then chanted, "By means of the Caliphate and the consolidation of power, Muhammad the Conqueror vanquished Constantinople!" and "Your conquest, oh Rome, is a matter of certainty!"
Ironically, these kinds of assertions come from Palestinians, who often present themselves as a people whose land is supposedly occupied unjustly. They seek sympathy from the international community, despite the fact that until 1964, there reportedly were no Palestinians -- except twice, neither of which would apply to the current dispute. The first time was in antiquity; the second, after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire from 1922 until 1948, during the British Mandate for Palestine before Israel declared its independence. During the British Mandate, everyone born there then, Muslims, Christian and Jews, had a passport stamped "Palestine."
The first time, in 135 CE, the Roman Emperor Hadrian had renamed Judea to "Syria Palaestina" to try, after a failed Jewish rebellion against the Roman occupation, to rid Judea of any trace of Jews. Also in antiquity, a group with a similar name, the Philistines, arrived in the area, not from Arabia or the east, but from the west and from Crete.
It also might be helpful to recall that until the seventh century and the birth of Muhammad, there were no Muslims – anywhere – let alone Palestinians.
The Islamic conquest of Constantinople had been just that — a brutal and savage conquest the sole legitimacy of which was the might of arms. As other Muslims had done for centuries earlier in North Africa and the Middle East, the Turks invaded and conquered "New Rome" not because the people there had delivered some injustice, but because Islam is committed to spreading the supremacy of Allah, sometimes not too subtly:
"But once the Sacred Months have passed, kill the polytheists ˹who violated their treaties˺ wherever you find them, capture them, besiege them, and lie in wait for them on every way. But if they repent, perform prayers, and pay alms-tax, then set them free. Indeed, Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful."(Qur'an 9:5, Khattab translation)
"And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out...." (Qur'an 2:192, Shakir translation)
"They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allāh. But if they turn away [i.e., refuse], then seize them and kill them [for their betrayal] wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper." (Qur'an 4:89 Saheeh International translation)
The word Islam means "submission."
"Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day, nor comply with what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, nor embrace the religion of truth from among those who were given the Scripture, until they pay the tax, willingly submitting, fully humbled." (Qur'an, 9:29 Khattab translation)
Those conquered are given three choices: to convert to Islam; to remain tolerated, second-class citizens, called dhimmis, pay a "protection" tax [jizya], and live according to humiliating rules to remind them of their inferiority, -- such as being allowed to ride a donkey but not a camel or horse. The third choice is to die.
It is also helpful to remember that the Qur'an is not made up of "suggestions; Muslims consider it the word of God, similar to the Ten Commandments. One cannot say, "Oh, Allah didn't really mean that." Yes, Allah did, and if you do not follow His word, you risk burning in hellfire forever:
"It is He Who has made the earth a resting-place for you, and the sky a canopy, and sent down water from above wherewith He brought forth fruits for your sustenance. Do not, then, set up rivals23 to Allah when you know (the Truth).... But if you fail to do this – and you will most certainly fail – then have fear of the Fire whose fuel is men and stones and which has been prepared for those who deny the Truth." (Qur'an, 2:22 and 2:24)
The reproval is not just for Jews; it is for any non-Muslim.
Even outside the Hizb al-Tahrir party, leading Palestinians continue to praise and find inspiration in Offensive Jihad, not to repulse or defend against an enemy, but to conquer non-Muslim territories. Speaking on the first day of Ramadan, April 1, 2022, Mahmoud al-Habbash, the Supreme Sharia Judge of the Palestinian Authority, extolled the jihads waged by Muhammad:
"How was this month [of Ramadan] in the life of Prophet [Muhammad]? ... Did the Prophet spend Ramadan in calmness, serenity, laziness, and sleepiness? Far be it from him... The Prophet entered the great Battle of Badr [624] during Ramadan... Also in the month of Ramadan, in the 8th year of the Hijra [629-630], the Prophet and the Muslims conquered Mecca.... Ramadan is ... a month of Jihad, conquest, and victory."
Similarly, on April 16, 2021, Al Jazeera published an article by Adnan Abu Amar, "head of the Political Science Department at the University of the Ummah in Gaza," explaining how Palestinians find "inspiration" in various jihads throughout Islamic history, "prominent among them the raid of Badr, the conquest of Mecca, the conquest of al-Andalus [Spain], and the battle of the pavement of martyrs [the Battle of Tours]."
