English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For July 31/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them
John 12/37-43: “Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. This was to fulfil the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them.’ Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him. Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on July 30-31/2020
Our Prayers Goes To Lebanon's Hero Jocelyn Khoueiri
Lebanon Records Its Highest COVID-19 Daily Tally
MoPH announces additional results of returnees' PCR tests, 2 coronavirus cases detected
President Aoun signs new military promotion decrees starting 1st of August
Protests against Power Outage as Lebanon Plunges into Darkness
Diab Meets French Embassy Delegation
Report: U.S. Military Aid to Lebanon Subject to 'Conditions'
MEA Plane in Minor Collision on Nigerian Runway
Report: Nasrallah’s Son Escapes 'Assassination' Attempt
Cramped Palestinian Refugee Camps Fear Virus Surge
Hariri clarifies his position on the Bisri dam
Nehme asks Ghajar to refrain from handing over fuel to companies that do not comply with decision 2/1
Hassan pushes for treating patients before inquiring about insuring party
Italy contributes to UNRWA Syria regional crisis emergency appeal in Lebanon
Lebanon protests escalate over power outages
Lebanese politicians resent PM’s blunders but offer no alternative
Following Israeli strike, Hezbollah ups its theatrics in Lebanon
Hezbollah border incursions into Israel show neutrality is not an option for Lebanon/Makram Rabah/Al Arabiya English'/July 30/2020
What is Iran’s strategy amid Israel-Hezbollah tensions?/Seth J.Frantman?Jerusalem Post/July 30/2020
A turn to Iran for Lebanon would be a leap into the unknown/Rami Rayess/Al Arabiya English/July 30/2020
Proposed US legislation targets Lebanese government over Hezbollah ties/Ray Hanania/Arab News/July 30/ 2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 30-31/2020
Iran military drill shows off missiles to threaten US and Israel
Iraqi army confirms two rockets target Baghdad airport, no casualties reported
Iraq confirms nearly 560 killed in anti-government unrest, offers payment to families
UAE supports Egypt’s efforts towards resolving Libyan crisis: Foreign Minister
Iraqi policemen killed protesters with hunting rifles in Baghdad: Interior minister
Car bomb at checkpoint in Syria kills 6, others wounded: Report
ISIS releases video calling on supporters to carry out arson attacks in US
Israel reveals identity of Hamas commander who allegedly defected
Iran arms embargo must be extended as it continues to arm Houthis: Pompeo
Qatar-linked media outlets in rare clash: Muslim Brotherhood vs. Arabist secularists
Donald Trump's proposal to delay US election slammed by Republican Senate leader
Can the Coronavirus Spread Through the Air?
Pilgrims Pray on Peak Day of Hajj in Shadow of Coronavirus
Cairo Hotel Gang Rape Allegations Ignite New #MeToo Wave
Readout: First meeting of the International Coordination and Response Group and Iran regarding negotiations on reparations related to the downing of Flight PS752

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

Joining the conflict in Libya, Turkey sees economic gains/Samy Magdy/AP/July 30/2020
Reacting Smartly to Harassing Tactics by Iraqi Militias/Michael Knights/The Washington Institute/July 30/2020
Putin’s agents and cronies run amok in Britain/Clifford D. May/FDD/July 30/2020
Threat to Kakai community showcases Iraq’s broader challenges/Elie Abouaoun and Yousif Kalian/The Arab Weekly/August 01/2020
Arab version of NATO could stabilize region/Khaled Abou Zahr/Arab News/July 30/ 2020
Trump’s new direction has time to claw back polls deficit/Andrew Hammond/Arab News/July 30/ 2020
Unrealistic to expect Iranian regime to change its behavior/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh /Arab News/July 30/ 2020


The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on July 30-31/2020

Our Prayers Goes To Lebanon's Hero  Jocelyn Khoueiri

Elias Bejjani/July 31/2020
Jocelyn Khoueiri the Lebanese Patriotic Fighter Is In A Coma.
Let us all pray for her recovery and ask almighty God to bring her back safely to her family, friends and the Holy and blessedLebanon that she loved, adored, fought for its peace and at the same time kept holding her rosary and praying. We ask Our Lady of Lebanon, Virgin Mary to be with Jocelyn in her crisis


Lebanon Records Its Highest COVID-19 Daily Tally
Naharnet/July 30/2020
Lebanon on Wednesday confirmed 182 new coronavirus cases, its highest daily tally since the first case was detected on February 21. According to the daily statement of the Health Ministry, 168 of the new cases were recorded among residents and 14 among expats who arrived in the country in recent days. One more death was also recorded raising the death toll to 55, while the new cases raise the country's overall tally to 4,202 among them 1,753 recoveries. 136 COVID patients were meanwhile admitted into hospitals over the past 24 hours, including 30 into intensive care units.While the locations of 63 local cases are being investigated, 30 cases were recorded in Baalbek district including 25 in al-Hillaniyeh, 24 were recorded in Baabda district, 13 in Northern Metn and 13 in Beirut.

MoPH announces additional results of returnees' PCR tests, 2 coronavirus cases detected

NNA/July 30/2020
The Ministry of Public Health on Thursday announced the results of PCR tests that were conducted on July 28 in Beirut airport. According to the Ministry, two passengers have tested positive for coronavirus; one case was detected among returnees from Cairo (MEA flight #309), and another one aboard the flight coming from Dubai.Flights returning from London and Cairo (Egyptian airline #711) were all found virus-free.

President Aoun signs new military promotion decrees starting 1st of August
NNA /July 30/2020
President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, on Thursday signed decrees: 6743, 6744, 6745, 6746 and 6747, for promotion of military college officers, to the rank of Lieutenant as of the 1st of August, 2020.
Officers are distributed among the Lebanese Army, Internal Security Forces, General Security, State Security and Customs. The Army Command had already canceled the 1st of August celebration, for the occasion of the 75th Army anniversary and the graduation of officers of the “Army Diamond Jubilee”, in Shukri Ghanem barracks, Fayadieh. President Aoun met the Chairman of the Scientific committee of the Lebanese Order of Physicians, Professor Bernard Gerbaqa, the Head of the Pediatric Association in Beirut, Dr. Marianne Majdalani, Head of the Pediatric Association in Tripoli, Dr. Ziad Qassaa, and Dr. Chrystelle Ghassan Al-Hajj, in the Presence of the President’s Health and Social Affairs Adviser, Former MP, Dr. Walid Khoury. The delegation discussed general health conditions, the issue of children vaccines and medical needs. President Aoun sent congratulation cables for Kings, Princes and Presidents of Arab and Islamic countries, congratulating them on the occasion of Al-Adha feast, hoping that God would grant them, and their people, all the wealth, peace and stability.—Presidency Press Office

Protests against Power Outage as Lebanon Plunges into Darkness

Naharnet/July 30/2020
Protests against Lebanon’s aggravating economic and electricity crisis expanded on Thursday amid widespread blackouts that saw the majority of Lebanese areas drenched in darkness amid an uncommon heat wave hitting the region. Lebanese protesters in Jounieh tried on Thursday to storm into the state-run Electricite Du Liban offices complaining against continued power cuts. They chanted slogans and threats that they won’t pay their due electricity bills. In the northern city of Tripoli, groups gathered on the highway in al-Mina blocking it with burning tyres in protest against a soaring economic crisis and continued blackouts.Overnight, protesters in Sidon, Tripoli, Beirut and other Lebanese areas also blocked major roads with burning tyres. Various Lebanese regions are witnessing long hours of blackout, amid diesel and fuel shortages due to their association with the dollar and a sharp depreciation of the Lebanese pound. Lebanon witnesses almost daily demonstrations against the frequent blackouts. Earlier in July, EDL board of directors told Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar that it might be impossible for the corporation to maintain production, transmission and distribution of electric current to subscribers. On Tuesday, EDL said in a statement that a malfunction in the Jiyeh Thermal Factory affected the power stations in Jiyyeh-Bsalim, Zahrani and Deir Ammar. Power outages lasting up to 22 hours per day in most Lebanese areas have crippled the country. By a Cabinet decision, Beirut used to be excluded from strict rationing being the hub for the state’s institutions, embassies and major businesses. But not anymore. On social media, angry comments were recorded against the government and the Ministry of Energy which did not succeed in building production plants at a low cost, and wasted about $45 billion on this sector without bringing in electricity. Activists circulated pictures of Beirut in the dark at night.

Diab Meets French Embassy Delegation
Naharnet/July 30/2020
Prime Minister Hassan Diab said during a meeting Thursday at the Grand Serail with a delegation from the French Embassy in Beirut, that a French proposal to provide Lebanon with technical financial assistance “is being studied.”
The French delegation included French Chargé D'Affaires Salina Grenet-Catalano, Advisor Ines Ben Karim, and Head of Economic Affairs department, François De Ricolfis, in the presence of PM Advisors, Khodor Taleb and Ambassador Jebran Soufane. The meeting aimed to follow-up on the talks held by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian during his recent two-day visit in Beirut. Grenet-Catalano reiterated France’s interest in providing assistance to Lebanon. Diab however pointed out that a French proposal to provide technical financial assistance to Lebanon is being studied. Diab praised the “deep Lebanese-French relations rooted in history and shared values,” expressing Lebanon's hope to strengthen cooperation between the two countries on bilateral and international levels, especially in the framework of international organizations. Diab affirmed that the recent visit of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian falls within the scope of historical relationship between both countries.

Report: U.S. Military Aid to Lebanon Subject to 'Conditions'
Naharnet/July 30/2020
The U.S. Congress reportedly renews pressure on Hizbullah, and a number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers seek to revive conditions on the military assistance to the Lebanese army, the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported on Thursday. The Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives has reportedly approved a bill entitled “Facing Hizbullah in Lebanon” and linking military aid to the Lebanese army with certain conditions, added the daily. The bill states that 20 percent of the aid amounting to approximately 133 million dollars in the 2020 US budget will be frozen, until the American administration assures Congress that the Lebanese army has taken concrete steps to expel elements supporting Hizbullah from its ranks, or limit their impact on its policies and activities, according to the daily. The project also calls for a detailed presentation on the army’s activities aimed at disarming Hizbullah, as evidence of its serious commitment to implementing Security Council Resolution 1701 calling for disarmament.In addition, the project calls on the American president to provide evidence that the Lebanese army has not cooperated with Hizbullah or participated in joint activities or training during the past year.

MEA Plane in Minor Collision on Nigerian Runway
Naharnet/July 30/2020
A passenger plane belonging to Middle East Airlines, Lebanon's national carrier, was involved Wednesday in a minor on-ground collision with a Turkish plane.
"The wing edge of an MEA plane collided into the edge of a Turkish jet on the runway of the Lagos airport in Nigeria," MEA chairman Mohammed al-Hout told al-Jadeed TV. "The plane was stopped and the passengers were evacuated pending checkups to verify whether it is capable of flying," Hout added.

Report: Nasrallah’s Son Escapes 'Assassination' Attempt
Naharnet/July 30/2020
Jawad Nasrallah, son of Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has reportedly survived an assassination attempt weeks ago in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Kuwaiti al-Jarida newspaper said on Thursday. Quoting a source in Iran's Quds Force, the daily said Jawad’s convoy came under fire from a car that was chasing him in the Jadiriya area in Baghdad. The source stated that Jawad Nasrallah had traveled 3 weeks ago to Tehran with a special message from his father to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He said due to major breaches of the American and Israeli intelligence services, commander of the Quds Force, Brigadier General Ismail Qanni asked Hassan Nasrallah not to transmit any sensitive messages to the Iranian leadership except through people he trusted. The content of the message was not disclosed, but the source said that Nasrallah the son, met a number of Iranian officials before traveling to Iraq to convey a message from his father to leaders of Iraqi factions loyal to Iran, as well as to visit Karbala and Najaf and to meet the Supreme Shiite authority in Iraq, Ali Sistani. Before he was able to make the necessary contacts to meet Sistani, a vehicle chased him and opened fire before fleeing away, which necessitated his transfer to Basra to return to Tehran and from there by plane to Syria, then by land to Beirut, which he reached two days ago, according to al-Jarida.

