Lebanon’s MPs fail for seventh time to elect president

Special Lebanon’s MPs fail for seventh time to elect president
Lebanon’s parliament is split between supporters of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and its opponents, neither of whom have a clear majority. (AFP/File)
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Updated 24 November 2022

Lebanon’s MPs fail for seventh time to elect president

Lebanon’s MPs fail for seventh time to elect president
  • Constitutional Council annuls representation of 2 lawmakers, including Change MP

BEIRUT: Lebanese MPs failed for the seventh time on Thursday to elect a successor to former President Michel Aoun.

MP Michel Moawad won the support of 42 MPs, but his tally fell well short of the required majority and was exceeded by the number of spoiled ballots cast by pro-Hezbollah lawmakers.

Next Thursday has been set for a new session of parliament to elect the president.

Moawad obtained two new votes from Change MPs Najat Saliba and Mark Daou. He said that his support was growing and called on the opposition to build bridges among themselves.

A Hezbollah MP suggested the name of Gen. Joseph Aoun, commander of the armed forces, for the presidency, but his candidacy requires a constitutional amendment.

MP Sajea Attia had demanded the formation of a mixed parliamentary committee that would set a road map to break the stalemate.

MP Adeeb Abdel-Masih said that depositors camping in the vicinity of the parliament had threatened him, and added: “Either you elect a president and work to return our money, or there will be blood in the country. I consider this a threat to civil peace.”

Following the session, MP Ali Hassan Khalil, who is Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s political aide in the Amal Movement, stressed the need to search for a formula to break the stalemate.

He added that “exiting the session and losing the quorum for the second session is one of the methods of expressing an opinion, and the white paper confirms our insistence not to challenge any other component.”

Hezbollah MP Ali Ammar stressed the need for dialogue. He said Gen. Aoun presented “a good example in his management of the military institution and was able, through his leadership of the army, to protect civil peace.”

Kataeb Party MP Sami Gemayel described the latest developments as “a tasteless play,” and urged future polling sessions to elect a president.

Meanwhile, two newly elected MPs, including Change’s Ramy Finge, lost their seats following an appeals process before the Constitutional Council.

Finge, an activist who had pledged to fight corruption, had his Sunni seat in Tripoli revoked by the council and returned to his opponent and long-time MP Faisal Karami, who said that it would not be possible to elect a new president without consensus and dialogue.

The council also accepted the appeal submitted by candidate Haider Asif Nasser for the Alawite seat in Tripoli of MP Firas Al-Salloum.

Hezbollah MPs and allies left the plenary hall before the start of the second session to ensure that it lost the quorum.

The session at the 128-member parliament was attended by 110 MPs.

There were 50 white papers belonging to MPs of the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, Amal Movement, and independent MPs allied with Hezbollah.

Eighty Sunni and Change MPs, who have not yet made up their minds about voting for Moawad, put papers on which the phrase “New Lebanon” was written.

Academic Essam Khalifa received six votes, five of which were from independent MPs, while Ziyad Baroud won two votes, one of which was from Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab.

There was also a paper in the ballot box bearing the name Badri Daher, director general of customs, who has been arrested in connection with the Beirut Port explosion. He is affiliated with the Free Patriotic Movement.

Another paper bore the name of Salvador Allende, the Marxist president of Chile from 1970 to 1973.


UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum
Updated 13 sec ago

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum
  • Israeli censorship a concern, says ALECSO representative

CAIRO: The Palestinian education system should be protected from attempts to censor material being taught at schools.

This was the concern raised by some officials at the 32nd joint meeting of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and the Council of Educational Affairs of the Arab League in Cairo, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The gathering took place at the Arab League’s headquarters in Egypt’s capital.

Dr. Tamer Anis, a representative of the Arab League Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization, drew attention to Israel’s attempts to censor the Palestinian curriculum. He urged support for the Palestinian Ministry of Education.

Arab News had reported this year about attempts by Israel to impose a “sanitized” curriculum on East Jerusalem’s schools that includes the deletion of all photos of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the word Palestine and the Palestinian flag. Holy Qur’anic verses were also deleted on claims that they help strengthen Palestinian, Arab and Islamic identities.

At Sunday’s meeting in Cairo, Saeed Abu Ali, the Arab League’s assistant secretary-general for Palestine and the occupied Arab territories, said the gathering comes in the wake of the UNRWA’s ongoing financial crisis, which has had a direct impact on the services provided to Palestinian refugees.

Abu Ali stressed the need for the next UNRWA budget to reflect the growing needs of Palestinian refugees. He added that the Arab League would continue to keep communication channels open between the two organizations

Rawda Al-Hajj, the representative of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said that ISESCO continues to support several education projects in Palestine.

