August 03/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
The Talents Parable
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 25:14-30/:"Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one– to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ (Then) the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter?Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”

spiritual gifts
1 Corinthians/Chapter 12/01-31/:"Now in regard to spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware. You know how, when you were pagans, you were constantly attracted and led away to mute idols.Therefore, I tell you that nobody speaking by the spirit of God says, "Jesus be accursed." And no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the holy Spirit.There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit;  to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, "Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body," it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, "Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body," it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I do not need you," nor again the head to the feet, "I do not need you."Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If (one) part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. Now you are Christ's body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; 6 second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 02-03/17
Russia flies 2,000 mercenary troops into Syria/ DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 02/17
Despite judicial intervention, Iraqi Christians in the US face uncertain times/Phoebe Leila Barghouty/Al Arabiya/August 02/17
The State Department's Report on Terrorism Should Be Discredited/A. Z. Mohamed/Gatestone Institute/August 02/17
Europe's Cities Absorb Sharia Law/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/August 02/17
Turkey: Erdogan's New Morality Police/Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/August 02/17
North Korea and swimming in the big chaos/Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/August 02/17
What does Qatar’s UN complaint mean/Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/August 02/17
The blessed Iraqi movement/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 02/17
The 1990-1991 Kuwait crisis remembered: Profiles in statesmanship/Dr. John Duke Anthony/Al Arabiya/August 02/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on August 02-03/17
Syrians evacuate Lebanese border camps for rebel-held territory
On Army Day, Aoun Pledges Full Political Support
Hizbullah-Nusra Prisoners Swap Complete, Militant and Refugee Transfer Begins
113 busses carrying Nusra militants and families cross Wadi Hmaid
Aoun follows up on wage hike, pushes for resolution of crisis through economic plan
Berri hails Arsal victory as all out Lebanese victory
Hariri receives Malaysian Ambassador, delegation of General confederation of Lebanese Workers, and fulltime Teachers Association
Hariri Says Hizbullah 'Achieved Something' in Arsal, Army to Deal with IS
Marouni: Lebanese Army Should Have Led Arsal Battles
800 Israeli Layoffs as Hizbullah-Threatened Ammonia Tank Closes
Govt. Hospital Official Fired for Stealing Cancer Drugs, Dispensing Fakes
ISF Foils Attempt to Smuggle Captagon Pills
Mahfoud: Nusra Leader, Al-Talli, Should Have Been Executed on Gallows
UNHCR Lebanon statement on returns from Arsal
Khoury, Riachi tackle current developments
Nusra kills person after dropping him off bus en route to Idlib
Senior Hamas officials meet with Iranian official in Beirut

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 02-03/17
UAE: Measures against Qatar Comply with WTO Agreements
Moscow Suggests Egypt as Sponsor of ‘Homs Truce’ instead of Ankara
Kuwait Denies its Waters are Used for Transferring Iranian Arms to Houthis
Iraqi President: ‘Kurdistan’s Referendum Does Not Mean Independence’
OIC Chief Condemns Terror Attack against Afghan Mosque
Jordanian Parliament Approves Annulment of Article 308
66 on Trial on Charges of Forming ISIS Branch in Upper Egypt
Qatar Announces 5 Billion Euro Order for Warships from Italy
Tillerson sends senior envoys to handle Qatar crisis
Syria's Mouallem, Iran's Abdullahian tackle political developments
Italian parliament gives green light to Libya naval mission
US successfully tests ICBM following North Korea missile launch
Daesh claims mosque attack in Afghanistan's Herat
Cyberactivist Secretly Executed in Syria Detention, Widow Says
Venezuela Opposition Rally to Coincide with Start of New Assembly

Latest Lebanese Related News published on August 02-03/17
Syrians evacuate Lebanese border camps for rebel-held territory
Reuters, Beirut Thursday, 3 August 2017/Buses carrying Syrian militants and refugees left a Lebanese border area bound for a rebel-held part of Syria on Wednesday, under a deal made after Hezbollah routed Nusra Front insurgents in their last foothold at the frontier. Some 7,000 Syrians including 1,000 militants, their families and refugees are to leave the Lebanese town of Arsal and the surrounding border area and head for Syria’s northwestern Idlib province under the deal, Hezbollah-run media outlets said. The transfer echoes deals struck within Syria in which Damascus has shuttled rebels and civilians to Idlib and other opposition areas. Such evacuations have helped President Bashar al-Assad recapture several rebel bastions over the past year, and are criticised by the opposition as amounting to the forced transfer of populations seen as sympathetic to the opposition.
The ceasefire took effect last week, just days after Lebanese Hezbollah and the Syrian army launched an offensive to drive Nusra Front and other militants from their last foothold along the Syria-Lebanon border. Hezbollah’s Al Manar television said that 113 buses had begun leaving Arsal town, headed for Fleita on the Syrian side. At least 26 buses earlier left refugee camps in the nearby Jroud Arsal area and crossed to Wadi Hmeid further northeast in the direction of the Syrian frontier, it said, before their onward journey to Idlib. Aid agencies with limited access to Arsal were not able to say where many of the Syrian refugees living in the area had originally come from. Two former residents of Arsal said most refugees originally fled to Arsal when the Syrian army backed by Hezbollah took control of their towns across the border during heavy fighting over three years ago.
They said they were going to Idlib with many refugees feeling no longer safe to stay in Arsal camps after Hezbollah extended greater influence in the area while a return to government run-areas would also mean they risk being drafted into the army. Abu Yahya al Qalamouni who was in touch with several refugees said “many wanted to go to a camp where Hezbollah was not in control and not for love of Idlib”. The UN refugee body said in a statement it was not party to the agreement and stressed that “return of refugees should be made free from undue pressure.”“The UNHCR is not in a position to ascertain to what extent refugees, who are civilians by definition, are returning in this movement,” it said. The deal included the release of eight Hezbollah fighters by the Nusra Front in exchange for individuals held by Lebanon. Three of the Hezbollah fighters were released overnight. The remaining five are expected to be released once the first convoy reaches its destination in Syria.

On Army Day, Aoun Pledges Full Political Support
Asharq Al-Awsat English/August 02/17/Beirut – Lebanese President Michel Aoun said there would be no retreat in the face of terrorism in all its aspects and organizations. “The Lebanese army along with the security bodies will be in permanent readiness to confront threats. Lebanon has been a pioneer in its war against terror; our army has confronted terrorism in successive combats and succeeded in strengthening the political and security stability in the country and in stabilizing peace in our southern borders,” Aoun said, addressing graduate officers in a ceremony to mark Lebanon’s Army Day. “The risks that threaten our nation are numerous along the borders and inside the country. The experience of the seventies taught us that no nation remains united if its army is paralyzed,” he stated. The president underlined the need for the Lebanese to unify ranks in order to overcome all challenges ahead. “The challenges that our nation and our society are facing impose on us, more than any time before, to be united. You and your brothers in arms in the other security forces should work together for the same purpose: to protect Lebanon, secure its borders, its internal security and the rule of law therein,” he said, addressing the military officers. Later on Tuesday, Aoun received a delegation of senior Army officers, headed by Army Commander General Joseph Aoun. In remarks, the president said that political cover to help the Lebanese Army carry out its duties had been provided to the institution by all Lebanese officials. “The military command is urged to take initiatives on the ground, especially in the frame of preemptive measures to protect Lebanon from terrorism,” he stated.For his part, the Army commander told Aoun: “We are aware of the size of the economic, social, and political responsibilities at this delicate stage in Lebanon, but in return, we appreciate your reasonable mind, long and vast experience, and determination to address all the national problems; the last few months of achievements are the best proof of that.” “Security and stability, as we all know, are the solid foundation upon which any economic and developmental reform will be built upon, and we have entrusted you today to protect this stability and to strike with iron fist whatever shakes the country,” he added.

Hizbullah-Nusra Prisoners Swap Complete, Militant and Refugee Transfer Begins
Naharnet/August 02/17/Buses carrying al-Nusra Front militants, their families and scores of refugees began moving from Lebanon's Arsal to Syria's Flita Wednesday afternoon, after the first phase of a Nusra-Hizbullah prisoner exchange deal was finalized overnight with the release of three Hizbullah fighters in return for three Syrian Nusra prisoners. Hizbullah's al-Manar TV said 113 buses carrying around 8,000 militants and refugees were moving into Syria. The evacuees include Nusra's leader in the area Abu Malek al-Talli. Twenty ambulances were escorting the buses, amid measures by the Lebanese army, General Security and the Lebanese Red Cross. Several media outlets including NNA said al-Nusra took out one of its militants, Raad al-Ammouri, from one of the buses before executing him with gunshots in front of the civilian refugees. NNA said the overnight swap of prisoners took place in the Wadi Hmayyed area in Arsal's outskirts. Three Nusra prisoners from Lebanon's central Roumieh prison were swapped for three Hizbullah captives. General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, who is playing a key role in the negotiations, assured that all three Hizbullah fighters were in good health. Hizbullah's three captives were kidnapped when they lost their way during the ceasefire between Hizbullah and Nusra that followed the battles in Arsal's outskirts last month. They were identified as Mahmoud Harb, Hussam Fakih and Hafez Zakhim, NNA added. Lebanon's General Security, the Lebanese army, the international Red Cross and international bodies were supervising the transfer of militants and refugees. Before leaving Arsal's outskirts, the militants burned the sites they used to occupy as well as their medium- and heavy-caliber weapons. The final part of the deal includes the release of another five Hizbullah captives -- captured in Aleppo in 2015 -- upon the arrival of the convoy of buses at a crossing that had also witnessed a deal to evacuate civilians from the Syrian towns of Foua and Kfarya in Aleppo province. On Tuesday, the evacuation ran into several hurdles and the process was postponed to Wednesday. Demands made by al-Nusra related to the release of around 20 Nusra inmates from the Roumieh Prison were reportedly among the hurdles. The exchange and evacuation deal comes in the wake of a military offensive by Hizbullah fighters and Syrian troops during which they captured border areas between the two countries and left hundreds of Nusra fighters besieged in a small rugged mountainous area. The fighting ended with a ceasefire on Thursday.

113 busses carrying Nusra militants and families cross Wadi Hmaid
Wed 02 Aug 2017/NNA - A convoy of 113 busses carrying Nusra Front militants and their families have crossed Wadi Hamid towards the Syrian territories, NNA field reporter said on Wednesday. Twenty ambulances escorted the convoy, amidst measures by the army, General Security and the Red Cross.

Aoun follows up on wage hike, pushes for resolution of crisis through economic plan
Wed 02 Aug 2017/NNA - The impact of the House of Parliament's ratification of the new wage hike, as well as the new tax provisions and their repercussions on the country's economic situation, featured high Wednesday on President of the Republic Michel Aoun's talks with Baabda itinerants.
The President is expected to brief the Council of Ministers during tomorrow's cabinet session on a new set of givens on this subject, and on the impact of the wage hike approval at the economic and financial levels in the country. This aims at making a detailed assessment of the next steps that should be adopted handling the salary scale and new tax measures. Within this framework, the President met with a delegation of the heads of liberal professions in Beirut and North Lebanon. The delegation presented to the president complaints about the new salary scale articles. In turn, Aoun expressed interest in the remarks made by his visitors, noting that the situation required a radical settlement through a comprehensive economic plan, which is currently being drafted. Separately, the President had an audience with a delegation of Catholic schools in Lebanon, headed by Bishop Hanna Rahme. The delegation presented the president with a document that included the remarks of Catholic schools on the new salary scale, and called for the law to be challenged in order to reach agreement on a balanced and applicable wage hike. The president also met with a delegation from the United Lebanese-Australian Movement (UALM), in presence of Australian Ambassador Glenn Miles, and Australian Senator Kimberley Kitching. Both sides reportedly discussed Lebanese-Australian relations. Aoun explained to the delegation the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon, calling on Australia to support Lebanon since it was no longer able to bear this burden.

Berri hails Arsal victory as all out Lebanese victory

Wed 02 Aug 2017/NNA - Deputies visiting House Speaker Nabih Berri, within their weekly Wednesday meeting, quoted him as saying that the Arsal victory against terrorism was an all-out Lebanese victory enjoying national consensus. "Such a victory proved that we are capable of realizing national achievements and countering challenges and dangers facing the homeland, whether from the Israeli enemy, or from the Takfiri terrorism," Speaker Berri told his visiting lawmakers. Dwelling on an array of vital matters and daily living dossiers, Berri called for intensifying efforts to address central affairs, notably those related to electricity, trash, water and others. The Speaker called for activating the work of state institutions in this regard.

