August 16/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 12/32-34/:"‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

It is about the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today

Acts of the Apostles 24,01-2a.05-06.09-13.17-21/:"Five days later the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and an attorney, a certain Tertullus, and they reported their case against Paul to the governor. When Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying: ‘Your Excellency, because of you we have long enjoyed peace, and reforms have been made for this people because of your foresight. We have, in fact, found this man a pestilent fellow, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, and so we seized him. The Jews also joined in the charge by asserting that all this was true. When the governor motioned to him to speak, Paul replied: ‘I cheerfully make my defence, knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation. As you can find out, it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem. They did not find me disputing with anyone in the temple or stirring up a crowd either in the synagogues or throughout the city. Neither can they prove to you the charge that they now bring against me. Now after some years I came to bring alms to my nation and to offer sacrifices.
While I was doing this, they found me in the temple, completing the rite of purification, without any crowd or disturbance. But there were some Jews from Asia they ought to be here before you to make an accusation, if they have anything against me. Or let these men here tell what crime they had found when I stood before the council, unless it was this one sentence that I called out while standing before them, "It is about the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today." ’"

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 15-16/17
Total impotence/Roger Bejjani/Face Book/August 15/17
Better for Qatar to know how to lose/Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya/August 15/17
The winner and loser in Qatar standoff/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/August 15/17
Rejection of Muslim Brotherhood by popular consent/Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/August 15/17
Softening up a hard Brexit or a hard-hard exit/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/August 15/17
The Real Lessons from Charlottesville/Ruthie Blum/Gatestone Institute/August 15/17
Palestinians: The Honeymoon with the US is Over/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/August 15/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on August 15-16/17
Total impotence
Israeli Official 'Warns' Lebanon Over Nasrallah's 'Threat'
Three Lebanese Among 18 Dead in Burkina Faso Restaurant Attack
Berri Condemns Burkina Faso Attack, Calls for 'Global War' against Terrorism
Army Scores Direct Hits on IS Posts in Ras Baalbek
Jumblat Says Govt. Must Stop Squandering Before Approving Wage Scale, Budget
Lebanon War Adoptees Abroad Dig to Unearth Roots
Qabalan, Bukhari convene with talks touching on preparations for Saudi pilgrimage season
Rahi: We pray for the President's approval of a salary scale law that is fair for all
Berri condemns Burkina Faso terrorist attack
Berri offers condolences to Sierra Leone's President over flood victims
Riachi denies circulated news of NNA Director's dismissal
Army renews shelling of Daesh locations in Ras Baalbek, Qaa outskirts
Army pounds Ras Baalbek intermittently
Army: Explosive belts, bomb shells and unidentified body found in Wadi Hmayd
Hezbollah condemns Burkina Faso crime, calls for necessary measures to followup on Lebanese martyrs issue
US Delivers Fighting Vehicles to the Lebanese Army

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 15-16/17
Qatar Reduces Funding to Syrian National Coalition
Jets Pound Iraq’s ISIS-Held Tal Afar ahead of Ground Assault
Lavrov, Haftar: Mediation Efforts in Libya Should Come through the UN
Saudi Arabia Wants to Open an Embassy in Najaf, Iraq
Several Dead as UN Bases Attacked in Mali
Iran Chief of Staff in Turkey for Talks on Syria, Iraq
Conflicts in Syria, Iraq Far From over Despite IS Setbacks
Iran Says Can Quit Nuclear Deal if US Keeps Adding Sanctions
Damascus International Fair Makes Return after 5-Year Hiatus
British Inflation Steadies as Brexit Impact Fades
Some Quick Facts on Venezuela's Dire Economy
US Navy: Iranian provocation ‘creates unnecessary risk of escalation’
Saudi Crown Prince discusses anti-ISIS efforts with Trump envoy
Indian intelligence says Qatar-backed groups linked to terrorism

Latest Lebanese Related News published on August 15-16/17
Total impotence
Roger Bejjani/Face Book/August 15/17
*With the total impotence of the LF and Mustaqbal facing Hezbollah's hegemony, a new multi-confessional (secular) leadership should rise and lead Lebanese in a revolt (pacific) against the Islamic Iranian Republic occupation and any attempt of bringing back Assad to Lebanon.
*Why are people surprised and outraged that Hajj Hassan and maybe other HeZb vassals will visit Syria? HeZbollah has an Army in Syria fighting for Assad since 2013. In fact Hezbollah army has caused the 1.3 million refugees Lebanon is enduring.
*I agree with that bitch. Freedom of expression must be sacred. For that I expressed my solidarity with her and expressed my contempt for her wrongful arrest. That said, and now that she is free, this little vermin applauds every day for arrests against Syrians and their executions. She also applauded the assassination of an elected Lebanese President. She has Even threatened by elected officials and ministers of death, being a member of a terrorist party/Militia and assassin. The positions of this little piece of shit and his shitty party about freedom of speech have no credibility.

Israeli Official 'Warns' Lebanon Over Nasrallah's 'Threat'
Associated Press/Naharnet/August 15/17/Israel's education minister “warned Lebanon” following what he described as “threats” by Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Naftali Bennett, a member of Israel's security cabinet, said any future attack by Hizbullah would be considered a "declaration of war by the Lebanese state" as a whole. He said Israel won't operate "surgically" in the next war with Hizbullah. Bennett's remarks to Army Radio follow Nasrallah's threat Sunday to crush any Israeli force that enters Lebanon.Israel and Hizbullah fought a month-long war in 2006. Hizbullah fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli communities, while Israel bombed targets in southern Lebanon. About 1,200 Lebanese died, most of them civilians, as well as 44 Israeli civilians and 121 soldiers. Today, the two neighboring countries remain technically at war.

Three Lebanese Among 18 Dead in Burkina Faso Restaurant Attack
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 15/17/Three Lebanese nationals were among the victims of the terrorist attack that targeted a Turkish restaurant in Burkina Faso on Monday and left 18 individuals dead, Lebanon's authorities said. Lebanon's Foreign Ministry identified in a statement the victims as Ahmed al-Beli, Mohsen Fneish and his Canadian wife who was pregnant at the time. The three were killed in a counter-assault between the terrorists and the security forces in Borkina Faso. In its statement, the Foreign Ministry confirmed that "it is following up, with the authorities in Burkina Faso, the necessary procedures for transporting the bodies to Lebanon.” Eighteen people, including at least eight foreigners were shot dead in a Turkish restaurant in Burkina Faso on Monday, in the latest attack in West Africa to target a spot popular with expatriates. There has been no claim of responsibility for Sunday night's attack at the Aziz Istanbul restaurant, which was often packed with foreign nationals who went there to watch football. Two attackers were killed by security forces in a counter-assault that left the streets echoing with gunfire until morning. Five members of the security forces were among 22 people wounded, prosecutor Maiza Sereme said. Foreign Minister Alpha Barry told AFP the "terrorist" attack in the capital Ouagadougou killed seven locals and at least eight foreigners including a Frenchman, a Canadian woman, two Kuwaiti women and male victims from Senegal, Niger, Lebanon and Turkey. Three others have yet to be identified, Sereme said.Separately, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said two Canadians were among the casualties. "They started shooting on the terrace. We climbed up the stairs and lay on the ground. The attackers came and pointed their guns at us," said one survivor, interviewed in hospital on national television. "I didn't understand their language, it might have been Arabic."
The restaurant is just 200 meters (yards) from a hotel and cafe targeted in an assault in January 2016 that left 30 people dead and 71 wounded, many of them foreigners. That attack was claimed by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Sereme said the dead attackers were "very young". "They arrived at the scene of the crime on a motorbike," she told a press conference. "Each of the terrorists was armed with an AK47. We found many cartridge clips at the scene, some of them empty and some of them still full."Forty people were freed in the counter-assault by security forces, she said. At nightfall on Monday, a crowd of about a hundred gathered behind barricades about 300 metres from the restaurant, whose windows were smashed and whose ochre two-storey front showed signs of a gunfight. "I feel deeply moved, it's something that goes right to the heart," said Yacouba Rabo, a 28-year-old physical education student. "These are human beings who have been mown down."
Jean Bosco Bossou, a 23-year-old student, said, "The forces of evil have struck. Our people are above this -- we will always meet the challenge."- 'Despicable' -President Roch Marc Christian Kabore condemned the shooting as "a despicable attack that has Ouagadougou in mourning". The attack is the latest in the region targeting spots popular with foreigners and locals alike. Last year's assault on the Splendid hotel and Cappuccino restaurant, down the road from the Aziz Istanbul, came after jihadists claimed an attack on a hotel in the capital of neighbouring Mali that killed 20 people. And in March last year 19 people were killed when gunmen stormed the Ivory Coast beach resort of Grand-Bassam, an attack also claimed by AQIM. In Burkina Faso, a dozen soldiers were killed in December in an assault on a base in the north of the country. An Australian and a Romanian, abducted in Burkina Faso in 2015, are still being held hostage by Qaeda-affiliated Islamists. Sean Smith, senior Africa analyst at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said the restaurant attack "illustrates that the threat of terrorism now looms over most of the Sahel region". "While most attacks in Burkina Faso remain confined to the remote northern regions that border Mali, this incident reiterates that Islamists also have the ability to strike at will in the capital."
- Calls to back anti-terror force -French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Kabore, his office said, condemning the "terrorist attack" in the former French colony and stressing the "urgent need" to speed up the launch of a five-country anti-jihadist force in the Sahel. France has its own Barkhane anti-jihadist operation in the region and has been pushing efforts to set up the 5,000-member force, manned by Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, by October.
African Union chief Alpha Conde said the attack "shows the importance of bringing the force into operation" and called on the European Union to find the estimated 400 million euros ($471 million) of extra funding needed.

