August 19/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 12/49-53/:"‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!
Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’"

Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads."I asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The Lord answered, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
Acts of the Apostles 26,01-2a.06-10.12-19/:"Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You have permission to speak for yourself.’ Then Paul stretched out his hand and began to defend himself: ‘I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defence today against all the accusations of the Jews,
And now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, a promise that our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship day and night. It is for this hope, your Excellency, that I am accused by Jews! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead? ‘Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death. ‘With this in mind, I was travelling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads."I asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The Lord answered, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me."‘After that, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,

Question: "Is an eclipse a sign of the end times?"
Answer: Numerous biblical passages link end-times events with astronomical phenomena. The sun, the moon, the stars, meteors, and possibly even eclipses are mentioned in connection with end-times Bible prophecies. For example, when asked about the timing of the end times, Jesus says, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars” (Luke 21:25). It’s natural that, whenever strange or rare astronomical phenomena occur, many wonder if the end times are approaching.
Eclipses and “blood moons” seem to especially stoke end-times hysteria. Some point to Matthew 24:29 as connecting a solar eclipse with the end times: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light” (ESV; see also Isaiah 13:10). During a solar eclipse, the sun is significantly darkened and the light normally reflected by the moon is gone. Also, during a lunar eclipse, the light normal reflected by the moon significantly decreases. So, yes, there does seem to be a possible connection between an eclipse and the end times.
With that said, there is no way to connect a specific eclipse with the fulfillment of end-times prophecy. Eclipses are actually quite common, with a total solar eclipse occurring somewhere on Earth approximately once every 18 months. Partial solar eclipses occur several times per year. Total lunar eclipses occur virtually every year in most parts of the world. Since the time that Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 24, there have been thousands of total and partial, solar and lunar eclipses. None of them seem to have had any significance to end-times Bible prophecy. So, there is no way to know a particular eclipse in the future will have a connection to the end times.
Also, it is important to look at the rest of what Jesus says in Matthew 24, which is known as the Olivet Discourse. The possible eclipse is just one of several signs that Jesus mentions. Here is the whole of verse 29: “Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’” People pick up on the dark sun and moon, but they tend to ignore the stars falling and the planets shaking. Also, Jesus specifies that this sign will come “immediately after the distress,” a reference to the abomination of desolation in verse 15. This will be a time when “there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again” (verse 21). In fact, so terrible is that time that, “if those days had not been cut short, no one would survive” (verse 22). This is no regular eclipse that Jesus speaks of but one that occurs in the middle of the tribulation with a multitude of other signs. It will be the worst time of trouble the world has ever seen.
It is important to remember that Jesus said no one knows the day or hour of His return (Matthew 24:36). Since eclipses can be pinpointed to the very second, it would seem an eclipse cannot be the precise moment of Christ’s return. Our curiosity about when the rapture will occur, who the Antichrist will be, when the tribulation begins, and what exactly the abomination of desolation is must remain unsatisfied for now.
The apostle Peter gives us practical instruction in light of the end times: “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat” (2 Peter 3:11–12). We know that we will then see the new creation, “where righteousness dwells” (verse 13). Living our lives in light of Christ’s return means living in holiness and anticipation. Trying to calculate the timing of end-times events based on astronomical phenomena is not something the Bible calls us to do.

Latest Lebanese Related News published on August 18-19/17
Mercenary Lebanese Politicians & the Sheep
Elias Bejjani/August 18/17
The Iranian-Hezbollah occupied Lebanon it at the present time in an SOS urgent need for genuine, free, honest and patriotic voices.
The occupied county and its oppressed and impoverished people are in need of  patriotic voices that are loud, strong and witnessing for the mere truth with no fear, Dhimmitude or personal agendas.
Sadly the majority of the current active Lebanese politicians, if not all of them, the so called Lebanese feudal, Mafiosi parties, as well as 99% of the officials are ugly, hungry - evil merchants.
in reality and actuality, they are a role model for narcissism and trogon horses, while all their prime focus, interests, alliances, affiliations, activities and stances are totally tailored and engineered to revolve around their own personal power ambitions and their coffers'-bank accounts gains agendas..
In this derailed context he majority of the Lebanese politicians are a living miserable model for evilness and corruption.
They never ever honour or respect the Lebanese peoples' rights or abide by the constitution  or any ethical-faith-honesty-transparency codes.
They are professional acrobats and pioneering experts in prostituting any thing and every thing in a bid to promote and serve their own greediness and power-money hungry ambitions.
The sad part in this funny on going theatrical play and dilemma lies in the fact that unfortunately many... many Lebanese citizens are ignorant, lack the ABC of self respect, have no insight in all that is patriotism and blindly follow the corrupted politicians and against all odds accept happily the role sheep.
Yes sheep no more no less.
Our main problem as Lebanese citizens from all religious denominations and all walks of live is deeply rooted in our education, our norms for what is wrong and what is not, in our willingness to be subservient if it serves our agendas, in our rotten mentality of opportunism and in our lack of loyalty to our great country...the Land Of the Cedars.
In conclusion, unless we change our own education and mentality and adopt genuine patriotic stances we shall continue to go down more and more. It remains that and as our popular proverb says:" God does not change what people think and do unless they themselves initiate and work hard on the change"

Our Thoughts and prayers go to the Barcelona terrorist’s victims
Elias Bejjani/August 17/17
Our Thoughts, hearts, sympathies, support are with the Barcelona terrorist’s victims.
Our prayers go to the victims who lost their lives, to the injured and to their families and friends.
This barbaric and savage new terrorist attack is strongly condemned by all means.
Terrorism is a deadly and devastating evil cancer that needs to be totally and globally eradicated as soon as possible and by all worldwide means. All those, individuals, organisations and countries who promote, finance, adopt, use and advocate for terrorism and terrorists must be charged and put on trial no matter who they are.
May Almighty God Bless the souls of the Barcelona innocent victims and with His Fatherly love safeguard the injured and lead them with His care to a quick recovery.

150 county lists Hezbollah as a Terrorist Organization
Roger Bejjani/Face Book/August 18/17
How a sane Lebanese selects to side with Hezbollah and its backers rather than maintaining the best relations with Hezbollah victims: the Arab world and the West.
After all the latter are the real and only backers of Lebanon.
You must be an idiot to side up with an organisation that is labeled as a terrorist one by 150 countries in the world!
Qatar may have the means to do that for a while. We don't.
*How a sane individual in 2017 can relate to criminals, insanes, delusional and demagogues who have not a single idea on how to promote humanity's wellbeing and preserve earth but rather exclusively destroy, incite to kill, lie, plot and usurp power in the name of divine causes or made up ones. I am thinking of Assad, Nasrallah, Khamenei, Putin, Trump, Mugabe..

Hezbollah drives Lebanon into the arms of murderersحزب الله يسير بلبنان إلى أحضان القتلة
Diana Moukalled/ArabNews/August 17/ 2017
Hezbollah has turned its back on all those who have protested against reviving relations between Beirut and Damascus. This time, the party did not infiltrate across the Syrian border to fight, capture hostages or smuggle arms and money. Instead, it sent to Damascus one of its members, the Minister of Industry, Hussein Hajj Hassan, to embarrass an already divided Lebanese government, challenge Lebanon’s neutrality in Syria’s war and declare the return of diplomatic relations that have been frozen for years.
Despite an explicit ban by the prime minister, Saad Hariri, on ministerial visits to Syria in an official capacity, the minister attended the Damascus International Fair, an event to promote the reconstruction of Syria. Disregarding the political speeches and verbal protests that accompanied the visit, with claims that the minister was not representing the government, what is happening is a clear forced normalization of relations between Beirut and Damascus. “The Syrian regime has triumphed over terrorism,” the minister said, praising the criminal Assad regime and helping it to evade any responsibility.
Let us be clear: This was a visit undertaken by a Lebanese minister in the name of Lebanon (not to mention in defiance of the anger of some of the Lebanese people) to a regime that is against the Lebanese and Syrian peoples. The official normalization of relations with the Syrian regime, forcibly imposed, is the culmination of Hezbollah’s achievements over the years, thanks to its military strength and the enormous political and financial support provided by Iran. However, we must not forget that what happened was also a result of the failure of Hezbollah’s opponents, either because of a reduction in political and financial support or because of wrong choices made in politics and management.
It is also important to remind ourselves what happened on the Lebanese-Syrian border at Jroud Arsal over the past few weeks. Hezbollah’s “war” with Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, formerly the Al-Qaeda offshoot the Nusra Front, led to the withdrawal of 120 JFS fighters from their positions on both sides of the border, and their transport to a rebel haven in Idlib. In fact, the propaganda was louder than the actions and their results. The exchange deal did not even get close to the fact that more than one million Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon.
The party’s decision to send a minister to Damascus on an official visit treads a well-worn path of misplaced loyalty, and exposes its indifference to the plight of Syrian refugees.
In Lebanon, they are putting restraints on refugees and turning a blind eye to the tragedies they bring with them from Syria. The “war of the barren areas” was portrayed as a prelude to finding a Lebanese solution to the refugee issue. In fact, it did not come close to helping the refugees. On the contrary, it has exacerbated their situation.
Turning a blind eye to their stories can be compared to disregarding other stories, which say that the Assad regime, now forcibly allied to Lebanon because of Hezbollah’s pressure and support, does not want the refugees to return. The Syrian regime today controls more than 80 percent of the areas from which the refugees have been displaced, but it shows no positive intention regarding their return. Not only that, but Bashar Assad himself has said that the Syrian social fabric is better off without the displaced Syrians. Perhaps Hezbollah does not want their return either. For the party and Iran, Syrian welfare is a lot more important than Lebanese welfare. The refugees, if they returned to their homes, would constitute a demographic bloc that would rearrange the sectarian map in the areas of Syria where Hezbollah has seized control.
The Lebanese management of the Syrian refugee crisis is a matter of political and moral arrogance, especially when Lebanon takes the side of the regime that caused the suffering of the refugees in the first place, with the full support of a Lebanese political party.
Against this disgraceful background, Hezbollah’s minister took a step forward to pave the road for the normalization of relations between Damascus and Beirut. This is the same road that has already been taken to smuggle plans and weapons to kill us and many others.
Hezbollah has always openly pledged allegiance to these murderers. Once again, it is handing Lebanon over to them.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer.

