August 31/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site 

News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to go to the LCCC Daily English/Arabic News Buletins Archieves Since 2016

Bible Quotations For Today
when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 14/12-15/:"He said also to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, ‘Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’"

I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth.

First Letter of John 02/21-29/:"I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; everyone who confesses the Son has the Father also.  Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal life. I write these things to you concerning those who would deceive you. As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who does right has been born of him."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 30-31/17

The dream deal between Hezbollah and ISIS/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 30/17
Why did Syria, Hezbollah bus ISIS fighters near Iraq/Seth J. Frantzman/Jerusalem Post/August 30/17
Face Book Comments by Roger Bejjani/August 30/17
Russian-Syrian airborne radar covers all of Israel/DEBKAfile Special Report August 30, 2017
Dismantling the Dictatorship of the Highly Educated/Justin Fox/Bloomberg/August 30/17
The Danger of a Jihadist Pakistan/John R. Bolton/Gatestone Institute/August 30/17
The Fake News Media of Sweden/Nima Gholam Ali Pour/Gatestone Institute/August 30/17
Europe: Jihadists Exploit Welfare Benefits/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/August 30/17
Does Astana format still have the same importance for Russia/Alexey Khlebnikov/Al Arabiya/August 30/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 30-31/17
Aoun declares victory over terrorism
Aoun in front of Lebanese Diaspora: For supporting Lebanon's quest to be center for dialogue of civilizations, religions
Aoun meets Minister of State for Combating Corruption
Aoun Urges 'National Rapprochement' to Protect Border 'Victory'
Votel congratulates Army Commander on Fajr Jouroud operation's success
Hariri starts official visit to Paris tomorrow
MPs challenge tax law enacted to fund salary scale
Berri: Imam Sadr and his two companions are still alive
U.S. Blasts Deal that Removed IS from Lebanon-Syria Border
DNA Tests Reportedly Identify Bodies of Six Slain Soldiers
Sami Gemayel, 9 MPs Appeal Tax Law before Constitutional Council
Report: U.S. to Halt Support for Army over Hizbullah-Led Border Deal
U.S.-Led Strike in Syria Blocks IS Fighters Evacuated from Lebanon
Berri Urges Cooperation with Syria, Defends Salam, Qahwaji and IS Negotiations
Nasrallah Defends IS Deal as 'Only Way' to Unveil Captive Troops Fate
The dream deal between Hezbollah and ISIS
Why did Syria, Hezbollah bus ISIS fighters near Iraq?
Face Book Comments by Roger Bejjani

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 30-31/17
Russian-Syrian airborne radar covers all of Israel
At Least 18,500 Rohingya Flee to Bangladesh as Rakhine Unrest Rages
Jordan, Iraq Reopen Only Border Crossing
New Venezuelan Assembly to Try Opposition Leaders for Treason
Abadi Says IS Evacuation from Lebanon to Iraq Border 'Unacceptable'
U.N. Chief Calls for Lifting of Gaza Blockade
64 Dead in Clashes between Syria Regime and IS
Call for Inquiry into Syria War Missing, Mass Graves
Major London conference to discuss Qatar democracy, press freedom and counter-terrorism
Lavrov: Gulf States’ cooperation is the most appropriate solution to Qatar crisis
US President discusses Qatar with King Salman
Qatari media inciting Qataris against GCC, says Bahraini minister

Latest Lebanese Related News published on August 30-31/17
Aoun declares victory over terrorism
NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, said in a statement tackling the Fajr Al-Jouroud battle that "revealing the fate of the abducted military men was among the main goals of the battle, and this goal has been achieved. However, we wish we were celebrating their liberation alive." "When I met the Army Chief in Yarzeh, I told the military that we expect them to win over terrorism and, today, we declare our victory over terrorism," he said. "We congratulate the Army Command and all the military personnel who made this victory possible. We bow before the martyrs who fell," he said. The President urged the Lebanese to avoid letting the atmosphere of political tensions and polarizations, as well as the trade of accusations that prevailed in recent days, to undermine the victory that has been achieved. "It is incumbent upon us all- officials, parties and various segments of society- to protect and underpin this victory through national rapprochement, and build upon it while looking towards the future," the President stressed. Earlier, Aoun held a meeting with National Defense Minister, Yacoub Sarraf, and Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, who briefed him on the course of the end of the battle and the current situation in the outskirts of Ras Baalbek and Qaa, in terms of the army deployment in that area. In his delivered word, Army Chief, Joseph Aoun, announced that "Fajr al-Jouroud" battle has ended, saying it has achieved its objectives, notably the expulsion of Daesh and uncovering the fate of the military abducted servicemen.

Aoun in front of Lebanese Diaspora: For supporting Lebanon's quest to be center for dialogue of civilizations, religions
Wed 30 Aug 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, called on the Lebanese Diaspora to support Lebanon's quest to be a center for dialogue of civilizations and religions, since "it is best to run such dialogue in light of its abundant sects, cultures, potentials and diversity." President Aoun's fresh stance on Wednesday morning came during his meeting with a delegation of the Lebanese Diaspora in the world, including expatriates from the United States of America, Gabon, Austria, Ghana, France and Sydney.

Aoun meets Minister of State for Combating Corruption
Wed 30 Aug 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, on Wednesday afternoon received at the Baabda palace the Minister of State for Combating Corruption, Nicolas Tueni, who briefed him on the work of his Ministry and corruption reports. On emerging, Minister Tueni said he presented to Aoun a report on Lebanon's participation in the conference held recently in Vienna to combat corruption and the points raised in light of the experiences of a number of countries and organizations concerned in eradicating this scourge. In reply to a question, Tueni said his ministerial tasks aim to put an end to corruption in a number of state departments and institutions, in order to activate their work in complementarity with the tasks of the supervisory bodies.

Aoun Urges 'National Rapprochement' to Protect Border 'Victory'
Naharnet/August 30/17/President Michel Aoun on Wednesday called on Lebanese not to allow “political bickering” to make them forget the Lebanese army's victory against Islamic State militants on the eastern border. Addressing soldiers in a speech from the Baabda Palace, the president said: “We were hoping to celebrate with your kidnapped comrades, but what consoles us is that we have found them, especially that knowing their fate was one of the battle's most important objectives.”Aoun was referring to human remains likely belonging to nine Lebanese troops abducted by the IS in 2014 and eventually killed that have been located in recent days near the border as part of a Hizbullah-led deal with the jihadist group. Saluting the residents of the border areas “who stayed in their land and confronted terrorism,” the president pledged to address their needs and vowed that “development will be an objective.”“Lebanon has triumphed over terrorism and its victory has been huge and honorable. The army has proved that it is the only army that has managed to fight Daesh (IS),” Aoun added. Addressing the Lebanese people, the president said: “Don't allow the atmosphere of political bickering to make you forget the victory that has been achieved and know that your army has accomplished something that certain countries have failed to achieve.” “It is our duty as officials and political parties to protect this victory through national rapprochement, and to continue protecting Lebanon from the repercussions of the ongoing events,” Aoun added.

Votel congratulates Army Commander on Fajr Jouroud operation's success
Wed 30 Aug 2017/NNA - Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun on Wednesday received a phone call from the Commander of the United States Central Command, General Joseph Votel, congratulating him on the success of the "Fajr el-Jouroud" Operation. General Votel hailed the performance of army units which partook in said operation. Votel stressed his country's continual support for the Lebanese army with weapons and equipment, aimed at developing its capabilities and strengthening its missions. General Aoun, for his part, thanked the General for the US continual support for the Lebanese army, noting that the American aids provided to the army played an effective and crucial role in the success of this operation.

Hariri starts official visit to Paris tomorrow
Wed 30 Aug 2017/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri starts tomorrow morning an official visit to France, during which he will meet with the French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace. Hariri will also meet with the French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, the President of the Senate Gérard Larcher, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, the Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire and the Minister of Defense Florence Barley.

MPs challenge tax law enacted to fund salary scale
Wed 30 Aug 2017/NNA - Kataeb MPs Sami Gemayel, Nadim Gemayel, Samer Saadeh, Elie Marouni, and Fadi Al Haber and Deputies Khaled Daher, Dory Chamoun, Boutros Harb and Salim Karam submitted to the Constitutional Council an appeal against Law No. 45 issued on August 21, 2017 and published in the Official Gazette no. 37 dated 21/8/2017, which provides for the amendment and introduction of some tax legal provisions for the purpose of funding the salary scale.

Berri: Imam Sadr and his two companions are still alive
Wed 30 Aug 2017/NNA - The Amal movement celebrated the 39th anniversary of the disappearance of Imam Musa al-Sadr and his two companions at a popular and political rally in the southern suburb of Beirut - Airport Road. Speaker of the Parliament and leader of the Amal movement, Nabih Berri, addressed in a word he delivered on this occasion the overall political situation in the country. He stressed that "Imam Sadr and his two companions are still alive. We say this with all responsibility," underlining the difficulty of sending the investigating committee tasked with this dossier to Libya due to the country's shaken situation. "I have asked the committee to wait until the situation there is settled," he said. Speaker Berri began his speech by asking the audience to observe a minute of silence on the souls of the Lebanese Army and the Resistance martyrs. "We salute Imam Sadr for breaking the wall of silence. (...) We salute him for he made us realize that Israel's terror and Takfiri terrorism were two sides of the same coin," he said. "He has taught us how to build the nation, and that the human wealth of Lebanon and the strength of this nation lie in its unity, its Army, its people and its Resistance," he went on. The House Speaker congratulated Lebanon's people, Army and Resistance on the Fajr El-Jouroud achievement and the liberation of the eastern mountains from terrorists, parallel with the Resistance's battle in western Qalamoun area, in cooperation with the Syrian Army. He also hailed "the security services, their role, their martyrs and their vigilant elements."As for the relationship between Lebanon and Syria, he solicited everyone's "attention", saying "It is not a matter of subordination or violation of independence; it is a strategic need for the benefit of the two countries."
"Syria represents the geographic depth of Lebanon, and its only land exit.""Lebanon and Syria are the two goals of the Israeli enemy and just and comprehensive peace for the Palestinian people start with the establishment of a Palestinian State and the right of the return of its people to the land of Palestine," he said. Criticized "those who are trying to disavow victory by accusing the Resistance of making a deal at the expense of the State," Berri assured that "Victory by negotiation has always been more important than victory by war."The ceremony was attended by the Representative of President Michel Aoun, Minister of Defense Yaacoub Sarraf, the representative of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Minister of Interior, Nuhad Al-Mashnouk, and ranking dignitaries and officials.

U.S. Blasts Deal that Removed IS from Lebanon-Syria Border
Associated Press/Naharnet/August 30/17/ A U.S. official has blasted a deal that led to the evacuation of hundreds of Islamic State group fighters and civilians from the Lebanon-Syria border to areas close to Iraq, saying the extremists should be killed on the battlefield. The evacuation agreement, the first such publicized deal, had already angered many Iraqis who accused Syria and Lebanon's Hizbullah of dumping the militants on the Iraqi border rather than eradicating them. The top U.S. envoy for the international coalition against IS, Brett McGurk, tweeted on Wednesday that it is "irreconcilable" that IS "terrorists should be killed on the battlefield, not bused across #Syria to the Iraqi border without #Iraq's consent."McGurk added that the anti-IS coalition will help ensure that "these terrorists can never" enter Iraq.

DNA Tests Reportedly Identify Bodies of Six Slain Soldiers
Naharnet/August 30/17/DNA tests in Lebanese hospitals have identified the bodies of six troops executed by the jihadist Islamist State group, LBCI television reported on Wednesday. Nine bodies have been located and recovered as part of a Hizbullah-led deal with IS that also involved the evacuation of the jihadists and their families to eastern Syria and the handover of a Hizbullah captive and the bodies of several Hizbullah fighters. The agreement followed separate but simultaneous anti-IS offensives by the Lebanese and Syrian armies and Hizbullah on both sides of the Lebanese-Syrian border which ended with the militants' surrender. “After the identification of all bodies through DNA testing, the identities will be announced and a national funeral will be organized for the martyrs,” LBCI said. The soldiers had been abducted during a 2014 invasion of the eastern border town of Arsal and their fate had been shrouded in mystery for more than two years.

Sami Gemayel, 9 MPs Appeal Tax Law before Constitutional Council
Naharnet/August 30/17/Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel and nine other lawmakers file an appeal Wednesday with the Constitutional Council against the tax law that was approved to fund a new wage scale for civil servants and the armed forces. The Council will convene Thursday at 10:00 am to look into the appeal, reports said. In addition to Kataeb's five MPs Sami Gemayel, Nadim Gemayel, Samer Saade, Elie Marouni and Fadi al-Haber, the appeal was signed by National Liberal Party chief MP Dori Chamoun, Marada bloc MP Salim Karam, Democratic Gathering MP Fouad al-Saad and independent MPs Khaled al-Daher and Butros Harb. Sami Gemayel was among the first MPs to slam the new tax law and he had urged President Michel Aoun not to sign the bill. “I stress that the appeal will not harm the wage scale, because the Lebanese state is capable of securing funds for it without taking them from the pockets of citizens,” Gemayel told reporters Wednesday outside the Constitutional Council. Gemayel had warned that the taxes that have been approved would lower citizens' purchasing power “by 10 to 20%” and would also push “more than 100,000 citizens below the poverty line,” citing studies by the American University of Beirut. Gemayel also quoted Father Butros Azar, the secretary general of Catholic schools, as saying that school tuitions would rise an average of 27%. “The prices of apartments will also rise and our youths will suffer,” the young MP cautioned. “An economic disaster has been created without any economic feasibility study for the taxes to rely on,” Gemayel lamented. The new taxes involve hiking the VAT tax from 10% to 11%, fines on seaside violations, and taxes on cement, administrative transactions, sea imports, lottery prizes, tobacco, alcohol, travel tickets, financial firms and banks. Authorities have argued that the new taxes are necessary to fund the new wage scale but opponents of such a move have called for finding new revenues through putting an end to corruption and the waste of public money.

Report: U.S. to Halt Support for Army over Hizbullah-Led Border Deal
Naharnet/August 30/17/The U.S. administration has been dismayed by Lebanon's “submission to an agreement led by the Syrian regime and Hizbullah” that led to the evacuation of Islamic State militants from the eastern border region, and has accordingly decided to halt its military support for Lebanon, a media report said on Wednesday. Washington has decided to “cease military support to Lebanon and retrieve around 50 modern tanks that it had convinced Riyadh to pay for and supply to the Lebanese army to support it in its battle against terrorism,” An Nahar newspaper said. “These tanks deployed in several posts and took part strongly and effectively along with other weapons in the army's battle in the outskirts of al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek,” the daily added. The army had launched an unprecedented military offensive to oust IS militants from the eastern border region on August 19. Separately but simultaneously, Hizbullah and the Syrian army began an assault to remove IS from the Syrian side of the border. Simultaneous ceasefires were announced on both sides of the border on Sunday morning to allow for negotiations over the fate of nine Lebanese troops abducted by IS militants in 2014. The Lebanese army has insisted that it has not coordinated any move with Hizbullah or the Syrian army. The Hizbullah-led agreement resulted in the recovery of nine bodies likely belonging to the captive troops, the evacuation of hundreds of IS militants and their families from the Lebanese-Syrian border to eastern Syria, and the handover of a Hizbullah captive and several corpses to the Iran-backed group. President Michel Aoun and Army Commander General Joseph Aoun declared victory over IS on Wednesday morning, two days after Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah described the removal of IS' militants as Lebanon's "Second Liberation Day."

U.S.-Led Strike in Syria Blocks IS Fighters Evacuated from Lebanon
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/August 30/17/ The U.S.-led coalition has carried out an air strike to block Islamic State group fighters evacuated from Lebanon from reaching eastern Syria, its spokesman told the AFP news agency on Wednesday. Hundreds of IS fighters were evacuated Monday from the border region between Lebanon and Syria under a ceasefire deal and were headed to an IS-held town near Syria's eastern frontier with Iraq. "Irreconcilable #ISIS terrorists should be killed on the battlefield, not bused across #Syria to the Iraqi border without #Iraq's consent," wrote Brett McGurk, the U.S. presidential envoy to the anti-IS coalition. "Our @coalition will help ensure that these terrorists can never enter #Iraq or escape from what remains of their dwindling 'caliphate'," he wrote on Twitter. Coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon confirmed to AFP on Wednesday that a U.S.-led bombing raid had blocked the convoy's route. "To prevent the convoy from moving further east, we cratered the road and destroyed a small bridge," Dillon said. "IS is a global threat; relocating terrorists from one place to another for someone else to deal with is not a lasting solution," he said. "We are monitoring their location in real time" and the coalition "will not rule out strikes against IS fighters being moved," Dillon added. "We are not party to any agreements that were made by the Lebanese Hizbullah and ISIS or the (Syrian) regime," he went on to say. He added that any strike will be in "accordance of the law of armed conflict and if we are able to do so and can discriminate and discern the difference between fighters and civilians."The evacuation deal was negotiated between IS and Lebanon's Hizbullah, which has intervened in the war in neighboring Syria to prop up the Damascus government. Hizbullah had been fighting a week-long offensive against IS on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon, coinciding with a simultaneous assault by Lebanese troops on their side of the frontier. The battles ended Sunday with the announcement of a deal that would see IS forces bussed hundreds of kilometers from Syria's western border with Lebanon to its eastern frontier with Iraq. Jihadists and civilians, including children, left the border region two days ago, but on Wednesday their buses were still held up at the entrance to Deir Ezzor province. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that there was a delay but did not specify why and Syrian military sources reached by AFP declined to comment.The United States considers Hizbullah to be a "terrorist" organization.

Berri Urges Cooperation with Syria, Defends Salam, Qahwaji and IS Negotiations
Naharnet/August 30/17/Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday stressed that cooperation in all fields between Beirut and Damascus is vital for the two countries, as he defended ex-PM Tammam Salam and former army chief General Jean Qahwaji in the face of criticism over the 2014 anti-jihadist clashes.
“Lebanon and Syria are a strategic need for each other... Syria represents Lebanon's only land route to the world... and we're still seeking its help as a source for electricity,” said Berri in a speech marking the 39th anniversary of the disappearance of AMAL Movement founder Imam Moussa al-Sadr and his two companions. “We have treaties and agreements with it and we need to build a partnership the same as we did with Egypt,” the speaker added.
“Lebanon and Syria lie on the border of the Palestinian cause and are both targeted by Israel. Both countries aspire to liberate their occupied land in Golan, the Shebaa Farma and the Kfarshouba Hills, and to achieve just and comprehensive peace,” Berri noted.
His remarks come after controversy in the Council of Ministers about economic cooperation with Syria and after calls by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah for military and security cooperation with Damascus were met with strong opposition from Lebanese parties opposed to the Syrian regime.
“The same as our war on terror required our participation in international alliances and we thanked the U.S., Britain and France for their support, we should coordinate between the two countries (Lebanon and Syria) to dry up the sources of terrorism,” Berri added.
“No one voiced criticism when we received U.S. and British aid. Instead of being in a national festival, they (some political parties) are even trying to dissociate themselves from a victory that was achieved by the army and the resistance,” Berri went on to say, referring to offensives by the Lebanese army and Hizbullah on both sides of the Lebanese-Syrian border that ended with the surrender and withdrawal of Islamic State militants from the region.
“They are saying that the resistance engaged in negotiations without informing the state, but (General Security chief) Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim was not negotiating on behalf of 'his father or my father.' He did not do any move without coordinating with the president and the premier,” Berri added.
The speaker also congratulated “the people, the army and the resistance on the achievements of the army's operation and the liberation of the outskirts, and on the operations of the brave resistance that liberated the outskirts of Arsal, Flita and Qalamun, in cooperation with the Syrian army.”
Nine bodies likely belonging to Lebanese troops abducted by IS in 2014 and eventually executed have been located and recovered as part of a Hizbullah-led deal with the jihadist group. The deal also involved the evacuation of the jihadists and their families to eastern Syria and the handover of a Hizbullah captive and the bodies of several Hizbullah fighters. The agreement sparked major controversy in Lebanon, which prompted Hizbullah, the Free Patriotic Movement and some of their allies to slam parties in Tammam Salam's 2014 government as well as former army chief Qahwaji, accusing them of inaction that led to the abduction of around 30 Lebanese troops and policemen during the 2014 Arsal battle against IS and the Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front. Berri defended Salam and Qahwaji on Wednesday and urged an end to the political bickering. “The martyrs of the army and the resistance died for us all. They had loved ones, relatives, children and dreams. They were martyred for you and for your parents and children, so why should we abandon them?” Berri said. “Why should we pin the blame on PM Salam or General Qahwaji while the current government is the same previous government albeit for the exit of the Kataeb Party and the participation of the Lebanese Forces?” the parliament speaker wondered.

Nasrallah Defends IS Deal as 'Only Way' to Unveil Captive Troops Fate
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/August 30/17/ Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday defended a deal his group negotiated to evacuate Islamic State militants from the Lebanon-Syria border, saying it was the "only way" to resolve the "national and humanitarian" case of determining the fate of Lebanese soldiers captured three years ago by IS and later killed. Nasrallah was responding to criticism of the deal, which was to allow over 300 militants and their families to relocate to an IS-held area in eastern Syria, near the border with Iraq. The U.S.-led coalition and Iraq criticized the deal. Coalition warplanes disrupted the transfer by bombing a small bridge, cratering a road and striking another group of IS militants who were traveling to meet the convoy, which is now stuck in Syrian government-held territory. Nasrallah said in a rare written statement that the evacuation will not change the battle for the largely IS-controlled Deir Ezzor province, where thousands of fighters are based. He said Hizbullah fighters and Syrian troops are engaged in the battle for the province. "We transported those defeated militants from one front we fight in to another front we also fight in," he said.
"Our fight and our fate are one," Nasrallah added, addressing Iraqi officials. Lebanese opponents to the deal were angry that IS fighters were traveling "on air-conditioned buses" after having been suspected of killing Lebanese troops.

The dream deal between Hezbollah and ISIS
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 30/17
Following battles, media and political maneuvers, a bunch of speeches by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, the end result was disappointing or rather shocking. This was more so as we saw ISIS fighters board huge “air-conditioned” buses from the Lebanese-Syrian border toward the far East in Syria, near Iraq, under the protection of Syrian forces and facilitations from the Lebanese Khomeini party accompanied with Red Crescent convoys. The deal angered the families of the Lebanese soldiers who have been abducted for years. After ISIS guaranteed that its demands to safely exit under the regime’s protection to Abu Kamal and Deir az-Zour in East Syria will be met, it told Hezbollah where the dead Lebanese soldiers are buried. The Khomeini party then told the army command and the general security where the tombs are. All this is happening amid the families’ shock! According to Hezbollah’s media, the ceasefire agreement stipulates that ISIS fighters and their families will be allowed to board buses to go to Syria. The convoys arrived to an exchange point in East Syria and from there, they will go to ISIS-controlled areas.What’s more provoking is that following the Lebanese army’s presence in the Jroud battles, the army was deprived of this glorious moment
Welcomed as heroes
Details about these strange negotiations continue to reveal more and more. For example, we learnt that Hezbollah imposed its decision on the state to hand over three convicts from the Roumieh Prison in exchange of releasing a number of its fighters who were welcomed as heroes. Iraqi troops are currently fighting ISIS on the borders with Syria where ISIS fighters have been warmly allowed to head as they exit the Lebanese Qalamoun area. This of course angers the Iraqis. Prime Minister Abadi rejected the deal and many Iraq writers and activists are furious and feel that Iraq’s interests are being disregarded.
All this shows a truth that some have always overlooked, and it’s that “all” armed Islamized groups that operate outside the state’s authorities, whether Sunni or Shiite, act the same and share the same culture that violates the state’s sanctity, sovereignty of law and prestige of the entity that governs everyone according to the constitution which is the only authority to abide by towards all of the society’s components. This deal also signifies the Lebanese state’s weak control and sovereignty under the presidential term of Michel Aoun in particular – as it was claimed he will restore the republic’s power.
What’s more provoking is that following the Lebanese army’s honorable presence in the Jroud battles, the army was deprived of this glorious moment and Hezbollah, the armed religious group, appeared as the stronger party as it was the one who negotiated with the Syrian regime and arranged the deal’s details.
This scene truly exposes quite a lot.

