July 20/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Jesus said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, "Doctor, cure yourself
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 04/22-30/:"All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, "Doctor, cure yourself!" And you will say, "Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum." ’And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.
They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way."

God gave them a sluggish spirit, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day

Letter to the Romans 11/01-08/:"I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.’But what is the divine reply to him? ‘I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, ‘God gave them a sluggish spirit, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.’"

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 19-20/17
Can Trump Lead the Way to Regime Change in Iran/Hassan Mahmoudi/Gatestone Institute/July 19/17
UNESCO is an Immoral, Anti-Semitic Organization/Decent Countries Should Leave/
Guy Millière/Gatestone Institute/July 19/17
Filing Away the Qatari Crisis … Temporarily/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/July 19/17
So Many Critics of Economics Miss What It Gets Right/Noah Smith/Bloomberg/July 19/17
Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Dispute in Syria/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/July 19/17
Qatar needs to come to its senses over Iran, Turkey designs/Jameel al-Thiyabi/Al Arabiya/July 19/17
Is Trump’s family asset or liability for the White House/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/July 19/17
Understanding IRGC’s long-term goals in Iraq/Hamid Bahrami/Al Arabiya/July 19/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 19-20/17
Parliament Approves Tax Bills to Finance the Wage Scale
Netanyahu Caught by Live Microphone Admitting Syria Strikes on Hizbullah
Tensions rise as Lebanon bans protests to alleviate Syrian refugee conditions
Lebanese President: We Cannot Resolve Syrian Refugee Crisis by Spreading Hatred
Lebanese Held in Iran Hospitalized after Hunger Strike
Report: Military Leadership 'Doing All It Can' on Abducted Servicemen File
We Want Accountability' Protesters Block Finance Ministry, Reject Tax Hikes
Rising Anti-Refugee Sentiment Stirs Concern in Lebanon
Gen. Aoun: Army Won't Heed Malicious Voices Trying to Distort Its Sacred Duty
Men Seen Abusing Syrian Man in Video Arrested
Army Arrests Two Terror Suspects in Arsal Special Operation
Opposition Infighting in Syria's Idlib Kills 14
Syrian Embassy Slams 'Abuse of Syrian Workers', Hails Aoun Stance

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 19-20/17
Egypt Accuses Qatar of ‘Violating all Accords’
Qatar played ‘dirty game’ by supporting terrorists
US: Iran’s Support to Houthis Prolongs Conflict in Yemen
Iran's Rouhani Says New US Sanctions Violate Nuclear Accord
Moscow Speaks About Second Truce in Syria with Washington’s Cooperation
Hamas Pays Islamic Remuneration to Settle Bloodshed during 2007 Gaza Takeover
Baghdad Rules Out ‘Demographic Change’ in Liberated Areas
French Military Chief Upbraided by Macron Quits
Israel Weighs Removal of Metal Detectors at Heart of Religious Row
U.N. Aid Flight Carrying Journalists Barred from Yemen
Sold by IS in Raqa, Yazidi Female Fighters Back for Revenge
Egypt Police Trap and Kill Top Militants
Morocco Interior Minister: Upholding Human Rights is Incontestable
Renovated Tsarist hostel for Christian Orthodox pilgrims re-opens in Jerusalem

Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 19-20/17
Parliament Approves Tax Bills to Finance the Wage Scale
Naharnet/July 19/17/The parliament convened in a second legislative session on Wednesday, under the chairmanship of Speaker Nabih Berri, and approved a number of laws that introduced tax provisions that secured revenues to finance the wage scale after it was approved during Tuesday's session. At the beginning of the meeting, the council approved an amendment to Article 10 which imposes an amount of 5000 Lebanese pounds on non-Lebanese passengers upon their entry into Lebanon. Article 11 canceled fees on economy travel tickets and kept the fees at their current value of 60,000 pounds. The parliament also approved taxes on bank accounts and interests, a 7% tax was imposed on banks' profits. A law securing revenues for the wage scale was also approved. Kataeb party leader MP Sami Gemayel has repeatedly rejected imposition of new taxes, “I object to the nature of taxation and randomness without having a feasibility study. Approval of these taxes hits the rest of the middle class,” he said. Replying to Gemayel, Berri said: “Are you as keen as we are? Is this State our State or not? Suppose we get additional money, it will go to the treasury. We are not imposing taxes on middle and poor classes.”
The parliament also approved the imposition of fines on maritime public property. For his part, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil stressed that taxes on maritime property violations must be authorized, he said: “We will not approve settlements for violations on maritime property, we rather plan to impose fines without giving them any acquired right. If we do not approve this today, we will be giving violators an award.”Prime Minister Saad Hariri pointed out that “violations should have been settled 20 years ago. It was our mistake as parliament and cabinet that we did nothing.” In parallel with the legislative session, a group of civil society activists, Kataeb party protesters rallied in Riad al-Solh square close to the parliament rejecting hikes in taxes. Speaker Nabih Berri adjourned the meeting until Prime Minister Saad Hariri returns back from a scheduled trip abroad.

Netanyahu Caught by Live Microphone Admitting Syria Strikes on Hizbullah
Associated Press/Naharnet/July 19/17/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was caught Wednesday by a live microphone making a rare public admission that Israel has struck Iranian arms convoys in Syria bound for Hizbullah "dozens and dozens of times."Netanyahu was also heard railing against the European Union's "crazy" insistence on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a precondition for closer ties with the 28-state bloc, and trumpeting Israel as essential to its prosperity and survival. Netanyahu was meeting with leaders of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia at a regional summit, where a conversation with his Czech and Hungarian counterparts discussing Iran, Syria, the Islamic State, and EU-Israel relations was accidentally broadcast to journalists covering the conference.The Israeli premier was overheard blasting the European Union's approach to Israel, saying "it's crazy. I think it's actually crazy" that the EU maintains that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must come before closer trade ties. "There is no logic here. Europe is undermining its security by undermining Israel. Europe is undermining its progress by undermining the connection with Israeli innovation because of a crazy attempt to create conditions (for peace with the Palestinians)," said Netanyahu. European ties with Israel would determine whether the 28-member union would "live and thrive or shrivel and disappear," he added. The EU doesn't recognize Israeli sovereignty over territories it captured in the 1967 Mideast war, including the West Bank and east Jerusalem, where the Palestinians hope to establish a state. It has been a vocal critic of Israel's settlement construction and has adopted measures mandating the labeling of goods produced in West Bank settlements. "The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel — that produces technology in every area — on political conditions. The only ones. Nobody does it," Netanyahu said, citing Russia, China and India's willingness to do business with Israel despite politics. Netanyahu has pushed for closer trade ties with India and China in recent years. Earlier this month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a state visit to Israel, during which the two countries signed a number of trade agreements cementing increasingly warm relations.

Tensions rise as Lebanon bans protests to alleviate Syrian refugee conditions
Al Arabiya English Wednesday, 19 July 2017
Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nouhad al-Machnouk banned all demonstrations in the country – citing the need to “preserve security and civic peace” after the Facebook group ‘Union of Syrian People in Lebanon’ called for a protest on Tuesday in Downtown Beirut. The group is protesting for better rights for Syrian refugees in the wake of four Syrians dying while in detention after the army raided camps in Arsal. The army released a statement claiming that the four died from symptoms they had before being held. “Twenty percent of the refugees in Lebanon live in camps, and there are serious issues related to their living conditions,” Human Rights Watch Lebanon researcher, Bassam Khawaja, told Al Arabiya English. “Seventy percent of Syrians in Lebanon now subsist below the poverty line, 90 percent of them are in debt. About 50 percent of them are school-aged children who aren’t actually in school.”
Impediments to legal status
A big factor for why Syrian refugees in the country are suffering is the country’s decision to impose strict residency regulations in 2015, which has made it difficult for the displaced to obtain legal status and thus making it hard for them to find work. “Without an ability to work, and because Lebanon has also not opened an official refugee camp, it means they still have to pay for their own rent, their own food, and school fees for their children,” Khawaja said.This has had a devastating effect on the ability of Syrians to just survive in Lebanon. Lebanon is a country of four million people, with an additional registered 1.5 million refugees. It can barely sustain itself – let alone an additional burden comprising a quarter of its population. “Unfortunately, on the policy side, a lot of decisions seem to be made in order to make life very difficult for Syrians, with the aim either to prevent more from entering Lebanon or push out the ones already here,” Khawaja said.
Apart from the policies, tensions between both people are rising as time passes. On Tuesday, a video of a group of Lebanese men humiliating and tormenting a Syrian man spread on social media. The men were hitting the Syrian and asking if “he’s going to protest with the Syrians.”
Many have denounced and condemned the video. However, this is one instance of a documented incident, among several that go unnoticed throughout the country. “It’s important to recall, that the refugees are victims themselves of the same violence that we are seeing. They are direct victims of the war in Syria. In Lebanon, both refugees and Lebanese themselves, have been used by armed elements to hide behind, basically as human shields,” UNHCR Assistant Communications Officer Lisa Abou Khaled told Al Arabiya English. “There’s also tensions because the Lebanese sometimes feel tired of hosting so many refugees. Unfortunately, sometimes refugees are used as scapegoats or blamed over other issues. We always remind the international community and our donors that Lebanon and the Lebanese also need support,” she added. Last week, the Lebanese army escorted around 250 people out of the border town of Arsal. The refugees headed for the Syrian town of Asal al-Ward across the border, northeast of Damascus, as part of a Hezbollah-mediated deal. Lebanese President General Michel Aoun justified his country’s work on returning the displaced, due to the country’s inability to bear more burdens, at the same time sounding a warning about the dangerous the spread of hatred and incitement between the Lebanese and Syrian people.

Lebanese President: We Cannot Resolve Syrian Refugee Crisis by Spreading Hatred
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 19/17/ Beirut – Lebanese President Michel Aoun warned on Tuesday against falling victim to attempts to create spite between the Lebanese people and Syrian refugees in the country “because it will not have positive repercussions on either party.”He added: “Resolving the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon and easing its negative burden on the country cannot take place through spreading hatred.”He deemed as “unacceptable” the “mutual incitement” taking place on various social media platforms, “especially since what is being published does not reflect Lebanon’s real image.”“Lebanon is a country of coexistence and tolerance. If some Syrian refugees are accused of wrongdoings, then that does not mean that all of the refugees are bad. We should therefore distinguish between the two,” urged Aoun. “The refugees came to Lebanon to escape the war in Syria and we have and still are presenting them with aid despite the negative economic, financial, social and educational consequences that have resulted from this displacement,” noted the Lebanese president. He therefore demanded a political solution for the Syrian crisis “as we want the suffering of those refugees to end with their safe return to their country.” “This demand does not however mean that anyone has the right to wage incitement campaigns against peaceful refugees, because the repercussions of these practices will be major,” he warned. He stressed that Lebanon has succeeded in containing tensions on the internal scene despite the dangers on the regional level, asking: “Should the country now be dragged to war and internal problems at a time when wars around us are coming to an end?” Echoing Aoun’s stances, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil underlined on Tuesday the need to find a “sustainable” solution to the Syrian refugee crisis through ensuring their safe return to their country, without forcibly making them leave Lebanon. This process should take place over phases in order to allow trust to be restored between various segments of the Syrian people, he explained while chairing the eighth joint partnership council between Lebanon and the European Union. The council addressed regional affairs, starting with the Syrian crisis, terrorism, political developments and various trade issues.

