July 21/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
The Samaritan Proverb In Which Faith Was Translated Into Acts
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10/29-37/:"But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, "Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend."Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise."

We should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, But Direct & Educate Them
Acts of the Apostles 15/13-21L:"After they finished speaking, James replied, ‘My brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first looked favourably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written, "After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it,and I will set it up, so that all other peoples may seek the Lord even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called.Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago."
Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.
For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 20-21/17
US Congress prepares to introduce three bills against Hizbollah/Joyce Karam/The National/July 20/17
HRW: Signs of torture on bodies of Syrians in Lebanese army custody/Josh Wood/The National/July 20/17
Iran’s Nuclear Deal Is Two Years Old/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/17
The Worst Ideological Enemy of the US is Now Europe/Drieu Godefrid/Gatestone Institute/July 20/17
Is Turkey Becoming Another Iran/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/July 20/17
What's Happening Behind The Scenes Of Bulgaria's Hezbollah Terror Trial/Jerusalem Post/July 20/17
Change is Coming at the ECB/Daniel Moss/Bloomberg/July 20/17
Liberation of Mosul and the return of Iraq/Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/July 20/17
BBC, Juhayman and the Grand Mosque/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/July 20/17
Girl in Saudi Gone Wild: There she was just a ’walkin’ down the mud-caked alley/Fatimah S. Baeshen/Al Arabiya/July 20/17
Is Trump’s family asset or liability for the White House/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/July 20/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 20-21/17
US Congress prepares to introduce three bills against Hizbollah
Govt. Approves Diplomatic Appointments as Aoun Urges Improving State Revenues
Heavy Hizbullah Shelling Hits Arsal Outskirts as Report Says 'Operation' Underway
Jumblat Criticizes 'One-Time' Fines on Maritime Property Encroachments
Sami Gemayel Urges Aoun to Return Tax Law to Parliament to 'Rescue Economy'
Watchdog Renews Calls for Lebanese Probe in Syrian Deaths
Hariri Meets Special Tribunal for Lebanon Registrar
Adwan Says 'Well-Balanced Budget Crucial' for Lebanon
Hariri Pays Brief Visit to Saudi Arabia
U.S. Accuses Hizbullah of 'Weapons Buildup'
HRW: Signs of torture on bodies of Syrians in Lebanese army custody
US Slams Hezbollah amid Israeli Claim that Lebanese Army is Ignoring Group’s Activity
What's Happening Behind The Scenes Of Bulgaria's Hezbollah Terror Trial

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 20-21/17
Kuwait Orders Iranian Embassy to Reduce Staff, Close Technical Offices
Kuwait Expels Iranian Diplomats over 'Terror' Cell
CIA Reportedly Halting Support for Syria Rebels
Saudi FM in Brussels: We have zero tolerance for terrorism
Washington: Terrorists in Qatar are exploiting their financial system
US annual report: Saudi key member in fight against terrorism
Qatar Plans Military Deal with US as a Way Out of its Crisis
German FM Vows to Overhaul Turkey Ties as Row Escalates
Qatari Efforts to Increase Trade with Tehran
Erdogan Sends New Batch of Troops to Doha before visiting the Gulf
Saudi Arabia Follows Up Operational Plans to Receive 83,800 Iranian Pilgrims
Erdogan Keeps his Grip on the Government to Set the Stage for Presidential System
Netanyahu Launches Unprecedented Attack Against EU
Zebari: 40,000 Civilians Killed in Mosul Battle
Venezuela Strike Tests Maduro as Pressure Builds
Protesters to Hold Morocco March in Defiance of Ban

Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 20-21/17
US Congress prepares to introduce three bills against Hizbollah/الكونغرس الأميركي يعد 3 قوانين ضد حزب الله
Joyce Karam/The National/July 20/17
Following months of deliberations, three bills targeting Hizbollah are close to being introduced in US Congress, in a move that marks an escalation against the Lebanese armed party, The National has learned.
US and diplomatic sources in Washington said the drafts for the three bills had been finalised and could be introduced as soon as this Friday. The largest of the three is Hizbollah’s International Financing Prevention Act for 2017 sponsored by US congressman Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr Royce’s bill has been months in the works and has seen a few amendments following visits of Lebanese officials and financial delegations to Washington in the last six months. They include foreign minister Gebran Bassil, a group of parliamentarians, and executives from Lebanese banks who tried to shield the economic sector in the country from any backlash in the upcoming sanctions. According to a final draft of the bill seen by The National, the text calls for sanctions on any foreign person “assists, sponsors, or, provides significant financial, material, or technological support” for these entities that are all affiliated with Hizbollah: Bayt Al Mal, Jihad Al Bina, the Islamic Resistance Support Association, the Foreign Relations Department of Hizbollah, the External Security Organisation of Hizbollah, or any successor or affiliate thereof; Al Manar TV, Al Nour Radio, or the Lebanese Media Group, or any successor or affiliate thereof; and "a foreign person determined by the president to be engaged in fundraising or recruitment activities" for Hizbollah.
The bill also imposes sanctions on foreign states that support Hizbollah, and targets its “narcotics trafficking and significant transnational criminal activities”. It grants the US resident, after passage in the House and the Senate, power to waive or target individuals or entities with the sanctions.
However, the bill does not target explicitly any other group in Lebanon besides Hizbollah. The text is based on the 2015 Hezbollah’s International Financing Prevention Act but has extra measures and updates that attempt to choke the party’s internal and external funding networks. The text is based on the 2015 Hezbollah’s International Financing Prevention Act but has extra measures and updates that attempt to choke the party’s internal and external funding networks.
While an early draft of the bill leaked in the Lebanese press in March indicated that the Shiite group Amal would be targeted in the new measures, the new version does not make a mention of Amal. Instead the bill is hoping to isolate the Hizbollah funding networks without affecting Lebanon’s fragile economy.
The two other bills that will be introduced in Congress before the August recess are authored by senator Marco Rubio and congressman Mike Gallagher, both members of the Republican party representing Florida and Wisconsin respectively. The Rubio bill is expected to be the harshest in its language and targeting, according to a diplomatic source who met with the senator’s office this week. For its part, the Gallagher bill will focus on Hizbollah’s use of human shields in its fighting inside and outside Lebanon. The introduction of the bills would mark an escalation against Hizbollah ahead of a debate and a vote in September. They also precede Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri's visit to Washington next week, where he is expected to meet president Donald Trump and key members of his cabinet.

What's Happening Behind The Scenes Of Bulgaria's Hezbollah Terror Trial
ماذا يجري وراء الستار في بلغاريا بما يتعلق بمحاكمة شبكة حزب الله الإرهابية
Jerusalem Post/July 20/17
According to the Bulgarian government and US and EU authorities, three Hezbollah operatives blew up an Israeli tour bus in the seaside resort of Burgas on July 18, 2012, killing five Israelis. Five years have passed since Hezbollah allegedly blew up an Israeli tourist bus in the Bulgarian resort town of Burgas and killed six people, including five Israelis. Nevertheless, the wheels of justice continue to move slowly in Bulgaria as the case drags on in local courts.  On the one hand, five years have passed with little to show in terms of justice. On the other hand, Yaki Rand, the lawyer for the victims' families, told The Jerusalem Post that “there is a lot more going on behind the scenes.”
According to the Bulgarian government, three Hezbollah operatives blew up an Israeli tour bus in the seaside resort of Burgas on July 18, 2012, killing five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. The bomber, Lebanese-French national Muhammad Hassan El-Husseini, was also killed in the explosion. Two suspects – Lebanese-Australian Meliad Farah and Lebanese-Canadian Hassan El Hajj Hassan – then fled to Lebanon where authorities have ignored Bulgarian extradition requests. Nevertheless, a special terrorism court was established in Sofia and the trial moved ahead in absentia. The Israelis slain were Maor Harush, Itzik Kolangi, Amir Menashe, Elior Price, and Kochava Shriky and her unborn child. The Bulgarian victim was Mustafa Kyosov. The explosion wounded 32 other Israelis. As a result of the large number of witnesses and wounded, the trial has been moving slowly. According to reports in the Bulgarian press, the court may convene soon to hear Israeli witness testimonies at its Tel Aviv embassy as part of an effort to expedite the proceedings. The postponement of the trial this week was the sixth delay in the high-profile Hezbollah terrorist attack. According to Rand, the trial only really started about a year ago and while he said he has succeeded in bringing the families together, moving the case forward has proven to be a considerable challenge.Whether it is differing agendas, emotional states or different modes of keeping and absorbing evidence, the process has been highly complex.
Some victims’ families have only very recently joined the group.
When asked about the Hezbollah attack, Milena Petrova, the deputy chief of mission at Bulgaria’s embassy in Tel Aviv, told the Post, “We received a reply [from the Foreign Ministry in Sofia] that Bulgarian judicial authorities are an independent institution and we can neither comment nor make any prognosis about the case. Otherwise it could be considered in a non-favorable light and could have a negative impact on the course of dealing with a particular case.”Bulgaria’s government has changed numerous times since then-interior minister Tsvetlin Yovchev said in 2012: “There are clear signs that say Hezbollah is behind the Burgas bombing.” The shifting governments in Bulgaria – some of which haven leaned more toward Russia – may help explain the slow movement of the trial. Jacob Price, a representative of the families at the ceremony in Bulgaria on Tuesday, said, “Another year has passed since you left us. We have gathered here missing you. There is no end to the deep sorrow in honoring your memory. You remain in our hearts always.
“The Bulgarian nation and government have remained true friends of us, the families of the victims, and of the State of Israel... they are doing all they can to preserve this bond of blood,” said Price. Still, he added, “Five years is enough time to understand and debate” the legal issues in order to move on with the trial, especially when for the families “time stopped since you [the deceased victims] breathed your last breath... in that cursed summer of 2012.” Furthermore, Price called on Europe as a whole to “take off the gloves to fight terrorism.” Another representative of the families, Itzhak Shriky, told the Post that even as he eventually moved on, married and had a new daughter, “It was a grave attack... it changed my entire life... everything flipped around 180 degrees.... We continue to live in the shadow of pain.”Israel's Ambassador to Bulgaria Irit Lillian spoke at Tuesday’s remembrance event in Burgas. A verdict convicting the Hezbollah operatives could bring life to the effort in the EU to designate all of Hezbollah’s activities as a terrorist organization. The 2012 terrorist designation only targeted Hezbollah’s so-called “military wing.” The Lebanese militia operates its political operation in Europe, including fund-raising and recruitment efforts.
The US Congress in 2016 called on the EU to proscribe all of Hezbollah as a terrorist entity. A recent German intelligence report said 950 Hezbollah members are operating in the Federal Republic. In 2015, a Cypriot court convicted Hezbollah operative Hussein Bassam Abdallah for collecting explosives to use against Israelis. He was sentenced to six years in prison. In 2013, Taleb Yaacoub, a dual Lebanese-Swedish national and a Hezbollah operative, was convicted in Cyprus for plotting to murder Israelis. A Cypriot court sentenced Yaacoub to four years in prison.

