August 05/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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

Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son
Acts of the Apostles 20,17-"From Miletus he sent a message to Ephesus, asking the elders of the church to meet him.When they came to him, he said to them: ‘You yourselves know how I lived among you the entire time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears, enduring the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house, as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus.And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace. Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." ’

Question: "Why did Jesus teach in parables?" It has been said that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The Lord Jesus frequently used parables as a means of illustrating profound, divine truths. Stories such as these are easily remembered, the characters bold, and the symbolism rich in meaning. Parables were a common form of teaching in Judaism. Before a certain point in His ministry, Jesus had employed many graphic analogies using common things that would be familiar to everyone (salt, bread, sheep, etc.) and their meaning was fairly clear in the context of His teaching. Parables required more explanation, and at one point in His ministry, Jesus began to teach using parables exclusively.
The question is why Jesus would let most people wonder about the meaning of His parables. The first instance of this is in His telling the parable of the seed and the soils. Before He interpreted this parable, He drew His disciples away from the crowd. They said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it" (Matthew 13:10-17).
From this point on in Jesus’ ministry, when He spoke in parables, He explained them only to His disciples. But those who had continually rejected His message were left in their spiritual blindness to wonder as to His meaning. He made a clear distinction between those who had been given “ears to hear” and those who persisted in unbelief—ever hearing, but never actually perceiving and “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). The disciples had been given the gift of spiritual discernment by which things of the spirit were made clear to them. Because they accepted truth from Jesus, they were given more and more truth. The same is true today of believers who have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth (John 16:13). He has opened our eyes to the light of truth and our ears to the sweet words of eternal life.
Our Lord Jesus understood that truth is not sweet music to all ears. Simply put, there are those who have neither interest nor regard in the deep things of God. So why, then, did He speak in parables? To those with a genuine hunger for God, the parable is both an effective and memorable vehicle for the conveyance of divine truths. Our Lord’s parables contain great volumes of truth in very few words—and His parables, rich in imagery, are not easily forgotten. So, then, the parable is a blessing to those with willing ears. But to those with dull hearts and ears that are slow to hear, the parable is also an instrument of both judgment and mercy.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 04-05/17
Washington Post Op-Ed Shills for Hezbollah Ally/Sean Durns/The Times Of Israel/August 03/17
Why are Jroud Arsal significant to Iran/Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/August 04/17
Lebanese society on edge with Arsal raid, battle/Florence MassenaAl Monitor/August 04/17
U.S. Security Assistance to Lebanon at Risk/David Schenker/The Washington Institute/August 04/17
Qatar Crisis, Invasion of Kuwait/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed//Gatestone Institute/August 04/17
The Foreign Press Association's Unlimited Bias/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/August 04/17
JASTA: Time to move on from unjustified lawsuits/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/August 04/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on August 04-05/17
Report: Contacts Underway for 'International Air Cover' for Military
Berri from Iran: Our Army is among Best Armies in Region
Mashnouq Warns of 'Int'l Isolation', Urges Integrating Hizbullah Arms into State
Nasrallah Urges Govt. to Negotiate with Syria on Refugees, Says Keen on Kuwait Ties
Man Arrested for Smuggling Syrians into Lebanon
Two Lebanese-Australian Charged with Terrorism over Plane Attack Plot
Bassil: Lebanon-Syria Coordination for Return of Displaced 'Not Binding Nor Forbidden'
Army Fires Artillery at IS Militants in Ras Baalbek Outskirts
Army artillery targets Daesh positions in Balbek mountains
Aoun adamant to ameliorate economic situation: For lifting immunity on all corrupt
Berri in chat with media delegation in Tehran: Army has all capabilities to purge eastern terrian of terrorism
Sarraf discusses current situation with US, Spanish Ambassadors
Zeaiter, Raeli signs 'strengthening and enhancing quality olive oil chain in Lebanon' operational agreement
Washington Post Op-Ed Shills for Hezbollah Ally
Why are Jroud Arsal significant to Iran/Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/August 04/17
Lebanese society on edge with Arsal raid, battle
U.S. Security Assistance to Lebanon at Risk

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 04-05/17
Saudi forces counter Houthi attack on its border with Yemen
Anti-terror quartet reiterate firm position in Jeddah meet
Blaze Rips Through Dubai Skyscraper 'The Torch'
Maduro Installs Disputed New Venezuela Assembly
Ex-Netanyahu Aide Turns State's Witness in Graft Probe
Israel Plans to Discuss 'UNIFIL Mission' During UN Chief's First Visit
Egypt Court Jails 50 Policemen over Strike
Iraq Finds Mass Grave in Former IS-Held City

Latest Lebanese Related News published on August 04-05/17
Report: Contacts Underway for 'International Air Cover' for Military
Naharnet/August 04/17/Contacts with US and Russian sides, with regard to the situation on the Lebanese border, are underway to pave the way for the “international coalition to provide an air cover for the Lebanese army's upcoming battle against the Islamic State group” on the outskirts of the border towns of al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Friday. “Contacts with the Russians and Americans, with regard to the situation on the Lebanese border, are underway in a bid to make Moscow pressure its allies in Syria and Iran and make the Syrian regime and Hizbullah accept that the international coalition provides an air coverage for the Lebanese army's battle against the IS,” reported the daily. “This explains the delay in the army's operation,” added the daily, “however, an approval has not been confirmed yet.”Meanwhile, reports that some US special forces are already in Lebanon to assist the army in its mission, according to the daily.A senior military source who spoke on condition of anonymity said the reports were “inaccurate,” adding that “US elements in Lebanon are not combat teams but training and follow-up teams.”The army is reportedly preparing an operation aimed at eradicating IS militants from the outskirts of al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek. On Thursday, the army fired artillery rounds at Islamic State group posts in the outskirts of the eastern border towns of al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek, inflicting casualties and destroying a number of sites, state-run National News Agency reported. The shelling continued for several hours throughout Thursday. Army units meanwhile continued their deployment in the outskirts of the nearby border town of Arsal, seizing control of posts abandoned by the jihadist al-Nusra Front group. Al-Nusra was ousted from the region in a Hizbullah offensive that ended with an evacuation deal.

Berri from Iran: Our Army is among Best Armies in Region
Naharnet/August 04/17/Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced Friday during a visit to Tehran that the Lebanese army is “among the best armies in the region.”“The Lebanese army possesses all the capabilities that allow it to continue the battle of ridding the eastern mountains of terrorism, especially the part that is still under the control of the Islamic State group,” Berri told reporters accompanying him to Iran. “Thank God our army is among the best armies in the region and has demonstrated high combat competency in its war on terror,” the speaker added. As for the looming offensive against the IS group in the outskirts of the border towns of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa, Berri said “the timing of the battle belongs to the Army Command , which has the ability to evaluate the circumstances and atmosphere needed to perform its missions.”Berri had arrived earlier in the day in Tehran at the head of an official delegation to take part in the oath-taking ceremony of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the National News Agency reported.Berri and the accompanying delegation had received an invitation from Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, NNA said. Rouhani was sworn in for a second term on Thursday by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei after being re-elected in a landslide in May. The ceremony will be held on Saturday.

Mashnouq Warns of 'Int'l Isolation', Urges Integrating Hizbullah Arms into State
Naharnet/August 04/17/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq warned Thursday that Lebanon could soon face an international isolation in connection with Hizbullah's presence as a paramilitary force that has regional roles, calling for integrating the Iran-backed group's weapons into the Lebanese state. “Hizbullah's arms cannot have Lebanese legitimacy without a national strategy that would integrate these weapons into the state,” said Mashnouq in an interview on LBCI television.
“We are not Vietnam to speak of an army-people-resistance equation. I'm not saying that we are Hong Kong but let's have something in the middle between Vietnam and Hong Kong,” the minister added. He also warned that Lebanon might face “a major Arab and Western political and economic siege in the upcoming period,” stressing that the country should have a “united domestic front” in order to deal with such a possibility. Turning to Hizbullah's military operation in the outskirts of the border town of Arsal in which it managed to oust al-Nusra Front militants from the area, Mashnouq said he cannot congratulate Hizbullah over a victory in Arsal's outskirts as he congratulated the families of five freed Hizbullah captives on “their safe return.”
“The army chief told some politicians that the army had the ability to liberate Arsal's outskirts although for a high casualty toll... The political forces did not give a greenlight to the army,” the minister explained.