Hezbollah says Barcelona attacker ‘tarnishing jihad’
Lebanese terror group decries IS killing of innocent people; meanwhile, Jerusalem links Spain to Israel, calls for concerted effort against terrorism
By Times of Israel staff and Agencies August 18/17/The Hezbollah terror group said Friday that a car-ramming attack in Barcelona a day earlier claimed by the Islamic State was “tarnishing jihad.”At least 13 people were killed and more than 100 injured when the driver drove his van onto the sidewalk in a popular tourist area of Barcelona Thursday, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State. He is still on the run. Hours later, a car injured at least six people when it was driven onto a promenade in the resort town of Cambrils. Five assailants wearing fake bomb belts were killed in that assault.
Officials have said the incidents are likely linked. “Targeting innocent civilians and killing them is part of a satanic plot being carried out by those terrorists, which aims at tarnishing the concept of jihad and sullying the image of Islam,” Hezbollah said. The Lebanese group, a proxy for Iran, is considered a terror group by Israel and the US among others. It has been fingered for dozens of deadly bombings and other attacks on Israelis and Jews in Israel and abroad, and its leader regularly threatens to attack the Jewish state. While the EU recognizes Hezbollah’s armed wing as a terror group, it has not extended the designation to its political flank, a major force in Lebanon’s coalition government. The group is fighting against the Islamic State in Syria and has issued similar condemnations after other attacks in Europe claimed by IS.It called for a renewed fight against Islamic State, “whose ideology is based on hate.”
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also spoke out on the attacks, calling for a joint effort between Western states, including Israel, against terror apparatuses. “It’s on all of us to fight with determination and resilience not just against attackers, but also on those who send them, those who fund them and those who inspire them,” he said in a statement released by his office. President Reuven Rivlin linked Israel’s experiences with similar attacks in offering condolences to Spain’s king Friday. “Sadly, we, in Israel, are no strangers to the horror and grief that follows such murderous attacks and can truly understand the pain you all feel now,” Rivlin said in a letter to King Felipe VI, according to his office. “Terrorism is terrorism is terrorism, whether it takes place in Barcelona, Paris, Istanbul or Jerusalem.”Israel has experienced dozens of car-ramming attacks, mostly in Jerusalem and the West Bank, over the last several years. Israeli officials have sought to link similar attacks in Europe, usually claimed by the Islamic State, to Palestinian vehicular assaults. “These horrific events once again prove that we must all stand united in the fight against those who seek to use violence to stifle individual liberty and freedom of thought and belief, and continue to destroy the lives of so many,” Rivlin added. Agencies contributed to this report.

Lebanese Ministers’ Visits to Syria Spark Controversy
Asharq Al-Awsat/August 18/17/Beirut – The visit of Lebanese visitors to Syria did not escalate into a major political dispute in line with the politicians’ agreement to avoid bringing up contentious files at cabinet. Prime Minister Saad Hariri is still committed to avoiding such issues at government, saying that each person is responsible for his actions. The debate over the visits of ministers to Syria was limited to whether these trips should be labeled as personal or official, said Transportation and Public Works Minister Youssef Finianous, who along with Industry Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan and Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zoaiter had arrived in Damascus on Wednesday. The officials traveled to neighboring Syria to take part in the Damascus International Fair, which kicked off on Thursday. It appears that the repercussions of the visits will not reach cabinet or put it before a new test given that the Hajj Hassan and Zoaiter will not be signing any new agreements while in Syria, widely informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. They will only reactivate old deals, as indicated in their agenda and meetings in Damascus, they added. The Lebanese constitution stipulates that a minister’s foreign visit is only considered official if he has the approval of cabinet that grants him political backing. In this case, the government did not approve the visits and therefore any agreement signed by the minister will not be recognized. Hajj Hassan had held talks on Thursday with Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis, who said: “We will be able to overcome major economic challenges through positive discussion, cooperation and dialogue.” For his part Hajj Hassan, who represents “Hezbollah” in cabinet, stated that the Lebanese participation in the Damascus fair “reaffirms the natural Lebanese stance that supports Syria.”“Our presence here in Syria, with representatives of the private sector, is aimed at holding discussions with ministers and Syrian officials to tackle economic issues between our countries and in order to provide fair trade,” he stressed. “We hope that border crossings will soon be opened between Syria and each of Iraq and Jordan ahead of bolstering our exports to Syria and later to other Arab countries,” he added. The ministers are accompanied on their visit by a Lebanese delegation comprised of 14 representatives of companies taking part in the Damascus International Fair. Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that some of the companies are presenting their products at the fair, while others are in Syria to study the possibility of taking part in the country’s reconstruction process. Finanous, of the Marada Movement of MP Suleiman Franjieh, said on Thursday that he was in Damascus at the invitation of the Syrian minister of economy.
He said that he did not create uproar over his trip, “because it is very natural for me as a minister and for the Marada Movement.”He added that he had informed Hariri of his decision to head to Damascus, saying that the premier “has his stance and I have my own. We agreed on this and I do not want to give this issue more attention than it can support.”On whether Lebanese-Arab ties will be affected by this visit, Finianous stated: “If some Arab countries believe that ties will be harmed, I say that the prime minister does not approve of the trip..”
“If the Lebanese government combined took a political decision to head to Syria, then the Arab countries that do not recognize the regime of Bashar Assad may take a stance from Lebanon,” he remarked. Hariri’s Mustaqbal Movement had stated that the visits of ministers to Syria without the approval of the government do not have an official nature, “because Lebanon cannot normalize ties with a regime that has committed massacres against its people and carried out terrorist plots against Lebanon.” “These visits provoke the majority of the Lebanese people and are a threat to the work of the Lebanese constitutional institutions,” it warned.

Lebanese Officials Denounce Barcelona Attack
Naharnet/August 18/17/President Michel Aoun along with other politicians denounced on Friday the Barcelona attack that left 13 individuals dead and 100 others wounded. Aoun sent a cable of condolences to King Felipe VI of Spain and to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy condemning the terror attack that “targeted innocent civilians” in Barcelona. Prime Minister Saad Hariri expressed his strong condemnation of the terrorist crimes that took place in Spain, and described the attack as “deplorable.”He voiced “solidarity with Spain and its people against terrorism.”Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat also denounced the ttack that left many dead and wounded. “No for hatred and grudge. No for death and blackness that swept through the world yesterday in Barcelona. No for the ideology of the Islamic Sate group,” said Jumblat in a tweet. On the other hand, Hizbullah has also issued a statement denouncing the attack. “Targeting and killing of innocent civilians is part of a satanic plan carried out by these (IS) terrorists, whose goal is to distort the meaning of jihad and to tarnish the image of the true Islamic religion by claiming belonging to it,” Hizbullah's statement read. Later during the day, Head of Al-Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad al-Saniora sent a cable of condolences to Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and “condemned the terrorist crime committed by the Islamic State group against civilians in Barcelona.”For his part, Member of the Development and Liberation bloc MP Yassin Jaber also offered his condolences to the “government and people of Spain.” Drivers have ploughed into pedestrians in two quick-succession, separate attacks in Barcelona and another popular Spanish seaside city, leaving 13 people dead and injuring more than 100 others. In the first incident, which was claimed by the Islamic State group, a white van sped into a street packed full of tourists in central Barcelona on Thursday afternoon, knocking people out of the way and killing 13 in a scene of chaos and horror. Some eight hours later in Cambrils, a city 120 kilometers south of Barcelona, an Audi A3 car rammed into pedestrians, injuring six civilians -- one of them critical -- and a police officer, authorities said.

Lebanon's Power Crisis Sees No Progress
Naharnet/August 18/17/Lebanon, a country plagued with power rationing, seems to find no solution for its longtime crisis in light of disagreements among political parties over the means to tackle the problem. The government has canceled on Thursday a previous bid to lease Turkish power generating vessels to improve power supply, and has therefore approved a new tender with new conditions. Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil was tasked by the government to prepare new tender documents to lease power-generating plants, and to present them to the cabinet in one week for approval before sending them to the Tenders Department of the Central Inspection Bureau, Information Minister Melhem Riachi had stated after the cabinet meeting. Companies interested in submitting their bids to lease power-generating plants will be given a two week notice by the Tenders Department. A previous bid to lease Turkish power-generating ships was annulled at the request of Abi Khalil, “it was canceled because there was only one bidder,” said Riachi. Some political parties, mainly the Kataeb party, have criticized the previous electricity bid dubbing it as “illegal” and a means to achieve “personal gains.” A senior Kataeb source who spoke on condition of anonymity told al-Joumhouria daily on Friday: “The government decision as for the power-generating ships file is a clear self conviction. Although what is demanded is rectifying the technical course of the power-generating ships, but what is required politically is to hold those responsible for violating the law.”Kataeb MP Salim al-Sayegh told VDL (100.5): “The opposition's stance was necessary to scrap the electricity bid. The battle is not over yet.”Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani said: “The previous course of the file was marred by several defects. Competition and obtaining the best prices is the most important.”