In each of these military engagements, Muslims were the aggressors (here, here and here): they invaded non-Muslim territory and, apart from the Battle of Tours, which they lost, they butchered and enslaved the inhabitants, and appropriated their lands — for no other reason than that they were "infidels" — non-Muslims.
The battle of Badr was occasioned by Muhammad's raids on non-Muslim caravans; the conquest of Mecca was simply that, the conquest of a non-Muslim city; the conquest of al-Andalus is a reference to the years 711-716, when Muslims invaded and slaughtered countless thousands of Christians in Spain and torched their churches; and the Battle of Tours is, of course, where the Muslim invasions into Western Europe were finally halted in 732.
Wouldn't it seem, then, that Palestinians should be sympathizing with the Christians of Spain or Constantinople -- rather than identifying with Sultan Muhammad II, who invaded and conquered the ancient Christian city, while subjecting its indigenous inhabitants to all sorts of unspeakable atrocities?
Many Palestinians, seemingly without seeing the irony, present themselves as a conquered and oppressed people whose land was stolen, while, in the same breath, they praise former conquests and wish for future ones -- replete with oppression and land-grabbing from other peoples only because they are not Muslim.
True, the Palestinians are oppressed, but by their own leaders, whom the international community keeps funding and supporting; not by Israelis, who of necessity respond to violence against them, but do not initiate it.
Perhaps the lesson, when all is said and done, is that Islamic notions of "justice" are based on a simple dichotomy: Whenever Muslims conquer, slaughter, subjugate or steal land, that is "just;" whenever they encounter the authority of "infidels," that is "unjust."
Hence the hatred for Israel, Rome, Europe, or wherever "infidels" still govern.
**Raymond Ibrahim, author of Defenders of the West, Sword and Scimitar, Crucified Again, and The Al Qaeda Reader, is the Distinguished Senior Shillman Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and the Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
© 2023 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.

Diplomacy is Ill
Tariq Al-Homayed/Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper/September 20/2023
The United Nations General Assembly in New York has begun amid notable absences this year, especially among the five countries that are members of the Security Council, with the leaders of France, Britain, China, and Russia absent, and only President Biden attending.
Convened over a year into the Russian war in Ukraine, whose president will be attending. However, Ukraine is not the world. Indeed, the world is brimming with complex conflicts and crises, which has made the list of absences all the more concerning to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
In the lead-up to the GA, the New York Times quoted him as saying: “We will be gathering at a time when humanity faces huge challenges – from the worsening climate emergency to escalating conflicts, the global cost-of-living crisis, soaring inequalities, and dramatic technological disruptions” and that “People are looking to their leaders for a way out of this mess.” This is all true. When I say that Ukraine is not the world, I do not mean to downplay the crisis, nor to justify the Russians’ actions in any sense. However, the world is undergoing crises that require rational diplomacy.
An extremely basic example is the demands of the group of countries known as the "Global South," an informal term that refers to developing countries. The New York Times reported that the diplomats from these countries attending the General Assembly are frustrated with the immense global emphasis on the conflict in Ukraine while their crises are granted minimal attention and funding.
In response to their demands, the United Nations has scheduled special discussions aimed at alleviating the burdens of sovereign debt and finding ways to assist the countries that are struggling to reach the organization's health, living conditions, and education development goals. For his part, the Secretary-General has acknowledged these difficulties. The problems being faced about helping these countries stem from the challenges of bringing the leaders of the member states together. Indeed, the depth of their divisions is evident in the list of absences, and this naturally raises fears that the already weak role of this organization could be weakened further. Well, why all these absences then? That the significance of the General Assembly lies not in what is said during it, but in the opportunities it creates for leaders, allies, and adversaries to meet, has become a truism. It is these kinds of meetings that inspire hope of resolving issues and seizing opportunities to de-escalate tensions. For instance, Obama did this with the Iranians, among others.
We used to hear all about the "corridor diplomacy" that Julian Borger, the international affairs editor at The Guardian, once wrote about. "Corridor diplomacy has a long history" as a tool for statesmen who had not decided whether they wanted to be seen together with their rivals publicly. Rivals shake hands and bilateral meetings that could bridge the gap in how they see things are held. Diplomacy is thus given a chance. However, this looks like it might become a thing of the past due to populism and the “photo-ops” that US media outlets do inside these corridors, turning them into an arena where political points can be scored. The organization also lost its luster due to idealistic slogans and the undermining of realistic diplomacy. The Secretary-General said "Politics is compromise. Diplomacy is Compromise. Effective leadership is compromised. However, things simply do not work that way at the United Nations anymore.