Govt. Approves Diplomatic Appointments as Aoun Urges Improving State Revenues
Naharnet/July 20/17/The Cabinet on Thursday passed long-awaited diplomatic appointments as President Michel Aoun called for “improving the state's revenues” in the wake of parliament's approval of a new wage scale for civil servants and the armed forces. Ambassador Hani Chmaitelli was appointed foreign ministry secretary general, Ghadi Khoury was named as the ministry's director of political affairs while Ambassador Kanj al-Hajal was appointed as director of administrative and financial affairs.As per protocol, the names of the appointed ambassadors will be announced upon receiving approval from the nations that they are allocated to. President Aoun opened the session by commenting on the new wage scale, reiterating that “the state budget should have been approved before the wage scale in order to determine the revenues and the expenditure.” “We should improve the state's revenues to prevent an accumulation of deficit and debts,” the president urged. And calling for a “strict implementation of laws pertaining to financial inspection of firms, institutions and individuals, especially those who ask for loans,” Aoun also demanded “a strict implementation of Law 44 that forbids tax evasion and deems it a crime.” Prime Minister Saad Hariri for his part described the approval of the new wage scale as an “achievement” for the presidential tenure, the government and the parliament. He also told Cabinet that he would raise Lebanon's Syrian refugee crisis during his upcoming visit to the United States, while reiterating that the thorny issue of returning refugees to Syria should be discussed with the United Nations. “The U.N. would announce the appropriate date for the return of the refugees,” Hariri added.

Heavy Hizbullah Shelling Hits Arsal Outskirts as Report Says 'Operation' Underway
Naharnet/July 20/17/Heavy Hizbullah shelling was on Thursday targeting militant posts in the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal, as a media report said the group's long-anticipated “operation” against jihadists in the area had started. “Hizbullah has targeted militant posts in Wadi al-Kheil in Arsal's outskirts with fierce artillery shelling,” LBCI TV reported. Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) meanwhile said “Hizbullah has started its major operation with artillery shelling at the outskirts of Flita (in Syria) and Wadi al-Kheil in Arsal's outskirts, where al-Nusra Front has positions.”“The sounds of Hizbullah's artillery shelling are being clearly heard in the regions of al-Labweh, al-Nabi Otheman, al-Ain and al-Bazzaliyeh” in northern Bekaa, the radio network said. “The Lebanese Red Cross has started setting up field centers in al-Fakiha and nothern Bekaa,” Voice of Lebanon said. The radio network also reported that the Lebanese army had reinforced its outposts “in anticipation of any responses from the militants against army posts in Arsal's vicinity or northern Bekaa.”TV networks meanwhile reported that Syrian warplanes had waged a fresh raid on al-Nusra's posts in the border region. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had on July 11 warned jihadist militants in Arsal's outskirts that “there is not much time left for settlements.” “It’s about time we put an end to the threat of the militant groups in Arsal’s outskirts,” he said. Nusra jihadists and others from the rival Islamic State 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.

Jumblat Criticizes 'One-Time' Fines on Maritime Property Encroachments
Naharnet/July 20/17/Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat on Thursday described violation fines imposed by the parliament on illegal maritime property along Lebanon's coastline as a “farce”. “What a farce that maritime property violators are to pay fines for one time only. It seems the lawmakers have not noticed how many the violations are,” said Jumblat in a tweet. During a legislative session on Wednesday, the parliament agreed to impose fines on encroachments on public seafront property. Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil had stressed that “Imposing fines on violators does not mean that their files are settled.” Lebanon's coast is subject to constant violations including encroachments along the beachfront.

Sami Gemayel Urges Aoun to Return Tax Law to Parliament to 'Rescue Economy'
Naharnet/July 20/17/Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel on Thursday called on President Michel Aoun not to sign the tax law that was approved Wednesday by parliament and to return it to the legislature for reevaluation, warning of a possible “economic disaster.”“The president has the ability to stop the crime that will be committed against the Lebanese people and economy,” said Gemayel at a press conference. He warned that the taxes that have been approved would lower citizens' purchasing power “by 10 to 20%” and would also push “more than 100,000 citizens below the poverty line,” citing studies by the American University of Beirut. Gemayel also quoted Father Butros Azar, the secretary general of Catholic schools, as saying that school tuitions would rise an average of 27%. “The prices of apartments will also rise and our youths will suffer,” the young MP cautioned.
“An economic disaster has been created without any economic feasibility study for the taxes to rely on,” Gemayel lamented. He added: “We have heard from his excellency the president statements in which he said that he would have preferred the state budget to be approved before the new wage scale... and accordingly we urge him to return the approved tax law to parliament for reevaluation in order to rescue the Lebanese economy and the middle and lower classes.”And noting that Aoun has echoed “the same remarks that Kataeb voiced in parliament,” Gemayel lauded the president's stance and noted that he has “distanced himself from the political rhetoric that the parliament has witnessed.”Gemayel also renewed his warning that the new taxes could be aimed at “financing the ruling class' electoral campaigns.”The new taxes involve hiking the VAT tax from 10% to 11%, fines on seaside violations, and taxes on cement, administrative transactions, sea imports, lottery prizes, financial firms and banks. Authorities have argued that the new taxes are necessary to fund the new wage scale but opponents of such a move have called for finding new revenues through putting an end to corruption and the waste of public money.

Watchdog Renews Calls for Lebanese Probe in Syrian Deaths
Associated Press/Naharnet/July 20/17/An international watchdog has renewed its calls for an independent and transparent investigation into the recent deaths of at least four Syrians in Lebanese army custody, as well as allegations of torture and ill-treatment of the detained. The men were detained in a security raid earlier this month that netted 355 Syrians in refugee settlements in and around the town of Arsal, near the Syrian border. The army had said four of the detained died from chronic health conditions, but the local Syrians alleged they died under beatings and torture.
Thursday's statement from Human Rights Watch says it has credible reports that a fifth Syrian detainee had also died in custody. The New York-based group also spoke with released detainees who said the army personnel beat and ill-treated them.

Hariri Meets Special Tribunal for Lebanon Registrar
Naharnet/July 20/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) Registrar Daryl Mundis during a working visit to Lebanon this week, an STL press release said on Thursday. "This visit allowed me to inform the Prime Minister of the latest developments in the STL’s work and thank him for the Lebanese Government’s continued cooperation with the Tribunal,” said Mundis. “Lebanon’s support is critical to ensuring that the STL fulfills its mandate in a timely and fair manner,” he added. The Registrar travels to Beirut regularly to update key interlocutors on the STL’s activities and to oversee its work in Lebanon. He is responsible for all aspects of the STL's administration, including the budget, fundraising, human resources and providing security. His responsibilities also include court management, the oversight of the Victims’ Participation Unit, witness protection and language services. The STL’s main case, Prosecutor v. Ayyash et al., concerns the 14 February 2005 attack in Beirut that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. The trial commenced on 16 January 2014. The Prosecution is nearing the end of the presentation of its case. So far, it has presented forensic evidence on the cause of the explosion of 14 February 2005 and evidence related to the death and injury of the victims of this attack. It has also presented evidence of the preparatory acts undertaken by the Accused and their co-conspirators in 2004-2005 to prepare for the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri. It is currently presenting evidence concerning the identity of the Accused and their respective roles in the attack. Following the conclusion of the Prosecution’s case, the Legal Representative of Victims and the Defense teams will have the opportunity to present their respective cases.

Adwan Says 'Well-Balanced Budget Crucial' for Lebanon
Naharnet/July 20/17/Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan on Thursday said the Lebanese people were granted “a long-standing right” after the parliament’s approval of the wage scale, and stressed the necessity to have a “balanced” state budget. Adwan said the Lebanese Forces have fought for the approval of the wage scale “because we believe it is the people's right. The State has been delinquent. Should it have set the living costs and set controls for everything long before, it would have saved us a lot of time. “The economy and the State's Finances are paying the price for this delay,” he said. However Adwan added: “What is important is that there is a right that has been given to its owners, but we have to work seriously on the State's Finances to keep what has been given today, up to its value.”The MP added: “We have started from our keenness on the people and the (State's) treasury. The right has been granted but most importantly is to have a carefully thought-out budget, and to spend in parallel with rationalizing expenditures, stopping waste and preventing corruption. That is how the country's finances and economy are valued, and most importantly we can invest to stimulate growth.”

Hariri Pays Brief Visit to Saudi Arabia
Naharnet/July 20/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri traveled to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday where he held talks with the newly appointed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, his media office said in a statement Thursday. Hariri flew back to Beirut Thursday morning. In June, Saudi Arabia's King Salman ousted his nephew as crown prince and named his son Mohammed bin Salman, capping a meteoric rise for the 31-year-old that puts him one step from the throne.

U.S. Accuses Hizbullah of 'Weapons Buildup'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 20/17/US Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday accused Hizbullah of amassing weapons and said the world must turn its attention to the actions of the "powerful paramilitary organization." Haley met with UN envoy for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag ahead of a Security Council meeting Thursday focusing on the UN peacekeeping force deployed in southern Lebanon. "Ambassador Haley expressed alarm over the build-up of weapons by Hizbullah, a situation that demands the international community's attention to prevent the further escalation of regional tensions," said a statement by the US mission. She stressed that the international community must "apply more pressure on Hizbullah to disarm and cease its destabilizing behavior, especially toward Israel."Haley has been a strong supporter of Israel, which fought a month-long war against Hizbullah in 2006. The fighting killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers. There has been speculation about the possibility of a new war between Israel and Hizbullah, more than a decade after their last direct confrontation. There have been periodic skirmishes along the UN-monitored demarcation line between Israel and Lebanon, longtime adversaries which are technically still at war with each other. Haley said the UNIFIL mission must be "fully engaged in addressing the threat posed by Hizbullah."