Aoun to Sign Wage Scale and Tax Hike Laws
Naharnet/August 18/17/President Michel Aoun will sign the wage scale law and the tax hikes laws set to fund the scale after rectifying some “gaps,” the National News Agency reported on Friday. The President will sign the laws not before long after a decision was taken to rectify some flaws, NNA added. The salary scale and the accompanying tax hikes, approved to fund the scale, were discussed during an economic dialogue meeting that Aoun had invited to at the Baabda Palace on Monday. After the meeting it was acknowledged that the tax hike laws included some “flaws” which need to be rectified. The new taxes involve hiking the VAT tax from 10% to 11%, fines on seaside violations, and taxes on cement, administrative transactions, sea imports, lottery prizes, financial firms and banks. Authorities have argued that the new taxes are necessary to fund the new wage scale but opponents of such a move have called for finding new revenues through putting an end to corruption and the waste of public money.

Member of Joint Palestinian Security Forces Killed in Ain el-Hilweh Clashes

Naharnet/August 18/17/Cautious calm prevailed on Friday at the southern Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh following armed clashes that left two dead and several wounded, the National News Agency reported. The clashes, that saw the use of bombs and sniper shooting in al-Fawqani street, subsided early Friday. It first began when an armed group affiliated to fugitive Bilal Abou Arqoub opened fire at the Joint Palestinians Security Forces center in the camp, NNA said. One man, identified as Obaida the son of Bilal Abu Arqoub, was killed and eight others were wounded. A member of the Joint Palestinians Forces, Abu Ali Talal, who was wounded in Thursday's fight succumbed to his wounds on Friday, it added.
Ain el-Hilweh is the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, and it is the scene of regular clashes.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 18-19/17
Barcelona attacks cell planned to use gas - judicial source
Reuters, Madrid Friday, 18 August 2017/Spanish authorities believe there may have been eight people involved in a cell which carried out an attack in Barcelona on Thursday, and that the group had planned to use butane gas canisters, a judicial source with knowledge of the investigation said on Friday. Catalan government official Joaquim Forn also told local radio earlier on Friday that it was possible that attackers had meant to use canisters in the attack on Thursday in which a suspect drove a van at speed along a busy pedestrian street. Security forces are hunting for the van’s driver, who was seen escaping on foot, and police said they had killed five attackers on Friday night in Cambrils, a town south of Barcelona, to thwart a separate attack. “The priority right now is work out the identity of these people, to prove and show the relationship between the different people involved, those that took the van and those that have been able to escape,” Forn said.

Catalan police killed five attackers in Cambrils, fourth suspect arrested
Reuters, Madrid Friday, 18 August 2017/ A fourth person has been detained in relation with the events that have taken place in the last few hours in Cambrils and Barcelona," police in the Catalonia region tweeted. A Catalan police spokeswoman said police had killed four attackers in Cambrils, south of Barcelona, and another was seriously injured, later announced dead, following an operation there against what authorities called a terrorist attack. The operation came after a van attack in Barcelona on Thursday that has so far left 13 dead. Eight thought to have been involved in Catalonia attacks .Spanish authorities believe there may have been eight people involved in a cell which carried out an attack in Barcelona on Thursday, and that the group had planned to use butane gas canisters, a judicial source with knowledge of the investigation said on Friday. Catalan government official Joaquim Forn also told local radio earlier on Friday that it was possible that attackers had meant to use canisters in the attack on Thursday in which a suspect drove a van at speed along a busy pedestrian street. Security forces are hunting for the van’s driver, who was seen escaping on foot, and police said they had killed five attackers on Friday night in Cambrils, a town south of Barcelona, to thwart a separate attack.“The priority right now is work out the identity of these people, to prove and show the relationship between the different people involved, those that took the van and those that have been able to escape,” Forn said.(With AFP)

The Moroccan who stole his brother’s identity to terrorize Spain
Kamal Kobeissi, Al Arabiya English Friday, 18 August 2017/Barcelona terror attack investigators have been scampering to identify the Las Ramblas attacker until dawn today and have ended up finding near certain information about an 18-year-old Moroccan named Moussa Oukabir. According to information received by, Moussa Oukabir stole the identity of his brother, Driss, aged 28, and used it to rent the van that ploughed through pedestrians at Las Ramblas yesterday afternoon. The terrorist attack in Barcelona’s City Center claimed the lives of 13 pedestrians, maiming and injuring 100. Another two armed men entered a restaurant. One of the van attackers died in a shootout, while two were arrested but the driver, believed to be Moussa Oukabir, has not been apprehended. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, the group’s news agency said. The two suspects in custody from the van attack are a Spanish national and a Moroccan. In a second attack seven people were hurt when another car drove into pedestrians in the Spanish seaside resort of Cambrils early Friday before being shot dead by security forces, just hours after Barcelona attack.
An Audi A3 car rammed into people on the seaside promenade of the tourist city 120 kilometers south of Barcelona. The five attackers in the car were shot dead, police said. Some of them wore what looked like explosive belts.
A 'claimed' case of mistaken identity
Barcelona’s police, Mossos d’Esquadra, announced yesterday the arrest of a Moroccan and distributed images of the suspected terrorist. The pictures were carried around the world by press and social media. About one hour after the release of the images Spanish media revealed that the suspected killer Driss Oukabir claimed not to be a terrorist, but 'a victim' of his brother Moussa’s extremist credo. Driss’ identity was established from the van used in the attack that appears to have been rented by the younger brother Moussa. Media reported that the van is believed to have been rented from the town of Santa Perpatua de Mogoda, 20 kilometers from where Moussa lives. When media released pictures of Driss, the Moroccan reportedly presented himself voluntarily to police in the remote town of Ripoll Girona near the French border and 95 km north of Barcelona. Driss claimed to officers that someone had stolen his personal identification card a few days ago, and believes that his brother, Moussa, may have been the thief, because he was out of reach after the theft. Police kept Driss in custody for further investigation according to Spanish newspaper El Pais, despite presenting evidence that he was in Ripoll at the time of the attack.El Pais reported that police is also suspicious of Driss because he failed to give a convincing response to why he failed to report the ID theft. In addition to that police are holding Driss because he has spent a period of time in prison in the city of Figueres in Girona and was released 2012.

One dead, eight hurt in Finnish city stabbings; suspect held
Reuters, AFP, Helsinki Friday, 18 August 2017/At least eight people have been hospitalized and one person is dead following the stabbings in the Finnish city of Turku, the city’'s hospital told local news agency STT. “Police shot the suspected perpetrator in the legs,” police wrote on Twitter. “The person has been arrested. We recommend that people avoid central Turku.”Police also said they had launched a manhunt for other possible attackers. Following the stabbings police had issued a warning for people to stay away from the city as they reinforced security around the country. The Turun Sanomat newspaper reported that at least one person was killed in the attack and that police were inspecting departing trains and buses. An eyewitness saw four or five ambulances near the city’s main square, the paper said. “The government is closely following the events in Turku and the ongoing police operation. The government will meet later today,” Prime Minister Juha Sipila wrote on his Twitter account. The police said they have reinforced security at Helsinki airport and train stations following stabbings in Turku.

Spanish Police in Manhunt for Driver Who Killed 13 in Barcelona Rampage
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 18/17/Police on Friday hunted for the driver who rammed a van into pedestrians on an avenue crowded with tourists in Barcelona, leaving 13 people dead and more than 100 injured, just hours before a second assault in a resort along the coast. Police said they killed five "suspected terrorists" during the night in the seaside town of Cambrils, 120 kilometres south of Barcelona where by-standers and police were injured in a second car attack. Three others were arrested in other parts of the Catalonia region where both cities are located, but the driver responsible for the carnage in Barcelona remained at large, authorities warned. The attacks are the latest in a wave of such assaults in Europe where vehicles have been used as weapons of terror. In the Barcelona incident, claimed by the Islamic State group, a white van sped down a wide avenue packed full of tourists on Thursday afternoon, knocking people down and killing 13 in a scene of chaos and horror. The driver left the vehicle and fled on foot. Some eight hours later in Cambrils, an Audi A3 car rammed into pedestrians, injuring six civilians -- one of them critical -- and a police officer, authorities said. Gunfire ensued during which police killed the five attackers. Some were wearing what appeared to be explosive belts, although Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn later said they were fake. - 'United in grief' -Witnesses in Barcelona recounted how bodies were strewn along the famous Las Ramblas boulevard where the driver went on a rampage as other people fled for their lives, screaming in panic. As world leaders united in condemning the carnage, the IS propaganda agency Amaq claimed that it was carried out by "soldiers" from the jihadist group. Police announced the arrest of three suspects, including a Spaniard and a Moroccan. Carles Puigdemont, president of the region of Catalonia where both cities are located, warned the suspect still on the run was potentially dangerous, saying "these types of people have already demonstrated they have the will to harm whatever happens."
There were at least 18 nationalities among the Barcelona victims who came from countries as varied as France, Venezuela, Australia, Ireland, Peru, Algeria and China, according to Spain's civil protection agency. Belgium said one of its citizens had died in the Las Ramblas assault, while the France's foreign minister said 26 French nationals were injured, 11 seriously, The Hague said three Dutch were injured and a Greek diplomat reported three nationals had been wounded -- a woman and her two children. "We're united in grief," Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a televised address after rushing to Barcelona, the biggest city in Catalonia, a region in Spain's northeast whose separatist government is defying Madrid with a drive for independence. - 'Whole street started to run' - Las Ramblas is one of Barcelona's busiest streets, lined with shops and restaurants and normally packed with tourists and street performers until well into the night. "When it happened I ran out and saw the damage," local shop worker Xavi Perez told AFP. "There were bodies on the ground with people crowding round them. People were crying. There were lots of foreigners.".
In Cambrils, meanwhile, Markel Artabe, a 20-year-old restaurant worker, said he was on the seaside promenade when he heard what he initially thought were fireworks, but soon realised were gunshots.
He said he saw a person lying on the floor "with a gunshot in the head. His friends were crying out 'help'."- Europe's deadliest attack -Spain, the world's third most popular tourism destination, had until now been spared the kind of extremist violence that has rocked nearby France, Belgium and Germany.
It had even seen a surge in tourists as visitors fled other restive sunshine destinations like Tunisia and Egypt. But it is no stranger to jihadist attacks, having been hit by what is still Europe's deadliest in March 2004, when bombs exploded on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people in an attack claimed by Al Qaeda-inspired extremists. It also had to deal with a decades-long campaign of violence waged by Basque separatist group ETA, which only declared a ceasefire in 2011. Police said Thursday that one of the arrested suspects in the Barcelona attack was a Spaniard born in Melilla, a Spanish territory in North Africa, and the other a Moroccan named as Driss Oukabir. In a further twist, the Spaniard was arrested in Alcanar, about 200 kilometres south of Barcelona, the scene of an explosion in a house late Wednesday that left one person dead and seven wounded and is believed to be linked to Thursday's assault. "We suspect that they (the occupants) were preparing an explosive device," Josep Lluis Trapero of the regional Catalonia police told reporters. 'Revolting attack' -Thursday's attack drew condemnation from across the globe, from US President Donald Trump to French leader Emmanuel Macron, whose country has witnessed a series of bloody jihadist atrocities including a truck rampage in Nice in July 2016 that killed 86 people. The Nice carnage and other assaults including the 2015 shootings and bombings on Paris nightspots were claimed by the Islamic State, but it is believed to be the first IS claim of an attack in Spain. Catalonia has the highest concentration of radicalised Islamists in the country along with Madrid and the Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla that border Morocco.

IS Fighters Almost Encircled in Syrian Desert
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 18/17/Syrian regime troops have seized more territory from the Islamic State jihadist group in a central desert region, almost entirely surrounding its fighters there, a monitor said Friday.
Backed by Russian warplanes and pro-government militias, the Syrian army has made considerable progress in its months-long offensive to retake the Badiya. The vast desert region, which stretches from the country's centre to the Iraqi and Jordanian borders, has been held by IS since 2014. "The regime managed to encircle the area of Okayrbat and the surrounding 44 hamlets, straddling the central provinces of Hama and Homs," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Syria's official SANA news agency also reported that Okayrbat had been surrounded. Russia's defence ministry said the Syrian army had taken control of the last supply route for arms, ammunition and equipment in the area. It said the jihadists were seeking to flee towards their stronghold of Deir Ezzor to the east. "The Russian air force is continuously conducting reconnaissance drone flights drones to find and destroy armoured vehicles, pickup trucks with heavy weapons and cars used by the terrorists," it added. Regime troops have also seized four gas fields in the central desert, the British-based Observatory said. Victory over IS in the region is seen as key to the army's hopes of retaking Deir Ezzor, the last Syrian province that remains nearly completely under IS control.

Israeli Minister: Relations With Trump Are More Important Than Calling Out Nazis

Jerusalem Post/August 18/17/Ayoub Kara, who is not Jewish himself, praised Trump for having "a proven track-record in opposing antisemitism and religious extremism." Israel must condemn Nazis but relations with US President Donald Trump are more important, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, who lately has been one of the ministers closest to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Netanyahu has faced criticism for not saying anything about what police said was a deliberate car-ramming into a group of people engaged in a counterprotest to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, until Tuesday, when he tweeted that he was “outraged by expressions of antisemitism, neo-Nazism and racism” and that “everyone should oppose this hatred.” The prime minister has not commented on the issue since Trump reignited controversy on Tuesday when he blamed both sides for the violence in Charlottesville. But Kara, who sat next to Netanyahu at last week’s mass Likud rally at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, said Israel must defend Trump. “Due to the terrific relations with the US, we need to put the declarations about the Nazis in the proper proportion,” Kara said. “We need to condemn antisemitism and any trace of Nazism, and I will do what I can as a minister to stop its spread. But Trump is the best US leader Israel has ever had. His relations with the prime minister of Israel are wonderful, and after enduring the terrible years of Obama, Trump is the unquestioned leader of the free world, and we must not accept anyone harming him.”Kara praised Trump for having “a proven track record in opposing antisemitism and religious extremism.” The statements by Kara, who made similar comments on the Knesset Channel, were immediately condemned by Knesset members. “What Kara said was nonsense,” said Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai, who heads the Knesset caucus on strengthening relations with the US. “Our relations with the US and with the president are important, but Israel also has a deep obligation to the American Jewish community. This is the time to prove our shared values and make unequivocally clear that Israel will fight antisemitism at any time and any place.”Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit said, “Kara, Netanyahu and their government lost their way: Israel has to condemn Nazis, period, and it should insist that the US president and the administration should condemn Nazis and any form of antisemitism categorically and unequivocally. Let us lead with moral conviction, not follow those who supported the racist!” Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said that “because Trump paid lip service to the settlement enterprise, Netanyahu has made him into the messiah and has forgiven him for even the most shocking, homophobic, racist, and even antisemitic statements.”Anti-Israel activists on social media used Kara’s statement to criticize the Jewish state. Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah wrote: “Israel wants to make sure not to alienate its white supremacist (Nazi) allies. Zionism is toxic.”
Without connection to Kara, Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis, a former Netanyahu spokesman, wrote on Facebook Thursday that “Nazis and neo-Nazis are a nauseating phenomenon that is dangerous and must not be tolerated in the US or anywhere else in the world.”

US Blacklists Two Syrian and Iraqi Men

Asharq Al-Awsat/August 18/17/ Washington- The United States State Department has added an Iraqi and Syrian ISIS members to its terrorist blacklist. The US terror designation forbids Americans from conducting business with them and any assets they are found to possess in areas under US jurisdiction will be seized. Syrian Ahmad Alkhald is an ISIS bombmaker, the Department said. Alkhald provided suicide vests and explosives expertise before the November 13, 2015 attacks on a Paris concert, bars and football crowd that left 130 dead. He is thought to have fled to Syria, but remained in contact with a gang that later carried out the March 22, 2016 bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station that killed 32 people. In the same announcement, the State Department blacklisted Abu Yahya al-Iraqi — also known as Iyad Hamed Mahl al-Jumaily — whom it said was a senior lieutenant of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Syrian Opposition to Negotiate under ‘One Delegation but Different Visions’
Asharq Al-Awsat/August 18/17/ Beirut- UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura announced on Thursday delaying next week’s intra-Syrian talks in Geneva to next fall, calling on Russia and Iran to use their powers for convincing the Syrian regime to attend. “Regarding the (Syrian) government, we are counting very much on Russia, on Iran, on anyone who has got major influence, and on the government of Syria to be ready finally to initiate when they are invited to Geneva, a genuine, direct negotiation with whatever (opposition) platform comes out,” he said. De Mistura also hoped that the Syrian crisis could witness significant changes starting next month. The delay announced on Thursday came as the Syrian opposition heads towards forming a single delegation with different visions to attend a meeting scheduled next Sunday in Riyadh ahead of holding the “Riyadh 2” conference in October. would include members of the High Negotiation Committee (HNC) and the two platforms of Moscow and Cairo. The Cairo platform already announced it would participate in Sunday’s meeting. Meanwhile, leader of the Moscow platform Qadri Jamil told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that the opposition group would also attend the meeting and that it sent its response to the HNC on Thursday. Member of the Cairo Platform Jamal Suleiman told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Riyadh conference aims at restarting talks between the three platforms and would mainly focus on unifying the opposition and on discussing the government, the constitution, elections and a common understanding of international resolutions, ahead of reaching positive outcomes. Sources warned Moscow on Thursday from trying to circumvent the Geneva talks and enforce new decisions, such as forming a new expanded government in Syria. Although sources from the opposition Syrian National Coalition saw the possible dispatch of one delegation to the meeting, they said this decision does not mean that the Syrian opposition would also have a unified position vis-à-vis the events in Syria, particularly the fate of Bashar Assad. Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Thursday the US military will remain in northern Syria long after the militants are defeated, predicting enduring ties with the Kurdish-dominated region. “They have a strategy policy for decades to come. There will be military, economic and political agreements in the long term between the leadership of the northern areas (of Syria) … and the US administration,” SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters.

ISIS Besieges 100,000 Civilians in Talaafar to Hinder its Liberation
Asharq Al-Awsat/August 18/17/ Irbil – Iraqi forces have for months been preparing to launch a military operation to expel the ISIS terrorist group from the city of Talaafar, west of Mosul. Some 100,000 civilians are trapped in the city and the Niniveh province council stressed the need to open safe passageways for them to facilitate their exit from the city before the imminent operation gets underway. Over the past few days, hundreds of Talaafar residents had fled towards security forces positions on the city’s outskirts. The Iraqi forces, comprised of the national army, federal police and anti-terrorism agency, have continued their preparations to liberate Talaafar from ISIS. Iraqi security leaders said that some 40,000 security forces members, backed by the national air force and International Coalition, will take part in the offensive. Member of the Niniveh council Binyan al-Jarba told Asharq Al-Awsat that the ISIS militants’ morale is very low after the losses their members and leaders incurred in battles they waged in the past three years against peshmerga and Iraqi forces. He did express his fears however over the civilians who are still besieged in Talaafar. “Some 100,000 people are trapped by the ISIS militants, who are using them as human shields to hinder the advance of the security forces,” he explained. He urged the military commanders to take into consideration the civilians when they launch their attack, hoping that their lives will be a priority. Jarba proposed that the battles be waged away from residential areas, saying that ISIS militants should be lured into open areas to avoid civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure. For around eight months, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militias had been deploying around Talaafar after advancing on the city in wake of the operation to liberate Mosul from ISIS.
The PMF had declared that it had surrounded Talaafar, but Iraqi security forces said that the terrorist group was able to break the siege on more than one occasion during which it evacuated militants and their families from the city and traversed the desert towards Syria. Iraqi security forces estimate that there are some 2,000 ISIS terrorists currently besieged in Talaafar, the Turkmen city whose population is divided equally between Sunnis and Shi’ites. Since the collapse of the Baath party rule in Iraq in 2003, the city acted as a main hub for extremist groups and ISIS was able to seize control of it in June 2014.