Hariri receives Malaysian Ambassador, delegation of General confederation of Lebanese Workers, and fulltime Teachers Association
Wed 02 Aug 2017/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri received today at the Grand Serail the Malaysian Ambassador to Lebanon Bala Chandran Tharman who said after the meeting: "I met the Prime Minister to bid farewell after my duty for 3 years in Lebanon. I briefly highlighted to the Prime Minister my appreciation to Lebanon and the government of Lebanon for their warm hospitality offered to me personally and to my embassy in the last 3 years and I pointed out three important points about our bilateral relations. First and foremost is that Malaysia will continue to assist Lebanon especially in the international arena and in the development and prosperity of Lebanon as a country."He added: "In this context, we exchanged views briefly about the work of the Malaysian battalion in the UNIFIL, his Excellency expressed his appreciation. I also reiterated Malaysia's support to train Lebanese personnel, civil servant as well as military personnel through our technical cooperation program and I pointed out to the Prime Minister that to date we trained 200 personnel in Lebanon. I reiterated the continuous Malaysian support to Prime Minister Hariri in dealing with this huge burden that Lebanon is facing in relation to the influx of the Syrian refugees. We will continue to provide assistance to Lebanon including temporary resettlement in Malaysia as announced by the Malaysian prime minister. The Bulk of the Syrian refugees that we are going to resettle in Malaysia temporary will come from Lebanon. Ambassador Tharman concluded: "I also congratulated the Prime Minister on the excellent leadership that he has provided to Lebanon and that has brought stability in the functioning of the state institutions. There is a high level of confidence in the security in Lebanon and I congratulated him for that and wished him and the people of Lebanon the best." Earlier Prime Minister Hariri met with a delegation from the General confederation of Lebanese Workers headed by Bechara Asmar, who said after the meeting: "We discussed with the Prime Minister the issue of the ranks and salaries scale. On this occasion, I appeal President Michel Aoun to sign the law of the scale and refer it for implementation, because it is the people's right. We also discussed the important issue of corruption, which affects the administration and the need of reform in addition to the mechanism of appointments and the topic of waste. We live in a major environmental crisis and Beirut is living between two dumpsters. The meeting also focused on the traffic crisis, the crisis of government hospitals, the various matters of interest to the Lebanese citizen and the atmosphere was positive." He added that discussions tackled several issues including the foreign labor that invades the Lebanese arena, the high cost of living cost, minimum wage increase and the high prices. Prime Minister Hariri also received a delegation from the Executive Committee of the Association of Full-Time Professors at the Lebanese University, headed by Dr. Mohamed Smaili, who said after the meeting: "We are honored to visit Prime Minister Hariri. The meeting was fruitful during which we addressed two basic issues. First, the need to preserve the social and health benefits of the Lebanese University professors through the mutual fund and second the ranks and salaries' scale for the professors of the Lebanese University and Prime Minister Hariri assured us that he would not accept any decision in this regard." Prime Minister Hariri discussed with the Minister of Education Marwan Hamade various political and administrative matters related to the cabinet meeting tomorrow. Hamadeh explained that the focus was on the educational matters, especially the misunderstanding of the interpretation of the law of the ranks and salaries' scale.

Hariri Says Hizbullah 'Achieved Something' in Arsal, Army to Deal with IS
Naharnet/August 02/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced Wednesday that Hizbullah has “achieved something” in its win over al-Nusra Front in Arsal's outskirts, shortly after buses carrying militants, their families and other refugees began evacuating the area as part of a ceasefire and prisoner exchange agreement with Hizbullah. “What we care for is a return to normal life in Arsal and the state has performed its duties,” said Hariri after Grand Serail talks with General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, who played a key role in the negotiations. “Hizbullah carried out the operation and it achieved something and what's important is the result,” Hariri added. Turning to the presence of the jihadist Islamic State group in the border region, Hariri noted that the Lebanese army “will deal with this situation in the appropriate manner.”The premier also revealed that a plan has been devised to offer social aid to Arsal's residents and that it would be discussed in Thursday's cabinet session. Asked about the inmates who were released from Lebanese prisons at Nusra's request, Hariri stressed that they were non-convicts. The Hizbullah-Nusra agreement had first started with the exchange of bodies of slain fighters between the two groups. Prisoners were exchanged between the two sides overnight and five more Hizbullah captives are supposed to be freed when the buses of the evacuees reach their destinations in Syria. The deal followed a military offensive by Hizbullah fighters and Syrian troops during which they captured border areas between the two countries and left hundreds of Nusra fighters besieged in a small rugged mountainous area. The fighting ended with a ceasefire on Thursday.

Marouni: Lebanese Army Should Have Led Arsal Battles
Naharnet/August 02/17/Kataeb MP Elie Marouni stressed on Wednesday that the battles on the outskirts of Arsal against Syria's al-Qaida affiliate al-Nusra Front terrorists should have been led by the command of the Lebanese army instead of Hizbullah. "The Lebanese state was absent from those battles, the war and peace decision was in Hizbullah's hand," the lawmaker said in an interview with al-Fajr radio station. "The Lebanese army was not the decision maker in that battle, especially that the military statements were issued by Hizbullah's war media unit," he emphasized.
Hizbullah waged a battle against Nusra in a bid to oust the militants from the outskirts of Arsal. The battle ended with a swap deal between Hizbullah and Syria's al-Nusra Front group that saw the transfer of scores of Nusra militants and their families- from Lebanon's Arsal outskirts to Syria. The deal included the release of three Hizbullah fighters captured by al-Nusra during their battle against the group last month.

800 Israeli Layoffs as Hizbullah-Threatened Ammonia Tank Closes
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/August 02/17/Around 800 employees will be laid off in the court-ordered closure of a major Israeli ammonia storage facility previously threatened by Hizbullah, the owners announced Wednesday. The head of U.S.-owned Haifa Chemicals, Jules Trump, told Israeli army radio the company was dismissing 800 workers in two plants that processed the ammonia. "We have lost hundreds of millions of shekels (tens of millions of dollars) in recent months because, contrary to the promises of the government, there is no alternative solution on the horizon," he said. The Israeli Supreme Court last week confirmed a ruling ordering the closure of the 12,000-ton facility located in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, giving the company until September 18 to empty it completely. The ruling brought to an end a years-long legal battle over the site. Residents and environmentalists had been warning of the risks of an accident or explosion at the container in the densely populated Mediterranean port city. Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in 2016 that a missile strike on the tank would have the effect of a "nuclear bomb," increasing calls for its closure. Nasrallah, whose group targeted the Haifa area in a 2006 war with Israel, echoed warnings from experts and activists cited in Israeli media that "tens of thousands of people" would be killed in case the container was struck. Ammonia, used in fertilizers, is poisonous to humans. Haifa Chemicals sells some of the ammonia that the group imports to chemical plants, weapons companies and wastewater treatment plants.

Govt. Hospital Official Fired for Stealing Cancer Drugs, Dispensing Fakes
Naharnet/August 02/17/The head of the pharmacy department at one of Lebanon's major state-run hospitals has been sacked by the General Disciplinary Council for stealing a large quantity of health ministry-donated cancer medicines from the hospital and selling them for hundreds of millions of Lebanese pounds, state-run National News Agency reported Wednesday. The department director, identified by her initials M.B., replaced the stolen medicines with “ineffective and expired drugs that were given to a large number of cancer patients, mostly women and children, without their knowledge, which deprived them of healing chances and might have led to the death of some of them,” the GDC said in a statement. “A number of employees and doctors helped the pharmacy department head with her violations and crimes without receiving the proper penalties and they are still occupying their posts, which has prompted the GDC to ask for an expanded investigation with them to pave the way for taking charge of their files, handing them the appropriate penalties and preventing them from committing similar violations in the future,” the GDC added. The General Disciplinary Council has also asked the public prosecution to “look into these criminal offenses anew,” calling on the health minister to “take the necessary legal measures pertaining to revoking her pharmacy permit and prohibiting her from practicing this profession permanently to preserve the lives and safety of citizens.”

ISF Foils Attempt to Smuggle Captagon Pills
Naharnet/August 02/17/Security forces foiled on Wednesday an attempt to smuggle more than 4 million Captagon pills that were planned to be shipped outside Lebanon, the Internal Security Forces said in a statement. A truck that contained ample amounts of Captagon pills concealed inside Thermos containers was seized in Dahr al-Baydar area, said the ISF. Police have also busted massive amounts of raw materials used in the manufacturing of Captagon in a warehouse in Baalbek. The truck driver confessed that he was tasked with transporting the cargo from Baalbek to Beirut in favor of a Lebanese man who was identified by his initials as G.Sh. The cargo was to be shipped abroad.

Mahfoud: Nusra Leader, Al-Talli, Should Have Been Executed on Gallows
Naharnet/August 02/17/Head of the Change Movement Elie Mahfoud on Wednesday said that Nusra Front's leader in the Syrian Qalamoun mountain region Abu Malek al-Talli should have been “executed on gallows” instead of letting him “negotiate” his escape to Syria. “Abu Malek al-Talli is threatening Lebanon and the Lebanese after he was allowed to flee, which will allow every terrorist from now on to be reassured instead of being hanged on gallows in Arsal's square,” said Mahfoud in a statement.
He added that the “Lebanese authorities should have raised gallows for terrorists since the Nahr al-Bared incidents, especially those who killed Lebanese soldiers. It would have saved many tragedies and devastation.”Mahfoud's comments came after a swap deal between Hizbullah and Syria's al-Nusra Front group that saw the transfer of al-Talli -in addition to thousands of Nusra militants and their families- from Lebanon's Arsal outskirts to Syria. The deal included the release of three Hizbullah fighters captured by al-Nusra during their battle against the group last month.

UNHCR Lebanon statement on returns from Arsal
Wed 02 Aug 2017/NNA - In a press release by UNHCR in Lebanon on returns from Arsal, it said: "With regard to the return of fighters from Syrian armed groups and their families from Arsal to Syria, UNHCR would like to confirm that the Agency is not part of the agreement underlying these returns and is not involved in the movement."Release added: "UNHCR is not in a position to ascertain to what extent refugees, who are civilians by definition, are returning in this movement.""In this context, UNHCR notes that refugee returns need to be individual decisions, based on objective information about the conditions in the place of intended return, and made free from undue pressure," release concluded.

Khoury, Riachi tackle current developments

Wed 02 Aug 2017/NNA - Culture Minister, Dr Ghattas Khoury, met on Wednesday at his ministerial office with Information Minister, Melhem Riachi, who came on a courtesy visit. Talks between the pair reportedly touched on most recent developments in Lebanon and the broad region, in addition to a range of mutual affairs related to the Ministries of Information and Culture. On the other hand, Minister Khoury met with Armenia's Ambassador to Lebanon, Samvel Mkrtchian, and Maestro Harot Vazlian, with whom he discussed cooperation prospects between the Ministries of both countries through organizing mutual cultural activities.

Nusra kills person after dropping him off bus en route to Idlib
Wed 02 Aug 2017/NNA - The Nusra Front reportedly dropped off a person called Raad Al-Hamadi (aka Raad Al-Ammoury) from one of the buses leaving Wadi Hmayed to Idlib, killing him before the very eyes of displaced civilians, the NNA correspondent said.

Senior Hamas officials meet with Iranian official in Beirut
Roi KaisYnetnews/August 02/17/Founding member of Hamas' military wing Saleh al-Arouri, Hamas international affairs head Osama Hamdan and Hamas representative in Lebanon meet with high-level Iranian foreign affairs official to discuss resistance support against Israel. A Hezbollah-affiliated journalist published a photograph of senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri—who was recently forced to relocate from Qatar—meeting with an Iranian official in Beirut on Wednesday. Two years ago, al-Arouri was also forced to leave Turkey following joint US and Israeli pressure. The recent moves indicate a new Hamas policy of senior leadership not settling in one particular country for an extended period of time, but rather constantly moving.  In the photo, al-Arouri is seen meeting with the special international affairs assistant to the Shura Council Chairman, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who has served in various positions in the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Pictures from the meeting also depict the head of Hamas' international affairs, Osama Hamdan and Hamas' representative in Lebanon, Ali Barakeh.  Iranian news agency IRNA reported on the meeting and emphasized al-Arouri's presence. According to the report, the Iranian official stressed that an important part of regional security and the fight against terror is linked to the strengthening of the "axis of resistance." Abdollahian also added that Tehran supports Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad under the umbrella of Muslim unity and the fight against the "Zionist entity." He further chided other Arab nations for apparent normalization of ties to Israel, noting that such efforts will not succeed.Al-Arouri in turn praised Iran for its support for the Palestinian cause and added that Jerusalem was the first direction Muslims would pray and the struggle to liberate all Palestinian lands will continue. Hamas will continue its constant struggle with the other resistance factions until the goals of the Palestinian people are met and the liberation of Jerusalem," said al-Arouri, who also called on other Islamic nations not to allow a situation in the region which serves Israel's interests.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 02-03/17
UAE: Measures against Qatar Comply with WTO Agreements
Asharq Al-Awsat English/August 02/17/Dubai – The economic procedures taken by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain against Qatar are permissible in case a country’s national security was violated, announced Jouma’a al-Kit, assistant under secretary for foreign trade at the UAE Ministry of Economy. Commenting on Qatari’s legal complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, he said that WTO allows by virtue of its services and goods trade agreements to suspend privileges granted to a state in certain circumstances, which were present in the case of Qatar. In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, he added that the taken measures do not contradict with WTO agreements, but actually comply with its terms. “These terms allow any WTO member to use them when taking any procedure seen as essential to protect national interests or to execute obligations of the UN charter,” Kit continued. Qatar filed a wide-ranging legal complaint at the WTO Monday to challenge a boycott by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, Qatar’s WTO representative Ali al-Waleed Al-Thani said. Anwar Gargash, UAE state minister for foreign affairs, declared that Qatar’s strategy in dealing with the crisis will fail because it does not tackle the roots of the problem, the support of extremism and its meddling to undermine the region’s security and stability. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and UAE stated earlier that they would allow Qatari airplanes to use their air corridors in emergencies. Nine corridors have been identified by the four boycotting states in coordination with neighboring countries, revealed the General Authority of Civil Aviation.

