Rasanah webinar discusses German ban on Hezbollah

The Rasanah webinar included a number of political analysts and experts.
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Updated 13 May 2020

Rasanah webinar discusses German ban on Hezbollah

The International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah) discussed in a webinar the implications of the German decision to designate the Lebanese Hezbollah as a terrorist organization last week. The webinar was moderated by the head of the institute, Dr. Mohammed Alsulami, and included Ali A. Asseri, the former Saudi ambassador to Lebanon; Dr. Ihsan Ashammari, professor of political systems at the University of Baghdad, and head of the Iraqi Political Thinking Center; Dr. Zafer Alajmi, executive director of the Gulf Watch Group; and Lokman Salim, Lebanese activist and political analyst.
The webinar dealt with four axes — the first axis examined the motives and timing of the German decision, and whether other European countries or the European Union as a whole would join Germany. The second axis analyzed the implications of the decision on domestic politics in Lebanon, its relations abroad, and the economic and diplomatic impact on Beirut. The third axis dealt with the impact of the decision at the regional level, especially on the Syrian issue and the Iraqi situation, where the Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) is based, as well as the Yemeni scene in addition to the security of the Arabian Gulf. The fourth axis discussed the impact of the German decision on the Iranian expansionist project and the policy of relying on nonstate actors.
Ambassador Asseri said that the German decision is “wise, and protects them from targeting, especially since Germany is a democratic country that respects the rule of law.” Alajmi said: “The timing of the decision is due, and it came in the season of collecting religious funds in order to dry up the financial sources of the group.”
Ashammari observed that the German decision comes in a natural context within a European background that monitors the powers of Hezbollah inside and outside Lebanon, while political analyst Salim added that Germany wants to send a message to Hezbollah to be aware of the real purpose of any support that reaches Lebanon under the title of stability. On the implications of the decision on internal politics in Lebanon and the impact of the decision economically and diplomatically on Beirut, Asseri said: “Lebanon suffers from instability on the political and economic levels in an unprecedented way, as 45 percent of the people live below the poverty line.” Alajmi described the German decision as a “shock” for the Lebanese party, as Berlin was the negotiator between the party and Israel, and thus Hezbollah’s relationship with Germany was good compared to the rest of the European countries.
Salim revealed that there are 80,000 Lebanese in Germany, 80 percent of whom are members of the Shiite community, and there is no way to distinguish between belonging to Hezbollah or the Amal movement. He pointed out that Hezbollah was searching for people with dual nationalities. He stated that Hezbollah is now bankrupt on the ideological level.
On the Iraqi arena, Ambassador Asseri said that “Iran is penetrating Iraq and is trying to extend its arms into the Arabian Gulf states,” considering that an attempt to weaken Hezbollah will make it face challenges, especially after the expected decision of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the middle of this month on the assassination case of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and others, and the repercussions that the party will face in the future.
At the end of the webinar, Alsulami commented on the Iranian situation in light of the recent German decision since Hezbollah is one of the militias loyal to Iran in the Arabian region. “Iran loves being in the spotlight, in the headlines and news agencies,” he said, adding that it is “a message to the Iranian community at home which questions the legitimacy of the regime through protests, especially with the impact of the sanctions track, which represents the least costly path for different countries of the world to resolve the Iranian issue.”


Ascott prepares for growth in post-COVID-19 era

Updated 01 June 2020

Ascott prepares for growth in post-COVID-19 era

CapitaLand’s wholly owned lodging business unit, The Ascott Limited (Ascott), will review the design of its lodging products and services to ensure they are future-ready for continued growth in a post COVID-19 landscape.

Leveraging the existing design strengths of Ascott’s serviced residences, it aims to redefine the guest experience to take advantage of emerging trends such as the increased popularity of working from home, deeper health and safety concerns, and a rapidly digitizing world.

Kevin Goh, chief executive, lodging, CapitaLand Group and chief executive, Ascott, said: “Ascott’s serviced residences have remained resilient amid COVID-19. We continue to be the accommodation of choice by providing a safe haven for our guests who have placed their trust in Ascott. To cement Ascott’s position as a dominant lodging player and deliver more value for our guests and business partners, we are taking steps to ready Ascott for a post COVID-19 landscape. Ascott is reviewing every touchpoint within the living and workspaces of our apartments to tap on the work-from-home trend. We are also improving our digital solutions and looking at leveraging smarter technologies to provide value and safety to our guests.”

As global and domestic travel restrictions ease, the group has launched “Ascott Cares” across its properties, to reassure guests and staff of the stringent cleanliness and hygiene measures in place, as the global properties begin to welcome new and returning guests home. These measures will also be effective across Ascott’s properties within the Middle East and Turkey: Ascott Park Place Dubai, Citadines Metro Central Dubai, Ascott Tahlia Jeddah, Ascott Sari Jeddah, Citadines Al-Salamah Jeddah, Spectrums Residence Jeddah, Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh, Ascott Corniche Al-Khobar, Somerset Panorama Muscat, Somerset Al-Fateh Bahrain, Somerset Maslak Istanbul, and Somerset West Bay Doha.

Vincent Miccolis, Ascott’s regional GM for Middle East, Africa, Turkey and India, said: “We have implemented enhanced sanitization measures across our regional properties in the Middle East and Turkey. These include daily temperature checks, and governmental directives on leisure and health facilities. In addition, the obligatory regulations of face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers are in place, while sterilizing efforts have been ramped up across apartments, lobbies and public utilities. Ascott has always been a trusted brand and we look forward to the same momentum, assuring our long and short stay guests of a care-free and safe haven when they come home to Ascott.”

To tap in to the work-from-home trend, Ascott is looking at upgrading its design to create a more productive workspace within the serviced apartment. Improvements to the overall ergonomics of the workspace may include better task lighting, better use of space and appropriate wall features suited for videoconferencing or webcasting.

Digital solutions and technologies may also be further deployed to provide convenience, value and safety to guests. The use of sensors at Ascott properties can offer better safety through thermal scanning or to track footfall and crowds to facilitate better safe distancing measures, as well as smarter room energy and water management.

Ascott will also increase the adoption of mobile technology, including the launch of a new mobile app later this year. A one-stop service, the app will offer guests contactless services such as contactless entry to their apartments, payments, check-in and check-out. It can also provide seamless in-room service and smart controls, management of Ascott Star Rewards loyalty points or redemption of special flash deals.