August 10/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 12/01-05/:"Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered in thousands, so that they trampled on one another, he began to speak first to his disciples, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy.Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops. ‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!."

Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" I answered, "Who are you, Lord?" Then he said to me, "I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting
Acts of the Apostles 21,40.22,01-10/:"When he had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying: ‘Brothers and fathers, listen to the defence that I now make before you.’ When they heard him addressing them in Hebrew, they became even more quiet. Then he said: ‘I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. ‘While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" I answered, "Who are you, Lord?" Then he said to me, "I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting." Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. I asked, "What am I to do, Lord?" The Lord said to me, "Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told everything that has been assigned to you to do."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 09-10/17
Carla, everyone in Syria is evil!/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/August 09/17
Three conspiracy theories which have controlled Arab minds/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/August 09/17
Saudi Ambassador to US clarifies policy, tackles media issues/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 09/17
How the United States handed the Middle East to Iran/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/August 09/17
Hajj is not just a business/Tariq A. Al-Maeena/Al Arabiya/August 09/17
Is the State Department Buying Arab Propaganda/Nonie Darwish/Gatestone Institute/August 09/17
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/The Battle for Trump's Foreign Policy/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/August 09/17
When truth is the first casualty/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/ArabNews/August 09/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on August 09-10/17
Lebanon: Army deploying about 3,000 troops to fight ISIS
Aoun Says Wage Scale Must Balance between 'Rights, Economic Stability'
Aoun to East Catholic Patriarchs Council: Lebanon is gateway of freedom into region
Hariri Discusses Security, Anti-IS Measures with Army Chief
Hariri chairs meeting of ministerial panel tasked with studying election law implementation
Report: Ibrahim in Secret Negotiations with IS at Aoun's Request
Hariri stresses the importance of the dissociation policy
Berri: I Can't Believe the President Might Return Wage Scale to Parliament
Cabinet Meets amid Controversy on Syria Visit, Hamadeh Walkout
Berri discusses judicial affairs with Jreissati
Geagea: Some Trying to Use Lebanon to Bestow Legitimacy on Assad Regime
Sarraf, Abadi tackle means of bolstering military cooperation
Fahed to NNA: We have no intention of escalation
Sarraf starts official visit to Baghdad, meets Iraqi counterpart

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 08-09/17
Kissinger: ISIS’s eradication would create ‘radical Iranian empire’
UAE’s Gargash lays out fundamentals for Qatar’s exit from crisis
Dozens dead in central Syria as ISIS battles regime push
Long wait for captive Yazidis’ return spent rebuilding shrine in Iraq’s Bashiqa
Coalition denies raiding Popular Mobilization Forces sites’ and ISIS claims responsibility
Four policemen killed in attack in Egypt's North Sinai
Jordan issues new work permits to Syrian refugees
Iran’s Rouhani names two female vice presidents
Israeli soldier convicted of fatal shooting enters prison
Turkey building ‘security wall’ along Iran border
Suspect Shot and Held after Car Rams Paris Anti-Terror Troops
3 Palestinians Hurt as Israel Bombs Gaza in Retaliation to Rocket
U.S. Warns N. Korea to Stop Moves that May Lead to 'End of Its Regime'
Canada to deploy more police officers to Iraq
Four dead in Kashmir violence
Vatican Secretary of State hopes visit to Russia to boost ties between two churches
Tillerson: Trump's tough talk aims to send message to North Korea
Belgium accuses Netherlands of tainted eggs coverup

Latest Lebanese Related News published on August 09-10/17
Lebanon: Army deploying about 3,000 troops to fight ISIS
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 9 August 2017 /The Lebanese army completed all preparations for its battle with ISIS in the Arsal area, Ras al-Baalbek and the town of Al-Qaa on the Lebanese-Syrian border, according to al Hadath. This comes after the army strengthened its presence by deploying about three thousand troops in the northeast of the country. On the other hand, the sources said that planes belonging to the Syrian regime bombed deep in the Lebanese-Syrian borders, while informed sources said that rocket and artillery shelling of the Lebanese army on the positions of ISIS in Jarod al-Qaa have resumed. This comes in response to ISIS launching seven Grad missiles in the vicinity of the town of Al-Qaa inside Lebanon from its stronghold on the border with Syria, without causing any casualties, according to security sources.

Aoun Says Wage Scale Must Balance between 'Rights, Economic Stability'
Naharnet/August 09/17/President Michel Aoun announced Wednesday that he is studying the new wage scale bill that was recently approved and referred to him by Parliament. “The stance must balance between rights and economic stability,” Aoun told a delegation from the Economic Committees – a coalition of Lebanon's business leaders. “A conflict of interest between the various segments of society would lead to social disturbances and the flaw must be rectified,” the president added. MP Alain Aoun of the Change and Reform bloc founded by President Aoun had announced Tuesday that “the wage scale needs an amendment of some of its articles.” “There are two solutions: either the entire wage scale would be returned (by the president to Parliament) or the amendments would be discussed and approved,” the MP added. Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel has recently called on President Aoun not to sign the tax law and to return it to the legislature, warning of a possible “economic disaster.”“The president has the ability to stop the crime that will be committed against the Lebanese people and economy,” Gemayel warned. He cautioned that the taxes that have been approved would lower citizens' purchasing power “by 10 to 20%” and would also push “more than 100,000 citizens below the poverty line,” citing studies by the American University of Beirut. Gemayel also quoted Father Butros Azar, the secretary general of Catholic schools, as saying that school tuitions would rise an average of 27%. “The prices of apartments will also rise and our youths will suffer,” the young MP cautioned. The new taxes involve hiking the VAT tax from 10% to 11%, fines on seaside violations, and taxes on cement, administrative transactions, sea imports, lottery prizes, financial firms and banks. Authorities have argued that the new taxes are necessary to fund the new wage scale but opponents of such a move have called for finding new revenues through putting an end to corruption and the waste of public money.

Aoun to East Catholic Patriarchs Council: Lebanon is gateway of freedom into region
Wed 09 Aug 2017/ NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, underlined that Lebanon is the gateway of freedom into the entire region, saying "it [Lebanon] is worthy of being a center of dialogue for civilizations and religions." President Aoun's fresh words on Wednesday afternoon came during his meeting at the Baabda palace with a delegation of the Council of Catholic and Orthodox Patriarchs of the Orient, on the occasion of the Council's 25th conference at the Maronite patriarchal summer residence in Diman. Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi was also present during the meeting. Aoun stressed that a global campaign should be launched after the war to repair and restore all historical places, including churches, which witness civilizations in Iraq, Syria or Lebanon. The President brought to attention that he has taken up this issue earlier with His Holiness Pope Francis and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, whereby they both expressed their support for this matter. Aoun also disclosed that he shall dwell on this topic in his address at the UN General Assembly upcoming September. In his delivered word, Patriarch Rahi said that East Catholic Patriarchs' Council holds its 25th conference under the general headline of "Ecclesiastical and Political Situation in the Middle East Countries" at the Diman summer patriarchal residence. "We met with the President to listen to his viewpoints on an array of matters put forward by the council during the Conference," Rahi said.

Hariri Discusses Security, Anti-IS Measures with Army Chief
Naharnet/August 09/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks Tuesday at the Grand Serail with Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, hours after a Higher Defense Council meeting in Baabda. A statement issued by Hariri's office said the premier's talks with the army chief tackled “the security situations in the country, especially the situation in the northern Bekaa area of al-Qaa.” Aoun briefed Hariri on “the measures that the Lebanese army is taking to confront the militants of the terrorist Islamic State group who are entrenched in the area's mountains,” the office added. The talks come a day after IS militants fired seven rockets at the town of al-Qaa in retaliation to intense army bombardment of their posts. The army has intensified its shelling of the jihadists in recent days and is reportedly gearing up for a long-awaited assault to dislodge hundreds of militants from the border region. The ouster of the group from the region would end a years-long threat posed to neighboring towns and villages by the extremists. The campaign might involve cooperation with Hizbullah and the Syrian army on the other side of the border -- although Lebanese authorities insist they are not coordinating with Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. The developments follow a six-day military offensive by Hizbullah that forced al-Qaida-linked fighters to flee the area on the outskirts of the border town of Arsal, along with thousands of civilians.

Hariri chairs meeting of ministerial panel tasked with studying election law implementation
Wed 09 Aug 2017/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Wednesday afternoon chaired at the Grand Serail a meeting of the ministerial panel tasked with studying the implementation of the election law. The meeting was attended by Ministers Talal Arslan, Nuhad Mashnouq, Ali Hassan Khalil, Gebran Bassil, Mohammed Fneish and Pierre Bou Assi.

Report: Ibrahim in Secret Negotiations with IS at Aoun's Request
Naharnet/August 09/17/General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim is leading “highly confidential” negotiations with the jihadist Islamic State group, a media report said on Tuesday. Ibrahim's efforts followed a request from President Michel Aoun, LBCI television said. “The main obstacle in these negotiations is the destination to which the IS militants would leave,” the TV network added, referring to the jihadists who are entrenched in mountainous areas in the outskirts of the eastern border towns of al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek. Ibrahim, who held a meeting with Aoun earlier on Tuesday, has played a key role in negotiations with the al-Nusra Front jihadist group that followed a Hizbullah military offensive in Arsal's outskirts. The negotiations led to the evacuation of Nusra's militants, their families and thousands of refugees to north and central Syria and the release of eight Hizbullah fighters who were in Nusra's captivity. Hizbullah and Nusra also exchanged the bodies of several fighters as the Lebanese state released three inmates from the Roumieh Prison at Nusra's request. Mystery has been shrouding the fate of nine IS-held Lebanese troops for around two years now and any negotiations with the group are supposed to involve the soldiers.The Lebanese army is meanwhile continuing its preparations for a long-awaited assault against the IS militants in the outskirts of al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek.

Hariri stresses the importance of the dissociation policy
Wed 09 Aug 2017 /NNA - The Council of Ministers held its weekly meeting today at the Grand Serail. After the meeting, Minister of Information, Melhem Riachi, read the following official information: "The Council of Ministers held its weekly meeting at the Grand Serail, chaired by the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri in the absence of Ministers Ghazi Zaiter, Yaqoub al-Sarraf and Youssef Fenianos. At the beginning of the meeting, Prime Minister Hariri stressed the decision of the Council of Ministers to give orders to the army to take the necessary time to resolve Al-Qaa outskirts battle against terrorism, and asserted the importance of the dissociation policy for the confidence restoration government and not to involve Lebanon in the axes struggle." He added: "After that the Council of Ministers discussed its agenda and approved most items, while the item related to the heritage building draft law was not approved and was transferred to a committee for study and there was also a lengthy discussion on the issue of Beirut Bourse." Question: What about the discussion that took place regarding the visit of some ministers to Syria? Riachi: The Council of Ministers didn't take any decision on this issue. There was a lengthy discussion that remains in the council, but the most important thing is that the Prime Minister was clear in stressing the importance of dissociating from any struggles or regional axes, and if the minister wants to visit Syria he does that by himself and not by a decision from the Council of Ministers that dissociated itself from regional axes since the government is a national unity government and any visit will not be by a decision from the council of ministers.
Question: Was the ministers' visit to Syria on the agenda?
Riachi: No the issue wasn't on the agenda.
Ministerial meeting
Later Prime Minister Hariri chaired a meeting for the ministerial committee charged with the implementation of the electoral law. The meeting was attended by ministers Talal Arslan, Nouhad Machnouk, Ali Hassan Khalil, Gebran Bassil, Mohammed Fneish, Pierre Abu Assi, and the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers Fouad Fleifel. - Press release

Berri: I Can't Believe the President Might Return Wage Scale to Parliament
Naharnet/August 09/17/Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has announced that he strongly doubts President Michel Aoun could return the approved wage scale bill to Parliament. “I can't believe that the president might resort to the step of returning the wage scale to Parliament, because it is a right to its beneficiaries, knowing that he has constitutional jurisdiction that allows him to take the appropriate stance in line with his powers,” Berri told his visitors. “Should it be returned, Parliament will practice its role in this regard and it will study the reasons and take the appropriate decision,” Berri added. Later on Wednesday, Aoun announced that he is studying the new wage scale bill, noting that it “must balance between rights and economic stability.”“A conflict of interest between the various segments of society would lead to social disturbances and the flaw must be rectified,” the president warned. Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel has recently called on Aoun not to sign the tax law and to return it to the legislature, warning of a possible “economic disaster.”“The president has the ability to stop the crime that will be committed against the Lebanese people and economy,” Gemayel warned. He cautioned that the taxes that have been approved would lower citizens' purchasing power “by 10 to 20%” and would also push “more than 100,000 citizens below the poverty line,” citing studies by the American University of Beirut. Gemayel also quoted Father Butros Azar, the secretary general of Catholic schools, as saying that school tuitions would rise an average of 27%. “The prices of apartments will also rise and our youths will suffer,” the young MP cautioned. The new taxes involve hiking the VAT tax from 10% to 11%, fines on seaside violations, and taxes on cement, administrative transactions, sea imports, lottery prizes, financial firms and banks. Authorities have argued that the new taxes are necessary to fund the new wage scale but opponents of such a move have called for finding new revenues through putting an end to corruption and the waste of public money.