Lebanese Held in Iran Hospitalized after Hunger Strike
Associated Press/Naharnet/July 19/17/The family of a Lebanese man who has been held in Iran for nearly two years said Tuesday his condition is deteriorating three weeks after he went on a hunger strike. Nizar Zakka, 50, was rushed to a hospital on Sunday, where he refused an IV, his brother Ziad told The Associated Press. He said his brother is prepared to die if he is not released, and refused to sign documents in Farsi, a language he doesn't understand. Zakka, who has permanent U.S. residency, went missing on Sept. 18, 2015, during his fifth trip to Iran. Two weeks later, Iranian state TV reported that he was in custody and suspected of "deep links" with U.S. intelligence services. It showed what it described as an incriminating photo of Zakka and three other men in army-style uniforms, two with flags and two with rifles on their shoulders. But the photo was actually from a homecoming event at Zakka's prep school, the Riverside Military Academy in Georgia, according to the school's president and his brother. Last September, Zakka was sentenced to 10 years in prison and handed a $4.2 million fine after being convicted of espionage by a security court. Zakka's family denies the allegations. His brother said he had been invited to attend a conference at which President Hassan Rouhani spoke of sustainable development and providing more economic opportunities for women. He showed the AP a letter of invitation for his brother from Iranian Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi. "He is completely losing hope in life, and this is the most difficult period a human being might reach," Zakka said in an interview in Beirut, adding that he had urged his brother to end the hunger strike when he spoke to him by phone early Tuesday. The family has urged President Michel Aoun to raise Zakka's case when he visits Iran in August. Aoun is a close ally of Iran-backed Hizbullah. "We hope that President Aoun will reach a happy ending in this matter," said Majed Dimashkiyeh, a lawyer for the family who has sent an official letter to Aoun asking him to intervene with Iranian authorities. Zakka, who used to live in Washington, leads the Arab ICT Organization, or IJMA3, an industry consortium from 13 countries that advocates for information technology in the region. The Associated Press reported in May last year that IJMA3 had received at least $730,000 in contracts and grants since 2009 from both the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID. Ziad Zakka said their mother passed away last July. He said she had sent a letter to Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Rouhani through the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, telling them that "my dream is to see Nizar."

Report: Military Leadership 'Doing All It Can' on Abducted Servicemen File
Naharnet/July 19/17/Efforts to uncover the fate of Lebanese servicemen abducted by the Islamic State terror group are “ongoing away from media spotlight,” and the “military leadership is doing everything it can” in that regard, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday. In an interview to the daily, a security source who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “Let us stop the bidding in the file of hostaged servicemen. The military leadership is doing everything it can and will not hesitate to open any possible channel that could lead to results.” The source slammed reports alleging that the servicemen have defected, he stressed: “It is untrue. If one of the servicemen chose to defect from the group it does not mean that the group is treacherous. Everybody agrees that they have carried out their duties to the end.”Families of the servicemen have escalated measures last week and blocked a main road in Downtown Beirut protesting the “government's failure to uncover the fate of their sons” after more than three years in the Islamic State group's captivity. The Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front, which re-branded itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in July when it split from the al-Qaida movement, abducted over 30 servicemen in clashes with the Lebanese army in the northeastern border town of Arsal in August 2014. Sixteen held by the Jabhat Fateh al-Islam were freed in December last year through a Qatari-mediated deal that also included a prisoner swap to release a number of inmates from Lebanese jails. The two groups had previously executed four of the hostages. Nine hostages are still being held by the IS and their families do not know much about their fate.

We Want Accountability' Protesters Block Finance Ministry, Reject Tax Hikes
Naharnet/July 19/17/Civil society activists from the 'We Want Accountability' campaign gathered on Wednesday near the Finance Ministry in a move they said aimed at discouraging the government from imposing new taxes. The campaigners gathered near the building preventing the employees from entering.One of the protesters, Wasef Harakeh, said: “We will not be silent about the people's rights. If the State improves its imports and puts an end to squandering (of public funds) there will be no need to impose new taxes.”The group's move comes in line with a legislative session set to convene for the second consecutive day after it approved on Tuesday the long-awaited wage scale for civil servants and the armed forces but without a final agreement on the sources of funding. Parliamentary blocs are still divided over the resources to fund the scale, mainly over some proposed taxes that the private sector has warned against. They have warned that new taxes would have “a negative impact on the country's economy and state finances."

Rising Anti-Refugee Sentiment Stirs Concern in Lebanon
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 19/17/An attack on Lebanese troops raiding a Syrian refugee encampment has stirred violent debate and polarized opinions in Lebanon, with rising calls to repatriate refugees but also warnings against racist rhetoric. The uptick in pressure comes after Lebanese soldiers were attacked as they stormed two refugee encampments near the eastern border with Syria last month. They were confronted by a string of suicide attacks and grenade blasts that killed a child and wounded seven soldiers. Dozens of people were arrested, and the army subsequently announced four detainees had died of pre-existing conditions, prompting rights groups to urge a probe into allegations of torture. The incident has produced a campaign of incitement against Syrian refugees on social media, with many Lebanese pushing back and warning against stereotyping refugees as militants. More than one million Syrian refugees have flooded into Lebanon since the conflict in their own country erupted in March 2011.They live in homes and informal camps, and their presence has been largely tolerated, despite testing the limited resources and aging infrastructure available to Lebanon's four million citizens. But in the wake of the Arsal incidents, anti-refugee rhetoric has been sounded by Lebanese artists, media and high-ranking politicians, including Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. He warned that if "the United Nations doesn't accept that refugees should be returned to Syria, we'll put them on the first boat back. We will not tolerate it anymore."
Game of spreading hatred'
Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, has also stepped up his long-standing expressions of concern about the huge refugee influx.
"We warned from day one that the refugee issue was a major concern for us and it has proved correct because it has become a refuge and a shelter for some terrorists," he wrote on his Twitter account. The official rhetoric has been accompanied by dueling social media posts, vilifying refugees or denouncing the army for alleged abuses. The rising tempers prompted President Michel Aoun to call for calm, while acknowledging the frustrations of those who feel burdened by the refugee presence.
"Resolving the refugee crisis... will not be via disseminating and propagating hatred," he added, warning of the consequences of "the game of spreading hatred." But even after his comments, a video has circulated showing at least three Lebanese punching and kicking an unarmed Syrian refugee and hurling insults at him. The assailants are also heard accusing their victim of opposing the Lebanese army and of supporting the Islamic State jihadist group. The video was widely criticized and Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq announced on Wednesday that the attackers had been arrested. Earlier, many Lebanese social media users had been infuriated by another video showing an elderly Syrian woman insulting the Lebanese, as well as the army and politicians, over the Arsal incident. The ugly rhetoric and charged atmosphere has brought comparisons with the debate over the presence of Palestinian refugees in the run-up to Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.
'Time to end this threat'
Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University in Beirut (AUB), said the rhetoric reflects a lack of civic education in Lebanon. "The campaigns of incitement and obscene language are not part of a systematic plan," he told the AFP news agency. The enormous refugee presence "is placing a major demographic burden on Lebanon and its political balance," he added."The refugee issue is an international issue and goes beyond Lebanon's ability to deal with it."In the years since the civil war, Lebanon has maintained a fragile sectarian and political balance that has at times been threatened by the conflict in Syria next door. Amid fears that many Syrians may never leave the country, Lebanon's political parties are now united in seeking a repatriation plan. But they differ on how the process should work, with Hizbullah and the FPM urging coordination with Damascus, while others propose U.N. supervision. As tempers fray, the hashtag "no to racism" in Arabic has made its appearance on Twitter. "We ask our brothers, the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, to forgive us for things that certain shameless people have committed against you," photographer Wael Ladki has tweeted. Rima Majed, an AUB professor, warned on Facebook that a political decision has already been taken "to blow up the refugee file." Against this already tense backdrop, preparations are underway for a major army operation against militants in Arsal's outskirts, according to Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah last week warned that extremists in Arsal's outskirts were "a threat to all, including the Syrian refugee camps." "It is time to end this threat," he said.

Gen. Aoun: Army Won't Heed Malicious Voices Trying to Distort Its Sacred Duty
Naharnet/July 19/17/Army Commander General Joseph Aoun on Wednesday inspected military units in the Tufail region and Baalbek's outskirts on Syria's border. An army statement said the commander “met with the officers and soldiers and gave them the necessary instructions.”“General Aoun stressed the need to take all the needed measures on the ground to protect the border towns and villages and ensure the safety of their residents against any terrorist infiltration,” the statement added. “He underscored the army's capabilities and its insistence on confronting the various difficulties that it might encounter during its efforts to oust the terrorist organizations, based on the combat skill that it has demonstrated at several junctures and the political and popular embracement it is enjoying,” the military said. Aoun added: “The army, which has managed to protect Lebanon during the most difficult circumstances, will continue to protect it now and in the future at any cost and regardless of the sacrifices, and it will not heed the noise of some malicious voices that appear every now and then to distort its sacred duty of defending the country and preserving its security and stability.” Prime Minister Saad Hariri had on Tuesday announced that the army will carry out "a planned-out operation in Arsal's outskirts" and that "the government gives it freedom (to do so)."Jihadists from the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front groups are entrenched in mountainous areas along the Syrian-Lebanese border and in 2014 they overran Arsal before being ousted after days of deadly battles with the army.

Men Seen Abusing Syrian Man in Video Arrested
Naharnet/July 19/17/The Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch on Wednesday arrested a group of Lebanese young men who appeared in a video posted on social media beating up and shouting xenophobic insults at a young Syrian man, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq said. The video, which has sparked outrage on social networking websites, shows the Lebanese men kicking the Syrian man as he sobs and cowers on the ground. They also ask him to curse his country, the jihadist Islamic State group and to repeat slogans supportive of President Michel Aoun, the Lebanese army and Army chief General Joseph Aoun. Media reports said the men were arrested in the Ras el-Dekwaneh area in Northern Metn. The incident comes amid high Lebanese-Syrian tensions in the country sparked by a debate on returning Syrian refugees to Syria and an army raid on Syrian refugee encampments in the Arsal region in which around 350 Syrians were arrested. The mass arrests followed a confrontation between troops and a number of militants in the two encampments during which five men blew themselves up and others hurled grenades at the army, wounding seven soldiers and killing a Syrian child. The military's treatment of detainees after the Arsal operation triggered fierce controversy in Lebanon and among Syrians, particularly after images emerged of troops apparently detaining scores of refugees and an army announcement that four detainees had died due to pre-existing health problems.
The tensions were further fueled by calls for rival demos and allegations that Syrian refugees intend to stage “a protest against the Lebanese army.”

Army Arrests Two Terror Suspects in Arsal Special Operation
Naharnet/July 19/17/Army intelligence agents on Wednesday carried out a special operation inside the northeastern border town of Arsal, state-run National News Agency reported. The operation resulted in the arrest of Lebanese nationals A.K. and Kh.A., who are accused of collaborating with the terrorist Islamic State group, NNA said. TV networks meanwhile identified the two men as Abdul Malek Kanaan and Khodr al-Atrash. IS jihadists and others from the rival Fateh al-Sham group are entrenched in Arsal's outskirts and other areas along the Lebanese-Syrian border. The Lebanese army regularly shells their posts while Hizbullah and the Syrian army have engaged in clashes with them on the Syrian side of the border.