Why did Syria, Hezbollah bus ISIS fighters near Iraq?
Seth J. Frantzman/Jerusalem Post/August 30/17
Iraqi politicians condemn agreement allowing ISIS fighters to leave besieged Qalamoun.
In 2009, before the Syrian civil war, a bus ride from Homs to Deir al-Zor on the Euphrates River would take around five or six hours. There was a stop for refreshments just outside of the historic city of Palmyra. Now fighters from Islamic State are taking that bus route.
Under an agreement with the Syrian regime they are being evacuated from the pocket they have held on the Lebanese-Syrian border for several years to areas ISIS controls near the Euphrates Valley between Deir al-Zor and Albukamal on the Iraqi border.
The victory over ISIS during a joint offensive by the Syrian regime, Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army, and ISIS’s decision to evacuate, was trumpeted by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Monday. In a speech he attacked Israel and the United States, claiming that Hezbollah’s war against ISIS was a “continuation of the campaign against Israel.”
According to Reuters the ISIS convoy included 308 ISIS members with their small arms and 331 civilians. As part of the agreement ISIS agreed to tell the Lebanese government about the whereabouts of nine Lebanese soldiers the extremists captured in 2014.
These kinds of deals, in which Syrian rebel fighters have been evacuated and the regime allowed to take control of areas they held, have become a common feature of the Syrian civil war. For instance in December 2016 thousands were evacuated from besieged Aleppo to Idlib province, which is held by the rebels. This marks the first time an agreement has been made with ISIS to let its men evacuate.
Jonathan Spyer, director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, says that it is not surprising that the regime has extended its practice of allowing Syrian rebel groups to evacuate areas under cease-fire agreements.
“In my view ISIS doesn’t fundamentally belong to another category to other Sunni fighters. So maybe the regime doesn’t think so either, but it confirms what’s urgent for the regime is in western Syria, and eastern Syria is less of an urgent priority.”
Spyer also argues the move may be related to the upcoming post-civil war period. “It [the battles around Qalamoun] had already dragged on for ages. It may well be that in a context where ISIS is set to be destroyed as a quasi-sovereign entity further east, Hezbollah and Lebanon are trying to preempt any new ISIS focus closer to them.”
In Iraq the decision to transport ISIS gunmen to eastern Syria has been criticized as dumping the fighters on Iraq’s doorstep. Muhammad al-Karbouli, a member of Iraq’s Security and Defense Committee in parliament, was quoted by Al-Sumaria TV as condemning the decision. He said the Iraqi government should investigate the “mysteries” and “secrets” of the deal as to why ISIS fighters might then be able to cross into Iraq via Abu-Kamal on the border into the area of al-Qaim and terrorize Iraq, bolstering some 3,000 ISIS fighters he claimed were in that area of Anbar province.
Another Iraqi politician was quoted as saying “the blood of our youth and our people is not cheaper than the blood of the Lebanese.”
In a statement to the press on Tuesday posted on Twitter, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the transfer was unacceptable.
The Iraqi media appear to be suggesting that the Hashd al-Shaabi, a collection of Shia militias that, like Hezbollah, are close to Iran, should have objected to the transfer. There was also discussion of whether the US-led coalition should have struck the convoy, since it includes armed ISIS fighters.
Questions remain about whether the ISIS fighters will end up near Deir al-Zor or Al-Bukamal. Assad forces are advancing on both places, and it seems that the fighters will end up fighting the same regime that has just allowed them transit through its areas.
The US-led coalition did not respond by press time to a query about its reaction to the movement of the ISIS fighters and families.

Face Book Comments by Roger Bejjani
August 30/17
*Don't get over exited with Aoun's statement. Give him few hours or a couple of days, he will balance it with another one caressing the terrorists of Hezbollah.
**If I am relentlessly criticizing the LF for the absurdity of January 18, 2016 it is out of frustration. The LF have always represented hope for me in this estranged country. On that date January 18, 2016, the LF have denied all the principles it fought and militated for.
There is still time for redemption though. Samir Geagea should orderly retreat from the mascarade he dragged this great party into. He should first send this moron Melhem Pakradouni home and pull the ressources of the LF, the real ones, consolidate its political agenda and get back to the fundamentals.
**Unfortunately the LF have lost their credibility the moment they partnered with the vassals of Hezbollah and sat at the same table as Hezbollah. They were even trying to broker a meeting with Chief terrorist Nasrallah. Melhem Pakradouni harmed the LF as much as MICHEL Aoun did back in 1989.
*Are Lebanese and the morons Ministers aware that the country is being ruled by an organization considered and labeled by 180 countries (including the Arab countries excluding Syria's oppressive regime) as terrorist!!?? How can they even make plans to rebound the country when we are about to be doomed as a consequence of a multi-lateral series of sanctions??
*Tomorrow if the Army sends a representative at the nauseous tragi-comedy organized by the terrorists of Hezbollah to celebrate Daesh road trip to Deir el Zor, we should consider the Army as an accessory of Hezbollah.
Gebran Bassil is an accessory, a vassal, a blower of HeZb. Same as his in law and all the morAouns. This we know.
*Resistance against Hezbollah is the only legitimate resistance
*But in what galley samir geagea has been boarded by melhem pakradouni??
*Ya Di3an The 5 soldiers fallen to the field of honor during the battle. On the one hand, it seems that the state, as the army, knew that our poor kidnapped soldiers were killed in 2015, and the punitive expedition for the establishment of justice was short-Circuité by the hezbollah terrorist organization with the consent of The Army.
Shame always shame.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 30-31/17
Russian-Syrian airborne radar covers all of Israel

DEBKAfile Special Report August 30, 2017
The Russian air force has recently deployed to Syria four of its most highly advanced early warning and control aircraft, the Beriev A-50 SRDLO (“Mainstay”), which is rated the most sophisticated AWACS in operation. Several A-50s were spotted flying over Syria in recent months, but they all turned around and headed back to Russia. Four are now installed in the hangars of the Russian Khmeimim Air Base in Syria’s Latakia province. The plane’s Shmei-M radar is capable of pinpointing targets across a distance of 600km. While in flight, it covers all parts of Israel and can detect every aerial and military movement.
Moscow has deployed the A-50 in support of the unification of Russian and Syria air defense systems going forward in recent weeks. Henceforth, both their air defense systems will be controlled from a single command center at the Khmeimim air base, with the B-50 living up to its name as operational mainstay.
The Russian and Syrian air defenses will no longer need to swap information in the event of a US or Israeli air or missile attack over Syria before coordinating their operations. All incoming information will be channeled to the Russian joint command, which will determine how to respond and manage any combat which may result. This development limits the freedom enjoyed hitherto by the US and Israeli air and naval forces over Syria and in the eastern Mediterranean and makes their operations far more hazardous. The Russian air defense commander in Syria now has at his fingertips a wide range of tools for several synchronized maneuvers. He can, for instance, issue a direct order to simultaneously launch three sophisticated weapons systems with deadly effect, such as the Pantsir-S1 tactical, mobile surface-to-air missiles posted outside Damascus, also called the SA-22 Greyhound; the S-400s, installed on the Dhahaer ram Ahmed hilltop northwest of Latakia; and the anti-ship P-800 Oniks-Yakhont cruise missiles which guard Syria’s coast. These days, America would find it hard to repeat the Tomahawk cruise missile attack President Donald Trump ordered on April 4 in reprisal for the Syrian army’s used of poison chemicals against civilians. That massive assault knocked out Syria’s Sharyat air base and a large part of its air force. Israel will likewise not have an easy ride for another air strike like the one conducted on May 17 against an Iranian arms shipment for Hizballah near Damascus. Then, Syria tried for the first time to down the Israeli bomber-fighters with anti-air fire. It failed, but only because Israel was forced to send an Arrow missile into its first operation to prevent Syrian missiles from hitting the returning warplanes over Israeli territory. In future, Israel will have to adjust its tactics to the powerfully enhanced Russian-Syrian defenses.
The newly arrived A-50 also enables the Russian command in Syria to keep a controlling eye on the de-escalations zones gong up in Syria, including the one taking shape on Syria’s southwestern border opposite the Israeli Golan.

At Least 18,500 Rohingya Flee to Bangladesh as Rakhine Unrest Rages
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 30/17/ At least 18,500 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since fighting erupted in Myanmar's neighboring Rakhine state six days ago, the International Organization for Migration said Wednesday. Plumes of smoke billowed from several burning villages in the worst-hit section of the state, according to an AFP reporter on a government-led trip to the area, as the violence showed little sign of abating despite security sweeps by Myanmar's police and troops. The streets of Maungdaw -- northern Rakhine's largest town -- were virtually deserted as fires flickered among charred remains of houses and the occasional burst of gunfire echoed in the distance. The clashes began on Friday after militants from Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority community staged deadly surprise raids on police posts. At least 110 people, including 11 state officials, have been confirmed dead and thousands of Rohingya have poured across the border to Bangladesh despite Dhaka's attempts to stop them. "As of last night, 18,500 people have come across," Chris Lom, the IOM's Asia-Pacific spokesman, told AFP, adding an unknown number were still stuck on the Myanmar side of the border. An estimated 6,000 Rohingya on Tuesday massed at the "zero line" border with Bangladesh, days after the area came under mortar and machine gun fire by Myanmar security forces. The Rohingya, the world's largest stateless minority and subject to severe restrictions on their movements, are barred from officially crossing. Bangladeshi authorities on Wednesday toughened patrols in a bid to prevent more arrivals in a country that already hosts an estimated 400,000 Rohingya, albeit in abject conditions. Rohingya have sneaked across the land border in large number or swum the Naf River which marks part of the frontier.But tragedy befell some of them. The bodies of two Rohingya women and two children washed up on Bangladeshi soil on Wednesday, an official there told AFP, drowned after their rickety boat capsized.
Fight and flight
Among the dead and displaced are also ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and other tribal groups, who say they are being targeted by Rohingya militants. Five ethnic Buddhist men were found stabbed to death early Wednesday in Maungdaw, which is under curfew, Ye Htut, the town's district chief told AFP. With information trickling out, a picture has emerged of a cat-and-mouse game between militants and security forces played out in remote hamlets, fields and forest hideouts. The office of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi said militants have repeatedly detonated homemade explosives and attempted to firebomb police posts and ambush patrols. Myanmar classes the militants as "Bengali terrorists" and blames them for setting fire to both their own and other community's houses. Rohingya arriving in Bangladesh have told a different story, saying their homes had been set on fire by security forces and Buddhist mobs.
"Villagers are running away... where do we have to live now?" one Rohingya from a village near Maungdaw told AFP by phone, speaking on condition of anonymity. It was not immediately possible to verify his account.
Maximum restraint?
Rakhine has been beset by religious violence since 2012. Analysts say the emergence of organized militancy is a game-changer in an already volatile situation. Displaced Rohingya reaching Bangladesh have told AFP some men are heeding a call to arms by the militants and staying behind to fight in their villages.
The Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army (ARSA) claims its men launched Friday's surprise attacks on police posts, killing 11 state officials, with knives, homemade explosives and a few guns. After years in which the Rohingya largely avoided violence, the group emerged last October to carry out deadly attacks on police posts. That prompted a months-long security crackdown by Myanmar's army which left scores dead and forced 87,000 people to flee to Bangladesh. The U.N. believes those operations may have amounted to ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya -- allegations denied by the army. On Sunday Pope Francis led mounting international calls for the protection of "our Rohingya brothers." The U.N. has also urged Myanmar to protect civilians during its operations and called on Bangladesh to allow the displaced into its territory. With pressure mounting, a Myanmar government official on Tuesday said security forces would use "maximum restraint" in coming days but insisted on the country's right to defend itself from "terrorists." Rights groups say the reports of Rohingya villages being torched fit the counter-insurgency playbook of Myanmar's army. "These are the sort of tactics we've seen before," said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.

Jordan, Iraq Reopen Only Border Crossing
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 30/17/Jordan and Iraq on Wednesday reopened their only border crossing, saying security had been restored three years after the Islamic State group seized control of frontier areas. In a joint statement, the two countries' governments said the crossing, called Turaibil in Iraq and al-Karameh in Jordan, was reopened after it was "secured... against attacks by criminal gangs."The border crossing is part of a crucial route linking the Iraqi and Jordanian capitals, and its reopening comes after Iraqi forces managed to retake most of the territory seized by IS in 2014. The route passes through the vast desert province of Anbar, where IS maintains some of its last bastions, including the towns of Rawa, Aanah and al-Qaim, more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of the border post. The reopening of the post is a sign of increasing stability in the area and the restoration of commercial traffic will be important for the economies of both countries. The post is 370 kilometers (230 miles) from Amman and 570 kilometers (350 miles) from Baghdad. Iraq is bordered by Jordan and Syria to the west, Iran to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south.

New Venezuelan Assembly to Try Opposition Leaders for Treason
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 30/17/Venezuela's all-powerful new constituent assembly said Tuesday it will hold treason trials for opposition leaders it said are promoting economic sanctions imposed by the United States. The assembly approved a decree in which it announced a "historic" trial against "those who involved in promoting these immoral actions against the interests of the Venezuelan people."The assembly did not give any immediate word on which opposition figures it might put on trial. On Friday, the White House unveiled tough new financial sanctions against Caracas, which it said were aimed at stemming vital funding to the "dictatorship" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Moscow on Monday slammed the U.S. sanctions, saying they were aimed at damaging the Latin American nation's economy and aggravating tensions. But French President Emmanuel Macron accused Maduro of creating a "dictatorship" in one of the harshest condemnations yet of the South American regime by a European leader. U.S. President Donald Trump's threat of military force meanwhile has bolstered Maduro's oft-repeated claim that Washington is plotting to topple him and wants to grab control of Venezuela's oil -- the largest proven reserves in the world.

Abadi Says IS Evacuation from Lebanon to Iraq Border 'Unacceptable'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 30/17/Iraqis have denounced a deal allowing Islamic State group fighters to evacuate a Syrian-Lebanese frontier region towards the Iraqi border. Hundreds of jihadists started leaving the area on Monday, heading by bus for Syria's eastern province of Deir Ezzor, which borders Iraq and is the only Syrian province still under IS control. Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the deal was "unacceptable" and an "insult to the Iraqi people."He said Iraq was fighting the jihadists, not sending them to Syria. Iraqi forces, who reseized second city Mosul from IS in July after a nine-month battle, are fighting the last pocket of jihadists in the northern province of Nineveh. Abadi has said Iraqi forces expect to announce victory in the city of Tal Afar within days. That would see it dislodged from all but a few scattered Iraqi towns -- including several close to the border with Syria's Deir Ezzor. Iraqi social media users expressed outrage at the evacuation deal, which came a week into a Lebanese army offensive against IS and a joint Syrian army and Hizbullah operation against the group on Syrian territory. In a video posted on Facebook, activist Stephen Nabil called it an "injustice."He said it would allow hundreds of jihadists to deploy along an "insecure" border, close to three Iraqi desert towns still under IS control. "These are not normal people, and we know what a single car (bomb) or one suicide bomber can do in Baghdad," he wrote. On Monday, an IS-claimed bombing in the Iraqi capital killed 11 people. Iraqi analyst Hisham al-Hashimi called the evacuation deal "unjust.""The selfish ally is throwing Daesh from Lebanon into Iraq," he said, using an Arabic acronym for the group. "They know that Iraqis destroyed their second biggest city (Mosul) so that Daesh fighters would not escape and Iraq's neighbors would not be harmed," he wrote in a Facebook post. Journalist Salma al-Khafaji said the evacuation could allow a "restructuring and reorganization of Daesh, throwing them into a new battle against Iraq."

U.N. Chief Calls for Lifting of Gaza Blockade
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 30/17/U.N. chief Antonio Guterres called for the blockade of Gaza to be lifted Wednesday as he visited the Palestinian enclave enduring "one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises" he had seen. The secretary general's comments came as he wrapped up his first visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories since taking office. Repeatedly throughout the visit he has called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, long the focus of international diplomacy but currently under threat. On Wednesday in Gaza, Guterres said he had been struck by humanitarian conditions in the overcrowded and impoverished enclave, where an electricity crisis has worsened and clean water is lacking. "I am deeply moved to be in Gaza today, unfortunately to witness one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises that I've seen in many years working as a humanitarian in the United Nations," Guterres said.He later said it was "important to open the closures," in a reference to Israel's decade-long blockade of Gaza and its border with Egypt that has remained largely closed in recent years. Guterres made the comments at a school run by the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, in the northern Gaza Strip.At least 70 percent of Gazans are dependent upon international aid. UNRWA plays a major role in the strip, with the same percentage of the population classified as refugees. Palestinian militants in Gaza and Israel have fought three wars since 2008. Israel says the blockade is necessary to keep Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the enclave, from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used to make them. The blockade also serves to isolate Hamas. U.N. officials say the enclave is fast becoming unlivable due to deteriorating humanitarian conditions. Hamas welcomed Guterres' trip, calling on him to make "all efforts to lift the siege on the strip and end the suffering for two million Palestinians living in the largest prison in the world." U.N. officials' contact with Hamas is limited, with the group considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
Imperiled two-state solution
Demonstrations also occurred during Guterres' visit to the strip.
At one protest, around 25 people held a fake coffin with a sign that said "Welcome to the largest prison in the world". Dozens of people also demonstrated as Guterres' convoy crossed the border with Israel into Gaza, calling for action in support of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. They included prisoners' relatives.Before crossing into the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials gave Guterres a tour of the Gaza border area and he was shown a tunnel crossing from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Such tunnels, used by Hamas for attacks in the past, are a major concern for Israel. Guterres held talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday and Tuesday and gave a speech in Tel Aviv later Wednesday. He was due to depart later in the day. His trip was meant in part to express strong support for the imperiled two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads what is seen as the most right-wing government in his country's history, and has signaled he has no intention of evacuating settlements in the occupied West Bank.Israeli settlements are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state. Prominent members of Netanyahu's government advocate annexing most of the West Bank, which would make an independent Palestinian state impossible. U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants to reach the "ultimate deal", but he himself has cast doubt on the two-state solution, saying he could support a single state if this meant peace. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is meanwhile unpopular and likely incapable of making major concessions, many analysts say.His Fatah party, based in the West Bank, also remains deeply divided from Hamas.

64 Dead in Clashes between Syria Regime and IS
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 30/17/ Fierce fighting between Syrian government forces and the Islamic State group has killed 64 combatants in Raqa province over a 24-hour period, a monitoring group said Wednesday.The clashes come with the army pressing an advance through Raqa, in northern Syria, towards neighboring Deir Ezzor, the only remaining province of the war-ravaged country still in the hands of IS jihadists. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said the fighting had claimed the lives of 38 jihadists and 26 pro-regime combatants since Tuesday morning. It takes to 145 the overall death toll in six days of fighting in villages on the banks of the Euphrates River in the east of Raqa province, near Deir Ezzor. IS said in a statement on Tuesday that its members had killed dozens of regime combatants in "intense fighting lasting hours."Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that the regime was fighting to secure a foothold in Raqa province "in order to advance in Deir Ezzor." The jihadists have laid siege to government forces and civilians in the provincial capital of Deir Ezzor since 2015. Earlier this month, government troops and allied fighters arrived at the outskirts of Madan, the last IS-held town in the countryside of eastern Raqa province before Deir Ezzor. But IS launched a counterattack last week that pushed the regime forces back, and fighting has since continued. The Syria army operation in the area, backed by air support from ally Russia, is separate from the battle for provincial capital Raqa city. The effort to oust IS from the city is being led by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.

Call for Inquiry into Syria War Missing, Mass Graves
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 30/17/Human Rights Watch called Wednesday for an independent inquiry to probe the fate of thousands of people who have disappeared in Syria's war and to identify mass graves. The Syrian war began in March 2011 when waves of peaceful demonstrations were repressed by the security forces, eventually leading to an all-out conflict involving many sides. More than 330,000 people have been killed and millions displaced, but HRW says the exact number of those missing could not be determined as most detention facilities were off-limits to outsiders.
"An independent institution in charge of investigating the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared, as well as unidentified human remains and mass graves in Syria, should be created immediately," said HRW. The New York-based rights watchdog issued the appeal in a statement coinciding with the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Last year, a team of U.N. experts raised the alarm over enforced disappearances and called for the situation to be referred to the International Criminal Court. "Syria will not be able to move forward if negotiations fail to adequately address the horrors of detention and disappearance," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW. "This should not be ignored. Without progress, each day that passes will likely see more of the disappeared tortured or executed," she said. The watchdog said the inquiry "should have a broad mandate to investigate, including by reviewing all official records and interviewing any official."Thousands of peaceful activists were arrested during the first years of the Syrian conflict, and some are still languishing in prisons, according to non-governmental organizations. Earlier this month, the death of prominent computer scientist Bassel Khartabil Safadi was confirmed two years after his execution by the regime. Safadi had been arrested in March 2012 in the wake of the crackdown.

Major London conference to discuss Qatar democracy, press freedom and counter-terrorism
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishThursday, 31 August 2017/Hundreds of political figures, policy makers, academics, commentators and Qataris are to convene on the September 14 in London to discuss democracy, human rights, press freedom and counter-terrorism in Qatar. The Qatar, Global Security & Stability Conference takes place three months into the Qatar crisis in the Middle East, with Qatar facing a boycott by members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, creating considerable political and economic implications in the Arabian Gulf region, Middle East and the world. The conference is the first of its kind and is being organized by the Qatari businessman and reformist, Khalid al-Hail, along with a number of exiled Qataris, who are seeking a resolution to the regional crisis and a more stable future for Qatar. Daniel Kawczynski MP, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the UK House of Commons and expert of Gulf affairs said that given the severity of the allegations against Qatar, it is imperative for British politicians and media to call on Qatar to make the reforms and change its policy. “I welcome the efforts of the organizers, and it is an opportunity to hear more about the crisis, given the huge Qatari investment in Britain. We need to be able to have confidence in the Qatari government. This is a unique initiative and a chance to hear from Qatari reformists such as Mr. Khalid Al-Hail’,” Kawczynski said. Al-Hail, Official Spokesperson of the Qatari Opposition, said: “The world has to listen to us, as the government of Qatar persistently refuses to allow anyone to discuss its policies or activities in the region. “There is escalating regional consensus and increasingly international concern of the Qatari government policies that pose a threat to international security and stability. If the world honestly wants to put an end to violence, terrorism and chaos, then it must end to Qatari policies that fund, nurture and instigate them,” al-Hail said. The organizers of the conference are also publishing a number of exclusive research papers into the situation within Qatar.

Lavrov: Gulf States’ cooperation is the most appropriate solution to Qatar crisis
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishThursday, 31 August 2017/Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday that his country does not play the role of the mediator between Qatar and the four boycotting countries (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt), and that the solution of the crisis must be sought within the GCC. He explained that the most appropriate way is to settle the crisis within the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council, saying that Russia is not part of the mediation, as there is the Kuwaiti one. Lavrov also stressed the need to find a resolution based on compromises acceptable to all. He said that Russia affirmed its support for the mediation mission of the Emir of Kuwait, and is ready to contribute to these efforts if the parties demanded it.Lavrov arrived in Doha from the United Arab Emirates where he met with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi after having earlier held talks with officials of Kuwait, the Gulf state handling the mediation efforts between Doha and the boycotting countries.

US President discusses Qatar with King Salman

Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishThursday, 31 August 2017/King Salman Bin Abdulaziz and US President Donald Trump discussed the need to defeat terrorism, cut off terrorist funding, and combat extremist ideology in a phone call on Wednesday.The US President urged a diplomatic resolution to the Qatar crisis that follows through on their commitments made at the Riyadh Summit, to maintain unity while fighting terrorism. The two leaders also addressed the threat Iran poses to the region. King Salman offered his condolences President Trump after hurricane Harvey struck Texas and caused a number of casualties.
King Salman and President Trump praised the resilience of the communities affected by Hurricane Harvey, the White House said in a statement.

Qatari media inciting Qataris against GCC, says Bahraini minister
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 30 August 2017/Qatari media is trying to distort the image of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and attempting to drum up popular support to encourage a withdrawal from the six-country bloc, Bahrain’s information minister has said. “The current Qatari media policy deliberately concocts claims and fabricates historical and political fallacies in order to build up resentment among Qataris against the GCC and reduce its stature,” Ali Bin Mohammad Al Romaihi, the Bahraini minister, told the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat. “The media wants the Qatari citizen to believe that the measures taken against Qatar’s negative policies are in fact directed at him.”Qatar has been a member of GCC – which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – since it was established in May 1981.Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and Egypt, in June severed their diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting extremists and funding terrorism. “We find it highly deplorable that the Qatari media is working on mobilizing the street through blatant lies and outrageous deceptions and on involving people in a political crisis to which they were not party,” Al Romaihi said in his remarks published by Bahrain News Agency. The minister said that the attempts by the Qatari media in this regard were started when Al Jazeera was launched and that they have been incorporated in several programs, news and reports under various appellations that have been broadcast on the news channel. “Al Jazeera has never been an advocate of Gulf unity or of Gulf integration. Since its launch, Al Jazeera has broadcast news programs and reports questioning the significance of establishing the GCC, and has allowed guests on talk shows to attack the Council and its leaders,” Al Romaihi said.
“The campaign orchestrated by Al Jazeera and promoted through social media is trying to show that there is a popular movement in Qatar calling for withdrawal from the GCC. It is highly regrettable that some Iranian media are involved in this dubious campaign. These media have been highlighting the gains that Qatar will make by pulling out of the GCC and have been pushing for the formation of a Qatari-Iranian-Syrian axis. One Iranian official even suggested calling on other countries to withdraw from the Council,” the minister added.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 30-31/17
Dismantling the Dictatorship of the Highly Educated
Justin Fox/Bloomberg/August 30/17
In the affluent nations of northwestern Europe, people with university educations have taken over politics. Cabinet ministers with fancy degrees are nothing new, but more and more parliamentary seats have been going to college graduates. In some countries, the highly educated’s share of seats is completely unprecedented. In others, it hasn’t been this high since the 1800s, when politics was still an explicitly elite activity.
This data is from an important and surprisingly engaging new book, “Diploma Democracy: The Rise of Political Meritocracy,” by Dutch political scientists Mark Bovens of the University of Utrecht and Anchrit Wille of the University of Leiden. 1 Their focus is on a few countries in Europe, but similar trends are of course apparent in the US as well.
Part of the reason for this is entirely benign: Lots more people have been going to college, so of course more college-educated people are going into politics. Also, modern governments deal with really complex policy choices. It can’t be bad to have skilled, educated people making those choices, can it?
Well, it depends on which choices. Bovens and Wille argue that while domination of executive and administrative posts by the highly educated might be warranted, it’s highly problematic for them to dominate representative politics as well.
Consider the makeup of the lower house of the Dutch parliament. Of the 150 members elected in 2012, Bovens and Wille report that 145 (97 percent) attended college or graduate school and 137 (91 percent) had at least the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. This in a country where only 39 percent of people aged 25 through 54 have a college degree 2 — and where the most important political leader of the 20th century was a guy with a high school diploma who had taken some stenography courses on the side. The shares did fall to 90 percent and 86 percent after this year’s election, but Bovens and Wille figure it’s too early and the sample size too small to declare a trend reversal just yet.The problem with this mismatch between representatives and population is that, as Bovens and Wille write:
Educational qualifications are important indications of social status and they are very closely correlated with lifestyle, cultural attitudes, and political preferences. Like class or religion, educational background is an important source of political and social divides.
There are indications, in fact, that educational background is becoming the most important source of political and social divides. It has certainly become one of the best predictors of how people vote in some countries, the ranks of which the US appears to have belatedly joined in the 2016 presidential election. Some of this can possibly be chalked up to the highly educated holding more sophisticated, nuanced views than their less-well-informed fellow citizens. But a lot of it has got to be just that they increasingly live in different communities, send their children to different schools, work in different kinds of jobs, and spend their free time differently than those without college degrees.
That educational qualifications would replace older class distinctions is something that British sociologist and Labour Party activist Michael Young predicted in 1958. As I wrote in a column last year, the term that Young coined to describe this state of affairs — “meritocracy” — has gone on to be used with mostly positive connotations. But the world he described in his satiric novel “The Rise of the Meritocracy” was a dystopia, with the divide between those deemed to possess merit and the rest of the population (the “morons,” as Young’s narrator puts it) much starker and less forgiving than traditional social class divisions.
Bovens and Wille are well aware of this negative potential of meritocracy, and reference Young repeatedly in their book. They also cite Plato’s “Republic,” which seems to endorse putting highly educated philosopher-kings in charge of government. But they note that Plato had some interesting ideas for how to keep these “guardians,” as he called them, from hardening into a permanent ruling class: They couldn’t own property, and they weren’t allowed to know their children. Short of such draconian measures, what can be done to address this rise of diploma democracy? One of the biggest stumbling blocks is that the less-educated are so much less likely to participate in or even pay attention to politics. One of the only forms of political activity in which there aren’t clear differences by education level, Bovens and Wille report, is watching political news on television. Efforts to increase public involvement in the political process have for the most part only widened these gaps, as the highly educated are by far the most likely to take part in public meetings, contact their political representatives, participate in social media discussions, and the like.
This difficulty leaves Bovens and Wille with a grab-bag of disparate proposals for fixing things. Their suggestions include more civic education in secondary schools, more referendums, limits on lobbying, compulsory voting, direct elections for some governing officials (as opposed to electing representatives who choose the governing officials, as is customary in most of Europe), and even choosing some representatives by lottery.
When I asked them by email how the US stacks up versus the European countries they studied in “coping” with education-based political cleavages, they responded:
That of course depends on what you mean by coping. One way to look at it is through the lens of issue congruence between politicians and voters: Lesser-educated white Americans, for once, have a president who addresses issues they find important (whether he will fix them may of course be something else entirely). Recent research in the Netherlands has shown that issue congruence between the cabinet and the lesser educated electorate rose when LPF and PVV [populist, immigration-skeptic parties] took part in the coalition — resulting in higher levels of political trust among the lesser-educated.
Another way to look at it would be through the lens of political stability. Majoritarian systems, such as in the US or in the UK, suffer from instability and inefficiency because of abrupt shifts. Proportional systems with coalitions, such as in the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, are a bit more boring, but in the long run they are better able to cope with newly emerging political cleavages and to absorb them more smoothly.
A key theme that runs through the book is that the political views of the less-educated deserve to be heard — even if some of them are offensive to, say, political science professors at leading universities. In the US, much elite discussion of the populist, nationalist, and sometimes outright racist attitudes unleashed by Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency remains focused on how to make those attitudes go away. Bovens and Wille, whose own country’s populist revolt is now more than 15 years old, seem more interested in finding ways to accommodate such views without endangering liberal democracy. Perhaps we could learn something from that.

The Danger of a Jihadist Pakistan//اخطار باكستان الجهادية
John R. Bolton/Gatestone Institute/August 30/17
Almost certainly, the war in Afghanistan will be won or lost in Pakistan. President Trump's announcement last week that he will send more U.S. troops—some sources say another 4,000—to Afghanistan represents a change in tactics from President Obama's policy. But the ultimate objective is still opaque, and even once the specifics are articulated, what may ultimately matter more is the still-undeveloped "South Asia policy" promised by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
That means dealing with Pakistan. Islamabad has provided financial and military aid, including privileged sanctuaries, to the Taliban, the Haqqani network, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Islamic State, al Qaeda and other malefactors, allowing them not just to survive but flourish. President Trump rightly says this must stop and is encouraging Pakistan's principal adversary, India, to increase its economic assistance to Afghanistan.
But the task isn't so straightforward. The Bush and Obama administrations also criticized Pakistan's support for terrorists, without effect. Putting too much pressure on Pakistan risks further destabilizing the already volatile country, tipping it into the hands of domestic radical Islamicists, who grow stronger by the day.
Peter Tomsen, a former State Department regional expert, once described Pakistan as the only government he knew consisting simultaneously of arsonists and firefighters—often the same people, depending on the situation. Pakistan has teetered on the edge of collapse ever since it was created in the 1947 partition of British India. Its civilian governments have too often been corrupt, incompetent or both. The ouster last month of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif —he stepped down after the Supreme Court disqualified him for not having been "honest"—is no reassurance. If anything, it shows the judiciary's excessive politicization, which further weakens constitutional governance.
Islamabad's military, sometimes called the country's "steel skeleton," is equally problematic. It recalls the old remark about Prussia: Whereas other countries have armies, Pakistan's army has a country. The military is also becoming increasingly radicalized, with Islamicists already in control of its intelligence services and now working their way through the ranks of the combat branches.
In this unstable environment, blunt pressure by the U.S.—and, by inference, India—could backfire. Just as America must stay engaged in Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban and other terrorists from retaking control, it is also imperative to keep Islamabad from falling under the sway of radical Islamicists. Hence the danger of inadvertently strengthening their hand by supplying a convenient narrative of overt U.S. dominion. Such a blunder might help Pakistan's radicals seize power even as the U.S. battles terrorists in Afghanistan.
The aftermath of a Taliban terror bombing attack at the Pearl Continental hotel in Peshawar, Pakistan on June 10, 2009, which killed 11 people. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
Remember that Pakistan has been a nuclear state for nearly two decades. The gravest threat is that its arsenal of nuclear warheads, perhaps up to 100 of them, would fall into radical hands. The U.S. would instantly face many times the dangers posed by nuclear Iran or North Korea.
If American pressure were enough to compel Pakistan to act decisively against the terrorists within its borders, that would have happened long ago. What President Trump needs is a China component to his nascent South Asia policy, holding Beijing accountable for the misdeeds that helped create the current strategic dangers.
Of all the external actors, China bears primary responsibility for Pakistan's and North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. For its own strategic reasons, China gave both countries direct financial, scientific and technological assistance and then flew political cover at the United Nations and elsewhere. Empowering Islamabad was a hedge against India, China's biggest threat in South Asia. Helping Pyongyang was a play against the U.S. and its Asian allies. (And, increasingly, against the wider world, since North Korea appears to have sold its technology.)
In both cases China recklessly disregarded the risks of proliferation and breached its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. By comparison, Beijing's flagrant violations of its World Trade Organization commitments are trifles. China was hardly unaware that Pakistan has fostered and aided Islamic terrorists in Kashmir, threatening Indian control. Yet Beijing has done nothing to stop it, thus indirectly keeping Indo-Pakistani relations tense.
China has also made Pakistan a considerable beneficiary of the massive transportation infrastructure and other projects related to its "One Belt, One Road" initiative. Clearly Beijing intends to bind Islamabad ever more tightly into its modern-day "co-prosperity sphere."
It must, therefore, be core American policy to hold China to account, even belatedly. The U.S. can use its leverage to induce China to join the world in telling Pakistan it must sever ties with terrorists and close their sanctuaries. The Trump administration should make clear that Beijing will face consequences if it does not bring to bear its massive interests in support of this goal. Washington could also point out that this is in Beijing's own interest, lest the terrorists rise next among the Uighurs in China's Xinjiang province, what was once "East Turkestan."
Whether Beijing truly intends to be a "responsible stakeholder" in international affairs, as its U.S. advocates insist, should be put to the test—and not merely on monetary and trade issues. Fighting international terrorism and nuclear proliferation requires determination and action, not the kind of smiling repetition of bumper-sticker phrases that the People's Liberation Army and China's political leadership blithely ignore.
Starting now in Afghanistan and Pakistan, China should be told its bona fides as a state engaging in a "peaceful rise" are on the line. If real proof of that conceit does not emerge, Washington will be entitled to draw the appropriate conclusions.
John R. Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is Chairman of Gatestone Institute, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad".
**This article first appeared in The Wall Street Journal and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The Fake News Media of Sweden
Nima Gholam Ali Pour/Gatestone Institute/August 30/17
In most democratic countries, the media should be critical of those who hold power. In Sweden, however, the media criticize those who criticize the authorities. Criticism is not aimed at the people who hold power, but against private citizens who, according to the journalists, have the "wrong" ideas.
TV4 and all other media refused to report that it was Muslims who interrupted the prime minister because they wanted to force Islamic values on Swedish workplaces. When the Swedish media reported on the event, the public were not told that these "hijab activists" had links with Islamist organizations. Rather, it was reported as if they were completely unknown Muslim girls who only wanted to wear their veils.
The Swedish media are politicized to the extent that they act as a propaganda machine. Through their lies, they have created possibilities for "post-truth politics". Instead of being neutral, the mainstream Swedish media have lied to uphold certain "politically correct" values. One wonders what lifestyle and political stability Sweden will have when no one can know the truth about what is really going on.
In February 2017, after U.S. President Donald Trump's statements about events in Sweden, the journalist Tim Pool travelled to Sweden to report on their accuracy. What Tim Pool concluded is now available for everyone to watch on YouTube, but what is really interesting is how the Swedish public broadcasting media described him.
On Radio Sweden's website, one of the station's employees, Ann Törnkvist, wrote an op-ed in which Pool and the style of journalism he represents are described as "a threat to democracy".
Why is Pool "a threat to democracy" in Sweden? He reported negatively about an urban area in Stockholm, Rinkeby, where more than 90% of the population has a foreign background. When Pool visited Rinkeby, he had to be escorted out by police. Journalists are often threatened in Rinkeby. Before this incident, in an interview with Radio Sweden, Pool had described Rosengård, an area in the Swedish city of Malmö heavily populated by immigrants, as "nice, beautiful, safe". After Pool's negative but accurate report about Rinkeby, however, he began to be described as an unserious journalist by many in the Swedish media, and finally was labeled the "threat to democracy."
One might think that this was a one-time event in a country whose journalists were defensive. But the fact is that Swedish journalists are deeply politicized.
In most democratic countries, media are, or should be, critical of those who hold power. In Sweden, the media criticize those who criticizes those who hold power.
In March 2017, the public broadcasting company Sveriges Television revealed the name of a person who runs the Facebook page Rädda vården ("Save Healthcare"). The person turned out to be an assistant nurse, and was posting anonymously only because he had been critical of the hospital where he worked. Swedish hospitals are run by the local county councils, and thus when someone criticizes the healthcare system in Sweden, it is primarily politicians who are criticized. Sveriges Television explained on its website why it revealed the identity of the private individuals behind Facebook:
"These hidden powers of influence abandon and break the open public debate and free conversation. Who are they? What do they want and why? As their impact increases, the need to examine them also grows."
It is strange that Sveriges Television believes that an assistant nurse who wants to tell how politicians neglect public hospitals, is breaking "the open public debate and free conversation". This was not the only time that the mainstream Swedish media exposed private citizens who were criticizing those who hold power. In December 2013, one of Sweden's largest and most established newspapers, Expressen, announced that it intended to disclose the names of people who commented on various Swedish blogs:
"Expressen has partnered with Researchgruppen. The group has found a way, according to their own description, without any kind of unlawful intrusion, to associate the usernames that the anonymous commentators on the hate websites are using to the email addresses from which comments were sent. After that, the email addresses have been cross-checked with registries and authorities to identify the persons behind them."
The term "hate websites" (hatsajterna) is what that the mainstream media uses to describe some of the blogs that are critical of Islam or migration.
It is one thing to be critical of bloggers who you may consider have racist opinions. But exposing the people who have written in comments sections of various blogs in one of Sweden's biggest newspapers is strange and terrifying.
Researchgruppen has clear links to Antifascistisk Aktion (Antifascist Action), a group which, according to the Swedish government, consists of violent left-wing extremists. For their efforts to expose private individuals in the comments section, Researchgruppen received the Guldspaden, a prestigious journalistic award in Sweden.
Jim Olsson was one individual exposed in Expressen simply because he wrote something in a blog's comments section. A 67-year-old docent in physical chemistry, Olsson received a home-visit from Expressen with a camera and microphone present. A private citizen with no connection to any political party or organization, he exposed by Sweden's media because he had written the following in the comments section:
"The Swedish asylum system rewards swindlers with a permanent residence permit. There are, of course, swindlers flooding Sweden."
The Swedish newspaper Expressen accessed databases of website commenters, targeted critics of immigration, and confronted them at home. The above screenshot is taken from a video on the Expressen website, published under the headline "Jim Olsson writes on hate sites."
Another private individual, Patrik Gillsvik, with no political links, was exposed and fired from his job because, in a blog's comments section, he wrote:
"I would like to join the structural prejudices of the majority in society and state that gypsies are inventive and witty entrepreneurs who can enrich our culture -- yes, and then they steal like ravens, of course!"
Although the statement can be criticized for being unacceptably racist, what is unique is that the mainstream media in a Western democracy can expose private individuals because they wrote something in a blog's comments section. Criticism is not aimed at the people who hold power, but against private citizens who according to the journalists have the "wrong" ideas.
Moreover, each of these private citizens, who have had their lives ruined because they wrote something distasteful in a comments section, serves as a warning, so that others will not dare to make the mistake of posting something politically incorrect on a blog.
It is shocking that in a democracy, the media acts this way, but that is how Swedish -- and, increasingly, other Western media -- operate these days.
In addition to punishing private individuals who, according to the them, communicate "wrong" ideas, the media celebrate and support people who have the "right" ideas. On May 1, 2017, Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was interrupted by a number of hijab-wearing activists who were protesting a verdict of the Court of Justice of the European Union that employers are entitled to prohibit staff from wearing a hijab. Given that Sweden's prime minister cannot directly influence the Court, and that one should not interrupt the country's prime minister when he speaks, one would think that these "hijab activists" might be criticized in the media.
TV4, a national TV-channel and one of the first media outlets to report this incident, refused to say that those who interrupted the prime minister were wearing the Islamic veil. The title of TV4's clip was "Demonstrators Interrupted Löfven speech". The sub-headline read as follows: "Female protesters screamed out their anger against the prime minister and wondered where the feminist government was."
From the text, it is not clear that these activists demonstrated against the verdict of the Court of Justice of the European Union; that all activists wore a hijab, or that they screamed, "Stand up for Muslim women's rights!" However, information that these activists were wearing hijabs and protesting the verdict of the Court of Justice of the European Union was on their Facebook page and YouTube. Nevertheless, TV4 and all other media refused to report that those who interrupted the prime minister were Muslims who were interrupting the prime minister because they seemingly wanted to force Islamic values on the Swedish workplace.
The day after their protest, in an interview with Radio Sweden, these activists had the opportunity to explain why they protested -- but were not asked any critical questions. The next day, an Expressen columnist, Maria Rydhagen, compared one of the hijab-activists glowingly with one of the founders of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, Axel Danielsson. Rydhagen wrote the following about Jasmin Nur Ismail:
"Then, on Monday, the protest of the girls was perceived as only an incident. But imagine if it was the start of something big? Perhaps history was being written, there and then? Imagine if Jasmin Nur is the Axel Danielsson of 2017. Hero and rebel. In that case: Was it not a pity to remove her with the help of the police?"
As the media refused to write anything negative about the protest against the prime minister, this author began to investigate the matter. It took half an hour to find out several important things which were never mentioned by the Swedish mainstream media. Jasmin Nur Ismail had written about the incident on her Facebook page shortly after the protest. Who was behind the protest was not a secret.
The demonstration had been organized by the Hayat Women's Movement and a network called, "The Right to Our Bodies". The Hayat Women's Movement was founded by Aftab Soltani, who in March 2017 was one of the speakers at a much-criticized annual Islamic event in Sweden, Muslimska Familjedagarna (Muslim Family Days). The event was blamed by both the left and the right for inviting hate preachers, anti-Semites and Muslim radicals as speakers. Another speaker at this Islamic event in March 2017 was Jasmin Nur Ismail, a heroine of the Swedish media. Muslimska Familjedagarna was organized by the Islamist Ibn Rushd Educational Association, the Islamic Association of Sweden (Islamiska Förbundet i Sverige) and Sweden's Young Muslims (Sveriges Unga Muslimer).
Jasmin Nur Ismail, hailed as a heroine in Expressen, is a public figure. Southern Sweden's largest newspaper, Sydsvenskan, described her in an October 2016 article as an "activist, anti-racist and writer". According to Sydsvenskan, Jasmin Nur Ismail's political role-model is Malcolm X. During the Swedish Forum for Human Rights in 2016, Jasmin Nur Ismail was, in a panel discussion, the representative for Malmö's Young Muslims -- in turn, a subdivision of an Islamist organization, Sweden's Young Muslims.
Swedish newspapers did not write a single word that the person and organizations behind the protest against Sweden's prime minister had links with Islamist organizations. When the Swedish media reported about the event, the public were told that these hijab-activists were completely unknown Muslim girls who only wanted to wear their veils.
Mainstream Swedish media outlets simply do not report some things. When the largest mosque in Scandinavia was opened in Sweden's third largest city, Malmö, the news about this was first published in the Qatar News Agency and The Peninsula on May 3, 2017. The reason that Qatar's media wrote about it was because Qatar financed a large part of the mosque. On May 5, an article about this mosque was published in Breitbart. On May 6, one day after Breitbart reported the news and three days after the Qatari media reported the news, the Swedish terrorist expert Magnus Ranstorp sent a tweet about this mosque, but he linked it to the Qatari media. At this time, there are still no Swedish media outlets that have reported anything about the largest mosque in Scandinavia.
On May 8, the Swedish blog Jihad i Malmö wrote about the mosque and its Qatari financing. On May 9, the Swedish blog Pettersson gör skillnad wrote about the mosque. At the same time, the Norwegian author and activist Hege Storhaug, who is critical of Islam, wrote about the mosque and noted that the Swedish media had not yet written about it:
"I had expected that the Swedish media at the very least would mention the opening of Scandinavia's largest mosque with positive words. But no, not a word in Swedish mainstream media, as far as I have noticed. You have to go to the English version of Arabic media to get some limited information, like Qatar News Agency."
By the time I tweeted about it on May 10, the mainstream Swedish media still had not widely reported it. On May 15, I wrote an article on it for the news website Situation Malmö, run by the Sweden Democrats party branch in Malmö. With one hour's research, I managed, through what the mosque had published on Facebook, to discover that one of the leading Social Democrat politicians in Malmö, Frida Trollmyr, a municipal commissioner with responsibility for culture, recreation and health, had been at the mosque's opening. Representatives of the Qatari government also attended, but the mainstream Swedish media still had not reported anything about it.
On May 17, two weeks after the Qatari media had written about the opening of Scandinavia's largest mosque in Malmö, 12 days after Breitbart had written about the event, and two days after my article, the Sydsvenskan newspaper wrote about the mosque opening. You could not read the article, however, if you had not paid for "premium membership" to this newspaper.
One can see this omission as an unfortunate coincidence, but it is strange when Breitbart succeeds in communicating more information about Malmö than southern Sweden's largest newspaper, which is headquartered in Malmö. Why would the Swedish media not write about the mosque? It was certainly not a secret. There was no explanation from the Swedish media or anyone else. Yet, these same media outlets did not hesitate to expose the names of private citizens who wrote inappropriate opinions on a public comments page.
There are journalists in Sweden who change their views as soon as the government changes its opinion. Göran Greider, a journalist and editor, active in the public debate in Sweden for more than 30 years, wrote the following in August 2015, about migration policy:
"The European governments who say no to increasing the number of refugees received not only show a shameful lack of solidarity. They are also silent when they decline to rejuvenate their populations."
In November 2015, only three months later, when the Swedish government was forced to change its migration policy because of the migration crisis, Göran Greider wrote:
"But even the left, including many Social Democrats and members of the Green Party, have sometimes been characterized by an unwillingness to discuss the great challenges that receiving refugees, in the quantity we have seen lately, implies for a society. No one wants to be a nationalist. No one wants to be accused of running the errands of Sweden Democrats, or racism. But in this way, people on the left, who are so broadly for bringing in refugees, have often locked themselves out of a realistic discussion."
There is nothing wrong in reconsidering one's opinion. But it has become common for Swedish journalists frequently to have opinions that favor certain political parties -- often the Social Democrats, the Left Party and the Green Party. The issue is not even about values. People who work for the mainstream Swedish media are ready to reconsider their values so long as it helps certain parties to stay in power. This is far from what is presumably the media's main task in a democracy.
How is it that no newspaper is rebelling against this order? It would be a good business proposition; such a media outlet could gain financial benefits. Sweden's political establishment is, after all, not popular. Well, we can look at the example of someone who tried. In February 2017, a financier, Mats Qviberg, bought a free daily newspaper, Metro, usually distributed in subways and buses in Sweden. In May, he gave an interview to the newspaper Nyheter Idag, considered by the Swedish establishment to be "right-wing" or "populist". In his interview, Qviberg gave a slight playful hint that Metro might in some way cooperate with Nyheter Idag.
The consequence of the playful statement was that the Green Party in Stockholm County Council threatened that Stockholm County would stop handing out Metro in Stockholm's subways. A columnist stopped writing for the paper. Other media outlets started to wonder out loud if Metro were becoming a racist platform. Before the month of May was over, Qviberg had sold his shares in Metro. That politicians would punish a newspaper owner who had "wrong" views did not surprise anyone in Sweden; the situation was not worth mentioning. In Sweden, even owners of newspapers are supposed to follow the political order.
In June 2017, the leader of the Sweden Democrats (SD), Jimmie Åkesson, spoke in Järva, a district in Stockholm dominated by immigrants. The Sweden Democrats is a social-conservative party in the Swedish parliament; it supports, among other matters, a restrictive migration policy. While Åkesson was speaking, there were protests against him; and among the protesters were various placards. A photograph of Radio Sweden's van showed an anti-SD placard inside it. On it, one could read "Jimmie = Racist". The explanation from Radio Sweden was:
"Someone put a sign on Ekot's (a Radio Sweden news program) car in Järva on Sunday evening. It was taken down and put into the car and then thrown away on the way from there."
You can have a discussion about why Radio Sweden spends its time discarding placards that left-wing protesters use. Is that what journalist are supposed to do when they are covering a story? In the end, however, it does not matter. The people's confidence in the mainstream media in Sweden is being eroded as we write.
A new study from Institutet för Mediestudier shows that 54% agree, or partly agree, that the Swedish media are not telling the whole truth about problems in society linked to migration. Instead of the media accepting that they are biased and starting to change their ways, the media continue to attack citizens who appear critical.
In June 2017, the editorial writer of the daily Aftonbladet, Anders Lindberg, wrote an editorial titled, "Hitler Did Not Trust the Media Either," in which he equated the critics of the Swedish media with Nazis. Anders Lindberg, after working 10 years for the Social Democrats, resigned as the Communications Ombudsman for the Social Democrats in 2010, to start working as an editorial writer for Aftonbladet. He is so well-known for what his critics view as unusual versions of the truth that he has the privilege of writing for Sweden's largest newspaper. In 2015, he described the issue of organized begging, a visible problem in northern Europe, as "legends and folklore". Today there is no party that denies that organized begging is a real problem.
I often have difficulty explaining to many of my American friends and colleagues how the Swedish media work. Often, there may be clear examples of anti-Semitism and other unsavory behavior. The first question I always get is: Why is the media not writing about this? The answer is simple. The Swedish media are politicized to the extent that they act as a propaganda machine. It is not a propaganda machine in the traditional sense of the word, with an official Ministry of Propaganda. But in Sweden, many journalists and editors are either old established political party employees, as Anders Lindberg, or simply ideologically indoctrinated and therefore extremely biased. The Swedish propaganda machine punishes those who have the "wrong" opinions and celebrates those who have the "right" opinions.
What happened to Tim Pool was a part of how media works in Sweden. As long as he said the "right" things, the Swedish media gave a positive picture of him. When he started to have the "wrong" opinion, the propaganda machine started doing its work and Pool became "a threat to democracy".
There are, of course, more examples that show how sick the Swedish debate- and media-climate has become. In such a negative environment, there are many casualties. The first casualty is, obviously, the truth. When people start to understand that the mainstream media are lying, they turn to alternative media. Alternative media outlets, however, also usually have political agendas. A democracy cannot survive well only on biased media. A democracy desperately needs mainstream media outlets that inform its citizens and criticize people who hold power. That is something Sweden does not have today.
A large portion of the Swedish population are apparently aware of this and do not trust the media. Through its lies, the Swedish media have created possibilities for "post-truth politics" in Sweden. Instead of being a neutral party, the mainstream Swedish media have lied to uphold certain "politically correct" values. The result is an atmosphere where many people believe that everything that the media says has a political agenda. When the mainstream media in Sweden lie shamelessly, where can one go to find the truth? One wonders what lifestyle and political stability Sweden will have when no one can know the truth about what is really going on.
**Nima Gholam Ali Pour is a member of the board of education in the Swedish city of Malmö and is engaged in several Swedish think tanks concerned with the Middle East. He is also editor for the social conservative website Situation Malmö, and is the author of the Swedish book "Därför är mångkultur förtryck"("Why Multiculturalism is Oppression").
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Europe: Jihadists Exploit Welfare Benefits

Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/August 30/17
While taking money from Swiss taxpayers, Abu Ramadan, a well-known Salafist, called for the introduction of Sharia law in Switzerland and urged Muslims to avoid integrating into Swiss society. He also said that Muslims who commit crimes in Switzerland should not be subject to Swiss laws.
"This scandal is so huge that it is difficult to believe. Imams who preach hate towards Christians and Jews, and who criticize the depravity of the West, are granted asylum and are living comfortably as refugees on social welfare. All this with the complicity of cowardly and incompetent authorities who give carte blanche to the complacent and naive assistants of the asylum and social welfare system." — Adrian Amstutz, Swiss parliamentarian.
City officials in Lund remain undeterred: They have launched a pilot project aimed at providing Swedish jihadists who are returning from Syria with housing, employment, education and other financial support -- all thanks to the Swedish taxpayers.
A Libyan imam who called on Allah to "destroy" all non-Muslims received more than $600,000 in welfare payments from the Swiss government, according to the Swiss broadcaster SRF.
Abu Ramadan arrived in Switzerland in 1998 and was granted asylum in 2004 after claiming that the Libyan government was persecuting him for his affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. Since then, Ramadan has collected 600,000 Swiss Francs ($620,000) in social welfare payments, according to SRF.
Although Ramadan has lived in Switzerland for nearly 20 years, he can barely speak French or German, and has never held a steady job. Ramadan, 64, will soon be entitled to receive a Swiss state pension.
While taking money from Swiss taxpayers, Ramadan, a well-known Salafist, called for the introduction of Sharia law in Switzerland and urged Muslims to avoid integrating into Swiss society. He also said that Muslims who commit crimes in Switzerland should not be subject to Swiss laws. In a sermon Ramadan recently preached at a mosque near Bern, he said:
"Oh, Allah, I ask you to destroy the enemies of our religion, destroy the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the Russians and the Shiites. God, I ask you to destroy them all and to return to Islam its ancient glory."
Saïda Keller-Messahli, a Swiss-Tunisian human rights activist, said that Ramadan is dangerous because of his opposition to Muslim integration: "This is someone who does not call directly to jihad but creates the mental breeding ground for it."
Adrian Amstutz, a federal parliamentarian, blamed the situation on Swiss multiculturalism:
"This scandal is so huge that it is difficult to believe. Imams who preach hate towards Christians and Jews, and who criticize the depravity of the West, are granted asylum and are living comfortably as refugees on social welfare. All this with the complicity of cowardly and incompetent authorities who give carte blanche to the complacent and naive assistants of the asylum and social welfare system."
Beat Feurer, a municipal counselor in Biel, the Swiss town where Ramadan has lived for 20 years, called on Swiss authorities to open an investigation: "Personally, I am of the opinion that such people have nothing to do here. They should be expelled."
The Ramadan scandal is being repeated in countries across Europe, where potentially thousands of violent and non-violent jihadists are using welfare payments to finance their activities. A guide for jihadists in the West — "How to Survive in the West" — issued by the Islamic State in 2015 advised: "If you can claim extra benefits from a government, then do so."
In Austria, more than a dozen jihadists collected welfare payments to finance their trips to Syria. Among those detained was Mirsad Omerovic, 32, an extremist Islamic preacher who police say raised several hundred thousand euros for the war in Syria. Omerovic, a father of six who lives exclusively off the Austrian welfare state, benefited from additional payments for paternity leave.
In Belgium, several of the jihadists in the Brussels and Paris attacks that killed 162 people in 2015 and 2016 received more than €50,000 ($59,000) in social welfare benefits, which they used to finance their terror plots. Fred Cauderlier, a spokesman for the Belgian prime minister, defended the payments: "This is a democracy. We have no tools to check how people spend their benefits."
In Flemish Brabant and Brussels alone, dozens of jihadists who fought in Syria received at least €123,898 ($150,000) in unlawful benefits, according to the Justice Ministry.
Previously, the Flemish newspaper De Standaard reported that 29 jihadists from Antwerp and Vilvoorde continued to receive €1,000 ($1,200) per month in social welfare benefits even after they had traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State. Antwerp Mayor Bart de Wever said: "It would be unjust for these people to benefit from social programs and use, for example, their unemployment payments to finance their fight in Syria."
In February 2017, the RVA National Employment Agency revealed that 16 jihadists who had returned to Belgium after fighting in Syria were receiving unemployment benefits. RVA spokesperson Wouter Langeraert said:
"We live in a constitutional state. Not every returned Syrian warrior is in prison. Some meet all legal conditions: they are not in prison, they have re-registered in their municipality and they are job seekers and so on."
In Britain, taxpayers bankrolled Khuram Butt, the ringleader of the London Bridge and Borough Market terror attack in which eight people were murdered and 48 others injured.
Salman Abedi, the Manchester suicide bomber, used taxpayer-funded student loans and benefits to bankroll his terror plot. Abedi was given at least £7,000 ($7,000) from the taxpayer-funded Student Loans Company after beginning a business administration degree at Salford University in October 2015. He is believed to have received a further £7,000 in the 2016 academic year even though by then he had already dropped out of the course. Abedi is also thought to have received housing benefit and income support worth up to £250 a week.
David Videcette, a former Metropolitan police detective who worked on the 7/7 London bombing investigation, said of the student loans' system:
"It is an easy way for a terrorist to move forward and finance their activities at the expense of the taxpayer. All you have got to do is get yourself into university and then off you go. Often they have got no intention of turning up."
Professor Anthony Glees, director of Buckingham University's Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies, said: "The British system makes funds readily available to jihadist students without checks on them. There needs to be an inquiry into this."
Meanwhile, Shahan Choudhury, a 30-year-old Bangladeshi-origin jihadist who was radicalized in a British prison, used government welfare money to pay for taking his entire immediate family, including three young children, to join the Islamic State in Syria. The family disappeared overnight, leaving all of their possessions in their East London apartment, according to their landlady.
In 2015, it emerged that three sisters from Bradford who had travelled to Syria were still claiming benefits. Khadija, 30, Zohra, 33, and 34-year-old Sugra Dawood who travelled to Syria with their nine children used Income Support and Child Tax Credits to finance their trip.
More recently, a freedom of information request revealed that Anjem Choudary, an Islamist who is serving a five-and-a-half year sentence for urging support of the Islamic State, received more than £140,000 ($180,000) in taxpayer-funded legal aid for his unsuccessful bid to avoid prison. The figure is set to rise as his lawyers continue to file claims. The father-of-five has claimed up to £500,000 ($640,000) in benefits, which he has referred to as "Jihad seeker's allowance."
Choudary believes that Muslims are entitled to welfare payments because they are a form of jizya, a tax imposed on non-Muslims as a reminder that they are permanently inferior and subservient to Muslims.
Anjem Choudary, a British Islamist who is serving a prison sentence for urging support of the Islamic State, believes that Muslims are entitled to welfare payments because they are a form of jizya, a tax imposed on non-Muslims as a reminder that they are permanently inferior and subservient to Muslims. He received up to £500,000 ($640,000) in benefits, which he has referred to as "Jihad seeker's allowance." (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
British media reported that before his incarceration Choudary was taking home more than £25,000 ($32,000) a year in welfare benefits. Among other handouts, Choudary was receiving £15,600 a year in housing benefit to keep him in a £320,000 house in Leytonstone, East London. He also received £1,820 council tax allowance, £5,200 income support and £3,120 child benefits. Because welfare payments are not taxed, his income was equivalent to a £32,500 ($42,000) salary. By comparison, the average annual earnings of full-time workers in Britain was £28,200 ($36,500) in 2016.
More examples of welfare abuse by jihadists in Britain can be found here.
In Denmark, the Security and Intelligence Service (PET) reported that jihadists too sick to work but healthy enough to fight for the Islamic State were receiving disability, sickness and early retirement benefits from the Danish state.
Previously, a document produced by the Employment Ministry revealed that that more than 30 Danish jihadists continued to receive welfare payments, amounting to 672,000 Danish Krone ($92,000), even after they had joined the Islamic State in Syria.
Employment Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said:
"It is totally unacceptable and a disgrace. It must be stopped. If you travel to Syria to participate in jihad, to become an ISIS warrior, then you of course should not have any right to receive benefits from the Danish government."
In France, the government has cut welfare benefits for around 300 individuals identified as jihadists. France is the largest exporter of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria, with more than 900 jihadists travelling abroad.
In Germany, Anis Amri, a 23-year-old Tunisian who carried out the deadly attack on the Christmas market in Berlin, used multiple identities to illegally collect welfare payments. German authorities apparently knew of the fraud but failed to act.
Meanwhile, a jihadist residing in Wolfsburg who took his wife and two small children to Syria continued to receive German welfare payments, amounting to tens of thousands of euros, for one year after leaving Germany. Local authorities said that German privacy laws made it impossible for them to know that the family had left the country.
Overall, more than 20% of the German jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq were found to be receiving state welfare benefits; jihadists are also eligible to begin receiving benefits again after they return to Germany. Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said:
"It should never come to this. German taxpayers' money should never directly or indirectly finance Islamist terrorism. The benefits of such terrorist parasites should be eliminated immediately. Not working and spreading terror at the expense of the German state is not only extremely dangerous, it is also the worst provocation and disgrace."
In the Netherlands, the government stopped welfare payments to dozens of jihadists a Dutch fighter named Khalid Abdurahman appeared in a YouTube video with five severed heads. Originally from Iraq, Abdurahman was living on social welfare benefits in the Netherlands for more than a decade before he joined the Islamic State in Syria. Dutch social services declared him to be unfit for work and taxpayers paid for the medication to treat him for claustrophobia and schizophrenia.
The law to terminate welfare payments to jihadists does not extend to student loans: Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher said that such a ban would be counterproductive because it would make it more difficult for returning jihadists to reintegrate.
In Spain, Saib Lachhab, a 41-year-old Moroccan jihadist residing in the Basque city of Vitoria, accumulated €9,000 ($11,000) in welfare payments to finance his plan to join the Islamic State in Syria. Each month he received €625 ($750) from the central government and €250 ($300) from the Basque government. He also received €900 ($1,075) a month in unemployment benefits.
Samir Mahdjoub, a 44-year-old Algerian jihadist residing in the Basque city of Bilbao, received €650 ($780) each month in welfare support and €250 ($300) in housing support. Redouan Bensbih, a 26-year-old Moroccan jihadist residing in the Basque town of Barakaldo, received welfare payments of €836 ($1,000) a month even after he was killed on a Syrian battlefield. Police eventually arrested five Muslims in the Basque Country who intercepted the payments and wired them to Morocco. Basque authorities said the payments continued because they were not notified of his death.
Ahmed Bourguerba, a 31-year-old Algerian jihadist residing in Bilbao, received €625 ($750) a month in welfare payments and €250 ($300) in housing support until he was incarcerated for terrorism offenses. Mehdi Kacem, a 26-year-old Moroccan jihadist residing in the Basque city of San Sebastian, received €800 ($950) a month in welfare payments until he was arrested for belonging to the Islamic State.
Previously, a Pakistani couple residing in Vitoria were accused of falsifying identity documents to obtain social welfare payments fraudulently for ten fictitious individuals. Police said that the couple defrauded the Basque government of more than €395,000 ($475,000) over a period of three years.
In Sweden, a report produced by the National Defence University found that 300 Swedish citizens continued to receive welfare payments even after they had left the country to fight for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. In most instances, the jihadists used friends and family members to manage the paperwork to create the illusion that they were still in Sweden.
Muslim convert Michael Skråmo, for example, received more than 50,000 Swedish kronor ($5,000) in welfare payments after he moved to Syria with his wife and four children. It was not until a year after Skråmo had left Gothenburg that his benefits were terminated.
Magnus Ranstorp, one of the report's authors, said that the payments exposed the weakness in Sweden's control mechanisms:
"Michael Skråmo has been one of the most well-known IS sympathizers for quite some time. Police should be able to somehow sound the alarm and inform all the authorities when someone has journeyed down there."
Meanwhile, the state employment agency, Arbetsförmedlingen, ended a pilot project aimed at helping migrants find jobs after it emerged that Muslim employees at the agency were recruiting Swedish jihadists. Islamic State operatives allegedly bribed — and in some instances threatened — agency employees in efforts to recruit fighters from Sweden.
City officials in Lund remain undeterred: They have launched a pilot project aimed at providing Swedish jihadists who are returning from Syria with housing, employment, education and other financial support — all thanks to the Swedish taxpayers.
**Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
Follow Soeren Kern on Twitter and Facebook
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Does Astana format still have the same importance for Russia?
Alexey Khlebnikov/Al Arabiya/August 30/17
Sixth round of Astana Syria talks initially planned for the last week of August is now postponed for the mid-September. The recent negotiations in Kazakhstan’s capital which took place on July 4-5 did not produce any result as parties still had some technical differences with regard to the practical implementation of the de-escalation zones plan.
Russia, Turkey and Iran, which are the three sponsors of the format, did not sign a single agreement defining the practical parameters of the four de-escalation zones that were proposed in May. However, reports about Russia, Turkey and Iran constantly discussing de-escalation zones could be found easily.
Surprisingly, right after the fifth round of negotiations in Astana the United States and Russia brokered the new ceasefire deal on July 7, establishing a de-escalation zone in southwest Syria which included areas of Quneitra, Suweida and Deraa.
The deal was signed in the framework of Amman format by Jordan, Russia and the United States and came as a result of months-long preliminary talks between the parties. It was announced July 9 after presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin met in Germany on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. This naturally puts necessity and effectiveness of Astana format into question.
Interestingly, that agreements on functioning the other two de-escalation zones in eastern Ghouta and northern Homs were also struck outside of the Astana format – in Cairo by the end of July. During the recent visit of Egyptian foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri to Moscow, Lavrov praised Cairo’s constructive role in establishing de-escalation zones in eastern Ghouta and Homs in Syria.
Egypt hosted several rounds of talks between representatives of Russia’s defense ministry and different Syrian opposition groups which resulted in establishing two more de-escalation zones.
Moreover, Jaysh al-Islam and Faylaq ar-Rahman, two major Islamist opposition groups operating in eastern Ghouta, also signed agreements with Russia’s defense ministry joining the ceasefire and de-escalation regime outside Astana format. It happened on July 22 and August 18 in Cairo and Geneva respectively. Thus, Astana format was sidelined again.
One of the key questions about all these above-mentioned agreements signed outside of the Astana format is whether they are holding effectively. So far, they all are holding pretty well.
Regardless of every good thing Astana format has produced, postponing the next round of talks is just another confirmation that the parties still did not reach a consensus
Lines of contact
The southwestern de-escalation zone agreed by Russia, the United States and Jordan, is holding effectively. On July 21-22 Russia deployed its military policy units along the approved lines of contact (Jordan, US, Israel were informed in advance) near the southwestern de-escalation zone.
Moreover, on Aug. 23 Russia announced the launch of joint Russia-US-Jordan monitoring center in Jordan’s capital Amman. The center’s main objectives are to monitor the ceasefire regime in the southeastern de-escalation zone, secure humanitarian access and provide medical and other assistance to the population.
The other two de-escalation zones also seem functioning successfully. On July 24, Russia deployed its military police units to east Ghouta zone and on August 4 to northern Homs zone to monitor the ceasefire regime and ensure access of humanitarian and medical aid to the devastated areas.
That were also negotiated during talks in Cairo. According to the Russian defense ministry 14 humanitarian convoys of the UN and International Committee of Red Cross have entered de-escalation zones including 10 convoys in August.
As a result, Russia comes out as the sole force so far that monitors three existing de-escalation zones in Syria (not counting joint monitoring center in Amman). Iran with its significant number of forces on the ground and rising influence in the country seems to be effectively sidelined by Russia in order to appease the US, Jordan and Israel.
Growing Iranian influence
The southwest de-escalation zone deal with the US and Jordan took into account Jordanian and Israeli concerns about growing Iranian influence in Syria, especially in its south as both countries share border with it.
Most likely Moscow made Iran to pull out its forces deployed close to the southwest de-escalation zone and Russian military police posts along the zone’s border keep Iranian forces in check, thus, making Jordanians and Israelis satisfied. It is logical to assume that Moscow made some trade off with Iran.
But it seems that Moscow decided to go further with its own approach of excluding Iran and Turkey from the talks on functioning of de-escalation zones which holds certain risks for Russia.
If Moscow had offered Iran a stake in other two central de-escalation zones in eastern Ghouta and Homs after it ignored its interests in southwest Syria, that would have been a fair trade. But eventually, Russia did not do that, instead getting control over the central de-escalation zones (east Ghouta and Homs) where Iranian forces intended to gain momentum.
As a result, the last de-escalation zone in Idlib province has left. But that area is already under Turkey’s interest. Thus, such situation ultimately makes it way more difficult for Moscow, Ankara and Tehran to compromise, especially given that Syria’s north has other forces – Syrian Kurds and the US. In addition, it can also push Iran closer to Turkey threatening Russia’s interests in Syria.
On Aug. 16, Iran’s armed forces chief visited Turkey for the first time since 1979 to discuss with Erdogan and his defense minister ways of boosting bilateral defense ties, and reconciling the two countries’ policy differences in Syria and Iraq.
They also discussed Russia-sponsored de-escalation zones mechanism. Ankara and Tehran have no agreement on the checkpoints to be established inside Syria to ease the access of humanitarian aid and the return of Syrians to their lands. It sends Russia a signal – Turkey and Iran might unite to oppose Russia if it is needed.
Legitimized status
As a result, it complicates functioning of the Astana format and makes its guarantors to postpone the next round. This format remains to be important for all three actors as it legitimized their status of the most important actors in Syria, allowed them to create conceptual framework for the ceasefire and de-escalation zones, and demonstrated their effective approach internationally.
The only drawback appeared when subsequent talks on de-escalation zones details were conducted outside of the format. This is why if Russia, Turkey and Iran fail to compromise on the fourth de-escalation zone in Idlib and demonstrate workability of Astana format it might soon cease to exist, paving the road for alternatives in Amman and Cairo.
All recent reports coming from the Russia’s foreign ministry and its partners say that Russia, Turkey and Iran are currently working on setting up the final de-escalation zone in Syrian Idlib province. But regardless of every good thing Astana format has already produced, postponing the next round of talks is just another confirmation that the parties still did not reach a consensus and have nothing to come with. In the end, it adds nothing to the Astana format effectiveness.
Therefore, the main challenge which Russia, Turkey and Iran need to address over the next three weeks is whether they are ready to compromise and prove Astana format to be successful.