Cabinet Meets amid Controversy on Syria Visit, Hamadeh Walkout
Naharnet/August 09/17/The Cabinet convened Wednesday for an ordinary session at the Grand Serail with 34 items on its agenda, amid controversy over an expected visit by some ministers to Syria. “I will visit Syria in my capacity as industry minister,” Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan of Hizbullah said ahead of entering the meeting, noting that “there are relations between Lebanon and Syria and some points pertaining to commerce and industry must be addressed between the two countries.”Foreign Minister and Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil meanwhile asked: “Didn't we recently appoint in cabinet a Lebanese ambassador to Syria?”But Labor Minister Mohammed Kabbara of al-Mustaqbal Movement noted that “ministers can visit Syria in their personal capacity and not in the name of the government.”“Of course we are against the visit to Syria,” Mustaqbal's State Minister for Women's Affairs Jean Oghassabian said. According to an official statement recited by Information Minister Melhem Riachi after the session, Prime Minister Saad Hariri opened the session by "underscoring the cabinet's decision to authorize the army to take the necessary measures at the appropriate time to resolve the al-Qaa outskirts battle against terrorism." "PM Hariri underlined the importance of the dissociation policy as a general policy for the government... and the need not to implicate Lebanon in the conflict of (regional) axes," Riachi added. Asked about the Syria visit, the minister noted that "the cabinet did not take a decision on this issue although it was discussed extensively." "PM Hariri's remarks were clear on the need to dissociate Lebanon from regional conflicts and axes, and if a minister wants to visit Syria he can do so in his personal capacity and not according to a cabinet decision," Riachi added."The cabinet has dissociated itself from regional conflicts seeing as the government is a national unity government, and any visit will not be according to a cabinet decision," he emphasized. Riachi also noted that the issue was not an official item on the cabinet's agenda. Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Ghassan Hasbani of the Lebanese Forces announced before the session that the timing of the army's expected battle against the Islamic State group would be raised in the meeting and that “the timing decision and the modus operandi is for the Army Command to decide.” “There is no need to coordinate with any other side – neither with Hizbullah nor with the Syrian side,” Hasbani added. Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi of the LF meanwhile noted that he would suggest the formation of a ministerial delegation that would visit Kuwait to address the issue of the Kuwaiti letter of protest over alleged Hizbullah involvement in a terrorist cell that has been recently convicted in the Gulf emirate. Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh of the Progressive Socialist Movement meanwhile walked out “angrily” of the cabinet session, TV networks said. Al-Jadeed television said Hamadeh walked out in protest at “the FPM's insistence that grants be put at the disposal of (Education Ministry employee) Sonia al-Khoury, who was appointed by former (education) minister Elias Bou Saab, in violation of the Constitution which grants the minister the jurisdiction to handle grants.”

Berri discusses judicial affairs with Jreissati
Wed 09 Aug 2017/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, on Wednesday met with Justice Minister, Selim Jreissati, and head of the Supreme Judicial Council, Judge Jean Fahed. On emerging, Minister Jreissati said that they took up with the Speaker a range of judicial matters, notably Judges' Support Fund, the judicial holiday and other judicial guarantees related to judges. "As usual, the Speaker was positive towards the just demands of the independent judicial authority," Jreissati said, disclosing that an urgent bill proposal will be forwarded at the next legislative session, to extricate Judges' Support Fund from the wage scale law. Later, Speaker Berri met with Minister of Telecommunications, Jamal Jarrah, with whom he discussed issues related to the work of the Ministry.

Geagea: Some Trying to Use Lebanon to Bestow Legitimacy on Assad Regime
Naharnet/August 09/17/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea warned Wednesday that some parties "are trying to use Lebanon and the Lebanese government to bestow legitimacy on Bashar al-Assad's regime," shortly after a cabinet session witnessed controversy over an expected visit by some ministers to Syria. “The Turkish and Jordanian governments have managed to return 100,000 Syrian refugees through cooperation with the United Nations, whereas here we have parties seeking to consult with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while forgetting that the refugees had escaped from him in the first place,” said Geagea at a press conference in Maarab.“Those who want to return to Syria can return to the Assad-controlled regions from this very moment,” Geagea added, noting that refugees refraining from returning to regime-held areas are staying in Lebanon out of fear of political persecution or bloodshed. The LF leader lamented that there are Lebanese parties who are “trying to give people the impression that the refugees' return is hinging on cooperation with Assad.”“They tried to press in this direction in the cabinet session,” Geagea decried. He added: “There is no real Syrian government and the reconstruction of Syria without a political solution is impossible.”“Things in the cabinet are unacceptable and we do not tolerate any official communication between the Lebanese and Syrian governments,” Geagea emphasized. “Any minister who wants to visit Syria can do so in his personal capacity, but not in an official manner, and we hope the cabinet will take a clear stance in this regard amid these circumstances,” the LF leader went on to say. According to an official statement issued after Wednesday's cabinet session, Prime Minister Saad Hariri stressed during the meeting the importance of dissociating Lebanon from “regional conflicts and axes.”“If a minister wants to visit Syria, he can go but without a decision from cabinet,” Information Minister Melhem Riachi told reporters after the session, emphasizing that “any such visit will not be authorized by Cabinet.”

Sarraf, Abadi tackle means of bolstering military cooperation
Wed 09 Aug 2017/NNA - National Defense Minister, Yacoub Riad Al-Sarraf, currently on an official visit to Iraq, held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, over means of bolstering cooperation ties, notably at the military level.
Minister Sarraf lauded the Iraqi troops' performance and their realized victories over Daesh.

Fahed to NNA: We have no intention of escalation
Wed 09 Aug 2017/NNA - The head of the Supreme Judicial Council, Judge Jean Fahd, said that judges have no intention of escalation, adding that their strike shall continue except for pressing issues. Judge Fahed's fresh words on Wednesday came in an interview to the National News Agency, in the wake of the Supreme Judicial Council's meeting. Judge Fahed said that Justice Minister, Selim Jreissati, shall put forward an urgent draft bill designed to extricate the Judges' Support Fund from the salary scale law.

Sarraf starts official visit to Baghdad, meets Iraqi counterpart
Wed 09 Aug 2017/NNA - Minister of Defense, Yaacoub Sarraf, started a three-day visit to Iraq, which began with talks with his Iraqi counterpart Irfan Mahmoud Al-Hayali, on boosting bilateral relations, especially on the military levels. The pair discussed prospects for joint cooperation between Iraq and Lebanon. At the beginning of the meeting, Sarraf congratulated his Iraqi counterpart on "the victories achieved by the Iraqi armed forces in their war against terrorism." He stressed that "Iraq fought this war on behalf of the world and the world is proud of the victories achieved by the Iraqi forces." For his part, the Iraqi defense minister praised the "role of the Lebanese government in support of Iraq in its fight against terrorism," adding that he will visit Lebanon soon in order to strengthen ties and enhance cooperation between the two countries.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 09-10/17
Kissinger: ISIS’s eradication would create ‘radical Iranian empire’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 9 August 2017/Former US Foreign Minister Henry Kissinger has warned that the eradication of ISIS would create an “Iranian radical empire.”The former diplomat has suggested that once ISIS is defeated, and if Iran occupies the free territory, this could lead to the emergence of a new empire. The 94-year-old, who was the Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon, also spoke about the complications of taking sides in Middle Eastern conflicts.
“In these circumstances, the traditional adage that the enemy of your enemy can be regarded as your friend no longer applies. In the contemporary Middle East, the enemy of your enemy may also be your enemy. The Middle East affects the world by the volatility of its ideologies as much as by its specific actions,” he wrote in an article for CapX. “The outside world’s war with ISIS can serve as an illustration. Most non-ISIS powers — including Shiite Iran and the leading Sunni states — agree on the need to destroy it. But which entity is supposed to inherit its territory? A coalition of Sunnis? Or a sphere of influence dominated by Iran? “The answer is elusive because Russia and the Nato countries support opposing factions. If the ISIS territory is occupied by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Shiite forces trained and directed by it, the result could be a territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut, which could mark the emergence of an Iranian radical empire,” Kissinger added.

UAE’s Gargash lays out fundamentals for Qatar’s exit from crisis
By Staff Writer, Al Arabiya English Wednesday, 9 August 2017/UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar al-Gargash said in a tweet on Wednesday that the Qatari crisis is "within a region of its own." He said Qatar should deal with the Arab quartet’s concerns, not only be acknowledging concerns from Washington and other western capitals. Gargash said that Qatar would begin to exit the crisis once it acknowledges the consequences of meddling in the internal affairs of neighboring countries. He stressed again in a following tweet that the conflict should remain only within this region and the solution lies in addressing the facts. “Avoiding them due to ‘foreign pressures’ will not work, the solution lies in the courage to face the crisis.” He concluded saying: “Courage and transparency are necessary in light of the lack of trust and a record of incitement.”The United States have expressed concern early last month that the rift may affect its military and counter-terrorism operations and increase the regional influence of Tehran. During a visit by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and British National Security Advisor Mark Sedwill to Kuwait, it was urged that the dispute be resolved quickly via dialogue among the Western-allied countries. Qatar is also home to the American base in Al Udeid area, which US experts are urging to close down. Former American diplomat Dennis Ross has previously said: “the reason Doha hosts the US military is to use our men and women in uniform as a security guarantee to do whatever they like—not, as the Qataris claim, to support a key counterterrorism installation.”

Dozens dead in central Syria as ISIS battles regime push
AFPThursday, 10 August 2017 /Dozens of regime forces and militants have been killed in central Syria as the ISIS group strives to hold off a regime advance there, a monitor said Wednesday. With Russian backing, Syria’s army has been waging a months-long offensive to recapture the vast desert region that stretches from the country’s center to the Iraqi and Jordanian borders. It has captured swathes of territory from ISIS in the central province of Homs, but the militants have ramped up their counter-offensives there. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said ISIS had dispatched at least five suicide car bombs and had laid mines throughout several frontline towns in Homs. At least 39 government forces were killed and another 25 wounded since Tuesday, the Britain-based Observatory said. “The regime has spread itself across a long frontline, and now ISIS is intensifying its counter-attacks,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. According to Abdel Rahman, 30 IS fighters were also killed over the past 24 hours in clashes with regime fighters and in Russian air strikes. Syrian state news agency SANA confirmed Wednesday that air strikes had targeted IS positions, including an ammunitions depot, in Homs province. The Syrian “Badiya” is a large stretch of desert that extends over some 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) of territory. Since 2015, much of the Badiya has been held by the militant group, but Syria’s army has been chipping away at it since May. On Saturday, the Observatory said regime forces had ousted ISIS from Al-Sukhna, the last militant-held town in Homs province. There has been no official confirmation of Al-Sukhna’s capture from Syria’s government. More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government protests. It has since morphed into a complex war involving regional and international players.

Long wait for captive Yazidis’ return spent rebuilding shrine in Iraq’s Bashiqa
Reuters, Bashiqa, IraqWednesday, 9 August 2017/Yazidi men and boys in the town of Bashiqa north east of Mosul are rebuilding a shrine destroyed by ISIS as they wait for the return of women from their community taken captive years ago by the extremists. They are hoping to celebrate their first religious festival for three years in the Malak Miran shrine next month but the big celebration will happen after the release of Yazidi women, taken by ISIS when it overran the plain of Nineveh in 2014. More than 3,000 Yazidis, mostly from Sinjar to the west of Bashiqa, were killed - with more than half shot, beheaded or burnt alive - and about 6,800 taken for sex slaves or fighters. ISIS fighters are now reportedly selling captive women and girls before they make their escape from their besieged Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, according to the UN. “The real festival will come when all our captives are freed,” said the shrine’s supervisor, Shaker Haidar al-Mujewar. Volunteers come every day to help with the rebuilding and they gather from time to time for prayers in the unfinished temple, clustering around candles to recite prayers in the local Kurdish dialect.  Workers rebuild a Yazidi shrine, after is was destroyed by Islamic State, in Bashiqa, a town near Mosul, Iraq August 8, 2017. Picture taken August 8, 2017. (Reuters) Residents and other Yazidi families are funding the reconstruction, Mujewar said. Yazidis in Bashiqa were able to escape before ISIS seized the town and the militants were driven out in November 2016, about a month after the start of the offensive to retake Mosul, the northern city used by the militants as their capital.Many of Bashiqa’s families are still living in camps. Bashiqa is now under the control of the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who helped take it back from ISIS. The Sinjar mountain, the other main area of Yazidi settlement in Iraq, is also under Kurdish control. The Yazidi faith combines elements from various ancient Middle Eastern beliefs. Eid Hajjin, the Yazidi festival which falls early September, celebrates Abraham, a prophet they have in common with Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The shrine is closely associated with Abraham as Yazidi religion says it was Malak Miran, or the Angel Miran, who saved the prophet from the biblical King Nimrod’s furnace of fire.