The UNRWA’s Deputy Director of Education Moritz Bilagher reiterated that the Palestinian refugee crisis was not solely the responsibility of Arab countries, but rather a global issue for which the international community must take responsibility.

 


Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate
Updated 05 December 2022

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate
  • Israeli president among 300 high-ranking personalities attending the event

DUBAI: Israeli president Isaac Herzog has arrived in the UAE Monday to attend the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, state news agency (WAM) reported.

Herzog was welcomed by the UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi.

The Israeli president will be among 300 high-ranking personalities and decision makers attending the first edition of the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, which opened on Monday.

The two-day event will discuss the space industry’s most pressing challenges and factors to drive the new space economy.


Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW
Updated 05 December 2022

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW
  • Espionage group linked to IRGC gains access to emails of 3 victims

LONDON: Iran-backed hackers have staged a targeted campaign against more than a dozen high-profile human rights activists, journalists, academics and government officials, Human Rights Watch said.

The organization found that a coordinated phishing attack had been launched by an Iran-linked hacking entity known as APT42, believed to be a cyberespionage group.

The HRW report said that two of its employees were targeted, alongside 18 other people, resulting in the hacking of emails belonging to three individuals.

APT42 gained access to the emails, cloud storage, calendars and contacts of a US newspaper correspondent based in the Middle East, a Gulf-based women’s rights activist as well as a refugee advocate in Lebanon.

HRW said that the phishing attack was launched via WhatsApp, with 15 of the targets receiving suspicious messages between September and November this year.

The message, disguised as a conference invitation, allowed APT42 to gain access to the Google accounts of the three victims after they were invited to enter their two-factor authentication details on false pretenses.

Iran has long engaged in phishing attempts as part of its cyberwarfare strategy.

Since 2010, hackers and espionage groups linked to the regime in Tehran have successfully hacked and leaked the data of government, military and business targets around the world.

In September, APT42 members were sanctioned by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department.

Google as well as cybersecurity businesses Recorded Future and Proofpoint have said that APT42 operates on behalf of Iranian authorities.

Earlier this year, cybersecurity company Mandiant said that the group’s activities were directed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

APT42 uses sophisticated social engineering strategies in disguising phishing attempts, HRW said.

In gaining the trust of victims, APT42 members use the real information of conference organizers to create fake accounts and contact high-profile activists and officials.

Previous attacks have seen the group impersonate members of the Munich Security Conference and the G20 Think 20 Summit in Saudi Arabia to contact targets and launch phishing attacks.

Abir Ghattas, information security director at HRW, said: “Iran’s state-backed hackers are aggressively using sophisticated social engineering and credential harvesting tactics to access sensitive information and contacts held by Middle East-focused researchers and civil society groups.

“This significantly increases the risks that journalists and human rights defenders face in Iran and elsewhere in the region.”

She added: “In a Middle East region rife with surveillance threats for activists, it’s essential for digital security researchers to not only publish and promote findings, but also prioritize the protection of the region’s embattled activists, journalists and civil society leaders.”


Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment
Updated 05 December 2022

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment
  • Iran’s chief prosecutor Mohamed Jafar Montazeri earlier said the morality police ‘had been closed’