Berri Condemns Burkina Faso Attack, Calls for 'Global War' against Terrorism
Naharnet/August 15/17/Speaker Nabih Berri on Tuesday, condemned the terrorist attack in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou late Sunday, that killed 18 individuals including 3 Lebanese, the National News Agency reported. Berri expressed his deep condolences and sorrow for “all victims from all nationalities, especially those of Lebanese origin who carried their dreams and hopes from the south and north of Lebanon in search of job prospects and a decent life abroad,” he said on a statement issued by his media office. He also called for "a comprehensive global war against terrorism and to establish an international operating room under the supervision of the United Nations, in order to eradicate terrorism and drain its resources."

Army Scores Direct Hits on IS Posts in Ras Baalbek
Associated Press/Naharnet/August 15/17/The Lebanese Army shelled with heavy artillery the posts of the Islamic State militant group on the outskirts of Ras Baalbek scoring direct hits, the National News Agency reported on Tuesday. Using rocket launchers the army bombarded the area of Khirbet Daoud, NNA said. The army has been targeting the positions of IS militants as it gears-up for a long-awaited assault to dislodge hundreds of militants from a remote corner near Syrian border. The country is seeking to end a years-long threat posed to neighboring towns and villages by the extremists. The planned operation follows a six-day military offensive by Hizbullah that forced al-Qaida-linked fighters to flee the area on the outskirts of the town of Arsal, along with thousands of civilians.

Jumblat Says Govt. Must Stop Squandering Before Approving Wage Scale, Budget
Naharnet/August 15/17/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat took to Twitter on Tuesday listing a number of measures that he said if applied by the Lebanese government would help the country get out of its “recession” or prevent it from “falling.”“Before (deciding on) the wage scale or state budget, you should first deal with the huge squandering as mentioned in (Lebanese daily) Ad Diyar. You should also stop the electricity and telecommunication projects,” said Jumblat is a tweet. An electricity plan to lease power generating ships to cover for the power shortage in Lebanon was criticized by several political parties. The MP also said the government must “stop aid for state-funded free schools and education allowances for civilians and military personnel,” which he said is affecting the public schools.The MP criticized the privileges given to some army “divisions at the expense of others,” and said the “number of officers outnumber those in the Korean army but without any use.”He also called for the amendment of the retirement law.

Lebanon War Adoptees Abroad Dig to Unearth Roots
Dida Guigan was just two weeks old when she was whisked out of war-torn Beirut by her new parents, one of thousands of children adopted internationally during Lebanon's civil war. She spent nine years looking for her Lebanese birth mother, only to find her living an hour away from the Swiss village where Guigan was raised by her adoptive family. The process of tracing her birth mother is one that many of those adopted abroad during Lebanon's 1975-1990 war have started. But such searches are often complicated by reams of false paperwork and secrets that many people would prefer remain buried. Zeina Allouche, co-founder of the Badael-Alternatives NGO, estimates that at least 10,000 Lebanese children were adopted during the war. International adoption began before Lebanon's conflict but ballooned during the war, with middle men and local officials aiding the process by producing falsified paperwork, often for a fee.
"It was easy," Allouche told AFP.
"It was a gang time: no laws, no safety, and there was a kind of complicity because people thought this was a good way to save kids."Guigan's adoptive parents collected her in 1984 and she grew up mostly in Switzerland, knowing she was adopted but with no information on her birth family. When she was 18, her adoptive parents gave her a file including a "certificate of abandonment" from her birth mother. "This is where I got very lucky -- her real name was on it," she said. It was a lead, and more than many adoptees begin with, but it still took Guigan nine years, multiple trips to Beirut, and the help of a Lebanese television crew to find her mother. - 'Delicate and taboo' -"I really didn't believe that this could still be possible in this life," she said. "I did a lot of internal work to prepare myself for the worst. So meeting her and knowing she's alive... was one of the most beautiful experiences I've had." Sophie, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, was adopted by a couple living in France in 1966, before the war, and began her search in her 40s. "I felt the need to fill a profound void, to know the story of my birth," she told AFP. Armed with her mother's name, she went to Lebanon to research her roots but encountered resistance. People told her "'You already have a family there! You were lucky to leave here!'," she said. "They didn't understand why I was looking and it seems to me the subject remains delicate and taboo in Lebanon." Allouche said many adoptees encountered similar responses. Some were completely rejected by birth families seeking to avoid the perception of scandal. Badael tries to help in various ways, including the online listings that contain fragments of identifying information, and advice on search methods such as DNA analysis. That was how Sophie finally found her biological mother: DNA tests with several online companies uncovered a first cousin, who she searched for on Facebook.
That led her to another first cousin who was "completely aware of my existence", she said. "His father, my uncle, had helped my mother search for me after my birth and in the years that followed."She learned that her mother had emigrated to Australia and they are now communicating through Sophie's half-sister.
"I'm relieved and so happy to have finally found her," she said. She has become a strong proponent of DNA analysis and hopes more birth mothers seeking their children begin using it.- 'Some kind of closure' -Many wartime adoptions were facilitated by diaspora Lebanese. Terri's adoptive parents turned to a colleague whose mother was living in Lebanon. "They asked, and she just miraculously found a baby waiting," he said. Ten-month-old Terri left Lebanon in 1988, and as a child often wondered about his birth and adoption. "I didn't know what a war was, so I just imagined a big room full of people fighting, and this baby on the floor."He is desperate to trace his birth mother but has few leads, including a document saying he was abandoned on the doorstep of the Sayidet al-Maunat hospital in Byblos, north of Beirut. A trip to Lebanon proved fruitless, but tests through the DNA analysis site 23andme revealed a first cousin.
"That's the closest blood relative I've heard of. But he's not really interested in giving me information. He just kind of wished me good luck."Terri's search is complicated by the fact that he is transgender, having been assigned female at birth but transitioning to male in his 20s.
Badael has registered 2,700 children adopted from Lebanon in its database, and a handful of mothers seeking their children. Allouche said adoptions decreased after Lebanon's war ended, but the numbers are rising again with the conflict in neighbouring Syria, which has displaced millions. "I was contacted personally because they thought we could facilitate adoption of Syrian refugees," she said. She expects Syrians adopted during their country's war will one day undertake the same search as people like Terri, who is still hoping to find his birth mother.
"I feel like there's a blood connection that might be unbreakable and strong... I would really love to meet the person who gave birth to me," he said.
"It would be some kind of closure."

Qabalan, Bukhari convene with talks touching on preparations for Saudi pilgrimage season
Tue 15 Aug 2017 /NNA - Supreme Islamic Shiite Council Head, Sheikh Abdul-Amir Qabalan, conferred Tuesday with Saudi Charge d'Affaires, Walid al-Bukhari, over the Kingdom's preparations for the Hajj season. Qabalan also touched on the situation in the Eastern and Awamiyah regions, stressing that "the Saudi Kingdom should exercise a patriarchal role towards its entire people."He urged Saudi officials to "reassess what is going on in Bahrain and stop the destructive war in Yemen, based on the Saudi vision of openness towards the Arab depth and Islamic nation."Moreover, Qabalan highlighted the need "to initiate reconciliation with all sides, playing a leading role in bringing the Arab and Islamic nation together."Al-Bukhari, in turn, expressed his support for the Imam's vision that "emphasizes Arab and Islamic unity and goodness for its people."

Rahi: We pray for the President's approval of a salary scale law that is fair for all
Tue 15 Aug 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi, raised prayers on Tuesday that the President of the Republic would be inspired to endorse the wage grid law that would be fair and equitable to all. Rahi, who presided a Mass service on the occasion of Virgin Mary's Assumption Day in Diman, deemed that "no society can live happily without moral and spiritual values, which guide its legislative, procedural, administrative and judicial actions at the level of public affairs."

Berri condemns Burkina Faso terrorist attack
Tue 15 Aug 2017/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, on Tuesday, condemned the terrorist attack in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou late Sunday, resulting in the death of 18 people and dozens injured, including 3 Lebanese nationals. In a statement issued by the Speaker's media bureau, Berri expressed his deep condolences and sorrow for all victims from all nationalities, especially those of Lebanese origin who carried their dreams and hopes from the south and north of Lebanon in search of job prospects and a decent life abroad. Berri also called for "a comprehensive global war against terrorism and to establish an international operating room under the supervision of the United Nations, in order to eradicate the movement of terrorism and drain its resources."

Berri offers condolences to Sierra Leone's President over flood victims
Tue 15 Aug 2017/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, cabled Tuesday Sierra Leone's President, Ernest Koroma, expressing deepest condolences for the fallen victims in wake of the floods that hit parts of Freetown.He also sent a similar cable to House Speaker, Chico Padara Pasheiro Domboya.

Riachi denies circulated news of NNA Director's dismissal
Tue 15 Aug 2017/NNA - Information Minister, Melhem Riachi, denied in an interview to "MTV" Channel on Tuesday the recently circulated news about the dismissal of National News Agency Director, Laure Sleiman. "She is exercising her functions as usual," stressed Riachi, considering the spreading news as "mere groundless rumors."

Army renews shelling of Daesh locations in Ras Baalbek, Qaa outskirts
Tue 15 Aug 2017/NNA - Lebanese Army units have resumed bombarding Daesh locations in the outskirts of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa, NNA correspondent in Hermel reported Tuesday evening.

Army pounds Ras Baalbek intermittently
Tue 15 Aug 2017/NNA - Lebanese Army units are currently targeting Ras Baalbek with intermittent artillery fire, NNA correspondent in Hermel reported Tuesday.

Army: Explosive belts, bomb shells and unidentified body found in Wadi Hmayd
Tue 15 Aug 2017/NNA - Lebanese Army units advanced this morning in the areas of Mrah al-Sheikh, Ajram and Wadi Hmayd in the region of Arsal's outskirts, as part of the Army's ongoing tightening on terrorist groups in the towns of Baalbek and al-Qaa, whereby a number of explosive belts, bombs shells, booby traps and the body of an unknown person were detected, an Army communiqué indicated on Tuesday.