Coalition denies raiding Popular Mobilization Forces sites’ and ISIS claims responsibility
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 9 August 2017/The International coalition against ISIS denied reports that claimed they have launched raids on positions of the Popular Mobilization Forces on the Iraqi-Syrian border. The reports conflicted about the source of the bomb attack on a Popular Mobilization Forces’ convoy on the Iraqi-Syrian border, killing 36 members of the militias. For its part, ISIS claimed responsibility for the strike, refuting what was reported that US aircrafts, or artillery, was behind the bombing near Akashat. The organization published a video and pictures of the operation in which they arrested a number of elements. Dozens of fighters of the Popular Forces were killed on Monday evening, as a result of the bomb attack near the Iraqi-Syrian border. he Iraqi military sources said earlier that the bombing of the “international coalition” came through “fighter aircraft”, targeting groups of the Popular Mobilization Forces which approached the Iraqi-Syrian border, who left their positions in the Iraqi territory near the town of Akashat (about 50 km east of the Syrian Iraqi borders). It is noteworthy to mention that several factions of the militia are deployed near the Iraqi-Syrian border in an attempt to control and oversee the area. The Anadolu news agency quoted a source in the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq as saying that “36 fighters in the militia were killed and 80 were wounded by US artillery shelling targeting their convoy on the Iraqi-Syrian border.”
In an interview with Anadolu, the source, who asked not to be named, said that “US artillery forces in Syria shelled, on Monday, a convoy of one of the factions of the popular mobilization forces.”He added that “the shelling took place inside the Syrian territory in the opposite direction of the Akashat area in the province of Ar-Rutbah in Anbar located in the extreme west of Iraq.”On the other hand, a security source in the Anbar province told Anadolu that “the popular mobilization forces were bombed after crossing the border line from Iraq to Syria.”The brigades of “Sayed al Chouhad’a” stated that the attack resulted in many deaths and victims in the ranks of their fighters, saying that “this attack will not go unpunished.”The brigades said in a statement posted on their website on Monday that US forces had heavily bombed militia sites “in the Iraqi-Syrian border and in the opposite direction of Akashat.”

Four policemen killed in attack in Egypt's North Sinai
Reuters, CairoWednesday, 9 August 2017/Four Egyptian policeman were killed on Wednesday when gunmen fired at a patrol car in the northern Sinai city of al-Arish, state newspaper Al-Ahram reported. Authorities in Arish, the capital of North Sinai province, were on the hunt for the attackers, the paper said. Attacks on security forces have been frequent in Egypt since the army, led by general-turned-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule. The violence has been concentrated in the Sinai Peninsula, where Egypt is fighting an insurgency, but has also expanded to hit Egypt's Coptic Christians, the country's largest minority. On Tuesday, a group of gunmen killed two police officers and wounded another in a village north of Cairo, al-Ahram had said.

Jordan issues new work permits to Syrian refugees
ReutersWednesday, 9 August 2017/Jordan on Wednesday became the first Arab country to issue Syrian refugees with a new type of work permit that opens up the growing construction sector, the United Nations labor agency said on Wednesday. The International Labor Organization (ILO) said work permits for refugees used to be tied to specific employers who applied on behalf of workers to fill specific positions. Now, refugees can apply themselves to come in and take available roles in the busy building industry. “The construction sector has a significant number of people working informally - without the necessary paperwork - which didn’t give them the proper protection for payment and possible employer abuse,” said Elias Jourdi, a shelter specialist for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), an international aid agency. Last year, the European Union relaxed trade rules with Jordan in return for it letting thousands of Syrian refugees work in its companies and get work permits. Beyond giving refugees protection from possible abuse, the permits could improve their standard of living, Jourdi said. “They are able to work anywhere in the kingdom and they will be able to access better jobs and therefore better income and provide better for their family,” Jourdi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Jordan. More than 660,000 refugees are registered in Jordan, according to the latest UN figures. However, the Jordanian government has said that there are more than a million Syrians in the country, which is home to the largest refugee camp in the word - Zaatari.The camp’s expansion helped to rejuvenate the economy of a neglected part of Jordan previously known for the smuggling of everything from sheep to arms and drugs.

Iran’s Rouhani names two female vice presidents
AFP, TehranWednesday, 9 August 2017/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appointed two female vice presidents on Wednesday, a day after coming under fire from reformists for nominating no women ministers. Massoumeh Ebtekar, known internationally for her role as spokesperson during the 1980 US embassy hostage crisis, was named as vice president in charge of women's affairs, having previously run the environment brief in Rouhani's office. Laya Joneydi was appointed as the vice president for legal affairs, while another woman, Shahindokht Mowlaverdi, was named as a special adviser for citizens' rights. Rouhani, who had three female vice presidents during his previous term, still has several more deputy positions to fill and it was unclear if any would go to women. The lack of any women among Rouhani's new ministers, announced on Tuesday, has been strongly criticised by his reformist allies who say he has bowed to pressure from the religious establishment. Rouhani, a moderate cleric, sailed to victory in May over hardliner Ebrahim Raisi with the backing of reformists after vowing to improve civil liberties and rebuild ties with the West. But he faces a difficult balancing act in seeking to address popular pressure for reform while assuaging conservative opinion in parliament and other power centres behind the scenes.

Israeli soldier convicted of fatal shooting enters prison

The Associated Press, Jerusalem/Wednesday, 9 August 2017/A soldier convicted of fatally shooting an incapacitated Palestinian attacker has begun serving his prison term. Elor Azaria arrived at the military prison inside the Tzrifin base in central Israel on Wednesday to serve out his 18-month sentence. Azaria was accompanied by dozens of supporters who have rallied behind him since the 2016 shooting in the West Bank. Azaria, a combat medic, was recorded on cellphone video as he shot a badly wounded Palestinian who had previously stabbed a soldier. He was convicted of manslaughter. The case has divided a country where military service is mandatory. Israel's military pushed for his prosecution, saying he violated the military's vaunted code of ethics. But Israel's nationalist right sided with Azaria and called him a hero.

Turkey building ‘security wall’ along Iran border
By AFP, Ankara Wednesday, 9 August 2017/Turkey has begun building a “security wall” along part of its border with Iran, regional officials said today, in a move aimed at stopping Kurdish separatists. Pictures showing huge concrete blocks being moved into place were published on the governor’s website for the eastern Agri province. Turkish authorities announced construction of a 144 kilometer long barrier in May as a means of blocking cross-border movements by members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The entire Turkish-Iranian frontier is around 500 kilometers long. The PKK, which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since the 1980s, is considered by Ankara and its Western allies as a “terrorist” group. On the diplomatic front, Turkey has been involved in co- sponsoring talks on a Syria peace deal held in Kazakhstan’s capital with Iran and Russia. To beef up security on its Syrian border, Turkey began constructing a similar wall two years ago to prevent ISIS group fighters moving easily between the two countries and to clamp down on illegal crossings. In June, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said 690 kilometers out of a planned 828 kilometers of the wall had been completed along the frontier with Syria. He added that further border security measures would be put in place once the construction had been completed.

Suspect Shot and Held after Car Rams Paris Anti-Terror Troops
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 09/17/French police shot and arrested a suspect in a dramatic motorway chase Wednesday after a car smashed into soldiers outside a barracks in a Paris suburb, injuring six. The suspected terror attack on the soldiers is the latest in a string of assaults that have hit France since January 2015, claiming more than 230 lives. The servicemen were hit by a BMW which drove down a quiet street in the upmarket western Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret at around 8:00 am (0600 GMT). It accelerated as it neared the troops, rammed into them and then sped away. Three were shocked and lightly hurt, while the other three sustained more serious injuries which are not life-threatening, officials said. "I heard a huge crash which I thought was the sound of scaffolding being put up," said Thierry Chappe, an AFP employee who lives in a building opposite the crime scene.  Police later located the vehicle along a motorway near the northern port of Calais. After a chase, armed officers opened fire, wounding the driver, a man aged in his late 30s who was then arrested, sources involved in the manhunt said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Pictures showed the black BMW -- rented by the suspect, according to French media reports -- with a crumpled front end and smashed windscreen on the A16 motorway. Interior Minister Gerard Collomb described the ramming of the soldiers as "deliberate" and carried out by a "man on his own". He spoke after visiting three of the injured soldiers in hospital along with Defense Minister Florence Parly. The servicemen were part of the 7,000-strong anti-terrorism Sentinelle force set up in January 2015 after the attacks on the office of Charlie Hebdo. The armed, uniformed soldiers of the force patrol the streets and guard high-risk areas such as tourist sites and religious buildings.
Soldiers on the streets
Collomb said the forces had been attacked on six different occasions since 2015. The country has been under a state of emergency since major attacks in Paris in November 2015. Some experts believe that patrols should be withdrawn from the streets where they are an obvious target for extremists, but the government is likely to hesitate to do so in case of another major attack. "The opposition would jump on the argument that 'you've dismantled Sentinelle, there's been an attack and you are to blame'," said Alain Rodier, a specialist from private national security organization Cf2R.
The Paris prosecutors' office said its anti-terrorism unit has launched a probe into "attempted killings... in relation to a terrorist undertaking."The Islamic State group (IS) has repeatedly targeted France because of its participation in the U.S.-led international coalition fighting the jihadist group, with French jets carrying out air strikes in Syria.
Latest attack
The incident came just four days after Sentinelle soldiers intervened to control an 18-year-old with a history of psychological problems at the Eiffel Tower where he brandished a knife and shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest). He told investigators he wanted to kill a soldier, sources close to the case told AFP. In February, a man armed with a machete attacked four soldiers on patrol at Paris's Louvre Museum, while in April another extremist shot and killed a policeman on the Champs-Elysees, the French capital's most famous boulevard. In June, a 40-year-old Algerian doctorate student who had pledged allegiance to IS attacked a policeman with a hammer outside Notre Dame cathedral. The wave of attacks in France has had a serious impact on tourism in the world's top tourist destination, but the industry has begun to recover as incidents have become more widespread and generally less deadly. Wednesday's attack took place as the new centrist government was holding its last cabinet meeting before the summer holidays. President Emmanuel Macron publicly clashed with the head of the French armed forces last month over a proposed cut to the military budget this year. Macron slapped down General Pierre de Villiers, telling him "I'm your boss", after he complained about the impact of the cuts at a time when the army was in action in the Middle East and West Africa as well as at home. De Villiers resigned a few days later.

3 Palestinians Hurt as Israel Bombs Gaza in Retaliation to Rocket
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 09/17/Three people were injured, including one critically, overnight Tuesday as Israel bombed Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian security and medical sources said, hours after a rocket hit Israel. A security source told AFP that Israeli warplanes had struck two bases belonging to Hamas' military wing in northern Gaza, causing significant damage. A medical official at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City said three people were being treated for injuries, including a 26-year-old man who was in critical condition after being struck in the head with shrapnel. The Israeli army confirmed the strikes, saying they were in retaliation for a rocket fired a few hours earlier from Gaza, which landed in southern Israel. That incident caused no casualties or damage, a military spokesperson added. Israel and Islamists Hamas, who run Gaza, have fought three wars since 2008. Since the most recent conflict in 2014, a fragile ceasefire has been observed along the largely closed border.Missiles and rockets are periodically fired into Israel, generally by hardline Islamist groups opposed to Hamas. But Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rocket fire from Gaza, regardless of who carried it out, and usually retaliates within hours.

U.S. Warns N. Korea to Stop Moves that May Lead to 'End of Its Regime'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 09/17/Pentagon chief Jim Mattis on Wednesday warned North Korea to stop pursuing nuclear weapons and stop considering actions that would lead to the "destruction of its people.""The DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons," Mattis said in a statement. "The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."He added that: "The DPRK regime's actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates."

Canada to deploy more police officers to Iraq
August 9, 2017 - Ottawa, Canada - Global Affairs Canada
Canada is committed to supporting a stable and diverse Iraq—particularly in areas recently liberated from Daesh.
Through the International Police Peacekeeping and Peace Operations program, police officers from across Canada support efforts to build a more secure world through peace operations and other stabilization efforts.
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs; the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie; and the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, today announced that Canada will be deploying up to 20 police officers to Iraq. This announcement is part of Canada’s comprehensive strategy in the Middle East to defeat Daesh and to support stability in the region. The deployments form part of Canada’s contributions to the broader efforts of the Global Coalition Against Daesh.
Canadian police officers will support efforts to help re-establish a local police presence in newly liberated areas, establish greater capabilities, and provide strategic advice to Iraqi police on issues related to gender, diversity and human rights within their communities. For example, Canadian police officers will deliver training courses on community-based policing to enable Iraqi police officers to engage all segments of the communities they serve, including women and children.
There are currently three Canadian police officers deployed to Iraq and a fourth deployment is planned for the coming month. Canadian police officers are being deployed in a gradual, phased and flexible approach until March 2019.
The Government of Canada recognizes the bravery, service, and sacrifice of Canada’s women and men in uniform serving abroad.
Canadian police officers play a key role in the support we provide to people and regions affected by conflict. Today’s announcement will contribute to the needed stabilization of Iraq and will help establish a more secure environment in Iraqi communities that were affected by Daesh.”
Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs
“Through its new Feminist International Assistance Policy, Canada will continue to uphold human dignity and speak out for the most vulnerable, including women and girls, who are among the most severely affected by the conflict in Iraq. This mission provides Canadian policewomen with a unique opportunity to train and advise Iraqi police officers and contribute positively to creating longer-term stability, security and prosperity.”
Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau, P.C., M.P., Minister of International Development and La Francophonie
“Progress has been made in Iraq with the liberation of Mosul, and Canada remains fully committed to supporting the Iraqi government and its people. Canada’s policing contribution will be targeted at building key capacities of Iraqi security institutions and enhancing local policing skill sets, including in areas such as community policing.”
Hon. Ralph Goodale, P.C., M.P., Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Quick facts
Canadian police are being deployed through the Global Coalition against Daesh, including to the Italian-led Carabinieri police training mission. Canada may also deploy some of the 20 Canadian police officers to Iraq under other international organizations and initiatives.
There are approximately 600,000 Iraqi police officers, of whom 10,000 to 12,000 are women.
In areas occupied by Daesh, 85% to 100% of police infrastructure was destroyed.
On February 8, 2016, the Government of Canada announced its strategy to address the crises in Iraq and Syria, which includes support for local security forces and for law enforcement capacity building and training.
The International Police Peacekeeping and Peace Operations program is the mechanism through which up to 150 Canadian police officers are deployed annually to peace-support operations and other stabilization efforts. Police officers from participating police services across Canada apply voluntarily for these deployments. The program is a partnership among Global Affairs Canada, Public Safety Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Associated links
International Police Peacekeeping and Peace Operations
Canada congratulates Iraqi forces on liberation of Mosul, Iraq
Statement marking National Peacekeepers’ Day
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Four dead in Kashmir violence
Wed 09 Aug 2017/NNA - Three rebels and one civilian were killed in violence in Indian Kashmir on Wednesday, police said, two days after soldiers killed five fighters along the de-facto border with Pakistan. Inspector general of police Muneer Ahmed Khan said soldiers and police cordoned off a residential area after receiving information there were armed militants there. "During the patrol three militants were found right outside a house and they were killed in a short and good operation," Khan told AFP. "All the three were locals," he said. The deaths sparked clashes between government forces and residents of the area, near the town of Tral, where locals threw stones and shouted slogans against Indian rule. A police officer later confirmed that a teenager struck by pellets fired by security forces died in hospital from his injuries. Tral was the home town of Burhan Wani, a hugely popular rebel leader whose death last year at the hands of security forces sparked months of deadly protests in Kashmir. The latest incident came two days after Indian soldiers killed five unknown combatants as they tried to cross the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the disputed territory with Pakistan. Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the territory in full. Rebel groups have for decades been fighting the around 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, demanding independence or a merger with Pakistan. -- AFP