HRW: Signs of torture on bodies of Syrians in Lebanese army custody

Josh Wood/The National/July 20/17
According to Human Rights Watch, photographic evidence of the corpses and detainees’ testimonies revealed the men were tortured.
An international human rights group said on Thursday that there was evidence of torture on the bodies of Syrian refugees who died in the custody of the Lebanese army after mass arrests during raids on refugee camps late last month. The military said that four of the nearly 400 Syrian refugees detained in the aftermath of a string of June 30 suicide attacks in the border town of Arsal died from “pre-existing conditions” and denied allegations of mistreatment. However, according to Human Rights Watch, photographic evidence of the corpses and detainees’ testimonies support allegations of torture. The rights group added that it had “credible” information a fifth detainee died in army custody. Dr Homer Venters, director of programmes at Physicians for Human Rights, reviewed 28 photos of three of the deceased men, who were covered in bruises and cuts. “The lack of defensive wounds suggests that these injuries were inflicted while the victims were restrained or otherwise incapacitated and the distribution of these injuries are consistent with inflicted trauma in the setting of physical torture,” he said. Although a precise cause of death cannot be determined through the photographs, “any statement that the deaths of these individuals were due to natural causes is inconsistent with these photographs”, he added. Medical reports — prepared at the request of Lebanon’s general prosecutor — for three of the men concluded that their bodies showed “no marks of violence”, and they had died from heart attacks and a stroke. Former detainees told Human Rights Watch that refugees were placed in overcrowded cells, beaten and denied food and water. One witness said that a body of a fifth detainee — a man not named by the army as having died in their custody — “didn’t look human any more. His flesh was torn apart”. “They beat people, some with batons, others with the butt of a gun,” said one former detainee. “I saw one soldier on the outside poking one of the detainees from the window with a bent skewer. He beat him, then he started cutting his face … until blood came out.” The suicide attacks against Lebanese army patrols in Arsal on June 30 and the subsequent deaths of refugees in army custody have raised tensions significantly in Lebanon.
Increasingly viewing the country’s estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees a security threat, some of the country’s leading politicians are calling for their expulsion. With anti-refugee rhetoric on the rise, activists called for a protest this week to show solidarity with Syrian refugees and demand answers about detainee deaths. The protest was cancelled amid fears of violence and Lebanon’s interior minister later banned all demonstrations in the country.
Meanwhile, Lebanese president Michel Aoun spoke out against the persecution of refugees in the country on Wednesday, one day after a video surfaced of a group of Lebanese men beating a Syrian refugee in the street, accusing him of planning to protest against the army. However, Mr Aoun still pushed for refugees to return to their country as soon as possible. Questioning and criticising the army has emerged as a red line in Lebanon, with the administrator of a Facebook page that was promoting the refugee solidarity protest and a Lebanese journalist, who condemned the army’s behaviour, detained this month.
Human Rights Watch called on the Lebanese government to take accusations of rights abuses by the army seriously and conduct a transparent investigation. “While the Lebanese army’s promise to investigate these shocking deaths is a positive step, the promise will be meaningless without transparent and independent accountability for anyone found guilty of wrongdoing,” said the group’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson. “Anyone who supports the Lebanese army should support efforts to tackle such serious allegations of military abuse.”

US Slams Hezbollah amid Israeli Claim that Lebanese Army is Ignoring Group’s Activity
Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/17/US Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday accused Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” of amassing weapons and said the world must turn its attention to the group’s actions. Haley met with UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag ahead of a Security Council meeting Thursday on the implementation of Resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. “Ambassador Haley expressed alarm over the build-up of weapons by Hezbollah, a situation that demands the international community’s attention to prevent the further escalation of regional tensions,” said a statement by the US mission. She stressed that the international community must “apply more pressure on Hezbollah to disarm and cease its destabilizing behavior, especially toward Israel.”Haley said the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) must be “fully engaged in addressing the threat posed by Hezbollah.”The ambassador has been a strong supporter of Israel. The Israeli army said Tuesday that ‘Hezbollah’ has been establishing observation posts under the guise of an NGO “Green Without Borders” near the UN-drawn Blue Line since April, presumably to gather intelligence.
It released additional footage of Hezbollah members gathering intelligence on Israel, in violation of Resolution 1701. Head of the Northern Command Maj.- Gen Yoel Strick, at a ceremony in northern Israel, said the Israeli army’s readiness is constantly increasing and that it continues to monitor the situation along the border. According to Strick, the Lebanese army “turns a blind eye” to Hezbollah’s activity and even allows it to use its infrastructure against Israel. Maj.-Gen. Herzel Halevi, the commander of Israel’s military intelligence, said Hezbollah’s disguised operations were part of yet another attempt by the group to “further entrench its infrastructure.”Hezbollah is “once again blatantly violating UN Resolution 1701,” which calls for the disarmament of armed groups in Lebanon, Halevi added.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 20-21/17
Kuwait Orders Iranian Embassy to Reduce Staff, Close Technical Offices
Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/17/Kuwait told the Iranian embassy on Thursday to reduce its staff and close down some of its technical offices following a court ruling that implicated some Iranians in a spying case, state news agency KUNA reported.
The agency, citing a foreign ministry source, said Kuwait also decided to freeze any activities involving joint committees between the two countries following the ruling by Kuwait’s top court in a case known as the “Abdali cell”.
The source expressed regret that relations between the two countries witnessed such a negative development. The supreme court has sentenced the mastermind of the cell to life in jail and condemned 20 others to various prison terms for links with Iran and Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” and plotting attacks in Kuwait.

Kuwait Expels Iranian Diplomats over 'Terror' Cell
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 20/17/Kuwait on Thursday ordered the expulsion of about 15 Iranian diplomats after the emirate's top court convicted a "terror" cell of links to the Islamic republic, a government source told AFP. Kuwait also ordered the closure of the Iranian "military, cultural and trade" missions, said the government official, who asked not to be named. The Gulf state's supreme court last month sentenced the mastermind of the cell to life in jail and condemned 20 others to various prison terms for alleged links with Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah and plotting terror attacks in Kuwait. State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Sabah, who is also acting information minister, confirmed that Kuwait had taken diplomatic action against Iran but declined to specify the measures. "Following the supreme court ruling on the case ... the government of Kuwait has decided to take measures, in accordance with diplomatic norms and the Vienna Convention, towards its relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran," Sheikh Mohammad told AFP. He provided no further details.The row comes at a time when Kuwait is trying to mediate an end to the Gulf's worst diplomatic crisis in years, after Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and its allies cut ties with Qatar over accusations it is too close to Shiite Iran and funds extremists.The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah reported on Monday that 14 of the cell's 26 members had fled to Iran by sea. They were convicted by a lower court early last year but acquitted on appeals several months later and set free. The supreme court, whose rulings are final, overturned their acquittal on June 18 and sentenced them to between five and 15 years in prison. Kuwait's interior ministry confirmed on Tuesday that the 14 men were on the run but it said that they had not left the country through official exit points. The cell was busted in August 2015 and large quantities of arms, ammunition and explosives were seized from them, according to the Kuwaiti authorities. Kuwaiti courts convicted them of working for Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah. They were also convicted of smuggling explosives from Iran.

CIA Reportedly Halting Support for Syria Rebels
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 20/17/The Central Intelligence Agency is shutting down its program to support rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. Citing unnamed US officials, the Post said the four-year-old covert operation has had limited impact, especially since Russian forces stepped in to support Assad in 2015. President Donald Trump made the decision to drop the program nearly a month ago, according to the Post, after meeting with CIA chief Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor HR McMaster. White House and CIA officials declined to comment on the report. The Post said phasing out the CIA program reflects Trump's "interest in finding ways to work with Russia" as well as "an acknowledgment of Washington's limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power." The decision came as the US and Russia negotiated a ceasefire in southwest Syria, covering some of the area from which the rebels operated. The ceasefire was announced on July 7 at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany where Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held their first face-to-face meeting. President Barack Obama approved the rebel aid program in 2013 as various insurgent groups sought external support in a general uprising against the Assad regime. Thousands of Syrian anti-government fighters were trained and armed. But the US commitment remained ambiguous amid doubts in some quarters that the rebels could actually manage to depose Assad and as attention turned to the rising power of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. Support for the program further eroded last year after the rebels lost the areas they held in the Syrian city of Aleppo under a brutal Russian-backed government assault.

Saudi FM in Brussels: We have zero tolerance for terrorism
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Thursday, 20 July 2017/Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said in a press conference in Brussels, “We have had constructive talks and look forward to deepening relations with Europe,” reported Al Arabiya on Thursday. Al-Jubair said Saudi Arabia's policy on combating terrorism and extremism is very firm adding that the boycotting countries want Qatar to stop supporting, harboring and inciting terrorists. During the press conference with his Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders, al-Jubair said, "our demands from Qatar fall within the frame of international policies in the global fight against terrorism." "Our policy is zero tolerance for terrorism and its sources of funding," he said. Al-Jubair explained that Vision 2030 carries a strategic plan for the future of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi minister said that Saudi Arabia has thousands of students in the world's top universities, pointing out that Saudi Arabia has made great strides towards a stable and prosperous future. He pointed out that Saudi Arabia hosted the conference against terrorism with the participation of 50 countries. "We have strong relations with other countries and we cooperate with global intelligence against terrorism," he said. "Qatar allows its media to spread the word of hatred and incitement," Al-Jubeir said, but hoped that Qatar would respond and meet the demands to stop supporting terrorism. Regarding Yemen, the Saudi foreign minister said that "we are always working to increase the aid allocated to Yemen," noting that "we expressed support for the efforts of UN envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed."On Iran, al-Jubair said that Tehran "continues its attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of neighboring countries ... We have discussed Iran's activities in the region and is continuing backing up of terrorists."In turn, the Belgian foreign minister said his country is working with Saudi Arabia to combat extremism and terrorism.

Washington: Terrorists in Qatar are exploiting their financial system
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Thursday, 20 July 2017 /The US State Department announced on Wednesday in its report on terrorism during 2016, that the financiers of terrorism in Qatar are still exploiting its financial system. The report said that Qatar was trying to progress in the fight against terrorism after signing an agreement with Washington, but the Qatari financiers of terrorism are still able to exploit the financial system in Doha to support terrorism. The report said that the al-Qaeda organization and forces supported by Tehran, especially Hezbollah, are the first threat to the American state. The US report accused Iran of being the first country to support terrorism in 2016 through the Revolutionary Guards, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Syria. The US State Department also accused Hezbollah of playing a key role in supporting the Syrian regime in the crimes it committed in Syria. Saudi Arabia has a global role in the fight against terrorism. The US State departments report on the other hand praised Saudi Arabia on its role in the fight against terrorism. The report said Saudi Arabia remains a key member and active participant in the international coalition against ISIS. Saudi Arabia, which has been subjected to several attacks by al-Qaeda and ISIS, has continued to build its capabilities and enforce its tools to counter terrorist acts on its homeland, the report said.