Hezbollah condemns Burkina Faso crime, calls for necessary measures to followup on Lebanese martyrs issue
Tue 15 Aug 2017/NNA - In a statement issued by Hezbollah Party on Tuesday, it condemned the terrorist crime committed by Daesh gangs against the city of Burkina Faso, which led to the martyrdom and wounding of dozens of innocent civilians, while calling on the Lebanese government "to take all necessary measures to follow-up on this matter from its political and social aspects."The Party statement also urged "all scholars, scientists, intellectuals, international institutions and concerned governments to work hard to prevent the spread of this deadly plague affecting the world."The statement concluded by expressing deepest condolences to the families of the Lebanese fallen martyrs, asking the Lord Almighty to grant them patience and solace to cope with their loss.

US Delivers Fighting Vehicles to the Lebanese Army
Asharq Al-Awsat/August 15/17/Beirut- US Ambassador to Beirut Elizabeth Richard reiterated on Monday America’s support for the Lebanese army “as the sole provider of security and stability to the Lebanese people,” stressing Washington’s long-term commitment to Lebanon. Richard spoke at Beirut Port during the delivery of Bradley Fighting Vehicles and armored field artillery ammunition supply vehicles to the Lebanese Armed Forces. “We are here at the Port of Beirut to mark the delivery of eight M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. These are the very first of a total shipment of 32 Bradleys that will be delivered in the coming months. This contribution to the Lebanese Armed Forces represents an investment of over 100 million dollars. It will provide the Lebanese Armed Forces with new capabilities to protect Lebanon, to protect its borders, and to fight terrorists,” the diplomat said. “Over the next several months, the Army will undergo intensive training on how to operate and maintain this new, very sophisticated combat system,” she stated. “Over the last few years, as you know, the United States has intensified its engagement and support to the Lebanese Army. I would just like you to review how in the past 12 months alone; the United States has provided the following defense articles to the Lebanese Army: 40 M198 howitzers, 50 armored Humvees, an Armed Cessna aircraft with hellfire missiles, 55 mortar systems, 50 Mark-19 automatic grenade launchers, 1,100 machine guns, including 800 50 caliber machine guns, 4,000 M4 rifles, over half a million rounds of ammunition, 320 night vision devices and thermal sights and 360 secure communication radios,” Richard added. The ambassador also stressed that the US support for Lebanon is based on the shared interests of the American people and the Lebanese people. “Our support is based on the principle that we share the same goals for stability and security in this country, and we share the view that the Lebanese Armed Forces need to maintain their rightful place as the sole provider of security and stability to the Lebanese people.” “On behalf of the American people, I am pleased to once again demonstrate our long-term commitment to Lebanon, and our support long term to the Army – and only the army – as it fights terrorism and defends the borders of this country,” she added.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
August 15-16/17
Qatar Reduces Funding to Syrian National Coalition
Asharq Al-Awsat/August 15/17/Beirut, London- Qatar has decided to reduce its funding to the “Syrian National Coalition,” a move that forced the group to conduct some changes in its accounts and in the financing of its offices and to push employees to work as volunteers, Syrian opposition sources said on Monday. Doha previously sent a monthly sum of around $300,000 to a bank account in Turkey. This sum then decreased to an amount ranging between $230,000 to 270,000, according to a Syrian opposition source. The source said that following the election of Riad Seif as the new head of the Coalition, Qatar sent an amount that was sufficient for only one month, later bringing its financial support to a standstill or to the brink of one. The Coalition tackled the recent “financial crisis” in several meetings held in Turkey, and decided to drop the number of its employees outside the country, encouraging others to work as volunteers. In a statement issued on Monday, the Coalition said the group did not ask the French government to close its offices in the country, adding that the SNC representatives in France were operating normally and were in continuous contact with both the French foreign ministry and the presidency. Meanwhile, Saraya Ahl al-Sham militants left on Monday Lebanon’s Jurud Arsal to east Qalamoun in the countryside of Damascus. Their deportation was previously halted when Damascus insisted that they move in buses and not private cars, a condition that Ahl al-Sham militants later accepted.
A communiqué issued by Lebanon’s General Security said that 34 buses transporting hundreds of gunmen and their families left Lebanon towards the Syrian territories. The evacuation of militants from Jurud Arsal paves the way for the Lebanese Army and “Hezbollah” to control the area, and trigger the battle against ISIS in the Jurud of Ras Baalbak and Qaa on Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria.

Jets Pound Iraq’s ISIS-Held Tal Afar ahead of Ground Assault

Asharq Al-Awsat/August 15/17/Iraqi and coalition warplanes carried out air strikes Tuesday against ISIS targets in Tal Afar in preparation for a ground offensive to retake the northern town near the Syrian border, Iraq’s military said. “Preparations are under way pending instructions from the commander in chief (Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi)” for the launch of the assault, said a spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Operation Command (JOC). Although the main offensive to retake Tal Afar had not yet begun, the air force was pounding militant positions in the town, the spokesman, Yahiya Rassul, said. A series of airstrikes this week targeted ISIS headquarters, tunnels and weapons’ stores, Iraq’s air force commander Lt. Gen. Anwar Hama told The Associated Press. Tal Afar is the main remaining ISIS stronghold in northern Iraq, after the capture by Iraqi forces in July of second city Mosul further east in a major blow to the terrorist group. Plans to retake Tal Afar were announced on Monday by federal police chief Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat, who said “armored and elite units” were headed for the town. The units, whose number has not been specified, were “regrouping in combat positions in preparation for the next battle,” he said in a statement. Joining them are the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), whose “commanders met Saturday with army and police commanders to decide on the plan to free Tal Afar,” spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi said. Abadi is expected to announce the launch of the ground assault but there are no indications on when it is due to start. ISIS overran Tal Afar in June 2014, when it had a population of around 200,000. Since April, the United Nations says some 49,000 people have fled the Tal Afar district. Families who have escaped across front lines describe dire humanitarian conditions inside the town, with water and food supplies dwindling. According to the UN, over the course of the nine-month operation to retake Mosul and surrounding villages, nearly a million people were displaced.

Lavrov, Haftar: Mediation Efforts in Libya Should Come through the UN

Moscow– Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the situation in Libya with Libyan National Army Commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar currently on official visit to Russia. Both officials reiterated that all mediation efforts in Libya should be carried out via the UN.Haftar stated that he is seeking military aid from Russia to Libyan forces fighting terrorists and extremists. He said the issue of potential Russian military aid to Libya was discussed with Lavrov, adding that Russia is a “good friend” of Libya. He reiterated his intentions to further develop relations with Moscow in various fields, hailing its position concerning the Libyan crisis. “The outcome of the talks is very positive. We briefed [Lavrov] on our problems, described the picture in whole. Naturally, Russian side considers how it can participate in the search for the required decisions. We’d be delighted, if Russia continues to participate in this work,” Haftar told journalists after the meeting with Lavrov. He also stated that the Libyan army is doing its best to fight terrorism and has been making sacrifices for the past three years despite unfair sanctions on armament. Haftar, however, stated that his country is adamant on continuing its battle until the Libyan army is in control of all Libyan territories. When asked about the political process in Libya, Haftar said following requests from neighboring countries he initiated to meet with Prime Minister of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez Sarraj in Abu Dhabi, UAE, earlier this year. He explained that despite agreeing on several issues with Sarraj, the latter never committed to the deal. Last month, Haftar and Sarraj agreed on a plan to take Libya out of its crisis during anotehr meeting in France under the patronage of French President Emmanuel Macron. Russia has expressed its readiness to work toward achieving a successful political solution to the Libyan crisis, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday in the follow-up to the meeting between Lavrov and Haftar. “Russia’s continued readiness to further contribute to the successful advancement of the political process in Libya in contact with all of Libya’s sides was confirmed,” the statement said. Russia underscored the importance of continued inclusive intra-Libyan dialogue with the participation of the representatives of all major political powers, tribal groups and regions of the country to reach mutually acceptable decisions, aimed at ensuring the sustainable development of Libya as a united, sovereign and independent state. Russia supports the intention of Commander Haftar to reach an agreement with Sarraj, Lavrov said.“We are aware of the efforts being made with your participation, with the participation of Sarraj, which are aimed at ensuring generally acceptable agreements on optimal ways of implementing the Skhirat agreement,” the FM told Haftar. He added that Moscow expects Special Representative and Head of UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Ghassan Saleme to visit Russia soon. Following the meeting with Lavrov, Haftar held talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. The talks focused “on the developments in North Africa and mainly the situation in Libya,” the Russian defense ministry said in a brief statement, noting that both sides emphasized the importance of continued bilateral dialogue. Russia is trying to communicate with all parties in Libya which would enable it to have a more influential role on the situation in the country. Earlier in March, Sarraj met with Lavrov who said that Russia wants to see Libya united, prosperous and supported by reliable state institutions and a capable army. Lavrov believed it is in the interests of the Libyans themselves that regional stability and promoting conditions are bolstered for the resumption of relations between Libya and all its partners, including Russia. “We are convinced that the current crisis can be overcome only by the Libyan people and all the Libyan parties through an inclusive, as is commonly said, nationwide dialogue aimed at reconciliation,” stated Lavrov. Sarraj reiterated the strong relations between Russia and Libya, saying he is keen on establishing relations political, economic, security and military fields. Prior to Haftar’s current visit to Russia, news reports stated that Sarraj might simultaneously arrive in Moscow. Head of the Russian contact group on the settlement in Libya Lev Dingov said that both Haftar and Sarraj will visit Moscow on Monday. But the news was soon denied by the ministry which said that only the LNA chief would be visiting.

