English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For August 01/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 23/01-12:”Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on July31-August 01/2020
Health Ministry: 224 new corona cases
Hariri Hospital: One death, 18 critical cases
Al-Rahi meets with 'Strong Republic' Bloc delegation
Magnitsky Act will pursue Lebanon’s corrupt/Najia Houssari/Arab News/July 31/2020
Aoun to Deliver a Speech on Army Day
Report: Israel Prepared to Retaliate against Hizbullah Strike
Qabalan Marks Eid Adha: Lebanon Neutrality is Impossible
Zasypkin Says Israel-Lebanon War 'Unlikely'
Lebanon’s Security Chief Fills Vacuum Left By Government’s 'Absence'
Lebanese Forces: We will file charges against Ghassan Atallah for false and misleading news
Diab Withdraws Comments Against Le Drian, Soothes Talks With France
Understanding Hezbollah's complex planning behind the events on Har Dov/Joanathan Spyer/Jerusalem Post/July 31/2020
When Will Lebanon Take Back the South?/Elias Harfoush/Asharq Al Awsat/July 31/2020
How to save Lebanon from looming hyperinflation/Nasser Saidi/The National/July 31/2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July31-August 01/2020
Iraqi PM announces June 6 snap elections, calls for ‘change in political scene’
US designates, sanctions key ISIS financial supporter in Turkey: Treasury Department
Khamenei Rejects Talks with US over Missile, Nuclear Programs
Iran's Khamanei Says Sanctions Failed, No Talks with Trump
U.S. Adds Materials To Metals Sanctions Against Iran
Washington Punishes Damascus, Eyes Moscow
Executed Turkish general exposed misuse of Qatari funds for Syria extremists: Report
Erdogan Insists on Decisive Action in Libya
Ghannouchi Survives No-Confidence Vote
Car Bomb Kills 9 in Northeast Syria
Trump Suggests Delay in Presidential Election over Coronavirus Fears
Florida Hits Another Record Virus Death Toll as Hurricane Looms
Second round of Ukraine-Iran plan crash talks set for October
Study: Young Children Carry Higher Levels of Coronavirus
US, China consulate closures deal losses to both nations

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July31-August 01/2020

Sudan, Darfur and the prospects of Stabilization and Democratization/Charles Elias Chartouni/July 31/2020
U.S. Sanctions Assad’s 18-Year-Old Son, Promises More Targets to Come/David Adesnik/FDD/July 31/2020
Systemic Hypocrisy/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/July 31/2020
Biden Offers an Obama-Trump Cocktail/Amir Taherii/Asharq Al-AwsatJuly 31/2020
It’s Not Just Anti-Vaxxers Who Worry About Vaccines/Therese Raphael/Bloomberg/July, 31/2020
The US Can Control Covid Without a Second Lockdown/Faye Flam/Bloomberg/July, 31/2020
The US wants to stop Iran's arms build-up by hook or by crook/Con Coughlin/The National/July 31/2020
Question: "What does it mean that there is neither Jew nor Greek in Galatians 3:28?"/GotQuestions.org/July 31/2020


The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on July31-August 01/2020
Health Ministry: 224 new corona cases
NNA/July 31/2020
The Public Health Ministry indicated on Friday that 224 new cases of coronavirus infection have been registered today, thus raising the cumulative number of infected cases to-date to 4555 cases.

Hariri Hospital: One death, 18 critical cases
NNA/July 31/2020
In its daily report on the latest COVID-19 developments, the Rafic Hariri University Hospital indicated on Friday that one death case has been registered, while 18 critical cases are receiving medical attention at the hospital.
The report stated that 680 tests were carried out at the hospital's laboratories during the past 24 hours. It added that the number of patients infected with coronavirus who are currently receiving treatment and follow-up at the hospital is 65, while 17 suspected cases were transferred from other hospitals within the past 24 hours.Moreover, the hospital disclosed that no new recoveries have been registered during the past 24 hours; thus maintaining the total number of recoveries to-date at 259 cases. It added that 5 patients were released from the hospital during the past 24 hours to be home quarantined, after their attending physician confirmed their clinical recovery. "Two cases were transferred from intensive care to the isolation unit after their condition has improved," the report stated, noting that the total number of critical cases currently present inside the hospital is 18 patients.
The Hariri Hospital concluded its report by reminding citizens that the Coronavirus Call Center for emergency response and inquiry about test results operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including public holidays, and can be reached through the landline number 01-820830, or through the WhatsApp contact service 76-897961.

Al-Rahi meets with 'Strong Republic' Bloc delegation
NNA/July 31/2020
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, met this morning in Al-Diman with a "Strong Republic" Bloc delegation, commissioned by Lebanese Forces Party Chief Samir Geagea, including MP's Wehbi Qatisha, Shawki Daccash and Antoine Habshi, as well as the Head of LF's Bureau for Communication with Spiritual Leaders Tony Mourad and Bureau Member Jean-Claude Saab. The tripartite initiative launched by the Patriarch, which represents a rescue solution for Lebanon, was at center of discussions during the meeting. On emerging, MP Habshi spoke on behalf of the delegation, saying: "We came today to visit His Beatitude in wake of the neutrality initiative he has put forth, especially since the concept of neutrality is being given different interpretations which do not reflect its simple content."He added: "Our Patriarch has clarified that neutrality is based on three pillars, the first being neutrality itself, whereby Lebanon, ever since its foundation, has been established through national agreement on neutrality to be a place for convergence and not conflicts...We believe that with the guarantee of neutrality, Lebanon can fulfill its mission and, as our Patriarch said, refrain from engaging in any conflicts with the surrounding nor enter into problems or wars, since Lebanon, being a land for convergence and dialogue, must be immune from these conflicts in order to be able to unite in the event of disagreements, and this message cannot be carried out by Lebanon unless there is a strong state...and His Beatitude spoke clearly about the Lebanese sovereignty and legitimacy.""In order to have a strong state, its sovereignty and legitimacy must be intact; thus enabling it to maintain its strength, face any challenge and defend any encroachment on its sovereignty, and embrace all its citizens...At that instant, said state can carry out all the necessary steps to resolve its pending issues, such as the armed Palestinian presence, the Syrian displacement, and others, because the strong state protects everyone and defends its sovereignty in the face of every aggressor," Habshi underlined. "The most important thing is that when the state is neutral, Lebanon will not be exposed to the economic, financial, monetary and social crises it is facing today due to its lack of neutrality," the MP maintained. "We must grab this initiative by the Patriarch, and stand together as Lebanese and help each other in reaching Lebanon's neutrality and sparing the country all the problems and socio-economic conditions it is witnessing today," Habshi asserted. He concluded by reiterating that "when we call for a strong state and neutrality from all conflicts, this means that only the state decides on peace and war, and it is the one that legitimately controls all its territories at home and on its borders."


Magnitsky Act will pursue Lebanon’s corrupt
Najia Houssari/Arab News/July 31/2020
BEIRUT: Lebanon is failing to respond to demands from the international community that reforms should be implemented as a condition for receiving aid, even as a US law threatens to pursue those who have brought the Middle Eastern country to its knees. Lebanon is buckling under the worst economic crisis in its history, with the ensuing political and financial turmoil fueling public anger. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, warned on July 10 that the situation was “rapidly getting out of control” and that some of the most vulnerable Lebanese risked starving to death due to this crisis, adding: “We must act immediately before it is too late.”The US and France have said that reforms are needed before financial assistance can be given, but Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government has said it is helpless to meet the conditions set by the international community.
Washington has given Diab’s government the chance to respond to the conditions of cooperation but the government, according to a statement from Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker a few days ago, failed to get past the pitfalls, found it easier to overlook the demands of the international community, and did not study its decisions in a manner consistent with the situation at home. Adding to the pressure on Lebanon is the Magnitsky Act, which could affect businessmen, politicians and possibly even religious leaders, according to economist Violette Balaa.
“The delay in starting its implementation is linked to a careful study of the legal mechanism attached to its provisions and recommendations, and it is complicated in terms of freezing assets inside and outside Lebanon,” she told Arab News. “In addition, it is possible that those affected by the sanctions might resort to justice.”The government was exercising a policy of “circumventing” the case of financial appointments to maintain the political quota, she said and referred to “the blatant stalling of opening the door to reforms in the electricity sector.” Power distribution had reached its lowest since wartime as a result of the adulterated and smuggled fuel crises, she added.
“The owners of power generators are giving the signal to completely cut off the energy supply for reasons related to rationing the distribution of fuel, for fear of having it smuggled to Syria.” Information is also circulating in Lebanon that the US will not grant Lebanon any exemptions from the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, which is intended to send a signal to foreign businesses that they should not engage with President Bashar Assad’s regime, and that any exemption related to getting the electrical current from Syria would be conditional on monitoring smuggling through border crossings.
Schenker previously suggested that the US was mulling sanctions against the backdrop of the Magnitsky Act in Lebanon, and was considering a set of names. The Magnitsky Act initially sought the punishment of Russian figures responsible for the death of tax advisor Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009, but its application soon began to expand. In 2016, US Congress adopted a global version of the act to give the US president the power to impose sanctions on any foreigner accused of human rights violations, such as murder, torture, and other violations set out in international human rights law. In 2017, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order No. 13818 “blocking the property of persons involved in serious human rights abuse or corruption.”“There is an impression among US administration officials that Diab’s government will not last long after the series of failures that the Lebanese are seeing during the outbreak of economic and social crises, and they expect this government to fall next September,” Balaa said.


Aoun to Deliver a Speech on Army Day
Naharnet/July 31/2020
President Michel Aoun is scheduled to deliver a speech on Saturday marking Army Day, the National News Agency reported on Friday. The speech will be aired on television stations and audio media outlets at 10:00 a.m. Aoun will address the Lebanese, the graduating officers in the Diamond Jubilee of the Army, said NNA. An annual graduation ceremony of troops usually held in Fayadieh was canceled due to the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

Report: Israel Prepared to Retaliate against Hizbullah Strike

Naharnet/July 31/2020
Israeli media said the Israeli army received an order to “strike” specific “Lebanese” targets shall Hizbullah carry out any retaliatory attack against Israel, media reports said on Friday. Israeli television channel, I24news, said Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Gantz, ordered the army to “destroy” vital Lebanese facilities if Hizbullah carries out any retaliatory attack against soldiers or citizens, in response to the killing of one of its officers near Damascus with an Israeli raid. The source pointed out that Gantz issued these instructions during a session held Thursday, in the presence of the Israeli Chief of Staff, Aviv Kochavi and a number of senior army leaders. Gantz had reportedly stressed that if Hizbullah carries out an attack, Lebanon “will see an unprecedented Israeli response against its infrastructure and vital facilities.”

Qabalan Marks Eid Adha: Lebanon Neutrality is Impossible
Naharnet/July 31/2020
Grand Shiite Jaafarite Mufti Sheikh Ahmed Qabalan said on Friday that neutrality in Lebanon is “impossible because it is inapplicable.” Qabalan’s remarks came in a televised speech marking Eid el-Adha. He said: “Part of wars in the region are not far from Lebanon,” referring to the war in neighboring Syria, “which confirms that Lebanon is in the eye of the storm. It can not be neutral, on the contrary it must be an active partner to defend itself and its interest, otherwise it could be an easy prey.” Qabalan’s comments arise after the calls of Maronite Patriarch Beshara el-Rahi to neutralize Lebanon from regional conflicts. This, drew different reactions from political parties in Lebanon. On Lebanon’s multiple crises including a crunching economic and financial crisis, Qabalan said the situation is “historically catastrophic at all levels in Lebanon,” accusing “some parties of making it worse.”“We suffer from despair, exhaustion, and a comprehensive blockade in Lebanon amid a crisis of power, hunger dealers, high prices of goods and monopolization. The country faces societal and moral disasters. A frightening shortfall in the authority’s ability is revealed amid the total absence of conscience. I invite everyone not to fall in the trap of the international regional project that tightens the blockade on our country,” said Qabalan.