Alert at Border Between Egypt, Gaza after ISIS Attack on Qassam
Asharq Al-Awsat/August 18/17/ Ramallah- The Hamas Movement placed on Thursday all its security forces on alert on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt after an ISIS suicide bomber blew himself up near a Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades security force, killing one guard and injuring several others.
Later on Thursday, the Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, boosted the presence of its security guards at the border to prevent so-called “Jihadist Salafis,” which operate under ISIS in the Sinai peninsula, from moving in the area. Meanwhile, forces linked to the interior ministry in Gaza launched a large campaign against members of the ISIS-linked hardline organizations operating in the Strip, deploying additional guards at the checkpoints where security members searched passengers and vehicles in hunt for suspects. Iyad Bazm, spokesman for the Gaza-based Interior Ministry, said in a statement that security forces took several security measures to maintain a stable situation aimed at preventing the recurrence of similar incidents. Informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Movement “took a decision to break the power of all groups that threaten Hamas’ rule and its relations with Egypt.”The source added that “Hamas is now determined to pursue and arrest all members and supporters of those organizations before referring them to military courts and prisons.”On Thursday, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades issued a threatening statement to ISIS, saying: “We would not hesitate to defend our people, our land and to protect the project of resistance against all threats.” In a message of great significance, Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh attended in Rafah Thursday a funeral held for the Qassam guard who was killed in the ISIS attack. Later, ISIS issued a statement to mourn the suicide bomber and said Hamas was paying the price of its actions. The terrorist organization also threatened Hamas by saying: “Blood for blood, and destruction for destruction.”

Israel Suspends Contentious Settlement Law as it Demolishes Homes in Naqab
Asharq Al-Awsat/August 18/17/Israel froze on Friday a controversial settlement law that legalizes dozens of Jewish settlements built on private Palestinian land, which the UN labeled a “thick red line”.Supreme Court documents seen by AFP show that Judge Neal Hendel issued Thursday an open-ended restraining order suspending a bill passed by parliament that would retroactively legalize a number of outposts across the occupied West Bank. The decision was in response to a petition brought by 17 Palestinian local councils on whose land the settlements are built. Israeli and Palestinian rights groups were also parties to the petition. The development has not however hindered Israeli authorities from demolishing Arab houses throughout the territories. Hendel wrote in his decision that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had asked him to grant the order.
It did not specify a time limit but demanded that Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, deliver its response by September 10 and that Mandelblit submit an opinion by October 16. The act, known as the “legalization law”, was passed in February and brought immediate condemnation from around the world.
International law considers all settlements to be illegal, but Israel distinguishes between those it sanctions and those it does not — so-called outposts. Mandelblit himself warned the government the law could be unconstitutional and risked exposing Israel to international prosecution for war crimes.
UN envoy for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov said following the February Knesset vote the bill set a “very dangerous precedent.”“This is the first time the Israeli Knesset legislates in the occupied Palestinian lands and particularly on property issues,” he told AFP at the time.
“That crosses a very thick red line.”The act allows Israel to appropriate Palestinian private land on which settlers built without knowing it was private property or because the state allowed them to do so. Palestinian landowners whose property was taken for settlers would be compensated with cash or given alternative plots. Palestinians said the law was a means to “legalize theft” and France called it a “new attack on the two-state solution.” Some members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government advocate the annexation of much of the West Bank, a move that would end any hope of an independent Palestinian state. Mladenov said that the “legalization law” could be a prelude to that. “It opens the potential for the full annexation of the West Bank and therefore undermines substantially the two-state solution,” he said after its passing. On Thursday, Israeli authorities demolished four houses belonging to Arab residents in al-Naqab. The authorities had since Tuesday tasked bulldozers, protected by hundreds of policemen, with destroying the residences of Arabs in the region, claiming that they were illegal. The razing of the houses is primarily aimed at forcing Arab residents in al-Naqab to despair and eventually leave their homes and properties. In Umm al-Hayran, which Israel does not recognize, clashes broke out between the police and residents after Israeli bulldozers entered the village. Head of the popular committee in Umm al-Hayran, Raed Abou al-Qaayan said: “The clashes erupted after the vehicles and police came into our town in order to uproot us from our homes and land.” He accused the authorities of seeking to establish the Jewish settlement of Hayran on the ruins of the Arab village.

Riots in Jordan in Protest against Municipal Elections Results
Asharq Al-Awsat/August 18/17/ Amman – Riots erupted on Thursday in several regions in Jordan in protest against the results of municipal elections that were announced on Wednesday night. No one was injured in the unrest as a security source said that the protesters are demanding a recount of the vote that they claimed was “flawed.”The rioters blocked with burning tires the al-Tayba roundabout in the Irbid province in northern Jordan before the security forces intervened to disperse them using tear gas. Similar unrest was seen in the al-Karak province. Two power plants in the al-Hashemiya and Rawdat al-Amir Rashed were also shut down by rioters, but electricity was soon restored to the affected areas. Information Minister and official government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani described the unrest as “shameful.”He said in a statement on Thursday that security agencies have arrested a number of perpetrators, adding that a lawless gang that is known to the security forces is involved in the riots.“What happened does not reflect us, our state or our society,” he declared. In addition, a number of rioters attacked polling stations in the Liwa al-Mwaqar, in what the electoral body said was an assault against the “Jordan’s dignity.” The electoral body had canceled elections in three areas in al-Mwaqar and canceled the results in ten others after they were attacked. Commenting on the victory of youth and women leaderships in the elections, Momani said that this indicates that the electoral process achieved a major political goal that saw the expansion of the base of participation in decision-making. He underlined the “awareness of the Jordanian society and its acceptance of diversity, which assert the essence of the democratic process.”Participating in elections is the right of all members of society, he added. Furthermore, the government spokesman stressed the need to serve the people in their regions and achieve justice in providing services away from political or partisan influence. Municipal work in turn should “rise above” partisanship, he said.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 18-19/17
Iran, Israel and destroying the region
Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/August 18/17
Western diplomatic circles close to Israel have been circulating information – supplied by the latter – which stipulates that Iran has stepped up its support and arms’ supplies to Hezbollah in Lebanon, particularly on the Lebanese-Syrian borders. According to these diplomats, Iran provided Hezbollah with a huge supply of missiles and it is training Lebanese fighters, among others, in Lebanon and not in Syria. Colleague Philip Abi Aql wrote in L’orient Le Jour that President Donald Trump told Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri that Iran supplied Hezbollah with 150,000 missiles and that they only had 10,000 missiles before. The question now is where is Iran taking Lebanon to? Will we again pay the price of the alliance between part of the Lebanese government and Hezbollah? A lot has been said about the army and its defense of Lebanon and battle against ISIS on the borders. The American administration is supplying the Lebanese army with equipment it needs. However, unfortunately for Lebanon, Iran has managed to impose its influence on the country through Hezbollah and its Christian allies that represent the Lebanese state. The Lebanese people now wait for Hassan Nasrallah to deliver speeches to know his strategy in the region and inside Lebanon. The situation in Lebanon will remain dangerous as long as Iran, Hezbollah and Israel control its fate.
Funding Hezbollah
Iran has been funding Hezbollah and its allies for years because it wants to maintain the presence of the Shiite crescent on the borders with Syria and seeks to control part of Syria. The last thing Lebanon needs are Hezbollah’s threats that they will defeat Israel. Lebanon cannot bear more destruction and wars. The Lebanese state is not like it was in 2006 when Israel launched its brutal war on Lebanon. Hezbollah’s influence has expanded now and it’s no secret that Lebanon suffers from this hegemony that no one in the government risks defying.
No one in the government can prevent Hezbollah from fighting in Syria to defend the criminal regime and no one can prevent Hezbollah ministers from visiting Damascus. No one can implement the UN Security Council resolution to disarm Hezbollah as on the contrary, Iran has stepped up its armament of Hezbollah. Meanwhile, Hezbollah claims that it is helping Lebanon avoid a new war with the Israeli enemy.
Destructive powers
Lebanon is located between two regional destructive powers, Israel and Iran. The policy of dissociating the country from the region’s wars is naive because major powers in Lebanon are fighting in Syria and an important part of the state – especially those who aspire to become presidents later – is allied with Hezbollah. Hezbollah helped the Syrian regime destroy Syria and murder its people, and by fighting this war, it contributed to displacing millions of Syrians. Lebanon alone hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees and social tensions between them and the Lebanese people have reached a very dangerous level. Hezbollah put Lebanon under Iran’s mercy and impoverished it through the Syrian refugees. It is killing Shiite youths who are brainwashed into thinking that they will be martyrs if they fight. What martyrdom is that when they are dying so Bashar al-Assad survives and Iran maintains its influence over Lebanon?
The situation in Lebanon will remain dangerous as long as Iran, Hezbollah and Israel control its fate, and especially that everyone in the region has left it on its own in a raging sea contaminated with problems.

Dialogue with Iran through Qatar
Salman al-Dosary/Al Arabiya/August 18/17
Qatar’s new lie flew out the window of its “fingers crossed” policy which it had been implementing since the quartet boycott. This time, Doha claimed that Saudi Arabia wants a mediation with Iran. This statement was never declared by any Saudi official or even the Iraqi Foreign Minister for example. It was reported that while he was in Iran, Iraqi Interior Minister Qassim al-Araji stated Riyadh has asked for Iraq’s mediation. Saudi Arabia was quick in denying the reports about seeking mediation,” Saudi Arabia has not requested any mediation in any way with the Republic of Iran,” adding that what has been circulated on news in this regard is completely untrue, logic and series of events in the region makes it impossible that Saudi Arabia would request a mediation with Iran amid current conditions. Aside from that, negotiations with Iran was impossible especially after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman settled the issue and stated his country’s clear position of this supposed dialogue: “There is no common ground between us and Iran”. The Prince said there was no room for dialogue with Iran that is busy preparing to control the Islamic world. But, what made Qatar rush and promote such a false statement before even making sure of its validity? The answer to that question can be summed in three points. First of all, the quartet boycott proved that Doha has no policy other than promoting lies. Negotiations are not possible as long as Qatar keeps up with its hostile policy against Arab and regional countries
Rumors debunked
Initially, Qatar tried to make it sound that this is not a boycott but a siege. Then, it claimed that Qatari citizens were banned from Umrah, which was debunked as 1,600 Qatari nationals entered Saudi Arabia just few days before severance of ties. After that, Doha tried to internationalize Hajj, before retracting its statement following a strongly worded response from Saudi Arabia warning it “not to play with fire”. Again, Qatar tried to spread a lie that its airlines are flying above the four countries, which is surely not true. Not to forget the organized campaign that Qatar used to resort to whether secretly, or through its media outlets, or indirectly. The second reason is that Qatar is trying to alleviate the pressure on it after its openness on Iran. Everyone is alienating themselves from the capital and spearhead of terrorism and it is no secret that collaborating with Tehran would put Qatar in the same category. Iran wanted to spread chaos and destabilize the stability and security of the region.
If Qatar chose to be in the same league as Iran, then it surely is practicing a policy that is harmful to the region and the world, as well as consolidating the fears that drove regional countries to cut ties with it. Doha is even falsely trying to include Saudi Arabia in the same group. The third reason for Qatar’s promotion of this exposed lie is that for years now, Doha had been repeatedly trying to force the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to approach Tehran. The Iraqi lie presented an open window to carry on with its attempts.
Doha summit
I was assigned to cover the Doha Gulf Summit of 2007 and everyone was surprised with the participation of the former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the first Iranian president to ever participate in a Gulf summit since the council’s establishment in 1981. Back then, a Gulf minister told me that they weren’t aware of the invitation. He said: “We hadn’t been aware of that and we weren’t consulted. We knew it from media.” Another Gulf official stated that there is Gulf “disgust” because of Ahmadinejad’s presence. Doha even took advantage of the opportunity that GCC Sec-Gen Abdul Rahman al-Attiyah declared that the Iranian presidential invitation was sent due to a “joint Gulf wish”, which turned out to be false later on. Just like that, Qatar chose over night to turn the tables on its principles. Doha participated in the war on Houthis then suddenly announced it was done out of courtesy. It developed a relation with Iran and constantly tried to deceive others otherwise. Sensible and sane countries do not change their principles. Stances change based on political developments. Concerning dialogue with Iran, if Tehran continued with its sabotaging methods, then negotiations and mediations are useless. Once it changes its policy, then no one will be against stability in the region and countries’ rapprochement. Dialogue is not possible while Iran dangerously escalates its expansion policies through its militias and accomplices in six Arab countries. Negotiations are not possible as long as Qatar keeps up with its hostile policy against Arab and regional countries.

America: A tale of racism
Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/August 18/17
American President Donald Trump is going through a crisis these days. It’s a real test for him as president of the country that’s described as the leader of the free world which is the tolerant democratic world that believes in individuals’ and group’s rights no matter what their color, race or religion is.
The crisis is linked to racist activity of some extremist right-wing groups in America. They are racist Nazi movements that believe in white supremacy and they oppose all laws of equality. The most prominent of these groups is the Ku Klax Klan which was established in the American South after President Abraham Lincoln defeated the separatists who opposed liberating black people. The KKK is still present to this day and it’s supported by dozens of other racist organizations.The KKK was formed after the racist separatists’ defeat in the American South in 1865 and after the South was subdued by Washington. It pursued black people and abused them, and it had supporters in all of the government’s sectors, i.e. in the police, courts..etc. The crisis is linked to racist activity of some extremist right-wing groups in America. They are racist Nazi movements that believe in white supremacy and they oppose all laws of equality
Black people suffered from this group’s assault for decades especially that they were liberated from slavery but they remained second-class citizens according to the law as there were strict racist laws to separate black and white people in schools, public facilities and every place where people gathered.
After around a century of racial discrimination, black people engaged in strong activity and violence erupted. The federal government realized it must do something before the situation escalates and worsens.
A history of violence.
In 1960, the US elected the young John Kennedy as president. He was a democrat with an impressive charisma and he had a humanitarian agenda that included achieving justice and peace and supporting the poor. He decided to save America from serious escalation of conflicts between black and white people but he was tragically assassinated in Dallas in Texas in 1963. He was young when he died and his assassination remains a mystery that’s difficult to understand although it’s been more than 50 years since he was killed and thousands of books and movies were produced. His vice president Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded him. He was a humanitarian but not as much as Kennedy but he implemented the latter’s project and achieved a miracle by issuing a law that ends racial segregation and that imposes equality between black and white people.
Although this historical decision has worked as it should until this day, extremist right-wing groups did not halt their racist activity which reached its peak ever since Trump was elected. This is another story which we will discuss in another article.

Risks of Iran nuclear deal collapse

Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/August 18/17
We can sense fear in statements made by Iranian officials and most recently President Hassan Rouhani who warned against the consequences of the big scheme’s collapse – the reconciliation agreement with the West based on the nuclear deal signed during the term of former US President Barack Obama.
The Congress shocked the Iranian government when it reinstated a number of economic sanctions on Iran, and US President Donald Trump insisted on his stance that the nuclear agreement serves Iran more than the US, threatening to abolish it. Countries of the European Union (EU) are keen to preserve the agreement, which they believe it ushered in a new phase with the Iranian regime. Since signing it, they rushed to seal huge trade deals with Tehran, a move that was previously not possible because the US government would have put any European company that dealt with Iran on the blacklist.
Most provoked
Arab states, especially Gulf countries, were the most provoked by this agreement. They were neither against sealing a deal that eradicates the Iranian nuclear danger nor against dealing commercially with Iran but objected over its high cost – extending Iran’s powers via fighting in Syria, Yemen and Iraq and threatening other Arab states. In case Iran considered that imposing sanctions abolishes the nuclear deal then it will resume uranium enrichment, renewing tension. Iran offers the West two options: its nuclear project that will threaten the West and Israel in the future, or being allowed to have hegemony over the region. Tehran used the second option as a weapon to blackmail the West: Obama’s administration struck with it a deal that only aims at halting its nuclear program, allowing it to enjoy its powers in several areas, including those that the US considers as interest zones such as the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The new Iranian threats against the US economic sanctions must be taken seriously because they trigger Iran’s way of imposing what it wants via violence and chaos
Significant progress
Yet, Iran’s commitment to ceasing the nuclear project is a significant progress that makes Iran worthy of the removal of economic and commercial sanctions. But Obama’s administration went so far in its concessions and allowed Tehran to wage wars, for the first time and in a direct manner, even in states not lying on its border such as Syria and Yemen. The nuclear agreement is partially responsible for the region’s chaos. There are more than 50,000 extremists fighting in Syria – directed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and brought in from various countries at the time when the international community was endeavoring to get rid of extremist groups such as ISIS. Also read: Iran reform leader Mehdi Karroubi on hunger strike over 6-year house arrest
Because the nuclear agreement was negotiated discreetly between the Obama and Rouhani teams, the region hasn’t been aware of its details until recently – the Obama administration left behind it a dangerous mine. Iran has become more aggressive after signing the agreement, this is evident.
Disrupting the project
The deal might succeed in disrupting the nuclear project for another decade but it has fueled a more dangerous war in the Middle East and posed an unprecedented level of threat to regimes since the revolution in Iran in 1979. It also reinforced extremists in Tehran. The new Iranian threats against the US economic sanctions must be taken seriously because they trigger Iran’s way of imposing what it wants via violence and chaos. But the US relapse in Syria represents a huge tactical mistake because Syria is where Iran can be besieged and obliged to cooperate regionally and internationally. There is a contradiction here because Washington is escalating with Iran on the nuclear level and allowing it to operate freely on the Syrian front.