An analogy could be drawn between the current state of the United Nations and a scene from the movie "Philadelphia." In the courtroom scene, the judge tells the lawyer, played by Denzel Washington, "This courtroom is blind to matters of race, creed, color, religion and sexual orientation." To which the lawyer replies, With all due respect, your Honor, we don't live in this courtroom, though, do we? And so, Ukraine is not the world, and the United Nations and those keen on empowering it are far removed from reality. This has made diplomacy ill, and the symptoms are patently evident at the United Nations.

Mahsa Amini as a ‘Founding Mother’
Hazem Saghieh/Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper/September 20/2023
In the sense in which the leaders of the American Revolution, and the nation and state that emerged from it, are referred to as "founding fathers," “founding mother” could be used to describe Mahsa Amini in the future. That is, if Iran manages to survive its Islamic Republic experiment in one piece and lives on as a nation-state. In the experience of this young lady killed a year ago because of her “inappropriate” hijab, and in the revolution that followed, lie major contributions to the benefit of her country, but also to enriching Middle Eastern political thought as a whole.
This is the first time that the murder of a woman directly sparks a revolution, and we all know that, in our region, murdering a woman is incomparably less significant and dramatic than killing a man, especially nowadays. It is also the first time that women lead a revolution; indeed, women are not traditionally taken seriously in questions of far less substance and significance than revolutions.
Moreover, this is not the case of a woman being exalted for performing roles that, in patriarchal societies, are men’s jobs and are thus attributed to “masculinity.” Mahsa Amini did not go to prison because she was fighting colonialism, and she was not celebrated because she hijacked a plane, nor because volunteered in a paratrooper squad, threw fried oil on her occupiers, or wanted to impose the hijab on other women because of her opposition to “Western values”.
The Arabic idiom “a sister of men,” which is used to commend women who show the strength and bravery that are presumed to be masculine qualities, does not apply to her. She was killed precisely because she presented an antithesis to these models: she wanted to be free, as a human being, a woman, and an Iranian citizen. Another matter this experience reveals is that the link between patriotism and the social question has changed and is changing, at least among the promising milieu of youths. In previous decades, patriotism was synonymous with opposing the West, while the answers to social questions were found in replicating the Soviet model. With the Khomeinist revolution and then the waning of communism, the social ideal became embracing values antithetical to those of the West and going back to embrace the values of our righteous predecessors.
With Mahsa and her friends and companions, patriotism and social model became one and the same. Both have come to mean, first and foremost, the embrace of freedom and individuality, and opposing the papering over of actual challenges and their replacement with all kinds of illusionary conflicts against perpetually proliferating devils and imperialists. Thus, the stance one took toward the West or other external powers took the back seat it deserves to occupy in classifications of political forces and objectives, and revolution began to mean nothing more than confronting a regime that oppresses freedom, in this instance, a regime that “happens to be” “anti-imperialist”!
The primary issues the Iranian experience revolved around were the mandatory hijab and Iran’s morality police, whereby “the hijab uprising” became among the names given to the Iranian revolution. This amounts to a rupture with the not-so-narrowly adhered-to definition of revolutions (and military coups that call themselves revolutions) as processes that reinforce despotism by imposing tyrannical control over the most minute aspects of social relations.
Here, with the comrades of Mahsa Amini, we do not find youths with tense faces and clenched fists looking for prey to kill, crush, and hunt, turning the world into a place of deep animosities and spiteful grudges. Connecting with the world has become a goal pursued with an abundance of color, pride, and promise. In turn, and because of the media, technology, migration, and asylum, the world now has more tools to present and define itself, affording us previously non-existent opportunities to become familiar with it beyond narrow jejune political binaries.
Naturally, rifles, machine guns, and bombs are no longer the tools of the new revolutionaries; they are exclusively the regime's. Indeed, the Iranians' revolutionary work has maintained the peaceful nature that characterized the first phases of the Arab revolutions and has been maintained by scattered uprisings like that in the Syrian province of Sweida today.