Vatican Secretary of State hopes visit to Russia to boost ties between two churches
Wed 09 Aug 2017/NNA - Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told the Italian Corriere della Sera daily that he expected his upcoming visit to Russia to boost ties between Catholics and Orthodox believers. The senior official, who occupies the second important position in Vatican, is scheduled to visit Moscow on August 20-24. According to media reports, cardinal Parolin’s preliminary agenda includes meetings with the Russian president and head of the Russian Orthodox Church. "Yes, the agenda includes meetings with both the Russian president and the patriarch of Moscow [and all Russia]," the Cardinal said when asked about his plans for the visit. "I hope that my visit will create an opportunity to draw attention to cooperation between our churches and people in light of pressing spiritual, cultural and political issues," Parolin stressed. "I strongly believe that the visit will contribute to strengthening ties, mutual respect and cooperation between Catholics and Orthodox believers," he added. The visit will be the 62-year-old Italian cardinal’s first trip to Russia. "After a period of ideological confrontation, which obviously cannot vanish at short notice, and taking into consideration the new scenarios that came to be after the Cold War ended, it is important to take advantage of every opportunity to strengthen mutual respect, dialogue and bilateral cooperation in order to promote peace," the Corriere della Sera daily quoted Parolin as saying. The cardinal also said that during his visit to Russia, he hoped "to convey the Pope’s spiritual connection to local catholic communities and meet with the highest authorities to discuss bilateral and global issues, including ecumenical contacts." When asked if Pope Francis himself planned to visit Russia in the future, the Vatican secretary of state noted that his upcoming visit was not intended to pave the way for a papal trip. "However, I hope that with God’s help, through my visit I will be able to contribute to the work in this direction," Cardinal Parolin said.--TASS Russian News Agency

Tillerson: Trump's tough talk aims to send message to North Korea
Wed 09 Aug 2017/NNA - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson played down President Donald Trump's incendiary warning to North Korea on Wednesday, saying he was just trying to send a strong message in language its leader would understand. Tillerson, speaking to reporters before landing in Guam, a U.S.-held Pacific island that Pyongyang threatened to strike, said he does not believe there is an imminent threat from North Korea. "I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days," he said. Trump on Tuesday warned North Korea it would face "fire and fury" if it threatens the United States, prompting the nuclear-armed nation to say it was considering firing missiles at Guam. "I think what the president was just reaffirming is that the United States has the capability to fully defend itself from any attack, and our allies, and we will do so," Tillerson said. "In response to that, North Korea's rhetoric is just ratcheted up, louder and louder and more threatening," Tillerson told reporters. "So I think the president, what the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn't seem to understand diplomatic language." The United States wanted to make clear it has the ability to defend itself and its allies, he said, and "avoid any miscalculation" by Pyongyang. Just moments after Tillerson's remarks were reported, Trump hammered home his tough talk in a Twitter post about U.S. nuclear weapons in what looked like another warning to North Korea. "My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before," he said.--Reuters

Belgium accuses Netherlands of tainted eggs coverup
Wed 09 Aug 2017/NNA - Belgium accused the Netherlands on Wednesday of failing to inform it that eggs were tainted with insecticide despite knowing about the problem since last November, as Europe's latest food safety scandal deepened. Newly appointed Agriculture Minister Denis Ducarme told a parliamentary hearing that Belgian's food safety agency obtained an internal Dutch document that "reports the observation of the presence of fipronil in Dutch eggs at the end of November 2016." "When a country like the Netherlands, one of the world's biggest exporters of eggs, does not pass on this kind of information, that is a real problem," said Ducarme, adding he has demanded an explanation from his Dutch colleagues. There was no immediate response from the Dutch government. The European Commission, which oversees the 28-nation European Union's food safety alert system, refused to comment on if and when it was told about the reported Dutch finding. "The hearing is still ongoing, so we will not have a running commentary on everything that is being said or presented at that meeting," spokesman Daniel Rosario told reporters. The Belgian hearing was called in response to an admission by officials at the weekend that they too knew about fipronil in eggs back in June, but kept it secret for nearly two months because of a parallel criminal fraud investigation. The insecticide scandal only became public on August 1 when authorities in the Netherlands ordered eggs pulled from supermarket shelves and urged shoppers to throw theirs away. Contaminated eggs have since been discovered in Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Britain and France, with several supermarkets pulling millions of eggs off the shelves. Fipronil is commonly used in veterinary products to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks but it is banned by the EU from being used to treat animals destined for human consumption, such as chickens. In large quantities, the insecticide is considered by the World Health Organisation to be "moderately hazardous" and can have dangerous effects on people's kidneys, liver and thyroid glands. The scandal has led to finger-pointing between Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands as they try to get to the bottom of how the scandal was able to happen. Ducarme said that the Dutch knowing about the problem since November only emerged when the Belgian food safety agency "through certain contacts was transferred, by chance, internal information" from its Dutch counterpart. If the Netherlands had notified Belgium sooner "our vigilance about fipronil would have been increased, greatly increased." Germany has meanwhile demanded answers from both countries. Criminal probes for suspected fraud are under way in Belgium and the Netherlands over the tainted eggs, but prosecutors in both countries have refused to give any details. "The defrauders must be punished harshly by the courts because in order to enrich themselves personally, they have not hesitated to risk the health of consumers," Ducarme said. The problem is believed to stem from a substance used by a Dutch company, Chickfriend, that farmers in the Netherlands and Belgium say they hired to treat their chickens. A lawyer for a Belgian company, Poultry-Vision, says the firm sold it to Chickfriend but has not said where it got the substance. The French government says a Belgian company -- which it did not identify -- mixed fipronil with another, lawful, substance. -- AFP

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 09-10/17

Carla, everyone in Syria is evil!

Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/August 09/17
Ms. Carla Del Ponte was the head of the UN investigation looking into war crimes in Syria. She began her mission at the beginning of the war and has finally given up and declared her failure. Despite over half a million innocent victims, she was not able to summon one killer to trial. This is why she says that she is frustrated and tendered her resignation. With her departure, only two members of the original five-member committee remain as each of the other three went their own way, leaving behind the ugliest war in modern times without anyone to monitor it. Despite her vast experience in cases such as the war crimes in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, the resigned official was unable to kick off a trial over Syria. Commenting on Syria, she said that it was the worst of the wars she has ever seen combined! Even though we cannot but thank her and the international team for their efforts, despite their failure, we realize that international powers thwarted the prosecution and trials of perpetrators, not because they do not want them or because there are no criminals and evidence. Crimes were in fact committed against the Syrian people and they would not have happened had it not been for the evil forces in the world conspiring against them and had it not been for the good forces’ complacency in stopping them. The Syrian tragedy is a result of the work of these powers. The war in Syria is not like the one that took place in Yugoslavia, where people fought each other after the collapse of a regime, or in Rwanda, where tribes fought each other. In Syria, a regime is committing crimes directly against civilian gatherings in areas of uprising. It shelled neighborhoods with bombs, barrel bombs and artillery simply due to the weakness of its forces and defection of its soldiers. It could not have been able to directly combat the fighters.
Similar to Bosnia
What makes Syria similar to Bosnia is the targeting of civilians in order to displace them and eliminate the possibility of the establishment of an authority on any liberated ground. The difference between the two tragedies is that in Syria, the crime was committed by a regime that still stands and very few sides jumped to the aid of those who were targeted. The UN official also justified her resignation by saying that the Syrian scene has been depleted of good forces and only evildoers are left fighting each other, saying that all of them are war criminals. This is partially true, especially during the last phase. But this is a justification of the failure of an international organization and it does not give it the excuse to abandon one of the main missions that it has bound itself to. Instead of withdrawing and abandoning its duty, why does it not try all the perpetrators, starting from the government to the opposition, should war criminals be among them.
There is no excuse for failing to put war criminals on trial.
The trial of murderers does not need evidence because several of the crimes in Syria are documented and evidence was gathered by recognized international organizations. “If the Dead Could Speak: Mass Deaths and Torture in Syria’s Detention Facilities.” This was the title of an international report that was compiled three years ago. It contained 28,000 photographs that shocked the world and showed the greatest of atrocities committed in the past 50 years. None of the victims were killed on the fields of war, but in the basements of the regime prisons. All of the photographs were taken by the regime itself and in its prisons. The crimes were secretly documents to prove that its workers, from torturers to wardens, were fulfilling their duties as they were told! The photographs were leaked however by people who could not remain silent over those horrendous crimes. These are internationally-recognized documents. They were verified by international organizations, some of which are even affiliated with the UN itself.
No excuses
In the Syrian revolt, there are no excuses for the investigators. There are enough documented and proven crimes to convict the Syrian regime. There are others that also convict some of the extremist opposition groups. They too deserve to be held accountable in the same way. It is hard for me to imagine that the perpetrators in the Syrian war would not be held accountable no matter how often governments change their calculations among themselves. There is no excuse for failing to put war criminals on trial. The excuse that the head of the resigned UN investigation that the opposition is no longer better than the government is not justified and it does not justify turning a blind eye and shirking ones responsibilities. Those who speak confidently and gladly of a political solution, an end to the Syrian war and of burying the past are delusional in believing that millions of Syrians could return to their homes and forget, as if the crimes of the past six-and-a-half years and the half a million dead were just a television series that they can shut off and then go to sleep. Several people in our world will not be able to close their eyes. What happened cannot be forgiven because governments chose to forget and forgive and opted to reward the murderers with power and privileges. Whoever signs their name on such a wrongful and unjust deal will have it covered in blood like the regime in Damascus, Tehran and their allies.