Saudi Arabia Wants to Open an Embassy in Najaf, Iraq
Asharq Al-Awsat/August 15/17/Arar– Saudi Arabia could open a new embassy in Najaf, Iraq, within the upcoming four months at the latest, according to Charge d’Affaires of Saudi Embassy in Iraq Abdulaziz al-Shammari. Shammari stated that the Saudi-Iraqi openness will reflect positively on people of both countries and achieve development and stability which will lead to establishing stability in Iraq. Shammari comments came following his visit with Iraqi ambassador in Riyadh Rashidi Mahmoud al-Ani to al-Jadidah Arar border crossing between Saudi Arabia and Iraq In preparation for the crossing’s inauguration. They toured the crossing facilities and talked to officials from both countries as well as Iraqi pilgrims. The two officials visited the Saudi Northern Borders Province and met its Governor Prince Faisal bin Khalid in his office. Iraqi embassy in Riyadh confirmed Sunday it had received an official request from Saudi foreign ministry to open a consulate in Najaf. Iraqi Ambassador said the move proves Saudi Arabia seeks to boost bilateral ties. Saudi Charge d’Affaires believes that the past period had taught both countries a lesson on the importance of maintaining strong relations. He stated that for 11 months in Baghdad, he witnessed the kindness and generosity of the Iraqi people. He blamed some media outlets for their attempts to harm the relations, but insisted that both countries are linked by blood and religion. Shammari said that over the past few months, several Iraqi ministers visited the Kingdom and the officials of both countries agreed on a lot of investments and projects that serve the two countries, and a memorandum of understanding on air transport was signed. When asked about the Arar border crossing, Shammari stated that the crossing is fully equipped to receive pilgrims, adding that it will be further developed in the near future to serve the trade movement between both countries, especially that it hadn’t been officially opened for 27 years. Next month, Baghdad will host an international conference which most of important Saudi companies will be part of, according to Shammari. The Charge d’Affaires also hailed the improved security in Iraq especially following the visit of Iraqi Interior Minister. He warned that the safety and security of Iraqi and Saudi citizens are “red lines” for both countries. Speaking about trade and economic exchange, Shammari stressed that Saudi products are wanted in Iraq, confirming that there will be further developments and “good news” next year. For his part, the Iraqi ambassador to the Kingdom hailed the opening of the crossing point and valued the services and facilities provided by the Kingdom to his country’s pilgrims. He also praised the medical services provided to pilgrims. According to statistics, over 8,500 Iraqi pilgrims had entered Saudi Arabia so far. Al-Ani confirmed that he received an official request from Saudi Arabia to open a new embassy in Najaf, adding that the request was welcomed by Iraqis. He also stated that they are currently working on opening Jamim point crossing in al-Salman district. The ambassador explained that recent developments in the strategic relations is a result of the meeting between Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi. Iraqi pilgrim Ali Nawwar, 63, stated that the services provided were exquisite. He stated that tribes and people of both countries are all united. He also praised and thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Several Dead as UN Bases Attacked in Mali
Asharq Al-Awsat/August 15/17/Gunmen attacked two United Nations bases in Mali on Monday, killing a peacekeeper, a contractor and seven Malians, the UN said. The Togolese peacekeeper and a Malian soldier were killed in an attack in the early morning in Douentza, in the central region of Mopti, according to a statement from the UN mission in the country, known by the acronym MINUSMA. Hours later, six men toting guns and grenades drove up to the entrance of the UN mission’s camp in Timbuktu in northwestern Mali, the UN announced in a separate statement. They opened fire on Malian UN security guards, killing five of them, as well as a policeman and a civilian contractor whose nationality was not specified, the UN said in a separate statement. A UN source told AFP six guards had been killed, but the statement said one was wounded but had not died. Two suspected militants were killed in the Douentza attack and six in Timbuktu. UN chief Antonio Guterres condemned the violence in a statement, stressing that attacks targeting UN peacekeepers “may constitute war crimes under international law”. The body’s 15-member Security Council urged Mali to investigate the incident and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Iran Chief of Staff in Turkey for Talks on Syria, Iraq

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 15/17/Iran's chief of staff arrived in Ankara Tuesday for "unprecedented" talks with Turkey's leadership reportedly aimed at narrowing differences on the Syria crisis and coordinating policy on Iraq. General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri is due to meet Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his three-day visit. He kicked off the visit by meeting his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar, the state-run Anadolu news agency said. Pro-government Turkish Daily Sabah quoted diplomatic sources as saying the visit was a "milestone" and would not have been possible unless both sides were willing to make deals on both Syria and Iraq. Iran's official IRNA news agency meanwhile described the visit as "unprecedented" in the history of bilateral relations. "This trip was necessary for better consultation and cooperation on various military and regional issues," Bagheri said in a statement to state Iranian broadcaster IRIB, citing border security and the fight against terror. Yet relations between overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim Turkey, a secular state, and the mainly Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran have on occasion been tense in the last years.Erdogan has sometimes lashed out at the rise of "Persian nationalism" in the region, especially in Iraq. Turkey and Iran lie on opposing sides of the Syrian conflict, with Erdogan seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad to end the war and Tehran, along with Moscow, his key remaining ally and backer. But Turkey and Russia have been cooperating more over Syria in recent months, helping to extract civilians from Aleppo and then co-sponsoring peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana. But with its anti-Assad rhetoric toned down, Ankara now appears especially concerned about the presence of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in the border area.Although an ally of the United States, the YPG is considered by Turkey as terror group and the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged a deadly three decade insurgency in the Turkish southeast. The rise of jihadists in the province of Idlib, neighbouring Turkey, has also alarmed Ankara, Moscow and Tehran. Both Turkey and Iran have substantial Kurdish minorities and they vehemently oppose a plan by Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to organise a vote on independence later this year. Turkey has begun building a "security wall" along part of its border with Iran, regional officials said this month, along the lines of a similar barrier on the Syrian border.

Conflicts in Syria, Iraq Far From over Despite IS Setbacks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 15/17/Despite the recapture of swathes of territory from the Islamic State group, the conflicts in Iraq and Syria are far from over as their governments face major political challenges, experts warn. In July the jihadists lost control of Iraq's second city Mosul in a major setback three years after declaring a "caliphate" straddling the two countries. Across the border around half of IS's de facto Syrian capital Raqa has been retaken by US-backed fighters.But divisions across political, religious and ethnic lines will again rise to the surface in Iraq after the extremist group is driven out of its last bastions, said Mathieu Guidere, an expert on jihadist organisations. A month before Iraq declared the liberation of Mosul, the country's autonomous Kurdish region announced plans to proceed with a referendum on statehood in September. The idea was not new but its timing was criticised by Baghdad, which opposes Kurdish independence, and by Washington, coming as it did with the anti-IS campaign still unfinished. Analysts said the referendum is one of the many challenges facing the Iraq government along with the presence of a Shiite paramilitary force in Sunni-majority areas and the fate of minorities such as the Yazidis. How the government deals with these thorny issues will determine whether it succeeds in a post-IS era, experts said. The jihadist group "is the illustration -- violent, long and complex -- of the dystrophy that reigns in Iraq", said Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, professor of international history at Geneva's Graduate Institue. - New Iraq 'covenant' -Ould Mohamedou advocates a "new national covenant" for Iraq that would allow the Shiite-dominated government to gain the trust of the Sunni population and other minorities, particularly in the northern Mosul region.
At the same time the government will also have to skilfully deal with the paramilitary Hashed al-Shaabi umbrella organisation which is dominated by Iran-backed Shiite militias. Some of the components within Hashed al-Shaabi, which battled IS in Iraq, have for years been sending fighters to support the Syrian regime in its conflict with various rebel groups. Even as leaders in both Iraq and Syria savour the setbacks inflicted by their forces on IS, they still need to examine the reasons that led to the formidable rise of the jihadist group. After declaring "victory over brutality and terrorism" in Mosul, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said there were "lessons to be learned" to ensure his country never again falls into the grip of IS. "Huge mistakes have been made," he said.  - 'Reorganisation, redeployment' -Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also faces huge challenges in the country's multi-sided war, despite his forces being backed by allies Russia, Iran and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah in the battle against jihadists and rebels. IS fighters are steadily losing chunks of Raqa to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed Arab-Kurdish alliance which broke into the northern city in June. A Russian-backed government offensive has also targeted IS forces in the central Syrian desert. Analysts said that if Raqa falls, the Kurdish fighters that dominate the SDF could clash with regime troops. Assad "does not want an autonomous administration" taking control of Raqa, said Syria expert and geographer Fabrice Balanche. Ould Mohamedou said the war in Syria "goes beyond the question of IS," having erupted six years ago with peaceful anti-government protests that were brutally put down by the regime. "In the name of the fight against Islamist terrorism, more and more Western governments have closed their eyes to the massacres perpetrated by the Syrian regime," he said. The war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people while millions more have been displaced in the two countries. Rebuilding infrastructure and restoring stability to allow the displaced to return home will be a massive challenge. The United Nations has said the level of destruction in Mosul alone is one of the largest and most complex challenges it has faced. Unless all these challenges are tackled, IS jihadists driven out of territory in Syria and Iraq could re-emerge as a more brutal and formidable force. For IS "the key words now are reorganisation and redeployment", said Guidere. Ould Mohamedou said that even if IS is defeated in Syria and Iraq "it will bounce back elsewhere and... with a new look".