Opposition Infighting in Syria's Idlib Kills 14
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 19/17/Infighting between two of the most powerful factions in Syria's opposition-held Idlib province has killed at least 14 people in the past 24 hours, a monitor said Wednesday. The fighting involves the jihadist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), led by a former Al-Qaeda affiliate, against one-time ally Ahrar al-Sham, a powerful Islamist rebel group. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighters from the two sides were engaged in clashes across the province in northwest Syria that killed 11 fighters and three civilians in the last 24 hours. "These are the most violent and widespread clashes that have taken place between Ahrar al-Sham and Tahrir al-Sham," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. "The clashes are ongoing across all of the province, with territory changing hands... It's an existential battle," he added. An AFP correspondent in the province also reported fighting in several areas, particularly in the town of Sarmada and around the towns of Saraqeb and Al-Dana. He said both sides had set up multiple checkpoints inside and around provincial capital Idlib city. The two groups have clashed before, despite having previously formed the backbone of the alliance that captured most of Idlib in early 2015. The latest conflict arises partly out of a dispute over Ahrar al-Sham's desire to fly the flag of the Syrian uprising in Idlib city, the Observatory and AFP's correspondent said. Idlib city was only the second provincial capital to fall from government control, and the province is one of the last remaining strongholds of the rebels. More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

Syrian Embassy Slams 'Abuse of Syrian Workers', Hails Aoun Stance
Naharnet/July 19/17/The Syrian Embassy in Beirut on Wednesday deplored alleged abuse of Syrian workers in Lebanon and hailed President Michel Aoun's latest call for avoiding incitement against Syrian refugees. “Media outlets have recently reported that Syrian citizens working in Lebanon have faced abuse and inappropriate practices that reached the extent of forced labor,” the embassy said in a statement. “As the embassy deems this a violation of values, norms and the ties of brotherhood that bind the two brotherly peoples, it urges everyone to shun exaggeration and the sowing of discord, because such a behavior would harm everyone,” it added. And hailing Aoun's latest remarks and “his call for avoiding incitement against Syrian refugees,” the embassy reassured that “it has followed up on the issue with the relevant authorities” and that it has “received cooperation and responsiveness.” “The embassy emphasizes that it constantly follows up on the affairs of its citizens and that it spares no effort to preserve the dignity of Syrian citizens and their rights, while preserving the brotherly ties between the two peoples and two states,” it added. The embassy's statement comes a day after a video emerged of Lebanese young men abusing and shouting xenophobic insults at a young Syrian man. The video, which has sparked outrage on social networking websites, shows the Lebanese men kicking the Syrian man as he sobs and cowers on the ground. They also ask him to curse his country, the jihadist Islamic State group and to repeat slogans supportive of President Michel Aoun, the Lebanese army and Army chief General Joseph Aoun. The incident comes amid high Lebanese-Syrian tensions in the country sparked by a debate on returning Syrian refugees to Syria and an army raid on Syrian refugee encampments in the Arsal region in which around 350 Syrians were arrested.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 19-20/17
Egypt Accuses Qatar of ‘Violating all Accords’
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 19/17/ Jeddah, Ankara, Cairo- Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shokri said on Tuesday that his country would not forgive or deal with countries supporting and financing terrorism, adding that Qatar has violated all international laws and accords.
During his meeting with Jean Paul Laborde, Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), Shokri said that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain insist that Doha sticks to the Quartet’s demands as a condition for resuming frozen relations. “The Arab demands were issued based on Qatar’s violations of the international laws and accords by interfering in the Arab countries’ domestic affairs, and sheltering terrorist leaders and members,” spokesperson of the foreign ministry, Ahmad Abu Zeid said in a press statement Tuesday. Last month, the Arab Quartet cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and building closer ties with Iran. Abu Zeid said Shokri reiterated Egypt’s comprehensive strategy to fight terrorism in all its types, based on UN Security Council resolutions and strategies. The Egyptian minister also highlighted the importance of “standing in one line against the countries that provide aid for the terrorists, who claim the lives of innocent (people) every day.”Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Sunday as part of a Gulf tour, his office announced on Tuesday. A high-ranking Turkish official told Asharq Al-Awsat that talks between Erdogan and Saudi officials would be topped by the Qatari crisis and means to solve the stalled relations. “Of course, officials from both sides will also tackle bilateral relations and means to enhance them,” said the source, who wished to remain anonymous. Erdogan’s visit comes following a marathon of western diplomatic visits, including the US, French, British and German foreign ministers, in an attempt to contain the tension and bring the viewpoints between Qatar and the Anti-Terror Quartet closer.

Qatar played ‘dirty game’ by supporting terrorists
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Wednesday, 19 July 2017/Columnist and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer said that Qatar is playing a “dirty game” by supporting several terrorist groups over the past 30 years. Krauthammer said that the Qataris are playing the “double game by playing the Iranian side and the Arab side.”“They support the Muslim Brotherhood, they have given indirect support to al-Qaeda, to ISIS; they support Hamas. The Egyptian government is in a war against the Brotherhood, Hamas, and its got al-Qaeda in the Sinai – all of which are supported indirectly or directly by the Qataris,” he also added.

US: Iran’s Support to Houthis Prolongs Conflict in Yemen
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 19/17/Washington– Washington has again declared it will never allow the Iranian regime to obtain nuclear weapons given that Tehran’s activities are threatening positive contributions for peace. The State Department stated that through its support of terrorist organizations, Iran is destabilizing the region. “The United States will continue to use sanctions to target those who lend support to Iran’s destabilizing behavior and above all, the United States will never allow the regime in Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” said the State Department, adding that it will keep its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to continue the monitoring and verification of all of Iran’s nuclear commitments. This is the first statement issued by the State Department since it announced earlier this year it is reviewing the nuclear deal with Iran. The statement considered Iran’s continuous testing of ballistic missiles a direct defiance of UN Resolution 2231. It said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action expects participants to fully implement the JCPOA which will “positively contribute to regional and international peace and security.”The US administration informed the Congress on July 17 that it will continue to waive sanctions as required to continue implementing US sanctions-lifting commitments in the JCPOA. But at the same time, the statement pointed out that Iran’s malign activities outside the nuclear issue “undermine the positive contributions to regional and international peace and security that the deal was supposed to provide.”Speaking of the crisis in Yemen, the State Department strongly condemned Iran’s regional behavior, saying its continuous support to Houthi insurgents inside the country is prolonging the Yemen conflict. Tehran’s regime is providing Houthis with “advanced weaponry that threatens freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and has been used to attack Saudi Arabia,” according to the statement. In a related issue, the State Department blamed Iran for its support of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, while maintaining a “steadfast support for the Assad regime, despite Assad’s atrocities against his own people.”The US demanded the immediate release of US citizens Baquer Namazi, Siamak Namazi, and Xiyue Wang, and all other unjustly detained in Iran. The statement expressed Washington’s concern about reports of the declining health of the Namazis, Wang, and other detained US citizens. “Iran should immediately release all of these US citizens on humanitarian grounds,” declared the State Department. Robert Levinson, a US citizen, disappeared from Iran’s Kish Island over a decade ago, and, according to the statement, Iran committed to cooperating with the United States in bringing him home. It asked Iran to fulfill this commitment. “The United States remains unwavering in its efforts to return Bob to his family. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has offered a $5 million reward for any information that could lead to Bob’s safe return,” added the statement. Washington also condemned the Iranian regime’s flagrant human rights record, including its denial of freedom of religion or belief as well as other human rights and fundamental freedoms to individuals. “Notably, arbitrary arrest and detention of members of religious minorities and political activists, is common as is the use of torture and other forms of abuse in detention,” pointed out the statement.

Iran's Rouhani Says New US Sanctions Violate Nuclear Accord
Reuters/Jerusalem Post/July 19/17/DUBAI - President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday new US economic sanctions imposed against Iran contravened the country's nuclear accord with world powers and he vowed that Tehran would "resist" them, state television reported. The Trump administration slapped the new sanctions on Iran on Tuesday over its ballistic missile program and said Tehran's "malign activities" in the Middle East undercut any "positive contributions" coming from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord. "Some of the actions of the Americans are against the spirit and even the letter of the (nuclear accord). We shall resist these plans and actions," Iranian state television quoted Rouhani as saying. "One of the plots of the Americans is to act in such a way that would make Iran say that it is not following its commitments... I think the Americans will fail as we will always respect our international commitments," Rouhani said. Iran's parliament agreed on Tuesday to discuss measures, including increased funding for the missile program, as retaliation for the new US sanctions, state media reported. The US measures signal that the administration of President Donald Trump is seeking to put more pressure on Iran while keeping in place the agreement between Tehran and six world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions. The US government said it was targeting 18 entities and people for supporting what it said was "illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity."

Moscow Speaks About Second Truce in Syria with Washington’s Cooperation
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 19/17/Moscow, London- Russia and the US might announce in mid-August a second truce in Syria to include the countryside of Homs and eastern Ghouta, an informed Russian source said on Tuesday. Russian media quoted the source as saying that US and Russian experts were currently holding talks in a European capital concerning this issue, after the successful ceasefire that included three provinces southern Syria. The reports came as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights spoke on Tuesday about the arrival of 400 members from the Russian interposition forces to monitor the ceasefire. Speaking to Ria Novosti, the source said: “The second areas of ceasefire will be announced soon, sometime in mid-August. This announcement will be made before the upcoming Astana meeting which is expected to take place at the end of next month.”Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was possible that a new US-Russian meeting be held to discuss a second ceasefire in Syria. “Moscow is in contact with the Americans concerning the issue of the de-escalation zones and the Astana operation,” Lavrov told Ria Novosti, adding that the second ceasefire would probably involve Homs and eastern Ghouta. Asharq Al-Awsat learned from sources in Astana and Moscow that US-Russian talks are underway concerning the ceasefire zones and other issues related to solving the Syrian crisis. The sources predicted that a meeting be held soon to tackle those issues in the presence of Russian and US experts, adding that “French experts might also attend.”However, the sources said the talks would not involve Idlib, which would be discussed with the Turkish side. The sources also said that any deal between the concerned parties would “surely not involve the presence of Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS in the ceasefire areas.” This is not the first time reports appear on the possibility of a second ceasefire in Syria. A few days ago, President Donald Trump signaled that he is working with Russia to establish a second regional ceasefire in the war-torn country.

Hamas Pays Islamic Remuneration to Settle Bloodshed during 2007 Gaza Takeover
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 19/17/Gaza Strip – The militant group Hamas has turned its attention to settling blood disputes caused by internal armed fighting with Fatah in the Gaza Strip in 2007. In June 2007, one of the history changing unrest took place when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip. Being a military escalation, the battle is considered a climax in the Fatah–Hamas struggle for power. Hamas fighters took control of the Gaza Strip using coercive force to oust Fatah. The unrest resulted in the dissolution of the unity government and the de facto division of the Palestinian territories into two entities, the West Bank governed by the Palestinian Authority, and Gaza governed by Hamas. After the 2007 conflict, which left some 300 Palestinians dead, the Gaza Strip began witnessing organized political movement of families and tribes of Hamas-slain victims who swore revenge. For years-on revenge and schism rhetoric flooded the public, especially on the annual date marking the Gaza takeover. Commemorative posters picturing members killed in the 2007 conflict have long occupied Fatah platforms in Gaza. Not only was the Palestinian Authority the one to hold close to people it lost, but Hamas also followed suit with condemning and convicting Fatah perpetrators involved in the blood spill of its party supporters.At a time when the two sides have failed to come together on political and administrative policies, Hamas has begun to reach out for a community-based agreement, a decade after taking over the coastal strip. For the Muslim majority area, Hamas brokered some sort of reconciliation with the families of Fatah victims, offering them Diya, Islam’s version of financial compensation. Diya in Islamic law is the financial compensation paid to the victim or heirs of a victim in the cases of murder, bodily harm or property damage. It is an alternative punishment to qisas (equal retaliation). Some families agreed to receive the payment and ended their quest for retaliation, others did not respond, and three refused to settle the matter completely, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. Refusal was largely influenced by the families’ insistence for equivocal retribution, qisas. Sources also mentioned the Fatah families snubbing the efforts to settle the controversy due to the absence of the Palestinian Authority, their political representation, from Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Ex-Fatah politician Mohammed Dahlan is the mediator negotiating reconciliation efforts over the matter.

Baghdad Rules Out ‘Demographic Change’ in Liberated Areas
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 19/17/Riyadh– Iraqi Ambassador to Riyadh Mahmoud al-Aani denied any demographic change in areas liberated from ISIS, especially in the governorate of Nineveh and its major city Mosul. Commenting on calls by the United Nations to the Iraqi government to stop the imminent displacement from Mosul of those who are suspected of having links with ISIS, the Iraqi ambassador said his government would take into account the UN demands, stressing that the authorities have never carried out any forced displacement. Speaking during a press conference at the Iraqi embassy in Riyadh, the diplomat noted that his country was not intending to introduce demographic changes in freed cities, adding that recent measures taken by the authorities were aimed at maintaining security and dismantling dormant terrorist cells. In this regard, the Iraqi official stated that the government and security forces were carrying out “precautionary” security measures in order to ensure that the displaced persons were not associated with members of the terrorist group. On a different note, al-Aani said that the meeting, which took place in Jeddah on Sunday between Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz and his Iraqi counterpart, Qassem al-Araji, discussed some security issues, including the means to strengthen cooperation in fighting terrorism. The ambassador added that talks have also touched on the situation of the Iraqi community in Saudi Arabia, the reopening of the borders between the two countries, and the resumption of direct flights between Riyadh and Baghdad. He also stressed the strong bilateral relations between Riyadh and Baghdad, especially after the visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Saudi Arabia, where he met with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz. Al-Aani revealed that data issued by the Iraqi authorities estimated the reconstruction costs of Mosul at around $50 billion, noting that the government alone was not able to carry out such task. He noted in this regard that the Saudi government has expressed its willingness to assist Iraq in the reconstruction process.

French Military Chief Upbraided by Macron Quits
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 19/17/France's military chief resigned on Wednesday after he was rebuked by President Emmanuel Macron for protesting defense spending cuts. General Pierre de Villiers, said in a statement he no longer felt able to command the sort of armed forces "that I think is necessary to guarantee the protection of France and the French people". The row between the president and De Villiers, 60, blew up last week when the chief of the defense staff told a parliamentary committee he would not allow the armed forces to be "screwed" by plans to cut 850 million euros ($980 million) from the budget. Macron replied later that "I am the boss", adding in a newspaper interview at the weekend that if there was a difference of opinion, "it is the chief of the defense staff who will change his position". De Villiers said Wednesday that throughout his career, he had believed it was his duty to tell politicians "of my reservations". The row has provoked a debate about whether 39-year-old Macron had humiliated his military chief or whether he had no choice but to exert his authority just two months into his presidency.Macron, a centrist, won the presidency in May by defeating far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

Israel Weighs Removal of Metal Detectors at Heart of Religious Row
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 19/17/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is debating whether to remove new metal detectors at the center of a dispute with Palestinians over access to a religious site in annexed east Jerusalem, Israeli media said Wednesday. The reports came as thousands of Muslim worshipers prayed for a fourth night in a row outside the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, rather than enter through the metal detectors. After the prayers, the Palestinians staged a protest against the enhanced security measures, chanting they were ready "to sacrifice ourselves for al-Aqsa (mosque) with our soul and our blood", as Israeli border guards looked on. Fresh clashes broke out on Wednesday near the Palestinian refugee camp of Shuafat in east Jerusalem, but without any immediate reports of casualties. Netanyahu, who is on a visit to Hungary, was consulting with security aides on whether to remove the metal detectors ahead of Friday's weekly prayers, which normally draw more than 30,000 worshipers to the compound. Former police chiefs, quoted in the media reports, have warned that efforts to ensure such a large gathering passes through the metals detectors would trigger major unrest. Protests and scuffles between demonstrators and Israeli police have erupted outside the holy site in Jerusalem's Old City on previous nights. Last Friday, three Arab Israelis opened fire on Israeli police, killing two officers, before fleeing to the compound where security forces shot them dead. Israel sealed off the site in the aftermath of the attack, saying the closure was necessary to carry out security checks. The site reopened on Sunday, but with metal detectors at entrances, prompting the Palestinian boycott over alleged Israeli efforts to expand their control over the sensitive site.

U.N. Aid Flight Carrying Journalists Barred from Yemen
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 19/17/A Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has barred a United Nations aid flight from heading to the country's rebel-held capital with journalists on board, the U.N. and Yemen's government said Wednesday. "The coalition suspended the U.N. flight leaving Djibouti for Sanaa on Tuesday as there were three BBC journalists on board," Saleh Humeidi, a top official with Yemen's information ministry, told AFP. Saudi Arabia leads a pro-government military coalition which is fighting Iran-backed Huthi rebels for control of the impoverished country. The conflict has killed more than 8,000 people and displaced three million since the coalition intervened in 2015. The coalition has imposed an air embargo on areas controlled by Huthi rebels and their allies, former troops loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh -- including the capital Sanaa. International organizations require clearance to deliver aid to the country, which the U.N. says is the world's biggest humanitarian crisis. The U.N. on Wednesday confirmed that the flight had been canceled despite all those on board having the required visas. "We confirm that the coalition canceled yesterday the Djibouti-Sanaa U.N. flight because of a BBC team on the manifest, asking for the flight to be rescheduled without the journalists," said Ahmed Ben Lassoued, Yemen spokesman for the U.N.'s humanitarian coordination office, UNOCHA. Ben Lassoued said the journalists had secured visas from both sides of Yemen's conflict -- government and rebel authorities -- and shared their itinerary with the Saudi-led coalition. The information ministry of Yemen's internationally recognized government, based in second city Aden, said it "regrets the U.N. attempt" to put journalists on the flight. Authorities "feared for the safety of the journalists," it said. The BBC did not immediately comment. Yemen's conflict has pushed seven million people to the brink of famine, according to the U.N. The country has also been hit by a deadly cholera outbreak that has claimed more than 1,740 lives since late April.

Sold by IS in Raqa, Yazidi Female Fighters Back for Revenge
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 19/17/She was trafficked into Raqa as a sex slave by the Islamic State group but managed to escape. Now Yazidi fighter Heza is back to avenge the horrors she and thousands of others suffered. Her hair tucked under a tightly wrapped forest green shawl embroidered with flowers, Heza says battling IS in its Syrian bastion has helped relieve some of her trauma. "When I started fighting, I lifted some of the worries from my heart," she says, surrounded by fellow Yazidi militia women in Raqa's eastern al-Meshleb district. "But it will be full of revenge until all the women are freed."
She and her two sisters were among thousands of women and girls from the Kurdish-speaking Yazidi minority taken hostage by IS as it swept into Iraq's Sinjar region in August 2014. The women were sold and traded across the jihadists' self-proclaimed "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq. Around 3,000 are believed to remain in captivity, including one of Heza's sisters. "When the Yazidi genocide happened, Daesh snatched up the women and girls. I was one of them," Heza recounts, using the Arabic acronym for IS. The United Nations has qualified the massacres IS carried out against the Yazidis during the Sinjar attack as genocide. IS separated Yazidi females from the men in Sinjar, bringing the women and girls into Raqa. "They took us like sheep. They chased us and humiliated us in these very streets," Heza tells AFP, gesturing to a row of heavily damaged homes in al-Meshleb. The eastern district was the first neighborhood captured from IS by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-Arab alliance, in their months-long offensive to seize the jihadist bastion. SDF officials told AFP that their forces had already rescued several female Yazidi captives, including a 10-year-old girl, since they entered Raqa city in June.
'Despite pain, I felt joy'
Over the course of her 10-month captivity in Raqa, Heza was bought by five different IS fighters. Her voice strained but her brown eyes still sharp, the young fighter says she prefers not to detail the abuses she suffered. But in an indication of the extent of her trauma, Heza -- whose name means "strength" in Kurdish -- says she tried to commit suicide several times. Finally, in May 2015, she escaped from the home where she was being held to a nearby market, and she found a Syrian Kurdish family who smuggled her out of the city. She traveled around 400 kilometers (250 miles) across war-ravaged northeast Syria back into Iraq to join the Shengal Women's Units (YPS). The YPS -- named after the Kurdish word for Sinjar -- is a part of the U.S.-backed SDF. Heza underwent intensive weapons training, and when the SDF announced its fight for Raqa in November 2016, she and other YPS fighters were ready. "When the Raqa offensive began, I wanted to take part in it for all the Yazidi girls who were sold here in these streets," she says. "My goal is to free them, to avenge them." The SDF spent months tightening the noose around Raqa before breaking into the city in June, and the YPS took up their first positions in al-Meshleb several weeks later. It was the first time Heza was back in the northern Syrian city since her escape. "When I entered Raqa, I had a strange, indescribable feeling. Despite the enormous pain that I carry, I felt joy," the fighter says.
'Revenge will be proportional'
Rifles are lined up in neat rows inside the abandoned home used by the YPS as their base in al-Meshleb. Yazidi women in brand-new uniforms gather around a crackling walkie-talkie for news from the front. Some of them, like 20-year-old Merkan, have traveled far to join the fight against IS. Her family is originally Yazidi Turkish, but Merkan and her 24-year-old sister Arin were raised in Germany. When they heard about IS' infamous sweep into Sinjar in 2014, they were outraged. "I could never have imagined a world like this. I didn't expect things like this could happen," Merkan says. "I was in so much pain," says the tall militiawoman. Her older sister decided to travel to Sinjar in late 2014 to join the YPS, and Merkan followed in early 2015. "I only had one goal in front of me: liberating the Yazidi women, and all women who were still in Daesh's clutches."She had scribbled a similar pledge in Kurdish on a wall behind her. "Through strength and struggle, we Yazidi women fighters came to Raqa to take revenge for the August 3 massacre," the graffiti says, referring to when IS entered Sinjar. "We are avenging Yazidi girls," it adds. "Yesterday there was al-Qaida and today there's Daesh. We don't know who will come next. I want to go anywhere there is injustice," Merkan said. Fellow fighter Basih is sitting quietly in a neighboring room, chain-smoking cigarettes in the muggy July afternoon. "We suffered the ugliest forms of injustice. Our revenge will be proportional to it," she said.

Egypt Police Trap and Kill Top Militants
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 19/17/Egyptian police have killed two leaders of the Hasam militia in a shootout after intercepting them as they relocated to a new hideout on Cairo's outskirts, the government said Tuesday. The interior ministry said the two militants were "prominent leaders" of the Hasam group -- an extremist movement the government accuses of having links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The militia ambushed a police convoy and killed three officers in May, in an attack the group claimed at the time and which the government has since also blamed on them.Authorities learned that some of the group's leaders were "about to move their equipment and weapons used in terrorist operations," the ministry said. They were planning to relocate to the hideout in a newly constructed area of New Cairo, outside the city's main ring road, said the ministry. Security forces acting on this information set up checkpoints on roads going to the area, it said in a statement. A suspect car approached one of them before "its passengers opened fire" on police and the officers shot back, killing the two militants. The two were identified as students aged 24 and 21 who were "among the most prominent leaders in the Hasam terrorist group," the ministry said. In the vehicle police found seven automatic weapons, two other firearms, a large amount of ammunition, masks and radio communications equipment.
The ministry did not say when the shootout took place, only disclosing that the group had been planning to move locations on Tuesday. The militants who died were said to have been behind other attacks, including the May 2 ambush in which three policemen were killed and five wounded near the Cairo ring road. The two militants that were killed carried out attacks on the orders of "their leaders who have fled abroad," the ministry said. The government says Hasam is linked to the Brotherhood movement of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi who was overthrown by the army in 2013. The militia has previously claimed responsibility for deadly attacks against security forces as well as assassination attempts targeting a pro-government Muslim cleric and Egypt's deputy prosecutor general. On Twitter, the group said on Monday it has killed 27 people from "the military occupation militias," in reference to Egypt's security forces, since its launch a year ago.Egypt is also fighting an insurgency by a local affiliate of the Islamic State group which is based in North Sinai province in which hundreds of soldiers and policemen have been killed since Morsi's ouster. Following deadly church bombings in April, which IS claimed, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency on April 10, which has been extended.

Morocco Interior Minister: Upholding Human Rights is Incontestable
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 19/17/Rabat – Morocco’s Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit said that his country has decisively taken a proactive and strategic approach to human rights.Laftit said that this approach comes under the wise reign of King Mohammed VI and is further focused and endorsed by the 2011 Moroccan constitutional referendum. Speaking at parliament, the interior minister said human rights gains that have contributed to Morocco becoming an active partner for democracy on an international level cannot be upheld in an arbitrary or coincidental fashion. These advances need a close follow-up, so that international standards are upheld, in the field of human rights in dealing with governments, he added. On the other hand, the minister stated that the right to demonstrate peacefully in Morocco has witnessed both quantitative and qualitative developments. Public authorities have been dealing with public protests and demonstrations on a daily basis with professionalism and responsibility. They have stepped up security measures to ensure a proper environment for the public exercising freedom of protest, he continued. More so, government authorities and security bodies have so far managed to uphold the rule of law, added Laftif. Regarding public forces interfering to stop a protest on July 8 that was scheduled in front of the parliament, Laftit said that the organizers were not abiding by constitutional regulations. “The intervention of public forces under the supervision of the local authorities was civilized and in full respect of the substantive and formal legal requirements, contrary to the image promoted by some,” he commented. Speaking on the coverage of the security intervention, the interior minister said that it “does not reflect the reality of the situation at hand and does members of the public forces a great deal of injustice.”“The preservation of public order and the exercise of public freedoms are essential pillars of democracy,” he stressed. “Safeguarding such principles avoids any future need of efforts by society to strike a balance between rights and duties.”

Renovated Tsarist hostel for Christian Orthodox pilgrims re-opens in Jerusalem
AFP, Jerusalem Wednesday, 19 July 2017/A Jerusalem hostel for Christian Orthodox pilgrims that became a symbol of imperial Russia’s presence in the country re-opened Tuesday after six years of renovation work. Israel handed the Sergei Courtyard in the city’s Russian Compound back to Moscow in 2008 after a long legal battle and an intervention by President Vladimir Putin. The complex was funded by an uncle of Tsar Nicholas II and built in 1890 by the Imperial Orthodox Society of Palestine to house pilgrims. It became famous for its architecture, enclosed garden and a tower in one corner that resembles a chess rook. But Ottoman authorities requisitioned it in World War I after going to war with Russia, and British then Israeli authorities went on to house administrative agencies there. Until recently it was home to Israel’s nature protection society. Russian-Orthodox religious figures attend the re-opening of the Sergei Compound in Jerusalem, on July 18, 2017, after six years of renovation work. (AF)
The reopening ceremony
On Tuesday, Russian diplomats and representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church took part in the reopening ceremony. The 36,000 square meter building was funded Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, brother to Tsar Alexander III, and built with imported Russian stone. It houses a library, a cafe and restaurant and guesthouse for pilgrims and other visitors, a short walk from the sites of Jerusalem’s Old City. Russian mystic and courtier of Tsar Nicholas II, Grigori Rasputin is thought to have stayed at the hostel, Israeli public television reported. He is said to have made a pilgrimage of contrition after a scandal involving a Russian ballerina.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 19-20/17
Can Trump Lead the Way to Regime Change in Iran?

Hassan Mahmoudi/Gatestone Institute/July 19/17
What is needed now is a push for regime change, a watering of the seeds of popular resistance that are again budding -- after Obama abandoned the Iranian people in 2009, when they took to the streets to protest the stranglehold of the ayatollahs.
American leadership expert John C. Maxwell defines a leader as "one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." During his two terms in the highest office in the world, former U.S. President Barack Obama failed at all three, with disastrous consequences.
There is no realm in which Obama's lack of leadership was more glaring than that of foreign policy, particularly in relation to the Middle East. His combination of action and inaction -- pushing through the nuclear deal with Iran at all costs, while simultaneously adopting a stance of "patience" with and indifference to Tehran's sponsorship of global terrorism and foothold in Syria -- served no purpose other than to destabilize the region and weaken America's position.
While hotly pursuing the nuclear accord -- the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between Iran and U.S.-led world powers in July 2015 -- Obama enabled the regime in Tehran to assist Syrian President Bashar Assad in starving and slaughtering his people (with chemical weapons, among others) into submission. Meanwhile, thanks to Obama's passivity, and the $1.7 billion his administration transferred to Tehran upon the inking of the JCPOA, the Islamic Republic was able to dispatch its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to recruit and train Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and Syria, as well as militias in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan.
Today, two years after the signing of the JCPOA, and six months into the presidency of Donald Trump, there is a growing rift between America and Europe over implementation of the deal, which officially went into effect in January 2016. Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has been wavering on whether to remain committed to the deal, which his administration and members of Congress claim has been violated repeatedly by Iran. The U.S. also has maintained certain sanctions, over Iran's ballistic-missile tests, human-rights abuses and sponsorship of global terrorism.
European countries, however, have taken a very different approach, pointing to International Atomic Energy Organization reports confirming Iran's compliance, and rushing to do business in and with Tehran.
At a ceremony on July 14, 2017 to mark the anniversary of the deal, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called the JCPOA a "success for multilateral diplomacy that has proven to work and deliver," adding, "This deal belongs to the international community, having been endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, that expects all sides to keep the commitments they took two years ago"
Meanwhile, when reports emerged about Trump being "likely" to confirm on July 17 that Iran has been complying with the deal -- and because the law requires that both the president and secretary of state re-certify the deal every three months -- four Republican senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, with a copy to Trump, urging him not to do so.
The letter reads, in part:
"...In April, you certified Iran's compliance for the first 90-day period of the Trump administration. That certification was understandable, given the need to grant time for the interagency review of the JCPOA that you described in the certification letter you sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan.
"But now ... U.S. interests would be best served by a sober accounting of Iran's JCPOA violations ... of regional aggression, sponsor international terrorism, develop ballistic missile technology, and oppress the Iranian people. Iran's aggression directly targets the United States...a continuation of current policy would be tantamount to rewarding Iran's belligerence... German intelligence agencies in 2015 and 2016 reported that Iran continued illicit attempts to procure nuclear and missile technology outside of JCPOA-approved channels.
"... Perhaps most concerning is Iran's refusal to grant international inspectors access to nuclear-research and military facilities. International Atomic Energy Agency ("IAEA") inspectors are entitled to visit any location in Iran to verify compliance with the JCPOA's ban on nuclear weapons development. However, Iran's refusal to grant inspectors physical access and other forms of access makes it possible-if not highly probable, given Iran's history of duplicity-that it is concealing additional violations of the JCPOA.
" is highly questionable whether the United States can under current arrangements ever gain high confidence that Iran's nuclear-weapons development has indeed ceased. ..."
The senators are correct. Iran never had, nor has to this day, any intention of forfeiting its bid for regional and global hegemony.
Nevertheless, Trump decided, after all, to re-certify Iran's compliance with the JCPOA. Ahead of his doing so, however, the administration issued a series of reassurances -- in the form of talking points -- that the Treasury Department would impose sanctions on Iranian government entities and individuals, to punish the regime for its nefarious activities. According to BuzzFeed, these include ballistic-missile development, support for terrorism and the Assad regime, cyber-attacks against U.S. targets, the unjust arrest and imprisonment of American citizens and others.
A few months into the current administration in Washington, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps strategist Hassan Abbasi boasted that Iran would lead "global guerilla organizations" against American military and vulnerable targets:
"If only 11 people carried out 9/11, do you realize that the possibility exists for us to do what we want? We don't need nuclear weapons. ... It won't even be an Iranian-only guerrilla movement, but from all Islamic countries. You can deport all the Muslims, but we are involving and working on Mexicans as well, and Argentinians too. We will organize anyone who has problems with the United States."
It was Obama's refusal to recognize, let alone acknowledge, this Iranian ambition that led to his utter appeasement of Tehran and subsequent signing of the JCPOA. It is up to Trump to do more than merely keep the nuclear accord at bay by leaving certain sanctions in place -- or even canceling it.
Hassan Abbasi, a strategist for Iran's Revolutionary Guards, recently boasted that Iran would lead "global guerilla organizations" against American targets: "If only 11 people carried out 9/11, do you realize that the possibility exists for us to do what we want? We don't need nuclear weapons..." (Tasnim News Agency/Wikimedia Commons)
What is needed now is a push for regime change, a watering of the seeds of popular resistance that are again budding -- after Obama abandoned the Iranian people in 2009, when they took to the streets to protest the stranglehold of the ayatollahs.
At the annual "Free Iran" rally, held in Paris on July 1, 2017, an estimated 100,000 Iranian dissidents and hundreds of politicians and other world dignitaries gathered to call for a renewed effort to topple the regime in Tehran. Members of the U.S. delegation to the event -- among them former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman and former U.S. Army Chief of Staff and Commander of the Multi-National Forces in Iraq General George Casey -- issued a joint statement saying, in part:
"We believe that change is within reach, not only because the regime is becoming engulfed in crisis, but also because there is a large and growing movement organizing for positive change. A viable organization capable of ending the nightmare of religious dictatorship by establishing freedom and democracy, tolerance, and gender equality has steadily gained visibility, popular support and international recognition."
Let us hope that Trump takes heed and turns out to be the leader who "knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way."
**Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, specializing in political and economic issues relating to Iran and the Middle East. @hassan_mahmou1
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UNESCO is an Immoral, Anti-Semitic Organization/Decent Countries Should Leave
Guy Millière/Gatestone Institute/July 19/17
Although Europe claims to respect human rights and the rights of peoples, it has been a party to violating the most essential right of the Jewish people: the recognition of its existence for more than 3,000 years, and the anchoring of this existence to its sacred monuments. Worse, Europe does so in the name of a people fictitiously invented less than 50 years ago. No serious scholar can find any trace of a "Palestinian people" before the 1960s. Europe has apparently been all too happy to accept lies.
While claiming to fight terrorism, Europe complies with the demands of a terrorist movement that does not even bother to hide its terrorist nature. When Mahmoud Abbas speaks Arabic, he continually incites the murder of Jews. He recently repeated that he would not stop paying tried, convicted and imprisoned murderers of Jews, and still calls these murderers heroic "martyrs". On all maps used by the Palestinian Authority and in Palestinian textbooks, Israel does not exist; it is called Palestine.
Europeans, imbued with a generic sense of guilt, began attributing all that is wrong in the world to Western civilization. Because they had colonized parts of the Muslim world, they failed to note that Muslim culture had, in fact, colonized Persia, the Byzantine Empire, the Middle East, Greece, Cyprus, the Balkans, North Africa, Southern Spain, and, more recently, northern Cyprus.
On July 7, UNESCO voted for a resolution defining the Old City of Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs as Palestinian heritage sites. Before that, in 2016, two resolutions making the same type of counterfactual assertions concerning the Old City of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall were adopted. And the year before that, in 2015, UNESCO again upended history to rename two ancient biblical sites, Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs, Islamic holy sites -- even though Islam did not even exist at that time.
Three days before this month's Hebron resolution, still another resolution, reaffirming the Jerusalem resolutions, was passed.
The Israeli government reacted with indignation. It decided to stop cooperating with UNESCO. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said she was shocked and that the decision would not be without consequences.
The rest of the world has remained silent. How come?
The July 7 resolution received the support of a large majority of the countries participating in the deliberations. Six countries abstained. Only three countries voted against the text. The resolutions concerning Jerusalem were adopted with equally significant majorities. The voting, tellingly, took place by secret ballot.
The purpose of UNESCO is supposedly to:
"contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations."
Sadly, UNESCO has become simply an anti-Semitic fraud, governed by fabrications rather than by facts. It betrays its mission, falsifies history, and wages a campaign of raw racism against the Jewish people and Judaism -- and the world accepts that. UNESCO acts as an instrument for propaganda seeking to annihilate the legitimacy of the existence of Israel -- and the world supports this behavior.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), which aspires to replace Israel with itself, is behind the resolutions on Jerusalem and Hebron and plays a key role in the transformation of UNESCO. The PA has constantly advocated and supported terrorism and has never stopped wanting to destroy Israel. Allowing the PA to have entered UNESCO is now having serious consequences.
That the Muslim world supports the transformation of UNESCO and the resolutions proposed by the Palestinian Authority is predictable. Many Muslim countries directly or indirectly finance terrorism and approve the PA's genocidal goals. A large part of the Muslim world mentally lives in a parallel reality, in which a seventh century "Muslim history" of the world replaces the factual history of the world. The Muslim world considers itself in a conflict with the Western world, and sees Israel as a Western enclave to be excised or at least suppressed.
That Third World countries also support the transformation of UNESCO and these resolutions is also predictable. Many Third World countries are imbued with an anti-Western resentment that leads them to conclude that that they are in a conflict with the West and must therefore support decisions taken by the countries of the Muslim world.
What is worrying is that most European countries, with few exceptions, accept these resolutions and the transformation of UNESCO.
Seven decades after the Holocaust, European countries act as if they would like to destroy all evidence of the existence of Jews -- and with it, their own complicity.
Europe, while claiming that it has the utmost respect for knowledge, tramples on the most basic elements of knowledge. No worthy historian can deny that Jerusalem -- especially so-called East Jerusalem -- was the seat of the City of David; the first and second Temples that were destroyed in 586 BC and 70 AD; the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. Hebron, Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs are also essential places of the Jews' biblical past. The Islamic invasions of Jerusalem and Judea took place centuries later.
Moreover, although Europe claims to respect human rights and the rights of peoples, it has been a party to violating the most essential right of the Jewish people: the recognition of its existence for more than 3,000 years, and the anchoring of this existence to its sacred monuments. Worse, Europe does so in the name of a people fictitiously invented less than 50 years ago. No serious scholar can find any trace of a "Palestinian people" before the 1960s. Europe has apparently been all too happy to accept lies.
Despite claiming to be resolutely hostile to anti-Semitism, Europe supports and endorses decisions that deny the Jewish character of the most essential Jewish sites, thereby denying the foundations of Judaism and consequently even denying the existence of a Jewish people.
Although self-righteously claiming to be ready to fight any form of genocide, Europe keeps contributing to this more subtle genocide against the Jews, behind which it is not difficult to see a Palestinian desire for real genocide.
While claiming to fight terrorism, Europe complies with the demands of a terrorist movement that does not even bother to hide its terrorist nature. When Mahmoud Abbas speaks Arabic, he continually incites the murder of Jews. He recently repeated that he would not stop paying salaries to tried, convicted and imprisoned murderers of Jews, and still calls these murderers heroic "martyrs". On all maps used by the Palestinian Authority and in Palestinian textbooks, Israel does not exist; it is labelled as Palestine.
The director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Lebanon, Ann Dismorr, poses with a map devoid of any trace of the State of Israel, instead presenting it as a map of "Palestine," May 2013. (Image source: Palestinian Media Watch)
A decade ago, a Spanish writer, Sebastian Vilar Rodriguez, wrote that Europe died in Auschwitz. He may well be right.
In 1945, Europe, the continent of Nazism, was in ruins, physically and morally. It had caused a World War so gruesome -- the crimes committed on its soil were so abominable -- that it did not have the courage to face them for more than two decades.
Europe rebuilt itself by affirming noble-sounding values of "integration" ​​in the abstract, but without any thought to where they could lead.
As Europe had made Nazism the source of all evil, European leaders, in a desperate attempt to ward off their past, came to reject nationalism, patriotism, all Western national identities and now, it appears, even Western Enlightenment culture.
Most European countries, to show that they had fully turned the page, advocated peace at any price and gradually slipped into a spirit of submission.
Europeans, imbued with a generic sense of guilt, began attributing all that is wrong in the world to Western civilization. Because they had colonized parts of the Muslim world, they failed to note that Muslim culture had, in fact, colonized Persia, the Byzantine Empire, the Middle East, Greece, Cyprus, the Balkans, North Africa, Southern Spain, and, more recently, northern Cyprus.
Europe has rewritten history. In the textbooks of most European countries, the West is described almost unanimously as having "plundered" and "exploited" poor countries; never mind that poor countries were for centuries just as plundered and exploited by the Ottoman Empire. Europe has gradually abandoned itself to exaggerated repentance and Islamic influence.
In Europe today, Islam is inaccurately presented as imbued with tolerance and as having been "humiliated" by the West. Slavery is portrayed solely as a Western crime, despite still being common in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Sudan and elsewhere in the Muslim world.
In 2014, the United Nations estimated that 21 million people are still "trapped in slavery" -- a number equivalent to the entire population of Romania. In Europe, however, slavery in the Muslim world is never mentioned. Islamic anti-Semitism is never mentioned, either. It is thought of merely as a "far-right" monstrosity.
Europe began to face the horror of the Holocaust only in the late 1970s, when an American television series, Holocaust, directed by Marvin Chomsky, was broadcast. A "duty of memory" was proclaimed.
At the same time, Europe was becoming increasingly anti-Israel -- considered by polite society a respectable way of hating Jews.
Europeans now accuse Israel of "crimes" under the pretext of supporting the "Palestinian cause". Europeans do not support genuine help for the Palestinians, such as freedom of speech, more and better jobs, human rights or uncorrupt governance; they just support the noble-sounding abstract idea of a "Palestinian state" -- but one that would like to eliminate Israel. The destruction of Israel, under the name of the "peace process" became for European leaders a way to show that they sympathized with Islam, "understood" the "mischief of the West ", and were searching for a way to exonerate themselves from their guilt regarding their treatment of the Jews -- while at the same time, surreptitiously, continuing to undermine them.
The thinking seems to be: if Israeli Jews are supposedly committing crimes similar to Nazi crimes -- which they are not -- one can claim that anyone can be a Nazi, even Jews; that accordingly the Jews are not so innocent, after all, and therefore deserve whatever might be coming to them.
Israel, the country that Europeans love to hate, is thereby not only made to embody the "mischief of the West" in the eyes of the Muslim world; it can comfortably be accused of anything without fear of retaliation.
Israel also happen to embody what Europe rejects: it is a nation-state proud of its identity. It does not have the luxury of talking blindly about "peace" while submitting to its enemies.
By accepting the decisions taken at UNESCO, European countries are unfortunately taking yet more steps in the direction of cowardice and their own self-destruction.
In a speech on July 5 in Warsaw, US President Donald Trump, recalling the accomplishments of Western civilization, observed that the fundamental question of our time is whether or not the West has the will to survive.
Just two days later, the UNESCO resolution on Hebron was voted on in Krakow, fewer than 50 miles from the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Before the vote, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, Israel's ambassador to UNESCO, remarked that the UNESCO meeting was held near the largest mass grave of the Jewish people. His remarks clearly did not faze any of the participants, or induce anyone in Europe to think about the symbolic dimension of a vote like that in a place like that. Obscenely -- and in a massive insult to the memory of those who died in Auschwitz -- a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the Holocaust was immediately followed by a minute of silence in memory of the "victims of Israel". The Europeans, in other words, participated in one minute of silence for a free and democratic country which for seven decades has sued for peace, and one minute of silence for a repressive government that promotes and sponsors terrorism. Such a false moral equivalence could not have been more illuminating.
Europe has turned its back on Judaism -- which brought the first social laws to the West, and without which the West would not exist. By behaving ignominiously towards Israel and the Jews, and by supporting the anti-Jewish hatred ingrained in the Palestinian cause, as embodied by the Palestinian Authority, Europe continues to turn its back on all the values ​​it professes to embody. One can only assume that Europe has lost the will to survive as a part of the West.
Israel and the United States, on the other hand, by being outraged over what has become of UNESCO, at least show respect for the values that have made the West great.
Showing full respect for these values, however, still involves a decision that should have been taken long ago: leaving UNESCO. Countries that still have a sense of decency have no place in an organization that has become so corrupted.
Israeli journalists have attributed responsibility for the murderous attack on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on July 14 to these recent UNESCO resolutions, which have only emboldened Israel's enemies to continue their attempted genocide.
UNESCO's latest decision -- defining Jerusalem as "Palestinian" and supposedly as "illegally occupied" -- has led Israel's enemies to conclude that UNESCO has given attacks in Jerusalem or Hebron a green-light legitimacy. Based on UNESCO's fraudulent decisions, who can blame them for thinking that?
**Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.
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Filing Away the Qatari Crisis … Temporarily
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/July 19/17
Forty-five days have passed since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt took their measures against Qatar. A Kuwaiti mediation tried and strove to resolve the crisis, but the isolated party ensured its failure from the very beginning when it leaked the demands of the four Arab countries. It then went beyond that and did not even comply with any of them. The foreign ministers of the United States, France, Britain and Germany toured the region and their luck was not any better than Kuwait’s. The four countries are firm in their stance and say that Doha signed the 2014 Riyadh agreement and has not committed to it, but it is time that it does. Any mediation less than that is unacceptable. Qatar in return is insisting against respecting and committing to what it signed. It has announced that officially and boasts about it. It believes that playing the waiting game will be enough for the four countries to change their stance. It also believes that its reserve of 300 billion dollars will be enough to save it from the boycott of its neighbors. As long as Doha believes that it can wage a long-term confrontation and insists on reneging on its pledges and as long as the four countries believe that they have shut the doorway of evil that has been open for too long, then there is no problem in filing away the Qatar crisis after the emirate has become isolated and unwanted. The crisis should be filed away until Doha regains its memory and seriously and rationally deals with the problem. As long as it does not change its political ideology, then its neighbors will be better off continuing on a path that does not include it. The Saudi cabinet stressed its firm stance in continuing the measures adopted by the four countries until the Qatari authorities completely comply with the fair demands, which include confronting terrorism and achieving security and stability in the region. This is a stance, that since day one of the crisis, the countries have not wavered on.
UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said from London’s Chatham House on Monday: “We want a permanent solution and not one that will prolong the crisis. Diplomacy will remain our main course and we have said in the past that we will not escalate the situation beyond what is permitted by international law.” Indeed, the permanent solution of rehabilitating the Qatari regime will require the four countries to continue their decision to clip Doha’s political nails that have scratched so much that blood has been shed everywhere. Any temporary solution will only exacerbate the crisis and the region will once again return to square one. Without a permanent and radical solution the crisis will continue and with greater intensity. The difference this time is that the Qatari policy will operate in dark rooms and it will be alone and isolated on its path. It will not regain the ties that it exploited terribly in order to target the national security of its neighbors.
The four countries have succeeded in cutting the road halfway for Qatar. It will cross the remaining road when Doha expresses its desire to return to their fold and implement the commitments that are required of it. It is certain that Qatar, which Gargash described as far back as 1995 as a “rebel looking for a cause” and which has found its way with extremist movements, will not be able to again play this revolutionary role. After today, it will no longer be able to spark fires throughout the region and be the only side with a firetruck. One after the other, western foreign ministers left the area without being able to give Doha what it is bargaining on. The stances of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE are firm, their vision is clear and the commitments are known. Gradually, Qatar will run out of options and the world, except for Iran and Turkey, is no longer even that concerned with its crisis. The days have gone by and it has found itself isolated after everyone washed their hands clean of it. If it was capable, as it claims, to confront the measures taken against it, then this is its decision and choice. The upcoming months will be a tough test of its claims. The Kuwaiti mediation still stands and is ready to search for a solution and not waste time in international tours. As for the four countries, it is enough that they kept on giving Doha chance after chance. They have placed its crisis above all others because they are eager for their “sister” to return to them. It is time however for them to walk without her as they have several crises and files to deal with in the next phase and away from Qatar, which ultimately chose to isolate itself.

So Many Critics of Economics Miss What It Gets Right
Noah Smith/Bloomberg/July 19/17
At this point, blanket critiques of the economics discipline have been standardized to the point where it’s pretty easy to predict how they’ll proceed. Economists will be castigated for their failure to foresee the Great Recession. Some unrealistic assumptions in mainstream macroeconomic models will be mentioned.
Economists will be cast as priests of free-market ideology, whose shortcomings will be vigorously asserted. We will be told that economics moves in cycles of fad and fashion. Readers will be reminded that economics deals with humans instead of atoms, making scientific certainty impossible. The piece will end with a call for humility on the part of economists, a more serious consideration of unconventional ideas and reduced prestige for the economics profession. Writers for the British newspaper the Guardian are especially adept at producing this sort of broadside. The latest one, by John Rapley, is entitled “How economics became a religion,” and it follows the script pretty closely. But by now it feels like the refrain is getting a bit stale. There are certainly some grains of truth in this standard appraisal. I’ve certainly lobbed my fair share of criticism at the econ profession over the years. But the problem with critiques like Rapley’s is that they offer no real way forward for the discipline. In the wake of the Great Recession, outbursts of anger might have served to awaken economists from their contented intellectual slumber, but at this point a more constructive tone would be preferable. Simply calling for humility and methodological diversity accomplishes little.
Instead, pundits should focus on what is going right in the economics discipline — because there are some very good things happening.
First, economists have developed some theories that really work. A good scientific theory makes testable predictions that apply to situations other than those that motivated the creation of the theory. Slowly, econ is building up a repertoire of these gems. One of them is auction theory, which predicts how buyers will bid for things like online ads or spectrum rights — Google’s profits are powered by econ theory as much as by search algorithms. Another example is matching theory, which has made it a lot easier to get an organ transplant. A third is random-utility discrete choice theory, which is used in everything from marketing to transportation planning to disaster preparedness. Nor are econ’s successful theories limited to microeconomics. Gravity models of trade, though fairly simple in nature, have proven very successful at predicting the flow of international trade. These and other successful economics theories can be used confidently in a wide-variety of real-world situations, by policy makers, engineers and businesses. They prove that anyone who claims that econ theories will never be reliable, because they deal with human beings instead of atoms, is simply incorrect. Of course, economists still make and use a lot of theories that don’t work nearly this well, but writers should recognize and praise the successes more often. Second, economics is becoming a lot more empirical, focusing more on examining the data than on constructing yet more theories. Economist Daniel Hamermesh classified papers in top economics journals in 2013, and discovered that the discipline has shifted strongly away from theory since the mid-1980s. My Bloomberg View colleague Justin Fox flagged this research back in 2016: Recently, another team of economists conducted a similar analysis, using machine-learning techniques to classify papers as empirical or theoretical. Their findings echoed those of Hamermesh — econ is paying a lot more attention to data these days. Curbing the proliferation of models and applying more empirical analysis represents a positive trend, because a narrowing set of theoretical papers will be a lot easier to check against the facts.
Third, empirical economics is becoming more directly and immediately relevant to policy matters. A popular new style of research, often called quasi-experimental economics, evaluates the results of policy experiments like Seattle’s recent minimum wage hike or European countries’ acceptance of refugees.
Instead of relying on complex theory or unrealistic assumptions, quasi-experimental studies give immediate clear answers about the results of government action. That won’t make economic theory obsolete, but it vastly increases the speed with which economists can give policy makers reliable feedback.
Finally, even if the economics profession once leaned toward free-market ideology, that is no longer the case. Not only are today’s star economists likely to fall on the left side of the political spectrum, but economists in general are more pro-government than the general public on most issues. In 2013, economists Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales compared a survey of economic experts to a survey of the U.S. general public, and found the following:
Leaning Left
Views of economists vs. the public on economic policies
Another, broader study of academic economists in 2006 also found broad levels support for government intervention. So the caricature of economics as the priesthood of free markets is way out of date. Free-market writers and think tanks may still use simplistic old ideas to justify laissez-faire policies, but among academics, nuance, moderation and complexity prevail. Meanwhile, though ideology probably does bias economists’ results to some degree, evidence shows that the degree of bias is modest. Instead of trotting out the standard boilerplate critique of economics, pundits should be encouraging and publicizing the positive trends. The image of economics as a hidebound, unchanging discipline is a myth. The field has its problems, sure. There’s still a long way to go. But academics are working hard to make econ more scientific — to create reliable, applicable theories, to gather and understand new data, to provide rapid, useful feedback to policy makers, and to gain a more balanced and refined understanding of the economy. Maybe it’s us writers, not academic economists, who need to catch up with the times.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Dispute in Syria
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/July 19/17
The current failure in Syria is saddening and its future repercussions are dangerous. All of this comes amid the Saudi-Qatari disagreement, two partner countries in supporting the Syrian people in the face of massacres of the Syrian regime and its allies. The truth is that Syria is one of the reasons behind this disagreement and while Saudi Arabia supported Syrian national parties like Free Syrian Army, Qatar chose to back armed groups internationally listed as a terrorist. This is part of what Qatar does in other war zones around the world like Libya.
Conflicts between Riyadh and Doha began early in Syria, but it was a silent crisis. Both countries were convinced stability in Syria and the region is not possible with the presence of the decaying Bashar al-Assad regime and surely not after the horrific crimes against civilians.
Above all that, Assad consolidated Iran’s military control in his country which threatens the regional security of other countries such as the Gulf, Iraq, and Turkey.
The regime destroyed cities and displaced civilians, while the world feared Syria would turn into a terrorist hub. Yet, Qatar continued its support for ISIS, al-Nusra Front, and Ahrar al-Sham. Meanwhile, Saudi’s primary choice was to back the Free Syrian Army.
The dispute between the two countries of the Gulf escalated to include managing the opposition within the coalition committee, while Qatari ISIS and Nusra were fighting Saudi Free Army in the fields and looting liberated areas.Clashes revealed the real intentions of Qatar which were hiding behind the coalition. There’s more to it than one’s eye meet! The truth is Saudi Arabia fears Qatar’s intentions because it is keen on attracting and supporting “jihadists”, especially Saudis. Since Doha coup during the 1990’s, Riyadh has been suspecting that Hamad bin Khalifa’s government is targeting the Kingdom by supporting its opposers financially and in the media, including al-Qaeda former leader Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was calling for toppling the Saudi regime from Qatar’s broadcasting channels. After the US invasion in Iraq, Qatar played a dangerous role in funding the so-called resistance, especially foreign fighters who include Saudis. They would gather in Syria and be sent along with other foreign fighters to revolting Iraqi governorates such as al-Anbar.
That happened during the coalition of Hamad and Assad’s regimes for almost ten years in Lebanon, Iraq, and Gaza. They fell out a year before the Arab Spring revolutions.
During the Syrian revolution, Saudi suspicions rose again where Qatar continued to support Saudi fighters when it adopted terrorist organizations like al-Nusra which was blacklisted by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Ministry of Interior Affairs issued public alerts warning citizens of engaging in the Syrian war and asked Turkey to prevent their passage through its territories. Prominent Saudi fugitive Abulallah al-Muhaisini is from a wealthy family, like Bin Laden, and was supported by Qatar while it funded terrorist Nusra Front. He escaped to Syria in 2013 in defiance to Saudi ban. Qatar has looked after him as part of its funding of the terrorist al-Nusra Front.
It might seem contradicting that Saudis support the Syrian revolution, from one point, and at the same time oppose the support foreign fighters receive. It actually opposes this support because of its repercussions on it. Riyadh was against foreign fighters in Afghanistan after the Soviet Union left the country, and opposed them during the Bosnian, Somalia and Iraqi wars. Syria’s war was a terrorist nightmare. It includes Iran and its militias in addition to ISIS and its branches. Iran’s dominance over Syria and slaughtering of Syrian people is not acceptable for Riyadh. Whereas Qatar considers Syria just another arena to raise its ferocious animals of extremist movements. Doha considers extremist Islamists the winning card, thinking it can use it in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and of course Syria. By favoring extremists, Qatar destroyed the region. Just like it did with Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, extreme groups in Libya and Syria, and its implication of Sunnis in Iraq. Doha’s extremists damaged the Syria revolution more than Assad troops and Iranian militias did. It also tarnished the image of Syrian people and destroyed their dreams in revolting against tyranny. Qatar imported groups that believe in slaughtering, captivity, and permit shedding their blood. In the beginning, we thought there was some sort of Saudi paranoia from Qatar and that Riyadh is overreacting. But Doha’s repetitive practices and its strange determination and insistence on supporting extremist proved that this is a policy and not just reactions or imaginations.