US annual report: Saudi key member in fight against terrorism
By Al Arabiya English Staff writer/Thursday, 20 July 2017
The US State Department’s annual report on terrorism has praised Saudi Arabia’s continued efforts during 2016, saying Riyadh is a key member in the fight against this scourge. The report said that Saudi Arabia continued to maintain a strong counterterrorism relationship with the United States and supported enhanced bilateral cooperation to ensure the safety of both US and Saudi citizens within Saudi territories and abroad. Saudi Arabia remained a key member and active participant in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, as evidenced by its co-leading the Counter-ISIS Coalition’s Counter-Finance Working Group (CIFG) alongside the United States and Italy. The Saudi government condemned ISIS’s activities and participated in coalition military action to defeat the group in Syria and Iraq. It added that the Saudi Arabian government continued to build and reinforce its capacity to counter terrorism and violent extremist ideologies. Despite some attacks, Saudi Arabia maintained a high counterterrorism operational tempo, made a number of highly publicized arrests of terrorist suspects, and disrupted active terrorist cells across the Kingdom.
UN resolution
The report emphasized that Saudi Arabia implemented UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCR) 2178 and 2199, and the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qaeda sanctions regime. The country also expanded existing counterterrorism programs to address the phenomenon of returning foreign terrorist fighters. It leveraged terrorist finance provisions of its Law for Crimes of Terrorism and Terrorist Financing (CT Law) and Royal Decree A/44 to counter the funding of violent extremist groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere. The government also launched several new countering violent extremism (CVE) initiatives to blunt the appeal of extremist messaging, State Department said. It praised as well Saudi Arabia for continuing its efforts to disrupt terrorist activities in the Kingdom by tracking, arresting, and prosecuting terrorist suspects, saying that in 2016, Saudi Arabia increased its public designations of individuals and entities for violating the Kingdom’s laws criminalizing terrorist financing and support.
Center for Ideological Warfare
It also mentioned that Saudi government launched a new Center for Ideological Warfare designed to blunt ISIS’s ideological appeal and counter extremist messages by discrediting what Saudi officials characterized as “distortions” of Islamic tenets. It added that the Saudi Arabian government also increased oversight of proselytization and Islamic charitable activities, especially during Hajj. The Saudi Arabian government appointed new leadership in various Islamic organizations to bolster CVE efforts. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs (MOIA) announced restrictions on foreign travel of Saudi-based clerics for charitable and proselytization activities, requiring them to obtain the government’s permission before traveling.
Additionally, Saudi Arabia enhanced its existing CVE programs on counter-radicalization and rehabilitation. Efforts included organizing seminars that refuted violent Islamist extremist interpretation and ideology as well as launching an international conference on media and terrorism.
De-radicalization program
The MOI continued to operate its de-radicalization program, including the Sakina Campaign for Dialogue to counter internet radicalization, as well as its extensive rehabilitation program at the Mohammed bin Naif Counseling and Care Center that seeks to address ideological and psychosocial causes of terrorism. The report said that the MOIA continued to train and regulate imams, prohibiting them from incitement of violence, and continued to monitor mosques and religious education, imposing new regulations prohibiting posters and other publicity about potentially extremist causes and organizations in local mosques. Saudi Arabia cooperated regionally and internationally on counterterrorism issues. Saudi Arabia is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. Saudi officials issued statements encouraging enhanced cooperation among GCC and Arab League states on counterterrorism issues. The Saudi government hosted international counterterrorism conferences on subjects ranging from countering violent extremist ideology to media and terrorism.

Qatar Plans Military Deal with US as a Way Out of its Crisis
Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/17/Jeddah– Qatar is pressing ahead with plans to invest in the US to show that the political crisis with Saudi Arabia and its allies hasn’t impacted its ability to strike global deals, according to a report issued by Bloomberg. Doha is trying to influence Washington’s position supporting the four states boycotting it: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, and Bahrain and to highlight its strong ties with the US. As part of the agreements, Qatar signed a deal to buy 36 F-15 aircraft in a deal valued at $12 billion. Qatar Investment Authority is working to identify possible acquisition targets with areas of interest including infrastructure and technology, according to Bloomberg. Bloomberg’s report stated that Doha allocated about $50 billion for these deals and assigned $35 billion for various US short-term investments hoping that more deals could help improve ties with the US after President Donald Trump publicly sided with the Saudi alliance. Meanwhile, military analysts considered Qatar’s Defense Minister Khalid al-Attiyah’s latest statement a message for Iran and Houthis for future cooperation. Earlier, Attiyah announced that Doha has found itself forced to join the Arab Coalition in Yemen, adding that Qatar was never inside Yemen, but rather on the Saudi border and at the beginning of the crisis as they were asked to leave the Saudi border and they did. The analysts stated that the Minister’s statements indicate Qatar’s participation was not for the best interest of Gulf or its security, but rather a sort of courtesy. They pointed out that decisions of war can’t be forced on anyone and thus Attiyah’s announcement does not confirm with the concept of military interventions. Chairman of the Kuwait-based Gulf Forum for Peace and Security Fahd al-Shelaimi said that Qatar’s participation in Yemen comes as being part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and committing to its charter. Shelaimi added that Qatari officials claim they were under pressures, but he stated that it is shameful for top officials to make allegations. He explained when someone as Attiyah, who is a former Foreign Minister, announces his country was obliged to participate in the Yemeni war, he is certainly sending a message to Houthis and other parties justifying their future collaboration with them. The Chairman also pointed out that the Qatari statement shows Doha’s decision to join the coalition wasn’t calculated. He added that decisions are not made out of courtesy, especially those of war. Shelaimi believed this is Qatar’s attempt to reopen channels with Iran and Houthis. He added that within the coming days, further collaboration will manifest on al-Jazeera channel showing support to Houthis. A Gulf military analyst wondered why Qatar claimed it was forced into the coalition given that it was formed based on approval of all participating countries and belief that security and stability of the Gulf should be maintained in face of Iran’s expansion. The analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declared that such statements at such a time is a source of concern for the Yemeni National Army and Arab Coalition Forces.

German FM Vows to Overhaul Turkey Ties as Row Escalates
Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/17/Germany on Thursday vowed stinging measures impacting tourism and investment in Turkey and a full “overhaul” of their troubled relations, signaling its patience has snapped after Ankara’s arrest of a German human rights activist. The foreign ministry stepped up its travel advisory for Turkey, warning it could no longer guarantee its citizens’ safety amid “arbitrary” mass arrests, a step set to impact Turkey’s crucial tourism sector. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a day after summoning Turkey’s ambassador, returned from holidays to Berlin to deliver his unusually strong comments towards President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Relations between Turkey and Germany have been badly strained, particularly since the failed coup attempt a year ago against Erdogan. Gabriel said Germany would review state guarantees for foreign investment in Turkey and urge businesses against putting their money there, and also review its support for EU financial flows to the long-time aspirant to membership of the bloc. He accused Erdogan of trying to muzzle “every critical voice” with mass arrests in sweeping crackdowns since the failed coup against him in July 2016. Berlin has voiced deep concerns over mass arrests and sackings of alleged coup plotters since, and a host of other civil rights controversies. One dispute centers on Deniz Yucel, a German-Turkish journalist with the Berlin-based newspaper Die Welt who was imprisoned by Turkey on terror charges earlier this year. Gabriel stressed that Germany still wanted to rebuild relations with its long-time ally, while urging Erdogan’s government “to return to European values”. The minister said the new steps had been agreed with Chancellor Angela Merkel whose spokesman confirmed that the measures announced by Gabriel against Turkey are necessary and unavoidable in view of developments there. German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries echoed similar remarks, saying it is extremely difficult for German companies to make investments in Turkey under the current political climate in the country. “If respectable German companies are suddenly put on ‘black lists’ and branded as supporters of terrorism then this amounts to a climate that makes new business and investments in Turkey extremely difficult,” Zypries said.

Qatari Efforts to Increase Trade with Tehran
Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/17/London- An Iranian delegation of businessmen, currently visiting Doha, has discussed with their Qatari counterparts Wednesday means of forming trade partnerships and concluding special deals in the food sector. The meeting was attended by Iranian Deputy Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade (IMT) Khosrow Taj and Qatar Chamber Vice Chairman Mohammed bin Ahmed bin Towar. The Iranian companies expressed their readiness to export their products to the Qatari market while Qatari companies expressed willingness to partner with them to achieve this business. Towar said that Qatari businessmen were keen to explore Iranian products and to have joint cooperation with the Iranian companies operating in the food sector. He stressed that Qatar Chamber was ready to provide the necessary information and data to Iranian businessmen to help increase joint cooperation between the private sectors of both the countries. For his part, Taj, who chaired the visiting delegation, expressed his country’s aspiration to strengthen trade and economic ties with Qatar. He said that the visit and bilateral meetings would contribute to enhancing trade exchange between the two countries for the sake of the interests of their national economies.

Erdogan Sends New Batch of Troops to Doha before visiting the Gulf
Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/17/Ankara- The Turkish army has sent a new batch of troops to its military base in Doha before the beginning of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Gulf tour, which starts on Sunday and will include visiting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar to find a friendly solution to the current crisis.
The sixth military group arrived in Doha early on Wednesday, and it included 28 artillerymen. This deployment is in line with the deal between Ankara and Doha on strengthening military cooperation reached in 2015 and approved by Turkish parliament on June 7, 2017, just two days following the diplomatic boycott between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Military vehicles will be sent on a plane of the Turkish armed forces after sending this batch, military sources said. Turkey has already sent five batches of its troops, including 171 officers and soldiers, in addition to military artillery. Erdogan has earlier discussed with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani developments of Qatari crisis during a phone call on Tuesday evening. Prince Tamim congratulated Erdogan on the occasion of the Democracy and National Unity Day, according to Turkish presidential sources.
The two parties also discussed means of developing bilateral relations.

Saudi Arabia Follows Up Operational Plans to Receive 83,800 Iranian Pilgrims
Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/17/Jeddah- Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Bantan has discussed working programs of the operational plans prepared for the Iranian pilgrims for the Hajj season this year with Head of the Haj Tawafa Establishment for the Iranian pilgrims Dr. Talal Qutb. Minister Bantan focused on development proposals for the services provided to the Iranian pilgrims coming from abroad this season, who will be more than 83,800 pilgrims in addition to 2,400 office members, who will come from Iran to perform Hajj rituals. This step comes as Bantan made on Wednesday an inspection tour of the headquarters of the Haj Tawafa Establishment for the Iranian pilgrims. Their discussion covered almost all aspects of the Haj operation, including reception of pilgrims and their grouping, as well as accommodation, transportation, food, awareness programs, and other services and facilities since their arrival until departure. The minister underlined the need for improving the services and facilities so as to enable pilgrims perform their rituals in ease and comfort. He also toured the facilities of the United Zamzams Office in Makkah in order to identify the programs and operational plans of the institutions and offices for the Hajj season this year, which include many of the objectives and mechanisms of implementation, evaluation, follow-up and supervision. For his part, Qutb said that electronic visas are being issued for the pilgrims. He said that the arrangements for the pilgrims from Iran started immediately after the end of the last Haj season. “The arrangements for the Iranian pilgrims were not different from that of pilgrims from other parts of the world,” he said, adding that all the preparations are well in place to enable the Iranian pilgrims perform their rituals in peace and tranquility.