Iran Says Can Quit Nuclear Deal if US Keeps Adding Sanctions
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 15/17/President Hassan Rouhani warned on Tuesday that Iran could abandon its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers within hours if the United States keeps on imposing new sanctions. In a speech to parliament, he also hit out at US counterpart Donald Trump saying that he had shown the world that Washington was "not a good partner". Rouhani's comments come with the nuclear deal under mounting pressure after Tehran carried out missile tests and strikes, and Washington imposed new sanctions -- with each accusing the other of violating the spirit of the agreement.
Rouhani warned that Iran was ready to walk out of the 2015 deal, which saw the lifting of most international sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme, if Washington persisted. "Those who try to return to the language of threats and sanctions are prisoners of their past delusions," he said in the televised address. "If they want to go back to that experience, definitely in a short time -- not weeks or months, but in the scale of hours and days -- we will return to our previous situation very much more stronger."He said Iran did prefer to stick with the nuclear deal, which he called "a model of victory for peace and diplomacy over war and unilateralism" but that this was not the "only option". Rouhani said Trump had shown he was an unreliable partner not just for Iran but for US allies. "In recent months, the world has witnessed that the US, in addition to its constant and repetitive breaking of its promises in the JCPOA (nuclear deal), has ignored several other global agreements and shown its allies that the US is neither a good partner nor a reliable negotiating party," he said. He highlighted Trump's decisions to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and international trade deals. Iran's parliament on Sunday approved more than half a billion dollars in funding for the country's missile programme and foreign operations of the elite Revolutionary Guards in response to the new US sanctions.
 'Wanted to nominate women' -Rouhani was addressing lawmakers as deliberations start over his new ministerial line-up, which must be approved by lawmakers in the coming days. The president, who started his second term a fortnight ago, has faced criticism from reformists over his elderly and all-male cabinet. "I wanted to nominate three women ministers but it did not happen," he said, without explaining why. "All ministers must use women in high-ranking positions... and especially female advisers and deputies," he added. Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate cleric, won a resounding re-election victory in May in large part due to the backing of reformists who supported his message of greater civil liberties and equality. Many felt let down by the lack of women ministers, saying he had bowed to pressure from the conservative religious establishment, although he did appoint two female vice presidents and a senior aide -- positions which do not require parliamentary approval. He defended his cabinet selections on Tuesday, and pointed to his choice for a new telecoms minister, 35-year-old Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, as "our first experience in choosing from the youth, someone who has grown up after the revolution".

Damascus International Fair Makes Return after 5-Year Hiatus
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 15/17/The Damascus International Fair, the top event on pre-war Syria's economic calendar, is making a comeback this week after a five-year absence with western companies among participants from 23 countries. Organisers say firms from Britain, France and Germany will exhibit their goods and services in a private capacity, with their countries having severed relations with President Bashar al-Assad's Syria. "Countries with a hostile attitude towards Syria have not been invited," Fares al-Kartally, the fair's general director, told AFP. "But at the same time we've not expressed reservations over any company expressing an interest in taking part in the fair either directly or through Syrian mediators," he said, without naming them. The Damascus trade fair, which dates back to 1954, making it the oldest in the Arab world, opens on Thursday and runs for 10 days. Its comeback has been made possible by "the return of calm and stability in most regions" of Syria, said Kartally. "We want this fair to signal the start of (the country's) reconstruction."The fair was last staged in the summer of 2011, just months after the outbreak of Syria's conflict, which the World Bank estimates has cost the Arab state as much as $226 billion in losses, or four times its annual pre-war GDP. Around 1,500 delegates are expected to attend, with 49 pavilions for different sectors ranging from the textile industry which was a mainstay of the Syrian economy before the war but has since been decimated, to the agricultural sector, according to organisers.

British Inflation Steadies as Brexit Impact Fades
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 15/17/Britain's annual inflation rate steadied in July, with an expected rise failing to materialise as the pound recovers from a Brexit-fuelled slump, official data showed Tuesday. The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) stood at 2.6 percent last month, the same level as June, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement. The ONS added that lower motor fuel costs offset rising prices for clothing, food and household goods. Analysts' consensus forecast had been for an increase to 2.7 percent. "The expected pick-up didn't happen," said Neil Wilson, analyst at trading firm ETX Capital. "The sterling exchange rate has stabilised, meaning far less pass-through from the weaker pound on the inflation rate. We're even getting to the stage in the year where the pound will be actually stronger than it was 12 months before, especially against the US dollar," Wilson said.
The CPI measure had surged in May to a four-year peak at 2.9 percent, as the Brexit-hit pound raised import costs. "It now looks quite possible inflation has peaked, and will fall back further in coming months," noted Hargreaves Lansdown economist Ben Brettell. "All this is good news for the consumer, as it helps alleviate the continuing squeeze on household finances, though pay is still shrinking in real terms for now."Wilson added that the data "cement the belief that a rate hike this year now looks highly unlikely" from the Bank of England.The ONS will on Wednesday publish its latest unemployment data, which are widely expected to show that wage growth has failed to keep pace with inflation.

Some Quick Facts on Venezuela's Dire Economy
Economy -The oil-exporting nation's 2016 gross domestic product is put at $333 billion by the IMF -- but that's calculated on the official currency exchange rate. If the current black market rate to the dollar were used, that number would be significantly less, as highlighted by Venezuelan analysts who speak of less than half that. The government hasn't released an official figure.The economy has been shrinking since 2014. Last year it contracted 10 percent. This year it is expected to decline another 7.4 percent, according to the IMF, which projected a further drop of 4.1 percent next year. Inflation this year is expected to soar above 700 percent, and by even more in 2018. Venezuela is almost totally dependent on oil. It accounts for 96 percent of exports and half of state revenue. Strict currency controls have been in place since 2003. The country ranks 166 out of 176 in Transparency International's table of perceived corruption.
Debt -Venezuela needs to borrow an estimated $25 billion to $35 billion a year, according to the World Bank. Debt by the government and the state-owned oil company PDVSA is estimated at over $100 billion, with annual debt servicing costs of around $10 billion. The government has $10 billion dollars in currency reserves -- almost all of it in the form of gold, which cannot be quickly converted. The government of President Nicolas Maduro has made sure to pay its bond maturities, diverting money that would otherwise be used to import needed food and medicine. - Oil -Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. PDVSA currently produces 1.9 million barrels per day (mbpd) of oil. That is sharply lower than the 2.6 mbpd last year. The company said its revenues last year dropped more than a third to $48 billion. Forty percent of that -- around 760,000 barrels a day -- is exported to the United States, its biggest customer. (Venezuela accounts for only eight percent of the oil the US imports, behind shipments from Canada and Saudi Arabia.) Around another 40 percent of Venezuelan oil exports is used to repay loans extended by China and Russia, according to analysts. Oil production has been declining over the past two years, because of reduced capital expenditure to replace old equipment and to boost lagging pressure in oil fields.

US Navy: Iranian provocation ‘creates unnecessary risk of escalation’
By Awad Mustafa Al Arabiya EnglishTuesday, 15 August 2017/Despite increasing Iranian provocation, the “US Navy will continue to operate as it always has”, a senior commander told Al Arabiya English. The latest of these provocations came on August 13 when an Iranian drone came within 300 meters of US fighters near the USS Nimitz, and only six days earlier, the Navy said an Iranian drone came within only 30 meters of an F-18 preparing to land on the carrier. Since January, Iranian forces were involved in 14 unsafe or unprofessional interactions, said Commander Bill Urban, spokesman for the US Naval Central Command (NAVCENT), in Bahrain. “The US Navy will continue to operate as it always has in the region; with professionalism and in accordance with widely accepted maritime rules and norms, grounded in international law. We expect the same from any nation’s professional maritime forces,” Cmdr Urban said in an emailed interview. Last year, Iranian maritime forces have engaged in 35 unsafe or unprofessional engagements. The US Navy’s chief of naval operations, Adm. John Richardson, last year suggested this could be the “new normal” with Iran. “This idea of competition at sea, what is the new normal, we have to be mindful that we don’t become complacent as things get steadily busier,” Richardson said. The provocations raise safety concerns and escalation, Cmdr Urban said. “This type of behavior is not in accordance with international maritime customs, norms and laws,” he said. “Each instance creates an unnecessary risk of escalation”. The majority of interactions involve the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, he said, “but we do, on occasion, have unsafe or unprofessional interactions with regular Iranian naval vessels”.
Incendiary Iran statements
While the NAVCENT spokesman played down the possibilities of conflict, the Iranians on the other hand have been incendiary in their statements since earlier this summer. The chief commander of the IRGC Navy warned in July that Iran’s enemies, particularly the United States, would suffer heavy losses in the Arabian Gulf if they showed any aggression against the Islamic Republic. “We have not spared even 24 hours to upgrade IRGC’s naval capabilities against enemies, particularly America,” Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said, adding that the IRGC Navy has considered the United States its primary enemy since the 1980s and has prepared to confront it. Admiral Fadavi, however, is currently facing one of the largest battle ships in the planet, the USS Nimitz. The supercarrier, which has been launched in 1972, is the lead ship in its class, the Nimitz class ships. The Nimitz not only is home to 90 aircraft, nine squadrons five of which are attack fleets, it is also equipped with PHALANX Close-In Weapons System Gatling guns designed to take out any approaching enemy vessel. “Fadavi’s remarks come at a time when US military officials increasingly complain about the IRGC Navy’s harassment of American naval assets in the Gulf,” said Ahmad Majidyar in an article authored for the Middle East Institute
“American officials warn that the IRGC Navy’s repeated provocations could lead to miscalculations and dangerous confrontations in the Gulf,” added Majidyar who is also the director of IranObserved Project at MEI. “As tension between Washington and Tehran over the latter’s ballistic missile program and support for terrorism is escalating, Iranian officials are also increasingly calling on – and at times threatening – the US military to leave the Middle East region”. On the potential for conflict, Cmdr Urban said: “We continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards and laws”. “There is a global standard for professional maritime conduct, and we expect all professional navies to act in accordance with those standards,” he added. “These unsafe engagements are more theatrical than anything and they represent no threat to either side,” Col Al Mereii told Al Arabiya English.
“The reason these engagements are publicized in the American media is to keep reminding the US public the reasons for the US presence in the region,” he said. Despite that, Al Mereii added, the Iranian forces are also using the opportunity to gather intelligence information as well as response times from the US forces present in the region. “Even the arrest last year of the US sailors by the Iranian forces was over blown as the officers were released shortly after their capture,” he added. Regardless of the provocations and actions, the Iranian threats have not disrupted maritime trade through the Gulf, which is key to the survival of both Iran and the Arabian Gulf nations. “Two of the primary purposes of forward deployed US naval forces are to preserve the free flow of commerce through international waterways and to deter potential adversaries and trans-national terrorists from attempting to affect or disrupt that flow,” Cmdr Urban explained. “We have not observed any adverse effect on the free flow of commerce throughout the region’s waterways”.