Three conspiracy theories which have controlled Arab minds
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/August 09/17
On television screens, commentators and analysts are warning of the dangers of conspiracies which are being plotted against us. But we can only understand their fear of the shadowy enemies if we realize that they belong to a generation which saw a catclysmic setback. They were subjected to a violent psychological shock after the Six Day War in 1967, and from then on, they saw plots and conspiracies everywhere. It is difficult to change their convictions after all this time, but it is important to highlight the rampant ideas of conspiracy, treachery and deceit to prevent its transmission from the earlier generation to the grandchildren. In my opinion, there are three conspiracies which control our minds. But before we enumerate them, we have to understand the magic and attractiveness of conspiracy theory. It is a comfortable psychological mechanism because it relieves the self - or the people - from full responsibility and puts the onus on others. The cause of the humiliating defeat is not the decrepit armies but the traitors at home and the malicious enemies abroad. It also achieves the so-called “scapegoat” concept. All of my flaws and missteps are blamed on the other. I then execute all of my faults and I become psychologically cleansed. It is also an appropriate way to escape reality and not face the truth. This is why it is told with an intelligent twist and an attractive storyline that does not correspond to the cold reality that lacks the heat of the drama and the plots of action. Conspiracies Isolate humans and draw them into a world of magic, to finally set them on the throne of the victors. Why then would anyone want to return to a rigid reality with no courtesy where one is humiliated and defeated? Of course, he would prefer to smoke the cannabis of conspiracies instead of waking up, regaining consciousness and discovering the bitter truth.
For these and other reasons, conspiracy theory has become widespread. The most prominent of which are:
The political conspiracy
In short, this plot believes that the Western countries, mainly the US, intend to tear us apart, exploit our wealth and ultimately subject us to its authority. Because of this thinking, terms such as neo-colonialism, subordination, submission, Americanization and Zionism have spread. But a little reflection on reality and history reveals to us that it is a lie that plays on the instincts of dignity, honor and the demonization of others.  The Arab people have not been torn apart and their wealth has not been plundered by the West, but by tyrannical rulers such as Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad. The governments that got rid of this illusion are the most successful not only in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but in Korea, Japan, Singapore and Chile. All of these countries strengthened their relations with the West politically and economically and ultimately flourished. This approach stems from an old vision of European colonialism, but it is a historical stage that has passed and cannot be repeated. The world is changing and the international order has settled on fixed laws that cannot be breached. Iran, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood are the ones who propagated the idea of political conspiracy and promoted the idea of a war with the “infidel” West and we all know the devastation they have caused. The political plot has not only become a way to escape the real causes of failure but has transformed into an emotional slogan under which the greatest tragedies are committed. Iranians kill Syrian children and chant slogans of ‘Death to America and Israel’!
The religious conspiracy
This plot summarizes the popular saying that there is a war against Islam and Muslims. But if we look at reality a little, we see that Muslims thrive and succeed in Western countries more often than they do in their countries of origin. If there were an actual state of war, why are they allowed to live there? Why give them the chance to succeed? Whoever distorted the image of Islam are not the Westerners but Zarqawi, Baghdadi and the leaders of terrorist organizations. As London elected a Muslim mayor, terrorists blew up markets, trains and airports and killed innocent people. There are extremists who say that the West's conspiracy is even worse. It aims to defame Islam and Americanize it by spreading teachings such as tolerance and co-existence among sects. Now, we are sending our children to study abroad. The idea of identity is no longer rigid but sophisticated and constantly changing. Healthy identity is renewable and open to different languages and cultures, unlike the fixed identity that lives in the past. The past will not reemerge. Individuals are living with multiple identities and even different nationalities without any contradiction. Conspiracy in the community happens by isolating and restricting it and not vice versa.
But these ideas are not western, and Muslims have witnessed long periods of tolerance and prosperity before the logic of extremists prevailed and children learnt how to hate those who practise a different religion and doctrine. The ideas of tolerance and coexistence have nothing to do with conspiracies, but are important mechanisms to reduce hatred within societies. Instead of sectarian strife and torn societies, tolerance and co-existence serve higher national and humanitarian goals. It is the conspirator who forbids it and does not promote it. It is hard to say that the sectarian war between Muslims in several countries occurred because Western demons whispered in their minds. We must not forget that we are fighting and degenerating before we knew the West in contemporary history and ISIS and Hezbollah will not perish even if the United States were to do so tomorrow.The religious conspiracy is just a trick designed by hardliners to drive out humanitarian ideas from influencing and rationalizing our culture. Even these valuable examples of our Islamic and Arab heritage and history are exploited in order to promote narrow-mindedness so as to block any question that might cause its shaking and then ultimate collapse.
Social conspiracy
This plot claims that there are plans to change the values of societies aimed at blurring its identity and values. The source of this idea is the ancient isolation of the peoples where any other stranger is suspected of bringing evils and diseases. But this is an idea whose logic has collapsed as the boundaries have faded with the invention of planes and communications. We discovered that no one was watching us and waking up from sleep to undermine our societies. Now, we are sending our children to study abroad. The idea of identity is no longer rigid but sophisticated and constantly changing. Healthy identity is renewable and open to different languages and cultures, unlike the fixed identity that lives in the past. The past will not reemerge. Individuals are living with multiple identities and even different nationalities without any contradiction. Conspiracy in the community happens by isolating and restricting it and not vice versa. The conspiracy mongers say that women are the target of social conspiracy aimed at corrupting their values. But experience has shown that this is just an illusion, and empowering women is beneficial not just to them but to the society as a whole which they help nurture, while they enjoy full respect and acquire the necessary skills. This may seem as an axiom to some, yet these ideas continue to perpetuate and pass from one generation to the other. It is important to criticize and expose its flaws until it is surrounded by only a few supporters. The logic of conspiracy will not die and is present in all societies, even the most sophisticated ones, but it is confined to limited sectors of the suspicious and the obsessed, and should not be propagated by teachers, preachers, journalists, university professors, news analysts and news anchors.

Saudi Ambassador to US clarifies policy, tackles media issues
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 09/17
In his important interview with the Washington Post, the new Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Khalid bin Salman, outlined the features of Saudi international policy. There is always a controversial image of Saudi politics in Western media because of the stereotypical representation of the desert, the exotic, the wealth, and women locked in tents. It is an image that has been designed since ancient times in the western imagination about the Arabian Peninsula, and it is has been perpetuated in novels, films and paintings. But there is another aspect of this stereotypical representation, it is no longer a portrayal of innocence and traditionalism, but an image fueled by the agents of Khomeini, the leftist camp or the new Muslim Brotherhood activists from the second and third generation of Muslim Brotherhood immigrants.
Courage and wisdom
What is important to remember is that this is the fate of Saudi Arabia, and it must confront it with courage and wisdom. More importantly, this war needs to be fought through proof and evidence because it is initially a media war. There are often repeated questions asked to any Saudi official in the Western and international press in general: women, specifically the issue of women’s right to drive a car, dealing with Shiites, Wahhabism and the September 11 attacks. In addition, there are new questions like the Yemen war, the Qatar problem ... etc. Ambassador Khalid bin Salman answered wisely and firmly to both sets of questions - the old and the new. He asserted that while it is true that two Saudis were involved in the September 11 attacks, the same group that attacked the New York Twin Towers attacked the streets and people of Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Abha and Khobar. In brief, they are our enemies just as they are yours. Ambassador Khalid bin Salman answered wisely and firmly to both sets of questions - the old and the new. He asserted that while it is true that two Saudis were involved in the September 11 attacks, the same group that attacked the New York Twin Towers attacked the streets and people of Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Abha and Khobar. In brief, they are our enemies just as they are yours.
Improving openness
The issues of openness, women, and the development of the judicial system and the suppression of extremism are improving in particular in the last two years. Anyone who visits the malls of Riyadh and Jeddah will realize the great difference that has occurred. For women, their legal and juridical status have witnessed great development, the latest in terms of custody rights and legal capacity, and there is much more to be done, including the issue of women driving a car that has sparked controversy and has become a media cause for Saudi enemies, including Iran, the world’s leading country in women’s rights!
However, the most important thing to take from this interview is Saudi Arabia’s vital role in leading the Islamic war against the terrorists and their supporters from parties and “states.” Here, the Saudi ambassador observed: “Yes, There are people and groups that support extremism in Saudi Arabia, but the state is fighting them. Yet, there are countries which support and finance media, politicians, armed extremist groups and non-armed with money such as Qatar, for example! Such an interview with a prominent Saudi figure in this circumstances and from an international platform as the ‘Washington Post’ is vital for the Saudi Arabian voice.  Naturally, this step ought to contribute to others and become the foundations of an institution that speaks on behalf of Saudi Arabia.

How the United States handed the Middle East to Iran
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/August 09/17
The Middle East has always been a place of geopolitical shifting sands. Regional players rise and fall, external empires come and go, and dreams of stability have always proven ephemeral. But Iran has always been a centre of power in the region. And after its own internal turmoil with the Shah and the Islamic Revolution, the ayatollahs have built a sufficiently stable and robust state that has been able to exert considerable power on its fractious neighbours. This was a return to norm. It used to be given wisdom that the Iran would hold sway over peoples, militant groups and governments who are aligned with Shiite Islam. Iran has been the foremost Shiite state in the world for 500 years. The minority Shiite Alawite government in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Shiite populations in Iraq, the north-eastern Al-Ahsa region of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Afghanistan and Pakistan would all look to Tehran for support, guidance and even a certain degree of coordination. Iran’s status as guiding light of the region’s Shiite assure them a built-in status as regional players.
A client state
But what is happening now is going well beyond that. Iraq, a region that has often-times in its history been a natural cultural and political extension into the Arab lands of the succession of Persian empires, used to be ruled by the highly antagonistic Sunni Saddam Hussain. His eight-year long war against Iran in the 1980s has been one of the deadliest conflicts the region has seen in centuries. But the United States intervened to remove Hussain, and in his stead have elevated a Shiite led government, more representative of Iraq’s majority Shiite demographics. Except a decade later, the Shiite government in Baghdad has effectively become a client state of Tehran. The United States supported the Sunni-led opposition in the Syrian Civil War against the Shiite Alawite government of Bashar al-Assad. Except they have not been sufficiently committed to the conflict to see its resolution to a favourable ending for their side when they could have done. And they have since moved aside for Russia and Iran to crush the opposition to Assad and enforce his rule. And where the Assad regime would have previously looked up to Iran as a natural ally, they now look up to Iran as the friend to whom they owe their lives.
The irony of it all is, of course, that in the nebulous thinking of the Bush neo-cons, the Afghan and Iraqi wars were supposed to contain Iran and cement American influence over the region and its critical oil supplies. Instead it has done the exact opposite. Then there is the matter of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been America’s longest and most expensive war. That war was started against the Taliban, a natural enemy of Iran for their hardline Sunni ideology and intransigent anti-Shiite attitudes. In fact, Iran themselves nearly went to war with the Taliban three years prior to the American intervention 2001 for an incident where the latter killed 10 Iranian diplomatic staff in the country. Needless to say, Iran was pleased to have one of their enemies, America, take out another, and foot the bill in blood and treasure. They could have hardly hoped that the Afghan war would be such a long and bloody slog, that would critically weaken the Big Satan and undermine their entire position in the region.
But now there is a twist in the story of the Afghan war. It is beginning to emerge that Iran has allied itself with the Taliban and it is supporting their efforts to drive the United States out of Afghanistan. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards are allowing the Taliban to operate and build up on the Iranian side of the border, seem to be providing them logistical support, and even personnel, as high ranking Iranian commandos are thought to have been aiding recent Taliban operations in western Afghanistan. War makes for strange bed-fellows. But either way, Tehran is finding itself in a much better position in Afghanistan than it could have ever hoped for, and it is making influential friends for the future, when the Taliban will inevitably return to power in Kabul. The irony of it all is, of course, that in the nebulous thinking of the Bush neo-cons, the Afghan and Iraqi wars were supposed to contain Iran and cement American influence over the region and its critical oil supplies. Instead it has done the exact opposite: it has guaranteed Iranian influence from the Mediterranean Sea to the Khyber pass. And, in a stunning turn of events, influence that is beginning to transcend sectarian lines. Is it any wonder that America’s allies in the region, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel, are becoming more assertive and belligerent in the face of a rising Iran?

Hajj is not just a business
Tariq A. Al-Maeena/Al Arabiya/August 09/17
With Hajj less than a month away, many who have committed to perform this arduous requirement for Muslims are preparing for the task. Performance of the Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) is required of every adult Muslim, male or female, if physically and financially possible. Many Muslims spend their entire lives saving and planning for this journey; others make the pilgrimage more than once if they are able.
The requirements for performing the pilgrimage are as follows:
• Pilgrims must have maturity and a sound mind, in order to understand the significance of the pilgrimage experience;
• They must have the physical capability to travel and perform the pilgrimage rites;
• They must demonstrate financial stability, be free of debt, so that they are able to bear the pilgrimage expenses as well as provide for dependents during travel.
For those who meet these criteria, performing the pilgrimage is obligatory at least once in their lifetime.
To combat the rising prices of performing Hajj, the Hajj Ministry in 2013 announced that it had licensed 22 companies to provide low-cost Hajj services to domestic pilgrims, including expatriates. “These companies will charge SR1,900 to SR3,900,” it said, adding that such services would cover 20 percent of domestic pilgrims.
The ministry at the time said it was encouraging Hajj companies to provide low-cost services to meet the requirements of a large number of Saudis and expatriates by providing incentives such as increasing the number of pilgrims they serve.
“They are also given priority in tent allocations in Mina,” a ministry official said. Moreover, they are allowed to rent 70 percent of buses from foreign companies. The ministry stressed that the prices of low-cost Hajj firms would remain within the range of SR1,900 to SR3,900 in the coming years.
Hard to pin down operators
But many are finding it hard to pin down Hajj operators who are abiding by the Ministry’s rules. One such hopeful is Yawar Ayub who because of his journey in a fruitless search for affordable Hajj operators vented his ire in an email addressed to me. The Hajj Ministry should review the prices that are being charged in order to ensure fair value, and prevent Hajj from becoming just another business venture for greedy operators.
He said: “I am an expatriate, and I have always read your columns and found you to be neutral, while discussing matters related to expatriates or Saudis. Hopefully, you will find time to read my email. I have been trying to get registered in a low-cost Hajj scheme through the Internet since last year, but, unfortunately, I have not found the low-cost or Muyaser slot for low-income people on the official website. The website only shows the cost for the normal fare. Every time I search it is the same. I have even tried odd times like 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. in the morning or during the working day.
“Is this some type of joke with us low-income people or are the low-cost slots already distributed before the website goes online? Due to the rise in the cost of rent and other items including family fees, I was planning to send my family back, but before that I wanted to avail the opportunity of doing Hajj while being in Saudi Arabia.
“I have complained to Allah and said that I am sorry that I am unable to afford the Hajj from Saudi Arabia, and I am also writing this to you as I have no one else to share my feelings with. Please highlight this matter because no one is writing anything in the print media about the plight of us low-income people who want to perform Hajj before returning home.
“There are many more like me who are wondering what to do. Once we go back to our country, it will be impossible to return and perform Hajj due to the high traveling costs.”Yawar has a legitimate complaint. Hajj operators have raised prices atrociously with the result that many low-income people cannot afford to perform Hajj. The website dedicated to supporting individuals like Yawar apparently falls short of expectations, leaving many dreams unrealized.
The Hajj Ministry should review the prices that are being charged in order to ensure fair value, and prevent Hajj from becoming just another business venture for greedy operators.