Erdogan Keeps his Grip on the Government to Set the Stage for Presidential System
Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/17/Ankara- Turkey’s government witnessed a reshuffle on Wednesday after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Ankara. A cabinet reshuffle has been on the agenda since Erdogan had regained his seat as chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) after the April 16 referendum. Erdogan had complained of a “fatigue” within the ruling party, speaking of a need for rejuvenation. Yıldırım held a press conference Wednesday regarding the changes in the cabinet. Out of the reshuffle involving 11 ministers, six were new names, appointed to ministerial posts for the first time. He said that five ministers would be replaced. Former Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, former Health Minister Recep Akdag and former Defense Minister Fikri Isık were appointed as deputy prime ministers. These changes indicate that Yıldırım wanted to work with figures he can better cooperate in the new process. “All our friends who have been appointed to the cabinet and those who are leaving have outstanding qualifications. This is a flag race, a regeneration of the government,” Yıldırım told reporters after he announced the new cabinet. Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, who is in charge of economy, kept his seat in the cabinet and became the sole deputy prime minister running the economy. With the cabinet reshuffle, a new era will start with the aim to create key legal, political and economic structures for the new presidential system. Former Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus was announced as the new culture and tourism minister. The 65th government in Turkish republican history, also known as the Yıldırım cabinet, was formed on May 24, 2016, after former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s resignation on May 5. Until Wednesday, the only change in the cabinet had taken place with former Interior Minister Efkan Ala’s resignation on August 31, 2016. Ala was replaced with Suleyman Soylu, labor and social security minister at the time, and Mehmet Müezzinoglu was appointed to Soylu’s former post. Despite expectations, no major changes have taken place in the foreign team. EU Minister Omer Celik and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu preserved their places although speculations were high that Erdogan’s chief foreign policy advisor Ibrahim Kalın could resume a role in a foreign-policy related position at the cabinet. Turkey’s referendum approved a series of constitutional changes abolishing the office of the prime minister and concentrating much of the executive powers in the hands of the president. While most of the changes will come into effect after the next general elections in 2019, one amendment came into effect immediately — scrapping laws that require the head of the state to sever ties with political parties. Erdogan was reelected chairman of the ruling party in an extraordinary congress on May 21. The cabinet reshuffle is seen as a major step toward his cementing his authority and putting his mark on the government ahead of the 2019 elections.

Netanyahu Launches Unprecedented Attack Against EU
Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/17/Tel Aviv– Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has launched an unprecedented attack against the European Union due to its policy with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Speaking during a closed-door meeting of eastern European leaders in Budapest, the Israeli premier said the EU would wither and die if it did not change its policy towards Israel. Netanyahu’s remarks were made in a meeting with the leaders of Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland, whom Netanyahu urged to close their doors to refugees from Africa and the Middle East. “The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel, which produces technology in every area, on political conditions. The only ones! Nobody does it,” Netanyahu said before officials realized reporters were overhearing the meeting and cut the feed. “It’s crazy. It’s actually crazy,” he added. Netanyahu went even further when he said in an educational tone that was not free of arrogance: “I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive or if it wants to shrivel and disappear.”“I am not very politically correct. I know that’s a shock to some of you. It’s a joke. But the truth is the truth – both about Europe’s security and Europe’s economic future. Both of these concerns mandate a different policy toward Israel,” he added. Responding to the Israeli premier’s remarks, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the EU was imposing conditions even on EU countries, but Netanyahu interrupted him saying: “Here is a culture issue. They should not do so. We, in Israel, are establishing relations with Arab countries. Even Arabs talk to Israel. They talk about technology, about everything we’re talking about here.” Netanyahu continued his aggressive attack and spoke in a hostile manner about the US administration policy in the Middle East under former President Barack Obama.“Israel had a big problem with the United States during his time,” he said. “Now it’s different. There’s a tough attitude toward Iran, a renewed American presence in the region, and more US bombing. That’s positive,” he added.

Zebari: 40,000 Civilians Killed in Mosul Battle
Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/17/London- More than 40,000 civilians were killed in the devastating battle to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS, according to intelligence reports revealed to Britain’s The Independent – a death toll far higher than previous estimates. Many bodies are still buried under the rubble and the level of human suffering is immense, the reports said. Residents of the besieged city were killed by Iraqi ground forces attempting to force out militants, as well as by air strikes and ISIS militants, according to Kurdish intelligence services. Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s former foreign minister, told The Independent that many bodies “are still buried under the rubble.”“The level of human suffering is immense,” he said. “Kurdish intelligence believes that over 40,000 civilians have been killed as a result of massive firepower used against them, especially by the federal police, air strikes and ISIS itself,” Zebari added. Zebari, a native of Mosul and top Kurdish official who has served as the Iraqi finance minister before becoming foreign minister, emphasized in an exclusive interview with the British daily that the unrelenting artillery bombardment by units of the Iraqi federal police, in practice a heavily armed military unit, had caused immense destruction and loss of life in west Mosul. The figure given by Zebari for the number of civilians killed in the nine-month siege is far higher than those previously reported, but the intelligence service of the Kurdistan Regional Government has a reputation for being extremely accurate and well-informed, according to The Independent. ISIS prevented any monitoring of casualties while outside groups have largely focused on air strikes rather than artillery and rocket fire as a cause of civilian deaths. Airwars, one such monitoring group, estimated that attacks may have killed 5,805 non-military personnel in the city between 19 February and 19 June. Zebari accuses the government in Baghdad, of which he was until recently a member, of not doing enough to relieve the suffering. “Sometimes you might think the government is indifferent to what has happened,” he said. Zebari says that a high level of corruption among the Iraqi military forces occupying Mosul is undermining security measures to suppress ISIS in the aftermath of its defeat. He says that suspect individuals are able to pass through military checkpoints by paying $1,000 (£770) and can bring a vehicle by paying $1,500.

Venezuela Strike Tests Maduro as Pressure Builds
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 20/17/A 24-hour nationwide strike in Venezuela on Thursday is set to increase pressure on beleaguered President Nicolas Maduro, whose policies have put him on a collision course with the United States. The opposition called the stoppage after holding an unofficial plebiscite last weekend in which a third of Venezuela's voters cast ballots rejecting Maduro and his policies. Chief among them is the president's plan to hold an election July 30 to choose a 545-member citizens' body, called a Constituent Assembly, to rewrite the constitution. US President Donald Trump has threatened "swift economic actions" against Venezuela if that election happens. The European Union, the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the Catholic Church have all condemned Maduro's plan. They fear the move -- seen by the opposition and Trump as a bid for dictatorship -- will irretrievably worsen the political crisis in Venezuela, and risk adding to a death toll that currently stands at 97 since anti-Maduro street protests turned violent in April. - 'Final offensive' -But Maduro has vowed to forge on "now more than ever" after Trump's threat, and to punish "conspirators" who try to stop him. His labor minister, Nestor Ovalles, warned that companies in Venezuela that joined the strike on Thursday would be "sanctioned." And the military reaffirmed its loyalty to Maduro by saying it would protect the polling. The opposition, which controls the National Assembly, sees the strike as the launch of a "final offensive" including civil disobedience and further protests designed to force Maduro out of office through early elections. Previous efforts to bring about a recall referendum against Maduro were stymied by electoral authorities and judges who have systematically sided with the president. With efforts at negotiations between both sides also exhausted, the stalemate risks worsening the deteriorating situation ordinary Venezuelans are enduring. Their oil-rich nation is staggering under a lack of food and medicine, triple-digit inflation, rising crime and dire currency controls that enrich a few at the expense of the many. Maduro has blamed the crisis on low global oil prices and an economic "war" waged on him by the United States and the right-wing opposition. But the opposition says the crisis is due to government mismanagement, including nationalizations and state appropriations of firms, and generally inept policies by Maduro and his late predecessor Hugo Chavez. - US sanctions 'effective'? -It's not clear what "actions" Trump is considering against Venezuela, but oil could be a key pressure point. Around a third of Venezuela's crude production is exported to the US market. "All options are on the table," a senior White House official said Tuesday. But Geoff Thale, with the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) lobbying group, told AFP he was "very skeptical that unilateral US sanctions (would be) effective." "They are more likely to make the government feel they have no option but to resist, and they offer the government a nationalist rallying cry against the US," he said.

Protesters to Hold Morocco March in Defiance of Ban
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 20/17/Protesters prepared to march in the Moroccan city of Al-Hoceima on Thursday in defiance of a government ban, the latest in a series of demonstrations that have shaken the country's north. The North African country's Rif region, where residents have long complained of neglect and marginalization, has seen repeated protests and outbreaks of unrest this year. Organizers have said Thursday's protest -- which they have dubbed a "million-man march" -- will go ahead despite an injunction by authorities. Significant numbers of police could be seen around Al-Hoceima early on Thursday. The protest movement -- known as Al-Hirak al-Shaabi -- has won strong support among the region's diaspora and many former Rif residents living abroad had returned to the city to join the march. Ali, a political science researcher from Al-Hoceima living in Canada, said he had returned to the city to "show my support for the Hirak movement" and that he expected "an impressive march." Al-Hoceima, the main port in the Rif, has been hit by unrest since a fishmonger was crushed to death in a rubbish truck in October as he tried to retrieve swordfish confiscated for being caught out of season. Calls for justice snowballed into a wider social movement demanding jobs, development, and an end to corruption in the mainly Berber region. After months of protests and frequent clashes between protesters and police, authorities cracked down, arresting more than 175 people including the movement's leader Nasser Zefzafi. Tensions have eased in recent weeks and earlier this month security forces reduced their presence in Al-Hoceima and another northern city Imzouren, which had been on virtual lockdown. Authorities have promised to do more to help the region and relaunched a 2015 program to improve its infrastructure, health facilities and education services by 2019. The six parties in Morocco's governing coalition this week issued a joint appeal for residents to stay away from Thursday's march. Moroccan newspapers on Thursday raised concerns of a fresh bout of unrest, with daily Akhbar Al Yaoum's headlining its front page with "Al-Hoceima... day of anger and fear."

