August 14/2019
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 10/40-42/11,01/:”‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on August 13-14/2019
Lebanese Dies in Rescue Attempt in Guinea
Palestinians in Ain al-Hilweh Continue Their Protests Against Imposition of Labor Permit
Hezbollah to Top Hariri’s Meetings in Washington
Report: Hizbullah, Army Support, Border Talks on Hariri’s US Agenda
Hasan Assures Patriarch on Treatment of Detainees Held with ISF
Mufti Meets King Salman in Saudi Arabia
Time to Change Course on the UN’s Lebanon Policy

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 13-14/2019
Israel’s participation in Gulf security force opens its 5th front against Iran
Gibraltar denies Iran’s claim that seized tanker Grace 1 will be freed Tuesday
British-Iranian social anthropologist arrested: Iranian website
British warship sets sail for tanker escort mission in Gulf
Iran’s Khamenei meets with Houthi spokesman Abdul Salam

Gibraltar Seeking to De-Escalate Tensions with Iran
Iran Says in Touch with Britain over Seized Tanker
New Airport Rally as HK Leader Warns of 'Path of No Return'
Egypt Hosts Sudan Protest Leaders ahead of Landmark Deal
Clashes kill nearly 60 fighters in northwest Syria: Monitor

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 12-13/2019
Time to Change Course on the UN’s Lebanon Policy/Assaf Orion/The Washington Institute/August 13/2019
Israel’s participation in Gulf security force opens its 5th front against Iran /DEBKAFile/August 13/2019
Can Palestinians in Gaza Revolt Against Hamas/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/August 13/2019
Russia Moves in on Sudan/Debalina Ghoshal/Gatestone Institute/August 13/2019
Tech Companies Want Out of the Censorship Business/Elaine Ou/Bloomberg/August 13/2019
The Men Responsible for the AMIA Bombing Are Known—and Still at Large/Matthew Levitt/Mosaic site/August 12/2019
The Muslim Brotherhood, Mother of Islamist Terror Groups/Mudar Zahran/American Thinker/August 13/2019
Saudi Journalist: Why Do Arabs And Muslims Criticize The West – When In The West They Enjoy Equality And Full Human Rights, And Attain High-Level Positions/MEMRI/August 13/2019
MbS and MbZ: Could Yemen crisis end the Saudi-UAE partnership/Simon Henderson/The Hill/August 13/2019
Turkey’s Rising Wave of Social Protests/Soner Cagaptay with Deniz Yuksel/The Washington Institute/August 13/2019

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on August 12-13/2019
Lebanese Dies in Rescue Attempt in Guinea
Naharnet/August 13/2019
A Lebanese man identified as Hussein Fsheikh plunged into his death in an attempt to rescue two drowning men in a river in Guinea. Head of the Higher Relief Committee Maj, Gen. Mohammed Kheir announced that Guinean authorities officially informed him that the body of a teenager who drowned in the Konkouré River while trying to save two people from drowning belonged to Lebanese Hussein Fsheikh. Kheir said under the directives of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, contacts are ongoing with authorities in Guinea to take the necessary measures to return the body to Lebanon as soon as possible. Fsheikh hails from the northern town of Btormaz in Dinnieh.

Palestinians in Ain al-Hilweh Continue Their Protests Against Imposition of Labor Permit
Beirut- Sanaa Al-Jack/Asharq Al-Awsat//August 13/2019
Street demonstrations continue in the Palestinian camp of Ain al-Hilweh (east of Sidon, southern Lebanon) in protest against the decision of the Lebanese Minister of Labor, Kamil Abu Sleiman, regarding the necessity for the Palestinians to obtain work permits, similarly to other foreign workers in Lebanon. “The situation is tragic,” Mahmoud Shuaib, a shopkeeper at one of the camp’s entrances, told Asharq Al-Awsat. “The minister’s decision helped raise the unemployment rate to more than 60 percent. Most Palestinians also work in construction. This sector is paralyzed after housing loans were stopped. If there is work, it is seasonal and for a short time,” he added. The population of Ain el-Hilweh is around 60,000. The biggest problem they currently face is the shrinking of UNRWA services. In the hospital sector, a patient must pay between 10 and 15 percent of the doctor’s bill and 40 percent of the hospital total fee. Schools are experiencing unprecedented overcrowding, with approximately 50 pupils per class. Residents in the camp also complain about what they see as “harassment” against them. “If we go out and in 10 times a day, we have to show our card and be thoroughly inspected,” Abu Alaa told Asharq Al-Awsat, adding that the strict control did not exclude patients and wounded who must be rushed to hospitals.
Many goods are not allowed to be transferred inside the camps, mainly construction material. Abu Alaa said that most buildings were more than 50 years old and needed repair and maintenance. The entry of electrical and household items require transactions and papers from the Mukhtar and the Lebanese Army Intelligence, he added. Some residents blamed the employers for the current labor permit crisis, whom they accused of attempting to evade the application of laws, the declaration of workers, and the payment of their obligations to the social security. They pointed out that the implementation of the law would be beneficial for them if they received guarantees and end-of-service compensations, and if they were “treated as residents and not as foreigners.”However, the security aspect remains the most dangerous problem in Ain al-Hilweh. “The camp’s tragedy started with the Syrian-Lebanese security system taking control of it,” said Fouad, a young refugee. “We handed over our weapons after the Taif Agreement. We were surprised by the return of more weapons with extremist organizations that we don’t know how they spawned and how they received funding.”
He went on to say: “Wanted men enter and leave uncontrolled; they come from Tripoli (northern Lebanon), go to Syria, and then return to Ain al-Hilweh. It is tangible. The area was controlled by the Syrian regime while in Lebanon, and the Iranians stepped into the scene.”

Hezbollah to Top Hariri’s Meetings in Washington
Washington, Beirut – Elie Youssef and Asharq Al-Awsat//August 13/2019
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri began a visit to Washington on Monday, during which he will meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a number of US officials, according to a statement issued by his office in Beirut. Nadim al-Mulla, an adviser to Hariri, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the prime minister’s visit to “is basically private and has no agenda,” but he added that he would hold meetings with US officials “to update them on the situation in Lebanon and to hear their point of view.”The premier is set to meet Pompeo on Thursday. According to US sources, the Hezbollah file is expected to top Hariri’s talks, amid mounting pressure from Washington on the group’s leaders, networks and financial activities, both in the United States and Latin America, as well as in Lebanon. US media have reported that President Donald Trump’s administration wanted to exert more pressure on Lebanese financial institutions to ensure that they applied the conditions and sanctions imposed on Hezbollah, as well as stressing the need for Lebanon to abide by the sanctions on Iran. Moreover, US support for the Lebanese Army will receive special attention, especially as Washington attaches the utmost importance to maintaining the security of the border areas between Lebanon and Syria. A number of senators had proposed a tougher line on countering Hezbollah’s influence. Some circles are calling on the US administration to exert greater pressure on the Lebanese Army to impose its control over the ports and border crossings and to stop smuggling activities by the party. Other issues that could be discussed during Hariri’s visit is the US mediation in the demarcation of the maritime borders between Lebanon and Israel, to ensure the proper regulation of the exploitation of gas fields discovered in the Mediterranean.

Report: Hizbullah, Army Support, Border Talks on Hariri’s US Agenda
Naharnet/August 13/2019
Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrived in Washington at dawn yesterday beginning a visit to the United States during which he will meet (on Thursday) with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a number of US officials, according to a statement issued by the Premier’s office. Hariri sources told the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat that the visit was set earlier, and "it will be an occasion to discuss the general situation in Lebanon and the region, and the bilateral relations between the two countries." Fos his part, Hariri’s adviser Nadim al-Munla told the daily the Premier’s visit to Washington is “mainly private and has no agenda, but he will hold meetings on the sidelines with US officials to put them in the picture of the Lebanese situation and hear their point of view.”But according to US circles, the file of Hizbullah is expected to top Hariri's talks amid mounting pressure from Washington on Hizbullah leaders, networks and financial activities, both in the United States and in Latin America and Lebanon, said Asharq al-Awsat. However, these circles considered that “exerting US pressure on Hariri in this case, may not be wise or feasible given the complex situation in the Lebanese government, and the imbalance of power between the Lebanese parties in favor of Hizbulalh, and the imbalance in Hariri 's political base,” it said. However, "extremist" US circles said that “pressure on the Lebanese government is necessary to put all parties to their responsibilities in the face of the role played by Hizbullah.”Moreover, the daily said that US support for the Lebanese army will receive special attention during Hariri’s visit, mainly that Washington is keen on maintaining the security of the border areas between Lebanon and Syria, and keen on preventing the re-emergence of the Islamic State group. Among the issues expected to be discussed is Washington's mediation between Lebanon and Israel to demarcate the maritime border between the two countries, to ensure drilling regulation of gas fields discovered in the Mediterranean. On a similar note, US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis Fanon had met earlier with Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Beirut during a tour of Greece, Jordan and Cyprus, where he discussed Lebanon's plans to reform the electricity sector and develop energy resources and the support the United States for its efforts in this area. Hariri's visit to Washington comes after the Qabrshmoun incident which almost led to serious security developments in the mountain area between the Druze themselves, and the Christians. The US Embassy in Beirut issued a rare statement last week calling on all parties to refrain from politicizing the judiciary to enable it to follow up on Qabrshmoun incident and to preserve civil peace.

Hasan Assures Patriarch on Treatment of Detainees Held with ISF
Naharnet/August 13/2019
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi held a meeting with Interior Minister Raya al-Hasan in the summer patriarchal residence located in Dimane where discussion focused on Rahi’s position regarding the ISF’s “practices” with detainees, the National News Agency reported on Tuesday. “The visit is to reassure the Patriarch and to congratulate him on the occasion of the feast of Our Lady, and to clarify the reason that made him question the practices of the (Internal Security Forces) Information Branch towards the detainees,” said Hasan. The Minister added: “I assured the Patriarch that the Branch does not target any sect or party but carries out its duties with transparency and professionalism. I also handed him a report with evidence that our detainees are not subject to any kind of torture or abuse.” The Patriarch recently expressed woes about the ISF Information Branch accusing it of “fabricating files against a group of one religion and one sect” and “torturing people in its cellars”. "The Information Branch is conducting large-scale pre-emptive operations, seeing its results on the ground and how the security situation is stable,” added Hasan. She stressed the need not to involve the security apparatuses “starting with the armed forces, the State Security, General Security and ISF in the political conflicts because it harms the Lebanese, Christians and Muslims alike.”

Mufti Meets King Salman in Saudi Arabia

Naharnet/August 13/2019
Grand Sunni Mufti of the Republic Sheikh Abdel Latif Deryan met on Tuesday with King Salman bin Abdel Aziz during a ceremony held at the Royal Court at the Mina Palace for senior officials who performed Hajj this year, the National News Agency said. The Mufti praised the efforts exerted by the Saudi government for the success of the pilgrimage's season. On the other hand, Deryan said that "Lebanon is witnessing a political and economic breakthrough after the meeting of the Council of Ministers three days ago." The Mufti also called on Lebanese citizens to rally around state institutions to strengthen its work in implementing economic and development projects and fighting corruption.

Time to Change Course on the UN’s Lebanon Policy
الجنرال الإسرائيلي المتقاعد عساف أويون/معهد واشنطن: حان الوقت لتغيير مسار سياسة قوات الأمم المتحدة العاملة في جنوب لبنان
Assaf Orion/The Washington Institute/August 13, 2019

Serious change is required to avoid decisions that accommodate Hezbollah’s ends, ways, and means, and a vital first step is to look at current policy mechanics with a clear eye.
With this month marking the thirteenth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and the end of the 2006 Lebanon war, the council will soon hold its yearly debates about renewing the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon. Contrasting the Secretary General’s latest report on 1701 with thirteen years of lessons learned reveals a clear pattern: the victory of consciously false hopes over hard experience, particularly when viewed from Israel’s perspective. Breaking this pattern will require substantial changes to the force’s size, mission, and conduct.
From December 2018 to January 2019, the Israel Defense Forces’ Operation Northern Shield exposed Hezbollah’s secret cross-border tunneling project, a mainstay in the group’s plans for future offensives into Israel. Although the operation neutralized the tunnels and demonstrated Israel’s intelligence superiority over Hezbollah, it also provided irrefutable proof that the UN’s approach to Lebanon is broken. Time and again, when faced with Israeli “allegations” regarding such activity, the UN has professed that it is “not in a position to substantiate them independently,” preferring to remain in the dark instead. In the end, the IDF exposed, documented, and destroyed six tunnels, but the most the secretary-general’s July 17 report could say about the evidence was that “UNIFIL has verified the existence of five tunnels, three of which it confirmed crossed the Blue Line.” This short sentence encapsulates UNIFIL’s willful failure to detect a multi-year, multi-site, heavy-earthwork project that flagrantly violated UNSCR 1701 right under the noses of UN forces.
On December 26, for example, UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col personally witnessed liquid concrete gushing out of a “cement factory” in Kafr Kila, Lebanon, after it was pumped into a tunnel on the Israeli side of the border. He then “informed the Lebanese authorities…urging immediate follow-up action.” On March 15, President Michel Aoun “committed to launch an investigation.” On May 23 and again on June 3, Lebanese Armed Forces commander Joseph Aoun confirmed “that the LAF was taking action to gain access to the sites.” As of July 17, however, “UNIFIL still has not been able to access all relevant locations north of the Blue Line,” and the secretary-general was reduced to calling on the LAF “to expeditiously undertake and conclude all necessary investigations on the Lebanese side to…prevent any similar occurrences in the future.” He also asked “the Lebanese authorities and the LAF to make further efforts to ensure that UNIFIL is fully able to implement its mandate.”
Tunnels are hardly the only issue on which the UN combines consciously false expectations with ready evidence of their futility. As in past documents stretching back to 2006, the July 17 report calls for “the disarmament of armed groups,” for the never-to-ripen “national defense strategy” dialogue, and for the long-awaited deployment of the “model regiment.” Even the most basic expectation—that Lebanon prosecute individuals who attack UN forces—is left dangling. On August 4, 2018, a group of twenty people attacked a UNIFIL patrol in the village of Majdel Zoun. A year later, Lebanese authorities still “have not provided an explanation as to why the conclusions of the LAF diverged significantly from those of UNIFIL. The UN has not been informed of criminal proceedings to date to bring the perpetrators to justice.” In response, the UN simply “continues to engage with the Lebanese authorities to request updates on this incident.” Efforts to conclude legal proceedings against other Lebanese individuals who attacked peacekeepers—in 2007, 2008, 2011, 2014, even as far back as 1980—have been just as fruitless.
In addition, the July 17 report once again obfuscates the military reality in south Lebanon through a “UNIFIL by the numbers” approach, declaring that 10,292 troops have conducted “13,884 monthly operational activities” and “7,458 patrols” while maintaining “an operational footprint in all municipalities and villages in its area of operations.” Such figures give an impression of omnipresent effectiveness, but UNIFIL’s actual presence in Lebanon is largely holed up. The steep rise in operational tempo reported since summer 2017 accrued no distinguishable increase in findings, and the footprint of attacks and harassment against patrols sprawls all over the south. Worse yet, these clashes are largely papered over—by the time a field unit’s incident report completes its long route through numerous UNIFIL command levels, UNIFIL political advisors, the UN special coordinator’s office in Beirut, various departments at UN headquarters, and the secretary-general’s office, its details and significance are greatly reduced.
Likewise, UNIFIL’s Maritime Task Force reportedly “hailed 2,765 vessels” in the past four months, “of which 801 were inspected and cleared by the Lebanese authorities”—numbers that seem impressive until one realizes that only one arms ship has been seized since 2006, and its cargo was destined for Syrian rebels rather than Hezbollah. Israel’s recent claims that Iran has been shipping weapons manufacturing equipment to Beirut suggest that UNIFIL’s robust hailing record is futile as long as final clearance is conducted by complicit Lebanese authorities.
Yet the crowning jewel of untruth in the latest UN report rests in the following statement: “UNIFIL continued to assist the LAF in establishing an area between the Blue Line and the Litani River free of unauthorized armed personnel, assets, and weapons other than those belonging to the Government of Lebanon and to UNIFIL.” As the UN is fully aware, the LAF has done nothing to establish this monopoly of arms along the border with Israel. And since UNIFIL is admittedly assisting with whatever the LAF is actually doing in the south, the UN is supporting a Lebanese policy that endorses continued Hezbollah violations.
Meanwhile, UNIFIL has called on the Israel Defense Forces “to suspend its construction works in the Lebanese ‘reservation’ area until an agreement [is] reached between the parties,” referring to portions of the Blue Line that Lebanon has disputed for years and blocked any substantive steps to demarcate or resolve. In other words, the UN has adopted Beirut’s narrative and claims, undermining its own duties as custodian of the Blue Line and calling Israel out for taking basic defensive measures along that frontier.
Currently, the Lebanese government is part of the problem, not part of the solution. UNIFIL is blindfolded to collusion between its LAF host and Hezbollah, and unable to obtain justice when its forces are repeatedly attacked. This obstruction is perpetrated by Lebanon’s full national chain of command, from the president and the LAF commander down to the field level. The government has also regularly used “private property” claims over the past decade with the aim of blocking UNIFIL’s access to illicit Hezbollah military sites, including observation posts, rocket launching sites, arms depots, and attack tunnels. The UN has willingly respected these claims.
How does one explain this policy of seemingly deliberate futility? Fearing Hezbollah attacks, UNIFIL and its contributing countries apparently prefer to bide time, sidestep problems, and obscure reality. They have also focused on cultivating Lebanese support by providing hundreds of jobs and funding local projects, even though such assistance only perpetuates Hezbollah’s emboldened violations.
Changing this situation requires one to differentiate fact from fiction. In 2006, the authors of UNSCR 1701 rightly identified Hezbollah’s uncontrolled military presence in the south as the war’s main enabler and the most likely cause of future conflicts. Yet the mechanism proposed to remove this presence—Beirut’s commitment “to extend its authority over its territory through its own legitimate armed forces”—is no longer a valid premise for policymaking. With Iran’s help, Hezbollah and its political allies now dominate Lebanon’s government, completely undercutting Beirut’s willingness and ability to fulfill its commitments. Attentive to its political masters, the LAF will likewise keep perpetuating the problem if the current circumstances persist. Automatically and unconditionally renewing UNIFIL’s mandate while allowing it to continue providing funding and jobs in Lebanon will never push the government out of its comfort zone, and years’ worth of generous and unconditioned aid to the LAF has only exacerbated the situation.
Accordingly, UNIFIL is past due for a thorough policy review and changes, based on the following principles and actions:
Prevent war. The only way to stave off another destructive conflict in Lebanon is to address Hezbollah’s military violations and hold it accountable. UNIFIL’s liaison and de-escalation functions—including the tripartite mechanism—can help meet this goal.
Promptly address pending security issues. The UN should demand immediate UNIFIL access to all tunnel-related sites. It should also demand that Beirut provide the names of all assailants who carried out the Majdel Zoun attack on its forces, as well as immediate, time-limited legal proceedings against them.
Stop “business as usual.” More generally, UNIFIL should demand immediate, unimpeded access to all relevant sites in its area of operations, total freedom of movement sans LAF escort, and absolute cessation of all aggression and harassment against its patrols.
Uphold UN responsibilities against Lebanese pretexts. All Lebanese “private property” claims that prevent full UNIFIL access should be flatly revoked. The UN should also insist on the Blue Line’s integrity in its entirety, regardless of Lebanese “reservations” seeking to undermine it. These reservations will be addressed in future border talks between Lebanon and Israel.
Stop appeasing Hezbollah. UNIFIL should stop funding projects and hiring workers in areas where its patrols are harassed or attacked. Cutting funds for communities that support Hezbollah would have the added benefit of increasing financial pressure against the organization.
Enhance UNIFIL’s transparency. Detailed geo-reporting and chronological analysis would help illustrate how UNIFIL’s military activities and civilian projects are being conducted right alongside areas where Hezbollah’s preponderant forces operate.
Beef up UN documentation. UN reports should provide updates on all cases awaiting closure by Lebanese authorities, not just cases from the latest reporting period.
Downsize UNIFIL. Despite hopes of improved UNIFIL performance, the force’s current size will never translate into efficacy given Hezbollah’s local dominance and the UN’s general risk aversion. UNIFIL’s current performance, measured by effect rather than effort, could be met with a 3,000-strong force and a robust liaison branch. The larger the force, the more likely UN troops are to serve as Hezbollah’s human shields in one of the world’s densest and deadliest conflict zones.
A simple first step would be to lower UNIFIL’s size cap from 15,000 troops to its actual current size, around 10,000. Next would be a 10-20 percent reduction—perhaps the removal of 1,000-2,000 troops, one naval vessel, and $60-120 million in budget. Further cuts should be made over time depending on Lebanon’s fulfilment of commitments and UNIFIL’s safety and freedom. This dynamic would help the international community regain some leverage over Beirut while increasing pressure on Hezbollah. UNIFIL may gradually proceed toward a 60-70 percent cut, leaving it with 3,000 troops and a $180 million budget.
Retool LAF assistance and consider targeted sanctions. Given the realities of UN bureaucratic inertia and power structures, rallying support for these recommendations may be easier to do bilaterally with officials in the United States and, perhaps, Europe. Moreover, real change means reshaping not just UNIFIL, but international policy toward Hezbollah and the LAF. More nations need to follow the U.S. and British example of designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. The supposed environmental NGO “Green Without Borders”—a known facade for Hezbollah military operations—should be designated and sanctioned as well.
As for the LAF, even UN reports show how Lebanese commanders, units, and organs are deeply complicit with Hezbollah. Foreign officials may therefore wish to consider whether the recent U.S. designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is a worthwhile model for portions of Lebanon’s military. There is already sufficient evidence to sanction LAF Military Intelligence and certain individual officers for their affiliation with Hezbollah. At the very least, international support for the LAF should refocus on border security and counterterrorism, and aid should be conditioned on performance and personnel vetting.
Thirteen years’ worth of observation and practice is more than enough to recognize the system’s glaring flaws and the best means of fixing them. UNIFIL and the LAF can both be part of the solution, but only if they are dislodged from their current symbiosis with Hezbollah.
Brig. Gen. Assaf Orion, IDF (Res.), participated in the IDF-UNIFIL-LAF tripartite mechanism between 2006 and 2008. He also headed the IDF delegation to the tripartite talks between 2010 and 2015.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 12-13/2019
Israel’s participation in Gulf security force opens its 5th front against Iran
DEBKAFile/August 13/2019
Tehran is treating the planned Israeli role in the US-led Gulf defense force much as Israel would react to the sudden arrival in Beirut of an Iranian submarine fleet or the transfer of an Al-Qods brigade to Bint Jbeil in S. Lebanon – casus belli.
Since seizing power 40 years ago, the Islamic Republic of Iran has strived with all its might to distance the Americans and their allies from its land and maritime borders. However, US forces are not just staying in Syria, Iraq and the Arabian Gulf emirates, but have redeployed at Saudi bases and are preparing to co-opt Israel to the naval, aerial and intelligence force Washington is setting up to safeguard Gulf shipping.
Tehran therefore sees its most alarming foes rallying at its front and back doors and its most cherished defense strategy blowing away. This has spurred Iranian officials to issue almost daily warnings. Their message: “The illegitimate presence by the Zionists in the waters of the Persian Gulf could spark a war.” This no longer empty rhetoric; Iran may be expected to add Israeli vessels to its potential US, British, Saudi and UAE targets.
Iran’s claim to be the legitimate guardian of Gulf shipping including the Strait of Hormuz has always been the rationale of its national defense posture. Still, for years, Tehran took no notice of Western claims that Israel’s nuclear-armed Dolphin submarines had established a permanent presence in Gulf waters opposite Iran’s shores as a “second-strike” resource in case of an Iranian attack on the Jewish state. No such submarines were ever sighted; nor was their presence ever proven, which made it easy for the Iranians to turn a blind eye.
No longer is this possible since the US announced Israel’s participation in the Gulf defense force. The rules have changed. This change had its onset in Israel’s first attack in Iraq in the second half of July on an Iranian missile stock and command center. Tehran sees Israel’s Gulf role as the next step in the new game: the opening of a fifth front against Iran after Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Gibraltar denies Iran’s claim that seized tanker Grace 1 will be freed Tuesday
Reuters/Tuesday, 13 August 2019
A highly placed Gibraltarian government source denied on Tuesday an Iranian news agency report which said the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 would be leaving the British overseas territory on Tuesday.
British Royal Marines seized the tanker on July 4 off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory of Gibraltar on suspicion of violating EU sanctions by taking oil to Syria, which Tehran denies. Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency quoted unidentified Gibraltar authorities as saying the tanker would bee freed on Tuesday evening. A senior Gibraltarian government source said that report was not correct. Earlier, Gibraltar said it was seeking to de-escalate the situation. Britain said on Tuesday that investigations into the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 were a matter for Gibraltar. “The investigations being conducted around the Grace 1 are a matter for the government of Gibraltar,” a Foreign Office spokesman said. “As this is an ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment further.”

British-Iranian social anthropologist arrested: Iranian website
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday, 14 August 2019
A British-Iranian social anthropologist was arrested in Iran on Sunday, the Iran Wire website reported on Tuesday, citing his wife. Kameel Ahmady’s wife, Shafagh Rahmani, said that he hasn’t been charged yet and that she was not given any reason for his arrest, according to the website.The Iran Wire also reported that Iranian authorities told Rahmani that a security prosecutor based at Evin Prison in Tehran had presented Ahmady with a court order of a one-month detention. The Evin Prison has been the primary site for the housing of Iran’s political prisoners since 1972. There haven’t been any comments from the UK Foreign Office or the Iranian authorities, according to the website.Ahmady is an internationally renowned expert on female genital mutilation and child marriage. He has written several books and published studies on local cultures, women and children, and the rights of minorities in the Middle East, according to his website.

British warship sets sail for tanker escort mission in Gulf

Reuters, London/Monday, 12 August 2019
British warship HMS Kent set sail for the Gulf on Monday to join a US-led mission protecting commercial shipping vessels in the region amid heightened political tension between the West and Iran.
Britain has joined the United States in a maritime security mission in the Gulf to protect merchant vessels. That comes after Iran seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. On July 4 British marines seized an Iranian vessel, which is suspected of smuggling oil to Syria, off the coast of Gibraltar. “Our focus in the Gulf remains firmly one of de-escalating the current tensions,” said Andy Brown, the ship’s commanding officer. “But we are committed to upholding freedom of navigation and reassuring international shipping, which this deployment on operations aims to do.”The deployment was first announced last month and will see the Kent relieve another British ship, the Duncan, already working in the region. The US and the UK have announced an “international maritime security mission” to protect merchant vessels in the Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions, as P&O Cruises has cancelled cruises around Dubai and the Arabian Gulf in response to Iran seizing foreign vessels.

Iran’s Khamenei meets with Houthi spokesman Abdul Salam
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 13 August 2019
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei met with the spokesman of the Iranian-backed Houthi militia, Mohammed Abdul Salam, in Tehran on Tuesday, Khamenei’s official website reported. Earlier on Sunday, Fars News Agency posted in a tweet that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with the spokesman of the Iranian-backed Houthi militia, Mohammed Abdul Salam, in Tehran. Also on Sunday, Zarif traveled to Doha on Sunday to meet with Qatari officials, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). On Tuesday, the Arab Coalition said the Iranian-backed Houthi militia launched a drone from Sana’a that landed on civilians in Yemen’s Amran, adding that the “Houthis repeatedly lie by claiming to have targeted the Kingdom’s Abha airport.”

Gibraltar Seeking to De-Escalate Tensions with Iran
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 13 August, 2019
Gibraltar said on Tuesday it was seeking to de-escalate tensions with Iran following the impounding of the Grace 1 tanker. British Royal Marines seized the Iranian oil tanker on July 4 off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory of Gibraltar on suspicion of violating EU sanctions by taking oil to Syria, which Tehran denies. “We continue to seek to de-escalate issues arising since the lawful detention of Grace 1,” a spokesman for Gibraltar said. The current detention order on the vessel expires on Saturday night, the spokesman said. Earlier, Iran said Britain might free the Grace 1 soon, after some documents were exchanged that would help the seized ship’s release.“Britain is interested in releasing Iran’s oil tanker Grace 1 ... following the exchange of some documents, we hope the release will take place soon,” the deputy head of Iran’s ports and Maritime Organization, Jalil Eslami, said in remarks reported by IRNA news agency. Two weeks after the capture of the Iranian tanker, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a British tanker, Stena Impero, near the Strait of Hormuz, accusing it of marine violations. Britain considers that action to have been illegal retaliation.

Iran Says in Touch with Britain over Seized Tanker
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 13/2019
Iran's port authority said Tuesday it has been in contact with British authorities as part of efforts to secure the release of a tanker seized off Gibraltar. Gibraltar -- a British overseas territory -- seized the Grace 1 supertanker on July 4 with the help of British Royal Marines on suspicion it was shipping oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. A court in Gibraltar is to decide the fate of the ship on Thursday, when an order for its detention lapses. The deputy head of Iran's port authority, Jalil Eslami, said in a report by state news agency IRNA that Britain had shown an interest in overcoming the problem and documents had been exchanged.  "Efforts from Iran and the port organisation have been made for the release of this ship," he was quoted as saying. "I hope this problem will be resolved in the near future and that the ship can continue its movement with the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Gibraltar and US officials believed the tanker was destined for Syria to deliver oil, in violation of separate sets of EU and US sanctions. Iran called the seizure of the ship "piracy" and warned it would not let the interception go unanswered. On July 19, Iran's Revolutionary Guards impounded the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker in the strategic Strait of Hormuz for breaking "international maritime rules".

New Airport Rally as HK Leader Warns of 'Path of No Return'
Associated Press/Naharnet/August 13/2019
Hong Kong's leader warned pro-democracy protesters Tuesday against heading down "a path of no return", but they responded with a fresh rally at the city's airport a day after demonstrators triggered an unprecedented shutdown. The new gathering came as Beijing sent more ominous signals that the 10 weeks of unrest must end, with state-run media showing videos of security forces gathering across the border. The crisis, which has seen millions of people take to Hong Kong's streets, has become the biggest challenge to Chinese rule of the semi-autonomous city since its 1997 handover from Britain.
Hong Kong's pro-Beijing leader, Carrie Lam, gave an at-times emotional press conference on Tuesday morning in which she warned of dangerous consequences if escalating violence was not curbed. "Violence, no matter if it's using violence or condoning violence, will push Hong Kong down a path of no return, will plunge Hong Kong society into a very worrying and dangerous situation," Lam said. "The situation in Hong Kong in the past week has made me very worried that we have reached this dangerous situation." Lam, who faced fierce questioning from local reporters and at one point appeared to be on the verge of tears, appealed for calm. "Take a minute to think, look at our city, our home, do you all really want to see it pushed into an abyss," Lam said, although she again refused to make any concessions to the protesters.
Airport chaos
On Monday thousands of protesters filled Hong Kong's airport to denounce what they said were violent tactics by police in trying to quell weekend rallies. Hong Kong's airport authorities cancelled all flights on Monday afternoon. Operations resumed on Tuesday morning but passengers still faced transport chaos, with hundreds of flights cancelled or delayed. Hundreds of protesters, dressed in signature black T-shirts, then began flowing into the airport again on Tuesday afternoon, threatening further disruptions. They chanted: "stand with Hong Kong, stand for freedom," as passengers scrambling to catch rescheduled and delayed flights wheeled their luggage through the airport. Protesters had also put up posters and daubed graffiti that included the term "an eye for an eye". This was in reference to a serious facial injury that reportedly caused a woman to lose the vision in one eye at a demonstration that turned violent on Sunday night. The demonstrators accused police of causing the injury by firing a bean-bag round. The disruptions caused headaches for travellers, but many said they sympathised with the protesters. "The protesters are the loveliest people in the world," said Pete Knox, a 65-year-old Brit on his way to Vietnam. "I understand the basics of the protest and they've got a point: it's about freedom and democracy and it's incredibly important."
The protests began in opposition to a bill that would have allowed extraditions to the mainland, but quickly evolved into a broader bid to reverse a slide of rights and freedoms in the southern Chinese city. Authorities in Beijing on Monday slammed violent protesters who threw petrol bombs at police officers, linking them to "terrorism". On Tuesday state media upped the ante, calling protesters "mobsters", warning they must never be appeased and raising the spectre of mainland security forces intervening to quash them. The official state news agency Xinhua warned in a commentary Tuesday that "violent radicals" were pushing Hong Kong into an "abyss". In a video posted on its Weibo channel, a CCTV anchor warned viewers: "When dealing with terrorism, there is no soft hand". The stern words came as videos were promoted by state media of Chinese military and armoured vehicles appearing to gather in the southern city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong. A senior US administration official on Monday urged "all sides" to avoid violence. "Societies are best served when diverse political views are respected and can be freely and peacefully expressed," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Egypt Hosts Sudan Protest Leaders ahead of Landmark Deal

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 13/2019
Egypt wrapped up a two-day summit with Sudan's main protest leaders Tuesday, its foreign ministry said, days before they are due to sign an agreement paving the way for civilian rule in the country.
The "important meeting" brought together the Alliance for Freedom and Change, Sudan's umbrella protest movement and the driving force behind the protests since December, and the rebel groups of the Sudan Revolutionary Front. Its objective was "achieving peace" as the long-awaited deal is inked, the ministry said in a short statement on the discussions. The constitutional declaration scheduled to be formally signed on August 17 outlines the formation of a transitional civilian government and a parliament to govern for a three-year transition period. The agreement stipulates the formation of a joint civilian-military ruling body. The results of the Cairo discussions will be presented before the leaders of the powerful alliance in Khartoum, the statement added. Cairo has been a steadfast ally of Khartoum's military leaders after long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir was toppled on April 11 following months of protests. Last month, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with powerful Sudanese military General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, whose forces have been accused of carrying out a brutal crackdown on protesters in June.

Clashes kill nearly 60 fighters in northwest Syria: Monitor
AFP, Beirut/Tuesday, 13 August 2019
Clashes between regime loyalists and insurgents in rebel-held northwest Syria killed 59 combatants on Tuesday, a war monitor said. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an extremist group led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, has since January controlled most of Idlib province as well as parts of neighboring Hama, Aleppo and Latakia provinces. Several other armed rebel groups also operate in the region. Fighting in southern Idlib and rural Latakia on Tuesday claimed the lives of 29 pro-government forces as well as 30 extremists and allied rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
It came as regime warplanes pummeled the Idlib region with air strikes, killing three civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, the Britain-based monitor added. Regime forces and anti-government fighters have been caught in fierce battles in the region for days, as the former presses with an advance toward a strip straddling the Hama and Idlib governorates. On Sunday, regime forces seized the town of al-Habeet in Idlib’s southern countryside, in their first major ground advance in the province since an escalation on the jihadist-dominated enclave more than three months ago. The region was supposed to be protected from a massive government offensive by a Turkish-Russian buffer zone deal struck last September. But it has come under increasing bombardment by Damascus and its backer Moscow since the end of April that has killed 816 civilians, according to the Observatory. The violence has also pushed 400,000 people from their homes, according to the United Nations. Syria’s conflict has killed a total of more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.


The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 12-13/2019
Can Palestinians in Gaza Revolt Against Hamas?
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/August 13/2019
"Fifteen years ago, Hamas raised the slogan of 'Islam is the solution'.... Now, there is rampant corruption [under Hamas]. The corruption is in all institutions, including the judiciary and the police. Today, the corruption is organized and managed by Hamas. The corruption is at the top of the pyramid. It is the corruption of politics, the corruption in the administration, the corruption in employment, the corruption in relief aid." — Abu Safiyeh, a representative of the PLO's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in the Gaza Strip, in a Facebook post that caused his arrest.
The voices emerging from the Gaza Strip are anguished and reflect the Palestinians' growing sense of disillusionment with Hamas. These voices, however, are still small in numbers. Hamas's brutal methods of suppression and torture have deterred a large number of Palestinians from speaking out. These voices will grow only if the international community heeds them and calls out Hamas for its brutal crackdown on Palestinians.
Hamas is carrying out its current crackdown against Palestinian activists because it knows full well that the world will probably not utter a word. Why would it? Bashing Israel is much more rewarding than identifying Palestinian leaders as the champion violators of human rights that they are. Hamas's brutal methods of suppression and torture have deterred a large number of Palestinians from speaking out. Recently, a Palestinian activist detained by Hamas in Gaza apparently tried to commit suicide while in Hamas detention. Palestinians who have spent time in Hamas detention say they were subjected to various types of physical and psychological torture. Hamas leaders are scared. Of what? That Palestinians will return to the streets of the Gaza Strip to demand that their leaders govern rather than tyrannize. The living conditions of Palestinians in Gaza have gone from abysmal to worse.
That is why the leaders of Hamas recently ordered their security forces to detain several Palestinian activists for allegedly planning another wave of protests similar to those that swept the Gaza Strip earlier this year. Last March, Hamas security forces used excessive force to break up demonstrations held in various parts of the Gaza Strip under the banner "We Want to Live!"
The demonstrations were organized by Palestinians to protest the longstanding economic crisis, including soaring unemployment and increased taxes imposed by Hamas on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Dozens of Palestinians were injured and arrested during the demonstrations, including human rights activists and journalists. Hamas managed to crush the March protests, thereby drawing strong condemnations from many Palestinians who accused the rulers of the Gaza Strip of acting like ruthless dictators against peaceful demonstrators. Palestinian journalist and political analyst Hamadeh Faraneh said that Hamas has shown that it is not capable of ruling its people. "By resorting to repression and brutal force, Hamas has emerged as the loser," he said.
Palestinian professor Abdel Sattar Qassam denounced the Hamas crackdown on the peaceful demonstrations as "disgraceful," while several commentators in the Arab world lashed out at Hamas's "policy of breaking the bones" of its critics.
Hamas's rivals in Fatah, the West Bank-based ruling faction headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, also joined the chorus of critics. Osama Qawassmeh, a senior Fatah official, described the protests in the Gaza Strip as a "revolution of the hungry" against Hamas's corrupt and failed administration.
Since then, the situation in the Gaza Strip has seen no improvement, mainly because Hamas cares a great deal more about investing millions of dollars in amassing weapons and preparing for war against Israel than about its own people. Hamas's leaders have nothing to offer their people other than fiery anti-Israel rhetoric and empty promises, such as the pledge to "thwart" US President Donald Trump's upcoming Middle East peace plan, also known as the "Deal of the Century."
Aware of their embarrassing failure to alleviate the economic crisis or offer their people any kind of hope, Hamas leaders, once again, appear to be wary of the possibility that another wave of protests could erupt in the Gaza Strip.
As experience has shown, when the Hamas leaders are feeling unsettled, they issue instructions to their security forces and militiamen to act quickly against potential "troublemakers."
Several Palestinian political activists have been taken into custody by Hamas security officers in the past few days. They include: Amin al-Hajeen, Mohammed Kheir al-Din, Samed Abu al-Jidyan, Ghassan al-Arabeed, Mohammed Daher, and Shawkat Abu Safiyeh.
The detainees, known as outspoken critics of Hamas, are currently being interrogated by Hamas security forces on suspicion they were planning fresh protests against extreme economic hardship. Abu Safiyeh, a representative of the PLO's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in the Gaza Strip, was arrested after he published a Facebook post criticizing Hamas's corruption. Here are some of the things he wrote that landed him in prison:
"Fifteen years ago, Hamas raised the slogan of 'Islam is the solution' -- the solution to liberate all Palestine and not give up an inch; the solution to eliminate cronyism and corruption; the solution to bring economic and social security; the solution to a happy and enjoyable life. Hamas came to power through deception and after having misled the people. Now, there is rampant corruption [under Hamas]. The corruption is in all institutions, including the judiciary and the police. Today, the corruption is organized and managed by Hamas. The corruption is at the top of the pyramid. It is the corruption of politics, the corruption in the administration, the corruption in employment, the corruption in relief aid. "As for economic security, this is a major calamity that befell the Palestinian people in Gaza. Palestinians are lamenting their poverty. There are no businessmen left: they have either been arrested for unpaid debts or have fled the Gaza Strip or are standing in line to receive relief aid. As for Hamas officials and their affiliates, they have become owners of real estate, agencies and companies."
These are powerful words coming from a Palestinian living under Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. In fact, after his critique of Hamas, Abu Safiyeh is lucky that he is still alive.
Last week, reports surfaced that a Palestinian activist detained by Hamas had been rushed to hospital in critical condition. He had apparently tried to commit suicide while in Hamas detention. Palestinians who have spent time in Hamas detention say they were subjected to various types of physical and psychological torture.
A human rights group in the Gaza Strip called for setting up a commission of inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the detainee's purported attempt to take his own life. The appeal, however, is unlikely to leave an impression on the rulers of Hamas, whose only concern seems to be to ensure that no Palestinian dares to raise his or her voice against the corruption and repressive measures.
Commenting on Hamas's growing predicament and paranoia, former Palestinian Authority minister Hassan Asfour concluded:
"Hamas is well aware that its isolation in the Gaza Strip is increasing, and that it has become a burden on the people there. Hamas has totally failed in ruling and administering the Gaza Strip. Were it not for its security force, Hamas would have been uprooted without mercy."
The voices emerging from the Gaza Strip are anguished and reflect the Palestinians' growing sense of disillusionment with Hamas. These voices, however, are still small in numbers. Hamas's brutal methods of suppression and torture have deterred a large number of Palestinians from speaking out.
These voices will grow only if the international community heeds them and calls out Hamas for its brutal crackdown on Palestinians. This opposition, though, would require a shift in perspective: from obsession with the faults of Israel – whether real or imagined – to an interest in the real and deadly world of Hamas.
Unless Hamas's violent repression of its own people sparks some concern among the international community, the prospects of Palestinians revolting against their Hamas leaders are slim. Hamas is carrying out its current crackdown against Palestinian activists because it knows full well that the world will probably not utter a word. Why would it? Bashing Israel is much more rewarding than identifying Palestinian leaders as the champion violators of human rights that they are.
*Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
© 2019 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.

Russia Moves in on Sudan
Debalina Ghoshal/Gatestone Institute/August 13/2019
Moscow has reportedly signed a "draft military agreement" with Sudan, "to facilitate entry of Russian and Sudanese warships to the ports of the two nations." According to Maj. Gen. Al-Hadi Adam Musa, head of Sudan's parliamentary subcommittee on Defense, Security and Public Order, "This deal will pave the way for more agreements and greater cooperation... possibly a Russian base on the Red Sea."
Russia also "is looking at establishing a logistics base in Eritrea" and has reached a "draft agreement with Egypt for Russian warplanes to use Egyptian military bases."
It is crucial for the West not only to keep a close watch on Moscow's moves in Sudan, but to prevent Russia from increasing its influence in the region.
Given Russia's increasing diplomatic and military efforts to upgrade its presence in Africa, it came as no surprise when Russia backed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during the popular protests that sparked Bashir's removal him from power on April 11. Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Bashir in Sochi, Russia on November 23, 2017.
In January, three months before the April 11 military coup in Sudan that ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir after 30 years of iron-fisted rule, Moscow reportedly signed a "draft military agreement" with Sudan, "to facilitate entry of Russian and Sudanese warships to the ports of the two nations." According to Maj. Gen. Al-Hadi Adam Musa, head of Sudan's parliamentary subcommittee on Defense, Security and Public Order, "This deal will pave the way for more agreements and greater cooperation... possibly a Russian base on the Red Sea."
This draft agreement followed other defense discussions between Russian President Vladimir Putin and al-Bashir. According to a recent report in The Arab Weekly:
"Al-Bashir has been talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin about a possible Russian military presence in Sudan since the pair met in November 2017. During their meeting, al-Bashir offered to construct an airbase for Russia on the Red Sea coast and to re-equip the Sudanese Army with Russian weapons, including SU-30 fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles...
More extraordinarily, during an interview with RIA Novosti, al-Bashir requested that Putin protect him from 'US aggression,' which intended to divide Sudan into five countries."
These reports point to Russia's increasing diplomatic and military efforts to upgrade its presence in Africa.
It came as no surprise, then, when Russia backed al-Bashir during the popular protests to remove him from power. Moscow's support for anti-American regimes is nothing new, as is illustrated by its fight to keep Syrian President Bashar Assad in power, and its attempt to preserve the illegitimate rule of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Russia's interest in setting up a naval base in Sudan may have been sparked by Djibouti's rejection of its request in 2016 to make permanent its temporary maritime presence in the country, where the Russian Navy was "using Djibouti as part of a UN anti-piracy effort."
To take advantage of its gold-mining contracts and gas-exploration agreements with Khartoum -- and the possible construction of a Russian oil refinery in Sudan -- Russia may feel the need for its own port in the Red Sea.
Russian may also be interested in playing mediator between Sudan and its estranged neighbors, Eritrea and Egypt, with which Moscow enjoys cordial relations. A naval base in Sudan would facilitate this process, especially as Russia also "is looking at establishing a logistics base in Eritrea" and has reached a "draft agreement with Egypt for Russian warplanes to use Egyptian military bases."
In addition, Russia offered in 2018 to act as a mediator in the civil war in Yemen. A strong military foothold in the Red Sea would enhance its ability to do so.
A key challenge for Russia at this point is the transitional government-in-formation in Sudan, which seems friendlier to Riyadh and Washington than to Moscow.
Nevertheless, in the immediate aftermath of Bashir's ouster, Russia announced that it recognized Sudan's interim Military Transitional Council (MTC) that replaced him. Since then, "Russia said it's in talks with Sudan's ruling military and the opposition in a bid to help defuse the standoff that's led to a violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators" -- again inserting itself as a "mediator" in the internecine strife of a foreign country.
It is crucial for the West not only to keep a close watch on Moscow's moves in Sudan, but to prevent Russia from increasing its influence in the region.
*Debalina Ghoshal is an India-based non-resident fellow at the Council on International Policy in Canada. She is also an Asia Pacific Fellow with the East West Institute.
© 2019 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.

Tech Companies Want Out of the Censorship Business
Elaine Ou/Bloomberg/August 13/2019
Data can be a liability as well as an asset. It’s great for ad targeting or fraud detection; it’s problematic when the possessor is expected to police it. Duties range from reporting the blatantly illegal to blocking the undesirable to plumbing the murky depths of content moderation.
Most tech companies are ill-equipped to deal with matters outside of technology and engineering issues. On Monday, security company Cloudflare terminated services for 8chan after the forum was implicated in inspiring recent mass shootings. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince expressed discomfort over being an arbiter of content, while explaining that 8chan’s removal “takes the heat off of us.”
Tech executives generally don’t want the burden of setting boundaries for internet discourse. It’s a thankless job on par with being a soccer referee or a schoolmarm. A quick look at Jack Dorsey’s Twitter mentions shows a constant barrage of angry tweets complaining about Twitter’s content moderation policies. As one friendly user put it, “@jack does it feel weird that everyone on the site you created hates you?”
No wonder Mark Zuckerberg requested government regulatory standards for harmful content.
With all the debate over what material is fit for public consumption, some platform providers have opted for a solution that preemptively takes power out of their own hands. Messaging apps like Telegram and Signal employ end-to-end encryption, preventing non-participants from viewing a conversation (theoretically even the company, though in practice hackers can get access). App providers cannot be expected to moderate conversations that they can’t see.
Then there are decentralized social networks like Mastodon and Diaspora. They are similar to Twitter and Facebook, but instead of residing on a centralized platform, the content is distributed across online communities, each hosted on an independent server.
Once such software is created, it’s difficult to set rules about how it can be used. Mastodon was founded to enable active moderation beyond what Twitter could provide, by empowering those communities to police themselves; its founders were dismayed to see their software appropriated by the hands-off social network Gab. Creators of decentralized platforms cannot delete content, because they don’t control the servers.
That’s how 8chan found its way back online without Cloudflare, using an application called ZeroNet. ZeroNet is a peer-to-peer hosting service that downloads website material on behalf of visitors, then serves it back up as a decentralized content delivery network. This effectively performs the same function as Cloudflare, but rather than a single company controlling hundreds of servers, each server belongs to a unique visitor.
Censorship-resistant services have provided refuge for sex workers when a new law tried to prevent free speech about their industry, and more recently for protesters in Hong Kong. Then again, Diaspora and Telegram have both been used by ISIS.
Decentralized platforms represent the resilient communications system that the internet was intended to be. As a result, obnoxious opinions don’t simply disappear when they’re removed from mainstream service providers. As undesirables are removed from social networks, they find like-minded individuals in darker corners of the web. is often described as a “safe haven” for right-wing extremists, even though its founder emphasizes that the site welcomes dissidents of all stripes. The people who seek refuge in Gab tend to be those who have been banned from Twitter, and it just so happens that a lot of them represent the far right.
Similarly, 8chan gained traction as a haven for those who had been censored on 4chan, which had previously served as a refuge for those who had been banned by SomethingAwful, a rather dark site to begin with.
Facebook moderators have told of the mental distress suffered after viewing relentlessly awful content. This must be what it’s like to be an 8chan user. If society wants to reform radical extremists, it’s probably not a good idea to force them into a cesspool with other radical extremists. Spend enough time in a cesspool, and eventually that cesspool starts seeming normal.
Social media bubbles do this to everyone, to some extent. The White House has accused social media companies of an anti-conservative bias; from the perspective of a right-leaning president, Silicon Valley probably does seem anti-conservative. On the other hand, Facebook, Twitter, and Google repeatedly deny that their platforms are biased. Engineers in Silicon Valley may honestly believe that their opinions are representative of political neutrality.
Banning extremists from social media platforms can prevent their ideas from poisoning the public well; however, the containment strategy can render it impossible for extremists to be “renormalized” by polite society. They’ll find a place to exist no matter what, so heavy-handed moderation may end up doing more harm than good.
As former president Barack Obama said to the UN, "the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression; it is more speech.” It may be better to have the nasty voices on major social networks where they can perhaps be redeemed, not just applauded by a few like-minded nasties.

The Men Responsible for the AMIA Bombing Are Known—and Still at Large
الذين فجروا عام 1994 مبنى مركز الجالية اليهودية في الأرجنتين “آميا”لم يتم اعتقالهم حتى الآنماثيو ليفيت/موقع موزايك (فسيفساء)/12 آب/2019
Matthew Levitt/Mosaic site/August 12/2019

Occupying positions from the highest rungs of the Iranian government to agents and operatives in the field, the terrorists have been rewarded, not punished.
In his strongly worded essay for Mosaic, Avi Weiss meticulously documents the painful history of the cover-up of the devastating July 1994 bombing of the AMIA building in Buenos Aires—“the largest single attack,” as he puts it, “against a Jewish community in the Diaspora since the Holocaust,” leaving 85 dead and hundreds wounded.
The cover-up was not entirely successful. Despite the dysfunction of the early Argentinean investigation into the bombing, the eventual removal of corrupt politicians and judges did allow a new team of prosecutors to produce, against all odds, a definitive accounting of the plot and its perpetrators. Its conclusion was crystal-clear:
The decision to carry out the AMIA attack was made, and the attack was orchestrated, by the highest officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the time, and . . . these officials instructed Lebanese Hizballah—a group that has historically been subordinated to the economic and political interests of the Tehran regime—to carry out the attack.
But that still leaves much undone. Despite the publication of three detailed reports on the AMIA bombing itself, on the role of Hizballah, and on Iranian agents in Argentina, not one of the key suspects has been apprehended, let alone tried or convicted. To the contrary: the failure to hold Iran or Hizballah accountable for the bombing has had adverse real-life repercussions for Argentinean politics and society—not to mention the country’s Jewish community. At the same time, it has positively reinforced and emboldened the leaders of Iran and Hizballah.
Indeed, several individuals who were personally involved in the AMIA bombing have since been promoted through the ranks to senior positions within the Iranian government or Hizballah. This includes not only senior Iranian officials but also less known but more operationally significant Iranian and Hizballah agents.
In sum, those who executed the AMIA bombing 25 years ago continue to oversee international terrorist operations today. In what follows, I’ll cite chapter and verse, beginning with the senior Iranian officials indicted by Argentina, several of whom are also subjects of Interpol Red Notice warrants and whose cases are relatively well known.
One of these senior officials is Ali Akbar Velayati, who was Iran’s foreign minister during the AMIA bombing and would be charged by Argentine prosecutors with double aggravated homicide as an “ideological mastermind behind the attack.” Still today a “fixture of Iran’s post-revolutionary politics,” Velayati has served as head of Iran’s Center for Strategic Research, chairman of the board of trustees of Islamic Azad University, and a long-time foreign-policy adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. In 2013, he ran as a candidate for president of Iran.
Then there is Major General Mohsen Rezaee who, as commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), helped orchestrate both the AMIA attack and, less than two years earlier, the bombing of the Israel embassy in Buenos Aires. In the decades following these attacks, Rezaee has served as secretary of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council, chair of the commission for macroeconomics and commerce, and a reviewer of Iran’s 2025 development plans. Rezaee, too, ran for the Iranian presidency in 2013.
The most egregious example of all is the Iranian military commander Ahmad Vahidi, one of five prominent Iranians wanted by Interpol for involvement in the AMIA bombing. In 2008, the European Union froze his personal assets and barred his entry into EU countries.
At the time of the attack, Vahidi was commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, From 2009 to 2013, he served as minister of defense under President Ahmadinejad. “Iran has always protected terrorists, giving them government posts, but I think never one as high as this one,” said Alberto Nisman, the late Argentinian prosecutor.
Perhaps it is no surprise that Tehran—not known for its firm commitment to the rule of law in the first place—has been willing and able not only to shield people like Velayati, Rezaee, and Vahidi from justice but to promote them to senior political positions within the regime.
What should surprise us, however, is that some of the most important Iranian and Hizballah foot soldiers who helped carry out the AMIA bombing on the ground in Buenos Aires have also evaded justice and risen to become higher-ranking officials within their terrorist organizations. Worse still, they continue to plot international attacks.
Let’s turn to two of them.
The first is Mohsen Rabbani, who Argentinean prosecutors concluded was the driving force behind Iran’s intelligence efforts in Argentina leading up to the AMIA bombing. For over a decade after arriving in the country in 1983, according to Nisman’s comprehensive 2006 report, Rabbani worked to recruit a network of spies. Indeed, just prior to moving to South America, he had met in Iran with Abolghasem Mesbahi, an Iranian intelligence official who would later defect and to whom Rabbani explained that he was being dispatched “in order to create support groups for exporting the Islamic revolution.”
Subsequently indicted for his role in the AMIA bombing, Rabbani fled to Iran where he remained actively involved in South American operations. According to U.S. court documents, Rabbani also helped four men of Latin American descent who were plotting to bomb New York’s Kennedy International Airport. In a handwritten 2006 letter to Rabbani, one of these plotters, Abdul Kadir, agreed to perform a “mission” to determine whether a group of individuals in Guyana and Trinidad were up to some unidentified task. Kadir, authorities would later determine, was running an intelligence-collection operation in Guyana for his handler Rabbani. Authorities arrested Kadir in Trinidad on June 2, 2007, aboard a plane headed to Venezuela en route to Iran.
In April 2011, a report in the Brazilian magazine Veja cited FBI, CIA, Interpol, and other sources on terrorist activity in Brazil, warning that Rabbani “frequently slips in and out of Brazil on a false passport and has recruited at least 24 youngsters in three Brazilian states to attend ‘religious formation’ classes in Tehran.” In the words of one Brazilian official quoted in the magazine, “Without anybody noticing, a generation of Islamic extremists is appearing in Brazil.”
Two years later, Nisman released a new 500-page report focusing on how the Iranian regime had, since the early 1980s, built and maintained “local clandestine intelligence stations designed to sponsor, foster, and execute terrorist attacks” in the western hemisphere. According to the report, Rabbani continued to oversee Iran’s Latin American operations, tasked with setting up intelligence and espionage networks, directing propaganda operations, and in general “export[ing] the revolution.” He also played a direct role in negotiating Iran’s notorious 2013 “truth commission” deal with the Kirchner administration in Argentina, aimed, as Weiss recounts, at sweeping under the carpet Iran’s involvement in the AMIA attack.
Next, Salman Raouf Salman (also known as Salman el-Reda). A Hizballah operative and one of Rabbani’s most trusted lieutenants in Argentina, Salman was a Colombian national of Lebanese decent who according to U.S. authorities served as the AMIA attack’s on-the-ground coordinator. Information provided by the Argentine intelligence service, and cited in the AMIA indictment, suggested he had also been involved in the 1992 bombing of the Israel embassy in Buenos Aires. But as that earlier attack was itself never seriously investigated, Salman was able to continue plotting in the lead-up to the AMIA bombing.
On July 1, 1994, two-and-a-half weeks before the AMIA bombing, Salman personally met the members of the Hizballah hit team as they arrived at the Buenos Aires international airport. While there, according to the Argentinean prosecutors, he placed a call to Hizballah agents coordinating the plot from the Brazilian side of the tri-border area where Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil meet. The purpose of the call was “to report that the Hizballah operatives had arrived as planned.”
Salman used both his own and his in-laws’ homes in Buenos Aires as safe houses for the Hizballah cell, shuttling between these and other Hizballah safe houses in the tri-border area to coordinate the planned operation. As an FBI report on the AMIA bombing confirms, he also made repeated calls apprising senior Hizballah operatives in Lebanon of the status of the planning.
On July 17, the day before the attack, phoning from the vicinity of the garage where the car bomb was being kept just blocks from the AMIA site, Mohsen Rabbani called Salman at a mosque in Buenos Aires. The call lasted a mere 26 seconds, “just the amount of time,” prosecutors would later comment, “that would have been necessary to confirm the success of a key phase of the operation.” The next day, Salman made a final phone call before boarding a flight out of the country. Two hours and twelve minutes later, the Hizballah suicide bomber detonated his truck bomb at the AMIA community center.
In the years that followed, Salman served as an active member of Hizballah’s Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO), the group’s international terrorist apparatus, also known as the External Security Organization (ESO). He was especially active in Southeast Asia and South America, including in a flurry of operational missions in 1997 with three visits to Panama, two to Colombia, and one to Brazil.
In 2014, a Hizballah operative arrested in Peru identified Salman as his handler overseeing the terrorist group’s activities. The targets assigned to the apprehended operative, according to the U.S. government, “included places associated with Israelis and the Jewish community in Peru, as well as areas popular with Israeli backpackers, the Israeli embassy in Lima, and Jewish community institutions.”
Since 2010, in addition, Hizballah operatives carried out pre-operational surveillance of U.S. and Israeli interests in Panama in 2011 and 2012; a Hizballah plot was thwarted in Bolivia in 2017; and another Hizballah operative has since been convicted of carrying out pre-operational surveillance in New York City. Salman is believed to be tied to these plots as well—and is known by U.S. authorities to have played a “direct role in a recent terrorist plot targeting innocent civilians in Chile and Peru.”
Salman is among those subject to an Interpol Red Notice arrest warrant, but otherwise received scant attention until recently. This year, to mark the 25th anniversary of the AMIA bombing, the U.S. government chose to highlight him as an example of what happens when terrorists are not held accountable for their actions. In July, the Treasury Department designated Salman as an international terrorist, and the State Department, in line with its Rewards for Justice program, offered $7 million for information leading to his arrest.
If nothing else, these actions underscore just how high up Salman has climbed on the ladder of Hizballah leaders. As the department’s “WANTED” poster confirms, he “directs and supports Hizballah terrorist activities in the western hemisphere [and] has also been involved in plots worldwide. The ESO is the Hizballah element responsible for planning, coordination, and execution of terrorist attacks outside of Lebanon. The attacks have primarily targeted Israelis and Americans.”
The failure to investigate the 1992 bombing of the Israel embassy in Buenos Aires meant that Mohsen Rabbani and Salman Raouf Salman faced few, if any, obstacles as they planned the AMIA bombing less than two years later. Following the latter attack, and the cover-up of that attack by Argentinean leaders, Rabbani and Salman continued to rise through the ranks of their organizations and to plot still more attacks around the world and especially in our hemisphere.
The painful but logical extension of this failure has meant in turn that July 18 is no longer the anniversary of just one Hizballah terrorist attack but two. On July 18, 2012, a Hizballah bus bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria claimed the lives of six innocents: five Israeli tourists and their local Muslim bus driver.
At long last, after more low points like the murder of AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman in 2015, the Argentinian government this year designated Hizballah as a terrorist group and has taken action targeting the group’s illicit financial activities. That should be a signal for Europe especially, where a series of Hizballah and Iranian plots has been only narrowly averted, to bring to justice the relevant Hizballah and Iranian agents.
One thing is blindingly clear: as Avi Weiss repeatedly emphasizes in his essay, a failure to hold Iran and Hizballah accountable now will only ensure further such plots in the future.
*Matthew Levitt directs the Jeanette and Eli Reinhard program on counterterrorism and intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where he is also the Fromer-Wexler senior fellow. A former U.S. intelligence official, Levitt is the author of Hizballah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Mother of Islamist Terror Groups
مضر زهران: جماعة الإخوان المسلمين هم أم جماعات الإرهاب الإسلامية
Mudar Zahran/American Thinker/August 13/2019

When the average American hears the term “radical Islamists” or thinks “terrorism,” the first notion that comes to mind is groups like Al Qaeda, ISIS, Taliban, or Hamas.
In reality, the world’s wholesale terror producer is none of the above, is headquartered in Jordan, works hand-in-hand with the monarchy there, and has evil tentacles that stretch across the globe wherever democracy and free choice thrive. Named the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), they are the quintessential terrorist organization, and are evil by sheer definition – they, strike fear into the hearts of man.
Unknown to many Americans, the MB was established over 80 years ago in Egypt, and is clearly the largest, most organized, wide-spread and best-financed radical Muslim group in the world today.
The MB is so large and important to the history of the region that they boast a very specialized group of graduates: Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Zawahiri, and ISIS caliph Abu Baker Baghdadi – to name a few.
Osama Bin Laden was personally indoctrinated and trained by Jordanian MB leader, Dr. Abdullah Azzam. Terrorism is so accepted, supported and encouraged by the Jordanian Monarchy, that Bin Laden was allowed to freely travel to Jordan to receive a “moral education from Azzam.” I remember as a teenager in Jordan seeing a weird looking tall man wearing a turban driving around my neighborhood in his Chevy with Saudi license plates. Eventually, that man became responsible for the 911 terrorist attacks, his name was Osama Ben Laden. And he was visiting Dr. Azzam who lived on our block in AlJubiha, Amman.
Ayman Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s second in command, who is still alive, began his terroristic career as an MB member in Egypt.
ISIS’s caliph, Abu Baker Baghdadi, was also an MB member according to statements issued by ISIS itself.
The MB’s operations as a “terror university’ is so commonplace, interwoven and approved in Jordan that graduates openly do political business with the king’s regime.
In fact, many forget that Hamas was originally founded as the “Palestine Chapter of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood”. This was confirmed by Osama Abu Irshaid, a Jordanian, PhD in his dissertation at a renowned British university.
The evil spawned by the MB has spread throughout the Middle East, and since its inception, has proudly carried out hundreds of terror attacks against Israeli civilians. The MB has also been a strong participant in the creation of at least 2 wars between Israel and Gaza along with dozens of skirmishes, and their Hamas branch was responsible for carrying out a bloody coup in 2006 when it took Gaza by force and butchered Palestinian civilians.
One of the things that makes the MB so effective is the value of the “AlWalaa Wal Taa” or “Loyalty and obedience” concept. The MB controls their ranks with that concept, and as such, their global headquarters are in plain sight in downtown Amman, and they have been rewarded with friendship with a corrupt Hashemite king who has turned his back on their activities because he profits financially.
All this is happening with open approval, while most Arab states and internationally recognized nations ban the MB and designate it as a terror organization. To add insult to injury, the King of Jordan has been ignoring open calls from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to ban the MB.
One of the king’s ministers, Bassam Hadaddin, has said in an AlJazeera interview that “The Muslim Brotherhood is a part of the Hashemite regime”.
So, if the MB is outlawed in other countries, why are they so important to Jordan’s king? First, they operate outside the military, as a sort of para-military squad that operates at the King’s request and protects him from being overthrown. For example, the MB stood up for him during the November 2012 Jordanian revolution, attacking protesters while proclaiming: “We won’t allow the King to fall”.
Second, the king knows that his time is up, and in rigged elections, handed the Jordanian parliament over to the MB in what can only be described as a scorched earth policy. Although Jordan is made up of over 75% Palestinians who hate the MB with a passion, despite their hatred for Israe, during the last elections, the king who hand picks all candidates allowed the MB to gain just under half of the Parliamentary seats available. Additionally, the MB’s governing board (Majlis Shura) has only 3 Jordanians of Palestinian heritage on it out of 100 members. Combined, Jordan’s Palestinian majority are not represented by the Hashemite’s or the MB, and it’s no wonder that the people are revolting against the King – he has embraced an enemy of the people, the MB.
With this backing and support, the very westernized King helps the MB promote their hatred against America, and Jews, as well as all those who oppose him and his reign because it benefits him. For example, while the king openly bans most forms of secular political movements, its ok to demonstrate and promote antisemitism, and this allows the MB to operate their TV stations, newspapers and a $3 billion trust fund in broad daylight. This allows his subjects to ‘vent’ — but at Jews, not him, allowing him to hide the truth from his people as to the real status of a bankrupt Jordan.
Additionally, with the King’s help and knowledge, the MB uses mosques and recruiting centers to preach terror and hatred against the West, the US, Israel and Jews. This means that MB values are fully commissioned and approved by the King’s regime, because with clampdowns on free press, it is impossible to operate without the King’s knowledge and permission.
This is not a case of a weak king playing an anti-Israeli/anti-US rhetoric to appease the public. He is leading this, not following it. The king appeared on TV, wearing his military uniform, saying “Israel is butchering our children every five minutes in Jerusalem and Gaza” and blaming it on Zionists.
The king is using the MB very efficiently, he’s mobilizing the evil they stand for to support terrorism, violence and instability in the region. The King and the MB are using their resources to promote antisemitism, hatred for America and stall the peace process, putting people’s lives in jeopardy.
There are other Arab regimes who support the MB. Qatar, for example, has been the MB’s cash cow. It’s TV network, Aljazeera, has been the MB’s mouthpiece. In fact, Qatar makes no secret of its ties to MB leaders.
It is essential for America’s security to declare the MB a terror organization. US legislators must treat this as a priority. It is also vital that the US straightens out Arab dictators who support the MB, and consider plan Bs for ailing Arab dictators who have built their thrones on MB support at the expense of regional stability.
*Mudar Zahran is the Secretary General of the Jordan Opposition Coalition

Saudi Journalist: Why Do Arabs And Muslims Criticize The West – When In The West They Enjoy Equality And Full Human Rights, And Attain High-Level Positions?
MEMRI/August 13/2019
In an August 1, 2019 article in the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily, Saudi journalist Mishal Al-Sudairy considered why fundamentalist Arabs and Muslims accuse Western countries of racism even though they are home to millions of Arabs and Muslims who enjoy full human rights and even hold high-level positions such as government minister and mayor. While he agreed that the West was involved in wars and had committed serious crimes, he added that it had mended its ways and continues to lead humanity on the road to progress, democracy, and human rights. He concluded by quoting an Iraqi author who had once hinted that Arabs who choose a religious state for themselves but themselves prefer to live in the secular West are hypocritical.
The following are translated excerpts from Al-Sudairy's article:
"... I hope that no one will think that this article of mine is simply mockery, or, heaven forfend, an attack [on the Arab world]. But I would like to state things clearly. The West, whether we like it or not, continues to lead the course of humanity toward progress, after discarding the constraints of superstition, from the Renaissance to this day. It's true that it was involved in horrifying and serious wars, but it quickly mended its ways, using democracy and human rights to help it do so.
"I was compelled to write [this article] today after hearing by chance from a fundamentalist [Muslim] who was pouring out his rage at the 'colonialist' Western countries. [He claimed] that they are scheming against the Arab and Muslim countries with the aim of preventing them from advancing. This, he said, is because – pay attention – they 'fear them'! He cited Britain as an example, and stressed its racism, [adding]... that it is the 'source of all disasters,' according to him.
"I was surprised [by his sentiment], and wondered how he could accuse [Britain] of racism while millions of Arabs and Muslims live there lawfully, it has thousands of mosques, and numerous women in hijab and even niqab are out in its streets – and the English allow them to do this...
"He may not be aware that the current British prime minister [Boris Johnson] is of Muslim-Turkish origin, and that in an interview... with the Egyptian MBC TV he spoke about his family's historic roots in Egypt, where his grandfather worked as a cotton grower in the [Nile] Delta.
"Does he know that [British Chancellor of the Exchequer] Sajid Javid, who is of Pakistani-Islamic origin, was a minister in various ministries [in Britain], including the Home Office?! Does he know that London Mayor [Sadiq Khan] is a Muslim, that Lord Mayor of Birmingham [Mohammed Azim] is a Muslim, that Blackburn Council Leader [Mohammed Khan] is a Muslim, that the [former] Sheffield lord mayor [Magid Magid] is a Muslim, that the [former] Oxford lord mayor [Mohammed Altaf-Khan, currently Deputy Lord Mayor] is a Muslim, that Luton Mayor [Naseem Ayub] is a Muslim, that the [former London Borough of] Waltham [Forest] mayor [Saima Mahmud] is a Muslim [woman], and that Rochdale Mayor [Mohammed Zaman] is a Muslim?!
"The late [Iraqi author] Dr. Ali Al-Wardi said: If the Arabs were asked to choose between a secular state and a religious state, they would vote for a religious state but go live in a secular state...'"[1]
[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, (London), August 1, 2019.

MbS and MbZ: Could Yemen crisis end the Saudi-UAE partnership?
سيمون هندرسن/موقع الهيل: محمد بن سلمان ومحمد بن زايد: ترة هل الأزمة في اليمن ستكون السبب في انهاء الشراكة السعودية -الأمارتية
Simon Henderson/The Hill/August 13/2019

One of the “givens” of the new Middle East that has emerged in the past four years is the close partnership between Saudi Arabia and its smaller Gulf neighbor, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). More particularly, it has been the close personal relationship between its two de facto leaders, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, the richest emirate in the UAE.
“MbS” and “MbZ,” as they are called, are two significant characters in the dramas of today’s regional conflicts. Crucially for Washington, their views on issues ranging from the threat of Iran and the possibilities for Middle East Peace overlap considerably (although not totally) with those of the White House.
But things may be changing. The relationship is being tested and many players, as well as observers, are watching closely. The knock-on effects could affect the region from the sands of Libya to the Strait of Hormuz. A common thread is oil.
This week the focus is on Yemen, where both have been trying to reestablish the internationally recognized government for four years. It’s complicated: Basically, since 2015, Houthi rebels have controlled the capital, Sana, while the government has tried to function from the southern port city of Aden.
But last weekend, separatists in Aden, with the apparent support of the UAE, forced the remnants of the government to flee to the Saudi capital, Riyadh. It is clear that, policy-wise, Saudi Arabia and the UAE no longer are — choose your metaphor — on the same page or backing the same team.
Hence, there was considerable attention paid yesterday to the visit by MbZ to Mecca, where MbS’s father King Salman is hosting dignitaries who visit the holy city for the annual hajj pilgrimage. MbZ was greeted at the airport, apparently warmly, by a protocol prince and then headed for a meeting with the Saudi monarch. MbS and MbZ also reportedly had a separate meeting.
The Saudi position, at least publicly, is to call on Yemenis to dialogue “to defuse the crisis.” We await details about what that may mean, but it suggests that Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi is being encouraged to talk to those who have just kicked his forces out of Yemen. It does not appear to mean that anyone should talk to the Houthis — Riyadh, along with Abu Dhabi, view them as Iranian proxies. The Houthis certainly are supported by Tehran but whether they are “backed,” or “supplied” is a matter of considerable diplomatic and journalistic debate.
It was hard to assess MbZ’s facial expression in the official photos of his meetings with King Salman and MbS. The Arab keffiyeh (headdress) masked his face. More revealing, perhaps, was the photo on the front page of today’s Arab News, the main Saudi English-language newspaper, which shows a serious-faced MbZ trying to make a point to MbS, who is looking towards the ground.
Whether this latter photo was taken yesterday or during a previous meeting is not clear, but it does illustrate how the Yemen crisis is being spun. The apparent facts seem to be a difference on tactics, which now have created a strategic setback. The narrative we are being encouraged to believe is that MbS and MbZ, as well as their countries, are as close as ever.
The abstemious and cautious MbZ has been a crucial supporter of MbS ever since King Salman ascended to the Saudi throne in January 2015 and MbS started his meteoric rise to defense minister, deputy crown prince, crown prince and now essentially king in all but name. Along the way there has been the arrests of princes and businessmen in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton, as well as the killing of the dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. MbS’s spending, including on a yacht and a chateau, also extended to buying Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” which he gifted to MbZ.
At one time, articles described MBZ as MbS’s mentor, or their relationship as a “bromance,” but the Saudi prince increasingly appears to be immune from accepting advice and guidance. Yemen probably still is a sideshow in the drama of the Middle East, but even before the latest events the UAE had started to draw down on its involvement in getting rid of the Houthi regime in Sana. MbZ is judged to be satisfied with a separate South Yemen emerging. Whether this is part of MbS’s vision, or whether he is prepared to accept new realities, is the immediate question.
*Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Follow him on Twitter @shendersongulf.
Tags Mohammad bin Salman King Salman Yemeni Crisis Houthi insurgency in Yemen Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates

Turkey’s Rising Wave of Social Protests
سونر كاجابتاي ودنيز يوكسل/معهد واشنطن: تصاعد موجهة الإحتجاجات الشعبية في تركيا
Soner Cagaptay with Deniz Yuksel/The Washington Institute/August 13/2019

This year’s Istanbul election and last year’s move to a presidential system have unified and galvanized the opposition, raising questions about Erdogan’s next move.
Ever since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered a rout in Istanbul’s June 23 mayoral race, Turkey has witnessed a rise in anti-government protests, mostly focusing on environmental issues. The wave of peaceful demonstrations—the country’s largest since the 2013 Gezi Park rallies—suggests a newfound vitality among the opposition, with potentially deep implications for Turkey’s democracy.
In May 2013, a small group of environmentalists started a demonstration in downtown Istanbul’s Gezi Park, protesting the government’s decision to turn the park into a shopping mall. Police brutality against this group soon sparked Turkey’s largest protest movement in recent history—some 2.5 million citizens joined anti-government rallies that erupted in seventy-nine of the country’s eighty-one provinces and lasted for weeks. The government cracked down on these rallies as well, resulting in over a dozen deaths among protestors and police alike. When the demonstrations ended that August, a new era had begun in Turkey, with the police subsequently cracking down on even the smallest anti-government rally.
The ground may be shifting again this summer, however. On July 26, a small group of activists staged a peaceful protest against a gold mining project in the Ida Mountains in west Turkey. Environmentalists say the mine, which will be built through a public-private partnership, will cause mass deforestation, pollute land and water resources, and devastate the local ecosystem. Public outrage swelled when the TEMA Foundation, a Turkish NGO formed to combat soil erosion, revealed that upwards of 195,000 trees had been cut down ahead of construction—more than four times the number promised by the mining company and approved by the Ministry of Energy and National Resources.
Within days, the rally grew to tens of thousands, and protestors began calling for a halt in construction and greater public consultation on environmental issues. Energized by their shared victory in the June 23 Istanbul election, the political opposition has adopted an active role in the demonstration, with members of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and the IYI Party attending. In doing so, these politicians have downplayed their partisan identities and presented a united front.
The protests came to the forefront of domestic politics on August 5, when activists formed a kilometer-long procession called the “Great Water and Conscience Meeting” near the construction site. Hundreds of activists remain camped in the area, organizing nightly forums to discuss their demands and busing in more demonstrators daily from surrounding areas. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Turks have expressed their support online with the hashtag #KazdaginaDokunma (“Don’t touch the Ida Mountains”), and nearly half a million have signed a petition to halt the project. Indeed, participants in the demonstration hail from all over Turkey, including local residents, politicians, environmentalists, civil society organizations, students, and artists.
Other environmental issues have united the opposition recently as well. The government’s June decision to start filling the Ilisu Dam reservoir in the southeast has aroused criticism from a broad coalition of activists and politicians concerned about the irreversible ecological and cultural damage that would result from rising waters. Despite the protests, authorities have already begun relocating residents of the historic town of Hasankeyf, which will be completely submerged.
In July, the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation announced plans to build a public park around Lake Salda in the southwest, an area known as Turkey’s Maldives because of its white sand beaches and crystal clear water. The announcement came after the government downgraded the lake’s protected status, no longer prohibiting all construction on the site. Activists, lawyers, and opposition politicians presented a united front against the development project, which would include the installation of bungalow houses, bathrooms, prayer rooms, and cafeterias, in part so that the site could eventually host festivals.
Images of diverse groups of citizens united against what they see as the government’s indifference to public opinion on environmental issues brings to mind the nationwide protests of 2013. So far, Ankara has not cracked down on groups protesting the projects in the Ida Mountains, Hasankeyf, or Lake Salda, but it has reaffirmed its intentions to move forward with each project.
A key driver of the recent rallies has been the June 23 Istanbul election, where the AKP’s loss damaged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s image as the “invincible politician.” Following a string of electoral victories, economic successes, and legal machinations since 2003, he has become the most powerful politician in the seventy-year history of Turkey’s multiparty democracy. Erdogan is now simultaneously head of state, government, the national police, the military (as commander-in-chief), and the parliament’s leading party. This consolidation of power, coupled with frequent crackdowns on protestors, left many in the opposition disheartened.
At least until Istanbul. In March, opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu was elected as the city’s mayor—a crucial post that holds responsibility over nearly 20 percent of Turkey’s population and has served as a stepping stone to national political prominence in the past. Feeling threatened by the AKP’s loss, Erdogan used his influence with the election board and other Turkish institutions to annul the vote based on supposed “irregularities,” setting the stage for a new vote on June 23. He then mobilized his control over most Turkish media and state resources in favor of his candidate. Yet Imamoglu not only won the second round, he increased his margin of victory from round one by a whopping fifty times. The outcome was a turning point for the opposition, many of whom believe once again that Erdogan can be challenged peacefully.
When Erdogan shifted Turkey’s political system from a parliamentary to a presidential model last year, he likely did not realize he would be helping the opposition. Previously, he had won successive elections not only because he delivered strong economic growth, but also because he was blessed with a divided opposition. Nearly half of Turkey’s citizenry opposes the president, but until recently their numbers were split among disparate groups of Turkish and Kurdish nationalists, center-left and center-right factions, and conservative and liberal groups. Given this ideological constellation, the gap between opposition groups was often wider than their gap with Erdogan’s AKP.
Yet the structure of the new presidential system means that most elections are now destined to become two-party races. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round of a presidential election, the top two candidates must enter a run-off—a situation that has forced Turkey’s normally antagonistic opposition factions to hold their noses and form electoral alliances.
The first such alliance fell short in last year’s presidential race, but Imamoglu won Istanbul using the same approach, with the full spectrum of Turkey’s opposition tallying behind him. The CHP, representing leftist and social democrat voters, IYI, representing center-right and Turkish nationalist voters, and HDP, representing Kurdish nationalist and liberal voters, all backed him; even the conservative Islamist Felicity Party supported him, if indirectly. Turkey’s slowing economy has only accelerated this unity and momentum.
The last time major anti-government rallies took place in Turkey, Erdogan was able to snuff them out not only because of his power over state security organs, but also because the opposition lacked a unified platform and leadership. This time, the opposition seems more united than it was in 2013, and it might even have a symbolic leader in the person of Imamoglu, the only politician who has defeated Erdogan since 2003. It is yet to be seen if Erdogan will crack down on the new wave of rallies or try to co-opt and divide the opposition. Dissent has emerged even within his own party, with former AKP economic minister Ali Babacan, the wunderkind responsible for Turkey’s “economic miracle” in the 2000s, announcing that he will establish a new political movement. Whichever path Erdogan chooses, he will face an invigorated opposition seemingly bent on pushing Turkey’s democracy into a new phase.
*Soner Cagaptay is the Beyer Family Fellow at The Washington Institute and author of the forthcoming book Erdogan’s Empire: Turkey and the Politics of the Middle East. Deniz Yuksel is a research assistant at the Institute.