July 19/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10/17-20/:"The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’"

‘It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God
Acts of the Apostles 14/19-28/:"But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. Then they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city. The next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, ‘It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.’And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe. Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. And they stayed there with the disciples for some time."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 18-19/17
Israeli Army exposes network of Hezbollah border posts/Ynetnews/Yoav Zitun/July 18/17
Qatar, Saudi Arabia to Islamize One of Europe's Greatest Cathedrals/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/July 18/17
Another Turkish Ambassador Confronts Me/Daniel Pipes/Gatestone Institute/July 18/17
On the Qatari-Saudi dispute in SyriaظAbdulrahman al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/July 18/17
Hacking charade and the Washington Post claimsظMamdouh AlMuhaini/Asharq Al Awsat/July 18/17
After the liberation of Mosul, what now for Iraq’s Sunnis/Struan Stevenson/Asharq Al Awsat/July 18/17
From Margret to May: The state and public mistrust/Dr. Halla Diyab/Asharq Al Awsat/July 18/17
Would Qatar’s bet on a draw succeed/Christian Chesnot/Asharq Al Awsat/July 18/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 18-19/17
Israeli Army exposes network of Hezbollah border posts
Aoun: refugees must return but stop spread of hatred
Wage Scale Approved 'in Principle' as Parliament Passes Most Articles
Aoun: Lebanon Incapable of Bearing Refugees Burden Any Longer
Hariri Emphasizes 'No Coordination' between Lebanese and Syrian Armies
Palestinian Held after 'Suspicious Movements' in Eastern Sidon Town
Report: Arsal Battle Draws Closer after Failed Negotiations with Nusra
Jumblat Praises Palestinian 'Mujaheddin' after Jerusalem Attack
Pecresse visits Chbib and Beirut Municipal Council, signs action plan agreement
Hariri discusses refugee issues with Ile de France President, British Ambassador
PM students gather in Jbeil in support for army
Kataeb activists stage sit in at Beirut's Riad Solh Square
Civil society activists stage sit in at Beirut's Riad Solh Square
Bassil, Mogherini chair EU Lebanon Partnership Council meeting in Brussels
8th EULebanon Association Council's meeting highlights strong partnership
Lebanon sports mission reaches Abidjan for 8th Francophonie Games

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 18-19/17
Erdogan to Visit Qatar and Saudi amid Gulf Crisis
New U.S. Sanctions on Iran over Ballistic Missiles, 'Terror' Support
Suicide Car Bomb Kills 4 at Kurdish Checkpoint in Syria
Obstacles Mount in Fight to Aid Syrians Stranded Near Jordan
Rebel-Kurd Clashes Kill 15 in North Syria
Netanyahu Hails Hungary Fight against Anti-Semitism
Palestinians Again Boycott al-Aqsa over Israeli Security Measures
Germany condemns Turkish detention of activists, including German
Five killed as building collapses in Pakistan

Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 18-19/17
Israeli Army exposes network of Hezbollah border posts/فيديو للجيش الإسرائيلي يكشف شبكة مواقع حزب الله الحدودية المخالفة للقرار 1701
Ynetnews/Yoav Zitun/July 18/17,7340,L-4991186,00.html
The IDF releases video evidence of Hezbollah intelligence gathering operations in southern Lebanon along the Israeli border in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
The IDF released a video Tuesday detailing Hezbollah operations in southern Lebanon in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which states that the Shiite terrorist organization must remain north of the Litani River.
 The video was released ahead of a UN Security Council discussion on violations of the resolution, which is scheduled to be held on Thursday.
Hezbollah has established an intricate network of military infrastructure, which includes rocket launching sites aimed at Israel.
The video, published by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, portrays how Hezbollah collects intelligence in southern Lebanon, beginning with two organization operatives who were observed gathering intelligence on Israel.
The video also details a fictitious organization—”Green Without Borders”—established by Hezbollah and used as a cover for their illicit military activity in southern Lebanon. The organization ostensibly gathers ecological and agricultural information to be used to promote environmental protection in Lebanon.
The video even shows images of Hezbollah operatives, including Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, participating in activities on behalf of the phony organization, with the true intention of causing harm to Israel.
Last month, Israel had provided the UN Security Council with intelligence that Hezbollah had established a network of observation posts along the border under the guise of an innocent organization.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, sent a letter to Security Council members detailing an incident in April when a group of civilians blocked a UNIFIL patrol force access to an observation post flying a “Green Without Borders” flag.
Brig. Gen. Rafi Milo, who was appointed commander of the Galilee Division on Tuesday, said, “Our preparedness for escalation is constantly sharp. We continue to monitor developments in the field and constantly improve our defensive response and our offensive capabilities. When necessary, we will use them with full force.
“We have not lost sight of the fact that Hezbollah systematically violates UN Resolution 1701 and, in total contradiction, maintains a military presence even if it is hidden in dozens of Shi’ite villages south of the Litani River. The Lebanese army turns a blind eye to Hezbollah activity, camouflages the terrorist organization’s tours in southern Lebanon, and even allows it to use its infrastructure against the State of Israel. The peace and stability in the region are important to all of us.”

Aoun: refugees must return but stop spread of hatred

The Daily Star/July 18, 2017/BEIRUT: Lebanon is no longer capable of supporting the growing burden of Syrian refugees, President Michel Aoun said Tuesday. Aoun’s comments came as he met with Ziad Waked, Haret Hreik Mayor, the municipal council and local mukhtars. "If we are working on the return of the Syrian refugees, it's because Lebanon is no longer capable of carrying this burden. However, the spread of hatred is totally unacceptable, especially that the consequences could be horrible for both," said Aoun. The issue of refugee return has been back in the headlines in recent weeks after ministers of all denominations have clashed over the issue of direct government coordination with the Syrian regime over the matter. During a recent Cabinet session at Baabda Palace, Hezbollah ministers and their allies called for direct talks with the Syrian government to coordinate the refugees’ return. But Prime Minister Saad Hariri, backed by ministers of the Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party, staunchly rejected any contact with Damascus, saying this issue is the responsibility of the United Nations. However, United Nations representatives in Lebanon said it was still too early for large numbers of refugees to return to Syria, in light of recent developments in Lebanon and in the region. “It’s important to stick to international law. [The Syrian refugees’] return has to be dignified, voluntary and safe, and so far these conditions have not been met,” Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini told journalists during a media briefing at the headquarters of the U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon in Yarze.

Wage Scale Approved 'in Principle' as Parliament Passes Most Articles
Naharnet/July 18/17/The long-awaited new wage scale has been approved “in principle,” MPs and ministers announced Tuesday afternoon during a legislative session in Parliament, as the meeting witnessed a verbal clash between Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and Change and Reform bloc secretary MP Ibrahim Kanaan, who is also the head of the Parliamentary Finance Committee. After a lengthy debate during the morning round, Parliament approved an article on granting recompenses to public sector pensioners in three-year installments. Speaker Nabih Berri then adjourned the session to 6:00 pm.
“Nothing can be given 'for free' and there are tax increases and several reforms that we are striving to approve,” Berri said. Prime Minister Saad Hariri meanwhile said: “We are with the rights of pensioners, youths and people, but should we fail to secure funds, what would pensioners gain from the collapse of the Lebanese pound?”MP Kanaan for his part announced that “we are days away from the approval of a state budget that will secure an abundance of LBP 1,000 billion that would spare us any taxing measures that had been previously earmarked for funding.”But a verbal clash erupted after Finance Minister Khalil described Kanaan's remarks on the LBP 1,000 billion as a “joke.” “I will not allow you to described the effort of two and a half months as a joke,” Kanaan shouted, but Khalil insisted on his criticism. The verbal clash prompted Speaker Berri to intervene to contain the situation. Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel and Democratic Gathering bloc MP Wael Abu Faour meanwhile noted that “should the state budget manage to secure abundant funds, there will be no need to hike the VAT tax and other taxes that harm citizens.”“There is a very large number of contract workers and this is a major burden on the state's treasury. Instead of withholding the rights of pensioners, let us address the excess number of employees, especially those of them who are not productive and who are tarnishing the image of state institutions,” Gemayel said.
Protesters from several sectors meanwhile rallied in Riad al-Solh in downtown Beirut, demanding a “fair” approval of the salary scale.
Berri stressed during the morning round that the wage scale must be approved. “It is the people's right, it must be approved taking into account the state's finances.”Hariri remarked: “It is our right to preserve the state's finances. I will not approve the wage scale without sources to fund it.” He pointed out that rejection to impose some taxes in order to secure funds would be an indirect disapproval of the wage scale. The Syndical Coordination Committee, demobilized Civil Defense employees and military veterans rallied in Riad al-Solh in parallel with the meeting. The Syndical Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, has been pushing for the approval of the new wage scale for several years now and has organized numerous street protests and strikes to this end. Amin Samaha, Secretary of the committee of demobilized Civil Defense employees who are demanding to be given retirement salaries, said: “There are no more than 100 discharged individuals who have served the State for 40 years. They were demobilized without pension although a decree issued in the year 2000 gave them that right.”Before the meeting began, Progressive Socialist Party MP Akram Shehayyeb said: “The PSP supports the approval of the wage scale with a ceiling limit of LBP 1,200 billion, any thing more than that will be refused.” For his part, MP Adwan assured that the “scale will be approved today,” linking it to “the budget that will be approved within one or two weeks.”
A list of draft laws are included on the parliament's agenda, but they are topped with the long-awaited salary scale file for civil servants and the approval of the State's budget. Parliamentary blocs are still divided over the resources to fund the scale, mainly over some proposed taxes that the private sector has warned against. These taxes would have “a negative impact on the country's economy and state finances,” the private sector says.