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 20-21/17
Iran’s Nuclear Deal Is Two Years Old
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/17
“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last”(Winston Churchill)
Marking two years since Iran’s nuclear deal (JCPOA), we would be badly mistaken if we assumed that the ‘architects’ of Barack Obama’s policy of handing over the keys of the Middle East to Tehran rulers feel any kind of regret or remorse. Not a bit. Obama’s ‘cabal’, which gave Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) a carte blanche throughout the region when it was in charge of it Middle East policies, is quite happy with what it has ‘achieved’ despite its admission that “Iran’s behavior in the region has not improved”. The other day, Robert Malley, a leading member of the said ‘cabal’ tweeted an article co-written by Philip Gordon, another ‘cabal’ member with Richard Nephew – a researcher and expert who dealt with Iran’s nuclear file between 2011 and 2013 – in The Atlantic magazine. Malley, a ‘progressive’ admirer of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran’s rulers who detests Arab ‘conservatives’, tweeted ‘Why the Iran deal has worked, and why its critics have it wrong’. As for Gordon and Nephew, they chose for their article the following title ‘The ‘Worst Deal Ever’ That Actually Wasn’t’!
In their article Gordon and Nephew indirectly criticized American President Donald Trump’s and leading Republicans’ opposition to JCPOA by arguing “In fact, the deal is doing exactly what is was supposed to do: prevent Iran from acquiring enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, demonstrate to the Iranian public the benefits of cooperation with the international community, and buy time for potential changes in Iranian politics and foreign policy”.They added “Anyone who thought a deal would immediately change Iran’s regional agenda or who maintains that, if only America and its partners had insisted on such changes in the talks they would have materialized, has a misguided sense of what sanctions and diplomatic pressure can accomplish. Having been deeply involved in the negotiations, we think it’s important to be clear about the purpose, enduring benefits, and inevitable limitations of the agreement”.
The Co-writers then argued that “what the deal has done, at least for the next decade, is deter any realistic threat of a near-term Iranian nuclear weapon. The United States should use that decade wisely: standing up to and imposing costs on Iranian transgressions, supporting US allies in the region, making clear to the Iranian public that the West is not an enemy, and preparing for the day when some of the deal’s restrictions will no longer apply. If, by 2030, Iran has not demonstrated that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful and that it is willing to live in peace with its neighbors, the United States and its international partners will have difficult decisions to make about how to handle the issue going forward. In conclusion, they wrote “But since there is a chance that Iran will have different leaders or policies by then—the current Supreme Leader will almost certainly be gone, and a new generation may have come to power—why make those difficult decisions now? The Iran deal has bought valuable time. Squandering that time without a better plan would be foolish”.
An important point to keep in mind as one reads those arguments is whether Malley and Gordon – both very close to Obama and Hillary Clinton – ever expected the Democrats to lose the race to the White House to Trump? Most opinion polls showed the contrary; and Gordon was indeed expected to be a member of Hillary Clinton’s team had she won. Another question is whether the Democrats – under Obama – were simply postponing the crisis past the incoming Democratic administration, in order to entangle the next Republican president with its complex ramifications and consequences.As we witnessed since the “deal’ – as described by Gordon and Nephew – the ‘Liberal’ Democrats fought strongly to defend it. Those ‘Liberal’ may be divided into two camps:
1- ‘Progressive apologists’ led by president Obama himself, who tacitly admire Tehran’s ‘revolutionary’ rhetoric against ‘militaristic’ and ‘conservative’ Arab regimes.
2- Trusted ‘Israel friends’ who believe that civil and sectarian wars within and between its neighboring states would be the best guarantee for Israel’s safety and security.
Giving Tehran’s mullahs the benefit of the doubt has been very much in the mind of Obama who once said they were not “suicidal”; and of course Israel’s interests have always been a strategic policy of every US administration. On the other hand, the fate of the Arab countries never occupied a high position in Obama’s list of political priorities, recalling how he reneged on almost everything he promised in what was his ‘historic’ 2009 Cairo speech. This fate hit an all-time low after the collapse of his ‘Red Lines” many had thought existed in Syria to prevent Bashar Al-Assad’s massacring of his own people by chemical weapons and other means. Since the nuclear deal with Iran, many things have changed throughout the Middle East except in Iran, which is now convinced it has been given a carte blanche to do what it pleases. In fact, from the beginning, former Secretary of State John Kerry was frank when he reiterated that the JCPOA negotiations were restricted to the nuclear file, and never touched on other ‘regional issues’.
However, it was well known that among those ‘regional issues’ was the IRGC’s occupation of four Arab capitals, its destruction of cities in both Syria and Iraq, and uprooting and displacing tens of millions of Syrians and Iraqis most of whom were Sunni Arabs!
Furthermore, most of the crises in the Middle East were relegated to the shadows of ‘The War against ISIS’; that artificial terrorist phantom that was nurtured and built up, if not created and given its raison d’etre, by the policies of Tehran Moscow and Obama’s Washington during three years of the Syrian uprising. The presence of ISIS has been the perfect excuse to redraw the boundaries of the ‘New Middle East’, and the much sought after factor to justify bringing down everything, leaving only’ failed states’, sectarian animosities, epidemics of ignorance and intolerance, and systematic destruction of institutions, landmarks of civilizations and cultural heritage. The whole Middle East has paid – and is still paying – a heavy price for the ‘decade’ the nuclear deal has gifted to Iran. This price is being paid even by the ordinary Iranian citizen, who has been deprived by his mullahs, zealots and Revolutionary Guards his/her social safety net and welfare opportunities for future generations.