Nasrallah Urges Govt. to Negotiate with Syria on Refugees, Says Keen on Kuwait Ties
Naharnet/August 04/17/Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday called on the Lebanese government to “negotiate” with Damascus over the return of Syrian refugees to their country, following the successful evacuation operation that saw the transfer of thousands of refugees and militants from northeast Lebanon to central and north Syria. “I call on Lebanese politicians to draw lessons from these negotiations. This operation led to the transfer of hundreds of militants and thousands of families without international efforts and without a role for the U.N. or the international Red Cross... The guarantors on the ground were the Lebanese General Security and the Syrian regime,” said Nasrallah in a televised speech marking the completion of an evacuation and prisoner exchange agreement with al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida's former Syrian affiliate. The agreement followed days of clashes in the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Arsal and the Syrian town of Flita that saw Hizbullah fighters and Syrian troops besiege Nusra's militants in a small pocket of territory.
Urging the Lebanese government to “negotiate” with Damascus over the return of more than one million refugees to Syria, Nasrallah reassured that Syria's government will offer "all the needed guarantees" in the vein of its role in the Arsal evacuation deal.
“The media has not been fair towards the Syrian army and its sacrifices on this front and we must appreciate its sacrifices, martyrs and wounded,” added Nasrallah, referring to the Syrian forces' role in the border offensive.
Moreover, Hizbullah's chief revealed that President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri had “agreed to and facilitated” the exchange and evacuation negotiations.
“President Michel Aoun agreed to the negotiations... and offered the necessary facilitation to ensure success. I know his sympathy and love towards the martyrs, captives, fighters and those who have offered sacrifices,” Nasrallah said.
“This is a brave president who has said that this is a victory for Lebanon,” Nasrallah added, referring to Aoun's Army Day speech. “As for PM Saad Hariri, he had agreed to the negotiations from the very beginning and was keen on their success. He offered all the necessary facilitation although some things would have embarrassed him” towards his popular base and the public opinion, Nasrallah said.
“He said that Hizbullah 'achieved something' in the outskirts and this is a step forward. The State acted responsibly which led to the completion of this victory,” Hizbullah's leader went on to say.
Nasrallah also lauded what he called “the remarkable efforts and strenuous and critical work that was exerted by General Security chief Major General Abbas Ibrahim,” who played a key role in the negotiations that involved the release of eight Hizbullah fighters who were in Nusra's captivity and the handover of a number of bodies.
Turning to the Lebanese army's expected offensive against Islamic State jihadists entrenched in the outskirts of the border towns of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa, Nasrallah warned IS' militants that “the Lebanese and Syrians will come for them from all sides.”
“You will not be able to resist. This is a losing battle and you will definitely lose and get killed, wounded or captured. You better do the right calculations and draw a lesson from al-Nusra who tried us instead of heeding the warnings,” Nasrallah warned, noting that there can be negotiations over nine Lebanese servicemen abducted by IS in 2014.
Nasrallah also noted that Hizbullah and the Syrian forces are ready to assist the Lebanese army in its expected assault against IS' militants in order to “lower the casualty toll” among the army's troops.
Separately, Nasrallah denied any role for Hizbullah in what Kuwait has dubbed an Iranian-backed terrorist cell known in the Gulf emirate as al-Abdali cell.
“I stress Hizbullah's keenness on the best relations between Lebanon and Kuwait and we acknowledge Kuwait's support for Lebanon and its assistance in the wake of the July War. We value and appreciate its stance and we don't want anything to harm the relation. We are ready to discuss any ambiguity through the diplomatic channels,” Nasrallah noted.
He also underlined that Hizbullah has not “sent, smuggled or stored weapons” in Kuwait, describing the accusations as baseless.
Kuwaiti Ambassador to Lebanon Abdul-Al al-Qinai has handed a letter of protest over Hizbullah's alleged involvement in the cell to Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil and has held talks with PM Hariri and Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq over the issue.
The supreme court in Sunni-ruled Kuwait, which has a sizable Shiite minority, last month convicted 21 Shiites of forming a "terrorist cell" with ties to Iran and Hizbullah and plotting attacks in the Gulf state.
Kuwait has protested to Lebanon over the alleged training of the cell members by Hizbullah, which has ministers in the Lebanese government.
Earlier this month, Kuwaiti authorities expelled 15 Iranian diplomats and shut down the military, cultural and trade missions of the Iranian embassy in Kuwait over Tehran's backing of the "terrorist cell."
Iran said the allegation is baseless
Fourteen of the 21 convicted members are on the run. Local media said they fled to Iran by sea. Around a third of Kuwait's native population of 1.35 million are Shiites.

Man Arrested for Smuggling Syrians into Lebanon

Naharnet/August 04/17/State Security police arrested a Syrian man in the Aley district on Friday on accusation of helping to smuggle Syrian nationals into Lebanon, the National News Agency reported. The suspect, who was identified as Fayez Hmeid, was accused of smuggling people through illegal crossings between Lebanon and Syria in return for sums of money, NNA said. Hmeid was referred to the related judicial authorities.

Two Lebanese-Australian Charged with Terrorism over Plane Attack Plot
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 04/17/Two Lebanese-Australian men have been charged with terrorism offenses after Australian police thwarted an alleged plot to blow up a plane, and were refused bail on Friday, with a third still being questioned. A man instructed by Islamic State to bring down an Etihad Airways flight tried to use an unsuspecting passenger to carry a bomb on board, with a second poisonous gas plot also in the works, Australian police alleged Friday. The improvised device, using "high military-grade explosive", was due to be smuggled onto a July 15 service from Sydney, but the attempt was aborted before they reached security. Two men -- Khaled Khayat and Mahmoud Khayat -- have been charged with terrorism offences and were refused bail on Friday, with a third still being questioned. Police claim one of them planted the bomb in the passenger's luggage. Local reports said the luggage belonged to the man's own, innocent, brother. "We will be alleging the person who was to carry the IED had no idea they were carrying an IED," said Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan. "There is a little bit of conjecture as to why it didn't go ahead. It didn't get past the check-in."Police are working on the theory that it was called off because the device may have been too heavy. Authorities also foiled a second alleged plot involving a "chemical dispersion device", designed to release hydrogen sulphide, but this was in the early stages. Hydrogen sulphide is highly toxic, and often fatal for people exposed to it.
"Not only have we stopped the IED that was believed to go on the plane but we have also completely disrupted the intended chemical dispersion device," said Phelan. The second plan was hatched after the first one failed, police alleged, and was not necessarily targeted at a plane. "They were talking about crowded closed spaces, you know, potentially public transport, and so on," Phelan said, but added that they "got nowhere near making one". The plot was orchestrated by "a senior member of the Islamic State" based overseas. Communications with the extremist group began in April and they sent components and propellants through international cargo from Turkey to the men, police said. The men were then directed on how to build a bomb that would have caused "significant damage". "With assistance from the ISIL commander, the accused assembled the IED into what we believe was a functioning IED to be placed on that flight," said Phelan, referring to Islamic State by an alternative acronym.
- Originated in Turkey -The destination of the flight was not revealed, although reports have previously suggested it was Abu Dhabi. Etihad earlier this week confirmed it was working with authorities in Australia on their investigation. Police would not reveal who the IS link was but said it will be alleged the men were introduced to him by a relative who is a senior IS member in Syria. "It is a concern that it got through," said Phelan about the bomb components arriving in Australia through the mail. "What we're alleging is the components of the IED originated in Turkey at this stage. We are very confident that we have found every single component of that IED." Security was tightened at domestic and international airports across Australia after four men were arrested in raids in Sydney on Saturday over what Phelan called "one of the most sophisticated plots that has ever been attempted on Australian soil".
Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the impacts "could have been catastrophic". "I understand that Australians will feel very unnerved about hearing this news and the police allege that we have been the target of a very serious ISIL plot," he told reporters. "But I do want to remind everyone that this is the 13th time, because of the excellence of our law enforcement agencies, that we have been able to stop a terrorist attack from occurring on Australian soil in the past three years." Khaled Khayat, 49, and Mahmoud Khayat, 32, have been charged with two counts of "acts done in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist act" and are next due in court on November 14. One of the four has been released without charge and another is still being questioned.

Bassil: Lebanon-Syria Coordination for Return of Displaced 'Not Binding Nor Forbidden'
Naharnet/August 04/17/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil said on Friday that a decision to make displaced Syrians return home must not be linked to any events happening in Syria, as he pointed out that contacts with the Syrian regime to that end are "not binding nor prohibited.”“We have stepped into a phase where we will raise the voice for the return of displaced people. The current international policy gives displaced people assistance to stay in Lebanon, while it should be helping them return to Syria,” said Bassil in an interview with the weekly al-Sayyad newspaper.Bassil said that linking the decision of return to events in the war-torn country or to a political solution “is impermissible,” stressing his rejection of “the logic of dependence on foreign states or external developments to resolve the crisis of the displaced.”Whether handling this issue required a higher level of political contacts between the two governments, the Minister said: “The return of displaced peopl can happen with or without contact with the Syrian government. Contact with Damascus is not binding, but it is not prohibited either.”"It is imperative that the return of Syrian refugees from Lebanon to their country is not governed by a UN resolution. What would we do if the international community decided it was not high time for them to return? What should we do if the solution is delayed for years in Syria?” asked Bassil. The Minister stressed the need for the adoption of a “national policy that would actually lead to the return of the displaced.”

Army Fires Artillery at IS Militants in Ras Baalbek Outskirts

Naharnet/August 04/17/The army was on Friday firing artillery rounds at posts and vehicles for the terrorist Islamic State group in the outskirts of the eastern border town of Ras Baalbek, state-run National News Agency reported. On Thursday, the army also shelled IS posts in the outskirts of Ras Baalbek and the neighboring town of al-Qaa, inflicting casualties and destroying a number of sites. Also on Thursday, army units continued their deployment in the outskirts of the nearby border town of Arsal, seizing control of posts abandoned by the jihadist al-Nusra Front group. Al-Nusra was ousted from the region in a Hizbullah offensive that ended with an evacuation deal.The army is reportedly preparing a major operation aimed at eradicating IS militants from the outskirts of al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek.

Army artillery targets Daesh positions in Balbek mountains
Fri 04 Aug 2017/NNA - The Lebanese Army artillery is targeting the positions of Daesh terrorists in Baalbek mountains, according to the NNA correspondent.