Zasypkin Says Israel-Lebanon War 'Unlikely'
Naharnet/July 31/2020
Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin said on Friday that the prospects of an Israeli war with Lebanon are “unlikely,” adding that both parties realize that major losses could be entitled as a result. “We do not see a high probability of war, there is a balance and each side knows that there are huge losses for each of the two parties,” said Zasypkin in an interview with al-Mayadeen.net. He added that “the priorities in the region now are to find solutions to conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen and also monitor the situation in Lebanon." Nevertheless, he said “strategically no party will achieve its goals. This means that the situation is rigid until the next stage hoping to find solutions."Tension flared earlier this week on the border when Israel reinforced military presence after a security incident at the border led the Jewish state to fire artillery across the frontier. Israel claimed that members of Hizbullah armed with rifles crossed the UN-demarcated Blue Line in the disputed Mount Dov area, claimed by Lebanon, Syria and Israel. But Hizbullah, which has a presence in the area denied any involvement.

Lebanon’s Security Chief Fills Vacuum Left By Government’s 'Absence'
Beirut- Mohammed Shukair/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 31 July, 2020
A senior political figure, who spared no effort to support the government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the latter “is still acting like he were living on another planet and refrains from interfering at the right time to stop the country from collapsing.”The senior politician, quoted by his visitors, noted that the government has “demonstrated its inability to address the Lebanese complaints and concerns.”In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, the sources said that the political leader, who was one of the main backers of the government upon its formation, expressed his discontent with the latter’s performance. “Its prime minister has placed himself in a political lockdown because of his insistence on some positions that brought him into a series of political clashes,” he reportedly said. He added that Diab went as far as to clash with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, instead of maintaining a good relationship with the country that has been working to help Lebanon overcome its crises. According to the sources, the senior political leader believes that the premier’s problem lied in his lack of a clear vision to provide solutions to economic and living problems. He also affirmed that relying on a government of “technocrats” was not fitting because of the absence of a unified political vision and initiatives that meet the people’s aspirations. In this context, the political leader noted that the role currently assumed by the head of the General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, was aimed at filling the vacuum left by the government’s inaptness to run political affairs. The sources emphasized that Ibrahim’s movements were now supported by those who were initially against the security chief’s working on behalf of the government. They said that he was benefiting from his network of relations with all parties, whether in the loyalty or the opposition.

Lebanese Forces: We will file charges against Ghassan Atallah for false and misleading news
NNA/Friday, 31 July, 2020
The Lebanese Forces Party's media circle issued a statement on Friday, in which it categorically denied "all the false allegations and misleading and fabricated reports made by former Minister Ghassan Atallah regarding LF's seeking to hold meetings with Hezbollah."The Party indicated that in light of the continued lies and slander, its legal department will file a law suit against former Minister Atallah in this respect.

Diab Withdraws Comments Against Le Drian, Soothes Talks With France
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 31 July, 2020
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab tried to “soften the rhetoric” with the French side, after his harsh criticism against French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian last week. In remarks on Thursday, Diab announced that France’s offer to provide technical assistance at the financial level “is being studied” and emphasized the deep-rooted relations between the two countries. The premier was speaking following a meeting at the Grand Serail with a French delegation that included Chargé D'Affaires Salina Grenet-Catalano, Advisor Ines Ben Karim, and Head of Economic Affairs department François De Ricolfis. Diab expressed “Lebanon’s aspiration to strengthen cooperation between the two countries… especially in the framework of international organizations.” He also said that Le Drian’s visit came “in the context of the historical relationship that links the two countries together.”The premier’s comments came days after he harshly criticized Le Drian, accusing him of having “incomplete information” on the reform paths adopted by his government. He reportedly told a cabinet meeting that the French minister’s warning and “lack of information” about government reforms indicated an “international decision not to assist Lebanon.” Diab has later deleted a tweet stating the same.

Understanding Hezbollah's complex planning behind the events on Har Dov
Joanathan Spyer/Jerusalem Post/July 31/2020

جواناثان سباير: محاولة لفهم التخطيط المعقد لحزب الله فيما يتعلق بأحداث مزارع شبعا الأخيرة
BEHIND THE LINES: This week’s skirmish on the northern border must be seen through the prism of the leadership struggle in Lebanon.
The events at Mount Dov earlier this week, in order to be understood, need to be placed in the broader context of Israel’s ongoing undeclared military campaign against Iran. They also cannot be separated from Hezbollah’s current status as the de facto ruler of Lebanon.
In the Israel-Iran conflict, at the present time, Lebanon is a secondary front. A state of de facto mutual deterrence has largely held in this area since the 2006 war. The preference of both Israel and Hezbollah – for the moment – is that this situation should hold.
Israel, in addition to the quiet and ongoing campaign against Iran in Syria, and beyond it, is focused at present on the pandemic and its various economic, social and political costs.
Lebanon and Hezbollah’s focus is of necessity the same. Hezbollah is today the dominant force in Lebanese public life. The bloc of which it is a part holds a majority in the 128-member parliament and a majority in the cabinet. Prime Minister Hassan Diab is its obedient servant.
This means that the profound economic crisis currently gripping the country falls squarely in Hezbollah’s lap. It is required to operate and to make decisions as a governing force, responsible for the avoidance of general socioeconomic collapse, which is now a real possibility in Lebanon.
The aforementioned dynamic ought to support the continuation of uneasy quiet along the border. The problem is that Hezbollah is not only or primarily a successful local political actor. Rather, it is a franchise of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Indeed, its local political predominance is a direct function of the outsize strength and capacity afforded it in the Lebanese context by Iranian support.
As an IRGC franchise, Hezbollah forms an integral and important element in Iran’s larger regional strategy. Israel is currently engaged in an ongoing campaign to degrade and roll back a particular element of that strategy – namely, the effort by Iran to consolidate and extend its presence in Syria.
For Hezbollah, the extension of this presence is a cardinal interest. The Iranian deployment in Syria provides Hezbollah with a strategic hinterland and a potential extended front line against Israel in the event of war. Syria also contains nodes along the land and air bridges by which Iran seeks to supply its Lebanese franchise and improve its capacities and capabilities.
The Iranian presence in Syria is not maintained only or mainly by Iranian personnel. Tehran maintains a variety of both local Syrian and international (Arab and non-Arab) proxies to advance its interest in this area. This includes Afghan, Iraqi and Pakistani elements. The Lebanese IRGC franchise is also an integral and prominent element in Syria.
For this reason, despite the narrow mutual interest in quiet along the Israel-Lebanon border, Israel and Hezbollah are engaged in an ongoing, direct conflict on neighboring soil.
Israel has neither the desire nor the ability to avoid harm to the specific Lebanese component of the IRGC’s deployment in Syria.
So the question arises as to how to manage the continued current narrow mutual desire for quiet on the border, even as this conflict continues.
CLEARLY, HEZBOLLAH’S desire is to deter Israel to a point where it ceases to cause harm to its personnel in the Syrian context. This appears to be unachievable. Failing this, it needs to show (not least to its own public and also to its Iranian masters) that the blood of its fighters cannot be shed without cost.
To do this, the movement needs to extract a serious price from Israel for all such actions in this regard. But it needs to do this without causing a large-scale Israeli retaliation into Lebanon, which it can ill afford and does not want. This is a difficult balancing act to perform.
The process was put to the test again this week. The death of Hezbollah operative Ali Mohsen in an alleged Israeli bombing in the Damascus area on July 20 made a response along the border inevitable. Israel’s forces deployed in expectation of enemy action along the border. An abortive effort, according to the IDF, took place on July 27, in which a section of Hezbollah fighters crossed the border. The force was spotted, engaged by the IDF, and then it rapidly retreated.
This was the third such occurrence in the last half decade. There has been a decline in the potency of Hezbollah’s responses across this period. But from the beginning, the counterstrikes were not proportionate to the damage the movement was experiencing.
In January 2015, in retaliation for the killing of a senior Hezbollah commander, an Iranian general and five others in the Quneitra area, Hezbollah succeeded in launching an anti-tank missile at an IDF jeep. Two IDF infantry soldiers were killed.
In September 2019, the movement responded to an Israeli drone strike in Beirut on August 25 and the killing of two operatives in an airstrike on Damascus on August 24. On that occasion, Hezbollah made do with firing anti-tank missiles at an IDF outpost and an ambulance along the border. There were no fatalities.
On the present occasion, still less appears to have been achieved. A group of fighters crossed the border, were engaged, and retreated, apparently without loss of life.
Following the incident, a Hezbollah statement in the evening denied that any incursion had been attempted. Hezbollah’s statement in the evening of the 27th included an assertion that “our retaliation for martyr Ali Mohsen is surely coming.” The IDF will no doubt remain in a heightened state of alert in the coming days.But the declining level of Hezbollah response to IDF killings of its members in Syria in recent years is notable. The rule that Israel appears to be trying to impose is that the killing of Lebanese Hezbollah members outside of Lebanon will continue, and that the movement’s situation is such that it will be obliged to make only a token response to this. In this regard, Israel’s greater conventional military strength and hence capacity for damage is one side of this.
The other side is Hezbollah’s domestic situation in Lebanon. Ibrahim Amin, editor of the pro-Hezbollah Al Akhbar newspaper, often reflects the thinking of Hezbollah’s leadership in his editorials. In an article this week, Amin wrote that “the resistance did not initiate the declaration of war, but on the contrary, it has always said – and it means what it says – that it does not want war. But not at any cost. In the sense that the resistance, which does not want war, also does not want to surrender in order not to have war.”
The oddly defensive tone of this statement is at odds with the usual timbre of Amin’s editorials. These tend to read like the haughty edicts of a triumphant general. The article was written in Arabic, and is meant for local consumption. It is clearly intended to assure the Lebanese public, at a moment of unprecedented domestic crisis, that Hezbollah is not seeking to embroil them in renewed conflict. The movement’s dominant domestic position matters to it (and its masters in Tehran). It cannot be maintained by coercion alone.
This leaves Hezbollah caught between the desire to maintain a general deterrence against Israeli strikes against its members, and the urgent need not to provoke a new war. The consequent possibility is that it may have to settle for rules of engagement in which Israel leaves it alone in Lebanon (unless provoked) while reaping a toll of its fighters in Syria. The period ahead will show whether or not, given unavoidable realities, this latter arrangement is for now acceptable to the Lebanese IRGC franchise.
Following the 2006 War, Hezbollah moved into a more overt and political role in Lebanon. Since 2018, the coalition of which it is a part has ruled the country.
Some observers in Israel maintained in the post-2006 period that Hezbollah’s “hybrid” status was its main asset, which would begin to evaporate as it became the overt ruler of the country in which it was established by the IRGC in 1982. This theory is now being put to the test.