Is a Tolerant Culture Being Replaced by an Intolerant One?
Saher Fares/Gatestone Institute/August 18/17
One need not go back centuries to the Muslim conquest of the Christian late classical world -- the medieval Barbary corsair raids, the Ottoman yoke in Central and Eastern Europe or the slave markets of Kaffa in Tatar Muslim Crimea -- to understand that this violence clearly predates the European colonial era, the creation of the modern state of Israel, or the issue of climate change.
Countries such as China, Nigeria or Kenya that are not Western, not "imperialist", not whatever the excuses that Islamists make, are still spectacularly attacked by similar stabbings. Month on month, there seems almost nowhere that Islamic terror did not strike.
Volumes of revered Islamic texts establish in great detail the grounds of violence and oppression of non-believers and those deemed heretical. These supposed grounds -- made alive daily in madrassas and mosques across the world before being acted upon by religiously-trained terrorists -- are childishly dismissed by Western liberals as immaterial.
The first step towards a solution is to question the received knowledge tirelessly dished out by media pundits in the West. What is lacking is simply seeing a huge body of evidence of theological justification for Islamist terror.
How thin can excuses wear every time an atrocity is committed in the name of Islam?
When 13 people were killed and scores more injured this week in a vehicle-ramming attack in Barcelona, Spain, and stabbing men shouting "This is for Allah!" on London Bridge and in Borough Market in June, what the victims least cared about was the Western elite pontificating that the latest atrocity "had nothing to do with Islam".
British Prime Minister Theresa May said, "It is time to say enough is enough" and promised a review of her country's counter-terrorism strategy.
In the absence, however, of an honest and tempered look at the root causes of this terrorism, sacred or not, and a painful soul-searching by Muslims themselves of the grounds in their religion that give rise to such violence, it will never be "enough".
On June 4, British PM Theresa May said, "It is time to say enough is enough" and promised a review of her country's counter-terrorism strategy. In the absence, however, of an honest look at the root causes of this terrorism, and a painful soul-searching by Muslims of the grounds in their religion that give rise to such violence, it will never be "enough". (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
One need not go back centuries to the Muslim conquest of the Christian late classical world -- the medieval Barbary corsair raids, the Ottoman yoke in Central and Eastern Europe or the slave markets of Kaffa in Tatar Muslim Crimea -- to understand that this violence clearly predates the European colonial era, the creation of the modern state of Israel, or the issue of climate change.
Only a fortnight ago, 29 Christian Copts were killed for refusing to say, "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet" while on a trip to an Egyptian monastery on May 26. Separately, an unconfirmed number of Christians were killed and taken hostage by a mix of Saudi, Pakistani, Chechen, Moroccan and local jihadists in the southern Philippines during the past few weeks. In addition, 90 people were killed in a bombing in Kabul on May 31, and 26 people were killed at an ice cream parlor in Baghdad during Ramadan. None of these massacres had anything to do with "Bush's war" in Iraq or U.S. President Donald J. Trump's proposed "Muslim ban".
Countries such as China, Nigeria or Kenya that are not Western, not "imperialist", not whatever the excuses that Islamists make, are still spectacularly attacked by similar stabbings. Month on month, there seems almost nowhere Islamic terror did not strike. In January 2014, there the kidnapping and forced conversion of Christian Chibok girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria. In March 2014, there were stabbings at China's Kunming Railway Station in by eight terrorists of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement -- male and female attackers pulled out long-bladed knives and stabbed and slashed passengers. In May 2014, there was the shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. In June 2014, there was the murder of 48 people in Mpeketoni in Kenya, and the list goes on for just the first half of 2014 alone.
The slaughter at London's Parliament Square; the Manchester Arena; the St. Petersburg Metro; Paris's Bataclan Theater and sports stadium; the three bombings targeting travelers in Brussels; last Christmas's truck-ramming attack on a packed festival market in Berlin, to name but a few of the further incidents -- all really had nothing to do with avenging the Congolese from the onerous legacy of King Leopold.
Rather, volumes of revered Islamic texts establish in great detail the grounds of violence and oppression of non-believers and those deemed heretical. These supposed grounds -- made alive daily in madrassas and mosques across the world before being acted upon by religiously trained terrorists -- are childishly dismissed by Western liberals as immaterial.
Meanwhile, men, women and children are being offered as human sacrifices on the altar of political cynicism. Divine justice will doubtlessly judge not only the murderers and a creed that often seems bloodthirsty, but also those who insist, against all evidence, that this creed has nothing to do with those deaths.
The first step towards a solution is to question the received knowledge tirelessly dished out by media pundits in the West, and confirmed by too many supposed Muslim "moderates" both at home and abroad. What is lacking is simply seeing a huge body of evidence of theological justification for Islamist terror.
Have the statements by politicians in the 1990s (for example, at the time of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman's plot against the World Trade Center) changed from those uttered in the wake of 9/11, or again from those repeated after the San Bernardino attack in 2015? Do politicians give their "Islam is a religion of peace" platitudes out of political expediency or even the slightest knowledge of the ideology of Islam? Do they know actually know more about Islam than many of Islam's learned ulema (scholars), including Ibn Taymiyyah, or the authentic hadith (actions and sayings of Muhammad)? One says:
"Allah's Apostle said, 'I have been sent with the shortest expressions bearing the widest meanings, and I have been made victorious with terror.'" (Sahih Al-Bukhari 122)
How does one read verses in the Quran such as:
"I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers. Smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them. This is because they contended against Allah and His Messenger. If any contend against Allah and His Messenger, Allah is strict in punishment." (8:12-13)?
When it is said that Islam has nothing to do with verses such as these, is that meant to appease Muslims, comfort the victims of Islamic terror or support the comfort of the non-Muslim community? If it is the first, well, as history teaches, appeasement simply does not work. Besides, it would be an offensive to presume that Muslims, all Muslims, are to be held responsible for a creed that, in their own understanding of it, greatly varies from one individual to another. If the denial is intended to comfort victims, it does not. And as for the comfort of the non-Muslim community, what is being served up has to be based on what is visibly true. Should such arguments not first be pitched to try to convince those who are willing to kill and be killed in the name of Islam, rather than to those out to have a good time on a Saturday evening?
Will the time come when reformers in the Islamic world will have louder voices in scrutinizing Islam -- despite the obvious dangers to their lives -- than Western elites, who are merely afraid of being falsely accused of being "Islamophobes"? Why should it be "Islamophobic" to want to defend yourself?
For nearly two years, a prime-time TV program by a young Egyptian reformist, Islam el-Beheiry, has called for an overhaul of the millennium-old compilation of hadiths. He argues that much of it is incompatible with modernity ad the best understanding of divinity and prophethood:
"Such tradition has very little good amid a multitude of evil, least of which is the insistence by all the Four Schools of Sunni Islam that Christians can be killed with impunity. A Muslim life is 'superior' to that of a non-Muslim. Such is the Ijmaa' (jurisprudence consensus)."
Beheiry was sentenced in May 2015 to five years in prison with hard labor for "defamation of religion" -- thanks to Egypt's blasphemy law. The sentence was reduced in December 2015 to one year. After serving most of his sentence, he was released on a presidential pardon.
Still, this Ramadan 2017, Beheiry was back again on the screen with a program he calls "The Map", in which he is trying to build a scientific way of judging what he thinks is divine and what is not in the mass of Islamic literature.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, an army general who in 2014 came to power following vast street protests against the short-lived rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, said it was no longer feasible that the Muslim World would set itself "in enmity against the whole world".
Now, in Europe, some rightly ask: If one in a thousand is a bad apple, why should we judge all the apples. One also needs to ask: If one in a thousand apple blows up in my yard, how many more violent incidents will Europe get after bringing in a cartload of millions more? Or, what if the problem is not really with the fruit, but with the tree itself?
Why is a desire to preserve one's own culture deemed racist? I do not believe that I am better because I am or am not a Muslim. Is it "xenophobic" to ask such questions when the violence keeps edging closer and closer to home? Why should it be "Islamophobic" to want to defend yourself?
I do not fear Muslims, but I fear that a tolerant culture is being replaced by an intolerant, misogynistic, anti-Semitic and supremacist one -- espoused, even semi-consciously, by much of the Islamic world today. It is a world that is being assured by its scholars that such intolerant, misogynistic, anti-Semitic and supremacist manifestations are, in all ages, in the best spirit of Islam.
Is it "Islamophobic" to be angry at such atrocities committed every day, or to be angry at politicians who lie about what Islam is and is not, and merely call their challengers names while failing to do anything to stop the atrocities?
Should European courts and parliaments criminalize free speech that criticizes this understanding of Islam among the bulk of Islamic jurists, when those jurists stand at the head of an assembly-line of suicide bombers targeting Western nationals?
Should those who ask questions about Islamic terror be ostracized by the mainstream media and academia, while those institutions themselves give no answers to the jihadist problem of "holy hate" in our midst?
I do not wish the world to turn against Muslims. I only wish the sages would stop and think if all this really has "nothing to do with Islam." Can we not say, "stop justifying murderers in the name of your religion"?
Can we not simply say that such creeds will not be allowed here in the West, will not be whitewashed, glossed over, or explained away by Westerners through a mixture of cultural cringe and a misguided sense of guilt? Can we not reject jihad, accept apostasy, and be able freely to ask questions in our public spaces, on our television shows, in our schools and on our streets?
**Saher Fares is an Arabic linguist and researcher from the Middle East.
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Kissinger’s Analysis of Mideast is Full of Loopholes
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/August 18/17
Whatever one might think of Henry Kissinger’s view of the world, not to mention his contribution to international debate during the past six decades, one thing is certain: He has his own matrix for measuring right and wrong in policy terms.
That matrix is balance of power, a European concept developed during the medieval times that reached cannon status with the so-called Westphalian treaties to organize relations among emerging nations in Europe. Call him a ”one trick pony” if you like but you will also have to admire Kissinger’s consistency in promoting foreign policy as a means of stabilizing the status quo regardless of moral let alone ideological considerations. In his version of Realpolitik the aim should be to freeze rather than try to change the world, something fraught with dangerous risks.
Kissinger’s neo-Westphalian view of international relations produced détente which, in turn, arguably prolonged the Soviet Union’s existence by a couple of decades. His shuttle diplomacy froze the post-1967 status quo in the Israel-Palestine conflict, postponing a genuine settlement for God knows how many more decades. The same approach put the seal of approval on the annexation of South Vietnam by the Communist North despite the latter’s defeat on the battleground.
The good Doctor’s latest contribution concerns the campaign against ISIS. Kissinger warns that destroying ISIS could lead to an “Iranian radical empire”.
In other words, we must leave ISIS, which is a clear and active threat to large chunks of the Middle East and Europe, intact for fear of seeing it replaced by an arguably bigger threat represented by a “radical Iranian empire.”
As usual there are many problems with Kissinger’s attempt at using medieval European concepts to analyze situations in other parts of the world.
To start with, he seems to think that the Khomeinist regime in Tehran and the so-called ISIS “caliphate” in Raqqa belong to two different categories. The truth, however, is that they are two versions of the same ugly reality, peddling the same ideology, using the same methods, and helping bestow legitimacy on one another.
What is the difference between Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claiming “supreme leadership of all Muslims throughout the world” as “Imam” and Abou Bakr al-Baghdadi’s similar claim as Caliph? And aren’t both regimes claiming to have the only true version of Islam with a mission to conquer the entire world in its name? One may even argue that without Khomeinism in Iran there would not have been ISIS and ISIS-like groups, not to mention the Taliban, in our part of the world at least at this time.
That ISIS and the Khomeinist regime feed on each other is also illustrated by Tehran’s current line of propaganda which is telling the Iranians they must tolerate brutal oppression as the price for protection against ISIS.
Kissinger’s second error is to think that it’s not possible to fight against two versions of evil without favoring one.
In fighting two evils one may have to operate in separate time sequels. In 1939, it was imperative to defeat Nazi Germany despite the fact that such an outcome might have strengthened the USSR which at the time was an ally of Hitler. But once the first evil was eliminated the fight to defeat the second one could start in the shape of the Cold War.
Kissinger’s third error is him forgetting the contribution of the Obama administration to strengthening the Khomeinist regime, not to say allowing it to survive. Obama looked the other way as the mullahs crushed a popular uprising in Iran in 2009. He then rushed to give them legitimacy by engaging them in a diplomatic charade one effect of which was to save the cash-starved regime escape the worst consequences of its own failed economic policies.
After almost four decades, the Khomeinists have failed to build the institutions of state, something without which no credible empire-building could be launched.
Contrary to what Kissinger seems to think, the choice is not between helping the Khomeinist regime and going to full-scale war against it. The least that Western democracies could do is not to help the Khomeinists out of the holes they constantly dig for themselves.
Kissinger’s next error, sadly shared by several pundits and analysts across the globe, is to vastly overestimate the solidity and power of the present regime in Tehran. True, the Khomeinist regime has enough power to cause a great deal of trouble in the region and is doing so. But this doesn’t mean it is capable of building an empire, something that requires a strong home base which the present Iranian regime no longer has, if it ever did. The Khomeinists have difficulty recruiting Iranians to become martyrs in foreign wars, and are forced to hire Lebanese, Afghan Pakistani, and, more recently, European passport-holding mercenaries. Without cash-injection by the US and allies, the Khomeinists will also be hard put to pay salaries let alone finance empire building projects.
To be sure, the weakest of troublemakers can still do some harm as we saw with Muammar Kaddafi’s Operetta-size empire-building and now witness with North Korea’s quixotic comedy adding color to this year’s silly season.
Finally, Kissinger’s biggest error, perhaps, is the assumption that the only choice the Middle East has, at least in Syria and Iraq, is between the “caliphate” in Raqqa and the “Imamate” in Tehran.
Anyone familiar with the situation on the ground would know that this is certainly not the case. An overwhelming majority of Syrians, including even followers of Bashar al-Assad, do cherish the prospect of a future under tutelage from Tehran. Given a choice, they would certainly look at other options. In Iraq, too, even such figures as Nuri al-Maliki, have realized the difficulty of marketing Iranian domination as a recipe for the future; this is why the former premier is now trying to get at least a nod and a wink from Moscow.
Neither the Raqqa “caliphate” not the Tehran “imamate” are capable of providing the stability which the region needs and which Kissinger sees as the ultimate goal of foreign policy. Since both are the twin causes of the current tragedy in the region, bequeathing both to oblivion is the only Realpolitik worthy of consideration. The order in which that happens is a matter for another debate.
The creative chaos marketed by the George W Bush administration gave birth to dangers which, in turn; have produced new opportunities which Kissinger’s quest for an elusive balance of power would miss.

US ties with Iranian opposition strengthening

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/ArabNews/August 18/17
The Iranian opposition is gaining momentum due to a growing consensus in the US Congress over the necessity for regime change in Iran. A senior delegation of US senators went to Albania’s capital Tirana this week to meet Maryam Rajavi, who heads the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a political coalition calling for regime change in Iran and considered the main threat to the ruling mullahs. They also met members of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (MEK), the main member of this varied coalition of groups and individuals. The high-profile visit comes at a time when Washington has slapped major new sanctions on Iran, including its Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), for its ballistic missile drive, its support for terrorism and its human rights violations. Given that the IRGC controls over 40 percent of Iran’s economy, these new sanctions are a heavy blow to Tehran’s ambitions.
Ties between Iran’s opposition and US officials are strengthening, and the number of high-level officials supporting the opposition is rising. They recognize the opposition as a legitimate representative of many Iranians who seek democracy in their country. Rajavi expressed her gratitude for the US Senate’s tireless efforts to protect thousands of MEK members in Iraq and relocate them to Albania.
Previously, in a Senate briefing, several US officials strongly condemned Iran’s destructive role in Iraq. Sen. Roy Blunt joined an initiative demanding the urgent transfer of MEK members stationed in a former US military base known as Camp Liberty near Baghdad.
Tehran fears the opposition’s soft power more than the hard power of foreign governments. That is why Iranian leaders and media outlets react forcefully and anxiously to such visits and opposition activities.
In April, Sen. John McCain, a longtime supporter of the Iranian opposition, visited the MEK in Albania and met with Rajavi. MEK members were able to leave Iraq after a four-and-a-half-year ordeal in Camp Liberty following their forced transfer from their 26-year home in Camp Ashraf, northeast of Baghdad.
From 2009, following the transfer of security from the US military to the Iraqi government, the MEK came under eight major ground and rocket attacks by Iran-backed proxies against Ashraf and Liberty. This was in parallel with a seven-year siege. After losing more than 160 of their colleagues to the attacks and blockade, MEK members were finally able to leave Iraq for European countries, mainly Albania. This latest visit sends a strong signal to Tehran that the NCRI is gaining momentum. This time last year, Tehran was hell-bent on destroying the MEK. Now the tide has turned, with the opposition on the offensive.
Tehran fears the opposition’s soft power more than the hard power of foreign governments. That is why Iranian leaders and media outlets react forcefully and anxiously to such visits and opposition activities. The opposition can be a very powerful tool to pressure Tehran without the need for direct military confrontation.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh.

Don’t Just Denounce Radicalized Youth. Engage with them.

Scott Atran/The Washington Post/August 18/17/The violence in Charlottesville last weekend may seem new to some Americans: A white supremacist terrorizing protesters with his car, killing and maiming nearly at random. But in fact, the scene is painfully familiar, recalling recent attacks by vehicles in London, Nice and Berlin — all inspired by ISIS. In the days since, members of the Charlottesville community have grappled with what could have been done to prevent the incident. As the attacker’s former high school teacher said: “I admit I failed. I tried my best. But this is definitely a teachable moment and something we need to be vigilant about, because this stuff is tearing up our country.” Indeed, the values of liberal and open democracy increasingly appear to be losing ground around the world to those of narrow, xenophobic ethno-nationalisms and radical Islam — similar to attacks on republican values by fascists and communists in the 1920s and 1930s. But this is not a “clash of civilizations”; it’s a collapse of communities. Ethno-nationalist violent extremism — as well as terrorism — represent not the resurgence of traditional cultures but their unraveling. Young people unmoored from millennial traditions flail about in search of a social identity that gives personal significance and glory.
This is the dark side of globalization. Individuals radicalize while seeking identity in an increasingly flattened world. We have replaced vertical lines of communication between generations with horizontal peer-to-peer attachments that can span the globe, but paradoxically within ever-narrower channels for information. Without broad awareness and serious effort at guidance, we risk fanning violent passions to our likely detriment and that of others across the world. The “creative destruction” of our market-based economy, which forces people to gamble on innovation and change, often comes at steep social cost, especially for communities and regions that have little time to adapt. New institutions eclipse spiritual values of traditional communities, long-standing cultures and religions. Anxiety and alienation along prevailing political fault lines often erupt in the form of redemptive violence. Religious philosopher Soren Kierkegaard called this the “dizziness of freedom.” Humanist philosopher Erich Fromm argued that social disruption leads people to seek stability in authoritarian systems, such as Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism.
My research team’s ongoing work on radicalization among young people seems to confirm those theories. In Hungary, we find that youths today strongly support the government’s call for restoring the “national cohesion” of the country’s former fascist, pro-Nazi regime. And in Iraq, we find nearly all young people we interview who are coming out from under ISIS rule in Mosul initially welcomed it for stability and security amid the chaos following the US invasion. In Eastern Europe, people increasingly reject democracy as a competition of values that divides “The Nation,” and in the Middle East, people view “God’s Law” as the value that keeps person and society whole.
In the West, left-leaning working-class communities disadvantaged by economic globalization and right-leaning defenders of cultural ideals threatened by multicultural globalism have joined populist movements that reaffirm the primacy of the nation-state. They reject international alliances and abhor political correctness and the push for cultural diversity. In other parts of the world, transnational terrorist movements have enabled violent groups to reach increasingly marginalized immigrant communities, destabilizing host societies in Europe and elsewhere.
Fearful of the chauvinism and xenophobia that fed two world wars, many Western leaders and members of the media simply denounce as “bigoted” or “racist” the concern with national identity or cultural preference. Instead of seeking alternatives to leaving defense of heartfelt patriotism and value preference — including traditional religious values — to political fringe groups that increasingly encroach on the mainstream, there is an ostrich-like blindness to panhuman preferences for one’s own.
But across cultures, the strongest forms of primary group identity are bounded by sacred values, such as an unwillingness to sell out one’s religion or one’s country at any cost. Such devotion — whether religious or attached to a secular ideological “-ism” — leads some groups to prevail despite having considerably less firepower and manpower than the state armies and police forces they oppose. The resolution of these seemingly intractable conflicts requires intimate and long-term commitment to exploring the limits of one’s own tolerance and respect. As one imam who formerly recruited for ISIS told me: “The young who came to us were not to be lectured at like witless children; we have to give them a better, positive message.” We need a strategy to redirect radicalized youth by engaging with their passions, rather than simply ignoring or fearing or satisfying ourselves by denouncing them.
**Scott Atran is co-founder of Artis International and author of “Talking to the Enemy”