A Kurd, Mahsa Amini set the Kurdish regions alight, but she also sparked the revolts of other oppressed minorities in Iran, like the Baluchis and Azeris. At the same time however, her murder brought back to light an Iranian cause whose expression has been constantly and violently stifled, and whose essence has always been a demand for freedom and a way out of the closed Khomeinist prison cell into the world. This indicates that, in contrast to the mood prevailing in the region today, it is possible to combine the political aspirations of the people and the nation as a whole with those of minorities.
The highest virtues of this climate were made apparent when it was manifested in the recent statements of Iranian Sunni Imam Molavi Abdolhamid, who called for “respecting all human beings, regardless of whether they are Muslims or not, and even if they are polytheists or atheists. This is more necessary than prayer and performing Hajj.”In all of these senses, it would be an honor to Iran and our region, in this potential new phase, for the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini to be considered a founding mother. Without this specter of hope, we are promised nothing but rot and mud soaked with blood.

How North Korea can alter the balance of power in Asia and the Pacific
Raghida Dergham/The National/September 20/2023
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin have forged an agreement that appears convenient for both parties in the context of their strategic standoff with the US and its allies.
More importantly, a trilateral partnership may be emerging between China, Russia and North Korea that sends a message of defiance to Washington and its partners in the Quad – including Australia, India and Japan – and allies such as South Korea.
The message appears to be that China and Russia now have on their side a country that can cause disruptions in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
The Kim-Putin meeting came hot on the heels of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Vietnam, which China will have closely followed. Earlier, at the G20 summit in New Delhi, the Biden administration also announced an economic corridor project involving India, key Arab Gulf countries and Europe. Beijing might view the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC) as a competitor to its own Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which it launched a decade ago as a fundamental infrastructure component of its strategic vision. The emergence of these new geopolitical partnerships foreshadows possible global confrontations of indeterminate scope and dimensions.
The China-Russia-North Korea partnership has the potential to alter the balance of power in Asia and the Pacific. Following Mr Kim’s visit to Russia, the Kremlin might be able to essentially convey to the West that if it needs to deal with a capricious, nuclear-armed and occasionally provocative state such as North Korea, it will need to involve Moscow and Beijing.
Russia and China are increasingly committed to enhancing their strategic co-operation in the Asia-Pacific, irrespective of the latter’s stance on the war in Ukraine. Indeed, these are two distinct matters, and the two countries’ focus is squarely on fortifying the strategic, military and political dimensions of their partnership through various means, including their favourable relations with the North Korean regime.
BRI is different from IMEEC in that it is Chinese-led and Chinese-funded, while the latter is a multilateral project
Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to welcome Mr Putin to Beijing next month to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the BRI’s launch. Next week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will head to Moscow to monitor the growing co-operation between the two countries.
In the context of the bilateral relationship between Russia and North Korea and the leaders’ meeting at a cosmodrome in the Russian Far East, Mr Kim said: “Russia has risen to a sacred fight to protect its sovereignty and security … and we will be together in the fight against imperialism.”
These strong words were matched with an arms agreement to support the war in Ukraine, including providing millions of Soviet-era artillery shells that Moscow needs in the Donbas campaign. Incidentally, North Korea recognises Russia’s sovereignty over Ukrainian territories.
In return, Mr Kim received a commitment from Russia to develop North Korea’s armed forces and modernise its military industry, in addition to providing assistance to overcome the deadly food crisis in his country. With this commitment, Russia has essentially delivered a blow to the UN sanctions on Pyongyang.
Such steps taken by Moscow have been in response to its being left out in the cold by the West over the past 18 months. Beijing, on the other hand, has resisted the opportunity to announce measures that Washington might consider retaliatory against its moves to consolidate its power in recent weeks and months.
The IMEEC, for instance, is a pragmatic economic project by which the US might be signalling to the rest of the world that there is room to build global infrastructure networks with its support. Many countries will be interested in accessing these networks because they are operationally and economically beneficial. Moreover, this project will give the US and India an enhanced role and influence with a group of important countries in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific.
This initiative was unveiled not long before the BRI anniversary summit in October.
The BRI is different from the IMEEC in that it is Chinese-led and Chinese-funded, while the latter is a multilateral project. Some might view it as an American ploy to compete with China, while others might point to the potential economic benefits for all the countries involved. Then there are those who might argue that it is aimed at excluding Russia and Iran and thwarting their projects with India, including the International North-South Transport Corridor.
