July 13/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 16/01-04/:"The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Jesus they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, ‘When it is evening, you say, "It will be fair weather, for the sky is red."And in the morning, "It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening." You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.’ Then he left them and went away."

I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet
Acts of the Apostles 13/13-25/:"Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem; but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, ‘Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, give it.’ So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak: ‘You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance for about four hundred and fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, "I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes."Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Saviour, Jesus, as he promised; before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his work, he said, "What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 12-13/17
Russians enter Daraa, Syrians/Hizballah move out/DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 12, 2017
Water pollution in Lebanon reaching dangerous levels/Florence Massena/Al Monitor/July 12/17
Will Tillerson Side with Qatar/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/July 12/17
After liberation of Mosul, time to rebuild and regroup/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/July 12/17
Benefits of boycott go beyond Qatar/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/July 12/17
ISIS Is Not Dead Yet/ANTONY J. BLINKEN/The New York Times/July 12/17
UNESCO Supports Terrorism/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/July 12/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 12-13/17
Russians enter Daraa, Syrians/Hizballah move out
Cabinet renews full support for Army: Investigations underway to reveal circumstances of detainees' death
Cabinet approves wind energy, Hariri reiterates support for army
Govt. Postpones Appointments Mechanism Debate, OKs Wind Power Generation
Franjieh Laments State of Affairs under Aoun, Hits Out at FPM
Franjieh: Electoral Law will introduce some Change in Lebanon
Hariri Discusses with ِABL Delegation US Visit, Sanctions on Hizbullah
Ministerial Panel Agrees to Prepare Paper on Refugee Crisis
Berri: Wage Scale to Top Agenda of Legislative Session
300 Displaced Syrians Return Home from Arsal
Othman, interlocutors tackle overall situation
Riachy at Arab Information Ministers' meeting: Lebanon overwhelmed by crises
Army Commander attends military maneuver in Aqoura outskirts
Aoun: Reform will be Achieved, No Return to the Past
Water pollution in Lebanon reaching dangerous levels

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 12-13/17
Canada congratulates Iraqi forces on liberation of Mosul, Iraq
Saudi King Salman Receives Tillerson in Jeddah
Cairo Calls for Expelling Qatar from Coalition to Combat ISIS
U.S. Troops inside Raqa, IS Syria Stronghold
Russia Says South Syria Ceasefire 'Globally Respected'
Arab States Say Qatar-US Terror Accord 'Insufficient'
US-Led Coalition: Amnesty Report on Mosul 'Irresponsible'
Russian Soldier Killed in Central Syria
Conflicting Reports Emerge over ISIS Chief’s Death
Doha Under International Monitoring to Stop Terrorism Financing
Legal Team from 9 Arab States to Address Provocative Media Channels
Iran and Oman to Strengthen Ties Amid Gulf Crisis
11 Migrant Workers Die in Saudi House Fire
2 Palestinians Shot Dead by Israeli Army in Jenin Clashes
Abbas: ‘We will Cooperate with Trump for Success of Peace Talks’
11 Killed in Fire in Saudi’s Najran
Libya: Sarraj Forces Claim Tripoli Victory, Oust Ghwell Loyalists
Trump Defends Son, Decries Political 'Witch Hunt'
Trump to travel to Paris to discuss Syria and terrorism
Turkey’s Erdogan says lifting emergency rule currently out of question
Turkish police kill five and seize Kalashnikovs in raid on ISIS cell

Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 12-13/17
Russians enter Daraa, Syrians/Hizballah move outالروس يدخلون درعا والجيش السوري وحزب الله يخرجان منها
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 12, 2017
Russian troops stepped into southern Syria for the first time Wednesday, July 13, when they entered the embattled town of Daraa to start enforcing the partial ceasefire agreed by Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Hamburg on July 7. debkafile’s military sources report this exclusively.
The Russians, including military police and Chechen paratroopers, were sighted getting out of the vehicles of their convoy and taking up positions in the center of Daraa. As they moved into the town, our sources report that tank units of the pro-regime Syrian army’s 5th Armored Division were seen driving out, along with Hizballah.
Their withdrawal cut short the Syrian military’s Operation Big Dawn against the Syrian rebels in Daraa, which breached the ceasefire Monday, July 11 - less then 24 hours after it went into force.
The Russian deployment in a southern Syrian border town Wednesday was the first step in their posting along Syria’s Israeli and Jordanian borders, as agreed between Washington and Moscow. President Trump had assented to this arrangement to bolster the first stage of the Syrian ceasefire going into effect in the de-confliction zone of the southwest.
Jordan also assented, in the interests of de-escalating tensions on its border with Syria.
The Russian troops and Chechens in Russian military police uniforms were armed only with light weapons. On July 5, Putin’s special envoy for Syrian affairs, Alexander Levrentiev, said that the Russian troops deployed in Syrian ceasefire zones would be lightly armed for self-defense. Most would consist of Russian military police. This description was intended to cover the presence of Chechen paratroops, who were seconded to the Russian police force for this mission.
Israel has so far objected to any Russian military presence along its borders with Syria, even in the capacity of ceasefire monitors, preferring Americans to police the truce in the Qunetra region. If that proved unfeasible, then Israel would leave the Syrian rebels controlling this area in place.
But our sources predict that, after the arrival of Russian troops in Daraa to preserve the ceasefire, both Washington and Moscow will lean hard on Jerusalem to accept Russian troops at Quneitra too, that is, opposite the Golan.

Cabinet renews full support for Army: Investigations underway to reveal circumstances of detainees' death
Wed 12 Jul 2017/ NNA - Minister of Social Affairs, Pierre Bou Assi, said during his reading of the decisions of the Cabinet session held this Wednesday at the Grand Serail that "Prime Minister Saad Hariri started the session by stressing that the Army is carrying out its duties by fighting terrorism and maintaining the security of citizens and the country's stability." "We reiterate our full support for the Army in the tasks it carries out. Transparent investigations are underway by the Army to uncover the details behind the death of some of its detainees," Bou Assi quoted Hariri as saying. He pointed to an inclination to hold specialized sessions to discuss the economic and living situations. "Efforts are needed to reduce the deficit by cutting costs and securing new imports."Bou Assi noted that "the cabinet discussed the agenda and approved most of its 60 items, specifically the item on renewable energy." "The cabinet discussed the appointments mechanism and each minister expressed his views thereon. There were differences of views, but this is normal. But ministers commonly agreed that they all wanted the appointments mechanism to be proper and quick, and they are all keen on the work of State institutions," he said, stressing the need to fill the vacant posts in the most appropriate and fastest way.

Cabinet approves wind energy, Hariri reiterates support for army
Wed 12 Jul 2017/NNA - The Council of Ministers held its weekly meeting on Wednesday at the Grand Serail and discussed an agenda of 60 items. After the meeting, Acting Minister of Information, Minister of Social Affairs, Pierre Abou Assi, read the following official decisions:
"The Council of Ministers held its weekly meeting, chaired by the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri, who spoke about the importance of fully supporting the Lebanese Army. He said: "The Lebanese army accomplishes its mission of fighting terrorism and preserving the security of the citizens and stability in all regions. We reiterate our full support to the army in fighting terrorism and all the missions it is carrying. A transparent investigation is being carried out by the army to uncover the circumstances of the death of some persons it detained."
Prime Minister Hariri then spoke about the issue of coordination between the ministries saying: "It is necessary to focus on completing work in all ministries and speeding up the formalities of the citizens."
He added that any achievement in a ministry is an achievement for the government as a whole, pointing out that specialized ministerial meetings might be held to discuss the socio economic situation.
He said: "What is required is to work on the reduction of the deficit, by reducing expenditures and securing new revenues, which will positively reflect on the general economic situation."
After that, the council discussed the agenda and approved most of its 60 articles, particularly the item about renewable energy.
The council also discussed the mechanism for administrative appointments and all ministers gave their points of view on the issue. Discussion on the subject was postponed for further consultations.
Question: Was there any disagreement on the appointments mechanism?
Abou Assi: "There were differences in views and this is normal in any democracy. Each minister expressed his assessment of the situation. But all ministers want the appointments mechanism to work in a sound and fast way because the vacancies in the state administrations increased and we are keen on the work of these institutions and on filling the vacancies in the best and promptest way."
Question: Did you discuss the issue of a dialogue with the Syrian government about the displaced?
Abou Assi: The issue was not raised in this session.
Question: Can the mechanism be modified by reducing the deadlines?
Abou Assi: The Council of Ministers has the ability to make political decisions and has a broad political margin. It is the executive authority in the country and therefore all things are on the table and anything agreed on is respected by the council.
Question: Who is the group that opposed the mechanism?
Abou Assi: I cannot announce the deliberations that took place in the session, but I can say that all views were positive and aimed at filling the vacancies in the best way because there are many vacancies in the state institutions.
Question: Is the government going to get back the salary scale file from parliament to review it?
Abou Assi: The issue was not discussed during the meeting.
Question: Were there any differences of opinion?
Abou Assi: There were different views. The discussions were long because all issues were discussed seriously and openly. We listened to each other and the final decision on the issue was postponed till next week to reach the most suitable solution for the citizens.
Question: What is the importance of the renewable energy?
Abou Assi: I prefer that the Minister of Energy talks about the technical and practical sides of this issue, but in general the cabinet's decision, like all countries of the world, is to depend on renewable energy and not on classical energy alone, like on gas and fuel. Today, the item about wind energy was approved, and others were approved in principal, like solar power.
Question: Did you discuss the diplomatic appointments?
Abou Assi: We did not discuss the issue and I think that diplomats are not included in this mechanism.
Regarding economic attaches, Abou Assi said: "This is another issue that will be submitted to the legislative and consultations committee and a decision will be taken according to view of the committee."

