August 26/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Strive to enter through the narrow door
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 13/22-30/:"Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, ‘Lord, will only a few be saved?’ He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, "Lord, open to us", then in reply he will say to you, "I do not know where you come from."Then you will begin to say, "We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets." But he will say, "I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!" There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.’"

Go to this people and say, You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them
Acts of the Apostles 28/23-31/:"After they had fixed a day to meet him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement: ‘The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,
"Go to this people and say, You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing,and they have shut their eyes;so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them." Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.’ He lived there for two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. "

Question: "What does it mean to be a stumbling block to someone else?"
Answer: In the midst of a series of laws regulating the treatment of others, we find “Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:14). Obviously, putting a rock or brick in front of a blind person is cruel, but the New Testament takes the practical adage and turns it into a spiritual metaphor.
After Peter rebuked Jesus, denying the crucifixion would take place, Jesus said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's” (Matthew 16:23). Peter, under the influence of Satan, tried to distract Jesus from what He had come to do. He tried to make Jesus “stumble” in His path to the crucifixion. Paul reiterates the idea: “…but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:23). The idea that the Messiah would be crucified was a stumbling block to the Jews—something that tripped up their beliefs of what the Messiah would be like.
But most of the time, a “stumbling block” refers to something or someone who keeps another from a relationship with God. In Matthew 18:5-7, Jesus says, “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” Just as it would be better to chop off one’s hand than to sin (Matthew 18:8), in the Kingdom perspective, it would be better to drown than lead a child into sin. Similarly, in Romans 14:13, Paul points out that God alone judges; we are not to judge others but be concerned that we are not the ones leading them into the sin we’re so concerned about.
Stumbling blocks also arise when the path is a little more ambiguous. The mature Christian life allows some freedoms that seem contrary to an obedient, disciplined faith. The Corinthians were concerned about eating meat sacrificed to idols. Modern issues include drinking alcohol in moderation or dancing. “But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9). Our liberty is not worth another’s walk with God. If something God allows would lead another to sin, we need to avoid it. We are given great freedom as Christians, but the greatest is the freedom to consider others’ welfare over our own.
Refraining from being a stumbling block means not leading another into sin. How we accomplish this depends on the situation and the hearts of those around us. The security we have in God’s love and provision, both now and eternally, allows us to show concern to those who are weaker—those who need specific encouragement to understand who God is. In some situations, that means living in those freedoms to exemplify that God is a God of grace. In others, it means disciplining ourselves to building up weaker believers and not pushing them into a liberty they’re not ready for. But, always, it means not encouraging another to act in a way the Bible specifically identifies as sin.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 25-26/17
IRGC Deputy Commander Salami To The U.S.: War In The Persian Gulf Will Not Be Limited To Region And Escalation/The Middle East Media Research Institute/August 25/17
While The West Sleeps, Iran Continues On Its Deadly Path/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/ArabNews/August 25/17
Will Saleh Abandon Houthi in Yemen/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al AWsat/August 25/17/
Puffing the Turkish Chibouk in Ankara/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al AWsat/August 25/17
Anti-Semitism in Europe: New Official Report/Bruce Bawer/Gatestone Institute/August 25/17
Qatar bans its pilgrims, Saudi Arabia welcomes them/Salman al-Dosary/Al Arabiya/August 25/17
Is Trump racist/Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/August 25/17
Understanding secularism/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/August 25/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 25-26/17

Hezbollah captures much of ISIS enclave on Syrian-Lebanese border
Hezbollah and Asad regime are swapping Daesh prisoners who fled Lebanon against Iranian operatives
Lebanese Army Rejects Negotiation with ISIS before Revealing Captives’ Fate
Sabhan in Beirut to Discuss Saudi-Lebanese Relations
Geagea to Nasrallah: We Won't Coordinate with a Regime that is More Brutal than IS
Aoun inaugurates Saints' Road in Batroun, heads to Eddeh town
Geagea, Foucher tackle overall political situation
Saudi Minister: Only Legitimate Institutions Can Protect Lebanon
Syrian Officer: Anti-IS Fight near Lebanon Border Soon Over
Army pounds remaining Daesh posts in Wadi Martbiya
Intermittent Army Shelling, Airstrikes on IS Posts
Marotti relays to Army Commander Italian commitment for defense assistance to Lebanon
Rahi arrives in Jrebta to inaugurate Saint Rafqa House
Mustaqbal Says Nasrallah 'Blackmailing' Govt. with Captive Troops File
Khoury: National Museum shall remain illuminated with Lebanese flag colors till end of military operation
GLC delegation visits Bassil, requests private sector wage hike

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 25-26/17
Iran Planned to Revive ‘Hezbollah Al-Hejaz’ Under Al-Mughassil’s Command
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman: Israel Will Not Be a Bystander In Syria
Kushner: Trump Is Committed to Peace Settlement for Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
SDF Offensive for Deir al-Zor Soon, ISIS Pushes Back Advancing Forces Near Raqqa
Temporary Syrian Resolutions Could Possibly Wage New Wars
Iran, Turkey Escalate Against Kurdistan’s Referendum
Bahrain Security Forces Arrest Terrorist Cell Affiliated with Al-Ashtar Brigades
Fatah Vice Chairman Accuses Hamas of Failing to Respond to Calls for Unity
Sisi Calls for Adopting Comprehensive Strategy to Fight Terrorism
Maduro Calls for Military Loyalty after U.S. Threat
Trump Calls Egypt's Sisi to Affirm Support
12 killed in Kabul mosque attack, siege over: official
Nuclear inspectors should have access to Iran military bases, US’s Haley
Jordanian Iraqi border crossing to reopen after Eid Al Adha

Latest Lebanese Related News published on August 25-26/17
Hezbollah captures much of ISIS enclave on Syrian-Lebanese border

Reuters Friday, 25 August 2017/Hezbollah has captured much of an ISIS pocket on Syria’s side of the border with Lebanon in a joint offensive with the Syrian army, its leader said on Thursday. In parallel with the fighting, talks on a truce have begun with ISIS but a military victory is more likely, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech. Syrian troops and Iran-backed Hezbollah have been fighting to oust ISIS from Syria’s western Qalamoun region. The attack began last week, coinciding with a Lebanese army offensive against ISIS on its side of the border in northeast Lebanon. The zone straddling the border is the last part of the Lebanese-Syrian frontier under militant control. Both offensives have advanced toward the border from opposite sides. The Lebanese army says it is not coordinating the assault with the Syrian army or Shi’ite Hezbollah, which Washington classifies as a terrorist group.
Any joint operation between the Lebanese army on one hand and Hezbollah with the Syrian army on the other would be politically sensitive in Lebanon and could jeopardize the sizeable US military aid the country receives.
The frontier battle was nearing a “very big victory”, Nasrallah said.
“So far, more than 270 square km have been fully captured on Syrian land” by Hezbollah and the Syrian army, he said. “Around 40 square km remain under ISIS control.” ISIS is on the back foot in Iraq and Syria. It has lost ground in Syria to various separate enemies over the past year and the eastern Deir al-Zor province its last major foothold. Hezbollah has played a major role in fighting Sunni militants along the border, and has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad’s government against Syrian rebel groups. Earlier this month, Nusra Front militants left Lebanon’s border region under an evacuation deal after Hezbollah routed them in their last footholds there. Thousands of refugees also departed with them to rebel territory in Syria. Northeast Lebanon saw one of the worst spillovers of Syria’s war into Lebanon in 2014, when ISIS and Nusra Front militants briefly overran the border town of Arsal. The fate of nine Lebanese soldiers that ISIS took captive then remains unknown.ISIS leaders in Syria’s western Qalamoun had asked for negotiations, Nasrallah said on Thursday. “The first condition of any deal reached with ISIS will be revealing the fate of the Lebanese soldiers,” he added. If the Lebanese state wanted to negotiate an evacuation deal with ISIS militants on its own side, Damascus would be ready to cooperate, Nasrallah said. “But the condition is an official Lebanese request, and public coordination, not under the table,” he said. Hezbollah and its allies have been pressing Lebanon to normalize relations with Damascus, challenging the state’s policy of neutrality toward the conflict next door. Hezbollah’s role in the six-year Syrian conflict has drawn criticism from its Lebanese political opponents, including Sunni leader and Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.

Hezbollah and Asad regime are swapping Daesh prisoners who fled Lebanon against Iranian operatives

Roger Bejjani/Face Book/August 25/17
With the events unfolding and after reading that Hezbollah and Asad regime are swapping Daesh prisoners who fled Lebanon against Iranian operatives and other terrorists belonging to Hezbollah and Asad, i tend to believe that the Army made a serious tactical mistake by abstaining to operate a helicopter assault with elite forces at the Syrian Lebanese borders, hence allowing Daesh to surrender to Hezbollah and Asad, hence losing leverage in its quest to liberate its own soldiers taken hostage by the terrorist organisation.

Lebanese Army Rejects Negotiation with ISIS before Revealing Captives’ Fate
Asharq Al AWsat/August 25/17/Beirut- Lebanese Army continued its logistic and combat preparations for the fourth phase of Jroud Dawn operation in outskirts of al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek. The army has reiterated its rejection to any settlement or negotiation before getting information on the destiny of the soldiers captivated by ISIS since three years. Military sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat that until this moment there isn’t any proposal on the exit of ISIS from the mountains and the priority remains to the destiny of military captives. They described this period as the toughest. Military expert retired general Khalil al-Helou told Asharq Al-Awsat that the difficulty of this stage lies in the technical side and not the military one. “Wadi Martabya – where ISIS existence has been curbed – is a deep valley that the group managed to seize its surrounding heights. So the difficulty is basically to reach this region whose roads need to be opened to facilitate vesicles’ passage,” he added. “Terrorists have left behind mines planted in various sites and it is burdensome to remove them quickly. We are dealing with a terrorist organization that doesn’t recognize any rules or ethics of war,” a military source reported to Central News Agency. Helou saw that what has been accomplished by the army in a couple of days is an unprecedented achievement in the history of countries’ battle against ISIS whether in regards to the accuracy in operations or the limited losses. During the past 48 hours, no action was taken by ISIS members in Wadi Martabya – they have probably fled to Syria, according to Helou. Prime Minister Saad Hariri informed the cabinet of the outcome of his tour at Lebanese Army positions on the Eastern border, lauding the high spirits of the army and its achievements. He also stressed that the Lebanese Army will position in all areas liberated from terrorists and there will be monitoring centers and fortifications.

Sabhan in Beirut to Discuss Saudi-Lebanese Relations
Asharq Al AWsat/August 25/17/Beirut – Saudi Minister of State for Arab Gulf Affairs Thamer Al-Sabhan has met with a number of Lebanese officials during a visit to Beirut that he kicked off on Wednesday. The Saudi official reviewed with Prime Minister Saad Hariri latest developments in Lebanon and the region, before meeting with Kataeb Party chief Sami Gemayel. On Thursday, Sabhan visited the head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, at his residence in the Keserouan village of Maarab, where he said in brief comments: “The weather is always beautiful in Maarab”. For his part, Gemayel underlined the need to preserve the sovereignty of the Lebanese State throughout its territories. He also raised the issue of the Lebanese working in Gulf countries in general and the Kingdom in particular, stressing that they should not be held responsible for policies and positions that are not approved by all Lebanese people. Well-informed Arab sources told Al-Markaziah news agency that Sabhan, who had visited Beirut in October, would discuss with Lebanese officials latest developments in the region, mainly the progress achieved in the Syrian file. He will also emphasize that regional balances do not mean allowing Iran to expand its influence in any Arab country and that there is no truth in any information about concessions in favor of Iran, either in Yemen, Iraq, Syria or Lebanon, according to the sources quoted by the agency.

Geagea to Nasrallah: We Won't Coordinate with a Regime that is More Brutal than IS
Naharnet/August 25/17/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea hit back at Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday, stressing that there cannot be official coordination “with a regime that is more brutal than the Islamic State group.”Nasrallah had on Thursday announced that “the Syrian leadership will cooperate” in any negotiations with the IS group involving the fate of the captive Lebanese troops “on the condition of receiving an official Lebanese request for public coordination.”Hizbullah's chief “is harming the Lebanese army through insisting on coordination between the Lebanese and Syrian armies and Hizbullah in Operation Dawn of the Outskirts, while knowing that such a declaration would harm the army, seeing as a lot of countries helping it in various forms would cease their support should they realize that it is coordinating with” Hizbullah and Syria's army, said Geagea in an interview with al-Markazia news agency. And condemning what he called Nasrallah's “use of the captive troops file to pressure the Lebanese government into holding official and public talks with the Syrian government,” Geagea emphasized that “there cannot be coordination with a regime that is more brutal than the IS group.” As for Nasrallah's addition of the Syrian army into the so-called “army-people-resistance equation,” Geagea noted that Nasrallah's “real equation” also involves Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces and Iran's Revolutionary Guard. “How can you assume that we would accept an equation that has nothing to do with the country? Where are the Lebanese entity, state, National Pact, coexistence, model and message in this equation?” Geagea added, addressing Nasrallah. “For us, the essential equation will always remain: Lebanese people, Lebanese state and Lebanese army,” Geagea stressed.

Aoun inaugurates Saints' Road in Batroun, heads to Eddeh town
Fri 25 Aug 2017/NNA - Within the second stopover of his Batroun tour, President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, arrived at 6.00 pm this evening at the entrance of Batroun, where he inaugurated Saints Road, in the presence of Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Gebran Bassil. Upon arrival, President Aoun received a wide popular reception, where he was greeted by the head of Batroun Municipality, Batroun Municipalities Federation, Marcelino Al-Harak, and scores of local dignitaries. Aoun's convoy then crossed the new road moving towards the town of Eddeh, with the Lebanese flags and banners welcoming the President in said town elevated across all road. It is to note that the length of the road is 7.2 kilometers with 11 meters width. Road project cost is US $ 7.8 million.

Aoun kicks off Batroun tour, inspects developmental projects
Fri 25 Aug 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, on Friday kicked off a tour in the Batroun district, where he inspected a number of developmental projects in the area. President Aoun was accompanied by Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Gebran Bassil, and several experts and advisors. The President had a firsthand look at the ongoing of work at developmental projects carried out in said district, with concerned officials briefing him on project benefits and advantages for the residents of Batroun and neighboring areas. The first stopover had been in the town of Tannourine el Tahta, where Aoun inspected the rehabilitation and expansion project of Tannourine el Tahta-Tannourine el Fawqa Road, which begins in Tannourine el-Tahta, passing through Wata Houb area and far-reaching to Tannourine el-Fawqa. Aoun hoped that rehabilitation works would finish within the set deadline, without any negative impact on the movement of citizens in the towns and villages witnessing such rehabilitation works. It is to note that the length of said road is 6.9 km with a width of 10 meters. The road consists of a single corridor with 3.5 km width in each direction. The importance of this road lies in linking the coast of Batroun district with its outskirts. Aoun and his accompanying delegation then moved to the entrance of the town of Batroun, hsis econd stopover within his Batroun tour. Aoun inaugurated Saints Road in the twon, in the presence of Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Gebran Bassil. Upon arrival, Aoun recieved a wide popular reception, where he was greeted by the head of Batroun Municipality, Batroun Municipalities Federation, Marcelino Al-Harak, and scores of local dignitaries. Aoun's convoy then crossed the new road moving towards the town of Eddeh, with the Lebanese flags and banners welcoming the President in said town elevated across road. It is to note that the length of the road is 7.2 kilometers with 11 meters width. Road project cost is US $ 7.8 million. Aoun's convoy then moved to the town of Jrebta, where he inaugurated "Saint Rafqa Elderly Home", along with Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rahi. Aoun was greeted by Patriarch Rahi and the General President of the Lebanese Maronite Mothers, Sonia Al-Ghusain, the Head of St. Joseph Jrebta Monastery, Mother Melanie Maqsoud and "Beit Rafqa" project donor, Salim Al-Zeer, and crowds of "Beit Rafqa" devout. After unveiling the plaque of honor, the President and his accompanying delegation toured "Beit Rafqa" followed by a visit to the church decorated with colorful paintings on its walls and ceiling.

Geagea, Foucher tackle overall political situation

Fri 25 Aug 2017/NNA - Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea met on Friday at his Meerab residence with French Ambassador to Lebanon, Bruno Foucher, who came on a courtesy visit. Talks between the pair reportedly touched on the current political situation on the local and regional arena. Ambassador Foucher conveyed to Geagea a message from French President, Emmanuel Macron, thanking him for his congratulatory message on his election as President of the French Republic. The message underlined the deep brotherly relations between the two countries and France's permanent support for Lebanon. On the other hand, Geagea met with a delegation of the Municipality of Breih, led by Subhi Lahhoud.

Saudi Minister: Only Legitimate Institutions Can Protect Lebanon
Naharnet/August 25/17/Visiting Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan announced Friday that only Lebanon's legitimate state institutions can protect Lebanon from threats, referring to the Lebanese army's ongoing operation against Islamic State militants on the eastern border. “The Lebanese army's efforts and its protection of its country's security and stability prove that nations can only be protected through their legitimate national institutions and that sectarianism cannot build a country,” Sabhan tweeted, apparently referring to Hizbullah's armed presence in Lebanon. The Saudi minister's tweet comes amid simultaneous anti-IS offensives by the Lebanese army and Hizbullah and both sides of the Lebanese-Syrian border. The Lebanese army has said that it is not coordinating militarily with Hizbullah or the Syrian army. Sabhan had arrived in Lebanon on Wednesday evening for talks with top officials. He has so far met with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel.

Syrian Officer: Anti-IS Fight near Lebanon Border Soon Over
Associated Press/Naharnet/August 25/17/The battle against the Islamic State group in an area along the Lebanon-Syria will end within hours, a Syrian army officer has said, as the extremists faced news setbacks in the two neighboring countries. The colonel's comments to the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV came as Lebanese artillery and aircraft pounded IS positions on the other side of the border as part of Lebanon's own offensive against the extremists. The Lebanese army command said the fourth phase of the offensive that began on Saturday should eventually evict all IS fighters from the border region. The Syrian army and its ally, the Lebanese Hizbullah group, launched an operation simultaneously with the Lebanese to clear IS from the Syrian side of the border in the western Qalamoun mountain range. Hizbullah has been fighting in Syria alongside President Bashar Assad's forces since 2013. Hizbullah's al-Manar TV said that about 400 IS fighters are still in the border area. Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said late Thursday that IS still holds 20 square kilometers on the Lebanese side of the border and 40 square kilometers on the Syrian side. He said in televised remarks that for any settlement for IS fighters in the area, the fate of nine Lebanese soldiers whom the extremists kidnapped in 2014 must be revealed. "The most likely outcome of the battle will be a military victory and not a settlement," Nasrallah said. "What was achieved on both fronts is very important."

Army pounds remaining Daesh posts in Wadi Martbiya
Fri 25 Aug 2017/ NNA - Lebanese army artillery and aircraft continued to pound the remaining terrorist Daesh posts in Wadi Martbiya and terrorists' movements and assemblies there, inflicting casualties in their ranks, army command said in a communiqué. In the meantime, army ground forces continue to tighten their grip on these terrorists, and gear up for the last combat stage of "Fajr alJouroud" operation. Army specialized engineering teams also continue to construct new roads, and remove bombs, mines and suspicious objects from the various liberated areas cleared of the terrorists Daesh.

Intermittent Army Shelling, Airstrikes on IS Posts
Naharnet/August 25/17/The Lebanese army was on Friday intermittently shelling the posts of the terrorist Islamic State group in the outskirts of the eastern border town of Ras Baalbek, media reports said. The reports noted that artillery shelling had abated, “especially after the Syrian government and Hizbullah established negotiation channels with the group.”“Lebanese army sources have renewed refusal of negotiating with IS, denying any halt to fire and noting that the military is preparing for the fourth and final stage of the battle against the group,” Sky News Arabia reported. “The army has fired artillery and launched airstrikes against a number of IS fortifications and posts in Ras Baalbek's outskirts,” the TV network added. The military had launched its unprecedented offensive, dubbed Operation Dawn of the Outskirts, last Saturday. It has so far liberated 100 out of 120 square kilometers of territory previously held by IS militants, according to an army spokesman.

Marotti relays to Army Commander Italian commitment for defense assistance to Lebanon
Fri 25 Aug 2017 /NNA - The Italian Ambassador to Lebanon, Massimo Marotti, has expressed to the Chief of Defense General Joseph Aoun the full support of the Italian Government to the Lebanese Armed Forces and commended their effort in the "Fajr al Jurud" Operation. He conveyed his deepest condolences for the painful loss of lives of soldiers and reiterated the Italian commitment for the defense assistance to Lebanon. In a press release by the Italian Embassy in Beirut, it said: "Only this year, Italy invested more than 100 million USD out of the national budget to finance its participation in UNIFIL. Moreover, since 2015 the Italian Armed Forces have been training selected Units of the LAF, through the Italian Bilateral Military Mission "MIBIL", in order for them to acquire and develop highly specialized capacities in different fields of activity. The value of the donated equipment and training, which includes activities in favour of the Presidential Guard, amounts to 20 million USD, and the Italian Government is considering to further increase the bilateral assistance."

Rahi arrives in Jrebta to inaugurate Saint Rafqa House
Fri 25 Aug 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi arrived a while ago at "Saint Rafqa House" in Jrebta, where he will shortly inaugurate this House along with President of the Republic, Michel Aoun.

Mustaqbal Says Nasrallah 'Blackmailing' Govt. with Captive Troops File
Naharnet/August 25/17/Al-Mustaqbal Movement has accused Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah with “blackmailing” the Lebanese government with the file of the Islamic State-held Lebanese troops, after he called for “public and official coordination with the Syrian leadership” in this regard. “Hizbullah's secretary general is using the file of unveiling the fate of the IS-held troops as a tool to blackmail the Lebanese government and drag it into negotiating with IS in coordination and integration with the Syrian government,” Mustaqbal said in a statement issued overnight. It stressed that “the case of the captive servicemen is the responsibility of the competent security authority and the military leadership, which has several times announced that it will not negotiate with IS before it unveils the fate of the troops.”The movement slammed Nasrallah's remarks as “an unacceptable attempt to manipulate the families' sentiments and employ them in the service of the Syrian regime and its allies.”Nasrallah had announced in a speech Thursday evening that “the Syrian leadership will cooperate” in any negotiations with the IS group involving the fate of the Lebanese captives “on the condition of receiving an official Lebanese request for public coordination.”Separately, Mustaqbal lashed out at Nasrallah's remarks on the controversial “army-people-resistance equation” and his addition of the Syrian army to it. “This is the best way to blow up his golden or diamond equation... It's a good thing he did that because we have become before an equation that has totally lost national consensus while the Lebanese army and people have automatically become outside it,” the movement said. It warned that Nasrallah might in the future decide to “add the Iranian army, the Iraqi Hashed al-Shaabi and Yemen's Huthi Ansarullah group to it.”Mustaqbal also underlined that it insists on “limiting the possession of arms to the Lebanese army and state,” noting that “the national military institution is exclusively and officially tasked with protecting the border and ridding the outskirts of the terrorist groups.”

Khoury: National Museum shall remain illuminated with Lebanese flag colors till end of military operation
Fri 25 Aug 2017/NNA - Minister of Culture Dr. Ghattas Khoury announced that the front side of the National Museum will remain lit up with the colors of the Lebanese flag until the end of the military operation and the realization of victory.  Minister Khoury's fresh announcement came during his participation in the gathering called forth by the Culture Ministry in front of the Museum, as a show of solidarity with the Lebanese army. A great number of activists in the cultural, social and media spheres partook in said solidarity gathering. "In front of the National Museum, which symbolizes historical periods of our homeland and in front of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we came to confirm that the Lebanese people stand behind the army in its battle and will always remain its unyielding support," Khoury said.

GLC delegation visits Bassil, requests private sector wage hike
Fri 25 Aug 2017/NNA - A delegation representing the General Labor Confederation visited on Friday Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister, Gebran Bassil, demanding the implementation of a private sector wage hike similar to that of the public sector.  Head of the GLC delegation, Bechara Asmar, briefed Bassil on the stressful atmosphere of the GLC starting with the labor force competition facing foreigners residing in Lebanon. "This has been a leading cause of unemployment and arbitrary dismissal in some private institutions," Asmar warned. He also called for reform and combating corruption, which has been crippling the Lebanese state, and stressed the importance of activating the supervisory bodies to implement proper administrative work in various ministries. "We hope this will positively affect joint transport, hospitalization, medicine, environment, education, communications and other public services," Asmar explained. The GLC president also stressed his support for the employees of Tele Liban and for their union's demand to benefit from the wage hike. He appealed to Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, in his capacity as the custodian of this institution, to expedite this matter in accordance with the law.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 25-26/17
Iran Planned to Revive ‘Hezbollah Al-Hejaz’ Under Al-Mughassil’s Command

Asharq Al AWsat/August 25/17/Riyadh- Almost 20 years after Riyadh dismantled the “Hezbollah al-Hejaz” movement, a group responsible for the 1996 attack on a housing complex in Khobar, judicial documents revealed that Iran persisted throughout those years in reviving the movement under the command of head of its military wing, Ahmed al-Mughassil, who was hidden by Tehran for two decades before the Saudi security apparatus arrested him in 2015.The Saudi General Prosecution uncovered the way Iran planned to revive “Hezbollah al-Hejaz” through a case filed against five Saudis it accused of being trained on weapons inside the Iranian Revolutionary Guards camps. The five Saudis, who can be described as “Iran’s powerful men in Saudi Arabia,” were also trained on the use of RPGs, which were also used lately by terrorists in the Awamiya town. In addition, the five suspects are accused of receiving trainings on the use of other explosives, including TNT, RDX, C4 and others. The Awamiya in Al-Qatif governorate is a town in the east of the kingdom that has been rocked in recent months by deadly clashes between security forces and Shi’ite militants that were triggered by the demolition of its old quarter.
The five Saudi suspects also face accusations of providing Iran with information, and of forming a terrorist cell that operates under Al-Mughassil’s command to train Saudi youths in military camps. Official documents reveal that Iran was basically betting on igniting a revolution that kicks off from Al-Qatif governorate by training youths on what they called “soft war trainings.” However, Tehran failed in its attempt to ignite strife in the governorate and to trigger disputes between the residents and Saudi security officials. Iran shifted its policy to another level by sending a number of its trained youths to execute armed attacks against police and security forces stations inside the governorate.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman: Israel Will Not Be a Bystander In Syria
Avigdor Liberman/Jerusalem Post/August 24/17
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday said that Israel will not sit silently while Iran expands its influence in neighboring countries.
“Iran, through the Revolutionary Guards, is trying to create a new reality around us with Iranian air and naval bases in Syria, with Shi’ite militias with thousands of mercenaries and precision weapons being produced in Lebanon,” he told a directors- general meeting of the Israel Institute of Energy and Environment.
“The State of Israel does not intend to remain a bystander and accept these attempts,” Liberman said. Jerusalem has repeatedly said that it will not allow Iran to set up a permanent presence in Syria, and Liberman has warned in the past that while there is no interest by Israel to enter Syria’s six-and-a-half-year civil war, there are redlines that Jerusalem has set, including the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah and an Iranian presence on its borders. The Iranian and Syrian issues featured prominently in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday. Netanyahu, who was joined by Mossad head Yossi Cohen and Meir Ben-Shabbat, the recently appointed leader of the National Security Council, said at the meeting that Iran is “well on its way” to controlling not only Syria, but other countries such as Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.
The growing role of the Islamic Republic poses a threat not only to Israel and the Middle East but the entire world, Netanyahu told Putin, adding that this “does not fly with Israel.”
“We cannot forget for a single minute that Iran threatens every day to annihilate Israel. It is arming terrorist organizations and it sponsors and initiates terror. It is developing intercontinental missiles with the goal of arming them with nuclear warheads. It is for all these reasons that Israel continues to oppose Iran’s entrenchment in Syria. We will defend ourselves in any way against this threat and any threat,” Netanyahu said. With Russia carrying out military operations in Syria and Israel reportedly responsible for several air strikes against Hezbollah targets in Syria, Russian and Israeli officials have met nine times in the past two years to coordinate their actions in the region in order to avoid accidental clashes and implement a system over Syria. During Wednesday’s meeting, Putin did not publicly address Iran but hailed the system put in place between Russia and Israel over Syria. Meanwhile, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid took to his Facebook page on Thursday, saying that the meeting between the two leaders was “useless.”Lapid said that while he thought the world should be presented with a unified front against the Iranian issue, “today the Russians announced that they have no intention of changing their policy and will continue to cooperate with the Iranians in Syria, allowing them to establish themselves 20 kilometers from the Israeli border, with the possibility of establishing a military port and an air base opposite our front door.” Lapid said that while the Iranian expansion is a huge failure of Israeli foreign policy, it is far from surprising.
“For 20 years, Netanyahu has been talking about Iran, and in the end he has reached the worst possible outcome: Iranians are on the border with Israel,” he said. “This failure is registered in his name because he did not only fail to formulate a clear policy, but he failed to produce the political power that would enable us to change the reality on the ground.”

Kushner: Trump Is Committed to Peace Settlement for Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Asharq Al AWsat/August 25/17/Ramallah- US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner said on Thursday that the Trump administration is keen on finding peace in the Middle East so that prosperity prevails.On the other hand, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that an Arab-Israeli peace is complicated but not impossible. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that peace is achievable. The settlement issue contributed to the breakdown of negotiations three years ago.“We have things to talk about – how to advance peace, stability and security in our region, prosperity too. And I think that all of them are within our reach,” Netanyahu, welcoming Kushner to his Tel Aviv office, said in a video clip  released by the US Embassy. Kushner arrived in Israel with US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt on Wednesday after meeting Arab leaders in the Gulf, Egypt and Jordan.
Abbas told Kushner on Thursday that despite the obstacles, he was willing to work with the US administration to reach a “peace deal.” A few hours before their meeting, Abbas received a phone call from a number of Arab leaders, including Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. A statement published by Abbas’ office regarding the phone calls said that they dealt with the updates from the talks the leaders had with Kushner and on coordinating their respective positions. According to Reuters, Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said Kushner’s visit could prove significant, particularly because of the envoy’s consultations with regional allies this week. “This may create a new chance to reach a settlement based on the two-state solution and the Arab initiative and stop the current deterioration of the peace process.”Abu Rdainah was referring to a 2002 Arab League initiative that offers Israel diplomatic recognition from Arab countries in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and a full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 war. “We very much appreciate the efforts of President Trump, who announced from the beginning that he will work to reach a historic peace deal and has repeated this more than once during the meetings we held in Washington, Riyadh and Bethlehem,” Abbas said before his meeting with Kushner. “I want to stress that the American delegations are working for peace and we will work with them to reach what Trump calls a peace deal. We know things are hard and complicated, but nothing is impossible if you put in an honest effort,” he added.

SDF Offensive for Deir al-Zor Soon, ISIS Pushes Back Advancing Forces Near Raqqa
Asharq Al AWsat/August 25/17/The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will soon launch an offensive to oust ISIS from Deir al-Zor province, an official from the alliance said Friday, as the terrorist group successfully pushed back regime forces advancing on one of the last towns still in the organizaton’s hands in Raqqa province. Ahmed Abu Khawla, head of the Deir al-Zor military council which fights under the SDF, told Reuters that the assault might begin “within several weeks” in parallel with the battle for Raqqa city. The SDF alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters has been battling inside the historic Old City of Raqqa, ISIS’ de facto capital in Syria. Spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, the SDF began its assault in June, after months of fighting to encircle Raqqa with air strikes and special forces from the US-led coalition. As ISIS has come under pressure in Raqqa, many of its forces have fallen back on the towns and cities further east along the Euphrates in Deir al-Zor province. “The operation to liberate Deir al-Zor will begin very, very soon,” Khawla said, adding that his unit had already “entered Deir al-Zor territory and liberated several towns” there. Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, said its focus remained on Raqqa. Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS militants killed a number of regime troops and seized their vehicles as they advanced on the town of Maadan. The Observatory said at least 34 Syrian soldiers and 12 militants were killed. Maadan lies along the southern banks of the Euphrates River and is 60 kilometers east of the city of Raqqa. Syrian forces are advancing along the south and west bank of the Euphrates towards where the city of Deir al-Zor is located, while the SDF is mostly on the north and east bank, where Raqqa is located.

Temporary Syrian Resolutions Could Possibly Wage New Wars
Asharq Al AWsat/August 25/17/London- As ceasefire in three to four regions becomes active within pursuit to reduce escalation, the fight between Syrian regime forces and factions of the Free Syrian Army as well as other Islamic factions calmed down. However, ISIS parties – in Eastern Syria – continue to fight and Tahrir al-Sham members are moving to Idlib where they will wait for their destiny to unveil. This doesn’t mean that the war is over since there are potential conflicts and wars in the medium and long term, especially if the stable regions weren’t included in an urgent comprehensive political solution.
South Syria
Washington considers that it has achieved a breakthrough with Moscow’s approval not to have non-Syrian troops in the south truce regions: Daraa, Qnaitra and Sweida. This means that groups supported by Iran and “Hezbollah” will withdraw 8-32 kilometers. The Syrian south truce includes establishment of a supervision center in Amman, the opposition perseverance of its arms, determination of battle lines, commencement of trade exchange with regime regions, forming a local opposition council and possibly the return of refugees from Jordan or near the border. However, the uncontent Israel makes war an option because this agreement has limited its warplanes capability to strike “Hezbollah” and Iranian organizations near Joulan or in the south.
Regime Forces Ambitions
Damascus plan to adopt a military resolution has not changed. It is still anticipating the opportunity to attack opposition regions and let everyone return to the state. Damascus also rejects existence of local opposition councils unlike Moscow’s stance and truce agreements.
Army and Militias
Reconstruction in regime-ruled regions has become a struggle because some Western states reject that unless there is an acceptable political solution and there is also the absence of financial capability of regime allies in Russia and Iran to compensate the destruction cost (more than USD250 billion).
Another war also looms in the horizon between new business men and war figures, in which both are competing to grab the biggest stake of the country’s future. Other possible wars are between Iran affiliated militias and the regime forces.
Idlib: between War and Isolation. In Idlib there are around 2 million civilians and more than 50,000 fighters. Washington assumes that there are thousands who belong to Qaeda, given that Jabhat al-Nusra is part of Qaeda. Ankara, however, seeks compromised solutions.

Iran, Turkey Escalate Against Kurdistan’s Referendum
Asharq Al AWsat/August 25/17/Ankara, Erbil, Tehran- Turkey and Iran escalated on Thursday their attacks against the Kurdistan Region’s upcoming referendum on independence, scheduled for Sept. 25. While Ankara alluded that a similar step could lead to a civil war in Iraq and would shaken regional stability, Tehran spoke on Thursday about a US conspiracy, saying that the Kurdish actions “is in line with the US policy of partitioning the regional countries.” Deputy Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri said on Thursday that Iran is definitely opposed to the referendum.
However, Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani reiterated his attachment to hold the referendum on time, vowing to continue talks with Baghdad. This month, Iran’s Armed Forces chief of staff General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri visited Ankara after which Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan uncovered the presence of a possible Turkish-Iranian agreement to launch a joint military operation against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Iranian branch the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). Meanwhile, Mohammed Mehdi Aker, the deputy chief of the ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) said that a decision by the Iraqi Kurdistan Region to hold an independence referendum will not solve regional problems but on the contrary, would deepen the size of crises and problems from which Iraqis currently suffer. In an interview with Tehran Times, Aker said: “We urge both the central government and IKBY leadership to resolve the problems between Baghdad and Arbil within the framework of the Iraqi Constitution in order to ensure that no more difficult problems arise in Iraq.” Even nationalist Turkish movements expressed their rejection of the Kurdish referendum. During a press conference held on Thursday, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli called on Ankara to oppose the vote. He said: “This is a rehearsal for Kurdistan. If necessary Turkey should deem this referendum as a reason for war.”
Bahceli also said that a position must be taken against Barzani’s preparation for an independence referendum, which incorporates Turkmen cities.

Bahrain Security Forces Arrest Terrorist Cell Affiliated with Al-Ashtar Brigades
Asharq Al AWsat/August 25/17/Manama– Seven suspects of a 10-member terrorist cell were arrested for carrying out terrorist activities and forming a network affiliated with al-Ashtar Brigades put on a terrorist list by the Arab quartet Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain, according to the Bahraini Ministry of Interior. MoI stated that as part of counter-terrorism operations and to ensure the safety and protection of citizens and residents, an investigation has been carried out which resulted in the discovery of the 10 suspects. Bahrain security forces also announced that the cell is led by Hussein Ali Ahmed Dawood, 31, a leader of al-Ashtar Brigades, the terror wing of al-Wafa Islamic Movement. He is involved in setting up and controlling various terror cells and planning terrorist crimes which have resulted in the death of a number of policemen. Dawood is a fugitive in Iran and had been sentenced to 90 years in prison for involvement in terrorist cases and for relations with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and terrorist Murtadha al-Sindi. His nationality has been revoked. The security forces also arrested Zeinab, the sister of Hasan Makki, a primary suspect in the terrorist cell.
Zeinab Makki Abbas hid the explosives, C4, 127 Kg chemicals, and Kalashnikov in her house in Malkiya. Other detained members of the cell include Hasan Maki Abbas Hasan, 27, linked to Hussein Dawood and the key suspect who was in-charge of bomb-making for al-Ashtar Brigades, including bombs seized on 13 March 2017. Hasan received instructions from Dawood to continue to make bombs while also storing material smuggled from abroad. He also set up a warehouse for the purpose. Dawood is also involved in the cases related to making and possessing bombs and had been involved in transporting and making bombs since 2013. The terrorist cell also included Mahmood Mohammed Ali Mulla Salem al-Bahrani, 33, Arabic teacher. He trained key suspect Hasan Makki Abbas in bomb-making and received a bag containing a Kalashnikov and explosives from him and kept it for some time before returning it. He was arrested upon his return from Lebanon. The forth terrorist an employee named Ameen Habeeb Ali Jassim, 32, arrested for transporting bags containing Kalashnikov and explosives given by his wife, Zeinab the sister of key suspect, and handing them over to Hussein Mohammed Hussein Khamees to hide them. Driver Hussein Mohammed Hussein Khamees, 39, had been arrested for hiding explosives bags in his house in Dar Kulaib. Another suspect, Hasan Atiyah Mohammed Saleh, 37, had been arrested for buying bomb-making material, including metal balls and gas cylinders, several times upon the instructions of Hasan Maki Abbas. The seventh detained member was Hussein Ibrahim Mohammed Hasan Dhaif, 27, who was recruited by Hasan Maki Abbas. He received and transported bomb-making material to different areas, including Karzakan and Demistan. He also temporarily stored some material in his house.
The investigation has also led to the seizure of quantities of explosives in the residential areas of Demistan, Karzakan, Malkiya and Dar Kulaib villages that are used as workshops to make bombs and store material for the purpose. General Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Forensic Science carried out legal proceedings and will refer the case to the Public Prosecutor.

Fatah Vice Chairman Accuses Hamas of Failing to Respond to Calls for Unity
Asharq Al AWsat/August 25/17/Ramallah– Fatah Vice Chairman and member of its central committee, Mahmoud al-Aloul, said that his movement was determined to achieve national unity, but Hamas has failed to respond to calls by the Palestinian Authority. During a meeting with journalists and opinion writers in the Gaza Strip, through a video conference on Thursday, Aloul said: “we say to Hamas movement, let us unite our ranks in order to face the occupation together, as the Strip cannot be separated from Palestine.” Aloul called on Hamas to dissolve the administrative committee as a first priority. “The president made an appeal to Hamas for al-Aqsa Mosque and for our people.”“This was an opportunity, but the movement’s reaction was disappointing. We say this opportunity still exist and we are determined to achieve national unity,” he told his audience. The Palestinian official accused Hamas of deepening divisions, through its decision to form the administrative committee to run the Gaza Strip. He stressed that the Palestinian president’s measures against Hamas would continue until the complete dissolving of the committee. Aloul was referring to a series of measures adopted by Abbas against Gaza including the suspension of salaries of state employees and the halting of payment of electricity and fuel bills, as well as the cancellation of tax exemptions. Abbas said that these measures would escalate until Hamas “dissolves its administrative committee, recognizes the government of national unity and accepts to hold general elections.”Aloul, for his part, stressed that the PA measures were not targeted against Gaza residents, saying: “Actions undertaken by Hamas have divided the country into two parts, run by two administrations, and a large part of the measures we declare against the Gaza Strip have not been implemented.”

Sisi Calls for Adopting Comprehensive Strategy to Fight Terrorism
Asharq Al AWsat/August 25/17/Cairo- Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called on the National Council to Confront Terrorism and Extremism to draft and adopt a comprehensive national strategy to fight terrorism and extremism, on the internal and foreign levels, to include various security, cultural, economic, social and media aspects. Meanwhile, Egypt’s interior ministry announced the seizure of the largest explosives factory that belongs to a terrorist movement named “Hasm” and the liquidation of two of its members. In July, Sisi issued a decree to establish a national council to counter terrorism and extremism, which has broad authority to develop policies aimed at “countering all forms of extremism.”The Egyptian president chaired on Thursday the first meeting of the National Council, calling for the adoption of a comprehensive national strategy to combat terrorism and extremism on the internal and international levels, within a framework that covers the security, cultural, economic, social and media aspects. In the last four years, Egypt has been fighting militants who perpetrated terror attacks against army and police officers, mostly in north of Sinai. During Thursday’s meeting, Sisi stressed to council members the importance of spreading moderate religious discourse and virtuous concepts, as well as developing plans to protect young people from the dangers of extremism by providing job opportunities, presidential spokesperson Alaa Youssef said in a statement. He also urged a revision of counterterrorism legislation domestically and internationally, as well as enhancing coordination and cooperation between state apparatuses on fighting terrorism. Meanwhile, the Egyptian interior ministry said that police have uncovered and seized the biggest explosives factory in Wadi Al-Natroun southwest of Beheira governorate, in an operation during which two members of the Hasm terrorist group were killed. “A large amount of chemicals used for making explosive devices was seized following the raid,” the ministry said in a statement. Hasm group, the organization that the two gunmen were loyal to, claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks that killed several policemen in Egypt.

Maduro Calls for Military Loyalty after U.S. Threat

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 25/17/Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday warned the armed forces in his crisis-hit country against "fissures" in their ranks, ahead of war games seen as a show of strength after U.S. President Donald Trump's threat of military action. Maduro launched the warning in a speech to his top military leadership, including General Vladimir Padrino, his defense minister, and General Remigio Ceballos, commander of operational strategy, two days before the drills begin Saturday. "We must be clear, especially for the youth in the military, that we must close ranks within the homeland -- that this is no time for any fissures and that those with doubts should leave the armed forces immediately," Maduro said. "You are with Trump and the imperialists, or you are with the Bolivarian national armed forces and the homeland," he added. "Never before has Venezuela been threatened in such a way."Maduro has faced months of deadly mass protests by opponents who blame him for an economic crisis and are demanding elections to replace him. His main source of support is the military. Venezuela's opposition has repeatedly urged the military to abandon Maduro, so far to no avail. He has only faced low-level dissent, such as from the two rebel officers who staged a raid on an army base this month.Maduro urged the military to "be prepared to fight fiercely... in the face of an eventual" U.S. invasion. "They treat us as a dictatorship," said the embattled president. Since Trump's threat, Vice President Mike Pence sought to soften the message, saying during a visit to Latin America that he was sure democracy could be restored in Venezuela through economic and diplomatic pressure.
Swap of oil minister and PDVSA chief
In another move made with an eye on Washington, Maduro announced he had moved his oil minister Nelson Martinez over to run the state oil giant PDVSA -- and brought the company's boss Eulogio Del Pino over to be his oil minister. Maduro told the military leaders that in the face of possible future added U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, "I decided to do some re-casting... we have to prepare ourselves."He pointed out that Del Pino, who has been at the helm of PDVSA since 2014, was the architect of agreements between OPEC and non-OPEC countries to boost flagging crude prices. As for Martinez, who took over the oil ministry in January, Maduro said he would work to increase Chinese, Russian, Indian and Malaysian investments in PDVSA's various projects. "We are in a moment of flexibility to face the economic war," said Maduro. So far, the United States has applied economic sanctions directly targeting Maduro, who says the economic collapse that has dragged his country into crisis is a U.S.-backed conspiracy. He has accused Washington of preparing fresh economic sanctions and a "naval blockade" to stifle oil exports, which account for nearly all of Venezuela's hard currency reserves. The fall in world crude prices has left Venezuela -- which has the largest proven oil reserves in the world -- short of dollars for vital imports. The country is suffering from shortages of basic goods and medicines. Earlier this month, PDVSA reported a sharp 33.5 percent drop in revenues for 2016, as compared with the previous year. The average price of a barrel of Venezuelan crude declined 21 percent to $35.15 in 2016, down from $44.65 in 2015, it said. The opposition blames Maduro's economic management for the crisis, and his critics accuse him of clinging to power by hijacking state institutions, such as by installing a new constituent assembly packed with loyalists. Clashes between anti-government protesters and police this year have left 125 people dead, according to prosecutors. Also on Thursday, Venezuela took two Colombian television networks off the air -- Caracol Television and RCN. Caracas is angry at Bogota for offering protection to Maduro's onetime attorney general Luisa Ortega, who is now a fierce critic of his government.

Trump Calls Egypt's Sisi to Affirm Support
Naharnet/August 25/17/U.S. President Donald Trump has told his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that he wants to strengthen ties with Cairo, Sisi's office said Friday, days after it emerged Washington had cut some aid to Egypt. Egypt had protested on Wednesday a U.S. decision to withhold some military and financial aid over human rights concerns. In a phone call with Sisi, Trump "affirmed the strength of friendship between Egypt and the United States," the presidency said in a statement. The U.S. president said he was keen to continue "developing relations between the two countries and surpassing any obstacles that might affect them," according to the statement. Trump's arrival in office in January has seen an improvement in U.S. relations with Egypt, in contrast to his predecessor Barack Obama who took a harder line on human rights issues in the North African country. Obama temporarily suspended military aid to Egypt after the July 2013 overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and the subsequent bloody crackdown on Morsi's supporters. Sisi in May approved a law which critics say will severely restrict the work of non-governmental organizations.

12 killed in Kabul mosque attack, siege over: official
Fri 25 Aug 2017/NNA - Twelve people were killed in an hours-long suicide bomb and gun attack on a mosque in the Afghan capital of Kabul today, an official said. "We have ten civilians martyred and over 40 wounded. One police and one special forces member were also killed," Najib Danish, deputy interior ministry spokesman, told AFP, adding that the attack was over.--AFP

Nuclear inspectors should have access to Iran military bases, US’s Haley
Reuters, United Nations Friday, 25 August 2017/US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley voiced concern on Friday that nuclear inspectors were not granted access to Iranian military bases, and she urged the International Atomic Energy Agency to use all its authorities to ensure Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. “I have good confidence in the IAEA, but they are dealing with a country that has a clear history of lying and pursuing covert nuclear programs,” Haley told a news conference after returning from a trip to Vienna, where the IAEA is based. “We are encouraging the IAEA to use all the authorities they have and to pursue every angle possible” to verify compliance with the nuclear deal.

Jordanian Iraqi border crossing to reopen after Eid Al Adha
Shehab Al Makahleh, Special to Al Arabiya English Friday, 25 August 2017/Jordan and Iraq have agreed to reopen the Turaibil - al-Karamah border crossing shortly after Eid Al Adha. A Jordanian security official has told Al Arabiya English that the Karamah crossing will be opened for the public on the third day of Eid, September 3, while staff will be deployed from August 30. “We have conducted a trial run at the crossing with our Iraqi counterparts earlier this week at the al-Karamah crossing on August 20,” the official said.The official added that the decision was made to reopen the crossing, after a year-long closure, following cleansing operations conducted by the Iraqi and Jordanian military forces against ISIS militants in the area. Over the past few months discussions have been going on between Iraq and Jordan to reopen the border crossing. In July, King Abdullah II declared the reopening the border. “Today, the road began to clear regarding Syria and Iraq, and there are positive indications”, the King said, voicing his optimism. Jordanian Minister of Interior, Ghaleb Al Zu’bi, announced that the preparations have been in place to reopen the border point, saying that “Jordan is ready to go ahead at any time”.
The Karamah border crossing connects the Jordanian town of Ruwaished with the Iraqi town of Turaibil.
Positive effect
“The reopening of Turaibil will have positive effects on the economies of both countries,” Zu’bi said. “Jordan and Iraq can exchange medical supplies and other goods through this border,” he added Talks were held in Amman and Baghdad between Iraqi and Jordanian officials to reopen the outlet after the defeat of ISIS in Iraq in order to resume transport activities between both countries which had been negatively affected since ISIS fighters occupied Mosul and South East of Iraq by Jordanian borders. What encouraged both governments to reopen the borders is that ISIS has lost territory in Anbar in recent months to Iraqi army, most recently the town of Rutba 145 kilometers from the borders, clearing the way for reopening the crossing; however, the Iraqis are working on removing explosives planted near the borders, according to Iraqi ambassador to Jordan, Safia Al Souhail. The ambassador said earlier that “the Iraqi Cabinet awarded a contract to a security firm to secure the road connecting Baghdad to Turaibil. This is a major step towards reopening the crossing border,” Safia Al Souhail.”
Jordanian exports
Jordanian Minister of Interior added that opening Turaibil is of equal importance to Jordan and Iraq, particularly from an economic perspective. It is considered a vital link between the two countries, through which they trade various types of products as well as medical equipment.
When ISIS controlled Anbar in 2014, this has affected Jordan’s exports and imports from Iraq. The closure was a blow to Jordan as its exports to Iraq declined from $1.2 billion in 2014 to $690 million in 2015. For his part, the Jordanian government Speaker Mohammed Momani has said that the opening of the crossing was very important and it was “very crucial to both Iraq and Jordan”. Still, it is unclear if opening the crossing will automatically lead to the resumption of land trade. According to Jordanian statistics, more than 1 million Iraqi and Jordanian passengers passed the Turaibil crossing every year on average, and this outlet was very important to both countries as it was the only land border through which commodities are traded between both Iraq and Jordan.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 25-26/17
IRGC Deputy Commander Salami To The U.S.: War In The Persian Gulf Will Not Be Limited To Region And Escalation
The Middle East Media Research Institute/August 25/17
IRGC Deputy Commander Hossein Salami warned the U.S. that a war in the Persian Gulf would threaten the security of the energy routes and would jeopardize global trade in the region. This would have a "political domino effect," said Salami, "gobbling up" the regimes in the Middle East that are dependent upon America. Salami, who was speaking in an interview on Iranian TV's Channel 1 on August 12, further said that the U.S. is avoiding war because of its consequences and is responding to Iranian vessels in the Gulf with panic. Salami mocked the American talk about inspection of Iranian military facilities, saying that this is "one wish that will be taken by its bearers to the grave." Iran, he said, has so many missiles that they have no space to store them.
Click here to view this clip on MEMRI TV
IRGC Deputy Commander Hossein Salami: "If there is a confrontation in the Persian Gulf, the security of the world's energy will change significantly. Nobody will receive energy from this region. The [Americans] know that global trade in this region will come to a complete halt. They know that there will be a political domino effect, threatening the existence of those useless regimes, which are dependent on America, and that the political domino will gobble them up. On the other hand, they know that a war in this geographical region will not be limited to just one area, and that it will be impossible to control its escalation.
"The most important thing is for the [war] to proceed toward the Zionist regime, and to threaten the political existence of that regime.
"Another important point is that the real strategy of America is avoidance of war, because they know that war and conflict in this region would accelerate the decline of America's already deteriorating strength to its final point of deterioration, and would have a strong impact on its vital interests.
"That is why the Americans panic when they see our vessels at a distance that we believe to be reasonable, and that is why they respond immediately.
"Our enemies do not know and do not respect anything but the language of force. Only when you speak the language of force do they understand. They have no understanding whatsoever of logic, humanity, or justice. These notions are lost in Western political logic. Otherwise, the world would not look like this. They have filled the whole world with fire. They produce enough weapons to ignite the world in its entirety. Therefore, it is clear that we must be powerful. I expect the officials in the government, especially in the diplomatic corps, to completely associate themselves with this might, to stand proud, to have self-confidence, and to know that we have enough might to overcome the superpowers. We are not at all concerned. We are confident that America's threats are nothing but psychological warfare.
"Let me make one point to the great Iranian nation, America, and the entire world. If there was one request throughout history and worldwide that will remain unfulfilled and will be denied, if there is one wish that will be taken by its bearers to the grave, it is this [request]: that they visit our military facilities.
"Our response to the American sanctions will be to increase, on a daily basis, the strength of our defense at a much more accelerated pace than in the past.
"We have so many missiles that we have a problem finding space to store them."

While The West Sleeps, Iran Continues On Its Deadly Path
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/ArabNews/August 25/17
While the West sleeps, Iran continues on its deadly path
When the nuclear agreement was reached in 2015 between the six world powers and Iran, I pointed out that the major mistake of Western governments was to believe that Tehran viewed the deal in the same way that they did.
For the West, the deal was going to be transformational — moderating the Iranian government’s foreign policy and halting its nuclear ambitions. But from the viewpoint of Iranian leaders, the nuclear accord was a transitory and fleeting deal. It was a means to an end.
There are increasing signs that Iran’s leaders never intended to abandon their nuclear proliferation. Recently, in a surprise move, the so-called “diplomat” of Iran, president Hassan Rouhani, as well as several other high level officials, warned that the Islamic Republic now has the capability to advance its nuclear activities much more quickly than before the nuclear agreement. Rouhani cautioned: “If Americans want to return to those experiences, Iran certainly in a short time – not weeks and months, but hours and days — will return to a more advanced situation than at the start of negotiations.” In addition, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, pointed out: “We have created a lot of bridges to return to the previous conditions, quicker and better. Nuclear activity is going on better than in the past in the area of enrichment and heavy water production, and with the new design of the Arak plant in cooperation with the Chinese, and the extraction of uranium.”
These remarks indicate that, when it comes to their nuclear program, Iran’s leaders have not been sitting idly by since the nuclear deal was reached. Instead, they suggest that Tehran has conducted nuclear research in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That is why Iran can boast that it has the capability to resume its nuclear proliferation at a much faster pace.
This argument is supported by new revelations from the organization that was the first to reveal Iran’s clandestine nuclear sites at Arak and Natanz. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) recently disclosed that the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), which is thought to be the main player behind attempts to weaponize Iran’s nuclear program, has continued its research after implementation of the nuclear deal. The NCRI revealed the existence of a previously unknown site in Parchin called Pajouhesh Kadeh, or Research Institute, which is being operated by the Center for Explosives, Blast Research and Technologies, a sub group of SPND, in order to research the weaponization of the nuclear program.
The six world powers who agreed the nuclear deal viewed it as an end in itself, but for Tehran it was merely a tactic in the weaponization of its nuclear program
It has been crystal clear from the outset that Iran viewed the nuclear deal as a transitory accord in the sense that, by agreeing to it, Tehran would first gain its objectives, including gaining economic concessions and global legitimacy, ensuring its hold on power and pursuing its hegemonic ambitions. Later, the Islamic Republic would revert to pursuing its nuclear ambitions from a much powerful stance.
In other words, for Iran, the nuclear agreement is merely a tactical policy shift, not a fundamental change in the core pillars of its foreign policy.
Unlike in Western governance, where policies are often based on short-term goals because administrations change every few years, the autocratic regime of Iran holds a long-term perspective and agenda. Iran is at an advantage because it can plan and pursue its policies and objectives for decades, while occasionally making some tactical shifts toward those ends. That is why the core pillars of Iran’s foreign policy have remained the same for almost four decades.
From the Iranian leaders’ perspective, they killed two birds with one stone; on the one hand the Iranian government continues to receive concessions for the nuclear agreement, on the other hand, it has not abandoned its nuclear research and ambitions.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Will Saleh Abandon Houthi in Yemen?
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al AWsat/August 25/17/
Media relations and publicity team of former President Ali Abdulalah Saleh party stated that they prepared for confronting Houthis in Sana’a as they had composed dozens of slogans and patriotic songs to be chanted all over Yemeni governorates, as well as writing over 1,600 poems celebrating the awaited event.
The grand event he is referring to is the protest Saleh is planning to organize to flex his muscles before Houthi, his ally in the coup and ruling partner. Media outlets are reporting disputes erupting between the two allies because of Houthis’ domination and interventions reaching areas under Saleh forces’ control.
Saleh prides himself in his political skills enabling him to “dance with the wolves”. Yet, his disagreement with Houthi could be nothing more than one of his repeated routines. That is why everyone highly doubts this charade and is awaiting to see what happens next. This doesn’t negate that there are indeed some discrepancies between the two allies. Houthi militias are used to insulting Saleh’s commanders and occupied many areas under their control, not to forget the political and financial disputes.
How can we be sure that Saleh is really in disagreement with Houthi?
Surely not from protests and not from thousands of poems written; they are deceiving facade. The real disagreement between the two insurgents can be detected not just through statements and quarrels but when their forces fight each other. Only then, we can be sure that the scenario has changed.
Saudi-led coalition, fighting to restore legitimacy in Yemen, was prepared in the past to do anything to see the Houthi-Saleh alliance broken. It no longer has to concede for any of them to witness this. As the clashes continued, territories under the coalition control increased and war almost only happens now in areas under the control of the rivals. One of the main reasons for this success is the training of thousands of Yemeni fighters of the legitimate government forces had received. With Qatar out of the coalition, the leadership is in agreement more now –especially that Doha was behind many of the disputes.
This doesn’t make the task to liberate the remaining territories within the control of the insurgents any easier, as Yemen remains divided between three powers: the legitimacy, Houthi and Saleh until a political solution is reached. Saleh is aware that a “political solution” is most likely for his best interest because if Iran accepts a regional reconciliation, it will ask Houthis to accept the solution. Assuming that a solution is possible, but in the worst case scenario which is when everyone hides in their trenches, then the legitimate government is the least party to suffer of all three. The legitimacy is in control of half of Yemen and has enough resources to manage the areas. The other half under the control of the militias is in a bad situation. Militias are not providing residents with any services and they won’t even let them manage their own affairs without collecting royalties.
If Saleh is honest, which a far shot, he should provide proof that he has deserted the Houthi camp and is ready for reconciliation to put an end to the tragedy he had begun.

Puffing the Turkish Chibouk in Ankara
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al AWsat/August 25/17
When in a recent column, we commented on efforts by NATO powers to establish some contact with the Iranian military we didn’t expect any quick development on that score. However, this is precisely what happened last week when Iran’s new Chief of Staff, General Muhammad-Hussein Baqeri led a 40-man military-political delegation to the Turkish capital Ankara for a three-day official visit which had been the subject of months of intense negotiations between the two neighbors.
The visit was historic for at least four reasons.
To start with this was the first time since the seizure of power by the mullahs in 1979 that an Iranian Chief of Staff was visiting Turkey. Before the mullahs seized power, Iran and Turkey had been allies in the context of three military pacts.
The first, Saadabad Pact, a brainchild of Reza Shah of Iran and Turkey’s first President Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), provided the backbone of relations from the 1920s to the Second World War. The second was the Baghdad Pact which also included Great Britain and Iraq, came to an end in 1958 with the military coup that ended the Iraqi monarchy. The Baghdad Pact was quickly replaced by the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) which, in addition to the UK, also included Pakistan.
Initially, the United States was also slated to join but did not because the Iranian Constitution forbade putting Iranian troops under foreign command, a point on which Washington insisted as a precedent set by NATO. In the end, the US settled for an associate membership of CENTO while, in reality, treating it as a link between NATO and the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) which the US also dominated.
CENTO fell apart when Shapour Bakhtiar, who served as the Shah’s last Prime Minister for 27 days, took Iran out of the alliance as a means of pleasing the mullahs leading their revolt in 1978.
The three treaties, Saadabad, Baghdad and CENTO, meant that Iranian and Turkish military could develop wide-ranging and deep relations at all levels. Joint staff conversations were held every six months and hundreds of officers on both sides served in each other’s armies, air force and navy in the context of a massive exchange program.
Thousands of officers on both sides benefited from special classes in Turkish or Persian to extend the space of camaraderie, from high command to platoon levels.
The two nation’s air forces shared the same coordinates, initially established by NATO, and, because they used the same US-made equipment, could simulate joint action against the potential enemy which, at the time, was none other than the Soviet Union. In 1974, during the Cyprus Crisis when the Turkish army invaded northern Cyprus, Iran dispatched several of its latest US-made fighters to Turkey in a symbolic show of support against treats of anti-Turkey action by Greece, another NATO member.
For more than three centuries, that’s to say since the Treaty of Qasr-Shirin (1623-1639), the Ottoman Empire and Iran had lived in peace while both faced the threat of the rising Russian Empire. Even after the fall of the Caliphate in Istanbul, Iran continued to see Turkey as its only safe neighbor.
With the creation of the Khomeinist regime, however, Turkey was suddenly transformed into “the enemy”. It boasted a secular system and insisted on keeping religion out of government, exactly the opposite of what the late Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini, the founder of the new Iranian regime, preached.
Worse still, Turkey was a close ally of the American “Great Satan” and provided NATO’s second largest army. While Khomeini was engaged in the mass execution of Iran’s army officers, many officers managed to flee to Turkey where they were sheltered by their former CENTO allies. In 1983, Khomeini ordered the creation of a Turkish branch of Hezbollah to seek the overthrow of the secular republic in Ankara. And when the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) lost most of its bases in Syria after the capture of its leader Abdallah Ocalan, the Khomeinist regime offered the Marxist-Secessionist armed group a safe haven in Iranian territory.
Relations between the two neighbors deteriorated to the point that in the 1990s they became engaged in a number of minor border “incidents.”
General Baqeri’s visit seems designed to wipe the slate clean.
The second reason why the general’s visit was historic is that it marks an understanding by both sides that they cannot hope to dominate the Levant region, that is to say Iraq-Syria-Lebanon-Jordan without acknowledging each other’s interests. While the Khomeinist regime seeks space for its so-called revolution, Turkey is trying to forge a glacis to serve its nationals security against armed Kurdish groups that might at one point come together to seek carving out a state of their own in parts of Syria, Iraq and Turkey.
However, concern about Kurdish aspirations isn’t the only cause of concern in Ankara and Tehran. Both are also worried about Russia gaining too much influence by exploiting the current absence of a credible Western presence in the Middle East. Despite tactical alliances with Russia over Syria, to both Turkey and Iraq Russia remains the “near enemy” with a 200-year history of war and aggression.
But the third reason why Gen. Baqeri’s visit to Ankara is historic is that it resumes the Iran-NATO military contact that was severed in 1979. To be sure, this is only an indirect and, for the time being, limited, contact. However, General Hulusi Akar, the Turkish Chief of Staff, is an old NATO hand, having served in various segments of the alliance notably at an intelligence unit in Naples Italy.
Also, the planned meetings at lower levels of the military on both sides is sure to extend and systematize contact, allowing NATO to gain a better direct understanding of the mindset of the Iranian military elite which is emerging as the key player in the country’s post-Khamenei prospects. NATO has had indirect contact with several Khomeinist officers for years, including trough their relatives living in Europe and North America. Now, however, the Turkish link provides an official channel to exchange information and messages.
Finally, Gen. Baqeri’s Ankara mission is historic because it illustrates what some of us have beeb saying for years: the real power in Tehran is in the hands of Khamenei who is increasingly relying on the military, and people playing the roles of President, Minister etc. are often little more than singers of the part given them in the Khomeinist operetta. As always in history, there is some irony in this case, too. While President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is dismantling the Turkish model in which the military was the backbone of state power, Iran may be adopting a version of that model as symbolized by Gen. Baqeri’s state visit at the head of a massive military-political mission. The smoke from the chibouk puffed on by Baqeri and Erdogan in Ankara may dance in the air for some time before it assumes a clear shape.

Anti-Semitism in Europe: New Official Report
Bruce Bawer/Gatestone Institute/August 25/17
Examining statistics from France, Britain, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Russia, Enstad points out that one of these seven countries "clearly stands out with a very low number" of anti-Semitic incidents despite its "relatively large Jewish population..."Absurdly, whenever a perpetrator draws a swastika, the Swedish government automatically considers it a "right-wing" act.
Enstad concludes that right-wingers, in all four of the major Western European countries in his study, "constitute a clear minority of perpetrators." Indeed, "in France, Sweden and the UK (but not in Germany) the perpetrator was perceived to be left-wing more often than right-wing."
To some of us, it is hardly a secret that anti-Semitic violence is on the rise in Europe, or that the chief perpetrators are Muslims. But many politicians and news media have been so indefatigable in their efforts to obscure this uncomfortable fact that one is always grateful for official -- or, at least, semi-official -- confirmation of what everyone already knows.
It is a pleasure, then, to report that a new study, Antisemitic Violence in Europe, 2005-2015 -- written by Johannes Due Enstad of the Oslo-based Center for Studies of the Holocaust and the University of Oslo, and jointly published by both institutions -- is refreshingly, even startlingly, honest about its subject. Enstad notes that while anti-Semitic violence has declined in the U.S. since 1994, it has been on the rise worldwide. That, of course, includes Europe -- most of it, anyway.
Examining statistics from France, Britain, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Russia, Enstad points out that one of these seven countries "clearly stands out with a very low number" of anti-Semitic incidents despite its "relatively large Jewish population"; the country in question, he adds, "is also the only case in which there is little to indicate that Jews avoid displaying their identity in public." In addition, it is the only one of the six countries in which the majority of perpetrators of anti-Semitic violence are not Muslims. Which country is Enstad referring to? Russia.
That Russia is relatively free of anti-Semitic violence may sound surprising to anyone familiar with the words Cossack and refusenik, but it actually makes sense. Would-be Jew-bashers in Russia know that if they're arrested for committing acts of violence, the consequences won't be pretty. In western Europe, by contrast, the courts are lenient, the terms of confinement short, and the prisons extremely comfortable. And while Muslims know that they are a protected class in Western Europe, able to commit all kinds of transgressions with near-impunity, that is far from being the case in Putin's Russia.
If Muslims do not dominate the anti-Semitic crime statistics in Russia, who does? The answer: right-wing extremists. Although politicians and the media in Western Europe like to talk as if Jews (and others) in their countries are principally endangered by the far-right, Russia is, in fact, the only one of the seven countries in Enstad's study in which that group does play a significant role in anti-Semitic acts.
What about the other countries? Denmark has few Jews, and Norway even fewer, so these two countries play a relatively minor role in Enstad's study. That leaves Germany, Britain, France, and Sweden. Nearly 10% of French Jews say they have been physically attacked for being Jewish during the past five years; in Germany and Sweden the figure is about 7.5%, in Britain nearly 5%. Asked how often they "avoid visiting Jewish events or sites" for fear of danger, 7.9% of Jews in Sweden say they do so frequently, followed by their coreligionists in France, Germany, and Britain (where the number is only 1.2%). Asked if they "avoid wearing, carrying or displaying things" in public that would identify them as Jews, 60% of Swedish Jews say they do so "all the time" or "frequently," with, again, France, Germany, and Britain following in that order.
Almost 50% of French Jews have considered emigrating because they feel imperiled in their own country; for Germany the figure is 25%, and for Sweden and Britain it is just under 20%.
Enstad weighs official statistics from all of the countries under examination, but finds that while those from most of the countries essentially jibe with the results of independent studies, those published by both Germany and Sweden are fishy, in some cases betraying an apparent effort by officials to massage the numbers to avoid certain uncomfortable facts. While an independent survey, for example, concludes that right-wing extremists make up a small minority of perpetrators of anti-Semitic violence in Germany, German police statistics blame most such violence on just right-wingers. Enstad, in his polite way, suggests that this discrepancy is the result of "a categorisation problem." Could it be possible, Enstad wonders, that "German police considers antisemitism a right-wing type of ideology and thus categorises most anti-Semitic attacks as right-wing, regardless of the perpetrator's ethnic or religious background?" Another problem is that German officials categorize some incidents -- including the fire-bombing of a synagogue -- as anti-Israeli, not anti-Semitic.
Police walk through a Jewish cemetery in Berlin, Germany, where at least 30 graves were vandalized, April 30, 2008. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Of course, the exclusive attribution of anti-Semitism to the far-right is ridiculous, as is the distinction between "anti-Israeli" and "anti-Semitic." But this kind of wordplay on the part of German officialdom is not surprising. Such fiddling with semantics and statistics in order to avoid pointing the figure at Muslims is thoroughly consistent with the current practice by both the German government and media of downplaying the extent of Muslim sexual assaults and other crimes -- most notoriously, of course, in the wake of the New Year's Eve 2016 mass sexual assaults in Cologne, after which, as the commentator Ezra Levant put it, not only did Cologne's police chief lie about the extent of the atrocities, but "[t]he media lied. The Justice Minister lied too. The mayor lied." It is also consistent with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's administration's fierce determination to stamp out criticism of Muslims.
The Swedish government's numbers are also dubious. While attributing a "minority" of anti-Semitic incidents to "right-wing extremists," official Swedish reports prefer not to say who is responsible for the majority of them. The closest they come to doing so is to state that many "expressions of antisemitism" are "linked to... conflicts in the Middle East." It seems clear that this is a euphemistic way of indicating that the perpetrators in question are Muslims. In any event, anecdotal evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that most of the people who commit anti-Semitic violence in Sweden are, indeed, Muslims. For example, Judith Popinski, a concentration-camp survivor living in Malmö, told the Sunday Telegraph back in 2010 that she had begun experiencing the same "hatred" in that city that had once been directed at her by the Nazis, only this time, she said, it "comes from Muslim immigrants. The Jewish people are afraid now."There is more. Like the Germans, the Swedes appear to have a "categorization problem." Absurdly, whenever a perpetrator draws a swastika, the Swedish government automatically considers it a "right-wing" act.
Yet, after examining both official and independent figures, Enstad concludes that right-wingers, in all four of the major Western European countries in his study, "constitute a clear minority of perpetrators." Indeed, "in France, Sweden and the UK (but not in Germany) the perpetrator was perceived to be left-wing more often than right-wing."
If the Western media were interested in the facts, Enstad's report would receive wide circulation and explode a few myths. I would not hold my breath.
**Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.
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Qatar bans its pilgrims, Saudi Arabia welcomes them
Salman al-Dosary/Al Arabiya/August 25/17
Saudi Arabia threw the ball in Qatar’s court when it agreed to send seven Saudi airplanes to transport Qatari pilgrims directly from Doha and when it exceptionally opened its land border for those wanting to perform Hajj. The kingdom has firmly shut the door to the Qatari authorities’ overwhelming desire to ban its nationals from visiting holy sites. Riyadh is aware that since the beginning of the crisis in June, Doha has been looking for excuses to prevent its citizens from performing the fifth pillar of Islam. Yet, Saudi Arabia granted Qataris what hasn’t been granted to others, not even Saudis. It didn’t request any electronic passes for the Qataris to enter Saudi territories and they were included within the Guest Program of the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques which usually includes politicians, leaders, scholars and ministers from all over the world.
Riyadh is aware of the fact that Qatari pilgrims have nothing to do with their government’s attempt to use them as a pressure “card” on Saudi Arabia.
Creating obstacles
But, what makes Qatar so desperate to ban its 1,600 pilgrims from performing the Hajj? Why is it putting these obstacles, including not issuing landing permits for Saudi planes? I believe there are three reasons for Qatar’s attempt to politicize this issue. First of all, it tried to blame Saudi Arabia internationally, thinking it can harm it and affect its efforts in serving millions of pilgrims each year. Surely, it was an epic fail that did not even attract its closest allies Iran or Turkey. A non-Muslim country like Norway was furthermore surprised that an issue like politicization of Hajj has been discussed with it. Second, Qatari authorities are aware that they deluded their citizens when they warned them from attending this year’s Hajj, claiming they fear for their safety. Aside from the fact that it is impossible for Saudis to harass their Qatari brothers, and that Hajj is a religious act, Qatari authorities know their warnings and accusations will be revealed later on when the pilgrims are allowed to attend. Unfortunately, the Hajj season of 2017 will be a shameful stigma in Qatar’s history that will not be eradicated when the political crisis is over
Pilgrims equality
Saudi Arabia is used to serving all pilgrims of all nationalities without any discrimination. The reason for Hajj is to boost equality among all pilgrims; all of the worshipers wear white and perform Hajj in a single place at the same time without being able to distinguish whether they are Saudis or Qataris or Egyptians.
The final reason is Qatar’s delusion that by politicizing Hajj it can negotiate the severance of ties and limit the conditions set for the end of the embargo. Doha thought it can embarrass Saudi Arabia by focusing its political, diplomatic and media war against the Hajj season.
Yet, Doha failed to see that neither the world noticed its attempts to stir trouble against the Hajj season, nor did its citizens believe that they are endangering their safety by traveling to Saudi Arabia.
Debunking claims
The 700 Qatari pilgrims who entered Saudi Arabia by land will debunk their government’s claims once the season is over and once they return safely to their country. Despite its hopeless attempts, Qatari pilgrims will attend Hajj this year in probably the biggest political and social blow to the government. The only thing it managed to do was to cause more trouble to them; instead of heading to Saudi Arabia by plane, the pilgrims are forced to travel by land into Saudi territories and from there they will be transferred through Saudi planes into Mecca. Unfortunately, the Hajj season of 2017 will be a shameful stigma in Qatar’s history that will not be eradicated when the political crisis is over. Qatari nationals will always remember that their government banned them from Hajj, and they will recall that despite Saudi Arabia’s political disagreement with their country, they were welcomed and well received. Most importantly, they will also remember how the kingdom didn’t allow their government to ban them from practicing their religious duties.

Is Trump racist?
Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/August 25/17
Undoubtedly, US society has developed deep internal fissures since the time Barack Obama was first elected president. According to a US commentator, the majority White community has since felt it has ceded control of the country to the minorities. This attitude of the White community is evident from the abuse which Obama and the African Americans have been subjected to since his election as president. The rise in attacks of White policemen against African Americans during Obama’s term manifests this growing tension. This was one of the reasons Trump won the presidency, as he was able to connect with segments of the population which are inimical towards minorities, especially White racist groups like those having affinities with the Ku Klux Klan. So does this mean that Trump is a racist?
Singling out Trump
Before he ran for elections and won, Trump was a pragmatic businessman, whose main concern was making his business ventures successful. He still owns several businesses and deals with partners belonging to different races and religions. Some of his comments have been cited as lined with racist undertones, such as his call in the past for killing five ‘Black men’ who were accused of raping a White girl in Central Park, New York in the 1980’s. The men were later found to be innocent. However, many American politicians - such as George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton - have suffered from such lapses in judgment, which some might say belie hidden racist tendencies. Bush, for example, introduced his grandchildren as “the little brown ones” to President Ronald Reagan. It should be noted that these were the children of his son Jeb Bush, who is married to a Latin brunette.
The entire controversy springs from the fact that Trump is a politician who has emerged from outside the so-called ‘state establishment’
President Bill Clinton also took a racist dig at Obama during the latter’s presidential campaign when he compared the promising candidate to the African American activist Jesse Jackson, who had once run for elections but suffered a humiliating loss. Eventually, Obama had a one up on Clinton when he defeated his wife Hillary during the preliminary elections of the Democratic Party in 2008. Few had expected that defeat then. What is strange is that the media, which is now accusing Trump of racism, did not play up the racist remarks of either Bush or Clinton then.
The media’s grudge
It is also noteworthy that Trump’s son-in-law, the husband of his favorite daughter Ivanka, is Jewish. Needless to say white supremacists hate Jews as much as they hate ‘black people’ and other minorities. So how can Trump be called a racist? We must ask this question: “Is Trump a racist politician?” The evidence points to the contrary. The entire controversy springs from the fact that Trump is a politician who has emerged from outside the so-called ‘state establishment’. Therefore, he is frank and is not familiar with the wiles and deceit of conventional politicians. He sometimes speaks on impulse and the resulting faux pas is invariably blown out of proportions by the media, which has a grudge against Trump for having defeating Hillary Clinton, who is backed by the state machinery. This is the reality of Trump’s issues with the media and the accusations which so many are laying at his door.

Understanding secularism

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/August 25/17
The concept of secularism among Arabs and Muslims has been the subject of much debate since the emergence of Sunni and Shiite Islamic “sahwa” (awakening). The Muslim Brotherhood has played a detrimental role in distorting the concept with its pathetic attempts at misrepresenting scientific ideas.
The group continues to understand the concept in the same warped manner in which it had learnt it from its peers and has never tried to study or analyze it objectively. Many of its so-called luminaries, particularly Muhammad Qutb and Safar Al-Hawali, have presented half-baked theories about secularism. Their books on secularism have been inane and shallow in the manner they have approached the subject. The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Religions and Sects published by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth follows the same path. In fact, the Encyclopedia is so replete with such conceptual errors that it is not even possible to describe it as an ‘encyclopedia’. The problem does not solely lie here though, but in the movement’s rigid adherence to its own distorted view. Other works by members of Muslim Brotherhood on the subject are rife with errors, such as Abdel-Wahab Elmessiri’s book Partial Secularism and Comprehensive Secularism. Hamad al-Rashed has written a very important book in response to all the misconceptions in Elmessiri’s book, titled In Defense of Secularism against Messiri. This is a sharp and precise philosophical critique.
Secularism does not contradict but respects the existing structures, identities and history and performs a very important task
Secularism is not an ideology
On August 19, my colleague Jamal Khashoggi wrote an article in Al-Hayat newspaper titled ‘The shop of secularism’. In the article, Khashoggi asserts that the concept of secularism contradicts with the identity of the state and he posits that secularism is like a shop which either has to be bought in its entirety or left out completely. However, secularism is not such a concept. According to Alain Touraine’s definition, secularism is a system of permanent mediation between the state and socially active members. One can take a look at his book What is Democracy for greater insight in this regard. In fact, secularism is a developed system that does not trivialize people’s beliefs nor does it interfere in the interpretation of these beliefs. Its task is to make reality immune from the domination of any party and provides ample space for individual activity.
Secularism is not an ideology as Khashoggi suggests. It appears as an ideology only when viewed or understood as an ideological approach. The concept is about a system that protects reality from being sullied by the contradictory views of various individuals.
Secularism is able to organize societies better, improve human behavior and make cities more disciplined and habitation more comfortable by enhancing usefulness between man and the general surroundings in order to enhance levels of happiness.
Defining secularism.
Khashoggi has discussed Baath parties and their experience with secularism. This makes for an incomplete analysis as he could have found a better example in the Turkish secular experience. It is the first clear and accurate example of secularism in Muslim history.
Moreover, it is a model that has a theoretical basis. In this context, there are two important studies by Mohammed Arkoun published by the Diogenes magazine which the UNESCO issues. In his book Islamic Thought: Critique and Diligence, Arkoun discusses Ataturk’s secular experience and says that although it’s worth studying and has its role in the development of a Western society, it is in itself impaired by a “naïve awareness” of the West. This awareness relates to those mesmerized by the West as well as to those afraid of it.
At the end of it, the common explanation of secularism is accompanied with realizing the great difference between two different worlds. Kamal’s experience continued to live on. Even the Islamist party – the Justice and Development Party - has adhered to it and it will not be able to breach the secular values as established by Ataturk.
The Islamic party could not remove Ataturk’s foundations, knowing that his interpretation of secularism is his own. Bourguiba’s explanation of secularism is also Bourguiba’s alone and the same applies to Rifa’a al-Tahtawi.
Therefore, it is not a concept with one definition. Even in European countries, secularism is different based on the experimental implementations of the concept and according to state institutions’ hierarchy and the attitude of the public that expresses its opinions in elections.
Civil strife Khashoggi writes: “In brief, Islam has enough tolerance, flexibility, modernity and capability for renewal and there’s therefore no need to look for another ideology.” This statement presupposes that secularism is an ideology and that it is antithetical to religion for it is an ideology that mobilizes, programs and establishes itself.
However, secularism does not contradict but respects the existing structures, identities and history and performs a very important task, which the conservative society cannot give up on. It regulates the will of a few individuals from clashing and creating fissures and inoculates society from a civil war.
The Indian secular model is what has protected Muslims from persecution, extermination and abandonment. It has accorded freedom of identity and saved the country from conflict and bloodshed.
If it weren’t for secularism in India and for the protection of minorities and ethnicities from being dragged into conflicts, Muslims would have suffered. An example of such a conflict is the present strife between Sunnis and Shiites in Muslim countries where hatred between the two sects towards each other has been on the ascendant – from Indonesia to Morocco. This description is close and accurate to French philosopher Marcel Gauchet’s views as stated in his book Religion in Democracy, where he defines this reality as one based on “coordinating wills.” Herein lies the crux of the matter, in brief.