Whatever one’s assessment, the US will hope the project ends up aiding the establishment of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, noting that it passes through Jordan and then through the Israeli port of Haifa. Additionally, Washington will hope to further strengthen its relations with New Delhi within the context of their strategic position towards Beijing.
President Sheikh Mohamed attends the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor announcement on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi last week. Ryan Carter / UAE Presidential Court
President Sheikh Mohamed attends the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor announcement on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi last week. Ryan Carter / UAE Presidential Court
For their part, Emirati and Saudi involvement in the IMEEC does not imply hostility towards or alignment against any country. Rather, the two countries prioritise their interests over provocative alliances and are open to adjusting their policies and positions as long as their national and regional interests are met.
Riyadh will keep an open mind regarding potential normalisation with Israel, provided the US encourages the latter to pursue a two-state solution and accept the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The IMEEC is an infrastructure development and port connectivity project that will facilitate trade. It will include the construction of a cross-border railway and shipping network, connecting ships to trains, and building pipelines for the export and import of electricity and clean hydrogen to enhance global energy security.
It is an ambitious project with the potential to benefit the Middle East. For it represents a new language in international relations that could replace the sterile rhetoric that includes threats as a tactic and recalcitrance as a strategy.
Lebanon remains a victim of this sterile rhetoric.
Indeed, the Beirut Port could have been a part of this project – not just the one in Haifa. However, political instability and the governing class’s inability to make decisions hinder any consideration of a role for Lebanon’s ports and railways.
The 2020 blast makes the port unsuitable for infrastructure projects. Yet if, by some miracle, Lebanon had been able to free itself from the control of its political class and its attempts to siphon off its natural resources, the country could have participated in such a developmental and civilisational project.

The Russian empire is crumbling before Putin’s eyes
Con Coughlin/The Telegraph/September 20, 2023
It is not just in Ukraine that Vladimir Putin’s dream of restoring Russia’s imperial greatness is collapsing before his eyes. The violence this week in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus provides yet further proof of Moscow’s inability to provide even a modicum of influence over a region that once formed a key part of the Soviet Union. During the two decades that he has dominated Moscow’s political arena, Putin has committed himself to restoring Russia to something approaching the immense power it was in the Soviet era. From his perspective, Moscow reserves the right to exercise its influence over Russia’s so-called near abroad, the independent republics that emerged following the dissolution of the Soviet Union – an event he maintains was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. Yet, despite maintaining a relentless campaign to persuade them to return to Moscow’s fold, Putin’s bully boy tactics have achieved the opposite effect. His ill-judged decision to invade Ukraine has merely strengthened the resolve of former Soviet republics, especially in the Baltics and eastern Europe, to protect themselves from any future threat of Russian encroachment.
If the Ukraine conflict has greatly diminished the Kremlin’s hopes of re-establishing its influence on its western flank, its waning powers are also evident in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and the south Caucasus, as the resumption of hostilities over Nagorno-Karabakh graphically illustrates. The rival claims of Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh have been a constant source of concern for Moscow since they achieved independence in 1991. A mountainous region located at the southern end of the Karabakh mountain range, the enclave is internationally recognised as being part of Azerbaijan, despite the fact that most of its 120,000 inhabitants are ethnic Armenians, who have their own government with links to Armenia. Tensions, which have seen Armenia and Azerbaijan fight two wars over the enclave in the past three decades, have been exacerbated by claims from the Armenian minority, who are Christian, that they are at risk of persecution by Azerbaijan’s Turkic Muslims.
Ideally, Moscow would like to distance itself from the dispute and remain on good terms with both Baku and Yerevan. It was with this in mind that, after Azerbaijan initiated the Second Karabakh War in 2020 in which at least 6,500 people were killed, Moscow negotiated a ceasefire. Under the terms of the deal, Russia, which has a defence treaty with Armenia, agreed to deploy 1,960 Russian peacekeepers to protect the Lachin Corridor, the main humanitarian supply route linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh.