Moscow Suggests Egypt as Sponsor of ‘Homs Truce’ instead of Ankara
Asharq Al-Awsat English/August 02/17/London – Moscow exerted on Tuesday major pressure on opposition factions fighting in Homs and urged them to sign a “de-escalation” agreement for the city’s countryside to be inked in Cairo similar to what happened during the Damascus Ghouta truce.However, choosing Egypt as a sponsor for the truce already upset Ankara, while 11 factions expressed their reservations on the issue. These factions included Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiya and Jaish al-Izza, which insisted that Turkey sponsor the agreement. A copy of the draft agreement received by Asharq Al-Awsat includes 14 articles with one section deleted for stipulating that Russia and other parties respect a timetable to withdraw all foreign militias from Syria. In the new draft agreement, Moscow also deleted another section that calls for the commitment of the Syrian regime and its allies to the cessation of fighting in all the de-escalation zones. However, the draft paper demanded the need to fight Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and to totally reject the presence of ISIS in the area, with a need to fight it on the cultural and military levels. “The opposition should be committed to the ceasefire… and welcome the establishment of a de-escalation zone in the countryside of Homs, where a demarcation line would be drawn to mark the lines of contact between the warring parties,” Article 1 of the agreement said. Article 4 stipulated that the Syrian opposition in Homs should pledge that any militant from Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham should not be present in its controlled areas and to take “all the needed measures to prevent the return or emergence of those militants.” The same article also said both regime forces and opposition factions should refrain from violating the agreement, while the regime forces should stop launching any air strike on opposition-controlled areas. In the draft agreement, parties also agreed that all necessary construction equipment and materials should be allowed in the de-escalation zone.

Kuwait Denies its Waters are Used for Transferring Iranian Arms to Houthis
Asharq Al-Awsat English/August 02/17/The Kuwait Foreign Ministry denied on Wednesday a recent Reuters report that alleged that the country’s territorial waters were being used to transfer Iranian weapons to Yemen’s Houthi rebels. A source from the ministry stressed that Kuwait’s territorial waters were under the complete control of its navy and coast guard, reported the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA). They are also under constant surveillance through all possible means, stressing that no suspicious activity was detected in areas under their control. The source hoped that various media would verify their claims with facts before publishing erroneous and harmful news. According to Iranian and western sources, Reuters said that Tehran was transferring arms to the Houthis through Kuwait’s waters in an attempt to bypass the ban imposed by the Saudi-led Arab Coalition combating the rebels in Yemen.

Iraqi President: ‘Kurdistan’s Referendum Does Not Mean Independence’
Asharq Al-Awsat English/August 02/17/Baghdad- Iraqi President Fuad Masum said Tuesday that a planned referendum on the proposed secession of the northern Kurdish region from Iraq does not amount to a “declaration of independence.”“Holding a referendum based on mutual understanding does not amount to a declaration of independence per se,” Masum declared. He also called for disputes between Baghdad and Erbil to be resolved through dialogue. “Iraq’s central government and the Kurdish region should look to the Iraqi constitution with a view to finding a middle ground,” said Masum, noting that Article 140 of the Constitution is devoted specifically to “disputed territories.” A statement issued by the presidency said that Masum called on friendly and brotherly countries to double their support and solidarity with the Iraqi people in their ambitious plans and projects, whether the private ones regarding the reconstruction of destroyed and liberated areas and development of services and structures throughout the country or those related to the return of displaced people to their cities and villages. For his part, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi underscored serious opposition to Kurdistan region’s bid to arrange a referendum for independence, describing it as illegal and a big mistake. “The referendum for independence of the Kurdistan region is a very big mistake, which is not legal and will bear no positive results and instead will add to the existing problems and therefore, we are strongly opposed to it,” Abadi said.
Stressing that the Iraqi officials should move in line with people’s interests, he said that “separating from Iraq’s integrated government will not be to the benefit of our Kurdish citizens.”In response to a question on Barzani’s referendum plan in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki said the initiative is illegal and goes against the Iraqi constitution. “The autonomous region is looking for advantages unaware of the fact that Kurds will suffer the most from the referendum which will only compound existing difficulties,” he continued. He said that although regional conditions are now in favor of local nations, ending ongoing crises still proves difficult since enemies are after splits and disaccords.

OIC Chief Condemns Terror Attack against Afghan Mosque
Asharq Al-Awsat English/August 02/17/The Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Wednesday strongly condemned the suicide bombing attack carried against mosque in the Afghan city of Herat which killed some 30 people, reported the Saudi state-owned news agency SPA. More than 1,700 civilians have been killed in attacks in Afghanistan so far this year. The Jeddah-based organization’s Secretary-General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, expressed shock at this incident, describing the perpetrators of this despicable act of terrorism against innocent worshipers as enemies of Islam, Afghanistan and its people. The Secretary-General urged Afghan authorities to take all possible measures to bring perpetrators to justice, reiterating his call on regional and international cooperation in the face of terrorism and violent extremism in order to secure a safer world. For its part, the Russian foreign ministry also condemned the suicide bombing. In a statement, the foreign ministry said the aim of this terrorist act is to spark a sectarian sedition and escalate the domestic situation in Afghanistan. It expressed condolence to the families and friends of those killed in this terrorist act, wishing the injured a quick recovery.

Jordanian Parliament Approves Annulment of Article 308
Asharq Al-Awsat English/August 02/17/Amman- The Jordanian parliament on Tuesday voted to repeal article 308 that allowed a rapist to escape punishment if he married his victim, knowing that the Parliament has been rejecting to revoke it since two decades. Prime Minister Hani Mulki stressed that the government is committed to abolishing article 308 in order to protect Jordanian family values. Similar provisions have already been repealed in Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia. The Minister of Social Development, Hala Lattouf stated on Tuesday that the parliament decision to annul article 308 is a step towards safeguarding children, young girls, and families. She added that families are usually based on mercy and love, two things that wouldn’t be achieved through article 308. “Annulling the article doesn’t ban marriage or interfere with decisions of individuals regarding marriage, but in the case of a complaint, it must be investigated to achieve justice,” Lattouf noted. The international group Human Rights Watch said that this is a positive step. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at the HRW called article 308 “a blight on Jordan’s human rights record.” Further, Eva Abu Halaweh, Executive manager of Mizan for Law, said that annulling this article is a victory for all rape victims. Two days earlier, the parliament stated that killing “in a fit of rage” can no longer be considered a mitigating circumstance in such cases and maintained the stipulated sanctions that might reach execution or life-imprisonment. A total of 12 women and six children were killed in the first half of 2017 in household crimes, some under the pretext of honor.

66 on Trial on Charges of Forming ISIS Branch in Upper Egypt
Asharq Al-Awsat English/August 02/17/Cairo – The trial of 66 suspects on charges of forming an armed group in Egypt kicked off at a criminal court on Tuesday. The suspects, who are affiliated with the ISIS terrorist organization, were seeking to form a branch of the group in Upper Egypt. They were plotting to stage attacks against Christians and security forces, said the prosecution. ISIS had formally announced its presence in Egypt with the formation of the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group that swore allegiance to the terrorist organization in November 2014. It has announced its responsibility for several terror attacks, the majority of which were carried out in northern Sinai. Tuesday’s case involved 43 suspects held in custody, while the rest are still at large. They include two women, who are suspected of funding the group. The charges against the suspects include forming, leading and joining an organization that was established in violation of the law for the purpose of obstructing the constitution and state institutions and hindering public authorities from carrying our their duties. They are accused of violating the personal freedom of citizens and harming national unity and social peace. The suspects permitted the shedding of Christian blood and targeting of public establishments in order to topple the state and destabilize public order. They knowingly resorted to terrorism to achieve their goals, said the prosecution. In addition, they are charged with the possession of arms, manufacturing of explosives and preparation to commit terrorist acts. One of the suspects, Mustafa Abdul Aal, is charged with forming eight cluster cells linked to the terrorist group. The cells were located in the districts of Cairo, Giza, Kafr al-Sheikh, Bani Sweif, al-Minya and Aswan.The prosecution added that all members of the cell had pledged their allegiance to ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. A number of the detainees had confessed that leaders of the organization had provided them with the necessary financial support to set up training camps on the use of weapons and explosives. Any ruling against the suspects can be appealed.

Qatar Announces 5 Billion Euro Order for Warships from Italy
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/August 02/17/Qatar announced on Wednesday a five-billion-euro order for seven warships from Italy in the midst of a nearly two-month diplomatic crisis with neighboring Saudi Arabia and its allies. "We have signed a contract on behalf of the Qatari navy to acquire seven warships from Italy for five billion euros ($5.9 billion)," Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said at a Doha press conference with his visiting Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano. It follows the signing of a preliminary contract in June 2016 for the deal between the Italian group Fincantieri and Qatar for four corvettes, an amphibious vessel and two patrol boats. In June this year, the United States agreed a $12-billion sale of F-15 fighter jets to Qatar, re-affirming support for the emirate in the throes of the worst diplomatic crisis to hit the Gulf in decades. Saudi Arabia and its allies including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing Doha of backing extremist groups and being too close to Riyadh's arch-rival Iran. Qatar denies the allegations and accuses the Saudi-led bloc of imposing a "siege" on the tiny emirate. The Qatari minister said Wednesday that the four Arab states had "showed no intention to resolve the crisis peacefully" at their last meeting on Sunday in Bahrain. Alfano called for a de-escalation and a solution that shows "respect for international law."The Saudi-led bloc has demanded that Qatar close regional news giant Al-Jazeera and a Turkish military base, and downgrade its ties with Iran.Doha has dismissed the demands as a violation of its sovereignty

Tillerson sends senior envoys to handle Qatar crisis
AFP, Washington Wednesday, 2 August 2017/Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has asked two officials, including retired general and former Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni, to work to end the Gulf diplomatic crisis. On June 5, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with key US ally Qatar, accusing it of backing extremism and building ties with Iran. Qatar, home to a huge US air base, has denied the claims but has agreed to Kuwait acting as a mediator and has come to an agreement with Washington to fight terror .Tillerson told reporters that Qatar is so far fulfilling its commitment to the United States, but that he had sent senior US diplomat Tim Lenderking to the region to push for progress. “And I’ve also asked retired General Anthony Zinni to go with Tim so that we can maintain a constant pressure on the ground because I think that's what it's going to take,” he said. “There’s only so much you can do with telephone persuasion.” Zinni, now 73, was a Marine general who once commanded US forces in the Middle East. After the military he served as special envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Syria's Mouallem, Iran's Abdullahian tackle political developments
Wed 02 Aug 2017/NNA - Damascus - Syrian Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister, Walid Moaullem, on Wednesday discussed political developments in Syria and the region with the assistant of the Head of the Iranian Parliament, Hussein Amir Abdullahian, in light of the recent achievements of the Syrian army in cooperation with its allies. The pair saw eye-to-eye on the need to consolidate relations between the two countries at all levels, including parliamentary ones.They also stressed the importance of continuing their joint efforts in the context of the fight against terrorism in order to crush terrorist organizations.

Italian parliament gives green light to Libya naval mission
Wed 02 Aug 2017/NNA - Italy's parliament authorized on Wednesday a limited naval mission to help Libya's coastguard curb migrant flows, which have become a source of growing political friction ahead of national elections expected early next year. An Italian official said Rome planned to send two boats to Libyan waters, with Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti saying the vessels would only provide technical support and would not infringe on the north African country's sovereignty. Italy announced the operation last week, saying it had been requested by Libya's U.N.-backed government. It initially hoped to send six ships into Libyan territorial waters, but the plans had to be scaled back following protests from Tripoli. "(We will) provide logistical, technical and operational support for Libyan naval vessels, helping them and supporting them in shared and coordinated actions," Pinotti told parliament on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's vote. "There will be no harm done or slight given to Libyan sovereignty, because, if anything, our aim is to strengthen Libyan sovereignty," she added, stressing that Italy had no intention of imposing a blockade on Libya's coast. The lower house voted by 328 to 113 in favor of the mission. The upper house was also expected to back the measure when it votes later in the day. After a surge in migrant arrivals on boats from Libya at the start of the year the numbers of newcomers has slowed in recent weeks and the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday that 95,215 people had reached Italy so far this year, down 2.7 percent on the same period in 2016. Some 2,230 migrants, most of them Africans fleeing poverty and violence back home, have died so far this year trying to make the sea crossing.
Elections Ahead
The total number of migrants who have arrived in Italy over the past four years is some 600,000, putting Italy's network of reception centers under huge strain and causing increasing political tensions. Italy is due to hold national elections by next May, with voting widely expected in early 2018, and the migrant issue is expected to top the political agenda. Rightist parties accuse the center-left government of doing nothing to halt the influx. "The (migrant boats) will not be being pushed back to the Libyan shore so we don't understand what we are going to be doing there," Giancarlo Giorgetti, deputy head of the opposition Northern League party, told reporters in parliament. Italy hopes the Libyan coastguard can help prevent flimsy migrant boats from putting to sea and has been at the forefront of efforts to make the small force more effective, training its members and upgrading its fleet. Rome has also put pressure on non-governmental organizations which have playing an increasingly important role in picking up migrants off the Libyan coast and bringing them to Italy. The government has introduced a code of conduct for the NGOs and has demanded that armed police travel on their boats to help root out eventual people smugglers. Only three out of eight humanitarian groups operating in the southern Mediterranean agreed this week to the Italian terms. Italy did not spell out the consequences for those that did not sign up, but on Wednesday, the Italian coastguard halted at sea a boat operated by German NGO Jugend Rettet, which had said 'No'. The vessel was searched and then escorted to port, while the crew ID's were checked. -- REUTERS