The Worst Ideological Enemy of the US is Now Europe
Drieu Godefrid/Gatestone Institute/July 20/17
The vast majority of these European courts -- whether the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) or the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) -- in their attempt to be moral and just, have dismissed the sovereign laws of Italy as irrelevant, and trampled the rights of the Italian state and ordinary Italians to approve who enters their country.In Europe, Amnesty International and the like are, it seems, a new source of law. Those who gave the Statue of Liberty to America in 1886 "to commemorate the perseverance of freedom and democracy in the United States" are willingly trampling their own people's liberties today through courts of appointed, unelected, unaccountable ideologues. The danger is that, with the help of many doubtless well-intentioned, international NGOs, the EU will not stop at its shores. Europe is the worst enemy of the US? You cannot be serious. Islamism, Russia, illegal immigrants... whatever, but surely not Europe! Are we not still together in NATO? Do we not conduct huge amounts of trade every day? Do we not share the same cultural roots, the same civilization, the same vision of the future? Did France not give the US her famous Statue of Liberty – "Liberty Enlightening the World?"
Not anymore. In a sense, Europe looks like a continent where American Democrats have been in power for 30 years, not only in the European states, but also at the level of the European Union. In the US, the political spectrum still spans a vast range of views between Democrats and Republicans, globalists and nationalists, pro-lifers and pro-choicers, pro-government control and pro-individuals' control, and pro-whatever. Even today with a president and a Supreme Court clearly on the political "Right" these divisions, and the all-important separation of powers, allow for and encourage vigorous debate. By contrast, in Europe, at the "official" level, such a spectrum of views no longer exists.
In Western Europe, politically speaking, in the press and in universities, either you are on the "Left," or you are a pariah. If you are a pariah, you are most likely to be prosecuted for "Islamophobia", "racism", discrimination or some other "trumped up" charge. There are several reasons for this imbalance. One is the difference in political maturity between Europeans and Americans. Whereas "ordinary" American voters (not just the "elites") understand that their Supreme Court is key to ensuring that fundamental constitutional freedoms are maintained for all, the Europeans have done the opposite. In the US, the constitutional right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is derived from the people -- "from the consent of the governed."
Consequently, when Justice Antonin Scalia of the US Supreme Court died, the US press wrote about him for weeks. "Ordinary citizens" in the US are deeply aware of judicial roles and their effect on judgements and legal precedents.
By contrast, in Europe, we now have two Supreme Courts: the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg, in addition to national courts. There is, however, not one citizen in a million who can name a single judge of either the ECHR or the CJEU. The reason is that the nomination of those judges is mostly opaque, purely governmental and, in the instance of the ECHR, with no public debate. With the CJEU, appointments are also essentially governmental, with the sanction of the European Parliament, which is ideologically dominated by the Left. In Europe, there are now two Supreme Courts: the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg (pictured above), in addition to national courts. (Image source: Transparency International/Flickr)
The US has always welcomed immigrants, most of whom came to her shores via Ellis Island and went through a legal process for entry, led by the light of the torch of Lady Liberty. In recent years, especially since the advent of increased terrorism, the subject of illegal immigrants, migrant workers and the vetting of immigrants has become hotly debated.
By contrast, in Europe, the topic of "illegal" migrants is effectively forbidden. The continent has recently been invaded by millions of migrants -- many apparently arriving under the false pretense of being refugees, even according to the United Nations.
One of the reasons is the open-door policy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who allowed over a million mostly Muslim migrants to enter Germany, not only without extreme vetting, but with no vetting at all.
There is, however, another, more structural cause for the current situation. In 2012, the ECHR enacted the so-called "HIRSI" ruling, named after the court case of Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy, which states that the European states have the legal obligation to rescue migrants wherever they find them in the Mediterranean Sea -- even just 200 meters away from the Libyan coast -- and ferry them to the European shores, so that these people can claim the status of refugee.
When the Italian Navy intercepted illegal migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and sent them back to their point of origin, Libya, not only did the ECHR condemn Italy for this "obvious" breach of human rights; the Italians had to pay 15,000 euros ($17,000 USD) to each of these illegal migrants in the name of "moral damage". This kind of money is equivalent to more than 10 years of income in Somalia and Eritrea (the countries of origin of Mr. Hirsi Jamaa and his companions). In 2016, Somalia's GDP per capita was an estimated $400 USD; Eritrea's $1,300.
Everyone, of course, heard about the HIRSI ruling. In Africa, especially, many understood that if they could reach the Mediterranean, Europe's navies would now be obliged to ferry them directly to Europe. Before the HIRSI ruling, when people tried to reach the shores of Europe, hundreds every year tragically died at sea. After HIRSI, the objective is now simply to be intercepted. Consequently, hundreds of thousands attempt this journey -- often with the help of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Médecins Sans Frontières, whose activists wait for boats to appear at sea, just off the Libyan coast. We therefore presently have 5,000 unintercepted people dying at sea every year.
While Italy is "drowning" in refugees, Austria has deployed armored vehicles close to its border with Italy, to stop more migrants from coming north. The vast majority of these European courts -- whether the ECHR or the CJEU -- in their attempt to be moral and just, have dismissed the sovereign laws of Italy as irrelevant, and trampled the rights of the Italian state and ordinary Italians to approve who enters their country.Americans would do well to read the HIRSI decision; it is rather short and a perfect summary of current European jurisprudence. They will find that the ECHR does not hesitate to accept NGOs as an authoritative part of the process; the ECHR even quotes their statements as if fact or law. In Europe, Amnesty International and the like are, it appears, a new source of law.
The European people, of course, still share the common values of Western civilization. The "Visegrad Group" of countries in Central Europe, for instance -- the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia -- do not accept the German diktat to relocate Muslim refugees. Parts of Western Europe, such as the northern Flemish-speaking part of Belgium, are also pretty tired of the whole European mess, and Merkel will not embody the leadership of Germany forever.
Americans, therefore, would do well to understand that for the time being the "Cultural Left" is so deeply entrenched in Western Europe and the EU, that their worst ideological enemy is not the Middle East or Russia: it is Europe.
Those who gave the Statue of Liberty to America in 1886 "to commemorate the perseverance of freedom and democracy in the United States" are willingly trampling their own people's liberties today through courts of appointed, unelected, unaccountable ideologues. The danger is, with the help of many, doubtless well-intentioned, international NGOs, the EU will not stop at its shores.
Drieu Godefridi, a classical-liberal Belgian author, is the founder of the l'Institut Hayek in Brussels. He has a PhD in Philosophy from the Sorbonne in Paris and also heads investments in European companies.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Is Turkey Becoming Another Iran?
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/July 20/17
Evolution will no longer be taught in Turkish secondary schools, after being described as a "controversial subject" by the government.
So, the question naturally arises what exactly will Turkish schoolchildren be taught instead. The answer is "jihad." Turkey is in the process of including the concept of jihad in compulsory school curricula. In eighth grade, jihad will also be taught under the title "Struggling on the Path to Allah: Jihad," under a chapter called "Worshipping Allah."
The Ministry of National Education has also increased class hours for the mandatory course in "religion, culture and morality," and decreased art and philosophy classes to one hour per week.
Turkey has recently been in the news for various developments that include, among other matters, its record number of jailed journalists, the destruction of Kurdish towns and forced displacement of thousands of Kurds, the dismissal or suspension of thousands of government employees for political reasons, the arrest of thousands of citizens for allegedly "organizing" last year's failed coup, the creeping conversion of the Hagia Sophia Basilica-museum into a mosque, and the seizure of Assyrian Christian lands, churches and cemeteries by the government.
One additional trend begging the media's attention is the determined Islamization of the Turkish educational system.
Here is a short list of some of the latest developments in Turkish schools and their curricula:
Turkey to stop teaching evolution in secondary schools as part of new national curriculum
Evolution will no longer be taught in Turkish secondary schools after being described as a "controversial subject" by the government. The head of the education ministry's curriculum board, Alpaslan Durmuş, said a section on Darwinism would be cut from biology classes from 2019.
"We have excluded controversial subjects for students at an age unable yet to understand the issues' scientific background," he told a seminar in Ankara, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
"Jihad" in compulsory school curricula
So the question naturally arises what exactly will Turkish schoolchildren be taught instead. The answer is "jihad." Turkey is in the process of including the concept of jihad in compulsory school curricula. According to a statement issued in January by the Turkish Ministry of National Education, Turkish textbooks will be teaching "jihad" as a "value" in classes at Imam Hatip middle schools (schools that offer an Islamic curriculum to pupils). At a press conference, Ismet Yilmaz, the minister of national education, explained the details of the new curricula to the press. According to the newspaper Cumhuriyet, jihad will be taught in seventh grade while pupils study the fundamentals of "tawhid" (oneness of God) and wahdat (Islamic unity) civilization."
In eighth grade, jihad will also be taught under the title "Struggling on the Path to Allah: Jihad" under the chapter called "Worshipping Allah."1.5 million Imam Hatip students across Turkey
Under Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), the number of Imam Hatip schools has ballooned from 500 to 3,500, with enrollment surging from 60,000 to 1,500,000 since the AKP first came to power in 2002.
The first Imam Hatip schools in Turkey were opened in 1924 during the rule of the Republic's first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, as vocational schools to train government-employed imams and Islamic scholars.
"All schools shall have masjids (mosques)"
The Ministry of National Education has also declared that for schools and other educational centers to be opened in Turkey, they have to have a washroom where people can perform ablution before reciting their prayers [salah] five times a day, as well as two masjids [mosques] -- one for males and the other for females. More Islamic classes, less art and philosophy
The Ministry of National Education has also increased class hours for the mandatory course in "religion, culture and morality" and decreased art and philosophy classes to one hour per week. The Ministry also repealed the "Regulations on Fine Arts Education," which were enacted in 2008 "to give primary and secondary school students with special talents the necessary education to prepare them for the fine arts schools."
Secularism, positivism "problems of faith"
The new curricula prepared by the Ministry of National Education to be studied at Turkish schools also describe "secularism, positivism, deism, agnosticism, atheism, nihilism, Satanism, reincarnation and false prophethood" as "problems of faith."
Girls in niqabs in private-funded Islamic organizations
Full Islamization is overtly and increasingly on the rise in private associations, as well. The association of "Fans of the Prophet and the Generation of the Koran Platform" has been offering education on Islamic scriptures to its female and male members and organizing flamboyant ceremonies of "ratification." The association has 63 branches across Turkey.
In 2014, for example, 144 female students wearing the niqab were given "documents of ratification" after completing their religious education in the city of Batman. The students were referred to with Arabic-Islamic names instead of their real Turkish or Kurdish names.
The association also celebrates "Jerusalem Day" on the last Friday of every Ramadan. Murat Güneş, a platform member, falsely claimed in his speech in the city of Batman last year:
"Because Muslims do not carry out the requirements of their faith, today all Palestinian territories are under the Zionist occupation. Gaza and the West Bank are like open prisons. Due to the embargo and isolation imposed on Palestine, children are dying of hunger and the ill cannot be treated because of a lack of medicine. As there is not enough food, even drinking water is not provided."
Another Islamic organization famous for its female students, covered from head to toe is the Diyarbakir-based "Union of Scholars and Madrasahs" [Islamic theological schools].
After completing their four-year religious education organized by the Union, 78 female students in niqabs were presented with their "documents of ratification" in the city of Batman in 2015.
A graduate in niqab said: "This cause has sacrificed so many. Let them not forget that we -- as individuals ready to sacrifice ourselves -- will do anything that is required without making any concessions."
The Union, which carries out activities all across Turkey, is also intensely interested in Israel. A Hamas delegation, for example, led by Osama Hamdan, who is in charge of the organization's foreign affairs, visited the Diyarbakir headquarters of the Union in May of this year.
During the meeting, Mullah Enver Kılıçaslan, the head of the Union, said:
"The Jews are the enemies of the entire ummah [Islamic nation]. Our prophet said that we will fight against the Jews before the end of days. Standing for the ummah, our Muslim siblings in Palestine and Gaza are struggling against them. I wish we too had the opportunity to be in Gaza and Palestine and help our siblings. I wish we too could fight against cursed Jews."
Turkey has for decades been hostile and discriminatory to its non-Muslim communities. Before the 1915 Christian genocide, the population of the territory that is now Turkey was about 15 million, about 4.5 million of which -- nearly a third -- was Christian. Today, one can hardly even talk of a Christian minority. Only 0.2 percent of the country's current population is Christian or Jewish. This means that as a percentage of its population, Turkey has a smaller Christian community than any of its neighbors, including Syria, Iraq and Iran. So, the demographics of Turkey have already been Islamized. Now, the educational system is officially becoming Islamized, as well.
With more Islamization of the Turkish educational system will come the segregation of women and men and the deterioration of women's rights; more pressure and hostility to non-Muslim communities; more violent anti-Semitism; more anti-Western and anti-Israel bigotry, as well as more sympathy with, and even active participation in, jihad. These developments will automatically create less stability and less safety both in Turkey and throughout the Middle East as well as Europe.
Given the political developments in Turkey for more than a decade, the country seems to be fast-forwarding to be the second -- and possibly even a more dangerous version of -- the Islamic Republic of Iran.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Change is Coming at the ECB
Daniel Moss/Bloomberg/July 20/17
The European Central Bank is wrestling with how to exit the super-accommodative policy that’s dominated Mario Draghi’s tenure as president.
In trying to determine the path of this off-ramp, it might be instructive to look backward. To December of last year, to be precise. That’s when the ECB took what looks in retrospect like a first tentative step back from quantitative easing, the huge program of bond buying aimed at keeping interest rates low.
At that time, officials were loath to call the initiative a taper. They may be more relaxed about labels this time, given the revival of the euro region’s economy. Draghi’s scheduled appearance next month at the Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole retreat — a kind of Davos in the world of central banking — fueled speculation he’ll unveil the exit there. In reality, the ECB governing council’s Sept. 7 meeting looks like a surer thing. That’s the day policy makers will be given new forecasts on inflation and growth, p roviding justification for whatever route officials ultimately choose. There’s a meeting this week that may begin preparing the ground.
Don’t look for a sudden end to bond purchases, and don’t even think about an increase in the ECB’s benchmark interest rate. The latter probably won’t come until 2018, if then, according to most economists. Although inflation is crawling upward, it hasn’t hit the ECB’s target of just below 2 percent since 2003. True, Draghi isn’t the only central banker battling too-low inflation. (Remember when that would have been a good problem to have!) The Fed, by way of comparison, at least hit its 2 percent target in February, though it has subsequently slipped. So in terms of inflation, the ECB really starts the conversation in a different place from the Fed, the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England. The first two have raised interest rates and the latter might do so as soon as next month. As Draghi noted last month at the ECB’s own confab in Sintra, Portugal, deflationary forces are on the run and reflationary forces are at work. Economic confidence is up, growth has accelerated for three consecutive quarters, spending and investment are on the rise. He didn’t say deflationary trends have been banished altogether. That go-slow approach is likely to carry the day. Make no mistake, the ECB does have to do something: The current program of 60 billion euros ($69 billion) a month of bond purchases is due to end in December.
So in coming months they are likely to announce reductions in the amount of bonds they purchase to keep interest rates low. It will still be stimulative, just less so. The direction is clear; it’s all about the pace officials travel. Recent remarks from Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau are instructive, and not just because he is a contender to succeed Draghi, now in the home stretch of his eight-year term. In a Bloomberg Television interview, Villeroy referred a couple of times to “adapting the intensity” of policy in the autumn. The easy translation of that is this: The ECB will begin a tapering program. Officials already sort of did that in December when bond purchases went from 80 billion a month to 60 billion. Not that everyone agrees. The head of the Dutch central bank frets openly about a policy mistake. Bond buying could go on too long and create a crisis by plowing too much money into the financial system. And Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann uses terms like “monetary policy normalization,” usually code for ending quantitative easing much more quickly than Draghi would and getting on with the task of raising rates. Absent a crisis, central banks tend to do things gradually. That’s why some kind of taper looks like the easy option. Meanwhile, the clock ticks down to December when the ECB’s bond-buying authority expires. After the summer holiday seems like a fine time to get everyone on board. Draghi will be hoping the region’s recovery doesn’t “adapt its intensity” in the wrong direction before he can do so.