Cramped Palestinian Refugee Camps Fear Virus Surge
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 30/2020
A second wave of coronavirus infections sweeping Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied West Bank is fuelling fears of a surge in overcrowded Palestinian refugee camps where social distancing is next to impossible. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, the Palestinian Authority quickly imposed a lockdown as it sought to contain infections. But after Israel and later the PA eased restrictions in late April and May, the number of cases rose again, exacerbated by breaches of limits on public assembly and movement. One major driver has been Palestinian workers going to and from jobs in neighbouring Israel, according to the PA. The Jewish state went into lockdown in mid-March, but after easing restrictions it started reporting 1,000 to 2,000 new coronavirus infections a day and re-imposed some restrictions.
The Palestinian health ministry's Tuesday update logged more than 10,860 confirmed cases of infection since the start of the pandemic, including more than 75 deaths.
That compares with an accumulated total of less than 2,700 infections and seven deaths as recently as July 1. The growing health crisis is causing concern in the camps.
The United Nations defines about five million Palestinians as having refugee status.
They are the survivors and descendants of the more than 700,000 who were expelled or fled their land over a few months in 1948 when Israel was founded.
More than 1.5 million of them live in camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Gaza Strip the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. They are assisted by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides them with medical aid and manages schools. In Al-Amari camp, near Ramallah in the West Bank, an estimated 8,000 people live packed into less than one square kilometre (0.39 square mile).
UNRWA describes the camp as suffering "significant overcrowding issues."
"There is neither room to impose distancing nor space to carry out quarantines", said Taha Al-Bess, an official on the camp's residents' committee.
Who's in charge?
At the entrance to Al-Amari camp the road is about six metres wide but quickly narrows inside the camp, with alleys no wider than half that. "The streets are narrow, the buildings are very close to each other, to talk about distancing is an illusion," Al-Bess said. Throughout the West Bank, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, around 190,000 Palestinian refugees live in 19 camps. Few cases of sickness and no deaths have so far been recorded in Al-Amari, but the camp committee is monitoring developments in the other camps with concern. In Jalazoun, also near Ramallah, more than 200 cases have been recorded in recent weeks and two deaths, out of 8,000 refugees. In Al-Fawar camp near Hebron in the southern West Bank, the data is similar. "It is impossible to implement distancing and prevent contact between the sick and other residents," said Nael Nakhleh, a member of an emergency committee set up in Jalazoun to tackle the resurgence of contamination. A debate has arisen over who is responsible for managing the health emergency in the camps: the Palestinian Authority or UNRWA?
Resources scarce
For Ahmed Hanoun, in charge of refugee affairs at the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the answer is the UN agency. "We are trying to work with them," he told AFP, saying he was "seriously concerned" by the virus outbreaks in the camps.
In UNRWA too, there is deep concern, particularly as the pandemic arrived at an already challenging time. In 2018, the United States, which had been the agency's main donor, announced it was ending its annual financial aid of $300 million, arguing it was no longer relevant, 70 years after the creation of Israel. "The situation in the camps is very worrying, especially considering the agency's financial difficulties," said Kazem Abu Khalaf, spokesperson for UNRWA in the West Bank. UNRWA has increased calls for donations and emergency aid from its other donors. In Al-Amari, the residents have decided to take matters into their own hands and stand at the camp's entrance to take the temperature of everyone entering. "UNRWA says it does not have the means, the Palestinian Authority says it does not have the means: we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place," said Al-Bess.

Hariri clarifies his position on the Bisri dam
NNA/July 30/2020
Concerning the reactions and ongoing campaigns on social media on the position of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri regarding the construction of the Bisri dam, his press office notes the following:
1- Former Prime Minister Hariri's position on the construction of the Bisri dam is not new. The governments that he headed accompanied the studies that were prepared about the dam for many years and agreed on them, and it would be illogical for him, after leaving office, to object to something he previously agreed on, especially after the approval of the project in Parliament.
2- The project, according to the scientific studies and the data announced, solves a chronic problem of water shortage in the Beirut, the northern and southern coast of Metn, the coastal towns of Baabda and Chouf, as well as the geographic surrounding of the dam. The number of beneficiaries reaches one million and six hundred thousand citizens and this in itself cannot be overlooked in light of the water crises in the capital and regions.
3- The World Bank is requesting a renewed debate on the economic and social feasibility of the project, which is a good thing that must happen, for the sake of public interest and not for the sake of environmental assumptions and political tensions.
4- Cancelling the establishment of the project requires a new law in Parliament that abolishes the law in effect. It also creates losses for the state’s treasury as a result of the expropriations that have been completed so far. A sum of 156 million dollars has been paid, which should not be overlooked.
5 - It is necessary to scrutinize scientifically and seek the help of specialists, to clarify the reports and news that mention geological and environmental risks that may result from building the dam, and to stop using this matter in mutual campaigns.
The position of the World Bank is pivotal in this regard, and we attach importance to the ongoing consultations with it and the expertise of the specialists, whatever the results.
6- Alternatives were studied to increase the water supply for the Greater Beirut region, which include a comparison of dam construction in other locations and other options such as desalination of sea water, extraction of groundwater, rainwater harvesting, or reuse of wastewater and controlling squander. This study concluded that, given its size and economic feasibility and all the technical factors, the Bisri dam is considered a priority option, as securing the same amount of water provided by it, that is 125 million cubic meters annually, requires drilling about 200 wells, which is not useful, given the high costs of investment and operation, which amount between 40 and 50 million dollars per year, in addition to the cost of establishing and equipping them in the first place. As for the option of desalinating sea water, its cost is more than 60 million dollars annually.
As we present this data to the Lebanese public opinion, we hope that the discussion would be withdrawn from political outbidding, and restricted to its scientific, technical and environmental framework and to its economic, developmental and social feasibility. We hope to reach a sound decision in cooperation and coordination with the World Bank as the party responsible for its financing that accompanied the construction of the dam for decades.

Nehme asks Ghajar to refrain from handing over fuel to companies that do not comply with decision 2/1
NNA/July 30/2020
Minister of Economy and Trade, Raoul Nehme, on Thursday requested of Minister of Energy, Raymond Ghajar, to refrain from handing over gasoline and fuel oil to oil companies which do not comply with the provisions of decision 2/1.
The said companies are obliged, according to the decision, to provide the Ministry of Economy and Trade with a detailed customer report, including all the sales activity, in order to prohibit the illegal monopoly of diesel and fuel inside and outside the country.
The Minister of Economy finally indicated that he would take all the necessary measures against the violating companies, and that they would be brought to justice.

Hassan pushes for treating patients before inquiring about insuring party
NNA/July 30/2020
Minister of Public Health, Dr. Hamad Hassan, on Thursday held a meeting with the civil and military health funds to discuss the best means to strengthen coordination in a bid to ensure swift first aid to patients and to provide them with hospital beds. In the wake of the meeting, Minister Hassan censured the fact that many hospitals have been reluctant to receive patients under the pretext that they might be infected with the novel Coronavirus. Consequently, the Minister underlined the need "to act objectively before causing the death of patients with other diseases whilst awaiting the results of PCR tests."As for the increasing number of Covid-19 deaths within the last few days, Hassan stressed that hospitals were obligated to assist patients before inquiring about their insuring party, pointing to the necessity of coordination between all sides.
The Minister also reminded that the ratio of medical treatment at the expense of the Ministry of Public Health had increased -- due of the economic situation -- from 15 to 20 per cent, whilst insurance companies evaded coverage of people with Covid-19.

Italy contributes to UNRWA Syria regional crisis emergency appeal in Lebanon
NNA/July 30/2020
Yesterday, Ambassador of Italy in Lebanon Nicoletta Bombardiere, and the Director of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Affairs in Lebanon, Claudio Cordone, signed an agreement for an additional contribution of EUR 1 million to the 2020 UNRWA Syria Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal in Lebanon from the Government of Italy. This new critical funding will enable UNRWA to continue providing support to health care and cash assistance for Palestine refugee most in need of assistance in Lebanon. It will support hospitalization to over 380 Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) and multipurpose cash assistance to around 2,450 Palestinian refugee families from Syria displaced to Lebanon. Mr. Cordone said: “I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Government of Italy for their support that will enable the Agency to continue to provide life-saving services to PRS in Lebanon while addressing their immediate needs in response to COVID-19. Contributions from Italy have made a significant difference to the lives of many thousands of Palestine refugees whose living conditions have worsened because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis in Lebanon.”Ambassador Bombardiere stressed the importance of the UNRWA’s services in Lebanon and said: “Italy recognizes the enormous efforts of the Lebanese Government to host vulnerable refugees, and will continue to support its endeavors. With the agreement we signed, Italy confirms its commitment to sustain the commendable actions undertaken by UNRWA in the country, also in the context of the COVID-19 emergency. A vision that places the vulnerable people at the center of the Italian aid policy”. The Government of Italy has long been one of the Agency’s most reliable donors. Between 2017-2019, UNRWA received EUR 5.25 million from Italy in support of the Agency’s assistance to Palestine refugees in Lebanon, as well as the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared refugee camp. This ongoing reconstruction project still requires some US$ 51 million in funding for completion.
Ms. Donatella Procesi, Director of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) in Lebanon, said: “Support to UNRWA has been always one of the core activities of the Italian Cooperation. In the last few years, we have decided to support healthcare and lifesaving health assistance to the thousands of Palestinian Refugees fleeing from the civil war in Syria. A choice that is in line with our commitment to be always beside the most vulnerable people”.—Italian Embassy

Lebanon protests escalate over power outages
The Arab Weekly/July 30/2020
Overnight, protesters in Sidon, Tripoli, Beirut and other parts of Lebanon blocked major roads with burning tyres.
BEIRUT – Protests against Lebanon’s economic crisis and power outages in the country escalated Thursday amid widespread blackouts that saw the majority of Lebanese regions drenched in darkness amid an ongoing heat wave.
Protesters in Jounieh tried to storm the offices of the state-run Electricité Du Liban (EDL), complaining against power cuts. They chanted slogans against the government and the political elite and threatened not to pay their due electricity bills.
In the northern city of Tripoli, groups gathered on a highway blocking traffic with burning tyres in protest against the economic crisis and ongoing blackouts.
Overnight, protesters in Sidon, Tripoli, Beirut and other Lebanese areas also blocked major roads with burning tyres. Various Lebanese regions have suffered from long hours of blackout due to diesel and fuel shortages. In recent weeks, Lebanon has witnessed almost daily demonstrations against the frequent power outages. Earlier in July, EDL board of directors told Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar that it might be impossible for the corporation to maintain production, transmission and distribution of electricity to subscribers.
On Tuesday, EDL said in a statement that a malfunction in the Jiyeh Thermal Factory affected the power stations in Jiyyeh-Bsalim, Zahrani and Deir Ammar.
Power outages lasting up to 22 hours per day in most Lebanese areas have crippled the country. By a cabinet decision, Beirut used to be excluded from strict rationing being the hub for the state’s institutions, embassies and major businesses. But not anymore. On social media, users wrote angry comments against the government and the Ministry of Energy and blamed them for the lack of production plants.
According to some social media users the government failed to construct new plants at a low cost, wasting about $45 billion on this sector without bringing in electricity.
On Wednesday, leader of the Future Movement Saad Hariri lashed out at the government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab, saying: “Where are the reforms? Beirut has been without electricity [for days],” in reference to the severe power cuts that swept the Lebanese capital and other areas. Hariri also renewed his call for a forensic audit to cover not only the Central Bank’s accounts, but also all state institutions, including the ailing electricity sector, which is draining the state’s treasury of around $2 billion in annual subsidies.
Lebanon has not had capacity to supply 24-hour electricity since its 1975-1990 civil war, leaving many households reliant on their own generators or private neighbourhood suppliers who charge hefty fees to keep a few lights on or other appliances running during regular daily cuts that can last several hours.
The largely unregulated neighbourhood suppliers, responsible for a web of power cables slung across city streets, are popularly called the “generator mafia” for their supposed political clout. The owners say they simply offer a service that the state can’t. Ageing power plants run by the state use expensive fuel oil that, along with exhaust from diesel generators, adds to the smog lingering over cities in the nation of 6 million people. The government, World Bank and International Monetary Fund all say electricity reform is vital to cutting debt, now equivalent to about 150 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The accumulated cost of subsidising EDL amounts to about 40 percent of Lebanon’s entire debt, the IMF said in 2016. The World Bank says electricity shortages rank second only to political instability in hindering business. Relying on fuel oil power plants and diesel generators also comes with a health cost: air pollution that can cause respiratory disease. Air pollution in Beirut was three times levels deemed a hazard by the World Health Organisation, according to 2014 data.
The main power plants in Lebanon have an average capacity of just over 2,000 megawatts (MW), compared to peak demand of 3,400 MW. For Beirut, the best supplied city, that means daily cuts of three hours a day. Elsewhere, it can mean outages for much of the day.
Distribution and revenue collection are also big problems.
EDL collects payments for only half the power it produces, with some power lost through creaking transmission network and other supplies siphoned off the system through unauthorised cables. In 2012, the government appointed private companies to run metering, billing and payment collection for EDL, but it gave them little power to enforce payment. Lebanon has made sporadic attempts to end power shortages for decades, but its efforts have been thwarted by conflict, political instability and the challenge of policy-making in a system of government that depends on a delicate balance of interests across that nation’s fractious sectarian groupings.Earlier in July, Lebanon’s energy minister cited stockpiling as one of several reasons behind the shortages, with people buying subsidised fuel as a hedge against inflation.
“Instead of buying gold, people are buying diesel,” Ghajar said. Smuggling across the border to Syria is also a factor. Private generator suppliers, who have long filled the supply gap left by patchy state provision, have also been rationing fuel, and many homes can no longer pay exorbitant fees.