Aoun adamant to ameliorate economic situation: For lifting immunity on all corrupt
Fri 04 Aug 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, on Friday underlined the necessity that immunity be lifted on all those who practice corruption, hoping that the task of fighting corruption would succeed to rectify the current situation. "It is essential that immunity be lifted on all those who practice corruption, and they are not few," President Aoun said during his meeting at the Baabda palace with a wide delegation of Kesrouan-Ftouh district. Aoun hoped before the delegation that combating corruption would succeed in order to set the current situation right, notably that Lebanon is facing a major crisis that requires swift economic action plan. "The Lebanese currency is solely supported through production rather than via debts," Aoun said, stressing determination to ameliorate the current economic situation and move it towards the upward path. The President underscored the paramount importance of taking initiatives to regulate and systematize our deteriorating economic sphere. He stressed the need to heed care to all economic sectors. On the other hand, Aoun met in the presence of First Lebanese Mrs. Nadia Al-Shami Aoun, a delegation from the "Happiness of Heaven" Association, led by Father Majdi Allwai.

Berri in chat with media delegation in Tehran: Army has all capabilities to purge eastern terrian of terrorism

Fri 04 Aug 2017/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, said that the Lebanese army has all the capabilities to rid the eastern terrain of terrorism, especially the remaining parts which are still under the control of the terrorist Daesh Organization. Speaker Berri's fresh words on Friday came in a chat with his accompanying delegation to Tehran, where he will attend the sworn-in ceremony of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. "Our army is one of the best armies in the region.. It [army[ proved a high combat efficiency in its war on terrorism," Berri said, adding that the army command is the authority to decide upon the timing of the battle.

Sarraf discusses current situation with US, Spanish Ambassadors
Fri 04 Aug 2017/NNA - National Defense Minister, Yaacoub Sarraf, on Friday stressed that the military institution is the sole authority to determine the timing and place of the tasks entrusted upon it. Minister Sarraf urged all to avoid engaging in military and security analysis and to stay away from speculation and giving unsubstantiated and groundless information. Sarraf met respectively with the US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, and Spanish Ambassador to Lebanon, Jose Maria Ferre de la Pena, with talks reportedly touching on the general situation in Lebanon and the broader region, in addition to the bilateral ties.

Zeaiter, Raeli signs 'strengthening and enhancing quality olive oil chain in Lebanon' operational agreement
Fri 04 Aug 2017/NNA - In a press release by the Italian Embassy in Beirut, it said: "Minister of Agriculture, Ghazi Zeaiter, and the Director of the International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM) Bari, Maurizio Raeli, initialled the operational agreement on "Strengthening and enhancing quality olive oil chain in Lebanon". On the same occasion, the President of CDR, Nabil Jisr, and the Director of the International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM) Bari initialled the "Master Plan for the sustainable development of Lebanese coastal communities" financed by Italy.  The Ambassador of Italy, Massimo Marotti, and the Director of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), Donatella Procesi, were also present at the ceremony held at the Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture Headquarters in Beirut.  "Strengthening and enhancing quality olive oil chain in Lebanon" project is the third phase of two very successful initiatives already executed by CIHEAM, an intergovernmental organization, jointly with the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) in Lebanon, both financed by Italy for an amount of 1 million euros. This phase will last 18 months and encompasses activities aiming at encouraging income-generating activities related to olive oil, via the support to olive oil chain associations and producers, oil millers and traders. The initiatives will improve the socioeconomic conditions of olive oil operators, whether organized into associations or not, and of their families, and increasing food security level, while strengthening quality of Lebanese olive oil along its value chain. The "Master Plan for the Sustainable Development of the Lebanese Coastal Communities" project will last one year and is jointly implemented by the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR), and executed by CIHEAM Bari, in close collaboration with the Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture (MoA). The Master Plan is funded by Italy through a grant of around 500 000 euros. The Master Plan preparation will extend over a period of 12 months and will identify specific sector interventions and setup integrated market systems, while encouraging the sustainable use of local natural resources. It will define significant income-generating opportunities, especially in vulnerable coastal areas within South, Mount Lebanon and North Governorates (especially among fishermen communities). The expected achievements include the production of a "Sustainable Development Master Plan Document", to comply with the overarching guiding principles of sustainability, social inclusion and social businesses."

Washington Post Op-Ed Shills for Hezbollah Ally
Sean Durns/The Times Of Israel/August 03/17
There's an elephant in the room in a recent Washington Post Op-Ed “Can Lebanon survive Syria, Israel—and President Trump” that discusses challenges facing the Lebanese state. That elephant is the open support of the Lebanese government for Hezbollah, the Shi'ite Muslim, U.S.-designated terror group, which has fed off its Beirut host-turned-advocate for decades. The July 25, 2017 Post commentary by former Post correspondent Nora Boustany and writer Daniel Williams effectively whitewashes the country's current support for Hezbollah.
Boustany, now a journalism professor at the American University of Beirut, and Williams, an author of a recent book on Christians in the Middle East, argue that Lebanon is “trying to navigate a summer of tensions with its neighbors” and is “seemingly always under existential siege from forces inside and out [emphasis added].”
Those neighbors, the commentators assert, include a “bellicose” Israel that “is unhappy with archenemy Hezbollah's growing power and is talking about flattening the country if Hariri doesn't do something about it.” Lebanon, they say, is a “beleaguered country” currently led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri who, in a recent visit to the U.S., was seeking to prevent the Trump administration from ending a “State Department program of military aid to Lebanon worth about $80 million this year.”
Trump, the writers argue, “Should not end U.S. support for Lebanon's armed forces.” Yet—perhaps in order to advance their argument—The Post Op-Ed omits relevant facts, namely why and how Hezbollah's power is “growing” and what this portends for Lebanon, Israel and the region writ large.
Indeed, two key words are missing from Boustany and Williams' Op-Ed: Michael Aoun. This is curious given that Aoun is Lebanon's President. He's also a Hezbollah ally.
Amazingly, Aoun's name is not mentioned even once in the 841-word commentary—despite the fact that his electoral victory was announced in an Oct. 31, 2016 Washington Post report entitled “Lebanese lawmakers pick Hezbollah ally to end presidential logjam.”
Aoun, The Post noted in that October dispatch, had angered “many Lebanese by dispatching fighters to aid President Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria without receiving permission from Lebanon's government.” That is, the eighty-one year-old Aoun, as commander-in-chief of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), assisted a U.S.-designated terrorist group in its efforts to prop up a genocidal dictator.
Hezbollah, like other Iranian-backed proxies, has been active in Tehran's efforts to support al-Assad. Aoun's position, Post reporter Hugh Naylor stated, showed that “Hezbollah has become the dominant player in Lebanon.” In this, it has the active cooperation of the LAF. Indeed, as analyst Tony Badran noted in a July 26, 2017 Tablet commentary entitled “Lebanon is Another Name for Hezbollah”:
“At the same time Hariri is visiting Washington, however, the LAF is taking part in a joint military operation with Hezbollah in northeastern Lebanon, targeting a pocket of Syrian armed groups—including the group formerly known as the Nusra Front—on the Syrian border. Hezbollah, of course, controls the Lebanese government and dictates the operations of its armed forces. Indeed, it was Hezbollah that laid out the battle plans for the current operation in northeastern Lebanon, including what role the LAF would play in it. And it was Hezbollah's chief, Hassan Nasrallah, who announced the impending start of the joint operation with the LAF during a televised appearance a couple of weeks ago.”
Badran also pointed out that the LAF “chaperoned” Hezbollah on a media tour of the border with Israel—an area in which the terror group used environmental NGOs as cover to conduct surveillance on Israel, as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) noted in an Aug. 2, 2017 Washington Examiner Op-Ed (“Hezbollah's Media Relations Department”).
The Washington Post itself, in a July 31, 2017 report made after another “tour” with the terrorist group, pointed out that “nowhere was there any evidence of the Lebanese state” on the Israel-Lebanon border; Hezbollah, which de facto runs the country, controlled it all. Hezbollah even has elected members of parliament—not that they're necessary when a pro-Hezbollah commander-in-chief is able to send forces abroad sans parliamentary support.
Importantly, that July 31 Post dispatch, like Boustany and Williams' Op-Ed, omits that Hezbollah's very existence violates U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, which called for the group to disband.
Instead, Hezbollah has made war on the Jewish state and turned Lebanon into a Vichy-like state that, similar to France during World War II, is also led by an aging autocrat who has made his peace with and concessions to Jew-hatred and war.
Hezbollah's ally and enabler, the LAF, as journalist and analyst Lee Smith pointed out in The Weekly Standard, is the fifth largest recipient of U.S. military aid. In 2016, the LAF received $220 million (“The Lebanese Army is Misusing Aid,” Nov. 14, 2016). Yet, Prime Minister Hairi—who Boustany and Williams paint as fighting Hezbollah—wants more. This, despite the fact that, according to Smith, “pictures of a Hezbollah parade in the Syrian city of Qusayr showed Hezbollah fighters using American-made personnel carriers (ACPS)”—illustrating the danger that U.S. military aid to the LAF can wind up in the hands of a terrorist group, which, prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attack, was responsible for more American deaths than any other Islamist group.
Unsurprisingly, these details were also omitted in the Post commentary. Perhaps it would have ruined the sales pitch.