CAIRO: An Iranian lawmaker said Sunday that Iran’s government is “paying attention to the people’s real demands,” state media reported, a day after a top official suggested that the country’s morality police whose conduct helped trigger months of protests has been shut down.
The role of the morality police, which enforces veiling laws, came under scrutiny after a detainee, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, died in its custody in mid-September. Amini had been held for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress codes. Her death unleashed a wave of unrest that has grown into calls for the downfall of Iran’s clerical rulers.
Iran’s chief prosecutor Mohamed Jafar Montazeri said on Saturday the morality police “had been closed,” the semi-official news agency ISNA reported. The agency did not provide details, and state media hasn’t reported such a purported decision.
In a report carried by ISNA on Sunday, lawmaker Nezamoddin Mousavi signaled a less confrontational approach toward the protests.
“Both the administration and parliament insisted that paying attention to the people’s demand that is mainly economic is the best way for achieving stability and confronting the riots,” he said, following a closed meeting with several senior Iranian officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi.
Mousavi did not address the reported closure of the morality police.
The Associated Press has been unable to confirm the current status of the force, established in 2005 with the task of arresting people who violate the country’s Islamic dress code.
Since September, there has been a reported decline in the number of morality police officers across Iranian cities and an increase in women walking in public without headscarves, contrary to Iranian law.
Montazeri, the chief prosecutor, provided no further details about the future of the morality police or if its closure was nationwide and permanent. However he added that Iran’s judiciary will ‘‘continue to monitor behavior at the community level.’’
In a report by ISNA on Friday, Montazeri was quoted as saying that the government was reviewing the mandatory hijab law. “We are working fast on the issue of hijab and we are doing our best to come up with a thoughtful solution to deal with this phenomenon that hurts everyone’s heart,” said Montazeri, without offering details.
Saturday’s announcement could signal an attempt to appease the public and find a way to end the protests in which, according to rights groups, at least 470 people were killed. More than 18,000 people have been arrested in the protests and the violent security force crackdown that followed, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the demonstrations.
Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said Montazeri’s statement about closing the morality police could be an attempt to pacify domestic unrest without making real concessions to protesters.
‘‘The secular middle class loathes the organization (morality police) for restricting personal freedoms,” said Alfoneh. On the other hand, the “underprivileged and socially conservative class resents how they conveniently keep away from enforcing the hijab legislation” in wealthier areas of Iran’s cities.
When asked about Montazeri’s statement, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian gave no direct answer. ‘‘Be sure that in Iran, within the framework of democracy and freedom, which very clearly exists in Iran, everything is going very well,’’ Amirabdollahian said, speaking during a visit to Belgrade, Serbia.
The anti-government demonstrations, now in their third month, have shown no sign of stopping despite a violent crackdown. Protesters say they are fed up after decades of social and political repression, including a strict dress code imposed on women. Young women continue to play a leading role in the protests, stripping off the mandatory Islamic headscarf to express their rejection of clerical rule.
After the outbreak of the protests, the Iranian government hadn’t appeared willing to heed the protesters’ demands. It has continued to crack down on protesters, including sentencing at least seven arrested protesters to death. Authorities continue to blame the unrest on hostile foreign powers, without providing evidence.
But in recent days, Iranian state media platforms seemed to be adopting a more conciliatory tone, expressing a desire to engage with the problems of the Iranian people.


Iranian city shops shut after strike call, judiciary blames ‘rioters’

Iranian city shops shut after strike call, judiciary blames ‘rioters’
Updated 05 December 2022

Iranian city shops shut after strike call, judiciary blames ‘rioters’

Iranian city shops shut after strike call, judiciary blames ‘rioters’
  • 1500tasvir Twitter account shared videos of shut stores in key commercial areas like Tehran’s Bazaar
  • Amusement park in Tehran was earlier closed because its operators were not wearing the hijab properly

DUBAI:  Iranian shops shut their doors in several cities on Monday, following calls for a three-day nationwide general strike from protesters seeking the fall of clerical rulers, with the head of the judiciary blaming “rioters” for threatening shopkeepers.
Iran has been rocked by nationwide unrest following the death of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16 in police custody, posing one of the strongest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
Amini was arrested by Iran’s morality police for flouting the strict hijab policy, which requires women to dress modestly and wear headscarfs.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Monday that an amusement park at a Tehran shopping center was closed by the judiciary because its operators were not wearing the hijab properly.
The reformist-leaning Hammihan newspaper said that morality police had increased their presence in cities outside Tehran, where the force has been less active over recent weeks.
Iran’s public prosecutor on Saturday was cited by the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency as saying that the morality police had been disbanded. But there was no confirmation from the Interior Ministry and state media said the public prosecutor was not responsible for overseeing the force.
Last week, Vice President for Women’s Affairs Ensieh Khazali said that the hijab was part of the Islamic Republic’s general law and that it guaranteed women’s social movement and security.
In the shop protests, 1500tasvir, a Twitter account with 380,000 followers focused on the protests, shared videos on Monday of shut stores in key commercial areas, such as Tehran’s Bazaar, and other large cities such as Karaj, Isfahan, Mashhad, Tabriz, and Shiraz.
Reuters could not immediately verify the footage.
The head of Iran’s judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, said that “rioters” were threatening shopkeepers to close their businesses and added they would be swiftly dealt with by the judiciary and security bodies. Ejei added that protesters condemned to death would soon be executed.
The Revolutionary Guards issued a statement praising the judiciary and calling on it to swiftly and decisively issue a judgment against “defendants accused of crimes against the security of the nation and Islam.”
Security forces would show no mercy toward “rioters, thugs, terrorists,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted the guards as saying.
Witnesses speaking to Reuters said riot police and the Basij militia had been heavily deployed in central Tehran.
The semi-official Fars news agency confirmed that a jewelry shop belonging to former Iranian football legend Ali Daei was sealed by authorities, following its decision to close down for the three days of the general strike.
Similar footage by 1500tasvir and other activist accounts was shared of closed shops in smaller cities like Bojnourd, Kerman, Sabzevar, Ilam, Ardabil and Lahijan.
Kurdish Iranian rights group Hengaw also reported that 19 cities had joined the general strike movement in western Iran, where most of the country’s Kurdish population live.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the unrest since the death of Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was detained by the morality police for flouting hijab rules.