August 24/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 13/10-17/:"Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing."

The believers from there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage
Acts of the Apostles 28/11-15/:"Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead. We put in at Syracuse and stayed there for three days; then we weighed anchor and came to Rhegium. After one day there a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found believers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. The believers from there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 23-24/17
Bashir Gemayel is A Dream That Will Never Die/Elias Bejjani/August 23/17
The new Iranian threat 'exposes the weakness of the nuclear agreement'/Alexandra Lukash and Nir Cohen/Ynetnews/August 23/17
Can Greenblatt succeed where his predecessors failed/Noam Tibon/Ynetnews/August 23/17
Netanyahu meets with Putin, expresses concern over Iran's role in Syria/Herb Keinon/Jerusalem Post/August 23, 2017
Two New Totalitarian Movements: Radical Islam and Political Correctness/A. Z. Mohamed/Gatestone Institute/August 23/17
Iran vs. Turkey, the MidEast’s Perpetual Rivalry/Daniel Pipes Washington Times August 23, 2017
Palestinians: Taking Journalists Hostage/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/August 23/17
The President Has a Special Obligation to Condemn Nazis and KKK/Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/August 23/17
Pyongyang cheers on Bashar al-Assad/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 23/17
Vehicle terrorism, the up and running modern militant tool/Dr. Halla Diyab/Al Arabiya/August 23/17
Trump, the media and the right wing/Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/August 23/17
President Trump and the Palestinian issue/Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi/Al Arabiya/August 23/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 23-24/17
Bashir Gemayel is A Dream That Will Never Die
Lebanese Army Prepares for Assault's 4th Stage, Deploys in Areas Liberated from IS
Saudi Minister in Beirut for Talks with Top Officials
Aoun Pledges $30M for Developing Areas Liberated from IS
Paris Sees No Need to Revise UNIFIL Mandate as U.N. Reportedly Snubs U.S. Request
Hariri from Arsal: State is Your Sanctuary, Services to Reach Town
LF and Marada Seek to Normalize Ties in Mutual Visits
Hariri from Ras Baalbek: We Want the Army to Get Stronger
New Truce Reached in Ain el-Hilweh after Mawlawi Threatens to 'Bomb Sidon'
Hariri receives Jumblatt at Center House
Nasrallah to deliver speech Thursday on latest developments
Saudi Arabia promotes Waleed Bukhari to Minister Plenipotentiary
Sabhan arrives in Beirut for talks with Lebanese officials on latest developments
Lebanon's Army Commander meets with outgoing German Military Attaché
Lebanon's beauty queen loses title for visiting Israel

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 23-24/17
Chad Shuts Qatari Embassy, Tells Staff to Leave
11 Beheaded in Attack on Haftar Forces in Libya
Egypt Criticizes U.S. Decision to Cut Aid
Iraqi Forces Advance towards Heart of IS-Held Bastion
Zarif: Iran, Saudi delegations to visit their embassies in Riyadh and Tehran
Bahrain to file complaints in UN security council and ICC against Qatar
Qatar to return its ambassador to Iran: Foreign ministry
U.S. Defense Chief in Turkey for Talks on Syria, Kurds
N. Korea's Kim 'Starting to Respect U.S.', Says Trump
Yemen Rebels Warn Ally Saleh Will Pay in War of Words

Latest Lebanese Related News published on August 23-24/17
Bashir Gemayel is A Dream That Will Never Die

Elias Bejjani/August 23/17
It is a historical fact that patriotic, national, religious causes cannot be killed by assassinating their founders or those who lobby for them. In fact, the contrary usually happens.
History shows that major worldwide religions spread after the departure of their founding leaders. Christianity, for example, spread all over the world after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Pharisees crucified Jesus, believing his death would put an end to his new religion. They were disappointed, and Christianity became the number one religion in the whole world. Luke 12:4 in the Holy Bible reads, “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body and can do nothing more.”
On August 23/1982, following in the steps of the Pharisees, Lebanon’s collaborators joined by some regional tyrants deluded themselves into believing that assassinating President-elect Sheik Bashir Gemayel, would also kill the Lebanese cause. They thought killing Bashir would destroy Lebanon’s history and identity, and sever the Lebanese from their roots.
What happened 2000 years ago, happened again in a way. History repeated itself and the contemporary Pharisees were no more lucky than the Pharisees of the Christ era.
Today the Lebanese cause is known worldwide and every day more Lebanese everywhere are committing themselves to it in spite of the hardships and difficulties.
On the annual anniversary of Bachir’s election as Lebanon’s president on August 23/1982, we renew our vows and declare again our commitment to Bashir’s cause and dream, to our national Lebanese identity, to liberation, to basic dignity and to holy resistance against the occupation.
Bashir’s cause is not dead. It cannot die, will never die as long as one Lebanese remains committed to Bashir’s patriotic beliefs and loyalty to Lebanon, to 7000 years of history and civilization … Lebanon the 10452 km2.
Bashir’s national dream for Lebanon is not dead, for no criminal can kill dreams about freedom. Dreams are acts of intellectual imaging and portrayal of aspirations, objectives and hopes that people endeavour to fulfill in reality. Bashir’s dream is alive in the hearts and spirits of every patriotic Lebanese all over the world.
Our deep-rooted Lebanese identity is unique.
It was carved by our faithful ancestors in Lebanon’s mighty mountains and planted with sweat and blood in its holy soil throughout six thousand years of heroism and sacrifices. Generation after generation, Lebanese have built Lebanon and made it into a fort and oasis for freedom, and an asylum for the persecuted…. Lebanon may not be a big country, but it is big in deeds.
For 7000 years Lebanon was successful in surviving with dignity, through hundreds of invaders, tyrants and conquerors…all were forced to depart defamed and in humiliation, defamed.
Bashir gave our identity worldwide dimension and made it a cause and purpose for each and every Lebanese.
Lebanon’s liberation is the aim of every patriotic Lebanese.
Virtues of dignity and resistance are known characteristics for Lebanon and its people.
They are deeply rooted in Lebanon’s holy soil and in the Lebanese minds, spirits and conscience, as well as in their noble conduct and faith.
Bashir portrayed and personified wisdom, patriotic conduct, courage, national devotion and leadership traits, all the distinctive Lebanese virtues.
He carried the liberation torch, and never abandoned the Lebanese cause, and became its martyr.
Bashir Gemayel scared those who feared truth, justice and sainthood.
He frightened collaborators, traitors and those who never believed in Lebanon’s history and identity.
Bashir was a nightmare for all Lebanon’s enemies when he was alive, and still is years after his assassination.
Sheik Bashir, Sheik Bashir, 35 years after your departure, you are still in our conscience and hearts.
Your dream is still our dream, and we are still fighting for the same cause.
Lebanon is still occupied and the 10452 km2 are not yet liberated. But in spite of all hardships and difficulties, the torch that you carried is still held high, and the battle rages.
By God’s will, the fight will not cease before the complete liberation of our Lebanon, the Lebanon that you loved, cherished and worshipped.
Bashir, Bashir, you are alive. When the Pharisee’s murdered you, only your flesh passed away. And in that moment your sanctified image was burned forever into the hearts of your people.
Your heroism was sealed.
Bashir, you speak to the conscience of every Lebanese who believes in Lebanon and its people. You live on in us, and in our blessed heritage.
Long Live Free Lebanon.
*This article was first published in year 2000. This above copy is slightly modified

Lebanese Army Prepares for Assault's 4th Stage, Deploys in Areas Liberated from IS
Naharnet/August 23/17/The Lebanese army began Wednesday morning a deployment operation in eastern border areas liberated from the terrorist Islamic State group, as it started preparations to launch the fourth stage of Operation Dawn of the Outskirts, an army statement said. Engineering units were excavating new routes and searching for landmines and explosives, the statement added. The Army Command stressed that “there will be no ceasefire with the terrorist groups until they are completely routed.”Separately, the army announced the death of 31-year-old First Sergeant Walid Mahmoud Freij after he succumbed at dawn Wednesday to wounds sustained in an August 19 landmine explosion in Ras Baalbek's outskirts. The army had announced Tuesday that it became in control of 100 out of 120 square kilometers of territory previously held by IS after capturing several strategic hills and areas throughout the day.

Saudi Minister in Beirut for Talks with Top Officials
Naharnet/August 23/17/Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan arrived Wednesday evening Beirut for talks with top Lebanese officials, the National News Agency said. Sabhan's several-day visit will address the bilateral ties between the two countries and the latest local and regional developments, NNA added. He was welcomed at the airport by Telecom Minister Jamal al-Jarrah, representing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and Saudi charge d'affaires in Lebanon Walid al-Bukhari.

Aoun Pledges $30M for Developing Areas Liberated from IS
Naharnet/August 23/17/President Michel Aoun on Wednesday vowed that the state will implement developmental projects in eastern border areas liberated by the army from the hands of the Islamic State group. “The post-liberation phase will be for developing these areas and for eliminating the remnants of the abnormal situations that prevailed over the past years,” Aoun told his visitors. He revealed that “funds worth $30 million have been earmarked to execute a number of urgent projects,” hailing “the sons of these regions” for clinging to “their land and properties.”The army began Wednesday morning a deployment operation in eastern border areas liberated from IS militants, as it started preparations to launch the fourth stage of Operation Dawn of the Outskirts, an army statement said. The army had announced Tuesday that it became in control of 100 out of 120 square kilometers of territory previously held by IS after capturing several strategic hills and areas throughout the day.

Paris Sees No Need to Revise UNIFIL Mandate as U.N. Reportedly Snubs U.S. Request
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 23/17/France said Wednesday it wants the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon to stick to its current mandate, opposing U.S. calls to strengthen the force's authority to deal with arms movements by Hizbullah. Turkey's official news agency meanwhile reported that the U.N. Security Council “rejected a U.S. request to revise the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).”Anne Gueguen, France's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told reporters her government saw no need to change the 2006 Security Council resolution that sets the mission's current mandate, which expires at the end of August. "We want to keep the mandate as such," she said, adding that "does mean there won't be any change in the resolution."The 10,500-strong United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon has been in southern Lebanon since 1978, when it was charged with confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces from a demilitarized zone between the two countries. After a 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah in southern Lebanon, the U.N. force's mandate was expanded to include keeping the peace and helping the Lebanese army reassert its authority in the aftermath of the conflict. "We are for a reaffirmation of its mandate and the optimal effectiveness of its mission," the French diplomat said, speaking before closed door Security Council consultations on renewing UNIFIL's mandate. On August 7, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said UNIFIL's mandate should be enhanced to prevent the spread of illegal weapons in southern Lebanon, which she blamed on Hizbullah and said threatened the region's stability. "UNIFIL must increase its capacity and commitment to investigating and reporting these violations," she said. France, which contributes 800 troops to UNIFIL, plans to submit a resolution extending the force's mandate for another year, Gueguen said. "UNIFIL plays a decisive role to stabilize the south of Lebanon in a very difficult original context and it has demonstrated a stabilizing effect in the volatile, complex and troubled environment," she said. In a letter to the Security Council on August 4, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he wanted to look at ways to improve UNIFIL's efforts "regarding the illegal presence of armed personnel, weapons or infrastructure inside its area of operations."A Security Council vote on renewing UNIFIL's mandate is expected on August 30.