Why are Jroud Arsal significant to Iran/لماذا جرود عرسال دون غيرها مهمة لإيران؟
Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/August 04/17
هدى الحسيني/الشرق الأوسط/03 آب/17
Hezbollah fought and negotiated with al-Nusra Front and then swapped prisoners and corpses. As if what happened is in a state other than Lebanon but it’s in fact Lebanon and we’re particularly reminded of that when we recall how Hezbollah said it will not fight ISIS but it will let the Lebanese army perform the task. Hezbollah however decides when to fight its battles and imposes certain battles on the Lebanese army.
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah said he dedicates the victory to Lebanon and the Lebanese people. He knows that no one is with al-Nusra or ISIS. We’re grateful to anyone who saves Lebanon and the Lebanese people from these groups but why don’t we believe that this battle was for Lebanon’s sake? What’s the role of linking Jroud Arsal to Qalamoun?
Where will Iran’s land bridge to reach the Mediterranean Sea pass through? A Hezbollah official said during a tour with the press: “We will hand Jroud Arsal to the Lebanese army once it’s capable because it has the battle of confronting (ISIS).”
Is it a coincidence that Iran’s supreme guide Ayatollah Khamenei’s website published a video of Hezbollah members in Lebanon with Nasrallah standing at the podium as they cheered “We are the sons of Khomeini” and of Hezbollah members in front of Khomeini’s shrine as they chanted “We are the sons of the Khamenei” as Khamenei himself saluted them?
It seems Iran is using these militias in sectarian and geopolitical wars while pitting the states and Shiite militias it supports against Sunni blocs in Sunni countries.
The video was captioned: “Following the divine victory achieved by the Resistance’s arms in Jroud Arsal, we, for the first time broadcast, a video of Hezbollah youths.”
Jroud Arsal is very far from Iran but it’s very important especially that the timing of the battle came amid the Palestinians’ defense of Al-Aqsa. At the beginning of the “victory speech,” Nasrallah only saluted them and the Houthis and then saluted the Lebanese army.
Iran established Hezbollah in Lebanon and then formed other armed Shiite militias in order for its “land bridge” to extend from Tehran to Lebanon, Israel’s border, Jordan and eventually to the Gulf of Aden. It seems Iran is using these militias in sectarian and geopolitical wars while pitting the states and Shiite militias it supports against Sunni blocs in Sunni countries.
The Arab Spring
In the summer of 2011, at the beginning of the Arab Spring, hundreds of Lebanese and Syrian youths gathered in the Bekaa valley and were militarily trained by Hezbollah. Lebanese journalist Fidaa al-Itaani who was back then a supporter of the group spoke about his experience to BuzzFeed.
The report detailed how “after witnessing the spectacle in the Bekaa Valley that day in 2011, Itaani asked a contact in Hezbollah’s intelligence unit why so many men were being trained so aggressively. Were they preparing for another war against Israel, he wondered. ‘We are training them in everything,’ Itaani said the Hezbollah official told him. ‘Municipal governance, self-defense, religion, how to use the infrastructure of the state, electricity, water, civil defense.’
‘Assad may leave,” he described his contact as saying. ‘If so we will take a small part of Syria. If he wins, we will take all of Syria.’”
Iran is the victim of the sectarian division policy which Ayatollah Khomeini paved way for. The sectarian extremism policy emerged with Khomeini’s rise in 1979 when he raised the slogan of exporting the revolution to Islamic states and sought to remove geographic borders. To achieve this aim, Khomeini needed a military power with a strong basis in Tehran to continue to expand in the region.
He did not trust the regular army and executed most of its prominent officers. The Revolutionary Guards was thus established as a military tool to suppress others and protect the governance of the jurist and develop the Islamic revolution according to Khomeini’s agenda.
The Revolutionary Guard’s system stipulates that it is an institution which is under the command of the supreme guide and it ideologically and politically submits to it. It’s also well-known that the Revolutionary Guards has two tasks. The first one is internal and it includes suppressing protests and assigning thousands of the Basij members to spy on people on a daily basis, monitor the internet and satellite dishes and hack public, private and regional companies and supervise what audiovisual and audio media outlets broadcast.
The second one is foreign in which the guards target those who defected from the regime outside Iran and target other countries. The revolutionary guards had carried out terrorist operations to demonstrate its strength. It blew up the Marines headquarters in Beirut and the headquarters of French troops.
Terrorist operations
It was responsible for blowing up a Jewish center in Argentina and for the Khobar explosions in Saudi Arabia in 1996. This is in addition to terrorist operations in other countries as perpetrators were caught most of the time and their ties to the Revolutionary Guards have been exposed.
Since what empowers the Revolutionary Guards is exporting the revolution, the Quds Brigade was established. Its task is to recruit, educate and organize groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon. The guards’ relations with extremist Sunni groups have been strong since the 1990’s and many of these groups’ leaders, including al-Qaeda, were transferred to Iraq and Syria after these countries hosted the Quds Brigade for years.
The invasion of Iraq in 2003 gave the Iranian regime a chance to get close to achieving its aim of expanding sectarian division and extremism. The invasion brought the Iraqi al-Qaeda from which ISIS branched. Both groups reflect the sectarianism of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Former President Barack Obama’s policy of appeasement was exploited by Tehran to intervene in the Middle East.
An observer of the Iranian strategy said the Iranian regime’s main goal is create a crisis and maintain instability through the Quds Brigade and the Revolutionary Guards’ branches. The Quds Brigade headed by Qassem Soleimani controls dozens of Shiite militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The complex of the Iranian-Iraqi war still controls Soleimani’s strategies and orientations. All the armed groups and militias which Iran establishes and deploys will not make Soleimani realize that the Iraqi army stood against exporting the revolution and even crossed the borders and entered Iranian territories.
The price of war
On July 10, Soleimani said that the Iraqi army is on its way to embrace Iran’s ideology. Since the Iranian-Iraqi war obstructed the project to export the revolution, he revealed how he thinks diplomacy does not solve anything. He said: “We resort to diplomacy sometimes but some problems, especially big ones, cannot be resolved via diplomacy.”
Iran lets Rowhani and Zarif keep the West busy with the nuclear and missiles program but the real governors in Iran have their eyes on Arab countries and plan to hijack authority there and seize control of their armies, trade and economies.
Iran spends money on its foreign strategy in Arab countries in hopes that it will reconstruct the countries which militias helped destroy. Therefore, it spends very little – almost nothing – on general services inside Iran. On July 10, Iranian President Hassan Rowhani said that “amid the international sanctions, the country’s economic situation is at the disposal of the war machine in Iraq and Syria. Some people think it’s just a sacrifice but they do not ask who pays the wages and bears the cost of arms.”
Tehran’s former mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi wondered why Iran sends fighters to the region and said: “We want peace in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen but can’t this be achieved unless by providing money and arms? Can’t this be achieved unless through murder and harm?”
Let’s go back to Lebanon, Hezbollah chose the timing of its battle with al-Nusra at the same time as Al-Aqsa revolution and during summer which is the tourist season. The Lebanese army almost turned into a protector of Hezbollah. It’s true that it brought down black banners but Lebanon will continue to defy whoever tampers with its stability and traditions. The festivals of joy will continue to dominate. There will not be silence or submission and the arenas in our cities and squares will not be emptied.

Lebanese society on edge with Arsal raid, battle
Florence MassenaAl Monitor/August 04/17
Expressing critical thoughts in Lebanon is risky business these days. Public criticism of human rights abuses by the army is met with threats from Lebanese figures — the authorities and citizens alike — that seek to prevent civil society activists, journalists and even lawyers from acting against racism and advocating for justice. This unusual situation is related to an increase in security measures against terrorism by the authorities.
Activists and lawyers defending Syrian refugees in Lebanon and uncovering human rights violations committed against them are receiving threats and are banned from expressing their opinion.
The rising social tension started June 30, after the Lebanese army raid on Arsal, a town near the Syrian border. Looking for terrorists in Syrian refugee camps, soldiers were met by five suicide bombers. The army arrested around 350 people, four of whom died in detention. More recently, the Hezbollah fight in the Arsal region against militants from the Islamic State and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, followed by the national army that has taken up defensive positions around Arsal, has led to rising tensions among Lebanese citizens, who are divided on what to think of the current situation.
On July 16, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk banned all protests. This came following calls by the leftist political group Socialist Forum to hold a sit-in July 18 with other human rights groups in support of Syrian refugees, blaming the army for mistreatment of detainees. Following the ban, the Socialist Forum issued a statement asking for accountability for the death of the four Syrians.
“We just wanted to highlight abuses and demand an independent investigation,” Farah Kobeissi, a member of the Socialist Forum, told Al-Monitor. “The violence against Syrian refugees is becoming more frequent and is normalized under this appellation of 'war against terror.' But even if the army is responsible, there needs to be accountability."
An autopsy report of the bodies of the four Syrian detainees requested by military prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr concluded that the deaths resulted from “health complications.” The report, however, was not made public. An independent medical analysis ordered by a Zahle judge, Antoine Abi Zeid, almost went through, until the lawyer representing the victims’ families, Diala Chehade, was compelled to hand over forensic samples to military intelligence officers in plainclothes.
“When we tried to protest, we were defamed and came under a violent backlash,” Kobeissi said. “We received threats from citizens and also from different political parties. It is something that needs to be looked at and we intend to file a lawsuit after following up with our lawyers. I think a war on terror is very dangerous when it acquires a place within public discourse. It constructs a national unity behind very authoritarian political parties and institutions within the state, creating the illusion of an enemy that is all Syrian men between 18 and 40. Since when did we become a country ruled by the army without being told so? Since when are we denied the right to question?”
It seems that the right to simply express a concern is being denied to many Lebanese citizens, as was the case of freelance journalist Fidaa Itani, who was summoned by the Internal Security Forces’ Cybercrime Bureau after publishing a blog post criticizing Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, the Lebanese army and President Michel Aoun for what happened in Arsal.
“I was asked to remove the post and to sign a paper apologizing and promising not to write anything criticizing them again,” Itani told Al-Monitor.
“I removed the post, but I didn’t sign the paper. Since then, I don’t go out of my house a lot. I receive threats, phone calls, but this is normal, I’m just paying the price," Itani said." But we have to face what is happening. For 10 years Hezbollah has inherited the Syrian regime in Lebanon and is very well implemented in public services — like with the head of General Security Abbas Ibrahim, who is very close to Hezbollah. This group and its allies now try to push away people like me or Diala [Chehade], by creating so much propaganda that anyone who is critical is seen as a traitor. I used to cover the Syrian war, and the last place where I expected to see everything collapsing around me is my own country. I didn’t expect things to turn that way.”
Several political and human rights groups as well as local intellectuals have observed a rise in racism against Syrian refugees. Nearly 300 public figures signed a letter published July 24 in the daily French-language newspaper L’Orient-Le Jour. Journalist and blogger Joey Ayoub translated the letter that reads: “What follows these practices, such as the campaigns of incitement to hatred against Syrians across social media and in certain media outlets, or via declarations by certain politicians, is no less ugly as the criminal practices themselves. These do not just attack Syrians but the image of Lebanon itself and the conscience of the Lebanese. This does not represent us, but puts us in front of extreme options, including the need to purge our patriotism from its chauvinism. The position adopted toward refugees must become one of the criteria of our patriotism through which we want to consolidate democracy and the respect of human rights.”
Kobeissi noted, “Syrian refugees lack education, medical care, infrastructure, jobs and basic rights, but still contribute to the economy while being blamed for unemployment, pollution and economical dysfunction. All those are marks of the lack of efficiency from our administration and government, so why not blame the policies responsible for this situation instead?”
For Farah Salka, the executive director of the Anti-Racism Movement, racism is reaching “peaks of levels of violence and hatred toward refugees.”
Salka told Al-Monitor, “Refugees have slowly and gradually turned into the 'black sheep' of this place and they are supposed to be silent, invisible, obedient, do as instructed or risk their lives, get killed and be blamed for it. On top of that — and that's a first — the black sheep label has extended to not only refugees but any person or group that stands in solidarity with them and speaks loudly about the violations they are enduring and their basic intrinsic human rights. These are such tragic and sad times.”
Salka has not been personally threatened for her opinion but admitted “feeling the constant need to think twice before giving your opinion or going to a demonstration or writing something — which is an indirect threat to your freedom to speak, express and take positions.”
She added, “This is a slow way of shutting everyone up and making people of forced unanimous positions — which we are not.” Her advice to Lebanese citizens: “We need to stick together against politicians and not allow them to divide us and laugh at us for being so easily swayed as we are now.”