Lebanese politicians resent PM’s blunders but offer no alternative
The Arab Weekly/July 30/2020
On Wednesday, Hariri lashed out at Diab for criticising the French foreign minister’s visit to Beirut.
BEIRUT – Communication blunders and diplomatic gaffes of Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab have recently multiplied, embarrassing even his closest allies who have become increasingly unable to cover up for him.
The storm of criticism sparked by his stances is leading many to suggest his exit. However, the problem remains one of finding an alternative to Diab. In recent months, there had been attempts to encourage the leader of the Future Movement Saad Hariri to take responsibility and form a new government, but Hariri drew up a set of conditions that were later rejected by the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, which dominates the Lebanese political scene. The most recent gaffe of Diab came on Tuesday when he made remarks in which he appeared to criticise French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for linking assistance to Lebanon with enacting reforms and an IMF deal.
Le Drian visited Beirut last week.
The state news agency quoted Diab as telling a cabinet meeting that France’s Le Drian’s warning and “lack of information” about government reforms indicated an “international decision not to assist Lebanon.”Diab has deleted a tweet stating the same. On Wednesday, Hariri lashed out at Diab for criticising the French foreign minister’s visit to Beirut and warned that the prime minister’s diplomacy would ruin Lebanon’s relations with a “friendly” state. “I don’t understand where Prime Minister Hassan Diab is taking us with this diplomacy. How can a premier make a statement against a friendly country?” Hariri said. “We regret these statements,” he added. Earlier on Wednesday, veteran Druze power broker Walid Jumblatt said replacing Diab “should seriously be considered because he has amnesia,” according to comments to local daily L’Orient-Le Jour that were confirmed by his office.
Jumblatt’s party is not represented in Diab’s cabinet, formed in January with backing from the Iran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah and its allies.
But the Druze, adherents to a small offshoot of Islam, are an important minority in Lebanon’s sectarian system of government and Jumblatt has frequently played the role of kingmaker. “It is high time the sponsors of the government realise the gravity of the situation their protégé (Diab) has put us in,” Jumblatt said.
The head of the Arab Unification Party Wiam Wahhab, who is known for harbouring close ties with Hezbollah, had also previously called on Diab to leave after the Lebanese premier made statements in which he questioned the role of the security services and the state.
“I spoke with him [Diab] once and I did not feel that he was a coherent person,” Wahhab said in an interview with Voice of Beirut International. Lebanon desperately needs aid as it wrestles with a financial meltdown rooted in decades of state corruption and waste, in its worst crisis since a 1975-90 civil war.
It entered negotiations with the International Monetary Fund in May after defaulting on its foreign currency debt.
The IMF talks have stalled in the absence of reforms and amid differences between the government and banks over the scale of Lebanon’s financial losses. The finance ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that the IMF dialogue was “ongoing and constructive”, and the government remained committed to constructive engagement over its debt restructuring. The criticism of Diab’s performance as prime minister has been recently accompanied by a strong disapproval of Hezbollah’s policies and those of the group’s political allies. On Tuesday, the leader of the Lebanese Forces Party, a major Christian group in Lebanon, blamed Hezbollah and its local allies led by President Michel Aoun for the rapidly deteriorating economy and worsening relations with neighbouring Arab countries, saying the only solution is for them to leave power. Samir Geagea, whose party has taken part in successive governments for the past decade and has 15 legislators in the 128-member parliament, said Lebanon received much assistance from Arab and Western countries in the past but all was wasted.
Only a new, independent government would be able to win back the international community’s confidence, he said.
The state’s strategic decisions are in Hezbollah’s hands, leading to deteriorating Lebanon’s relations with Arab states, he also said.

Following Israeli strike, Hezbollah ups its theatrics in Lebanon
Mona Alami, Al Arabiya English/Thursday 30 July 2020
On 27 July, tensions flared between Israel and Lebanon, after the Israeli military reported that a number of Hezbollah fighters crossed into Shebaa Farms, which is disputed territory. The Lebanese militant group quickly denied the move, and the mysterious incident falls within Hezbollah’s psychological warfare, which targets Israel and Hezbollah’s popular base as the group faces mounting challenges at home. Monday’s failed infiltration, which was seen as a response to Israeli strikes on Iranian interests in Syria a week before, that killed Hezbollah fighter Ali Kamel Mohsen Jawad was unusual in many ways. According to media reports, a Hezbollah cell comprised of three to five fighters crossed the blue line border a few meters into Israeli-controlled territory in the Shebaa Farm region, where it was repelled by Israeli troops.
“The attack is in itself peculiar as it took place during the day in an area under heavy drone surveillance,” said Nicolas Blanford, senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council. While the group denied responsibility for the operation, a source close to Hezbollah’s fighters confirmed the group was behind the operation. Brahim Beyrarm, a journalist and analyst close to the organization also believes the group to be behind the attempted infiltration, which he says is part of the group’s psychological warfare on Israel.
As pressure mounts on Hezbollah, and the group faces larger repercussions for its military interventions around the region and support from its popular base shrinks at home, the party will rely more heavily on psychological warfare. Lebanon’s dire economic situation also contributes to this shift.
This will translate in two types of operations: Hezbollah could resort to small covert operations by “unknown” groups on the borders or in disputed territories such as the Shebaa Farms. “This was the case in March 2014, when four Israeli soldiers were hurt by an IED (improvised explosive device) blast near the demilitarized zone between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in Syria, and Israel. While Hezbollah never claimed the attack, everyone knew it was behind the bombing,” added Blanford.
Propaganda and theatrics are other tools Hezbollah could opt for, as they project an aura of power while maintaining the status quo, explained activist Ali Amin. This approach is seen as part of a tacit agreement between Israel and Hezbollah. A case in point is the escalatory strikes last September on the border. At the time Hezbollah launched a retaliatory attack in south Lebanon, after two drones hit its stronghold in the Beirut suburbs. It is believed that the Israeli military then faked injuries of soldiers to make Hezbollah believe it caused damage during the following round of fighting on the Lebanese border.
The million dollar question that remains is whether theatrics and propaganda will prevent the escalation of violence on the Lebanese and Israel Border. In a recent interview, Deputy Hezbollah leader Naim Qassem, dismissed the prospect of any military escalation with Israel. Yet a source close to Hezbollah fighters explains that “Hezbollah will definitely retaliate a second time, given the first attempt failed,” and added that if the organization did not, its credibility will be further damaged given the unpreceded disastrous economic situation the country is facing.
Hezbollah and its allies are backing the current government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab. “They are caught between a rock and a hard place,” the source said.
Yet Middle East Strategy Intelligence analyst Avi Melamed, who follows Israeli politics closely, explained that while Israel has no interest in an all-out war with Hezbollah, Israel’s strategic interest is to disrupt Iran’s attempt to build military infrastructure in Syria that could target Israel.
That means ultimately that Israel is willing to risk an extensive war on more than one front if they wager a war would be in their strategic interest. “Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah is wrong to think that by threatening Israel, it will avoid Israel acting against Iran’s hostile deployment. Israel will continue to attack Iran’s hostile deployment whenever and wherever it decides to. Accordingly, the odds for [an] Israeli-Hezbollah massive collision increases,” Melamed concluded.

Hezbollah border incursions into Israel show neutrality is not an option for Lebanon
Makram Rabah/Al Arabiya English'/July 30/2020

مكرم رباح يشرح في مقالته الأسباب الحقيقة التي من أجلها لجأ حزب الله إلى محاولة التسلل عبر الحدود بعملية فاشلة ومن ثم انكار وقوعها. رباح يرى أن العنفية التي يلجأ لها دائماً حزب هي للقول للبنانيين بأن أولوياته خارج لبنان ومن ضمن أهداف عمليته الفاشلة ضرب طرح البطريرك الراعي المطالب بالحياد وتسخيفه واستباق قرار المحكمة الدولية التي ستدين عناصره لإغتيالهم الرئيس رفيق الحريري. أما القادة الذين هم في مواجهة حزب الله فمستسلمين ويضربهم الضعف الكامل


Hezbollah had declared it would avenge the death of one of its fallen fighters who was among those targeted in an Israeli air raid, meaning few were surprised when brief firefight broke out on Lebanon’s southern border between Hezbollah and Israel. With no casualties reported in the aftermath, the question begs, why would Hezbollah even declare the death of this low-level operative, therefore putting itself in the limelight seeking retribution?
Despite any potential motive, Hezbollah’s retaliation was an utter failure as the Israeli army had anticipated their response and was able to repel their initial infiltration and prevented them from inflicting any real damage to their vehicles or personnel.
Perhaps most surprising was Hezbollah’s denial their failed border incursion had taken place as the Iranian-backed militia this week said the attack was fabricated by the Israelis and their “response to the martyrdom of Ali Kamel Mohsen... will surely come.” Hezbollah did not aim to carry out this attack and the group that was ambushed by the Israeli side was merely a reconnaissance patrol scouting the area for a future attack.
Nevertheless, the showdown between Israel and Hezbollah reaffirms that the latter is unhindered by Lebanon’s terrible state of affairs nor does it feel itself responsible for the ongoing economic and political collapse.
Analysts framed this scuffle as a continuation of the ongoing regional standoff, but in reality, the recent operational debacle has nothing to do with avenging a fallen comrade or responding to the regular Israeli airstrikes against targets in Iran and Syria. In fact, Hezbollah simply sought to respond to local Lebanese detractors, primarily the Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi who vocally criticized Hezbollah for dragging Lebanon into regional conflicts and demanded that all sides adopt neutrality by refraining from “engaging in regional and international alliances, conflicts and wars.”
Despite the calm tone of al-Rahi’s initiative, Hezbollah is yet to publicly shoot it down, so instead they decided to direct their fire across the border.
While Hezbollah’s response may seem rash, in essence, it is the only way to shoot down al-Rahi’s initiative without directly confronting the patriarch, as it exposes their main Christian ally, the Free Patriotic Movement, to further pressures.
With its response, Hezbollah reminded all parties that it does not answer to local pressures and washed its hands of restraint, something that would greatly help Lebanon in its ongoing negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, which is the only option left for the country and its decrepit economy.
Another equally important reason for Hezbollah’s military endeavor is to preemptively respond to the much-awaited verdict of the special tribunal for Lebanon into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, which is set to issue its verdict August 7. It is likely the tribunal will publicly indict senior Hezbollah intelligence operatives, and this will likely spur a political and sectarian whirlwind that might require the group to flex their muscles to contain potential repercussions and remind anyone who may dare try not to cross them.
While Hezbollah might not be worried about international justice, they do fear the sectarian aftershock, especially from the Sunni supporters of Hariri, not to mention Lebanese from across the sectarian spectrum. Incumbent Prime Minister Hassan Diab has no Sunni credentials to counterbalance the tribunal’s verdict, and thus Hezbollah did what it knows best, shoot first and ask questions later.
Hezbollah will continue to maintain an image of a spartan outfit, undeterred by local Lebanese or regional challenges. But the fact remains that Iran and its expansionist project has propelled Hezbollah to center stage, especially after the killing of Iran’s high commissioner General Qassem Soleimani, has burdened them further. Every time Hezbollah finds itself against the ropes, it resorts to violence to regain control of the narrative. Through the spinelessness and complicity of the majority of Lebanon’s ruling elite, who have time and again failed to protect what remains of the semblance of a functioning sovereign state, Hezbollah has no issue achieving this end. Lebanon’s continued downward fall is inversely related to the ability of Lebanese to reclaim their state – something that might be difficult to do if they shy away from challenging Hezbollah and the political elite who hide behind the armed group.

What is Iran’s strategy amid Israel-Hezbollah tensions?
Seth J.Frantman?Jerusalem Post/July 30/2020
Iran expert argues that a reading of some Iranian press may hint at the regime’s complex policy during the tensions.
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN JULY 29, 2020 17:36
Iran has been surprisingly quiet amid the growing Israel-Hezbollah tensions. Part of that is due to the fact that Iran is running a massive military drill off its coast, where it has been using new missiles and showing the US it can harass a model aircraft carrier. However, Iran’s real position may be more complex, because it knows the high stakes of escalation and different advisers within the government, though the ayatollah’s office and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps may prefer quiet over massive conflict. Yossi Mansharof of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, an expert on Iran, argues that a reading of some Iranian press may hint at the regime’s complex policy during the tensions. Kayhan newspaper, which is conservative and close to Ayatollah Khamenei’s office, initially reported on July 27 that Hezbollah anti-tank fire had destroyed an Israeli tank, killing five IDF soldiers and injuring 13 others, Mansharof points out. Why does this matter? Because Iranian media, close to the leadership, was seeking to claim that Israelis were killed and wounded. “This is a newspaper close to the ayatollah,” says Mansharof. “This is a signal of Iran to Hezbollah to halt the escalation and not do more.”He argues that Iran might be seeking to showcase Hezbollah’s abilities and therefore prevent a larger escalation. Hezbollah had vowed to retaliate after claiming one of its fighters was killed on July 20. This meant Hezbollah must do something to show it “retaliated.”
But if Iran could say that Hezbollah already “succeeded” then there would be no need for more escalation. Hezbollah has done the opposite, arguing that the incident on July 27 in which Israel said it thwarted an attack, had never happened and that therefore Hezbollah still reserves a right to attack.
Hezbollah now seems to be celebrating humiliating Israel by keeping Israel in a state of alert. What does Iran want in all this? Mansharof says that they may want to preserve the ongoing precision-guided missile project, in which the IRGC Quds Force seeks to significantly improve the missile threat of Hezbollah against Israel. “Kayhan seeks to present Israel as a weak country and suggests it is not a powerful player in the region,” he says. The long-term goal for Iran is to preserve Hezbollah as a major threat to Israel and to be able to use it to retaliate when Iran wants, perhaps for other incidents that Iran claims to want revenge for. That means Iran may prefer other types of strikes at Israel or Israel’s interests for the moment, but not a conflict with Hezbollah. Iran must also contend with other issues. It wants to remove the US from Iraq and to challenge US forces in the region through similar threats that Hezbollah poses to Israel. This puts Tehran in a complex place at the moment. If Iranian media is an indication, it is not playing up the Israel-Hezbollah tensions. It might wish they would go away for now, to be raised at a later date.