Is the State Department Buying Arab Propaganda?
Nonie Darwish/Gatestone Institute/August 09/17
After centuries of Muslim persecution, often genocidal, or dhimmitude under sharia, Christianity in the Middle East has been stunted, if not effectively crushed. To avoid discrimination, Christians gave their children Arab names instead of Biblical ones. Their religious celebrations are kept indoors, lest Christian festivities offend Muslims. As in a Stockholm Syndrome, Middle East Christians often ended up defending and even praising Islam, even if that comes at the expense of their own religious rights.
It is stunning to see is how on the one hand, the US State Department and media play down the genocide going on today against Christians in the Middle East, but on the other hand, immediately believe Muslims when one of their leaders tells an American delegation that he does not fear Arabs but fears Jews.
With many branches of the US government apparently determined to distort reality, there seems to be a series of deliberate decisions to ignore -- and to prevent the American public from knowing -- what is really going on.
"Politically incorrect" language has been censored by the State Department, the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the previous Executive branch, and, most recently, the National Security Council, which recently seems to have purged the entire department.
It is dangerous for the West to accept Arab anti-Semitic propaganda voiced by some Christian leaders in the Middle East; they are held hostage by the Muslim majority around them. Since the age of the internet, even many Arabs have stopped buying Arab propaganda.
A recent mark was retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell when he was Secretary of State. Wilkerson recently said on MSNBC, during the recent Temple Mount crisis, that Jews pose the biggest threat to Christians in the Middle East. He learned this, he said, in 2002-2003 in Ramallah, during a business trip to meet with Yasser Arafat, from a Middle Eastern Catholic Bishop, who had told him that the biggest enemy for Christians in the region was not the Arabs but the Jews. So, Wilkerson, instead of condemning countless unprovoked terror attacks against Israelis, criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It is most unfortunate that a former high-ranking State Department official decided to blame Israel during the recent crisis, in which Jews were the obvious victims. It is more than unfortunate that Wilkerson took the Bishop's statement at face value instead of recognizing the complexities of the Middle East, where "no" and "yes" rarely mean "no" and "yes".
It is most unfortunate that Lawrence Wilkerson, a former high-ranking State Department official, decided to blame Israel during the recent crisis, in which Jews were the obvious victims. (Image source: MSNBC video screenshot)
Despite the glaring truth that there is oppression of Christians in the Middle East, Wilkerson evidently does not know that the flock of the Ramallah Bishop live in an Arab city, speak and pray in Arabic, and in an era of Arab nationalism, many believed they were Arab first and Christian second.
Egypt's former President, Gamal Abdel Nasser, had changed the country's name to the "United Arab Republic," then later, under President Anwar al-Sadat, to the "Arab Republic of Egypt" -- a name that instructed every Coptic Christian in Egypt they were Arab first. Lebanon, which was then a majority Maronite Christian country, joined the Arab League as an Arab state. If Lebanon had refused, the consequences would have been dire. Therefore, to the Bishop, the biggest enemy in the region might well have appeared not to be Arabs (his flock), but Jews.
Many Arab Christians are doubtless anti-Semitic, possibly caused by many factors, but one surely is that throughout the Middle East, Christians have been subjected to the same anti-Jewish propaganda as Muslims -- which results in anti-Semitism. Christian children are fed the same education, filled with hatred of Jews, in Arab schools; they teach lies such as, "Jesus was a Palestinian", "Jerusalem was an Arab City conquered by Jews", "Jews are behind all the ills of Arab society", "Yasser Arafat was poisoned by Israelis", "Jews killed Christ and all the prophets", "Muhammad was poisoned by a Jewish woman", "Israeli medicine is sterilizing Arab men", and so on; the variations are endless.
Arabic propaganda can be found everywhere, in fact, rewriting history. Just check the daily translations of Arab media from reliable sources such as MEMRI or Palestinian Media Watch. Even though accusations in the Arab media against Israel are false, the Western media are not interested in exposing them.
Middle East Christians, unfortunately, are as much under attack as Jews. They have been deprived for centuries of knowing who their true friends are, and are sensibly terrified of saying anything might bring them further harm. Christians in Egypt have already erased the Hebrew roots of Christianity there.
Sadly, Christians in the region, instead of recognizing that Jews are probably their natural allies, have ended up falling into the Middle Eastern trap of trying to appease the Muslim majority around them, and subscribing to its sweeping anti-Semitism.
It is, further, in the best interest of extremist Muslims to keep Jews and Christians separated by animosity and distrust. Any Christian sympathizing with Jews has usually been deemed a "collaborator" against Muslims. Such a "betrayal" in turn, is often regarded as a violation of the protected status given to Christians as "dhimmis" -- non-Muslim, barely-tolerated, second-class residents, relegated to apartheid laws and higher taxes to "protect" their lives and property.
After centuries of persecution, often genocidal, or dhimmitude under sharia, Christianity in the Middle East has been stunted, if not effectively crushed. To avoid discrimination in the workplace, Christians gave their children Arab names instead of Biblical ones. Their religious celebrations are kept indoors, lest Christian festivities offend Muslims. As in psychological condition known as the Stockholm Syndrome, Middle East Christians have often ended up defending and even praising Islam, despite this frequently coming at the expense of their own religious rights.
Even here in the United States, many Coptic Christian immigrants avoid talking about Islam altogether; sometimes, in fear for their families still back in Egypt, they ardently defend Islam. Although they are now living here in American freedom, in their minds they are still back there.
When, a few years ago, in a chance meeting with the Egyptian Coptic Pope in a US airport, when I mentioned my conversion to Christianity, and support for the rights of Christians in the Middle East and for Israel, he did not reply, but looked around us fearfully, as though checking if had anyone heard or perhaps recorded our conversation. One could not feel offended; it was simply a sad reminder of the reflexive fear Egyptian Christians still have of the spying ears of the Egyptian Mukhabarat secret police -- even in an American airport.
It is stunning to see is how on the one hand, the US State Department and media play down the genocide going on today against Christians in the Middle East, but on the other hand, immediately believe Muslims when one of their leaders tells an American delegation that he does not fear Arabs but fears Jews.
What the State Department would do well to understand is that when they deal with Arabs, Christian or Muslim, in the Middle East, anything they say should always be received guardedly, with skepticism. If Wilkerson's business trip had taken him to Cairo, Baghdad or Saudi Arabia, instead of Ramallah, he would most likely have heard the same thing, but unfortunately that does not make it true. Muslims have been trying to conquer the West since the seventh century. They succeeded in spreading throughout Persia, the great Christian Byzantine Empire in Turkey, North Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, Southern Spain -- and recently Northern Cyprus and much of South America.
That does not even take into account Islamic conquests further east, in places such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Indonesia, Malaysia, and now the Philippines.
With many branches of the US government apparently determined to distort reality, there seems to be a series of deliberate decisions to ignore -- and to prevent the American public from knowing -- what is really going on.
"Politically incorrect" language has been censored by the State Department, the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the previous executive branch, and, most recently, the National Security Council, which recently seems to have purged the entire department.
These kinds of Orwellian bowdlerizations can only end up hurting American national security and its relationships in the Middle East and worldwide.
*Nonie Darwish, born and raised in Egypt, is the author of "Wholly Different; Why I chose Biblical Values Over Islamic Values"
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/The Battle for Trump's Foreign Policyالمعركة من أجل سياسة ترامب الخارجية
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/August 09/17
National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said that an ongoing review of Iran policy will be completed by late summer. In the meantime, however, he has fired opponents of the Iran deal, including Derek Harvey, who reportedly drafted a comprehensive plan on how to withdraw from the agreement. A White House insider described Trump's Iran policy as "completely gutted" in the aftermath of McMaster's purge.
"Everything the president wants to do, McMaster opposes. Trump wants to get us out of Afghanistan — McMaster wants to go in. Trump wants to get us out of Syria — McMaster wants to go in. Trump wants to deal with the China issue — McMaster doesn't. Trump wants to deal with the Islam issue — McMaster doesn't. You know, across the board, we want to get rid of the Iran deal — McMaster doesn't. It is incredible to watch it happening right in front of your face. Absolutely stunning." — Former NSC official, Daily Caller.
"The President's ultimate success will in large part depend on the degree of commitment to his agenda among the people he appoints to ensure its success.... The most important rule of presidential personnel management is to appoint people who are fully committed to the presidential agenda." — "Personnel Is Policy," The Heritage Foundation.
The ongoing purge of people loyal to U.S. President Donald J. Trump at the National Security Council, the main organization used by the president to develop national security policy, is part of a power struggle over the future direction of American foreign policy.
Trump campaigned on a promise radically to shift American foreign policy away from the "globalism" pursued by his predecessors to one of a "nationalism" which puts "America first." He also vowed to: "defeat" Islamic extremism; "tear up" the nuclear deal with Iran; "reset" bilateral relations with Israel by moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem "on Day One" of his administration; and "direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator."
Trump's election has set in motion a bitter power struggle between two main factions: those led by White House strategist Steve Bannon — who are devoted to implementing the president's foreign policy agenda, and those led by National Security Advisor Herbert Raymond "H.R." McMaster — who appear committed to perpetuating policies established by the Obama administration.
Since becoming national security advisor in February, McMaster has clashed with Trump and Bannon on policy relating to Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Islam, Israel, Iran, Mexico, NATO, North Korea, Russia and Syria, among others.
McMaster has also been accused of trying to undermine the president's foreign policy agenda by removing from the National Security Council key Trump loyalists — K.T. McFarland, Adam Lovinger, David Cattler, Tera Dahl, Rich Higgins, Derek Harvey, and Ezra Cohen-Watnick— and replacing them with individuals committed to maintaining the status quo.
An analysis of the foreign policy views of McMaster and some of his senior staff at the National Security Council shows them to be overwhelmingly at odds with what Trump promised during the campaign.
National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster has been accused of trying to undermine President Donald Trump's foreign policy agenda by removing from the National Security Council key Trump loyalists. Pictured: President Trump and McMaster at the announcement of McMaster's appointment as National Security Advisor, on February 20, 2017. (Image source: White House video screenshot)
National Security Advisor
President Trump selected Army Lieutenant General McMaster to replace retired Air Force Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who resigned as national security advisor on February 13 after leaked intelligence reports alleged that he misrepresented his conversations with a Russian diplomat. McMaster's views on foreign policy are — by and large — the mirror opposite of those held by Flynn.
Flynn, for example, argued that the West is in a civilizational clash with Islam and that the war on jihadism cannot be won unless the ideology that drives it is defeated. McMaster, by contrast, categorically rejects the notion of a clash of civilizations; his public statements on Islam are virtually indistinguishable from those of the Obama administration.
On February 23, during his first staff meeting, McMaster reportedly urged National Security Council employees to avoid using the term "radical Islamic terrorism" because, according to McMaster, groups such as the Islamic State represent a "perversion of Islam" and are therefore "un-Islamic." McMaster added that he is "not on board" with using the term because it targets "an entire religion" and may alienate Muslim allies in the Middle East.
McMaster pleaded with Trump to remove references to "radical Islamic terrorism" from the president's speech to Congress on February 28. At the time, Trump held his ground: he stressed a commitment to protect America from "radical Islamic terrorism."
More recently, however, McMaster appears to have prevailed. Trump's May 21 speech in Saudi Arabia — the world's greatest purveyor of radical Islam — was conspicuous for its moderation: "We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership — based on shared interests and values."
In a June 4 speech to the "Global Forum" of the American Jewish Committee, McMaster praised Trump's Saudi address, calling it an "extraordinary speech" in which the president "outlined a path of unity and peace to people of all faiths." McMaster also claimed that leaders throughout the Muslim world had condemned "those who are hijacking Islam to justify violence against innocents."
McMaster's public position on the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran remains ambiguous. In July, he spoke at length about why the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a bad deal and how it has not changed Iran's behavior. On the other hand, he pressed Trump into certifying to Congress — twice in six months — that Iran is complying with the agreement, despite many indications that it is not.
McMaster said that an ongoing review of Iran policy will be completed by late summer. In the meantime, however, he has fired opponents of the Iran deal, including Derek Harvey, who reportedly drafted a comprehensive plan on how to withdraw from the agreement. A White House insider described Trump's Iran policy as "completely gutted" in the aftermath of McMaster's purge.
McMaster has also refused to publish the secret side deals the Obama administration signed with Iran which allow Tehran to maintain critical aspects of its nuclear program. Not surprisingly, many observers are convinced that McMaster will try to prevent Trump from honoring his campaign pledge to rescind or renegotiate the nuclear deal.
During the campaign, Trump repeatedly described the JCPOA as a "disaster" and "the worst deal ever negotiated." On February 1, after Iran launched a ballistic missile, the White House signaled a tougher line on Tehran. "As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice," Flynn had said.
Flynn's ouster less than two weeks later was rumored to have been orchestrated by Obama loyalists in order to preserve the Iran deal:
"The effort, said to include former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes — the architect of a separate White House effort to create what he described as a pro-Iran echo chamber — included a small task force of Obama loyalists who deluged media outlets with stories aimed at eroding Flynn's credibility, multiple sources revealed.
"The operation primarily focused on discrediting Flynn, an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, in order to handicap the Trump administration's efforts to disclose secret details of the nuclear deal with Iran that had been long hidden by the Obama administration."
Meanwhile, McMaster has been described as being "deeply hostile" to Israel, which he reportedly considers an "occupying power." American-born Israeli journalist Caroline Glick, citing White House sources, elaborated:
"According to senior officials aware of his behavior, he constantly refers to Israel as the occupying power and insists falsely and constantly that a country named Palestine existed where Israel is located until 1948 when it was destroyed by the Jews....