When Will Lebanon Take Back the South?
Elias Harfoush/Asharq Al Awsat/July 31/2020
The Lebanese government was the last to know about what happened in South Lebanon on Monday. It is said that Prime Minister Hassan Diab canceled all his meetings and appointments to follow what was happening, most probably like every other Lebanese person did, on his TV.
In light of the contradictory news and stories, between the Israeli claim that Hezbollah carried out an attack in Shebaa Farms and Hezbollah denying that, and its affiliated media mocking what they considered to be a “state of confusion” in Israel, Lebanese officials were satisfied to play the role of mere observers, as if what was happening, or not happening, in the South was in another country.
All that Lebanon can do in “occasions” like this is to make calls to calm the situation, calls that do not usually include the involved parties, i.e. Hezbollah and Israel, only to later raise a complaint to the Security Council; though the fate of that complaint is always known beforehand, leaving affairs on the southern borders for the international forces that play the role of border patrol.
This is not new in south Lebanon, the Lebanese state is always the last to know. As a result of Lebanon’s misfortunate location north of Israel, the South has always served as a battlefield that the Lebanese state preferred to know nothing about. It would send a limited number of soldiers there with clear instructions to avoid any confrontation with those who actually have power on the ground, whether it was the Palestinians before or now Hezbollah who is now turning it into a proxy battlefield between Israel and Iran.
Even the Lebanese, who are not from areas on the border rarely step foot there, preferring to only hear and not see what is happening there so that the sight does not ruin their folklorish Lebanese mood that asserts that everything in the “Switzerland of the East” is fine.
The contradictions and disputes between Lebanese politicians and the lack of strategy prevented the state from determining a specific policy regarding what it wants to do on its borders with Israel. It believed it had survived the 1967 War and the occupation of neighboring countries, only to soon discover that its survival was temporary when the South was occupied and turned into one of the fiercest battlefields in the area.
The differences between the Lebanese rendered reaching a unified policy all the more difficult. In the aftermath of “Black September” and the withdrawal or expulsion of the resistance from Jordan in 1970, the Palestinian resistance relocated to south Lebanon which as a result came to be known as “The Land of the PLO” after the Lebanese state, in an exceptional historical irony and under Egyptian sponsorship by President Gamal Abdel Nasser at the time, allowed part of the area on the border to become the Palestinian Resistance’s area of operations, while the state completely neglected the violations and attacks that happened from its borders despite the 1949 “truce” between Lebanon and Israel.
There had to be a price for the Lebanese politicians’ neglect towards what was happening on their borders. When one examines that period in history they inevitably infer that what happened was natural: The resistance took advantage of Lebanese disputes, becoming a main party in internal decision-making, to the point that it became common to say that government decisions are taken in the “Fakhani Republic”—the name of the area that Yasser Arafat took as his headquarters, which ironically was not very far from Haret Hreik in the southern suburbs of Beirut that the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, took as his headquarters.
Increasing Palestinian intervention in Lebanese political life became a source for resentment by a large group of Lebanese, which then culminated in a 15-year-long civil war and Israel invading Lebanon to later withdraw from most areas except for the South which it continued to occupy for two decades.
Mutual conditions between Israel and the Syrian regime at the time prevented the Lebanese authorities from negotiating any acceptable conditions for Israel to withdraw, paving the way for Hezbollah to take advantage of the vacuum that they claim is the result of the state’s impotence and the lack of any resistance in the area.
So when we say that the state’s sovereignty de facto does not reach south Lebanon due to Hezbollah, we are narrating only a chapter in the history of that area that Lebanese governments have always treated as disposable to any party that is ready to take over and manage it per their own interests.
“The Land of the PLO” has now become “The Land of Hezbollah”. The same way that the Palestinian resistance imposed itself by force as an actor in the Lebanese political scene in an alliance with a certain group of Lebanese, Hezbollah is now doing the same: Deciding to turn south Lebanon into a battlefield for Hezbollah both despite all international resolutions and in collusion with high officials in an effort to keep them in their positions.
Defending Lebanon, whose army is supposedly weak and incapable, becomes a pretext for revoking the state’s sovereignty over its borders, while the real motive is actually securing Iranian interests, which are now to relieve the pressure on the Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria by opening another front in south Lebanon. Consequently, whether war breaks out in the South or a truce is signed with Israel all depends on Tehran’s interests.
Under the same pretext, weapons become a tool to sway internal policies towards the interest of a certain group of Lebanese over the others. A demand to hand over arms to the state is considered treason, rendering the “Army, People and Resistance” slogan above critique or revision.
History is repeating itself as tragedy. Remembering the final moments of the Palestinian role in Lebanon is useful: The dominion of weapons is not permanent and is subject to change, and the state being subject to foreign forces and escaping its responsibilities is a definite recipe for an impending explosion, however long that takes.


How to save Lebanon from looming hyperinflation
Nasser Saidi/The National/July 31/2020
To bring the country's economic chaos to an end, it is important to examine how it all began.
In June 2020, Lebanon’s inflation rate was 20 per cent, month-on-month. In other words, prices in the country were, on average, 20 per cent more than they were a month before. Compared to a year earlier, in June 2019, they had nearly doubled.
Lebanon is well on its way to hyperinflation – when prices of goods and services change daily, and rise by more than 50 per cent in a month.
Hyperinflation is most commonly associated with countries like Venezuela and Zimbabwe, which this year have seen annual inflation rates of 15,000 per cent and 319 per cent, respectively. Lebanon is set to join their league; food inflation surged by 108.9 per cent during the first half of 2020. When hyperinflation takes hold, consumers start to behave in very unusual ways. Goods are stockpiled, leading to increased shortages. As the money in someone’s pocket loses its worth, people start to barter for goods.
What characterises countries with high inflation and hyperinflation? They have a sharp acceleration in growth of the money supply in order to finance unsustainable overspending; high levels of government debt; political instability; restrictions on payments and other transactions and a rapid breakdown in socio-economic conditions and the rule of law. Usually, these traits are associated with endemic corruption.
Lebanon fulfils all of the conditions. Absent immediate economic and financial reforms, the country is heading to hyperinflation and a further collapse of its currency.
How and why did this happen?
Lebanon is in the throes of an accelerating meltdown. Unsustainable economic policies and an overvalued exchange rate pegged to the US dollar have led to persistent deficits. Consequently, public debt in 2020 is more than 184 per cent of GDP – the third highest ratio in the world.
The trigger to the banking and financial crisis was a series of policy errors starting with an unwarranted closure of banks in October 2019, supposedly in connection with political protests against government ineffectiveness and corruption. Never before – whether in the darkest hours of Lebanon’s civil war (1975-1990), during Israeli invasions or other political turmoil – have banks been closed or payments suspended.
The bank closures led to an immediate loss of trust in the entire banking system. They were accompanied by informal controls on foreign currency transactions, foreign exchange licensing, the freezing of deposits and other payment restrictions to protect the dwindling reserves of Lebanon’s central bank. All of this generated a sharp liquidity and credit squeeze and the emergence of a system of multiple exchange rates, resulting in a further loss of confidence in the monetary system and the Lebanese pound.
Multiple exchange rates are particularly nefarious. They create distortions in markets, encourage rent seeking (when someone gains wealth without producing real value) and create new opportunities for cronyism and corruption. Compounded by the Covid-19 lockdown, the result has been a sharp 20 per cent contraction in economic activity, consumption and investment and surging bankruptcies. Lebanon is experiencing rapidly rising unemployment (over 35 per cent) and poverty rates exceeding 50 per cent of the population.
With government revenues declining, growing budget deficits are increasingly financed by the Lebanese central bank (BDL), leading to the accelerating inflation. The next phase will be a cost-of-living adjustment for the public sector, more monetary financing and inflation: an impoverishing vicious circle!
We are witnessing the bursting of a Ponzi scheme engineered by the BDL, starting in 2016 with a massive bailout of the banks, equivalent to about 12.6 per cent of GDP. To protect an overvalued pound and finance the government, the BDL started borrowing at ever-higher interest rates, through so-called “financial engineering” schemes. These evolved into a cycle of additional borrowing to pay maturing debt and debt service, until confidence evaporated and reserves were exhausted.
By 2019, the BDL was unable to honour its foreign currency obligations and Lebanon defaulted on its March 2019 Eurobond, seeking to restructure its domestic and foreign debt. The resulting losses of the BDL exceeded $50 billion, equivalent to the entire country’s GDP that year. It was a historically unprecedented loss by any central bank in the world.
With the core of the banking system, the BDL, unable to repay banks’ deposits, the banks froze payments to depositors. The banking and financial system imploded.
As part of Lebanon’s negotiations with the IMF to resolve the situation, the government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab prepared a financial recovery plan that comprises fiscal, banking and structural reforms. However, despite the deep and multiple crises, there has been no attempt at fiscal or monetary reform.
In effect, Mr Diab’s government and Riad Salameh, the head of the central bank, are deliberately implementing a policy of imposing an inflation tax and an illegal “Lirafication”: a forced conversion of foreign currency deposits into Lebanese pounds in order to achieve internal real deflation.
The objective is to impose a ‘domestic solution’ and preclude an IMF programme and associated reforms. The inflation tax and Lirafication reduce real incomes and financial wealth. The sharp reduction in real income and the sharp depreciation of the pound are leading to a massive contraction of imports, reducing the current account deficit to protect the remaining international reserves. Lebanon is being sacrificed to a failed exchange rate and incompetent monetary and government policies.
What policy measures can be implemented to rescue Lebanon? Taming inflation and exchange rate collapse requires a credible, sustainable macroeconomic policy anchor to reduce the prevailing extreme policy uncertainty.
Here are four measures that would help:
First, a “Capital Control Act” should be passed immediately, replacing the informal controls in place since October 2019 with more transparent and effective controls to stem the continuing outflow of capital and help stabilise the exchange rate. This would restore a modicum of confidence in the monetary systems and the rule of law, as well as the flow of capital and remittances.
Second is fiscal reform. It is time to bite the bullet and eliminate wasteful public spending. Start by reform of the power sector and raising the prices of subsidised commodities and services, like fuel and electricity. This would also stop smuggling of fuel and other goods into sanctions-laden Syria, which is draining Lebanon’s reserves. Subsidies should be cut in conjunction with the establishment of a social safety net and targeted aid.
These immediate reforms should be followed by broader measures including improving revenue collection, reforming public procurement (a major source of corruption), creating a “National Wealth Fund” to incorporate and reform state commercial assets, reducing the bloated size of the public sector, reforming public pension schemes and introducing a credible fiscal rule.
Third, unify exchange rates and move a to flexible exchange rate regime. The failed exchange rate regime has contributed to large current account deficits, hurt export-oriented sectors, and forced the central bank to maintain high interest rates leading to a crowding-out of the private sector. Monetary policy stability also requires that the BDL should be restructured and stop financing government deficits and wasteful and expensive quasi-fiscal operations, such as subsidising real estate investment.
Fourth, accelerate negotiations with the IMF and agree to a programme that sets wide-ranging conditions on policy reform. Absent an IMF programme, the international community, the GCC, EU and other countries that have assisted Lebanon previously will not come to its rescue.
Lebanon is at the edge of the abyss. Absent deep and immediate policy reforms, it is heading for a lost decade, with mass migration, social and political unrest and violence. If nothing is done, it will become "Libazuela".
*Nasser Saidi is a former Lebanese economy minister and first vice-governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July31-August 01/2020

Iraqi PM announces June 6 snap elections, calls for ‘change in political scene’
Ismaeel Naar, Al Arabiya EnglishFriday 31 July 2020
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi gave a televised address to the nation on Friday in which he announced details of the upcoming elections. During the speech, al-Kadhimi announced his government’s intentions to hold snap elections on June 6, 2021, calling on all Iraqis to “line up to vote to change the political scene in the country.” “We are facing a backlog of years of waste, neglect and weak management in Iraq. There are no solutions to crises in Iraq without regaining the role of the state. We are working for a free election that will produce a parliament that forms a government that reflects the will of the people,” al-Kadhimi said in his speech. “We are facing a backlog of years of waste, neglect and weak management in Iraq. There are no solutions to crises in Iraq without regaining the role of the state. We are working for a free election that will produce a parliament that forms a government that reflects the will of the people,” al-Kadhimi said in his speech. Al-Kadhimi also spoke on the recent killings of protesters in Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square, in which Iraqi policemen used their own hunting rifles to kill demonstrators. “We vow to hold independent investigations into the killing of protesters in Iraq. We will turn over everyone involved and responsible in the bloodshed of Iraqis to face justice. We have already identified those responsible for the killings of demonstrators within 72 hours,” al-Kadhimi said during the televised speech. Protests began last Sunday night in Baghdad and several southern cities, expressing fury at poor public services as temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius have swelled demand for air-conditioning and overwhelmed dilapidated power grids.(With agencies)

US designates, sanctions key ISIS financial supporter in Turkey: Treasury Department
Joseph Haboush, Al Arabiya English/Friday 31 July 2020
The United States has recently sanctioned a key financial supporter for ISIS inside Turkey, according to a statement from the US Treasury Department. Washington has accused Turkey of “undermining” the fight against ISIS last year and sanctioned two ministries and three senior Turkish government officials for a military campaign against US-allied forces in Syria. “The Turkish Government’s actions are endangering innocent civilians, and destabilizing the region, including undermining the campaign to defeat ISIS,” the US Treasury Department said at the time. This week, the Treasury Department announced the designation of two ISIS financial facilitators in Syria and Turkey. “This action coincides with the thirteenth meeting of the Counter ISIS Finance Group (CIFG), which includes over 60 countries and international organizations, and plays a fundamental role in coordinating efforts to deny ISIS access to the international financial system and eliminate its sources of revenue,” a statement from the US agency said. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the Trump administration was fully committed to disrupting ISIS’s financial activities and networks. “Together, with our CIFG partners, we must remain vigilant to ensure that the global remnants of this terrorist group do not regain a foothold,” Mnuchin said. According to the Treasury Department, one of the ISIS supporters, Adnan Amin Muhammad al-Rawi, was an ISIS facilitator in Turkey. The statement also said that the latest US designation was part of a series of actions since 2016, when “ISIS finance emir Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Rawi,” was designated. “Since then, Treasury has continued targeting other al-Rawi network members and their associated entities for providing critical financial and logistical support to ISIS,” according to the statement.
Jubayr al-Rawi, in 2016, owned and operated a currency exchange business, which he used to exchange currency between exchange houses in Syria and Turkey.