U.S. Security Assistance to Lebanon at Risk المساعدات العسكرية الأميركية للبنان في خطر
David Schenker/The Washington Institute/August 04/17
Despite collusion between the LAF and Hezbollah, the United States may still have an interest in funding the Lebanese military.
Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shia militia, is winding down its offensive against Sunni Islamist militants in Arsal, a Lebanese town near the Syrian border. In recent weeks, Hezbollah backed by Syrian airpower, pressed into the outskirts of Arsal from the Syrian side to drive out Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, a Sunni jihadist group that opposes the Assad regime. But Hezbollah wasn’t supported only by Syria. The operation was also aided by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), which reinforced its units surrounding Arsal on the Lebanese side prior to the campaign and subsequently targeted militants with artillery during the battle.
The LAF’s role in Arsal is just the latest evidence of its ongoing coordination with Hezbollah. And while this particular incident may serve U.S. short-term interests, it also complicates matters for Washington. Since 2005, the United States has been providing the LAF with baseline military assistance amounting to nearly $85 million per year. Last year, U.S. assistance to the army exceeded $150 million. Despite widespread praise for the LAF at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), cooperation between recipients of U.S. foreign assistance and U.S.-designated terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah is prohibited.
In the aftermath of the Cedar Revolution, the 2005 popular uprising that ended the decades-long Syrian military occupation of Lebanon, the Bush administration increased its annual support to the LAF from $1.5 million in International Military Education and Training (IMET) to more than $100 million to purchase weapons. At the time, some administration officials expressed the hope that the LAF would eventually become a counterbalance to Hezbollah; others eyed the more modest goal of improving the LAF’s domestic counterterrorism capabilities. Regardless, over the past twelve years, the LAF has developed to the point that today many U.S. military officers consider Lebanon’s military to be — man for man — the best Arab army.
The issue with the LAF, however, is not capability but domestic politics. Lebanon is home to eighteen officially recognized confessions, predominantly Sunnis, Shia, and Christians, and rife with sectarianism. While the LAF is a “national institution” staffed by all Lebanon’s confessions, the organization itself is beset by sectarianism. In the 1970s, when tasked to operate against Palestinian and Christian militias, the LAF fractured as Lebanon devolved into civil war. Today, the LAF remains institutionally incapable of taking on politically sensitive missions, such as opposing Hezbollah in any way. Reflecting this dynamic, successive Lebanese governments have legitimated Hezbollah’s weapons and the organization’s “resistance” mission against Israel in their ministerial statements. But since the war in Syria and the arrival of nearly two million refugees, Lebanese governments have prioritized stability — and security — which in practice has implied closer coordination between state institutions and Hezbollah.
In July 2006, less than a year after the United States began funding the LAF, Hezbollah launched a cross-border raid into Israel, killing and kidnapping several soldiers and provoking a thirty-four-day war. During the conflagration, Hezbollah fired a C-802 land-to-sea missile that hit and nearly sank the Hanit, an Israeli navy corvette operating ten miles off Lebanon’s coast. The Hanit had no forewarning of the attack because LAF elements allowed Hezbollah to use Lebanese naval radar to track and target the vessel. In retaliation, Israel destroyed all the LAF’s naval radar stations.
When the war ended, in a widely applauded move, the LAF deployed to the south for the first time in decades. It had been hoped — though not expected — that the LAF might help implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which obliged Beirut to prevent the postwar rearming of Hezbollah. Over the past eleven years, however, the LAF has only interdicted the movement of Hezbollah weapons on one occasion, in 2007, as the militia has fully rearmed. According to Israeli claims at the time, the LAF was also tipping Hezbollah off about UN Interim Force in Lebanon site visits, protecting the militia’s assets and undermining UNIFIL’s mission.
In 2008, the then pro-West government in Beirut mandated the removal of Hezbollah’s dedicated fiber-optic network from the south up to Beirut and the removal of LAF Gen. Wafiq Chocair, the Hezbollah-sympathetic officer who ran Beirut airport. But when the LAF declined to remove Chocair and the government persisted in its demand, Hezbollah militarily took over large swaths of the capital, killing nearly a hundred civilians. At no point did the military challenge Hezbollah’s offensive, and after the government backed down, the LAF coordinated with the organization and took up Hezbollah’s positions following its withdrawal.
Along these lines, since the Syrian war began in 2011, the LAF has done nothing to prevent, and has perhaps facilitated, the movement of Hezbollah troops and weapons into and out of Syria, where the militia has been fighting in support of the Assad regime. Notably, even as the LAF has tolerated Hezbollah’s deployments to Syria, it has taken steps to interdict the movement of Sunni fighters crossing the borders from Lebanon.
In broad terms, Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian war — in which more than 500,000 mostly Sunni Muslims have been killed — has generated some anger among Lebanese Sunnis. Thus, between 2013 and 2014, Lebanon saw a series of high-profile car bombings targeting Shia neighborhoods in Beirut. To prevent a further deterioration, the LAF and Hezbollah established joint security checkpoints during this period. In June 2013 in particular, Hezbollah-LAF cooperation went beyond checkpoints, when the two forces fought side by side against two to three hundred heavily armed supporters of the anti-Assad Salafi cleric Sheikh Ahmed Assir in the southern city of Saida. Both Hezbollah and the LAF participated in daylong skirmishes, culminating in an assault on Assir’s compound in the Abra neighborhood.
More recently, in April 2017, Hezbollah brought more than a dozen international journalists on a tour of Lebanon’s frontier with Israel, breezing through several checkpoints manned by national intelligence organs and LAF units, suggesting a high degree of coordination. The next month, Hezbollah turned over several of its Syria border observation posts to the LAF, and is currently reportedly in negotiations with the LAF about other, more sensitive border locations. Some of these Hezbollah positions, however, will likely remain. Finally, in late June, the LAF sent 150 officer cadets to tour Hezbollah’s Mleeta war museum, near Nabatiyah, a shrine to the organization’s “resistance” credentials vis-a-vis Israel.
Equally problematic — beyond these particular incidents of coordination, communication, and deconfliction — have been the perennial reports of LAF-Hezbollah intelligence sharing. On the positive side, the LAF boasts a nearly perfect record of accounting for its U.S.-origin equipment, having transferred none of it to Hezbollah.
Notwithstanding the collaboration with Hezbollah, senior U.S. military officials still support the military assistance and training program. CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel, for example, praises the LAF as “among the most capable and valued partners” in the Middle East. On March 15, he told the House Armed Services Committee that Lebanon was “a key partner in our efforts to counter violent extremism,” described the LAF as a great “return on investment,” and advocated increased U.S. support for Lebanon’s military. General Votel also claimed that a strong LAF “acts as a counterweight to the militant arm of Hezbollah” and said that while Hezbollah was fighting in Syria, the LAF had “gained increasing credibility” in Lebanon.
While General Votel is undoubtedly correct about the LAF’s high value in fighting domestic Sunni Islamist militants, his claims about its rising domestic credibility or potential role as an alternative to Hezbollah are less easily substantiated. The Lebanese people are generally supportive of the LAF’s counterterrorism role, but many bristle at the collaboration with Hezbollah, which is seen as exclusively targeting Sunnis. In June 2017, the LAF evidently tortured and killed four detained (Sunni) Syrian refugees, initially claiming the prisoners died from “preexisting conditions.” This incident offered scant assurance to many Sunnis of the LAF’s status as a “national institution.”
U.S. budget funding for the LAF presents a conundrum, even setting aside the torture allegations. The initial 2018 administration budget request zeroed out U.S. assistance to the LAF, but CENTCOM’s support for the program matters greatly. Still, the indisputable collaboration between the LAF and a U.S.-designated terrorist organization could well cause lawmakers to oppose the aid in the future. Equally troubling, the pro-West majority has disappeared in Beirut’s government over the past decade as the United States has deepened its ties with the LAF.
Pragmatically speaking, the U.S. assistance is helping the LAF better secure Lebanon against the threat of Sunni Islamist militants. And Washington undoubtedly has an interest in preventing deterioration in yet another Middle East state, especially one bordering Israel. Perhaps more important, ending the program would be taken as a clear signal by Tehran — and other states in the region — that Washington is abandoning its interests and vulnerable allies in Lebanon.
At $100 million per year, the LAF program is relatively inexpensive. Given the dynamics of Lebanon, however, U.S. expectations must remain limited. The LAF is no panacea; it is a U.S.-funded institution that works with Hezbollah. Despite this significant drawback, Washington may still have an interest in supporting a program that promotes stability and maintains a U.S. stake in Lebanon.
**David Schenker is the Aufzien Fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 04-05/17
Saudi forces counter Houthi attack on its border with Yemen
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishFriday, 4 August 2017/The Saudi forces on Thursday evening foiled a major offensive by the Houthi militias and the ousted Saleh’s militia against military checkpoints on the Saudi-Yemeni border in Jazan region. Military sources confirmed that the Saudi forces managed to thwart the attack, inside the uninhabited Yemeni border villages in the governorate of Sa'ada where the militias gathered to launch the attack. Military sources stated that their positions were identified through the joint operations’ control room, where they were dealt with through rocket launchers, artillery and the Apache helicopters. Al Arabiya correspondent reported that the attack lasted two hours and ended with the killing of dozens of Houthis and the destruction of a number of military vehicles loaded with ammunition.