Hariri from Arsal: State is Your Sanctuary, Services to Reach Town
Naharnet/August 23/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Wednesday paid a surprise visit to the northeastern border town of Arsal where he received a popular welcome, shortly after he inspected army units in the nearby border town of Ras Baalbek. “My visit to Arsal is a duty owed to this town, which paid a hefty price as a result of all the circumstances that prevailed in the past,” Hariri said at the headquarters of Arsal Municipality. “Arsal's residents opened their houses and welcomed the refugees without any hesitation or conditions,” Hariri added. “It is our duty as government to stand by Arsal's residents,” he stressed. And noting that “all Arsal residents should return to their homes,” Hariri promised that “the government will execute several projects to the benefit of the town's residents.”“Arsal is not an isolated island and services will reach it. There will be a secondary school and a government hospital,” Hariri added. Addressing Arsal's residents, he went on to say: “You have sacrificed a lot like no other region has done. The state and the army are your sanctuary.” “The army will deploy in all the outskirts (of the eastern border towns) and it is the sole defender of Lebanese land. Our duty is to provide the army with all the capabilities needed to preserve our land,” Hariri added. Hariri's visit to the eastern border towns comes a day after the army announced that it had managed to liberate 100 out of 120 square kilometers of territory from IS' hands after four days of battles. On Wednesday, the army began a deployment operation in border areas liberated from IS militants, as it started preparations to launch the fourth stage of Operation Dawn of the Outskirts, an army statement said. Around 20 days ago, jihadists from al-Nusra Front group and scores of Syrian refugees were evacuated from Arsal's outskirts followed a six-day Hizbullah offensive in the border region. The army did not take part in that battle but it shelled militants seeking to advance towards the town of Arsal and the nearby refugee encampments. Militants from both IS and al-Nusra had invaded Arsal in 2014 before being ousted by the army after days of deadly battles. The jihadists of both groups remained entrenched in the outskirts of several border towns until this summer.

LF and Marada Seek to Normalize Ties in Mutual Visits
Naharnet/August 23/17/Marada Movement official and ex-minister Youssef Saade has visited Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in Maarab and talks between the two men tackled the course of the relation between Marada and the LF in addition to important political issues, media reports said. Saade's visit to Maarab “is part of the mutual coordination between the LF and Marada, amid a common desire to turn the page on the disputes of the past and establish a relation in which the controversial issues would be put aside, despite disagreement on major topics such as the Syrian crisis and the relation with Hizbullah,” LF sources told al-Joumhouria newspaper in remarks published Wednesday. “What has been achieved so far between the two parties is very important in terms of reducing the areas of dispute and tension,” the sources added, noting that a thorny issue such as normalizing the Lebanese government's ties with Damascus “has not affected communication” between the two parties despite their conflicting viewpoints on the issue. Saade's Maarab meeting had been preceded by a visit by LF ministers Ghassan Hasbani and Melhem Riachi to Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh. “The LF's Zgharta department also organized its annual ceremony in Ehden, in an unprecedented step that witnessed the participation of a huge LF crowd, a sign that the relation has been normalized within the framework of accepting the other and political pluralism,” the LF sources added. The sources however noted that “the joint will for openness, cooperation and coordination will not necessarily lead to an electoral alliance, but rather to putting all options on the table.”Marada and the LF have been historically at odds in connection with a 1978 civil war massacre. Marada accuses the Lebanese Forces of carrying out the carnage, in which Suleiman Franjieh's father, mother, infant sister and around 30 Marada supporters were killed.

Hariri from Ras Baalbek: We Want the Army to Get Stronger
Naharnet/August 23/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Wednesday inspected military units deployed in the eastern border town of Ras Baalbek, where he stressed the need to boost the army's capabilities so that it becomes the sole defender of Lebanon. “This is a highly patriotic battle and we have martyrs who have fallen to protect the country and provide security and stability for the Lebanese citizens,” said Hariri in Ras Baalbek, referring to a major army offensive against Islamic State militants on the eastern border. “We want this army to get stronger because we want the state alone to perform the security missions,” the premier added, in the presence of Army Commander General Joseph Aoun. Hariri also stressed that the army is not coordinating militarily with any party in its operation, in reference to Hizbullah and the Syrian army. “The army did not lack the ability to liberate Arsal's outskirts, but we had political calculations in this regard,” Hariri added, in response to a reporter's question. Hariri's visit comes a day after the army announced that it was now in control of 100 out of 120 square kilometers of territory previously held by IS.

New Truce Reached in Ain el-Hilweh after Mawlawi Threatens to 'Bomb Sidon'
Naharnet/August 23/17/Cautious calm was engulfing the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh on Wednesday afternoon after a ceasefire was reached between the rival parties. The calm follows around seven days of fighting in the camp that pitted two small extremist groups led by Islamist militants Bilal Badr and Bilal al-Orqoub against the secular Fatah Movement and the Joint Palestinian Security Force. According to the National News Agency, the joint force started deploying in the camp's al-Tiri neighborhood at 4:30 pm. The neighborhood was the main frontier in the fighting and is the bastion of the Islamist groups. Armed clashes had intensified in the morning after the sounds of grenade and rocket explosions and machinegun and sniper fire echoed across the camp throughout the night, NNA said. Gunshots and shells reached areas outside the clashes zone in the camp, such as the al-Zeeb, Taytaba and al-Sifsaf neighborhoods, as stray bullets reached the Sidon serail outside the camp and reportedly wounded two Lebanese security personnel. Al-Akhbar newspaper reported Wednesday that after the noose was tightened on Islamists in al-Tiri neighborhood, Badr and fugitive Lebanese militant Shadi al-Mawlawi had threatened to “bomb Sidon and the army's posts with shells and rockets to press Fatah to accept a halt to the fighting.”

Hariri receives Jumblatt at Center House

Wed 23 Aug 2017/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri received on Wednesday evening at the center house "Democratic Gathering" head, MP Walid Jumblatt, accompanied by his son, Teymour, and MP Wael Abu Faour, in the presence of Minister Ghattas Khoury.

Nasrallah to deliver speech Thursday on latest developments
Wed 23 Aug 2017/NNA - Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah will deliver a televised speech Thursday at 8.30 pm, where he will address the recent local political developments.

Saudi Arabia promotes Waleed Bukhari to Minister Plenipotentiary
Wed 23 Aug 2017/NNA - Saudi Cabinet announced the promotion of Saudi Charge d'affaires in Lebanon, Advisor Waleed Abdullah Bukhari, to the post of Minister Plenipotentiary at the Foreign Ministry. The announcement came on Tuesday in the wake of Saudi Cabinet's session held under the chairmanship of Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah.

Sabhan arrives in Beirut for talks with Lebanese officials on latest developments
Wed 23 Aug 2017/NNA - Minister of State for Arab Gulf Affairs at the Saudi Foreign Ministry, Thamer bin Ali Al-Sabhan, arrived on Wednesday evening at the Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, on a few-day official visit to Lebanon. Minister Al-Sabhan will hold talks with senior Lebanese officials on the bilateral ties between the two countries, and the latest developments on the local and regional arena. Greeting him at the Airport had been Telecommunication Minister, Jamal Al-Jarrah, representing Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, Saudi Charge d'affaires in Lebanon, Advisor Waleed Al-Bukhari, and senior Embassy staff.

Lebanon's Army Commander meets with outgoing German Military Attaché
Wed 23 Aug 2017/NNA - Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, on Wednesday received at his Yarze office German Military Attaché, Lt. Col. Dietrich Jensch, who came on a farewell visit at the end of his term of mission in Lebanon.
Lt. Col. Jensch introduced his successor Lt. Col. Richard Von Stetten.

Lebanon's beauty queen loses title for visiting Israel
Roi Kais/Ynetnews/August 23/17/After it was reported that Amanda Hanna, the winner of the 2017 Miss Lebanon Emigrant Beauty Pageant—visited Israel in 2016, Lebanon's Minister of Tourism decides to strip her of her title over her violation of Lebanon's boycott of Israel.
Amanda Hanna, who won the 2017 Miss Lebanon Emigrant Beauty Pageant, has been stripped of her title over her 2016 visit to Israel.
Hanna, who is Swedish-Lebanese, visited Israel as part of an academic tour, using her Swedish passport to enter the state. She lost her title just a week after winning it. "After communicating our decision with Lebanon's Minister of Tourism, he decided that Hanna should be stripped of her title because her visit to Israel violates our country's laws," a statement from the pageant's organizing committee said.
According to the Independent, the organizers have not yet announced whether the second-place winner will claim Hanna's spot.
On August 14, after winning the pageant, Hanna published a post on Facebook in which she thanked her supporters.
“At first I was skeptical about it, but it turned out that I was wrong," Hanna wrote. "It has been one of the best weeks of my life, where I have, among other things, had to go around in Lebanon & visit wonderful places. I've gotten to know people who have come to stand close to me & I have developed in particular as a person. It has been a wonderful trip & I am incredibly happy that I participated."
Lebanon has a cultural ban on Israel, which it considers an enemy state, and prohibits its citizens from traveling there and from Israeli citizens from entering the state.
Lebanon has even banned the movie Wonder Woman over its lead actor being an Israeli citizen and a former IDF soldier. Furthermore, this is not the first Israel-Lebanon incident that takes place against the backdrop of beauty contests.
During the Miss Universe contest in 2015, Miss Lebanon almost lost her title after social networks called for her to be punished following a selfie in which Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, was also present.
At the time. Miss Lebanon, Saly Greige, claimed Matalon had harassed her with selfie requests during the competition.
"Since the first day of my arrival to participate to Miss Universe, I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel, who tried several times to take a photo with me,” Greige said.
“I was having a photo with Miss Japan and Miss Slovenia, (when) suddenly Miss Israel jumped in and took a selfie, and uploaded it on her social media.”

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 23-24/17
Chad Shuts Qatari Embassy, Tells Staff to Leave

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 23/17/Chad announced Wednesday it was closing Qatar's embassy in N'Djamena and giving its staff 10 days to leave, accusing Doha of seeking to destabilize the country via Libya. "Given the continued involvement of the state of Qatar in the attempts at the destabilization of Chad from Libya, the government has decided on the closure of the embassy and the departure of the ambassador and diplomatic personnel from national territory," the foreign ministry said in a statement. "They have been given 10 days in this regard," it said.
It added that the decision was driven by the will to "safeguard peace and stability in the region."Chad, Mauritania and Senegal all recalled their ambassadors from Qatar in June. They acted after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen and Egypt broke off diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting Islamist extremists, a charge the tiny, gas-rich state denies.

11 Beheaded in Attack on Haftar Forces in Libya
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 23/17/At least 11 people were beheaded Wednesday in an attack on a checkpoint controlled by Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar south of Tripoli, a spokesman for his forces said."At least nine soldiers were beheaded... in addition to two civilians killed in the same way" at the checkpoint about 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Tripoli, Colonel Ahmad al-Mesmari said, blaming the Islamic State group for the attack.

Egypt Criticizes U.S. Decision to Cut Aid
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 23/17/Egypt on Wednesday criticized a U.S. decision to reduce financial aid and withhold some military assistance as a "misjudgment" of strategic ties between the two allies. The foreign ministry said it "regrets the decision" to reduce some funds allocated under a U.S. assistance program and withhold the disbursement of other military aid. It provided no details of the cuts, but U.S. media reports said Washington on Tuesday denied Egypt $96 million in aid and delayed $195 million in military funding because of concerns over its human rights record. "Egypt considers this step as a misjudgment of the nature of the strategic relations that binds the two countries over decades," the foreign ministry said in a statement. The move "reflects the lack of understanding of the importance of supporting the stability and success of Egypt" and "implies a mixing of cards that may have negative repercussions," it said. The New York Times quoted the State Department as saying the move followed a lack progress on human rights and a new law restricting activities of nongovernmental organizations. U.S. President Donald Trump's arrival in office earlier this year initially saw an improvement in relations with Egypt, after his predecessor Barack Obama had given President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the cold shoulder over rights issues. Obama temporarily suspended military aid to Egypt after the July 2013 overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and a bloody crackdown on Morsi's supporters that followed.
Sisi in May ratified the NGO law, which critics say will severely restrict the work of civil society, including by banning the carrying out and publishing of studies without prior permission from the state, with large fines for violating the law. Trump set aside criticism of Sisi's rights record while pledging to maintain support for the key U.S. ally, which receives an annual $1.3 billion in military aid. Egyptian authorities have been fighting an insurgency based in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, where an Islamic State group affiliate has killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen. The Pentagon is also concerned with preventing jihadists from crossing Libya's porous border with Egypt.

Iraqi Forces Advance towards Heart of IS-Held Bastion
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 23/17/Iraqi forces advanced Wednesday towards central Tal Afar, one of the Islamic State group's last strongholds in the country, as aid workers braced for an exodus of civilians fleeing the fighting. Armored personnel carriers full of soldiers and fighters of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition moved into al-Nour district early in the morning as warplanes flew overhead, said an AFP photographer on the ground. They encountered trucks parked across roads with earthen embankments aimed at stopping them, as well as sniper fire and mortar shelling. Six weeks after routing the jihadists from Iraq's second city Mosul, the Iraqi forces launched an assault Sunday on Tal Afar, where an estimated 1,000 jihadists are holed up. They retook three first districts of the city on Tuesday, but as with the grueling nine-month campaign to recapture Mosul, their convoys face an onslaught of suicide and car bomb attacks. On Wednesday they "entered the neighborhood of Al-Kifah North... and headed towards the center of the city," said Ahmed al-Assadi, spokesman for the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition fighting IS alongside the army and police. "All the lines of IS defense outside the city have been broken and the troops are advancing from all directions towards the inner quarters of the city," he added. As they advanced, troops said they discovered a network of underground tunnels used by the jihadists to launch attacks behind lines of already conquered territory, or to escape.
Leaflet drop
In a bid to counter these surprise attacks, the Iraqis dropped leaflets overnight calling on civilians to help by marking houses where the jihadists are located. The International Organization for Migration said "thousands of civilians" had fled Tal Afar since the offensive began. But around 30,000 civilians are trapped in the fighting, according to the United Nations. Caught between the two sides, those still inside the city have been pounded by Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition aircraft for weeks, as well as intense artillery fire since Sunday. The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) fears they could be "used as human shields" and that "attempts to flee could result in executions and shootings," said the spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. The United Nations and aid agencies are working to establish shelters for the displaced. Those who flee through desert areas face temperatures of up to 43 degrees Celsius (109 Fahrenheit), sometimes for periods of more than 10 hours, putting them at risk of dehydration, said Viren Falcao of the Danish Refugee Council. Tal Afar was once a key supply hub for IS between Mosul -- which lies around 70 kilometers (45 miles) to the east -- and the Syrian border. The Iraqi forces massed around Tal Afar on Tuesday before the jihadists responded with artillery fire. Army, police and of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition later took "full control" of the al-Kifah, al-Nour and al-Askari districts, the Hashed said. The Iraqi forces had encircled the city despite what Hashed spokesman Assadi called "intense" fighting. He said the battle for the city would probably last weeks, in contrast to the months-long battle for Mosul.
On the run
After meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad on Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the jihadists were "on the run.""Cities have been liberated, people freed from ISIS, from Daesh," Mattis said, using alternative names for IS. The jihadists had not been able "to stand up to our team in combat, and they have not retaken one inch of ground that they lost," he said. Mattis declined to make any predictions about the battle. "ISIS' days are certainly numbered, but it's not over yet and it's not going to be over anytime soon," he said. IS jihadists in June 2014 overran Tal Afar, a Shiite enclave in the predominantly Sunni province of Nineveh. At the time, its population of around 200,000 was overwhelmingly Turkmen, one of Iraq's largest ethnic minorities. Tal Afar's Shiites were directly targeted by IS, while some members of its Sunni minority joined the jihadists and went on to form a contingent with a particularly brutal reputation.

Zarif: Iran, Saudi delegations to visit their embassies in Riyadh and Tehran
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 23 August 2017/Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said visas have been issued for visits by Iranian and Saudi delegations to inspect the embassies of the two countries in Riyadh and Tehran after the pilgrimage season.In an interview to ISNA news agency, Zarif denied Saudi Arabia’s request for Iraqi mediation. He said he had held talks with Iraqi officials after visits to Saudi Arabia and found the inaccuracy of these statements. Zarif also said that Tehran is ready for dialogue with Saudi Arabia and is making all efforts to reach a political solution to the crisis in the region.

Bahrain to file complaints in UN security council and ICC against Qatar
Staff Writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 23 August 2017/Bahrain will file official complaints to the United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court against Qatar, according to Bahrain’s first deputy speaker, Ali al-Aradi. Aradi on Tuesday told Al Arabiya News Channel’s Panorama program that the kingdom will organize a committee to compile and document Qatar’s violations against Bahrain. He added that the complaints to the UN and ICC will be based on the fact that Qatar has violated the UN charter and committed “fourth generation warfare crimes”.Fourth generation warfare is a concept of warfare that is decentralized, utilizes terrorism as a tactic and relies on media manipulation. In his statements to Al Arabiya, al-Aradi said that Doha had interfered in the affairs of Bahrain and has supported terrorism. He further noted that Qatar has supported terror groups such as Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood to destabilize the region as part of its foreign policy agenda. Recently Bahraini TV broadcast a documentary entitled the “Academy of Destruction” that shed light on the work of the Academy of Change which Doha backs and aired confessions that Doha wanted to topple the regime in Bahrain. According to the aired confessions, figures who were embraced by the academy were sent to Manama to execute the Qatari goal to spread incitement and chaos to topple the regime in Bahrain. The Academy of Change is headed by Hisham Morsy, the son-in-law of Yusuf al-Qaradawi who is on the black list issued by the four countries which boycotted Qatar.

Qatar to return its ambassador to Iran: Foreign ministry
Reuters, DubaiThursday, 24 August 2017/Qatar said on Wednesday its ambassador to Iran, who was withdrawn in January last year, would return to Iran. “Qatar announced that its ambassador to Tehran will return to resume his diplomatic duties,” the Qatari foreign ministry's information office said in a statement on its website, adding that Doha wanted to strengthen ties with the Islamic republic.

U.S. Defense Chief in Turkey for Talks on Syria, Kurds
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 23/17/Pentagon chief Jim Mattis arrived in Ankara on Wednesday for talks with Turkish leaders expected to focus on Washington's arming of a Syrian Kurdish militia, which Turkey views as a terror group, in the fight against Islamic State. Mattis flew in for the one-day visit after stopping in Iraq to review progress in the campaign against IS militants, where he urged coalition partners to prevent other political issues from disrupting the growing momentum against the jihadists. In Ankara, he will hold talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli. Turkey, an important NATO ally of the United States and part of the coalition against IS, is incensed that Washington has been arming the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) militias in the assault on the jihadists' stronghold Raqa, in northern Syria. Turkey regards the YPG as the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). In May, the Pentagon said it had begun transferring small arms and vehicles to the YPG to support their role as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-Syrian Arab alliance fighting IS. The weapons include AK-47s and small-caliber machine guns. The SDF is currently leading the assault on Raqa, with artillery and air support from U.S.-led coalition forces.
Kurdish referendum concerns
U.S. officials on Tuesday said the grinding fight was the "priority" in the counter-IS campaign since the fall of Mosul last month, the jihadists' Iraqi hub. The Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq -- which is also playing a key role in the fight against IS -- is planning its own independence referendum in September. Mattis met Tuesday with Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani in Erbil to express U.S. opposition to the referendum. On the same day, Erdogan vowed Turkey would thwart any attempt by the YPG and its political wing the Democratic Union Party (PYD) to carve out a Kurdish state in northern Syria. "We do not and will never allow a so-called state to be established by the PYD, YPG in northern Syria," Erdogan said. The U.S. is also concerned about warming ties between Iran and Turkey. Iranian armed forces chief General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri visited Turkey last week. Erdogan on Monday said a joint operation with Iran against Kurdish militants which "pose a threat," including the PKK, is "always on the agenda." Iran's Revolutionary Guards, however, denied the claim.

N. Korea's Kim 'Starting to Respect U.S.', Says Trump
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 23/17/North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is "starting to respect" the United States, President Donald Trump declared, even as Pyongyang revealed plans for its missile development Wednesday and Kim ordered a production boost. Trump's remarks, at a rally in Phoenix, came hours after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said talks with the nuclear-armed North over its banned weapons programs might be possible "in the near future."The comments are a marked contrast to the rhetoric of recent weeks, when Trump spoke of raining "fire and fury" on the North, and come as tensions have eased after Kim pulled back from a plan to send a salvo of missiles towards the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. But Washington also imposed new sanctions on Chinese and Russian firms suspected of doing business with the North. Pyongyang, meanwhile, revealed significant technological advances in its missile programs and ambitious plans to further improve its capabilities. On a visit to the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science, Kim ordered stepped-up production of rocket engines and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) nosecones, state media reported. At a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Trump said his aggressive rhetoric was starting to bear fruit. "Some people said it was too strong. It's not strong enough," he told thousands of supporters. "But Kim Jong-Un, I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us. I respect that fact very much. "And maybe, probably not, but maybe something positive can come about." Earlier Tillerson acknowledged Pyongyang's recent "restraint" in not carrying out fresh nuclear or missile tests in response to tough new United Nations sanctions, the seventh set imposed on it. "I am pleased to see that the regime in Pyongyang has certainly demonstrated some level of restraint that we've not seen in the past," Tillerson said at a rare press conference, adding that talks may be possible "in the near future." U.S. officials told AFP that Tillerson was not thanking Pyongyang, nor making any concession on Washington's determination to halt Kim's missile program and negotiate the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The Trump administration's rhetoric has been highly variable but Washington has said it would be open to dialogue if Pyongyang took steps to calm tensions. In a commentary earlier this week, the North's official Korean Central News Agency described Trump as a "mad guy" who "frequently posts weird articles of his ego-driven thoughts in his twitter and spouts rubbish."
Carbon compound
Tensions between North Korea and the United States and its allies soared last month after Pyongyang tested two missiles that appeared to bring most of the U.S. mainland within range. The North says it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself against the U.S. -- it regards current joint military exercises by Seoul and Washington as a rehearsal for an invasion. It has made rapid technological strides under Kim, and released pictures Wednesday of a visit by him to the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science, which develops the North's missiles. Analysts said the images revealed major advances and ambitions. Kim, in a black suit, was shown next to a large brown tube that Joshua Pollack of the U.S. Middlebury Institute of International Studies said on Twitter was a "wound fiber cylinder, evidently a large-diameter solid-rocket motor casing in the making". Such casings are harder to manufacture than metal ones but are much lighter, enabling longer ranges and heavier payloads. Other pictures included missile schematics and what appeared to be production processes. "We have diagrams and names on two apparent new solid fuel multistage North Korean nuclear capable missiles," one of them an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and the other a medium- or intermediate-range device, said independent missile and nuclear analyst George Herbert. The official Korean Central News Agency said the nosecones and engine jets were made of "carbon/carbon compound material", and that Kim "instructed the institute to produce more solid-fuel rocket engines and rocket warhead tips." Many of the elements on show were objectives rather than currently existing technology, analysts said, but even so, Jeffrey Lewis, of the website, noted: "It's all bad.""If I understand North Korean propaganda, this is their way of telling us what we'll see in the air in the coming year." Trump has urged Beijing, North Korea's only major ally, to bring greater pressure to bear in reining in its neighbor's nuclear efforts, suggesting that the United States may offer concessions on trade in return. On Tuesday the U.S. Treasury slapped sanctions on 16 Chinese and Russian individuals and companies, accusing them of supporting North Korea's weapons programs and attempting to evade U.S. sanctions. Beijing said Wednesday the move "will not help the solution of the problem," nor would it enhance mutual trust.

Yemen Rebels Warn Ally Saleh Will Pay in War of Words
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 23/17/Yemen's Huthi rebels on Wednesday warned former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, their main ally in the country's war, that he would "bear the consequences" after calling the Iran-backed rebels "militias." Fears are now mounting that violence could break out in Sanaa around a rally scheduled for Thursday to mark 35 years since the founding of Saleh's General People's Congress party. Cracks began to surface this week in the alliance between rebel chief Abdul Malik al-Huthi and strongman Saleh, allied since 2014 against Yemen's government, with the two exchanging mutual accusations of back-stabbing in televised speeches. A statement released by the Huthis early Wednesday hit back at Saleh, calling the ex-president a "traitor" after he dismissed the group as a "militia" in a speech on Sunday. "We have been stabbed in the back and called a militia, which is treason in its purest form," read the statement. "What he (Saleh) said crosses the red line... and he will have to bear the consequences of his words." Tension has been rising for days in the Yemeni capital, which is jointly controlled by Saleh and the Huthis, and eyewitnesses say armed supporters of Saleh and Huthi have intensified their presence across the city.Yemen's war, which pits the Saudi-backed government against the Saleh-Huthi alliance, has claimed thousands of lives since 2015 and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 23-24/17
The new Iranian threat 'exposes the weakness of the nuclear agreement'
Alexandra Lukash and Nir Cohen/Ynetnews/August 23/17
Analysis: Iran has declared that it needs only five days to enrich its uranium to 20%, enabling it to produce nuclear weapons; Institute for National Security Studies Senior Fellow, Dr. Landau, states that if this is true, 'it means that within a few weeks they'll be able to reach a reasonable amount at an even higher percentage—and then we'll have a problem.' Five days—this is the time frame Iran said Tuesday it needs in order to ramp up its uranium enrichment to 20 percent, a level at which the material could be used for a nuclear weapon. "If the Iranians can actually reach enriched uranium at 20 percent, it means that within a few weeks they'll be able to reach a reasonable amount at an even higher percentage—and then we'll have a problem," says Dr. Emily B. Landau, senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program. "This is an Iranian attempt to deter the Trump administration from imposing further sanctions and punitive measures against their very provocative behavior," Landau added. "Even if the Iranians cannot achieve that target within five days, we still have a problem because Iran continues its aggressive path.
"You have to remember that such threats were also made during the time of Obama, who as president did everything to calm Iran."Under the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 with the group of six world powers (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany), Iran relinquished most of its uranium enriched at 20 percent. "From the beginning, the agreement was problematic," said Landau. "It is a weak agreement full of loopholes, and its problems are being exposed one by one."We now understand that in a few weeks or months they'll be able to stock up (on enriched Uranium—ed), so what did this agreement accomplish? And what can be done against their threats? It is too late to cancel the agreement, but it has to be reinforced by a number of clauses. "The attitude toward Iran's behavior must be changed: missile tests, increased presence in Syria, the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah, and the establishment of missile manufacturing plants in Lebanon and Syria. All these things must be answered with determination." According to Landau, "Iran is acting in a way that allows us to predict its moves. The fact that it is rational does not mean that it is not aggressive, or that it does not have an agenda of regional hegemony. We slowly see how it expresses these (points). It spreads out, so that wherever anyone else leaves—Iran enters. We see this in both Iraq and Syria. "This is a dangerous regime for the Middle East," concluded Landau. "Not only for Israel, but for all countries."

Can Greenblatt succeed where his predecessors failed?
Noam Tibon/Ynetnews/August 23/17
Op-ed: To succeed in his mission, Trump's Middle East envoy needs to create an updated and revised version of the Saudi peace initiative by limiting the Right of Return to the Palestinian state, removing the Golan from the equation, and adding a comprehensive security plan.
The serious clashes on the Temple Mount and in the West Bank and the incident at the Israeli embassy in Amman last month were US President Donald Trump's administration's first foray into the deep end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The president's special envoy to the peace process, Jason Greenblatt, traveled to the region to aid in resolving the crisis and got to see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's outrageous and irresponsible behavior up close.
The former capitulated to demands by Bayit Yehudi Head Naftali Bennett and ignored the IDF and Shin Bet's recommendations on placing metal detectors at the Temple Mount, while the latter announced the PA was stopping security coordination with Israel at such an explosive and dangerous timing.
At the same time, Greenblatt saw how Jordan's King Abdullah resolved the crisis by putting together the deal that led to the removal of the metal detectors and the release of the Israeli embassy guard.
These events should serve as an important lesson for Greenblatt, a diligent and smart man who takes his job seriously, as he returns to the region. If he wishes to succeed, he must encourage more involvement by regional leaders in the peace process. At the same time, he should make it clear to Netanyahu and Abbas that he is not here to manage local crises or solve their political problems, but to help reach a peace accord.
Everyone knows more or less how the peace deal would look like. The Saudi peace initiative, which seems more relevant than ever in light of the recent changes in the Middle East, is the most convenient basis for an agreement between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world.
To succeed in his mission, Greenblatt needs to work to create an updated and revised version of the initiative. Its basic principles—a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, land swaps, recognition of Israel by the entire Arab world, and an agreed upon resolution on Jerusalem—were and remain the only formula to resolving the conflict. However, there are several things Greenblatt can and should add to the initiative to make it even more relevant and adjust it to fit the current security climate.
The first, and most important, adjustment is making it clear to the Palestinians and the Arab world there would be no Right of Return to Israeli territory. The solution for the Palestinian refugees and their descendents should be found within the borders of the Palestinian state.
Another fundamental change necessary is excluding the Golan Heights from the equation: The original Saudi initiative includes Israeli withdrawal from the Golan, but today the most reasonable and responsible move for the safety of all countries in the region is the recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. As part of significant progress in the peace process, the Arab states would support such a decision.
An additional change, no less important, is adding an in-depth section on security. For the citizens of Israel, this is the most important issue in any agreement. Without strict and stable security arrangements, Israel would not be able to make compromises on other issues. To that end, a comprehensive security plan should be added to the existing initiative, similar to the one prepared by US Gen. John Allen in 2013, which would include Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley for 15 years following the signing of the agreement, as well as Israeli presence at border crossings. The Palestinian state would be demilitarized: it wouldn't have an army, but it would have a well-trained police force and internal security forces to ensure the stability of the government. Israel would maintain control over the airspace.
There is already successful security cooperation between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. A peace agreement would allow to expand this cooperation, improve upon it, and bring additional Middle East nations into in. This would create a broad coalition against Iran, ISIS and other terror organizations. Trump is committed to the war on terror, and in his talks with Arab leaders, such as King Abdullah and President al-Sisi, they explicitly told him how much an Israeli-Palestinian agreement could aid in achieving this fight.
Despite all of the media spins and lies, most of the Palestinians want to know that at the end of the day they will have an independent Israel, while most Israelis want to know Israel will remain a Jewish, democratic, strong and safe country.
The strategic situation in the region today is the most conducive it has been in years to making progress in the peace process. The Trump administration, which has so far failed to reach any achievement it could be proud of—neither internal nor international—needs to put its hope on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Now, Greenblatt is put to the test: Will he be remembered as the mediator who helped reach a breakthrough, or as another diplomat who failed and then wrote a memoir about the experience?
**The writer is a major general in reserves.

Netanyahu meets with Putin, expresses concern over Iran's role in Syria
Herb Keinon/Jerusalem Post/August 23, 2017
Iran's growing role in Syria poses a threat to Israel, the Middle East and the world, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. "Mr. President, with joint efforts we are defeating Islamic State, and this is a very important thing. But the bad thing is, that where the defeated Islamic State group vanishes, Iran is stepping in," Netanyahu told Putin during talks at Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi. "We cannot forget for a single minute that Iran threatens every day to annihilate Israel," Netanyahu said. "It (Iran) arms terrorist organizations, it sponsors and initiates terror."
Netanyahu also said that "Iran is already well on its way to controlling Iraq, Yemen and to a large extent in already in practice in control of Lebanon."
Iran denies sponsoring terrorism.
Putin, in the part of the meeting to which reporters had access, did not address Netanyahu's remarks about Iran's role in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Sochi on Wednesday for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his fourth visit to Russia in the last 16 months.
For reporters who cover Netanyahu, the drill is well known. Following the premier’s meeting with Putin, either he or one of his spokesmen will say that during the meeting he stressed Israel’s red lines in Syria: that Jerusalem will not tolerate an Iranian or Hezbollah presence on the Golan border; that Israel will not accept a permanent Iranian presence in Syria; and that Israel will act to ensure that game-changing weapons or capabilities are not transferred from Iran through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Netanyahu will be careful to praise the Russian-Israeli bilateral relations, and say that the deconfliction mechanism to prevent any accidental engagements between the Russian and Israeli air forces in Syrian skies – which he set up with Moscow immediately after Russia became militarily involved in Syria in 2015 – has proven itself very effective.
He will be careful not to say what the Russian leader’s response to any of this was, beyond saying that the Israeli messages were “understood.”
But these meetings are by no means a Netanyahu monologue. The Russians also have their position regarding Syria and overall Iranian intentions, and – based on a number of conversations with senior Russian diplomats – it goes like this: Russia has genuine interest in Syria. Raqqa, the one-time Islamic State stronghold in northern Syria, is only 1,000 kilometers, or 620 miles, from Grozny, Chechnya, in southern Russia, the distance from New York to Knoxville, Tennessee. When Moscow decided to become actively engaged in the fighting in Syria in the summer of 2015, there was a real danger that Islamic State and a collection of other rebels would overthrow the government in Damascus, and the country would fall under the sway of forces downright hostile to Russia – someone like Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – who might then want to begin efforts through Chechnya to destabilize Russia.
Some 4,500 Russian citizens are fighting against the Islamists in Syria, and have not concealed their desire to fight the “infidels” at home – meaning in Russia – once victory is achieved in Syria and Iraq.
Unlike the US forces that invaded Iraq in 2003, or the international coalition that launched airstrikes against Libya in 2011, Russia was invited into Syria by the recognized government of Bashar Assad. Therefore, Russia – unlike the US and the international coalition – is in accordance with international law by acting inside Syria at the invitation of the legitimate government. If there is a mess in the Middle East, it is not because Russia moved into Syria, but rather because the US moved into Iraq, and then the West took action in Libya unleashing all kinds of destabilizing forces throughout the region. The US says that the aerial campaign against Libya was a great success, ousting a brutal dictator in Muammar Gaddafi – but what kind of success?
Huge amounts of military hardware was pillaged, and vast amounts of weaponry and even chemical substances have spilled over into neighboring African countries as well as into the hands of Jihadi groups. Niger and Mali were destabilized because of what happened in Libya.
Russia listens to Israel’s concerns about Iran, but views them as overstated. Iran will not attack Israel, because it knows that to do so would be suicidal. Israel and the Saudis say that Iran is trying to encircle them with proxies stretching from Yemen through Bahrain, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, but the truth is that the Iranians feel threatened and encircled by Israel, the Saudis and the US. True, Israel does not threaten to wipe Iran off the map, but why has it bought a fleet of F-35 stealth bombers? Whom is that intended for, if not Iran? Moreover, the US talks openly about Iranian regime change. Even the nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached in 2015 – is seen by the Americans as a way of “empowering the moderates “ to slowly edge out the ayatollahs.
Iran’s actions in Syria are not designed to destabilize the region but rather to protect themselves, to push back and take the battle to the enemy, rather than waiting to become encircled themselves. We, the Russians, understand Israel’s concerns about game-changing weaponry being transferred from Syria to Hezbollah, and we acknowledge Israel’s right to defend itself. But Israel cannot unilaterally take it upon itself to regulate relations between other sovereign states – it is not the regional sheriff. We, the Russians, also understand Israel’s concerns regarding Iran establishing a permanent presence in Syria, but we cannot prevent it. Iran is a sovereign state; we can’t tell Tehran what to do or how to behave. We might counsel against it, but they will not necessarily listen to us. We don’t make the decisions for Iran. Iran is inside Syria because Assad invited them in. The same is true of Hezbollah. The Iranians and Hezbollah came in when Assad’s back was against the wall. It is now in Israel’s interest for Assad to retain strong control of his country, so then there will be no need for the Syrians to invite in outside forces. The best thing for Israel would be a strong government in Damascus that will not need Iranian or Hezbollah help. Israel should be working with the forces to empower Assad. To Israeli ears, much of the above sounds almost delusional. Nevertheless, that is the Russian message, one that their diplomats espouse consistently in private conversations, and one that Netanyahu has heard in various forms more than once. He will also likely hear a variation on this theme again from Putin when they meet Wednesday in Sochi.

Two New Totalitarian Movements: Radical Islam and Political Correctness
A. Z. Mohamed/Gatestone Institute/August 23/17
The attempt in the West to impose a strict set of rules about what one is allowed to think and express in academia and in the media -- to the point that anyone who disobeys is discredited, demonized, intimidated and in danger of losing his or her livelihood -- is just as toxic and just as reminiscent of Orwell's diseased society.
The main facet of this PC tyranny, so perfectly predicted by George Orwell, is the inversion of good and evil -- of victim and victimizer. In such a universe, radical Muslims are victimized by the West, and not the other way around. This has led to a slanted teaching of the history of Islam and its conquests, both as a justification of the distortion and as a reflection of it.
Thought-control is necessary for the repression of populations ruled by despotic regimes. That it is proudly and openly being used by self-described liberals and human-rights advocates in free societies is not only hypocritical and shocking; it is a form of aiding and abetting regimes whose ultimate goal is to eradicate Western ideals.
Political correctness (PC) has been bolstering radical Islamism. This influence was most recently shown again in an extensive exposé by the Clarion Project in July 2017, which demonstrates the practice of telling "deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them in order to forget any fact that has become inconvenient" -- or, as George Orwell called it in his novel, 1984, "Doublespeak."
This courtship and marriage between the Western chattering classes and radical Muslim fanatics was elaborated by Andrew C. McCarthy in his crucial 2010 book, The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.
Since then, this union has strengthened. Both the United States and the rest of the West are engaged in a romance with forces that are, bluntly, antagonistic to the values of liberty and human rights.
To understand this seeming paradox, one needs to understand what radical Islamism and PC have in common. Although Islamism represents all that PC ostensibly opposes -- such as the curbing of free speech, the repression of women, gays and "apostates" -- both have become totalitarian ideologies.
The totalitarian nature of radical Islamism is more obvious than that of Western political correctness -- and certainly more deadly. Sunni terrorists, such as ISIS and Hamas -- and Shiites, such as Hezbollah and its state sponsor, Iran -- use mass murder to accomplish their ultimate goal of an Islamic Caliphate that dominates the world and subjugates non-Muslims.
The attempt in the West, however, to impose a strict set of rules about what one is allowed to think and express in academia and in the media -- to the point that anyone who disobeys is discredited, demonized, intimidated and in danger of losing his or her livelihood -- is just as toxic and just as reminiscent of Orwell's view of a diseased society.
These rules are not merely unspoken ones. Quoting a Fox News interview with American columnist Rachel Alexander, the Clarion Project points out that the Associated Press -- whose stylebook is used as a key reference by a majority of English-language newspapers worldwide for uniformity of grammar, punctuation and spelling -- is now directing writers to avoid certain words and terms that are now deemed unacceptable to putative liberals.
Alexander recently wrote: "Even when individual authors do not adhere to the bias of AP Style, it often doesn't matter. If they submit an article to a mainstream media outlet, they will likely see their words edited to conform. A pro-life author who submits a piece taking a position against abortion will see the words 'pro-life' changed to 'anti-abortion,' because the AP Stylebook instructs, 'Use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and pro-abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice.' It goes on, 'Avoid abortionist,' saying the term 'connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions.'
"Words related to terrorism are sanitized in the AP Stylebook. Militant, lone wolves or attackers are to be used instead of terrorist or Islamist. 'People struggling to enter Europe' is favored over 'migrant' or 'refugee.' While it's true that many struggle to enter Europe, it is accurate to point out that they are, in fact, immigrants or refugees."
To be sure, the AP Stylebook does not carry the same weight or authority as the Quranic texts on which radical Islamists base their jihadist actions and totalitarian aims. It does constitute, however, a cultural decree that has turned religious in its fervor. It gives a glimpse, as well, into the intellectual tyranny that has pervaded liberal Western thought and institutions.
The main facet of this PC tyranny, so perfectly predicted by Orwell, is the inversion of good and evil -- of victim and victimizer. In such a universe, radical Muslims are victimized by the West, and not the other way around. This has led to a slanted teaching of the history of Islam and its conquests, both as a justification of the distortion and as a reflection of it.
As far back as 2003, the Middle East Forum reported on the findings of a study conducted by the American Textbook Council, an independent New York-based research organization, which stated:
"[Over the last decade], the coverage of Islam in world history textbooks has expanded and in some respects improved.... But on significant Islam-related subjects, textbooks omit, flatter, embellish, and resort to happy talk, suspending criticism or harsh judgments that would raise provocative or even alarming questions."
Thought-control is necessary for the repression of populations ruled by despotic regimes. That it is proudly and openly being used by self-described liberals and human-rights advocates in free societies is not only hypocritical and shocking; it is a form of aiding and abetting regimes whose ultimate goal is to eradicate Western ideals. The relationship between the two must be recognized for what it is: a marriage made in hell.
**A. Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Iran vs. Turkey, the MidEast’s Perpetual Rivalry

Daniel Pipes Washington Times August 23, 2017
W.T. title: “Middle East rivalry between Iran and Turkey interminable”
News that Iran’s and Turkey’s governments reached an accord on Idlib, a Syrian town now the focus of American interests, brings relations between the two of the largest and most influential states in the Middle East momentarily out of the shadows.
Their rivalry goes back a half-millennium, included eleven wars, and now remains, in the words of the Washington Institute’s Soner Cagaptay, the region’s “oldest power game.” What does the recent accord signify and how will their competition influence the region’s future?
Iranian and Turkish parallels are noteworthy. Both countries have populations of 80 million. (Egypt, the region’s third large country, has 96 million.) Both boast ancient civilizations, long imperial histories, tensions with Russia, and a successful avoidance of European colonialism. In modern times, each came under the rule of a ruthless modernizer after World War I, followed more recently by an even more repressive Islamist.
Ruthless modernizers: Iran’s Reza Shah (L) visited Atatürk in 1934.
The current leaders, Iran’s Ali Khamene’i and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, enjoy near-absolute power and both feverishly try to hide this reality under a large and noisy apparatus of elections, parliaments, cabinets, laws, and NGOs. Both aspire to lead the entire Muslim community, perhaps someday claiming to be caliph. In an era of muted anti-Zionism from Arab states, Tehran and Ankara now lead the charge, with the Islamic Republic of Iran loudly denying the Holocaust and the Republic of Turkey comparing Israelis to Nazis.
Even more repressive Islamists: Turkey’s Erdoğan (L) visited Khamene’i in 2012.
In several ways, Iranians lead Turks, but the latter are catching up. Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979 and Erdoğan in 2002. Iran has long enjoyed massive oil and gas reserves but Turkey recently built an impressive economic base. Tehran deploys forces abroad, dominating four Arab capitals, while Ankara still fights domestic opponents, especially Gülenists and Kurds. Both governments despise the West but Iran’s is openly hostile while Turkey’s formally remains in NATO and ostensibly seeks European Union membership.
Khamene’i’s thugs capture American sailors on the high seas while Erdoğan’s takes residents hostage. Conspiracy theories, long an Iranian art form, have made huge strides over the past two decades in Turkey, which may now boast the region’s most fantastical speculations. Both became enthusiastic allies of Venezuela’s dictator, Nicolás Maduro. As a longer-established dictatorship, Khamene’i can allow relative freedom of expression compared with Erdoğan’s obsessive desire to control, including what basketball players in the United States say or what travelers transitingthrough Istanbul airport think.
Their most major difference concerns the attitudes of their subjects. Whereas Khamene’i enjoys the support of only about 15 percent of the populace, Erdoğan can count on some 45 percent, affording Erdoğan a legitimacy and confidence that Khamene’i can only dream of. In part, this results from longevity under Islamist rule, in part from difference in per capita income, which is only US$4,700 and stagnant in Iran, $10,700 and rising in Turkey.
Select economic indicators (World Bank).
Regime collapse in Iran is within sight and will diminish Islamism, encouraging Muslims to move toward a more modern and moderate form of their religion. The Turkish government’s greater popularity and more advanced version of Islamism gives it greater staying power that makes it the more worrisome long-term opponent. Thus, the Middle East is likely to witness a grand switch, with Iran on course to moderation and Turkey becoming the region’s supreme danger.
Bilateral relations flourished during the first years of Erdoğan’s rule (2002-10), when they shared a Islamist worldview and a suspicion of U.S. intentions in Iraq. But relations then soured, primarily because both regimes seek foreign influence and, as neighbors, they inevitably clash. The civil war in Syria, where Tehran backs Shi’ite-oriented jihadis and Ankara backs Sunni jihadis, is their biggest but not only problem. Other matters also aggravate relations, such as their supporting opposing sides in Yemen, Turkish installing a NATO radar tracking Iranian activities, and Iranian support for Al-Qaeda against Turkey.
Tensions have reached the point that Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group finds Tehran and Ankara “on a collision course.” Left unchecked, he expects the present dynamics to point “toward greater bloodshed, growing instability and greater risks of direct … military confrontation.” More poetically, Cagaptay observes that the Middle East has room for “one shah or sultan, but not a shah and a sultan.”
In this context, the Idlib accord looks flimsy and transient. Tehran and Ankara will probably soon turn against each other and with renewed vigor continue their perpetual rivalry.
Washington Times illustration.
**Mr. Pipes (, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2017 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Palestinians: Taking Journalists Hostage
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/August 23/17
Hamas and Abbas have turned Palestinian journalists into weapons in their internecine war. Palestinian journalists are now being targeted not only for expressing their views and reporting in a way that angers their leaders; they are also arrested and tortured in the process of the settling of scores between Abbas and Hamas.
The Palestinians indeed live under two dictatorial regimes, where freedom of expression and freedom of the media are violated on a daily basis.
By taking journalists hostage, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas have demonstrated that they are operating more as militias than as governments. We have before us a preview of the deadly drama of any future Palestinian state.
Palestinian journalists have once again fallen victim to the continuing power struggle between the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has jurisdiction over parts of the West Bank, and Hamas, the Islamist movement that is in control of the entire Gaza Strip.
Neither the PA nor Hamas is any champion of human rights, especially freedom of the media. The two parties regularly crack down on their critics, including journalists who do not toe the line or dare to report on issues that are deemed as reflecting negatively on the PA or Hamas.
The past few weeks have been particularly tough for Palestinian journalists. In this period, several journalists found themselves behind bars in PA and Hamas prisons, while others were summoned for interrogation and had to spend hours in interrogation rooms facing and detention centers.
To make matters even worse, a new Cyber Crime Law passed by the PA paves the way for legal measures against Facebook and Twitter users who post critical or unflattering comments about President Abbas and his senior officials. Critics say the law is a grave assault on freedom of expression and it will be used as a tool in the hands of Abbas and his henchmen to silence their critics or throw them into prison. In addition, the PA has blocked more than 20 news websites that are affiliated with Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, an ousted Fatah leader who has long openly challenged Abbas.
The PA-Hamas war is hardly a secret. The two entities use every available method to bring each other down. Abbas's PA has not hesitated to take extreme measures against the two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. These measures include depriving the Gaza Strip of medical supplies, electricity and fuel, as well as forcing thousands of PA civil servants into early retirement and cutting off salaries to thousands of others.
Hamas's retaliatory capacity towards the PA for these punitive steps is limited -- by Israel. Fortunately for Abbas and the PA, Israel is sitting in the middle between the West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Had Israel not been so situated, Hamas and its Gaza Strip followers would have marched into the West Bank and taken over Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority, and overthrown Abbas's PA.
In the absence of options, Hamas has sought help from Abbas's arch-enemy, the ousted Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan, who has been living in exile in the United Arab Emirates for the past six years.
Dahlan has caused Abbas many sleepless nights; Abbas has developed a particular paranoia against Dahlan. Abbas believes that Dahlan has only one goal: to remove him from power and end his regime. Abbas may not be wrong.
Hamas is now prepared to swallow a condition it has been trying to avoid for a long time: an alliance with Dahlan, a man it has despised for two full decades. What is Hamas hoping to gain from this reluctant alliance? Given Dahlan's strong ties with Egypt and some wealthy Gulf countries, Hamas is probably hoping for an end to its isolation in the Gaza Strip.
While awaiting the return of its presumptive "savior," Dahlan, Hamas, which is beginning to feel the impact of Abbas's sanctions against the Gaza Strip, has bared its fangs towards journalists, who are not known for their sympathy for the Islamist rulers there.
In a bid to exert pressure on Abbas to halt his punitive measures, Hamas's "Internal Security Apparatus" arrested Fuad Jaradeh, a correspondent for the PA's Palestine TV in the Gaza Strip. The charge? "Security-related offenses."
Palestinian journalists and family members take a different view of the incarceration, however. In their view, the arrest was aimed at pressuring Abbas to backtrack on his sanctions against the Gaza Strip. Abbas is indeed hoping that the sanctions will drive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to revolt and bring down Hamas.
The 82-year-old PA president remains mired in the humiliation he suffered when Hamas expelled the PA from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.
Abbas holds a personal grudge against Hamas because he also believes that before expelling the PA from the Gaza Strip, Hamas had planned to assassinate him by detonating explosives in a tunnel under his motorcade. The alleged plot was foiled when a Hamas official defected and revealed the plan to Abbas.
So, the Palestine TV correspondent, Jaradeh, was actually taken hostage by Hamas. Several operatives belonging to Abbas's ruling Fatah faction in the Gaza Strip were also targeted by Hamas, which detained some or summoned them for lengthy interrogation.
Enraged by the Hamas measures, Abbas ordered a crackdown on journalists employed by Hamas-affiliated media outlets in the West Bank. The result was that seven journalists found themselves in detention on charges of working for "hostile and unauthorized" media organizations.
This charge is transparently absurd, because Hamas-affiliated television stations and news websites have been operating under Abbas's PA for years. Besides, all the journalists rounded up by Abbas's security forces have been working in public and their identities are well known to his security forces.
The arrest of the seven journalists was a direct effort to squeeze Hamas into releasing the television correspondent, Jaradeh.
In other words, the Palestinian Authority took the seven journalists hostage in order to secure the release of its own newsman from a Hamas prison. The PA certainly did not awaken one morning and discover that there are Hamas-affiliated journalists and media organizations in the West Bank. It is not even charging the journalists with membership in Hamas.
As it turned out, the PA hostage-taking paid off, and Hamas was forced to release Jaradeh after 70 days in detention. In return, the PA security forces released six of the seven journalists, who were even allowed to return to their jobs and resume their work under the PA. Suddenly, these journalists were no longer a security threat and their working places were no longer "hostile" and "unlicensed."
After their release from Abbas's prisons eight days later, the journalists who had been held hostage talked about having undergone physical and verbal abuse.
Mahmoud Hamamreh, one of the released journalists, recounted:
"Some of us were beaten and humiliated. We were held in tiny cells and treated as criminals. The officer in charge of the investigation told us that we were being held hostage until Hamas releases journalists it is holding."
Several journalists, allegedly affiliated with Hamas, speak at an August 16 press conference about the physical and verbal abuse they suffered while held in detention by the Palestinian Authority. (Image source: Roya News video screenshot)
Hamas and Abbas have turned Palestinian journalists into weapons in their internecine war. Palestinian journalists are now being targeted not only for expressing their views and reporting in a way that angers their leaders; they are also arrested and tortured in the process of the settling of scores between Abbas and Hamas.
The Palestinians indeed live under two dictatorial regimes, where freedom of expression and freedom of the media are violated on a daily basis. By taking journalists hostage, the PA and Hamas have demonstrated that they are operating more as militias than as governments. We have before us a preview of the deadly drama of any future Palestinian state.
**Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute

The President Has a Special Obligation to Condemn Nazis and KKK
Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/August 23/17
President Donald Trump has a special obligation to single out for condemnation, and distance himself from, individuals and groups that claim -- even if falsely -- to speak in his name, as the racist provocateurs in Charlottesville did.
I also believe that it is the special responsibility of decent liberals to do the same with regard to hard left bigoted extremists. As a liberal, I will not give these hard-left violent bigots a pass.
So, President Trump must stop being even handed in his condemnations. He should focus his condemnation on extreme right-wing bigots who speak and act in his name, and leave it to those of us on the left to focus our condemnation on left-wing extremists and bigots.
All decent Americans have an obligation to condemn the violent bigotry of the Nazi and KKK demonstrators in Charlottesville or wherever else they spew their poisonous and threatening rhetoric. But President Donald Trump has a special obligation to single out for condemnation, and distance himself from, individuals and groups that claim -- even if falsely -- to speak in his name, as the racist provocateurs in Charlottesville did.
David Duke, the notorious bigot, told reporters that white nationalists were working to "fulfil the promises of Donald Trump." Richard Spencer, the founder of the Daily Stormer (a not so coded homage to the Nazi publication Der Stürmer,) attributed the growth of the ultra-nationalist alt-right to the Trump Presidency: "Obviously the alt-right has come very far in the past two years in terms of public exposure... is Donald Trump one of the major causes of that? Of course."
Trump initially responded as follows: "We must ALL be united and condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America." But then, following the car ramming that killed a peaceful protestor, President Trump made the following statement: "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides -- on many sides."
President Trump's inclusion of the words "violence on many sides" -- which seemed improvised -- suggested to some a moral equivalence between the Nazis and the KKK, on the one hand, and those protesting and resisting them, on the other hand. Trump denied that he was suggesting any such equivalence and made the following statement:
"Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America."
But then a day later he seemed to double down on his attempt to be even-handed in his comments about the "many sides" of this conflict. He pointed to "very fine people on both sides," implying that Nazis and Klansmen could be "fine," because their protests were "very legal." Then he denounced "alt-left" groups that were "very, very violent." Once again, he blamed "both sides," and asked rhetorically, "what about the 'alt-left', that as you say, came charging at the alt-right? Don't they have any semblance of guilt?"
David Duke immediately praised President Trump's condemnation of the "alt-left," thanking him "for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa."
Finally (though nothing this President ever tweets is final), President Trump praised the anti-racist "protestors in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate."
It is against this background that the President's back and forth statements must be evaluated.
Even if it were true -- and the evidence is to the contrary -- that Black Lives Matter and Antifa were as blameworthy for Charlottesville as the Nazis and KKK, it would still be incumbent on President Trump to focus his condemnation especially on the violent racists on the right that claim to speak on his behalf. The hard left -- which does, in part, include some violent and bigoted elements -- does not purport to speak on the President's behalf and does not claim to be trying to "fulfil the promises of Donald Trump." To the contrary, they oppose everything he stands for.
This situation poses a delicate dilemma for President Trump. He has denounced the ideology of the violent racists on the alt-right who claim to be acting in his name -- not quickly or forcefully enough. And he has declared his opposition to "racism" and specifically to "those who cause violence in its name," whom he has called "criminals" and "thugs." He specifically included within these categories the "KKK, Neo-Nazis [and] White Supremacists," the very groups that purport to speak in his name.
Why is that not enough? Why should he not at the same time condemn the alt-left for its violence? These are reasonable questions that require nuanced answers. Let me try to provide some.
I have long believed that it is the special responsibility of decent conservatives to expose, condemn and marginalize hard-right extremists and bigots. William F. Buckley showed the way when he refused to defend Patrick Buchanan against charges that what he had said amounted to anti-Semitism. Other decent conservatives followed Buckley's lead, and marginalized anti-Semites and racists who expressed bigotry in the false name of conservatism.
I also believe that it is the special responsibility of decent liberals to do the same with regard to hard-left bigoted extremists. I must acknowledge, as a liberal, that we have not done as good a job as decent conservatives have done. Perhaps this is because hard-left extremists often march under banners of benevolence, whereas, hard-rights extremists tend not to hide their malevolence.
Consider, for example, Antifa, the radical hard-left group, some of whose members violently confronted the Nazis and Klansmen in Charlottesville. As reported by the New York Times, the organization is comprised of a "diverse collection of anarchists, communists and socialists" with its "antecedents in Germany and Italy." According to the Times, "Its adherents express disdain for mainstream liberal politics" and support "direct action" by which they mean "using force and violence," rather than free speech and civil disobedience. Their leaders claim that violence is necessary because "it's full on war."
Nor is this merely rhetoric. On university campuses, particularly at Berkeley, "black-clad protestors, some of whom identified themselves as Antifa, smashed windows, threw gasoline bombs and broke into campus buildings, causing $100,000 in damage." They model themselves on the "Weathermen" of the 1970s, who were responsible for numerous acts of violence.
They claim to be using "counter-violence" in defense against the violence of neo-Nazis and Klansmen, but that is not true. They also use violence to shut down speakers with whose worldviews they disagree: they include not only right-wing extremists, but also mainstream conservatives, moderate Zionists and even some liberals. They reject dialogue in favor of intimidation and force.
As a liberal, I will not give these hard-left violent bigots a pass. It is true that the Nazis and KKK are currently more dangerous in terms of physical violence than hard-left groups. (It is also true that the most violent groups by far are radical Islamic terrorists, who are not the targets of Antifa protests.) But the violence of racists on the right (and radical jihadists) must not lead us to ignore the reality that Antifa and its radical allies pose real danger to the future of our nation, because of their increasing influence on university campuses, where our future leaders are being educated. The recent events in Charlottesville and elsewhere have made them heroes among some mainstream liberals, who are willing to excuse their anti-liberal bigotry because they are on the barricades against fascism.
It's far too easy to self-righteously condemn your political enemies when they step (or leap) over the line to bigotry and violence. It's far more difficult to condemn those who share your wing, whether left or right, but who go too far. But that is what morality and decency require, as Buckley taught us.
So, President Trump must stop being even-handed in his condemnations. He should focus his condemnation on extreme right-wing bigots who speak and act in his name, and leave it to those of us on the left to focus our condemnation on left-wing extremists and bigots.
**Alan M. Dershowitz, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School and author of Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law. His new book, Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy, is now available.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Pyongyang cheers on Bashar al-Assad
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 23/17
Some recent news items have mentioned a 37-page UN confidential report, which has been leaked to the press. The report talks about violations of sanctions imposed on North Korea. The report notes that two North Korean shipments were sent to a Syrian government agency responsible for the country’s chemical weapons program and that they have been intercepted during the past six months. The last thing Bashar al-Assad needed was to add Pyongyang’s dictator to his list of political affiliations. Despite all that, Stephane de Mistura, continues to host international delegates even after seven rounds of talks in Geneva and promises of more to come. This is in spite of the Russians, Turks and tours to Astana in Kazakhstan. Stepping away from the Syrian Opposition’s inability to unify its control after the West had forced the “true” opposition to “engage” in Moscow’s platform – Kadri Jamil’s group, who’s a “nicer” opposition for Bashar and his mouthpiece Walid al-Moualem to digest. Putting aside all the global attention on the Syrian issue, it is worth shedding light on some figures, which are the outcome of Western policies and the Russian-Iranian support for Bashar al-Assad.
Even if Bashar remains popular in the palace of the Zionists, he will not remain so in the conscience of the Syrian people
Ravages of war
Here are some figures that give us a sense of the scale of destruction caused in Syria. Only 43 percent of Syrian hospitals are in operation, while half of the Syrian doctors have fled the country. Some 80,000 children in Syria suffer from polio, which was eradicated from the country in 1995. One out of every four schools is either damaged, destroyed or used for those displaced as a result the conflict. Around 6.3 million people have been internally displaced while close to five million are refugees outside the country. The Syrian conflict has so far caused damages worth $275 billion.
These are only a handful of figures that reflect the Syrian tragedy. Who else can be held responsible for such an outcome but Bashar himself, followed by Iran and Russia. Then comes the weakness of Western policy and some Arabs’ collusion with Bashar. The tragic turn of events have made Alon Ben-Meir, Professor at the Center for Global Affairs – NYU School of Professional Studies, describe them as the “Syria: A Testament To International Moral Bankruptcy.” “The US was the only country that could have spared this horror, under the Obama administration,” Ben-Meir says. These figures do not challenge Ayatollah Khamenei’s conscience, who was quoted by Qasim Soleimani, his envoy for strife and murder, as saying that we are going to defend the dictators. “Do we look to any ruler of the countries to which we have relations; is he a dictator or not? We cater to our interests,” the leader is reported to have replied. Even if Bashar remains popular in the palace of the Zionists, he will not remain so in the conscience of the Syrian people. This is the conscience that will sooner or later produce another revolution ... with de Mistura’s permission.

Vehicle terrorism, the up and running modern militant tool
Dr. Halla Diyab/Al Arabiya/August 23/17
The recent appalling Barcelona terror attacks, which involved a white van smashing into people on Las Ramblas leaving 13 people dead and over 100 injured, and an Audi A3 car ploughing into pedestrians in the popular seaside resort town of Cambrils, leads to question whether we are witnessing a significant rise in vehicle terrorism. This has been a new trend of street violence that challenges the authorities’ preventive strategies and carries out mass terror and collective murder. Using a vehicle is also a platform of modern militancy’s cultural expression and becomes a transnational phenomenon of terror – a hardcore element within the masses of exuberant militants that spilled blood and fear on our streets from Britain to Nice, Barcelona, and beyond. It is, however, necessary to look beyond the recurring use of the vehicle and explore its symbolic connotation as a territorial medium of violence with immediate and accurate effect of violating physical spaces, invading bodily and spatial boundaries and territories, and bypassing the secrecy normally attached to any militants attack.
A new identity
The use of a vehicle as a terror weapon is giving modern militancy a new identity, and offering a communal trend among ISIS militants that differs in essence to the conventional methods of terrorism performed by its preceding groups like al-Qaeda. Although 9/11 attack utilized a “vehicle” – the Boeing 767 which crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center – but it was more of a attack on a larger scale targeting the economy and the legacy of the United States. Civilians were the causalities but not the main target. Barcelona’s attack targeted mainly random non-combatants civilians to terrorize and mutilate them. The use of the vehicle in Barcelona serves the militants “mutilation” strategy. From beheading to stabbing, from using machetes and knives to ploughing crowds with a van, the group’s terrorist dynamic has always been about bodily mutilation. As the narrative of militant new trends unfold, the conventional suicide bombing where militants are expected to offer up their bodies to ISIS as vessels for explosives is now twisted by using the vehicle, which facilitates using the victims’ bodies as vessels for mutilation to serve the cause. This twist acquires the militants’ embryonic dynamic to depart from ideological conventional roles as to acquire a role in the modern militant syndicate. Militants like Barcelona’s Driss Oukabir, who has a criminal record, and Khalid Masood of Westminster attack, who was convicted of multiple offences spanning 20 years, rejuvenate the old phenomenon of phansigars. The “thuggee or tuggee” known through history with their bloody terror, operating as gangs of rubbery, tricking and strangling their preys. They were featured in Ziyā-ud-Dīn Baranī's History of Fīrūz Shāh, dated around 1356. The war against terror is territorial because ISIS is not an ideological rhetoric but rather a militant group that will keep targeting our streets
Secret cult
While thuggee was a secret cult whose members worshipped Kali, the deity of destruction, the modern militants of Barcelona yet operate in groups. They are more of cult of assassins serving ISIS ideology of collective destruction and mass murder, and they differ from al-Qaeda precedents of suicide bombers. A similar syndicate was used by London Bridge militant-trio who ploughed into pedestrians on the bridge using a hired van, before stabbing revelers in pubs and bars in Borough Market on Saturday night killing seven people and injuring 48. This explains the recurring use of fake suicide belts by Barcelona and London bridge militants to visualize their progressions from the bounds of traditional old-school generation of suicide bombers, and mark their thuggee syndicate. There is a territorial element to ISIS’s modern vehicle terrorism symbolized either by using territorial weapons or targeting territories that of a symbolic significance to their existence. Territorially Spain holds an important place in the extremist ideology due to its symbolic legacy where Muslims ruled over a period of 800 years before been forced out.
So it is no coincidence that the Spanish coastal town where the second Barcelona attack took place was also the place where two of the masterminds of 9/11 met in 2001. However, ISIS’s territorial battle includes seeing Spain as part of its final caliphate, like it was in the 15th century.
The battle of Spain and the loss of Andalusia have featured in ISIS’ publication, and attacking Spain symbolizes for the group a territorial invasion and at the same time a triumph in parallel to the group’s recent territorial defeat in the so called Caliphate’s two main strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa. Unlike al-Qaeda, the group’s militancy is territorial not ideological.
Territorial facet
As a cult, they thrive on savage militancy rather on ideological devotion, and their current atrocities in Barcelona is an example of how militant violence has grown to be an outward territorial facet of ISIS. The group’s physical methods of terrorism is by no means far harder to predict but also that far harder to prevent. However, restricting cars’ and vans’ driving into pedestrian designated areas, and points of crowd’s attraction could minimize the risk of vehicle terrorism. But with the brutality of the terrorist group is growing to thrive on small scale atrocities, it is difficult to predict what territorial weapon they will resort to next. The recurring vehicle methods of terrorism imply that we have not learned the lesson yet, and states’ policies fail to see that the war against terrorism in all its facets is not only ideological war which can be deterred by a preventive strategy or empowering community cohesion. The war against terror is territorial because ISIS is not an ideological rhetoric but rather a militant group that will keep targeting our streets harder, bigger and bloodier.

Trump, the media and the right wing
Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/August 23/17
Much of the US media appears biased against US President Donald Trump and seeks to overstate his relations with the far right. At present the media seems to be projecting views of entrenched state institutions which oppose Trump because he is not part of the so-called ‘deep state’ and owes little to the strong lobbies pushing their dubious agendas in Washington. Trump was elected by the average Americans who felt that the US state establishment did not care about them or their concerns and sought to serve its own interests often at their expense. Most former US presidents since World War II - such as Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama - were leaders backed by the deep state, who cared more about serving corporate interests than the welfare of the American people. These people voted for Trump because they saw in him a savior who could rescue them from crony capitalism which infests the deep state
Coming up trumps
In fact, the ‘establishment’ had not expected a Trump win in the presidential elections and was unaware of the extent of the prevailing public discontent. Therefore, media outlets did not mind giving Trump due coverage. However, Trump and his electoral team were fully aware of the extent of the popular resentment against the existing state of politics. Trump directly addressed the people through his Twitter account and his electoral rallies. He could tap at the public anger against the prevailing status quo and spoke in a manner that resonated with the masses. He directly addressed the American people and managed to assure them that he would uphold their rights against the machinations of the so-called ‘deep state’. The fact that Trump was in with a chance in the US presidential race dawned pretty late on the entrenched government institutions. All attempts by the media to distort Trump’s image failed as his popularity rose among the people who were frustrated with conventional politics and corporate media machinery. Trump’s message resonated with the White citizenry as well as the middle and lower classes in particular. But can we dub all these Trump supporters as belonging to the far right, as claimed by the leftist media?
The slur of racism
It is true that the extreme right-wing supported Trump in the elections and that it continues to support him. However, his support base does not constitute neo-Nazis or members of the Ku Klux Klan – which if at all may only form a small fraction of Trump’s supporters – but mainly average Americans who despise extremist organizations and reject any violent and discriminatory beliefs. These people voted for Trump because they saw in him a savior who could rescue them from crony capitalism which infests the deep state. They hoped he would stand true to his promises and improve the economic situation. In the wake of the recent spurt in racist attacks, the US media has claimed that most Trump supporters are racists and have gone to the extent of calling Trump a racist. This allegation is not based on facts as right-wing groups have indulged in racist attacks even during the terms of previous presidents and were involved in heinous crimes similar to what recently happened in Virginia. Back then, the media did not play up the incidents to the extent it is doing now because it was more favourable towards presidents of that time or its bias was not as pronounced against them as it is against Trump at present.

President Trump and the Palestinian issue

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi/Al Arabiya/August 23/17
There is no doubt that Palestine is one of the most complicated problems on the face of the earth. There are not many other problems that have caused such wars as have been fought over Palestine. There are not many people who have been subjected to so much injustice, persecution, murder and displacement as have the Palestinians. The people of Palestine have been expelled from their land, have been victims of massacre, and have been forced to flee their homeland and take shelter in neighboring countries. A large number of them are languishing in refugee camps in miserable conditions with the hope that their rights will be restored to them one day and that the conscience of the global community will bring them international justice.There are currently reports that US President Donald Trump will send a delegation to the Middle East to enhance the chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Trump is sending his son-in-law Jared Kushner, accompanied by Special Representative for Foreign Affairs and Advisor on Middle East Peace Jason Greenblatt, and Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell, to Middle East countries with the aim of resolving the Middle East conflict.
This mission is part of Trump’s attempt to find a solution after his realization that the problems in the Middle East are interdependent and hence require interrelated solutions. There have been several opportunities to resolve the conflict in the past but all ended in failure. In such a scenario, Trump is apparently determined to give a further push to resolving the Middle East issue. According to sources, the delegation does not have any specific formula to resolve the crisis. The proposals it will make are of a general nature. The delegation will hold consultations and examine the directions issued to the two parties to return to the negotiating table and start implementing confidence-building measures. President Trump as well as his administration and envoys can do a lot to help resolve the Mideast issue
Halt to incitement
President Trump’s instructions to Palestinians include a total halt to incitement against Israel. The US Congress also favors making such a demand to the Palestinians. It is noteworthy that the Foreign Relations Committee of Congress has endorsed a law suspending US aid to the Palestinian Authority.
While making these demands on Palestinians, the president has not issued any reference or criticism of Israel’s continued expansion of settlements and Judaization of occupied Jerusalem as these have the potential to scuttle the peace process. Unlike Trump, his predecessors at least dared to come out openly against these Israeli measures. President Trump has also not mentioned the principle of the two-state solution on which the peace process was established between Palestinians and Israelis. His visions and solutions as well as his old and new statements on Palestine have showed no evidence that he is an honest broker, and, therefore, he must prove his neutrality and credibility so as to be acceptable by Palestinians and Arabs. Let us examine the recent developments pertaining to Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque and the actions taken by Israel against the Palestinians, including preventing them from performing prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque. The heroic resistance by Palestinian residents of Jerusalem against these unjust practices has played a major role in forcing Israel to retreat from its evil plan for Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque. It was the first time that Israel suffered defeat as a result of the willpower of the Palestinian people and their determination not to allow Israel to control al-Aqsa Mosque and erect obstacles for worshipers by installing electronic gates and beam lights. The retreat of Israel against the steadfastness and sacrifices of the Jerusalemites does not mean that Israel is halting its hellish plans aimed at total Judaization of Jerusalem after enacting arbitrary laws and unjust practices against the indigenous population, such as demolition of houses and the expulsion of the population under false pretexts. These practices are in defiance of all laws and resolutions of the UN Security Council and UNESCO that affirm that Israel has no right to the holy city of Jerusalem and that it has been an occupied city ever since the aggression of Israel in 1967.
Just and acceptable solution
President Trump as well as his administration and envoys can do a lot to help resolve the Mideast issue. But that should not be done simply by putting pressure on the Palestinians and accusing them of terrorism and cutting off aid to them. Instead, it should involve seeking just and acceptable solutions and restoring at least some of the usurped rights of the Palestinian people. There have been many initiatives made to resolve the Arab–Israeli conflict, the latest of which was the Arab Peace Initiative, which was originally a Saudi initiative submitted by the late King Abdullah and adopted by the Arab Summit held in Beirut in 2002, after which it was known as the Arab Peace Initiative.This initiative is based on the vision of establishing an independent Palestinian state on internationally recognized borders based on the 1967 borders as well as a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees in accordance with international resolutions. In return, Arab states would recognize Israel and establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. However, the Israeli right-wing extremist government has rejected this. The Jewish government has also rejected the peace initiatives and solutions that it accepted when they were framed under the aegis of the United States.If President Trump adopts the Arab Peace Initiative and exercises his influence on Israel to accept it, perhaps it would be a landmark step in the realization of his attempt to find a major solution and thus would place him in a respectable position in the annals of history.