Khamenei Rejects Talks with US over Missile, Nuclear Programs
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 31 July, 2020
Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, ruled out negotiations with the United States over Tehran's ballistic missile and nuclear programs on Friday and urged Iranians to resist the Trump administration’s pressure. "America's brutal sanctions on Iran are aimed at collapsing our economy ... Their aim is to limit our influence in the region and to halt our missile and nuclear capabilities," Khamenei said in a speech broadcast live on television. "Relying on national capabilities and cutting our dependence on oil exports will help us to resist America's pressure,” Reuters quoted him as saying. Relations between Tehran and Washington have deteriorated since US President Donald Trump in 2018 abandoned a pact between Iran and six world powers under which Iran accepted curbs on its nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions. Washington has reimposed sanctions that have sharply lowered Tehran’s oil exports. The US says it wants Tehran to negotiate a wider deal to further curb Iran's nuclear work, halt its missile program and limit Iran’s regional influence. Khamenei said Friday that European states have failed to salvage the country's 2015 nuclear deal. "They have inflicted a blow on Iran's economy by hollow promises," he said in the televised speech.


Iran's Khamanei Says Sanctions Failed, No Talks with Trump
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 31/2020
Iran will not open talks with the United States that will only benefit Donald Trump, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday, insisting the US president's sanctions policy had failed. Decades-old tensions between Tehran and Washington have soared in the past year, with the sworn enemies appearing several times to come to the brink of war. The tensions have been rising since 2018, when Trump withdrew the United States from a landmark nuclear accord and unilaterally reimposed crippling sanctions. "There is no doubt that sanctions are a crime, a blow from the US to Iran," said supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a televised speech. "But the smart Iranian has made the best use of this attack, this animosity and benefited... by using sanctions as a means to increase national self-reliance." Khamenei said Western "think tanks admit that the maximum pressure (policy) of sanctions and US force has not succeeded." The 2015 deal between Tehran and major powers promised relief from sanctions in return for limits on Iran's nuclear programme. After abandoning the agreement, the United States reimposed sanctions on Iran's vital oil exports and its access to the international banking system, and pressured allies and rivals alike to fall in line. Iran has responded by trying to boost its non-oil exports, particularly to neighbouring countries. "This has caused the country's economy to be naturally less reliant on oil," Khamenei said, casting the development in a positive light. Khamenei condemned calls for Iran to open new talks with the United States, saying he would not agree to meetings that were aimed only at boosting Trump's re-election hopes. The 81-year-old even called Trump an "old man", even though he is seven years older than the US president. "This old man in charge, he apparently made some propaganda use out of his negotiations with North Korea. Now he wants to use (talks with Iran) for the (November 3 US presidential) election." Khamenei said that in return for new talks, the US would demand: "Reduce your defensive capability, destroy your regional power and give up the vital nuclear industry." "No logic dictates giving into the aggressor's demands," he said.


U.S. Adds Materials To Metals Sanctions Against Iran
RadioFreeEurope/July 31/2020
The United States has expanded sanctions against Iran’s metals industry, adding 22 materials to the U.S. sanctions regime, a move that allows Washington to blacklist any company or entity that transfers the materials to Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement in a statement on July 30, calling it a "major expansion" of the Iran metals-related sanctions administered by the State Department. Pompeo said the 22 specific materials listed were used in connection with Iran's nuclear, military, or ballistic-missile programs, which “pose a grave threat to international peace and security."Pompeo also said he was firm in his determination that Iran's elite security force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), controls Iran's construction sector. As a result, sanctions may still be imposed on those who knowingly transfer certain materials to or from Iran to be used in connection with Iran’s construction sector, Pompeo said. The materials he said he had determined are used in connection with Iran's nuclear, military, or ballistic-missile programs included aluminum powder with purity above 98 percent. Aluminum powder is a key ingredient in solid-fuel propellants used to launch missiles.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have been on the rise since the United States withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions that have battered the Iranian economy. The United States pulled out of the nuclear agreement in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions as part of what it calls a “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran. In response, Iran gradually started breaching its nuclear commitments. Pompeo also has been urging the UN Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Iran. The United States has formally asked the council to extend the embargo, which is set to be progressively eased beginning in October under UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which enshrined the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. Veto-wielding Russia and China have questioned Washington’s right to use a disputed legal move to force a return of UN sanctions on Iran.The United States has said that allowing the embargo to expire would cause instability in the Middle East.
With reporting by Reuters


Washington Punishes Damascus, Eyes Moscow
London - Ibrahim Hamidi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 31 July, 2020
The new sanctions imposed by Washington under the Caesar Act have put more pressure on Moscow to work on “changing the behavior of the Syrian regime.” The southwestern region of Syria may be a gateway to express this “change” by expelling Iran and its organizations from this region in implementation of Washington’s interpretations of the Russian-US agreement dating back to 2018. It was remarkable that the last list included Hafez Assad, the son of Syrian Regime President Bashar Assad, knowing that the first batch of sanctions also targeted Assad’s wife, Asma.According to observers in Washington, Syrian officials “were surprised by these two designations, because they expected that the blacklist would not include figures from the narrow circle”.But this deliberate move was aimed at sending a “political message” to both Moscow and Damascus: “The boycott in Washington has surpassed parties and institutions and became unanimous.”This was evident in the remarks made by US Deputy Envoy Joel Rayburn, saying: “It has been such a prominent trend among Syrian regime actors to use their adult family members, whether those are siblings or children, to try to continue business in their place after being sanctioned.”
This necessitates the designation of relatives, even if they are not personally implicated in conduct that falls within the sanctions regime, he emphasized.There are about 50 names and entities on the US “blacklist”. In the coming months, twice that number of military and government officials, deputies and businessmen, both Syrians and non-Syrians, will be included. “It is no longer possible to live in two worlds: Everyone must choose his position and determine the world in which he wants to live in. Washington’s world or the regime’s world,” European diplomats said, commenting on Washington’s recent moves.
They noted that those responsible for the Syrian file in Washington were confident that the American policy is “successful, as it increased the pressure on Damascus and changed Moscow’s calculations.”The same diplomatic sources pointed to “the failure of Arab or European attempts to break Damascus’ isolation and normalize relations with it.” Arab businessmen have also avoided contributing to the reconstruction of Syria amid the worsening economic crisis in both Syria and Lebanon. Geopolitically, those handling the file in Washington see other “successes”, including the continuation of the ceasefire in Idlib.
“The data indicates that Turkey will not back down in Idlib” and that the flow of humanitarian aid continues despite the presence of only one open gate at the Turkish border. Another success, according to officials in Washington, is “the ongoing Israeli raids on Iranian sites in Syria, with Russian blessing and American support,” to prevent Tehran from consolidating its military presence there. Third, Washington is lauding the sustainability of the disengagement agreement east of the Euphrates, despite the continued “harassment” of Russian forces against the US army and their attempt to “extend” toward the borders of Iraq. Against the backdrop of these “successes”, contacts continue between Washington and Moscow. Russia seems more aware of the “scale of the problem” in Syria and is showing a more realistic approach than the public statements that focus on launching campaigns against the US “unilateral and unlawful sanctions.”The Americans say that there will be no “free move” towards Moscow, but they are ready to “respond positively to any steps taken by Russia in Syria.” Obviously, there are two areas for testing the current Russian position: First, the extent of Damascus’ response to the form and content of the work of the Constitutional Committee meeting in Geneva on August 24 for the implementation of Resolution 2254. Second, Russia’s pressure on Iran to expel it from southwestern Syria in line with the US-Russian agreement in 2018, as weakening the Tehran regime represents an American-Russian joint interest in Syria.


Executed Turkish general exposed misuse of Qatari funds for Syria extremists: Report
Ismaeel Naar, Al Arabiya English/Friday 31 July 2020
The Turkish army executed a senior general within its ranks after he had discovered the embezzlement of illicit Qatari funding for extremists in Syria by public officials, according to a 2019 court testimony unveiled in a report by the Nordic Monitor.
Semih Terzi, a general within the Turkish army, was executed on the night of the 2016 Turkish coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The new allegations unveiled in court testimonies from a hearing March 20, 2019at Ankara 17th High Criminal Court were made by Col. Fırat Alakuş, an army officer working within Turkey’s Special Forces Command’s intelligence section. According to the Nordic Monitor, Terzi is said to have been executed after discovering that Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakallı, in charge of the Special Forces Command at the time, was working covertly with Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) “in running illegal and clandestine operations in Syria for personal gain while dragging Turkey deeper into the Syrian civil war.”“[Terzi] knew how much of the funding delivered [to Turkey] by Qatar for the purpose of purchasing weapons and ammunition for the opposition was actually used for that and how much of it was actually used by public officials, how much was embezzled,” Col. Alakuş was quoted as saying by the Nordic Monitor via his court testimony. The Nordic Monitor said in its report published on Friday that Alakuş testified that Aksakallı had run a gang outside of the chain of command within the Turkish intelligence that was involved in illicit activities. The report further alleged that Terzi was aware of public officials involved in oil-smuggling operations with ISIS from Syria. “[Terzi] was aware of who in the government was involved in an oil-smuggling operation from Syria, how the profits were shared, and what activities they were involved in,” Alakuş said in his testimony.

Erdogan Insists on Decisive Action in Libya
Ankara - Saeed Abdulrazeki/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 31 July, 2020
Tukey has sent mixed signals regarding the Libyan crisis by pledging a decision military action and calling for a peaceful solution in the war-torn country. “We are determined to make sure that our struggle in the vast region from Iraq to Syria and Libya ends in victory for our country and our friends and brothers and sisters in these countries,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on the occasion of Eid al-Adha. Turkey will also continue to defend its rights in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean, he said. In the same context, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar affirmed in statements Thursday that Turkey is doing its utmost to help its Libyan brothers, in order to bring about a ceasefire, stability, and territorial integrity in Libya. Akar added that the continued external military support received by Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Haftar represents the greatest obstacle to peace in the country. Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, stated that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham arrested “Fadl Al-Libi”, the leader of “Jaysh Al-Sahel” operating under the banner of “Hurras Al-Din” organization.
The militant was arrested for refusing to leave Syria and engage in fighting in Libya, at Turkish authorities' orders. Russia’s Sputnik also revealed Thursday that a new group of mercenaries was dispatched to al-Watiya airbase in western Libya. Further, weapons and mercenaries were sent to Misrata ahead of a possible new operation in Sirte and Jufra.

Ghannouchi Survives No-Confidence Vote
Tunis - Kamel Ben Younes/Asharq Al Awsat/July 31/2020
Tunisia’s parliament speaker and veteran leader of the Ennahda Movement, Rached Ghannouchi, narrowly survived a confidence vote after opposition lawmakers failed to gather enough no-confidence votes to overthrow him. Ghannouchi’s slim margin of victory may only deepen the country's political divisions after the resignation of the prime minister and the opposition vowing to continue to try to remove Ghannouchi from office. Some 97 members of parliament on Thursday voted against Ghannouchi, falling short of the 109 needed to overthrow him. Only 133 MPs voted while 84 lawmakers abstained from attending the voting session, including Ghannouchi and his first deputy Samira al-Shawashi. The vote took place after a tumultuous session, which was broadcast by the Tunisian media, and during which deputies from different political blocs exchanged strong accusations. Some blamed the stalling of the normal functioning of parliament and its committees on Ghannouchi and the Ennahda party, and the parties allied with it like the Heart of Tunisia and the Karama and the Future coalition blocs. Others blamed the stumbling of parliament on the Free Destourian Party and its leader Abir Moussi and their allies in the battle to overthrow Ghannouchi, especially the following parties: the Democratic Current led by Mohamed Abbou, People's Movement led by Zuhair al-Meghzawi and Tahya Tounes headed by ex-PM Youssef Chahed. “A total of 133 members of parliament took part in the vote. 97 deputies voted against Ghannouchi, 16 voted in favor of him, and 18 votes were annulled,” said the second Deputy Speaker of Parliament Tarek Fetiti at a plenary session. Fetiti confirmed that the winner of the vote is democracy in Tunisia and the choice to resolve disputes among Tunisians through political means and voting, not violence.
The plenary session, which was supposed to be conducted without debate to hold a vote by secret ballot, took place in a heated atmosphere, marked by altercations and exchange of accusations between deputies.


Car Bomb Kills 9 in Northeast Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 31/2020
A car bomb in northeast Syria targeting a checkpoint manned by Turkish-backed forces killed nine people, mostly fighters, near the border town of Ras al-Ain on Thursday, a war monitor said. The blast in the village of Tal Halaf held by Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies also wounded 15 others, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies last year seized a 120-kilometre (75-mile) stretch of land inside the Syrian border from Kurdish forces, running from Ras al-Ain to Tal Abyad. Many bombings have since rocked the area, several in the past week alone. An explosives-rigged motorbike in Ras al-Ain on Tuesday killed two civilians and a fighter, the Observatory said, two days after another in a vegetable market in the town killed eight people, six of them civilians. The Kurdish-led People's Protection Units, from whom the Turks and their allies seized the territory, have played a key role in the US-backed fight against the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria. But Ankara views them as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has waged a deadly insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984. Syria's civil war has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since erupting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Trump Suggests Delay in Presidential Election over Coronavirus Fears

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 31/2020
U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested delaying the 2020 election, in which he is currently lagging badly in the polls, citing the coronavirus and what he said would be "fraudulent" voting. "Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???" Trump asked in a tweet. "With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA," the tweet said.


Florida Hits Another Record Virus Death Toll as Hurricane Looms
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 31 July, 2020
Hurricane Isaias was barreling towards Florida on Friday, a day after the state registered a record 253 coronavirus deaths and authorities closed down some COVID-19 testing centers to prepare for the looming storm.
Florida has emerged as a major new epicenter of the US battle against the disease, with confirmed cases recently surpassing New York and now second only to California. The state toll has leapt over the past week and more than 6,500 people have died from the disease there, according to health officials.
Thursday marked the third consecutive day the state hit a new record for coronavirus deaths. Isaias is expected to strike Florida over the weekend as authorities struggle to contain the disease and is now coursing through the Atlantic Ocean with wind speeds of 80 miles (130 kilometers) per hour, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center. Forecasters are unsure how strong the storm will be when it nears the coast. "There is a risk of impacts from winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surges along portions of the US east coast, beginning this weekend in Florida," the NHC said, adding that tropical storm or hurricane watches could soon be issued. The hurricane has already hit the Dominican Republic, where a 53-year-old man was killed and rivers broke their banks. It also unleashed flooding, toppled trees and knocked out power for thousands of people in Puerto Rico. "If you are watching this, please, we need help!" begged a man in a video shared on social media that showed him and others trapped by rising floodwaters on the roof of a car. No evacuations have been ordered yet in Florida, but authorities warned locals to begin preparing their homes and businesses for the possible onslaught of Isaias. More than 460,000 people have been infected with the virus in Florida, which has a population of 21 million, and a quarter of the state's cases are in Miami.

Second round of Ukraine-Iran plan crash talks set for October

Reuters, Kyiv/Friday 31 July 2020
Ukraine said on Friday that its first round of talks with Iran about the downing of a Ukrainian airliner shortly after takeoff in Tehran in January had been constructive, and that it was determined “to bring Iran to justice”. Iranian and Ukrainian delegations held the first round of talks on Thursday in Kyiv, with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba calling them as “constructive”. Iranian forces say they downed the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 jet after mistaking it for a missile at a time when tensions with the United States had risen. All 176 people on board - including 57 Canadians - were killed.
“The talks ended late last night. The talks lasted 11 hours. In general, they were constructive,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a video briefing after meeting with an Iranian delegation. Kuleba said the sides had agreed the terms of next round of talks and that Kyiv would not allow anyone to drag out the negotiations. Later on Friday, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said the next round was set for October. “Of course, if the negotiations with Iran are unsuccessful, then we will go to international courts and I have absolutely no doubt that we will bring Iran to justice. But this is plan B,” Kuleba said.
“And plan A is negotiations with Iran and the solution of all these issues and the payment of compensation. We saw Iran was disposed to a serious and substantive conversation,” he said. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in February that Ukraine was not satisfied with the size of compensation Iran had offered to families of Ukrainians killed in the incident and Kuleba said on Thursday that Ukraine would make every effort to maximize compensations. An international team has started examining the black box flight recorders from the plane. A senior Ukrainian diplomat said last week that the transcript from the black box showed there had been illegal interference with the plane.


Study: Young Children Carry Higher Levels of Coronavirus
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 31 July, 2020
Children under the age of five have between 10 to 100 times greater levels of genetic material of the coronavirus in their noses compared to older children and adults, a study in JAMA Pediatrics said Thursday. Its authors wrote this meant that young children might be important drivers of COVID-19 transmission within communities -- a suggestion at odds with the current prevailing narrative. The paper comes as the administration of US President Donald Trump is pushing hard for schools and daycare to reopen in order to kickstart the economy.
Between March 23 and April 27, researchers carried out nasal swab tests on 145 Chicago patients with mild to moderate illness within one week of symptom onset. The patients were divided in three groups: 46 children younger than five-years-old, 51 children aged five to 17 years, and 48 adults aged 18 to 65 years. The team, led by Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, observed "a 10-fold to 100-fold greater amount of SARS-CoV-2 in the upper respiratory tract of young children."The authors added that a recent lab study had demonstrated that the more viral genetic material was present, the more infectious virus could be grown. It has also previously been shown that children with high viral loads of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are more likely to spread the disease. "Thus, young children can potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population," the authors wrote. "Behavioral habits of young children and close quarters in school and day care settings raise concern for SARS-CoV-2 amplification in this population as public health restrictions are eased," they concluded. The new findings are at odds with the current view among health authorities that young children -- who, it has been well established, are far less likely to fall seriously ill from the virus -- don't spread it much to others either. However, there has been fairly little research on the topic so far. One recent study in South Korea found children aged 10 to 19 transmitted COVID-19 within households as much as adults, but children under nine transmitted the virus at lower rates.


US, China consulate closures deal losses to both nations
MATTHEW LEE/AP/July 31/2020
In shutting each other’s consulates, the United States and China have done more than strike symbolic blows in their escalating feud. They’ve also dimmed each other’s ability to observe — and to spy on — critical regions of their countries. For the United States, the loss of the Chengdu mission in southwestern China will, among other things, cloud its view of Tibet, a region where Buddhist residents say Beijing is eroding its culture and its traditional independent streak. China says Tibet has been its territory for centuries. For China, the loss of its mission in Houston dims its view of America’s South and, according to U.S. officials, removes the nerve center of a Chinese spying network. While the impact of the consulate closures has yet to be fully felt by either side, it will be. “We’ll be flying blind if not with very dark glasses and so will they,” said Beatrice Camp, a retired career diplomat who served as consul general at the U.S. consulate in Shanghai from 2008 to 2011.
The closures of the consulates up the ante in the diplomatic confrontation, with the Trump administration turning up the heat on China in the midst of an already heated rivalry that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and ahead of the November U.S. presidential election — and Beijing responding in kind.As President Donald Trump, under fire for his response to the pandemic, points to China as the culprit, neither side appears willing to back down. Although a calm of sorts has descended in recent days with no new actions or retaliation announced, U.S. officials say more is coming.
“It’s extremely aggressive, extremely belligerent and I don’t know what the goal is or where this is supposed to take us,” said Camp, noting that cooperation and exchanges in the fields of agriculture, energy, aviation, the environment and commercial and cultural exchanges will suffer.
In addition to serving as service centers for visa seekers and Chinese and American citizens in need of assistance in each city, the consulates provided a safe and secure headquarters for intelligence collection and political reporting.
In Houston, U.S. officials said they removed the epicenter of a Chinese spying network that spanned more than 25 cities, collecting intelligence, trying to steal intellectual property and harassing the expatriate families of dissidents and others while trying to coerce them to return to China.
Led by a consul general who had previously served in Australia, where China has been especially active in going after expatriates, the Houston consulate was “particularly aggressive and particularly successful,” one U.S. official said.
U.S. officials do not deny collecting intelligence from the consulate in Chengdu but insist that it functioned the same as any diplomatic mission run by the United States or other nations.
A second U.S. official, who like the first was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Chengdu was important for “understanding and messaging the Chinese people and especially the people in that district, which includes Tibet.”
But the officials said that those efforts were hamstrung by Chinese regulations and that China enjoyed far greater access from its Houston consulate than U.S. diplomats did in Chengdu. The U.S. has had a consulate in Chengdu for 35 years, but its presence in southwest China predates that. During World War II, American planes airlifted supplies to Chinese troops in the area from bases in India and Burma, now called Myanmar, in a drive to hold back the Japanese advance.
For many years, it was the lone foreign consulate in Chengdu, with other nations forced to locate diplomatic missions in Chonqqing, a mega-city that is home to major U.S. and other Western commercial interests. The Chengdu consulate had also overseen U.S. interests in the provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou.
Chengdu is also a jumping-off point for visits to Tibet, access to which has long been restricted for foreigners, particularly since an uprising against Beijing’s rule in 2008. China says Tibet has been its territory for seven centuries, but many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that time.
Tibet’s Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India in 1959 amid an uprising against Chinese rule, and Beijing has refused dialogue with his self-declared government in exile.
China and India still contest the high-mountain border between the sides, and their forces engaged in clashes this summer that left 20 Indian troops dead. China has not disclosed its casualty count.
Prior to the fighting, the U.S. ambassador to Beijing, Terry Branstad, visited Tibet last year and urged Beijing to undertake substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama and refrain from interfering in religious practices.
As the capital of Sichuan province, with a population of more than 81 million people, Chengdu looms large in China’s economy, playing a major role in industries from aviation to pharmaceuticals and agricultural products.
With the Houston consulate’s closing, American citizens and Chinese seeking visas or wishing to manage business in the U.S. will have to travel to the embassy in Beijing or to consulates along the East Coast. The U.S. consulate in the central China city of Wuhan, from which the global pandemic first emerged late last year, remains closed.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 30-31/2020

Sudan, Darfur and the prospects of Stabilization and Democratization
Charles Elias Chartouni/July 31/2020
شارل الياس شرتوني: السودان ودارفور واحتمالات الإستقرار والديموقراطية
The downfall of Omar Hassan al Bachir the genocidal autocrat, and the eclipse of the Islamist narrative featured by Hassan al Turabi ( 1932-2016 ), does not seem to usher an era of stability and cumulative Democratic reforms in Sudan.
The genocide pattern seems to perpetuate in Darfur, and the scorched earth politics against non Arabs pursues its unimpeded course ( plunder, rape, massacres … ).
Aside from the program of reforms unreeled by the democratic government which relayed the Islamist dictatorship ( abrogation of apostasy, flogging for lawbreakers, female genital mutilation, gay sex death penalty, and alcohol consumption for non Muslims… ), it does not seem that racial discrimination against non-Arabs is to abate soon, give way to a status of self governance in Darfur, and put an end to the ongoing genocide which has cost the life to 300.000 inhabitants, since 2003.
One wonders whether there are any chances to oversee a change besides a secession, and the formation of separate Statehood alike the one that took place in the South, since there are no chances for democratization within the actual political framework and its hegemonic pillars.
The regional State system built on the premisses of a discriminatory, racist and authoritarian Arab narrative has proven to be a deadly fallacy which gave way to decades of genocides, demographic engineering, institutional inequities, and systemic political irrelevance which led to a consolidated state of existential helplessness. Southern Sudanese and Darfur ethnic groups had to cope with decades of cyclical massacres, massive displacement and structural helplessness, until the first ones were able to access independence and build separate statehood, whereas Darfur ethnicities are still eligible to discretionary violence and deliberate scapegoating.
The unitary framework of governance didn’t yield, so far, a democratic treatment of the inter-ethnic cleavages, and doesn’t seem to dim the violent connotations of weighted ideological prejudices. Darfur has no other chance to escape the doom of systemic racialism and hard wired exploitative power relationships, unless it recovers self determination rights and achieves national independence. The implosion of the Arab inter-System and its underlying ideological narrative and power equations, is unlikely to be tackled, unless the relaying scenarios concede to a conflict resolution scenario based on self determination, consensual ethno-national political arrangements, federal schemes of governance and Human Rights provisions ( 1948 ).
Arab-Islamic political culture is wedded to a notion of power politics that can hardly reconcile with the mandates of a constitutional democracy based on basic Human Rights, reconnaissance and consociational regimes and their intellectual predicates.
It takes genuine intellectual and political reforms and restructured power relationships, to finish off with the burdens of a stifling legacy and initiate a new dynamic, the Darfur tragedy should be no exception if this region were to oversee a transition to stability and steady reforms. The curtailment of the UN peace keep mission is an all advised move, and the thrust of US power should revitalize, if this state of macabre bloodletting is to stop and its dynamics terminated.

U.S. Sanctions Assad’s 18-Year-Old Son, Promises More Targets to Come
David Adesnik/FDD/July 31/2020
The departments of State and Treasury announced the designation yesterday of 14 individuals and entities with ties to the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, including his eldest son, Hafez. Coming after 39 designations in June, yesterday’s action marks the continuation of what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described as “a sustained campaign of economic and political pressure to deny the Assad regime revenue and support it uses to wage war and commit mass atrocities against the Syrian people.”
The escalation of pressure on Assad began last month when the Caesar Act gave the administration new authorities to target foreign nationals that do business with the Assad regime. Since Assad’s scorched-earth offensives have devastated the Syrian economy, the regime relies increasingly on foreign partners to keep it solvent. Yet only nine of the 39 designations in June were imposed pursuant to the Caesar Act, and those nine targets were all Syrian, not foreign.
From a legal perspective, the more notable development in June was the use of Executive Order 13894 to designate members of the Assad family, including Assad’s wife, sister, and sister-in-law. Similarly, the State Department designated the wife and children of Muhammad Hamsho, a Syrian businessman whom the United States sanctioned in 2011 for backing the Assad regime.
At a press briefing yesterday, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Special Envoy for Syria Joel Rayburn explained, “Regardless of whether these actors are designated pursuant to the Caesar Act itself or under other executive orders, we view them all as in-line – all these designations, I should say – as in-line with the goals of the Caesar Act.” In effect, the administration intends to employ all Syria-related authorities, not just the Caesar Act, to hold the regime accountable for its atrocities.
Rayburn also noted, “It has been such a prominent trend among Syrian regime actors to use their adult family members, whether those are siblings or children, to try to continue business in their place after being sanctioned.” This necessitates the designation of relatives, even if they are not personally implicated in sanctionable conduct.
The president signed E.O. 13894 last October, six weeks before he signed the Caesar Act into law. The immediate impetus was Turkish intervention in northeast Syria, yet the order included authorities intended to complement the Caesar Act, whose passage was almost certain at that point.
The European Union has been designating the relatives of regime insiders since the early days of the war. In 2012, it blacklisted Assad’s wife, Asma, as well as his late mother, sister, and sister-in-law.
At yesterday’s briefing, journalists questioned Rayburn about whether the administration would target foreign nationals pursuant to the Caesar Act, since that authority is the most distinctive provision of the law. In particular, correspondents inquired about potential targets based in the United Arab Emirates, whose government has signaled its interest in repairing relations with the Assad regime.
Rayburn responded, “We can make no exceptions,” even for countries whose policies align with those of the United States on most issues. Via diplomatic channels, Washington had already informed its partners around the globe “to not put us in the position of having to sanction them instead of spending our time sanctioning the Syrian regime and its associates. We’ve made very clear that we will not hold back from doing that.”
At times, the United Arab Emirates has cooperated with Treasury to disrupt Tehran’s illicit financing schemes, yet given its generally poor record of compliance with sanctions on either Syria or Iran, the Emirates may pose the most high-profile test of Washington’s resolve to deal firmly with its friends. Lebanon also harbors extensive networks of firms and individuals tied to the Assad regime. If and when foreign nationals test the administration’s willingness to employ the most powerful provisions of the Caesar Act, the response should be swift and decisive.
*David Adesnik is research director and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where he also contributes to FDD’s Center on Economic and Financial Power (CEFP). For more analysis from David and CEFP, please subscribe HERE. Follow David on Twitter @adesnik. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_CEFP. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Systemic Hypocrisy
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/July 31/2020
"Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen. This report estimates that more than 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred out of Xinjiang to work in factories across China between 2017 and 2019, and some of them were sent directly from detention camps. The estimated figure is conservative and the actual figure is likely to be far higher." — "Uyghurs for Sale," the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), March 1, 2020, with subsequent updates.
Corporate giants might be more successful at convincing the public that they truly care about social justice, inequality and the communities they claim to "serve" if this "care" did not only manifest itself in statements filled with virtue-signaling but in business practices as well -- such as not using forced labor and children in the supply chain.
Finally, pledging funds to Black Lives Matter, a self-described Marxist organization whose stated goal is "alternatives to capitalism", fails to convince one of much else than a corporate desire to ride the latest wave of wokeness to score easy profits and points.
Corporate giants might be more successful at convincing the public that they truly care about social justice and inequality if this "care" did not only manifest itself in statements filled with virtue-signaling but in business practices as well. In March, a media report revealed that children as young as eight were "working 40-hour weeks in gruelling conditions" on Guatemalan coffee bean farms that supply Starbucks. Pictured: Starbucks corporate headquarters in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)
Since the killing of George Floyd, corporate virtue signaling has reached unprecedented heights.
Apple pledged $100 million reportedly to "combat racism."
"The unfinished work of racial justice and equality call us all to account," Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said in a Twitter video. "Things must change, and Apple's committed to being a force for that change. Today, I'm proud to announce Apple's Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, with a $100 million commitment".
Starbucks pledged $1 million in "Neighborhood Grants to promote racial equity and create more inclusive and just communities".
Microsoft announced that it would invest $150 million more into diversity and inclusion efforts in the company. "We are committed to take action to help address racial injustice and inequity, and unequivocally believe that Black lives matter", CEO Satya Nadella said.
Nike pledged to donate $40 million over the course of four years to "organizations that put social justice, education and addressing racial inequality in America at the center of their work". According to John Donahoe, President and CEO of Nike, Inc.:
"Systemic racism and the events that have unfolded across America... serve as an urgent reminder of the continued change needed in our society...We will continue our focus on being more representative of our consumers while doing our part in the communities we serve."
It is difficult to find any corporate insistence on "social justice" persuasive, coming as it does from businesses that have chosen to move large parts of their manufacturing processes to countries such as China, which is led by a regime that persecutes ethnic and religious minorities. It withholds from its own citizens the most basic human rights, such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly, as reported by Gatestone Institute here, and here. China is also, according to Amnesty International, the world's leading executioner. China, moreover, continues to occupy Tibet, which it invaded in 1950, and where it has moved millions of ethnic Chinese to "Sinicize" the area.
The incongruence of companies that profess to be committed to justice and equality at home in the US, but that have no twinges of conscience about doing business abroad under a regime that commits some of the worst human rights abuses in the world, is a bit up-ending.
Nike, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung, among 83 multinational companies, were found in March to be linked to Uyghur forced labor in Chinese factories, according to a report, "Uyghurs for Sale," by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).
"The Chinese government has facilitated the mass transfer of Uyghur and other ethnic minority citizens from the far west region of Xinjiang to factories across the country", stated the report.
"Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen.
"This report estimates that more than 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred out of Xinjiang to work in factories across China between 2017 and 2019, and some of them were sent directly from detention camps. The estimated figure is conservative and the actual figure is likely to be far higher. In factories far away from home, they typically live in segregated dormitories, undergo organised Mandarin and ideological training outside working hours, are subject to constant surveillance, and are forbidden from participating in religious observances".
This was not entirely breaking news. Already in December of 2018, The New York Times ran an article about incarcerated Uyghurs forced to work in factories. The use of all kinds of prisoners in factories that supply Western companies is not new, either: In recent years, stories of messages from prisoners found in Chinese manufactured goods have gone viral. In 2014, a woman in Northern Ireland found a note in a pair of trousers she had bought that said:
"SOS! SOS! SOS! We are prisoners in the Xiang Nan Prison of the Hubei Province in China. Our job inside the prison is to produce fashion clothes for export. We work 15 hours per day and the food we eat wouldn't even be given to dogs or pigs. We work as hard as oxen in the field. We call on the international community to condemn the Chinese government for the violation of our human rights!"
Several other examples have been found; whether they are anecdotal or not, given China's record, they should have led to more than superficial investigations that apparently were never followed up.
One would think that companies that claim to be concerned with justice and equality would be boycotting and divesting from a regime that not only enables, but actively engages in forced labor – a nicer word for slavery. In theory, they would not be seen anywhere near forced labor. Uyghur lives, apparently, do not matter. Starbucks ran into a similar scandal, also in March, that showed the grim realities beneath the coffee chain's carefully designed "woke" image. A media report revealed that children as young as eight were working on Guatemalan coffee bean farms that supply the chain.
"Channel 4's Dispatches filmed the children working 40-hour weeks in gruelling conditions, picking coffee for a daily wage little more than the price of a latte," the Guardian noted. "The beans are also supplied to Nespresso, owned by Nestlé..."
"The Dispatches team said some of the children, who worked around eight hours a day, six days a week, looked as young as eight. They were paid depending on the weight of beans they picked, with sacks weighing up to 45kg. Typically, a child would earn less than £5 [less than US $6.40] a day, although sometimes it could be as low as 31p an hour. Over the course of the investigation, Dispatches visited seven farms linked to Nespresso and five linked to Starbucks. Child labour was found on all the farms".
Starbucks -- and Nespresso -- immediately professed "zero tolerance" for the practice and Starbucks claimed that it had not sourced beans from the most recent harvest of the farms, although it did source them in 2019. However, to persist in proclaiming "wokeness," while apparently not caring enough to show the due diligence required to ensure that the people working in the supply chain are treated according to the most minimal work regulations -- such as not employing children in slave-like conditions, must be the definition of hypocrisy. Guatemalan lives evidently do not matter, either -- at least until the media takes a look. Starbucks, after the scandal, went into full defense mode. It announced that it would "recommit to an Emergency Relief Fund to be paid in 2020 to farmers in Guatemala who sell coffee to Starbucks" and "commit to support farmers and their communities through piloting regional community and childcare centers".Corporate giants might be more successful at convincing the public that they truly care about social justice, inequality and the communities they claim to "serve" if this "care" did not only manifest itself in statements filled with virtue-signaling, but in business practices as well -- such as not using forced labor and children in the supply chain.
Finally, pledging funds to Black Lives Matter, a self-described Marxist organization whose stated goal is "alternatives to capitalism", fails to convince one of much else than a corporate desire to ride the latest wave of wokeness to score easy points and profits.
*Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
© 2020 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.

Biden Offers an Obama-Trump Cocktail

Amir Taherii/Asharq Al-AwsatJuly 31/2020
If elected next November, Joe Biden would be the US president with the longest association with foreign policy. We say association because he has had both direct and indirect experience in the field. For almost 30 years as a senator, including tenures as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden had a vantage observation post. Then, with eight years as Barack Obama’s Vice President, he gained practical experience.
So, when it comes to foreign policy the man should be heard. As the presidential campaign heads for the home-stretch, Biden touts his foreign policy credentials with speeches, talks to think-tanks and last week, a paper in 80 pages.
What does one learn from all that?
The first thing is that Biden does not offer any new ideas to make headline-writers jump for joy.
Most of the time he either promises a back-to-the-future revival of Obama’s policy or a less sensational version of what Donald Trump is doing as President.
The calculation behind this may be Biden’s wish to appear as conciliator, winning support from the Obamaists without antagonizing Trumpists.
The second thing one learns is that, though aware of the fact that the post-World War order is in trouble, Biden does not see this as a structural problem but as a series of defects to be fixed with partial repairs and redecoration.
He has little to say on reforming the United Nations and more than 30 other organizations atrophied into irrelevant or even harmful bureaucracies.
Trump has pointed out the problem without offering a solution apart from walking away on some occasions. Biden’s ambiguity on this may be understandable because, as a conservative politician, he is wary of radical options, something that might enrage the Bernie Sanders crowd.
Next, Biden is careless with terminology. When talking of relations with China and Russia, for example, he is not quite sure how to describe them. At times they are “a challenge” and at others they are labelled “rivals” or “adversaries.”
Biden says he agrees with Trump that China, a “serious challenge”, cheats on trade rules, grants subsidies to its businesses, steals intellectual property, and has destroyed millions of jobs in the US. But then he castigates Trump’s “confrontational approach” to China.
What would he do? Biden would demand “more transparency” from China. He would also “work with allies” to develop a common policy. But that requires US leadership and that, in turn, needs a strategy to present to the allies. There is none.
On Russia, Biden again agrees with Trump that it is “assaulting the foundations of Western democracies”, a clearly sensational charge.
What is to be done?
Biden suggests consulting with allies to adopt sanctions with “meaningful cost to Russia.” On some issues he adopts Obama’s kick-the-can method.
On Iran, for example, he wants to revive the Obama “nuke deal” known as JCPOA provided Tehran does a number of unspecified things. He repeats Trump’s assertion that the US will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, but isn’t seeking regime change either.
He repeats Trump’s claim that Iran is a de-stabilizing factor, but adds that there should be no war on Iran. He approves Trump’s decision to order the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani as “justice for his role”.
Biden also kicks the can down the road on Venezuela, branding President Nicolas Maduro “a tyrant” and endorsing Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of his nation. So, what to do?
Again Biden suggests consulting allies.
Biden describes NATO as “most enduring alliance in history”, something that reminds one of Richard Nixon’s quip in front of the Great Wall in China: “The Great Wall is great!” However, Biden again offers no ideas to revitalize the alliance.
He singles out Turkey, a NATO ally, for bitter attacks and says he would withdraw US nuclear weapons from there. He says Turkey should “pay a heavy price”, and promises to support President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s opponents, presumably under Fethullah Gulen who forged close ties with the Obama administration.
Biden’s catch-phrase “our allies” suffers from ambiguity.
He talks of a “return to great power competition” involving the US, China and Russia, no mention of Europeans. He revives Dick Cheney’s concept of “a coalition of the willing”, suggesting “a summit of democracies” but does not say who would be invited. Right now half of the 193 members of the UN could be regarded as democracies of various degrees of legitimacy.
Obama’s “leading from behind” method makes a comeback with Biden on many issues.
He talks of China’s imprisonment of 1.2 million Uighurs. But he finds no word stronger than “unconscionable” to describe the crime. What to do? Biden’s answer: “Consult with allies and the UN” but the US should not take the lead.
Biden wants to revive Obama’s Trans-Pacific-Partnership scheme and commits himself to defending Japan, Indonesia, Australia, and South Korea, against Chinese threats. But he forgets that China is also a threat to the Philippines and Vietnam not to mention Taiwan with which the US has special defense arrangements.
On North Korea, Biden ridicules Trump’s personal diplomacy and promises never to meet Kim Jong-un while suggesting more negotiations with Pyongyang.
On the Israel-Palestine issue, Biden says he is “a proud Zionist” and supports a two-state solution while insisting he would exert no financial pressure on Israel to change its policies. He also endorses Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Like Trump, Biden wants to end the US military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. On Afghanistan he wants to pursue Trump’s quest for a deal with Taliban. And on Iraq, he forgets that the withdrawal accord was made under President George W Bush but delayed under Obama.
Biden disagrees with Trump on withdrawal from Syria, calling it a “betrayal.” but forgets that Obama didn’t want any involvement.
Biden agrees with Trump on spending more on the military but says he wouldn’t use force except “in defense of our vital interests”, a Bidenian palisade. The only threat to vital interest he cites is “disruption in the flow of oil” but then he threatens moves that could wreck US relations with some of its oil-exporting allies. The “war on terror” will continue with drones and air strikes as during Obama’s presidency.
The Obama-Trump cocktail offered by Biden could keep the US on an uncertain trajectory for four more years. There is one thing that Biden may be able to do: rebuild the bureaucratic underpinnings of US foreign policy that is badly shaken by the Trumpian wrecking ball.

It’s Not Just Anti-Vaxxers Who Worry About Vaccines

Therese Raphael/Bloomberg/July, 31/2020
With any luck, one of the handful of promising Covid-19 vaccines currently going through human trials will meet with regulatory approval, maybe even in time for winter. One thing worrying public health officials, though, is what happens if a significant number of people don’t want to be vaccinated.
Vaccines are responsible for saving millions of lives every year, and yet there has always been a small but hardcore contingent of anti-vaxxers that rejects the science or buys into conspiracy theories about immunizations. Unfortunately, their ranks are growing during the current crisis. National health authorities, along with the World Health Organization, are engaged in a furious game of whack-a-mole as they try to knock down the conspiracy theories and correct misinformation.
Countering the anti-vaxxers is important work, but it’s only part of the picture. The bigger danger is a broader vaccine hesitancy: What if rational people who get their flu shots and vaccinate their children, and who are eager to be part of the solution to this pandemic, have worries that public health authorities and governments don’t address?
The World Health Organization lists vaccine hesitancy as one of its top 10 global health threats. One in six UK respondents to a June YouGov survey said they definitely or probably would not get vaccinated. A CNN poll in May showed a third of Americans would not try to get a vaccine if it existed. Like everything else in the US, opinion on a vaccine varies along party lines, with 81% of Democrats and only 51% of Republicans keen to get vaccinated.
Some of the skepticism reflects a mistrust of Big Pharma, some of it a mistrust of government. Some of it is simply because it’s been a long time since we lived in fear of the many diseases that vaccines now protect against.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US’s top infectious disease expert, has said that a vaccine that is 70% to 75% effective but taken by only two-thirds of the public would not create the herd immunity necessary for economies to get back up and running. So governments have a lot riding on not only securing an immunization program but on making sure people take part.
However, if a vaccine overpromises, if the risks are not clearly explained or if there are problems with delivery, it could further undermine trust in authorities, institutions and even experts, with far-reaching consequences for public health and the economy. It’s hard to imagine another time when there was so much riding not just on the science, but on how it’s communicated.
One hurdle for health-care authorities is convincing people that a vaccine produced at lightning speed is no less safe than one that would normally take more than a decade to develop. They will have to be clear about where the uncertainty lies. For example, it’s impossible to know from even large clinical trials how vaccines will affect people with a range of different conditions; if vaccines will have adverse long-term effects; or what the impact of repeat doses might be if, as many expect, booster shots are required.
Most advanced countries have developed systems for reporting adverse consequences of vaccines and medications precisely because there is uncertainty in their effects across different populations and over time. The US has the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System or VAERS; the UK has the yellow card scheme. While established vaccines have been linked to some rare cases of serious illness, researchers have not found a link between established vaccines and adverse impacts in most cases. This hasn’t stopped incorrect information from spreading. Confused and irresponsible messaging hasn’t been helpful either.
“The fact that it’s being crunched into such a short period has been a cause for concern,” says Oksana Pyzik, a senior teaching fellow at the University College London School of Pharmacy. “We can’t really afford to cut corners in this process, specifically because there is so much momentum behind an anti-science movement.”
There are other concerns, apart from efficacy and safety, that governments will have to monitor, notes Pyzik. One is the risk of fakes. The WHO says one in 10 medical products circulating in low- and middle-income countries is falsified or does not meet standards. Falsified medicines lead to poisoning, untreated disease and other hazards. And Covid-related fraud, from masks to medicine, is booming, the United Nations has found. Vaccines will be a target, too. Officials have already discovered a fake Israeli coronavirus vaccine being sold in South America.
Any doubts over the quality of a vaccine, which can also be affected by inadequate storage or transport, will impact trust. And that trust was being sorely tested even before the pandemic. In the US, a near epidemic of overprescribing, especially of opioids, has increased skepticism of both doctors and drug companies. Black and minority communities hit hardest by Covid-19 might have the most reason to line up for vaccines, but vaccination rates are lower among minority groups because of lower levels of trust from historical abuses.
None of this is to suggest that vaccinating isn't the right choice for society and individuals. Researchers and pharmaceutical companies are moving at a breakneck pace in this outbreak for very understandable reasons. The recent surge of cases in Europe and elsewhere underscores the imperative of finding a way past this pandemic.“It’s understandable that people are more concerned about new vaccines, but all prospective Covid-19 vaccines are undergoing extensive testing to ensure they are effective and safe,” writes Dr. Mary Ramsay, the head of immunization at Public Health England, via email.
If people are to have confidence in regulators’ declarations that a vaccine is “safe and effective,” much will depend on governments acknowledging their concerns and being transparent about both the benefits and the unknowns. Pretending science doesn’t contain uncertainty serves neither the scientists nor public health.

The US Can Control Covid Without a Second Lockdown
Faye Flam/Bloomberg/July, 31/2020
Rising Covid-19 case counts across the US have made a second lockdown seem almost inevitable. It is likely to be months before a vaccine could end the coronavirus pandemic, and the US is also months away from using the testing-and-tracing strategy other countries have used to keep new outbreaks from expanding. But Americans can’t be expected to stay in their homes for months on end. The rational, fair, humane way forward is for society to balance pandemic safety against other vital needs — the need to make a living, the need for education and the need for social interaction.
People who want to break out of solitary confinement are not necessarily ignoring “the science.” They are balancing what scientists have found with other factors, just as people who use air conditioning in 100-degree weather aren’t necessarily global warming deniers. You can take global warming seriously without making every possible sacrifice. To combat the coronavirus crisis, public health officials have urged extreme measures — doing everything we can to prevent further spread of the pandemic. What they should be telling us is how to reduce our odds of getting the disease in a way that can be sustained economically and socially, while keeping the curve flattened and hospital beds available.
Risk communication consultant Peter Sandman says he thinks our current “do everything you can do avoid infection” policy in public health is driven by the urge to make up for past mistakes on the part of politicians and experts in public health. In January and February, they reassured people the risk was low even as the disease spread quickly in China and there was every reason to think it would go elsewhere.
Then the public health community panicked, he says. He’s worked on a number of pandemic preparedness plans and read others, and none of them mentioned telling everyone to stay home for the foreseeable future.
There was a good rationale to ask New Yorkers to stay home earlier this year. Flattening the curve in New York City meant preventing too many people from getting seriously ill at once and overwhelming hospitals. But the reason for the lockdowns that look place in most other states was never clearly communicated. Business closures and stay-at-home orders would have been justifiable in less hard-hit states, if they were used to buy time to better cope with outbreaks — ramping up testing and contact tracing and preparing hospitals with supplies and protective equipment. That failed spectacularly, especially in Florida, Arizona, Texas and California.
People there made enormous sacrifices and got very little in return, since almost nothing was done to make the situation any safer coming out of the shutdowns than going into them. Now, Sandman says, people are drained of their economic and emotional reserves.
Public health officials — and society more broadly — have to come to terms with the fact that we’re not in this together. It’s easy for some people to stay home. Some people are living comfortably on savings or do-at-home jobs, surrounded by family. Some are more motivated to stay home, since they have health conditions that put them at a much higher risk of dying if they contract Covid-19.
Others need to leave the house to work. Especially for younger, healthier people who are at very low risk of dying or developing long-term complications, it might be reasonable to accept some risk in exchange for the chance to make a living, see beloved friends, find a life partner, or give their kids the educations they need to succeed. These are not trivial things.
Now it’s time to make the best of a bad situation and finally start creating well-communicated long-term policies that allow some degree of balance. Harvard epidemiologist William Hanage said he doesn’t like the use of the word “reopening.” Better, he says, to think about keeping infections at a manageable level by limiting activities that are known to be high risk. And risks of different activities vary by place and time, so mayors, governors and other local leaders need to keep people as informed as possible about local conditions. What matters is the approximate number of active, infectious cases in a region — not the cumulative cases, since many have recovered, or the rate of change, when the base number of cases might be very low.
There’s lots of data out there, but the useful kind is hard to come by. Or as Hanage puts it, “We have been ill-served, as most communication has been astonishingly poor and astonishingly misleading … there’s a great deal of infuriating nonsense.”
Current transmission rates can be estimated by various techniques including testing a random sample of people or measuring the level of virus in local sewage. This is critical to know because the hazard of opening gyms or bars will be much higher in an area of current outbreak than one with almost no cases.
It’s also time to stop blaming each other — which is tearing us apart. As Sandman pointed it, “all health public health failures are policy failures.” If people don’t follow a policy, it’s because it’s the wrong policy or was badly communicated. This is what policy makers are supposed to think through.
A few brave souls in the public health community, trying to help people find a level of much-needed balance, have come forward to say that some activities are relatively low risk. Being around other people outdoors is safer than indoors, and short exposures are safer than long ones. If everyone wears a mask, getting a haircut is okay. Getting exercise outdoors is reasonable. Outdoor restaurant tables are safer than indoor ones. That way, people can be armed with enough information to be good citizens during the pandemic, while still leading lives worth living.

The US wants to stop Iran's arms build-up by hook or by crook

Con Coughlin/The National/July 31/2020
Washington may even exploit a legal loophole to try and extend a UN embargo against Tehran.
The prospect of Iran being able to buy weapons on the open market has prompted the Trump administration to launch a diplomatic offensive aimed at pressuring the United Nations to extend its arms embargo against Tehran when it comes up for renewal later this year.
The embargo was implemented under UN Security Council resolution 2231, passed in 2015 in support of the controversial nuclear deal negotiated under the aegis of former US president Barack Obama.
The embargo is due to expire on October 18, but attempts by Washington to persuade the UN to agree to an extension have foundered in the face of strong opposition from China and Russia, which have the power to veto any extension.
Both Beijing and Moscow have lent their support to Tehran during the latter's recent upsurge in tensions with Washington following US President Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal in 2018. The Russians and Chinese argue that the American withdrawal from the agreement means that Iran should no longer be subjected to an arms embargo when the terms of the resolution expire in the autumn.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has already indicated that his regime intends to take full advantage of any relaxation in the terms of the arms embargo to rebuild his country’s depleted weapons arsenal. State-run Iranian television reported at the end of last year that Mr Rouhani had commented: “When the embargo is lifted next year, we can easily buy and sell weapons. This is one of those important impacts of this [nuclear] agreement.”
Washington has expressed particular concern that ending the arms embargo will enable Iran to buy sophisticated weaponry from Russia and China. Tehran is currently in the process of negotiating a wide-ranging trade deal with Beijing said to be worth around $400 billion over a 25-year period. Under the terms of the agreement, Tehran and Beijing are said to be working on a project to develop a military base in the Indian Ocean that will enable them to challenge America’s long-standing military dominance in the region.
The agreement, which a senior aide to Mr Rouhani says should be signed by next March, encompasses closer military co-operation between the two countries, including weapons development, combined training and intelligence sharing. Washington has expressed concern that this will allow China and Iran to monitor more closely the activities of the US Fifth Fleet in the Gulf, as well as the joint US-UK military base on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia.
Despite the arms embargo, Iran has continued work on developing its military strength, in particular by upgrading the numerous ballistic missile systems that have been linked with its nuclear programme.
The growing sophistication of Iran’s missile capabilities was demonstrated earlier this week when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps launched underground ballistic missiles at a mock-up American aircraft carrier that had been deployed in the Strait of Hormuz. The missiles, appeared to have been launched from Iran’s desert plateau, suggest that the regime has developed a network of subterranean bases that can be used to threaten the US and its allies in the Gulf. Commenting on the exercise, Gen Amir Hajizadeh, the commander of the IRGC's aerospace division, told state TV: “We have carried out the launch of the ballistic missiles from the depths of the earth for the first time.”
Moreover, the prospect of Iran having the freedom to rebuild its weapons arsenal comes at a time when there has been an upsurge in provocative activity by Tehran in the Middle East. Iran has been accused of increasing tensions with Israel after a team of Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon were reported to have attempted an attack on Israeli positions in their country's north earlier this month.
In an attempt to curb Iran’s military ambitions, which believes constitute a direct threat to the security of the Gulf region, Washington has launched a diplomatic offensive aimed at putting pressure on the UN to extend the arms embargo.
In a recent address to the Security Council, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a blunt warning, arguing that the council was faced with a stark choice. It could “stand for international peace and security, as the United Nations’ founders intended, or let the arms embargo on the Islamic Republic of Iran expire, betraying the UN’s mission and its finest deals, which we have all pledged to uphold".
Mr Pompeo explicitly warned that a failure to renew the embargo would enable Iran to buy sophisticated weaponry from Russia, such as warplanes “that can strike up to a 3,000-kilometre radius”.
Tehran would also be able to upgrade and expand its fleet of submarines, thereby enabling it to threaten international shipping and freedom of navigation in the Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and the Arabian Sea. Allowing Iran access to new arms supplies would also enable it to continue supplying weapons to proxies, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as maintain its support for the Assad regime in Syria.
Given that China and Russia are unlikely to alter their position on ending the arms embargo when the issue comes before the Security Council in October, the Trump administration is looking at a range of options to maintain the embargo. One option under consideration in Washington is for the US to point out that – despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the deal – it remains a participant in the nuclear agreement, and can therefore exercise a Security Council provision to veto the embargo’s expiration.
Whether or not this dubious tactic succeeds, what is beyond doubt is that any attempt by Iran to rebuild its weapons arsenal will, at the very least, encounter stiff resistance from Washington.
*Con Coughlin is the Telegraph’s defence and foreign affairs editor


Question: "What does it mean that there is neither Jew nor Greek in Galatians 3:28?"
GotQuestions.org/July 31/2020
Answer: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, ESV). This translation, along with the NASB, KJV, and NKJV, uses the phrase “Jew nor Greek.” The NIV translates it less literally as “Jew nor Gentile.” Either way, this verse relates a wonderful message concerning the unity we have in Christ
In New Testament times, Greek culture was dominant in the Roman Empire of which Israel was a part, so there was a basic distinction made between Jews and Greeks. (Greeks could refer to those who lived according to the practices of Greek culture, whether they were ethnically Greek or not. Today there are many non-Jews who are not Greeks and who do not follow Greek culture, so the word Gentile may give a better sense of what the passage is saying.) The Jews were the people of God, and the Greeks/Gentiles were not.
In addition to Jew and Greek, Galatians 3:28 lists two other contrasting pairs: male and female, and slave or free. When Paul says that “there is neither Jew or Greek,” male or female, or slave and free, we know that he is not speaking literally, for all of these types of people existed in Paul’s day as well as in our day (modern gender-bending notwithstanding). Paul is not saying that the differences do not exist but that, in Christ, they do not matter. Again, this is not an absolute statement that the differences have been completely abolished, as some interpret it, because the New Testament spends a good bit of time telling how men and women should act in their unique roles as men or women and of the proper behavior of slaves and masters, even Christian slaves and Christian masters (see Ephesians 5:21—6:9 and Colossians 3:18—4:1, for example). But within the context of the discussion of Galatians 3, these differences do not matter. When these differences are taken outside the context of Galatians 3, they might matter a great deal. Galatians 3:28 cannot be quoted in isolation to “prove” that there are or should be no differences.
For example, if a family is attending an amusement park, they may encounter different prices for different people: kids, teenagers, adults, teachers, students, senior citizens, military veterans, etc. However, on Tuesday everyone is admitted for the same low price. So, if the family approaches the ticket window on a Tuesday, and Grandma says to the ticket agent, “Don’t forget, I am a senior citizen,” the ticket agent might respond, “It doesn’t matter.” He is not attempting to be rude or say that all of the life experience that Grandma has accumulated is worthless. Nor is he saying that the aches and pains of age will not affect her today. What he is saying is that, within the context of the issue at hand—ticket prices—the fact that she is a senior citizen (or that Dad is a veteran or that Junior is a college student) does not matter; that is, those facts, as important as they may be in other contexts, simply do not affect the ticket prices on Tuesday. The distinctions do not matter.
Galatians 3:26–29 gives the fuller context: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
The specific consideration is the identity of Abraham’s offspring, those who are children of God and eligible to inherit the promises God made to Abraham. It would be normal to think that Jews were Abraham’s descendants and thus the only ones eligible to receive the promises God, but Paul says that, in Christ, Greeks or Gentiles can also be Abraham’s children and heirs. It would be normal to think of men as heirs, because in that culture women generally did not inherit property. It would be normal to think that only free people could be heirs, because slaves did not inherit—they were given as an inheritance. However, Paul says that in Christ slaves, women, and Greeks can all be heirs to the promises of God.
In Christ, it doesn’t matter about your ethnic identity, your gender, or your station in life. If you are in Christ, you are one of God’s chosen people and you stand to inherit all that God has promised. It is only through Christ that anyone can inherit God’s kingdom (John 14:6). While there may still be ethnic, gender, and social distinctions that carry weight in other contexts, those distinctions do not affect one’s standing as a child of God by faith in Christ.