By the end of last year, with Moscow desperately seeking reinforcements for its faltering military offensive in Ukraine, its inability to fulfil its commitments to protect the Lachin Corridor resulted in Azerbaijani paramilitary groups establishing roadblocks. This prevented aid supplies from reaching the Armenians, effectively placing the enclave under siege. This week, Azerbaijan went further. It insists that it was forced to launch its “anti-terrorist operations” because the supply route was being used to smuggle arms by Armenian separatists. These are concerns that should now be allayed after leaders of the Armenian separatists agreed to dissolve their army and hand over their weapons as part of a fresh ceasefire deal agreed yesterday. Russia’s failure, though, to avert another flare-up in the dispute between two former Soviet republics underlines its growing inability to influence events in areas it used to dominate. During the Soviet era, the so-called “stans” of central Asia – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – made a significant contribution to the Soviet economy, providing energy for its industry and manpower for the military. Since 2002, Moscow has sought to maintain its historic ties with the region through the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a military and political alliance comprising Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Whether Moscow can maintain its ties with these rapidly developing regions must now be open to question after its failure to keep the peace in the south Caucasus. It will certainly not have escaped the attention of capitals ranging from Tashkent to Dushanbe that Moscow’s defence pact with Armenia amounted to very little when facing aggression from Azerbaijan. This may well lead them to conclude that their long-term interests are far better served by moving closer to China, another major power that covets the region’s vast mineral wealth. This trend was already evident earlier this year when Beijing hosted the China-Central Asia Summit in Xi’an, a city located on the Silk Road. While all the “stans” were represented, Russia was the one notable absentee, a reflection of Moscow’s diminishing role in a region it once regarded as its own backyard. With Putin preoccupied by Ukraine, Beijing was able to conclude investment deals worth $50 billion.
Putin may dream of rebuilding the Russian empire, but the brutal reality is that Moscow no longer has the strength or influence to do so. Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.

Ukrainian special services launch strikes on Wagner-backed militia in Sudan

Joe Barnes/The Telegraph/September 20, 2023
“Ukrainian special services were likely responsible,” the source added.
Strikes outside of Ukraine and Russia would be a dramatic expansion of Kyiv’s campaign against Moscow and its international allies. Major General Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, is known to favour strikes that demonstrate Kyiv’s growing international reach, and show Russian targets are not safe anywhere. Western officials say Ukraine has a network of relations in Africa through a history of doing business on the continent to make such strikes possible. The paramilitary RSF group, which is believed to be backed by Russia’s Wagner mercenaries, is fighting against the Sudanese army for control of the country. Drone footage appeared to show the hallmarks of a Ukrainian-style attack on members of the RSF on a street near the capital Khartoum.
Two commercially available drones commonly used by Ukrainian forces against Russia were involved in at least eight of the strikes, it was reported.
Ukrainian text was seen on the drone controller, while experts told CNN that the pattern of the drone swooping into its target was common in Ukraine and not Africa. It is believed to be the first use of first-person view drones, which have grown in popularity in Ukraine, on the African continent. Videos of the purported attacks show several views, from the viewpoint of the pilot, a drone observing the strike zone and the controller itself. The strikes were carried out in and around Omdurman, a city across the River Nile from the Sudanese capital. The exact dates of the assaults could not be confirmed, but social media reports suggested they took place on Sept 8. Two days prior, Wagner was reported to have facilitated a large arms convoy to Sudan via an RSF base in al-Zurug, near the country’s border with Chad. Satellite images appeared to show over 100 vehicles, including scores of trucks, at the garrison. Wagner is known to have a presence in the Central African Republic, Libya, Mali and Sudan, but could also be expanding its African operation. The group was pivotal in enforcing Russia’s foreign campaigns by propping up Moscow’s allies, all while growing its influence and control over natural resources. Separate footage appeared to show at least three foreign fighters conducting a raid on a building. In a clip, recorded via a body camera, troops were seen wearing night vision goggles. A second video, shot from above, showed them advancing on a building in Omdurman. Earlier this year, leaked US intelligence documents suggested Ukraine’s military intelligence had planned covert strikes on Russian targets inside Syria with the help of the local Kurdish military. Under the plan, Ukrainian operatives would have trained members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a former US-backed group, to strike Russian troops and Wagner mercenaries with drones. Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, was said to have put a halt to the operation after US and Turkish officials raised concerns over Ukraine’s cooperation with Kurdish forces. A high-level military source in Sudan told CNN he had “no knowledge of a Ukrainian operation in Sudan” and did not believe the reports were true. The attacks in Sudan appeared to replicate his agency’s plans for strikes on Russian targets in Syria.