Liberation of Mosul and the return of Iraq

Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/July 20/17
The state of ISIS was not expected to live long. Neither Iraq can bear a cancerous tumor of this kind, nor the Kurdistan region can accept such a dangerous neighbor. The countries of the region cannot be lenient towards it. The world cannot tolerate it. Al-Baghdadi’s state raised everyone’s concerns. It had to be eradicated, and this is what happened. From the very beginning, experts said that the terrorist state’s fall would be inevitable. Terrorism makes a fatal mistake when it has a well-known location that can be prayed. Terrorism is powerful when it is concealed and unpredicted, and when it does not have a specific “billing” address to hold it accountable for its doings. Iraqi authorities have the right to celebrate the victory. ISIS’ control over Mosul was a serious threat to the country’s stability and existence. It was a project of an open massacre and a permanent sedition. One does not exaggerate when saying that the achieved victory has erased a painful memory three years ago, when entire divisions of the Iraqi Army surrendered to ISIS and enabled the terrorist group to seize a full arsenal of modern American weapons. In order to prevent the reemergence of ISIS, and to deter the birth of a similar or more dangerous group, Abadi must turn the Mosul victory into an opportunity to build an Iraqi state on the basis of reconciliation.
A heavy price
The Iraqi Army made great sacrifices to wipe out that image and save the city and the country. The Peshmerga forces, in turn, paid a heavy price to thwart ISIS’ dream of consolidating its presence in the region and across the borders with Iran, Turkey and Syria. Haider al-Abadi had the right to salute the forces celebrating victory. He is the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. His tenure and his experience were certainly dangled on the outcome of the Mosul battle. Today, he can say that the army was defeated under his predecessor, but won under his reign. Mosul fell in the era of Maliki and was restored in the era of Abadi. The victory of Mosul has uplifted his legitimacy within his own party and at the national level. This is not a small matter for anyone who knows the story of the thorny relationship between the current prime minister and his predecessor, who remained dominant in political life despite leaving the office in the wake of the Mosul disaster. When talking about defeating ISIS, it is necessary to pay attention to developments that preceded the invasion of Mosul. The truth is that the terrorist group was practically the result of a number of mistakes, factional politics and regional intervention that have accompanied the rift in the Iraqi structure and the relations between the country’s components. ISIS was born on a scene that has witnessed wrong decisions and provocative policies. One must not forget the decision of Paul Bremer to dissolve the Iraqi army followed by a decision to uproot the Baath party, which has led the soldiers of Saddam Hussein’s army into the wings of the resistance, then into the hands of “jihadist” organizations, and to Baghdadi’s terrorist group.
Historical account
ISIS also emerged because the winning team, which was Shi’ite, did not rush to place its victory at the disposal of a state-for-all project. Part of that team has dealt with victory as a means to settle a historical account, which paved the way for the establishment of a new injustice based on the revenge of a previous discrimination. Neither the winning team has well managed its victory nor the defeated team has used the best policy to reduce its losses. There is a striking fact in this context. Following the fall of Saddam Hussein, a delegation of Sunni Arab activists visited Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani to discuss the future of Iraq. During the meeting, Barzani advised the members of the delegation to form a body to speak in their name and express their concerns and fears to other components. Barzani stressed before the delegation that it was important to spare Iraq a bloody clash between its constituents. He said Sunni Arabs should consider their position in the new Iraq because returning to the past was impossible. He noted that the Iraqi Constitution provides for the right to establish regions that keep Iraq unified but reduce the causes of rift and collision between the country’s factions. He also said that the Arab Sunnis should think about their future because they would have to pay the price for any divisions among them. Arab Sunni leaders failed to agree. Some of them were drifted by the new situation and were tempted by the gains, while others were attached to the dream of turning the clock back.
As the Sunni presence in the military and security institutions and decision-making circles has dropped, and as Iran bolstered its role in managing Iraq, part of the Sunni public opinion was attracted to suicide options and ISIS found a window to infiltrate into the country.
Defeating the idea
This is not meant to underestimate the victory that has sparked an Arab, Islamic and international relief. What is meant to say is that the defeat of ISIS militants does not imply the end of the terrorist group, which might become more dangerous when it loses its known address. The victory over an ISIS militant may be easier than the victory of the idea of ISIS itself. The permanent triumph over the conditions that facilitated the birth of ISIS necessitates reforms, reevaluation of policies and the building of a state of institutions in Iraq. This means the adoption of the principle of citizenship and national partnership and respect for the Constitution, as well as reinstating the state authority and its ability to make decisions in Baghdad. In order to prevent the reemergence of ISIS, and to deter the birth of a similar or more dangerous group, Abadi must turn the Mosul victory into an opportunity to build an Iraqi state on the basis of reconciliation and partnership – a basis that transcends sectarian and confessional considerations.
Haider al-Abadi should pay attention to his watch. Difficulties are colossal and the pressure is great. But turning the Mosul battle into an imminent return of Iraq deserves this journey: the return of Iraq as a normal state after the restoration of relations between all of its components.
If this spirit prevails in Baghdad, it will certainly be possible to find a formula to keep the Kurdistan region part of Iraq, even if the Kurdish component said its word in the referendum. The return of Iraq is an urgent Iraqi necessity and an Arab and regional requisite. The rift in the Iraqi society has unleashed the appetite of non-Arab countries in the region. Moreover, conflicts within the Arab Sunni community have led to disintegration and fragmentation and transformed the country into an arena for local and foreign militias. Latest statements by the authorities over the necessity to treat all Iraqis equally before the law should encourage Abadi to go further in this attempt. Mosul’s liberation is not enough. Iraq must return to its unity and institutions, freedom of decision and respect for its borders. Iraq is not a peripheral country, neither in geography nor in history. It is only through the vigilance of the Iraqi spirit, away from feelings of intolerance and narrowness that the Iraqi entity is preserved and the return of ISIS is prevented.

BBC, Juhayman and the Grand Mosque
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/July 20/17
Following an enthusiastic and thrilling campaign, BBC Arabic aired the documentary “The Siege of Mecca.” You can tell how dramatized it is from the title! The documentary is about the terror events at the Grand Mosque in 1979 or at the beginning of the new Hijri Millennium 1400 AH. I watched the hour-long documentary and expected it to carry hostile messages against Saudi Arabia. However, it was less aggressive than I expected. Before I outline some notes, I must say that some people’s comments on social media that the timing of the movie is intentional, following the crisis with Qatar, are an exaggeration. Some people said that BBC aired the documentary on purpose as Saudi Arabia is at the forefront of countries boycotting Qatar. However, the Qatari crisis has been going on for only around a month and preparations for the documentary took more than two years. Those who know how these documentaries are produced should be aware that it is impossible to finish them in a month or two. As for my notes, I will begin with what has been valued as for the first time ever – the French testimony about their “real” role in the crisis. This testimony comes after years of false information and leftist, nationalist and Brotherhood gossip. Unless the Saudis begin narrating their own history – as they are best suited to do this – others will begin to do so either out of good or bad intentions – that is if they haven’t begun already
The French role
In brief, the French special force’s role was to train the Saudi special force on using gas in the “basement” battles in the mosque after the rest of Juhayman al-Otaibi’s group descended from the roof and hid in the basement. The French special force was stationed in Taif and not in Mecca as ignorant people or people who ignore the facts claimed. Another point, which the French acknowledge, is that the Saudi forces are the ones who liberated the Grand Mosque. Saudi forces, and not western or Arab soldiers, sacrificed their lives to execute this glorious task. The documentary featured former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, and perhaps due to his age, he made some unreasonable exaggerations such as “France saved Saudi Arabia!” Of course, this is doesn’t make sense as what happened inside and around the Grand Mosque was limited to that area – despite its gravity – and the country was secure under the state’s protection. The documentary also hosted guests from Egypt and they spoke about the sequence of events and their relation with Juhayman. One of them had his face and voice masked and most probably he is one of those guests who like to exaggerate events. There’s not enough space to discuss this further but I know that some are sensitive when discussing these matters. I must note though that unless the Saudis begin narrating their own history – as they are best suited to do this – others will begin to do so either out of good or bad intentions – that is if they haven’t begun already. Speak so I see you.

Girl in Saudi Gone Wild: There she was just a ’walkin’ down the mud-caked alley
Fatimah S. Baeshen/Al Arabiya/July 20/17
This op-ed was written before Khuloud was released.
A strut and a milliseconds-long backwards glance has captured the world’s attention.
The strut and glance in question were made by Khulood Al-Yafie, a beautiful miniskirt and crop top clad Yemeni woman visiting Saudi Arabia’s Ushaiger cultural heritage site. Her tour, recorded on video (which has since gone viral) has not only invoked the wrath of the Kingdom’s religious police and sizable conservative population but indirectly expanded the scope of social and cultural discourse inside the Kingdom. I have visited Ushaiger. It is a sleepy historical site just outside the Saudi capital, Riyadh; a labyrinth of mudhuts and alleys that speaks to the country’s centuries-old heritage. For generations, the same families have occupied this religiously-conservative part of the country. So, a stunt like this tends to attract a tremendous amount of (possibly unwanted) publicity (despite the potentially positive ramifications for Saudi tourism – but I digress).
The moral issue
Questions as to the rightness or wrongness of Khulood’s actions aside, I want to spotlight the range of responses this incident elicited, rather than the incident itself, to highlight an important point about the role social media is playing in expanding the Kingdom’s public sphere (and the diversity of opinions contained within). After all the only reason we are talking about a beautiful woman’s stroll down a mud-caked alley is because said stroll occurred in a country popularly known in Western culture for autocracy, repression, and austere religious practices. Historically, the Royal Court, the Council of Ministers, and the Shoura Council—have dominated decision making in the Kingdom. However, over the last ten years, the government has increasingly moved to allow for extended periods of public discourse on social, cultural, economic, and on very rare occasions, political moves. This has occurred for several reasons; most importantly, either to normalize a controversial change through prolonged discussion or to hear the array of opinions that exist as they pertain to potential critical reforms in the hope of building a broader consensus. The key point is that once the public debate plays out it culminates into policy-change.
The fact that a women was bold enough to walk through Ushaiger, a traditional heritage site in the heart of Najd (the Kingdom’s conservative central region) without an abayah while wearing a mini-skirt and crop top speaks volumes as to where the Kingdom is heading with respect to social and cultural change.
With this latest event we are witnessing, live and in real time, the expansion of social and cultural discourse in the Kingdom. And as with previous expansions, this incident may also come to impact policy; in this case, by further advancing women’s rights. The fact that a women was bold enough to walk through Ushaiger, a traditional heritage site in the heart of Najd (the Kingdom’s conservative central region) without an abayah while wearing a mini-skirt and crop top speaks volumes as to where the Kingdom is heading with respect to social and cultural change. For this bold move to be captured and disseminated is one measure of progress but for the public – men and woman, conservatives and progressives – to freely debate this matter on social media is another sign of advancement in and of itself.
Oh, the times they are a’changin’…
I recently published Freedom of Tweet and Freedom to Seat, a report reviewing what the 1st amendment looks like in Saudi Arabia. In it, I discuss how a localized form of freedom of speech has not only been tolerated, but expanded, accommodated, and used to inform policy-decisions.
“In June 2013, Saudi Arabia changed from a Thursday–Friday to a Friday– Saturday weekend to align itself with other Middle Eastern economies, this despite pushback from the conservative base arguing that to do so would mimic the Western lifestyle. However, the government publicly floated the idea several years prior to instituting the change. They allowed the Saudi public to openly debate the issue via informal channels such as Twitter, op-eds, and coffee shop conversations. Actual implementation of the transformation was quick—Saudis received one week’s notice— but, because this followed years of frank discussion, opposition to the change was limited.” Khulood’s action, and the debate surrounding it, may well yield a similar result. As for Khulood herself, she has been taken in for questioning by police and will likely be asked to sign a pledge not to repeat her actions, in order to placate Saudi’s more conservative elements, before ultimately being released.

Is Trump’s family asset or liability for the White House?
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/July 20/17
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.