US successfully tests ICBM following North Korea missile launch
Wed 02 Aug 2017/NNA - The US military conducted a test Wednesday (Aug 2) of an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), officials said, just days after North Korea conducted its own ICBM launch.Tests at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California are typically scheduled weeks or even months in advance, but this one came at a time of soaring tensions with North Korea over its trial of an ICBM last week. "While not a response to recent North Korean actions, the test demonstrates that the United States' nuclear enterprise is safe, secure, effective and ready to be able to deter, detect and defend against attacks on the United States and its allies," the Air Force Global Strike Command said. The Minuteman III missile went up at 2:01 am local California time Wednesday (5.02pm Singapore), the Air Force Global Strike Command said. The ICBM arced into the night sky from Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California and travelled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.--AFP

Daesh claims mosque attack in Afghanistan's Herat
Wed 02 Aug 2017/NNA - Daesh (ISIS) Wednesday claimed responsibility for a suicide attack a day earlier against a mosque in Afghanistan that left dozens dead. "Around 50 killed and 80 wounded in an attack by [Daesh] fighters yesterday on a mosque in western Afghanistan's Herat," the group's propaganda arm Amaq reported.--AFP

Cyberactivist Secretly Executed in Syria Detention, Widow Says
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/August 02/17/A prominent cyberactivist who was detained on the first anniversary of the 2011 uprising that sparked the Syrian civil war was secretly executed nearly two years ago, his widow said. Bassel Khartabil Safadi, an open-source software developer who put his skills to use to promote free speech during the uprising, was put to death in October 2015, two and a half years after his arrest, Noura Ghazi Safadi said. That month, rumours had begun circulating that he had been sentenced to death after being transferred from the regime's notorious Adra prison near Damascus to an unknown location. His widow gave no indication on her Facebook post late Tuesday how she had confirmed her husband's death. "Words are difficult to come by while I am about to announce, on behalf of Bassel's family and mine, the confirmation of the death sentence and execution of my husband," she said. "He was executed just days after he was taken from Adra prison in October 2015. This is the end that suits a hero like him. "This is a loss for Syria. This is loss for Palestine. This is my loss." Safadi, who was 34 at the time of his death, was born to a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother. He was well known as an advocate for freedom of information and greater access to the internet. In 2010, he launched Aiki Lab, which brought together engineers, artists and hackers in Damascus, and also contributed to open-source projects including Creative Commons and Wikipedia. "Because of Khartabil's work, people gained new tools to express themselves and communicate," British newspaper The Guardian said in a 2015 profile. Syria had no internet access until 2000, and state censorship and monitoring have remained rampant. Safadi's expertise was particularly important after the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad broke out in March 2011. Calls for demonstrations were often issued through Facebook pages, and activists broadcast news and videos through social media. International human rights groups have long pressed for information on Safadi's fate. In a 2016 appeal for his release, Human Rights Watch said it believed his detention was "a direct result of his peaceful and legitimate work for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression."More than 300,000 people have been killed in the civil war that erupted after the uprising, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Britain-based monitoring group estimates that more than 60,000 of those have been executed or tortured to death in regime prisons.

Venezuela Opposition Rally to Coincide with Start of New Assembly
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/August 02/17/Venezuela's opposition will hold a protest rally Thursday to coincide with the expected inauguration of a new assembly that will rewrite the constitution in what has been decried as a power grab by President Nicolas Maduro. At the close of a day in which two prominent opposition leaders were arrested, the opposition announced the demonstration will be Thursday, instead of Wednesday as originally planned. The change came after opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara said the Maduro government plans to install the "fraudulent" assembly on Thursday. It was elected Sunday amid protests and deadly violence but the government has not specified what day it would take up its seats. It just said within 72 hours of being elected. Early Tuesday the intelligence service hauled two prominent opposition leaders back to prison in the dead of night, triggering an international outcry as embattled Maduro moved to shore up his power after the election, widely denounced as a sham. In a statement, the Supreme Court said protest leader Leopoldo Lopez and Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma were sent back to prison because they had violated the terms of their house arrest by making political statements. Authorities acted with urgency, it said, because they had received intelligence that the pair "had a plan to flee" -- something the men's lawyers vehemently denied. In a video he pre-recorded in case he was sent back to jail, Lopez urged his supporters to keep fighting Maduro's government. "If you're seeing this video, it's because they illegally and unjustly came and returned me to prison. I'm a political prisoner," he said. "We must not give up the fight. We must never surrender. We must not tire of demanding a better Venezuela."Lopez, the Harvard-educated founder of the Popular Will party, also announced that his wife, Lilian Tintori, was pregnant, calling it "the best news" since he was arrested in 2014, and "one more reason to fight for Venezuela."The men are two of Venezuela's most high-profile opposition leaders. Both had called for a boycott of Sunday's vote for an all-powerful "constituent assembly" tasked with rewriting the constitution.The United States, which has already slapped sanctions on Maduro and top officials, was scathing in its reaction to the latest news. President Donald Trump sternly warned Maduro's "dictatorship" that he holds him personally responsible for the health and safety of the two men. "Mr Lopez and Mr Ledezma are political prisoners being held illegally by the regime," Trump said. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged Maduro's administration to "lower tensions" and "find avenues for political dialogue," an appeal echoed by European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini's spokeswoman. Spain said it would push for EU sanctions. Lopez and Ledezma were picked up by the intelligence service known by its acronym Sebin, their families said, adding that they held Maduro responsible for the men's lives.
- Families in the dark -"They just took Leopoldo away. We do not know where he is or where they are taking him," Tintori said on Twitter. She released home security camera footage in which four uniformed police officers and three others in civilian garb are seen putting her husband into a car and taking off, with other cars escorting them. Ledezma's family also released a cell phone video in which the mayor is seen being hauled from home in a pair of blue pyjamas as his neighbors scream. Lopez, 46, was transferred to house arrest in July after serving three years and five months in prison as part of a 14-year term. He had been convicted of instigating violence during protests against Maduro in 2014 that left 43 people dead. Ledezma, 62, was arrested in February 2015 on charges of conspiracy and racketeering and was placed under house arrest three months later for health reasons.
Opposition lawmaker Guevara said the re-arrests were aimed at "frightening us and demoralizing us."Four months of street demonstrations since April against Maduro have left more than 120 people dead, including 10 over the weekend.The assembly comprises only of members of Maduro's Socialist party, including his wife. - 'Imperial orders' -Maduro has dismissed the US sanctions and criticism, retorting that he will not heed "imperial orders."Latin American nations including Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru joined the US in saying they did not recognize the results of Sunday's election, while Brazil, Costa Rica and Panama joined the condemnation of Lopez and Ledezma's arrest. Officials say more than 40 percent of Venezuela's 20 million voters cast ballots Sunday. The opposition says turnout was closer to 12 percent -- on a par with the population of state employees, who were under major pressure to vote.
According to polling firm Datanalisis, more than 70 percent of Venezuelans oppose the new assembly. Among its members: the president's son Nicolas Maduro Guerra, 27, will join his stepmother, Maduro's wife Cilia Flores, 60, on the assembly rewriting the constitution.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on 
August 02-03/17
Russia flies 2,000 mercenary troops into Syriaروسيا تنقل 2000 عنصر من المرتزقة إلى سوريا
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 02/17
Russia is engaged in a major buildup in Syria, both in support of the de-escalation zones established in conjunction with the United States, and in order to solidify its military control of the country.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources reported exclusively on Wednesday, August 2, that 2,000 mercenaries had just been airlifted into the country, boosting to a total of 5,000 the number of mercenaries on hire from the Wagner Group private contractors for service under the Russian flag in Syria. They are all retirees from elite units of the Russian ground forces, air force or navy.
In another new Russian project, our military sources also report the arrival in the past few days of Muslim troops from the republic of Ingushetia. Although clad in Russian military police uniforms, they are actually commandoes trained in anti-terror warfare. They have been posted as “ceasefire monitors” at the three de-escalation zones established by Russia and the United States along the Syrian borders with Israel, Jordan and Iraq.
President Vladimir Putin and his defense minister Gen. Sergei Shoigu have ramped up the Russian military presence in Syria without adding ground and armored troops - even though the Russian constitution bars the recruitment of mercenaries to fight overseas for profit.
Moscow is a veteran client of the Wagner Group contractors, which largely resemble the US Blackwater security contractor now calling itself Academi. It was hired to provide military personnel during 20014 and 2015 for Moscow's battle to conquer Crimea and in support of the pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Their mercenaries first arrived in Syria in October 2015, right after Moscow stepped up its intervention in the civil war. In March 2016, several hundred of them fought in the big battle that wrested Palmyra from ISIS.
Ironically, the Wagner Group does not officially exist and is not listed anywhere in Russia. However, a company bearing that name operates out of Argentina, even though its recruits receive training in Russia. They are trained, our sources reveal, at a base of the 10th special forces brigade of GRU military intelligence, located near the village of Molkino in the Krasnodar area of southern Russia, about 150km northeast of the Black Sea. The identity of Wagner’s boss is held secret, but Western intelligence sources name him as Dmitry Utkin, who until 2013 was a lieutenant colonel in the 2nd Spetznaz brigade.
The placement of Russian Muslim forces or hired mercenaries on Israel’s northern border - in the guise of ceasefire monitors - poses a serious problem for Jerusalem. Russia’s record for keeping its promises and commitments on its military moves in Syria is far from good. The US has confirmed that Russia gave Israel a commitment that Iranian and pro-Iranian forces, including Hizballah, would not be allowed to approach the Syrian-Israeli border. But Israel can’t be certain how the Ingushets or the mercenaries will react if confronted with such troops. Will they resort to arms to evict them or let them stay?

Despite judicial intervention, Iraqi Christians in the US face uncertain times
Phoebe Leila Barghouty/Al Arabiya/August 02/17

Moayad Barash was very young when he travelled from Baghdad to the United States. But he has spent years building a life in America. All four of his children were born and raised here. After all these years, he never imagined that after almost 38 years, he would be apprehended by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in front of his seven-year-old daughter on a sunny Sunday morning, while driving home from the beach. Until recently deporting immigrants to countries in which they may face immediate danger or persecution was not condoned by the US government. However, recent crackdown under the Trump administration have led to negotiations between the US and countries like Iraq that changed this landscape for longstanding immigrants.
In a statement on the recent influx of seizures and detentions, ICE said: “Iraq has recently agreed to accept a number of Iraqi nationals subject to orders of removal.”
On the day of Barash’s arrest, his wife and three older daughters discovered a driverless car, where the youngest sister still sat in the backseat, scared and confused. The family didn’t hear from him for three days.
“It makes me feel unsafe in this country,” Barash’s 17-year-old daughter, Angelina, said: “This is where we were born.”
Cluster of seizures
Barash is one of over 1,400 Iraqi nationals facing deportation from the United States, and he is part of a cluster of seizures that took place that Sunday, 11 June 2017.
ICE claims that all of these, around 30 to 40 individuals, had criminal convictions. While the agency claims that these individuals were given fair immigration proceedings, advocates from the American Civil Liberties Union, say otherwise.
Miriam Aukerman is a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan, the organization that filed the case to give Iraqi nationals the right to reopen their immigration court cases and prove to a judge that they face grave danger of persecution, torture or death if deported to Iraq.
“They originally were not removed because Iraq would not take them back and it was too dangerous,” Aukerman said, “ICE suddenly, after decades, rounded up hundreds of people and put them in detention centers and was planning to immediately deport them.”The obvious question was whether the agency had considered the circumstances of these immigrants, particularly those belonging to Iraq’s Chaldean Christian minority and whether they would face the risk of persecution and violence if forced to return. ICE, however, declined to comment.
Safe passage
Mark Arabo, President of the Minority Humanitarian Foundation – which helps provide safe passage and aid to displaced Christian minorities – says that because of persecution by ISIS and other extremist groups, the situation for Christians in Iraq should be considered a modern day genocide.
“We escaped Iraq for a chance at achieving the American dream,” Arabo said, “and we will not give up on that dream despite our people being unethically held behind bars.”
On 24 July, a federal judge in Michigan ruled in favor of blocking the deportation of these Iraqi nationals. While this court victory grants these immigrants the opportunity to appeal their cases, given the current immigration crackdown, it is likely that detainees like Barash have a long and arduous battle ahead.
Even for Iraqi immigrants who jump through every legal hoop, the prospect of being granted citizenship under this administration seems bleak.
Tameem Alkadhi, his father and brothers, faced direct threats from Iraqi extremists because his family had worked with the US military. He came to America as a refugee seven years ago and is married to an American citizen.
After reaching here, Alkadhi meticulously followed every step in the immigration process. Yet, his application has been indefinitely delayed. He claims that the immigration office even said they lost his file, and that no one can give him a straight answer as to why his application process has come to a halt.
Tearing families apart
When the first iteration of Trump’s travel ban was released, it tore Alkadhi’s family apart. Hailing from Iraq, other members of Alkadhi’s family were barred from traveling to the US. And while legal advocates and organizations continue to fight the ban stateside, Alkadhi still fears that he will face deportation, and that his relatives may never obtain the visas they need.
“I feel sad that people of Iraq coming to the US seeking a safe place to live are sent back to danger,” Alkadhi said, “it is not right at all.”
For the dozens of Iraqi nationals with alleged prior offenses, fighting decades-old charges for minor crimes will be a key factor in pleading their cases to avoid the dangers of returning to Iraq. And even if those minor offenses are pardoned, there is no guarantee that ICE will release them from indefinite detention.
According to Aukerman, however, the country has a legal obligation not to send immigrants and refugees back to a place where they might get tortured or killed. “To paint these individuals as disposable because of an offense they committed decades ago is to deny them basic humanity,” Aukerman said.