Saudi Crown Prince discusses anti-ISIS efforts with Trump envoy
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishTuesday, 15 August 2017/Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has met with the United States Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS Brett McGurk. During the meeting, both discussed latest developments in the Middle East and endeavors exerted in in the existing coordination between Saudi Arabia and the US within the Anti-ISIS International Coalition. “The reception was attended by Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi Ambassador to the US, Chief of the State Security Apparatus Lt. Gen. Abdulaziz Al-Huwairini, Chief of the General Intelligence Khalid Al-Hamdan and the Minister of State for the Arabian Gulf Affairs Thamer Al-Sabhan,” a statement on Saudi Press Agency (SPA) read. It was attended, also, from the US side by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Ratney, US Charge d’Affaires to Saudi Arabia Christopher Henzel.

Indian intelligence says Qatar-backed groups linked to terrorism
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishTuesday, 15 August 2017/The Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA) has announced that a large sum of money granted by Qatar to Malabar region in the southern state of Kerala, under the label of charity, has been distributed to agencies with links to terrorist groups. The regional Malayalam language Mathrubhumi newspaper website reported that the perpetrators of the attacks in Hyderabad and Bangalore had received financial assistance from an association in Kerala. Most of the non-governmental organizations that received the funds exist only on paper, and most of the staff of these organizations are being monitored for suspected involvement in recruitment of elements for ISIS group in Kashmir. The newspaper website pointed out that the main association has been active in the field of social services forn the past five years, and it was mainly used by the office owners to cover up for receiving these funds from Qatar.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on 
August 15-16/17
Better for Qatar to know how to lose
Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya/August 15/17
To know how to lose in politics is far more important than to know how to win. He who knows how to lose and learn from experience, prepares himself for a day when he shall win…. He needs to win against himself first.`Thus, intelligence lies in knowing the fact that it is far more significant to know how to lose than to know how to win. To know how to lose requires above all great intelligence and humility. In addition, it requires recognition of reality and before all else the ability to reconcile with it through perseverance. The Gulf crisis with Qatar has taken a long time and is likely to last longer. Therefore, as a Gulf Arab state that has a role to play in the development of Gulf societies, instead of miring them in petty and frivolous diatribes, Qatar needs to understand that it cannot win the battle against four countries that took the decision to boycott it on the 5th of last June, a date in time which elapsed two months ago.
It is time for Qatar to adopt a position in full cognizance of the fact that the boycotting countries are fully prepared to adhere to their stance no matter how long it takes. Most important of all, the four countries remain unwilling to yield to American pressure. It is time for Qatar to take cognizance of the fact that boycotting countries will adhere to their stance no matter how long it takes
Defying Obama
The proof of their resilience lies in the fact that Saudi Arabia and the UAE defied the United States under President Barack Obama and supported the process of proscribing the Muslim Brotherhood, which was apparently led by a president with a facetious and mawkish temperament named Mohammed Morsi.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates defied the US in 2013 and supported the popular uprising that led to the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood and their collapse. Earlier in 2011, Saudi Arabia militarily intervened in Bahrain when it felt that its security was threatened by Iran and the proxies it used in that small kingdom. Apart from the 13 demands, whose number some say has been reduced to six, the issue is primarily a political one. It simply boils down to one question: Can Qatar harmonize its relations with other GCC countries? The game was completely exposed in 2013 and 2014. There are two new additions to it now.
Difficult game
The first one is that no one in Qatar is capable of controlling the difficult game now and the second one is that Saudi Arabia now has a different leadership, which is no longer willing to make compromises. Buying an American or Italian weapon or a player like the Brazilian footballer Neymar and helping him join a well-known French team with a known owner may help Qatar.However, there are new and different variables that they have to deal with and adapt to presently, in addition of course to admitting that the issue is not limited to earning brownie points with Washington or with powers other than Washington; but pertains to the fact that can the Gulf and Egypt be threatened and intimidated by Turkey and Iran. Clearly, some humility is essential at this stage.

The winner and loser in Qatar standoff
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/August 15/17
You do not need a political or media expert to evaluate the situation and figure out the results of the Saudi, Emirati, Egyptian and Bahraini confrontation against Qatar as this is not a military battle or a complicated political affair. The first conclusion is that the crisis may prolong. It has been three months since the four countries boycotted Doha because they could no longer tolerate its hostile policy against them. These countries are serious about adhering to this line of action. Have they backed down on their decision nine weeks later? No. Qatar did not back down either. Diplomatic ties are still cut and embassies are still empty while Qatar is still prohibited from using Saudi land and air routes and from using the UAE, Saudi and Bahrain’s regional waters. Qatari government is under biggest pressure as it is hit by these decisions the most and there is no way in which it can punish any of these four states. The cost of the sanctions is high on Doha and we can see how it is making efforts to compensate for the absence of relations with these four countries, particularly in terms of their influence on its economic and social life.
Small economy
Doha seems surprised by the move against it. However, Qatar’s economy is small and the government can thus compensate the deficiencies. It is also trying to set up high-cost local and foreign alternatives to them. Qatar is capable of continuing to fund its stance for a high cost as long as it has excess funds and depends on current oil and gas revenues. However, its situation is still not normal as it will use plenty of its savings and it will all be at the expense of funding other military and political activities in the region. Just for the record, its bill is huge. The boycott besieged and exhausted Qatar has become weak in Syria, Libya and Iraq – the arenas which it viewed as part of its major activities. There are also unseen losses as a result of decreasing its credit rating in the banking sector. The crisis has repercussions on the cost of constructing facilities for the 2022 World Cup. This is in addition to shortage in foreign laborers as a result of fears across the world as Qatar has for the first time been categorized as a country in crisis in the region. Managing the crisis has not only been costly but it’s also a failure due to Qatar’s attitude as it’s being defiant and arrogant and acting like it’s the biggest and strongest state. It contacted the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and insisted to force the boycotting countries to allow it to use their air routes but the organization has repeatedly reminded Qatar that it’s not responsible for political disputes and cannot force anyone to open their air routers unless there is an emergency.
Acting out of arrogance
Other international organizations also conveyed the same message. Qatar then acted out of arrogance and transported its Qatar Airways passengers to other countries for a higher cost and faced losses just to prove that it’s capable of being steadfast! Qatar made a lot of efforts and sealed huge deals to get foreign governments to pressure the four countries to restore relations with it. Major countries such as the US, Germany, France, Britain and Italy tried to intervene in an attempt to lift sanctions off Qatar but they failed. The four countries now comfortably observe the disturbed Qatari government which has used all its political, media and financial weapons without forcing Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Cairo and Manama to take a single step back! The boycott besieged and exhausted Qatar in other places as Doha has become weak in Syria, Libya and Iraq – the arenas which it viewed as part of its major activity. Qatar has also become weaker than before when dealing with other states. It is keen on gaining the support of other countries or neutralizing them despite the cost and risks. It is also expediting the reconciliation pace with Iran.
The strategy
Qatar’s strategy while fighting this battle is to get the boycotting countries to back down. It does not want to respond to their demands. However, regardless of what it says or tries to do, in the end it will submit to most of these demands. It refuses to negotiate according to the set principles and requests but it wants negotiations without preconditions. The four countries do not have to negotiate though as they are completely comfortable with the current situation especially that they reversed the game against Qatar which exported problems and crises to them. Doha is now suffering a series of crises inflicted upon by these countries. Qatar paid hefty sums to convince other powers to stand by it and it depleted its media resources but no one stood by it against his own government. In the end, it will negotiate within the context of the six principles and it may back down from the rest of their formal expectations, such as holding negotiations in a neutral country. It could have done all this in the first week of the crisis and thus spared itself plenty of problems and embarrassment.

Rejection of Muslim Brotherhood by popular consent
Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/August 15/17
Since the beginning of the boycott of Qatar, we have observed significant events that would not have been witnessed had this historic and courageous decision not been taken.The decision has put an end to Qatari policies of creating confusion and sedition, support for terrorist entities and attempts to overthrow regimes in more than one Gulf country, which constitute merely the tip of an iceberg of Qatari policies, which had sprung after the coup of Hamad bin Khalifa against his father. Hamad bin Khalifa turned the stable state of Qatar into an international center for intelligence agencies, whose task was to support nefarious activities that firstly indulged his ego and aberrant ambitions, and then served to benefit Western institutions. Indeed the Obama-Muslim Brotherhood project dubbed as the ‘Arab Spring’, which has been supported by the Government of Hamad, is blatant proof of all the calamitous consequences that still lie before us, in the destruction of entire nations, the killing of millions of innocent people and a fallout that is still unfolding. One of the advantages of the boycott has been the dramatic collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood. This organization had penetrated some of the vitals of the homeland, turning our peaceful and harmonized society against itself with the spread of hate speeches and extremism among people. The Muslim Brotherhood thrives and flourishes only in an environment of discord and contention, as it uses religion for the purpose of polarization
Environment of discord
The Muslim Brotherhood thrives and flourishes only in an environment of discord and contention, as it uses religion for the purpose of polarization. But all of its efforts have come to naught and the organization stands discredited as it faces public opprobrium. The Saudi faction of the Muslim Brotherhood stood against its own country, fiercely attacking Saudi national media and symbols. It is worth highlighting that the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood wasn’t at the hands of the enlightened class, i.e. the intellectuals, the writers and the media, but it was the decision of the Saudi people who opposed the organization’s use of religion to denigrate them, and this in itself is a great national achievement. It’s pretty obvious that the Saudi faction of the Muslim Brotherhood is witnessing its worst days. The Qatari crisis has exposed their position toward their country as they supported Qatar’s plans to divide the homeland. The Gulf crisis exposed their schemes and plans for the region as well as their relationship with Qatar and their support for subversive activities against Saudi Arabia.
Spreading chaos
Their social media pages had turned into paid ads, fostering incitement and spreading chaos on the orders of Qatar. Some of its exponents eventually fled the scene as they could not face the barrage of seething questions from the Saudi people who had laid bare their plans and pestered them with inquiries, for which there were no answers. As for their ambassador, whose ambitions were dashed by the Qatar boycott, found that his pen had finally run dry and could no longer fudge or falsify the truth, manipulate people or prevaricate on various fronts. While we had predicted the fall of the Saudi faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, we had not expected it to happen so quickly and by popular consent. So our thanks and gratitude go to this blessed boycott.