Anti-terror quartet reiterate firm position in Jeddah meet
By Saudi Gazette Thursday, 3 August 2017/The anti-terror quartet (ATQ) countries — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt — on Thursday reiterated their firm stance against terrorism in all its manifestations. In this regard, the ATQ reaffirmed that various media channels should continue to be on alert to ward off any threat to the world security and stability. Senior information officials of the ATQ countries, Saudi Culture and Information Minister Dr. Awwad Bin Saleh Al-Awwad; Bahrain’s Minister of Information Affairs Dr. Ali Bin Muhammad Al-Rumaihi; UAE’s Minister of State and Chairman of the National Council for Information Dr. Sultan Al-Jaber; and chief of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation Makram Mohamed Ahmed, met in Jeddah on Thursday to formulate their strategy on Qatar crisis and emphasized the importance of continuing to fight terrorism through various media channels. The officials reviewed the latest developments regarding Qatar crisis as well as the contacts they made regionally and internationally in this regard. Recap on crisis developments. The four countries reaffirmed the main principles announced earlier that represent the international consensus on fighting terrorism and extremism and their financing in addition to rejecting interference in the affairs of other countries. They also confirmed and praised the huge and great role that Saudi Arabia has been playing during all these years to host millions of pilgrims from all over the world. Rejecting the Qatari demand to internationalize the holy sites, the four countries supported Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir’s statement describing it as “an aggressive act and a declaration of war against the Kingdom.” On the sidelines of an ATQ meeting in Manama recently, Al-Jubeir had said: “We reserve the right to respond to any party working in the field of internationalization of the holy sites.”Egypt’s Makram Mohamed Ahmed said after the meeting that foreign ministers of the four countries should be in regular and constant touch for a consensus on a long-term strategy to combat terror.
Stance towards anti-terrorism
“The four countries will spare no effort even if the battle takes 100 years. We are confident it will not continue for 100 years because we have a friendly Qatari people. The media should refrain from disparaging them,” he said.
In a statement before the meeting, Ahmed said: The four-country bloc has a clear and specific stance toward Qatar. “Our four countries have been greatly harmed by terrorism and we are working toward expanding the resistance against terror. Our stance toward Qatar is related to its support for and funding of terrorism. It is unfortunate that this is happening among the Arab countries.”The Egyptian official said participants in Thursday’s meeting agreed to go to the United Nations with a united stance and complete charter related to terror-funding. “The aim is to sterilize terrorism,” he said. “The stance of the four countries is final and we are capable of continuing with it for years without being harmed,” he said.

Blaze Rips Through Dubai Skyscraper 'The Torch'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 04/17/Panicked residents fled one of the tallest towers in the glitzy Gulf city state of Dubai early on Friday after a fire ripped through it, the second blaze to hit the skyscraper in as many years. Authorities said no casualties were reported from the blaze which erupted in the middle to upper floors of The Torch, once the tallest residential development in the world. The 337-metre (1,105-foot) tower was the scene of a 2015 inferno that caused extensive damage to its luxury flats and triggered an evacuation of nearby blocks in the seafront Marina neighbourhood. Dubai authorities said firefighters arrived at the scene within four minutes of the blaze erupting at 12:45 am (2045 GMT Thursday). They said residents were immediately evacuated and the fire put out by 2:58 am without any casualties. Dubai's civil defence authority said it started on the 65th floor of the luxury tower block. In the morning, an AFP correspondent saw torched vehicles in the block's car park and extensive fire damage to the middle and upper storeys of the left side of the building. "We thank God that there were no casualties, that because of the efforts of all teams on the ground... the residents were evacuated from this building to another one and there were no injuries," Dubai police commander Major General Abdullah Khalifa al-Marri said. In January, Dubai announced tougher rules to minimise fire risks after a series of tower blazes in the emirate mostly due to flammable material used in cladding, a covering or coating used on the side of the buildings.In November 2015, fire engulfed three residential blocks in central Dubai and led to services on a metro line being suspended, although no one was hurt. On New Year's Eve that year, 16 people were injured when a fire broke out in a luxury hotel, hours before a massive fireworks display nearby. Dubai has established a reputation for building dozens of futuristic skyscrapers, which have transformed its skyline. The city state boasts the world's tallest building, Burj al-Khalifa, which stands 828 metres (2,700 feet) tall, as well as iconic palm tree-shaped, man-made luxury residential islands. Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Holding is building a tower in Jeddah that is planned to surpass the Burj Khalifa, rising more than a kilometre. Dubai first became a magnet for property investments when it opened the sector to foreigners in 2002, standing out in a region that largely confines freehold ownership to citizens. The value of property surged at breakneck speed until the global financial crisis hit the debt-laden emirate in 2009, sending prices into free-fall. A recovery led by tourism, trade and transportation pushed prices up again between 2012 and 2014. But Dubai's real estate sector again slowed down, with residential prices dropping around 12 percent in 2015 before slowly starting to climb in 2016.

Maduro Installs Disputed New Venezuela Assembly
Associated Press/Naharnet/August 04/17/Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was to install a powerful new assembly of his allies on Friday, dismissing an international outcry and opposition protests saying he is burying democracy in his country. The Constituent Assembly, elected last weekend in a vote marred by violence and allegations of fraud, will sit in a chamber in the Legislative Palace in Caracas, where the opposition-controlled legislature is located. The inaugural session of its 500-plus members -- who include Maduro's wife and son -- will take place under high tension. The opposition has called a mass march in the capital, raising fears of violence that could add to a death toll of more than 125 over the past four months. "Let there be no provocations, nor should people fall into provocations," Maduro said late Thursday as he assured all was ready for the Constituent Assembly. The Vatican on Friday urged the inauguration of the new assembly be suspended. It also appealed for Venezuelan security service to show restraint. Meanwhile, Venezuela's intelligence service unexpectedly transferred a high-profile opposition figure, Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, from jail to house arrest, his wife said. Ledezma and another opposition figure, Leopoldo Lopez, had been taken from their homes to military prison on Tuesday, reversing earlier home detentions. Lopez remains incarcerated, one of hundreds of what the opposition called political prisoners.
Unlimited powers
The Constituent Assembly marks a new stage in Venezuela's rule. With unlimited powers to dissolve the National Assembly or amend laws, the new body is tasked with rewriting the 1999 constitution brought in under Maduro's late mentor and predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Maduro claims its work will yank Venezuela out of its worsening spiral of political and economic crisis, though he has not detailed how. Nor has he given an end-date for the Constituent Assembly, which he said would operate for years. The body is being challenged on several fronts. Backing opposition allegations of fraud, Smartmatic, a British-based company involved in the vote technology behind the election last Sunday, said the official turnout figure had been tampered with and exaggerated by at least a million voters. Although brushed off by Maduro as part of a plot by "the international enemy," that gave grounds for Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega -- a thorn in Maduro's side -- to order an investigation. She said prosecutors had lodged court cases seeking to have the Constituent Assembly annulled, though few in Venezuela believed that would be achieved. The country's supreme court has systematically sided with the president in blocking prosecutorial or legislative gambits against the government.
Using his daily appearances on state television, Maduro has lashed out at several of the 40 countries that admonished him for seeing through the creation of the new assembly. After being hit with US sanctions and called a dictator by U.S. President Donald Trump, Maduro said defiantly that he was standing up to what he called imperialism. The Venezuelan leader also slammed Mexico, Chile and Peru as American vassals for saying they would not recognize the new assembly. But with the European Union and other nations also condemning the Constituent Assembly, Maduro is fighting against a broad tide, even if he has support of Russia, which holds billions in Venezuelan debt, as well as Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
Diving currency
The uncertainty and unease surrounding the path Maduro has set Venezuela on has been reflected in an accelerated collapse of the country's already debilitated currency. The bolivar lost more than 17 percent of its value against the dollar on Thursday, placing scarce imported food and medicine further out of reach for many Venezuelans.One analyst, Luis Salamanca, said the new assembly "is being born badly, but Maduro doesn't care. He just wants a Constituent Assembly that suits him."According to Datanalisis, a polling firm, 72 percent of Venezuelans reject the assembly. And 80 percent reject Maduro's leadership. But the president enjoys the backing of the military, as well as judicial and electoral authorities, allowing him to forge on. "More than changing the constitution, the main goal is to govern without limits," said another analyst, Benigno Alarcon.

Ex-Netanyahu Aide Turns State's Witness in Graft Probe

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 04/17/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's former chief of staff has agreed to give evidence against him on suspicions of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, local media reported on Friday. "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's former chief of staff Ari Harow has reached an agreement with the prosecution to turn state's witness in two corruption cases against Netanyahu," the Haaretz newspaper said on its website.
"Former chief of staff Ari Harow signed today a state's witness agreement," public radio said. There was no official comment on the reports and any leaked details of the case are banned from publication by court order. U.S.-born Israeli immigrant Harow worked for Netanyahu from 2009-10 and 2014-15, when he stepped down over allegations of corruption. He has been under investigation for more than two years on suspicion of bribery, breach of trust, conflict of interest and fraud, the media said.
Haaretz said Harow has already been giving investigators information on two of the ongoing investigations into Netanyahu. One is based on suspicions that the premier unlawfully received gifts from wealthy supporters, including Australian billionaire James Packer and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. Also being probed is a suspicion that Netanyahu sought a secret deal with the publisher of top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot. The proposed deal, which is not believed to have been finalized, would have seen Netanyahu receive positive coverage in return for him helping scale down the operations of Israel Hayom, Yediot's main competitor.
The investigations have stirred Israeli politics and led to speculation over whether Netanyahu will eventually be forced to step down.

Israel Plans to Discuss 'UNIFIL Mission' During UN Chief's First Visit
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 04/17/UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will pay his first visit since taking the UN helm to Israel and the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip, at the end of the month, as Israel plans to discuss the UNIFIL's mission in Lebanon in light of “skirmishes on border,” diplomats said Thursday. The UN chief will hold talks with Israeli leaders, travel to Ramallah to meet Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and to the Gaza Strip, where the United Nations runs a major Palestinian aid program, during the three-day visit beginning August 28.
Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon said the visit will allow Guterres to "build a relationship" with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He will also hold meetings with the Israeli president and defense minister. "We are very happy about this visit," Danon told AFP. "It's a great opportunity for the secretary general to experience Israel, to meet the leaders of Israel and to understand the challenges that Israel faces day-in and day-out."Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour described the upcoming visit as "very important," indicating that it signaled a stronger UN focus on the plight of Palestinians.
"The UN has been involved since its inception with the question of Palestine and will remain involved until the question is resolved in all its aspects on the basis of international law," he told AFP by email. The visit comes as diplomatic efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks appear deadlocked. Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal, "is experienced. He has been to Israel in the past. He knows the complexity of the issues. He is not someone who comes to our region and has no clue about what is happening," said Danon.
The Israeli government will discuss strengthening the mission of the UN interim force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), said Danon, following a series of skirmishes along the UN-monitored demarcation line between Israel and Lebanon. Relations between the United Nations and Israel have been tense over the expansion of Jewish settlements, which the world body has condemned as illegal. Since taking over from Ban Ki-moon on January 1, Guterres has been cautious in his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, partly in response to US accusations that the United Nations was biased against Israel. In March, the UN chief demanded that a report by a UN body be withdrawn after it accused Israel of imposing an apartheid system on the Palestinians. Guterres had initially distanced himself from the report, but the United States insisted that it be withdrawn altogether. During the recent flareup of violence in Jerusalem, Guterres called for de-escalation and respect for the status quo at holy sites after Israel installed metal detectors at the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

Egypt Court Jails 50 Policemen over Strike
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 04/17/An Egyptian court has jailed 50 policemen for three years after convicting them on charges related to a strike earlier this year, state media reported. The low-ranking policemen were also fined 6,000 pounds (roughly $330) by the South Sinai court on Thursday, the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported on its website. The policemen had gone on strike in January to protest reduced holidays and allegedly "threatened violence" against superior officers, the newspaper said. Egyptian policemen held several demonstrations and strikes after the 2011 overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak.The authorities have shown little tolerance for protests since the army toppled Mubarak's Islamist successor Mohamed Morsi in 2013, unleashing a bloody crackdown on his followers and a deadly jihadist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula.

Iraq Finds Mass Grave in Former IS-Held City
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 04/17/Iraqi troops have found a mass grave in the western city of Ramadi containing the bodies of 40 men believed to have been executed by the Islamic State group, officials said Friday. It is the latest of dozens of such grisly finds made by Iraqi forces since they drove the jihadists out of the swathes of northern and western Iraq that they occupied in 2014. Ammar Nuri al-Dulaimi, an official from a Martyrs Committee for Anbar province, said the bodies had bullet wounds to the head, suggesting they were executed by IS. An army colonel, who asked not to be named, said troops had uncovered the mass grave during a sweep of the Al-Tach neighborhood in the south of Ramadi, capital of the province. The army retook the city in December 2015.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 04-05/17
Qatar Crisis, Invasion of Kuwait

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed//Gatestone Institute/August 04/17
Pro-Doha government are endeavoring to use the anniversary of the Kuwait occupation in favor of the Qatari crisis. They claim that Qatar today is in danger like Kuwait was in the past and that Saudi Arabia and its allies represent Saddam Hussein!
Regardless that this is a forging of truth, it is also historically stated that Qatar is the only Gulf country that tried to hurdle the liberation of Kuwait through forbidding the GCC decision to adopt a military action to liberate Kuwait during December meeting in 1990.
Crown Prince, then, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani insisted that there is no liberation of Kuwait before obliging Bahrain to relinquish the conflict islands with Qatar, upsetting the five countries that obliged him to back off or leave Doha.
At that time, Saddam Hussein forces were residing in Dasman Palace in Kuwait, and more than 1.5 million Kuwaiti citizens and residents were displaced. Weirder, though, was the stance by the Muslim Brotherhood – current ally of Qatar.
Muslim Brotherhood was also frank towards the liberation via a stance expressed by the International Organization Of The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia and others.
It justified its support of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait to its objection over the military solution and the recruitment of foreign forces! In fact, it was cooperating with Saddam’s government to replace Al Sabah family!
At the anniversary of the Kuwaiti occupation, the Qatari and some Kuwaiti media are promoting two issues: reducing the role of the GCC – including Saudi Arabia – in that crisis, and comparing the Qatari crisis to the Kuwaiti occupation.
But the truth is the total opposite since in this crisis Qatar is the offender and the four states are the victims. The situation might seem strange because Qatar is a small country, but the four states have been patient over its policy and dangerous acts for years not because they are weak states but because Qatar is a small country and there was some hope that the leadership might become rational with time.
You might wonder what crime did Qatar commit to compare it to Saddam.
For years, Doha’s authorities have been working on destabilizing and ousting regimes of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE. I listed them according to the damage.
Qatar is funding the opposition against Saudi Arabia in London, Turkey and Qatar itself – an opposition demanding throwing out the regime. Qatar was an accomplice in the assassination of King Abdullah, and it admitted conspiring with Gaddafi to oust the regime in Riyadh. Everytime, it presents excuses and pledges to halt this policy before it returns to it!
Two months ago, it promoted a revolution holding the title of “7 Ramadan Movement”, and bribed agents to serve this purpose. As for its acts in Bahrain and Egypt, then it is obvious through the state-channels that Qatar supports the extremist opposition in Bahrain to oust Al Khalifa and funds the Muslim Brotherhood to throw out Sisi. Only Qatar supports and funds Emirati opposition abroad!
These states said that they have ran out of patience and it is time to set limits for Qatar. Brothers in Kuwait must recall that these four states mobilized to rescue their country when Saddam ousted the regime, and Kuwait should stand by them out of loyalty or at least should not allow Qatar to exploit Kuwait on any level (political, media, economic).
What is the difference between what Saddam did in ousting the regime in Kuwait and what the Qatari government is doing? In fact, Qatar is worse because it hides behind slogans and claims of democracy and Islam – both unfamiliar with it.
At the anniversary of Saddam invasion of Kuwait, we should be aware of the tough and costly lesson, to be more keen to respect ties and treaties and to support each other stability. The Gulf countries should be more strict against the Qatari’s government acts and to support the demands of the four states, since they didn’t ask for ousting the regime but for stopping the threats against their security and existence.
If Kuwait and other states take a just stance, then Doha might be more rational and rescue the region from the Gaddafi mentality.
Tomorrow, my opinion article is about the confrontation of Saddam’s invasion.