The State Department's Report on Terrorism Should Be Discredited
A. Z. Mohamed/Gatestone Institute/August 02/17
At the top of the list of supposed "continued drivers of violence" in the Palestinian Authority (PA) is an assertion even more fabricated: "a lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood..."
It is not "lack of hope" that drives Palestinian violence. On the contrary, it is precisely the propping up of hope -- that intimidation and terrorism work and deliver concessions, such as UNESCO's fraudulent rulings that try to strip the Jews of their history, or Israel's recent removal of metal detectors and cameras from the Temple Mount -- that keeps the Palestinians on the offensive.
The report's allegations are perceptibly false. The PA has absolute control over the content of school books, print and broadcast media pieces, and sermons in mosques, all of which are rife with blatant anti-Semitism and glorification of terrorism and terrorists. This means that the incitement to spill Jewish blood is approved by the PA leadership, when not directly planted by it.
A newly-released report on terrorism by the US State Department so completely distorts the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority -- the areas it refers to as "the West Bank and Gaza, and Jerusalem" -- that one can assume the rest of its findings are equally inaccurate.
To set the stage for its unfounded and biased claim that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been engaged in a serious effort to combat terrorism, the report equates "extremist" Palestinians, who "continued to conduct acts of violence and terrorism in the West Bank and Jerusalem," with "[e]xtremist Israelis, including settlers, [who] continued to conduct acts of violence as well as 'price tag' attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups in retaliation for activity they deemed anti-settlement) in the West Bank and Jerusalem."
At the top of the list of supposed "continued drivers of violence" in the Palestinian Authority is an assertion even more fabricated: "a lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive."
It is not "lack of hope" that drives Palestinian violence. On the contrary, it is precisely the propping up of hope -- that intimidation and terrorism work and deliver concessions, such as UNESCO's fraudulent rulings that try to strip the Jews of their history, or Israel's recent removal of metal detectors and cameras from the Temple Mount -- that keeps the Palestinians on the offensive.
The metal detectors and cameras had been put there by the Israelis to provide security for the Muslims who worship there, as well as to prevent weapons being brought in with which to attack Jews, or so that the al-Aqsa mosque can be destroyed and the blame then falsely placed on Israel.
To arrive at this conclusion, which essentially holds Israel accountable for Palestinian violence, the report falsely describes Mahmoud Abbas as a leader who has been committed to counter-terrorism efforts and works tirelessly to thwart the "lone-wolf" stabbing attacks that were rampant from the end of 2015 and throughout 2016.
The report states: "The PA has taken significant steps during President Abbas' tenure (2005 to date) to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank under its control do not create or disseminate content that incites violence. While some PA leaders have made provocative and inflammatory comments, the PA has made progress in reducing official rhetoric that could be considered incitement to violence. Explicit calls for violence against Israelis, direct exhortations against Jews, and categorical denials by the PA of the possibility of peace with Israel are rare and the leadership does not generally tolerate it."
This is perceptibly false. The Palestinian Authority has absolute control over the content of school books, print and broadcast media pieces, and sermons in mosques, all of which are rife with blatant anti-Semitism and glorification of terrorism and terrorists. This means that the bombardment of incitement to spill Jewish blood is approved by the PA leadership, when not directly planted by it.
The only terrorism that Abbas actively tries to prevent is that committed by members of Hamas against the Fatah faction, which he heads. It is solely this security cooperation with Israel that Abbas seeks, participates in and boasts about before the international community -- although he repeatedly threatens to put a stop to it, as he did recently over the placement of metal detectors on the Temple Mount.
The State Department report turns this reality on its head, describing the incitement in the education system, mosques and the press as an aberration, at best, and Israel's fault when it does occur, at worst, as in the following excerpt:
"According to the PA's Palestinian Broadcasting Company's code of conduct, it does not allow programming that encourages 'violence against any person or institution on the basis of race, religion, political beliefs, or sex.' In practice, however, some instances of incitement took place via official media. There were also some instances of inflammatory rhetoric and the posting of political cartoons glorifying violence on official Fatah Facebook pages. The PA maintains control over the content of Friday sermons delivered in approximately 1,800 West Bank mosques to ensure that they do not endorse incitement to violence. Weekly, the PA Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs distributes approved themes and prohibits incitement to violence. The PA's ability to enforce these guidelines varies depending upon the location of the Mosques and it had limited authority to control the content of sermons in Israeli-controlled Area C."
One of the more extraordinary "findings" of the report -- about the salaries paid to terrorists and the families of those perpetrators killed while committing terrorist attacks -- is presented as:
"financial packages to Palestinian security prisoners released from Israeli prisons in an effort to reintegrate them into society and prevent recruitment by hostile political factions."
It is both ironic and disturbing that the State Department report was released in July 2017, as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met to conduct hearings on the Taylor Force Act, a bill proposed by U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, Dan Coats and Roy Blunt.
If passed, the legislation -- named after Taylor Force, a U.S. Army veteran who was killed while on a trip to Israel in March 2016, by a Palestinian terrorist on a stabbing spree in Tel Aviv -- would halt the transfer of American funds to the PA until it ceases its practice of paying stipends to "martyrs" and their families. The family of the terrorist who killed Force receives a monthly salary from the Palestinian Authority Martyr's Fund. The amount is several times greater than the average Palestinian wage.
In March 2106, West Point graduate and U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force, while visiting Israel, was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist. Since that time, the family of the terrorist who murdered Force receives a monthly salary from the Palestinian Authority Martyr's Fund. The amount is several times greater than the average Palestinian wage. (Image source: United States Military Academy)
In his testimony before the committee, Elliott Abrams -- who served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration -- said:
"We need to send a clear message to the Palestinian people and leadership that we find the current system unacceptable and in fact repugnant. We need to be sure that our aid money does not even indirectly sustain that system. We should do this as a matter of principle..."
The State Department report does not even mention the murder of Taylor Force in its list of "terrorist incidents" in 2016. Yet it states that during the year, "Abbas reiterated his commitment to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, and pursuit of an independent Palestinian state through peaceful means."
It is Abbas, however, who announced to his people that "Jews have no right to defile the Al-Aqsa Mosque with their filthy feet." It is Abbas, too, who continues to blame (and has threatened to sue) Britain for the Balfour Declaration -- a letter written 100 years ago supporting the Zionist endeavor. In May 2017, as Israel marked the 69th year of its independence, Abbas delivered a speech in India reiterating this sentiment and calling the Jewish state's establishment the nakba ("catastrophe").
Like Abbas and the PA, the State Department report deserves to be discredited, and sadly -- along with its promotion of the criminalization of freedom of speech and its own attempts at censorship -- the State Department holdovers along with it.
*A. Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Europe's Cities Absorb Sharia Law
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/August 02/17
London Mayor Sadiq Khan banned advertisements that promote "unrealistic expectations of women's body image and health". Now Berlin is planning to ban images in which women are portrayed as "beautiful but weak, hysterical, dumb, crazy, naive, or ruled by their emotions". Tagesspiegel's Harald Martenstein said the policy "could have been adopted from the Taliban manifesto".
The irony is that this wave of morality and "virtue" is coming from cities governed by uninhibited leftist politicians, who for years campaigned for sexual liberation. It is now a "feminist" talking point to advocate sharia policy.
To paraphrase the American writer Daniel Greenfield, the irony of women celebrating their own suppression is both heartbreaking and stupefying.
Within days after the Islamic State conquered the city of Sirte in Libya two years ago, enormous billboards appeared in the Islamist stronghold warning women they must wear baggy robes that cover their entire bodies, and no perfume. These "sharia stipulations for hijab" included wearing dense material and a robe that does not "resemble the attire of unbelievers".
Two years later, Europe's three most important cities -- London, Paris and Berlin -- are adopting the same sharia trend.
Paris has said au revoir to "sexist" ads on public billboards. The Paris city council announced its ban after the Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the move meant that Paris was "leading the way" in the fight against sexism. London Mayor Sadiq Khan also banned advertisements that promote "unrealistic expectations of women's body image and health". Now Berlin is planning to ban images in which women are portrayed as "beautiful but weak, hysterical, dumb, crazy, naive, or ruled by their emotions". Der Tagesspiegel's Harald Martenstein said the policy "could have been adopted from the Taliban manifesto".
The irony is that this wave of morality and "virtue" is coming from cities governed by uninhibited leftist politicians, who for years campaigned for sexual liberation.
There is a reason for this grotesque campaign banning these images. These cities host significant Muslim populations; and politicians -- the same who frantically are enacting mandatory multiculturalism -- want to please "Islam". It is now a "feminist" talking point to advocate sharia policy, as does Linda Sarsour. The result is that, today, few feminists dare to criticize Islam.
It is happening everywhere. Dutch municipalities are "advising" their employees to not wear mini-skirts. There are women-only hours at Swedish swimming pools. German schools are sending letters to parents asking children to avoid wearing "revealing clothes".
The first to suggest calling for a ban on posters or advertisements that "reduce women or men to sexual objects" was German Justice Minister Heiko Maas, a Social Democrat.
"To demand the veiling of women or taming of men," said Free Democratic Party leader Christian Lindner, "is something known among radical Islamic religious leaders, but not from the German minister of justice."
In 1969, Germany was overwhelmed by a debate on introducing into schools the "Sexualkundeatlas", an "atlas" of sexual science. Now the effort is to desexualize German society. The newspaper Die Welt commented:
"Thanks to Justice Minister Heiko Maas we finally know why on New Year's Eve, at Cologne Central Station, about a thousand women were victims of sexual violence: because of sexist advertising. Too many eroticized models, too much naked skin on our billboards, too many erotic mouths, too many miniskirts in fashion magazines, too many wiggling rear-ends and chubby breasts in television spots. It is another step in the direction of a 'submission'".
Instead of nipples and buttocks, Die Welt concludes, "should we urge the use of burqa or veil, as Mrs. Erdogan does?"
The same German élites who suggest banning "sexist" billboards censored the crude details of the mass sexual assaults in Cologne. Meanwhile, a liberal Berlin mosque, which banned burqas and opened its door to gays and to unveiled women, is now under police protection after threats from Muslim supremacists.
Europe's élites have adopted a double standard: they are proud to host an exhibit of a Christian crucifix submerged in urine, but quickly capitulate to Muslim demands to censor cartoons of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed. The Italian authorities went to great efforts to spare Iran's President Hassan Rouhani a view of nudity on ancient sculptures in the Capitoline Museums of Rome.
The Western public appears fascinated by Islamic veils. Ismail Sacranie, a founder of Modestly Active, the manufacturer that designs burkinis, told the New York Times that 35% of their clients are non-Muslim. Aheda Zanetti, a Lebanese woman living in Australia who invented the burkini, claims that 40% of her sales are to non-Muslim women. The Western public, which has been romanticizing Islam, is apparently absorbing the pieties of Islamic law. The Spectator called it "a new puritanism" and "why some feminists make common cause with Islam".
To paraphrase the American writer Daniel Greenfield, the irony of women celebrating their own suppression is both heartbreaking and stupefying.
Europe might soon have to apologize to the Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker. She was criticized -- denounced -- for advising women to keep "at an arm's length" from strangers to avoid sexual harassment.
If the West keeps on betraying the democratic value of individual freedom on which Western civilization is based, Islamic fundamentalists, like those who imposed burqas on Libyan women, will start imposing them on Western women. They may even begin with those feminist élites who first created the sexual revolution to emancipate women in the 1960s, and who are now infatuated with an obscurantist garment that hides women in a portable prison.
If the West keeps betraying the democratic value of individual freedom, Islamic fundamentalists, like those who imposed burqas on Libyan women, will do the same to Western women. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
*Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Turkey: Erdogan's New Morality Police
Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/August 02/17
In 2016, the Alperen group threatened violence against an annual gay pride march in Istanbul. In December 2016, a group of Alperen youths celebrated Christmas and New Year's Eve in Turkey by holding a man dressed as Santa Claus at gunpoint.
Eren Keskin, a human rights lawyer and activist, said that none of the Alperen members has been prosecuted for preventing prayers at the synagogue or for acts of violence in front of it.
Muslims may worship at the al-Aqsa mosque, but there should be safety precautions to protect both them and the mosque. It was the Muslims, not the Jews, who were telling Muslims not to enter the Temple Mount.
Their number is just 17,000 in a population of 80 million (0.02%). They are full Turkish citizens. Most come from families living for centuries in what today is modern Turkey. They pay their taxes to the Turkish government. Their sons are conscripts in the Turkish army. Their mother tongue is Turkish. When someone asks them where they are from they say they are Turkish -- because they are Turkish. Nevertheless, the Turks think of them as "Israelis" -- not because they are not Turkish, but because they are Turkish Jews.
The members of Alperen Hearths -- a bizarre name for a youth group -- are also Turkish. They speak the same language as Turkish Jews and they carry the same passport that proudly sports the Crescent and Star. The members of this group, however, think that they are Turks but that Turkish Jews are not.
The Alperen group fuses pan-Turkic racism with Islamism, neo-Ottomanism, anti-Western and anti-Semitic ideas. It promotes an alliance spanning Central Asia to the Middle East based on "common historic [read: Turkish] values".
In April, the Alperen group announced that it would support highly controversial constitutional amendments granting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan new sweeping powers narrowly accepted, with 51.4% of the national vote, in a referendum. They are, in a way, Erdogan's willing army of young Ottoman soldiers.
In 2016, the Alperen threatened violence against an annual gay pride march in Istanbul. Alperen's Istanbul chief, Kursat Mican, said:
"Degenerates will not be allowed to carry out their fantasies on this land...We're not responsible for what will happen after this point ... We do not want people to walk around half-naked with alcohol bottles in their hands in this sacred city watered by the blood of our ancestors."
The Istanbul governor's office later banned the march.
In 2016, the Turkish "Alperen Hearths" group threatened violence against an annual gay pride march in Istanbul. The Istanbul governor's office later banned the march. Pictured: The 2011 gay pride march in Istanbul. (Image source: Jordy91/Wikimedia Commons)
The Alperen can also sometimes be generously amusing. In December 2016, a group of Alperen youths celebrated Christmas and New Year's Eve in Turkey by holding a man dressed as Santa Claus at gunpoint.
Burak Yasar, a provincial head of the group, said: "Our purpose is for people to go back to their roots. We are Muslim Turks and have been banner-bearers of Islam for a thousand years".
The Alperen were at the heart of a new anti-Semitic Turkish show recently, apparently inspired by Erdogan. This time, Erdogan's incitement against Israel themed around the Jewish state's control of security at the entrances to the Temple Mount site in Jerusalem. The Turkish president warned that Israel could not "expect the Islamic world to remain unresponsive after the humiliation Muslims suffered with the restrictions at the Noble Sanctuary" -- a reference to the new security measures briefly instituted by Israeli officials at the entrances to the Temple Mount, which were removed after a few days. Muslims may worship at the al-Aqsa mosque, but there should be safety precautions to protect both them and the mosque. It was the Muslims, not the Jews, who were telling Muslims not to enter the Temple Mount.
The Alperen, however, were immediately with Erdogan. They protested outside one of the most significant synagogues in Istanbul, to denounce Israel's security measures following a deadly attack at the Temple Mount that left two Israeli police officers dead. "If you prevent our freedom of worship there [at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque] then we will prevent your freedom of worship here [at Istanbul's Neve Shalom Synagogue]," a statement from the Alperen said. "Our [Palestinian] brothers cannot pray there. Putting metal detectors harasses our brothers". Some Alperen youths kicked the synagogue's doors and others threw stones at the building.
Eren Keskin, a human rights lawyer and activist, said that none of the Alperen members has been prosecuted for preventing prayers at the synagogue or for acts of violence in front of it. "This [group] is evidently being protected by the government ... It must be viewed as a violent group... What they do is to frighten the whole Jewish community".
It may sound absurd that a violent bunch of young Turkish men attacked a prayer house attended by other Turkish men and women in order to protest security measures announced in a foreign country. There were no protests in front of Israel's diplomatic mission buildings in Turkey. The protest was directed at full Turkish citizens just because these full Turkish citizens belong to a faith other than the majority's. To paraphrase George Orwell, "Some Turks are more equal than others."
Just as with the Egypt's Copts -- the indigenous descendants of the pharaohs; or the Yazidis in Iraq; or the Armenians, Greeks and Kurds in Turkey, the Jews are Turkey's "foreign" Turks, outcasts in the land where they and their ancestors wore born.
**Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was just fired from Turkey's leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing what was taking place in Turkey for Gatestone. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