Aoun: Lebanon Incapable of Bearing Refugees Burden Any Longer
Naharnet/July 18/17/President Michel Aoun on Tuesday said that Lebanon was no longer capable of handling the growing burden of Syrian refugees on Lebanese territories, the National News Agency reported. “We are working on the return of the displaced because Lebanon is no longer capable of carrying this massive burden,” said Aoun. However he stressed that the “spread of hatred and incitement is totally unacceptable, especially that the consequences could be dire for both (Lebanese and Syrian) peoples.”Aoun's remarks came before the Mayor of Haret Hreik, Ziad Waked and members of the municipal council and mukhtars who visited him at the Baabda Palace. Lebanon hosts more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees, who amount to more than a quarter of the country's population not to mention undocumented individuals, many of whom live in informal tented settlements. The Syria refugee influx into Lebanon has strained the country's infrastructure, and has also sparked accusations that refugee camps are harboring militants. The World Bank says the Syrian crisis has pushed an estimated 200,000 Lebanese into poverty, adding to the nation's one million poor.

Hariri Emphasizes 'No Coordination' between Lebanese and Syrian Armies

Naharnet/July 18/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday stressed that there is no coordination between the “Lebanese and Syrian armies” emphasizing that the country's military forces are responsible to defend Lebanon's territory. “There is no coordination between the armies of Lebanon and Syria,” he said pointing out that the “Lebanese military will carry out a well-calculated plan in the outskirts of Arsal. The government gives it full freedom,” to react, said Hariri during a parliamentary meeting. The Prime Minister stressed that Lebanon's military forces are responsible to defend Lebanon's soil, he said: “The army has the responsibility to fight in the border area and inside Lebanon's territory and to protect the displaced Syrians on Lebanese soil,” pointing out that the “major problem lies in the undemarcated border in the outskirts of Arsal.”He announced that the army is running investigation into the death of four Syrians who were detained during the Arsal raids. “Three forensic doctors are running examinations. The results will be announced to the public,” said Hariri. On coordination with Damascus to facilitate the return of displaced Syrians, Hariri said that dialogue will not solve the problem otherwise it would have been solved with Iraq and other countries which have good security ties with the Syrian regime. Lebanon is waiting for the “green-light” from the United Nations with regard to the displaced, remarked the PM.

Palestinian Held after 'Suspicious Movements' in Eastern Sidon Town
Naharnet/July 18/17/A Palestinian militant has been arrested in the Eastern Sidon region, State Security announced on Tuesday. The security agency identified the man as Ain el-Hilweh resident B.A., saying he was arrested after his movements in an Eastern Sidon town raised suspicions. “During interrogation, he confessed to fighting alongside a number of terrorists belonging to the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front groups,” State Security said. The man also confessed to “carrying out military acts and shootings inside the Ain el-Hilweh camp,” State Security added.

Report: Arsal Battle Draws Closer after Failed Negotiations with Nusra
Naharnet/July 18/17/Mediated negotiations between al-Nusra Front group and Hizbullah, through Saraya Ahl al-Sham and other mediators, to evacuate Nusra militants from the outskirts of Arsal have reportedly failed, raising the prospects of a Hizbullah operation to oust them from the area, the pan-Arab al-Hayat daily reported on Tuesday. “Negotiations between al-Nusra and Hizbullah to evacuate militants from the outskirts were halted around three days ago. Its failure will likely give Hizbullah the green light to carry out a military operation, it gestured ten days ago, unless some new developments emerge,” security sources told the daily on condition anonymity. According to information, the negotiations reached a dead end due to the “insistence of al-Nusra, represented by its commander in Qalamoun Abu Malek al-Talleh, to leave the outskirts with all its light and heavy weapons. Hizbullah insists that the militants should only take their light weapons and leave the heavy arms behind,” added the daily. The negotiations resumed last week. In parallel, Syrian warplanes have been pounding positions of militants in al-Qalamoun and the remote outskirts in Arsal for more than 10 days. Reports have said that Hizbullah has set the “zero hour” to kick start the battle in Arsal. Meanwhile Syrian air raids bombed Lebanese outskirts at dawn on Monday. The impact of raids were felt by residents in Arsal, according to the daily. The sources also said that “negotiations included a clause on money.”Unnamed sources from the Bekaa region who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the daily that “al-Talleh has also demanded to leave to Turkey,” and that he adhered to this condition since the beginning of the negotiations. Al-Hayat also said that “unconfirmed media reports said that al-Taleh has sent letters to displaced Syrians in encampments near Arsal urging them to move to al-Qalamoun and assuring that his battle is with Hizbullah and not with the Lebanese army.”

Jumblat Praises Palestinian 'Mujaheddin' after Jerusalem Attack
Naharnet/July 18/17/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat praised Friday's Jerusalem attack that resulted in the death of two Israeli soldiers, stressing that “dignities of worshipers must be kept untouched.” “Respect for the heroic mujaheddin who killed occupant soldiers of Israel in Jerusalem,” said Jumblat in a tweet. He stressed that “dignities of worshipers must be kept untarnished, they must not be searched and humiliated.”Israel reopened an ultra-sensitive holy site Sunday closed after Friday's attack but Muslim worshipers were refusing to enter due to new security measures including metal detectors and cameras. “In this context, I deplore all sectarian incitement calls. I call for rejecting the recruitment of the Druze in the Israeli army,” added the PSP leader. Three Arab Israelis opened fire and killed two Israeli police Friday in Jerusalem's Old City before fleeing to the Jerusalem's Haram al-Sharif compound, where they were shot dead by security forces. It was one of the most serious incidents in Jerusalem in recent years. Israel took the highly unusual decision of closing the Al-Aqsa mosque compound for Friday prayers, triggering anger from Muslims and Jordan, the holy site's custodian.

Pecresse visits Chbib and Beirut Municipal Council, signs action plan agreement
Tue 18 Jul 2017/NNA - Beirut Governor, Ziad Chbib, on Tuesday met at his Municipal Palace office with former French minister, Ile-de-France Region's President, Valérie Pécresse, in the presence of her accompanying delegation. On emerging, Chbib hailed the relations between the city of Beirut and the region of Ile de France as "solid and deeply rooted", saying such ties are not only confined to the initialing of agreements and the exchange of viewpoints, but rather sharing a common history that includes true life actions and the implementation of plans in the various fields. Chbib also underlined the need to further advance these ties and eliminate obstacles that hinder these relations. Pécresse, for her part, stressed the necessity of elevating the level of relations at the various levels, pointing out that a wide technical delegation from the various walks of life is currently accompanying her on her visit to explore means of bolstering bilateral cooperation between the City of Beirut and Ile-de-France region, notably in the fields of green areas, environment, and public transportation. The delegation then visited the Municipal Council of the City of Beirut, where they met with the Council's head Jamal Itani in the presence of municipal council members. Both sides signed an action plan agreement as a follow up on the cooperation agreement between the Municipality of Beirut and the Council of Ile-de-France Region.

Hariri discusses refugee issues with Ile de France President, British Ambassador
Tue 18 Jul 2017/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri met, at the Central House on Tuesday, with President of Ile-de-France region, Valerie Pecresse, and an accompanying delegation. "We discussed the means of cooperation between Ile-de-France and Beirut, and we maintained that in France just like in Lebanon, capitals constitute the generator of economy," Pecresse told reporters following the meeting. "We do support those generators," she added. "We also discussed overpopulation in Beirut, especially that this city attracts the Lebanese and the refugees alike," she said. "Moreover, we dwelt on the humanitarian crisis Lebanon is enduring with the presence of refugees, as well as on what we can do in support for construction in Beirut and for the economy," she indicated. Hariri later met with British Ambassador to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter, accompanied by Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the UK Department for International Development (DFID) David Hallam, and Director for International Finance Rachel Turner. Talks reportedly featured high on the Syrian refugees' dossier, and the means to help Lebanon bear the burden caused by the massive displacement of Syrians onto its soil.

PM students gather in Jbeil in support for army
Tue 18 Jul 2017/NNA - Students from the Free Patriotic Movement started gathering in Jbeil, hoisting Lebanese and army flags, National News Agency correspondent reported on Tuesday.

Kataeb activists stage sit in at Beirut's Riad Solh Square
Tue 18 Jul 2017/NNA - Kataeb Party affiliated students and young men started their sit-in at Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square in protest against any further tax hike.

Civil society activists stage sit in at Beirut's Riad Solh Square
Tue 18 Jul 2017/NNA - Activists of the Lebanese Kataeb Party, the National Liberal Party, "You Stink" Campaign and "We Want Accountability" are staging sit-ins at Beirut's Riad Solh Square, to reject the notion of linking the wage scale with taxes.
The sit in coincides with the holding of the legislative session.

Bassil, Mogherini chair EU Lebanon Partnership Council meeting in Brussels
Tue 18 Jul 2017 /NNA - Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Gebran Bassil, and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, jointly chaired the EU Lebanon Association Council's eight meeting in Brussels. Attending the meeting had been Lebanon's Trade and Economy Minister, Raed Khoury, Industry Minister, Hussein Hajj Hassan, and Social Affairs Minister, Pierre Bou Assi. On the political dossier, the Association Council discussed an array of regional matters, notably the Syrian crisis and the displacement predicament as a consequence. Minister Bassil stressed the necessity of finding a sustainable solution to the Syrian displacement crisis by securing a safe return for refugees to their country. "Such a return should be confined and gradual as a preliminary stage to contribute to the rebuilding of confidence amongst all components of the Syrian people... in preparation for launching the workshop to rebuild Syria," the Minister said. The Council also took up the advancement of trade exchange between Lebanon and the EU, through the implementation of an agreed upon joint action plan. Conferees also discussed the issue of security and counter-terrorism, with both sides dwelt on the joint action plan, notably the provision of technical support in developing a national Lebanese strategy for combating terrorism, reinforcing concerned legal and security institutions in charge of enforcing laws, and combating the financing of terrorism. The Association Council voiced support to the Lebanese government in several spheres, notably the implementation of the new election law, and bolstering good governance, the government's reform agenda and the fight against corruption.

8th EULebanon Association Council's meeting highlights strong partnership
Tue 18 Jul 2017/NNA - The eighth session of the Association Council of the European Union and Lebanon took place in Brussels on 18 July 2017. The session was formally chaired by Gebran Bassil, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, led the EU delegation.
The session confirmed the strong partnership between the European Union and Lebanon and the solid diplomatic relationship that has been established over the years. The EU underscored the importance of promoting Lebanon's example of a pluralistic and democratic society based on the values of freedom of belief and opinion. The EU and Lebanon see mutual benefit in working together to address global challenges such as the fight against terrorism and climate change. The Association Council confirmed that the EU and Lebanon share similar views on many key regional issues and agree on the need to find political solutions to the crises affecting the region. A just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East remains a priority for the EU and Lebanon, as well as finding political solutions to the different crises in the region, particularly in Syria.
The EU commended Lebanon for the important recent achievements including the election of President Aoun in October 2016, the formation of a new government led by Prime Minister Hariri in December 2016 and the endorsement of a new electoral law by Parliament on 16 June 2016 on the basis of which parliamentary elections will take place by May 2018. The Association Council confirmed the EU's readiness to support Lebanon in preparing and holding fair, transparent and inclusive elections, including through the deployment of an EU Election Observation Mission once officially requested.
The EU and Lebanon reviewed the outcome of the Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region of 5 April. They reiterated their full support to UN initiatives in view of a political solution to the Syria conflict as the only way ahead. The EU and Lebanon also reviewed the mutual commitments agreed and contained in the Lebanon Output Document agreed at the Brussels Conference, and the EU reiterated its support for the Lebanese vision for stabilisation and development expressed in the conference.
The EU fully acknowledged Lebanon's role in contributing to global public welfare in hosting around 1.5 million refugees. Recognising the impact of the Syria crisis on Lebanon and the country's extraordinary and exceptional effort in hosting more than 1 million Syrian refugees registered by UNHCR, which makes Lebanon the country with the highest number of refugees per square km and per capita in the world, the EU confirmed its willingness to maintain the level of support allocated for 2016-17 in 2018 and committed to a similar level for 2019.
The EU and Lebanon agreed that the only sustainable long term solution for refugees and displaced from Syria into Lebanon is their safe return to their country of origin, as conditions for such a return are met.
In this regard, both sides are however mindful to the imperative of building conditions for the safe return of refugees from Syria and displaced Syrians, including during the transition, in accordance with all norms of international humanitarian law and taking into account the interests of the host countries.
The EU indicated that it has allocated more than EUR 1.2 billion in Lebanon since the start of the Syria crisis, across different instruments. The support includes bilateral aid to Lebanon as well as assistance addressing the impact of the Syrian crisis and which has benefited both host communities and the refugee population, for instance in the areas of healthcare, education and infrastructure. The EU confirmed that it will continue to apply the different tools at its disposal in support of Lebanon's economic development plans, and where appropriate consider new tools as the Government of Lebanon elaborates its vision presented at the Brussels conference last April, and presents its comprehensive multi-annual capital investment programme addressing development needs in all sectors. Lebanon confirmed it would continue in its efforts, with EU and International Community support, to ensure better living conditions for refugees and displaced from Syria, and in particular in upholding the principle of "non-refoulement" and access to livelihoods, while underscoring that enhancing their living conditions during their temporary stay in Lebanon should come in the broader context of improving the economic resilience of the country as a whole through foreign and local investments in job creation projects, infrastructure and local economic development.
While addressing the most urgent challenges, including migration and terrorism, Lebanon and the EU agreed to continue to pursue the core objectives of their long term partnership, which is working towards sustainable Lebanese and regional stability, where the EU will engage actively with the Lebanese authorities and uphold dialogue with all political parties, sustaining economic growth through strong state institutions and the revitalisation of the Lebanese economy, also by leveraging the potential of the Lebanese private sector and civil society.
The EU and Lebanon discussed the implementation of the Partnership Priorities and EU-Lebanon Compact adopted in November 2016 and confirmed their ambition to intensify dialogue on issues of mutual interest and cooperate across inter-related areas from counter-terrorism to fostering growth and job creation, in particular for women and youth, strengthening the rule of law and democratic governance and working on migration and mobility.
The Association Council recognised the challenging impact of the Syrian crisis on the Lebanese economy. The EU and Lebanon agreed to identify efficient and concrete ways of boosting EU-Lebanon trade - including through helping Lebanon exploiting preferential access to EU markets, and to work on viable options for improving that access. In this regard, Lebanon submitted concrete requests aiming at enhancing market access for a preliminary list of Lebanese products, which the EU will consider thoroughly, and Lebanon will continue to feed in the list, including new requests in the area of services. Lebanon also agreed to support the EU compromise package aiming to update the Pan-Euromed Convention on Rules of Origin. In order to provide faster assistance to the Lebanese economy in particular in the context of the Syria conflict, the EU will examine with Member States an early bilateral application of these updated rules with Lebanon on a reciprocal basis. If agreed, this should give Lebanese exporters a more immediate relaxation on all products. The Association Council was updated on the work of the Joint Working Group on trade and investment (JWG) established between the two sides, and expressed its full support for its objectives, called on the JWG to intensify its efforts, and expressed its readiness to provide needed assistance in this regard. The Association Council also agreed that the use of innovative financial vehicles, notably through concessional funding mechanisms, such as the European External Investment Plan, should be made efficiently and coherently with Lebanon's national investment plan once adopted. Lebanon confirmed its willingness to implement structural reforms to instigate growth, improve the business climate, attract more investment and modernise the economy.
The Association Council also welcomed Lebanon becoming an EBRD member.
The Association Council welcomed the constructive counterterrorism dialogue and the progress made in the implementation of initiatives in this field, especially the high-level meetings to develop a national counterterrorism strategy. The EU reaffirmed its commitment to provide further support to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and other state security and justice institutions, as the sole providers of stability, order and security in the country while stressing the importance of abiding by international human rights law.
The EU expressed its strong commitment to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and stability of Lebanon. The EU and Lebanon reiterated their full support to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), including its maritime component, whose deployment is crucial to maintain stability and security in southern Lebanon. The EU also commended the deployment of the LAF across Lebanon, and called for continued assistance to LAF to allow it to continue performing its mandate and commended the crucial role of LAF in fighting terrorism, maintaining security across the country and cooperating with UNIFIL.
The Association Council also noted the importance of student, staff and researcher exchanges, including through the Erasmus+ programme and the eTwinning scheme. The Association Council welcomed the forthcoming participation of Lebanon in the Partnership on Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA).This partnership is an example of how research and innovation can contribute to tackling issues (such as food production and water management) of shared concern in the Mediterranean area by joining different stakeholders and leveraging national budgets. The EU also welcomed the signature by Lebanon of the Paris Agreement on climate change in April 2016.
The EU and Lebanon exchanged views on ways of enhancing the protection of human rights and promoting good governance; they agreed to pursue regular dialogue. The EU warmly welcomed the progress made in the setting up of a National Commission on Human Rights and the establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism to fight torture as well as the creation of specific ministries for human rights, women's affairs and anti-corruption within the government, and offered support to ensure the new bodies and ministries can fulfil their functions in line with their mandates and the expectations of the Lebanese people.
The Association Council also agreed to pursue the discussions towards the signature of a Mobility Partnership.

Lebanon sports mission reaches Abidjan for 8th Francophonie Games
Tue 18 Jul 2017/NNA - Lebanon's athletic and cultural mission on Tuesday arrived in Abidjan to participate in the eighth Francophonie Games. The mission is headed by Director General of the Ministry of Sports and Youth, Zaid Khiyami.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 18-19/17
Erdogan to Visit Qatar and Saudi amid Gulf Crisis
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 18/17/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will this month visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are locked in a deep diplomatic crisis, his office announced Tuesday. Erdogan will also visit Kuwait, the main mediator in the Qatar crisis, during his July 23-24 tour. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Ankara would continue to play a "constructive and active" role to help solve what he described as a "pointless" crisis. Yildirim added Erdogan's visit would be part of this effort. Erdogan is expected to visit Saudi Arabia then Kuwait on July 23 followed by Qatar on July 24, according to private news agency Dogan. Turkey is a key ally of Qatar, which has been diplomatically and economically isolated by its Gulf neighbors over allegations it supports terrorism. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain last month cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and issued 13 wide-ranging demands to lift the blockade, including the closure of a Turkish military base in the emirate. The crisis has put Turkey in a delicate position as Qatar is its main ally in the Gulf but Ankara does not want to antagonize key regional power Saudi Arabia.

New U.S. Sanctions on Iran over Ballistic Missiles, 'Terror' Support
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 18/17/The United States announced new sanctions against Iran Tuesday over its ballistic missile program and what it called Tehran's support for "terrorist" groups in the Middle East. The sanctions announced by the State Department target 18 individuals or entities described as supporting Iran's ballistic missile program or the elite Republican Guard. The announcement came a day after the United States certified that Iran was complying with the landmark nuclear deal signed two years ago with the United States and other world powers, but also warned it was preparing new sanctions. "The United States remains deeply concerned about Iran's malign activities across the Middle East which undermine regional stability, security, and prosperity," State Department said. It cited Iran's support for Hizbullah, Hamas, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Huthi rebels in Yemen fighting a U.S.-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

Suicide Car Bomb Kills 4 at Kurdish Checkpoint in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 18/17/A suicide car bomb attack killed four people overnight at a Kurdish security checkpoint in northeast Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said Tuesday. The attack comes as Kurdish forces from the People's Protection Units (YPG) spearhead the fight for the Islamic State group's Syrian stronghold Raqa as part of a US-backed alliance. The Britain-based monitor said the blast hit a checkpoint manned by the Asayesh security forces in Hasakeh province, around 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the town of Ras al-Ain. At least two of the dead were Asayesh members, the monitor said, while the identities of the other two were not yet confirmed. Syrian state television also reported the blast on Tuesday and said four people were killed. Kurdish-controlled areas have come under regular bomb attack, with IS often claiming responsibility. There was no immediate claim for Tuesday's incident. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by Kurdish forces, is battling IS for control of the jihadist group's Syrian stronghold Raqa. The militia now controls around 35 percent of the city, according to the Observatory. More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Obstacles Mount in Fight to Aid Syrians Stranded Near Jordan
Associated Press/Naharnet/July 18/17/Desperate to help Syrians stuck on Jordan's sealed border, U.N. agencies reluctantly agreed late last year to hand much of the control over aid distribution to Jordan's military, a Jordanian contractor and a Syrian militia.Since then, the system has broken down repeatedly and only sporadic aid shipments have reached two remote desert camps on the border that house thousands of Syrians displaced by war. Rival groups in the larger Rukban camp accuse each other of diverting aid, and black marketers flourish. Separately, the Tribal Army, a Syrian militia that says it was asked by Jordan to police Rukban, struck side deals on access and protection with World Vision and Cap Anamur, but the two foreign aid groups pulled out of Rukban after bombs targeted Tribal Army forces guarding their installations. Critics say the struggle to provide aid to stranded Syrians reflects the international community's wider failure in responding to the refugee crisis. Some 5 million Syrians have fled their homeland since 2011, but countless others are trapped in a country at war after neighboring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey — which absorbed most of the influx — largely closed their borders.
"Syria is locked in, and I think this is an issue which is not at all in the public debate or being raised by the aid agencies," said Kilian Kleinschmidt, a former Jordan-based U.N. refugee agency official. Jordan closed its border for good in June 2016 after an Islamic State car bomb attack launched from near Rukban killed seven Jordanian border guards. Since then, international aid organizations have wrestled with the dilemma posed by sending aid to an off-limits area. Do they join a system that relies on armed escorts and can't guarantee aid reaches the intended recipients? Or do they uphold humanitarian principles if at the cost of not helping women and children trapped in harsh conditions? The U.N. refugee agency, which leads aid efforts on the border, and several European nations defended the decision to engage. U.N. agencies "are doing an extraordinarily good job in extraordinarily difficult circumstances to try to get as much aid as possible to those people, with as much assurance as they can," said Edward Oakden, the British ambassador to Jordan. Walking away is a cop-out, he said. The European Union took a different view.
Its humanitarian arm, ECHO, decided in November, as the new system took shape, that it would not fund distributions in the no man's land known as the "berm," named after parallel lines of earthen ramparts loosely marking the border.
"There is no guarantee that humanitarian assistance, as limited as it may be, actually reaches the intended beneficiaries," the European Commission's spokesperson's office said in a statement. "We are not aware of a system in place to ensure that aid provided cannot be diverted."It called for negotiations with Jordan's army to get a better deal, but the international community doesn't have much leverage.
The West needs the goodwill of host countries because it wants to discourage Syrians from migrating onward, including to Europe. Jordan counters criticism of its policies, such as the border closure, by noting that it has absorbed far more refugees than wealthier Western countries, which have also failed to fully meet aid pledges to the region. The kingdom also argues that Islamic militants mingling with Syrians on the border pose a security threat. Government spokesman Mohammed Momani said Jordan is doing everything it can to help aid agencies help the Syrians and get aid to the camps. Even before the border closure, Jordan increasingly restricted entry to Syrians. Since 2014, they've been massing on the eastern edge of the shared border. The Rukban and Hadalat camps sprang up, with what the U.N. estimates are now 45,000 to 50,000 residents. Camp activists say the population is twice as large.
For a few months before the border closure, Syrians could climb over the berm to pick up supplies or get medical treatment from aid groups on the Jordanian side. After the closure, different methods were tried, including aid drops by crane.
In the fall, the U.N. refugee agency and Jordan's military set up a distribution center between the berms, 7 kilometers (4.5 miles) from Rukban. A Jordanian contractor set up operations behind a barrier that separates its employees from the Syrians approaching from Rukban.
The contractor was to distribute food parcels — a month's supply of lentils, flour, oil and rice — as well as toiletries and children's clothes. The Tribal Army was put in charge of crowd control, as hundreds of people gather on distribution days.
The system broke down repeatedly, with what were to be monthly distributions frequently disrupted by security threats, unruly crowds or severe weather.
The first round of distributions stretched from November to January. The second round only began in May and is ongoing, with some 35,500 people so far having received food and other items, the U.N. refugee agency said. Another challenge is keeping track of where the aid ends up. U.N. agencies can monitor movements at the distribution center through cameras, but don't know what happens in Rukban, where rival rebel groups wrestle for control. The U.N. refugee agency believes the aid reaches needy families, based on what it hears from Rukban patients visiting a U.N. health center in Jordan, several kilometers (miles) from the camp. The agency said it vaccinated 15,000 children against polio, and will soon begin measles and tetanus vaccinations. The EU said it is funding those efforts.
The dominant group in Rukban appears to be the Tribal Army, with followers from rural parts of southern Syria and tribal ties to Jordan. The group is being trained, supplied and funded by Jordan, spokesman Mohammed Adnan said at the group's office in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near Syria. The Jordanian military did not respond to a request for comment about such payments. Jordan's army chief has confirmed that Jordan is training the Tribal Army to fight "terrorists near the border."
Adnan alleged that other groups in Rukban are trying to instigate trouble, such as the Tribal Council of Palmyra and Badia, which bills itself as a grass-roots service organization. Adnan said some civilians in the camp are also armed, along with the Eastern Lions, a rebel faction. Palmyra Council spokesman Omar al-Binai alleged that only about half the aid reaches the intended recipients, and that those with links to the Tribal Army "benefit the most" from the current arrangement. Adnan rejected the allegations, saying he believes most of the supplies reach the right people. He accused the Palmyra Council of trying to discredit his group in hopes of expanding control in the camp. Several dozen private traders have benefited from aid shortages, selling food and supplies from elsewhere in Syria, often on credit, al-Binai said. Foreign aid is often sold, below value, to pay back the merchants, he added.
A labor market has sprung up, and some residents get money from abroad via WhatsApp transfers, he said.
U.N.-provided water has also become a commodity after sabotage damaged a water access point in the camp last month. Camp residents now rely on water from a site several kilometers away and have to pay for its transport. In the current system, aid is only provided to the berm by U.N. agencies. Two private international groups, World Vision and Cap Anamur, said they negotiated separate access deals with the Tribal Army after Jordan's border closure. Cap Anamur, a Germany-based medical aid group, said it set up a field hospital in Rukban, consisting of six pre-fab trailers shipped over the border by the Tribal Army. World Vision sent diapers, toothpaste and other supplies that it stored in a tent in Rukban ahead of distribution. Tribal Army posts near the clinic and the tent were targeted in separate bombings last fall that killed several guards and prompted the groups to pull out. Chris Weeks, a spokesman for World Vision, said the group was aware of the challenges from the start. "We recognized that it was an incredibly tough environment and that there were no perfect answers when it came to helping people who were suffering," he said.

Rebel-Kurd Clashes Kill 15 in North Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 18/17/More than a dozen Syrian rebels have died in hit-and-run clashes with a U.S.-backed alliance dominated by Kurdish forces in the country's north, a monitoring group said Tuesday. The Turkish-backed rebels were locked in a second day of fighting on Tuesday with units from the Syrian Democratic Forces around the village of Ain Daqna. "Since Monday, 15 fighters from Syrian rebel factions were killed in the clashes and four SDF fighters were wounded, including one in critical condition," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. Ain Daqna, in Aleppo province, has been held by the U.S.-backed SDF since February. It lies on a sliver of land contested by the SDF and Turkish-backed rebels. A local official from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) which make up the bulk of the SDF, said his forces had retrieved some of the rebels' bodies. "We will hand over these nine bodies to the Kurdish Red Crescent in Afrin (west) for their families to retrieve them," Brusk Hasakeh said in a statement distributed to journalists. Turkish-backed rebels fighting under the banner of "Ahl al-Diyar" said in a statement Monday they had attacked Ain Daqna because they see the SDF as "occupiers." "We promise our people more flash attacks... We will make them regret occupying this land and displacing thousands," it read. Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government protests, but it has since evolved into a complex civil war drawing in regional powers. Turkey has backed rebels in Syria's north to take on both the Islamic State group and the YPG. Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group and the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. That places it at odds with Washington over the United States' support for the SDF, which is fighting to oust IS from its Syrian stronghold of Raqa. Rights groups including Amnesty International have accused the YPG of razing villages and displacing residents in northern Syria, which the militia has denied.

Netanyahu Hails Hungary Fight against Anti-Semitism
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 18/17/Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday praised Budapest for "standing up for" Israel, at talks with Hungarian premier Viktor Orban who is under fire at home for allegedly stoking anti-Semitism. "I want to thank you for standing up for Israel in international forums, you have done this again and again," Netanyahu said at a press conference with Orban in Budapest. He added that Hungary, as the birthplace of modern political Zionism founder Theodor Herzl, was "at the forefront" of countries fighting anti-Zionism. Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister to visit Budapest since the fall of communism in 1989. The landmark trip brings together two right-wingers enamored of U.S. President Donald Trump and with a disdain for the left-leaning liberal global order bankrolled, as they see it, by the likes of U.S. billionaire George Soros. "The (Israeli) prime minister is a great patriot and success belongs to those who are patriots, who don't push national identity and interests aside," Orban said Tuesday. "Israel's history teaches that we will lose the things we don't fight for."The hardline policies of the pair -- described as "spiritual brothers" by Hungarian media -- have sparked tensions with Brussels. But in eastern and central Europe, the muscle-flexing has found fertile ground. Netanyahu will on Wednesday meet premiers of the Visegrad Group -- Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic plus Hungary -- whose nationalistic stances have also increasingly placed them at odds with the rest of the EU. "All these states are very pro-Israel," Israeli analyst Raphael Vago told AFP. "They vote in our favor at the European Union and the United Nations." Netanyahu will attend Budapest's Great Synagogue with Jewish community leaders, before departing Thursday.
Anti-Soros graffiti
The trip comes at a sensitive time for Orban who faces a backlash over his virulent crusade against Soros, a Hungarian-born Jewish emigre. Some posters daubed with graffiti have attacked the financier for his alleged support of mass immigration. Many in Hungary's 100,000-strong Jewish population -- one Europe's largest -- have accused Orban, in power since 2010, of turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism or even encouraging it to stave off growing support for the far-right. Orban however has insisted the billboards were not about Soros' Jewishness but the "national security risk" posed by his supposed wish to "settle a million migrants" in the EU. "I've discussed the concerns that I have heard from the Jewish community here and (Orban) reassured me in unequivocal terms," said Netanyahu. Orban meanwhile said his government has a "zero-tolerance policy in place towards anti-Semitism" to "guarantee the complete safety" of Hungary's Jews. "The Hungarian government committed an error, even a crime, when it decided not to defend its Jewish compatriots during World War II and instead collaborate with the Nazis," the populist strongman said. He was referencing the Hungarian wartime leader and Hitler ally Miklos Horthy who oversaw the sending of over a half million Jews to Nazi death camps. Orban last month landed in hot water after praising Horthy as an "exceptional statesman" for rebuilding Hungary after World War I. Critics have long suspected Orban of trying to rehabilitate Horthy by tacitly encouraging new memorials of him and other interwar figures. Analysts say Orban banks on Netanyahu's visit to help him fend off charges of anti-Semitism. "Connecting Soros to the migration issue is the (Hungarian) government's aim, but it is a problem for Orban if the campaign is seen as anti-Semitic," political analyst Csaba Toth told AFP. "So the Netanyahu visit helps him as it bolsters his claims that the Soros campaign is not."

Palestinians Again Boycott al-Aqsa over Israeli Security Measures
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 18/17/Palestinian Muslims boycotted a Jerusalem holy site for the third day running Tuesday after Israeli authorities installed metal detectors and cameras at entrances to the sensitive compound following an attack that killed two policemen. As in previous days, dozens of worshipers prayed outside the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, rather than enter through the metal detectors. The attack and new security measures have increased Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Protests and scuffles between demonstrators and Israeli police have erupted outside the site, which includes the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque. On Tuesday, a 30-year-old Palestinian carried out a car-ramming attack in the occupied West Bank near the city of Hebron, lightly wounding two Israeli soldiers before being shot dead. It was not clear if the attack was linked to the Jerusalem tensions. A 17-year-old Palestinian who was injured Monday during clashes in the Silwan area of east Jerusalem was in critical condition, according to official Palestinian news agency WAFA, which said he had been shot. Palestinian hospital Makased, where the 17-year-old was being treated, alleged in a statement Tuesday that Israeli forces had entered the hospital and were disrupting operations. Israeli police said six arrests had been made overnight in two separate areas of Jerusalem. Police say a number of Muslims have been entering the compound, though they did not provide a number on Tuesday. The compound has appeared largely empty. Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah said "we refuse these dangerous measures that will lead to a ban on the freedom of worship and will obstruct the movement of the faithful". On Friday, three Arab Israelis opened fire on police before fleeing to the compound, where security forces shot them dead. Israel closed the site for two days following the attack, angering Muslims and Jordan, the site's custodian. Israel said the closure was necessary to carry out security checks. The site reopened on Sunday, but with metal detectors at entrances. Palestinians view the move as Israel asserting further control over the site. The Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It stands in east Jerusalem, seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community. It is considered the third holiest site in Islam and the most sacred for Jews.Jews are allowed to visit but not pray there to avoid provoking tensions.

Germany condemns Turkish detention of activists, including German
Tue 18 Jul 2017/NNA - The German government condemned on Tuesday the detention of human rights activists in Turkey, including German Peter Steudtner, after a group of campaigners were remanded in custody accused of belonging to a terrorist organisation. "The German government condemns the arrest of Peter Steudtner and other human rights defenders in Turkey. We demand that he is quickly released from prison," said a spokeswoman for Germany's foreign office. To link an advocate of human rights and democracy, like Peter Steudtner, to supporters of terrorists is "absurd", she added. ---Reuters

Five killed as building collapses in Pakistan
Tue 18 Jul 2017/NNA - Five people died when an apartment building collapsed in southern Pakistan early Tuesday as most of its residents were sleeping, officials said. Rescuers struggled to pull survivors from the rubble of the three-storey building in the southern city of Karachi. "Five bodies were recovered from the rubble," the city’s deputy commissioner, Fareed Uddin, told AFP. Another local official said a woman and a 13-year-old boy were among the dead. Rescuers pulled at least nine injured people from the debris. Karachi -- a booming megacity of some 20 million people -- has expanded rapidly over the last decade. The number of poorly constructed buildings, thrown up to meet the needs of the rapidly growly population, has grown quickly. The mayor of Karachi Waseem Akhtar visited the scene of the accident on Tuesday afternoon and hit out at the local building department for failing to enforce construction codes. At least 44 people were killed when a factory collapsed in the eastern city of Lahore in 2015, an accident also blamed on poor building standards. -----AFP

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 18-19/17
Qatar, Saudi Arabia to Islamize One of Europe's Greatest Cathedrals/
قطر والسعودية يؤسلمان أكبر كاتدرائية مسيحية في أوروبا
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/July 18/17
In Islamic symbolism, Córdoba is the lost Caliphate. Political authorities in Córdoba dealt a blow to the Catholic Church's claim of ownership of cathedral by declaring that "religious consecration is not the way to acquire property". But this is how history works, especially in the lands where Christianity and Islam fought hard for dominion. Why are secularists not pressing Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to give Christians back the Hagia Sophia? No one has raised an eyebrow that "Christendom's greatest cathedral has become a mosque".
The Spanish left, governing the region, would like to convert the church into "a place for the meeting of faiths". Nice ecumenical words, but a death trap for the Islamic domination over other faiths. If these Islamists, supported by the militant secularists, will be able to bring Allah back inside the Cathedral of Córdoba, a tsunami of Islamic supremacism will submerge Europe's decaying Christianity. There are thousands of empty churches just waiting to be filled by the voices of muezzins.
The Western attempt to free Jerusalem in the Middle Ages has been condemned as Christian imperialism, while the Muslim campaigns to colonize and Islamize the Byzantine Empire, North Africa, the Balkans, Egypt, the Middle East and most of Spain, to name but a few, are celebrated as a season of enlightenment.
Muslim supremacists seem to have fantasies -- as well as a long history -- of converting Christian sites to Islamic ones. Take, for example, Saint-Denis, the Gothic cathedral named for the first Christian bishop of Paris who was buried there in 250, and the burial place of Charles Martel, whose victory stopped the Muslim invasion of France in 732. Now, according to the scholar Gilles Kepel, this burial place of most of France's kings and queens is "the Mecca in Islam of France". The French Islamists are dreaming of taking it over and replacing the church bells with the call of the muezzin.
In Turkey's greatest cathedral, Hagia Sophia, a muezzin's call recently reverberated inside the sixth-century church for the first time in 85 years.
In France, Muslim leaders called for converting abandoned churches into mosques. thereby echoing The late writer Emile Cioran once predicted of Europe: "The French will not wake up until Notre Dame becomes a mosque".
Now it is the turn of Spain's greatest Catholic site, the Cathedral of Córdoba. Spanish "leftists" and secularists would now, it seems, like to convert to Islam the cathedral of Córdoba, the symbol of a time when "Islam was on the verge of turning the Mediterranean into a Muslim lake". Now that Islam is again conquering large swaths of the Middle East and Africa, is it not a coincidence that this campaign is gaining ground?
In 550 the Cathedral of Córdoba was a Christian basilica, dedicated to a saint; then, in 714, it was occupied by the Muslims, who destroyed it and converted it into the Great Mosque of Córdoba during the reign of Caliph Abd al Rahman I. The site was returned to Catholic worship by King Ferdinand III in 1523 and became the current great Cathedral of Córdoba, one of the most important sites of Western Christianity. Now an alliance of secularists and Islamists are trying to turn the church back to Islamic worship.
The Wall Street Journal called it deconquista, playing with the word reconquista, the time when Spain was returned from Islam to Catholicism. "The Great Mosque of Córdoba" is what UNESCO -- also torturing, upending and turning history on its head to rewrite the past of Jerusalem and Hebron -- calls it. In the last six centuries, however, only Catholic mass and confessions have been officiated there. The WSJ charges "left-wing Spanish intellectuals" with trying to "de-Christianize" the site.
The main altar of the Cathedral of Córdoba. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons/© José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 3.0)
A recent Islamic State map of domination includes not only the Middle East, but also Spain. ISIS calls it "Al-Andalus". Gatestone's Soeren Kern, among others, has detailed ISIS's call to retake Spain. Osama bin Laden, who targeted Spain in a terror attack in 2004, frequently referred to Al-Andalus in his videos and speeches. Daniel Pipes has further explained, "even centuries after the reconquista of 1492, Muslims continued to long to recreate Muslim Andalusia". Bin Laden's heir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also weighed in: "The return of Andalus to Muslim hands is a duty for the umma [Muslim community]". Syrian Jihadists call Spain "the land of our ancestors". In Islamic symbolism, Córdoba is the lost Caliphate.
It is self-destructive and surreal that Spanish secularists -- those who claim to care about separation of church and state -- are now supporting Muslim supremacists in their "reconquista of the Mosque of Córdoba".
The recent wave of immigration has brought many Muslims to Spain; the Islamic Spanish population has almost doubled from about a million in 2007 to 1.9 million today. 350,000 people signed a petition promoted by the Spanish "left", calling for the expropriation of the Christian building. Political authorities in Córdoba dealt a blow to the Catholic Church's claim of ownership of cathedral by declaring that "religious consecration is not the way to acquire property". But this is how history works, especially in the lands where Christianity and Islam fought hard for dominion. Why are secularists not pressing Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to give Christians back the Hagia Sophia? No one has raised an eyebrow that "Christendom's greatest cathedral has become a mosque".
The Spanish "left", governing the region, would like to convert the church into "a place for the meeting of faiths". Nice ecumenical words, but a death trap for the Islamic domination over other faiths. In 2010, a group of Muslim activists tried to pray inside the building. To raise support from American Catholics, the Bishop of Córdoba, Demetrio Fernández González, recently explained that the law of Andalusia would allow the expropriation of the cathedral if a court ruled that the Catholic Church failed to preserve the building. "It has become fashionable on the left to romanticize the Islamic past of Spain", noted the Wall Street Journal.
"The Catholics of the Reconquista are thought of as crude fanatics, whereas the caliphate is presented as a haven of tolerance and learning where Jews and Christians—never mind their second-class status—lived side-by-side with Muslims in happy convivencia. Barack Obama even cited Andalusia as an example of Islam's "proud tradition of tolerance" during his 2009 speech in Cairo".
Our secular establishment in the newspapers, universities and popular culture damns the Crusades as a proof of Western guilt towards the Islamic world. The Western attempt to free Jerusalem in the Middle Ages has been condemned as Christian imperialism, while the Muslim campaigns to colonize and Islamize the Byzantine Empire, North Africa, the Balkans, Egypt, the Middle East and most of Spain, to name but a few, are celebrated as a season of enlightenment. Nobody, however, seems to have any concern about Islamic muezzins rising from the roofs of many cities in the West. While the West whips itself for slavery, it never raises any questions about slavery in the Islamic world, currently in full force (although officially "abolished") in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, and West Africa, among other places.
The question about Córdoba's cathedral now on everyone's lips is: Who will fund the campaign to bring Islam back to the great Christian site? The answer is Qatar. The emirate is supporting the campaign of Islamic organizations to convert the church to Islam. The Middle East is full of churches transformed into mosques, such as the Omayyad of Damascus, Ibn Tulun of Cairo, and the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul. Islamists are now eager to do the same in Córdoba. The Catholic Church has taken a position. As the Bishop of Córdoba, Demetrio Fernandez, said, "sharing the space with Muslims would be like a man sharing his wife with another man".
An analyst at the Spanish Institute of Strategic Studies of the Ministry of Defense, Colonel Emilio Sánchez de Rojas, recently gave a lecture in which he explained that Córdoba is "a reference for Islam". He charged Qatar and Saudi Arabia with "campaigns of influence in the West", and as "a source of funding for the campaign for the re-Islamization of the Cathedral in Córdoba".
If these Islamists, supported by the militant secularists, will be able to bring Allah back inside the Cathedral of Córdoba, a tsunami of Islamic supremacism will submerge Europe's decaying Christianity. There are thousands of empty churches just waiting to be filled by the voices of muezzins.
**Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Another Turkish Ambassador Confronts Me
Daniel Pipes/Gatestone Institute/July 18/17
Sending an ambassador to demean and threaten an analyst at a private educational event is the non-violent equivalent of Erdoğan's bodyguards beating up peaceful demonstrators in Washington. Both are integral parts to suppressing dissent against an increasingly megalomaniacal leader.
Erdoğan's officious diplomats inadvertently make enemies for the regime, bringing closer the day when, bag and baggage, they will wear out their already frayed welcome.
In February, Turkey's ambassador to Israel told this author to stay away from his country; at least he did so diplomatically. In June, Turkey's ambassador to Bulgaria treated me in a remarkably rude and undiplomatic manner.
The occasion was a talk I gave, "On Turkey and Erdoğan – a partner or a threat," for the Center for Balkan and Black Sea Studies think tank in Sofia. After mentioning my connections to and affection for Turkey, I explained that strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's inability to reconcile three competing priorities — Islam, Turkey, and Erdoğan — and the resulting contradictions that are likely to doom his regime. By the end of the event, Ambassador Süleyman Gökçe confirmed that prediction.
He came early, sat in the front row, and jumped up when the question period began. Ominously saying of me, "we know him very well in Turkey," he went on to accuse me of cherry-picking facts and being an essentialist and an Orientalist. My record of "distortion, deflection, and delusion" prompted him to say, "I do not agree with any of the points you have raised."
Gökçe's threats took two forms: first, stating that no one with Ph.D. credentials "should have the freedom" to forward allegations such as mine; second, accusing me of espousing the views of the "Fethullah Gülen Terror Organization" — Erdoğan-speak for the non-terrorist Hizmet movement founded by Fethullah Gülen, Erdoğan's once-close ally whose members he now hounds, ostracizes, purges, and jails.
Turkish Ambassador Süleyman Gökçe threatens Daniel Pipes at a talk in Sofia, Bulgaria, on June 29, 2017. (Image source: Daniel Pipes video screenshot)
My reply to the ambassador concluded by asking him twice if he could assure my safety going to Turkey. He twice ignored the question. Then he stomped out of the room. That did not quite end his distress, however.
Repairing to Twitter, he responded to eight old tweets of mine concerning Turkey, replying dutifully to each of them, calling me "extremist," "marginal," "pathetic," and "biased." When I replied that "Erdoğan has turned his diplomats into clowns," Gökçe lashed out with yet more insulting tweets.
This incident offers several insights.
Petty intimidation is not normal diplomatic practice. In my own experience, regimes far worse than Turkey's are cleverer. Saddam Hussein sent an ambassador to Washington, Nizar Hamdoon, who advanced his monstrous leader's interests through politeness, self-criticism, and logic. The Islamic Republic of Iran recently hosted this analyst on three of its media in one week: the English-language television (Press TV), the English-language newspaper (Tehran Times), and the Arabic-language news service (MehrNews). Erdoğan's incompetence in this arena is doing him great damage.
Gökçe's antics put off others too. A fellow panelist at the Sofia event, journalist and scholar Steven Hayward, wrote that his "was an astonishing performance from someone in a formal diplomatic post." Ilian Vassilev, the former Bulgarian ambassador to Moscow, also present at the event, called Gökçe's behavior "highly irregular." Eric Edelman, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, characterized this show as "all-too typical" of Erdoğan's diplomacy. Richard Pipes, a professor of Russian history (and my father), asked if Soviet diplomats ever harassed him like this during the Cold War, replied, "No, never. They simply ignored my public appearances in the West. And in the USSR when I spoke they disagreed politely."
Gökçe's behavior in Sofia brought to mind British Prime Minister William Gladstone's celebrated "bag and baggage" speech of 1876, regarding what were known as the "Bulgarian horrors":
Let the Turks now carry away their abuses in the only possible manner, namely, by carrying off themselves. Their Zaptiehs and their Mudirs, their Bimbashes and their Yuzbashis, their Kaimakans and their Pashas, one and all, bag and baggage, shall, I hope, clear out from the [Bulgarian] province they have desolated and profaned.
Gladstone updated might read:
Let the Turks now carry away their abuses in the only possible manner, namely, by carrying off themselves. Their Diyanet and their TIKA, their DOST and their THY, their Erdoğan and their Ambassadors, one and all, bag and baggage, shall, I hope, clear out from the country they would again desolate and profane.
Sending an ambassador to demean and threaten an analyst at a private educational event is the non-violent equivalent of Erdoğan's bodyguards beating up peaceful demonstrators in Washington. Both are integral parts to suppressing dissent against an increasingly megalomaniacal leader. Erdoğan's officious diplomats inadvertently make enemies for the regime, bringing closer the day when, bag and baggage, they will wear out their already frayed welcome.
**Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum.
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On the Qatari-Saudi dispute in Syria
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/July 18/17
The current brokenness in spirit in Syria is sad and its future consequences are dangerous. It comes amid a dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the two countries which were partners in supporting the Syrian people against the massacres of the Syrian regime and its allies.
Truth be told, Syria is one of the reasons behind the dispute. At a time when Saudi Arabia supported Syrian national parties like the Free Syrian Army, Qatar chose to support armed groups that are internationally listed as terrorist. This is an extension of what Qatar is doing in other battlefields like Libya.
Riyadh’s and Doha’s differences in Syria emerged early, ever since the uprising began. However, it was a silent crisis as both countries were convinced that the stability of Syria and the region is not possible in the presence of the eroding Assad regime and after the horrific massacres were committed against civilians. The Syrian regime had also enabled Iran to militarily control the country and threaten the security of regional countries like Iraq, Turkey and Gulf countries. As the regime destroyed cities, millions were displaced and the world’s fears of Syria turning into a hub for terrorism increased. However, Qatar continued to support ISIS, al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and others. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s primary option was the Free Syrian Army.
Escalating differences
The dispute between the two Gulf countries escalated in terms of managing the opposition within the national coalition. Meanwhile, on the ground, the “Qatari” ISIS and al-Nusra attacked the “Saudi” free army and deprived it of the lands it liberated from the regime. The disputes exposed the activities of Qatar, which was hiding behind the coalition after the increase of international espionage devices that monitored the two countries’ options in south Turkey and north Jordan. Qatar destroyed the region by favoring extremists like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and extremist groups in Libya and Syria, and it implicated the Sunnis in Iraq. There’s more to that dispute than meets the eye. The real reason Saudi Arabia suspects Qatar’s intentions is due to the latter’s keenness to attract and support militants, especially Saudis. Saudi Arabia suspects that ever since the 1990s, i.e. since the coup in Doha, Hamad bin Khalifa’s government worked on targeting the kingdom by supporting those who oppose it financially and providing them with media coverage. These figures include Osama bin Laden, the then al-Qaeda leader, who called for toppling the Saudi regime via the Qatari television. After the American invasion of Iraq, Qatar played a dangerous role in funding the so-called resistance, particularly foreign fighters who included Saudis. They gathered in Syria and were later dispatched with other foreign fighters to revolting Iraqi governorates like Anbar. This happened in Lebanon, Iraq and Gaza for around ten years during the phase when the Hamad and Assad regimes were allied. The two regimes then had a row a year before Arab Spring revolutions erupted. During Syria’s revolution, Saudi Arabia’s suspicions emerged again as Qatar continued to support armed Saudis as part of its plan to adopt terrorist organizations, like al-Nusra, which Saudi Arabia had blacklisted. In response to Qatar, the Saudi interior ministry publicly warned citizens of engaging in the Syrian war and requested Turkey not to let them pass through its territories.
Defying Saudi ban
One of the major Saudi fugitives is Abdullah al-Muhaysini, and Qatar has looked after him as part of its funding of the terrorist al-Nusra Front. Muhaysini, like Bin Laden, comes from a rich family. He escaped to Syria in 2013 defying the Saudi ban. It seems contradictory for Saudi Arabia to support the Syrian revolution while opposing foreign fighters’ support of it. However, it actually opposes this support because it fears its repercussions on it. Saudi Arabia was against foreign fighters in Afghanistan after the Soviets exited it and it was against them in the wars of Bosnia, Somalia and Iraq. Syria’s war marked the terrorist nightmare as it involved Iran and its militias and ISIS and its branches. To Riyadh, slaughtering the Syrian people was not acceptable. Iran’s domination over Syria was also not acceptable considering the threats it poses on the region. Qatar, however, saw Syria as another arena to tamper with and raise its brutal animals from extremist groups. Doha thinks extremists Islamists are its winning card as it’s under the illusion that it can use them to make gains in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Syria. Qatar destroyed the region by favoring extremists like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and extremist groups in Libya and Syria, and it implicated the Sunnis in Iraq. Its extremist organizations harmed the Syrian revolution groups a lot more than Assad’s forces and Iran’s militias did. Qatar also distorted the image and dream of the Syrian people who revolted against violence and it sent them groups that believe in slaughter and slavery, randomly accuse others of apostasy and permit shedding their blood. At the beginning, we thought there was Saudi paranoia of Qatar and that Saudi Arabia’s suspicions were exaggerated. However, Doha’s frequent practices and its strange insistence to support extremists proved that this is a policy and not just a reaction or an imagined perception.

Hacking charade and the Washington Post claims
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Asharq Al Awsat/July 18/17
The Washington Post report alleging that the UAE is behind hacking of Qatari news agency, and publishing statements that were attributed to its Emir, lacks facts. The report seems contradictory and does not rely on clear sources but on anonymous intelligence reports. The UAE ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba, commented on the allegations saying they were false. Even if he did not give a statement on the matter, any neutral observer can realize that the report has fragile journalistic basis. A frank accusation this serious must either be backed with documents that confirm the UAE is behind hacking or it must name one of these anonymous sources. In both the cases, the daily failed to provide documented information. It even contradicted itself when it said that its secret sources do not know if Emirati apparatuses hacked the agency themselves or assigned another party to do so. It is surprising that a leading daily such as the Washington Post would not deal with this matter so lightly. Actually, the Washington Post was a major daily before it declined and lost its power like other major media outlets, like the New York Times and CNN, which also committed several embarrassing lapses. The New York Times recently apologized for a report it published about President Trump and suspicious relations with Russia as it had said it depended on information from 14 sources who work in intelligence apparatuses but it turned out they were only 4. Just the like report on “Emirati hacking,” the New York Times quoted anonymous intelligence sources and randomly made accusations. In such a situation, it is neither possible to prove or deny them. The accused defends himself and the daily does not do anything to prove its claims. What does it do then? Nothing. It just moves on to write a new story. Recent developments indicate an unfortunate decline in journalistic practices even in respected media outlets as journalists publish reports that include serious accusations without evidence
Fake reports
CNN recently published a fake reports, fired three of its employees and altered the way it operates as it no longer publishes sensitive material unless after senior editors approve it. It, once again, published a fake report that relied on anonymous sources. The report was about Trump’s senior advisor Anthony Scaramucci’s ties to Russia and attempts to lift sanctions against it. That’s an entirely fabricated story. The network this time apologized but it did so for a logical reason as Scaramucci called it and hinted that it will file a lawsuit. The network retracted the report and fired those who wrote it.
Recent developments indicate an unfortunate decline in journalistic practices even in respected media outlets as journalists publish reports that include serious accusations without evidence. They do so under pressure to finish work quickly or out of their desire to be distinctive or become famous immediately or even due to ideological grudges. Since the ceiling of professional standards has been lowered, these stories and the number of those selling them and marketing them increased. Several countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, have been subjected to serious accusations related to supporting terrorism and being involved in September 11 twin tower attacks. Several reports have been written about the 28 classified pages of the report on the September 11, 2001 attacks and it was claimed that these pages exposed Saudi Arabia’s involvement.
Amended narrative
However, all those turne1d out to be false. Many of these claims relied upon suspicious and even false intelligence reports that were all literally false. Are these accusations over? Did these dailies offer a new, amended narrative? Of course they did not. They did nothing but repeat the same accusations that rely on the same secret reports. The term “intelligence reports” must be cautiously used for several reasons as the quoted data may be entirely false or the source may be deceitful and he may not have any reliable information as he may simply be a talkative man who only has suspicions or wishes. Another reason is related to complete bias since the anonymous source talks to support his point of view and not to confirm the truth. I recently watched an interview with Michael Morell, the former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who hates everything that President Trump does. He attacked the president because he exited the Paris climate accord and said climate change will lead to wars between countries in the future. Such exaggeration cannot be accepted as he hinted that the future of climate and the eruption of barbaric wars in search of water is the responsibility of a single man. I gave this example about a top CIA official to confirm that even senior figures can make silly statements that are immediately used in media reports. Let’s go back to the fabricated Qatar news agency story. This hacking not only targeted an official news agency but also included the state television and Qatari English websites.
Doha’s hostile policy, its funding of terrorism and embracing of extremism are all clear facts that Doha itself reveals via live broadcast. The country does not need hackers and conspirators to prove what has been known for years.

After the liberation of Mosul, what now for Iraq’s Sunnis?
Struan Stevenson/Asharq Al Awsat/July 18/17
Mosul has been liberated from ISIS (ISIS) at last, after three years of brutal occupation by the pitiless so called jihadists; but at what cost? Like Ramadi and Fallujah before it, Mosul has been reduced to ruins. Barely a single building has been left intact. These great, ancient Iraqi cities have been obliterated. 800,000 people have been rendered homeless from Mosul alone, millions when you count the refugees who fled from Ramadi and Fallujah. Thousands of innocent Sunni civilians have been killed, and tens of thousands among them were injured. Now sprawling refugee camps and flimsy canvas tents provide a home to families who have lost everything. And what do these people have in common… they are Sunnis. It was their cruel mistreatment and repression by the former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki that sparked the uprising in al-Anbar and Nineveh provinces four years ago. Maliki was a puppet of the Islamic fundamentalist Shiite mullahs in Tehran. The ensuing civil war sucked in ISIS from neighboring Syria and the jihadists quickly captured around one third of Iraq’s geographical territory. In 2014 the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the creation of what he described as a caliphate from the pulpit of the 900-year-old al-Nuri mosque with its famous leaning minaret in Mosul. Even that renowned and venerated mosque has now been reduced to rubble.
Quick to exploit the situation, the Kurdish Peshmerga used the excuse of fighting ISIS to grab the city of Kirkuk and its surrounding oil fields, long a disputed territory between Baghdad and the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government).
But as the celebrations at the ousting of ISIS from Mosul have begun, so too has another dilemma in Iraq’s recent tortured history. Rebuilding these ruined cities will cost tens of billions of dollars and take years. But there is no money. Maliki and his government plundered the Iraqi treasury. Their corruption was on an industrial scale. The vast resources of this oil-rich country simply vanished into hidden bank accounts and to paying private militias. Then the global price of oil collapsed and ISIS seized some of the country’s most lucrative fields. Quick to exploit the situation, the Kurdish Peshmerga used the excuse of fighting ISIS to grab the city of Kirkuk and its surrounding oil fields, long a disputed territory between Baghdad and the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government). And now the KRG President, Massoud Barzani, has called for a referendum on independence to be held in September, when it is almost certain a resounding ‘YES’ vote will propel Iraq further towards economic crisis and create a new political flashpoint.
Iran should not be part of the solution
Few Western powers are willing to send millions in foreign aid into this black hole of corruption and weak governance, so the dispossessed Sunnis will remain homeless and destitute, their collective grievances against the Shiite government bubbling under the surface. The seeds are being sown once again for the kind of insurgency that kick-started the whole conflict in the first place and the only ultimate winner is Iran. The Iranian Regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the body responsible for extra-territorial operations - the terrorist-listed Quds Force, are the main vehicles for Iran’s aggressive expansionism in the Middle East. The IRGC has for decades been carrying out terrorist attacks across the zone, including in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. Iran cannot be part of the solution to the conflicts raging in these countries. It is part of the problem. Iran exports terror and one of its key strategic objectives is to dominate Iraq.
On 10 July 2017, General Qasem Soleimani, hardline commander of the Quds Force, admitted that Ayatollah Khamenei has always insisted on supporting Iraq. He confirmed that Iran’s Ministry of Defense had produced large quantities of arms and sent them to Iraq. President Hassan Rowhani, a so-called “moderate”, proclaimed that the Iranian economy was used to run the wars in Iraq and Syria and added: “In the hardest economic conditions we helped the nations of Iraq and Syria. Who provides the salaries and arms for these people? Who provided the weapons Iraq needed and the money during the sanctions? It is also the same in Syria.” President Trump should blacklist the IRGC and its affiliated militias in Iraq. He must also compel the Iraqi government to disband all Iraqi Shiite militia groups who are exploiting the government’s budget, military equipment and weapons and demand the creation of an inclusive Iraqi army that does not discriminate against Sunnis and other minorities. Now that ISIS has suffered a series of defeats in Iraq, the Iranian regime, together with the Iraqi government, is trying to move the American forces out of the country, so that no obstacles remain in the way of Iran’s total domination. Such a situation would without doubt lead to the re-emergence of ISIS in the future. The US must remain in Iraq as a fair arbiter and not repeat the mistake made by Obama in 2011 when he ordered the complete withdrawal of US military forces, laying the groundwork for a sectarian civil war.
Against this background President Trump should blacklist the IRGC and its affiliated militias in Iraq. He must also compel the Iraqi government to disband all Iraqi Shiite militia groups who are exploiting the government’s budget, military equipment and weapons and demand the creation of an inclusive Iraqi army that does not discriminate against Sunnis and other minorities. Only after these measures have been successfully concluded should foreign aid be generated for the comprehensive rebuilding of Iraq’s ruined cities.

From Margret to May: The state and public mistrust
Dr. Halla Diyab/Asharq Al Awsat/July 18/17
With growing adversities from natural disasters of Camden Lock Market and Grenfell Tower fire the likes of which has not been seen before, to acts of terrorism in the streets of Manchester and London, to the barbaric acid attacks, the British leadership has a task at hand dealing with public unease. With incidents unfolding one after another, finger is pointed at the woman at the top – Theresa May. May is aware of her power as a female political symbol as well as a leader who has constantly expelled the ghost of Margaret Thatcher not only through her policy direction but by refusing to be seen as a woman but rather a politician. She is indeed the epitome of a politician who has gone beyond the architype of conventional female leaders. Her call for election this summer was a testimony that she wants to earn her leadership status by the majority of the public vote. If today Britain’s troubled time is a reminder of Maggie’s bleak early 1980s of inflation, public cuts, unemployment, strikes, and violence in the British street, parallels should be drawn between the two eras rather than between the two women. Maggie (A.K.A. The Iron Lady) was the first woman to have held the office, and wanted to leave her political female legacy in a way or another even if that was at the expense of the British people. While May came to the office to patch deep political cracks, including the resignation of Cameron, the divisive referendum campaign , the Brexit, and the economic uncertainty. It was not about female empowerment, but it was rather pure politics for her. But yet, comparison are still made between the two women and going the extra length by orchestrating polling data on pair which shows similar ratings on honesty, narrowmindedness and being 'out of touch'.
However, we do not see a similar public keenness for a parallel to be drawn between Blair and Gordon Brown or David Cameron. The reign of David Cameron was full of political flicks and flaws; he was the man whose referendum took the UK out of years of marriage to the European Union.
And through his time, we witness a series of brutal murders of Western hostages, one following the other in a horrific beheading carried by the terrorist group, ISIS. The British public wrestled with the crust of disappointment through his time, as the man who lost control of his party and then the country failed to deliver what he promised the nation with. Are women in power still judged by their gender or their capabilities? With no sweeping changes made to how female leaders are perceived and trusted by the public, milestones in women’s rights in the political sphere will not be made at an unprecedented rate
Irrational era
The predecessor’s Labour era was disastrous shrouded with irrational decision to invade Iraq in 2003, which dragged the Middle East into endless military upheavals, and the British economy was the loser in Blair’s political equation. And yet, Cameron did not learn the lesson, and his ill-conceived Libya war with no post-war plans left the country in more turmoil than ever. So the political era of Blair and Cameron was not by any means disasters free. But today powerful presence of social media, and the public fever of documenting daily details feeds a growing public tendency to distrust the state in a modern sensation format firmly planning the public image of the leader at the forefront of the public perception. The public gradually finds it difficult to perpetuate the tone of loyalty, and acceptance in contemporary streams of politics. But it seems that the subsequent smidgens of unease are now accompanied by a growing mistrust-mongering toward the state. With the public focus has gradually moved from the context of the adversities to the individuals behind the state’s leadership marking an evolution that has enforced the ripples of distrust to run wider throughout the public, and presaged the leader who symbolizes the state’s power as a target of the public anger catapulted towards everything happens under their leadership.
Living in the age of public online-exhibitionism, with digital media developing into a mass-tool for broadcasting information, exercising freedom of speech and offering a safe harbor for civic engagement, and even shaping and defining the features of leadership, public platforms revolutionize the conventional relationship between the public and the head of the state. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have hugely been responsible for hosting diverse subjective discourse that shapes public opinions about political leadership, and so political landscapes are daily negotiated at the global level.
The people’s harbor
This breaking down of how the state and media report political information nourish the public tendency to voice their opinions about leadership, and how much of responsibility and accountability it has towards all the catastrophes in the country. So it is accepted to publicly mock and attack May on social media and even to be asked to step down in the light of Grenfell disaster because the virtual space has become the people’s harbor. It is a kind of online-subculture, perhaps inspired by the so-called Arab Spring and the fever of public distrust in the head of the state triggered by virtual protest-mongering. The recent series of protests witnessed in the streets of London visualize that the Brits are no exception when it come to the public distrust in the state. The motives might differ but the format of public unease is identical which reflects that there is certainly a gulf of understanding between the British public and the state. This rising public mistrust-mongering questions to what length can the public loath the leader for all political adversities, and where is the dividing line between politicalizing the individuals leading the state, and the individualization to the politicians of the state? Margret and May – despite their political flaws – have made strides toward global equality in the political landscape. Spurred on by the two women’s resilience to triumph against political adversity, should do them justice. And I think that’s something May’s got from Maggie. The constant parallel between the two women brings to question how far we have departed from sexism when it comes to women in politics. Are women in power still judged by their gender or their capabilities? With no sweeping changes made to how female leaders are perceived and trusted by the public, milestones in women’s rights in the political sphere will not be made at an unprecedented rate.

Would Qatar’s bet on a draw succeed?
Christian Chesnot/Asharq Al Awsat/July 18/17
Forty days after the outbreak of the Gulf crisis, the positions of Qatar and its rivals (Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates) seem to be congealed. No camp has won a peremptory victory over the other. In other words, at this point, the arm wrestling is still ongoing.
After the shock of the rupture of diplomatic relations and the imposition of a land and air embargo which resulted in some panic in the supermarkets at the beginning of the crisis, Qatar did not lose its cool. To resist external pressure, Doha used the basic principle of judo: when one is weaker than his opponent, the only possible strategy is to use the power of the opposing player and turn it against him. This is what Qatar has done so far with some success. First, Sheikh Tamim held still until the storm is over and remained silent, no doubt on the advice of the Emir of Kuwait. Furthermore, he did not utter a word publicly that could have aggravated the crisis. In fact, he let his foreign affairs and defense ministers defend the position of Qatar diplomatically and in media. The outcome of the crisis lies in its duration and overtime. For the moment, Qatar wants to counter the blows by mobilizing its financial resources and its allies like Ankara or Tehran. But in the medium term, the pressure will only grow. At the economic level, Qatari leaders have urgently set up branches to circumvent the embargo of its neighbors, importing products and materials via Oman, Iran or Turkey. In fact, Qatar imported 4,000 dairy cows from the United States, Germany and Australia to compensate for the closure of the land border with Saudi Arabia.
In the end, Doha felt strong enough to reject the 13 requests made by its neighbors which resulted in a new wave of diplomatic channels, the latest of which came from the Quai d’Orsay embodied in French diplomat Jean-Yves Le Drian who met all the protagonists. Seen from Paris, one feels that the crisis is now in a total impasse, and that it is now necessary to build a road map to find a way out. Even though Qatar has been able to come out of this situation with a tie for the moment, the game is not over yet. For Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the roots of the crisis are both old and serious. It is therefore likely that neither Riyadh nor Abu Dhabi will be satisfied with this result. Economic and diplomatic pressures will therefore intensify in the coming weeks. The outcome of the crisis lies in its duration and overtime. For the moment, Qatar wants to counter the blows by mobilizing its financial resources and its allies like Ankara or Tehran. But in the medium term, the pressure will only grow. The Qatari economy has been conceived as a regional and global hub and will therefore be affected in one way or another in the future; even if the blockade is not total (both the port and the Doha airport operate normally).
Already for investors there is the question of visibility. In the business world, uncertainty is absolutely horrifying! However, the crisis has just revealed a big question mark on the future of Qatar. What will be the state of the country in 1, 3 or 5 years? As a Qatari businessman recently pointed out, “the Emirate cannot remain isolate forever from its nearest neighbors in a climate of permanent hostility.” Meanwhile, Doha is relying on time to take advantage.