Softening up a hard Brexit or a hard-hard exit?
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/August 15/17
The UK public and those watching the changes and nuances of the aftermath of the Brexit vote are becoming more confused on the eventual Brexit divorce: a soft or hard exit and what does this mean in practical terms especially for free movement? After a rather uneventful second preliminary round of Brexit talks several weeks ago, the United Kingdom and European Union negotiators broke off for the summer recess, postponing the most politically sensitive topics until after the September 24 German elections.While there has been some bad blood with colourful comments by Boris Johnson the UK Foreign Secretary, one is of the opinion that the odds for an orderly UK exit from the EU, followed by a transition period and an eventual trade deal remain high. Despite the poor showing in the June 8 elections, Prime Minister Theresa May and her allies have not veered away from pledges to exit the Single Market and the EU Customs Union, control EU immigration, repeal EU law supremacy, and extricate the UK from judicial control by the European Court of Justice. It is pressure from a venerable British institution – the London financial market – that is leading the quiet charge for a soft Brexit.
Further concessions
The City of London is pushing for the British negotiators to be open to further concessions on EU citizens rights and accepting European Securities and Markets Authority supervision as trade-offs to retain some of the euro clearing business, even if that eventually entails ceding some level of control to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). On a purely strategic level, London has for now decided to focus on transitional arrangements, which the British government would like to last for as long as possible given the early March 2019 negotiations deadline, and insists on an “implementation phase” with Ministers debating publicly on the length of the transition. In order to defuse delaying tactics, the European Commission has decided to put new financial regulation proposals, and especially the one on third-country “equivalence,” as a “loaded gun” on the negotiating table. The real issue, and where the talks will become highly political, is with the free flow of financial services from the UK to the continent and vice-versa. EU officials say Britain could eventually make some limited concessions even on these so-called “red lines.”
The hot topic
The other hot topic, the issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, is being dealt with by the Irish government’s revenue service, which is conducting studies and tests on how to allow a smooth transit without having to put in place a “physical” border. For the time being, infrared scans and computer could do the trick, but there is also a strong possibility that companies will still need to fill customs IN/OUT filings and pay VAT somehow, and that keeping the border as open as today is all but impossible. It is widely accepted by all sides that some controls will be introduced, the idea is to try and limit disruptions, hence the on-going research. Meanwhile Brussels officials have been unanimous in portraying the British negotiating team as showing a lot of goodwill, but also as rather clumsy and unprepared. While this is understandable as trade has been for years a “Brussels’ only” competence, May’s election debacle, and changes in Downing Street’s power structures, have made things even tougher for the UK team. The divisions in the British cabinet are publicly displayed with Phillip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, saying that after March 2019, the UK will hang on to “some elements” of the current EU regulations especially free movement. On the other hand, Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade strongly objected, arguing that Brexit means Brexit and if these undefined “elements” continue then it will be a betrayal of the British public’s vote.
To put an end to this cabinet squabble, the Prime Ministers Office intervened to state that free movement ends when the UK leaves the EU. The result was a joint media article from the two protagonists that seemed to save some face for both in that there are no backhand solutions to have the United Kingdom remain in the EU. However a trickier issue remains, one of these “elements” being free trade. The issue is how to make the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as “frictionless” as possible.
Border controls
After the 1998 Good Friday agreement, and the implementation of the UK-EI Common Travel Area, border controls between Ireland and the North were removed entirely, not only boosting cross-border trade but also in the process helping maintain peace within the region – a peace of which the EU is one of the international guarantors. Any disruption to the free flow of trade is feared to have potential disastrous effects not only on the fragile Northern Irish economy, but also more broadly on the stability of the entire region and few will want to see the repeat of the bloody era of the Irish “troubles” come back again.
From what the various technical committees have concluded, technology seems to be the only answer to keeping trade flows as smooth as possible, as customs controls – even if only a light version – will have to be reintroduced. But despite the difficulties, there is still significant Parliamentary support to respect the outcome of the referendum. The UK is pushing for immediate concessions on ending European Court of Justice supremacy and ending or limiting free movement as part of any phased process of implementation, and certainly as quickly as during the transition period. Failure to achieve these concessions will be difficult for May to sell to her backbenchers and the public as genuinely leaving the EU. Whatever the outcome, UK voters are no nearer on knowing what happens when the country finally exits, or whether it is soft, hard or very hard, but are just praying for the divorce to happen so they can pick up the pieces and continue with their lives.

The Real Lessons from Charlottesville
Ruthie Blum/Gatestone Institute/August 15/17
Although Hamas, the terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip, is shunned by U.S. negotiators, Fatah, the party headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, is considered a potential partner for peace with Israel.
Official Fatah social media pages, however, openly laud and encourage "lone wolves" to arm themselves with knives and vehicles with which to slaughter Israelis whenever and wherever possible.
Abbas and his henchmen in the PA do not allow freedom of expression. They do not "weep" over the "thuggish" and "deliberately murderous" conduct of their populace. Instead, they champion it and fund it. A Palestinian who uses his car as a deadly weapon is viewed by his peers and rulers as a hero. Physical violence is officially sanctioned and rewarded. An American who commits violence is demonized by everyone other than a handful of hard-core bigots.
A day before the car-ramming attack in Charlottesville, Virginia -- which left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and 19 others wounded -- the White House announced that it would be dispatching President Donald Trump's son-in-law and special adviser, Jared Kushner, Special Adviser on International Affairs Jason Greenblatt, and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell to the Middle East for the second time since June.
The stated purpose of their trip, the scheduled date of which has yet to be disclosed, is to revive the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Justifiably, the Trump administration's declaration that it would resume efforts to broker negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah was drowned out by the events in Charlottesville.
The act of domestic terrorism, committed by 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio, mimicked a choice method employed by Palestinian organizations Hamas and Fatah in Israel, and ISIS in Europe. The car-ramming so horrified the American public that it instantly became the key issue of the day, with candlelight vigils and memorials held across the country -- indicating mass consensus that such abhorrent behavior is anathema to American values and will not be tolerated.
James Alex Fields rams his car into a crowd of "antifa" marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12. (Image source: Al Jazeera video screenshot)
The otherwise universal condemnation of the Charlottesville clashes between the "Alt-Right" and extreme "Antifa" (short for anti-Fascist) movements -- sparked by the city's decision to remove a statue of Civil War Confederate General Robert. E. Lee from Emancipation Park -- has, however, been clouded in two points of controversy.
One involves the fact that, while dubbed "Unite the Right," the protest was actually a gathering of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other racists, xenophobes and anti-Semites -- most, it turned out, imported from out-of-state.
Although the sight of their angry faces and banners was reminiscent of the Old South, it was being attributed to the current climate, ostensibly created by the Republican Party, conservatives in general, and Trump in particular.
The other controversy surrounds the wording of Trump's denunciation of the "many sides" of the violence.
Conservatives promptly dissociated themselves from the Charlottesville bullies, but simultaneously took Trump to task for not exhibiting the same moral outrage towards the white supremacists that he expresses against "radical Islamic terrorism."
On the Left, columnists went even further, blaming not only Trump but the United States itself for the climate that led to the events in Virginia.
In Politico, for example, Joshua Zeitz argued that "What Happened in Charlottesville Is All Too American."
To put things in perspective, however, conservative (and Jewish) political commentator Ben Shapiro -- whose own criticism of Trump has turned him into a target of anti-Semitic vilification on the web -- explained that the "Alt-Right" is neither "conservative" nor particularly widespread in America, in spite of its trying to create the impression that it is growing exponentially.
"They fill up comments sections at sites like Breitbart, and they email spam, and they prank call people, and they live on 4chan boards, but the vast majority of alt-right anti-Semitic tweets came from just 1,600 accounts," Shapiro wrote, citing Anti-Defamation League (ADL) statistics.
In a separate report, the ADL listed examples of events held by white supremacists to mobilize and spread a culture of hatred, yet referred to them as a "fringe movement."
This is not simply due to their relatively infinitesimal numbers in the United States, but to American culture as a whole, which is overwhelmingly liberal.
Well before college, children in the U.S. are treated to heavy doses of progressive ideas in their schools and on television. It is not racism and xenophobia with which they have been bombarded, particularly in the last decade, but rather with "identity politics." American kids are taught to respect people of different ethnic backgrounds, religious affinities, gender identities and sexual preferences -- as long as those meet "victimhood" criteria.
They are told that "white privilege" is an evil to be eradicated. In this context, "white" is a misnomer, of course, because Jews and Asians who excel in school are included in the derogatory category. Still, the principle is understood, and it both emanates from and is disseminated by left-wing groups.
It therefore beggars belief that the most vocal supporters of the Palestinian Authority -- an entity whose leadership purposely fosters a culture of hatred, racism, gender-abuse and anti-Semitism – hail from those same groups.
On August 13, a day after the Charlottesville travesty, convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh was honored in Chicago. Odeh, who in 1969 placed a bomb in a Jerusalem supermarket, killing two innocent people and wounding nine, and days later carried out an attack on the British Consulate, was released from Israeli prison as part of a prisoner swap in 1980. In March 2017, she was convicted in the United States of immigration fraud, for lying about her past to U.S. authorities. A plea deal, however, is enabling her to travel to Jordan, without serving any time behind bars.
Odeh emerged as a hero of many Americans. She led the anti-Trump Women's March on Washington and served as a key figure in the March 8, 2017 "Global Women's Strike."
She is also celebrated in the Palestinian Authority, an entity whose leadership fosters a culture of hate against Jews, Christians and the West in general. As has been extensively documented by Palestinian Media Watch, PA schools and summer camps educate children to believe not only that that murdering on behalf of the "liberation of Palestine" -- and in the name of Allah -- is honorable, but worthy of glorification. PA imams preach jihad. PA sports arenas and tournaments are named after "martyred" terrorists, all of whose families receive a monthly salary of more than $3,000 per month for life, courtesy of the American taxpayer -- a beneficence that led this month to the Taylor Force Act, approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to stop incentivizing PA murder by stopping the payments for it.
Although Hamas, the terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip, is shunned by U.S. negotiators, Fatah, the party headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, is considered a potential partner for peace with Israel.
Official Fatah social media pages, however, openly laud and encourage "lone wolves" to arm themselves with knives and vehicles with which to slaughter Israelis whenever and wherever possible.
Trump has expressed "confidence" that a deal can be reached, and is sending his team to the region again for yet another try at bringing both sides of the conflict to the table.
Kushner, however, told a group of congressional interns that "there may be no solution" to the conflict. Short of wiping Israel off the map, which the PA does in every cartographic depiction of the "state of Palestine," there certainly will be no solution in the foreseeable future.
Nevertheless, many Americans continue to repeat what Abbas regularly feeds the international community: that the "Israeli occupation" is at the root of Palestinian terrorism. For internal consumption, however, Abbas has made it clear, in word and deed, that Israel's very establishment in 1948 is what all Arabs should consider the real "catastrophe." This is why he laughably announced that he would sue the UK for the Balfour Declaration, a letter sent 100 years ago to the head of the Jewish community in Britain expressing support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
The majority of the Arab citizens of the Jewish state, who make up one-fifth of its population, not only know that Abbas totally distorts history to keep a stranglehold on his people and maintain status at the United Nations, but enjoy full rights as equal members of Israeli society. They have political parties and seats in the Knesset, hold seats on the Supreme Court, and are among the country's prominent academics, doctors, lawyers and other professionals. Israel is a liberal democracy, after all.
In America, two liberal organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Rutherford Institute, defended the "constitutional and civil right" of the neo-Nazis and white supremacists to hold their rally in Charlottesville. When the free speech turned into illegal riots, however, the ACLU of Virginia stated:
"What happened... had nothing to do with free speech. It devolved into conduct against individuals motivated by hate that was initially thuggish, and ultimately, deliberately murderous. There will be a time to investigate, assign responsibility, and seek accountability, and we will be a voice in that process. For now, we decry white nationalism, reject hatred, and weep."
Abbas and his henchmen in the PA, in contrast, do not allow freedom of expression. They do not "weep" over the "thuggish" and "deliberately murderous" conduct of their populace; instead, they champion and fund it. A Palestinian who uses his car as a deadly weapon is viewed by his peers and rulers as a hero. Physical violence is officially sanctioned and rewarded. An American who commits violence is demonized by everyone other than a handful of hard-core bigots.
Still, many in the U.S. consider America to be a racist country and the Palestinians worthy of stalwart support. This is the true meaning of what George Orwell called "doublethink" -- the "power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them."
On the eve of team Trump's imminent visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, let us hope that Washington is not becoming similarly afflicted.
Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"
© 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.