The Foreign Press Association's Unlimited Bias
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/August 04/17
The truth is that in nearly most Arab and Muslim countries, there is no such thing as a "Foreign Press Association." That is because Arab and Islamic dictatorships do not allow such organizations to operate in their countries.
The second question that comes to mind in light of the Foreign Press Association's opposition to Israel's security measures is: What exactly are the foreign journalists demanding from Israel? That Israeli authorities allow them to run around freely while Palestinian rioters are hurling stones and firebombs at police officers? Are the journalists saying that Israelis have no right to safeguard their own lives?
Outrageously, the FPA is nearly stone-deaf when it comes to wrongdoing by Palestinians. Where is the outcry of the organization when a Palestinian journalist is arrested or assaulted by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank or Hamas in the Gaza Strip? Where is the outcry over PA President Mahmoud Abbas's recent decision to block more than 20 news websites?
The Foreign Press Association (FPA), an organization representing hundreds of foreign journalists who work for various media outlets in Israel, is upset. What seems to be the problem? In their view, recent Israeli security measures in Jerusalem are preventing reporters from doing their jobs. The FPA's position, expressed in at least two statements during the past three weeks, came in response to Israeli security measures enforced in the city after Muslim terrorists murdered two police officers at the Temple Mount on July 14.
Earlier this week, the FPA, which has often served as a platform for airing anti-Israeli sentiments, went farther by filing a petition to Israel's High Court of Justice challenging the actions and behavior of the Israeli security forces toward journalists during Palestinian riots in protest against the installation of metal detectors and cameras at the entrances to the Temple Mount. The petition demanded that the Israeli security forces stop restricting journalists' entry to the Temple Mount compound. It also complained of verbal and physical abuse against journalists by the police.
The FPA protest should come as no surprise to those familiar with the anti-Israel agenda of its leadership. This organization has a long record of black-and-white thinking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- and somehow, the Israelis always come out in the wrong.
While the FPA is teeming with self-proclaimed "open-minded" journalists, their minds seem closed to facts surrounding Palestinian violence. Funny how enlightened folks -- generally ready to side with the underdog -- become suspiciously overcome by intellectual darkness when the underdog might be an Israel trying to manage Palestinian terror in the most humane manner possible.
Surprise or no surprise, the latest FPA onslaught against Israel serves as a reminder that many of the foreign journalists have no shame in advancing an anti-Israel agenda.
The journalists so distraught over Israel's recent security measures are the very ones who refuse to enter Syria out of fear of being beheaded by ISIS. These are the journalists who have stopped traveling to Iraq, fearing for their lives. Many of these journalists, particularly the women among them, will not report in Egypt, lest they be raped, let alone targeted by a terror group.
These journalists, when they travel to most Arab and Islamic countries, are assigned government "minders" who accompany them, openly and covertly, 24/7. They will wait in vain to receive a visa to enter Iran or Saudi Arabia -- or be made to wait and beg for months before receiving it.
What does one do, then, when one's journalistic options in the Middle East are constrained by a rather realistic fear for one's life? One stays where one feels safe -- in Israel.
It is no secret that Middle East correspondents prefer their residences and bureaus in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv than in Ramallah, Amman, Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran and Riyadh. In Israel, no matter what they write today, they will live to write again tomorrow.
Unlike with most of the Arab and Islamic countries, most journalists do not need advance permission to visit Israel. Any journalist -- or, more accurately, anyone even claiming to be a journalist -- can disembark at Ben Gurion Airport and start reporting.
How is this relevant?
The FPA's stance on the recent Israeli security measures in Jerusalem, which came in response to the murder of two police officers and violent Arab riots, reeks of hypocrisy and a severe misrepresentation of reality.
The first question that comes to mind in this regard: Would foreign journalists based in an Arab or Islamic country dare to go to the High Court of the land to challenge security measures and restrictions by the authorities there? The truth is that in nearly most of those countries, there is no such thing as a "Foreign Press Association." That is because Arab and Islamic dictatorships do not allow such organizations to operate in their countries.
The Foreign Press Association in Israel, which has often served as a platform for airing anti-Israeli sentiments, this week filed a petition to Israel's High Court of Justice (pictured) challenging the actions and behavior of Israeli security forces toward journalists during Palestinian riots. (Image source: Almog/Wikimedia Commons)
The second question that comes to mind in light of the FPA's opposition to Israel's security measures is: What exactly are the foreign journalists demanding from Israel? That Israeli authorities allow them to run around freely while Palestinian rioters are hurling stones and firebombs at police officers? Are the journalists saying that Israelis have no right to safeguard their own lives? Or that people should allow themselves to be injured by stones and firebombs? Some have indeed by injured during the Palestinian riots.
The third question that begs an answer is: How was it that during the recent riots, the number of journalists covering the events often surpassed the number of rioters? This was the case many times in the Old City of Jerusalem, particularly at the Lion's Gate, where you would find two journalists for each Palestinian rioter.
Where did all these foreign -- and Palestinian -- journalists come from? Someone must have given them access to the scenes of the clashes between the rioters and security forces. The "someone" is Israeli authorities, who saw no reason to stop the reporters from doing their jobs.
The hypocrisy of the journalists reaches new heights when they are injured as they are covering the riots. You cannot go to the swimming pool and later complain that you do not know how you got wet. A journalist who stands in the line of fire is knowingly putting his or her life at risk.
You cannot stand among the rioters and then complain that you got hit by a rubber bullet or tear gas canister fired by a policeman. What do you expect the policeman to do? Not to defend himself because there is a journalist in the crowd?
Outrageously, the FPA is nearly stone-deaf when it comes to wrongdoing by Palestinians. Where is the outcry of the organization when a Palestinian journalist is arrested or assaulted by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or Hamas in the Gaza Strip? Where is the outcry over Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's recent decision to block more than 20 news websites?
But perhaps such fair-minded reporting would demand too much of the FPA's time: were it to follow assaults on public freedoms and the freedom of the media in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it would have to issue a statement of condemnation every two hours. Hardly a day passes without a Palestinian journalist or blogger or Facebook user being detained or beaten up for expressing his or her views.
The FPA and its members are well aware that Israel has been and remains a paradise for the foreign media in the Middle East. They also know that, unlike many of its Arab and Islamic neighbors, Israel does not have a policy of targeting journalists. If there were such a policy, most of the foreign journalists would not be in Israel in the first place.
Their rhetorical attacks on Israel are not only a sign of hypocrisy, but should also be seen as a policy of appeasement to Arabs and Muslims -- a ticket that gives you access to the Arab and Islamic countries. The more you prove that you are against Israel, the better are your chances of getting a visa to enter Iran or Saudi Arabia.
It is time for the FPA to change its name to the FHA -- the Foreign Hypocrites Association. At least in that one respect, then, it would be living up to its name.
**Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.
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JASTA: Time to move on from unjustified lawsuits
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/August 04/17
The issue of JASTA – or the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act – is now in the news as the Kingdom has started legal action to throw out lawsuits against it in the New York courts. The matter has serious implications for several reasons, namely setting a precedent for waiving sovereign immunity and the obstacles it creates for a possible listing of the Aramco IPO in the New York stock exchange.
JASTA was passed by the US Congress in 2016, and hundreds of relatives of individuals killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have sued Saudi Arabia in a US court, seeking to take advantage of this law that allows victims of such attacks on US soil to sue state sponsors.
Under normal circumstances, such litigations can be ignored as being spurious and opportunistic but given the importance placed on listing the Aramco IPO in a global stock market with depth and the ability to attract many investors like the New York exchange, the matter is now a priority for Saudi Arabia to remove as an obstacle and move on. Saudi Arabia, which has denied any role in the 2001 attacks, has raised strong objections to JASTA.
Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir tried to persuade US lawmakers to amend the law, during his visit to the country last year and the Kingdom believed that the matter has been put on ice, with the Kingdom receiving numerous support from both Gulf and other allies against the JASTA bill, which if applied, will leave the US open to counter suits worldwide and argued that the law would expose US companies, troops and officials to lawsuits in other countries and could anger allies.
For years, US law granting foreign nations broad immunity from lawsuits scuttled attempts by Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in New York. In 2015, US District Court dismissed claims against the kingdom from Sept. 11 families, saying that it did not have jurisdiction over a sovereign nation under international law. This is the argument that Saudi Arabia will still put forward, irrespective of the new law.
For years, US law granting foreign nations broad immunity from lawsuits scuttled attempts by Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in New York
Personal rapport
It will also be a test of the newly forged personal rapport between President Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to see if the new Trump Administration will try to veto or delay any possible legal action like President Obama’s earlier failed veto effort.
Will the master “dealmaker” pull off another deal, away from public scrutiny, and avoid jeopardising the expected multi billion investment flow to the US promised by Saudi Arabia under the newfound political and strategic relationship, but which can potentially open them to possible asset seizure under the JASTA claims?
No country is willing to invest in another with such a hostile legal cloud hanging over its head as there are many other friendly countries eager to welcome its investments without a constant litigation worry in the background.
Will this make Saudi Arabia more hesitant to float part of the planned Aramco IPO in the New York stock exchange? Again, many international bourses are competing to have the world’s largest IPO listed in their jurisdiction with welcoming assurances, which could sway the Kingdom to avoid New York until and unless the JASTA issue is put to rest.
The emergence of JASTA has opened a hornet’s nest of unanswered questions and a level of unwelcome uncertainty in the new and warmer Saudi-US relationship, but everything is possible in Trump’s administration. How both sides manage it will determine whether the matter is a wrinkle or a mere passing blip in the relationship.