A turn to Iran for Lebanon would be a leap into the unknown
Rami Rayess/Al Arabiya English/July 30/2020
As Lebanon slips further into isolation and its economic crisis deepens, Iran has offered to extend a helping hand to the country that is home to its most successful proxy network – Hezbollah. But with US and international sanctions on Tehran, if Lebanon were to accept aid from Tehran, Beirut would be pushed further into isolation and its chances of receiving international assistance would further be limited. In Lebanon, a few weeks ago, Deputy Secretary General of Hezbollah Naim Qassem, announced that his party does not intend to withdraw Lebanon from the dollar system.
A declaration coming from such a senior Hezbollah official means, in one way or another, that the party still relies on American currency for its transactions, and this reliance on cash indicates that it does not function within the international banking and monetary system.
The same official had previously announced that Lebanon would refuse taking funds from the International Monetary Fund to curb the severe economic and fiscal crisis, but the party later backed away from this statement when its regional sponsor Iran pleaded with the IMF for assistance in confronting the coronavirus the Islamic Republic.
Tehran has expressed several times its willingness and ability to help Lebanon overcome its growing crises. It pledged support in electricity, oil and food supplies. It also announced it was ready to sell these services and goods at competitive rates, receiving payment in Lebanese lira, which has lost over 80 percent of its purchasing power against the dollar in recent months. Yet, regardless of how serious this offer may be, a few basic questions arise, including at what rate will Tehran get paid in Lebanese pounds as there are now multiple rates in Lebanon. Will it be the daily rate that changes by the hour or a pre-approved fixed rate? What will Tehran do with the Lebanese pounds it earns? Because the Lebanese currency is not an international currency, it will not be able to buy dollars in exchange for those enormous amounts of pounds, except from the Lebanese market. And that exchange process, if possible, would have detrimental effects on the value of the Lebanese currency as it would further increase demand for dollars, reducing significantly the value of the local currency. This scenario would also negatively affect Lebanon’s balance of payments, which already runs around a $4.4 billion deficit.
The financial ramifications of such a deal between Lebanon and Iran are by itself complex. Beyond this, the effects of striking a deal with a country under severe US and international sanctions that have further been tightened by the Trump Administration would further isolate Lebanon.
The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned Lebanon from buying Iranian oil, saying that his administration will not allow or tolerate cash flow to what he described as the largest sponsor of state terrorism in the world. He emphasized that his country will not allow revenues of Iranian oil sale to reach Hezbollah or any other organization or state.
Lebanon’s current cabinet is heavily influenced by Hezbollah and their Christian allies, the Free Patriotic Movement. Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah had called for strengthening economic ties with Tehran inviting the Lebanese people to look up to the model that the Iranian people have given by enduring 40 continued years of conflicts and wars, a call that was not welcomed in Beirut. Lebanon neither wants to surrender its free economy, nor do its people want to continue paying the price of regional conflicts, as they have been doing for the last four decades.
As Lebanon increasingly needs support from external partners, Beirut’s capacity to earn international support has steadily decreased over the last couple years.
Funds pledged in 2018 at an international donor conference to help Lebanon overcome the challenges it faced never materialized as consecutive cabinets failed to introduce necessary reforms and as several Western players refrained from granting aid and soft loans that they view fall under Hezbollah’s tutelage – a step they do not want to support. Any step by the current cabinet to strengthen mutual relations between Beirut and Tehran – such as buying oil, fuel or food – would most likely initiate fierce retaliation from Washington and will increase the likelihood that Lebanon turns into yet another arena of proxy conflict between the United States and Tehran, falling in alongside Iraq and Syria.
Tehran is most likely aware that its ability to extend aid to Lebanon, or sell it goods, is both politically and operationally impossible. But the offer alone gives the Lebanese public the impression that Iran is extending a helping hand during their most troubled and difficult time, when the Arab and international community has refrained. Despite the associated difficulties, Iran is encouraged to take such steps, just as it did in Venezuela when it shipped fuel to the crisis-struck Latin American country. Practically, Iran has nothing to lose. This is not the case for Lebanon.
While Lebanon is currently living in isolation, it has always been keen to preserve its position within the international community. Cooperation with Iran at this moment will only further aggravate its isolation and will terminate any remaining hope for it to rekindle frozen relations with Arab partners, especially with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Lebanon’s cooperation with Iran is a leap into the unknown, but Lebanon’s future has enough unknowns for the time being, and a turn toward Tehran would be a costly move it cannot afford at this time.


Proposed US legislation targets Lebanese government over Hezbollah ties
Ray Hanania/Arab News/July 30/ 2020
راي حنانيا: تشريع أمريكي مقترح يستهدف الحكومة اللبنانية بسبب سيطرة حزب الله عليها وعلى الحكم بأكمله
30 تموز/2020
To become law, the bill would have to also be passed by the US House before being sent to President Donald Trump, a critic of Hezbollah
CHICAGO: Texas Senator Ted Cruz is pushing new legislation that would deny US funding to any nation that provides sanctuary or support to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, which serves as a military proxy for Iran.
Now before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Senate Bill 3691 was introduced by Cruz, a Republican, in May.
It will receive a hearing before it is sent to the full Senate, where it is expected to be approved. The legislation specifically targets Lebanon’s government, of which Hezbollah is a part.
In conjunction with the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act, the bill would prohibit the US government from assisting any Lebanese government of which Hezbollah is a part, over which it exercises undue influence, or in which “a ministry, agency, or instrumentality of that government is effectively controlled by Hezbollah.”
To become law, the bill would have to also be passed by the US House before being sent to President Donald Trump, a critic of Hezbollah, for his signature.
Hezbollah was designated a terrorist organization by the US in 1995. The directive does not distinguish between Hezbollah’s military arm and its political leadership.
In 2013, Hezbollah’s militia was designated a terrorist organization by the EU after the group was accused of blowing up an Israeli tour bus in Bulgaria.
Hezbollah remains a powerful force in Lebanon, where it has received the backing of Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
Together with its Christian political ally, the Free Patriotic Movement headed by Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil, Hezbollah remains one of Lebanon’s most potent political organizations.
The bill would jeopardize hundreds of millions of dollars in US government funding for Lebanon.
Recently, the US approved $13 million to assist Lebanon in tackling its COVID-19 outbreak. In the past two decades, Lebanon has received more than $4.9 billion in American aid.
Cruz has sponsored or co-sponsored other laws that specifically target Lebanon’s government in cases involving terrorism or the arrest or detention of American citizens.
Last week, he joined other senators in urging the EU to extend its ban on Hezbollah’s militia to include its political arm, and targeting Hezbollah’s ties to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Last February, in conjunction with New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, whose husband Bill Shaheen is a prominent Arab-American attorney, Cruz introduced the Zero Tolerance for Unlawful Detentions of US Citizens in Lebanon Act (Zero Tolerance Act), which threatened sanctions against Lebanon’s government over the arrest and detention of an American citizen.
The Zero Tolerance Act was prompted by the refusal of Lebanon’s government to free Amer Fakhoury, an American citizen who had been detained in Beirut since September 2019 and is suffering from stage 4 cancer.
Fakhoury, a well-known and well-liked small business owner from New Hampshire, was visiting Lebanon when his US passport was confiscated by the government. He was released in March 2020 as a result of the proposed law.
Fakhoury had been arrested on charges related to a decades-old murder and torture charge in Lebanon that he has denied.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 30-31/2020

Iran military drill shows off missiles to threaten US and Israel
Jerusalem Post/July 30/2020
On Wednesday, Iran upped the rhetoric with images of masses of missiles which it claims are the first of their type being shot from underground areas. Iran’s “Great Prophet” military drill is a serious affair in some ways, yet comical in others. For instance, Iran had its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fast boats do circles around a model of a US aircraft carrier, which looked more like people doing antics on spring break in Lake Havasu than a serious military exercise. However, on Wednesday, Iran upped the rhetoric with images of masses of missiles, which it claims are the first of their type being shot from underground areas. Iran is using the naval drill to put US forces on alert and test them, similar to what Hezbollah is doing to Israel at the same time. “Watch the first images of missiles from the depths of the earth,” says Iran’s Fars News.The second day of the 14th Great Prophet drills, an annual event for Iran on the southern coast, illustrated “one of the important and strategic achievements of the IRGC Air Force as it is firing ballistic missiles from deep underground,” the report says. This final stage of the military drills included the use of drones in areas around the Straits of Hormuz. These were IRGC drones and Tasnim News says they attacked the model aircraft carrier and damaged the bridge of the ship. In addition, 22 Sukhoi aircraft strafed targets on an island. “The planes destroying hypothetical enemy targets that were rigorously designed and much smaller than their actual size, with a variety of smart bombs, was another part of this phase of the exercise,” Tasnim News says. Iran says it combined its air force and naval units as part of the drill, part of a strategy that could be used to confront enemies. Obviously, Iran’s message here is to the US and US ships in the area.
This includes the US aircraft carrier Nimitz, which is on station with the 5th fleet.
Iran used Mohajer UAVs and surface-to-surface missile operations, shore-to-sea operations, heavy artillery as well as minesweeping. “The firing of all kinds of artillery, RPGs and light weapons of the jihadi combat forces in a line and from fortresses around the islands, once again showed the determination of the border guards defending the Islamic Republic.” Iran has become better in the use of combined arms in recent years. For instance, it used drones and cruise missiles to attack Saudi Arabia last year. The overall goal of these drills is to showcase Iran’s firepower. Iran was pleased to read US media reports that its drill caused an alarm at Dhafra and Udeid airbases in the Gulf, where the US has drones and various warplanes. According to Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson, Indian fighter pilots at al Dhafra air base were told to take cover during the alert when Iran fired ballistic missiles as part of its exercise. The US condemned the irresponsible launchings.Tehran has shown that it can send US soldiers into alert even without having to actually attack US bases. For instance, it appears that the Iranian missiles did fall in the water “close enough” to US bases in the UAE and Qatar that the missiles triggered warning systems.
That would appear to be a way for Iran to say that it owns the Persian Gulf and the US are just guests there. That has been Tehran’s rhetoric all along. The reality is that in any conflict with the US and Iran, the Iranian navy would be destroyed rapidly if the US brought its full force to bear.
In the past, the US has generally eschewed this, with exceptions in the 1980s when the US did sink half of Iran’s operational naval fleet during the 1988 Operation Praying Mantis. Iran’s naval and IRGC commanders all remember the 1988 incident. They’d like to believe now that their missiles give them the stand-off range to strike fear into the US and US allies such as Israel. In fact, Iran is doing in the Gulf precisely what Hezbollah is doing in Lebanon to Israel: encouraging an alert, without doing anything. That is what Iran’s recent naval drill appears to have been all about.

Iraqi army confirms two rockets target Baghdad airport, no casualties reported
AFP/Thursday 30 July 2020
Two rockets Thursday targeted Baghdad airport, where US soldiers are posted, Iraq’s army said, adding there were no casualties. It was the 39th attack targeting US interests since October last year in Iraq, a country where the US and its sworn enemy Iran vie for influence. The two rockets did not cause any damage, the Iraqi army added in a statement. As with previous attacks, the rocket fire went unclaimed. The US has routinely blamed pro-Iran factions for targeting its interests in Iraq in recent months. Iran’s most prominent general, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport in January, bringing Tehran and Washington to the brink of direct confrontation.

Iraq confirms nearly 560 killed in anti-government unrest, offers payment to families

Reuters, Cairo/Thursday 30 July 2020
The Iraqi government said on Thursday that nearly 560 protesters and security forces were killed in months of anti-government unrest that erupted last year. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s new government has pledged to investigate the deaths and incarceration of hundreds of protesters in unrest that unseated the previous government last year. The death toll is roughly in line with what news outlets and rights groups have reported. The government will treat all those who died as “martyrs” and each family will be offered 10 million dinars ($8,380) in compensation, Hisham Daoud, the prime minister’s adviser, told reporters. Protests began on Oct. 1 and continued for several months, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis demanding jobs, services and the removal of the ruling elite, which they said was corrupt. The protests led to the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who was replaced in May by Kadhimi, a former intelligence chief. Later on Thursday, a fact-finding committee tasked with investigating the death of two protesters killed on Sunday suspended three policemen and referred them to trial for using hunting rifles against protesters, the interior minister said in a press conference.
The committee found that hunting rifles were used against the two protesters, Othman al-Ghanimi said. “During the initial investigation, it was proven that this weapon was used by the two officers and a conscript,” Ghanimi said, adding that using weapons is a violation of the instructions given to security forces when dealing with protesters. Clashes erupted between protesters and security forces in central Baghdad on Sunday night, resulting in the death of the two and the wounding of about 26 others. It was the first deadly incident in months at Tahrir Square, which became a symbol of anti-government protests during months of mass unrest last year.