Qatar needs to come to its senses over Iran, Turkey designs
Jameel al-Thiyabi/Al Arabiya/July 19/17
What does Turkey want from Qatar? It’s no longer a question that needs to be asked. After the diplomatic crisis worsened following Qatar’s obstinacy, this question has become relevant. Is Turkey hoping to realize its imperial designs in the Gulf through the gates of Qatar? It should be understood that the meeting point between the designs of Qatar and Turkey toward the Gulf region is far above than what some people have visualized. Perhaps the major tool in the possession of the two sides is Qatar’s wealth, which Turkey knows and utilizes astutely. There is also proof that the Muslim Brotherhood has made Doha and Istanbul its headquarters, and this international terrorist organization is keen to abolish geographical borders between Arab and Islamic countries. Qatar has become a hideout of these poisonous snakes, who are plotting to undermine the stability of key states in the region, especially Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. What interest is to be served for Qatar in this coalition of which it would become the first victim? It was revealed that the hypocritical and mercenary Brotherhood was eager to exploit the capabilities of the nations by hatching plots at various points in time and also planning coups and fomenting clashes at other time. There is no doubt that Turkey is upbeat with the illusion of restoring the Ottoman Empire at the expense of the nations in the region and it sees Qatar as an open gate to their dreams of building such an empire. As for Doha, it is the only capital of a Gulf country that allowed the establishing of a Turkish military base on its soil, and this has baffled its neighbors.
The announcement about setting up of the first military base outside Turkey, specifically in Qatar, has triggered a big controversy and this base is considered by many as a new door for Turkey to extend its sway over the Arabian Gulf. The Qatari government is weighed down by the burden of its reckless decisions, taken in quick succession, after its practices that are harmful to the governments and people of the Gulf countries were exposed
Peninsula Shield Forces
What would be the objective of this military base and who are its targets while taking into account the fact that Qatar is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Peninsula Shield Forces besides being a party to the Joint Arab Defense Agreement? Is there any specific message underlying the establishment of this Turkish base rather than contributing to a military escalation in the region? Did any Gulf country ask Turkey to guarantee its security? Is there any sense on the part of the Gulf states in pretending not to see such a military presence on the soil of a country, which is still a member of the GCC, and is associated with the Gulf states with security and military agreements, especially when Doha is bound to comply with these agreements? The Iranian and Turkish designs are not going to succeed at the expense of the Gulf states. If they still cherish such imperial dreams, they are forgetting the lessons of history. Turks, before the Persians, have to remember the Battle of Al-Wajbah that took place in 1893. The then Qatari ruler Sheikh Jassem Bin Muhammad Al-Thani defeated the Ottomans in that battle. They have to remember that all the Gulf people are prepared to wage 1,000 Al-Wajbahs.Qatar should use its wisdom and logic in reviewing its practices and return to the GCC fold by fulfilling its commitments. Qatar and other Gulf states are not simply geographical neighbors but the social fabric of Qatar, Saudi, Bahrain and UAE is one and the same.
The people of Qatar
That’s why, these states, when they announced the severing of diplomatic and consular ties with Doha on June 5, reiterated their keenness to continue their relations with the people of Qatar and exempted the joint Qatar-Gulf families from the purview of boycott, especially movement of members of these families to and fro between Qatar and these three Gulf States. It is high time for Qatar to wake up from its stupidity and renounce its actions completely not only inside its society but outside in the region as well. Even its media, that is dedicated to sow division and incitement, has been swayed by the prevailing wind. The Qatari government is weighed down by the burden of its reckless decisions, taken in quick succession, after its practices that are harmful to the governments and people of the Gulf countries were exposed. It has harmed itself and its neighbors because of these unwise measures that spanned over a period of nearly 20 years. It is important that Qatar realizes that the Gulf states severing relations with it would expose its connivance with Iran that recruits agents through whom it tries to have hegemony over the Arabian Gulf and the states in the region. The Qatari leadership should understand that the sisterly Qatari people would not dispense with their identity despite the attempts of Iran and Turkey. The Ottoman and Persian designs won’t bring them a pleasant life in the Gulf. The Qatari-Turkish alliance or the Qatari-Iranian alliance would be confronted by a much stronger Gulf, Arab, Islamic and global alliance, which is sure to foil all its machinations. It is certain that the Qatari government is moving on a wrong track and has caged itself with a series of wrong decisions. It cannot come out of it except by joining with its sister countries, whose intentions are clean and clear and are not proponents of hidden agendas and plots such as that of those who want to devour the Gulf states and control their wealth and earnings, thereby establishing a hegemony.

Is Trump’s family asset or liability for the White House?
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/July 19/17
It is obvious that President Trump’s family adds a special dimension to his presidency. It adds an extra degree of difficulty to his struggle to function effectively giving the impression of a White House under siege by an ungrateful left wing media and Clinton supporters and sore losers. It is also a fact that the President’s children are unpaid senior advisors with massive power and yet they seem to have come onstage rather than being discreetly offstage to start causing the president some damage. The issues are wide ranging, from commercial deals in the making by the Trump family and his in- laws to the latest hot potato of Russian involvement in the last Presidential election and meetings with shadowy Russian officials which are becoming increasingly hard to explain or justify as the President tried to do at length when he was the guest of honour at the French Bastille Day events in Paris. His longest press statements concerned his eldest son and namesake. It is the escapades, however innocent, of Donald Trump Jr. with his meetings with Russian officials, whose number at the meeting keeps changing, that are causing the most damage despite the fact that in his father’s eyes, Junior may well be a “high quality” individual.
But both men, and more in the Trump family, are in a heap of trouble with the investigations into the on-going investigations between the Trump Presidential campaign and the Russian government and its purported agents. This drama, with its echoes of Watergate, will go on for some time, at least until the special counsel, Robert Mueller, renders his verdict on what transpired in the 2016 presidential election; the Russian interference and any collusion by the Trump organisation and the Russians. Other headaches in the making are dealings with other governments that are tinged with commercial ties with the Trump organisation, from patents granted by the Chinese to discussions of real estate deals in other countries to Ivanka’s shoe manufacturing operations. Dealings at the government-to-government level are also tinged with family connections. Son-in-law Jared Kushner has an immense portfolio, from China to the Middle East to Mexico to reinventing government technology operations. In a gesture that caused raised eyebrows, Ivanka Trump took the President’s seat at a session of the G20 meeting in Hamburg. The underlying issue is two-fold: unlike all his 44 predecessors, Trump has never held political office or military rank. He is not a creature of government — and that is one of his great appeals and popular assets
Glimpses of the past
No other relatives of other presidents have acted in this way, with its implicit rights of family governance. For those that point out that other US Presidents employed relatives, John F Kennedy’s brother wielded immense official authority, but the fact remains that he was a member of the cabinet as attorney-general, duly confirmed by the Senate after due process. The underlying issue is two-fold: unlike all his 44 predecessors, Trump has never held political office or military rank. He is not a creature of government — and that is one of his great appeals and popular assets, as both he and President Macron seemed to have struck it off well, as they see themselves as being anti-establishment and succeeded to their respective presidency despite establishment opposition. But President Trump is not conversant in the culture of government, and that is one of his greatest weaknesses, as history has shown that despite immense power, individuals cannot in the long run face down all opposition to their one man rule. Neither Trump nor his immediate family have any idea what it takes to pass major legislation, such as repealing Obamacare, or any strategic sense of how to mange alternatives without alienating both supporters and opponents in equal measure. Trump is CEO in his Oval Office and that is the way this transactional President feels most comfortable and wants to be remembered. His bloodlines and in laws, it seems, exercise ministerial power without official confirmations. And while he is enraged in being so enmeshed in a growing stain of scandal that threatens his very presidency, he appears stubbornly incapable of appreciating the office of the presidency and the norms that must be followed to safeguard its integrity if a president is to succeed. Attacks on his family are simply fake news by a media that has not accepted his presidency, and it is no accident that he wrestled an imaginary CNN type figure at the ringside. However, the White House is not a business nor a reality TV show where some of the contestants are fired for whatever reason the presiding judging family members feel is appropriate. As long as he treats it that way, he will keep making mistakes. That’s why CEO Trump seems to be in trouble and going on lavish foreign visits is not going to remove the problems facing him. In coming under domestic pressure and criticism of his immediate and extended family, the President can either listen to more sage advice and shorn some of these family powers or draw in and support them more , whatever it takes. Knowing his temperament and his loyalty to those who are most loyal to him, his final decision is not difficult to guess.

Understanding IRGC’s long-term goals in Iraq
Hamid Bahrami/Al Arabiya/July 19/17
“I announce from here the end and failure and the collapse of the terrorist state of falsehood and terrorism which the terrorist Da’esh (ISIS) announced from Mosul,” the Iraqi Prime Minister declared on state television recently. Following a three-year long blitz, Iraqi forces with the support of the international coalition, have now defeated ISIS in Mosul, despite all challenges and sectarian disputes. But the defeat of ISIS has created a vacuum and there are some hard questions about Shi’ite militias such as the People Mobilization Units (PMU) that must be answered. This is particularly important because the PMU was established because of the sectarian divisions in Iraq.But what role will the PMU play in the future of Iraq? Who will control and command the PMU? It is a known fact that some Shi’ite militant groups in Iraq – such as the Kata’ib Hezbollah, Badr Organization and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq – are supported by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Thus, it is not surprising that these militias pursue IRGC’s goals and depend on Tehran for their financial and military supplies. It is worth pointing out that a few days ago, the commander of IRGC’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, said that the IRGC “had been working around the clock to arm the PMU” after its establishment. This makes them under command of the IRGC’s Quds Force. Apart from financial affiliation and weapons, these groups have indicated that they believe in and are loyal to the Iranian regime’s ideology of Khomeinism who was the flagbearer of “the path to Quds(Jerusalem) goes through Karbala”.In 2014, a Reuters report said that “Asaib and Kata’ib Hezbollah, who have sent fighters to Syria to defend Shii’te shrines ... recognize Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei as their spiritual leader.” Based on the realities on the ground, it is no exaggeration that the regime in Tehran has the last word in Iraq and the IRGC controls some part of the current Iraqi government
Direct dependence on Tehran
Despite this direct dependence on Tehran, the PMU has been incorporated in Iraq’s armed forces. Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shii’te cleric who Lead one of the PMU's groups, expressed his concern with this development in Iraq in an interview and said, “I can see that Iraq will be under the control of militia groups.”He then demanded that security should be exclusively under the control of Iraqi army. The Iranian regime has long sought to create a safe corridor from Iran to Lebanon. Consequently, the existence of a domestic paramilitary force parallel to the traditional army in Iraq is crucial for the IRGC and Tehran’s plan for future of that country. Due to the growing demand in the US Congress and the White House contemplating to designate the entire IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, the Iranian authorities, need a heavily-armed paramilitary force, such as the PMU, to keep the corridor safe and to achieve their goals in Iraq. This is because the successful terror designation of the IRGC will limit the Iraqi government’s ability to cooperate and provide facilities to the Iranian regime. Hence at this stage after the defeat of ISIS, it is only the regime in Tehran who will profit and rip the benefits of the PMU’s existence. In addition, the existence of a parallel paramilitary force with an extreme Shi’ite ideology will undermine the country’s constitution, as this militia will follow the politicians who support it rather than the country’s constitution or the government.
Replicating Hezbollah
In this case, the Iranian regime is trying to replicate its creation of Hezbollah in Lebanon and strives to establish a similarly trustworthy paramilitary force in Iraq in order to take control and dominate the Iraqi politics in favor of its agenda. It is true that there are disagreements among the militia groups, which form the PMU about the destructive and destabilizing actions of the IRGC. But the Iranian regime will try to bribe or eliminate any influential clerics or opposition, if this proves to be necessary. Another reason for the Iranian regime increasing its intervention in Iraq today is the upcoming Iraqi elections. If the Islamic Dawa Party with the former Iranian-backed PM, Nouri al-Maliki, loses that elections to some other politicians like the progressive Shi’ite voice Ayad Allawi, the IRGC’s corridor will be threatened. Unchallenged, the commander of IRGC’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani will use the PMU to tilt the upcoming elections in Iraq to Tehran’s favor and secure the outcome that the regime in Iran prefers.
The solution
So, what is the solution to prevent a new sectarian war in Iraq? As long as the Iranian regime and its proxies are allowed to continue their destructive role in Iraq, Iraqi people will never see peace. Based on the realities on the ground, it is no exaggeration that the regime in Tehran has the last word in Iraq and the IRGC controls some part of the current Iraqi government. However, the Iraqi government must now dissolve and dismantle the PMU, effectively, cutting off IRGC’s hand in Iraq. This is particularly important following the defeat of ISIS in Iraq. It also needs to reconstruct the Iraqi army based on national interests and to run an independent foreign policy. The West and the Arab countries should push the Iraqi government towards this direction otherwise Iraq will be offered to the regime in Tehran in a silver plate.