"McMaster disagrees and actively undermines Trump's agenda on just about every salient issue on his agenda. He fires all of Trump's loyalists and replaces them with Trump's opponents, like Kris Bauman, an Israel hater and Hamas supporter who McMaster hired to work on the Israel-Palestinian desk. He allows anti-Israel, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, pro-Iran Obama people like Robert Malley to walk around the NSC and tell people what to do and think. He has left Ben (reporters know nothing about foreign policy and I lied to sell them the Iran deal) Rhodes' and Valerie Jarrett's people in place."
On May 16, just days before Trump's visit to the Middle East, McMaster refused to comment on whether the Western Wall is within sovereign Israeli territory and dismissed the matter as a "policy decision." McMaster also downplayed the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount: "He [Trump] is going to the Western Wall to connect with three of the world's great religions," McMaster said.
According to Glick, it was McMaster, not the U.S. consul in Jerusalem as initially reported, who pressed Trump into rejecting a request from Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu join the president during a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. "No Israeli leaders will join President Trump at the Western Wall," McMaster confirmed.
McMaster has also attempted to thwart Trump's outreach to Russia. On July 20, the Associated Press reported that McMaster objected to an extended dinner conversation between Trump and Putin on the sidelines of the recent G20 summit in Germany. McMaster then insulted Trump behind his back by expressing his disapproval of the president to several foreign officials:
"McMaster specifically said that he disagreed with Trump's decision to hold an Oval Office meeting in May with top Russian diplomats and with the president's general reluctance to speak out against Russian aggression in Europe."
McMaster also advised the president against holding an official bilateral meeting with Putin. In the end, Trump held his ground: McMaster was not allowed to attend the meeting. Only Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and a translator made up the U.S. side.
In April, Trump said that he wanted South Korea to pay for the $1 billion THAAD missile defense system being deployed in the country to protect against missiles from North Korea. South Korean officials responded that, under a bilateral agreement reached with the Obama administration, the United States is responsible for bearing the cost. McMaster then "corrected" Trump by reassuring South Korean officials that the United States will indeed pay for the system. "The last thing I would ever do is contradict the president of the United States," McMaster told Fox News.
A former NSC official told the Daily Caller that McMaster is "subverting" Trump's foreign policy at every turn:
"Everything the president wants to do, McMaster opposes. Trump wants to get us out of Afghanistan — McMaster wants to go in. Trump wants to get us out of Syria — McMaster wants to go in. Trump wants to deal with the China issue — McMaster doesn't. Trump wants to deal with the Islam issue — McMaster doesn't. You know, across the board, we want to get rid of the Iran deal — McMaster doesn't. It is incredible to watch it happening right in front of your face. Absolutely stunning."
Another former official confirmed that sentiment:
"I just fear there is a real creeping of status quo thinking that is taking over the place. I was upset while I was there in seeing how empowered Obama holdovers under McMaster were to essentially perpetuate Obama-era policies."
Jed Babbin, a former Pentagon official who served during the first Bush administration, reported that McMaster has retained "several dozen" Obama loyalists, many in positions of significant responsibility. In an essay for the American Spectator, he wrote:
"There are four people in positions of responsibility in the NSC who have been identified by a source as people who had been "direct reports" to Rhodes — i.e., who worked under his direct supervision — who McMaster has protected and retained. They are: Abigail Grace (Special Assistant), Fernando Cutz (NSC Director for South America), Andrea Hall (NSC Senior Director for WMD, Terrorism & Threat Reduction), and Merry Lin (‎Director for Global and Asia Economics).
"Why would any national security advisor working for Trump not rid the NSC of these people immediately and the dozens of others as soon as he could? One source told me there are over fifty such holdovers on the NSC staff.
"None of the four — and the other holdovers — should remain employed at the NSC. Every one of them should be viewed as a political operative dedicated to thwarting whatever Trump wants to do.
"McMaster recently told an NSC staff meeting, "There's no such thing as a holdover." That is simply bizarre.
"The problem is that McMaster is the ultimate holdover. He comprises a significant threat to national security."
White House insiders told the Washington Free Beacon that McMaster is purging Trump loyalists who dare to clash with career government staffers and holdovers from the Obama administration "on issues as diverse as military strategies for Syria and Afghanistan, whether to tear up Obama's landmark Iran deal, the controversial détente with Cuba, the U.S. role in confronting Islamic radicalism, and the Paris Climate Accord."
More purges are said to be on the way: "McMaster basically has this list.... They're taking out people who were chosen to best implement the president's policy that he articulated during the campaign."
Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy
McMaster's first personnel decision was to name Dina Habib Powell, an establishment Republican and a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, to serve as Deputy National Security Advisor — a post already filled by K.T. McFarland.
Powell, an Egyptian-American, was originally brought into the White House as an informal advisor to Ivanka Trump. Powell, a former executive at Goldman Sachs, is said to have a "centrist" approach to politics; critics fear she will push for a softer line on national security, climate change policy and trade.
McFarland, a former official in the Reagan administration, has advocated for a hardline foreign policy. She has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration's timidity in the face of radical Islam, which she has described as "the most virulent, lethal, apocalyptic death cult in history." McFarland has warned that "global Islamist jihad is at war with all of Western civilization" and that "we are losing this war." McFarland added:
"If we are to defeat radical Islam, it will be only with a multifaceted, comprehensive strategy that calls on all the aspects of the national power of ourselves and our allies — like we summoned to defeat the Nazis in World War II or the Communists in the Cold War."
McFarland has also been a vocal supporter of Trump's "America First" foreign policy: "Too many times in the last eight years, or even more, we've always thought, 'What's better for the global community?' The question should be: 'What's better for America?'"
Powell, by contrast, was hired by the Bush administration to "defuse some of the misperceptions" about the United States in the Arab world. At a World Economic Forum event in Jordan, for example, Powell apologized for America's alleged insensitivity to Arab culture. "So enthusiastic is our desire to help that we sometimes forget to stop and listen to others," she said.
McFarland has criticized the 2015 Iran nuclear deal: "We gave them everything up front — the money, the sanctions, the path to nuclear weapons — and we demanded nothing in return." She has also advocated stirring up popular discontent in Iran in order to bring about regime change.
Powell, however, is said to have a strong personal relationship with Iranian-born Valerie Jarrett, the brainchild of the nuclear deal with Iran and one of Barack Obama's closest advisors. Jarret reportedly has moved into Obama's home in Washington, D.C. to lead a resistance movement against Trump's efforts to reverse his predecessor's foreign policies.
In an interview with The Hill, a Republican operative said of Powell:
"This is not who we voted for. The base voted for Trump and his policies. Not Gary Cohn's, not Dina Powell's. Not the left wing of the Democratic Party. This is a Republican White House. No one is questioning their competence, but there are a lot of questions about whether they are trying to pull away from Trump's agenda."
McFarland has been offered the post of U.S. ambassador to Singapore.
White House Coordinator for the Middle East
On July 27, McMaster fired retired Army Colonel Derek Harvey, Trump's top Middle East advisor. Harvey, who is fluent in Arabic and holds a Ph.D., served for more than two decades in the military and later joined the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). He has been described as an "out-of-the-box thinker who has shown a keen knack for identifying threats before they've matured."
The Weekly Standard reported that Harvey was "driving a more aggressive approach to Iran than that of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Sources tell TWS that Mattis, in particular, had disagreements with Harvey and that he raised the issue with National Security Adviser HR McMaster. McMaster met with Harvey this morning to deliver the news."
In May, Bloomberg reported that Harvey had compiled a list of Obama holdovers at the National Security Council who were suspected of leaking to the press. When Trump and Bannon pressed McMaster to fire those on the list, he refused, asserting his prerogative over personnel decisions.
In January, a month before McMaster was hired, Harvey was instrumental in pressing the U.S. State Department to reverse the Obama administration's last-minute $221 million payment to the Palestinian Authority.
Retired Army Gen. Jack Keane called Harvey "one of the finest intel analysts that I've ever encountered." Keane told NBC News he was "befuddled as to why he is being removed."
Harvey has been replaced by Michael Bell, another retired colonel with a Ph.D. He reportedly sees eye-to-eye with McMaster.
Bell, who served in the first Iraq war, was the lead writer for the 2006 National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism, the U.S.'s global military strategy in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The 40-page document does not once include the word jihad; it refers to the enemy only as "violent extremism" and "violent extremists." The document, in fact, repeatedly denies any link between terrorism and Islam. It states:
"The Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) is not a religious or cultural clash between Islam and the West, although our extremist enemies find it useful to characterize the war that way. These violent extremists see the U.S. and the West as primary obstacles to achieving their political ends."
A section called "Nature of the Enemy" states: "The primary enemy is a transnational movement of extremist organizations, networks and individuals — and their state and non-state supporters — which have in common that they exploit Islam and use terrorism for ideological ends."
Elsewhere the report states: "The belief that violent extremist efforts are harmful to the Islamic community, and contrary to the teachings of Islam, must come from within Islam itself."
In a February 20 Washington Post hit piece on Sebastian Gorka, one of President Trump's top counter-terrorism advisors, Bell accused Gorka of being an "uneven scholar" because of his belief that jihadism is rooted in Islam and the violent passages of the Koran. Bell, a former chancellor of the College of International Security Affairs (CISA), part of the Pentagon's National Defense University, said that Gorka's former supervisors had pushed him to incorporate other perspectives on Islam and to publish in peer-reviewed journals where his ideas would be challenged and perhaps tempered. Gorka insisted that he wasn't interested in that kind of scholarship, Bell said.
Senior Director for Israel and Palestinian Issues
On May 4, McMaster hired Kris Bauman to be the Trump administration's new senior advisor on Israel. Bauman's views on Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are indistinguishable from those of the Obama administration.
Bauman's first official function was to attend a reception honoring Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas — whose term of office expired eight years ago. Those in attendance included Martin Indyk, the Obama administration's special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, who has blamed Israel for the failure of peace talks. Indyk's chief of staff during the negotiations, Ilan Goldenberg, was also in attendance.
In September 2016, Bauman and Goldenberg published a document outlining "a security system for the two-state solution" based on "1967 borders with reciprocal swaps." The report was presumably prepared with the expectation that Hillary Clinton would win the presidential election and eventually implement the plan.
Trump, by contrast, has said that Israel must be allowed to maintain defensible borders; Israeli leaders have long insisted that the 1967 borders are militarily indefensible. It is safe to assume that Bauman will use his new position on the NSC to advocate for pressing Israel into making substantial territorial concessions to the Palestinians.
Investigative journalist Daniel Greenfield has reviewed Bauman's 320-page doctoral thesis on the Middle East peace process:
"In the hundreds of pages, Bauman makes occasional efforts to pretend that he's delving into the narratives of both sides, but his conclusion makes it painfully clear whose side he's on. Kris Bauman is eager to whitewash the Muslim Brotherhood terrorists of Hamas.... Bauman accuses, 'Israel and the Quartet refused to engage with Hamas and instead turned Gaza into an open-air prison.' This isn't even an anti-Israel position. It's Hamas propaganda....
"In Kris Bauman's twisted mind, the obstacle to peace isn't PLO and Hamas terrorism, but supporters of Israel in America. He favorably quotes Walt and Mearsheimer's anti-Semitic tract, The Israel Lobby. Bauman urges overcoming the 'Israel Lobby' which he claims 'is a force that must be reckoned with, but it is a force that can be reckoned with.
"Progress in the peace process requires that the United States apply diplomatic and economic pressure on Israel. And indeed, Bauman's recommendations mirrored the policy of Obama, Hillary and Kerry."
Greenfield also notes that Bauman's dissertation extensively quotes Robert Malley, an anti-Israel apologist for Hamas who was a key Middle East advisor to President Obama. In May, Conservative Review reported that Malley has continued to attend National Security Council meetings at the Trump White House, even while criticizing Trump's policies:
"So who is bringing Malley into these National Security Council meetings? Sources close to the situation say that much of the NSC professional staff still consists of holdovers from the Obama administration and that some of these holdovers served directly under Malley when he was a senior director at the NSC for the Middle East region."
On May 17, the Zionist Organization of America, one of the oldest and strongest pro-Israel groups in the United States, issued the following statement:
"The ZOA has asked General McMaster, Director of the National Security Council, to reconsider his appointment of new National Security Council advisor on Israel-Palestinian matters, pro-Hamas Kris Bauman. This Administration should be 'cleaning out the swamp' from proponents, architects, and protégés of the Obama administration's dangerous Middle East policies. Mr. Bauman's ideas are particularly dangerous."
Bauman replaces Yael Lempert, a controversial NSC staffer from the Obama White House who remained in her position during the first four months of the Trump administration. During that time, she reportedly "poisoned" Trump's mind by persuading him that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are to blame for the stalled peace negotiations.
In a February 10 interview with Israel Hayom, Trump surprised many when he adopted a harder line on settlements. "I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace," he said.
Analyst Lee Smith reported that, according to a former official in the Clinton administration, Lempert "is considered one of the harshest critics of Israel on the foreign policy far left." The source added:
"From her position on the Obama NSC, she helped manufacture crisis after crisis in a relentless effort to portray Israel negatively and diminish the breadth and depth of our alliance. Most Democrats in town know better than to let her manage Middle East affairs. It looks like the Trump administration has no idea who she is or how hostile she is to the U.S.-Israel relationship."
In June, Lempert, a career foreign service officer, was promoted to acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Egypt and the Maghreb at the U.S. State Department.
Senior Director for Intelligence Programs
On August 2, McMaster fired Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the NSC's senior director for intelligence programs, the main White House liaison to the intelligence agencies. McMaster had tried to fire Cohen-Watnick in March, but at the time he was overruled by Trump after an intervention by Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. It remains unclear why McMaster was not overruled again.
Cohen-Watnick, who was originally hired by Flynn, is a 31-year-old intelligence operative with the Defense Intelligence Agency. Conservative Review reported that he "sought to reform the intelligence community to rein in the 'deep state' of unaccountable bureaucrats with rogue agendas." Politico reported that Cohen-Watnick and Flynn "saw eye to eye about the failings of the CIA human intelligence operations," according to an operative who added: "The CIA saw him as a threat, so they tried to unseat him and replace him with an agency loyalist."
Cohen-Watnick, described as an "Iran hawk," advocated for the expansion of American efforts against Iran-backed militias in Syria. In June, the New York Times, citing multiple defense and intelligence officials, reported that Cohen-Watnick "wants to use American spies to help oust the Iranian government." According to the Guardian, he was accused of trying to "take responsibilities for certain covert programs away from the CIA."
In March, Cohen-Watnick gave Devin Nunes, a Republican congressman who was leading the House of Representative's Trump-Russia probe, intelligence reports showing the president and associates were surveilled by U.S. intelligence.
A profile by the Atlantic described Cohen-Watnick as a "true professional and most importantly he is incredibly loyal to the president and this administration."
McMaster reportedly wants to replace Cohen-Watnick with Linda Weissgold, a longtime CIA official. During the Obama administration, Weissgold, who served as director of the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis, was involved in creating a counter narrative about the jihadist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Journalist Michael Warren wrote:
"In her position at OTA, she was also involved directly in drafting the now infamous Benghazi talking points, which government officials revised heavily to include factually incorrect assessments that stated the attackers were prompted by protests. According to the House Select Committee on Benghazi's report, Weissgold testified she had changed one such talking point to say that extremists in Benghazi with ties to al-Qaeda had been involved in 'protests' in the Libyan city, despite the fact that no such protests occurred there on the day of the attack."
Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Planning
On July 21, McMaster fired Rich Higgins, a former Pentagon official who served in the NSC's strategic-planning office, after he argued in a memo that President Trump is under sustained attack from people both within and outside the government who are trying to defeat the president's nationalist agenda.
The Atlantic, published excerpts of the memo:
"Through the campaign, candidate Trump tapped into a deep vein of concern among many citizens that America is at risk and slipping away. Globalists and Islamists recognize that for their visions to succeed, America, both as an ideal and as a national and political identity, must be destroyed. ... Islamists ally with cultural Marxists because, as far back as the 1980s, they properly assessed that the left has a strong chance of reducing Western civilization to its benefit. Having co-opted post-modern narratives as critical points, Islamists will co-opt the movement in its entirety at some future point."
According to the Atlantic:
"Higgins had also "pushed for declassification of documents having to do with radical Islam and Iran," according to a source close to the White House. A source close to Higgins said that specifically, Higgins had been pushing for the declassification of Presidential Study Directive 11, a classified report produced in 2010 by the Obama administration which presaged the Arab Spring, outlining unrest throughout the Middle East."
PSD-11 reportedly remains classified because it reveals the Obama administration's "embarrassingly naïve and uninformed view of trends in the Middle East and North Africa region." In June 2014, Gulf News reported that as part of a Freedom of Information lawsuit, the U.S. State Department had released documents about the Obama administration's dealings with the Muslim Brotherhood:
"The President personally issued Presidential Study Directive 11 (PSD-11) in 2010, ordering an assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood and other 'political Islamist' movements, including the ruling AKP in Turkey, ultimately concluding that the United States should shift from its longstanding policy of supporting 'stability' in the Middle East and North Africa (that is, support for 'stable regimes' even if they were authoritarian), to a policy of backing 'moderate' Islamic political movements."
Before joining the NSC, Higgins had warned:
"National Security officials are prohibited from developing a factual understanding of Islamic threat doctrines, preferring instead to depend upon 5th column Muslim Brotherhood cultural advisors....
"The 'Islam has nothing to do with terrorism' narratives have effectively shut down the intelligence process for the war on terror in any meaningful sense. Sure, we CT officers could look at organizations and people and places, some of which had Islamic names, but we could never dig into the political and ideological reasons the enemy was attacking us — which is supposed to be the first order of business in any strategic threat assessment."
Senior Director for Strategic Assessments
On May 1, McMaster fired Adam Lovinger, a seasoned national security official, after his top-secret security clearance was abruptly suspended. Lovinger had been dispatched to the NSC from the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment (ONA) at Flynn's request.
Lovinger, an expert on South Asia, the Persian Gulf and sub-Saharan Africa, said he was fired for his hardline views on Iran, including his opposition to Obama's nuclear deal with Tehran.
His clearance was reportedly revoked "as part of a larger, behind-the-scenes effort by anti-Trump officials in the national security bureaucracy to neutralize key Trump aides."
Lovinger's attorney, Sean Bigley, said in a statement:
"Mr. Lovinger's security clearance has now been suspended for a month. Despite repeated requests, to-date (the Department of Defense) has failed to provide us with any factual basis for the absurd accusations made against Mr. Lovinger by known anti-Trump partisans. Mr. Lovinger is entitled to a prompt opportunity to prove these allegations for what they are: overt political retaliation."
Angelo Codevilla, a former senior official on the Senate Intelligence Committee, noted:
"The Trump administration is letting itself be played by the bureaucracy, which is managing to exercise a veto on who will represent Trump in government."
Senior Director for Africa: Cyril Sartor
On August 1, McMaster hired Cyril Sartor, a career CIA analyst, to fill the highest Africa position on the NSC. The decision was viewed as a victory for the CIA in its protracted battle with the White House over candidates.
In February, Robin Townley, the first nominee for the post, was denied the high level security clearance required for the job; the denial reportedly was an expression of the CIA's opposition to him. Townley, a former Marine intelligence officer close to Flynn, was a critic of the current intelligence structure and advocated for reform.
"The CIA did not want to deal with him," Angelo Codevilla, the intelligence expert, wrote in a column for the Washington Times. "Hence, it used the power to grant security clearances to tell the president to choose someone acceptable to the agency, though not so much to him." He added:
"If Mr. Trump does not fire forthwith the persons who thus took for themselves the prerogative that the American people had entrusted to him at the ballot box, chances are 100 percent that they will use that prerogative ever more frequently with regard to anyone else whom they regard as standing in the way of their preferred policies, as a threat to their reputation, or simply as partisan opponents."
In April, McMaster offered the position to Rudolph Atallah, a retired lieutenant colonel who served more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. In June, however, Atallah's job offer was rescinded, ostensibly due to delays in approving his security clearance. McMaster apparently believed that Atallah, a scholar on radical Islam in Africa, was overly-concerned with counterterrorism rather than other issues affecting the continent, including development assistance and human rights.
Sartor, one of the few senior-level African Americans in the intelligence community, has said little in public that offers a fuller picture of his analytical bent. In July 2016, however, he participated in a panel on terrorism at the Aspen Forum, where he claimed that jihadism in Africa is being fueled by socio-economic factors rather than the founding documents of Islam:
"Violent Islamic ideology is a foreign import to sub-Saharan Africa and as such it only thrives where it can co-opt local grievances. I sincerely believe the international community can defeat terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa with a robust mix of long-term development and security assistance."
Senior Director for Russia and Europe
On March 2, McMaster hired Fiona Hill as the senior director for Russia and Europe, a newly combined directorate that brings both regions under one chain of command. Hill, a Russia scholar at the Brookings Institution, has been a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During the campaign, Trump made better relations with Russia one of the central pillars of his foreign policy agenda. In a November 2016 interview with the Atlantic, however, Hill predicted that the U.S.-Russia relationship would remain tense: "Trump isn't exactly the most diplomatic of people, so I imagine he'll fall out with his new friend Vladimir pretty quickly."
Personnel is Policy
In January 2001, the Heritage Foundation published a report titled "Personnel Is Policy: Why the New President Must Take Control of the Executive Branch." The report, addressed to President-Elect George W. Bush, is even relevant for President Trump, a political neophyte:
"To be successful, the new President...must protect his right to select appointees based not only on their managerial prowess but also on their commitment to his policy agenda and their ability to advance, articulate, and defend it....
"It is often said, correctly, that personnel is policy. The nexus between personnel management and policy management is therefore crucial. Good policies cannot be advanced without good, capable, and committed personnel to formulate, implement, aggressively promote, and steadfastly defend them. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald W. Reagan were noteworthy in this respect for making strong and effective Cabinet appointments and solid White House staffing decisions. Reagan, in particular, demonstrated the value of having trusted 'lieutenants' in the policy and supporting roles of his Administration....
"The President's ultimate success will in large part depend on the degree of commitment to his agenda among the people he appoints to ensure its success.... The most important rule of presidential personnel management is to appoint people who are fully committed to the presidential agenda."
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.
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When truth is the first casualty
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/ArabNews/August 09/17
There is a symbiotic relationship between media in Iran and Qatar. They not only spread the narratives of their governments and paymasters, but they support each other’s arguments.
It is clear that Iran’s stated-owned media outlets, such as Kayhan, Hamshahri or Etala’at, strongly support Qatar’s position in the current Gulf crisis. Scant attention has been devoted, however, to the stance of Qatari media on the Iranian regime. Do they promote a specific narrative? To answer that question, let us examine the conduct of the major Qatar-funded network, Al Jazeera.
On the one hand, Al Jazeera claims to be an independent news organization that seeks the truth and promotes freedom of the press and of expression. It says it gives freedom to its journalists. But in relation to its reporting of the Arab world and the West, these claims appear to have already been debunked through formidable evidence and statements from former staff. Some describe Al Jazeera as practicing “politics, not journalism,” having a clear bias, being a “propaganda broadcaster” or orchestrating a specific agenda. Several former employees say they left Al Jazeera to retain their dignity.
Many have criticized Al Jazeera’s attempts to change the direction of politics in other countries in favor of Doha rather than the ordinary people of those nations. Its methods include leaning toward the Muslim Brotherhood, supporting Libya’s armed revolt and using softer language about terrorist groups such as Daesh, among others. In addition, according to the American Journalism Review, critics have pointed to Al Jazeera’s “anti-Semitic, anti-American bias in the channel’s news content.”
On Iran, Al Jazeera appears to tilt toward favoring the ruling clerical establishment rather than reporting the truth about the theocratic political establishment and the suffering of ordinary people. Al Jazeera backs the Iranian leaders’ arguments by supporting the nuclear deal and depicting it as “good for Middle East peace.” In fact, the deal encouraged the military adventurism of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the region, and it has made Tehran’s regime more belligerent.
Qatari media, including Al Jazeera, frequently invites commentators from Iran and around the world to promote the Iranian regime’s propaganda, while posing as “experts.” On Iran’s domestic politics, Al Jazeera has underreported discrimination and inequality. Of the Iranian people’s aspirations for freedom, liberty and social justice, Al Jazeera has yet to provide genuine and adequate reporting. It refrained from reporting this year on Iran’s largest gathering of opposition groups, “Free Iran,” while many other outlets extensively covered the issue.
The network also appears to play into the Iranian leaders’ narrative that there is a significant difference between Iran’s so-called moderates and hard-liners. It has projected President Hassan Rouhani’s re-election as a victory for Iranians and the world. Some criticize it for continuing to provide a platform for Iran’s militias, proxies and designated terrorist groups and their leaders, such as Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah.
Media outlets in Qatar and Iran publish all the news that’s fit to print — provided it furthers their countries’ agenda.
It is worth noting that giving a platform to Iran’s proxies and reporting in favor of Iran’s ruling clerics promotes extremist ideologies, radicalization and militarization, and destabilizes the region by facilitating recruitment for these groups.
As Dr. Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, has pointed out: “Freedom of expression cannot be used to justify and shield the promotion of extremist narratives.”
Why do Qatari state-owned media, specifically Al Jazeera, lean toward the Iranian regime? Partially, as I have written before, Doha views Tehran as a major geopolitical and ideological ally. Since Qatar’s foreign policy is in favor of Iran’s ruling clerics, its media appear to follow the same footsteps.
As the former Al Jazeera Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy told Bloomberg: “The more the network coordinates and takes directions from the government, the more it becomes a mouthpiece for Qatari intelligence. There are many channels that are biased, but this is past bias. Now Al Jazeera is a voice for terrorists. It has breached the true meaning of press freedom that I advocate and respect. If Al Jazeera continues to do that, they are directly responsible for many of these lone wolves, many of these youth who are brainwashed.”
It is incumbent on the international community to take concrete action through the application of international law to counter Iran and Qatar media, particularly Al Jazeera, which appear to operate under the cover of freedom of expression.
As Dr. Gargash wrote to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: “While the protection of the right of freedom of expression is of fundamental importance, this protection is not absolute, and restrictions on the right are permitted under international law to protect national security and public order.”
Iran and Qatar media, specifically Al Jazeera, should halt their attempts to buttress arguments and narratives that the Qatari leaders, the Iranian regime and its agents promote. Al Jazeera could have used its large audience to report on the truth independently, and change the world in a positive direction. Instead, unfortunately, similar to the Iranian regime’s media outlets, it appears to have chosen to be another state-owned media corporation that tries to satisfy the demands of its paymasters. It helps to achieve Qatar’s and Iran’s foreign policy objectives rather than assist ordinary people to acquire the truth.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh