Lebanon Stresses Compliance With US Measures Against Hezbollah

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanon Stresses Compliance With US Measures Against Hezbollah

Friday, 28 September, 2018 – 09:45
Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh delivers a speech during the plenary session of the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group in Tokyo. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao
Beirut – Nazeer Rida
The new US draft-law on Hezbollah is moving to an advanced stage involving media funders, economic and social institutions linked to the group, in what seems to be “an attempt to isolate the supporters of the party, which is facing increased financial pressure,” according to experts.

The new draft-law imposes sanctions on the supporters of “Bayt al-Mal” and “Jihad Al-Bina”, which is involved in construction works, as well as the party’s media institutions, and includes advertisers who broadcast ads through Hezbollah’s channels.

While the bill seeks to “increase pressure on banks dealing with the group,” Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said on Thursday in response to a question about his willingness to enforce the sanctions: “We, as the central bank, issued circulars a while ago, and there aren’t new notices.” He explained and these circulars make Lebanon comply with the laws of countries that have currency or banks dealings with it.

He pointed out in a radio interview that those circulars were sufficient enough whatever the new sanctions, adding that there was nothing new on this subject.

The US House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass a bill calling for new and harsh sanctions against Hezbollah. The new sanctions aim to limit the party’s ability to raise funds and recruit members, as well as increase pressure on the banks that deal with the group and the countries that support it, especially Iran. The sanctions also prohibit anyone who supports the party materially and in other means from entering the United States.

According to Dr. Sami Nader, Director of Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs (LISA), the new bill shows that the circle of sanctions is widening, since it started with Hezbollah’s officials, then reached the entities associated with the party, and today includes the supporters of the group’s institutions.

 

 

MWL, Algerian Islamic Council Partner to Confront Extremism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

MWL, Algerian Islamic Council Partner to Confront Extremism

Tuesday, 25 September, 2018 – 11:15
Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi receives MWL Chief Dr. Mohamed Al-Issa’s , Asharq AL-Awsat
Algeria, Beirut- Boualam Ghimrasah and Asharq Al Awsat
Religious authorities in Algeria partnered with the Muslim World League for organizing awareness campaigns against extremism in a number of Arab countries facing the threat of religious radicalism.

The partnership was struck during the MWL Chief Dr. Mohamed Al-Issa’s visit to Algeria, which lasted two days.

During his stay, Issa met Algeria’s Head of the Supreme Islamic Council Bouabdallah Gholamallah and other officials from both the country’s Ministry of Religious Affairs Endowments and Ministry of Interior.

“The agreement between the two sides is aimed at using well-known Imams to carry out this mission, especially in the Sahel countries, such as Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, where extremist groups are active and seek to recruit youth into armed action,” an insider source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The source said that Issa’s meetings tackled societies facing religious extremism, and praised the “policy for reconciliation” in Algeria, which swayed thousands of extremists into peaceful means of living.

The agreement encourages scholars and intellectuals to “renew religious discourse and propagate moderation, values of tolerance and dialogue, as well as to discuss plans to combat extremism and terrorism.”

The MWL has worldwide influence, so Algeria is looking forward to cooperating with it on exposing baseless arguments against Islam and Muslims, Gholamallah was quoted as saying.

For his part, Al-Issa said that the agreement signed with the Supreme Islamic Council framed the cooperation that will be carried out by both bodies with the main objective being to clarify the real face of Islam as a religion and abolish extremism and terrorist ideologies.

Most recently, Issa met with religious leaders on an official visit to Lebanon.

He started his visit by meeting with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdullatif Durian, later meeting with Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi.

During meetings, the secretary-general stressed the importance of dialogue in order to promote common values based on love, respect and cooperation, and to confront hatred.

He visited Elias Audi, Metropolitan bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch. They discussed bilateral cooperation and coordination.

Issa also met with the president of the Supreme Islamic Shia Council, Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan.

He also met with Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Al-Aql Naim Hassan, with Bishop Boulos Matar, Chaldean Bishop Michel Kasarji and Armenian Catholic Patriarch Krikor Bedros.

Israel: Truth, Knowledge, History Of God’s Country

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Israel

Introduction Following World War II, the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine, and the UN partitioned the area into Arab and Jewish states, an arrangement rejected by the Arabs. Subsequently, the Israelis defeated the Arabs in a series of wars without ending the deep tensions between the two sides. The territories Israel occupied since the 1967 war are not included in the Israel country profile, unless otherwise noted. On 25 April 1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai pursuant to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. In keeping with the framework established at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations were conducted between Israel and Palestinian representatives and Syria to achieve a permanent settlement. Israel and Palestinian officials signed on 13 September 1993 a Declaration of Principles (also known as the “Oslo Accords”) guiding an interim period of Palestinian self-rule. Outstanding territorial and other disputes with Jordan were resolved in the 26 October 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace. In addition, on 25 May 2000, Israel withdrew unilaterally from southern Lebanon, which it had occupied since 1982. In April 2003, US President BUSH, working in conjunction with the EU, UN, and Russia – the “Quartet” – took the lead in laying out a road map to a final settlement of the conflict by 2005, based on reciprocal steps by the two parties leading to two states, Israel and a democratic Palestine. However, progress toward a permanent status agreement was undermined by Israeli-Palestinian violence between September 2003 and February 2005. An Israeli-Palestinian agreement reached at Sharm al-Sheikh in February 2005, along with an internally-brokered Palestinian ceasefire, significantly reduced the violence. In the summer of 2005, Israel unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip, evacuating settlers and its military while retaining control over most points of entry into the Gaza Strip. The election of HAMAS in January 2006 to head the Palestinian Legislative Council froze relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Ehud OLMERT became prime minister in March 2006; following an Israeli military operation in Gaza in June-July 2006 and a 34-day conflict with Hizballah in Lebanon in June-August 2006, he shelved plans to unilaterally evacuate from most of the West Bank. OLMERT in June 2007 resumed talks with the PA after HAMAS seized control of the Gaza Strip and PA President Mahmoud ABBAS formed a new government without HAMAS.
History Early roots

The Land of Israel, known in Hebrew as Eretz Yisrael, has been sacred to the Jewish people since the time of the biblical patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Bible has placed this period in the early 2nd millennium BCE.[24] According to the Torah, the Land of Israel was promised to the Jews as their homeland,[25][26] and the sites holiest to Judaism are located there. Around the 11th century BCE, the first of a series of Jewish kingdoms and states established rule over the region; these Jewish kingdoms and states ruled intermittently for the following one thousand years.[27]

Between the time of the Jewish kingdoms and the 7th-century Muslim conquests, the Land of Israel fell under Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Sassanian, and Byzantine rule.[28] Jewish presence in the region dwindled after the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE and the resultant large-scale expulsion of Jews. Nevertheless, a continuous Jewish presence in Palestine was maintained. Although the main Jewish population shifted from the Judea region to the Galilee;[29] the Mishnah and part of the Talmud, among Judaism’s most important religious texts, were composed in Israel during this period.[30] The Land of Israel was captured from the Byzantine Empire around 636 CE during the initial Muslim conquests. Control of the region transferred between the Umayyads,[31] Abbasids,[32] and Crusaders over the next six centuries, before falling in the hands of the Mamluk Sultanate, in 1260. In 1516, the Land of Israel became a part of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled the region until the 20th century.[33]

Zionism and the British Mandate

Jews living in the Diaspora have long aspired to return to Zion and the Land of Israel.[34] That hope and yearning was articulated in the Bible[35] and is a central theme in the Jewish prayer book. Beginning in the twelfth century, a small but steady stream of Jews began to leave Europe to settle in the Holy Land, increasing in numbers after Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492.[36] During the 16th century large communities struck roots in the Four Holy Cities, and in the second half of the 18th century, entire Hasidic communities from eastern Europe settled in the Holy Land.

The first large wave of modern immigration, known as the First Aliyah (Hebrew: עלייה), began in 1881, as Jews fled pogroms in Eastern Europe.[38] While the Zionist movement already existed in theory, Theodor Herzl is credited with founding political Zionism,[39] a movement which sought to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, by elevating the Jewish Question to the international plane.[40] In 1896, Herzl published Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), offering his vision of a future state; the following year he presided over the first World Zionist Congress.

The Second Aliyah (1904–1914), began after the Kishinev pogrom. Some 40,000 Jews settled in Palestine.[38] Both the first and second waves of migrants were mainly Orthodox Jews,[42] but those in the Second Aliyah included socialist pioneers who established the kibbutz movement.[43] During World War I, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour issued what became known as the Balfour Declaration, which “view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”[44] The Jewish Legion, a group of battalions composed primarily of Zionist volunteers, assisted in the British conquest of Israel. Arab opposition to the plan led to the 1920 Palestine riots and the formation of the Jewish defense organization known as the Haganah, from which the Irgun and Lehi split off.

In 1922, the League of Nations granted Great Britain a mandate over Palestine for the express purpose of “placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home”.[46] The populations of the Ottoman districts in the area at this time were predominantly Muslim Arabs, while the largest urban area in the region, Jerusalem, was predominantly Jewish.

Jewish immigration continued with the Third Aliyah (1919–1923) and Fourth Aliyah (1924–1929), which together brought 100,000 Jews to Palestine.[38] In the wake of the Jaffa riots in the early days of the Mandate, the British restricted Jewish immigration and territory slated for the Jewish state was allocated to Transjordan.[48] The rise of Nazism in the 1930s led to the Fifth Aliyah, with an influx of a quarter of a million Jews. This influx resulted in the Arab revolt of 1936–1939 and led the British to cap immigration with the White Paper of 1939. With countries around the world turning away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, a clandestine movement known as Aliyah Bet was organized to bring Jews to Palestine.[38] By the end of World War II, Jews accounted for 33% of the population of Palestine, up from 11% in 1922.[49][50]

Independence and first years

After 1945 Britain became embroiled in an increasingly violent conflict with the Jews[51]. In 1947, the British government withdrew from commitment to the Mandate of Palestine, stating it was unable to arrive at a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews.[52] The newly-created United Nations approved the UN Partition Plan (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181) on November 29, 1947, dividing the country into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. Jerusalem was to be designated an international city – a corpus separatum – administered by the UN to avoid conflict over its status.[53] The Jewish community accepted the plan,[54] but the Arab League and Arab Higher Committee rejected it.

Regardless, the State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, one day before the expiry of the British Mandate for Palestine.[56] Not long after, five Arab countries – Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq – attacked Israel, launching the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[56] After almost a year of fighting, a ceasefire was declared and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were instituted. Jordan annexed what became known as the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip. Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on May 11, 1949.[57] During the course of the hostilities, 711,000 Arabs, according to UN estimates, fled from Israel.[58] The fate of the Palestinian refugees today is a major point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[59][60]

In the early years of the state, the Labor Zionist movement led by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion dominated Israeli politics.[61][62] These years were marked by mass immigration of Holocaust survivors and an influx of Jews persecuted in Arab lands. The population of Israel rose from 800,000 to two million between 1948 and 1958.[63] Most arrived as refugees with no possessions and were housed in temporary camps known as ma’abarot. By 1952, over 200,000 immigrants were living in these tent cities. The need to solve the crisis led Ben-Gurion to sign a reparations agreement with West Germany that triggered mass protests by Jews angered at the idea of Israel “doing business” with Germany.

During the 1950s, Israel was frequently attacked by Arab fedayeen, mainly from the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip.[65] In 1956, Israel joined a secret alliance with Great Britain and France aimed at recapturing the Suez Canal, which the Egyptians had nationalized (see the Suez Crisis). Despite capturing the Sinai Peninsula, Israel was forced to retreat due to pressure from the United States and the Soviet Union in return for guarantees of Israeli shipping rights in the Red Sea and the Canal.

At the start of the following decade, Israel captured Adolf Eichmann, an implementer of the Final Solution hiding in Argentina, and brought him to trial.[67] The trial had a major impact on public awareness of the Holocaust[68] and to date Eichmann remains the only person sentenced to death by Israeli courts.

Conflicts and peace treaties

In 1967, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria massed troops close to Israeli borders, expelled UN peacekeepers and blocked Israel’s access to the Red Sea. Israel saw these actions as a casus belli for a pre-emptive strike that launched the Six-Day War, during which it captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights.[70] The 1949 Green Line became the administrative boundary between Israel and the occupied territories. Jerusalem’s boundaries were enlarged, incorporating East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Law, passed in 1980, reaffirmed this measure and reignited international controversy over the status of Jerusalem.

In the early 1970s, Palestinian groups launched a wave of attacks against Israeli targets around the world, including a massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Israel responded with Operation Wrath of God, in which those responsible for the Munich massacre were tracked down and assassinated.[71] On October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack against Israel. The war ended on October 26 with Israel successfully repelling Egyptian and Syrian forces but suffering great losses.[72] An internal inquiry exonerated the government of responsibility for the war, but public anger forced Prime Minister Golda Meir to resign.

The 1977 Knesset elections marked a major turning point in Israeli political history as Menachem Begin’s Likud party took control from the Labor Party.[73] Later that year, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat made a trip to Israel and spoke before the Knesset in what was the first recognition of Israel by an Arab head of state.[74] In the two years that followed, Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.[75] Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and agreed to enter negotiations over an autonomy for Palestinians across the Green Line, a plan which was never implemented.

In 1982, Israel intervened in the Lebanese Civil War to destroy the bases from which the Palestine Liberation Organization launched attacks and missiles at northern Israel. That move developed into the First Lebanon War.[76] Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1986, but maintained a borderland buffer zone until 2000. The First Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule,[77] broke out in 1987 with waves of violence occurring in the occupied territories. Over the following six years, more than a thousand people were killed in the ensuing violence, much of which was internal Palestinian violence.[78] During the 1991 Gulf War, the PLO and many Palestinians supported Saddam Hussein and Iraqi missile attacks against Israel.

In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin became Prime Minister following an election in which his party promoted compromise with Israel’s neighbors.[81][82] The following year, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, on behalf of Israel and the PLO, signed the Oslo Accords, which gave the Palestinian National Authority the right to self-govern parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in return for recognition of Israel’s right to exist and an end to terrorism.[83] In 1994, the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed, making Jordan the second Arab country to normalize relations with Israel.[84] Public support for the Accords waned as Israel was struck by a wave of attacks from Palestinians. The November 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a far-right-wing Jew, as he left a peace rally, shocked the country. At the end of the 1990s, Israel, under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, withdrew from Hebron[85] and signed the Wye River Memorandum, giving greater control to the Palestinian National Authority.

Ehud Barak, elected Prime Minister in 1999, began the new millennium by withdrawing forces from Southern Lebanon and conducting negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton at the July 2000 Camp David Summit. During the summit, Barak offered a plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but Yasser Arafat rejected it.[87] After the collapse of the talks, Palestinians began the Second Intifada.

Ariel Sharon soon after became the new prime minister in a 2001 special election. During his tenure, Sharon carried out his plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and also spearheaded the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier.[88] In January 2006, after Ariel Sharon suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke which left him in a coma, the powers of office were transferred to Ehud Olmert. The kidnappings of Israeli soldiers by Hamas and Hezbollah and the shelling of settlements on Israel’s northern border led to a five-week war, known in Israel as the Second Lebanon War. The conflict was brought to end by a ceasefire brokered by the United Nations. After the war, Israel’s Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz, resigned.

On November 27, 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to begin negotiations on all issues, and to make every effort reach an agreement by the end of 2008.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon
Geographic coordinates: 31 30 N, 34 45 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 20,770 sq km
land: 20,330 sq km
water: 440 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than New Jersey
Land boundaries: total: 1,017 km
border countries: Egypt 266 km, Gaza Strip 51 km, Jordan 238 km, Lebanon 79 km, Syria 76 km, West Bank 307 km
Coastline: 273 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
Climate: temperate; hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas
Terrain: Negev desert in the south; low coastal plain; central mountains; Jordan Rift Valley
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Har Meron 1,208 m
Natural resources: timber, potash, copper ore, natural gas, phosphate rock, magnesium bromide, clays, sand
Land use: arable land: 15.45%
permanent crops: 3.88%
other: 80.67% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,940 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 1.7 cu km (2001)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 2.05 cu km/yr (31%/7%/62%)
per capita: 305 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: sandstorms may occur during spring and summer; droughts; periodic earthquakes
Environment – current issues: limited arable land and natural fresh water resources pose serious constraints; desertification; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; groundwater pollution from industrial and domestic waste, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: there are 242 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank, 42 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 0 in the Gaza Strip, and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 2005 est.); Sea of Galilee is an important freshwater source
Politics Israel operates under a parliamentary system as a democratic country with universal suffrage.[2] The President of Israel is the head of state, but his duties are largely ceremonial.[101] A Parliament Member supported by a majority in parliament becomes the Prime Minister, usually the chairman of the largest party. The Prime Minister is the head of government and head of the Cabinet. Israel is governed by a 120-member parliament, known as the Knesset. Membership in the Knesset is based on proportional representation of political parties.[103] Parliamentary elections are held every four years, but the Knesset can dissolve the government at any time by a no-confidence vote. The Basic Laws of Israel function as an unwritten constitution. In 2003, the Knesset began to draft an official constitution based on these laws.

Israel has a three-tier court system. At the lowest level are magistrate courts, situated in most cities across the country. Above them are district courts, serving both as appellate courts and courts of first instance; they are situated in five of Israel’s six districts. The third and highest tier in Israel is the Supreme Court, seated in Jerusalem. It serves a dual role as the highest court of appeals and the High Court of Justice. In the latter role, the Supreme Court rules as a court of first instance, allowing individuals, both citizens and non-citizens, to petition against decisions of state authorities.[105][106] Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court as it fears the court would be biased against it due to political pressure.[107] Israel’s legal system combines English common law, civil law, and Jewish law.[2] It is based on the principle of stare decisis (precedent) and is an adversarial system, where the parties in the suit bring evidence before the court. Court cases are decided by professional judges rather than juries.[105] Marriage and divorce are under the jurisdiction of the religious courts: Jewish, Muslim, Druze, and Christian. A committee of Knesset members, Supreme Court justices, and Israeli Bar members carries out the election of judges.

The Israeli Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty seeks to defend human rights and liberties. Israel is the only country in the region ranked “Free” by Freedom House based on the level of civil and political rights; the “Israeli Occupied Territories/Palestinian Authority” was ranked “Not Free.”[109] Similarly, Reporters Without Borders rated Israel 50th out of 168 countries in terms of freedom of the press and highest among Southwest Asian countries.[110] Nevertheless, groups such as Amnesty International[111] and Human Rights Watch[112] have often disapproved of Israel’s human rights record in regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel’s civil liberties also allow for self-criticism, from groups such as B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.[113] Israel’s system of socialized medicine, which guarantees equal health care to all residents of the country, was anchored in law in 1995.

Israel is located in the region of the world (i.e.,Southwest Asia including North Africa) that is the ” . . . least hospitable to democracy. Of the 19 states in this broad region, only 2 Israel and Turkey are democratic (though in Turkey the military still retains a veto on many important issues).”

People Population: 6,426,679
note: includes about 187,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, about 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and fewer than 177,000 in East Jerusalem (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 26.1% (male 858,246/female 818,690)
15-64 years: 64.2% (male 2,076,649/female 2,046,343)
65 years and over: 9.8% (male 269,483/female 357,268) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 29.9 years
male: 29.1 years
female: 30.8 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.154% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 17.71 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 6.17 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.048 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.015 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.754 male(s)/female
total population: 0.994 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.75 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.45 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.02 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.59 years
male: 77.44 years
female: 81.85 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.38 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 3,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 100 (2001 est.)
Nationality: noun: Israeli(s)
adjective: Israeli
Ethnic groups: Jewish 76.4% (of which Israel-born 67.1%, Europe/America-born 22.6%, Africa-born 5.9%, Asia-born 4.2%), non-Jewish 23.6% (mostly Arab) (2004)
Religions: Jewish 76.4%, Muslim 16%, Arab Christians 1.7%, other Christian 0.4%, Druze 1.6%, unspecified 3.9% (2004)
Languages: Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign language
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.1%
male: 98.5%
female: 95.9%

Immunity Backs Lebanese Politicians’ Frantic Tweeting

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Immunity Backs Lebanese Politicians’ Frantic Tweeting

Wednesday, 19 September, 2018 – 09:15
Beirut – Sanaa el-Jack
Taking to Twitter in service of their own ends, Lebanese politicians use the platform to expose secrets previously kept exclusive to political echelons. But unlike the average citizen, Twitter-active politicians enjoy immunity.

Maj. Gen. Jamil al-Sayyid said that posting on Twitter was a simple daily habit he practiced with no expectations whatsoever for his account to pick up a following of over 300,000.

“In the past, I was obsessed with the notion of expression, and made frequent contacts with televisions and newspapers to convey my stances,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“But with Twitter, it’s like I have my own radio podcast, television broadcast and a newspaper right at home. It takes one sentence to make an impact,” he added.

In another muscle flexing Twitter spat, Environment Minister Tarek Khatib scolds Lebanese journalist Charles Ayoub over the latter’s prodding around affairs of the caretaker Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil.

In an Arabic tweet, Khatib tells Ayoub that his “harassment of great warriors will not take him any higher, and that Gebran Bassil will not stoop down to his level and grant him the privilege of response.”

“You need a mental hospital,” Khatib slams Ayoub.

Sociology Professor Dr. Talal Atrissi deplored double standards practiced in Lebanon that see to politicians getting off scot-free with blasting rivals, while the average citizen is dragged into investigations.

A politician posts whatever comes to his mind on Twitter with minimal accountability.

Unlike interviews and debates that are moderated by journalists, social media does not constrain the politician, Atrissi criticized.

“The Lebanese see Twitter as an escape, and simply don’t care about filtering what they say because they do not personally know the reader or responder,” he added.

“But if we assume that politicians are leaders and a role model for the public, then hearing an official cursing and using denigrate language makes way for others doing the same,” Atrissi said on the poorly, at times rudely, phrased tweets.

Atrissi remarked that a politician is responsible whenever he or she speaks, explaining that an elected representative is not an ordinary person that can act freely and in an unbalanced manner.

On social media, Lebanese politicians have not been shy in expressing hostility, brazenly lambasting their rivals.

“The issue with Lebanese behavior is facing each other edgily and aggressively on Twitter– as if there is hostility harbored against anyone who is not me,” Atrissi added.

“We need a lot of time to change this culture of resentment, through deliberate steps that contribute to eliminating provocation.”

Jordan: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Middle-Eastern Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Jordan

Introduction Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the UK received a mandate to govern much of the Middle East. Britain separated out a semi-autonomous region of Transjordan from Palestine in the early 1920s, and the area gained its independence in 1946; it adopted the name of Jordan in 1950. The country’s long-time ruler was King HUSSEIN (1953-99). A pragmatic leader, he successfully navigated competing pressures from the major powers (US, USSR, and UK), various Arab states, Israel, and a large internal Palestinian population, despite several wars and coup attempts. In 1989 he reinstituted parliamentary elections and gradual political liberalization; in 1994 he signed a peace treaty with Israel. King ABDALLAH II, the son of King HUSSEIN, assumed the throne following his father’s death in February 1999. Since then, he has consolidated his power and undertaken an aggressive economic reform program. Jordan acceded to the World Trade Organization in 2000, and began to participate in the European Free Trade Association in 2001. Municipal elections were held in July 2007 under a system in which 20% of seats in all municipal councils were reserved by quota for women. Parliamentary elections were held in November 2007 and saw independent pro-government candidates win the vast majority of seats. In November 2007, King Abdallah instructed his new prime minister to focus on socioeconomic reform, developing a healthcare and housing network for civilians and military personnel, and improving the educational system.
History Beginnings

With the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the League of Nations created the French Mandate of Syria and British Mandate Palestine. Approximately 90% of the British Mandate of Palestine was east of the Jordan river and was known as “Transjordan”. In 1921, the British gave semi-autonomous control of Transjordan to the future King Abdullah I of Jordan, of the Hashemite family. Abdullah I continued to rule until a Palestinian Arab assassinated him in 1951 on the steps of the Mosque of Omar. At first he ruled “Transjordan”, under British supervision until after World War II. In 1946, the British requested that the United Nations approve an end to British Mandate rule in Transjordan. Following this approval, the Jordanian Parliament proclaimed King Abdullah as the first ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

In 1950, Jordan annexed the West Bank, which had been under its control since the armistice that followed the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The annexation was recognized only by the United Kingdom (de facto in the case of East Jerusalem).

In 1965, there was an exchange of land between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Jordan gave up a relatively large area of inland desert in return for a small piece of sea-shore near Aqaba.

Jordan signed a mutual defence pact in May 1967 with Egypt, and it participated in the June 1967 war against Israel along with Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. During the war, Jordan lost the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Israel (the western sector having been under Israeli control). In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank but retained an administrative role pending a final settlement, and its 1994 treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem.

Refugees and Black September / AKA White September

The 1967 war led to a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians, especially from the West Bank, living in Jordan. Its Palestinian refugee population — 700,000 in 1966 — grew by another 300,000 from the West Bank. The period following the 1967 war saw an upsurge in the power and importance of Palestinian resistance elements (fedayeen) in Jordan. The fedayeen were targeted by King’s (Hussien) armed forces, and open fighting erupted in June 1970. The battle in which Palestinian fighters from various Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) groups were expelled from Jordan is commonly known as Black September, it is also known as white September to many.

The heaviest fighting occurred in northern Jordan and Amman. The Syrian army battled the Jordanian army in Amman and other urban areas. The global media portrayed King Hussein as a corrupt King slaughtering the Palestinian refugees. Other Arab governments attempted to work out a peaceful solution. In the ensuing heavy fighting, a Syrian tank force invaded northern Jordan to support the fedayeen but subsequently retreated. It is said by some people, such as Ahmed Jibril, that King Hussein asked for help from Israel,[1] then Israel threatened that it would invade Jordan if Syria intervened. By September 22, Arab foreign ministers meeting at Cairo had arranged a cease-fire beginning the following day. Sporadic violence continued, however, until Jordanian forces led by Habis Al-Majali with the help of the Iraqi forces (who had bases in Jordan after the war of 1967),[1] won a decisive victory over the fedayeen on July 1971, expelling them from the country.

At the Rabat summit conference in 1974, Jordan agreed, along with the rest of the Arab League, that the PLO was the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”, thereby relinquishing to that organization its role as representative of the West Bank.

Post Black September and Peace Treaty

Fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to fight Israeli units on Syrian territory. Jordan did not participate in the Gulf War of 1990–91. In 1991, Jordan agreed, along with Syria, Lebanon, and Palestinian fedayeen representatives, to participate in direct peace negotiations with Israel at the Madrid Conference, sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. It negotiated an end to hostilities with Israel and signed a declaration to that effect on July 25, 1994 (see Washington Declaration). As a result, an Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty was concluded on October 26, 1994. Following the outbreak of Israel-Palestinian Authority fighting in September 2000, the Jordanian government offered its good offices to both parties. Jordan has since sought to remain at peace with all of its neighbors.

Recent events

On November 9, 2005 Jordan experienced three simultaneous bombings at hotels in Amman. At least 57 people died and 115 were wounded. “Al-Qaeda in Iraq”, a group led by terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a native Jordanian, claimed responsibility.

Geography Location: Middle East, northwest of Saudi Arabia
Geographic coordinates: 31 00 N, 36 00 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 92,300 sq km
land: 91,971 sq km
water: 329 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Indiana
Land boundaries: total: 1,635 km
border countries: Iraq 181 km, Israel 238 km, Saudi Arabia 744 km, Syria 375 km, West Bank 97 km
Coastline: 26 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
Climate: mostly arid desert; rainy season in west (November to April)
Terrain: mostly desert plateau in east, highland area in west; Great Rift Valley separates East and West Banks of the Jordan River
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Jabal Ram 1,734 m
Natural resources: phosphates, potash, shale oil
Land use: arable land: 3.32%
permanent crops: 1.18%
other: 95.5% (2005)
Irrigated land: 750 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 0.9 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.01 cu km/yr (21%/4%/75%)
per capita: 177 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: droughts; periodic earthquakes
Environment – current issues: limited natural fresh water resources; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: strategic location at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba and as the Arab country that shares the longest border with Israel and the occupied West Bank
People Population: 6,053,193 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 33% (male 1,018,934/female 977,645)
15-64 years: 63% (male 2,037,550/female 1,777,361)
65 years and over: 4% (male 117,279/female 124,424) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 23.5 years
male: 24.1 years
female: 22.8 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.412% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 20.69 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 2.68 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 6.11 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.042 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.146 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.943 male(s)/female
total population: 1.102 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 16.16 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 19.33 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 12.81 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.55 years
male: 76.04 years
female: 81.22 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.55 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 600 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 500 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Jordanian(s)
adjective: Jordanian
Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, Circassian 1%, Armenian 1%
Religions: Sunni Muslim 92%, Christian 6% (majority Greek Orthodox, but some Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Protestant denominations), other 2% (several small Shi’a Muslim and Druze populations) (2001 est.)
Languages: Arabic (official), English widely understood among upper and middle classes
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 89.9%
male: 95.1%
female: 84.7%

Lebanese Economy Hammered by Political Crisis, Debt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanese Economy Hammered by Political Crisis, Debt

Friday, 24 August, 2018 – 09:45
A man counts Lebanese pounds at an exchange shop, in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Ahmad Harb opened his perfume shop on the main street of Beirut’s commercial Hamra district 35 years ago, and his business has weathered security and political crises in this volatile country, including a civil war.

He says this year has been the worst he’s seen: sales dropped by 90 percent and after the landlord raised the rent, he was finally forced to close the shop and move to a smaller, less expensive location nearby, said an Associated Press report on Friday.

“There is no business. Nothing works in this country, everything is very expensive,” Harb said, standing woefully outside his now shuttered shop.

Nearly four months after Lebanon held its first general elections in nine years, politicians are still squabbling over the formation of a new government amid uncertainty over a long stagnating economy, struggling businesses and concerns over the currency.

Years of regional turmoil — worsened by an influx of 1.5 million Syrian refugees since 2011 — are catching up with the tiny, corruption-plagued Arab country. Lebanon has the third highest debt rate in the world, currently standing at about $81 billion, or 152 percent of the gross domestic product. In the absence of a new government, Lebanon has been unable to access billions of dollars pledged by foreign donors for foreign investment in infrastructure and other projects, said the AP.

Meanwhile, many businesses are closing, some companies are laying off employees and even Lebanese living in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region have seen a drop in their business and income due to a drop in oil prices, translating into a decrease in remittances.

Amid this tight situation, many Lebanese who have cash are now spending less, fearing for the future. Residents complain they have to pay double for everything including private generators to deal with chronic electricity cuts and water trucks to cope with the dry summer months. Adding to the downward spin, the government earlier this year stopped awarding long-term housing loans with low interest rates because high demand has depleted money available.

Hardly a day passes without politicians warning that the worst is yet to come, raising fears among residents that the Lebanese pound, pegged at 1,500 to a dollar for the past two decades, might lose some of its value.

Harb wonders where he will get the money next month when his children return to school.

“The country is heading toward bankruptcy,” he said, referring to shops that have already closed down in Hamra Street, one of the top shopping districts in Beirut.

On a walk through downtown Beirut in August, when restaurants would normally be packed with expatriates and tourists, the depression is easy to spot. Some restaurants have closed while others offer 30 percent discounts. Some shops are offering up to 70 percent off, reported the AP.

Maamoun Sharaf, owner of a money exchange shop, said the delays in forming the Cabinet have had bad effects, but the situation had been bad even before that.

“This year the economy did not do well. Even our business dropped by 50 percent,” he said.

Political disagreements have led to a delay in the implementation of loans and grants pledged at the CEDRE economic conference in Paris held in April. International donors pledged $11 billion for Lebanon but the donors sought to ensure the money is well spent in the corruption-plagued country.

Despite the crisis, the state last year approved a salary scale for civil servants that will cost an extra $800 million annually. The government imposed new taxes to fund the new salary structure, increasing the burden on a population that has already been suffering under high taxes with no return in the form of stable services such as water and electricity. Indeed, daily electric outages are a common occurrence.

Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh has repeatedly released statements assuring people that the currency is stable.

Some Lebanese banks have been raising interest rates on the local currency for clients who agree to change US dollars to Lebanese pounds and put them in blocked accounts for a specific period of time. The move is backed by the Central Bank, which has been boosting its foreign currency reserves, reported the AP.

“There is a government paralysis in Lebanon but right now the Lebanese pound is safe. The Central Bank is trying to have dollars to boost its reserves in case of any economic crisis,” said economist Kamel Wazne.

He acknowledges, however, that the economy “is not well” and warns that state institutions and financial policies cannot be activated in the absence of a government.

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who has lobbied Western governments for assistance, is bogged down with the details of forming a government and divisions among politicians over whether Lebanon should resume normal contacts with the Syrian regime.

Hariri’s pro-Syria opponents have been pressuring him, saying normal contact should be resumed to help boost exports from Lebanon through the Naseeb border crossing with Jordan, which was recaptured by the regime from opposition faction in July. Hariri is a harsh critic of the regime and is against having normal relations with its leader Bashar Assad, said the AP.

“The international community stood by Lebanon and what is needed now is for Lebanon to stand by Lebanon and to form a Cabinet quickly, because this delay negatively affects the economy,” said Wazne, who also referred to the debt that is expected to grow in 2018 by $5 billion due to a huge budget deficit.

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‘Human Trafficking’ from Lebanon to Syria a Thriving Business

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

‘Human Trafficking’ from Lebanon to Syria a Thriving Business

Monday, 9 July, 2018 – 08:15
Syrian refugees arrive in Wadi Hamayyed, on the outskirts of the Lebanese northeastern border town of Arsal, to board buses bound for the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib on August 2, 2017. AFP
Beirut – Sanaa Al-Jack
Human trafficking is currently spread at the Lebanese-Syrian borders as a thriving business due to the presence of some Syrian refugees who wish to return to their country without paying imposed
fines.

Asharq Al-Awsat witnessed how a group of brokers managed the smuggling of Syrian refugees from a travel agency near the vegetable market in the Sabra area in the Southern Suburbs of Beirut.

Those brokers, who operate at “administrative” offices, hunt their clients and bargain their safe and secure penetration through the borders, prettifying the adventure, which in many times could cause
their killing.

Most clients include Syrian refugees with uncompleted Lebanese residency permits. The Lebanese Security General does not allow them to leave the country before paying fees related to arranging their
papers.

Here comes the role of the smuggling. Amal told Asharq Al-Awsat about her experience with one of the brokers responsible for smuggling Syrians.

The broker had promised her husband, who works in the construction sector, to secure his safe passage by car through the border to his village in the countryside of Hama in return of $400.

The man paid the sum and left with his wife to the Masnaa border crossing in the Bekaa where they spent the night and were asked to remain in complete silence.

The brokers had told Amal that crossing the mountains from Lebanon to Syria would take one hour and that a vehicle would wait for them in the Syrian part of the border to take them home.

“They lied. We stayed running for more than eight hours in the dark. I lost my shoes and my feet were bleeding,” she said.

Even during the periods of tight security measures implemented at the borders by the Lebanese authorities, the illegal smuggling of Syrians does not stop, but only witnesses an increase of fees.

A security official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the trafficking of humans and goods is almost as old as the age of the borders between the two countries.

“We are exerting all our efforts to contain the smuggling but such mission remains impossible at the eastern borders with Syria which stretches around 145 kilometers,” the official said.

Lebanese woman sentenced to eight years for ‘insulting’ Egypt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL JAZEERA NEWS)

 

Lebanese woman sentenced to eight years for ‘insulting’ Egypt

Tourist Mona el-Mazbouh complained about sexual harassment in profanity-laced video, with Egyptians responding in kind.

The day before being arrested, Mona el-Mazbouh posted a second video on Facebook apologising to Egyptians [Al Jazeera]
The day before being arrested, Mona el-Mazbouh posted a second video on Facebook apologising to Egyptians [Al Jazeera]

A Lebanese tourist who was arrested last month for posting a video on Facebook complaining about sexual harassment and conditions in Egypt, was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Cairo court on Saturday, her lawyer said.

Mona el-Mazbouh was arrested at Cairo airport at the end of her stay in Egypt after she published a 10-minute video on her Facebook page, laced with vulgarity and profanity against Egypt and Egyptians.

During her tirade, Mazbouh called Egypt a lowly, dirty country and Egyptian men pimps and women prostitutes.

Mazbouh, 24, complained of being sexually harassed by taxi drivers and young men in the street, as well as poor restaurant service during Ramadan, in addition to an incident in which money and other belongings were stolen.

Mazbouh said in the video that she had visited Egypt several times in the past four years.

A Cairo court found her guilty of deliberately spreading false rumours that would harm society, attacking religion and public indecency, judicial sources said.

An appeals court will now hear the case on July 29, according to Mazbouh’s lawyer, Emad Kamal.

“Of course, God willing, the verdict will change. With all due respect to the judiciary, this is a severe ruling. It is in the context of the law, but the court was applying the maximum penalty,” he said.

Kamal said a surgery Mazbouh underwent in 2006 to remove a blood clot from her brain has impaired her ability to control anger, a condition documented in a medical report he submitted to the court.

She also suffers from depression, Kamal added.

The video went viral, prompting many Egyptian women to take to social media with their own videos to express their anger at Mazbouh, while responding in kind against Lebanon and Lebanese women.

The day before she was arrested, Mazbouh posted a second video on Facebook apologising to Egyptians.

Egyptian rights activists say they are facing the worst crackdown in their history under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, accusing him of erasing freedoms won in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

His supporters say such measures are needed to stabilise Egypt after years of turmoil that drove away foreign investors and amid an uprising concentrated in the Sinai Peninsula.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Russia: Complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria is ‘absolutely unrealistic’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Russia: Complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria is ‘absolutely unrealistic’

Sergey Lavrov says Putin and Trump will discuss situation in southern Syria on July 16; US said seeking full Iranian pullout

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shows the way to his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi during a meeting in Moscow on July 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shows the way to his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi during a meeting in Moscow on July 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that it would be “absolutely unrealistic” to expect Iran to completely withdraw from Syria.

Speaking after a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart in Moscow, Lavrov said a proposed ceasefire deal in the southern region brokered by Russia, Jordan and the US envisioned the withdrawal of non-Syrian forces and the deployment of Syrian troops along the border with Israel.

But Lavrov said Iran is one of the key powers in the region, and that it would be “absolutely unrealistic” to expect it to abandon its interests in the country. He said regional powers should discuss mutual complaints and negotiate a compromise.

Israel has repeatedly said it will not tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria, and has recently acknowledged carrying out airstrikes on Iranian targets in the country. Israel has also struck Syrian air defense systems that fired at Israeli fighter jets during the raids.

Jerusalem has accused Tehran of seeking to gain a foothold in the border area as forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have made gains in clearing out rebel groups there. The US and Israel view Iran’s extensive military presence in Syria as a threat to Israel and have threatened action.

A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage attributed to Israel on April 9, 2018. (Iranian media)

Russia and Iran have provided crucial military support to Assad’s forces, helping them turn the tide in the civil war, but Israel has also coordinated its military strikes in the territory with Iran-allied Moscow.

Lavrov on Wednesday said Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump would discuss the situation in southern Syria at their upcoming summit on July 16.

Last week the Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper reported that Trump would make a full Iranian pullout from Syria territory a priority at that meeting.

US officials, the diplomat was quoted as saying, are convinced that Russia would be unwilling to “pay a heavy price” for Iran’s continued presence in Syria.

The diplomat, who was not identified in the report, also said Washington had given Israel a “green light” to strike Iranian military assets in Syria.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi arrived in Moscow Wednesday for talks as the Russian-backed regime offensive in the south of Syria was pushing tens of thousands of refugees toward the borders with Jordan and Israel.

Jordanian residents of Jabir village watch aid deliveries to Syrians fleeing government offensive in the south as smoke from unknown fire rises, July 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

Ahead of the trip, Safadi said he hoped there would be “more steps forward to contain this crisis and prevent more destruction.”

He added that Amman has open channels with Damascus and Moscow and the talks will focus on reaching a ceasefire and halting the displacement.

Meanwhile, Syrian rebels were facing a deadline Wednesday in negotiations with regime ally Russia to either agree to tough surrender terms in the south or come under a renewed military onslaught.

Moscow has been backing a two-week offensive by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces against rebels in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra.

But it is simultaneously brokering talks with rebel towns for negotiated surrenders in a carrot-and-stick strategy that Russia and the regime have successfully used in the past.

More than 30 towns have already agreed to return to regime control and talks were focused on remaining rebel territory in Daraa’s western countryside and the southern half of the city.

Rebels were set to meet with a Russian delegation on Wednesday afternoon to deliver their decision on Moscow’s proposal for a regime takeover of the rest of the south, a spokesman for the opposition’s southern operations said.

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HOW DOES ISRAEL’S MILITARY COMPARE TO IRAN?

(THIS ARTICLE SI COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

 

HOW DOES ISRAEL’S MILITARY COMPARE TO IRAN?

Relations between Israel and Iran are at breaking point. The multinational nuclear deal signed with Iran is on the verge of collapsing—partly thanks to Israeli lobbying against it. Iranian leaders have warned that if it fails, the country will resume its uranium enrichment program, a step Israel considers a threat to its very existence.

Meanwhile, multiple Israeli strikes have sought to dislodge Iranian forces from Syria, where Tehran enjoys increasing influence. Israeli leaders are fighting hard to stop Iranian soldiers deploying along its northern border.

Though it would appear that neither nation wants a full-scale war, the potential for miscalculation and escalation remains. Both nations have considerable military clout, and any prolonged confrontation between them would be bloody.

RTS1IFO9Israeli forces are seen near a border fence between the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights and Syria, on November 4, 2017. Israel is wary of Iran’s growing influence across its northern border.REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD

Iran is a much larger country with a far higher population than Israel, but numbers alone do not dictate military capability—combat technology and experience are vital factors too. Technological capability is even more important in an era where technology is changing the way war is waged, allowing nations to hit each other harder, from further away and with less human involvement.

A small nation with a population of just 8.5 million, Israel’s military punches significantly above its weight. Formed amid a war with seven Arab neighbors, the country’s short history is punctuated with conflicts fought for its survival. This tough history combines with a burgeoning technology sphere and close relations with powerful western nations to create one of the world’s most formidable fighting forces.

According to Global Firepower, Israel has approximately 170,000 active personnel with a further 445,000 in reserve. Conscription exists for all non-Arab citizens of Israel over the age of 18, giving the country a large and well-trained pool of fighters to call up in the event of war.

Though less sophisticated than Israel, the Iranian military is a force to be reckoned with. Its large population—around 82 million—enables Tehran to maintain a standing force of around 534,000 soldiers, with a further 400,000 in reserve, making it the largest force in the Middle East.

In a drawn-out engagement, national manpower becomes an important issue. Iranian available manpower is around 47 million compared with just 3 million for Israel. Of course, how important this is will depend on the nature of any war being fought.

RTXYQI5Members of Iranian armed forces march during the Army Day parade in Tehran on April 18, 2013.REUTERS/HAMID FOROOTAN/ISNA/HANDOUT

In 2017, Israel spent $16.5 billion on its armed forces, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Iran was not far behind on $14.5 billion. Though this does not seem like a big gap, the fact that Israel is spending billions more than Iran on a smaller military indicates the gulf in the quality of equipment used.

Israel fields more tanks than Iran—2,760 compared to 1,650. Israel wins this matchup on quality as well as quantity, the latest version of its Merkava tank being one of the best and most heavily defended in the world. Iran is mostly using second-rate tanks, though it has announced the development of the new Karrar platform, which it claims will be able to compete with top-class opponents.

The Israeli air force is one of the best in the world, equipped and trained to the highest level. Its pilots are experienced too, having regularly conducted missions against targets in Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and even Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Its 250 or so fighters include a handful of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft, one of just four fifth-generation fighter planes in the world. Israel will eventually have 50 F-35s.

By contrast, Iran fields around 160 fighter jets, none of which are as advanced as the F-35. Furthermore, its pilots are less well-trained and experienced than their Israeli counterparts.

Neither nation is a significant maritime power. Iran has more than 30 submarines, five frigates, three corvettes and more than 200 patrol craft. Israel currently has five submarines, three corvettes, eight missile boats and 45 patrol boats. Considering the geography, the naval theater is unlikely to play any significant role in a potential conflict.

RTX2UPSIAn Israeli soldier sits inside a F-35 fighter jet after it landed at Nevatim air base in southern Israel on December 12, 2016.REUTERS/AMIR COHEN

In the event of an all-out war, Israel holds the nuclear trump card. Notoriously secretive about its nuclear arsenal, the country is believed to possess between 75 and 400 warheads. The weapons can be delivered using Israel’s Jericho ballistic missiles, submarine-launched cruise missiles or even fighter planes.

Iran has no nuclear capability. Even if talks break down, it will take many years before Tehran joins the nuclear club. Iran is working hard to improve its ballistic missile arsenal, already one of the most potent in the region and well-able to hit Israel.

But Iran has other tricks up its sleeves. Financial and military support for anti-Israeli militant groups across the Middle East give it an unconventional way to hit its rival in the event of conflict. The Shiite Lebanese Hezbollah group, especially, is a worry for Israeli leaders. Hezbollah has a well-trained and well-equipped military, far more powerful than the Lebanese army and able to operate freely.

Hezbollah’s experience fighting alongside regime forces in Syria has given it vital combat exposure. The group maintains a huge rocket arsenal, and its weapons can hit anywhere in Israel. Iran also provides support to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad groups in Gaza, which maintain smaller, but still significant, rocket capabilities.

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