Palestinians: The Honeymoon with the US is Over
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/August 15/17
The Palestinians have a condition for the US to be accepted by them as a mediator in the conflict with Israel: bias in favor of the Palestinians. This is the Palestinian state of mind: If you are not with us, you are against us.
The Palestinian leadership does not wish to talk about improving the Palestinian economy because Palestinians do not perceive themselves as engaged in an economic conflict with Israel: they perceive themselves as engaged in an existential, struggle-to-the-death conflict with Israel. In their view, for Palestinians to thrive, the State of Israel must go.
Notably, the Palestinians reject the idea of Israel making peace with its Arab neighbors. They fear that such peace would come at the expense of them achieving political supremacy over Israel.
US President Donald Trump's envoys, Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, are planning to return to the Middle East soon to discuss ways of reviving the stalled "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians. Greenblatt tweeted last week that he was looking forward to returning to the Middle East "as we pursue peace." He added that Trump was "optimistic," but did not elaborate.
Pursuing peace sounds wonderful. Less wonderful, however, are the facts on the ground of "pursuing peace" with the Palestinians.
Not surprisingly, the Palestinians have returned to their old habit of accusing the US of being "biased" in favor of Israel.
As the US envoys prepare to head to the Middle East, Palestinians are saying that they have lost confidence in the Trump administration, as they have done with all previous administrations.
For the Palestinians, a US administration that openly supports the State of Israel cannot play the role of an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For the Palestinians, US commitment to Israel's security and well-being disqualifies Washington as a mediator because it means that the Americans are "biased" in favor of Israel.
The Palestinians have a condition for the US to be accepted by them as a mediator in the conflict with Israel: bias in favor of the Palestinians. This is the Palestinian state of mind: If you are not with us, you are against us.
In the Palestinian logic, the US administration must endorse the Palestinian narrative and comply with all their demands if it wishes to broker "peace" with Israel. The Palestinians do indeed want the US to be involved – as an axeman for their execution of Israel.
The Palestinians are prepared to cooperate with any US administration, on one condition only: that it forces Israel to withdraw fully to the 1949 armistice lines and allow the incompetent and discredited Mahmoud Abbas to establish a corrupt, undemocratic and failed state, one that would set its predatory sights on the now-much-harder-to-defend State of Israel.
Until recently, Abbas and his Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank believed that the new president would swallow their fabrications and perhaps collude with them to bring Israel down. At one stage, Abbas even instructed his aides and spokesmen to avoid making any criticism against Trump or his administration, toward just this goal.
However, the Palestinian tone has changed in recent weeks. Palestinian officials and factions and political commentators are no longer concealing their distrust of -- and disdain for -- the Trump administration. The "honeymoon" between the Palestinians and the Trump administration is over.
In his recent meeting with US presidential envoys Jason Greenblatt (left) and Jared Kushner (center) in Ramallah, an enraged Mahmoud Abbas (right) rejected their demand that he halt payments to terrorists and their families. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images)
Palestinians are waking up to the fact that the Trump administration is not planning to act as a puppet in their expansionist play. They are starting to see that the US has no intention of strong-arming Israel into making territorial concessions that would compromise its security. For the Palestinians, this is sufficient evidence that the Trump administration is not to be trusted.
The Palestinians are not interested in the US acting as a mediator in the conflict with Israel; rather, they are interested in the Americans, and the rest of the world, imposing a solution upon Israel that threatens its security and strategic and national interests.
In a reprise of a very old story, the Palestinians are prepared to return to table with Israel only if the US guarantees that the "negotiations" will involve compelling Israel to comply with all their demands.
In light of the Palestinian disappointment with the Trump administration, what kind of reception are the Palestinians planning for Trump's envoys?
Here is one sign of what awaits Greenblatt and Kushner when they arrive in Ramallah for talks with Abbas and his lieutenants: mass demonstrations.
After an emergency meeting in Ramallah on August 13, Palestinian factions called for organizing mass protests against the visit of Trump's envoys and US "bias" in favor of Israel. The call could not have been issued without the approval of Abbas and the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.
A statement issued by the "National and Islamic Factions," a coalition of various Palestinian groups, including Abbas's own ruling Fatah faction, accused the Trump administration of working toward pressuring the Palestinians to resume peace negotiations with Israel unconditionally.
The statement also accused the Trump administration of "incitement" against the Palestinians and allowing Israel to "steal" Palestinian land.
The statement went on to accuse the Trump administration of promoting the idea of "economic peace" by focusing solely on the need to improve the living conditions of the Palestinians. It also dismissed as a "mirage" the Trump administration's talk about a "regional peace" that would see Israel and some Arab countries sign peace treaties "behind the Palestinians' back.
Such sentiments are echoed by Palestinian political analysts who are affiliated with Abbas and the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.
The Palestinian leadership does not wish to talk about improving the Palestinian economy because Palestinians do not perceive themselves as engaged in an economic conflict with Israel: they perceive themselves as engaged in an existential, struggle-to-the-death conflict with Israel. In their view, for Palestinians to thrive, the State of Israel must go.
Notably, the Palestinians reject the idea of Israel making peace with its Arab neighbors. They fear that such peace would come at the expense of them achieving political supremacy over Israel.
"It has become clear that the US viewpoint is biased in favor of Israel," remarked Palestinian political analyst Anwar Rajab in an article published in the Palestinian daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, which serves as a mouthpiece for the Palestinian Authority. "It has become clear that Trump's envoys only carry suggestions for improving the living conditions and economy of the Palestinians." Rajab also scoffed at the idea of a "regional peace" and dubbed it a lie, illusion and a miserable piece of merchandise.
Once again, the Palestinians are broadcasting clearly that the Trump administration's renewed effort to revive the peace process with Israel is unacceptable and doomed to failure because the US is not prepared to force Israel first into retreat and then into defeat.
Blinded by their hatred for Israel, the Palestinians have long sidelined both their economy and their future to achieve their real goal: to see Israel forced to its knees, and then removed from the face of the earth.
**Bassem Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.