North Korea and swimming in the big chaos
Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/August 02/17
When Kim Jong-Un makes an appearance surrounded by his generals, the world should expect an interesting news. Then, he laughs out loud and you know that his country’s missile arsenal has a new and more terrifying addition. In this case, South Korea should be careful and Japan must review its safety conditions. Evidently, all countries will shift attention toward the master of the White House, the only one capable of restraining the North Korean leader, if he intended to carry on his threats. Kim Jong-Un might sometimes appear as a reckless young man playing at the edge of the abyss. He is tempted to play with the famous US boxer. Missile and nuclear blackmail has already provided his country with revenues and aid. The current chaos in the big league provokes him to take over the big screen and escalate provocations. Kim believes in the doctrine of his father and grandfather. He is a ruler undeterred by poverty rates or number of people dead due to famine. Criticism by organizations or newspapers is not welcomed in his country. Collision with the outside world is beneficial for his regime’s unity. The beloved leader doesn’t fear UN Resolutions or pleas made by its members. There is no need to be worried about the Council unless the big powers agreed and a US-General sponsored execution began, which is unlikely and inconceivable currently. This time, Kim went too far. He said that all of the US territories are within the missile range, any time and any place, adding that Washington’s war threat justifies North Korea’s desire to develop nuclear weapons. He disregarded US threats and criticism, and Chinese and Russian advice. After the recent deterioration in US-Russia relations, countries in the Middle East should wonder how it will reflect on the Syrian crisis
Great powers in crisis
The North Korean leader probably realizes the club of great powers is in crisis, which is preventing it from issuing a unified resolution to halt his capabilities of disturbing his neighbors and the world. The North Korean defiance bothered US President Donald Trump. This is a new challenge to his country’s image and blatant test to his personal image. Trump surpassed his previous reservations and directly criticized China for not doing anything concerning North Korea’s violations, despite being the country most capable of pressuring Kim and his regime. There is no sign of anything good happening.
The following day, Chinese President Xi Jinping exhibited the troops participating in a military parade organized by People’s Liberation Army soldiers. This is the first parade of its kind since 1949, and the president made sure to attend the ceremony, sending more than a message.
Many linked this to a possible escalation in the Korean file and the tensions in the South China Sea. Such a scene could have not been a source of concern had relations between Washington and Moscow been normal or semi-normal. Truth is that these relations have been witnessing a new deterioration, which suggests that any bridge-building is unlikely on the short run.
Trump and Russia
The US Senate imposed new sanctions on Russia, to which Moscow responded by asking Washington to reduce its diplomatic representation, hinting it would take stronger measures if the US proceeded with its current policy. Prior to entering the White House, Trump dreamt of reestablishing relations with Russia. Vladimir Putin was looking forward to normalizing ties, which technically mean ending sanctions issued after Russia took Crimea and destabilized Ukraine, in addition to admitting Russia’s new international position especially after its military intervention that changed the course of developments in Syria.
The US Senate didn’t settle with the new sanctions, it was as if it had tied the President’s hands to lift off the sanctions. The sanctions are highly welcomed especially after security agencies confirmed that Russian hackers intervened in the US elections. The deterioration of US-Russian relations is not good news for Middle Eastern countries, which are witnessing a bloodshed that is more alarming than the international political tension. Before such deterioration, an assumption prevailed that the Syrian crisis might consolidate Russian-US cooperation in countering terrorism and containing the spread of the fire raging in Syria.
A Russian Syria
Washington recently conveyed a message that it is no longer concerned with the departure of President Bashar al-Assad, not for the time being at least. The US is wiling to accept a Russian Syria if it guarantees that Iranian Syria wouldn’t be established. After the recent deterioration in US-Russia relations, countries in the Middle East should wonder how it will reflect on the region and the Syrian crisis. Some even believe that with more tension, Moscow would enhance its relations with Iran, making it more difficult to curb new Iranian missile tests, in addition to its policy of (committing) violations in the region. Such deterioration could create additional complications in other areas especially if the current crisis in Venezuela became a bloody mess. Sanctions are damaging Russia’s economy, which are already affected by oil prices. Some believe that Moscow will not hesitate to bring up the Ukrainian issue again to heighten European fears from US sanctions. This is a difficult strain in relations among the club of great powers. A bloody and deadly crisis in the Middle East. There isn’t a new international system within reach or a regional system in the making. Countries of the Middle East will have to swim across its old and current crises as well as the huge international chaos.

What does Qatar’s UN complaint mean?
Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/August 02/17
Does Qatar know what it means to enter the world of international demands and resort to the UN Security Council and international courts?
I do not think Qatari officials understand this well. They think it’s a game like the one they’re playing with Twitter and social media users, Azmi Bishara’s groups and the Brotherhood who provided them with media coverage and fame. Qatari officials think this approach can help them drag Saudi Arabia or the UAE or the members of the Coalition to Support the Legitimacy in Yemen or the four countries which boycotted Doha to international arenas where they can hold them accountable. This Qatari storm in a teacup does not influence Saudi Arabia or the boycotting countries at all. The opposite is in fact true as UAE’s foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed recently affirmed: “We guarantee that any measures we take will comply with the international law.”These countries did not take a single step before studying the consequences of their decisions, and they have now put Qatar in a very difficult situation where Doha’s electronic brigades, satellite channels and yellow journalism will not be of any use.Doha must think a thousand times before it heads to the UN or the UN Security Council to file a complaint against Saudi Arabia
Calm and wise
The boycotting countries exercise wisdom and calm and they still look at Qatar as their brother, neighbor and partner. By doing so, they are betting on Qatar’s return to its senses – though we think that is a small possibility. The wisdom and patience of the leaders of the four countries give Doha time and space to think. Another point that may interest Qatar is that the ministers of the four countries calling for combating terrorism confirmed following their meeting on Sunday in Manama that the door is open for Qatar’s return. Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed said: “We voice our readiness to hold dialogue with Qatar on condition that it confirms its determination and efforts to stop supporting terrorism and extremism.” If Qatar is willing to accept this condition, then it must do something that demonstrates it is serious about cooperating with its neighbors. A famous Arab proverb says: “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones at people.” Qatar’s small house is entirely made of glass yet Qatari officials continue to throw stones at their brothers and neighbors.
Funding terrorism
Qatar harbors terrorists like Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Wagdy Ghoneim and Brotherhood and Taliban members and it funds terrorist groups like the Houthis, ISIS and Popular Mobilization. It resorted to tricks like abductions to pay ransoms that fund and support terrorist and extremism groups. Qatar’s hands are stained as they’ve supported violence in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Doha must think a thousand times before it heads to the UN or the UN Security Council to file a complaint against Saudi Arabia. It must think a hundred times before it stands with Iran and opposes countries that are working in favor of the region’s stability and security as the price which it will pay will be much higher than others. So does Qatar know the end-result of this path to internationalize the crisis? Or all it knows is how to be stubborn and oppose brothers and go to international organizations without fully comprehending international laws and what it may confront if they’re imposed on it?

The blessed Iraqi movement
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 02/17
Encouraging signals emanating from Iraq these days are guiding toward a just path after the leader of the Supreme Islamic Council, Ammar Al Hakim, has relinquished his seat at the council to form the National ‘Hikma’ Party. Also a visit by the leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr to Saudi Arabia on Monday shows that Iraqi Shiite leaders and political thinkers are looking for alternatives to the Iranian monopoly. This was not Al-Sadr’s first visit to Saudi Arabia. The man has a clear plan independent of the rest of the Shiite religious forces. This is evident in more ways than one including his leadership of popular movement protests against government corruption in Baghdad. Al-Sadr also has sharp comments about the rejection of the sectarian fragmentation in Iraq while keeping himself and his supporters at long distance from Iranian militias such as “Asaib al-Haq”, “Najba”, “Badr Corps” and others.
He has also distanced himself from Shiite figures immersed in sectarian slogans and Khomeini culture, while conceding to Qassem Suleimani, such as (Abu Mahdi) Mohandis, (Hadi) Amiri and (Aws) Khafaji. Al-Sadr has sharp comments about the rejection of the sectarian fragmentation in Iraq and he has kept himself and his supporters at a distance from Iranian militias
Leaving a legacy
Will Ammar al-Hakim succeed in leaving the legacy of the Council, an entity that evolved and developed within the Iranian diaspora and whose leaders were an organic part of the Khomeinist Revolutionary Guards? When Baqer al-Hakim, the Council’s first leader, returned to Iraq, he decided to become a purely religious reference, leaving his brother Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Ammar’s father, to manage the affairs of the council and the political and field movements. According to observers, he was preparing himself to be an independent Iraqi reference, but was later assassinated in a famous operation in Najaf with the holy status of the Shiite conscience August 2003. Was the late Mr. Baqir al-Hakim capable of spiritual and political independence at the time? Will the famous descendant of the religious house, Amar, resume this journey? Or is what Ammar doing only a political and media “maneuver” to reproduce the image, after the huge damage to the Iraqi political class, the Shiite Muslim sect on the expense of the government and the public? Only time is capable of revealing this, but there is no doubt that Iraq, the great country in this troubled East, is indispensable for the history and identity of the past, and the cornerstone of peace and development in the present.

The 1990-1991 Kuwait crisis remembered: Profiles in statesmanship
Dr. John Duke Anthony/Al Arabiya/August 02/17
For the last twenty-seven years, today has marked the anniversary of an infamous event: Iraq’s brutal invasion and subsequent occupation of Kuwait, which began on August 2, 1990, and which was brought to an end on February 28, 1991. The regional and international effects of numerous aspects of the trauma then inflicted upon Kuwait remain ongoing. Like Kuwait itself, the world, even now, has yet to fully recover.Over a quarter century later, important postwar facets of what Iraq did to Kuwait fall short of definitive closure. And they defy effective description. The international legal requirement that an aggressor provide prompt, adequate, and effective compensation for a war’s victims was not honored at the end of hostilities. Despite continuing United Nations-supervised efforts to collect on this inhumane debt, what is due has still not been paid.
The missing in action and context
A full accounting of Kuwait’s and other countries’ missing citizens swept up and carted off to Iraq in the war’s waning hours – in the immediate aftermath of the conflict its main cause celebre – continues to remain incomplete. The reason is not for lack of effort. After Kuwait’s liberation, an informal and unofficial effort was mounted by George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs to provide an estimate of the MIAs’ status.
The focus group included diplomats, scholars, media representatives, American armed forces’ civil affairs personnel, and other individuals who fought to liberate Kuwait. Their unscientific consensus reported that more than 400 of the missing Kuwaitis died after they were captured. The fate of more than 200 of the missing, however, was unknown.
That possibly countless others remain missing is no small matter. The numbers in question, to some, may seem few. Not so, however, for those among the loved ones who tear up at the thought of them. Not so either for those who, despite the absence of grounds to warrant optimism for a fortuitous ending to their pining, and continue to wait and pray for their return.
We Americans would do well to stop and think about this for a moment. We are often criticized, and rightly so, for having an empathy deficit when it comes to understanding the suffering of people in other countries and situations. An irony in this needs to be understood and underscored. The irony is that many in the United States demand that people in other countries understand us.
For those in front of an American Consular Officer with ticket in hand to visit a friend or relative in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, or wherever, but who lack such empathy along with the understanding and civility that comes with it, they need to be wished good luck in obtaining a visa to the United States.
The international alliance, of which the GCC countries were the most prominent Arab component, not only liberated Kuwait it re-instated the country’s internationally recognized legitimate government
Equivalencies and empathy
A reality in these regards is humbling: the number of Kuwaitis and others missing in the 1990-1991 conflict was a tenth of a percent of the country’s population. Compare that to what would have been the number of Americans missing then, when the U.S. population was 270 million. The analogical equivalent is stunning. It would be as though 270,000 Americans suddenly went missing. It would be as though they were forcibly carted across the border to Canada or Mexico and to this day remain missing and unaccounted for.
Or, take France and Great Britain. France’s and Great Britain’s populations were each roughly 50 million then. Hence, it is the same as if 50,000 French or British citizens had been taken prisoner by an invading army. If this does not place the Kuwaiti predicament in perspective, it is hard to imagine what would.
Ponder this: most Kuwaitis of my acquaintance know no fewer than four of those missing. Never since have they seen or heard from or about any of them. In addition, the same number are also aware of at least forty of their friends and relatives who still carry deep emotional scars as a result of the disappearance of their loved ones.
Whether viewed in the here and now or in the rearview mirror, the costs and losses of the invasion and occupation of Kuwait remain beyond the imagination. The consequences in terms of health and human life, in terms of jobs, in terms of aspirations trampled, in terms of mental and material wellbeing among the invaded, may never be fully known.
Also unknown are other costs. These include those incurred by the citizenry in the land of the invader. The moral and material impact of the invasion and the ensuing sanctions there were also astronomical. The consequences of those costs, however, were of another nature, intensity, and extent.
As with the tragedy inflicted upon Kuwait, the American public may never come to grips with these costs either. One small insight, albeit but a snapshot, into the altogether different human harm levied by the “liberator” is encapsulated by the following. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked in a 1996 television interview whether she thought the reported deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children from the US-led economic sanctions imposed after Iraq’s Kuwait invasion were acceptable to achieve US policy objectives. Her response was, “Yes, …the price is worth it.” This monumentally callous remark continues to haunt the secretary’s image and that of the US government to this day.
But there is more. The physical damage and the psychological devastation inflicted upon the Kuwaiti people was and is one thing. The ensuing costs to the citizens of Iraq – to the country’s widows, to its orphans, and to innumerable other civilians who had nothing whatsoever to do with the war – were and are quite another. Even now, economists’ conservative estimates place the extent of the damage in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Such conclusions look like typographical errors. Would that they were.
What was achieved
Against any further measurement of the human devastation visited upon Kuwait, there would arguably be the following additional calculations. Among them would be those that occurred as the crisis unfolded. Here, the focus is not only on the humanistic and moral fronts that embraced considerations which were ever present from beginning to end. The focus is also on what occurred in the GCC-U.S. geopolitical, defense, and economic relationships.
Analyzing these dynamics requires donning a different set of lenses. In no other way can one reach an insightful level of understanding of how, for instance, international law effectively came into play. Indeed, for one of the first and last times in the past half century, the United Nations’ Charter’s prohibition of the acquisition of territory by force was upheld. Not only did Kuwait’s citizenry and other inhabitants regain their safety and freedom. With this came something else: their dignity, which had been lost, was restored.
In the process were still other achievements. For one, Kuwait’s national sovereignty, which had been stolen, was returned. Additionally, Kuwait’s political independence – which had been smashed to smithereens by the Iraqi invasion and occupation – was regained.
Something else happened as well. The territorial integrity of this small and defenseless country, which Iraq violated, was restored. These three characteristics are noted herein for a reason: for the entire post-Second World War period, this triad of attributes had a sacrosanct dimension to it.
The three components were considered by the international community not merely as adjectival descriptions. Nor were they conceptually interlinked to underscore a set of geostrategic and geopolitical points. Rather, they depicted an idealism and a self-serving practicality that Great Powers and non-Great Powers alike wished to see reflected in the nature of countries newly freed from imperialism or armed conflict and, indeed, that all nations should be expected to prove in order to be admitted into the United Nations.
Stated differently, they conveyed the sine qua non for existence as a member of the international community in good standing. A Kuwait whose invasion and occupation were allowed to stand would have forfeited that status. In stark contrast, a Kuwait that was demonstrably sovereign, free, and intact could prove that it warranted membership as much as any other country.
In comparison to Palestine and other examples, this was no small feat. It is a status that Kuwait had but was stolen. It is a status that Palestine has yet to gain. It is a status that but for the internationally-concerted action led by the United States, Great Britain, eleven of Kuwait’s fellow Arab countries, and others, it is questionable whether Kuwait would have regained.
Regarding Kuwait’s territorial integrity, the boundary between Iraq and Kuwait was effectively delineated by international community. Not just that, the boundary between the two countries was reconfigured and drawn differently than before. Indeed, for the first known time in modern international organization history, the new Iraq-Kuwait borderline would henceforth become inviolate. It would be guaranteed by the United Nations Security Council, the only boundary in the world to be so deemed.
Here is cause for background, context, and perspective. In the post-World War Two period, in few if any other cases have the norms of interstate behavior been as acknowledged and underscored by the world’s highest political body. The Kuwait-Iraq border agreement set a one-of-a-kind marker for future conflicts and for international organizations. It is the world’s only frontier guaranteed by the globally constituted body to which the security of virtually everyone is entrusted.
The 1990-1991 Kuwait Crisis is indeed a rare textbook case for the study of international relations
Lessons learned
The 1990-1991 Kuwait Crisis[1] is indeed a rare textbook case for the study of international relations. An examination of the Crisis illustrates what can be achieved when and if the legitimate needs, concerns, interests, and aspirational goals of principled international leaders are aligned.
Given the immediate previous decades of global competition between communist and their allied countries, on one side, and non-communist powers on the other, not least among what was remarkable with regard to the Crisis was that the necessary “when and if” prerequisites of leadership and statesmanship were in near-perfect alignment. Of more than noteworthy emphasis, they have not been so aligned since.
In terms of conflict resolution, the outcome of this event must not be underestimated. It shows what can be done when those in the forefront refuse to accept taking the easy option. Here is a major reason why so many refer to the Kuwait Crisis as a teachable moment. What happened to Kuwait and what came as a consequence serves as a quintessential point of reference. It illustrates unmistakably what can be, could be, and, in this case, was accomplished by principled, strong-willed, and capable leaders – arguably in this instance statesmen – acting in concert effectively.
Such were the characteristics of the heads of state, foreign and defense ministers, armed forces chiefs of staff, and commanders of units in the field that formed the concerted international action.
American assets
One would have to look long and hard to find an American leader before or since with the range and depth of experience that President George H. W. Bush brought to bear throughout the Kuwait Crisis. Before becoming president, he had served in Congress, been Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, served as America’s chief envoy to China, and been Vice President. He was also the one US President more than any other in American history with vast direct personal knowledge of the international energy industry.
President Bush’s earlier stint as US Ambassador to the United Nations was also brought into play. That experience provided him a network of friends, allies, and working partners the likes of which no American President has come close to matching, let alone surpassing.
Supporting President Bush’s efforts was an invaluable team of distinguished statesmen. His outstanding Secretary of State, James Baker, set a standard for clear, forthright, and strong leadership. Secretary Baker demonstrated, like few subsequent American chief diplomats, what a secretary of state should be and can be in times of crises. National Security Advisor General Brent Scowcroft was an additional stalwart who was in just the right place at the right time.
Another who was held to the same high standard was US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman, the consummate American diplomat most directly involved with the Saudi Arabian government in Riyadh. Vital, too, was US Ambassador to Kuwait Edward (“Skip”) Gnehm, who worked closest with the Kuwaiti government-in-exile in Taif, Saudi Arabia.
America’s Arab allies
Working hand-in-hand with these Americans was a collection of exceptional Arab leaders. First was Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd who made perhaps the most extraordinary decision of his life with regard to what happened to Kuwait: he invited hundreds of thousands of US military forces into the Kingdom. To state that what the King did was controversial is truthful but misses the point.
Consider that, in a later interview, an Arab journalist asked King Fahd about how he made decisions and the king simply answered, “I don’t.” Rather, the king noted the classical Arab and Islamic traditions regarding the roles of consultation and consent in reaching decisions that are certain to impact one’s constituents.
King Fahd said, paraphrased here, “One might best consider my role in our country’s decision-making process as that of a press conference spokesman. That is, in all my decades of public life as a leader, all I have done is declare what has been reached through the process of consultation and consensus among those most qualified to deliberate whatever matter is under consideration.”
“There has been only one exception. It was when, in the absence of a consensus among the Kingdom’s most prominent leaders, I took the decision and risk on my own to invite the armed forces of our major allies into the Kingdom. I did so in the firm belief that in no other way would it be possible not only to prevent the forces that had invaded Kuwait from continuing onward into the Kingdom and beyond. I did so also to compel the invaders to reverse their aggression.”
In matters related to one’s country or a treasured neighbor, would that there were more comparable risk-takers when the questions are ones of life or death – of a nation no less than a people – as in the case of the Kuwait Crisis.
Additional key Saudi Arabian leaders working with King Fahd, who in their own ways made all the difference in the world, were Minister of Foreign Affairs HRH Prince Saud Al-Faisal; Director General of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Directorate, the Kingdom’s main foreign intelligence service, HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal; Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States HRH Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, doyen of all the world’s foreign chiefs of mission; and a Saudi Arabian diplomat then stationed at the Kingdom’s embassy in Washington, Adel Ahmed Al-Jubeir.
Working back and forth between the embassy and his outposts alternatively in Riyadh and Dhahran, the latter was indefatigable. He personally facilitated the ability of more than 1,000 journalists from all over the globe to come to the Kingdom. He allowed them to remain there. Al-Jubeir permitted the visiting foreign media to interview at will whomever they pleased.
He enabled them to participate in cultural excursions. He supported their ability to write what they saw and experienced, so that the world would not be left in the dark. Little wonder that he would subsequently be appointed the Kingdom’s foreign minister upon the passing of the extraordinarily gifted, dedicated, and accomplished Prince Saud al-Faisal.
In addition to these and other Saudi Arabian leaders, there were several more of particular note. One was GCC Secretary General Abdulla Y. Bishara. After a decade-long stint as Kuwait’s Ambassador to the United Nations from 1971 to 1981, Bishara was appointed founding Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates). He had held this extraordinary position of trust and confidence for nearly a decade when the Kuwait Crisis erupted – and would hold it for two more years afterwards.
For the purpose of maximizing every contact possible, the veteran Kuwaiti diplomat and his former ambassadorial colleague President Bush had established exceptionally close personal ties. Indeed, the two had served simultaneously as their respective countries’ Ambassadors to the United Nations in the 1970s.
Two other effective Arab leaders were, one, the then-Kuwaiti Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the time the doyen of all the world’s foreign ministers, and now the country’s ruler. Another was then-Ambassador of Kuwait to the United States, the late Shaikh Saud Nasser Al Sabah. No Kuwaiti diplomat in the United States worked more assiduously to liberate his country. Aiding him were three other noteworthy Kuwaiti leaders: Dr. Hassan Al-Ebraheem, Fawzi Sultan, and Saif Abbas Abdallah.
President Bush and his team of principal advisers, on one hand, and the exceptional and gifted group of GCC Arab leaders, on the other, all of them already extraordinarily effective in their own right, would become more so acting collectively. Together they personified what morally courageous leadership is all about.
Indeed, they forged a mostly rock-solid block among the ten non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The only exception was Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had long been aligned with Iraq.
Other international leaders
Among the non-Kuwaiti, non-Saudi Arabian, and other GCC leaders, the most prominent among President Bush’s western counterparts was British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, followed by the heads of state of China (where Bush’s having been the chief American envoy had come in handy), France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union.
In Mrs. Thatcher, Bush was able to count on much. Great Britain had on numerous occasions acknowledged the vital importance of Kuwait’s financial holdings in London to the Pound Sterling and, by extension, to the British economy. It was not just Kuwait’s massive deposits in London-based banks, investment houses, and other financial institutions. It was also the Kuwaiti government being the largest holder of shares in British Petroleum. The latter was a mainstay of the British Treasury. It was also vital to the country’s manufacturing sector.
Indeed, Kuwait’s hydrocarbon and monetary might helped drive much of the engines of Great Britain’s economy. This existential reality was diplomatically encapsulated when Kuwait gained its full sovereignty and independence from Great Britain in July 1961. Tellingly, the latter agreed constitutionally to come to Kuwait’s defense should its sovereignty and independence be attacked or threatened.
One of the most revealing statements that helped guide what would subsequently unfold was what Mrs. Thatcher said to Bush in late-August 1990, when discussing how to enforce U.S. sanctions on Iraq: “this is no time to go wobbly.” Wobbly the American President very much did not go. Nor did the international assemblage of countries determined to reverse Iraq’s aggression go wobbly either.
France’s contributions were also crucial. The reasons, however, were more complicated and conflicted. At the time of its invasion of Kuwait, Iraq owed Paris some 4.5 billion dollars for weapons and equipment purchased during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. By any standard this was a substantial sum. Understandably, the French wished to see the debt repaid. The likelihood for that occurring, to be sure, was to be significantly lessened if Iraq were to be repelled and defeated. This is the stuff of foreign policy nightmares for foreign ministers and heads of state: how to reconcile policies that contain glaring contradictions in nature and intent.
In comparison, France had far less at stake in Kuwait. Yet, the GCC having established the principle that an attack on one would be interpreted as an attack on all tipped the geopolitical scales in Kuwait’s favor. It put its finger on the scale of the potential financial ones, too, for France had major economic interests in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
Of wild and unpredictable cards
The most wild and unpredictable card, to be sure, was America’s longstanding nemesis, Moscow. But here, too, is where leadership was on display. President Bush was supported overwhelmingly not only by France, Great Britain, and the entire rest of the then 12-nation European Union.
With Saudi Arabia’s Prince Saud and the GCC’s Abdulla Bishara working tirelessly among their Arab and Islamic colleagues from other nations, the United States, America’s Arab allies, and the internationally-concerted coalition that was forged to liberate Kuwait was hardly isolated.
The beleaguered Arab and Islamic GCC member-state was also supported by the Organization of African Unity, a majority of the then 21-member nation League of Arab States, the 57 member-countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and all but Cuba among the then 33-member countries of the Organization of American States.
Yet one of the most important decisions Bush had to make in confronting the Kuwait Crisis was whether to ignore, confront, or seek the hand of friendship and collaboration of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. In this, Bush wasted no time. Within days of the Iraqi invasion and occupation, he let it be known in the clearest terms that he would do nothing to try to upstage Gorbachev. Bush knew that upon Gorbachev’s cooperation in addressing the Kuwait Crisis would depend so much else in terms of the future relationship between the two heads of state.
This was apparent when the two leaders met in Helsinki, Finland, and discussed the Kuwait Crisis and other matters of state, with the media’s cameras filming it all, on September 9, 1990. On that occasion, Bush declared that the United States would confine itself to liberating Kuwait from Iraq’s aggression. He proclaimed that American forces would not invade and occupy Iraq absent a UN Security Council resolution authorizing such a move.
In retrospect, it is apparent that neither Bush nor Gorbachev nor any of the other permanent five UN Security Council members considered that an invasion of Iraq by the forces being forged to liberate Kuwait would be either wise or necessary. While many would subsequently argue to the contrary, history to date would appear to have concluded that Bush, Secretary of State Baker, and National Security Adviser Scowcroft were proven correct and the others proven wrong.
In any event, the joint leadership between the metaphoric Russian Bear and the American Eagle, as the saying goes, meant all the difference in the world. Kuwait’s and the other GCC leaders and their fellow Arab partners were able to cooperate and coordinate effectively to a degree unprecedented among Arab governments and their respective militaries and diplomats in modern history.
At the time and in retrospect, no one would have wagered that such historic archrivals for strategic advantage and economic gain in the broader Middle East as the Soviet Union and the United States would end up voting identically with one another. Indeed, except for Moscow’s and Washington’s united position in voting for the 1987 UN Security Council Resolution that led to the end of the Iran-Iraq War, never before had the United States and the Soviet Union joined forces as they did with regard to the Kuwait Crisis – indeed, as they did on each of the dozen UN Security Council resolutions passed during the seven month conflict.
Herein lies a possible lesson, or if not that then at least a reminder to the incumbent American and Russian heads of state, of what can happen when the two countries’ leaders can agree to cooperate seriously and effectively in matters pertaining to war and peace.
Shifting balances of power
It is staggering how far the then-enormous respect and high regard for the American government and people has fallen in the relatively short historical period since this event. Where’s an example of the kind of statesmanship on display throughout the Kuwait Crisis having been repeated? Does one have to travel backward, not forward? Where is it now? To find today’s moral giants, does one have to travel backward? Forward? Merely look around?
For some time after the reversal of Iraq’s aggression there were reports of Kuwaiti families naming their newborn babies after President Bush. In the days after the guns on both sides had fallen silent, Kuwaitis sprayed the phrase “Yankee, Don’t Go Home” on the American embassy’s walls.
Associated with the positive acclaim for what the United States had done to forge a coalition that cooperated to liberate Kuwait was the immediate resolve by President Bush thereafter to work towards the creation of a new world order. As proof that he meant what he said, he declared his intention to bring the Palestinian and Israeli leaderships together, ultimately in Madrid, to join forces for the purpose of negotiating a peace agreement.
This he succeeded in doing in September 1991, setting the stage for President Clinton, who bested him in the national presidential elections in 1992, exercising further leadership aimed at bringing an end to the long-simmering Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Less prominently noted at the time was what Kuwait and its fellow GCC member states were able to achieve. On March, 6, 1991, not long after President Bush announced his new world order initiative, the foreign ministers of the six GCC member states plus their Egyptian and Syrian counterparts that had joined with the GCC and the Allied countries to liberate Kuwait, gathered to proclaim the Damascus Declaration – their echo at the regional level of President Bush’s declaration and commitment at the global level, in itself another precedent in the conduct of statesmanship in the realm of world affairs that the Kuwait Crisis afforded.
The Declaration’s most important principle was what the parties argued had been underscored years earlier in the March 5, 1975 Algiers Accord between Iran and Iraq: the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries. If there has been one pan-GCC ironclad principle emphasized by the members more than any other since the GCC’s inception in May 1981 – and the one most pointedly directed by a majority of the GCC’s members at the revolutionary government of Iran – it has been this one.
The evidentiary trail of when and how the GCC countries, Egypt, and Syria proclaimed in the strongest possible terms their adamant opposition to foreign intrusion in their internal political dynamics – and how this lies at the core of the GCC member states disputes with Tehran – is found in the March 1991 Damascus Declaration.
What the Damascus Declaration also represented was something else that in concept and practice was unprecedented and thus in its own way transformative, certainly for the Arab world if not also Iran, Israel, and potentially Turkey. This was the particular aspect of how the Damascus Declaration countries sought to establish a new semblance of a regional balance of power between and among the Arab countries.
Such a balance had come into being in the wake of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.[7] Since the signing of the Camp David Accords, there had been a kind of unofficial, but nonetheless effective, area-wide symmetry of power in the Arab world vis-a-vis Israel and between specific Arab countries and non-Arab Iran. As a result of the Kuwait Crisis, however, that balance no longer existed.
The signatories to the Damascus Declaration were keen to indicate regionally that the way forward would have to be in step with three things: (1) respect for the principles of non-interference in other’s domestic affairs, (2) the peaceful settlement of disputes in accord with official legal and diplomatic principles, and, also, (3) agreement that the sovereignty of the Arab world’s natural resources would henceforth reside in the country in which the resources were located.
This latter provision may have sounded innocuous, but in intent and substance it was not. It was meant to put an end to an earlier suggestion and, in some cases, implicit claim by less well-endowed Arab countries that they ought to be entitled to a share of the more bounteous resources of their less populous fellow Arab countries.
One would have to look long and hard to find an American leader before or since with the range and depth of experience that President George H. W. Bush brought to bear throughout the Kuwait Crisis
The post-Kuwait crisis era
The period immediately following the Kuwait Crisis was unique and, in retrospect, seemingly a very long time ago, indeed in another era. It was where Americans could be seen more often than not as doing the right things, in the right way, with the right people. Among GCC citizens there was genuine love, admiration, and appreciation for what the United States had done to lead and keep the region away from what would otherwise almost certainly have been not just a regional disaster but, very likely, a global one too.
The love affair with America among many in the GCC region, other than Kuwaitis, would be short-lived. In January 1993, the Clinton administration took the reins from the Bush administration and soon concluded the first Oslo Accord. The American and other hype surrounding this so-called peace process proved naïve if for no other reason that over the course of Bill Clinton’s presidency Israel’s continued taking of Palestinian land and other resources – with no penalty or even effective admonition from those extolling reverence and respect for the rule of law – continued apace.
As a result, in September 2000 the Second Palestinian Intifada erupted.[8] With it came the dramatic internationally-televised video of a Palestinian father ineffectively clutching his son, Muhammad al-Durrah, who was killed by Israeli gunfire. That the boy was living until that moment in his own land but the soldier who killed him was there illegally as a foreign occupier was a lesson not lost on anyone.
If those developments were not enough to vitiate most of the goodwill engendered by the elder President Bush in America’s reaction to the 1990-1991 Kuwait Crisis, the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, and the globally perceived over-reaction by Washington officialdom that followed, had the effect of fundamentally changing the relationship.
GCC countries’ strategic importance reexamined
Consider what occurred in the Kuwait crisis over a quarter of a century ago. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates played vital roles in the reversal of Iraq’s aggression. They were also center stage in replacing the 4.5 million barrels a day of Iraqi and Kuwait oil that were declared off limits by the United Nations Security Council after the invasion. This was vitally necessary to global economic stability.
The GCC countries were pivotal players in persuading a majority of the then 21-member League of Arab States countries to immediately condemn the invasion. This was of enormous strategic and geopolitical importance in that it disproved Saddam Hussein’s claim that the Western countries were poised to attack the Arabs and Muslims as in the Crusades.
In addition, not long after that Kuwait and the other GCC countries succeeded again in persuading a majority of the Arab League members to endorse the deployment of Arab armies to Saudi Arabia to prevent the invasion from spreading beyond Kuwait.
That measure helped protect not only Saudi Arabians, but also the hundreds of thousands of Kuwaitis who managed to escape to the Kingdom and thereby flee the carnage inflicted upon their country. It also helped to ensure the safety of the tens of thousands of Americans and countless other foreign nationals living and working in the Kingdom and the other GCC countries.
What the Kuwait crisis enforced and strengthened
The lessons of the 1990-1991 Kuwait Crisis, in which statesmen-like leaders came to the fore and in the end prevailed, should not be ignored. The response to Iraq’s aggression prompted, and expedited, changes in the dynamics of neighboring countries. The event marked a new chapter in Arab-US relations. It signaled and affirmed an enhanced and strengthened partnership between the United States and its allies in the Gulf. The GCC countries, with Saudi Arabia in the lead, absorbed more than half a million American and other countries’ foreign armed forces personnel that came to liberate Kuwait. In short, the GCC-US relationship proved to be the cornerstone of the internationally concerted action that succeeded in reversing Iraq’s aggression against Kuwait. In tandem with America’s diplomatic efforts, the GCC countries helped coordinate majority UN Security Council votes aimed at ensuring Iraq’s actions would be defeated. In so doing, they helped prevent Iraq from expanding its invasion to the other GCC countries. The international alliance, of which the GCC countries were the most prominent Arab component, not only liberated Kuwait. It re-instated the country’s internationally recognized legitimate government, and restored freedom and security to the Kuwaiti people.
Notwithstanding ongoing debate about other aspects of the crisis and conflict, glances in the rear view mirror will reveal realities that then, as equally now, were of no small moment. They reveal that these and other achievements were and are epochal in the annals of US-GCC and US-Arab strategic, economic, political, and defense ties.
Certainly, they were without precedence at the time. Nothing remotely similar had happened in the history of Allied-GCC country defense cooperation. Their end result was the effective defense of a region that remains vital to the world’s economy and, as such, of overriding importance not just to its inhabitants but to all of humankind.
These are extracts from an article originally published by National Council on US-Arab Relations.
Dr. John Duke Anthony is the Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, and currently serves on the United States Department of State Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy and its subcommittee on Sanctions. On June 22, 2000, on occasion of his first official state visit to the United States since succeeding his late father, H.M. King Muhammad VI of Morocco knighted Dr. Anthony, bestowing upon him the Medal of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite, the nation of Morocco’s highest award for excellence. Dr. Anthony is the only American to have been invited to each of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Ministerial and Heads of State Summits since the GCC’s inception in 1981. (The GCC is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates). In 2013, he chaired and was the core lecturer in the Council's Annual 10-Week University Student Summer Internship Program's yearly Academic Seminar on “Arabia and the Gulf.” For the past 39 years, he has been a consultant and regular lecturer on the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf for the Departments of Defense and State. He is former Chair, Near East and North Africa Program, Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State as well as former Chair of the Department’s Advanced Arabian Peninsula Studies Seminar – the U.S. government’s leading educational preparation programs for select American diplomatic and defense personal assigned to the Arab world.