UAE supports Egypt’s efforts towards resolving Libyan crisis: Foreign Minister
Tuqa Khalid, Al Arabiya English/Thursday 30 July 2020
The United Arab Emirates supports Egypt’s efforts to resolve the crisis in Libya, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan told his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in a phone call on Wednesday. “During the call, the two top diplomats discussed a number of issues of common interest, including the situation in Libya and ways of supporting the ongoing efforts made to promote political settlement to the crisis, with Sheikh Abdullah reiterating UAE's support for Egypt's tireless efforts to reach a diplomatic solution that ensures security, and stability for the people of Libya,” the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. The ministry added that Sheikh Abdullah also “emphasized the historical and strategic relations binding the two countries and the determination of their leadership to continue supporting cooperation across all fronts to the best interests of their peoples.”
Libyan conflict
Libya has plunged into chaos since the 2011 toppling of dictator Moammar Gaddafi. Clashes between the two main warring parties in the country, the LNA, commanded by Khalifa Haftar and the GNA, led by Fayez al-Serraj, have intensified recently.
Many foreign powers have backed different sides of the conflict with varying degrees of support, with the most prominent countries being Turkey backing the GNA and Egypt backing the LNA. The UAE also backs Haftar’s forces and condemns Ankara’s interference in Libya. Towards the end of June, Sheikh Abdullah stated that Turkey’s “current role in the Arab region is not welcome.”

Iraqi policemen killed protesters with hunting rifles in Baghdad: Interior minister
AFP, Baghdad/Thursday 30 July 2020
Iraqi policemen using their own hunting rifles killed protesters in the capital Baghdad this week, the government said, adding that the perpetrators had been suspended. “According to eyewitnesses and forensic data, hunting rifles killed” two protesters, Interior Minister Othman al-Ghanemi told reporters on Thursday. The minister gave the names of three policemen and displayed the arms and ammunition they had purportedly used. Hunting rifles were in the personal possession of the three, “who decided on their own account to make use of them,” he told reporters. They have confessed to using the weapons and have been suspended from their duties, Ghanemi said, adding that judicial proceedings were underway. The account of the killings, which took place earlier this week, differed from that given previously by medics. Medical sources said three protesters died but authorities mentioned only two deaths on Thursday. Medics also said the three dead protesters had been hit by tear gas canisters, rather than live rounds, a version of events the government has denied. Ghanemi said an investigation had been opened because the federal police had deployed “to fire live rounds in the air,” contravening orders not to use live fire by the prime minister, who heads the armed forces. Mustafa al-Kadhemi came to power in early May, replacing Adel Abdel Mahdi, whose position became untenable amid months of protests stretching back to October last year. The new premier has been keen to distance himself from his predecessor, who accused an unnamed third force of being behind the deaths of security personnel and hundreds of protesters. The government announced on Thursday that 560 people had been killed in protests since October, a tally it said included those slain early this week. Nearly all the dead were demonstrators killed at the hands of security forces, said Hosham Dawod, an adviser to the premier handling an investigation into the protests. The families of each of the 560 victims will each be compensated with 10 million Iraqi dinars (around $8,400), Dawod said.

Car bomb at checkpoint in Syria kills 6, others wounded: Report
AFP, Beirut/Thursday 30 July 2020
A car bomb in northeast Syria targeting a checkpoint manned by Turkish-backed forces killed six people, mostly fighters, near the border town of Ras al-Ain on Thursday, a war monitor said. The blast in the village of Tal Halaf held by Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies also wounded 15 others, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies last year seized a 120-kilometer (75-mile) stretch of land inside the Syrian border from Kurdish forces, running from Ras al-Ain to Tal Abyad. Many bombings have since rocked the area, several in the past week alone. An explosives-rigged motorbike in Ras al-Ain on Tuesday killed two civilians and a fighter, the Observatory said, two days after another in a vegetable market in the town killed eight people, six of them civilians.
The Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units, from whom the Turks and their allies seized the territory, have played a key role in the US-backed fight against ISIS in Syria. But Ankara views them as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a deadly insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984. Syria’s civil war has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since erupting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

ISIS releases video calling on supporters to carry out arson attacks in US
Zachary Halaschak/The Washington Examinar/July 30/2020
The Islamic State’s media wing has released a video calling for supporters in the United States to commit acts of arson. The 4-minute video, which was released over the weekend, was produced in both Arabic and English and features high-end video editing, according to a report by the Middle East Media Research Center’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor. The narrator speaks about how ISIS supporters should fight “fire with fire” and includes an image of a military-style rifle while discussing how some would-be terrorists don’t have access to certain weapons. Instead, the narrator advocates for arson attacks and highlights the devastating effect that fires have had recently in places such as Australia, Greece, and the U.S. “To become more convinced of this option, try looking at the fires in the lands of the crusaders every year. Fires in forests and fields, cities and villages completely destroyed, people displaced, armies of firefighters and civil defense personnel working continuously days to no avail,” the narrator says. He also instructs terrorists to be careful to dispose of incriminating evidence. Although ISIS’s territorial caliphate has dissolved, the terrorist group still has affiliates around the globe. Islamic State West Africa Province, which operates in Nigeria, Chad, and neighboring countries, recently executed four aid workers from two international organizations. ISIS has also committed atrocities in Afghanistan through its Khorasan Province branch. ISKP is thought to be behind a horrific attack on a maternity ward that resulted in the deaths of mothers and children. ISKP has been fighting both the Afghan government and the Taliban.Last year, the U.S. scored a major victory when ISIS’s then-leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was killed in October during a Delta Force operation. In June, the State Department announced that it was offering $10 million for information about the location or identity of ISIS leader Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahma al Mawla, up from its previous offe

Israel reveals identity of Hamas commander who allegedly defected

Al Arabiya EnglishThursday 30 July 2020
Israel has revealed the identity of the Hamas commander who allegedly defected from Gaza, where the Palestinian militant group is in power. The man was named as Az Alladin Hussein, a Hamas field commander, according to the Israeli security agency Shin Bet as quoted in regional media. He reportedly escaped Gaza by sea, being arrested after crossing into Israel by swimming through the maritime border, the agency added. Hussein then gave the Israeli government information about Hamas, according to the same source. The report added that Hussein was Hamas' surface-to-air missile commander. Hamas denied one of its commanders had defected at the time.

Iran arms embargo must be extended as it continues to arm Houthis: Pompeo
Joseph Haboush, Al Arabiya English/Thursday 30 July 2020
Iran is an aggressor, not a victim, and if the UN arms embargo against Tehran expires, it will facilitate Iranian destruction across the Middle East, the top US diplomat said Thursday. “Iran already mines ships in the Strait of Hormuz, launches missiles at Saudi oil facilities, and ships arms to the Houthis,” US Secretary of State Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Should the Security Council fail to act, Iran will have a freer hand to sow destruction across the Middle East, and indeed the world,” Pompeo added. The hearing was held to discuss the US State Department’s budget request for the fiscal year 2021. Pompeo said that Washington had gone “full bore” on its maximum pressure campaign against Iran. Pompeo said this campaign led to a 90-percent cut of oil revenues used by Iran for its illegal nuclear activities and terrorist activities. He commended US diplomacy for European and South American countries heeding calls to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.


Qatar-linked media outlets in rare clash: Muslim Brotherhood vs. Arabist secularists
Leen Alfaisal, Al Arabiya English/Thursday 30 July 2020
Over the past three days, social media saw a rare dispute between Qatari-linked media organizations, including Al Jazeera, Al Araby TV, and Mekameleen, with media figures from the organizations criticizing each other.
The dispute started with Qatar-linked AlAraby Television’s negative coverage of Turkey’s transformation of the Hagia Sofia museum into a mosque, including a post by AlAraby blogger Bilal Fadl that had two pictures; one of them shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hugging a Turkish singer with the caption “all year long,” and the other one shows Erdogan praying in Hagia Sofia with the caption “before the exam.”AlAraby’s coverage, especially the picture, drew criticism from many, but the most striking one came from a presenter in the Mekameleen TV, a Qatari-linked Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian television station that broadcasts from Turkey. The presenter, Mohammed Nasser, went live on Facebook and made unprecedented comments about Azmi Bishara, who is considered a policymaker in almost all Qatari-linked media organizations, but most closely linked to AlAraby.
“Azmi Bishara is a nationalist spy. Azmi Bishara hates all things related to Islam. Azmi Bishara was raised by Zionists when he was a member of the Knesset,” Nasser said.
“I just want to ask Qatar’s Emir Tamim: What do you see in Azmi Bishara? You give him money, a research center, and a journal that doesn’t even sell,” Nasser added. “Azmi Bishara hates all our channels, al-Sharq, Mekameleen, and al-Watan, because all three of them combined are running with a budget less than that of AlAraby’s food buffet and toilet.”Nasser, along with his colleagues in Mekameleen, is based in Turkey, a possible reason for lashing out at Bishara after the negative coverage of the Turkish president, whose country hosts the three Muslim Brotherhood-linked Egyptian media organizations.
Another critique of AlAraby’s coverage was one of Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera’s prominent journalists, Ahmed Mansour, who tweeted saying: “A movement of heretics and atheists has succeeded, with direct support from their peers, in sneaking into effective positions in some TV stations, newspapers, and websites.”Mansour did not namely point at AlAraby but continued to say: “They are promoting heresy as freedom, atheism as a point of view, offending religion as criticism, and swear words on the [prophet’s] companions as a way of reading history. We have to crush those heretics with our shoes.”
Replying to Mansour’s tweet was AlAraby’s presenter Wael Tamimi, who wrote: “‘Crushing’ is not a word to be used by a media figure. A journalist’s tools are his pen, word, and idea – not ‘shoes’ that ‘crush’. These outrageous views only originate from an ideology of eliminationism and extremism, which leads to seeing the other as an enemy that should be silenced. Journalism is innocent of this nonsense.”Bishara also separately tweeted a comment on the matter, acknowledging the other Qatar-linked media organizations as “allies” and describing the situation as “sad.”
“If opponents were busy turning any disagreement with their objective allies – in the fight against tyranny – into an enmity without rules, if jealousy was more important than politics, if enmity took over morals, and if their alternative for tyranny was ‘us’ and not a democracy, then tyranny is lucky to have them. This is sad,” Bishara tweeted.


Donald Trump's proposal to delay US election slammed by Republican Senate leader
Joyce Karam/The National/July 30, 2020
Mitch McConnell pours water on US president's suggestion, saying election date is 'set in stone'
The election date is "set in stone", majority leader Mitch McConnell told NBC.
Mr Trump on Thursday suggested delaying the US election set for November 3, claiming there would be fraud in mail voting and “embarrassment” to the country. His suggestion to delay, posted on Twitter, came moments after the Commerce Department released figures showing the US economy recorded its biggest decline in gross domestic product for seven decades. “With universal mail-in voting [not absentee voting, which is good], 2020 will be the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history," Mr Trump tweeted. "It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the election until people can properly, securely and safely vote?”Mr Trump has frequently criticised mail voting, which many states have adopted to reduce the risk to voters from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 154,000 of the almost 4.6 million people infected in the US so far.
But this was the first time the president suggested delaying the vote. The proposal is neither feasible nor realistic. Election laws have long set the voting date on “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November”. Any change to those laws will require a vote by the House of Representatives, which is controlled by the Democrats. Even if Mr Trump or the states choose to block the vote because of the pandemic, a move that could lead to social unrest, his term will automatically end on January 20.
That is in accordance with the 20th Amendment, which would make Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi the acting President. Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said such a move would “violate American law”. “Never in American history – not even during the Civil War and World War II – has there been a successful move to delay the election for president,” he tweeted. Mr Trump could be setting the stage for a legal challenge to mail-in ballots after the election, even though there has been no evidence to suggest it would lead to fraud and he and senior members of his administration have voted by mail in the past.
His poll numbers are worsening against his Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden. The race is narrowing even in states such as Texas, which the Democrats have not won since 1976. Mr Trump has been widely criticised for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has exacted a heavier toll in the US than any other country and dealt a severe blow to the economy. On Thursday, his surrogate and former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain died from the virus in a hospital in Atlanta. Surrogates are people of influence or celebrity who campaign on a candidate’s behalf.
Mr Cain had attended Mr Trump's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 20 and was admitted to hospital on July 2. Weak economic indicators added to the president's woes on Thursday. The US economy shrank at a record rate of almost 33 per cent in the past quarter, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This is the largest decline in 70 years and led to the Dow Jones Index dropping 300 points at the start of trading on Thursday. The latest Labour Department figures show the number of people collecting jobless benefits rose to 17 million, up from 16.2 million a week earlier.


Can the Coronavirus Spread Through the Air?
Associated Press/Naharnet/July 30/2020
The World Health Organization recently acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions. Recent COVID-19 outbreaks in crowded indoor settings — restaurants, nightclubs and choir practices — suggest the virus can hang around in the air long enough to potentially infect others if social distancing measures are not strictly enforced. Experts say the lack of ventilation in these situations is thought to have contributed to spread, and might have allowed the virus to linger in the air longer than normal. In a report published in May, researchers found that talking produced respiratory droplets that could remain in the air in a closed environment for about eight to 14 minutes. The WHO says those most at risk from airborne spread are doctors and nurses who perform specialized procedures such as inserting a breathing tube or putting patients on a ventilator. Medical authorities recommend the use of protective masks and other equipment when doing such procedures. Scientists maintain it's far less risky to be outside than indoors because virus droplets disperse in the fresh air, reducing the chances of COVID-19 transmission.

Pilgrims Pray on Peak Day of Hajj in Shadow of Coronavirus

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 30/2020
Masked pilgrims arrived Thursday at Mount Arafat, a desert hill near Islam's holiest site, to pray and repent on the most important day of the hajj, the annual pilgrimage in Mecca in Saudi Arabia.The global coronavirus pandemic has cast a shadow over every aspect of this year's pilgrimage, which last year drew 2.5 million Muslims from across the world to Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon nearly 1,400 years ago. This year, a very limited number of pilgrims were allowed to take part in the hajj amid numerous restrictions to limit the potential spread of the coronavirus. The Saudi government has not released a final figure on the number of hajj pilgrims this year, but has said anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 would be taking part. All of this year's pilgrims are either residents or citizens of Saudi Arabia. In past years, a sea of pilgrims dressed in white terrycloth garments would start to gather at Mount Arafat, or hill of mercy as it's known, before dawn and remain there until nightfall, spending the day in deep contemplation and worship. It is common to see pilgrims with tears streaming down their faces, their hands raised in worship on the slopes of the rocky hill where the Prophet Muhammad called for equality and unity among Muslims. The sliver of pilgrims performing the hajj this year arrived at Mount Arafat before noon by bus on Thursday. They are traveling in small groups of 20, following strict guidelines around social distancing, have undergone tests for the COVID-19 disease and were in quarantine before the hajj. Unlike in past years, the pilgrims are not allowed to stand shoulder to shoulder with other Muslims from around the world, all considered equal in Islam before God, seeking mercy, blessings, good health, bounty and healing. Pilgrims are wearing wristbands this year provided by the Saudi Health Ministry that are connected to their phones and monitor their movements to ensure physical distancing. After spending the day in prayer on Mount Arafat, pilgrims will head toward an area called Muzdalifa, about 5.5 miles (9 kilometers) west of Mount Arafat. In Muzdalifa, pilgrims rest and traditionally pick up pebbles that will be used for a symbolic stoning of the devil and casting away of evil. This year, however, the pebbles have been prepackaged and sterilized. The final ritual takes place over three to four days in Mina, an area about 12 miles (20 kilometers) east of Mecca. The final days of hajj coincide with Eid al-Adha, or the festival of sacrifice, celebrated by Muslims worldwide.

Cairo Hotel Gang Rape Allegations Ignite New #MeToo Wave
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 30/2020
A gang rape allegation at a luxury hotel in Egypt stemming from a prominent social media account has triggered a new #MeToo wave in the deeply conservative country. The alleged assault took place at the five-star Fairmont Nile City hotel in Cairo in 2014 where a group of six men drugged and raped several victims, according to the account, Assault Police. Names and pictures of the figures accused, who hail from elite families, have circulated online, but AFP has been unable to verify their authenticity. AFP spoke to a source close to one of the victims who corroborated details of the 2014 rapes posted online. The victim was unwilling to comment publicly for fear of a backlash. The account, which boasted over 170,000 followers, had to abruptly shut down on Wednesday after multiple death threats, according to a source close to its operator.No official investigation has been launched so far, as tweets flood in under the hashtag #FairmontIncident. Assault Police was pivotal in stirring a national outcry against Ahmed Bassam Zaki, 22, a former student of some of Egypt's most elite schools and universities. On July 4 authorities arrested Zaki who confessed to assaulting at least six girls including one aged under 18 and blackmailing the victims, according to prosecutors, Egypt's National Council for Women on Wednesday condemned retaliatory threats made against women exposing sexual misconduct. The council "stands by every woman and girl exposed to any... threat by providing all necessary support", it said. It also called on "every girl and woman who might be subjected to harassment and/or threats to immediately report through the official reporting mechanisms". The Fairmont Hotel has said it carried out an investigation of the graphic claims posted online. "An internal investigation was undertaken by the hotel upon receipt of knowledge of the disturbing allegations," Yara ElDouky, Fairmont's communication director, told AFP. "We can confirm that at no time were any reports of the incident filed to the hotel, nor to the hotel’s tourism police," she said. "All personnel at the hotel are committed to assisting the relevant authorities and we will continue to offer our unfettered support," she added. The allegations come as Egypt sentenced to jail several young female influencers on popular app TikTok on charges of violating public morals.A 2013 study by UN Women found that 99% of women in Egypt had at some point in their lives been sexually harassed, either verbally or physically.

Readout: First meeting of the International Coordination and Response Group and Iran regarding negotiations on reparations related to the downing of Flight PS752
July 30, 2020 - Kyiv, Ukraine - Global Affairs Canada
Afghanistan, Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, members of the International Coordination and Response Group for the victims of Flight PS752, today issued the following readout:
Today, representatives from the five members of the International Coordination and Response Group held their first meeting with Iranian officials regarding negotiations on reparations for the families of the victims of Flight PS752.
The Coordination Group was represented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine as its negotiating spokesperson. Negotiators from Afghanistan, Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom were also present at the meeting.
The Coordination Group members reaffirmed their commitment to cooperation and, once again, called on Iran to make full reparations for the downing of Flight PS752. Coordination Group members and Iran also discussed the preparations and organization for the upcoming rounds of negotiations.
The Coordination Group reiterated the call on Iran to conduct a full, transparent and independent investigation in accordance with international standards, including accountability and justice for the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 30-31/2020
Joining the conflict in Libya, Turkey sees economic gains
Samy Magdy/AP/July 30/2020
CAIRO — When Turkey’s president signed a security deal last year to back one of the sides in Libya’s civil war, another agreement was waiting to be signed by his new proteges the same day: a memorandum redrawing the two countries’ maritime borders.
In Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s memo, Turkey and Libya lay claim to large areas of the Mediterranean Sea and the potential natural gas deposits under it. The deal achieved a longtime goal of Turkey — finding a partner to back its claims.
Officials in Libya’s U.N.-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, have disclosed for the first time to The Associated Press the deliberations that resulted in Turkey becoming a major broker in the war, opposite Russia. They describe the relationship as necessary, and say Turkey’s foray into the conflict goes hand-in-hand with its economic designs. Several officials say their side entered the deals with Turkey reluctantly, late last year, believing they had no choice. They desperately needed an ally as their opponent in the war, Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter, bore down on Tripoli with his forces, strengthened by Russian, Emirati and Egyptian backing.
“It was like a give-and-take game,” said one official in Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj’s office. “They took advantage of our weakness at the time.” He and other officials spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety in a country largely ruled by an array of militias.
In the end, Turkey sent troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries and other military support that helped pro-Sarraj forces repel Hifter’s assault this spring, preventing the collapse of the Tripoli-based administration and shifting the tide of the war.
But Ankara’s role is just one side of how outside powers are exploiting and fueling the civil war in the oil-rich North African nation.
Russia has sent weapons, air defense systems and mercenaries to Libya’s front lines to back Hifter’s offensive, launched last year and aimed at capturing Tripoli. That help has continued even after Hifter’s withdrawal, though Russia has denied any role in the Libyan conflict.
The interventions are deepening a civil war born after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Hifter controls eastern and southern Libya. Sarraj’s government controls Tripoli and its surroundings, in the west.
Erdogan has only acknowledged sending high-level advisers to help pro-Sarraj forces. In reality, Ankara deployed a few hundred troops and an estimated 3,500-3,800 Syrian mercenaries over the first quarter of the year, a Pentagon report last week said. Turkey also sent weapons, military equipment and air defense systems.
Sarraj’s office didn’t answer several calls seeking comment on the relationship with Turkey. One Libyan official acknowledged to the AP the Tripoli government’s “full reliance” on Turkey. However, “we would not have reached this point” if not for Hifter’s offensive, he said. The officials said Turkey pushed the government for over a year to approve the maritime deal, but Sarraj resisted. In part, he felt he did not have the authority to strike international agreements, being head of a transitional government. He may have also been wary of making Mediterranean claims certain to be rejected by the Europeans.
“It was a relentless pressure,” one official said, adding that Islamists inside Sarraj’s administration also wielded influence in support of Ankara. “Turkey was the only country that promised support, and we agreed only after all other doors were closed.”
The security and maritime deals were signed in late November. Under the accord, Libya and Turkey claim adjoining parts of the Mediterranean and exploration rights there. Greece disputes the deal, considering the waters part of its continental shelf. The EU said it violates international law and poses a “threat to stability.” Turkey has long wanted to alter the old boundaries and its drive gained urgency as Egypt, Israel and Cyprus moved to exploit newly discovered natural gas fields in their waters. “We are tearing up maps of the East Mediterranean that were drawn up to imprison us on the mainland,” Erdogan deputy Fuat Oktay said. Turkey’s moves, particularly its claim on Greek waters, have heightened tensions between the two NATO members that openly clashed 46 years ago in the conflict over Cyprus.
The maritime claims give Turkey “pressure points” to apply against other nations around the Eastern Mediterranean, said Oded Berkowitz, an Israeli security analyst who specializes in the Libyan conflict. It can aim to block Egypt, Israel and Cyprus from directly exporting natural gas to Europe and to influence migrant trafficking.
Turkey has long had interests in Libya, mainly construction and energy projects. It has also been pressing for new business opportunities and recouping losses sustained since Ghadafi was pushed from power. The Turkish Contractor’s Association estimated that in 2011, just after the country’s popular uprising, Turkish companies had more than $18 billion in contracts in Libya. Many of those were lost in the ensuing chaos and war. In June, a Turkish delegation including the foreign and finance ministers, met Tripoli officials and presented bills for $2 billion owed to Turkish firms, another official said. Tripoli agreed to pay back that and $1.7 billion in other debts and compensation for machinery and equipment lost in the war, he said. The agreement still needs final approval from Sarraj. Libyan officials have said Turkey is building a naval base as part of Misrata’s port and a base at the al-Waitya air base in the desert southwest of Tripoli.A Turkish government official told the AP that the “issue of bases is not on the agenda.” He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. Meanwhile, Turkish and pro-Sarraj forces are preparing an operation to retake the coastal city of Sirte and the inland Jufra air base, which Hifter’s ally Egypt has said would prompt it to deploy troops to Libya.
But it’s only a part of the bigger picture, said Jalel Harchaoui, a research fellow specializing in Libyan affairs at the Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations.
“Control over that territory isn’t so much about Libya’s oil itself as it’s about the natural gas under the Mediterranean Sea,” he said.
*Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

Reacting Smartly to Harassing Tactics by Iraqi Militias
Michael Knights/The Washington Institute/July 30/2020
As attacks on international targets continue, the United States should help Iraqis take the lead in responding to nonlethal incidents and exploiting militia missteps.
On July 27, Iran-backed militias in Taji, Iraq, fired five rockets at the local military base, which hosts a small U.S. contingent. Indeed, Kataib Hezbollah (KH), Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and other groups are escalating their harassment campaign against the U.S.-led coalition presence using a range of tactics:
Attacks on logistical convoys. According to U.S. military contacts, militias have conducted fifty-one attacks this year on trucks that transport supplies to U.S. and coalition forces and diplomatic sites in Iraq. Almost all of these attacks were carried out with hand-thrown grenades or Molotov cocktails, though some involved gunfire or roadside improvised explosive devices. The attacks have damaged trucks and U.S. materiel, but no American lives have been threatened because the trucks are driven by Iraqi contractors and escorted by Iraqi security companies. Unsurprisingly, Iraqis are becoming less willing to work on such convoys. Rocket attacks. Militias have conducted at least twenty-seven rocket attacks on U.S. locations in Iraq this year, firing just over eighty rockets and mortar shells. Two U.S. troops and one British servicewoman were killed in a March 11 attack on Taji. And in the July 27 attack, rockets destroyed an Iraqi helicopter at the base and damaged an Iraqi military manufacturing site.
Drone threats. On July 22, security forces discovered a quadcopter drone carrying a small bomb on a rooftop in Jadriyah, just across the Tigris River from the U.S. embassy and the Iraqi government center. Militia drones have previously been flown over the embassy and U.S. bases on a number of occasions.
Anti-air threats. Militias have shot at U.S. helicopters transiting bases such as K-1 in Kirkuk. They have also posted images that claim to show a man-portable air-defense system (MANPADS) being (unsuccessfully) fired at a U.S. Chinook helicopter near the Bismayah training base. In other cases, militia leaders have displayed maps that purport to show radar tracks of coalition aerial transportation routes.
Hostage-taking. The recent three-day kidnapping of German art curator Hella Mewis in Baghdad is a reminder that Iran-backed militias could try to pressure the United States by kidnapping American citizens, including Iraqi dual nationals.
Defiance against government authority. Some militias have demonstrated their defiance with a constant stream of media and online messaging. KH spokesman Abu Ali al-Askari regularly criticizes and threatens Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and other “enemies.” And earlier this month, KH fighters employed by the Popular Mobilization Forces, an official state organ, were filmed stomping on pictures of Kadhimi, their commander-in-chief. Meanwhile, large militia convoys are free to drive around the government center and menace Iraqi officials.
Many of these measures are often used in tandem to falsely portray harassing efforts as effective military resistance. For example, militias will often learn of an upcoming coalition redeployment from one base to another, then use their various media platforms to publicly predict that forces will withdraw, then fire rockets at the base, and then record the scheduled redeployment as purported video evidence of successful resistance tactics. This was the case when Bismayah was hit with rockets on July 24—one day before the base was transitioned to full Iraqi operation in a long-announced ceremony.
If U.S. personnel are killed, or if authorities detect new or particularly advanced militia efforts to kill Americans, then a kinetic response would certainly be justified. And whenever such responses are issued, they should be more powerful than the weak retaliation seen on March 13, when U.S. forces struck empty KH-associated buildings after two Americans were killed at Taji.
Yet U.S. options are less clear-cut in other circumstances, so it is important to properly assess and rank militia harassing activities, differentiating between those that require urgent U.S. action and those that are less significant. The current strain of militia harassing attacks appears to be deliberately nonlethal against U.S. personnel, insofar as “aim to miss” rocket attacks at large military complexes have a very low risk of killing or seriously injuring Americans, and no U.S. personnel are present in logistical convoys. This apparent shaping of militia operational choices away from deadly attacks and toward the propagandistic touting of low-impact or fake attacks is arguably a deterrence success.
Yet there are still costs associated with letting such attacks go unanswered. First, some of them do have a residual risk of hurting Americans, which could draw the U.S. and Iraqi government into unwanted crises. Second, harassing attacks are a slippery slope—they build militia confidence and encourage risk-taking behavior that can turn deadly (e.g., if groups firing at U.S. helicopters wind up shooting one down). Third, they pose an even greater risk to Iraqi lives, equipment, and infrastructure. Fourth, even nonlethal attacks damage the Iraqi government’s legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens and international partners, potentially undermining Baghdad at precisely the moment it is trying to rein in militia power at Iraq’s airports, border posts, and state agencies via workmanlike reforms.
In order to reignite calls for a full American military withdrawal from Iraq, militias like KH and their partners in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) may seek to draw the United States into a retaliatory cycle. Thus, while Washington cannot ignore the current harassment campaign, it should not overreact either. In broad terms, this means the United States should respond directly and forcefully to lethal attacks but ask the Iraqi government to confront lower-level harassing attacks. Baghdad must be firmly in the lead on the latter issue, with Washington quietly supporting it via the following measures:
Convoy security cooperation. The United States has unparalleled experience running convoy systems on Iraq’s roads, so it could quickly and easily provide planning support and training to Iraqi convoy operators. From 2003 to 2011, it operated a system called Tapestry and a coordination hub called the Reconstruction Operations Center, which allowed for secure end-to-end tracking of convoys and a quick-reaction force capability. This model can and should be revived at a smaller scale.
Weapons intelligence. Iraqi authorities should process crime scenes and captured enemy materiel with minimal foreign involvement, and the best way to achieve this is through intensified international training of Iraqi weapons intelligence specialists. Every rocket, drone, video, electronic device, and attack site contains forensic data that can be built into a biometric and pattern analysis system, eventually providing court-quality evidence or, at least, content for public campaigns that name and shame rogue militia commanders. Using international forensic consultancies is another inexpensive way to help the state publicly explain the origin of weapons being used in Iraq.
Warning data. The Iraqi government is now taking preventive action to stop attacks and investigate known terrorist cells. Accordingly, the United States should share warning data about possible attacks through a joint intelligence operations fusion cell specifically focused on militia groups. Even if such cooperation does not always produce arrests, preventing attacks before they begin is far preferable to intercepting rockets in the air or negotiating the return of hostages.
Information operations. Every time militias fire a rocket or attack a convoy, there is a far greater chance they will hurt Iraqi citizens or property than American soldiers or property. Such was the case in Taji this week. The Iraqi government correctly characterized the attack as an assault on three Iraqi targets: the 5th Squadron of the Iraqi Army Aviation Corps; an Army artillery and weapons factory; and the 201st Squadron of the Iraqi Air Force. Officials also noted that valuable and much-needed state property was destroyed. The U.S. government should reinforce this Iraqi messaging, deploring militia attacks against the state and its citizenry. Washington should also prepare for the likelihood that the IRGC will try to help militias avoid Iraqi collateral damage by providing them with more-precise weapons, similar to the drone/bomb combination discovered on July 22.
*Michael Knights, a senior fellow with The Washington Institute, has conducted extensive on-the-ground research in Iraq alongside security forces and ministries. He is the coauthor (with Hamdi Malik and Aymenn al-Tamimi) of the recent Institute study Honored, Not Contained: The Future of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces.

Putin’s agents and cronies run amok in Britain
Clifford D. May/FDD/July 30/2020
Looking for titillating summer reading? Interested in stories about espionage, murder, power, and ill-begotten wealth? Then I have just the thing for you to take to the beach: The report of the British Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.
Released last week, the report focuses on “Russian Hostile State Activity.” It begins on a nostalgic note: “The dissolution of the USSR was a time of hope in the West. Western thinking was, if not to integrate Russia fully, at least to ensure that it became a partner. By the mid-2000s, it was clear that this had not been successful.” Nothing provided more clarity than the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko. A lieutenant colonel in Russia’s FSB, successor to the Soviet Union’s KGB, Mr. Litvinenko was granted asylum in the United Kingdom in 2000. He became a journalist, consultant to British intelligence, and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him, among other things, of ordering the October 2006 murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
The following month, a dose of polonium 210 was mixed into the tea he was served in a London hotel. It took ten years before a public inquiry concluded that his murder had been carried out by FSB operatives, and was “probably” approved by Mr. Putin.
Other Russian defectors and dissidents, 14 according to an estimate cited in the report, have been murdered on British soil. There also have been bungled attempts, most infamously the 2018 use of chemical weapons to poison former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. That led to the expulsion of 153 Russian intelligence officers and diplomats from 29 countries.
The parliamentary report notes efforts over the years “to repair relations” between Russia and Western countries,” including President Obama’s ballyhooed “reset.” It further notes that “none has had any impact on Russian intent, and therefore on the security threat that Russia poses.”
Russia’s economy is smaller than those of Italy or Brazil but it “heavily resources its intelligence services and armed forces, which are disproportionately large and powerful.” Russia appears to believe that “any actions it can take which damage the West” are in its national interest.
“There is also a sense that Russia believes that an undemocratic ‘might is right’ world order plays to its strengths, which leads it to seek to undermine the Rules Based International Order – whilst nonetheless benefitting from its membership of international political and economic institutions.”
Among Russia’s objectives, the report continues, are “to be seen as a resurgent ‘great power’ – in particular, dominating the countries of the former USSR – and to ensure that the privileged position of its leadership clique is not damaged.”
Russia pursues these goals by spreading disinformation, illicitly funding foreign political parties and organizations, using “malicious cyber activity” to influence the democratic elections of other countries, disrupting “electoral mechanics,” and carrying out “hack and leak” attacks on election campaigns.
Has Russia succeeded in changing any election results? Apparently not, but its meddling discredits democratic governance and deepens divisions within democratic countries. The report points out: “When people start to say ‘You don’t know what to believe’ or ‘They’re all as bad as each other,’ the disinformers are winning.”The report also spotlights oligarchs – politically well-connected Russians who became filthy rich by appropriating resources formerly in the possession of the Soviet state.
Britain “has been viewed as a particularly favourable destination for Russian oligarchs and their money,” the parliamentary committee found, “and few questions – if any – were asked about the provenance of this considerable wealth.”
As a result, oligarchs have been able to establish “ideal mechanisms by which illicit finance could be recycled through what has been referred to as the London ‘laundromat.’ The money was also invested in extending patronage and building influence across a wide sphere of the British establishment – PR firms, charities, political interests, academia and cultural institutions were all willing beneficiaries of Russian money, contributing to a ‘reputation laundering’ process.”
Oligarchs with “very close links to Putin” have become prominent both within Britain’s business community and its “social scene.”
“This level of integration – in ‘Londongrad’ in particular – means that any measures now being taken by the Government are not preventative but rather constitute damage limitation.”
Worse: “A large private security industry has developed in the UK to service the needs of the Russian elite, in which British companies protect the oligarchs and their families, seek kompromat [compromising information] on competitors, and on occasion help launder money through offshore shell companies and fabricate ‘due diligence’ reports, while lawyers provide litigation support.”  And get this: “It is notable that a number of Members of the House of Lords have business interests linked to Russia, or work directly for major Russian companies linked to the Russian state.”
The report concludes that, until recently, the British government “badly underestimated the Russian threat and the response it required.”I think there’s also a larger lesson here. In Britain, the U.S. and the West in general there has been – and there remains – a tendency to believe that those who rule Russia, China and Iran will mellow and moderate over time; that economic incentives can persuade them that cooperation is preferable to confrontation; that clever diplomacy will open their eyes to the benefits of playing by the rules.
It is comforting to believe that the arc of history bends toward liberal democracy. But the evidence suggests that Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Ali Khamenei believe the arc of history bends the way strong men bend it. They believe they are strong men. They believe Western leaders are not. If they’re correct, this story may not end well.
*Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for the Washington Times. Follow him on Twitter @CliffordDMay.

Threat to Kakai community showcases Iraq’s broader challenges
Elie Abouaoun and *Yousif Kalian/The Arab Weekly/August 01/2020
Amid the global pandemic, ISIS and the havoc it still wreaks have largely fallen out of the headlines. Nonetheless, the terrorist group’s genocidal march against Iraqi minorities has continued. In Iraq’s eastern Diyala province, ISIS has targeted the Kakai minority with multiple, vicious attacks.The plight of the Kakai community in Iraq is a microcosm of the larger existential challenges Iraq faces. Ethnic and sectarian divides have been a flashpoint for conflict and division for decades. For Iraq to move past the wreckage of ISIS, prevent the terrorist group’s resurgence, and advance its struggling democracy, the Kakai must not only be protected but woven more meaningfully into the diverse tapestry that is Iraq—and the United States has the opportunity to help.
Decades-old repression
The Kakai community practices Yarsanism, a syncretic religion mostly practiced in Iraq and Iran. In Iraq, they number between 100,000 and 250,000 and are mostly found in Kirkuk, Diyala, Erbil, Ninewa, and Sulaymaniyah provinces. Since early 2020, mortar strikes and targeted assassinations have pushed many Kakais to flee their homes and seven of their villages been abandoned. In late March, Kakai tombs in the Ninewa and Kirkuk governorates were destroyed by unknown persons.Dozens were murdered or wounded in May and June when gunmen reportedly connected to the Islamic State slaughtered defenseless civilians.
But the Kakais’ suffering did not begin with ISIS—their status as non-Muslims with Kurdish affiliation (although disputed by a minority of Kakais) exposed the community to persecution. Saddam Hussein’s infamous Arabisation campaigns saw Kakais’ land confiscated and distributed to Arabs and Muslim Kurds. The conflict over land that followed continues to be a root driver of conflict between Arabs, Muslim Kurds, and the Kakai community. Like all Iraqi minorities, the Kakais continued to suffer after 2003, facing the repression of their culture, language, and identity to near extinction.
The decades-old repression of Kakais demonstrates their acute vulnerability and lack of protection by any security actor in Iraq. This is due, in part, to the fact that these attacks have occurred in territory disputed by the Iraqi central government and Kurdistan regional government, where the resulting security voidwas exploited by ISISto build up its presence.
Preventing extinction
The lack of Kakai representation and co-optation by larger actors in the political sphere has further crippled the small community. Although there is Kakai representation on local councils and the Kurdistan parliament has one Kakai member, there is no quota in either the Iraqi or Kurdistan parliament for the community as for other minority groups such as Christians or Sabean-Mandaeans.
Kakai activists know that increased representation will not solve all their community’s issues overnight; however, they hope that an elevated platform to raise their concerns could bring attention to their ongoing plight and lead to discussions on how to prevent their extinction, a concern many Christians and Yazidis in Iraq have as well. Knowing that resolving the status of the disputed territories—through permanent or temporary arrangements—is a long way off, activists have sought to pick lower hanging fruit.
Given the United States’ commitment to religious freedom and desire to deny ISIS the possibility to re-emerge, it should work with the Iraqi government to prioritise the rehabilitation, preservation, and representation of the country’s vulnerable religious and ethnic minorities. Prime opportunities to discusses these issues are coming up, including during the upcoming U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue and visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to Washington.
In addition to pushing for increased Kakai representation in the Iraqi and Kurdistan parliaments, the United States can offer its support to the government to increase police or army presence around Kakai settlements and farms that are frequently targeted by ISIS or push for increasing recruitment of Kakais into formal armed groups to defend themselves. The United States can continue to offer assistance and push for the implementation of joint security mechanisms between Iraqi and Kurdish forces at patrols, checkpoints, and headquarters, previously implemented by the U.S. military in 2009-11. Several Kakai activists believe this could undercut ISIS’s ability to target their community.
Building democracy
Although Iraq and the Kurdistan region are grappling with several existential struggles, numerous studies have shown how diversity bolsters both democracy and economic growth. Cultural diversity and tolerance can drive economic progress by preventing stagnation in civil institutions and the intellectual sphere. To be sure, Iraq and the Kurdistan region also have a national security imperative in helping minorities—including Kakais—as supporting and involving them in the search for solutions can ensure social cohesion and deny ISIS safe havens to expand their operations.
The international community, Iraqi central government, Kurdistan region, provincial and district governments, and armed groups would be wise to work with the Kakai community, and other minority communities, to seek solutions to their issues in order to preserve one of Iraq’s key characteristics and untapped advantages. By preserving its diversity and protecting its minorities, Iraq might be also capable of addressing its existential problems: ethnic and sectarian divides.
*Elie Abouaoun is the director of Middle East and North Africa programmes for the US Institute of Peace. He is based in Tunis.
*Yousif Kalian is a program specialist currently based in Erbil, Iraq, where he works on social cohesion and community reconciliation in Iraq’s Ninewa province.

Arab version of NATO could stabilize region
Khaled Abou Zahr/Arab News/July 30/ 2020
France’s withdrawal this month from the NATO Mediterranean mission due to the behavior of fellow member Turkey was an echo from Paris’ history with the organization. In 1966, then-President Charles de Gaulle withdrew France from NATO’s integrated military command and downgraded its overall membership following a series of frustrations, from the US position on the Suez Crisis in 1956 to a lack of French representation compared to the US and UK, the two other steering powers. This French position was also translated into the European Common Market, with De Gaulle twice refusing to allow the UK to enter. On this point, he seems to have been proved right by the Brexit vote.
However, when it comes to NATO, even if distancing itself enabled France to build its own nuclear deterrent, it was probably not the best decision. It was only in 2009, under President Nicolas Sarkozy, that France corrected its course and reclaimed full NATO membership in a clear understanding of the changing nature of the threats the Western alliance was facing and the rise of new competing blocs. It is, nevertheless, important to note that, despite being in the NATO background for so many years, France made clear agreements stating its commitment to support the alliance in the case of war in Europe.
We often state that the reason for the creation and building of NATO was as a deterrent to the USSR and to avoid nuclear war. But such alliances go beyond the purpose of military action or facing an enemy as they change through time. Indeed, by sharing the burden of defense and putting a common interest at the forefront, it also serves the purpose of supporting political integration and avoiding national militarism between neighbors. It is beyond doubt that, despite France’s withdrawal from NATO’s integrated military command, the European political project would not have been possible without the concept of a common defense plan that NATO created.
There is something sacred about sharing the security burden that unlocks many developments. However, it must start with sharing common values. The US’ contribution and role in supporting the post-Second World War reconstruction of Europe was a success and created stability for the Old Continent — a stability it had never seen before. Although still an open wound, conflict in the former Yugoslavia showed that NATO and Europe were able to bring peace and stability to the continent’s most difficult regions.
Today, NATO faces new challenges arising from a changing geopolitical landscape and the emergence of new threats. It will certainly adapt like it did in the past and go through the transformation needed with a shifting but continuous US support. It seems that the European members will have to take on a bigger role and assume more of the responsibilities that were overseen by the US in the past. It is quite strange to see some European analysts complain about this, as they are the same voices who previously accused the US of hegemonic plans through NATO. One cannot have it both ways. It is also important for NATO to listen to the Europeans when it comes to resetting or renewing relations with Russia. Stability can only come from a common understanding and trust with Moscow, which is far from impossible to build.
Today, the Arab world faces various challenges and one might ask what we can learn from the European experience and NATO’s role. Is it possible to build a similar organization for the Arab world? How can we start sharing the burden of our defense? More importantly, what do we stand to protect, what are the values we cherish, and what do we aspire to build? This immediately puts everything into perspective. Any such alliance is bigger and broader than standing against a common enemy. Thus, this construction effort for the Arab world should be bigger than just opposing Iran or any other single enemy.
If we examine NATO, we can see that it protected free will in the face of totalitarianism. Therefore, France was able to dissent and exit without consequences — something countries within the Warsaw Pact could not do without seeing the Soviet Union’s tanks invading them. This also means that there is room for political disagreements within the alliance, but it draws a clear line when it comes to the safety and protection of any member state’s sovereignty and the security of its citizens.
The Arab region is far away from what Europe is today and the integration it has built since the end of the Second World War. Our regional institutions have been eroded by numerous crises and, in particular, the lack of capacity to act and make a decisive change on any file. The Arab League, for example, has not been able to react properly to the recent challenges the region faces and is constantly trying to maneuver the Arab world’s interests the best way it can. Unfortunately, it has become a punching bag for some member states and populist agendas.
The Arab region urgently needs to build a Middle East security architecture. The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano recently discussed this subject in a webcast and pointed out that a political, military and economic architecture that includes the nations of the region needed to be created. The US, which has recently been less prone to taking an active role in the global scene, would then come in as a stabilizing force and support it. This would, over time, create a sustainable and dependable deterrent against all threats to the region.
There is something sacred about sharing the security burden that unlocks many developments.
Carafano clarified that this would not just be another NATO, as the Middle East is not Europe, but that there is the need for something stronger than just the US’ current bilateral alliances to create trust and continuity. This would help address the many problems in the Greater Middle East and create a sustainable front against Iran, sending the right message to the Iranian people that the region will not accept the hegemonic actions of the regime.
In my view, the steering committee for this new architecture should be led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. It would take on the key files of the region and build a unified decision-making committee to protect the region’s security. It might not be a NATO but it should not be a Warsaw Pact either. Our region is complicated and, even among allies, we can disagree, especially when it comes to political solutions. By starting to share our defense infrastructure, we create a catalyst toward building something greater and bringing stability to our citizens. Once again, this alliance should not be built against a common enemy, but to protect shared and common values.
*Khaled Abou Zahr is the CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.

Trump’s new direction has time to claw back polls deficit
Andrew Hammond/Arab News/July 30/ 2020
With fewer than 100 days to go until election day, many in Washington are comparing the current mood across the nation to the final months in office of two one-term presidents: Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. Yet, while Donald Trump is badly behind in the polls, he cannot be completely counted out with more than three months of the campaign still remaining.
The evidence for why Trump is in growing electoral trouble is shown in the latest wave of polls, which indicate that Joe Biden’s national lead has grown and his margin is now larger than Hillary Clinton’s was at any point during the 2016 campaign. Turning to the math of the all-important Electoral College, Biden also holds significant leads in key battleground states and, if the presidential ballot was held today, it is very likely that he would win.
However, many pollsters will remember the experience of autumn 2016, when Clinton’s apparently consistent lead evaporated on election night. And, even if Biden does win, it remains quite likely, unless Trump implodes, that the polls could narrow.
This “closer contest” scenario is especially likely with the president looking to recalibrate his election strategy in the last three months of the campaign. While it is too early to know if the pattern of recent days will continue, there are signs of greater moderation in Trump’s demeanor and a new-found acknowledgement of the seriousness of the coronavirus crisis. With much of the US populace viewing his response to the pandemic as lackluster, Trump last week acknowledged for the first time that the crisis will get “worse before it gets better” and U-turned on the issue of face masks, asserting it was now “patriotic” to wear one.
At least part of the reason for the shift appears to be the change in Trump’s campaign team that was initiated this month. This saw Bill Stepien, a field director for his 2016 campaign, take the place of Brad Parscale, who was reportedly blamed by Trump for the poorly attended rally in Oklahoma last month.
The new 100-day strategy, if that is indeed what it proves to be, is based around his new campaign team’s belief that the 2016 tactic of firing up a core base and riding an anti-establishment wave will not be enough to win again. So there is an increased effort to peel off center-ground voters, with the president placing less emphasis on rancor and discord and seeking to bring greater political conciliation in a country more divided than perhaps at any other time in living memory.
The key question is how much Trump, with the huge political baggage that his presidency now has thanks to a polarizing three-and-a-half years, can make this strategy a success in reaching out to swing voters by striving for more consensus and for a healing of frayed relations. There is no question that the office of the presidency can still — in suitably skilled hands — offer the potential for national renewal and unity during troubled times.
However, many voters will not have forgotten how much Trump has eschewed this agenda with his sometimes wild rhetoric and by failing to forge a governing agenda that brought the country together following the controversies of the 2016 campaign. The partisan animosity and wider political challenges coming out of that election have not been tackled by Trump and, while proving to be an effective (if unorthodox) campaigner, his lack of governing experience — as the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to have never previously held elected office — has restricted his ability to push through his agenda.
In the remaining months of Trump’s term, the presidency continues to provide him with at least two broad powers: That of setting governing themes for his administration, including renewal and unity; and that of creating interactive coalitions among the public and within Congress in support of the administration’s agenda. Trump’s effectiveness in setting governing themes and building coalitions of support will continue to depend upon his political skill in exploiting two sources of power — the popular prestige of the presidential office and his leadership reputation among members of Congress and senior federal bureaucrats.
There are signs of greater moderation in Trump’s demeanor and a new-found acknowledgement of the seriousness of the coronavirus crisis.
Strong and effective presidents exploit each source of power interactively, as, for example, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan did in the 1930s/40s and 1980s, respectively. To try to turn around his presidency before election day, Trump will have to show with greater clarity and purpose that he knows how to do both, defying expectations that are held about him by many voters.
Taken overall, Trump still has an opportunity to tighten the polls by avoiding excessive rancor and partisan overreach and outlining a clear, compelling governing agenda for a second term that would bring the country together, rather than tear it further apart.
*Andrew Hammond is an Associate at LSE IDEAS at the London School of Economics.

Unrealistic to expect Iranian regime to change its behavior
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh /Arab News/July 30/ 2020
د. مجيد زافيزادا: من غير المنطقي التوقع أن يغيير النظام الإيراني من تصرفاته

The argument that the Iranian regime can be talked into changing its foreign policy, whether through diplomacy, negotiations or financial incentives, defies logic and reason. Even so, there are leaders around the world who advocate for pursuing appeasement policies with the ruling clerics of Iran as a way of altering their destabilizing behavior in the region.
For example, the final draft of the US Democratic Party’s 2020 platform, which was released this week, lays out the party’s Iran policy. In order to change the regime’s behavior, the Democrats’ platform calls for diplomacy and negotiations with Tehran and a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), aka the Iran nuclear deal, suggesting Joe Biden would lift US sanctions against the Iranian government should he win the November election.
Offering economic and political incentives is a legitimate policy to convince a modern and rational state to abandon or alter its malign activities. But what the advocates of this policy fail to understand is that the Islamic Republic is not a conventional state that can be persuaded to change its foreign policy. It is a revolutionary state, founded in 1979 on specific ideals that constitute the core pillars of its existence.
What are some of these revolutionary ideals that the regime has not changed in four decades? The Islamic Republic believes it is religiously superior in the region and beyond. This sense of religious superiority comes with another ideal of leading the whole Muslim world based on the terms it dictates. The constitution of the Islamic Republic makes it clear that the government’s religious mission is not limited to the boundaries of Iran. It states: “The Constitution provides the necessary basis for ensuring the continuation of the Revolution at home and abroad. In particular, in the development of international relations, the Constitution will strive with other Islamic and popular movements to prepare the way for the formation of a single world community.”
Another revolutionary principle of the regime is to employ hard power in order to export its religious ideology to other nations. The constitution delegates to its military the fulfillment of this goal: “The Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran must be an Islamic Army, i.e., committed to Islamic ideology and the people… It will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country, but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of jihad in God’s way; that is, extending the sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world.”
The Islamic Republic is not a conventional state that can be persuaded to change its foreign policy
Another firm revolutionary principle is anti-Americanism. As Ali Shirazi, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative in the Quds Force, said in 2015: “We will stand fast against the world of arrogance. We will not rest until we have raised the banner of Islam over the White House.”
If we carefully study the four-decade rule of the Islamic Republic, we can clearly see that the Iranian regime has maintained these core pillars of its ideology throughout its ups and downs and times of war and peace since the 1979 revolution.
After the JCPOA nuclear deal was struck in 2015 and Iran was unshackled from UN Security Council sanctions, the regime did not moderate its behavior or put its revolutionary ideals aside. In fact, the regime became more empowered and emboldened to exert its influence in the region.
Once Iran was liberated from the restrictions of international sanctions, it began launching ballistic missiles in violation of UN resolutions and increased its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad by recruiting militias, providing financial and military assistance and sending more troops to Syria. The Islamic Republic also became a defiant member of OPEC, as it blatantly rejected a 2016 proposal by fellow members, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, to reduce oil output in order to address a global surplus.
After the nuclear deal came into effect, a series of assassination and terrorist plots across Europe — some successful, others not — were traced back to Tehran. Human rights violations and domestic repression also escalated. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps expanded its militaristic role in the region, while Iran’s destructive actions and funding and arming of known terror and militia groups also increased. These include Hezbollah and the Houthis. Not only did chants such as “Death to America” not disappear after all those appeasement policies and diplomatic initiatives, Tehran also became more aggressive in the Gulf and repeatedly harassed naval ships without fear of any repercussions.
The Iranian regime has maintained the core pillars of its revolutionary ideals since 1979. Expecting that it will change its destructive policies as a result of diplomacy and appeasement is totally irrational and unrealistic.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh