July 15/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 03/31-36/:"The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true.He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath."

I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth
Acts of the Apostles 13/44-52/:"The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, "I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth." ’When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their region. So they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit."

Question: "What is the Eastern Orthodox Church and what are the beliefs of Orthodox Christians?"
Answer: The Eastern Orthodox Church is not a single church but rather a family of 13 self-governing bodies, denominated by the nation in which they are located (e.g., the Greek Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church). They are united in their understanding of the sacraments, doctrine, liturgy, and church government, but each administers its own affairs. The head of each Orthodox church is called a “patriarch” or “metropolitan.” The patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) is considered the ecumenical—or universal—patriarch. He is the closest thing to a counterpart to the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church. Unlike the Pope, who is known as VICARIUS FILIUS DEI (the vicar of the Son of God), the bishop of Constantinople is known as PRIMUS INTER PARES (the first amongst equals). He enjoys special honor, but he has no power to interfere with the 12 other Orthodox communions.
The Orthodox Church claims to be the one true church of Christ, and seeks to trace its origin back to the original apostles through an unbroken chain of apostolic succession. Orthodox thinkers debate the spiritual status of Roman Catholics and Protestants, and a few still consider them heretics. Like Catholics and Protestants, however, Orthodox believers affirm the Trinity, the Bible as the Word of God, Jesus as God the Son, and many other biblical doctrines. However, in doctrine, they have much more in common with Roman Catholics than they do with Protestant Christians.
Sadly, the doctrine of justification by faith is virtually absent from the history and theology of the Orthodox Church. Rather, Orthodoxy emphasizes theosis (literally, “divinization”), the gradual process by which Christians become more and more like Christ. What many in the Orthodox tradition fail to understand is that “divinization” is the progressive result of salvation, not a requirement for salvation itself. Other Orthodox distinctives that are in conflict with the Bible include:
The equal authority of church tradition and Scripture
Discouragement of individuals interpreting the Bible apart from tradition
The perpetual virginity of Mary
Prayer for the dead
Baptism of infants without reference to individual responsibility and faith
The possibility of receiving salvation after death
The possibility of losing salvation
While the Eastern Orthodox Church has claimed some of the church's great voices, and while there are many in the Orthodox tradition that have a genuine salvation relationship with Jesus Christ, the Orthodox church itself does not speak with a clear message that can be harmonized with the biblical gospel of Christ. The call of the Reformers for “Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, and Christ alone” is missing in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and that is too precious a treasure to do without.
Recommended Resource: Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism by Gundry & Stamoolis

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 14-15/17
Israel and Hizballah: The Battle before the Battle/Jonathan Spyer/Jerusalem Post/July 14/17
Iran leases air, land and sea bases in Syria/Alex Fishman/Ynetnews/July 14/17
Jordan sees big gains in south Syria cease-fire/Osama Al Sharif/Al Monitor/July 14/17
Germany: Infectious Diseases Spreading as Migrants Settle In/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/July 14/17
Mosul aftermath: How Iran is shaping Iraq’s future/Pierre Ghanim/Al Arabiya/July 14/17
The first anniversary of the great victory of our democracy/Binali Yildirim/Al Arabiya/July 14/17
Hostile countries have failed in Qatif/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/July 14/17
India’s rapprochement with Israel partly due to disorder in the Arab world/Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/July 14/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 14-15/17
Report: US Pushes for Strengthening Ties with Lebanon
Families of Abducted Soldiers Up in Arms at 'Government Failure to Resolve Case'
Hariri: We'll Never 'Force' Refugees to Return Home, Will Only Address Issue with U.N.
Merhebi Renews Rejection of Dialogue with Syrian Regime over Return of Displaced
State Security Arrests Syrian Suspects Spying on Armed Forces
Kataeb to Rally against Taxes outside Parliament
Machnouk, Lazzarini discuss UN aid to Lebanon
Syrian Ambassador: Presence of mediator between two friendly countries 'illogical
Riachy represents President at Franco, Lebanese Medical Association's 8th conference
Army Commander meets US, Italian delegations
Ambassador Richard celebrates USAID/OTI civil society partners
Israel and Hizballah: The Battle before the Battle

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 14-15/17
Israel Mourns Police Officers Killed Friday's Temple Mount Attack
Temple Mount Attack Poses Important Test For Arab Moderates
PA President Abbas Condemns Temple Mount Terror Attack
Ankara, Doha Insist Turkish Base Will Stay in Qatar
US-Backed Forces in New Push against IS in Raqa
Five Egypt police shot dead near capital
2 Tourists Dead, 4 Hurt in Egypt Beach Stabbing
French Army Boss, Macron Appear Side-by-Side amid Tensions
Pomp and Mourning as Macron, Trump Mark France's Bastille Day
US has no proof IS leader Baghdadi is dead: Mattis
Netanyahu, Abbas Speak by Phone after Attack
Iran leases air, land and sea bases in Syria

Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 14-15/17
Report: US Pushes for Strengthening Ties with Lebanon
Naharnet/July 14/17/The US Administration admires Lebanon's policy and its ability to confront terrorism and has therefore encouraged President Donald Trump to strengthen ties with the country, al-Diyar daily reported on Friday. “The US administration has absolute confidence in Army Commander General Joseph Aoun and in Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, therefore it is unlikely for the US Treasury to impose new sanctions on Lebanon,” a report published in the daily said. “Prime Minister Saad Hariri will begin a trip to Washington and will be accompanied by Salameh and Army Commander General Aoun,” it said. “The US leadership has absolute confidence in Aoun and the same goes for the US Treasury which has confidence in Salameh. This makes it unlikely for the US Treasury to impose strict sanctions on Lebanon, particularly that the Department's statement was issued six-month ago without any change until this moment, and the Treasury's statement may have brought sanctions on specific individuals,” added the daily. “As for Army Commander Aoun, the US leadership at the political and military levels has decided to provide the Lebanese army with assistance after the appointment of the new Army Commander,” it said. “The Army chief is an excellent soldier who keeps the Lebanese army away from political parties accused by the United States, and recognizes that the army has nothing to do with Iran and that its operations are independent of Hizbullah's operations. There will be an increase in aid at all levels to train the Lebanese army,” it said. As for Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and “after reviewing reports raised to him about the region, the US President Donald Trump found that Lebanon has succeeded in combating terrorism and that Lebanon's stability is crucial compared to other Arab countries like Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. “Trump is satisfied with the situation in Lebanon and is supportive of the government's policy against terrorism. He wants to maintain stability and will listen to Hariri's views on Lebanon's governance and economic, financial and development policies in the years to come.”
“The US Administration has advised Trump to strengthen ties with Lebanon, so that Lebanon does not have good relations with Russia and Iran. The US administration knows that Lebanon has no strong ties with Russia and that it has no military ties with Iran, and that it has rejected the Iranian military gift to the Lebanese army. Therefore, according to reports raised to Trump, he is satisfied with the government's relationship with Iran and Russia.”As for Hizbullah, “Trump said that Hizbullah is a political party with representatives in the Lebanese government and parliament and has loyalty to Iran. But, Trump did not stop at this point because he only wants Lebanon to enjoy stability and democracy."Reports added that “Lebanon is enjoying democracy mainly after the election of President Michel Aoun and the devising of a new electoral law. The US administration has advised Trump to have good ties with Lebanon.”

Families of Abducted Soldiers Up in Arms at 'Government Failure to Resolve Case'
Naharnet/July 14/17/Families of soldiers abducted by the Islamic State group briefly blocked a main road in Downtown Beirut demanding knowing the fate of their sons after more than three years in the Islamic State groups' captivity. The relatives blocked the Banks Road in Riad al-Solh and demanded that “Prime Minister Saad Hariri come down to the street to negotiate with them.”The protestors stressed that they “will not leave the streets until the government discloses the fate of their sons.”Expressing frustration with the government’s failure to uncover the fate of their sons, Hussein Youssef, the main spokesman for the families and father of one of nine servicemen held hostage since 2014, angrily said: “Our protest today is only symbolic. Do not pressure us to block the streets again.”"Our sons did not defect from the military institution,” he stressed. The protestors said that a mediator has notified them that he needs an official authorization from the Lebanese government to negotiate with the abductors, but no response from the government was received as yet. The families reopened the road after a brief block. The Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front, which re-branded itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in July when it split from the al-Qaida movement, abducted over 30 servicemen in clashes with the Lebanese army in the northeastern border town of Arsal in August 2014. Sixteen held by the Jabhat Fateh al-Islam were freed in December last year through a Qatari-mediated deal that also included a prisoner swap to release a number of inmates from Lebanese jails. The two groups had previously executed four of the hostages. Nine hostages are still being held by the IS and their families do not know much about their fate.

Hariri: We'll Never 'Force' Refugees to Return Home, Will Only Address Issue with U.N.
Naharnet/July 14/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced Friday that he is in favor of a “speedy and safe return” by the Syrian refugees to their country, while stressing that Lebanon will only negotiate such a move with the United Nations and not with the Syrian regime. “We are in support of a speedy and safe return of the Syrian displaced. However, we will, under no circumstances, force the Syrian displaced to return to Syria,” Hariri told the Second High Level Steering Committee Meeting at the Grand Serail. “We will only address this issue in close coordination and joint planning with the U.N. and its specialized agencies,” he emphasized. The meeting was held in the presence of the ministers Marwan Hamadeh, Jebran Bassil, Nouhad al-Mashnouq and Pierre Bou Assi, President Michel Aoun's adviser Elias Bou Saab, Hariri's adviser on refugees Nadim Mounla, U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag, representatives of U.N. agencies and heads of missions of many embassies. “We are witnessing a rise in tensions between Syrians and Lebanese, which confirms the exhaustion of the host communities,” Hariri warned. “Of equal concern, the level of disbursement of humanitarian aid to Lebanon to date is less than half the assistance reported last year during the same period. Moreover, pledges for 2018 and beyond remain limited, thereby constraining the crucial multi-year assistance programs like RACEII,” he cautioned. Hariri underlined that Lebanese authorities will however make sure that the conditions for the return of refugees are “properly met and in accordance with international law.” “The burden of the Syrian displaced crisis has been very heavy on Lebanon. The entire country feels this burden and their presence has aggravated socio-economic indicators,” the premier said.

Merhebi Renews Rejection of Dialogue with Syrian Regime over Return of Displaced
Naharnet/July 14/17/State Minister for Affairs of the Displaced Moein Merhebi warned of the consequences if Hizbullah carries out a military assault in the outskirts of Arsal, and stressed that the return of the Syrian refugees must strictly be coordinated with the United Nations, the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat daily reported on Friday. Merehbi said Hizbullah's assault against IS militants in Arsal impacts Lebanon, “the military operation has negative impact, it (Hizbullah) must not involve itself. We have a Lebanese national army that is doing the job in the best way possible," he said. “It (Hizbullah) must become a political party, this military operation is condemned and so are all its military actions carried out at home and abroad,” said al-Mustaqbal Movement minister. Media reports alleged on Thursday that Hizbullah has received approval from essential parties in Lebanon, especially al-Mustaqbal Movement, for carrying out a military campaign in Arsal's outskirts to oust the jihadist Islamic State and Fateh al-Sham groups from the area. Turning to the need for Syrian refugees to return, Merhebi stressed that coordination with Damascus (as per encouraged by Hizbullah) is strictly rejected and that the matter must be coordinated through the UN. “Dialogue with the Syrian regime is unacceptable. The (Syrian) regime is a criminal regime, it has sent us Michel Samaha to blow us up, how can we negotiate with the Syrian regime? The issue is totally non-negotiable,” emphasized Merhebi. “The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is doing its job, studying the possibility of their return to a safe area and making plans that may not be announced," he said. "There is also a team inside Syria dealing with the internally displaced persons, trying to provide them with all the necessities to secure their lives. The return of the Syrians is related to security, it is linked to the establishment of safe and secure areas protected by the Security Council, or the imposition of a comprehensive peace on Syrian territory and preventing all forms of killings and war."While Hizbullah, the Free Patriotic Movement and their allies are in favor of kicking dialogue with Damascus, 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.

State Security Arrests Syrian Suspects Spying on Armed Forces
Naharnet/July 14/17/Lebanon's State Security apparatus arrested two Syrian nationals on suspicion of spying on the country's army forces, the State-run National News Agency reported on Friday. A State Security patrol in al-Nabatieh arrested Mohammed Aa. and Hussein S., both Syrians, against the backdrop of spying on the Lebanese army, NNA said. Several videos filmed with the suspects' mobiles showed footage of roads surrounding the Defense Ministry, the Fouad Shehab Command and Staff College (CSC), the Intelligence building Mount Lebanon branch, the Military Academy, the Officers' Residence in Hazmieh, and the areas surrounding the buildings in that neighborhood. The suspects were referred to the military court upon the request of the Government Commissioner, added NNA.

Kataeb to Rally against Taxes outside Parliament
Naharnet/July 14/17/The student and youth department of the Kataeb Party on Friday called for a protest outside parliament during the July 18-19 legislative session. “Once again the ruling political class tries to pass the taxes bill that it had failed to pass in March due to the Lebanese people's pressure and the opposition MPs, who stood in the face of the ruling class to prevent it from further impoverishing the Lebanese,” the department said in a statement. “Seeing as together we can confront the ruling class and stop the crime that it intends to commit against every Lebanese, we call for staging sit-ins on Tuesday and Wednesday,” it urged. Kataeb, civil society groups, the Progressive Socialist Party and the National Liberal Party had organized a similar protest against a proposed tax hike in March. The ruling class argues that hiking taxes is necessary to fund a long-stalled new wage scale for public employees and the armed forces, but opponents of such a move have called on authorities to find alternative funding sources. Kataeb chief MP Sami Gemayel has said that “the new wage scale should be funded through putting an end to the squandering and theft of public money and through introducing real reform and change... not through hiking taxes.”

Machnouk, Lazzarini discuss UN aid to Lebanon
Fri 14 Jul 2017 /NNA - Interior and Municipalities Minister, Nouhad Machnouk, welcomed on Friday UN Special Coordinator in Lebanon, Philippe Lazzarini, with whom he discussed preparations for the next legislative elections and the role of the United Nations in this regard. The pair also discussed the case of Syrian refugees and international mediations in order to find a political solution to the crisis and to draft a plan for their return to their country.

Syrian Ambassador: Presence of mediator between two friendly countries 'illogical'

Fri 14 Jul 2017/NNA - Syria's Ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdel Karim Ali, on Friday asked Syrians to return home, especially as Syria defeated terrorism and reconciliations were expanding. "Aleppo, Homs, Damascus, Latakia, Tartous, and Soueida are 'safe areas', but no region is safe in the true sense of the word, neither Paris nor Washington or London." However, the Syrian diplomat said that this step required coordination between the governments of the Lebanese and Syrian states. In the wake of his meeting with Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, he called for greater coordination in the security field. "Syria is doing well now and will be in a better shape later," he added. Asked about Syria's refusal to negotiate the return of refugees through the UN, Ali criticized the very principle of mediating between two embassies and peoples bound by agreements and kinship relations, describing the matter as "illogical". "The terrorism that strikes Syria is identical to that against Arsal. The interest of the two countries lies in economic, security, political and social cooperation," he said. On another level, Minister Bassil received the new ambassadors of France, Spain and Hungary. They handed him a copy of their credentials before presenting them to President of the Republic, Michel Aoun.

Riachy represents President at Franco, Lebanese Medical Association's 8th conference

Fri 14 Jul 2017/NNA - The Franco-Lebanese Medical Association opened its eighth conference on Friday in a ceremony held at the Higher Institute of Business under the patronage of President Michel Aoun, represented by Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, in cooperation with Mashreq Hospital and the Higher Institute of Business. The opening ceremony was attended by Minister Riachy, MP Nabil Nicolas, former Minister Mohammad Jawad Khalifeh, Lebanon's Ambassador to UNESCO Dr. Khalil Karam, President of the Lebanese Order of Physicians, Raymond Al Sayegh, French-Lebanese MP Elie Abboud, former French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, Dr. Nina Saadallah Zaidan, Cultural Attaché at the French Embassy in Lebanon, Ms. Veronique Olunian, and a group of doctors, academics, and social figures. After the Lebanese national anthem, the Director General of the Higher Institute of Business, Stephan Atali, gave a speech welcoming attendees and praising the importance of holding this advanced medical conference at the institute by the French-Lebanese Medical Association. Representing President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, Information Minister, Melhem Riachy delivered the following word: "First of all, on behalf of President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, who has done me the honor to represent him in this assembly, I warmly welcome you to this pleasant event. The 8th Congress of the Franco-Lebanese Medical Association offers Lebanon a great opportunity. I congratulate you for your exceptional professional and human qualities, working together and sharing excellence, a thing which serves Lebanese-French relations best. July 14, is a day on which we pay tribute to the values of fraternity, equality and freedom. Lebanon extends to France its warmest wishes on this occasion. You have placed "Man" at the center of your concerns, through a program that inaugurates the medicine of tomorrow. From "Genome engineering", to the "new successes of gene therapy", to "artificial intelligence and surgery", one cannot turn a blind eye to the stakes of such themes, especially at a time when the problems posed by bioethics are enormous. These are realities that challenge us all. At a time when systems and values are changing, yours is more than an anticipatory vision. This is a vast project that you are going to undertake. I would also like to share with you the conviction that you play a substantive role in the dynamics of cooperation within our Francophone family. All that remains for me is to wish you a successful and fruitful experience by asking you to join me in congratulating the Franco-Lebanese Medical Association."

Army Commander meets US, Italian delegations

Fri 14 Jul 2017/NNA - Army commander-in-chief Joseph Aoun met in Yarzeh on Friday with Lt. Gen. Michael Garrett, U.S. Army central commanding general, in presence of US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard. Discussions focused on areas of military cooperation, including training and equipment for the Lebanese Army. Also on Friday, General Aoun received an Italian military delegation, with whom he discussed the relationship between the armies of the two countries. MIBIL: Instructors of the Italian Armed Forces train the Lebanese presidential guard Fri 14 Jul 2017/NNA - A ceremony took place today in the presence of the Italian Ambassador to Lebanon, Massimo Marotti, and the Italian Special Forces Commander, Gen. Nicola Zanelli, to mark the conclusion of the second session of the "Presidential Guard Special Training - Basic" course to the benefit of the Lebanese Presidential Guard carried out by Italian instructors within the training activities organized by the Italian Bilateral Military Mission in Lebanon (MIBIL). The five-week course allowed 38 members of the Presidential Guard to be trained by a Mobile Training Team of the Joint Special Forces Command composed of Army and Navy special forces as well as elements of the Carabinieri Special Intervention Unit. The Italian Bilateral Mission, currently headed by Gen. Salvatore Radizza, is developing since 2015 a program with the aim of providing certain units of the Lebanese Armed Forces with some advanced operational skills in support of the Lebanese national institution committed to ensuring the security and defense of the State and population.

Ambassador Richard celebrates USAID/OTI civil society partners

Fri 14 Jul 2017/NNA - Ambassador Elizabeth Richard joined more than 300 guests on July 13th to celebrate the important work of USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives’ (OTI) civil society partners in Lebanon over its 10-year program. The OTI program was initiated in 2007 to help Lebanon cope with emerging threats to its stability, and is successfully closing as scheduled in September 2017. The efforts of civil society partners and the increasing stability in Lebanon have created the conditions for the United States to shift these funds to longer-term, more standard approaches for development in Lebanon, and the OTI program’s closure will be followed by new USAID programming in the development sector. Entitled "Tribute to a Decade of Activism: Partnering for a Brighter Future", the event featured remarks from Ambassador Richard, OTI Director Stephen Lennon, and OTI partner Management Systems International Vice President Andrew Griminger, as well as a civil society exhibition, a photo and art exhibit, and music and dance performances. Attendees included representatives from local government, civil society, donors, the private sector, U.N. agencies, the U.S. Embassy, and other international embassies. The event paid tribute to the work of civil society partners as the transitional program reaches its scheduled closure, while looking forward to continued U.S. support for Lebanon. In her remarks, Ambassador Richard stated, "OTI has helped communities pursue our shared vision in a number of vital areas, including support for public services and infrastructure, and training for youth in conflict mitigation and civic education. OTI has also championed moderate voices, helped to create inclusive public spaces, and provided income generating opportunities for local businesses and youth." Ambassador Richard reaffirmed the continued investment of the United States in Lebanon’s future after the OTI program concludes in September. "Though the OTI program is ending, the U.S. Government, through USAID, remains committed to funding these types of activities that support communities and civil society."Since the beginning of its Lebanon program in 2007, OTI has worked with nearly 550 local partners to complete more than 760 projects at a cost of $104 million. With a focus on local communities, OTI emphasized a commitment to building a vibrant civil society and empowering youth to achieve a positive future.
OTI held more than 21,000 events to strengthen understanding between groups, and its small-scale infrastructure projects benefited more than a million people.Although OTI has completed its ten-year mission, USAID will continue working with civil society and local communities in a wide range of programs.

Israel and Hizballah: The Battle before the Battle/إسرائيل وحزب الله: المعركة ما قبل المعركة
Jonathan Spyer/Jerusalem Post/July 14/17
During the 2006 war beween Israel and Hizballah, Israeli military actions were limited by the broader diplomatic situation. The expulsion of Syria from Lebanon had taken place a year earlier. The government of then prime minister Fuad Siniora in Beirut was considered one of the few successes of the US democracy promotion project in the region. As a result, pressure was placed on Israel to restrict its operations to targets directly related to Hizballah activity alone.
Ten years is a long time. Today, the view in Israel is that the distinction between Hizballah and the institutions and authorities of the Lebanese state has disappeared.
But while the government of Lebanon is no longer a particular protégé of the US and the west, the position taken in western capitals regarding the Lebanese state and, notably, its armed forces remains markedly different to that taken in Jerusalem. The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) continues to be a major beneficiary of US aid. This gap in perceptions reflects different primary security concerns. For Israel, altering this perception in the west before the next conflict with Hizballah is a primary strategic task.
So what are the facts of the case?
One of the basic expectations of a functioning state is that it exercise a monopoly of the use of violence within its borders. From this point of view, the Lebanese state ceased to function some time ago. As the 2006 war and subsequent events graphically demonstrated, Hizballah and its patrons could operate an independent foreign and military policy without seeking the permission of the official authorities in Beirut.
What has happened in the intervening decade, however, is that Hizballah and its allies, rather than simply ignoring the wishes of the state, have progressively absorbed its institutions.
The events of May/June 2008 in Beirut finally demonstrated the impotence of ‘official’ Lebanon in opposing the will of Hizballah and its allies.
Then, on the official political level, Hizballah and its allies prevented the appointment of a Lebanese president for two years, before ensuring the ascendance of their own allied candidate, General Michel Aoun in October, 2016. For good measure, the March 8 bloc of which Hizballah is a part ensured for itself 8 portfolios in the 17 person Lebanese Cabinet. Of these, two are directly in the hands of Hizballah.
So at the level of political leadership, it is no longer possible to identify where the Lebanese state begins and Hizballah ends. And the organization has long enjoyed a de facto, physical dominance, both within Lebanon and in terms of its actions across and beyond its borders (against Israel, in its intervention in the Syrian civil war, and in its involvement with other pro-Iranian militia groups in Iraq and Yemen).
What of the issue of security cooperation between Hizballah and the Lebanese Armed Forces?
No serious observer of Lebanon disputes that open cooperation between the two forces has increased over the last half decade. The background to this is the threat of Salafi jihadi terrorism from Syrian Salafi groups engaged in the Syrian civil war. A series of bombings in Shia south Beirut and in border communities triggered the joint effort by Hizballah and the LAF.
Of course, the bombings were taking place as retaliation by Syrian Salafis for Hizballah’s own involvement in the war in Syria on the regime side. The LAF and Hizballah cooperated on the level of intelligence cooperation, and scored a number of successes in locating and apprehending Salafi cells on Lebanese soil. As a result of the increasingly overt cooperation between the LAF and Hizballah, Saudi Arabia ended its military assistance to the LAF, cancelling a $3 billion pledge in February, 2016. The cancellation was a tacit admission of defeat by the Saudis, an acknowledgement that their project of exerting influence and power in Lebanon through their clients had failed.
The US, however, has continued its relationship with the LAF, which was the recipient of $200 million in assistance from Washington last year. Last December, the US dismissed Israeli assertions that M113 armored vehicles displayed by Hizballah in a triumphant parade in the town of Qasayr in Syria came from LAF stocks. The LAF, according to a statement by John Kirby, then State Department Spokesman, has an ‘exemplary record’ in complying with US end-use guidelines and restrictions.
A statement by Lebanese President Michel Aoun in February appeared to confirm the situation of cooperation between the forces. Aoun told the Egyptian CBC channel that Hizballah’s arms ‘do not contradict the state…and are an essential part of defending Lebanon. As long as the Lebanese army lacks sufficient power to face Israel, we feel the need for ‘Hizballah’s arsenal, because it complements the army’s role.’
The difference of opinion between the US and Israel in this regard is of growing importance because of the emergent evidence of hitherto unreported Hizballah activities. In particular, there is deep disquiet in Israel regarding revelations of an Iranian-supported, homegrown Hizballah arms industry. This, combined with what may be the beginnings of a slow winding down of the Syrian war raises the possibility of renewed tensions with Hizballah.
This does not mean that war is imminent. But from an Israeli point of view, the gap in understanding and perception between Washington and Jerusalem on the LAF, and by definition on the current nature of the Lebanese state, is a matter requiring urgent attention. It is currently one of the missing pieces in the diplomatic structure which alone can make possible the kind of war that Israel will be wanting to fight next time round, should Hizballah attack or provocation come.
This is intended to be a war on a quite different scale and dimension to 2006.
The intention will be to dismiss any distinction between Hizballah and the Lebanese state, and to wage a state to state war against Lebanon, on the basis that the distinction has become a fiction. This will involve an all out use of military force that will be intended to force a relatively quick decision.
For this to be conceivable, a diplomatic battle has to first be won. This is the battle to convince the west, or at least the US, that an Iranian proxy militia has today effectively swallowed the Lebanese state, making war against the former by its very nature involve war against the latter. This battle before the battle has not yet been won. It is part of a larger Israeli hope to focus the US and the west on Iran and Shia political Islam, in place of the current western focus on the Sunni variety. Only thus will Israel be able to establish the strategic depth in the diplomatic arena that will enable, if necessary, its plans in the event of war with Hizballah to be carried out.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 14-15/17
Israel Mourns Police Officers Killed Friday's Temple Mount Attack
Jerusalem Post/July 14/17/Israeli police released further details regarding the identities of the officers who were involved in stopping the terror attack on Friday at Temple Mount and confirmed that two had been killed and two wounded. The slain officers are Hail Stawi, 30, from Maghar and Kamil Shanan, 22, from Hurfeish, both in northern Israel. Officer Shanan leaves behind a three-week old child, and was the son of former Israeli Druse Knesset member Shakib Shanan. He was recruited into the Israel Police’s Temple Mount unit in 2012. Shanan joined the police as part of his national service and signed on as a career officer seven months ago. Funerals will be held in the officers’ hometowns on Friday. Israel's Druze community lost two of its finest sons.The entire State of Israel salutes the courage of Hayil and Kamil, who saved many lives. The officers were shot at by terrorists who used Carlo (home-made) rifles. Israeli media reported that one of the terrorists, who was considered to be already neutralized, was able to get to his feet and attempted to assault the officers and was then shot and killed. The attackers were later identified by the Shin Bet as 29-year-old Muhammad Ahmad Mahmoud Jabarin, Muhammad Ahmed Fadel Jabarin 19, and Muhammad Hamed 'Abd al-Latif Jabarin, 19, from Umm el-Fahm in northern Israel.  The attack, which took place shorty after 7:00 a.m., is the second attack at Jerusalem’s Old City within the past month and resulted in the closure of the Temple Mount to Muslim worshipers on Friday.
Israeli officials from across the political spectrum came together on social media to mourn the losses of the policemen. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to the families in the name of all Israelis on his accounts. Zionist Union lawmakers pointed out that Shanan was the son of former Labor MK Shakib Shanan. “One of the policemen that was murdered in the horrible terrorist attack was the son of a friend,” MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) tweeted. Education Minister Naftali Bennett said: “The Jewish people are connected in a covenant of life with our Druse brothers.” He changed his avatar on twitter to a photo of the Israeli and Druse flags. The police said in a statement that Friday's attack was an “exceptional and extreme” incident. “Shooting at the Temple Mount is serious and sensitive event, which is significant on the political and international level and will be dealt with accordingly,” police said. Police said the Temple Mount will remain closed for an undisclosed amount of time until the conclusion of an investigation into the incident and after searches of the area.

Temple Mount Attack Poses Important Test For Arab Moderates
Jerusalem Post/July 14/17/The Friday morning’s terror attack in Jerusalem’s Old City will be a huge test for the Palestinian Authority and the moderate Arab world. Following the early morning attack, in which three terrorists opened fire on a group of policemen near Lion’s Gate and then fled to the Temple Mount before being shot and killed by police, Jerusalem chief of Police Yoram Halevi ordered the area closed, evacuated, and cancelled Friday Muslim prayers.  Police were considering entering the Temple Mount complex to search for weapons caches.It’s taken a lot less to ignite the Palestinian street, as has been witnessed from the first and second Intifadas and last year’s stabbing and vehicular attack sprees. Will Israel’s response to Friday’s attack be the catalyst for another uprising? It depends on the Arab leadership. If PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah and other figures in the Arab world use the attack to urge calm, condemn terror and let Israel do what it needs to secure its citizens, then the incident will likely pass quietly and things will return to their usual low-level tense reality. If, however, instead of focusing on the attack, the Palestinian and Jordanian reaction only condemns the Israeli response and decries the military suppression and the lack of religious freedom for Muslims in Jerusalem, it’s bound to light a fire. And if they take it further by flagrantly warning that the Israeli measures are a facade to take over the Temple Mount, all hell could break loose. It’s only July and the Middle East heat has been unbearable. Will things heat up further in August? It appears that it’s going to be up to the Palestinians.

PA President Abbas Condemns Temple Mount Terror Attack
Jerusalem Post/July 14/17/In a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Friday’s shooting attack on the Temple Mount, the official PA media agency Wafa reported.  “The [PA] president expressed his strong rejection and condemnation of the incident that took place at the holy al-Aksa Mosque,” the Wafa report stated, referring to one of the mosques on the Temple Mount. “He affirmed his rejection of any violent incident [carried out] by any party, especially in houses of worship.” In the early morning on Friday, three Arab-Israelis from Umm al-Fahm carried out a shooting attack on the Temple Mount, killing two Israeli police officers and injuring three others, Police said. Abbas also expressed his disapproval of Israel’s decision to close the Temple Mount and called on Netanyahu to reverse it.  Following the attack this morning, Israeli security forces evacuated and closed the Temple Mount, effectively canceling Friday prayers at the holy site. Thousands of Muslims traditionally pray at the Temple Mount on Friday. Police said the Temple Mount will remain closed for an undisclosed amount of time until the conclusion of an investigation into the attack, which they called “extreme and exceptional.”Netanyahu told his Palestinian counterpart that there will be no change to the status quo on the Temple Mount, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. A number of Palestinian leaders on Friday expressed concerns that Israel would exploit the attack to make changes to the status quo on the Temple Mount. The Prime Minister also called for all parties to calm the situation in Jerusalem. Abbas and Netanyahu last spoke in November after the PA sent firefighters to Israel to help Israeli firefighters put out fires around the country. According to Wafa, Abbas’s office spoke with Jordanian officials in an effort to reopen the Temple Mount. Jordan is considered the custodian of the Temple Mount. Fatah, the dominant political party in the West Bank, on Friday called on Muslim worshipers to defy the closure of the Temple Mount and pray there. “Set out for the al-Aqsa Mosque,” Fatah said on its official Facebook page. “We call on our people to go the al-Aqsa Mosque, pray there, and break the Israeli siege that aims to change the historical sites of the holy city and judaize them.”The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammed Hussein also called on worshipers to go to the Temple Mount and said that Friday prayers there have not been canceled there since 1967.

Ankara, Doha Insist Turkish Base Will Stay in Qatar
Agence France PresseéNaharnet/July 14/17/Turkey and Qatar on Friday insisted Ankara would keep a new military base in the emirate, rejecting demands from other Gulf countries for the facility to be closed.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain last month cut diplomatic ties with Qatar over what they allege is Doha's support for extremist groups and ties to Riyadh's regional rival, Iran. They then issued 13 wide-ranging demands to lift a blockade placed on Qatar, including the closure of the Turkish military base in the emirate. "No country has the right to raise the issue of the Turkish base or the military cooperation between Qatar and Turkey as long as this cooperation respects international law," Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told reporters in Ankara. Speaking after meeting al-Thani, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the demands to close the base "go against the two countries' sovereignty. "A third country has no right to say something to Qatar or Turkey. Everyone must respect this," he added. Cavusoglu added that until now, there had been "no objections" over the base, Turkey's first military facility in the Gulf region. The crisis has put Turkey in a delicate position since .Qatar is its main ally in the Gulf but Ankara does not want to antagonize key regional power Saudi Arabia.
Shortly after the crisis unfolded, Ankara fast-tracked the deployment of troops at the base as part of a bilateral defense deal agreed in late 2014. Turkey now has 150 troops at the base, Hurriyet daily reported on Wednesday, up from 80 first sent after the parliament approved the deployment. Cavusoglu also pointed to the lack of objections to the presence in Qatar of the largest American airbase in the Middle East, seen as crucial to the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will visit the key players in the crisis -- including Saudi Arabia and Qatar -- in the next weeks. The Qatari top diplomat, who will meet Erdogan later, said Doha was being subjected to an "unjust siege" imposed "without any reason."

US-Backed Forces in New Push against IS in Raqa
Agence France PresseéNaharnet/July 14/17/US-backed forces captured a new district from jihadists in Syria's Raqa but struggled to hold their positions against suicide car bombers, a fighter in the city and a monitor said. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, seized the eastern Batani district from the Islamic State group on Thursday. "Late Thursday, they began an offensive on neighbouring Al-Rumeilah," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Clashes were raging on Friday as IS deployed its typical defensive tactics: weaponised drones, snipers, and improvised explosive devices, Abdel Rahman told AFP. An SDF fighter near Al-Rumeilah told AFP on Thursday that suicide attackers were using explosives-laden vehicles to hold back the SDF. "They're sending booby-trapped cars towards our positions, and as they fall back, they're laying mines," said the 30-year-old fighter, who identified himself as Abu. Civilians "can't move. They can't leave during the day because of snipers." Abu said his unit had managed to open up an escape route for residents of Al-Rumeilah, like 56-year-old Abdel Halim Ulaywi. "Ten days ago, a strike hit our home and we ran inside quickly. My sister was hit in the stomach and started bleeding. She stayed alive for six days and then she died," Ulaywi said. He had tried to escape several times "but IS kept forcing us back," he told AFP. According to Abdel Rahman, IS has slowed down the SDF's push in other parts of Raqa, including the Old City. "The SDF is struggling to hold newly seized positions in the Old City because of intense sniping and escalating attacks by drones carrying bombs," he said. IS captured Raqa in early 2014, transforming the northern Syrian city into the scene of gruesome atrocities like public beheadings. The SDF, backed by US-led coalition air strikes, spent months encircling the city before finally breaking into it on June 6. The militia has since captured around 30 percent of the city, according to the British-based Observatory.

Five Egypt police shot dead near capital
Fri 14 Jul 2017/NNA - ssailants killed five Egyptian policemen in a shooting south of Cairo on Friday, in the latest of a series of attacks targeting the country's security forces, the interior ministry said. The ministry said three gunmen opened fire on a police car and then fled, killing a non-commissioned officer, three conscripts and a police employee. The attack took place near Badrasheen, a town some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Cairo, where militants have also targeted police in the past. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The killings came as police and the army said they are closing in on militants and jihadists following a spate of deadly attacks in the Nile Valley and the Sinai Peninsula.Egypt has struggled to quell the Islamic State jihadist group based in the Sinai Peninsula and smaller militant groups in the mainland since the military overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and cracked down on his supporters. IS jihadists killed at least 21 soldiers in restive north Sinai on July 7, the same day as the militant Hasam group claimed responsibility for shooting dead an officer with Egypt's secret police in an attack north of Cairo. The interior ministry said a day later that it had killed 14 alleged IS members in a raid on a training camp in the eastern province of Ismailiya. Earlier this week, the ministry said police had killed six IS militants in a shootout in southern Egypt. While smaller groups like Hasam have mostly targeted policemen and government officials, IS has also attacked foreign tourists and Egypt's Coptic Christian minority.--AFP

2 Tourists Dead, 4 Hurt in Egypt Beach Stabbing
Agence France PresseéNaharnet/July 14/17/
Two foreign women were killed on Friday and four others were wounded when an assailant stabbed them at an Egyptian Red Sea beach resort, officials said. The governor of Red Sea province, where the resort of Hurghada is located, said two "foreign residents" of the city were killed in the attack, a cabinet statement said. Although the attacker's motives were unclear, the stabbing will come as a blow to Egypt which has been trying to woo back tourists after years of unrest and deadly attacks. There was confusion about the nationalities of the victims, with Egyptian officials and state media initially saying the two women killed were Ukrainian which Kiev's ambassador to Egypt denied. An Egyptian health ministry official told AFP "the two foreigners killed earlier are Germans". But Germany's foreign ministry, which condemned the stabbing as "cowardly" in a statement, said it could not confirm or deny whether its nationals were among the victims. An Armenian foreign ministry spokesman said two Armenian women had been wounded in the attack, and the Czech foreign ministry tweeted that one of its nationals had been lighty injured. The interior ministry said in a statement that the attacker, who had swum ashore, was arrested and was being questioned. "We don't know his motives yet, he could be crazy or perturbed -- it's too early to tell," a senior interior ministry official told AFP. In January 2016, three tourists in Hurghada were wounded in a stabbing assault by two assailants with apparent Islamic State group (IS) sympathies. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday's stabbing. Hurghada is one of Egypt's most popular beach resorts, especially with Ukrainians and European tourists. Security has been boosted in resorts around the country, as the tourism industry provides Egypt with much-needed revenues. An IS bombing of a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers from a south Sinai resort in 2015 killed all 224 people on board and decimated the country's tourism sector. Russia suspended all flights to Egypt in response and has yet to resume them.IS has been waging a deadly insurgency based in the north of the Sinai Peninsula that has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers.
Policemen shot dead
Also on Friday, unknown assailants shot dead five policemen south of Cairo, in the latest of a series of attacks targeting the country's security forces. The ministry said three gunmen opened fire on a police car and then fled, killing a non-commissioned officer, three conscripts and a police employee.
CCTV footage posted online by the Ahram newspaper showed the three assailants pretending to fix a motorbike before they opened fire on a passing police truck then looted it. The attack took place near Badrasheen, a town some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Cairo, where militants have also targeted police in the past. As with the beach stabbing, there has not yet been any claim of responsibility for the attack. The killings came as police and the army said they were closing in on militants and jihadists following a spate of deadly attacks in the Nile Valley and the Sinai Pe ninsula. Egypt has struggled to quell IS jihadists based in the Sinai and smaller militant groups in the mainland since the military overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and cracked down on his supporters. IS jihadists killed at least 21 soldiers in restive north Sinai on July 7, the same day as the militant Hasam group claimed responsibility for shooting dead an officer with Egypt's secret police in an attack north of the capital. While smaller groups such as Hasam have mostly targeted policemen and government officials, IS has also attacked foreign tourists and Egypt's Coptic Christian minority. Dozens of Christians have been killed in church bombings and shootings since last December in attacks claimed by IS. The jihadists have threatened to carry out further attacks on Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 90 million people.

French Army Boss, Macron Appear Side-by-Side amid Tensions
Agence France PresseéNaharnet/July 14/17/French military chief Pierre de Villiers attended Friday's Bastille Day parade in Paris on Friday alongside commander-in-chief Emmanuel Macron after receiving a dressing down from the president for objecting to defense budget cuts. Macron called General De Villiers to order on Thursday, saying: "I am your chief. I know how to honor the commitments I make to our citizens."Speaking to military brass at a traditional gathering on the eve of Bastille Day, he called on them all to remember their "sense of duty and reserve."The rebuke came after participants at a closed-door hearing of parliament's defense committee said De Villiers banged his fist on the table and told them the military did not want to be "screwed" by the economy ministry. Under pressure to find savings, the new French government asked the military to stick within its overall budget of 32.7 billion euros ($37.3 billion).
Defense cost overruns are expected to total around 850 million euros this year. The government has pledged to keep its overall deficit under 3.0 percent of GDP -- which is required under EU budget rules -- and has identified a total of 4.5 billion euros in savings. Speaking on French radio RTL early Friday, Defense Minister Florence Parly said Macron had "reminded certain people of the collective discipline that is needed." She said "everyone should contribute to the joint effort" to tighten belts so that France's spending can comply with EU rules for the first time in a decade -- one of Macron's key commitments. In a commentary that appeared in the conservative daily Le Figaro on Friday De Villiers was more measured, writing: "Our armies have been under great pressure for several years... with 30,000 troops in operational roles, day and night." He complained that operations have had to be postponed or canceled for lack of funds. In addition to its commitments overseas, notably in the west African former French colony Mali, the army has deployed 7,000 soldiers to domestic operations since the start of a string of jihadist attacks in early 2015. The military budget is to increase to 34.2 billion euros in 2018. Macron pledged to increase it to 2.0 percent of gross domestic product by 2025, which would bring it to 50 billion euros.

Pomp and Mourning as Macron, Trump Mark France's Bastille Day
Agence France PresseéNaharnet/July 14/17/French President Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump marked France's national day together on Friday at a military parade which clearly delighted the U.S. president and showcased warming relations between the two leaders. But the day was tinged with mourning, coming a year on from a jihadist massacre that claimed 86 lives in the southern city of Nice, where Macron headed after the Paris parade. Trump was Macron's guest of honour at the Bastille Day celebration in the French capital as this year marked the centenary of the United States entering World War I. The parade featured French and American troops marching down the fabled Champs-Elysees and the traditional flypast of French jets, this year followed by the U.S. aerobatic team along with two F-22 stealth fighters. U.S. troops dressed in the brown uniform and gaiters of the Great War were among the 3,720 soldiers in the parade. "Nothing will ever separate us," the 39-year-old Macron said from the reviewing stand, adding that Trump's presence by his side was "the sign of a friendship across the ages" between their countries. "Today our two countries stand taller -- and more united -- than ever," Trump, 71, said in a statement issued by the White House after his departure, which featured another muscular handshake between the men lasting a full 25 seconds. Macron then flew to Nice, where a year ago, a Tunisian extremist rammed a 19-tonne truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day along the famous Promenade des Anglais hugging the Mediterranean. In less than three minutes, 86 people including 15 children were crushed to death and another 450 were injured. Of the dead, 37 were foreigners of 19 different nationalities. IS claimed responsibility, saying the attack was carried out by one of its "soldiers" -- who was shot dead at the end of his rampage -- though no direct link has been found. The attack left a "gaping wound", said local Emilie Petitjean, who lost her nine-year-old son and had a lead role in planning Friday's ceremony. "It's a recognition. Everyone knows we have suffered. I don't expect to get better, but I expect Nice to be honored," she said. Macron handed out awards, including the coveted Legion of Honor, to emergency workers and police who responded to the carnage. In Paris, Macron rolled out the red carpet for Trump's visit in the hope of improving relations and persuade the U.S. president to change his mind about withdrawing from the global Paris agreement on climate change. Trump said cryptically after their talks on Thursday that "something could happen with respect to the Paris accord... but we will talk about that over the coming period of time." Trump had appeared isolated at a meeting of world leaders last weekend in Germany over his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris global climate change agreement and his protectionist stance on trade. The warm body language between him and Macron seemed at odds with broader concerns about the transatlantic relationship since Trump's election victory in November last year.The two men enjoyed a "dinner between friends" on Thursday at a Michelin-starred restaurant on the Eiffel Tower. Joined by their wives Brigitte and Melania, they tucked into beef with truffle sauce and warm strawberry and yogurt sorbet, with one of the most celebrated views in the world as their backdrop.
Anti-terror cooperation 
Despite their differences on climate change and trade, the two leaders focused on their close cooperation on fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq during their talks. "We are fighting to destroy the terrorist organizations that threaten all civilized peoples and that continue to exact a terrible toll on the French people, including one year ago today (in Nice)," Trump's statement said. "Together, we will eliminate their safe havens, end their financing and eradicate their ideology."France has been under a state of emergency since November 2015, when 130 people were slaughtered in a wave of coordinated violence across Paris, with French lawmakers voting last week to extend it for the sixth time. Terror attacks in France have killed more than 230 people since January 2015. Interior Minister Gerard Collomb says seven terror plots have been foiled since the start of this year.

US has no proof IS leader Baghdadi is dead: Mattis
Fri 14 Jul 2017ظNNA - Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said Friday he cannot confirm whether or not Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead, after reports from Syria that the jihadist leader had been killed. "If we knew, we would tell you -- right now, I can't confirm or deny it," Mattis said. "Our approach is we assume he's alive until it's proven otherwise, and right now I can't prove it otherwise."The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a longtime conflict monitor, said earlier this week it had heard from senior IS leaders in Syria's Deir Ezzor province that Baghdadi was dead. There was no official confirmation or denial of the news on IS-run social media outlets. "We'll go after him until he's gone," Mattis said. There have been persistent rumors that Baghdadi has died in recent months. Russia's army said in mid-June that it was seeking to verify whether it had killed the IS chief in a May air strike in Syria. With a $25 million US bounty on his head, Baghdadi has kept a low profile but was rumored to move regularly throughout IS-held territory in Iraq and Syria. The 46-year-old Iraqi has not been seen since making his only known public appearance as "caliph" in 2014 at the Grand Mosque of Al-Nuri in Mosul, which was destroyed in the battle for Iraq's second city.--AFP

Netanyahu, Abbas Speak by Phone after Attack
Agence France PresseéNaharnet/July 14/17/Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone following Friday's attack near an ultra-sensitive holy site that killed two Israeli police, with three Arab assailants also shot dead. "The president (Abbas) expressed his strong rejection and condemnation of the incident at the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque and his rejection of any act of violence from any side, especially in places of worship," official Palestinian news agency WAFA said. "Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ... called for calm on all sides." Abbas has repeatedly called for non-violent resistance to Israel's occupation without specifically condemning Palestinian attacks. His statement regarding Friday's incident was stronger than previous such responses. Netanyahu's office confirmed the phone call in a statement that said Abbas had condemned the attack. "The prime minister said that Israel will take all the necessary measures in order to ensure the security on the (holy site) without changes in the status quo," a statement from his office said. Three Arab Israelis opened fire on Israeli police in Jerusalem earlier in the day, killing two before fleeing to the holy site where they were also shot dead. It was one of the most serious incidents in the city in recent years and threatened to heighten Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 14-15/17
Iran leases air, land and sea bases in Syria
Alex Fishman/Ynetnews/July 14/17
The leases are part of Iranian plan to permanently base fighter aircraft and roughly 5,000 militiamen capable of striking Israel; plan part of larger Iranian strategy to forge territorial and maritime contiguity in the Middle East.
Iran has leased a military airfield from the Syrian government in the center of the country in order to station fighter aircraft. Iran is also negotiating with the Syrians to establish a land base for Shiite militiamen and a port in the city of Tartus.
The land base would be an Iranian autonomous base capable of supporting 5,000 Iranian militiamen believed to be mercenaries from Afghanistan and Pakistan under the command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
These steps represent a move by Iran to establish a long-term presence in Syria and pose a threat to Israel.
They also represent an annexation plan by Iran to take control of a series of territory in the Middle East with the goal being to create territorial and maritime contiguity from Iran to Lebanon, Sudan, the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, and on to Iraq and Jordan before reaching the Israeli border.
Intelligence sources in the West note that the Iranian measures are reminiscent of a similar move by the Russians in 2015, in which the Khmeimim airport in Syria was leased, setting up an air force and declaring the region autonomously Russian.
In an interview published Thursday with leading Russian newspaper "Kommersant," Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman warned against Iranian entrenchment in Syria.
"The establishment of an air and sea base and the attempt to permanently station 5,000 Shiite fighters on Syrian soil are not acceptable to us, and will have heavy consequences. Iran is attempting to make all of Syria—not just the southwest—into a frontline base against Israel. We will not accept it. We insist that there be no trace of Iranian presence on Syrian soil, and we insist on this arrangement in every settlement," said Lieberman, whose comments were quoted in all major Russian news agencies.
Lieberman officially confirmed in the interview that Iran is pumping $800 million annually into Hezbollah. He also said that Hezbollah was trying to establish a front base in Syria that would threaten Israel.
The defense minister also revealed that American and Russian representatives will soon meet with Israeli representatives in Vienna and will update them on the cease-fire agreements in Syria that were signed between the sides.
"If the details of the agreement provide satisfy us, we will more than welcome the initiative to calm the situation," said Lieberman.
When asked about the Moscow's recognition of the Assad regime as legitimate, Lieberman said that Israel would not intervene or interfere in Syria's internal affairs, except in cases where Israeli sovereignty is violated from within Syria.
"We react when Syrian army shells fall in our territory, but we do not respond apparently strong enough. The Russians would have reacted much more strongly in the same situation…we react forcefully even when we recognize the establishment of a base designed to open another front against us," warned Lieberman.

Jordan sees big gains in south Syria cease-fire

Osama Al Sharif/Al Monitor/July 14/17
Big accomplishments come in incremental steps. At least that is the lesson that Jordan has learned as it has tried to cope with the six-year-old turmoil across its northern border that has brought untold security, economic and humanitarian challenges to the kingdom. That is also how pundits in Jordan are viewing the trilateral deal among the United States, Russia and Jordan to implement a cease-fire in areas of embattled southern Syria, announced in Hamburg July 7 after a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Amman deserves some credit for the breakthrough.
Summary⎙ Print The cease-fire brokered by the United States, Russia and Jordan for southern Syria seems to be holding, for now.
Direct talks between the United States and Russia, with Amman's participation, have been taking place in the Jordanian capital since May to reach an understanding to stop the violence in southern Syria, fulfill Jordanian (and Israeli) security concerns and comply with Russian commitments to the Syrian regime — at least in the short run.
The cease-fire went into effect July 9 at noon local time. For the first time in months, perhaps even more, an eerie silence surrounded Daraa and Quneitra on the Golan Heights and the vast, black lava desert of Sweida. 24 hours later, the cease-fire was still holding, despite unconfirmed opposition reports that the regime had bombed rebel areas in Sweida.
Details of the trilateral deal remain vague. None of the parties has divulged any substantial information. London-based Al-Hayat on July 8 quoted an unnamed US source as saying that the Washington-Moscow “agreement” stipulates that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will remain in power and Iranian actors will be kept far from southern Syria. It also includes security, military and political details on delineating areas of influence and maintaining border security, the paper reported.
It is not clear if the new arrangement in southern Syria will be part of the de-escalation zones that Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to create at the Astana talks in May. US and Russian officials praised the deal, with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying on July 10 that Washington was now prepared to work with Russia to establish no-fly zones in Syria in an effort to bring stability to the war-ravaged country.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced on the same day that Russia will continue cooperating with the United States on de-escalation zones in the south. He added that Moscow, Washington and Amman had agreed to set up a center for monitoring the situation in the south to be based in the Jordanian capital.
Political analyst Oraib al-Rantawi told Al-Monitor that the trilateral deal is separate from the Astana agreement and that this is vital to both Jordan and Israel. “Neither country wants Iran and Turkey to be involved in any capacity in the latest arrangement,” he said.
In Rantawi's view, the main issues at hand include disengagement between extremist groups and the moderate opposition — there are at least 50 rebel factions in the Southern Front — so regime and opposition firepower can be directed at the likes of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Khalid Ibn al-Walid Army and facilitating the regime's takeover of the Nasib border crossing with Jordan.
In addition, Rantawi thinks the pacification of Daraa will encourage Syrian refugees in Jordan to return. “This will entail massive humanitarian aid to be delivered to this area and the completion of reconciliation deals between the regime and local tribes,” he added.
While the Damascus government has not commented on the trilateral deal, Jordan believes Russia’s commitment and its readiness to dispatch military observers to the area will ensure the regime’s compliance. The Syrian military had announced on July 3 that it was halting military operations in the south for a few days, but relaunched attacks two days later. The position of rebel groups in the south toward the cease-fire remains uneven, with some rejecting it outright, others expressing reservations but at the same time readiness to observe it.
Political commentator Fahd al-Khitan told Al-Monitor that the cease-fire deal benefits not only Jordan, but the regime as well. “Our national security interests have been met without sending a single soldier across the border,” he said. “Moreover, it ensures Syria’s territorial integrity, allows the regime to take over the border crossing, paves the way for the repatriation of refugees and stops further bloodshed.”
In Khitan’s view, Jordanian diplomacy has made a breakthrough in the “intractable” Syrian crisis. “We could say that Amman has provided the platform to bring the US and Russia together on Syria away from the limelight. Without US-Russian cooperation, the Syrian conflict will never be resolved,” he said.
For Jordan, the durability of the cease-fire in the south of Syria provides a rare opportunity to expand areas of quiet and include other stricken locations. Jordan remains committed to finding a political solution to the conflict, and the sustainability of the cease-fire along the kingdom’s borders may help the negotiations in Geneva.
A new round of indirect talks began July 10 between Syrian government representatives and opposition leaders. UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura said at the talks that a US-Russian-brokered cease-fire in Syria's southern regions would contribute positively to talks between the government and opposition, adding, however, that he was not expecting any breakthroughs but rather “some incremental developments."
Retired Gen. Fayez al-Duwairi warned that the deal remains threatened because of Iran’s possible reaction and its considerable influence in Syria. “The biggest gain for Jordan, Israel and the US was in convincing Russia to keep Iran and its militias away from this vital region,” Duwairi told Al-Monitor. “Now it’s up to Jordan and the US to control the opposition groups in the south, while Russia has the responsibility of reining in the regime and Iran.”

Germany: Infectious Diseases Spreading as Migrants Settle In
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/July 14/17
A new report by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the federal government's central institution for monitoring and preventing diseases, confirms an across-the-board increase in disease since 2015, when Germany took in an unprecedented number of migrants.
Some doctors say the actual number of cases of tuberculosis is far higher than the official figures suggest and have accused the RKI of downplaying the threat in an effort to avoid fueling anti-immigration sentiments.
"Around 700,000 to 800,000 applications for asylum were submitted and 300,000 refugees have disappeared. Have they been checked? Do they come from the high-risk countries?" — Carsten Boos, orthopedic surgeon, interview with Focus magazine.
A failed asylum seeker from Yemen who was given sanctuary at a church in northern Germany to prevent him from being deported has potentially infected more than 50 German children with a highly contagious strain of tuberculosis.
The man, who was sheltered at a church in Bünsdorf between January and May 2017, was in frequent contact with the children, some as young as three, who were attending a day care center at the facility. He was admitted to a hospital in Rendsburg in June and subsequently diagnosed with tuberculosis — a disease which only recently has reentered the German consciousness.
Local health authorities say that in addition to the children, parents and teachers as well as parishioners are also being tested for the disease, which can develop months or even years after exposure. It remains unclear if the man received the required medical exams when he first arrived in Germany, or if he is one of the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have slipped through the cracks.
The tuberculosis scare has cast a renewed spotlight on the increased risk of infectious diseases in Germany since Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed in around two million migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
A new report by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the federal government's central institution for monitoring and preventing diseases, confirms an across-the-board increase in disease since 2015, when Germany took in an unprecedented number of migrants.
The Infectious Disease Epidemiology Annual Report — which was published on July 12, 2017 and provides data on the status of more than 50 infectious diseases in Germany during 2016 — offers the first glimpse into the public health consequences of the massive influx of migrants in late 2015.
The report shows increased incidences in Germany of adenoviral conjunctivitis, botulism, chicken pox, cholera, cryptosporidiosis, dengue fever, echinococcosis, enterohemorrhagic E. coli, giardiasis, haemophilus influenza, Hantavirus, hepatitis, hemorrhagic fever, HIV/AIDS, leprosy, louse-borne relapsing fever, malaria, measles, meningococcal disease, meningoencephalitis, mumps, paratyphoid, rubella, shigellosis, syphilis, toxoplasmosis, trichinellosis, tuberculosis, tularemia, typhus and whooping cough.
Germany has — so far at least — escaped the worst-case scenario: most of the tropical and exotic diseases brought into the country by migrants have been contained; there have no mass outbreaks among the general population. More common diseases, however, many of which are directly or indirectly linked to mass migration, are on the rise, according to the report.
The incidence of Hepatitis B, for example, has increased by 300% during the last three years, according to the RKI. The number of reported cases in Germany was 3,006 in 2016, up from 755 cases in 2014. Most of the cases are said to involve unvaccinated migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The incidence of measles in Germany jumped by more than 450% between 2014 and 2015, while the number of cases of chicken pox, meningitis, mumps, rubella and whooping cough were also up. Migrants also accounted for at least 40% of the new cases of HIV/AIDS identified in Germany since 2015, according to a separate RKI report.
The RKI statistics may be just the tip of the iceberg. The number of reported cases of tuberculosis, for example, was 5,915 in 2016, up from 4,488 cases in 2014, an increase of more than 30% during that period. Some doctors, however, believe that the actual number of cases of tuberculosis is far higher and have accused the RKI of downplaying the threat in an effort to avoid fueling anti-immigration sentiments.
In an interview with Focus, Carsten Boos, an orthopedic surgeon, warned that German authorities have lost track of hundreds of thousands of migrants who may be infected. He added that 40% of all tuberculosis pathogens are multidrug-resistant and therefore inherently dangerous to the general population:
"When asylum seekers come from countries with a high risk for tuberculosis infections, the RKI, as the highest German body for infection protection, should not downplay the danger. Is a federal institute using political correctness to conceal the unpleasant reality?
"The media reports that in 2015, the federal police registered about 1.1 million refugees. Around 700,000 to 800,000 applications for asylum were submitted and 300,000 refugees have disappeared. Have they been checked? Do they come from the high risk countries?
"One has the impression that in the RKI the left hand does not know what the right one is doing."
Joachim Gauck, then Germany's president, speaks to doctors in the infirmary of a reception center for migrants on August 26, 2015 in Berlin-Wilmersdorf, Germany. (Photo by Jesco Denzel/Bundesregierung via Getty Images)
German newspapers have published a flurry of articles about the public health dimension of the migrant crisis. The articles often quote medical professionals with first-hand experience of treating migrants. Many admit that mass migration has increased the risk of infectious diseases in Germany. Headlines include:
"Refugees Often Bring Unknown Diseases to the Host Country"; "Refugees Bring Rare Diseases to Berlin"; Refugees in Hesse: Return of Rare Diseases"; "Refugees Often Bring Unknown Diseases to Germany"; "Experts: Refugees Bring 'Forgotten' Diseases"; "Three Times More Hepatitis-B Cases in Bavaria"; "Cases of Tapeworm in Germany Increased by More than 30%"; "Infectious Disease: Refugees Bring Tuberculosis"; "Tuberculosis in Germany is on the Rise Again, Especially in the Big Cities: Caused by Migration and Poverty"; "Refugees Are Bringing Tuberculosis"; More Diseases in Germany: Tuberculosis is Back"; "Medical Practitioner Fears Tuberculosis Risk due to Refugee Wave"; "Significantly More Tuberculosis in Baden-Württemberg: Migrants often Affected"; "Expert: Refugee Policy to Blame for Measles Outbreak"; "Scabies on the Rise in North Rhine-Westphalia"; "Almost Forgotten Diseases Like Scabies Return to Bielefeld"; "Do You Come into Contact with Refugees? You Should Pay Attention"; and "Refugees: A Wide Range of Disorders."
At the height of the migrant crisis in October 2015, Michael Melter, the chief physician at the University Hospital Regensburg, reported that migrants were arriving at his hospital with illnesses that are hardly ever seen in Germany. "Some of the ailments I have not seen for 20 or 25 years," he said, "and many of my younger colleagues have actually never seen them."
Marc Schreiner, director of international relations for the German Hospital Federation (Deutschen Krankenhausgesellschaft), echoed Melter's concerns:
"In the clinics, it is becoming increasingly common to see patients with diseases that were considered to have been eradicated in Germany, such as scabies. These diseases must reliably be diagnosed, which is a challenge."
Christoph Lange, a tuberculosis expert at the Research Center Borstel, said that German doctors were unfamiliar with many of the diseases imported by migrants: "It would be useful if tropical diseases and other diseases that are rare in our lives played a bigger role in the training of physicians."
The German Society for Gastroenterology, Digestive and Metabolic Diseases recently held a five-day symposium in Hamburg to help medical practitioners diagnose diseases which are rarely seen in Germany. Those include:
Louse-borne relapsing fever (LBRF): During the past two years, at least 48 people in Germany were diagnosed with LBRF, a disease that was unheard of in the country before the migration crisis in 2015, according to the RKI report. The disease, which is transmitted by clothing lice, has been prevalent among migrants from East Africa who have been travelling for months to reach Germany on a single set of clothes. "We had all forgotten about LBRF," said Hans Jäger, a Munich-based doctor. "It has a mortality rate of up to 40% if it is not recognized and not treated with antibiotics. The symptoms are like in malaria: fever, headache, skin rash."
Lassa fever: In February 2016, a patient who had been infected in Togo, West Africa, was treated and died in Germany. After his death, a Lassa virus infection was confirmed in another person who had professional contact with the corpse of the deceased. The person was treated at an isolation facility and survived the disease. This was the first documented transmission of the Lassa virus in Germany.
Dengue fever: Nearly a thousand people were diagnosed with dengue fever, a mosquito-borne tropical disease, in Germany during 2016. This is up 25% from 2014, when 755 people were diagnosed with the disease.
Malaria: The number of people diagnosed with malaria jumped sharply in 2014 (1,007) and 2015 (1,063), but declined slightly in 2016 (970). Most of those affected contracted the disease in Africa, particularly from Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo.
Echinococcosis: Between 2014 and 2016, more than 200 people in Germany have been diagnosed with echinococcosis, a tapeworm infection. This represents in an increase of around 30%. Those affected contracted the disease in Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, Iraq, Macedonia, Morocco, Syria and Turkey.
Diphtheria: Between 2014 and 2016, more than 30 people in Germany have been diagnosed with diphtheria. Those affected contracted the disease in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Libya, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Scabies: Between 2013 and 2016, the number of people diagnosed with scabies in North Rhine-Westphalia jumped by nearly 3,000%.
Meanwhile, Germany currently is in the throes of a measles outbreak that health authorities have linked to immigration from Romania. Around 700 people in Germany have been diagnosed with measles during the first six months of 2017, compared with 323 cases in all of 2016, according to the Robert Koch Institute. The measles outbreak has spread to all of Germany's 16 federal states except one, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a state with a very low migrant population.
The epicenter of the measles crisis is in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany's most populous state and also the state with the highest number of migrants. Nearly 500 people have been diagnosed with measles in NRW during the first six months of 2017; most of the cases have been reported in Duisburg and Essen, where a 37-year-old mother of three children died from the disease in May. Outbreaks of measles have also been reported in Berlin, Cologne, Dresden, Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich and Frankfurt, where a nine-month-old baby was diagnosed with the disease.
On June 1, 2017, the German Parliament approved a controversial new law that requires kindergartens to inform German authorities if parents fail to provide evidence that they have consulted a doctor about vaccinating their children. Parents who refuse to comply face a fine of €2,500 ($2,850). "We cannot be indifferent to the fact that people are still dying of measles," said German Health Minister Hermann Gröhe. "That's why we are tightening up regulations on vaccination."
Some say the new law does not go far enough; they are calling for vaccinations to be made compulsory for everyone in Germany. Others say the law goes too far and infringes on privacy protections guaranteed by the German constitution; they add that parents, not the government, should decide what is best for their children. The fallout from Chancellor Merkel's open-door migration policy continues.
**Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.
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Mosul aftermath: How Iran is shaping Iraq’s future
Pierre Ghanim/Al Arabiya/July 14/17
There is a map distributed by the Institute for the Study of War showing the areas of proliferation and control of ISIS. Since 2014, there has always been a large black dot on the map with lines connected to it. In the last version of the map this point representing the city of Mosul disappeared. The city was liberated from the terrorist organization and both Iraqis and Americans saw it as a historic moment. In an interview with reporters at the Pentagon, the commander of the coalition forces against ISIS General Townsend asserted that it is important to reach a political consensus between the Iraqi parties; specifically pointing out that the Sunnis of Iraq have long considered that the government in Baghdad does not represent them. Ashton Carter, who since the beginning of 2015 until the beginning of this year has supervised the war against ISIS, wrote a column in the Washington Post in which he said he was less worried about the military campaign in Iraq than “the political and economic campaigns that must follow.” The former US defense secretary added that: “Unless Iraqis are satisfied with what comes next, there will be a slide back to chaos and radicalism.”
Carter’s and General Townsend’s remarks coincide with their assessment of the situation. They are joined by estimates from non-governmental experts who have visited Baghdad and some areas of Iraq over the past months and returned to Washington with a bleak outlook. The US research center has also drawn up case studies and submitted them to the administration. Sarhang Hamasaeed, director of Middle  East programs at the United States Institute of Peace, told that “Iraq’s existence and unity on the map is an external demand, adding that the internal situation suffers from a large division between the Iraqi components as well as within the Iraqi components.”  The hard line Iranian part of the Popular Mobilization Forces wants to consolidate its current spread in the Sunni majority and is preparing to extend its long-term Iranian presence network
Pierre Ghanem
The Iraqi components
Americans generally consider that the bloody history among Iraqis drives the parties to maintain themselves as independent components, and each component has its own position from the other. The Shiites in general consider themselves a majority that must rule. The Americans also note that the tension is due to the Shiite-Kurdish relations, and their information indicates that the Peshmerga and the Popular Mobilization Forces are preparing for confrontations in mixed areas. US fears are focused on the “Sunni problem”. General Townsend says that ISIS “will try to use the Sunni population as a cover, making the cells even smaller.”
Popular Mobilization Forces
The restoration of Mosul is good news. Nevertheles, the next stage is marked by great challenges; most importantly, the return of stability in Iraq. In the absence of a broad inter-sectarian project, the Popular Mobilization Forces and Iran seem to have clear plans.
The Americans classify the Popular Mobilization Forces into two large sections. The first part follows the teaching of the Shiite ideology represented by Ali al-Sistani while the other part is supported and controlled by Iran. This hardline Iranian part of the Popular Mobilization Forces wants to consolidate its current spread in the Sunni majority and is preparing to extend its long-term Iranian presence network.  American experts who have recently visited Iraq and spoke to highlighted that the presence of the Popular Mobilization Forces in these areas is much larger than expected, and that the latter began attracting Sunni tribes by giving them salaries and weapons. Furthermore, the Popular Mobilization Forces began making alliances with these Sunni clans in preparation for the next election. The Americans also point out that these pro-Iranian militias gained a lot of influence in many areas of Mosul and wants, under the auspices of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, to move families to new areas and take control of Sinjar and Tal Afar, as well as to ensure their expansion at the borders with Syria. Thus, the “Iranian highway”, which stretches from Tehran to Baghdad and Damascus, is not a paved road, but rather a mixture of clan bodies, political figures and multi-ethnic militias which are loyal to Iran in ensuring the extension of its influence and suppressing any insurgency in the future.
The soft Iranian occupation
The Americans describe the Iranian presence in Iraq after Mosul as existing from the bottom to the top and present in all joints. This Iranian interlocking presence with the Iraqi factions can be described as a soft Iranian occupation. The Arab regional presence is almost absent, while the Americans are talking to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The coalition commander stated that: “The Iraqi government has expressed its interest in keeping US and coalition forces after defeating ISIS,” adding that “the US government and some coalition governments have expressed interest in this effort, pointing out that the decision in this regard is in its final stages.” Former US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter also called for keeping a US military presence in Iraq “to improve the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces.”In the past, President Donald Trump had strongly criticized the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and then strongly criticized the full exit of the Americans at the end of 2011 as well as the failure of former President Barack Obama to keep a large US force on the ground, which opened the door for the return of terrorism and the collapse of the situation in Iraq.

The first anniversary of the great victory of our democracy
Binali Yildirim/Al Arabiya/July 14/17
It has been a year since we thwarted the bloodiest terrorist attack in the history of the Republic of Turkey. Turkey has proven its resilience, ability to recover and strength in the course of last year. It is essential to make an evaluation of the past year and look forward.
First of all, we should remember what we have been through. What happened that night was an attack on the Turkish state by traitors, who infiltrated the Turkish military, who are loyal to a deranged man who sees himself as the “imam of the universe.” We were confronted with murderers, who bombed their own national Parliament, destroyed the headquarters of police special forces that fight at the forefront against terrorist organizations, driven tanks over unarmed civilians, fired from fighter jets and attack helicopters. We have never before been through such brutality in our history. This terrorist network killed 250 of our citizens and left more than 2,000 injured. Going back, two sources of pride emerged from this bitter experience. The first one is the courage and determination of the Turkish people. Our citizens from all backgrounds and political views took to the streets against the putschists. Our television channels continued broadcasting despite the threats and raids by coup plotters. The Turkish nation became one.
Defending democracy
Second, the Turkish nation showed the entire world that it defended democracy and will continue to do so. My people demonstrated that only the governments taking office through democratic processes and the will of the people would rule Turkey, not the armed groups. The strongest legitimacy is the democratic one. We passed this tough democracy test as a country. But the question that my grandchild asked me with all her naivety that night will never fade away from my mind or anyone else’s: “Grandpa, aren’t these our soldiers?” Indeed, what kind of mindset would drive a person to attack his own people, institutions, symbols and leaders in such a brutal manner? Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim visit graves of the civilians who were killed during last year’s failed July 15 coup, in Istanbul, Turkey, on July 11, 2017. (Reuters)
The answer underlies the nature of the treachery network we are facing. That night, we were confronted with a crime network, blindly following the orders of ringleader Fetullah Gülen via a professor of theology. We are talking about a treacherous gang that failed to grasp the notion of the glorious millennial history of Turkish soldiers, saluting the manager of a company owned by the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ) and the ostensible owner of a school operated by the same organization, at the military base they used as their headquarters.
Magnitude of the plot
As a matter of fact, my government had actually unmasked Fetullah Gülen and taken action accordingly. We had already been exerting efforts to unveil the existence of this structure inside the state and had made significant progress to this end. However, the July 15 coup attempt bitterly revealed that the threat we are facing is beyond our estimation, that it is much deeper and more vital. The magnitude of the plot masterminded by Fetullah Gülen for the past 40 years to seize control of the Turkish state was exposed. FETÖ members, following the orders of Fetullah Gülen, had acted unnoticed inside the capillaries of the system and reached almost all power centers like an infection caused by a virus that gradually takes over the vital organs of a body. Comprehensive administrative, criminal and legal investigations have been conducted throughout the year since July 15, 2016. Extensive evidence has been reached on this structure that masterminded and implemented the coup attempt. The evidence has demonstrated that we are facing a heretical, esoteric belief system built by Fetullah Gülen. The schools and dorms of the organization operated as brainwashing and recruitment centers. Members of the organization indoctrinated in these intuitions and loyal to their mastermind, whom they believe to be “the Messiah,” were enabled to infiltrate the state apparatus. This way, the followers, ready to resort to all sorts of illegal and immoral acts without any questioning, were promoted to key positions.
These people hatched plots such as cheating in public service entrance tests, illegal wiretappings, blackmailing and sham trials.
Heretical ambitions
The organization had been financed through so-called charities and foundations. Billion dollars worth of money transactions have been laundered via large companies and banks. The organization's media branch functioned as a propaganda tool. Is it conceivable for an “education movement” to operate in cell structures, recognize members with code names, develop encrypted applications to communicate among themselves, teach its members techniques of counter-intelligence and tactics to mask their affiliation? This new generation of terrorist organization has resorted to every possible method to eliminate those who are not with them and tried to control not only the political power but also the state of the Republic of Turkey in line with their own heretical ambitions. It is this heretical and dangerous ambition the Turkish nation thwarted on July 15.
I can say that we have destroyed the backbone of the organization in Turkey with the measures we have taken. However, the threat is not limited to Turkey. The organization has similar structures in many countries. Currently, they continue to plant treacherous seeds in other states. This time, they are more actively seeking global economic and political influence for their survival. I hereby would like to alert our friends once again. The Turkish nation proved to the world that democracy is not a cheap victory but is precious enough to die for its sake. Our primary duty is to take necessary measures to prevent it from happening again. We are making efforts to manage this challenging process within the constitutional order. Eventually, Turkish democracy was targeted and our democracy won. So our aim and endeavors will be to take the necessary steps in time to crown our democracy.

Hostile countries have failed in Qatif
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/July 14/17
The State should use force to stop the spread of violence and protect society. The state is the only one that can define violence; it is empowered to monopolize power to control the society. This is the philosophy on which the modern state was established. On Tuesday July 11th, Saudi Interior Ministry announced the execution of four terrorists in Qatif – Zaher Abdul Rahim al-Basri, Yousef Ali al-Mushaikhis, Mahdi Mohammed al-Sayegh and Amjad Naji Hassan al-Muaibeed. They were convicted of shooting and wounding a number of policemen, participating in riotous gatherings, obstructing security forces and providing cover to terrorists. Some of them were trained to use weapons and Molotov cocktails. It is known that terrorism in Qatif and violence in Awamiyah were supported by Iran, as part of the wave of interventions that began since the Khomeinist revolution. Its subsidiaries, Hezbollah in the Gulf and the Lebanese Hezbollah, wanted to exploit Qatif politically to embarrass Saudi Arabia and disturb its social equilibrium. While Saudi Arabia’s security institutions consider all terrorists as criminals, disregarding their origins, what recently emerged was that the party involved in the unrest in the eastern region was from a neighboring country. Arab news agencies revealed recordings of two Qatari Sheikhs wanting to “divide Saudi Arabia and put pressure on the Qatif people to split; they also aired the demonstrations on Al Jazeera.”
The attempts of neighboring and faraway countries to turn acts of terrorism into a tool of political pressure, have failed because each country is dealing with violence based on its own laws and regulations
Qatar’s hostile policy
Al Jazeera has tried to play all kinds of destabilizing roles but its project has failed. If we go back to history, there was the famous interview with Osama bin Laden in late 1998 in which he launched an attack on Saudi Arabia, criticized the legitimacy of the Council of Senior Clerics, and encouraged young people to carry out terrorist acts. This interview was part of the hostile Qatari policy.
The same happened in 2015, when it telecast an interview with al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammad al-Julani, aiming to improve his image. When al-Qaeda carried out the bombing of the Muhaya compound in Riyadh on November 8th 2003, killing 18 people and wounding more than 120 people, Al Jazeera wrote on its screen: Al Jazeera got a video recording taken by the two bombers of the Muhaya compound in Riyadh”.
Qatar has paid huge sums of money to buy these tapes and this was revealed by the anchor of the “Top Secret” program on Al Jazeera, Yosri Fouda, in his book “On the path of Harm: From al-Qaeda strongholds to ISIS”.
He reported his discussion with the former Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa, saying: “After a warm welcome, he invited me to sit down and said that he had to interrupt his vacation to see me and we shook hands. He did not waste much time before getting into the main subject: “Where are the tapes?” he asked. I explained the circumstances of what happened and that mediators are now trying to bargain to get a donation before delivering the tapes. The Emir of Qatar then said: “How much would that be?” Fouda: “they want a million dollars”. The Emir of Qatar: “And, what do you think about it?” Fouda: “Of course not”. The Emir looked at me at that moment as if he was looking at a naïve man, and said: “isn’t it better to pay them the amount and take our tapes?”
Switching roles
Iran and Qatar are alternately switching roles; the first heavily sponsors Hezbollah and its branches in the Gulf and Qatar sponsors al-Qaeda. The meetings between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda are not hidden and known around the world as indicated by Lawrence Wright in his book “The Looming Tower: al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.”This subject was also tackled by Toby Matthiesen in his book “Hizbullah al-Hijaz: the Beginning and End of a Terrorist Organization.” Both books are linked through Al Jazeera. Let us read important testimonies presented by Hamad al-Issa in his book “the End of Al Jazeera Era”, which included the translation of important articles by: Ron Suskind, Andrew Terrell, Mohammed Ohamo, Alexander Cohen, Christoph Reuter, Gregoir Shmitz, Cliff Kinkid, Ayman Sharaf, David Kirpatrick, William Assange, Abdullah Schleifer. In Issa’s book, on page 177, he entitled the chapter: “Al Jazeera and al-Qaeda”. In this chapter, he included files and dialogues with Yosry Fouda about Al Jazeera meetings with terrorist leaders. To sum up, terrorist acts involve regional arms. The attempts of neighboring and faraway countries to turn acts of terrorism into a tool of political pressure, have failed because each country is dealing with violence based on its own laws and regulations. The recently executed cell is part of this tight security measure taken by Saudi Arabia. The burden is now shifted to countries that failed to face terrorism. How can they escape the responsibilities of supporting terrorism, which were indicated by the international community that is headed by the United States? It is time now to hold accountable all those who were deceitfully smiling, before those who were bluntly hostile from afar.

India’s rapprochement with Israel partly due to disorder in the Arab world
Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/July 14/17
On July 4, 2014, al-Baghdadi made his only appearance to the world from the historic Nuri Mosque in Mosul. He urged Muslims around the world to obey him as their leader! Three years later on July 4, 2017, Baghdadi’s forces were fighting his last battle in Mosul before being cornered and rounded up.
On that day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, and told him: “We have waited a long time for this visit, 70 years”. Modi did not hesitate to ‘hug’ Netanyahu, calling him: “My friend.” The two leaders committed themselves to “vibrant Indian-Israeli relations.” Due to everything that has happened and is still happening in the Arab countries, this visit showcased a sharp turn in India’s approach, which was formerly against Israel in the international arena. The former approach was a tactic aimed at gaining the sympathy of the large Muslim minority in India, the Arab countries and the entire Non-Aligned Movement. However, behind the scenes, the relations between India and Israel were moving forward and got closer and more intimate, but New Delhi preferred to deny these facts when necessary because it knew that these ties will be very costly, so both countries decided to remain discreet. When Modi became prime minister, the prospects for the drastic diplomatic shift were clear. Months before becoming Prime Minister, an Indian journalist described him as “Israel’s best friend in South Asia.”
These feelings were shared by most of the leaders of the right-wing Hindu Party (BJP) ever since Modi became the Chief Minister of the economically vibrant Gujarat state. Growth in that state has been linked to strong ties with Israel.
New farm technologies
Each year, thousands of farmers travel to Israel to learn new technologies. Israel has established three vital educational facilities called ‘Centers of Excellence’ in Gujarat. It seems that Modi wants to repeat the experience of Gujarat at a national level.
The two countries have consistently shared important features. They consider that they are islands of democracy in a sea of dictatorships, each of which emerged after the division of territories ruled by the British Empire, and each considering itself as a national state of ancient peoples.
Modi is governing a country with a 15 percent Muslim population compared to the proportion of Palestinian Muslims living in Israel, each of which considers itself living a regional conflict and sharing strategic, ideological and economic interests. Modi is known for being a semi-continent leader who is taking bold but calculated steps. He tried to end corruption and theft by the decision to demonetize Indian currency. No one could have imagined it. Now his bold and successful visit to Israel could encourage other countries to improve relations with Israel publicly.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries began in 1992, but prospered when the BJP took office in 1998. When India and Pakistan clashed in 1999 in the so-called ‘Kargil War’, Israel provided India with secret satellite images and equipment with superior technology. In 2003, Ariel Sharon, then Israeli prime minister, visited India and the relations prospered at all levels and trade doubled from $200 million per year to at least $5 billion now.
However, the strength and consolidation of the relations were clearer with Modi in Gujarat, where Israeli investors deployed billions of dollars to expand the areas of cooperation. Modi’s controversial stance during the 2002 riots against Gujarat Muslims isolated him on the international arena, but was welcomed in Israel. Gujarat played a unique role in the bilateral relations, in which Israeli technology has developed ways to maximize agricultural production and other sectors. Homage to fallen Indian soldiers Before Modi left Israel, he and Netanyahu visited the Haifa cemetery, where Indian soldiers who were killed during the liberation of the Palestinian city were buried during the First World War. The prime ministers also stopped at the beach to watch water desalination technology display. India hopes that Israel as a pioneer in water management technologies, will help improve access to water for India’s drier regions.
Since Israel was established, its leaders have been developing what they see as a natural alliance, this was not possible until the regional scene changed. India’s growing rapprochement with Israel was partly due to disorder in the Arab world, which in fact distorted the perception of a cohesive bloc practising power, political and economic influence. It is true that this is the first visit of an Indian prime minister to Israel, but it is the culmination of a long process and effort. It confirms a series of geopolitical trends that have reshaped the Middle East, making it an unrecognizable area for nearly 10 years now, and is sure to be on the verge of more far-reaching changes in the future.
On his visit to Israel, Modi gave crucial indicators of the regional transformation.
No visit to Ramallah
He did not visit Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority, although New Delhi warmly welcomed Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president. This deliberate negligence shows that Modi did not find it necessary to offer a symbolic initiative to the Palestinians equivalent to his embrace of Israel.
The decision of ignoring Ramallah shows that India has come to view Israel through a very different perspective - wider and far more focused than limited to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was remarkable that Modi made an unannounced visit to the tomb of Theodor Herzl, the founder of the modern Zionist movement. Another proof of this behavior is that the multiple wars that have ravaged the Middle East have brought down the Palestinian cause from the list of priorities of the Arab countries.
Indeed, there are growing evidences that the Iranian interference in the affairs of the Arab states, along with Hamas, is pushing some countries to look at Israel in a context far removed from the Palestinian cause, which increased by the internal Palestinian conflict. There is a cry that the Arab ship is sinking, and it is time to ring all the bells of warning and danger. We are approaching the bottom.
Turning point
Modi’s visit to Israel with its content and its vitality, constitutes a major turning point in global diplomacy. Israel will certainly continue to sell military equipment to India, where competition is growing with Pakistan. Recently, India signed a $2 billion missile defense deal with Israel. India is likely to develop closer intelligence relations with Israel focusing on counter-terrorism. What should be observed is India’s voting options in international forums on resolutions condemning Israel. The Non-Aligned Movement has faded away, but India remains a major power that supports a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. Modi is known for being a sub-continent leader who is taking bold but calculated steps. He tried to end corruption and theft by the decision to demonetize Indian currency. No one could have imagined it. Now his bold and successful visit to Israel could encourage other countries to improve relations with Israel publicly. If countries do not seek stability, economic prosperity, technological progress, trade, and job opportunities, their own people along with others will destroy and waste it. You do not have to look for this in Israel. What is important is to find and apply it.
The Arab people have nothing to lose. Soon, ISIS will be defeated, and Iran will soon have to stop intimidating the Takfirists, and look after its own people, letting the Arab people live for their future. These people have had enough faith, glories, and defeats.