Govt. Postpones Appointments Mechanism Debate, OKs Wind Power Generation
Naharnet/July 12/17/The government on Wednesday avoided a possible dispute over the mechanism of appointing civil servants by postponing the debate to another session as it approved an item on wind power generation. Prime Minister Saad Hariri chaired the meeting at the Grand Serail. “The item on the mechanism of administrative and diplomatic appointments was postponed,” Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil of AMAL Movement said after the session. “We insist on the appointments mechanism that is in place although it needs more restraints,” he added. Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh meanwhile announced that the Cabinet session witnessed “unanimity” on the need to keep the mechanism, while noting that it needs “fine-tuning and acceleration.”Before the session began, Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan said: “We will adhere to the current mechanism of appointments because it eventually leads to fair results and better potentialities.”For his part, State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Qanso, also emphasized the need to maintain the current mechanism for appointments, saying "it ensures efficiency in the public sector.”State Minister for Women's Affairs Jean Oghassabian said: “The mechanism is an integrated draft bill that has been in Parliament since 2005.”The government is set to name a judge as governor of Mount Lebanon, a director-general of the Economic Council, a new director-general of the state-run television Tele Liban, members of the National Media Council, a new director of the National News Agency (NNA), in addition to a number of heads and members of boards of directors in government hospitals, reports said. Media reports have recently circulated that political parties are divided over the appointment mechanism, with one camp adhering to the current mechanism and considering it the “ideal way for recruitment that opens the door to the appointment of competent public employees,” while another camp is seeking to replace the mechanism “on the basis that each party appoints candidates belonging to their own sect and affiliation regardless of competency.”

Franjieh Laments State of Affairs under Aoun, Hits Out at FPM
Naharnet/July 12/17/Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh on Wednesday noted that President Michel Aoun is a “good person” while lamenting that “nothing has changed during his tenure.”“I was hoping the situations would be better during this 'Christian tenure', but until the moment, what differentiates this tenure from the previous one?” Franjieh asked during a meeting with a delegation from the Syndicate of Press Editors. “We are represented in the government and present in it, but I don't believe that the situations are at the level of the aspirations of the Lebanese,” the northern leader added. He lamented that a lot of files “lack transparency,” citing the latest call for tenders for leasing power generation ships and the mechanism that was followed. “In everything that is happening, I only exclude President Aoun, who has nothing to do with anything lacking transparency, but I do not exclude anyone else,” Franjieh added.
“President Aoun should have made a bold economic move to change the old mentality,” the Marada chief went on to say. He also lashed out at Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, saying “the FPM's deeds contradict with its slogans.”“A modest rhetoric is always needed,” Franjieh added. Ties between Aoun and Franjieh were especially strained after Prime Minister Saad Hariri nominated Franjieh for the presidency before eventually switching his endorsement to Aoun.

Franjieh: Electoral Law will introduce some Change in Lebanon
Wed 12 Jul 2017/NNA - Marada Movement leader, MP Sleiman Franjieh, said on Wednesday that the new electoral law will introduce some change in the country. MP Franjieh's words came during his meeting with the Council of the Lebanese Press Editors' Syndicate, at the Movement's headquarters, in the presence of former Minister Roni Areiji. MP Franjieh called for the adoption of modern laws that re-energize the economic cycle and pave the way for investment flows, saying he hoped that a bold step at the economic level would have been adopted, in the aim of introducing change in the existing mindset and leading to increased national income. Franjieh voiced rejection of the amendment of the Taef agreement, stressing that any modification of the Constitution must solely occur through agreement amongst the Lebanese. The Marada Movement leader also said that he approached matters out of a national and open perspective, refusing to take on with confessional outbidding. The Lawmaker also called for an end to the existing security chaos, urging the Lebanese to unite on the issue of Syrian refugees and to act responsibly in this regard. Asked about his relation with Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, he described the relation as "excellent, great and steady." Whether he will be meeting with the Lebanese Forces leader, Samir Geagea, he said "nothing so far in the horizons."

Hariri Discusses with ِABL Delegation US Visit, Sanctions on Hizbullah
Naharnet/July 12/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri received a delegation from the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) where talks touched on several issues including the US sanctions on Hizbullah, Hariri's media office said. The delegation was headed by Joseph Torbey who said after the meeting: “We discussed several issues with Prime Minister Hariri, including his upcoming visit to the United States. "We also briefed him on the latest information we have regarding the subject of the sanctions discussed by the US congress.” “We informed him that during our previous visits to Washington we created a positive atmosphere regarding the protection of the banking sector. Thus, his visit will be very important because he represents the state and is accompanied by an official delegation. In this regard, the State can give and take commitments and we place high hopes on the success on this visit,” added Torbey.
Lebanon's new state budget was also discussed, and the delegation asserted the need “to exert pressure so the budget deficit does not increase, as it reached levels that must be treated with caution.”“The Prime minister carries this file and we are all in one boat and must cooperate to reach the suitable solutions because the future of the Lebanese economy depends on the sound management of public finance, particularly controlling expenditures and improving revenues,” Torbey told the PM. Amid renewed congressional efforts to tighten sanctions on Hizbullah, delegations of Lebanese politicians and bankers traveled to Washington in May in an attempt to minimize the impact of any new sanctions on the Lebanese banking sector. A draft amendment known as the Hizbullah International Financing Prevention Amendment Act of 2017, which has not yet been formally proposed in the US Congress, would tighten financial regulations on Lebanese banks and extend scrutiny to Hizbullah allies in order to screen for any illicit funding to groups linked to Hizbullah, which the United States, Israel, the Arab League, and others have designated as a terrorist organization.

Ministerial Panel Agrees to Prepare Paper on Refugee Crisis
Naharnet/July 12/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri presided Wednesday afternoon over a meeting for the ministerial panel tasked with addressing the Syrian refugee crisis and the conferees agreed to prepare a work paper in this regard, the PM's office said. “The meeting involved discussions on how to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon from all aspects,” the office added in a statement. The conferees also tackled “the aid that is being offered by the U.N. to Lebanon and means to enforce the law regarding illegal Syrian labor.”The meeting comes amid controversy in the country over calls for “returning Syrian refugees to their country.”While Hizbullah, the Free Patriotic Movement and their allies are in favor of such a move, al-Mustaqbal Movement and the Lebanese Forces have rejected any communication with Damascus in this regard, insisting that such an issue should go through the United Nations.

Berri: Wage Scale to Top Agenda of Legislative Session
Naharnet/July 12/17/Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday announced that the long-awaited new wage scale will be at the top of the agenda of the upcoming legislative session. “The new wage scale is a legitimate right for its beneficiaries and it cannot be disregarded,” Berri told MPs during the weekly Ain el-Tineh meeting. “As it has become known, the wage scale will top the agenda of the upcoming session, and we will continue the debate from where it stopped in the previous session,” the speaker added. The Syndical Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, has been pushing for the approval of the new wage scale for several years now and has organized numerous street protests and strikes to this end.

300 Displaced Syrians Return Home from Arsal
Naharnet/July 12/17/Several hundred displaced Syrians in Lebanon have returned home on Wednesday to the Syrian town of Asal al-Ward, the National News Agency said. Around 300 refuges, the second batch since beginning of 2017, left the al-Nour encampment in the northeastern border town of Arsal to Syria's Asal al-Ward, which lies in the western part of Syria's Qalamoun, NNA said. They were accompanied by tight security measures, it said. LBCI said a group of media reporters headed from the Baalbek area towards to the outskirts of Yunin to cover the event. Humanitarian agencies have recorded a notable trend of spontaneous returns to and within Syria in 2017, with more than 440,000 internally displaced people going back to their homes in the first six months of this year, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said. In total, 260,000 refugees have gone back to Syria from neighboring countries since 2015. Lebanon hosts more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees, who amount to more than a quarter of the country's population not to mention undocumented individuals, many of whom live in informal tented settlements. The Syria refugee influx into Lebanon has strained the country's infrastructure, and has also sparked accusations that refugee camps are harboring militants from the war. The World Bank says the Syrian crisis has pushed an estimated 200,000 Lebanese into poverty, adding to the nation's one million poor.

Othman, interlocutors tackle overall situation
Wed 12 Jul 2017 /NNA - Internal Security Forces (ISF) chief Imad Othman met on Wednesday at his Barracks office with MP Alan Aoun, with talks between the apir reportedly touching on the general situation in the country. Major General Othman also met with UAE Ambassador to Lebanon, Hamad Saeed Al-Shamsi, whereby they discussed the general security situation in the country.

Riachy at Arab Information Ministers' meeting: Lebanon overwhelmed by crises
Wed 12 Jul 2017/NNA - Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, said on Wednesday that Lebanon was no longer capable of tolerating the growing burdens at the internal scene, adding that the suggested solutions to resolve the growing crises were not enough to lift the pressure off the country. The Minister's words came within the context of Lebanon's word at the 48th Arab Information Ministers' meeting currently taking place in Cairo. Riachy feared that the prevailing situation in Lebanon would threaten the relationship between Syrian guests and Lebanese hosts, especially that the nation's frail structure currently faces a grave danger. "Economy is weak, security is shaken, and tourism is a matter of heroic Lebanese efforts to restore confidence in Lebanese villages and cities. As for legitimacy, it struggles to uphold its right to monopolize weapons on its soil, as in any other country," Riachy said in a brief introduction about the nations' sufferings. "We are facing real crises that require the support of the Arab League -- a real support to confront them," the Minister said. Touching on the media's leading role in shaping public opinion, Riachy explained that he was working on replacing the Ministry of Information with one of Communication and Dialogue. "I call on all of you to follow a similar approach that consolidates the concepts of communication and dialogue, and I call on the Arab League to encourage such an option," he said. The Minister finally called on his counterparts to work together on a joint media project that would be initiated and supervised by the Arab League. He also suggested setting up an Arab ministerial committee for this purpose."Such an approach could portray the real image of the region, opposite to the one that's being promoted by extremism," he added.

Army Commander attends military maneuver in Aqoura outskirts
Wed 12 Jul 2017/NNA - Army Commander Joseph Aoun on Wednesday said that the extensive training workshop within the army at the various levels noticeably reflected on the effectiveness of the defense and security missions carried out by the military units in the face of terrorism. General Aoun's fresh words came during a military maneuver with live ammunition, carried out by the Second and Third Year student officers of the Military College, in the outskirts of Aqoura. Attending the maneuver had been General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, members of the Military Council and representatives of security services chiefs. General Aoun lauded the performance of the officer students in said exercise, and stressed the importance of quality training in reinforcing army skills and professionalism.

Aoun: Reform will be Achieved, No Return to the Past
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 12/17/Beirut – Lebanese President Michel Aoun reiterated his pledge to build a strong Lebanese state as per the Presidential oath, especially in terms of respecting the constitution and the implementation of laws. “The Lebanese expectations of this presidential era are high; however, reform cannot be achieved in just seven months because disruption is easy and fast, whereas reconstruction requires time and patience,” Aoun said on Tuesday before a delegation from the town of Ghazir in Keserouan. “Today, we are suffering from a cultural crisis as we lack a complete political culture due to lack of knowledge on the true concept of the state,” the president said. “We have begun to study the ways in which the government can help to make our economy based on production on not on the renter approach,” he added. Aoun praised efforts exerted by the Lebanese Army and security forces to maintain stability across the country, promising to achieve more positive results in the economic and development fields. “The Lebanese should have confidence that reform will be achieved and there is no way to steer clear from this fact,” the Lebanese president added.Also on Tuesday, he received a delegation from Barclays  Bank, including the Chairman of the Regional Board, Makram Azar, and the Regional Head of Markets at the Bank, Walid Mezher, who briefed the President on the Bank’s activities in Lebanon and the region, especially in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The two officials expressed Barclays’ desire to contribute to the development of the Lebanese economy, especially as Barclays participated in the issuance of treasury bonds by the Ministry of Finance.

Water pollution in Lebanon reaching dangerous levelsتلوب الماء في لبنان بلغ مستويات خطيرة
Florence Massena/Al Monitor/July 12/17
Lebanese TV network LBCI published a picture June 19 showing a large polluted area along the coastline of Beirut, which then quickly appeared on Lebanese social media networks. A video shared June 1 by the Lebanese Transparency Association, a nongovernmental organization fighting corruption, also showed how badly polluted the water is a few meters below the surface. Although this problem is not new, it seems to reach a new level every year, polluting even underground currents.
Activists and scientists are increasingly concerned about water pollution in Lebanon and request action from the government, which has not acted on the urgent situation so far.
“The world’s most beautiful pollution” — that's how blogger Claude El Khal referred to the coastal waters of Lebanon on his blog after LBCI shared the picture of a brown-colored area in the sea, close to the shore where people usually enjoy a swim in summer. Already in 2002, university student Lena Kakati warned on the Planetary Notions website, a global student platform that addresses topics of environmental importance, “Our natural waste greatly harms our health.”
She wrote, “A cycle forms when we dump our wastes in the water: Fish find it and eat it, and then people catch the fish to have for dinner.”
Since then, nothing seems to have changed, and since the garbage crisis in the summer of 2015 things have only gotten worse. Starting in early June, activists have shared pictures of trucks going from Burj Hammoud, north of Beirut, to the sea to dump trash there. Minister of Environment Tarek al-Khatib said June 13 that as per the contract between the contractor and the Council for Development and Reconstruction, the garbage is to be thrown in the sea.
But the main reason for water pollution in Lebanon is the untreated sewage. “In the last 20 years, the Lebanese government spent more than $1.5 billion in loans to put in place a water sanitation system,” economist and social activist Jad Chaaban told Al-Monitor.
“It worked in some places but not in Tripoli, Beirut and Batroun at least. The water sanitation stations are just not connected to the sewage network, so the sewage ends up being thrown [without treatment],” he said.
“Pollution also originates from factories that are located near the seaside and that throw chemicals in the sea, and from dumps placed along the seaside in places such as Tyre, Beirut and Tripoli,” Chaaban said. For him, all of this is happening because of “a total lack of governance and a high corruption level. The European Union gives loans to Lebanon, and then the only entity controlling what is done with the loan is the Council for Development and Reconstruction. No independent organization checks what is done with this money — it is a political problem.”
Some private entities, like the Advanced BMI Weight Loss Center, have even speculated on the reasons for the water pollution and have warned citizens to stay away from the seaside. No data can be found to confirm the center's information, as the National Council for Scientific Research, which studies water quality all year round, did not respond to a request for comment and their publications are private.
In regard to the consequences stemming from water pollution, Chaaban said, “We see a decline in fisheries and the marine ecosystem, which pushes us to import fish instead. [We also note] a decline in tourism and infiltration of the cities’ underwater system, which means this pollution will end up reaching our households.”
“In this case, Lebanon is in clear violation of the Barcelona Convention,” which Lebanon is a signatory of, he added. “It is time the EU stop funding Lebanon for looking after its environment and for our leaders to take real decisions. Nobody can sit on problems like this forever.”
But seawater is not the only water affected by pollution in Lebanon. “We face a major pollution problem — in particular [affecting] the main sources of wells, drinking water and rivers,” said Nada Nehme, who has a doctoral degree in geosciences from the Lebanese University, where she works at the faculty of agricultural science.
“I think especially about the Litani River. All these sources of water are contaminated by microbiological and dangerous chemical agents, which develop every year without a solution. Waste and muddy water are [some of] the causes of pollution, as well as encroachment on public spaces through tourist activities, the presence of restaurants on river banks and the use of pesticides,” Nehme told Al-Monitor.
Safaa Baydoun, a researcher on water science at Beirut Arab University who worked as a researcher on the Litani River, Lake Qaraoun and the upper Litani Basin (groundwater), shared some of her research results with Al-Monitor. “Significant spatial differences have been found between different sites of the Litani River, with the upper Litani exhibiting high levels of dissolved salts, very low levels of dissolved oxygen necessary for the river's aquatic life and very high levels of toxic ammonia and phosphates exceeding by many folds the criteria for short- or long-term exposure in healthy water bodies,” Baydoun said.
She added, “High levels of organic pollutants are also found. Domestic sewage and the overuse of fertilizers by farmers accompanied by runoffs are the underlying causes for the high levels of pollutants. This increased availability of nitrogen and phosphorus can cause excessive growth of algae, which in turn can disrupt the aquatic biological equilibrium leading to the oxygen depletion death of fish and amphibians and a drop in the biodiversity of aquatic plants. This phenomenon is called eutrophication. Better water quality conditions are found in the lower river, possibly due to the role of Lake Qaraoun in reducing the eutrophication level and the role of tributaries in diluting the contamination levels.”
Concerning the quality of water studied in 20 wells across the country, Baydoun said, “Even though less alarming than the general pollution of surface water in the basin, these results clearly show that groundwater quality is also deteriorating.”
She noted, “It is very important that long-term monitoring of groundwater quality is conducted and the Lebanese government should address the governance problem of the water quality sector involving stakeholders at all levels."
Without this involvement, the health of Lebanese people is directly threatened. “Since 2005, the national epidemiological surveillance program at the Ministry of Public Health has registered significant increasing trends in notifiable water and foodborne diseases,” Baydoun said.
She continued: “In the Bekaa Valley 243 cases were recorded in 2005, 281 cases in 2010, 2,068 cases in 2014 and 909 cases in 2016 — compared to 45, 112, 122 and 74 cases, respectively, in Beirut during the same periods. More specifically, the recent assessment of the EU-funded Sustainable Water Integrated Management project in the Litani Basin on the prevalence of mortality due to diarrhea caused by poor water and water quality degradation estimates that there are 0.3 cases of deaths on 13 newborns per 1,000 inhabitants in 2012.”
While more activists and scientists voice their concern and request action from the government, this urgent issue still awaits a proper response from the authorities.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 12-13/17
Canada congratulates Iraqi forces on liberation of Mosul, Iraq
July 11, 2017 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs; the Honourable Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie; and the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, today issued the following statement:
“Canada joins the partners of the Global Coalition Against Daesh in congratulating Iraqis and Iraqi forces on the liberation of Mosul from Daesh control.
“We salute Iraqi civilians, soldiers and police, who fought side by side against the threats posed by Daesh. Their sacrifices have made their country safer and the region more secure.
“We also wish to thank the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces who trained, advised and assisted the Iraqi forces throughout this battle and served selflessly.
“In its ongoing role in Iraq, Canada will continue to work on the protection of human rights and the protection of minorities.
“Canada remains committed to helping the Coalition to defeat Daesh. In response to the threat, and to the impacts on the broader region, Canada’s $2-billion multi-year engagement in the Middle East will continue to support Iraqis in rebuilding their communities. Canada’s contribution includes humanitarian assistance to help internally displaced persons, as well as support to strengthen and reform Iraq’s security sector and ensure justice and accountability for all Iraqis.”

Saudi King Salman Receives Tillerson in Jeddah
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 12/17/Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz held talks on Wednesday with visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah, reported the Saudi Press Agency (SPA). The two officials discussed bilateral ties, the prospects of cooperation and latest developments in the region, especially efforts being exerted in combating terrorism and its financing. Tillerson also conveyed to the King the greetings of US President Donald Trump. The meeting was attended by Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Interior, Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Ambassador to the US, Minister of State and Cabinet member Dr. Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, and the Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy to the Kingdom Christopher Henzel. Tillerson was received at King Abdulaziz International Airport by Al-Jubeir. The two officials later held bilateral talks.

Cairo Calls for Expelling Qatar from Coalition to Combat ISIS
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 12/17/Cairo – The US-led coalition against ISIS should not have member states that support terrorism, Egypt said in reference to Qatar during a coalition meeting held in Washington. “It is unacceptable for the coalition to include member states that support terrorism or advocate it in their media,” said Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid, who is heading the Egyptian delegation in Washington. “The decision by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to boycott Qatar – a coalition member – is in accordance with that principle,” he said in a statement. Following the meetings of the working group on the coalition’s media and communication strategy, Abu Zeid said that they have taken place at a pivotal time and a very important period after the Iraqi government officially announced the liberation of Mosul from the grip of ISIS and in the wake of the Arab-Islamic-US summit that was held in Riyadh in May. Abu Zeid said that these factors establish a new stage and pave the way for pushing international efforts to eliminate the ideas of extremism and terrorism in all their forms. This clear vision and comprehensive approach is consistent with the Egyptian view of the inevitability of a comprehensive confrontation with terrorism, which was expressed by President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi at the Riyadh summit. During Tuesday’s meeting, Egypt stressed that the military and field victory against ISIS, as important as it is, “must extend to eliminate all terrorist and extremist organizations and the sources that support them through money, arms, political and media cover or through providing safe haven for them.” The Egyptian spokesman said the decision of the four countries to boycott Qatar was a result of the latter’s support of extremist and terrorist groups in the region, especially in Libya, Syria and Yemen, as well as providing media platforms to glorify terrorist acts and sympathize with terrorism. He denounced “the desperate defense of some sides of al-Jazeera satellite station, which hides under the cloak of freedom of expression in order to spread poisonous ideas and incite violence and terrorism.”
He cited al-Jazeera’s hosting of Abu Muhammad al-Julani, the leader of the Nusra Front, on more than one occasion, and support of Youssef al-Qaradawi, who condones suicide attacks against civilians.

U.S. Troops inside Raqa, IS Syria Stronghold
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 12/17/U.S. military advisors are operating inside the city of Raqa, the Islamic State group's last major bastion in Syria, a U.S. official said Wednesday. The troops, many of them special operations forces, are working in an "advise, assist and accompany" role to support local fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces as they battle IS, said Colonel Ryan Dillon, a military spokesman.The troops are not in a direct combat role but are calling in air strikes and are working closer to the fight than did U.S. forces supporting the Iraqi military in Mosul. "They are much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq," Dillon said. He said the numbers of U.S. forces in Raqa were "not hundreds." The operation to capture Raqa began in November and on June 6 the SDF entered the city. With help from the U.S.-led coalition, the SDF this month breached an ancient wall by Raqa's Old City, where diehard jihadists are making a last stand. Dillon said the coalition had seen IS increasingly using commercial drones that have been rigged with explosives. The jihadists employed a similar tactic in Mosul. "Over the course over the last week or two, it has increased as we've continued to push in closer inside of Raqa city center," he said. The U.S. military is secretive about exactly how big its footprint is in Syria, but has previously said about 500 special operations fighters are there to train and assist the SDF, an Arab-Kurdish alliance.
Additionally, Marines are operating an artillery battery to help in the Raqa offensive.

Russia Says South Syria Ceasefire 'Globally Respected'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 12/17/The ceasefire in south Syria is being "globally respected," Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday, in comments broadcast on Russia television. The zone where the ceasefire was declared had seen "a rapid fall in the level of violence," Lavrov said in Brussels. Russia hoped that trend would continue and that the ceasefire zone would be extended at the next cycle of Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan next month, he added at a news conference with Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders. The truce, which was brokered by Russia, the United States and Jordan, has been in force since Sunday in the provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida. The August peace talks, in the Kazakh capital Astana, would look at the possibility of extending the ceasefire zone to three other provinces, said Lavrov. They are Idlib in the northwest, the central province of Homs and the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus. Sunday's ceasefire went into effect just ahead of the start of the latest round of U.N.-brokered peace talks in Geneva, which are being held in parallel with the diplomatic efforts in Astana. More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Arab States Say Qatar-US Terror Accord 'Insufficient'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 12/17/An agreement between Qatar and the United States on combating terror funding is "insufficient", the four Arab states that imposed sanctions on the emirate said in a joint statement Tuesday. The memorandum of understanding announced in Doha during a visit by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is "the result of pressure and repeated calls over the past years by the four states and their partners upon Qatar to stop supporting terrorism," said Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. "This step is insufficient," said the statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA, adding that the four states would "carefully monitor the seriousness of Qatari authorities in combating all forms of financing, supporting and harboring terrorism."The statement said commitments made by Qatari authorities "cannot be trusted," citing previous agreements that have allegedly not been honored. It called for "strict monitoring controls to ensure its (Doha's) seriousness in getting back to the natural and right path." Tillerson and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani made the announcement at a joint news conference in Doha. Tillerson said the agreement was built on decisions made at a Riyadh summit in May to "wipe terrorism from the face of the Earth". "As a result of President Trump's very strong call, these commitments for action will begin immediately on a number of fronts." Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar was the first country in the region to sign an agreement with Washington to counter terror funding and called on what he called the "siege" nations to follow suit and sign their own agreements with the US. The statement by the four states said sanctions against Qatar would continue until Doha "commits to comprehensively implement the just demands, including confronting terrorism and establishing stability and security in the region."

US-Led Coalition: Amnesty Report on Mosul 'Irresponsible'
Associated Press/Naharnet/July 12/17/The U.S.-led coalition said Wednesday that an Amnesty International report accusing its forces of violating international law during the fight against the Islamic State group in Mosul is "irresponsible." The report released Tuesday said Iraqi civilians were subjected to "relentless and unlawful attacks" by the coalition and Iraqi forces during the grueling nine-month battle to drive IS from Iraq's second largest city. It said IS militants had carried out mass killings and forcibly displaced civilians to use them as human shields. "War is not pleasant, and pretending that it should be is foolish and places the lives of civilians and soldiers alike at risk," Col. Joe Scrocca, a coalition spokesman, told The Associated Press. Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared "total victory" in Mosul on Monday, but clashes along the edge of the Old City continued into the evening Tuesday. In all, 5,805 civilians may have been killed in the fight for western Mosul by coalition attacks, Amnesty said, citing data from Airwars, an organization monitoring civilian deaths caused by the anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria. Amnesty said the fighting generated a "civilian catastrophe." IS swept into Mosul in the summer of 2014 when it conquered much of northern and western Iraq. The extremists declared a caliphate and governed according to a harsh and violent interpretation of Islamic law. The militants rounded up their opponents and killed them en masse, often documenting the massacres with video and photos. U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have gradually retaken much of that territory, but at a staggering cost, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced and entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble.

Russian Soldier Killed in Central Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 12/17/A Russian soldier died after being hit by mortar fire in the central Hama province of war-torn Syria, the defense ministry said early Wednesday in a statement quoted by news agencies. Captain Nikolay Afanasov was killed by "sudden mortar fire on a Syrian government army camp", the ministry said, indicating that he was part of a group of military instructors who were training Syrian soldiers. His death raises to 32 the number of Russian soldiers killed in combat in Syria, according to defense ministry figures. Another soldier committed suicide during the first month of Russia's operation in Syria which began in September 2015.

Conflicting Reports Emerge over ISIS Chief’s Death
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 12/17/Beirut – Various reports on Tuesday asserted the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, while the terrorist group did not confirm or deny them as it lost its stronghold in the Iraqi city of Mosul to advancing US-backed Iraqi forces. A source in Iraq’s Nineveh province confirmed his death, adding that the group will later announce his successor. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also confirmed the development. ISIS expert Ahmed Ramadan however was skeptical, saying that there are three Baghdadi “lookalikes” present in the remaining areas under the group’s control in Syria and Iraq. One of his lookalikes was twice targeted in air strikes in Syria’s Deir al-Zour countryside, but he still lives, he revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat. “At any rate, Baghdadi is not running ISIS, but a 12-member panel is,” said the expert, adding that the group therefore has no problem in announcing its leader’s death. Another informed source on the organization said that Baghdadi was last seen two-and-a-half months ago in the al-Qaem desert in Iraq where he was inspecting a training camp. Baghdadi has only made one public appearance when he made his infamous speech at Mosul’s Grand al-Nuri Mosque in July 2014. He also released a voice recording in November 2016. The Russian Defense Ministry had in June said that it had likely killed Baghdadi in an air raid against an ISIS gathering on the outskirts of Syria’s Raqqa city, but it could not confirm it. The Pentagon on Tuesday said that the US did not have information to confirm Baghdadi’s death. Researcher on extremist groups Abdul Rahman al-Hajj doubted that the ISIS leader was killed, saying that the information “does not seem trusted.”The information is based on a “document” that was found in Mosul, he added. This document spoke of the search for a new leader for the group and urged ISIS members to stand united, he explained to Asharq Al-Awsat. Baghdadi’s fate remains vague, he acknowledged, noting that the terror group had not yet issued a statement to deny his demise. The 46-year-old Iraqi, nicknamed “The Ghost”, has not appeared in public since his al-Nuri Mosque sermon, reported Agence France Presse. Keeping a low profile — in contrast to slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden — helped Baghdadi to survive for years despite a $25-million US bounty on his head. Ibrahim Awad al-Badri came from modest beginnings to became the overlord of an extremist organization. He was born in Samarra, north of Baghdad. His high school results were not good enough for law school and his poor eyesight prevented him from joining the army. So he moved to Baghdad to study religion, settling in the neighborhood of Tobchi. After US-led forces invaded Iraq in 2003, he founded his own insurgent outfit. It never carried out major attacks, however, and by the time he was arrested in February 2004 and detained at the US military’s Camp Bucca, he was still very much a second or third-tier extremist. The prison in southern Iraq was where he started showing signs of leadership. He was released at the end of 2004 for lack of evidence. Iraqi security services arrested him twice subsequently, in 2007 and 2012, but let him go because they did not know who he was. In 2005, he pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the brutal leader of the local Al-Qaeda franchise. Zarqawi was killed by an American drone strike in 2006. After his successor was also eliminated, Baghdadi took the helm of the group in 2010. He revived ISIS later declaring it independent of Al-Qaeda, expanding into Syria in 2013 then launching a sweeping offensive across northern Iraq in 2014. Baghdadi had grown up in a family divided between a religious clan and officers loyal to Saddam Hussein’s secular Baath party. Years later, his terror organization was to incorporate ex-Baathists, capitalizing on the bitterness many officers felt after the American decision to dissolve the Iraqi army in 2003. That gave his leadership the military legitimacy he personally lacked and formed a solid backbone of what was to become ISIS, combining extreme religious propaganda with ferocious guerrilla efficiency. Uncharismatic and an average orator, Baghdadi was described by his repudiated ex-wife as a “normal family man” who was good with children. He is thought to have had three wives.

Doha Under International Monitoring to Stop Terrorism Financing
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 12/17/Jeddah, Kuwait- US efforts to contain the Qatari crisis resulted on Tuesday in the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Doha and Washington on cooperation in combating terrorism financing. However, the four Arab countries boycotting Qatar said that the move was insufficient, adding that they would closely monitor the seriousness of Qatari authorities in their fight against all forms of terrorist financing. While a meeting will be held in Jeddah on Wednesday between the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt and their US counterpart, Rex Tillerson, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al Sabah said he was “extremely concerned over unprecedented developments” in the Gulf crisis. “We will not surrender our historic responsibilities (towards the bloc) and we will be loyal to it until we overcome these developments,” he said, as quoted by KUNA news agency. Meanwhile, Qatari Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani announced, in a joint news conference with Tillerson on Tuesday, the signing of a joint memorandum of accord on combating terrorism financing. A statement issued by the US Secretary of State said that the MOU specified future efforts that could be deployed by Qatar to promote its war against terrorism and resolve terrorist financing issues in a practical way. For his part, the Qatari foreign minister said the signing of the MOU fell within the framework of “continuous bilateral cooperation… and a result of joint work to develop mechanisms to combat terrorism financing between the two countries”, in addition to exchanging experience in this field. Tillerson held a meeting with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The two officials also gathered in another meeting with the Qatari foreign minister and a Kuwaiti envoy, Mohammed Al-Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al Sabah, minister of state for cabinet affairs and minister of information. The four Arab states boycotting Qatar said later on Tuesday that sanctions would remain in place until Doha met their demands. They added that they would keep a close eye on the Arab peninsula’s efforts to fight terrorism financing. In a joint statement, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain said they appreciated US efforts in fighting terrorism but that they would closely monitor Qatar’s behavior. In this context, the four countries’ foreign ministers are expected to meet on Wednesday with Tillerson in Jeddah. Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said the meeting comes within the framework of coordinating stances between the four countries on the future relationship with Qatar, and will emphasize their adherence to the stated positions and actions taken in the past.

Legal Team from 9 Arab States to Address Provocative Media Channels
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 12/17/Cairo – The executive office of the Arab information ministers council agreed on Tuesday to form a technical legal team from nine Arab countries to look into Arab complaints against provocative media channels. Arab information ministers will meet in Cairo on Wednesday to tackle measures aimed at “correcting the media course in the region.” This includes setting a unified strategy to confront some media outlets that are targeting the stability of Arab countries, inciting sectarianism and supporting terrorist organizations. Director of the technical secretariat of the Arab information ministers council at the Arab League, Fawzi al-Ghweil said that the legal team will soon begin discussing requests that will be submitted to them by the general secretariat. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt had demanded a halt to the broadcast of the Qatari-owned al-Jazeera satellite television. It is one of the demands they made to the emirate in order to restore diplomatic ties with it after they were severed in June over its support of terrorism. Ghweil said that this issue will be discussed at the ministers’ meeting later on Wednesday in order to be ratified. Tuesday’s meeting of the executive office of the Arab information ministers council, which was hosted by Cairo and attended by Saudi representatives, also addressed the Palestinian cause and the role of Arab media in uncovering the violations committed by Israel against the Palestinian people. The gatherers also recommended updating the Arab media strategy to enable it to stay abreast current Arab developments. It also tackled an external Arab media strategy that would present the correct image of Arab issues to an international audience. Ghweil said that the recommendations will be presented before the information ministers’ meeting on Wednesday. The agenda will also include articles on confronting terrorism and extremism.

Iran and Oman to Strengthen Ties Amid Gulf Crisis
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 12/17/Iran and Oman will work to boost their ties, the Islamic republic's President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, as a diplomatic crisis persists in the Gulf. "Iran and Oman have for years had fraternal relations and the best must be made of these good relations to reinforce them," Rouhani said as he met Oman's foreign minister. The Iranian government's website reported Foreign Minister Yussef Bin Alawi as replying: "Omani leaders believe our ties should be developed."The remarks come after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt last month severed ties with Qatar, accusing it of backing extremism and being too close to Riyadh's arch-rival Tehran. They imposed a series of isolation measures on Qatar including cutting air, land and maritime links to the small gas-rich emirate. Oman, which has maintained ties with Qatar, took part this week in a string of Kuwaiti and US-led talks towards resolving the crisis. Rouhani slammed the sanctions imposed by the Riyadh-led group on Doha, which Qatar has called a "blockade". "Threatening, pressuring and imposing a blockade against neighbours, including Qatar, is an erroneous method and everyone must try to reduce the tensions in the region," he said. He also criticised "the policies of certain countries in the region against Syria, Yemen and Bahrain", in what appeared to be a reference to Saudi Arabia. Iran regularly denounces bombings of Iran-backed Huthi rebels by a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, where is has accused the coalition of blockading ports. Tehran also accuses Riyadh and its allies of supporting rebels and jihadists in Syria and Iraq, where it backs Damascus and Baghdad. Iran increased its food imports to Qatar after its Gulf neighbors cut transport links to the emirate.

11 Migrant Workers Die in Saudi House Fire
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 12/17/Eleven migrant labourers died of asphyxiation in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday in a fire that engulfed the windowless house they shared, Saudi authorities said. "Firefighters put out a blaze in an old house lacking windows for ventilation. Eleven people died of asphyxiation, and six others were injured" in the southern province of Najran, the civil defence said in a tweet. The casualties all hailed from India and Bangladesh, it said. Nine million foreigners work in the kingdom, many of them from South Asia, ccording to the last official figures released in 2015. Rights groups have called on Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to end the widespread kafala -- or sponsorship -- system, which severely restricts the rights of migrant labourers. These workers cannot leave the country or switch jobs without written permission from their current employer under kafala, and employers often confiscate their passports and travel documents.

2 Palestinians Shot Dead by Israeli Army in Jenin Clashes
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 12/17/Two Palestinians were shot dead before dawn Wednesday during clashes with the Israeli army in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian medical and security sources said. Official Palestinian news agency Wafa identified the dead as Saad Salah, 21, from the city of Jenin, and Aws Salame, 17, from the camp.One of the two had been evacuated in serious condition and later succumbed to his wounds, medical sources said. A third Palestinian who was shot in the leg was in moderate condition, they added. The Israeli army said soldiers shot toward “attackers” after “Palestinian gunmen opened fire at the forces and assailants hurled explosive devices at the forces” operating in the camp. An Israeli army spokeswoman said none of their forces were wounded in the raid on the camp. Camp residents made no mention of any Palestinian gunfire in their accounts of the raid in which they said rocks were thrown at the troops. A wave of unrest that broke out in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 277 Palestinians, 42 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an Agence France Presse toll. Israeli authorities say most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks. Others were shot dead in protests and clashes, while some were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.The violence has greatly subsided in recent months.

Abbas: ‘We will Cooperate with Trump for Success of Peace Talks’
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 12/17/Ramallah- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he will cooperate with US President Donald Trump to revive peace talks and will work hard for the success of these efforts. Abbas expressed his appreciation for Trump’s efforts, but he linked any peace agreement to the implementation of the two-state solution, establishment of an independent Palestinian state with its capital East Jerusalem on the borders of 1967 and ending the occupation in accordance with the resolutions by the international legitimacy. During his meeting with President of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Paolo Alli, Abbas said that Palestinians need security and peace more than any other party because their country is occupied and they have no military power. Abbas pointed out that solving the Palestinian issue in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy will help achieve security and stability in the region and the world, stressing the importance of the role played by the European Union in support of efforts to achieve peace. Abbas made the remarks with the launch of the US-Palestinian talks, which aim to reach an agreement on the ground to start peace negotiations. The US seeks reaching separate agreements with Palestinians and Israelis that allow them to launch a new peace process. Trump’s administration may announce a document of principles that will form the basis for the forthcoming negotiations. A Palestinian-US meeting in Jerusalem discussed these details on Tuesday. Trump’s Special Envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process Jason Greenblatt met with Palestinian negotiators, and in an unusual development, US Ambassador David Friedman attended too. US Consul General in Jerusalem Donald Blome, who is in charge of ties with the Palestinians, joined the two US officials. Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said that the meeting discussed the possibility of reviving peace process and aimed at reaching a treaty. The Palestinian Authority (PA) wanted to make sure the US administration knows that its Ambassador to Israel was not welcomed in Ramallah because of his very biased positions in favor of Israel and against the Palestinians and his great determination to move the US embassy to Jerusalem as he has been working on it all the time, according to Palestinian sources.

11 Killed in Fire in Saudi’s Najran
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 12/17/Eleven people were killed on Wednesday in a fire that broke out in a residential building in the Najran region in Saudi Arabia, reported the Saudi Press Agency (SPA). Official spokesman for the General Directorate of Civil Defense Abdullah bin Saeed al-Fareh said that the agency received information about the blaze at 4:00 am on Wednesday. The blaze broke out at a three-storey house that does not have windows. Consequently, 11 people were killed in the incident. Six others, mainly Indians and Bengalis, were wounded. Investigations are underway to determine the cause of the fire.

Libya: Sarraj Forces Claim Tripoli Victory, Oust Ghwell Loyalists
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 12/17/Cairo- Armed militias backing Libya’s interim government based in Tripoli announced Tuesday that they made major advances against militias loyal to head of the National Salvation Government, Khalifa Ghwell. The push took place in the direction of Tripoli’s eastern outskirts. At least four were killed during the clashes, two of which were civilians, said the Libyan health ministry. Tripoli Brigade, an armed faction supporting the Government of National Accord led by Fayez al-Sarraj, reported on its success with taking comprehensive control over the town Castelverde. The Brigade said it controlled all vital facilities and main gates to the town after completing an operation earlier. For its part the United Nations delegation to Libya said that its security advisor Gen. Paolo Serra reviewed the current national standing with Sarraj deputies and security representatives. Gen. Serra, according to the international body, stressed the importance of prioritizing the safety of civilians, urging for dialogue to prevail and for a ceasefire to be arranged. Four people, including two foreign nationals, were killed and 21 others wounded in clashes in Castelverde–located 60 km east of Tripoli– said a statement published by the health ministry of the government. But the ministry did not disclose the nationality of the foreigners. Libya’s national committee for Human Rights said that other than wounding innocent civilians, clashes resulted in internal displacement and have registered the firing of missiles and the usage of heavy and medium weapons, Grad rockets included. The committee called on terror militias to retreat and evacuate the area, to spare civilians from the scourge of conflict and to not jeopardize the lives, safety and security of civilians in Castelverde and Tripoli. Clashes broke out last Sunday in Castelverde, pitting Libya’s prominently rival forces, GNA forces against pro-Ghwell militias. Eyewitnesses said the fighting continued till Tuesday dawn, until the Tripoli Brigade, the largest armed militia backing Sarraj’s council, announced its victory. More so, Sarraj’s government warned outlawed militias of moving for Tripoli, adding that they had ordered forces to repel any attack.

Trump Defends Son, Decries Political 'Witch Hunt'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 12/17/President Donald Trump on Wednesday decried as a political "witch hunt" the deepening scandal over alleged Russian efforts to secure his White House victory that has ensnared his eldest son. Trump took to Twitter to defend Donald Trump Jr after the release of emails showing his namesake's embrace of a Russian offer to provide derogatory information about his 2016 presidential opponent Hillary Clinton. "My son Donald did a good job last night," Trump said in an early morning tweet, referring to a Fox television appearance by Donald Jr. in which he sought to defend his actions. Trump, who has kept a low profile since returning over the weekend from a Group of 20 summit in Germany, said his son was "open, transparent and innocent. "This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!" Trump tweeted, hours before he was scheduled to leave Washington for a visit to France. The latest revelations have put the president's son at the center of the scandal involving multiple U.S. investigations into whether Trump associates colluded with Moscow in a bid to tilt the election in the Republican's favor. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the continuing controversy has thrust the fledgling White House into "chaos" and left Trump "enraged that the Russia cloud still hangs over his presidency." Since taking office in January, Trump has seen his efforts to push his conservative agenda stalled by the unending firestorm over his campaign's alleged ties with Russia. The controversy spilled over Wednesday into the Senate confirmation hearing for Trump's nominee to lead the FBI, Christopher Wray, named after the president fired FBI director James Comey in May in frustration over the persistent Russia probe. Under questioning, Wray said he had not discussed the investigation -- now in the hands of an independent prosecutor, former FBI director Robert Mueller -- with Trump, and pledged to insulate the agency from political interference. "There is only one right way to do this job, and that is with strict independence," Wray said, "and certainly without regard to any partisan political influence."Wray also dismissed criticism of the Mueller investigation. "I do not consider director Mueller to be on a witch hunt," the FBI nominee said.
I love it
Donald Trump Jr released emails on Tuesday in which he was told he could get "very high level and sensitive information" that was "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."In response, the 39-year-old -- who runs the family real estate business -- wrote back saying, "if it's what you say I love it." He then held a meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a woman described in the emails as a "Russian government attorney." Trump's then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended the June 2016 meeting. Speaking to Fox News, Trump Jr said he went along to see what it was about. But he said he didn't mention the meeting to his father after it failed to yield any compromising information, describing it as "such a nothing. There was nothing to tell." The president's lawyer Jay Sekulow said Trump had not been aware of his son's meeting with the Russian lawyer until "very recently" and did not know about the emails. While Trump has said he confronted President Vladimir Putin about Russian interference when they met in Hamburg, Sekulow remained equivocal about Moscow's role. Asked if he believed U.S. intelligence assessments that Russia interfered in the election, Sukelow told CNN: "I have no idea what Russia tried to do or didn't try to do… I have no idea if they interfered." U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Putin approved a mass effort to tilt the election in Trump's favor, including hacking and leaking embarrassing emails from Democrats. The latest disclosures all but ensure the president's son will come under scrutiny by investigators in Congress and at the FBI who are probing whether Trump's team was in the know.
The Kremlin, meanwhile, insisted it had no links to the Russian lawyer, and the Russian billionaire identified as a middleman for the Donald Jr meeting also sought to distance himself. "We have already said that we are absolutely not familiar with this whole story," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. "We never had any contact with this lawyer," Peskov said. "She doesn't have even the slightest relation to us."In the emails released Tuesday, Rob Goldstone -- a publicist close to the Trumps -- tells Donald Jr about an offer allegedly made by Russia's general prosecutor to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Clinton during talks with real estate mogul Aras Agalarov. The Agalarov family has established ties to the Trumps and brought the future U.S. leader to Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe beauty competition. But Agalarov rubbished the emails touting him as a go-between for the Trumps and the Kremlin and said he only vaguely knew Goldstone. "I think this is some sort of fiction. I don't know who is making it up," Agalarov told Russia's Business FM radio station, according to a transcript posted online.

Trump to travel to Paris to discuss Syria and terrorism
Reuters Wednesday, 12 July 2017/U.S. President Donald Trump will travel to Paris on Wednesday to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron where the two leaders will seek to work together on Syria and countering terrorism, while avoiding the thorny issues that have divided them. Trump and Macron -- both political newcomers who scored upset victories in their presidential elections -- have taken very different positions in areas such as climate change and trade. U.S. and French officials have said Trump's visit to Paris will allow the leaders to focus on those places where their interests overlap, including resolving the conflict in Syria and combating global terrorism. Macron invited Trump to France to celebrate July 14 Bastille Day festivities and to commemorate the 100 years since U.S. troops entered into World War One. "It's for France a unique opportunity to show French military power ... and that's very important for Trump," said Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, director of the Paris office of think-tank the German Marshall Fund. Trump has repeatedly hammered away at European allies in NATO for not paying their fair share on military spending. Although France has not met NATO's target of spending 2 percent of GDP on the military, Trump is satisfied that the country is very close to meeting that goal, a White House official said on Tuesday. Trump will arrive in Paris early Thursday morning. He will participate in a welcoming ceremony at Les Invalides, where he will tour a French war museum and visit the tomb of Napoleon. Then Trump and Macron will hold a bilateral meeting followed by a news conference, the White House said. Macron and Trump, along with their wives, plan to dine at a restaurant in the Eiffel Tower Thursday night. Trump's brief trip to France follows his attendance of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany last week. The United States was left relatively isolated during the summit, when it reaffirmed Trump's decision to pull out of a landmark international accord reached in Paris in 2015 to fight climate change.

Turkey’s Erdogan says lifting emergency rule currently out of question
Reuters, Ankara Wednesday, 12 July 2017/Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday it was out of the question under current circumstances to lift the state of emergency in Turkey, which was imposed soon after an attempted military coup on July 15 last year. “There can be no question of lifting emergency rule with all this happening. They ask when emergency rule will finish. It will finish when this business is completely out the way,” Erdogan said in a speech to investors in Ankara.

Turkish police kill five and seize Kalashnikovs in raid on ISIS cell

Reuters, Istanbul Wednesday, 12 July 2017/Turkish police killed five ISIS militants in a raid on a house in the city of Konya on Wednesday and four police were slightly wounded, the Dogan news agency said. Special forces police launched the operation at the house in the Meram district of Konya, in central Turkey, at 5:15 a.m. (3.15 a.m. BST) because they believed the militant cell was planning an attack, the agency said. Police sealed off the area and approaching vehicles were searched after the clash, which occurred during raids conducted by the police on 10 different addresses in Konya, it said. Five Kalashnikov rifles and a pistol were seized during the raid on the house, it added. ISIS militants have in the past carried out gun and bomb attacks in Turkey. In recent years, thousands of foreign fighters had joined the militant group in their self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq, many passing through Turkey.
Ankara has detained more than 5,000 ISIS suspects and deported some 3,290 foreign militants from 95 different countries in recent years, according to Turkish officials.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 12-13/17
Will Tillerson Side with Qatar?

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/July 12/17
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet in Jeddah the top diplomats of the bloc of four countries boycotting Qatar over its support for terrorism and role in destabilizing the region. He will be confronted by a group of decisive foreign ministers who aren’t expected to roll back from a vow made to hold Doha’s government accountable to its deeds by imposing a firm blockade.
As far as unwinding the complicated situation that is the Qatar diplomatic crisis, Tillerson did not show any comforting details or reasons for optimism in his recent press conference. Contrawise, he used misplaced simplicity to deal with an intricate dispute. The foreign minister proposed resolving the dispute by signing a memorandum in which Doha pledges to fight off terrorism. As if signing such papers is some great accomplishment!
Qataris have been beating around the edges, trying to buy time by turning focus to documents disclosing on Doha’s failure to comply with commitments it made at the Riyadh 2013 agreement, and its supplementary 2014 agreement.
Leaked documents published by CNN have exposed that Qatar’s ongoing media rabble-rousing rhetoric did not necessarily match confidential undertakings it committed to with regional states. It is worth keeping in mind that the gas-rich peninsula was the first to divulge on confidential documents, when it revealed details concerning letters delivered by Kuwaiti mediation efforts and sent by the four boycotting states. Hoping to weaken the bloc’s position, Doha handed over media outlets a 13-point list made by each of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain.
What makes Jeddah’s meeting difficult is that Tillerson seemed to sympathize with Qatar. In an eyebrow-raising move, the US top diplomat hastily reached the conclusion that Qatar’s demands are reasonable, without even listening to the viewpoints of other involved parties first. If it suits his purposes, Tillerson is free to show leniency towards the Qatari position, but must also realize that such an inclination would further complicate an already difficult situation, and prolong the crisis.
Qatar’s policies and practices caused the four boycotting countries to suffer on financial, political, media and security levels. It remains to be said that they have unanimously made up their minds, particularly in light of recent developments that they believe to directly target their homeland stability and governments.
Tillerson cannot force reconciliation. However he can bridge a wide gap between Qatar and the Saudi-led bloc of four since they all are US allies. That would be a better strategy than being biased to one party–especially that Qatar time and time again has violated commitments it made.
Tensions will continue to rise so long that Doha authorities refuse changing their hazardous policies. Doha’s behavior is well-known, and the boycotting Arab states are aware that it does not intend to change amid ordinary circumstances.
Safe in the knowledge that the ban comes to serve the purpose of defending their countries in a region dominated by chaos, the bloc of four will not roll back on their decision to curb Qatari harmful policy.
It is not reasonable to fight Iran’s expansionist agenda on one hand while allowing for Qatar’s government freely carry through with its detrimental policy.
Deterring the threat Qatari policy imposes is first and foremost the key aim of the boycott. It is as simple as saying that these four countries face an existential threat if this goal is not met.
For the first time in its modern history, Egypt is launching a mass-scale war against terrorism. In that context, Qatar is viewed as an efficient party player which through secret funding and media propaganda supports and justifies the actions of terrorist groups and incites people against their governments.
Threat of the public street descending to chaos was faced by Saudi Arabia with evidence pointing towards Qatar foul play. The same goes to the UAE, which is a country that addressed the threat in its early stages through adopting zero-tolerance policies towards ultra-hardline groups and radical ideology.
Bahrain also had its fair share of suffering the hazards of Qatari policy.
How could Tillerson possibly convince four countries fighting a war for survival to simply reconcile with the responsible party? How many times should Qatar’s good intentions be tested? Especially that it had already failed so many times.
It isn’t only the bloc of four that are convinced that Doha is behind regional chaos, extremism and terrorism. There are other countries that share the same point of view.
Tillerson can help with saving Qatar from itself, before it suffers the consequences of its own harmful actions.

After liberation of Mosul, time to rebuild and regroup
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/July 12/17
The statement announcing the liberation of Mosul thrilled us all. We have not witnessed such a statement in decades. It is the best statement ever as it announced return to dignity for every single Iraqi who loves and cherishes his country and its people.
We are thrilled that our dignities have been restored. We lost our dignity in such a terrible manner due to a bunch of corrupt politicians who enabled outlawed gangs to defy order and end our freedom and rights.
We rejoice, yes, but we never forget. We will not forget that the great victory announced by the statement of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Haidar al-Abadi on Sunday night was achieved by Iraqi soldiers and officers, the federal police members, the counter terrorism force, Peshmerga and volunteers from the popular army and tribes. We will not forget that we paid a high price for this great victory. Thousands of heroes defied death, terrorist organization ISIS and defied politicians who hoped this victory will never be achieved.
We will not forget, we cannot forget, and we must not forget that the losses of property, deaths and the horrific pain which millions of Iraqis lived through were due to those who committed crimes, one after the another until one third of the country fell under the tyrannical rule of ISIS, which is one of the most brutal and regressive groups history has known.
We are thrilled that Mosul has been liberated, but we will not forget that there are other Iraqi cities that are still controlled by ISIS and that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis still live under its oppressive rule
Time for accountability
We will not, we cannot and we must not forget that one of the main duties after liberating Mosul is to begin the phase of accountability to punish anyone who has been directly or indirectly responsible for this ordeal. We do not seek vengeance but the martyrs, their families, the wounded, the captives and the millions of displaced Iraqis have the right to see those who inflicted pain for political reasons.
We will also not forget that it is one of the state’s major duties is to rebuild Mosul and all the destroyed cities and towns as of today, the day after the statement announcing victory was made.
We are thrilled that Mosul has been liberated, but we will not forget that there are other Iraqi cities that are still controlled by ISIS and that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis still live under its oppressive rule.
We will not forget that the influential political segment that holds on to power despite the people’s will must give up dishonest practices which led to all the events in the past three years in Mosul, Tikrit, Ramadi, Fallujah and dozens of other towns, cities and villages. We are thrilled by this statement but this joy will be incomplete until we have what we aspire – an Iraq that does not resemble the Iraq before Mosul was liberated and before it was occupied. We want an Iraq where there is no ISIS and that does not fear the emergence of a new ISIS.

Benefits of boycott go beyond Qatar
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/July 12/17
The state that misreads history becomes silly and ignorant. It becomes like a little boy who needs a guardian and the care of an adult. International community is the guardian over states’ madness and ignorance. This is one of the tasks assigned to international institutions, primarily the United Nations and the UN Security Council. The role of the four countries which boycotted Qatar, i.e. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, is to warn the world of wrong policies and follies of political vanity. It is their duty to provide information and data and not just analysis. The aim is to prevent the country in question from harming their interests and that of their people. The balance of international power has been commonly disrupted throughout history. Attempts to restore the balance of power are often difficult and require more decisiveness and strictness than the phase before it actually happens. We are witnessing such a phase of restoring balance on the international and regional levels. Qatar is a step in this direction. Restoring the balance of power alters transgressions and puts things back on track so everything harmonizes between conflicting powers. This is happening with Qatar today. Countries that support Qatar will have their share in the future. However, to win a political battle, it is best to limit it to a specific rival and not be distracted and to achieve the required aims over phases.
It is wrong for the Qatari decision makers to be blind to the reality of the political crisis with their close neighbors and to resort to unreliable experiences that depend on media outlets for protection
Yielding results
The phase of ending Qatar’s support and funding of terrorism began to show results in Yemen and Libya as the Arab coalition’s successes to support legitimacy there have become clear. Houthi militias and forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh began to lose control over areas.
The Libyans began to win battles against terrorist organizations that are supported by Qatar and terrorist groups have been expelled from Benghazi. Without Qatar’s support, terrorist groups would fall everywhere as cutting fund supplies eliminates terrorism.
The four boycotting countries are aware that they are walking a path from which there is no return. They know that to guarantee results they must deal with the crisis according to their own agenda and timing and not according to Qatar’s reactions. They are also aware of the disruption, which some of Qatar’s regional allies are behind and they are preparing for the phase beyond Qatar.
Assessing repercussions
This phase is represented in a strategy with practical steps that is aware of the scale of the confrontation and of the magnitude of decisions, which will be taken. The next enemy after Qatar must bear the repercussions of his decisions, policies and visions before and after the Qatari crisis erupted. This enemy is represented in any party that is still politically manipulating others to get the best conditions while it is living through a state of imbalance in the region.
Iranian support to Qatar is a foregone conclusion. Iran is going through its worst days after it lost its ally Barack Obama who supported Tehran and the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey’s interference in the crisis with Qatar and announcing the establishment of a Turkish military base in Qatar is a major escalation by Turkey and it jeopardizes the latter’s interests with the boycotting countries. It is a flagrant bias that does not reflect the Turkish decision makers’ good intentions toward the boycotting countries.
Turkey has many domestic, regional and international challenges. It needs to create more allies and not enemies in the region and the world. It is not in its interest to show the international community that it’s a supporter of terrorism whether it’s represented in groups or countries.
Finally, it is wrong for the Qatari decision makers to be blind to the reality of the political crisis with their close neighbors and to resort to unreliable experiences that depend on media outlets for protection.
These tools, primarily the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda and ISIS television channel Al Jazeera, have lost their spark and their aims and defects have been exposed. This is in addition to the websites affiliated with Qatar and the silly accounts on social media platforms.

ISIS Is Not Dead Yet
ANTONY J. BLINKEN/The New York Times/July 12/17
The liberation of Mosul – ISIS’ de facto capital in Iraq — marks a turning point in the war against the world’s most dangerous terrorist group. ISIS no longer controls significant territory in Iraq where it can harbor foreign fighters or exploit resources, like oil.
And its core narrative — building an actual state — is in tatters. But while the Trump administration will be right to celebrate the end of the caliphate as we know it, it is far too soon to feel comfortable, especially in the absence of a strategy for the day after ISIS.
Fifteen years ago, at the start of President George W. Bush’s run-up to the invasion of Iraq, then-Senators Joe Biden and Richard Lugar raised a prescient concern: “When Saddam Hussein is gone, what would be our responsibilities? This question has not been explored but may prove to be the most critical.”
Substitute “ISIS” for “Saddam Hussein” and the question they posed retains a fierce urgency today. Even when ISIS is defeated militarily, the political and economic conditions that facilitated its rise — unleashed in part by the 2003 invasion — will continue to fester. How, then, to ensure that ISIS stays defeated?
Most urgent is a fully resourced effort to stabilize, secure, govern and rebuild liberated cities so that displaced people can come home safely.
The good news is that a coalition of 68 countries led by the United States to fight ISIS has raised the necessary funds to start that process through the United Nations. A similar plan exists for Syria.
But the ongoing civil war there will make it challenging to implement, as evidenced by the slow process of bringing the city of Tabqa — liberated two months ago and a gateway to ISIS’ Syrian capital in Raqqa — back to life.
Even more challenging is what comes next. Twenty-five million Sunni Muslims live between Baghdad and Damascus. They have been alienated from their governments.
Unless they can be convinced that their state will protect and not persecute them, an ISIS 2.0 will find plenty of new recruits and supporters.
Iraq offers the best prospects for success. But left to their own devices, its leaders are more likely to perpetuate the conditions that gave rise to violent extremism. And Iraq’s neighbors will line up behind whichever sect they support, reinforcing a zero-sum mentality in Iraq itself.
That’s where American diplomacy comes in.
The United States can’t dictate outcomes to a sovereign Iraq. But it can support, incentivize and mobilize those willing to move Iraq in the right direction.
This starts with backing what Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, calls functioning federalism — giving Iraqis at the provincial level the responsibility and resources to provide for their own security, services and schools and to govern their day-to-day lives.
That’s the best way to convince Sunnis that their future is within Iraq and not with a new ISIS. Iraq’s Sunnis used to oppose federalism in favor of a strong central government; increasingly, they embrace it.
Iraq’s constitution provides for decentralization, but it has yet to be put into effect. Some within the Shi’ite community, goaded on by Iran, will insist on retaining the spoils of majoritarian rule, preserving a dominant Baghdad to lord it over the Sunnis.
Bringing functioning federalism to life begins with effectively implementing a law that governs Iraq’s militia, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Shi’ite PMF units must be placed under state control, kept out of politics and away from Sunni areas.
Sunni militias mobilized into the fight against ISIS need to stay on the state payroll and assume responsibility for securing their own territory. Baghdad also must make sure that investment and major infrastructure projects don’t bypass Sunni regions.
At the same time, the Trump administration should use the strong relations it has built with Iraq’s Arab neighbors to press them to engage Baghdad and advance Iraq’s regional integration, while moderating the community’s ambitions.
Their absence from Iraq has left a vacuum for Iran to fill. Their unconditional support for every Sunni demand feeds the sectarianism that further empowers Iran with Baghdad and risks tearing Iraq apart.
Kurdish ambitions pose an equally volatile challenge to Iraq’s stability. The Kurdish region’s leader, Massoud Barzani, has called for a referendum on independence in September.
Meanwhile, the Kurds have taken advantage of the fight against ISIS to seize control of 70 percent of the territories in northern Iraq that are in dispute between Arabs and Kurds, and which they won’t be inclined to give up. Kurdish independence is a powerful dream and Mr. Barzani sees its realization as the heart of his legacy.
But moving too fast will incur the wrath of both Baghdad and the Sunnis inIraq, not to mention Turkey and Iran. If oil prices stay low, the Kurds will be hard pressed to become self-sufficient.
Here too, the United States should resume its role as an honest broker. There’s a deal to be made that gives the Kurds greater control over the oil in their region, while keeping federal troops out and negotiating joint responsibility for the disputed and oil-rich city of Kirkuk. It won’t happen by itself.
One final question: What, if any, United States military presence should remain in Iraq to help make sure ISIS does not rise again?
America’s departure at the end of 2011 reflected the reality then, that most Iraqis simply wanted us gone. Now, as Iraq awakes from the ISIS nightmare, there may be greater appetite to keep some Americans around to train and enable Iraqi forces, and to provide intelligence and counterterrorism support — but not to engage in combat. How the Trump administration navigates this political minefield will be another crucial test of its strategy.

UNESCO Supports Terrorism

Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/July 12/17
This is the same Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership that purports to be working toward achieving peace and coexistence with Israel. In the upside-down world of Palestinian denial, such repudiation of the truth is par for the course: the "culture of peace" lie that Abbas fed to President Donald Trump several weeks ago has about as much truth value as this newest deadly fabrication.
As of now, Palestinians also have an international agency (UNESCO) to support their anti-Israel narrative and rhetoric. The UNESCO resolutions are being interpreted by many Palestinians as proof that Israel has no right to exist. For many Palestinians, the resolutions are a green light to pursue their "armed struggle" to "liberate Palestine, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river."
The latest UNESCO resolutions are a catalyst for Palestinian terrorism against Israelis. Yet they are more than that: they also make the prospect of peace even more distant.
What do Hamas and UNESCO have in common?
Both believe that Jews have no historical, religious or emotional attachment to the Holy Land.
The recent UNESCO resolutions concerning Jerusalem and Hebron are precisely what terror groups that deny Israel's right to exist, such as Hamas, have long been hoping to hear from the international community.
The first resolution denies that Israel is the sovereign power over Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, while the second one designates Hebron and the Jewish Tomb of the Patriarchs as an "Endangered Palestinian World Heritage Site."
The Tomb of the Patriarchs of Hebron. (Image source: Zairon/Wikimedia Commons)
The two UNESCO resolutions, in fact, back the position of Hamas and other Palestinians -- namely that Israel has no right to exist. These decisions provide Hamas and other terror groups with ammunition with which to destroy Israel, killing as many Jews as possible in the process.
Is it any wonder, then, that Hamas leaders were rubbing their hands with glee upon the announcement of the UNESCO resolutions? Hamas can now crow: 'We told you that the Jews are just retrofitting their claims for 3000 or 4000 years of history in this area; now even the international community endorses the idea that Jewish history in the region is a lie.'
Hamas was the first Palestinian terror group to "welcome" the UNESCO decisions. For the Islamist movement, the resolutions serve as proof that Jews ought to find themselves another place in which to live.
"The UNESCO resolution pertaining to Jerusalem demolishes the false Israeli narrative and confirms our full right to Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque," remarked Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Al-Qanou. "We applaud the resolution and thank all the countries that voted in favor of it."
Hamas has also "welcomed" and praised UNESCO for its resolution on Hebron, citing it as "proof that the Israeli narrative is fake." Other Palestinian terror groups have hailed the UNESCO resolutions as a "victory for the Palestinians and a severe blow to Israel's false narratives."
The terrorists, however, are not alone in heaping praise on UNESCO for helping them promote their ideology of denial. The "moderate" Palestinian Authority (PA) of Mahmoud Abbas, which has long been denying Jewish rights in Jerusalem and Hebron, sees the resolutions as evidence of the "fakeness of the Israeli narrative." A statement issued by the PA government in Ramallah said that the resolutions prove that the Israeli narrative is false and that the Arab Palestinian narrative is correct."
This is the same PA leadership that purports to be working toward achieving peace and coexistence with Israel. In the upside-down world of Palestinian denial, such repudiation of the truth is par for the course: the "culture of peace" lie that Abbas fed to President Donald Trump several weeks ago has about as much truth value as this newest deadly fabrication.
Denying Jews' rights in Jerusalem and Hebron has long been a major component of the Palestinians' anti-Israel narrative. In school textbooks and other publications, Jewish religious sites are featured as "Arab, Palestinian and Islamic" religious places. The Western Wall, for example, is only described as "Al-Buraq Wall," while the Tomb of the Patriarchs is referred to as the Ibrahimi Mosque.
Generation after generation, Palestinian children are taught that Jewish history is a figment of some twisted Jewish imagination. They are also being taught that only Palestinians and Muslims are entitled to the Holy Land. And they learn this lesson well: many Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims continue to deny Israel's right to exist because they have absorbed this message of hate. This message, moreover, is pervasive -- it is disseminated not only through school textbooks, but also through media outlets and the rhetoric of their leaders, especially mosque preachers and imams.
As of now, Palestinians also have an international agency (UNESCO) to support their anti-Israel narrative and rhetoric. The UNESCO resolutions are being interpreted by many Palestinians as proof that Israel has no right to exist. For many Palestinians, the resolutions are a green light to pursue their "armed struggle" to "liberate Palestine, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river." Translation: UNESCO has given the Palestinians yet another incentive to take to the streets and kill the first Jew they meet.
The latest UNESCO resolutions are a catalyst for Palestinian terrorism against Israelis. Yet they are more than that: they also make the prospect of peace even more distant. UNESCO and other international agencies that deny Jewish history are sending a green light for violence and extremism to Palestinians and other Arabs and Muslims.
These resolutions are seen by Palestinians as supporting their false and invented narrative that they are the true owners of the land and that all the holy sites belong solely to Muslims.
Observing Hamas celebrate the UNESCO resolutions should worry those countries that voted in favor of the anti-Israel resolutions. When terrorists are emboldened by international parties, they do not hesitate to strike. Armed -- literally -- with the UNESCO resolutions, Palestinian terrorists are undoubtedly already planning their next attack on Jews.
The blood that they spill will be on the hands of UNESCO and those who voted in favor of its anti-Israel resolutions. They will share responsibility for the next terror attack on Jews perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists: after all, they were simply helping to support a "culture of peace."
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.
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